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."

Friday, 30 November 2012

Late Edition

This week's Sepia Saturday photo prompt has a bridge at its centre. There are people rowing under it and others standing upon it. I'm not following a theme for this week's Sepia Saturday submission. Instead, I want to take the opportunity to honour the memory of one of its stars. My Dad, who provided so many stories for my blog, passed away in the early hours of Monday morning. Although I'm sad that he is no longer in my life, I have a store of wonderful memories, some of which I have still to share with you. He had his 91st birthday in July and two days later he and Mum celebrated their 70th Wedding Anniversary; both of these were remarkable achievements by anybody's standards. Mum will miss him of course, but she knows that he is now at peace and this brings her some contentment. They worshipped at our local church for over fifty years and shared a strong belief that they would one day be together again.

Those who have got to know Dad through my blog will remember him as the engaging teenager in Boy on a Bicycle, in his Boys' Brigade uniform in Something For The Boys, the window-breaking footballer in Let's Play a Game, Mum's tennis partner in Love All, her eager suitor in The Reel Thing, a swimwear model in Not Burt and Deborah, an incurable romantic in Not Rhett and Scarlett, the football fan in Goalpost, the proud forage cap wearer in Side Orders and more. Listing them all here reminds me of the many facets of Dad's character, and that's without mentioning that he was a talented amateur artist, he had beautiful 'copperplate' handwriting and was a wonderful ballroom dancer. He was a hard-working breadwinner for his family, and in retirement he gave time to supporting charities, even standing on street corners in his eighties collecting for 'Leukemia Research' whilst the winter winds whistled around him. He had his faults of course; he could be grumpy, at times even belligerent, he was quite fearful of some things and occasionally too trusting of the wrong people and he could be terribly stubborn. He had a habit of saying 'the wrong thing' occasionally and sometimes upset people without meaning to.

Dad was many things to many people, loved by his family and a good and loyal friend, but to me he was simply My Dad. One of my earliest memories is of him sitting on my bed stroking my brow until my eyelids grew heavy, whilst he made up stories of 'Freddie and Flossie Frog'; I was still eagerly listening to his stories until just a few months ago. I would call him and Mum and tell them what I was writing about for that week's Sepia Saturday post and ask them for their memories.

When Dad had his 90th birthday last year I made a special book for him to celebrate his life, and in it was a poem I wrote using old photographs of us together as prompts. Very appropriate for Sepia Saturday. I hope you'll indulge me whilst I share those pages with you now.

©Marilyn Brindley

For more stories and pictures from the past cross the bridge into Sepia Saturday to see what other contributors have made of the interesting photo prompt.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

The Eyes of Margaret

"When morning comes to me
I see the eyes of Margaret"
The Rankin Family 

Our photo prompt for this week's Sepia Saturday is two little girls from Texas, with very sad-looking faces. A frantic thumbing of my family album turned up this picture of a little girl with one of the saddest expressions I have ever seen. I find her eyes quite haunting and her little downturned mouth really pulls at the heartstrings. Who is she and why is she so sad? I've had this picture for a few years, and, until today, it was the only photograph my husband possessed of his maternal grandfather George. The little girl was called Margaret and we can only assume she was his sister. George was born in 1886 in Aston-under-Lyne, Lancashire. He looks about seven or eight in the picture so I am placing it around 1893-4. Margaret looks about four years old. My husband called his older brother in North Wales yesterday, explaining that I was in need of some facts, and lo and behold several 'new' photographs and documents landed in our inbox! We now know a wee bit more about George, but Margaret remains a mystery.

Another photograph of George and Margaret also came to light. Here she doesn't look quite so terrified of the photographer, in fact she is adopting a rather relaxed pose. George seems to be about thirteen or fourteen and Margaret about ten years of age. They are dressed in their 'Sunday Best'; just look at George's bowler hat! In later years he seems to have favoured the 'flat cap' but still cut a dashing figure.

George grew up to be a rather good-looking young man who, according to his 1915 National Registration card became the Company Secretary of Cotton Spinning Mill 38. Lancashire was the centre of the cotton industry at that time. He was also a keen golfer, cricketer and bowls player. Among the photographs sent by my brother-in-law, are pictures of George with his fellow members of the Werneth Low Golf Club and here (front row, bottom right) at the Ashton Cricket Ground Gala Day on 4th August 1923.

The picture below is titled 'First Visit of the In-Laws 1933' so was presumably taken by my husband's father shortly after his marriage to Mary. It shows George with his first wife, my husband's grandmother, Alice. Sadly Alice died only five years after this picture was taken. We do know that George married again later in life. My husband's memories of his grandfather are very hazy as he was very young when George died in 1958.

We still know no more about Margaret, but there is one further picture of her in February 1918.

Once again we have that sad, faraway look. She was a fine-looking woman with a slight dimple in her chin and those luminous eyes, but we know nothing else about her. All the people we could have asked have long since passed away. We hope to rectify this in the future by delving into census returns, but in the meantime she must be our mystery woman.

The song, 'The Eyes of Margaret' can be found on You Tube here.

For more faces showing a range of emotions visit this week's Sepia Saturday and find what others have made of the prompt below.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The Unknown Soldier

As this Sunday is Remembrance Sunday I wanted to complete my tributes to my great uncles who died in WW1. I wrote about the eldest, Edward, in The Last Hundred Days and the middle one, George, in Dulce Et Decorum Est. Now it's the turn of Arthur, the youngest of the three but the first to lose his life in April 1916 at the age of twenty-one. Tragically, George was to die only five months later on the Somme in September of that year, two days after his twenty-third birthday. The family's relief that Edward had survived the war was shortlived, as he succumbed to pneumonia following Spanish Influenza, whilst still in France, in February 1919. The only boy left was little Charlie. In between were my Gran, Edith, the eldest girl, and four other older sisters; Ethel, Ellen, Mary and Mildred. Louisa, the baby of the family, was born in 1914. As you can imagine it really was a case of 'Charlie is my Darling' for the one remaining boy.When my grandparents produced Billy, the first grandchild, just four months after Edward's death, there would have been much family rejoicing.

I've called Arthur the unknown soldier, simply because the family knows so very little about him. In my previous posts I described how my Gran would talk about her beloved older brothers, but as I was a child myself I didn't retain any information about them as individuals. If you read the other two posts you'll recall that many years ago, whilst stationed with the RAF in Germany, we visited the WW1 battlefields. At that time I tried to find out as much as I could without the benefit of modern sources available on the internet. All my enquiries were made the old-fashioned way, writing many letters and waiting patiently for replies. Arthur remains something of a mystery as we have so far not been able to add much more to what I gleaned then. He is listed in the 1911 census but there is no other information. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission, writing to me in March 1984, confirmed that:

 "Private Arthur Brandon, 17373, 8th Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment, died on 19th April 1916. After the war his grave was among those The Army Graves Service were unable to trace and he is therefore commemorated, by name, on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Belgium.The names of the men of the Bedfordshire Regiment are carved on Panels 31 and 33. We also have the additional information that he was born, enlisted. whilst living at the time in Watford, Hertfordshire."

The Imperial War Museum in London wrote to confirm that Arthur's name was in the offical publication: 'Soldiers Died in the Great War' and kindly photocopied a few pages for me of a brief unpublished typescript, the War Diary of 8th (Service) Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment, 21st August 1915-16th February 1918, outlining operations on which the battalion was involved.

"As you see the diary reports no soldiers killed in action on 19 April, and it should be noted that inaccuries or delays in reporting men killed or missing were not uncommon. 8 Battalion was serving with 16 Brigade, 6 Division at the time of Brandon's death."

The Imperial War Museum told me that 8 Division was serving with 16 Brigade, 6 Division at the time of Arthur's death and recommended 'A Short History of the 6th Division' by T.O.Marden (1920). I was unable to obtain this in 1984, but now, thanks to the wonderful Project Gutenberg, I found it immediately. In his preface Marden stated that the reason for the book's publication was all who served with the Division would have a record to show that they belonged to a Division which played no inconspicuous part in the Great War. Every copy sold was to help provide battlefield memorials in France and Flanders. Here is the passage which adds a little more detail to war diaries above.

"....operations near Turco Farm and Morteldje Estaminet on 19th-22nd April 1916. Certain trenches, D20 and 21 and Willow Walk, were much overlooked by High  Command Redoubt, some 150 yards away. The Germans throughout the 19th April heavily bombarded these trenches, and succeeded in seizing them at night. One company 8th Bedfords and two companies Y. and L*. delivered a counter-attack in the early hours of 20th April, but could not retake the position. The Brigadier-General therefore decided to bombard them steadily throughout the 21st, and recapture them on the night 21st/22nd April with three companies of the K.S.L.I., then in Brigade Reserve. This was brilliantly accomplished in spite of the very heavy going, and the line firmly re-established, but with the loss of Lt.-Col. Luard, commanding K.S.L.I.,** who died of wounds. It was found that the enemy had dug good new trenches in several places, and equipped them with steel loop-hole plates, and these were occupied thankfully by our men. The general state of the trenches, commanded as they were by the enemy's positions, in the water-logged Ypres Salient during the winter of 1915-1916 defies description, and all praise must be given to the regimental officers and men for their hard work and cheerfulness under most depressing conditions.

*  York and Lancaster
** The King's Shropshire Light Infantry

Was Arthur the one OR (Other Rank) killed on the 18th or was he one of the two wounded on the 19th and subsequently died of his wounds. Perhaps he was one of the 32 who died in the early hours of the 20th or of the 97 'missing, believed killed' which usually meant they were blown to pieces and there were no identifiable mortal remains. It was a day of significant losses. After heavy bombardment the Germans attacked and gained a footing in three of the trenches. The following day these were re-taken and consolidated, which highlights the utter pointlessness of trench warfare. Throughout the war this was repeated on a much larger scale where small advances would be made at unimaginable cost to human life, only to be lost again within weeks, sometimes days.

Our visit to Ypres was memorable in many ways but the highlight was locating Arthur's name on the Menin Gate war memorial. That evening we stood in silent and respectful contemplation as the traffic along the Menin Road came to a halt and the Last Post was sounded by members of the local voluntary Fire Service. This takes place every evening at 8.00 p.m. and is extremely moving. Many examples of the ceremony can be viewed on YouTube.

We who are left, how shall we look again
Happily on the sun, or feel the rain,
Without remembering they who went
Ungrudgingly, and spent 
Their all for us, loved too the sun and rain?

A bird among the rain-wet lilac sings -
But we, how shall we turn to little things,
And listen to the birds and winds and streams
Made holy by their dreams,
Nor feel the heart-break in the heart of things?

Wilfred Gibson, 'Lament'

For more stories and pictures from the past go to Sepia Saturday

Thursday, 1 November 2012

If The Cap Fits

Two pictures taken  approximately thirty years apart and yet very similar. Who are they? The first is my mother with her brother Billy, taken in about 1924.

The second is me with my brother, in the grounds of Wollaton Hall, Nottinghamshire in about 1954.

Apart from the siblings as subject matter, the other similarities are the poses, seated on the grass of a park, and the two boys' caps. Mum and her brother were close to each other in age, with just seventeen months between them. They were also close childhood companions and Mum was devastated when he died in a freak accident aged fifteen. You can see them together again in this post, where they are a little older.

I'm not sure where Mum and Billy are sitting but it could be the Victoria Embankment at Trent Bridge, Nottingham where they lived. There was a park with a walkway by the river where families could spend a pleasant Sunday afternoon. Billy is wearing a smart little cap, but it's not part of a uniform as he was not a member of the Cubs. My brother's cap is probably part of his school uniform, which was deemed the thing to wear on a Sunday outing to Wollaton Hall, a stately home which housed a natural history museum. When I was a child it contained glass cases full of very frightening stuffed animals.

Here's my brother when he was a little younger, proudly wearing his new school uniform complete with cap. Note that the blazer had plenty of room for growth!

If we step back two generations we find another little boy in a cap. This one is part of a cub's uniform and the wearer is my great uncle Charlie aged eight, at his big sister's wedding. It was my grandparents' wedding, which some of you will remember from Wedding Day Delay, where everyone had to get dressed up again the next day to pose for photos. This could account for the grumpy demeanour.

This splendid photo of the Irish Revolutionary leader, Michael Collins, showing him talking to the Kilkenny Hurling team at Croke Park in Dublin in 1921, was Sepia Saturday's photo prompt this week. It has lots of men wearing caps, many of them with a peak. So, of all the possible themes suggested, I plumped for that one. Why not visit and 'doff your cap' at the many and varied interpretations of the prompt from the creative Sepia Saturday contributors.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Taking the Waters

Out of thy famous Hille
There daily springeth
A water passing still
That always bringeth
Great comfort to alle them
That are diseased men
And makes them well again
So Prayse the Lord! 

      Rev Edmund Rea, Vicar of Great Malvern 1612

In May this year we visited friends in UK who took us to the famous spa town of Great Malvern in Worcestershire. Between the 17th and 19th centuries the town had become popular for the health-giving properties of its waters, and because it was situated in an area of outstanding natural beauty, invalids and tourists seeking cures, rest and entertainment flocked there. Many famous people, including Charles Darwin, Florence Nightingale, Alfred Lord Tennyson and Charles Dickens' wife, Catherine came to 'take the waters'. The water was also bottled and shipped, hydrotherapy clinics were set up, hotels developed and residential villas built.

In the delightful Priory Museum we saw many artefacts dating from the time that the town was enjoying a popularity as a spa. Some of these have already featured in previous posts: Market Share, and Museum Piece.

This exhibit depicts a visitor taking the cure, in his Oxford Hip Bath. He doesn't look too comfortable, and is wearing a reather worried expression, but perhaps he's objecting to being snapped in this rather ungainly position.

I wonder if he'd already had a 'shallow bath' like the one portrayed in this engraving. I don't suppose the water was very warm, and the attendant looks as if he's enjoying administering the 'cure' rather more than the client does in receiving it.

The advertisement for Essington's Hotel confirms my suspicions. It offers both hot and cold baths, though why anyone would choose the latter is beyond me. Perhaps some visitors went home with more chills, aches and pains than they arrived with.

For those willing to venture out of the hotel and take a trip to some of the hillside springs, or view some of the breath-taking scenes from the surrounding hills, donkeys were the transport of choice. Donkeys would stand outside the hotels like modern taxis, waiting for passengers. There were ten donkey stands in the town, in addition to seventeen Hackney Carriage stands.

Queen Adelaide visited the famous St Ann's Well and requested a donkey ride and helped to popularise this method of transport. When Queen Victoria's mother also encouraged these jaunts, one of the donkeys used was re-named 'Royal Moses'. Very enterprising of the donkey's owner!

No opportunity was missed to capitalise on the floods of visitors as the next picture shows. Teas and Cadbury's Chocolate must have made a welcome change from the strange-tasting waters. I have sampled the waters at Bath, and once was quite enough for me! Behind the donkey lady in the picture above, is a chart listing some of the minerals to be found in the waters.

Great Malvern was an interesting place and I can recommend a visit if you are in the area, but whatever you do check before you go for interesting things to see. I thought I'd done pretty well snapping away at anything I thought would be useful for a blogpost! Then I did a little more research and realised that we had walked close to, but missed, a magnificent statue to the composer Edward Elgar and the 'Enigma' Fountain by the sculptor Rose Garrard. The fountain is a tribute both to Elgar who lived there, and to the pure spring water which feeds it.

Just a little further down the road, also by Rose Garrard is this wonderful 'drinking spout' called by 'Malvhina'. Here she has been 'dressed' with flowers for the May Day Festival.

The spout bought back spring water to the town, for the first time in forty years, from three springs on the hills above. You can read more about this clever design sculpted in stone and bronze, and the symbolism behind it here.

Continuing a theme from my post last week, where I casually mentioned literary connections in the places I'd visited, I have to point out that William Langland's 14th century poem, 'Piers Plowman', was written in Malvern, J.R.R. Tolkien frequented Malvern pubs with C.S. Lewis and both found found inspiration there (NB: it wasn't the waters that did it!).

The picture prompt for this week's Sepia Saturday had a group 'taking the waters' at The Twin Wells of Lisdoonvarna in County Clare at the turn of the century. They don't look too impressed either, but then their attention was probably drawn to the female attendant, who seems to have been mummified. When it comes to ladies and spring water I think I'd rather take my chances with Malvhina!

Why not take the cure yourself by sampling the restorative posts of other Sepia Saturday contributors?

Both images by Bob Embleton via Wikimedia Share alike Licence

Friday, 19 October 2012

Window of Opportunity

One of the themes on offer in this week's Sepia Saturday is 'windows'. I thought I'd pretty much covered this in a previous post; 'But Soft, What Light...?'. But then, flicking through the albums I came upon a few missed opportunities. I discovered three windows which all have a claim to fame in some way. The above picture of my husband, with his holiday pint in hand, was taken in 1977 in the quaintly named Cornish village of Mousehole, looking out of the window of the harbourside Ship Inn. Four years after this picture was taken the landlord of the pub died along with fellow crew members in the famous Penlee Lifeboat disaster. The village (pronounced Mowzel) is also famous for visits from the poet Dylan Thomas, who described it as 'the loveliest village in England' and for being the home of the last native Cornish speaker.

Here is my husband again, with our daughter, in 1979, looking down from one of the tower windows in another famous seaside village. This one is Portmeirion in Wales, which is famous primarily for being the setting of 'The Prisoner' TV series, now a cult classic. Over the years it has been visited by many famous musicians and writers, including Noel Coward, who wrote 'Blithe Spirit' there.

The final picture is me aged about ten, with my parents, outside Dove Cottage, Grasmere in The Lake District. This was the home of the poet William Wordsworth and his sister from 1799 - 1808. Here he wrote many of his famous poems, and his sister Dorothy kept her famous journals. If you click on the link you'll see that at the window immediately behind our heads is now obscured by shrubbery. The bedroom window in my own picture appears to have faces staring out, and so would fit in with the Sepia Saturday theme. However, when the picture is enlarged the 'faces' seem to be no more than reflections or tricks of the light. If they're faces it would be lovely to think that they were the ghosts of William and Dorothy, but a more likely explanation is that they were just holidaymakers like us.

It seems I can't resist (unwittingly) making pilgrimages to the sources of inspiration for famous writers and poets. Sadly the genius of Coward, Wordsworth and Thomas didn't rub off on me, but perhaps a little bit of the magic did and gave me my lifelong love or poetry and wit.

Why not join us at Sepia Saturday and see what windows of opportunty other contributors found.

Sunday, 14 October 2012


The cottage light pricks inky gloom, 
Where ghosts and forest shadows loom.
The stumbling stranger filled with fear,
To make the menace disappear,
Seeks out the comfort of the room.

The barn owl’s screech brings sense of doom, 
And echoes through the murky coombe.*
The lost soul starts and hurries near
                            The cottage light.    

His icy hands, cold as the tomb,
Grab greedily the tempting shroom.**
He bolts it it down and does not hear
The voice now whispering in his ear,
Nor sees the spectral shape consume
                                   The cottage light.

© Marilyn Brindley

* a valley or hollow on a hillside or coastline, especially in southern England
**a mushroom, especially one with hallucinogenic properties

I like the challenge of wrting to a form and this week I tried a rondeau. This is an old French lyric form containing a refrain. It has fifteen lines, two of which are the repeated one line refrain. The refrain is usually the first phrase of the first line (but may only be one or two words).  

Each line has eight syllables and there are three stanzas of different length: the first has five lines, the second four and the third six.

There are only two rhyming sounds throughout the poem. 

The rhyme scheme is as follows (R denotes refrain): the first stanza : a, a, b, b, a; the second stanza: a, a, b, R and the third stanza: a, a, b, b, a, R.

From 'The Poet's Craft' by Sandy Brownjohn

Taking part in The Mag where Tess Kincaid gives us an image to get the creative juices flowing, This week it's 'Midnight Snack' 1984by Curtis Wilson Cost. If your nerves aren't shattered after reading my poem, why not gatger up your courage and go and see what others made of the prompt?

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Side Orders

The above group photograph includes my father (second row, end right), taken whilst serving with the RAF during WWII. Dad had enlisted in 1940, just after his nineteenth birthday and was trained as a flight mechanic, one of the unsung ground crew responsible for keeping the aircraft airworthy. The picture was taken in 1943 when Dad was stationed at RAF Swinderby in Lincolnshire. He'd previously worked on the Spitfires of 609 Squadron at RAF Biggin Hill, when the Battle of Britain was its height. Ground crew checked all aircraft on their return for damage, then they would re-fuel, re-arm, test engines, radio and oxygen supplies in the shortest possible time and using a rapid and well-rehearsed drill. The ground crew worked as a team with each man playing a vital part and enabling the whole squadron to be serviced within ten minutes. Aircraft were lost of course, and replacement aircraft would arrive and have to be made combat-ready by the ground crew.*  I wrote about the Spitfire and Dad's connection with it in a previous post, Their Finest Hour.

Dad next went to Coastal Command at RAF Silloth, and to Thornaby-on-Tees in NorthYorkshire from where he was transferred to RAF Swinderby, 1660 Heavy Conversion Unit to work mainly on Avro Lancasters (as above), but also with Halifaxes and Stirlings. The hours were long and hard as the country prepared for 'the second front' and the harsh winter of 1944 saw all hands deployed clearing the runways and dispersals of snow for days on end, as flying was abandoned. Dad remained at Swinderby until he was 'demobbed' in April 1946.

Sepia Saturday this week has a photo prompt of a group of Crimean War soldiers wearing their army caps at  a jaunty angle. It reminded me of the group portrait above, with Dad and his friends wearing their regulation forage caps at that same angle, as they were meant to be of course. They were also known as 'chip bag hats' as their shape resembled the greaseproof bag used to hold your portion of chips when you bought them from the fish and chop shop. Dad is 91 years old now, but he still has the very cap he is wearing in this portrait. the style of the 'side-hat' hadn't changed much by the time my husband was serving in the RAF in the seventies and eighties, although he  and his fellow officers mostly wore a peaked hat or, when in field conditions, a  beret. Co-incidentally he too was to have a connection with the Spitfires and Lancasters, which along with the Hurricane, made up the prestigious Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. The BBMF came under his engineering responsibilities whilst we were stationed at RAF Coningsby.

Join others at Sepia Saturday this week to see where the picture of jolly, jaunty sergeants led them.

*With thanks to my brother, who has documented this part of Dad's life for the family memoirs.

Sunday, 7 October 2012


Upon the pillow soft and deep,
She laid her head, but not to sleep,
She sighed so soft that few would hear,
She sobbed and wiped a bitter tear,
Sick Woman, by Jan Steen 1665
Her cheeks so pink on her wedding day,
Were drained of colour now and grey,
Poor Edith looked so pale and wan,
Her hopes all dashed, her prospects gone,
They tried to soothe her worried frown,
And hid from view her wedding gown,
Cold comforts whispered in her ear;
“You know he was too old my dear,
At times like this please let us judge,
You’d end up as an old man’s drudge,
Before you’d reached your thirtieth year,
Instead of healthy babes we fear, 
You’d be nursing him and pushing his chair,
And be worn to a shadow in his care,
His withered arm could not enfold you
His damaged hand not touch or hold you,
It was a brave and selfless act,
To end it there and that’s a fact”,
But Edith brushed them all aside,
No longer now the jilted bride,
“It wasn’t him, Oh can’t you see?
It’s Down to nobody but me,
My wish was just to live Abbey ever after,
And follow it next year with a BAFTA!”

© Marilyn Brindley

Taking part in The Mag, where Tess Kincaid gives us an image to see the creative wheels in motion. Having just watched Lady Edith being jilted in ITV's 'Downton Abbey', I was struck by the similarity!

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Victory Parade

Here are my Mum, Dad and brother in 1960, standing in front of 'HMS Victory' the famous flagship of Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar (1805). I took the picture I believe, so it wasn't bad for an eight-year old. One of the possible themes from this week's Sepia Saturday photo prompt, is big ships. HMS Victory qualifies on two counts; her size and her reputation.

I don't remember much about the 1960 visit, but I have been a few times since to the Naval Dockyards, Portsmouth, where not onlyVictory, but also Warrior (1860), are berthed. HMS Warrior was the Royal Navy's first armour-plated, iron-clad warship and has been beautifully restored. When completed in October 1861, she was the largest, fastest, most heavily-armoured warship the world had ever seen, but she was never to see battle in her time in service. She had rather a chequered career over the years and had several name changes, narrowly avoiding the fate of her sister iron-clads who were sold as scrap metal. She is now the fully-restored museum ship we can see today in Portsmouth.

The dockyards are well worth a visit, though perhaps this should be spread over two days as there is so much to see. Henry VIII's warship is also on view there. The Mary Rose was sunk accidentally during an engagement with the French invasion fleet, on 19th July 1545. The wreck was raised in 1982 and yielded up artefacts and human remains which have helped to inform our knowledge of the life of the Tudor sailor. Perhaps most telling is that of the bones of 179 individuals recovered, all male, many were between the ages of 11 and 13 years and the majority below the age of 30. The ship was stocked 'like a miniature society at sea' and many of the objects related to indiviual crew members; clothing, games, various items for spiritual and recreational use and those relating to mundane everydays tasks, such as personal hygiene, fishing and sewing.

I remember being fascinated by the conditions on board Victory on each of my visits. I was surprised at how cramped the living quarters for the sailors were, but we really do get a good impression of their lives 200 years ago. Nelson's quarters are all beautifully preserved, including his dining table, where he would have dined with his brother officers. His 'cot' looks exactly like that of an infant, which would make sense if he wanted to sleep when the seas were at their most turbulent. There are many stories woven around Nelson, his flagship and the Battle of Trafalgar. The one which most people remember is that he hoisted the flags which displayed the signal 'England expects that every man will do his duty' immediately prior to the battle on October 21st 1805. He lost his life on the deck of The Victory, when shot by a French sniper later that morning. A commemorative plaque now marks the spot on deck.

In 1989 we took our son and daughter to visit these famous English ships at the Naval Dockyards. Here they are seated in front of a ship's figurehead.

This is from  HMS Hibernia and represents the Celtic God, Dagda with his lyre. The figurehead no longer stands in Portsmouth, but was restored, just five years after the above picture was taken, and returned to Malta, from where it had been removed. The ship had been a permanent fixture in the Grand Harbour in Malta, until the middle of the last century. Hibernia was a first rate ship of the line' when launched in 1804, with a full complement of 850, including the Admiral. She served in the Napoleonic Wars and remained in the Mediterranean for a time as a flagship, but then sailed for Malta as a receiving ship, the Naval equivalent of a barracks. She was broken up in 1902 and the figurehead sent to Portsmouth. A book has recently been published chronicling Hibernia's story and this was reviewed in 'The Times of Malta' a couple of weeks ago. Click here to see some real sepia pictures of Dagda.

To bring my Victory Parade full circle, The (London) Times newspaper carried a story this very week about the Victory. The ship is currently undergoing a £50, million facelift which includes the removal of modern sealant from its decks and its replacement by hemp reclaimed from old ropes. The material, known as oakem, is then made waterproof with pitch. Conservators are using the same materials and implements which were used originally prior to the battle of Trafalgar. Then the crew did the job in a month, the latest restoration is expected to take at least 20 years.

If you can't wait that long, why not lift anchor and go and see what other Sepia Saturday contributors made of the prompt.

Thursday, 4 October 2012


Waking early before the dawn,
I tiptoe tentatively into the warm morning air.
That moment of peace,
before the household stirs 
and stretches its sleepy limbs.

The air is still, no birdsong yet,
No breath of wind to gently shake the leaves.
That moment of calm,
before the sun appears
and spreads its morning warmth.

The sky is dark, no street lamps glow,
No clouds to shield the moon or smudge the stars.
That moment of wonder,
before the mantle is discarded
and a falling star is glimpsed.

©Marilyn Brindley

This is my contribution to National Poetry Day, where the theme is 'Stars'. This really happened to me a couple of weeks ago.

Sunday, 30 September 2012


Lady Audley by Hans Holbein

I send thee here this symbol of my love,
A sucket fork to take thy sweetmeats up,
And press them twixt thy lips my precious Dove,
Or cherries pick from this our Loving Cup;
And see, the handle carved of heartwood fine,
A filial of brass which crowns the very tip,
And your initials interlaced with mine,
Strong iron tines thy kissing-comfits grip;
And so sweet Chuck pray take this precious gift,
When thou attends’t The Rose this very night,
And pierce the sugar-bread, and lift
The marchpane, plum or fig for your delight;
Pray use this token for my Sweeting’s pleasure,
But guard it well and keep it close as treasure.

© Marilyn Brindley

A ‘sucket’ was a sweetmeat such as sugar-bread or gingerbread, marchpane (marzipan) or a ‘kissing-comfit’ which would have been used to sweeten the breath. Such a fork was recently found by archaeologists  at The Rose Theatre on Bankside, which pre-dates The Globe by about ten years. The fork, which is now housed in the Museum of London, was the subject of a recent BBC Radio 4 programme; ‘Snacking Through Shakespeare’ as part of the excellent series; ‘Shakespeare’s Restless World’. and is still available as a podcast here. The website also has a transcript of the programme and a picture of the fork itself.  A fork was a rarity in Shakespeare’s day and the one in the museum was evidently dropped by some careless nobleman or his lady, where it remained, along with pottery shards and the remains of cuttlefish, and nutshells until its discovery. 
I imagined my sonnet being sent with the fork as a lover’s gift from a young nobleman, with an admonition to take care of it, as it was so precious and rare an object. He hopes she’ll use it to spear her  sweetmeats and imagines them being passed from the fork to her lips.  I used the description of the sucket fork found in The Rose. If you want to know more about how Elizabethan theatregoers behaved; the noisy gassy sounds their ale bottles made, what they ate, how they threw apples at the stage if displeased with the performance and how they peed in dark corners, then listen to this wonderful short programme (or read the transcript). I wonder what the young man said to his ‘Sweeting’, his ‘Chuck’, his ‘Dove’ when she had to confess that she had lost the precious object.  

This was written for The Mag, where Tess Kincaid gives us a picture prompt every week, to set us off on our creative path. This week the picture was. ‘It Must be Time for Lunch Now’ (1979) by the talented but tragic artist, Francesca Woodman, and, not surprisingly, forks featured quite heavily in the photograph.

If you like Shakespeare, you may enjoy my Richard III poem, 'These Bones'. you can read it here. 

Friday, 28 September 2012


I could never resist a pun. This week's post is about football, hence the title. Well, you can't have a football post, so Goalpost was the next best thing. As long as we don't keep moving it!

Twice a week the winter thorough 
Here stood I to keep the goal: 
Football then was fighting sorrow 
For the young man's soul. 

From Twice a Week the Winter Thorough by A.E. Housman

This is my brother in the mid1960s, lacing his football boots ready for a local match on our nearby recreation ground with his amateur team, Arnbrook United. Our picture prompt for Sepia Saturday this week comes from the National Archive in the Netherlands, via Flickr Commons, and shows three young boys proudly carrying their football boots around their neck. My heart sank when I saw this as I am not a football fan. However, I happen to have been brought up in a household where the male members of the family all worship at its shrine. It really was almost sacred, and took priority over everything else. My grandparents lived at Trent Bridge, a short walk from the Nottingham Forest ground and when my Granddad, Dad and brother went to the match, Mum and I would keep my grandmother company and listen for the roar of the crowd when a goal was scored, or the collective disappointed groan when a penalty was missed. At the end of the match the men and boys, with some wives and girlfriends, would pour out of the Forest ground and some would walk past our door. I don't remember any hooliganism or fights and everything seemed very good natured. Perhaps I am looking back with rose-tinted spectacles. 

When my father was a boy there was no recreation ground to play on and he and his pals would be out on the street, using their coats for goalposts. In the 1920s Dad would have played with a well-worn leather football, which had to be pumped up and laced. The lacing and stitching would often be worn and this meant that you rarely played with a perfect sphere. Dad always had the most beautiful copperplate handwriting, and as a schoolboy won a handwriting competition where the prize was a football. Imagine his delight as a youngster in a family who rarely gave presents and there was little spare cash for luxuries such as a football. He must have been very popular with his friends. Dad went on to play in two local teams: Aspley Celtic and Lady Bay Athletic.

My brother seems just as proud of his boots as the boys in the prompt picture. The 1960s saw a big change in football boot design when the first below-the-ankle boots were introduced. During the next decade boots started to be the subject of sponsorship and footballers were paid to wear only one brand. Perhaps that's where the big changes 'kicked off', when the game started to be much more about money than anything else.

Well, it was in the genes I suppose and my brother passed his passion for football on to his son, my nephew, pictured in the above photograph with Sir Bobby Charlton. My nephew was eleven years old and had won the regional finals of the  Bobby Charltion Soccer Skills Competition 1985. A proud family moment. 

Here he is again in 1992 proudly holding aloft the F.A. Youth Cup won by the team of which he was captain: the 'Nottinghamshire Football Association Under-18s'. More cheers all round from the family. He went on to play semi-professionally whilst still studying at University, until injuries put paid to any thoughts of a career in the game.

My Dad spent many hours supporting both his son and his grandson with their football training, and ferrying car-loads of youngsters around. He was the trainer for my brother's primary school team, as well as for Arnbrook United. He still enjoys watching a Nottingham Forest match, but he is an armchair football spectator these days. A couple of years ago my nephew arranged for four generations of the family to watch a match, and it was reported in the Nottingham Forest programme 'CAPTURED'. His own son, then four, was by now a real fan of the team too.  Dad's memories were reported in the programme, and he could recall the days when youngsters were let into the grounds for the last twenty minutes of the match and passed over the heads of adults so that they could sit pitch-side and watch the end of the game. The players used to be put up in lodgings on the road where Dad was living as a boy, and he remembers running errands for  players Tommy Graham and Bob Pugh and fetching them cigarettes from the local shop. "How times have changed." said Dad.

The young man in my first picture, is now a Grandpa himself. Here he is with my Dad, nephew  (the one with the winning ways) and my great-nephew, who now has a younger sister who is just as avid a fan of Nottingham Forest.

Why not visit Sepia Saturday to see what other contributors set as their goal.