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."

Saturday, 11 November 2017


Today is Remembrance Day, when we wear our poppies and remember the fallen of two World Wars, and many conflicts since. I have covered this subject several times in previous posts, but when I put the word in the search bar for my photos, I came up with remembrance of a different kind.

The first is taken from Great Aunt Maude’s autograph album, written by a friend in April 1919, and beautifully illustrated .

The second is a pretty postcard which I bought at an antiques fair. The writer appears to be a schoolboy writing to his auntie on her birthday. He tells her he hasn’t had the cane yet at school! The postcard is 4th July 1919; it was obviously a year when the word remembrance was at the forefront of people’s minds. 

The address is Stanley Cottages, Guildford Road, Farnham, Surrey. I couldn’t find it on the modern map or Google Street View, although there are some houses labelled as Stanley Villas. The writer also appears to be called Stanley!

I spent a little time researching Miss K Blackman, but the nearest I could find was in the 1939 census, a married woman, Mrs Kate Blackman, living at 4 Guildford Road. Her date of birth was 16th September 1874, so it wasn’t her birthday being remembered. I expect that they were related in some way however; and it’s not just co-incidence that two K. Blackmans lived at similar addresses. Perhaps her husband Fred (born 1877) had a sister called Kate or Kitty, who lived next door.

Auntie Kate, or Kitty, obviously treasured the card from her nephew and kept the Remembrance safe for many years. As is the way with such memorabilia, it probably was disposed of her at her death, or that of a relative who had also been its guardian. I’m pleased to have given it an airing here, and who knows, perhaps a member of the Blackman family will be able to enlighten me one day. As is the nature of we Sepians, we can’t help being curious about what the postcard writer (and recipient) looked like. An old photo would be the icing on the cake.

Join other contributors to this week’s Sepia Saturday, for more tales of old photos and postcards.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Doorway Fashion

Here is my Great Aunt Maude c1925 inviting us through the gateway of a house, where she was probably lodging. I have the original, which is very small and printed on quite thin photographic paper. It was most likely taken by a friend, using Maude’s own camera. She would also have developed it herself, as she was a keen amateur.

Maude was born in 1893 and is probably in her early to mid-thirties here. She was unmarried, and working, so could afford to dress in the fashions of the time. By now women were cutting their hair short and wearing clothes which hid their feminine curves. The garçon look was very typical at this time; in stark contrast to the long hair and S shaped silhouette before the war. Waists were dropped and hemlines rose to just below the knee. Flat chests and narrow hips completed the shape. Maude is also wearing bar strap shoes which were popular throughout much of the 1920s.

I remembered this photograph when Alan posted the one below a few weeks ago on his own blog, News from Nowhere, so when he chose it as this week’s Sepia Saturday prompt, I plucked my own snap of Maude, quite literally, from the shoebox.

They make a nice pairing. Alan’s is the girl at No 24, but as Maude is standing slightly to one side I have no idea of the door number. Both images have similarly spiked fencing and brickwork, although no 24 appears to have a rather nice tiled front path and a shallow step. Both images are damaged slightly as no 24 has a a ghost image of the fence and gateway to the right, overlaying no 22, and Maude’s has a thumbprint, in all likelihood her own, on the left.

The girl at no 24 is also much younger than Maude and the photo itself could belong in a slightly earlier time, before 1920, (when bar strap shoes first appeared) and when higher waists and sashes were popular.

Both ladies have charming smiles and seem to be equally proud of their houses and their fashion sense.

Just fifty or so years after Alan’s picture, I too became the girl at no 24, when I moved with my parents and brother to what would be the family home for many years to come. Sadly all our photos of that house are of the interior and garden, and even the street outside, but not the front door, and certainly none of me posing in front of the door. Great Aunt Maude once again, has come to the rescue.

Friday, 13 October 2017

From the Desk of.......

This is my late sister-in-law Gill, looking a little unhappy at being asked to pose at her desk. She was probably in the middle of doing accounts and checking bookings and other paperwork for the holiday apartments she and her husband ran in Devon in the 1980s. It’s taken about 1983 but the desk is a lot older of course.

And this is me, looking all efficient and headteacherly in my newly refurbished office, during my last headship. The photo was probably for the newly created school website. By then I was no longer teaching and the job had become a mixture of many admin roles; dealing with the school budget, liaising with the education authority, Social Services and the Diocese (as it was a Church school), overseeing building works, staff appointments, showing parents round etc, etc. On good days I actually spent time with pupils. When the office was getting too much to bear, I went on my rounds of the classrooms and enjoyed the company of the children. I didn't sit at my desk for too long at a stretch if I could help it; I had an open-door policy most of the time, which meant someone was usually popping in. There would also be meetings and courses to attend, often off-site.

By contrast, here are some good old fashioned school desks - well 1974 vintage - made of wood! This is m first ever class at a school in Lincoln. The children were rehearsing for a play, though I don’t remember which. Strange to think, that at twenty-two, I was only about twelve or so years older than them. Many of them will now be parents and grandparents themselves!

Here are my own two playing companionably together at the desk in my daughter’s room c1983. Both computer literate and with artistic skills, these days, back then my son was computer mad and my daughter was the one writing journals and painting. My son now uses his IT skills in his work and my daughter has a sideline to her regular job, where she designs and makes bespoke earrings, dreamcatchers etc. This photo sums them up quite well.

This is the Sepia Saturday prompt image which inspired the above post. Why not see what other contributors made of it?

Betty Ayles, 20 May 1911 (Sutton Archives via The Past on Glass on Flickr)

Friday, 29 September 2017

Who Has Control?

A question any one of the four adults in the party might have been asking with reference to our four-year old twin grandchildren. The occasion was Remembrance Sunday 2012, the place was the Historic Dockyard Chatham. In fact the twins, although very young, behaved impeccably. Let’s face it a tour of a WW2 Destroyer, 1960s submarine and Victorian warship, are not on every child’s wishlist and we wondered if they would get bored and fidgety; instead they thoroughly enjoyed scrambling over HMS Cavalier, the Destroyer, and were in buoyant mood. This lifted our spirits at what was a very sad time. We had flown over to say our goodbyes to my seriously ill father, who passed away just two weeks later. of course we combined the trip with a quality time spent with the twins and their parents.

In the event the Dockyard proved a fascinating place and we didn’t manage to cover everything that day. There was also a temporary exhibition called ‘Whirrs, Cogs and Thingumybobs’ which I've written about elsewhere.

Here we are aboard HMS Cavalier, a Royal Navy C-class destroyer of WW2.

The Bridge, where they took turns to issue orders, and the room where the helmsman received orders from the Bridge.

Below, Office and the Operations Office (later the Ops Room) full of interesting knobs and dials.

And aboard the Victorian warship HMS Gannet. This was fun and the twins are happy to have joint control. It appears to be the wheel that positions the guns.

And in the radio room of the RNLI lifeboat Edward Bridges (1974). Everyone can relax, the twins have control of the situation again.

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt image was a 1948 B-36 cockpit, with far more dials, knobs and levers than any of the above. Why not visit to see what other contributors made of it.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Look, What Can You See?

Guess who this is looking out of the window with her daddy? I've no memory of it of course, because it’s about sixty four years ago. Dad was around thirty one or two, but looks older somehow. Perhaps it’s the bow tie; not something I saw him wear very often in his life. He was clearly trying to get me to focus on something, rather than look at the photographer, and I appear a little bemused.

It’s a shame that light got into the camera and I’ve been unable to enhance this any more to sharpen up the image, which is tiny anyway. I seem to be wearing my best frock (with a good hem to let down as I grew) and baby shoes with buttons. I’m not sure what the top garment is; perhaps a knitted bolero or something similar with short sleeves. On the window ledge is a biscuit barrel. We always had one and it usually contained a mixture of Rich Tea biscuits, Custard Creams and pink wafers. In later years Mum told me she had to stop re-filling it, as Dad was eating too many with his evening cocoa!

I’d probably just learned to walk and was still a bit shaky on my feet; in any case Dad is making sure I don't fall and his arms are encircling me. I may not have a memory of it but it’s how I like to think of my father. He was a very tactile, protective and loving man. He also showed me many things in my life. He had an artist’s eye for detail and encouraged me to observe things before trying to draw or paint them. “Look, what can you see?”  but sadly I didn’t inherit his artistic talents.

For more windows and small children looking out, visit this week’s Sepia Saturday, where our prompt image is young Prince Charles looking out of Buckingham Palace on the occasion of his mother’s coronation.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Make Do and Make Believe

Children have the ability, which sometimes as adults we lack, to imagine everyday objects into an adventure. As a parent and teacher I have witnessed chairs and tables being utilised to make dens, cars and boats. I have recollections of my own childhood, using my mother’s ‘clothes horse’ with sheets draped over, to make a tent, into which I would gather my favourite toys; teddies, dolls and books. On seaside holidays the sand could be shaped into anything we wished, not just a fairy castle or mermaid’s tail.

Am I being a mermaid here in 1955?  

My own children in the mid 1980s whilst visiting their grandparents, used cushions, chairs and a tennis racquet to fashion a car (or motor-boat) that would take them and a family of dolls of on a trip somewhere.

We built a ship upon the stairs
All made of the back-bedroom chairs,
And filled it full of sofa-pillows.
to go sailing on the billows.                 
Robert Louis Stevenson; A Good Play

By 2010 our twin grandchildrenwere sailing away in a sand boat, with beach spades for oars.

When I am in my ship I see
The other ships go sailing by.
A sailor leans and calls to me
As his ship goes sailing by.
Across the sea he leans to me,
Above the wind I hear him cry:
“Is this the way to Round-the-World?”
He calls as he goes by.
      A.A. Milne: Nursery Chairs

Where shall we adventure today that we’re afloat,
Wary of the weather and steering by a star?
Shall it be to Africa, a-steering of the boat,
To Providence, or Babylon, or off to Malabar?
Robert Louis Stevenson: Pirate Story

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt is ‘Chldren Riding a make-Believe Horse’. They have used some objects (probably with adult help) to fashion a vaguely horse-like shape. I hope they didn’t try to feed their horse as he has a sharp muzzle! The little girl has a whip made of grass, but she seems to be unwittingly tickling her brother’s nose with the end of it.

City of Vancouver Archives. Public Domain

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Weep if You Must

If I should die before the rest of you,
Break not a flower nor inscribe a stone.
Nor, when I'm gone, speak in a Sunday voice,
But be the usual selves that I have known.
Weep if you must,
Parting is hell.
But life goes on,
So........ sing as well. 

(Joyce Grenfell)

Thursday, 3 August 2017

The Goats of Lanzarote

Majojero goats roam the hillsides of Lanzarote and graze quite happily on vegetation found in our volcanic landscape. 

It’s our delight when walking or climbing volcanos, to see the goats, usually grazing in herds spread across the hills, or occasionally we are amazed to watch a lone goat nimbly leaping across the rocky terrain. The goats are well cared for and managed according to strict guidelines, in large farms, as these ones near the village of Uga.

We like to climb up the Femés Ridge and see the goats, especially when the kids have been newly born. Sometimes they get themselves separated from their mothers and emit a pitiful bleating - like this one filmed by my husband. The kid's mother was only a few metres away and he quickly caught up with her.

The goats are an important part of the island economy; the meat is used in stews and casseroles, but of course it’s the milk which is most important for the goat farmer, both as a drink and for making into a variety of cheeses. 

The island is dotted with goat farms many of which sell the produce from their dairy (quesería) at a farm shop, like our favourite in Femés, not far from where we live. 

The cheese is made from goats belonging to the Queseria Rubicón, and there are several varieties to choose from. We like the semi-curado (aged for about three months ) and the curado (mature for about six months). these are rolled in different flavourings  like pimentón (smoked Spanish paprika)  or gofio flour. 

If you buy a whole cheese they will shrink wrap it for you, ideal for visitors wanting a taste of Lanzarote to take back home.

The annual Fería del Queso in Playa Blanca

We have annual food fairs called Fería del Queso y la Cabra ( Cheese and Goat Festival) where it’s possible to buy a book of tickets - each worth a euro - and exchange them at the many cheese, wine and tapas stalls. There are also cooking demonstrations and stalls serving from huge paella dishes. There is live music and happy, celebratory atmosphere. Combined with our almost endless sunshine, needless to say the fairs are popular with tourists and residents alike.

Examples of some of the tapas we can exchange for a ticket. My daughter is pointing to the Queso Blanco or Queso Fresca, a young cheese, sometimes made with a mixture of goat and cow milk and served, as here with sweetened gofio slices.

The white cheese is also a main ingredient of a typical Canarian Salad, consisting of cheese, beef tomatoes, sweet white Lanzarote onions, dates and sweetcorn. 

Homemade Canarian Salad; easy to make and delicious to eat with olive oil, black pepper and crusty bread

In true Sepia Saturday tradition I have to include an old photograph. This one appears in several places around the island, often enlarged and used to decorate the walls of restaurants. I found a copy in Villa de Teguise in a traditional style restaurant called Cafetería Cejas. A caption from me would be superfluous as I think I’ve milked this subject long enough. Instead click on the link to see what other contributors made of our sepia prompt picture this week.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Beggar’s Bridge to Crane Bridge

This is my family in 1988, on our holiday at Egton Bridge in North Yorkshire. We weren’t playing ‘Pooh Sticks’ just posing on a famous packhorse bridge called ‘Beggar’s Bridge’ over the River Esk at Glaisdale, not far from our holiday cottage.

I was looking for a suitable illustration of a packhorse from around the time that the bridge was built in 1619 by Thomas Ferris, but instead I found this one from,

 'Chambers’s  encyclopaedia; a dictionary of universal knowledge for the people’ published in 1871*

which also gives the following definition:

PACKHORSE, a horse employed in the carriage of goods, which are either fastened on its back in bundles, or, if weighty, are placed in panniers, slung one on each side across the horse’s back. The saddle to which the bundles were fastened consisted of two pieces of wood, curved so as to fit the horse’s back, and joined together at the ends by other two straight pieces. This frame was well padded underneath, to prevent injury to the horses back, and was firmly fastened by a girth. To each side of the saddle, a strong hook was attached, for the purpose of carrying packages, panniers, &c. Panniers were sometimes simply slung across the horses back with a pad under the band.

The panniers were wicker baskets, and of various shapes, according to the nature of their usual contents, being sometimes long and narrow, but most generally having a length of three feet or upwards, a depth of about two-thirds of the length, and a width of from one to two feet. The packhorse with panniers was at one time in general use for carrying merchandise, and for those agricultural operations for which the horse and cart are now employed; and in the mountainous regions of Spain and Austria, and in other parts of the world, it still forms the sole medium for transport; though the mule has, especially in Europe, been substituted for the horse.

I found the above image of Salisbury, in a book called ‘Vanishing England’ (1911)* which the book describes as:
‘A small Gothic bridge near the Church House, and seen in conjunction with that venerable building it forms a very beautiful object.’ I know that bridge, over the River Avon, very well from the many years I lived in Salisbury, and of course it looks very different today and has listed status. It made me wonder if it had once been a packhorse bridge. Apparently its first archival mention is in 1300, but the name Crane Bridge was not used until the 16th century.*** The bridge has seen various changes, additions and widenings over the years. The artist appears to have presented a somewhat foreshortened view of the bridge as, according to ‘A History of the County of Wiltshire: Vol 6’ written in 1962,***

 "The present bridge is part of one of six stone arches standing in Leland’s time, is a 15th century structure with four splayed arches, having traces of a smaller and lower archway at its Eastern end. The south side of the bridge was taken down in 1898 and re-erected to widen the road.”

Salisbury became an important centre of the wool trade among others, as well as holding regular markets and fairs, and so it’s reasonable to assume that a packhorse bridge would not serve at a time of growing commerce in an important cathedral city.

Vanishing England* concludes that:

“.......old Bridges are fast disappearing and are being substituted by the hideous erections of iron and steel. It is well that we should attempt to record those that are left, photograph them and paint them, ere the march of modern progress, evinced by the traction-engine and the motor-car, has quite removed and destroyed them.”

Fortunately, the hundred years since the book was written, have seen the massive advances made in technology and we now live in a digital age where seemingly everything is catalogued. Nevertheless I’ve done my bit here. I hope you’ll enjoy it, along with other contributions to this week’s Sepia Saturday.

To end where I began, here is Beggar’s Bridge again on a beautiful postcard** printed between 1890 - 1900.

*Internet Book Archive via Flickr Commons

**Public Domain: File:Whitby,_Glaisdale,_Beggars'_Bridge,_Yorkshire,_England-LCCN2002708348.jpg

***A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 6, ed. Elizabeth Crittall (London, 1962), British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/wilts/vol6 [accessed 29 July 2017].

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.