Saturday, April 01, 2017

Sepia Saturday 361 : The Three Burnett Boys


Our Sepia Saturday theme image for this Saturday - April Fool's Day - shows two brothers having some fun with an optical illusion on the beach. We sometimes forget how lucky we are these days; with Photoshop and the like we can remove heads from shoulders with a flick of a mouse's tail. Back in the bad old days in order to achieve a similar effect you had to bury one brother deep in the sands and get the other to bend his young head back at an unnatural angle. You'd be locked up for it today. To match the theme I can offer you two brothers having some fun with an optical illusion on the beach - although the illusion was much easier to achieve. And yes, in case you need to ask, those are the Burnett brothers again.

There were, at one time, three Burnett brothers, but for the life of me I can't remember what my other brother was called. In case you think this is a heartless and cruel confession, I should quickly point out that the third brother was merely a fictional convenience. At about the same time as this photograph must have been taken - the early 1960s, I guess - both Roger and I were voracious readers and dependent on the excellent stock of books then held by the local library. However, Halifax Public Library had a policy of issuing only three readers' tickets per member, which, we felt, placed unnecessary restrictions on our thirst for knowledge. We therefore invented the third brother and enrolled him as a member and shared his three tickets between the two of us.

For a time things worked well, but this was back in the days when library staff would take a genuine interest in their readers, and before too long they started wondering why brother Kenneth (I suspect that was his name) never went to the library himself, but sent his brothers to collect his books. We invented some chronic illness to explain the circumstances, but things soon got out of hand. The problems we had were twofold: Roger and I tended to visit the library at different times, and there was an element of competitive mischievousness between the two of us. Thus Roger would visit the Library on a Tuesday and embroider some tale about Kenneth and his sad existence, but fail to update me on the story before my Thursday visit. I would be met with questions about a brother that didn't exist suffering from an illness I knew nothing about; and would respond by notching the strangeness of the story up a peg or two without warning my brother before his regular Tuesday visit. This went on for some time and the life of Kenneth Burnett became an exercise in surrealist fantasy, until we both decided it was time for poor Kenneth to find lasting peace.

I don't recall whether during his short and bizarre life Kenneth ever had his head chopped off whilst on the beach, but - if my memory of those far off days serves me well - that would have been the least of his problems.

11 comments:

  1. Alas poor Kenneth, a fellow of infinite jest and variety, or was that you and Roger? Great story.

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  2. Invisible Kenneth, represented only by a ball, as in the Tom Hanks' movie Cast Away. Very imaginative, as always.

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  3. You two boys must have put your parents through the wringer!

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  4. Great to enjoy invisible brother on April Fools Day...I dare say the librarian was pushing her own suspicions some of that time!

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  5. I'm sure you weren't reading for amusement as you seemed to provide plenty of fun for each other.

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  6. Ah ,I remember the main Library up Hanson Lane.& the wee cardboard cards they issued .
    ( yes,3).
    Did the librarian ceremonially tear Kenneth tickets up ,like in the Foreign Legion , on hearing of his Passing?

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  7. I wonder if we still have some books that dear Kenneth never returned? If you receive one of those reminder postcards, assuming that they still send them out, please mark it: DECEASED, RETURN TO SENDER.

    Years ago, when I was refused admission to a seminar at the Henry Moore Institute (Ex Sink Sec. Mod Students cum upshot sculptors are persona non grata ) I re-applied under the name Dr. Dean Willey, AIMA, SSMA, etc. Not only was I given admission, I was also invited out to lunch with the director!

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  8. A classic pub story, Alan! True tales always make the best humor/humour.

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  9. As a retired librarian, I admired your ingenuity of inventing a fictitious brother to get a library ticket. What a great way to boost the library's reader numbers - and stave off the threat of closure! A very imaginative strategy!

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  10. I bet your parents had a time with you 2!

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  11. Now why did I never think of doing that!! My library's borrowing limit was always too restrictive for my voracious reading habit but thank goodness things have changed now. Top marks for creativity.

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