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, 27 May 2012

The Summing Up

House at Dusk by Edward Hopper

Half light,
Half night,
Half not all it seems. 
Half forgotten dreams.
Half time,
Half rhyme,
Half lit from above.
Half hidden,
Half bidden,
Half remembered love.
Half board,
Half bored,
Half truths left unspoken.
Half life,
Half wife,
Half promises broken. 
Half told,
Half tolled,
Half bound by the rules.
Half said,
Half dead,
Two complete fools.

© Marilyn Brindley

Taking part in 'The Mag 119' courtesy of Tess at Willow Manor

This picture first suggested John Betjeman's 'Death in Leamington' to me, which may account for the gloomy mood of my offering. It certainly made me think of the death or an ending of a relationship. In any case I think the picture could equally illustrate Betjeman's poem. Here's a reading of that poem from almost forty years ago. Maggie Smith and Kenneth Williams lend their wonderful voices to a rendering, observed and approved by the poet himself ,on the 'Parkinson' show (February 1973)

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Market Share

A busy market scene in Waterford, Ireland is the Sepia Saturday prompt this week. Farmers and cattle mingle together and a van offers tea and coffee. How many of us can boast a cattle market to share from our family albums, unless we take the alternative meaning of a ‘beauty parade’? I did find a curious cow, I had photographed in 1976 however. My daughter is being introduced to one in a field we were crossing on our way to visit the lighthouse on Anglesey, North Wales. She was still too young to know what a cow was, or to have even heard about them through nursery rhymes, (when she would learn that they jumped over the moon apparently). At this stage she was probably just wondering what this creature looming towards her actually was.

Last weekend I was back in UK and friends took us to the delightful Priory Museum in Great Malvern, Worcester (more of that in another post). Malvern was a spa town and donkeys would be used to carry people up to the hillside springs or to survey the wonderful views from the summit. This photograph formed part of the exhibition, and although I concede that these are indeed not cows, but donkeys, I’m sure I don’t have to point out that teas were again being provided for the weary traveller. The juxtaposition of people, animals and liquid refreshment was too powerful to ignore.
It seems I like to photograph bucolic English scenes, as evidenced by the the very relaxed herd of cows in the New Forest, in 2004, and the rather fine fellow below at the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum, near Chichester, Sussex,  around about the same time.
I’m pleased to say that we were separated from him by a fence, although he didn’t look in the mood to cause trouble.

I have a copy of John Seymour’s 'Rural Life’, from the ‘Pictures From the Past’ series. John Seymour was an historian of the countryside, and an ecological pioneer who championed the cause of living simply. His book is full of wonderful images used to illustrate his descriptions of life in the countryside of the past.
In the section on ‘Markets' he clearly regrets the modern auction mart, where animals are driven into a ring and sold by a professional auctioneer. I’m sure he would have appreciated the one in the prompt image, which he describes a ‘stock fair’, held in the market streets and to which animals were driven from the surrounding countryside. "Bargaining might go on for hours before a deal was ‘struck' by two men striking the palms of their right hands together. In the West and North*, ‘luck money’ was expected by the buyer; a pound or two was handed over by the vendor and the two of the would probably spend this in the nearest pub.”
It all sounds a very civilised and unhurried way of doing business. I expect they had time for a cup of tea or coffee from the van to help with the sobering-up process too.

We don’t have cows here in Lanzarote, but goats are farmed for cheese and meat. Camels are the traditional beasts of burden, along with donkeys, and both can still be seen, though not at our local farmers’ market. Over in the neighbouring Canary Island of Fuerteventura there’s a restaurant called The Blue Cow (Vaca Azul) in the harbour town of Cotillo. Two years ago we were having a short break to celebrate our 35th Wedding Anniversary and enjoyed the wonderful views and good food here. Although their tea and coffee is perfectly fine, you won’t be surprised to hear that on this occasion, we celebrated with something a little stronger.

It’s market day over at Sepia Saturday so why not join us, you’re bound to find something refreshing from the man with the van.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

If You Want to Get a Head...............

There’s an old advertising slogan from the forties; “If you want to get ahead get a hat” which I have adopted to suit my post this week. It would take more than a hat to magically make a head re-appear in my photograph I think.  Sepia Saturday’s photo prompt this week is a group photograph of ladies and gentlemen wearing big hats, but all appear to have heads attached to them. However, the photograph itself seems to have sustained some damage. This isn’t immediately obvious and it appears at first as though we are viewing the group from the other side of a not very well maintained hedge, but which is scattered millefiori-style with tiny flowers. On closer examination it can be seen that the ‘hedge’ is in fact the damaged portion of the picture. I therefore offer my own group photograph, also damaged, though probably deliberately at the hands of my great aunt Sarah, known as Cis (b.1885). Some of you will remember her as the lady in the shop doorway in 'Open All Hours'.
When my brother first showed me the photograph, I assumed that someone’s face had been removed to fit into a locket. My grandmother wore a locket with the portraits of her brothers, removed from a larger picture and I suggested that this was the case here. My brother, who has researched this side of the family, says that the reason appears to be very different.
The lady in the middle of the back row is my Great-grandmother Lydia. She was a blacksmith’s daughter, who later entered service, before marrying my Great-grandfather, Richard, a stonemason. Unfortunately he was to die at the age of 46 leaving her a widow with a family to support, She did this by taking in lodgers. And here we come to the mysterious photograph. Lydia had taken in three boarders, including her half-brother Samuel, a baker, who is standing to Lydia’s left. The picture was taken around 1901, presumably in the back yard of the house, by a travelling photographer. On the front row are an unknown lodger, my Great-aunt Cis, her brother (my paternal Grandfather) Sam, with his dog, and another brother Dick. So who is the owner of the headless torso, standing on the other side of Lydia? This is her son Jack, who would go on to serve in the Royal Engineers during the First World War. We know he didn’t marry the lady he lived with for many years because she was already married when they met, and perhaps the fact that they were cohabiting was the source of family friction. We will probably never know the truth, but apparently Jack remained the black sheep of the family and was cut out of the picture by Cis. We could speculate, and our fertile imaginations produce an endless list of reasons why this rift occurred in the family, but all those who knew the truth are long since dead. So let’s leave Jack as an enigma and hope that he was at least able to find happiness with his new family.
For more group photos or big hats, with or without heads beneath them, take a look at Sepia Saturday.

This is my hundredth Blogpost on Hanging on My Word - Let the trumpets sound!!!!

Sunday, 13 May 2012

All For Your Delight

My Saturday nights out in Lanzarote rarely reach a cultural peak like last night’s. A chance sighting in the island’s ‘Gazette’ meant a late decision to go along to the wonderful ‘Camel House’ concert venue in Macher. Barrie Rutter, the well-known actor and theatre director would be entertaining us for one night only. I had always been a fan of Barrie’s and had seen him perform in his early days at Nottingham Playhouse in the late sixties and early seventies, so I knew we were in for a treat.

We had never visited The Camel House before and the venue was the first surprise of the evening. After checking in we were invited to buy a glass of wine and then wander freely around the estate. The pianist and entrepreneur Sir Ernest Hall owns the house, which he rescued from being a complete ruin and, with his wife Sarah, turned into a cool and spacious residence. 

When the house next door came up for sale and Sir Ernest saw the double-height sitting room he knew it would become a concert hall. It tuned out to be an ancient camel barn and the rest of the old buildings had the potential to be converted into houses for visiting artists and public spaces like the bar and lounge. Sir Ernest says on the website that, “It was like discovering Sleeping Beauty under a muckheap.” The finished product certainly has a fairytale quality. Wandering through the cool courtyards, with an Egyptian theme, and further into the Moroccan-style gardens we had to remind ourselves that we were in Lanzarote. The effect was magical.

I was lucky to find Barrie enjoying a pre-performance glass of wine, in one of the cool lounges. He was very happy for me to have my picture taken with him and I enjoyed a short chat about his early theatrical days in my home city of Nottingham. Barrie had performed in ‘The Tempest’ with Hugh Griffith at what was then the new Nottingham Playhouse, under the directorship of Stuart Burge. From the age of nine when my mother first took me to the theatre to see ‘The Merchant of Venice’, I was hooked and rarely missed a production.
The day had been hot and humid and in Macher the temperature seemed even higher than the 33 degrees we’d experienced in Playa Blanca. We were a little apprehensive about being stuck in a hot auditorium with no air conditioning, but we needn’t have worried. It was certainly warm but the spacious room, designed to seat up to a hundred people, allowed air to circulate freely. The main door was kept open and we settled down for an entertaining ninety minutes. Sir Ernest gave a brief introduction and an explanation of his friendship with Barrie and sponsorship of his theatrical projects. He too was clearly looking forward to the evening’s entertainment.
Barrie’s dry Yorkshire wit and theatrical presence held our attention to the last minute. He gave us readings from Shakespeare, poems by Ted Hughes and W.H.Auden and naughty limericks, with sprinklings of anecdotes about the theatre and his early life in Hull. A story about his paternal grandfather throwing the young Barrie’s homework book on the fire in a fit of jealous rage, brought Barrie to a sudden stop at the memory, but he quickly recovered himself when he recalled that this incident had driven him to join every possible extra-mural activity in order to avoid his grandfather’s wrath. “Eventually”, he said, “the Drama Group found me!” 
His English teacher thought Barrie should put his ‘big gob’ to use and that’s what he’s been doing ever since. And what a voice he has; once described*as being capable of drilling holes in millstone grit, it boomed out across the room as he regaled us with a funny story about singing rude limericks outside the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, only to be ushered in and made to perform it repeatedly to the delight of the drinkers in the bar. At other times we were transfixed as he told us of his acquaintanceship with the late laureate Ted Hughes, who was to bequeath one of his manuscripts to Barrie. He then performed Hughes’ poem, ’Bride and Groom Lie Hidden For Three Days’ extolling the beauty of its language, and at the final words of the poem a hush fell across the room so transfixed were we.
Barrie is passionate about Shakespeare and explained to us his rationale of actors using their own voices in his own company ‘Northern Broadsides’ which recruits actors solely from the North. Words, he told us were his meat and drink, and his love for them shone through the evening.
“Sometimes we see a cloud that’s dragonish;” he began. 
A vapour, sometime like a bear or lion,
A tower'd citadel, a pendent rock,
A forked mountain, or blue promontory
With trees upon't, that nod unto the world,
And mock our eyes with air: thou hast seen these signs;
They are black vesper's pageants.”
And for those few seconds this blunt Yorkshireman was Mark Anthony and we felt his sense of worthlessness and betrayal, before he called on his friend Eros, to end his life for him.
Barrie ended the evening with questions from the audience and then we all filed out into the balmy Lanzarote evening having enjoyed an evening that was “all about words”
* Andrew Dickson in ‘The Guardian’

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Kitchen Range

The photo prompt for this week’s Sepia Saturday is a very grand Royal kitchen. The kitchen in ‘El Patio’ Agricultural Museum, here in Lanzarote, is about as far removed from that as it is possible to get. The kitchen range of my post title reflects the wide difference between rich and poor and the social differences of two countries. 

This was our second visit, and we were taking friends who were staying with us last week. It was a bright sunny day and it was easy to imagine the museum when agriculture was at its height, before tourism became the biggest employer on the island. 

In 1845 some farmers in the village of Tiagua asked permission to cultivate an area of virgin land belonging to the Marqués de la Quinta Roja. Over the next hundred or so years the small, sparsely cultivated farm developed into a major agricultural concern. By 1949 it was the best developed farm on the island. Twenty farm labourers were employed along with fifteen working camels. By the late twentieth century various social and economic reasons caused a 90% reduction in agricultural production and the farm entered a new phase in its existence, opening as a museum in 1994. Much of the fertile surrounding land is still farmed, livestock are maintained and red wine, Malvasia and Moscatel are still produced along with goats’ cheese, cereal, tomatoes and fruit. 
Now, for a few euros, you can spend an interesting day discovering what life was like here in the last century. Attendants wear traditional costume and will demonstrate farming, milling and brewing techniques to larger parties.It was very quiet, with only a handful of visitors, adding to the sense of peace we had as we pottered happily around peering at exhibits and watching the animals. 

Several rooms in the farmhouse are re-created as they were in the 1900s. Accommodation was very basic and the farmhand in the first picture is relaxing in the cool of the kitchen for a while before going back to his hard labours on the land.
                The kitchen dresser with simple but colourful pottery and enamelware dishes.

The bedroom was equally stark, with rush mats, a few religious pictures and very little furniture.

And if you needed the bathroom? You crossed the little courtyard to sit in stately splendour and admire the cobwebs here. You won’t find this in the Royal Scrapbook from Alan’s prompt. I understand Queen Victoria had proper flushing water closets.

Moving from the labourer’s quarters into the bodega, the kitchen dresser takes on a much more appealing look with preserved fruits and vegetables and a few bottles of local wine. I can attest to the fact that a glass or two of that would have made any worker coming in from the fields, forget his worries for a while.

And next door the farm shop, where no doubt a certain amount of local gossip was exchanged as well as purchases made of farm produce; fruits, tomatoes and wine. 
These vines near the farmhouse are growing nicely in the Lanzarote sunshine, protected from the warm winds by sturdy walls. 

This view from a window in the museum also shows the vines growing in zocos, individual walls to protect them from the sometimes harsh winds, The field in the foreground is covered in picon, tiny volcanic granules, which soak up moisture and help to water crops. In the distance can be seen the lovely island of Graciosa, where we were a few days later; more of that in a later post. On the right are the Famara cliffs. If you are interested in finding out more about the wines of Lanzarote read 'Bards and Vineyards’ where, among other things, you will find out about our famed Malvasia wine - or as Shakespeare called it ‘Malmsey’ or ‘Sack’. 

But I faith, you have drunk too much canaries and that’s a marvellous searching wine — Henry IV

And here’s the very place to sample the finished product. When we reached the patio area next to the bodega, we were given a little toasted snack and a small glass of local wine to wash it down. As we sat in the sunshine enjoying our refreshments a duckling decided to investigate the path next to the gate causing the attendants to pause in their duties for a few moments and allowing me a photo opportunity.

Fortified by our break we went on to explore more outbuildings, including the mill and winepress and a tiny chapel, before venturing into the cactus gardens and admiring more views across sweeping agricultural landscape and the coast beyond.

There were lots of balconies like this one, with deep orange bougainvillea spilling over the sides.

Best of all of course were the many sepia photographs to admire, some like this one more formally posed, and probably representing folk costume or some civic event, others showing the manual labourers who scratched a living from the land or artisans such as basket-makers or potters who were just as poorly paid.

The contrast between the lives of these poor Canarians and that of the Queen whose kitchen featured into the Sepia Saturday photo prompt, couldn’t be greater. Even the Queen’s cook would have enjoyed a much more privileged life. Somebody made this great little video for YouTube - if you have just seven minutes to  have a lightning tour through El Patio. 

Now go and see what other contributors have cooked up in the kitchens of Sepia Saturday. There’s bound to be something to suit all palates.

Also linking to Weekend Cooking, where other culinary delights can be found. If you have anything vaguely food related Beth invites you to link your post.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Small Talk

The picture on the right is a postcard sent to my great aunt Maude and has a twopence halfpenny stamp. I can’t read the date, but it’s probably around 1960.  Alan’s prompt for this week’s Sepia Saturday is a miniature railway. I’ve already used my train pictures on “Are We Nearly There Yet?’ so I’ve gone with the ‘Small’ theme. I’ve always had a love of miniatures and one of my favourite toys was a dolls' house. Thirty years ago, when we moved to Germany with the RAF, my husband made me a 1:12 scale dolls' house and you can read all about that in my post on my other blog. I also had a Britains Miniature Garden and Farm. These are now lodged with my son and will be brought out for the grandchildren when they are old enough to take care of the hundreds of tiny parts. I used to buy something every week from my pocket money, to add to the garden. A favourite book as a child was ‘Alice in Wonderland’, especially the part where Alice shrinks, so I think I must be conditioned in some way. As I am a only 5’0’’ tall myself this could explain a lot!  

Shuffling through a stack of old family photographs it wasn’t long before I found examples to match the theme, though nothing in sepia. We had fun in the Sepia Saturday Facebook page a few weeks ago, vying with each other to come up with midget submarine pictures, to satisfy a whim of Alan’s, so I’m steering clear of those.
Here’s the first one I dug out from 1979, when we were on holiday in Falmouth, Cornwall. My son was only six weeks old so he didn’t show much interest, and the flower banks seem to have cut off my daughter’s viewpoint. I think this particular model village no longer exists. I’m posing next to John Opie’s cottage. He was a famous portrait painter in the late 18th Century; though whether we knew that in 1979 is doubtful

This is my daughter in 1988 at Corfe Castle Model Village in Dorset. The model had been built about twenty years earlier and depicted the village as it had been in 1646, before Oliver Cromwell’s army laid waste to it. My daughter is crouching down to study the model of St.Edward’s Church, which had the music of a choir emanating from its tiny rafters.

The following year has my daughter lost in her own small world of assorted dolls and other tiny creatures - but mostly 'My Little Ponies'We resisted all pleadings for us to buy these at first as we thought they were a very odd concept. Fortunately we caved in and the result   was hours of pleasure for a little girl. She still has them all. 

Three years later it was my son’s turn to join the little folk. In 1992 we were on holiday in Devon, and visited ‘Pixieland’ at Dartmeet. This was really a large gift shop but with the gimmick of Devon Pixies being scattered throughout the grounds. There was a large toadstool that you could sit on and act the part. I won’t embarrass my kids with that particular photo, but somewhere in this one, is a real little boy - can you spot him? 

At Christmas the same year, Santa bought him a tiny football game (obviously a large one wouldn’t fit in his stocking). Judging by his jubilant body language he’d just beaten Granddad. 

Back to Dorset for this picture, and it’s one for Alan’s collection. This pub, ‘The Smith’s Arms’ at Godmanstone, near Cerne Abbas, boasted the title ‘England’s Smallest Inn’. Here we are in 1988 having a spot of refreshment on a family day out. Sadly the inn closed eight years ago.

For some modern versions of the above, you may enjoy comparing the model villages with the ones we have here in Lanzarote at Christmas. Almost every village has a Belén, some of which are vast and reproduce most of the local details faithfully. They start building them in October and after Christmas they are all dismantled!

Both my children played with the Britains Farm, and Garden, but of course they also had Lego and Playmobil to act out all sorts of fantasy stories. The Playmobil models were often incorporated into their birthday cakes, depending on what their current favourites were.

You can see them in the rocket cake here, and in the igloo and tepee cakes on the left.

And here are my four year old grandchildren playing with their vintage farm. Look after it kids!

The pictures don’t need to remain miniature of course, and you can click to enlarge.

If you’d like to see more little gems, why not go over to Sepia Saturday and marvel at how others have interpreted the prompt. Don’t forget your magnifying glass!