Thursday, 18 December 2008

A Doctor in the Family

I have been meaning to add a 'post' for some time now, but I've been distracted by so much happening during my semi-conscious hours. Sounds and pictures of a Traction Engine being tested for 'valve timing', selecting and printing photographs for the annual 'Thanks to volunteers' at the Long Shop Museum, treating myself to a few new 'tech toys' for Christmas. Then having to learn how to use them! Several other chores come to mind, but will over look for the purpose of this entry.

Being at the Long Shop the other day however, gave me a chance to look at the more social side of the Museum rather than the Engineering side that I usually indulge in. I knew off Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, but had not really followed up on her life., but having dressed-up as Frank Garrett for a Schools 'Apprentice Day' event a while back....The children are given a period costume work experience at the Museum for a day. No cars allowed, nor computers to be seen. Discipline and doffing of caps absolutely essential..... the beaming faces showed that they loved it.

Sorry, one of my 'red-herrings' getting in there. Elizabeth was of a tenacious personality, and having set her mind to becoming a Medical Doctor, in fact the very FIRST woman MD in the UK, my mind thoughts turned to my Niece who is a GP. Thus I was reading the booklet as pictured. It was within this narrative that I found a rather weak, but none the less valid link to the Garrett psyche. The Royal Free Hospital in London eventually established a Medical School admitting women to London University degree courses, the year was 1878. The link? Well The Royal Free was were I worked for the Medical Research Council for several years as an electronics design engineer, developing aids for both theater and ward monitoring, as well as a few research projects. True my base was at the Hampstead branch (before the current building was erected, ie. at the original 'Fever Hospital'. But I did travel quite a lot between there and Grays Inn Road, as well as the National Hospital for Neurology, Queens Square. There were also visits to The Maida Vale Hospital. These tenuous links may not mean very much, but it does feel comfortable to share various associations with the past, and who knows, maybe the future. It was from working at the Royal Free that I moved on to become closely linked -work wise- to the lady who started the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. For after she left the BBC, she set-up her own composing studio in Kent, where she set about investigating new ways to create music by electronic means. But that must be for a future BLOG.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

SQUIBS....A pre-teen pet. circa 1949

Squibs was a Second World War pussy cat. He was awarded his own 'Tin Hat' for services rendered. His claim to 'Local' fame was that as my parents did their 'Black-out' patrol, Squibs would parade ahead of them and sit in front of any house showing a chink of light. How he developed this gift we are still not sure. As the picture shows, he was rather a large animal, and another favorite trick was to jump around my smallish shoulders as I sat at table and almost make me put my face into the plate of food.

This is an earlier picture than Shylock, being about 1949, the same camera, but this time fitted with a small 'Capacitor, flash gun . These fired small flash-bulbs via a couple of zink carbon batteries. The bulbs sizzled as the flash went off due to the safety lacquer frying with the heat of the burning Magnesium wire inside the little glass bulb.

Squibs won this round, although he looks quite tired, I was much more so.

Location of HOME was South West LONDON, and we did receive War Damage.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

A second Stereo Test Recording' : From 1967

Long Shop Museum: A personal artefact.

Scanned from an original Display Card. I am not sure when it was manufactured, but the colour and type of card makes me believe that it could have been more than a hundred years ago. When I next go to the Museum, I will have to try and do some more research on the matter. This card is 24 cm width in real size: i.e. about 9 and 3/8ths of an inch.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Digital Photography should be EASY!

The previous post of the flip-side of 'A Journey Into Stereo Sound' was prompted by the front cover of the same recording being posted by Steve at SURROUNDHEAD. Having the record myself I thought of 'playing SNAP', then I think I grew up! Anyway, Steve's picture of the cover turned out to be better than mine. Then another thought lumbered into my mind, perhaps somebody might like to know a little more about the recording. Thus I came to try to photograph the reverse side.

I think I know how it should be done, .....even diffuse lighting, at least two balanced lights, one on either side at around 45 degrees, watch out for shine from the laminated surface, use a 'polarizing' filter, accurately 'square-up subject and camera 'film-plane', DO use a tripod.......Flaming heck, I was getting tired just thinking about it. Should I change the lens from the Zoom I used earlier in the day to a Macro, or just add a 'Proxar', close-up, Portrait lens, call it what you will. Being rather late at night, the only illumination is a ghastly energy saving bulb in an angle-lamp base. My 'Study' just happens to be a small Bedroom , where the bed is rather a nuisance,taking up valuable computer space!

I plonked the record onto a music stand just in front of the midi keyboard, pick up the camera as is, and back away until I get the 'In Focus' indicater, that is a REAL boon with my worsening eyesight, only age related so far, thank goodness. Anyway, I crash into the Mic. stand and have to regain some balance. I did make the effort to attach the more powerful flash gun onto the camera, and swivaled the the unit to bounce the light off the ceiling. Hand held I could see the tremors! Still, maybe the short duration flash would freeze the image. SNAP. The camera certainly found a working exposure for the flash, but then selected a slow speed for the ambient light, so I did not win. Several compromises later I acheived the image as posted. The lighting certainly is not very even. The ceiling being far to close with respect to the image size. The use of the 'close-up lens not very successful with the printed matter under these conditions. The Macro lens would be much better except I do not have the room for the extra focal lenth. Not very good, but something of a result. I will have to make more of a effort during daylight. I feel another Blog coming on!

The 'Flip Side' to 'A Journey....'

Tuesday, 25 November 2008


I have chosen this image for my current profile as it does rather seem to fit in with the economic situation.

Somewhere I believe that I said that I have been interested in photography for quite a while, or at least implied as much. Well this image was taken in 1951/2 for a school production of some Shakespeare play! An older boy had also taken some pictures, but would not be friends because mine got chosen for local publication. Well I had taken the trouble to take to school, by train and bus journey, not just the Kodak folding Brownie, but also a pair of collapsible tripods fitted with large reflectors, about 32cm diameter in todays metric system. One of these reflectors was powered by a No1PF photoflood light bulb, quite bright and hot, the other held a No2PF flood light, much brighter ,very much hotter but worse still it had a very short life, only about 2hours max. Very hard on ones pocket money! How much pocket money? The equivalent of Twelve and a half pence. That would be one eigth of a pound, and a good wage would range from about Ten pounds a week aiming to reach Twenty pounds a week IF one passed all ones exams, or so we were told.

Anyway, as you might observe, the bright light was placed quite low down and to one side to throw upward shadows, the lower powered light was placed a face level and far enough away to only just give some detail in the darkest regions.

Now memory fails me a bit, and no, I did not keep notes, but I still have the original negative which has been scannened in for this Blog. I can not quite remember the developer used, but looking at the grain structure of the image on the high resolution scan, I am sure it was neither of the then aproved 'fine grain' developers ID11, or D76.( Both the same formula,but one was Ilford and the other was Kodak). So it might well have been one called Azol which was quite fierce in action and might have been chosen to exagerate the contrast of a rather 'slow' or insesitive film.
As luck would have it the film name does NOT appear on this frame, so I will have to find the other negatives to confirm whether the film type was 'Selochrome' or 'FP2'. I can tell you that the camera was hand held, one, because I did not then own a tripod, and two, I needed to bob about a bit in order to get the framing I liked. Time exposure would have been out of the question because of the effect of camera shake, hence the effort with bright lights, but the highest shutter speed would have been either 1/50th or 1/100th of a second on such an inexpensive camera, and the lens would not have been very 'fast', so a guess of 1/50th second, with held breath for steady holding seems about correct.

For anyone with an interest in the 'OLD' ways of photography, there will be more to come in future months, including information regarding my first dark-room and home made enlarger, films, formulae and photo sessions, in fact anything that comes to mind or I am asked about.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Is Life a Curved Path?

So, at long last I have made the effort to compile a blog!

This is in fact no mean feat as I have usually shied away from committing my general thoughts to the written word. This is partly due to lack of confidence with both Grammar and spelling. Also memories of being belittled on both accounts at school whilst at the same time always being praised for the ability to speak quite fluently without preparation. Add to that the general get-out terms of 'Dyslexia' and 'writers cramp', I truly have not enjoyed writing.

What on earth has changed at this time of life. Well, many factors have conspired to re-adjust my equilibrium. There is of course the computer and its useful facilities to rearrange and correct words, secretly. But that still leave the confidence thing. Well the computer and the internet have a lot to answer for. About a year ago I decided that as I was enjoying playing about with music sequencers and samplers and pretending to learn to play ' Keyboard', I would subscribe to a Technical magazine on the subject. I choose 'Sound on Sound' as my preferred choice . Within a few months an article was published recalling the early days of the BBC's Radiophonic Workshop. During the reading of the piece my attention was riveted by an account of a
bizarre contraption for creating sounds from graphic art-work. How it worked was not really understood.
Contacting the magazine lead to the author visiting me at my home, where he discovered that I did in fact know quite a lot about the machine which was known by the name of ORAMICS. This single event has rather transformed my ailling life, and has encouraged me to restimulate my Grey matter. I have now regain a firm interest in sound and sound recording, which coupled to my other interests now embriols me in trying to make an archive of both my life and the progress of my son. I so wish to eliminate the difficulties I am having in tracing my Father's life. There seems to be so little provinence for what he acheived for the world of music during and after the second world war. Alas, there is also scant evidence of his early life and upbringing.

So life at 70 plus has begun to close in rather like completing a circle, but I do not intend it to completely close just yet!

As I learn more about blogging, I will most surely add the links to the key players that I have mentioned.

SIRAPITE: progress

My son (far left) with volunteers at work on restoring a small steam engine for the Long Shop Museum. This small Museum is situated in the town of Leiston, and hosts a wonderful mix of social and engineering history.

Does the name GARRETT ring a bell with anyone?

Much more on this project and the Long Shop will follow as I gain experience with blogging.