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."

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Park and Ride

Three young people back in 1938, who thought it was amusing to pose for a picture under a ‘Park Here’ sign. They had ‘parked’ themselves on the sea front, where  they had taken a ride on the train to the Welsh resort of Llandudno. The cheery young lady is my Mum, aged just eighteen, and on her first real grown-up holiday, without her parents. However, it was all very proper because it was an organised Youth Hostelling holiday. Mum had gone with her friend Blanche, with whom she worked in the offices of The Boots Pure Drug Company (as it then was) in Nottingham. They saved a little bit from their wage packet each week to pay for the trip, of which Mum has very fond memories. She had already met my Dad the previous Autumn, so there is no romance involved with 'Noel and Jimmy’ as Mum has carefully labelled them in white, in her neat script, on the black pages of her girlhood album. Mum tells me the male members of their ‘gang’  were all ‘older’men in their twenties or thirties!

I’ve only recently scanned these pictures, although I have known them all my life. Now that I have the time to delve a little deeper I can research the building in Mum’s album.

There’s my Mum on the left with ‘Our Gang’ assembling in front of the hostel. Lledr Hall was originally a wealthy businessman’s summer holiday home c1904. It became a youth hostel in the thirties when the movement was in its infancy, and these days it is once more an outdoor education centre.

Mum has featured before on this trip in A Happy Wanderer, where I describe how her kit was put together. The following pictures are, quite literally, a snapshot of that carefree holiday long ago. The rumblings of war were just beginning and many of the young people who took part in these holidays would soon be thrown headlong into the conflict.

She lost touch with all the other members of the gang, but remembers Jimmy turning up at as a dispatch rider at the War Office where she worked briefly whilst in the army in 1942. There was a smile of recognition though no remembrance from him of where from, says Mum.

Waiting at Llanrwst for the Llandudno train. A ‘free’ day when they weren’t being organised and the group chose to visit the seaside. Mum and Blanche with two of the gang.

Blanche, being quite daring on some sort of walkway, perhaps in the grounds of Lledr Hall, and Ken fooling around with an overhanging branch. This week’s Sepia Saturday has signs as a possible prompt and when I saw the Park Here sign in the first picture it took me off on the youth hostelling trail.

Why not visit other members of ‘Our Gang’ at Sepia Saturday and see what they made of the prompt?

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Post from Parliament

It was Sir Joshua Reynolds’ birthday a few days ago (16th July), so what better way to celebrate this great British painter’s life than by sharing a stamp which was issued in 1973, for his 250th birthday?
It was part of a set of four stamps; two bearing portraits by Reynolds and two by Sir Henry Raeburn, whose 150th birthday it was. The stamps were  issued on 4th July 1973, so please take note of the postmark; 2 PM on the day of issue and from no lesser establishment than the House of Commons.

I can’t remember how it came about, but the postcard was actually addressed to me, in my mother’s handwriting, and signed by the Member of Parliament, William Whitlock, who was our local MP in the constituency of Nottingham North at the time. Anyway, it’s a nice souvenir to have because the postcard also has a picture of the Palace of Westminster.

Sadly, this is a fairly ordinary commemorative stamp, and not one of the few 3p Joshua Reynolds stamps that were issued with the gold head of the Queen missed off. That would be worth around £100!

This is a contribution to Viridian’s Sunday Stamps, where the prompt is artists and illustrators.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

A Great Tradition

I remember this picture very well as it was an occasion for dressing up and being silly, but with a purpose. New Year’s Eve 1976 and we young marrieds were part of this ‘Eng. Wing’ team for what used to be known as a ‘fancy dress’ competition. It was RAF Waddington’s Officer’s Mess tradition for different sections or ‘wings’ to dress up in a competition that was all part of the New Year’s Eve fun.

We didn’t just dress up though - oh no - we danced! By Christmas 1976 Mike Oldfield’s ‘Portsmouth’ had been released just four week’s earlier and charted quickly at number three. It was a traditional folk tune and perfect for the Engineers and their ladies to perform a non-too-serious  Morris Dance for the delight of the party-goers. Morris dancing is a great English cultural tradition and modern participants take it very seriously, even though the end result is usually a great deal of fun and enjoyment for both dancers and audience. Go to any English Summer Fair or Celebration Day and there will be a Morris Dancing team providing a spectacle of colour and tradition for the crowds. Looking at the You Tube Video of the single now, I see where we got the idea from!

Well, we weren’t part of any club and the serious 'Morris Men’ would no doubt have been horrified at our attempts at mimicry of their fine craft; however, it was New Year’s Eve and we were out to get the prize. We didn’t just arrive and make it up as we went along though; this having fun and being silly is a serious business, especially if it involves dancing! Anyone who has watched the Morris Dancers in action knows that there is precision and rhythm involved. Therefore we had to practise the routine a couple of times. On the day, fortified by whatever we had in our glasses, we seemed to succeed in making it all come together.

The costumes were whatever we could lay our hands on to make them look authentic. The addition of crepe paper to white blouses, shirts, and (in my case) tennis dresses, plus a few jingle bells  and streamers gave us the look we were after. What a motley crew we were! The giant ‘spanner' (cardboard and a few rolls of tin foil) was all part of the act. The officer waving it aloft was playing the part of The Fool, whose job it is to dance around and, through the dance, without appearing to be part of it. Why the spanner? Remember we were representing Eng.Wing! Well the whole thing was hilarious and of course we went down well with the crowd. It was touch and go at one point and we were up against the ‘I Claudius’ team; in the end though we were victorious. A crate of beer was the prize I believe, but that was just the icing on the cake.

We lost touch with most of those people in the picture, well it was nearly forty years ago; at least two have passed on, and one retired as a three-star Air Marshall. We two are still going strong though these days it’s not dancing but climbing mountains that we aspire to.

Our Sepia Saturday prompt this week is a group of young male students dressed up as female ballet dancers. It’s from the Folk Museum of Norway and filed under ‘humour’. They were obviously dressing up and being silly for some purpose or other, but whatever it was, it was fun (judging by the expressions on their faces).

There was no cross-dressing in our little team, and as far as I’m aware it’s not part of the Morris Dancing tradition, though these pictures below show Pete the ‘Fool’ of The Royal Liberty Morris Dancers dressed in a pink dress and rigged out as a baby, complete with dummy. As I said, dressing up and acting silly - all part of the fun. Now shed your inhibitions and join the Sepia Saturday team- it’s a great tradition.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Sitting on the Fence

That’s my big brother on the right, sitting on the fence; a gate, to be precise, into a field surrounded by a fence. If we’re being pedantic though, Alan suggested a possible theme from today’s Sepia Saturday prompt picture could be children sitting on a fence. I think it’s a wall in the picture but that would have spoiled Alan’s clever political point so we’ll let it pass.

I don’t have any pictures of politicians at all. I’ve a few of local dignitaries; mayors, mayoresses, bishops and other 'movers and shakers’ (but not of hands); none interesting enough for Sepia Saturday. Anyway it’s my big brother’s BIG birthday; today he is 70 years old, and these days no-one could ever accuse him of sitting on the fence; he has very strong opinions and he’s always right. I’m being generous because it’s his birthday, but we have been known to fight like cat and dog since we were kids, and we still fall out quite regularly - but only for a few moments. The trouble is I have very strong opinions too, and of course I’m the one who is really right!

That photo would have  been taken by our Dad, who was great at posing us in unusual places or catching us in certain lights. He would have found it amusing to sit my brother and his little pal straddling their privates on a gate marked specifically for the purpose. Or perhaps we are meant to think they’re two naughty ‘scrumpers’ making for the orchard. They don’t look very comfortable, so I hope he didn’t keep them there too long. The other photos in the set reveal what they were really up to; it wasn’t apples but a fruit of a different kind. It looks to me like blackberries, foraged from the English hedgerows of which there were plenty back in the 1950s. I believe they were in fact rosehips, gathered to be made into rosehip syrup by the Delrosa company for whom my Dad worked.

Two little boys with jam jars showing off their pickings. Let’s hope this was at the beginning of their jaunt; not enough for a pie or jam-making there and it wouldn’t earn them many pennies from Delrosa either..

I bet it was a great little trip, though I wonder how long would it have been before these two got bored and wanted to do something more adventurous; in my brother’s case he’d have been itching to kick a football around with Dad. So, one last dangle from the gate then before heading home for tea.

Oh yes, and a fence is a great prop for a game of make-believe too.

He could have been channelling Roy Rogers; but perhaps not, didn’t Roy sing? I know Gary Cooper was a favourite, so perhaps that’s who it was.

Since he retired my brother has enjoyed being a magistrate sitting, not on the fence but, on the bench. Now he has to stand down from that too, as 70 is the statutory retirement age. He still enjoys acting, though not as a make-believe cowboy; he directs plays in the local amateur dramatic society. He still supports Nottingham Forest football team and attends the matches when he can. He will keep just as busy as before, perhaps spending more time chronicling our family history. I’ve often been indebted to him for providing the facts for my blog. We’ve a long way to go yet though and we need to keep him from under his wife’s feet, so let’s hope he gets on with it! He’s a keen photographer himself and takes very ‘arty’ pictures of the Spanish architecture he sees on his holidays, and then uploads them to Instagram for us all to admire and ‘like’, so that fills some more of his time. He’s a news-junkie, and we all know how that can kidnap time. As well as playing with his grandchildren, he makes sure our 93 year-old widowed Mum is OK. Who said “What will you do when you retire?” I’m sure I’ve missed some things off the list, but this was supposed to be a special birthday dedication post for my (very much older) brother, so........

 Happy Birthday ‘H’. Have a good one!

When you’ve all finished singing “Happy Birthday”, you may like to visit other Sepians to see whether they’re shaking hands/fists/throats, hob-nobbing with the political set, or climbing the wall. Catch them all here at Sepia Saturday.