Saturday, November 30, 2013

Sepia Saturday 205 : Tache And Book

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.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

In The Dime Stores And Bus Stations

“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)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Sepia Saturday 204 : Bookmarks In History

Same father, same garage, same house - a few years later.

Friday 22 November 1963 6.45pm
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.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Scanner Dipping : Screwy Driver In A School Cellar

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.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Rice Pudding Printed In Times New Roman

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.

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Weekend In Sherwood Forest

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
Wildlife abounds.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sepia Saturday 203 : Nothing But A Bumpy Field

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.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Sepia Saturday 202 : Exposing Those Shoes

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.

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.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Sitting On A Bench In The Sun

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.

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...