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."

Sunday, 7 February 2016


Sculpture standing in the harbour, Playa Blanca, Lanzarote, Islas Canarias*

All year beside the ocean vast,
a figure from the island’s past, 
a watcher - stands, eyes fixed ahead
to distant lands, unlimited
by faint horizons, or memory’s anchor cast.

Unmoving, as a statue, strong
and solid as a rock; the long
Watch is kept until this earth’s end.
Loyal guardian, look-out, friend,
Custodian of this isle, where all of us belong.

We hurry past and hardly spare
a glance; without a thought or care.
And still the staunch defender’s heart
is brave and faith does not depart.
In this, the sacred task, the sentinel stands square.

© Marilyn Brindley 2016

Written in response to this picture prompt by Tess Kincaid at Magpie Tales. Tess encourages bloggers in the ‘honing of their crafts, sharing it with like-minded bloggers, and keeping their muses alive and well.'

I set myself the extra task of writing to a poetic form, as is my wont; I like a challenge. This the Florette No.2. I’ve used the Florette before, but this one really had me biting my pencil. The rhyme scheme is a, a, b, b, a, and the meter is 8, 8, 8, 8, 12, with three stanzas! I know, what was I thinking? In the end I enjoyed the task. I haven’t written a poem for ages, but I’ve just started a new online course that has made me re-visit some of the poems I love and reminded me why I  enjoy poetry so much.

*Sculpture paying tribute to ‘ the generations of Canarians (our ancestors) who encouraged their children to improve their education and resources, promoting the development of towns and contributing to our current level of well-being'. Sculptor Chano Navarro Betancor.

Friday, 5 February 2016

These Old Shades

This is my mother looking super-cool in Paris in 1963. It was my parents’ first trip abroad and Mum was so excited. Yes, I know she doesn’t look it here - that’s because she was a victim of my father’s arty-shot that he liked to practise from time to time. He probably told her to assume the look of some sultry film star of the era. Mum is wearing a stylish red dress and her red earrings. I remember the earrings, which were sent by my great-aunt in America. You could pop out the centre from the ‘diamante' circle and pop in another of a different colour to match your outfit. We thought that was cool too but we probably used a different word in the 1960s. To top off the look Mum is wearing ‘shades’ - or sunglasses as we call them. It’s one of the few pictures of any member of my family wearing them in these old snaps from the albums; these days I wouldn’t be without mine in the bright Lanzarote sunshine. 

Dad and I are fooling around a couple of years later in the Austrian Tyrol. Dad used to wear a cravat, which he thought made him look very fashionable, but the orange jumper is quite bright in itself and it was probably a blessing we were all wearing ‘shades’. The jumper is hiding our trusty Kodak camera and a newspaper. Dig the tartan holdall too!

Just a few ‘old shades’ from my album.  I borrowed the title from the novel by Georgette Heyer, who in turn was quoting a Victorian poet, Austin Dobson. The title sprang to mind because that book of Heyer’s is one I remember from my parents’ bookshelves, even though, as far as I recall, I didn’t read it. It’s appropriate because shades is also a name for ghosts - something or someone from the past.

In this 1954 photo of our family holiday at Seathorne, my brother is the only one wearing sunglasses and shading his eyes. He had been very seriously ill and his eyes were badly affected; the rest of us just narrowed our eyes or squinted. It was the same story throughout subsequent holidays, although I did find this 1961 picture of me wearing trendy white - rimmed shades. I think I was being grumpy and hiding behind them as I didn’t want my picture taken.

My husband tells a story from around the same time, when he discovered his mother’s sunglasses and decided they would be improved by cutting a small hole in each lens to enhance her vision. I don’t think that went down very well. 

There will be plenty more old shades in this week’s Sepia Saturday, so if you want to look really cool, like the people in this week’s prompt, come and join us and see what other contributors saw through the lens.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Where Go the Boats?

My brother shows off his toy yacht in this 1949 photo in the family’s front garden. It’s a Summer photo and the likelihood is that it was either a birthday present or a holiday souvenir. That year the family went to Great Yarmouth, in Norfolk, for their annual holiday. The War had only been over for four years and there was still rationing of many items. My parents were not very well off and would save all year for a week’s holiday in a caravan or chalet. They would have been keen to ensure that my brother had a good time and a toy boat would also have been an investment as he could play with it when he returned home and take it on future holidays as well.

Here’s my brother with our Dad at the Model Boating Lake at Gorleston, Great Yarmouth. There were two model yacht ponds in Yarmouth at this time and the hobby was thriving. The Yarmouth pond is now part of the Yarmouth Pleasure Beach and when you descend the log flume ride you are splashing down into the old Yacht Pond. To see the pond at that time,being enjoyed by children with their model boats, and read people’s memories of the place, click here.

Where Go The Boats? is the title of a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) and appears in his ‘A Child’s Garden of Verses’. The book has been printed many times and is always beautifully illustrated, invariably showing a child holding a model boat very similar to my brother’s. I wonder if Stevenson is really talking about the loss of his toys into the hands of another child; I can’t imagine he would be so cavalier as to launch several (he uses the plural) expensive toy boats. I always thought the poem was about paper boats, the kind we all had modelled for us as children, or those made from a piece of bark and a twig, with a paper sail; cheap, disposable and fun. Paper boats would be set to sail, often in a race, in a local stream or river. We never mourned their loss, but like the child in the Stevenson poem we may have wondered where they would end up. The illustration, from the 1928 edition of the book, courtesy of project Gutenberg, shows the boats I had in mind.

Off they go to be caught up in a current and whirl and bob their way amongst the green leaves which had fallen into the river until, perhaps, they come to the seashore and pass the 'castles in the foam'. However you interpret the poem, it’s easy to be lost yourself in its wonderful rhythm and rhyme.

Where Go The Boats?

Dark Brown is the river.
Golden is the sand.
It flows along forever, 
With trees on either hand.

Green leaves a-floating,
Castles in the foam,
Boats of mine a-boating-
Where will all come home?

On goes the river
And out past the mill,
Away down the valley,
Away down the hill,

Away down the river,
A hundred miles or more,
Other little children
Shall bring my boats ashore.

Our Sepia Saturday picture prompt this week featured two model boats of which the family in the picture were so proud that they included them, along with their children and their other treasure, the family dog. Off you go and lose yourself in the stories and pictures of other contributors, which the picture inspired. Who knows where you’ll end up?

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Something to Hold on To

This is my mother-in-law, Mary, aged about two years. She was born in 1910 so it’s possible that this studio portrait was taken around the time of the Titanic disaster in April 1912. Our prompt picture for this week’s Sepia Saturday shows two brothers who survived that catastrophe. They were thought to be orphans and their photos were published in the hope that they would be recognised. Luckily their mother, who was estranged from their father, was later reunited with them. Their father was abducting them and hoping to start a new life with his children; sadly he drowned in the icy waters and the children were too young to give a lucid account.

Their story can be read here and there are other photos* taken on the same day of the two boys holding a variety of different toys, including a model ship! In the second photo here, and the prompt image, the older boy has a ball which has clearly taken his fancy. Mary too has been given a ball to hold; she was not an orphan and came from a comfortable middle class family, so there the similarity ends.

A flip through most people’s family albums will no doubt reveal numerous similar shots of toddlers posed with a ball, so why not join us this week at Sepia Saturday and see what other contributors have come up with to match the prompt.

* Library of Congress via Flickr

Friday, 8 January 2016

Great Balls of Stone

This the Great Globe at Durlston Park in Swanage, Dorset, England, and that's my son and husband being dwarfed by the mighty monument in 1999. Constructed in 1881 of Portland stone it is one of the largest stone spheres in the world. For those who like facts, figures and history follow the link.

This is how it looked around 1900 courtesy of the Detroit Publishing Company. The BBC page shows sepia pictures of how it looked in those days, when it first became a visitor attraction.

Here's a mini version in a shopping centre near here in Playa Blanca, Lanzarote. When it's fully functioning this one becomes a fountain-like water feature.

Visit Sepia Saturday this week for more large spherical objects, and see what other contributors made of the photo prompt above.

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Seaside Shopping

This is my Mum in 1963 buying some fruit from a beachside shop in Chapel St Leonard’s. The photographer would be my Dad, once more demonstrating an uncanny knack for the unusual shot. How Mum put up with him taking a photo of her ‘behind' (on more than one occasion) I’ll never know.

There are several kinds of fruit in the racks behind; oranges, apples and bananas, but I believe Mum and the shopkeeper (the sign says, “Props. E. A. Litchfield & A. D......”) are inspecting peaches and he is helping her to select some ripe ones. The crate label reads ‘Golden Valley’, but that doesn’t really help. I expect Mum was trying to vary the diet from the ice creams and candyfloss we loved to eat on a day trip to the seaside.

Enlarging the picture I can see: buckets and spades; seaside postcards; beachballs, blow-up lilos; paper windmills (for your sandcastle); cricket stumps and a stack of deckchairs. The signs are advertising both Players and Woodbines Cigarettes; take your pick.

On the freezer is a sign stating the hire rate for those deckchairs, 2/-  (two shillings); whether this was for the day or by the hour I’ve no idea.

There is also an advert for Zoom Ice Lollies and a bucket with a label exhorting us to, “Put your Eldorado Ice Cream wrappers here”. Quite right - no litter wanted in front of this tidy shop. I remember Eldorado with fondness, but I don’t believe the company exists any longer. The shop has a sign boasting that it is a ‘Four Star Independent Retailer’. Below the sign are some more inflatables and a couple of boxes of Ashley’s Ice Cream Wafers.

The most curious item is the comic character behind Mum and Mr Litchfield; probably some sort of inflatable toy for lobbing around the beach to scare the kiddies and little old ladies having a nap in their deckchairs.

I also noticed that Mum is wearing tartan slacks (or trews as she liked to call them, even though there wasn’t a drop of Scottish blood in her), a hand-knitted jumper and ‘comfy’ sandals. This helped me identify other shots taken on the same day.

I expect the shop also sold kites as another picture shows me demonstrating my newly purchased model.

I’ve seen that first photograph many times but I’ve never given it more than a passing glance until now. It’s amazing how Sepia Saturday makes us scrutinise and dissect old snaps to discover some little hidden gems we never noticed before. I feel as though I know Mr Litchfield - or is he A.D......? and his neat little four-star beachside shop, so well now. This is one day, more than half a century ago, but it could be yesterday again.  By the time most of you read this another year will have begun and tonight we’ll be ‘Ringing in the New!’ It will be a time for looking forward and making resolutions, but don’t forget to join us at Sepia Saturday as we celebrate the past and look forward to another year of Sepia memories. Happy New Year everyone.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Christmas in Germany

This is my son in Germany, 1983, showing his fascination with Angel Chimes, and probably trying to blow out the candles. We sometimes only lit one candle in order to slow down the speed that the angels flew round and struck the bell.  The chimes were very popular in Germany and we would have bought ours there, during our tour with the RAF.

Although it was a charming and delightful decoration, the novelty sometimes wore off after a short while, due to the repetition of the dinging, rather akin to a dripping tap. The fact that we no longer have this particuar set of Angel Chimes, probably confirms my suspicions that we grew out of them eventually. We now have a minature Angel Chimes (with no noise). There are numerous You Tube videos of people with their own, much-treasured vintage versions, some still in the original packaging. Many feature small children and their reactions to them; others show how to take them out of the box and assemble them, which was no mean feat.

Some the decorations we invested in at that time were beautiful and deserved to be heirlooms. Unfortunately, over many years of being packed away and then re-assembled, some of them suffered damage. In the picture below, from the same year, can be seen two traditional Räuchermann figures; The Essenkehrer (chimney sweep) and the Weihnachtsmann (Father Christmas) on the mantelpiece.

The chimney sweep was particularly vulnerable as arms, ladder and other bits and pieces were constantly being glued back on.I  think in a moment of frustration a few years ago, we decided we'd had enough and he was thrown out. I see now that this was particularly ill-judged, as current models cost a considerable sum; we’ll look after the Weihnachtsmann more carefully for sure. Here he is in action last year.

I also regret throwing away out beautifully carved Christmas table centre, which doubled as an Advent Ring. We would light one more candle each Sunday in Advent and then on Christmas Eve all four would be lit.

This decoration suffered the same fate as the poor old chimney sweep; after several re-sprays and much gluing, we decided we’d had enough. What a shame we didn’t just appreciate it for the its age and the memories it held. One more regret.

It can be seen gracing the Christmas Table over the years of family photographs, and is just visible behind my own two angels in this picture.

One decoration from those years which we still have, thank goodness, is our Weihnachtspyramide (Christmas Pyramid) below. This operates in the same way as the Angel Chimes; the candles generate the heat which turns the turbine and send the Nativity Scene spinning round. Unlike the Angel Chimes, this is silent and we still love to light it each Christmas.

For more Christmas memories from the past, be sure to light some candles and go to Sepia Saturday and see what other contributors made of the prompt