Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Poorly Dog And Some Happy News

"You need to get down to her level to know what the problem is", someone said. So I did and, if the truth is told, I had difficulty getting back up again. Amy was off colour last week. Not her normal self. Her tail wasn't wagging, the doorbell would be rung without her leaping up, there were piles of decaying debris on her daily walk left unsniffed and unexplored. So we took her to the vet who examined her, prodded her, listened to her heartbeat, felt her lymph nodes and concluded that she was "off colour". He gave her the canine equivalent of a bottle of Wincarnis and told her to come back in a few days.

I had my own theory about the cause of her malady : I strongly suspected it had a psychological origin. You see Amy likes to be the centre of attention, and for a week or two she had been coming a close second in the attention stakes to The Lad. It was The Lad's final exams and we were nervously waiting to find out whether he had passed, whether he had become a doctor, and whether he was due to cease being a storm drain on the family budget. Finger nails were being bitten and corridors were anxiously being paced. And Amy was being ignored. So she threw a sickie and had to be taken to the vet.

By last Friday the news came through that the Lad had passed and nothing now stands between him and his job as a Junior Doctor starting in August. We could relax and spare a moment to tickle Amy under her chin and feed her a sausage. She immediately perked up and started bouncing around like a teenager again. I would have liked to include a picture of The Lad and The Girlfriend taken on the day the news of their success came through. But Amy might see it and get jealous again. Perhaps if I make it a very small picture tucked away at the very end of this post, I might just get away with it. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Sepia Saturday 174 : One Small Step For Revie's Stars

The one advantage of taking photographs featuring people reading newspapers is that you have a good chance of dating them when you come to look through your collection of old photographs a lifetime or so later. That is particularly the case with our Sepia Saturday archive photograph this week : which features a group of readers discovering that man had finally reached the moon. That one small step for man back in July 1969 wasn't too far away (in time) from when my photograph was taken. I can't precisely pin down when Revie's stars grabbed revenge, but Don Revie was manager of Leeds United Football Club until 1974 and if they were playing Everton in what was then the First Division, it must have been the late 1960s or the early 1970s. My photographs features my father, Albert, catching up with the news. The name of the reporter writing about that Leeds v Everton match allows me to identify the newspaper - the Sunday People. The People was still a broadsheet when my photograph was taken so I need to try and track down when it changed to its current format of a tabloid. But at least I have been able to discover which newspaper it is; that's a start - just one small step for a man.

Take a look at what others are doing with out Sepia Saturday theme this week by following the links from the Sepia Saturday Blog

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Penny Magazine And A Town Built On Shalloon

I was in an Antique Shop the other day and I found a bound volume of the Penny Magazine dating back to 1834 on sale for the ridiculous price of £6 (about $8 to those on the other side). It was even more of a bargain as this particular volume contained a short description of my home town of Halifax. The Penny Magazine was a nineteenth century precursor of Wikipedia; an attempt to tell everyone everything about anything. Most of the articles are illustrated by engravings and the subjects cover all aspects of science, the arts, industry and exploration in the 1830s and early 1840s. The full set of editions covering the period 1832 - 1845 has already been digitised, but there is something rather grand in thumbing through those age-caked pages and picking out delights to share via this Blog. I will start with the article on Halifax which caused me to snap up the bargain. Unless you have an unhealthy interest in the West Riding of Yorkshire, don't feel that you have to read it, but you might like to look at the rather fine illustration.

NOTE : A "shalloon" is a lightweight wool or worsted twill fabric, used chiefly for coat linings.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Mucky Postcard To Lady Luppell

I bought a mucky postcard on Sunday. It was dog-eared, and torn, and stained and cracked, but it was only 50p and that isn't much to pay for a bit of one hundred year old history. The picture is of the Stray in Harrogate which is an area of open parkland much traversed by generations of gentlefolk who had visited the Yorkshire Spa town to take the sulphurous waters. It will be a machine tinted illustration, but whoever mixed the colours seems to have captured the greyish-yellowish-bluish skies that so often are a feature of Yorkshire. Flipping the card over we can make out some of the message:

"The weather is perfectly delightful place very full and amusements still going on. We return Friday week boys go school - - How long are you staying ----"

It was sent to what looks like Lady Luppell who was staying at the Valley of Rocks Hotel in Lynton, Devon, a rather grand establishment which still exists. I have been able to find no trace of Lady Luppell : she seems to have passed through the world and left little record of her passing other than a mucky old 50 pence postcard.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Somewhere In The Distance A Cockerel Whistled

It was Friday morning, in Brighouse. I had been swimming and I was sitting in the cafe area of Brighouse Pool waiting for the GLW who was attending a Yoga class. I glanced down at the table and what I saw stopped my thought processes in their tracks. A cold shiver went down my spine and somewhere in the distance a cockerel whistled. I did a double-take and pinched myself with a fervour that made me wince in pain. Someone had recently been sitting here. Someone had just consumed a packet of potato crisps. And someone has controlled the ever-expansive cellophane wrapping by tying it neatly in a knot. Until that moment I genuinely believed that I was the only person in the western world to do that. But here was evidence that I was not alone. It was like Stanley bumping into Dr Livingstone in a supermarket car park.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Sepia Saturday 173 : If You Want Odd, Meet My Brother

The theme for Sepia Saturday 173 is "odd". It encourages us all to hunt through our shoeboxes full of old family photographs in search of the unusual, the singular, the bizarre and the just plain odd. The kind of photograph that makes you ask "What on earth was going on there?"

And if you want odd, meet my brother. Here is a photograph I took of him back in the early 1960s during a family holiday in a caravan in Scotland. His kilt is a tartan car rug, his sporran is a sweeping brush, his chanter is an old telescope and his pipes are an upended tripod.

He was always on the odd side, my brother. When we were young we belonged to Halifax Library and as both of us were devoted readers we found the limit of three on the number of books that could be borrowed at any one time somewhat restrictive. My brother therefore decided to invent a third brother - Kenneth I seem to recall - who was issued with his own tickets. To cover his absence from the library, my brother invented a convincing back-story which involved chronic diseases and a variety of domestic disasters. This meant that my brother and I had to fetch his books for him. The only problem was that my brother forgot to pass on to me the various stories he had made up about "our Ken" and when I went to the Library I would be met with questions from the staff such as "is his leg any better?" or "is your Ken feeling brighter now the good weather has come?".

My brother - and let's name names, my brother Roger - continued along this somewhat odd path throughout his life. He built boats and sailed them to far off shores, he made a living as an artist, an author, a sculptor, and a repairer of all things mechanical. He built houses, started schools, lectured and taught in many different countries. Currently he lives on the Caribbean island of Dominica and he has just re-activated his own Blog (Sculpture Studio) which is rather an odd coincidence. As for my fictional brother Ken, I wonder what happened to him?

See what other odd things Sepians from around the world have been up to by visiting the Sepia Saturday Blog and following the various links.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

We Were In This Bar In Spain

We were in this bar in Spain (I have always wanted to start a blog post like that) when a chap came up to us wanting to know if we would like a digital pet portrait. He would produce such pictures with "real computer paint brushes" (which seemed like a contradiction in terms to me) and would guarantee to capture the true personality of our pet (which seemed rather scary to me). The GLW was quite keen but I had a couple of problems with his pitch : Amy wasn't with us - she was staying at a Country House Hotel (AKA Kennels) back in Yorkshire - and he intended to charge us good money for his artistic endeavours. "Don't waste your money", I said to the GLW as I ordered another bottle of wine, "I'll do you one with Photoshop when we get home". And here we are, that is our Amy, that is. Look at this oh artist-brother of mine, and quake with fear.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Like A Bat Dodging A Power-Line In The Dark

I bought a Livescribe Wifi pen yesterday. It memorises all you write and all you say and transfers them automatically to your Evernote account. There are 1001 reasons for owning one, none of which make rational sense, but as The Good Lady Wife said when I submitted my business case for buying one, "once you go, you're a long time dead".

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Bird's Eye View

Travelling back from our holiday a few days ago, I amused myself by looking out of the window of the plane and watching Spain glide by below me. We all now take for granted the ability to look down on the earth from above, but imagine what a novelty it must have been 100 years ago. Whilst a still photograph mimicked little more than a blink of an eye and a moving picture was what we were used to seeing, before flight nobody had seen the world from above. 

This is an early aerial photograph of Trafalgar Square in London. It has always inhabited the fringes of my collection : it is not a particularly rare photograph and there are no fascinating messages on the reverse. But imagine the thrill of those who received such a photograph just 100 years ago and knew, at last, what was meant by a birds' eye view.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

I Caught A Plane To Spain

"I caught a plane to Spain 
Went to a party down a red dirt road 
There were lots of pretty people there 
Reading Rolling Stone reading Vogue"

Five days in the sun and under clear blue skies. Five days drinking freshly squeezed orange juice in the morning and too many fine things to remember at night. Five days enjoying the company of good friends and good conversation. Delicious.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Think Of Syphilis And Electric Nasal Hair Clippers

Can you imagine how exciting it must have been to be alive at a time when frontiers were being pushed back with the energy and enthusiasm of a JCB Digger? Think of waking up each morning to discover a new country, a new continent, a new species or a new culture. Or you could think of scientific and technical boundaries, and being able to comprehend the prospects of a world set alight by the printing press, electricity, or the internal combustion engine. Would it be possible to sleep at night knowing that a new life was awaiting mankind around the next corner?

We have no need to imagine; we are there, now. The information and communications revolution that is raging around us as we speak or as we write or as we tweet, is changing our world just as much as Christopher Columbus changed the layout of the globe or Michael Faraday changed the carpet sweeper. I am not saying that the changes will always be for the better - think of syphilis and electric nasal hair clippers - but the very inevitability of change lends a charge of excitement to the daily task of existence. The information and communications revolution will decimate newspapers, consign printed books to anomalies, mean that everyone is potentially exposed to the ranting of mad men (and mad women); but it will also inject a new lease of inventiveness and passion and opportunity.

What you have just read, I suppose, is the editorial I never wrote for the magazine I never published. Well, not until the day before yesterday. Because the day before yesterday I launched a new magazine with a world-wide circulation of two (it is early days yet) called News From Somewhere. And I enjoyed the process so much that yesterday I launched a second new magazine called A Pint Of Best (which doesn't have any readers yet, but Rome wasn't built in a day).

You need to have access to a tablet or smartphone to receive these revolutionary new publications and you will need to have Flipboard installed. But Flipboard has been one of the best Apps around for ages, so you don't need the excuse of my burgeoning magazine empire to acquire it (for free). Once you have Flipboard you can find my magazines by doing a search for News From Somewhere or A Pint Of Best or by following the links above. 

It is the technological potential rather than my experimental magazines that is so fascinating. You can check out what is possible and use it to your own ends, you can hitch your own wagon to the new technological carthorse on the block. And you can discard my publishing efforts to that sad little pile along with syphilis and electric nasal hair clippers.

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...