Category Archives: Uncategorized
If I ever did another PhD (no danger of that, mind), it would be in the history of medicine – women’s medicine, probably.
Googling Jane Sharp’s Midwives Book tonight, I came across this blog post about miscarriage (an experience I wish I wasn’t familiar with…) by academic Jennifer Evans:
What struck me was that several hundred years ago, as now, pregnant women were making every possible effort to control an outcome that was, in all likelihood, already decided – whether they gave birth to a healthy baby.
Should I ever get a third stab at pregnancy, I’ll not judge myself so harshly for seeking out my own Dragon’s Blood; I’ll not be the first or the last woman to do so.
Before Christmas, I started stripping the paint off the cast iron fireplace in our bedroom. Using a heat gun worked well, but I got spooked when I realised that I was almost certainly vaporising old lead paint, so we decided to get the fireplace dipped ‘n’ stripped instead. (The whole fireplace is put in a big vat of paintstripper by specialists.)
Dipping ‘n’ stripping is surprisingly cost-effective – £40 for a bedroom fireplace versus £20 and a lot of time doing the same job with a heat gun – but the downside is that you have to remove the whole fireplace. As we speak, I’m waiting for someone to come and refit it – another £60 as the plaster on the surrounding wall needs fixing after a messy removal executed by moi.
In spite of the expense and insidious rubble dust from the crumbling wall, the process started to feel worth it when I found an old tram ticket behind the fireplace.
The tram stops listed are for east Edinburgh, in and around Leith, and its edges are blackened from the fire. A little calendar card I found with it dates from 1919, so I’d like to think the ticket dates from then, but in truth I have no idea.
I hope you had lovely – or at least survivable – Christmases and that you’ve come out the other side refreshed.
I went to uni with someone who said that Tuesday was always the worst day of the week, and today has definitely been a Tuesday-ish Tuesday. I seemed to spend a lot of time doing a lot to achieve not very much at all, which was probably because I was doing something website-related. Websites are great until they don’t work. To try to pep up my motivation, I’m doing something fun – this post – before getting my head clear about what should be on my work to-do list and what needs done when.
Before Christmas, I attended the latest Spoonful of Vintage fair and, for the first time, bought something. Surprise, surprise, it was two postcards. I still can’t decide whether I paid over the odds. I think I possibly did, but the cards so clearly have good stories behind them that it’s hard to feel aggrieved. You’ll see what I mean – here’s the first:
Almost a novel here! Here’s my attempt at a transcription:
Dear Jeannie Thank for your PC [postcard] sorry I have been so long in answering it but never mind Jeannie I will forget you not (come over here) I had a PC from bridget she was asking for wooden logs very considerate of her well Jeannie I am leaving Peebles in a fort-night but I have not got a job yet I will try and get one in Edin. [Edinburgh] beside you wouldn’t it be ripping Peebles is horrible in fact worse than terrible just now cant get a girl at all hard times I call it, now ganny [?] see if you know everybody here look well for me. I think you might send me a Photo of yourself Jeannie I am dying to see your sweet little face again tell Miss Stuart I was asking for her give her my second best love and keep my best yourself, now Jeannie I hope this finds you still enjoying life Tweed-side misses you now good night and write soon love from R Melrose
R. Melrose certainly had a crush on Jeannie but, to be honest, it sounds like he would take anything offered to him – or he was trying to make Jeannie jealous. From the tone of his writing, he’s certainly young, but I wish there was a clue as to which of the young men on the postcard he was. Peebles is a small town in the Scottish Borders which is actually quite pleasant, although maybe not what a young man looking for adventure had in mind.
The dress of everyone pictured on the card dates it to early in the twentieth century, so in the hope we could learn a bit more about our writer, I’ve done a quick search of the 1911 Scottish census. Melrose is seemingly a common surname in Peebles, and four entries for ‘R Melrose’ have come up, two of which seem to fit the likely age and marital status of the writer:
- Robert Melrose, aged 17 and born in Yarrow, Selkirkshire, a boarder at Hay Lodge Stables and apprentice butcher
- Robert A.G. Melrose, aged 15 and born in Broughton, Peeblesshire, son of Andrew and Margaret Melrose living with them at 17 Elcho Street, law apprentice and part-time student
From the stream-of-consciousness writing style, my hunch is that the apprentice butcher is our author, but that is making a pretty sweeping generalisation about butchers (and law apprentices).
Here’s my second purchase:
It’s not really a postcard, now I look at it – just a regular, mounted photo – and the image is faint, but I couldn’t leave all of those glum faces behind at the bottom of the box. I have no information about it whatsoever, but I think it’s interesting enough to look at in its own right. (Spotted the smiler, yet?)
In my next post or two, I’ll get onto the 1960s of my main postcard collection.
Well, The Scottish Aeneas has done it again.
On New Year’s Eve, I wrote about a postcard that I had bought for a quid that was sent from a father to a son in July 1930. The father was holidaying in John O’Groats, in the north of Scotland, and the son – whose name I could not make out – was living in the affluent New Town district of Edinburgh.
Fathers seem to have been just as economical as communicators in 1930 as they are today, as the postcard sweetly but simply says:
This is a very lovely place[;] the view to Orkney is very clear – Dad
The Scottish Aeneas has done his detective work and has made out the son’s name as Eric Crosbee. According to the Dictionary of Scottish Architects, Eric became an architect, was born on 21st June 1912, and his father was Walter Gould Crosbee, a mechanical engineer. Eric started his architectural apprenticeship in Edinburgh in March 1930, a few months before Walter sent him this postcard. Eric married Kathleen Howson Drummond and died, aged 92, on 28th June 2004. Here’s one of Eric’s sketches:
The Scottish Aeneas has also managed to obtain a picture of Walter Crosbee’s gravestone, which can be found in Edinburgh’s Dean Cemetery. The headstone reveals that Eric’s mother, Sarah Ann Hutton Crosbee, was an artist – not surprising given Eric’s talent. It also looks like Eric had an older brother, Ronald, who seems to have followed in his father’s engineering footsteps.
I had a bumper find of 1960s postcards at Edinburgh’s Omni Car Boot in January 2012, and I hope to get to bringing you these soon. Meanwhile, thank you, as always, to the Scottish Aeneas for his hard work – please do visit his blog if you’re interested in the history of Edinburgh.
Steptoes in the Newington area of Edinburgh is well-placed for student business, but I’m not the only person to still shop there long after their studies have finished. It sells affordable second-hand furniture – anything from early twentieth-century wardrobes to unwanted IKEA – and a good scattering of bric-a-brac. On my latest trip, I got a nest of three tables (for £9!), and couldn’t resist getting this postcard too.
For the princely sum of £1, I acquired this eighty-one year-old holiday memento. Sent from a father to a son when the former was holidaying at John O’Groats in July 1930, it carries a brief message:
This is a very lovely place[;] the view to Orkney is very clear – Dad
The son’s address is 21 Claremont Crescent, Edinburgh, which is on the edge of Edinburgh’s New Town. The New Town is probably the most prestigious area of the city, so it seems fair to assume that this family was reasonably comfortably-off. Here’s what 21 Claremont Crescent looks like today (links to Google Maps).
The one thing I cannot make out is the name of the son – the addressee. Suggestions welcome! (The Scottish Aeneas, that means you!)
Oh, and the very best for 2012!
Like most people, I like spending time in chemists only marginally more than I do hospitals and doctors’ surgeries. However, in Edinburgh, they do soften the blow by sometimes giving you great window displays of merchandise they have left over from many decades ago – a mini museum exhibition. The staff at Paton & Finlay in Bruntsfield, Edinburgh, have been kind enough to let me take some pictures of their collection (click pictures to enlarge):
Mustard leaf, if I have it right, is something that used to be applied as a warming dressing for aches and pains. Possibly the atomiser was used to spray medicine in a patient’s throat. And the meths register, well: given its use by the more desperate as source of drinking alcohol, I wonder if the register was a way of monitoring for possible abusers. As always, I might have the wrong end of the stick on all of this, and would love to be corrected.
Paton & Finlay isn’t the only chemist in Edinburgh with a good window display – try also MacKenzie & Co. on Forrest Road.
I really should be heading off for bed but, before I do, I thought I’d let you know about a couple of blogs on the subjects of Edinburgh vintage and old Edinburgh itself:
Edinburgh’s answer to Casey’s Elegant Musings, American-in-Scotland Debi sews at what appears to be a breathtaking rate to produce gorgeous clothes from original vintage patterns. If you love the forties, then you won’t be able to tear your eyes away from the screen. There’s also some interesting stuff on here about the international vintage sewing blog community!
Colin Macaulay’s blog (which I discovered only today after Colin commented on an earlier post of mine) is all about Edinburgh in the Georgian period. I’ve yet to read through all that’s on offer, but I have already spotted the profiles of key Edinburgh-dwellers of the time that I’m keen to read. Some good links to online resources (including older texts in the National Library of Scotland – one of my favourite places in my early twenties) on here, too.
That’s all for now folks. I let you know about any other goodies I find. Meanwhile, sweet dreams…
Recent vintage good-news stories from Auld Reekie…
Dry cleaner goes vintage
Kleen Cleaners on St Mary’s Street has the prestige of being the Queen’s dry cleaner when she’s in town. Now they’ve further upped their game by opening their very own vintage boutique selling clothes and accessories.
Having browsed around a couple of times, there are are definitely some pieces in here I’m lusting after (including a Vivienne Westwood leopard print top), but prices mean I will continue to have to lust for a while yet. However, if you want something special and possibly a designer label, this is the place to go. Oh, and being from a dry cleaner’s, all items are fresh-smelling – no rotten armpits here!
Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fashion Fair
The Affordable Vintage Fashion Fair is visiting Edinburgh on 1st October 2011. The Fair tours the UK’s major cities selling vintage fashion and homewares. I’ve never been, so am really looking forward to giving this a go. It’s £2 entry (£1 concessions), 11am-4pm at the Drill Hall (Out of the Blue), Dalmeny Street, Leith.
Pictures from Lost Edinburgh
The Facebook group Lost Edinburgh hosts photographs of Edinburgh in its earlier days. As well as feasting your eyes on the cars of the citizens of the day, locals can also spot the architecture (including some terrifyingly high tenements) which has since made way for modern developments. Great to have such a repository available so freely.
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