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."

Saturday 10 December 2016

When is a Snowman, Not a Snowman?

When it’s a snowbear of course!

That’s not Goldilocks; it’s my late sister-in-law Gill, who died four years ago today. She was very creative as well as fun-loving. This was in the garden of their house in Gloucestershire some time in the 1990s. I believe it was taken in February, but the picture reminds me of many happy Christmases spent there with George and Gill and our extended families. We would usually all visit on Boxing Day and there would always be fun and games, including a treasure hunt.

A snowman is also not a snowman when he is a papier mache figure in a Mardi Gras carnival float in Cyprus  in 2001, or standing guard at Santa’s Place here in Lanzarote in 2012.


........when it’s a knitted tree decoration made by my mother or a soft toy snowbaby made by me (about thirty years ago).

A snowman is not a snowman when it’s the icing on the cake, (Christmas 1988 when my children were into Raymond Briggs’ eponymous book and animation, as well as singing the theme tune).....

.......or just a giant snowball without a head, or a carrot nose. No that is definitely not a snowman, although it showed great potential as far as my three year old daughter was concerned.

It’s not even a snowman when it’s cuddly and cute like my latest creation (read the story here in ’Snowman Surprise’), because real snowmen are not cuddly!!

Now that’s a snowman!! My nephew and his children just a few years ago, happily posing with their spikey-haired creation. Just over a year ago he was attacked by a mystery illness and had to undergo a liver transplant, which saved his life. He has made a remarkable recovery and will be free to make many more snowman with his family this year, thanks to the wonderful NHS Organ Donation scheme and the selflessness of one woman and her family. Our family will be forever grateful.

Now, if that has lifted your spirits, why not go and join other contributors to Sepia Saturday, where our prompt image was a snowman - or was it?

Thursday 1 December 2016

Counting the Days to Christmas

Our prompt for this week’s Sepia Saturday is an Advent Calendar; ‘Im Lande des Christkinds’ 1903, by Richard Ernst Kepler. In those days the calendars, would simply have little doors which were opened on each day leading up to Christmas to reveal a colourful picture, or verse. This example appears to be the just the pictures, the section with the doors having long since departed; or possibly these were the unopened doors. The calendar has suffered some visible damage; also the only door, or picture with a date, is the first one, with an angel opening the calendar. This supports the idea that what we are seeing is the pictures which would have been revealed on successive days.There is so much to study, with all the charming details being very much of the German Christmas tradition. I decided to choose just a few of the pictures to seek out similar happy scenes from Christmas past in my own albums.

The first photograph is from Christmas 1982, in our RAF married quarters in Rheindahlen, Germany. The children are making the most of their painting sets. Thank goodness for the Laura Ashley oil-cloth table cover. 

From the same year, comes the picture of them excitedly opening and examining the contents of their Christmas Stockings, whilst their larger gifts are yet to be unwrapped. The little angels in the calendar are rummaging in a whole toy chest of traditional toys, including drums, balls and dolls.

The tiny angel is delighted with her doll, whilst my daughter too enjoys her Cinderella upside-down doll, made by her mummy.

Next in the calendar come four tiny angels flying around. We bought our first ‘angel chimes’ which rotated in the heat of the candles, striking a bell as they did so. They would get faster and faster and the tinkling sound more incessant. We all loved it but were glad when it stopped!

That year I had attended ceramics club, where I made and painted these two angels for my children. Yes we still have them, and they are very carefully unwrapped from their tissue and displayed each year.

My son was entranced - for a while at least.

Moving forward to 1991 and my other ‘little angel’ has reached the teenage years and enjoys cooking for Christmas, just like the one in the 1903 Advent Calendar.

Now Sepians. start counting down to Christmas, and don’t forget to to see what other contributors have made of the prompt.

Friday 25 November 2016

Birthday Blessings

The lovely young lady above is my Mum aged just twenty-one, shortly after she had joined the ATS. I’ve told the story before in You’re in the Army Now so there’s no need to dwell on those far off days. Instead let’s celebrate today, Mum’s 96th Birthday. Through the wonders of modern technology I was able to have a face-to-face call with her and send birthday wishes across a couple of thousand miles. My brother and his family took her for an outing, and when she got back to the care home where she now lives, there was a birthday cake and tea. She had cards, presents and phone calls from various family members and friends, though she was a wee bit confused over who was who. She seemed quite content, even though she has apparently told my brother that this will be her last birthday!

Dad couldn’t be there to give her a card as he died four years ago tomorrow, so I showed her and read out some of the old cards he sent over the years, almost from when they were teenage sweethearts.

We admired the lovely pictures and especially Dad’s beautiful handwriting. This must have been 1955 as Dad had written, “Cheer Up, it’s only half way.” In those days you weren’t expected to enjoy the long life my parents had. On her 70th, Dad wrote, “Thank You for sharing your three score years and ten with me.” I don’t suppose either of them thought they’d live into their nineties, let alone celebrate their 70th Wedding Anniversary.

I have often written about my mother’s resilient personality and, when I saw her a couple of months ago, she looked as though she had a way to go yet. Let’s hope so.
Happy 96th Birthday Mum.

Join us at Sepia Saturday for more pictures and memories.

Sunday 20 November 2016

The Wretched Strangers

“Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,
Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage."

This particular child refugee, depicted on a Cyprus stamp commemorates the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974. It shows a small, wide-eyed, hunched figure, sitting on a suitcase in front of barbed-wire. To me it looks like a child, but it could be any under-nourished and spiritually diminished victim of war or unrest. Sadly it’s an all too familiar sight today in our daily news, and I fear always will be so.

The Refugee Fund stamps appear on mail alongside other stamps as a way of ensuring that they are commemorated. This one, printed in 1993, sits alongside a stamp of an oak (one of a set of four printed in 1994), and although the date stamp cannot be read, the handwritten message includes the date it was written, so I’m pretty sure it was indeed 1994. It was posted to my parents, by my mother’s cousin, who was on holiday in Cyprus, and featured St Lazarus Church, Larnaca.

I had actually visited Cyprus for the first time two years earlier, as part of a group of headteachers and army welfare and families officers. We were were meeting the children and families of the Royal Green Jackets whose next posting was in Wiltshire, where my school was situated.

On our half-day sightseeing, I peered through the wall from the Cypriot side of the wall to the Turkish side. I also took pictures of the ‘Liberty Monument’ in Nicosia. which I found very moving. More details and pictures here.

Linking to Sunday Stamps II. 101 where today’s theme is ‘Children’ and to Sepia Saturday’s theme of ‘War and Peace'

Friday 14 October 2016

Eye in the Sky

The Eye in the Sky happens to be one of my all-time favourite tracks on one of my favourite albums, by the Alan Parsons Project. It’s a 1980s classic, and hearing it recently meant it popped into my head when I saw this photo below. A recently issued movie of the same name is apparently about drones and terrorism - something far from minds of the writers of the song, who I think were writing about love and betrayal.  Please skip any ad or trailer that may appear before this video, and hang on in for the ride, it’s worth it!

This picture shows my husband’s late sister and brother-in-law, in a capsule of the London Eye, enjoying the panoramic views of London. We know the date exactly as Gill also stored the entrance ticket with her photo; the ticket clearly shows 4th December 2000 and a time of 1.30 in the afternoon. It looks as though it was bright and clear and they would have been able to see for miles- whether they were able to read anyone’s mind -as per the lyrics - I somehow doubt.

You can read about the London Eye’s history by following the link to the Wikipedia article.

Despite the difficulties it seems to have encountered over the years, it appears to be still going strong, and here is my daughter’s snap taken this week on her iPhone, from Charing Cross Station, whilst travelling around London.

Meanwhile, Sepia Saturday this month has us travelling in all directions, even up in the sky.

Sunday 9 October 2016

Car Show

My late father was a sales rep (aka commercial traveller) for most of his life.  Each company he worked for provided him with a vehicle which doubled as a family car. This was very useful, because he would never have afforded such a luxury on his salary. The council estate where I was brought up had virtually no cars parked outside, and of course there were no garages, so Dad’s car stood out somewhat. I remember he had to park it a couple of streets away in a private garage. Having a car meant a bit more freedom and comfort for our family holidays, usually taken in a caravan somwhere on the East Coast. On one occasion we had a holiday in Scotland, and another in Wales. I don’t remember much about the journeys, except feeling travel sick and wanting them to be over as quickly as possible; cars weren’t built for comfort in those days! In my parents’ photo albums are a a few photos of these cars, as well as some slides of varying quality.

1956 and a caravan holiday at Chapel St.Leonard’s. My brother and I are sitting on the car bonnet for some reason.
I don't look too happy.
Probably the same holiday. It’s a Commer, about which I know nothing.
We think this is a Standard 10, and yet another caravan, this time in Prestwick, Scotland in 1958.
Dad perched on a shiny Consul, which was actually a Ford Cortina, so it places the photo around 1962- 64
Hillman Minx late 60s. Mum is posing, as she never learned to drive.
It appears  that someone else on the road had a car!
The car I do remember. 1970 and the silver Capri. When I was at teacher training college in Lincoln, Dad would sometimes visit if he was in the area, and I loved to see this car pull up in the car park. 

Join us for Sepia Saturday, which this month is all about coming from, getting there, and travel of all kinds.


Thursday 8 September 2016

Your Aff Auntie Mary

This is Mary, one of my grandmother’s many sisters, and the only one who never married. She was born in 1905 and lived into her early eighties. By the time of the 1939 census her mother and her eight other siblings had married or died, and Mary is listed as still living at the same house that the family occupied at the time of the 1901 census. Now it was just her and her father, and a lodger, Elsie.  The ladies were both listed as working in a ‘Chemical Food Factory’, but which we know was actually manufacturing Ovaltine. She wasn’t blessed with film star looks, but she was loving and kind. She was a generous aunt and great-aunt, and like my mother before me, I would receive cards on my birthday, usually with a ten shilling note enclosed.She would also send me holiday spending money in the Summer and at Christmas, and a chocolate egg at Easter. Her cards were always signed ‘Your aff Auntie Mary’ (aff= affectionate).

When my great-grandfather died, in 1953 Mary remained in the little house in Watford. Elsie had also remained unmarried and still lived in the same house with Mary, into old age. They continued to work together as far as I know, and were good company for each other, taking holidays together and visiting my grandparents in Nottingham.

I only have a few pictures of Mary and I realise that I know very little about her. I do know that she worked hard all her life and that when she retired at the age of sixty, we all went along to her retirement party. Judging by the few pictures of the event, she obviously had a sense of fun. The party wasn’t just an excuse to eat and drink but to play games as well. This was 1965, and it was what you did in those days. You didn’t sit in a corner with your phone or iPad, you sang, danced, played games and had what was known as a ‘knees-up’!

You can get a flavour of the party from the photos below; my grandfather taking part in some water balancing game and my ‘aff Auntie Mary’ being affectionate to my Dad, by grabbing him for a great big kiss. It was all good clean fun; there were children present, and the party probably finished during the afternoon.

When I was a married woman, and living in my own home with two small children, my parents brought Auntie Mary to visit us, and meet her great-great niece and very new great, great-nephew. It’s the last time I remember meeting her and a happy occasion. It looks as though my daughter has presented her grandma, my Mum, with her dolly and Auntie Mary would have enjoyed watching the children play.

Join us at Sepia Saturday, where our theme for this month is work and play.