Friday, July 03, 2015

Sepia Saturday 286 : Snapping Fish

The theme image for Sepia Saturday 286 manages to combine fish with the 4th July. The fish in question is a Spot Snapper and the image is from the collection of the Smithsonian Museum, the United States National Museum. Sadly, I will not be able to make it to the USA this year, so I will have to limit myself to fish and snappers.
SC01W.1 Fishing Boats, Grimsby  (Alan Burnett. c.1988)
We start out with a photograph of a Whitby fishing boat in Grimsby Fish Docks, a photograph I must have taken 25 years ago. From the look of her, I suspect the Trudella was laid-up when I took the photograph although she had been at sea a couple of years earlier when records suggest she was given aid by the Humber lifeboat. The photograph dates from a time when the East Coast fishing fleet was contracting and the fish docks at Grimsby were looking more like a rusty graveyard than a fishy nerve-centre.

SF01.1 Miriam Fieldhouse and Boat, East Lynn (Frank Fieldhouse, July 1948)
My second photograph was taken forty years earlier and eighty or so miles further south. The woman is none other than Auntie Miriam (that great figure-head of Sepia Saturday) and the boat is the fishing vessel Sarawara. Records suggest that the Sarawara might have been part of that fleet of tiny boats that was used to evacuate allied troops from the Dunkirk beaches in 1940.

As for the snapper - Auntie Miriam had a reputation for a stinging tongue. Back in the 1960s she had a little terraced house close to the bus stop my brother and I would use. Whenever we were passing we were expected to call in and see her, an activity both of us were keen to avoid as much as possible. The preferred tactic was to crouch down below the level of the wall and make a run for it, but if caught we would be halted in our tracks by a booming voice that echoed through the village "Oy bugger-lugs, where dos thee think tha's going?" You can't buy memories like that.

If you want to fish for some more old images in response to our Sepia Saturday 286 theme, go to the Sepia Saturday Blog and follow the links.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

An Hiatus Hernia Around The Metaphorical Corner

The Lad and the GLW Enjoying The English Countryside
It is summer and the sun is out. It is a time to walk in the country rather than sit in a darkened room scanning the past, moaning about the present and dreading the future. It is a time to pack a small suitcase and set off to see what is around the metaphorical corner. We will be away for a couple of weeks and there will be a bit of an hiatus as far as News From Nowhere is concerned. But, along with death and taxes (you can remove the latter from the list if you can afford to employ an expensive corporate accountant), the one thing you can be certain about is that summer is the shortest of seasons in this fair isle - so I will be back very soon.

Reverse of Carte De Visite by G B Bradshaw, Altrincham

I will be taking my camera with me and hopefully the sun will stay out long enough for me to take one or two photographs of Shropshire, Gloucestershire and East Yorkshire (all on our itinerary). If the British climate returns to type, I may give the new process used by G B Bradshaw & Co a try as it enables good photographs to be taken in any weather.

Swing Bridge : Quay Street. Huddersfield Broad Canal
Whilst walking along the canal towpath the other day I couldn't resist taking a photograph of the magnificent old swing bridge at Quay Street, Huddersfield. The massive cast iron counterweights dominate the scene with their proud inscriptions. Such counterweights will have been a blessing for generations of canal people, allowing them to lift the bridge without doing themselves a mischief and getting an hernia. See you all soon.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Stone Marinated In Sweat

Walking along the canal towpath in Huddersfield this morning I glanced up at the mill that still casts a shadow over the Sainsbury's Superstore. What an awe-inspiring structure - the stone progeny of industry and trade with ceilings and walls marinated in the sweat and blood of generations of workers.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Bluebirds Get A Good Thrashing For Cherry Picking

It was the Brighouse 1940s Weekend last weekend - a fun day out for all the family. I must confess I am as ambivalent as a doodle-bug about such events: whilst it is always good to see people on the street having a good time and celebrating history, the kaleidoscope of time can sometimes induce false memory syndrome. I do battle against the age-induced desire to be a miserable old curmudgeon - "let them try and manage without fresh eggs and boiled sweets for six years and see if they are still smiling then" - and welcome the desire to celebrate a time when we believed we were united by real hardship rather than divided by perceived challenges. If nothing else it got people out of their homes and it may have reminded just one or two people about what that titanic struggle was all about.

I was tempted to dip into an old copy of a local newspapers to try and compare myth and reality. In amongst the adverts for khaki knitting wool and recipes for Lord Woolton Pie, I came across this report of crime amidst the blackouts and bomb craters. So, back in the good old days, if you found kids misbehaving - as kids always have and always will misbehave - perhaps you didn't just give them a clip around the earhole. Perhaps you took 13 year old kids to court for pinching a bottle of pop or running off with a rare piece of brandy-snap. Perhaps you then threatened them with a "really good thrashing".

The problem with all this is that I am cherry-picking (and probably deserve a really good thrashing for it). Just as those who re-enact historical events choose to emphasise some aspects of life in the 1940s, maybe I was subconsciously combing the newspapers looking for evidence to prove that it wasn't all happy solidarity as we hung out our washing on the Siegfried Line.

And maybe it is not such a bad thing to remember the good and let the bad fade with time. So all together now, "There'll be bluebirds over, the white cliffs over Dover, tomorrow, just you wait and see ....."

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Sepia Saturday 282 : A Triptych Of Moves

Three pictures encompassing three generations (although you may need to squint hard to spot one of those generations) provide a digital triptych for this week's Sepia Saturday where the theme image features a Russian violinist playing chess. My first photograph doesn't quite hit the thematic nail on the head as it shows someone who is neither Russian, nor a violinist, nor playing chess. Nevertheless, my father - for it is he - could conjure up a rousing tune on a concertina and this photograph of him (taken probably forty years ago) shows him playing Scrabble, a game that he and my mother played most evenings.

My second photograph does feature a chess game being played aboard a ship sailing off into the sunset somewhere on the Mediterranean Sea. That is Alexander - captured pensive against the setting sun - the grandson of the Scrabble playing Albert Burnett of the first photograph. It was taken in 2003 when he would have been about 13 years old.

The final panel of the triptych features the same subject although it is a different ship and, clearly, a different time.  This was taken less than nine months ago as we rounded the toe of Italy. You may well note that the pensive approach has now vanished and a bold and confident move is in the process of being made. And if you haven't spotted the intermediate generation just look at the reflections in the glass on that third picture and you will just make out a figure taking a photograph and wondering "what's he up to now?"

And to discover what other Sepians are up to this weekend, move on over to the Sepia Saturday Blog and follow the links.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Cure Yourself Of Everything (And Charge Your Mobile Phone)

Why is it that when commercial enterprises want to convey the idea of worldwide domination they go for some winged depiction of a woman wearing a flannelette nightgown? My ninety shares in the International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation have been rendered practically useless by the development of WhatsApp and its digital ilk and all I am left with is the familiar drawing of a woman gazing longingly at a globe. One is tempted to insert a bubble from her pensive lips saying things like "Good gracious, that's where Basingstoke is"

They had a different approach to commercial aggrandisement 150 years ago as this advert from the pages of the Halifax Courier shows.

Oh, I want (I need) an electric belt. Of course I have my full complement of aches and pains, but it is that love of solitude and groundless fears I really suffer from. And what better way to cure someone of their desire to be alone, what finer way to show that those fears are far from groundless, than 500 volts pulsing through your lumbar regions. With a little experimentation I am sure it would be possible to use the patent self-adjusting curative and electric belt to charge your mobile phone as well. That just might be the idea to turn the fortunes of the International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation around.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Finding Myself In The Digital Skip

I can't get my head around the seasons anymore. Back in my day, when men were men and you could buy a bag of chips for tuppence, Spring started in the middle of March, Summer in the middle of June and so on. Now I find myself watching Springwatch on TV whilst being told that summer officially started on the 1st of June. Not that I want to build a nest and the thought of the GLW laying eggs sends shivers down my spine : it is just that I need to know when to start Spring Cleaning. In our household, Spring Cleaning (which should be called Spring Sorting because I have never been big on spitting and polishing) starts on the day we order a skip for all the rubbish, and that day is today. So today is the first day of Spring.

The card comes from a batch I bought the other day. It was originally posted back in 1906 and has a message on the back which is about as interesting as an empty crisp packet. Whilst we are glad to learn that L arrived home safely and most of the sentient world share the hope that M equally arrived home without incident, would it not have been better if L had told us what she had for breakfast, or who won the 2.30 at Chepstow, or what Mrs Jenkins next door had been up to? Of course, the more old postcards I buy, the more Spring Cleaning I have to do. It's a bit of a viscous circle, but let's skip that one.

These days much of my Spring Cleaning is digital : sorting stuff away into files, changing file names, restructuring directories - moving the dust around on the digital cloud. The software I use to file all my images is Adobe Lightroom and the latest version has just incorporated facial recognition. Yesterday I was scanning an old negative and the facial recognition got its knickers in a twist over this image.

I kept telling it that it was me, but it refused to believe me. If pushed it would suggest Robin Ensore, Ian Byng or even Anne Wilkinson (people even I had forgotten I had been at school with), but every time I tried to insist that it was a photograph of me taken fifty years ago, it just gave one of those annoying computerised sarcastic laughs and moved on to another daft suggestion. I have noted an increasing tendency for technology to turn Bolshy and I might be tempted to dump the computer into the skip when it arrives - but my watch has just informed me that it is time to get up and move, so I will have to leave it until later.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Hidden From Vulgar Gaze In My Winceyette Pyjamas

There is an advert for a web hosting service doing the rounds which offers a comprehensive service for those wishing to create "a website, a personal brand, an on-line portfolio .... or just a blog" which seems to capture a little of what has happened to blogs over recent years. They have become unfashionable - the winceyette pyjamas of the digital world - overtaken and overshadowed by status updates and tweets. There are many reasons for this : blogs tend to require more investment than short sharp messages - investment by the reader just as much as investment by the writer. I could probably go on at length about the reason for the decline in blogging - but I suspect that would be merely a demonstration of the reasons rather than an explanation of them.

A couple of weeks ago I bought a box of twelve exposed glass plate negatives on eBay. I had no idea of either the date or the subject of the twelve negatives and I have been having a fascinating time scanning each one and trying to find clues to both these questions. I enjoy scanning so much, I recently started another blog called The Daily Scan (yes, I bought another pair of winceyette pyjamas) and I have been featuring a number of the glass plate scans on there. I suspect that the photographs were taken about 100 years ago and they have a distinctly "local" feel about them so I suspect they were taken mostly in Yorkshire. 

The one scene I can definitely identify is the penultimate one which is a photograph of the memorial fountain built to commemorate the life of Lord Frederick Charles Cavendish, the younger son of the Duke of Devonshire and the MP for the West Riding of Yorkshire. He was the Chief Secretary for Ireland and murdered on his arrival in Dublin in 1882. The fountain was officially opened in 1886.

Photography is now such an integral part of life - and, for me, an integral part of blogging - that we tend to take it for granted. High definition photographs can be captured by the merest nod in the direction of our smartphones and body-worn micro video cameras can capture every moment of our waking day with boring monotony on a microchip the size of a gnats' testicle. Those old glass plate negatives I have been scanning have reminded me of a different age, when photography was something special and magical. Reading through my local paper (The Halifax Courier of the 2 June 1855 - I am a little behind with my reading) I came across the following advert for the Halifax Photographic Portrait Gallery. Mr Campbell seems so proud that he can provide a sitting room so that people can view his photographs without being exposed to the vulgar gaze. How delighted he would be to discover that we can now view such photographs in the comfort of our own sitting rooms, whilst reading a blog post and, of course, wearing our winceyette pyjamas.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

AmyDog (2001-2015)

AMYDOG  2001 - 2015

I am sorry to have to tell you that Amy, our Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, passed away last night. Although she has been slowing down over recent months, she didn't start being ill until the beginning of last week, when she suffered from the first of a series of what appear to have been internal bleeds. The Vets did various tests and she made a reasonable recovering before having a second episode last Friday night. Again she seemed to make a partial recovery but late last night she had a third episode, far worse than the other two, which left her in considerable distress. On the advice of the Vet she was put to sleep in the early hours of this morning.

It seems strange - and sad - to wake up without Amy. For the last thirteen and a half years she has been my daily companion. We have walked together daily and shared a whole range of thoughts, games and wonderful adventures. For many years Amy had her own Blog - Fat Dog To The Big Apple - in which we superimposed out daily walks around West Yorkshire onto a map of America and enjoyed a virtual walk up the California coast.

This morning, as I contemplated life without Amy, I re-read just one of those Blog Posts from back in 2007, and I decided to reprint it here. It covered Week 15 of our epic journey when we virtually walked from Bixby Bridge to Monterey.


There seemed to be a spring in the step of Amy, my soft-coated wheaten terrier, as we embarked on week 15 of our epic journey. Perhaps she could smell civilisation: maybe the salt-encrusted aroma of chicken nuggets and fries was wafting south down the Big Sur coast. Perhaps she had detected another colony of elephant seals. But she was pulling on her leash as we left Bixby Bridge behind us and she provided a little extra motive force as we crept north past the coves, canyons and points in our journey towards Monterey.

We stopped for a late breakfast at the spectacular Rocky Point Restaurant where I was tempted by the Le Roc Corsaire’s Treasure (New York steak and two eggs any style served with country potatoes, black beans, sourdough toast, coffee and fresh orange juice. … all for $23.00) whilst Amy polished off a Buccaneer’s Bounty (Chicken/apple sausages or bacon, three eggs any style served with country potatoes, sourdough toast, coffee and fresh orange juice). I took the advice of the menu and started the day with a glass of champagne and then I started Amy’s day by downing another in her honour. When we set back on our way up Highway One, I was more grateful than ever for the constant pulling of my travelling companion which allowed me to doze and walk at the same time. We were still out in the open countryside – it has now been a good few weeks since we had passed through anything larger than a village (what the Americans call a city). This meant that every time you came across a building of any significance you were anxious to identify its purpose, its history and its secrets.

Thus, on our second day out, when we spotted a group of buildings marked MPSL – clinging to the strip of land between the road and the sea – we were anxious to find out more about them. Amy and I played guessing games. I suggested Missile Propulsion Strategy Laboratory. Amy went – I thought somewhat optimistically - with Meat, Poultry and Seafood Left-overs. In fact we were both wide of the mark, for this was the University of California Marine Pollution Studies Laboratory. Delving into the background of the Laboratory it turned out that Amy and I were not too far out with our guesses. The facility was first build as a missile tracking station by the US Navy, and later became a research base for the infant aquaculture industry. Now it monitors pollution levels in both sea water and fresh water : its local pollution-free sea and rivers providing an excellent control for research purposes.

This feeling of being at one with nature was the theme of the first part of the week. Soon we entered the 3,000 acre Garrapata State Park where “spectacular rocky shorelines play counterpoint with an inland area of steep mountains and deep redwood canyons” The usual Warning Notices from Governor Schwarzenegger said that dogs weren’t allowed in the State Park - other than, in this case, on the road or on the beach – so we had to give the coniferous forests, the Californian Brome and the blue wild rye a rain-check. However, down on the beach we did see some brown pelicans – still quite rare in these parts – and a quite amazing plant which was – we were told - sea lettuce (Dudleya caespitosa).

A little further north we came upon Carmel Highlands and, feeling in need of a little luxury for a change, we were tickled pink to find the Tickle Pink Inn just off the main highway. The enchantment from the natural beauty, we are promised, “captivates your senses and sets a mood which will nurture, renew, and inspire”. The name comes from the fact that the site was originally the home of State Senator Edward and Mrs. Bess Tickle. A great lover of flowers, particularly pink varieties, Mrs. Tickle liked a suggestion to name their hillside stone cottage 'Tickle Pink'. The stone cottage has since disappeared but the name remains. Unfortunately, the Inn is another of those places where dogs are not welcome, so I had to smuggle Amy in in the usual fashion. Having a somewhat overweight long-haired terrier concealed under your pullover gives a whole new meaning to “tickled pink”.

This discrimination against my travelling companion was maintained at our next stop on our journey northwards to Monterey – at Point Lobos State Reserve. Despite the fact that the name translates as Point Of The Sea Wolves, this is not a canine-friendly place and dogs are not allowed anywhere within the confines of the Reserve. So I apologised to Amy and walked on by. This "greatest meeting of land and water in the world" would have to wait for another visit. I feared that Amy might be getting a little upset by this constant rejection, but her spirits remained high, and she was still pulling enthusiastically. As we entered the wonderful city of Carmel-by-the-Sea, I at last understood why. Not only is this spot rated as one of the top ten destinations in the United States by Conde Nast Traveler, not only is it one of the favourite resorts of A List celebrities, not only has it become a Mecca for poets, artists and academics, …. it was recently voted the most dog-friendly city in America.

Wander the delightful streets and you are greeted with signs declaring “Dogs Welcome”. The city authorities produce long lists of all kinds of establishments where man and dog can enjoy life together, side by side in a spirit of harmony and equality. Dogs are allowed on the streets, in the parks on the beach and in the City Hall. There are dog-friendly restaurants, hotels, inns, and shops of all types. There are shops that specialise in clothes for dogs, food for dogs, furniture and fittings for dogs. Amy wandered around with a big smile on her blond furry face. She was in Carmel-by-the-Sea. She was in paradise.

It was hard dragging Amy away, but I wanted to get over the hill and in sight of Monterey before the end of our week. I eventually reached a compromise with her – our continued journey north in exchange for an all-expenses trip to the Diggidy Dog Boutique (it’s a kind of Harvey Nichols for Dogs). After looking around for what seemed like hours she finished up with some Earthbath Deodorizing Spritz ($9.95), a Wrought Iron Antique Rust Feeder Station ($78), and a Bow and Fur Leather Coat ($72).

As we walked north from Carmel and into the outer suburbs of Monterey, I reflected on the beauty of the California coast, the friendliness of its people and the delights that were yet to come. As for Amy, I am not sure what she reflected on. But she had a smile on her face and a batch of Carmel real estate brochures clutched tightly in her paw.

When I feel the sadness of not have Amy with me any more, when I miss her because she is no longer walking by the side of me, I will try to think of her in a little seafront condo in Carmel, happy and at peace with the world.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Old Bits Of Pasteboard And Printing

This card was in a batch I bought recently on eBay. It is a drawing of a girl by the American illustrator, Charles Dana Gibson, who specialised in such drawings in the 1890s and early 1900s. Gibson was not sketching a particular person, he was - he claimed - recording a personification of American feminine beauty, and the girls - and their style and their looks - became known as Gibson Girls. Their popularity coincided with the great boom in picture postcards and thus Gibson Girls became one of the favourite images to be used on such cards.

This particular card was sent from Hanley - one of the famous Five Towns of North Staffordshire, to Miss McKenzie in Hampstead, London. I know nothing of either the sender nor the recipient, but whenever I think of the Five Towns I think, of course, of the novels of Arnold Bennett. One of my favourite Bennett novels is "Anna of the Five Towns" which tells the story of Anna Tellwright's struggle against the restraints of her father, religion and, indeed, the nineteenth century. I have always pictured Anna as a new woman, a British equivalent of a Gibson Girl. 

Gibson Girls are now, of course, terribly old fashioned. Equally, the novels of Arnold Bennett have, regrettably, fallen out of style.  These days, few people send postcards: but old scraps of pasteboard and printing such as this have the ability to dissolve style and fashion and transport us back 100 years.