Friday, August 31, 2012

Sepia Saturday 141 : Time Gentlemen Please

The archive picture prompt for Sepia Saturday 141 features a clock. Clocks constantly remind us that time itself is a precious commodity.

I am a little pushed for time this week and for Sepia Saturday I am featuring a number of photographs I took some time (indeed many years) ago and only recently discovered the time to scan. The first picture was taken some thirty years ago and features part of the exterior wall of the Saloon Bar at the Black Friar pub in London.

Around the same time, I took this picture in Elland, West Yorkshire. The smoke and the old cars and the general feeling of abandonment make it a type of visual time-capsule.

This time we are moving a few miles south to Sheffield and maybe a few years forward in time. But it is still the Thatcher years and the same feeling of abandonment.

It was around this time - the early 1980s - that I fell in love with Grimsby Fish Docks. Whenever I got any spare time I would drive over to Grimsby and walk around the lines of smoking houses and fish warehouses trying to capture the smell of dead fish on monochrome emulsion.

And so to the reason why my Sepia Saturday post is somewhat hurried this time around. This weekend I am being taken away on a belated birthday treat, to go on a tour of some of the ancient inns and taverns of the City of London. Hopefully that will include the Saloon Bar of the Black Friar and hopefully I will sit there, replete with fine beer and good company, until the Landlord declares "Time, Gentlemen Please".

Make sure that you get time to visit the Sepia Saturday Blog and see what the other participants are up to this weekend.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Out Of The Studio Into The World

I have two photographs today which mark a momentous moment in the history of photography; when it stepped out of the confines of the studio and into the world. Although most of the very earliest permanent photographs were taken out of doors, the new art-science of photography quickly moved into the studio with likenesses of Victorian citizens frozen rigid by the needs of slow shutters and unresponsive film and plates. If you leaf through a pile of Carte de visites, you are struck by the way the individuality of the recorded faces seem to have been leached out of the image until you are left with little else than matronly woman or bearded man. It is almost as if the context of the photograph has been faded in the same way that the background merges into white space.

The CdV of an unknown woman is by the studio of F Bentley of Halifax. I can't seem to find a listing for the studio or when it was active, but at a guess the photograph will have been taken in the last couple of decades of the nineteenth century. I am not sure what can be said about the woman, other than the fact that it almost looks as though her face has been stuck on top of a different pair of shoulders. Was she happy or sad, rich or poor, moody or flighty - who knows.

My second photograph must have been taken at about the same time. Although there is a slight resemblance to the woman in the first photograph, the only relationship I know of was that their CdV photographs were in the same 50p bargain tray in an antique centre 120 years after they were taken. But we have left the studio behind and entered the real world and we are now bombarded by context and peripheral information. The row of houses with their high stone chimneys suggest that the photograph was taken in West Yorkshire and tell us something about the life of the woman and child.

Even the odd little detail is fascinating. Look carefully and you can see a couple of sheets of corrugated galvanised iron on what seems like a lean-to shed. Intrigued I checked out when corrugated galvanised iron was first introduced and I discovered that it was invented by Henry Palmer, architect and engineer to the London Dock Company, in the 1820s. Which was almost exactly the same moment in history that Nicéphore Niépce was taking that first photograph. 

Now there's synchronicity for you.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sepia Saturday 140 : Sepia Reflections

OK, I admit it, I cheated. Wanting a way to try and remember my wedding anniversary and selecting the archive theme image for Sepia Saturday provided a marvelous synchronicity. So for Sepia Saturday 140 which falls on Saturday 25th August 2012, I chose a wedding picture and my own contribution features three pictures taken at my own wedding, 39 years ago today. 

The first photograph shows me clinging on to Isobel for dear life, confetti falling around us like some over-sized dandruff, as we leave Halifax Registrars' Office on that Saturday afternoon 39 years ago. That is not a ferret around my neck, but a somewhat flamboyant velvet bow-tie.

With our four bridesmaids : Di, Julie, Caroline and Jane. We are still in regular contact with all four : Jane and her husband will be staying with us for the weekend in a couple of weeks time, and in October we are visiting Di and meeting her first grandchild!

With our parents - Edith and Raymond on the left and Gladys and Albert on the right - all sadly now departed. In case you are wondering where my brother is in all these photographs, he was behind the camera : we have never been much for wasting good money on photographers in our family.

The photographs are not exactly sepia but at 39 years of age they qualify for inclusion in Sepia Saturday. And the "tag line" for Sepia Saturday is "using old images as prompts for new reflections" and the very act of scanning and publishing these three images has brought forth a whole corsage of reflections on 39 happy and wonderful years. Happy anniversary my sweet.

You are invited to a wedding reception over at the Sepia Saturday website. Come on over, help yourself to a slice of cake and follow all the links to the other Sepia Saturday posts.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Gits, Ships And Cuts

We have a meeting of the Old Gits Luncheon Club today and our two main objectives are to sample as many real ales as we can in the time available and to reach agreement with regard to the long-running dispute about our name. The main proposals on the table are:
- The Gentlemen of Refined and Independent Temperament Luncheon Club (GRITS)
- The Gentlemen of Independent Temperament Luncheon Club (GITS)
- The Gentlemen of Refined and Independent Means Luncheon Club (GRIMS)
Personally I would be happy to leave it at the Old Gits, especially as I have just designed a new T-shirt. I will be wearing it for the meeting later today. Hopefully it will swing the vote.

I have decided to become a member of Wikimedia UK. This has nothing to do with any Ecuadorian asylum seekers - it is just that in an age when the commercial ownership of ideas and images seems to have accelerated beyond control, any movement that exist "to help collect, develop and distribute freely licensed knowledge (and other educational, cultural and historic material)", is worthy of support. Just what my membership will entail, I have yet to discover, but as long as it doesn't mean living in the Ecuadorian Embassy for the rest of my days, I am willing to give it a try.

At long last I have returned to the Great Novella of the 21st Century (GN21) after allowing it to lie fallow for the last five months. Starting up again is hard work: it's like digging potatoes from a parched vegetable patch. I spent an hour this morning churning out Kindle-drivel, before editing out the rubbish. This leaves me with just two sentences!

“And did he do it?”, Tomlinson asked in a tone measured to the point of precision.
“Who knows, who cares? He has certainly confessed to doing it, but there is no surprise in that. People will confess to anything if they are given enough encouragement”.

The conversation takes place on a ship. The picture of the ships comes from Wikimedia. Everything connects. It's time to go to the Old Gits now.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Picture Within - The Picture Within

Over on my Picture Post Blog I am currently featuring some scans of medium format negatives I took about thirty or forty years ago. I tend to scan an envelope of negatives per day (12 negatives in total) and it is always a thrill discovering what will emerge when the scanner has made its pass and displayed the resulting digital image - an image which has been unseen by me for decades. In some ways it is the closest thing to seeing an image slowing develop onto a sheet of bromide paper whilst sloshing around in a developer bath back in the days of the darkroom. Sometimes there will be photographs of friends and relations, sometimes places. All bring back memories, and often the process is multi-layered because there are hidden images, pictures within pictures, and even pictures within pictures within pictures. The photograph above was taken on the sands at Cleethorpes in Lincolnshire back in the early 1980s And there is a picture within.

And the picture within is a tribute to the hardiness of the British holidaymaker, the seaside visitor determined to head for the seashore even if thick coats are the order of the day.

And even when the wind blows in from the east, straight from the Ural Mountains via the Baltic, and the sun is dimmed by clouds like a 40 watt bulb inside a grease-proof bag, even then the hardy holidaymakers still buy their ice cream cornets.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Sepia Saturday 139 : Auntie Miriam And The Paragon Of Annotation

Our Sepia Saturday prompt this week features a dog presenting a bone for the salvage effort during World War 2. My picture this week can match the decade (it was taken in 1949), it can match the dog; but it falls short in the bones and the rag and bone man. In their place you get Auntie Miriam and a boat on the Norfolk Broads. And as a bonus, I can tell you the name of the dog - Trudy.

I can be reasonably certain about all these details because the photograph was taken by my Uncle Frank and he was a paragon of annotation, an archivist disguised as a factory worker, a chronically of the mundane. It comes from an album which is entitled "Yarmouth Holiday July and August 1949". Great Yarmouth is a seaside resort on the east coast of England in the county of Norfolk. The area of countryside inland from Yarmouth is characterised by a network of navigable rivers and lakes which is known as the Norfolk Broads. Frank even gives us a short rhyme, which could almost become the official mission statement for Sepia Saturday.
"We went to "Broadland" - here and there
These snaps remind us where"
The particular photograph has a title added beneath it in the album : "Trudy likes Mimi" (Uncle Frank would always refer to his wife as Mimi). 

One or two people have suggested that the prompt image bears a similarity to me and my faithful companion Amy. Marilyn even asked whether we could try to recreate the pose, a suggestion I decided to go along with. Whilst I managed to acquire a suitable costume and box full of bones, Amy flatly refused to adopt a "begging" pose (she suggested it would be demeaning and inconsistent with her status as a freeborn dog). The best I could come up with is the picture reproduced here - which features Amy with her "what kind of family did I end of living with?" look on her face.

If, like Uncle Frank, you want to be reminded of places by looking at some old snaps, you could do far worse than go to the Sepia Saturday Blog and follow the various links.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Picture Show

It was the 66th Halifax Agricultural Show on Saturday and we went along to take a look at the animals and the various stalls. So I will share a few of the photographs I took, and keep the words to a minimum. 

Bulls in the Parade Ring
A stunningly beautiful work horse.
Equally beautiful and he/she knows it.
Judging in the headless fancy chicken category.
Is there anything as cute as baby pigs?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Sepia Saturday 138 : Recycling The Past

Sepia Saturday this week features an old archive image of cyclists in Copenhagen. Following our success in the Olympic Games, it would appear that Britain has now become a nation of cyclists which, for a country defined by its hills as much as its meat pies, verges on the masochistic. But for a brief period in my life - wedged between the years when my mother wouldn't allow me a bike because I might fall off and injure myself and the years when my wife won't allow me a bike because I might fall off and injure myself - I was a carefree, smiling cyclist. My first photograph features such a jolly soul and must have been taken in the mid 1960s.

That first photograph must have been taken by my brother Roger (the composition is poor and he has managed to get some foreign object intruding into the bottom right of the shot). My second photograph was taken by myself, but features my brother, along with his wife and daughter.

Turning the photograph over, I notice that it had been converted into a postcard and the message clearly illustrates two things : firstly my brother has never been able to accept my superior talents as a photographer, and secondly, he can deftly mix cheek with requests for favours in a single paragraph. The message reads as follows :

"Thanks for posting letters on - we must be owing you some stamp money. Ali : why did you plant this tree in Norma's hair?  .... Can I borrow your electronic flash when you go back to Birmingham? Wonder where we'll be this time next year? All the best for '69. Roger, Norma and Di.

The card was postmarked  3 January 1969. A year on from that I was away at University at Keele in Staffordshire. No doubt my dear brother will write in and tell us where he was!

If you enjoy recycling old photographs, why not journey over to the Sepia Saturday Blog and take a look at what the other participants are doing this week

Friday, August 10, 2012

Three Beers For Friday

I am still working my way through my volume of "1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die", which I see as a form of pilgrimage : the inebriates equivalent of a tour of religious shrines. My latest "station of the cross" was a delicious bottle of Samuel Adams Boston Lager which Tesco had kindly transported across the Atlantic for me. The tasting notes said something about a complex mix of "distinctly sweet malt and hop bitterness"; but I have never been particularly good at hunting out the supposed flavours to be found in a beer. All I can say is that when I had finished the bottle I wished I had bought two. You can't say more than that can you?

I spotted a book on brewery history on eBay the other day; one which was not already in my little library devoted to the history of breweries. I bid for and bought "An Uncommon Brewer - The Story of Whitbread 1742-1992" for a couple of pounds and I have enjoyed myself so far just flicking through and looking at the rich illustrations. This cartoon appears in the book and it illustrates the close relationship between agriculture (Sir John Barleycorn and Miss Hop) and brewing (and their only child, Master Porter). It has to be said that there are few finer ways of spending an evening than sipping a fine beer and flicking through an illustrated history of breweries.

But what is this, I hear you ask : buying even more books when you are supposed to be de-cluttering! Feeling guilty about my purchase, I reached into my cluttered back passage with the intention of consigning at least one book to Cousin Dave's car boot sale to compensate for my new purchase. Alas, the first volume I managed to drag out was a 1973 copy of Christopher Hutt's classic "The Death Of The English Pub". It would be sacrilege indeed to get rid of such a volume and therefore I have hidden it away in my room just in case Isobel decides to strictly impose the "one in, one out" rule.

In one of the chapters, Hutt speaks about the decline of the hand-pulled pint in the days of the modern electric beer pump. His book was written 40 years ago and I am glad to say that what might then have appeared to be a terminal decline in the old hand-pulled beer engine has been reversed. I cannot resist ending with one of the little quotes that appear at the beginning of each of the chapters in the book. This one graces the chapter on "The Quality Of Beer":

"Not turning taps, but pulling pumps,
Gives barmaids splendid busts and rumps"

Thursday, August 09, 2012

9 August

For whatever reason, today I decided to dip into a few of the several volumes of published diaries that populate my bookshelves. Here is a sample from the last five centuries.

9 August 1668
Thence to White Hall, and thence to visit Lord Brouncker, and back to White Hall, where saw the Queen and ladies; and so, with Mr. Slingsby, to Mrs. Williams’s, thinking to dine with Lord Brouncker there, but did not, having promised my wife to come home, though here I met Knepp, to my great content. So home; and, after dinner, I took my wife and Deb. round by Hackney, and up and down to take the ayre.
The Diary Of Samuel Pepys
Pepys is one of my favourite diarists. His combination of name-dropping, scheming, womanising and living in fear of his wife always seems to give him a remarkably contemporary feel. If he had lived in these times you would have no doubt found him splashed across the celebrity magazines and probably guesting on Strictly Come Dancing. (Elizabeth) Knepp was an actress and singer Pepys was besotted with at the time.

9 August 1783
A dull warm day with frequent showers in afternoon especially. I and George and John Town share 14 hattocks in the forenoon. I spread mainer and other jobs in the afternoon.
The Diaries Of Cornelis Ashworth
Cornelius Ashworth was a small farmer who lived at Walt Royd near Halifax in the latter part of the eighteenth century. He is described as a typical small farmer and handloom weaver: the only thing that sets him aside from his contemporaries was that he kept a diary for over 30 years. It has to be said that his diaries are somewhat dull : his life being dominated by the weather, his crops and the goings on at the local chapel. I suspect that "mainer" was manure, but what on earth "hattocks" were I have no idea. Hopefully, Cornelius, George and John enjoyed them.

9 August 1823           
At 4.50, set off down the Old Bank to the library. Found Miss Pickford there, in spite of finding a note on my return home this morning to say she could not go there on account of walking with the children to Horley Green wood to botanize. Told her how untidy the children were ... they are a disagreeable, vulgar set. I told her she did not enough keep up her dignity. Spoilt everything about her.
The Secret Diaries Of Miss Anne Lister
Anne Lister was the Mistress of Shibden Hall which is just outside Halifax. She has found lasting fame due to her diaries which contained long sections written in a code which was not deciphered until a century after her death. Most of these sections (printed in italics in 1988 edition of her published diaries) related to her amorous escapades with a variety of lesbian lovers, but occasionally she would use her code to hide her rough tongue and haughty manner. No wonder poor Miss Pickford tried to avoid her.

9 August 1940
After dinner, Winston, the generals and Pound retired to the Hawtrey Room for a conference... At one moment a German raider came over the house and we all stumbled out into the garden to look. The First Sea Lord fell down first one flight of steps and then, having picked himself up disconsolately, he tumbled down another, ending in a heap on the ground where a sentry threatened him with a bayonet. He came back saying, “This is not the place for a First Sea Lord” Winston’s comment was, “Try and remember you are an Admiral of the Fleet and not a Midshipman”
The Fringes Of Power : Downing Street Diaries, John Colville
John "Jock" Colville was Assistant Private Secretary to Winston Churchill during the first part of World War II and his diaries provide a wonderful insight into the working life of Churchill during this critical period of history. The First Sea Lord referred to was Sir Dudley Pound who had a reputation for hard work and a lugubrious demeanor. It is said that his mere entry into a room made the occupants feel grave.

9 August 2012
Got up. Sunny and warm day today. Took Amy for a walk. Read a bit and wrote a blog-post. Had my lunch.
The Unpublished Diaries Of Alan Burnett

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

A Decent Old Pub And An Indecent Young Lady

I bought this postcard the other day, attracted, as usual, as much by the message on the reverse as the picture on the front. I seem to recall I have been to Coventry only once in my life, some forty years ago, but I have driven around it on various by-passes quite frequently. The picture shows St Mary's Guildhall which, if Google Street Cam is to be believed, looks relatively unchanged 100 years later (I wonder how it survived the horrendous bombing of the city during World War II?). It used to be the residence of the Lord Mayor of Coventry and it is from there that the famous Lady Godiva is said to have started her famous horse-ride. Looking more closely on Google maps, there seems to be a decent old inn just around the corner from here called the Golden Cross, so maybe it is time to visit Coventry again. It is a sad sign of age that the driving force behind such a return visit would be a decent old pub rather than an indecent young Lady!

The card was posted in August 1908 and sent to a Miss L Dorman in St Leonards-on-Sea. The message from Dora to L was full of those questions that will never be answered.
Dear L,
Hope you have not got off because of poor George. Hope you are enjoying yourself as I am. 
With love, Dora
Excuse such a muddle but I am in a hurry.

Where did L not get off to, because of poor George? What was wrong with poor George. My mind plays with pictures of Miss Dorman recreating Lady Godiva's ride but having to get off her horse because poor George has collapsed with apoplexy. It is time I went for a drink and forced such silly thoughts out of my mind.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Looking For The Picture Within

The new scanner, which can handle my old medium format negatives, allows me to go travelling through photographs I took thirty years or so ago. It also allows me to play one of my favourite games : looking for the picture within. The picture on the left was taken in Paris, thirty or so years ago. The selective enlargement - the picture within - has all the atmosphere of a busy Paris street scene and a little bit more. It is a one act play; a piece of two dimensional monochrome performance art. What photography does better than anything else is freeze a moment in time; preserve a collection of emotions, movements and interactions in photographic aspic. I can happily spend hours scanning and dissecting, looking for shapes and trails : looking for the picture within.

Monday, August 06, 2012

A Pint Of Gladys Please

You may recall that a couple of weeks ago we went on the trip from The Rock to the Milltown Brewery in Huddersfield. Following a thoroughly entertaining explanation of the brewing process (and before a thoroughly enjoyable sampling session) I got talking to the Head Brewer, Neil Moorhouse about the challenge of coming up with names for his frequently changing seasonal beer specials. He likes to maintain a link with mills and the textile industry - it is the Milltown Brewery after all - so I suggested "Bobbin Ligger". A bobbin ligger was a person who worked on the machines that filled empty bobbins with spun thread. Specifically their role was to carry (or "lig") the empty bobbins to the machine and carry away the full bobbins. My father started work as a bobbin ligger in a mill in Bradford in the 1920s and my mother also worked in the mill at the same time. Neil liked the name and said he would use it for his next seasonal special and I agreed to design a pump display card for it. 

For the display card I used an old family photo which shows a group of mill workers and which, I think, features my mother (she is the one on the left of the group). It will have been taken in Ickringill's Mill in Bradford, and whilst the women would not have been bobbin liggers (a job normally reserved for young men just starting in the mill), the atmosphere of the old sepia shot seemed to match the name perfectly. I was thus delighted to discover, on entering the pub on Friday evening, that Bobbin Ligger is now available and to celebrate I bought a pint or three. As the picture features my mother, Gladys, by the second or third pint I was walking up to the bar and proudly proclaiming "A pint of Gladys please".  I know that some of my "beery" followers will be wanting tasting notes but I have to admit that I was so caught up in the celebratory mood that all I can tell you is that it is a thoroughly refreshing hoppy fusion which at 4.1% ABV achieves a  perfect balance of strength and flavour. I am not sure that description does it justice so, in the interests of research, I have decided to go back to the Rock tonight for another "pint of Gladys".

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Watching The World Go By

My apologies. For the moment I am watching the world go by. The Lad is home for a week before going back to University and therefore my life, and my blogs, are postponed until next week. The picture is a re-scan of a negative I took back in the 1970s. 

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...