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."

Tuesday 26 June 2012

Love All

It’s time for strawberries and cream, rain, Pimms, tantrums, grunts and celebrity-watching. Yes Wimbledon Fortnight is underway. In its honour we have a Sepia Saturday photo prompt of Dinah Shore and Burt Bacharach playing in a 1971 tournament.

I played tennis at school, because I had to, but I have to admit to not being very sporty and my main interest in the game when I was younger was for the drama created by attractive and brilliant players like Ilie Nastase. There was also the tradition of the gentle commentary of Dan Maskell , the 'Voice of Tennis’, who covered the tournament for the BBC from 1949 to 1991. His catchphrase was “Oh I say!” which was about as excited as he got. I don’t even bother watching it these days and prefer to wallow in those golden memories.

 I have no pictures of celebrities in my family albums but here are my parents striking poses with their rackets. The pictures were taken in Nottingham at the Trent Bridge School courts, where you could pay a small fee to play. They were in their late teens, just before the start of WW2 and wouldn’t have had much in the way of entertainment. This would have provided them with a cheap pastime and helped them to keep fit. They were also both very good dancers and played in bands with their accordion (Mum) and drums (Dad).

Still in Betjeman mood from my last post, I’m reminded of his poem,’A Subaltern’s Love Song, which you can read in its entirety here. For Mum’s 90th birthday in 2010 I put together an anthology of poems suggested by family members and illustrated with photographs, old and new. This was my husband’s choice for her as he thought she would appreciate something lighthearted. These were the pictures I used to illustrate it and used some of the lines of the poem as captions. Here are the first few lines:

Miss J. Hunter Dunn, Miss J. Hunter Dunn,
Furnish’d and burnish’d by Aldershot sun,
What strenuous singles we played after tea,
We in the tournament, you against me!

Love-thirty, love-forty, oh! weakness of joy,
The speed of a swallow, the grace of a boy,
With carefullest carelessness gaily you won,
I am weak from your loveliness, Joan Hunter Dunn.

He goes on to describe her ‘stongly adorable tennis girl’s hands'. He was a man who was clearly in love, and so were my parents; they celebrate their 70th Wedding Anniversary next month.

For more racket sports, or celebrities caught on camera, visit Sepia Saturday and see what other participants have found in their albums. New balls please!!

Monday 25 June 2012

Death in Islington

I was feeling a bit silly this week, which accounts for the rather laboured effort below. Still, it was fun. If you don’t know the John Betjeman original ‘Death in Leamington’ on which this is loosely based, click here. There’s probably a name for taking a word from the last line and sticking it somewhere near the beginning of the next; 'chain verse' rings a bell. Watch out Orson is coming to get you for grassing him up! Put that crossword down! 

Death in Islington
He died in the upstairs bedroom.
The bedroom door was ajar.
A jar was lit with a ghostly glow,
Aglow ‘neath the ev’ning star.
Beside him the lonely crossword,
Cross words had been exchanged.
No change of heart towards the end,
His end had been arranged.
His wife came in with the tea-things.
Things just didn’t seem right.
Right away she had grasped the scene,
Seen murder had come in the night.
She closed the big round windows,
The windows into his soul.
Soullessly lit the mantle,
A mantle of secrecy stole.
And “Ed?” she cried in a tiny voice,
Voicing her innermost fear,
“I fear that you have breathed your last.”
The last words he would hear.
Do you know that there’s blood on the carpet?
A carpet of weeds on the grass?
A Grass dies alone for his crime,
A crime that they couldn’t let pass.
She looked at the silent sofa.
So far she had kept fairly calm.
Call M for Murder!” she suddenly cried,
Ed never did anyone harm!”
She moved the table and puzzles,
Lest blood should drip from his head,
Ed’s murderer’s name was written,
Ten down, twelve across, all in RED.
© Marilyn Brindley
The image is Orson Welles in the Film Noir 'Touch of Evil’ Tess’s prompt in The Mag this week.

Saturday 23 June 2012

Round and Roundabout

This is a roundabout at Nottingham’s famous Goose Fair about thirty years ago. I’m indebted to Simon Garbutt who posted the picture on Wikimedia Commons. It shows a traditional carousel of the kind with which Victorian children would be familiar. Since those days showmen have recreated the wonderful carousel rides and, last Autumn, during a visit to England, I spotted this model on Bournemouth’s sea front.

 It’s a modern recreation of the old-style ‘gallopers’ and beautifully decorated. It was a very quiet day but if only one child wanted to ride they still set the carousel in motion. I tried to to get all the names of the horses down in my notebook, but I think I may have got some of them wrong, so please allow poetic licence in my my fanciful homage to:

The Carousel.

The music begins as, slowly, 
the painted horses
start to rise, and fall, in rhythmic order.
Gathering speed, 
they gallop now,
in perpetual circular motion.
Stanley Reeves, “proudly presents,
for your pleasure, his
Golden Galloping Horses Carousel!”
Kaleidoscopic trios,
named for the children 
of this famous fairground family,
Here come Tommy, Krystal and Leigh,
Regal Elizabeth, 
Royal James.
Exotic India and Africa,
Colleen and Bernadette
from the Emerald Isle.
Flags flutter furiously in the Bournemouth breeze,
as Kitty-Rose, Debbie and Hayley
prance by in stately unison.
Elliot and Eileen,
Paul and Patricia, 
grin in their equine dreams.
Barbara, Barry and Betty,
Sophie and Stanley,
Ride on remorselessly.

Coloured lights flicker and flash, 
illuminating nearby signs for 
“Rock and Hand-made fudge”
Rosemary, Julia and Autumn
fly by like a half-forgotten dream.
Gilbert gallops, Ron rears.

Natasha and Julia 
keep a maternal eye on young Emily.
“Please hold onto small children” reads a sign.

Between the ranks
are two fiery, gilded dragons, 
full of giddy, giggling children.
The organ blasts a fanfare,
as Chester rears his head
and speeds past.
Then, suddenly, it’s all over.
We dismount, laughing 
And find ourselves once more
On solid ground.

Marilyn Brindley

“You don’t really understand human nature unless you know why a child on a merry-go-round will wave at his parents every time around - and why his parents will always wave back”
Wiliam D. Tammeus

This is my companion piece to ‘So Long at the Fair’ and is posted in response to Sepia Saturday’s photo prompt of a fairground ride of long ago. Climb aboard for thrills and spills!

Thursday 21 June 2012

So Long At the Fair

“Oh! dear! what can the matter be?
Dear! dear! what can the matter be?
Oh! dear! what can the matter be?
Johnny’s so long at the fair.

This painting, although by a Nottingham artist, is of ‘Fair Day in Morledge’ and is housed in the Derby Museum and Art Gallery*. It’s pretty much how the old Nottingham Goose Fair would have looked in its early days. When I was a little girl ‘Goose Fair’ was an exciting event for which we all saved up our pocket money. It was held for three days, and sometimes, if you were lucky, you would go twice.

Go to ‘The City of Nottingham in Pictures’ a wonderful website owned by Ray Teece, to view a splendid gallery of modern day Goose Fair.

Goose Fair is still held, and is arguably the largest of its kind in England. These days it’s a pleasure fair, with roundabouts and nailbitingly scary rides, candyfloss and toffee-apples, ‘cocks-on-a-stick’ and hot dog stalls. The first mention of the fair by name is in 1541, but it existed in some form as far back as Edward I’s Charter of 1283-4. At that time there was already a large ‘Martinmas Fair’ being held at the Priory of Lenton in Nottinghamshire since 1164, where it was a great source of revenue for the monks, and had a reputation as far as France for horse and cattle trading. Before the railways came, Nottinghamshire shopkeepers relied on the Lenton Fair for supplies. In the Borough Records of Nottingham we can learn about the hirleing who visited the fair and neglected his master’s sheep; of the person who sent, “bad ale that was not good”, and of William de Clifton who stole, from a house in Nottingham, bows intended for sale at the fair.**

Goose Fair was originally held in the city’s Market Square but moved to its present Forest Fields site in 1928. A native of Nottingham, Sydney Race, kept a diary from the age of fifteen and the BBC Nottingham website quotes extensively from these as during Sydney’s teens and early twenties Goose Fair was a major event in his calendar.
It was very different to the one I remember as a child, or even the fair as it is today. By the turn of the last century early forms of cinema were beginning to be the big fair attractions, but the young Sydney was shocked by the displays of affection exhibited by young couples on the rides:

“In one thing the Fair, I think was remarkable this year - there was a tremendous amount of kissing on the roundabouts. And it was going on vigorously at an early hour of the evening too.”***

Goodness knows what Sydney would make of behaviour at a modern fair! He describes ice-cream sellers, coconut stalls, shooting galleries, trials of strength and the new-fangled phonograph machines. In those days you could pay to see midgets, menageries, fat ladies, performing birds and hares and swimming exhibitions. There was also 'Wallace the Untamable Lion’ and the ‘Transparent’ Count Orloff! Food and drink consisted of wine stalls, fried fish and potato, ‘smoking hot peas’ and sandwiches with tea and coffee.

Goose Fair is believed to have been named originally for the thousands of geese driven annually from neighbouring Lincolnshire to be sold there. The only other fair with the name is the smaller Tavistock Goosey Fair. The poet Charles Causley writes movingly about being taken there by his father on a 'damp, dry-leaved October' day, just before his father died in the First World War.

“The roundabout played ‘Valencia’ on the Square.
I heard the frightened geese in a wicker pen.
Out of his mouth an Indian man blew fire.
There was a smell of beer; cold taste of rain.

The cheapjacks bawled best crockery made of bone,
Solid silver spoons and cures for a cold.
My father bought a guinea for half-a-crown.
The guinea was a farthing painted gold.”

Last year I came upon a lovely Victorian-style carousel in Bournemouth; you can read about that in my next post, 'Round and Roundabout'.

Our Sepia Saturday prompt this week is from the Hoppings Fair held in Newcastle in the 1940s. I haven’t any old images in my family albums from that far back, but here’s a selection, going back to 1965. Click to enlarge and enjoy the slideshow.

My grandfather 1967
Me, terrified, 1965
My children, 1981
And again, 1990
My daughter, 1986
And 1988
 Why not join us at Sepia Saturday where other fairgoers will be posting their responses to this photo prompt.
*By Charles T Stanfield Moore of Nottingham (1) {Public Domain}, via Wikimedia Commons
**Thoroton Society 1936
*** BBC Nottingham Website

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Doorstep Delivery

I’m sitting on the doorstep, and I’m eating bread and jam,
and I’m not a-crying really, though I ‘spects you think I am.
I can hear the children playing, but they say they don’t want me,
‘cos my legs are rather little and I run so slow you see.
So, I’m sitting on the doorstep, and I’m eating bread and jam,
And I’m not a-crying really, though I ‘spects you think I am.

Marion St.John Adcock (1914) from ‘The Littlest One'

The little girl in the photograph has not been eating bread and jam, nor has she been crying She looks rather pleased with herself as she nurses her doll Rosie on the doorstep of the family home. This is my mother (born 1920) and pictured just a few years after the poem above was written. I have featured this picture before in Dolly Suite, where you can read more about Rosie and the terrible fate which befell her.

In the second picture, Mum and Rosie are joined by my grandparents and Mum’s brother Billy. There they all are framed in the doorway; a snapshot in time which captures a family group for posterity. Leafing through my albums I found we had quite a few doorstep or doorway shots and so I decided that this would be the theme I would choose from this week’s Sepia Saturday photo prompt.

Here’s Mum again, but this time with Dad, just outside the doorway of their first home together. When they were married in 1942 they lived with my grandparents and didn’t have a house of their own until some time after the War ended. This picture is taken in 1950 and Mum looks pleased with herself again - but so does Dad. They couldn’t afford to buy a house but rented a new council house in Nottingham. When the picture was taken they had been there two years and already made good friends with the neighbours.      

When my firstborn arrived in 1977 I stepped outside for a few moments so that the proud father could take our picture in the late Autumn sunshine. Once again this was our first home, a detached house in Lincoln where my husband was serving in the RAF and where I had my first teaching post.

Two older doorstep pictures are in a post I wrote about my paternal great-grandfather, the shopkeeper in ‘Open All Hours’. This is possibly the favourite amongst my blogposts and the nonchalant pose my Great-grandfather is striking is wonderful. Unfortunately, when the pieces was published in the Bygones section of the Nottingham Post last March, it was the one picture the editor chose to omit.  

Here’s another family favourite to finish with. This is the doorstep of my husband’s childhood home in Lancaster. It was a big old Victorian house with a porch large enough to play in. You can see the rather ornate tiles on which my son is sitting. My late father-in-law is cuddling my daughter, who has brought along her little red suitcase full of drawing paraphernalia. The clipboard behind her was made by her Daddy. My son probably had one as well but it looks as though he is intent on drawing on his bare toes, or worse still, his sandals. The patch of fur fabric peeping out from behind the red case is Blue Bunny, who now belongs to my grandson, and who has a post of all of his own in, A Makeover For Blue Bunny, over at my other blog. This picture was probably taken about 1981/2. 
Don’t hang around on the doorstep too long. Come inside for a real Sepia Saturday welcome. See what other contributors have chosen for their theme from Alan’s photo prompt below. And if you have any pictures of cats getting in on the act, lovers embracing, soldiers’ farewells, or interesting doorways, please share them with us.

Sunday 10 June 2012

Signature Piece

Determined to do it properly,
he read the manual.
He followed the instructions to the letter,
and studied the pictures.
He even watched a video, 
to improve his performance.
He took his stick, 
vermillion red and heated by the flames, 
and placing it where required,
he bore down quickly and firmly and then withdrew,
Yes, he’d made a very good impression, 
and her fate was sealed.
© Marilyn Brindley

I found myself ‘waxing lyrical’ again and finding I can’t ignore puns! I hope you enjoy this poem however you interpret it; literally, figuratively or with a double entendre, but don’t think that you have to watch an instructional video yourself! Do listen to this golden oldie from Brian Hyland though, which will take some of us back to 1962.

Linking to The Mag 121, hosted by Tess Kincaid of Willow Manor.

Thursday 7 June 2012

Let’s Have Another Cup O’ Coffee

Just around the corner,
There’s a rainbow in the sky.
So let’s have another cup o’coffee,
And let’s have another piece o’pie.

Irving Berlin 1932

A photograph of a Danish politician, Lisbet Hindsgaul (1890-1969), being served coffee from a silver pot, is the prompt for this week’s Sepia Saturday. Presumably she is also having some Danish Pastries. The last time I was served coffee from such a well-polished pot was when my husband was in the RAF and after dinner coffee would be served to the officers and ladies by Mess Stewards. At less formal functions we helped ourselves from the side tables. This reminds me of the time my husband volunteered to get me a coffee after one such Mess 'Dining In'. I asked for cream, but what I got was mayonnaise! Well, it was a little dark in there and the cream and the mayo were in identical silver sauce boats. I took my coffee black for a long time after this traumatic event.
I recently relieved my parents of several 35mm transparencies, which we have been busy scanning for posterity. A few days ago I came upon this scene.

It was taken in the back garden of our old family home in approximately 1973. I am able to date it reasonably accurately due to the presence on the tray of my very own coffee pot, which was a 21st birthday present from a friend. It was actually a Russell Hobbs coffee percolator, and was still making perfectly acceptable coffee in recent times. I was always a coffee lover and I remember choosing this ’Sherwood Green’ colour because I thought it would go with any coffee service I eventually managed to own. The ceramics were by Wedgewood which probably accounts for its longevity.

That’s me with my back to the camera, wearing a lovely 70s dress, hand-knitted by my mother. She is seated on the grass giving the dog a tidbit. The other lady is a friend of my parents, known as ‘aunty’ Gretel who was one of two German platonic aunts whom I acquired. She was a lover of ‘Kaffee und Kuchen’, a tradition in Germany and Austria, which usually takes place around 4.00 o’clock in the afternoon, unlike the British tradition of ‘Elevenses’ which is a break during the morning routine. Mum had obviously baked at least two varieties of cake in honour of her visit. They look like slices of fruit loaf and possibly a cheesecake. The sugar is in a rather ornate glass bowl and the cream in a crystal glass jug. The little green tube was the artificial sweeteners - after all we don’t want to get fat do we? It’s a strange photograph, taken from an odd perspective (presumably by my Father) and I can’t find any other shots taken on the same day. I am grateful though for this one, because it re-awakens memories of that wonderful coffee percolator, which went on to make hundreds of cups of coffee on many happy social occasions over the next thirty-five years or so.

Sacher Torte, Vienna*
My family were early adopters of the Kaffee und Kuchen tradition, but only when the German aunts came to visit. I was therefore no stranger to it when I went to Austria on a month long exchange visit as a thirteen year-old. I was placed with a family who lived not far from Vienna. What a lucky girl I was! I revisited, along with my parents, three years later, and to this day one of my abiding memories of Vienna is the pervasive aroma of fresh coffee emanating from the many cafés for which the city is famed.

Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid
The famous Sacher Torte originated there in 1832. This is a chocolate cake, with two thin layers of apricot preserve between the biscuit base and the chocolate icing on the top and sides. As the age of thirteen this seemed like Heaven; these days I wouldn’t get beyond the first mouthful as I would find it far too sweet.

Many Germans live here in Lanzarote and so it is quite common to see ‘Kaffee und Kuchen’ advertised on the blackboards propped up outside the cafés here. We flew to Madrid in March and, as in Vienna, there was no shortage of cakes to choose from. You could have them with ‘elevenses’ if you were British, as a ‘zwischenmahlzeit’ - a meal beween meals - if you were from Germany or Austria, or you could do what the Spanish do and have you coffee and cake any time you like.
A difficult choice, Le Moka

These days, when we want fresh coffee we use a whizzy, shiny machine where you pop in a little pod or capsule of your chosen blend and press a button.  For good service, like that in the prompt picture, we visit our favourite café, ‘Le Moka’. The coffee isn’t delivered in a silver pot, but it does come with a smile, and we’re greeted by name, not called ‘Ma’am', as Lisbet probably was by the maid brandishing the silver coffee pot. We nearly always meet someone we know and catch up with their news, or we'll have a joke or chat with the owners. It’s a bit like Sepia Saturday really!

Our favourite!

So, however you like your coffee and cake don’t forget to meet all the regular customers at the Sepia Saturday Café this week.

Our pastry chef, Alan, is away until July 14th, so I’ve been recruited to open up shop and make sure there’s plenty of variety on the menu. Now where’s my pinny?  

“Mmm! How sweet the coffee tastes, more delicious than a thousand kisses, mellower than muscatel wine!” (Bach 'The Coffee Cantata’ 1732)

Dialogue between Nancy Astor and Sir Winston Churchill
Nancy Astor:"If I were your wife, I’d put poison in your coffee."
Sir Winston Churchill: "And if I were your husband, I would drink it.”

* Sacher Torte image courtesy David Monniaux through Wikimedia’s Share Alike Licence

Also linking to Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish, which is open to anyone with a vaguely food-related story, review or anecdote to post. 

Friday 1 June 2012

Museum Piece

Old sheet music is this week’s prompt for Sepia Saturday. Luckily, during my visit to the wonderful gem of a museum near the priory in Great Malvern, I had snapped this example. It took my eye because of the rather lovely engraving on the cover. As a child I had often dipped into my mother’s volume of ‘Palgrave’s Golden Treasury’, which had a picture of Pan as its frontispiece, and been captivated by Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem, ‘A Musical Instrument’ which it illustrated. The first line is “What was he doing, the great god Pan, down by the reeds in the river?” and, my childish curiosity piqued, I couldn’t resist reading on to find out. The answer was, of course that he was fashioning his famous pipes, but not without causing some mayhem in the process; “splashing and paddling with hoofs of a goat, and breaking the golden lilies afloat, with the dragon-fly on the river”.

The sheet music above just happened to be propped up on the stand of a musical instrument. This was too good a connection to miss! The instrument in question was a harmonium, or more precisely, a ‘Dulcitone’ which had been newly restored. It had belonged to a musician known as ‘Blind George Pullen’, who had played it for the visitors to St.Ann’s Well, the healing waters of which had made the spa town such an attraction.

Apparently he had the job for about fifty years, until his death in 1934. The instrument was presented to the museum some years ago, and once or twice a year it's used for performances there, or under the nearby archway, for heritage weekends. If you know how to play are you are invited to try it out.

A Dulcitone is like a piano, except that it sounds more like a harp and has tuning forks instead of strings. This means of course that the instrument never needs tuning. As it weighs only about 50 lbs, it’s easy to move around, which must have been an advantage to George Pullen and his helpers.
Image by AlejandroLinaresGarcia via Wikimedia (www.creative Commons.org)
The sheet music on George Pullen’s Dulcitone was probably only placed there for ilustrative purposes. It seems to have originally been issued as a free specimen copy, normally priced at 4/6 (4 shillings and sixpence). From the pencil mark in the top righthand corner it would appear that someone bought it for 20 (new) pence in a second-hand shop and thought it would look good on the music stand of the Dulcitone.

'Pan’s Anniversary' by Norman Demuth appears to have been a suite for chorus and piano, published in 1954, long after Pullen’s death, so he wouldn’t have played it. It was based on words by Ben Jonson, Keats and Shelley. Originally Ben Jonson had written it as a Jacobean masque for King James’s birthday, and it was performed at the Royal Palace at Greenwich. It seems appropriate that this should bring us neatly round to this weekend's long holiday to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, which is both royal and an anniversary.

Here is Tim Manning demonstrating the quite sweet sound a Dulcitone makes. Tim explains at length about the workings of the instrument, and mentions the example in the Malvern Museum, before playing some music (after approximately 4 minutes if you want to skip to that).

For more celebrations see other musical contributions here, where Sophie Tucker will tell you she can’t get enough of it. She must mean Sepia Saturday!