Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Yoghurt Update

It was our worst case scenario.

The missing yoghurt (see the previous entry for details) has been spotted heading south on the M6 hard shoulder by fitness trainer Aileen Sedwaighs who at the time was crossing a motorway footbridge with her own pack of active yoghurts that were, fortunately, leashed.

"My heart went out to it," she said in an email a few moments ago, "it had indeed got it's entire belongings in a red spotted hanky. I hope it doesn't get run over..."

Motorists should keep an eye open for the bright green coated yoghurt but should approach only with caution as it is somewhat pro-biotic.

We'll keep you informed...

Have You Seen This Yoghurt?

Great excitement in the library at work where I rent my modest little office.

One of the Library Assistants, normally such a diligent person, has misplaced her yoghurt. She tells me she has retraced all her steps of the morning in case she had carried it about as she undertook her duties and inadvertantly left it somewhere, perhaps marking a recently visited page in a book on one of the shelves. She has also checked her boots, in case it had fallen in - I started to get a little confused at this point...

Ah - after she had taken them off, she meant... It's pro-biotic so it may just have jumped in...

Apparently the yoghurt is an active yoghurt too, so it may just have taken it into its head to wander off for a bit. A photofit picture is shown here. If anyone sees it walking along the hard shoulder of the M6 with a red spotted hanky on a stick, please send it back.

Venus - Your Strings Are Showing...

Every now and then my screensaver throws this one up at me from all the thousands of images I have on the computer.

I always think you can judge someone's age by the earliest Gerry Anderson show they remember. I'm a Four Feather Falls man myself...

That was preceded (apparently) by Torchy the Battery Boy and Twizzle but they mean nothing to me other than having seen photos of them.

Four Feather Falls was a western, in an era when both childrens' and adults' TV was dominated by American western series - The Lone Ranger, Bronco Lane, Cheyenne Body, Tenderfoot, Champion the Wonder Horse, Laramie, The Rifleman, Waggon Train, My Friend Flicker, the list is almost endless! I can still remember the theme tunes from the first five of those!!!

Anyway Four Feather Falls was followed by Supercar, then Fireball XL5 which is shown, during which colour TV came out which led to the first Gerry Anderson colour series, Stingray. The hugely popular Thunderbirds followed that and then I was getting less interested in things like Joe 90, The Secret Service, Captain Scarlet etc. Interest revived with live action series like UFO and Space 1999 and Space Precinct which was quite a bit later.

Right: me with the man himself - Gerry Anderson at Memorabilia in 2006.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Newcastle Trip

Just back from a two-day trip to the Newcastle office.

One of my colleagues who lives even further away than me was there too but in a different hotel so we met up last night and went for a meal. A little bizarre in that a waiter came up to the table at about 8 minutes to 7 and said "If you are still here after 7 o'clock it will cost you more..."

Apparently it was a badly worded attempt to say there was a discount for early diners! However what happened in practice was that plates were cleared and we were at the till in 2 minutes flat...

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Gynn Square Trams


This postcard shows trams turning from the Promenade into Dickson Road at Gynn Square Blackpool.

The route, to Blackpool North Station closed on 27 October 1963 and there is no trace of rails left anywhere along the route today.

At the same time the tram sheds at Bispham were closed along with the route to it down Red Bank Road. For another twenty years or so the rails to the sheds were visible in the car park of Alpic, a cash and carry that opened in the old sheds. Today the sheds have gone and the car park now serves a building on Red Bank Road itself - the Sainsburys store.

This being a John Hinde postcard (taken by John Hinde himself) it has several examples of the painted red coats, I mentioned in an earlier post!

At time of writing the Gynn gardens are still there and have a colony of rabbits which can be seen quite often munching the grass and flowers!

Watercolour Blackpool Tram

If it's rare that I do any sketching, then it's a once in a blue moon event for me to attempt a watercolour painting.

Only about four or five of these exist at all. This was one of the best attempts, am image taken from a photograph I took of a Blackpool tram against a backdrop of some old cactus illuminations from the 1970s or early 1980s.

This one hangs in the hallway of David and Jeannie and I'm pleased (if a little confused) that they like it so much!

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Cruise Holiday Comeback

I've been trying a bit of digital scrapbooking with the photos from the holiday to create a booklet instead of a photo album.

In this way I could include text and other bits and pieces too. Marlene used to rave about digital scrapbooking at one time and even got a job designing backgrounds and layouts and stuff.

So I nagged her a bit and she gave me some great hints about using layers in Paint Shop Pro and although I've not used many elements other than the actual photos and some WordArt for page titles, I've been pleased with the results I've been getting.

Talking of the holiday - I got a letter from Cissie yesterday. She wanted to know whether she was Cissie or Ada - it should really have been obvious flower! And said:

"I'm glad you had a great time on holiday. We had a lovely week after you had gone. (Take it the right way) I don't mean because you 'd gone. I mean we did. Nothing happened. I mean ...oh never mind."

See what I have to put up with?

Friday, 26 October 2007

Road Racer

An early driving game from the 1950s or early 1960s by Williams.

Road Racer had a small model car on a rolling drum which had a road painted onto it. The car had to be steered along the road as the drum rotated, passing over the correct contact points to score highly on the speedometer-like scoreboard.

"Accepted by every type of location" it says on the flyer - points don't mean prizes with this game so it could be placed in sites which did not have a gambling licence.

This was one of many driving games I remember from Blackpool arcades. Another simulated driving at 100mph at night where bends in the road ahead could only be seen at the last second, testing the driver's reactions. It was to be a while before they came with foot pedals, gear levers and seats!

Workshop Design

Yesterday saw me up in Penrith, meeting up with Clive whilst we discussed our latest workshop for JISC infoNet.

The Project Management Masterclass covers Portfolio and Programme Management, looking at where projects come from and how and why they are authorised. It concentrates on the senior management roles in directing projects and programmes and how they can empower project managers to act under their own initiatives whilst suggesting mechanisms for keeping information flowing and for involving senior decision makers where necessary.

The workshop is a one-day workshop and will be available to colleges and universities from January 2008.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Meccano Memories

When I was a nipper this was the must have expensive toy.

Most of the Meccano bits we had were originally my Uncle David's, though Mum and Dad added to it from time to time.

My best memories of it are not so much making models from it but using some of the angled pieces resting on piles of books to create marble runs. Where you put a marble at the top and it ran along the bits of Meccano, down allyways made from more books and onto other bits of Meccano.

Why did I not take any photos of those??? Probably because I was too busy playing with them!

Look at how the lad in the advert is dressed too. We did wear shirts, ties, pullovers and sometimes blazers too in the house. There was no central heating, only coal fires and until they got going and had been going for some time it was cold in winter!

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Dansette Destroyed by Cat

It is with sadness that I have to report the demise of this wonderful Regentone HandyGram record player.

It lived in a small suitcase-like container and played both 78s and 45s with equal wobble. This was due to wear on the bearing upon which the turntable rested and so it was possible to tilt the playing surface a little bit and just about impossible to get it to sit exactly flat.

Anyway all that is of little moment now as in mid-record (Max Bygraves' Tulips From Amsterdam in case you're interested) one of the cats thought it would be a good idea to jump on top of the record.

Interestingly the motor coped with this quite well, however in turn this meant that the cat suddenly started to spin at 78rpm and he had a mild panic, crashing into the playing arm and managing to snap it completely off by breaking the bakelite plastic.

Max seemed to escape with relatively little damage other than a little excitement at being played in four separate grooves at once by curved claws... (Yes I know there's only one groove...)

Ho hum, Dansette much missed, consigned to the tip...

John's Burkes

Yep, ok...

I've seen it now!

Sorted!

It was a mistake not a new collection...

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Restored Tram out Tonight

Tram number 147, a Blackpool Standard, has been wonderfully restored and was out on Illuminations Tour duty tonight.

We went out for a walk along the Promenade earlier tonight, braving the cold and the umpteen lightsabre sellers (£2.99 each or 2 for £5 from a pretty young girl or £2 each from a couple of blokes not as well blessed...)

Snatches of conversation along the Prom are always fun:

"Is that the North Pier do you think?"
"I don't know - which way are we facing?"

Blackpool is on the west coast - is that a clue???

"Mum, can I have a lightsabre?"
"No, you can have a burger..."

"No, I can't let you on this tram - you have to wait at that massive queue over there..."

or the old chestnut...

"Look at the Tower!"
"Yes I've seen it..."
"Look at that tram all lit up!"
"Yes I've seen it..."
"Look..."
"Yes! I've seen it!!!"
"Well what did you tread in it for then???"

A New Look and a New Name

Welcome to the first entry under the new blog name "John Burke's a-Musings".

I wanted the blog to be found a bit easier if anyone was searching for my name.

Besides there are hundreds and thousands of John Burkes. Bad enough coping with that never mind all the millions of Johns with any old surname. I'm obviously far more common than I thought...

A quick look on Google tells me there are about 4,760,000 entries listed under "John Burke". If you use google.co.uk I am the first of those with another 3 entries on the first page. I might slip down the ratings if you use any other country's google homepage!

There are a few noteables though - a lot of us John Burkes are musical and there is one after my own heart who performs with sea lions in Germany...! Good on you, me!

Hope you like the new look - the name will stay the look might change every now and then!

Belles of the Beach

A couple of people have expressed some surprise that my entry Leo's Lovelies about the French photographer from the 1920s featured a young lady only from the neck up!

I mean - this is a family-friendly blog!

Anyway I'm sure there are plenty of places elsewhere on the web where young maidens are featured with a little less modesty, ha ha!

But I shall bend a little and feature No.2 in the Cotman Color Series of postcards, entitled "Belles of the Beach" where, just to address a possible imbalance, one model is only featured from the neck down...

Ok lads?

Monday, 22 October 2007

Toby The Tram Engine

A postcard commemorating the last steam tram to Heywood on 20 September 1905.

The small steam engines used to draw tram trailers were strange looking things, because regulations at the time required all moving parts to be covered.

This also meets the requirements of the challenge I lay down a while ago to find photographs of workers in uniform.

Trams started out as horse-drawn and were an efficient form of transport as two horses could draw a tram along smooth rails that would require three horses to pull over a cobbled street.

When steam trains started to become popular, steam was thought to be the answer to everything and so these steam locomotives started to pull trams. It was a similar engine that inspired the Reverend W Awdry to create Toby the Tram Engine to join Thomas and his friends.

Babbacombe by Numbers

In the old days postcards were a team effort.

First they sent out a photographer. Then they got someone with a brush and a few cans of Dulux to add a few splashes of colour - or a full blown work of art such as this one which looks like it started out as a black and white photo and finished as a bad LSD trip...

It's always fun to find a John Hinde postcard and spot the painted red jumper or yacht sails, but this one has been dabbed just everywhere! Even the rocks are glorious shades of red and gold!

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Happy Birthday Jeannie!

Happy Birthday greetings to a roadie extraordinaire, diary keeper supremo, props finder, Creeping Bentgrass dedicated fan, wife to some singer or other and sometime tambourine basher, the ever youthful, glamourous, thoroughly lovely person...

...Jeannie!

Ah... 30 at last...!

We went round to whisk her and David out for lunch and the afternoon and we hope you enjoyed your day Jeannie!

Lots of love,
John and Fran xxx

World Cup Soccer Arcade Game

After the World Cup Rugby Final last night, it's timely to remember this old arcade game from 1968.

My brother Frank and I used to love this two-player game where players could be moved back and forth (but not sideways) by pushing or pulling on the appropriate toggle. The player twisted round to face the direction of travel and pushing the toggle switch down made him swivel, "kicking" the ball forward.

In this example, the third red player from the right appears to have suffered a major injury...

Trial By Jury

Last night we went off to Garstang to see the Garstang Light Opera Group present "Love's Roundabout", a collection of songs about love and marriage, which led nicely to the second half which was Gilbert & Sullivan's "Trial by Jury".

I particularly enjoyed Phillip Bourne's rendition of "Girls Were Made To Love And Kiss", a song I hadn't heard for years and "The Rose" sung with excellent 3-part harmony by Marion Gaughan, Shelagh Cooney and Ann Johnston.

Trial by Jury is only a short opera lasting only 40 minutes but full of wit and humour.

Probably more so last night than normally as the jury had decided to "embellish" their parts for the last night of the show, with a few well chosen props helping to show their boredom and lack of interest in the case - puzzle books, newspapers, someone got out their knitting at one stage... Oh and a couple of hand puppets and Johnny Vegas's monkey puppet appeared a couple of times, though he, at least, appeared to take an interest in parts of the proceedings!

Then it was off to the Church Inn for the usual last night after-show party. David is a member of GLOG and the band have done several gigs for GLOG fund-raising evenings so we are almost honorary members. In fact it's only all the travelling associated with my job that stops me being a member of this excellent group!

So I ended the night playing guitar along with Peter Cooney for a good old fashioned sing-song. Fran had the camera. In her bag... You just can't get the staff...!

Friday, 19 October 2007

A Postcard from Great Yarmouth

Another postcard from my collection.

This one shows Great Yarmouth, Norfolk's premier holiday destination in the 1960s judging from the classic line-up of cars parked along the seafront.

We used to go to Great Yarmouth for holidays quite regularly as kids, the journey taking the best part of a day in Dad's old Ford Pop, or later in the Cortina.

We've been to many a show in the theatre at the end of Britannia Pier, shown in the background!

Letchworth

It's been a busy old week - I've now got back from Letchworth, just about.

Horrible journey, it's a Friday night, it's half-term and the M6 was crawling. I shelled out my hard-earned to nip up the M6 Toll but as soon as it ended I was back down into first and second gears and that's how I stayed until Stoke on Trent.

There had been some sort of incident on the slip road of Junction 15 and it had caused a rare old tail back. It took me over 6 hours to get home.

Anyway this is where I've been - the Goldsmith Centre of North Herts College. Photo from Flickr, courtesy of John Sanderson. I didn't take any photos down there. Some nice scenery down that way though.

Tom Tom was navigating which meant going over lots of those stupid bumps in the road that are supposed to calm traffic and instead only do your suspension in and make a row, annoying anyone unlucky enough to have one outside their house...

So I'm not quite sure where I was, but at one point there was a gorgeous stone-built red-tiled country church with a rather strange looking tower, seen against a green field and wonderful blue sky. I almost stopped but the thought of traffic building on the M6 kept me going. In the event it wouldn't have made much difference!

I delivered a session on Risk Management at a IT Technical Forum organised by the local JISC Regional Support Centre. They call themselves RSCs, but to anyone outside the Further Education Sector that normally prompts some conversation about Shakespeare...

Busy weekend looming as well so no rest for the wicked! Will try to keep up with the entries!

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Two Days in Sutton Coldfield

Sounds dramatic doesn't it?

Well it wasn't all that dramatic - I've spent the last two days at a conference. Some interesting sessions, some painful ones, some where I sat quiet (not that many!) and some where I was one of the noisiest!

Gala dinner, pork, heavy on the stomach, wakeful night in roasting room.

I wonder why some hotels seem to cater for visitors from the equator and have no heating controls in the room. There were no opening windows in my room either - there was a door to a small balcony but it may have gone the opposite way if I'd left that open.

There was also a non-switchable heated towel rail so close to the toilet that to avoid burning your leg you had to sit sideways which is not that comfortable...

Am home again now until tomorrow when I trog off to Letchworth...

Sunday, 14 October 2007

My Main Record Deck

In response to a couple of emailed questions, the record deck I use most of the time is this one.

It's a Pro-Ject with a built-in speed box for push button speed changing from 33⅓ to 45rpm. On most Pro-Ject decks this required lifting the platter - the turntable and moving the belt from one pulley to another.

I still need to do that to play 78rpm records and they also require a special stylus as the grooves are so much wider than on the more modern records.

Finally, it has a built-in pre-amp so that I can plug the player into either modern amplifiers that do not have phono inputs or straight into the line-in socket on my PC.

A deck like this will not play on its own - it needs to be plugged into a separate amplifier and speakers, but your PC will stand in quite happily in this regard. Cost will be around £250 sterling.

Blackpool Town Centre Rejuvenation

The Council have announced (ages ago actually) that the area from the railway station into town was going to have a massive redevelopment.

It's started by finishing a job that Hitler started in the Second World War. One of his bombers got a bit lost during the blitz on Liverpool and unloaded its bombs over Blackpool, destroying houses in Seed Street. In the event the row of terraced properties was demolished and the area has been in use ever since as a car park.

The properties facing, the houses on Buchanan Street, have now been demolished. The plans for the new development as shown in the local paper several months ago looked very grand. There seems little point to me in putting up loads of shops and offices whose rent will eat up every bit of profit - that's the problem with all the market stalls we have in grand buildings like the old Woolworths building Pricebusters etc.

More to come...

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Half a Tower Is Better Than None!

It's been one of those mornings when Blackpool Tower comes over all shy...

We Lived At 45 Revolutions Per Minute

The thing about mp3s is that you can't watch them.

You can't even watch a CD on the vast majority of players.

Records you can watch. It's unbelievably satisfying. Plus there's the skill of placing the stylus above the right bit and gently dropping it down with a finger. (Levers are for wimps!)

David, the other week said he had found a second-hand record store that had a sale on so we met up in Blackpool this morning and went to have a look.

We were happily rummaging around, finding stuff and suggesting the other bought it. I felt sure David would want "Donald Where's Your Trousers" by Andy Stewart or "Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep" by Middle of the Road. (I almost bought that myself just for the novelty of playing it to people and saying "Isn't that just awful?!?")

In the end we bought 50 between us which cost us the princely sum of a tenner.

One of the gems was finding this one!

It's the first time I've ever seen this red His Master's Voice cover for a 45rpm record. I've got loads of examples of the cover containing 10" 78rpm records but until this morning I thought the cover had never been made in 7" size. Just goes to show!

The next time I come to restock my jukebox I will be able to stock half of it with records it's never played before!

We're going back soon...

Friday, 12 October 2007

Tip-Em-Off Arcade Machine

Another in the series of seaside arcade coin operated machines.

Tip-Em-Off was a very simple idea. Pennies entered the game through one of the seven slots at the top and tumbled down a series of pins until they either reached the bottom of the box, which returned to the player, or fell to the side behind the platforms, which led to the arcade owner's money bank, or came to rest on one of the spring-loaded platforms.

Once enough coins had landed on a platform the weight caused the platform to tip and the coins fell down to reward the player. The coins sometimes caused lower platforms to tip too.

As with all arcade machines, it was the arcade owner who won in the end as a successful win only spurred the player to try again until all coins were gone!

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

TV Update

Well, as Fred Talbot was shown talking to camera, my guitar is in its stand at the very edge of the picture but David is shown nonchalantly sauntering across behind Fred, totally oblivious of the filming...

I mean... is that fair ???

Ha ha ha!

Dan Dare

The other day I mentioned my old Bayko building toy.

Today the nostalgia spyglass turns onto the Dan Dare Planet Gun! Actually this was just a differently branded version of the Merit Planet Gun, which had a much plainer box. I'm afraid I was too young to tell you whether it cost any more for the Dan Dare version!

The spinners had to be loaded into the front of the gun and then twisted to a maximum of 8 clicks. Pressing the trigger then spun the discs which zoomed off towards... er... well in the case of my brother Frank and I, they zoomed off towards each other!

Dan Dare was the space hero who was the main character in the comic Eagle. The Mekon, pictured on this page, was the leader of the Treens and came from Venus.

Dan's batman was Digby, who provided the humour element in the stories. They flew in the Anastasia, Dan's space ship.

Dan Dare was extremely popular for many years and quite a range of toys came out with a Dan Dare brand. This is just one that I've managed to find an image of!

In the end both Frank and I couldn't resist clicking more than the prescribed 8 clicks in an attempt to send the discs further and we broke the springs in the guns. Oops...

The World's Largest Hotpot

Well I don't think we made the telly, but we did speak to Lloyd Grossman, who was fancying a go on the guitar and Granada North West's Fred Talbot was filmed in front of us (but with the camera pointing across instead of at us).

Both ITV (Granada) and the BBC were present to film at the attempt to cook the world's largest Lancashire hotpot in Garstang this morning.

The hotpot was indeed big and broke the world record, though by the time it was ready we were a touch busy. Bob was stuck at work so it was just David and myself, but we were approached by lots of people who were very complimentary - and one who wanted to know what music had to do with "the countryside" and suggested we should throw our equipment in the river! Well, a very good morning to you as well sir!

In fact the event was nothing to do with the countryside anyway, it was to promote Garstang's forthcoming food festival and everyone was agreeably surprised at just how many people turned up.

Here's the hotpot being cooked with Fred and his cameraman reviewing a scene already filmed in the background.

There was a juggler, lots of local food produce, a magician and the two of us. Lloyd Grossman vied with several local mayors but spoke extremely well and worked in a very humourous story of speaking at a somewhat quieter event.

Cadfael's Abbey

I couldn't be in Shrewsbury and not have a look at the remains of the abbey.

The Benedictine Abbey was founded in 1083 by a relative of William the Conqueror and, of course, was made famous by Ellis Peters as the setting for the Cadfael books.

It was huge. It is less so now. A pulpit stands alone in a closed off area in the car park, whilst the main road runs between it and the abbey church that it was once a part of.

Dedicated to both Saints Peter and Paul, it housed the relics or remains of St Winefride Welsh saint. The story was that she was visited by a prince who wanted to seduce her, but she ran from him and he was so enraged, he went after her, sword in hand and cut off her head. Never the best way to woo a maiden...

Her uncle, St Beuno, found them and prayed for her revival which was granted, her wound being invisible except for a thin white line around her neck.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Tamed by the Shrew

I'm in Shrewsbury on a 57k connection so no photo on this until I get home I think! [Coo-ee! I'm home!]

Clive and I are ensconced in the Lion Hotel, an establishment enjoyed in the past by Charles Dickens who wrote something here - perhaps a note saying his radiator was cold, Paganini who sang in the Minstrels Gallery in the ballroom - I haven't seen that, as it is in use for some sort of event; and Prince William Henry - I'm sure there must have been more than one of those. Anyway the one who was here danced in the same ballroom that Paganini had sung in. Probably because Paganini had shut up and gone back to wherever he came from?

Those damn foreigners - they just turn up and start singing all over the place...! (I do the same when I'm abroad!) They still are - the legendary Julie Felix is here on Friday on a "Forever Young" tour. She's only kidding herself I fear, but a shame I'll miss her all the same.

After last night the conversation over a pint or two has been Disney and Florida and (because it's me and Clive and it's what we do) about the differences in culture between Americans and the UK both in business and in personal life.

Thankfully, sense has prevailed back at the Burke household and Florida is "off" for next year at least...

From China to Florida USA

We went out for an excellent Chinese meal last night (Treasure City in Thornton) with Gill and Eddie and talk got round to holidays.

Gill's a big fan of Disney but Eddie said he fancied going to Florida rather than Paris. We have been to Florida once, back in 1993 - Gill and I pictured at a cabaret evening meal at Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.

Fran immediately thought that a good idea - er... haven't we already booked a cruise??? Anyway, she's already on Teletext this morning searching for deals...

We dropped Gill and Eddie off and went in for a coffee then came home where I spent an enjoyable hour listening to Pierre Petrou's excellent Rock 'n' Rodeo show on Radio Northwick Park over the Internet.

Pierre's one of the regulars on the forum at Billy Fury .com and there were quite a few of us chatting away over the Internet as he played played our requests and passed on dedications.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Dissention in the Ranks

In the entry Stow-on-the-Wold I described how my first car, a Reliant Regal MkIV, needed to have the spark plugs cleaned every 20 miles.

This "sparked" (sorry!) an email from mate Alex:

"20 miles my arse - I remember going to the Regal (cinema not the Reliant) one time after you had spent half of Saturday afternoon cleaning your spark plugs, then you had to change the buggers again before we set off home!"
It's so sad when old friends lose their memories and succumb to old age, but the journey Alex is remembering was in my second car - a Reliant Regal MkV or MkVI which was a saloon car not a van and indeed messed up its spark plugs in a mere 7-10 miles. I had to ditch the van after the Department of Transport decided to ask me to have it weighed and it turned out to weigh more than the maximum allowed for a 16-year-old to drive.

This was due to a metal sheet that had been placed in the back of the van to cover holes in the wooden flooring! The blue Ford Anglia seat that had replaced Reliant's original deckchair style passenger seat couldn't have helped either...

I was lucky with cars - the saloon car gave up the ghost spectacularly when the engine mountings snapped one day, plunging the engine down and forward into the radiator, causing clouds of steam from the front of the car and great hilarity from the small crowd waiting at a bus stop just opposite...

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Record Player or Steel Cutter

The early record players were almost as brutish as the old-fashioned wind-up gramaphones.

Just look at the playing head of this record player. Put the needle on your finger and you have to be brave to let go with your other hand on the playing head! These players wore out records in no time.

They turn up fairly regularly and almost every antiques shop will have one. The problem for collectors is that these, like the first radios, are not so much a piece of sound equipment as a piece of furniture!

You would have to have a mansion to house a collection of these. I'll stick to Dansettes!

Friday, 5 October 2007

Stow-on-the-Wold

Don't you just love those Cotswolds place-names! Stow-on-the-Wold, Moreton-in-the-Marsh, and of course, Bourton-on-the-Water. All aligned in a straight line along the A429 or, as the Romans knew it, the Fosse Way.

Any of these three villages is well worth a visit. We have been on numerous occasions, sometimes making a very slight detour to Upper and Lower Slaughter - a name so evocative of evil doings, but such a delightful place to visit.

This is the second of my postcard views tonight and this one from the late 1950s or early 1960s is one of my favourites as it shows a model of the very first car I owned and drove - a MkIV Reliant Regal.

Unfortunately half hidden in shadow, photographs of these 3-wheeled cars are hard to come across. The one I had was a van and whilst this one is the same shape exactly, the model shown has had windows fitted - an expensive luxury as this made the car liable at the time for Purchase Tax whereas the van had solid (I use the term loosely!) fibreglass sides.

It was in fact the first fibreglass Reliant. Previous models had been aluminium - that metal whose name is such a challenge for our friends across the Atlantic!

The Reliant van had been made in 1959 and was 11 years old by the time I made its acquaintance. The engine, a 700cc sidevalve - which meant that the spark plugs pointed up vertically out of the top of the engine - was completely knackered and friends soon got used to it breaking down and me changing the spark plugs and cleaning the oil and deposits off the old set for use in another 20 miles...

This is the beast itself! One white headlight and one yellow one. In the 1960s many drivers preferred yellow headlights because they shone through smog better than white light, which just lit up the fog and soot and made it look like you had a wall around you.

I passed my driving test in this vehicle, although I had to take another to be able to drive a 4-wheeled car when I was 17. The only reason for having such an embarrassing car was that it was legal to drive at 16!

There's more about the car and its successors on my Nostalgia web site.

They Dug Up The Gardens...

I'm in a postcard mood tonight.

My entry about the slightly naughty French postcards attracted a comment from Linda who has a business and excellent blog featuring antique postcards. Well worth a visit (as long as you promise to come back here!)

Anyway I've dug out a couple of old postcards today for you.

The first one is an old Blackpool postcard showing the now demolished South Shore rockery gardens south of the Pleasure Beach. This is taken from a painting, done especially for the postcard industry. I have a few of these from around the same time, which look to me like the work of the same artist.

This is the fourth of my postcard entries and there's going to be more, so I'll add it to the list of topics at the side.

20 Years Ago...

I was looking through a few photos on the computer to see what we were upto 20 years ago.

We had just moved into the house we are still living in today. It was - as compared to today - just about as minimalist as I have ever got! The TV had four channels, the settee was second hand, the cabinet had been bought 12 years previously from Tescos on a double Green Shield Stamp day (that was a bonanza for the tongue!)

It contains a few shields and cups from the Photographic Society that I was a member of at that time.

We had a cheap Fidelity record player but as yet no CD player. They hadn't been out all that long anyway.

Just discernable outside is my wonderful 1972 model Cortina.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh.....!

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Creeping Bentgrass TV Spot

We may not be featured - but you may be able to spot us on one of the NW local TV programmes on Wednesday 10 October 10:00am - 12:30pm, as we've been invited to play again in Garstang town centre as they attempt to cook the world's largest ever Lancashire Hot Pot! BBC Radio Lancashire will also be there.

As long as they get it measured and weighed or whatever before Bob gets his chompers round it...

We will be there somewhere in the background, trying to keep the expected crowds of hungry folk entertained!

If you want to come along, we - and the hot pot - will be on the main car park near the council offices. I have no idea what the plans are for the hot pot! If you come equipped even with your own knife and fork I'm not going to guarantee you'll get a plateful. And as hinted before; if you're behind Bob in the queue... no chance...!

Arcade Racing Machines 2

I've already shown one variant of this arcade game of the 1950s.

Here the game is to see who can get their helicopter to rise first to the top of the cabinet by turning the handle below as fast as you can.

In this case I seem to remember the helicopter started to sink down again if you didn't keep a momentum going!

There are still one or two museums with arcade games of this era in existence. This example was photographed in 2004 at the excellent Wookey Hole caves and museum complex near Wells in Somerset.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Before IMAX came Cinema USA

It was a busy day yesterday for people leaving comments against my Blackpool photos at Flickr.

Someone mentioned the old Cinema USA on the Pleasure Beach and, although I haven't any photos of it there I knew there was one of it on the Central Pier somewhere. A bit of rooting through the computer came up with this.

Taken in 1981 this shows the Cinema USA dome - inside a film was shown with the normal eye-line way above the normal horizon. There were no seats so you stood looking upwards which threw you off balance a bit to start with.

The films were of the fast motion variety - a ride in a Porsche, a roller coaster ride, a helicopter over a gorge etc. People would sway or even lurch sideways watching the film. I seem to remember the odd one in 3D too. They were a pre-cursor to Imax.

It is now the site of a Big Wheel.

Almost immediately after uploading the photo to Flickr a comment appeared against it from "Yorkie", an ex-pat living in America.

"There's a similar attraction still operating in Canobie Lake Park in New Hampshire, and though the film has definitely faded over the years they're still showing the same footage you describe ..

"http://www.flickr.com/photos/yorkie/tags/cinema180/

"Love your old shots of Blackpool, John!"
Cheers, Yorkie! The link in Yorkie's message is to his photograph taken inside the dome he mentions showing a film that has decidedly yellowed with age!

Cleveleys Correction

On one of the pages on my Blackpool Webs Site I show this photograph described as "The Orion Cinema, now a Bingo Club".

I had an email from Hector Hill of Settle in Yorkshire which said:

"I have stumbled across your Cleveleys web page. My parents, sisters and I used to stay with my aunt at Bispham Road which, in those days, looked across open land to the rear of what is now the Orion.

"It never was the Orion cinema. It was an Odeon cinema which was acquired (in the 1960s ?) by Mildred Crossley who ran summer shows (Happiness Ahead) at the Queens Theatre on the prom (up Victoria Road and turn left along the prom past some old properties). The art deco Queens was demolished and Mildred renamed the Odeon as the Orion. After operating as a theatre it became the Orion bingo.

"At the top of Victoria Road in what is now a children's fun fair and built into the sea wall was the Arena, an open air theatre which hosted the Arena Follies in the summer. It was run, latterly, by Alex Munro, father of actress Janet Munro. There was no entrance free to the Arena. The performers took it in turn to go around collecting contributions.

"Ah, memories !"
I'm happy to set the record straight!

The children's fun fair and Arena Theatre have now disappeared under tons of rubble and gravel as part of the work on the Cleveleys new promenade and sea defences.

For years the fun fair had been under threat but it has now sadly gone.

The Cleveleys Promenade now though looks superb. A gradely place to take your fish and chips and stare out to sea!

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

What Do You Remember?

Someone asked me what it was that I remember most about holidays.

If you have a look at my website you'll see we have been fortunate enough to have travelled fairly widely over western Europe.

Well I remember lots of things because I always make a point of taking lots of photographs and then using them as a basis for a written description when we get back. That's what the website is really about - it's so I can remember stuff when I'm 90!

But what I remember most are the odd bits of unintentional humour - those things that just happen that make you fall about laughing either at the time or later.

For instance - we were in Verona for a day's excursion from Lake Garda in 2003. We spent a lot of that holiday in the company of Kell and Denise Traynor from New Zealand who proved to be excellent company, were well travelled and knowledgeable themselves and who both had a good sense of humour.

We were taken to this small courtyard (above right) to see Juliet's balcony. William Shakespeare made it a crucial and memorable scene in "Romeo and Juliet" and Juliet herself certainly existed and had a balcony. Of Romeo there are no records at all, although there was certainly a family feud.

Anyway it was a warm day and we had been walking for a few hours. The four of us went to sit under the arched gateway to the courtyard and I was sitting next to a large Italian man who all of a sudden let out an enormous fart, like a clarion call to the gods...

Kell, who was furthest away from me shot me a look of horror - perhaps he thought it had been me, I'm not sure, but we soon dissolved into giggles and then laughter and at the point where someone said "Phwoar... Romeo!!!" the Italian got up and left us without looking back!

It was stupid, infantile and all the rest but it will make me smile for a long time to come!

So what do you remember most about holidays?
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