Thursday, June 30, 2016

From Brookfoot to Antarctica On A Half Penny Stamp


This picture postcard of the area known as Brookfoot just to the west of Brighouse, is fairly typical of the first decade of the twentieth century. The colours are a little crude and the detail is less than pin-sharp. However, it provides a good representation of the lower Calder Valley when roads were still of secondary importance to the canal, and satanic mills seemed to sprout from the green meadows.

The message on the reverse of the card takes us to far more exotic parts of the world. On the face of it, it is a simple message between two friends (old school friends I suspect): Arthur Dodds who is living in Brighouse and D H Gawne who is resident in Bradfield College, near Reading. The message reads as follows:

November 11, 1910
I am trying some other rooms next week and after Monday my address will be c/o Mrs Reside, 3 Close Lea, Rastrick, Brighouse. Mr Ray Priestley is going with Scott's Expedition. I have not seen the result of your match with Queen's College. Hope you are well.
Yours, Arthur S Dodds

It is, of course, the reference to Ray Priestley (a mutual friend I assume) that is intriguing. Ray (Sir Raymond Edward Priestley) did indeed accompany Captain Scott on his ill-fated Antarctic Expedition of 1910-13. He was not a member of the polar party but he was part of the group that got stranded whilst exploring the coast of Victoria Land. He did, however, survive and went on to serve in the Signal Corps in the Great War. He later had a distinguished career in higher education serving as Vice Chancellor of both the University of Melbourne in Australia and the University of Birmingham in Britain. It's funny where old picture postcards can take you.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Unanswered Questions And The Nature Of Photography

It is in these difficult times that one is forced to think about some of the greatest questions facing man - and woman - kind. Take, for example, the question: "In the digital age, what is the nature of photography?" This is a question I have debated with my good friend Steve over many a pint of well-hopped ale, trying to assess the relative importance of skill, technique,  and good old fashioned luck in the making of a fine image. Perhaps photography is now entirely divorced from the camera and all about what can be digitally fiddled with using Photoshop and the like. We decided to test this theory by taking a random selection of negatives shot half a century ago by people we have never met and compare our ability to turn them into pleasing images using every filter and trick in the book. We picked three negatives each (unseen) and in each case produced a straight scan and then an "enhanced" image. Here are the six results - I won't say whose is which and leave it up to you to choose your own particular favourite. Is it photography? I have no idea. It is yet another question I don't appear to be able to provide an answer to.




Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Cruise Diary : The Baltic As The New Mediterranean

During our recent Baltic cruise I kept a diary. Here is just one entry - it was a day at sea, a day when you have time to sit down and watch the waves pass by.

Cruise Diary : Wednesday 8th June 2016

I never realised that the Baltic Sea was so big. After passing through the Karra's and the Skarra's yesterday, under the bridges and between the wind farms, it has opened up into a sea worthy of the name. If you took the Baltic, fed it up a bit, turned it on its side and added a hefty dose of global warming you might finish up with the Mediterranean. And then Riga might become the new Rome, and Vilnius the new Venice. 

Life on board the ship at sea remains both quiet and restful. For some reason the ship seems less crowded than such very large ships often do, and H speculates daily on the possibility of unsold cabins. The weather is pleasant but is hardly sun-bathing weather and only the most hardy take to the sun beds up on the lido deck, and I assume the rest remain in their cabins or encased in a good woolly jumper on their balconies. Meal times always brings cruise passengers out - like moths to a 100 watt bulb - but whatever delights await them in the various self service restaurants seem to be dimmed and less attractive than normal. For breakfast you normally need a strategy if you are going to claim a table to eat your corn flakes from: some prearranged battle plan that involves a form of medical screening to identify those who will need to retire to their cabins in short order so you can claim their table and defend it against all comers. But this time we always get a table with ease, indeed we are often faced with the dilemma of having to choose which table is most suitable.

Today I finally managed to persuade the on-board authorities that Isobel really is my wife, and the same wife that has accompanied me on every cruise I have ever been on and, therefore, is entitled to the same number of loyalty points as myself. I have now got a printed sheet recognising her status as a frequent floater along with a voucher which can be exchanged for a free glass of champagne and a pair of slippers. Ah, the rewards of loyalty. 

Tomorrow will be our first day ashore, and Helsinki awaits us. Or perhaps, if climate change continues as it is going, it will be Halkidiki that awaits us.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

From Bookseller To Bookmaker In Two Generations

A celebration of vintage picture postcards from West Yorkshire

Whiteley's Corner was the name given to the corner of Bethel Street and Huddersfield Road in Brighouse, so called because that was the location of Whiteley's newsagents and tobacconists and their famous clock. The Whiteley family ran the shop for much of the twentieth century and it became such an established part of the town, and under the clock became such a well known meeting point, that the family name became part of the local geographical nomenclature. The stock in trade of the shop were books, tobacco and newspapers and therefore it is no surprise that it didn't make it into the twenty-first century. The site has now been taken over by a betting shop, thus completing the cultural descent - from bookseller the bookmaker.

Change has had its effects on many of the neighbouring buildings as well. The Albert Cinema is now a bar and the Pentecostal Hall is no longer open to receive the holy spirit. Time doesn't stand still, however: changes in culture, fashions, and beliefs are marked by the constant movement of the hands of Whiteley's clock.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Sepia Saturday 336 : Walls Are Easy Things To Mount (Hopefully)

Our Sepia Saturday theme image this week brings to a conclusion the A to Z of themes we have been running this year and it features a young baby sleeping ('zzzzzz). Following the referendum results here in the UK, much as I feel inclined to take to my bed for a decade or so, I am trying my best to cut myself off from reality (if 52% of electors can do it, why shouldn't I?) and think sepia thoughts. My submission for Sepia Saturday 336 is a postcard from the collection of my great uncle, Fowler Beanland. For all those in whatever country who seem inclined towards the building of walls, it reminds us that "walls are easy things to mount".

So, although I have not been able to find sleeping babies, I can at least contribute a sleeping Aunty. And, as I am feeling generous, as we have a sleeping Aunty, why not throw in a sleeping Uncle as well. Here is a picture of Uncle Harry, enjoying a little nap on the beach at what looks like Scarborough.

Returning to that little verse on the postcard, maybe "Fond embraces, a la squeeze" is just the kind of thing we should be offering to the rest of Europe at the moment.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

News From Nowhere Is Back

So here we are, back home after 15 days at sea: 15 days of fine food, excellent beers, sumptuous sights and seagulls. If you want to see photographs taken on the Baltic Sea cruise, they will be featured for the next week or so on my PICTURE POST BLOG. I have also dedicated a new blog - PICTURES FROM NOWHERE - to reflect my obsession with old photographs I have picked up from here, there and everywhere in between. NEWS FROM NOWHERE will continue to showcase my random thoughts and pointless observations which share the common theme of themelessness. Whilst I try and work out what on earth that means, here is a sample of what will be on the Pictures From Nowhere Blog.


Standing Man At Desk
CdV By The London Stereoscopic And Photographic Company (QF1006/7)
This wonderful Carte de Visite of an unknown man probably dates from the late 1860s or early 1870s. The desk was the kind of studio prop that was ideal for supporting subjects during lengthy sittings necessitated by slow shutter speeds. The London Stereoscopic And Photographic Company was one of the first studios in the UK to specialise in stereoscopic photographs. When the craze in stereo photos began to fade in the late 1860s, the company moved into other forms of studio photography such as the production of CdV's. The London Stereoscopic Company still exists and is dedicated to spreading knowledge of, and interest in, old and new stereoscopic photographs. It has a excellent web site (hosted by Brian May - yes that Brian May) which explains more about the company and about old stereoscopic photographs.

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...