Welcome to my blog, where I take pleasure in words and pictures, be they my own or those of others. I'm a creative individual, and the crafty side I explore on my 'other blog', Picking Up The Threads, which I hope you'll visit too. I'm sure you understand that I have sole copyright of my original work and any of my contributions, so please ask if you want to use them. A polite request is rarely refused. So, as they used to say on the BBC's 'Listen With Mother' radio programme, many years ago: "Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin."

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Captured and Captioned

Thank You Mummy!
These photos of my big brother are stuck in one of my Mum’s photo albums, with neat captions written by my late father. It’s very possible that they were polyfotos, which would have been a sheet of forty-eight different shots. The best one were often given away to friends and family and these woud have been the ones that my parents decided to keep. Dad brought his artistic flair even to the family album, decorating the page with scrolls and writing each caption in his beautiful italic script. The album page hasn’t reproduced well so I am going to caption the pictures using 21st century technology instead. Dad imagined what was going through his one year old son’s infant head.

What a funny ickle puppy!
Dashed Funny Old Man!

Who’s that?
Day dreaming

I think I’m going to cry

As a child I would love to look through these albums, and this page was one of my favourites. It seemed to me that Dad was telling a story; something he was always very good at. This is just one hour, in one day of my brother’s life. He’s in his seventies now and in his lifetime we’ve moved on from polyfoto to digital technology. We don’t have to rely on the photographer’s studio anymore to tell a story, we simply use a smartphone. We can take one photo and turn it into a portrait worthy of an Old Master, with the click of a few buttons.

Join us this week at Sepia Saturday, where there will be multiple images a-plenty and at least one Old Master (Alan). Our own Photo Sleuth, Brett Payne, wrote in fascinating detail about polyfotos in this 2013 blogpost.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Shoebox of Surprises

Searching through my box of postcards, in the hope of finding something that would match this week’s Sepia Saturday prompt, I was focusing on bridges, boats and flags, preferably together. I had already featured them separately, and there was nothing in the family album that would suit. I came across this black and white postcard written by my mother to her parents, fifty-four years ago; it was too interesting to discard, despite the lack of a bridge. 

In itself the postcard is not very exciting but it does have the requisite boat and oars, though no oarsmen. The only action is a group of fishermen hauling their boat up onto the beach. I have  little recollection of this family holiday in Norfolk, as I was just a youngster, but the handful  of pictures in the album, with Mum’s caption, serve well enough. I was surprised, because I must have seen the postcard before, but hadn’t paid much heed to the message on the back. I’m glad I did because it led me off to do some research.

On Tuesday 28th August Mum wrote that we were spending the evening indoors as it was raining. ‘Indoors’ meant being cooped up in this tiny caravan, lit by gas and with the rain drumming on the roof. No doubt we did what we normally did on such a night; played cards, drew pictures and listened to a small transistor radio, whilst Mum knitted or wrote postcards, including this one. The next day, the postcard says, we were going to see ‘Five Finger Exercise’ at the Little Theatre. Mum told my grandparents that the caravan site was a nice one - with hot showers (there had to be some compensations).

That morning we had visited Weybourne Camp, where Mum had been briefly with the army during WW2, only twenty years previously. Dad took a picture of her wandering alone and deep in thought; it was captioned simply ‘Memories of Weybourne’. In the postcard Mum said: “……the old camp was still there, but deserted.” My grandparents would have known about Mum being at Weybourne, as she had been given a compassionate posting back to Nottingham in the Autumn of 1942 due to her mother being seriously ill. Mum was a clerk with 504 Battery of the 144th Mobile Royal Artillery Regiment, then stationed at Mapperly. From there they went on to Ticknall in Derbyshire and Ashby near Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire. It was whilst she was with the 504s they were sent to Weybourne for two weeks firing training.

During the War Weybourne played a key part in training Anti - Aircraft troops After the War it was still in use until 1958 for training and there is a Pathe Newsreel about the Territorial Army and their families using it for a training holiday. It  finally closed in 1959 and was clearly in the doldrums at the time of mum’s visit. Happily, it was acquired by Mr C. Berry Savory in the 1980s, and with his son Michael he converted it into a museum, which still attracts many visitors today. 

Just when I had given up hope, and was about to put the lid on the shoebox which houses my meagre postcard collection, this one popped up. It was written by my Great Aunt Maude in 1967, and addressed to my parents. She and her friend were holidaying in Scotland and she mentions Holyrood Palace and Castle, and was looking forward to a visit to Princes Street the next day. I rather like the card she chose, with its splash of orange on the blue water. It draws the eye, not to the bridge, but to the boat with its single oarsman. It reminded me of Renoir’s ‘The Skiff’ in The National Gallery. So, in the end I succeeded in ticking two out of three; boats and bridge, but no flags, and an interesting diversion via a shoebox of postcards. 

Join us over at Sepia Saturday to see what other contributors found in their family albums and shoeboxes

Friday, 1 April 2016

Down-along with Donkeys

Clovelly is a quaint, and somewhat secluded fishing village, on the North Devon Coast, and parts of it have remained unchanged for hundreds of years. It’s very picturesque and a haven for tourists, painters and photographers. The cobbled main street is extremely steep and custom-made sledges are the main method of transporting essential goods; once it was the donkeys who did the work but they are now just part of the tourist attraction. There are no wheeled vehicles due to the gradient and narrowness of the street. There are many images on the Internet, because of its very popularity, but I decided to look through my postcard collection for something different. I do have photos from the 1970s but they are quite boring by comparison.

This one, probably from the 1960s, quite rightly, puts a photo of a donkey centre stage. The main street is called Up-along or Down-along and is lined with pretty cottages and little narrow lanes. The village was falling into decay until the new owner, Christine Hamlyn, carried out some much-needed restoration and modernisation around 1900.

Judging by the fashions in this one I’d guess it was around the late 1950s or early 60s.

Whereas this heavily colourised version could perhaps be the 1970s. I’m no expert and these are rather wild guesses.

I know the date of this one because I sent it to my parents, twenty three year ago - almost exactly- whilst on an Easter break. It’s postmarked 14 Apr 1993 and I wrote the message at 12.05 p.m. How’s that for precision? Even better, I told them I was sitting on the harbour wall, having just walked ‘Down-a long' and was enjoying a clotted cream ice-cream (a Devon speciality) - with a chocolate ‘Flake’  (Are you all hungry now?). The sun was shining and it was apparently ‘like a Summer’s Day’ - It’s almost as if we were there isn’t it?

This harbour view, from an original watercolour by Brian Gerald, shows how steepness of the cliff to which Clovelly clings. See also the online Clovelly guide here.

I’m not sure about this one; it’s from a watercolour by Kevin Platt, and has a somewhat naive quality to it. It looks as though this is where Down-along widens and opens out into the harbour.

This week on Sepia Saturday we are wandering down-along memory lane; there will be picture postcards a-plenty and some refreshment for sure.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016


David Ligare: Still Life with Grape Juice and Sandwiches xenia1994

The sour grapes, the bitter words and spite,
The vicious tongue and angry voices raised,
The jealous texts and phone calls every night,
The drunken spats and rows, with venom laced,
The poisonous jibes that always lead to fights,
The sulks, the comments barbed, the glowering face,
The shredded nerves, emotions made so raw -
This had to be the end; the final straw.

But now we have the breaking of the bread,
Now we eat our words and pride is swallowed,
For now we do not tear, but share instead,
Now our solemn vows are kept, and followed,
Gone the poison virulent, on which we fed
Gone the pain in which we wallowed,
Now some tenderness we add to leaven
Our sweet bread  - and raise a toast to heaven!

© Marilyn Brindley 2016

Joining in with this weeks Magpie Tales where Tess gives us an image to inspire us with our creative writing. Back to good old Ottava Rima.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Half to Remember

This week’s Sepia Saturday image prompt is a marbles game. It made me think of this family treasure and one of my mother’s favourite sayings.

This solitaire set above dates from 1927 and has appeared before in my post Let’s Play a Game  where you can read about its history. When I wrote that post in 2012, both my parents were still alive; sadly Dad died later that year, and it became apparent immediately after the funeral that Mum was beginning to decline mentally. She was still enjoying reading, crosswords, knitting and living independently until late last year when, after a fall, she ended up in hospital over Christmas, and we finally realised that she wasn’t coping. She’d become very repetitive and forgetful and eventually it was agreed that she would be assessed whilst recuperating in a care home, early this year.

This weekend the flat she had shared with my Dad for their last few years together, is being cleared and all the things that Mum will need with her are being taken to her new place: the precious little mementos, the poetry books and those wonderful photo albums, the contents of which have been the mainstay of my sepia posts. For some time now Mum has been saying, “I must be losing my marbles!” when gently reminded of something. The short-term memory was the first to go, but now even those wonderful stories she once was able to share with me have also faded.

I learned, from a course that I’m following, that poetry and songs, learned in childhood, often stick when other memories have long since flown. One day I searched for one of Mum’s very favourite poems, which she would quote to me over the years, 'Brumana’ by James Elroy Flecker, and in one of our phone conversations I read the first line to her:

 “Oh shall I never be home again!” and Mum immediately followed up with;
 “Meadows of England, shining in the rain
Spread wide your daisied lawns; your ramparts green.”

We did the next line together as she was beginning to falter, but I’m sure with help it would have come back. It was an uplifting moment -  for us both. If you read the poem, you’ll find that the last three lines are:

“Half to forget the wandering and pain
Half to remember days that have gone by,
And dream, and dream that I am home again.”

Mum won’t be going home again but she will be well cared for and loved right to the end. Last week it was my birthday and I wrote this poem about about our conversation

Half to Remember

“Happy Birthday” trills Mum down the phone,
“Sorry I forgot to get you anything or send a card,
I must be losing my marbles.”

I resist the urge to reply with the truth,
“Well, yes I’m afraid you are”
and smile to myself instead.

We chat for a while, about this and that;
How is the weather? Is the sun shining?
I’ve just had my tea, Any visitors?

I tell her about my birthday,
“ I forgot,” she says again,
“I must be losing my marbles.”

She’s half-aware that all’s not well,
but happy enough in her own world.
“Don’t worry, I say and change the subject.

Mum gave me the very best gift of all;
for nine months she carried me,
then brought me into the world.

She nurtured me, cared for me, loved me
throughout my sixty-four years;
Now it’s her turn to need those things.

At last, when we’ve been round 
the same things a few times, we say goodbye.
“Lots of love!” she sings out; oh yes, lots and lots.

© Marilyn Brindley 2016

Friday, 18 March 2016

I Bring Thee Draughts of Milk

Thou know’st that twice a day I have brought thee in this can
Fresh water from the brook as clear as ever ran;
And twice in the day when the ground is wet with dew
I bring thee draughts of milk, warm milk it is and new.
From WilliamWordsworth’s ‘The Pet-lamb, a Pastoral'

This is a delightful pastoral scene and a picture of innocence; I do so hope this lamb grew to give lots of wool and is memorialised in many a fine knitted garment. I prefer not to think of the lamb we enjoy as a roast dinner on Easter Sunday. It’s all about sacrifice and rising again, so if indeed this little lamb was not of the woolly jumper variety (pun intended) let this instead be its memorial.

I’m very into poetry at the moment, having just completed an online course about Literature and Mental Health with Warwick University. William Wordsworth popped up more than once on the course, and I must admit I’m seeing some of his work with new eyes, whilst at the same time trying to learn his poem ‘Daffodils' by heart (I’m halfway there!), as encouraged in the course. The poem above can be read in its entirety here, but I first found it in one of my vintage poetry books, collected over the years. This one was, ‘A First Poetry Book’ by M.A. Woods, a wonderful little tome published in 1905 and with the name name 'Vera Allcock 1908’ written inside, in sepia ink. The first edition was 1886, and the preface was written by Miss Woods herself, the Head Mistress of the Clifton High School for Girls. In it she acknowledges the contributions of a variety of poets, some unfamiliar and some well-known, such as Mr Browning, Mr Lewis Carroll and Mr Kingsley. It’s a little treasure indeed.

Wordsworth imagines the thoughts of a little country girl he sees with her orphaned lamb, and dreams that she will one day make it her pet when its limbs are strong enough to pull her little cart. Again, we have no idea what really happened; that child could just as easily have been helping to fatten the lamb for for her family’s Easter feast.

Now that this particular rural idyll has been shattered, lets banish the thought and move on to other pet lambs, past and present.

Here is the author of this blog with a very soft and cuddly pet lamb, about twenty-three years ago. My first headship was in a small Wiltshire village school, where many of my pupils were from farming families; it was inevitable that we should have a visit from a newborn lamb during Spring.

It didn’t follow anyone to school, and it wasn’t against the rules, in the manner of the Nursery Rhyme ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’. You will also note that its fleece was not as white as snow, but a deep chocolate brown-black (as was my own hair in those, happy days). I still remember how warm and soft the lamb was.

We lived very near those mystical places, Stonehenge, Avebury Stone Circle and Old Sarum and as a family we would often visit them. Sheep grazed happily on both Old Sarum and at Avebury, and here are some Avebury Stone Circle Spring lambs from about a quarter of a century ago, and already quite mature. A restful, bucolic scene and one of my favourite photographs.

This grass is tender grass, these flowers they have no peer.
And that green corn all day is rustling in thy ears.

A couple of years ago we visited London to see our children and grandchildren and we enjoyed a rare day out together at Mudchute, a city farm set in the shadow of London’s Docklands area. Click here to find out more about this remarkable place. On the website there is an invitation to 'select an animal from the menu on the left’ which, unfortunately, made me think of food again. Quickly, move on! There are twins, in the prompt image, and our own twins had a lovely time at Mudchute.

If you enjoyed this post, why not join us over at Sepia Saturday, where other contributors will be delving into the rural archives.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Sealed With A Loving Kiss

The handsome chap on the far left is my maternal grandfather, Sydney, photographed with two pals from the Royal Engineers. Grandad transferred to the Royal Engineers Signal Service in January 1918 when his battalion, 2/7th (The Robin Hoods) of The Sherwood Foresters, disbanded.  In September that year he married his sweetheart, whom he’d met when on basic training in Watford. When they married, Syd was still only 20 years old, and my grandmother, 21. Although no letters or postcards sent between them, survive, I can imagine that they would have been very affectionate. They went on to have a long and happy marriage, until Syd’s death in 1971.

Last year, when we were visiting my son’s family in Kent, we had a day out with the grandchildren at the Royal Engineers Museum. It's an exceptionally well-planned and interesting museum, and even our seven year-old twins weren’t bored for a moment. I really enjoyed all the sepia photographs and the stories behind them. I’ve written about the Royal Engineers before in Frightened Faces and Fearless Actions, for Sepia Saturday 300, when I focussed on the brave Captain Ross and his family. What fascinated me most however, was probably the Royal Engineers Postal section.

The phrase S.W.A.L.K. (Sealed With a Loving Kiss) came from the WW2 era, but I’m sure many a letter from long before then was given the SWALK treatment; my grandparents may even have done so, but we’ll never know.

Here I am standing in front of my favourite subject, old photographs, and the stories behind them.

And here are a couple of examples of the missives displayed. The sender of the first must surely have resisted a SWALK, lest he was tempted to eat the whole lot.

And the second reminds us of just how important those letters and postcards sent from home were.

The caption reads, Airmail Letter Card with Indian Stamp, FPO 448, Qum, Persia, from L/Sgt J.E. Harvis, Royal Artillery, 6 August 1943 and opens with:

“ I was extremely bucked to receive your airgraph dated 23rd July. It may be difficult for you to realise how much mail means to us, very often it is the difference between a happy day and a miserable one. Probably more so in my case because all the incoming mail passes through my hands and you can imagine what I feel if I sort a couple of hundred letters and there is not one for me! Your letter saved the day and cheered me up immensely.”

I’ve no idea if the letter was sent to his sweetheart, nor if it was sealed with a loving kiss, but clearly , it was deemed important enough to preserve for many years.

Why not join us at today’s Sepia Saturday to see if other contributors have ‘posted with a loving kiss’.

Also linking with Magpie Tales, where Tess gave us a wonderful prompt of a character in the film 'Atonement' actually employing the SWALK treatment, and gave me the idea to write this piece.

Sealed with a warm and tender kiss,
With lips that long for yours, and miss
All the love we shared. Just read between the
Lines, and then, Dear Heart, you will
Know, how much I love you still.

© Marilyn Brindley 2016