Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Dogs and Roses - A letter from Julie

After I published Julie’s previous letter Diane from Always Crave Cute left a comment suggesting that Julie needs a blog of her own I agreed with Diane and asked Julie about it. This is what she said; You asked if I have ever done a blog, and truthfully, I haven’t as yet! But I adore the written word and have even written articles for magazines over the years. Many folk have asked if I am a writer by profession, and it always makes me smile. What a huge compliment!! 

Now for the next instalment - over to you Julie;

So ... is the weather still gorgeous over in UK? We have been in the throes of a rather chilly snap which has affected the southern half of Oz as well as most of the Eastern coast. We are far enough North that it has not affected us up here! Thank heavens as the cold and I am not fond bedfellows at all. So many youngsters have been seeing and touching snow for the very first time in their lives this weekend. Amazing! Brrrr....

Cobweb in Julie's garden. 
It's beautiful Julie but did I ever tell you about my fear of spiders? I can only imagine the fearful eight-legged nightmare that built this. 

I am smiling as I think of your family members in Adelaide. My step mum, Adele, is from the Adelaide Hills and snow is so very rare in that area. The news reports were filled with children who were having such a fabulous time as they made their snowballs and even Snow Men. The huge smiles on their mesmerised faces was a real delight to see, after all the awful and sad stories which the news has been filled with for what seems like ages. Of course, though rather chilly here in the tropical area of North Queensland, it is gorgeously sunny, so the early-morning  temperatures climb very rapidly to the mid 20s, and it is just wonderful at this time of year and quite heavenly really!  I know what you mean about the warmth you are having, which means that a raincoat is quite a nuisance. And to think that our idiot Prime Minister (who no one admits to liking) keeps on about there being no such thing as Climate Change!! (Julie wrote this when Tony Abbott was in power. Malcolm Turnbull, a former investment banker and lawyer, is the new prime minister.)  

Our seasons have changed so radically in just the past three or four years, that even the fruit crops such as Mangoes, don't know whether it is winter or summer. A good thing about the lovely, if weird weather though, is the amazing strawberries which are available at the moment so cheaply in Queensland. I can easily live on them! I love all sorts of fruit and with everything growing to perfection here, I feel so lucky. We have got passion fruits on the vine at the moment, but my banana tree decided to curl up its toes recently!! I chop up my strawberries and then scoop the passion fruit pulp all over them, with just a small amount of sticky brown sugar. Too Yummy! And I love stewing the winter apples with a few strawberries tossed in too.

Another visitor to Julie’s garden

The weather the whole world over is just mad ... I think you and I had almost identical temperature ranges the other day, from what I saw on the World News! Your poor dahlias seem to be suffering the mixed up signals from Mother Nature, just as all the plants here are doing with the summery climate we are having during our winter. The mango tree which is in my neighbours yard, but overhangs into my yard is FULL of fruit and blossoms all at the same time! We do not usually see even the start of its flowers till late September for December fruit. It is totally bizarre! The Fruit Bats are not even aware of their favourite fruit being there so these mangoes are actually seeming to grow without being destroyed, unlike when they are on the trees at the normal time of year. 

My girls are all out lazing in the sun right now. Bless their hearts.... They felt the chill earlier on, that's for sure! It was MUCH cooler than yesterday. We had just 6.5 degrees at 6.30 this morning. However, it had climbed to 14.3 by 8 o'clock, and now at 9.30am it is already 18.  We should get to the mid 20's by lunchtime and stay there, till late afternoon hopefully. Mmmmm...Beautiful! My big chairs have lovely fleecy throws on them so it is little wonder that the Fur Babies love curling up on them early in the morning and late at night. Well dear Barbara, I shall head off and have a nice hot cup of tea. I think that going out on the veranda with the dogs and enjoying the warmth sounds like a good plan. 

Much love and many smiles too, Jules xoxoxoxo
August, 2015

PS The wrinkly teddy bear is LouLou, my almost totally deaf Shar Pei. The big dog with the floppy ears is Georgie, who was so badly abused that my vet had to keep her over for four months to get her well enough for me to adopt. The small dog with the pointy ears is Koo, who has adopted us by coming over from next door after she decided that she loved the company and being allowed to sleep on my bed with the other two every night when she stayed for a weekend when Kylie and her sons were away.  The boys still come to play with her all the time and it works out perfectly for us all.  

All photographs courtesy of Julie Drew

Previous letters from Julie here and here


A follow-up from Julie 

I too had a shocking fear of spiders as a small child, and was cured of it by my darling dad!  One evening there was a huge huntsman spider up in the corner of my bedroom and I was beside myself with fear, screaming for Dad to kill it! He flatly refused, instead catching it and putting it in a lovely big jar. He made me catch insects for it and basically have it as a sort of pet, telling me that it would be far more afraid of me who was so much like a giant to it, than I had a right to be frightened of IT!!  I did release my new friend into the garden after a few days, by the way!! My dad is such a clever man to have thought of such a thing!

Well, it worked, and ever since I have had a healthy (if respectful where venomous ones are concerned) fascination for these amazing critters. I even did a long assignment when at high school, all about their web-spinning abilities!! I love to see the very delicate little webs in my garden as the sunlight catches them. They truly are beautiful and so amazingly complex.

Thanks so much Julie, I'm sure readers of this blog will enjoy hearing from you again, just as I do. 
Love Barbara xx

This talk of spiders reminded me to wish you all a Very Happy Halloween.  

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Win this competition and see your design on sale at Joules.com

I’ve got a really fun competition for you this week. 

Get creative; design a pair of Joules wellies to win a luxury three night break in a Golden Oak Treehouse Cabin worth £5,000 or one of ten runner-up prizes of a £250 Joules gift card. Nothing could be easier or more fun.  I just tried out the design website and it’s simplicity itself.

I chose shades of blue, orange and beige with a doggy motif (naturally). What will your design look like? 

The winning welly design will go on sale at Joules.com

To enter submit your design here.

You have until the 4th of December to get creative don’t delay doodle today! 

All proceeds from the sale of the limited edition winning welly will be donated to charity via CHARITABLY JOULES.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Ruth Cobb a Guest Post by David Redd

Ruth Cobb (1878-1950) was an English illustrator and writer, particularly noted for portraying children and dolls in colourful costumes.  Some of her full-colour plates may be found disbound and sold separately as prints (“My First Pet”) or reproduced as modern posters (“Little Girls of Other Lands”).

My First Pet & Little Girls of Other Lands

Ruth was born on 14th June 1878 to Thomas Cobb, a future novelist but at the time evidently a tailor in New Bond Street, London.  Curiously Ruth’s birthplace is stated as 164 Regent Street, later the sumptuous studio of Victorian society photographer Walery.  However the family soon moved to Tunbridge Wells where her sister and brother were born.

All the family became busy writers, but young Ruth was determined to be simply an illustrator.  She worked first in a studio then as a freelance, eventually selling to magazines as varied as Chatterbox, the Autocar, the Builder, and Punch.

Notable success began from 1902 with her three books in the Dumpy Books series, where Richard Hunter’s verses accompanied Ruth’s vivid colour sketches of Dollies, More Dollies, and Irene’s Christmas Party.  (Other Dumpy titles included one by her father and two by Mary Tourtel, pre-Rupert.)  She then produced larger-format books such as The Wonder-Voyage and A Trip to Fairyland, and provided illustrations for books by others.

The Wonder Voyage - front & back covers 

Meanwhile her holiday sketches of old buildings started seeing print, eventually blossoming into a long secondary career of illustrated articles.  For adults she decorated works such F J Harvey Darton’s A Parcel of Kent, her brother’s first novel Stand to Arms, and – a striking dust-jacket – E H Young’s 1930 best-seller Miss Mole.  However she remained devoted to children’s art.

Ruth Cobb cover art (Image The Bamboo Bookcase

During the Twenties and Thirties Ruth contributed to an astonishing number of children’s annuals and miscellanies for Blackie, Collins, Nelson, Tuck and others.  At times she provided both text and pictures for stories or articles.  Some young readers could not resist colouring her black-and-white drawings, and surely a portfolio of her children’s sketches would make a lovely colouring book for modern times.

However, this long extension of the Edwardian Summer in children’s illustration was ended abruptly in 1939 by the outbreak of World War II.  Ruth’s market was shattered, and so was her whole way of life.  A memoir states: “She went to live with relations in Sussex.  There, she did a lot of voluntary war work, became President of a Women’s Institute, did map drawing, for the War Agricultural Committee in Lewes, and spoke for the Ministry of Information.”  Typically, a 1941 lecture of hers was “Some of London’s Bombed Buildings.”

Later she resumed her work for periodicals, and as the war ended she began producing a quartet of slim illustrated topographical books, all well-received.  Evidently she suffered a sudden heart attack, being found dead on 7th December 1950.  Her wartime struggles seem to have deepened her appreciation of liberty; the first chapter of A Sussex Highway is entitled “The Beginning of the Road”, its main illustration dated shortly after VE Day.  The final chapter of her final book commemorates Thomas Paine, author of The Rights of Man.

Charming as those late adult books were, it is for her delightful children’s illustrations that Ruth Cobb will be remembered.

Illustrations from The wonder voyage

Note on Ruth Cobb’s family.

Her father Thomas Cobb (1853-1932) was the author of nearly 80 popular novels and many shorter items.  Her sister Joyce (1890-1970) produced poems, articles, short stories (notably WWI fiction) and one novel.  Her brother (Geoffrey) Belton Cobb wrote approximately 70 crime thrillers.  Ruth herself created only a dozen books of her own, but contributed to over a hundred more.

Note on signatures.

Her preferred location was generally the lower right-hand corner, as “Ruth Cobb” or “ruth cobb” sometimes boxed or enscrolled.    Smaller drawings bore initials “r c” or perhaps nothing.  In Edwardian times, the plates for Dollies etc were unsigned, while larger paintings gained a stylised slanting “R” within a “C”.  Sketches for adults published then or as late as 1953 were signed “Ruth Cobb” in handwriting, with smaller items initialled.

Grateful thanks to The Society of Women Writers and Journalists for providing the picture of Ruth Cobb and for other kind assistance. David Redd.

I would like to add my thanks to David for sharing this very interesting article.   

The Miss Mole cover image is from The Bamboo Bookcase, other images supplied by David Redd.

Update 25th October, 2015

David kindly sent along another example of Ruth’s work.

This plate is from The Collins’ Children’s Annual for 1925 which is currently available to purchase from eBay.

Monday, 5 October 2015

A Book from my Bookshelf - The Cassell’s Annual For Boys and Girls 1914

I know lots of you enjoying seeing images from my vintage book collection and so this week I'm going to share the delightful Cassell's Annual for Boys and Girls. It is often difficult to date these old annuals, but I had no problem with this one because the publisher kindly printed MCMXIV on the title page. If you struggle with Roman Numerals as I sometimes do there is a handy Roman numeral converter here or here 

Tip – if you are trying to put a date to an undated book, one way is to visit COPAC – a searchable catalogue which provides free access to the merged online catalogues of many major research libraries. You can often verify bibliographic information this way, but a simpler way is to take a good look at the book itself.  In the case of the Cassell's Annual the publisher offered 100 prizes in a Grand Painting Competition which closed on the 20th January 1915 (or for Colonial readers the 2nd March 1915). So it makes sense to assume it was published in 1914 in plenty of time for Christmas.

I've been spoilt for choice when it comes to images to share. The title page states there are nearly two hundred colour pictures. I hope you enjoy the ones I’ve chosen.  

The Adventures of Edward the Red Teddy Bear - The Aeroplane Wish 
with illustrations by Frank Hart.
Edward the Red Teddy Bear frowned and said, " If we'd lived about a hundred million years ago we might have met a fairy or something that would have given us wishes. Nowadays, we can't meet fairies because there don't happen to by any, but I don't see why we shouldn't have the wishes. Suppose that I and you and the Dutch Doll decide in our minds that we will take it in turns to have a wish, and that the two of us who aren't wishing will promise very faithfully to help the one who is wishing until his wish is quite finished!"

Another Frank Hart illustration for a story called The Suffragette Wish.
So they followed Nancy the Dutch Doll out into the crowded streets. When she found herself quite in the street, Nancy wondered very much in her mind what kind of things suffragettes did. And the only thing she could think of was to bite a policeman!

Mabel Lucie Attwell illustrates a poem by Margaret O. Carpenter.
I wrote a letter to my love - I used my very longest pen:
I sealed the letter with a heart and gave it kisses ten.
But oh, I let it lie about before I posted it, and so
the fairies stole it right away - I cried all night, I know.
Next day, with Podge, my darling dog, I walked a most tremendous way
Until I found the Toadstool Town, where naughty fairies play.
They laughed, and stared, and winked, and sneered, and made such horrid rude grimaces.
But I could tell they were the thieves by looking at their faces.
I said, "You've got my letter there! Now do be good and give it up."
But they played pranks which frightened me, and angered Podge the pup.
He made a rush, did Podge, and growled, and barked so fierce a "Bow-wow-wow!"
They fled, and left my note behind - I'll run and post it now!

Arthur Rackham provides numerous illustrations for several stories, including this one 
(The Two Great Pachas).
Many years ago there lived a famous monarch of Arabia named Ali Pacha, who ruled over a vast empire in the East. He had won so many battles and was so fearless and wise a man that he was known as "The Great Pacha."

The following illustrations are by Stuart-Barker - I haven't come across the illustrator before, but I think the images are enchanting. 


Abraham Huggs's Book of Drugs by Olaf Baker, artist not credited. 
Now it happened that, in the same town, there lived a very old and most disrespectable person called Abraham Huggs. He lived quite alone except for his owl Alexander, and his wild black cat Sputtles. A spitting, fighting, swearing creature was Sputtles, and not another cat or dog dared to come near the place. And Alexander wan't much better, and used to mope at day and hoot at night, and make himself generally disagreeable.

Belinda screamed with terror illustration by Florence Hardy
Then the Teddy Bear sized Belinda and set her on his toboggan. Just as he did so there was a dreadful growling, and twenty huge bears rushed out of the wood. The Teddy Bear started the toboggan down the steep slope of the hill. The Big Bears rushed after it, growling furiously. Belinda could hear them close behind, and screamed with terror. But the toboggan went faster and faster...

The Clock Illustration and poem by E. Dorothy Rees.
Tick-tock! What says the clock?
Bed-time it must be.
Take a light, say "good-night,"
And come upstairs with me!

Is that the time? Goodness I must away but I just have time to show you a picture of the book spine - irresistible don't you think? 

Thanks for your visit. I hope you enjoyed a peek inside this beautiful book.

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