Monthly Archives: April 2015

Sepia Saturday 273 : A Lagavulin Smile

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The theme image for Sepia Saturday 273 features a couple of Edwardian ladies riding their bicycles through Battersea Park in London. My best efforts at a match involves half the ladies, half the bikes and a park of unknown origins. The photograph itself comes from the ubiquitous suitcase of old family photographs and measures just three inches by two. But so much life, so many memories, so much history is distilled into that small space, it has a rare and fine distinction – a vintage single malt whisky of a photograph.

The photograph features my mother, Gladys Burnett, and must have been taken in the early to mid 1930s. At the time my father and mother had a tandem and their holidays would involve tours around Britain. Later my father graduated to a motorbike and sidecar, a graduation my mother welcomed because – given that the predominant climatic conditions were wet and the predominant topography was hilly – she was happier under the protection of a canvas awning and the motive power of an internal combustion engine.

Looking at the photograph now – eleven years after my mother died – I can still recognise the smile; a lovely warm rich smile, a Lagavulin smile (lovers of malt whisky will know what I mean).

Here’s Where It’s Made

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I must have taken this photograph of Bank Bottom, Halifax almost fifty years ago. On the right of the picture is part of the old Halifax Gas Works and on the left is the mill of Riding Hall Carpets. The railway viaduct in the mid-distance carries the line that ran from Halifax via Queensbury to Bradford. The church spire is that of Square Church – the church itself was later destroyed by fire although the spire was saved.

Around 1969 I worked for a time at the carpet mill on the left of the photograph as a warehouse labourer. The mill was built up against Beacon Hill and the road climbed around the building like a slide on a shelter-skelter ride. I may have taken this photograph whilst I was working at the mill, but I suspect it is a year or two earlier.

2015.04W.3Other than the spire of Square Church, most of the buildings that can be seen in my original photograph have now long gone. Trees have recolonised some of the site and a Matalan hypermarket stands where my carpet mill used to be. In addition to the change in the actual buildings themselves, the whole scale of the scene seems to have changed. Then such space at the industrial heart of a busy manufacturing town was precious – space to be used, space to be built upon. Today it is almost an afterthought – too hilly for a car-park, too bleak for a call centre.

I must not fall into the trap of blinkered nostalgia: life even fifty years ago was dirty, boring and often short. But the towns looked better, looked more purposeful: there was a sooty pride about them which seemed to say – “here’s where it’s made”.

What The Papers Said : Memories Of A Poor Wife And A Bacon Sandwich

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Halifax Courier : Saturday 4th April 1868


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One cannot help wondering whether Professor Stokes was able to deliver his lecture without notes. He would claim that he could teach his system of memory enhancement in less than three hours and it was all based on his golden rule for memory which was “observe, reflect, link thought with thought and think of the impressions” He would give his students sentences to memorise – here is the one from Exercise 38 : “My memory men may memorise my matchless mouth martyrdomising memory medley”. Which reminds me of something I once read in a book …. but unfortunately I have forgotten what it was.


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I do know how Mr J G Lee feels. The Good Lady Wife has just set out for the shops in Huddersfield – so I am tempted to issue my own public announcement in a similar vein. However, before we attach too much blame to the poor Mrs Lee we should remember that 1868 was 14 years before the Married Woman’s Property Act came into force and at this time married women were not able to own property in their own right. She would have to use Mr Lee’s credit card as she was not allowed one herself.


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A legal case with a convoluted plot of Morsian complexity. I still can’t quite work out who gave who what – but it appears that a watch changed hands in exchange for a pig. The complaint seems to be that the pig died immediately after it was handed over but given the fact that the chap it was given to was a butcher in Sowerby, this is hardly surprising. The judge awarded the plaintiff £1-7-6d in compensation and in return took delivery of some belly pork, a pair of pork chops and a pound of streaky bacon.

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