It is Christmas 1961 and I am, as ever, behind the camera. This was the year I was given a flash unit to fit the family Kodak Brownie Cresta. A sizeable attachment with a large reflector, it fired off one-time flash bulbs. Filled with fine magnesium wire and oxygen, a small current was sufficient to instigate the flash – all very satisfying to a boy who liked playing with fire..
You can tell I am responsible – it is taken from a low angle and the subjects tend to occupy centre stage. I had not yet learned the rule of thirds In the first image, dad is seated far left smoking one of the many Kensitas that would eventually take him. He is at the beginning of his forties while mum, sat next to him, is still in her thirties. My sister is too busy eating to take notice of younger brother’s antics but boyfriend Ricky is smiling keenly at the camera, also with cigarette in hand, possibly one of dad’s. A too well-presented eighteen year old, I knew big sister could do better.
Cigarettes were socially acceptable at home but there was little or no drink. My teenage smoking habit went undetected until I tried Blue Book, a brand for “the discerning smoker”. Each packet contained Turkish, Russian Egyptian and Havana blends. An afternoon smoking these with an equally discerning friend and the house smelled like a souk.
It is the end of Christmas dinner and house-proud mother has already cleared most of the table. The posh sideboard, table and chairs from Kendal Milne, Manchester; the Regency striped wallpaper; the Wedgwood dinner service; the Peter Scott print; the understated decorations – all in the best possible taste.
Ricky took his time to leave – another three years before he abandoned my sister and her life took flight. Now everyone has gone – empty clothes that drape and fall on empty chairs.