It is the beard that is a give-away. There was a small window of hairiness, somewhere between late-onset maturity and marriage when hair warmed my chin. Then I was told it was ridiculous and I had to shave it off. So I did. So this photograph must have been taken in about 1972 when I was still at University in Keele. It was somewhere in the Yorkshire Dales. I can vaguely remember the day if not the precise location.
The same strip of film and therefore the same approximate date – maybe 1971 or 1972. This is my father, Albert, replacing the putty in the front windows at our house in Oaklands Avenue, Northowram. He will have been about sixty at the time and therefore he still had another five years left to work.
Black against white. Or at least black against cloudy grey. Nature against man against Nature.
I am taking a walk along the path where history interacts with geography and words rub shoulders with images – the vintage postcard path. The destination doesn’t matter and the route is determined by the random selection of old postcards I have bought at an antique fair. Number 10 in the series sees us in the Isle of Man.
This picture postcard was sent in 1927, but I suspect that the photograph dates from the end of the nineteenth century. It shows a somewhat precarious pathway over a stream and is entitled “Lhen Coan, Groudle, I of M” The “I o M” part is easy for anyone from the UK to interpret, it is the Isle of Man: that curious outcrop in the middle of the Irish Sea which seems for ever unsure as to whether it is part of Britain or indeed part of the twenty-first century. Mr Wiki Pedia tells me that Lhen Coan is not an elderly Canadian singer of sad but beautiful songs, but the Isle of Man’s only natural canyon which is situated in Groudle Glen which is on the east coast of the island. Groudle Glen has a fascinating history and at the time of the postcard it boasted a zoo, a railway, an open-air dance floor and a variety of entertainments. Lhen Coan (which in Manx Gaelic means “Lonely Valley”) was a place you could take a quiet walk when you were tired of the bright lights of Groudle Glen, and you could explore the peaceful little valley by means of the rustic pathways. The pathways have now fallen into disrepair and the zoo and the dancing are long gone, so once again Lhen Coan can live up to its name.
When I first read the message on the back of the card I made the assumption that the qualification to the promise “We shall be home tomorrow Saturday sometime towards evening, if fine” was a reference to the hazards of sailing from the Isle of Man in difficult weather conditions but then I discovered that the card was posted in Horncastle which is only twelve miles or so away from Alford where it was being sent.
One final little connection to note is that the card is being sent to Mrs Watson at Virginia House. There are all sorts of ties and connections between this little sleepy part of Lincolnshire and Virginia in the United States. Captain John Smith – the same John Smith who established the Jamestown settlement and was later saved by the love of Pocahontas – grew up in Alford and the great political philosopher Tom Paine – author of The Rights of Man – was briefly an excise officer in the town.
So we have been taken on a journey from Lincolnshire to Virginia, via the Isle of Man thanks to the motive power of nothing more than a dog-eared old picture postcard.
It’s all angular; you could cut yourself quite badly on that leading edge. It sprouts from a patch near the centre of Halifax that used to be the home of a brewery: all odds and ends, curves and pipes; as blunt as a barrel. It fits its environment like a lump of breeze block in the wall of the Taj Mahal.
Our Sepia Saturday theme image this week features an air stewardess hugging a cute puppy. Auntie Miriam may have been many things, but she was never an air stewardess, but there again it’s a donkey she is hugging and not a puppy. The donkey is undeniably cute however and that look of affection could be a mirror image of the one shared between the stewardess and the puppy.
The date of the theme image is a little uncertain: sometimes in the 1950s is the best that the Preus Museum (Norway’s National Museum of Photography) can come up with. I can be much more precise about my photograph because it comes from the Frank Fieldhouse Digital Collection and as we all know Frank might not have been an airline pilot, but he was an enthusiastic cataloguer. In his unmistakable hand the page in the album is headed “St Annes” and dated 1941. Uncle Frank could never resist the additional comment, that little extra description that makes the difference between a museum catalogue and a personal scrapbook. Those little notes of affection percolate his albums like dandruff on a Rastafarian; announcing his affection for his wife as clear a any 60 point bold typeface. And below this picture is the unforgettable line – “On the sands …. and one is a donkey”
In this strange and wonderful world of blogging nothing is impossible.
It started with an old postcard, the one featured in my last post entitled “No Stamp, No Box, No Pint” It was an old picture postcard posted 101 years ago and featuring the Bell Hotel in Tewkesbury. At one side of the old pub you can just make out a sign advertising the brewery that was supplying the hotel back in 1914 and it was the Wickwar brewery of Armold Perrett & Co. The firm is long gone but the internet suggested that the brewery building still existed and a new brewery – the Wickwar Brewery – had moved into the premises. I looked Wickwar up on a map and discovered to my delight that it was just up the road from where one of my oldest blogging friends – the inimitable Chairman Bill – lives. So I asked him to see if he could find it and if so let me have a photograph of it. And for good measure I asked him to send me a pint of Wickwar Gold as well.
Within 24 hours a set of photographs had arrived in my in-box showing the old brewery buildings and evidence of its occupation by the new Wickwar Brewery. Even better, a message arrived to say that a pint of Wickwar Gold was on the way. I cannot deny that I have always had more than my fair share of faith in the positive benefits of the internet, but I had serious doubts about its ability to deliver a decent pint of beer. So I sat back and I waited.
I have been into town today and on returning home I discovered a very large cardboard box which had been delivered by a van driver whilst I was out. I cut through the outer cardboard packaging with a degree of enthusiasm only to discover an inner box containing an enormous quantity of what the label described as Wickwar Gold (4.5% ABV). There must be at least 20 pints of the stuff in there, constituting a bounty of beer of almost unimaginable proportions. There can only be one person responsible for this – the very same Chairman Bill.
So this unique 100 year journey has taken us from an old postcard of Tewkesbury to a feast of Gloucestershire real ale which will be thoroughly enjoyed in West Yorkshire. All thanks to the wonders of blogging. But as I raise a glass, not just to Chairman Bill but to all my blogging friends, I have to stress that the circle is not yet quite complete. It will only be so when my parcel of Yorkshire goods is finally dispatched down to Gloucestershire. I will let you all know when I have decided what will go in there. But for now, cheers!
There was a time – in the 1950s and 60s – when towns like Halifax seemed to be in love with the future. And the future was motor cars: great big metallic, two-toned, chromium-plated beasts that drank petrol with the abandon of an alcoholic. And the garages that sold them were, in the main, bastions of modernity – plate-glass showcases of the future. Trinity Garage was such a building: standing proudly at the top of Hunger Hill as if mocking it’s very name. The building remains – a little shabby without the chic – but the cars are long gone. Hunger Hill is fighting back.