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."

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Windmills of my Mind


Round like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning 
On ever-spinning reel
Alan and Marilyn Bergman

I don't think this is the kind of windmill Alan had in mind as a prompt for this week's Sepia Saturday, but I couldn't resist. It's little Me, aged four, on holiday at Chapel St. Leonard's, on the Lincolnshire coast. One of the joys of a seaside holiday was making sandcastles, into which we stuck little paper flags purchased for the purpose. At the same time we would always buy these paper windmills to whirr round in harmony with the flags, fluttering in the sea breeze. Seeing this picture again, I'm reminded of how much childish pleasure we had from some of the simple things in life.


My Father would have taken this photo, and in later life he used his eye for composition as an amateur artist. They aren't the best examples of his work, and are more like sketches, but you can view four of his windmills on Flickr here. Since his death last November every shred of memory  has become more precious to me. The quality matters not a jot; what is important is that these are his brushstrokes.





















Lanzarote is known as the windy island and it's ideally suited for windmills of all kinds. Before tourism took over here in the seventies, the island was largely agricultural. I've written before about the wonderful museum at El Patio, which during the mid 1840s had been the largest developed farm on the island. These days it still produces wines and cheeses, but the windmills stand silent and one even has no sails attached. The picture here, on display at the museum, shows how it may have looked in its heyday. There are still camels, and donkeys on the farm, as well as goats, hens and other animals. It's worth clicking the link above just to get a flavour of the place if you haven't seen it before.

























I've also told you about architect of the island, artist and visionary, César Manrique, who designed many of Lanzarote's attractions. At his Jardin de Cactus, carved from a quarry, stands a magnificent windmill, from which can be enjoyed panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. Again, the sails are stationary, but the windmill itself is something of a landmark and can be spotted from a long distance.

There are stumps of windmills all over the island; the policy here is never to knock down an old building, and although some are in a delapidated state, they stand as a monument to Lanzarote's agricultural past.

Salt used to be extracted from the sea and exported all over the world, as well as being used to preserve the fish caught on longer fishing expeditions. Post WW2 refrigeration meant that there was less demand and the island's many salt pans fell into disuse, leaving the windmills, once used to power extraction, as ghostly sentinels watching over the old salt fields.

At Janubio salt is still harvested and here we see the old technology in a strange juxtaposition against the very modern wind farms which are insidiously creeping across the landscape.



Salt was once an important industry to the island, but has now gone the way of agriculture and is dissolving into the past.

Manrique also harnessed the power of the wind to create magnificent 'wind mobiles' located at strategic sites across the island. Twenty years ago last September he was killed in a road accident near his home and on the anniversary of his death one of his mobiles, newly-restored, was installed at his former home.  The excellent Lanzarote Information produced a very short video on that date, where you can see not only the mobiles, but also his wonderful home, now an art gallery and visitors' centre.



Here are my own attempts at making the most of our breezes. My mobile is not up to Manrique's standards though. Now, I suddenly feel the desire to see some paper windmills whizzing round in our windy Lanzarote garden. Of course they can be bought for a euro or two but how much more fun to make your own. When you've finished cutting and sticking, take your own creation over to Sepia Saturday to see what everyone else made of the prompt. If you like all things sepia, or just old pictures and ephemera, why not join our Facebook group too?  Even more fun than making paper windmills!


26 comments:

  1. I rather like how your mind works -- spinning, windmills or not.

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  2. Nice post, Nell. I didn't know that Lanzarote is known as the windy island. It always looks so calm in your photographs.

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  3. Photos of children taken from their own height/viewpoint have such a different character to those taken from an adult's eye-height. We made those windmills too, but the most durable ones were made with old X-ray negs of some similar material. I also made plenty of mobiles, something you just don't see very often these days - at least not here, you don't.

    I must say I rather fancy that idea of never knocking down an old building - people these days seem to be too keen to knock something down as soon as it doesn't quite fit with their current needs/lifestyle//sense of fashion/whatever.

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  4. Very interesting. How about the modern-day equivalent, the massive wind turbines. Do they have any of those on your island ?

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    1. You can see them silhouetted on the horizon in the last picture, providing quite a contrast to the old windpumps in the foreground.

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  5. You say they are like sketches but I like them, your father was very talented.

    Also you are promoting the island very well!

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  6. Who knows what I had in mind when choosing the prompt - as you know, it is best to just let your eyes drift down a patchwork of old images and alight on a particular one under the guidance of sepia luck. It's a lovely picture of you - and any post with a reference to Manrique gets a massive vote of approval from me.

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  7. I love the architecture of windmills, even without the sails. Here in the US, the very sleek and modern-looking windmills seem to spark controversy whenever a community wants to explore wind power. Mostly the controversy is over their appearance. I think they look like art, but no one is asking me.

    I enjoyed reading and learning more about Lanzarote and seeing both your dad's and your artwork, both the pinwheels and the mobile.

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    1. I think they only object because they will spoil the rich folks' view of the ocean, desert or plains, lol.

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  8. Hello
    This is my first time at sepia Saturday
    I must say I loved the picture of you as a little girl on the beach at Chaoel st Leonard's because I lived just up the road at Skegness and spent many a happy hour building castles just like yours and I do remember the paper flags and having a windmill like yours ... Simple pleasures !
    Jackie

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  9. The first photo and your memories of building sandcastles are special and lovely. I have started recording my childhood memories and attaching photos where possible.

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  10. The Old Ways Are Usually To The Most Effective Ways.Use Well What Youve Got is a good motto for both Energy & your Dad's Fine Art.

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  11. This was marvelous, and I agree, I so enjoyed how your mind spun such a delightful tale for us. Your opening poem, has such a pretty ring to it, and it's funny but your photo just fits it perfectly well. I have a few of them around my garden and flower beds, as it helps in a friendly way to deter unwanted creatures.

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  12. Karen, I wish I could take credit for the poem but it's actually the lyrics of the song 'Windmills of Your Mind', which leapt into my head when I first started this post. I really must ake a few windmills now!

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  13. On reading your reply to "boundforoz", I had to go back & take a closer look at your last photo, & yes, there they were - those weird behemoths I find unsettling. They seem to me like some sort of weird alien robots waiting to follow their masters' commands.

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  14. Always loved that song. Your father's paintings are just beautiful.

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  15. I'd completely forgotten about those little paper / plastic windmills. We used to get them at fairs and sometimes make our own - another trip down memory lane.

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  16. The Thomas Crown Affair with Faye Dunaway is one of my favourite films with that haunting tune. Having been to Lanzarote more than once it's always great to see your photos from there. Great post Nell.

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  17. I alway associate windmills with the story of Don Quixote. The tone poem / cello concerto by Richard Strauss captures the wind and movement in a sculpture of sound. (my instrument plays the part of wind and also sheep!) I love mobiles and perhaps one day will see Manrique's work in person.

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  18. On not tearing down old buildings, I was reminded of similar structures here - the vintage oil wells in Brea Canyon, California. During the early 20th century there was an oil boom out there and there were those scaffold-like towers as thick as thieves. Once the boom ended (more likely, was controlled by an oil conglomerate) they just left those towers standing...and they are still there. Some of them are terribly rickety, but the historical society seemed to want to keep them. Sounds like a dangerous preservation to me! Thanks for the tangent, I haven't thought of those in quite some time.

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  19. Jardin de Cactus looks like an amazing place, even more beautiful when the cactus flower.

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  20. Love the old photo of you at the beach. Your Dad did have a good photographic eye. The windmill and the camels is a super sepia shot too.

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  21. Oh my gosh, I can't believe how much I have missed on here. I'm sorry. I see you on FB and think of you lots, Marilyn. I love your Dad's paintings, especially how he captures the rain coming down from the sky in sheets.

    What a great all around post.

    Kathy M.

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  22. I love old windmills, partially because I spent my life in aircraft engineering - very high tech, and everything stripped to the bone for lightness. The simple engineering and robustness of the design of the old mills is a nice counterpoint. As for other old technologies, I like to think of how I would attack the problem given the constraints they worked under. Wind generated electricity, I'm not so happy with. I think it is very over-rated, since there has to be a reliable back-up, and it's hugely expensive and very unsightly. The salinas here on Lanzarote were truly green, with wind power to pump the water into the evaporating pans, where solar power drove off the water. The end product preserved fish, without needing electrical or gas powered refrigeration.

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  23. You, at four, on the beach....remember when we could sit like that? Goodness, what a magical photograph...

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  24. A sweet introduction to this post, that pic of yours on the beach.
    Nice glimpse on the area. Love that wind sculpture they installed in that vid.
    You may not fancy yourself as a new Manrique...
    but that mobile you did is graceful, well balanced and it does the trick.

    PS: envious of your garden...

    :)~
    HUGZ

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