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, 14 August 2014

Just a Line From the Old Place

That was how my Gran started her postcard home in 1969 and when I scanned it recently it brought back memories of another holiday.

 Mablethorpe 1967, the year I joined my Grandparents on their annual holiday to the Lincolnshire coast. Grandad loved the sun, but my Gran, who was a very large lady, preferred the shade. The lady on the left is my Gran’s younger, widowed sister, Ellen, my great-aunty Nellie.

All three were very loving and generous, but Nellie, who had never had children of her own, would always be buying me little treats. I only had to gaze at some cheap seaside souvenir in a shop window, and she’d have her purse open before I could turn round; “Aunty Nellie’ll buy it for you.” It gave her as much pleasure as it did me.


There are a few abiding memories of that holiday; one was that I had a terrible bout of hay fever which made me feel very low, and another was that I shared a bedroom in our rented cottage, with Nellie, who snored so loudly, that it felt as if the room was shaking. Between us we generated a cacophony of sound; Nellie’s snores and my sneezes and coughs.


I also remember Grandad trying his hand on the rifle range at the funfair and of all of us eating ice cream cones, outside the seaside chalet which we also rented for the week. The chalet had deckchairs and a primus stove for making cups of tea or coffee. I’d forgotten this until I unearthed a postcard my Gran sent me a couple of years later. They missed me making ‘elevenses’ as the morning coffee ritual was known. She also made reference to something else I’d forgotten; my puppy love for the local lifeguard. Gran had obviously shared my good taste and reminded me of it in the postcard.



Another memory is of Grandad offering me a puff of his cigarette, something apparently he had also done to my mother; naughty Grandad! I adored him and was devastated when he died the year after the postcard was sent.  Because Gran was not very mobile, it was Granddad and I who did the shopping, and who were snapped together by the ever-present street photographer. In the last picture I’m applying suncream to Grandad’s forehead. He’s taken off his glasses and paused from reading the paper. The final memory is that I made that blue cotton floral trouser suit I’m wearing, on Mum’s old Singer sewing machine.


Why not join us on this week’s Sepia Saturday and see what other memories have been evoked by letters and postcards home.


Sunday, 10 August 2014

Broken Promise






Image (by Keith Haring) courtesy of Tess Kincaid at Magpie Tales

Take back this ring I proffer,
There was no real offer
of marriage, of true minds.
Your love altered, was not love,
and proved Time’s fool at last,
There was no ring, except 
around my heart, so now
admit impediment,
take back this ring I proffer,
There was no real offer.

© Marilyn Brindley


Tess at Magpie Tales provided the image prompt for our creative thoughts. The references are to Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116, which was not all it seemed.  



Saturday, 9 August 2014

A Curious Incident

How many of you can say that they have rubbed shoulders with a murderer? I have. In 1960 John Louis Constantine aged 23 was hanged for capital murder on 1st September 1960, having been convicted at Birmingham Assizes on 22nd July of that year.

Unfortunately we have been unable to find photographs of my older brother’s birthday party, which Johnny (as he was known to my family), attended. I have a sneaking suspicion that he was eradicated from the family records after his conviction. I don’t remember him at all as I was very young, but I  do have hazy recollections of the shock and horror which rippled through my family at the time. I spoke earlier today to my 93 year-old mother, who maintains that Johnny was a lovely boy who ‘got in with the wrong crowd’. When my parents moved to their first marital home after the war in 1946, the Constantines were their neighbours. All the families on their road had young children, and got on well. By the time that news of Johnny’s crime broke, we had moved away from our home city of Nottingham for a couple of years and had only just returned. I remember whispered conversations and telephone calls and, when I was growing up, my mother would often recount the story, telling us that Johnny’s father had ‘washed his hands of him’! My brother, who is eight years older than me, has a better recollection of Johnny as the teenage boy who everyone on the street got on with, and possibly looked up to. At my brother’s birthday party, Johnny was happy to be dressed in fancy dress by my Dad and join in the fun. We spoke today, my brother and I, of our regret at not being able to trace those photographs.


I can easily find details of Johnny’s execution, as it was recorded in Hansard, and there is an occasional mention of him in a book about murder, executions or the 1960s. An Internet search revealed that he was married and someone in a history forum mentioned that his  wife worked with her. This would accord with my parents’ memories that they had met him when he was a young man, with a girl on his arm.

So what made Johnny ‘turn bad’? Was my Mum’s explanation that he had been led on by his ‘friends’ correct? Was it desperation? Was he not managing to pay the rent? Did he have gambling debts? Was it a moment of madness? Without delving further into court records we can only speculate.

Here is the crime of which he was convicted according to ‘Hanged at Lincoln’ by Stephen Wade (the noose on the front cover leaves us in no doubt as to the fate of the subjects!).

“ Lily Parry lived over her shop and always kept the takings in her bedroom at night. A young girl, Judith Reddish, stayed there, and on 22nd April 1960 she arrived back from an evening out and settled down for the night, then Mrs Parry locked up and went to bed. Early the next day, blood was seen coming from under Mrs Parry's bedroom door, the police  arrived and found her, skull broken and almost dead. She died later in hospital.

John Constantine lived in the same street, Waterloo Promenade, Nottingham. His place had a room that was close to the shop and he was duly questioned. He admitted that he had robbed the shop but denied committing murder. He did however say that he had hit out at a figure that had advanced towards him. He said at first that he had hit her with a crowbar but changed his story later. He tried to blame someone else, and blamed another man, Colathan, who was allegedly his accomplice, but Colathan had an alibi, which was confirmed by several people.

The defence brought in the famous ‘dog didn’t bark’ storyline. As Mrs Parry had a dog and it had not barked; they argued that the dog must have been kept silent by an accomplice, but that was not accepted by the jury and they returned a guilty verdict. An appeal failed, and then a reprieve request was turned down. Harry Allen was the executioner, and, as N.V. Gagen pointed out, there was no high-profile media interest in the execution - only four journalists were present - and no execution notice was posted on the prison gates."

And that was the end of Johnny’s story. Researching this has brought back many childhood memories; however, I am left with the haunting vision of a young man, now forgotten, who only exits in the imagination and blurred memories of the few who knew him.

The dog who didn’t bark or ‘The curious incident of the dog in the night’? Well, that was Conan Doyle and a Sherlock Holmes story, 'Silver Blaze’.


Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): "Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
Holmes: "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
Gregory: "The dog did nothing in the night-time."
Holmes: "That was the curious incident.”


Over half a century has passed since that carefree young lad at my brother’s birthday party took an implement of some kind and beat an elderly widow to death. Researching the story has awakened ghosts from my past; memories of my childhood, and a time when a British jury could convict a young man to death. I offer no judgement of my own, and this is not the place to debate Capital Punishment, about which I’m sure many of you have their own views. Instead I ask you to ponder on the two families torn apart and the needless loss of life; as in so many of these cases, before and since; an elderly widow, probably contentedly looking forward to eventual retirement, and a young man, so desperate that he robbed and killed a neighbour for a few pounds.

I told you that, sadly there are no pictures this week which are relevant to the Sepia Saturday prompt picture, instead you will have to be content with my sepia-tinted memories.


And let the above picture act a s a sobering reminder of the dark days when a ‘criminal' could simply be left to die and his body left to rot as a warning to others. I took this picture last year at a Medieval Fair in Leon, Spain.


It’s visiting hours at Sepia Saturday so why not head over there and see what other contributors have made of the prompt picture?

Sunday, 3 August 2014

A Towering Talent

Elizabeth Taylor on the set of Giant by Frank Worth


Elizabeth, a hot young thing,
takes up some string
and twirls it round 
above the ground.
It helps her memorise her lines;
the knotted twines,
the lariat,
She’s soon off pat.
And when she comes to play her scene,
with Jimmy Dean,
she casts her spell; 
he’s snared as well.

© Marilyn Brindley


Thanks to Tess Kincaid for the prompt on The Mag, where we are encouraged to keep our muses alive and well. Ive been absent for a while but this image was right up my street. 

I like to give myself an added challenge  with the format, so this The Minute It's a recent form invented by an American, Verna Lee Hine Gardner and based on the number of seconds in a minute.
  • The syllables are spread over twelve lines: 8 in the first, fifth and ninth lines and 4 syllables in all the other lines. 
  • It's written in iambic rhythm (di-dum)
  • it is punctuated as prose, in that capital letters only appear after full stops and not necessarily at the beginning of lines.
  • It rhymes in couplets a,a,  b,b ,c,c, d,d, e,e, f,f.
(from 'The Poet's Craft' by Sandy Brownjohn.)

I first used it last September on ‘Trapped’ and I rather like it.

Friday, 1 August 2014

When the Cat’s Away

























These alcoholic mice are having a fine old time drinking sherry. They even have a little mouse-ladder provided! When it’s quiet at the Gonzalez Byass bodega in Spain’s Jerez, these little rodents sneak out and enjoy their favourite tipple.

The pictures are a little wonky, not because I’d had a drink myself (this was at the the very start of the tour) but because they were on the wall of the cellar, quite high up.

Our charming guide pointed to the the glass of sherry and the ladder on the cellar floor and told us the story. Apparently it stops them gnawing away at the barrels to get to the contents.

They wouldn’t want the barrels spoiled because some of them are rather special, signed by famous people; artists, racing drivers, British Prime Ministers, actors and film-makers.





We were in Jerez earlier this year for my husband’s birthday and after the tour of the cellars and the obligatory video, we had a sherry-tasting and thereafter were steered inevitably towards the shop on the way out.

We managed to restrain ourselves and left with nothing more than our souvenir pictures and an appetite for lunch.




This week Sepia Saturday has proverbs as a possible theme so I thought of my sepia mice. Apparently the management wanted to introduce a cat but the workers threatened to strike if they did so. I bet there is one, otherwise they’d be overrun with the little squeakers. Imagine that, lots of drunken mice tearing all over the place! Not good for anyone with musophobia. The cat can’t cover all angles though and when the cat’s away the mice will play.



Why not join other Sepians to see what they made of this week’s prompt?



Saturday, 26 July 2014

Park and Ride


Three young people back in 1938, who thought it was amusing to pose for a picture under a ‘Park Here’ sign. They had ‘parked’ themselves on the sea front, where  they had taken a ride on the train to the Welsh resort of Llandudno. The cheery young lady is my Mum, aged just eighteen, and on her first real grown-up holiday, without her parents. However, it was all very proper because it was an organised Youth Hostelling holiday. Mum had gone with her friend Blanche, with whom she worked in the offices of The Boots Pure Drug Company (as it then was) in Nottingham. They saved a little bit from their wage packet each week to pay for the trip, of which Mum has very fond memories. She had already met my Dad the previous Autumn, so there is no romance involved with 'Noel and Jimmy’ as Mum has carefully labelled them in white, in her neat script, on the black pages of her girlhood album. Mum tells me the male members of their ‘gang’  were all ‘older’men in their twenties or thirties!

I’ve only recently scanned these pictures, although I have known them all my life. Now that I have the time to delve a little deeper I can research the building in Mum’s album.

There’s my Mum on the left with ‘Our Gang’ assembling in front of the hostel. Lledr Hall was originally a wealthy businessman’s summer holiday home c1904. It became a youth hostel in the thirties when the movement was in its infancy, and these days it is once more an outdoor education centre.

Mum has featured before on this trip in A Happy Wanderer, where I describe how her kit was put together. The following pictures are, quite literally, a snapshot of that carefree holiday long ago. The rumblings of war were just beginning and many of the young people who took part in these holidays would soon be thrown headlong into the conflict.

She lost touch with all the other members of the gang, but remembers Jimmy turning up at as a dispatch rider at the War Office where she worked briefly whilst in the army in 1942. There was a smile of recognition though no remembrance from him of where from, says Mum.


Waiting at Llanrwst for the Llandudno train. A ‘free’ day when they weren’t being organised and the group chose to visit the seaside. Mum and Blanche with two of the gang.



Blanche, being quite daring on some sort of walkway, perhaps in the grounds of Lledr Hall, and Ken fooling around with an overhanging branch. This week’s Sepia Saturday has signs as a possible prompt and when I saw the Park Here sign in the first picture it took me off on the youth hostelling trail.


Why not visit other members of ‘Our Gang’ at Sepia Saturday and see what they made of the prompt?

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.