The Decisive Moment*


The Squire and his factotum, the ever-obliging Third Man, made their way to Bath this weekend.  The Squire was keen to lend his name and good lordship, to a campaign against Bath and North East Somerset Council’s intention to charge admission to the Victoria Art Gallery.

“We must do what we can, TM.”

Their signatures added to the petition, the travellers took advantage of free entrance into the first museum show for 22 years of one of the UK’s major photographers, Roger Mayne.

The image above, was taken in Addison Place, North Kensington, London, W11, 1956.

“Do you think Mayne appreciated the serendipity of capturing a sweep shot against the background of the sweep shop?” mused the Squire.

The photographer introduces his web site with a quote he gave to Peace News in 1960, ‘Photography involves two main distortions – the simplification into black and white and the seizing of an instant in time. It is this particular mixture of reality and unreality, and the photographer’s power to select, that makes it possible for photography to be an art. Whether it is good art depends on the power and truth of the artist’s statement.’

A post card of a very particular young man; neat of sock, precise of grip, full of concentration, brought to mind ‘Hope of His Side’.


The reverse of the card identifies it as ‘Boy with a Bat, Wapping. 1959’, but the website suggests it was taken in Addison Place, again, in 1957.

And here is a very modern shot in both senses. It is taken in Clarendon Crescent W2, just before its demolition in a slum clearance scheme. A year or two earlier it had featured as a setting for a car chase in The Blue Lamp.


And finally, an image that begins to do justice to the mastery of the exposure of the prints on show; fielders awaiting a sky-er.


“Bet they had to retrieve that one from a roof top, TM”

Look down you Jilted Generation on these baby-boomers.

* H.T. Cartier-Bresson who in his book Images à la sauvette quoted the agitator Cardinal Retz, “There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment”.

A catalogue with an essay by Ann Jellicoe is available with the exhibition (£6.50 plus p&p) and there are ‘vintage’ prints for sale.



Filed under Light roller

10 responses to “The Decisive Moment*

  1. Fascinating photos, and welcome back.

  2. John Halliwell

    It is a relief to see you again, ™; I got tired of clicking and finding Chuck Berry still perfecting his on-drive. I began to wonder if the machine had crashed, perhaps due to a faulty heisenberg bracket, with all on board lost.

    If, as you suggest, ™, this is a one-off, there should be a mass protest outside the Smithy gates. I’m sure I’d be moved to shout: ‘Get a move on, you daft sod.’

    These are lovely pictures and remind me so much of that period and the cricket we played in the street. My favourite time was bowling when the grids were blocked and the gutters full of rainwater and the tennis ball, having run-in or been kicked-in the gutter, gained ten times its normal weight, and developed a glorious whirring sound in flight and when it landed on a good length kept low, drenched the batsman, before crashing into Mrs Moore’s metal dustbin. She wasn’t playing but her lad was. She was furious when she came out of her back door with a shovel-full of ash from her fireplace and found her bin missing.

    • A sumptuous final paragraph, John. You were lucky, though, that you weren’t facing the terrifying ‘Mac’ with a wet tennis ball – one of those bowlers who was faster at nine than nineteen –

      The Squire too was much irritate by the post on Johnny Be Good looking for all the world like a Tombstone to Time Travel. Nor was He too amused with young Carpenter’s allusion to Boycott’s convenient absence 😉

      The Squire NEVER invited HIM to play at the Great House; on principle. “Attacking cricket is a team game,” He would protest whenever challenged on the subject.

      Sometimes in the village sweet shop the jar is empty of that ‘particular mixture of reality and unreality’ to borrow from the quotation by Roger Mayne, above.

      Though, this period of reflection has made TM’s conviction stronger that cricket, no matter in which form, is about time; its use, its control, its distortion, its brief, passing and illusory subjugation; which is why, as such a mixture of reality and unreality, it can pass the Mayne Test as a possible artform.

  3. growltiger

    A pleasure, TM, to see you again in this time-slice.

    The photograph in the former Clarendon Crescent is doubly fascinating for its anticipation of the “flamingo” stroke by (of all things in the 1950s) a girl. One wonders what became of this talented individual thereafter.

    Also, the boy playing the sweep in Addison Place, is an interesting example of period batting technique. Notice that the batsman has not only correctly anticipated the path of the ball off the cobbles (not easy) but got it away to fine leg without going down on one knee as they do nowadays. Probably this is connected with the cobbles, and the absence of pads.

  4. GT ‘ the “flamingo” stroke’ – exactly right in both particulars. Heyhoe!
    Much coaching remains based on superstition more than practicality.

    The secret of a good sweep is that the bat has to be // with the cobbles. ‘It’s in the name’.

    There was no finer exponent than the great coach and opening bat for Bacup and Worcester, Eddie Cooper, .

    Eddie believed that getting the backside down was the first priority, which as you rightly say is not aided by putting the knee down. Try it. For balance, // eyes and hiding the leading edge, it’s the bee’s knees.

    • growltiger

      Actually, the Clarendon Place sweep is a bit more in the Cowdrey/Compton mould, with the bat having been I should judge) at about 45% on impact with the ball.

      I continue to marvel at the predictive ability of the batsman’s brain, so evidently superior, even in those dark days, to Hawkeye.

  5. Who says they never come back?

    Good to see you, TM.

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