Monday, 7 July 2014

Gentleman With Pipe

Pipe smoking is a very particular activity is it not? I haven't given it too much thought but it occurs to me that it does seem to be a thing that mostly males do. I wonder why that is?

I thought that I was going to have to look elsewhere for an image to join in with Sepia Saturday (on a Monday) this week or opt out altogether as I've realised that I have a pretty limited photo collection and frequently come across photographs from other sources that are far more interesting than those I do have. Fortunately, though, this photo-on-a-postcard (date unknown - 1940's perhaps) of my great grandfather with - hoorah - a pipe, was sitting on the sideboard and fitted at least a part of the brief.

I don't know much about Harry, above, apart from the fact that he was devoted to his wife, Maude, who predeceased him. As a widower he lived with his daughter and two granddaughters in Cornwall. I remember my mum telling me that he was a lovely grandfather and that when she was little he used to pay her thruppence for darning the holes in his socks. The other detail I know about him is that on his daughter's marriage certificate his occupation is described as 'Gentleman'. What that means I'm not sure. Anyway, I'm quite drawn to his 'look' - the plus twos, thick walking socks, tie, jumper and tweed jacket - as it's quite distinctive.

There are quite a few sayings which refer to being a gentleman or the qualities of being gentlemanly - although I appreciate that the concept of both might seem a little out of date to some - but the following one seemed a fair one to quote: 'To be born a gentleman is an accident. To die a gentleman is an achievment.'

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Tower Beach

I was a little stumped by this week's Sepia Saturday brief and couldn't find anything decent in the family albums. Luckily I remembered I'd seen some images online some time ago of the remarkable sandy beach that was created on the banks of the Thames about a mile and a bit away from where I live.

Tower Beach, on the foreshore just below the Tower of London, was opened in July 1934 and was made by heaping fifteen hundred barge-loads of sand on to the banks of the river Thames between St.Katherine's Steps and the Tower.

It was the idea of The Tower Hill Improvement Trust and was intended for those who could not afford a seaside holiday - something that was considered a luxury for many of those who lived near to this part of the river.

Between 1934 and 1939 more than half a million people used the 'beach' for building sandcastles or relaxing in a deckchair and could paddle or swim in the 'sea'. It was even possible to rent a rowing boat. Although the beach was shut during World War II, it was reopened in the 1950's but closed permanently in 1971 when worries about both river pollution and safety became a concern.

Photos: HRP

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Wedding Guests in London

For Sepia Saturday's wedding theme I've posted (a bit late) a photo from the 1960s by the Ghanaian photographer James Barnor called 'Wedding Guests in London' which is in the collections at the V&A.

Apart from the two ladies' elegant outfits and beautifully styled hair - not to mention the very feminine way in which they are posing - these two guests could probably be anywhere in the world, were it not for the distinctive but slightly incongruous looking telephone box in the background.

Image Source: V&A

Friday, 20 June 2014

Documents and Envelopes

My passport ran out at the end of May. There was a chance that I might be going abroad at short notice so I made an appointment for the Premium (twice the price) four-hour turnaround passport renewal service. After finding and then spending what felt like far too long in a 'UK Passport Standards Approved' photo booth, feeding it with one pound coins, checking my nose was clean then looking straight ahead into the camera and not smiling, frowning or blinking, I came away with a lot less money and what I thought was a selection of okay likenesses: two lots with hair behind ears, one lot not.

The passport office is a bit like an airport terminal and your bag and body get x-rayed in the same way as at the airport except you're only going to travel as far as an interview booth on the second floor. The experiences are similar in other ways too: same anxious pre flight feelings despite getting there earlier than necessary, same focus on an information board that's flashing numbers, same need to verify that the right documents are present and correct and the same worry about whether there'd be time to go to the loo before take off/interview or do you hang on 'til later.

Then four (non-premium) hours later after the biometric chip has been activated and the background checks have been run and you wonder if HM Passport Office has made a note on your file about those overdue library books, the new document is ready for collection to be handed over in this cheerful yellow envelope. A surprisingly jazzy stationery choice for something that's government issue that helpfully takes your mind off the message informing you that the trip abroad around which all this administrative urgency was designed, has been cancelled.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

October 1965

I'm linking up to Sepia Saturday with this post which is a photo of my late father (whose birthday would have been today) as a fresh-faced twenty five year old. I only know this detail because - helpfully - the date is printed on the white border of the original print. I think that the vehicle he's standing in front of could be a Humber of some description - a Sceptre or a Super Snipe perhaps but I'm not totally sure.

The sorts of cars we had were of the work horse, practical, not terribly exciting variety: Morris Traveller, Ford Escort Estate, Hillman Avenger Estate - that sort of thing. For my dad, cars were just a means of getting from A to B. He had little interest in what they looked like or how they worked and would certainly never have spent a weekend afternoon tinkering with the engine or buffing up the paintwork.

I'm guessing that the photograph was taken by one of my brothers and I wonder if my dad's just got back or whether he's about to leave? If it's the former, he might be returning home after spending his working week in the city. For those five days mum stayed in the country with my three older siblings. But this version of family life despite suiting one of my parents, was less idyllic for the other and they later swapped the hills and fields of Herefordshire for life in the urban sprawl and a shorter commute to the office.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

From Earlier

Rummaging through the past in order to clear some of it out, I came across a booklet I made at primary school entitled 'My Family'. Tells it like it was - well, mostly.

My brothers. Without ears or necks.
'My Self' - the details. 
Happily for those around me, I no longer play the violin. Or eat baked beans. 

Self portrait with strange grey hair, pox-like freckles and many flowers.

A frank, unsentimental appraisal of my mum.  
Nearly all of what I wrote was the truth. Honest.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

First Day of 2013

The sun shone. The sky was blue. We ate soup for tea and shared the last two of a batch of pies that I'd made up from leftover stew.

The fridge is empty.

I've rediscovered cooking. This makes me very happy.