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."

Monday, 30 May 2011

Pocket-money Perfection

I was delighted to discover this little book in one of our bargain shops here in Lanzarote. Measuring just 15 x 22 cms but packed full of wonderful designs by the artist David Gentleman. An English graphic artist, designer, muralist and author, Gentleman was responsible for illustrating many books, designing posters and stamps and producing illustrated books of his own, including a series for children. The illustration on the front of ‘George and the Dragon’ is repeated in the end-papers and title page.
There is a foreword written by Alan Bennett and an introductory piece about design, but the rest of the book is packed full of gorgeous illustrations, both in colour and black and white.

It could almost be a source book of ideas and inspiration for artists in other media, such as textiles. For me this is a nostalgia trip; as a child I would carefully cut out and paste into my scrapbook, the illustrations from the Radio Times. These included examples by well-known artists of the day such as David Gentleman, Faith Jacques and Val Biro (I am talking a long time ago here, before the RT was the colourful magazine it is today!).

In my school library (as headteacher) there would be numerous examples of Gentleman’s art. There may still be some today, but my guess is that the over-zealous School Library personnel who would visit as ‘consultants’ and cull our stock, have probably rooted out such titles as: 'Fenella in Spain’, Kipling’s ‘The Jungle Book’ and Russell Hoban’s ‘The Dancing Tigers’, some of which are collectors’ items today.

On my next trip to UK I intend to scour the charity and second-hand bookshops for any examples I can find, though I’m not holding out much hope. In the meantime I am well-pleased with this purchase and I relish the opportunity to share just some of its pages with you. I bet you’ll find some examples on your own shelves; if you do be sure to treasure them. This is a ‘new' book, published in 2009 by the Antique Collectors Club on high quality paper, and is in mint condition. And the price I paid for this little gem? Just 1 euro. I may not get to many car boot sales or charity shops here, but I know a bargain when I see one.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Beautiful Babies, Bugles and Buggies

For Sepia Saturday this week our inspiration was a charming photograph of a child with sunhat, dog and toys. The photograph above covers the sunhats aspect nicely, as all the children appear to be well protected from the glare. This was in 1920, long before anything was known about the damaging effect of the sun’s rays. The lady on the right is my grandmother, and the child in the pushchair is my Mum’s brother Sydney William, known as Billy. Mum was born at the end of November 1920 so my Gran could well have been carrying her in this picture. This may be why she is wearing a comfortable jacket to hide her bump, when the other ladies are in summer blouses. The pushchair looks remarkably like a modern stroller or baby buggy, and set me off on an investigation as to when these machines first found favour. Fascinating; perhaps a cue for a Sepia Saturday theme in the future.

I’m not sure what the occasion is, but the concensus within the family is that it was a village fete or fair with possibly a ‘Beautiful Baby’ theme. Then again, perhaps the ladies had just got together whilst the men checked the beer tent! I thought they were all mums until I zoomed in and saw a young lad at the back left, wearing what appears to be some sort of uniform, maybe Boys Brigade.

No dogs in this picture, I’m afraid; perhaps they weren’t allowed - or maybe they were all busy in the 'Perfect Pets’ corner. There are a couple of ‘toys' however, as the little chap to the left of Billy is clutching a full-size bugle. Perhaps big brother on the back row had given it to him to help keep him quiet for the camera; he does look a little fidgety. Billy also has something in his hands, but I’ve no idea what.

It’s rather poignant to think that this is barely two years after the ending of the First World War, and these children, were born in hope, after so many young men had lost their lives. When this photograph was taken, little did they know that history would repeat itself less than twenty years later, and again, so many of those children of hope would be lost. Sadly for my family, little Billy, did not even make it to fight in WW2, as he died in a bizarre and freak accident at the age of fifteen; devastating my grandparents and his sister, my Mum. My grandparents are the same couple I wrote about in Wedding Day Delay. Billy was the apple of my great-grandparents’ eye, being born just four months after the third of my Gran’s older brothers to die. 

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

But is it Art?

I can’t claim responsibility or kudos for the above creation, but its quirky humour appeals to me. An opportunist artist has used the local volcanic rock to design this beast. I won’t name it for fear of depriving you of the pleasure of arguing amongst yourselves what it is meant to be ......as indeed have we! Found with its friend (below) along the coast between La Santa, and Famara, here in Lanzarote, I can’t help but admire the sculptor who has seen the art ‘within’.

The outline below, discovered in the crater of Montana Cuervo, has the hallmarks of childish naivety. In this crater, people spend many happy quiet hours wandering amongst the ancient fallen rocks and lava bombs, just as a family might on a beach. So perhaps it brought out the inner child in this artist.
The curious rock formations and dried flora in the landscape often remind us of something else, in the manner of seeing faces in the clouds or the flames of a living room fire. So what, if anything,  do you see in the shapes below?

Friday, 20 May 2011

Girl With a Pearl Accordion

I picked up on the orchestral theme for this week’s Sepia Saturday post. Well, that may be stretching it a bit; it’s more of a band really. Here is a photograph of my mother (born in 1920) playing in 'Wally Morris’s Accordion Band' in Nottingham. She tells me that this was the only time she earned any money from her accordion playing. The band would travel to various Miners' Welfare social clubs to play, and on the way home Wally would divide up the takings amongst the band. Mum would be about 16 or 17 years of age, and the money went towards buying a bigger and better accordion with 120 stops, rather than the 48 she had. Apparently she said; “Nothing comes between me and my music!” ...................but then she met my Dad! When they married, in 1942, the accordion was sold to buy some sort of domestic appliance which “never worked properly”.

Here she is at the age of thirteen, with her first piano accordion. My Grandma and Granddad used to save a little each week towards it.This was the thirties and times were hard, with my Granddad often laid off from work in the building trade. However, they were thrifty people and my Gran was a good housekeeper, so, after much careful budgeting, the accordion was bought. At this time Mum was having piano lessons from a lady who gave piano and violin lessons. The music teacher fell under the spell of the piano accordion herself, and recruited Mum and her other pupils into ‘Madam Haig and Her Accordion Band’.

Mum also recalls playing with 'Al Roberts and His Blue Aces' where she got to wear a satin blouse and velvet trousers. This hand-tinted photo is apparently faithfully coloured.

Mum was obviously very proud of her accordion, which, as well as being a musical instrument, was something of a work of art in itself, highly decorated and inlaid with mother-of-pearl.

We had a piano in the house when I was growing up and Mum would play for me whilst I danced around the room as a little girl. I had piano lessons too but sadly, I didn’t inherit Mum’s musical ear. It skipped a generation, and my daughter is now the musician in the family. She played recorder, piano and trumpet, and history repeated itself as we would go and watch her play her trumpet in the local youth orchestra. After leaving university she formed her own band and wrote her own songs. My son had a very sweet singing voice as a child and would sing in school choirs. He plays an electric guitar for pleasure and has introduced me to the delights of ‘Magic Piano’ on the iPad. How times have changed. I wonder what my grandparents would make of the new technology.

And here’s another work of art, lovely gentle piece called ‘Girl with Accordion’ by Venetsianov. Now, if Mum had an ‘accordion’ like that maybe she could have kept up her music. It was obviously small and easily transportable. However,  I suppose it could just as easily have been bartered for a domestic tool of some kind!

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Dragonflies Draw Flame

"As Kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame” Gerard Manley Hopkins
As I pulled on one of my dragonfly-embellished tee-shirts this morning I was reminded of why my fascination with these creatures began.  Here in Lanzarote there are certain times in the year when the garden is alive with them.
Life imitating art
 If you zoom in you can really appreciate their iridescent beauty. You have to be quick to capture them on film as their delicate wings are a blur in flight. They move from plant to plant in the garden and settle with seeming ease on the very tips of the agaves.

 What a pity their lifecycle is so short, but what pleasure they bring in their brief moments of existence 

Our house has become something of shrine to the dragonfly, and I surprised even myself with the number of dragonfly-themed artefacts we have.

Dragonflies literally drawing flame as candle-holders, a garden ornament and as a tifanny style lampshade.

A tactile wall plaque 
And as for self-adornments, what a collection of brooches, earrings and pendants.

Just a few of the earrings and buttons
I love this pendant bought by my daughter
Art imitating life

And my favourite of all, this tiny bejewelled notebook, another gift from my daughter
Even the pages are adorned with dragonflies
Carmi atWritten.inc has given a challenge of thematic photographic this week of ‘Flash of Colour’ and I think this fits the bill, so I’m linking here.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Lost World or Hidden Gem?

I’m linking this post to Carmi’s Written Inc, where every week he presents with a thematic photographic challenge. For number 164 he presented us with ‘It’s in the details’, so I immediately thought of this post where I homed in on the details of our curious rock formations and flora, here in Lanzarote. Clicking on the pictures should allow you to dig in even deeper into the details.

This is about our discovery of the ‘hidden gem in Lanzarote’s crown’ (as described in ‘Lanzarote Walks’ by David A Brawn and Ros Brawn). The day was warm and we seemed to be in for a calima (a hot, dry, dusty wind blowing off the Sahara); but there was a pleasant breeze and we were well-covered in suncream. Montana Cuervo was our destination. And, although we knew our own ‘local’ volcano, Montana Roja, this one was an unknown quantity.
As we got nearer we saw some intrepid climbers scaling the side of the volcano, in a scene reminiscent of ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’. We came across them later after we had circumnavigated the base of the volcano, so there was no mysterious disappearance here!
 Once we were on the path, our progress was slowed by frequent stops to admire the curiously shaped rock formations and lava flows from ancient eruptions, examining minute flowers pushing their way through the picon (volcanic ash), and taking numerous photographs.

Wild geraniums thrive in a seemingly unforgiving terrain

Olivine making a stark contrast against the laval rock
Olivine mica was scattered along the path, glistening in the sun like a frosty pavement in lamplight. The olivine crystals grow deep in the volcano when the magma is forming. Larger areas were embedded in the lava as though it had been thrown on with a paintbrush, and, if you allowed your imagination to run riot, you could see hidden animal and insect shapes. The one below suggested a bird - whichever way I turned it.
Once inside the crater it was as though we had become part of a lost world. All was quiet and calm. The only wildlife were the occasional small lizard scurrying between lichen-covered rocks, or the odd bird wheeling overhead.
The path into the crater
There were one or two others already enjoying this magical place; sitting quietly or ‘beachcombing’ amongst the rocks for treasures. We lost all sense of time whilst we wondered at this marvel of nature, and found ourselves imagining more hidden shapes and likening some of the twisted forms to everyday objects. The colours were wonderful, and our cameras hardly did them justice on this dry, sunny day. How much more beautiful they must look after a rain shower.
The colours of this rock reminded me of a childood sweet called 'Penny Chew’ the caramel and banana elements mingling together.
Some mimicked other natural forms. This fossilised lava flow appeared to be  a gnarled tree trunk.
A small piece of Olivine is captured in the flow of lava and petrified in time.
The landscape is littered with skeletal plants with a stark appeal of their own 

Pumice to be proud of!

Flights of Fancy

This cover of Punch magazine issue 3-9 March 1971, is one of my prized possessions. The magazine was issued the week before Prince Charles started his training at RAF College Cranwell. I was at teacher training college in Lincoln at the time. My college was all female students until the year before my entry so we often linked up with Cranwell for Summer Balls at our college or theirs. Some lasting partnerships were formed - and many hearts were broken. We girls all rushed out to get a copy of this issue of Punch, as we knew it would be a great souvenir. At the time I was dating a cadet entry student at Cranwell, so the nearest I came to HRH was at a disco in College Hall Mess.

The magazine was full of brilliant and witty pieces by the likes of Alan Coren et al, and reading through it now still makes me laugh. There were also some wonderful cartoons, as you would expect of Punch.

Sepia Saturday this week has a potential theme of flying contraptions, newspapers or silly hats. Well Prince Charles is a sort of flying machine on the cover, Punch is a periodical, if not a newspaper, and as for silly hats see above. And the young student pilot I was dating?  Broken hearts I’m afraid, but a couple of years later I met a gorgeous graduate entry student engineering officer, my heart was healed and ....reader I married him! 

Friday, 6 May 2011

A Fine Looking Gentleman

This is my contribution to this week's Sepia Saturday. There were several themes this week and when I found this portrait of a fine, good-looking gentleman with a neatly trimmed beard, I knew I had to go with the Beard theme.

Obviously I didn't know him personally as I believe this portrait was made around 1900 - possibly a little earlier-, but I do know a bit about him. The photograph came to me in a very small batch when a lady companion of my maiden great aunt died. She had no family, being a 'maiden' herself and quite old, so my mother, to whom she had been as well-known as her own aunt, made the funeral arrangements, with my father's help. All that is left of Mary are this little batch of pictures. This was her father, with whom she lived after her mother's relatively early death at the age of 47. With the photographs was her mother's black-edged memorial card. She was also called Mary and, according to the card, she died after 'intense suffering' in 1912. It is difficult to say how old 'Mr Carter' was when this portrait was taken, but going on the other evidence, and the fact that there is a picture of the younger Mary taken standing on the same piece of furniture, he may be around forty or so. We can only imagine the sorrow he had to bear, watching his own beloved Mary, suffer so much, and then bringing up the young Mary on his own. He looks a lovely chap, and what I remember of Miss Carter, coupled with my Mother's memories of her, he did a fine job. What a pity we know so little about him; I think I'd have liked him.

I am now able to update this post with some more information about ‘Mr Carter’. Following my own father’s death in 2012 we found Mary’s personal documents which had been given to my parents on her death as she had no living relatives. Mary’s original birth certificate was there and I now know that she was Mary Alice Carter born 23rd February 1899, registered in Hampstead, London. Her parents’ marriage certificate was also there. The fine looking gentleman was Robert Henry Carter aged 32 at the time of the wedding on 20th December 1896. Mary’s mother, Mary Elizabeth Norton was 31, so young Mary was only thirteen years of age when she lost her mother. If this picture was taken at the same time as the one I have of young Mary In Her Sunday Best, I would say that Robert Henry is about 38 years old in the above photograph. A man in the prime of his life.