Wednesday, December 22, 2021

More December Days


This negative dates back forty years to the early eighties. By then we had moved north and were living in Sheffield, but I still returned to London with students or to attend courses and conferences. St Anne's Court was one of the narrow streets by Leicester Square populated by specialist shops dealing in action comics.

This image is based on a photograph I took ten years ago from the bridge over the River Calder in Sowerby Bridge. The Photoshop filters were applied last night.

A photograph taken earlier this week in Halifax of Princess Street and Halifax Town Hall.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

19 December 2021 : Outside The Boarding House


Each year we would go to the seaside for a week. One year we would go to Bridlington on the East coast, the next we would go to New Brighton on the West coast. This must have been a New Brighton year - probably around 1951 - for that is the boarding house we stayed at in Windsor Street. My brother, Roger, and myself feature along with our mother. The three older people in the photograph are unknown: the lady on the left is possibly the lady who kept the boarding house and the other two may have been staying there the same time we were.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

18 December 2021 : Saloon Bar


My desktop calendar today features two versions of a photograph I took fifty years ago of one of the wonderful art nouveaux signs outside the magnificent Blackfriars pub in London. The quotation is courtesy of the similarly magnificent Dr Johnson.

Friday, December 17, 2021

London's Changing


Stop Messing About


"Stop messing about" is a cry that has accompanied my entire life. "Stop messing about and get on with your homework, stop messing about and get down to some real work ....": you can change the latter part of the sentence, but the first few words remain the same. Some time the cry comes from others, more often it comes from me: the meaning is the same - curtail your flights of fancy, beware of tempting tangents, stick to the matter in hand. 

But now I answer to nobody, my life is gloriously aimless, and I can mess about 'till the cows meander home. When my time eventually comes, the last post on my blog will be "Alan Burnett - Stopped Messing About"

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Market Forces


MARKET FORCES : The hidden hand of competition that brings together buyers and sellers of bacon, beef and free range eggs under the cast-iron canopy of Victorian elegance. That was Halifax Borough Market fifty years ago.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

More December Days


More December calendar days which transport us from a group of statues gossiping in the sun, to a World War 1 leader captured forever on a vintage postcard, and finally a dead rose on its way to the dustbin.

Filtering On The Beach


This is based on a photograph I must have taken back in the 1980s. It wasn't a particularly good photograph in the first place, but experience suggests that poor photographs are good raw material for "filtering" (Filtering = the process of applying Photoshop filters in order to make pleasing images). At a guess, it was taken somewhere on the South coast, but I have no memory of where. Wherever it is, I think it is a fairly pleasing image, and therefore worth preserving.

Monday, December 13, 2021

A Walk In The Park With Edith Scheusz-Mohlheimer

On a miserable wet and grey day, what better is there to do than go for a walk in the park? You don't go for a walk in the park to get anywhere, such walks are aimless in the best sense of the word. They are voyages of discovery, where what is being discovered is simply something of interest, something curious, something unexpected. The park itself is not the main focus of interest, it could be any park, but in this instance it is People's Park in Halifax. The date is December 1908, and our companion today is Edith Constantia Scheusz-Mohlheimer.

Our walk in the park is courtesy of a picture postcard of People's Park which was sent on the 27th December 1908.  The card was sent to Mrs Cluff of Charlecote, Marple, Cheshire, and, although normally we have little idea of who sends such cards, in this instance Edith has included her address on the front of the card : 11, Park Road, Halifax. Those who know Halifax will realise that Park Road runs along the bottom of People's Park, and indeed, it is No 11 Park Road that is shown on the front of the card itself. The message reads as follows:-

"Many thanks for kind Xmas & New Year Greetings which we heartily reciprocate. Rudie has been very ill with acute attack of bronchitis but he is now practically well again I am thankful to say. Yours affect. EC S-M"

The 1911 census shows Edith Cconatantia Scheusz-Mohlheimer living at 11, Park Road, along with her son, Rudolph aged 6, and two servants. Her husband, Rudolph Scheusz-Mohlheimer Sr, must have been away at the time of the census as he is not listed, but we know from other records that he was a carpet manufacturer. They had recently moved to Halifax from Kidderminster (the other notable British "carpet town"), where young Rudolph had been born. The wonderful thing about such virtual walks in the park is that Edith can not only tell us what is happening now - about poor Rudie's bronchitis for example - but also give us a glimpse into the future. Both Mr and Mrs Scheusz-Mohlheimer continued to live in Park Road until their deaths (Rudolph died in 1949 and Edith in 1953). Rudolph Jr at some stage changed his surname to Castle-Miller (a more or less straight translation from the German) and was a wartime pilot in the RAF and a successful Barrister and Court Recorder.

What started as a simple view of People's Park ended as a fascinating stroll through twentieth century family history - a delightful walk in the park.

On The Sands


Messing about on the sands in Cleethorpes forty years ago. Messing about with a photograph of messing about on the sands in Cleethorpes, late last night. Whisky glass in hand, Photoshop filters all lined up. Photographs become reduced to shapes, colours reduced to shades. On the sands.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Back Street In Elland


There is something typically Yorkshire about cobbled back streets. Strong, functional, individualistic: taking you from A to B without any fuss, and even less fancy. I took this particular photograph in Elland back in the 1970s - back in pre-wheelie-bin days.

Thursday, December 09, 2021

Around The World In Eighty Words : 13. Whisker


"I'm confused," said Lucy. "You're confused! What about me? I'm the one who is supposed to be finding our way around the world in just eighty word changes to our what3words geolocation code," I replied. "It might help if you turned the your map the right way up," was the short-tempered response from my dog.

We had arrived in the Anhui Province of China from our previous location in the Champagne Region of France. For most people (and dogs) that would require long distance international air travel, trains, buses, taxis, passports, visas, injections, health certificates, foreign currency, and a fortunes'-worth of travel and pet insurance. For us it had required nothing other than to change ///washing.basket.shirt into ///washing.whisker.shirt and we were gently transported into the middle of a field of rice thirty miles south east of the city of Fuyang.

To give some kind go geographic context to our paddy field, we were about five hundred miles south of Beijing, 720 miles north of Hong Kong, 400 miles west of Shanghai, and 5,400 miles east of Huddersfield (where we call home). As we walked through the fields towards the road, Lucy said that there was a lot of rice, and she kept stopping to sample it and check to see if there were any chicken near by, as chicken and rice was one of her favourite dishes. I reminded her that there were a large number of places in the world where dogs were seen as a culinary delicacy, and gave her a tug on the lead.

It's not easy finding information about remote areas of rural China, so I did a quick web search using the name of the nearest village, Songpozhaicun. All I could find was a list of the three most popular questions being posed by the residents of that village, which were, according to the Google translation, as follows: 1. "Can braised pork be eaten in the refrigerator for five days?"; 2. "Is black bean good for green heart or yellow heart?"; and 3. "What are the levels of protection for dolphins?" Not knowing the answer to any of these three questions we decided to give the local village a miss and cadge a virtual lift to the nearest city, which was Fuyang.

There can be few places in the world where the contrasts between the almost medieval rural and the technologically advanced urban are so great. Fuyang is a modern city of busy roads and skyscrapers and seven and a half million citizens. There was even an endless choice of KFC's and McDonalds where we could get chicken burgers and rice. After our meal - as was now traditional - Lucy and I decided to seek out a bar where we could spend the evening and choose our next word. I checked the directory for bars in Fuyang and found an extensive list which included the Mountbatton Bar, the Football Home Pub, the 1984 Siren Club, and the SOS Yaoba Karaoke Bar. Eventually we made our decision based on nothing other than the name of the establishment, and took a taxi to the Big Mouth Duzi Filling Station on Linquing Road. We finished up sitting on a wall outside the restaurant ("no dogs allowed") sharing a tin of Tizer. Lucy gave an involuntary shiver. "Winter's drawing in," I said. "Fair enough!" replied Lucy. So off we go to ///wahing.whisker.winter; see you there.

Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Boxed Phones And Chocolate Machines


The 1970s, when cars were wide and streets were narrow. When slot machines would just as easily provide you with ten filter tipped as a bar of chocolate. When phones weren't mobile but were inside cast iron boxes. When black and white were the colours of the decade.

Surreal South Yorkshire

This is a reworking of a photograph I took fifteen years ago on a walk around Thurgoland, near Sheffield. The original shot lacked both focus and detail; but Photoshop filters bring out something which may, or may not, have been there originally.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Around The World In Eighty Words : 10. BASKET

The Story So Far …..

It started as a harmless question during one of those long lockdown days: was it possible to travel virtually around the world in just eighty word changes to my what3words geolocation code and return to my starting point?. For a companion I had my six year old labradoodle, Lucy, and seeing as it is a virtual trip I allow her to speak occasionally (although she never makes much sense). My starting point was the what3word location code for my desk at home – /// – and so far our travels have taken us to such diverse places as America, Australia, Libya, Ireland – and precariously balancing on a floating plank in the middle of the North Sea. Somewhere along the line, we invented a rule that we take it in turns at choosing a new word which will take us to a new, unknown, location. Our last stop was in the middle of the desert ion Turkmenistan (///ironing.wink.quite) at which point I chose the next of our eighty words – basket.

“Can you stop whistling that tune?” If there is one thing worse than a talking dog, it’s a whistling dog. Lucy ignored me and continued with a somewhat tuneless rendition of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”. “And as I have already told you, there are no lions around here – I’ve looked it up”. Lucy continued with her whistling – “..In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight”. She was feeling pleased with herself as it had been my choice of word that had propelled us into the Bundas municipality of the Moxico province of Angola. In our quest to go around the world in just eighty word changes to our what3words geolocation code, we had come to ///ironing.basket.quite which was a kind of scrubby plain with not many people and a lot of zebras and wildebeest.

Angola, sadly, is as famous for its long running civil war – which came to an end in 2002 – as most other things. The country itself, and Moxico province in which we were, are equally famous for one of the most destructive and terrifying legacies of that war – land mines. Someone has calculated that there are still between 10 and 20 million unexploded land mines in situ in this wretched country, a couple for every living citizen. Each day, each week, each month they provide a harrowing reminder that the price of war can be as enduring as the metal caskets that were buried in the fields, along the paths, and by the roads. As Lucy and I walked across the open plain we might have been risking our lives much more than when we flirted with the murder capitals of Honduras, or the deserts of Turkmenistan.

But, Lucy and I were lucky. We inhabit a virtual world – a world in which children maimed by exploding land mines can be conveniently sidestepped, a world in which poverty can be forgotten about, a world in which deforestation is rarely seen. And so we walk on, trying to spot wild animals, or, even better, a decent hotel with rooms for the night. So in this virtual world of ours there  were zebras quietly grazing, wildebeests getting wild over nothing in particular, and the odd hyena casting a curious glance or two in the direction of my travelling companion. I tried to distract her with information.

 If you look this area up on Google, you see it is famous for the Tsessebe, which is a large antelope. We watched one or two pass by but Lucy was unimpressed. “They seem to have far too many “s”’s and “e”’s in their name for their own good, she remarked as she kept a weathered eye on a gathering pack of hyenas.

I delved back into Google and did an image search for Bundas Municipality, Angola, and then quickly wished that I hadn’t! (Don’t try this at home if you are of a nervous disposition!). I managed to clear the search results before Lucy managed to see it. She was more interested in the hyenas. She’d obviously attempted to engage them in canine conversation – saying something or other about her Aunty Miriam having been descended from a hyena – and it hadn’t gone down well. The pack of hyenas seemed to be viewing her more in terms of lunch rather than a visiting celebrity taking part in a dog version of “Who Do You Think You Are”

“Let’s go,” she whispered. “Where to?” I replied. The nearest town of any significance was Lumbala, the administrative centre of Bundas, but in terms of fine hotels, posh bars, and entertaining nightlife, it would come a distant second to Cleethorpes on a wet Tuesday in February. The alternative was to cross the border (only five miles to the east of us) into Zambia and then head north to the town of Zambezi. It didn’t take much thinking about. Lucy started whistling “Zambezi” and we started for the border. The eighty mile walk to the town of Zambezi would have been arduous if it hadn’t been for the fact that we were doing it virtually, and therefore it was virtually over before it had begun. Before you could say “open sesame” to a Tsessebe, we were unpacking our suitcase at the Royal Kutachika Lodge Hotel overlooking the Zambezi River and trying to decide whether to book a day trip to see the Victoria Falls or go Tiger Fishing in the river.

We decided on neither but went to the bar instead for a well-earned drink, but for the first time on our trip around the world I was met with canine discrimination. “Sorry sir, no dogs allowed,” the doorman explained. And so we finished up at  the appropriately named “Poorman’s Restaurant” – who, since 1984 have been “striving to offer satisfactory service to people of all status in life.” If you visit the restaurant now, you might notice that someone has amended the proclamation by adding “… and dogs” at the end of the statement.

As we returned to our hotel room we ticked off another word, another country and another continent on our round the world adventure. “Your turn to choose our next word”, I reminded Lucy. “What do you want to put in your ironing basket? “Shirt!”, I think she replied, although I couldn’t be sure because at that precise moment we heard the call of a hyena in the distance. So, for whatever the reason, that’s where we are off to next – ///ironing.basket.shirt.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Day By Day


The project I started almost a year ago - producing a daily calendar image which sits on top of my desk - has continued throughout 2021, although I don't always get around to sharing these online. Here, however, are the last three :-

A rare early colour photograph of mine from the mid-1960s which shows Market Street in Halifax. Back in those days, colour film was something that had to be saved for the annual summer holiday, and this must have been am exercise in using up the last few frames of the film.

One of the great advantages of taking photographs is that you can mostly avoid having photographs taken of yourself. This, however, is a rare excursion into the realms of selfies and as a selfie-stick was not available, I made use of a shop-front mirror, which, like me, had seen better days.

This is another of my late-night experiments into the effects of different single malt whiskies on the creative process. This was a photograph of an abandoned car I took back in the 1980s, reimagined with the help of Photoshop and a 12 year old Old Pulteney.

Monday, November 15, 2021

The Rise And Fall Of The Crown

I had an email last week from someone who is writing a history of the Crown Brewery in Northowram, asking permission to use some of my photos of the building from 45 years ago. I was more than happy to grant permission as this was a building that I grew up with, living, as I did for twenty or so years, just a few hundred yards from where it was situated.

When I knew the building in the 50s and 60s it had long ceased to be a brewery, and was the works of C&R Construction who manufactured asbestos sheds and garages. When I took these three photographs in 1978, the old brewery building had been partly destroyed by fire and asbestos garages were rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

The old brewery building was replaced (probably in the 1980s) with a new furniture showroom and then that later became a showroom for a flooring company, and it was at that stage that I again photographed the building in 2015. Before sending these photos off to the person researching the brewery building, I decided today to drive to Northowram and check the latest status of the building. To my surprise, I discovered that the new building that replaced the brewery building has itself been demolished. Hopefully I will still be around when the next building goes up on the site, so I can continue to document the rise and fall of the Crown. 

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Around The World In Eighty Words : 9. IRONING



The Story So Far .....

It started as a harmless question during one of those long lockdown days: was it possible to travel virtually around the world in just eighty word changes to my what3words geolocation code and return to my starting point?. For a companion I had my six year old labradoodle, Lucy, and seeing as it is a virtual trip I allow her to speak occasionally (although she never makes much sense). My starting point was the what3word location code for my desk at home - /// - and so far our travels have taken us to such diverse places as America, Australia, Libya, Ireland - and precariously balancing on a floating plank in the middle of the North Sea. Somewhere along the line, we invented a rule that we take it in turns at choosing a new word which will take us to a new, unknown, location. Our last stop was in the suburbs of Sydney, Australia (///sake.wink.quite) at which point Lucy chose the next of our eighty words - ironing.

“You said it!.” “No I didn’t!” “Yes, you did. I distinctly heard you say it”

Lucy and I had been arguing like this for what seemed like the best part of an afternoon. In truth, there was little else to do, as we were walking through the Karakum Desert in south-east Turkmenistan.

“You said “Ironing”, I know you did”, I tried to sound authoritative, which is not easy to do when you are in the middle of a desert with a defiant dog and nothing to sustain you other than a quarter of sherbet lemons.

“It was not “ironing”, it was merely the sound of satisfaction at having located that last piece of Chinese dumpling that had been stuck to my tail.” Lucy said that, which is a good thing as you would have reason to worry if it had been me. “And I hate all this sand, it gets right into your paws.” Lucy said that as well.

Whether we liked it or not - whether we intended it or not - we finished up with a what3words code of ///ironing.wink.quite, and that had placed us in the Karakum Desert in Turkmenistan. It could have been worse, I suppose, another two hundred and fifty miles south and we would have been in Afghanistan with more than an excess of sand to put up with. I’m not sure than the Taliban are quite ready for a talking dog just yet.

Even if we were to avoid Afghanistan to the south, we were still faced with Uzbekistan to the north, or Tajikistan to the east - it is really difficult to avoid a stan in this part of the world - so I had decided to head west, heading further into Turkmenistan.

“There’s a city called Mary about fifty miles west of here where there is a hotel with a swimming pool, free wifi, and free breakfasts,” I said after consulting the guidebook.

“Does it have a bar?” Lucy had become quite attached to a glass or two of stout of an evening ever since our trip to Dublin

“No, I don’t think so,” I said, “but they have a whole selection of fruit juices.” At that point Lucy insisted on consulting the guidebook herself - which was a pointless exercise because she was not a good reader.

“Let’s go to Merv”, she said, “it’s only thirty odd miles away and is the largest city in the world: surely a dog can get a decent pint of Guinness there”.

“No, no, no,”, I said, “it was the largest city in the world 900 years ago, it’s nothing but a series of spectacular ruins these days.”

And so the argument continued as we made our way over the endless sand dunes. “Mary”, I said. “Merv” she countered. “Mary”, “Merv.” Eventually I said “Hang about there is a village even closer, only about 12 miles away, we could try that.” “What’s it called?”, asked my dog. I checked the map again - “ahh, no, perhaps not - it’s called Perv.” We continued on through the sand, occasionally stopping to have another chorus of “You said ironing / No I didn’t.”

 Eventually we decided that there was nothing for it but to abandon the delights of Turkmenistan and move onto a new word and hence a new location. I told Lucy in no uncertain terms that it was my turn to choose a new word and that we would see a return to something like logic in our word choices. “Seeing that we are stuck with “ironing” for a bit” what about having an ironing basket”, I said. So, look out ///ironing.basket.quite, here we come.

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...