Well, there you go – doesn’t three months go quickly when you have nothing better to do than produce your own daily calendar. When I started the project, I thought it might last a week or two – a month at the most, but now I am surrounded by calendar pages, and I have posted one to my blog every day since the beginning of the year. But now the sky is blue, the lockdown is easing and life pops its head around the corner to remind you its there. I will keep on producing the daily calendars, for the next week or two at least, but I will abandon the daily posts and get a life.
Monthly Archives: March 2021
My room is packed from floor to ceiling with boxes full of old photos, old newspapers, old writings and old memories. Occasionally I randomly dip into a box and scan what emerges. Today it is a copy of the New Penny Magazine from – as far as I can make out – about 1898. It contains an article entitled “Little Housewives” which could form the basis of a PhD thesis on gender stereotyping at the turn of the twentieth century. Here is but a short extract:-
LITTLE HOUSEWIVES : A Visit To A Housewifery Centre. The frying-pan rules the world, or rather those who wield that powerful weapon do so; or to put it in a more matter-of-fact way, the happiness of man depends in great part upon the skill or otherwise of those who manage the household; or to come really to the point, a good housewife is a boon and a blessing to the man who is lucky enough to win her for his mate.
Bearing this weighty fact in mind, I turned my steps one afternoon towards Walworth, S.E. or, to be precise, I went down there by train, and found myself first in Beresford Street, then in a school-yard, full of merry maidens of immature age, who looked on me, I have no doubt, as a strange thing strayed from another world, for what business had a man there? Before me stood a small house, at whose door I timidly knocked, I entered to find myself in a neat kitchen, on the left I saw an equally neat scullery, on the right a cool-looking tidy sitting room. I was in the “housewifery centre”, which I had come to see, where I had heard that girls were initiated into the mysteries of house-keeping.
COOKERY AND DOMESTIC ECONOMYLESSON IX : Theory – (a) Eggs; their chief constituents. (b) How to test and preserve them. Demonstration – Poaching an egg. Custard pudding. Boiled batter pudding. Class Practice – In above and boiling an egg. Principle Taught – Dietary value of eggs, various methods of using and cooking them.
DOMESTIC ECONOMY AND LAUNRY WORKLESSON IV : Theory – The process of washing, rinsing and blueing clothes. Blue and whence obtained. Demonstration – Washing “fine things”, rinsing and blueing.
It will form a suitable calendar photo for today, and perhaps remind me, not only how to boil an egg, but of the importance of social change.
I have always had a fondness for old photographs, and I am lucky to have lived long enough for my new photos to have become, themselves, examples of the genre. The emergence of Facebook local history groups has changed the nature of pictorial history, moving it from the arena of relatively obscure printed books and pamphlets into a far more public realm. As with all changes, there are good and bad consequences, the enumeration of which is best reserved for a quiet night over a pint or two in a local pub. Two definite advantages, however, are the increase in the number of old photographs of local interest being published and shared, and the improvements in tracking down forgotten locations. My featured photograph today was taken over fifty years ago. From the adjacent shots on the negative strip, I know I must have taken it somewhere in the Brighouse area, but where? I will post it today on a couple of the local Brighouse history groups and, no doubt, by the end of the day I will have a precise location, the name of the chap crossing the road, and the ownership of the washing hanging on the line.
The Theakston family have a long tradition of brewing in the North Yorkshire town of Masham, the original brewery having been founded getting on for two hundred years ago. I have a long tradition of taking photographs of pubs and breweries, these photographs of the Masham brewery and the nearby White Bear Hotel, were taken getting on for fifty years ago. You can’t beat tradition.
This image of Queensbury, a village high on the hills between Bradford and Halifax, was the result of a whisky-fuelled Photoshop accident. Somehow, it has captured the very essence of the place. Based on the evidence of the well-drained bottle on my desk this morning, the whisky concerned was Cardhu Gold Reserve. I would like to compliment it on its artistic powers.
In the midst of busy family photographs, you sometimes find a special moment: a look, a touch, a smile that can scream down the generations and remind you that the great thing about common humanity is that it is common to all.
This photograph was taken shortly after my brother, Roger, was born in 1943. He was the first of a new generation in the family and his arrival provided an opportunity for all the grandparents and uncles and aunts to gather together. I won’t name them all, they are of limited interest to those outside the family,
Focus, however on the lady with her arm in a sling – it is my grandmother, Harriet-Ellen Burnett. And focus, in particular, on that look – a look almost dangerously overloaded with pride and hope. I know the look well – I saw my grandchildren this morning.
Whilst on a walk yesterday, I got to thinking about all the things I have missed over this last lockdown year. There are, of course, family and friends, holidays in the sun, meals out and parties at home. And there is the pub: that depot of contented neutrality, that refuge from the outside world; that reading room, that meeting space, that home from home. I miss your beery smells, your casual choice of pointless chatter or drinking peace. Soon, my friend, soon, I will return.
We had a computer when I was at university. When I say “we”, I mean the university had a computer. Just the one. An enormous mainframe job which had a building to itself. If you were lucky you might get to use it once in your university career. When I say “you” would get to use it, I mean someone would use it on your behalf; normal folk weren’t let within an airlock of it. You could ask it to do things: not fun things like play space invaders or send messages to the other side of the world, but process data, calculate stuff, find patterns in numbers. Communications with the computer were by way of punched cards: bits of cardboard with holes punched in them. Once your data had been transferred to punched cards, fed into the computer and the results had eventually emerged from the other end of the machine you were given your bundle of punched cards to keep. They made good book marks. And then 51 years later, as you were sorting out some old books, one would drop out and history would hit you with a punch.
This photograph of mine of Brighouse from fifty or more years ago has always been one of my favourites, and for years I have assume that it was taken from River Street, looking west towards the town. Stuck in the fag-end of lockdown, I have little better to do with my time these days but to go through these old photos of mine, adding a sprinkling of colour here and there, and endlessly re-sorting them into virtual boxes. Which is how, yesterday, for the first time in almost 55 years, I realised that I can’t have taken this from River Street as the Brighouse flour mill would have been the other way around. I immediately went into full exploration mode, dived into Google Street View, and eventually tracked down the one remaining building in this photograph. And it turns out that I was not in River Street looking west, but in Bank Street looking east! The self-satisfied glow of achievement radiated from me for hours …. and then I realised what a sad, lockdown life I am beginning to lead.