Monday, 21 January 2013

A Touch of Snow

Judging by Facebook, newspapers and the BBC website nothing like a touch of snow to bring the amateur photographer out in us snapping the winter wonderlands.  Just a pity that these wintry scenes which always look so enchanting and innocent create such chaos for travelling.  Anyway I thought I would venture out and have a go myself while the snow is still fresh. 

However, all this snow plus the recent research for my coming exhibition Roots has got me reminiscing about how I remember snow from when I was a child. Although snow and bad weather seem now to be becoming the norm, owing to a series of mild winters Darling Daughter didn't really experience snow till she was almost five years old. For me a heavy fall of snow was a regular occurence in my childhood and I would often wake to find several inches of snow and then have to endure the dreaded black wellies to get to school. They were hideously unfashionable, cold and uncomfortable and no matter how careful I was, snow always crept over the tops to soak into my socks and then I would have to sit in class with cold wet feet.  Something I couldn't make my mum understand when she was forcing me to wear the damn things. 

Rememember this was before the prissy Cath Kidston/Boden spotty, flowery, jazzy wellies of today and before festival goers made them so de rigueur  If only these had been around in my day.  

As a child I lived at the top of a very big hill and when it snowed we were more or less marooned up there. The milkman had to leave his float at the bottom of the hill and drag the milk up on a sledge. Likewise  residents abandoned their cars at the bottom too unless they were feeling particularly brave but would invariably get stuck, whereupon all the men-folk would dash out of their houses like the cavalry to give the poor chancer a push or put sacks under his tyres to get him moving.  Neighbours were a lot more neighbourly then I have to say.  It was a great hill for sledging though, spoilt only by the grumpy neighbours who would come out to tell us off and then clear away the snow on their bit of path with a shovel and then worse put grit down from the grit bin.   

When it snowed the schools were alway kept open, none of this shutting of schools business because there is an inch of snow. I can remember only one instance when my school had to shut during bad weather and that was because of a burst pipe.  But going to school when it snowed was just the best time. We happily spent our playtimes building snowmen and throwing snowballs but best of all would be the slides of  sheet ice we made which ran the full length of the playground and were absolutely lethal, worthy of any luges or bobsleigh.  The kids of today miss out so much in these days of Health & Safety pussying about. At DD's school they are not allowed out during break in case they slip over and hurt themselves and snowballing and slides are  absolutely verboten  with the headteacher heading up the snowball police on arrival and going home time, particularly since one pupil scored a bulls-eye smack on the back of his head.

I felt I just had to include this in my winter snow-shoot.  Spotted on my neighbour's washing line - this frozen tea-towel that's been out there for over a week!!  It looks so incongruous - a bright flash of red against the winter landscape.  I shouldn't let these little things irritate me so much and it's really none of my business but I can't help but ask the question why?! 

 Last word to Buttercup who just adores hopping around in the snow.

Sunday, 13 January 2013


When faced with the challenge of creating work for a new exhibition I guess the obvious thing is to look at the title of the exhibition and take it from there.   My textile group Running Stitch has an exhibition planned for September and our chosen title is Roots so because of my keen interest in social history it seemed natural to turn to my own family roots, not in a 'Who Do You Think You Are' kind of way by tracing my ancestry and digging skeletons out of the cupboard, but just from looking at resources to hand such as old family photographs, memorabilia and simply what I can remember from my parents and grandparents.

This is the kind of photograph that everybody must have in their old photo albums. The formal studio portrait often produced as stiff postcards with the name of the photographic studio on the back. If you are lucky then somebody somewhere will have written down who the people are but more often than not these things are passed down through the generations unrecorded and it's difficult then to identify who these strange people are staring back at you. I remember in one photo album my mum had inherited from her parents she had written beneath a photograph of a starchy, glum looking Victorian couple "your guess is good as mine - haven't a clue who these two are".  It's best to make a record of these things while you can because now I have no living parents or grandparents (and no living aunts or uncles either to speak of as my mum was an only child, my dad's five older siblings have long since passed away and we lost touch years ago with any cousins) so sadly there is no one then to answer my questions about my family history.  I have to rely on my own and my brother's memory and to be honest our memories aren't as sharp as they used to be.  I can identify though the lovely couple above as they are my maternal grandparents who I am named after - Jack and Mary. 

Some more studio portraits here this time of my mum and dad Frances and Ernest. My mum here must have been about 18 and my dad 19. 

And this is me on Flash the donkey taken on holiday in Bournemouth.  What became apparent though while I was looking through all the old photos (apart from where have all those years gone?) is that there are no more photos after about 2004 which is when we bought a digital camera.  I am a bit of a technophobe, however, I have embraced this technical godsend and love the immediacy and censorship of the digital 'snap' knowing you can dustbin the really horrendous ones of yourself before they come back and bite you on the bum. How I remember the excitement of coming back off holiday, racing to Boots with the reels of film to get them developed, then collecting your wallets of 24 or 36 photos only to discover a mere handful have turned out any good because you either forgot to use the flash or you were so far away from your subject that they were hard pressed to even get a look in on the photo.   The downside of the digital camera is of course you don't really bother to get them developed these days.  Oh sure, I always mean to but never quite get round to it.

Me, Mum, Dad & Grandad - Three Generations

During the seventies our family photos progressed from black and white to glorious technicolour as we were then able to afford the extra for colour film and processing but there will always be something so deeply nostalgic about those black and white 'snaps' taken on a breezy beach in Bournemouth.