Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday Miscellany : Divi, Time And A Curly Tash

DIVI : The various comments about the Brooke Bond Dividend Tea advert in the background of my Sepia Saturday post set my mind thinking about the way retailers used to tempt customers in the days before supermarkets had so-called loyalty cards. There were all sorts of savings stamp schemes, but by far the best system was the Co-operative Society which used to pay a dividend to all its' members based on how much they spent over the year. Each local area had its own Co-operative Society and each member had his or her own "number" which was quoted whenever a purchase was made. At the end of the year all your purchases would be added together and a dividend (often as much as a penny for every shilling spent) was paid. As a challenge to all my British readers of a certain age : can you remember your old (or your parents' old) Divi number? I will start the process off - ours was 12880.

TIME : I have just downloaded a new iPhone App which provides a constant read-out of decimal time. Decimal time - based on each day being divided into 10 hours, each consisting of 100 minutes and each minute being divided into 100 seconds - has always appeared to me to be a far more logical way of telling the time. Why it has never caught on, I cannot imagine : but I am determined to conduct an experiment to see if I can live by decimal time for a week. This will be the little man of vision standing proud against the establishment. I will report back on the results of my experiment  - which will start at 4:15:00 today - next week. (come to think of it, why should there be 52 weeks in a year and not 100? I had better make that a separate experiment or you will never know when I am due to report back).

CURLY TASH : Does anyone know how to train a moustache to go curly at the tips? In June I will be making my first proper trip to the United States and I feel that I should make a start on preparing myself for the experience. A caddish curl to my moustache would, I believe, present the American people with something more in the way of what they might expect of an English gent. Do I need to apply hairstyling gel on a regular basis or must I selectively prune in order to train the pattern of growth? Any helpful suggestions would be more than gratefully received. By the way, does anyone know where I can acquire a pair of Plus Fours?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sepia Saturday : The Speed Boys Fly

A dip into the old photograph box pulls out this picture of two boys on their scooters. The one on the right is my brother Roger, the one of the left I am unsure about although the name "Colin Mallinson" creeps out of some dusty corner of my mind for no apparent reason. I know that Rog, in far off Dominica, checks out my blog every so often so at some stage he might let me know who his companion was. The writing on the bottom of the photograph is my mothers'. I think I recognise the location of the photograph : it must have been taken in Great Horton, Bradford and therefore must have been taken before 1952 when the family moved 5 miles down the road (up the road) to Halifax. "Eva's " grocers' shop cohabits that aforementioned dusty corner along with Colin Mallinson and road names such as Southmere Drive and Esmond Street.

So this is a post with almost as many answers as questions : an unusual feature for my Sepia Saturday contributions. We know who, at least, half the people are, we know where the photograph was taken, and we have a fair idea when it was taken. But Sepia Saturday wouldn't be Sepia Saturday without a bit of a mystery. So flip the photograph over and look on the reverse side.  Why is it crown copyright and the property of the Air Ministry? They might be speed boys but surely they hadn't achieved escape velocity. My guess is that the photograph was home developed and printed using paper stock that was a wartime legacy, which, shall we say, fell off the back of a Air Ministry wagon. Could perhaps the photographer have served in the Air Force Photo Reconnaissance Service during the War? Could he or she have "liberated" a stock of photographic paper before being demobbed? Were the two lads on some kind of top secret test of foot-driven flying machines? There, I knew I would finish up with more questions than answers if I tried hard enough.

You can spend your weekend speeding through all the other Sepia Saturday posts by following the links from the Sepia Saturday Blog.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Moving Tale From Hull

My collection of old postcards has been built on the principles of serendipity : there is no great collecting theme nor is there a geographic concentration. I am as happy with a picture postcard of New York as with one of old York. Edwardian chorus girls and late Victorian statesman nestle side by side in my collection (as they probably did in real life). If there is a common factor it tends to be that the cards are scruffy, dog-eared and cheap. Postcards are fantastic time capsules : the results of a great social experiment which caused ordinary people to choose a contemporary view and write a few words of greeting on the reverse side. I would happily take over the Great Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern and pin up thousands of vintage postcards on the walls, some picture side up, some message side up. For me they would say so much, tell so many stories, send thoughts in so many diverse directions. As the directors of the Tate Modern have not yet invited me to put on such an exhibition, I am reduced to regularly featuring random cards here on News From Nowhere.

My random card on this occasion shows Victoria Square in the East Yorkshire city of Hull. The magnificent building in the centre of the view was (when the photograph was taken in the first decade of the twentieth century) the headquarters of the Hull Dock Company. Now it is the home of the Hull Maritime Museum which, I regret to say, I have never visited. Once the sun comes out, I am determined to visit Hull and make up for this cultural shortfall.

The splendid monument that can be seen on the right of the postcard is the 102 foot high Wilberforce Monument which was built in memory of Hull's most famous son, the anti-slavery campaigner, William Wilberforce. Sadly, in the 1930s, some short-sighted local Councillors decided that the monument got in the way of the tram-lines and it was moved - millstone grit block by millstone grit block - to some ornamental gardens nearby.

Harry Miller, the sender of the card, was staying at the Imperial Hotel in Hull in 1908, but I can find no record of such a hotel today. Rather strangely, however, a company - the Imperial Hotel Hull Co - does exists with registered offices in London. It is listed as a property development company. So the card provides a somewhat moving little story : the Dock Offices have become a museum, the Wilberforce Monument has been moved to a park, and the Imperial Hotel has moved to a firm of Chartered Accountants in London.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Interpreting The Rosetta Stone Of Body Art

I got on the bus into Huddersfield yesterday and the only seat available was one of those most un-English matched pairs that faces each other at the back of the bus. These are the seats in which you are forced to stare into the face of your fellow traveler rather than watch the grey rain fall on mucky, monochrome streets. But it wasn't the face of the chap sat opposite me which monopolised my attention, it was his hands.

In his forties, rough, tough and no doubt dangerous to know he sat with his fists clenched in front of him, chewing some kind of gum and staring into the middle distance as though he was on the look out for something to thump. Across the top of his fingers was clearly tattooed the word "HATE", but just above that, between his knuckles, was tattooed another word, but I couldn't quite make out what. I became obsessed with the cause of interpreting the object of his hatred and the more I stared the more I began to fear he would notice and not only take offence but also take the top layer of skin off the bridge of my nose. I carefully shifted position in my seat trying to get a better angle of view, to little or no avail : it was like interpreting the Rosetta Stone of body art. Was that another "A" and could that be an "R", or maybe a "B". If the annoying fellow would only unclench his fist it would be easier to read the message he obviously wanted to transmit to the world. For the entire bus journey I watched, studied, and attempted to interpret. By the time we got into Huddersfield I was fairly sure that his obvious loathing was directed at either Arabs or Aran sweaters, but I still wanted some kind of confirmation. Even though he was getting off the bus a stop before the stop I wanted, I followed him, hoping  for closure. But, alas, the offending hand had retreated inside his coat - checking that his knuckle-dusters were still in his pocket and his cosh was still at hand, no doubt - and all I could catch sight of was his other hand. And on this hand was tattooed the word "LOVE". But just above it, between the knuckles, was tattooed another word, I couldn't quite interpret. What could the antithesis of his loathing be? What could this man of pronounced hatred love? Berbers perhaps? Or possibly Fair Isle sweaters? I had to know. Should I turn my back on my intended destination, the railway station, and follow this man of simplistic emotions, or should I try to live with the fact that I would never know.

I chose life.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Start At The End To Get The Results You Want

So all I need to do is to find £119 (plus VAT) and blogging success is guaranteed. (Hang on, this probably doesn't make sense, let me start at the beginning one final time.....)

Being deaf I normally have problems with telephone conversations. My cochlear implant can just about cope with calls from people I know saying things I expect (the Good Lady Wife, for example, has been saying the same thing for forty years and therefore presents no challenge), but it fails miserably with cold callers of all shapes and sizes. This, of course, is a considerable advantage, and my usual response to the chap trying to sell me debt management, double glazing or a stair lift is to simply say "I am so terribly sorry but I am quite deaf and not able to hear you. However you obviously have my name and address so I would appreciate it if you could put whatever you are trying to say on paper and send it to me. Thank you and goodbye." Such an approach normally gets rid of most people. 

Sometimes I will try and make a special effort to understand what is being said but this often results in more confusion than it is worth. I finish up with some garbled message which is either a result of my imperfect hearing or the somewhat eccentric nature of modern society. Take, for example, a call I received today from British Gas. One of their service engineers contacted me last week to say that an engineer would be calling on Wednesday morning to reconnect the outflow pipe from my boiler. I managed to understand the message and made an appropriate note in my diary. Today I had a phone call from another British Gas customer service operative who said - as far as I was able to understand it - the following : "Hello Mr Burnett, I am just calling you to let you know that someone will be calling you later this afternoon to confirm that an engineer will be calling on Wednesday". This is the strangest communication I have had since, twenty-five years ago I was in hospital recovering from an operation and was shaken awake at 2.00 in the morning by a frightening looking Ward Sister who said "Wake up Mr Burnett, it's time to take your sleeping pill"

Shortly after the bizarre British Gas call this morning I received one of those silly e-mails trying to persuade me to attend a seminar which will transform me into a top salesperson in just three hours. Entitled "Influencing On The Telephone" it promised, for just £119 (plus VAT) to reveal the secrets of, amongst other things :
  • Use the 'principles of influence' that are proven to work
  • Learn the 7 'speaking do's' relevant to every call
  • Learn how to avoid the 3 'speaking don'ts'
  • How to use the words that change minds
  • Find out when it's right to admit you are wrong!
  • Begin at the end and get the results you want!
  • What are the 4 essential skills for outstanding telephone communication
  • Get people to say 'Yes' more often
  • How to avoid the common 'telephone pitfalls'
  • Find out what customers really want on the phone
  • Learn how to easily handle the difficult client
  • Gain techniques for getting people to pay up
  • Handling rejection - how to move on and bounce back
  • The critical importance of the 'little things' - and what they are
  • Turn any 'complainer' into a 'supporter'
  • Develop the 'scripts' that will increase your influence - and your sales
  • Managing the customer's experience for great results
  • Learn the power of the Three H's
  • Understand the 3 C's of customer service
  • Learn the questions guaranteed to turn things around
  • See how the 'Butterfly Effect' can work for you 
I have to admit I was sorely tempted. I would love to know how the Butterfly Effect could work for me. I want people to say "Yes" more often and I would love to know the secrets of the Three H's and the Three C's. I am convinced that these lessons could be just as effective  for blogging as for selling people rubbish over the phone. I am sure there are 7 blogging do's and I fear there may be 3 blogging don'ts. I want to handle rejection (why haven't I had any new followers recently?) and bounce back (who cares). I long to turn complainers into supporters. But most of all I want to begin at the end and get the results I want. So all I need to do is to find £119 (plus VAT) and blogging success is guaranteed.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sepia Saturday 58 : J F W Galbraith And The Secrets Of The Mauretania

My Sepia Saturday spotlight this week falls on Mr J. F. W. Galbraith. Who, you may ask, was J. F. W. Galbraith? The answer is, I am not really sure. And neither is anyone else. 

His photograph is on a real photograph postcard that was added to my collection many years ago. There is no further information on the reverse of the card, nor is there any message, stamp or postmark (and therefore, no date). But surely in these days of instant and unlimited information it should be easy to find out everything about him? It seems not. All I could find out was that he  was a judge and a Conservative member of parliament for the East Surrey constituency between 1922 and 1935. Even though the full record of Parliamentary debates for the last two hundred years (known as Hansard) is available on-line, it appears that Mr Galbraith never uttered a word during his thirteen years in Parliament. Another vague reference suggests that he was President of the Oxford Union in Trinity Term of 1892. And the final piece of a very incomplete jigsaw puzzle is that he was listed as a passenger on the Mauretania sailing from New York to Liverpool on the 13 September 1911. I have to say that my heart did a little dance when I eventually found a Wikipedia page devoted to James Francis Wallace Galbraith but sank into despair again when I discovered that the page was blank.

Perhaps we should not begrudge JFWG his privacy. He took his secrets, his loves, his successes and his failures to his grave and then told nobody where his grave was. All he left us with is an image, a knowing look, and a half-formed smile. A teasing hint perhaps of what might lie below the surface, of what happened on board the Mauretania in September 1911.

Reading the Collected Political Speeches of J F  Galbraith will leave you with time to spare, so why not pop over to the Sepia Saturday Blog and look at the other Sepia Saturday 58 posts.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Smoke And Writs : A Story Of Victorian Enmity

The other day on my Picture Post Blog I featured a photograph that included Wainhouse Tower in Halifax and promised I would relate the story of this strange structure on News From Nowhere. Anyone who is familiar with Halifax in West Yorkshire will have seen Wainhouse Tower - it dominates the valley of the River Calder - but the story behind what is said to be the tallest folly in the world is as strange as the mock-gothic octagonal tower itself. The tower is an abiding monument to, not only Victorian eccentricity, but also the deep enmity between neighbours.

The two neighbours were John Edward Wainhouse (1817-1883) who has been described as something of an  aesthete, a lover of the arts and sciences, and a determined pamphleteer (effectively a nineteenth century blogger), and Sir Henry Edwards (1812-1886), Baronet, Tory MP, Magistrate, High Sheriff of Yorkshire and leading Freemason. Both men had been blessed with a fair amount of wealth and an even more generous supply of eccentricity. Edwards' pet hates included smoking chimneys, linen hanging out to dry, John Edward Wainhouse, and, for some bizarre reason, white cattle. Wainhouses' pet hates were limited to one : Sir Henry Edwards.

In 1870, the Smoke Abatement Act was introduced and Edwards, who was a leading light in the West Yorkshire Smoke Prevention Association, is said to have complained about the smoke emerging from the Washer Lane Dye Works which, at the time, was owned by J E Wainhouse. Wainhouse drew up plans to pipe the smoke to a massive chimney that he would construct near the top of the valley on land that ajoined the home of Sir Henry Edwards. Whilst it was still being constructed, Wainhouse sold the dyeworks and the new owner refused to continue with this expensive, and rather silly, project, but Wainhouse - never being one to let sleeping enmities lie - decided to complete the project himself in order to annoy Edwards. The design was changed, steps were built inside the structure and mock-gothic arrow slits were added. The massive 280 foot tower was crowned with ornate, neo-renaissance style viewing platform. Wainhouse claimed that the reason for this was so that he could carry out astronomical observations and scientific experiments, but the real driving force was to annoy Edwards. The feud between the two Victorian gentlemen continued for years and they continued to fight each other in the courts, and in printed pamphlets.

After the death of Wainhouse, the tower was sold by auction but nobody could think of a viable use for it. For a time the Gothic entrance was used as a chicken coop. One of the strangest uses was as a radio aerial for an early experimental radio station (known as 2KD) which was operated in the first decade of the twentieth century by William Ernest Denison, the Chairman of the local newspaper company, the Halifax Courier. By 1919 there was a danger that it would either be demolished or that it would fall down and the same newspaper led a campaign for it to be bought by public subscription and placed in the care of the local Council. It was bought by the Council in 1919 for £450.  During the rest of the century it was opened a couple of times a year so that local people could make the long climb up 400 steps to enjoy the views from the viewing platform. It was closed in 2007 in order to carry out essential repairs but the Tower is open again. The opening days for 2011 have yet to be published, but when they are I will try to climb my way to the top and let you know whether I can still see Sir Henry Edwards, shaking his fist and waving a writ, from up there.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Cautionary Tale Of A Fictitious Pension And A Steam Engine

If my blogging activities appear to be curtailed at the moment, blame it on the tax-man. It is that time of the year I hate : only a few days left before the deadline for submitting my tax return on-line. It is not that my tax return is in any way complicated, it is the task of finding the few bits of paper I require and the challenge of somehow entering them into an on-line system that seems almost Kafkaesque in its complexity. 

Two or three years ago, when I first tried to fill my tax form in on-line, I hit on a technical problem. I managed to complete the first part of the section relating to income from pensions without a problem, but the second half of the section required me to list my income from my State Pension. The logical answer to this question is nil as I have not yet reached state pension age. I tried to enter "nil" into the on-line form but a message came up stating "this is an invalid response". Assuming mere letters had confused the system's mathematical brain, I tried entering  "0.00", but again I was told "this is an invalid response". I tried to just ignore the question, but the system would not let me move on to the next section as "your responses to this section are incomplete". Fearing that I might get lost in tax-form limbo, never being able to move on to the next tax year, I was forced to adopt desperate measures, so I eventually entered into the form that I received an annual State Pension of £1.00. The system seemed delighted with this response and allowed me to move on to the next section.

Towards the end of the form, there was a section that allowed you to enter any additional information so I typed in "In Section 4.2 I have said that I receive a pension of £1.00. This is not really true but your system refused to allow my to make a nil entry". Feeling satisfied with myself I pressed "enter" only to be greeted with a message saying "This is not a valid comment". I tried responding with additional phrases such as "This is a very valid comment you ignorant mother-board", but the system refused to accept them, so, in desperate need of closure, I submitted the form without comments.

I then proceeded to forget about things and had no further communications from Mr Taxman until a good few weeks later I received a letter from him saying that I owed 37 pence in unpaid tax. This, obviously, was the tax on my fictitious £1.00 pension. In retrospect, I should have taken the issue up then and written back with the sad tale of my fictitious pension, but I didn't, I had better things to do : I had to watch paint dry, trees grow, or even a game of cricket.

When the time arrived to fill in the form next year I was pleased to see that it had been amended and the "nil" return problem had been overcome. But my 37p unpaid tax bill still remained and with interest it had increased to £2.47p. Last year I tried to send Mr Taxman £5 with a note saying "keep the change", but the Good Lady Wife wouldn't let me in case I made him angry. So we have reached stalemate. If I live long enough, I no doubt will owe everything I own to the Taxman, But it will serve me right for inventing a fictitious pension.

What has this to do with the document at the top of this post you might ask. I found this invoice dating back to 1912 as I searched through a box of papers looking for the necessary documents to fill in this years' tax return. Now I have to confess that I can't remember being paid £6.7s.2d by Messrs Fisher Firth of Marsden. Indeed I can't remember ever being a steam engine maker or, for that matter, being alive in 1912. But having found it, should I enter it into my tax return? But given the long-term implications of my fictitious pension, who knows where that will lead me to.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sepia Saturday 57 : (Conductor Mr. F Metcalfe)

My Sepia Saturday contribution this week is a bit of a lucky dip into Great Uncle Fowlers' Picture Postcard Collection. And out comes a "real photograph" of the Skipton Mission Brass Band (Conductor Mr F Metcalfe). Quite why he should have this picture I am not sure : I don't think he was a bandsman and he lived in Keighley rather than Skipton (although there is only a few miles between the two). But it is a fine photograph in a rich sepia tone. We could probably track down the identity of the photographers' assistant who produced the print as he (or she) has conveniently left their fingerprint in the left edge of the print.

Skipton Mission Brass Band was formed in the 1870s and continued to exist until the outbreak of World War I (1914). After the war it was reformed but the name was changed to Skipton Prize Band. It appears that Fred Metcalfe continued as the conductor and the band won considerable fame (and a number of prizes) at competitions in the 1920s and 1930s. The band still exists and is now known as Skipton Brass.

There is a splendid website called IBEW (Internet Bandsman's Everything Within) which has a marvelous collection of old band photographs and within the collection are two of the Skipton Mission Band. Whilst these are not the same photograph as the one in my collection, several of the faces are recognisable.

Take the time to view some of the other Sepia Saturday contributions this weekend. And whilst you do so why not listen to the Black Dyke Mills Band play Annie Laurie.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Did Jack Poingdestre Get Shipwrecked On The Elland Canal?

It started with a vintage picture postcard of Elland I bought on eBay for 99 pence. Elland is just down the road and I always try to keep a watch for cheap vintage postcards of local scenes. It was a picture of Elland Town Hall and I thought it might be interesting to compare the view in 1908 (the year the card was used) with the view now. When the card arrived through the post, I flipped it over and read the message on the reverse.

The message reads as follows:
To:  Miss Eva Poingdestre, Navy Cottage, Millbank, Island of Jersey, Europe
Dear Eva, Hoping you are all still living. You seem to think I'm dead. I have not heard from you for a long time. Write seen, Weather very cold. Kind regards to all. From your loving Cousin Jack.

I spend a short time trying to work out why Jack Poingdestre might come to be in Elland before I noticed the postage stamps which were not British, but Canadian. So here we have a lad with a somewhat unusual name, whose family live in the Channel Islands sending a picture postcard of Elland, West Yorkshire from Canada. There must be a story there somewhere for someone with a vivid imagination. The story I came up with - based on a relatively brief internet search - turns out to be much more unusual than anything my vivid imagination could have invented.

John Thomas "Jack" Poingdestre was born on the Isle of Jersey in 1878, one of twelve children. He left home at an early age and went to sea where he served as an Able Seaman on the trans-Atlantic liners (this is perhaps why he was sending postcards from Canada although it does not explain why it was a picture postcard of Elland). In 1912 he was serving on board the Oceana when it sank off Newhaven. He survived the ordeal, and immediately signed up to go to sea again on another ship. Unfortunately he chose the Titanic which was about to make its maiden voyage from Southampton. When the Titanic started sinking he was put in charge of lifeboat 12, one of the last lifeboats to escape the sinking ship. He had managed to collect some 70 survivors of the disaster in his boat before eventually being picked up by the Carpathia.

You would think such an experience would put anyone off the sea for life, but not Jack. A few years later he was on active service during World War I on board the Titanic's sister ship, the Britannic which was serving as a hospital ship in the Mediterranean. With Jack on board, her fate was sealed : she was sunk after striking a mine off the Greek coast in November 1916. Jack survived once again and little else is known of his life or when he died. With luck like his you half expect him to still be alive now.

There is no definite evidence that the Jack Poingdestre of my postcard is the same John Thomas "Jack" Poingdestre of the Titanic, but it would seem likely. However, his incredible story does nothing to explain why he was sending picture postcards of Elland (which is at least 50 miles from the sea).

If you want to see what the view of Elland Town Hall looks like today, take a look at my latest Picture Post entry.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Who NNOSE The Meaning Of The Internet?

Like so many posts that start life as a light-hearted hiatus - a custard cream of a post, if you like - yesterdays' little excursion into the work of Hans Pillinger (1889-1955) raised a number of very important issues and may yet have brought about a major breakthrough in understanding the question that has been troubling so many people for the last decade : what on earth is the purpose of the Internet? I have been overwhelmed with the number of responses from people who believe that I have somehow - somewhat unintentionally but nevertheless serendipitously - focused the limelight of critical analysis on a problem that has so long tortured men's souls : what to do with orphaned socks.

NNOSE No. 1 : Black with multi-coloured narrow stripes
I have therefore established a new organisation which will be known as NNOSE (News From Nowhere Orphan Sock Exchange) and which henceforth will be dedicated to reuniting orphaned socks, wherever they may be. This truly global initiative requires nothing more than for you to post a weekly scan of any orphaned sock in your collection and agree to post it off to any other member of the NNOSE Network who has a similar available orphan. I urge all my friends and followers to post (digitally) a sock in the hope that soon they will be able to post (logistically) the same sock to a grieving partner. The movement could become viral within a matter of weeks. At long last a real reason for the Internet will have been discovered. Mankind will be a happier, more balanced, warmer, and smarter species. If you would like to lay a claim to my NNOSE No 1, all you need do is post a picture of a similar sock (for the sake of veracity, in a different pose please) along with your mailing address and my orphan will be winging its way to you. Twitter and Facebook campaigns are in the process of being designed along with a suitable logo which will enable you to proudly show all your friends that you are a member of the NNOSE Network. Watch this space (or should that be smell this space) for further updates.
- - - - - 
On a slightly different subject I was fascinated to notice that Hans Pallinger (1889 - 1955) had made an appearance on at least one listing of famous twentieth century artists within a couple of hours of my post going up yesterday.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Lesser Pathetique On Blue : Hans Pallinger (1889 - 1955)

Lesser Pathetique On Blue : Hans Pallinger (1889 - 1955)

Pallinger's acclaimed 1952 work "Lesser Pathetique On Blue" was heralded as one of the great works of twentieth century art which established a critical frame of reference through which the Pop Art movement of the mid twentieth century could be not only viewed, but also processed within a pseudo-mathematical context. R. T. S. Wormold, in his seminal work, "Fate And Viewpoint In Visual Art" : describes the work as "a pastiche of colour and shape which challenges the senses to search for balance whilst at the same time shocking the linear sensibilities to reach a non-linear conclusion". Several scholars have commented on the inverse relationship between space - as exemplified by the two dimension space between the rows of objective plasticity - and solidity in terms of the almost nuclear regression of colour which is seen particularly in object 10 on row 2 and object 1 on row 3. However it is interpreted, it surely is one of the great works of twentieth century art.
- - - - - 
The Lad went back to University on Sunday taking with him our love, our best wishes for success, and half my bloody socks. I wouldn't mind him taking my socks if only he would bring them back - but he only half does so. This means that occasionally, our staircase becomes a kind of Salvation Army Hostel for orphaned socks as I try to match up grey with grey, striped with striped, speckled with speckled. I was almost tempted to take a picture of it.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Sepia Saturday 56 : The Acme Of Perfection In Pierrotic Entertainment

I inherited this photograph from my Auntie Annie and Uncle Harry. During the late twenties and early thirties, Uncle Harry "trod the boards" as a member of a touring concert party, and this, I believe, is a picture of the group in question - "The Silhouettes Concert Party". Without doubt, that is Uncle Harry ("Harry Moore Pianist and Tenor Vocalist"), second from the right. The identity of the other members of the party is somewhat unclear, but I also inherited a small programme from an appearance by the group at the Pier Hall, Bognar in 1931 and this provides a cast list.

Now we have names, the game becomes matching names to faces. My guess is as follows, but there is no reason why my guess is better than anyone else's, so feel free to mix and match at will. But, for me, the photograph could well feature (from left to right) :

Elsie Prince (Soprano, late of "Farce" and other leading concert parties)
Tom Lind (The London Light Comedian and Dancer, late of Albert De Courville Productions)
Unknown Dancer
Unknown Puppet!
Harry Christian (Comedian, late of "Catlins" and own show "Comedy")
Johnny Dixon (Comedian/Producer, prior to the last season for three years with the "Arcadian Follies" at Blackpool and Hastings)
Mason Cole (Baritone, lead from musical comedy and revue)
Unknown Dancer
Harry Moore
Audrey Hawke (Soubrette and Dancer, a well known young pantomime principal boy)

The reverse of the cast list provides a wonderful description - "We Beg To State ... " - of the type of entertainment on offer by this "exceptional attraction", which was "The Acme of Perfection In Pierrotic Entertainment". So roll up, roll up and reserve your seats now. 

I have another document dating back to Uncle Harry's career in the Concert Party which I will return to next week. In the meantime why not take a look at some of the other fabulous Sepia Saturday entries by going to the Sepia Saturday Blog.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Swimming Through The Library Of Congress

Library of Congress Collection
For the weekly calls on the Sepia Saturday Blog I am undertaking a tour of the various on-line archives of vintage photographs. They can be a wonderfully rich source of images for bloggers as many of the archives - particularly those taking part in the Flickr Commons initiative - provide images with no known copyright restrictions. Either as illustrations for esoteric ramblings - "The influence of men's head-ware on long-distance swimming in the 1920s" - or merely as things of beauty in themselves, many of these old images can brighten up even the most Thursday-weary post. The image above comes from the splendid Library of Congress Collection entitled "News in the 1910s" and shows the swimmer Eva Morrison. One interesting question is the date of the photograph. The LoC suggest that it was taken between 1910 and 1920, but Morrison wasn't born until 1911 and did most of her swimming in the late 1920s and early 1930s. I show the picture here for no other reason than I came across it as I was trawling through the collection to choose an image to illustrate the Sepia Saturday call. With over 1,500 images available in the on-line collection, it may be some time before I emerge from the other side. But, as I have said before, this is one of the great joys of blogging : after three days you can abandon your cherished New Years' Resolution of organised categorisation and go swimming through the Library of Congress.

Whilst enjoying a brief trip to the surface to breath, allow me to remind you that Sepia Saturday is back in business after its Christmas and New Year Break. If you want to participate, simply post an old image, say something about it, and link to the list on the Sepia Saturday Blog.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

An Alphabet of Yorkshire Pubs : B - The Black Bull, Birstall

5, Kirgate, Birstall, West Yorkshire Tel : 01274 873039

In alphabet terms, they don't come much better than the Black Bull in Birstall (that's three B's and should entitle me to at least a free pint of beer). And if you like your pubs old, characterful, stewed in history, and cozy, they don't come much better than the Black Bull either. Nobody quite knows how old it is : there are certainly 17th century features but other bits and pieces have been grafted onto it over the centuries. It is one of those long pubs, the type that look as though they started life as a normal pub and got stretched over the years, like a stick of seaside rock. It needed to stretch to meet the demands on its services because, although you would not think so when you see it now, this was once the focal point of a busy local community.

It owed its eighteenth and nineteenth century popularity to two factors : it is situated opposite St Peter's Parish Church and it stood alongside the important Elland to Leeds turnpike road. St. Peter's was originally the centre of a wide ranging parish and parishioners would need to travel to Birstall for important occasions and possibly need overnight accommodation. Thus the Black Bull was a kind of Travel Lodge of its day. The Elland to Leeds turnpike was one of the great turnpike roads built in West Yorkshire in the 1740s which, for the first time, provided relatively efficient road transport between the emerging industrial towns of West Yorkshire. Thus the Black Bull was a kind of motorway service station of its day.

During its heyday, the Black Bull was also a kind of community centre. The local Magistrate's Court met in a room - which is still preserved - upstairs. The Inn was used as an auction house and as a polling station for local elections. Village life revolved around the Black Bull and there can be few Birstall inhabitants or visitors who have not passed through the low-slung doors. No doubt this included Charlotte Bronte (is there a pub in West Yorkshire she didn't visit!) for she had strong connections with the village and her great friend Ellen Nussey is buried in St. Peter's churchyard.

In the twenty-first century, the Black Bull feels a little cut off. The main roads have by-passed it and Kirgate is now a quiet little back lane. The parish of St. Peter's was divided up in the nineteenth century and the Victorian church has a leafy and sleepy feel about it. But the Black Bull battles on in the way that so many pubs are forced to do in these most pub-unfriendly days. It serves real ale (I samples a rather pleasant pint of Ingleborough Ice from the Yorkshire Dales Brewing Co which went down a hell of a lot better than most of the ice we have suffered from recently). It normally serves food (it didn't on the day I called it so I was unable to try it out). It has function rooms, it has wi-fi and it has managed to get itself included in the latest CAMRA Good Beer Guide.

So good luck to the Black Bull, may it continue to thrive and continue to represent all that is best about the West Yorkshire village inn. It has survived over 400 years by adapting to the changing times and becoming a conglomerate of local history (there is a stone built into the end wall, the precise provenance of which is still unknown). May it survive the next 400 years by adopting the same strategy.

For more beery posts or Yorkshire posts follow these links:

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Fat Dog To The Big Apple 61 : Pig's Ears, Black Elk And Herman's Hermits

"No, not pig's ear, new year". I sometimes wondered whether Amy, my soft-coated wheaten terrier, misunderstood me on purpose, just to wind me up. We were walking north along Highway 101 sandwiched between the great Oregon sand dunes to our left and Woahink Lake to our right. I was trying to explain to my occasionally-faithful travelling companion that we needed to make a New Year Resolution to send regular reports of our epic virtual dog-walk to the News From Nowhere Blog. But the wind blew in from the Pacific and "New Year" was somehow transformed into a promise to buy Amy a pig's ear when we next came across a pet shop. For the 100th time since we left Los Angeles, I asked myself why had I chosen Amy as my walking companion. It's a virtual trip after all, and I could have chosen any manner of virtual companion. Shakespeare might have been a bit too wordy - "Looketh at those mounds of mighty silicon, prithee" - and I have always found George Bernard Shaw a touch depressing, but Albert Einstein might have been fun, or Jacob Bronowski, or sexy Lillian Gish. Instead I am stuck for the next ten years with a dumb blond of a dog whose interest range from chicken to pig's ears.

Old Town, Florence, Oregon
As we approached the town of Florence our spirits rose. "Beautiful evergreen forests, 17 sparkling lakes, 40 miles of towering dunes, meandering Siuslaw River and the dazzling Pacific Ocean" : I read to Amy from the tourist brochure, but I suspect it was the presence of the Florence Area Humane Society ("supplier of pig's ears and other dog treats") which caused her tail to wag. But pigs and their ears aside, Florence is a charming spot, particularly the old town which clings to the banks of the Siuslaw River. There is rather a nice story about how it got its name and that was from the wreck of an old French sailing vessel - "The Florence" - which ran aground near the mouth of the Siuslaw River. The plank with the name of the boat was washed ashore and later hung over the old hotel. Thus the town became "Florence"

As Amy chewed her pig's ear and I enjoyed a glass of extraordinary strong Black Elk Stout from the Florence-based Wakonda Brewery, I reflected on the possibility of relocating myself (and The Good Lady Wife, of course) to this part of the Oregon coast. Florence is quite a retirement community with well over a third of the population being of more mature years (wrinklies). According to the entertainment guide, appearing in the Florence area in the coming weeks will be Herman's Hermits, The Crystals, Elton John, and - somewhat surprisingly - Elvis Presley. But perhaps there is more to life than sand dunes, Elvis impersonators and pig's ears, so I put off my relocation plans for the moment.

Sea Lion Caves, Near Florence, Oregon
If we did decide to make the move to Florence and couldn't afford the house prices (average advertised house price was $279,662 last year) we could do worse than move into the Sea Lion Caves a few miles up the coast. Seniors can get admittance for just $11 and children under 2 get in free (and Amy has the intelligence and cuteness of a two-year old). According to the Guinness Book of Records, Sea Lion Caves are the largest sea caves in the world. More importantly, they are the last remaining home in North America of stellar sea lions and Amy is almost as fond of a choice cut of sea lion as she is of pig's ears (Amy has asked me to point out to any conservationists reading this, that this is just one of her little jokes). Not wanting to put the issue to the test, we bi-passed the caves and took the tour of the charming little Heceta Head Lighthouse instead.

Ten Mile Creek Bridge, Oregon
And then we walked north and enjoyed the lovely coastal views and reflected on the fact that we were happy to be virtually walking again. I sang bits from the greatest hits of Herman's Hermits whilst Amy picked out bits of pig ear which had become lodged between her teeth. Man and dog at one with nature.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Rummaging In The Nether Regions Of My Pigeon Holes.

First of all let me say a Happy New Year to all my on-line friends. It's a joy to have got to know you all over the last couple of years and I look forward to reading all of your diverse and creative posts over the coming year. As you will see, during the Christmas and New Year Blogging Break I have been making one or two changes, although these constitute little more than minor tinkering rather than radical changes of direction. From now on I will try to concentrate most of my blogging activities into just two blogs : News From Nowhere (more words than pictures) and Picture Post (more pictures than words). I have tried to organise the News From Nowhere Blog into five distinct sections, although many posts will refuse to be pigeon-holed and will continue to play havoc with my grand plans for catagorising all human life and activity. The five sections are as follows:

The News From Nowhere SEPIA SUPPLEMENT will host all of my contributions to the Sepia Saturday meme and all of my posts about family history and the like. More and more I tend to think of News From Nowhere as a kind of on-line magazine, in which case it is the only magazine to have its own Sepia Supplement. The weekly calls for Sepia Saturday posts will, of course, remain within the dedicated Sepia Saturday Blog which will be entirely unaffected by this outbreak of News from Nowhere spring-cleaning.

The News from Nowhere YORKSHIRE MIXTURE will contain all my posts which relate in one way or another with my native county of Yorkshire. This will be the home of both my soon-to-be concluded "West Yorkshire In Ten Squares" project and my various other outbreaks of bleating sycophancy about the beauty of the heather-sown moors and smoke-glazed stone walls of my homeland. For those not from these parts, I should explain that Yorkshire Mixture is a well-known brand of boiled sweets, much loved by all dentists for their ability to chip teeth and detach fillings with a minimum of effort.

POSTCARDS FROM NOWHERE will showcase my collection of old postcards, most of which date back to the early part of the twentieth century. Whilst the postcards are often things of beauty in themselves, I particularly like them for their ability to prompt me to undertake the most glorious wild goose chases along all manner of dusty and forgotten circuitous routes. Occasionally a more modern postcard might find its way into the selection simply to illustrate the general theory that Blogs and Rules don't easily co-exist.

If you read my blog on a regular basis you might have noticed that I am somewhat fond of beer and all types of pubs, inns and taverns. The PINT OF BEST section will gather together all my beery pontifications and contain links to my Great Yorkshire Pubs series. For the sake of continuity, I will keep the Great Yorkshire Pub Blog open, but all new material will find its way into the Pint of Best section of News From Nowhere.

Finally, I am determined to keep going with my epic virtual dog-walk from Los Angeles to New York and I will post fortnightly updates which will be added to the section entitled FAT DOG TO THE BIG APPLE. Again, for the sake of continuity, I will keep the Fat Dog Blog open but, as with the Great Yorkshire Pubs Blog, you won't need to follow it as all material will be linked from the News From Nowhere Blog. I recently recalculated how long it would take me to reach New York based on my current rate of progress and Amy and I now expect to arrive in the Bog Apple sometime in 2019. So, fear not, there are plenty of posts to come yet.

Now I know all this sounds jolly complicated, but it really is not. The "sections" are nothing more than index pages that - should you be so singularly odd as to want to read related posts - can guide you to other posts on a similar subject. All new material will find its way onto the Homepage of the blog and there is no reason at all to rummage around in the nether regions of my pigeon holes. Indeed, there is no reason to do anything other than assume that things will go on exactly as they did before. If you have any objections to this, feel free to send me a comment and I will categorise it, and pigeon-hole it accordingly.

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...