Monday, 24 April 2017

More Perfect Little Works of Art: Fred Taylor and J. Francis Smith. Plus spring sunshine at Barrington Court

I don’t claim to have any knowledge of these ‘little works of art’ I am simply sharing them for your enjoyment. I shared the first part of the collection and the little I know about them in this previous post

Fred Taylor. R.I 
Fred Taylor Photochrome images

I've struggled to enlarge the images because the originals are so small, but I hope these slightly larger pictures will enable you to see some of the details. Please leave a comment if you recognise any of the places or know anything about Photochromes. Actually, please leave a comment even if you don’t, I love hearing from you. 

Fred Taylor

Fred Taylor Photochrome images

Fred Taylor Photochrome images

I'm sure this is Dunster. Terry and went there in May 2013, and I blogged about it here 
Fred Taylor Photochrome images

The same picture in colour (image found on Pinterest)  

What about these - any ideas?  Could the one at bottom right be St. Paul's?
Fred Taylor Photochrome images

Fred Taylor (1875 - 1963)
Educated at Academie Julian, Paris and Goldsmiths College, London.
One of Britain’s foremost poster artists 1908 - 1940s. Best known
for his posters of buildings and architecture. His main clients included
the London Underground and the Empire Marketing Board.
The London Transport Museum
Livingston, A. & I., Dictionary of Graphic Design and Designers, 1992, p.187

Replies from readers of my blog (thank you all so much). 

Nicki-ann suggested D5206 (on the first sheet) lookes like Chester and having checked online she is absolutely right. According to Wikipedia, the building is Lockwood’s black-and-white building at Chester Cross.

Willie agrees the building on the bottom right of the second sheet is St Paul's Cathedral.

Sue Imgrund is sure image 5229 (top left – second sheet) is Great Court, Trinity College Cambridge Sue included a link to a postcard published by the Photochrom Co of Royal Tunbridge Wells  (the very same company as on a business card found in this album). I assume the postcard was produced from this very image – which adds weight to the fact that this could be a salesman’s sample book.

Darlene Foster and Susan Donaldson agree no 5204 is York Minster, although Darlene thinks it could be Monk Bar in the foreground while Susan is sure it is Bootham Bar.  Sue is sure she knows where more of these places are. I just need a little time to check, and then I will share the information with you. (Thanks Sue)

Further thanks are due to Susan Donaldson for the following information:  D. 5205 is Edinburgh, with the castle in the background and the Scott Monument in the foreground. I found this fairly similar image (c1915) on Pinterest.

Sue also came up trumps with D 5230 (top row, second sheet) which she correctly identified as the ruins of Dryburgh Abbey, near Dryburgh on the banks of the River Tweed in the Scottish Borders. I’m so grateful to everyone who helped out with this, thank you.  

Please don’t forget to leave a comment if you know where any of these places are, I would dearly love to find them all.

J. Francis Smith:
J. Francis Smith: Photochromes

Several of these look like old English Country Inns, but it doesn’t help me place them. Are you familiar with any of them?

J. Francis Smith: Photochromes

Update: While researching this post, I assumed the above images were by the Canadian artist John Francis Smith (1868 - 1941). However, after publishing the post I was contacted by a lady by the name of Patricia Hovenden. Patricia tells me there were two J. Francis Smiths working at about the same time.  Patricia is the granddaughter of the English J. Francis Smith and has colour versions of a number of these drawings.

In accordance with the information received from Patricia, I can safely assume all the above works are by the English J. Francis Smith. He was a Liverpudlian who worked for the Liverpool echo he also designed cards as a side line. He enjoyed painting and sketching Cotswold villages and inns. Patricia didn’t know her grandfather, but she tells me he died around 1957.

The images so far identified are:
D.5214 Groombridge, Kent
D.5255 The Black Bear Inn, Tewkesbury
D. 5254 (Possibly) The Crown, Evesham
Second sheet, bottom row - without number Matlock Dale, High Tor.

I am very grateful to everyone who gets in touch and will always try to correct any errors I might make. I really want to find out as much as I can about these little works of art, and I’m thrilled to be finding so many answers. 

The weather has been glorious of late tempting us to leave the chores and enjoy some sunshine. On one such sunny day, we headed to Barrington Court, a National Trust property less than an hour from where we live. I’ve written about Barrington Court previously so I won’t bore you with all the details (like the delicious cheese scones for elevenses or the equally delicious lunch), but I would like to share some of my photographs. If you are interested in my previous posts, you will find them here: Autumn at Barrington Court and here: Tiptoe through the Tulips.  If you would like further details about Barrington Court, please visit the National Trust website here.

The formal gardens are stunning, but it was lovely to see wild bluebells dotted about the place. 

I like the dreamy quality of this photograph. The unknown (to me) family on the bridge drew my eye, and I couldn't resist snapping a quick shot.

It was a surprise to see roses blooming in April.  We have lots of tiny buds on ours but no actual flowers yet.

A sunny part of the gardens enclosed by tall brick walls, I wish I could share the delicious aroma of the wallflowers.  I don’t know the couple in the photograph they just happened to wander through as I took it.

As we sat on a bench enjoying the sunshine, this little chap came to say hello. He is obviously very used to visitors as he was quite unperturbed when we started taking his photo. 

Leaving Terry to enjoy the sun I headed off to one of my favourite places on the estate. National Trust properties with second-hand bookshops are the best! This one is usually full of customers but for once I had it all to myself.

Striding back, book in hand happy as can be! (Photo by Terry Fisher)

What did I buy? The Woodland Gospels by Jeremy Lloyd with illustrations by Graham Percy. I sold lots of copies of this when I was trading, so it's nice to finally have one of my own.

Everywhere you turn there is another lovely vista and more beautiful flowers.

We noticed this glorious Clematis just as we were about to leave. I'm delighted with how sharp my photograph is. Terry is forever trying to show me how to take better pictures, but I’m never happy to stand still for very long. He waits until the light is just right or a butterfly settles on a flower, whereas I want to keep moving. We’ve been married for 47 years in June, so we are quite used to each other's foibles, it simply means I walk twice as far as Terry as I double back on myself to see if he is ready to move on. If you follow this link, you will be taken to Terry’s blog where you can see what a difference a little extra patience makes.

Monday, 17 April 2017

A trip to the theatre and the Easter bunny spotted in Australia

Hello all, I hope you are enjoying the Easter weekend as much as we are. We had a lovely chat with our granddaughters in Australia on Saturday morning. They were eagerly awaiting a visit from the Easter bunny and very excited to tell us all about it. Towards the end of the conversation Zoe (the eldest of the two) started to tell us about a visit to the dentist. “Nanny” she asked “did you teach daddy to ‘spit out’ after he cleans his teeth?” I replied that yes, I did, and she then said the dentist said you shouldn’t do that, and although she had told daddy, he was still doing it!  I'm sure she thought it was time for me to take daddy to task, but I don’t think he would appreciate a lecture from his mum.  [Steve, if you should happen to read this, you have been told.]  😊

I promise to stop going on about Easter, but I thought you might like to see this lovely picture of the Easter Bunny as painted by Lilly (the younger of the two girls) which arrived in the post on Saturday.

The Easter Bunny painted by Lilly age 4
The Easter Bunny as painted by Lilly age 4, a good likeness I think you will agree.

This is Lilly on Easter Sunday afternoon. I can’t be sure she is holding the Easter bunny, but it’s possible – right?

... and there was you thinking eggs came from chickens. 

Enough about Easter...

One evening last week, Terry and I went along to see a new play by Barney Norris. Echo’s End is a not-quite-love story set on Salisbury Plain during the First World War.

John and Anna (played by Tom Byrne and Katie Moore) are childhood friends, living in a farming community in the Wiltshire countryside. Their parents expect them to marry but although John loves Anna, Anna doesn’t love him back. With his advances rejected John enlists, and Anna finds comfort in the arms of an injured New Zealand soldier based in one of the camps on Salisbury Plain. Jack (Oliver Hembrough) is a different breed of man, unsentimental and mature.  While Anna's father Arnold (David Beames) barters with Jack for food that was once easily obtained, Anna is slowly falling in love.

This is a story without a happy ending, tender, dramatic, beautifully designed and well worth seeing if you get the chance.

I’ve always wondered if my grandfather or any of my uncles did any of their basic training on Salisbury Plain. They all served in France during WW1 and several of them didn’t come back, which made this story all the more poignant for me. 

Award-winning author and playwright Barney Norris
was born in Chichester in 1987 and grew up in Sussex,
London and Salisbury. A graduate of the universities of
Oxford and Royal Holloway, his poetry, stories and other
writings have been published in various magazines. His
first non-fiction book Bodies Gone: The Theatre of Peter Gill
was published by Seren in 2014. His debut novel
Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain, became a Guardian,
Daily Mail and Evening Standard Book of the Year.
His second novel will be published in January 2018.
His debut full-length play Visitors won the Critics Circle
Award for Most Promising Playwright. He was also
shortlisted for the prestigious Evening Standard
Theatre Awards for Most Promising Playwright,
the Writers Guild of Great Britain 2014 award for
Best Play and the Best New Play Award at the
Off West End Theatre Awards 2014.

Did the Easter bunny visit you? Can you remember the last stage production you saw? Did you enjoy it or is the theatre not your thing?

Friday, 14 April 2017

Vintage Postcards and a Happy Easter to you all

I’ve been busy in the garden over the last few days, and as I’ve dug and weeded I’ve been accompanied by a blackbird and a robin. The robin has no fear at all and is in constant danger as it hops around between my feet. My neighbour tells me there are several nests in her garden so it won’t be long before the chicks are coming over for a visit.
Rene Cloke Postcard Robin

While watching the birds flitting backwards and forwards, I was thinking about what to share on my blog for Easter. It was then I remembered this set of Rene Cloke postcards. Would they work I wondered? I’m not sure but as inspiration and time are in short supply, I’m afraid they will have to do.

Rene Cloke Postcard Blackbirds

The images originally appeared in a series of nature books for children written by Mary Kerr in the 1950s. Edmund Ward produced the postcards at around the same time.  
Rene Cloke Postcard The hedge sparrow

Rene Cloke Postcard the Thrush

Rene Cloke Postcard the Moorcock

rene cloke postcards kingfishers

Rene Cloke Postcard Swan

I like this sentiment from the back of one of the cards;

Greetings and in hopes you will like this new series of Birds and Butterflies!
Kind thoughts and of course, Ad Infin!

I couldn't have put it better myself!

I can’t end an Easter post without a bunny or two so without further ado; 

Rene Cloke Postcard The Rabbit's Birthday

Rene Cloke Postcard The Lost Berry

Set of Rene Cloke Postcards from the Truth in a Tale Series

Thanks so much for visiting me today I wish you a very Happy Easter filled with love. 

Sunday, 9 April 2017

The Grumpface by BCR Fegan

This week I have the pleasure of sharing a guest post from BCR Fegan. His debut children's picture book The Grumpface will be available from the 1st May.  I'm already a little in love with The Grumpface and feel sure this super book, and its author will go far.  

BCR Fegan Author

It is always daunting to stand on the threshold of a new and risky life decision. As an aspiring writer, the weight of this uncertainty is keenly felt. Will the sacrifices be worth it? Will the book that I have invested so much into, be met with joy or derision? I am quite sure that every negative reaction will sting just a little – at least to begin with. Every positive remark will be treasured – far more than its writer will probably ever know. Yet at the end of the day, the trial of public opinion must be endured by every author – good or bad. What follows could really be considered my grand entrance into this trial. What I offer is a little about my journey. From my love of reading and writing, to the precipice in which I now stand.

Reading – A marvellous adventure

“Anyone who says they have only one life to live must not know how to read a book.”

Author Unknown

For as long as I can remember, I have loved reading. My mother almost certainly played a huge part in this. She would always take time out of her day to read any number of picture books (often reading the same stories over and over again) before I was old enough to attend school. She would even write her own simple books which I would subsequently decorate with clippings from old magazines. A fantastic way to build word-association. As a consequence of this dedication, I eventually started school with highly developed reading skills, and a voracious appetite for books.

Thinking back to Primary School, some of the most anticipated moments all revolved around reading. From the Scholastic Book Club catalogues that we would receive, to the incredibly exciting (albeit rare) moments when I had been allowed to order a book and it had finally arrived! I recall taking part in a program called ‘Book It!’ and reading up to eight novels in a week. I even recall many projects I had completed at school that centred on reading and writing. It was safe to say, that creative writing remained my favourite subject – mathematics, not so much.

Yet for all the enjoyment I derived from reading, I remained very particular about the books I read. My once-a-week excursion to the state library would often see me sift methodically through children’s picture books and middle grade fiction as I began to develop crude methods to critically assess the merit of these small, rectangular objects. Now, for those who immediately picked up on that book reference, you may be interested to know that the assessment I eventually settled on came from the same timeless classic by Michael Ende:

“He didn’t like books in which dull, cranky writers describe humdrum events in the very humdrum lives of humdrum people. Reality gave him enough of that kind of thing, why should he read about it? Besides, he couldn’t stand it when a writer tried to convince him of something. And these humdrum books, it seemed to him, were always trying to do just that. Bastian liked books that were exciting or funny, or that made him dream. Books where made-up characters had marvellous adventures, books that made him imagine all sorts of things. Because one thing he was good at, possibly the only thing, was imagining things so clearly that he almost saw and heard them”.   ~ The Neverending Story

My book repertoire slowly grew. In fact, some of the children’s books I came to love have already been featured on this blog – particularly Enid Blighton’s stories. These included The Famous Five, The Secret Seven and of course The faraway Tree. Fairy tales (Puss in Boots), Golden Books (The Boy with a Drum), Dr Seuss (Hooper Humperdink…? Not Him!), Roger Hargreaves (Mr Men) and Ted Prior (Grug) would also take up prominent places on the bookshelf, supplemented by the steady flow of library hard-covers.
You may be thinking that all this seems reasonably normal for a kid with a healthy appetite for reading. The difference is that I still haven’t grown out of my love for children’s picture books. Sure, I grew into YA fiction (which I also still love) and then fantasy, mysteries, thrillers and even poetry. However chances are, if you came across me in a library or bookstore, I would be sitting on a small child-sized chair, engrossed in a picture book. I enjoy them because they have the power of distilling an entire imaginative journey into such a small space. I enjoy them because they have pictures often drawn by talented artists. I enjoy them because now, finally after all these years, I have the opportunity to contribute to this exciting world. A world that has the potential to influence a child’s appreciation of books in their formative years.

Writing – A discipline limited only imagination

“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”

C.S. Lewis

For almost as long as I have been reading, I have also been writing. I literally have piles of well-worn notebooks in draws, cupboards and other nooks and crannies. However the decision to begin publishing these tales was made only recently, and for two main reasons:

  1.  From an early age, I had wanted to publish books and it was only a year ago that I was able to slow my life down enough to begin this process.
  2.  I had for some time grown a little discouraged with many children’s picture books that were hitting the shelves. It seemed to me that they had become overly didactic and absent of the butterfly-inducing excitement I felt a good book needed to have.

It was going to be a risk and I was aware that writing books that went against the tide of modern trends wasn’t a particularly good strategy. However, a part of me was sure that I wasn’t alone in my yearning for pure, unadulterated adventure.

My debut children’s picture book, The Grumpface, has been about two years in the making. It is the kind of tale that I would have enjoyed reading in Primary School, and it is my hope that it stirs the imaginations of children and adults alike. With the familiar structure of a fairy tale and the humour children look for in a story, The Grumpface is set in a simple but deeply intriguing world.

Debut children's picture book The Grumpface by BCR Fegan

The Grumpface

In a land far away, at a time long ago, was the Village of Hay, near the Forest of Ho.
In the midst of the forest, in the darkest place, lived a grumpy old creature they called the Grumpface

And once in a while did a traveller go, on his way to the village through the Forest of Ho
And so easy it was to get lost in that place And get caught in a trap by that grumpy Grumpface.

Our tale begins in a small village that sits beside a dark forest. Dan, the hero of our story is an optimistic, young inventor who suffers the unfortunate trait of being clumsy. Working day and night on his inventions, he hopes that his efforts might gain the attention of Bella, a flower girl whom he secretly admires.

When it comes to his attention that Bella has no more roses to sell, he decides to brave the dark forest in order to find her one. The only problem, is that the forest is inhabited by a grumpy creature known as the Grumpface, and this creature is not known for his kindness to lost travellers.

It doesn’t take long before our poor hero is confronted by the Grumpface who quickly challenges the young inventor to three tasks. If he is able to pass even a single challenge, he will be freed, if not, he will remain forever in the forest.

Ultimately, The Grumpface is a tale in the spirit of any grand adventure. It is about a clumsy young inventor’s quest for love, and the challenges he must face to find it. But it is also a tale of bravery, absurdity and happiness, and the power of these qualities over negativity and sheer grumpiness.

What inspired me to write this tale was my familiarity with young, grumpy children who seem determined to maintain their displeasure with something despite every effort to make them crack a smile. I’m sure every parent is acquainted with their own little ‘grumpface’ now and then. This story stands as a small piece of hope – that no matter how ingrained the grump, there will always remain in every one of us a smile or a laugh just waiting to come out.

The Grumpface will be available in Kindle, ePub, Hardcover and Paperback from most online bookstores from May 1.

Thank you for visiting, you are very welcome to leave a comment, and if you enjoy my blog, please follow with Bloglovin, thank you.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Phyllis Purser: Nothing Negative about these Perfect Little Works of Art

I don’t claim to have any knowledge of these ‘little works of art’ I am simply sharing them for your enjoyment. They are in a very old album, or possibly a book of samples, which would have been carried by a salesman. Sketches & Designs is written on the spine, and a business card for The Photochrom Company is pasted inside the front cover.

Photochrom, sometimes spelt Fotochrom or Photochrome is a process for producing colourised images from black-and-white photographic negatives. I’m not the best person to try to explain the process, but if you would like to know more a quick Google search should supply all the information you need.

The following images are all by Phyllis Purser:

Photochrome Photochrom PHYLLIS PURSER  REFERENCE NUMBERS D.5099  - D.5101

The album contains 240 images by well-known and not so well-known artists. I recognise some of the names like Frank Mason, Phyllis Purser, Enid Warne-Browne and Susan B Pearse while others such as Ernest Uden and Persis Kirmse are unfamiliar to me. Most measure 3.5 x 2.5 inches, although some are postcard size or larger. Each has a unique reference number and / or a title.  


I won’t be able to share them all, but I will share a sample of each artists work. I hope it will be useful for anyone researching the Photocrom Company or the individual artists.

Phyllis Purser collection of Photochrom images


I’ve done a little online searching and matched a few of the images to postcards. The one on the left was published by Photochrom (the same name as on the business card) and the one on the right is as it appears in the album. The words on the postcard are; 'taint what we have, but what we give, taint what we are, but how we live, taint what we do, but how we do it, that makes life worth going thro’ it’

Postcard and photochrom image by Phyllis Purser

The image on the left is from the album and the one on the right is a postcard with the caption ’twould be nice to see your face again.

Postcard and photochrom image by Phyllis Purser

At first glance, I thought this 

Postcard and photochrom image by Phyllis Purser

looked very similar to this postcard found on Pinterest but actually, there are lots of subtle or not so subtle differences. 
Postcard by Phyllis Purser

To me, the original image looks incomplete, but the teddies and dolls on the finished postcard bring it to life. The little elves sitting on the wall are very reminiscent of the Boo-Boos as drawn by Mabel Lucie Attwell. The Boo-Boos were incredibly popular at the time so adding something similar probably made the postcard more commercial.  

The Boo-Boos as drawn by Mabel Lucie Attwell
 Mabel Lucie Attwell's Boo-Boos

Phyllis Miriam Palmer (Purser) (1893 - 1989)

The second daughter of Thomas Palmer, a printer and
stationer, and Beatrice. Lived at Grantham, Lincolnshire.
studied at the Nottingham School of Art. Worked from home
as an illustrator. Began by designing postcards for Alphalsa
Publishing and Vivian Mansell Postcards. In 1917 married
Jack Purser, who soon went to war. On his return, they lived
in Paris where Phyllis continued to draw. Worked for
J. Salmon of Sevenoaks. Returned to England in 1921, lived
at Hoylake on the Wirral. Produced designs for Photocrom
of Tunbridge Wells. She eventually produced postcards,
greetings cards, Valentines and gift tags. Most prolific in the
years prior to the Second World War. Later returned to painting,
taking up her art training again.Exhibited at the Society of
Women Artists (1973). Salmon and Vivian Mansell published
her work for the rest of her life and  continued to print her designs
long after her death.

Rozanne Purser obituary (Phyllis Purser's daughter) 
Artist Biographies

Salesman samples are scaled-down versions of real products used to demonstrate features to retailers or potential customers. Also known as salesmen samples or salesman’s samples, these miniature goods were popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as they were easily transportable by travelling salespeople and allowed dealers to display a variety of items in their showrooms. Read more Collectors 

More images from the album will be found here here and here

Saturday morning dawned bright and beautiful but with more rain on the way, it was time to grab my camera and head out into the garden. As I process the photographs just a couple of hours later I can hear the rain beating against the windows. It’s hard to believe how quickly the weather changes, but then it is April, so we have to expect April showers.

Is this a crane do you suppose?  I’m not sure, but I can tell you it enjoys a sunny spot under an old apple tree.
I’ve just been reliably informed this is a Great Blue Heron (thank you Marcia and Eve). My blog readers are the best!

The rock plants are lovely at this time of the year, and this purple aubretia is one of my favourites. For those of you who appreciate ‘botanical correctness' I believe aubrietia is the proper spelling, but I’ve always known them as aubretia. They are growing in a wall that skirts the patio, funnily enough they don’t do well on the rockery, but they are very happy in the wall.  

The Pieris Japonicas are doing especially well this year. This one is growing under a weeping cherry which is just beginning to flower.

Close-up of the white bell-shaped flowers of the Pieris Japonica if you are looking for an evergreen shrub for your garden this could be the one. They put on a spectacular display of flowers and new growth in a variety of colours from pink to dark burgundy.

The keen-eyed among you will have spotted the naked lady in the corner. She is Freya (or Freyja) a Norse goddess associated with love, sex, beauty, fertility, gold, war and death. If you would like to know more about this particular goddess, there is a mass of information online.  We fell in love with her when she was shiny, bright and new, these days she has weathered, and taken on a patina and life of her own. She presides over the garden, and often goes for midnight walks – either that or there is some other mischief afoot!  

The weeping cherry, this glorious sight will be short lived because of all the wind and rain. 

I’m not certain, but I think this is a Malus or crab apple. It has apple like fruit in the autumn and pretty peach/pink flowers in March and April.  

No spring garden is complete without a few Primulas. 

This  nesting box was a present from my sister and her husband. We are eagerly waiting to see if someone sets up home in it.  It was very brightly painted when new, but it’s beginning to fade and blend in with the honeysuckle, so we are hopeful.

Thrift or Sea Pink (Armeria Maritima) makes perfect ground cover for gravel gardens or growing in a wall as it is here. 

 Another photograph of the Pieris Japonica looking especially pretty against the blue Forget-Me-Nots, the green shoots to the right are the first signs of another favourite, Lilly of the Valley.

This pot of daffodils looking lovely in the sunshine is a bedraggled and sorry sight now. The rain came down so hard it flattened them. I'm hoping they will pick up but if not, I will put a few sticks in the pot to help support them. 

The Christmas Roses (Helleborus) are still flowering, but they will soon be taking a rest only to appear again next December. According to legend, a young shepherdess by the name of Madelon was tending her sheep one cold winter’s night. As she watched over her sheep, three wise men passed by bearing gifts for the baby Jesus. Madelon began to cry because she had no gift to bring the Newborn King. An angel, hearing her weeping appeared and brushed away the snow to reveal a beautiful flower – the Christmas Rose. I think of that story every year when the first flowers appear.


Terry asked me to thank everyone for the get-well wishes. He will have to take life a little slower than usual for a while, but he is on the mend.

Do you think the album could be a tradesman’s sample book? Would you enjoy seeing more images from it? Do you have a favourite spring flower?  I would love to know your thoughts so please leave a comment. 

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