Thursday, December 18, 2014

Greta Garbo And Her Dream Of Beef Jerky

At long last, Amy has agreed to her picture being featured on the Blog. Over the last few weeks, several people have asked to see an up-to-date photograph of my constant companion, but she has developed the photographic reluctance of an ageing film star and a Garboesque desire to be left alone to sleep and eat her chicken dinner. However, with the help of a boiled sausage, I managed to tempt her out of her self-imposed isolation the other day for this Christmas Portrait. She is pictured in her favourite spot : lying on the half landing of the stairs, blending into the carpet in order to create the maximum trip-hazard to any passing pensioner. 

If you detect a slight accusatory look in her face, it results from the fact that I have been a little distracted on our walks these last few days. I have an idea for the blog in 2015, an idea I am trying to work through in my own mind before I make any lasting changes. Even if I go ahead with it, you may not notice any changes in the immediate future, but in my old, ridiculous mind I think I have re-invented the wheel. As far as Amy is concerned, she simply hopes I will reinvent the meal - with extra chicken, unhealthy bacon and a bit of beef jerky for afters.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Pictures Of The Past : Fishing And Chips

I suspect that I took this photograph in Bridlington: it has a feel of Bridlington to it, a taste of Bridlington. The fish and chip shops almost lean towards the fishing boats in the harbour in some kind of mutually admiring architectural swoon. The single anonymous subject looking directly at the camera provides a sliver of human interest amongst a phalanx of figures busy doing something else. But looking back at it from the perspective of 30 years, it is the lines that most attract me: the litter sign-post, the fishing rod and that strange angled shape - a thigh perhaps - at the bottom right of the shot.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sepia Saturday 258 : A Cartier-Bresson Off-Cut

Our Sepia Saturday theme this week is all about backgrounds, and I have to confess that I chose the theme because it is one of those aspects of old images that appeals to me the most. So often the click of a camera shutter not only captures the desired image - be it Auntie Doris or grandma's new motorbike - but, like a trawler man's net, it pulls up a whole historical catch as well. The result can be something like the example which I used for the theme image with wartime sailors and park railings, or it may be something like the following picture of Sepia Saturday's favourite Auntie, Miriam Fieldhouse.

Here she is, leaning against a lamp-post at the corner of some street or other. But look into the background and you will find it is as full of industrial archeology as a theme park. There is an old steam shunter that seems to be as at home on a road than on a railway track. And there is the kind of old wagon that used to be the workhorse of the road haulage industry. One of Uncle Frank's useful annotations suggests that this is Vauxhall Station in Yarmouth, a station which has been more or less rebuilt in the decades since the lamp-post picture was taken.

It is not just for industrial archeology that you might want to go searching for in the backgrounds of your old photographs. Sometimes, there is high art to be discovered as well. My main photograph is an off-cut from a photograph of Cousin Sid and is marked on the reverse "Christmas Eve 1954" But forget Sid, and forget the two squaddies : look at the kissing couple. Pure art. Whoever took the photograph managed to capture a classic image : an image Cartier-Bresson would, I am sure, have been proud of.

You can find many more backgrounds by going to the SEPIA SATURDAY BLOG and following the links.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Pictures From The Past : The Seismic Plates Of South Yorkshire

Yorkshire Miners Gala Parade : Doncaster 1982 (Alan Burnett)

There was a palpable feeling of being at the end of an era. Working class solidarity and hand-hewn coal scraped up against Thatcherite Britain like seismic plates itching for a fight. Within two years of these photographs being taken, that fight was in full swing and you can almost read the outcome on the faces of the marchers.

Monday, December 08, 2014

The Click Threshold And Sliced Salami

My phone seems to have got clogged up with stuff and I have been trying to unclog it by transferring and/or deleting photographs from its memory. Smart phones do seem to "capture the moment" far better than a bag-full of smart cameras - the "click threshold" is that little bit higher. The photo dates back to our trip to Valencia earlier this year. We were on a walk to find a bar and I didn't have the bag-full of smart cameras with me, so out came the phone. Easy: as easy as slicing salami.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Ceramic Scrabble At The Wes

We went to a cricket club coffee morning yesterday at the Wesley Centre which is behind the Almondbury Methodist Church, near Huddersfield. The Wesley Centre is a rather splendid Victorian Church Hall and the entrance is decorated with what must be original Victorian tiles.

After trying to spell some kind of uplifting message with the random letters, I then thought they might be some kind of decorative alphabet set - a Victorian ceramic primer. I also toyed with the idea that they might be an early Scrabble set and, for a time, I experimented with what words I could spell with them (most of them were, I have to say, quite unsuitable for a Methodist Church!) I eventually decided that they must be the initials of the prominent local citizens who had generously contributed towards the funding of the church hall. Whatever the purpose, they were stunningly beautiful.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Sepia Saturday 257 : Seurat Hop Pickers Of The Wild South

The nearest match I could come up with for our theme image this week, is this early twentieth century postcard entitled "Romany Hop Pickers". It has steps, a parent and a child and no doubt there is a dog around somewhere. No cowboys with lasso's, but this is the wild south and not the wild west. Hop picking was a seasonal occupation and it was also very labour intensive. In Britain, hop growing takes place primarily in the county of Kent, just south of London. The hop farmers would make use of large numbers of temporary workers during the picking season, which coincided with the summer months. Such workers would include travelling Romany families and also families from the East End of London for whom a week's hop-picking was their annual holiday.

Such old, hand-coloured postcards as this one inhabit a strange hinterland, somewhere between photography and art. Take, for example, the family on the left of the postcard, Seurat-like, they wouldn't look out of place on the Island of La Grande Jatte.

To see what others are up to on Sepia Saturday this week, go to the Sepia Saturday Blog and follow the links.

Friday, December 05, 2014

On The Difficulties Of Methodism, Socialism And Sensationalism

From The Huddersfield Chronicle : 1 December 1900

THE HUDDERSFIELD AND DISTRICT SHORTHAND WRITERS' ASSOCIATION - The weekly meeting of the above was held in the Y.M.C.A. rooms on Friday evening last, Miss Haigh presiding. Speed practice was conducted by Mr. T.C. Brown, at various rates. He also gave blackboard illustrations of difficult outlines. Miss Haigh then called upon Mr Briggs to deliver his paper on "Isms", which proved very interesting and instructive. The lecturer dwelt briefly upon such "isms" as Methodism, Congregationalism, Socialism and sensationalism. Discussion was then invited, after which votes of thanks were passed to Miss Haigh for presiding and to Mr Briggs for his excellent paper"

One tends to forget how innovative shorthand writing was at the turn of the twentieth century. The ability to compress cumbersome words into the briefest of squiggles was a skill somewhat akin to the attainment of computer literacy one hundred years later. From the lofty perspective of 114 years of history we can look back at Miss Haigh presiding and Mr Brown conducting those ever-popular speed tests. But most of all, one would want to hear Mr Briggs's excellent paper on the difficulties of Methodism, Congregationalism, Socialism and sensationalism. One can only hope that some fascinated listener took detailed shorthand notes of the presentation and it is waiting in some archive to be rediscovered.

Bentley and Shaw's brewery at Lockwood just outside Huddersfield was one of the most famous West Yorkshire breweries of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Founded in 1795 and connected to the Bentley family which seems to have sprouted breweries with a degree of abandon that would depress an entire temperance meeting, the brewery was particularly famed for its Town Bitter and Town Major Brown Ale. When the British brewing industry entered the dark ages during the 1960s, brewing at Lockwood ceased and the firm became part of Hammonds United Breweries. All traces of it are now long gone, but the renaissance of brewing in the town has replaced it with many other establishments, all of which can supply ales and porter "in splendid condition and available in casks of all sizes".

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Lines : Dead And Swirly

It was a funny old day yesterday, a little like a return to a half-forgotten and best-forgotten way of life, a rendezvous with an unwelcome past: I was working to a deadline. The deadline was self-imposed, or perhaps I should say ethnically-imposed, for I am a Yorkshireman and Yorkshireman have a natural antipathy to wasting brass (Note to non-Tykes, brass = money). For some time now I have been lazily working my way towards publishing the third selection of extracts - covering the year 2011 - from News From Nowhere. I had done a little bit of cutting and pasting, and then had a rest for a week or two, attempted a touch or two of editing and then had a rest for a month or two, and even flirted with the idea of a little gentle formatting, but abandoned the idea as being over-stressful.

It was only when I visited the Lulu website on Tuesday evening (I have always used Lulu to publish my blog collections), that I realised that they had a special pre-Christmas offer going that would give me 40% off the price of my published books. The only problem was that the offer ran out at midnight last night!

I was therefore left with 24 hours in order to cut and paste a years' worth of blogposts, index them, check them for errors, format them, upload them and prepare covers. Yesterday I worked with the zeal only a Yorkshireman can muster when in sight of the treasured goal of either making or saving money. As the deadline approached, I made more and more errors and cut more and more corners. I managed to put something together and order a couple of copies before the midnight hour struck, but I have no idea what the finished product will look like. I will report back in due course.

Deadline or no deadline, Amy demanded to be walked yesterday and for the first time this year there was a frost on the ground. I took a photograph and attempted to sharpen it using Photoshop, but yet again I seem to have pressed the wrong button. Nevertheless, swirly lines make a welcome change from the dead variety.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Seeing The NHS For What It Is

My eye problem has returned. A few days after the last course of treatment ended, the symptoms returned and I was left with a sore eye and a profound sense of feeling sorry for myself. I see the specialist again tomorrow and I suspect I will be back on the familiar cocktail of eyedrops. Being able to get free access to such treatment is just another bonus of the wonderful National Health Service.

By coincidence a letter dropped through my letter-box this morning: part of a new Government initiative to let us know what is happening to the tax we are paying. It informs me of the total direct taxes I paid in 2013-14 and the proportion of my taxes which have gone to various headings. For example, I paid £139 towards reducing the national debt last year and a further £105 (a couple of bolts from the back of a tank) towards the defence of the realm. And towards the budget of the National Health Service I contributed £374 from direct taxation. Given that direct tax constitutes about 45% of the total government budget, it is fair to assume that I probably stumped up a further £410 in indirect tax.  So for a few pence over £15 a week I have got access to a service that, in the last twelve months, has treated my fingers and my eyes, continued to provide me with relief from my deafness, and saved the life of my wife.

Even in the context of Black Friday and Cyber Monday - that is some bargain.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Metropolis And The Dungeon

Back from down south, and a jolly few days it was. It is, however, odd down there : a bit like a cross between Disneyland and a spare set from Fritz Lang's "Metropolis". On the Thursday, I went up to London ("up to town" as they say) and took a nostalgic route march around some of the places I frequented when I lived in London 40 years ago. I couldn't help noticing that my first workplace - County Hall - has now been rebranded as the London Dungeon and promises "misery, torture, gloom and despondency" within. As they say, plus ├ža change .....

I will try and feature some of the photographs I took whilst I was in London during the coming week - I took my newly acquired Little Nik with me to road test it properly. Today's two were taken in St James's Park.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Symphonica And Deep South

We are off down south for a few days. I will leave you with a couple of recent shots, both of which result from experimenting with my recently acquired "Little Nik". The first was an attempt to see what the camera could do with hand-held night shots. One is tempted to say "not a lot", but I am quite fond of the image. All it needs is a catchy title - "Symphonica 13" - and it may catch on.

The second image was another shot gone wrong. It started as a slightly out of focus shot of some fallen Autumn leaves. I tried to sharpen it up using Photoshop and obviously pressed the wrong button.  For this one, I couldn't even begin to think of a catchy title.

I will leave you to ponder these images whilst I venture into the deep south. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Indecent Proximity Of Homes And Mills

There is something about scanning and repairing old negatives : you get intimate with them. Up close and personal you get to airbrush history; discovering a detail here and a long forgotten commonplace there. When I reach into my negatives files looking for a strip of negatives to bring back to life, I always favour places rather than people. It is those throw-away shots of a nondescript road or a terminal mill that hold the most secrets and, like a sponge, seem to soak up the most social history.

I spent the first few years of my life in Great Horton, about a mile or so away from where this shot was taken. The photograph manages to capture so much of West Yorkshire : the steep cobbled streets, the drunken chimneys, the indecent proximity of homes and mills. 

It would appear that Cannon Mills still exists and now is the site of an outdoor Asian market. I feel a trip down memory lane coming on.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sepia Saturday 255 : Part Crufts Part Silhouette

It's a tricky Sepia Saturday theme image this week. The photograph, which comes from the Estonian National Archives, is entitled "Eveline Maydell making a silhouette, with her models. Indianapolis 1931" I have no silhouettes in my family archives so I had to settle for the dog in the centre of the photograph.

There was something about the look of the dog, that canine stance, part Crufts part shameless show-off, that reminded me of a photograph from one or another cardboard box that constitutes the Burnett Family Archives. Eventually I tracked it down : Harry Moore and an unknown dog - a photograph from the 1940s or 1950s. I have never thought of Harry Moore ("Uncle Harry") being a dog person. Towards the end of his life he would drag Auntie Miriam's old Jack Russell around the streets of Northowram without either enthusiasm or noticeable affection. But this is a younger Harry, a Harry that was still in touch with his glory days when he would tour the country as part of a touring group of entertainers (think of J B Priestley's fine novel "The Good Companions"). 

But those who have already read the story of Harry Moore on these pages will no doubt recall the name of that touring concert party. Yes indeed, "The Silhouettes"

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Dog On The Turn Amid A Lot Of Megapixels

Amy is on the turn - she is becoming  nocturnal. For the last thirteen years she has been more than happy to go for a walk through the Crematorium in the morning and a stroll around the block in the early evening. Together, we have grown into this routine: our twice daily walks providing a daily timeline, like some peripatetic minaret call. Now she shuns our tea time outing, rolling over on her back, sinking into some deeper level of unconsciousness. And then, at half past midnight, when all good folk are tucked up in bed, she wants to take to the streets. It's a better time of the day, she explained to me the other day, a time when you don't bump into other dogs or other people (she is not that fond of other dogs). It's a time when the only life you are likely to meet is a fox on its evening stroll or the milkman making an early delivery. It's a time of the day when you can be alone with the street lights, the fog, and your thoughts.

I have just taken delivery of a new camera (message to the GLW if she is reading this, it was a bargain). It is just a little point and shoot Nikon, the kind of camera that you can slip into your pocket and forget about until that moment when a good shot sneaks up on you. Despite the fact that it is by far the cheapest camera in my collection, it happens to have probably the best sensor of any camera I have ever owned - packing a mighty 20 megapixels. I remember buying 3 megapixel cameras and thinking "nobody could ever need more than that" I remember telling someone that wanting more than 5 megapixels was nothing but greedy. I remember hitting double megapixel figures and thinking "that is more than enough for the rest of my life".  No doubt within the next few months I will be penning another blog post as I try out some new 50 megapixel camera (message to the GLW if she is reading this, no I won't, my camera buying days are behind me).

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Most Of The Last Sixty Odd Years

We went to York yesterday : the GLW to meet up with her cousin for some recreational shopping, and myself for the ride. We had what the weather forecasters call "sunny intervals" which meant that I was able to wander around the old city taking photographs. It may not sound particularly thrilling, but it is what I enjoy - and have done for most of the last sixty odd years.

It is the kind of activity that is best done alone. There is an awful lot of just wandering up and down back streets, looking for the right angle, seeking the right composition. It is a type of mind-game in which your eye - and its extension, the camera lens - battles against the ever changing lines of buildings and people until it thinks it has found something pleasing, something which - when it is transposed onto printing paper or computer screen - will be meaningful. That strange branch of humanity who call themselves photographers will know what I mean.

And when the sun had one of its intervals, there were other things to occupy my time. Sitting in a quiet pub, enjoying a rather nice pint of beer. It may not sound particularly thrilling, but it is what I enjoy - and have done for most of the last sixty odd years.

For those who are interested in such minutia, the pub in question was Ye Olde Starre Inne - which despite its silly name is really rather old - and the pint was the deliciously malty Naylor's Aire Valley Bitter.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Mr Punch, Mr Gladstone And The Scarcity Of Second Hand Bookshops

I was in Liverpool a couple of months ago and happily browsing around that rarest of creatures, an old second-hand bookshop (the kind where books are stacked like firebricks and filed according to some long-forgotten system) when I found a half-bound copy of Punch Magazine dating from 1889. It was half-bound because one of the covers had taken its own, quite separate,  road through life a hundred years or so ago, but its boundless energy resulted in a bargain price of £2 - less than the price of a half-decent pint.

Some times, when the rain is falling and the fog is drifting in, I will dip into my old Punch annual and try to make sense of a political cartoon which is so far past its sell-by date that the joke has turned sepia. This cartoon featuring William Ewart Gladstone is a great example.

In June 1889 Gladstone was Leader of the Opposition and a tireless political campaigner despite having reached the age of 79.  Where others would take long summer holidays, Gladstone would fill his time delivering political speeches in all parts of the country and the cartoon shows Gladstone on a train heading for the West Country and another round of political meetings. At this time in his life, he was becoming more and more radical in his views, flirting almost with an early version of democratic socialism.

One is tempted to look back across the political years and conclude that little has changed. People were making fun of politicians back then, and many of the events of 1889 - aristocrats involved in sex scandals, people demanding a decent living wage, Sheffield Wednesday losing at football - have a degree of familiarity.  Some things do change, however; and not necessarily for the better. A politician prepared to face the people - without a carefully selected audience and a carefully placed autocue - would today be as rare as an empty railway carriage. A Leader of the Opposition who was entering his eighties and still destined to serve a further term as Prime Minister, would today be as unthinkable as a self-penned speech. And a politician who was getting more radical as he got older would today be as hard to find as a decent second-hand bookshop.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Sepia Saturday 254 : Life Over My Shoulders

The theme image for Sepia Saturday 254 features a man carrying a woman over a river. My dip into the archives this week has a man, a woman and a river; but it is Waterloo Bridge in London that is doing the carrying. The man is myself, the woman is the GLW (Good Lady Wife) and the date must be somewhere around 1970 or 1971. 

At the time I was at university up in Keele in Staffordshire whilst Isobel was at university in London. Although we spent the week apart, we would get together each weekend : our meetings being based on a three week cycle - one weekend she would travel up to Staffordshire, the next I would travel down to London, and the third we would both return to our homes in Halifax.  The weekend of the photograph was obviously a London weekend and you can clearly see the Houses of Parliament in the background and the Royal Festival Hall to the left of the photograph.

Within two or three years of the photograph being taken, we had married and I had moved down to London and started working for the Inner London Education Authority at County Hall; the building that you can just make out over my right shoulder. A year later I had moved on and I was working as an early version of what is now known as a "spin doctor" for the Labour Party at their Smith Square headquarters which was adjacent to Parliament and therefore just above my left shoulder in the photograph.

It is interesting that, what started with an attempt to match a Sepia Saturday theme image, has turned into a chapter of an autobiography I have yet to write. If I ever do so, I am tempted to call the chapter dealing with the 1970s - "Life Over My Shoulders".

When you have finished looking over my shoulder you can see what other Sepia Saturday contributors are looking at this week by visiting the SEPIA SATURDAY Blog and following the various links.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Angles That Were Right Not Wrong

The nineteenth century did not do curves very well. With the rigidity of a Victorian patriarch, architects preferred horizontals and verticals, angles that were right not wrong. Get rid of the stylistic curves of the cars and the vaguely carnal line of the flyover and you are left with the solidity in stone that is nineteenth century Halifax.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

At The Snap Of A Digital Finger

Buried deep within an old family photograph is this busy beach scene. It is likely to be the Yorkshire coast, probably Scarborough or Bridlington, and the styles and shapes all point to the 1930s. Nobody took this photograph - it is a by-product of a snap of sleeping Uncle Harry. But the watchers and the deckchair sitters and even the hefty horse have been waiting around for eighty or so years, waiting to be rediscovered, ready to be re-awakened at the snap of a digital finger.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Dressing Properly In Yorkshire

People don't dress properly like they used to: thank goodness. We seem to have outgrown the need for men to wear a noose-like tie around their necks and women to wear a sober skirt for them to be taken seriously. Most restaurants no longer feel the need to keep a spare tie behind the reception desk in order to maintain customer standards and signs in pubs limiting customers in work clothes to certain bars would now be treated with the disrespect they deserve. The tendency to make judgements based upon styles of dress is, hopefully, in retreat, but it still exists and occasionally we all still need reminding to avoid such sartorial snobbery.

It is possible to visit many of the towns and cities of West Yorkshire with their large populations of citizens who come from an Asian background and spot styles of dress that might appear "foreign". The sight of women wearing the hijab - or headscarf - is now relatively common in these parts, but any lingering thoughts of cultural separateness are driven away by their rich Yorkshire accents. And their headscarves are not all that foreign to these stone-flagged Yorkshire streets. I remember seeing a clip from an early short film which was shot outside the gates of a Yorkshire mill in the early years of the twentieth century, just as the mill girls were leaving for the day. Almost every one of them was wrapped in a full headscarf. I was reminded of this only yesterday when I found this old photograph of my grandmother, Harriet Ellen Burnett, taken, I would guess, some time in the 1950s. She is wearing the same headscarf that she wore throughout her life in line with, what to her, was a grand old Yorkshire tradition.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Sepia Saturday 253 : Gone Fishing With The King

Our Sepia Saturday theme this week shows a group of Canadian miners on a fishing trip. I trawled my various family photographic archives for fish and the closest I could find was a picture of Auntie Miriam outside a fish and chip shop. I decided to keep this particular treat for our annual Auntie Miriam Day in January, and therefore the best I could come up with was a cigarette card from the W.D. & H.O. Wills 1937 series "Our King and Queen".  Card No. 29 is headed "Deep Sea Fishing, New Zealand, 1927. Somehow I have acquired the full set of 50 cigarette cards, inherited probably from my father. Produced long before the days when cigarettes were hidden behind closed cupboard doors, such cards were given away in packets of cigarettes and designed to appeal to adults and children alike.

The King and Queen in question are, of course, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. The King, we are told, was a keen fisherman and his "bag" on this particular fishing trip included a shark. Our Canadian miners probably didn't manage to "bag" a shark, but they were taking a few precious hours away from a life of toil hewing coal. His Majesty, by comparison, will have been carefully shepherded to the best fishing grounds and, no doubt, he didn't have to fillet the shark himself.

The little card - hardly larger than 1 inch by 2 inch - is packed with history. It tells of times when companies where "imperial", when tobacco was a harmless treat, and when happy citizens pasted pictures of their favourite kings and queens into little books.  Times have changed.

You can take a look at what others are doing for Sepia Saturday 253 by going over to the Sepia Saturday Blog and following the links. There again, you could go fishing instead.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Mindful Thoughts On The Victoria Theatre In Halifax

I was flipping through one of those free local magazines that these days drop through the letter box like 1960s pop stars falling from grace, when I came across a page full of horrendous banalities of the kind that seem to be the twenty first century equivalent of the cry of the snake oil salesman. "You can become mindful at any time you like just by paying attention to your immediate experience and situation", it would appear. "Research", it seems although the precise nature of the research is left to the imagination, "indicates that living in the moment can make people happier, because most negative thoughts concern the past of the future". The entire saccharine-fest is topped off with the following little jingle:

I do apologise if anyone has had to read that having just consumed their breakfast, the words are enough to make anyone feel a little nauseous. I have obviously been living my life all wrong for the past sixty-odd years (and some of those years were very odd), believing that we have a duty to learn from the past and plan for the future. But no, the past and the future are seeped in negativity - let us all live for today and to hell with the consequences.

My picture was taken way back in 1966 during a parade for the annual Halifax Gala. The building in the background is the Victoria Theatre which still stands, I am glad to say. Whether it will be standing tomorrow is a different question - but, who cares? Such thoughts are not mindful.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Naked On A Canadian Headland, Filling In Potholes On Google

People sometimes imagine that the information superhighway is flawless: as smooth as it is broad, with a perfect surface that could put a bowling green to shame. But it isn't: there are imperfections, there are gaps in its coverage, there are potholes on Google. And when we discover such a pothole, we all have a responsibility to fill it in, because the WWW has always been a do-it-yourself kind of enterprise; there are no state tar macadam machines filling potholes for our convenience, nor would any sane person want such things.

Which brings me to a conversation my old mate Arthur and I had on Saturday night.  We were out having a meal at a pub and catching up on over forty years of shared history. Our wives swapped stories of friends and relatives whilst Arthur and I engaged in one of those "remember that bloke who ..." types of conversation so loved by old men. The conversation snaked its way to an organisation we both belonged to back in the late 1960s and early 1970s which was called the Halifax 68 Club. The club met every Thursday night in a local pub and provided an opportunity for people of the left to get together and exchange ideas and enthusiasms. It was not confined to any one political party - some were Labour Party members, some were Communists, some were Anarchists and the odd Liberal would occasionally poke his or her head through the door. Nor was it confined just to politics: I remember discussions on music, art, literature, philosophy and science. It was an asteroid of an organisation - burning brightly in the cultural skies of Halifax for a few years and then fading into obscurity.

The discussion between Arthur and myself on Saturday night had none of the heady gravitas of those discussions of forty-five years ago: it was confined to trying to remember the name of the pub in King Cross where we would meet.  As we sipped out pints and salted our chips, we racked our brains; we recited an alphabet of pub names, we listed monarchs and we conjugated mythical creatures. Eventually I said "Not to worry, I will Google "Halifax 68 Club". And so I did, only to discover that the only match the all-powerful indexing monster could come up with was the address of a nudist club in Halifax, Nova Scotia! The thought of all those long gone revolutionaries being mistaken for a group of Canadian naturists was too much to bare, and salt tears dripped into a couple of beer glasses. We had discovered a pothole on Google. I promised Arthur that I would attempt to fill it in on my first opportunity and that is the purpose of this post. If, ever again, two old men try to remember anything about the Halifax 68 Club, Google should point them to this post rather than leaving them naked and cold on a Canadian headland.

Perhaps I should add, for the sake of completeness and for future searchers of information, that the name of the pub where we met was The Wellington. Looking through my old photographs, I don't seem to have any pictures taken during a meeting, but the one at the head of this post dates from the same period and features the inimitable Tim Enright, who was the moving spirit behind the creation of the 68 Club, delivering a speech to commemorate a Chartist march over the Yorkshire moors.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Pass The Port Please

As part of the great migration to the Mac, I am re-cataloguing some of my older digital photographs using the new version of Lightroom. In some ways the task is time-consuming, but it helps stimulate some of the memory synapses in my brain and I have little better to do with my time. I took this picture in June 2000 whilst I was attending a European Council meeting in Porto, Portugal as a press representative. At such gatherings, I usually managed to steal an hour or two away from the fascinating discussions of the Common Agricultural Policy or the European Regional Development Fund, to go in search of interesting photographs. Porto was a wonderful city through which port wine flowed like water. Indeed the memory is so strong it is making my thirsty. Pass the port please.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Sepia Saturday 252 : No Such Thing As A Free Big Mac

Christmas appears to have come early for one Sepia Saturday participant. Our theme image this week features a party where the participants are wearing name tags and my picture also shows a party where the participants are wearing name tags. I have a feeling that the cute little chap in the centre of the picture is me although it may be my brother Roger. The occasion is undoubtedly one of the Christmas parties hosted by the factory where my father worked - the Mackintosh Toffee factory in Halifax. If I do not feature on this photograph there are lots of other similar ones which include my smiling little face.  The interesting thing is not so much the picture or the identification of the sibling - it is the tortured process which has brought the picture to my blog.

It all started on Tuesday when I was walking through town feeling sorry for myself. My route took me passed the Apple Store and my legs took me reluctantly inside. One thing led to another, and one thought led to another. The wise words of some long-gone relative seemed to echo through the showroom : "there are no pockets in shrouds!". Within 10 minutes I was walking out of the store with a brand new iMac under my arm. Since then it has been a migration of epic proportions from the tired familiarity of a PC to the different world of the Mac Operating System (it is twenty years since I used a Mac - back in the days when they were boxy TV monitors).

It took me most of the first day to find the on/off switch (a mere dimple in the sculptured metal superstructure) and most of the second day was spent in a fruitless search for an optical drive (it would seem that such things have been consigned to the technological junk-heap).  Whilst most of my essential programmes and devices - such as my beloved scanner - have made the journey with me, they demand new approaches and new methodologies. The fact that I am (hopefully) able to publish something on my blog this week is little short of a miracle. The fact that it (hopefully) includes a scanned image is astonishing.

The new computer is, I suppose, an early Christmas present (Isobel was going to buy me a new vacuum cleaner so, hopefully, I have forestalled that). Like with the little lad in the photo, it is a present from Macintosh, although my recent experience has proved the truth of yet another family saying : "there's no such thing as a free lunch".

For more Sepia Saturday presents take a journey to the Sepia Saturday Blog

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Down Where The Wurzburger Hofbrau Flows In Elland, West Yorkshire

With the help of a loan from the Steinway Piano Company, German immigrant August Luchow bought a beer hall on East 14th Street, New York in 1882. Over the years it became "Luchow's Famous Restaurant .... where "lunch, dinner and after theatre supper is served in a rich old atmosphere reminiscent of by-gone days". At one time or another most of the rich and famous of the twentieth century passed through the doors of Luchows. Theodore Roosevelt dined there. Rachmaninoff and Paderewski played the piano. Caruso, Marlene Dietricht and Jack Benny drank steins of imported German beer. And Gus Kahn composed "Yes Sir That's My Baby" on one of the restaurant's tablecloths. During the height of its fame, Luchow's would serve 24,000 litres of beer a day and it was proud to proclaim that it was "down where the Wurzburger Hofbrau and pilsner flows". With such a proud heritage it is surprising that 100 years after its' establishment, it closed its doors for the last time. And it is perhaps equally surprising that one of its' promotional postcards, dating from the first decade of the twentieth century, should end its' days for sale in a second-hand shop in West Yorkshire for just 20 pence.

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...