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 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.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Flickr - ing Images

I enjoy using Flickr Commons; posting my own work, following others and seeking out images to use as prompts for Sepia Saturday. This week, I’m just going to point you in the direction of one contributor. This is ‘The Past on Glass at Sutton Archives’ which comprises the work of David Knights-Whittome. His images were far from flickering; quite the opposite.

Knights-Whittome’s glass plate were discovered abandoned in the basement of an old shop and are now seeing the light of day for the first time in over one hundred years. The work of restoration has been undertaken by a team of volunteers and the results have been remarkable. If you want to know more about this self-taught photographer, who later gave up photography for politics, look at the blog, 'The Past on Glass; the Man Behind the Lens' where the stories of the collection’s discovery and the detective work that went on in identifying the subjects, can also be read. There is also a Facebook page which is regularly updated, and five very short You Tube films.

Miss Pothecary’s Dog

Well, I’m half in love with the handsome and playful-looking photographer depicted in his self-portraits. The one above and two others, show him in the process of seemingly painting backdrops, in front of which his sitters would pose. Sarah Elizabeth Draper (Bessie) also thought him quite a catch, as they were married in 1907 and had two sons together.

Miss Russell’s Dog

I’m also in love with Miss Pothecary's Dog, and Miss Russell’s Dog, two examples of the many pets Knights-Whittome photographed. The dogs must have been very well-behaved to sit so still and obediently. They look so real, that you feel as if you could reach out and stroke their fur.

The same goes for the little boy in furry fancy dress, looking appealingly into DKW’s camera. I wonder who/what he was dressed up as, and what colour was that fur? Who was he? It’s thought that the identity of many of the sitters may never be known, but by spreading the word and giving the project some publicity, there’s always hope.

Like other photographers of the era, DKW photographed many of the soldiers and nurses of the First World War. In most little  known about the sitter, but in others a considerable amount of research has been done and some interesting stories have come to light. The Flickr album has many fine examples of this lost generation. Here are just two from 1915: Miss A.Smith and G.R.Waters Esq.

Knights-Whittome’s images also record royalty, country houses, schools and institutions, weddings and other events, fancy dress and costumes, domestic architecture and interiors as well as sporting events and equestrian/hunting scenes. I hope I’ve whetted your appetite to explore the archives yourself.

Our Sepia Saturday prompt image this week shows an itinerant photographer with examples of his craft, standing in front of an Ohio restaurant, perhaps hoping to make some sales from the passing diners. Knights-Whittome did not have to rely on passing trade in the street. It seems his subjects beat a path the doors of both his shops, eager to record their images for posterity.

Sadly this shop no longer exists, but thanks to the works of the Sutton Archive on Flickr, with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic licence we are able to share his wonderful images.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

When is a Snowman, Not a Snowman?

When it’s a snowbear of course!

That’s not Goldilocks; it’s my late sister-in-law Gill, who died four years ago today. She was very creative as well as fun-loving. This was in the garden of their house in Gloucestershire some time in the 1990s. I believe it was taken in February, but the picture reminds me of many happy Christmases spent there with George and Gill and our extended families. We would usually all visit on Boxing Day and there would always be fun and games, including a treasure hunt.

A snowman is also not a snowman when he is a papier mache figure in a Mardi Gras carnival float in Cyprus  in 2001, or standing guard at Santa’s Place here in Lanzarote in 2012.


........when it’s a knitted tree decoration made by my mother or a soft toy snowbaby made by me (about thirty years ago).

A snowman is not a snowman when it’s the icing on the cake, (Christmas 1988 when my children were into Raymond Briggs’ eponymous book and animation, as well as singing the theme tune).....

.......or just a giant snowball without a head, or a carrot nose. No that is definitely not a snowman, although it showed great potential as far as my three year old daughter was concerned.

It’s not even a snowman when it’s cuddly and cute like my latest creation (read the story here in ’Snowman Surprise’), because real snowmen are not cuddly!!

Now that’s a snowman!! My nephew and his children just a few years ago, happily posing with their spikey-haired creation. Just over a year ago he was attacked by a mystery illness and had to undergo a liver transplant, which saved his life. He has made a remarkable recovery and will be free to make many more snowman with his family this year, thanks to the wonderful NHS Organ Donation scheme and the selflessness of one woman and her family. Our family will be forever grateful.

Now, if that has lifted your spirits, why not go and join other contributors to Sepia Saturday, where our prompt image was a snowman - or was it?