Archive for the 'history' Category

A Stranger’s Childhood in Pictures

About 18 months ago, mooching round a charity shop in Crystal Palace I came across a box of 35mm colour slides. They seemed to depict roughly a year or two in someone’s life. There were summer holidays, Bank holidays, donkey rides, church services, day trips to a zoo and an ornamental garden, family gatherings and finally Christmas dinner. The woman in the shop didn’t know where they’d come from, ‘perhaps a house clearance’ she said.

They’re amazing. This is what photography used to be like for most people. You took the camera out when there was an ‘occasion’ as getting film processed was a bit of a luxury. It’s the sort of photography I grew up with, what is jokingly referred to as ‘Christmas on each end of the film, summer holiday in the middle’. If you grew up in the late 60s/early 70s, you’re childhood probably looked like this too. When you like at images like these, you can squint and almost imagine your family members in the picture.

As this statistic from the National Media Museum says.

‘In 1979 amateurs took an estimated 750 million photographs. By then there were 10 million snap shooters …. Most used between one and three rolls of film a year’

Last November the number of uploaded Flickr images passed the 2 billion mark (in just four years). That’s progress after all, to quote Mat Locke talking about his own kids’ use of technology: ‘What we carved out of rock they take as landscape

We photograph everything these days; we’ve made our whole lives one long ‘occasion’. But when you look at these found images, you see not only the rapid change in how we used photography, but how rapidly we’ve changed as a society and as a Nation too.

Anyway, I was planning to do something clever and creative with them, but I (well actually Lee!) never got round to it. So instead, here they are, released under CC (Attribution-NonCommercial) for what ever you’d like to do with them.

Below are some of my favourites. (Full set here) If you recognise a place (or a face!) in any of them, please at a note/geo-tag in Flickr.

A Stranger's Childhood in Picture - 130People made their own music

A Stranger's Childhood in Picture - 125Spain had just become affordable as a holiday destination

A Stranger's Childhood in Picture - 114

A Stranger's Childhood in Picture - 112People still went to Church

A Stranger's Childhood in Picture - 105Christmas Dinner was still a free for all.

A Stranger's Childhood in Picture - 058 Most people holidayed in the UK

A Stranger's Childhood in Picture - 096HMS Victory ( I think)

A Stranger's Childhood in Picture - 083 Twister was the new crazed

A Stranger's Childhood in Picture - 061The Bugle in Hamble (Still there) and super weirdly I went there the week before I bought these slides.

A Stranger's Childhood in Picture - 138The average family gathering, with tea

A Stranger's Childhood in Picture - 034Anyone recognise the make of car?

A Stranger's Childhood in Picture - 011Look at the dresses, the decor, the hair!

Athena Classics: Tennis Girl

My first job after leaving the bosom of my Alma Mater was in the Strand branch of Athena around the mid 90s. We stocked such ‘classics’ as Spencer Rowell’s ‘L’ Enfant’, along with stoner favourites such as ‘I like the Pope the Pope smokes dope‘, ‘Bank of Ganga‘ and ‘Take me to your dealer‘. The obligatory Kurt Cobain and Jim Morrison shots and very zeitgeisty at the time was the ‘Choose Life‘ Trainspotting piece. All of which are still available it seems, and all of which were much loved at the time by the hordes of shop lifting teenagers from all over the world who’d ransack the store after their obligatory pigeon feed in the square.

The one poster we didn’t stock however, was Tennis Girl. We’d often get older city folks come in and nostalgically ask for it, only to have to send them away empty handed. Well you can own it again, but instead of £2 it’s now a £300 limited edition signed by the Photographer and printed on canvas, courtesy of Pyramid Posters. (Must need the money, I hate photos on canvas, they looks really cheap) And for the completest, you could try getting your hands on the original dress and racket as worn by Fiona Butler which didn’t meet it’s reserve price in a charity auction last year. There’s an interview with her here.

It’s an odd image in a way. Now derided by critics, yet emulated by comedians and popstars, it’s now firmly part of the national consciousness. It was at the time however, the rudest thing you could get away with on a teenage bedroom wall. Mr Elliot admits his poster is “not a picture I would buy”, but puts its appeal down to the seaside postcard spirit of the image, coupled with “one of the world’s fantasies that you are going to see up a woman’s skirt”. (source BBC). Diane Smythe makes a good point in her leader for this weeks ‘the naked issue’ British Journal of Photography about the impact of Levy’s ‘Raunch Culture’, is Tennis Girl the start of that? Or was that Babs Windsor in Carry on Camping? Or Abi Titmus? Or Manet? – discuss.

Gordon Brown about to visit the Queen

Tony Blair – Gordon Brown handover – 14

Originally uploaded by

He looked very happy, there was some polite clapping, in contrast to round the corner on Whitehall where every car that went in or out of Downing Street was boooed.

More here

Let there be light…The end of an era.

Lambeth council finally finished installing new street lights along the length of Gipsy Hill this week. A job they started in November 2006! Well done Lambeth, only took you eight months! I wonder what will happen to the old 60s concrete ones? The replacements are design to look Victorian as Gipsy Hill is a conservation area.

There’s a lot in the news at the moment looking at Britain’s recent architectural past and what should be saved or flattened. The 60s and 70s now seem a very long way away, coupled with the change in Prime Minister maybe we’re mentally and physically spring cleaning our society ready for – shudder – a new era? Look at the Millennium Dome, at last seeming to find a true purpose as proper music venue. Mr Brown constantly sells the image of Modern Britain, not a city of Europe but of the World, it’s what won us the Olympics.

A few months ago I read a guide to the South Bank when it was first opened as the Festival of Britain in a second hand bookshop. It described what was coming as ‘A New Elizabethan Age’, as the current Queen had recently come to the throne, strange how that term didn’t really catch on. We don’t seem to measure ‘ages’ in Royal reigns anymore but in other things…. like lampposts.

I could eat a horse.

Channel 4, like the BBC and other broadcasters, has a viewer enquiry team who handle calls, letters and emails from members of the public on a variety of issues from “my picture looks funny” to “I can not believe you are going to transmit a programme that endorses the consumption of horsemeat.”.

The horsemeat quote is in relation to a the new series of Gordon Ramsay’s F Word, in which Janet Street-Porter (who let’s face it is a touch equine in appearace) buys some horse meat in France and gallops back to the Cheltenham Festival to set up a catering stand for hungry race goers. It’s part of a strand in the programme where she looks at other sources of food such as goat meat (very popular with Africans and West Indian’s in this country) . Surely we can all see this is publicity stunt surrounding what is actually a very interesting issue. There’s been things like this before, ‘Cooking in the Dangerzone’ had dog, seal, etc. 10 years ago people thought sushi was disgusting, most still do.

There were a handful of other calls on the same subject, and no doubt Channel 4 will get more post-TX. Bare in mind that this hasn’t TX’d yet.. it’s going out on May 22nd I believe. So what people were annoyed about (surprise surprise) is the idea of something that they’ve read in the papers… Metro had it’s usual rehash of the Evening Standard’s piece claiming a ‘new row over Ramsay’s horse BBQ’

Actually Jane Fryer’s piece at least acknowledges the fact that horse meat was regularly eaten in this country until the end of the war. I read somewhere that it was sometimes sold as ‘French Beef’ as us English sure do love a euphemism.

Michele Hanson in ‘Comment is Free’ asks ‘Gordon Ramsay wants us to eat horses. If you must have meat, why not make it greyhound?’ (First catch your greyhound) as well as a ill thought out rant for turning vegetarian.

I’ve eaten horse (on a pizza in Venice). And I’d eat pretty much any other animal too. Hey in Peru they eat guinea pigs – we eat rabbits, who cares, as long as it’s ethically raised, not endangered, tasty and you’re hungry. The British have such an bi-polar relationship with animals, witness the recent Sony Goat debacle where a goat bought from a butchers was used as a prop in a PR launch, and the story was again whipped up by… the Daily Mail. It’s like we’re returning to the Victorian attitudes, where ‘it was incorrect to comment on the food before one, even in praise, on the ground that such remarks would be too naked an expression of ‘animal and sensual gratification’. (source: Drink. By Andrew Barr)

Now if you want to see sensationalist eating of horse flesh in the cheap name of entertainment.. see this section of Fear Factor, where two ladies have to eat cooked horse rectum.And here’s the recipe, thanks internet!

KARTA – horse rectumFrom the Kazakhstan National Cooking Web Page

INGREDIENTS:* 100 g of karta* salt* green pepper or dill to taste

PREPARATION:The thick part of the rectum is washed without removing fat, then carefully turned inside out so that the fat is on the inside. The meat is washed once more and both ends are tied. Karta can also be dried and smoked. To dry it karta is covered with fine salt and kept in a cool place for one or two days, then dried. Karta is smoked over 24 hours, then dried over 2-3 days. After washing it well, karta is then boiled for 2 hours on slow fire. Before serving it is cut into rings and decorated with green pepper or dill.

Yum bring on the Horse Bum!

An afternoon visiting Mrs Beeton

Yesterday I set out to visit to the grave of Isabella Beeton, cook, mother, wife, journalist and author of the eponymous ‘Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management’. Which, after perhaps the Bible, is a top contender for ‘book that everybody’s heard of but nobody’s actually read’. Her grave lies somewhere in West Norwood Cemetery, South London. So armed with my D70, and hangover, and the low autumnal sun, I set out to find it. The place is a classic Victorian necropolis, packed with headstones, crosses, angles, urns,mausleiums, and monuments. The Victorian’s took death very seriously indeed, veneration of one’s ancestors perhaps gave people some heritage in a rapidly changing world. Trying to find one grave stone among all this lot is a needle in a haystack. So I just wonder round and take a few shots that look interesting, thinking ‘I’ll come back tomorrow or next week and do this properly’. Then up near the crematorium, I see a fox. It’s just sat there, looking at me. It doesn’t run off, but just stares at me. I take a picture of it, here it is.The fox

I slowly move towards it. It sort of ambles off, as if not in any particular hurry. I follow it…

following the fox

I’m off the main road and footpath now, and see a nice shot with plenty of dappled sunlight,

following the fox

I take another one…

Red Ivy

And then one of some red ivy growing up a headstone, before moving on. This was the only major ‘off roading’ I did.

Walking back down to the main entrance, I stop to ask the gatekeeper if he knows where Mrs Beeton’s grave is. He doesn’t, but on the notice board is a poster for a talk given by the Friends of West Norwood Cemetery. I call the number of that and speak to Jill, she says it’s to hard to describe where it is, but doesn’t mind coming down to guide me to it as she was coming into West Norwood anyway.

After five minutes a little old lady pulls up. ‘Hello I’m Jill’ she says. We do a brief introduction and then I hop in her car and we drive up to where the grave is… and guess where it is? Where the fox was, right in front of the red ivy shot I took not 15 minutes earlier.

Mrs Beeton's grave

To be honest this freaked me out a bit. The combination of a bit of a sore head, the gushing ‘dearly missed’ sentiment everywhere you looked, the odd crow call and the ethereal silence and creepiness of the place was over powering. I ask Jill how many graves there are, 45,000, containing something like 160, 000 people, the site is something like 40 arces in size. What are the chances of coming within a foxes whisker of finding one grave in 45,000? Spooky! Check the EXIF data if you don’t believe me!

Mrs Beeton's grave Anyway, here’s her headstone.

The area where the fox stood, and the short gully that it lead me down was once another road, so that when first buried, Mrs Beeton et al would have fronted to the roadside. The road was removed and the space used for yet more burials as the cemetery filled up in the 40s. She is buried with her husband Samuel Orchart Beeton and the bodies of their other two children who both died in infancy. What’s interesting is that they’re listed in reverse order. Both the infants died first, 1857 & 1863, then Isabella in 1865, at the age of 28, after catching an infection during the birth of her final son, Sir Mayson Beeton, attributed to the midwife or doctor not washing their hands. Finally, Samuel joined them in 1877. So were the infants buried her first? Jill’s none the wiser. The connection with West Norwood (some distance from Pinner where the Beeton’s lived) is that Sam’s father was buried here, his grave now covered in brambles. Also West Norwood was one of the ‘magnificent seven’. seven great cemetery’s build around the then outskirts of London, others include Highgate, Brompton, Nunhead etc. To have a plot in here was the final ultimate status symbol.

The headstone was replaced by her two surviving sons in the 1933 as the original had fallen into decay. The year before Sir Mayson Beeton had donated the only image of his mother to the National Portrait Gallery, it was the first photographic submission they ever accepted.

On Boxing Day 1932 the National Portrait Gallery opened an exhibition of its new acquisitions to the public. There were twenty-three likenesses on display, all of which were to be added to the nation’s permanent portrait collection of the great and the good… Oddly out of place among the confident new arrivals, all oily swirls, ermine, and purposeful stares, was a small hand-tinted photograph of a young woman dressed in the fashion of nearly a hundred years ago.

More about that here, including Mayson Beeton’s numerous rewrites of the title card. He seemed obsessed with promoting his father’s role in the development of the Beeton brand.

No one knows what the original headstone looked like. Jill doubted there were any photographs in the public domain depicting it. Looking closely at the grave, I saw large chunks of granite poking out from the mud and weeds. ‘I wonder if this was part of the original memorial?’ ‘Do you know I’ve never thought of that?’ said Jill. Graves are often topped with gravel, though it is normally white. These however were much to large, and were of red and black granite. We hypothosised that perhaps Mayson and Orchart, both in their late 60s then, had the original monument smashed up and laid on top of their new version. It would seem a shame to waste it, plus it would provide continuity.

There’s plenty of books about and by Mrs Beeton, and BBC Four have a costume drama, the Secret Life of Mrs Beeton rpt 21st October.

The book itself: You can see a lot about attitudes of the time sandwiched between the recipes in Mrs Beeton’s book. I own the Oxford World’s Classic edition, with the excellent introduction by Nicola Humble, who other good read is ‘culinary pleasures’ a history of cookbooks, where she devotes many pages to Mrs Beeton.

I’ve been dipping in the Oxford version a fair bit lately, not so much for the recipes as for the ‘general observations’ essays. It’s an enlightening view of the thoughts of the time. Take this piece from ‘general observations of the common hog’

IN THE MOSAICAL LAW, the pig is condemned as an unclean beast, and consequently interdicted to the Israelites, as unfit for human food. “And the swine, though he divideth the hoof and be cloven-footed, yet he cheweth not the cud. He is unclean to you.”—Lev. xi. 7. Strict, however, as the law was respecting the cud-chewing and hoof-divided animals, the Jews, with their usual perversity and violation of the divine commands, seem afterwards to have ignored the prohibition; for, unless they ate pork, it is difficult to conceive for what purpose they kept troves of swine, as from the circumstance recorded in Matthew xviii. 32, when Jesus was in Galilee, and the devils, cast out of the two men, were permitted to enter the herd of swine that were feeding on the hills in the neighbourhood of the Sea of Tiberias, it is very evident they did.

Blimey. No holding back on her thoughts of Judaism there then. She goes on..

There is only one interpretation by which we can account for a prohibition that debarred the Jews from so many foods which we regard as nutritious luxuries, that, being fat and the texture more hard of digestion than other meats, they were likely, in a hot dry climate, where vigorous exercise could seldom be taken, to produce disease, and especially cutaneous affections; indeed, in this light, as a code of sanitary ethics, the book of Leviticus is the most admirable system of moral government ever conceived for man’s benefit.

There are some other passages that raise a smile as well as an eyebrow. Her reverence for the scriptures is balanced with praise for science an progress, she also talks about animal welfare and the humane dispatching of animals: We hope and believe that those men whose disagreeable duty it is to slaughter the “beasts of the field” to provide meat for mankind, inflict as little punishment and cause as little suffering as possible..

I’d recommend spending some time reconnecting with the words of Mr & Mrs Beeton. The whole book is available online and anyone with a passing interest in history, heritage, food, recipes, produce, health and legal matters will find something of interest in her pages… me, I’m still freaked out by the fox.

Crystal Palace on Fire

News item on the Crystal Palace fire in 1936 – complete with Mr Chumley-Warner commentary.

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These are my personal views and not those of Channel 4 or the BBC
April 2020