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."

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Puppy Love

This is my puppy, Kim, bought for me when was eleven.  He is the only dog I have ever owned and of course I loved him. He was a Miniature Apricot Poodle and he lived for fourteen years.

Because he was around so long there are many photographs of him and has often appeared in my sepia posts, such as 'A Bag of Bones’.

One of my best ever posts was ‘To Say Nothing of the Dog’ in which and other family dogs appeared. I don’t think I can top that one as far as the dogs are concerned; however, this week’s Sepia Saturday picture prompt is a dog, being held in the arms and being hugged. In 'Window of Opportunity’ you can see Kim in just such a pose, where he is being held in my Dad’s arms.

For a picture that fits the bill, and which has never appeared before here to my knowledge, here’s two for the price of one. This is my future sister-in-law (though we didn’t know it then), with her dachshund, Heidi, and of course that’s me, and Kim, a few years past puppyhood, but with many years left in him.

Head over to Sepia Saturday 270 for more pictures of huggable dogs and possibly huggable stewardesses; we never know what the prompt will suggest to fellow Sepians but it’s guaranteed to have lots of old pictures and perhaps some shaggy dog stories too.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Music and Poetry

I first met this talented young man last year, whilst visiting London’s Docklands Museum at Canary Wharf, where this striking portrait of him immediately grabbed my attention. The museum is housed in an historic warehouse and contains objects, personal stories, artwork and music that have left a strong mark on the capital. It is the music which provides me with the perfect link to this week’s Sepia Saturday.

The sheet music pictured here was in the same glass display cabinet as the picture of the young man, and the one on the left in particular was to make his name. He was Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912), a talented  composer and conductor who flourished in late Victorian London. Sadly he was to die far too early, at the age of thirty seven, of pneumonia, possibly brought about by overwork as he struggled to make ends meet for his family.  Of mixed race, with a black doctor father and an English mother, he was brought up in the London suburb of Croydon and began taking violin lessons at a very early age, before later studying at the Royal College of Music. He went on to become one of the country’s most popular composers of choral music well into the early Edwardian age.

Black Mahler, the website of Charles Elford, Samuel’s biographer explains: “ Coleridge-Taylor’s epic choral trilogy 'Song of Hiawatha' makes this funny, generous and modest young man a worldwide sensation overnight.”  He undertook several tours of America where he was hailed a cultural hero by African Americans, but “Coleridge-Taylor struggles against financial ruin, personal tragedy and seismic obstacles throughout his short life.” There’s a link to a radio interview on the Black Mahler web page, given by his biographer, which furnishes us with more details. And here is a link to the BBC Music page where you can hear clips of his music and a brief audio-portrait of the composer,  and where an explanation is given for his impoverishment. He sold the rights to his cantata ‘Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast, for just fifteen guineas. It became a huge success but Samuel was to see none of the royalties. When he died King George V made an allowance of £100 a year to Samuel’s widow and two young children, one of whom he had named Hiawatha, so moved had he been by Longfellow’s poem. A memorial concert also raised a tidy sum of £1,440 for the family, but the scandal of the family receiving no benefits from the commercial success of 'Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast’ was the impetus for the formation of the Performing Rights Society. The guildhall School of Music arranged bursaries for his children, who both went on to be professional musicians themselves.

Photographed in 1901 by John  Henry Kempsell, National Archives UK

The British Library Online Gallery has more information and pictures, including his gravestone, with a memorial written by his friend, the poet Alfred Noyes, and at the base of the plinth a few lines of his music are engraved, along with the words: Thus departed Hiawatha, Hiawatha the Beloved.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Mummy’s Little Boy

My father enjoyed taking the quirky shot or two, and the above example is one of his. It’s my Mother peering at a little (very little) boy, seemingly perched on her hand. It’s actually my brother, about 1952, so he really was Mum’s little boy - but not that little......

........ Neither did he have such enormous feet as would appear in this shot. Both pictures seem to be taken on the same day, on a family outing to Wollaton Hall, Nottingham. They could even have been snapped within a few minutes of each other, without Dad even having to get up off the floor! Perhaps the camera was a new one and Dad was trying it out, or it may well have been that it was an idea that he had read about and his family were on hand to assist as his subjects, willing or otherwise.

Our Sepia Saturday prompt this week suggested ‘little and large’ as a possible theme. So there you have it - little boy with large feet. Join other contributors to see what they made of the image below.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Brief Lives

We are such stuff, as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep.
Shakespeare, The Tempest

Here are my parents in 1944 proudly showing off their first baby, my big brother. Mum and Dad married in 1942 and sadly Mum’s first pregnancy ended in miscarriage, so my brother’s birth was a cause for great celebration.  They were young; Mum was 23 and Dad would also be 23 a few days after my brother’s birth. They always wanted a second baby but there was quite a gap before they found themselves expecting twins, due to be born in the Spring of 1950. They were probably both delighted and surprised; there were no other twins in the family that we knew of.

Everything was ready; layettes knitted by my Mum and the female relatives, cots and twin pram, and no doubt my brother was primed to expect the new babies too. Mum went into labour two months early, and the babies were born on February14th 1950, St.Valentine’s Day. A boy and a girl, ‘the ‘Pigeon Pair’. The names were already picked out; Paul and Rosemary, but according to my Mum it was the nurses who named the little boy ‘Valentine’ and so he was. Sadly the babies, being so premature, were not very strong, and both died after a few days. My mother never even got to hold her babies and my father was only afforded a glimpse of them in incubators in the premature baby unit.

Today is St. Valentine’s Day and would have been the twins’ 65th birthday. There was no memorial, no grave, no picture, sepia or otherwise, for my parents to remember them by, and yet they were living, breathing souls, who were fleetingly present on this earth. In the 1950s there was far less understanding of the grief and sense of loss felt by parents who had lost their newborns or suffered stillbirths. The attitude was very much one of getting on with life; in that respect little had changed throughout history, when parents had large families as infant mortality was so high. These days parents are given time to hold the baby, spend time together with them and even take pictures. The Victorians would have understood this as they were very fond of memento mori pictures. It’s quite sad therefore that following WW2 there seemed to be an attitude of stiff upper lip, pulling yourself together, soldiering on and keeping calm and carrying on.

When I was born two years later my parents would have been relieved as well as delighted to have a healthy child. The twins were rarely mentioned when I was growing up, as was the way then, but later when they spoke of them it was always with a good deal of sadness. Thereafter they never celebrated St. Valentine’s Day romantically as the memories were too painful. Had they been allowed to express their grief fully, and not had to suppress their emotions, they could instead have used the date to remember and celebrate the very brief lives of their lost children.

It has always troubled me that it was as though the twins had never been, as there is no tangible memorial, other than a combined birth/death certificate, I am told, though I have never seen it. In UK, the Sands (Stillborn and neonatal deaths) charity now ensures that this need never be the case again. A link to their website here, shows the many wonderful ways they have of helping parents and families. There are bereavement support packs, ‘Lights of Love’ services, a National Memorial Arboretum (2000), Baby Loss Awareness Week and a poetry anthology.

When my twin grandchildren were expected in 2008, also in February,  many memories and emotions must have surfaced for my parents, but I hope their obvious delight in their new great-grandchildren (not born on Valentine’s Day) helped them to overcome them.

This weeks’ Sepia Saturday has fallen on St.Valentines’ Day and I thought it was a golden opportunity to remember those brief lives of my siblings. Perhaps I would not have been born myself if they had lived, and fate can play a curious hand, but as I am here and they are not, I wish their spirits, wherever they are, peace and love. Whether there is life eternal I do not know, my parents certainly believed so. Dad is no longer with us but I’m sure Mum still holds the memories of her babies in her heart, as tenderly as she holds her great-grandchildren in these pictures.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Breathing New Life

"Watchful from childhood of the world and events going on around him, Juan Brito grew up learning the secrets of things and the ancient names of the lands and its tools."

Juan Brito Martin is another ‘favourite son’ of the island of Lanzarote (awarded the title in 2013), along with César Manrique and Doctor Jose Molino Orosa. I wrote about the poet and founder of Arrecife hospital, Orosa in A Remarkable Man, and I have often written about the visionary César Manrique and his wonderful artistic and cultural legacy, but now it is the the turn of this master craftsman.

I took the above picture only a few days ago when we visited the Casa-Museo Monumento al Campesino . Here we found two rooms dedicated to the work of Martin. We learned that he was born in Tinajo in 1919 and the information board describes him in the quote above, as 'watchful from childhood', surely a necessary attribute for a future folklorist, artist, archaeologist and basket-weaver. For he has been all of those; working on major archaeological digs and surveys, participating in the restoration of buildings and streets, founding Arrecife Archaeological Museum and the folk group Los Campesinos, as well as creating a dance ‘Saranda’. Clearly a man of many talents.

The information board tells that his most prominent achievements in ceramics have been to ‘breathe new life into this activity on the island’ and to re-create island mythology with historical figures; shepherds and territorial chieftains, as in these examples titled, ‘Mythology of Princess Ico’. More about this myth and some of the stories concerning the earliest inhabitants of the island can be found here; Guanches and Majos, but beware it concerns tales of polygamy and some rather strange practices.

His interest in folk culture, so fruitfully channelled through his archaeological and artistic works, has contributed significantly to the knowledge and survival of our people’s customs and habits.  

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt is a picture of ceramic artists at work. Join us in the art gallery to see how other contributors have been inspired by the theme.


Friday, 23 January 2015

Bowled Over

The adverts in this week’s post all come from my souvenir programme of a cricket match held at RAF College Cranwell in 1971, where several famous people were playing. I wrote about it here and put the whole thing in a Flickr album, where you can see even more adverts, and pictures, and read stories and anecdotes.

I like the whimsical humour and the dreadful punning style of the first image, even if it is a little laboured. The others in my selection are all on a cricket theme, where the advertiser chose to capitalise on the event (Haig Whisky missed a trick). They are interesting from a historical perspective too. The National Coal Board was later privatised and many mines closed over the subsequent years.

These days we would expect more details in the advert about the product and where to purchase it. I’m assuming that Australia Farm is some kind of co-operative, but the ad relies on the reader already having some knowledge of its services. I remember that in the 1950s my great-uncle in Victoria sent Christmas parcels of Australian dried fruits. After the war these products were scarce and expensive, and the parcel contained ingredients to make a Christmas cake.

At least SBS, the building supply company had the sense to include contact details.

This week Sepia Saturday has an advert from 1882 as the prompt. Join other Sepians there to see what they’re advertising this week.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Rough Justice

Back in August I told the sad and sorry story of a childhood acquaintance who went on to be hanged for murder, in A Curious Incident and I was once thrown into prison myself for witchcraft (I was in Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible when I was a teenager and you can see the picture here.). Apart from that I’ve always tried to be a law-abiding citizen and the nearest I have come to methods of punishment is viewing the castle dungeons on our many visits to castles, or town jails/gaols, when we’ve been on some historical/heritage experience/trail over the years. Other members of my family have been photographed in the stocks and pillories (in 1987: Littlecote and 1989: Lacock).

This week’s Sepia Saturday has a legal theme and a prompt picture of a courtroom. I was once foreman of a jury but there were no photographic records of the occasion; there are strict rules in English Law about that sort of thing!

Referring once more to the book I introduced you to last week,* I found this interesting case.

Fortune Teller Held in Pillory
Last Tuesday at the Sessions held at Newbury, came on the trial of Elizabeth Sevens, otherwise Dame Cryer, a noted fortune-teller for several years past, being prosecuted by one Mondy of the Parish of Kingsclere, for having charged him with robbing his father of some Household Goods and Gammon of Bacon, the Father upon losing these Things having applied to the said Fortune-teller for information concerning them. She was tried by Special Jury and found guilty, was sentenced to be imprisoned for twelve Months and to stand four Times in the pillory within the time of her imprisonment. From The Ipswich Journal 16 December 1758

Not much of a fortune-teller; she should have seen that coming! It seems rather a harsh sentence for just making some bad guesses and I expect there is more to this case than meets the eye. For more tales of law-breaking and rough justice, visit other Sepians to see what they made of the prompt.

*News From the English Countryside 1750-1850 by Clifford Morsley