Memoirs of an Octogenarian : Toys.

 

My earliest memories of toys are of an annual sale of second-hand toys held just before Christmas in the war years at Bolton School – where my father was a teacher. In fact I do not remember the sales themselves but the fact that our Christmas presents were obtained at those sales by my parents. These sales were for teachers and parents and must have been the only chance for parents to obtain presents for their children as no toys were available in shops. Four such presents I remember well.                                                                                                    The first, in the early years, was a box of rubber building blocks – about the size as the much later Lego bricks – with an assortment of acrylic windows and doors. This provided endless hours of fun for the lengthy days and nights of the war, and could be quickly carried under our indoor, Morrison, bomb shelter (which also doubled as our table and was of heavy steel construction).

RUBBER BUILDING BLOCKS

 The second was a O gauge steam train. This was more my father’s toy, and necessitated a lot of swearing and a strong smell of methylated spirits. The track that came with it was rather limited – only really producing a large circle around the table and with bends that were not always negotiated by this hissing fiery monster!

steam train (2)

The third present was a pedal fret-saw – which I thoroughly enjoyed. With off-cuts of ply-wood from the school’s Woodwork Department I produced a large number of painted Christmas Tree Decorations and the figures for an Advent Calendar (the original real religious calender).

Fretsaw

Hobbies weekly 1

The fourth present I remember with fondness, and frustration, was a large cardboard box of miscellaneous Meccano pieces. Truth to tell I never really mastered Meccano and was always frustrated with the results, or lack of them!

Meccano
After the war, in 1946, we moved to Suffolk where my father took up a post at the Grammar School in Ipswich. Toys were still scarce and new toys almost impossible to obtain. My parents must have trawled possible sources and came up with one of the first releases of Dinky toys – this one, from a pre-war mould, was of a Packard Saloon – painted in military green – marvellous. Dinky Toys

Also during the war we made our own simple toys out of scrap material. I well remember two such toys. The first, and the most popular for youngsters, were ‘tanks’ made out of an old cotton-reel of my mother’s, a slice of wax candle (candles were very common in households during the war), two matchsticks, and a rubber-band. One wound these up and let them go to pursue their erratic way across the floor. The second was to make small swords out of pins and wire insulation – many a sword fight during those years!
Thinking of cotton reels, I think my sister became expert in ‘French knitting’ – a craft which defeated me!

French Knitting

It was some years before toys arrived back in shops to any great extent – raw materials were still scarce until well into the 1950’s.  My next step was, with a friend of mine, to be into ‘bikes’ – but we could not afford new ones so we became friendly with a local bicycle shop who not only sold bikes but also repaired them.  We were allowed to trawl his workshop and assemble bikes from the various old bits and pieces on the, rather untidy, shelves. We learnt all about frames (Reynolds and Accles & Pollock double-butted tubing, etc.), how to assemble derailleur gears, and test the merits of dropped handlebars as opposed to the traditional forms.  Toys were then not in my scheme of things again until my own children came along – and that was a different world and a different story.

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Memoirs of an Octogenerian : Outdoor toilets.

From childhood to early adulthood the experience of toilet provision loomed large in my life – or, rather, the lack of it!  I still regard ‘going to the loo’ as something which is something you get over as quickly as possible – and I am amazed at how long younger generations now spend in such accommodation. They too are amazed when I tell them of the, quite recent, days before indoor flushing toilets and dedicated lavatory paper.  My own, often uncomfortable, memories include the ‘potty’ under the bed, the outdoor bucket lavatory, flushing mechanisms which rarely seemed to work, and the carefully cut-up newspaper before the invention of, uncomfortable, ‘toilet paper’.                                                                                                                  I am reminded of a short ditty that my father used to recite :- ‘What is the difference between a rich man, a poor man, and a dead man ; a rich man has a canopy over his bed, a poor man has a can of pee under his bed, and a dead man canna pee at all’                                                                                  What a younger generation do not realise is that there was a civilised world before the universal provision of running water and indoor toilets. Even in the 1970’s staying in a B&B in London on visits in connection with my job as a provincial museum curator meant having, in the middle of the night, having to find the only toilet in some remote corridor (and before the days of central heating). If there was a wash basin in the room (no hot tap) then that could provide a possible solution. But I digress!

There is no coherence in these ramblings – just plucking out of memory particular things which I remember in a world where outside lavatories, perhaps shared by the whole street, was the norm – or when flushing was not part of the story.

Outdoor toilet 1

An outside privy – I remember these when we moved to remote rural Suffolk – but ours was different being much cleaner and being a ‘Three holer’ not like the one pictured above. In ours the walls were pristine whitewash and the seat in beautiful polished mahogany (with lids to each hole). The large bucket beneath held a mixture of water and a disinfectant and chemical with, I think, the trade name ELSAN.  The buckets had to be emptied about once a week – which was a task my father and I were delegated to undertake. We went into an adjoining field (ours) and tipped it carefully into a large pit – which was surrounded by very verdant foliage!!                                                  In towns the provision was different – usually an outside privy with a flush toilet.

Oudoor toilet 2

In town terraces there was usually a group of such toilets at the end of the terrace but semi-detached town cottages usually began to have one of their own – I remember my girl-friend’s house in Ipswich had such as did my Grandparents in Sheffield.   Bitterly cold and with cut squares of the local newspaper hanging off a hook!    Even as late as 1960 when my new wife and I took up residence in a Village School House at Wetheringsett, where my wife had been appointed Head Teacher, the toilet was outside and doubled up as the staff toilet for the school.  After some argument with the School Governors an indoor toilet was provided, along with another ‘modern’ convenience, a bath.

 

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Memoirs of an Octogenarian : In the beginning.

Grandad Beall

Edmund Beall with Grandson David Addison, c1938

Mum & Dad wedding

Frank and Constance Addison – David’s parents.

The Coronavirus ‘lockdown’ has provided me with time to reflect on where I am and what are my priorities. To put it another way – an opportunity to be selfish!  Apart from time to concentrate on my academic research – reflected in my Blogs on the Northwick Collection and my life-long enthusiasm for sharing thoughts on paintings in my chats on paintings blogs – it has also presented an opportunity to reflect on eighty years of living in a changing world and to share these thoughts and comments within this new series of blogs – ‘Memoirs of an Octogenarian’.

Now having time to trawl through my countless written notes and text files, plus floods of newspaper cuttings, the long term aim is becoming clearer.  Starting out, years ago, on producing memoirs for my ever-increasing family has broadened into an awareness, often produced from frustration, of the ignorance of contemporary society – a constant re-inventing of the wheel and ignorance of the past. Here I should point out that I have never been a slave of the past – we do need constantly to move on, but moving  forward should not be by ignoring the past and, importantly, learning from that past.

These ‘Memoirs’ are not primarily a biography – but a collection, of essays on subjects which have engaged my attention from time to time as I navigated this ever-changing world. Subjects often prompted by younger generations – including grandchildren, colleagues, and students but also involvement in a variety of organisations, events, and places.  In other words – a collection of ramblings!!

As a starter – it is only fairly recently that have I begun to be aware of what an individual owes to his or her parents – and, indeed, a lack of both awareness and understanding of those formative figures in one’s life. For instance – I now recognise that both my parents grew up in the world of the First World War and its aftermath and that I grew up in the world of the Second World War and its aftermath; and that my father’s life combining the academic with pastoral, social, and educational concerns has been echoed in my own life. Unfortunately my father died before I had really got going on my career – I now realise that I would have liked to discuss such matters with him.

img050

David Addison : student : Newcastle (Durham University): c1956.

The above was in lodgings with two other Fine Art students in our first term – my work is on the right. The fencing sword was not mine!!!  Note also the beard – I stopped shaving as soon as I got to University. By the Christmas vacation that beard had grown into something to be proud of – by me, but not by my parents, my sister, or back in the streets and buses of my home-town (Ipswich). I was now a rebel – a dubious character!!                                 Enough for now – my blogs under ‘Memoirs’ will be discussing my reflections, and some opinions, on what might be considered trivial matters – toys, toilets, telephones, typewriters, etc.

  David Addison. 

 

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European Tour, an artists view.

European Tours.

A previous blog referenced the ‘Grand Tour’ to Italy in the eighteenth century which led me to reflect that the Cheltenham collection holds quite a variety of paintings of depictions of European countries visited by British artists. The subject matter quickly turned from portraiture and places like Venice or Rome  to a wider view of the delights offered by European countries.                                                                                                                          So let’s explore!                                                                                                              What is clear is that relevant works in the Cheltenham collection span the generations from the Grand Tour places of the eighteenth century right through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries – but to put them in context I draft in significant examples from other public galleries. In terms of the ‘Grand Tour’ subjects there are the following examples at Cheltenham :-

Guardi, Francesco; The Island of San Giorgio in Alga, Venice, Italy; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-island-of-san-giorgio-in-alga-venice-italy-61819

Guardi, Francesco; The Island of San Giorgio in Alga, Venice, Italy; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum

 

Guardi, Francesco; The Grand Canal, Venice, Italy, Looking towards Santa Maria degli Scalzi and Santa Lucia; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-grand-canal-venice-italy-looking-towards-santa-maria-degli-scalzi-and-santa-lucia-61820

Guardi, Francesco; The Grand Canal, Venice, Italy, Looking towards Santa Maria degli Scalzi and Santa Lucia; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum

 

Tironi, Francesco; Venice, Italy (The Grand Canal from the Campo San Vio towards the Bacino); Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/venice-italy-the-grand-canal-from-the-campo-san-vio-towards-the-bacino-62071

Tironi, Francesco; Venice, Italy (The Grand Canal from the Campo San Vio towards the Bacino); Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum.                                                                                                                                In terms of the most well-known Grand Tour Venetian artist, Canaletto, I choose some typical examples from other galleries :-

Canaletto; The Piazza di San Marco, Venice; Sir John Soane's Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-piazza-di-san-marco-venice-123954

Canaletto; The Piazza di San Marco, Venice; Sir John Soane’s Museum.

These Venetian based artists were operating mainly in the mid to later eighteenth century – but whilst British tourists went mainly to places like Venice there were British artists who explored other areas of Italy and ventured to, or rested in, other European countries.

Wilson, Richard; Italian Lake Scene; Bradford Museums and Galleries; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/italian-lake-scene-23637

Wilson, Richard; Italian Lake Scene; Bradford Museums and Galleries

 

Jones, Thomas; Rooftops in Naples; The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/rooftops-in-naples-142210

Jones, Thomas; Rooftops in Naples; The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology

By the nineteenth century the scene began to change. The founder, in 1899,  of Cheltenham Art Gallery, Baron de Ferrieres with his important bequest of nearly fifty paintings, including important examples of  seventeenth century Dutch work, also reflected a change of direction in collecting to embrace contemporary paintings of the Low Countries. Unfamiliar names and places appear – examples being :-

Koster, Everhardus; Ruins over the River Birchel at Zutphen, The Netherlands; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/ruins-over-the-river-birchel-at-zutphen-the-netherlands-61884

Koster, Everhardus; Ruins over the River Birchel at Zutphen, The Netherlands; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum.

Springer, Cornelis; Fortified Buildings on the Banks of a Canal; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/fortified-buildings-on-the-banks-of-a-canal-62048

Springer, Cornelis; Fortified Buildings on the Banks of a Canal; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum;

Bodemann, Willem; Wooded Landscape; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/wooded-landscape-61669

Bodemann, Willem; Wooded Landscape; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum.

Yet Italy retained its charm for artists well into the twentieth century – and the Cheltenham collections reflect this interest.

 

Fisher, Janet C.; Rainbow over Assisi, Italy; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/rainbow-over-assisi-italy-61785

Fisher, Janet C.; Rainbow over Assisi, Italy; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum.

 

Bell, Arthur; Portico dei Comuni, Siena, Italy; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/portico-dei-comuni-siena-italy-61655

Bell, Arthur; Portico dei Comuni, Siena, Italy; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum

You might enjoy browsing Italian landscape and townscape on the ArtUK website – not just the Wilson (Cheltenham’s Art Gallery) but other galleries in this country.

 

 

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