A Mundane Conversation

Day 28 of the January Challenge: a 10-minute creative task each day. The task today was to write a boringly mundane conversation, then add the subtext.

A Mundane Conversation – From the sick bed

He: Is it a bin day?

She: Yes, today’s bin day.

(Giddy spin day, a little sin day? Perhaps a win day?
A gin day, a ‘has-bin’ day, a staying in day…)

He: Which colour?

She: I think it’s the green.

(Colour you say? An iridescent sheen,
Or flamingo pink in which to preen?
Maybe it’s an azure, as yet unseen.
Rainbow opalescence or aquamarine…)

Yes, it’s green.

…..

He; That’s done. Coffee?

She: Would love a cup o’ tea.

(Stay me with flagons, Comfort me…
Or, just some tea and sympathy.)

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60 Years On…For the Record.

Some years ago I inexpertly scanned a lot of my dad’s slides, particularly from their/our time in Nigeria (1950s to early 60s) and have been part of a ‘Nigerian Nostalgia’ group on Facebook, sharing some of these. The images tend to arouse some interest, ranging from ‘they didn’t have colour then, though?’ (which makes me feel ancient and has me heading straight into lecture mode!) to amazement at some of the realities of the past (no mobile phones really blows the minds of the younger generation).  I have only ‘snapshot’ memories really, being quite young when we left, so I remember places and people, but not the overall geography of a place or the full context, so it’s interesting for me to fill in some of those gaps.

A kind young man in the online group, Nengak Daniel,  who was going to visit the Jos area over the Christmas period offered to take some photos for anyone interested while there, so I shot in with a request for a quickie tour of the school compound at Kuru, where my dad was principal and we lived ca 1959 – Jan 63. (You may recall the name from some sad stories of conflict in more recent years.) It was a peaceful place as I recalled. and I was thrilled to see pictures from around the area to fill in the gaps between our literal snapshots and my ‘snapshot memories’.  It’s also enabled me to confirm I’d found the right building on Google Earth – I do like a geolocation! 

Nengak even found our old house for me. I thought I’d post a 60-years-on shot back in the Facebook group with his permission. It’s not a great photo-collage (cobbled together on the phone!) and it will mean little to you, I suppose, but it’s surprising how potent I found this little picture and how it and the other images triggered memories and emotions. My mum is on the top picture, with her treasured Morning Glory, ever the gardener. The garden is a bit of a victim of time and changing priorities, but the house remains; like me, showing its age, not in pristine condition, but still standing and doing the job.  

What am I trying to say with this? I suppose, don’t ever say ‘just a record shot’,, as so many photographers do. Sometimes that record can mean a great deal to a viewer and move them as much or more than a piece of art – even 60 years on! 

60 years on…
An added bonus is that Nengak also helped me confirm which was our old house on Google Earth!
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Friendships

We have managed to catch up with a few friends in person in the last couple of days. We had to go to Kidderminster for husband Stewart’s eye appointment at the hospital on Saturday, so thought we would take the chance afterwards to drop off some Christmas presents to a couple of friends in the area (and take a flask of mulled wine along to share for good measure!).

Both friends had decked the house with festive fairy lights, if not boughs of holly, and suitably seasonal decor, and put us entirely to shame as our decs still languish in the loft, despite various pleas from me. We’ve managed a few desultory lights in the front window and on the front garden tree (well, as far as I could reach from the second step of the ladder – too wimpy to go higher!).

Deer friends!

Digression alert: I found said husband putting out the Christmas cards round the house, the other day, something he never does. I was waiting to put them in the holders I usually hang up. I was going to congratulate him on a sudden surge of festive spirit until I clocked that he was valiantly trying to cover as much space as possible so he could claim we don’t need the decorations and there’s no space anyway!

A couple of other friends we’d been trying to meet up with for a week or two asked if they could pop over briefly on Sunday. It was lovely to catch up with them over mulled wine and nibbles and ‘christen’ the new veranda, though it still seemed very strange sitting out in our coats, albeit in sunshine, with the Christmas music in the background.

It brought home to me how much we are missing the spontaneity of people just dropping by or popping in on someone. Even so, whilst the garden and driveway visits have their frustrations and limitations, it is just such a real pleasure to be with people, even if you can’t give them the hugs and hospitality you want to share.

In case we don’t say it enough, I’m saying it now, loud and long; friends matter, and we value every one of you greatly.

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The Choir!

Group picture of Wesley Chapel Choir 1924.
I think this was taken for the local newspaper, scanned and edited/additional labels by me.

Rootling among the old family photos I came across a little moment of glory for the Wesley Chapel Choir in 1924. From news reports at the time it seems they had a needle match with West End Congregational choir, singing the test piece ‘He wants not friends’ a capella.

From the Halifax Courier

On closer investigation, there was quite a bit of family interest in the picture. My maternal grandfather Clifford is on the back row; that was he of the tenor voice ‘like a golden trumpet’ who ran away with the opera! I only met him once, I think. He sang professionally as Morton Clifford.

In front of him stands my great-uncle Willie Marsden, a lovely man who was in the Royal Flying Corps during WWI. I did get to know him as a youngster. Like Clifford, he was a useful rugby player and they were both stalwarts of the Boys’ Brigade at Wesley (10th Hx).

At the front sits my great-aunt Dora, who was also very much a mainstay of the church, including supporting the Boys’ Brigade. She was in her latter years very much a focal point of the family and her abiding interest in all that was going on led to her being affectionately dubbed ‘Eyes and Ears of the World’. I thought at first it might be my grandmother, Hilda, Dora’s sister (and later Clifford’s wife) as they looked quite similar, but as my aunt told me her mother couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, she thought it had to be Dora!

I am not sure if Willie’s first wife-to-be, Elsie Chambers, was also in the choir; they married the following year.

I wonder if anyone can add a few more names to this?

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Woodland Wandering

A touch of Narnia…

Between Worlds

Rather more mundanely, a composite of a couple of phonecam images taken during an autumn walk in local woodland.

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Anna’s Random Thoughts

I’m going to have to do this, given the title!

A simple and effective artist’s book idea from Anna Yevtukh-Squire. I’ve enjoyed some brilliant classes in creative bookmaking with Anna at Malvern School of Art. over the last couple of years – in fact, we’ve a first Zoom class on Monday, so this might get me back in the swing…

How to make your own Random Thoughts notebook.

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Great-grandfather Frank

Frank Marsden was born in 1871 to Jonathan Marsden (1843-1889) and Jane Marsden (Smithson, 1847-1913). In the 1871 census they were living at in 3 Church Gate, Brighouse, Yorkshire.

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In the 1891 census, Frank was a corn miller. He later became a greengrocer, and by 1937 had a shop at 56 King Cross Street, Halifax (tel. Hx 4602!)

He married Sarah Helliwell (1871 – 1947) in 1893, at Halifax Parish Church, now known as the Minster.

They had seven children, my grandma Hilda, 5 great-aunts and a great-uncle, more of whom anon, all being well.

Lily b 1895
Willie b 1899
Dora b 1902
Hilda b 1904
Florrie b 1906
Amy b 1913
Lena b 1916

Frank lived variously in Spring Bank House, Elland Rd, Hipperholme, (1881) 62 Lister Lane, Halifax (1901) which is pretty much where Burdock Way now crosses and splits Lister Lane in two, 38 St Mary St. Halifax (1911), and in the 1939 register is listed in the family home for many years, 41 Stirling St, Halifax.

Here’s the family with the first 3 children, so presumably in 1902, as Dora is a baby. I don’t know anything about the Foster family also pictured, other than names and now census details. Frank is on the left, Sarah middle front, holding Dora. The names are written above. The Fosters lived at 38 King Cross St. in 1901, and John listed as a greengrocer, living with Evelyn, Lister (then 6) and Doris (4). Whether the connection was just via the trade, friendship or family remains to be unearthed. Which house this is I don’t know, Lister Lane or King Cross St – or indeed, somewhere else entirely. I do know, however, that an E. Gregson, photographer, took a photo of baby Willie in 1899 for Frank and Sarah, and his studio was at 70 Lister Lane, so perhaps he popped along the road to no 62 to do this one, too?

Marsdens and Listers.

Frank would go regularly with his wagon to the glorious Piece Hall when it was rather less grand, serving as the wholesale fruit and vegetable market. His grandson, my uncle, fondly recalled the memory of going with him and remembered the flickering yellow gas lamps there on winter mornings.

I have yet to ascertain whether Marsden & Furniss, trading from the Market Hall, are connected, and to discover when Frank took on the shop. In 1905/6 it’s a James James running a greengrocery business there, and in the 1920s and 30s directories I’ve looked at there is no entry for the shop, just Marsden & Furniss. He’s listed as a Greengrocer & Employer in the 1911 census.

As Frank died some years before I was born, I never knew him other than through family tales and snippets. I know Stirling Street held very fond memories for my mum, aunt and uncle, and it saw family parties and gatherings aplenty, whence the tradition of daft games and family traditions that I grew up with. The family gatherings continued in various venues and were highlights of my childhood. I recall mum saying he liked his Christmas cake not only served with cheese, in good Yorkshire style, but buttered, too!

The family were stalwarts of Wesley Chapel. Here’s a newspaper cutting (Halifax Courier) dutifully kept over the years, capturing a moment of stage glory for Frank!

Courtesy of Halifax Courier, a clipping in a family album. Unsure of year.

Frank died in November 1950 at Stirling Street, so the picture I have of him at mum and dad’s wedding in May of that year must be one of his last.

Granddad Marsden

Frank is buried at Christ Church, King Cross Wesleyan with Sarah (picture courtesy of Calderdale Family History Society) and her sister Lily Helliwell, who had died in 1934.

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Difficult Times

WAR

I seem to have been in stasis a bit since the coronavirus lockdown, dabbling in this and that but not really getting on with any of my planned projects. Random by name, random by nature, then; I will not wait until I’ve organised my thoughts and information (might never happen) as I’d hoped to do a bit of a family history recording on here, but will start to pop things up as they occur to me and before my attention span wanders yet again!

I was scanning this cutting, which I think came from the 60s or 70s in a feature in a local paper, probably the Halifax Courier but I haven’t been able to track it online, so apologise for lack of proper credit.

It must have seemed so surreal to my mum and friends (at ‘Trinity Tripe Shop’ as I believe it was affectionately known!) doing the air raid drill, clutching her mask in its cardboard box and wondering fearfully what the war would bring. I find the situation we are in difficult enough now, but how much worse for a (just) teenager, anticipating that the industrial town she called home might be a prime target and wondering how long the war would last.

More cheerfully, I remember a few of the friends from this picture managed a reunion in the early 70s, perhaps triggered by the publication of this photo in the paper. I do remember that my mum was so pleased to meet up with them and look back.

 

 

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Injecting some colour into my life!

The other day I had a play with a couple of online colourising tools. It was coming up to what would have been my parents’ 70th wedding anniversary, so I played with a few photos to post elsewhere on the day and just for fun. Results differ quite significantly across the two sites, and there are limitations, but in both cases I got some pleasing results, and once colourised, they can be further tweaked in editing software, though I’ve left these pretty much as they came out in most cases.

It was surprising how much the colour brought people to life for me, even knowing it was ‘false’ and only guesstimated. I had thought that, having grown up with black and white pictures, films and TV, my brain would have somehow sorted all this out, but no – people I never knew and who had been just an old photo now popped off the screen, demanding to be acknowledged and recognised. People I had known and still love were suddenly back there with me. The power of a few colourised pixels took me quite aback.

Further info: My Heritage in Color (this is part of a family history site and you have to sign up to free membership to use this for a limited number of pictures). Watermarks automatically. Facility to save the picture.

Colourise.sg online facility, free to use. Best where people feature prominently and with natural backgrounds. Uses Captcha checks. Facility to save the picture and a comparison picture.

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Comfort food

In these strange and uncertain times, I’ve been indulging a penchant for some traditional comfort food. Some of these weren’t necessarily favourites in childhood, when the exotic was more appealing than the everyday, but now have a nostalgic appeal.

The other day saw us with braised beef and herby dumplings, but today is a sweet treat, albeit very simple.

Baked Egg Custard

Baked egg custard

4 eggs

Scant 2oz sugar (if you have vanilla sugar, use that, or add optional drop of good vanilla extract or essence)

1pt milk (semi-skimmed is fine or full cream for a richer mix)

Nutmeg

Little butter for dish.

Preheat oven to 170, 150 fan.

Lightly butter a 2pt dish.

Beat the eggs lightly with the sugar. Heat the milk gently to boiling point, add to eggs, whisking constantly.

Pour mixture through a sieve (optional) into the prepared dish. Pour hot water into the baking tray (enough to come halfway up the dish).

Sprinkle grated nutmeg over the top.

Place baking tray with water carefully in the oven, then put the custard dish into the tray and bake for about 40 minutes. Check from 35 mins on. A metal skewer poked into the centre will come out clean when set, but there should still be a bit of wobble when you shake the dish.

Serve hot or cold. If serving hot, leave to stand for 25 minutes or so.

———

Try variations – top with a sprinkle of ground cardamom for a change, or cinnamon, or leave plain and serve with a tsp of jam.

Add the finely grated zest of an orange and a half-to-full teaspoon of orange flower water to the custard, omit the nutmeg. Delicious! Particularly good with the richer, part cream, version.

Serve alone, or with fresh fruit such as raspberries, stewed fresh fruit or bought compote. Rhubarb and apple both work well. For a store-cupboard tea, use longlife milk and serve with tinned fruit!

Top with a teaspoon of soft strawberry or raspberry jam or gently warmed marmalade.

Top when cool with a thin layer of soft brown sugar and caramelise with a blowtorch or under a hot grill.

For a luxury version replace a little of the milk with cream.

Use 6 individual pots, check after 20-25 minutes.

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