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, 21 July 2017

Blessing the Boats

Here in Playa Blanca, Lanzarote, we are in the middle of a week-long fiesta* to celebrate the Patron Saint Carmen. The actual Saint Day is 16th July and from that date on towns and villages on the island hold their own celebrations. Here, and in Puerto del Carmen, there are churches dedicated to Nuestra Señora del Carmen, reminding us that fishing was once the main source of income. At the beginning of the week, the effigy of the saint is paraded through the town. All week we have the fair and lots of activities for young and old, and at the weekend we have live music and fireworks.

On Sunday, the saint is paraded once more, to a highly decorated boat, where she is placed in full view of the surrounding flotilla, whilst the locals and tourists watch from the prom. The old tradition is that she blesses all the small fishing vessels and the fishermen pray for bountiful catches during the coming year; these days anybody can join in. A few years ago, our friends invited us aboard their boat to join the flotilla. I’m not good on boats, but we actually had a good time.

I remember it was all fairly chaotic towards the end, when the circle broke down and it became a bit of a free for all! Sailing back towards the sunset however, gave us a view of Playa Blanca we don’t often see. At this time of year, I remember that day with fondness, and I have good memories of my friend, who sadly died the following year. She was calling out to her husband to move away from some of the boats who were ‘bigger than us’.  This year we’ll be watching from the safety of dry land.

You may have to zoom in to see the Virgin - she’s under the palm arch.
The crowds line the prom.
Organised chaos!
That’s quite close enough!
A welcome view of home. You can see that there are no high rises here, due to influence of the artist and visionary, Cesar Manrique, who was born here. That’s ‘our’ volcano, Montaña Roja.

Join other contributors to this week’s Sepia Saturday, where our prompt image was a family watching TV aboard a boat.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Dog Days

This is my childhood companion, Kim, posing in a shopping basket in the early 1960s. He had a real basket to sleep in of course, as the two rather grainy pictures below show. Most of the time it would be stationed in the warmest spot in the kitchen. It was where he would retreat to when tired, bored, or had very occasionally fallen out of favour for some misdemeanour.

The basket was easily transported in the car and would accompany the family on holiday, along with its owner. It got taken into the garden on sunny days, when the humans would sit on a picnic blanket or chair. Usually Kim would join the humans, as the blanket looked far more inviting.

The poet Elizabeth Barret Browning died on this day in 1861. She was a woman who was unwell for much of her life, and her faithful companion, a spaniel called Flush, is the subject of two of her poems. Flush spent much of his time on the couch with Elizabeth, unlike the tiny dog in this week’s Sepia Saturday prompt image, which comes to us courtesy of The Past on Glass on Flickr.

This little chap (or lady) belongs to the Mitchel. L. and that’s all we know; except that it was photographed by David Knights-Whittome, whose remarkable work is being cleaned, catalogued and researched by staff and volunteers of the Sutton Archive. He certainly had a way with animals, especially dogs. I wonder what made him photograph the Mitchel dog inside this basket, and why leave the brush and toy dog in the picture? It certainly makes for an interesting arrangement.

Elizabeth Barret Browning’s poem in praise of Flush, shows us that the love  and devotion he gave to to his sick mistress was returned in equal measure.

This dog only, waited on,
Knowing that when light is gone
Love remains for shining.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Mr and Mrs Foley Go Camping

Mr Foley and Mrs Foley of Sweetbriar Terrace, Waterford, camping in Tramore
Thursday July 11th 1918

The Foleys shut up shop and turned the ‘OPEN’ sign
to CLOSED, They packed their bags and filled the travel chest: 
Her novels, sketchbook, pens, his fishing rod and line,
Their walking shoes and sticks and Sunday Best;
Her dress, her lacy ‘smalls’ and Summer hat so fine,
His boater, suit and tie, his drawers and woollen vest.
Then last, the caged canary, dog and flowers, were stowed,
The caravan was ready for the open road.

© Marilyn Brindley 2017

The above charming photograph is our prompt image for this weeks Sepia Saturday challenge, and comes to us courtesy of The National Library of Ireland via flickr Commons. The poem is a flight of fancy; I’ve no idea whether the Foleys (if the lady is indeed Mrs Foley, there is a question mark on the caption of the post in flickr) had a trade. Nor do I really believe that the caravan was towed, complete with flower pots,  from Sweetbriar Terrace to Tramore. 

 I haven’t any similar bucolic scenes in my family albums, but we recently acquired a photo of my husbands’ grandparents taken two years later. They too are on holiday, in Colwyn Bay, in August 1920 and are similarly attired. Alice wears her best dress and a style of Summer hat which matches Mrs Foley's, whilst George too wears a smart three-piece suit, just as Mr Foley does. Last week we saw him in a bowler and a trilby, but here he favours his golfing cap. Those were the days when people really did dress up on holiday.

And the shy teenager on the right is my own grandmother in 1916, wearing her Summer hat at a similar jaunty angle to Mrs Foley's.

Join us this week on the Sepia Saturday caravan, to see how other contributors were inspired by the prompt image.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Water Sparingly

A boy and a watering can, that was our prompt image for this week’s Sepia Saturday challenge.

In response I came up with this snap of my late sister-in-law Gill, giving my son an impromptu shower in her garden in 1990. I don’t think he expected the water to be so cold, judging by the way he is sucking in his chest. I wonder if Gill had come across something like this illustration, which I found in the small Priory Museum in great Malvern a few years ago. See my 2012 post Taking the Waters.

I found the picture below online* and it appears that the kindly zoo keeper is giving the penguins a shower, not actually watering them to enhance their growth.

Similarly, at our own agricultural museum, El Patio, here in Lanzarote, I snapped this moment where it appears that the duck is about to be watered. In reality I think the attendant is simply waiting patiently for the duck to pass through the gate so that she can continue with her chores.

See what others have come up with in response to our prompt by joining us over at Sepia Saturday.

* Although this image appears in numerous sites on the web I have been unable to identify its source or a credit for the photographer. Happy to do so if someone knows.

Friday, 9 June 2017

The Bowler

The above photograph is one of several similar images which were from my husband’s grandfather, George. He is the gentleman seated front row on the right. The occasion was the official opening of the Bowling Green* on 18th April 1930. It was Good Friday when tradition dictated that the bowling season would be officially opened by a local dignitary or club member being invited to bowl a jack and three woods. I have no idea what that means as I am not a bowls aficionado, but clearly it was deemed an honour to do so, and was never offered to the same person twice.

What we have discovered by scanning across the faces of the other members, is that my father-in-law is also in the picture. At that time he was a young man of twenty-two and probably already courting my mother-in-law. He is third from the left.

I also discovered him on the 1934 photo above, taken again on Good Friday, 30th March. He is the scarf-wearing chap, smiling away three rows from the front and three in from the left. He was already a married man by then and was standing a little closer to his father-in-law, who is peering over the head of the bowler-hatted gentleman in front of him.

Which brings me to another bowler altogether, the bowler hat, of which there are several examples here. It has nothing to do with bowling and owes its name to its designers, Thomas and William Bowler of London.

In the few pictures we have of George wearing a hat it is is usually of the flat, golfing type or a trilby. However, those with a long memory will know that he carried off the wearing of a bowler with aplomb, at the age of about fourteen, around the turn of the last century. He featured in a piece I wrote about his sister called The Eyes of Margaret, where you can read more about George.

Our prompt image this week has a bowler-hatted gentleman making, or packing, boxes in a yard. I decided to 'think outside the box’ and bowl you over with my play on words. I hope you are duly impressed. For more impressive posts join the bowling club that is Sepia Saturday and see what other contributors have come up with.

* We think it may be Ashton-under-Lyne.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Familiar Tree

The Major Oak *

Yes, a familiar tree, not a family tree, which is what my genealogist blogger friends (and many fellow Sepians) would recognise.The above mighty oak is one which I have known since childhood. It is known as The Major Oak and my family and I would enjoy visits to the ancient woodland where it grows in Nottinghamshire. On one occasion, c1964, we took my friend along and my Dad snapped us inside a much smaller but still impressive tree.

I wrote about this particular tree in Going Back to My Roots in 2011:

"Here I am aged about ten years, with my childhood friend, Pearl, on a visit to Edwinstowe to see 'The Major Oak'. I was born in Nottingham and many of our family outings in the 60s would be to Sherwood Forest, legendary home of the outlaw Robin Hood. The forest is home to hundreds of ancient oaks like the one above, but of course the Major Oak was the most famous. It is over 800 years old and has a history all of its own. I was brought up on stories of the oak being the hiding place or larder of Robin and his Merry Men, and I never failed to feel excitement and wonder whenever we visited. Just walking into the wood and getting that earthy tang of trees, fern, bracken, fungi and moss was enough to lift the spirits."

In 2014 The tree was voted England’s Tree of the Year; here is a link to the Guardian Newspaper article about it.

A few years ago I 'became the tree' in my imagination for a creative writing exercise, where I imagined my special relationship with the legendary Robin Hood. Here is the piece I wrote. I hope you enjoy it.

They have made me part of his legend. I stand in the heart of Sherwood Forest, my massive girth dwarfing my younger brothers. My twisted branches, home now only to woodland creatures, were once his childhood hiding place. Then the forest was deep and dark and not a place to venture lightly, but he was always fearless, climbing to my uppermost branch, to survey the land. A skinny lad, fleet of foot, quick-witted, he always had a gaggle of followers, hanging on his word and aping his actions. Later, when he had fallen foul of the law and with a price upon his head, he would whisper his secrets and fears to me. Once he brought a lovely young woman by the hand, and laughingly drew her into my hollow trunk, and there.....but no, I will not tell.

I would watch them as they sat on my gnarled roots. The scraggy boy now grown tall and muscular, with a commanding presence, his playmates replaced by trusted and devoted men. They would practise their archery in the nearby clearing, eat, drink, laugh and sing together, the young woman watching with adoring eyes. 

It was not all merry, there were dark days too; violence, bloodshed and eventually, death. Centuries have passed and men have woven stories about his deeds until no-one can be certain of the truth anymore. I know, but I will never tell; I have sworn to keep his secrets for eternity.

Join us at Sepia Saturday this week, where our prompt picture is a wonderful old image of the tree which stood at the centre of England in Leamington.**

*Paul Buckingham [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
** Shared by Cornell University Library on Flickr Commons

Friday, 19 May 2017

Wise to Salvation Was Good Mistris Hall

Witty above her sex, but that's not all,
Wise to Salvation was good Mistress Hall,
Something of Shakespeare was in that, but this
Wholly of him with whom she's now in blisse.
Then, passenger, hast nere a tear
To weep with her that wept with all
That wept, yet set herself to chere
Them up with comforts cordiall?
Her love shall live, her mercy spread
When thou hast nere a tear to shed.

This week sees the anniversary of the baptism of Susanna Hall, daughter of William Shakespeare and Anne (nee Hathaway), on 26th May 1583, which that year fell on Trinity Sunday. The baptism took place like that of her father before her, in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-Upon-Avon. Two weeks ago I saw her grave in the same church, alongside her famous father, mother, husband and other family members.

Hall’s Croft, Susanna and John’s home

We also visited Shakespeare’s Birthplace, New Place, which he bought when he left the family home, and Hall’s Croft, the house Susanna shared with her respected physician husband, John Hall. I found the whole experience thoroughly enjoyable and educational. In Hall’s Croft are photographs of Susanna's and John’s epitaphs, which cannot be easily read in the church, as they are in front of the altar and sectioned off.

She seems to have been a good and trusted daughter, although her life was not without incident, as can be found by researching on the web. Below is a brief look at Holy Trinity Church, where the family graves are. For further pictures of the homes connected with Shakespeare, here are the links to my Flickr albums.

Shakespeare’s Birthplace
Hall’s Croft
New Place 

This is a Sepia Saturday post, as you don't get much more sepia than Shakespeare.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Celebration Meal

The photo prompt for Sepia Saturday 6th May (Yes, I know, I’m a week behind!) was a menu card. I have rather a lot of these saved over the years from weddings, and ceremonies connected with Education or the RAF. So, I decided to choose just a couple which marked special occasions for my husband and me.

In 1973 I came to the end of three years teacher training and was duly invited to a ‘Going Down Dinner’ to mark the leaving of my cohort, to go on to the world of work or, like me, on to a further year’s study to obtain a degree. Here’s the menu from that event, on 22nd June 1973. Not a very exciting offering I think we can agree.

I didn't graduate until 1974, so my graduation portrait is a year after this celebration dinner. There must have been some sort of meal but I have no recollection of what.

My husband-to-be had already graduated in a ‘Passing Out’ ceremony at RAF College Cranwell, to mark the end of his officer training. There was a rather nice lunch, which I attended, and is indeed the only souvenir we seem to have of the day, apart from a formal portrait of the cup winners. Here he is back right.

The menu was slightly more upmarket and made somewhat jollier by the addition of a glass or two of wine and some rather splendid band music to accompany it.

Join us for this week’s Sepia Saturday, where the theme has moved on from menus to the early days of cinema.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

What Jolly Good Fun We Had Today

This week’s prompt image for Sepia Saturday is once again taken from the Flickr photostream of The Past On Glass, Sutton Archive. It depicts the School Sports Day at Carshalton Convent School on July 8th 1907, just a mile or so down the road from Sutton. It seems a strange image for a sports day, but a glance at others in the series indicate that it was more of a Fun Day than a seriously competitive event.

We may never know the explanation for the umbrella sequence, but I don't think it was anything to do with the weather; Perhaps some sort of relay, with umbrellas instead of batons. A wild guess.

There was also a game of Lacrosse, supervised by one of the staff perhaps.

And a display of what would appear to be Country Dancing, or possibly some Keep Fit routine.

There are two images of the girls taking part in Cycling Proficiency exercises, but look at how the girls have decorated their cycles with ribbons and bows.

Is that a David Knights-Whittome’s camera and tripod to the left of the second picture? Click on any image to enlarge.

My favourite two ‘mystery’ pictures would seem to be depicting a dressing-up event. Now that really did look like fun, judging from the smiles of the onlookers; parents, staff and fellow students.

The school has an interesting history and its buildings and grounds are very attractive. If you search on the Sutton Archive’s photostream you can see some of the elegant interiors that Knights-Whittome photographed, including common rooms, classrooms and a gymnasium. The photographs were taken almost 110 years ago, during the reign of Edward VII, when the First World War was still seven years away. It was a period of great political and social change, particularly for women. What stands out however, is that on that Summer day so long ago, was that everybody had such fun.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Three Choirboys

Master Ernest Lough singing ‘O, For The Wings of a Dove’ was my introduction to the voice of the boy soprano. The recording was made just over ninety years ago last month, March 1927, and was often played on the radio when I was growing up.

His story is told in his obituary below, by Jeremy Nicholas, who also contributed to a BBC programme about Ernest Lough and the famous recording. The programme can be found on YouTube here.

My second choirboy, with the rather serious and solemn expression, is my Mother’s brother, Sydney William, know as Billy. For many years this is how I knew him, as an enlargement of this portrait hung in my grandparents’ house.

Billy often appears in posts about my mother’s childhood as they were so close in age, only sixteen months between them. Imagine the devastation felt by the family when Billy died in a freak accident, aged only fifteen in 1934. My grandparents themselves were still young, in their late thirties, and Mum was a month shy of her fourteenth birthday.

St Saviour’s was also where my parents married during WW2 and Mum is seen here talking to some children, probably about her memories of the occasion. I think this was taken on their Ruby Wedding Anniversary in 1982.

The Nottingham Evening Post report of his death carried the same portrait of Billy as a choirboy, at the local church.

Aled Jones is my third choirboy, the one who my own children grew up with as they sang along to his recording of ‘We’re Walking in the Air’. In the animation of Raymond Brigg’s wonderful picture book, The Snowman, it was another choirboy, Peter Auty, who sang the anthem, but Aled made the record, so he was the one who became famous. Fortunately Aled Jones grew into a very pleasant adult performer and TV presenter and wasn’t spoiled by his fame at all.

He can be seen on YouTube here singing with his younger self.

My post this week was inspired by this wonderful portrait of three choirboys from The Past On Glass at The Sutton Archives.

Go over to Sepia Saturday to see what other contributors have made of this picture prompt.