INKTOBER 2017: ‘SCREECH’

Although Inktober Challenge 2017 has ended, herewith another image that I drew for it; with a bit of levity for a change.

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‘Screech’

How does one portray the word ‘Screech’? This is my interpretation; The head of the ‘Uncommon Skregh (Avius Impossibilus)

Technical Details: Drawn using Unipin 0.3 nib black ink pen on white 80gsm A4 paper. Measurements: 7.0 in. x 5.5 in.

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INKTOBER 2017: ‘SCREECH’

BOOK REVIEW: ‘South Yorkshire Mining Villages; A History of the Region’s Former Coal Mining Communities’

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Reviewer: Michael Keith

Title: South Yorkshire Mining Villages; A History of the Region’s Former Coal Mining Communities

Author: Melvyn Jones

Total Number of Printed Pages: 150

Rating Scale (1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent): 8

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Historians rarely focus on communities, preferring instead to write about outstanding individuals or important events. When they are actually mentioned, ‘Communities’, whether large or small, are merely ‘background’ to a larger and more focussed narrative. In this volume however, it is the ‘Communities’ which are the focus, with the important events or people, where they occur being adjuncts to the story rather than its focus.

In his Epilogue, the author notes ‘Mining migrants came from every country in England, from Wales, Scotland, Ireland and even from overseas to populate the mining villages of South Yorkshire; it is this migration which forms the basis of this volume’. The author does this via ‘…In-depth case studies of examples of six very different types of mining settlement in South Yorkshire…’ noting that ‘…Many … survive to this day, although now there is little sign of the collieries that were their raison d’être’. The result is a volume of social history that examines life in the now-former mining settlements of South Yorkshire.

The author is of Welsh descent and ‘…Grew up in a mining family’.  Unsurprisingly he notes that he ‘…Has been writing about it [mining] ever since I left school’. His dissertations for his university qualifications were mining-based, with particular emphasis on migration to, and settlements on, the Yorkshire coalfields. These were subsequently followed by articles on the migration of Welsh miners onto the Yorkshire coalfields. With such a background he then decided ‘…That it was time to bring all these studies together in one comprehensive volume’. This book is the result.

Within this volume a Forward follows the Contents page. In it, the author narrates his family connection with the Yorkshire coalfields and his reason this book was written. An Acknowledgements section then thanks those who assisted in its creation. The book’s main part follows; it consists of seven Chapters. The first of these (titled General Considerations) outlines the factors which the author considers influenced the development of the villages that appear within the Chapters that follow.  Each Chapter relates to settlements within a specific section of the South Yorkshire coalfield, each settlement being allocated a subheading with the specific chapter. An Epilogue placed after the last chapter precis’ what has gone before and details what remains of the settlements and industries previously-described. This is in turn followed by a section titled Sources, References and Further Reading, which acts as a Bibliography. An Index completes the work.

Most chapters contain maps and photographs. Collectively termed Figures, each is captioned and is numbered sequentially within the specific chapter in which it appears. Although some are sourced, many are not. There is no reference to their existence on the Contents page or in the Index. Surprisingly (and despite its extensive use of mining terminology), the volume contains no Glossary for those unfamiliar with the industry. That such a section is necessary is shown by this reviewer’s inability to find an explanation for the terms Exposed Coalfield and Concealed Coalfield that are in widespread use throughout this book. As it is probable that many purchasers or readers of this volume will live outside South Yorkshire, such an omission is of some consequence. Curiously, and despite their prominence, these terms also do not appear within the Index. Few citations are provided, and where these occur, they are minimal in detail.

Due to its ‘Academic’ origins this volume is well-researched and highly detailed. As a result those seeking ‘facts and figures’ about specific localities are likely to find it very useful. Residents of settlements described within this book may also find its historical information of interest.

On a Rating Scale where 1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent, I have given this volume an 8.

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BOOK REVIEW: ‘South Yorkshire Mining Villages; A History of the Region’s Former Coal Mining Communities’

Musings on becoming a ‘Pensioner’

On 23 October 2017 I became a ‘Pensioner’!!

Let me explain:

Under the laws of the country in which i live, when I attain the age of 65, I am entitled to receive a fortnightly amount of money from a grateful government; this being ‘Reward’ for the taxes I have  paid to them as a worker over the last 40 or so years. it si ‘free’ certainly, although to receive it one has to have an interview with an official i the relevant Government department and, when doing-so, provide them with all the necessary ‘bits of paper’ that are required to prove that i actually are whom I say I am.

One then waits, hoping that the application has been approved.

That is the easy part; it’s the ‘psychological’ aspect which is more entertaining.

Rightly or wrongly, the term ‘Pensioner’ has certain attributes attached to it. The perceived image is of an old person (invariably male) with a long white beard, a walking sick and, perhaps, an accompanying beard. he is also usually slightly less than bright and wears a dazed look as it he is trying to make sense of his environment. he also has a ‘hat’ – a very important piece of apparel which definitely marks him as being ‘an Old’.  Said hat accompanies him everywhere and is most noticeable when he is driving his (frequently, unsurprisingly, old) car erratically down the local highway.  It is, after all, common knowledge that ‘elderly men with hats’ are the world’s worst drivers’ and are to be avoided at all costs by all other drivers. the ‘hat’ is the signature; see it and avoid  the vehicle if at all possible.

Except that I am none.of those, although I am certainly male. I do not, for instance,  possess a long white beard, a walking stick and definitely not a hat worthy of the name. These are of course all stereotypes and i had certainly embraced them; indeed I actually knew people who conformed to them with a high degree of accuracy. The stereotype was well-entrenched.

Before unintentionally becoming one of the ‘Chosen’, I had real problems with the image I have detailed above. I was aware, of course,  that I was to enter the realm of the ‘Pensioner’ yet I did not fit my own stereotype. Indeed I was very definitely  anything but. I still hold  to this view, and to a certain extent am still fighting  with it. Certainly my ‘calendar’/ physical age is 65 years of age, but the mind that is attached to the frame is still anything but; it still undertakes academic-level research, it still tries to unravel complex problems involving gold mining extraction processes., and it still has sufficient capacity to write a weekly review of books received from a publisher in another country. The mind still asks the questions and the body is still reasonably fit and working  well. All of which does not fit the previously-noted stereotype.

My problem therefore is self-inflicted, and a matter of ‘self-perception’. The ‘mind’ says ‘You are not ‘old’ yet (to use an aviation analogy), the air-frame’s hours are ever increasing  (albeit gradually, imperceptibly).  and the skinning is starting to show evidence of a shortening fatigue life.  It’s an interesting situation, made somewhat more interesting by the apparent visual evidence that I am  younger than those around me; the ‘real’ Pensioners’, evidence that can become rather irrelevant when I see my reflection in a shop window or when I am smiled at by a ‘young mum’propelling a toddler down the road in a pushchair,  and realise that, to her and her ilk I am actually ‘Old’, a  ‘Grandfather’ if you will. THAT is a dose of reality… There are other, similar, reminders.

So here I am; a ‘Pensioner’. It’s a new experience, the stereotypes are gradually being  eroded, and I am slowly moving (albeit still to a degree ‘kicking and screaming’) into what I am assured is ‘A new stage of my life’. My acquaintances (all of whom have already made ‘The Jump’) have made me welcome into their world, but it is still a new land, with all sorts of unknowns. I know what I do NOT want to do, yet at this very early stage. I do not know what I CAN do . As I said above, it is apparently a ‘new’ stage; and it remains to be saeen what form it will take. and how I will react to what I  encounter. Age being what it is, there is, of course, no going back, so I am, like it or not ‘committed’.To use an aviation analogy, I have passed the ‘Point of No Return” in much the same way as an aircraft is committed to fly onwards to its destination because it has nowhere to go and not enough fuel to go back.

The ‘flight’ promises to be an interesting one…

Thank you.

Musings on becoming a ‘Pensioner’

Inktober 2017: ‘Underwater’

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Inktober is an annual international fun challenge for whomever cares to participate. The Inktober organisers post a list of numbered daily ideas for ‘inspiration’ for each day of the month of October, and respondents are then invited to post one original pen and ink piece per day, based on that ‘inspiration’ , on their favourite pen and ink site.

It’s fun and quite challenging. Herewith another example that I I have submitted for Inktober 2017.

Inktober Challenge. ‘Underwater’.
#Inktober#Inktober2017

‘Underwater’ (My interpretation of the word ‘Underwater’).

Technical Details: Unipin 0.8 nib black-ink pen on white 80gsm A4 paper.
Dimensions: 5 in. x 3.5 in.

Note: This scene frequently occurs in abandoned mines (in this instance a gold mine), where water gradually encroaches on the workings, and covers all that has been left behind, often to a considerable depth.. In the image, the rails of the railway along which the ore wagons used to run can be seen below water level, while the light from the viewer’s lamp reflects off the walls of the working and the water while also illuminating other parts of the mine visible in the distance.

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Inktober 2017: ‘Underwater’

BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Great Houdini: His British Tours’.

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Reviewer:  Michael  Keith

Title: The Great Houdini; His British Tours

Author: Derek Tait

No. of Pages: 296

Rating Scale (1: very poor, 10: excellent): 8

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In an age where film stars are treated like royalty and thousands of ordinary people come to merely look at them, it is easy to forget that there was a time when entertainers who were NOT film stars were also accorded the same adoration. One such was Harry Houdini; escapologist extraordinaire. Although an American who was well-known in his homeland, Houdini also toured internationally, making many visits to Great Britain while doing-so. This volume is the story of his ‘British’ visits.

In the Introduction to this volume, the author summarises its purpose. He states ‘I have always been fascinated by Houdini and the more I have read about him, the more I’ve discovered about all the many venues that he played at all over Great Britain. There have been many books written about Houdini but none cover his tours of Britain in their entirety. In this book I have tried to collect together as many stories, newspaper cuttings, adverts [sic] and photos of his visits to the UK’. He also notes that ‘I have tried to include the complete account of the show as it was reported in the local newspaper. This not only gives a good impression of what Houdini’s act was like but also gives a feel of the time by including other performers who appeared on the bill,,,’ However, lest a reader think that the result of these endeavours could be boring, they are definitely not. The result is an eminently readable and thoroughly-entertaining book.

An Introduction placed behind the Contents page provides background to what follows and traces Houdini’s origins and his entry into show business. The main part of the volume follows. This consists of 16 Chapters, 15 of which detail the tours that Houdini undertook in Great Britain between 1900 and 1920. The final Chapter (Number 16) carries the self-explanatory title Timeline of Appearances and Events. An Acknowledgements section follows Chapter 16. In it, the author thanks those who assisted him in the volume’s creation. This is in turn followed by a Bibliography which records the books, newspapers and websites which provided information to assist the writer. A 10-page Index completes the work. As already noted, the volume contains numerous photographs, reproductions of relevant postcards and advertisements, together with contemporary line drawings. These are clearly captioned, although only some are sourced,. There is no reference to their existence in either the Index or on the Contents page. It must also be noted that although the body of the volume contains numerous quotes from contemporary newspapers, there are no ‘formal’ indications of their sources nor supporting citations. This must inevitably reduce the usefulness of the volume as a research document. The volume contains no maps. As a result, without consulting an atlas, the reader has no way of knowing where the locations referred-to actually are. This could be particularly problematical for ‘off-shore’ readers not familiar with the geography of the British Isles.

This reviewer thoroughly enjoyed this volume, and believes that it will probably appeal to a variety of readers. As it relates to their hero and records a little-known part of his life, ‘Houdini-enthusiasts’ will no-doubt find it of value. Historians and social-science researchers interested in British entertainment and social conditions for the 1900-1920 period could also find it of use. ‘Generalist’ readers seeking an entertaining and informative story may also find it worthy of their attention.

On a Rating Scale where 1: very poor, 10: excellent), I have given this volume an 8.

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BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Great Houdini: His British Tours’.

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Children’s Homes: A History of Institutional Care for Britain’s Young’

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Reviewer:  Michael Keith

Title: Children’s Homes: A History of Institutional Care for Britain’s Young

Author: Peter Higginbotham

No. of Pages: 310

Rating Scale (1: very poor, 10: excellent): 8

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As is evidenced by this volume’s subtitle, it is ‘A history of institutional care for Britain’s young’.  The author notes that ‘The total number of children’s establishments that operated over the years [ran[ into many thousands and the children that lived in them probably into millions.  As a result, and by ‘Casting its net wide, this book takes a look at how these many and varied institutions operated and evolved in the context of changing views of how to best serve the needs of children in their care’.  It is a fair summary.

The volume is comprehensive in its coverage of its subject. Within it, the reader is take from the Christ’s Hospital (claimed to be ‘..England’s first institutional home for poor or orphaned children’), to the Twenty-first Century and beyond. The story that is presented between these two points is well-researched and written. it is eminently readable, and is both enlightening and (not unexpectedly), at times somewhat depressing.

The main part of the volume consists of 25 Chapters preceded by an Introduction which summarises what is to follow.  Of the Chapters, 23 relate directly to the subject. Chapters 24 (Children’s Home Records) and 25 (Useful Resources) are however intended to assist genealogists and researchers seeking further information on the topic. Each Chapter covers a specific time-period, with subheadings within it providing more details about specific subjects. There are numerous informatively-captioned illustrations, although these are not sourced, and no mention of their existence appears on either the Contents page or in the Index. Endnotes are employed to provide additional information within each chapter. Chapter-specific and numbered sequentially, their citations appear in a dedicated References and Notes section placed after Chapter 25.  A Bibliography follows that section, with an Index completing the volume.

That this book is well-researched is very evident. However, for this reviewer, it was badly let down by its Index. While reviewing the volume, he had occasion to check the Index for additional information concerning British Home Children (p.209). Nothing was found. Subsequent (and random) searches for Australia, Canada and Ontario (subjects which figure prominently within the narrative) had the same result, while a final (also random) search for Hampton (p.213) also found nothing. For a volume with the potential to be an authoritative work on its subject, this discovery was disconcerting. While it cannot be known if other omissions have occurred, for this reviewer, the authority of the Index is now under question. Whether or not this is important will depend-upon the reader.

The mater of the Index notwithstanding, it is possible that this volume may become a major research-tool for those interested in British social history, orphanages, child welfare and the evolution of child foster care within Great Britain.

On a Rating Scale Rating Scale where 1: very poor, 10: excellent, I have given it an 8.

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BOOK REVIEW: ‘Children’s Homes: A History of Institutional Care for Britain’s Young’

INKTOBER 2017: ‘Poison’

Inktober is an annual international fun challenge for whomever cares to participate. The Inktober organisers post a list of numbered daily ideas for ‘inspiration’ for each day of the month of October, and respondents are then invited to post one original pen and ink piece per day, based on that ‘inspiration’ , on their favourite pen and ink site.

It’s fun and quite challenging. Herewith another example that I I have submitted for Inktober 2017

Inktober Challenge ‘Poison’.

#Inktober#Inktober2017

‘Pois on Ivy’ (My interpretation of the word ‘Poison’).

Technical Details: Staedtler 0.05, o.1 and 0.2 nib black-ink pens on 80gsm A4 paper.

Dimensions: 7 in. x 5 in.

This was a fun ‘play on words’ in response to my (Polynesian) Wife’s suggestion.

Note: ‘The traditional poi (light ball made of raupo – swamp plant – attached to a flax rope, which can be either long or short) was used in Māori action songs and dances.’(1) .
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(1) [n.a.], Traditional Maori Sports and Games’ [online], New Zealand in History, <http://history-nz.org/poi.html> [accessed 3 October 2017].

 

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INKTOBER 2017: ‘Poison’