Thursday, December 24, 2020

Christmas

 


A seasonal image for the Christmas period: an early twentieth century celebrity postcard. It is captioned "The mother of The Missess Zena and Phyllis Dare".  Zena and Phyllis were musical comedy stars of the early years of the twentieth century, and their mother was Harriette Amelia Wheeler. She was the victim of an unhappy marriage and a violent husband, and clearly directed her energies into encouraging her daughters to go on the stage. As the postcard demonstrates, she also enjoyed a certain celebrity status herself. Her husband, Arthur Albert Dones was a divorce clerk, an occupation that may have come in useful when Harriette eventually divorced him for cruelty and adultery in 1915.



Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Wet

 


A wet day in Brighouse, fifty-four years ago. Full of memories - donkey jackets. mini cars and Timothy Whites chemist. More resonant in these difficult times, memories of crowded pavements and social interaction.



Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Travel

 


On a day that we seem to be more isolated from the rest of the world than ever before, a reminder of the times when travel was easier. A reminder also of summer, and one of the beautiful capitals of Northern Europe. This was the city of Tallinn in Estonia during a visit in 2016.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Shape

 


Sometime, all you need is a shape. Detail is superfluous when outlines tell a story. This is my mother, Gladys, fifty-five years ago. I probably mis-judged the back-lighting, but I like to think that I was concerned only with capturing a shape.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Blue

 


What a pity the placenamers of old didn't have access to Photoshop filters. Black Brook in West Vale could have been Gauguin Blue Brook and North Dean Mills could have been renamed Munchian Orange Mills. The world would have been a more colourful place.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Hearth


The 16th century Clough House stood on Halifax Old Road, just north of Huddersfield. Its grandness can be judged by the fact that under the 1664 Hearth Tax it was taxed on five hearths, which at the time was not just grand it was positively greedy. Sadly it was demolished in 1899 and now lives on only in an old postcard in my collection.



 

Friday, December 18, 2020

Teeth

 


A welcome Christmas present from the British Newspaper Archives - they have finally got around to making a start on digitising back copies of the Brighouse and Rastrick Gazette. Three full years are already available - 1881,1882 and 1889 - so there is plenty to keep my occupied during the coming Merry Little Christmas. Perhaps I will go and get myself a new set of artificial teeth to celebrate.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Match

 


Take a cut flower on its last legs (and before you say it, of course flowers have legs); add a bit of colour left over from spray painting a railway viaduct; shake it all about, and you come up with the first of our exclusive 2021 range of wallpapers. What else is there to do on a winters' night when you are waiting for Match of the Day to start?

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Wall

 



A stone wall somewhere in Yorkshire - it was 40 years ago and I can't remember exactly where. It probably was somewhere around Halifax, where there is stone enough to spare. There is something appealing about the slight curve: whether subsidence or intent, it gives it a sinuous feeling.



Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Dusk

 


Dusk over Worsbrough Reservoir, near Barnsley in South Yorkshire. A fine end to a fine winters' day. 

Monday, December 14, 2020

Far


Today's picture is there to remind me that this year I have been further than the Tesco car park in Brighouse. Ten months ago I was in the Caribbean, visiting island after island, relative after relative. Since then I've been to .... the Tesco car park in Brighouse.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Shad

 


A photograph I took of Shad Thames near Tower Bridge, London back in the 1970s. It feels like only yesterday but it is more than half a lifetime ago. The area still exists but it is now full of smart bars and restaurants and £1 million flats. "Shad" - seemingly a corruption of St Johns - is such a wonderful word.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Sand

 


A photograph of mine from the early 1980s, revisited via some Photoshop filters. When the world is normal again, I must revisit Cleethorpes, it has always been one of my favourite places.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Brass


Christmas is almost upon us, and even a lockdown Christmas seems to generate a slay-full of jobs that interfere with the gentle art of blogging. I can't just stop, I'm not even sure that I can simply take a break: but at least I can limit myself over the next couple of weeks to sharing a few favourite images. For some time now I have been creating a daily calendar which sits on top of my desk. So, in the lead-up to Christmas, I will share my daily calendar.





Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Cheers



When it comes to Photoshop filters, cold turkey doesn't work. I've tried, I've repeated the mantra "skies are blue, grass is green" again and again, but still I have cravings. It's too close to Christmas to start on these grand life-changing resolutions, so I am going to postpone my chromatic temperance until January. Here are the hills above Sowerby Bridge yesterday. The sky wasn't really orange, but what the hell. Cheers!

Monday, December 07, 2020

The Trouble With Filters


The trouble with filters is that they are addictive; they should carry some kind of Government health warning. Once you have painted the sky orange and the sea green, there is no stopping you - you become as incautious with your colour palette as a Government Minister with PPE contracts. I have spent the weekend experimenting with blue sheep, yellow brick roads and bright pink Victorian mourning suits. This morning I have made a pledge to stop; to return to the land of reality, to restrict myself to fifty shades of grey. But before I bundle all my Photoshop filters up and load them on the wagon, just one final one, for old times sake. This is from the same strip of negatives as the shot of Elland Bridge that started me on this road to self-destruction. The camera has pointed the other way, looking up the valley towards West Vale. The hillside was never this orange, nor the sky this shade of blue. But, as I said, it is one for the road.

Friday, December 04, 2020

A Touch Of Colour

 

You need a touch of colour on days like today. Days when daylight comes grudgingly and brings a sleet storm or two with it. Days when you approach a pile of grainy black and grey photos from forty odd years ago and wonder why our memories never made it into technicolour. So, on days like today, you press this button and that button, slide this slider and adjust that one. This is the age of the Photoshop filter. It is a hit and miss game: pictorial roulette where the odds are stacked in favour of the monochrome banker. But occasionally, just occasionally, you win one and something emerges that makes you smile. Something with a touch of colour.

I must have taken the original photograph from Hullen Edge, looking down towards Elland Bridge. It was the mid to late 1970s: what is now the Barge and Barrel was then the Bar Bados and the bypass was still as bright as a concrete button. The mills were still working and the trees on the hillside merged into an unrealistically blue sky.


Wednesday, December 02, 2020

You Can See The Teeth Marks

 


Another photograph of Halifax, and, almost inevitably, another photograph featuring Beacon Hill. Taking a photograph of Halifax without Beacon Hill is a bit like taking a picture of Blackpool without its tower or Hollywood without its sign. I must have taken this photograph from King Street, from the same position I took the photo of the swings and the Parish Church. It shows the iconic hill with chunks eaten away from it, as though it has been visited by a peckish rock-eating giant who has taken a bite or two and then decided that the local hill is a little too tough. The remaining photos on this particular strip of negatives (from 1966/67 I think) are taken in one of the hillside quarries and show layer after layer of sedimentary bands. If you look closely, however, I am sure you can see the teeth marks!



Monday, November 30, 2020

Halifax In The Swinging Sixties

 

This wasn't a particularly good photograph in the first place: the focus could have been better, the composition would win no prizes. For the best part of 54 years it has been hidden away in my negative files, slowly collecting dust and fading into a relatively well-earned obscurity. There is, however, an inverse square law with old urban photos: the older and more obscure they are, the greater is their potential historical interest. 

The photograph is of Halifax Parish Church (now the Halifax Minster) as seen from King Street. If you took a similar photograph today, your view of the church would be obscured by some neatly laid out grassland, the repositioned Halifax War Memorial, abundant trees and shrubs; not to mention a couple of asphalt car parks. Back in the mid 1960s, the only thing standing between you and the church would have been a pile of rubble and a set of swings. This was Halifax in the Swinging Sixties.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Watching Over Elland

There are some scenes I return to again and again: photographs I have been taking for fifty years. One such is the statue of Britannia which overlooks Elland Bridge from her elevated position on the roof of the former premises of the Halifax and Huddersfield Banking Company. Sometimes I try and capture her in an elegant pose, flanked by the pilasters, columns and pediments of the frontage of what is now a beautifully restored building. At other times I sneak up on her and catch her off guard, amid the roof tiles and chimney pots.


These two photographs fall into the latter category and date from the early 1980s. By this time Britannia had spent a good few years patiently watching the construction of the new Elland Bypass Over the next few decades she would watch the scars created by the new road gradually fade, she would see buildings come and buildings go, see the river rise and fall, and, no doubt, every so often, catch sight of me walking past, camera in hand, photographing my muse.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Plus Ca Change

 


The final shot of this particular strip of negatives from fifty or more years ago provides a bit of a clue as to how the various views of the area around Shaw Lane, Halifax, fit together. It is a bit like playing three dimensional chess, in that you are not only trying to remember where you walked over half a century ago, but also trying to fit the buildings and roads into a plan that no longer exists. With the help, however, of an old map, I think I have made a decent attack on the problem, although possibly not a check-mate.

It is this final shot that provided the main clue, because it not only shows the "tunnel" entrance, but also its location in relation to the rest of Shaw Lane. I seem to remember saying a few days ago that this was an area of Halifax that had seen little change. After retracing my steps and comparing what is there now with was was there in the late 1960s, I might need to amend that conclusion. Plus ca change.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

The Halifax Entrance To The Channel Tunnel

 


This is another image from fifty years ago, taken in the Shaw Lane area of Halifax. It has been a bit of a challenge to pin down where I was when I took this photograph, because - as far as I can work out - it doesn't exist anymore. However, it appears that this is one of the few surviving photographs of the little known Halifax entrance to the Channel Tunnel! If you manoeuvre your way down this steep cobbled incline you will eventually emerge near Paris .... well, Paris Gates to be exact. That is Shaw Lane at the top of the hill and if you completed the subterranean journey under the mill building you would emerge on what I think is Boys Lane, just above the Shears Inn. Once again, this description is constrained by a lot of "I thinks", and "as far as I can work outs" : it was all a long time ago and my memory isn't quite as resilient as those glorious stone sets.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Some Of It Is, Some Of It Isn't


Some of this isn't there any more. Some of it is. I can't be entirely sure what is, and what isn't, because it is a long time since I walked up this narrow cobbled street in Halifax. This photograph was taken over fifty years ago, and I don't think I have been up this little bit of Boys Lane since then. More to the point, the Google camera van hasn't been up this particular hill either, and therefore I can't make a virtual visit from the comfort of my socially distanced desk. The building behind the fence is the Shears Inn - that's still there, and it is not too many months since I sunk a refreshing pint or two there. The stretch of road in front of the Shears is called Paris Gates. It is thought that the name "Paris Gates" is a corruption of the more prosaic "Parish Gates", but I prefer to think of it as Halifax's flirtation with the exotic continent. To match the mood, I have added a touch of exotic colour : some of it is realistic, some of it isn't. I can't be sure what is and what isn't.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

As Brief As The Click Of a Shutter

 

Another plunge into the pool of the unknown. Somehow I acquired an album of photographs from the 1920s and 30s. Photographs of people I don't know in places I have never been. Photographs that captured an instant in time, which eventually faded into a memory and then was lost forever. Not quite forever: this tiny photograph has been found, restored, re-shared with the world.

The only information I have is that another photograph on the same page in the album was captioned "Sulby Glen". Sulby Glen is near the village of Lezayre in the Isle of Man. We can assume that this party of walkers were taking a rest and a photo opportunity whilst exploring the glen. Where they came from, I don't know. Where they went to afterwards is equally unknown. But for a brief instant - as brief as the click of a shutter - we can join them in the glen and share their world.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Change

 

You could still walk down Shaw Lane, Halifax, today and see little change to this view I took over fifty years ago. The mill buildings are still there, the cobbles are still set into the street. The wooden shed and railings are gone, the stone is a bit cleaner and there has been a bit of tidying up; but little has changed to the exterior of the building. Step inside the mill buildings, and it's a different story (or it was before lockdown and, hopefully, will be once again post lockdown). The rattle of looms has been replaced by the calming quiet of art galleries, the cheerful chatter of cafe patrons, and the frenzied exertions of keep fitters.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Long, Warm And Dry

 HOW TO SURVIVE THE LOCKDOWN : No 34 IN A SEEMINGLY ENDLESS SERIES

GLENGOYNE 18 YEAR OLD HIGHLAND SINGLE MALT WHISKY


The nose was supposed to be "awash with red apples and ripe melon" I got that, but I also got the slightest hint of a freshly opened bottle of Tippex as well. After a moment it was supposed to "drift into hot porridge topped with brown sugar",  which it did, but perhaps with a nod in the direction of liquorice roots as well. The taste was said to be "full bodied, round and rich": and it certainly gets a tick for each of those - as full bodied as a sumo wrestler, as rounded as my lockdown waist, and as rich as my Auntie Amy's third husband was supposed to be. Unlike Uncle Joe, it didn't disappoint. The finish was reputed veto be "long, warm and dry" - the perfect recipe for a Covid winter.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Pin OK Oh!

 


The origins of large-scale public sculpture in Halifax go back even further than the magnificent Striding Concrete Man (aka Burdock Way). Who can forget the monumental plastic bowling pin of a decade earlier? Built on a scale to rival Barry's town hall, for much of the sixties it stood like a beacon to cultural imperialism in the land of crown-green bowling. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Photo-Me, Victoria

 


Some people say that photographs today are as cheap as chips. This is untrue, as anyone who has been to a fish and chip shop recently will know: a bag of chips can set you back the best part of £2. Photographs, captured on smart phones and shared with friends are essentially free goods, and like all free goods, we tend to take them for granted. We can snap a selfie, and if it doesn't hold up to our glorified self-image, we can dump it quicker than a political adviser.

Go back 150 years, and that was not the case; photographs were a rare thing, something you had to save up for, pose for, and frown for. Nobody was willing to pass up their one chance of immortality in exchange for a cheap grin or a cheeky gesture. If you go back thirty or so years ago, however, back to the late pre-digital age, it was the era of the photo booths. You could put a coin in a machine and produce four portrait poses: one serious one for your passport or driving licence, and three silly ones just for the fun of it. 

So how would our perceptions of the Victorians be changed if they had coin-in-the-slot Photo-Me booths? Perhaps we would be left with more than endless portraits of serious and unsmiling faces. Modern technology helps us to test these theories out, so here is our Victorian lady relaxing in front of the Photo-Me camera .... with a little help from Photoshop's new Neural filters!




Monday, November 16, 2020

We Called It Burdock Way

 

Burdock Way Under Construction (1971) Alan Burnett

In recent years, large scale outdoor public sculptures which create enduring landmarks have become popular. Examples are Antony Gormley's Angel of the North in Gateshead and Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Grangemouth, Scotland. Few people realise that Halifax was a pioneer of this artistic movement, with its monumental sculpture completed in the early 1970s. We called it Burdock Way.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Beer Speaks, People Mumble

 


In these strange and difficult times, we are all in search of a meaning to life; an explanation and a guiding principle that we can chalk up on a banner and carry it forward with pride and the hope of a better future. We can find inspiration in all manner of places: the smile of a new-born baby or the glorious colours of Autumn. I found mine on a beer bottle label. 

I have no idea where the beer bottle came from, it was in my fridge and, last night, was next in line to be opened. Opened it was, and the contents consumed - remarkably tasty, new wave American IPA at its best - and afterwards, as the sun set over Bradley Bar Roundabout, I started to read the label. It goes, as follows:-

"The beer in your hand has achieved what we all hope for ourselves; to be made new again. There is freedom in burning down the house of expectations and it confers an undeniable lightness to being.We didn't invent these truths; they invented us. Beer speaks, people mumble."

Oh you can keep your Spinoza and Kant, embrace your Nietzche or Wittgenstein: give me a bottle of Lagunitas Daytime Session IPA any day.

Friday, November 13, 2020

A Different Time, A Different Place


I can't quite pin down the exact location of the photograph I took back in 1974. It is Halifax, without a doubt; that is Beacon Hill, more than likely: but the scene must have changed over the decades, and I can't pinpoint it on Google Earth. It might be that I have scanned the photograph back to front, the hills might be the other way around, the house roofs might be rising not falling. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter - even with a bit of added colour, it is a different time and a different place.



Thursday, November 12, 2020

Quality Street

 

John Mackintosh, Albion Mills, Halifax (c1974)

My father worked at Mackintosh's in Halifax. Every so often, he would bring a bag of what were known as "Throw-Outs" home; misshapen chocolates which were sold off cheap to the factory workers. Whilst this meant a plentiful supply of chocolates for me as a child, you soon got fed up of orange creams and strawberry delights. What I never got fed up of, however, were the colourful cellophane wrappers that encased each of the famous Quality Street selection. You could hold these up to the world and transform the view: skies could become purple and grass blue. You could even hold them up in front of your black and white television and imagine what colour TV might be like if it ever was invented. And for me, these cellophane filters provided an introduction to the wonders of Photoshop.



Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Neon Memories


This is a photograph of George Square in Halifax, taken - as far as I can remember - in the mid 1960s. You don't get to see much, just a few neon signs and fuzzy shop windows, but you don't need to see much to spark a memory. This is Halifax's answer to Times Square or Piccadilly Circus: a tobacconist and a pram shop. You might not be able to hear it, but there is a soundtrack playing in the background to this picture: something suitably smokey and jazzy. The rain is falling, and you are on your way home from the pictures; heading for the bus stop hoping to make the last bus home. Neon memories.

Monday, November 09, 2020

Halifax Decorations

 


I must have taken this photograph of Horton Street in Halifax, and the fine spire of Square Church sometime in the mid to late 1960s. It was at a time when Halifax was still at the shabby end of the shabby-chic continuum. In order to advertise his credentials, the decorator who inhabited the upper parts of this corner building had done his best to add some colour to the scene. The shop part of the building seems to be dedicated to a  window display of sacks of potatoes. The building is long gone, as distant a memory as the soot on the church spire: Halifax decorations of the past, both of them.




Monday, November 02, 2020

Change And The Wool Merchant


For more than a century a wool merchant has dominated the junction of King Street and Mulcture Hall Road in Halifax. For most of that time the building was the premises of the wool merchant business of H Holdsworth, but more recently it has been the home of the Wool Merchant Hotel. Whether trade or tourism, textiles or hospitality, the building stands proud, like some Calderdale Coliseum.

My photograph was taken in 1970 and for comparison there is also a current screen grab from Google Streetview. If you are bored in lockdown with nothing to do, you can always play a game of Spot The Difference between the two images. I don't want to spoil things for you, but to start out with there is the colour of the stone and the hillside covered in trees. That is only a start, if you look carefully enough you can easily come up with a substantial list. That's change for you!

Home 2 : Bank Bottom, Halifax

The second picture in my "Home" collection is this photograph of Bank Bottom, Halifax, which I took somewhere around 1970. Square ...