Friday, September 28, 2012

Sepia Saturday 145 : The Boy With The Mona Lisa Look.

Our Sepia Saturday prompt this week features a picture of three young lads with their football boots around their neck. Some strange process of association caused me to think of this photograph of an unknown young lad standing besides a gate. Perhaps it is the fact that the combination of his stance and his short trousers leads the eye downwards towards what are a pair of substantial shoes.

I have no idea who the lad is, where the photograph was taken or when it was taken. I bought it for a few pence at an antique stall some years ago. It appeared lost and I just felt it needed rescuing. It recorded a life about to happen. a life which surely, by now, will have finished. 

There is a pensive look on his face, almost as though he is looking down the road and into his future. But, there again, he might be fed up of standing there waiting for the photographer to press the shutter and thinking of nothing more than his dinner. Whatever thought may have given rise to it, there is a Mona Lisa quality about his expression, something which will stay with you long after you do the sensible thing and turn to some other Blog to read.

You can turn to some other Blog to read by going to the Sepia Saturday Blog and following one of the links you will find there. But don't be surprised if that Lad's enigmatic look comes back to haunt you for the rest of the day.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Preparing For The Digital Winter


Long. long ago - when I was only a young lad - before cars and planes and light bulbs and fridges and telephones and bacon sandwiches were invented, people would dread the approach of winter. Winter was a time when the sun rarely shone, when the crops rarely grew, and when it was far too cold for the chicken to lay their eggs. People would have to plan for a times of scarcity, a time of poverty, and a time of want by putting aside a little in the time of plenty in preparation for the lean and hungry times ahead. Which explains why I have been a little absent of late as I try and stock my digital larder.

Here I stand at the end of September contemplating the digital winter ahead. In a couple of weeks time the Good Lady Wife and myself will pack our bags and depart for warmer climes for the best part of a month. And whilst the Caribbean might have wall-to-wall sunshine, clear blue seas, and pina coladas, it is not so well endowed in relation to broadband. This is particularly true of the rather large boat which will be our home. Its' broadband connection is as narrow as a bigots' mind, as expensive as a gold filling, and as slow as a politician's apology.

So here I stand (OK, here I sit), pickling digital downloads, laying aside some of the plentiful fruits of my speedy WiFi in anticipation of the lean times ahead. Digital books hang from my Kindle Library like salted hams hanging from the pantry ceiling. MP3 tracks are stacked away in digital cans like sardines packed in brine. I am a farmer of dreams and I am preparing for the digital winter.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sepia Saturday 144 : My Brother Decapitated, My Father Scalped


Well thank goodness International Madness Week is behind us for another year and we can concentrate on order, logic and rationality. And what could be more ordered and logical than this charming child paddling in the sea in some northern sea-side resort, proudly supported by his father whilst a renegade sibling tries to get in on the act. Yes, that is me in that pretty patterned bathing suit.

The theme image for Sepia Saturday 144 features a headless body and provides a perfect example of frames of view joining battle with ordered presentation and coming up with something that has an attraction of its own. If my mother (for it must have been her that wielded the family camera in this 1950 photograph) had been more careful, my brother wouldn't have been decapitated nor my father scalped. If she had planned the shot more carefully, the horizon might not have dipped so precariously and there wouldn't have been such an expanse of North Sea dominating the view. But then the photograph would have been ordinary. It might have made a statement but it wouldn't have asked any questions. And that, would have been boring.

You can fight boredom this weekend by visiting the Sepia Saturday Blog and following the links to convicts, headless bodies and all manner of strange and wonderful images.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

In All Its Shiny Finery

You may recall what I wasn't saying yesterday about it being International Nonsense Week. I appreciate that followers of political science, wherever they may live, already realise that we are celebrating International Nonsense Year, but here on News From Nowhere, for one week only, nothing quite makes sense. Nothing connects, nothing is planned and nothing is any where close to logical.

So here is a photograph of the new car Isobel bought last week in all its shiny finery. At the moment, poor old Amy is only allowed to sit in the back of the car when safely cocooned in mud-absorbing towels and blankets and I fear that I may be subject to similar limitations soon, when I sit in the front trying to work out what the symbols on the Sat Nav mean.

There is one symbol in particular that seems to be displayed with alarming frequency and appears to suggest that there is a theatre close by showing a Greek tragedy. Useful though such information is, either there is some kind of International Greek Tragedy Festival taking place in West Yorkshire at the moment, or I have misinterpreted the symbol. There seems to be no guide to what all the flashing icons mean, which doesn't really make any sense. But I am forgetting, nothing is supposed to make sense this week.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Like A Rice Pudding With Its Skin

Today I want to talk to you about a DAIS Dimmable Electronic Transformer with 1.0KV Surge Protection (Ref DA-J60). "What on earth has that got to do with all that stuff you were going on about yesaterday?", I hear you ask. "Nothing", I reply, which is just the point. This week here on News From Nowhere, nothing connects, nothing makes sense, nothing rhymes. But isn't that a lovely packet? Look at the way the "dias" logo with its futurist font counterbalances the boxed solidity of the "DA-J60" reference number. Both seem to almost float above the ethereal display of product safety certificates, like the skin of a succulent rice pudding.

The box came into my possession as I handed the gubbins inside to Cousin Dave who was balanced on the top of a step ladder in our kitchen, repairing a broken light fitting. After the new fitting had been installed, I rewarded the intrepid handyman by asking him to share my latest excursion into "1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die" : more specifically, a bottle of Liberty Ale from the Anchor Brewing Company of San Francisco. I carefully presented the bottle for his inspection as I read from the tasting notes, asking him to keep a weathered taste bud ready for the "citrus and resiny hop character with honey and light bready notes". The exotic mood was slightly punctured when we turned the bottle over to discover that the beer was imported by James Clay and Sons of Elland, West Yorkshire. Neither of us had ever heard of the firm before despite the fact that it is located within spittoon distance of our local pub, The Rock. Looking at their website we discovered that they import hundreds of rare beers from around the world into the UK.  For someone dedicated getting through the remaining 991 beers before death catches up on me, discovering the existence of this firm is rather like discovering that Shangri-La is on the far side of Keighley and El Dorado is on the outskirts of Liversedge. Sadly, the website says James Clay is "trade only" and does not sell direct to the public. So all I have to do now is to open a pub.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Like A Vicar In A Strip Club

You may recall that I was going on last week about being the type of person who needs to organise the world into neatly labelled file boxes. My excuse for a brain likes to link B to C and then place them in their rightful position between A and D. If George Orwell had been writing about me in 1984, my Room 101 would have been the kind of student house The Lad lived in last year, where cast-off objects littered each room like some ever-palpable dandruff (he seems to have undergone a sea-change this year but that is another story). However, as with many annoyingly organised people, I like to occasionally walk on the dark side. Like a vicar surrepticously entering a strip-club, I like to abandon my ordered faith and see where my fancy takes me. This will be such a week. Who knows where my posts will take me by the time Friday comes around, certainly not me. If you would like to jump on board and join me in this mystery trip, please be my guest.


I am starting at the Butlins Holiday Camp in Skegness, England in 1938. Normally there would be a reason for starting there, but remember, this week we have left rationality in the cloakroom. I know it is Skegness in 1938 because the picture was taken by Uncle Frank and we all know how he loved to catalogue all his photographs ("Frank Fieldhouse, I renounce thee, you shameless organiser") I know it is Bultins because it says so just above Auntie Miriam's head. Now if I was a logical and organised person, I would go on about how the British Holiday Camp movement was started by Sir Billy Butlin when he opened this very camp in Skegness just two years before the photograph was taken. But the dangerous, irrational, unorganised me has no time for such trimmings. Just look at the photograph and let your mind go where you want it to. And call back tomorrow to see where mine has gone to.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Sepia Saturday 143 : English Spoken


Our Sepia Saturday archive image prompt this week features the interior of a busy Australian grocery store in 1944. For a family which comes from a so-called "nation of shopkeepers", shopkeepers are notable by their absence in my ancestral line, and it is to the outside of a shop that I have to go to find a suitable old photograph for Sepia Saturday 143.

It is a photograph of my father (right), mother, and a friend of theirs called Charlie Pitts, and it must have been taken in the mid 1930s. The sign in the window clearly says "English Spoken" and the photograph was taken during a day-trip to Calais in France. I remember my father telling me about the trip many years later. Until we went on a camping holiday to France in the early 1960s, it was the one and only time he had been out of the country. My parents and "Uncle Charlie" would often holiday together on their motorbikes and they have been featured before on my Sepia Saturday submissions. Although my photograph predates the Australian photograph by some ten years, you get the impression that, were you to enter through those sepia doors, there would be the same arrangement of stacked shelves and busy industry.

Move on 30 or so years and the faded sepia gives way to the washed-out colours of a 1960s colour transparency.  This is a photograph taken on that second trip to France and it shows Albert and Gladys sheltering from the sun in their tent on a camp-site at Juan Les Pins in the South of France. I was about 14 at the time and the holiday was a great adventure. After driving through France and sitting in the sun for a couple of days, my poor father had to take to his bed with sunstroke. My mother spent her days, trying to keep insects off the sandwiches and searching for shops with signs saying "English Spoken"

All sorts of languages are spoken by that band of sepia people who each week contribute to the Sepia Saturday Blog. Take a trip to the Sepia Saturday Blog and see what is on offer this week.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Modern Day Cure For Collectivitis

I have always been a keeper, a sorter, a filer, an archiver. It's a personality type characterised by the desire to put things in boxes, stick labels on the boxes, and stack the boxes in some kind of order. Sometimes it's a blessing (I am always the one asked to help find things) and sometimes it's a curse (I am always the one asked to help find things). Throughout my life the filing medium may have changed, but the message has always been the same : "clip it, tag it, and save it". At one stage it was things cut out and stuck onto filing cards, and then when computers came onto the scene, it would be complex databases of trivial information. My music collection has been catalogued more times that a Mozart symphony, my negatives have been archived with a care that would be more in place in the Library of Congress.

However, the day of the stand-alone database has passed, and more recently my base desires have gravitated towards the clouds - or to be precise, cloud cataloguing. Step forward, EVERNOTE. I don't think that I have been as happy with a system since the day I first discovered my first 6" x 4" file card. Evernote is a wonderfully simple piece of software which allows you to clip and save almost everything and share the results between a variety of devices. I use it to save on-line press cuttings, blog-posts, and interesting web-sites. I also use it to index my music collection, reference my photographs, keep my personal diary. and file my paperless collection of gas and electricity bills. Because things are filed on-line, they are protected from the ravages of computer failure or loss. It works on Mac and PC, iPads and other tablets, and even most smartphones. You can set up an account for nothing and this includes enough on-line storage for most needs. If, like me, you suffer from severe collectivitis, you can opt for a premium account for just a few pounds (dollars) a month and set about saving the world.

The point of this post is to celebrate the 1,000th item I have added to my Evernote collection (which will be a clip of this blog-post). And I should stress that this post is a response to having found a very useful piece of free software which I want to share with my friends. It has not been sponsored by, or paid for by Evernote.

Now, where did I file that recipe for Apple Crumble?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Detritus And Scandimania (All Rights Reserved)

I took my dinner suit for dry cleaning yesterday. It must be the first time in 10 years it will have been cleaned, and before packing it off I needed to clear out all the pockets of a decades' worth of detritus. In the main, I have to confess, these are bar bills, but each of these little printed dockets is a memory pickled in alcohol. Rather than just throw them away, I decided to scan them, frame them and hang them in my virtual art gallery.

I would have printed the resulting picture and pinned it to my wall, had it not been for the fact that I am making a determined effort to go paperless. My newspaper now arrives via wifi, most of my books are  Kindle-ised, and I spend a little time each day scanning each new gas bill or credit card statement and then shredding the originals into the kind of material that provides bedding for guinea pigs.

Following up my comments yesterday about copyrighting old photos, I thoroughly agree with everything that Christine, Jennyfreckles and others said in their comments. Where people take their own photographs or where they research and explain old images taken by others, they deserve acknowledgement and protection from other people stealing their work. My complaint was with people who merely scan an old image which is out of copyright and then attempt to claim that they have established some kind of copyright over an image they have added no value to. Quite clearly, I have added value to the bar bills and therefore the image above is copyright Alan Burnett, 2012.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Back To Reality After A Trip Along The Niagara River To Fit A Water Meter


No I have not been away again, but I have had a couple of weeks with loads happening and less time than normal to write blog-posts and visit my favourite blogs. I have returned to normality with a trip down the Niagara River on board the steamer "Chippewa", getting off at the town of Lewiston, New York. I am not sure where I acquired the postcard from, I rather think I might have bought it from an antique stall rather than acquired it as part of Fowler Beanland's collection. There is an image of a similar card on the web, but someone has decided to overprint it with copyright information. Well, this is my card and I scanned it and I hereby declare that anyone can reproduce this image without payment, without consultation and without acknowledgement.

I suspect I paid 20p for the card (I rarely pay more), but for that I have acquired a bit of history. I was also sent on a virtual digital tour, checking to discover where Lewiston was, looking to see if the landing stage is still there and to see if the opposite bank of the river is still tree-lined. I have had the pleasure of reading up on the history of the Niagara River Line, and even discovering that the ship name is derived from one of the oldest tribes of Native Americans. That is a lot of pleasure for 20p.

All that water flowing down towards the Niagara Falls reminded me that it was Monday and therefore my regular appointment with the Water Company who, for what seems like years now, have been trying to fit a water meter. A large gang of workers arrived at 8.00am this morning but then proceeded to shake their collective heads and talk about complex excavations through sand-beds (or something similar). They said it would need an even larger gang with specialist equipment: they will be back next week no doubt.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

And So To Digital Bed

On the train down to London on Saturday I was reading Samuel Pepys' Diary and before I could stop myself I found myself thinking, what would it have been like if Samuel Pepys had owned an iPad? Well you can guess where this is going.... As I have been absent from my Blog for far too many days, I thought it would be useful to update you on what had been happening. The notes are downloaded from my iPad diary.