Thursday, September 16, 2021

Around The World In Eighty Words : 3. LUCK

"You call this luck!", Lucy said with the kind of sneer only a dog could deliver. In her defence, it has to be said that we were tracking through a tropical rain forest in the middle of the day, miles from anyone and with only a few outrageously large insects for company. It should also be added, that she didn't really say it - I'm not that abnormal - but when you are embarking of a tour of the world via eighty changes to your what3word geolocation code, you get desperate for a bit of company. For those in need of a recap, we started at my office desk, changed tall to short and visited Illinois, changed select to selection and dropped in on Libya, and changed logo to luck and ended up where we are now: in the middle of the jungle in Honduras!

Lucy had a bit of a point: a few hundred miles to the east and we might have been sat on a beach of a Caribbean island sipping daiquiris - but miles don't come into it when you are exploring the world by random words - luck brought us here in quite a literal sense, and here we must stay.

"I'm not staying here", Lucy put her foot down - or rather put all four feet down in a way that only dogs can - and refused to move any further through the forest. I tried to point out the illogicality of her actions (inactions) but dogs aren't strong on syllogisms. Eventually I persuaded her that there was a village a few miles to the east and there I was sure we would find a lovely old country inn with a well kept pint of best bitter, a decent steak and chips dinner and a bowl of water for her. "It's called Corrientes", I told her, "and I'm told it's lovely"

As it turned out, the country inn was a grocery store called Pulperia Lily, the village was little more than a couple of houses and a church, and there were still far too many strange looking insects for my liking. We bought a can of Coke to share and asked directions to the nearest city. As luck would have it, the second city of Honduras, San Pedro Sula, was only a few miles to the east. We could cadge a lift in a truck, head for the city lights, escape the biting insects and spend a night of luxury in a posh hotel.

And that is how Lucy and I came to be in downtown San Pedro Sula, hiding behind a garbage truck and desperately searching for a word that would move us on to our next destination. How was I to know that San Pedro Sula had the reputation of being "the murder capital of the world" with a higher rate of daily murders than anywhere else in the world outside of a war zone. At night the streets come under the control of warring gangs, who would happily murder a wandering explorer and his talking dog. 

"We need to move on, quickly", I said with a hint of tension and a bucket full of fear in my voice. "Think of a word, for heavens sake". "You said it", replied Lucy, "let's get out of here fast". So off we go to ///sake.luck.selection - see you there.

Thursday, September 09, 2021

Around The World In Eighty Words : 2. SELECTION


"Good God, it's hot!", said Lucy. "Stop complaining", I replied, "and while we are at it, watch your language, they're very religious in these parts, there are mosques all over the place". "I'm entitled to my opinion", countered Lucy, somewhat defensively. "You might well be entitled to an opinion", I said, "but you're not entitled to express it. You're a dog, for heavens sake, and they probably take a dim view of talking dogs in these parts, and an even dimmer view of their owners!"

My dog, Lucy, and I were walking down a dirt track, heading for the city of Al Marj, in northern Libya. We were on the second stage of our epic adventure to travel around the world in just eighty word changes to the what3word geolocation code for my office desk at home. We started at ///, then last week we changed tall for short which took us to the town of White Hall in Illinois, USA. A further change of select into selection, transported us to a dirt track about 100 miles east of Benghazi in Libya.

We could have headed north, crossed the Jabel Akhdor Mountains and walked to the Mediterranean coast to paddle in the sea, but that looked too much like hard work, so I had persuaded my companion to head south in search of culture, towards the modern city of Al Marj. My dog is not big on culture, however, preferring things she can eat, drink, or at least, paddle in. It was a matter of dogma, she explained, but I ignored her ridiculous attempts at humour.

As we approached the city, the landscape became less parched and more cultivated. Being fairly close to the coast, they do get a decent amount of rainfall, each year and grow barley, wheat, fruit and vegetables. In some ways it was not that different to White Hall, Illinois, but without the farm machinery, the big cars, and the Para Dice club.

Having made it to the city centre, we had stopped for a drink at the Green Mountain Coffee Bar. No cool beers, but it was pleasant enough with, for some reason, a good selection of sweeping brushes. "The old town was destroyed by an earthquake in 1963", I explained to my dog who was eyeing one of the long-handled sweeping brushes suspiciously. "And the old town replaced an even older town called Barqa that was a famous Greek colony in the fifth century BC. People from here used to compete in the ancient Olympic Games, and several old trophies have been found in some of the ancient graves in these parts"

Lucy had stopped listening some time ago and was now approaching the broomstick with either attack or love-making in mind. Either could have had unfortunate consequences so, I finished my drink and propelled Lucy down the road.

"It's time to move on", I announced, "and it's my turn to change the word this time. Let's try our luck", I said "by changing "logo" to "luck". So that is where we are heading next .... ///short.luck.selection here we come.

Around The World In Eighty Words : 1. SHORT

“What is it?”, said Lucy. “It’s more a question of what was it”, I replied philosophically. “It could have been corn, it might have been hay, even possibly wheat; but right now it is stubble, and more to the point, it digs into your ankles”. “Tell me about it”, whined Lucy, “I’ve got twice as many ankles as you, and, in case you hadn’t noticed, bare paws!”

A word of explanation is perhaps necessary, before I venture any further. Lucy, my chocolate Labradoodle, and I have embarked on an adventure to see whether we can get around the world in just eighty words. The words in question are components of the What3Words geolocation system that divides the planet up into three metre squares; all with their own unique three word identification codes. The trip started at my desk in Huddersfield in the UK (/// and my first word is to simply change “tall” for “short”, resulting in a new location – /// – which happens to be in the middle of a field of stubble just outside White Hall, Illinois in the United States. Now, I know what you are going to say – “Don’t be silly, dogs can’t talk” – but given that we have stretched credulity to accept that I can somehow travel the planet at the drop of a word, it is not asking much to allow me a talking dog as a companion.

“So where exactly are we?”, enquired Lucy as we left the stubble field and headed into the big city. “We’re entering the city of White Hall, in Greene County, Illinois, population 2,520”, I said, reading from a Google website. (I had to read this out for Lucy because, let’s not be silly, dogs can’t read). “That’s not a city”, she protested, “I’ve seen boarding kennels bigger than that!” “Sush”, I said, “we’re in America now, and this is Main Street, so behave yourself”

To be honest, it didn’t take us long to explore the place, but it was pleasant enough and the sun was shining, and people smiled as the drove past in their cars. For a time, it was a centre for commercial potteries, but most of these have gone now. It got its name from an early building that was painted white – some say it was an inn, some say a blacksmith’s – and the small settlement grew up around it. If Lucy and I walked far enough south we would eventually get to St Louis, to the West is Kansas City, Indianapolis lies to the East, and Chicago is a challenging trek to the North.

“I don’t want to walk anywhere”, moaned Lucy, as I started to question the wisdom of my choice of travelling companion for this virtual trip around the world. We were walking down Main Street, passing the Greene Gable Inn. “Can’t we stop for a drink?” Tempting as the sight of the Inn was, it didn’t look like the type of place you could get a pint of bitter on a Thursday afternoon, let alone the type of place you could take a sweaty labradoodle to. Checking Google Maps we turned on West Lincoln Street and headed for the Para Dice Club instead as they were offering cold beer and free meatballs.

So, that is how we finished up, sitting in the bar in the Para Dice Club (“good friends and cold beer at cheap prices”) in White Hall, Illinois. One word was behind us and there were only seventy-nine to go before we were due back home in Huddersfield. “It’s your turn to choose”, I said to Lucy, “make a selection”. “That’s it”, said Lucy, so that was it. And now we are heading off to ///short.logo.selection. We’ll meet you there.

Around The World In Eighty Words : Start

You know what it’s like. You’ve had a drink or two too many, you are on the edge of being bored, Coronation Street is not what it was, you want to broaden your horizons …… so you get into one of those “I bet I could”conversations. I would like to say that it was whilst seated in a comfortable leather chair in the Reform Club, talking to all my friends; but, in fact, it was whilst sitting in front of my computer talking to myself. Nevertheless, the bet was made, and now I must see it through. What3words is a geocoding system which divides the world up into three metre squares and assigns each square a unique series of three words. As I was sat last night, my exact location was ///

By changing one word every time, I said to my imaginary companion, do you think I could travel around the world and get back to my desk? Before I had drained the last precious drop of malt whisky from my glass, I had made a wager with myself, so I must now embark on this journey of a lifetime – to get around the world in eighty words. For companionship, my loyal French manservant was not available – yes, it’s Brexit again – and so I have had to recruit my less than loyal Labradoodle, Passepartlucy.

For my first word change, I decided to be as logical as every and merely change “tall” for “short”. And therefore Lucy and I are heading for /// I will let you know where we have landed up – but you can always check it out for yourself and meet us there.

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

In The North

This unused picture postcard - which came into my possession by fair means or foul, originated in France in 1916. It shows a cartoon by the artist, Jean Louis Forain, and is entitled “Dans le Nord - En Esclavage” (In the North - In Bondage). The drawing contains a quotation from the proclamation issued by the German Military Governor of Lille in April 1916, which ordered the forced evacuation of French citizens. “Anyone who tries to evade transport will be ruthlessly punished!”. At a time when the evacuation of civilians is yet again the stuff of newspaper headlines, it is worth remembering that such events have not always been limited to countries far, far, away.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Matching Moods On Sepia Saturday


I have been participating in the Sepia Saturday project for the best part of ten years and matching themes for most of that time. I have featured pictures of bridges to match bridges and pictures of my granny in a hat to coincide with hat week. After getting on for 600 weeks, however, I now match mood more often than matching objects. So my contribution to Sepia Saturday this week has nothing to do with cinemas or Turkish villages. For whatever reason, however, as I was leafing through my box full of found photos, found this tiny negative and held it up to the light, something told me that it would be a suitable match for this week's Sepia Saturday. Here it is ....

As with all my found photographs, I have no idea how it came into my possession, nor the time, the place or the subjects of the original shot. I can make guesses - lovers of old photographs develop a feel for time and place - and the car models always provide a general date-stamp.

Something happens when you click the shutter of a camera, and it doesn't matter if it is a Kodak Brownie or an iPhone 12 - a moment is captured along with a bag full of emotions. Some people might try to hide behind poses, others can't. It is that bag-full of emotions that make the photograph, irrespective of when it was taken or where it is set.

And if the mood match is too esoteric, or me just rambling on as I have been for the last ten years, you can take comfort from the fact that the tilt of the open boot reflects the angle of the cine projector.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Postcard From The Conservatory

This immensely colourful postcard of the conservatory at Akroyd Park in Halifax must date from the first decade of the twentieth century, although it is difficult to date it precisely as it was never posted. Bankfield House, the home of Edward Akroyd, and its grounds, were sold to Halifax Corporation in the 1880s and converted into a park, library and museum. In Victorian times, no grand garden was complete without a cast-iron conservatory, sheltering the delicate flowers from, not only the cruel English climate, but also the choking English smog.

Monday, August 09, 2021

Talking To Spirits

Spirit of Art by James Woodford. Huddersfield Library and Art Gallery. 1937

Walked through Huddersfield today and fell into conversation with the Spirit of Art, one of the two grand sculptures outside Huddersfield Library and Art Gallery. She was happy to talk to me having had nobody but the Spirit of Literature - from the other side of the door - to talk to for most of lockdown. “The trouble with Literature', she said to me, "is that she keeps telling the same story over and over again

Tuesday, August 03, 2021

Strangers 1


Sometimes an image can be so visually stunning, that it leaves a lasting impression on you. This particular image is taken from a medium format negative that turned up in a job lot of old, discarded negatives I bought on eBay a number of years ago. I suspect I may have featured the image before, but it is well worth a second look. It's an image that grabs hold of you with the power of a claw hammer, an image that remains in place long after you have closed your eyes and gone to sleep. It should be hanging in a gallery, it should be celebrated, copied, discussed and reprinted. Instead it was discarded on an anonymous darkroom floor, swept up into a manilla envelope, and sold for a few pence to the highest bidder.  In my new categorisation system I have home and away, family and friends, and now I have a category entitled "strangers". This is a stranger.

Monday, August 02, 2021

Home 10 : The Abattoir And Cart


We hear a lot these days about the changing nature of town and city centres, but the centre of gravity of our conurbations has never been static. I took this photograph over fifty years ago from the waste land at the bottom of Woolshops in Halifax. Widespread demolition had already swept through the narrow streets, terraces and workshops of - what was traditionally - the heart of the town, leaving vacant lots and uninterrupted lines of sight to the town abattoir. The retail footfall rarely got down this far back in those days, preferring the wider prospects of Commercial Street and the like. And then things changed: development came, new stores and car parks were built, and the abattoir and cart would more likely to be the name of a rather select bar than a description of what could be found outside.

Sunday, August 01, 2021

Expectation And Warning


All photographs capture time: old photographs capture history. This is a random image from my "Lost and Found" box - I know neither man nor dog, neither time nor place. There was a pencilled caption on the reverse of the tiny print which said "D and Louchs", but which is which I have no idea. The image, unknown as it is, now features on my daily desk calendar: D and Louchs have been brought back to life for a day, looking out at the world with a mixture of expectation and warning.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Albert And The Machine


This is one of my favourite photographs from the family archives - or rather the box of old photographs that has been given that somewhat grandiose title. It features my father, Albert, and a group of other mechanics, gathered around a machine that looks like a prop from a 1950s low-budget science fiction film.  I think the photograph must have been taken in the early to mid 1950s - when my father would have been in his forties - and if that is the case, it will have been taken at Mackintosh's factory in Halifax. The machine will have had some part to play in either making or wrapping chocolates and toffees - part of the famous Quality Street range. My father was a mechanic at Macks from the early 1950s until he retired over twenty years later.

Irrespective of the personal connection it has for me, the photograph is an important social document in its own right. You could quite happily construct a two-hour lecture on social and industrial history around it. The machine itself, with its dials and levers, tells of an age of cogs, gears and wheels: an age before computers and microelectronics. The gathering of workers seems to tell of a time when the connection between workers, machines and products was closer than it is today. The seeds of future change may, however, be visible in this seventy year old photograph: these people, these overalled mechanical midwives, are celebrating the birth of a robot.

Forget the lecture, it's just another of my pointless flights of fancy. Look at the photograph, it says it all.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Home 6 : A Bridge Too Far


The line went from Halifax Station to North Bridge Station via the Gas Works. At one time it carried people and goods to exotic places like Ovenden and Queensbury. It was closed in the 1950s and, thirty years later, the solid stone structure was demolished. It had become a bridge too far.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Scented Ink And Typewritten Confessions

I don't know about you, but I seem to be surrounded by adverts. The magazines that drop through my letter-box seem to be almost exclusively adverts for dentists, plasterers and barbers. If I attempt to reach out to the rest of the world via the wonders of social media, my browsing is constantly interrupted by adverts for opticians, hotels and, bizarrely enough, woodworking lathes. My email inbox is cluttered with adverts for services that would make a Bishop blush, and don't get me started on day-time TV with its low-cost cremations and folding wheelchairs. Oh, how I yearn for the days when newspapers were full of news. Talking of which, I was reading a copy of the Brighouse Gazette from July 1896 the other day and I came across some fascinating .... adverts.

You cannot afford to do your writing in the old way - now, how about that for a slogan!

I love the idea of this. Free insurance against dying in a train accident if you happen to have a copy of the Brighouse Gazette with you at the time and have signed your name in ink.

And talking of ink, make sure you use Lyon's Ink because, says this rather faded advert, it never fades!

And tell me why, a booklet describing the wonders of the Wincycle would be scented!1

And no media, old or new, would be complete without being able to read the confessions of Mr W H Brown (and the like) who suffers from despondency and liver complaints due to :the errors of youth"

Thursday, July 15, 2021

It Didn't Do For Mrs Read

Vintage picture postcards sent during the great postcard craze of the first decade of the twentieth century not only provide us with a picture of the physical landscape of our towns and villages at this transformative moment in time, but they also provide us with an insight into the everyday lives of the ordinary people who sent and received them. Such cards are an exercise in historical voyeurism, and all the more fascinating for that: they are instagram messages from a bygone era. 

This particular postcard shows City Square in Leeds and provides a prospect which will be familiar to those who know Leeds in the twenty-first century. The post office building, thankfully, remains largely unchanged - although you are more likely to get your lunch there these days than to post a letter. The Black Prince still trots motionless in the centre of the square and, no doubt, still wonders what on earth he is doing in Leeds.  These days there are some additional concrete sore thumbs and a good deal more traffic, but the picture side of the card doesn't raise any unanswerable questions.

Turn the card over and you are immediately reminded that the idea that in these good old days children were taught to write neatly, spell correctly, and punctuate properly is just another of those urban myths. The card comes from Mabel to her friend Miss M Baines, who lives in Altofts on the outskirts of Leeds. The message reads - as far as I can tell - as follows:-

3rd May 1906 : Dear M just a line hoping you are all well as it leaves me quite well how are they all getting on I heare you are all very busy I have not much time had the old ------ for dinner won't do for Mrs Read love to all Mabel.

The missing word is indecipherable and could be anything from damselle to Devon hen, and probably a lot in-between. Whatever they had for dinner probably didn't do for Mrs Read, but there again, whatever will?

Thursday, July 08, 2021

Ding, Dong, Bell


Ding, dong, bell,
Pussy’s in the well.
Who put her in?
Little Johnny Flynn.
And, meanwhile, Little Alan Stout simply walked past and took a photograph.

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Dog-Eared Days

Like memories, old photographs age. They physically fade, get scratched, bent, dog-eared: they interact with life. So when we look back at old photographs we see blurred memories of dog-eared days. Was my fathers’ hair ever that long, was my brother ever that young?

But what of the digital generations; those reared on pixel counts and jpegs? For them images will always be crisp and clear - historical documents rather than faded memories. Certainty will replace possibility, and that's not always a good thing.

Monday, July 05, 2021

Away 2 : Boating Under The Pier

Boating under the pier is prohibited. So is swimming in the birdbath, cycling down the drainpipe, and painting your toenails in the coal cellar. But when liberty returns to the world, we will be able to board cruise ships for trips under the great piers of Britain.

Friday, July 02, 2021

The Kids These Days


You can't look at the papers these days without seeing it: pointless vandalism, violence, murder. The kids these days - with their social media and lives of material comfort. It was never like that when I was young, back in the 1950s when there was national service, discipline in home and school, and policemen still walked the beat. Oh hang on a minute, this paper's a bit old - 1st July 1957!!!

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Away 1 : Fish And Chips On The Front


AWAY 1 : There used to be home and away. Home was where you lived fifty-one weeks of the year. Away was your week at the seaside.  This, however, was quite a late shot: the give away is that the fish and chips are in polystyrene boxes. By the 1980s, away was more likely to be a Mediterranean hotspot, and places like Brid were for day-trips and Sunday drives.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Home 3 : Halifax Bus Stop


It's a grainy old photograph of a bus stop in Halifax. When I took it fifty-odd years ago, I'm not sure what I thought I was taking. In retrospect (one of the most powerful lenses available to any photographer) I captured a slice of social history. There is something about the confident walk of the cigarette-smoking pedestrian. Something about home.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Sepia Saturday 576 : A Tale Of Two Cities


Our Sepia Saturday image this week features a photograph of a Paris Street taken in the 1950s. My contribution to this long-running weekly meme is a photograph of a London street taken in the 1930s. Although there is a twenty year difference between the two shots, not to mention two hundred and thirteen miles, there is something about the mood of the photographs that is strikingly similar. My photograph, taken by my infamous Uncle Frank, has always one I return to again and again, and each time I return to it I discover more images hidden away within it.

This is a Sepia Saturday post, to see more Sepia Saturday posts go to the Sepia Saturday Blog and follow the links.

It's a far from perfect photograph: the composition is unconventional, the focus is unsteady and my Uncle Frank's finger seems to have obliterated the bottom corner of the shot; but still it is one of my favourite family photographs. Frank Fieldhouse took the photograph whilst on a trip to London with his wife-to-be Miriam Burnett in August 1938. He captures Miriam and even gets in some of the famous horses trotting up Rotten Row alongside Hyde Park. He gets so much more, however: he captures history, mood, emotions. It is a great photograph for Lockdown - what on earth would the people captured in this image make of the concept of Lockdown eighty years into their future? - because you can spend days discovering mew pictures hidden amongst the old. Here are just a few:-

With a theme image from Paris and my photograph from London, it is a tale of two cities, but also a tale of two times. And that, is what Sepia Saturday is all about.

Around The World In Eighty Words : 3. LUCK

"You call this luck!", Lucy said with the kind of sneer only a dog could deliver. In her defence, it has to be said that we were t...