In a Vase on Monday: then and now


Another diminutive handful of spring flowers for you this week: more grape hyacinths, a couple of sprigs of Pulmonaria (unknown variety) and a buff-pink primrose that’s appeared in the paving cracks in a wild part of the garden. I’ve plonked them in a small jug that belonged to my great-grandmother (my mum’s father’s mother). She lived with my grandmother in a terraced house in inner-city Birmingham on a cobbled street with a builder’s yard at the end. We stayed with them for a few months when I was about six – we’d had to leave our home in Malta in a hurry (when the British were kicked out) and my mum took me and my little brother back to her childhood home while my dad stayed behind to sort things out. I went from living by the sea in the Mediterranean sunshine to grey, urban Birmingham and it was a shock to the system.

I have patchy memories from that time: the cold classroom with high-ceilings at school, the rain, my grandma’s pantry, the freezing cold bathroom that would completely steam up when you had a bath, sitting in my great-grandma’s room holding skeins of wool for her while she wound it into balls, watching her knit ferociously. She was a severe-looking Victorian woman, born in 1888, who rarely smiled and I was a little bit frightened of her. My grandmother, on the other hand, was a down-to-earth, kind and loving woman and I adored her. I’ve often wondered how these two very different women, bound by their love for my grandfather, co-existed for so many years after he died. My grandmother cared for her mother-in-law until she died, by which time grandma was in her late 60s.


Anyway, back to the here and now. How was your weekend? I had brilliant time on the Small Beans Photo course on Saturday which was full of lightbulb moments and inspiration. After years of sticking to the auto setting, I’ve now the confidence to take the stabilisers off, as my sister-in-law puts it. Taking good photos is all about the light, which if you understand how a pinhole camera works makes perfect sense. I now understand fancy photography phrases such as ‘depth of field’ and know how to alter the aperture to get a shallower or deeper depth of field (make the background blurry or sharper), how to alter the shutter speed to capture movement, and a lot more besides.

Working on the basis that you can never take too many pictures, I’ve been annoying everyone with the camera at every photo-opportunity. My daughter had her grade 3 ballet exam yesterday afternoon and was practicing non-stop all morning (the above photo is the only one she’s happy for me to show you) and my middle son returned from a two-night CCF camp, in full camouflage gear. (I promised him I wouldn’t use a photo here…) He was grubby, extremely hungry – having existed mainly on Smarties and Jelly Babies – and exhausted, so exhausted that he actually stood still while I wiped all the camo-cream off his face with make-up remover. Any mother of a teenage boy will know this is an unusual occurrence. I had a flashback to him as a grubby toddler, presenting his mucky face for wiping.

I’m joining in with Cathy at Rambling in the Garden’s weekly get-together of gorgeous ‘vases’ from around the world.

Have a great week. I’ll be practicing with the camera.



26 thoughts on “In a Vase on Monday: then and now

  1. Such a beautiful little posy, Sam, and a really interesting post. Do give yourself the opportunity to revisit some of these memories by going to the National Trust’s Back to Backs in Birmingham some time – well worth a visit. Good on you for going on the photography course – I am sure all of us garden bloggers with average photo-taking skills would benefit from one, but perhaps we are too busy gardening and blogging to do anything about it!


    1. The Back to Backs sounds intriguing Cathy, thank you. My mum would probably enjoy it too. I put off expanding my photography knowledge for years and my sis-in-law finally persuaded me by pointing out a few photos that could have been improved by simple tweaks. But you’re right – there’s so much else to be doing.


  2. It’s interesting how those childhood memories of abrupt dislocations in one’s life remain vivid after years – I have some of my own dating back to age 6 and I can recall the details more clearly than what I had for breakfast this morning. I admire your work in developing your photographic skills. Although I’m frequently frustrated with the limitations of my own point-and-click approach, I’ve yet to devote the time needed to learning what my camera is capable of. One day I will! Your jug of spring flowers is very pretty but I’m particularly envious of the solid white counter the jug sits on – how I wish I could swap my white kitchen tiles for a solid surface!


    1. Our kitchen was built in an extension to our house a couple of years ago and a white worktop (it’s composite stone) was high on my list of priorities. Memory is a funny thing, isn’t it.


  3. I enjoyed reading your memories of your great grandmother and grandmother, It is so lovely to use some of their belongings and thinking of them. Great images of your daughter practicing her ballet which matches so well the shade of the primula. Sarah x


  4. I really enjoyed reading about your memories of your great-grandmother and grandmother. I didn’t realize you’d lived in Malta; I don’t know if you’ve said on your blog. I’ve only known two people who came from Malta. Now I know three. 🙂


    1. I think I might have mentioned it early on in my blogging. My dad was in the air force so we moved around a lot. I was born in Germany but my brother was born in Malta and we lived there for three years or so. I’d like to go back one day.


  5. Your flowers look bright and cheerful, and how nice you have a jar from your great grandmother to put them in. It was interesting reading about her and your grandmother. You’re the second blogger today who has talked about taking their camera off the automatic setting. I just can’t gather up the courage to do that with mine.


    1. It’s taken me years to get round to it Kristie and it’ll be a long while before I’m turning the right dial and getting the correct settings each time!


  6. Love your little posy. Inspired after reading about your adventures in camera manual mode so tried to learn a bit through an on-line video course…I am feeling dense as a post trying to remember if small numbers mean lots of light and slow shutter speed or is that aperture settings. I have bookmarked the lessons and hopefully repetition will win out.


    1. Good for you Nora. I think you’re right – taking loads of photos on different settings, making mistakes and learning from them, practice… There’s always something to learn.


  7. Lovely spring flowers. Isn’t it amazing the memories that can come back when simply contemplating an everyday object! I can never remember the rules about aperture and so on for more than a few hours…. the next time I pick up the camera it’s gone and I have to go back to my book, so perhaps a course is what I need too!


  8. What an interesting post. I love hearing about others’ family history, it’s always fascinating, the vivid little details we remember. The jug of flowers is so pretty but I’m distracted by your beautiful worktops. x


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