Friday, November 09, 2018

How I Found My Brain Up My Back Passage

EXCAVATIONS UP MY BACK PASSAGE : SERIES II

The need to initiate a second series of "Excavations Up My Back Passage" has been brought about by the impending arrival of a new garage door. In order to install it, the garage needs clearing of a twenty year accumulation of rubbish - an extension of the accumulation that already fills the back passage running behind the bedrooms. So once again our intrepid blogger goes into domestic archaeological mode .... and his first find is something rather special.


Hidden within a cardboard box containing a set of unused Filofax Diary pages from 1998, I came across a white envelope containing five Polaroid photographs. They appeared to be a set of graphic photographs of an operation - in one of them a scalpel is clearly visible. I didn't take me long to realise that I was, in fact, looking at my own brain. The photographs date from the Spring of 1998 when I underwent surgery to have my cochlear implant fitted - the device that miraculously allowed me to hear again! I now remember the surgeon giving me the photographs after the operation - both to illustrate what he had been able to do and to assure me that, indeed, I did actually have a brain. In the illustration above, the wire can be seen that takes the electronic signal from the receiver - that is bolted in there somewhere - to the hearing nerve fibres and onwards deep into my brain. It was a remarkable piece of surgery and a remarkable piece of bio-engineering. Twenty years later, the system is still in place and working just fine; and allowing me to hear the clicking of the computer keyboard as I type this post.


Thursday, November 08, 2018

Random Times : Riding Off Into The Political Sunset In Shipley In A Bentley



"Random History" is what happens when you mix together a newspaper archive, a random number generator and a man with too much time on his hands. Today our random-driven time machine takes us back to SATURDAY 21 JULY 1934, and the West Yorkshire town of Shipley.

The front page of the Shipley Times and Express seems to be totally dominated by a speech from the local Member of Parliament, J Horace Lockwood, to the Annual Garden Fete at the Windhill Conservative Club. The speech is a lengthy one and about as interesting as a mouldy corned-beef sandwich. I have the full text, and I will happily provide it to anyone who can come up with a good reason for wanting to read it.

To understand the degree of inappropriateness of the MPs words, you need to see them in the context of the economic and social situation of the times. Britain remained in the grips of the Great Depression, and unemployment in many northern towns was still in the realms of 30%. Poverty was widespread, housing conditions were appalling, and any social benefits available were based on the cruel system  of "the means test". Singing the praises of the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Neville Chamberlain, Mr Lockwood told his Conservative audience: "He has tried to make our national income greater than our national expenditure and because of that we have comfort, financial safety, safety of property and of persons.” 

Large parts of his speech are self-congratulatory and contain warnings about lies and half-truths from opponents and the press alike: the words almost have a Trumpian feel about them. No MP works harder for his constituents, he declares. Criticism was acceptable, he said, "but continual back biting, under-hand methods, and the sayings of untruths or, worse still, half truths, was a very difficult thing to combat". It is unclear what the criticism and half-truths were, but it is interesting to note that within twelve months of the speech, he had been deselected by the local Conservative Party and went on to come fourth in the 1935 General Election in Shipley, standing as an independent Conservative.

Leaving politics aside, 1934 was a good year to buy a motor car - if you were lucky enough to be able to afford one. Appleyard's of Leeds were advertising  1933 Morris cars from as little as £110, and as an added bonus, every car was fitted with four new Dunlop tyres! But if you really wanted a bargain, you could turn to the second-hand cars being sold by local garages, and, in particular, the 1929 4.5 litre Bentley which was on sale for just £350 (taking inflation into account that is equivalent of around £17,500 today). It is interesting to note that a similar 1929 Bentley 4.5 litre car was sold at auction last year for about £750,000 (which is the equivalent of a lot of money today).

I have not been able to discover what Mr Lockwood did after losing his seat in the 1935 elections - perhaps he bought a second-hand Bentley and rode off into the political sunset.








Wednesday, November 07, 2018

What's In Store?


This is a scan of a quarter-plate glass negative which must date from the end of the nineteenth or early twentieth century. The seven featured subjects are an interesting collection: they could be the staff of a draper's shop or a saloon bar. There is something vaguely H G Wells about them - that might be a young Mr Polly at the back on the left ... or an old Mr Polly in the front centre. As with any good novel, the question we must ask when we first meet the main characters is - "what's in store for them?"


Saturday, November 03, 2018

Sepia Saturday 443 : The Image Is The Key


The theme based nature of Sepia Saturday always encourages me to look at images as entities in themselves rather than as a portrayal of Aunty Clara, Uncle Walter or whoever. My Sepia Saturday contribution this week falls into the latter category - "whoever", for I have no idea who this particular piano player is. I suspect I acquired her within one of the boxes of old photographs that are attracted to me like iron filings to a magnet.You can argue that any old image has three elements or layers of interest. The first is as an image, and in this sense it is represented by composition, shapes, areas of light and shade and all the other superstructures of what is known as "art". The second element is as a historical insight: the clues, the costumes, the objects all of which provide a narrative about a particular time frame. The third is as a personal statement about the subject - Uncle Frank in his prime or Aunty Miriam with a perm or whatever. 

This third element is missing with this particular piano player of mine: if she was someone's Aunty Miriam, it certainly wasn't mine. But there is a fair chunk of social history hiding in the shadows: look at the lamp, look at the wires, look at the dress. It is, however, as an image that this particular photograph works the best: the image is the key.



Friday, November 02, 2018

Daily Victorian : The Halifax - Blackpool Axis


This is another studio portrait from the Halifax photographer, Edgar Gregson. Gregson had studios in both the seaside resort of Blackpool and the Yorkshire textile town of Halifax, which, on the surface, seems like a strange combination. By the later part of the Victorian period, however, mill workers were beginning to benefit from bank holidays and cheap railway excursions to the coast. A popular bank holiday treat would be a trip to a studio to get your photograph taken - to be collected later at the Halifax branch of the firm. What better reason for a Halifax - Blackpool axis?


Thursday, November 01, 2018

Daily Victorian : Dressed Up In Ludlow


These days certain activities have become everyday events. We can take endless photographs with our smart phones without a second thought. We can walk into a supermarket and buy a change of clothes for little more than the cost of a packed lunch. For a Victorian Lady, however, a new dress would mark a milestone in life: an event of such significance that it could be marked by indulging in that other special event - having your photograph taken. Quite who this dressed up lady was, I do not know: but the photographer was a certain T Jones of 51, Broad Street in Ludlow. The date - at a guess - will have been the mid 1880s.