Connections and digressions

Feb 1963. Snowy Yew Trees Avenue
Not again! April 1963

I posted these two pictures in a Facebook Group, Calderdale Then and Now, as I had spotted someone else’s similar post about the bad winter of 1962-3. We had returned from Nigeria for good (or so my parents thought) in early February of that year, rather to my shock and disgruntlement. My first conscious experience of snow on the trip back from Kano was in Switzerland. It was raining when we arrived and for the train trip to our destination at Ouchy, Lake Geneva. I pretty much accused my parents of breaching the trades description act, as they’d promised me snow, and went to bed in our slightly unusual accommodation of a church retirement home (a story for another time!) in high dudgeon, low spirits and a flurry of oversized feathery duvet.

The next morning I awoke to two whiteouts, the first being the huge duvet! Pushing this aside, I looked at the bright window and ran to see… thick snow! I dressed quickly in what turned out to be totally inadequate clothing for a European winter, as I rapidly discovered, and shot outside with my (less exuberant) parents. My first dash through pristine snow was a delight, leaving footprint devastation in my wake, but was rapidly curtailed as the snow made its presence known. I retreated rather grumpily indoors with my parents, who embarked on a mission later that day to fortify my apparel!

Once back in Yorkshire, we faced the tail end of this rather brutal winter in Northowram, which isn’t the most sheltered of spots. The first image shows me sitting on a neighbour’s wall (the Hardies’), and it’s odds-on that I am whingeing about the cold! The second photo is of the back garden, which backed on to houses in Newlands, and I swear I can hear the anguished cry of ‘Oh, no, not snow again!’ from my parents almost 60 years later.

Having posted the pictures and brief commentary, I had a few welcome responses fairly quickly, including some from people whose relatives or friends had lived in the street. I am not sure I recall Mr Whiteley’s Auntie Peggy and Uncle Cyril, who apparently lived in a bungalow there for a time, with their Border terrier Trevor. I would probably have known them as Mr & Mrs… I do recall a Mr & Mrs Baxendale in a bungalow nearby, but mainly because I was always scared silly of asking them for permission to retrieve stray tennis balls from French cricket games in the street!

Though intangible, these little connections do warm the heart, particularly after 2 years of pandemic limitations, and underline the importance of feeling a shared past with someone and having someone who understands your shared context. I have come in latter years to realise how people become reconciled to shuffling off this mortal coil as, more and more, one finds oneself the only one with specific memories. The sharing of experiences and connections very much feeds our souls, and once those connections have gone, the ties that bind seem to loosen.

Back to the little tale. Within a day, however, a closer connection emerged, with a response from a Mr Shaw, who said that he and his wife had lived in our house while we were in Nigeria, having married in September 1962 and living there while waiting for a new build house to be ready! It turns out their new house was also just down the road from one of my great-aunts, off Moor End Road in Halifax – so the Shaws went from the opposite of the frying-pan into the fire, I think, from a high and chilly Northowram to an even more exposed moortop! We must also have passed them many a time when visiting my aunt.

Being only 7 or so at the time, I have no recollection of any house arrangements while we were away, and it only struck me at this point that I assume that my parents had probably also rented the house out previously, and that I didn’t even actually know for certain when we got the house. There’s another little challenge for me to sort. I should get on with other things, but can never resist a puzzle.

Oh, and if this makes any connections for you, do get in touch!

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March 1953 – with the Jenkins to Bassa

This extract from the family album has perplexed me. Dad’s captions speak of ‘down the Miango road’ going to a village, Bassa. However, Bassa town, which I had assumed it meant, is in the other direction from Jos, and even in 1953 would, I think, have been rather bigger! I wondered if dad had noted Bassa as the region, and then mistaken it when later compiling the album, and this is the explanation I’ve plumped for. I also wondered if it was Miango itself, where I recall being taken by my parents in the early 60s, but suspect that was a bit bigger, too, though I may stand corrected if anyone out there can confirm?

Wherever it is, it’s a very tidy village, looking at that layout, with great examples of traditional mud-built houses with thatched roofs.

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Easter 1953 – A Visit to Toro

This gallery contains 10 photos.

David Dobson was PEO (Provincial Education Officer) based in Jos but with responsibilities around the Plateau region. From the next pages in the family album, it seems those duties included visiting Toro, where there was a school and a Teacher … Continue reading

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10/9/1952 – 3/6/1953 – First posting to Jos

This gallery contains 14 photos.

10 St. Patrick’s Avenue, Jos. PEO’s House My mother and father, Jean and David Dobson, went to Nigeria a couple of years after they married in 1950; quite a contrast from industrial West Yorkshire. They lived with David’s mother, Flossie, … Continue reading

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I had totally forgotten this feeble attempt to transcribe (in an early look at Noteflight) the chorus of a song my paternal grandma used to sing to me as a small child. I only rediscovered it when I clicked on a guest post link in a forum to see the music… only to find it was my own Noteflight account! I don’t recall actually hearing any verses but have found this set of lyrics (below) online.

I seem to recall singing ‘Over the city and fields and mountains’ – though it doesn’t rhyme with hill, perhaps a reflection of our Pennine surroundings!

I have tried to find a recorded version and sheet music without success, most recently checking with USA sources as new media come into the public domain, but a bit of further research suggests an origin around 1928, so a few years to wait yet.


Shadows are falling and daylight is past;
Beautiful evening is with us at last;
All the wide heavens with silver are dressed;
Night winds are kissing the flowers to rest.

Forest leaves rustle in quivering light;
Sing, all ye nightingales, lo it is night;
Sing to our Father your praises on high–
Praise for His beautiful moon in the sky.

Moon, moon, beautiful moon!
Rising, rising, rising still
Over the city and field and hill,
And creeping, and peeping,

Where children are sleeping.
Moon, beautiful moon.

Verse by Theodora Wilson Wilson – pacifist and novelist who had a book banned – check her out!

This is the source of the version I quote here.

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The January Challenge 2022

Well, a week or so late and a bob short – the story of my creative life! I finally sorted the last few daily challenges a few days ago, albeit not always as intended, and logged them in the little notebook I had decided to use for the record this year. (That was a kit from West Yorkshire Archive Services which I enjoyed making up in an online workshop and I thought this would be a good use for it.)

I did add each day’s task electronically to the Challenge Facebook Group, too, so it was a bit of a cumbersome process, and partly why I was late finishing. The end of January has a cluster of family birthdays too, so real life tends to interfere!

Just to mark the completion, I thought I’d post a quick pic of the notebook plus a random mixed bag of examples. It was fun to do, as ever, but I’ve still not found reliable mojo again yet. I hope, as we emerge from winter to spring and from the worst of the pandemic, that said mojo will pop up a bit more frequently and more ready to set to work!

The finished booklet!
Day 7 – Ode to Access
Pudmuddle 3, Day 8
Day 13 Word recycling – recycled random email headers from the inbox.
Day 15 – a permanent state
Tiny landscape collage – Day 24
Day 25 – 3D collage (recycling Christmas cards)
5 a Day – Day 26
Into Another World
Well, that’s what I set out to do but my choice(s) meandered into the ‘fabric’ of my childhood topic in a way!
I have many favourite pieces of music, so always find it impossible to choose. I think the fabric task set me thinking about childhood so I settled on listening to a piano piece my mother used to play, Rustle of Spring by Sinding, as there were cheering signs of spring on our short walk today.
That sent me off into a somewhat nostalgic world of my own, recalling some of the eclectic variety of piano music (beyond the standard classical) that my mum played and my dad enjoyed, that was part of the soundtrack of my childhood. That then prompted this little ‘scroll’ photo-montage rather hastily collated on the phone. (Click to see full image) I think I’d like to try a more considered version some time…
Just a few of the items buried in here (and in my sheet music cabinet!) – enjoy…
Caprice de Nanette – (orchestral)
In a Monastery Garden
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January Challenge 2: Why I Love Yorkshire

Oops. This was lurking in the drafts when I came to post today – symptomatic, I fear! This was written on 2 January. To recap, I am doing my third January Challenge, run by #64MillionArtists, where a daily art-related short task is set. I am compiling the results into a small notebook I made a little while ago. I am hoping this daily exercise will stir my long-lost mojo into returning!

Today’s challenge was to say why we love a place or location. I chose the county of my birth (and most of my childhood) and followed the quickie 5-minute suggestion, scribbling down a string of first responses and popping them into an even rougher heart, with due apologies for the cliché.

The places in the heart are my shorthand for a variety of resonant memories, both happy and poignant.

To share it online I overlaid it on a photo I took a few years ago of Brimham Rocks in their heather-clad autumnal glory. As an art work it has little merit but it prompts so many thoughts and memories that I shall give it its place in the challenge book and hope to return to it as a prompt for a more considered piece of writing or multimedia.

Family, bilberries and millstone grit….
Brimham Rocks
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January Challenge

Firstly, may I wish you a happy and healthy 2022.

I think January is always a bit of a challenge! This second New Year of a global pandemic is no exception. I’m aware that we personally are quite fortunate in the grand order of things, but at this time of year it’s not always easy to see beyond the immediate circumstances. Despite our continuing caution and many precautions as we are both pretty vulnerable, Boxing Day brought me a streaming cold, temperature and banging headache, and the Zoe Covid app recommended a PCR test which wasn’t available even to order until the next day. The welcome negative result arrived after a couple of days on New Year’s Eve; well done to the lab and Royal Mail. The bug, however, is still taking its toll and we weren’t able to join friends as planned for lunch today, so I was feeling a tad sorry for myself, if I’m honest.

I decided to start the January Challenge from 64 Million Artists to kick-start myself into action as I thoroughly enjoyed doing it in 2020 and last year, though the ‘Covid malaise’ of creative inertia took its toll on me in 2021. I think I did actually finish all but one in the end, but failed at the stage of collating the results when the fragile mojo deserted completely! I thought I’d give it a go again this year so this is the ‘one line self-portrait’ challenge we were set today.

I have a small notebook that I had great fun making in a West Yorkshire Archive Service workshop earlier this year and had decided to use as a sort of ‘commonplace book’ for 2022, so the January Challenge will start it off nicely.

Drawing and painting are not my forte, so this was definitely out of the comfort zone: I took to photography in part because I can use it to create the images I want but cannot create with pen or brush. The eagle-eyed may spot the tracing paper I used in order to set the portrait outline, too! Finally, in my own defence, I would just add that I really do feel as wobbly and rough as I look there!

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A distinctively South African (Cape Malay) dish, this is apparently traditionally served with ‘Yellow rice’ – long-grain rice cooked with a spoonful of turmeric added to the water for colour and a handful or raisins thrown in for good measure, plus sambals or side dishes.

I tend to add add any suitable ‘sides’ along the lines of a west African ‘groundnut chop’ accompaniments, such as handfuls of coriander, cucumber ribbons in lime juice, fried onions, chopped pawpaw or mango with a sprinkle of lime or lemon, salad leaves, chopped oranges, chopped chillis, chopped sweet red and green peppers for colour… The fresh fruit and veg cut through the richness of the lamb.  I sometimes add a few toasted almonds and sometimes finely chopped dried apricots to the rice. You can happily ‘cheat’ with a packet of pilau rice, too!

Mrs H. S. Ball’s chutney is ideal to serve with and use in the cooking, but you can get good supermarket own-brand chutneys with apricot or peach. If you can’t get these, just use apricot jam – you can add a teaspoon of vinegar if you think it might be too sweet. You can also throw in a few finely chopped dried apricots to the meat mix to add to the fruity flavours.

To serve 4 -6 (though I have made double to feed 6 with no leftovers!)

2 thickish slices of white bread

10 fl oz. milk (300 ml) – caution will be used in two halves

2 peeled, chopped onions

1lb (450-500g) minced lamb, lower fat, preferably.

4 good tablespoons apricot/peach chutney or apricot or peach jam (yes, really!).  

A clove of chopped garlic, or a good squeeze of garlic paste/heaped tsp of lazy garlic.

2 teaspoons mild (or medium) curry powder (garam masala would work, too)

Half a teaspoon of salt and ground black pepper to taste

2 large eggs

2 bananas

2-3 bayleaves.

Pre-heat oven to 180 (160 fan), 350F.

Put the bread in a bowl, pour over a scant half of the milk and leave to soak. Fry the onions and lamb, adding the garlic after a minute or two.  Add the curry powder and continue to fry gently until the onions are translucent and soft and the lamb lightly browned. Remove from heat. Fork through the bread and milk to break it up and add it to the cooling lamb mixture, mixing thoroughly. Season well and stir through the chutney or jam. Pack the mix into a baking dish about 1.5” deep.

Peel the bananas, slice lengthways and arrange on top of the meat mix in a pattern, garnish with the bay leaves.  Beat the eggs and remaining milk together and pour gently over the top of the meat mix. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the custard is golden and set.

Garnish with coriander, slice and serve with the various ‘trimmings’ and a selection of chutneys.

Bobotie ready to serve. This was actually double quantities.

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Woman’s amazing place in history of Second World War

Ooh Aah Droitwich Spa

A Droitwich woman was one of the first people in Britain to learn that the D-Day Landings had taken place.

Marge Barton (nee Payne) was working as a teleprinter operator with the Auxiliary Territorial Service when she received a message at 8.30am on June 6, 1944 stating that Allied troops had landed on the beaches of Normandy.

Born in 1920, Marge hailed from Birmingham and received her call-up papers in August 1942. She was told to catch a train to Droitwich where she’d undertake her basic training.

She and the other women were split into patrols for their three weeks at Norbury House. Marge’s patrol was judged the best, and they were rewarded with a night at the Raven Hotel.

Marge was then posted to Bradford to train as a teleprinter operator and it was while working at Luton Hoo, a country house in Bedfordshire, that she received the message…

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