Friday 19 January 2018

The Singer Building

When I was a child Singer sewing machines were a big part of my life. My Grandma and Great Aunt, who I've talked about here, both used Singers in their dressmaking workshop. My earliest memory is of them being powered by treadle. I grew up to the sound of those machines, almost like a lullaby, the thrum of the needle as it raced across yards of cloth.

But then they had them converted to electricity some time in the 1960s and I never quite felt the same about the machines after that, although I'm sure it made work much easier for Grandma and Great Aunt.

Cut to last month, and I'm wandering through the City of Leicester gathering items to include in my MA assignment about being a flâneur, as I mentioned in my previous post. I'm standing near the top of High Street looking up at the magnificent Singer Building. It was built in 1902 as a showroom for the Singer Sewing Machine Co and although its official name is The Singer Building, it's often referred to as The Empire Building because it has the most amazing carvings of animals each sitting above a Union Jack, just beneath the first floor windows:
  • a kangaroo for Australia
  • a camel for Egypt
  • a mountain lion for Canada
  • a tiger for India
  • an elephant for Burma 
  • and an ostrich for Africa
I managed to get photographs of the elephant, ostrich and tiger:

I was standing, admiring this artwork, with my back to High Cross Shopping Centre. Some building work is being done to the High Cross shop fronts and so a hoarding has been erected. As I turned round the art style chosen for the hoarding was so dramatically different that I took a photograph of that too:

Sunday 7 January 2018

Wandering Leicester - Sea Breeze headache remedy

My next MA assignment has to be handed in very soon. We have to write either 3500 words of story or 11 pages of poetry with a theme of 'place'. I decided to be a flâneur and wander the streets of Leicester. I then decided to make life more difficult for myself and write the whole thing in verse. I've used a mixture of free and formal verse which is hard work but fun.

My problem is that I've collected so many fascinating lesser-known snippets of information about Leicester that most of them won't make it onto those precious 11 pages. There are some that are so fascinating, I'd like to share them with you over the next few weeks. I don't have time to write them up in verse, I'm afraid but they're still worth a view.

This week I'm posting up two photos of the remains of a chemist shop on Leicester's High Street. The building is on the corner of Cart's Lane and High Street. It's now a men's clothing shop. You wouldn't even know that evidence of a chemist was there if you didn't look up and scrutinise it's façade.

I took the above wide shot and then scanned in closer to see two perfectly preserved mosaics:

The top one shows a man using a pestle and mortar to mix up a remedy and the lower mosaic is an advert for Sea Breeze, a headache remedy made by the owner of the chemist in the 1880s. His name was T. E. Butler.

So if you've ever walked up Leicester's High Street and not noticed these mosaics, you might like to take a moment to glance up next time you go. They're on the left as you walk away from the Clock Tower.

p.s. I know that as a woman I should call myself a flâneuse but I have decided, just as serious women actors no longer refer to themselves as actresses, so too will I use the masculine form.