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, 30 April 2016

Here Take My Picture

Here take my picture; though I bid farewell 
Thine, in my heart, where my soul dwells, shall dwell. 
'Tis like me now, but I dead, 'twill be more 
When we are shadows both, than 'twas before. 

I was struck by these lines as I flicked through a slim volume of poems in a second-hand bookshop, last week in Nottingham. “Here take my picture!" is what we used to say to friends and family, before the age of ‘selfies’. This isn’t about recording a special moment with a camera however; the words jumped out at me because they seemed so out of place - until I read further. These were poems by John Donne (1572-1631), of whom I knew so little, but certainly wanted to know more. I bought the book.

Donne may have been handing his beloved a portrait as a keepsake when he went off to war, but he could so easily have been speaking of a photograph given by anyone in any, more recent, war. Here is the link to the poem, please read it in full and you will see exactly what I mean. Perhaps this was the image Donne wanted her to have, who knows? Its a fine portrait painted by Isaac Oliver (courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

It seems my Dad wanted his sweetheart to remember him with his winning smile and a casual air when he offered her this portrait, shortly after he joined the RAF in 1940. Two years later, Mum’s ATS portrait is all smiles, even though her call-up scuppered their plans for a cosy domestic nest for Dad to return to. They still got married a few weeks later and Mum joined her battery as the first married woman; quite a novelty. Thereafter, for a couple of years, they would try to get coinciding 24 or 48 hour passes, not always with success. 

It would have been important to have a picture to gaze on and remind them of their love, until in 1944, my brother arrived as more tangible proof and the result of 24 hour pass nine months earlier; my parents kept the pass as a memento and we still have it.

By the time I came along, eight years later, the War was over but Dad started work as a sales representative for Scott and Turner, which sometimes involved being away from home, so he may have taken these pictures of his family, in his wallet, to gaze upon when he was in some bleak bed and breakfast place, and needed a reminder of home.

Over the years there have been many family separations and of course, the final one for my parents, when Dad died in 2012. A couple of months ago Mum moved from her flat, the last home she shared with Dad, into a care home. Age and Alzheimer’s are robbing her of many memories, but strangely, not the more distant ones. Of course, she has a picture of Dad by her bed.

When we went to visit her last week, we took her out around all her youthful haunts, driving to Trent Bridge and a gentle walk around the Memorial Gardens there. It was a beautiful Spring day and a good photo opportunity. I handed the camera to my husband;  “Here, take my picture with Mum.” I said.

Join us this week at Sepia Saturday to see what other images have been ‘brought to safety’ like the one in our prompt of two WW1 Belgian refugees.

The Great War. Refugees from Antwerp, Belgium, bringing a painting into safety. Belgium, 1914 Flickr Commons collection of the Dutch National Archives

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Captured and Captioned

Thank You Mummy!
These photos of my big brother are stuck in one of my Mum’s photo albums, with neat captions written by my late father. It’s very possible that they were polyfotos, which would have been a sheet of forty-eight different shots. The best one were often given away to friends and family and these woud have been the ones that my parents decided to keep. Dad brought his artistic flair even to the family album, decorating the page with scrolls and writing each caption in his beautiful italic script. The album page hasn’t reproduced well so I am going to caption the pictures using 21st century technology instead. Dad imagined what was going through his one year old son’s infant head.

What a funny ickle puppy!
Dashed Funny Old Man!

Who’s that?
Day dreaming

I think I’m going to cry

As a child I would love to look through these albums, and this page was one of my favourites. It seemed to me that Dad was telling a story; something he was always very good at. This is just one hour, in one day of my brother’s life. He’s in his seventies now and in his lifetime we’ve moved on from polyfoto to digital technology. We don’t have to rely on the photographer’s studio anymore to tell a story, we simply use a smartphone. We can take one photo and turn it into a portrait worthy of an Old Master, with the click of a few buttons.

Join us this week at Sepia Saturday, where there will be multiple images a-plenty and at least one Old Master (Alan). Our own Photo Sleuth, Brett Payne, wrote in fascinating detail about polyfotos in this 2013 blogpost.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Shoebox of Surprises

Searching through my box of postcards, in the hope of finding something that would match this week’s Sepia Saturday prompt, I was focusing on bridges, boats and flags, preferably together. I had already featured them separately, and there was nothing in the family album that would suit. I came across this black and white postcard written by my mother to her parents, fifty-four years ago; it was too interesting to discard, despite the lack of a bridge. 

In itself the postcard is not very exciting but it does have the requisite boat and oars, though no oarsmen. The only action is a group of fishermen hauling their boat up onto the beach. I have  little recollection of this family holiday in Norfolk, as I was just a youngster, but the handful  of pictures in the album, with Mum’s caption, serve well enough. I was surprised, because I must have seen the postcard before, but hadn’t paid much heed to the message on the back. I’m glad I did because it led me off to do some research.

On Tuesday 28th August Mum wrote that we were spending the evening indoors as it was raining. ‘Indoors’ meant being cooped up in this tiny caravan, lit by gas and with the rain drumming on the roof. No doubt we did what we normally did on such a night; played cards, drew pictures and listened to a small transistor radio, whilst Mum knitted or wrote postcards, including this one. The next day, the postcard says, we were going to see ‘Five Finger Exercise’ at the Little Theatre. Mum told my grandparents that the caravan site was a nice one - with hot showers (there had to be some compensations).

That morning we had visited Weybourne Camp, where Mum had been briefly with the army during WW2, only twenty years previously. Dad took a picture of her wandering alone and deep in thought; it was captioned simply ‘Memories of Weybourne’. In the postcard Mum said: “……the old camp was still there, but deserted.” My grandparents would have known about Mum being at Weybourne, as she had been given a compassionate posting back to Nottingham in the Autumn of 1942 due to her mother being seriously ill. Mum was a clerk with 504 Battery of the 144th Mobile Royal Artillery Regiment, then stationed at Mapperly. From there they went on to Ticknall in Derbyshire and Ashby near Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire. It was whilst she was with the 504s they were sent to Weybourne for two weeks firing training.

During the War Weybourne played a key part in training Anti - Aircraft troops After the War it was still in use until 1958 for training and there is a Pathe Newsreel about the Territorial Army and their families using it for a training holiday. It  finally closed in 1959 and was clearly in the doldrums at the time of mum’s visit. Happily, it was acquired by Mr C. Berry Savory in the 1980s, and with his son Michael he converted it into a museum, which still attracts many visitors today. 

Just when I had given up hope, and was about to put the lid on the shoebox which houses my meagre postcard collection, this one popped up. It was written by my Great Aunt Maude in 1967, and addressed to my parents. She and her friend were holidaying in Scotland and she mentions Holyrood Palace and Castle, and was looking forward to a visit to Princes Street the next day. I rather like the card she chose, with its splash of orange on the blue water. It draws the eye, not to the bridge, but to the boat with its single oarsman. It reminded me of Renoir’s ‘The Skiff’ in The National Gallery. So, in the end I succeeded in ticking two out of three; boats and bridge, but no flags, and an interesting diversion via a shoebox of postcards. 

Join us over at Sepia Saturday to see what other contributors found in their family albums and shoeboxes

Friday, 1 April 2016

Down-along with Donkeys

Clovelly is a quaint, and somewhat secluded fishing village, on the North Devon Coast, and parts of it have remained unchanged for hundreds of years. It’s very picturesque and a haven for tourists, painters and photographers. The cobbled main street is extremely steep and custom-made sledges are the main method of transporting essential goods; once it was the donkeys who did the work but they are now just part of the tourist attraction. There are no wheeled vehicles due to the gradient and narrowness of the street. There are many images on the Internet, because of its very popularity, but I decided to look through my postcard collection for something different. I do have photos from the 1970s but they are quite boring by comparison.

This one, probably from the 1960s, quite rightly, puts a photo of a donkey centre stage. The main street is called Up-along or Down-along and is lined with pretty cottages and little narrow lanes. The village was falling into decay until the new owner, Christine Hamlyn, carried out some much-needed restoration and modernisation around 1900.

Judging by the fashions in this one I’d guess it was around the late 1950s or early 60s.

Whereas this heavily colourised version could perhaps be the 1970s. I’m no expert and these are rather wild guesses.

I know the date of this one because I sent it to my parents, twenty three year ago - almost exactly- whilst on an Easter break. It’s postmarked 14 Apr 1993 and I wrote the message at 12.05 p.m. How’s that for precision? Even better, I told them I was sitting on the harbour wall, having just walked ‘Down-a long' and was enjoying a clotted cream ice-cream (a Devon speciality) - with a chocolate ‘Flake’  (Are you all hungry now?). The sun was shining and it was apparently ‘like a Summer’s Day’ - It’s almost as if we were there isn’t it?

This harbour view, from an original watercolour by Brian Gerald, shows how steepness of the cliff to which Clovelly clings. See also the online Clovelly guide here.

I’m not sure about this one; it’s from a watercolour by Kevin Platt, and has a somewhat naive quality to it. It looks as though this is where Down-along widens and opens out into the harbour.

This week on Sepia Saturday we are wandering down-along memory lane; there will be picture postcards a-plenty and some refreshment for sure.