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, 20 May 2016

Baby Face

I have no information about the above photograph, other than the fact that X marks my Dad! There he is on the front row standing up proudly in his mother’s arms. His baby-reins have slipped a bit, but she has a good grip on him. Next to my grandmother is her sister-in-law, holding my Dad’s cousin, Betty, whose attention is caught by something on the ground.

There are more babies than older children in the picture, so one wonders if they were the reason for the get-together. Was it a beautiful baby competition at the local fete, or a Mothers and Toddlers outing of some sort. There aren’t many men either, which also makes one ponder. This is c1921/2, so not all that long after the First World War; returning servicemen would have lost little time in settling down and starting, or expanding, their families.

I don’t have the original photograph, so I can’t make it any more high definition, but it’s certainly worth enlarging and perusing some of the expressions on the babies’ faces.

Sepia Saturday prompt image this week is from a 1938 Baby Show in Kent. Three infants are perched on table, with their mothers standing behind. The one in the middle is holding onto a hairbrush, which is coveted by the one on the right, whilst the third baby looks confused by the altercation that is taking place. The mums are amused anyway. In my photo, there is the inevitable crying baby as well, more than one looks confused, including my Dad, and a few could make use of that hairbrush!

It’s very likely that this photo was taken the same day. Dad now wears a ‘beanie’, but still looks bemused, and Betty, who is now in her bonnet, has gone all blurry.

Dad and Betty have long since left us, as I imagine have most of those infants, their siblings, and certainly their mothers. One can’t help wondering what the future held for them. One or two would sadly not have made it past childhood, and the next war would have probably taken care of a few more. Others, like my Dad, would have lived long and happy lives, and had babies of their own.

Whilst we’re still celebrating Shakespeare’s centenary, did you know that the artist Romney imagined ‘The Infant Shakespeare, Attended by Nature and The Passions’?  Here is the engraving made from his painting, by Benjamin Smith for 'The Boydell Shakespeare Prints’.

Join us for this week’s beautiful baby show at Sepia Saturday

Friday, 13 May 2016

Making an Impression

The figure that thou here seest put,
It was for gentle Shakespeare cut,
Wherein the graver had a strife
With nature, to out-do the life:
O could he have but drawn his wit    
As well in brass, as he has hit
His face; the print would then surpass
All that was ever writ in brass:
But since he cannot, reader, look
Not on his picture, but his book.

'Making an impression’ has several definitions; a graphic or pictorial representation of someone or something, the printing of a number of copies of a book, periodical or picture, for issue at the same time, are just two which fit my theme this week. Perhaps the best definition however is: a difference made by the action or presence of someone or something, and Mr Shakespeare certainly did that! This wood engraving*gives us some idea of how a printing house would have looked when his First Folio was being published in 1623. Although Shakespeare had been seven years dead, he was still making an impression.  

The compositors, working near the window, are selecting individual letters from a case, and the printers in the foreground are applying the ink to the page before putting it into the press. Little had changed, in the intervening four hundred or so years, when this week’s Sepia Saturday prompt image was taken, probably some time in the middle of the Twentieth Century, although date and place is not known.** I remember being shown round the print room of what was then the Nottingham Evening Post, by a friend who worked there, in the late 1960s, and my memory is that it was very similar to the photograph. The progress in this digital age has been rapid since then.

It didn’t seem to be all that different to the way I put together labels with my John Bull Printing Outfit, as a child. I had to choose each letter and put it in a tiny tray, which then got pressed onto an ink pad and then onto notepaper. That was when you would find out which letters you had placed the wrong way round!

In the early 1970s I worked as student, during my Summer Vacation, in Boots Printing Works in Nottingham.We produced everything, from the patient information leaflets, which accompanied medicines, to fliers, catalogues and diaries. My section wasn’t involved in typesetting; we collated the finished printed products.

One of my late father’s RAF friends, who had been demobbed before him, had gone to work at the Daily Express Printing Works, in Manchester, and at the end of 1946, sent my parents a Christmas letter, using the tools of his trade.  The bulk of the letter concerns family news and reminiscences of their time together in the RAF, but there are some interesting observations in this snippet. Dad kept the letter all his life, and I don’t think I’ll be getting his friend into trouble, seventy years later, to reproduce part of here.

Back to William Shakespeare, whose Centenary we are celebrating this year. I’m currently following an online course through Warwick University, about Shakespeare and His World, and the background facts are fascinating. There is more to learn about the First Folio from The British Museum’s excellent online gallery, where you can view twelve images from the copy held by the museum. The engraver is Martin Droeshout and his version of Shakespeare is one which has more claims to authenticity than most.

Shakespeare’s friend and rival, Ben Jonson wrote the poem for the title page, with which I opened my post. It tells us that the graver (engraver) has made a good likeness of The Bard, but urges the reader to read the the book to capture the true essence of Shakespeare and his wit, something which the engraver would never be able to replicate.

To see what impressive photos and stories others have posted in response to prompt, visit Sepia Saturday.

*Jost Amman, “Eygentliche Beschreibung aller Stände auff Erden, hoher und nidriger, geistlicher und weltlicher, aller Künsten, Hanwercken und Händeln...

**Nationaal Archief, Netherlands, via Flickr Commons 

Thursday, 5 May 2016

This Shepherd’s Life

Iconic shepherd pose, with lamb tucked under arm

Truly, shepherd, in respect of itself, it is a good
life, but in respect that it is a shepherd's life,
it is naught. In respect that it is solitary, I
like it very well; but in respect that it is
private, it is a very vile life. Now, in respect it
is in the fields, it pleaseth me well; but 
irespect it is not in the court, it is tedious. 

I’m celebrating Shakespeare’s Centenary, so the above dialogue, between Touchstone (the court jester in disguise) and Corin, an elderly shepherd, in ‘As You Like It’ fits perfectly. Corin asks Touchstone how he likes ‘this shepherd’s life’ and he replies that he enjoys some aspects, but it’s clear from his answer that he misses his life at court. Indeed, a shepherd’s life then, as now, was very hard.

Our Sepia Saturday picture prompt this week is a photograph titled 'Ninety and Nine’ (by Joseph Gale c1890), showing a shepherd resting at a gate with a lamb under his arm and his sheepdog nearby. The picture recalls the parable from the Gospel of Matthew about the ‘Lost Sheep’.

It reminded me of a roadside statue we came across a few years ago, when travelling in Spain, near Burgos. It’s a monument to the rural shepherd and his dog, next to a shrine. Sculpted by Victor De Los Rijos, it was erected by public subscription in 1961. His Sheepdog is a large, but friendly looking Mastiff, and he also seems to have a young lad to help him. The statue is huge, as can be seen by me standing beside him!

A Colossus amongst shepherds

I delved into my ‘News From The English Countryside, 1750-1850’* for the  first time in months, to share two small news items with you which demonstrate the shepherd’s dedication.

1764: A Shepherd  for 90 years
Not your typical sheepdog

Last year died at Basingstoke one William Taylor, aged 102, as appears by the Register, in the Parish church of Basingstoke aforesaid; he was strong and healthy till a few days before his Death, and is said to have followed the business of a Shepherd upwards of 90 years.
Reading, January 28

1809: Shepherd Drowned in Mud

A shepherd to Mr Fisher, of Cotham, Lincoln was found drowned last week with a fat sheep, in one of the closes on the farm. The dog, it is supposed, drove the sheep in, and on the man endeavouring to get out, the mud was so strong, he could not extricate himself.
The Observer 
11 June 1809

The shepherd’s lad
Perhaps the second one was similar to the ‘Lost Sheep’; he had the other ninety-nine safely penned in and went off to look for Number 100 - it had to be the fat, dopey one didn’t it? And why did that daft dog drive towards the muddy pond?! Poor shepherd.

Coincidentally I’ve just watched BBC TV’s ‘Countryfile' for April 24th and it was, of course, a Shakespeare Special. One item was about the importance of the wool trade to Stratford-upon-Avon, and how it contributed to Shakespeare’s wealth and his ability to join the theatre. To make it more interesting a small flock of sheep were driven down Stratford’s Sheep Street. Unfortunately the sheep were spooked by the crowds, which and gathered to watch filming, and chaos ensued. Some sheep nearly ended up in the River Avon -  nobody drowned though. Here’s a link to the Telegraph’s report, including a short film clip.

* By Clifford Morsley: pub.Harrap

Join us at Sepia Saturday for more stories, images and anecdotes.