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, 23 April 2015

Saints, Dragons and Giants

Cry ‘God for Harry, England and Saint George’!

Today is St George’s Day, and I thought that rousing quote from Shakespeare’s Henry V was a good reminder of England’s patron saint, as well as remembering that this is the day we celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday in 1564*. George appears to have been adopted by Richard the Lionheart during the Crusades and thus went on to become the emblem of chivalry and victory of good over evil. He is also recognised by many other countries, as either their patron saint or, as being an important figure in legend. There are therefore many images of him, sword in hand, slaying the fearsome dragon.

Fellow blogger Brett Payne provided this first photo, taken in Leon in 2013, when Brett was walking the Camino de Santiago. I was holidaying with my husband in Northern Spain at the time and we had engineered an historic meeting in Burgos with Brett. We went on to visit Leon the next day whilst Brett took a short break from the Camino to see Madrid and arrived in Leon a few days after us. I had failed to get a decent image of George and so Brett kindly shared his own great photo. St George and his strange looking dragon were over the entrance to a bank; perhaps as a warning not to try any funny business.

The following year I noticed George in Cordoba, Andalusia, on the walls of the Cathedral. Now I shall be on the lookout for him everywhere. I haven’t seen him in Lanzarote, and don’t think that’s very likely, but I hope to spot him when we return to Northern Spain later in the Summer.

When we lived in Salisbury, England, I took this picture, in the late 1990s, of Gilbert the Dragon who appeared at various locations throughout the city, courtesy of the Parks Department. He was made up of over 6,400 plants, mostly sedums, and weighed one and a half tonnes. I don’t think he’s a particularly ferocious looking dragon, despite the cage surrounding him, and would be more likely to be adopted as a pet by Saint George, than slain with a sword. As far as I know he still appears each Summer in the city centre and is something of a tourist attraction.

Salisbury is also home to the giant Christopher and the beadle Hob-Nob, who are now part of the St George’s Day parade in the city. The Giant has a long history, the roots of which are uncertain but seem to be linked to folklore. The original was paraded on many historic occasions and is now housed in the city’s museum; his modern contemporary joins the Sarum Morris men for Riding the Jorge, a re-enactment of a medieval pageant when George fought and valiantly killed the dragon.

St George’s Day celebrations in Salisbury 2007 by Steve Elliot via Flickr Commons

There will be celebrations and parades all over England over the next few days. Have a great St George’s Day/Weekend wherever you are, and may the sun shine on your parade.

This is my submission for Sepia Saturday. Join the parade and see what others have contributed there in the way of old photos and history.

* "Partly because many babies died soon after they were usually baptized, as the Prayer Book recommended, no later than 'the Sunday or holy day next after the child be born’. for centuries now, Shakespeare’s birthday has been celebrated on 23 April, which happens to be St George’s Day, and is also the date on which he died.” Professor Stanley Wells ‘Shakespeare For All Time’.

Saturday, 11 April 2015


That is one mighty horse! In 2000 we went to the USA to visit friends and family near Michigan. Our friends in Grand Rapids took us to the Frederik Meijer Gardens, where we encountered the gigantic fellow above.

Here’s my husband admiring the statue at close quarters, just to give you an idea of scale. I still have the leaflet which tells the story of ‘Leonardo da Vinci’s Horse; the 24 foot masterpiece’ and this modern realisation (click to enlarge).

There are many monumental sculptures of heroic and chivalrous figures, some real, some legendary, around the world. For instance the statue of El Cid, which you may remember from my blogpost Beguiled by Burgos, where the human subject is the focus; in this wonderful piece of art above, there is no doubting where the power lies.

I was pleased to discover, in my parents’ albums, this photograph of my mother, studying a strikingly similar example at the West Yorkshire Sculpture Park in August 1989, when the statue was on temporary loan from France. Smaller, yes, but still a powerful image. I don’t know anything about the sculptor in this case, but I can still admire the artistry involved.

Finally, here is a link to the artist Amy Goodman’s site, which shows the progress of her War Horse statue, a permanent memorial to the thousands of horses shipped into battle during WW1. About 120, 000 of the 1.3 million horses and mules involved in the conflict, passed through a giant military depot  near Romsey, Hampshire, where they and their handlers were trained; only about ten horses survived the war. Here you can read the story behind the memorial park and statue.

This week’s Sepia Saturday had a poster which hinted at horses and power.

Visit other Sepians to see how they interpreted the prompt above.

Monday, 6 April 2015


Stepping out from church with Cissie,
In my Easter Sunday Best,
Little bonnet decked with flowers,
Clutching Bunny to my chest,
Holding tight my wicker basket,
Wondering what will happen next.

One white sock needs hoisting up,
And Mary says my shoe’s undone,
Daddy wants to take our picture,
This isn’t really any fun.
I just want to run to Mummy
Go home for my hot cross bun*.

Daisy says it’s time to leave now,
We’ll be there in just a while,
After lunch there’ll be surprises,
Something sure to make me smile.
Chocolate eggs to fill my basket,
Rounding Easter off in style.

Marilyn Brindley

* Hot Cross Buns are a traditional British Easter food.

I have memories of dressing up for Easter and when I was small my Great Aunt, living in America, sent me a new dress and gloves to be worn to church on Easter Sunday.

This piece was inspired the photograph at the top of the page and posted by Tess of Magpie Tales creative writing group. 

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Girl on a Bicycle

The girl on the bicycle in my picture is my mother, sometime in her late teens. Mum is 94 now and she can’t remember the brand or model of her cycle. My family are from Nottingham, where the world famous Raleigh Bicycles were originally made, so it would be nice to think that this was an example of the kind of product the company was turning out. To me it is indistinguishable from others of the era and I can’t read the badge.

Mum remembers that her bike gave her lots of freedom, she would use it for day-to-day getting around, such as cycling to the local tennis courts and on long Summer evenings she would cycle to Newark and back (about 38 miles); she was clearly very fit! She still speaks with pride about the fact that it had drop handlebars and wasn’t a 'sit-up-and-beg'.

This is my daughter somewhere around 1982, aged about six and demonstrating her first ride without stabilisers. We were stationed in RAF Germany at the time and her Dad had taken her out to practise on the quieter roads. Suddenly it clicked - and so did he - a milestone captured for ever.

The companion piece to this post features my Dad in ‘Boy on a Bicycle’.

Take a ride over to Sepia Saturday and see what other contributors made of the prompt above.

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.