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 March 2012

Learning On The Job

The young man second from the right in this picture, is my mother’s only brother, Sydney William, known as Billy. He can be seen in several of my other posts where my Mum features as a girl, because Billy never seemed to be far away. Mum was only sixteen months younger and, although they had their spats, they were close, with Billy always looking out for his little sister. Billy left school in 1933 when he was fourteen.Times were very hard in the thirties and many grown men with families were finding it difficult to make ends meet. From 1931-1935 the unemployment total in Great Britain never fell below two million, and at its highest point in the winter of 1932-3 it almost reached three million. My grandfather was frequently laid off and I imagine the family would have been very pleased that Billy was accepted as a tiler’s apprentice, at the Midland Plastering Company in Nottingham. Not something he yearned to do, but then, like now, you took what was offered. There was no question of further education as families needed every penny. Being an apprentice meant that you learned a trade as well. The following year Billy died in an (non-work related) accident in June 1934, and Mum’s final term at school was a very sad one. When Mum left school, she went to work in Boots Offices in Station Street, Nottingham. She had to stand on a box to reach the top drawer of the filing cabinet as she was not very tall. She was the nicknamed Little Cherub and was a bit of a favourite of the rest of the office staff. When Mum finally left their employment, one of the bosses, Mr Lawson, gave her a one pound note and told her to always keep it safe as a reserve for hard times; surely a good lesson for life.

Mum had won a scholarship to the High school in Nottingham at the age of eleven and was very bright (she still is at 91). She would have loved to have taken up the offer as she wanted to be a teacher, but because times were so hard Mum’s dream was not to be. Gran asked Mum years later if she resented the decision. Of course she didn’t; she was wise enough to know that in those straitened times it just wasn’t an option. An honest hardworking family like theirs never went into debt and therefore, like Billy before her, Mum had to enter the world of work when she reached fourteen. It didn’t stop Mum wondering what might have been though, perhaps for both Billy and herself. Imagine how pleased she was when I began my studies at teacher training college in 1970.

 Most of my teacher photos are the posed end-of-year class photos, of me with each year’s charges. The ones above, were taken about twenty years ago by my teaching assistant, probably to show my Mum what I got up to in the classroom. It was a small village school on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, which my own children also attended. Those pupils in the picture were lovely girls and now of course they’ll be all grown-up, perhaps with children of their own. I wonder if any of them became teachers.

Then there comes that day of mixed emotions. In 2009 I retired, after nearly seventeen years of headship in three schools. Hard work, yes, but along the way I had worked with some very talented teachers, dedicated support staff and delightful children. These pictures were taken at the Leavers’ Assembly and I can’t show any pupil faces, except in the lovely book they made for me. Of course, they’re hanging on my word, as you can see.

This week's Sepia Saturday challenge was to use the theme of work. Why not see what other contributors can teach us, before you dash off to work.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012


Carmi’s Thematic Photographic challenge this week is to find pictures to fit the theme ‘branded’. So, I went with the obvious, and it was quite unsettling to find that I could quickly amass a collection from my albums, without having to venture from the computer. Some were taken within the last couple of weeks. How often do we unwittingly contribute to a marketing campaign or provide free advertising? I draw the line at buying tee-shirts which are blatant adverts for a company or business, but it’s so easy to contribute to the subliminal messaging system, just by accepting a store bag with a logo to tout around town. Who wants to ferret in their handbag or pocket for a scrumpled-up, over-used carrier bag to stuff that nice shirt in, risking the raised eyebrows and curled lip of the shop assistant? I remember my parents being shocked, as long ago as the early 60s when they read Vance Packard’s ‘Hidden Persuaders’, a book which explores the manipulative techniques used by advertisers to induce a desire for products; tactics also used to promote politicians to the electorate. The book rightly questioned the morality of doing so. More than fifty years later those same techniques have been refined to the point of sophistication, assisted by advances made in technology.

As Carmi says:
We're surrounded by never-ending pressure to buy stuff, with advertisers and marketers finding ever new ways to get ever more aggressive messages in front of our eyes, around our ears and even inside our heads.
Yes, it’s inside our heads! Well here’s my contribution for this week. I hope they don’t burn too deeply into your sub-conscious.

My lovely daughter proudly displays her purchase from her favourite store on Lanzarote, and demonstrates her above average intelligence by ‘reading’ an intellectual magazine.

Alcohol is probably one of the most successful items in the product placement world. It’s not the chef who is the star here. nor is it his barbecue, but the powerful logo emblazoned cleverly on the outside so that you can’t miss the message whichever way up you are!  Whilst the name of the beer on the picture on the right is very much in the foreground, my husband is also sporting a brand of a different kind and demonstrating his proud association with the aero industry.

This picture sums up the power of branding, when a successful computer game spawns a whole legion of spin-off toys, and other items, which become ‘must-haves’ for an entire generation. My Dad was merely acting as guardian to my grandson’s two treasured toys. I wonder what 32 year-old Blue Bunny is thinking of his angry red companion. Whatever happened to 'sweet and adorable’ in the soft toy market?

And for a bit of nostalgia, here’s me thirty six years ago, just back from my honeymoon and getting down to the business of papering the walls of our new house. That plastic pinny got quite a lot of use as I remember, as the house was in need of a makeover, but did it make me want to buy Camp Coffee essence? Now, that is the question.

For more top-brand pictures why not visit other participants to see how they’ve interpreted Carmi’s theme?

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Lost Cause

When I saw Tess's photo prompt for the week's 'The Mag' I immediately thought of 'The Lady of Shallot' by Tennyson. I have unashamedly tried to incorporate some of his wonderful words  into my poem. Think of it as an homage, and if you want to have fun with this click here to read Tennyson's immortal words and see which ones I stole (shared).

She stood by the window to borrow its light, 
not to look out into the world beyond,
but to see what she'd left behind;
a past as darkly shadowed as the purple night,
so that she dare not look over her shoulder,
at the flickering images of her memory.
Instead, she peered uncertainly at the glass,
straining to see a glimmer of truth materialise.
Imprisoned by the four grey walls of her grief,
she reflected on the illusion of love,  
the distorted mirroring of another life;
A woman who cared too much and was cursed.
She tried to concentrate on the present,
desperately urging her mind to see the future, 
but she was already losing her grip;
the web of deceit was unravelling,
the cracks were beginning to appear.

© Marilyn Brindley 2012

By Any Other Name

What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
 William Shakespeare ‘Romeo and Juliet'

I was prompted to post this set of stamps by Viridian’s Sunday Stamps on her postcard blog. She had the 33 pence one hiding in her drawer and wondered how old it was. Here it is in all its glory as part of a set issued to commemorate the Ninth Royal Congress of Roses in Belfast on 16th July 1991. 

Roses have inspired artists and poets for centuries. They are admired for their beaty, perfume and variety. These pictures are of roses in my old garden in Salisbury, Wiltshire. I have no idea what variety they are but the photographs are a pleasant reminder of many happy hours spent there years ago.  We don’t have roses in our garden here in Lanzarote though they seem to grow well here. Perhaps I’ll add some soon.

I  know a bank where the wild thyme blows,  
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite overcanopied with luscious woodbine,  
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine.
William Shakespeare ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’

Friday, 23 March 2012

Having a Ball

In the early seventies, when I was at college in Lincoln, we students would enjoy nights out at the local pubs and discos. The highlights however, were the Balls. These days I believe they’re all called ‘proms’! Any excuse for a ball seemed to be the motto: Rag Week, May Queen, Summer and Christmas. Here is a selection of some of my tickets from that time. 

The names of the bands don’t mean much nowadays, although I do remember Judas Priest and East of Eden being quite famous. Formal dress meant long skirts for the ladies and suits and ties for the gentlemen. Two pounds was a lot of money for a student and we probably had to save up for quite while. The local paper snapped me (pink arrow) with my fiancé, on the front row, watching ‘Curly and Lucky (whoever they were). It would seem that the event was open to anybody and I’ve no idea who the two charming ladies on the right were - perhaps they were groupies!
In 1975 we got married, and as my husband was in the Royal Air Force, we attended much more formal balls and dinners. the first picture shows us at home before going to a Summer Ball at RAF Waddington, where we had been involved in decorating one of the many halls and marquees. Our theme was a Mississippi Steamboat, complete with life-size figures. Here I am refuelling at the bar (pink arrow). 

The RAF Balls were always sumptuous affairs with good music, food and drink - our Mess Bill suffered for many months afterwards! Breakfast was usually served from about 5.00 a.m and thereafter we began the business of clearing up and taking down the decorations. What had taken months of preparation was all pulled apart in a few short hours, as the Officers Mess was retuned to normality.

When my husband had left the RAF we were lucky enough to be invited by friends who were still serving, to their own functions. Here we are in the nineties attending an RAF Summer Ball. It was a great excuse to dress up again; on that occasion I remember having to tuck my gown into the dodgem cars we rode in the grounds! 

Here’s a flavour of the more formal menu at a ‘Ladies Guest Night'. This was when wives and girlfiends were invited to attend the usually all-male ‘Dining In’, which was a very formal ‘do’ with speeches and military bands. The only times when I would be addressed as Ma’am - I loved it! 

Of course it wasn’t all formal; here we are dressed-down for a Hallowe’en Party. Great to let my hair down and behave outrageously!

For more outgoing personalities and persons going out, you are cordially invited to attend this week’sSepia Saturday, dress: casual, tickets:free. 

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Something For The Boys

Our Sepia Saturday photo prompt this week is a group of scouts. It’s a hundred years since the scouts and guides movement began so this was a fitting choice. At that time my grandfather and his brother were committed members of the Boys Life Brigade, a Christian youth organisation which formed after the original Boys Brigade 

The latter had begun in 1883 and Baden Powell, who was the Vice-President, used its influence to promote the idea of scouting and outdoor pursuits. The Boys Life Brigade was a similar movement to Boys Brigade, but the organisation objected to the dummy rifle drills and indeed any representation of weapons. The section for 8-12 year olds was known as the Life Boys for many years before being restyled as the Junior section. The Wolf Cubs of the Boy Scouts catered for younger members and so demand had also grown within the Boys Life Brigade.

I wrote about Granddad and his brother in a previous post, 'Drum Roll Please’. in which my own father also featured due to the drum connection, but I didn’t post a picture of Dad in his Life Boys uniform. So, to make amends, here it is. A simple rosette was worn as an identifying emblem in the early days and this later extended to a belt, haversack and pillbox cap worn over the boy’s everyday clothing.

I asked Dad what he remembered of his Life Boy days  and he told me that there were always plenty of opportunities to take part in competitive sports and gym circuits. This would have suited him down to the ground as he always excelled in these subjects. He also remembers playing the kettle drum, which began his lifelong love of the instrument, which he went on to play in RAF bands. Another memory Dad has of his membership, is that on Friday evenings they were allowed to attend the local baths where for one old penny they could have a proper bath. Mum also recalls that this was a great privilege as at that time families would use a tin bath. It must have been a luxury to have a cubicle of your own and running water. Mum remembers paying three pence, so it seems there was some sort of discount for the Life Boys members.

Mum was in the Girl Guides but was never a brownie. She attended St.Saviour’s Sunday School in Nottingham, where her aunt was a teacher and I suppose there was only so much free time that youngsters had in those days. She remembers going on outings and picnics with the Sunday School, but when she eventually joined the 3rd Nottingham Castlegate Girl Guides Company, she threw herself into all the activities on offer. Mum has always been a joiner-in, and still is at the age of 91. Some readers of this blog may remember her from her Red Cross and Dramatic Society activities whilst a teenager. She went on to become Patrol Leader, but for some reason, my grandparents wouldn’t give permission for Mum to attend camp. I’m sure she’d have made the most of it. There are no pictures of Mum in Guides uniform but she does still have her badges.

My older brother was a Boy scout in the fifties when we lived in Kendal in the Lake District. I have a hazy memory of visiting him when he went to camp at Tarn Hows. And here he is with his friend about to go canoeing - I’m assuming this as they aren’t wet yet!

My brother also kindly sent me this scan which is the  only picture of him in his uniform which we can lay our hands on at the moment, but it’s how I remember seeing him when I was a little girl and he was my big brother. He is eight years older than me so I wasn’t really a suitable playmate for him but I remember him patiently teaching me boyscout campfire songs .

"Ging Gang Gooly Gooly Gooly Gooly Watcha Ging Gang Goo, Ging Gang Goo.”

Ah, they really don’t write them like that any more!

For more campfire curiosities trek over to Sepia Saturday where our Scoutmaster Alan will introduce you to some more jolly boys and girls.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Life’s a Beach

Carmi at Written  Inc has given us ‘Watery’ for this week’s Thematic Photographic challenge. Living on an island, with water never too far away, this is going to be one of the easier assignments. The biggest problem is limiting the choice. I decided to narrow the field down to actual coastal shots, taken from walks around lovely Lanzarote. Please click on the individul shot to enlarge.
Playa Quemada
Playa La Casa
Above La Casa - yes, that is a cactus!
The island of La Graciosa from Mirador Del Rio
The green lake at El Golfo. Raquel Welch swam here in ‘One Million Years BC'
Above El Golfo
The watery view from my balcony when the sunset turned the sky and sea copper

Sunday, 11 March 2012

A Faraway Tree and Famous Five

These stamps, issued in 1997, commemorate the birth centenary of the children’s author, Enid Blyton.The stamps, designed by Christian Birmingham have delicately coloured scenes from one of her many children’s books. My favourite, however, is the 20 pence stamp which shows a child totally lost in a book, a scene to gladden the hearts of parents and educators. The booklet, which comes with the set, diplomatically avoids mentioning the controversy of her private life. There will always be arguments about Enid Blyton and her writing style, but there is no taking away the fact that many children, for successive generations, enjoy her stories. Some commentators can be rather sniffy about her and want to dictate children’s reading choice by removing her books from libraries. My own opinion is that anything that gets children interested in reading has my vote. As long as children have a wide variety of books from which to choose, then there is no point in depriving them of a rattling good adventure story from the pen of Mrs Blyton.  This is a post for Viridian’s Sunday Stamps. Why not have a look at how others have interpreted the theme of famous women?

Friday, 9 March 2012

Hair Piece

The Sepia Saturday challenge this week is a theme of ‘Hair’ so that’s gives us plenty of scope. Facial hair was one sub-theme suggested, so here is a fine example of a well cared for moustache.

It’s my Great grandfather William (1867-1952), sporting an elegant number, which makes him look rather distinguished. In the few photographs we have of him he always has a moustache, although it doesn’t look as well presented as in this formal studio shot. He probably spent a long time waxing and twirling it into shape that morning. I love this picture because there’s a definite twinkle in William’s eye. In my post, To Say Nothing of The Dog, he looks of similar age to this one, but the pose is more casual and, being out for a walk with the dog he hasn’t bothered with the twirl.

We have another studio portrait of him as a very young man where the moustache is in its infancy. He probably grew it to make himself look older and more mature, but there’s barely enough to create a shadow on his upper lip, let alone to add any wax. By late middle age he’d settled again for a smaller, neater model, which would have been much easier to care for.

My mother always knew her (paternal) grandfather William as ‘Little Granddad’, her maternal grandfather being of a larger build.  In later life William attributed his small frame to having only one good meal a day in the orphanage. He lost his parents in 1875 and 1876 and he and his two siblings were separated. He was to have further sadness in his life when his own wife, my great-grandmother Mary, died young, leaving him with three small children to bring up. Despite all these tragedies, my mother remembers him with great affection as a quiet but friendly grandfather. He was a great reader of library books and loved to do crosswords.

His second marriage was a long and happy one, when in 1912, at the age of 45, he married Gertie, who had lost her husband and daughter in the influenza epidemic of 1910. This picture of William and Gertie, shows him as a still handsome gentleman, neatly dressed and with a moustache probably turning a little grey. I found this photograph by chance when I removed a favourite portrait of my grandfather, which has always hung in my grandparents home, to re-frame it, and out fell William and Gertie from behind Grandad’s picture! If I hadn’t done that we probably wouldn’t have a record of ‘Little Grandad’s’ later happiness with Gertie.

I’m glad to report that William's own three children survived into old age, despite the efforts of the First World War to finish them off. Here he is with the two boys; Albert, and my own grandfather Sidney, looking as dapper as ever in his best suit, bowler hat and wearing a neatly trimmed and waxed moustache.

For more hairy old stories why not step back in time to this week’s Sepia Saturday to see what other participants have made of the photo prompt.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Past Its Prime

Carmi at Writteninc. has asked us to photograph examples of anything ‘past its prime’ for his Thematic Photographic challenge this week. Leaving aside the obvious, I’ve chosen these shots, taken over two or three visits, to different locations around the island of Lanzarote, where I live.

This ruined farmhouse in Guatiza, is definitely past its prime. We were there again yesterday, surveying the ruined rooms and wondering about the people who used to live there. It’s in a lovely setting, with views of the sea and surrounded by what was once agricultural land. And therein is the problem; with the advent of tourism came the demise of agriculture and fishing on the island. It still goes on of course, but not in the numbers it once did. The result is that all over the island we can find abandoned buidings, where the occupants have moved into more lucrative occupations. Their old jobs would have been backbreakingly hard, on an island that sees only five days average rainfall a year, and all water is desalinated sea water. Who could blame them for following the lure of the bright lights in hotels and restaurants?

The law says that buildings may not be demolished, but shoud be allowed to crumble away gracefully. I’m quite pleased that they do, as these old edifices provide a kind of sculpture in the landscape, which changes slowly over time as pieces fall away. Carmi says, “There is a certain degree of poetry associated with things that may once have been pristine, but no longer are."

A little further down the coast at Agujeros, near the old salt pans, we find these lock-ups which is where the salt was stored and shipped from this tiny harbour. These days families come down at weekends and use the places like beach huts, chatting, barbecuing and swimming.

And for a building that really stands out like a sore thumb, here’s one at Punto Mujeres, where someone has let his neighbours down by not painting the outside of his house.

In a back street of the capital, Arrecife, a stone’s throw away from bustling avenues and chic shops, were these two, once grand, doorways. I really would like to have known what went on behind that door!

“Midnight, one more night without sleepin’
Watchin’, till the morning comes creepin’
Green door, what’s that secret you’re keepin’?"

From Green Door, sung by Shakin’ Stevens, and to be clear it was the song I was referring to, not that film!

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Professional Help

Photo by Sarolta Bán

"Look into my eyes," she said,
and her face peered down at him.
"I've come for help!" he cried,
as he slipped into a trance.
"No more negative thoughts," she purred,
Her voice; soft, mellifluous, persuasive.
His conscious mind blurring at the edges
His subconscious coming into sharp focus.
The session was over before he knew it,
"Is that all there is to it?" he asked.
"Next time could you remove your hat?
It's just a suggestion," she smiled. 

© Marilyn Brindley

Taking part in Mag 107, with Tess, at Willow Manor. See how others have interpreted the photograph

Friday, 2 March 2012

Let’s Play a Game

The solitaire game in the picture is nearly 85 years old. On the underside is the slightly faded inscription made by my great grandfather William: "To Billy on his 8th Birthday 12.6.27”. Billy was my Mother’s brother who died aged only fifteen in an accident. I remember playing with the game when I was a child, staying at my grandparents’ house. I loved to hold those marbles up to the light and see all the swirls of coloured glass. Despite its age, like my mother, it still has all its marbles.  This week’s Sepia Saturday has a theme of games - board and physical, and I remembered that I had made an audio tape in 1999 of my parents’ memories about the games they played as children.

The recording was for the children in my school, as part of a project on 'Games and Toys', but it has proved invaluable to me as it has many anecdotes that I’m sure would be otherwise forgotten. I played the recording again today and was lost for half an hour, listening to them take turns with their stories, sometimes disagreeing, but on the whole chiming together with their shared memories. They went to the same junior school in Nottingham, but didn't get go know each other until they were teenagers. I wish I could play you some of the recording, as their delight at recalling some of the games, toys and incidents shines through. I'm so glad I have it as an archive.
Mum and Billy

Their childhood in the twenties and early thirties, was spent making the most of treasured toys and opportunities for street games. There was no television, but Mum recalls that they had a Magic Lantern, with slides of the Boer War, and, although the subject matter was grim, the excitement of seeing images appear seemed to override this. Having a brother was an advantage for Mum as, not only did she play with the Solitaire game, but also spent hours playing with Billy's toy fort. He wasn't much interested but Mum, with her vivid imagination, made up all sorts of stories for the brave soldiers. She told me that when they broke, which they did occasionally, being made of lead, it was usually a case of decapitation. Unlike the real world, this was easily fixed by judicious use of a matchstick inserted in the appropriate place, and a dab of watercolour paint to cover the scar. Also in the attic, was Mum's own baby crib full of dolls. When my Gran called the children to dinner, there would be disappointed cries as they'd only just set up the latest game and hadn't got properly started. Of course they played Snakes and Ladders, Ludo, Snap 'Ping-Pong' (or table tennis) and Mum also recalls that they had a small snooker frame, but that was one game where she didn't get quite so much of a look in, as Granddad and Billy rather monopolised it.

Jigsaws of course have been around for hundreds of years. Last year I wrote a short post; 'Life is a Jigsaw', about some lovely examples, including one over eighty years old and featuring my mother.  I think it was only my third ever post and didn’t have any followers then, so I feel justified in mentioning it now, so you can pop back and see it. I like to think of Mum doing that jigsaw when it was new.

At Miss Kelsall's newsagents, the children could spend the halfpennies they earned by running errands for neighbours, on sheets of coloured tissue or crepe paper. These would be used for all sorts of crafty items. Another favourite pastime was making scrapbooks from brown paper and flour-paste glue. I remember getting huge enjoyment from this myself as a child too. They also saved up for 'Whip and Tops' to play with their friends.

Mum had a little weaving loom, probably homemade, to make blankets and scarves for her dolls, but it was Dad who remembered that they would get lots of fun from 'French Knitting’; a wooden cotton reel with four nails and a ball of wool, with the resulting long, thin strip, appearing at the other end of the cotton reel. Funnily enough I recently mentioned having a go at this myself to make tails for the dressed mice I have just made for my grandchildren. If you go over to my other blog you will see the post; 'A Tale of Two Mice’ which I’ve just done, and the one before that, ‘Building Blocks for The Future’ showing that some toys and games never change.
Dad - butter wouldn’t melt!

Whilst Mum was playing skipping games with her friends, Dad would be involved in a game of cricket or football. Dad first developed his lifelong love of football when he and his friends kicked anything they could get hold of between 'goalposts' made of piles of sweaters or coats. Dad recalled one occasion when he and his pals were kicking an old WW1 Mills Bomb around, presumably a practice grenade, or one defused and bought home as a souvenir by some Tommy and given to his son. I hope so anyway. A less potentially explosive situation was the one where Dad and friends were playing cricket on the school recreation ground, and Dad hit the ball over the wall, where it smashed the window of the local police station. He recalls having cheers and applause from a group of men standing watching the lads play. What he doesn’t recall is the punishment he received - probably because it was too painful! 

You can be sure it’s safe, however, to join us at Sepia Saturday this week, where you can see what other participants have made of the theme. Come on, join in the fun and games - “Do you want to be on my team?”