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."

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Windmills of my Mind

Round like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning 
On ever-spinning reel
Alan and Marilyn Bergman

I don't think this is the kind of windmill Alan had in mind as a prompt for this week's Sepia Saturday, but I couldn't resist. It's little Me, aged four, on holiday at Chapel St. Leonard's, on the Lincolnshire coast. One of the joys of a seaside holiday was making sandcastles, into which we stuck little paper flags purchased for the purpose. At the same time we would always buy these paper windmills to whirr round in harmony with the flags, fluttering in the sea breeze. Seeing this picture again, I'm reminded of how much childish pleasure we had from some of the simple things in life.

My Father would have taken this photo, and in later life he used his eye for composition as an amateur artist. They aren't the best examples of his work, and are more like sketches, but you can view four of his windmills on Flickr here. Since his death last November every shred of memory  has become more precious to me. The quality matters not a jot; what is important is that these are his brushstrokes.

Lanzarote is known as the windy island and it's ideally suited for windmills of all kinds. Before tourism took over here in the seventies, the island was largely agricultural. I've written before about the wonderful museum at El Patio, which during the mid 1840s had been the largest developed farm on the island. These days it still produces wines and cheeses, but the windmills stand silent and one even has no sails attached. The picture here, on display at the museum, shows how it may have looked in its heyday. There are still camels, and donkeys on the farm, as well as goats, hens and other animals. It's worth clicking the link above just to get a flavour of the place if you haven't seen it before.

I've also told you about architect of the island, artist and visionary, César Manrique, who designed many of Lanzarote's attractions. At his Jardin de Cactus, carved from a quarry, stands a magnificent windmill, from which can be enjoyed panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. Again, the sails are stationary, but the windmill itself is something of a landmark and can be spotted from a long distance.

There are stumps of windmills all over the island; the policy here is never to knock down an old building, and although some are in a delapidated state, they stand as a monument to Lanzarote's agricultural past.

Salt used to be extracted from the sea and exported all over the world, as well as being used to preserve the fish caught on longer fishing expeditions. Post WW2 refrigeration meant that there was less demand and the island's many salt pans fell into disuse, leaving the windmills, once used to power extraction, as ghostly sentinels watching over the old salt fields.

At Janubio salt is still harvested and here we see the old technology in a strange juxtaposition against the very modern wind farms which are insidiously creeping across the landscape.

Salt was once an important industry to the island, but has now gone the way of agriculture and is dissolving into the past.

Manrique also harnessed the power of the wind to create magnificent 'wind mobiles' located at strategic sites across the island. Twenty years ago last September he was killed in a road accident near his home and on the anniversary of his death one of his mobiles, newly-restored, was installed at his former home.  The excellent Lanzarote Information produced a very short video on that date, where you can see not only the mobiles, but also his wonderful home, now an art gallery and visitors' centre.

Here are my own attempts at making the most of our breezes. My mobile is not up to Manrique's standards though. Now, I suddenly feel the desire to see some paper windmills whizzing round in our windy Lanzarote garden. Of course they can be bought for a euro or two but how much more fun to make your own. When you've finished cutting and sticking, take your own creation over to Sepia Saturday to see what everyone else made of the prompt. If you like all things sepia, or just old pictures and ephemera, why not join our Facebook group too?  Even more fun than making paper windmills!

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Great Oaks From Little Acorns Grow

This presentation set of Millennium stamps was issued on 1st August 2000 and featured four distinct 'acorns' of hope that were to grow into 'oaks' full of promise:

The white writing on the green background is a little difficult to read, so here is a transcript:

Yews For The Millennium
In the next millennium yew trees will continue to grow to advanced ages in thousands of parishes in Britain, aided by the Conservation Foundation's Yews For The Millennium project. Newly planted seedlings - taken as cuttings from trees estimated to be at least 2000 years old - will eventually see the passing of more centuries and witness more history than any of us can begin to imagine.

Eden Project
Visitors to the Eden Project at St Austell in Cornwall will be able to explore two huge 'biomes' or greenhouses, home to complete collections of plants from all the climates of the world. More than 300 people will be employed in the garden at Eden to help grow everything from coconuts to sunflowers.

Millennium Seed Bank
Over the next 50 years a quarter of the worlds 240,000 species of seed-bearing plants could face extinction. The Millennium Seed Bank project at Wakehurst Place, Ardingly, set up by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, aims to conserve seeds from all of the U.K.'s 1400 native plants by 2000 and a further 10 per cent of species worldwide by 2010.

Millennium Forest For Scotland
New life is being breathed back into the Scottish woodlands through the Millennium Forest for Scotland project. From Shetland Islands to Dumfries the Outer Hebrides to Edinburgh, dozens of ancient woodlands are being regenerated and new ones created, reversing a long period of decline and benefiting both people and wildlife.

The poem inside the pack is by Holly Ruth Hopkins, one of the winners of the Simon Elvin Young Poet of The Year Award 1999.

I'm linking to Viridian's Sunday Stamps, where the theme is Trees. I had a look through a shoebox of old postcards I have and was lucky to find two more stamps with trees.

This one features the Elberta Peach and I have two examples; this one on a card from Vancouver Island, and a second, unfranked one, from Niagara Falls. The cards were dated June 1997 and May 1998. It was actually issued on 31 July 1995.

The second stamp features Quercus Alnifolia from a commemorative set of four stamps* of Trees of Cyprus, issued on 27 October 1994. This is the Golden Oak, so we're back to tiny acorns and mighty oaks again.

*The other trees in the set were, Cyprus Cedar, Black Pine and Strawberry Tree.

As a bonus I thought you might like to see some of our native trees here in Lanzarote. After our walk today we stopped in a lovely little village called Teseguite. This square next to the village church was 'muy tranquilo' - very peaceful, and we enjoyed twenty minutes wandering round, looking at the flowers and of course, the trees.

Branch out and visit Viridian and her fellow stamp enthusiasts to see what they made of the prompt.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Another Day At The Office

There's no getting away from my great aunt Maud, who once again provides me with the perfect material for this week's post. Maud is in the middle row, first left of this group. You will remember that last week she took centre stage in the guise of Britannia; this week she is more soberly dressed, as befits her position in the Labour Corps Records Office, in Carrington Street, Nottingham. The letter she received when she started there has been handed down to me, but it it is in a very fragile state, having first been folded into an envelope and then mended with sticky tape which has left a brown residue in the folds. The letter is typed in purple ink, which makes it even harder to read, so here's the transcript:

With reference to your application for employment in this office as a Clerk, you are engaged from April 30th 1917 on the following terms and conditions:-
The hours of work (for the present) will be 43 hours per week, from 9 a.m. to 12.45 and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. On Saturdays from 9 a.m to 1.15 p.m.
The rate of pay is 19/- for a week of 43 hours with a 2/- a week War Bonus, The week commences on Saturday morning and ends on Friday Evening.
Any absence which is not supported by a Medical Certificate, will be deducted for.
You are employed by the Government and subject to the Official Secrets Act.
A week's notice given on a Friday before 6 p.m. on either side may end your employment.

Signed by Capt. Collins for Colonel i/c Labour Corps Records and stamped Labour Corps Records Nottingham 2 May 1917.

This is interesting from the point of view of the hours worked and the rate of pay. I don't see any references to a tea break, though I'm sure there was some sort of refreshment; the hours were long, but there was a war on after all.

The other people in the photograph aren't named, but I do know a little bit about them. The job might have been serious, and probably deadly dull, but I think friendships were formed with some interesting characters. How do I know this? Because Maud kept an autograph book which has also come into my possession. I whetted your appetite I hope, when I wrote the first post about her in January, Where Was Maud? and mentioned it in passing. I'm sorry you've had to wait so long for me to reveal some of the contents. Most of the entries are from 1919 -1922, when there was still much work to do with demobilisation, and Maud obviously wanted to remember some of her colleagues, and a few are from 1926-1928. They range from serious poems and famous quotations, to witty aphorisms, alongside delicate sketches and watercolours, intermingled with cartoons and pasted scraps of maps. The Labour Corps Records Office rubber stamps appear on several pages, providing both verification of the autographees and an idea of some of the work that had to be done.

"Not entered on Medal Roll" states one stamp - "Being surplus to Military requirements (Having suffered impairments since entry into the Service.) Para 392 (XVia) K.R." Some office wag obviously thought it would tickle Maud to remember this years later! I wonder which one in the photograph it was. Click on the images below to enlarge and view in a light box slideshow. To see more visit my Flickr Set, Great Aunt Maude's Autograph Book.

A note about Sepia Saturday

This week's Sepia Saturday has family bibles, inscriptions in books and perhaps other written ephemera as a prompt. I put together a montage of photos from two of our Sepia Saturday Facebook members as requested (now that I am joint administrator of the blog, as well as the Facebook page I take my duties very seriously) but I have no family bible of my own to write about, so I was delighted when Maud came to the rescue again. Alan and I are keen to include more material from contributors as prompts, so please get in touch with ideas. We are also going to be 'refreshing' the blog/meme in the run up to the 200 posts milestone, and I'll be canvassing opinion through the Facebook page, so please keep an eye open on there.

In the meantime, see what other contributors found in dusty tomes, weighty volumes and secret diaries, or join in with some of your own.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Don't Mess With Britannia

The picture above once again features my great Aunt Maud, of 'Where Was Maud?' fame, and last week's 'Two Shades of Blue'. You'll remember her as my mother's kindly spinster aunt with the photography hobby. She also taught at her local Sunday School in Nottingham and the picture above appears to be connected in some way with this association. I'm not sure of the event being celebrated, but it could be Empire Day. Maud is seated in the centre of the group, dressed as Britannia, a figure which always fascinated me as a child, because she appeared on the pennies in my pocket money.

Empire Day was popular from 1902 until the 1950s, by which time Britain's relationship with the diminishing Empire began to change. It later became Commonwealth Day, after going through several metamorphoses. Listen to this short clip of a twenty year old Princess Elizabeth on Empire Day 1946 commending the common ideals of 'freedom, justice and humanity' to be found in every corner of the Empire. These days The Queen still sends a radio message to the youth of the Commonwealth. As a former Primary School Headteacher I can attest to the fact that the average schoolboy or girl today wouldn't even know what the word Commonwealth means, let alone anything about its history. Next year a new National Curriculum for History comes into force, after much fierce debate, but I don't think schoolchildren and students will be any wiser about the notion of empire, other than that of the Romans, who after all were our conquerors, and gave 'Britannia' her name in the second century AD, when she was personified as a goddess, with armour and a Corinthian helmet. When schools have festivals and dressing-up days, children usually go as their favourite sporting or pop star, or dress as a character from a book; any little lady dressing in a flag and a helmet and wielding a trident would be met with quizzical looks. What a pity as it's a great costume.

This Pathe news clip from 1933, when my mother was a girl, gives a flavour of some of the ceremony and fun they had on Empire Day.

This week's Sepia Saturday prompt was of a young lady dressed as 'Boadecia, or Mother England', an image that is close enough to Britannia I think. She is wearing a breastplate, shield and helmet and wielding a large stick, rather than a trident, and there is no Union Flag, but she certainly looks as though she means business. Why not visit us there to see what other Sepians have made of the prompt?

Friday, 12 July 2013

Two Shades of Blue

Two shades of blue,
Tangled up in you.
Rod Stewart

Here's my Mum in the Summer of 1926, aged five and a half. The lady perched behind her is my great aunt Maud, who you my remember from my post 'Where was Maud?' back in January. She was my Mum's spinster auntie, with the hobby of photography. At the time of the picture above, Mum had just had her tonsils out; Maud was going to Mablethorpe for a few days to stay in a friend's guest house and she kindly took her niece along to get some sea air and help her recover from her operation. Maud bought the parasol as a present for Mum to help shade her from the sun, but also because it looked pretty and decorative, just the things to please a little girl.

That paper parasol certainly came in handy on the beach too. There was no factor 25 suncream in those days. Apart from anything else there was an ice cream cone to protect! Mum has made an attempt at a sandcastle using her little metal bucket and spade. I'm not sure where this is as Mablethorpe doesn't have a pier, but it's obviously a jetty of some kind. I think the paper parasols were a popuar holidaymaker purchase as I found two more pictures on the internet, of little girls in 1920s Mablethorpe, sporting similar models.

This week's Sepia Saturday prompt is a lady with an umbrella in pouring rain. I don't have any umbrella pictures, so parasols it is. There are bound to be all sorts of  shades and shelters from the family albums of our creative contributors though, so do join us there.

Meanwhile, here in Lanzarote, I need all the shade I can get!

I can't tell what colour Mum's 'shade' is, let's hope it was blue like mine!

Thursday, 4 July 2013

A Remarkable Man

I was struck by this simple bronze memorial on one of the main streets of Arrecife, Lanzarote's capital, long before I knew to whom it was commemorated. I could see that the artist had captured someone, a doctor, who was clearly loved. But who was he? The clue is the name underneath the figure, Jose Molino Orosa 1883-1966; this is also the name of our general hospital. My Internet search was hampered by my lack of Spanish, and even using a translation tool, it was difficult to find anything. Worse than that there was no Wikipedia entry! What I did find out is worth reading however, for here was someone who gave his life and medical skills selflessly to the island's people, especially the poor and needy. I can't reproduce pictures of the good doctor due to copyright reasons, but please click on this link to view an illustrated document which will give you a flavour of his remarkable life. 

As a child he suffered polio and, as a student, typhus; it's possible that these major diseases affected his choice of profession. He went on to become known as The Village Doctor, someone who worked tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of the sick, offering compassion as well as healing. After many years working in these conditions he impressed upon the authorities the need for a hospital. At that time, the whole island was served by two rooms, understaffed and in less than sanitary conditions. It would, however, be 1950 before the first hospital was built. There, as the director, the doctor used his medical and teaching skills to assist and train other doctors. He was a determined fighter against tuberculosis and is still remembered to this day for his generosity and selflessness, even paying for medicines out of his own pocket.

A new book was written by a local journalist, Gregorio Cabrera. It was commissioned by the César Manrique Foundation, as part of a series produced to plug gaps in the island's history. Thank goodness he did, because without having sight of the documents and supporting literature I would still be ignorant about this statue and the life to which it is dedicated. He calls the book, 'Light in Darkness' because he came at a dark time for the island, when its people expected to die young, and the authorities weren't concerned about the needs of the poor. A fighter for the social justice, Jose Molina Orosa also expressed himself in poetry and founded  the island's first school for Arts and Crafts.  

Sepia Saturday has another medical memorial as the prompt. This Saturday, 6th July, being the day in 1885, when Louis Pasteur successfully treated a boy with the rabies vaccine. See how other contributors are marking the day by clicking the link.