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, 23 February 2014

Aphrodisiac Anyone?

Just when I thought I hadn’t got anything suitable to match Viridian’s Sunday Stamps theme of ‘Hearts and Flowers for Valentines’ I remembered this 1993 set.

The accompanying notes in this presentation set tell us that the double tubers of some European species were used as an aphrodisiac and gave rise to the name given to them in Ancient Greece - ‘orchis’ literally means ‘testicle’ in Greek. Not very romantic but the  neither is the pierced heart symbolism of the martyred St Valentine! Shakespeare had poor Ophelia include two varieties in her garland; perhaps she’d have won Hamlet’s heart if she’d left them out - they were 'long purples' and 'dead men’s fingers’!

Follows cupid’s arrow over to Sunday Stamps 159 and see what other hearts and flowers have been portrayed in the postage stamps.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

A Day at The Races

The three men in the photograph look a little anxious. They’re at the races in Brisbane in 1939, dressed in suits and hats and carrying binoculars. Perhaps the race is about to start and the adrenalin is beginning to flow. Once it’s under way they’ll be chewing their lips and gripping their binoculars with sweaty palms and white knuckles, shouting and screaming as they will their chosen horse to the finish. What a pity we can’t see the ‘after’ picture. Will they be crestfallen and ashen-faced, when they realise they’re going to have to go home and explain to their wives that they’ve just lost everything? Or perhaps they’ll be throwing those hats into the air and shouting “Yipee!”- we’ll never know. They’re a good match for this week’s Sepia Saturday photo prompt, which also features three Australian men in suits and hats. The prompt picture is possibly of the annual stud sales by the Commonwealth Wool and Produce Company in Sydney in the early 1930s, so the men would be attending to see what the sheep stock was like rather than studying the horses’ form.

‘A Day at The Races’ was a famous 1937 Marx Brothers film and later the rock group Queen named one of their albums after the movie (following on from their previous album, ‘A Night at The Opera', also a Marx Brothers film). The film’s ‘disjointed plot line’ revolves around horse racing and is full of scams, comic routines and musical numbers.

Three men, but only two hats*

The entire film is available to view on YouTube, as are many well-known clips, such as this one featuring the famous ‘Tutsi Fruitsi Ice Cream’ scam which foiled Groucho’s attempt to place a bet on his chosen runner.

In my final image the three men in hats are again caught up in the world of horse-racing. How do we know this? The clues are in the picture itself. Like the painting in my previous post, 'A Piano Lesson', I found this picture in my copy of John Hadfield’s delightful book 'Every Picture Tells a Story’. In 2008 the painting was sold from a private collection and the catalogue notes written by the then owner, Sir David Scott, use John Hadfield’s wonderful description to shed light on what is going on in the picture. As before, there is more to this scene than meets the eye and a reading of those notes together with Hadfield’s quirky and humorous description make us look at the details to try and discover just what is going on in the scene. The painting is attributed to Charles Rossiter and is thought to be inspired by Ford Maddox Brown’s ‘The Last of England’ . Unlike the latter, the two escapees in this painting are ‘on the run’. Would you have noticed the copy of 'Bells’ Life in London’ (and Sporting Chronicle) lying on the deck below the man’s knee, unless I had pointed it out to you? Of course not, and neither did I until I read the book and the catalogue notes. There are many connotations to be drawn from this painting but what is undeniable is that the young man has, in Hadfield’s words, “come a cropper on the turf”. In other words he is running away from his creditors. To find out more of how Hadfield and others, interpreted the minute details, such as the letter in the woman’s lap, the bundle of hunting whips and the cash box, click on the link to the catalogue notes. The abject misery on the faces of the couple shows that they wish they had never spent ‘A Day at The Races’.

For more tales of trios of well-suited and hatted men, race over to Sepia Saturday and see what other Sepians have made of the prompt.

* courtesy of Dr.Macro.com

Sunday, 16 February 2014

A Lucky Escape

Although he said she set his soul on fire,
And still the sparks of passion seared red hot,
He could not quench the flames of her desire,
In spite of giving everything he’d got.
At last he felt he’d rather risk her ire,
And break out from this tangled lovers’ knot.
He told her that his love for her was dead,
Then made good his escape when she saw red.

And when she found her sweet advances spurned,
Rejected now, frustrated and depressed,
There was no rage like love to hatred turned,
She gave vent to the feelings she’d suppressed,
His letters full of hollow promises she burned,
Destroyed his gifts, his photos and the rest,
Looked into the mirror, liked what she saw,
Smiled to herself and closed the bedroom door.

© Marilyn Brindley

Fire Escape Universal Studios Lot. Instagram by sessepian
Tess at The Mag puts a picture prompt up for us each week as a starting point for our writing. Join us to see what what others have created.

Friday, 14 February 2014

A Ride in the Park

“Visit old Berlin at the turn of the century: horsetram and confectionary, hurdy gurdy man, Brandenburger Tor and Neptun-fountain, Wintergarten variety theatre with first-class program."

At first glance the postcard above appears to depict a scene as described above, but the fact that it is in colour and all the people are wearing 1980s clothes is a bit of a clue. It is a re-creation of Berlin at as it would have been in the early part of the 20th century. And there in the middle, near the top of the picture is the name of the theme park: Phantasialand, Brühl, near Cologne, Germany.

This is part of our souvenir pamphlet, describing in more detail some of the delights of the park. We went there over thirty year ago, when my husband was serving with the RAF at Rheindahlen. My parents were visiting and luckily my dad had his camera (I think we took movie film and no stills). I’d almost forgotten about it until we were scanning Dad’s old slides and found these three amongst them. They’re beginning to deteriorate so we got them in the nick of time.

Here we are sampling some of the ‘confectionery’ on offer; though my son has resorted to his thumb whilst he waits for Mummy to break a piece off for him.

There are two things to note here; the 1970s McLaren Baby Buggy, originally my daughter’s and so much simpler than modern ones; and the matching waistcoats my offspring and I are wearing. The creator of this beautiful fairisle knitwear is walking between us - my mother, who is still knitting at 93 years of age. I still have (and wear) that waistcoat and it is in perfect condition.

The children are waving to their parents, encouraged by Mum. Yes, that’s us in the overhead cable cars.

Are we waving back? I think I can see an arm raised above my husband’s head (we’re the ones at the front).

This time it’s the children’s turn for a ride - my son is in the centre. My husband holds onto the empty buggy  whilst keeping an eye on his kids.

Mum is shielding her eyes and peering across at Dad, who has no doubt just shouted to get her attention.

There was much to see and do and as far as I remember we had a very happy day. I have a vivid memory of the theatre and Chinatown. Apparently Phantasialand is still going strong today with  more attractions, and more in keeping with the 21st century.

It was the busy street scene which was our prompt for this week’s Sepia Saturday, that started me on this journey, stopping at two destinations in the past; old Berlin more than a hundred years ago and a thirty two year-old snapshot of my own family life.

To see what others found in the picture to set them on their own journey of discovery, step inside the wonderful time machine that is Sepia Saturday. Enjoy the ride!

Friday, 7 February 2014

A Piano Lesson

"As he that taketh away a garment in cold weather, so is he that singeth songs to an heavy heart.” (Proverbs) Inscribed on the frame  of this painting as directed by the artist.

The Awakening Conscience by William Holman Hunt (1851-53)
There are lessons a plenty to be learned form the above image, a very famous Pre-Raphaelite painting dripping with hidden meaning. It’s classified as allegorical as Hunt filled it with symbolic details and painted the picture in expectation that we would ‘read’ those meanings. He asked for the above inscription to be added to the frame of the painting because he wanted to show how 'the still, small voice speaks to the human soul in the turmoil of life’. These are most definitely not a playful siblings failing to take their piano practice seriously. The title is about the conscience of the ‘fallen woman’ which has been pricked by hearing a tune from her past, played on the piano by her lover; the seducer, inadvertently, introducing  the note of repentance, as he serenades his mistress.

Oft in the stilly night
When slumber’s chain has bound me,
Fond memories bring the light
Of other days around me.

She’s in a mess; look at the tangled threads, bottom right of the painting. Can she learn a lesson and act on the awakening conscience? She has been ‘caught’ as surely as the the sparrow beneath the cat’s paw and is trapped, probably condemned to a life of prostitution once he has discarded her, as easily as his glove, which lays at her feet. The garden reminds her of her innocent past and the light suggests possible salvation.

John Hadfield in 'Every Picture Tells a Story’ tells us that this room, chosen as setting for the cautionary tale, is Woodbine Villa, 7 Alpha Place, St John’s Wood - an area renowned for its maisons de covenance. 

“The gentleman’s features , dress and gestures are self-explanatory, and almost every detail in the room drips with sexual and moral innuendo. The girl’s lack of a wedding ring is obvious, as is also her provocative state of undress”

“The girl’s open lips and dilated eyes reveal the ‘awakening conscience’, which is symbolised by the French clock bearing a design in which Cupid is bound by chastity, and by the mirror, which reflects an idylllic scene outside  the window.”

Hadfield tells us that this painting, more than any other of its period, expresses the mid-Victorian fascination  with, and revulsion from, sexual irregularity.

“It might also be regarded as a characteristic expression of Victorian hypocrisy, since the model who posed with such a touching air of repentance, lived with the artist as his mistress for several years.”

Our Sepia Saturday prompt this week was a piano player and his female companion in a parlour full of detail, not dissimilar to the one in the painting. There is no suggestion that the woman in the prompt is the pianist’s lover, and I don’t think the room has been set out to be read as an allegory, rather an accident of arrangement. However, there are pictures within a picture and who knows whether these are hinting at some hidden meaning?

Contrast the Hunt painting with one by the Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer in about 1670-72. Vermeer painted many variations on the theme of a woman seated or standing at the Virginal. What could be more innocent? The very name of the instrument suggesting the purity of the female musician. In this example, in The National Gallery, London, we also have a picture within the picture. this time we have Cupid holding a card, symbolising faithfulness to one lover, or the traditional association of music and love.

A Young Woman Standing at a Virginal by Johannes Vermeer 1670-72

For more music lessons and pictures full of meaning, hidden or otherwise, visit the art gallery that is Sepia Saturday and see what other contributors made of the prompt.