Saturday, April 30, 2016

Effie And Agnes Reunited

This is an amalgamation of two separate photographs that were within of batch of unknown old photographs I acquired from somewhere.  The photographs are of a similar age and technique and more than likely they are the outcome of the same visit to a photographers' studio. There is a facial similarity which suggests the two girls are sisters, but that is guesswork on my behalf. To set against all that we don't know, we do know their names because written on the back of each photograph is a dedication.  The girl on the left is Effie ("from Effie with love xxxxx") and the one on the right is Agnes ("With best wishes, Agnes"). As soon as I saw the two postcard prints, I wanted to merge them together, to reunite them. So here they are, after the best part of a century - Effie and Agnes reunited.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Sepia Saturday 328 : The Omnipresent Refugee

Our Sepia Saturday theme image this week shows two refugees fleeing their homes 100 years ago and carrying a family heirloom - an old painting. It dates from an era when refugees wore familiar clothing and came from familiar places. 100 years on and the names and places might be different, but the tragedy of the refugee still exists as does that most terrible of causes - war. At times I wonder whether some of the compassion has drained away from us over the last century: if the two ladies in our theme photo made it to the border today, they no doubt would have been made to hand over the painting.

I have no pictures of refugees to reflect this week's theme image: I have never had to face the horrors of fleeing conflict. I am, however, sharing, two vintage postcards that date from around the same period as our theme image, and reflect the same conflict. The main picture is a stylised version of the "deliverance" that followed invasion and occupation. With its waving caps and happy, well-fed, fully-limbed children, it is somehow in stark contrast to the gritty reality of our theme photograph.

My second postcard seems even further removed from reality, depicting, as it does, a well presented king greeting "peasants at the front". Maybe the two women in this photograph are the same two women as in the theme image, worn down into old age by four years of conflict. Somehow I doubt it.

You can see what others are doing with the theme image for Sepia Saturday 328 by visiting the Sepia Saturday Blog and following the links.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Ten Years A'Blogging 1 : 2006 - Predictive Blogging

This year marks the tenth anniversary of my blog News From Nowhere. To celebrate "Ten Years A'Blogging" I am going to revisit a blog post from each of the last ten years, starting with a post from November 2006 which speculates about the nature of predictive texting.


Cousin Dave called in for a cup of tea this morning. Whilst we were drinking tea and avoiding work he received a text message from his son. Like everyone of a certain age, Dave struggled with his attempts to send a message back - and we got to thinking of the perils of predictive text. What if they had predictive text back in the days of semaphore - a useful way of saving on arm-power. Or what if the early Morse-code operators had predictive Morse. Imagine the conversation between the sinking Titanic and the Steamship California :

TITANIC : S.O. ...
CALIFORNIA : Sorry!, Sorry For what?
TITANIC : S.O. ...
CALIFORNIA : Sob? What are you sobbing about?
TITANIC : S.O. ....
CALIFORNIA : Oh For Heavens' Sake, SOD OFF then.

Whilst my first blog post wasn't until 2006, that was not my first introduction to blogging. Eight years earlier I had been involved in a project with my brother which - although back then the word blogging hadn't been invented - was in all effects an early form of blogging. At the time my brother Roger, a celebrated artist and sculptor, was living just up the Calder Valley and he wanted to produce an on-line diary for some of the projects he was involved in. So each day he would prepare some material and we would use an early digital camera for the photographs. And then I would work late into the night converting the text and images into html coding and load it to a dedicated web site. By the time I started blogging for myself in 2006, things had become much easier as Blogger and similar programmes removed much of the technical hard work, and made blogging simple.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

COMMERCIAL BREAK : Watney, What, No!

This advert is taken from a June 1954 edition of that very best of British magazines - Picture Post. It was a time when adverts were inclined to be plain and simple - both in their design and in their content. And although I can't remember ever having drunk a bottle of Watneys Brown Ale, I suspect that fell into the plain and simple category as well.

Watneys had the kind of reputation amongst lovers of real ale that Genghis Khan had amongst Sunday School teachers. They were at the forefront of the revolution to introduce standardised, pasteurised, keg beers at the expense of local and regional favourites and the Watneys Draft Red Barrel symbol became a despised talisman to ale lovers later in the sixties and seventies.

Many years ago I read a wonderful history of the Watney Mann brewing company ("The Red Barrel" by John Murray) which told a splendid story of the origin of the family name. The first Watney in the family, Daniel Watney who was born at the very beginning of the eighteenth century, is said to have been a foundling who was abandoned on Wimbledon Common by gypsies. A local farmer found the lad and took him home to his wife. For days they tried to discover his origins by repeatedly asking the lad "what name?" until eventually the question was shortened into "watney" and became the lad's name.

The story is probably about as true as the claim made in the old Watney advertising song : "What's the beer that's always best / Watneys draft red barrel", but truth and advertising were never intended to be close friends.

A quick check shows that a half pint bottle of Watneys Brown Ale cost about 9d in 1954. Believing that beer has become ridiculously cheap in the modern age - which is the cause of everything from the breakdown of civil society to the death of the bumble bee - I did a quick calculation to discover the equivalent today - which would be about £1-83 for a pint. Which, interestingly enough, is just about the price you could pick up a pint bottle of brown ale in a supermarket today.

Let me finish, however, with the simple question posed in this simple 1954 advert - have I tried it yet? What, no.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

POSTCARDS FROM HOME : A Mystery Wrapped Up In An Enigmatic PC

Another of those lovely old postcards that seem to inhabit a hinterland somewhere between a photograph and a pen and ink drawing. Despite the rather crude hand colouring, the scene is instantly recognisable to anyone who is familiar with Halifax 110 years later. The Lodge is now a popular fish and chip restaurant and the wide sweep of Savile Park still provides a welcome break from the closely packed houses around its fringes.

The card was sent to Master Joe Turner by his mother in August 1905 and the message is as follows:-

Dear Joe, Thank you for the post card. I went up to school to tell Mr Haigh and he said you would break up on Friday for a month. We all send our love to you and hope you are a good boy. From Mother.

As usual, the message is an mystery wrapped up in an enigmatic picture postcard. What was Master Joe doing in the seaside resort of Rhyl rather than at school where plainly he should have been until Friday. I strongly suspect that the Mr Gaukroger he was with will have been a friend or relative from the Halifax area - Gaukroger is such a common name in this part of the Calder Valley and comparatively rare elsewhere. At best, the situation is about as unclear as the three children sitting on the bench in front of the Lodge. Whatever the story might have been, let us hope that Joe had been a good boy.

Monday, April 18, 2016

VIEWS FROM NOWHERE : A Good Time Composition

Another old, crumpled, out-of-focus photograph from an unwanted collection that found its way to me via eBay. Despite the technical imperfections of the photograph, nobody could possibly fault the composition. The figures conduct the eye on a joyous roller-coaster of a ride - Michelangelo would have been proud of it. A good time composition indeed.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

FAMILY ALBUM : Annie Elizabeth Burnett

February 1903 - March 1980

This image is based on a rather grainy and somewhat over-vibrant colour slide taken by myself in the early 1970s. Somehow the loud wallpaper in the background drowned out all the facial character and it was a photograph begging to be simplified. The delight of modern digital techniques is that you can travel back in time and retake the photo you wish you had taken forty or so years ago.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Sepia Saturday 326 : Thirty Shades Of Gladys

Our Sepia Saturday 326 theme image features a Polyfoto from the 1930s. Polyfoto studios were a precursor to the photo booths that became popular thirty or so years later and provided a large selection of similar poses for the sitter to choose from. I don't have an example of a Polyfoto in my family photograph collection, and therefore I have had to create one. Who would be a better subject for a Polyfoto than my mother, Gladys, here photographed in about 1918. A little bit of trickery with digital processing and we are able to have a unique Polyfoto featuring thirty shades of Gladys.

To see what what foto Poly has added to Sepia Saturday this week, go to the Sepia Saturday Blog and follow the links

Lucy In The Sky With John Lennon

Several people have asked for an update on Lucy who has now been with us for ten weeks. And what a ten weeks it has been! Sometimes I feel as though I have aged ten years as my waking hours are constantly interacting with her dashing around the house, kidnapping every sock in sight, clinging to my leg, and mopping up her little accidents. But in addition to the stimulation she provides by just being around and refusing me the opportunity of growing old, I was reminded of her benefits this morning when I checked the record of my daily exercise on my phone. Whilst Lucy arrived at the beginning of February, she was not allowed out into the wide world until the beginning of March which is when you can see the spike in my daily activity. Whenever I moan about the constant cleaning and repetitive throwing of her pet squeaky pig, The Lad - fresh off the cardio-vascular wards - points to the exercise chart. 

The photograph at the head of this post is a rare one of her sitting still. My second image of Lucy was drawn by the grandchildren of good friends of ours when we visited them last week. Thank you, Isla and Gracie, for such a lovely picture - and thank you for making me look so young, slim, and a little like a youthful John Lennon.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

POSTCARDS FROM HOME : Tea For Two And A Good Cigar

This early twentieth century postcard shows Princess Street and the splendid Halifax Town Hall. Like all good real photographic postcards, it also provides us with a fair amount of collateral history in terms of the shops and businesses captured by the camera lens.

The shop at the corner of Princess Street and Crown Street is the Halifax branch of the tobacconists, Salmon and Gluckstein. Founded in 1873, by the end of the nineteenth century the firm had become the largest retail tobacconist in the country with over 140 stores. It is interesting to note that Montague Gluckstein, the son of one of the founders of the company, was keen to diversify into catering, but the rest of the family didn't want the family name "tainted" by being linked to the catering trade. Montague was therefore forced to take a cousin into the business - a certain J Lyons - and the resulting company adopted his name ... and subsequently developed into one of the largest food and catering firms in Britain.

On the other side of Princess Street you can just make out the premises of Skue's Cafe, above Lipton's grocers shop. Skue's was a Halifax institution, with cafes here and in Wade Street. As I walk around Halifax today, I sometimes think that it is made up of nothing other than cafes and electronic cigarette shops. 

Perhaps things don't change that much after all.