Sunday, 31 May 2009

A Little Girl at the Graveside

Another of the finds in the albums just rediscovered. There is a certain poignancy in this photograph of a young girl at the graveside of - I presume - an elder brother? It is quite unusual to find such a personal photograph like this. The grave is of Frederick Charles Brown who died on August 31, 1919 aged 22 years. Would he have died as a result of the Influenza epidemic that took the lives of millions of people during 1918-1919, I wonder?

A Fen Funeral - Carting the deceased off to the Cemetery

Another find in the creaking attic was this wonderful postcard of a Fenland funeral. Circa 1900, it shows family members on a cart that was taking them and the deceased for burial. The clergyman posing majestically with his stick just has to be a Catholic priest - any thoughts on my identification are welcomed. I wonder if the deceased was a 1900s celebrity to have such a magnificent send off? Click on the image for a closer look.

Paris Dogs Cemetery - Another Find!

Looking for some more material to post, I came across another two large albums of vintage grave art, cemetery, funeral related postcards from around the world. The earlier posts of mine on the Paris Dogs Cemetery were very popular and people won't be surprised to know that they are among the most viewed of any posts I have made to this blog. I was surprised to find another card on the subject, having no knowledge of it being in my collection, but - hey, it must be to do with the passage of time!

It is such a beautiful memorial to a dog much loved by his family and, by the looks of it, a real character!

Havana Bone Yard - some grisly souvenirs!

In Colon Cemetery in Havana, Cuba is the site of the celebrated 'boneyard'. A single grave in the cemetery cost $10 in rent for five years. At the end of the five years, if the remains were not claimed, the bones were thrown into the boneyard [sometimes known as 'bone pile] by the cemetery authorities.

In the 1890s, American soldiers often removed skulls and bones and drove through the streets of Havana displaying them. Their commander, General Brooke ordered the practice to stop and gave instructions for the pit to be covered over. Two cards, here, show American soldiers stood on the thirty foot deep pile holding up bones in the shape of the skull and crossbones. Photographs were taken and sold commercially as souvenir postcards to send home to their loved ones. How times have changed! Remember to click on the images to enlarge them.

Minnie puts her foot in it!

I was just fine-tuning another portrait of Minnie. When my back was turned, she decided to do a little jig on my keyboard and this was the result. I don't know who was more shocked - her or me! Ah, Minnie. You should never mess with Photoshop. Let this be a warning to you!

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Digital Art - Is there a place for it?

Last night I came across two examples of digital art that I had produced some time ago. Both flowers were photographed in my garden with a close-up lens and then manipulated in Adobe Photoshop to produce the digital paintings. It was my first attempt at this, but I quite like them, Others may not. Some times digital manipulation can be over done, but I'd still be interested to hear your opinion.

Sylvie perches on the Bird Table

This is Sylvie - Minnie's dearly loved sister who very sadly passed over to the other side two years ago. Sylvie and Minnie came from a kitten farm and were sold as 'designer' cats (an ugly term) to a neighbour's daughter. When she fell pregnant, she decided she had no need for the cats anymore and, not long after we took them on, got rid of her Parson's Jack Russell as well. Draw your own conclusions . . . Two more affectionate cats you could never find!

Minnie makes a bed for herself!

When she is not communing with gnomes, Minnie enjoys spying on squirrels, watching goldfish and, when no-one is looking, making a comfortable bed for herself in an empty bean bag. Here, she is practising being invisible. She thinks I cannot see her and I prefer her to think that. Whatever we think, I find her very appealing and in photographs like this she has a very high 'Ah!' rating - Ahhhhhhhh!

Scarecrows - Releasing the Inner You!

I am full of the Joys of Spring today - the sun is shining; the birds are singing and Sooty is wandering around the garden. Very relaxing! To keep in that positive mood, I though I would share this recently discovered photograph with you. It is of a walker who caught sight of a Scarecrow and decided to the release her inner feelings. I remember thinking that the Scarecrow looked to be very pleased to have some company for a while - a break from its normal solitary existence. Have any of you done anything similar?

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Unicorn Snail

I came across an astonishingly rare snail in Paradise Garden - the Unicorn Snail. Textbooks tell me that it has extreme difficulty moving through foliage, especially when turning around, because of the extreme length of its proboscis . . . poor thing!

A Bird on the Nest

I saw this beautiful bird nesting in some rockery plants. It looks quite happy to me!

Human Statues

I am sure they are a common sight in many cities of the world. I am referring to the street artists who dress up as statues and stand motionless on a plinth. When someone drops a coin into their collecting dish, they move and this normally produces a scream from the person making the donation! Here in Bath, I waited until the 'statue' took a break so it could indulge in a coffee and a cigarette. Always polite, I asked quietly if I could take a shot and he quickly adopted three poses for me to capture - what a gentleman! It reminds me of the old Hamlet cigar advert. Of the three, I quite like the shot where his twinkling eyes are looking directly at me.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Sophie Ryder Scupture - unconditional love

I thought this section of Sophie Ryder's sculpture was worthy of a post of its own. I think the hound's adoring look captures the relationship between a dog and its owner perfectly.

Jamjar Cottage - What happened next?

It was. It was . . . terrible. I woke up in a field, miles from anywhere, with both feet in a bucket filled with cement. I could hear the running water from the river that ran alongside. A menu card balanced on my chest said 'Be warned!'

When a passer-by finally found me, I knew I was safe for the moment. Once extracted from the cement, I went home. I knew I probably looked a mess, No, I did look a mess. How did I know? The look on the face of my cat Minnie told me everything . . .

I slept for hours, once I had checked every window was shut and doors locked and bolted. I had some very strange dreams. Well, dreams is perhaps the wrong word? Nightmare is more like it. I kept seeing a group of figures and it unsettled me. Had I imagined it or not? What had I got myself into?

Suddenly, everything in my life and everything I saw looked sinister, even the trees!

The whole thing was driving me absolutely . . .

To be continued . . .

Sophie Ryder Sculpture in Bath

A remarkable new sculpture by British sculptor Sophie Ryder has gone on display in Bath. It depicts a group of half-human, half hare figures with their hounds. Here is a selection of views of the work. I think you will agree that it is pretty unusual and quite thought-provoking.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Hillside Cottage

Of course every paradise garden requires a home in which to store the seed trays, rakes, forks and trowels. Hillside Cottage is its name. It was part of a coalmine that opened in 1798 and closed in 1898. Formerly the Mine Manager's home and offices, it was sold into private hands by the mine owner, Lord Hylton in 1966.

Hillside Cottage 2009
Here is the building as it is today. Sadly, with trees having grown up in the century that has passed since the earlier mine photo was taken, it is impossible to photograph the left hand side of the property.

Upper Writhlington Colliery 1900
The key point of reference, here, is the porch to the left of chimney. Today, it is to the left of the front conservatory in the 2009 photograph. Careful scrutiny of the photograph shows the left of the property when it was a corrugated iron, single storey, boiler room, gardener's store and creamery. I do not know when the first floor was extended to a point now ends behind the colliery wheel. The mine wheel and chimney are long gone, although a neighbour has the capped mine shaft in his garden. He raised the cover and jumped up and down on the filling that was put in by the council. Thankfully, he did not disappear from sight - it is some 1,000 feet deep!

Paradise Garden

It is a lovely sunny Monday afternoon although heavy rain is forecast to arrive from France later [thank you, Owen, Jeff34 et al]. Sitting on the front step with a cup of tea in my hand, I remembered one of you asking about my garden. So, here is a ninety second view of part of my front garden. No roads, no traffic. The birds are talking to me. Sooty is pottering around the lawn. What more could you want? Bliss!

Sunday, 24 May 2009

A pair of Angels entwined is a thing of beauty

One of the first graves I came across in the Dissenters' Cemetery, yesterday, was this very ornate representation of two angels on a gravestone. The sheer beauty of the carving and the way it has weathered makes this a photograph that I am very pleased to have captured.

A weathered Toy stands sentinel on a young child's grave

Owen Phillips (Magic Lantern Show) recently provided me a link to a couple of photographs on another blog of mouldering children's soft toys decaying on a grave. I found a soft toy weathering slowly on a child's grave, today. I am not sure what exactly it is, but it is a very striking image.

Discovering the Childrens' Plot in a Somerset Cemetery

I was photographing a modern cemetery this afternoon, so that I could compare the latter day headstones with those of much earlier times. I spotted a couple of teddy bear-shaped stones and quickly realised that was standing in the middle of a very large children's plot. Now, I have seen Victorian gravestones with up to a dozen children of the same family named who had died of disease in reasonably quick succession, but this was the first time I had been to a section entirely devoted to babies and young children. The ages of those interred made me sad - two days, one month, five months, one year - to list but a few.

This teddy bear memorial has a very striking floral tribute in the shape of a bear laid upon it.

Here, small creatures offer company at this unnamed child's grave.

Jason Cooper's grave was quite ornate and, as can be seen in the second photograph, was covered in, presumably, favourite toys?

A recumbent teddy bear was the only thing that marked an unknown grave.

Angel Serenity

I photographed this angel just a couple of days ago. What intrigues me is that she forms part of the gravestone and is not a separate, standing figure. Her expression is one of serenity - a refreshing change from the usual weeping, mourning angels more commonly seen.

In terms of of photographing headstones and especially something like this angel, there an important thing to remember. Move around and vary the angle of your shot - it makes a real difference. Here are just a few examples to show what can be achieved. I have not included the standard profile photograph or the close-ups of the inscription, the latter to save having to write down the details - as long as the inscription is legible and . . . you are confident of your photographic competence. What you don't want to have happen is that you travel 50 miles to visit the cemetery and then get back to find everything is badly exposed! Of course, everything is so much better now - with a digital camera, you can check if the photo came out straight away.

Good luck and . . . keep making a record of history!

Graveyard Cat

This fine young tabby cat was enjoying his nap in the sun at Frome Dissenters' Cemetery until I came along. As he was deciding whether to stay or flee (no, I am not that frightening!), I took one quick shot before moving away to look at another part of the cemetery. Sometimes I see several different cats resting and hunting - it must be a nightmare for the poor mice that traverse the paths between the rows of headstones! Once I met a friendly black cat here - the sort often pictured in the company of a Witch. I wonder why they get such bad press, especially when a black cat crossing your path is considered 'good luck'? What do others think of graveyard cats?

Jamjar Cottage - Retracing my Steps

But I needed to be certain. I retraced my steps and looke around outside. Three circa 1940s jamjars lay half-buried in the soil - contents long gone, now brimful of earth. I widened my search and came across a large piece of dinner plate with a traditional blue pattern.

Eyes now scanning the ground with some urgency, I found what I was looking for, something I had very definitely not wanted to find. It was a fragment of skull - not human - or more accurately part of an eye socket. This was not good news . . .

Twenty-five years ago, on Dartmoor and far off the beaten track, a friend and eye took a short cut and pushed our way through a hedge row. Oh, how I wish now that we hadn't. There, cut into the bank was a simple altar, a number of plaited straw objects lay scattered around. Not corn dollies, but sinister figures. A cockerel lay on the ground close-by. Its head was further away. It was decapitated as a sacrifice and a blood-stained wooden bowl lay where it had been dropped by one of those taking part in the ritual. These oft-recalled but unwanted images offered an insight into what might have happened at Jamjar Cottage.

A twig cracked behind me. I was not alone, wheeling round to face the newcomer. The figure I saw before me did not speak, but it raised its arm and pointed an accusing finger straight at me. The voice when it did speak was unearthly. "You", it said, " are going to regret this!" I heard no more as something hit my head very hard. It was . . .

To be continued . . .

Saturday, 23 May 2009

A Curious Encounter in a Somerset Graveyard

It was one of those rare occurences in a graveyard, the feeling of being watched. Normally it turns out to be the graveyard cat or a concerned churchwarden who has received a tip-off about a strange person who keeps lying on the ground next to graves. On this occasion, it was was neither. I was engaged in capturing an image of a headstone [the 104th of the brief visit I was making to discover new material to share with you, the readers of this blog] and as I moved away, I saw a brief movement in the corner of my eye. Did someone or something wink at me?

I was almost struck dumb as I realised the flowers carved on the stone had faces. Now the Victorian stone mason may have been displaying that he had a sense of humour or I might have been imaging things and . . . as someone remarked on this blog before, it had nothing to do with 'Chardonnay' - I am Temperance!

Photographs were duly taken and scrutinised once downloaded to my laptop. There is, in my mind, absolutely no doubt these are faces and I was minded to recall the popular 1950s childrens television programme - The Flowerpot Men. Bill and Ben were the names of the two characters who lived by the potting shed. Their friend, I kid you not, was Little Weed - a weed in a pot - who was prone to shouting in a high-pitched voice 'Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeed!!!!!'

Phew, that's enough reminiscing, but could the character of Little Weed have been inspired by the flower faces on this headstone? Let me know what you think? I doubt there are other examples of this unless, dear readers, you know otherwise?

The flower above has a smiling face, while the one below looks very glum. Poor thing!

Trees eating Things - More Amazing Revelations!

I am now in seventh heaven and I want to tell you why. You will remember Owen's blog - Magic Lantern Show which posted a photograph of a tree eating a sign and I responded by putting up pictures and details of the 'Bicycle-eating Tree'. I suggested that the trees' appetite for consuming foreign objects might be a common occurence. It is worse than I thought - it now seems that trees across the planet are munching their way through all sorts of things and . . . gravestones are now on the menu!

With such a huge amount of interest in the subject, I decided to do some more research and, in doing so, I came across a gallery of more than 130 photographs of trees eating things. This eye-popping show can be viewed by clicking HERE. Thanks to the generosity of two of the photographers, who have signed up to Creative Commons, I can reproduce two of the amazing pictures in this post. Enjoy!

Above: Hungry Tree - and nothing around but this short concrete wall (Picture: Rofi). Below: A giant tree slowly devours an ancient headstone (Picture: Sighthound)

Friday, 22 May 2009

Jamjar Cottage - Stepping into the Unknown

As soon as I passed through the doorway into the room, it was obvious something was wrong. Something strange had happened here - the floor hadn't been swept for years and there was no glass in the window frame. There was a view across the valley beyond the railway track.

The occupants had gone out, but had forgotten to turn out the lights. How do I know this? Was it my amazing powers of deduction? No, the light switch was in the 'on' position. I knew this meant something - they had left in a hurry!

Something nagged away at my mind. I put it down to my over-developed imagination, but I began to feel uneasy - very uneasy. And then I saw it. The leg bone of a cockerel with its fighting claw well defined. This was likely to mean just one thing . . .

To be continued . . .

Jamjar Cottage - Introduction

It was just a walk in the Somerset countryside and as I walked past a small copse, I noticed some snowdrops. There must have been a garden here once upon a time. As I moved closer and looked in front of me, there was a doorway bordered with ivy. Without doubt, it was the ruins of a building

There must be treasure here, I thought and I was right! But more of that later . . . It was time to take a step into the unknown!

To be continued . . . .