On the way to a meeting of the Old Gits Luncheon Club on Friday I spotted this piece of graffiti on a wooden door on the side of the George Hotel in Huddersfield. The Hotel is currently being redeveloped : hopefully when they get around to the side kitchen door and someone says "shall we paint over this", someone else will say no.
Thursday, March 06, 2014
Uncle Harry has featured a few times on News From Nowhere and I am delighted to announce the discovery of a new photograph which was hidden in a box of old papers that came to light during the excavations up my back passage this week. Harry Moore was born in 1903, so I would imagine that this photograph dates from the early 1930s at a time when he was trying to make a career in entertainment. He married my fathers' sister Annie Elizabeth in 1933 and that event marked the end of his professional stage career, although he worked as a part-time musician right the way through until the 1970s. The recently discovered box is not very big and therefore it is unlikely that the magnificent morning suit and top hat is equally hidden away there. With a family wedding coming up in a few months, that's a pity.
Tuesday, March 04, 2014
The Spring Clean of the infamous back passage brought to light a collection of old bus tickets yesterday. I have no idea where they come from although I do recall that Uncle Frank had a collection of vintage tickets so they may be part of that. The delight of the tickets is twofold : first the colours (I think we will get the guest bedroom decorated in a colour to match the 2/4 return from Churchridge Luxury Coaches), and secondly the material. Some are printed on that fine old cardboard that used to be the material of choice for railway tickets and has a feeling of real substance about it. Others are printed on thick paper, the kind you could chew on the way home from school and forever more taste that fine combination of printing ink and colour dyes. Tickets back then were tactile, substantial, capable of being recycled endless times as bookmarks or earwax scrapers. Unlike the squalid thin paper excuses you receive today, when you alighted from the bus you didn't cast them aside like bad administrative memories. You saved them, caressed them, and carefully stored them away as gifts for generations yet to be born.
Monday, March 03, 2014
As that great philosopher Oscar Hammerstein II once wrote, "it might as well be Spring". But is it? It just depends on who you listen to. If you are a Meteorologists, you would say that Spring started on Saturday whereas if you are an Astronomer you would advise waiting a week or two before casting the a seasonal clout. There again, of course, if you are an Australian or a New Zealander, Spring is as far away as a Yorkshire treat. In our household Spring is marked by the Good Lady Wife declaring it is time to de-clutter the house. And that means, once again, it is time to go excavating up my back passage (for those unfamiliar with the internal architecture of our house, the back passage is a low room full of junk that runs under the eaves of the house).
This year, the excavations take on a renewed urgency as The Lad is due to get married in June and the house has to be prepared to receive visitors. Progress in the Great Spring Excavation is painfully slow, however, as each historical find has to be carefully dusted off and recorded. Five minutes work yesterday brought to light a dusty packet of old negatives just begging to be scanned. I limited myself to scanning one and the result is displayed above.
The figure on the right in that wonderful coat is, of course, the very same Good Lady Wife (when she was merely the Good Lady Girlfriend). It must have been taken in about 1970 and it was outside the doors of Halifax Borough Market where the local branch of the Independent Labour Party used to sell newspapers every Saturday. Happy days. Days when the fight for truth, justice and equality loomed just as large as the fight against accumulated dust and rubbish.
Friday, February 28, 2014
Our Sepia Saturday theme image this week features three men up a mountain. One of them is the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg who composed the incidental music to the Ibsen play, Peer Gynt. The play is all about the search for love and self in a world populated by trolls, gnomes and witches : just the kind of assembly you might find on top of the Druids' Altar, a rock formation between Keighley and Bingley. On this old vintage postcard from the collection of my Great Uncle Fowler Beanland, there is a fine looking Edwardian Lady rather than a collection of Norwegian composers or Scandinavian deities, but it is as close a fit as I could find.
Turn the card over and you discover a piano concerto of a puzzle. The card comes from my Great Aunt Eliza and informs poor Fowler that it will cost 1/4 for 2lbs of something or other to be sent to him by post. But what is to be sent? To me, the word looks like "Averlenture", but what on earth is that? Google has never heard of "averlenture" (although in a day or two this post will become the only description of the substance known to mankind) and I can't come up with any other interpretations of the writing. So, as usual, we are left with endless questions : did the Averlenture arrive on time, was it worth the 1/4d postage, and what exactly did Fowler do with it. Polished the marble walls of the Hall of the Mountain King, no doubt.
You can find all manner of connections, puzzles and strange words by following the links on the Sepia Saturday Blog.
Monday, February 24, 2014
We tend to decry modern journalism for the emphasis on compressed news items which cover great events with all the depth of a plastic paddling pool. We poke fun at text messages and Twitter for encouraging a situation where our appetite for words is restricted by some digital gastric band. But as my exploration of the local and regional newspapers of 1914 constantly shows - little is new in this world of ours. Take this almost random cutting from the Western Times of 23 February 1914: four brief articles, each providing a snapshot of history at a moment in time.
Lord And Lady Decies Safe
San Francisco Saturday
According to railway officials' judgment, Lord and Lady Decies are lost in their private car on the Southern Pacific railroad, somewhere between Stockton and Bakersfield. The wires are down, and it is impossible to locate their whereabouts.San Francisco Sunday
Lord and Lady Decies, who were yesterday reported lost in their private car, returned here today owing to the weather, after an ineffective attempt to reach Los Angeles.
France And Military Aviation
The "Matin" today declares the the measures adopted by the Council of Ministers regarding military aviation are of great importance. Technical sections for the study of aviation and laboratories are among the measures proposed.
Late Manager L. and N.W.R.
The funeral of the late Sir Frank Ree, general manager of the London and North Western Railway, took place on Saturday afternoon at Pinner (Middlesex), where he had resided for many years. Despite the unsettled weather, there was a large attendance of friends and railway officials, including Sir Sam Fay, of the Great Central Railway, and Sir Guy Granet, general manager of the Midland Railway Company. The mourners were the two sons and other relatives. A message was received from the King and Queen expressing condolence with the family.
No Naval Manoeuvres
The announcement is made that the Government has decided not to hold any naval manoeuvres this year. Mr Winston Churchill will make the position clear today, when in the House of Commons, Sir Clement Kinloch-Cooke will request an explanation, and also ask whether any foreign Powers have decided to follow in the footsteps of the British Admiralty - a point of great importance. Meanwhile various reasons are put forward in naval and political circles as probable.
One can look back at these snapshots with the hindsight of history : and what an interesting picture is revealed. John Graham Hope de la Poer Beresford, 5th Baron Decies, who was lost and then quickly found, lived on until 1944. A keen polo player, he served as Chief Press Censor for Ireland before going on to become a Director of the British Income Taxpayers' Association and suggesting that the time may have come for the rich to take their wealth out of the country. How lucky we are that he was not lost in his private car en route to Los Angeles.
Sir Frank Ree was eventually remembered in a way that all railway men would love to be remembered, by having a train named after him. A L.M.S. Patriot Class engine, it was built in Crewe in 1933 and eventually withdrawn from service in 1965. No doubt when the time came its loss was mourned by many a train spotter, although it is unlikely that the Queen sent her condolences.
As far as the naval manoeuvres of 1914 are concerned - we all know what happened to them.
Saturday, February 22, 2014
Our Sepia Saturday theme image this week features a trio of men in suits. My submission matches the trio and there is one suit featured, but there the similarities end. My photograph is a Victorian Cabinet Card which I bought at an antique centre for either £1 or 50p and for that I acquired a fine old photograph and a moment captured in time.
As I look at the photograph, more and more I see three lives confined within Victorian starched cloth and Victorian starched mores. They are like real three dimensional faces pushed through holes in wooden pre-painted screens. Victorian times were strange times : times when flesh and thoughts and hopes and passions were hidden beneath layers of sepia serge. Even by the time of our theme image (the 1930s) men were still confined within the discipline of never-changing style.
In my wardrobe hang half a dozen suits and I don't think I have worn one of them in the last six months. Some days my trousers are red, some days blue, some days green and some days brown. There rarely is a jacket in site, but if there is, it is guaranteed not to match. My clothes are unfashionable, a touch scruffy, sometimes a little loud, and slightly eccentric. They match me perfectly.
Take a look at what others are doing this Sepia Saturday by going over to the Sepia Saturday Blog and following the links.
Thursday, February 20, 2014
Back from a few days in Scarborough where the weather did a passable impersonation of Spring. My photograph features just one of the windows of the magnificent Grand Hotel which stands like a Victorian Whatnot above the South Bay cliffs. When the hotel was built in 1867 it was said to be largest purpose-built hotel in Europe and it was a showcase for the kind of engineering and technological inventions that the Victorians loved. The internal plumbing delivered hot and cold freshwater and seawater and a complex system of electric bells and speaking tubes were said to put all guests in instant communication with the hotel management. A lift provided ease of access to each of the main floors from the foreshore, although according to this review in the Nottinghamshire Guardian of 18 September 1868, the experience of this contraption was a mixed one.
"My first impressions were not agreeable: it looked to me rather like a private execution "limited". I am told that some lifts are prettily fitted up; but at the Grand the apparatus is grim and bare. A grim boy stands by your side; he tells you gruffly to "stand more towards the centre"; you almost feel as if pinioned; you see a long rope, and, as he shuts the lower doors, you are metaphorically and literally, quite in the dark. Then the floor moves, and you are lifted smoothly enough I own, but still strangely. Light comes in from the top, and you see the solid walls glide downwards, as banks and trees seem to rush by the sweeeping railway train, and you get out on the fourth or fifth floor, to find yourself in your bedroom, without stirring a step "upstairs", just as in a dream, one jumps from a precipice to awaken with a start in bed. The time may come when stairs will be obsolete institutions and lifts as common as gaspipes ... but it will require some amount of use to make them agreeable"
The lift apart, the reviewer seems to have enjoyed his stay at the Grand, saying that "the waiters, nearly all foreigners, are very attentive and not rapacious", and that you can get "a drinkable Beaujolais for 2s 6d a bottle".
During the latter half of the nineteenth century, the hotel sought to capture the winter tourist market by boasting that its rooms were "warmed by Haden's Apparatus (a form of early central heating which made use of steam and hot water).
Luckily, there were not too many people enjoying winter residence in January 1915 when the hotel fell victim to one of the most audacious attacks of the Great War when it was shelled by a German Battleship. Some thirty shells fell on the building and there was widespread damage to the restaurants and picture house, but luckily, nobody was killed.
Friday, February 14, 2014
Our Sepia Saturday theme this weeks features a picture postcard of a remarkably busy Jamaica Street in Glasgow. There are horse trams and carriages and people bustling along the crowded streets against the backdrop of a rather good photograph. And the whole thing is served up in a pleasing sepia glaze.
My Sepia Saturday entry is also a postcard and dates from around about the same period of time (at a guess mine dates from 1904/5). I match the crowded street and I can set horse tram against horse tram and come out tops. My Regent Street view has a clutter of carriages and Lowryesque figures stalking the sidewalks. And mine is in colour!
But, quite clearly, colour isn't everything. The pin-sharp sepia is replaced by Primary School daubs of dog-sick yellow. The detailed photogravure is replaced by clumsy clumps of ink. Both postcards show crowded scenes of 100 years ago, but my postcard merely provides a hint of what the world was like compared to a first class seat in a photographic time machine.
You can travel back to the past by visiting the Sepia Saturday Blog and following the various links.