Is it just age that makes you far more susceptible to time travel? Sometimes it can be a word like advocaat, sometimes a pattern like the geometric madness of 1960s wallpapers; most times it is an image.
These two photographs were taken at a Christmas Party at my parent’s house, sometime around 1965. They are full of memories, and by themselves could provide a rich itinerary for a week’s worth of time travel. The table with the Christmas drinks – it was always a bottle of advocaat, a small bottle of Babycham, and a bottle of sweet sherry. There may have been some port left over from a previous Christmas, but I can’t recall there ever having been beer, and wine was unheard of. There is that wallpaper which is guilty of assault and battery on the senses, and the posed expressions on the faces of my aunts and uncles. There was a dish of biscuits – maybe even a chocolate one – an artificial tree and a warm sausage roll or two. It was a moment or two in time, captured within the cardboard confines of a colour slide. Now it is a rich vein of memories.
A photograph of mine of Halifax in the early 1960s. The Town Hall was still soot-encrusted, the cars parked outside the White Swan Hotel had an over-abundance of chrome, and Pohlmann’s still sold pianos.
Sheffield is built on hills and therefore back yards are often more like back cliff faces. This was the back yard of the house we lived in forty years ago: big enough for a dustbin and a pushbike. Washing hung like kites, getting ready to launch once a decent breeze got up, destined for the skies over distant Rotherham.
It seems so strange to see a Latin gravestone. Perhaps in Westminster Abbey or some don-filled university necropolis; but in the churchyard at Coley, within soot-falling distance of an old mill. And so beautifully carved; as though the beauty of the carving could somehow disguise the horror of a death too early. Moss now grows in the crevices, taking the edge off tragedy.
When you add colour to an old photograph – or rather when some artificial intelligence source sat high in cyberspace adds colour to an old photograph – you tend to notice things more. This is an old photo of my mother and my grandfather which must date from either the 1930s or the 1940s – but which? The addition of colour makes her dress quite distinctive, and potentially more useful in dating the photograph. My wife – who knows about such things – tells me it is 1950s, but that can’t be the case, unless the same artificial intelligence has brought my grandfather back from the dead. Before seeing the colourised version of the photo, I had assumed that it was the early 1930s, but now I am beginning to think that was too early. The logical conclusion is the period around World War 2, but I tend to think of the clothing of that period as somewhat drab and uncolourful. Could the photographer – possibly my father – have captured a moment towards the end of the decade when the colours were about to go out all over Europe?
For 130 years it has looked down on Southgate, Halifax from above where the Boars Head Hotel used to be. I remember it smiling down from above the then Berni Inn: stone features set like well roasted crackling. These days it greets folk coming to mobile phone shops and greeting card emporiums – or it did until the lockdown came. Who knows what it has made of the quiet streets and the masked pedestrians, but next week it can begin to welcome people back to shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants. Slowly at first, just a few, outside and fully masked: but before too long, as many as are in the feast.
We took a walk down by Elland Bridge yesterday and saw the strangest thing. The old Halifax Zoo used to be just up the hill from here, and stories abound of escaped animals wandering through Elland Woods. We all know of the famous meandering bear …. but a dinosaur!!