I received my copy of the August edition of Scottish Memories magazine today in which I have two articles; one on youth hostelling when I was a child and the other on my early schooldays which I loathed. They’re illustrated with some of the many photographs my father took of me and which served to jog my memory about events in the fifties. Photos are a great starting point for all sorts of writing – poetry, short stories, articles, anything at all can be triggered by them.
I’ve used old photos a lot for my articles for Scottish Memories but unfortunately they stop when I was about 8 or 9, which was when my father left us, but that’s another story.
However, I did find stashed away at the back of a cupboard, his photojournals written in the 1930’s when he was a young single guy in his twenties, and illustrated with his own photos. They tell of his trips round the UK on his tandem with his new girlfriend who eventually became my mother. I spent last summer transcribing his words – all 26,000 of them – as they were written in a white ink on the black photo album paper and were suffering the effects of age. But what do do with them? They provide a fascinating glimpse of a time leading up to the second world war as well as making me reassess my opinion of him, much coloured by his actions when I was a child.
Here’s a taste of them:
The Modern Magic Carpet 5th October 1937
Many people who have looked at my previous efforts at photography have kindly(?) remarked ‘You must have a very good camera.’ Although my tandem is to be seen in most of the pictures, it occasions little comment other than the usual ill informed ‘Cycling must be hard work!’ As the bicycle has been so much taken for granted, one tends to forget just what a wonderful invention it is. A collection of steel tubes, wire, rubber, leather and other materials, fashioned by a master hand can yield a steed capable of carrying its owner (probably 5-10 times its own weight) to the ends of the earth or merely along the street for a newspaper, according to his (or her) fancy. Bicycles can look very similar. Only when under way does the ‘class’ machine show its inherent superiority. Materials can be copied but brilliant workmanship cannot.
So at the commencement of this album I pay tribute to F.H. Grubb, the man behind the making of my tandem. Now well into its third year, it has carried me over 12,000 miles, as far north as Fort William, south to Cornwall, Wales also has passed under its rolling wheels, through fair weather and foul, speeding along smooth tarmac or bumping across desolate moors devoid of track, whatever the conditions we have emerged triumphant and always ‘arrived’. I can think of no higher praise than that bestowed by its maker when he christened it ‘The Grubb Pullman’.