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."

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Looking Back

I love this photo of me for so many reasons, not that I can remember it being taken of course. I’m in the arms of my much-loved grandfather as he walks towards the seashore. Who am I looking back at? My own father, who knew a photo opportunity when he saw one. This would be one of his earliest snaps of me. We were on a family holiday in 1952 and I was only a few months old. In my infant face I see my own children and grandchildren so in a sense I’m also looking forward into the present day.

We’re all looking back when we pore over old photo albums, when a sepia print prompts us to question a relative about what is happening in the photo, or a seaside postcard reminds us of a happy family holiday.

In this 1979 photo my own son can barely focus on his father; at only a few weeks old the images he saw would have been something of a blur. I’m looking back today at these treasured images but I’m looking forward to my son’s visit tomorrow. He’s bringing his wife and the twins of course; his Dad and his sister are already here and we’re going to have a great time. We don’t all get together like this very often, perhaps once or twice a year for a day at a time, so we’re going to be packing a lot into the next few days. There’ll be lots of photos to look back on and remember the happy holiday they spent with us.

Join us at Sepia Saturday this week and see how other contributors have looked back.

Friday, 17 October 2014

An Honest Living

I took this picture of the Cypriot mosaic artist on a street in Nicosia in 1992. He was working just inside the doorway and shaded from the intense heat of the sun. He appears to be referring to a book of reproductions of ancient mosaics which he may have been trying to replicate for the tourist market. Cyprus of course has many examples of the real thing so I can’t blame him for cashing in. He makes it look easy but I suspect it is just as painstaking as the originals.

Our Sepia Saturday picture prompt* this week is a street artisan found on a hand-coloured lantern slide of the 1930s. This gentleman is a shoemaker and mender and is surrounded by the tools of his trade.

There are no pictures of shoemakers or boot menders in my family album and the mosaic artist is the nearest I can get. However, just last week, we came upon this street artisan in the village of Maguez, here in Lanzarote, and he graciously consented to having some pictures taken.

He told us that the clays came from the surrounding volcanic landscape. The pots are probably very close  to the pots made by the earliest inhabitants of the island who would have used whatever materials came to hand. Their craftsmanship was born of necessity not to feed a tourist market, but one has to admire the potter here for using his craft to make a living.

As luck would have it, only yesterday, whilst in the island’s capital Arrecife, we had a coffee in the old ‘Recova’ market, which itself is steeped in history, and I was delighted to spot the shoe maker in one of the artisan booths. I have written about the Recova before in From Fish Stalls to Fiestas, where you can see the shoemaker in context and view some real sepia images which decorate the market walls. Once again the artisan kindly allowed me to take his picture and was eager to show us his catalogue of shoes all made from the finest leather, as well as some goatskin sandals. You can even spot some tools of the trade which match our prompt picture. I expect he would also repair shoes or boots if asked, but I think he was mainly a craftsman, designing and making shoes from scratch; an honest way to earn a living.

Why not join other Sepians this week to see what they made of the prompt.

* From The Powerhouse Collection courtesy of Flickr Commons

Friday, 10 October 2014

Taken For a Ride

Hard to believe that the tiny driver of the ‘stagecoach’ is me in 1958. I found this in my parents’ album with the title “Wells Fargo” underneath. "Tales of Wells Fargo" was a TV series which ran from 1957-1962 and featured lots of stagecoaches and cowboys so I expect that was in my Mum’s mind when she labelled our holiday snaps. This was taken in Prestwick, Scotland, and I appear to be enjoying being perched on top and holding the reins.

Clearly it’s a family thing as this photo of my brother in 1949 shows. This was another family holiday in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk. The posters in the background mention Yarmouth Races, but I don’t think my brother was going anywhere fast. I’m not sure of the exact spot where this was taken but it would appear that this was the starting off point for the ride. I expect that there was also someone actually leading the horses on that occasion too.

Well the carriage rides made a nice change from the inevitable ponies and donkey rides on the beach. There are plenty of photos of me and my brother, my Mum and my Dad sitting astride the animals but I’ve tried to match our Sepia Saturday prompt picture as closely as possible and ensure that a stagecoach, carriage, waggon  or cart was involved.

I am hardly visible in this August 1958 photo of another family holiday in Seathorne. My big brother was there to make sure I was all right, but he looks none too sure himself

The oldest picture in my collection is of my great-Aunt Maud (1893-1980) who has featured in several blogposts and indeed this photograph has appeared in the post ‘Where Was Maud?’. It was taken in 1905 at The Missionary Festival, outside the Albert Hall, Nottingham.

Maud is on the front row, partially obscured by the banner. It appears that the children are about to be taken for a ride; there are two men waiting and one is wearing a bowler hat, so that’s as close as I can get to the prompt picture. The men in the prompt appear to be engaging in a little clowning around however, so that is where the similarity ends. There would be no mischief on a Sunday School outing!

Take a ride to this week’s Sepia Saturday and join fellow passengers to see what they made of the prompt.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Cover Girl

Yes, it’s me! April 1974 and on holiday with my (now) husband in Cornwall. There is absolutely no mistaking the message here and I clearly did not want my photo taken and chose to be a ‘cover’ girl. Thank goodness for a handy towelling beach robe with hood.  I remember that garment so well and my trendy 1970s shopping bag from which I had recently taken a copy of ‘Woman’ magazine.  In those days Woman, and a similar publication, ‘Woman’s Own’ were full of heart-warming stories of family life, short stories, recipes, knitting and crochet patterns and articles on health. A well-known personality may have featured in a story somewhere but there wasn’t the obsession with celebrity culture that we have nowadays. These were the magazines that my Mother and Grandmother read. Mum subscribed to Woman and Gran to Woman’s Own and they’d swap each week. There were other women’s magazines that I remember from the 60s and 70s, such as Woman’s Realm and Woman’s Weekly which catered for the same market. At college I read Cosmopolitan, a magazine more suited to my age. I can only assume I wanted a light holiday read on this occasion.

As I became a more mature woman with a family I graduated to titles like ‘Prima’ and later ‘Woman and Home’ and ‘Good Housekeeping’. These days I still read women’s magazines occasionally, either in the digital version on my iPad, or if someone kindly passes on a copy. I don’t find much in them to interest me as they seem to be full of articles about fashion, and make-up and far too many adverts. Flipboard and Issu are also great platforms for the occasional bit of escapism and I can read articles from such diverse publications as ‘Women’s health or ‘The New York times - all free - and of course our own Sepia Saturday magazine is available on Flipboard.

I’ve no idea what magazine my Mother is reading in this picture from eleven years ago as I can’t see the cover.

She didn’t find it sufficiently absorbing and switched later to her book, whilst Dad perused the Sports page of the newspaper.

My daughter visited us for Christmas 2011 and posed with ‘Glamour’ magazine so that the photo could be submitted in the hope of publication for a prize.

Discover some great articles at Sepia Saturday this week where our prompt image is a 4th October
1944 magazine cover.  You’re bound to find some good reading and great pictures submitted by contributors. There were lots of themes to choose from including Norman Rockwell, The ‘little guy’ uniforms, followers and parcels from home. I’m sure they’ll have them all covered!

Friday, 26 September 2014

Turbans and Towels

This week’s Sepia Saturday photo prompt gave plenty of scope to themers. I had it in mind to go with the motorbike angle but as I started skimming my digital albums, I found the towel ’n turban idea more appealing. The photo features a 1944 Canadian photograph of a motorcycle courier and two servicewomen. One of the women has clearly been caught out, either en route to the showers or in the middle of some domestic chore, as she still has her towel draped over her arm and has tidied her hair into a turban.

This headwear became very popular during the War years due to rationing. Women learned to be creative with the scarves already in their wardrobe, whilst subsequently discovering that the scarves thus utilised, kept their hair clean whilst carrying out the Spring Cleaning, or hid the errant locks on ‘bad hair days’.

In this c1955 picnic picture, my brother is neither doing the cleaning, nor in need of a shampoo and set. It was a warm day, so perhaps he was using the towel as a makeshift sunhat. More likely however, is that he was clowning around for the camera. Mum, in mid-sandwich and I, concentrating on my drink, were oblivious of course.

Clearly there’s something about a towel and warm weather which brings out the inner child. In this next photograph from c1968, my friend’s father has adapted his towels as both turban and cape. I remember the dialogue well, as I wrote it in my teenage photo album, He was offering to sell us carpets or naughty postcards. We girls were in hysterics and I can’t show the rest of the picture as my friend is convulsed with laughter just as he takes a bite from her barbecued sausage; not a pretty sight. These days that kind of portrayal would be seen as only worthy of an end-of-the-pier show or pantomime, and would probably be deemed racist. In the 60s this kind of fare was served up on British television on a daily basis and passed for humour.

No racism intended in the next two photographs of my son, aged just eight years. This is just a little boy dressing up and hoping to win a fancy dress competition at the Primary School, Coningsby in July 1987. I’ve no idea who won, perhaps it was Rupert Bear standing next to him in the second shot.

The 1942 British Pathé video below shows us exactly how to make a turban from whatever we have hanging about in our wardrobe. Whatever you don’t forget to stick a bunch of flowers in there too, or use two scarves at once if you want to be a ‘natty little pussy cat’! Weave a feather in or make a ‘sort of beehive’ tipped over at a tricky angle! Be aware when viewing this short film that it ends abruptly and what follows is a shocking clip from another film which would definitely be non-PC .

Grab your towel and see what other contributors have made of this week’s prompt.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Remembrance for the Robin Hoods

At the outbreak of WW1 my grandfather Sydney volunteered for the army. He had turned sixteen in April that year and was an engineering apprentice in Nottingham. He joined the Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment), 2/7th (Robin Hoods) Battalion, which was formed a hundred years ago tomorrow. Until the end of January 1915 the men were billeted at home, so Syd remained with his father, stepmother, sister and brother, whilst carrying out training, drill and tactical exercises. They then transferred to Luton and on to Dunstable for further training. It was here that the battalion was presented with a set of band instruments and Syd joined the band as a drummer. The picture above shows my grandfather (far left) with three pals outside their tents at the Watford camp.

In this picture he stands, wearing the drum (the far right). This time they have moved away from the tents, perhaps to practise without disturbing their comrades in the camp. 

This postcard was sent by Syd to his father in 1915; in August of that year the battalion undertook a two day march to Watford where, with 178 Brigade, they underwent final preparation for front line duties. In 1916, a week after his 18th birthday, when he became eligible for combat duties, the battalion received news that were to proceed to an unknown destination and two days later, having travelled by the cargo ship S.S.Patriotic, they were in Ireland (1)
My grandfather’s first taste of battle was not in France or Belgium as had been expected, but in suppressing an armed rebellion by Sinn Féin, the movement for independence from Britain. He had a difficult march with his battalion from Kingstown (now Dun Laogihre) to Dublin, carrying a full pack, weapons and 130 rounds of munitions on a warm Spring day(1). On 26th April the battalion walked into a trap and were quickly embroiled in what became known as the Battle of Mount Street Bridge, where many of the Foresters were simply picked off as they marched straight through the Dublin streets with no cover. Syd found himself in the charge up the Northumberland Road, where the Robin Hoods attacked (with drawn swords  and bayonets) Number 25, the school, the bridge and Clanwilliam House, all held by the rebels. "The attacks were pressed home 'at all costs'. Frontal charges onto the guns of the rebels." (2)

There were  many casualties and Syd saw his best friend shot dead as he fought beside him. By the end of the day the Sherwood Foresters had lost four officers killed and fourteen wounded. Amongst other ranks there were 216 killed or wounded; 234 men in one day was a huge loss. Some of the men were raw recruits who had only been in uniform for three months; my grandfather, as a reservist, was  well trained, but even he would not have been prepared for an ambush and for street fighting; for him, just a few days past his 18th birthday it would be a memorable event. Even today there is little remembrance of this significant event: the Sherwood Foresters who died fighting on the Home Front were not recognised in the glorious way that those who fell on the Western Front were and many of their graves are poorly kept.

He remained ‘under canvas’ for a further four months and then marched to Galway and the comparative comfort of the barracks, before being recalled to England in early 1917. From here the battalion finally transferred to France and took part with distinction in the second Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) and Cambrai later in 1917. Syd, trained in signals, was employed as a Runner, carrying messages along the trenches and between the lines. When the battalion was disbanded in January 1918, Syd transferred to the Royal Engineers Signals Service and returned to barracks for training.  The photo on the right was taken at that time and it’s the one I know best from my grandfather’s time in WW1, as it hung on the wall of my grandparents sitting room throughout his life. 

Very little reference was made to his war service as far as I can recall, but growing up I was always very aware of my grandfather’s part in suppressing the rebellion. All those months living under canvas, training, drilling and playing in the band, must have seemed a distant memory or forgotten dream when thrown into the nightmare of Easter 1916.  

On November 11th this year, when poppies are worn in remembrance, I’ll be thinking of the Sherwood Foresters and especially of Syd and his pals in the Robin Hoods who fought so bravely against all the odds. Perhaps one day their valour and sacrifice will be recognised and they will receive the honours due to them even though there is now not one left to accept them.

Join us at Sepia Saturday this week where the picture below with tents and poppies prompts different and varied memories for contributors.

Below are three documents I referred to in writing this post, the first of which is a newly published thesis. Once again I am also indebted to my brother for chronicling the family history.

(1) Hidden From Memory: Remembrance and Commemoration of the Sherwood Foresters' Involvement in Easter 1916. Amanda S. Kinchen. via Digital Commons at Georgia Southern University. pub Spring 2014
(2) In Some Forgotten Field - The Easter Uprising 1916. John McGuiggan
(3) The Robin Hoods; Rebellion in Ireland, Easter 1916

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Conduct Very Satisfactory

I like the casual pose of the three pals in this picture. It was taken in 1935 when my Dad was 13, or nearly 14 years old. He’s the one on the right with his right arm resting on his friend’s shoulder. I’ve no idea who the other two are, but the one in the middle looks a little older, perhaps the other boy’s big brother. I only came by this picture recently as there are very few pictures of Dad as a youngster. Some of my blog readers will remember him as the Brylcreemed youngster in Boy on a Bicycle, the window-smashing footballer in Let’s Play a Game and in his Boys Brigade uniform in Something for the Boys.  Dad died in late November 2012 and I am still finding out things about him that I never knew. I have a couple of his old school reports from about this time and they are in quite a fragile state but the one from that Summer Term of 1935, tells me something more about the boy in the photograph.

I know that he had moved from Nottingham to Doncaster with his family in 1933, when my grandfather, a railway worker, transferred to the repair shops there. This would have been Dad’s final (terminal) report at the school before moving on to the world of work.

He was a good attendee and received praise from his master for making good progress and his conduct and industry were 'very satisfactory’. What I can also deduce is that Dad was in a small-sized class of 31 (his previous one had 52 pupils) and that he was a reasonable, above average scholar. His composition, spelling and written and spoken English were good; there was no separate comment for handwriting then, which is a shame as Dad had the most beautiful copperplate handwriting right to the end of his life. What we now call Humanities were clearly not his strong subjects, but he was good at Geometry and Music and shone at Arts and Crafts. All this accords with the father I knew, who went on from there to further study Maths, English, Draughtsmanship and Mechanical Engineering at Evening College and trained with Castell’s Window Dressers, whilst playing his drum kit in his spare time. Longtime readers will remember that Dad was a very good hobby artist and  was still painting up until a year or so before his death.

The teacher summed Dad up well, his conduct was exemplary; he was a gentleman, and he worked ceaselessly throughout his life to make sure that his family were well cared for. He wasn’t always appreciated by his employers and he never rose to the top. He was once told he didn’t have 'enough fire in his belly'; he was far too nice. He didn’t toady and creep and was really quite gullible, often taking people at face value. He didn’t learn the secret handshake and he didn’t marry the boss’s daughter. What he did have was lots of friends who appreciated his friendship and his many kindnesses. Even today people still speak of him as ‘such a lovely man’ which gives my mother great comfort. I bet his two pals in the picture knew him as a good friend as well, just look at the body language.

Our prompt this week was what led me to this picture of my Dad. Three pals together with one casually resting his hand on another’s shoulder. However, I don’t think their whisky-fuelled behaviour was ‘very satisfactory’ and they all look a little worse for wear. Join other contributors to Sepia Saturday to read more reports.