Monday, June 19, 2017

Hot And Cold And All Over The Place

Scanned Found Print - "Dumere Bay, August 1926" : Three Unknown People - Three Unknown Hats

It's hot. Summer has been going on for three days now and already it is too long. I miss the raw wind sweeping down from the tops, the grey drizzle, the clinging clouds. It is too hot to think.

I still have a cold. It seems to have been going on longer than Brexit, longer than history. It has infected parts of me that other colds have never infected. It originated, I suspect, in a laboratory in  North Korea.

For the next couple of weeks we are going to be all over the place. Here, there and on the Welsh border. I will try and post the occasional picture, either on here or on Facebook. But, if not, no News From Nowhere is good News From Nowhere.








Saturday, June 17, 2017

Sepia Saturday 372 : Thanks For The Can, Dickie and Nelly



It is not that often that you get the opportunity to match a Sepia Saturday theme image with exactly the same image. It is the kind of special opportunity that should be limited to birthdays and high holidays and, to the best of my knowledge, today isn't a high holiday. But it is the birthday of the little lad in the image and therefore I get the opportunity to refresh my imagination with the sweet waters of nostalgia. 

In other words, I get to tell you how this is a picture of me aged five watering a patch of garden that had been allocated to me when we moved into our new house in Northowram, a few miles north of Halifax. The year will have been 1953 and my father was still in the process of turning what had been half a field and half a building site into a garden. That wonderful Yorkshire dry stone wall was an original feature, dividing the field that had been used to build a new group of semi-detached houses from the neighbouring fields which still had the occasional cow in it. The smaller wall in front of the little terraced garden had been built by my father - no doubt with the help of my brother - from stones that had been rescued from the fields and quarries around where we lived.

The watering can was a birthday gift from our new next-door neighbours - Dickie and Nelly Somethingorother - who were keen to instil a love of gardening in my young mind in the belief that it would lead to a long, satisfied and sober life. Looking back from the perspective of sixty-four years later, I can assure them that it has been satisfyingly long and most enjoyably far from sober.

See what memories other sepians have managed to grow this week by visiting the Sepia Saturday Blog and following the links.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Walking Backwards : Pier 39, The East Coast's Brightest Nite Spot



I am lucky enough to have been to Pier 39. I have wandered through the Fisherman's Wharf district, dodged tramcars on The Embarcadero, and watched Californian sea lions haul themselves out of the waters of San Francisco Bay. I have also - as this strip of negatives from thirty years ago clearly shows - visited that less well known Pier 39 in Cleethorpes.


To save the embarrassment of comparison, the Cleethorpes pier is not called Pier 39 any more: but it is still there, it still juts out into the North Sea like a bantamweight boxer jabbing a heavyweight. There is still a big wheel, but in the thirty years since these photographs were taken it appears to have shrunk. It is years since I have been to the resort but there must be ice cream and fish and chips and buckets and spades and all those things that go to make up such seaside resorts. And there must be colour, although I can't imagine it.



To me the place will always have a monochrome feel to it: a patina of black and white and whelks. My mother met my father in Cleethorpes 80 years ago when the world was still seen in scales of grey. I walked the streets of Cleethorpes 30 years ago whilst the last of my hearing evaporated from my life and I tried to fill the void with black and white images. Perhaps I will head back there to see if the colours will shine in the sun.






Sunday, June 11, 2017

Empty, Sad, Beerless And Skittle-Free


This is a scan of a negative I must have taken back in 1972. I can just about remember taking it - I would have been walking from Stoke-on-Trent station towards Newcastle-Under-Lyme, down Shelton Old Road. The pub on the left was the Cliff Vale Inn, the kind of nineteenth century alehouse that was so common to northern industrial towns. At one time it boasted "a splendid covered-in Skittle Alley", but that had long gone by the time I knew the pub in the 1970s. Sadly, it is not the Skittle Alley alone that is long gone, the pub itself closed several years ago. The building still remains - just about - but it is empty, sad, beerless and skittle-free.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Walking Backwards : Celluloid Scotland - The Land Of Grainy Dreams





These photographs are taken from a group of negatives which, I suspect, were the last negatives I ever took and that would place them around 1999 or there abouts. I made the transition to digital photography very early and by then I had been using digital cameras for many years, but on a trip to the highlands of Scotland I decided to get my old film camera out and give celluloid photography a final outing. Thus armed with a few cassettes of monochrome film, I took a train up to Inverness, Kingussie and Dundee, and these dark and moody shots were the outcome. I must confess that, even now, nostalgia prompts me to dig out my old film camera and even check out suppliers of 35mm film. There is something about the physical act of loading the film and moving it on which, I suspect, reminds me of youth.

But, of course, I don't. It's too heavy, cumbersome, slow and restrictive. I reach for whatever trillion megapixel postage-stamp sized camera I am using at the time and consign celluloid to the land of dreams. The dark, grainy, evocative land of celluloid dreams.




Sunday, June 04, 2017

There Is Something About A Hat

UNKNOWN MAN : Wartnall Portrait, The Pictorial Photo Publishing Co.
There is something about a hat. It's a balance thing. Imagine the studio portrait above (part of a box full of unknown and unloved old photos I acquired) without the hat. The head would be like a pointy afterthought to the body, as satisfying as the chocolate apex of a Toblerone bar. The hat adds gravitas, keeps the rain out of your ears, and gives you somewhere safe to keep your pensioners' travel pass. There is indeed something about a hat

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Trees And The Titanic (Sepia Saturday 370)

I have spent most of the day rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic - which is a good description of the process of tidying my room. The drive to undertake such a task is stimulated by a variety of factors - my man-flu inspired recognition of mortality, the impending arrival of a rubbish skip, and the fact that it has become increasingly difficult to gain access to, and egress from, the room. The process involves moving piles of books, papers, old photographs, and miscellaneous detritus from one location to another, in the vague hope that a small percentage can be consigned to the rubbish bin. I have to confess that I occasionally dream that I have discovered an unknown room in our house, a room so empty it demands to by filled by row after row, stack upon stack, of large plastic boxes. I can consign everything I own - books, papers, gadgets, pens, stickers, copper coins from British East Africa, the odd annoying relative - into such boxes and lay them to rest in that room. I would then take one box out at a time, bring it to my room (which, of course, would be as clean and uncluttered as a Pathologist's dissection room), and examine each object at leisure. I could roll the East African Shilling around in my hand and feel its satisfying weight, I could re-read The Name of the Rose, rediscover the joys of my electric pencil sharpener, and have a satisfying conversation with Cousin Stanley.

In mid-sort, I remembered that I hadn't posted my Sepia Saturday submission this week. I am sure that I have a perfect match for the theme somewhere, but given the current state of the Titanic deckchairs, I will have to go with a couple of old shots of mine which feature trees. The first photograph is of someone felling a tree - but for the life of me I can't remember who it was! I am normally fairly good at remembering photographs I too forty or fifty years ago - whilst at the same time not being able to remember what time I arranged to meet my wife at the shops - but on this occasion I am at a loss. I can only hope that the tree-feller was a friend of mine who is still around and my well find this photograph after doing a Google search for "pictures of me when I was young and used to chop trees down". In which case I invite them to drop me a line and let me know how they are going on.


I know exactly where my second photograph was taken - it was the junction of Briggate and Saddleworth Road in Elland, West Yorkshire. It shows an old mill chimney which, at some time, has been truncated for safety reasons. I assume the tree has grown at the top of the chimney, but I can't seem to get rid of the thought that within the remaining chimney a tall tree trunk grows.


YOU CAN FIND MORE SEPIA SATURDAY POSTS BY GOING TO THE SEPIA SATURDAY BLOG AND FOLLOWING THE LINKS


Friday, June 02, 2017

I've Not Been At My Best This Week : Musings On A Spanish Crematorium


I've not been at my best this week - I've had a serious case of "man-flu". According to my Good Lady Wife, I have been "a brave little soldier", but, as the years pass by, such attacks of outrageous misfortune seem to take an increasing toll on my natural joie de vivre. As I lay there, in danger of drowning in my own nasal secretions, I couldn't help thinking of the decorative freeze I saw on the side of a municipal crematorium during my recent visit to Spain. It depicts a line of elderly and disabled figures making their way towards a central black tunnel entrance, which, I assume, represents the crematorium furnace! If you look closely, you might just see that the old chap with the walking stick seems to have a runny nose!


Crematorio Marina Alta Denia, Valencia, Spain

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Walking Backwards : Albert And The Loch

This is a strip of five 35mm monochrome negatives which date from the early 1960s when we were on a holiday in Scotland, staying at a caravan site on Loch Leven. One of the photographs is taken from the caravan itself, looking through the window, and you can clearly see the proximity to the loch itself. Just up the road was the small village of Kinlochleven, where - at the time - there was an active aluminium smelter there which was powered by the associated hydro-electric power station. The smelter was closed in the 1990s and the hydro-electric station now channels power into the national grid and the main industry is tourism.


The loch is surrounded by the most glorious mountains and the majestic Ben Nevis dominates the skyline to the north. Further down the loch, on the other side to where our caravan was based, was the village of Glencoe, the site of the deadly massacre of 1698. It is well over 50 years since I took these photographs and if they had been printed out on paper stock they would no doubt by now have begun to take on the sepia patina of age. This does not apply to well kept negatives so I have turned to Photoshop to provide a suitable shade of antiquity.

My favourite photograph of the entire strip is the photograph of my father, Albert, leaning on a convenient loch-side tree. I can remember that stance, that quiet calm, that hat ... I can remember taking the photograph as though it was only yesterday. I miss him - Albert and the loch.


Monday, May 29, 2017

A Pint Of Beer And A Bag Of Cement Crisps Please


When you enter a pub you never quite know what you will find and this can be the case even when the pub has long been closed and boarded up and you are "entering" only in the figurative sense. Take the Wakefield Arms which greets you as soon as you step out of the stone portals of Kirkgate Station in Wakefield. It is derelict - bricked up, boarded up, and fenced off. It is the best part of fifteen years since anyone entered the building in search of a pint or a bed for the night and breakfast in the morning. And yet the building remains as a monument to something or other and I was surprised as the next person to discover that it was a monument to - cement! 


It appears that the building dates from sometime in the 1820s or 30s and was built initially as a private dwelling house. In 1840, the Manchester and Leeds Railway Company brought the railway age to Wakefield and the first station was immediately next to were this rather grand dwelling house had been built and in 1841 it was re-opened as the Wakefield Arms Hotel. The revolutionary aspect of the building was neither its design nor its remodelling into a fine early Victorian hotel: it was the fact that it had been faced with the very earliest example - and some would say the last surviving example - of the Portland Cement patented by Joseph Aspdin and manufactured at his works a few hundred yards away.



William Aspdin
Now many a volume has been written about the history of cement and many an argument has raged about the precise contribution of Joseph Aspdin - compared to his somewhat wayward son, William - in the technological revolution that, quite literally, laid the foundations of much of the twentieth and twenty-first century. Whether, however, we pour praise on the father Joseph who patented Portland Cement and used it to provide a facing to the Wakefield Arms, or William who tweaked the formulae and more than doubled the load-bearing strength of the concrete made with Portland Cement, is immaterial.In either case, the Wakefield Arms should surely be worshipped as one of the twelve wonders of the modern world: a shrine at which each skyscraper or river-spanning bridge, tunnel or trackway comes and gives thanks.

It is, however, derelict and forgotten. In the main, its Portland Cement facing remains proud and solid, but the gaps in its structure are filled with breezeblock and old wooden planks. It is a bit like using the Great Pyramid of Gaza as a repository for used car tyres.

Yorkshire Post and Intelligencer : 4 July 1876

The building is Grade II listed as "the only surviving example of a building covered with Joseph Aspdin's patented Portland Cement", but such listing is of little use if the building is left to decay. The Council have tried to force the owners to make improvements, but quite clearly nothing has been done. One can only dream of winning the lottery, buying the building and restoring it to its former glory and making it into a shrine to which cement lovers from throughout the known world could come and pay tribute to the Aspdins and their Portland Cement - and have a pint or two and a bag of crisps at the same time.