Empty Chairs

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.

The ‘posh’ dining room

The living room – always coal fires burning

Big sister and boyfriend, Ricky – driving gloves and a too smart coat

Sibling affection …

Today was my birthday, yet another in a series which seem to repeat with remarkable frequency. Among the amusing cards these were my favourites – the one on the left from one of my golfing buddies (so he speaks with authority) and the one on the right from my sister:


So now I know exactly what she was thinking – as she correctly points out, maybe it is just as well that eBay had yet to be invented back then.  We love each other enormously but that was not always the case – as she well knows, as a pre-teen boy, I would have enthusiastically sold her into slavery 🙂  Not so long after our first encounter:


I know the exact spot where this photograph was taken and thanks to the power of Google Earth, here it is – the window in the background is highlighted in red:



Tobermory and Clocks

There is a town clock erected in 1905 on the instruction of Isabella Bird in memory of her sister Henrietta who died of typhoid in Tobermory in 1880.  Isabella was an adventuress, explorer, writer and first female fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.  She enjoyed ill health suffering from a range of psychogenic illnesses; when she was doing exactly what she wanted she was almost always as fit as a fiddle much in the way that golfers rarely feel off colour on a golf course – Disability Living Allowance has the same miraculous effect on some.

I confess I am not struck by the clock but I have seen worse.  To mark the Millennium, my home town of Hale in Cheshire erected a clock of similar proportions, possibly the ugliest example of urban commemorative architecture in the country – take a look here – see what I mean – witch’s hat, a sky rocket, a celebration of twinning with Douglas on the Isle of Man?  Coincidentally both Tobermory and Hale clocks are sited adjacent to fountains, the Hale example serving only to accentuate the ugliness of the other.