Box 14

In today’s digital photography world of instant gratification, there was always a bit of mystery and anticipation attached to the old familiar ritual of putting a film in the funny little yellow envelope/pouch, pressing down the metal fastener and writing “Box 14, Hemel Hempstead, Herts”. How long before the small plastic box of slides came home? How would the photos turn out?

(And you could write pretty well any address: the GPO would still send them to Hemel Hempstead. When Kodak UK went on strike, you were told you could send films to any of the Kodak labs, but you were urged to use plain envelopes, to avoid confusing the postmen).

Sadly, it wasn’t Paul Simon’s mother who took his Kodachrome away, but Kodak themselves. Millions of photographers loved the vibrant colours achievable in sunny weather – you always tried to get something bright red in the frame, even on landscapes – while medical labs loved the accurate flesh tones. And my favourite, Kodachrome 25 was so slow, I really don’t know how I managed to take any pictures at all in those days. Here’s a handheld photo that would have been a real challenge on Kodachrome…

Apsley Marina at dusk

Leaving Apsley Marina the canal skirts the main part of Hemel in very close proximity to the main railway line. The slow anticipation of Box 14 is alas no more, while Virgin Trains rush past with impressive frequency, at an impressive speed, making quite a noise.

Still climbing relentlessly uphill, one eventually reaches the more peaceful environs of Berkhamstead.  The Port of Berkhamstead in canal terms, it’s an important place in the navigation history. It also has pleasantly shaded and highly amenable moorings right next to Waitrose, and two minutes walk from the high street. Doesn’t have Box 14 though.

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