Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sepia Saturday 196 : In Search Of The Box Room Marked Understanding

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.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Sands Of Time

Life is an accumulation of memories. Nothing less, nothing more. The richness and diversity of life is represented by the richness and diversity of those memories : people, places, objects, feelings. The spoken word, the written word, the image : all are aide-memoires, the index cards of life. 

Photograph of my mother sat in my fathers' Hillman Husky. It is a posed shot, my mother never drove a car in her life. It was probably taken in Blackpool or Bridlington : most Sundays they would head for the coast and park "on the front". They would leave home early in order to find a free parking spot and return home early in order to miss the tea-time rush. My mother would look out to sea and think who knows what. My father would walk around the car checking for tiny scratches or places where the chrome had not been shined to mirror-like intensity.

If you look carefully at the reflection in the front hub-cap you might just make out two figures. One of them would be my father, the director of the shot. The other will have been me, the young photographer. The wind is blowing in from the Irish sea - or the North Sea - and the airborne sand is finding crevices to settle in. It's a vivid memory. It is life.

Life is an accumulation of memories.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Steamy Confessions Of A Twisted Old Man

Poor old Napoleon Boneparte had two great adversaries : one, of course, was the Duke of Wellingtion, the other was hemorrhoids. In order to try and deal with the former he turned to his fourteen regiments of armoured heavy cavalry. In order to deal with the latter he turned to one of the most pre-eminent French surgeons of the time, Baron Guillaume Dupuytren. It would appear that Dupuytren was able to bring the Emperor some relief, although how long-term that would have been we are unable to say because of the combined effects of the said Duke and the arsenic impregnated wallpaper of Saint Helena. But if Baron D had done little else in life he would have warranted a footnote in history for making the day to day life of the French Emperor a little more comfortable. But he did do much more than cure Boney's piles : he drained brain abscesses, treated seizures, and described in detail the disease of the hand that was named after him - Dupuytren's Contracture.

You may find all this marginally interesting. I do. And that is because I seem to have developed Dupuytren's Contracture. In my old age, I have become twisted. I should stress that it is merely the little fingers of both hands that are suffering : as yet my mind is no more twisted than it has been for most of my adult life, and I can assure you that I have definitely not developed the associated condition known as Peyronie's Disease (be warned, look this up at your peril!). But, over the last six months, my little fingers have begun curling like the tail of a baby pig. As far as medical conditions go, in can be classed as inconvenient rather than life-restricting. One is in constant danger of poking oneself in the eye when washing one's face and one has difficulty in extracting coins from trouser pockets - but speaking from a Yorkshire perspective, the latter is not so much a problem more a blessing in disguise. The time has come, however, to try and get something done about it before I become unable to hold a pint glass of beer, and therefore I am due to have minor surgery on my right hand next week. I mention this, not in the hope of sympathy (no grapes please, just bottles of malt whisky) but as a warning that I might need to restrain my usual loquacious style whilst the scars are healing over the next couple of weeks.

"You've hardly been bloody loquacious over the last couple of weeks", I can hear you shouting. That is because I have discovered a new passion in life and, as with all passions, it seems to have been monopolising my time. It all started one night when I was unable to sleep, so I got up and switched on the television. I eventually found one of those all night shopping channels and decided that it would be a perfect cure for my insomnia. And there was a chap demonstrating a steam mop that was the answer to just about everyones' prayer. It would clean everything : stone, wood, tiles, carpets, pots, pans, drains, drums, sinks suits and all with nothing more than a cup full of water. With such a steam cleaner my life could be transformed. I could banish dirt, odour, disease, and quite probably wickedness, from this world. I could sanitise the dog, deep-clean the shower nozzle, and resurrect life into my tired upholstery; all with the flick of a switch and a confident smile on my face. The very thought of sleep became impossible until I had acquired such a machine myself, and since I have acquired one I haven't had much time to sleep because of my passion to make everything clean. The hall carpet and the kitchen floor were fine for starters, but very soon my horizons' expanded. People are beginning to steer clear of me because they know that they are likely to get a cleansing dose of steam if they stand still for too long. The lamp-posts up our road shine with a radiance that can outmatch any 90 watt bulb. It is the glow of cleanliness, the shimmer of spotless.

Fear not : once I have steam-cleaned the rest of West Yorkshire and once my fingers are out of the splints, I will return.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Picture Post 1128 : Costa Del Col

I am never quite sure what makes me take a photograph. Some half-thought, some snatch of an untold story, some incongruous pattern - who knows? It has a meaning at the moment I press the electronic shutter but it may be long forgotten in the part-second it takes the image to appear on the viewing screen.

These two women were walking along the harbour wall in Puerta Banus with all the energy of a pair of climbers tackling the South Col of Everest. For a moment in time it made a good image. Now it makes a good memory.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Sepia Saturday 195 : Peace, Virginity and Grosvenor Square

Back in the 1960s, two interests dominated my life - politics and photography. Looking through my negative archives it is surprising how rarely those two interests coincide.  I well remember attending the great Anti Vietnam War demonstration in London in March 1968, but until today I thought that I had no photographic record of the event. But in searching through my archives for a suitable image for Sepia Saturday 195 which marks the International Day of Peace, I came across a short strip of negatives I must have shot on that day in Trafalgar Square. Although I have few photographs of the day, I have many memories of it, and so many of them seem to be in the form of mental images. Here are a few of them, fixed in some magical mental acid-hypo.

  • Attending a camp in the woods at Jerusalem Farm on the night before the demo. Talking to a girl around a campfire. She was a trainee baker who had just been sacked from her job for decorating a whole batch of cakes with the peace symbol made out of icing sugar.
  • Being told that the Fish and Chip shop in Luddenden, a few miles down the valley, was owned by a Communist who was giving free fish and chips to people attending the demo. Walking down to the village and finding a vast queue of young people outside the shop.
  • Waking up in panic in the middle of the night, scrambling out of my sleeping bag and running through the woods as the word went around that there was a police raid. Coming out of hiding later only to discover it was a false alarm.
  • Our bus taking us to London being stopped on the outskirts of the city by the police who with typical British politeness asked us all for our names and addresses. I still can't remember whose name and address I gave.
  • The great peristaltic wave that forced the massive demonstration down the street leading to American Embassy in Grosvenor Square. The sight of the line of mounted police with batons holding the lines of demonstrators back.
  • The realisation that a line of demonstrators would make contact with the line of police, get banged on the head or trod on by a horse, and then be carried away by the line immediately behind them, before the next line would advance into battle. The mathematical realisation that I was destined to be in one of the lines that would be hit rather than would carry away the wounded.
  • My managing to work my way to the end of the line and make my escape into a hat shop before nipping off down a back alley.

I was reminded of all this by the Sepia Saturday 195 contribution of Hazel Ceej who quoted the great comedian George Carlin who said "Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity". On that day 45 years ago I like to think that I made my own little contribution to peace - in more ways than one.

See how others have responded to the Sepia Saturday theme by going to the Sepia Saturday Blog and following the various links.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Picture Post 1127 : Ronda

We are back after our trip to Spain but it will take me a few days to get my blogging ducks into a row. We had a marvellous time in southern Spain and on one glorious day we were taken on a visit to the Andalusian city of Ronda. With its ancient bridge and spectacular views, the city is a magnet for photographers. Nevertheless, out of the hundreds of photographs I took that day, perhaps this picture of a tiled pictorial map on a wall sums up the city best of all.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Picture Post 1126 : No Hockney, But Pleasing

Some years ago, the artist David Hockney abandoned Los Angeles and moved his main studio to the East Yorkshire seaside town of Bridlington. His wonderful East Yorkshire paintings seem to capture the landscape and scenery of the Yorkshire Wolds so well. I am no Hockney, but, over the years, I have also found Bridlington a powerful muse. This is a picture I took back in the 1970s : recently rediscovered and scanned. No Hockney - but pleasing.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

The Lost Pubs Of Brighouse : No. 5 The Joiners Arms

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 5. The Joiners Arms, Hove Edge, Brighouse

What's in a name? As far as the history of local pubs is concerned, the answer is all too often a story. Take, for example, the Joiners Arms (my apologies to the Apostrophe Protection Society but there was little call for such frippery amongst nineteenth century signwriters). If you live in the Brighouse area and you are not familiar with the Joiners Arms, don't worry; you would have to be of a fair vintage to have a working knowledge of it as it closed down in 1932. The building still exists, however, huddled up close to the Dusty Miller on the Halifax Road in Hove Edge, a few miles to the north of Brighouse.

These days, Hove Edge is a bit of an afterthought, but there were times when it was one of the four quarters that made up Hipperholme township : along with Hipperholme itself, Norwood Green, and little baby Brighouse. Romans buried coins in Hove Edge (or Hoofedge as they fondly called it), quarrymen quarried stone there, and highwaymen on black horses hid there - but that is another name, another pub and another story. So let us return to our joiner.

According to the 1841 census there was a joiner called Jonas Bell living in Hove Edge. Living in the same cottage was a younger man, also a joiner, called Joseph Crowther. Jonas was 50, which was a good age back in the 1840s; an age when the body begins to slow down, an age when heaving a plank of wood becomes more and more of a challenge. Old Jonas needed to diversify and, luckily for him, this need coincided with that great process of liberalisation of the licensing laws which meant that almost anyone could open up a beerhouse anywhere. Hove Edge was full of so many thirsty stone quarriers that on a cold night they couldn't all fit into the Dusty Miller  (or the Old Pond, or the Black Horse, or the Broad Oak), so Jonas became a beerseller. By the time of the 1851 census, Jonas is listed as the publican of the appropriately named "Joiners Arms", and Joseph Crowther has bought the cottage next door and got married. Pulling pints was obviously less stressful than pulling planks, and Jonas was still listed as the Publican of the Joiners Arms in 1861 by which time he was over 70 years old and his neighbours' daughter, Lizzie Crowther, had moved in to help him.

But things never stay the same, and ten years later Jonas the Joiner is gone - transported to heaven in a fine oak coffin lined with burr walnut one hopes - and so is his old pal and neighbour, Joseph Crowther. But the connection is not broken, because Joseph's widow, Mary Crowther, has moved in and taken over the running of the pub. Keeping order amongst a room full of heavy drinkers could be quite a challenge in the rough and tumble of nineteenth century working class life, and poor Mary discovered this to her cost in 1875. To the cost of £1 8s 6d to be precise, the amount she was fined at the West Riding Court in Halifax for permitting drunkenness in her beerhouse.

The pub lived on into the twentieth century, but when Mary Crowther left in the 1880s, all connections to the original joiners were lost. And in 1932, the pub itself was lost as it ceased trading. For a time, the building got a new lease of life as the village post office, but the decline in local post offices didn't lag too far behind the decline in local pubs, and that also closed down. Now the building is a private house: neatly presented, cheerfully painted, and with a canopy of solar panels nailed to the roof. One can't help wondering whether it was a joiner who fitted them.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Picture Post 1125 : Taking A Stroll Down Charles Street

This is a photograph of Charles Street in Elland taken back in the 1980s. Most of the buildings are still there today, but the cars are different and the cigarette vending machines have long gone. Scanning my old negatives is like taking a stroll through history.

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...