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."

Sunday, 29 April 2012


Image by Manu Pombrol

A  bookworm who lived in Dunbar,
Decided to bathe in a jar.
It was all too apparent,
That his assets transparent,
Were revealed as the best in Dunbar.

© Marilyn Brindley

Semantic Limerick
I decided to have a bit more fun with this limerick by trying out a 'semantic limerick' in the style of the poet Gavin Ewart. The limerick is rewritten without using the words of the original, and instead using definitions from dictionaries or replaced words. I happened to use the online free dictionary, simply because it was quicker, but you could thumb through any dictionary to hand to achieve different effects. It's a good way of playing with words and increasing your vocabulary at the same time. Here's my semantic version of the above limerick.

A person devoted to reading, who resided in a Scottish town, came to a resolution in the mind, as a result of consideration, to wash by immersion, his body, in a wide-mouthed receptacle or container made of glass or pottery. It was, to a higher degree than is desirable, obvious that his useful or valuable qualities were of the most excellent, effective or desirable type in the aforesaid Scottish town.

Taking part in 'The Mag' courtesy of Tess at Willow Manor

Thursday, 26 April 2012

You’re in the Army Now

Seventy years ago this week (27th April) my mother received a letter from her employee, thanking her for informing him that she was joining the A.T.S. on May 1st 1942.

This was the Auxilliary Territorial Service, the women’s branch of the British Army during WW2. Originally, the The 1941 National Service Act required only unmarried women between 20-30 years of age to join one of the auxilliary services. Mum was due to be married in ten weeks time, but her call-up came through in May, so off she went to do her bit.

This Pathe News clip gives some insight into how it was for new conscripts (click on pic).

You may recall that Mum had been a keen First Aider, which is what Mr Harris was referring to in his letter of thanks. I wrote about this in 'First aid Post’. Mum was apparently given a choice of the services to join, and says later that had she joined the RAF, as a married woman, she would have been entitled to be posted to the same station as her husband. As it turned out, they often found themselves posted at opposite ends of the country. Naturally this was not very romantic for newly-weds, who would always be looking forward to the next 48-hour pass, with much of the precious time being spent in travelling.
When they married on 11th July 1942 (this year is their 70th wedding Anniversary) Mum was 21 years, seven months old, Dad was just two days past his 21st birthday. They look so youthful in this photograph that it’s no wonder that when Mum arrived at her first posting people were curious about ‘the new kid’. Mum laughs when she tells this story, repeating the anecdote with relish: “You know that new kid? Well she’s married!” She was the first married woman to be posted to the 504 Battery in Nottingham, by her own admission, creating ‘quite a stir’. Mum had been at the War Office as a cypher operator for a short time, and recalls that she was there when the Fall of Tobruk came through.

In May 2001, the Nottingham Evening Post, ran a piece about the 504 Battery to accompany an old photograph, and asked if anyone had any memories. Mum duly responded and was delighted when her letter was published.

”I was a member of 504 Battery at Gainsford Crescent. I don’t really recognise anyone in the photograph but it depends on when it was taken. I arrived there in the autumn 1942 from Kent, having been a cypher operator at the war Office for a short time. It was a compassionate posting as my mother was rather ill. I did not know anyone else in the battery who was local, most were from London, Durham etc. I did not know this area as I was from Trent Bridge. The battery had been posted to Nottingham from Lowestoft where several people had been killed in the raids. 
I created quite a stir when I arrived. The Major was delighted as I was the first married woman in the battery (aged 21). I was conscripted in May (I did not volunteer) ten weeks before my marriage. My husband was in the RAF so I had to take a letter from the vicar so that I could be given leave. We later all moved to Ticknall in Derbyshire, then on to Ashby, near Scunthorpe.
We had one very cold winter in Derbyshire when one night some men chopped up a bed (or maybe more) to put into the stove to keep warm. The Major then had all the stoves removed for about a week from every hut - it was freezing. I was lucky enough to be a clerk in the battery office so I was warm whilst on duty - but often could not type because of dead fingers and had to plunge my hands into hot water.
Also, whilst I was with them, the whole battery went by train to Firing Camp at Weybourne for about two weeks. I think there’s a few more memories but I’m getting writer’s cramp."

Despite infrequent opportunities to be together my parents were determined to start a family as soon as possible, thereby ensuring that Mum would leave the army and Dad would know hat she was happily at home with her own Mum and Dad whilst he was away. Mum duly found herself pregnant and was all packed up, ready to leave. Dad had even managed to obtain a pass and had arrived to collect her. Sadly, Mum miscarried, and remembers the army doctor’s words, when she came round from her sedation; "You’re still in the army.” Dad was there to hear the words and I don’t think he ever forgave the callous way the news was delivered to them that they had lost their first baby. My brother wasn’t born until July 1944 so Mum was to serve for another two years.

May 1st is a date which means different things to different people, but for my Mum it was the day she joined the army. Alan has given us a lovely picture of Maypole Dancers as our Sepia Saturday prompt and I’m sure some of the contributors will be remembering more celebratory ways of marking May Day. Why not see for yourself?

Sunday, 22 April 2012

A Perfunctory Affair

He taught her so well, that conceptual art
And his crazy ideas had captured her heart.
She thought to preserve the love he’d brought her
But their sweet-sour affair was dead in the water.
“The idea’s a machine that makes the art” he said
Which is when the solution popped into her head.
She’d allowed it to marinate, then she was sure
For the depth of her passion this was the cure.
The vitrine* was essential; the whole creation
Would display her feelings as an installation.
The end came quickly with no pain inflicted
The execution perfunctory, as art predicted.
She’d learned so well about conceptual art
And now she knew she’d captured his heart.
© Marilyn Brindley

*A glass display case, such as those used by Damien Hirst.

I will refer to the kind of art in which I am involved as conceptual art. In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work.  When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art.” 
From ‘Paragraphs on Conceptual Art’ by Sol LeWitt

Taking part in The Mag 114, courtesy of Tess Kincaid. The image is 'Sanctuary' by Alex Stoddard

Thursday, 19 April 2012

A Seed Once Sown

“The love of gardening is a seed, once sown, that never dies.” Gertrude Jekyll
Alan’s choice of gardening for this week's Sepia Saturday has coincided with National Gardening Week in UK. I just found out about it in today’s Times newspaper.The Royal Horticultural Society has just launched a ’Gardens of the Nation’ project, to create a resource of photographs and archive material. In due course they will be asking for old photos of gardens and allotments from wartime and the 1950s - this will be of interest to Sepia Saturday contributors I’m sure, who may want to bookmark the site. Now, follow me down the garden path to see my own old garden pictures. There were far too many and I had to do some pruning, but I hope you enjoy the tour.

Here is a photograph of a very new and very Little Nell. I’m making my first appearance in my grandparents’ garden aged about two weeks in 1952. The 'work in progress’ rockery behind me was where the Anderson Shelter had stood during the war and probably for a few years afterwards. Whenever there was a photo to be taken, people would go out into the garden with their Box Brownies, to make the most of the natural light.

That rabbit was made from a mould by my grandfather, using cement. He also made two birdbaths; one with a cylindrical plinth for his own garden, and one with a rectangular one, which was ‘ours’; both of these appear in so many photographs that they almost merit an album of their own.

Of course my blogger icon is me, taken in this garden, aged about two, but by 1958 the birdbath was beginning to make an appearance. My hand is resting on a bird, modelled by granddad, and painted. This is the cylindrical model which was to feature in many more snaps over the years. Here’s my great aunt, Gran’s sister, a few years later, by which time the bird had flown, and flowers had been planted at the base, making it look like a memorial in a municipal park.

The rectangular model is shown on the right, where my father is striking his 'David Niven’ pose. This was 1950 and I’ve no idea what colour the birdbath was then, but as it was in its first incarnation, probably a subtle cream or stone colour. Subsequently it was given a fresh coat whenever Dad had some paint left over from a decorating job; during the seventies I’m sure it was orange at one point.

Here is my brother with his model yacht, and once again the birdbath has a starring role, or is my father trying to bring the element of water in to the frame, to labour the point? No, my guess is they were off to the local park to sail that boat. There are dozens of pictures taken in front of, and beside this birdbath, including my christening picture, but I think that’s quite enough for anybody.

As a nice contrast, here’s one taken in the very same garden, but without the birdbath! This time the prop was a spade or a hoe. Mum was weeding in her glamorous 1949 two-piece - as you do. I  remember ‘dressing-up’ in that costume as a child, and I can still recall the feel of the fabric.

Enough of iconic birdbaths and bathing beauties. Moving out of sepia now into the colourful seventies. We had been married for a short while and were proudly cultivating our first garden, when a devastating storm wreaked havoc across Lincolnshire. I think it was 1975, when most of England was hit by this freakish weather  -  the following year we had a heatwave, when the highest temperatures since records began were registered. Just when our garden was beginning to recover from the storms we had plants withering in severe heat. The storm smashed our garden fence and killed our lovely weeping willow. Here are the rather grainy before and after pictures.

After the storm it’s time to return to relative tranquillity. When we were children, those of us who were lucky enough to have a garden, would spend long summer days playing with our friends; making tents out of clothes airers, and disappearing with mounds of comics and lemonade. We may have had a patch of our own, or perhaps we’d lend a hand when the grown-ups were gardening. Here’s my daughter ‘helping’ daddy, in one of our RAF quarters. We always seemed to take over neglected gardens and leave them looking like an exhibit for the Chelsea Flower Show.You were luckier still if your garden had a swing. This one was in my parents-in-law’s garden in Lancaster and my children were happily enjoying the delights of Grandpa’s homemade swing.

 Here’s a plot with a lovely aspect to finish off this gardening tour. It’s my brother-in-law’s old house in Bangor, North Wales. Not only did it have a well-tended and productive garden, but also wonderful views across the Menai Straits to Anglesey. It’s the sort of place you can imagine spending many happy hours.

Time to remove your gardening gloves now and put away the trug. Push your wheelbarrow over to Alan’s potting shed at Sepia Saturday, where you can meet other gardeners from across the world. Get the kettle on Alan!

Monday, 16 April 2012

From Red Roofs to Red Chairs

Sarajevo Red Roofs*

Sarajevo 2012

So much red in Sarajevo; the roofs glinting in the late afternoon sun belie the grief and pain still felt by many of its inhabitants. Twenty years ago this month the red roofs of Sarajevo, bathed in the first rays of Spring sunshine, would be witness to the beginnings of a bloody and savage war. Sarajevo became a city under siege, enduring four years of relentless shelling and sniper fire which was to claim so many lives and destroy whole families. Now the city is undergoing some renewal and those families are trying to rebuild their lives, in a country which is still deeply divided.
Where mortar shells exploded on the streets and civilians died, the scars which remained, were filled with red resin; a stark reminder of the blood shed at that spot. Deep indentations at the centre of impact, with smaller ‘petals’ surrounding them earned them the name of ‘Sarajevo Roses’. These flowers would never bloom though, like so many of the city’s children whose lives were cut short. Now a whole new generation is growing up in Sarajevo, babies are born in hope and their families pray fervently that they will never experience the same horrors of war. 
On 6th April 2012, a ‘red river’ runs through Sarajevo’s main street, as plastic chairs are laid perfectly side by side, row upon row, stretching as far as the eye can see.11,541 chairs, one for each citizen killed in the war. Five hundred of those chairs are much smaller than the rest,  and here and there a flower or soft toy is placed, yet another poignant reminder of young lives lost. So much red in Sarajevo.

© Marilytn Brindley
*Sarajevo Red Chairs
The Siege of Sarajevo was the longest siege of a city since the Second World War. In addition to 11,541 dead, there were approximately 50,000 wounded. For 46 months, almost 400,000 people were left without electricity or running water. Approximately 329 shells hit the city every day. The war itself killed over 100,000 across Bosnia, creating two million refugees.
Taking part in 'The Mag’ courtesy of Tess Kincaid who provided the picture prompt of Marc Chagall's 'Red Roofs’.

*Sarajevo Red Roofs courtesy of Live Forever at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], from Wikimedia Commons

*Sarajevo Red Chairs courtesy of Bizutage (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons
[CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], 

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Knowledge Comes, But Wisdom Lingers

"Knowledge comes but wisdom lingers.” Alfred, Lord Tennyson. He is the ninth most quoted writer in the Oxford Book of Quotations, and many of his quotations have entered the English Language. 

This presentation pack of stamps commemorates the centenary of the death of Alfred, Lord Tennyson in March 1992. Tennyson was appointed Poet Laureate after Wordsworth’s death in 1850, and remained so until his own death, the longest tenure of any laureate.

The pack depicts a scene from The Charge of the Light Brigade, one of Tennyson’s most famous poems, written to commemorate the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War. This was one of the first narrative poems I grew to love as a child, and even now a reading of it can bring chills.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

The pack also shows Westminster Abbey, where Tennyson was interred in Poet’s Corner.

Each of the stamps shows the poet at a different stage of his life and is beautifully illiustrated with scenes from paintings by well known Victorian artists.

The first stamp (24p) shows Tennyson in 1888, the painting is ‘The Beguiling of Merlin', by Edward Burne Jones, illustrating the poem ‘Merlin and Vivien’.

The second stamp (28p) is a portrait of Tennyson in 1856 and the painting is ‘April Love', by Arthur Hughes, illustrating 'The Miller’s Daughter’.

The third stamp (33p) is the poet in 1864 with a painting by John William Waterhouse illustrating the quote from Tennyson's wonderful poem 'The Lady of Shallot’ - “I am half sick of shadows, said the Lady of Shallot.”

Dave Hitchborne courtesy of Wikimedia
Commons share alike licence
The last stamp shows Tennyson in 1840 with the painting ‘Mariana’ by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Tennyson’s poem of the same name has a subject drawn from Shakespeare’s 'Measure for Measure’ - “Mariana in the moated grange.”

I lived in Lincoln for a few years, first during my teacher training, and then when I married and had a young family, so I was also re-aquainted with the great man through his statue which stands in the grounds of Lincoln Cathedral.

I paid homage to Tennyson’s ‘Lady of Shallot’ with my own poem ‘Lost Cause’ which can be read here.

Thomas Eddison made a wax cylinder recording of Tennyson reading ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ and this clip rather spookily re-animates still photographs of the poet to make it appear that he is reading the poem. It’s strange but haunting, and if you stick with it and listen to the end (even though some of the words are lost), you’ll hear a knocking noise which is presumed to be Tennyson making the sound of horses’ hooves. This post was inspired by Sunday Stamps by Viridian’s Postcard Blog, where this week’s prompt was poets and poems.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

The Two Alberts Memorial

To commemorate the centenary of the founding of the Royal Flying Corps and link to the Sepia Saturday theme of Flight, I present my great uncle Albert (1885-1976), standing (left) by his Sopwith Camel. He was two years older than my grandfather Sydney and was the middle child of my great-grandparents, William Joseph and Mary Jane. At the start of the First World War he was an apprentice joiner, but joined the South Notts Hussars in 1914, later transferring to the Royal Flying Corps, first as an airframe rigger, and then a rear gunner.

Albert appears in uniform of a different kind in ‘Drum Roll Please’, about his membership of the Boys Brigade.We don’t know much about his war service but my mother remembers him emigrating to Australia in 1924. She says she threw her arms round his neck and cried, and poor Albert was very upset by her show of affection. Mum was only three years old, so I can imagine it was quite a moving experience for him. He said goodbye to his family, who always kept in touch by letter, but never actually saw him in the flesh again. He would write to my mother all his life, and at Christmas, a parcel of Australian dried fruits would arrive for Mum to make her Christmas cake. I remember hearing his voice, because the family would send the old reel-to-reel tapes to each other. The last recording I have of my Grandad is his Christmas message to ‘Bert in 1970.  Albert remained a bachelor until, at the age of 70, he married Ellen, the widow of his long term friend,and the postmistress of Sailors Falls, Daylesford, near Melbourne. Looking at pictures of him, I imagine he was a charmer. Mum tells me he was a 'ladies’ man’ and I wonder how many hearts he captured when wearing his dashing uniform.

From my great-uncle Albert to his namesake, WW1 Flying Ace Albert Ball. Growing up in Nottingham I was always aware of the heroic Captain Ball; on family visits to Nottingham Castle we would pay homage at his statue and marvel at the record of his deeds and medals displayed in the castle itself. Ball joined the Sherwood Foresters, and transferred to the Royal Flying Corps. He too was a handsome young man, but he went on to become one of the top air aces of the war, gaining the Victoria Cross posthumously. No other pilot captured the public imagination in the same way as Albert Ball. He insisted on flying alone in his Nieuport Scout, where his fearlessness and deadly shooting accuracy, whilst skillfully handling his aircraft, brought fear and admiration from the enemy.  In a short period of just fifteen months he rose quickly through the ranks, gaining the MC, DSO and two bars, and was credited with at least 44 victories. There is an excellent website about Ball telling the fascinating story of his life and character, and where extracts from his letters can be read. I urge you to dip in and discover the human story behind the hero who died aged just 20 years, in circumstances which remain unclear to this day.

Living in Wiltshire, as I did for twenty two years before moving to Lanzarote, I was also close to the flying connection. We first moved there in 1987 when my husband was posted to RAF Upavon. The Officers' Mess at Upavon was the first mess for the Royal Flying Corps, and is now a listed building. The station motto was in Principio Et Semper  - “In The Beginning and Always” and the station crest was a pterodactyl rising from the rocks, symbolising the station’s connection with the early days of flying. Just a stone’s throw from our house was the Museum of Army Flying at Middle Wallop. If you find yourself in or near Wiltshire in the next few months, it may be worth paying the museum a visit, as an exhibition to mark the Royal Flying Corps’ centenary is planned.

Both portraits of Albert Ball are in the in the public domain courtesy of Wikimedia

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Pregnant Pause

She was late again dammit,
Missed the bloody bus,
and her cycle was punctured.
Now she’d have to go underground,
and catch the Fallopian Tube

© Marilyn Brindley
Taking part in ‘The Mag’ 112 courtesy of Tess Kincaid. Why not visit and see what other partcipants have hatched from the is prompt.

The image is ‘Egg Island’ by djajakarta

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Ticket to Read

One of the themes for Sepia Saturday this week is ‘Library’, and luckily I had this newspaper clipping from about 1985, showing my son and daughter enjoying a storytelling session in Arnold Library, Nottingham, close to their grandparents’ home. We were probably visiting during a school holiday when these activities would be laid on to encourage children’s love of books and reading. My children received lots of encouragement at home and school, but for some children a visit to a lending library would be a rare treat. I asked my parents what they could remember about libraries in the 1920s and they said they were both regular visitors to their local library in Wilford Grove, Nottingham. Books were treasured in my Mum’s family, and her paternal grandfather William, was a great reader all his life. Mum remembers that he always had a stack of library books on the sideboard.

As a child in the 1960s I loved to vist my local libarary in Arnold. It was a much older building than the one in the picture above and I remember it had the inscription Carnegie Library carved above the door. The town had obviously been a beneficary of the charity set up by enlightened philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. In those days we were issued with library ‘tickets', and when you took the books of your choice to the desk, the librarian would take the card from the inside the book and insert it into one of your five tickets and into an indexed box. The book would duly be stamped, to be returned in two weeks’ time. I seem to recall that I would be back long before the two weeks was up, eager to make my next choice.

Nautilus Library,  (public domain)
Wikimedia Commins
This week’s second theme was ‘Sleep’ and at first glance I thought the man in this picture had been overcome with tiredness and succumbed to a crafty ‘fortywinks’. I was pleased that I had found a picture to cover both themes in one. On closer inspection he appears to be either dead or dying, as his companion seems to be overcome with grief. In which case, I submit that it was probably Colonel Mustard with a spanner in the Library whodunnit. Don’t tell me you’ve never played Cluedo! The engraving, by Hetzel, is from the original '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’, so make your own mind up who it is and what has happened. I resisted the urge to write a caption, but please don’t let it stop you from having a go.

Carl Spitzweg (public domain)
Wikipedia Commons

Libraries like this one, on the right, often appear in old paintings, and I particularly like this example as it demonstrates the lengths, quite literally, to which a booklover will go to find the volume he is seeking.

He seems to suffer from the same affliction I have myself whenever I delve into my own home library. I start looking for a particular item and find myself sidetracked by some other tantalising morsel of information. 'The Bookworm' here depicted is engrossed in one book, whilst clasping another, with two further volumes, one wedged under his arm and another clasped between his knees. Does this sound familiar to anyone? I admire the fact that he thought to take a cloth with which to attack the dusty tomes. He clearly doesn’t have vertigo as the ladder is taller than it appears. Turning round and descending unscathed may prove to be tricky!

I started today’s post with children in a library, and to complete the circle, here is one I took in the library of one of my schools about ten years ago. Libraries in small schools tend to be multi-use but there are library sessions timetabled in every week. The old ticket system has gone, just as it has in public libraries, and the pupils self register on the computer and scan the barcodes of the books they are borrowing. This is the age of iPads and Kindles, but I don’t believe these will supersede real books. There will always be the magic of turning a printed page to see what happens next in a story, or discover some new fact. ‘Flicking through’ a book to skim through the pictures and text, or turning to the back cover to read the ‘blurb' and find out about the author, are all part of the library experience.

Please don’t try this in your local library!

For more ways to enjoy the library visit my bookloving friends over at Sepia Saturday before you go to sleep.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

April Fool

Image: Parke Harrison

The first day of April,
All Fools Day,
and the joke's on me.
You arrived in a Summer storm,
sustained me through the mists of Autumn,
Warmed me all Winter long.
Now that Spring is here,
I thought we'd settle down,
but you changed your tune.
You'd feathered your own nest;
you threw me out,
and put another in my place. 
The first day of April,
All Fools Day,
but the only fool is me.
© Marilyn Brindley

Linking to The Mag 111 with Tess at Magpie Tales