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."

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Post from Parliament

It was Sir Joshua Reynolds’ birthday a few days ago (16th July), so what better way to celebrate this great British painter’s life than by sharing a stamp which was issued in 1973, for his 250th birthday?
It was part of a set of four stamps; two bearing portraits by Reynolds and two by Sir Henry Raeburn, whose 150th birthday it was. The stamps were  issued on 4th July 1973, so please take note of the postmark; 2 PM on the day of issue and from no lesser establishment than the House of Commons.

I can’t remember how it came about, but the postcard was actually addressed to me, in my mother’s handwriting, and signed by the Member of Parliament, William Whitlock, who was our local MP in the constituency of Nottingham North at the time. Anyway, it’s a nice souvenir to have because the postcard also has a picture of the Palace of Westminster.

Sadly, this is a fairly ordinary commemorative stamp, and not one of the few 3p Joshua Reynolds stamps that were issued with the gold head of the Queen missed off. That would be worth around £100!

This is a contribution to Viridian’s Sunday Stamps, where the prompt is artists and illustrators.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

A Great Tradition

I remember this picture very well as it was an occasion for dressing up and being silly, but with a purpose. New Year’s Eve 1976 and we young marrieds were part of this ‘Eng. Wing’ team for what used to be known as a ‘fancy dress’ competition. It was RAF Waddington’s Officer’s Mess tradition for different sections or ‘wings’ to dress up in a competition that was all part of the New Year’s Eve fun.

We didn’t just dress up though - oh no - we danced! By Christmas 1976 Mike Oldfield’s ‘Portsmouth’ had been released just four week’s earlier and charted quickly at number three. It was a traditional folk tune and perfect for the Engineers and their ladies to perform a non-too-serious  Morris Dance for the delight of the party-goers. Morris dancing is a great English cultural tradition and modern participants take it very seriously, even though the end result is usually a great deal of fun and enjoyment for both dancers and audience. Go to any English Summer Fair or Celebration Day and there will be a Morris Dancing team providing a spectacle of colour and tradition for the crowds. Looking at the You Tube Video of the single now, I see where we got the idea from!

Well, we weren’t part of any club and the serious 'Morris Men’ would no doubt have been horrified at our attempts at mimicry of their fine craft; however, it was New Year’s Eve and we were out to get the prize. We didn’t just arrive and make it up as we went along though; this having fun and being silly is a serious business, especially if it involves dancing! Anyone who has watched the Morris Dancers in action knows that there is precision and rhythm involved. Therefore we had to practise the routine a couple of times. On the day, fortified by whatever we had in our glasses, we seemed to succeed in making it all come together.

The costumes were whatever we could lay our hands on to make them look authentic. The addition of crepe paper to white blouses, shirts, and (in my case) tennis dresses, plus a few jingle bells  and streamers gave us the look we were after. What a motley crew we were! The giant ‘spanner' (cardboard and a few rolls of tin foil) was all part of the act. The officer waving it aloft was playing the part of The Fool, whose job it is to dance around and, through the dance, without appearing to be part of it. Why the spanner? Remember we were representing Eng.Wing! Well the whole thing was hilarious and of course we went down well with the crowd. It was touch and go at one point and we were up against the ‘I Claudius’ team; in the end though we were victorious. A crate of beer was the prize I believe, but that was just the icing on the cake.

We lost touch with most of those people in the picture, well it was nearly forty years ago; at least two have passed on, and one retired as a three-star Air Marshall. We two are still going strong though these days it’s not dancing but climbing mountains that we aspire to.

Our Sepia Saturday prompt this week is a group of young male students dressed up as female ballet dancers. It’s from the Folk Museum of Norway and filed under ‘humour’. They were obviously dressing up and being silly for some purpose or other, but whatever it was, it was fun (judging by the expressions on their faces).

There was no cross-dressing in our little team, and as far as I’m aware it’s not part of the Morris Dancing tradition, though these pictures below show Pete the ‘Fool’ of The Royal Liberty Morris Dancers dressed in a pink dress and rigged out as a baby, complete with dummy. As I said, dressing up and acting silly - all part of the fun. Now shed your inhibitions and join the Sepia Saturday team- it’s a great tradition.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Sitting on the Fence

That’s my big brother on the right, sitting on the fence; a gate, to be precise, into a field surrounded by a fence. If we’re being pedantic though, Alan suggested a possible theme from today’s Sepia Saturday prompt picture could be children sitting on a fence. I think it’s a wall in the picture but that would have spoiled Alan’s clever political point so we’ll let it pass.

I don’t have any pictures of politicians at all. I’ve a few of local dignitaries; mayors, mayoresses, bishops and other 'movers and shakers’ (but not of hands); none interesting enough for Sepia Saturday. Anyway it’s my big brother’s BIG birthday; today he is 70 years old, and these days no-one could ever accuse him of sitting on the fence; he has very strong opinions and he’s always right. I’m being generous because it’s his birthday, but we have been known to fight like cat and dog since we were kids, and we still fall out quite regularly - but only for a few moments. The trouble is I have very strong opinions too, and of course I’m the one who is really right!

That photo would have  been taken by our Dad, who was great at posing us in unusual places or catching us in certain lights. He would have found it amusing to sit my brother and his little pal straddling their privates on a gate marked specifically for the purpose. Or perhaps we are meant to think they’re two naughty ‘scrumpers’ making for the orchard. They don’t look very comfortable, so I hope he didn’t keep them there too long. The other photos in the set reveal what they were really up to; it wasn’t apples but a fruit of a different kind. It looks to me like blackberries, foraged from the English hedgerows of which there were plenty back in the 1950s. I believe they were in fact rosehips, gathered to be made into rosehip syrup by the Delrosa company for whom my Dad worked.

Two little boys with jam jars showing off their pickings. Let’s hope this was at the beginning of their jaunt; not enough for a pie or jam-making there and it wouldn’t earn them many pennies from Delrosa either..

I bet it was a great little trip, though I wonder how long would it have been before these two got bored and wanted to do something more adventurous; in my brother’s case he’d have been itching to kick a football around with Dad. So, one last dangle from the gate then before heading home for tea.

Oh yes, and a fence is a great prop for a game of make-believe too.

He could have been channelling Roy Rogers; but perhaps not, didn’t Roy sing? I know Gary Cooper was a favourite, so perhaps that’s who it was.

Since he retired my brother has enjoyed being a magistrate sitting, not on the fence but, on the bench. Now he has to stand down from that too, as 70 is the statutory retirement age. He still enjoys acting, though not as a make-believe cowboy; he directs plays in the local amateur dramatic society. He still supports Nottingham Forest football team and attends the matches when he can. He will keep just as busy as before, perhaps spending more time chronicling our family history. I’ve often been indebted to him for providing the facts for my blog. We’ve a long way to go yet though and we need to keep him from under his wife’s feet, so let’s hope he gets on with it! He’s a keen photographer himself and takes very ‘arty’ pictures of the Spanish architecture he sees on his holidays, and then uploads them to Instagram for us all to admire and ‘like’, so that fills some more of his time. He’s a news-junkie, and we all know how that can kidnap time. As well as playing with his grandchildren, he makes sure our 93 year-old widowed Mum is OK. Who said “What will you do when you retire?” I’m sure I’ve missed some things off the list, but this was supposed to be a special birthday dedication post for my (very much older) brother, so........

 Happy Birthday ‘H’. Have a good one!

When you’ve all finished singing “Happy Birthday”, you may like to visit other Sepians to see whether they’re shaking hands/fists/throats, hob-nobbing with the political set, or climbing the wall. Catch them all here at Sepia Saturday.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Dipping Our Toes In

The chuckling two year-old with knock-knees is me of course. My Mum and my big brother have a firm grip in case I should tumble. This was Seathorne on the Lincolnshire coast and the family were enjoying a much-needed holiday after what had been a tough time. My brother was recovering from a serious illness. His eyes had been affected and this may be why he was wearing sunglasses; not something you see often in 1950s beach photographs. His tee-shirt would have been a gift from my great aunt Millie, who lived in America. Despite the sun, you can bet the water was very cold. Seathorne was near Skegness, known to be ‘so bracing’.

And here we are  again, venturing a little deeper this time. Some of you will remember this outfit from my Beach Baby post last year, where it was sand, not water, in which I was immersed. I’m holding on tight to my big brother again. I was lucky to have him, though I didn’t know that then. No sunglasses this time, but his eyes are shaded by a baseball style cap. Again, I don't know if that was very usual in Britain at that time and it’s possible that it came from the same great aunt.

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt is a photograph of people wading or paddling. I have many pictures to match this broad theme, but I decided to narrow it down by sticking to the ones where the subjects are wearing their normal clothes, rather than swimsuits.

I know I’ve posted this one before but it fits the theme so perfectly I had to show it again. It’s my mother, aged about seven, paddling in the sea at Mablethorpe, where she too had gone to recover from illness. My great aunt Maud had taken her there to recuperate. Having no swimsuit Mum tucked her dress into her knickers to keep it dry!

Last year, she came to visit us in Lanzarote, and this time she was able to paddle in the shallow lagoons at Caleton Blanco. The link will show a short movie (2 minutes) of the beach. It also shows you where Lanzarote is, and you will see it’s the Atlantic Ocean, not the Med. The difference between the two shots, apart from nearly ninety years, is that here it’s always warm!

Mum was content to roll up her trousers this time; tucking her dress into her knickers at nearly 93 would be deemed undignified.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Still a Great Experience!

My daughter is pointing to a poster designed by some neighbouring children, to mark the Royal Wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. You don’t need me to remind you how that marriage turned out, however, back then it was an excuse for a street party. We were living in RAF married quarters at High Wycombe and our little ‘patch’ had just a few houses in a cul de sac; perfect for such a celebration.

We had many souvenirs of the wedding; a Wedgewood dish, a specially minted coin and a radio recording of the actual wedding made by me on a c90 cassette, but the postcard below is my favourite.

It was sent by my sister-in-law Gill to our quarters in High Wycombe. I treasure it because it marks a special snapshot in time. There are Charles and Diana smiling away on the 14 pence stamp, totally oblivious to the turbulence they were to face in the future; there is Gill’s distinctive handwriting and wry sense of humour and there is the postmark of Amlwych, Gwynedd, North Wales, then the home of my husband’s brother, his wife (the P and T referred to in the message) and family. I can only guess that the three old Welsh women were T’s mother and her friends. The card itself is an unremarkable arty design, hence Gill’s opening remark; my husband’s family had been holidaying on Angelsey for as long as anyone could remember (the name can just be made out on the franking) and every variation on the views had been mailed to family members over the years.  Gill summed up the Royal Wedding, with all its pomp, ceremony and national fervour, perfectly - "Still a Great Experience!”

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt is weddings and, if you’re looking for real sepia, read one of my first ever blogposts, ‘Wedding Day Delay’, which tells why my grandparents had to get dressed up all over again the next day! I wrote it on 29th April 2011, the day of a more recent Royal Wedding, that of Charles and Diana’s son, William, and Katherine Middleton; another great experience.
This Saturday will be remembered as the day that Alan’s son, Alexander, is married to Heather. We wish them every happiness and celebrate in true Sepia Saturday style. Join us in a toast and mark the occasion by visiting other Sepians to see what they made of the prompt. Here’s to Alexander and Heather! 

I’m also linking to Viridian’s Sunday Stamps because this week she has generously allowed us to choose whatever theme we like and here is one to fit the bill. 

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Roll Up! Roll Up!

This vividly coloured presentation pack from 9th April 2002 is delightfully illustrated and packed with information on the history of the circus.

Just look at the way the credits are displayed, in circus poster style.

In some ways the circus sounds much more fun back in the 18th Century when Joseph Astley set the ball rolling with a trick riding exhibition in London, later adding novelty acts and stunts.

This section tells us more about the development of circus traditions over the years. There is mention of Grimaldi (clowns), Léotard (trapeze), Isaac Van Amburgh (lion trainer), strongmen and bearded ladies.

As a bonus the Royal Mail offered the opportunity to purchase this collectible Corgi set for a mere £59.95. I wonder how many people took up the offer.

I’m not a big lover of circuses per se and these days there is even less exploitation of animals; many circuses still operating draw the crowds to watch the human performers. There have been some upsetting incidents in recent years of cruelty by circus owners, so I would not be sorry to see them go. That said, I still love all the glitz and glamour that goes with the circus of history. When I was young I remember many stories being based on the circus; in those days a visit to the Big Top was a thrill and a memorable occasion. I also remember it being broadcast on TV on special occasions.

One of the first blog posts I wrote was  called Life is Jigsaw and I featured this wonderful example that I found in a charity shop a few years ago. The cut-out figures are called Whimsies and again I just love the vivid colours and the feel of the real wood pieces.

This is a post for Viridian’s Sunday Stamps. No prize for guessing the theme this week, but make your way over to the Big Top and see what other contributors have made of the prompt. There’s bound to be more glamour and glitz.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Train of Thought

There’s something rather special about the picture above. The eagle-eyed will have noticed that it bears my family name. It’s not named after our branch of the family however; I assume it was to honour the famous engineer and canal builder James Brindley, to whom we are purported to be connected in some way. GWR had named a Victoria Class series of steam locomotives after famous engineers such as Brindley, Brunel, Stephenson and Watt, but these were all withdrawn by December 1880. LNWR also had a Brindley engine around 1905 and apparently re-used numbers and names of  withdrawn locomotives so that the numbering system became completely haphazard. I haven’t a clue which one this is but instinct tells me it’s the earlier model. My brother-in-law, the stamp and postcard collector, spotted the above picture for sale on eBay and of course it had to be his.

Googling also turned up the facts that a driver Brindley featured in this month’s Isle of Wight Steam Railway News and that a David Brindley designs modern electric trains. I wish I could say that we were all related but as far as I know we’re not.

Fellow blogger and bookseller Steerforth posted a picture of a shelf of unwanted books a week or so back.

He was moving premises and wondered whether it was worth taking books which remained stubbornly unsold. Some of us were surprised at the titles which appeared unpopular and I commented that surely 'The Boys' Book of Locomotives' by J R Howden would have been snapped up by an old-style train-spotter.

In those days, of course, only boys were deemed to be interested in such topics, although I wonder how many fathers bought it for sons with a view to ‘borrowing’ it; isn’t that how so many train sets came to be commandeered by fathers on Christmas Day?

Of course I then had to find out about the book with such an exciting title. Someone* had kindly scanned the cover and all the pictures and uploaded them to Wikimedia Commons. I had imagined line drawings but no, these were all clear photographic images of old steam trains, engines and valve gears from across Great Britain, Canada, USA and the continent. There must have been some history of travel as there were engravings of a stagecoach and a stagecoach timetable as well as a camel train in the desert. All in all a splendid book. I couldn’t see the Brindley Locomotive there but I do hope some lover of old trains, engines and/or photographs buys the book.

When my children were young we had a holiday in Yorkshire and visited the North York Moors Railway. I wrote about our trip on the steam train in Are We Nearly There Yet? three years ago before many current members joined. It tells of how we managed to bore the children with an 'exciting’ steam train ride. Perhaps this explains why the book above remains unsold. Old trains are not for everyone.

What is for everyone however is Sepia Saturday which has a prompt picture of a railway station with many possible themes to choose from. Consult your railway timetable and catch the next train over there to see what other commuters have made of the image below.

This very Saturday is the birthday of another Mrs Brindley (married to the owner of the Brindley  photograph) so this post is dedicated to her. Happy Birthday G.XX

* Thanks to Andy Dingley