The picture was taken in Sheffield, thirty or so years ago. It is hardly vintage, but with a touch of the magic sepia button it meets the requirements of the Sepia Saturday Christmas Challenge. And it sends seasonal greetings not just to Sepia Saturday participants but to all those who have been kind enough to follow my Blog during 2013. I will be back in the new year, but for now I would like to wish everyone a very merry Christmas and a happy and peaceful 2014.
Monday, December 16, 2013
Sunday, December 15, 2013
Uncle Frank was a clever chap. Not only did he amass an unrivalled collection of bus tickets, he also established a ground-breaking collection of audio recordings of early British commercial television adverts. These were kept on a series of reel-to-reel tape recordings housed in a wooden cabinet. Following his untimely death, Auntie Miriam - her who is so beloved by the world-wide Sepia Saturday movement - threw them in the bin as they were making the house look untidy. To add to his pantheon of achievements, I have recently discovered that he invented the geo-tagging of photographs. This was back in an age when digital photography meant taking pictures of your fingers by mistake; an age when Photoshop was a place you went to buy a 120 film. For all his genius, Frank Fieldhouse was somewhat remiss in filing his patent applications, otherwise the family would have made a fortune and I would have lived a life of luxury.
His technique of non-digital geo-tagging was rather clever in its simplicity. He pasted his photographs in an album and wrote underneath each one of them - with the kind of pencil you used to have to lick in order to bring it back to functioning life - the address where the photograph was taken. I can therefore tell you with a degree of geographic certainty, that the above photograph was taken on Osmaston Road, Derby in 1941.
Derby is not Liverpool, and a trolley bus is not a removal van, but nevertheless there are some vague similarities between my photograph and this week's Sepia Saturday theme photo. It is those lamp-posts and it is those cyclists who are about to peddle off the edge of the world. I suppose the date must have been about the same as well - a strange war-time scene where there seems to be too much roadway and not enough vehicles.
Of course, the question remains, "what was Uncle Frank doing in Derby in 1941?" I do know that during the war he worked in munitions : making bombs, or guns, or aeroplane engines. In 1941, it looks as though he might have been involved in the latter because Osmaston Road was the site of the Rolls Royce works where they made the Merlin engines which powered the legendary Spitfires of World War II. I doubt whether my Google Streetview screen-grab shows exactly the same spot as Frank's photo, but it is Osmaston Road. And there is still a lamp-post dissecting the earth. But the cyclist has long ago ridden off the edge of the world.
Go to the Sepia Saturday Blog and follow the links to see what everyone else is up to this week.
at December 15, 2013
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Sometimes I am not quite sure why I do things. I have just spent a considerable amount of time translating a table I found in the Huddersfield Chronicle of the 10th December 1883 into a graphic which makes use of police photographs of Victorian criminals as a background. I like to think of it as - in some very small way - a work of art. Works of art are supposed to make you ask questions. It made me ask questions. Perhaps it might make you ask questions.
at December 10, 2013
Monday, December 09, 2013
Scanning old negatives is a delightful journey of rediscovery undertaken from the comfort and warmth of your desktop. This image emerged from the scanner the other day with almost as much magic and wonderment as images used to appear on a piece of bromide paper as it sloshed around in the developer bath. On the left is Jane, in the centre is Peter H, and on the right is Isobel wearing a most alarming cloak, which I am sure was very fashionable forty-odd years ago. I suspect I took the photograph in West Yorkshire and if I had to guess I would suggest it might have been the entrance to Standedge Canal Tunnel near Marsden. We are all still friends, all these years later, and we will be meeting up again next year at Alexander's wedding. Perhaps I will get them to pose for a similar shot, although I have a feeling that the GLW will not agree to wear a similar cloak!
at December 09, 2013
Saturday, December 07, 2013
I had a clear idea of which photograph I was going to use for Sepia Saturday 206 - the theme of which is women in aprons. It was a photograph of my mother in an apron at home in the kitchen : and then I discovered I had used it for a previous Sepia Saturday post. I thought there might be a load of photos in the family archive shoebox featuring matriarchs in aprons, but strangely there were not. I can almost hear the conversation : "Let's take your photo Harriet", "Nay lad, tha's not taking my likeness looking like this, let me take my pinny off".
If the conversation continued, Harriet-Ellen, or Kate, or Isabella or whoever would no doubt say, "you don't want me looking like a Scottish fishwife", and it was that thought that sent me digging and delving in Fowler Beanland's vintage postcard collection. And that is how I came to find the old postcard entitled "Girls Gipping & Packing Herring, Scarborough". The card is unused, so I have nothing to date it; but the style and the publishers' details (WR&S) suggests the first decade of the twentieth century.
The herring fishing fleets used to move down the east coast of Britain following the shoals of herring. Their journey south from Scotland was matched, on land, by groups of skilled fishwives, who would move from port to port to gut and sort the catch when it came ashore. Intrigued by the term "gipping", I went on-line and found this wonderful description from an article in the Brisbane Courier of 23 April 1932. Entitled "North Sea Herring Fishing" it is by H Wetherell, who had just returned from a visit to England where he witnessed the landing of the herring in Scarborough. The full article - which is worth reading if you have a few minutes to spare - can be found HERE. It is the final paragraph which relates to "gipping".
"Next morning I watched the Scotch girls "gipping" herrings on the wharf. Every year hundreds of Scotch girls come down the English coast for this work. The herrings are put into a trough with salt so that they can be more easily handled, and the "gipping" consists in inserting a short bladed knife beneath the gills and tearing out the gills and gut. The girls in oilskin apron, rubber top boots, bandeau on head, and with fingers tied up, work at almost incredible speed. I timed one and found that she did one a second. And they not only "gip" them, but throw them according to size, into different barrels. They work in crews of three, and are paid £1 a week and 1/- for each barrel. A crew can do 50 barrels a day by working, as they sometimes do, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. They are fine, strong girls, and they need to be!"
at December 07, 2013
Friday, December 06, 2013
According to the news there is a danger of a storm surge in the North Sea which will bring the waves crashing inland. By chance I was watching that item whilst scanning an old negative which was taken, I think, in Bridlington. But who knows, by the end of this morning's high tide, it might be Brighouse-on-Sea.
at December 06, 2013
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
I took me a while to find the right phrase to describe it, but then it finally came : a transit lounge. There is something spartan and utilitarian about the phrase, it does exactly what it says on the tin. And as with all transit lounges, people stood around, sat around, leaned around; waiting. Whatever pose they adopted, whatever way they found to pass the time, they were all waiting for the call. Every so often a big chap - who could well have been called Gabriel - with a voice that could carry an armchair, would come to the door and shout out a pair of names. Looks were exchanged, brief, British nods of farewell were traded and the pair in question would walk, limp or hobble towards the door that led to the next room and whatever waited beyond.
And while we all waited we exchanged looks and swapped emotions; each of us unclear whether our absence from the last pair of called names was a cause for rejoicing or disappointment. Nobody wants to live in a transit lounge. If you looked at the other faces carefully, you half recognised some of them. They were people you had shared life with, even though you may have never met them before this evening. Most of them were old, but the occasional younger face would drift through as though to prove that life was nothing but a stick of rock with uncertainty in blood-red words running through it.
Every so often, people would glance towards the door to see if Gabriel was ready to call another pair through. He would shout their names with a strange formality that fit in well with a transit lounge. "D Barraclough and P Webster", he would call, and a pair of men would detach themselves from a group sat around a table casually drinking old ale and head for the door. And as each pair departed, the room got a little quieter, a little more introspective. Maybe we each individually flirted with the idea that whatever was driving the call would become satiated, and we that were left could go home and sit in front of a warm fire and try not to think too much. But like all good flirtations, it was never meant to be.
"J Singer and A Burnett"
It was Jack and me. It was our turn. I glanced across the room at Jack and he gave me a barely perceptible nod of the head, as if to say "come on lad, no fears".
So we rose from our seats and went through the doors to take part in the Brighouse and District Domino League Knock-out pairs championship. And, in case you are interested, we lost in the second round.
at December 03, 2013
Monday, December 02, 2013
I must apologise for the intermittent nature of this blog of late. Long delayed attempts to complete projects for Christmas have collided with early-onset lethargy to create a perfect storm of procrastinated passivity. On top of which my camera lens has been unwell and I think I have a corn in the ball of my left foot. I was out testing the camera yesterday and took this photograph of skateboarders in Elland Park. In case the returns manager at Amazon is reading this, I must point out that it was taken with the good lens rather than the defective one.
at December 02, 2013
Saturday, November 30, 2013
Our Sepia Saturday theme image this week features a rather splendid gentleman sporting a rather splendid moustache. I suppose I could easily match it with any photograph of myself taken over the last 45 years or so, but my long standing moustache may be familiar and it may be comforting, but few would describe it as splendid.So I am turning to an anonymous Cabinet Card which comes from a Victorian album I bought at an Antique Centre last year, I have no idea who the subject of the photograph is, but the photographers' studio is local and therefore this particular gent might have been walking down any street in Leeds, Bradford, Huddersfield, Dewsbury, Halifax or Barnsley a hundred and twenty-five years ago. I know little about Eddison Ltd - the photographer - but their Halifax address is listed as being 4, Silver Street, Halifax. Silver Street still exists but the photographer is long gone.
Let me finish with a quick note about "The Best Of Sepia Saturday", the book which contains all the contributions to Sepia Saturday 200. As you can see, the proof copy has now arrived and there are just a few final revisions to be made (thank you Marilyn for reading through the draft and making some excellent suggestions). Here is a picture of the good lady-wife enjoying a sneak preview of what is destined to become one of the publishing events of the decade. Hopefully I will be able to officially announce the details of how you can obtain your copy early next week.
Until the book is published, you can get your ration of sepia goodies by going to the Sepia Saturday Blog and following all the links.
at November 30, 2013
Thursday, November 28, 2013
“In the dime stores and bus stations
People talk of situations
Read books, repeat quotations
Draw conclusions on the wall
Some speak of the future
My love she speaks softly
She knows there’s no success like failure
And that failure’s no success at all
Bob Dylan, “Love Minus Zero / No Limit” (1965)
at November 28, 2013
Friday, November 22, 2013
|Same father, same garage, same house - a few years later.|
Friday night. My father and my brother were home from work. I was home from school. My mother had made tea (in the working class homes of the north, "tea" was the main meal of the day) and was washing up. My father had retreated into the little workshop he had at the rear of the garage where the family car was kept. He would be sandpapering a bookshelf, sorting his nails out, or greasing his hacksaws, or whatever he did in there. I am not sure where my brother had gone to : he would have been twenty, so the chances are he was already on his way to a night out. I was watching television. The news had finished and the regional current affairs programme was on. They interrupted the programme to make the announcement. Reports were coming in that US President John F Kennedy had been shot and killed. I remember going out of the door and into the garage to tell my father. I don't suppose either of us knew what it might mean. Neither of us realised that an indelible bookmark had been affixed to the story of our lives. Even 50 years into the long, unknown future I would be able to remember where I was at that precise moment.
Sepia Saturday 204 celebrates those momentous moments, the moments when big history and small history collide. See how others have interpreted the theme by going to the Sepia Saturday Blog and following the links.
at November 22, 2013
Thursday, November 21, 2013
Randomly dipping into and scanning my old negatives brings to the surface this early picture which must have been taken in 1966 or 1967. I was still at school and this was taken at a meeting of the School Photographic Society. I can't recall any of the names, except for the somewhat serious looking teacher in the centre : Tom "Screwy" Driver.
at November 21, 2013
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
What makes us read novels more than once? It can hardly be a tense plot as we already know how the plot unfolds. It might possibly be the quality of writing - I have read Scott Fitzgerald on many an occasion just for the pleasure of the words - but it is a rare writer that can achieve such heights. It might, of course, be familiarity : a kind of literary comfort food - rice pudding printed in Times New Roman - but there are limits (I am told) to how much rice pudding you can eat.
I pose the question because I have just started reading C P Snow's "Strangers And Brothers" sequence of novels again: for the third time. I suspect it is a personal thing, a relationship between characters real and characters fictional, that brings me back to these eleven linked novels. As I read the books I keep coming across bits of my life, people I remember and people I have forgotten, incidents and events, even places : all mixed up, shuffled around, out of context like a lightly troubled dream.
I have just embarked on the first in the series - George Passant - and there are still another ten waiting for me. In a moment of unnecessary contemplation the other day I thought to myself "this will be the last time I read the sequence". But that is silly. I suspect I can manage one more full reading before I leave the library of life.
at November 20, 2013
Monday, November 18, 2013
Just got back from Centre Parc in Sherwood Forest where we have spent a delightful weekend with The Lad and The DTB (daughter-to-be). To those reading this from afar, I should stress that Sherwood Forest does really exist (and yes, it is in Nottinghamshire), and Centre Parc is a kind of holiday village built amongst the trees. You can swim, sail, play endless energetic games and/or eat and drink. Whether you are reading this from near or far, you will be able to easily guess my choice. Here are a few photographic souvenirs.
|The Lake and parts of the Village|
|One of the Villas : a little more up-market than the one we stayed in|
at November 18, 2013
Thursday, November 14, 2013
As I have no doubt said before, looking at old images is a form of photographic archeology. You start out with the site; smoothed out and grassed over by age, and then slowly scrape away the layers of neglect to reveal a story from the past. Like any other archaeologist, we have our tools - our scanners and magnifying glasses, our on-line records - but at the end of the day we depend most of all on our eyes and our instincts.
As I went in search of a photograph for this week's Sepia Saturday - the theme of which is people framed by doors - I had high hopes of the faded photograph I chose. It matched the theme well, indeed for a moment I wondered if it could have been the same doorway as the one in the prompt image, but on closer inspection it wasn't. It was an old and faded photograph, however, and those are always the best for us photographic archaeologists. There was an intriguing notice in the window and the woman and girl would hopefully be identifiable.
But sometimes a bumpy field is nothing but a bumpy field. All my efforts to read the notice proved unsuccessful - my best guess is "Wax Stall" which makes little sense - and the two figures don't remind me of anyone in the family tree. The house, with its stone construction on a hillside, certainly appears to be resonant of West Yorkshire, and the fact that the photograph was in the Family Photo Shoebox rather than the Old Photographs Bought at Jumble Sale Shoebox infused it with genealogical possibilities. But those possibilities will have to lie dormant for a little longer. As I said, sometimes a bumpy field is nothing but a bumpy field.
To see what archaeological treasures are being investigated by other Sepia Saturday participants, go the the SEPIA SATURDAY BLOG and follow the links.
at November 14, 2013
Friday, November 08, 2013
My approach to deciding which image to use to match the weekly Sepia Saturday theme, tends to be to look at the prompt image and then get out my big box of old family photographs and sort through them until something catches my eye. It might catch my eye because it clearly matches a theme or it might catch my eye because it matches a mood. Occasionally I am not quite sure why a particular photograph catches my eye - but it does. This is one such occasion.
It's the seaside, I suppose. It's the fact that the subject - in this case my father - is central to the image, looking out, sure of his place in the world. It is the sands, drained of colour by the photographic emulsion, but as gritty as a shovel-full of Blackpool's finest. And it is the background figures, going about their business, ignorant of the fact that part of their soul has been captured for ever and will be exposed to the wide world eighty years later.
It is all these things; but what mainly made this photograph jump out of the box was those shoes. Oh, I so want those shoes. Why didn't they pass down the family line into my hands .... or onto my feet. I could face the world in those shoes. I could rule the world, I could eradicate poverty and banish wars for ever. Put a pair of those shoes on my feet and I could even finally finish the Sepia Saturday Anniversary book.
Slip on the shoes and walk on over to the Sepia Saturday Blog and see what everyone else is posting this week.
at November 08, 2013
Wednesday, November 06, 2013
Things I Wish I Had Collected During My Life But Never Got Around To It And It Is Too Late Now : No. 37 - Beer Mats
Phil The Squirrel Man came yesterday to clear the loft of visitors : hopefully they will have taken the hint and relocated up a tree somewhere. Dave The Shower Man came and re-sealed the shower tray : hopefully eradicating the impromptu kitchen ceiling shower. John The Cable Man is due any minute to reconfigure the cable TV and Wifi service. And Alan The Editor Man is still slaving away trying to juggle hundreds of sepia photographs into a reasonably meaningful volume. There is just time to look back on my 65 years and contemplate what changes I would make if I had to start my life from the beginning again.
There is something strangely comforting about beer-mats. It's the texture of them. Works of art soaking up the stuff of life.
at November 06, 2013
Monday, November 04, 2013
Sorry for my low profile of late. I am busy editing the Sepia Saturday 200 Anniversary Book which, between filling the dishwasher, chasing the squirrels out of the loft, taking the empty bottles to the bottle bank and watching back episodes of Cheers, seems to be taking up all my time of late. How nice it would be to sit on a bench in the sun and think about times gone by, just like this group I spotted in Novelda in Spain last month.
at November 04, 2013
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
THE LOST PUBS OF BRIGHOUSE
At one time or another there have been over 100 pubs, inns, beerhouses and taverns in the streets around Brighouse and Rastrick. Today, only a handful are left. Before time is called on too many more, I decided to go on a historical pub-crawl in search of the lost pubs of Brighouse.
No. 6 : The Thornhill Arms Inn, Rastrick
Very often, local history is a history of names. Each area, each parish, each township has its names; names that stretch back into antiquity like historical tendrils. This particular part of Yorkshire is no exception: the Sykes, the Holdsworths, the Berrys, and the Hansons populate graveyards like wild poppies in a meadow. And the names of the more prominent families - the landowners like the Savilles, the Armitages and the Thornhills - grace many an Inn sign in the streets and squares of West Yorkshire towns.
The Thornhill family was a particularly important one in the area south of Brighouse. The Thornhill estate used to own - and to a certain extent still does - many of the acres that sweep up the hillside from the Calder Valley in the direction of Fixby Hall - at one time one of the families great houses and these days the base of Huddersfield Golf Club. The family consolidated their hold on the area in 1365 when Richard de Thornhill married Margaret de Totehill, the daughter of another prominent landowning family. The importance of the family is ingrained on the local terrain : with its Thornhill Briggs, its Thornhill Road, and its handful of Thornhill Arms.
The Thornhill Arms we are interested in today is the one that was once one of the most prominent locations in Rastrick, a building that still stands at the junction of Church Street, Ogden Road and Thornhill Road. It has not been a pub for some 75 years. Until recently it was a residential nursing home. Today it is empty and for sale.
Nobody can seem to agree when the Thornhill Arms was built. Some suggest it was opened in 1858, but there are records of a Thornhill Arms Inn in the area before that date. The 1850s were an important decade in the development of the pub, however, because by then the Thornhill Road which passes the pub had developed from being a private road owned by the Thornhill Estate into a major highway leading into the now rapidly developing town of Brighouse. Rastrick, a more ancient settlement than its upstart neighbour, was by then being dragged into the nineteenth century by the proximity of busy, industrial Brighouse, and the Thornhill Arms was been taken along for the ride.
In the latter half of the nineteenth century, much of life in Rastrick revolved around the Thornhill Arms. It was here that the committees met, the societies ate, the singers sang and the politicians plotted. It was also here that, every six months, the local tenant farmers of the Thornhill Estate would gather to pay their rent, an occasion that was usually followed by a celebratory meal washed down by flagons of ale. The Thornhill Arms was a substantial building and there are several records reporting that well over 100 people would sit down for a meal. When the Oddfellows gathered in 1873, there may not have been that many eating, but the description of the occasion which appeared in the Huddersfield Daily Chronicle sums up the nature of the place.
"ODDFELLOWS' ANNIVERSARY AT RASTRICK - On New Year's day the lodge of the Independent Order of Oddfellows held at the house of Mr James Smith, the Thornhill Arms Inn, Rastrick, celebrated their anniversary at that house. Sixty of the brethren partook of an excellent and substantial dinner well served by Mrs Smith. In the evening the wives and sweethearts of the members to the same number partook of a first-rate knife and fork tea at the same house, and after the removal of the tables they joined the sterner sex, and a very comfortable evening was passed with singing, recitations, and other pleasantries, including dancing to the strains of a quadrille band."
As with so many local pubs, business in the twentieth century was a continuing struggle. By then, both Brighouse and Rastrick had its supply of public halls and municipal buildings and such inns as the Thornhill Arms were being reduced to little more than drinking venues in competition with an abundance of local beerhouses and taverns. In 1938, the Thornhill Arms Inn closed for the last time and now the building stands empty. But as I passed it this morning to take the above photograph, I am sure I could still hear the echo of the strains of the quadrille band.
at October 30, 2013
Monday, October 28, 2013
This weekend saw the end of British Summer Time (to those unfamiliar with the concept, it is a form of climatic flagellation we British subject ourselves to each year which guarantees that when things are turning cold and dark they turn even colder and darker). It also brought storms and driving rain which managed to drive out every last tactile memory of the Spanish sun. Any bird with half an ounce of sense has flown south for the summer and Amy has curled up into a tight ball of fur and left a note to ask us to wake her in the Spring.
For me, when the sun goes off the scanner comes on and I resume the process of rescanning my old negatives from the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. My main problem with this is that I can never remember where I have got to. Perhaps I have published this scan before, although I doubt whether I have. I am almost sure it was taken in Elland, but I am having difficulty narrowing down exactly where. Part of the problem is that Elland has changed so much : matching the particular pattern of mills and chimneys with Google Street view scenes is almost impossible.
If you click and enlarge and squint, you might just make out a pub on the bottom corner of the road. For me, pub signs provide a grid reference that is both fairly accurate and potentially quite refreshing. I suspect that might by The Drop on Elland Lane: but don't worry about it. I have all the long, dark, wet days ahead to puzzle over the conundrum and I might just need to find my heavy raincoat and venture outside to carry out some research.
at October 28, 2013
Friday, October 25, 2013
For Sepia Saturday 200 we are revisiting our previous Sepia Saturday posts and choosing just one to illustrate our Sepia Saturday contributions over the years. My choice takes me back to the very beginning of Sepia Saturday and provides some background to a photograph which will be familiar to all Sepia Saturday readers - the photograph that has appeared at the head of our blog for the last three and a half years. So here is the curious case of the milliners' wedding.
SEPIA SATURDAY 11 : THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE MILLINERS' WEDDING
Irrespective of anything else, this is just a gorgeous photograph. Again it came out of one of those boxes of old photographs which are handed down. There are no firm details as to who the subjects of the photograph are other than a scribbled note in pencil on the back which states "Harry's Father". I must confess that the handwriting looks suspiciously like mine and therefore it appears that at some stage, I half identified the happy couple and then abandoned them to a fate of dust and scratches at the bottom of a old cardboard box. For this I feel guilty and I am therefore determined to make some amends. I need to track down the details and release them to the waiting world. It will be like one of those wedding reports you see in the local paper. The difference will be that it will be a little late in appearing (as it turns out, 108 years late).
The Harry was the clue, for as regular readers of the Blog will know, I had an Uncle Harry. He was married to my fathers' sister and was therefore not a direct blood relative of mine. Luckily, amongst the various documents I have accumulated over the years, I have a copy of his birth certificate. He was born in 1903 and his parents were Abraham Moore and Alice Moore (formally Rotheray). So the chances are that this could be a photograph of Abraham and Alices' wedding. The one problem with this is that they all look a little too affluent . Abraham is listed on the birth certificate as being a "Piece Taker In" which sounds as though it is a run-of-the-mill textile process. Could a Piece Taker In have afforded those magnificent hats or attracted a girl from a family that could. The census records suggest that Alice's father was a "Butter Factor" : once again not likely to be able to afford all those ribbons and bows.
The crowning piece of evidence was in the 1891 census records. By now Alice is 16 and her occupation is listed as being a "Milliner Apprentice". We therefore have a possible solution - the hats were stock in trade, borrowed for the big day from the brides' workplace. Whatever the explanation, it does seem likely that it was the wedding of Abraham and Alice which took place in the Spring of 1900. So, a little late in the day, we can finally publish the picture, and the report :
"The wedding took place on Saturday 23rd April 1900 of Abraham, son of Smith and Margaret Moore of Percy Street, Horton, Bradford and Alice, eldest daughter of Thomas and Lydia Rotheray of Smiddles Lane Bowling, Bradford. The bride wore a dress of starched white silk ....."
You can see all the sepia favourites which have been published to celebrate Sepia Saturday 200 by visiting the Sepia Saturday Blog and following the links.
at October 25, 2013
Thursday, October 24, 2013
We have this system on the NHS where you can choose which surgeon in which hospital you want to carry out any elective surgery you are having (and, yes, people in America, you don't have to pay!). For my finger surgery, I finished up going to Grimsby and Scunthorpe, where, for me, the best surgeon offering the best treatment was working. It is years since I've been to Grimsby and it was just a shame that I didn't have time to wonder around the fish docks there. At an earlier stage of my life I used to go there often, to walk the atmospheric streets, soak up the unmistakable aroma of fresh fish, and dodge the great ice-filled carts of fish heads and tails being pushed around by off-white coated workers. For some reason I gravitated there on birthdays and in the 1980s I marked the passage of time on the cobbled streets of the town. As I walked I would sometimes sing Jacques Brel to myself, those magnificent lyrics from his song Amsterdam.
In the port of Amsterdam
There's a sailor who sings
Of the dreams that he brings
From the wide open sea
In the port of Amsterdam
Where the sailors all meet
There's a sailor who eats
Only fishheads and tails
He will show you his teeth
That have rotted too soon
That can swallow the moon
That can haul up the sails.
The words are not enough, you need the music as well: the speeding, stormy, tempestuous music. Here is Scott Walkers' brilliant interpretation.
at October 24, 2013
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
If you have followed my blog for any period of time you will have noticed that posts entitled "Sepia Saturday" have peppered my output like grains of salt atop a finely fried egg. Many of my fellow bloggers also contribute to Sepia Saturday each week and many more of my on-line friends have contributed to it at one time or another over the last four years. It is to this latter group - those Sepians Emeritus - that this post is directed. This Saturday, the 26th October 2013, Sepia Saturday celebrates its' 200th edition and to mark the occasion we are asking everyone who has ever taken part to re-post one of their own favourite contributions from the last four years. We will then gather together all these contributions into a small book which will be available on a non-profit, publish-on-demand basis. So if you have ever participated in Sepia Saturday, and even if you are not currently participating, why not search through your blog archives and find your favourite Sepia Saturday post (your own post, not that of someone else). Then all you have to do is to re-post it in time for this weekend and link it to the Sepia Saturday Blog. Full details of all you need to do are available on this weeks call notice. Help us celebrate a sepia anniversary and join in with Sepia Saturday 200.
at October 22, 2013
Monday, October 21, 2013
Back from a week of heat and sun in Spain and back to a land of endless rain-sodden mists. It is not exactly cold, but it is miserable. I prefer to remember last week. This picture was taken on Saturday when we went down to San Pedro del Pinatar on the great Mar Menor lagoon. There were flamingos feeding in the salt lakes creating wonderful reflections in the still waters.
at October 21, 2013
Saturday, October 12, 2013
In order to enhance my recuperation from major surgery (OK, the straightening of my little finger) I have decided to go to Spain for the week. I will be back next weekend, my fingers strengthened by the sun and ready to pound the computer keys well into the next decade.
at October 12, 2013
Tuesday, October 08, 2013
It would be an exaggeration to claim that life since my finger-straightening operation had been "hell", but life when you can't use your computer because of a ridiculous finger-splint has certainly not been heavenly. I return to hospital on Thursday for a new splint, and hopefully after that I will be able to leave it off for longer periods of time. Soon I should be able to pound the keyboard again and be able to reply personally to all your good will messages. Until then, let me leave you with a short announcement that I found in the Bradford Observer of the 7th October 1875 (I have been amusing myself during my inactivity by reading old newspapers). What I love about this announcement is not what it tells us, but what it doesn't. What was in the letter? And how did it connect up with the subject of his lecture on Sunday. Perhaps we shall never know.
at October 08, 2013
Friday, October 04, 2013
Sent from my iPhone
I've had the operation. now I'm home and trying to recover. I have a rather large splint on my right hand which means that it is very difficult to type or do anything meaningful with the computer. this particular blog entry is being made by speaking into my iPhone and getting it to work out what I'm saying and translate it into written text. if only this kind of technology had being available during my deaf years, I would have been a much happier person. within the coming days hopefully I'll be able to wear the splint less and less and consequently be able to type my posts as normal. once things get easier I'll be back and let you know all about it.
at October 04, 2013
Tuesday, October 01, 2013
I've never been much of a team player. Not through want of trying - I favour the all-for-one and one-for-all ethos as much as the next cog in the wheel - it's just that I have rarely been picked for a team. I have always been one of the left-overs, the sad collection of less than perfect specimens left after the two team captains have selected their teams: destined to see service amongst those who only stand and wait, or run the touch line, or go off on a lone cross country walk.
In all my 65 years I have only ever been a member of four teams. For the first three, my participation was limited to only one game and my most recent run as a team player - as part of the Rock Tavern Domino Team - looks fated to follow a similar trajectory.
My sad record started when I was picked for my Junior School football team and was placed in goals as it didn't look like I could run far. We lost the match 10-0 and my services were never called on again for any team throughout my school career. During my teenage years I abandoned the physical arena in favour of the intellectual one and joined Halifax Chess Club. After a few weeks I was asked if I would be prepared to play in the team and I enthusiastically agreed. My disappointment at been allocated to the lowest "board" was more than made up by discovering that we were playing the Polish team, and I was rather proud of making an international fixture on my first outing. I later discovered that we were playing the Halifax Polish Ex-Serviceman's Club and my game was against the barman. Despite the fact that he had to keep breaking off from the match to pull pints, he still managed to defeat me in 12 moves. As with the football, my services were never called upon again.
During my time as a college lecturer in Doncaster, I was once asked to turn out for the staff team in a staff versus student hockey match. The fixture took place on a very foggy day on the playing fields just behind the college. During the first half I managed to avoid contact with either the ball (which was rather hard) or any of the opposing players (who has scores to settle with regards the marking of a recent economics essay). During the second half the fog came down even more and I wandered around on the wing isolated not only from the rest of the team, but also from the rest of humanity. It was only much, much later that someone had the decency to come out in search of me to let me know the match had been abandoned at half time. As with football, as with chess, I was never called upon again.
My latest manifestation of a team player has been as a member of the Rock Tavern Domino Team (the Manchester United of the Brighouse Pubs and Clubs Domino League). Due to holiday absences, the call went out last week and I responded. And it was a George Best of a performance, a Robin Van Persie of an inauguration. I won my two matches by a substantial margin and looked set to wipe out my sad history as a team player. With the confidence of a Suffolk Punch carthorse, last night I turned out for my second game - against Thornhill Working Men's Club. I lost both at straight dominos and at 5s and 3s. I fear my days in the team are numbered due to my inability to calculate the divisibility of the total number of visible pips by both five and three, I have managed to find an iPad App to improve my performance, but I fear it might already be too late. As with the football, the chess, and the hockey, I fear that I will never be called upon again.
at October 01, 2013
Sunday, September 29, 2013
Our Sepia Saturday prompt this week features a young chap ill in bed. It is rather suitable because I have been suffering myself recently and had to take to my bed most of yesterday. My Sepia Saturday post has therefore become a Sepia Sunday post. I did manage to post a short explanation of the circumstances yesterday, but in case you didn't see it, I am publishing it again here.
However, I am now well on the road to recovery and able to share an old family photograph about which I know very little. I have a feeling that I may have posted this picture of an unknown girl lying in a wicker bed before, but my image filing system is not what it should be. It should be a system that records what the photograph is, where the photograph has been used, where the original high quality scan can be found, and where the web-sized jpeg resides. But it is merely a plastic box full of old photographs.
I long for organisation. I long for a system that can remind me what I did yesterday and what I am due to do tomorrow. I don't want the past to be a different country, I want it to seamlessly merge with the future. I would like to know whether I ever managed to work out who these three women are, and what were the circumstances of this rather sad photograph.
But such a system seems to be beyond me. I am fated to endlessly re-speculate, constantly walk down the same corridor, forever searching for the box-room marked "understanding". It is a lonely and exhausting quest. I think I need a nice glass of beer to help me on my way.
As you sip your beer why not pop over to the Sepia Saturday Blog and see what everybody else was up to yesterday.
at September 29, 2013
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