Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Big Bright Pink Candy-Floss Machine

You may recall that in a recent Theme Thursday post about Candy, I came up with some patent drawings and instructions for home-made candy-floss (cotton candy for those who play soccer rather than football) machines and suggested that my friend Edwin get busy and make one for my forthcoming visit to Oxford. Edwin can turn his hand to most things and I was therefore intrigued to see what he had come up with when we called in at Oxford on our way back from Dorset. What he had come up with was a large box containing a bright pink candy-floss machine. He had baulked at the challenge, but - seeing as it was my birthday - he had managed to find a machine for sale in a local shop. After careful reading of the instruction and experiments with ingredients and colouring, the first batch was made. It worked magnificently and tasted just like the stuff you get at the seaside. So, in future, if anyone calls in on us in Huddersfield, I can spin them up a candy-floss. Thank you Jane and Edwin.

Edwin hard at work spinning candy
Now has anyone got one of those machines they use to make seaside rock?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

In Search Of Hebden Bridge's Electric Studios

I bought this fine Edwardian Cabinet Card the other day. At 50p (30c) it seemed a bargain, not only for the wonderful strong portrait, but also for the local connection.  Hebden Bridge is just up the valley from where I live - if some of my far-flung friends think the name sounds familiar it is where our blogging friend Tony Zimnoch lives. From what I can discover, C Westerman of the Electric and Daylight Studio's, Hebden Bridge, was a famous local photographer remembered not only for his own work, but also for the work of his apprentice, the woman who took over the studios in the 1920s, Alice Longstaff. When I checked the web before going on holiday I found a good few references to Alice Longstaff and a book that has been written about her. On my return, I have discovered that the pages are "no longer accessible". So it seems that I will have to abandon technology and get the bus up the valley and try and buy a copy of the book. I will check to see if the Electric Studios are still there and report back.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Day Of Disaster And Humiliation

The 27th of June 2010 will go down in history as a day of disaster and humiliation. A day when dreams withered and died, when hopes metamorphosed into nothing more than self-delusion. A watershed from whose heights we can look down on the glory that is behind us and the ignominy which awaits us with the inevitability of death and taxes.

I refer, of course, to the Tasting Day in the Great Beer Challenge between myself and my ex-friend Mark. The two families and invited guests gathered at The Hall to judge the outcome of the home brewing contest between Mark and myself. After some initial success with my Bloggers' Bitter (see my last post on this subject) I have had growing concerns about it as it seemed to fade away and die between mashing in the brewing bucket and being transferred to the keg. But I ignored my concerns in the belief that faith and hope would make up for a deficit in skills (if this reminds you of a certain football team, so be it). But yesterday the potato chips were down and it was time to sort out the men from the boys.

As soon as I saw Tim draw the first jug from Mark's keg (stored in a cool eighteenth century cellar) I knew the game was up. Whilst my brew looked jaded and tired, Mark's looked fresh and spirited. Where mine was dull and unimpressive, his was bright and adventurous (if this reminds you of a certain football match, so be it). To the taste his was everything you would look for : refreshing, pleasantly bitter, moreish and suitably alcoholic. With trepidation, I got The Lad to open a bottle of Bloggers' Bitter, decant it into a jug and serve it for tasting.

I think I was the first to spit it out, but I will long recall the look of relief on everyones' face when - following my lead - they were able to do the same. It was dead, it was atrophied, it was horrid, and - as far as I could tell - it was non-alcoholic. Little was said. Little needed to be said. Most people respectfully turned away as I poured the remaining brew over some unfortunate rose tree.

Or so I thought, until I came to process the official photograph of the event this morning. And there, clear as day, is my ex-friend Mark, with a large grin on his face, taking a photograph of my humiliating downfall. I need to mourn, to go away and lick my wounds, to re-examine my legitimate expectations and to try and build myself back up again after such a cruel day (if this reminds you of a certain nation of football supporters, so be it).

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Sepia Saturday 29 : Glad And Alb And The Wedding Tree

It would have been my fathers' birthday yesterday : had he lived he would have been 99. In a couple of weeks time it would have been my mothers' birthday and she too would have entered her 100th year. They both lived well into their 90s and had a long and happy life. For the centenary of their birth next year I think I might put together a short book of photographs and memories : something to hand down to future generations. But let me mark the start of this their centenary year by featuring this Sepia Saturday photograph of their wedding day in 1935. Amongst the guests featured in the photograph you will spot names which have already become familiar to readers of my Saturday posts : there is Auntie Miriam alongside Uncle Harry, there is Auntie Amy and there is my grandfather, Albert. I will try and put them in some kind of genealogical context with this "wedding tree". Happy birthdays Glad and Alb.

Sepia Saturday brings together bloggers from around the world, using old photographs to tell stories and share memories. You can access the other posts by going to the Sepia Saturday Blog.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Brigham Girl : Then And Now

You may recall that a couple of weeks ago I published a small Carte de Visite I had acquired which showed a picture of a woman taken by the Victorian photographer William Brigham of Scarborough. At the time, I speculated on what the woman would look like if she had been photographed today : no older, but with modern clothing and a modern hairstyle. I promised to have a go - with the help of Photoshop and my friend Jane as a model - at producing a "Brigham Girl : Then And Now" study. Whilst we were in Oxford I took some photographs and since then I have been playing around with Photoshop and I have come up with a couple of images.

The first image attempts to show the Brigham girl with Jane's hair and jumper. Looking back, it would have been probably better to have had a photograph of Jane in a more contemporary setting - sat at her computer for example - but it is an interesting study.

The second image switches the polarities, so to speak, and takes Jane's face back to the 1880s photograph. I think she looks quite grand, rather like a fine Victorian lady. As an experiment, it was interesting and one I must try again once a suitable old photograph comes up. The other project I promised to undertake whilst in Oxford - the Candy Floss Machine project - is another story which deserves a post all to itself so I will return to the subject next week. In the meantime, a bit thank you to Janie for agreeing to be my model and for the Good Lady Wife for acting as photographers' assistant.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Monumental Landscapes

I am still trying to get back into a routine following last week's holiday. But yesterday routine had to be put on hold. The sun beat down, the weather was as near perfect as it can get. I met my good friends Mark and Chrissy and we went for a delightful walk around the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. These are just a couple of photographs I took. Time was limited and I needed to get home in time to catch the beginning of the England v Slovenia match as I was providing a minute-by-minute text service for the Lad who was doing his final training in anticipation of hitting the hospital wards. 

My camera and I will return to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park at a later date, once my routine has been re-established and once there are no more football matches to watch. And given that the USA won the group - perhaps I should say "once there are no more soccer matches to watch".

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

He Marched Them Up To The Top Of The Hill And Gave Them A Pint Of Beer

As I was saying yesterday, we spent the first couple of days of our holiday staying in the small Dorset village of Ansty. Until 1900, the small village was the home of the Hall and Woodhouse Brewery but, whilst the brewery buildings still exist, the brewing now takes place at their Blandford Forum brewery a few miles to the north. The interesting question is - how could such a small rural village become the location of such a large and thriving brewery?. For answers to such questions we must turn to the magisterial nineteenth century work by Alfred Barnard, "The Noted Breweries of Great Britain and Ireland"

Illustration of the Ansty Brewery from Barnard's "Noted Breweries" Vol 3
Charles Hall was a farmer who - like so many at the time - also brewed a little beer for his family, farmworkers, and neighbouring villagers. It would appear that he was a talented brewer because the brewery built up both a reputation and a small but loyal customer base. And so the story would have continued - and the brewery would have eventually faded into obscurity - if it had not been for the intervention of Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1801 Napoleon had massed his armies at Boulogne in preparation for an invasion of Britain. The British had forces camped in anticipation along the south coast : one of the largest camps being at Bincombe Down, just north of Weymouth. Whilst waiting for the expected invasion, the British redcoats were ceaselessly drilled : it was up Bincombe Hill that the Duke of York exercised his troops by marching them repeatedly up the hill and down again.

The Grand Old Duke Of York, He Had 10,000 Men
All this relentless exercise was, of course, thirsty work, and the genius of Charles Hall was to spot what these days would be called an entrepreneurial opportunity. He managed to get the contract to supply the army camp with beer and what with all that marching and the Duke of York's 10,000 men, the rest - as they say - is history.  The expected invasion never took place, the Red Coats eventually went home, the brewery saw some lean years and eventually merged with another local brewery to form the company, Hall and Woodhouse. In 1900 the old Ansty brewery was closed and the buildings converted to other uses. Today they provide a variety of houses, flats and a Village Hall, a fitting legacy to Charles Wells, Napoleon Bonaparte, and the Grand Old Duke of York. Cheers!

The Ansty Brewery buildings today

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Serendipity, Jane Austin and A Pool Of Penguins

The Fox Inn, Ansty, Dorset
So we are back after a wonderful little holiday which had the rare added ingredient - for holidays in this country at least - of absolutely beautiful weather. The first two days we spent at the Fox Inn in the Dorset village of Ansty which I discovered after extensive research on the web (Google Search : "Dorset", "Inn", "Dogs"). The village was one of those idyllic places that rarely exist outside "Visit Britain" travel documentaries : thatched cottages covered in honeysuckle, contented cows grazing in green pastures, and Morris Dancers prancing around outside the village pub. The Inn was originally the home of Charles Hall one of the founding partners of the Hall and Woodhouse Brewery and the original brewery was just across the road. The story of the brewery is an interesting one so I will return to it later in the week.

The Cobb Harbour, Lyme Regis
 For some reason, the middle part of the holiday turned into something of a tour of Jane Austin locations. One day we were in Lyme Regis and were able to walk along the famous Cobb harbour. I had never been to this part of the Dorset coast before and this short stay certainly flagged it up for a longer visit in the future.  After Dorset we spent a wonderful couple of days staying with our friend Sue in Ewell, just south of London. Again, the weather was fabulous and we spent another memorable day at another Jane Austin location, Box Hill (this wasn't intended to be a Jane Austin tour, the locations were down to splendid coincidence). 

The North Downs from Box Hill, Surrey
After Surrey we went north to Oxford and spent another couple of wonderful days staying with our good friends Jane and Edwin. On the Saturday we attempted to exorcise the memory of England's dire performance against Algeria with a trip to Oxford Botanical Gardens, but fate denied us a parking spot so we drove up to the Cotswold Wildlife Park instead. Serendipity smiled on us and we had a glorious time watching rhino's graze and penguins swim. 

Penguins at Cotswold Wildlife Park
Whilst in Oxford I managed to bring a couple of my outstanding blog projects to a conclusion - the updating of the old Victorian Carte de Visite and the Candy-floss machine - but to see exactly how those turned out you will have to wait for a later post. The holiday finished with a fine garden party in Oxford to mark Jane and Edwin's birthday and - when we eventually got back to Huddersfield - The Lad coming home for the night for a Fathers' Day treat. 

I took a good few photographs during the week and I will be featuring a selection of these on my Daily Photo Blog over the next week or so. It was a fine holiday, but - as always - it is good to be home again and catching up with all the news from around the world. I look forward to setting my Blog Roll rolling once again.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Sepia Saturday 27 : The Big Match

It is Saturday, so it must be Sepia Saturday. It is the day of England's first match in the 2010 World Cup, and therefore the logical choice of subject has to be football. And note I say "football" and not "soccer" : I have never quite understood why we need to apply such an uncomfortable nickname in order to distinguish the beautiful game from a raft of other games that may involve balls but have little to do with feet. I suspect our friends in the USA are responsible for this, and let's face it, what do they know about football? (Note to myself : remember to come back and edit this bit if things don't go according to plan in the game this evening).

My picture - which is taken from the collection handed down by my great Uncle Fowler - shows the local football team in Longtown, Cumbria. I have carefully looked at the faces to see if there are any I recognise from the bowling photograph (See my Sepia Saturday 25 and 26). If I examine as many group photographs as I can from Fowlers' collection and narrow down the common denominator from all of them, I might finish up with a picture of Fowler. But there again, I might just settle down and watch the game tonight instead.

If you are not a football fan you can always spend your time looking at all the other wonderful Sepia Saturday posts which are listed on the Sepia Saturday site. If you are a football fan - there is always half time.

On re-reading the above post I realise that I might have given the mistaken impression that (a) England can play football, and (b) the United States of America can't. If that is the case, I would like to sincerely apologise and state that, in future, I am quite happy to refer to the game as "soccer"

Friday, June 11, 2010

This And That And Patriotic Prejudice

Another end of the week round-up of miscellaneous jottings - the accumulated fluff at the bottom of the drawer of my subconscious mind.

THIS will be my penultimate post for a week or more (there will be a Sepia Saturday Post tomorrow). On Monday, the Good Lady Wife, Amy The Dog and myself set out for a tour of the country something in the style of the Royal progresses of old (you stay with a succession of friends, eating their food, drinking their booze and slaughtering their game) (the last bit has been included for veracity's sake - I am glad to say that Veracity will not be coming with us and therefore no wild animals will be injured in the making of this holiday). The first couple of nights we are staying at a pub in Dorset called "The Fox". I will do a full write-up on my return along with a complete set of tasting notes on Hall and Woodhouse beers. So after tomorrow I won't be around for a bit, but I will be back on-line on Monday the 21st.

THAT means that I will be away for the first week of the World Cup. I realise that a third of you out there will not even know that the World Cup is about to take place in South Africa and another third will know but not care. But I belong to the third that will be engrossed by this festival of the beautiful game and - wherever I may be - I will try and see as many of the games as possible. I have tried to be cynical and adopt an intellectual dismissal of football, but it is no good : I love watching the game and if it is being played well I am not too bothered who might be playing it.

Having said that, I will still be supporting England, although that support will be tinged by a fair degree of realism. We should progress to the knock out stage but with the England team, who knows. I would like to say that we have a good team this time around, but you know us English we don't like to blow our own trumpet in case we are accused of PATRIOTIC PREJUDICE. Step up to the microphone Michael Flanders and Donald Swann.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Theme Thursday : Candy

The trouble is, I have never been quite sure exactly what candy is. Oh, I know it is one of those American words - like "cookie" - which can be applied to a gamut of things which are pleasant to consume, but what is the "proper" English equivalent of the word "candy"? Is it "sweets", or "chocolates", or "confectionery" or what? Not wanting to pick a fight with my American readers - I will postpone that pleasure until Saturday - I will adopt my usual cautious approach and stick (pun intended) to the type of candy any child raised on the traditional British seaside holiday will be familiar with - candy floss.

Photograph from the LIFE Magazine website
Now I realise that, once again, we are in the difficult sphere of semantics : what we call candy floss, you over there, call cotton candy. But what I am talking about is that wonderfully fluffy, sticky, sweet stuff that gets stuck to your chin (or, trust me, even worse, stuck to your mustache) and tastes absolutely delicious. As a child, I was so attracted to candy floss that I seriously considered saving up my spending money and investing in a candy floss machine. Having seen how such a small amount of sugar could be easily translated into such a large amount of candy floss, the desire for a candy floss machine was stimulated equally by my growing entrepreneurial spirit as my sweet tooth. 

Never having had the time in my youth to acquire such a machine, and stimulated by the theme this week, I have decided to try and bring my plan to fruition now. Not having the necessary financial liquidity to buy a machine, I will make one myself. I discovered the rather wonderful Google Patents site on which you can access over 7 million American patent and trademark applications. Making such a repository of quirky, fascinating and sometimes bizarre information available is something the Internet does so well and Google has been in the forefront of pushing back the boundaries of free information. I discovered that a patent had been granted - back in 1931 - for a candy floss making machine, and therefore detailed, and alas, rather complicated drawings, were available.

A more general Google Books search came up with an even better solution to my problems : an article in the October 1914 edition of Popular Mechanics entitled "How To Make A Candy Floss Machine". As the article says, "The device for making candy floss consists of ordinary things that can be had in any home, and usually a boy has a battery motor of some kind that will furnish the power". But here again, I run into a problem. As most people will know, I am not particularly mechanically gifted. If ever a boy didn't have a battery motor of some kind, it is this boy.

But a solution could be on the horizon. As I said yesterday, next week we will be visiting our good friend Jane and Edwin. Now Edwin is an expert on such things as Bunsen burners and battery motors. I will take a copy of the Popular Mechanics article with us, and whilst I am taking photographs of his wife for yesterdays' project, he can build me a candy floss machine. Edwin, if you are reading this, be warned.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

William Brigham And A Handsome Woman

I am still acquiring a small collection of Carte de Visites and my latest acquisition is a picture of a rather handsome Victorian lady taken by William D Brigham at his studios in Scarborough. I have no idea of who the lady is, but half the fun of collecting old photographs is not knowing who they are, where they came from, or where they are going. As for a date, I would guess the photograph was taken during the golden age of CdV's - the 1880s. By 1890, Brigham had moved his studio from the Esplanade (on the sea front) to Westborough (in the centre of town). I have been able to find a few examples of Brigham's work on the Internet - mainly a photograph he took of a young Edith Sitwell in the early 1890s.

Looking at the face in the photograph above, I am half tempted to try a "then and now" approach to it. A modern day photograph using a similar pose, a little bit of Photoshop magic .... the results might be interesting. I will have to see if I can get anyone to sit in the right pose. I will report back.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Postcard Of The Week : High Street Leicester

My postcard of the Week resulted from a random dip into my postcard box. It shows the junction of High Street and Silver Street in Leicester in, I would guess, about 1905. I don't know Leicester at all well - I only visited the city for the first time a couple of years ago - but a quick review of Google Earth reveals that much of the city centre has been rebuilt during the last fifty years or so, However, I did manage to find a photograph taken from almost exactly the same spot as the 1905 one, which suggests that the one part of the city centre that has retained its buildings and its architectural style is this particular part of the High Street. I tried to trace the history of Hogget Son and GGH but I could find no information on either. Hopefully someone familiar with Leicester will add a comment and let us know what happened to both shops.

Photograph by NED TRIFLE. Downloaded from Flickr under a Creative Commons Licence and used with thanks.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Project Bull : The Fall Of Samuel Gledhill

In one of my posts last week I spoke of the LibriVox project which is doing such a fine job in bringing copyright free audio recordings to the internet. It is, of course, a close relative of Project Gutenberg which has been making copyright free e-books available for many years and now has a library of over 30,000 available. I have long believed that the internet has an almost revolutionary ability to free information from the chains of ownership, and I fully support the work of these great projects. As well as providing a platform for the distribution of copyright-free material, the internet also provides a wonderful resource by which we can all contribute to this task with the aim of creating a twenty first century equivalent of the Library of Alexandria - a repository of every aspect of human life and creativity. With this in mind, I am launching Project Bull (named after the John Bull printing kits we used to play with as children - they probably called them something different outside Britain!) which is like Project Gutenberg but on a much smaller and more parochial scale. 

The idea behind Project Bull is that you add something new to the collective digital depository of mankind not so much by creating it yourself, but by transcribing or reprinting something that was created long ago - and is therefore outside the mean grasp of the copyright lawyers. We can leave the digitization of Dickens or Turner to others who have the resources available to undertake such important tasks. But we can all help ensure that the parochial, the seemingly insignificant, and the oblique is saved from crumbling into the dust of obscurity by helping it make that once-in-a-lifetime jump into the digital age. Once there - once on the internet, on your blog, my blog or anybody else's blog - Dame Google will index it and the digital library doors will be thrown open.

As an example, here is my first Project Bull contribution. It is nothing more than a 23 line article from the December 1862 edition of the Brighouse and Rastrick Chronicle. It tells the sad tale of Samuel Gledhill of West Vale. To the best of my knowledge this article has never found its way onto the internet before. And now, thanks to Project Bull, it is available to everyone in the world!

DRINK AGAIN - On Wednesday evening, the 24th, an innkeeper named Samuel Gledhill, alias, "Sam o Wam's," residing at West Vale, was drinking at the Saville's Arms, Elland, which place he left at turning out time, rather the worse for liquor. He set off home alone, going along Westgate, and when he had got in the Longwall road, he stood upon the wall and pulled off his stockings and boots. At a quarter to six o'clock on the following morning, as some of Mr Phillip Kershaw's quarrymen were going to their work, they found him lying by the side of the bottom road in an almost insensible condition. It is supposed that after he had pulled off his boots and stockings, he had fallen off the wall, fancying probably he was getting into bed, and must have rolled down the hill side a distance of nearly 50 yards, and which is somewhat steep. When aroused, he pathetically requested that he might be permitted to lie undisturbed a little longer; but a conveyance was procured in which he was removed to his residence. Mr Gledhill's injuries are of a very serious nature; is left arm is fractured in two places, and several of his ribs are broken.


Saturday, June 05, 2010

Sepia Saturday 26 : Staying With The Beanlands

I'm sticking with the Beanlands this week, moving on from Fowler to his brother Albert, my grandfather. The picture shows my grandmother, Kate Kellam, my grandfather, Albert Beanland, and their two children Amy (standing at the rear) and Gladys (my mother). Using this picture of Albert as a guide, I have looked back of the picture of the bowlers from last week to see if I can narrow down which might be his brother, Fowler.  Here are the various heads, with the known Beanland - Albert - on the extreme left. 

I must confess I am no closer to identifying which bowler might be Fowler : possibly the second one standing from the right ... possibly not. I need to do more digging into the Beanlands, let's hope that I come up with something more than a handful of bean seeds.

Friday, June 04, 2010

This And That And A Punnet Of Fresh Strawberries

Another end of the week round-up of miscellaneous jottings - the accumulated fluff at the bottom of the drawer of my subconscious mind.

THIS week I have been enjoying the splendid LibriVox podcasts of readings from the 1831 classic "The Eventful History of the Mutiny and Piratical Seizure of H.M.S. Bounty : Its Causes and Consequences" by Sir John Barrow. For anyone not familiar with LibriVox, it is a non-commercial Foundation dedicated to making books in the public domain available in audio form free of charge on the internet. It uses a panel of volunteer readers and currently has a catalogue of over 3,000 books which can be downloaded - free of charge - in a number of ways. One way is to trust to chance and subscribe to the thrice-weekly LibriVox podcast. Here the book is chosen by the LibriVox editors and you just sit back or - if like me you are walking the dog - stride out, and enjoy listening to whatever happens to be the book of the moment. Recent choices have included such diverse fare as David Copperfield, The Decameron and The Return of Sherlock Holmes : but currently it features Barrows' book on the Mutiny on the Bounty.

THAT element of serendipity, also tends to be carried over into my reading habits in that I am a sucker for those "three for two" offers you find in bookshops. My own personal rule of thumb is to choose two books I would have bought anyway, but go for very much of a lucky dip with my third (notionally free) choice. Which explains why I am currently reading a surprisingly lucid account of the lives and times of four great Central Bankers in the period leading up to the great economic crisis of the late 1920s and early 1930s. I am never sure what the secret of a good group biography is, but whether it is a readable style, a dusting of wider historical colour, or just the one-and-a-half times spacing between lines of print : whichever it is, Liaquat Ahamed's book seems to have it. I am not going to suggest that everyone should rush out and buy it - like salt and vinegar crisps, it might be a matter of taste - but if you ever encounter it on a three-for-the-price-of-two table, it is worth a second glance.

Is there any finer pleasure associated with this time of the year than the widespread availability of A PUNNET OF FRESH STRAWBERRIES? For readers from outside these shores I might need to explain the word punnet - a small plastic or cardboard basket used to sell or deliver a specific quantity of soft fruit - but, as far as I am concerned, the word itself is an essential component of the joys of summer strawberries. Nothing beats the ability to go into a greengrocers' shop and order a punnet of fresh strawberries. Not strawberries that have been picked two continents away, frozen and flown in by air, but strawberries that were picked in the same time zone and in the same month. Delicious.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

The Old White Beare

Picture the scene if you will. It is the summer of 1588 and Britain faces the threat of naval defeat and invasion as an armada of Spanish ships sails up the English Channel and an army of 30,000 soldiers wait in the Netherlands to capitalise on the expected defeat of the British Navy. The British fleet is a rag-tag collection of old warships, privateers' galleons and rough trading vessels : not unlike the collection of little boats that would evacuate the troops from the Dunkirk beaches some 352 years later. At the heart of the British fleet are the 34 ships of the royal fleet, and the largest and most imposing of them all is the White Bear. Built in 1564, the 40 gun White Bear was seen as one of the grand old ships of the British Fleet at a time when the average life of a galleon was just 10 years. But under the command of Lord Edmund Sheffield, the White Bear played a central part in the routing of the Spanish Fleet and, in triumph, returned to port in Harwich on the 18th August. During the height of the great battle, one can almost imagine her captain gripping onto those sturdy timbers searching for the resolve to carry the battle through to a successful conclusion.

Picture the scene if you will. It is 1593 and we are in the port of Hull on the east coast of England. The country is now safe from invasion and Queen Elizabeth is secure on the throne of a country that is beginning to build a worldwide empire. The lessons of naval defense have been long learnt and the Royal Navy is renewing, re-equippping and re-building. The life of the White Bear comes to an end in the breakers' yards of Hull, where the timbers that once provided the very skeleton of the countries' salvation or now ripped from the heart of the ancient hulk. But wood was too precious to rot and to waste : there are always buyers for ships' timbers for the quality is good and the cuts are the best. One can imagine the salvage merchants appraising those timbers and thinking where they might be sold and how they might be used.

Picture the scene if you will. It is early June 2010 : a warm evening in West Yorkshire. An old blogger, his Good Lady Wife and his faithful dog decide that it is a perfect evening for a pint of foaming beer and they head to one of their favourite pubs, in the West Yorkshire village of Norwood Green. Our hero enters the bar - wife and dog having settled at one of the outside tables - to appraise the range of excellent traditional hand-pulled beers on offer. With a sense of anticipation, her runs his fingers along the ancient wooden bar top and makes his choice.

NOTE : The White Beare was originally built as a farmhouse and alehouse in 1533 on the Old Packhorse track running between Halifax and Leeds. It was rebuilt some 60 years later following a fire using timbers from the Elizabethan Galleon called ‘The White Bear’ and was renamed in honour of the ship.

This is a Theme Thursday Post. For other great Theme Thursday posts go to the Theme Thursday Blog.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The Cross-Dressing Cousins

I am often asked by non-bloggers how I decide what to write about. Do I write about what I have been doing (no, it is generally quite boring), about some great dominating theme or interest (no, there are far too many), or about the social, economic and political affairs of mankind (no, just no)? The answer, I suppose, is that it is a serendipitous process. Fellow bloggers will know what I mean, but for the chance visitor, here is an example.

I woke up this morning and had my usual glass of orange juice (Asda Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice) and slice of toast (Warburton Soft White Toasty - medium / well done setting on the toaster). Noticing that Boy Cameron will be facing his first Prime Ministers' Questions today in the House of Commons - and fighting to hold back a yawn - I begin to clear my desk of the accumulated detritus of the previous day. Amongst a pile of papers that seem to have appeared from nowhere I find an unused postcard. It is not a particularly old postcard and it has never been used. It is neither colourful nor particularly pretty. It shows two cousins having a bit of a giggle by dressing up in each others clothes.

The two cousins concerned are George Frederick Ernest Albert of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (known to his subjects as King George V) and Nikolay Alexandrovich Romanov (known by some of his subjects as "Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias" and others as a hapless tyrant). The picture was taken in Berlin in 1913 whilst they were visiting another of their cousins, Friedrich Wilhelm Victor Albert (known by everyone as Kaiser Bill). The two chaps thought it would be a bit of a wheeze to dress up in each others uniforms and thus it is Czar Nicholas on the left wearing the British uniform and King George on the right wearing the Russian uniform. Within just a few years of the photograph being taken, the world would change radically for everyone concerned. Having abdicated, Kaiser Bill was living in exile in the Netherlands. King George was still on the throne, but he was King of a country that had been socially and economically broken by the Great War. And his cousin Nicholas was long dead : the victim of a bloody execution in a cellar in an obscure palace in Yekaterinburg. Recent research suggests that the British Government were willing to allow the Czar and his family to come to exile in Britain (a plan the Bolsheviks supported), but King George, fearing some form of political backlash against his own family, vetoed the suggestion.

It just goes to show .... well it just goes to show something. I need to take the dog for a walk now, so I will ponder just what it goes to show whilst we are out on our walk.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Variations On A Set Of Victorian Playing Cards

The Bank Holiday is behind us and normality settles around me like a comfort blanket. Routine can be a mesmerising siren: promising safety in place of fear, solace in place of hope. But blink your eyes and she becomes a monster, dripping tedium from her venomous fangs.

Begone, dull care!
I prithee, begone from me
Begone, dull care!
You and I shall never agree
Long time hast thou been tarrying here
And fain thou wouldst me kill
But in faith, dull care
Thou never shall have thy will.

If the pleasure of success can be calculated in units 
(let us call them triumphs)
And an average successful enterprise equals 10 triumphs
How can we calculate the value of a near miss,
A second best, A nearly caught?
We can subtract from the 10 triumphs of success
6 for failure, 2 for disappointment, and 1 for anger
Which leaves but 1
Which goes to show
If at first you don't succeed .... stop trying.

Not Seeing The Moores For The Trees

This family photograph from the 1930s perfectly captures a marriage of style and elegance. It also captures a marriage between two people, b...