Friday, 29 November 2013

Past and Present

This blog is mainly about what I have been doing because I have had a really interesting week whilst Marcia's, by way of some contrast, has been mainly hard work (something to do with a book she's supposed to be writing) although she has spent a bit of time with her friend Susie and her sister Bridget.

This is a sketch map I drew when the idea was first mooted.
At that time it was going to be little more than a leaflet. Hmmm.
Meanwhile I have been playing with photographs. This is all to do with the book that I am supposed to be writing: Marcia Willett's West Country - Dartmouth and Start Bay. This will include Hattie's Mill Revisited but the decision to expand it means there is no possibility of it being available until next year. Anyway, the new format has four parts:

  1. Dartmouth Past and Present.
  2. Hattie's Mill Revisited.
  3. Start Bay Past and Present.
  4. Second Time Around revisited.

In theory this is the first of five small books: the others covering Totnes, Tavistock and Dartmoor, Exmoor and, lastly, Cornwall.

The idea was that the "past" would be covered by words and the present by photographs thus giving people who have never visited this part of the world a feel for it. However, although the idea of covering the present using photographs remains in place I decided we needed some old images as well. Trawling through some of the old pictures in my "family archive" helped but they were pretty much centred on life in the shipyard (where my mother, her father and other members of her family worked). I wanted some more and then stumbled across "The Francis Frith Collection".

Definitely from the past: this is the long gone Royal Sands Hotel that once stood on Torcross Line and is one of the ones from The Francis Frith Collection (who retain the copyright) that I shall be using in the book. 
Mr Frith was a photographer (born 1822 and died 1898 so a very early photographer). Having travelled abroad for some years, he opened one of the first photographic businesses in the world and decided he wanted to create a record of every town and village in the UK – an incredible ambition. Although he recruited a number of willing helpers, he took many of the pictures himself. Anyway, he more or less succeeded and his family continued to run the business until 1970. When it closed there was a great risk that this incredible collection would be lost but that didn't happen and you are free to browse through some 133,000 images of 32,647 towns and villages (not to mention maps, books and shared memories).

Not having room in this book for 132,967 pictures, I have bought the right to publish only four of them but I am sure I shall want others for the other books.

If you are having trouble finding a present for anyone (including yourself) I would be amazed of you could not find something suitable on their web site:

Now for the present: here we see a monument erected by the Americans to remember the people in the surrounding parishes who had to leave their homes (with very little notice) when this became a training ground for the American army in WWII. It is situated close to where the Royal Sands Hotel, which was destroyed during these training exercises, once stood.
Then, yesterday, my friend and long time sailing partner Roger Whitewood and I took to the water of the River Dart while Marcia spent the day with her sister. I haven’t had time to even download all the material from yesterday so I will tell you all about that trip next week.

Meanwhile, last week there were a couple of comments from Ronald who lives in Holland which you might have seen. Now, I'm very good with dogs and quite good with cattle. The big black person with the long horns was only about six feet from me when I took that photograph. What I am not good with is horses – I'm sure they sense that I'm rather afraid of them. I do my best to hide it but they know, they know. True, I do all the right things: approach from the front quietly, offer the back of my hand for the animal to sniff and so on. It doesn't work – they see through me straight away. Perhaps that is why I was always such a rotten rider even though I was passable at lunging and long reining.

Two for the price of one: Charlotte and Emily.
Both far more interested in looking (adoringly, I would suggest)
at their mistress than a mere photographer.
Ah well, it's good to know one's place.