Friday, 25 October 2013

Sepia Saturday: Mr & Mrs Light Come To Town

Well, I've been scratching my head, trying to decide on a post that befits the 200th Sepia Saturday celebration and, finally I have one. First published on 20th November, 2010, it's a story about my Great Great Grandparents, as reported in the Daily Herald on Wednesday, 25th August, 1937.

Two excited old people, Mr. Wellington ("Duke") Light, 78 year-old Hampshire farmer, and his 74 year-old wife, yesterday visited London for the first time.

They came as guests of the "Daily Herald" - and their visit fulfilled a life ambition.

For, they had never before been more than 25 miles from their home in Colden Common, near Winchester.

Married 52 years, they have never been separated, had never ridden in a bus or been to a theatre or cinema.

Here is how they spent their day with a "Daily Herald" Special Correspondent, who showed them the sights.

1 P.M. Driving over Westminster Bridge, they catch their first glimpse of the river.
"How beautiful," says Mrs Light, "Look Duke, it's just like the sea. And is that Big Ben right up there? We've read all about him in the papers."

1.10 Passing Buckingham Palace. "Is that where the King lives," asks Duke, unbelieving. "why does he have such a great place as that?"
Mrs Light interpolated the story of "how we nearly couldn't come to London after all because one of Duke's pigs, which he bought at market yesterday at 22s. each, and very nice little pigs too, escaped and ran away. But it was all right after all. We found him this morning, sleeping in the next sty."

1.15 Mr and Mrs Light shake hands all round at the Royal Palace Hotel. Going up to their room they take their first trip in a lift.
"What?" says "Duke," again incredulous, "Up three flights of stairs in about a second. I never would have believed. If that isn't a licker."

2 P.M. Lunch in the Cumberland Grill. Says "Duke," pointing to the concealed lights, "Is that the sun coming in there? No? It must be some wonderful lights."

Later, he tells the waiter how he nearly couldn't come to London because of the lost pig, lights a cigar and clears up the Stilton.

3.30 "What high buildings you have up here" (around Marble Arch) "I never dreamt there were such places."

4.15 At the Bank of England, they see "where the money comes from," and watch the pigeons outside the Royal Exchange.
"I used to keep pigeons," says Mrs Light, "but the cat killed them all. Does anybody ever feed these, (anxiously) I thought they looked well fed."

5 P.M. "I do believe my man will want to come and live here," she adds, as the car slips along the Embankment. "Well, I've heard a lot about London, but I never would have believed," says "Duke." "What a mighty place it is to be sure."

5.30 "marvellous, marvellous" they both say in Hyde Park. "You Londoners ought never to want for fresh air."

6 P.M. Mrs Light tells the manager of the hotel all about the day (and about the lost pig).

Mr Light explains to the Hall Porter that "it's the best day I ever did spend. Fifty two years we've been married, last Monday as ever was, but I never dreamed of anything like this and that's the truth."

8 P.M. At the News Theatre, they see their first pictures. "It's hard to think it isn't real," whispers "Duke," in my ear. "I've read about the pictures, but I never would have believed…"

Later he confesses that the Silly Symphony, "Father Noah's Ark," troubled him a little. "I don't like mockery…"

9 P.M. On the way back to the hotel. "I've told that manager man," says Mrs Light, not to be surprised if I'm up at 5 o'clock tomorrow raking the fires about. He did laugh!" They decided that tomorrow they would like to see the Zoo.

My Grandmother told me that Duke and Jinny had their trip to the Zoo, but although they knew the animals were well cared for, it upset them both to see them in captivity. At that point, Jinny became homesick. She thought about her cows, wandering free in the meadows, and suddenly she felt like a prisoner. She was never one to mince words, and duly informed her hosts that she had seen enough and wanted to go home.

On their return, Duke was asked if he had been nervous about anything. "Only of the bath," he exclaimed, "we're only used to an inch or two in the tin bath in front of the range. In the hotel, the maid had filled the bath three parts full!" This, he thought, was wasteful.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Children, Books, and a Burnt Bottom

There are no bad authors for children, that children like and want to read and seek out, because every child is different. They can find the stories they need to, and they bring themselves to stories. A hackneyed, worn-out idea isn't hackneyed and worn out to them. This is the first time the child has encountered it. Do not discourage children from reading because you feel they are reading the wrong thing. Fiction you do not like is a route to other books you may prefer. And not everyone has the same taste as you.” – Neil Gaiman

When I read this edited version of Neil Gaiman’s recent lecture for the Reading Agency, I wanted to stand and clap my hands. Once in a while we hear or read the words of someone who is eminently qualified to remind us of what is important in our lives, and in the lives of our children. This is one such occasion.

Not only does Gaiman highlight the importance of information, but he gets a good plug in for Librarians, who can you help find not only what you’re looking for, but useful things you never knew existed. That resonates with me, as a former information professional.

But I found his views on how children engage with reading materials the most interesting, and I'm sure you will, too. Do click the link above, and take a few minutes to read the piece.

At the sharp end, and to prove there are no rules when reading a story as far as kids are concerned, SW recently produced, ‘The Troo Story of 3 Littel Pig’.

It’s a short work, but that’s because SW has dispensed with the need to retell the familiar story. She wanted to get straight to the moral of the tale, and how a ravenous wolf can experience an epiphany after immersing his backside in a pot of boiling stew.

The picture is a harrowing one. You only have to see the wolf’s twisted expression to figure that out. And the dialogue is revealing.

No, no, come back. Argh, I’ll never catch them.” Wolfy is obviously desperate to make his peace with the three little pigs, but is inhibited by a somewhat blistered bum.

Sorry, my tail is burnt, and now I have to be a vegetarian.”

If this isn’t a child’s imagination firing on all cylinders, I don’t know what is. Three cheers for Neil Gaiman!

Friday, 11 October 2013


SW’s school held a harvest-themed assembly in the local church this morning.  SW, herself, had a line to read, which she managed loudly and clearly. A proud moment.

Towards the end of proceedings we got to sing Happy Birthday to a young lad who will be marking his tenth year, over the weekend. Watching him make his way up the aisle got me thinking about the thrill of reaching double figures, the tantalising prospect of being taken more seriously. After all, with a decade of life experience under your belt, you must have learnt something. Something the rest of the world would give you credit for.

Then I reflected on my younger self, spending hours unconsciously flicking through the unwritten pages that stood between 10 and grown up. All the things I believed I could be lay far beyond childhood. The teasing promises, the sweet scent of opportunity, the place where my mumbled prayers arrived incoherently on a light breeze of hope, unfurling and landing neatly at the feet of a god who had lost his voice. 

I celebrated my tenth birthday in difficult and confusing circumstances, but the presents I received that year helped to lift the late November gloom. And to mark the point from where my life would change beyond all measure, some football socks (red and white), my first leather football, and a book, ‘A Pageant of History’, which I still have. The title on the spine, embossed in gold, and a neatly inscribed dedication inside the cover, Happy Birthday, lots of love from Mummy xxxx.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Drawn and Delivered

The NHS may be creaking at the seams, and maternity units may be under threat of closure due to lack of funds. But from one new mum, the service recently received the highest praise.

Ariel waddled into the labour ward, wearing a confident expression (top left) and was immediately given a gown to cover her modesty. Her husband, seen in the picture, reaching for Ariel’s hand, is every sketched woman’s dream. For a start, he has no mouth.

The nurse, in attendance, is perhaps a little too close to hubby, but at least she has taken the trouble to come to the party, wearing some clothes. She and Ariel display the same confident expression, although we can be certain that they are not related beyond sharing the same pencil.

So, after trying a couple of birthing positions on the delivery table, our expectant mum eventually opts for a place on the floor. Not before time, as the baby’s head and one of it’s arms are clearly visible.

Finally, it’s twins! A boy and a girl, who are up and walking as quick as you like, following Ariel around as she breaks in some new slippers.

She’s now on the waiting list for the removal of her over-developed shoulder pads.