During one of the recent frosty nights a rather lovely earthenware plant pot that Jean had given us shattered into a heap of shards. This was a great shame. I now understand why it is essential to buy frostproof, not simply frost resistant ones. Jean’s had been brought back from Australia, where such protection is probably not required.
This being a much duller, yet, consequently, warmer day, I worked on old photographs this morning. Given the amount of trips we have taken to the seaside recently, it is perhaps appropriate that number 37 in the ‘through the ages’ series, one of my grandfather’s efforts, takes us back to the Whitby of 1951. The print had a criss-crossed crease that I couldn’t fully eradicate cutting into Chris’s legs. It is of course not my lower limbs that I have grasped to perform a contortionist’s illusion. Incidentally I wonder how many people of my generation have been the subject of this early proof that the camera can lie. Louisa has such a picture featuring her mother Jessica and Jessica’s cousin Caroline.
I find the soft-out-of-focus effect of the backgrounds of Grandpa’s old photographs very attractive.
Turning to the posterity collection we take a leap forward back to August 1963. In those days men’s outfitters and tobacconists dominated the shopping streets of The City of London around Leadenhall Street where I worked. Lime Street was the situation of the flower stall I photographed then. That florist had a display of fine chrysanthemums. Today, stallholders usually wrap purchases in something a little more decorative than the serviceable sheets skewered in place rather like Mum’s dressmaking patterns in the loo.
It is many years since I found myself tramping The City, but I would expect the outfitters to still be there, albeit in much larger premises, and the tobacconists long gone. Today, smokers are pariahs, their weed not to be advertised. Supermarkets still sell tobacco, but, like porn ‘out the back’, it must be hidden from view.
In the 1960s, before we knew what we know today, a large proportion of adults smoked cigarettes, such as those advertised in the photograph. Boxes of cigars are also visible in the shop window. The ordinary man probably couldn’t afford those. Players were the product of Nottingham-based John Player & Sons; Bristol of that city’s WD & HO Wills. Both companies were merged into the Imperial Tobacco Group. During that decade Wills produced 120,000 cigarettes an hour. One of their most popular brands was Wild Woodbines, which were a feature of both Jackie and my childhoods, as both our fathers smoked them. I still remember the distinctive aroma of the furniture van cab in which I rode when working with Dad back then.
Always preferring photography in natural light rather than flash, I often experimented with what was available. To this end I photographed my Dad lighting up in October 1963, and repeated the process with Jackie’s father, Don Rivett, in July 1967. The results are at least atmospheric.
This afternoon, we broke the back of our Christmas present buying in Bournemouth’s Castlepoint Shopping Centre.
Chicken and mushroom jafrezi with savoury rice, followed by bread pudding and custard, was tonight’s delicious evening repast. I drank a glass of Valdepenas reserva Gran Familia 2007, and very good it was too.