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."

Friday, 29 August 2014

Must Run!!

"We thought we were running away from the grown-us and now we are the grown-ups."
Margaret Attwood 

It’s 1982 and we’re running away from Daddy, down a country lane somewhere in the Black Forest. We were on holiday there in a caravan and we had a great time. We ran all the way down the lane and back to Mummy, who was very pleased to have us back. We weren’t being naughty, just being happy!

It’s 1987 and we’re on the run again! This time we’re running, jumping, hopping and skipping for joy. We’re on our way back home to Netheravon in Wiltshire where we lived whilst Daddy was in the RAF there. This is Fittleton, the next village along. Isn’t it pretty?

That’s enough running away; time to walk sensibly on the pavement.

This week’s Sepia Saturday has a picture of a man running away from a beach, and Mummy says it suggested that she post these picture of her two darlings. Mummy says to remind you all to run away and visit all the other nice people who have posted this week. Here’s a little picture of the big one Uncle Alan posted before he went away on his holidays. Mummy chose it and Uncle Alan did all the hard work putting it on the page, so Mummy says he deserves a holiday! It’s time for us to return to the photo album now before our grown-up selves find what we’ve been up to. Must run!!!

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Faces and Fans

"Zounds and I were now by this rascal I could brain him with his lady’s fan.”
Hotspur; Henry IV Part 1; Shakespeare

Our Sepia Saturday picture prompt this week is two Spanish ladies wearing mantillas and peinatas (combs) and partially hiding their faces with fans. The lady above has the comb and mantilla but sadly no fan; she was taken during our trip to Jerez earlier this year (The same day as our visit to see the drunken mouse in When the Cat’s Away. This was a hand-coloured postcard, displayed in one of the cabinets in a very small Museum of Flamenco, and the subject certainly has an interesting face. I’m saving the dance and music pictures for another time, but you may be surprised to hear that there was only one tiny picture where a fan was in evidence.

The year before our Jerez trip we had been to Madrid for my birthday. This colourful shop window display of fans and mantillas caught my eye but I wasn’t tempted to buy one.

"Oh most dainty man, to see him walk before a lady and bear her fan.” Costard; Loves’s Labours Lost; Shakespeare

One of the main reasons for our Madrid trip was to visit the Prado Museum where many of the world’s most famous paintings are housed. It was there that I discovered a delightful painting, which has now become one of my favourites.

Marina Fortuny: The Artist’s Children in the Japanese Room 1874

In the gift shop I bought a fan decorated with a section of this painting, for my friend’s birthday.

"To have my love to bed and to arise;
And pluck the wings from painted butterflies,
To fan the moonbeams from his sleeping eyes."
Titania; A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Shakespeare

Last year my daughter visited the Fan Museum in Greenwich and sent me these shots. The exhibition was called ‘Curiosities and Quirky Fans’ and you can see a shadowy reflection of my daughter’s face as she snaps the poster.

The display case shows just a few examples of the almost 4,000 exhibits. The museum sounded a fascinating place and you’ll get more of an idea of the setting and what’s on offer there by clicking the link above. The current exhibition is ‘Seduced! - Fans and the Art of Advertising’.

More than twenty-five years ago my daughter posed as Flamenco dancer herself, complete with comb and castanets, though no fan.....

......but she made up for it a few years later when she posed behind this giant oriental fan for a friend, who was an amateur photographer.

John Winstanley 1742

The poem above refers in part to the coded messages ladies could give, depending on the position of their fans. At the moment it’s very hot here in Lanzarote and we have fans running at night and sometimes during the day. I do carry a hand fan at all times, in common with many of the Spanish ladies here; I hope I’m not inadvertently sending a coded message when I simply want to cool down!

Join other fans of faces, combs, Mantillas or hidden meanings, over at Sepia Saturday.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Just a Line From the Old Place

That was how my Gran started her postcard home in 1969 and when I scanned it recently it brought back memories of another holiday.

 Mablethorpe 1967, the year I joined my Grandparents on their annual holiday to the Lincolnshire coast. Grandad loved the sun, but my Gran, who was a very large lady, preferred the shade. The lady on the left is my Gran’s younger, widowed sister, Ellen, my great-aunty Nellie.

All three were very loving and generous, but Nellie, who had never had children of her own, would always be buying me little treats. I only had to gaze at some cheap seaside souvenir in a shop window, and she’d have her purse open before I could turn round; “Aunty Nellie’ll buy it for you.” It gave her as much pleasure as it did me.

There are a few abiding memories of that holiday; one was that I had a terrible bout of hay fever which made me feel very low, and another was that I shared a bedroom in our rented cottage, with Nellie, who snored so loudly, that it felt as if the room was shaking. Between us we generated a cacophony of sound; Nellie’s snores and my sneezes and coughs.

I also remember Grandad trying his hand on the rifle range at the funfair and of all of us eating ice cream cones, outside the seaside chalet which we also rented for the week. The chalet had deckchairs and a primus stove for making cups of tea or coffee. I’d forgotten this until I unearthed a postcard my Gran sent me a couple of years later. They missed me making ‘elevenses’ as the morning coffee ritual was known. She also made reference to something else I’d forgotten; my puppy love for the local lifeguard. Gran had obviously shared my good taste and reminded me of it in the postcard.

Another memory is of Grandad offering me a puff of his cigarette, something apparently he had also done to my mother; naughty Grandad! I adored him and was devastated when he died the year after the postcard was sent.  Because Gran was not very mobile, it was Granddad and I who did the shopping, and who were snapped together by the ever-present street photographer. In the last picture I’m applying suncream to Grandad’s forehead. He’s taken off his glasses and paused from reading the paper. The final memory is that I made that blue cotton floral trouser suit I’m wearing, on Mum’s old Singer sewing machine.

Why not join us on this week’s Sepia Saturday and see what other memories have been evoked by letters and postcards home.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Broken Promise

Image (by Keith Haring) courtesy of Tess Kincaid at Magpie Tales

Take back this ring I proffer,
There was no real offer
of marriage, of true minds.
Your love altered, was not love,
and proved Time’s fool at last,
There was no ring, except 
around my heart, so now
admit impediment,
take back this ring I proffer,
There was no real offer.

© Marilyn Brindley

Tess at Magpie Tales provided the image prompt for our creative thoughts. The references are to Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116, which was not all it seemed.  

Saturday, 9 August 2014

A Curious Incident

How many of you can say that they have rubbed shoulders with a murderer? I have. In 1960 John Louis Constantine aged 23 was hanged for capital murder on 1st September 1960, having been convicted at Birmingham Assizes on 22nd July of that year.

Unfortunately we have been unable to find photographs of my older brother’s birthday party, which Johnny (as he was known to my family), attended. I have a sneaking suspicion that he was eradicated from the family records after his conviction. I don’t remember him at all as I was very young, but I  do have hazy recollections of the shock and horror which rippled through my family at the time. I spoke earlier today to my 93 year-old mother, who maintains that Johnny was a lovely boy who ‘got in with the wrong crowd’. When my parents moved to their first marital home after the war in 1946, the Constantines were their neighbours. All the families on their road had young children, and got on well. By the time that news of Johnny’s crime broke, we had moved away from our home city of Nottingham for a couple of years and had only just returned. I remember whispered conversations and telephone calls and, when I was growing up, my mother would often recount the story, telling us that Johnny’s father had ‘washed his hands of him’! My brother, who is eight years older than me, has a better recollection of Johnny as the teenage boy who everyone on the street got on with, and possibly looked up to. At my brother’s birthday party, Johnny was happy to be dressed in fancy dress by my Dad and join in the fun. We spoke today, my brother and I, of our regret at not being able to trace those photographs.

I can easily find details of Johnny’s execution, as it was recorded in Hansard, and there is an occasional mention of him in a book about murder, executions or the 1960s. An Internet search revealed that he was married and someone in a history forum mentioned that his  wife worked with her. This would accord with my parents’ memories that they had met him when he was a young man, with a girl on his arm.

So what made Johnny ‘turn bad’? Was my Mum’s explanation that he had been led on by his ‘friends’ correct? Was it desperation? Was he not managing to pay the rent? Did he have gambling debts? Was it a moment of madness? Without delving further into court records we can only speculate.

Here is the crime of which he was convicted according to ‘Hanged at Lincoln’ by Stephen Wade (the noose on the front cover leaves us in no doubt as to the fate of the subjects!).

“ Lily Parry lived over her shop and always kept the takings in her bedroom at night. A young girl, Judith Reddish, stayed there, and on 22nd April 1960 she arrived back from an evening out and settled down for the night, then Mrs Parry locked up and went to bed. Early the next day, blood was seen coming from under Mrs Parry's bedroom door, the police  arrived and found her, skull broken and almost dead. She died later in hospital.

John Constantine lived in the same street, Waterloo Promenade, Nottingham. His place had a room that was close to the shop and he was duly questioned. He admitted that he had robbed the shop but denied committing murder. He did however say that he had hit out at a figure that had advanced towards him. He said at first that he had hit her with a crowbar but changed his story later. He tried to blame someone else, and blamed another man, Colathan, who was allegedly his accomplice, but Colathan had an alibi, which was confirmed by several people.

The defence brought in the famous ‘dog didn’t bark’ storyline. As Mrs Parry had a dog and it had not barked; they argued that the dog must have been kept silent by an accomplice, but that was not accepted by the jury and they returned a guilty verdict. An appeal failed, and then a reprieve request was turned down. Harry Allen was the executioner, and, as N.V. Gagen pointed out, there was no high-profile media interest in the execution - only four journalists were present - and no execution notice was posted on the prison gates."

And that was the end of Johnny’s story. Researching this has brought back many childhood memories; however, I am left with the haunting vision of a young man, now forgotten, who only exits in the imagination and blurred memories of the few who knew him.

The dog who didn’t bark or ‘The curious incident of the dog in the night’? Well, that was Conan Doyle and a Sherlock Holmes story, 'Silver Blaze’.

Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): "Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
Holmes: "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
Gregory: "The dog did nothing in the night-time."
Holmes: "That was the curious incident.”

Over half a century has passed since that carefree young lad at my brother’s birthday party took an implement of some kind and beat an elderly widow to death. Researching the story has awakened ghosts from my past; memories of my childhood, and a time when a British jury could convict a young man to death. I offer no judgement of my own, and this is not the place to debate Capital Punishment, about which I’m sure many of you have their own views. Instead I ask you to ponder on the two families torn apart and the needless loss of life; as in so many of these cases, before and since; an elderly widow, probably contentedly looking forward to eventual retirement, and a young man, so desperate that he robbed and killed a neighbour for a few pounds.

I told you that, sadly there are no pictures this week which are relevant to the Sepia Saturday prompt picture, instead you will have to be content with my sepia-tinted memories.

And let the above picture act as a sobering reminder of the dark days when a ‘criminal' could simply be left to die and his body left to rot as a warning to others. I took this picture last year at a Medieval Fair in Leon, Spain.

It’s visiting hours at Sepia Saturday so why not head over there and see what other contributors have made of the prompt picture?

Sunday, 3 August 2014

A Towering Talent

Elizabeth Taylor on the set of Giant by Frank Worth

Elizabeth, a hot young thing,
takes up some string
and twirls it round 
above the ground.
It helps her memorise her lines;
the knotted twines,
the lariat,
She’s soon off pat.
And when she comes to play her scene,
with Jimmy Dean,
she casts her spell; 
he’s snared as well.

© Marilyn Brindley

Thanks to Tess Kincaid for the prompt on The Mag, where we are encouraged to keep our muses alive and well. Ive been absent for a while but this image was right up my street. 

I like to give myself an added challenge  with the format, so this The Minute It's a recent form invented by an American, Verna Lee Hine Gardner and based on the number of seconds in a minute.
  • The syllables are spread over twelve lines: 8 in the first, fifth and ninth lines and 4 syllables in all the other lines. 
  • It's written in iambic rhythm (di-dum)
  • it is punctuated as prose, in that capital letters only appear after full stops and not necessarily at the beginning of lines.
  • It rhymes in couplets a,a,  b,b ,c,c, d,d, e,e, f,f.
(from 'The Poet's Craft' by Sandy Brownjohn.)

I first used it last September on ‘Trapped’ and I rather like it.

Friday, 1 August 2014

When the Cat’s Away

These alcoholic mice are having a fine old time drinking sherry. They even have a little mouse-ladder provided! When it’s quiet at the Gonzalez Byass bodega in Spain’s Jerez, these little rodents sneak out and enjoy their favourite tipple.

The pictures are a little wonky, not because I’d had a drink myself (this was at the the very start of the tour) but because they were on the wall of the cellar, quite high up.

Our charming guide pointed to the the glass of sherry and the ladder on the cellar floor and told us the story. Apparently it stops them gnawing away at the barrels to get to the contents.

They wouldn’t want the barrels spoiled because some of them are rather special, signed by famous people; artists, racing drivers, British Prime Ministers, actors and film-makers.

We were in Jerez earlier this year for my husband’s birthday and after the tour of the cellars and the obligatory video, we had a sherry-tasting and thereafter were steered inevitably towards the shop on the way out.

We managed to restrain ourselves and left with nothing more than our souvenir pictures and an appetite for lunch.

This week Sepia Saturday has proverbs as a possible theme so I thought of my sepia mice. Apparently the management wanted to introduce a cat but the workers threatened to strike if they did so. I bet there is one, otherwise they’d be overrun with the little squeakers. Imagine that, lots of drunken mice tearing all over the place! Not good for anyone with musophobia. The cat can’t cover all angles though and when the cat’s away the mice will play.

Why not join other Sepians to see what they made of this week’s prompt?