Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Happy Christmas To You All

A Happy Christmas : not from the Balkans but from News From Nowhere. The Christmas rush has already started and I am not sure that I will get too many opportunities to post to the Blog over the next few days. So I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a wonderful Christmas and a delightful New Year. The postcard comes from my collection and dates from 1917 when it was sent by a member of the Survey Company of the Royal Engineers to a Mr and Mrs Bailey of Godstone Road, Rotherham. There is no message other than the general greeting on the front of the card : but what further greeting could you want. A Happy Christmas to you all.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sepia Saturday 105 : Bradford's Perfect Little Housewife

The link between my Sepia Saturday image this week and the theme image may be a tenuous one, but there is a solidity about it which could prop up a broken table leg. The picture shows my mother, Gladys (right), along with her friend, whose name I cannot recall. It was taken whilst the were on holiday in Cleethorpes in about 1929 or 1930 : the same holiday, I believe, during which she met my father. And it was taken round about the same time that she entered a competition organised by the local Bradford newspaper - the Telegraph and Argus - to find Bradford's "Perfect Little Housewife". I am not sure what she had to do - judging by the mores of the times it was probably bake a cake, indulge in a little damp dusting and press a straight crease in a pair of trousers - but whatever it was, she won the competition. And the prize was a copy of Mrs Beeton's Complete Book of Household Management. I am not sure what happened to the book - could it have found its way to Dominica? - but during my childhood I remember the block sized volume standing beside the two or three other books that made up the household library. And the link? The Sepia Saturday prompt was an illustration from a 1901 edition of Mrs Beeton's Cookery book. I can never think of Mrs Beeton without thinking of the young Gladys Beanland - Bradford,s perfect little housewife.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Women Preaching And Serial Hat Wearers

Perhaps I can briefly follow up on a couple of comments on my last post. Both Michael & Hanne and the inimitable Chairman Bill referred to the number of hats on show in the picture of Neville Chamberlain arriving at Heston Airport. CB actually said that "you wouldn't find a single hat in a similar photo of today". I have to say that if you had been at Manchester Airport at 11.00pm last Monday when my plane from Munich arrived (by the way, Martin, it took about two hours by comparison) you would have seen one hat on show - mine! I am a serial hat wearer and have been most of my life. My photograph shows me this morning about to take Amy out for a walk and wearing the Fedora (*) I bought in Munich. I apologise for my slightly startled look and for the imperfect quality of the shot as Dr Johnson might have said : "Sir, a dog taking a photograph is rather like a woman preaching. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all." I bought the hat in a Munich Department Store (they had an excellent selection of hats available) and I was attracted to it by its claim to be "crushable". The claim was tested during my return journey when I consigned the hat to the overhead luggage locker (it is rude to wear your hat whilst being served a can of beer and a bag of crisps by the stewardess), and a fellow traveler dumped an enormous case on top of it. As you can see, it emerged rather well from the experience.

(*) I realise that I might be sparking a new debate in calling my hat a Fedora. The brim is too large for it to be a Trilby and it has neither the shape nor the ruggedness of a Stetson, but one might be tempted to think of it as a Homburg. My own feeling is that it has neither the stiffness nor the central gutter of the typical Homburg.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Peace For Our Time : But What Time?

All sorts of things go through your mind when you are flying back from Munich and the air turbulence is so bad that the Stewardess can't serve you your can of beer and bag of crisps because she is firmly strapped into her seat and doing some last minute revision on the emergency evacuation procedures. My mind turned to that most famous return flight from Munich, the one undertaken by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain on the 30th September 1938, and I became obsessed with discovering how long the journey took him. Why such ridiculous questions should have dominated my mind at a time when the difference between life and death seemed to rest on the strength of the rivets holding the wing to the Airbus I was flying in, I have no idea, but on my safe return to Britain, I was determined to discover the answer.

There is a lot of information available about that famous return journey. Chamberlain was returning with a meeting with Hitler, Mussolini, and Prime Minister Édouard Daladier of France : a meeting at which the future fate of Czechoslovakia had been decided (without the active participation of the Czech Government). On his return to Heston Aerodrome, Chamberlain waved his famous piece of paper and spoke of peace. Later that day, in Downing Street, he issued his famous promise of "peace for our time". We know what kind of plane he flew in (a Lockheed 14 with the registration number G-AFGN), we even know Chamberlain's ticket number (BA/WS 18249 : the actual ticket was re-discovered about a year ago). But how long did the flight take?

I eventually found the answer within an archive recording from the BBC. The clip is from the original report made as the plane landed at Heston and features the sonorous tones of the famous reporter, Richard Dimbleby. Near the beginning of the broadcast, Dimbleby comments on the poor weather in England but says that the Prime Minister had good weather for most of the return flight which took "something like three and a half hours - a little less than that actually". You can find the full nine minute broadcast from September 1938 on the BBC Archive website - it makes interesting, but poignant, listening.

Around the same time that Chamberlain was making his three and a half hour flight, the German poet Bertolt Brecht, living in exile in Denmark" wrote a poem entitled "From A German War Primer" One verse from the poem says:

When the leaders speak of peace
The common folk know
That war is coming.
When the leaders curse war
The mobilization order is already written out.

War grows from their peace
Like a son from his mother
He bears
Her frightful features.
Their war kills
Whatever their peace
Has left over.

Chamberlain ended his famous "Peace For Our Time" speech with the following request to his audience : "And now I recommend you to go home and sleep quietly in your beds".  A verse of the Brecht poem seems to almost echo the thought:

It is night
The married couples
Lie in their beds. The young women
Will bear orphans

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Beer And Baubles

We are back from Munich after a delightful few days : days that were bookended between Christmas Markets and Bier Kellers. The weather wasn't perfect, but the sights of the city were.

We came back to a long list of outstanding Christmas jobs : so postings may be a little intermittent during the next few days. But when the list of jobs is too long, the cold wind too cold, and the endless Christmas card list is too endless - we shall always have Munich.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Sunsets And Sojourns

Liverpool Sunset by Denis Chambers

You can't beat the occasions when someone you know passes you a computer disk or a stack of papers and says "I thought you might like this for the blog".  It was a computer disk which was handed to me at the pub the other evening by my good friend Denis : and on it I discovered six fabulous images of a sunset at the Albert Docks, Liverpool. I spoke to Denis later and he told me that the pictures were not planned, he just spotted the spectacular sunset one evening and captured them with a small pocket digital camera. The filenames underline this relaxed approach : they are simply called Liverpoolsnap1, Liverpoolsnap2 etc. It is a pleasure for the blog to be used to feature such great photography.

This is my last post for a week as we are about to leave for a few days in Munich. The GLW has always wanted to visit a German Christmas Market and I am hoping that in addition to markets such as this, we will have time to visit some of the stunning museums and sample some of the magnificent architecture of the Bavarian city. To keep you occupied in my absence, I thought I would leave you with a little competition. At the end of this post you will find a scan of our answer paper from last Fridays' quiz. Given the answers, your task is to work out what the questions were! This, of course, is a doubly complex jeopardy because - as you can clearly see - several of our answers were wrong! Denis - of Liverpool sunset fame - is banned from this competition as he set most of the questions. See you all next week.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Sepia Saturday 103 : In A Medical Vein

Our Sepia Saturday prompt this week has a medical element to it - it is a 1960s picture of a nurse in Richmond, Virginia about to go out on calls. The only medic I have to match the theme is the Good Lady Wife and therefore my picture this week dates back to 1983. It shows the GLW and a group of her colleagues just before their final exams. The photograph followed a clinical skills revision session and in order to obtain a suitable record of the event I persuaded them all to look miserable for the occasion.

If anyone should have been miserable it was the poor chap behind the camera (me) because, as well as being the session photographer, I was also one of the session guinea pigs. It had been decided that I had particularly good varicose veins and therefore they were made available for examination. My poor old father - who seemingly had a wonderful heart murmur - was also roped in for the event.

As well as being on-theme, the photograph has a particularly timely connection. The students went on to graduate and eventually became doctors. And on Thursday evening, the GLW and I went to a presentation evening organised by the Local Hospital Trust where she was presented with her 25 year service certificate.

Whilst the doctors made it to 25 years, my varicose veins didn't - they were removed many years ago. I still have the scars from the operations : they serve to remind me of the passage of time. As do the photographs.

To see more Sepia Saturday 103 posts visit the SEPIA SATURDAY BLOG and follow the various links.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Beat That Bugger-Lugs

If you have been following the on-line fraternal battle between the Burnett Boys this week, you will know what to expect. It all started when I published a recent picture of Halifax Market last Sunday. On his Sculpture Studio Blog, my brother responded by publishing a sketch of the same market he had done a number of years ago. Not to be beaten, I then published a photograph of the same scene I had taken some 45 years ago. With that, I should have won : but could my brother leave it there and accept defeat, no way. So he then published a post describing how he had conceived a plan to move the town of Sowerby Bridge in order to avoid a busy road and how he had designed a new market - a kind of "linear Crystal Palace" - to occupy the newly opened river bank. He ended the post with the following words: "Now dear brother, if you can come up with a compilation photograph to illustrate my scheme, you’ve won!" So, no guessing where I was this morning - and here is the result.

You see, dear boy, the photographer can always beat the conceptual artist - we have the ability to translate vague ideas into reality. As a final example of my point, as I wandered around those back streets of Sowerby Bridge I came across a bronze statue. Very pleasant in its own way, but how much better as a two-dimensional photograph.

The Lock Keeper, Sowerby Bridge. By Roger Burnett

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Great Yorkshire Pubs : The Malt Shovel, Harden

The Malt Shovel, Wilsden Rd, Harden, Bingley, West Yorkshire, BD16

On the moors above Harden, a few miles north-west of Bradford, there is supposed to be an ancient stone circle. There are also some prehistoric earthworks. General Fairfax camped his Civil War army in the fields just up the road, and the Bronte family lived only a few miles away. The whole area seems seeped in history and - like fruit that has been left soaking in a bowl of brandy - the buildings radiate a pungent warmth. Well, the Malt Shovel Inn certainly does.

The Malt Shovel is old : possibly seventeenth century, nobody seems to know.  It used to be owned by the de Ferrand family, but when their estate was broken up in 1919 the pub was sold for £1,476 : a decent sum back in those days and only a few pounds less than the price fetched by Harden Hall itself. Like so many country pubs, it has also served as a courtroom, an auction house and even a prison. There are surely worse places to be incarcerated.

Inside it is long and low : the way pubs should be. Real beams hold up a real ceiling and a hand-pump on the bar pulls real ale. I called in at lunch-time - it is rare these days to find a pub open at lunchtime - and soaked up some of the atmosphere, some of the history, and some of the Tetley Bitter. A little white dog came and sat under the table : didn't disturb me, just sat there as though it was part of the fixtures and fittings. A lovely Yorkshire pub, a visit to which makes the day worth living. What more can you ask for?

Monday, November 28, 2011

I Will See Your Market, And Raise You Another Market

It's always been the same, a kind of fraternal jealousy : what one does, the other tries to do better. So after I had posted my picture of Halifax Market yesterday, what does my brother do but post one of his sketches of the same scene. I haven't his permission to reproduce it here but he owes me the price of a new camera battery so I will just do it.

So, what he can do, I can do. Therefore at the top of this post is another picture of Halifax Market and this one dates back forty years or more (the prices of the goods are in pre-decimal money). My picture must pre-date his sketch as the central stall was still called "Under The Clock" in my picture rather than the more recent Max Crossley.

It's your move, dear brother!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunday Shopping

It is Sunday, and even though it is stormy and wet outside, the GLW will shortly announce that we are going shopping (shopping is the default activity of the GLW). I would prefer to stop at home and do nothing in particular (my default activity) but no doubt the lure of the shops will win this particular tug-of-matrimonial-war before the day is out. I will try suggesting that we should stay in and look at pictures of shops : but I doubt if this approach will be successful.

This is a picture of Halifax market. I can still remember the central fruit and vegetable stall (Max Crossley's) from when I was a young lad, indeed I think I have some old black and white shots taken fifty years ago of almost the same scene. The market was built in the last decade of the nineteenth century and is a spectacular glass and wrought iron construction surrounded - like the decorated edges of a fruit cake - by fine stone buildings. Originally it incorporated three pubs but I seem to think that only one of them remains. Indeed I am not sure if that is still open - I must go and check. "Hello love, do you fancy going to Halifax shopping this afternoon?"

Friday, November 25, 2011

Sepia Saturday 102 : Fish, Giraffes And Great Seals

The theme image this week was an extremely busy photograph entitled "Roadside Stand Near Birmingham, Alabama" by that great American photographer, Walker Evans. My matching shot is entitled "Auntie Miriam Near Noah's Ark, Blackpool" by that great Yorkshire photographer, Frank Fieldhouse (a.k.a. Uncle Frank).  Note how the photographer has cleverly balanced the composition so that it appears that a giraffe is stood on the lady's head and two sloping pediments spring forth out of her ears.

The Noah's Ark ride at Blackpool's famous Pleasure Beach was originally built in 1922 by William Homer Strickler, an American fairground construction engineer who was also responsible for building Blackpool's famous Big Dipper. Strickler must have regularly crossed the Atlantic because he was responsible for many of the famous fairground attractions of the North West of England and met his death in 1930 when he fell from a duplicate Noah's Ark he was building down the coast in Southport. My photograph captures the famous attraction in the mid 1930s when it had already undergone a couple of make-overs to its' external appearance. The internal workings - the cogs and the pulleys that made the floor shake and the animals move - remained the same and can still be seen to this day.

The giraffe, along with the 23 similar wooden animals that adorned the exterior, were added in the early 1930s and were designed by the famous British sculptor, Percy Metcalf. Born in Wakefield in 1895, Metcalf was a fascinating character who can best be described as a jobbing sculptor (I am sure he would have viewed such a description as a compliment as will the only other "jobbing sculptor" I can think of, my brother Roger). In addition to creating fairground animals, he designed pots, war memorials and car mascots. Perhaps he is most famous for his work with coins : he designed the first coinage of the Irish Free State and in 1940 he designed the George Cross medal. He was also involved in the design of the Great Seal of the Realm which is used to symbolise the Sovereign's approval of important state documents. There is something quite appealing about an artist who can turn his hand to ceremonial seals and wooden sea-lions will equanimity.

My first thought was that my photograph was a pale shadow of the level of activity of the Evans original. But. like any good old image, once you scratch under the surface layer of silver salts, there is an intriguing world on display.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Almost Wordless Thursday

We are back from Scarborough. There was a delicious out-of-season feel about the place, and it was well worth putting up with the chill wind that blew in from the North Sea in order to experience it. Words can't really describe the November mood, so I am going to let the pictures take centre stage.

Who knows when this sun-metre that stands proudly on the promenade was last set : certainly it wasn't any yesterday that I was there. But even in the damp mists of November there is a certain beauty about the thing : from the studied shading of the lettering to the graceful sweep of the pointer arrow.

The boat in the foreground is the MV Hatherleigh which is a former deep-sea trawler, floating museum, pirate-radio station and corporate hospitality vessel. Now it is a nice centre-piece to a foggy photograph.

This is one of two statues of swimmers that are located in Scarborough. This one is at the far end of the harbour, next to the lighthouse. I never managed to find the other. It was a foggy day.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Scaffolding Of Dismantled Trees

Things are a little foggy around here. The damp fog rolls in waves down from the tops, folding over fields and hedges, making everything more prominent and less prominent all at the same time. Moisture condenses around  the bare branches that are now just the scaffolding of trees dismantled during the Autumn. And then there is my hearing.

The upgrade took place as planned on Friday and I am now the upgraded, improved Alan Burnett Series V. It is an odd thing when people start messing with your senses : everything is a bit odd, a bit different. My initial response is that sounds are much richer, fuller, more textured. In order to have some trusted yardstick, I am delving back into music I know well : does that flute sound clearer, does that piano sound more distinctive, can Louis Armstrong still blow the walls of the recording studio down with his horn solos? There are some down sides : but most of these are because I don't know my way around the new system yet. The telecoil which forms part of the implant doesn't seem as strong as the one in the previous version and this means that I am having trouble with the loop system I use for watching TV. I now get a poor signal when I sit in my chair, but I have discovered that if I lie of the settee with my head hanging off one end I get a much clearer sound signal. The downside of this arrangement is that the picture is then upside down.

But give me a week or two and I will get around these problems and learn to take full advantage of the greater control the new system provides. The fog will lift and everything will fall into sharp focus once more.

We are off to the coast for a couple of days, so I won't be around until Wednesday. See you all then  .... fog permitting.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Sepia Saturday 101 : Second Hand Memories

We have a Chevrolet as a theme prompt this week and if I look through my collection of old family photographs there are precious few motor cars. There are plenty of bicycles and tandems and a fair few motorbikes, but until the 1960s, I can't find any pictures of cars. I do know that during the 1930s my father did own - for a very brief period of time - a Morgan Super Sports Three Wheeler, but to the best of my knowledge no photographs exist of this splendid machine. The story goes that my proud father took my mother for a drive on the first day he owned the car and its' single rear wheel got stuck in a tram-line in Halifax and turned the entire vehicle over. My mother - shaken and stirred - refused to ever ride in my fathers' Morgan again and he sold it a week later. The above photographs is about sixty years old and must have been taken in Bradford. I have no idea who owned this particular car: but the two young lads posing on the running board are my brother and I. Equally, I have no idea what strange object my brother has on his hand : hopefully he will post in and enlighten us all.

In my second photograph, the car is owned rather than borrowed because by the 1960s my father had finally successfully graduated from motorbikes to cars. This particular Hillman Minx was his pride and joy and it would be polished and shined on a weekly basis. My particular job was to polish the chrome grills and bumpers : a dirty and thankless task that used to leave your hands battered and bruised. My fathers' cars were never new, he would buy them second-hand from the firm he used to work for - the Mackintosh's toffee and chocolate company. They would be ex-salesman's cars and therefore they would have been well used but cheap. He was a proud member of the company car club and you can just make out the Mackintosh's Auto Club badge on the front of the car.  Polishing that badge and that radiator grill until you could see your reflection in it -you can't buy memories like that : not even second-hand.

You can see many more Sepia Saturday 101 posts by following the links on the Sepia Saturday Blog.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Life Is For Living, Not For Laminating

A couple of years ago I picked up an Autumn leaf, brought it home and fed it through my laminating machine. Compressed in clear plastic laminate, that most glorious sight of Autumn was preserved on my desk for more than a year until eventually it vanished in the mysterious way things do. So today I tried to repeat the experiment and as Amydog and I went for our walk, I collected a good sample of leaves. I put a selection inside a laminate sheet and fed it into the machine : and then, alas, noticed that it was not emerging from the other side. A smell of burning plastic was soon accompanied by some severe black smoke and I hurriedly chucked the entire contraption out of the door. Which just goes to show that some things cannot be, shouldn't be, preserved. Life is for living, not for laminating.

Tomorrow is my new appointment for my personality upgrade. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Satisfying Curvature On Leeds Road

The English Crown Green Bowling season is long gone and whatever mediocre skills I had managed to develop during the summer months were in danger of evaporating like the wort in a Scotch Whisky still. But Sue, my crown green bowling mentor and guide, has discovered a way of holding back the cold winds of wintertime, so this morning the GLW and I joined her and Denis at the strange igloo contraption that has been erected at the Leeds Road Playing Fields in Huddersfield.

The Huddersfield Crown Green Dome is seemingly unique in the entire country : a 10.5 metre UPVC air-dome covering a 37 metre square artificial crown green bowling surface. There are traditional wooden benches around the edges, a coffee machine in the adjoining building and the surface has the kind of satisfying curvature that all good crown green bowlers enjoy. You still need to wear your winter woollies - it can be a little on the cool side - but it is dry and it is smooth and it is a lot cheaper than decamping to the Algarve for the off-season. "And is the green true?", I can hear you ask. Well my bowls finished up in the gutter with remarkable frequency, so I would say that it mimics a "proper" green rather well.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Scan Though Your Heart Is Aching

An old photograph sees the light of a new day. It is a family Christmas many years ago. You can tell it is Christmas because of the fake tree, the After Eight mints, the bottle of QC Sherry and the smile on the Good Lady Wife's face. But this was a good few years before she became the GLW and she was probably having to experience a Burnett Christmas for the first time. The weather is miserable today so I have been scanning old negatives. All together now : 

"Scan though your heart is aching 
Scan even though it's breaking 
When there are clouds in the sky, you'll get by 
If you scan through your fear and sorrow 
Scan and maybe tomorrow 
You'll see the sun come shining through for you"

Monday, November 14, 2011

Punches, Pliers And Calipers

I would like to say that this is a picture of my workshop, but it isn't. It could have been a picture of the bench my father had at the back of his garage, or a picture of my brothers' eclectic studio and workshop in Dominica : but it isn't. It is a picture I took last week at the Shibden Hall Museum in Halifax. Behind the main Elizabethan house there is a collection of small craft cottages. This one was full of a diverse collection of punches, pliers and calipers : a delight to behold but, as far as their use is concerned, beyond my comprehension.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sepia Saturday 100 : 190 KB Of Pleasure

So here we are at last - my Sepia Saturday 100 post. It wasn't a particularly difficult task to decide which photograph to use for this post : the above photograph of my mother and father - Gladys and Albert - seemed to tick almost all of the boxes. It is an image I have featured before and it is one of my favourite old photographs. Both Albert and Gladys were born in 1911 : 100 years ago. And you can almost see the figure of 100 spelled out in the tandem wheels and struts. But, more than anything, it illustrates the wealth of the photographic image as an art form, as a record of social history, and as a stimulant to the memory.

The size of the above image file is about 190KB : not particularly large by modern standards, but still the equivalent of twenty or thirty pages of formatted text. The relationship between the sizes of text and image files is a modern proof of the old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. But those words, those bits, those bytes are not wasted : for within the humble image can be found a treasure-trove of information. Look at those socks on my father and the way the pattern is woven into the thick wool. Look at the face in the window on the left : observing the scene whilst drinking her morning cup of tea. Look at the sign for Castrol Oil attached to the bay-window of a terraced house like a fish out of a watery soup. Look at the bicycle pump, the hats, the cast iron fences : set your eye and your imagination free to graze the rich pastures of those 190KB

That's the magic of images, And the particular magic of old images is that you are allowed to wander through a foreign land : the past. It is the best entertainment you can get without picking up a pint glass. It is Sepia Saturday.

To see all of the other posts celebrating Sepia Saturday 100 go to the SEPIA SATURDAY BLOG and follow the centenary links.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Inheriting The Genetic Material

The stuff of Sepia Saturday is not just old family photographs : it is old photographs of all kinds. Over the last 99 weeks many people have used old postcards as the starting point for their Sepia Saturday musings - and they have always proved to be particularly effective prompts. As I have said many times before, there is a particular affinity between postcards and blogging : the people who sent those pictorial messages one hundred years ago were undoubtedly made of the same genetic material as todays' bloggers. That need to send a message out into the world, to contact people from far away, to share thoughts, ideas and sights - all these are the common currency of the Edwardian postcard sender and the twenty-first century blogger. 

All we can hope is that the blog posts of today are as sturdy and capable of withstanding the test of time as those old pastecard offerings. All we can hope is that in 100 years time there is a new generation of bloggers (or whatever medium has inherited the genetic material) gathering together every Saturday to share the thoughts and the images of the blogging pioneers.


Monday, November 07, 2011

Fixing Them For Eternity

This coming Saturday will mark the 100th Sepia Saturday : quite a milestone for something which started as a bit of a joke between Kat Mortensen and myself. Even though its' origin can be found in a convenient alliteration, its' mission was always serious : to preserve and share old images via the internet. Within a few weeks, Sepia Saturday had attracted a number of loyal weekly contributors and followers, and over the last two years it has gone from strength to strength. For Sepia Saturday 100 we are asking contributors old and new to join in with a post that is linked to the list on the Sepia Saturday Blog. As a lead-up to Sepia Saturday itself I am going to spend the week looking at all types of old image and I am starting with one of the most popular types of all - the old family photograph.

This is a scan of a tiny two inch square print which must have been taken at a family celebration. The young child being held at the front of the picture is, I suspect, my brother Roger which means that the photograph must have been taken in the mid 1940s.

We can be a little more certain about the others in the group because someone has attached a convenient yellow sticker to the back (and it looks as though it is my writing). Thus, I can tell you that on the back row (from the left) is my paternal grandfather, Enoch Burnett, my uncles Wilf and Harry (the musical workhorse), and my maternal grandfather Albert Beanland. The centre row has my grandmothers Harriet-Ellen Burnett and Kate Beanland, whilst the front row features my Auntie Amy, my mother, my Auntie Annie ... and the mysterious child. My father is missing from the picture (but he would have been taking it) and so am I : I had yet to make an appearance. When I took the photograph out of the box that contains all my old family photographs the yellow sticker had all but fallen off : that precious key to the identification of three generations of my family was almost lost. This post has given me the opportunity to fix the identifications for all time, to attach a digital sticker to the image which will stay there for all time and which will be available to anyone who cares to do a Google search.

And that, of course, was partly what Sepia Saturday was all about. We are the first generation that has had access to such powerful archiving tools. Many of us are the keepers of old images of one type or another. It is our task to fix them for eternity.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Sepia Saturday 99 : Harry The Musical Workhorse

The theme photograph over at Sepia Saturday this week features a band and therefore I am trying to think musically. This is not easy, for the love affair between me and music is entirely one way : I love music and music detests any attempt by me to interpret its' precious muse. The familial hills of the Burnett family were never fully alive with the sound of music : my father would occasionally assault the concertina and grandfather Enoch, I am given to understand, played a not-particularly-mean euphonium. To arrive at proper musical talent we need to leave blood behind and say hello to Uncle Harry.

Harry Moore married my fathers' sister, Annie Elizabeth Burnett in 1933. Just before the marriage he was working as a professional entertainer, touring the country as part of a pierrot show called "The Silhouettes" (See Sepia Saturday 56 for more information). The above photograph probably dates from the early 1930s and shows Uncle Harry (right) taking part in a revue : for some reason Sigmund Romberg's Student Prince springs to mind. Following his marriage, Harry retired from full-time entertaining and combined a day-job as a coal merchant's clerk with evening and weekend work as a pianist in a series of West Yorkshire working men's clubs. His task would be to provide backing for any featured vocalists in addition to providing musical interludes between the comics and the conjurers.

It was the kind of job that made him a musical workhorse - someone who could turn his piano-playing hand to any occasion, be it a family funeral or a joyous wedding. So, if we were in need of some entertainment for the forthcoming 100th birthday party of Sepia Saturday (don't forget, it's next week), he would be just the chap to send for.


Wednesday, November 02, 2011

British Pub Week : The One And Seven-penny Pint

Staying with British Pub week, my picture today features a part of a pub sign I noticed as I was out walking through Halifax on Monday. The pub is the Beehive and Cross Keys which was built in 1932 following the demolition of two earlier pubs : yes, you guessed, the Beehive and the Cross Keys. Both these earlier pubs had been owned by the Swift family and in the 1880s, Henry Swift, established a brewery behind the Cross Keys in the splendidly named Spice Cake Lane. Road widening in the 1930s swept away the earlier pubs, the brewery and - perhaps most tragically of all - Spice Cake Lane.

The new pub was a functional 1930s affair designed by local architects Walsh and Maddocks. Functional it may have been, but in addition to the more traditional inn sign at the front of the premises, the builders set two fine mosaics into the side wall. I seem to recall that the Beehive and Cross Keys was the first pub I ever bought a pint of beer in. I was a little under age and trying to cover my innocence with bravado. The landlord pulled the pint and I handed him one shilling and sixpence. "When did you last buy a pint of beer?" he asked somewhat severely. I looked at him in puzzlement trying to cover my embarrassment. "Nay Lad", he continued, "it's one and sevenpence now".

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...