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."

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Cheer Up, It May Never Happen!

Many of you will recognise the cheerful cherub in this photo, as it’s the one I use for my blogger profile as Little Nell. Although wearing a sunbonnet, I’m obviously staring directly into the sun, and hence my screwed-up features. There are quite a few photos of me looking severely hacked-off as a youngster, and, if I’m honest, not all of them were the result of the sun-in-eyes syndrome. Here is a small selection. If you can bear it, click on each one individually to enlarge it.

Definitely the sun
But I love donkeys!

Probably wanted to build a sandcastle.
Not very happy at being perched on the castle wall.

Everyone else seems fairly happy.
Clearly the sunglasses didn’t help on this occasion.

In fairness to myself, there are far more photos of me looking happy. The sun-in-eyes thing is not too far from the truth; even to this day I wear sunglasses on bright days, not just sunny days, and if I don’t, my eyes sting and water copiously.

In the photo above I look as if the whole lollipop has come off its stick and I’m not sure whether to spit it out or swallow it.  Let’s end with a smile, just to show that I was a cheerful baby and went on to have a very happy childhood; it’s just that the camera caught me out sometimes.

This week’s prompt for Sepia Saturday, shows a group of down-in-the-mouth students, which gave us one of the possible themes for this week’s post. If you need cheering up, go and see what other contributors have come up with for their own blogs.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Infinite Budgie Theorem

"The infinite monkey theorem states that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare.” (Wikipedia)

Here’s our budgie, Pippin, putting this to the test (for monkey, read, budgie) at Christmas 1993. It’s not a typewriter of course, because we had moved on to computers by then. The computer itself almost dates the picture, as its an Amstrad PC and a rather clunky keyboard, typical of the times. Ive sepiarised them for fun and because the picture quality is so poor.

 Pippin also helped me out when, during my first Headship, I brought a school computer home to prepare some work for the children (no laptops then).  Thats not the result of his efforts on the screen however.

To distract him my son placed one of Pippins toys on top of the computer, so that I could get on with some lesson preparation in peace.

Pippin was very inquisitive and would help with any activity the family were involved in. Pippin Helping became  a family catch phrase. He would help' with jigsaws, by turning over all the pieces back to the blank side. He would ‘help' by grabbing my sewing needle and trying to pull the thread through. 

He would help my daughter by tidying her hair ribbons and ensuring she hit the right notes in her recorder playing. 

 He liked to check that the salad was thoroughly washed and that there was no leftovers in the cereal bowls. Any empty crisp packets were ‘tidied up’ by being marched to the corner of the table and dropped over the edge. Pippin also liked to groom anybody who was willing to sit still long enough. 

What he wasnt very good at was helping with any writing. He never wrote a report or assisted with homework. No matter how many keyboards he was allowed to run along, he never produced anything worthy of a mention. 

He certainly inspired us all to write our own memories when he died in August 2000. He’d been part of the family for ten years and his antics were a source of joy to us all. 

Fly over to this weeks Sepia Saturday today and see what this old image of a typewriter has inspired others to post.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Erected for Counsel and Welcome

This is my brother in 1946, perched on the paws of a rather disdainful stone lion. This isn’t just any old lion,  it’s the famous  Left Lion,  well know rendezvous in front of Nottingham's magnificent Council House in the Market Square. There is also a Right Lion, and the pair are know locally these days as Leo and Oscar. They were designed by Joseph Else, principal of the Nottingham School of Art.

There would have been an added significance at the time of this photo, as my grandfather  had worked as one of the team of builders who constructed the Council House almost twenty years earlier.

The above picture is taken from Arthur Mee’s 1938 ‘The King’s England: Nottinghamshire’, courtesy of the excellent ‘Notts History’ website * and where we can read a very detailed description of the new building and its significance for the ‘Queen of the Midlands’ as Nottingham was known. Mee uses the image to show how the old Market Square looked during the Council House construction; he then extols the virtues of the new Nottingham, which has tidied itself up, got rid of its slums and ‘shabby’ market and built many new houses, schools, hospitals, boulevards, parks and playing fields, making itself “one of the most wonderfully equipped cities in the kingdom."

The Council House official opening by the Prince of Wales, on 22nd May 1929** attracted large crowds. I wonder if my grandfather took his family along; perhaps they are somewhere in this picture. The market had been moved to an indoor venue and the old market square was laid out with lawns, flowers and marble walks. Perhaps that’s when the local nickname change to ‘Slab Square’.

Arthur Mee wrote in 1938 that: "The dome looks down from its 200 feet height to the floor of a spacious arcade of shops and offices, approached by great arches from the streets. Round the bottom of the dome we read that the Corporation of  Nottingham erected this building for Counsel and Welcome, and to show Merchandise and Crafts.”

This is how it looked in August 1994 in a picture taken by my father.

Over the years the square has changed several times. The picture above was taken sometime in the late 70s, early 80s, and where the iconic black and white taxis are lined up on the far side of the square, now runs part of the city’s vast new tramway.

Visiting in December 2012, for my father’s funeral, I took this picture. The Christmas Market was on and, for some reason, this is the only image I took; I found it curiously uplifting.

When I was there last month I took this picture, showing the new fountain/water feature. The flowerbeds and walkways are gone, but in their place is a large space which serves the city as a venue for celebrations, Christmas Markets, and other events. Sometimes it becomes an ice rink and sometimes it is filled with sand and becomes ‘Nottingham by the Sea’.

The Council House remains unchanged, and Leo is still there too.

In both the 1946 and the 2015 picture can be seen the plaque marking the laying of the foundation stone on 17th March 1927.

One of the themes suggested by this week’s Sepia Saturday prompt was construction work, tunnels or significant dates. Step back in time and see what other Sepians have found in their old photo albums.

*Andy Nicholson holds the copyright and in 2012 graciously granted me permission to use his pictures. Do go and have a look at his labour of love at nottshistory.org. The Arthur Mee volume was only added this year and is full of interesting information.

** Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

A Tale of Survival

This may look like a just a very old packet of cigarettes, but it is the subject of this week’s Sepia Saturday post. Yes, the cigarettes are still with us, but their owner sadly died some years ago.

This is my sister-in-law’s father, Joe, and seventy-five years ago this month, he took part in an historic event, The Dunkirk Evacuation, also known as Operation Dynamo. It was the evacuation of around 40,000 Allied soldiers from the beaches and harbour of Dunkirk, France, between 27 May and 4 June 1940. You can read about this in countless books and on the web, and this week’s commemorative events, but Joe’s story has never been written before, so it is my honour to do so now.

Joe signed up for four years military service with the Territorial Army on 1 May 1939 at Harborne, Birmingham, England, and on 1 September he was called up as a Driver in the Royal Army Service Corps (RASC). He was posted with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) as an ambulance driver and landed in France on 9 January 1940. It was from there that he was to swim for his life during the Dunkirk Evacuation. Joe survived, though many didn’t, but we don’t know any more details of his rescue; perhaps it was on board one of the fifty or so ‘Little Ships’ which came to the rescue of the stranded allies. He was a very quiet man and didn’t talk much about his wartime exploits. What we do know is that the packet of cigarettes Joe was carrying at the time, also survived and that he kept them as a constant reminder of how close he came to losing his young life that day.

Joe, bottom right.

After Dunkirk Joe spent two and a half years stationed at various medical reception centres in Lincolnshire.

In January 1943 he was posted to PAIForce (Persian and Iran Expeditionary Force) where he drove petrol tankers. He remained in the Middle East with spells in Egypt, Palestine and Syria, until he returned to UK in March 1946.

It was exactly seventy-five years ago today that a message was sent to Lord Gort, the Commander of the BEF, to evacuate the maximum Force possible. This British Pathe News clip gives a flavour of the event; who knows? perhaps Joe is one of the soldiers in the water, or one of those later being hauled aboard ship.

Joe, Veteran of Dunkirk, 1921 - 1983

Sunday, 24 May 2015


The peeling paint, and rusty hook, 
The battered book,
The old straw hat,
The threadbare mat,
The furled umbrella, grey and torn,
The coat quite worn,
The shirt with holes,
The shabby soles,
The tattered bag and empty purse
The life, a curse,
Enough to make
The spirit break.
© Marilyn Brindley

Joining in with The Mag for the first time in ages, and returning also to a favourite verse form, ‘The Minute’ - sixty syllables exactly (8,4,4,4 x 3),  and also written in iambic rhythm and rhyming couplets, making it an interesting challenge. Thanks to Sandy Brownjohn’s ‘The Poet’s Craft’ once more for guiding me in the techniques, and to Tess Kincaid for the picture prompt as inspiration (1907, John Frederick Peto).

See also A Towering Talent and Trapped for other examples of my poems using The Minute.

Friday, 22 May 2015

The Dancing Years

These two photos were taken in April 1965 and show my parents and friends attempting the dance craze, ‘The Twist’, which hit the headlines in 1960 with the song of the same name, performed by Chubby Checker. It remained popular for several years, enjoying several updates, including country and rap versions.

When these photos were taken, at a local dance, my parents were in their mid-forties and clearly weren’t the teenagers the original song was aimed at. Mum is in the centre of the first photo, looking very chic in her Little Black Dress, and to the right of her, Dad appears to be staggering backwards in surprise, but in reality is probably throwing himself wholeheartedly into the dance. My godparents are entering stage right, with my godfather taking the prize in that shot for achieving the position nearest the floor.

In the second photo Mum appears to be sensibly opting out of the ultimate knee-crushing bend that the dance was famed for, whilst Dad and two others go for it.

Mum and Dad were very good ballroom and modern dancers from their youth and were still dancing, whenever the opportunity arose, until a few years before Dad died in 2012.

Whilst The Twist doesn’t look very dignified, it was always a pleasure to watch their waltz and quicksteps.

 Here they are again, four years later at the Sherwood Rooms in Nottingham, at a dance held by the local Art Group, of which Dad was a founder member. At first I thought they were doing the Conga, but the chap behind isn’t joining in, and their two friends on the right appear to be executing similar moves to my parents. I believe they were ‘line dancing', although it wasn’t called that in 1969.

In July 1992 at their Golden Wedding celebrations, they were demonstrating it again; they also took to the floor to show that they hadn’t lost their touch in the ballroom moves either.

 Ten years later, at their grandson’s wedding, they were surprised by the band 'playing their song’ - “Only Forever” by Bing Crosby - and dedicating it to them, as it was also their Diamond Wedding that month - and they were up on their feet again showing everybody how it was done!

It’s not a very clear photograph unfortunately, but what is clear is my own memory of dancing with Dad on many occasions. He was a wonderful dancer, and even though I never had any lessons myself, Dad was so skilled that he was able to lead me and make it look as though I’d been doing it all my life. Somehow I just fell into the rhythm of the moves and enjoyed being twirled around.When I was young he would stand me on his toes and my feet hardly touched the floor!

They were to have yet another ten years together, celebrating their Platinum Wedding in July 2012. Dad was not very mobile by then and he died later that year. Mum misses him very much of course but she has great faith that they will one day be dancing together again.

Take your partners for the Strictly Sepia Saturday, visit other Sepians and post your own old photographs and memories for all of us to enjoy.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Something to Celebrate

Friday 8th May is the 70th Anniversary of Victory in Europe Day or VE Day, the public holiday declared to mark the formal acceptance by the Allies of WW2 of Nazi Germany’s surrender, and thus marking the end of the War in Europe.

 There will be remembrance services and street parties this weekend. Beacons will be lit and the occasion will be commemorated with events all across UK. We can look forward to some interesting radio and TV programmes, where no doubt people will be sharing their stories and pictures.

The Royal British Legion also has a wonderful VE Day webpage full of old photos and memories, just like lots of Sepia Saturdays all rolled into one! Please go and visit. In the meantime here is my own contribution to mark the occasion. On VE Day there were many parties, often hosted by the local church, and the one above is exactly that. The young lady on the far left is my mother, and seated on her knee is my big brother, aged about ten months. That huge plate of buns wasn’t all for them!

The photograph has seen better days and it will be some time before I get round to putting some work into it. This makes it the perfect match for this week’s Sepia Saturday prompt of old photos in need of care and attention.

I can’t leave my Dad out of the celebrations as he would have loved see this weekend's events. The War may have been over but it would be sometime before all the service men and women could be ‘de-mobbed’ and retun to civilian life. Here’s Dad enjoying some home leave with Mum and my brother, in a photo taken around the same time.

The war in Europe was over, but Winston Churchill, in his speech reminded everyone that a brief period of rejoicing could be allowed but that, “We must not forget for a moment the toil and efforts that lie ahead. Japan, with all her treachery and greed, remains unsubdued. The injury she has inflicted on Great Britain, the United States and other countries, call for justice and retribution. We must now devote all our strength and resources to the completion of our task, both at home and abroad. Advance, Britannia! Long live the cause of freedom! God save the King!”

Stirring words, and I expect Winnie allowed himself a glass of something and a celebratory cigar after that. Others toasted with cups of tea and a bun.