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, 27 February 2012

Andy Warhol Goes Shopping

Warhol at the Grocery Store. Bob Edelman 1962

He saw the rows of gleaming soups,
between baked beans and spaghetti hoops.
He'd only come to buy the beer,
but the tinned goods aisle was very near.
The paper towels would come in handy;
an impulse buy, but that was Andy
“Bring some cans, let's have a party!”
To Andy that meant something arty.
He piled the soups in his shopping cart,
and turned them into works of art.

© Marilyn Brindley

Taking part in Mag 106 with Tess at Willow Manor. See how others interpreted the photograph

Thursday, 23 February 2012

In Her Shoes

Something old, something new
Something borrowed, something blue
And a silver sixpence in her shoe

So goes the traditional saying which itemises the five things a bride should have on her wedding day for luck. Historically shoes have been associated with wedding customs for centuries. Anglo Saxon husbands would hit their new wife over the head (symbolically one hopes) to establish authority, whilst the custom of tying shoes to the back of the bridal car originated in Tudor times, when a direct hit by a guest on the couple’s carriage signified good luck! The rhyme above is thought to be Victorian, and the sixpence in the shoe was to bring financial prosperity. Here is a wedding photograph of my grandparents in 1918. You can read more about this in ‘Wedding Day Delay’. The shoes she was wearing would of course have been white, and the ribbon was most likely attached by my thrifty grandmother, so that afterwards the shoes could be used for everyday wear, possibly after dyeing them a more servicable dark colour (though wouldn’t it be lovely if she dyed them red?). I don’t know whether she had a silver sixpence in her shoe, but if she did, the charm didn’t work, as all their lives my grandparents had to watch their finances very carefully.

Pub sign, Budleigh Salterton, Devon.
By kind permission of Michael Downes
Queen Elizabeth I never married so there is no need to speculate about the footwear she would have chosen for the great day. However, there is a story that her shoes (colour unspecified, but let’s say ‘red’ for the sake of continuity) were saved from spoiling in a muddy puddle, by the gallant act of Sir Walter Raleigh (1554-1618), who removed his cloak and laid it in her path. This always struck me as a rather silly thing to do, and the story paints Raleigh as something of a show-off, overshadowing his success as a writer, poet, soldier, courtier, spy, gardener, historian, religious enquirer, MP and explorer.  It was a grand gesture but it didn’t save him from the executioner’s axe many years later. By then, King James I was on the throne, and he was not one to be so easily swayed. The legendary act is commemorated on a pub sign in Devon. This should please Alan, who gave us the shoe prompt for this week’s Sepia Saturday, but is also an aficionado of pub signs, which he demonstrates on his own blog

By Albi V R,*1
I would love to have had the feet and figure to carry off a pair of red shoes, preferably shiny and high-heeled; not like the Ruby Slippers worn by Dorothy in 'The Wizard of Oz', nor those in Hans Christian Anderson's fairytale, 'The Red Shoes', whose character, Karen, suffered a dreadful fate whilst wearing them. Nor  do I crave those worn by Moira Shearer in the film, 'The Red Shoes', the wearing of which also led to obsessive behaviour and an untimely death. Kate Bush was inspired by the film too and wrote a song and an album by the same name. My Mother tells me that when she was at school in the 1920s she acted the part of Karen in a class reading of the tale. When she kicked off the hateful shoes, she was a little over-zealous and one flew through the open classroom window onto the street below. 

By Anonymous *2 
Red shoes certainly get you noticed, and the eye is immediately drawn to them.The little boy on the left was painted in 1810, and this work now hangs in the Stadtmuseum, Berlin. The artist is unknown, but the title is 'Boy With Drum'. the drum stands out almost three-dimensionally from the picture, due to the bright colours, in contrast to the child’s white dress, but you can’t help noticing the little red shoes he’s wearing too. Without these the painting would not be quite so interesting.

I've never been a follower of shoe fashion, and have usually gone for comfort over style; I feel more kinship with 'The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe' (certainly in my head teacher days), than with Carrie, in 'Sex in the City'. My daughter, however, has always loved shoes; from the time she could squeeze her toddler feet into my high-heels in dressing-up games, she was smitten. Here she accesorises her red shoes with rather snazzy stripey leg warmers which were all the rage in the eighties. Helping Daddy in the garden needs wellington boots, and there’s only one colour for wellies when you’re only three. 

The title of this post is borrowed from the 2005 film of that name, based on the book by Jennifer Weiner. The film is both funny and moving and is notable for showcasing three wonderful poems, read by one of the characters, played by Cameron Diaz. I kept thinking about my grandmother’s wedding shoes and I thought she would appreciate a touch of colour to enliven the sepia, so here’s ‘In Her Red Shoes’ especially for Gran.

 Now, squeeze your toes into your dancing shoes and hot-foot it over to Sepia Saturday to see what other participants have come up with.

* 1.via Wikimedia Commons (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) 
*2 Photo byAndreas Praefcke; May 2008)  [Public domain], viaWikimedia Commons

Monday, 20 February 2012

An Illuminating Conversation

Phone Booth by Sean Patrick Mahoney
Arriving after dark,
he makes the call,
to enlighten her.

She, at home, anxiously waiting,
imagining the worst.

He'd taken a wrong turn,
somewhere along the way,
and ended his journey here.

How does he explain
how lost he still feels?

Staring at the glass wall
of the phone booth,
he reflects on this Purple Passage

He clears his throat,
and tries to shed some light
on the cycle of their life.

© Marilyn Brindley

Taking part in The Mag 105 with Tess at Willow Manor. See how others interpreted that photograph by Mahoney.

Friday, 17 February 2012

The Reel Thing

Tyrone Power, screen idol

For this week's Sepia Saturday Alan has presented us with a picture of film actor Claude Rains. The most obvious theme to be taken from this is the cinema. I have no appropriate photographs, sepia or otherwise, in my family albums, but for those who missed it first time round, let me point you in the direction of a previous post, 'Not Rhett and Scarlett' where you can see an original 1943 cinema ticket (The Ritz, Leicester Square) for 'Gone With the Wind' and read about the part it played in my parents' early courtship. I asked them both this week what other memories they had of picture-going in the the thirties and forties. They told me that when embarking on a new romance, a second date was usually to the cinema. When Dad, aged barely eighteen, asked Mum out she said she'd like to see 'Suez’, (1938) with Tyrone Power. Mum was already head over heels in love with Tyrone and it was just as well that Dad could see what he was up against. Being the considerate chap he was, he readily agreed, not letting on until much later, that he had already seen the film the previous night. Tickets cost sixpence and ninepence and courting couples would usually gravitate towards the back rows. Some way into the screening of 'Suez' Dad felt brave enough to put his arm nonchalantly around Mum's shoulder whilst she was either absorbed in the plot, or having romantic fantasies about Tyrone, and Mum pretended not to notice. Having already seen the film of course, Dad was free to put his mind to planning his campaign to woo his sweetheart. This July they will have been married for seventy years, so it must have been a good plan.

Dad, Mum's idol 
My own early memories of 'The Pictures', as we called them, are of queueing on a Saturday morning for the children's show put on by my local cinema, ‘The (ABC) Metropole’, in Nottingham. For a couple of hours we children were treated to a varied programme of shorts, cartoons and a serial. Laurel and Hardy were great favourites, proving that even thirty years after their films were made, they had timeless appeal. During the interval a cheerful individual would tell a few jokes and give out on the spot prizes of chocolate bars for knowing the answer to a question or riddle. Anyone who had a birthday that week went up on stage to be cheered and given a free ticket for next week's show. The 'highlight' of the morning was singing the 'ABC Minors' song, with a kind of enforced jollity only equalled by the Redcoats (holiday camp hosts) of the fifties and sixties. Sadly I find I can still sing the song fifty years later.

We are the boys and girls all known as
Minors of the ABC
And every Saturday all line up
To see the films we like and shout aloud with glee
We love to laugh and have a sing-song
Such a happy crowd are we - ee
We're all pals together
We're Minors of the ABC

My parents recall that ice-cream 'wafer sandwiches' were available during the interval and young men would buy their girls a box of Cadbury's Milk Tray or Dairy Box before the performance. Things hadn't changed much by the time I was attending 'Minors', when Paynes's Poppets were the confection of choice. Mum reminded me that during the intervening war years and those immediately following, sweets and chocolates were rationed and even hard to come by. She remembers being in a local sweetshop when a young man, hoping to impress his ladyfriend, left crestfallen and empty-handed. The next customer, however, being a regular, was rewarded with his confection of choice. At that time cinema-goers would stand respectfully for the National Anthem and behave with decorum. These days a trip to the cinema is not complete without a bucket sized tub of popcorn, and a litre of Coke, whilst audiences munch and slurp their way noisily through the performance. The cinema would be packed to capacity, Mum tells me, and as people left, the commissionaire (usher) would allow in more of those in the queue. You often had to watch the tail end of the film's first showing if you wanted to be sure of a place for the 'second house' and in-between you endured trailers for films 'coming soon' and adverts for predominantly local businesses. In the sixties these seemed to be mainly Indian restaurants.

As Mum's vivid recollection proves, a  cinema date back in those early days must have been eagerly anticipated and talked about for long after. These days many of us can't even remember whether we've seen a particular film before, let alone recall the plot. We often see the film for the first time through television or other media; I wonder if some of the magic is lost.

So, ladies and gentlemen, form an orderly queue please, and take your seats for Sepia Saturday. I can promise you a varied programme of dramas, shorts and comedies, thanks to our genial commissionnaire, Alan.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Every Picture Tells a Story

This illustration is taken from an old copy of ‘One Thousand and One Nights’, a book presented to my mother as prize when she was a schoolgirl, and eventually given to me. I always loved the stories it contained with the adventures of Aladdin, Ali Baba and Sinbad, but I was captivated most of all by the picture at the front of the book and the promise of magical stories that it represented.

I was never far from a book when I was a child, and I was lucky to grow up in a house where books were plentiful, cared for and shared. As a teacher I encouraged parents to share books with their children. Many would see it as a chore; the nightly ritual with the reading book sent home with a comment card. If they were lucky, Mum or Dad might hear them read whilst cooking the tea, one ear on the TV, one eye on baby brother. If they were unlucky the book never came out of its bookbag. What to write on the comment card? "Jane read nicely today,”  or “Josh struggled with this - it’s too hard.”  Worst of all was the complaint that a book had too many pictures! I lost count over the years of how many times I had to fight that particular battle, and this is not the place to share the arguments I used.

I wasn’t denied picture books as a child, and my own children and grandchildren also developed the reading habit using picture books. These days, of course, they also read interactive books on the iPad.

It’s all about starting them young and here is my daughter aged about ten months with one of her first ‘board books’. These were sturdily made, in order to withstand the trauma of being handled by pudgy infant fingers smeared with Marmite or jam. She soon learned that any book was worth grabbing from the shelf. At this age she learned to treat books with respect, turning the pages carefully and enjoying the sensation of new delights as she did so; what pictures would be next? And what were those funny squiggles? They don’t look quite so interesting, but Mummy and Daddy manage to turn them into exciting stories for me, so there must be something in it!

From here, she progressed to our old friend Rupert Bear, and, like her parents before her, she was given the new Rupert Annual each Christmas. Now I know he’s not everyone’s cup of tea; I once heard an Education Advisor in Lincoln, where I began my teaching career, describe him as her ‘bete noire’ and I think the irony was lost on her. The rhyming couplets under each picture were sometimes painful on the ear, but their simplicity lent themselves perfectly to bedtime reading. We have all the Rupert Annuals, going back to the 1940s, and we only stopped buying them a couple of years ago. Space was at a premium, and besides, they just aren’t the same anymore, and far too PC for my liking.
In the 1950s, my parents would read Beatrix Potter stories to me, and by the time I had my own library tickets, I was choosing a range of books from Grimms Fairy Tales to Orlando (The Marmalade) Cat and Teddy Robinson, and yes, they all had pictures. I still love picture books and one of my delights, as regular visitors to this blog will know, is the melding of words and pictures to make the perfect partnership. 

This is not my daughter, but she is wearing her clothes! It’s Sally, and I made her for my daughter one Christmas so that she could have a lifesize doll. Sally was very useful as a visual aid in school, and here she is as part of a display on the theme of childhood, demonstrating the pleasure of books. And look at what she’s reading children; yes, it’s a picture book and one which celebrates the art of one of the finest illustrators, Kate Greenaway.

The keen-eyed amongst you will also have spotted that one of my treasured books of sepia photographs is given a prominent position. This is ‘Children of the Past in Photographic Portraits’ by Alison Mager.

On my bookshelf is another wonderful tome called ‘The Treasures of Childhood’ by Iona and Robert Opie and Brian Alderson. It’s full of pictures of memorabilia that keep you turning the pages in delight. In a section on ‘Nursery Novelties’ they describe how a wooden box with a sliding lid revealed a children’s library. The box was made in 1799 when diversity and playfulness were beginning to appear in children’s books, showing a willingess to encourage reading and even make it fun - some of the parents of my former pupils wouldn’t like that at all. It reminded me of another item on my bookshelf. Fellow blogger Bob, asked if any of us had fake books on the bookshelves, and I do!

Mine was made for my mother by her uncle in Australia, and the hidden treasure it contains is not a minature library but something with its own story to tell; a  piece of coral from the Great Barrier Reef.

See what hidden treasures others have revealed by visiting this week’s Sepia Saturday, where the picture prompt was a man reading a book.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

The Unquiet Grave

Novodovichy grave, Moscow

Cupped hands uplifted
make an offering to some god unknown.
A sacrifice to lost promise.

Piercing the tranquility 
of this resting place,
the offering's razor edge.
A shard of broken dream.

Beseeching silently
to take the proferred gift,
the blood red splinter.
A shattered heart.

© Marilyn Brindley

Taking part in ‘The Mag, number 103. This is a haunting ballad by Kate Rusby. 

Thursday, 2 February 2012

To Say Nothing of The Dog

The dapper gentleman in the above photograph is my great-grandfather William (1867-1952) with his dog, Don, a Welsh Terrier. This picture has only recently come into my possession and is the only one of two, to my knowledge where a dog features in a sepia family photograph. I asked my mother what she knew and Mum volunteered the dog’s name, and told me that on a Sunday morning William would take a bar of soap and join other men, bathing their dogs in the nearby river at Trent Bridge. For some reason the above picture of William in his straw boater makes me think of Jerome K Jerome’s very funny book; ‘Three Men in a Boat -To say nothing of the Dog’ (to give it its full title).

I have a copy of that book, bought by my father for my mother on her 21st birthday and grew up reading and re-reading the hilarious escapades of the four protagonists. The naughty dog in Jerome’s book is called Montmorency, a Fox Terrier .

“To look at Montmorency you would imagine that he was an angel sent upon the earth, for some reason withheld from mankind, in the shape of a small fox terrier. There is a sort of Oh-what-a-wicked-world-this-is-and-how-I-wish-I-could-do-something-to-make-it-better-and-nobler expression about Montmorency that has been known to bring the tears into the eyes of pious old ladies and gentlemen.”

The book is out of copyright and there are numerous versions on the web, but for a very funny description of a dog creating havoc with the packing, scroll to the end of Chapter IV, or just google ‘the awful behaviour of Montmorency’.

I haven’t owned a dog since I was a child, but I do have a fondness for them, especially in sepia. I don’t collect postcards, but I do have published books full of old photographs and cards, and six of them are about dogs!

All are full of wonderful images of people  with their dogs. ‘Prince and other Dogs’ by Libby Hall was the one which started it all off.

 My second photograph is of my paternal grandfather, Sam, in 1902. The only one we have of him as a boy. Sitting next to him is his big sister, Sarah, known by my Dad as Aunt Cis; she was the sweetshop lady in my post, 'Open All Hours’. We don’t know anything about the dog, but he does have a look of Montmorency about him. He’s looking quizically at the camera and I bet he’s contemplating mischief of some sort, which is why Sam is holding on to him.

Alan gave us a fine photo prompt entitled ‘A Man With a Dog’  for this week’s Sepia Saturday challenge. I immediately thought of the old BBC TV series; One Man and His Dog, about sheepdog trials, which was popular with viewers for years. People were fascinated by the trust and teamwork between the shepherd and his dog. I resisted the urge to use this as a title for my post, but I’m sure someone else will do so.

I have a weakness for scallywags like Montmorency. Whilst a well-behaved dog is a delight I’m sure, there’s something endearing about a dog who is a bit of a rogue. William Shakespeare wrote a wonderful monologue for Launce, the clown in 'Two Gentlemen of Verona’, where he talks of the trouble his dog Crab has got himself and his master into, as Launce sought to cover up Crab’s misdeeds.

Here’s another little rascal, called Buster, and his master, Keith, who was my old window cleaner about twelve years ago. Buster accompanied Keith on his rounds, and when he got tired he’d have a nap in Keith’s Reliant Robin parked outside. Buster went everywhere with his master, I even spotted him in town one New Year’s Eve tucked up inside Keith’s coat, with just his nose peeping out, enjoying the fireworks.

I haven’t seen them for over ten years and, as Buster was already well past puppyhood, I imagine he’s no longer with us. Montmorency, Don, Crab, Buster and Granddad Sam’s little rascal, all faithful companions who brought a smile to the face. And here is Kim my childhood pet. He was only little but was very brave. he liked to sit on the windowsill and bark at any perceived threat - from safely behind the glass- and one day he barked  so hard he fell off and broke his leg!

Kim (1963-1976)
Canine Conversation
"Engraved on the collar of the dog which I gave to His Royal Highness.” - Alexander Pope
I am His Majesty’s dog at Kew,
Pray tell me Sir whose dog are you?

Repy to the above query: (as imagined by me)
I am the dog at ’24’
Where I have my family under my paw.
I sit in the window and keep an eye
On any strangers passing by.

For more stories and pictures, grab the lead and walk the dog over to Sepia Saturday.