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."

Friday, 21 November 2014

Rock On Pedro!

This is my nephew in 1975, clearly enjoying his ride on Pedro the rocking donkey. He wasn’t the first owner, that was his Mum’s cousin, who received him as a gift for his first birthday in 1966. Researching similar toys led me off in all sorts of directions; I never knew there were so many different types of donkey toy, both rocking and push-along. I’m almost sure that this one was made by Merrythought, a long-established and traditional British toy manufacturer. Their website has an interactive timeline showing the history of the family company from 1907 to the present day. Scroll forward to 1961 and you will spot the push-along version of the "particularly popular Pablo Donkey”. Yes, he was originally called Pablo and I don’t suppose anyone will remember how he came to be called Pedro instead, but Pedro he was and Pedro he is to this day.

By 1978 my nephew had outgrown Pedro and he came to live with us.  Here is my daughter being introduced to him. No, I’m not trying to pull the wool over your eyes, it really is Pedro, albeit with a new coat.

By the time he joined us he’d been so well loved that he was threadbare in places and his mane was looking a little patchy, so I asked if I might give him a makeover. I had a large quantity of very good quality fur fabric made in in a Lancashire mill, and the colour of Pedro’s coat was dictated by what I had in my fabric cupboard. He was given new reins and jingle bells and more realistic glass toy 'safety eyes’. There was no pattern of course, and from what I remember, I fashioned his coat by cutting appropriate sized pieces of fabric and sewing them to the original coat. I remember the hardest part being the ears.

Here my daughter is joined by the son of a friend, and the fact that Pedro was able to support them both uncomplainingly is testament to his sturdy and steady disposition; just like a real donkey. Who needs reins when you can dig your little fingers deep into that furry mane?

This is the last photo I have of Pedro whilst he was in our care. Shortly after this was taken we were posted to Germany with the RAF and we reluctantly parted company. He went back to his original owner to be stored for a while until his own two children had need of him. When my nephew’s son came along in 2006, Pedro was groomed and brushed ready to meet yet another new young owner, and his sister joined him a couple of years later. During this time I believe he had yet another new coat to keep him going a bit longer. The latest news is that he is about to return yet again to his original owner where he will rest until he is needed by the next generation. I wonder how many more makeovers he will have. How many tiny fingers will curl in that furry mane? We may all be long gone and patient Pedro will still be Rocking on.

This week our Sepia Saturday picture prompt featured three brothers and their dog posing for a famous sihouettist in the 1930s. One of the boys is sitting astride a toy rocking horse.

Why not join us there to see what other contributors have shared from their toybox.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Stepping Stones

Why I am dressed all in black in this photograph,  on what is obviously a hot sunny day, is a mystery. This is Toadsmouth in Derbyshire, so called because there was a rock nearby which looked like a toad! My Mum is being very sensible, sitting on the rock, the better to cool her feet in the mini-waterfall, whilst I attempt to make a crossing over the rocks. The lady behind her is a friend and I know we were on one our Sunday picnics with other families to the Derbyshire countryside from our homes in urban Nottinghamshire.

Fast forward to August 1983 and my own daughter is practising the art of walking on stepping stones. This time we were in the English Lake District, returning to one of my childhood haunts, Tarn Hows. This is a man-made beauty spot; the beck was damned in Victorian times creating the ‘tarns’. The ‘hows’ are the surrounding wooded hills.

Our Sepia Saturday prompt this week is a gentleman assisting a lady who wishes to keep her feet dry when crossing a river.

My daughter’s feet are definitely below the water and I’m sure mine were at some point in my rock-stepping; however, it mattered not one bit as we had sensibly removed our shoes. The gentleman above is being very gallant and allowing his own shoes to get soggy in the process, but who was standing with a camera ready to record the event I wonder? Was it a regular occurrence or had the normal means of crossing been lost, destroyed or submerged? We will probably never know.

Why not take off your shoes and socks and wade into the stream of sepia stories that await you at Sepia Saturday?

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Fishing Trip

This is my Dad Les c 1931, with his siblings and cousins fishing for ‘tiddlers’ in the River Trent, Nottingham, when he was about ten or eleven years of age. Dad is standing behind his younger brother John (holding the fishing net) and next to his cousin Betty. Dad’s little sister Jean has hold of Betty’s brother Dougie on one side and on the other John is holding his little sister’s hand. Both girls have their dresses tucked in their knickers to save them from accidentally getting wet.

In this clip of a larger photo Dad has hold of the net but he looks decidedly worried about it. I wonder if it was shared by all the children and if they took turns to fish with it.

No-one in my family can be described as a fisherman and nobody owns a rod and line; this is is the nearest we get.

Years later Dad painted this watercolour of a young boy with his fishing net.

Here in Lanzarote locals can often be seen along the coast, standing on the rocks, fishing for their family’s supper. They are quite determined and occasionally one loses his life when he is swept from his perch by a rogue wave.

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt features three miners in 1916 Alberta, relaxing on a fishing trip.

Why not cast your line and see what other fishy business the Sepians have been up to this week. You’re bound to catch some wonderful stories and images.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Help Yourself

No prizes for guessing the era for this wonderful repast in the picture above. There are many clues: the decor - two different garish patterns for the wallpaper and the linoleum floor covering; the plastic fruit and the folk-art egg-cups on the wall; the homemade sherry trifle in the cut-glass dish and ‘things’ on cocktail sticks. I see pickled onions and mini sausages, a couple of salads, mince pies, sausage rolls, cold meats, slices of pork pie and some sort of dessert made in a chocolate-covered cornflake flan case. How do I know so much about it? Well, this was my family home at Christmas 1974 and someone, probably my Dad, had taken a picture of the table before the hungry guests descended like a plague of locusts to devour it. This was the kitchen (we didn’t have a dining room) of the Nottingham council house where I grew up, and the scene of many such gatherings.

In this picture, with the guests helping themselves, we can admire the panel of brightly burnished reflective wall covering on the rear wall, the pale tangerine-gloss painted cupboards (slightly ajar), the cooking utensils and yes, the actual kitchen sink!

Our Sepia Saturday prompt this week is picture of a dining queue at a 50th anniversary dinner* with people helping themselves from a rather more ornate buffet table in 1952. I don’t believe we ever had an actual cook pot on the table but the 1970s and 80s, we would often host fondue parties. I’m sure many readers will remember the sizzling pot into which we communally dipped our forks!

A year or so later and we’d moved into the living room for a more intimate buffet, where guests could wander over and pick at the canapes as they pleased. I remember the orange plastic device for nuts and other small bites. It toned so well with the curtains don’t you think?

In 1981 a friend and I held a silly buffet party for our families, dressing up and serving cones of chips (French fries) with burgers and hot dogs.

Tupperware dishes of chutneys and relish graced the table and the guests helped themselves to a glass of something at the end of the table. The RAF Married quarters decor wasn’t much better than that of the 1970s. In fact it stayed that way for many years after and wherever we were posted we felt ‘at home’ with the swirly patterns in the stretch covers and the brightly patterned carpets and curtains, none of which matched.

That’s my very own Laura Ashley plastic tablecloth though; I had two small children by then. In case you’re wondering, yes, I am wearing a doily on my head!

It’s Hallowe’en tonight and my daughter’s birthday tomorrow; the grandchildren are visiting and the house will be full, so a buffet-style catering is what’s called for.

There will be lots of visitors so I need to crack on shopping, baking and putting ‘things’ on sticks. I may dress up - but I won’t be wearing a paper doily this time.

Have lots of fun this weekend and don’t forget to go Trick or Treating round your Sepia Saturday friends. You’ll get some nice surprizes in your goody bag!
*Tyrrell Historical Library via Flickr Commons

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.