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, 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.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Merpeople of the Sands

It sounds like the title of a novel; however, the merpeople of the sands are not mythical, but very real.  As it’s April 1st, also known as April Fool’s Day when pranksters like to have a practical joke or two,  I’ve lightened the mood of my post this week. I have my husband’s permission to share this wonderful image from around forty-five years ago.

He was on holiday with his newly divorced sister Gill, and her young children, and we have a hunch that this is her work. Gill was a not only very artistic and creative, but also had a great sense of fun. I’m sure her girls would have joined in with creating this unlikely sand merman too.

And from the ridiculous to the sublime, here are some real merpeople, beautifully crafted here in the sands of Playa Blanca, Lanzarote some fifteen years ago I think. The artists still appear there on a regular basis creating some real works of art for the admiration of passers-by and to earn a few euros.

Why not join us today at Sepia Saturday, where our picture prompt is two boys doing what people always like to do on the beach, burying themselves and their family.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Tattered Memories and Other Aspects of Love

My mother kept this souvenir programme for a 1943 variety bill at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London’s West End. Unfortunately it has deteriorated over the years and is now rather delicate. The show was notable for comedian Sid Field’s London debut. The ‘rising generation’ included many names who went on to be quite famous, but I suspect my mother’s real fondness was for two teenagers; Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise, as Mum had underlined their names in the programme, even though they were in two different sketches. Mum would often mention that she had seen them in this show when they were young and just starting on the showbiz ladder. The Jerry Allen Trio played the intermission music, and I remember them for their performances on television’s ‘Lunch Box’ in the late 1950s early 1960s, when I stayed at my grandparents’ house.

You can see a more complete programme scan here and here, but it’s still difficult to read the detail.

The show was put on in 1943; my parents had married the previous July but were both serving in the armed forces, at opposite ends of the country, and only saw each other for brief 48 hour passes if they were lucky. I’m not sure if this period co-incides with Mum’s stint as a clerk at the War Office, but they also saw Gone With the Wind at the Ritz at this time and it could be that Dad had travelled down to spend a few hours with his wife. It was their first year of marriage and they would have wanted to spend as much precious time together as possible. Keeping the programmes and tickets for these two ‘dates’ would have been important reminders for them.

The postcard on the left is my own (original) autograph of Morecambe and Wise from some time in the 1960s.

Almost fifty years after my parents’ theatre date, my own husband took me on a trip to the same Prince of Wales Theatre. This was to see the musical, 'Aspects of Love’ starring Michael Praed, who I remember at the time I had a bit of a weakness for.

I notice the dates of the tickets are almost exactly twenty-five years ago, and so would have been a birthday treat for me from my own Love. On pages 33 and 34, there is a short history of the Prince of Wales Theatre from its beginnings in January 1884, and I was delighted to see that ‘Strike a New Note’ gets a mention.

Dad died almost four years ago and Mum’s Alzheimer’s and dementia mean that her own memories, like the old theatre programme,  are a bit tattered. They are still there though in part, and I expect there are some shreds of that special Leave spent in London, when she and Dad had their theatre dates. You can click on the images to enlarge (and read) the notes, and I have copied the entire programme, including adverts, to my Flickr album.

For more memories, tattered or otherwise, book your seats at this week’s Sepia Saturday, where the great showman Louis Armstrong, seated at his theatre dressing table, was our picture prompt.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Getting Feedback

I had difficulty dating this photo of my Great Aunt Maud (on the right) and her friend Mary Carter. The reel to reel tape recorder belonged to my parents and, among other things, we used it to send Christmas messages to Maud’s brother Albert in Australia, and he would reciprocate. At first glance I assumed that was what they were listening to, and indeed that could be the case. However, I was recently listening to some archive sound recordings made by family on that very machine and had a different thought.

One of the tapes was my parents talking to Maud and Mary about the advent of decimalisation in Britain, set for February 1971. The government started to introduce some of the new coins as early as 1969, so this photo could be somewhere around 1969/70 as the conversation hinged on how the older generation (Maud was born 1897) would manage when the process was complete. Despite their concerns they seemed to have a pretty reasonable grasp, and my father was reassuring them and trying to explain an easy way of working out the value of the coins. Mary said she thought they’d be all right as, on a trip to Holland, they had managed the exchange rate of guilders, but both of them thought it would be the small coins that would confuse them.

From there the went on to talk about their own confidence in working out their shopping bills (in the old money), and how they usually had the total in their head before the shop assistant (who would be using pencil and paper). This was before automatic cash registers or tills were the norm. People of that generation would have been drilled in Arithmetic, as it was called.

I love the picture for all the details of their Living Room: the many patterns of wallpaper and soft furnishing, and the ‘antimacassars’ on the sofa; the Valor paraffin heater under the window; the flower arrangement on the sideboard; Mary’s slippers with pom-poms and Maud’s unbuttoned dress (!).

Both ladies are long gone as is my father, but it’s a delight to look at this picture, and listen to their voices from nearly half a century ago. My parents sound so young, (they would have been in their late forties) and althought they aren’t in this photo, I can imagine them, as they looked then, sitting in the chairs opposite as the ladies listened to the recording of their own voices.

Our Sepia Saturday picture prompt this week is a couple listening to the weather forecast on the radio. Why not tune in and see what other contributors have come up with from their own albums

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.