Tuesday, June 16, 2015

An Hiatus Hernia Around The Metaphorical Corner

The Lad and the GLW Enjoying The English Countryside
It is summer and the sun is out. It is a time to walk in the country rather than sit in a darkened room scanning the past, moaning about the present and dreading the future. It is a time to pack a small suitcase and set off to see what is around the metaphorical corner. We will be away for a couple of weeks and there will be a bit of an hiatus as far as News From Nowhere is concerned. But, along with death and taxes (you can remove the latter from the list if you can afford to employ an expensive corporate accountant), the one thing you can be certain about is that summer is the shortest of seasons in this fair isle - so I will be back very soon.

Reverse of Carte De Visite by G B Bradshaw, Altrincham

I will be taking my camera with me and hopefully the sun will stay out long enough for me to take one or two photographs of Shropshire, Gloucestershire and East Yorkshire (all on our itinerary). If the British climate returns to type, I may give the new process used by G B Bradshaw & Co a try as it enables good photographs to be taken in any weather.

Swing Bridge : Quay Street. Huddersfield Broad Canal
Whilst walking along the canal towpath the other day I couldn't resist taking a photograph of the magnificent old swing bridge at Quay Street, Huddersfield. The massive cast iron counterweights dominate the scene with their proud inscriptions. Such counterweights will have been a blessing for generations of canal people, allowing them to lift the bridge without doing themselves a mischief and getting an hernia. See you all soon.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Stone Marinated In Sweat

Walking along the canal towpath in Huddersfield this morning I glanced up at the mill that still casts a shadow over the Sainsbury's Superstore. What an awe-inspiring structure - the stone progeny of industry and trade with ceilings and walls marinated in the sweat and blood of generations of workers.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Bluebirds Get A Good Thrashing For Cherry Picking

It was the Brighouse 1940s Weekend last weekend - a fun day out for all the family. I must confess I am as ambivalent as a doodle-bug about such events: whilst it is always good to see people on the street having a good time and celebrating history, the kaleidoscope of time can sometimes induce false memory syndrome. I do battle against the age-induced desire to be a miserable old curmudgeon - "let them try and manage without fresh eggs and boiled sweets for six years and see if they are still smiling then" - and welcome the desire to celebrate a time when we believed we were united by real hardship rather than divided by perceived challenges. If nothing else it got people out of their homes and it may have reminded just one or two people about what that titanic struggle was all about.

I was tempted to dip into an old copy of a local newspapers to try and compare myth and reality. In amongst the adverts for khaki knitting wool and recipes for Lord Woolton Pie, I came across this report of crime amidst the blackouts and bomb craters. So, back in the good old days, if you found kids misbehaving - as kids always have and always will misbehave - perhaps you didn't just give them a clip around the earhole. Perhaps you took 13 year old kids to court for pinching a bottle of pop or running off with a rare piece of brandy-snap. Perhaps you then threatened them with a "really good thrashing".

The problem with all this is that I am cherry-picking (and probably deserve a really good thrashing for it). Just as those who re-enact historical events choose to emphasise some aspects of life in the 1940s, maybe I was subconsciously combing the newspapers looking for evidence to prove that it wasn't all happy solidarity as we hung out our washing on the Siegfried Line.

And maybe it is not such a bad thing to remember the good and let the bad fade with time. So all together now, "There'll be bluebirds over, the white cliffs over Dover, tomorrow, just you wait and see ....."

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Sepia Saturday 282 : A Triptych Of Moves

Three pictures encompassing three generations (although you may need to squint hard to spot one of those generations) provide a digital triptych for this week's Sepia Saturday where the theme image features a Russian violinist playing chess. My first photograph doesn't quite hit the thematic nail on the head as it shows someone who is neither Russian, nor a violinist, nor playing chess. Nevertheless, my father - for it is he - could conjure up a rousing tune on a concertina and this photograph of him (taken probably forty years ago) shows him playing Scrabble, a game that he and my mother played most evenings.

My second photograph does feature a chess game being played aboard a ship sailing off into the sunset somewhere on the Mediterranean Sea. That is Alexander - captured pensive against the setting sun - the grandson of the Scrabble playing Albert Burnett of the first photograph. It was taken in 2003 when he would have been about 13 years old.

The final panel of the triptych features the same subject although it is a different ship and, clearly, a different time.  This was taken less than nine months ago as we rounded the toe of Italy. You may well note that the pensive approach has now vanished and a bold and confident move is in the process of being made. And if you haven't spotted the intermediate generation just look at the reflections in the glass on that third picture and you will just make out a figure taking a photograph and wondering "what's he up to now?"

And to discover what other Sepians are up to this weekend, move on over to the Sepia Saturday Blog and follow the links.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Cure Yourself Of Everything (And Charge Your Mobile Phone)

Why is it that when commercial enterprises want to convey the idea of worldwide domination they go for some winged depiction of a woman wearing a flannelette nightgown? My ninety shares in the International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation have been rendered practically useless by the development of WhatsApp and its digital ilk and all I am left with is the familiar drawing of a woman gazing longingly at a globe. One is tempted to insert a bubble from her pensive lips saying things like "Good gracious, that's where Basingstoke is"

They had a different approach to commercial aggrandisement 150 years ago as this advert from the pages of the Halifax Courier shows.

Oh, I want (I need) an electric belt. Of course I have my full complement of aches and pains, but it is that love of solitude and groundless fears I really suffer from. And what better way to cure someone of their desire to be alone, what finer way to show that those fears are far from groundless, than 500 volts pulsing through your lumbar regions. With a little experimentation I am sure it would be possible to use the patent self-adjusting curative and electric belt to charge your mobile phone as well. That just might be the idea to turn the fortunes of the International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation around.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Finding Myself In The Digital Skip

I can't get my head around the seasons anymore. Back in my day, when men were men and you could buy a bag of chips for tuppence, Spring started in the middle of March, Summer in the middle of June and so on. Now I find myself watching Springwatch on TV whilst being told that summer officially started on the 1st of June. Not that I want to build a nest and the thought of the GLW laying eggs sends shivers down my spine : it is just that I need to know when to start Spring Cleaning. In our household, Spring Cleaning (which should be called Spring Sorting because I have never been big on spitting and polishing) starts on the day we order a skip for all the rubbish, and that day is today. So today is the first day of Spring.

The card comes from a batch I bought the other day. It was originally posted back in 1906 and has a message on the back which is about as interesting as an empty crisp packet. Whilst we are glad to learn that L arrived home safely and most of the sentient world share the hope that M equally arrived home without incident, would it not have been better if L had told us what she had for breakfast, or who won the 2.30 at Chepstow, or what Mrs Jenkins next door had been up to? Of course, the more old postcards I buy, the more Spring Cleaning I have to do. It's a bit of a viscous circle, but let's skip that one.

These days much of my Spring Cleaning is digital : sorting stuff away into files, changing file names, restructuring directories - moving the dust around on the digital cloud. The software I use to file all my images is Adobe Lightroom and the latest version has just incorporated facial recognition. Yesterday I was scanning an old negative and the facial recognition got its knickers in a twist over this image.

I kept telling it that it was me, but it refused to believe me. If pushed it would suggest Robin Ensore, Ian Byng or even Anne Wilkinson (people even I had forgotten I had been at school with), but every time I tried to insist that it was a photograph of me taken fifty years ago, it just gave one of those annoying computerised sarcastic laughs and moved on to another daft suggestion. I have noted an increasing tendency for technology to turn Bolshy and I might be tempted to dump the computer into the skip when it arrives - but my watch has just informed me that it is time to get up and move, so I will have to leave it until later.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Hidden From Vulgar Gaze In My Winceyette Pyjamas

There is an advert for a web hosting service doing the rounds which offers a comprehensive service for those wishing to create "a website, a personal brand, an on-line portfolio .... or just a blog" which seems to capture a little of what has happened to blogs over recent years. They have become unfashionable - the winceyette pyjamas of the digital world - overtaken and overshadowed by status updates and tweets. There are many reasons for this : blogs tend to require more investment than short sharp messages - investment by the reader just as much as investment by the writer. I could probably go on at length about the reason for the decline in blogging - but I suspect that would be merely a demonstration of the reasons rather than an explanation of them.

A couple of weeks ago I bought a box of twelve exposed glass plate negatives on eBay. I had no idea of either the date or the subject of the twelve negatives and I have been having a fascinating time scanning each one and trying to find clues to both these questions. I enjoy scanning so much, I recently started another blog called The Daily Scan (yes, I bought another pair of winceyette pyjamas) and I have been featuring a number of the glass plate scans on there. I suspect that the photographs were taken about 100 years ago and they have a distinctly "local" feel about them so I suspect they were taken mostly in Yorkshire. 

The one scene I can definitely identify is the penultimate one which is a photograph of the memorial fountain built to commemorate the life of Lord Frederick Charles Cavendish, the younger son of the Duke of Devonshire and the MP for the West Riding of Yorkshire. He was the Chief Secretary for Ireland and murdered on his arrival in Dublin in 1882. The fountain was officially opened in 1886.

Photography is now such an integral part of life - and, for me, an integral part of blogging - that we tend to take it for granted. High definition photographs can be captured by the merest nod in the direction of our smartphones and body-worn micro video cameras can capture every moment of our waking day with boring monotony on a microchip the size of a gnats' testicle. Those old glass plate negatives I have been scanning have reminded me of a different age, when photography was something special and magical. Reading through my local paper (The Halifax Courier of the 2 June 1855 - I am a little behind with my reading) I came across the following advert for the Halifax Photographic Portrait Gallery. Mr Campbell seems so proud that he can provide a sitting room so that people can view his photographs without being exposed to the vulgar gaze. How delighted he would be to discover that we can now view such photographs in the comfort of our own sitting rooms, whilst reading a blog post and, of course, wearing our winceyette pyjamas.

Daffodil On The Water

When I was young, back in the early 1950s, our family’s annual seaside holiday would alternate between Bridlington on the east coast and New...