Friday, March 29, 2013

Sepia Saturday 170 : Did Café Society Pass Us By?

It's been a funny old week : perhaps I will tell the story at some point, but there again perhaps I won't. 

But here we are, approaching another weekend and with another Sepia Saturday challenge before us . Our prompt this week shows a couple of characters standing at the door of a Sydney Coffee House. This was always going to be difficult for me because my family come from Yorkshire, and Yorkshire folk are reluctant to pay for a cup of tea or coffee in a Café when there is a Primus Stove available. 

I can hardly remember ever going into a café when I was a child. We would go out for endless weekend "runs" in the car, tour the Dales and the valleys of West Yorkshire, pass endless little tea shops and coffee lounges - but never, ever call in. "Tha don't want to be wasting tha brass in places like that", my father would say, and my mother would give a supportive nod of the head as she took the fold-up table out of the car boot and lit the little Camping Gas stove. Our café was the road verge, our coffee house was the lay-by.

But I did manage to find one photograph of my parents looking uncomfortable in a café. It dates from about 1962 and it was taken during an outlandishly adventurous camping holiday in the South of France. Not only does the photograph show them sitting down at a café table, it also shows my father drinking a glass of beer! This is a double rarity as my father avoided alcohol with the ingenuity of a fully paid-up miser. You couldn't save a bob or two by mashing your own pot of beer and therefore it was best avoided. But fifty years ago they were abroad, in a foreign country, spending foreign money and therefore a rare bottle of beer or a bottle of Coke might be justified. I can still hear my father saying to the neighbours months after we had returned from the trip, "and do you know how much we paid for a glass of Coca Cola, do you know ....!" 

I suppose the truth is, on the whole, café society passed us by in Bradford.

The prompt for Sepia Saturday 170 shows two men outside a Coffee Lounge. Sepians from all over the world have been using this prompt as a springboard to visual journeys into the past. You can trace their steps by following the links on the Sepia Saturday Blog.

Monday, March 25, 2013

On The Dole In Winchester

22, Tweedy Road, Bromley, Kent
The best of good wishes for your birthday and may you have many happy returns. Love this P.C. When I was at St Cross. The Brother with the long beard came of a really good family. He has passed away. Those with the x are the black friends, the others the red. I go to 21 Curzon Road, Maidstone for Easter. Love to all. Yours F.C.
To : T.J. Peake Esq. Thornecliffe, Willaston, Nr Nantwich, Chester.

From Wikipedia : The Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty is a medieval almshouse in Winchester, Hampshire, England, founded between 1133 and 1136. It is the oldest charitable institution in the United Kingdom. The founder was Henry de Blois, Bishop of Winchester, grandson of William the Conqueror, half brother to King Stephen of England. Not only is it the oldest but is also the largest medieval almshouse in Britain; it is built on the scale of an Oxford or Cambridge college, but is older than any of the colleges at the universities. It has been described as "England's oldest and most perfect almshouse". Most of the buildings and grounds are open to the public at certain times. The Hospital still provides accommodation for a total of 25 elderly men known as "The Brothers" under the care of "The Master"; they belong to either of two charitable foundations. Those belonging to the Foundation of the Hospital of St Cross (founded in about 1132) wear black robes with a silver cross and trencher hats. Those belonging to the Order of Noble Poverty (founded in 1445) wear claret red robes and trencher hats. They are sometimes called the "Black Brothers" and the "Red Brothers". Brothers must be single, widowed or divorced, over 60 years of age and preference is given to those in most need.

I am not sure how I came to have this postcard, it is not one of Fowler Beanland's collection and dates from a time when fewer postcards were being used in Britain, and fewer still were being collected. There is, however, a certain charm about it and it led me to discover more about The Brethren of St Cross Hospital, Winchester. The Wikipedia entry goes on to say :

The Hospital continues an ancient tradition in the Wayfarer's Dole which consists of a small horn cup of ale and a piece of bread. The dole was started by a Cluniac monk and can be obtained by anyone who asks at the Porter's Lodge.

Now if ever I have come across an argument in favour of a trip to Winchester that is one. Amy can have the bread - it is that cup of ale that interests me.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Sepia Saturday 169 : In Praise Of Visual Anonymity

The Photographer Aged 14
You tend not to see many photographs of keen photographers. This is not just for technical reasons - until the new generation of camera phones it was difficult to see the preview through the viewfinder and appear in the shot yourself. There is, I suspect, a deep psychological explanation as well. People choose to take photographs so as not to appear in them : they choose to shoot rather than be shot, to take rather than be taken. It probably has something to do with self-image, the visual equivalent to hearing your recorded voice for the first time and being convinced that you couldn't possibly sound like that. If I show my dog, Amy, a photograph of herself, she simply ignores it, convinced beyond all rational explanation that this ragged-haired, tatty-head couldn't possibly be the fine featured canine she knows herself to be. With humans, self-denial is more difficult : "of course it is you dear, I just took the photograph, your are wearing your favourite blue trousers, and there is your Uncle Wilf stood next to you". And when self-denial is no longer an option, the best solution is to retreat to the other side of the lens and become the family photographer.

Occasionally, deep at night and when nobody is watching, we might check to see if  our self-image and our external image are still in mortal combat. We would sidle up to a mirror, click the shutter, process the negatives ourselves in the privacy our our darkrooms and hide any subsequent prints deep inside the brownest of brown envelopes. Fifty years later we may take the print out and hope that sepia-ageing has worked its magic, perhaps I really did look like that back in 1962. But no, I was a young Hercules; flaxen haired and taut-muscled I strode through life. Photographs are for others. The reward for the photographer is visual anonymity. 

This post was prompted by the image for Sepia Saturday 169 which shows a photograph of a group of photographers. To see how other Sepians have interpreted the image simply go to the Sepia Saturday Blog and follow some of the fascinating links.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Agriculture, Industry and Commerce

This photograph was taken at Dean Clough, Halifax, thirty or so years ago. A few decades earlier it was one of the largest working mill complexes in the country and the home of one of the biggest carpet manufacturers in the UK. A few decades later it had been converted to offices for insurances companies, banks and the like. My picture captured it during its transition when it provided good grazing for a horse or two.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I Pin Therefore I Am

I can't help it, it's an addiction. An addiction rooted in a very difficult time in my life, some thirty years ago when I first lost my hearing. Faced with a world which was every week and every month and every year getting quieter and more insular, I reached out for a life-belt to cling on to. And I found the new media. Just at the time when it was becoming more and more difficult to communicate with other people by word of mouth, the very first steps were being taken to create communication systems based on technology, systems that depended on the written word rather than the spoken word. E-mail was the Seventh Cavalry riding over the ridge, Prestel was a prophet come to announce a new age; Teletext was a new beginning and when, eventually, the World Wide Web was launched, I was in there - sans ears, sans cares, sans everything - exploring its' every possibility.

Many years later technology and medical skills came together and restored enough "hearing" for me to bump along in most situations, to tentatively move again in auditory circles. But my fascination with, and love for,  those digital crazes that saved my sanity a decade or so earlier has remained. Thus, there is not a digital platform I haven't gladly danced on nor is there a communications bandwagon that I have not chased down the street in order to jump on. I text, I tweet, I blog, I Facebook, I Google+ ..... I communicate and therefore I am. 

It should come as no surprise, therefore, that I have - somewhat late in the day, I admit - come around to Pinterest. I have been experimenting with it for the last few days and I must confess I rather like it. Now I know that some people have concerns about it, about their images been shared by people they do not know and possibly without attribution, but show me a new media where there are not potential problems and I will show you boredom. It's central thread of communication is the image rather than the word, and I am an image kind of person. What is more, it looks good : the layout is pleasing and the adverts are so well concealed I have yet to find them. For those who have concerns about copyright, don't worry, I will only pin my own material or material which is either copyright free and where permission to pin is openly granted.

If anyone wants to pin any of the images on my blogs, please feel free to do so : there should be a little Pin It badge hiding away on the sidebar. If you already use Pinterest, please follow me and I will happily follow you back (again there should be a "Follow Me" badge on the sidebar). No doubt another digital bandwagon will come along soon and I will jump on that as well. For me, that is what makes life pinteresting.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Photos From My Mother's Purse 1

It is almost ten years since my mother died. When we were clearing her flat I gathered what remained of her papers and keepsakes and stored them in a large plastic box in our garage. It seems about time to delve in there now that time has knocked the corners off loss. One of the first things I came across was a tiny plastic wallet, the kind you keep credit cards in. I can't recall my mother ever having a credit card, but she had made use of it for storing a collection of small photographs which she carried around in her purse. So I have opened the wallet and, in no particular order, started scanning the pictures, the photos from my mother's purse. Here is the first.

That is my brother Roger and it must have been taken in the early 1960s. He had a job in Leeds and had acquired a motor scooter to travel to work each day. I remember it was a Bella Zundapp and it was a dark red colour. I can almost see it in front of me now, the memory of it is so strong. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Sepia Saturday 168 : Love And Hate At Locarno

I have a confession to make. I HATE SEPIA SATURDAY!  Yes, you heard me right, and if you insist I will say it again. I HATE SEPIA SATURDAY! It is no good trying to hide it any more, trying to pretend, trying to deny the truth in the hope that it will evaporate like a pint of Carnation Milk. I HATE SEPIA SATURDAY! And what has driven me to this confession? The answer can be found in two international conferences: the July 1945 Potsdam Conference and the October 1925 Locarno Conference.

It all started with this weeks' theme image for Sepia Saturday, which was a photograph taken at the Potsdam Conference. Now a theme of international conferences may stump some participants, but not this one. Normally I choose the theme images and therefore feel a bit embarrassed if I happen to have a perfect match, but this time someone else chose the theme and there was nothing to stop me playing my ace, my vintage postcard of the 1925 Locarno Conference. All I had to do was to find the postcard, scan it, display it, and bask in the heat of the reflective glory (It's the only way you get to bask in the heat in Yorkshire in March).  And there would be no difficulty in finding it, would there? After all, I am still buzzing after finding the photograph of Sunnyvale Lake I posted yesterday.

You can guess the rest of the story. Could I find the card? Could I heck. I searched through shoe boxes and plastic boxes, hanging files and plastic wallets, but the wretched thing was nowhere to be found. Sepia Saturday is always doing this to me - reminding me of an old image that would be perfect for a theme and then driving me mad when I discover that my actual filing system is nowhere as efficient as my imaginary filing cabinet. Which is why, as I have already said but I will repeat it again just in case you didn't hear me, I HATE SEPIA SATURDAY!

So, you may logically ask, how come I have a scan of the image at the head of this post? I did a Google image search for the Locarno Conference and eventually found what appeared to be a similar image listed on a service called Visualize.Us, the only problem being that it had a copyright notice on it. I was on the verge of sending off a note to the person who, it was said, I had to approach in order to get permission to reproduce the image when I noticed, to my considerable surprise, that it was me! I eventually tracked it back to a post on News From Nowhere from December 2008 which, I must confess I had completely forgotten about. 

This means that, for the second day running, I can get away with recycling an old post. You know something? I LOVE SEPIA SATURDAY!

If you want to know about the Locarno Conference you can read my original 2008 News From Nowhere post. If you want to see how others get along with this week's theme image you can follow the links on the Sepia Saturday Blog.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Sunny Bunces Resurrected

Back in December 2007 I wrote a News From Nowhere post called Sunny Bunces. Most of my current followers won't have even been alive back then, so I am repeating it again - but with a new update.

Sunny Bunces

I need to get my affairs in order (as they say). This particular thought was prompted by a one hour search through boxes of old photographs for a picture I once took of Sunny Vale Pleasure Gardens. And the search was prompted by picking up a copy of a new book by local author Chris Helme entitled "Sunny Vale Pleasure Gardens - A Postcard From Sunny Bunces".

Sunny Vale Pleasure Gardens - known by one and all as "Sunny Bunces" after the founder of the gardens, Joseph Bunces - was located in a valley just outside Lightcliffe, midway between Halifax and Brighouse. It was one of those "inland resorts" which blossomed all over the north of England in late Victorian and Edwardian times. With the coming of charabancs and trams and half-day holidays from the mills, such "pleasure gardens" became the destination of hundreds of Sunday School Treats and Friendly Society Trips. And Sunny Vale liked to think of itself as the finest of them all, it liked to market itself as "the playground of the north".

The book is a pleasure to read. It is in not "heavy" in any way. It does not attempt to tell a chronological story or provide a sociological analysis of the rise and fall of Pleasure Gardens. It is nothing more than a collection of photographs and reminiscences strung together with a light text : a series of amusements and diversions, a bit like Sunny Vale itself.

Sunny Vale just managed to survive the Second World War but even in the thirties it was spinning into decline, replaced in people's affections by Blackpool and Bridlington. In 1947 the park was sold and in the mid-fifties the various rides and attractions were auctioned off. By the early sixties it had become a site for go-kart racing and stock car racing but that didn't last long either. By the late 1960s much of the grounds were overgrown and forgotten. It was at this time that I took my photograph. It was of what remained of the smaller of the two lakes - the Victoria Lake - strewn with rubbish. I would show it to you but, as I say, I can't find it. Somewhere in my garage or attic it lies lost and forgotten. A bit like Sunny Bunces.

Five years on I am glad to say that I have found the picture. So what better excuse can I have for re-posting an old piece and featuring a new photograph.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Intimacy Breeds Familiarity

As I have said several times before, negative scanning and repairing is a therapeutic occupation. Once the full size picture emerges you get the opportunity to become intimate with the image whilst removing the dust specks and scratches of history. And intimacy breeds familiarity - and familiarity gives vent to memory. It was only as I digitally brushed away dust from this negative that I remembered where it was taken (Eastbourne), when it was taken (the 1980s) and what I was doing at the time.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Sepia Saturday 167 : The Burden Of Foresight

Our Sepia Saturday theme photograph this week features an old pier and a ferry boat. My Sepia Saturday contribution this week features an old pier and a ferry boat. All that separates them is 10,519 miles and the burden of foresight. The theme photograph was taken in the Sydney suburb of Mosman whilst my photograph was taken in Bowness-on-Windermere in the English (Marilyn, please note) Lake District. My photograph comes from a little album of "Snapshots" that contains photographs taken by my father of holidays he and my mother took around Britain in the late 1930s. They would take off on their motorbike, stay at boarding houses and bed and breakfasts and see the sites of the British Isles. 

As Europe lumbered towards war and near oblivion, Albert and Gladys - and millions like them - would crowd on board pleasure steamers and saunter along piers in the summer sun. Within a few short years, the pleasure boats became warships and the waterside piers became boarding points for an endless procession of troops. The 1930s were a strange, odd decade : a sentence brought to a premature end without a pleasing metaphor. As my father snapped that peaceful Lakeland scene did he know what the years ahead would hold in store for him and his friends? Of course not: foresight can often be a burdensome thing.

To view more Sepia Saturday contributions, stroll along to the Sepia Saturday Blog and follow the links.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Some Thoughts On The International Financial Situation

"Come, come, let us drink the Vintners' good health;
'Tis the cask, not the coffer, that holds the true wealth"
17th Century London Rhyme

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Where I Am, Who I Am

It's supposed to be a nice day today, but it is still early and still cold and still misty. So I seek solace from the radiator and scan old photographs and try to remember where I walked thirty years ago. I have a feeling that the distinctive cone shaped roof in the background is one of the buildings of the old Halifax General Hospital which would mean I was walking somewhere down by Shaw Lane. These days everything is geo-tagged which means that things will be very boring for me in thirty years time when I try to remember where I walked today. But by then I will be in my nineties and it will be challenge enough to remember who I am.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

There Are No Pockets In Shrouds

Steve At The Old Gits Lunch
Jeff At The Old Gits Lunch
I bought a new camera the other day (what the hell, life is short and as my mate Harry often says, "there are no pockets in shrouds"). The camera is a Nikon 1 and it makes full use of digital technology by taking a long series of shots in rapid succession and then allowing you to choose which you would like to keep. Whilst this facility is not necessary on many shots, it is perfect for portraits, where facial expressions can change in the blink of an eyelid. Here are a couple of pictures I took last Thursday at the Old Gits Luncheon Club meeting at Stalybridge Station Buffet Bar.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Sepia Saturday 166 : Box Brownie Impressionism

This photograph is like something that Claude Monet would have taken with a cheap camera : Box Brownie Impressionism. As with all such works we are wanting just a feel of the moment captured by the interplay of light and dark, detail and generality. It is a group of wrapping mechanics from the Halifax factory of toffee makers' John Mackintosh & Sons on a trip to Norwich to visit the firms' A.J. Caley chocolate manufacturing factory. This was no pleasure trip : they were there to see the wrapping machines and the cardboard box presses used in that arm of the business. The fact that the artist has just hinted that the coach may have been stopped outside the Norwich Hippodrome adds a thread of mystery and uncertainty to such a staid post-war study. 

The photograph drips with memories. That is Terry Dickinson standing second from the left. I watched England win the World Cup in his front room in 1966. That is Ralph Steadman standing third from the right: my father and I would often call in at his house for a cup of tea as we went for weekend walks down the Shibden Valley. And that is my father in front on the right - with a smile on his face that measures the loss I still feel at his death. 

Photographs don't need to be perfect as long as they can be tools for our memories and emotions.

Our Sepia Saturday theme image this week shows a woman working at a machine making paper boxes. My father spent most of his working life maintaining the machines that made boxes. And he used to have a Kodak Box Brownie camera which was the source of many of the old photographs I still have. You can visit other Sepia Saturday participating blogs and see what other people have done with the theme image by going to the SEPIA SATURDAY BLOG and following the various 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...