Monday, 21 October 2013

19th Century Protest aka Research is Continuing

It was with a mix of sadness and elation that I took down my work that was part of the Place and Memory Exhibition at Holy Trinity Church on Saturday, what had taken a long time to research, create, set up and get lit the way I wanted it the week before took all of 5 minutes to take down and put back into bubble wrap and carrier bags. I was sad to see it come down but excited that it had all come to fruition and been up in the first place plus I have had an expression of interest in buying it. Someone else said they would put it on their wall. I'm counting this as high praise indeed.

My interest in St George's Field is continuing though and I am looking forward to paying repeated visits to take more photographs and to watch it change colour and form as autumn and winter progress through into spring.  My research will also continue as I am thinking of applying to do an MA and am in the process of putting together a research proposal. My research hasn't just been the history of the site itself but also the history of Leeds and the victorian period in general. I am slowly but surely becoming obsessed with the victorian and early edwardian periods.

One of the reasons Leeds Burial Company was such a success (until the end of the First World War when it began to go into serious decline in terms of numbers of new burials) was that in such class conscious times it was quite exclusive. Unlike the municipal cemeteries which opened in the late 1840's who took *shudder* paupers  Leeds Burial Company did not (though it did take the bodies of stillborn children from Leeds General Infirmary) and class difference was not only alive and well in victorian times but also lauded and perpetuated even in the face of  death the great leveller . Plus unlike the churchyard burials where plots were reused here you were guaranteed a plot that hadn't been used before.

Overcrowding in church graveyards had been an increasing problem in Leeds as the population grew, it was said that when it rained body parts came floating to the surface in Leeds Parish Church. Letters to the Mercury and Intelligencer complained of both the smell and the sight of various churchyards within Leeds and of the pressing need to do something about it. A church grave digger was quoted as saying that the smell was 'dreadful beyond all smells, there is nothing to exceed it' and the increasing numbers needing burial meant that at the time corpses didn't remain undisturbed for decent intervals and so their 'disintegration and decomposition constituted a distinct hazard to the health and welfare of the living'.

The victorians believed that many diseases were caused by foul miasma so preventing the build up of foul air that could infect and kill was very important. And many of Leeds churches must have stank as the nearby not very deeply buried dead began decomposing plus interments still took place within church building themselves as well and were only outlawed by legislation with the passing of the Cemeteries Clauses Act in 1847. It makes me glad that I can read about this from a 21st century standpoint as opposed to actually having to live it.

Place and Memory has finished in its current incarnation but we are hoping to restage it elsewhere - details will be on here as soon as they are confirmed

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Origins of Leeds Burial Company......

In 1833 various leading Leeds businessmen got together and bought the land that became Woodhouse Cemetery and has now reverted to its original name of St George's Fields. They saw a viable business opportunity and a way of breaking the stranglehold of the established church on burial facilities by offering places for a similar price in a purpose built brand new burial ground free from the taint of already occupied graves.

On the 26th December 1833 work began on the tree planting and the boundary walls - they were to be built at a height of 12 foot and at a cost of £1,169. The grounds were never consecrated so it could be used by any religion or none though in practice it was most popular with non conformist christians.

Prior to this there had been a competition to design the cemetery buildings which attracted 17 entrants from all over the country. J Clark an architect from Leeds was the winner. His brief was to design buildings of 'suitable dignity and repose' and also to create a 'place of edification for the living' as the victorians were very keen that cemeteries weren't just about paying respects to the dead.

Hence the popularity of grave poems like this:   'And when you come my grave to see, prepare yourselves to follow me' and 'Praises on gravestones are vainly spent, a life of goodness is a lasting monument'

 entrance on Cemetery Road 

The entrance on Cemetery Road housed the registrar office, the registrar and the sextons. The original plans also included a watch tower but the Anatomy Act of 1832 reduced the need for graves to be watched over to prevent the corpses within them being stolen for dissection so it was decided its additional cost couldn't be justified as it was no longer needed.

The Chapel (which like the grounds was never consecrated so it could be used by any religion or none) was quite unusual in its design as the back wall was made almost entirely of windows to let in as much natural light as possible. It suffered from damp though and in 1857 it was redecorated and a stove fitted to try and counteract the damp and the cold.
                                                        View of the back of the Chapel 

             View of the Chapel from the front with hillock made from bulldozed monuments when it                      closed to burials in October 1969 and was landscaped into the garden form it has today.

Its popularity was at its height in the latter half of the 19th century as the owners paid for the installation of privies and a drinking fountain to accommodate all the visitors who came for a walk round its gracefully landscaped gardens and to learn something of the lives of its inmates.

It continued to be a very popular place to be buried til the end of First World War when it began to decline in popularity and there are letters to the local press periodically from the 1920's onwards complaining about the overcrowding and decline of the grounds. It went from a height of 1047 burials in 1863, 1110 in 1918 to just 11 in 1968 and 5 in 1969.

At the height of its popularity it had the cachet of being a private cemetery as opposed to the municipal cemeteries where the people from the workhouse went as one of the worst 'crimes' you could commit in victorian times was to be so poor as to have to throw yourself upon the mercy of the parish.

Plus unlike the church cemeteries it wasn't full of previous graves which had to be reused and it was far removed from the filth and stench of the rapidly growing city centre. But Yorkshire College which became Leeds University was growing up around it and it couldn't expand beyond its existing boundary walls. By the 1950's the bulk of the burials were of those who had either already bought a plot or were being added to existing family vaults.

By October 1969 the university had bought shares in the company from the remaining shareholders and began the process of landscaping it into the form it has today, hundreds of stone monuments were destroyed in the process and a couple of weeks ago I went to the Thoresby Society to look at some slides taken in the last days of the Woodhouse Cemetery which showed the bulldozers in action - but that's material for another post.....

Place and Memory the exhibition which I've been doing all this research for is on at the Holy Trinity Church on Boar Lane, Leeds til Saturday 19th October every day 10am til 3pm. 

Monday, 7 October 2013

Grave Wording

When I was little my walk to school took me past a graveyard, and the local park where my beloved swings lived also backed onto it. If you stood on the swings and swung high enough - something I rarely did as I was too much of a wuss and I didn't like putting my muddy shoes on the swing seat you could just about see the lines of neatly kept graves the other side of the railings. I was lucky then as I had no experience of grief or losing anyone so didn't understand that what I saw as pretty stones with flowers could be the focus of pain and loss for others and so avoided wherever possible.

As I grew up it was victorian and churchyard graveyards that I fell in love with - with their higgle piggled monuments, crypts, mausoleums and repeated motifs, especially if they were in the process of being reclaimed by ivy and bindweed which I know most gardeners hate but which I think is really rather pretty.

 My favourite victorian graveyard in Leeds is St George's Fields which aside from the non denominational chapel and gatehouse has little of its original features left in their original places. I picked it for my place as part of the Place and Memory project - details of which can be found here
It saw its first interment, that of military surgeon George McDermott on the 23rd July 1835 and its last in October 1969 when it was landscaped into the form it has today. It is one of my very favourite places in Leeds - peaceful, historic and slightly hidden away.

When St George's Fields was at its height of popularity and profitability it was the done thing to have as ornate and fanciful a monument and to have as big and grand a funeral as possible. Its busiest years were in the mid to late 1800's, there were 72 burials in 1835, 687 in 1848, 876 in 1858, 905 in 1860, 1047 in 1863, 1110 in 1898. There were also 1110 interments in 1918 - as not only was there a flu epidemic but also an outbreak of measles. The numbers steadily declined in the following years and there were just 11 interments in 1968.   

Big funerals and monuments weren't just a way of paying respect to the dead but also how much you could afford to spend on them and there were many changes in funereal fashion over those years. The monuments you see surviving today will have cost a fortune. Then as now most graveyards had a stone mason attached to them whose services you had to use so along with the burial fees it was also a nice money maker for the graveyard owners. Even those who could barely afford anything else scrimped and saved to have their name put on a marker stone with others - dying without leaving a physical mark upon the world regardless of your achievements within life itself seemed one of the worst things that could happen to you - well aside from a paupers funeral or the dissection table that is.

Grave poetry was very much the in thing in victorian times for some religions and I have spent many a happy hour collecting verses from St George's Fields, Undercliffe, Holy Trinity at Meanwood, Lawnswood, Aldborough and here are two of my favourites. They may seem formulaic, trite and mawkish and maybe they did at the time too - as we have no way of knowing whether the people paying those respects actually meant what they were putting on their loved ones graves or if they were bowing to the pressures of social mores and fashion. Many also sought to improve behaviour on the part of the reader and to remind them of their own mortality.

Go home dear wife and shed no tears, 
I must lie here til Christ appears
A joyful rising from the grave
So while in the dust I sleeping lie
Do you prepare yourself to die. 

A sudden change I in a moment fell
I had not time to bid my friends farewell
Make nothing strange death happens to us all
My lotto day, tomorrow you may fall.

Place and Memory Exhibition is at Holy Trinity Church, Boar Lane, Leeds from 12-19th October 2013, 10am til 3pm every day except Sunday. Free admission   

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

I don't believe in ghosts.....but I do believe places can be haunted.....

When I picked St George's Fields as my place for the Place and Memory project (details about it can be found here) I picked it for a couple of reasons - mostly because it's one of my very favourite places in Leeds. Plus in spite of its being surrounded by the bustle and busyness of Leeds University it is a quiet, peaceful space and a perfect place for contemplation.

I also picked it because of its associations with memory as it used to be a cemetery and because 'old no longer used for burial' cemeteries are generally amongst my favourite places to visit. There is something about victorian cemeteries in particular that I adore with all their draped urn stonework, broken columns, obelisks and to my cynical 21st century eyes mawkish and sentimental grave poetry.

Cemeteries are traditionally places filled with memorials - some laudatory, some elegiac, some poetic and some downright heartbreaking. St George's Field was used as a burial space from July 1835 until October 1969 and some 93,556 people were buried there in plots measuring 7 feet long by 3 and half feet wide and 9 feet deep - though you could also have a deeper brick lined vault if you wanted to pay extra.

Today at at St George's Fields there are numerous freshly planted trees and dedicated benches within its environs. The victorians intended their cemeteries to be places not just of rest for the dead but also edification for the living. Many of the cemeteries created from the 1830's onward were designed along garden lines and I'm sure the original movers and shakers behind the Leeds Burial Company would be pleased to see it still in use in that way today.

It is limited in its use by Act of Parliament to be a place 'used for quiet enjoyment and rest'. In spite of not being used as a burial space for over 40 years - to my eyes it still very obviously a cemetery. None of the bodies were exhumed and although some of the monuments were cleared and some moved to into new arrangements it still looks and feel like a garden of remembrance - if not a cemetery.  The esteemed painter John Atkinson Grimshaw is buried within its walls though sadly his memorial has been lost.

I don't feel at all unnerved there but I do wonder if others find it a creepy place as it is so quiet most of the time, but one thing I don't like is the use of graves as pathways. It feels wrong to me somehow to be walking over monuments - especially when the people who are listed on these stones couldn't afford a grave or headstone stone of their own and had to share it with strangers. Chances are they will have either scrimped and saved to get this for their loved ones, or paid into a burial club to ensure it could happen or simply gone into debt to ensure either themselves or their loved ones had a public remembrance. A form of public remembrance was terribly important then, in the same way that memorial facebook pages are now.

In victorian times the worst things that could happen to you on your death were either a paupers funeral or medical dissection. A paupers funeral meant you would be put in a communal grave, possibly even without a coffin (or if one was provided it would be of the very cheapest materials and afford no protection from the worms) or just in a shroud depending upon what your parish offered. But what was considered most dreadful was the lack of public memorial, all you got was a notation in the notebooks of the workhouse and the cemetery register.

The Anatomy Act of 1832 was brought in to stop bodysnatching - the practice of robbing graves to supply medical schools with cadavers for students to dissect.  Or rather it licensed it and brought it under local authority control as it meant that unclaimed bodies from the poorhouse could be sent to the local medical school for dissection. Prior to this the only corpses it was legal to dissect were those of criminals.
The most infamous illegal medical school suppliers were Edinburgh based Burke and Hare who kept the 'not really all that bothered where his subjects came from' Dr Knox in bodies in 1828 though they dispensed with the grave robbing bit of bodysnatching by (mostly) taking the easier option of murdering their lodgers instead.

Leeds was not without its bodysnatching gangs either - in June 1831 John Craig Hodgson took custody of the scalded body of Thomas Rothery which had been dug up from the cemetery at Wortley Parish Church. He had been killed in a accident at Batesons Mill. Hodgson often looked after bodies until he could find a buyer for them - at a price of £12 a subject which was a small fortune then. But this time he was caught in possession of Thomas's mortal remains, put on trial and found guilty. He was sentenced to 6 weeks in York Castle and fined. His house was known locally as 'Resurrection Cottage' but it and the street it stood on are no longer there, where it was is now a builders merchants and bathroom supplies warehouse at Sheepscar Interchange.

Like I said I don't believe in ghosts but I do believe places can be haunted - haunted by their past, by our preconceptions of places and by the way some events just leach into the stones and walls and refuse to leave.

Place and Memory Exhibition is at Holy Trinity Church on Boar Lane, Leeds from 12th - 19th October 10am til 3pm every day except Sundays - free admission.

Monday, 23 September 2013

The Incident of the Distinterment or Research for Arts Sake

I was one of the lucky artists to be picked for the Place and Memory Project (details here) and have been busy beavering away on it since June - which is partly why I've been so quiet on here. 

It's not long now til the exhibition opens on October 12th at Trinity Arts Centre on Boar Lane in Leeds and I am putting the finishing touches to the pieces I will be showing - both of which have taken me beyond my usual comfort zone of taking pictures on film or digital, posting them online and occasionally getting them printed and putting them on show through the Arts and Minds Network. I won't reveal what form they have taken yet or at least until the exhibition opens and then you'll be able to see them for yourself but in the meantime here is an explanation of what I've been up to for the past few weeks.

   When I picked St George’s Field as my place I didn’t know quite how engrossed I’d get in researching its history  or the intriguing facts I would find out along the way, places I would visit or that it would even make me think about going back to university to do an MA.
Initially I just wanted to find out a bit about the place and to see what it used to look like before it was landscaped into the park formation it has today but then the research bug got to me…

You can find a brief overview of the history of the site online – it opened as a burial ground in 1835, began to go into decline in the 1930s and there were 93,556 interments carried out there before its closure in 1969. This also tantalisingly reveals that there was a thesis written about the history of the company behind the burial ground held at Leeds University and I thought well I’ll just read that.

But reading it meant going back to the university – I’d not had a happy time when I was a student there a few years ago, and I felt quite anxious getting in touch with them to make arrangements to read it but my desire to find out a bit more was stronger than my anxiety. Plus the staff at the university library were extremely helpful and friendly. So my anxiety was quickly replaced by a refound love of the university library and its beautiful wooden oasis of cool and calm amongst everyday bustle.

I found it all a bit too austere and imposing when I was a student there but now it is one of my favourite places to go, away from distraction and noise, where you have permission to do nothing but absorb yourself in books for hours. Books that have a real physical presence, weight, texture, smell and corporeality that is so lacking in pixels on a screen.

The thesis was green cloth bound, was typed, had real photographs glued in it, tippexed out mistakes and biro-ed in amendments. It took a couple of  visits to read it in full but it also in turn made me seek out other books, disappearing deep into the far recesses of the library to seek out such gems as The Victorian Celebration of Death by JS Curl, and Lou Taylor’s Mourning Dress A Costume and Social History and Sylvia Barnards excellent history of Beckett Street Cemetery ‘To Prove I’m Not Forgot’ which is full of amazing snippets of the history and growth of Leeds, as well as an absorbing history of the country’s first municipal cemetery.

This in turn made me want to see mourning dress itself and I made an appointment with the Museum Discovery Centre and spent an hour with their costume curator looking at clothes and jewellery, beautiful intricately laid out remembrance brooches with daguerreotypes and bracelets made with hair and I discovered that the origins of some of todays department stores is as Masion De Noires – the one stop shop for all you and your servants mourning costume needs. And where Fibre is now on Lower Briggate used to be the headquarters of J &R Hardwick, a Funeral Equipage Centre which branched out into undertaking as well in the late 1840’s.

I also emailed the head of library services to see if I could see inside what was the non denominational Chapel and is now a university bookstore, they very kindly gave me access but alas there is nothing of Victorian origin left inside – no trace of the redecorations made in 1857 and 1884 nor of the stove fitted to ward off the cold and damp in 1857.

A visit to Leeds Central Library Family History Section rewarded me with what I have been desperate to find – a photograph of what the cemetery looked like before the monuments were moved and cleared in 1968 in an old copy of Maurice Beresford’s Walks Round Red Brick. I’ve been hunting high and low to find photographs of what it used to look like, Leodis has a couple of pics but they’re of the old entrance road, not taken inside the cemetery itself.

They also told me that if you have a Leeds Library card you can access part of the British Newspaper Database online – where you can search copies of the Leeds Mercury from the 1800’s and encounter amazing Victorian adverts for cure all medicinal pills and potions, read editorials on what it was like at St George’s Field prior to the first interment in July 1835 and read sad tales of warrants issued for men who have abandoned their wives and the wives have been forced to go to the workhouse.

Best of all though this lead me to full report on ‘the gross incident of the disinterment case at Quarry Hill’ which was mentioned in passing in a single line in the thesis but which I found out the full details on in the January 1841 edition of the Leeds Mercury and led to ‘unmitigated disgust within the town’. I could of course tell you all of the details or you could look it up on the newspaper database yourself……  

All of this research has given me a fuller picture of the history of the city where I live, a better appreciation of local historical resources, a renewed love of libraries, and more confidence when asking for access to sites and perhaps most importantly it has informed the work I’ve been doing for the Place and Memory Exhibition.

Come down and see it for yourself along with the work from the other Place and Memory Artists - from 12th October 10am til 3pm Monday to Saturday until 19th October,  Holy Trinity Church, Boar Lane, Leeds  - free admission.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Three Good Things

I follow lots of people on Twitter - and the day one of them Liz (@Margot&Barbara) tweeted that she'd done a blog post about 3 good things in her life. It was a really positive life affirming post that made me smile and I said I'd do a post along the same lines too.

My three good things are:

Mr Pops - (if a person can be a thing)  my ever lovely, kind, thoughtful, patient, generous husband who shares my sick sense of humour, love of cameras and photography and cats. We've been together for 17 years and I know it's a cliche but I honestly couldn't imagine life without him. Well I could but I'd rather not as it would be horrid, flat and miserable and no-one else would laugh at my poor taste quips.

I'm part of the Place and Memory Project (details here ) and it is one of the most exciting, interesting things I've ever had the privilege to be part of - I'm learning lots, challenging myself and yesterday I spent 6 hours in the university library reading about the history of my place and its social context.

It was blissful to be in the comparative cold of the Brotherton Library at the University and lovely to be away from tinternet based distractions - and so instead of sitting at home pointlessly clicking refresh I distracted myself with books. Lovely, lovely books. I've mentioned this before but I love the tactile nature of books - their weight, their feel, their smell, their musty spots if they're very old and the delight of discovering someone else's to do list or an old bookmark or best of all a photo in a secondhand book. You don't get that with a kindle - even if it is easier to fit in your bag....

I won't tell you what my place is yet - but all will be revealed soon and one of the chapters of the books I was reading yesterday for research was entitled 'A Celebration of Death' so you can start guessing now where it is...........but also I didn't have the happiest or easiest of times at university so this is a bit of a reclamation for me too and it is feeling so good to overlay old unhappy memories with positive happy new ones.

but as a taster here is a pic from my place - there will be a prize (of no monetary value whatsoever other the glory of being right) for the person who can tell where this is from....

Nicknames/Epithets - I've got a few at the moment, my all time favourite given me by a chum at a party is a 'lens that focuses wrongness', I think he meant it in relation to my sense of humour but as I am also a photographer who really likes taking pictures of urban decay and what have you this pleases me enormously.

I've also been called a low rent Martin Parr - this was in connection to my love of tacky souvenirs and memorabilia and it is tremendously flattering to be mentioned in the same breath as such as skillful and wonderful photographer as Martin Parr. I love his work.

A classmate on the creative writing course I've been going to called me 'Fifty Shades of Graveyard' which really made me chuckle - as a self confessed bit of a goth (albeit one with a penchance for big band swing and the Beach Boys) and a devotee of Hammer Horror, anything macabre and uncanny this sums this part of me up nicely.  He called it me after I told him I'd enrolled on a Skeletal Human Remains Analysis Course at the Museum Discovery Centre as at first he didn't believe me but trust me it was real and it was brilliant, I learnt lots though I remain unable to tell left from right and am rubbish at reassembling pelvises but I got to handle lots of human skulls so I'm a happy woman.

Last night a chum gave me another - 'the Tim Burton of Knitting' after I showed him a kind of mutanty kitten thing I made recently. Tim Burton is one of my favourite film directors - Ed Wood and Frankenweenie are two of my all time favourite films evah!! and I adore knitting - it's a win win combination.

Here is a pic of the kitty and zombie/mummy doll type thing

What are your three good things?

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Busy, Busy Busy.....

There are times I love being busy and other times when I think 'stop the world, I want to get off'. Pottering time is essential for me to feel on top of things rather than underneath and overawed by them. Mostly my pottering takes the form of tinternet surfing but I'm hoping to get in the habit of going for a walk pottering - as not only will this be a bit of fresh air and exercise and also an opportunity to look at my locale anew. I don't think familiarity necessarily breeds contempt but I do think it stops you noticing things so I'm hoping if I pop out for a walk each day and if I take my camera with me I'll notice things anew.

I'm also intrigued by the idea of taking a map and directions for one area but using them for somewhere else - and just seeing the route it takes you and what expected and unexpected places it'll take you......

Monday, 3 June 2013

Nostalgia - Is It What It Used To Be?

According to the tinternet nostalgia is 'a sentimentality for the past,typically for a place or period with happy associations'. And I know I may well be viewing it through rose tinted glasses but I love it. I don't want to read about the bombings in Afghanistan or how our elected and non elected representatives are still being caught with their hands in the till as that makes me feel both helpless and hopeless, I would far rather be musing on what it was like waiting for the 'popman' when I was little - dispensing his brightly coloured sugary liquid in refundable bottles from the back of a flat bed truck. You can still get Ben Shaws but I've only seen it in cans recently - not in dimpled glass bottles and I don't know of anywhere that still has a 'pop man'. I don't think we even have a milkman anymore on our road.

My Nana used to keep her choices of Cream Soda and Sasparilla (nasty stuff then but I quite like it now) along with a couple of bottles of lemonade lined up by the back door. If you were really lucky you also got ice in it - ice from a metallic tray which always seemed incredibly reluctant to give up it's icy cold goodness so invariably you just has tepid pop instead. But tepid pop was better than no pop or worse still 'corporation pop' as my Grandad used to call tap water. Today's pernicious and ubiquitous Coke and Pepsi weren't for consumption in the home but for special treats when out and about - I used to feel very grown up if we went to a cafe and I got Coke in a glass with ice and a straw. And if I got a Coke Float or a Lemonade Float - pop with a scoop of vanilla ice cream in the top I was in seventh heaven - though on reflection that may have just been a sugar rush....

The only other time I got a straw to drink through was on the rare occasions we went to the Wimpy and I had one of their delicious strawberry milkshakes and I was told under no circumstances was I to blow back through the straw to make more bubbles. So the trick was to do it really quietly and carefully so you got bubbles but they didn't pop loudly or splash over the side of the IIRC it was made from milk and Crusha - a thick concentration of sugar and fruit flavour though it might also have had some carmines in it, not especially healthy but nowhere near as unhealthy as the ingredients in a modern day McDonalds milkshake I'm sure. Though I must be honest - one of their chocolate milkshakes if you have a hangover makes you feel loads better - must be all the chemicals in it.......  

I love looking at old things - the Robert Opie Scrapbooks of each decade are nostalgia porn for me, I get all misty eyed and glowy even looking at things I have no direct memory of. My Dad always says to me when I start waxing lyrical about something of yesteryear 'you were born in the wrong decade and how can you possibly like that - you weren't even born then? '. And he's right in a way but also not - I'm very grateful to have been born when and where I am - I have the vote, access to reliable and reasonably safe contraception, let alone access to the Health Service, I was also one of the last lucky few to get a full grant to enable me to take advantage of higher education without having to mire myself in debt ( a godsend for those of us not lucky enough to have been born to financially affluent parents) and thanks to the wonders of the tinternet I can comfortably look back  at yesteryear stuff, it reminds me of though I hesitate to use this phrase 'a kinder, gentler time' because luckily - that's exactly what it was for me. I still play vinyl, use film cameras (the oldest one I have is a Kodak Vest Pocket from the 1920's which still works perfectly fine) and I have a valve radio from the late 1950's - it and its attendant hum are truly beautiful.

Long live the past and all its beautiful nostalgic glories........


Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Running, Music, Peter Cushing and Roast Chicken

For the last 12 months I've been trying to be a bit healthier - I'm much more sensible about what I eat, I don't drink during the week anymore (or rather I v rarely drink during the week these days unless it is a special occasion) and I've started exercising. I've lost a bit of weight, got rid of most of my bingo wing flab and have grown out of some of my favourite clothes but back into others and got some lovely new ones - in short I feel loads better than I did this time last year. Not just physically but mentally too - a lot more in control of stuff.

But I'm finding running hard - I can do 5 - 6 minute bursts on the treadmill in the gym but struggle to keep going for that length of time out of the gym. I can run a bit more each time and am slowly getting quicker each time I go round the bridlepath and I can keep walking between each bout of running now as opposed to having to stop dead still unable to move and feeling like I'm going to hurl my guts up so I *know* I am progressing but I don't *feel* like I am. Door to door and round the bridlepath twice is just over 3 miles and believe me when I can complete that in one go you'll hear the whooping wherever you are in Leeds :-)

Anyways I've started running to music in the hope that that will keep me going but the trouble with that is - I must have a really odd shaped right ear as the headphone for that side just keeps popping out which means I'm forever fiddling with it as I try and run round and the kind of music I normally listen to for pleasure - Edith Piaf, Al Bowlly and Glenn Miller really isn't the best for moving along to, it's perfect for listening to dreamily and wanting to be in the 1940's (but without bombs please) but not good for running.

So to this end I've put together a playlist of the other music I like listening to that is mostly stompy industrial goth nonsense with a bit of S'Express and Gina G thrown in for good measure but if any of you reading this have any running or music tips then I'd be very grateful for them.

Sunday 26th May was the centenary of the birth of Peter Cushing and I celebrated this by raising a glass in his honour, rewatching Curse of Frankenstein, reading more of  'Peter Cushing My Life In Film' by David Miller and listening to him talk about his love of wildlife and birds in particular on this rather wonderful programme on Radio 4 Extra - which was lovely. I doubt however he would have approved of my roast chicken dinner yesterday as he was a strict vegetarian. Oh well, it was a free range one and very tasty........

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Photographers I Love :-) Man Ray.

I've spoken before about my love of George Hurrell's work, I also adore Man Ray's work and thanks to my lovely husband paying for the tickets and the decision of the couple who were getting married to have their ceremony start at 3pm - we had enough time (just) to be able to go to the Man Ray exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in that London before the wedding. The wedding being the main reason for a trip to that London in the first place.

The wedding was lovely and the Man Ray photographs were just gorgeous - beautifully monochrome though with a few later colour ones - which IIRC were done by a three layer colour technique that also involved carbon paper - though I may have got that completely wrong as I have said before - I am a intuitive rather than technical photographer and technical details are not my strong points. In fact thinking about it - I can't remember if I read that in a blurb next to the pictures or on a programme about Erwin Blumenfeld - another of my favourite photographers.

The exhibition featured work from 1916 when he was starting out in New York, his work in Paris of the 20's and 30's and his Hollywood work from the 40's - not as breathlessly glamorous as Hurrell's but still gorgeous and then his work in Paris until his death in 1976.

I first heard about Man Ray when I was in my late teens and slightly obsessed (a slight obsession that has continued) with Dadaism and Surrealism (my favourite painter is Magritte and I am lucky to have seen a lot of his work in the main gallery in Brussels) and I think I bought a postcard copy of his portrait of Nancy Cunard see here with all her wonderful bracelets from the Whitworth Gallery Shop. I was mostly skint as a teenager and postcards were an affordable way to buy copies of artwork. I still have that postcard somewhere. I also fell in love with the portrait of the lady who had a violin as her back -image no 5 on the slideshow   and the exquisite eyelashed eyes with such big beautiful round tears - see here

It was wonderful to see pictures of all the people and artists I had read about all those years ago, the names which I couldn't then and probably still can't pronounce flooding back to me in a lovely proustian rush. Those  lunchtimes spent in the library reading about the Armoury Show and Duchamps love of chess and found objects were not wasted. I could lose myself in that period of post and pre war horror many, many times over. There is a glamour and a playfulness and an inventiveness about his photographs I find utterly enchanting and I know I am going to lose myself in the exhibition catalogue many times over in the next few weeks.

Plus I find myself inspired to take actual portraits (in b+w obviously) something which I very rarely do as I usually prefer to take pictures of places, things or reflections so watch this space as I experiment. It seems you can recreate 'solarisation' in photoshop though that means sitting in front of a computer 'fannying about' so I might just have to resort to proper old school chemicals and light instead........

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Been A Bit Remiss...Horror Film-Ness :-)

It's almost a month since I updated this blog, in spite of the best intentions to get back into a habit of doing it regularly on a Monday I haven't. For lots of good reasons though aside from just laziness - I've been busy with WI stuff, been gothing about in that Whitby (though to be fair I goth about most of the time, not just in Whitby) and I try and go to the gym on a Monday night and if I haven't written a post before I go then the chances of me doing it when I get back are minimal as all I want then is to change out of my (black) gym kit and then  have something to eat whilst watching The Big Bang Theory and then fall asleep.

Last night I had a chum round for dinner and I made kedgeree and then we watched the restored edition of Hammers version of Dracula on blu-ray. It's shonky in places - some of the dialogue clunks, staked vampires still breathe and I'm still not quite sure why a servants daughter would be so close to the mistresses family but other than that it is a wonderful film. I am ever so slightly in love with Peter Cushing (for slightly read madly) and he is magnificent as Dr Van Helsing. Authoritative and charming - I'd want him on my side if ever I was involved in a fight to the death with the undead. Christopher Lee is good too though I prefer him as the Creature in the Curse of Frankenstein. But then I always feel sorry for the Creature - he's not made evil, he just becomes that way because his creator rejects him. There is a wonderful pathos to Lee's performance as the Creature though it doesn't quite reach the same heights (or should that be depth?) as Karloff's - there is something truly magical about that. Cushing is marvellous as the obsessed Frankenstein though - the near wink he gives when he knows he is going to get up to no good with his housekeeper is a wonderful moment. As is the look he gives when he locks her in with the Creature - ooh I might just have to watch it again this evening.

I'm not quite sure when I fell in love with horror films as such though I had long been a fan of Scooby Doo and Misty Comic - though I can remember when I fell in love with Peter Cushing. It was on a camping holiday in Wales and we had a portable b+w tv (the kind you tune in by a dial - the kind I still have in the kitchen) and we watched The Creeping Flesh. It was a wonderful load of campy old nonsense and he was magnificent in it and I was hooked from then on. I spent many a misspent hour in my youth watching unsuitable and age inappropriate films on VHS with my Dad which he 'got from a mate at work' and I don't mind the odd slasher type horror movie - Halloween and Friday the 13th are my favourites in that category and I'm rather fond of zombie dismemberment too - Night of the Living Dead and Dead Snow are my two favourite zombie films.

But really I like my horror to be oldey worldy, creepy, atmospheric and ideally in b+w  or gentle old technicolour as opposed to full on in your face modern torture porn things like Saw. I love the Universal films of the 30's and 40's - I even love Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein and the wonderful creepy films made by RKO like I Walked With A Zombie and Cat People too though I will always have a soft spot for the original My Bloody Valentine. Though Night Of The Demon, all of the Corman Poe films and the original The Haunting are also some of my all time faves.  I'd be very hard pushed to say what all my all time favourite horror film is, though on balance I'd probably say Bride of Frankenstein. There is something really magical about it - might have to rewatch that soon too.

What are your favourite horror films/moments?

Monday, 22 April 2013

(Tacky) Fridge Magnets

Along with lovely olde worlde postcards I also collect fridge magnets or tacky fridge magnets to give them their full and correct title. It's been argued that fridge magnets by definition are tacky and I would agree but some are much more tacky and nasty than others. I have hundreds of them - literally. I did count them once and it was about 320 but that was a while ago and we've had quite a few new ones since then. I'm not very good at counting either but one day I shall count them again and feel incredulous (and possibly slightly depressed) that I have managed to amass so many.

We have one of those fridge freezers that is a fridge on the top and a freezer on the bottom, and two sides of it are completely covered in fridge magnets. The third side is against the wall otherwise it'd be covered in fridge magnets too. All my friends know that one of the best things they can give me is a fridge magnet and the tackier and nastier it is the happier I am. They make me smile and laugh and flinch all at the same time and this can only be a good thing. I think it was William Morris who said you should only have things in your house that are beautiful and useful and I agree and in this case their beauty lies in their ugliness and their usefulness lies in the fact that they make me happy.

This picture was taken 5 years ago and the fridge is much fuller than this now - I am feeling a bit below parr today otherwise I would go downstairs and take another one to show you but trust me it looks like this but with lots more on it :-)

I have ones which claim to have a piece of the genuine Berlin Wall attached to them (which we got on honeymoon whilst in Berlin) ones of hybrid unicorns and my little pony types which are just this side of copyright infringement with FILEY written on them in black felt tip - I also have one of a buddha figure with FILEY written on his tummy though quite what the connection is between Filey and the buddha is I'm not sure, ones of little plastic jars filled with rice and pasta and covered in little gingham fabric hats with names of greek villages on,  I also have one of Big Ben with a bottle opener on - but alas the bottle opener on it is too heavy and so Big Ben remains upside down unless it is propped against another fridge magnet, and ones which have sentimental meaning because of where they are from and what we were doing there or because of who gave it to me and how much they mean to me.

Filey is the mecca for tacky fridge magnets - trust me, there you will find the nastiest and tackiest ever and all for the princely sum of just 150 of your earth pennies - this was the one I bought when we went there the other week - I think it is quite possibly the most hideous fridge magnet ever made - it is pictured next to the bear badge I won on the two penny falls.

It is beyond nasty and I love it. What's the nastiest fridge magnet you've ever seen?

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Being Remiss,Plugs, Proper Lovely Old Seasides :-)

I set myself a target of updating this blog at least once a week (ideally on a Monday) at the start of the year and up until a couple of weeks ago I was meeting this self imposed target and then I'm not quite sure why but my blog mojo upped and left, I've made myself sit down and write this in the hope I can make my blogging mojo return and ideally stick around.

Plus even if I can't think of anything to write about I could just talk about the exhibition some of my photographic work is in - a while ago Exposure Leeds asked its members to take pictures of a place that means something to them. I took black and white ones of one of my favourite places - namely Meanwood Woods and the Bridlepath round what used to be Meanwood Park Hospital. The exhibition is called This Is My Place and it is on at the White Cloth Gallery in Leeds until 25 April  and after that online  - full details can be found here  . The sad history of Meanwood Park Hospital itself can be read here, as far as I can tell the old Mansion House is still standing in the middle of the new housing estate but none of the old hospital buildings remain. Anyways go see the exhibition if you can - there are also some aces pictures of Elvington Air Museum, Whitby, Roundhay Park and Louisville in Kentucky too.

So plugging aside what else? well seeing as I haven't been writing my blog what have I been doing? bit of gardening, lots of WI stuff - am undertaking a couple of new roles and so a lot busier WI-wise than I used to be, lots of knitting - have almost finished the dinosaur I'm knitting for my eldest nephew's birthday present and I am also going to knit myself a new shrug though whether it will be ready in time for me to wear in Whitby in a couple of weeks is doubtful....and of course going to the seaside as often as I can...

I love going to the seaside - trips when I was little were mostly to Southport or Blackpool and along with fish and chips and 99's they would also include candyfloss. Lovely, crunchy, melty, sickly sweet, unnaturally coloured candyfloss which you either got readymade in a bag or watched some bored teenage girl (ideally in an orange polyester tabard) magic up onto a wooden stick from the inside of a rotating metal bowl. In turn the candyfloss would then stick round my mouth and my Nana would scrub my face with a hankerchief in a vain attempt to get rid of it. A hankerchief she would either get me to spit on or dip in a water feature if we were passing one. I'm not sure if it's worse being covered in candyfloss remains or candyfloss remains,spit and minging water feature water - you know the kind that is full of bits of rubbish but hey ho I can look back and say 'well it never did me any harm'. At least I don't think it did......

Anyways bits of seaside I've been to since xmas include Whitby, Saltburn, Hornsea, and Filey. I love the cobbled gothic streets of Whitby, the graveyard , the Abbey and the Museum in Pannett Park which includes such gems as Dr Merryweather's Tempest Prognosticator (a kind of weather forecasting machine involving slugs,bells and a big bell jar)  - it looks a bit like this:

 and best of all The Dead Man's Hand - a totem used by burglars made from the hand of a man hung - ideally for murder as that made the most powerful totem, which when the thumb was lit would ensure the occupants of the house being burgled would stay asleep. It looks like this  
I have it on a fridge magnet and on a keyring - it's one of my very favourite things. There is also a very lovely tea room and some quite badly stuffed animals who look sad - both in the modern and traditional sense of the word. If you go - keep an eye out for the bozzy eyed seal. I think I'd like to retire to Whitby, it is one of my very favourite places :-)

I've only been to Saltburn once but I really liked it - got some good knitting patterns in one of the charity shops, had lovely fish and chips and enjoyed the guerilla knitting on the front, the day I was there the North Sea was attempting to make its way inland and it was BLOODY FREEZING but I look forward to going back in better weather though if I'm being honest I do prefer my seaside slightly closed.

Hornsea had a water features with bits of rubbish floating in it and I almost had a pavlovian response and wanted to stick my hanky in it and start scrubbing my face but it is many, many years since I've had any candyfloss so I managed to resist. I couldn't resist fish and chips though or hot chocolate as again it was BLOODY FREEZING and these were necessary in order to stave off hypothermia.

Filey along with Cleethorpes are my favourite seasides after Whitby. Filey surprisingly wasn't BLOODY FREEZING when I went last week - in fact the sun came out and it was beyond lovely mooching along the sea front eating freshly made doughnuts made by a bored teenager in a tabard (result!!), instead of fish and chips though we had local crab in a baked potato in the lovely oldey worldy tea room surroundings of Bramwells, I scored some aces knitting patterns in the charity shops and a late afternoon stroll along the top of the Brigg in the spring sunshine followed by a mooch round St Oswald's Churchyard was gorgeous and just the thing to lift the spirits after a long and miserable winter. Next time we go back I want to go to the Museum again as it is a treasure trove of local history and general seaside wonderfulness.

What are your favourite seaside places to go and why?

Monday, 25 March 2013


When I was little I loved Sooty - well the Sooty show that is. I didn't actually like Sooty himself as I thought he was a bit of a goody two shoes sneak all too ready to get Sweep into trouble. I adored Sweep - he was cheeky and impish and could be quite naughty and I loved the way his squeak sounded when he laughed. I didn't like the way Sooty took advantage of his slightly dim nature and Sue - well she was just a bit too high pitched really and a bit of a suck up to Mr (Matthew) Corbett so she got on my nerves too. I was also quite fond of Spike the dog.

Some years ago I went to the Sooty Museum in Shipley (sadly no more) and it was a wonderful meander down Memory Lane - there were videos of proper old black and white Sooty shows with Mr Corbett Senior in charge of the mayhem, as well as sets and props. I spent ages happily wandering about though my back did ache after a while as it was really designed for children so everything was a bit lower and I had to stoop to see everything.

One of the toys I still have from being little is my Sweep and he is quite tatty, bit manky looking and misshapen but I adore him. Plus if you press his tummy he still squeaks!! No mean feat considering he has been so well loved and must be at least 40 years old.

Here he is in all his slightly faded and grubby glory :-)

I have seen the latest Sooty incarnation - well the episode that featured John Shuttleworth that is and that was funny , though the new man in charge of Sweep et al wears very heavy foundation and I don't think I could sit through the whole series. It was far too noisy.

But I could sit in front of this (almost) all day and be utterly entranced - this is the one that can be found on  front at Cleethorpes and another fully restored one can be found in the Vintage Arcade on the pier in Southport. In Cleethorpes you put in 20p and they dance and play along to Buddy Holly and The Crickets and in Southport they dance and play along to old nursery rhymes like Baa Baa Black Sheep and Pop Goes The Weasel. The one in Cleethorpes is full of dust and held together with sellotape but the one in Southport is much more pristine - still worn but not quite as manky and operated by a big old golden penny. And best of all when they finish playing a tune in Southport Harry Corbett himself says in good old fashioned Sooty style - 'bye bye everybody, bye bye'.

The vintage arcade in Southport has all sorts of gems and if you're ever near there or Cleethorpes I urge you to go and seek them out as they are the best nostalgic fun you can have for pennies - plus you can marvel at Sue's dedication to her drumming in Cleethorpes as she doesn't actually hold the sticks - she has had them grafted into her arms - now that is dedication for you. But there must have been artistic differences within the band though as in Southport she's been shifted from the drums to the piano and Sooty is on the drums and Sweep's guitar has been replaced by a saxophone. Here is Sweep in all his saxophonic glory - 

I've just noticed that Sweep in both Cleethorpes and Southport is grey with black ears whereas mine is two shades of brown with black ears - I never noticed this when I was little as we only had a black and white telly - but now I'm looking at him and wondering if my beloved Sooty who I've had for years is in fact a knock off version......
Oh and if you know where there are any other Sooty TV Concert machines please let me know as I'd love to visit all the ones left I've heard a rumour there might be one in Southend but if anyone could verify that for me before I set off to try and find it that would be aces.Ta.  

Monday, 18 March 2013

Another In The Old Postcard Series

This postcard is of The Pagoda Fountain at Alton Towers, not sure when it was taken but a quick tinternet search informs me it is still there which makes me want to go and see it. But otherwise I have no interest in going to Alton Towers as I'm not that keen on rides really and I certainly don't want to go on something that makes you go upside down and makes you feel like your insides are going to drop out. The Mouse at Blackpool Pleasure Gardens is as scarey as I've ever got and that was quite scarey and bouncy enough for me. I quite like the old style Merry Go Rounds though and those swings you sit in that go outwards. I'm not sure yet if I'll go on the Leeds Observation Wheel as it looks a bit too wobbly for me - though a chum who has been on it assures me it's okay as long as you don't move around in your little capsule. Hmm - I'm not convinced.

But back to the postcard it is that lovely muted oldy worldy colour that I adore - it must have been hand tinted as this was well before the days of Photoshop and the Pagoda looks suspiciously yellow or maybe they used filters when taking photographs at F Frith and Co Ltd who were based in Reigate. The tinternet tells me this company was founded by Francis Frith in 1859 and was the worlds first specialist photographic publisher. He embarked on a mission to photograph all the towns and villages in Britain, had to hire people to help him do so and became so successful that at one point his postcards were sold in over 2,000 shops in Britain.  He died in 1898 but the firm he founded continued without him until it closed in 1970. His incredible archive was bought by Rothmans and then by John Buck and it is now called the  Francis Frith Collection and you can look at it here  and buy things should you so desire. My postcard is there - albeit in black and white and it seems it was taken in 1955. So it must have been handtinted for publication.

The date on this postcard is obscured but the stamp is a brown 2d one which the tinternet tells me was in use between 1957 and 1959 and it was sent to Mrs someone (can't read the handwriting) who lived at Sunnyside in Jersey. The message reads:

Dear Win
Arrived here O K after lovely trip in the coach, went to this place yesterday, a friend has lent us a car, hope to go to Dove-Dale tomorrow.
Hope you are all well.
Catherine & Geoffrey sent their love
Nora (I think it's Nora - could also be Dora - handwriting isn't very clear)

I wonder if they did get to Dove-Dale after all.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Are Pyjama Cases Still A Thing?

I had at least two pyjama cases when I was little, one of them was shaped like a koala bear and it had scratchy black plastic claws, and a zip on the back of its neck and you undid the zip and stuffed your pyjamas inside it. I'm not quite sure what the other one was like - plain I think. I'm not quite sure whether this was to fool burglars intent on stealing your pyjamas who would be looking for pyjamas rather than cute stuffed toy things containing them or because it was a way to have a stuffed toy on your bed without embarrassment if you were a grown up.

Like I said I'm not sure either way but I adored my koala - even if it was uncomfortable to sleep next to because of the plastic scratchy claws and I was very upset when my Mum deemed it was time for him to go in the bin - I'd somehow got felt tip all over his tummy and it just wouldn't wash off. I was quite upset but consoled myself with her argument that I was now a big enough girl to just fold my pyjamas and put them under my pillow instead.

And she was right - pyjama cases are a right load of faff really when you can just fold your pyjamas up and put them under your pillow instead. Mind you the pyjama sized hole inside a pyjama case was useful for storing contraband on occasion - I seem to remember secreting Club Biscuits inside of mine once - back in the day when they really were covered in lots of chocolate and it was a delight to eat the chocolate off the sides and top of the biscuit before crunching the now slightly soggy biscuit itself. Orange ones were my favourite but I also liked the ones with raisins in too.

I'm not sure if you can still get club biscuits but a quick tinternet search shows me that pyjama cases are still very much a thing and available in all manner of branded character versions and that most double as pyjama and hot water bottle cases. That's progress for you. Hot water bottle covers were unheard of in my house then (I now have lots - mostly with skull and crossbones on but I also have a Spongebob one) so you scorched your feet on the meltingly hot plastic for as long as you could before moving it away and it was awful when you came across it in the morning - by now freezing cold.

We didn't have central heating and the only heating upstairs (aside from a two bar electric fire which you only got the use of if you were poorly) was an ineffectual electric heater positioned high above the bathroom door - which smelled of burn when it got switched on for the first time after the summer. I was also reminded of the things I now take for granted which I didn't have when we were younger this week with the news articles about census results. I've always had an inside flushing toilet but my grandparents didn't - theirs was at the bottom of the garden but at least it was theirs and it did flush. Most people now have a washing machine - we used to use the launderette at the bottom of the street and I can still remember the awe and wonderment when my Mum upgraded from having just a spinner to having a twin tub as well. We had a phone box at the end of the street - don't think we had our own landline til the early 80's and then it was a party line.

Misnamed as there never seemed to be any partylike goings on it at all. Now of course people are more likely to have a mobile phone than a landline.

I'd be lost without my washing machine, I think I could just about manage (but wouldn't like to have to) without central heating and double glazing. I could cope without a microwave too - at a pinch I could manage without my mobile phone too but please don't take my washing machine away. I have however been managing quite happily for years without a pyjama case which means a)I really am almost a grown up and  b)they really aren't that useful after all.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

(yet) Another In The Old Postcard Series

It's a long time since I've been to Lladudno, must be over twenty years ago. I don't remember much of it except it was exactly the kind of slightly past its best seaside place that I love. I do remember a lovely old secondhand bookshop which had lots of books which I couldn't afford at the time as I was absolutely skint but which I would happily have sold my soul for. I wonder if the bookshop is still there. Lladudno has been on my list of places to revisit for a long time. My grandparents used to go there a lot - along with the Isle of Man and Blackpool it was one of their favourite places to go to. I wonder if they walked along the Colonnades pictured in the postcard and if they are still there and still recognisable. I have vague memories of walking along the Promenade and having a go on the seaside treat of a firefighting tableau that you put money in and then aim a massive water pistol at characters mouths. I can't help but wonder if Happy Valley is happy? I did climb part of the Great Orme on a school trip once, I was wearing an orange kagool of which I was inordinately proud of at the time, no idea why. I've moved on to umbrellas now and would rather get wet than wear a kagool - even if they don't turn inside out in the wind - one of my biggest gripes about 'sensible outdoor gear' is that it is mostly available in brown and navy, two colours I've banned from my wardrobe (unless you count the brown in leopardprint that is) and whilst it may be water and wind proof it is also unbelievably dreary. Why can't it be in black or red or purple - which are of course the best colours.*

But I digress - something I often do and something which was occasionally commented on in my school report, think 'prone to going off at a tangent' was the phrase used. I've been to Conway Castle too - a rather magnificent building. I really must go back.

This postcard was posted on 10th September 1958 to a Miss V Moss who lived in Walsall. It was signed G.
It reads:
Thank you for letter this am, am glad to know you are alright and Whisky too.Sorry you did not get my PC til Tuesday. I posted early Sunday AM so you should have had it Monday.
Having a lovely time and yesterday and today have been glorious and cloudless, v lovely. Monday v wet AM but fine later. Would you be alright if I stayed til Monday next? Aunty would like to stay and everyone says better for travelling, so if you would be alright, arrive the usual time just before 6 o'c? Going to see Sallie tomorrow. Lots of love to you and Whisky.Nearly living on the Par?
PS Pretend you are on holiday too - get out a bit.

I wonder what V stands for - Veronica possibly, I wonder what G stands for and what kind of creature Whisky was - am presuming it's a dog but it could have been a pony or even a cat. I wonder if Aunty did stay and if it was a successful visit and if V did get out more. I don't know what Par means either - a place or a status, not sure.

*pedants can feel free to point out that black isn't a colour but rather the absence of colour.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Another In The Series of Old Postcards and a rant about...

Regular readers will know I love old postcards - either in sepia,black and white or in lovely over the top hand tinted colour loveliness like this one.

It's a bit tatty round the edges but it is also beautiful. It shows the Floral Hall at Rhyl which the tinternet tells me opened in May 1959 at a cost of £21,000. It was visited by the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester (whoever they were) in 1960 and was thereafter known as the Royal Floral Hall. It was then converted into a butterfly garden but alas this didn't stop it from being demolished in the early 1990's and it is no more. It seems the glass it was made out of wasn't thick enough to comply with new safety regulations and it would have cost too much to get the glass up to scratch.

On the back is a message to Mrs Lowe who lived in Norwich which states that they are having a nice time and the weather is nice too and that they hope all is well. I'm being a bit vague as I'm afraid I can't read the signature nor can I can read the whole postmark, It was definitely posted on 17 August but half of the year bit is missing but it looks like it could be 1960. The stamp is a lovely red with a picture of the young Queenie on it and it cost 2 and 1/2d. Whatever that is in new money I'm guessing it's nothing near the postal prices of today.

You can probably also guess from my less than reverent tone of describing the royal family that I very little time for them. I don't, I find it utterly gobsmacking that we live in the 21st century yet we still as a country have a monarchy. I like people because of their talent or skills not because they were born into a particular position. I also cannot bear the fawning forelock tugging tone of most of the media reporting about them. For goodness sake they are just people - albeit ridiculously over privileged ones who live in a goldfish bowl.


Monday, 18 February 2013

What I've Been Doing Today...

Well I've been thinking I must write my blog as one of the few goals I set myself at the start of the year  (along with learning how to crochet and how to do intarsia - both of which remain unlearnt as yet) was to update my blog regularly and so far I have :-)

I was going to post a pic of some of the skulls I've been knitting but on close inspection it is slightly blurred so I'll not bother and take another one  and post that some point.  So instead I'll write about what I did today.

Woke up - was delighted to discover there was no Today Programme on R4 as it is invariably bad for my blood pressure when I hear some dickwad of a politician being  weaselly, got up, fed the cats, cleaned the litter tray (washed hands - goes without saying but am always shocked and disgusted by number of people who don't bother to do this on a regular basis - even after going to to the toilet. Dirty sods!!) then had breakfast of oats,banana and a sprinkling of supermarket own label frosted flakes as a sugary treat, then did some washing, some washing up, cleaned up some fur ball containing cat sick - not sure which cat it came from but am betting Mapp as it was short hair and Lucia is long haired, washed hands again, had a bath, got dressed, put some make up on, made some vegetable soup out of the 'scrag end' of vegetables in the fridge - namely some celery,sweet potatoes,carrots,salad potatoes and chicken stock - not alas home made but from one of those new fangled stock pot things. I shall be making chicken stock later tonight when the roast chicken from yesterday has been stripped of its last meaty morsels for tonights dinner. Think we might have chicken risotto but I am getting ahead of myself there....

Decided I did feel well enough to go out (have been somewhat under the weather with cough/cold/flu lurgy for the past few days which left me snotting for Britain and disappointed at having to cancel plans for the weekend plus more importantly I am no longer coughing or snotting ) so I took 2 bags of stuff to the best charity shop in Leeds - namely Meanswood Community Shop, then went and did some knitting with a knitting group who meet at Bar Arcadia and knit in aid of the Baby Units at the LGI and St James, I took along the gargoyle I mentioned in last weeks post and did a bit more on it  and am also going to have a go at knitting some hats for premature babies - afraid the pattern for cardies was bit beyond my comprehension at the moment,  then I went and bought some plastic underbed storage boxes in which to store wool as our living room is in danger of becoming something like a very untidy and chaotic wool shop and am worried Mapp is going to start chewing and eating it which wouldn't be good for her - or me and the things I am trying to knit.

Then I chatted to some chums on Twitter and Farcebook (deliberate misspelling) and then thought I must write this otherwise I won't have kept to my goal of updating my blog at least once a week preferably on a Monday.

What have you been up to? and has it involved wool?

Wednesday, 13 February 2013


On Monday night I attended a lecture on the history and design of Crematoria and where Lawnswood Crematoria stands in it. It was part of the Victorian Societys Annual General Meeting to which members of Friends of Lawnswood Cemetery (of which I am one) were generously invited. It was fascinating and I learnt lots plus it was in the rather sumptuous environs of the Leeds Club on Albion Place - which has the beautiful marble lined mens toilets which I sneaked a look at whilst no-one was in there. The ladies by comparison are very disappointing. But it is a very beautiful building inside with lots of lovely tiling and real fires - and it is well worth a visit if you can.

But back to the lecture - it was given by Professor Hilary Grainger who is an architectural historian with a specific interest in Crematoria and she shared her knowledge and enthusiasm very generously over the course of an hour or so, with slides showing the crematoriums she was talking about and quotes from various  publications.

Cremation was found to be legal after Dr William Price (an interesting character who deserves further research) cremated his son on a hillside in Wales in February 1884 but it wasn't until 1902 that formal legislation regarding cremation was passed - which included things like the distance crematoria needed to be from public dwellings and public thoroughfares and that the body has to be placed in a coffin first and aside from some changes made as a result of the Harold Shipman case* the legislation is still the same today.

The main points which I can remember and in no order (other than the order I wrote them down in whilst waiting for John Shuttleworth to come on stage at the City Varieties last night - he was very funny indeed) are:

The architects who designed and built the early crematoria didn't have any precedents and architects often travelled to towns who already had them (the first in the UK was set up in Woking in 1878) to see what they had done and then copied them.

The early victorian and edwardian ones look very similar to chapels/churches with a mostly norman gothic design complete with what look like bell towers but which are in fact chimneys for the furnaces. One contemporary commenter pointed out that these towers didn't issue delightful peels but often belched smoke instead. They slowly but surely over the years lose some the more overt similarities to chapels and churches but the similarity was deliberate initially as it was a way to to get people to trust them and to use them and it was the only kind of building which had a precedent for funerals.

Cremation was very slow to take off but it becomes massively more popular after the Great War - in large part due to the fact that so many people bereaved as a result of that war had no actual body of their loved one to bury or resting place to visit, plus burials in a wet miserable winter are made even more grim because of the dreadful weather and a cremation is held inside. The Anglican church says it is okay for its adherents to be cremated - unlike the Catholic Church which didn't give it the okay until the 1960's.

It was advertised as a form of purification and one gentleman attendee talked of how one of his relatives had his wife cremated as she had died of cancer and he wanted the cancer destroyed.

Lawnswood had two chapels - one anglican and one non conformist linked by a walkway and the magnificent Columbarium was built in the 1930's and at the time it was considered the bees knees of storing the ashes of loved ones or remembering them. It is a very beautiful building indeed - solemn and inspiring too.

Professor Grainger showed slides which showed plans as well as actual views of the crematoria and also some showing the wars of victorian mortuary supply companies and the insides of crematoria and catafalques (the raised bier used to support the coffin before it is transferred to the furnace) and all showed the victorian morticians fondness for the parlour palm. It seemed no crematoria was complete without one.

The difficulty crematoria have is that they are secular buildings but they also have to appeal to all or none religions and the religious symbolism borrowed from traditional christian chapels both in terms of the outward design and the inward trappings gradually fades out over the years - crematoria today are much more plain and municipal than they were when they first started to be built in the late 1800's - modern crematoria often have viewing areas where you can see the coffin being burnt and blank white walls which can be used as video screens.

I can't remember which crematoria it was but one of them was the first to have a door through which you entered and a door by which you left - which is important now as it means mourners don't bump into one another due to the numbers of people being cremated now as opposed to buried but then it was simply supposed to be symbolic of both the deceased and the mourners moving on.

It was a really interesting evening, made me want to learn more and I hope to get a copy of Professor Graingers book from the library :-)

*this reminds me of a chum who whilst at medical school would ring me up every so often and ask if I fancied going for a drink as she had gotten some money - namely 'ash cash' - the money she earnt by signing an okay for a cremation. I've had many a night in the Florence pub (now demolished but it used to be opposite St James) on 'ash cash' - I do hope that those cremations hid no wrongdoing.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Hammer Anniversary-Ness :-)

I am an enormous fan of Hammer films and of Peter Cushing in particular. His cheekbones, diction and just all round wonderfulness make me very happy indeed. I know he did lots of films for all sorts of companies but it is the films he made with Hammer which are my very favourites. Aside from Cone of Silence which is a very good film indeed about the aviation industry which also features the very marvellous George Sanders (who I also have a bit of a thing for - see also James Mason, Stewart Granger and William Holden - delectable all) it is the Hammer ones which really make me happy - I love the settings, the sounds, the and their colour tone (a lovely pale kind of glorious technicolour)  so imagine my excitement and delight when we decided to spend our 4th wedding anniversary at Oakley Court Hotel. Mr Pops (my lovely husband) is a fan too - nowhere near as obsessive or fervent as I am - but a fan nonetheless.

Oakley Court which is next door to Bray Studios used to be part of the Hammer Films set up and they filmed many films there but so did other production companies, for instance Amicus made And Now The Screaming Starts there - a film we watched whilst in our bedroom at Oakley Court (Mr Pops gave me the Peter Cushing Collection as an anniversary present and it is a good little boxset -even though I must complain that he is hardly in The Hellfire Club)  and it was beyond magical to be in the same place as we could see on screen - to walk through the same entrance doors Peter Cushing as Dr Pope does, and to walk on the same lawns and down to the same fountain as Ms Beacham. Thankfully though none of the other guests were wearing as dreadful a wig as Mr Cushing does in this film and nobody seemed to be complaining of possession by spirits, chopping insolent woodsmans hands off or slashing portraits.....

I don't think I can find the words to tell you quite how magical a stay this was for me, I am not a religious person but this was a religious experience for me and here is a pic of me about to enter those very doors looking v giddy at the prospect indeed.

 It was so lovely - we've decided we're going to go back there again for special occasions - now when is the next one.......

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Not Monday....

At the start of this year I made a kind of resolution that I would try and update this every Monday. I've got a busy day tomorrow and don't know if I'll get chance so I'm doing it now instead - except I haven't really got anything to say and I don't want to copy and paste something I have written elsewhere (which would make a perfectly good blog post) as it will probably make it go all funny format-wise and I'd rather be able to read whatever I've put.

Which admittedly isn't very much......

So in lieu of written content here is a photo instead :-)

This was taken some time ago at Eden Camp - it isn't a very good photo as it was taken on a camera phone, in the dark and neither of us could stop giggling. It's supposed to be a terrifying camp guard dog but alas the emphasis is more on the camp as he appears to be wearing a lot of eyeliner. Eden Camp is an amazing place but bits of it -well this bit in particular is well shonky, instead of thinking about how horrible the conditions prisoners of war had to endure I'm afraid all I could do was laugh at this badly stuffed dog.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Gargoyles In The Snow....

It was a bit snowy last week, so much so - even my gargoyle who guards the garden got covered. I love him and I wish now we'd bought two so he'd have a chum. But the place we got him from has closed down now so he'll have to remain a solitary gargoyle instead.

I am knitting one as well, but it's one of those projects that is taking an age, it's not complicated but it is fiddly and so I've been concentrating on other things instead - like a poncho for my niece, some skulls for a friend of mine and some knitted fruit for my Mum. Thinking about it though I've been working on him or rather not working on him for over 18 months so I really need to pull my finger out and get him finished.....

So note to self - do more of gargoyle before starting anything else.....

Do any of you have anything unfinished that is hanging over you giving you a vague sense of guilt but equally not quite enough oomph to get it finished?