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, 10 March 2017

Getting Feedback

I had difficulty dating this photo of my Great Aunt Maud (on the right) and her friend Mary Carter. The reel to reel tape recorder belonged to my parents and, among other things, we used it to send Christmas messages to Maud’s brother Albert in Australia, and he would reciprocate. At first glance I assumed that was what they were listening to, and indeed that could be the case. However, I was recently listening to some archive sound recordings made by family on that very machine and had a different thought.

One of the tapes was my parents talking to Maud and Mary about the advent of decimalisation in Britain, set for February 1971. The government started to introduce some of the new coins as early as 1969, so this photo could be somewhere around 1969/70 as the conversation hinged on how the older generation (Maud was born 1897) would manage when the process was complete. Despite their concerns they seemed to have a pretty reasonable grasp, and my father was reassuring them and trying to explain an easy way of working out the value of the coins. Mary said she thought they’d be all right as, on a trip to Holland, they had managed the exchange rate of guilders, but both of them thought it would be the small coins that would confuse them.

From there the went on to talk about their own confidence in working out their shopping bills (in the old money), and how they usually had the total in their head before the shop assistant (who would be using pencil and paper). This was before automatic cash registers or tills were the norm. People of that generation would have been drilled in Arithmetic, as it was called.

I love the picture for all the details of their Living Room: the many patterns of wallpaper and soft furnishing, and the ‘antimacassars’ on the sofa; the Valor paraffin heater under the window; the flower arrangement on the sideboard; Mary’s slippers with pom-poms and Maud’s unbuttoned dress (!).

Both ladies are long gone as is my father, but it’s a delight to look at this picture, and listen to their voices from nearly half a century ago. My parents sound so young, (they would have been in their late forties) and althought they aren’t in this photo, I can imagine them, as they looked then, sitting in the chairs opposite as the ladies listened to the recording of their own voices.

Our Sepia Saturday picture prompt this week is a couple listening to the weather forecast on the radio. Why not tune in and see what other contributors have come up with from their own albums


  1. I remember those days, and feeling a bit sad at the passing of the ten shilling note. I think we younger people certainly took it in our stride more readily.

  2. We had one of those cumbersome tape recorders in the early 1970's - how things have developed since, when you think of the miniature recorders today!

  3. How terrific to have their voices recorded and their thoughts on decimilasation :)

  4. I wish I had more recordings of my family voices. (I think you put the wrong date up there for Maud's birth - 1987...)

  5. If you ever get around to using that bra photo as a prompt, you've got Maud to the rescue! We had a reel to reel in our early married years -- we thought we were so high tech with the best sound system out there.

  6. Reading this interesting post made me think of the wire recorder that my husbands grandparents bought to record a speech he made in high school -- back in 1950. Wonder whatever happened to that contraption -- very hi tech of it's day. Thanks for sharing a great memory and time.

  7. I bought my first tape recorder in early 1960 - primarily to record myself singing so I could improve my voice. But I was soon using it for other things - such as recording the family opening their gifts from each other on Christmas mornings. The first time the hidden recorder was a surprise. After that they knew but soon forgot it was there and today I can listen those wonderful recordings hearing the voice of my father gone for 31 years now. My wedding and wedding rehearsal 49 years ago were also recorded, and singing with my sisters. I need to have those taped recordings transferred to CDs soon, however, for safekeeping.

  8. It's funny how adding a tape recorder to the photo makes it more memorable, My mom and dad used a tape recorder to correspond when the army sent him to Korea and Vietnam. I still have the small 4" reels with air mail stamps affixed to the box. And I inherited two heavy reel-to-reel recorders but the fidelity is now very poor. One more technology now obsolete.

  9. Nice how one photograph brings back fond memories of the ladies, the recorder and even the room where they were sitting, or should I say 'sat' ?

    1. No you shouldn’t Jo. Your first sentence was correct.

  10. How lovely to have such a homey photo. My mom's work was with reel to reels in the 50s, so I remember borrowing one to practice giving a speech for a class assignment...and thus learned how tiny (that's like tin) I sounded. I did get an "A" though.

  11. It's so cool that you still have these tapes so you can listen to their voices. I hope there won't be a nondecimalisation after the Brexit...

  12. What A Splendid Photograph.
    And , Yes,The Detail Around Maud & Mary Is As Interesting As The Intended Focus ( the taperecorder).
    They Look So Comfortable!


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