I’ve never been much good at twiddling with the controls on my camera. I even joined a photography course recently, in an effort to get to grips with apertures, shutter speeds and ISO controls. But it just made my head hurt, and I reverted to ‘Automatic’ as my default modus operandi. I decided I’m a snaphot-ist, not a photographer.
Yesterday however, just for a bit of fun, and having an hour to spare, I turned to the ‘palette’ settings and took an identical shot using every single one. Though I forgot to take one on ‘Automatic’, so the tale isn’t quite complete. Can’t do it now. This little twig of blossom (cherry?), a chance discovery found in the road, wilted in the night.
Which do you like best? As ever, click on any image to see it full size. They’re in strict alphabetical order – no favouritism here.
Three posts in three days. That’s a bit much. But I’ve pushed out all my last thoughts before taking a blogging break. I just might post the odd thing – such as Six Degrees of Separation at the start of next month – but so total will be my break that – sorry – I may not even read your offerings, fellow bloggers.
Last week the visit to my London primary school way back sixty years ago seemed to go down quite well, so today for Fandango’s Flashback Friday, we’ll go back to that era again, to the post I wrote in 2016. But this time, we’ll go shopping.
Off to the shops
In 1953, my family moved from Yorkshire to London. At first we lived in Earl’s Court. In the years following WWII, it was where Polish immigrants congregated and lived, so that’s probably how we ended up in this busy, grubby, cosmopolitan area.
It had shops – exotic shops to country hicks like us. There was an Express Dairy, a supermarket, one of the earliest of its kind. Rummaging round on the shelves, my mother found unknown surprises such as yoghurt. It was thin, acidic, an improbable shade of pink and none of us liked it. Not even my father. Yet my father taught my mother to set out soup bowls of milk to sour and eat as a cold, refreshing soup. It was a part of his Polish heritage.
She found chinese gooseberries. We didn’t like those either. These days we call them kiwi fruit and realise the ones we had bought must have been rancid and fermenting.
Now let’s go on to Tachbrook Street Market. That’s where we mainly shopped, once we’d moved to Victoria. I loved it. It was a whole community of shopping streets and market stalls. Even though I didn’t then drink coffee, I loved to pass the coffee blenders’ shop, and smell the rich aromas drifting through the door as the coffee beans gently roasted and toasted on giant metal grates.
I remember the neighbourhood Italian restaurant. We didn’t have the money to eat there, but I could see through the window and watch as waiters wielded those giant pepper grinders they seemed to like so much.
We’d pass the neighbourhood grocery store – ‘Home and Colonial’ . I seem to remember we actually got our groceries in Sainsbury’s. There was a Tesco store, a very early example of a supermarket. We didn’t shop there (‘Supermarkets won’t catch on’ opined my mother).
There was a MacFisheries. I was fascinated by the glistening fish laid out on the marble counters of the open shopfront and watched as my mother’s choice for the day was expertly de-boned and filleted in seconds.
There were fruit and vegetable stalls. I loved to hoard the richly decorated tissue papers that protected each orange, each tangerine. Occasionally, in late summer, my mother would buy us a peach each, as an exotic treat.
Once I got to be about eight or so, I’d be sent off to Apple’s the Hardware Store to buy a gallon of paraffin (Aladdin pink, as opposed to Esso blue) to feed our paraffin heaters. There was Mr. Apple himself, with his bristly grey moustache and his grubby brown overalls. The paraffin glugged out of its storage tank into our can. I’d count out the money, then I’d struggle home, the heavy can banging against my shins, the contents splashing my socks, along the street, and across the busy Vauxhall Bridge Road.
Because my father was Polish, we did quite a bit of shopping at the delicatessen near Buckingham Palace Road.
Here were thin sticks of kabanos, the drier the better. Nobody but me ate this at school, and my friends assured me it was donkey meat. There was Polish boiling ring – a horseshoe shaped sausage that was my favourite meal, boiled and served simply with mashed potato and cabbage. Sauerkraut of course, and bigos. The plain cookery of 1950s Britain was largely unknown to me apart from school dinners, but that’s a whole other story.
Besides Polish foods, we’d often have pasta or risotto or wienerschnitzel. Oh – apart from two things. On Saturdays, my mother always bought a pint of brown shrimps from the above-mentioned MacFisheries. Saturday tea times would see us all sitting round the table with a pile of brown bread and butter, peeling those fiddly shrimps. And she was very partial to a kipper too.
I can’t leave out ordinary grocery shopping though. We went to Sainsbury’s in Victoria because it had fresher, better goods according to my mother. It wasn’t a supermarket. We’d go into the shop, with its brightly-tiled floor, and there, to left and right were the counters. Dry goods, dairy products, bacon and ham… and so on.
Young women, their hair concealed under net caps, skilfully wielded wooden butter pats to reduce great slabs of butter into manageable half-pound portions.. Others bagged up sugar into dark blue ‘sugar paper’ bags. There was always a man at the bacon slicer, turning a lethal looking metal disc to slice bacon and ham according to the customer’s particular requirements (Thin? Thick? Gammon rasher?) .
There were glass-topped tins of biscuits – digestives, custard creams, Lincolns, nice, arrowroot…..: these were sold loose. People on a restricted budget would choose a mixed bag of broken ones. My mother regarded all of these with disdain. We made our own.
And when it was time to pay, we’d find that all our receipts, from each counter we’d visited, would have arrived at a small wooden kiosk near the centre of the store. An efficient type would add it all up, we’d pay her ( it was always a ‘her’) and we’d go off with our groceries.
The scenes played out here are so clear in my mind, but I can’t find a single image to support them. Not one. Can anybody help?
One thing we never had to buy at the shops was milk. That was delivered, every single day including Christmas Day, in glass bottles which we rinsed out and returned, on an electric-powered milk float something like this….
I remember our shopping trips fondly. They were time-consuming, certainly. But the rich variety of a morning walking from shop to stall to shop again was quite a highlight in my week.
I have another blog, now more or less discontinued, called Notes on a Family. I wasn’t so much concerned about a wide audience, as about recalling my family and personal history for my children. It’s one of my regrets that I never talked enough to my parents about their own past. To my Polish father, who came over, like so many of his countrymen, during the war. To my mother: a clergyman’s daughter. He himself was Cambridge educated, despite being raised in poverty in a large family. Why did I never ask her how that came about? I was born in Yorkshire, but spent most of my childhood in London. All of these stories are told in my blog, and others too.. Here’s one from 22nd May 2016, for Fandango’s Flashback Friday.
ANOTHER YEAR, ANOTHER SCHOOL
A few posts ago, I told you about my first London school. It became pretty obvious to my parents that it simply would not do. But still … I was a Bulge Baby, born, like so many thousands of others, shortly after World War II ended. There was still enormous pressure on school places. My mother had found a good job teaching classics at Mayfield School, a Girls’ Grammar School in Putney, so really needed a place for me in a Putney school, so we could travel to and from school together.
There were no places.
Finally, they found somewhere. It wasn’t a state primary, though, but a tiny, old-fashioned private school, Ebley House School. Even for the time, its fees were modest.
It was a funny old place, run from a church hall, because its original premises had been bombed during the war.. The head, Miss Egleton seemed a rather frail old lady, with wispy hair gathered into a skimpy bun. The only other teacher I remember was Mrs. Coate-Bond, whom my mother thought rather racy, as she read the left-leaning Manchester Guardian.
The ‘babies’ or kindergarten class, were in the vestry, and the rest of us were divided into two groups, Lower Transition and Upper Transition, and worked at opposite ends of the hall. Once I passed the 11+ and got to grammar school, I realised what an old-fashioned seat of learning it was compared with the lively places my new friends had been to. I remember some of the lessons:
We copied line after line of this stuff, with scratchy steel dip-pens which at the least provocation spattered unwashable ink onto our books and over our cardigans.
PE: We didn’t change out of our ordinary clothes, but stood just as in this picture here, doing star jumps, running on the spot and similar. No games pitches, therefore no outdoor games.
Monday mornings after break were worst. The boys went off to …. hang on, I have no idea what the boys did. The girls did embroidery. Tray cloths. Every single week. We gossiped instead, of course. It took weeks and weeks to complete a cloth. At the end of every class, we’d line up and show what we’d done that week. It was always a total exaggeration. The only times we were compelled to put a bit of effort in was on those rare occasions when we had to start a new cloth off, and we really couldn’t pull a fast one about our achievements. Like every girl in the school, I loathed Monday mornings. It put me off sewing for life.
Most of the other lessons were reasonably conventional for the time. I enjoyed English, spelling, maths, singing, and scripture (though I wondered for years why a good man like Jesus would promise to make his disciples ‘vicious of men’). At play time, my earnest little friends and I wrote, illustrated and put together magazines with an extremely limited readership ( just us, I think). In my final term, I wrote a dashing tale in which boarding school chums (modelled closely on the girls in Angela Brazil‘s school stories) got the better of a dastardly burglar. It was performed at the school prize-giving.
In the morning, I travelled to Putney with my mother, and at the end of the school day, walked over to Mayfield to return home with her. When I was eight, though, she got another job teaching Classics at Fulham County School. By then we were living in Victoria. So every day I walked to the station, crossing two busy main roads. I caught the Tube, the District Line to East Putney, sometimes changing at Earl’s Court.
Then there were two more busy main roads to navigate. I was a nervous little thing, but it never occurred to me to be frightened of this journey, which is not one the average eight year old would do alone these days, I think.
It wasn’t a stunningly exciting education. But I was happy enough. Apart from the time when I missed almost a whole term because I was in Isolation Hospital. But that’s another story.
Since the Yorkshire Dales – or other popular destinations – are understandably still not keen on receiving hordes of visitors, we’ll have another Virtual Walk, and revisit a post written in May 2014, shortly after we returned to England.It’s for Fandango’s Flashback Friday, and for Jo’s Monday walk.
ANOTHER DAY IN THE DALES
Burnsall – Howgill – Middle Skyrehome – Gill’s Laithe – Troller’s Gill – Appletreewick (often pronounced Aptrick locally) – Kail Lane – and Burnsall again
What’s not to like in a walk that passes through places with such enticing names? It was Rosemary who led the Ripon Ramblers yesterday and she’d organised not only a splendid walk with varied Dales scenery, but a warm sunny day too. Here are my picture postcards from the day. Click on the images you’d like to see enlarged, or to have a slideshow.
We’re less than a week into the month of May. Let’s mark the arrival of this lovely month by celebrating Beltane.
BELTANE AT THE ‘STONEHENGE OF THE NORTH’
May 1st 2016
Not much further than a mile from us as the crow flies, lies Thornborough Henge. It’s a prehistoric monument consisting of three giant circular earthworks. Constructed 5000 years ago by the first Neolithic (New Stone Age) farmers, it was probably an enclosure for their ritual gatherings. The Henge became an important centre in Britain for pilgrimage and trade, although its exact purpose still remains a mystery.
It sends shivers down my spine to think that this ancient piece of our history lies just a short walk from our home.
We can visit it any time we choose, simply to tramp round and try to imagine it in its heyday, and we’ll have the place to ourselves. Not on May Day though. Today is the Gaelic feast of Beltane, half way between the spring and summer solstices. It’s a day to mark the beginning of summer. Sadly, today is very cold, rather windy and a bit wet.
Back in pre-historic times, rituals were held on this day to protect the cattle, crops and people, and to encourage growth. Bonfires, deemed to have protective powers, were lit. For many centuries these practices died out. But nowadays, at sites like Thornborough, pagans, Wiccans, New-Agers and lovers of history and tradition gather once more to celebrate the renewal of life and growth.
Today I was there too. For an hour at least, for the opening ceremony. Brrr! It was cold.
I was strangely moved. The Green Man, representing rebirth and the cycle of growth was our Master of Ceremonies. He invited us all to join hands, whether friends or strangers, in fellowship, and shout out three times the invocation to new life. We hailed Brigantia, Celtic goddess of Northern England. Then at his bidding and as he sounded his horn, we turned to the east and welcomed the summer rains. We turned south to welcome the sun (who was coyly absent today), to the west to welcome summer winds, and to the north where the wolves apparently are.
Then a man, naked from the waist upwards save for his covering of woad-coloured paint, leapt among us bearing the flaming torches which would offer us all protection over the coming months.
And that was the ceremony over. Dancers entertained us. They seemed to me to owe much to flamenco and to middle-eastern belly dancing traditions, but we all cheered them on with enthusiasm.
I shan’t be there this year for the closing ceremony. I’m still thawing out. But weather permitting, I’ll certainly go along next year. Will you come along too?
I’m sorry to say I’ve not been since. I would have gone this year, but … cancelled … Covid.
We’re going back eleven years today: not to Malcolm’s actual birthday, which is In The Bleak Midwinter, but to an April day when we were still living in the foothills of the Pyrenees, and when a bunch of amateurs – the friends and family of Malcolm – formed an impromptu production company to deliver, for one day only – Malcolm and the Microlight – to celebrate his birthday.
Shot on location in the Ariège by Jacques, Malcolm & Margaret.
A Lawrenson-Hamilton-Clift Production MMX
‘Curiously, I had no feelings of fear or apprehension, perhaps because of what our friends had told us about Jacques, the pilot, and his machine – it’s his pride and joy, and he takes great care of it.
There was a sharp feeling of exposure after take-off – we were not in a cabin, there was no protection from wind, we were just vulnerable beings in a powered shell under a giant wing – it reminded me of riding pillion on a motorbike, but this was in the air.
The various destinations came up quickly – not like travelling on the ground, even though our speed was only about 80-85 kph.
Over the mountain peaks, it was very cold – temperature had fallen from 13 or so on take-off to minus 1 over the snowfields and the flat white surfaces of isolated frozen lakes were still clearly to be seen. And suddenly, directly underneath, a herd of Pyrenean chamois, running and leaping, disturbed by the engine’s sudden sound in their snow-quiet world
A few minutes more and we were at 2600 metres, when the mountains seemed so empty and cold, even in the lovely morning sunlight. We could see long distances in the clear air at this altitude – 200 km away, we could see the Pic du Midi
The warmth after we left the mountains behind and lost altitude was welcome, and I could concentrate on the views of walks we had previously done, and which had sometimes seemed long and meandering, but were now clearly visible with their beginnings and ends.
Then back to the field and the short grass runway. As we flew over, I could see Margaret far below, waving. Then it was down, very smoothly, and a turn, and back to rest. What an experience! And how kind of my family to make this possible.‘
If you’re from the UK, you’ll recognise the person in my featured photo. It’s Clare Balding, presenter of sports programmes, stories featuring animals, and as far as I’m concerned, BBC Radio 4’s Ramblings, and today, my One Person from Around the World. I’ve been lucky enough to be in two of Clare’s programmes, walking with her first on the route of the Jarrow March, and then, exactly four years ago, on the Nidderdale Way. Let’s revisit my post from that day, especially for Fandango’s Flashback Friday. There are even four Bright Squares. I’m multi-tasking today.
And lo! Now they have a six-programme series in the bag, waiting to be transmitted in May and June, on …… the Nidderdale Way, all 53 miles of it. She invited me to be part of the last leg, together with my friends Chris and John.
Let me tell you how it works. We walk. We chat. Lucy walks beside us with her muff-on-a-stick, recording little and often. Clare stops from time to time and paints evocative word pictures of the scenery, the sights, smells and sounds, the passers by. She chats to us about everything from geology, to history, to walking, to long-lost industries, to living near Nidderdale.
We see our local landscape through fresh eyes. Instead of its being the backdrop to our daily lives, it becomes vivid again, and we remember the wonder and the intense pleasure we experienced when it was new to us too.
Clare loves people. At Brimham Rocks, where we insisted she take a detour, she chatted to children with their families and took part in their photos. Later, she hung over a drystone wall and talked to a farmer. She patted dogs and enjoyed a few moments with their owners.
Just as well she’s good at this sort of thing. When we arrived at Pateley Bridge, she became a sort of stand-in for the Queen. She was whisked from shop to shop, always leaving with a little local speciality -a pork pie, some home-made fudge. With Lucy, she was given a newly-minted badge for completing the entire Nidderdale Way. They got flowers, a book by a local historian, hugs and handshakes galore, and repaid all this attention with genuine interest and friendship. Pateley Bridge by the way is in the thick of preparing for the Tour de Yorkshire 2017, which goes through the town – and past our front door – on Saturday 29th April.
Please listen to this series when it comes out: it’s available as a podcast even if you don’t live in the UK. The first programme will be on BBC Radio 4 on 18th May, and the programme featuring our team will be transmitted on Thursday 22nd June. You’ll make immediate plans for a holiday in Nidderdale after you’ve listened.