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, 30 March 2016


David Ligare: Still Life with Grape Juice and Sandwiches xenia1994

The sour grapes, the bitter words and spite,
The vicious tongue and angry voices raised,
The jealous texts and phone calls every night,
The drunken spats and rows, with venom laced,
The poisonous jibes that always lead to fights,
The sulks, the comments barbed, the glowering face,
The shredded nerves, emotions made so raw -
This had to be the end; the final straw.

But now we have the breaking of the bread,
Now we eat our words and pride is swallowed,
For now we do not tear, but share instead,
Now our solemn vows are kept, and followed,
Gone the poison virulent, on which we fed
Gone the pain in which we wallowed,
Now some tenderness we add to leaven
Our sweet bread  - and raise a toast to heaven!

© Marilyn Brindley 2016

Joining in with this weeks Magpie Tales where Tess gives us an image to inspire us with our creative writing. Back to good old Ottava Rima.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Half to Remember

This week’s Sepia Saturday image prompt is a marbles game. It made me think of this family treasure and one of my mother’s favourite sayings.

This solitaire set above dates from 1927 and has appeared before in my post Let’s Play a Game  where you can read about its history. When I wrote that post in 2012, both my parents were still alive; sadly Dad died later that year, and it became apparent immediately after the funeral that Mum was beginning to decline mentally. She was still enjoying reading, crosswords, knitting and living independently until late last year when, after a fall, she ended up in hospital over Christmas, and we finally realised that she wasn’t coping. She’d become very repetitive and forgetful and eventually it was agreed that she would be assessed whilst recuperating in a care home, early this year.

This weekend the flat she had shared with my Dad for their last few years together, is being cleared and all the things that Mum will need with her are being taken to her new place: the precious little mementos, the poetry books and those wonderful photo albums, the contents of which have been the mainstay of my sepia posts. For some time now Mum has been saying, “I must be losing my marbles!” when gently reminded of something. The short-term memory was the first to go, but now even those wonderful stories she once was able to share with me have also faded.

I learned, from a course that I’m following, that poetry and songs, learned in childhood, often stick when other memories have long since flown. One day I searched for one of Mum’s very favourite poems, which she would quote to me over the years, 'Brumana’ by James Elroy Flecker, and in one of our phone conversations I read the first line to her:

 “Oh shall I never be home again!” and Mum immediately followed up with;
 “Meadows of England, shining in the rain
Spread wide your daisied lawns; your ramparts green.”

We did the next line together as she was beginning to falter, but I’m sure with help it would have come back. It was an uplifting moment -  for us both. If you read the poem, you’ll find that the last three lines are:

“Half to forget the wandering and pain
Half to remember days that have gone by,
And dream, and dream that I am home again.”

Mum won’t be going home again but she will be well cared for and loved right to the end. Last week it was my birthday and I wrote this poem about about our conversation

Half to Remember

“Happy Birthday” trills Mum down the phone,
“Sorry I forgot to get you anything or send a card,
I must be losing my marbles.”

I resist the urge to reply with the truth,
“Well, yes I’m afraid you are”
and smile to myself instead.

We chat for a while, about this and that;
How is the weather? Is the sun shining?
I’ve just had my tea, Any visitors?

I tell her about my birthday,
“ I forgot,” she says again,
“I must be losing my marbles.”

She’s half-aware that all’s not well,
but happy enough in her own world.
“Don’t worry, I say and change the subject.

Mum gave me the very best gift of all;
for nine months she carried me,
then brought me into the world.

She nurtured me, cared for me, loved me
throughout my sixty-four years;
Now it’s her turn to need those things.

At last, when we’ve been round 
the same things a few times, we say goodbye.
“Lots of love!” she sings out; oh yes, lots and lots.

© Marilyn Brindley 2016

Friday, 18 March 2016

I Bring Thee Draughts of Milk

Thou know’st that twice a day I have brought thee in this can
Fresh water from the brook as clear as ever ran;
And twice in the day when the ground is wet with dew
I bring thee draughts of milk, warm milk it is and new.
From WilliamWordsworth’s ‘The Pet-lamb, a Pastoral'

This is a delightful pastoral scene and a picture of innocence; I do so hope this lamb grew to give lots of wool and is memorialised in many a fine knitted garment. I prefer not to think of the lamb we enjoy as a roast dinner on Easter Sunday. It’s all about sacrifice and rising again, so if indeed this little lamb was not of the woolly jumper variety (pun intended) let this instead be its memorial.

I’m very into poetry at the moment, having just completed an online course about Literature and Mental Health with Warwick University. William Wordsworth popped up more than once on the course, and I must admit I’m seeing some of his work with new eyes, whilst at the same time trying to learn his poem ‘Daffodils' by heart (I’m halfway there!), as encouraged in the course. The poem above can be read in its entirety here, but I first found it in one of my vintage poetry books, collected over the years. This one was, ‘A First Poetry Book’ by M.A. Woods, a wonderful little tome published in 1905 and with the name name 'Vera Allcock 1908’ written inside, in sepia ink. The first edition was 1886, and the preface was written by Miss Woods herself, the Head Mistress of the Clifton High School for Girls. In it she acknowledges the contributions of a variety of poets, some unfamiliar and some well-known, such as Mr Browning, Mr Lewis Carroll and Mr Kingsley. It’s a little treasure indeed.

Wordsworth imagines the thoughts of a little country girl he sees with her orphaned lamb, and dreams that she will one day make it her pet when its limbs are strong enough to pull her little cart. Again, we have no idea what really happened; that child could just as easily have been helping to fatten the lamb for for her family’s Easter feast.

Now that this particular rural idyll has been shattered, lets banish the thought and move on to other pet lambs, past and present.

Here is the author of this blog with a very soft and cuddly pet lamb, about twenty-three years ago. My first headship was in a small Wiltshire village school, where many of my pupils were from farming families; it was inevitable that we should have a visit from a newborn lamb during Spring.

It didn’t follow anyone to school, and it wasn’t against the rules, in the manner of the Nursery Rhyme ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’. You will also note that its fleece was not as white as snow, but a deep chocolate brown-black (as was my own hair in those, happy days). I still remember how warm and soft the lamb was.

We lived very near those mystical places, Stonehenge, Avebury Stone Circle and Old Sarum and as a family we would often visit them. Sheep grazed happily on both Old Sarum and at Avebury, and here are some Avebury Stone Circle Spring lambs from about a quarter of a century ago, and already quite mature. A restful, bucolic scene and one of my favourite photographs.

This grass is tender grass, these flowers they have no peer.
And that green corn all day is rustling in thy ears.

A couple of years ago we visited London to see our children and grandchildren and we enjoyed a rare day out together at Mudchute, a city farm set in the shadow of London’s Docklands area. Click here to find out more about this remarkable place. On the website there is an invitation to 'select an animal from the menu on the left’ which, unfortunately, made me think of food again. Quickly, move on! There are twins, in the prompt image, and our own twins had a lovely time at Mudchute.

If you enjoyed this post, why not join us over at Sepia Saturday, where other contributors will be delving into the rural archives.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Sealed With A Loving Kiss

The handsome chap on the far left is my maternal grandfather, Sydney, photographed with two pals from the Royal Engineers. Grandad transferred to the Royal Engineers Signal Service in January 1918 when his battalion, 2/7th (The Robin Hoods) of The Sherwood Foresters, disbanded.  In September that year he married his sweetheart, whom he’d met when on basic training in Watford. When they married, Syd was still only 20 years old, and my grandmother, 21. Although no letters or postcards sent between them, survive, I can imagine that they would have been very affectionate. They went on to have a long and happy marriage, until Syd’s death in 1971.

Last year, when we were visiting my son’s family in Kent, we had a day out with the grandchildren at the Royal Engineers Museum. It's an exceptionally well-planned and interesting museum, and even our seven year-old twins weren’t bored for a moment. I really enjoyed all the sepia photographs and the stories behind them. I’ve written about the Royal Engineers before in Frightened Faces and Fearless Actions, for Sepia Saturday 300, when I focussed on the brave Captain Ross and his family. What fascinated me most however, was probably the Royal Engineers Postal section.

The phrase S.W.A.L.K. (Sealed With a Loving Kiss) came from the WW2 era, but I’m sure many a letter from long before then was given the SWALK treatment; my grandparents may even have done so, but we’ll never know.

Here I am standing in front of my favourite subject, old photographs, and the stories behind them.

And here are a couple of examples of the missives displayed. The sender of the first must surely have resisted a SWALK, lest he was tempted to eat the whole lot.

And the second reminds us of just how important those letters and postcards sent from home were.

The caption reads, Airmail Letter Card with Indian Stamp, FPO 448, Qum, Persia, from L/Sgt J.E. Harvis, Royal Artillery, 6 August 1943 and opens with:

“ I was extremely bucked to receive your airgraph dated 23rd July. It may be difficult for you to realise how much mail means to us, very often it is the difference between a happy day and a miserable one. Probably more so in my case because all the incoming mail passes through my hands and you can imagine what I feel if I sort a couple of hundred letters and there is not one for me! Your letter saved the day and cheered me up immensely.”

I’ve no idea if the letter was sent to his sweetheart, nor if it was sealed with a loving kiss, but clearly , it was deemed important enough to preserve for many years.

Why not join us at today’s Sepia Saturday to see if other contributors have ‘posted with a loving kiss’.

Also linking with Magpie Tales, where Tess gave us a wonderful prompt of a character in the film 'Atonement' actually employing the SWALK treatment, and gave me the idea to write this piece.

Sealed with a warm and tender kiss,
With lips that long for yours, and miss
All the love we shared. Just read between the
Lines, and then, Dear Heart, you will
Know, how much I love you still.

© Marilyn Brindley 2016

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Cheerio, Nellie and Jack

Today is the birthday of my Great-Aunt Ellen, or Auntie Nellie as I always knew her. She was born in 1902 and was a younger sister of my Grandmother, one of ten siblings. The photo above may be a betrothal photo, as in 1928 she married John Clarke, or Jack as I knew him. I have very hazy memories of Jack, whom I only met on rare visits by the couple in the 1960s to stay with my grandparents. I remember he was soft-spoken, with a strong Irish accent, and as a child I found him difficult to understand.

I don’t know how Nellie met Jack but it’s easy to see why she fell for him, a good-looking and charming young man. She loved him enough to convert to Catholicism, a decision which caused a prolonged rift with her family. Jack was a staunch Catholic and Nellie embraced the religion wholeheartedly. I have a memory of pictures of the Sacred heart, and containers of Holy Water in their house in Watford.

The next photo is clearly their wedding day, and the only other picture I have of the two of them together. I don’t know when Jack died, but they were married for over thirty-three years, possibly more. The card they sent in 1961 to my grandparents, from Sandbach in  Cheshire, was signed with both their names; in 1967 she accompanied me and my grandparents on holiday to Mablethorpe. She clearly lost Jack sometime between the two dates. I was a young teenager and I’m sorry to say that it wouldn’t have registered in my memory very well.

I do remember that Nellie, like all the remaining siblings whom I knew, was most generous and kind. On that holiday, I only had to show an interest in some seaside souvenir; a postcard or trinket, and she would immediately say, “Auntie Nellie will buy it for you,” and a coin would be pressed into my hand. She and Jack never had children of their own, so you can imagine that her sister’s children and grandchildren were given lots of love. We shared a bedroom in the tiny holiday bungalow, and Auntie Nellie would have told me all sorts of stories about her life - if only I had written them down. She was a smoker, with a true smoker’s cough, and would wheeze and gently snore all through the night. The picture on the right was taken outside our little rented seafront chalet, where we made cups of tea and ate ice-cream, and grandad and I would enjoy a dip in the sea.

My grandfather, who as a teenager, had seen his first conflict of WW1 in the Dublin Easter Rising of 1916, understandably disliked the Irish; however, in later years that was smoothed over and the two couples were friends. In the picture below, taken some time around 1960, they’ve been captured, probably by a street photographer, as they enjoyed a day out together. My grandparents are in the centre.

The earliest photo of Nellie is at my grandparents wedding in 1918, when she would have been sixteen, and thereafter she appears as a guest in group photos of various weddings, but my favourite picture is one taken some time around 1970 -71where she has fallen asleep on the shoulder of her brother-in-law, my grandfather.

Nellie died in 1984, by which time I had a young family and was living abroad and I hadn’t seen her for many years. I’m sorry I don’t know more about her life, and my own Mum, at ninety-five has lost the ability to recall the facts. There will soon be few left who remember Nellie and the warm-hearted and loving person she was, so here is her birthday memorial. Cheerio Nellie, wherever you may be.

Join us today on Sepia Saturday, for more pictures and stories from the past.