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 25 August 2013

A Sable in a Cedar

This stamp from the Soviet Era doesn't commemorate any event, and compared with some of the other Russian stamps issued during 1984 it's quite ordinary. It depicts a sable, which is a species of marten, inhabiting forest environments. I bet my Mum didn't know that when she paid her 35 Kopecks and stuck it on (rather wonkily) to a postcard she was sending to my father back home in England. It may be humble sepia-toned drawing on a basic postage-paid stamp, but it's linked to a magical memory for my mother.

In 1984 she expressed a wish to visit Moscow, my father expressed a desire to stay at home. At this time they had been married for forty-two years and were well used to each other's ways. My Dad gave his blessing for Mum to take herself off on a six-day holiday, whilst he enjoyed some quiet at home. She and a widowed friend had three days there and three days in St. Petersburg. Here's the card she sent home, clever lady, providing me with a subject for the blog. She had a wonderful time, one of the highlights of which was getting lost in Moscow.

These sable skins show why the the fur has been so widely prize since the Middle Ages. Apparently it's unique in that it doesn't have a grain, and whichever way you brush it, it looks the same. Personally I prefer to see it on the living animal.

Viridian at Sunday Stamps has asked for examples with wild animals on, and this was the only one in my very small collection.
The sable is a rather lovely animal, and wouldn't you be wild if you thought someone was hunting you for your fur?

Thursday 22 August 2013

Sunday in the Park

In the picture above, taken about 1923, are my Mum and her brother, Billy. And the lady with her hand round Mum's shoulder? Yes, it's my Great Aunt Maud again. I'm guessing the picture was taken with Maud's own camera, and probably by her good friend Mary. Mum is about four and Billy about five years old. They had been taken on an outing by the kindly Maud, as they often were. Maud never married, but she was a generous auntie as readers will recall from last week's post.  The siblings and Maud are in their 'Sunday Best' and in all likelihood it was a Sunday, as we know that Maud worked for part of the day on Saturdays, and Sunday was the day for relaxing with the family.

The picture is taken in a very well-known meeting-place in Nottingham's Arboretum, the Chinese Bell Tower. The Arboretum is Nottingham's oldest public park and close to the city centre. It's home to over 800 trees of sixty-five species, some of which are from the original planting. The Arboretum was opened on 11th May 1852 in front of 30, 000 people. The layout and design were supervised by Samuel Curtis, who had previously been involved with London's Victoria Park. It was intended as an interlinking network of walkways and socialising areas and with plantings made in 'the natural order' so that the public could also learn from the botanical interpretation. Today the park comes under the protection of English Heritage under their Historic Parks and Gardens, and contains nine Grade II listed structures within its layout. I remember visits there myself during the school holidays in the 1950s and 60s, when the highlight would be saying 'Hello' to Cocky the Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo in the aviary. Cocky was something of a celebrity and lived to be 114 years old. He was already well over a hundred when I as a child.

The next two pictures were taken when I was a toddler, and I have no recollection of the day of course, but I love them because they from a set taken on a family day out at the Arboretum. Perhaps we listened to the band which played in the bandstand every Sunday. We may even have had a picnic.

The Chinese Bell tower was designed  in 1857 by Marriot Ogle Tarbotton as a war memorial and built in 1862. The bell was a looted by British troops from a temple in Canton during the Anglo-Chinese War of 1857-61, and two of the cannon were captured at Sebastopol during the Crimean War (the other two are replicas). The bell was moved to the East Lancashire Regimental Museum in 1956, but recently the whole bell tower has been renovated and a new bell cast and hung. Last year was the park's 160th anniversary and this photograph is courtesy of Ray Teece of the Nottingham 21 website. Clicking on the link will show more pictures of the park today.

This week's Sepia Saturday image was a formal group of three, a man and his sister with a third female family member. The little man in my picture is accompanied by his sister and his aunt but in a much less formal pose. Why not see what other memories were evoked by the prompt?

Monday 19 August 2013

The Release

Image: Elana Kalis

Not drowning, but waving;
the peace she was craving,
at last she has found.

She greets the deep ocean,
overcome by emotion,
her hair all unbound.

The sea’s rhythm calming,
prevents further harming,
relaxed by its sound.

Embrace all-enfolding,
her earthly form holding,
caresses abound.

The salt-balm of healing,
increases the feeling,
of love all around.

© Marilyn Brindley

Taking part in Tess Kincaids' weekly call The Mag where we are encourage to hone our craft. Join us to see what other writers have made of the prompt.

Tuesday 13 August 2013

Picnic Puzzle

Here's my Mum (b.1920) on a Sunday School picnic, aged nine or ten. She's looking a bit sad, clutching her hat and leaning on her Auntie Maud. Regular readers will already know about my Great Aunt Maud, who ran Sunday School classes amongst her many other activities. In this picture Maud is in her mid-thirties and obviously good company. Mum tells me the picnics would have been close to home; somewhere they could walk to easily, perhaps the Embankment in Nottingham. Some doubt has been cast on the location since my original post, and suggestions have been made of Gunthorpe (which Mum is dubious about as this would have cost money and no-one had any to spare!), Colwick or Wilford. I'd love to hear from anyone who can shed some light on this.

Mum thinks the lady in uniform was a member of the Church Army, and known as Sister Whitehead. Most of the girls look cheerful, apart from Mum; they'd probably just had their picnic, although the girl on the left is still eating. The brown paper bag in the foreground probably had some buns or 'rockcakes' from the local baker and Sister Whitehead seems to have had charge of the Thermos flask of tea. She probably needed it to help keep her cool, as she seems a little overdressed, with dark clothes and thick stockings.

In the second picture, apparently taken by Maud herself, Mum seems much happier; perhaps it was the prospect of a ball game. The smiling lady with the pearl necklace was Maud's lifelong companion, Mary, who first appeared as a little girl in my post, In Her Sunday Best.

The third picture is taken on a different occasion, when Mum was a little younger. She's the one eating a banana. She tells me that the girls would have been drinking cold tea, which would have been transported to the picnic in a bottle wrapped in a cloth, if no thermos flask was available. Maud is in the centre of the picture, so perhaps her friend Mary was the photographer this time.

I've mentioned before that Maud was a hobby photographer who often developed her own pictures and hand-coloured them. Two of her pictures she had made into 100-piece wooden jigsaws for Mum. My favourite, of Mum picking armfuls of bluebells was the subject of one of my first blogposts, Life is a Jigsaw and is still in good condition. The picnic scene is a little less well-preserved, and I'm sorry to say that a few pieces are missing. I've recently found a link to the makers of the puzzle, Jerome (the name appears in the bottom righthand corner), on this interesting site, where one more example can be viewed. You will also find information there about the Jerome studios and a personal recollection of a hand-colourist who worked there.

The original pictures are very small, approximately 8x6 cms, so the jigsaw-maker did a very good job of retaining the details.

No two pieces are alike, and despite the simplicity of the scene, it was fiendishly difficult to put together. Wouldn't you know it, there's a piece that just wouldn't go in any of the spaces. It's definitely the grass bank in the foreground, and there's part of Sister Whitehead's shoe on there, but despite appearances it doesn't fit in!

There's probably a story or a poem to come out of that!

There's no need to puzzle over where to go next. The prompt picture for this week's Sepia Saturday was a picnic scene with many theming possibilities. You're invited along to what will no doubt be a feast of responses.

Thursday 8 August 2013

The Mother of Invention

Oh for a Muse of  fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention!
Shakespeare Henry V

The Prologue in Shakespeare's Henry V is calling for heavenly inspiration to assist the creative imagination. In 1990, during a visit to Avebury Manor, Wiltshire, my eleven year old son posed beside an unusual mechanism. Not the sundial we are used to seeing in the grounds of English country houses, but an astrolabe, an ancient form of calculator used in astronomy. I'm not sure what its provenance was at Avebury, but presumably, one of its many owners since its construction in the 1500s, had an interest in the heavens. Perhaps he too was seeking inspiration. A year after the picture was taken, the house came under the protection of The National Trust, and much restoration and conservation work has been carried out. I do hope the astrolabe was preserved. You can inspect it more closely here.

Nearby, the biggest stone circle in the world at Avebury, forms part of a larger complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments; West Kennet Long Barrow, Windmill Hill and Silbury Hill, together described by English Heritage as, "forming a huge 'sacred landscape', whose use and purpose can still only be guessed at. Avebury and its surroundings have, with Stonehenge, achieved international recognition as a World Heritage Site." Not surprising then that the astrolabe was sited at Avebury Manor, which would seem an auspicious place for watching the stars.

More information has since been provided by 'Willow' who writes a blog about Haunted Wiltshire (where you can read about the Manor's ghosts) and one about Avebury Manor. He asked the National Trust curator, and kindly sent me this:

'Known as an astrolabe or armillary sundial, they were designed not only to tell the time but also models of objects in the sky, measuring longitude, latitude and other astronomical features.

Our example is made of a copper alloy, probably bronze, and positioned on a composite capital, which incorporates Corinthian and Ionic features. The instruments of measurement have long disappeared or were never present - it's certainly non-functional. It's definitely been present since ownership by the Marquess of Aylesbury, Mr Brudenell-Bruce but the exact installation date is unknown. The Manor guidebook of that period describes it as dating to the 17th century although it is unlikely it was installed at that time.'

More recently, on a visit back to UK, we went with my son's family to the Naval Dockyards at Chatham. There was an exhibition there called 'Whirrs, Cogs and Thingamabobs' and we had an interesting hour marvelling at some very strange inventions. Here is my granddaughter at the entrance. The gadgets were amassed by one man, Maurice Collins, who has been collecting them since 1976 and recently won TV's Best British Collector award. They cover items from the Great Exhibition of 1851 to the Festival of Britain in 1951, and include an eye massager, a self-pouring teapot, a 'laptop' of the1920s and a sandwich-box camera.

The exhibition reminded us that every item on display was thought by at least one person to be great leap forward

This rather beautiful machine was devised to help cure all ills. It worked very simply be holding onto the two metal pieces, and when the handle was turned it would give an electric treatment that would make the user healthy.

If this has whetted your appetite for strange inventions, you can view the rest of the photos on my Flickr page.

This week the cogs of our brains whirred as we sought amazing contraptions amongst our images to match the prompt in Sepia Saturday. If you want to see how inventive other contributors have been take a 'great leap forward' and visit the blog. Be assured that dressing like an inventor is not compulsory!

I think my grandson may have been trying out the gadget  above.