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."

Thursday, 26 July 2012

A Breathless Hush

When my father was a schoolboy he learned the following poem written in 1897 by Henry Newbolt (1862-1938), by heart. He can still quote the opening lines at the age of 91. Boys in the 1920s were taught these stirring lines of how a future soldier learns stoicism in cricket matches in the famous Close at Clifton College, Bristol, presumably to strengthen their own moral fibre. The title of the poem is Vitai Lampada “They Pass on The Torch of Life”.  This week we witnessed a torch of a different kind being lit at the opening ceremony of The Olympic Games, having followed its progress around the towns and villages of Great Britain in the preceding weeks. This week’s prompt for Sepia Saturday hints at cricket, so the poem is doubly appropriate. The poem symbolised Newbolt’s view that war should be fought in the same spirit as the schoolboy sport. 

("They Pass On The Torch of Life")
There's a breathless hush in the Close to-night --
Ten to make and the match to win --
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
An hour to play and the last man in.
And it's not for the sake of a ribboned coat,
Or the selfish hope of a season's fame,
But his Captain's hand on his shoulder smote --
'Play up! play up! and play the game!'
The sand of the desert is sodden red, --
Red with the wreck of a square that broke; --
The Gatling's jammed and the Colonel dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of death has brimmed his banks,
And England's far, and Honour a name,
But the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks:
'Play up! play up! and play the game!'
This is the word that year by year,
While in her place the School is set,
Every one of her sons must hear,
And none that hears it dare forget.
This they all with a joyful mind
Bear through life like a torch in flame,
And falling fling to the host behind --
'Play up! play up! and play the game!'
Sir Henry Newbolt (1862-1938)
There was also breathless hush at the opening of a cricket match on July 4th 1971 at RAF College Cranwell, where I had been taken by my boyfriend at the time, to watch a charity match played by The Lord’s Taverners, on the green. Not only were there many famous ‘celebrities’ attending, but playing for the college team was HRH Prince Charles, who was a student there (as was my young man). I wrote about my first encounter with Prince Charles in an earlier blogpost, Flights of Fancy; some Sepia Saturday stalwarts may remember it featured Charles on the cover of Punch magazine.
My cherished souvenir programme is full of articles, photos, anecdotes and advertisements of the time. People like HRH Prince Philip, Ernie Wise, Ian Carmichael, Martin Boddey, Sir Robert Menzies and Don Bradman are contributors. I couldn’t reproduce it all here but I’ve put the whole thing on Flickr for your enjoyment.
If you’ve still got time after all that you can read my other post on cricket, ‘The Boy With a Bat’, along with fellow Sepia Saturday contributors, who could have been prompted to write about anything, including cricket or baseball, by the photo below.

The Boy With a Bat

The boy with a bat in the first picture is my husband aged 5 years in 1954. It was actually one of a series of photos taken on his birthday. He points out that, although he is left-handed, this is a right-handed stance. His father taught him to hold the bat, never thinking about the fact that his son was left-handed; the consequence was that he continued to play right-handedly, both cricket, and later, golf.

‘The Boy With a Bat’ is actually the title of a painting in the west Dining Room of Breamore House near Salisbury, Wiltshire. It was painted by Thomas Hudson (1701-1779), and is the subject of a postcard I have.The painting was exhibited in Washington for The Treasure Houses of Britain Exhibition in 1985.

"The background shows the old castle church, houses and bridge at Newark. With a curved bat over his right shoulder and two stumps in his left hand the sitter is Walter Hawkesworth Fawkes of Farnley in Yorkshire. Painted in the middle of the eighteenth century when cricket was still a new game, this painting and another belonging to the M.C.C. are considered to be the earliest paintings of cricketers.” (Breamore House website).

Another boy with a cricket bat is John Opie’s (1761-1807) ‘The Red Boy’, which came under the hammer at Christie’s in 2007. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1794 as ‘Portrait of a boy’, and again in their 1876 exhibition ‘Works of Old Masters’ as “The Red Boy’. The subject was Joseph McDonough and the notes prepared by Viv Hendra for Christie’s, give a useful background to popularity of cricket at the time when Opie painted the portrait.

Notes: This magnificent picture is both an example of Opie's precocious talent for child portraiture and a key cricketing image. Dating to 1793, it was painted at the height of Opie's artistic career, and shows him at his most confident and accomplished.

The nature of cricket changed hugely from its origins in the 13th Century. By the mid-18th Century, it was increasing in popularity and steadily evolving into the national sport that it is today. Matches were often played for high stakes and clubs such as The London Club, formed circa 1701, were evolving to organise and regulate the game. The earliest surviving bats resemble a broad, curved hockey stick. These were replaced by the straight blade, as appears here, in circa 1750, with the advent of bowlers pitching the ball up. On the basis of early depictions of the sport, it appears that the game did not originally require a 'wicket', and when one did appear the early type consisted of only two stumps, approximately twelve inches high, with a third cross-stump, or bail. A third vertical stump was first introduced in 1775, to make the bowler's job less arduous. The two-stump wicket had been completely phased out by the early 19th century. The present picture is therefore a comparatively late example of it still in use.

The State Library of Queensland via Wikimedia commons, provides another boy with a bat: ‘Master Edward Staunton posing with a cricket bat’. An even younger boy with his sibling comes from the same source.

For more ‘Boys with Bats’ take your seats at Sepia Saturday where two rival sports; cricket and baseball are vying for attention in the picture prompt this week. Why not go and cheer them on?

A Breathless Hush, is my second cricket-themed post, where you can read about a special match with HRH Prince Charles, at which I was a spectator.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Mary the Fairy

The ‘Health Fairy’ in this week’s Sepia Saturday photo prompt below was employed by the Child Health Organisation which enlisted local groups into co-sponsorship. In the prompt picture, and the second one in the set, she is talking to a group of enraptured schoolchildren at Ithaca High. She shared her duties with Cho-Cho the Health Clown, and it would appear from the photos that they put on plays and and mini-lectures in schools about the importance of eating a heathy diet and getting plenty of sleep. In my quest to discover more about the Health Fairy I came upon a book called ‘Children and Youth in Sickness and in Health: a Historical Handbook and Guide’ (2004) in Google Books. Here we can read Eleanor Glendower Griffiths’ story of the Health Fairy in full. In the 1920s authors of health education materials would typically use stories and poems to make health lessons fun and interesting for children.
‘The House the Children Built’ tells the story of how the fairy’s lovely house was burnt down by the wicked witch Ignorance. The house is fully restored brick by brick, shingle by shingle due to good children following healthy guidelines. The wise bird Education travelled to little towns and big cities alike to spread the word to teachers so that more children would eat wholesome food, sleep in the sweet fresh air, play and be happy. As the children grew more healthy and happy the fairy’s house was re-built.
Children of today would perhaps not be quite so easily swayed to eat their greens and get on their bikes, but in the twenties there was quite a lot of interest in fairies. J.M. Barrie had introduced fairies in 1902 in his novel for adults ‘The Little White Bird’ along with the character of Peter Pan. The play and stories which followed evolved into ‘Peter Pan and Wendy’ where the fairies don’t seem to set a very good example to children at all. When Peter is guarding Wendy from pirates, the story says:
“After a time he fell asleep and some unsteady fairies had to climb over him on their way home from an orgy. Any of the other boys obstructing the fairy path at night they would have mischiefed, but they just tweaked Peter’s nose and passed on.”
Up to 1921 there was still quite a lot of interest in the Cottingley Fairies too. Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, two schoolgirls, managed to convince even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author and spiritualist, that the fairies they had photographed were real. Amazingly they were also fashion-conscious fairies, appearing in the garments of the day. The story has fascinated for years, long after it was dismissed as a hoax using cut-out paper fairies, not least because of the ingenuity of two girls aged 10 and 16 with an early camera.

My own fairy photos are not of paper cut-outs, but of flesh and blood girls of about the same era as the Health Fairy, the Cottingley Fairies and even Barrie’s Tinkerbell. They are my mother-in-law, born in 1910, and my own mother, born in 1920 and both named Mary.
My mother-in-law seems to be in a school play or pageant. I can’t ask her as she died over twenty-five years ago. My own Mum is dressed in a crepe-paper and tinsel costume in the manner of a real Christmas Tree Fairy for a Sunday School play. My grandma made the whole outfit on her sewing machine. Mum was a good and attentive scholar and would have hung on every word the Health Fairy said if she had met her. She still follows a healthy lifestyle in her 92nd year, eating a balanced diet and swimming. That’s got to be worth a few extra bricks in the Health House.

Why not join us over at Sepia Saturday to see what other fairy magic has been summoned up by the above prompt.

Over at my other, crafty blog, you can see some fairies in cross-stitch too.

Monday, 16 July 2012


 He asked that she would wear her short black dress, 
to celebrate his birthday on the town.
The truth of course she’d never guess.
She knew at once she’d have to acquiesce;
he loved her in that sleek designer gown.
 He asked that she would wear her short black dress.
And even though her life was such a mess,
the wine at least would make her sorrows drown.
The truth of course she’d never guess.
She’d don the slinky number nonetheless,
but wonder, as she did so with a frown,
why he’d asked that she should wear that short black dress.
She slipped the silky shift on with finesse,
remembering those words of ‘Golden Brown’,
The truth of course she’d never guess.
And she became  at once the “fine temptress”,
she knew she couldn’t let her lover down. 
 He asked that she would wear her short  black dress.
 The truth of course she’d never guess.
© Marilyn Brindley

*LBD is shorthand for Little Black Dress, which every woman should have in her wardrobe. But of course you knew that. 

‘Finer temptress’ appears in the lyrics of the classic, ‘Golden Brown’ by the Stranglers. 

Taking part in ‘The Mag’ courtesy of Tess Kincaid, who gave us the image 'Yesterday’s Dreams’ by Jack Vettriano, as inspiration. 

Thursday, 12 July 2012

A Parade of Prams

The prompt for Sepia Saturday is a lovely young Viennese lady, with a perky baby in a pram (ca.1900-1919). She’s wearing traditional costume, and judging by the rather grand surroundings could well be the nursemaid, rather than the mother. We will probably never know her identity, but she looks rightly proud of her charge in his lovely 'baby carriage' with richly decorated blanket. 

The first in my own ‘Pram Series’ goes even further back, and is a good deal fuzzier. It’s my late Mother-in-Law’s grandmother, with one of her children, somewhere in the early 1880s. The style of the baby-carriage is similar to the prompt picture and the baby looks equally perky. It must be the seaside air he’s enjoying. The original word for a baby carriage was ‘perambulator’ and mothers and nursemaids would ‘perambulate’, or walk, their babies in them.

And here’s my own grandmother wheeling my mother’s brother in a surprisingly modern looking buggy in 1920, when she would have been expecting my Mum as well. This was a ‘beautiful baby’ competition I believe, and also featured in my post ‘Beautiful Babies, Bugles and Buggies’.

The next picture is of my own mother. Regular readers know her from previous posts, but I don’t think I’ve ever taken you as far back as her babyhood in Spring 1921. As the image is taken from a different angle to the others I can’t comment on the carriage style. It’s rather grainy too, but I can see that her pram cover was just as pretty as the prompt picture. I can tell that it’s been lovingly crocheted, either by my grandmother herself, or by her mother, as they were both accomplished needlewomen. You can see more of my Gran’s beautiful work in this post. Mum looks slightly apprehensive, and not so perky as our original baby. As well as using prams for transporting the baby, they were used as outdoor cots. Many a baby has been parked in the garden, in the hope that the fresh air and birdsong would lull them to sleep. 

Pictures 3 (1952) and 4 are me! Again, my pram cover is hand knitted, probably by my Mum, who inherited the needle skills of the women in her family. By picture number 4 we can better judge the style of pram, which was still very large, with a useful shopping basket. Mum didn’t drive and she would have taken me on shopping trips, parking me under the window of the butcher’s the baker’s or candle-stick maker’s whilst she selected her purchases, keeping a beady eye on me at the same time. I appear to be distinctly unhappy. I was probably smiling at the point when Dad was about to take the picture and my little face dissolved into an unhappy mask at precisely the moment he pressed the button. There was no digital photography in those days and once the ‘snap’ was taken that was it. This is what babies do of course, but these days we click away hoping for one perfect shot and discard those showing the crumpled faces of miserable infants. I look like the ‘Desperation’ image in the Fry’s Five Boys Chocolate adverts.

And here’s my husband (1949), demonstrating the other Fry’s Five Boys expressions whilst lying  in his cosy pram in his lovely hand-smocked dress: Pacification, Expectation, Acclamation, and Realization. You may have to click on the link above if you aren’t familiar with the famous chocolate bar which was still around when I was a child.

For more expressions of delight, join us on Sepia Saturday this week and see what other contributors have made of the prompt. Do join me in my perambulations. 

Sunday, 8 July 2012

A Tale of Two Chilmarks

When I saw this week’s prompt for The Mag, I did a double-take. The picture is called, ‘Chilmark Hay’  by Thomas Hart Benton, painted in 1951, and for a split second I thought it was the Chilmark in England which I know so well. The haymaking scene was a familiar one to me as I drove through the Wiltshire countryside, although these days the farmers use tractors not horses of course, just as I’m sure they do in the Chilmark of the painting, which is situated in Massachusetts. The buildings, farm, hay stooks and even the dry-stone walls took me back to the English countryside.
The church spire in Benton’s painting could almost be St Margaret of Antioch in the English Chilmark, and both remind me of the magnificent spire (the tallest in Britain) of Salisbury Cathedral just twelve miles away from the village. The quarries at Chilmark also provided the 75,000 tonnes of stone used to build the cathedral.The area was known for farming as far back as the Domesday Survey of 1086, when the parish had lands for fourteen plough teams, and over the centuries farming was one of the main forms of employment.
So how did my Chilmark come to be connected with the one in the painting? The answer of course is emigration, starting back in the time of the Pilgrim Fathers .The connection continued into the twentieth century, and in 1957 a replica of The Mayflower recreated the original journey. Within the ship were goodwill documents and letter from Chilmark in Wiltshire to Chilmark in Massachusetts. The reply to the English villagers was signed by a descendent of Thomas Mayhew, one of the original settlers from the original Chilmark to the new one, and hangs in the church of St Margaret. 
Until three years ago, when we ourselves emigrated (to Lanzarote), Wiltshire was my home. Chilmark was known to me as a couple of villages down the Salisbury Road from the school where I had my first headship. On the day of my interview the candidates were given a pub lunch in Chilmark’s ‘Black Dog’ Inn and I could never pass through the village without remembering how nervous I was on the day. Rural scenes like the one in the painting still exist and the whole of the Nadder Valley is full of beautiful Wiltshire Villages with a rich history. I love to return there whenever I am in UK and my affinity with the place may explain that curious excitement I had when I first saw today’s image prompt.
I can’t reproduce the next picture due to copyright restrictions, but if you click on this link, I think you’ll be as amazed as I was. It’s called ‘Rural View (farm from Chilmark)’ by a modern artist, Francis Farmar, and it shows the Wiltshire Chilmark. See how similar it is to to the Benton painting. Two artists, two Chilmarks, but both depicting with great sympathy a gentle rural way of life. Farmar gives a contemporary flavour to 'prospect' pictures, a tradition which stretches back to the Seventeenth Century, appearing to fly above the landscape - bending and stretching it in order to describe more than can be seen from a single earth-bound viewpoint. Benton’s picture has us viewing the scene from a barely raised perpective; it’s as though we have stopped for a rest on a country walk and we can almost hail the farmer  and pass the time of day with him. The painting made me recall the words of A.E. Housman from his volume ‘A Shropshire Lad’ and I suppose sums up some of my own sentiments, though I am not so regretful, because I know that I can return.

Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.
A.E. Housman (XL from ‘A Shropshire Lad’)

So, after all that, here’s my own humble take on the prompt.

Chilmark Harvest

It was one of those snapshot moments,
The dawn breeze warm and dry,
Clouds forming dreamlike pictures,
A spire rising from the wooded hills,
The only sound, the creaking cart,
over-laden with the field’s rich bounty,
The horse, trusting, sensing his master’s every move,
quietly plodding forward,
each new forkful increasing his burden,
and slowing his step.
Ahead, the opening in the old stone wall,
as master and beast trod the well-worn furrow.
The clicking of the farmer’s tongue,
signalled the homeward run.
© Marilyn Brindley

Image of Chilmark Church:ChurchCrawler [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

We Can Stay All Day

Daddy’s taking us to the zoo tomorrow,
Zoo tomorrow, zoo tomorrow;
Daddy’s taking us to the zoo tomorrow, we can stay all day.
Tom Paxton

I have no pictures in my family albums to rival the one in this week’s Sepia Saturday photo prompt. My Mum, remembers having a ride on an elephant a Regent’s Park Zoo in the 1920s, though we have no pictorial record sadly. Of course we have been to zoos, wildlife and safari parks, bird gardens and rare breeds farms over the years, but not one elephant picture. Instead, I offer a few souvenir photographs from some of those visits. 

The first two are of me at Dudley Zoo in 1956. I wonder why I took my little suitcase along. I hope it wasn’t with the intention of taking something cuddly home with me. I seem to be more interested in the gentler, domesticated animals than in elephants and tigers. Notice the little boy in the first picture - what was he up to? 
I was obviously on friendly terms with the rabbit, and in 1979 my daughter demonstrated the same fascination for them, though I think this was probably in a friend’s garden.

In 1990 we had acquired a budgie as a family pet and became somewhat bird crazy. Off we went for a visit to Merley Bird Gardens in Dorset. Here we met Brolly, who was an Umbrella Cockatoo. None of us can remember which TV show Brolly had been in, but it looks as though the sign is mentioning this. My daughter kept a summer scrapbook and wrote that there were lots of birds from doves to penguins and a free flying parrot, but there was no mention of Brolly. We all remember that the sign said not to put your finger in the cage. To an eleven year old boy that is in invitation to do so, with the inevitable consequences - one sore finger! He learned the hard way to always obey the signs. Yes, and that it was better to stick with those bunnies!

Having said there were no baby elephants in the our albums, I remembered that there were some baby elephant seals! These picture are of my husband’s tour of duty with the RAF in the Falkland Islands in 1986-7.

Here’s my husband and friends being brave on Sea Lion Island. These are the young elephant seals.In the picture below his colleague risked going a little closer to a female and got snarled at.

And the photo below, demonstrates why you would be foolish to get too close to the bull elephant seal. This one was taken in 1955 on Macquarie Island. If there was a sign saying: ‘Beware of the Bull’ I don’t think you’d be tempted to try and test it.

I’ve come full circle  with my sepia pictures this week because the above image comes from the State Library of New South Wales Collection via flickr creative commons, as did this week’s Sepia Saturday prompt. From baby elephants to daddy elephant seals. 

Why not join us and see what other contributors have to offer?

Sunday, 1 July 2012

A Spa Too Far

Ophelia by Redon Odilone

A lady desired to be pampered
so booked herself into a spa,
but found that her garments then hampered
her efforts; she didn’t get far.
The bath was to help with unwinding
and calming her poor troubled brain.
The flowers were meant for reminding,
their perfume to ease her heart’s pain.
The crow-flower, nettle and daisy,
columbine, fennel and rue.
Remembrance was now a bit hazy,
so they threw in some rosemary too.
She lay in the warm scented water,
hoping to drift off to sleep.
The peace that the treatment had brought her
was dreamlike, and heavy and deep.
No nettle could prick her awake now,
her nightgown clung heavy and cold.
The pansies lay limp on her neatly plucked brow, 
the violets all withered and old.
She must have been mad, they all said,
madly in love that was all.
Sweets to the sweet on the treatment room bed,
a white sheet, her funeral pall.
© Marilyn Brindley

The image prompt was courstesy of Tess Kincaid at The Mag. It reminded me of the flower baths advertised at exotic spas. Nevertheless I still had fun with the Ophelia connection. All the flowers listed are from Hamlet by William Shakespeare:

There’s a daisy; I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father died...... 

The words ‘sweets to the sweet’ are spoken by the Queen as she scatters flowers:

Sweets to the sweet, farewell!
I hop’d thou shouldst have been my Hamlet’s wife:
I thought thy bride-bed to have deck’d, sweet maid,
And not have strewed thy grave.