Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sepia Saturday 72 : Marie Sans Chemise

A clock with connections to the First World War was the Archive Image introducing this weeks' Sepia Saturday and I have decided to follow the theme by posting another clock with wartime connections. The image is from a postcard that is part of my collection, a postcard which was never posted, but does have a name penciled upon it, that of a certain Miss W Willby. I suspect that the card was bought during the First War - Amiens featured prominently in the campaigns and hosted hundreds of thousands of Allied troops - but why it was not sent we will never know.

The magnificent clock was constructed in the 1880s, the gift of the Mayor of Amiens, Louis Dewally. It was erected close to the railway station so that the citizens would never again be late for their trains. At the base of the iron column, the sculptor Albert Roze fashioned a magnificent reclining nude in bronze. It is said that the statue shocked some local citizens - I can hardly believe this as it is France not West Yorkshire - but it soon became a famous feature of the city and was christened "Marie Sans Chemise".

During the Second World War the statue and clock were taken down in order to protect them from damage, but in the chaos that followed the end of the war, they mysteriously vanished and were never seen again. To mark the Millennium, the City Council commissioned a copy of both the clock and statue and they now can be found in area of the Cathedral. So, in Amiens, time was lost but later found again.

This is a SEPIA SATURDAY post. You can enjoy all the other contributions to Sepia Saturday 72 by following the links on the Sepia Saturday Blog.

Friday, April 29, 2011

He's Handsome, Stately, Middle-Sized - And Watching The Wedding

Yes, here I am at 8.00am watching the television and the build-up to the Royal Wedding. Let me quickly add that it is not a surfeit of patriotism, nor a fondness for the monarchy, nor an urgent need to spot the wedding dress which has me here on duty and glued to the television. My task is far more prosaic : I am under instructions to watch the early stages so that I can wake the Good Lady Wife up once it gets interesting (she is maintaining a delicate balance between the need for a sleep-in on her day off and her desire to wallow in the syrup-sweet celebrations). As I write this, there is a chap wearing a red tunic entering Westminster Abbey : is that of sufficient interest to interrupt her sleep?

To amuse myself whilst I listen to endless discussions about dresses and abbeys, I go in search of newspaper reports of a previous Royal Wedding : the marriage of Prince Albert Edward and Princess Alexandra in March 1863. There were a good few descriptions of the ceremony itself, but many of the reports focus on local celebrations in the towns and villages throughout the country. These usually consisted of the firing of muskets by the local militia followed by a dinner and beer in the local pub. It seems that little changes.

One report which did catch my eye, however was the report of the special celebration organised by the Glasgow Abstainers' Union to mark the royal wedding. This must have been a jolly affair indeed and the report in Glasgow Herald of March 11th 1863 goes into considerable detail about the jolly songs that were sung by all. According to the report, the entire gathering sang the following song in honour of the Prince. The thought of hundreds of sober Glaswegian voices singing the following verse makes my waiting and watching slightly less onerous.

"My Patie is a lover gay,
His mind is never Muddy, O,
His breath is sweet as new-mawn hay,
His face is fair and ruddy, O
He's handsome, stately middle sized,
He's comely in his walking, O
The glancing o' his e'en surprise,
And it's Heaven to hear him talking, O"

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Twitter For Gentlefolk : Postcard From Cedarville

Click on images to enlarge
Oh what delights have been dropping through my letterbox since I started the Gentle Twitter Project and this postcard from the delightful Betsy Brock of Cedarville Ohio (and the wonderful My Five Men Blog) is up there amongst the very best. Betsy has not only managed to find me a vintage postcard, but one with a British connection. It is a postcard which started its life in London in the early twentieth century and came full circle and recrossed the Atlantic 90 years later. In keeping with the wonderful synchronicity that seems to permeate blogging, I have stayed at the Imperial and therefore the choice of card is extra special. However, the hotel looks very different these days than it did in the postcard image above. During the 1960s, it was extensively "redeveloped" and now presents a functional concrete facade to Russel Square. If the glory of the original Victorian hotel has faded, the joy of connecting with friends throughout the world - whether by postcards or blogs - has not. Thank you Betsy.


Twitter For Gentlefolk : Postcard From Tauranga
Twitter For Gentlefolk : Postcard To Tauranga
Twitter For Gentlefolk : Postcard To Tampa

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sepia Saturday 71 : Quite A Journey In A Little Wooden Pram

If it's not one thing, it's another at the moment. The Lad is home for Easter and monopolising both my room and my computer and therefore I'm not getting online half as much as I would like to. On top of which we are now in the run-in to the GLW's retirement and there seems to be a long list of things to do and people to see. 

For my Easter Sepia Saturday post I am featuring one of my very favourite photographs of the Good Lady Wife. Here she is sat in an old wooden pram with the mills of Elland in the background. The photograph must have been taken in about 1954. 57 year later we are living within walking distance of this scene (the mill you can see was only pulled down a few months ago). In a few weeks. time she will retire from her job as Consultant Pathologist and Head of the Infection Control Directorate at the Hospital Trust which today covers, amongst other places, the little town of Elland where she was born. Quite some journey in a little wooden pram.

You can follow the journeys of people from around the world by checking out he posts on the Sepia Saturday Blog.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Twitter For Gentlefolk : Postcard From Old Sodbury

Chairman Bill (aka Philip van Bergen) was one of the very first followers of my News From Nowhere Blog. By the summer of 2009, the Blog had been running for over two and a half years and the only followers were a couple of close friend and a far-flung relative. I knew no other bloggers and I had no experience of blogging as a two-way process. And then within a couple of months came my first real followers - Tony Zimnoch and Chairman Bill - and via them I was introduced to that world-wide circle of charming and talented people who, today, I am glad to call my friends.

Chairman Bill is a self-proclaimed "optimistic, heavy drinking, cantankerous, iconoclastic, foul-mouthed, devil worshipping misogynist". He is also one of the funniest people I have ever come across. His daily thoughts and reflections on life are contained in his Blog "The Thoughts of Chairman Bill", but his sparkling humour and intelligence can also be gauged from his frequent comments on my own blog over the last couple of years. His recent postcard was sent to prove to me that the unlikely sounding village of Old Sodbury (where he lives) actually exists. One day soon I intend to make my way there and buy him a pint in the Dog Inn. It is the least I can do for all the pleasure his posts have brought me over the years.

A number of postcards have landed through my postbox recently and therefore I am falling behind a little with my posting of them on my Blog. I will try and catch up by having a second "Twitter For Gentlefolk" feature later this week.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Gather 'Round People Wherever You Roam

"Four weeks", the Good Lady Wife said to me this morning as she set off to work. It has become a familiar countdown over the last six months or so, the week starting with a single, ever-decreasing total, a number that seems to be able to inspire joy in her and dread in me. It means that she now has only four more weeks to work before retiring : a cause of great joy as she contemplates endless shopping trips with her life's companion. For me it means lifestyle changes which will result in less time for aimlessly wandering down the digital side streets of the Internet and more time devoted to aimlessly wandering down the main streets of shopping malls. But I am determined to keep my two remaining Blogs - News From Nowhere and Picture Post - going, even if there are a few more gaps in the stream of consciousness.

I remain hopeful that after a few weeks of watching daytime TV, she might be tempted to sign back on, albeit for a few sessions a week. I can then be left in peace to wander around, going nowhere in particular and pausing to admire the adventurous nature of a dandelion. The times maybe a' changing - but hopefully by not too much.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Sepia Saturday 70 : Mr James And The Enigmatic Smile

My picture this week is a portrait if James T Ickringill which appears to have been taken during the First World War. The picture came to me from my fathers' sister, Annie Elizabeth Burnett 1903-1978, and I can remember her talking about "Mr James" towards the end of her life. She was born in Bradford in 1903 and she would have left school and started work in about 1917. Her first job - indeed I have a feeling that it might have been her only job until she got married - was at Ickringill's Mill in Legrams Lane, Bradford. Just how come she had a signed photograph of "Mr James", I do not know, but I can half imagine. By the early twenties she would have been 18 year old beauty. Maybe "Mr James" had left his youth on the battlefields of Flanders, but still he had pasteboard portraits he would hand out to the young mill-girls with a world-weary twinkle in his eyes. I can still remember the enigmatic smile on Auntie Annie's face as she spoke of "Mr James".  Who knows? Sometimes it is better not to know - just imagine.

Smile at the other posts that are taking part in Sepia Saturday 70 by following the links on the Sepia Saturday Blog.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Man In Space And A Woolly Mammoth Outside the Odeon Cinema

For us all, there are those dates. Those dates that get frozen in historical time. Those times when the actions of the individual become connected with great events in world history simply because they share the same date. Where were you when Kennedy was assassinated or when the Twin Towers fell? Where were you when it was announced that the first man had gone into space?

Like most people who are old enough to remember that day - fifty years ago yesterday - when it was announced that Yuri Gagarin had gone into space, orbited the earth, and returned safely, I can remember exactly where I was when I heard the news. I was outside the Odeon Cinema in Halifax, just across the road from the new Halifax Bowling Alley. I was on my way home from school, heading for the bus station, when I saw a newspaper billboard. "Man in Space" it declared in suitably large black letters. What may have happened in the lead up to the flight I cannot remember, whatever happened after the flight I can only remember vaguely. But that moment I read the newspaper headline remains frozen in time, perfectly preserved like one of those woolly mammoths they occasionally pull out of the Russian tundra.

By chance, I have a photograph of the spot where I read the news which I took a couple of years later. It was taken at night and after a heavy shower of rain. But in my mind, there is a young lad in his school uniform meeting up with the woolly mammoth of history outside the Odeon Cinema.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Twitter For Gentlefolk : Postcard From A Silver Fox

For a long time I didn't think that David Lynch (a.k.a. The Silver Fox) existed, I thought that he might be a product of his own extremely active imagination. And then I realised that there might be a degree of contradiction in that thought, in that if he didn't exist he could not have an imagination. But I digress. And that is what David does so magnificently. Digress. Starts saying one thing and end up saying something else and then coming back and saying what he first was going to say. And always with a style and a humour that is compulsive. In short, he's my kind of blogger. And he must exist, because he has sent me a card which is the latest entry into my weekly Twitter For Gentlefolk feature. And just in case you want Audubon, here's the link the postcard couldn't quite manage.

Twitter For Gentlefolk : Postcard From Tauranga
Twitter For Gentlefolk : Postcard To Tauranga

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Sepia Saturday 69 : From Mabel With Love

We tend to think of "celebrity culture" - and all the tissue-paper thin emotions and over-dramatic excesses which accompany it - as a recent phenomenon. But as any self-respecting elephant will tell you, few things are new in this world of ours. Step forward into the sepia limelight Miss Mabel Love.

Born in the English seaside resort of Folkestone in 1874 and coming from a family of stage and music hall entertainers, Mabel Love - her real name was Mabel Watson - first appeared on stage at the tender age of twelve. She was regarded as one of the great beauties of the later Victorian age and her fame coincided with the growing popularity of picture postcards. The widespread circulation of postcards such as the one above, which is from my own collection, was perhaps the first manifestation of the type of celebrity worship that we are all too familiar with today. In 1894, the twenty year old Winston Churchill wrote to Mabel pleading for a signed photograph.

But the fevered lifestyle of a celebrity star had its own pressures even in the Victorian age and in March 1889 the newspapers of the day were full of headlines reporting Mabel's disappearance. It later emerged that she had gone to the Thames Embankment in London in order to commit suicide - but like most good celebrities had eventually decided against it.

Mabel kept working on the stage (and appeared in an early 1917 film "In Another Girls' Shoes") until 1918 when she retired and later opened a dance school in London, But today she is perhaps best known because of those early postcard photographs of her which have become firm favourites with many postcard collectors.

To see other contributions to this week's Sepia Saturday go over to the Sepia Saturday Blog and follow the links.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

The Lyric : Part 3 - Getting Started, Feeling Pain, Sleeping The Day Away, And Being Forsaken (Almost Human)

This is the final part of my mini-series on my personal favourite song lyrics. As I have put this list together over the last few weeks I have become more and more aware of the glaring omissions. You will all, no doubt, have your own list of songs that should have been included - all I ask you to do is to spend the rest of the day humming them to yourself.

I Can't Get Started - Ira Gershwin
The world of blogging is full of synchronicity, and therefore it was with no particular surprise that I read the first comment to the first part of this series from my good friend Martin Hodges who said that he had been unable to get the tune and lyrics of "I Can't Get Started" out of his mind. This brilliant Gershwin song was always going to be in my top ten lyrics. I have had to search a little for a suitable YouTube clip because I was anxious to ensure that whoever sang it included the oft missed out verse about selling short in 1929. A wonderful example of fine lyric writing and high economics coming together.

"In 1929 I sold short
In England I'm presented at court
But you've got me downhearted, cause I can't get
started with you

You're so supreme, lyrics I write of you
Scheme, just for a sight of you
Dream, both day and night of you
And what good does it do?"

Just Like A Woman - Bob Dylan
You just have to include Dylan because he has been poet and songwriter to a generation - my generation. As with so many other songwriters, you are spoiled for choice : but what a glorious way of being spoiled. Here is his rich and sultry "Just Like A Woman"

"Nobody feels any pain
Tonight as I stand inside the rain
Ev'rybody knows
That Baby's got new clothes
But lately I see her ribbons and her bows
Have fallen from her curls
She takes just like a woman, yes she does
She makes love just like a woman, yes she does
And she aches just like a woman
But she breaks just like a little girl".

Small Day Tomorrow -  Fran Landesman
There is something so wonderful and relaxed about this fine lyric from one of my favourite lyricists, Fran Landesman. She is not as well known as many other of those writers of the "Great American Songbook", but she also wrote the wonderful words to "Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most". If you don't know the song, don't worry. Sit back and let Irene Kral send you to sleep in the nicest possible way.

"I don’t have to go to bed
I got a small day tomorrow
A small day tomorrow
I don’t have to use my head
I’ve got a small day tomorrow

I can sleep the day away
And it won’t cost too much sorrow
So tonight this cat will play
He got a small day tomorrow

Now all those big wheels
With all their big deals
They’re going to need their sleep
But I’m a drop out
Who’d rather cop out
Than run with all the sheep"

Suzanne - Leonard Cohen
Leonard has to be on the list because, as far as I am concerned, there has been no finer songwriter in the last 100 years. I haven't even attempted to pick out the best of his work to illustrate his entry in this list : the task would be near impossible as there exists such a magnificent body of work. So I have chosen the best video clip I could find which comes from his recent world-wide series of concerts. Luckily, the clip features one of his classic songs, Suzanne. If "I Can't Get Started" was a fine example of lyric writing and economics coming together, here we have the confluence of lyric writing and religious philosophy. 

"And Jesus was a sailor 
When he walked upon the water 
And he spent a long time watching 
From his lonely wooden tower 
And when he knew for certain 
Only drowning men could see him 
He said "All men will be sailors then 
Until the sea shall free them" 
But he himself was broken 
Long before the sky would open 
Forsaken, almost human 
He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone 
And you want to travel with him 
And you want to travel blind 
And you think maybe you'll trust him 
For he's touched your perfect body with his mind".

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Twitter For Gentlefolk : Postcard From Tampa

That splendid sound of a postcard dropping through the letter box (we have them in our doors here in Britain and not at the end of the drive and thus postal delivery is a much more intimate experience) heralded the arrival of the latest in my Twitter for Gentlefolk series. The postcard came from cat-lover, writer and librarian, the multi-talented e over at Life In Progress. The subject matter of the card sent me immediately in search of my large-scale American map in order to track down the exact location of Tampa. I have only ever been to America once, and that was very briefly to Florida a good few years ago. But the scenery shown in e's wonderfully pictorial card reminded me of the excitement and wonder I felt then : it was almost like travelling through one of those model worlds one would construct in Sim City.

e comments that Florida seems to have skipped Spring and done straight into summer. This is good news indeed to someone who is scheduled to fly to Florida in just nine weeks time. Sadly our trip will not take us to Tampa but as we sail up the west coast from Ford Lauderdale en route to Charleston, I will give a friendly wave from the port deck (or is it the starboard deck, Chairman Bill, help me out here) in the direction of Tampa. My thanks to e for joining in with my Twitter for Gentlefolk project. There will be another card next week.

Twitter For Gentlefolk : Postcard From Tauranga

Monday, April 04, 2011

Monday Miscellany : A Question, Mary Pickford and a Bag of Throw-outs

A QUESTION : We won the pub quiz again on Friday and the prize, of course, is a free drink and the honour of setting the quiz for the following week. So this is an appeal for anyone out there who has any good pub quiz questions they feel like sharing. You know the kind of thing, "What name is shared by the largest waterfall in Asia and a popular denture fixative paste?" (don't waste your time looking for an answer I just made that up). Any kind of question would be welcome, be it a straightforward one (what is the capital of the state of Kentucky?) or one of those counter-intuitive, mind-bending puzzlers which always make you want to punch the question-master on his nose. Remember the audience will be in West Yorkshire so "Who is the current Attorney-General of New Zealand?" might not be suitable. If you have any suggestions please add them to the comments to this post, but just in case any of the participants in the Rock Tavern Quiz are reading this, don't include the answers : I will get in touch if I need these.

MARY PICKFORD : The archive picture I have selected to accompany the call for submissions for Sepia Saturday this week is a gorgeous photograph of Mary Pickford. Finding the image via Wikimedia took no time at all, but what was time consuming, and gloriously so, was the trail of recreational research that it led me into. I had never appreciated what a long and fascinating life she led and how important a figure she was in the development of the motion picture industry, both in front of the camera and behind it. I was commenting on one of last weeks' Sepia Saturday contributions the other day - after I had perhaps had a glass or two of single malt - and I suggested that behind every old photograph there is a digital thread that can lead us on the most fascinating journeys. That is the beauty of old images. If you want to set out some of those digital threads for others to follow you can always come and join us over at Sepia Saturday.

A BAG OF THROW-OUTS : In my last post I told of the time when my father worked at the Mackintosh chocolate and toffee factory in Halifax and how the sweet smell of boiling toffee used to greet me when I would go and meet him from work. Several people have asked if we got free sweets and chocolates. The answer is that they were not free, but they were very cheap. Each Friday, the factory would sell its workers large brown paper bags of what were called "throw-outs" (misshapen or rejected chocolates of all types) and my father would come home from work with one or two bags of these. The problem was, of course, that familiarity bred a kind of sweet-toothed contempt, and what were Christmas and birthday treats for other children became rather boring fare for us. There was, however, a brief period of renewed pleasure when Mackintoshes were taken over by Rowntrees and the weekly bags would suddenly contain misshapen Smarties and twisted Kit-Kats. But in time, even the wonder of these became somewhat pedestrian.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Sepia Saturday 68 : The Pervasive Aroma Of Boiling Toffee.

Great metal spanners, bolts, cranks, steaming pipes, oil cans ... the tools of the trade of the engineer were on full display in this weeks' Sepia Saturday archive image. And I can never think of such things without thinking of my father, who throughout his working life made, repaired and tended machines. His machines were of a different type and scale to the one on show in the archive image - his stock in trade were the machines that made, wrapped and packaged the wide variety of chocolates and toffees that eventually would become Mackintosh's Quality Street. I never inherited his mechanical skills - they did, however, pass to my brother - and I would have difficulty knowing one end of a spanner from the other!

My main picture features my father - this week with his trousers set firmly around his waist. He is pictured with one of his Mackintosh workmates - I seem to remember that he might have been called Bob. The building in the background would, I assume, have been the Bailey Hall factory in Halifax, where he worked for the last 25 years of his working life. A large number of women worked in the factory, sorting and packing brightly wrapped sweets and chocolates, and this is why, I assume, that there were separate entrances for men and women. When I was young and late coming home from school, I would sometimes walk down to the Bailey Hall factory and wait outside those big stone walls for my father to leave at the end of his working day so I could get a lift home with him. The memory is a rich mixture of sights, sounds and the sweet pervasive aroma of boiling toffee.

You can find a rich variety and a sparkling selection box of other old images in this weeks' Sepia Saturday collection. You can open the lid by going over to the Sepia Saturday blog and following the links.

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...