In April I went on a very special little trip with a very special person. It was my mum’s 60th birthday in March (sorry mum for broadcasting your age but to be honest if I’m lucky enough to look like you when I’m 60 I’ll be shouting my age from the rooftops!) and I wanted to do something really memorable for her. As it was a very important birthday, I didn’t want to get her a material ‘thing’ that she might enjoy for a couple of years and then forget about or use up… I wanted to give her and us both some amazing memories of wonderful times spent together that we will both remember and cherish for the rest of our lives. So I decided to take mum for a weekend away to Morocco! Both of us have travelled pretty extensively but it’s one place that both of us really wanted to visit and neither of us had been to, so tickets were booked! I took mum to Marrakech for the weekend as her birthday present but mum very kindly extended the holiday for a couple of days and treated us both to a 2 day excursion to the breathtaking Imlil in the Atlas mountains.
Well, what can I say, Morocco is bloody beautiful! An explosion of utterly delightful colours, textures, plants, flowers and architecture, it was amazing. The smell of the mint everywhere, the vibrancy and life of the place, the crazy mazes of alleyways and souks, the magical Jemaa el-Fnaa square at night with its food stalls, storytellers, magicians and musicians… such a fantastic place… and the countryside in the mountains near and around Imlil is pretty much paradise as far as I’m concerned, it genuinely took my breath away and brought a tear to my eye.
From a photographic point of view, it was both absolutely amazing and at the same time really difficult. The colours, textures, patterns, architecture and light gave me pretty much non-stop incredible subjects to photograph. But as far as photographing people was concerned… so tricky! I really wanted to get some great pictures of the people there – after all, the people are of course as much, if not more, the essence of any place as the buildings and plants are. However, people in Morocco really don’t like having their picture taken! I’ve travelled a lot in Asia and compared to places like India where many people positively relish having their photo taken and often encourage it, Morocco was a totally different experience. I soon discovered that when I pointed my camera in a person’s direction it was met with at best a scowl or a turn of the head away from the camera, and at worst an angry, shouting response, even if I asked them first. At the square in the night, photos were encouraged, but I soon discovered, had to be paid for. Not wanting to offend anyone or make them uncomfortable, I tried to draw on my experience as a wedding photographer around camera-shy wedding guests and employed stealth tactics! Using a mixture of carefully people-watching and catching them when they weren’t looking, setting up a photograph of a building or alleyway but waiting for a person to walk into the frame, and the age-old street photography tactic of secretly ‘shooting from the hip’, plus keeping a few spare coins in my pocket for when I wanted photos of the street performers in the square, I managed to get a few shots! There aren’t as many as I would have liked, and it was a really challenging process, but it was great to try something a little different… and the shooting from the hip thing was great fun, will definitely be trying that again!
But finally onto the star of the show, my beautiful mum. It meant so much to me to be able to give her something really special for her birthday, to in some small way show her my gratitude and appreciation of all that she has done and been for me over the years. She is my best friend, my total hero, and in every way a role-model for me as a mother. Whenever I am at a loss as to how best to parent Joe in whatever respect, I always ask myself, ‘What would Mum do?’ For most of my adult life we have lived hundreds, sometimes thousands, of miles apart, and she may not realise this but in this way she is always with me at my shoulder, supporting me through every day. I never forget how lucky I am to have a mother like her, and if I can be half the mother to Joe that she has been to me, and half the woman that she is, I will end my days a happy lass. She has always made me feel that I can achieve anything, always listened, always supported, always done what is best for her kids even if it’s by far the more difficult path, always shown me how far reaching my horizons are and how many wonderful things there are to experience. She is kind, intelligent, adventurous, fascinating, selfless, fun, modest and gentle and I owe her so much. She is also the most self-effacing person I know and I know that this praise will make her uncomfortable! I know it is gushy and I know that she will think I am just being kind, but every word of it is true, and if I can’t get a bit gushy about my own mum on my own little blog on her 60th birthday then I don’t know when I can.
So, in summary, a wonderful holiday with a wonderful lady. We giggled and chatted our way through the entire trip like schoolgirls and it was everything I had hoped for and more. So here it is, a tribute to a totally beautiful country, but more than this a tribute to the totally beautiful lady I’m lucky enough to call Mum.