Thursday, April 20, 2017

Sepia Saturday 364 : The Disappointing Spartan


Our Sepia Saturday theme image this week is a photograph taken at a school sports day in Carshalton back in 1907. The subject instantly rang bells in what is left of my photographic memory - I remember taking a series of photographs at my own school sports day way back in 1966. If I had been a different person, no doubt I would have been kitted out in shorts and running shoes, my lungs gasping for that last breath of oxygen to power me towards the finishing line. But I was not that kind of kid. I far preferred to wander around the sport's field, camera in hand, taking photographs of my school friends and any pretty girl I might pass.

Just in case there is anyone out there who might recognise themselves - the date was, I think, 1966. The school was the Crossley and Porter School in Halifax and the sports day was being held at the Spring Hall Athletics Ground in Halifax.


It was an inter-house competition - the four houses in the boy's side of the school (Trojans, Vikings, Paladins and Spartans) would compete for points that would contribute to an ornate inter-house trophy. I was a Spartan, and Spartans had a long and fine reputation of being a sporting house. I was a disappointment.

​I seem to recall that the last race of the day was an open long-distance race and houses could enter as many runners as they could muster. A point would be gained for the house for each competitor who made it to the finishing line, irrespective of their finishing positions. Towards the close of proceedings House Masters would patrol the sports field in order to press-gang unwilling entrants. It was at this time that I, along with a coterie of other sporting disappointments, would head for safe hiding havens. Ah, school days - the best years of our life!

To see what others were up to on their school sports days - go to the Sepia Saturday Blog and follow the links.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

George (Of Surrey), It Is Impossible To Do This ...

Back in the "good old days", before people had access to a free National Health Service, before there were dedicated health phone lines to use in order to receive advice, before even there was Google to nervously type your symptoms into, people would turn to the newspaper columns to get medical advice. Newspapers such as "The People - A Weekly Newspaper For All Classes" would have sections entitled "Replies To Readers' Queries" and there would usually be a medical section. These were made even more fascinating to the casual reader by the habit of - in an act of sham confidentiality - not printing the original question but simply the answer. Here are a few examples from the paper of one hundred years ago - the 22nd April 1917.


ALICE (Highbury) - (Rheumatism) : Wear warm woollen stockings and stout soled shoes. Avoid sweets, sugar, and have the feet rubbed every night with some of the following embrocation - Lin terebinth acet (this turns out to be a mixture of turps, camphor and lemon juice).....
FRANGIPANI : Nothing can be done for this except a rather severe operation to cure the fistula. Should be inclined to put up with the discomfort......
INQUIRER : Unsuitable for publication, read rules.
DRUMMER : Wash the child's head once a week with powdered borax and hot water instead of soap .....
TREBLIG : She might try the vaccine treatment and can be no worse after it.....
GEORGE (Surrey) : Impossible to do this ....
GEORGE (Tufnell Park) : A teaspoon of cod liver oil daily during cold weather is very good .... Wear woollen underclothing and get what outdoor exercise you can ....
HUGO : Answer as for George (Surrey) ....
TROUBLED (Portland) : There is no reason to worry; it is nothing unusual at your age.....
STUDENT : There is nothing for this trouble ....
ANXIOUS : As for "Student" ....
THACKER (Giddiness) : Your stomach is clearly out of order and you must have very light meals, no stimulants and plenty of time over your food. Drink hot water on rising and going to bed ....
HAIR : We don't recommend dye, and nothing else could do what you require ....
DIGESTION (Wilts) : Drink a glass of hot water every night at bedtime and eat your food slowly and masticate thoroughly ....

I realise that a whole century has elapsed since the onset of these symptoms, but just in case any of the sufferers are still around I would like to wish them continued good health, Could I just add to both Hugo and George (Surrey) that medical science has advanced a lot in the last hundred years so it might well be possible to do it now! And finally, if Inquirer would care to get in touch with me I will happily publicise his or her problem in this more enlightened era when few things are unsuitable for publication.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

COACH : The George, Stamford


There is something about a coaching inn - the thought of it conjures up the sound of iron horseshoes on granite cobbles, the smell of rain-soaked leather jerkins, the blast of a post horn cutting through a misty morning. Nobody this side of two hundred can effectively claim to have experienced any of these first hand, but our consciousness has soaked the sensations up from Morocco-bound volumes of Pickwick Papers or Fielding's Tom Jones. 

​Surely one of the finest voyages of discovery one can embark upon is an expedition to discover what is left of the great coaching inns of Britain, and, along with some old friends, Isobel and I started such an expedition recently. Our first objective was perhaps one of the finest - and most probably the most luxurious, coaching inns of the old Great North Road - the George at Stamford.

​There has probably been an inn at this location close to the river in Stamford, Lincolnshire for nine hundred years or more, but the current building "only" dates back to the end of the sixteenth century. It is a wonderfully rambling buildings with ancient rooms set at wonderful angles, overlooking gardens and courtyards and the main road that once took travellers from London to the north. King Charles stayed in those rooms as did any eighteenth or nineteenth politician, writer or artist worth his or her salt. If you were travelling north you would wait in the York Room, whilst travellers heading south would congregate in the London Room. If you were wanting an excellent breakfast to see you on your way, and here I speak from experience, you would make your way to the Oak Panelled Restaurant.

The George has set the bar high as far as judging the standards of coaching inns we are yet to visit is concerned. But what fun we will have discovering whether or not they meet it.




Monday, April 17, 2017

Come Friendly Bombs And Fall On The Third Largest Lake in England : The Rock Tavern Quiz


As a Easter holiday treat, here is a shortened version of Friday's Rock Tavern Quiz. You can find the answers by looking at the comments on the original blog post. The usual prize of a pint of best beer to the highest score (for which you will need to personally turn up to the Rock Tavern in order to claim it from me)




1. Who wrote a poem opening: “Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough; It isn’t fit for humans now”?
2. Where would you find the Sea of Death and the Lake of Cleverness?
3. Which toy takes its name for the Danish for “play well”?
4. Catherine Earnshaw is a central character in which novel?
5. Which are the three largest lakes (by surface area) in England? Point for each and a bonus for getting them in the right order.

6. In the USA, what was prohibited by the 18th amendment? Note: a factually accurate answer is required! 
7. Who played the female lead in the film Breakfast At Tiffany’s and for a bonus what was the name of her character?
8. Which famous fashion chain went into administration earlier this week?
9. How should a piece of music marked “adagio” be played?
10. Which are the three longest rivers wholly or partly in England? Point for each and a bonus for getting them in the right order.


11. Which two sets of fathers and sons have won the Formula 1 Drivers World Championships? Point for each pair.
12. Which Rugby League team are nicknamed the Vikings and also are known as the Chemics?
13. The city of Portsmouth saw the birth in 1812 of which famous writer and in 1912 which Prime Minister? - point for each
14. Who broke records earlier this year with 16 songs in the top 20 at the same time?
15. Which three football clubs have won the most Premier League champions titles? Point for each and a bonus for the right order.

16. Who was the first and who was the last 20th century Prime Minister of the United Kingdom? Point for each.
17. How many sides has the new £1 coin?
18. How many stomachs has a cow?
19. Marie McDonald McLaughlin Lawrie is the real name of which singer, who has had hits in every decade since the 1960s?

20. Which are the three longest seaside piers in England? Point for each and a bonus for the right order.
21. The Simplon railway tunnel is located in which two countries? Point for each
22. What was the name of the park where Yogi Bear lived?
23. In which city do the main sessions of the European Parliament take place?
24. Who was the captain of HMS Bounty?

25. Which are the world’s three most populated islands? A point for each and a bonus for the right order.
26. What cricket score is nicknamed “Nelson”?
27. In which year was the Cuban Missile Crisis?
28. Where in London would you find the Strangers Gallery?
29. Which snooker player won the first 15 annual World Professional Snooker Championships before retiring undefeated in 1946?
30. Which was the biggest grossing film in terms of worldwide sales in 2016?



Thursday, April 13, 2017

Picture Books : The Second World War In Photographs


I have a set of rules when it comes to books, some of which I have set myself whilst others have been imposed by my Good Lady Wife. Given my gas-like ability to expand my bookshelves into whatever space might be available she has imposed a "one in, one out rule" which requires the disposal of a volume before another can cross the threshold. The second rule I have imposed on myself, and that is that I will now only buy physical books which have as much space dedicated to pictures as to words. It is not that I am boycotting "word books", it is just that they have a home on my eBook Reader, a home that does not take up precious shelf-space.

If you look through a list of book genres, you will be hard pressed to find one entitled "picture books", but it is a genre I have become more and more fascinated by as I have got older. Theoretically, "picture books" can stray into the province of any of the traditional genres (see William Boyd's Sweet Caress as an example of a novel that makes excellent use of pictures), but they are best represented in the field of non-fiction, particularly history and travel. By providing occasional reviews of some of the picture books that make it into my collection, I get an excuse for sharing some of the images themselves (by definition a review of a picture book should be based just as much on images as on words).

Richard Holmes' "The Second World War In Photographs" is a splendidly weighty tome that is brim-full of archive images from the collection of the Imperial War Museum. These images provide a fascinating window into the life of both ordinary citizens and members of the armed forces during those tumultuous years of world war. The vast majority of the images are in monochrome, which somehow suits the spirit of the times (the occasional colour photograph appears almost unreal). The photographs not only tell the story of the conflict, but also the human story of millions of people whose lives were changed forever. It is the kind of book which clearly demonstrates that picture books can make a real contribution to the study of social history.

"The Second World War In Photographs" by Richard Holmes. Andre Deutche (2000)


Monday, April 10, 2017

Six From .... Burghley House


1. BURGHLEY HOUSE
2. BURGHLEY HOUSE AND SOUTHERN GARDENS
3. GREEN AND BLACKS - TREES, BURGHLEY PARK
4. LILY POND AND ORANGERY, BURGHLEY HOUSE
5. SHEEP AT REST, BURGHLEY PARK
6. COWS - SCULPTURE BY SALLY MATTHEWS, BURGHLEY SCULPTURE GARDENS

We seem to have been out and about a lot over the last week or two and I have a pocket-full of SD cards with photographs of many of the places we have visited. One of the problems, of course, of modern digital photography is that we take far too many photographs and save far too few. Most of mine go into a ubiquitous file with the apt name of "Dump", and remain there until either the computer - or possibly myself - fades into dust. At times I would happily swap the convenience of unlimited instant images for the lasting physicality of a strip of acetate film. At least I can pretend that my photographs are still joined together at the hip and present them as collectively and at the same time provide a link to my Flickr account where they can be viewed individually.

Burghley House and Gardens cling to the southern extremities of the county of Lincolnshire. The house was built by William Cecil, the Lord High Treasurer and Chief Minister to Queen Elizabeth 1st. The extensive parkland surrounding the Elizabethan mansion consists of formal gardens, sculpture parks, woods and meadows - the park is the home of the internationally famous annual horse trials. Cecil is remembered as one of the most powerful men of Elizabethan times, a consummate political animal who once said of himself  that "he was sprung from the willow rather than the oak, and he was not the man to suffer for convictions". Cecil, it appeared, had a great interest in heraldry and genealogy, and was anxious to establish a new English aristocracy from the ruins of the old Catholic order.  His success can perhaps be judged by the fact that one of his direct descendants still lives in Burghley House today.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

A Tribute To A Fine Photographer

No Interflora, No Taxis : By Geoffrey K Beaumont, October 1999

I attended the funeral yesterday of my daughter-in-law's grandfather; a man of considerable charm and boundless good humour, a man who went out of his way to welcome Isobel, Alexander and I into his wonderful extended family. At the Service of Thanksgiving, the church was packed, as befitted a man who was at the very centre of his community and his family. Geoff, however, was not just a respected member of his local community, Geoff was also a passionate photographer, and his family had brought down to the church a large collection of his mounted prints, where they were displayed on the walls. After the service we were each invited to select a few of the prints and take them away with us as a lasting memorial to a fine gentleman.

Geoff was not just a great photographer, he was also a gifted print-maker and I therefore confess that I helped myself to what was probably more than my fair share. The one I have chosen to share is one he took of King Street in Huddersfield some eighteen years ago. It is a photograph I wish I had taken, a photograph which drips with history and social comment.

The idea of distributing some of his many fine prints to family and friends is a wonderful one, but sadly one which will not be able to be repeated too often for future photographers in this new age when digital images exist for only as long as a pixilated screen is lit. Geoff's print now resides in my office and every time I look at it I think, "I wish I'd have taken that". There is no finer tribute to a photographer than that.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Sepia Saturday 361 : The Three Burnett Boys


Our Sepia Saturday theme image for this Saturday - April Fool's Day - shows two brothers having some fun with an optical illusion on the beach. We sometimes forget how lucky we are these days; with Photoshop and the like we can remove heads from shoulders with a flick of a mouse's tail. Back in the bad old days in order to achieve a similar effect you had to bury one brother deep in the sands and get the other to bend his young head back at an unnatural angle. You'd be locked up for it today. To match the theme I can offer you two brothers having some fun with an optical illusion on the beach - although the illusion was much easier to achieve. And yes, in case you need to ask, those are the Burnett brothers again.

There were, at one time, three Burnett brothers, but for the life of me I can't remember what my other brother was called. In case you think this is a heartless and cruel confession, I should quickly point out that the third brother was merely a fictional convenience. At about the same time as this photograph must have been taken - the early 1960s, I guess - both Roger and I were voracious readers and dependent on the excellent stock of books then held by the local library. However, Halifax Public Library had a policy of issuing only three readers' tickets per member, which, we felt, placed unnecessary restrictions on our thirst for knowledge. We therefore invented the third brother and enrolled him as a member and shared his three tickets between the two of us.

For a time things worked well, but this was back in the days when library staff would take a genuine interest in their readers, and before too long they started wondering why brother Kenneth (I suspect that was his name) never went to the library himself, but sent his brothers to collect his books. We invented some chronic illness to explain the circumstances, but things soon got out of hand. The problems we had were twofold: Roger and I tended to visit the library at different times, and there was an element of competitive mischievousness between the two of us. Thus Roger would visit the Library on a Tuesday and embroider some tale about Kenneth and his sad existence, but fail to update me on the story before my Thursday visit. I would be met with questions about a brother that didn't exist suffering from an illness I knew nothing about; and would respond by notching the strangeness of the story up a peg or two without warning my brother before his regular Tuesday visit. This went on for some time and the life of Kenneth Burnett became an exercise in surrealist fantasy, until we both decided it was time for poor Kenneth to find lasting peace.

I don't recall whether during his short and bizarre life Kenneth ever had his head chopped off whilst on the beach, but - if my memory of those far off days serves me well - that would have been the least of his problems.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Calling The Shots In The Devil's Cauldron


This short strip of three old negatives floated to the top of my scan pile last night. They date back fifty years to a time when my brother and I were planning a photographic essay which had the wonderful working title: "Halifax - Devil's Cauldron Or Cradle Of The Arts". The photograph on the left shows Godley Cutting, whilst the one on the bottom right is of the old Halifax Gas Works and North Bridge sidings. The third photograph shows the joint authors of this essay that never saw completion. I think we were on one of the hills overlooking the Shibden Valley and hidden somewhere in the grass is a shutter cable-release. No doubt before the sun has set over Dominica, my brother will add a comment to point out that the photographs were taken in Cleethorpes whilst we were selling sea-shells. But, my dear boy, as someone once probably said, "he who writes history gets to call the shots".

Thursday, March 30, 2017

News From Yesterday : Beer, Chips And Elastic Bands

News From Yesterday
Huddersfield Daily Examiner 30 March 1917


They did awful things with beer supply during the First World War. They introduced licensing hours to control when people could drink it, they nationalised a brewery to control how it was produced; and when all else failed, they doubled the price of it so people couldn't afford it.


Doubling the price of beer may sound like a bad dream, but doubling beer prices whilst there is a severe shortage of potatoes is the stuff of nightmares. Cauliflowers and Swedes I can well live without - indeed I have done so with no harmful effects for almost seventy years - but potatoes, in the form of chips and crisps, are essential, to not only my life, but the life of any sane human being.

The Omnibus Man-Catcher must count as one of the great missed opportunities of modern times. Forget inflatable bags and strengthened steel cages, a large elastic band stretched in front of vehicles to gently catapult them out of danger on busy roads is an ideal solution to the challenges of road safety. In this age of driverless vehicles, perhaps it is time to return to this idea.