Every year the same Christmas photographs appear. The people are the same. But a whole year has passed. As I become older I notice more than I used to, the changes in the few photographs of me which get through - a certain shrinking of the features, a wariness about the glance. Perhaps this is due to the stress of getting into place, while the delayed release switch on the camera is in operation, and the machine is bleeping like pedestrian traffic lights urging you to cross the road quickly to make way for road traffic. But I know that in fact the years are chipping away at the face I have got used to. The consolation, and one that I am truly glad of, is that I am still here to look it in the eye.
In his film Encounters at the Edge of the World, Werner Herzog photographs and interviews people who live and work in the Antarctic, and shows astonishingly beautiful scenes beneath as well as above the ice. He tells us at the beginning of the film that this is not another another film about penguins, but later there is a brief and forlorn penguin episode which I can't get out of my head. He films a group of penguins following an annual migration route to the sea. Off they go in single file like pilgrims, except for one penguin who turns round and makes its solitary way inland towards a frozen, mountainous waste on the horizon. Some internal mechanism has gone wrong and we see the lone bird battling on through the wilderness, impelled by a perverse and faulty, inner vision, on its way, Herzog says, to certain death. The image, I think to myself, says something about courage, a blind and misguided courage (not beyond comparison with human courage) which I find noble and sad, but which I do not wholly understand.