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.

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...