What a wonderful invention: a machine that takes your photograph and weighs you at the same time. And even better – it prints the resulting weight on the photograph so that you have something to remind you of that day you had an extra large portion of fish and chips, not to mention the knickerbocker glory. And if that isn’t enough, you can have the whole experienced enlarged for an extra three pence. There can only be one thing better: get you nephew to scan the photograph eighty two years later and put it on the internet for all the world to see.
The photograph shows Miriam Burnett with her then fiancé (later husband), Frank Fieldhouse. When this photograph was taken in 1936, they were only a few years into their twelve year engagement.
This signed photograph of Nita Croft turned up during the garage clearance. It was something of a surprise to realise that the lovely Nita had been sitting in my garage for twenty-five years without me realising it. Born in 1902, Nita Pycroft shortened her name and took to the stage, upon which she enjoyed a lengthy career as a singer, actress and dancer. Her fortune peaked in the 1930s when she had a hit with the song “When It’s Sunset On The Nile” Nita died in 1987, aged 85: – a few years before taking up residence in our garage.
My life continues to be dominated by the Herculean task of clearing the garage of thirty years of accumulated rubbish, so that a new door can be installed in ten days time. I have managed to dispose of a library’s worth of books, a china shop’s worth of cups and saucers, and enough old files, forms and facsimiles to keep a bureaucrat happy for months. A big part of the problem is that I find so many of the things I am supposed to put into rubbish sacks or charity bags fascinating, and so I attempt to rescue them from the shredder, and share them with all those other people who find 1931 adverts for Armstrong Siddeley cars equally enthralling. And that, of course, means you.
If you spend your life digging in the genealogical allotments of ephemera, you learn to welcome an unusual name. You can keep your “John Smiths” and your “Tom Browns” : give me a “Roderick Trencheon-Philpotts” any day. Or, more specifically, give me a Booth Denton – which is the name pencilled-in on the reverse of this Victorian Cabinet Card. I bought it because it comes from a local Huddersfield studio (Sellman & Co), and because it features a beard you ignore at your peril. A little spade work reveals that Booth Denton was a grocer from Mirfield (a few miles to the east of where I live) who was born in 1831 and died in 1894. He not only weighed out the tea, and parcelled up the cheddar cheese, he was also a bit of a pillar of the local community, who sought election to the local Board of Guardians on at least one occasion. He looks a formidable character – you wouldn’t be too keen on going back to the shop to complain that your butter had gone rancid, or your flour had mouse droppings in it.
The great garage clear-out brought to light a crumbling old copy of the Halifax Courier and Guardian dated the 4th February 1922. The big news of the day was not the economic and political crisis that Britain was going through, nor was it the developing Irish Civil War: it was the delivery of a new motor hearse to the Halifax undertakers, Messrs J Marsh & Co.
Life seems to be getting in the way of blogging again. If it is not clearing out my various back passages it is helping my son and his wife prepare for moving house later this month. My life seems to flash by in a series of images, so the least I can do is to share them.
The first is a scan of a playing card from the early part of last century – part of a set that was kindly given to me. I dedicate this particular image to my moving children and all their colleagues who somehow manage to care for patients, their own families and move house – all at the same time.
The need to initiate a second series of “Excavations Up My Back Passage” has been brought about by the impending arrival of a new garage door. In order to install it, the garage needs clearing of a twenty year accumulation of rubbish – an extension of the accumulation that already fills the back passage running behind the bedrooms. So once again our intrepid blogger goes into domestic archaeological mode …. and his first find is something rather special.
Hidden within a cardboard box containing a set of unused Filofax Diary pages from 1998, I came across a white envelope containing five Polaroid photographs. They appeared to be a set of graphic photographs of an operation – in one of them a scalpel is clearly visible. I didn’t take me long to realise that I was, in fact, looking at my own brain. The photographs date from the Spring of 1998 when I underwent surgery to have my cochlear implant fitted – the device that miraculously allowed me to hear again! I now remember the surgeon giving me the photographs after the operation – both to illustrate what he had been able to do and to assure me that, indeed, I did actually have a brain. In the illustration above, the wire can be seen that takes the electronic signal from the receiver – that is bolted in there somewhere – to the hearing nerve fibres and onwards deep into my brain. It was a remarkable piece of surgery and a remarkable piece of bio-engineering. Twenty years later, the system is still in place and working just fine; and allowing me to hear the clicking of the computer keyboard as I type this post.