Bolam Lake and the fight that never happened

Bolam Lake, near Belsay is a little slice of tranquillity in the heart of God’s Country (Northumberland to the un-initiated). It’s the kind of place you go to get out of the city and unwind, to wander along the tree-lined pathways or skim a stone on the lake, leaving all of your troubles behind.

Unless you’re me, and you end up almost having a fist-fight while you’re there…

Bolam Lake Jetty

Bolam Lake Jetty

Before I take my “money shots” I like to scope out a place on a prior visit in order to come up with a plan of attack. This helps me decide what shots I’m looking for, which lens to use, where I’ll get the best light etc etc…

It just so happens that this time, I didn’t.

I live about 20 miles from Bolam, which isn’t really that far, however, my car is a complete wreck (pistons, shocks, bearings, you name it..) There’s no way I was going to risk going 20 miles into the middle of the countryside TWICE in the same week; therefore I had to get it right the first time and rely on my ever-sharpening ‘Tog’s instincts to help me out.

So, after a very shaky and bumpy ride, and a quick stroll around the lake to pick my spot, I began to set up on one of the jetties poking out into the water.

Now, being a Photographer can be one of the most rewarding jobs/hobbies you can do, but there are always spanners that can be thrown into the works; weather, light, equipment and so on.  This shoot was no exception, apart from the fact that this spanner was 6 foot tall with a crew-cut and a face like a welders’ bench.

I knew I wasn’t going to be alone on this little sojourn; plenty of people come to Bolam and, seeing as it was the School holidays, would be full of families. Being a Photographer and working in public spaces means that you can’t encroach on people; you need to respect the fact that people are out enjoying themselves, and wait your turn for a quiet opportunity to take your shot. What’s great is that 99 times out of 100 the public will see that you are set up to take a shot and either wait patiently for you to finish or apologise for not seeing you and stepping in front of your camera.

As I was setting up there were a lot of people milling around the jetty so I did what I usually do in situations like this; I politely let them go about their business and awaited my slot. After a few minutes the way was clear and I set about taking my shot.

Enter the spanner.

I’d already heard the guy in question swearing at his wife (in front of their kids no less) at the picnic table next to the jetty for not bringing his cigarettes from the car, so to be fair I should have expected him to be a complete twonk. As I was fiddling with my settings the guy in question, who had already been to the end of the jetty and was completely aware that I was waiting for a clear shot, decided that he needed to go back to the end of the jetty for another look.

While bumping my camera on the way past.

And not apologising.

What made my blood really boil was the fact that his daughter, who must have been about 5, made mention of the fact that they were standing in front of my camera, to which I cheerily replied “That’s ok don’t worry” to which the Spanner turned and said “It’s ok mate, I’m not worried in the f*cking slightest.”

Red. Rag. Bull.

Bearing in mind the guy had his young daughter with him, I bit down my retort and ignored him, continuing with my settings and smoking my e-cig (I know, they’re bad for you) to calm my temper. The girl, obviously embarrassed at her Dad decided that she’d had enough of looking at the lake and ran back to her Mother at the table, leaving me and the Twonk alone. Seething, I looked up from my camera to notice him walking back towards me. As he reached where I was he decided to bump into my tripod leg again and almost knock my camera over, then stopped and grinned at me.

That was it. I was over the edge.

I picked up my tripod and proceeded to bludgeon him half to death, standing over his bloody, soon to be corpse and cackling maniacally towards the lake.

In my head at least.

What I actually said was a rather pathetic “Watch where you’re going mate”

He didn’t even glanced at me, but simply laughed and walked on.

Furious, I turned to give him a piece of my mind and let the expletives roll when I saw the greatest sight I have ever seen.

A six foot, shaved ape with tattoos on his tattoos, slip and fall onto the bank at the side of the jetty, one foot falling into the lake.

You’ve got to love a bit of Karma.

It was so funny I couldn’t help but let the laughter wash over me, however his wife beat me to it.

“That’s what you get for being an idiot” she called to him as she collected their daughter and headed back to the car.

Knowing that I was probably going to be receiving the blame, and possibly a damn good leathering for the incident I snapped my shot and made my way back to the car. As I passed him, still flailing around like a turtle on it’s back, I stopped and began to feel oddly sorry for him. Against my better judgement, I offered my hand to help the guy up because, well, I guess I wanted the be the bigger man.

“Don’t worry d*ckhead I can manage” the guy said to my outstretched hand.

To which I replied over my shoulder as I left him in the lake:

“It’s ok mate, I’m not worried in the f*cking slightest.”

Marc Bates

To own a copy of this image in print for yourself, check out my website at



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