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, 29 October 2011

Chain Reaction

Carmi, of Written.inc, challenged us to find anything made of metal for this week’s thematic photographic. I had nothing to be proud of in my albums so I took my camera for a walk around Playa Blanca, Lanzarote, where I live, in the beautiful Canary Islands. I captured an ‘embarrasment of riches‘ and had to choose which ones would go on this post. In the end I decided to lead with a chain theme and then ‘link’ it to other metallic objects!

 We went down to the Marina Rubicon and of course the chain fencing was all along the edge of the walkway to remind us of the dangers of standing too close to the water’s edge.

The Marina has many chic boutiques, but they close at 2.00 p.m. for siesta regardless of whether I am standing there ready to part with my cash for a new handbag (as I was!). I’d have to come back at 5.00 p.m. - lost sale! The chains on the handles inside the shop were just to make sure I didn’t let my frustration get the  better of me and break down the door!

So, suitably thwarted, we walked around the Marina clicking away at anything which had a metallic glint in its eye. This is the edited version.

And, just to complete the chain, I have to post this. I couldn’t believe it when Karen put her camel  on Monday’s post. That very day I took this shot whilst watching the local camels who were wending their way back to their stables from Timanfaya, in the National Park.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Pleasure Rides

“And the constant click and kissing of trolley buses hissing
Is the level of the Wealdstone turned to waves”
                                 John Betjeman ‘Harrow-on-the-Hill'

Melbourne Tram 2007

Melbourne Tram with distinctly non-Royal passengers 
In the newspaper report of the Queen’s visit to Melbourne Australia this week, there is a description of the ride she and the Duke of Edinburgh took on one of Melbourne’s famous trams. Everyone in Melbourne uses them, except that not everybody who rides the No 8 tram rides in one with a Royal crest on the side. The monarch doesn’t carry cash so the equerry had to stump up the $2.80 for the ride.

Alan’s Sepia Saturday prompt this week was a picture of an early omnibus, so the connection was irresistible.

These two pictures of Melbourne trams were taken by my husband in 2007. Comparing them with today’s images, these look positively drab, but perhaps it was because they hadn’t been painted red, white and blue and been completely refurbished inside!

Melbourne isn’t the only place famous for trams, and my home city of Nottingham has a long history of first trams, then trolleybuses, and then trams again!

Click on any picture to enlarge in Lightbox Slideshow format
The No 43 Trolleybus

When I was a youngster I loved to ride the trolleybus from The Square, in Nottingham’s city centre, to Trent Bridge where my maternal grandparents lived. I would catch the very ordinary no 57 bus from my home in Arnold to the city, and then walk across to the trolleybus stop for the no 43, which would have ‘Trent Bridge via Arkwright Street’ emblazoned on the front. This was my favourite part of the journey. Sometimes I’d be accompanied by my Mum and then, later, when I was deemed old enough, I’d go alone; very exciting. If I was staying with my Gran in the school holidays we sometimes did the reverse trip from Trent Bridge to the city’s old covered market, where we had a great time wandering the stalls and buying little treats. 
A trip to my grandparents was something I always loved. The whole experience of staying in their neat terraced house on Woodward Street was wonderful; taking walks to the Embankment or strolling round the Memorial Gardens with my granddad, and saying hello to the statue of Queen Victoria which stood there. The Embankment gave us views of West Bridgeford on the other side. This was what would now be described as a ‘sought after’ area but known locally then as ‘bread and lard island’ as the folk who lived there were said to have mortgaged themselves to the hilt and so had to live on bread and lard. There were actually two bridges; Trent Bridge itself and the Wilford Suspension Bridge. Of course there were also rowing boats to watch and swans to feed.

Feeding the swans on the Embankment 1957

To my older brother the journey to Trent Bridge was in the expectation of seeing Nottingham Forest football team play. He told me that he was once on the No 43 coming down the steps from upstairs, with my grandfather following behind, when the driver, thinking all passengers had alighted, pulled away suddenly. My brother tumbled from top to bottom. After that granddad always went down the stairs first!   
My father tells stories from his own childhood of ‘Peg Leg Pete‘, who was probably a WW1 amputee, who would dive from a scaffolding tower on the suspension bridge, whilst someone else went round with a cap and collected coins. In the 1930s my mother remembers that there was a section of the River Trent which was sectioned off for a swimming area with public changing rooms. All that fun at the end of a trolleybus ride! 

The last trolleybus journey was on June 30th 1966, a fact headlined by the Nottingham Post as ‘The End of an Era’. Watching it was 63 year old Bernard Parker, who had put up the first trolleybus wires 39 years earlier, and who said, “As it pulled away a little bit of me died.” 
Albert wasn’t alone in his admiration for the trolleybus and there are still many enthusiasts today. There have been books, websites and forums dedicated to them, and there is even a trolleybus museum in Lincolnshire. I am indebted to one such enthusiast David Bradley, who owns the copyright of the picture of No 43, and who graciously allowed me to use it for this post. If you want to know the difference between a tram and a trolleybus take a look at David’s fascinating website.
Today Nottingham has a spanking new tram service, the Nottingham Express Transit, criss-crossing the city centre and outlying areas bringing commuter travel to the 21st century. But if you fancy a ride do remember that you have to pay. It’s no good relying on your equerry to dip into his own pocket for the £2.50 ride.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Until That Moment

A moment’s inattention was all it took.
The mother, engaged in conversation,
at the market stall.
The small child, seeing the world beyond
through the open door,
ventured out on still-ungainly legs,
smiling and trusting.
Until that moment she knew only love;
her every need met.                                                          
Now, she wandered from safety, and became
just another obstacle on a busy road.
A moment’s inattention was all it took.
The driver, engaged in conversation,
on his mobile phone.
The small child, seeing the heavy truck
on the market street,
toddled forward with still-innocent trust,
laughing and pointing.
Until that moment she knew only happiness;
her every question answered.
Now, she lay crushed and broken, and became
just another pile of rubbish on a busy road.
A moment’s attention was all that was needed.
People engaged in conversation,
as they looked away.
The small child smashed by a second truck
the motorcyclist
circled round the bloody mess,
uncaring and unfeeling.
Until that moment they had emotions;
their every human instinct was to care.
Now they witnessed callous indifference and became
just casual observers on a street of shame.
A moment’s attention was all that was needed.
A rubbish collector, diverted from her task,
tried to make sense of what she saw.
Until this moment she was a shadow;
her every movement unnoticed.
Now, she moved the damaged child from harm’s way and became 
a ray of hope in a shameful world.

© Marilyn Brindley

I wrote this poem in response to the horrifying news item about the Chinese toddler run over and left to die, as eighteen people hurried past, or looked the other way. I was delighted to have it published last week on Poetry24. I hope this means that more people were able to read it and perhaps ponder on what questions it raises for Chinese society in the 21st century. 

Thursday, 20 October 2011

About a Boy

Willow Lane Nursery, Lancaster c 1950
From The National Library of Ireland

Alan’s picture prompt for this week’s Sepia Saturday has a photograph from the archives of The National Library of Ireland, showing ragged little boys outside their schoolroom in the 1890s. The picture is delightfully informal, in stark contrast to the usual ‘class photo' where children sit in rows in height order. I have any number of those, of various family members, in my albums, but I thought I would stick to the informal theme of little boys at school and share these photos of my husband aged about 2 or 3. He’s the little chap on the right, in the first photo, looking uncertainly at the camera.

Plenty of places to explore here
The bridge on the left of this photo had a starring rôle in a previous post, when my husband was the little 'man descending the stairs’. I think this must have been a progressive nursery school for its time, and things hadn’t changed much by the time my own children went to ‘Playschool’ in the seventies.  Nursery education was not provided free by the government, even though there was a baby boom after WW2. By this time men had resumed their place in the workforce and women were deemed to be the homemakers. There was therefore less need, as the government saw it, for nursery schools.

Apart from the photographer I wonder who was keeping an eye on the children round the pond. The school where I was headteacher had a pond, but not for sailing boats sadly. Ours was for studying wildlife and had to be surrounded by a fence with a lockable gate, for health and safety reasons!
Making the most of a huge sandpit
Here he is again on the left, a little older now. Just look at the size of that sandpit. It must have felt as though they were at the seaside. All three pictures have so many details. The little girls in their frocks, with bows in their hair, and the boys in shorts and dungarees.There were prams and other wheeled vehicles to push around, but I wonder if the girls ever let the boys take a turn with the childcare. I expect so, as my husband was probably one of the first ‘new men’ and it could well be that he learned his skills at Willow Lane. My own grandson aged three and a half, is happy to bath and feed the ‘baby' alongside his twin sister, following in the footsteps of Daddy and Grandpa.

The following quote comes from, Primary Education (1959) HMSO.*
"The small child should find in the nursery school an atmosphere of natural affection, a feeling of space and security, an ordered and regular way of life. He should be on friendly terms with teachers and others who minister to the needs of the children, and should have at hand the material through which he may develop his powers and enlarge his experience. In a good nursery school the children show the gaiety, curiosity, friendliness, and spirit of adventure which are as desirable as they are characteristic of this period of life, and they show also increasing self-control as well as more power of self-expression.”

The same principles are still important in 2011; however, today’s teachers will tell you that the relentless assessment of attainment does mean that there is less time to actually get to know their charges. The staff at Willow Lane in the 50s weren’t hampered by such bureaucracy I‘m sure. I wonder if the teachers of Irelands’ ragged little boys had to fill in pages of tick-boxes and produce individual ‘Learning Journals’ to share with parents. Somehow I think not.

The Pathe newsreel below showcases a nursery school at the start of WW2, when the government actually did think there was a need. If you can rise above the jolly commentary and the fact that a small child is seen having a bath, you will find it.....well, educational. My husband tells me that he and his little pals had individual little beds for afternoon naps, just like those shown in the film. Now that’s what I call really sensible.


*The History of Education in England website which is owned by Derek Gillard 
http//www.educationengland.org.uk. is is an excellent resource for anyone interested in education.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Tasting the Stars and the Heavens

"If thou tastest a crust of bread thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens.”

So wrote the 19th century poet Robert Browning. Who can resist the aroma of newly baked bread, and who indeed can bear to leave the loaf to cool before grabbing a sharp knife and hacking a still-warm crust off the end and smothering it in butter "just to test it” ?

Over at Written.inc, Carmi’s thematic photographic challenge this week is ‘Edible’ so it allowed me to segue neatly from my previous post, ‘Sifting Through the Memories’, which was about flour and baking, and to show off my twin loaves above. You might say I ‘rose to the occasion’!

It’s around the traditional Harvest Festival time too, and a loaf of bread often graces the centre of the harvest display in churches and schools throughout Britain, so in a way this is my harvest offering.

I used The Sunday Times Book of Real Bread, originally published in 1982 and full of wonderful recipes, by well-known cooks and celebrities, including the thriller writer Len Deighton. I can highly recommend it.

I was obviously very excited with the results and so pleased with myself that the loaves turned out well, that I and had to photograph them before the urge to try the first slice overcame me. I don’t have a breadmaker, but I do have a vintage Kenwood Chef with a dough hook - and of course, leaving the dough to rise in a warm place is no problem in the Lanzarote sunshine.

Why not pop over to Written.inc and see what other contributors are offering on the theme; there’s everything from cake to snails - no really!

I’m also linking to Weekend Cooking, Beth Fish’s great blog, where you are invited to post or link to anything vaguely foodie-related. Have a look; I’ve learned so much from some of the lovely bloggers on there.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Sifting Through the Memories

My Sister-in-Law, like me, is now a grandma, but when she was a little girl herself she was one of the famous Be-Ro girls. Her picture adorned the front of the ‘Home Recipes’ booklet, striking the same familar pose as the original, and each successive, model, pointing at a copy of the booklet whilst surrounded by baking paraphernalia. She wore a blue shirt and a red and white check bib-pinafore, and sported the sensible schoolgirl haircut of a wavy bob. She had that look of fresh-faced innocence that Be-Ro obviously felt was necessary to promote their flour. Later, a line-drawing of the photo was printed on the side of the flour bags themselves. Her aunt also worked for the company and she herself had appeared in a ‘family group’ picture on one of the previous editions of the book. She suggested her niece as the new model and the rest is (family) history. As far as I know there was no financial remuneration and the reward was the kudos of having her face on the Be-Ro bags and recipe booklets.

I wondered if this early exposure to the world of baking influenced her choice of career, as she went to Nottingham’s Clarendon College to study Catering, and had jobs closely connected with food all her life. She retired a couple of years ago from the City Hospital, where she worked as a Nutritionist. Whenever a celebration called for a cake, my clever Sister-in-Law was the one who created it. She made my wedding cake and more recently, both my parents’ 90th birthday cakes.

The booklet is now in its 41st edition, but is no longer free as it was in the early days. My Sister-in-Law still treasures her copy. It’s a much loved little book full of useful basic recipes and there are many internet stories of dog-eared copies which still hold a special place on the cookery book shelves. In 2008 The Independent newspaper featured it in its list of the 50 Best Cookbooks, and it’s not difficult to see why.

When she was a young woman the local paper reported her story, with a cleverly punning headline which I would have loved to have used for this post. My Sister-in-Law tells the story of how one admirer, and collector of recipe books, sent a copy of the booklet for her to autograph; fame indeed!

A centenary biscuit tin was produced, sadly not with my Sister-in-Law on the lid, but the smiling face of a previous model. I expect these are now collectors’ items too.

Clicking on the Be-Ro link above will take you to company’s homepage where there is a fascinating potted history of how Thomas Bell founded his flour company ‘Bell’s Royal’ but had to change the name after the death of Edward VII, and so a conflation of the two words became Be-Ro. The booklet was originally given away free to promote not just the flour but to assist families working to a low budget and trying to provide good home baking. If you want to try out some of the recipes yourselves, from Almond Biscuits to Yorkshire Puddings, click here.

If you’d like to see what other contributors are cooking up, have a look at Sepia Saturday, there are bound to be some interesting takes on this week's prompt.