Wednesday, 31 December 2014
2014 - a good year for me, even if it had some very wobbly bits! This rather festive bike, parked outside a house in Saltaire, harks back to the Tour de France Grand Départ that happened in July (see my blog, here). That was such a fun weekend and I have not yet met anyone from around here that didn't think so. Apparently it also brought millions of pounds of revenue to Yorkshire and might well be 'the gift that keeps on giving' as tourist numbers are up significantly. The TV coverage certainly showed Yorkshire at its best, with all those soaring views of the beautiful Yorkshire Dales. Some folk down south seem to think it's grim 'up north' and hopefully it went some way to opening their eyes to the truth.
Who knows what 2015 will bring, personally, nationally or globally? I hope that like me you can look back on 2014 giving thanks that, in the end, all turned out well. I wish you everything good for 2015 - a happy, healthy and fulfilling New Year.
Tuesday, 30 December 2014
We had a sudden and unexpected flurry of snow across parts of the country on Boxing Day. It didn't amount to much down here in my valley but higher up and in other areas it was enough to cause a certain amount of disruption. We're talking a few inches rather than feet - but the UK never seems to cope with even a minor amount of snow. Few people have their vehicles fitted with winter tyres and we don't have the equipment to handle it, unlike those places where winter snow is a more usual occurrence. Add in engineering works over-running their schedule on the main railway line from Yorkshire to London, causing all trains to be cancelled into and out of Kings Cross station, and it was hard for anyone to get anywhere just after Christmas. Thankfully I've been cosy at home and my family had a safe journey back to London; the motorways were clear by the time they needed to set off.
I think it must be the unpredictability of British weather that causes it to be such a talking point in this country. If you pretty much know it's going to be hot and sunny, or cold and snowy, day after day then I suppose it ceases to be of interest. I spotted this rudimentary weather-forecasting tool up in the Yorkshire Dales some time ago, but never found a chance to show it on my blog before now.
Monday, 29 December 2014
Several of the Advent windows this year had references to the 2013 Disney film 'Frozen' which is having a cult moment among youngsters here. Even my three year old granddaughter is a fan. She is often to be heard singing songs from the film and was thrilled to go to a Christmas party where she met 'Elsa'. I have so far managed to avoid much exposure to it but I suspect I won't escape it for much longer! This window in one of our local hairdressing establishments, The Strand, not only had a pretty tree but also a portrait of Olaf, the snowman from the film.
Sunday, 28 December 2014
...and it's goodnight from him'. Advent window number 10 has this simple but striking design which references The Two Ronnies, much-loved British comedians who had a popular TV show in the 70s and 80s. (It still gets rolled out quite often as repeats). Those who observe closely will get the reference to one of their most famous sketches, Four Candles.
Saturday, 27 December 2014
David Starley, one of Saltaire's best-known artists, always produces a lovely Advent window. This year it depicts the famous Shipley Glen tramway, a legacy from Victorian times that is still kept running by volunteers. I love this window; it almost looks as if one is looking through the glass at the real tramway (albeit with a bit of artistic licence in the tree colours!)
Friday, 26 December 2014
Some local businesses in Saltaire are involved in providing decorated Advent windows this year too. This stylish design is in the office window of the architects Rance, Booth, Smith on Victoria Road, right in the centre of the village.
Look at the website to see all the windows (plus a village map) or follow the Facebook page.
Thursday, 25 December 2014
'For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given.... His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.' Isaiah 9:6-7.
Thank you all for the Christmas greetings expressed in your comments. It is lovely having connections to so many through blogging. I am only sorry that I can't spend more time surfing everyone else's blogs, though I do try to keep up to date with many of my special friends.
Wishing you all a joy-filled and peaceful Christmas - and let's hope the peace extends right around the globe, even if just for a day. I shall be diving down through all the bustle, food and wrapping paper to find, somewhere in it all, the essence of love that is the real gift of the day, every day in fact.
Wednesday, 24 December 2014
Chwech apparently means six in Welsh. We must assume that the residents who created Advent window number six have some Welsh connection. This is another simple but powerful design. Some of the windows have a lot of details visible to the eye but they don't always photograph well. These bold graphics come across better. Anyway, Nadolig Llawen everybody! (Merry Christmas!)
Tuesday, 23 December 2014
Here's a cheerful Christmassy theme for one of Saltaire's Advent windows. Lots of reindeer - enough, I think, to pull Santa's sleigh. Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen - and Rudolph of course.
Monday, 22 December 2014
Regular readers of this blog will recall that one of Saltaire's more recent but now established and well-loved traditions is the Living Advent Calendar, when residents and businesses throughout the village decorate windows for Christmas. One is unveiled every evening from 1st December up to Christmas Eve. (View them all here.) I like to go out and photograph them, though some work better as photos than others. After an hour or so in the chilly night air, I was ready to come back to a mug of hot chocolate and a warm fireside. What I really need for Christmas is some fingerless gloves that allow me to operate my camera and tripod but keep my little mitts warm!
Sunday, 21 December 2014
Saturday, 20 December 2014
Thursday, 18 December 2014
I came across one of those silly games the other day where, by taking the first letter of your name and the month of your birth and using a key, you could make up an 'elf' name for yourself (should you ever want to...) I suppose with Christmas just round the corner, Santa might need some more elves. Anyway, I was mildly amused to discover that the given name for my newest granddaughter was Pixie Pickle-Pants. I thought that suited her quite well!
I had hoped to take some decent photos on my latest visit to London but life with two youngsters is so 'full-on' that I scarcely found an opportunity. You will see from this that at two months old she is growing fast; she's a wonderfully clear-eyed little baby and will lie for hours just calmly looking around her. She is also now able to respond with coos and gurgles when you talk to her. I never tire of those lovely baby conversations. It was a brief visit but enough to reassure me that life is settling down and getting back to something approaching 'normal' for them all. My daughter seems to have fully recovered, thank God. I found it shocking to read that sepsis is now the most common cause of maternal death in the UK and is increasing. But even so, it only affects a tiny fraction of women, so she was very unlucky.
Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Just dashing to the station the other day on my way to London, I was confronted by all these white vans parked outside Salts Mill on Victoria Road. I didn't have time to investigate (hardly had time to take a photo!) but I have since found out that they have been filming parts of a new Hollywood movie in Saltaire and Salts Mill. The local paper says it is 'A Hunter's Prayer' starring Sam Worthington, a thriller about a solitary assassin hired to kill a teenage girl. Instead they form a bond and are hunted across Europe. Sounds like a good story... no doubt we will all be trying to see which bits were filmed in our locality!
The Bradford area has always prided itself on its creative links to film, so much so that it was given the accolade of the world's first UNESCO 'City of Film'. There are organisations very active in finding locations and enticing film-makers to Yorkshire, and of course Bradford hosts the National Media Museum too. So, if you like film - come!
Sunday, 7 December 2014
Friday, 5 December 2014
Close to home... I count myself lucky to be surrounded by lovely mature trees, even though it's an urban area. The leaves are more pleasing when on the trees than when on my front steps, it has to be said, but hey, you gotta take the rough with the smooth.
It irritates me that there is so much litter left in the playground. I must be getting middle-aged if not downright old... but I taught my kid to bin it or take it home and I wish others would do the same. Thankfully we have a gem of a man in Saltaire whose job it is to pick up rubbish left in the streets, empty the litter bins and sweep up leaves and he does an excellent, if unsung, job. One of my local heroes... (Pity my front steps are my concern, not his; he'd do a better job than me, I think!)
Wednesday, 3 December 2014
Long before we had Chinese takeaways, curry houses, kebab shops, McDonalds or KFC, the fast food of choice for most Britons was fish and chips: haddock (or cod) deep fried in batter with a large portion of thick-cut chips, often accompanied by a carton of 'mushy' peas, all drenched in plenty of salt and malt vinegar. It used to be a regular Saturday dinner-time (ie: lunchtime!) treat for our family when I was a child. We'd walk down to the nearest 'chippie' and queue, hurrying the treasure home wrapped in greaseproof paper overwrapped with large sheets of newspaper. It was hot and heavy and smelled enticing. We'd hope it hadn't gone cold by the time we got it home, because the batter went soft if you had to reheat it.
When I first came to Yorkshire as a student, I was taken as a treat to Harry Ramsden's fish restaurant in Guiseley. Dining on humble fish and chips (accompanied by bread and butter and huge pots of tea) under beautiful chandeliers, seemed somehow thrilling and different. The restaurant, opened in 1928, thrived for years, a regular stop-off for coach trippers. They even had a resident pianist 'tinkling the ivories' while you dined.
In the 1980s the business was sold and expanded, developing franchise operations in the UK and abroad. By 2011 however, the original Guiseley restaurant had hit trouble and was closed, causing considerable dismay and quite an outcry locally. Happily, it was bought by the Wetherby Whaler group and given a full refurbishment, retaining the opulent feel with wall-to-wall carpets, the 1920s stained glass windows and oak panelling and those glorious chandeliers. They still have a resident pianist playing on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
We had a lunch out from work the other day, to mark a colleague's leaving the team. I can tell you that The Wetherby Whaler's fish and chips are Very Good Indeed! They even do gluten-free batter if you ask, so for the first time for years I was able to enjoy the whole meal and not just pick the fish out from the batter. Yummy - though I was so full afterwards that I didn't need another meal for about three days!
Tuesday, 2 December 2014
Monday, 1 December 2014
Off to Leeds to do a bit of Christmas shopping... and I found the city centre heaving with people. It was 'Black Friday weekend'... Seems to be something we've imported from the USA, only in the last year or two, but as a friend in the States commented: "If you're going to have sale rioting, at least have a giant roast dinner and pie and hang out with your family and friends first." Well, yes, that used to be called the Boxing Day sales.... Do we really need an extra bargain weekend?
The Christkindelmarkt was so packed with shoppers that it was difficult to see anything or even get near the stalls to buy. I had hoped to take lots of photos but in the end I got fed up with being jostled. In another year or two (if my family do achieve their ambition to move back north) I might have a grandchild old enough and willing to give me an excuse to ride the carousel.
Sunday, 30 November 2014
At this time of year the sun (when we get it!) is so low, even in the early afternoon, that walking with the sun in your eyes can become a bit hazardous and photography can be a challenge. Capturing those lovely shafts of sunlight whilst minimising lens flare is quite a juggling act.
Saturday, 29 November 2014
Shipley Glen is scattered with benches, many placed there in memory of someone for whom the area was obviously special and loved. It's a lovely place to sit and rest awhile, to be 'in the moment' and to enjoy the view and the rich autumn colours.
Friday, 28 November 2014
Apologies, this is a technically hopeless photo (taken quickly in low light. I must learn to be more committed and less embarrassed about photographing people!) but I wanted to include it out of interest. I do like the blur on his hands, actually. I went to an exhibition about sheepdogs, thinking there would be some dogs, lovely border collies ... sadly, there was only one. But there were some interesting traditional crafts on display, including this gentleman making walking stick handles from sheeps' horns. Here he is filing and smoothing the rough horn by hand with a metal file. You can see how the finished handles reflect the shape that the horn had in its natural state.
I'm always glad to see people carrying on the traditional skills. It made me think of a question I saw posed recently: If you were forced to take two years out to learn a new skill, what would it be?
Thursday, 27 November 2014
Wednesday, 26 November 2014
The sun arrived late, after noon. The children were still at home, perhaps not yet noticing that a grey, wet morning had suddenly become a beautiful day. The children's playground toys rested silently in the shadows, taking a secondary role to nature's drama playing out on the hillside.
Monday, 24 November 2014
Sunday, 23 November 2014
It seemed rather poignant to come across this bold assertion painted on a rock in a shadowy, damp little valley on the edge of Shipley Glen. Leaving aside the dubious wisdom of defacing a rock, even with such 'good news', it seemed to me quite a metaphor, especially seeing the bright sunshine up ahead. It brought to mind Psalm 23: 'Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me..' Having been through one of life's little spells of anxious times recently, I know how much the sense of God's love can help us through those valleys. Whether we're in the shadow or the sunshine today, we can rejoice and be comforted by the sure knowledge that God is with us.
Linked once again to Spiritual Sundays.
Saturday, 22 November 2014
The weather here has been incredibly dreary for the past week or so - at least when I have been able to notice it (that is, not stuck in an office with my back to the window). I'm running very short of bloggable photos so I went out today with my camera. It was a misty, damp morning (of the kind that always gets that Steeleye Span song running through my head. 'One misty, moisty morning...') and the view over the Aire valley towards Bradford was decidedly moody. Look closely at the skyline on the right and you can see the huge chimney of Listers Mill, as visible as it has been for the past 140 years since it was built... once the largest silk factory in the world.
Friday, 21 November 2014
Here's another photo I took a few weeks ago and never got round to using. It's nice to look back at blue skies...we haven't had one lately. This little rowan tree, which I pass every day on my way to work, has since lost all its glorious red leaves but the yellow berries hung on a lot longer, happily for the birds who like to feast on them.
Thursday, 20 November 2014
Wednesday, 19 November 2014
For, behold, I will bring a flood of waters into Saltaire ...
I'm a member of a local camera club and it's a great place to learn new things. At last week's meeting one of our members was demonstrating some software and a few 'processing tricks'. So I thought I'd have a go at manufacturing some reflections. I think the end result is quite effective, though as a first attempt it is by no means perfect. (If you want to know how to do it too, google 'Creating a reflection in Photoshop' for a gazillion tutorials showing different ways of achieving it.)
Anyway, you'll be relieved to know that although we've had a bit of rain in recent days, Saltaire URC is not cut off by a biblical flood (and neither have we had animals entering, two by two). It's all a clever trick.
Tuesday, 18 November 2014
Love it or hate it, Are-Jay Bargie is here to stay and the milder weather has lengthened their trading season too. The ice-cream boat was given retrospective planning permission three years ago, having already traded from this mooring for two years on a British waterways permit. Councillors unanimously agreed that "well-maintained, single, 'traditional-style' trading boats should be allowed" at this spot, which is right in the heart of Saltaire, just in front of the church. I know many people find it very appealing and it perhaps brings visitors down to the canal. I was a bit surprised, however, to see how many 'add-ons' (sweet machines, menu boards and suchlike) have appeared lately - so that it gets a little difficult to spot the traditional boat underneath it all. Ho hum....
Monday, 17 November 2014
I mentioned not long ago (here) the plans to redevelop the gardens belonging to Shipley College, building a teaching block for students with learning difficulties and disabilities. Work has started on laying the foundations. It all looks horribly dark at the moment and huge too... hopefully it will look a lot better when it is finished. I am of the opinion that Saltaire, despite being a World Heritage Site, is also a living community that has to move with the times. Its founder didn't shirk from making dramatic statements. But it's sometimes difficult to see how to marry the new with the old successfully. I hope this development will succeed in that but I am not certain yet. I can't say I honestly have a lot of faith in our town planners when it comes to making sensitive decisions.
They are currently working on a grand 'management plan' for the World Heritage Site with some interesting ideas like opening one of the village houses as a tourist attraction, opening a 'Saltaire Interpretation Centre' in the Victoria Hall, creating an interactive history trial around the village and building a major new community arts 'hub'. The plan is for the next 30 years though - by which time I will almost certainly be past caring!
Sunday, 16 November 2014
The church I attend has a Healing Prayer Team. They have recently asked the church photography group to supply some prayer cards that they can give to people after they have received prayer. I have never done anything like this, but I thought I'd have a go. It seems there is a certain art in finding a photo that matches with the Bible verse. Some of the verses suggest a picture (straight paths, rainbows) but others, like this one, proved trickier. I've linked this to a blog called Spiritual Sundays where people can share pictures and scriptures, hymns or poems. It provides some inspirational reflections - and not just for Sundays.
Saturday, 15 November 2014
Another iPhone shot, of THAT view (click label below for others), taken on my way home from work. I took the photo because I loved the sky and the reflected lights but in the finished image I like the graininess that the iPhone has rendered. It adds extra moodiness.
And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?
And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark satanic mills?
'Jerusalem' (words from a poem by William Blake, set to music by Sir Hubert Parry) has become a British anthem and one of the best loved of patriotic songs, played notably on the Last Night of the Proms.
Friday, 14 November 2014
Tranquil reflections give no indication that, just beyond the former mill building, the River Aire crashes over a weir, which I have photographed many times. (Click Hirst Weir label below). Actually I can rarely recall seeing such perfect reflections here before. There was hardly a breath of wind on this day.
Once a corn mill driven by a water wheel, the mill was converted to a paper mill in the 19th century. Intriguingly, it has faded white lettering on one wall that says 'Washed Cloths'.
For more lovely reflection pictures, go to Weekend Reflections, hosted by James.
[As a result of getting some unpleasant spam comments in the last two days, I am temporarily enabling comment moderation before publishing. Once I'm happy the onslaught has passed I'll go back to normal, as I do find moderation tedious and, generally speaking, unnecessary.]
Thursday, 13 November 2014
If you're 5'5" like me, this is a view of Saltaire's Salts Mill that you never see... To take it, I had to balance my camera above my head on the parapet of the railway bridge and pretty much experiment in order to get the right composition. I guess the bridge has been built so high precisely to discourage photographers from climbing up to take the iconic shot of the Mill's long south frontage. It is, however, a view well-known to millions of TV viewers, since a similar shot appears in the opening video sequence to the nightly 'Look North' local news programme on BBC1.
Wednesday, 12 November 2014
I showed this spot on my blog back in the spring when the bluebells were out (here). It seems fitting to feature it again, almost like book-ends to the year, as autumn brings a golden hue to the foliage, replacing those fresh spring greens. I love Hirst Woods at any time of the year. It's a privilege to have this small patch of ancient woodland, with its rich eco-system, virtually on my doorstep.
Tuesday, 11 November 2014
The Leeds-Liverpool Canal is a picture of tranquillity on a calm, late autumn day. This is a mile or so out of Saltaire towards Bingley, just beyond the aqueduct and before the Dowley Gap locks. There's an old mill on the left that has been converted into residences and there are a few houseboats moored here most of the time. It looks really pretty on this photo, though in reality I often think this stretch of the canal doesn't quite live up to its potential. The mill conversion is a bit tatty, as are the boats - and unfortunately the pretty scene is somewhat spoilt by the fragrance wafting over from the adjacent sewage works!
Monday, 10 November 2014
The woodland floor is covered in beech leaves and beech mast but some of the trees are still surprisingly green, even now in early November. We haven't had much frost yet and it has been an exceptionally mild autumn. This is my local wood, Hirst Woods: beloved of dog-walkers, children wanting adventure and me. In fact, most local residents seem to relish the beauty and tranquillity of this small area just of the edge of Saltaire village. You are rarely alone on your walks there, though the presence of other people doesn't seem to intrude on the sense of peace.
Sunday, 9 November 2014
Especially as this year marks the centenary of the beginning of the 1st World War, we should pause in our busy lives to remember those who gave their lives or suffered injury, mental or physical, in war - and the many who are still suffering through conflict today. That conflict may be between nations, interest groups or within families, it still damages lives.
I like the idea of taking six seconds a day to make someone's day better. How powerful a smile can be, or holding the door for someone, or helping lift a buggy down the steps. It's about being present and connecting with people. The more we really notice and engage with other people, the more likely we are to defeat the causes of alienation and break down barriers. Or is that just me being idealistic?
Saturday, 8 November 2014
This bright spray of leaves just catching the sun reminded me of coins tumbling from one of those one-armed bandit machines. (Not that I've seen that sight often, I hasten to add! I'm not a gambler - and certainly not a lucky gambler - but have occasionally strayed into a seaside amusement arcade.)
Friday, 7 November 2014
Nature's colours are so gorgeous - and double the value when there are reflections. Every tree seems to be marching to a different tune this autumn. Some are already bare and some are still resolutely green, with all shades in between. I always like this particular stretch of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, with Hirst Lock in the background, but that prettily shaped tree doesn't always stand out so much. In her autumn dress, she suddenly reveals her good looks.
I haven't entered 'Weekend Reflections' hosted by James, for ages - but this is a good image to include, I think. See here for more lovely photos from other contributors.
Thursday, 6 November 2014
Possibly my favourite spot in Saltaire for looking up, just to marvel at the size of the great chimney at Salts Mill. Observed from close to its base, it seems to soar upwards right to the heavens. I find it breathtaking - and to think that at one time it went even higher because it was originally crowned with an ornate top, which had to be removed when it became unsafe.
Equally breathtaking is the view from the top.... See my series of pictures posted in October 2012, here.
Wednesday, 5 November 2014
Tuesday, 4 November 2014
'Looking up' is the theme of my online photo group this month. That's not a difficult subject for me as I really enjoy looking up and noticing what you often miss when concentrating on the street level. It's not a difficult theme in Saltaire either, as there is a wealth of potential subjects. I rather enjoy the architectural abstract created by the underside of the footbridge that links the New Mill with Salts Mill itself. At one time there were three such bridges spanning the canal, now only one remains. The more usual view of it is here.
Monday, 3 November 2014
I had quite a lot of catching up to do this weekend, following another few days on granny duty in London. (Things are not improving there as fast as they might.... Whilst my daughter seems to have recovered well from the nasty infection she contracted after the birth of her second child, my three year old granddaughter now has chicken pox! We're hoping that the baby will have some immunity and will not get it.)
Our autumn weather, however, is so mild and sunny - so NOT like November - that it seemed criminal not to be out enjoying it. So the chores were abandoned in favour of a short walk along my favourite route - along the canal towpath, past Hirst Lock, through the woods and back along the river. Hmm, maybe I've been on granny duty too long. That sentence sounds suspiciously like 'Bears in the Night'. I didn't go 'up spook hill' despite it being Halloween. But I did spot someone who looked just like a shadow of myself.
Sunday, 2 November 2014
I was pleased to be able to visit the installation currently being 'planted' in the moat of the Tower of London. Its full title is: Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red. Conceived by ceramic artist Paul Cummins to commemorate the centenary of the start of WW1, it will, when finished, consist of 888,246 ceramic poppies, each representing a military fatality during that war. After it is completed, the poppies will be sold to raise funds for charities working with the armed services. It's very impressive, quite breath-taking in fact, literally a sea of red all around the Tower. It was unfortunately hard to get a good photo, what with the huge crowds looking over the walls and the harsh sunshine and shadow. The poppies actually cascade rather beautifully out of a window in the Tower, but you can barely see that in my picture, as it was in deep shade at the time I was visiting. Mo at 'Fresh Eyes on London' had a much better photo of that part of the installation, though there weren't so many poppies when she featured it back in July - see here.
The installation closes on 11 November and I gather the crowds are now considerable: see here for a report and a nice aerial shot.