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 June 2013

Storm Warning

Image by Musin Yohan

Treading the fields, she wears her heavy load, 
As light as any garment on her form,
The sun is up, the air is close and warm,
The dust and stones lie thick upon the road.

Swatting a fly, her footsteps now are slowed,
She scans the sky and smells the gathering storm,
Treading the fields, she wears her heavy load, 
As light as any garment on her form,

Reading the signs that Heaven has showed,
She prays that God a miracle will perform;
Send rains to make the hard, dry earth transform,
Where once a rushing river flowed.
Treading the fields, she wears her heavy load.

© Marilyn Brindley

This is my first attempt at a 'rondel'. It's an old French fourteenth century form, and written in English from the fifteenth century. I do like to give myself an extra challenge by writing to a form sometimes, but this one has several variants. In the end I went with this one; three stanzas, a two-line refrain (A, B) where the whole lines are repeated in each stanza; thirteen lines on the following rhyme scheme: 1.A, B, b, a    2. a, b, A, B  3. a, b, b, a, A.

The image is from Tess Kincaid who posted it on The Mag to inspire poets and writers to be creative. Follow the link to see what others have made of it. 

Saturday 29 June 2013

This Wooden O

But pardon, and gentles all,
The flat unraised spirits that have dared
On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth
So great an object: can this cockpit hold
The vasty fields of France? or may we cram
Within this wooden O the very casques 
That did affright the air at Agincourt?

On this day in 1613, the first Globe Theatre in London was burned to the ground. It had originally opened in 1599 and Shakespeare had written his most famous plays for its company The Lord Chamberlain's Men, to which he belonged. The most powerful roles were written for the actor Richard Burbage. These included Hamlet, Othello and King Lear. The 'Wooden O' referred to by the Chorus in the prologue of HenryV is probably The Globe, where the play would have first been performed.

It was a spark from a stage cannon which set the thatched roof ablaze and led to the building quickly burning down. A new Globe arose like a phoenix from the ashes and continued to prosper until it was closed down by the Puritans. It was later demolished and the site forgotten until 1924, when a small plaque appeared on a brewery wall on the supposed site. It was there that a young actor named Sam Wanamaker found it and, disappointed that there was not a grander memorial, made a vow to somehow re-create the Globe as near to the original site as possible. The story of how his sheer determination and hard work paid off can be read here. The new building, named 'Shakespeare's Globe Theatre' opened in 1997 and has been delighting audiences ever since. I have not been fortunate enough to see a performance myself but I have seen TV recordings of the plays. Great fun, but of course the television can't convey the atmosphere.

The pictures come from my own set of Royal Mail mint stamps, designed by C. Walter Hodges issued in 1995 and titled 'Shakespeare's Globe and The Bankside Theatres' to commemorate the vision of Sam Wanamaker and the South African architect Theo Crosby, and to mark their 25 year partnership and the realisation of their dream. Sadly, both men died before the theatre was officially opened.

The fold-out information leaflet which comes with these stamps, tells us that Southwark's Bankside was already a thriving entertainment centre before the first playhouse, 'The Rose' was built in 1587 and enlarged to the shape depicted on the stamp in 1592. On a recent trip to Southwark we were lucky enough to visit the site of the original Rose theatre, where volunteers give daily talks, and a film presentation. They hope to raise enough funds to begin more archaeological work in the next year or so.  More pictures here.It was a fascinating eye-opener for me, and the visit was entirely free, relying on donations to keep going. We almost missed it and if it wasn't for following some arrows on an A board, pointing down some backstreets, we certainly would have. I can recommend it if you are ever in the area. There's also Southwark Cathedral, the wonderful Borough Market and a reconstruction of The Golden Hinde, Sir Francis Drake's ship to see. As we did!

Three years after The Rose came 'The Swan', a little further upriver, opposite Blackfriars, and in the same year as the Globe's destruction, a rival theatre company built 'The Hope' which doubled as a bull and bear-baiting ring. Then in 1614 the brand new Globe was opened for business. The leaflet says it was 'The Shaftesbury Avenue of its day'.

Sharing this with my friends at Sepia Saturday and with Viridian's Sunday Stamps. View the pictures and leaflets more closely in my Flickr set here.

Thursday 27 June 2013

Playing Mole

"If a man is poor he had only to go to Nottingham with a mattock, a shovel, a crow, an iron, a chisel or a mallet, and with such instruments he may play mole and work himself a hole or burrow for his family."
—Anon 1870

The city of my birth, Nottingham, England, has something in common with the place I live now, Lanzarote in the Canary Islands - caves. I was brought up with the knowledge that underneath the city ran a vast labyrinth of some five hundred caves, which over the centuries have been used for public house cellars, a tannery, air raid shelters and for general storage and living accommodation.

They have been inhabited and worked in for over 1000 years, and they are all handmade! The city is built on bunter (Sherwood) sandstone, which is very soft and easily carved into with simple tools. Many of the caves were almost lost during the building of a new shopping centre in the late 1960s, but they have now been preserved as an ancient monument, and since 2004 The City of Caves has been a designated tourist attraction. The pictures above and below are from Nottingham21.co.uk, clicking here will take you to a gallery of the caves. 

Ray Teece, who owns the site, and who has generously allowed me to use his images, was given access to areas not generally open to the public and there are some fascinating pictures. 

Under Willoughby House are caves once used as air raid shelters during WW2 but which at one time, Ray says, may have been used by the gentry to have a cool drink in equally cool surroundings. In 1189 drinkers were enjoying ale which had stored deep in the cellars of the 'Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem', arguably the oldest pub in England, and the caves of which are said to have run directly to Nottingham Castle, perched on the rock high above. 'Mortimer's Hole' is perhaps Nottingham's most famous cave, and played a part in British Medieval history. It is supposed to be the tunnel where Edward III's soldiers entered the castle and captured his enemy, Roger de Mortimer.

A two year Cave Survey is currently being carried out by Trent and Peak Archaeology, University of Nottingham, using laser scanners, which produce 3D images, to record the layout of the caves and tunnels beneath the city.The link takes you to the website where the techniques is explained and where unusual and exciting videos can be viewed of the results of their survey. They have a somewhat ethereal quality and are accompanied by wonderfully appropriate music. If you've time have a look at more than one - they're fascinating.

This one shows the Herbarium Cave, one of Victorian lace manufacturer Thomas Herbert's spectacular garden caves. It was heated with a hypocaust system and may have been used to provide heated seating for Alderman Herbert's guests. Another great place to have a drink or a party.

In Lanzarote, our caves are not man made. The majority are the results of ancient volcanic eruptions and they are dotted all around the island. Some are accessible only to experienced cavers and others have been further enhanced and developed as natural auditoriums for concerts, such as the spectacular Jameos del Agua, created by the artist and visionary César Manrique. Manriques' own home, now an art gallery and visitor attraction, was also built from a volcanic bubble. Manrique rubbed shoulders with the rich and famous and his guests would also have enjoyed a drink in stunning surroundings. Another brilliant place to have a party. I wrote about it in this blogpost, and here is my favourite underground place to chill (if only).

Our Sepia Saturday prompt this week was a picture of the Wombeyan Caves and it will have led contributors down all sorts of rabbit holes in a bid to match the theme. Why not join the rest of the troglodytes and see what they found?

Thursday 20 June 2013

In the Can

The wonderful image above by Don O'Brien is called 'Irish Boys and Milk Cart'. Don tells us that the boys were delivering milk to a creamery somewhere in the south of Ireland." I recall that we landed at Shannon in mid morning during October 1962 and drove south to observe dairy operations that were simple and picturesque. The folks we met were cordial. The cart-puller appears to be a Holstein."

It reminded me of the first time I heard the word 'creamery' when we were holidaying in Ireland in 1997,  and passed a sign that read 'Danger Creamery Exit'. For some reason this caused us both to laugh out loud because it conjured up an image of gallons of cream pouring out into the road (and no, we hadn't been at the Guinness!). In England we were more familiar with the word 'Dairy'. Creamery seems to be a word more used in Ireland and America.

Dairy: ORIGIN Middle English deierie, from deie dairymaid (in Old English dǣge female servant), of Germanic origin; related to Old Norse deigja, also to dough and to the second element of Old English hlǣfdige (see lady. Creamery: ORIGIN mid 19th cent.: from cream, on the pattern of French crémerie.

Our Sepia Saturday picture prompt this week has an Australian farmer astride a horse, and carrying a milk churn, with the caption 'Off to the Creamery'. Don O Brien's picture has the horse and the milk churns, and the family are indeed 'off to the creamery'

Dairies and saucy dairymaids had often appeared in English and Irish folk songs, in old advertisements (for Fry's Chocolate) and in paintings. Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) wrote a both a poem, called 'The Milkmaid' and a novella, 'The Romantic Adventures of a Milkmaid'. Occasionally there is mention of the milk churn or pail itself. In Shakespeare's poem, 'When Icicles Hang by the Wall', he evokes the bitter cold by telling us that Dick the shepherd blows his nail, Tom bears logs into the hall and milk comes frozen home in pail'. Dylan Thomas in 'Under Milk Wood' describing the early morning scene in the town, adds: 'Milk churns stand at Coronation Corner like short, silver policemen.'

Flickr Commons has a whole category given over to Milk Churns (or cans) where we are spoilt for choice with images ranging from black and white pictures of rural life, through Cezanne's 'Still Life With Carafe, Bowl, Milk Can and Orange', to modern colour photographs showing the many uses to which the humble milk churn can be put; It's the latter of which I have chosen to show a selection here. Apparently churns are much sought after on Ebay as planters for herbs and flowers, as roadside signs and as an object d'art for primitive painting or canal art. So if you fancy having a go at any of these, it's off to the Creamery with you. Don't forget to stop on the way to see what other contributors to Sepia Saturday have made of the prompt.

Des Colhoun's roadside sign has the following note: 'Non rustics may be not aware that the container to the right of the postbox is known as a milk churn in England and Scotland. In Northern Ireland they are more accurately known as creamery cans as in distant times the milk produced was collected daily from the farms and taken to the dairies (England and Scotland) or creameries. (Northern Ireland) A churn of course is a device in which butter is made.'

German 'peasant art' is displayed on this milk can from Ostfildern, south of Stuttgart, whilst in Hawes, North Yorkshire the churn is put to use as a planter for flowers.

When the baby bath is nowhere to be found, place your infant in a milk basin with a cuddly milk pail to hold onto and a friendly churn to watch over her.

No horse, nor bowler-hatted farmer to cuddle to milk on its way to the creamery? How about this purpose-built sledge, found in the carriage museum in Heidelheim. The milk really would come frozen home in pail!

1.By Don O'Brien [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
2.Des Colhoun [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
3.By Nasobema lyricum (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons. 4.Public Domain
5.By Ingvar Kjøllesdal (Flickr: IMG_3892) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. 6.Public Domain

Friday 14 June 2013

Crowning Glory

This month Queen Elizabeth II celebrated the 60th anniversary of her coronation. I don't remember the event as I was a baby at the time, but my mother tells me that the family had a television for the occasion. My parents were never well-off and would have had to make some sacrifices to be able to afford it. My mother wanted a washing machine but my father insisted that the television would benefit everyone (!) whereas the washing machine would have made only my mother's life easier. Mum's pleas that she would have been less worn out by domestic drudgery and therefore a much nicer person to live with, thus ensuring the entire family benefited, fell on deaf ears. Mum continued to wash the family laundry in an old fashioned copper 'boiler' and then put it through a mangle. All the neighbours, who had purchased modern cleaning and washing machines, but failed to equip themselves with the means to watch this exciting event, went round to my parents' house to share their television for the occasion.

The picture on the right is made available on Wikimedia Commons here. The inscription states:

"Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom during a state banquet in honor of Brazilian president Lula da Silva at Buckingham Palace, London. The Queen wears the insignia of the Grand Collar of the Brazilian National Order of the Southern Cross (namely, the Grand Collar itself and the Star). Also worn are the insignia of the Royal Family Orders of Kings George V (white background) and George VI (pink background), and also the aquamarine necklace and other jewels that were given her by the Government of Brazil as a Coronation gift, as well as the aquamarine tiara, commissioned by the Queen in 1957 to match the jewels that had been given to her by the Brazilian Government."

That is an awful lot of jewellery, but most of it was worn for diplomatic reasons, not because it matched her eyes! It was only right and proper that she should wear the jewels bestowed upon her as coronation gifts by the Brazilian Government. I do like the idea that the Queen commissioned a tiara to match the necklace, making accessorising so much easier, and of course with all that sparkle the handbag had to be silver.

Our Sepia Saturday prompt this week shows a woman 'with elaborate cameo jewelery and off the shoulder dress'. I thought she's raided her jewellery box in order to show off off all her treasures, but beside the photograph of the Queen she appears positively understated. When I chose the prompt I had no idea what I was going to post, but watching footage of the coronation I realised I couldn't let the occasion slip by without a mention and searched for images on the web. The one above is a 'gem' if you'll pardon the pun.

I may not have a memory of the coronation but I do have an official souvenir programme. I also had a coronation crown coin at one time too. Many were minted and can be found on ebay for very little.

I have copied the contents of the programme and they can be found on flickr here. I like the black and white portrait of the young Queen on the first page, quite a contrast to the one above. I also enjoyed reading the poem by the Poet Laureate of the day, John Masefield, who has featured before on my blog, in 'Mad March Days', and 'The Box of Delights'. It's interesting to compare it with 'The Crown', written by the present Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, to celebrate the Queen's sixty years on the throne.

Shakespeare, in Henry The Fourth Part Two says, "Uneasy lies a head that wears a crown," and it's certain that the Queen has had many hours of unease during her reign, and I'm sure she wondered if she would still be monarch so many years hence, when she made her smiling appearance on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after the coronation ceremony. And for Over The Top adornment, how about the model crown in the picture, being assembled in Brisbane, Australia to mark the coronation.

Both pictures above come courtesy of Flickr Commons. Prepare to be dazzled by more sparkling examples from the treasure chests and jewellery boxes of Sepia Saturday participants with their responses to this week's prompts.

Sunday 9 June 2013


Charleston Farmhouse Door; image courtesy of Tess Kincaid 

This is the keyhole through which he spied,
And saw the prisoner locked inside.

This is the prisoner with nowhere to hide,
Condemned to death because someone lied.

This is the liar who has no shame,
Who put the scapegoat in the frame.

This is the killer who has no name,
Who let the prisoner take the blame.

This is the lawyer who only saw,
A guilty man walk through the door.

This is the judge who set his jaw,
And instructed the jury to follow the law.

This is the witness and false is she,
Who twisted her words and pointed at me.

This is the jailer who turned the key,
Extinguishing hope that I'll ever be free.

©Marilyn Brindley

For some reason I thought of 'The House That Jack Built' when I saw this prompt, so this is my own attempt at a Cumulative Tale. It's a device I've not tried before but it added a dimension of challenge.

Linking to Tess Kincaid's Magpie Tales, where Tess posts an image to get our creative juices flowing. 

Friday 7 June 2013

The Black Pepper is Very Pungent

In the early stages of WW1 the Lahore and Meerut divisions of the Indian Army took part in some of the fiercest fighting around Ypres in 1914. Losses were heavy and the fighting came as a shock to soldiers more used to colonial warfare. One man wrote home, "This is not war; it is the ending of the world." The Indian Corps provided half the attacking force at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle in March 1915, and the Lahore Division was thrown into the counter-attack at the second battle of Ypres in April. The Battle of Loos in September meant further heavy losses. Two divisions were moved to Mesopotamia in December, where it was easier to send supplies and reinforcements from India, but two remained on the Western Front until March 1918, when they were transferred to Palestine.

Although no letters (usually dictated as most of the troops were illiterate) have survived, excerpts, attached to the chief censor's report, can still be read. The soldiers soon became wise to the censor's monitoring and found creative ways of getting round it. One man wrote; "The black pepper is very pungent, but only a little remains," indicating to the recipient that it would be unwise to enlist as the Indian troops had suffered heavy losses. The bravery and loyalty of the Indian soldiers could not be doubted though, and most letters talked of fighting for the King or for honour, rather than for India. One soldier had written that his name would be written in letters of gold and inscribed in the list of the brave. His prophecy came true when by 1927 the last of the reminders of the sacrifice made by the Indian Corp was completed.

By November 1918, some 827,000 Indians had enlisted in addition to those serving in 1914. Official figures suggest that 64,449 Indian soldiers died in the war, their names carved on the massive memorial arch in New Delhi, on the Menin Gate at Ypres and on the main memorial to the Indian Corps at Neuve Chapelle.

Our Sepia Saturday prompt this week was of a kitchen in a hospital train in WW1. I had come across these interesting British Library images a few weeks ago and this seemed an ideal opportunity to share them; many have been been allowed in the public domain through Wikimedia Commons.

There are WW1 hospital and kitchen images aplenty to choose from, but instead of a train we have a charabanc outing. I wonder what the Indian passenger leaning over the side is saying to the nonchalantly posed soldier.

I am also indebted to the BBC's History website and an excellent article by Dr David Omissi,  India and the Western Front in providing the information and quotes above. I can recommend it for further reading. The images are of The Dome Hospital Brighton, The Kitchener Hospital, Brighton (follow the link for more pictures) and Mont Dore Hospital in Bournemouth.

Click on the images to enlarge or view as a slideshow in Lightbox.

Why not climb aboard the Sepia Saturday charabanc and see what other contributors have made of this week's prompt? If you are a Facebook user you may be interested in our Sepia Saturday group page too.