Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Smells of Xmas....

There are lots of things I love about xmas and lots of things I loathe about it too. One of the things that brings back the excitement and wonder of xmas for me are the smells of xmas. Xmas had lots of smells - most excitingly there was the new plastic toy smell, a particularly pungent plasticy smell which I can sometimes get a nostalgic waft of when buying a beachball or other inflatable bit of frippery at the seaside. It was strongest with a doll and pram set and nurses dressing up outfit I got one year. Blissful.

There's also the proustian delight of a slight smell of scorch which comes from having a Nanna who didn't agree with the maxim less is more when it came to xmas decorations, her tree would be choc full on every branch with various types of decorations  - baubles, sleighs, various nativity characters left over from lost nativity sets, mini crackers, fairys and of course numerous strings of fairy lights and all those naked bulbs too close to to the multiple strands of tinsel often got a bit hot and gave off a slight smell of scorch if you got close enough.

Of course you had to get close enough as if you were me you trying to prefect the habit of stealing the chocolate decorations off the tree (never understood how they didn't melt) gently opening the tin foil wrapping, stealthily eating the chocolate and then closing the wrapping back up and putting it back on the tree empty. A tricky feat but one which I'm proud to say I managed more than once - plus the trick was to take them from round the back of the tree where their misshapenness was less likely to be noticed and by the time they taken down on Jan 6th everyone was sick of the sight of them and so didn't care thieves with tricky fingers had been at work.

My uncle swore he could hear the tree -an artificial silver tinsel one actually groaning under the weight of xmas tat on it's branches. They weren't colour coordinated or themed nor did they get replaced every year with the latest trendier aspirational styles, if anything they just got added to. The ceiling was also full of paper lanterns, paper chains and xmas cards were strung along striped string by way of tiny little plastic pegs and even the gentlest shut of the door could bring them all crashing to the ground in an instant which always led to much muttering and occasional bouts of swearing.

The other smell which always makes me think of xmas is brandy or whiskey - my Nanna would make two of three xmas cakes and all would be decorated in a similar style to the tree - ie no thought for coordination or scale so the plastic Father Xmas figure would be the same size as a plastic Robin and little plastic yule log. And we all remember the year her elbow jogged as she was mixing the icing and put too much water in and Grandad was sent to the phone box at the end of the road* with instructions to ring all family members and ask them to bring as many boxes of icing sugar as they could carry. Prior to the icing she would have been feeding the cakes with brandy or whiskey - via a knitting or crochet needle (wiped of course) every few days so that after even a slither of a slice of her cake you'd feel a bit squiffy. It wasn't safe to eat it and drive.

Happy memories all :-)

What are your smells of xmas?

* this of course was in the days when not everyone had a phone in their house let alone a mobile device that can probably time travel or something, - this comment is brought to you by someone who doesn't have a smartphone but a 7 year old nokia handset that does nothing fancier than enable calls and texts.....

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Books Versus Kindles

I don't have a kindle or other branded electronic reading device, I find it difficult to read anything longer than an article on a screen. I like books, well actually that's a bit of an understatement I ADORE books - not just their contents and their ability to transport me to other times and places or to teach me but also their physical qualities - the feel of the paper,the dust jacket, the smell of years of undisturbed delicious mustiness.

But what I also love about books and secondhand books in particular is finding something inside them like an to do list (who knows whether or not the reader ever finished their list) or an old shopping list or a lovely old bookmark or best of all - an old photograph.

I was having a mooch round Hebden Bridge the other week and went to the Antiques Centre and bought a copy of Revenge of the Middle Aged Woman by Elizabeth Buchan not for the book but for the photograph inside it.

A lovely proper seventies snap (looks like the ones I used to take on my kodak instamatic ) of a rhino house somewhere - I love the slightly washed out colour and fixed focus. I'm not sure which zoo it is but if anyone could tell me I'd be very grateful.

I'd also love to hear about what lovely or not so lovely things you've found in books - and yes I know kindly type readers are light, and you can read them in the dark but they just don't have the romance for me and nor do you find ace pics like this in them.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Testing Testing

Just want to see if this types the way I want it too and without strange white boxes.......or even worse white typeface against a white box which of course showed nothing.......

But I suppose if I really want to test it I have to waffle on about something - relief that the 26th Leeds International Film Festival has finished and I don't have to go to the cinema again for a few days. Don't get me wrong the festival was aces - I saw some excellent films, some not as excellent and some downright wastes of celluloid except they were probably shot digitally so a waste of memory card might be more apposite.

Thankfully technical difficulties were v few and far between and only twice did twats spoil the screening by chatting during the film. Honestly - if you want to talk - GO OUTSIDE !!! You're not at home watching it on the telly - inconsiderate knobheads.

Highlights for me were - Sightseers, Excision, Silents at the Cottage, Before Dawn, Golem, We Are The Night, French Short Films, Art of Negative Thinking, Jobraith AD, Last Shop Standing, Eddie the Sleepwalking Cannibal, Return of the Living Dead.....

You'd be forgiven for thinking that almost all I watch is horror films and you'd not be far wrong but I also love documentaries, proper old glorious swirly soundtrack hollywood nonsense - either in b+w or beautifully faded colour or glorious hurt your eyes technicolour - this afternoon I watched House on 92nd Street which stars one of my very favourite film actors - Leo G Carroll. Think I like him best in Desert Fox (which also stars my beloved James Mason *swoon swoon*) and North by Northwest - which also stars James Mason being quite evil but still being gorgeous in spite of wearing a rather nasty cardigan at one point.

Well that's enough waffling for now - here's hoping the formatting hasn't gone all to cock again.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Think the Leeds Film Festival is over now for me and Mr Pops - though it goes on for another couple of days. I went to 24 showings in total though as that included some collections of short films I've seen at least 32 films in total and Mr Pops went to 20. 

I've seen some really good ones and I've seen some average ones and 3 'I'd have had more fun sitting at home emptying the litter tray' ones.

Highlights were - Sightseers as it's v easy to become homicidal on a caravanning holiday, Excision because i am ever so slightly in love with Traci Lords and she is wonderful in what is a v v good film indeed, Robot and Frank for Frank Langella's delicious voice, Art of Negative Thinking for grim but hilarious swedish humour, We Are The Night for fabulous vampire action, When The Lights Go Out for really creepy 70's ghost storyness,Last Shop Standing for record shop and vinyl fabulousness, Return of the Living Dead for zombie nonsense - 'send more paramedics' , Attack of the Giant Brain Sucker Monster from Outer Space for such a wonderful send up of b movies and musicals and monsters and zombies, Jobraith AD for wonderful documentaryness and Eddie The Sleep Walking Cannibal for glorious bloodthirsty storytelling and a warning not to get on the wrong side of someone who eats people in his sleep. All in all aces!!!!! My eyes are v tired now and my bum is quite numb too :-)

Monday, 15 October 2012

Another in the old postcard series

I love multiple image postcards - especially when they are in lovely sumptuously sunny over saturated colour but also when they are in lovely black and white too - as you know my mantra is - EVERYTHING looks better in black and white and this postcard also has the added appeal of a beautiful crinkle cut edge.

It was posted on 15 August 1960 at 4pm and was sent to Mr and Mrs Kirk in Kimberley from Lily and Eric who on holiday in the area. Their message in blue biro reads:

Dear Friends
As you will see we have moved onto Bognor but it's not as nice as Southsea, still it's better than work and a change. Eric says there is a marvellous Butlins camp here. Weather mixed but when the sun comes out it's really hot.
All the best
Lily and Eric.

I wonder what work Eric did and if Lily worked too and if they visited the Butlins camp and what attraction did Southsea have that made it better than Bognor?

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Pop Up Gallery-Ness :-)

Put my pics up at Multiple Choice this morning (it's about 2 doors down from the job centre and kind of directly opposite the bus station and the police station and diagonally opposite the Playhouse) and they along with lots of other lovely arty things will be on show for the next couple of weeks, weekdays 12-5pm - come on down :-)

This is another Pop Up Gallery as part of the Love Arts Leeds Festival - for details of all the things on as part of the festival - see here http://loveartsleeds.co.uk/

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Niece's First Birthday

It's my niece's first birthday tomorrow so I've knitted her a kind of ghost puppet type thing.
Hope she likes it, mind you if she doesn't I know her older brother will as his favourite cartoon is Scooby Doo :-) though when he grows up he wants to be a Power Ranger.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Love Arts Leeds Festival

Super excited to be part of this - got some work in The Light and will have some in the Pop Up Gallery at Multiple Choice too - well I will have if I get my finger out and get it printed up and framed...


Monday, 24 September 2012

Rain,Rain Go Away....

Goodness it's wet outside, I know this because I am looking out at pouring rain and because I have walked through it to drop off two pictures for inclusion in the Arts and Minds Network pop up gallery in the Light. The exhibition opens on Tuesday 2nd October 2012 at 4pm a will be open daily from 10am til 7pm until Sunday 7th October 2012.

I'm exhibiting some of my black and white photographs - one is an unedited digital print (taken on the black and white setting of a Lumix) of reflections in a dirty shop window in Saltaire and one is a film print of Armley Industrial Museum taken on 120 black and white film using a Nettar Zeiss Ikon bellows camera from 1956. I love that camera - v simple but beautiful engineering and it's a delight to use - providing it's sunny.

Mmm - given the current state of the weather something tells me I won't be using it again anytime soon......

Monday, 20 August 2012

Medical Men In Lawnswood Cemetery

picture of rather lovely angel topped grave taken yesterday 

Yesterday courtesy of Friends of Lawnswood Cemetery I went on a guided walk and talk round some of the graves of noted medical men interred there. The rain added to the atmosphere really and it was an enthralling and intriguing way to spend a sunday afternoon.

The talk was a mix of biographical detail of each of the internees and a brief overview of the development of the medical profession, and of the hospitals and school of medicine we have in Leeds today. Many of the internees for instance spent time working at the Hospital for Women - now long since gone.

The rain was really quite heavy as we were walking around the graves and so against the sound of rain dripping on the leaves and on the umbrellas we were treated to the tales of various medical men - some surgeons, some doctors and some pioneers in their field.

Two of the internees stood out for me  - Max Louis Rossvally and Thomas Scattergood. Sadly I don't have pics of their graves to show you as the rain was so heavy at this point I wouldn't have been able to take a decent picture but I can tell you a bit of what I remember of their stories.

Max Louis Rossvally 1828-1892 somehow came to Leeds from New Orleans and he converted to christianity from orthodox judaism after treating a drummer boy called Charlie Coulson ho had been badly injured leading a contingent of soldiers in battle during the american civil war. He needed both an arm and a leg amputating and it seems he refused the offer of alcohol or chloroform to help through the amputations - preferring instead to rely on his faith in Jesus. Rossvally was so struck by this he decided to convert, was seemingly disowned by his family as a result and somehow came to Leeds. His wife who outlived him remarried and became the landlady of the Black Bull pub in Horsforth. It also seems he was recruited as a spy during the civil war though there is confusion over which side he was actually spying for. He was also an altruist and founded a clinic which gave free food and treatment to those who could not otherwise afford medical treatment. Charlie Coulson unsurprisingly died five days after the amputations.

Thomas Scattergood 1826-1900 was a big cheese in the field of forensic medicine and was instrumental in the case of Mary Ann Cotton  1832-1873, the infamous serial killer from County Durham who was found guilty of poisoning her step son. But it is also alleged that she also murdered other members of her family including 4 husbands, her mother, her sister, and her biological children with arsenic. Her local doctor after officiating at yet another death due to 'stomach fever' decided to send the stomach contents to Scattergood for analysis. Scattergood found arsenic which lead to exhumations of her other victims. She was found guilty and executed - though whether or not she would be today with advances in both forensic medicine and judicial practice is an interesting question.

Friends of Lawnswood Cemetery organise a number of guided walks and events throughout the year and you can find all the details on their website http://friendsoflawnswoodcemetery.co.uk/

Friday, 17 August 2012

Postcard From Berlin July 1906

Another lovely postcard from my small but well loved collection. It's not clear exactly when this photograph of the Brandenburg Gate was taken, but the postcard is dated  23 July 1906 and the postmark on the back is 24.7.06.

It was sent to Miss S Josephine Hill, who lived on Elm St, Holyoke, in the USA from Allan. Aside from the address Allan left the non picture side of the postcard blank and wrote around and above the Gate instead.

I'm not sure if the photo is clear enough for you to read what he put in his spidery inky hand so here it is:

'July 23,1906
Got to Berlin Sunday afternoon,leave 6.10 tomorrow for Dresden. This gate is at east end of Unter Den Linden.Berlin is a beautiful city with a great many fine artistic buildings. Next though Emperor Williams palace this morning.Heard the Fraiserkatz last night.

I bought this a couple of years ago in the antique shop in the lovely victorian covered market in St Helier Jersey. I wonder how it ended up there, I wonder who Allan was and why he was visiting Berlin - was his trip entirely sightseeing and what was his relationship with Miss S Josephine Hill and what the S stands for.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Postcards and why I love them...

The postcard trade is in terminal decline, this makes me sad. I know it's easier and cheaper to text/email but it's not the same. You don't have a lovely over saturated wide angled picture of the place you've been to to keep, nor does the text/email way result in you having to find out how you post things if you are abroad or go into a proper local heart of the community post office in you are in a tiny out of the way village somewhere in the UK. And of course the excitement of whether or not you'd be home before your postcards got to their recipients.

There is something exciting about receiving a postcard too and seeing a stamp from a far away part of the world you'll probably never visit yourself.

I love going to antique shops and looking through faded pics of places I've never been, looking at lovely old stamps, marvelling at the neatness of handwriting from yesteryear (though not all is legible) and that fact that they are mostly written in ink and not biro - and quite a lot in pencil.

Plus it's a brief tantalising glimpse into other people's lives - on the back of a black and white picture of a rather unpreposessing bridge over a what could be a stream or a small pond picture of Beckside Lane in Sedburgh, posted on Oct 18th 1909 is this message from M Pearce to Miss D Clark in Ormskirk in ornate black ink script -
' Hope you are quite well, and having better weather than we are. It has rained every day since we came back and a quarter of the term is over already.I am hoping to see Mother up here for the week-end. Love to all.'    

I wonder where M Pearce was to be a quarter of the way through the term - boarding school somewhere? pupil or teacher? and what their relationship with Miss D Clark was - relative, friend, boy/girlfriend/ , lover? Did Mother make the trip and was it a successful one?

Some of the postcards I've got are just to arrange meetings - back in the day when there was more than one post delivery per day and the first was v early in the morning so you could use the post system as a way to organise your social life. I wouldn't use the post to do that now but I do still send postcards when I go away - I always send one to my parents and one to my own house too.

Aaah postcards :-)

Friday, 3 August 2012

George Hurrell - Another Favourite Photographer :-)

One of my other favourite photographers is George Hurrell - the master of Hollywood glamour photography and if you look at some of his photos I'm sure you'll think so too.

Sumptuous images of stars from yesteryear looking impossibly glamorous and decadent,beautifully lit - for me there is something about black and white that is just so much more colourful than colour and I just adore these photos. Also I'd love to have been present at some of these sessions - nut just to see how long he took to frame and set up each picture but also to hear the discussions with the stars - would Marlene have had an input into how she was lit? Quite probably as she always made friends with the lighting man on set so as to make sure she always looked as perfect as possible, what exactly did happen between him and Greta Garbo?

I'd love to be as skilful as he was - he knew light and how to use it better than anyone.


Thursday, 2 August 2012

Favourite Things - Beginning with Photographers


Weegee (real name Arthur Fellig) is one of my favourite photographers and not just because his photos are black and white - though that helps enormously as my mantra is 'everything looks better in black and white' , but because they provoke a reaction in me as the viewer - which can be envy as in 'wow I wish I had that kind of skill with a camera to wow I wish I'd been there to wow - I want that lady's dress' or distaste as he is focusing upon something grim or just curiosity as to how he captured that image. Or just good old fashioned nostalgia for a time I wasn't actually around for but would have loved to have been - namely the 40's and the 50's - though he carried on working up til his death in 1968.

His pictures range from beautiful intimate moments captured on film to grim crime scenes to slighty risque manipulations and duplications of body parts - mostly womens legs and quirky self portraits.

He was slightly obsessed with the grim underbelly of society and it's rumoured he tuned his radio to police channels so he could be first on the scene of any incidents. He was self taught and had a makeshift darkroom in the boot of his car and had a good sense of show business about himself.

I really love him - and I hope you enjoy looking at his work too :-)

Wednesday, 1 August 2012


This is one of my photographs on the wall at Voodoo in Headingley at the moment - well until September 26th so for quite a few moments yet....hint hint, plug, plug...

A chum asked me if I'd superimposed images one of top of the other or made scratches on the negative - as although this is a digital print I also use film cameras - though whatever camera I'm using it's invariably black and white I'm shooting in as I believe everything looks better in black and white.  I try to do as little post processing as possible - bar a little cropping as a) I'm not v good at photoshop but mostly because b) I think you should take the photo you want in the first place rather than spending hours manipulating it afterwards.

This was taken in Saltaire and is a reflection in a dirty shop window - I love taking photos of reflections and if they are in dirty shop windows then it's all the better as far as I'm concerned.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Morning After The Opening Night Before..

Feeling quite tired this morning but last night's opening party was really good - drink and chat flowed freely and the live music was lovely but best of all it was lovely to see so many different styles of photographs, paintings and  drawings adorning what until yesterday had been much barer walls.

Plus it was lovely to overhear people saying they liked my photographs :-) thought to be honest and it makes me so glad to say this - I wouldn't have card that much if they didn't because I had fun doing them and I like them.

But a few years ago if someone had said they didn't like them that would have been enough to make me stop doing them and question myself as to why I was even bothering to do something like that in the first place - never mind the pleasure it gave me, I'm so glad to have got to that way of thinking :-)

But now it's never mind that way of thinking - I've got loads of paperwork that needs sorting out and a load of washing to do - the glamour never ends does it?.....

Monday, 30 July 2012

Slight Case of Nervousness....

Well my pics are up at Voodoo Lounge in Headingley - ready foe the launch party this evening at 6.30pm. I'm not nervous about whether or not people like my pics but I was very nervous about putting them up as me and DIY type things aren't the closest of chums.

There are also lots of paintings, drawings, etchings, portraits and come on down and see them - I doubt you'll be disappointed and I'm sure there'll be something to your taste :-)

Monday, 23 July 2012

Starting Out...

I'm quite new to this blogging malarkey so fingers crossed this works - though of course failing it working I could just sacrifice a goat to the tinternet gods in the hope that it does....
I'm going to use this space to talk about photography, my collection of kitsch items, knitting and stuff like that. So here's hoping it works......