Friday, October 30, 2009

A Weekend Challenge

We will be away this weekend. I will tell you all about the trip on my return but if you want a clue as to what we are up to (seeing as you like competitions so much) you can try and dissect the above collage. And if you would like something to read whilst I am away, you could do worse than to turn to the October Issue of Evelyn Yvonne Theriault's excellent Festival of Postcards which concentrates on the theme "quadrupeds".

I will publish the results of the Surreal Sunday contest when I return on Sunday evening and then tell you all about the weekend away early next week. Have a good weekend everyone.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Surreal Sunday Stakes : Runners And Riders

So here they are, the six entries in my Surreal Sunday challenge. Remember the nature of the challenge. : five of the following pieces of art are taken from the catalogue of the British Surrealism in Context exhibition and the sixth was created by someone without any artistic skill or ability (me) on their kitchen table. The challenge is to spot the fraud. All you need to do is answer 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6. The answer to this surreal conundrum will be posted this coming Sunday.

No 1 : Vorticist Composition

No 2 : Sluice Gates Of The Mind

No 3 : Drawing

No 4 : Reclining Corpse

No 5 : Forms On A White Ground

No 6 : October XI

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Trinity, The Latin Mass, And A Pint Of Bitter

A nice adventure today, the start of which was randomly picking out a postcard for my weekly postcard slot. The postcard was from the collection of my mothers' Uncle Fowler and dates back to the first decade of the twentieth century. It is a real photograph of the New Jerusalem Church, Devonshire Street which - like so many of the cards in Fowlers' collection - is in the West Yorkshire town of Keighley.

Intrigued by the origins of the New Jerusalem Church, I tried checking it out on Google but came up with very little other than a reference to the New Church movement and the religious beliefs of the eighteenth century scientist, philosopher and theologian, Emanuel Swedenborg. They were a rather strange sect who rejected the approach of mainstream Christianity in relation to the Holy Trinity : in their view Jesus Christ, God and the Holy Spirit were all the same thing. The sect seemed to attract some fairly heavyweight followers during the nineteenth century, and William Blake, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Ralph Waldo Emerson were - at one time or another - influenced by the writings of Swedenborg. In the 1780s small churches dedicated to the teachings of Swedenborg were established, first of all in England and later in America. The churches were known as New Churches or New Jerusalem Churches and one of the very first to be established was in the then village of Keighley. By the end of the nineteenth century the New Jerusalem Chapel in Keighley had become too small for its growing congregation and a new church was erected in fashionable Devonshire Street. It is this church - built in 1890 - that features in the photograph on the postcard. I was anxious to see if the church still existed and - the day being unseasonably pleasant - I drove over to Keighley to search for it. And much to my surprise I found it. The New Church movement declined in popularity during the twentieth century and it seems that the building was sold about fifteen years ago. It was bought by the Roman Catholic Society of St Pius X : a group that still conducts services in the original latin and believes in "uncompromising fidelity to Catholic Truth and Tradition".

Confused by all this doctrinal debate and argument I limited myself to trying to reproduce the original postcard photograph which was taken over 100 years ago. As you will see, there have been changes but not as many as you might have expected. With thoughts of the Trinity and the Latin Mass still intoxicating my soul, I walked down the hill into Keighley and had a pint at the Boltmakers' Arms. If only all religious conflicts could be solved this way.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Trav'lin' Light : The Music of Billie Holiday 1

As I mentioned the other day, I have started a project for my own amusement : working my way through the entire catalogue of Billie Holiday recordings. Occasionally I will stop off and share one of the recordings with blog readers. The postings are designed to be neither authoritative nor comprehensive - they are simply dips into the barrel and a chance to share some wonderful music and glorious singing. Perhaps the only logical thing about this new mini-series is the starting point : 27th November 1933 and the first known recording session by Billie Holiday.

When Billie first set foot in the recording studio she was just eighteen years old. Nevertheless she had already suffered more from life than most people would expect in a lifetime. She had experienced grinding poverty, she had been raped at least twice, she had been driven to work in a brothel and she had been imprisoned for solicitation. She has also started to earn tips by singing in the night clubs of Harlem and it was there that in 1933 she was discovered by the jazz writer and producer, John Hammond. Hammond managed to arrange a recording session with the Benny Goodman Band (Goodman led one of the few racially integrated jazz bands of the period) and this led to two tracks being cut on the 27th November 1933. The first of these - the first recording by Billie Holiday - was a song that was currently featuring in a show called "Blackbirds of 1933", a song written by the husband and wife partnership of Mann Holiner and Alberta Nichols, "Your Mother's Son-In-Law"

Billie made slight changes to the original lyrics to make some kind of gender sense - changing "Your Mother's Son-In-Law" to "My Mother's Son-In-Law". As she sings it the lyrics are as follows:

You dont have to have a hanker
To be a broker or a banker
No siree, just simply be
My mothers son-in-law.

Neednt even think of tryin
To be a mighty social lion
Sipping tea, if youll be
My mothers son-in-law,

Aint got the least desire
To set the world on fire
Just wish youd make it proper
To call my old man papa

You dont have to sing like Bledsoe
You can tell the world I said so
Cant you see youve got to be
My mothers son-in-law.

You dont have to sing like Jessel
You can tell the world I said so
Cant you see, youve got to be
My mothers son-in-law.

For those, like me, who are intrigued by lyrical references, "Bledsoe" was Jules Bledsoe a famous baritone, one of the first African Americans to work on Broadway and the original Joe in the musical Show Boat before Paul Robeson took over the role. "Jessel" was George Jessel, another star of Vauderville and the star of the Broadway show "The Jazz Singer". When Warner Brothers decided to adapt the show as the first "Talking Picture" they refused to meet Jessel's salary demands and Al Johnson was brought in to play the part instead.

But what is memorable about this first recorded performance by Billie Holiday is not the song or the detail of the lyrics. It is that voice, that combination of lightness and emotion, that cavernous depth of feeling that would be a trademark of her singing for the remaining 25 years of her life.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Surreal Sunday 6 : October XI

It would seem quite suitably surreal for the Surreal Sunday feature this week to be published on Monday. The lad has  been home this weekend and things have been busy so my apologies for the late post. This is the last of the six pieces. I will provide a quick reprise of all six in a couple of days time and then the answer next Sunday.

In an experiment to determine whether or not surreal art can be produced by someone without any artistic merit or skill, I am currently featuring six works of art. Five of the works featured recently in the British Surrealism in Context Exhibition . The sixth work of art will have been produced by someone without any artistic ability or experience (me) on my kitchen table in less than an hour. Your task is to spot the surreal fraud. You can comment as we progress through the six works or wait until the end to give your verdict.

The painting - called October XI - features the distinctive lozenges of bright colour that were favoured by the artist. The colours reflect the predominant moods and flavours of October.

Friday, October 23, 2009

If Music Be The Food Of Love - I Am In Danger Of Getting Obese

Does anyone else have problems with music these days? I am not referring to the calibre of music : enough of a back-catalogue has been built up over the last 80 years to get over any temporary crisis of quality. Nor am I, per se, referring to the vehicle by which music is delivered : I take no specific stand in the shellac versus vinyl versus CD versus MP3 debate. I have always been comfortable running with the crowd and therefore these days I get my musical fix via i pods and MP3 files. But the delivery mechanism does impact on both what we listen to and the way we listen to it - and that is what I am having trouble with.
When I was young the records I was familiar with were a limited collection of 78's kept within the Formica confines of an old radiogram. Records had two sides and, in most cases, that meant two tunes by one artist. Usually the record would have been bought for the "A" side but the limited availability of records meant that you would also become fairly familiar with the "B" side. Even when I started buying records the choices and options tended to be the same although the two tracks were now delivered via a 45 RPM vinyl disc. If you were a keen music fan you might buy a record a week and - rather like the animals entering the ark - your record collection would grow two-by-two.
I only started buying LP's when I was working - in those days expenditure on a Long Playing record represented a considerable investment of disposable income - but with the acquisition of LPs came the idea of a greater range of songs from a particular artist. Listening habits changed and the range of tracks available meant that you had to become more discriminating. Nevertheless, if you liked a particular artist and they had produced a good record you would, over time, become familiar with all the tracks on it. CD's didn't in themselves bring any major changes other than quality and convenience - you still bought musical lumps of twelve or fifteen tunes. It is with the development of downloadable digital media that the sea-change has come. For the first time since the pre-shellac recorded cylinders, music is available in individual tunes or songs and this, I think, challenges the way in which we tend to listen to music.
Although I have always tended to download my music in CD collections I never listen to it in this way any more - I will either listen to a playlist I have constructed myself or use the shuffle setting on my MP3 player. But just downloading individual tracks seems somehow too haphazard and the scale of choice available is enough to stimulate a form of musical paralysis. The need for adventure and discovery is partly addressed by blogging : the range of types of music and new performers I have become acquainted with because of the recommendations of fellow-bloggers is considerable. But I am the kind of person who also needs some structure and form to my listening and therefore I fiund myself yearning after a new approach to listening.
And so I have started an experiment. With the excellent Billie Holiday Discography as my companion I have started working my way through the 330 studio recordings and 229 live performances of one of my favourite performers of all time. With over 550 distinct tracks to sample (and that is with no duplications) and limiting myself to a digestible two or three tracks a day, it will take me most of a year to work my way through the lot. Just occasionally (and starting tomorrow) I might use the blog to focus on a particular recording. It should be fun and it will make a pleasant change to postcards, surreal art and moaning.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Theme Thursday : Traffic

The subject for Theme Thursday this week is "Traffic". So let us start out with a look at what traffic would have been like 100 years ago. The postcard comes from my collection and was published around 1904 or 1905 by Birn Brothers (BB) of London and it shows Regent Street which - for anyone unfamiliar with London - is one of the main shopping streets of the capital. The engraving shows almost exclusively horse-drawn vehicles although, by the time it was published, there must have been a number of automobiles driving through the streets of London. It does, however, clearly illustrate that traffic jams are not new and perhaps that congestion could be even more of a problem when you were sat behind a horse rather than horse power.
Let me complement the postcard with a shot I took this evening which shows traffic conditions on the M62 motorway which runs a few hundred yards away from where I live. Dusk was just falling and therefore all you can see is the light-trails of the vehicles. If you look in the centre-distance you can see how the motorway snakes over the foothills of the Pennines.

You can see other Theme Thursday contributions by following this LINK

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Archive Of The Week : The Harry Ransom Centre

My Archive of the Week this week is the Harry Ransom Centre at the University of Texas in Austin. According to its' website, the Centre "advances the study of the arts and humanities by acquiring, preserving, and making accessible original cultural materials". In previous generations one could be rather disapproving about collections of original documents and historical papers being sold to the highest bidder and then been transported off to some air-conditioned vault on the far side of the world. With the advent of the Digital Age the results of such an international trade in source documents need not be so irksome : if the acquiring institution makes digital copies available they can positively contribute towards the wider availability of source material to all students, researchers and browsers, wherever they may be.
The Harry Ransome Centre has a truely wonderful collection of documents and artifacts covering subjects such as literature, history, philosophy, religion and art and it seems to be making a reasonable stab at making them available through a series of digital exhibitions. Currently such exhibitions are limited to certain topics and the available material represents only a small selection of what the Centre obviously has available. But it is a start and it should be encouraged and therefore it received my Archive of the Week Award.
The collection I looked at in some detail was the collection of papers and photographs of the Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (better known by his pen name, Lewis Carroll). There is some fascinating material about a man who appears to have had more levels of complexity than an onion skin. Author of "Alice in Wonderland", pioneer of photography, prodigious letter-writer, lecturer in mathematics and logic at Oxford University : Dodgson managed to fit a lot into his lifetime. Many of these elements are represented in the digital exhibition and you get the distinct impression that Dodgson would have approved of the digital dissemination of his papers. Indeed, one suspects, that Dodgson would have been an enthusiastic blogger.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Japanese Boys And Girls Floating Down The River Calder

The wonderful thing about old postcards is that you can just pick one from your collection and happily while away an entire rainy afternoon by searching for the story behind it. Take the above card which was published by the fine art publishers Landeker and Brown of Worship Street London sometime between 1903 and 1905. The title is "Group of Japanese Boys and Girls" and it is No. 137 in the Ellanbee Japanese Series. This does not help very much as it would appear that all the cards in the series were given the number 137! The card was used and the postmark is May 3rd 1905. The message is somewhat unforthcoming and simply says "Too-do-loo" followed by five kisses. It is addressed to Miss E Wilson of 57, Denby Dale Road, Wakefield but there is no senders' name. So who sent it and where were they going to?  And strangest of all why isn't either Miss Wilson or the address recorded in the census records of either 1901 or 1911. Indeed if you track down where 57, Denby Dale Road would have been it seems that it is halfway across a bridge over the River Calder. Don't you just love such mysteries. I do.

Surreal Sunday 5 : Forms On A White Ground

In an experiment to determine whether or not surreal art can be produced by someone without any artistic merit or skill, I am currently featuring six works of art. Five of the works featured recently in the British Surrealism in Context Exhibition . The sixth work of art will have been produced by someone without any artistic ability or experience (me) on my kitchen table in less than an hour. Your task is to spot the surreal fraud. You can comment as we progress through the six works or wait until the end to give your verdict.

This work is entitled "Forms On A White Ground". It shows a variety of forms on a white ground. Simple really.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

By Special Request : Introducing Amy

The Daily Connoisseur asked to see a picture of Amy (soft-coated wheaten terrier, licks a lot, thoroughly beautiful and stupid as duct tape). Here is one I just took this morning. If she is looking slightly impatient it is because she is waiting to go for her first walk of the day. As far as she is concerned, blogging is of secondary importance to our exploration of the smelly highways and byways of West Yorkshire so therefore I must be on my way!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Amy And I Visit The Battle Of Waterloo

The other day Amy (soft-coated wheaten terrier, licks a lot, thoroughly beautiful and stupid as duct tape) and I (post middle-aged and stupid as duct tape) were wandering around Coley Church graveyard, sniffing at things and minding our own business. Coley Church (for photograph see my Daily Photo Blog) sits in the middle of open countryside surrounded by just a few cottages and is about a mile away from where I grew up and about four miles away from where I live now. In the graveyard we came across the half-covered grave of a certain Joseph Standeven of Shelf (a village about a mile to the north of Coley). From the parts of the gravestone I could read - it somehow would have been wrong to scrape back the turf from the rest of the stone - it appeared that Joseph Standeven died in 1827 and had been a corporal in the Kings Dragoon Guards. I wanted to know more.

If there is anything I love, it is ferreting out information. My love of family history is driven not by the fact that it is my family, but that the individual history of an "ordinary person" can provide a unique insight into historical events. I love family history : anyone's family history. Joseph Standeven was a challenge and the Internet provides ferreters like me with the ideal tool to face up to the kind of challenge we go in search of. The Internet is our lance against the Black Knight of Obscurity.

There was a reference to Joseph Standeven of Shelf in the war service records held by the National Archives in Kew. He served in the 1st Dragoon Guards between 1793 and 1818 and was discharged when he was 42 (and thus we can conclude that he was born in 1776 and he was 51 years old when he died). From the records available in the collection of the Kings Dragoon Guards (now the Queen's Dragoon Guards) we know that the regiment he served in was a horse cavalry regiment and one that took part in the Battle of Waterloo in  June 1815. According to contemporary accounts the 1st Regiment of Dragoon Guards started out in the morning of the battle with "570 sabres" but by the end of the day scarcely 30 soldiers remained alive. Joseph Standeven would have been one of them.

The above illustration shows the Kings Dragoon Guard attacking the French Dragoons at the Battle of Waterloo. How strange to see the turf-covered, long-forgotten last resting place of one of the few members of his regiment to survive that day. 

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Never Too Late For Love.

As many of you know, one of the things I love to collect is postcards - both vintage postcards and also modern ones. I was therefore delighted to be asked to participate in the latest Festival of Postcards which is organised by the Canadian genealogists and postcard collector, Evelyn Yvonne Theriault. A Festival of Postcards is a Blog Carnival - a gathering together of blog posts on a common subject and theme in order to produce a virtual magazine. It is a rather clever idea and it sounds quite simple, but I suspect that there is rather a lot of work involved in the editing and production of the eventual index. The theme for the October issue is "Quadrupeds", and this is my submission.

"Too Late" proclaims the title of this postcard which dates back to the Golden Age of postcard collecting - the first decade of the twentieth century. It shows a "coach-and-pair" waiting outside a single story building at the entrance to which stand a bride and groom. Around a corner in the road rides a horseman, waving his arm excitedly : but he is too late. Too late not to attend the wedding but to stop the wedding.

The full title of the card is "Runaway Wedding at Blacksmith's Shop, Gretna Green. "Too Late". Gretna Green is a small village just a short distance north of the border between England and Scotland. Its unique place in social history came about because of an Act of Parliament passed in 1753 (Lord Hardwicke's Marriage Act) which for the first time standardised rules on legal marriages, In particular it stated that if both parties to a marriage were not at least 21 years old, consent to the marriage had to be given by the parents. The law however did not apply to Scotland where it was still possible for boys to get married at 14 and girls at 12 years old, with or without parental consent. This anomalous situation continued for over 100 years - a 21 day residential qualification in 1856 and the minimum age for marriage in Scotland was increased to 16 in 1929 - and during that time Scotland became the chief destination for young couples wanting to get married without the necessary parental consent to do so in England. Speed was usually a necessary factor - these were the days when young girls would be closely confined within the family home - and the young eloping couple would make for the closest point at which they would fall under the jurisdiction of Scottish law. The first Scottish village on the main coaching road between England and Scotland was, of course, Gretna Green.

Almost any building could serve as the venue for a wedding in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, but the most famous venues in Gretna Green were the two blacksmith's shops.All that was required under Scottish law for a legal marriage to take place was a declaration to be made before two witnesses and almost anyone had the authority to conduct a wedding service. The blacksmith's of Gretna Green - the "Anvil Priests" as they were known as - became world famous symbols of young love, elopement and the "forging" of two lives into one.

Even today, Gretna Green is famous for its marriages. Although all of the legal advantages of elopement to Gretna Green are long gone, thousands of couples each year choose the village as the romantic setting for their wedding. The Old Blacksmith's Shop is now a museum but it also still manages to host over 1,000 weddings each year. It would seem that despite social changes and despite legal changes, it is never too late to find a romantic location to forge together the perfect marriage.

Postcard published by N&C as part of the Lochinvar series. Printed in Saxony. Divided back. Probably published between 1900 and 1908. Not postally used but some contemporary writing on reverse.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Collection Of Collections : A Theme Thursday Retropective

Last week it was my pleasure to host Theme Thursday where the subject was Collection. My busy weekend at the Marsden Jazz Festival meant that I was not able to get to visit many of the fifty or so contributions and so I thought that the least I could do - as a good host - was to look back at this wonderful collection of blog posts on the theme of collection. This then , is a Theme Thursday Retrospective. If I have missed out your post I apologise, but I have tried to get around to as many contributions as I could find.

My tour of blogs underlined the fact that there seems to be some kind of relationship between blogging and collecting. Most of us seem to be collectors of one type or another. Caffeinated Joe collects horror movies and books (well, you would expect him to wouldn't you), whilst Dave at My Power Is Beyond Your Understanding introduced us to the strange world of baseball memorabilia. Imagine if someone collected clothes : nonamedufus did and Betsy at My Five Men wrote about collecting vintage aprons. Roy Hilbinger (Roy's World) was a great collector and not surprisingly many of his collections centred on music and musical instruments. Jasmine at Natures Whispers was another collector of all things musical. Coffee Messiah shared with us a couple of collections he has been close to over the years which range from circus history to local history. Books, cats and art from Panama were three of the collections featured by e at Life In Progress whilst Mouse at Mouse Medicine is a serial collector who gave us photographs of her many collections.

As you would imagine, there were some strange collections out there. Rhonda at Social Dyslexic is a serial collector whose past interests have included salt and pepper shakers. Chris Wolf at Piano Posts spoke of her Wall of Inspiration which contains a collection of autographs from famous performers which provide inspiration to her music students. VE at Fantastical Nonsense shared his understanding of what it means to be a serious collector and he knows because it appears that he has one of the largest collections of coloured crayons in the world. Tony at Bench collected Rugby League programmes and - for some strange reason - old photographs of Rochdale Turkish Baths. He gave us wisdom by suggesting that maybe we collect the past to better dream the future. Lettuce at Lettuce Eating collected stones - and fascinated she made it sound - whilst mmm at Hot Toast and Jam collects memories but also collects sugar packs. Leah at The Weather In The Streets collects - amongst other things - dish cloths! but it was California Girl (Empty Nest Evolution) who came up with perhaps one of the strangest collections - a collection of Pumpkin People.

CatLady Carew told us about her collection od trains and her collection of beer bottles - now that is what I call a collection - whilst Holly at Christmas Whimsy's let us see her wonderful glass Christmas ornaments - quite a collection. Kayren at Everything's Coming Up Daisies has an amazing collection of dolls she shared with us. Trisha from Second Thoughts has a long list of things she collects which range from apothecary jars through to tobacco tins. Liza at They will Not Have Me is a rock and shell collector and she has some great images of some of her finds.

For many, their collections were less tangible. Nicole at Super Blogliness gave us a collection of words - and quite a collection it was. Dreamhaven at Tangled Webs may collect Betty Boop items but she gave us a splendid poem entitled The Heart Collector. Subby at Basstuna played with words in his own inimitable way and managed to get a rhyme or two (or three or four) out of the theme of collection. Jill at Killeny Glen gave us a wonderful take on the theme of collection which seemed to bring so many joyous thoughts and actions into such a short post.

And there were, of course, the weavers - those bloggers who so inventively manage to weave the theme into a continuing and developing story.  Jaime at Red Red Whine wove the theme into the latest episode of her wonderful story "When the Past Comes Back To Haunt You". But what did Jim collect? You will have to read the story to find out! Brian Miller at Waystation One gave us his usual insightful look at life - "our lives take on the stories we choose to collect" AngelMay at Growing Pains wove the theme of collecting into one of her charming stories and Sharon at Moxie Blue managed to kill three birds with one stone post and provided us with a fine collection of sketches. Tom (Half Moose With A Twist) cleverly incorporated the theme into his evolving Cinquain (and if you don't know what one of them is take a look at his blog). And Otin at Wizard of Otin gave us a spine-chilling story that weaved the theme in at several different levels. Brenda at BryAntics gave us a verse - of course - a wonderful one called The Collector

And the collections go on and on. Dot Com was unable to tell us about her collections because an unfortunate collection of work got in the way. Skip Simpson at Skip's Stuff got very inventive and combined his well known video-making talents with his less well-known talents as a lyricist and provided us with some memorable images of Autumn. The Revelationist at Gut-Wrenching Real revealed that he was "a collector of memories; rediscovering the simple pleasures of who I was and what I did that make me who I am".And Jeffscape at Irreverent Irrelevance gave us a sad but true story of how his collection of dogs had been broken as two had gone missing - but the good news is that they are now back with their owner.

Kris at This Will Hurt Me somehow had a collection around the theme of phallus which I am still trying to understand, but fear not, the accompanying picture was of a fine looking plant! For Candie at The Ancient Sword the idea of collection puts her in mind of one of her favorite movies - Perfume. Baino (Baino's Banter) claims not to be a collector but still provided us with a thumping good post on shoe collections. Meg at All I Need Is Everything gave us wonderfully descriptive memories of when she was little and used to help count the Church collection. Kylie at Eclectica told us about how her son was on a trip to China visiting a handicraft centre with a collection of girls. Sandra at "Amazing Voyages Of The Turtle" collects actors whereas  Jelly at Not For Jellyfish has a collection of men - but be warned - only a certain kind of man.

Let me leave you with Kate (Life With A Cocktail) who had a collection of thoughts about collections and summed up by saying "I think that's the best part of Theme Thursday: reading the collection of various thoughts, ideas, and stories on a single subject". I couldn't have put it better myself. 

A big thank you to all who took part.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Looking Back On The Marsden Jazz Festival

Three days of events, over 60 separate gigs, getting on for ten thousand visitors, many hundreds of performers ...... and at last it is over. I am slowly beginning to resurface again after the 18th Annual Marsden Jazz Festival : but it is a slow process.

We had parade bands, trios, quartets, quintets, small bands and big bands. We even had a one-man band. 

We put on concerts in concert halls, in pubs, in marquees, in clubs and even on canal boats.

The weather mostly stayed kind to us and the visitors seem to have had a good time. Even the ducks on the River Colne had a good time.  Things should now return to normal and I look forward to returning to my normal blog-trawling activities.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Theme Thursday - Collection

Oh I was going to have so much fun with this one. Collection : what a wonderful theme and how clever of someone to have suggested it! I am a serial collector : the kind where the actual process of collection is more important than the precise focus of the activity. Freud wrote volumes about people like me. We're the original gatherers rather than the hunters: whilst our ancestral cousins were to be found tracking sabre-toothed rabbits we were putting together a fine collection of sub-tropical berries.

Oh I was going to tell you about how I started collecting train numbers and progressed through such things as stamps, banknotes, vintage postcards, and old 78 records. If it exists, at one time or another I have collected it. Some themes have been sensible, others - I must confess - have been bordering on the eccentric (I once became a passionate collector of Patent Numbers and only recently flirted with the idea of a collection of lamp-post numbers). I tend to flit from subject to subject rather like some pollen-gathering insect (Note to myself : I have never collected insects, that would be quite interesting), the enthusiasm of yesterday fading into the enthusiasm of today. Some collectors are constant and faithful to their subject and don't understand the inconsistency of a flirter like me. Thus I still have people contacting me wanting to sell me pie-making machines (I once had a very brief phase when I got enthusiastic about collecting old baking equipment) and only yesterday I was contacted by someone trying to sell me an antique Ultimate bus-ticket machine following a brief tryst I had with bus tickets a couple of years ago.

Oh I was going to show you pictures of crisp uncirculated banknotes and fine old postcards protected by their guaranteed ph neutral polypropylene wrappers. I was going to show you my faux leather albums and the little felt-covered boxes I keep my antique coin collection in. 

I was going to do all these things but reality got in the way. Just as I thought I had everything ready for this weekend's Marsden Jazz Festival an e-mail arrived saying that the photographer who was to put on an exhibition of his jazz photographs had backed out at the last moment. Could I come up with a suitable collection by Friday. So I am working on my collection and therefore can't do justice to the collection theme. So let me point you in the direction of a collection of first-rate bloggers who will be tackling the theme much better than me.

As I am the host of this theme I feel it incumbent on me to visit every one of the participants in this week's Theme Thursday. But because of the Festival I am not going to get chance to do this until early next week. But I will be calling by and I will try to post a summary of what such a fine collection of bloggers has managed to come up with.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Main Menu

In the list of jobs I need to do in advance of this weekend's Festival, is one I always look forward to doing and that is the Menus. I must stress that I neither plan the menus nor do I cook them - both tasks would turn to disaster in my hands - but I do design and print the menu notices that appear around our main venue, the Marsden Mechanics Hall. It is my one chance to get creative : no committee decides the theme or plans the layout, I can do whatever I want. The pictures used in the posters are from the ones I took at the 2008 Festival. Here are three of the draft 2009 posters (I may still change them). And there are still another five to design.

Monday, October 05, 2009

A Fat Book, A Wide Telly And A Pulsating Festival

At long last "The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest" is out in the UK. This is the third (and final) part of the gripping Millennium Trilogy which has, of course, become an international publishing sensation. If you have not read any of the series - written by the late Swedish author Stieg Larsson - it is not too late to start (and start with the first in the series "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo").  At some stage it will be worth pausing a moment or two and trying to work out why the books are so good - they are thrillers rather than great literature after all - and why they have been so successful. But it looks like being a busy week ahead so I will save that post for some time in the future. For the moment I will concentrate on working my way through the 602 pages of Volume 3 in the series.

When I am not reading I am happy to say that I will be sat in front of my new, disgustingly large, television set. It finally arrived on Saturday but it took two so-called Television Installation Technicians (imagine the acronym) two hours of messing about to eventually inform me that they could not get it to work. According to them, this was because there was something the matter with my Cable Box. As they were leaving, I had a look myself and discovered that they were right, there was something wrong with the Cable Box : they hadn't plugged it in properly. The television is now working and when I am not reading I will be working my way through the back-log of films I have been meaning to watch.

And if all that was not enough, this coming weekend is the Marsden Jazz Festival Weekend. I have a long list of things I still need to do : the menu's need designing, forms need printing, and the website needs a final amendment or two. 

All this means that I might not be around Blogland as much as normal this week and for this I apologise. I will try to post and comment in between everything else - but a fat book, a wide telly and a pulsating Festival are some competition.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Surreal Sunday 4 : Reclining Corpse

In an experiment to determine whether or not surreal art can be produced by someone without any artistic merit or skill, I am currently featuring six works of art. Five of the works featured recently in the British Surrealism in Context Exhibition . The sixth work of art will have been produced by someone without any artistic ability or experience (me) on my kitchen table in less than an hour. Your task is to spot the surreal fraud. You can comment as we progress through the six works or wait until the end to give your verdict.

Entitled "Reclining Corpse", the picture portrays the female form brutalized by war.

Friday, October 02, 2009

A Family Six Pack : Part 6 - Miriam Burnett

Miriam Burnett 1901 - 1987

The final installment in my Family Six Pack mini-series brings us to the young lady on the extreme right of the photograph : my Auntie Miriam. She would have been just sixteen years old when the photograph was taken and already working in one of the Bradford woollen mills. The truth is that I know little about her youth and early middle age : she lived at home until she married - and that wasn't until 1942 when she was 41 years old. Obviously - as with many couples at this time - she had a lengthy courtship with her future husband, Frank, as I have pictures of them together a good ten years before they got married. Equally - as with many couples at the time - they never had children.

Miriam and Frank were not conventional in everything they did. In the 1950s they left their native Bradford and set up home in Great Yarmouth a seaside resort close to the Norfolk Broads. They opened a boarding house which Miriam looked after whilst Frank worked in a radio factory. At some stage in the 1960s they moved back to Bradford but within a few years had returned to the south, this time to the new town of Basildon. 

Miriam's husband, Frank, was an eccentric character (even within our family which had more than its fair share). He was an early enthusiast of tape recorders and would spend hours recording the television adverts from the early years of commercial TV. Unfortunately his tapes were thrown away after his death which is a shame as I suspect they would be collectors pieces these days. He would also record an annual Christmas Message from himself and Miriam (and often Peggy the dog) which he would mail to us up in Yorkshire. On Christmas Day the family would gather at our house and it would be played just after the Queen's Christmas Day Message. One year poor Frank died and as these things happen it was between the time he recorded the annual message and the time it was played to the family. I have to admit that my eyes still fill up with tears - of laughter I am afraid - as I recall how we all sat around and heard him utter statements like "Greetings to you all from Frank who is far from home!"

After Frank died Miriam returned to live in Yorkshire. She had a small cottage in the village where we lived and she would patrol the streets with the latest in a whole succession of small rat-like dogs. She was famous for her Yorkshire bluntness and a voice that could carry from one side of the village to the other. Her cottage was near the village bus stop and my brother and I would go to considerable lengths to avoid her. My brother would always tell the story of how one day he got off the bus and, as usual, ducked under the wall to sneak passed her window. As he got further up the road towards our house and began to relax a voice boomed across the Yorkshire streets : "Oy Bugger Lugs, where do you think you're off to?"

This concludes the Family Six Pack Series. No doubt I will come up with some more family history posts before too long. 

Black Friar

For a time, during the late 1970s, I had a job leading parties of foreign visitors on tours of historic London pubs. One of my favourite sto...