Tuesday, 31 May 2011

I've Been Tagged too

This tag requires that I answer six questions, presumably as honestly as possible. I have tried as far as possible but I am staying in the family home of my wife’s son and it would be impolite to spend too much time on this. So here is a quick answer.

Q1 Do you think you are hot?

Yes, I know I’m hot. I am currently in the Mid West of the USA, Tornado Alley, and I am finding it rather too warm. The local temperature is about fifteen degrees C above what we are used to at home and noticably higher than the last place we visited, the home town of one of my cousins in Canada.

Q2 Upload a picture or the wallpaper you are using.

This has been my wallpaper on my laptop for the last two years, ever since we stayed with another cousin of mine who lives near Niagra. This may be a clue as to where it is.

Q3 When did you last eat chicken?

Two nights ago. My cousin (the first cousin mentioned) took us out to a local restaurant, where I had something off the menu I have never tried before and I have already forgotten the name, but it was very nice.

Q4 A song I have listened to recently

‘Ape call’ by Nervous Nrovus The very first record I ever bought in 1956, I was delighted to find a copy amongst a collection of ancient 78 records I was shown recently. If you want to risk listening to it, follow this link. Ape Call

Q5. What are you thinking as you do this?

‘Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits.’ Well I suppose I am thinking mildly indignant thoughts about the person who first thought up this idea and racking my brains for something suitable.

Q6 have you any nickname?

I have never had a nickname that I knew about. Maybe my erstwhile students know otherwise.

I do not think I can tag many people, since most of my tiny circle of followers have already have been tagged, and anyway, I would not like to impose on them, unlike certain cousins who live in California, no names mentioned.

Should you be one of my followers or just someone who is passing by, and think it would be fun to do this, please feel free, but please mention where you got the idea from.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Out of Office

Touring at the moment return in a week or so

Friday, 20 May 2011


Recently The Better Half and I were watching a TV programme set in post war 1940s Britain, the authenticity was good up to a point. The clothes were right, the hairstyles and makeup was right and I can be sure of these because firstly, I was around then and secondly I have lots of pictures of my family from that time and they match. The one detail they got wrong was the photographs they took. The characters in the story took some snaps and had them developed and they came out BROWN!
Photos were not brown in the nineteen twenties, thirties, forties or fifties. Probably not before then either, they were black and white. This seems to have become a modern myth that old photos were all sepia brown, maybe some very early ones were before the process of developing pictures became an industry standard, but since there is no one alive today who saw them as new, we may never know.
Old photos often turn brown over a period of time, maybe fifty years or more but they were black and white when they were new.
I have several ancient photos of my ancestors, many of which have turned brown, even have some pictures I took and developed myself as a teenager, which have also turned brown with age. These were black and white when I developed them, I can assure you.
With the magic of computers I can turn them into black and white or turn black and white into sepia, but they should be black and white, at least as far back as the 1920s.
My father and his older brother were both keen photographers and snapped pictures endlessly from the 1920s on and I have a lot of them. My uncle in particular was fanatical about photographs and belonged to different amateur photographer’s clubs. Because of this he took thousands of photos in black and white and in colour when 35mm colour film became easily obtainable. He worked for Kodak and so got his processing done wholesale and as a result of this he took more pictures than one would expect most people to manage in a lifetime. I have recently inherited the task of scanning and sorting his myriad pictures and because so many of them are excellent pictures in their own right, I decided that I would share a few here on BlogSpot.

This is one of my ancestors from the 18  somethings and is expected to be brown, although it may have been black and white originally

This is one of my uncle's photos.  A favourite subject throughout Britain, the Red Arrows.

I have to confess that I do not know where many of these pictures were taken and this is no exception.  No doubt someone will be able to tell me which cathedral this is.  

British Calvary 

A field somewhere in the UK c 1980

A converted mill


A clipper ship

Re thatching a roof.  Not a cheap job, this will cost around 30,000 GBP these days, depending on the size of the roof.

A field somewhere in the UK, a good subject for water colours

A Windmill also somewhere in the UK

A canal bridge
This is just a very small sample of the massive collection I have, some of his colour slides date from the 1950s, through to the 1980s when he died.  Many have historic content because they show cars that have long gone to the breaker's yard and places that no longer look the way they did when the pictures were taken.  He did  a lot of portraits and a whole set of pictures of his workplace, which shows the massive kind of equipment that Kodak used to process the streams of film that was used before the advent of the digital camera.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Living and the alternative

Terry Pratchett is an author who has created a real character out of the Death image, an entity that owns a horse called Binky and likes cats, quite unlike the morbid thoughts I have put down here, but in acknowledgement of his endearing characterisation, I offer this slightly different world view.

Death circles around our lives like a silent animal
In the darkness beyond the campfire
As a tiny child my fire burned brightly,
And I did not know Death in his night black robe
But he was ever present hidden in the dark
In his secret black robe.

Death glides in from the dark and my grandfather was gone
But I was hidden away and I did not see Death
In his fearsome black robe

Death stalks around me,
Striking here and there but never close,
I do not see him in his dire black robe.

The armies march, bombs fall and Death reaps many souls
And I fear him in his terrible black robe
As I grow he takes my friends one here, one there
And I hate him in his dreadful black robe

Now and again he swoops in from the dark
But he does not come near me in his sombre black robe
One by one my family become fewer
I have seen his dark black robe pass many times now,
But the fire is bright and I do not fear him,
Maybe he will never come for me in his awful black robe

He swoops and takes one parent then the next,
Both snared in his long black robe
But he does not take me
More friends slip away with him, wound in his ebony black robe
But still I remain.
I am brushed by his passing as my true love is taken,
Wrapped in his fine black robe.

The fire dims and I am alone in the gathering dark
I wonder why he leaves me so long as the years crawl by,
And he has not come in his splendid black robe,
But I know that one day I will greet him and be glad

Saturday, 7 May 2011

A holiday for a flower

As I have mentioned in one of my comments on another blog, I have an Amaryllis that must be nearly thirty years old. We were given it one Christmas around 1982 and it flowered beautifully that year. I found it fascinating because when the flower stalk arrives, you can almost see it grow. It put on about an inch every day and then finally four huge blooms appeared. I was instantly smitten by it and decided that I would try to nurture it so that it would bloom the following year. It had been the general opinion of my family and circle of friends and acquaintances that these packaged bulbs that turned up in the shops before Christmas were rather ephemeral and were usually chucked out with the Christmas decorations on twelfth night.

Twelfth night had more significance when I was a child because on that night the decorations were taken down and burned along with the Christmas tree, on the assumption that it brought bad luck to keep them after that date. We all made our own paper chains from strips of coloured paper before Christmas and they were not something you wanted to keep nor would they be in a fit state to reuse and burning was an accepted way of disposing of combustible waste.
This may sound very wasteful now, since the new generation of adults have re-invented Salvage and now call it recycling, but in those days much of our day to day stuff was re-usable, milk bottles, not cartons dish cloths, not kitchen rolls, towelling nappies that were washed and reused and wood and paper ash was dug into the garden to treat the soil. As well as all this, Salvage, paper and old clothes, metal and glass was collected regularly by the Rag and Bone man.
More recent paperchains arrive pre-gummed.  
We used a big pot of paste and a brush to stick ours together and I would get in a real mess with mine.
Partly because of the twelfth night tradition, no one seemed to expect that their Christmas Amaryllis would bloom again the next year, so defying all my friends and family’s wisdom, I looked up how to treat them and found that they would last for several years if you treated them correctly. Following the guidelines I managed to get it to flower again the next three or four Christmases.
For some reason it got later and later each year and eventually stopped flowering altogether. Disappointed I waited each year and as year followed year with no bloom, I experienced an increasing sense of failure, perhaps they did not last very long. 
However, after some thought, I decided that maybe it had grown larger and needed a bigger pot, so I replanted in in a new one and added some fertiliser and waited.
A few weeks later it went mad, growing a new set of leaves and it then sprouted a bud which shot up in the amazing way these things grow and I waited with impatience for the new blooms to appear.

That must have been around about 1985/6, because we had been taken on a small black Labrador/border collie cross, (free to a good home) female puppy that we had named Lucy. When she was just about eight or nine months old and very bouncy, Lucy had come to believe that she was a very fierce dog whose response to potential burglars was to bounce around in an excited manner barking loudly at anyone she could see, including us. When one morning someone came to the front door, using her infallible self taught technique to deter burglars, she bounced round the room and onto the windowsill where the plant was and knocked the rather fragile head off.
I was not pleased, it had been so long in blooming again and the ‘blooming’ dog had destroyed it before it had a chance to come out out.
I did not strangle the dog there and then and we were eventually able to train her not to bounce and bark when we had callers, but she always had the last word. She would hide behind the settee, in order to avoid seeing the visitor and make the sort of muffled wuffing noise of a dog that could not quite handle the idea of silence, when all her instincts were urging her to let rip.

A more mature Lucy
Despite Lucy’s act of decapitation, the amaryllis recovered and the next year it bloomed again and from then on, with almost total regularity, it came out each year, although never at Christmas any more, only missing a couple of times until recently.
The Amaryllis in its original pot
Lucy died in 1999 at the age of thirteen, not too bad for a small dog. Having a dog pass away is always a sad event, even one that nearly destroyed your favourite flower. She had been my sole companion for a few years since my first wife died and so I was somewhat more affected by her passing and remember exactly when she died. This has allowed me to be fairly certain of the age of the amaryllis.

Re potting the amaryllis became a regular job every few years, getting a slightly larger pot for it and each time it would put on a spurt of growth and reward me with a larger than usual blossom.
Despite a recent re-potting, for the last five years the ancient plant has refused to bloom and I had come to believe that it had reached the end of its life and it was finally too old to flower. I had not got around to retiring it to the compost heap and sending it to the great flower pot in the sky, because I was putting it off. After all it had been with me for a long time.
The very day we were going off for a week in Stratford upon Avon, I saw that a new bud was coming out. An amaryllis is very fussy about watering; too much at the wrong time and it dies, but it needs a lot when it starts to bloom and I knew that if we went off with it just starting to bloom, I would probably find a dead plant when we got back.
By chance we were going to stay in a self-catering house in Stratford, and so the only thing I could do was take it with us. This makes it the only plant I have ever taken on holiday, but it seemed to like the change and survived and a few days after we got home it flowered properly for the first time in five years.

The new blooms