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."

Friday, 29 April 2011

Wedding Day Delay

This is my contribution to this week's Sepia Saturday. I decided to go with the wedding theme as I have just watched the Royal couple tie the knot, and I was in the mood. This is my grandparents' wedding in September 1918. They were married at Christchurch Parish Church, Watford. The possible reason they all look a little grumpy is that some key members of the family missed the wedding due to travel problems. I saw this picture for the first time a few weeks ago, when my brother, who is the genealogist for the family, told me the story. The following day they all had to get dressed in their wedding clothes again and resurrect the bouquet and wilting corsages. My Gran and Grandad still looked happy though. My Gran was twenty-one and my Grandad just twenty. The First World War was not yet over and my Granddad had already been in the army for three years. More poignantly my Gran's three beloved older brothers were missing from the photo; two killed in 1916 and a third still serving in France. Sadly he never returned, dying of pneumonia, possibly as a complication of Spanish Influenza, in France in 1919. They went on to have a long and happy marriage of almost fifty-five years, ending only on my Grandad's death.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Easter Expectations

In 1983 when this photograph was taken, we were stationed with the RAF in Germany. The shops were full of Easter displays, with chocolate and marzipan eggs and bunny figures. I'm not sure what the objects at the bottom of the picture were but they appear to be moulds of some sort; perhaps for chocolate or biscuits. Our children would be aged nearly four, and five and a half. They must have almost had their noses pressed to the glass in anticipation of what was to come. This is my contribution to the Sepia Saturday blog. It's the oldest Easter reference I can find in my picture collection but it fits the bill as far as this week's theme.

I also found this picture from 1981. The bunnies in this case being 'Pink Bunny' and 'Blue Bunny', which I made for each child when they were born. My son still has Blue Bunny and now my grandchildren play with him - just goes to show how well-made it was. Sadly my daughter lost Pink Bunny a couple of years ago in a house fire, but at least we have the pictures to remind us.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Life is a Jigsaw

As I mentioned in my previous post about bluebells, the photo of my Mother was made into a hand-coloured wooden jigsaw. I've never parted with it, and its companion piece, which depicts my Mum on a Sunday School picnic with her friends. They are a little chipped but otherwise have stood the test of time very well (the jigsaws, not Mum and her friends), having been played with by me, my brother, and our children. I'm hoping that my three-year old  twin grandchildren will inherit them - once I can be assured that they will treasure them the way I have.

                        It's amazing to think that this jigsaw is over 80 years old. 

I do love jigsaws and we always had one 'on the go' at Christmas and during school holidays. I also remember whenever I was ill in bed as a child - too poorly to go to school but probably convalescing from some childhood scourge like measles - I would be allowed to have a tray and do my jigsaws in bed. I remember one depicting Nelson's flagship, Victory, which was full of detail, though sadly, I no longer have that.

Wooden jigsaws are very expensive these days, so when I saw this recently in a UK Charity shop I nabbed it!

A "Victory" Wood Jig-saw puzzle of the Circus. Apparently it was intended for children of 4-8 years, and was made in England too!  The puzzle was complete and in perfect condition.
It included 12 cut-out models and according to the Jigthings website these are known as Whimsys. This is not blatant commercialism, I just happened to have a had a very interesting e-mail correspondence a couple of years ago with Colin, the founder of the company, about storage for my own growing store of jigsaws and how to manage it. I actually never did purchase anything (sorry Colin) but I enjoyed the exchange we had.
 I still haven't solved the storage problem, but there are some puzzles I'll never part with. I'm not so keen on bucolic scenes, or those with a lot of sky or sea. The more detail the better, and of course, you have to like the subject. Favourites are those depicting paintings, like Holbein's 'The Ambassadors', so that you can learn about art at the same time as working out the puzzle.

Doing a jigsaw puzzle is a great brain-training, for both children and adults. It engages both sides of the brain and studies have proved that they help prevent memory loss in older people so....... I'm off to do jigsaw!

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Are they trying to tell us something?

It was my birthday a few weeks ago, followed by my husband's last week. At our age we don't get dozens of cards but of the ones we did get, it was remarkable that several alluded to drink (alcoholic beverages). Yes, they were funny; however, it left us feeling distinctly unsettled. Upon retirement in the sun, it would be very easy to treat each day as though it was a holiday, but we promised ourselves that we would most definitely not do so and that we would stick to our working week routine of only drinking at weekends. When friends and family come to stay we relax the rule, as we don't want to sit there po-faced whist they enjoy their holiday.

The stress of the aforementioned working week was enough to drive the most dedicated teetotaller to drink, but knowing it would soon be Friday night, and we could have a welcome G & T and a bottle of something red with supper, somehow kept us going. Oddly enough I'd swear I enjoyed it all the more because it wasn't an everyday habit. I suppose it was 'binge-drinking' of sorts as there is a school of thought that you should spread your units out throughout the week, but hey three days on, four days off worked for me!

Friday, 8 April 2011

What Will The Day Bring?

At last I can finally admit that I am a retired person. The first year took some getting used to, as I found myself inevitably watching the clock and marking my day by recalling the rituals which hung on the hooks of time. As a Headteacher of a busy primary school I found my day sectioned off by the school bell, the timetable, the calendar and the appointments diary. Once the exhilaration of freedom from these constraints had worn off, I found that I was still measuring my day by a self-imposed, and wholly unrealistic, school time. Oh, it's 9.15, time for assembly. They'll be just coming out to play now. I wonder what they'll be doing for the Easter Service....and so on. Once that first year had passed however, I began to relax a little and, as everyone said it would, I found that the thoughts of my working life receded as my new life of retirement became busier.

My parents, and grandparents before them, had warned me that, "You'll wonder how you ever found time to go to work." This has indeed proved to be the case, as evermore I found the demands of a part-time 'job' I'd taken on for interest's sake and to keep the old grey-matter from seizing up, began to be intrusive and a subject for resentment. I fear it will have to go! Now I am rediscovering old hobbies and pastimes from my younger days, as well as trying out new ones.

In and Out the Dusty Bluebells

According to the 'Weather Eye' in The Times newspaper yesterday, the National Trust is predicting an early display of bluebells in Southern Britain, following the mild and dry Spring so far. The National Trust has a bluebell watch map on its site so that people can view them at their best.

I like the description there of the bluebell flowering sweeping the nation's woodlands in a great blue wave, starting in the South West and fanning out across the UK. It made me think of happy times spent admiring bluebells in various locations in England, and gathering them as a girl. This picture was taken in 1960 when it was probably deemed ok to pick the flowers. These days we would leave them for others to enjoy. No discussion here please about the stereotypical dolly who accompanied on my bluebell quest. As I said it was 1960 and let's just say things have moved on somewhat.

I have photograph of my mother in the 1930s which was subsequently hand-coloured by my great-aunt and made into a wooden jigsaw puzzle, which you can see here. I still treasure both the picture and the jigsaw (which I played with frequently as a child myself). For my mother's recent 90th birthday I produced an anthology of her favourite pictures, prose and poems. To mark the occasion I wrote poem for the book describing that snapshot of a warm spring day so long ago. I hope I captured the mood and the many senses of the day as I imaged it. My mother liked it anyway.

Caught by the camera
You crouch to pick a single bluebell,
crushing others unwittingly beneath your feet,
you add it to the sheaf cradled in your arm.
Just one more, and another, and another
Until the burden of this bounty
becomes almost too much.
Between finger and thumb you grasp the soft and silky stem
and pluck it from the cool earth,
The heady perfume adding to the store of sensations:
Sunday-best dress and tightly-ringleted hair,
A tendril escaping to settle on sun-browned cheeks,
Wet meadow grass on bare girlish legs,
Earthy woodland scents,
Blue haze carpeting the meadow,
A lazy cuckoo’s distant call,
And now this.

When we lived in Wiltshire we would visit the local Grovely Woods in the beautiful Wylye Valley and marvel at the carpets of blue stretching before us.

And 'In and Out the Dusty Bluebells'? It's a children's traditional street and playground song, the origins of which are stated as variously as being sung at the Hiring Fairs of old - hence the line: "Who will be my master?" - or for the young girls seeking to know who their lover would be, probably based on the same line!