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, 19 December 2014

A Christmas Mystery

I could post a whole gallery of pictures from Christmas meals over the years. It’s one of the occasions when families and friends gather together around the table and somebody has the camera! However, I’m going to choose just one Christmas Eve in 1963 as my offering for Sepia Saturday over the Christmas and New Year.

This is my Dad in festive mood and looking fetching in his party hat and facial add-ons. The calendar behind his right shoulder is the clue as to the exact date and proves that the 35mm slide was scanned the right way round. This is towards the end of the meal as it’s coffee and dessert time. Dad still smoked in those days and I just hope that the ash didn’t end up in that sherry trifle! I think the ‘disguise’ was probably his little table gift. This was the house of my parents’ friends to which we were often invited on Christmas Eve. Judging by the napkins which have not been unfurled, somebody people didn’t make it on time. I know this because ‘that person with the camera’ took a picture of the splendidly set out table before we all descended upon it.

There were eleven places laid (I don’t think Mr Snowman was a guest, although it looks that way). I see we had melon ‘boats’ for starters, and the first pictures shows that we had trifle and fruit salad for dessert, but I have no memory of what came in between. It was probably a cold meat salad of some sort. I was trying to work out what was in the bottle with the quaint wooden bottle-stopper and why it was already opened before the guests were seated. If it contained wine I don’t think it would satisfy ten adults, but I came to the conclusion that it was probably sherry.

The guests have now been ushered into the dining room and ‘that person with the camera’  has instructed us all to wear our party hats  and raise our glasses, except I can’t as I am a minor so mine is empty. Yes, that’s me bottom right aged eleven and feeling very grown-up with the sherry-quaffers no doubt. I’m sure some orange squash would have been handed to me afterwards. There’s Dad again, standing behind our host and winking at the camera. The lady with the fluffy white collar is our hostess and My Mum is seated on her left. The young man between me and Mum is a family friend. The mystery of at least one of the unused napkins is now solved as I am wearing my party-pinny instead! But who is wielding the camera? Judging by the first photograph, Dad would have resumed his place next to the lady in pink. Ten of us are present at the beginning of the meal, there is an unassigned napkin in the foreground, next to me and even more mysterious three unused by the time we reached the coffee course.

No more pictures at the table and after the meal we’ve moved to what our hostess called ‘the lounge’. Two more guest have joined us, and we are now wearing a new set of headgear. These hats are more substantial than the first set and appear to fashioned from gift wrap. I wonder if it was a party game, if so it appears that I won first prize; no not the dog, he was mine already. It looks like an Easter Egg but I think it was a similar confection brought out at Christmas. The latecomers seem relaxed and this time it was probably the host pointing the camera whilst the hostess washed up and cleared the kitchen (that’s the way it was in those days). So now we have accounted for eleven people, but we haven’t solved the mystery of the phantom photographer - or have we?

No wonder he looks so pleased with himself! We will never know the answer as sadly, only four of us are left and two are elderly. I prefer to remember the happy times we had more than half a century ago. Walking the short distance back to our own house, the pavements were always glistening with frost in the streetlights. As soon as we got home we would rush to get ready for bed, as the house was unheated, and snuggle down with our (new-fangled) electric blankets to wait for Christmas Morning.

Join other Sepians sometime between now and 4th January, to see who gathered round their Christmas Tables. Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year to you all.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Looking Back at the Bigger Picture

Who is this young girl and why is she looking back over her shoulder? She was on her way past a flower stall in the market square when her attention was caught by something or someone.

The group behind her don’t seem at all interested and are engrossed in conversation.

The stallholder’s curiosity is piqued however, and everyone else in the market square is going about their business as usual as though nothing out of the ordinary has happened.

Ah, but wait a moment; there’s a bit of a clue here. The large lettering above the shop says “SALZBURG...”, possibly Salzbuger something or other. It’s not a high street bank, although it looks imposing enough. The lady in blue isn’t using an ATM, even if it appears that way. This is 1966, ‘hole-in-the-wall’ cash machines had only just been invented and weren’t in common use in Salzburg.

Yes, this photograph was taken in a square in this famous Austrian city. There are more shops as a clue, and if I really wanted to, I’m sure I could spend hours on google street view and find the exact location. I’m not going to do that however, because it’s not the place, or the time that’s important, it’s the bigger picture.

And here it is. The smiling group in the corner are my mother and the mother (in blue) of my Austrian exchange friend. Her younger brother is standing just in front. My parents and I were on holiday in the Tyrol and my friend, with whom I’d spent the previous Summer, had persuaded her family to travel from Vienna for the day, just so that we could all spend a few hours together. It was a great success and resulted in further extended visits of each family to the other’s home.  My Father would have been trying to get as much local colour into the picture as possible. Just a wee bit further to the left and he’d have nailed it, but what an interesting image it is and worth taking a second glance when you’re passing by.

This week’s Sepia Saturday encouraged us to look into the backgrounds rather than the foregrounds of our old images. It’s a useful exercise and allows us to see what we might otherwise miss.

Don’t miss a visit to other Sepians this week; they’ll all be looking back and sharing the big, and the small pictures with you

Friday, 5 December 2014

Sepia Shots

Sepia shots being fired from sepia guns in 1950. My brother is acting the part of one of his cowboy heroes. I’ve no idea which one, although Roy Rogers is a name I seem to remember being mentioned. There’s a strong possibility that the outfit he’s wearing was sent from America, where my Mum’s Auntie Millie lived. There are also pictures of my brother wearing a shirt made of print fabric, the design of which is cowboys and yes, cowgirls; perhaps Rogers’ wife Dale Evan who appeared alongside him on TV and in films. I’m sure I spot a cactus, a horse and possibly a steer, and is that the steam of a Old West train puffing over the prairie?

In the 1960s the folklorists Iona and Peter Opie catalogued “Children’s Games in Street and Playground” and at that time ‘Cowboys and Indians’ was still a great favourite, both in Britain and on the continent. The games were usually named after whatever TV programme was popular at the time and they list: Raw Hide, Wagon Train, Pony Express, Cheyenne, Totem Pole, Cavalry and Indians, Gun Law, Apache Warpath, Laramie, Wells Fargo, Lone Ranger and Cisco Kid. I have vague memories of Tenderfoot (Sugarfoot), Bronco (I can even sing the theme tune), and later, The Virginian and The High Chaparral. Last year an article in The Daily Telegraph was titled, ‘Cowboys and Indians more popular than computer games’ although I’m not sure how in-depth the survey, commissioned by the supermarket chain Sainsbury’s, was. The conclusion was that outdoor pursuits were still number one, but whether they actually mentioned ‘Cowboys and Indians’ I have no idea. I’m just a wee bit sceptical as I’d have thought the genre was fading fast. I can’t think of any current TV programmes or films that would fire the imagination in the same way as those racially insensitive examples of the 50s and 60s wher the Indian was always the bad guy and pioneer cowboy or the cavalry always won the day.

By the 1980s children’s education was a little more enlightened and the curriculum at my daughter’s school included a project on Plains Indians and offered a more sympathetic view of their way of life. My daughter was captivated by the theme, and Christmas 1982 brought dressing-up outfits for her and her younger brother. Unfortunately he wasn’t quite so impressed by his outfit and I’m afraid there isn’t a happy shot of the photo shoot. It was no way for a sheriff to behave of course, but they were both just getting over Chicken Pox and were still a bit emotional. I have his permission to use the images below, and it didn’t get in the way of his subsequent career as a ‘lawman’ - no sheriff’s badge though.

By the time of my daughter’s birthday, ten months later, he was much more relaxed about joining the other cowboys and cowgirls at the party and to enjoy a piece of themed birthday cake.

He still wasn’t overly fond of that hat though and decided it was better removed at the table.

Sepia Saturday 257 has a young cowboy lassoing his father and posing on the porch of his house as our prompt. Why not mosey on over there and see who’s been drawn into the Sepia Saloon this week?