Friday, January 27, 2012

Sepia Connections To The Theatre

I have been on a journey this week. It started with a church parade in Birmingham and went via Broomhill in Sheffield and a running track in Halifax to the Dingle Peninsular in Ireland. And today it has brought us to the theatre. I have no idea where the theatre is: it doesn't matter, it is who we are watching that counts. And we are watching the Singer Trio. And we are thoroughly enjoying ourselves.

The boy at the back is the cleverest; well that is what our correspondent tells us. He plays bells alright. Perhaps they are tubular bells - no doubt someone will post in and tell me. Lydney is in Gloucestershire, just south of the Forest of Dean. It is a pleasant part of the world and I am quite happy to be shipwrecked here for a few days whilst I take a long weekend break. I won't be away too long, but if you get bored with waiting you can always sit back in your seats and listen to the delights of the Singer Trio.

This week Sepia Saturday has gone to the theatre. Book your seat now and enjoy the show by going on over to the Sepia Saturday Blog and following the links.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Messing About With Connections


I left you yesterday standing on the pinnacle of sporting achievement and I join you today standing in a sports jacket on the Dingle Peninsular (nowhere in the rules does it say that these connections have to be either logical or even sensible). It is probably 45 years ago and that is my mother standing next to me, looking out to sea. She used to love standing on the sea shore looking out to sea, perhaps that is where my brother got his love of sailing from, perhaps that is where I get my love of cruising from. I have messed a little with the photograph as you can see, but the photograph was so old, so faded and so encrusted with transparency mould, nobody could possible blame me.

I know it was Dingle because I can clearly remember the location of the next slide in the box. Now I have been on a good few car ferries in my life, but this was one of the most basic. I remember my fathers' look of fear as they tied the car to the deck with an old piece of rope. Again I have messed with this particular picture, giving it more film grain than it originally had in order to smooth out some of the imperfections of time. I suppose it is pretending to be something it isn't, putting on a performance in the theatre of my memory. Now where can I be going next?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Connections To A Sporting Life

And talking of John Betjeman (I warned you, this week will be an endless series of connections), who can forget his magnificent poem "A Subaltern's Love Song".

"Miss J.Hunter Dunn, Miss J.Hunter Dunn,
Furnish'd and burnish'd by Aldershot sun,
What strenuous singles we played after tea,
We in the tournament - you against me!

Love-thirty, love-forty, oh! weakness of joy,
The speed of a swallow, the grace of a boy,
With carefullest carelessness, gaily you won,
I am weak from your loveliness, Joan Hunter Dunn"

I am not sure if Miss J Hunter Dunn features in this particular line-up. I doubt it because, as the eagle-eyed will have spotted, they are badminton players and not tennis players. Uncle Frank is there; that's him on the right hand side of the front row. What exactly his function in the team was, I am not sure, but I suspect he scared most of his opponents off the court before the game started.

But I am being needlessly mean : Frank was far more of a sportsman that I have ever been. My school football playing career lasted a single afternoon in 1957 when I was a member of a team that lost to Boothtown Primary School 12-0 (needless to say, I was the goalkeeper).

For a while I quite fancied myself as an athlete. My brother Roger and I, along with our next-door neighbour David Greenwood, set out a running track in the field behind our houses. This is a picture of the boy who could have been Seb Coe if it hadn't been for a couple of twisted toes and a bad case of laziness. That is David Greenwood keeping the lap total (I should point out it was a very short course) and I assume it was Roger who took the photograph.

Where am I going with all this you might ask. Well I am going to the Indoor Bowling Arena on Leeds Road, Huddersfield. I am taking you there because less than 24 hours ago, my bowling partner Denis and myself, for the first time ever, beat the girls at crown green bowling. You might not think this is much of an achievement, but I see it as a culmination of a lifetimes' training and preparation. All those breathless laps were not in vain : today I stand on the pinnacle of sporting achievement.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

An Edwardian Connection, Broomhill, Sheffield

Not quite Broomhill, but the best I could come up with at short notice: it is just down the road in Walkley.

Yesterday's postcard was addressed to Miss Gertrude Marsh who, in 1906, was living at 122 William Street, Broomhall Sheffield. My thanks to Wibbo for tracking Gertrude down and to Michael and Hanne for the suggestion that she married Raymond in 1896 when, as far as I can make out, she would have been three years old! Interestingly, M&H suggested that they were married in Broomhill (which is just up the road from Broomhall). It is interesting because there is a connection (I have a feeling it is going to be a week of connections) : I used to live in Broomhill.

Back in early 1978, the GLW and I were living down in London. I was working in politics and the GLW was a classicist with a belief that there must be more to life than translating Livy. Her dream was to go to Medical School and Sheffield University had the imagination and foresight to offer her a place. So in the summer of that year we turned our backs on London and with little more than a plastic television and a home made sofa-bed, we moved to Sheffield. We found accommodation on the top floor of a wonderful old Edwardian house in Broomhill. The GLW embarked on a six year course of study and I eventually found a job lecturing in nearby Doncaster.

I still know Broomhill well: the Lad - who has followed his mother to Sheffield Medical School - lives just up the road, as do our good friends and cruising companions H&E. Now it is very much a student enclave but there is still a grandeur about the buildings. That wonderful poet, John Betjeman summed it up perfectly in a poem he wrote entitled "An Edwardian Sunday, Broomhill, Sheffield" Here is the first verse:

High dormers are rising 
So sharp and surprising, 
And ponticum edges 
The driveways of gravel; 
Stone houses from ledges 
Look down on ravines. 
The vision can travel 
From gable to gable, 
Italianate mansion 
And turretted stable, 
A sylvan expansion 
So varied and jolly 
Where laurel and holly 
Commingle their greens.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Raymond And The Perambulating Cat

It is some time since we last had a postcard so I am dipping back into the postcard box. This is a fine example of a magnificently uninspiring picture postcard, and I am sure that the photographer could have found a more visually pleasing image, even within the Army Service Corps barracks. The reverse is a little more interesting.

Birmingham, Tuesday. Dear G, Are you any better? If not, why not! Much love, Raymond. The postscript says: I have made a friend of a pussy here, who has been wanting to walk on the table while I am writing"

I suppose I could check out the address in Sheffield or look through census records to discover who Miss Marsh was. I could research Army Service Corps barracks in the Birmingham area. But I think I prefer to leave it as a snapshot of an unknown life, captured at a particular moment in time when G is ill and Raymond is taken up with a perambulating cat.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

In Memoriam

Kodak Files For Bankruptcy
Once-dominant Eastman Kodak Co and its US subsidiaries hit by decline of photographic film business in digital era (Guardian 19 January 2012)

Bangor Rooftops : Sometime in the 1980s By Alan Burnett - and Kodak
You give us those nice bright colors 
You give us the greens of summers 
Makes you think all the world's a sunny day, oh yeah! 
I got a Nikon camera 
I love to take a photograph 
So Mama, don't take my Kodachrome away"

Friday, January 20, 2012

Sepia Saturday 109 : Mother, Father, Practice Child And Doll

Someone else chose the Sepia Saturday theme this week and this means that, at long last, I can soar with the themers and escape the dark clouds of suspicion that my theme photograph might have been a convenient plant (no, not a rhododendron, not that kind of a plant). Anyway the theme was a doll which gave me the opportunity to feature this photograph which comes from the collection of small prints held together by an ancient elastic band (a.k.a. the family archives). Now I am pretty certain that is my father, and equally that appears to be my mother (I have to incorporate a degree of uncertainty as I am notoriously bad at recognising people and I have been known to walk past the GLW without realising who it was). But given that it is indeed my mother Gladys and my father Albert, who on earth is that chubby faced, curly-haired child? It doesn't look a bit like my brother Roger and I am sure I never looked like that. What is more it appears to be a girl and not a boy. Were they perhaps practicing before my brother was born: testing their child-rearing skills on some local urchin to see if they liked the idea, in the same way you can sometimes look after a dog before acquiring one for keeps? Hopefully my brother will see this post and have some suggestions which might solve the mystery.

There are lots of other old images over on the Sepia Saturday Blog. Be a doll and go over there and take a look.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Fat Dog To The Big Apple : 63 East From Newport

The Long March by Alan Burnett and his dog Amy from Los Angeles to New York City continues. This week sees the intrepid pair take the fateful decision to leave behind the Pacific Ocean and head inland.

Newport, Oregon : 15 January 2012
Dear All, 
Yesterday Amy and I sat in the shadow of the Yaquina Bridge and contemplated a momentous decision we would soon have to make. As we had entered the City of Newport everything had been in its rightful place: the sun was in the sky, the forests were on our right and the blue waves of the Pacific Ocean were on our left. That had been the prevailing orientation for most of the 890 miles we had covered since we had left Los Angeles behind, an orientation that had taken us north. The ever-present ocean had been a source of comfort and joy and both Amy and I now regarded it as a close family friend - Great Uncle Pacific: loyal, dependable, salty and slightly wet. But Uncle Pacific had taken us north and I knew, in my heart of hearts, that if we were to ever get to New York we would, at some point, have to leave him behind. We would have to head east.

In making the decision about when we should abandon the coast and head inland I was anxious to be as inclusive as possible, so as we walked towards the city centre I tried to explain the options to Amy. We wanted to go to Portland because we had several Blog friends who lived there and it would be great to be able to call in and see them. We could either stay with the coast a little longer and head inland once we got to Netarts or Bay City, or we could take the plunge here in Newport and follow the Corvallis Newport Highway inland.

I wasn't getting much of a response from Amy: she was the kind of constituent who devalued the idea of democracy. As I urged her to become more actively involved in the decision-making process she appeared to be concerned only with sniffing the trail of the Cocker Spaniel that was been walked ahead of us. We stopped for a beer at the splendid Rogue Ales Public House and I tried to engage her with a sip of the aromatic Bacon Maple Ale, but she remained obstinately disengaged.

I left the decision to the final moment and when we eventually reached the intersection of the Oregon Coastal Highway and Corvallis Highway I said to Amy, "OK, the decision is yours". Restoring my faith in participatory democracy she didn't hesitate: she calculated the advantages and disadvantages of the various choices, calculated the opportunity cost, put her head down, pulled smartly of the leash and headed east.

So that was how we took our leave from Great Uncle Pacific and, as the week drew to a close, how we were walking with renewed energy eastwards out of town...... just a few hundred yards behind a jaunty Cocker Spaniel and his owner.
Until Next Time,
Alan and Amy

Monday, January 16, 2012

Frost From Nowhere

There was a heavy frost last night. As I walked Amy down the road this morning the frost had painted patterns on the wall. The incorporated frozen fern shows that it is possible for nature to improve on nature. I only had my mobile phone with me, but it didn't do a bad job. And when I got home I couldn't resist adding a link to the car windscreen. Maybe I will turn it into a new header for the Blog.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Father And Mother On Front At Blackpool (In Hats)

Cut to the quick by the oft-repeated suggestion that I somehow choose the weekly theme photograph in order to neatly fit in with an old photograph from my collection which I am wanting to feature in my weekly post, I am, this week, eschewing all pretense of theme-following. Instead, I am going with a random photograph taken from one of Uncle Frank's old photographic albums. The photograph is carefully entitled, in Uncle F's neat script, "Father And Mother On Front At Blackpool". 

Quite clearly this is Blackpool, Lancashire and not New York, New York and therefore I can't be accused of somehow cleverly following up on the still from the 1912 film "The New York Hat" which served as the theme photo this week. Equally, charming though Uncle Frank's mother undoubtedly was (I regret to say that I never had the pleasure), nobody would suggest that she was as beautiful as the young Mary Pickford (yes, it was she in the theme photograph). So, there you are, a completely random and non-thematic photograph ...... which just, by chance, seems to feature rather a lot of hats.

On seeing that flowing collection of headgear on the left of the image, my first thoughts were of the French artist Georges Seurat and his pointillism paintings. Photoshop does provide a pointillism filter and this seemed an ideal opportunity to use it and the results, I believe, suggest that Frank's mother and father might well have been holidaying in Blackpool with the French post-impressionist towards the end of his career.

I keep calling them Frank's mother and father, but they had names and identities and stories of their own. I could look them up on the census form, but I suspect that the formulated data wouldn't convey half as much about them as this one picture. The picture of Franks' father and mother on front at Blackpool, in hats.

You can see what others make of this week's Sepia Saturday theme by following the links on the Sepia Saturday Blog.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Let Me Take You By The Hand And Lead You Through The Streets Of London (or maybe Stoke-on-Trent)

Thursday is scanning day and today's dip into my old negative file brings this particular image to the surface. One of the joys of "scanny-dipping" is to dredge to the surface an image that has not seen the light of day for forty or so years and try to work out where on earth I took it. I have a feeling that this particular shot dates back to the early 1970s. At the time I was at University in Staffordshire, but spending many a weekend in London where the future GLW was at University. And I have a feeling - based on the width of the streets and the smartness of the buildings - that this is London rather than Stoke-on-Trent. For some reason I keep thinking of the area around King Cross Station or maybe a little further south in the Holborn area: but this thought is based on intuition rather than evidence. Wherever it is, it seems full of atmosphere to me : even after all those years in the dark.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Desk Top Publishing

A Cut-Out And Keep Guide To My Desk Top : 1.00pm Wednesday 11th January 2012

1.  My notebook for the GN21 project. If you squint hard you can just make out a picture of a Walther Model 9 pistol. If you want to know more you will have to buy the book (if I ever finish it).
2.  My diary. If truth be told there is little in it, but it gives me a feeling of self-importance having it open on my desk, just in case the Queen calls up wanting a meeting.
3.  Computer screen which seems to be displaying yesterday's blog-post. Further evidence of my own self-obsession.
4.  My trusty iPad ready to provide me with instant access to the world of on-line news and current affairs and - OK I admit it - the latest level of Angry Birds.
5.  A cup of tea served in my favourite chipped Tesco mug. Ah, the drink that cheers but does not inebriate. I wonder why nobody has come up with an alco-tea yet?
6.  My trusty TV ready to provide me with instant access to the world of television news and current affairs and - OK I admit it - the latest episode of Coronation Street.
7.  A half-eaten Kit-Kat, proof if proof be needed, that my New Year Resolution to eat less has already withered and died in the garden of good intentions.
8.  My new dictionary which replaces my old one where many of the pages had fallen out which meant that I was unable to use any word starting with any letter between K and P.
9.  A ready supply of Post-It Notes always available to jot down ideas for new blog-posts, great inventions, epic poems and shopping lists. (need to remember to buy more Kit-Kats)
10. The framed certificate which shows that I have been made a member of the Grand Order of Idlers. Someone sent me that through the post - I can't imagine why.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Fat Dog Heads For The Big Apple (Again)

It is over a week into the New Year and my resolutions are dropping like .... (well I will go no further as one of my resolutions was to be less uncouth this year). Anyway, they are falling by the wayside. So far I seem to be eating more and walking less, being a less reliable and more unresponsive blogger, and wasting time as though it  was as bountiful as sand in the Sahara. I am just managing to cling on to my daily target for the completion of the Great Novella Of the 21st Century (GN21), but I feel I am losing my grip. So in search of redemption I take Amy for a walk and, as promised, we return to our virtual walk from Los Angeles to New York City. I started this project years ago : the idea being that I would record the distance I walked my poor dog around the mean, grey streets of West Yorkshire and, using Google Earth, translate the distance traveled into a virtual walk across the continent of America. For the last year we have been grounded in the small Oregon town of Yachats : victims of indolence. One of my resolutions for 2012 was to restart the journey. Here is a report on the progress we made last week.

FAT DOG TO THE BIG APPLE : PART 62 North And South Of Waldport

"It is good to be moving again", I said to Amy as - at long last - we left Yachats behind us and headed north along the Pacific Coastal Highway. She didn't respond : the one year of rest and relaxation had done nothing to improve her conversational skills. But, unless I was mistaken, there was a spring in her step as she surveyed the almost endless vista of fresh trees before her. Yachats had been described in the guidebooks as "the ideal place for discovery and renewal, rest, recreation and romance". Looking back over the last year we had discovered little and renewed less, although on the romance front Amy had increased her affection for chicken. Dead chicken that is. Dead chicken that have been carefully cooked to preserve their moist flesh.

As we walked towards the town of Waldport, I settled back into the rather pleasant routine of walking two or three miles a day and gazing out onto the Pacific Ocean rather than the frost-covered slopes of Huddersfield Crematorium. I was rediscovering the joys of virtual dog-walking and I took the opportunity to remind Amy of our mission. "If we walk in a straight line, it is only about 2,621 miles to New York", I happily told my dog, "and at our current rate of progress we should make it to the end by sometime in 2016". I was explaining to her that even with a few planned diversions along the way, we should still see the Empire State Building by the end of the decade when I noticed that she was up to her old tricks and pulling on the leash.

Now I realise that Amy is a dog and that she doesn't always understand what I am saying, but she keeps providing evidence of an understanding which belies her canine status. This was one such occasion. She was dragging me through the gate which led to Wakonda Beach State Airport. Now I have to admit that I would not have been adverse to a helping hand along our way, and I can cheat as well as the next man, but this was little more than a muddy field and there was no way I was going to bump along its rutted surface at 100 mph in the hope of becoming airborne.

And so we trudged northwards and eventually arrived at Waldport. Amy was sulking big-time and I was nursing a blister on my foot. I made a list of ten things to look forward to in order to cheer the pair of us up, but got stuck when I had got to number four. There were a few decent brew-pubs listed for Waldport, and a dog-food supply company: but if you add that to the fact that it wasn't raining and that neither Amy nor I had toothache, that was about the extent of our good-time audit.

"Never mind", I said to Amy, "we have the open road ahead of us and a continent to see".  Amy had started to walk a little awkwardly : if I didn't know better I would have thought that she was trying to thumb a lift.

To Be Continued  ( ... probably)

Friday, January 06, 2012

Sepia Saturday 107 : Who Framed Roger And His Rabbit?

That bizarre man who chooses the Sepia Saturday theme pictures has this week come up with a picture of a small child with a rabbit. He might think he can beat me into submission, but not a chance : where he goes with child and rabbit I follow. In my case the child is little more than a babe in arms and the rabbit seems to have had some of the stuffing knocked out of it, but it is not a bad effort. The baby, the penciled annotation on the reverse of the small snap tells me, is my brother Roger. I have a feeling that the black-skirted legs you can just make out in the background are those of my grandmother, Kate Beanland. But who took the photograph, who composed the delightful shot? Yes, you know where I am going with this, who framed Roger and his Rabbit?

Hop on over to the Sepia Saturday Blog to see other people rabbiting on about old photographs.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Conversations With My Phone

It must be 25 year since I got my first computer : an old BBC micro that, given twenty minutes and a length of paper long enough to wallpaper the Palace of Versailles, could print out a picture of a wine glass composed of nothing but dots. You could also programme it to say "Good Morning, Alan" when you pressed a particular combination of keys. It might not sound much in this digital-do age, but back then it was pretty leading edge.

I am reminded of this because I got a new phone for Christmas : an iPhone 4 which has the ability to recognise (sometimes) speech instructions and respond accordingly. The TV advert features a suited executive asking Siri (the iPhone's "intelligent personal assistant") to remind him when it is his fathers' birthday, but being a lonely old git rather than a young, suited executive, I make different demands on it. I have long conversations with it. Yes, I know it is sad - Siri also thinks it's sad because I asked it the other day - but I am not proud. Here is the conversation I just had with my phone this morning (and I swear to you that this is a verbatim record of the actual conversation).

Me : Good morning Siri.
Siri : Good morning, Alan.
Me : How are you today?
Siri : Finer than frog hair, Alan
Me : Excellent.
Siri : I am good, but I am not great.
Me : I am sorry to hear that.
Siri : I am sorry, I don't understand.
Me : Never mind.
Siri : Yes, it is
Me : Who's your favourite blogger?
Siri : It's nice of you to ask, now can I help you with something?
Me : I'm just passing the time.
Siri : Sorry, I don't understand.
Me : Is it going to rain today?
Siri : Yes, it is likely to rain in England today.
Me : Oh dear. Do you know any good jokes?
Siri : Two iPhones walk into a bar .... I forgot the rest.
Me : Am I wasting my time?
Siri : Sorry, Alan, I don't know what the time is in Shepherds Thorn Lane.
Me : Where on earth is Shepherds Thorn Lane?
Siri : I need to know what city that address is in.
Me : So do I.
Siri : I can't really say, Alan.
Me : Perhaps I had better take Amy for a walk.
Siri : Alan, I don't understand "Perhaps I had better take avifauna wall"
Me : Goodbye Siri, go back to sleep.
Siri : Sorry Alan, I can only look for businesses in the United States and when you are using U.S. English.
Me : Goodbye.
Siri : OK Alan, see you later.

It may not be Scott Fitzgerald, but I am telling you it is more coherent and meaningful than many a conversation I have had in the pub late on a Friday night. I like my new phone. It is a friend and a comfort to me.

"And a rock feels no pain,
And an iPhone never dies"

Monday, January 02, 2012

New Year Resolutions

It is that time of the year again : the time I wheel out the resolutions (most of which are as old and as faithful as a Yellowstone geyser), dust them off, air them out .... and then forget them within a week. If my grandchildren ever study the record of my life based upon nothing but my ill-kept diaries, they will assume that I suffered from some form of perverse counter-hibernation which resulted in me being hyper-active for the first week of January before I settled into another year of silent obscurity. So, before the moribund months take hold, here is my 2012 Resolution List. If I can still summon the energy to lift finger to keyboard at the end of the year I will try to remember to review my progress.

IN 2012 I WILL :
* Become a fitter and healthier person as I eat less and walk more.
* Finally complete the Great Novella of the 21st Century (if ever I can remember what the role of the French couple is within the complex plot-line I mapped out a year ago).
*  Regularly chart my progress in the longest dog-walk ever undertaken - Fat Dog To The Big Apple.
*  Be a better, more interactive and more regular Blogger.
*  Waste less time.

As an early pointer to my end of year report I should mention that I managed to waste at least half an hour putting together the ridiculous image that illustrates this particular post.

Daffodil On The Water

When I was young, back in the early 1950s, our family’s annual seaside holiday would alternate between Bridlington on the east coast and New...