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, 28 March 2013

Lincoln and the Lounge Lizards

The title of my post isn't the name of a new pop group; it's about coffee! The Sepia Saturday prompt this week features the corner doorway of the Lincoln Coffee Lounge in Sydney, Australia, a haunt for artists and writers. I've pretty much covered the coffee theme in 'Let's Have Another Cup O' Coffee', but the English city of Lincoln was one of my own haunts back in the early seventies. I was at teacher training college there for four years and I lived and taught near the city for a further four years until 1978. As a student most of my coffee was consumed back at college and we were more familiar with local pubs than cafés. However, when my parents came to visit we would go to the High Bridge, overlooking the busy main street, or find one of the other quaint cafés or restaurants nestling amidst the ancient houses and shops of this historic city.

The picture above is of Newport Arch, Lincoln, probably at the turn of the last century. There is a corner doorway, but it's not a café or restaurant. The arch was the north gate of the Roman city Lindum Colonia. It was remodelled in the medieval period and has suffered damage from vehicles in modern times. Last year it was added to the English Heritage 'At Risk' register and has become a danger to the public as they pass through the arch. I have passed through on countless occasions, and probably became a little blasé about its significance. However, take a moment to consider the archway; fascinating as it is for us to peer at the sepia figures in the picture above, and carry out our usual musings about their lives, how much more thrilling is it to imagine Roman vehicles and people passing through on entry to the city? I hope a solution can be found as it remains the only arched Roman gate in the UK still used by traffic.

The building above stands on Lincoln's Strait Street and is known as The Jew's House. This dates from the twelfth century, and is one of the earliest town houses still in existence in England. It stands on Steep Hill (and yes, it is) and was associated with the thriving Jewish community of the medieval period in the city. Since then, it has had many lives and today, where M. Pickering once plied his trade, there is a restaurant. Click here to see how it looks now.  I expect they serve a decent cup of coffee. and I wouldn't be at all surprised if artists and writers frequent the place. There are certainly many students in Lincoln; in my day it was the teacher training college (Bishop Grosseteste) but today there is also a modern university. *Both images courtesy of Cornell University's Flickr photostream

Back in the 1930's there was a group  of like-minded young bohemians, including the poets, Vernon Watkins and Dylan Thomas who would meet in a café in Swansea to put the world to rights, in a similar way to those in the prompt picture. They were known as the Kardomah Gang. Kardomahs were a chain of cafés long before Starbucks arrived, and they had branches in most of the major towns in UK. When I was fifteen I was a 'Saturday girl' in the Nottingham branch on King Street. I didn't serve in the café itself but I worked at the counter upstairs where the coffee beans were weighed and sold. We also ground and bagged the coffee for individual customer's requirements. It was hard work as I was on my feet all day and I was paid very little, but I did enjoy meeting people. I would inevitably get the comment that it was lovely to work with the smell of freshly ground coffee all day; it wasn't. That part soon lost its novelty as I would go home with the fine dust of ground coffee in my hair, ears and nostrils! As far as I know that particular branch wasn't a meeting place for the poets either!

The Kardomah Gang are remembered in a radio play 'Return Journey' which has Thomas, on a winter's day, visiting Swansea after the war, when the Kardomah has been 'razed to the snow'. He is in search of his younger self and engages with various people to see if they have any memory of him. A passer-by says he hasn't seen him since the old Kardomah days when they would be drinking coffee-dashes and arguing the toss. Thomas asks him what they were arguing about:

Music and poetry and paintings and politics. Einstein and Epstein, Stravinsky and Greta Garbo, death and religion, Picasso and girls..........

And then?

Communism, symbolism, Bradman, Braque, the Watch Committee, free love, free beer, murder, Michaelangelo, ping-pong, ambition, Sibelius, and girls.......

Is that all?

How Dan Jones was going to compose the most prodigious symphony, Fred Jones paint the most miraculously meticulous picture, Charlie Fisher catch the poshest trout, Vernon Watkins and young Thomas write the most boiling poems, how they would ring the bells of London and paint it like a tart....

And after that?

Oh the hissing of the butt ends in the drains of the coffee dashes, and the tinkle and the gibble-gabble of the morning young lounge lizards as they talked about Augustus John, Emil Jannings, Carnera, Dracula, Amy Johnson, trial marriage, pocket money, the Welsh sea, the London stars, King Kong, anarchy, darts, T.S. Eliot and girls.........

 I wonder what the 'young lounge lizards' in the prompt picture discussed, and if it was half as interesting or as poetically remembered.


Join our own Café Society over at Sepia Saturday, where the subjects are bound to be as varied as the above, depending on how others have interpreted the prompt. If you are a true lover of all things sepia we also have a lively Facebook page.

24 comments:

  1. I've looked at images from Lincoln, I didn't know it was such a beautiful city. The castle and cathedral are impressive. The Roman gate isn't that impressive, but at least there are Roman remains present (those are very scarce in the Netherlands).

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  2. Such a wonderful journey going on here.....I don't drink coffee but I've a little more respect for it now.....!

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  3. Wonderful sepia photos, and so glad to hear of your own history in the coffee consumption business. Ah, when we were young we put up with so much sometimes!

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  4. That's so amazing that the Roman gate is still there. I just watched the series "Rome" so I could easily picture the Romans passing thru the gate on their way to some orgy or other.
    The "Jews House" hasn't changed that much over the years. It's nice that they haven't modernized it.
    Nancy

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  5. Thank you for the introduction to Lincoln - it has some wonderful old buildings, which has prompted my further investigating on Google Earth/StreetView. My 3g-grandparents lived there from c.1848 till 1877 and, according to the 1861 Census, my 25 year old gg-grandmother Annie Hazard worked as a housemaid at the Saracen's Head Inn. Fom what I can tell, it closed in 1959 (a decade or so before your time) and the building is now occupied by Waterstones bookshop, H. Samuel, Jewellers and Ernest Jones. Four years later she married my gg-grandfather Jabez Brown in St-Peter-at Arches, and they moved to Nottingham shortly after.

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  6. Thank you.....things to observe next time I go to Lincoln. Did you notice the remnants of the old street name...'teep'....presumably of 'Steep Hill' ?

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  7. Marilyn, I love history, it is very thrilling to imagine Roman chariots passing this gate. the Jew's house is interesting too and it has not changed much. I very much enjoyed your interesting memories.

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  8. I just keep on learning, Nell. I'd never heard of 'The Return Journey', so thanks for winding up a 'quality' post with a taste of what I'd missed.

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  9. What a delightful little house that one is. I'm so glad that it has been kept in good condition. In Australia we were too fond of pulling down old buildings and so many were lost.

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  10. The Jew's House looks pretty much the same in the new photo but it seems to be missing a lot of the "character" seen in the old picture.

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  11. I love these old photos and history. When we visited relatives in Germany a few years ago, we stayed in a house that had more history than Australia! The kids had a hard time understanding that.

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  12. I always think that good blogging can be defined by its ability to make the reader want to go and do something. And after reading your post I want to revisit Lincoln (it's years since I was there) and I want to re-read Dylan Thomas (did anyone write so musically as he did?). As I say, good blogging.

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  13. I'm trying to work out out long it is since I walked up that Steep Hill and went through the Roman arch. Must have been late 50s/early 60s. Lincoln was a place I played a lot of cricket at and it was half way between our first house at Scunthorpe and my wife's home in Stamford. Your post brought back a host of happy memories for me.

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  14. The Roman arch clinging precariously to that "modern" building reminds me of the house in Rome with an aqueduct running through it. I think it's marvelous and even miraculous that someone didn't just tear it down to make way for progress.
    I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the Roman arch!

    Love the lines from the radio play. I'm always a sucker for clever juxtaposition like "Michelangelo, ping-pong, ambition, Sibelius."

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  15. Aha - I must visit Lincoln the next time I'm across the pond!

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  16. I love it when I get lost in reading a post and I did here. When I first saw the Lounge Lizards reference I wondered if you knew of a local band here - the Austin Lounge Lizards. :) Wonder if their name was inspired by Dylan Thomas?

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  17. We ,for some reason,tend to forget how cosmopolitan and International most parts of England are/& have always been. Don't tell UKIP! They will despair........:)

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  18. I knew next to nothing about Lincoln, apart from it had a cathedral, so thank you for enlightening me with some marvellous old images.

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  19. These are wonderful pictures, Marilyn, and I enjoyed your memories of selling custom coffee.

    Kathy M.

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  20. A marvelous post. I loved the connected photographs you located and presented. And the glimpse of Dylan Thomas. "Go on to the useless presents."

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  21. I've always wondered if the Romans had any notion of historic preservation. Even if they gave no credit to the works of previous inhabitants, their civilization lasted long enough for them to consider value in older buildings. Perhaps they saved only practical things like fortifications and aqueducts. Modern buildings seem too disposable and not really worthy of history.

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  22. Thanks Marilyn, you always show me such interesting history that often I have never had any idea of!

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  23. I love being educated by fellow Sepians :)

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  24. I love that arch and it reminds me of some old thing we have here,
    now trapped under an overpass. I should go see if it's still there.
    The Jew House looks good if a little wonky in its modern state.
    Good post!! That was fun!!
    :)~
    HUGZ

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