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, 30 September 2012


Lady Audley by Hans Holbein

I send thee here this symbol of my love,
A sucket fork to take thy sweetmeats up,
And press them twixt thy lips my precious Dove,
Or cherries pick from this our Loving Cup;
And see, the handle carved of heartwood fine,
A filial of brass which crowns the very tip,
And your initials interlaced with mine,
Strong iron tines thy kissing-comfits grip;
And so sweet Chuck pray take this precious gift,
When thou attends’t The Rose this very night,
And pierce the sugar-bread, and lift
The marchpane, plum or fig for your delight;
Pray use this token for my Sweeting’s pleasure,
But guard it well and keep it close as treasure.

© Marilyn Brindley

A ‘sucket’ was a sweetmeat such as sugar-bread or gingerbread, marchpane (marzipan) or a ‘kissing-comfit’ which would have been used to sweeten the breath. Such a fork was recently found by archaeologists  at The Rose Theatre on Bankside, which pre-dates The Globe by about ten years. The fork, which is now housed in the Museum of London, was the subject of a recent BBC Radio 4 programme; ‘Snacking Through Shakespeare’ as part of the excellent series; ‘Shakespeare’s Restless World’. and is still available as a podcast here. The website also has a transcript of the programme and a picture of the fork itself.  A fork was a rarity in Shakespeare’s day and the one in the museum was evidently dropped by some careless nobleman or his lady, where it remained, along with pottery shards and the remains of cuttlefish, and nutshells until its discovery. 
I imagined my sonnet being sent with the fork as a lover’s gift from a young nobleman, with an admonition to take care of it, as it was so precious and rare an object. He hopes she’ll use it to spear her  sweetmeats and imagines them being passed from the fork to her lips.  I used the description of the sucket fork found in The Rose. If you want to know more about how Elizabethan theatregoers behaved; the noisy gassy sounds their ale bottles made, what they ate, how they threw apples at the stage if displeased with the performance and how they peed in dark corners, then listen to this wonderful short programme (or read the transcript). I wonder what the young man said to his ‘Sweeting’, his ‘Chuck’, his ‘Dove’ when she had to confess that she had lost the precious object.  

This was written for The Mag, where Tess Kincaid gives us a picture prompt every week, to set us off on our creative path. This week the picture was. ‘It Must be Time for Lunch Now’ (1979) by the talented but tragic artist, Francesca Woodman, and, not surprisingly, forks featured quite heavily in the photograph.

If you like Shakespeare, you may enjoy my Richard III poem, 'These Bones'. you can read it here. 

Friday, 28 September 2012


I could never resist a pun. This week's post is about football, hence the title. Well, you can't have a football post, so Goalpost was the next best thing. As long as we don't keep moving it!

Twice a week the winter thorough 
Here stood I to keep the goal: 
Football then was fighting sorrow 
For the young man's soul. 

From Twice a Week the Winter Thorough by A.E. Housman

This is my brother in the mid1960s, lacing his football boots ready for a local match on our nearby recreation ground with his amateur team, Arnbrook United. Our picture prompt for Sepia Saturday this week comes from the National Archive in the Netherlands, via Flickr Commons, and shows three young boys proudly carrying their football boots around their neck. My heart sank when I saw this as I am not a football fan. However, I happen to have been brought up in a household where the male members of the family all worship at its shrine. It really was almost sacred, and took priority over everything else. My grandparents lived at Trent Bridge, a short walk from the Nottingham Forest ground and when my Granddad, Dad and brother went to the match, Mum and I would keep my grandmother company and listen for the roar of the crowd when a goal was scored, or the collective disappointed groan when a penalty was missed. At the end of the match the men and boys, with some wives and girlfriends, would pour out of the Forest ground and some would walk past our door. I don't remember any hooliganism or fights and everything seemed very good natured. Perhaps I am looking back with rose-tinted spectacles. 

When my father was a boy there was no recreation ground to play on and he and his pals would be out on the street, using their coats for goalposts. In the 1920s Dad would have played with a well-worn leather football, which had to be pumped up and laced. The lacing and stitching would often be worn and this meant that you rarely played with a perfect sphere. Dad always had the most beautiful copperplate handwriting, and as a schoolboy won a handwriting competition where the prize was a football. Imagine his delight as a youngster in a family who rarely gave presents and there was little spare cash for luxuries such as a football. He must have been very popular with his friends. Dad went on to play in two local teams: Aspley Celtic and Lady Bay Athletic.

My brother seems just as proud of his boots as the boys in the prompt picture. The 1960s saw a big change in football boot design when the first below-the-ankle boots were introduced. During the next decade boots started to be the subject of sponsorship and footballers were paid to wear only one brand. Perhaps that's where the big changes 'kicked off', when the game started to be much more about money than anything else.

Well, it was in the genes I suppose and my brother passed his passion for football on to his son, my nephew, pictured in the above photograph with Sir Bobby Charlton. My nephew was eleven years old and had won the regional finals of the  Bobby Charltion Soccer Skills Competition 1985. A proud family moment. 

Here he is again in 1992 proudly holding aloft the F.A. Youth Cup won by the team of which he was captain: the 'Nottinghamshire Football Association Under-18s'. More cheers all round from the family. He went on to play semi-professionally whilst still studying at University, until injuries put paid to any thoughts of a career in the game.

My Dad spent many hours supporting both his son and his grandson with their football training, and ferrying car-loads of youngsters around. He was the trainer for my brother's primary school team, as well as for Arnbrook United. He still enjoys watching a Nottingham Forest match, but he is an armchair football spectator these days. A couple of years ago my nephew arranged for four generations of the family to watch a match, and it was reported in the Nottingham Forest programme 'CAPTURED'. His own son, then four, was by now a real fan of the team too.  Dad's memories were reported in the programme, and he could recall the days when youngsters were let into the grounds for the last twenty minutes of the match and passed over the heads of adults so that they could sit pitch-side and watch the end of the game. The players used to be put up in lodgings on the road where Dad was living as a boy, and he remembers running errands for  players Tommy Graham and Bob Pugh and fetching them cigarettes from the local shop. "How times have changed." said Dad.

The young man in my first picture, is now a Grandpa himself. Here he is with my Dad, nephew  (the one with the winning ways) and my great-nephew, who now has a younger sister who is just as avid a fan of Nottingham Forest.

Why not visit Sepia Saturday to see what other contributors set as their goal.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

These Bones

These bones have mouldered many years,
laid to rest with none to mourn, 
nor mark my time on earth, 
save the tolling of the Greyfriars bell, 
and the holy brothers’ funeral dirge.

I lost my life on Bosworth field, 
mired in mud and treason. 
A sword cleaved my crown,
an arrow pierced my misshaped spine,
and sent me, grim-visaged, to the next world.

And now this garden yields a harvest rich,
these bones, cheated of feature,
are hung up for monument.
The ground is rudely stamped, 
and there are merry meetings. 

I foresee the winter of their discontent, 
and wranglings twixt the learned few, 
who wish to prove a villain of these bones, 
but first must ascertain that this was 
Richard’s tomb indeed.

Yet I remain, unfinished, scarce half made-up, 
brought before my time 
into this breathing world.
How long before these bones 
will know their rest?

© Marilyn Brindley

I had the honour of a third poem being published on Poetry 24, two weeks ago. I was mesmerised by the thought that the dig in a Leicester car park may have unearthed the lost bones of Richard III, that much-maligned monarch. Here is the link to the report on the BBC website.

I couldn't resist including some of the words from Richard's speech in the opening lines of Shakespeare's play. I have seen the play live on stage only twice, once as a teenager, with Norman Rodway at the RSC in Stratford; and another RSC production with Robert Lindsey at the Theatre Royal, Bath in 1998. I have several performances on DVD, including Ian Holm and, of course, Laurence Olivier. All wonderful productions with different interpretations put on Shakespeare's words, by the actors and directors. However, Shakespeare's Richard is not the Richard of history though it is the one most people will bring to mind. The Richard III Society lays out many arguments in his defence and it is worth visiting their website for a more balanced view.

If you enjoy Shakespearean themed poetry you may like my 'Sonnet' about a rather special artifact. You can read it here

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Goose Bumps

Goose flying down;
flinging, slinging.
Caught in a vortex;
ringing, winging.
Plucked from the air;
deported, exported.
Vortically challenged;
transported, distorted.

Feathers descending;
swirling, whirling.
Fluttering earthward;
curling, unfurling.
Plucked until bare;
shivering, quivering.
Lands with a thud;
Dinner delivering!

© Marilyn Brindley

Written for The Mag, where Tess Kincaid, gave us the painting by David Salle, called 'Flying Down'to interpret however we wish. Fly down there to see what other contributors came up with.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

The Cry of the Children

Do ye hear the children weeping, O my brothers,
Ere the sorrow comes with years?
They are leaning their young heads against their mothers---
And that cannot stop their tears.
Let me introduce you to 'Little Fannie', seven years old and 48 inches high. She helps her sister in Elk Mills. Her sister (in the photo) said, "Yes, she he'ps me right smart. Not all day, but all she can. Yes, she started with me at six this mornin'." These two were from a family of nineteen children. This image is by Lewis Hine (1874-1940) an American sociologist and photographer. His pictures were instrumental in changing the child labour laws in the United States. The Library of Congress has a vast archive of his work under ‘The National Child Labor Committee Collection’ and these can be viewed on the web, via Wikimedia Commons. A browse of those young faces staring dolefully back at us from the page of history, is at the same time poignant and fascinating. Some are as young as three years of age, pictured hulling berries at Johnson’s Canning Camp. In England in the 1920s the equivalent may have been the child pickers in Kent's hop fields, where, "Despite official ban, thousands of kiddies are helping Mum and Dad in the hopfields" according to this short Pathe news clip, which made the whole business sound rather more jolly than it actually was. 

Our Sepia Saturday prompt this week is Brown McDowell, a 12 year old usher, at the Princess Theatre in Alabama in October1914. He looks rather seriously into the camera lens, as well he might. The posters behind him are advertising the film showing at the time, which had a fairly grim subject. ‘The Ex- Convict’ was released (if you’ll pardon the pun) in the States in September 1914. It shared the bill with a documentary, ‘Food For The Dogs of War’, to fill out the bill. They were known as ‘shorts’, about thirty minutes each, and of course, were black and white and silent. It doesn’t sound like a very jolly evening’s entertainment. To make matters worse, on the other side of him is a headless man and the ticket seller looks as if she’s been imprisoned too! I don’t suppose poor Brown had much to smile about. Apparently he worked from 10.00 a.m until 10.00 p.m. He could barely read and had only reached second grade in school. The investigator reported that he had little need for his earnings; I wonder what made him draw that conclusion. This picture was also taken by Hines, who decapitated the other figures, because he was concentrating, quite rightly on his child subjects.The BBC News Magazine website has a short clip entitled, ‘Lewis Hine: The child labour photos that shamed America’, which is well worth 3 minutes and 44 seconds of anyone's time.
Coal Tub - 18th Century
In my school British History lessons I was taught about the exploitation of children in mines, factories and agriculture until the early reforms of the Earl of Shaftesbury in the 1830s. Reform was a long time coming however, and we can read Charles Dickens’ 1854 account of being put to work in Warren’s Blacking Factory at the age of eleven, due to his family being in debtors’ prison. Dickens remained a staunch supporter of reform and highlighted the plight and injustice of child labour through his writing. Here you can read his damning indictment in ‘Household Words’. The opening sentence should be enough to grip you and make you want to read on.

It is good when it happens,” say the children, - “that we die before our time.” Poetry may be right or wrong in making little operatives who are ignorant of cowslips say anything like that. We mean here to speak prose. There are many ways of dying. Perhaps it is not good when a factory girl, who has not the whole spirit of play spun out of her for want of meadows, gambols upon bags of wool, a little too near the exposed machinery that is to work it up, and is immediately seized, and punished by the merciless machine that digs its shaft into her pinafore and hoists her up, tears out her left arm at the shoulder joint, breaks her right arm, and beats her on the head. No, that is not good; but it is not a case in point, the girl lives and may be one of those who think it would have been good for her if she had died before her time.  The poetry to which Dickens refers is the Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s The Cry Of The Children’ 1843.
By the twentieth century, progress was still slow, in both Britain and the United States, hence the young usher in our prompt picture. In my own family history, my grandfather left school at the age of fourteen, as did both his children; my mother to work in an an office and her brother as a tiler’s apprentice. Here is my Uncle Billy (2nd r) looking just as miserable as the youngsters in Hines' pictures, but with less cause, as he benefited from a solid education and a happy home life.
How fortunate my brother and I were to be given the opportunity to stay at school until the age of eighteen, and then to go on to further education and worthwhile apprenticeships. Here is my brother c 1962, working at the laboratory of the Nottingham branch of the National Coal Board (as it then was) where he was studying to be a Mining Engineer. He looks distinctly happier than Brown, Fannie or even Billy, and although he did indeed often go 'down the mines', it wasn't to pull a coal tub in the dark for hours on end. 
For, all day, we drag our burden tiring,
Through the coal-dark, underground---
Or, all day, we drive the wheels of iron
In the factories, round and round.
E.Barrett Browning, 'The Cry Of The Children'
The Convention on the Rights of the Child is an international human rights treaty signed by all but two of the world's countries.  In Article 32(1) it says:

"States Parties recognize the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child's education, or to be harmful to the child's health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development." UNICEF
Sadly, one in six children are still exploited today in sweat-shops, factories, farms, fields and rag-heaps across the world. Every year 22,000 children die in work-related accidents, 73 million working children are less than ten years old. Who will hear their cry?
For more stories and old pictures prompted by the picture of the little usher, visit this week's Sepia Saturday.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Happy Anniversary

© Marilyn Brindley

The image is 'Venus and a Sailor' 1925 by Salvador Dali. Tess Kincaid provided it as this week's creative writing prompt in 'The Mag'. Dali's idea of Venus is nothing like mine. To me this is a middle aged couple enjoying an Argentine Tango, whilst they still can. To see how seriously other contributors to The Mag took this prompt, put on your dancing shoes and waltz over to Tess's blog.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

From Fish Stalls to Fiestas

Our Sepia Saturday photo prompt this week is the interior of a grocery store. I have covered this exhaustively in 'Open All Hours', one of my favourite blog posts, which was also published in the Nottingham Post's 'Bygones' magazine. New readers may like to skip back there to see my nonchalant great grandfather leaning on the doorpost of his grocery shop and read about my family of shopkeepers.

So, today I thought you may like to hear about shopping old-style here in Lanzarote; more particularly the markets. The Recova Market is situated in Arrecife, the island's capital, close to the City Hall. The market we visit today is the modern one which replaced the original, established in 1871. When the first Recova opened, investors and traders were photographed for posterity, and years later those images were reproduced on the walls of the shady walkways leading to the new market. The information, in three languages, doesn't tell us a great deal about their identities but two of them are thought to be the father and grandfather of the famous artist César Manrique, the architect of the island, about whom I have written in previous posts. Here his father is wearing the white trousers and riding a donkey and with the grandfather to his left.

In 1874 the town hall expressed its gratitude to the fishing and urban industries of the city by naming the street Calle Vargas in honour of the original owner of the building, and fixing a memorial plaque on the facade of the market entrance.

The market had three entrances and three galleries with eight openings which faced onto a central courtyard, with three water tanks and a pump for seawater. Another courtyard had a manger, slaughterhouse, graze room, tool room and lavatory. There was also a room for the selling of meat with two rooms either side of it as well as four 'lonjas' - fish markets and grocers' shops. The establishment boasted tools such as heavy duty scales and a set of weights.

Several dignitaries and clerics were photographed on camels and in the above picture you can see the seats which are still used today by the camels who take eager tourists along the Timanfaya trail.

This is how the market would have looked when it was busy and bustling, although I think this picture belongs to the twentieth century judging by the length of the skirts. The lady in the foreground is wearing a typical Canarian hat, still used by the workers in the fields, very necessary and extremely practical.

The market was closed for more than twenty years and recently re-opened as an artisan market with a café. I'm sure you don't need me to tell you what trade is being plied in the picture below.

On the morning of our visit most of the stallholders had not yet opened for business, but this lady was keeping an eye on the café. This link will take you to more colourful pictures of the market.

On one of the busy shopping streets of Arrecife there is a haven of peace and calm to where we like to escape the busy shopping streets for a cup of coffee. Built in the tradition Canarian manner around a central courtyard, the stalls and booths for small shops are all around, both on the ground floor and on the upper storey.

For our fresh fruit and vegetables we like to visit the traditional farmers' market at Mancha Blanca in the North of the island.

Figs are coming to the end of their season just now and these can be bought at the farmers' market, along with fig jam, a preserve which is eaten with traditional Canarian cheeses. The outdoor market at Mancha Blanca has permanent booths for the farmers to set up shop, this is a modern version of the one we would have seen at the old Recova market in Arrecife. This weekend it's the Fiesta de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores. The island's patron saint is celebrated and the point is marked where the flow of lava from the last volcanic eruptions in 1824 came to a halt just outside the village of Mancha Blanca. People often walk on foot from all over the island as part of the pilgrimage and huge crowds, mostly in Canarian dress, converge on the village. There will be markets, food stalls, timple music, singing and dancing and the sun will be shining.

If you haven't done the weekend shopping yet you can take your pick from the wonderful store that is Sepia Saturday.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Ladies and Gentleman

I confess. The above image is not genuinely sepia and I cheated a little. It is over twenty years old though, so still qualifies for entry in this week's Sepia Saturday, where Alan gave us an image of two elegant ladies and a gentleman posing in beautiful clothes. This is the nearest I could get. It's me and my offspring enjoying a day at Morwellham Quay in Devon in July 1992. This is another of those wonderful living museums where you can step back in time, wear period costume, and visit the farm and copper mine of the Victorian age. There are many images and videos on the web for those who are interested, suffice it to say we remember the day as being great fun. I've only recently unearthed these pictures to the amusement of my grown-up children. My son couldn't resist commenting on his height (he now towers over me of course) and I said it was because I cut his feet off (not literally) as the trainers gave the game away. Thank goodness for the stovepipe hat, worthy of Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Here we are in glorious technicolour.

At the other end of the scale, and to remind us that life back then was not all velvet muffs and pretty hats, we also dressed as Cornish tin miners. The miners and their families, by contrast, had a very hard life which you can read about here. We had a lot of fun on the day but my son still remembers that his miner's costume had a candle in the hat. Did you notice I'd swapped hats with my daughter in the picture on the right?

Even the grandparents got into the spirit of the things. Mum still recalls my son, acting the part and making us all laugh with his 'mock Cornish' accent as he asked for a 'paaaasty'! Cornish pasties were the staple diet of the miners and you can read some of the traditions, including folklore and legend associated with them at the Proper Cornish website.

If you want to see what other Sepia Saturday contributors have found in their family albums, why not join us?

I had some trouble reposting a blogpost this week. Some people saw it, some didn't and it hasn't appeared in everybody's blogroll, or if it did the link didn't work. I reposted it for a special reason, so I would be delighted if you scroll down after reding this post and have a look. Or click this link. One of Our Aircraft is Missing.

Monday, 3 September 2012

One of our Aircraft is Missing

This is a re-post on the anniversary of my original post for reasons which will become apparent.

"Then we that are alive and remain
shall be caught up together with them in the clouds"
1 Thessalonians 4:17

The Red Arows 2009 at the Radom Airshow Konflikty.pl via Wikimedia Commons
The news that the Red Arrows were flying again after the loss of Red 4, Flt Lt Jon Egging, two weeks earlier, has been met with joy tinged with sadness. There was relief that the Hawk T1 jets were cleared to fly once more, and that they could honour commitments to summer air shows; however, the team now have to fly with eight aircraft, instead of the more usual ‘diamond nine’. The pilots are always prepared to do this in case of sickness or aircraft problems, but for such a tight-knit team, it must have been particularly hard. At the Chatsworth House Country Fair, last week they produced spectacular coloured smoke trails and formed the shape of a heart, dedicating it to Jon Egging’s widow, Emma. For those who witnessed the display it would have been a bittersweet moment. Two teams lost members on that day; the Red Arrows lost a brave and selfless colleague, but Emma Egging lost her life partner. As an ex ‘R.A.F. wife’ I can appreciate the support and comradeship shown by the Red Arrows. I have seen them fly on many occasions and my children grew up to the sound of fast jets flying overhead. Friends and colleagues were lost during the Falklands War, but the experience made families draw closer. The RAF motto is ‘Per Ardua ad Astra’ - through adversity to the stars.

One of our Aircraft is Missing

The ‘diamond nine’ no longer,
weaving coloured trails, we eight
soar high over the Derwent Valley. 
We paint a smoke-heart on blue canvas,
honouring another team torn apart that day,
another perfect formation destroyed.

Red 4; pilot, colleague, husband, friend
Per Ardua Ad Astra 

© Marilyn Brindley

A year further on and the team are back again at the Bournemouth Air Show. My daughter witnessed some of the display from the Bournemouth seafront and sent me these pictures.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Blue Moon

Who are these spectres, simple charmers?
What demons cause this dreadful state?
What do they use to soothe their troubled lives?
Where do they mark and where inflict the harm?
                                                       the arm
What do they hope these actions will avoid?
                                                  a void
They cut and score their flesh to ease distress?
                                                 this stress
How do they feel then, something different?
And when the trickling blood becomes a balm?

© Marilyn Brindley

Reading today about Olympic champion Victoria Pendleton's history of self-harm, the story stayed with me when I saw these spectral shapes in the picture by Alfred Bloch; 'Summer Night 1913'. They looked like troubled souls and our recent 'Blue Moon' reminded me of the old belief that the balance of the mind could be affected by the moon (lunacy). Blue is a colour associated with sadness and these poor wraiths looks sad and somewhat numb. Perhaps relief came in the form of a knife.  

I used an echo verse, where the last syllables of the main line are repeated but with a different meaning. It becomes a dialogue with the echo commenting on what has gone before. It was a popular device in poetry of the sixteenth-eighteenth centuries. A good example is 'Heaven' by George Herbert or 'A Gentle Echo on Woman' by Jonathon Swift.

This is a contribution for 'The Mag' where Tess Kincaid gives us a picture prompt to get our creative juices flowing.