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, 8 September 2016

Your Aff Auntie Mary

This is Mary, one of my grandmother’s many sisters, and the only one who never married. She was born in 1905 and lived into her early eighties. By the time of the 1939 census her mother and her eight other siblings had married or died, and Mary is listed as still living at the same house that the family occupied at the time of the 1901 census. Now it was just her and her father, and a lodger, Elsie.  The ladies were both listed as working in a ‘Chemical Food Factory’, but which we know was actually manufacturing Ovaltine. She wasn’t blessed with film star looks, but she was loving and kind. She was a generous aunt and great-aunt, and like my mother before me, I would receive cards on my birthday, usually with a ten shilling note enclosed.She would also send me holiday spending money in the Summer and at Christmas, and a chocolate egg at Easter. Her cards were always signed ‘Your aff Auntie Mary’ (aff= affectionate).

When my great-grandfather died, in 1953 Mary remained in the little house in Watford. Elsie had also remained unmarried and still lived in the same house with Mary, into old age. They continued to work together as far as I know, and were good company for each other, taking holidays together and visiting my grandparents in Nottingham.

I only have a few pictures of Mary and I realise that I know very little about her. I do know that she worked hard all her life and that when she retired at the age of sixty, we all went along to her retirement party. Judging by the few pictures of the event, she obviously had a sense of fun. The party wasn’t just an excuse to eat and drink but to play games as well. This was 1965, and it was what you did in those days. You didn’t sit in a corner with your phone or iPad, you sang, danced, played games and had what was known as a ‘knees-up’!

You can get a flavour of the party from the photos below; my grandfather taking part in some water balancing game and my ‘aff Auntie Mary’ being affectionate to my Dad, by grabbing him for a great big kiss. It was all good clean fun; there were children present, and the party probably finished during the afternoon.

When I was a married woman, and living in my own home with two small children, my parents brought Auntie Mary to visit us, and meet her great-great niece and very new great, great-nephew. It’s the last time I remember meeting her and a happy occasion. It looks as though my daughter has presented her grandma, my Mum, with her dolly and Auntie Mary would have enjoyed watching the children play.

Join us at Sepia Saturday, where our theme for this month is work and play.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Golden Years

Look at the sky, life’s begun,
Nights are warm and the days are young.

My grandparents, pictured at their wedding in 1918, except it wasn’t their wedding, it was the day after and this is explained in an earlier post, Wedding Day Delay. They were very young; my grandfather having joined the army at the start of WW1 at just sixteen years of age. He was twenty and my grandma was twenty-one. I guess after what he’d been though, he thought it was time to settle down and enjoy some love and happiness. Whilst Granddad was serving, my Gran Did Her Bit as a munitionette. Now a new phase of their life would begin. This was no shotgun wedding, my Grandfather was far too honourable. A ‘honeymoon baby’ did however seal their happiness when my Mum’s older brother was born.

In walked luck and you looked in time
Never look back, walk tall, act fine.

Mum followed seventeen months later and the family was complete. Throughout the twenties and thirties my granddad worked hard to provide for them all, despite the depression years when money was tight. Sadly their firstborn was to die, aged just fifteen years, in a freak accident, and when my Dad came courting Mum, my grandparents took him to their hearts and treated him like a son.

They appear in many of my previous blogposts, including earlier this month, Twenty Tiny Fingers, with a photo taken towards the end of Granddad’s life. The way I like to remember them is as two loving people with whom I would enjoy spending time at weekends and holidays. They grew quite stout in later years and My Gran was not very mobile but they would still have a week’s holiday on the Lincolnshire coast in the Summer. Here they are making the most of some rare English sun in 1963. Strange to think that they are about the same age there as I am now!

I’ll stick with you baby for a thousand years,
Nothing’s gonna to touch you in these golden years.

They did make it to their Golden Wedding, I’m pleased to say and had a couple of years more together, before Granddad died, shortly before his 73rd birthday. Quite young by today’s standards.

Wish upon, wish upon, day upon day, I believe oh Lord
I believe all the way.

My own parents made it to their Platinum Wedding (70 years) and the trend these days seems to be for longevity, if you can ride the storms that life inevitably hurls at you. It’s so much better to do it with a loving partner by your side, as my grandparents did. Fifty years marks the special anniversary; Golden Years indeed.

The quotes are from one of my favourite David Bowie songs ‘Golden Years', which was used many years later in one of my favourite films, 'A Knight’s Tale', for a terrific dance sequence.

Join others at Sepia Saturday, where all this month we are posting on the theme of Love and Marriage.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Dedicated to Love

Honour, riches, marriage, blessing,
Long continuance and increasing,
Hourly joys be still upon you.
Juno sings her blessings on you.
(Shakespeare, The Tempest)

 Sorting through my photos I came upon some from a visit we made a few years ago with old friends, to Croome, a National Trust property in Worcestershire. I was struck by the fact that, out of a handful of snaps, I found three which demonstrate dedication and celebrate marriage, commitment and devotion, (apart from we two long-time married couples of course).

My husband and our friends sit in the Island Pavilion for some welcome shade and a rest. The scene in the panel above our friends is dedicated to love and marriage; based on the Aldonbrandini Wedding, you can see it in more detail here and compare it with the painting on which it is based below.* The allegorical work depicts: Aphrodite, goddess of love, tending to the bride who is seated; Hymen, deity of marriage at the foot of the bed, Muses on the right, with wedding attendants to the left.

We visited the church of St Mary Magdalene within the park, and found several wonderful monuments, including this one, which I found very moving, of Mary Craven, wife of Thomas, 2nd Baron Coventry.

Mary died on 18th October 1634 in her 29th year; her infant son also did not survive. There are two small figures kneeling at the foot of her bed, possibly her two sons George and Thomas, who would have been aged five and six when they lost their mother. She was also mother to two daughters, who died young. The monument would have been erected by her sorrowing husband, as a dedication to hs lost love. The Latin inscription is translated:

In Memory of that most illustrious Lady Maria, devoted wife of Thomas Coventry, eldest son of Thomas Baron Coventry of Allesborough, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England. A truly most admirable woman, upon whom God lavished beauty, and what is rarer in her sex, virtue, her loveliness surpassing any woman’s, her generosity surpassing any man’s, of unblemished reputation and purity of life, with a lively mind, strong judgment, an easy eloquence and pleasant speech, calmly in control of her feelings, and finally not just a wise but a calm mistress of all these gifts. A fertile mother of four children, she arrived at the last fatal confinement, bringing forth a son, against nature, rather to death than to life, so that even while trying to share out her life, she lost it, and herself yielded to fate, a short time after her child, amid general lamentation.**
As we left the church and made our way home, we encountered this wonderful symbol of dedication from loving parents, united in their love and care of their offspring. Canada Geese are monogamous and mate for life, with both parents sharing the care of the young. Now that’s dedication.

Join us at Sepia Saturday, where all this month we are celebrating love and marriage.

*By Pietro Santi Bartoli (Unknown) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
** With thanks to goodgentlewoman.wordpress.com/2016/07/31/coventry-v-st-john/

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Twenty Tiny Fingers, Twenty Tiny Toes

There are actually only ten tiny fingers, ten tiny toes in this picture, as my grandparents welcome their first great-grandchild, my niece, in 1970. Sadly my grandfather passed away a few months later, just short of his 73rd birthday, so never got to tickle the next set of ten fingers and toes belonging to my nephew. My grandmother did, but she never met the next two great-grandchildren as she died  in 1977, when my daughter was a few days old.

My own parents met all four of their great-grandchildren, when my nephew and his wife became parents of first a boy, then a girl. Our own son and his wife managed all twenty tiny fingers and twenty tiny toes at once, by producing twins.

Dad is no longer with us, but the love he and Mum had to give, shines out from these photos.

Join us this month for Sepia Saturday to see what other contributors made of the prompt picture.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Caverns Measureless

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to the sunless sea.

I don’t have any photos of sepia caves and caverns, as per this week’s Sepia Saturday prompt, so once more I am delving into my inherited postcard collection. There is a motley selection of well-known English caves and a couple from Yugoslavia and Gibraltar. No exciting messages, just souvenir postcards from various relatives’ travels. Some of the older ones looked pretty boring (the cards, not the relatives), a blurr of stalactites and stalagmites - until I scanned them and zoomed in - then all sorts of details were revealed. The first batch are from Cheddar Caves, on the southern edge of the Mendip Hills in Somerset and formed by underground rivers following the Ice Age. Gough’s Cave is a sequence of chambers with names such as Solomon’s Temple, Swiss Village and Cox’s Caves with the equally enchanting names of The Pagoda, The Marble Curtain, The Curtain Chamber, Transformation Scene and Home of the Rainbow (below).

 Next we visit Wookey Hole, a series of limestone caverns, also in Somerset. Here at last I actually find a boat to answer the call of the prompt image.The occupant appears to be standing alongside, perhaps the better to appreciate the scale of his surroundings.

In the next card shows the Escape of the River Axe, but no boat party.

 These rather dull sepia cards are enlivened by the a visit to the ‘Witch of Wookey Hole’. Go on, you know you can see her!

 And the boat makes another appearance in the kitchen of the aforementioned Witch. I can’t make out any occupants of the boat; perhaps they had a spell put on them.

"Double, double, toil and trouble
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.”

At last we find an occupant of a cave. This is St.Michael’s Cave in Gibraltar. It’s a so-called Neanderthal Man, who apparently sat out the last Ice Age in these caves. A skull was found in 1848. All he needs now is a Rock Chick and the party can begin.

Ok it’s not that sort of party in the prompt picture. At the end of our cave journey we finally spot a party of people enjoying the Postojna Caves in Slovenia, or as it was then, Yugoslavia. They aren’t in a boat though; this is a train, and the link shows that these are much more modern than the one shown here.

Why not join other troglodytes for this week’s Sepia Saturday? Here’s the prompt: Party in Boat, Speedwell Cavern, Castleton. 

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Time for Bed

No sepia photos of bedrooms in my album, to match this week’s prompt image for Sepia Saturday, but I did find a couple of postcards in my inherited collection.

This one was picked up by my mother on a visit to the American Museum in Bath, about twenty years ago, and shows; ‘A New England Bedroom’. It is early 19th Century, with stencilled walls and bedspread.  The ‘field’ bed with serpentine tester (whatever that is) has, like the doll’s bed, a traditional American netted canopy. The rocking horse still has its original ‘fly net’ cover.

This one is a very old souvenir postcard of a visit to Ann Hathaway’s Cottage in Stratford-upon Avon (I’d guess 1960s). Ann was William Shakespeare’s wife, and he famously left her his ‘second best bed’ in his will. I wonder if this was it.

I was reminded me of a visit to Chestleton House in the Cotswolds a couple of years ago.

Two lovely carved beds (click to enlarge for the detail) offering different warming methods; the first an electric hot water bottle and the second a warming pan.

Join us at Sepia Saturday to see what other contributors made of the prompt image below.

Friday, 8 July 2016

The Walk of Life

This week’s Sepia Saturday co-incides with what would have been my fathers’s 95th birthday. Dad died three years ago, not long after he and Mum celebrated seventy years of marriage. He was more than a walker; he was a wonderful dancer, and I’m told he had pretty nifty footwork on the football field as well.* However, our prompt picture, is a street walking picture, beloved of seaside photographers, so I’m limiting my post this week to similar pictures, and those which feature my Dad. The one on the right was taken on a long-awaited holiday in Llandudno in 1946, and Dad is balancing my three-year old brother on his shoulders. It was his birthday too earlier this week, so you can work out for yourself how old he is!

The rest come from a family outing to Skegness, the following year.  My paternal grandmother is walking between Dad and Mum, who is holding my brother’s hand. The photographer seems to have caught them at the beginning of their day; the sun is up and everyone looks happy. Dad’s sister, my aunty Jean, walking between my grandparents, has treated herself to a toffee apple. At eighteen she wasn’t much more than a kid herself, but she had married her first husband at Easter that year.

The last picture seems to have caught the family at the end of their day out. The sun was probably going down, the jackets and coats are on, and my brother is sporting a fetching paper hat. Everyone looks ready to catch the bus home to Nottingham and shake the sand from their shoes.

*"He got the action, he got the motion
  Oh yeah, the boy can play
  Dedication, devotion
  Turning all the night time into the day."

Take a walk over to Sepia Saturday to see what other contributors made of the prompt below, and if you aren’t singing along with, ‘TheWalk of Life’ by Dire Straits, for the rest of the day, well then, you don’t know what an earworm is!