Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Commercial Break and Questionable Comments

Picture Post 29 July 1939

How complicated cameras used to be. You had to look through one lens, focus it on a ground glass screen, calculate the required exposure, choose the right shutter speed, twist the lens around to get the necessary aperture, cock the shutter mechanism, press the shutter and hope. But at least with the Voigtlander Focussing Brilliant you didn't have to wind the film on, because this was new technology and it had automatic film winding. You couldn't make a phone call on a twin lens reflex camera, nor could you Google a weather forecast. But they did take some smashing photographs and the large format makes them a dream to scan half a century later. 



Our old friend Anonymous left a comment on my Picture Post Blog the other day. It was in the form of a question :

Q: Thanks for the good writeup. It in fact was a enjoyment account it. Look complicated to far added agreeable from you! By the way, how could we communicate?

A: In English would be a good start.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Picture Post 1169 : The Wheels On The Bus Are Black And White

From today's crop of negative scans, this picture of a bus crossing North Bridge in Halifax dates from around 1987. It must have been one of the last monochrome images I shot before reluctantly moving over to colour film.

Monday, April 14, 2014

In Which The Brave Author And His Canine Companion Attempt To Climb The Unscalable One

Last Friday, Amy and I decided to attempt an ascent of the notorious Round Hill in Rastrick. Known to the local climbing fraternity as the "Unscalable One", Round Hill dominates the local landscape reaching all of fifty feet above the surrounding countryside. The exact origins of the hill are shrouded in mystery; some claiming it is an entirely natural phenomenon, whilst others suggest it is partly the result of defensive earth works back in the ancient days before the M62 brought civilisation to these parts. Despite considerable research, I was unable to find a published recommended route to the summit and therefore Amy and I set off with nothing more than a packet of Pontefract Cakes and a Dentistick between us. Everything went well for the first part of the climb, and by mid-morning we had bivouacked adjacent to the ring of trees you can just make out almost three quarters of the way up this behemoth. Alas, the tree circle hides a stout barbed-wire fence, one which my canine companion - exhausted by all the walking and climbing up to this point - refused to engage with. Crest-fallen and defeated we retreated, determined to return another day. Until that day, I must announce that the "Unscalable One" remains unscaled.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Commercial Break 1

For the last seven and a half years I have struggled to ensure that News From Nowhere is brought to you free of the commercial distractions of of the digital market place. I have turned my back on company sponsors, spurned the advances of product placers and refused to see any sense in Google Adsense. But times are hard here at the St Gothard Retirement Home and I have been forced to introduce a series of commercial advertisements. If you enjoy this blog, please feel free to patronise the businesses and the products featured in this series, the first of which is : -

Sheffield Telegraph & Star : 9 February 1918

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Songs, Glees And Recitations At The Clough House Inn

It is good to see the Clough House Inn in Rastrick open for business again. Dating from the early nineteenth century the current pub was part of a larger group of buildings - called Clough House - which included a farmhouse, a mill and a separate pub which, for the sake of confusion, was called the White Lion. Ideally situated on the Elland to Dewsbury turnpike road, it prospered over the years and by the 1870s it was being referred to as The Clough House Inn. 

The pub was used for the usual variety of local events : the coroner held inquests here and tenants would attend to pay their quarterly rent to the Thornhill Estate at what was known as "rent audits". Once the money had been handed over, these could become merry affairs as this cutting from the Huddersfield Daily Chronicle of 15th December 1877 shows. "Songs, glees and recitations followed, and a joyous time was spent"

Friday, April 11, 2014

Sepia Saturday 223 : A Quadriptych From My Mother's Purse

Our Sepia Saturday theme image this week shows a rather interesting collection of four images of Tasmania. I have never been to Tasmania - although curiously enough I was chatting with a friend yesterday who had just returned from there - so I am following the four-view element of the theme with this quadriptych (yes, that is an actual word) based on the contents of my mother's purse. These days, any self-respecting parent will walk around with a collection of photographs of their nearest and dearest on their mobile phones, so they can instantly show you a cute photo of little Jasmine or Boggles The Dog whilst you are waiting for the froth on your pint of beer to settle. Back in the fabled Good Old Days, such things were still over the technological horizon and therefore you would have to always have a small collection of tiny prints tucked into your wallet or your purse.

The four photos I feature in my quadriptych (oh, I do like that word) were amongst half a dozen or so I discovered when sorting out my mother's possessions. Clockwise, from the top left, they show:
  1. My mother on the front lawn at my childhood house in Northowram. The single path and lack of garage suggests this must have been taken in about 1953.
  2. My father displaying his mighty muscles and his astonishing tan : again taken at our house in Northowram, I suspect around 1958.
  3. Me. I think. I thought it was me but Isobel says it doesn't look like me. It certainly isn't my brother, so who else would my mother be treasuring a picture of?
  4. My brother, Roger. This was probably taken around 1958 and behind him I recognise part of the garden of that same Northowram house.
Pulling four images together to create a single entity is a fascinating exercise - one in which the selection tells the story just as much as the content. To see how other people have responded to the challenge visit the Sepia Saturday Blog.
Click Here To Go To The Sepia Saturday Blog

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Picture Post 1168 : Worth Waiting For

I was going to announce a major up-dating and restructuring of the Blog, but the chances are that I will get fed up with these changes in a few days and revert back to the old approach. So we will let the changes - if there any - slowly emerge.

I must have taken this photograph back in the 1980s and I suspect it is somewhere in South Yorkshire - probably Sheffield. It was a time when I didn't have a darkroom and I tended to develop my monochrome films and leave them unprinted in the belief that there would be a right time to return to them in the future when life was less stressful and the possibility of a functioning darkroom would be more attainable. So here we are, 30 years later and time is more plentiful and darkrooms are no longer necessary. Through luck rather than intention I managed to capture a strange collection of dog-in-a-hurry, newspaper-reading child and dangerously leaning sign-post. I think it was worth waiting for.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Marking The Passage Of Time In A White Vest

There are few things in life I enjoy more than scanning old negatives. I know that makes me sound like a "saddo", but so be it. Scanning allows you to go back and achieve two thing : first, correct mistakes made at the time of taking the original photograph, and, second, to counteract the ravages of time. Just think if these options were more widely available : you could go back to September 1972 and not have that final pint of cider which was the tipping point that led to the disastrous chain of events you are still not comfortable talking about forty years later. Just imagine what it would be like if, with one sweep of the Bamboo pen, you could remove all those collective aches and pains that have accumulated over the years. But you can't. You will have to sit back and mark the passage of time by counting the mill chimneys - or the drying vests - in this view over Halifax which I took back in 1966 and rediscovered and rescanned last night.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Want More? How Howard Carter Discovered A Rusted Shopping Trolley

"A holy calm pervaded the back parlour of the Cafe de Travail. The smoke from five pipes, full of the vilest tobacco, hung in clouds about the ceiling. Round a table sat five gentlemen fingering five glasses, each of which contained a second or third edition of its owner's particular beverage. No one spoke. They had eaten too well for words. A vista of unlimited drinks at somebody else's expense opened itself out before the dazed eyes of at least three of the company. For the rest, even the most abominable shag will keep five, and fifty times five, men quiet"

Want more? No, I didn't think you would do and, in truth, neither did I as I settled down to read "I Will Repay : A Tale Of The Anarchist Terror" by Charles Benham last night. I had found the tale in an old 1900 edition of the New Penny Magazine, a bound volume of which I had bought at a local junk shop for a fiver. As far as I can discover, the story of foul deeds amongst a cell of Paris Anarchists has never seen light of day in any other format, so I approached the task in the style of a Howard Carter prizing open the tomb of Tutankhamun, not knowing what I might find but sure in the knowledge that it had not been seen by mankind for an awfully long time. Alas, my discovery was hardly noteworthy : think of Carter discovering a pile of old pop bottles and a rusted shopping trolley, and you will know how I felt.

I had been driven to my literary excavations by another example of making snap decisions based on a brief sample of the wears on offer. We had settled down to watch the first episode of a new drama series based on the exploits of nurses during the First World War called "The Crimson Field". Within five minutes of the thing starting, and following the bit where a young, pretty and cardboard-aristocrat drops her wedding ring into the strangely smooth waters of the English Channel, the Good Lady Wife and I exchanged glances which said "want more?" and came to the same, negative, conclusion.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Sweeping The British Monarchy Into Oblivion

A few weeks ago I bought this little hand-held vacuum cleaner and I have become quite addicted to it. I have been known to hover over people eating breakfast with the machine already running to catch any crumbs they might create. It is also an excellent way of getting Amydog off my side of the bed when I eventually retire for the night. This morning I was briefly using it to pick the bits up off my office floor when I just managed to avoid sweeping up the British monarchy. 

The monarch in question was King George VI, and more specifically a Canadian 1c green postage stamp dating back to the 1940s and featuring the King's image. How on earth this old stamp came to be on my office floor, I have no idea : it is at least forty years since I collected postage stamps, and none of my Canadian friends are anywhere near old enough to have been sending letters in the 1940s. Being a Yorkshire man I, of course, did a quick check to see if the stamp was worth anything, only to discover that it was as common as - well as common as the fluff on your average office floor. But enlarge the scan and it becomes a kind of graphic maze in which you can wander around the King's face in search of the prize you would win by finding your way into his left nostril. Unless the weather takes a turn for the better, I might well spend the afternoon hand-colouring all the little blocks in different shades of red, white and blue. It would be a patriotic activity and it might serve to make amends for nearing sweeping the monarchy into oblivion. It might also save me from having to go shopping again.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

We Defy Gravity And Death

Whilst scanning some old negatives I shot back in 1981, I came across this picture I took of the Wall Of Death attraction in the Lincolnshire seaside resort of Skegness. I was drawn immediately to the advertising slogan, "They Defy Gravity And Death" (Note to Son and Heir, I would quite like that carving on my digital gravestone) and to what also looks rather like a large dog kennel next to the front entrance of the attraction. I turned to the Web to see if I could find any further information about the the Skegness Wall of Death and discovered a fascinating history of it. Shortly after I took this photograph, it appears that the Wall left Skegness and for a time went into retirement before embarking on a world tour (Note To Self, there is a lesson for all of us here).

Blogging is a bit like coming out of retirement and going on a world tour. By clicking HERE, you can read an interview I did recently with a group called Silver Explorers in which I talk about blogging, technology and ageing.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Confessions Of A Paper Recidivist

I've gone and done it again. I keep saying I have stopped, I keep putting an end to that extravagant habit that seems to have blighted most of my life. I keep making those resolutions to overcome temptation and and yet, like the recidivist I am, I have gone and done it again - I have bought another book. And let me point out at this stage, by book I mean one of those things printed on paper and sandwiched between cardboard covers. One of those things that consumes a forest of trees, which takes a tanker full of scarce fuel to transport around the country and which occupies precious shelf-space in shops that could be better given over to useful products such as ornamental toilet-roll holders or fluffy rabbit shaped cushion covers. As I have said before in this column, those old-fashioned book things can't be acquired in a wifi microsecond. They can't remember how far you have read, they can't look up the meaning of "recidivist" for you, and they can't put themselves to sleep ten minutes after you have re-read that final paragraph a third time. For that you need an e-Book, a magical walking, talking, library that can accommodate all the accumulated knowledge of mankind in a thin tablet the size of a cigarette packet. Whenever I fall off the eBook wagon I quickly finish up with a fatal mix of wrist ache and confusion (try propping one of those real books against a pillow and tapping it to turn the page). I vow to stick to eBooks in future but then temptation creeps up on me - either in the bath or in a "bookshop". In the bath I live in fear of dropping my Kindle in the water in case it somehow electrifies the entire bathtub. And in the bookshop I am driven wild by those temptresses, stacked seductively on shelves, displaying on their lurid covers all the joys one might find inside if you were to simply pay the going fee.

I used to have a similar relationship with music : loving the convenience of MP3 tracks whilst longing for the old-fashioned solidity of a real disc - be it shellac, vinyl or optical. I was eventually rescued from my paradox when a lifeboat called Autorip came gliding up the River Amazon. The idea was simple ; buy the CD (or in some cases the vinyl) and they will give you an MP3 download of the same material free of charge. All that was needed was to extend this beautifully simple concept to books and all my troubles would be behind me. I could browse around a real bookshop, buy a real book, get the digital version downloaded to my e-reader, read the paperback in the bath and fall asleep with the e-version in my arms. And now that mighty South American river has announced just such a system which, I believe, is to be called Matchbook. I think it is already in operation in America although I have yet to see a date for it to be launched in this country. When it is, I will be one of its first customers.

And just in case you were interested, the book I bought was the excellent "The Secret Rooms" by Catherine Bailey (in both paper and electronic versions). But that's another story - and another post.

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...