Thursday, December 19, 2013

Happy Christmas

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

Unexpected Snow

I have no idea where the snow has come from, but the picture was taken in Greenhead Park yesterday.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sepia Saturday 207 : Geo-Tagging In Derby

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.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Criminal Questions

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.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Standing Cloaked Near Standedge

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!

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Sepia Saturday 206 : Gipping In Scarborough

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!"

If all that leaves you a bit exhausted, settle down, take your apron off, pour yourself a soothing drink and wander over to the Sepia Saturday Blog and see what the rest of the Sepians are up to.

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.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

The Call

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.

Monday, December 02, 2013

A Perfect Storm Of Procrastinated Passivity

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.

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...