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."

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Seaside Shopping

This is my Mum in 1963 buying some fruit from a beachside shop in Chapel St Leonard’s. The photographer would be my Dad, once more demonstrating an uncanny knack for the unusual shot. How Mum put up with him taking a photo of her ‘behind' (on more than one occasion) I’ll never know.

There are several kinds of fruit in the racks behind; oranges, apples and bananas, but I believe Mum and the shopkeeper (the sign says, “Props. E. A. Litchfield & A. D......”) are inspecting peaches and he is helping her to select some ripe ones. The crate label reads ‘Golden Valley’, but that doesn’t really help. I expect Mum was trying to vary the diet from the ice creams and candyfloss we loved to eat on a day trip to the seaside.

Enlarging the picture I can see: buckets and spades; seaside postcards; beachballs, blow-up lilos; paper windmills (for your sandcastle); cricket stumps and a stack of deckchairs. The signs are advertising both Players and Woodbines Cigarettes; take your pick.

On the freezer is a sign stating the hire rate for those deckchairs, 2/-  (two shillings); whether this was for the day or by the hour I’ve no idea.

There is also an advert for Zoom Ice Lollies and a bucket with a label exhorting us to, “Put your Eldorado Ice Cream wrappers here”. Quite right - no litter wanted in front of this tidy shop. I remember Eldorado with fondness, but I don’t believe the company exists any longer. The shop has a sign boasting that it is a ‘Four Star Independent Retailer’. Below the sign are some more inflatables and a couple of boxes of Ashley’s Ice Cream Wafers.

The most curious item is the comic character behind Mum and Mr Litchfield; probably some sort of inflatable toy for lobbing around the beach to scare the kiddies and little old ladies having a nap in their deckchairs.

I also noticed that Mum is wearing tartan slacks (or trews as she liked to call them, even though there wasn’t a drop of Scottish blood in her), a hand-knitted jumper and ‘comfy’ sandals. This helped me identify other shots taken on the same day.

I expect the shop also sold kites as another picture shows me demonstrating my newly purchased model.

I’ve seen that first photograph many times but I’ve never given it more than a passing glance until now. It’s amazing how Sepia Saturday makes us scrutinise and dissect old snaps to discover some little hidden gems we never noticed before. I feel as though I know Mr Litchfield - or is he A.D......? and his neat little four-star beachside shop, so well now. This is one day, more than half a century ago, but it could be yesterday again.  By the time most of you read this another year will have begun and tonight we’ll be ‘Ringing in the New!’ It will be a time for looking forward and making resolutions, but don’t forget to join us at Sepia Saturday as we celebrate the past and look forward to another year of Sepia memories. Happy New Year everyone.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Christmas in Germany

This is my son in Germany, 1983, showing his fascination with Angel Chimes, and probably trying to blow out the candles. We sometimes only lit one candle in order to slow down the speed that the angels flew round and struck the bell.  The chimes were very popular in Germany and we would have bought ours there, during our tour with the RAF.

Although it was a charming and delightful decoration, the novelty sometimes wore off after a short while, due to the repetition of the dinging, rather akin to a dripping tap. The fact that we no longer have this particuar set of Angel Chimes, probably confirms my suspicions that we grew out of them eventually. We now have a minature Angel Chimes (with no noise). There are numerous You Tube videos of people with their own, much-treasured vintage versions, some still in the original packaging. Many feature small children and their reactions to them; others show how to take them out of the box and assemble them, which was no mean feat.

Some the decorations we invested in at that time were beautiful and deserved to be heirlooms. Unfortunately, over many years of being packed away and then re-assembled, some of them suffered damage. In the picture below, from the same year, can be seen two traditional Räuchermann figures; The Essenkehrer (chimney sweep) and the Weihnachtsmann (Father Christmas) on the mantelpiece.

The chimney sweep was particularly vulnerable as arms, ladder and other bits and pieces were constantly being glued back on.I  think in a moment of frustration a few years ago, we decided we'd had enough and he was thrown out. I see now that this was particularly ill-judged, as current models cost a considerable sum; we’ll look after the Weihnachtsmann more carefully for sure. Here he is in action last year.

I also regret throwing away out beautifully carved Christmas table centre, which doubled as an Advent Ring. We would light one more candle each Sunday in Advent and then on Christmas Eve all four would be lit.

This decoration suffered the same fate as the poor old chimney sweep; after several re-sprays and much gluing, we decided we’d had enough. What a shame we didn’t just appreciate it for the its age and the memories it held. One more regret.

It can be seen gracing the Christmas Table over the years of family photographs, and is just visible behind my own two angels in this picture.

One decoration from those years which we still have, thank goodness, is our Weihnachtspyramide (Christmas Pyramid) below. This operates in the same way as the Angel Chimes; the candles generate the heat which turns the turbine and send the Nativity Scene spinning round. Unlike the Angel Chimes, this is silent and we still love to light it each Christmas.

For more Christmas memories from the past, be sure to light some candles and go to Sepia Saturday and see what other contributors made of the prompt

Friday, 11 December 2015

Christmas With Gill

Three years ago today we heard that my lovely sister-in-law, Gill, had died the day before. We were preparing for my Dad’s funeral the next day so it was a doubly dreadful time. However, since 2012, we have remembered both Gill and Dad only for the many happy times we shared, the great love and affection they both showed, the creative gifts they were blessed with and their sense of fun.

I admired Gill for her abilities as an artist and craftswoman; she could turn her hand to anything, from painting, drawing, needlework, dry-stone-walling to creating a stone-wheel herb garden from scratch. I wrote about that in Garden of Remembrance.

The first picture is of Gill, with her her great friend Sue. I can’t be sure, as I wasn’t there, but I wouldn’t mind betting that the cake is one of Gill’s creations. I first spent time with Gill and her daughters back in 1974; I was just her little brother’s girlfriend then, but she made sure I was welcomed as part of the family.

This picture is from that Christmas and shows Gill in her Happi Coat, dressing-gown, which I remember hanging on the back of the bathroom door at the family home. Once again, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was one of Gill’s creations. It’s a patchwork of curtain fabric remnants. Maria von Trapp would have been proud of her.

Each year of our married life, we tried to spend some time with Gill and her family over the Christmas period. Sometimes, my parents would be there too, or Gill’s daughters and granddaughters. I have very happy memories of visiting her in the 1990s, when Gill would devise a Treasure Hunt around the cottage and gardens where she and her husband lived. You can tell she was a crossword expert by the cryptic nature of the clues - and she got them to rhyme as well!

One year, when her elder daughter was living in Australia, we all got together and made a video for her.  I still have a grainy copy, and I love it because we all said a piece to camera and my Dad spoke in one of his funny voices; a rare piece of footage indeed.

We all associate snowmen with Christmas, and not just on Christmas Cards. This picture shows both that creative talent and the sense of fun that Gill brought to the job of snowman building; who else would fashion the Three Bears instead of just a plain old snowman?

Below are two examples of Gill’s wonderful treasure hunt questions, and look at that lovely writing too.



Chocolate cake after the Treasure Hunt 1993

During the latter years of Gill’s life we spent all our Christmasses here in Lanzarote and when Gill’s Parkinson’s finally became too much, she preferred to be a little quieter. After her second husband died she moved to a care home which catered for her needs. Gill was very content there and the Christmas before she died she was even enjoying making Mince Pies. Sadly the dementia which accompanied the Parkinson’s robbed her of much of that creative ability and the tremor meant she was no longer able to write with a clear hand, but knowing Gill, she would have put her own litte creative stamp on those pies. 

We miss her very much but we prefer to remember her as the funny, clever and creative woman she was, and to recall all those times we were lucky enough to spend 'Christmas with Gill’.

Christmas 2001

For more memories and old photos, visit this week's Sepia Saturday.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Night Flight Stunts

This is another page from my Great Aunt Maud’s Autograph Album and dated 9.12.19; almost ninety-six years ago to the day, ‘HHP’ glued a little bit of history to the page and wrote an explanatory note. He completed it with the official Labour Corps Records stamp; both he and Maud were employed there after the war. I wrote about the album in Another Day at The Office, where you can see more pages of autographs.

The bombings stunts HHP refers to took place during the Spring and Summer of 1917, when the Handley Page bombers were brought in to reinforce the work already being carried out by the Royal Flying Corps and the four Royal Navy fighter squadrons, dispatched at the same time, in attacking the strategic naval ports and dockyards of Dunkirk, Ostend and Zeebrugge. The Handley Page could carry fourteen 112lb bombs as compared to the short bombers eight 65 - pounders, already in use. The Handley Pages were first used for daylight patrols with considerable success, but as their pilots became more skilled they were deployed on these very important night raids. During WW1 the word 'stunts' referred to ‘any performance of outstanding skill or effectiveness, on a large or small scale. You can read about these operations in more detail in ‘The War in The Air; being the story of the part played in the Great War by the Royal Air Force’ *

This is what it was like to be ‘Up in the Air in a Handley-Page’**. The photograph is attributed to Tom Aitken. This later model O/400 bomber, was introduced in 1918 and could carry 2000lbs (907 kilos) of bombs and be fitted with four Lewis machine guns. 

The ex 'Observer and Pilot, R.A.F', who signed Maud’s album may have had many such views; in any case he held onto the old flying maps after the war, possibly as some sort of keepsake. Perhaps he was dividing the map and sharing it piecemeal with anyone who requested his autograph. It certainly makes his contribution stand out from the crowd. He could never have foreseen that some ninety five years later it would lead to the current guardian of the album setting out to find more of the details surrounding those ‘bombing stunts’ carried out by the famous Handley-Page aeroplanes.

Take a flight to Sepia Saturday and see what other contributors have come up with.

** The photograph was censored, because it could potentially be of use to the enemy. Original reads ‘Official Photograph taken on the British Western Front in France. Up in the air in a Handley-Page, showing another Handley-Page making for the enemy’s lines.’ Courtesy of Flickr Commons, National Library of Scotland.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Hold Hands and Stick Together

When you go out into the world, 
Watch out for traffic,
Hold Hands and stick together,
Be aware of wonder.
              Robert Fulghum

The little girl in the picture is my Mum, who is 95 years old today. She is holding hands with her brother Billy, who was just seventeen months older than her. This is about 1924 and they are standing on the Wilford Suspension Bridge, which crosses the River Trent in Nottingham.

This is the bridge scanned from one of my Dad’s slides and originally photographed in 1991. Since then, the bridge, which was completed in 1908, has had a major refurbishment. It was originally constructed to carry a water pipeline across the Trent to Wilford Hill Reservoir, and at the same time the opportunity was taken to incorporate a route for pedestrians and cyclists. It stands on a bend in the river and from it you enjoy views in both directions, right round the corner of the river. It’s the only connection between the Meadows, where Mum and her family lived, and West Bridgeford.

 I think these two pictures of Mum were taken on the same day, and I would hazard a guess that they were either taken by Great Aunt Maude, or by Billy, using his aunt’s camera.

Maude would often take the children on outings. She had no children of her own and a Sunday afternoon walk across the bridge to the fields on the other side, would have been a treat. Those fields disappeared long ago. Mum appears to be picking wild flowers, although it would appear that Billy is clutching grass. Perhaps it was for a pet rabbit.

I remember crossing that bridge myself when I was young and it used to terrify me as we clip clopped our way over to the other side. Perhaps that’s why Mum looks a little anxious, and why she needed to hold onto her big brother’s hand.

Why not cross the bridge to this week’s Sepia Saturday and see what other Sepians have made of the prompt image below.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Balloon Park

This post has been updated after its original publication to include information kindly supplied by Robin Macey of Nottingham and Derby Hot Air Balloon Club.  I’m delighted to give Mr Macey permission to reproduce the photo below to use in his illustrated lectures. Dad would have been very pleased. If any Nottingham readers have old photographs from past ballooning events in and around Nottingham, I’m sure Mr Macey would be pleased to hear about them

This is a scene captured by my father at Wollaton Park, Nottingham in 1970. There were no clues on the slide when I scanned it, but I found an article from the ‘Nottingham Post’ which I thought had helped me to identify the year. I recognised Wollaton Hall, a famous Nottingham landmark, and the park where I spent many happy hours as a child so this was a very good clue.

The article 'The Day Balloon Festival Filled Our Skies’ was actually published in 2009 in the ‘Bygones’ section of the Post. Further searches revealed a special balloon mail envelope issued to mark the the very 'First British Balloon Festival’ at Castle Howard, Yorkshire, in 1976, so I believed (mistakenly, as it later transpired) that Dad’s picture was recording only the third year of the festival being held. In the Bygones article Robin Macey of the Nottingham Balloon Club recalled the sport’s last major event in the city (up to the time when the article was published). In the late 1990s the City Council started to introduce red tape and to charge for the balloonists to launch in the park. As a result small private balloons stopped using it. The 1979 festival actually lasted a whole week and forty balloons took part, so it’s easy to see why Mr Macey said they filled the skies.

This picture by David Myers,** was taken at the park some time in the 1980s. The Council charges remain in place but special occasions, such as Armed Forces Day,  allowed organisers to pay a fee to use the whole park and therefore launch balloons without any extra charges. The RAF balloon was pictured at Wollaton Park on Armed Forces Day 2009 and pictures by Andy Jamieson.*** It’s not known whether it was actually launched, or simply tethered.

This article on the Easy Balloons blog talks of a forthcoming event in October 2013 when balloons were again expected to launch from the park for triple celebration of the first balloon flight from Nottingham in 1813, the 25th Anniversary of the East Midland Balloon Group and the 50th Anniversary of Anthony Smith’s flight from Nottingham Castle. Sadly, on the day the weather prevented the balloons from launching, even though the organisers were prepared to pay the fee to cover the special launch. The participants must have felt quite deflated but consoled themselves with a special celebration luncheon in Wollaton Hall itself. That must have been an uplifting experience.

Join us the  this week’s Sepia Saturday Balloon  Club for more posts inspired by the image below.

* Robin Macey believes that the balloon in my father’s picture is registration G-AXJA, later sold to a buyer in Ireland and changed its registration to EI-ANP
** Geolocation: Attribution-No Derivs 3.0 Unported
*** Wikimedia Commons: Creative Commons Share Alike 2.00 Generic Licence

Friday, 6 November 2015

Haunting Images

In this photo my son appears to be standing on his ghostly twin, as he peers through the bars of the balcony on our 1981 Corfu holiday.

In 1949 my husband is cuddled by his sister whilst some kindly spirit has bathed them in ethereal light.

In 1963 as I posed with my parents in front of Wordsworth’s Cottage, the ghosts of William and his sister Dorothy seem to be peering out of the bedroom’s leaded window. Fanciful perhaps, and probably just the reflections of the clouds on the small pieces of glass, but who can tell?

In 1968, as we prepared for my grandparents Golden Wedding, my mother appeared to be conjuring something up. Her cousin is trying to waft it away, and I’m pointing in amazement at something which seems to have bitten my ankle. What this picture also conjured up of course, were the memories of our 1960s council house kitchen, and my father’s penchant for painting things orange. It’s a good job you can’t see the wall behind my mother - not ghostly, but ghastly - wallpaper with large orange flowers!

And finally, here’s my own little ghost, knitted for last year’s Hallowe’en decorations. For more ghostly goings-on, float on over to Sepia Saturday; it’s sure to lift your spirits.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Mirror Images

It’s 1983 in the woods near our home in Germany, and my daughter pauses on an Autumn walk to check the mirror and make sure her hair is tidy.

Mirrors don’t seem to feature in our family albums much, although we’ve often unwittingly captured our own reflected images when taking a photograph, especially near shop windows.

Our Budgie Pippin (1990 - 2000) loved to look at his own reflection, and of course had one with a bell in his cage. We also used to place a small handbag mirror on top sometimes, for variety. Pippin would be free-flying round the house most of the time, and only went in his cage when we were all out, or at bedtime. He liked anything which reflected his image, including teapots and shiny door handles.

I found this picture of a mirror, which I took a couple of years ago on a visit to a National Trust house. It was propped up in the window to catch the light, surrounded by all sorts of odd old objects.

I rather liked the way it reflected the leaded windows and the pattern it created.  I expect I thought it might inspire a poem or a piece of creative writing. It may still do that yet, but in the meantime, I’m reminded of a poem I wrote in response to a prompt of woman looking into a mirror. I kept thinking of The Lady of Shallot and you can see the image which inspired it on Lost Cause.

No lost causes where Sepia Saturday is concerned. Join us this week for reflections on Hallowe’en, love, mirrors, magic and the future, prompted by the image below.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Holding On

This is a picture of my Mother and her brother in the late Twenties. I haven’t been able to identify the the other two children, though they may be cousins. Mum is holding on to the youngest; a baby of just a few months, whose sibling sits to Mum’s right, and they are all focused on something that we can’t see.

Our Sepia Saturday prompt this week is also four children, looking to the right; one is seated on an adult’s lap and three of them are holding on to something precious.

This is the Rosen Family in pre-war Estonia* and the lighting is extraordinary. Whatever it was they were looking at, it certainly held their attention. Perhaps it was a Magic Lantern show. It was clearly amusing, as the little boy has the beginnings of a smile. His three younger siblings haven’t quite understood, and each has brought along something precious to hold onto. I wonder what became of them; a Jewish family in Estonia during WW2 would have needed to hold onto the precious and comforting more than most.

My own father liked to take photographs from unusual angles; he would capitalise on the lighting, in this case, natural sunlight streaming through the window. He would have instructed us to look away from the camera, as he often did, and focus on something or someone to our right. Nevertheless, I’m holding on to something precious; my much-loved and rather bald dolly, just like the little girl in the prompt photo.

In the photo above, probably the same year, (mid-fifties) he once again makes us look to our right. This time it’s my big brother holding on to something precious; as well as me, his little sister, he has some kind of rocket-type toy in his hand.

Lately he and his family have had to hold on to something much more than expected. His son, my nephew, was struck down with a rare and virulunt form of Hepatitis last month; his life hung in the balance as his liver deteriorated rapidly. We will be forever grateful for the gift of life he was granted by a donor. The transplant was a success and my nephew has made a remarkable recovery. Like my Mum in the first photo, with her little cousin, like the Rosen family, whose fate we do not know, and like me and my brother, we are all holding on.

Join us this week at Sepia Saturday, to see what other contributors made of the promopt.  

* Courtesy of Flickr, The National Archives of Estonia Album

Friday, 9 October 2015

Frightened Faces and Fearless Actions

The two children in this photograph look frightened of the camera and very unsure of themselves. Their parents also look unhappy, but the wife is staring stoically ahead and the husband fixes the lens with a grim, but determined, look. Examine this photograph a little a closer and you will see the row of medals displayed on the soldier’s chest This is Corporal John Ross V.C., of the Royal Engineers. John Ross was anything but a frightened man; just over a hundred and fifty years ago (21st July 1865), during the Crimean War, he was awarded the highest honour for valour, for his fearless actions on three separate occasions. First for linking trenches with a large working party, secondly for repeating this action under heavy fire, and thirdly, creeping up to the Redan, and on finding it had been evacuated, returned to report this, but discovered a wounded man whom he then rescued.

Ross lived a further twenty years, dying aged 57 on 23rd October 1879, having achieved the rank of sergeant, and is buried in an unmarked, but consecrated, grave in Islington Cemetery London. However, he is named in the family memorial headstone and on the ‘For Valour’ board at the museum. On the headstone we can read that Ann Jane Ross, daughter of John and Lydia. departed this life in her hundredth year in 1957. She must be the frightened little girl above. Clearly, she overcame her fear and went on to live to a ripe old age. It appears from the headstone that her brother died a few months before his father.

I apologise for the quality of the image as I took the photo through the glass of a display cabinet at the Royal Engineers Museum, Gillingham, Kent, last week. It was my son’s idea that we go, as it is near his home and it would be an interesting day out for the children (our 7.5 year old twin grandchildren) when we paid a flying visit to England from our home in Lanzarote. It was a good choice; the museum was fascinating and we adults could happily have spent all day and still returned on further occasions, as there was so much to see. The twins loved the hands-on  experiences and dressing-up in the soldiers’ uniforms. Of course they were too young too fully understand the stories behind some of the  photographs. Naturally, I was in Sepia Heaven and stories like those of John Ross, completely absorbed me.

This week Sepia Saturday celebrated its 300th edition with a photo of a family who appear both frightened and frightening at the same time. There is a view that one or two of them may be deceased and that this is a Victorian post-mortem photograph. This could account for the frightened look on the face of the child - or is he/she also a dead and merely being propped up by the dead grandfather. Don’t dwell on it too much; it may give you nightmares - save those for Hallowe’en in a couple of weeks time. Ponder instead on the valour of Corporal John Ross V.C. I’d never heard of him before, but now I hope I’ve done my bit to make this unknown face more widely seen and his bravery appreciated. Why not join us to see what other Sepians made of the prompt.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Two Girls, Two Dogs

It’s 1962 and I am walking with my friend Linda, in Partridge Woods, close to where we live. We were just two girls who were dog mad and would have loved to own these poodles, Tina and Sherry; instead we dog-walked for their real owners. My father, who took this picture, would have driven us all to the woods where the dogs could be let off the lead and get their noses into all those woody scents.

Here we are again in my family’s back garden, and the dogs are being very well-behaved, posing perfectly for their picture. My recollection is that Tina was Sherry’s Mum but I may be wrong. Their owners were always happy for us to exercise the dogs and we would walk for miles in the fields near our homes. Those fields are all gone now; filled with modern houses.

Eventually, when I was eleven years old, I became a dog owner myself, and what did I choose? A poodle of course. My mother, who had recently been very seriously ill was relieved that the dog was small, and didn’t shed hairs. it wasn’t long before he became a part of the family.
Here I am with Kim and my (now) Sister-in-Law, and her dog, Heidi, a daschund.

Two girls, two dogs, just like our Sepia Saturday prompt picture this week. Why not join us there at the weekend to see what other contributors have come up with.