Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Mannekin Pis ('Ere, What's That... Oh, That's Disgustin'!)

Some three years ago whilst buying some 78 rpm records I was asked if I collected postcards as well. On saying yes, a large cardboard box appeared and it was given to me freely by the wonderful Hayley Easthope. I rashly promised to send a CD of the scanned images once I had got through them.

They went on the back burner for a while at my excitement in going through the 78s - about a third of which are still waiting to be looked at and played. But every now and then the box has come out and I've spent an hour or so scanning them and it seemed never to make a dent in them! Last weekend I finished going through them and when I checked the folder that I had been scanning to there were 700 files in it. There's been a lot of those odd hours or so over the three years!

One set of postcards from the collection has already featured here over several posts. Hayley's collection included the postcards sent by World War One soldier Edgar Pedley and they gave a fascinating insight into one man's experiences in the war. (Being a blog, the entries will appear in reverse order)

This article features a book of postcards brought back from another war. Hayley's father brought this book of photos back from Belgium at the end of World War 2. They were never used, they were brought back as a souvenir. The book is intact, though a little fragile from being opened and viewed many times over the last 70 years.

The Mannekin Pis of Brussels is a fairly small statue of a little boy relieving his bladder. Known in UK popularly as The Pissing Boy it either delights you with its innocence or disgusts you with its vulgarity.

The Belgians must be really proud of it because of all of the postcards I have from Belgium (not just the ones from Hayley's collection) the percentage of them that include this particular water feature is over 70%!

That's a staggering amount. The majority of the ones that don't feature it are views of Bruges. A place I must really visit myself one of these days.

So far my only trips through (rather than to) Belgium have been on coach holidays to Austria or Amsterdam. We did stop to look at a Belgian chocolate factory once which put me off Belgian chocolate for life as I watched a chocolate-covered bluebottle struggling as it went round and round a mixing wheel. I suspect in real life the chocolate on that wheel was for public display rather than for eating, but they really should have checked it once in a while!

Ok, I'll shut up for a while and show the rest of the postcards from this book.

Looking at the cartoons - and in particular at the clothes of the people depicted you could be forgiven for thinking this book of postcards dated from the earlier war of 1914-18...

...but then, in amongst them is this one with a hemline above the knee which clearly belongs from the mid 1940s onwards.

And I'll finish with another postcard of the Mannekin Pis that shows a real photograph. I'm sure today the water would be supplied from a pipe hidden in his leg. Perhaps the pain of the pipe makes up for the embarrassment he has caused the more inhibited viewers over the years!

Many thanks Hayley. More postcards from the Hayley Easthope Collection to come every now and then!

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Film Review, May 1978 Issue

This way to your seat please... The usherette will walk backwards, shining her torch for you to see where you are treading, as we take a look at the films, people and products featured in the May 1978 issue of the magazine Film Review.

The lads from The Sweeney are back on the silver screen in the second film featuring the Flying Squad's Regan and Carter. (John Thaw and Dennis Waterman). John Travolta is still peppering audiences with four-letter words in Saturday Night Fever and we'll have a closer look at Semi-Tough a little later on.

David Carradine, the star of TV's Kung Fu takes on four roles in The Silent Flute which is described as "the first mystical martial arts adventure movie".

Filmed in Malta, Alan Parker's gritty jail drama, Midnight Express features an all-male cast except for the exotically-named Irene Miracle (her real name). She plays the girlfriend of Billy Hayes whose story of being jailed in Turkey for drug offences for 30 years in 1970 is told in the film.

A double-page spread is devoted to Sweeney 2 the second spin-off from the popular TV series. In this one Regan and Carter leave the streets of London for the warmer climes of Gozo in order to catch the crims behind some violent bank robberies.

Almost half of the space is devoted to this glamorous trio: Sarah Atkinson, Fiona Mollinson and Lynn Dearth, who play the villains' wives.

A double-page spread is also devoted to Lowenbrau Munchen Special as the 1970s takeover of the beer trade by various similar lagers from Europe continues. Oh for a return to Bass Charrington's Special Mild... (11d per pint...)

Kris Kristofferson and Burt Reynolds vie for the hand of Jill Clayburgh in Semi-Tough a film set against the heavily padded and armoured world of American Football. Notable for the appearance of veteran Lotte Lenya as a physiotherapist, a dozen years after her most memorable role as Rosa Klebb in the second Bond film, From Russia With Love.

Stars Oliver Tobias and Joan Collins strip for a spot of energetic love-making in a lift (as you do...) in The Stud. The book was written by Joanie's sister Jackie Collins and features several scenes of nudity and frolics of a similar nature. And a guest spot by dance troupe Legs & Co as I seem to remember...

Poster time! I mentioned the film The Four Feathers in the last article. In the film Jane Seymour proves herself more than mere decoration and will go on to a long and successful career.

A double horror bill. I've not seen either of these films but remember at the time considering The Melting Man as one of those attempts to make audiences sick-up rather than entertain...

...which leads nicely into the medical advert of the magazine. ICI try to impress spotty oiks by making up a new word to describe their Cepton gel. It zots spots! We are left to work out whether they mean "clears up" or "enhances"...

Meanwhile this handy hints advert shows what can be achieved with only the "right shape of haircut" and 45-50 curlers and an endless amount of patience...

If I had ever to compile a list of the top 100 most beautiful actresses, then I'm certain Susan George would have to feature on it somewhere. In 1978 she was starring with Oliver Reed in the drama: Tomorrow Never Comes.

Actor Charles Bronson is given the back cover in a still from his film Telefon. Elsewhere in the magazine are short reviews of film-related books: The Cinema of John Huston; The Carry On Book, marking the 20th anniversary of the Carry On series; Fifty Happy Years, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first appearance by a certain Mickey Mouse; and For Adults Only, being a collection of anecdotes and revelations by Diana Dors.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Message On This Side Please...

I've been taking a break from scanning my own photos and have been catching up with my postcard collection. There's quite a few of them... Quite a while ago now, someone gave me a box of postcards and it turned out to hold 700 of them! I've just managed to finish scanning them and they will give me a few articles for the future! We've already seen those sent by A. Edgar Pedley during World War One from that collection.

Today's cards come mainly from my own flicking through boxes of postcards in antiques stalls and shops. They all feature my home town of Blackpool. This one is of Talbot Square, opposite the North Pier and includes the Town Hall on the right, which at that time had a tall spire on top of its tower.

Although addressed, it was never posted. Whilst today we would probably think of this as the "back" of the postcard, the opposite is actually true. The side with the address is the front and the photograph is the back. In the days long before emails, postcards were a cheap way of sending messages. They were used for all manner of communications, from ordering food from the local butchers to birthday and Christmas greetings. They started off being just plain white card. The address went on the front and the message on the back.

Then in 1902 when picture postcards were becoming popular, the post office decided to allow people to write their message on the front on the left hand side with the address going on the right hand side. This card dates from those early days of the 20th century with the header of the left hand (rather narrow!) column stating "For inland postage this space, as well as the back, may now be used for communication. For foreign postage the back only. (Post Office Regulation)"

My own guess is that this early postcard was bought as a souvenir of the new relaxed regulations. They probably wrote their own name and address on it as a mark of ownership. Originally in pencil this has been partially inked over.

The sending and collecting of postcards grew enormously. The sheer numbers of surviving cards to be found in antiques shops, car boot sales and on Ebay is evidence of how eagerly they were received and treasured by their recipients. This card was sent from Blackpool to Nailsworth, Gloucestershire on 12 September 1906.

After three or four years the public have got so used to the new regulations that the header now simply says "For Inland Postage Only" over the left hand column. The message itself tells us that the intended recipient was a collector of postcards. It says: "Dear Bessie, Do not know whether you have this view thought you would like one. Alice"

Before this innovation of dividing the front of a postcard to take both message and address, postcards had a small blank space on the reverse or picture side for a brief message to be written. "This is quite a favourite spot at moonlight" writes W.S. rather cryptically. I suspect he was not part of a party hoping to see phosphorescent fish shining in the shallows somehow...

This is another early example with the blank space at the right hand side of the picture. This card must also have been bought for a collection. It is unused.

For a little while though, the new system still confused some people. On the front of this the address is written in the right hand column, but the left hand column remains blank whilst on the reverse on top of the photograph this message has been written in pencil: "From Martha Jane. Am stopping here for a few days." Hmmm... not if the pier's night watchman catches you, dearie...

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

2016 Reading Part One

Remember those old-fashioned things with pages, lots of words and very few if any pictures? Being retired and not spending hours in hotels or on trains means I do less reading now, but I still enjoy a good book. We've one to mop up from the end of 2015 and the first six books I've read during 2016.

At the end of last year I had read just 30 books, about half the number I used to read when out on the road all the time. The final one came after my last book article on the blog so here it is - Alistair MacLean's Caravan To Vaccares. This deals with agents and double agents tracking a band of gypsies across Europe, some of whom are suspected of smuggling activities. The book is the usual Alistair MacLean forced march through a series of murders, beatings, chases and bluffs all of which contribute to a very enjoyable reading experience. At one time or other the reader is led to suspect each and every character!

I do look forward to a new Bill Bryson book and The Road To Little Dribbling marks his return to a book of travel writing and to a new journey through the UK which has the added hook of me personally knowing many of the places he visits. I loved the book until he came to Blackpool where he picked on all the worst aspects and had obviously not bothered to visit very much of it. We have three piers, Mr Bryson, not two. You didn't even get as far as the town centre if you managed to miscount them... It still made me chuckle a lot.

This was a Christmas present and is a list of short articles on places both well-known and obscure. I learned a fair amount from its pages, but couldn't get over the fact that many of the places deserved a bit more time and text spending on them.

This is the second of Tom Holt's books I've read where looking through a hole in foodstuff (doughnuts, Polo Mints etc) plunges you into a parallel universe and I enjoyed it quite a bit more than the first. The hero of the piece in this book has a rather aggressive and very capable girlfriend who disappears. He is a little taken aback to look into a box at work and see a tiny version of her sitting inside a jar at the far end of what appears to be a very large room in the normal-sized box. He has to work out how to open the thing that the jar is when it isn't...

The twelfth book centred around 14th century Cambridge scholar and medic Matthew Bartholomew sees Matt and Brother Michael, Cambridge University's Senior Proctor, on a trip to the city of Lincoln, where Michael has been honoured with a post at the cathedral. The city proves to be a rather unruly place with two factions about to break into open warfare. With one faction led by someone from Matt's past who still bears a grudge, the Cambridge visitors are drawn into danger and intrigue that threatens their lives.

The third of Dennis Wheatley's Roger Brook stories, The Rising Storm covers the build-up to the French Revolution with Roger once again acting on behalf of the British Government of William Pitt the Younger. He gains the confidence of Queen Marie Antoinette of France and then to some extent blots his copybook by undertaking a mission for her that places him at odds with his work for England. In the meantime he falls in love with a Spanish woman of noble blood only to lose her to an unwanted arranged marriage and then in a most final way during the excesses of mob behaviour as the revolution starts to get under way. You either like Dennis Wheatley or you don't but his mix of historical fact with a fast-paced agent story is an approach I always enjoy.

And I finish with this one for this article. The 13th book featuring Roman soldiers Macro and Cato sees them back in Britannia chasing their old enemy Caratacus. Some great set piece battles that place you in the thick of the action and with added interest provided by a spy and a plot against the two heroes.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Polperro Watercolour

Back in September last year we visited Polperro one day during a week's holiday in Cornwall. Whilst there I did a pencil sketch of the hillside and buildings above the harbour.

For the past couple of weeks I've been dabbing watercolour at an A4 print from a scan of the sketch. This afternoon I spent a couple of hours finishing it off.

I'm no expert with watercolours but I'm trying to learn. There's bits of this I like and there's definitely more than one bit where I know I made big mistakes that I'll try to avoid in future. You can easily spot the bits where I tried to put too much colour on at once and also the bits where the gradual building up of layers of colour have worked.

Usually several months would go before I start another but I know I should push myself to cut that down to a day or two. Fingers crossed!

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