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!

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...

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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