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, 15 March 2017

Tattered Memories and Other Aspects of Love

My mother kept this souvenir programme for a 1943 variety bill at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London’s West End. Unfortunately it has deteriorated over the years and is now rather delicate. The show was notable for comedian Sid Field’s London debut. The ‘rising generation’ included many names who went on to be quite famous, but I suspect my mother’s real fondness was for two teenagers; Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise, as Mum had underlined their names in the programme, even though they were in two different sketches. Mum would often mention that she had seen them in this show when they were young and just starting on the showbiz ladder. The Jerry Allen Trio played the intermission music, and I remember them for their performances on television’s ‘Lunch Box’ in the late 1950s early 1960s, when I stayed at my grandparents’ house.

You can see a more complete programme scan here and here, but it’s still difficult to read the detail.

The show was put on in 1943; my parents had married the previous July but were both serving in the armed forces, at opposite ends of the country, and only saw each other for brief 48 hour passes if they were lucky. I’m not sure if this period co-incides with Mum’s stint as a clerk at the War Office, but they also saw Gone With the Wind at the Ritz at this time and it could be that Dad had travelled down to spend a few hours with his wife. It was their first year of marriage and they would have wanted to spend as much precious time together as possible. Keeping the programmes and tickets for these two ‘dates’ would have been important reminders for them.

The postcard on the left is my own (original) autograph of Morecambe and Wise from some time in the 1960s.

Almost fifty years after my parents’ theatre date, my own husband took me on a trip to the same Prince of Wales Theatre. This was to see the musical, 'Aspects of Love’ starring Michael Praed, who I remember at the time I had a bit of a weakness for.

I notice the dates of the tickets are almost exactly twenty-five years ago, and so would have been a birthday treat for me from my own Love. On pages 33 and 34, there is a short history of the Prince of Wales Theatre from its beginnings in January 1884, and I was delighted to see that ‘Strike a New Note’ gets a mention.

Dad died almost four years ago and Mum’s Alzheimer’s and dementia mean that her own memories, like the old theatre programme,  are a bit tattered. They are still there though in part, and I expect there are some shreds of that special Leave spent in London, when she and Dad had their theatre dates. You can click on the images to enlarge (and read) the notes, and I have copied the entire programme, including adverts, to my Flickr album.

For more memories, tattered or otherwise, book your seats at this week’s Sepia Saturday, where the great showman Louis Armstrong, seated at his theatre dressing table, was our picture prompt.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Getting Feedback

I had difficulty dating this photo of my Great Aunt Maud (on the right) and her friend Mary Carter. The reel to reel tape recorder belonged to my parents and, among other things, we used it to send Christmas messages to Maud’s brother Albert in Australia, and he would reciprocate. At first glance I assumed that was what they were listening to, and indeed that could be the case. However, I was recently listening to some archive sound recordings made by family on that very machine and had a different thought.

One of the tapes was my parents talking to Maud and Mary about the advent of decimalisation in Britain, set for February 1971. The government started to introduce some of the new coins as early as 1969, so this photo could be somewhere around 1969/70 as the conversation hinged on how the older generation (Maud was born 1897) would manage when the process was complete. Despite their concerns they seemed to have a pretty reasonable grasp, and my father was reassuring them and trying to explain an easy way of working out the value of the coins. Mary said she thought they’d be all right as, on a trip to Holland, they had managed the exchange rate of guilders, but both of them thought it would be the small coins that would confuse them.

From there the went on to talk about their own confidence in working out their shopping bills (in the old money), and how they usually had the total in their head before the shop assistant (who would be using pencil and paper). This was before automatic cash registers or tills were the norm. People of that generation would have been drilled in Arithmetic, as it was called.

I love the picture for all the details of their Living Room: the many patterns of wallpaper and soft furnishing, and the ‘antimacassars’ on the sofa; the Valor paraffin heater under the window; the flower arrangement on the sideboard; Mary’s slippers with pom-poms and Maud’s unbuttoned dress (!).

Both ladies are long gone as is my father, but it’s a delight to look at this picture, and listen to their voices from nearly half a century ago. My parents sound so young, (they would have been in their late forties) and althought they aren’t in this photo, I can imagine them, as they looked then, sitting in the chairs opposite as the ladies listened to the recording of their own voices.

Our Sepia Saturday picture prompt this week is a couple listening to the weather forecast on the radio. Why not tune in and see what other contributors have come up with from their own albums

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Portrait of the Artist

I’ve written about this particular artist, my late father,  before, in We All Shine On and A Boyhood Backyard amongst others. His sketches, paintings and illustrations are scattered throughout my other blogposts as well.

He was a founder member, and later President, of his local art society, a group of hobby artists who enjoyed getting together for talks, field trips and practical painting and sketching classes. In the first photo above he’s receiving an award of some sort from the mayor. The picture at the top right shows him with fellow members in a recruitment drive in town, and the third picture is of a field trip to a local park.

He’s concentrating very hard in the first picture above, to produce the painting below, based on a slide of one of his holidays to Spain. The other photos show him out on more sketching trips and chatting to fellow members of the group.

Dad wasn’t a brilliant artist, and human figures and animals were not his strong point, but I think the scene above has a naive charm about it. It shows a group of two Spanish ladies busy making, or mending, something lacy, whilst the other tow people are obviously there to offer advice or simply gossip.

I chose four of his paintings for the above Four Seasons collage, all of which are favourites of mine.

Join us this week at Sepia Saturday where our prompt image is an art class.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Come Feed the Little Birds

Come feed the little birds, show them you care
And you’ll be glad if you do
Their young ones are hungry
Their nests are so bare
All it takes is tuppence from you.

So sings 'the little old bird woman’ on the steps of London’s St Paul’s Cathedral, in the enchanting film of Mary Poppins. Of course it’s Mary doing the actual singing, but she is giving voice to the old lady who sells her bags of breadcrumbs for people to feed the birds.

When I was a child it was my delight, when visiting my grandparents at Notingham’s Trent Bridge, to take such a bag of stale bread with which to tempt the swans who sailed up and down the River Trent.

In the first picture I appear to be throwing the bread ‘at’ rater than ‘to’ the poor birds. My brother, standing beside me, has a better technique; waiting for the swans to swim close he throws it at his feet.

I think these pictures were taken some time around Christmas 1957, when I was four, but I remember the ritual of feeding the swans well into my teenage years.

We would also feed the pigeons in Slab Square , in Nottingham’s City Centre.

A generation later, and my daughter generously shares the remnants of her picnic with the hungry pigeons, whilst her granddad looks on. This is the grounds of Nottingham Castle, on a day out in May 1988 with my Mum and Dad, during the school summer half term holidays .

A couple of years later and we’re back in our own home territory, visiting one of our favourite riverside pubs, The Bridge at Woodford, near Salisbury. Once again it’s stale bread that the swans are enjoying. 

Oh and burnt toast, which my son can’t resist having a a sneaky bite of, much to his sister’s disapproval.

This is me about twelve years ago, being watched by my Dad whilst I feed the ducks; this time, however, it’s not bread that I’m offering. I’d joined the RSPB by then and was buying all my wild bird food from them, including for the swans and ducks. This is a special duck and swan food which consisted of tiny dried pellets. I was better educated by then too, and knew that bread was the wrong thing to feed the ducks.

There’s a campaign by the Canal and River Trust to discourage bread being thrown to the birds. Not only does it clog up the rivers, but it can cause lasting damage to waterfowl.

In some cases they develop a condition called ‘angel wing’ which is incurable and leads to the inability to fly and to certain death.

This is Canada Goose in London’s Kelsey Park; it would seem he has been eating too much bread.

So the message is, feed the birds by all means, but preferably with the right kind of food. The garden birds too have different dietary needs of specific nuts and seeds, and it’s worth putting the relevant mix on the bird table to attract some delightful little visitors. No need for the services of the the old bird woman then.

Our Sepia Saturday prompt image this week is a group of children feeding the pigeons, whilst the grandparents look on.  It’s from the Royal Library of Denmark, via Flickr Commons, but it’s not known where and when the photo was taken, other than the sometime in the 1940s or 50s. The children have paid 10 øre for a bag of pigeon food; let’s hope it wasn't just breadcrumbs!

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Underneath the Arches

The kids and I in 1988 enjoying spectacular views over the North York Moors. We are standing in one of a series of ruined ‘arches', remnants of a once thriving iron industry of Rosedale. The arches are actually calcining kilns and they and the associated iron mines and the railway are listed monuments due to their historic importance. Calcining (roasting) was necessary to convert the carbonate ores into an oxide prior to smelting. You can find out more by clicking the link.

Fun to scramble down or clamber up!

In the mid-1990s a huge three year conservation project was carried out after it was revealed that one of the kilns’ firebrick linings had collapsed during the Winter. The work continues today and I would imagine that it is no longer possible to scramble over, around and under these huge monuments.

You can read in 'The Press’ about the £2.8 million Heritage Lottery Fund for a major project which is going to transform the area.

"Pioneering railwaymen, ironstone miners, steelmakers and railwaymen created a unique landscape in remote valleys across the moors during Victorian times.
The new scheme, entitled ‘This Exploited Land’, will tell about the heritage's importance in a sweeping arc of land stretching from Goathland and Grosmont through Eskdale to Kildale, Rosedale and Rosedale Abbey.
It will also encourage rare wildlife, ancient woodlands, wild daffodils and the special species of the River Esk.
Join other contributors to this week’s Sepia Saturday to see what they made of the image prompt which gave us arches and steps.

The view from above the kilns is © Christine Matthews  courtesy of geograph SE7294 under the Creative Commons Licence.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

That Look

I’m not sure what 'that look' was; lost in admiration, besotted, lovestruck? Who knows? I had just become a teenager and was beginning to look at boys rather differently. This was the big brother of my Austrian exchange friend with whose family, near Vienna, I spent most of my Summer holidays that year.

He was very kind to me, I remember, and when I visited again three years later, we were all a bit more mature. The 1968 invasion of Prague, a few kilometres over the border, actually took place whilst I was staying there on that occasion. It was quite a frightening time as my friend’s brother was completing his National Service and the family were anxious.  It was also quite exciting, as we had soldiers billeted with us too. Fortunately my parents had accompanied me for part of the time and were there to chaperon. It looks as though I only had eyes for my friend’s big brother, but the next picture shows that we were not alone, having a cosy tête-à-tête.

'That look' in the second picture is of one who has imbibed too much of the fruit punch on offer, but as I was only thirteen it is unlikely to have been the alcoholic variety. My friend’s mother was amused by it anyway. There is one other brother squeezed into the cosy corner. He was only seven years old, but a little charmer himself.

What are we doing? Being very silly, that’s what. Those are saltsticks on the table and little brother and I are sharing one, starting from different ends, and ending up rubbing noses. Very amusing when you are a seven year old boy. We look very serious but ended up in fits of giggles.

In the last picture ‘that look’ is me not paying attention to the person wielding the camera. I’m making eyes at someone else. I wonder who.

Our Sepia Saturday prompt this week is of Dizzy Gillespie staring adoringly at Ella Fitzgerald. 'That look', you know, we’ve all done it - haven’t we?

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Four Queen Elizabeths

A holiday in Southsea with my family in 1960, meant a visit to the Southampton Docks. Here are my mum, brother and me gazing in awe and wonder at RMS Queen Elizabeth, which was based there. The largest passenger liner ever built at the time, and for 56 years after, she had been launched in September  1938 and named in honour of Queen Elizabeth, later the Queen Mother. She came to a sad end in a mysterious fire in 1972 - the liner, not the Queen Mother, who lived to the ripe old age of 101 in March 2002.

Dad and I perch, as so many doubtless did before us, with the bow of the ship in the background.

At the time of the ship’s launch, Queen Elizabeth was the Queen Consort, a rôle she did not expect to play when she married the Duke of York in 1923, as Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. The abdication of the duke’s brother in 1936 led to his younger brother’s coronation. The first picture below shows her in 1927, as the Duchess of York.

The second image shows her in later life, as Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.

And here is the current Queen Elizabeth, snapped by me on December 9th 2016 when she docked in Arrecife,  Lanzarote’s capital.

There is a BBC news report on You Tube, which shows her launch in 2010 and gives some interesting history of her predecessors, with clips from newsreels of the original ship’s launch.

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt images shows a lady in her youth and old age. Why not climb aboard and enjoy the journey.