Wednesday, December 07, 2016

The Coincidence Of Stone Sets

These two back street came together by chance. They are more years than miles apart - I took the first in Bradford back in the 1960s and the second in Batley last week. The first one is a rescan of an old negative which, by chance, came to the top of my pile of old negatives to revisit. The second was going to be my submission for today's Picture Post. The coincidence of stone sets connected them, so who am I to break them apart?

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

The Stone Faces Of Batley

It would seem that the burghers of Batley couldn't design a building without appending a stone face to it. They would work their way through the Kings and Queens, the angels and the goddesses; decorating every pediment with a stone likeness. Once the human face-pool had been exhausted, they would turn their attention to the animal kingdom. Cats and monkeys, imps and griffins would all find themselves captured by the stonemasons' chisel. At one time they would look down the fashionable streets and smile knowingly as the shoddy merchants gathered their rags and lined their pockets. Over time the black soot coated the sandstone at about the same rate as the profits accumulated. The buildings have been cleaned, but most of them have lost their purpose along with their grime. Shoddy has become a description of the town rather than its' industry. The smiles of the stone faces are slowly morphing into frowns.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Postcards From Home : Pixie On The Rocks

To : Miss 'Pixie' Piggall,
Stalham, Station Road, Fratford, Herts.
16 January 1906
I missed your letter dear, but hope by now you are quite well and able to write anything, even lessons. What a jolly Xmas you gave the Uncles. Love from Auntie Annie.

What on earth Pixie did in order to give everyone such a jolly Christmas will have to be left to the imagination. Let us, instead, concentrate on the scene on the front of this 1906 vintage postcard which shows the famous Halifax landmark called "The Rocks".

"The Rocks" are a large outcrop of millstone grit which provide wonderful views over the Calder valley and are situated a couple of miles from the centre of Halifax. Such natural spectacles became popular in Victorian times, as people from the towns began to rediscover the natural wonders that could be found if they ventured out into the countryside. During the latter part of the nineteenth century, a series of paths were laid through the woods that clung to the valley side below the rocks and a formal promenade was laid out at the top of the valley above the rocks. This, of course, was named Albert Promenade after the late Prince Albert. Victorian and Edwardian families would take walks above and below the rocks and thrill at their scale and beauty, and Victorian and Edwardian children would attempt to climb up the rocks as far as they could before being called back by anxious parents.

I knew this part of Halifax well, because my school was close by (just off the right hand side of this picture). It was one of those schools that took a delight in making the boys play rugby - a game I have always taken a distinct dislike to. A few more boys and myself would manage to avoid the weekly game by not being picked for either of the two competing teams - the blues and the wasps. In order to avoid being picked you had to carefully nurture a reputation for being particularly bad at the game - a challenge which I took to like a duck to warm water. The handful of kids who were not picked for either team would be sent for a cross country run that was supposed to take them down through the rocks, along the valley bottom, up the other side and then down and back up again.

At half time during the blues v the wasps rugby match the sports teacher would walk to the top of the rocks with a pair of binoculars and attempt to follow our progress up and down the valley side. He was never very successful in this as we were normally huddled up in a cave just under the rock upon which he stood, enjoying an illicit cigarette. Perhaps Pixie Piggall had bought he uncles a box of Havana cigars and they had gone to the self same cave for a Boxing Day smoke. Who knows?

Friday, December 02, 2016

Sepia Saturday 346 : Happy Christmas Roger

The wonderful thing about the theme image for Sepia Saturday 346 is that it is so full of potential prompts: you can find a link to almost anything within it. To test the theory out, I closed my eyes and dipped into the un-scanned family photo box to see what came out. 

And what came out was a photograph of my brother Roger and myself which must, I suspect have been taken in the early 1950s.  It looks as though we were at the seaside, and if that is the case it will have either been New Brighton or Bridlington (for some reason my parents swapped their allegiances between the east coast and the west coast on an annual basis). My best bet would be that it was New Brighton (although I wouldn't be surprised if my brother writes it to tell me I have got the wrong time and the wrong place).

Returning to my challenge, there would appear to be several of the advent pictures I could pair my holiday snap up with, but - since this is the season of goodwill - I am going to go with the one which appears to feature a group of little angels with a town in the background. I am not sure which potentially stretches the bounds of credulity the furthest: the depiction of my brother and myself as little angels or the idea that New Brighton would make a suitable location for such a festive scene.

For many years now, Roger has lived on the other side of the world and we have never been into sending Christmas cards to each other. This year I am happy to make an exception - and this, therefore, is my Christmas card to him. Happy Christmas Rog.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Six Monasteries Hourly Are Saying A Mass

There is an old Flanders and Swan song called "Bed".  Compared to most of their songs, it is relatively unknown - I can find neither a YouTube video nor the lyrics of it - but it is one of my favourites. In it, Flanders sings of the multiple delights of "bed", and there is a short verse than goes (as far as I remember) like this:

"Six monastery's hourly are saying a mass,
For a distant relation, now dead.
Who left me a blanket, electric no less,
No an integral part of my bed"

The other day, a delivery man knocked on my door and handed me a very large, and very heavy, parcel. It came not from a distant relation, but from a close friend, who certainly isn't dead, and it contained something far more useful than an electric blanket. It was nothing less than an advent calendar, but a rather special one as can be imagined by the greeting on the box - "Hoppy Christmas"

The box contains twenty-five bottles of real ale, one for each day up until Christmas Day. I look forward to the coming month with more anticipation than I have since being a Father-Christmas believing child. Cheers Mark: I have requested a thanksgiving mass to be said in at least six monasteries.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Edwardian Ladies And The Manchester Ship Canal

This is a scan of a glass negative I acquired on eBay, and for once I have a little information about it, as it arrived with the description "Edwardian ladies with decorative hats in Hastings". The hats are indeed spectacular (one is almost reminded of African ladies who carry great jugs of water on their heads), but it is the faces that capture my immediate attention.

And then, once I focus in, my attention is grabbed by the municipal instruction, crafted in finest brass and screwed into place: "Please Do Not Spit". I remember someone once telling me about the public announcements that used to be featured on the upper deck of trams in Manchester. Some were public health announcements whilst others would urge to public to make full use of the municipally controlled transport infrastructure. On one such tram, two such notices had appeared next to each other at the front of the tram. "Do Not Spit" declared one, whilst its' neighbour admonished people to "Use The Ship Canal".

Monday, November 28, 2016

For Everything There Is A Season In The Sun

For everything there is a season and it just so happens that the season for producing enough 2017 calendars to fill the Christmas stockings of a range of friends and family members is the last week in November (especially if you are a tight-fisted Yorkshire chap and want to take advantage of the Black Friday deals from the digital publishers). That is the reason why my various blogs have been neglected for the last couple of weeks. Now the calendars are designed and the orders have been submitted, so I have time to return to the pressing business of the pointless and inconsequential. 

And what can be more inconsequential that old photographs of unknown people. Here are two old photographs I bought from the same second-hand stall. I have no idea who either group are or where they were when they had their photographs taken. Quite clearly, they inhabited different levels of the Victorian or Edwardian social spectrum - but I suspect that the photographs were taken at around the same time.

Other than that, they are not related in any way. But they have most probably sat next to each other in the box on the counter of the second-hand shop for years. Maybe they had time to get acquainted, to share experiences, to swap hopes and fears. Their pigments faded and their corners got creased and folded, but they would eventually share a season in the sun.

Friday, November 18, 2016

A Tidy Room And A Tired Brain

I am still trying to come to terms with all that has been happening in the world this year - and I have decided that the most logical response is to tidy my room. I suspect that this might have been the genetic response to times of stress and danger of us Burnetts and Beanlands over the centuries. When the lights were going out all over Europe, Fowler Beanland probably sorted out his postcard collection. When Hitler's tanks pounded their way through the low countries, Enoch Burnett would have been tidying up his tool shed. 

During my bout of tidying, I rediscovered the pack of early snap cards produced by Spears Games. They are advertised as "a most diverting game with beautiful coloured cards of grotesque characters", and one card seemed to be particularly appropriate for the events of 2016. I will leave it up to you to identify the snake - there are enough potential candidates about.

Another discovery was an old advert for Sanaphos. I have not been feeling quite 100% recently and I have put it down to a cold (manflu).  But now I know what the problem is - I am suffering from a tired brain. Once I have rested it with a short afternoon nap, I will start trying to track down a supply of Sanaphos.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A History Of My Family In 100 Images : 4. What God Will And The Missing Berries

The fourth cardinal point of my family history is Isobel's father's family - the Berrys. As with most family trees, there is a branch that yields fewer easy pickings for the amateur genealogist, and with my family - despite the branch name - it is the Berrys. From the point of view of where we now live, they are the most local family - the local parish records show a WhatGodWill Berry being born in 1730 no more than a mile from where we now live - and it is still a family name that is well represented locally. It is just that nobody in the family seems to have saved family photographs, or if they did, they got handed down to someone else. My photograph is a Berry by marriage: it shows Sarah Ann Shaw, the mother of Raymond Berry, who was Isobel's father. In 1905, she married Kaye Holroyd Berry, Isobel's grandfather, and they lived together in the local town of Elland until their deaths over fifty years later.

Despite the shortage of photographs, the Berry/Shaw line is a fascinating element of the wider story of my family, containing some of the most colourful characters and some of the most tragic stories. There are, however,  a further 96 images to go so I will save some of these stories for further down the line.

Let us limit ourselves for the moment to some very basic facts about Sarah Ann Berry. She was born in Ripponden in 1876 and shortly after that, her family moved the few miles over the moors to settle in Elland. Like so many of the young people from these parts at the end of the nineteenth century, she worked in the local woollen mill, and by the time she was twenty-five appears to have given birth to at least two illegitimate children. Following her marriage to Kaye Berry - who himself had a somewhat colourful background - she had two further children, one of whom, Raymond Holroyd Berry, born in 1916, was Isobel's father.

It is a fascinating family history, and one I look forward to exploring in greater depth in the future. The ways that family fortunes ebb and flow over the generations is always an interesting story in itself. When I have looked back at  the parish records and seen that distant relative of the Berry family being christened "WhatGodWill", I have always assumed it was the result of some misunderstanding at the baptism ceremony - "What do you name this child? Oh, what God will". However, on reflection, considering the fortunes and misfortunes that were to await the family in the centuries to come, those ancient forebears were, perhaps, wiser than I thought.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Sunset Over Rational Enlightenment


That will teach me. Earlier this year, in June, I took a couple of weeks out to sail around the Baltic and when I got back I discovered that the UK had decided to conduct an experiment in suicidal idiocy.  Three or four months later I take a couple of weeks out to sail around the Canary Islands and when I get back I discover that the United States has signed up for Idiocy 101 as well. Well, that's it: a nod is as good as a wink to a blind donkey. All future holidays have been cancelled.  Sunset over Gran Canaria is a beautiful sight to behold, but sunset over rational enlightenment is a fearful sight indeed.