Saturday, December 22, 2012

Sepia Saturday 157 : All I Want For Christmas Is A Chocolate Noisette

It is a Christmas theme here on Sepia Saturday 157 and I have two contributions for the party. The first is a postcard dating from the first decade of the 20th century which has the line, embossed with glue and glitter, "Xmas Chimes Recall Old Times". It is a suitable theme for Sepia Saturday which, each week of the year, recalls old times in a chiming melody of images. Sepia Saturday is three years old now, and still going strong, and the inclusion of this card gives me an opportunity to wish all the Sepia Saturday participants from all around the world, a very Merry Christmas.

In the best traditions of Sepia Saturday, my second contribution is a family photograph dating back to the early 1950s.  The little lad in the checked shirt and waistcoat, checking to make sure that Santa Clause isn't handing his brother a better present than he has just received, is, of course, myself. The occasion will have been the Annual Works Christmas Party put on by my fathers' employer : John Mackintosh & Sons.

Mackintosh's were the manufacturers of that most seasonal of Christmas gifts, Quality Street chocolate and toffees. No doubt the present we were receiving at that Christmas party all those years ago would be a half pound bag of Quality Street, but hopefully there would be something else as well, as chocolate toffee penny's and orange creams were mothers' milk to us Mackintosh kids.

You will have to imagine that I have a virtual tin of Quality Street here in front of me and I am handing each and every one of you a caramel swirl, or a chocolate noisette, or a chocolate toffee finger. It is my way of saying to you all :


As always, you can see many other Sepia Saturday contributions by following the links on the Sepia Saturday Blog.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Found At The Bottom Of A Cardboard Box

Found in the bottom of a cardboard box : an album of Wills Cigarette cards dating back to the late 1930s. This is one of the cards. The King, George VI, died in 1952, the victim of lung cancer having been a heavy smoker all his life. The Queen, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, died in 2002, aged 101. Glamis Pit in County Durham was closed in October 1974. W.D. & H.O. Wills became part of Imperial Tobacco, which still exists today.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Old Dogs In Porto

The life of this particular old dog over recent weeks has been devoted to attempting to learn a whole set of new tricks. Changing computers was just the start : one bit of hardware is very like another bit. The devil is in the detail of the software updates. Not only have I installed Light Room but I have updated my version of Photoshop from one which still had the unmistakable smell of developer fluid and acid hypo fixer. Tasks that were instinctive a month ago now seem to require an obstacle course undertaken whilst wearing a blindfold and balancing a mouse on the end of my nose. And that is a real mouse, as I ditched my computer mouse along with my old computer and invested in a Wacom Bamboo Tablet and pen.

I am currently slowly importing all my old digital image files into Light Room, and because I started taking digital photographs about 15 years ago, that is quite a task. At least it gives me time to review my old photographs, so you will have to excuse me if I take the opportunity to post some here. Think of it as an exercise in new tricks for an old dog.

I took this particular photograph in Porto, Portugal in March 2000. I was covering the EU Summit meeting which was taking place in the city and I took advantage of the beautiful Spring weather to explore the glorious old city.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

West Yorkshire : Like The Legs Of An Irish Dancer

I am not certain where I took this photograph. It is somewhere in West Yorkshire, that's for sure, and I must have taken it about 30 or 40 years ago. As so often in this part of the world it is the roof line that is the centre of attention. Shapes fight shapes, orientations have a pleasing diversity, and ostentation is a stranger to these lands and these times. With its grey skies and black earth, all the attention is concentrated on a strip of activity - like the legs of an Irish dancer.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sepia Saturday 156 : Humbugs and Herd Immunity

It's getting near the Festive Season and it is all Christmas Trees, Reindeer, and Kiss Me Quick Under The Mistletoe : and our Sepia Saturday theme image this week features a somewhat acrobatic kiss. Now call me an old misery if you will, but such activities have always seemed to me to be best suited to spreading herd immunity from a host of infectious diseases; but perhaps such a view comes from being married to a Medical Microbiologist for nearly 40 years.

My submission this week is a postcard which dates back to 1906 and which was published by the Cynicus Publishing Company of Tayport, Fife. As you can see we have a similarly acrobatic embrace along with a line from the Victorian song "In The Gloaming". Written by Annie Fortescue Harrison and Meta Caroline Orred, the song is a typical bit of Victorian melodrama about doing the right thing and setting a lover free.

"Think not bitterly of me
Though I passed away in silence
Left you lonely, set you free
For my heart was tossed with longing
What had been could never be
It was best to leave you thus, dear,
Best for you, and best for me."

It is supposed to be semi-autobiographical because Annie (a lowly daughter of a Conservative MP!) fell in love with the 4th Marquis of Downshire, but gave him up because she was from a lower class and status and wrote music instead. Some time later the Marquis heard the song at a concert and realised it was about himself and sought her out and proposed to her and they were married in 1877. It seems to me to be a little too much like the stuff a celebrity publicist would come out with and, if like me, you can't stand a happy ending, you will be better concentrating on the artist who drew and published the postcard.

"Cynicus" was the name used by the Victorian artist Martin Anderson who gained fame during the picture postcard craze of the first decade of the twentieth century. Unlike many other postcard artists who produced their drawings for established publishers, Anderson set up his own publishing company - The Cynicus Publishing Company - and for a brief time achieved both fame and fortune. Alas, the success was as short lived as the postcard craze and by 1911 the business faced financial ruin. Poor Anderson lived for the next two decades in poverty and was eventually laid to rest in an unmarked paupers' grave.

Now that's the kind of story we want for Christmas. Bah Humbug to the lot of you!

After reading this you can cheer yourself up by reading posts from all the optimists over at the Sepia Saturday Blog.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Manchester Triptych

We went to the German Christmas Market in Manchester yesterday - a splendid day out. But it was this wonderful combination of images, seen in Manchester Victoria Station, which will remain in my mind : a modern triptych. I have always been fascinated by information, and books have always been a love of my life. And a man can dream, can't he?

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Fake Shawls, Cheap China and Details

The devil is in the detail, they say. But so often with images it is the very opposite, the detail is where the beauty, the unexpected, the entrancing resides. Last Sunday we went to a Victorian Christmas Fayre. It was mostly fake shawls and cheap china, but there was an old powered fairground ride with exquisitely painted panels. This woman looks straight at me, demanding to have her photograph taken.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Sepia Saturday 155 : Genetic Grease

Our Sepia Saturday prompt this week shows an advertisement for Oshkosh Overalls and Workshirts, "the big overall for all big jobs". My initial reaction to the prompt was that I had several photographs of all manner of relatives in overalls - I come from a long line of mechanics and machine men: oil and engine grease lubricate my very genetic code. Perhaps it would have been better for me if I had come from a long line of archivists, at least that would have meant that my family photographs would have been catalogued and I would have been able to find the photographs I was looking for. The only "overall photograph" I could put my hands on - without too much hard work - was this one which shows my Uncle John (left) with a fine looking wagon from the 1920s or 1930s. I suspect that I might have used this image on my Blog before but all my efforts to track down a new "old" photograph were to no avail.

In many ways it should have been a photograph of my father, because I always associate overalls with him. Even after he retired he would often go off to his shed or garage, put an old pair of overalls on and start sorting through his collection of screws, or bolts or gears or whatever. There is something almost timeless and constant in this vision of my father in overalls, it is part of the background to my life, like Yorkshire, boiled sweets and fish and chips. But as I searched through a distant shoebox looking for a picture of my dad in his overalls I came across this letter.

As you can see it is a letter from a firm of printers in South Africa trying to find out if my father was still interested in applying for a position with them. There is talk of a telegram from my father and a letter to follow. The letter fills in some of the gaps in the story I vaguely remember being told about. The story of a job being offered in South Africa, my parents on the verge of emigration and then backing out at the last minute. Sat here 64 years later I wonder what caused them to send the telegram, back down from the job, and remain in West Yorkshire. And then I notice the date of the letter which was sent just seven days before I was born. What might have been, what might have been.

Take a look at the overall contributions for Sepia Saturday 155 by going 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...