Monday, 31 December 2007

Blackpool Tram Track Repairs

The Promenade up at Bispham looks strangely bleak without the tram tracks.

At this stage of the work to re-lay the tracks it is probably looking its worst as the excavations have been carried out, the old tracks taken up and what is left is a large hole along the fenced-in length of the tracks that is muddy and waterlogged.

But as work continues we can look forward to a tram service that might not sway as much as it used to! The tramway is due to re-open for Easter 2008.

Larger version of the photo at Flickr. Click the "ALL SIZES" link for the largest size (1024x768).

On the Eighth Day of Christmas...

On the eighth day of Christmas
My true love sent to me


Eight chefs a-swearing
Seven glasses brimming
Six tomcats spraying
Five old things
Four annoying birds
Three French men
Two turtle gloves
And a pro-biotic yoghurt in a tree

Sunday, 30 December 2007

On the Seventh Day of Christmas...

On the seventh day of Christmas
My true love gave to me


Seven glasses brimming
Six tomcats spraying
Five old things
Four annoying birds
Three French men
Two turtle gloves
And a pro-biotic yoghurt in a tree.

Saturday, 29 December 2007

On the Sixth Day of Christmas...

On the sixth day of Christmas
My true love sent to me


Six tomcats spraying
Five old things
Four annoying birds
Three French men
Two turtle gloves
And a pro-biotic yoghurt in a tree.

Untie Me!

I know what you're thinking...

"How could he bear to part with such wondrous designs?"

Well he could and he did! Yesterday I had a throwing out fit and once all the toys were out of the pram I turned my attention to neck ties.

I don't think the garish look is 'in' any more so I've chucked out the ones that made people stare the most...

At first I felt elated at the act - it was as though they had been hanging round my neck...

I regret it now... I'll miss them...

Friday, 28 December 2007

On the Fifth Day of Christmas...

On the fifth day of Christmas
My true love sent to me



Five old things
Four annoying birds
Three French men
Two turtle gloves
And a pro-biotic yoghurt in a tree.

Coin Slot Football

Now this is a great reminder of seaside amusement arcades of the 1950s and 60s. This cabinet was another of those that could house a number of similar games.

Seen in Bygone Times antiques centre, this model houses a football game. Each of the two players has a team of players and two levers. One lever twists the mannequins so that the ball can be passed from one player to another. The other lever causes the mannequins to kick so that the ball gets propelled in more or less the direction you hoped!

I've also seen examples housing polo games with horses and players swinging mallets!

The paintwork of the players here had obviously worn badly enough for some long-suffering wife to knit each a jumper!

Toy Record Player

We had a short run out to Bygone Times, an old mill converted to an antiques centre with three warehouses filled with assorted old stuff of all sizes.

Bygone Times, in bygone times, was bigger and probably better. A lot of the fun stuff, that they knew would never sell but was there to bring people in, has disappeared and it is now just like any other antiques warehouse. If you like antiques though it's still a great place to go but I used to enjoy all the huge model aircraft, the old pinball machines totally beyond any attempts at restoration and the old architectural antiques - bar fittings, dentist chairs and so on, that used to litter the place to great effect!

We were walking around and Fran said "Oh there's a record player for you there!". It was a "toy" 78rpm record player and whilst I resisted purchasing it did make me reflect that ever since CD players came out there has been no such thing as a toy record player or any other sort of music playing equipment. There were toy cassette players that were aimed at children but these days with iPods and MP3 players which are so small anyway, there's no point in producing them just for kids.

I think there was a Barbie recently with an MP3 player built in but all kids have a mobile phone these days and they can play music now.

It's not the same is it? What's the last kid's song you can remember? They are few and far between now aren't they? Vic Reeve's Shaun the Sheep theme tune may have been the latest but before that? Where's Max Bygraves when you need him?

Thursday, 27 December 2007

On the Fourth Day of Christmas...

On the fourth day of Christmas
My true love sent to me



Four annoying birds
Three French men
Two turtle gloves
And a pro-biotic yoghurt in a tree

Hould ye Weesht!

Och aye! It's a wee tartan laddie as seen at a Boxing Day party last night!

Yes, those family wacky present finders have struck again! The mad Metcalfes of Mirthdom, left these Angus McCoatup accoutrements in a bag near my coat and then scarpered quick before I found them!

Rather natty (or is that "carroty"?) locks cascading from me ol' tam o' shanta I reckon! Ah, weesht tha noo! Mebbe we can do a coople o' Proclaimers ditties wi' yon band???

Three Wise Yoghurts

Dan One, the pro-biotic yoghurt was spotted yesterday taking an active (what else?) part in the Nativity.

The stamina of this yoghurt given that he must be well past his sell-by date is truly amazing.

It possibly has a lot to do with the fridge-like conditions in Blackpool at the moment!

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Supercar

I can't remember just where now, but the other day I was talking to someone about Gerry Anderson shows and about Supercar in particular.

They said they knew someone who looked and spoke just like Dr Beaker, the character on the left.

First broadcast in early 1961 Supercar was about a futuristic combination car, submarine, hovercraft and aircraft. Designed and built by Professor Popkiss and Dr Beaker and piloted by Mike Mercury, the chap in the middle, it's first mission was to rescue the orphan Jimmy Gibson on the right of the photo.

Dr Beaker was a charicature of an English academic, whose favourite phrase was "Satisfactory...most satisfactory..."

I always maintain you can know someone's age by showing them photos of Gerry Anderson shows...

On The Third Day of Christmas...

On the third day of Christmas
My true love sent to me



Three French men
Two turtle gloves
And a pro-biotic yoghurt in a tree

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

On The Second Day of Christmas...

On the second day of Christmas
My true love sent to me...

Two turtle gloves
And a pro-biotic yoghurt in a tree.

Misty Christmas Day

It's a misty Christmas Day in Blackpool this year!

But there's a chance of it burning off in time for us to nip out for Christmas Dinner with the family at my brother's house.

Gill and Eddie have been round to say hello before going on to their Christmas Dinner at Eddie's parents'.

I must remember to set up the video recorder for Dr Who...

Download Creeping Bentgrass Christmas Songs

Merry Christmas to all our friends and followers.

We hope to see you soon and wish you all a happy and prosperous 2008!

We recorded these two songs for the Christmas edition of Sounds Special on the Billy Fury website.

We hope you enjoy them!

A Winter's Tale
I Believe In Father Christmas

Monday, 24 December 2007

On The First Day of Christmas...

On the first day of Christmas
My true love sent to me...

A pro-biotic yoghurt in a tree.


Have a great Christmas and 2008 everyone!

Sunday, 23 December 2007

A Healthy Walk

Having just got back from an invigorating walk along the Promenade at Cleveleys, I can honestly say it's a bit chilly out there!

We had to drive all the way up to Anchorsholme to get across the hole where the tram tracks used to be. They are re-doing all the tram tracks at the moment in Blackpool and to stop people from falling down the hole they've created they've blocked off all the crossing points between Bispham and Anchorsholme.

The sun is low in the sky, blinding you, the wind whistles around your lugs and the cold was making my nose and eyes stream constantly.

It does feel good to get some exercise...

Prepare for Indigestion...

No... not just because it's very nearly Christmas!

The phrase that goes before this is: "If music be the food of love"...

To all those who used to look forwards to the tapes (ah yes, pre-CD days these!) of the Bispham Buskers in the 1990s then feast your ears here!

To anyone who has never heard of the Bispham Buskers check my music web page. It was the barmy family who used to gather to destroy a song or two at regular intervals.

Here's a festive little track for you and as an added treat I've left some of the out-takes on so you can see what a battle I used to have! The full length track is at the end of the sound file! You have been warned!

The Bispham Buskers - Wonderful Christmastime

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Christmas Eve at the Burke House

'Tis Christmas Eve in the Burke House
But the sun is in the sky
There's no snow on the ground in Blackpool
Instead the brightness is burning the eye

There's a sledge on the roof with some reindeer
And a fat old fella in tears
He says his sledge won't run without white stuff
And at this rate it will take him 2 years

To take all his pressies round Blackpool
And even though he says it's no race
He's America and Canada and India to do
He really can't get stuck in this place!

We've fed and we've watered his reindeer
Though with whisky they like to be fed
And there's one right up front that's been scoffing
'Cos his nose is glowing all red!

Now all the neighbours are helping
Though it's posed us a real good teaser
But we've thought of a way to help poor old Santa
And we're emptying out all our freezers

There's snow on the inside and we're collecting
And we're filling up a dirty great bucket
So Santa can scatter it before the sledge as he goes
So he won't have to leave his sledge and truck it!

He thinks it'll work and the reindeer are eager
So don't worry kiddies, and don't get all forlorn
But as he soared off over the downspout
A reindeer dropped something on our lawn...

At first we thought it was a present
But then it assaulted our noses
But just like old Santa he knew what we needed
Now next year we'll have splendid roses!

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Spaghetti Junction

I've seen a bit of this place over the past years, but never from this direction!

Spaghetti Junction at Birmingham was one of the great engineering marvels of its time. At a couple of points there are three levels of roadway crossing each other.

Built in 1972 after 14 years of design and construction, it was Europe's largest road junction and Britain's first large junction not to include roundabouts or traffic lights. No matter which way you approach it, or which way you leave it there were no roundabouts or traffic lights as long as you stay on one of the three motorways that are joined by it.

There is normally plenty of time to admire it as you drive or are driven along it as the only challenge is in trying to reach halfway towards the speed restriction signs that are flashed up. One can only assume whoever is in charge of the signs look at the rows of crawling traffic and giggle "Let's set the signs to 40, that'll really frustrate them!"

Monday, 17 December 2007

The X-Factor Final

Well, I'll tell you what - it would have brought a smile to my face!

Kylie joins the X-Factor to sing a duet with Leon, Rhydian does a (slightly more dodgy) duet with Katherine Jenkins and Jason Donovan comes on to ogle the prettier half of Same Difference.

I've been saying for a few weeks that Leon could win (honest!) and on Saturday night he came through, was presented with a copy of his new CD single and now has a crack at the Christmas No.1 slot.

Personally I used to enjoy all the build up to the race for the No.1 Christmas slot and the X-Factor has dominated it for the past few years. However, were any of the final 12 strong enough to have it sewn up? I've doubted it but we'll know in a week!

Maybe if he'd done Agadoo instead of that dreary ballad... Which are the most popular Christmas singles? Slade of course, Wizzard and the multi-starred Feed The World which makes it because of the last sing-a-long bit!

Come on today's singers - be like Santa and get some welly into Christmas!

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Christmas "That'll Be The Day"

A fabulous night out last night as we went to see the Christmas version of Trevor Payne's That'll Be The Day at the Opera House, Blackpool.

It's been touring the country for an incredible 20 years and I think we started going to see it every opportunity we could get in the late 1980s. Every year there's something new in the show.

Last night, being the Christmas version we had lots of Christmas songs of course. All the other songs they included had been December hits from 1960 onwards. We had Neil Sedaka's Calendar Girl, Billy J Kramer's Little Children and many more but it was the Christmas songs that had us joining in. We dabba-dabba-dummed to Stop The Cavalry and gave it some welly when they decided the audience should sing a verse of White Christmas!

I came away with a souvenir DVD of the show which looks back over the 20 years of the show. I'm going to enjoy that!

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Hannie Caulder

Last night I watched this wonderful 1972 piece of hokum, Hannie Caulder.

It was not the first film to take one of the day's leading actresses and have her star as a gun-toting westerner - in black and white days we had Jane Russell in The Outlaw for instance. At the height of her fame, Sharon Stone came back in Clint Eastwood mode in The Quick And The Dead.

In 1972 it was Raquel Welch who strapped on her guns, hitched her poncho over her saddlebags and squinted over the gunsights. She plays the titular (sorry!) heroine, raped by the three moronic baddies, the Clements Brothers, played by three well-known western faces, Ernest Borgnine, Strother Martin and the excellent Jack Elam.

Alone and homeless she runs in with the "ruthless" bounty hunter Thomas Price (Robert Culp) who is so good at his job he gets the drop on one of the brothers ignoring the fact he should keep an eye out for the other two!

In the end Hannie is left to avenge both him and her murdered husband and whilst the story may be ridiculous, there's a long list of similar films to keep it company and if we're still allowed to be honest about such things, it was made more as an excuse to be able to view Miss Welch's rear in a pair of tight leather trousers! Even the Brits are well represented with Christopher Lee playing a gun maker and Diana Dors, looking aghast as the dead body of one of the Clements falls from a first storey window on top of one of her gals!

Great fun!

Friday, 14 December 2007

Shush!!! It's an Emergency Drill!

I had a good laugh this morning when I opened my emails.

I received this from Emma-Lou:

"Hi John,

Its Emma-Lou, entertainer onboard the Carousel who told you to shush during the drill. Had to laugh outloud when I read that.

Hope you are still cruising. Such a shame Suncruises ceased to be.

Merry Christmas!
Keep Safe
Emma-Lou
"
The episode she is referring to came during our first ever cruise, onboard the Carousel around the Canaries in March 2004.

On the first night we were summonsed up to lifeboat stations for an emergency drill and to be given instructions on what to do should someone fall overboard.

"Don't jump in after them!" was the advice, "Throw something they can grab hold of." At this the chap next to me leaned over and whispered:
"I'd throw my wife in..."

As I burst out laughing Emma-Lou, who was in charge of our lifeboat, gave me a stern shushing, after which of course I tried to look duly admonished and penitant. Well... something like that!

The story can be read on my website about our 2004 Atlantic Isles Cruise which is where Emma-Lou had seen it! (This website no longer exists I'm afraid.)

We enjoyed the cruise enough to do it again the following year. After 2005 the Carousel was sold off to a French company.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Festive Cheer or Something Else?

Is it merely the time of year and the festive temptations?

Or is it the first sign that the yoghurt is turning bad?

Consorting with bottles of wine. Fraternising with boxes of chocolates. Doing ...erm... unmentionable things with sugary confectionery...

Not the sort of thing you would expect from a supposedly healthy foodstuff!

What happens when a yoghurt goes bad? Does the probiotic turn antibiotic? Will the active ingredient go dormant and inactive? Will the strawberry turn to mush? Will the sourness turn sweet? ooh... Dannon!!!

Merit Driving Test

It must be a time for toys at Christmas and after mentioning the Matchbox Majors yesterday I've also had some recent correspondence with a chap in Lima in Peru who had come across one of these Merit Driving Test toys that I had as a child in the 1950s.

I feature it on one of the pages in my Notsalgia web site.

It worked by using a magnet under the playfield which was attached to a scissor arrangement, like those litter grabbing things, which matched and exaggerated the movement of the lever, which was itself modelled on cars' gear levers of the time.

You had to move a tiny model car or motor bike around a map of streets on the playfield and I remember it as being a load of fun!

How one came to be found in Peru I've no idea but the mechanism has been lost and David who wrote to me was looking for help with how to replace it. I've sent him some drawings of how I remember it from a 3-year-old's memory but I don't think I'm all that much wrong and hopefully he'll be able to work out a way of doing it.

Right On The Line

It's been a long time coming!

Our new album, Right On The Line is finally ready, the covers are back from the printers and I've started production.

The album has 16 tracks and as a nod to our friends at the Billy Fury website, it has two of Billy's tracks: Last Night Was Made For Love and Somebody Else's Girl.

You can have a free listen to Last Night Was Made For Love. Call it our thanks for being so patient, we hope you enjoy the album.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Matchbox Majors

Matchbox toys were the staple of pocket money toys when I was a lad and I remember these two models with great affection.

The Caterpillar DW20 was of a type I remember seeing as a youngster when the M62 was being built close to where we lived at the time in Milnrow where Junction 21 was sited.

I'm not sure I ever saw a real version of this Pickfords low loader, although I remember playing with the model.

Matchbox were to produce 15 models in the Matchbox Majors series. These two were the only ones I remember playing with though.

Yoghurt Carrying Baggage

Just when you think it's all gone quiet Dan One pops up again!

What on earth does a yoghurt need with such a lot of luggage? Is he thinking of touring the world?

Is he going a bit doolally as he goes past his sell-by date?

No, please don't worry that I'll upset him by saying this - by now he must have a pretty thick skin...

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Dust Storms in the 1930s

Every now and then you come across a photo that blows you away.

This is a dust storm on April 18 1935 in Stratford Texas.

Just one of many such storms to hit Texas that year - in fact the area gained the name, the Dust Bowl.

The effect on people's health can be imagined here and the series of storms led to the passing of soil conservation laws. Read about some of the effects of the storms.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Flickr Album of 2005 Cruise

I've uploaded an album of montage and storyboard images of our 2005 cruise to Flickr.

The cruise was the Atlantic Islands cruise to various islands of the Canaries.

It was the last year that the Carousel did this trip for MyTravel before being sold to another group and all the crew going off to learn French.

There are 42 images in the set and you can see them at their best by clicking each photo then clicking the "all sizes" link. You can leave comments against the images and for once there's not a yoghurt in sight...!

Friday, 7 December 2007

Music Downloads

I uploaded a number of music tracks over the weekend but hadn't found an opportunity to say so until now!

They are available from my music web page and cover both solo tracks and Creeping Bentgrass tracks which are also listed of course on the band's own webpage.

There's even a handful of tracks from The Bispham Buskers - aka my mad family - so if you fancy a laugh, you'll find those tracks are not particularly of the serious sort!

Have a listen and then click the comments link below to leave a review!

Missing in Action

Sorry folks, a few quiet days there!

I've spent the last 4 days with Clive, travelling to London and then delivering two Project Management workshops there at Brettenham House shown on the photo which was taken the other weekend when we went down (and up) on the Eye.

Then on Wednesday night it was a crawl out of London and off to Shrewsbury to deliver a Process Review workshop to a group of colleges. So this morning I've a sore throat through talking so much!

The yoghurt's gone very quiet too - wonder if he's alright...?

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Bath Time for Yoghurts

Dan One must be well past his sell-by date now, but is still keen to take care of himself.

He's having a daily bath and squeezing every last drop of water away by putting himself through the mangle to get dry.

He obviously owes his longevity to his pro-biotic nature and is still fit and active whilst all around, lesser goods like turkeys and certain brands of mince pies are dropping like flies! (Although, you'd think that the mince pies with rubber in would bounce if dropped...?)

Anyway December is now on us - that season of crowded supermarkets and ill-will to fellow shoppers as they grab the last non-exceedingly bouncy mince pie that you had your eye on. If you head for the supermarket this month, watch Finding Nemo first - especially the scene with the seagulls...

"Mine!" "Mine!" "Mine!"

Have I Told You Yamaha Are Great?

Well in all honesty I have spent a fair few hours on it today but I've found how to do so much stuff it's been a joy!

I can now play all the pre-recorded song backings without bass for when Bob's with us and I've worked out how to split the keyboard to play two lead sounds (which I do on Fields of Athenry) and how to move the split point so I could fit in the required bass note, and I've also spent some time just playing different styles of music and loving the sounds that come from it.

Ahhhhh.... The only thing I've not done yet is work out how to record some new backings but I'm sure it won't be a problem. I've only looked at the manual twice and found what I wanted straight away!

Wonder if I can take it to London with me... Hmmm...perhaps not!

Saturday, 1 December 2007

In The Land of Ant & Dec

Sorry folks! A couple of quiet days there!

I spent Wednesday to Friday in Newcastle and evenings were as busy as days! Well, to be honest, on Wednesday night I had to keep up with Heroes of course. I may not have reviewed all that many episodes but the past few weeks it's been getting better and better and this week's double episode finale will find me in London again - will I get chance to watch it? Will Fran manage to record it?

I got back to the hotel on Thursday night to be confronted by two very excited girls with writing all over their arms...

"Maroon 5 are in the hotel," they shrieked. "One took my glove!" said one, holding up her ungloved hand.
"That was a bit mean..." I said. Confusion spread across her face for a moment.
"No...! I gave it to him!"

Anyway, I'm afraid I wouldn't have recognised a Maroon 5 if I'd fell over one. Or five... Be fair though - if someone had said to them that the guitarist from Creeping Bentgrass was in the hotel they would probably have thought the same!

Emergency Christmas Present

After the unfortunate refusal of my keyboard to play all of the notes it should the other week, I've decided to have an early Christmas present!

It was looking extremely like a duff printed circuit board. The Korg keyboard was not exactly intuitive to use and I'd found it very hard to get to grips with.

The new one is another Yamaha and whilst it's totally different than the old one in terms of controls, at least it's easy to find your way around.

I've managed to get it to play all the backings we use in the band. The only thing I haven't found yet and suspect I may not(!) is how to turn off the bass for when Bob is with us. It may well have such a feature for music recorded on it but there seems to be no way of taking it off the pre-recorded midi files I recorded on the PSR 630. There was a separate control file that had a switch in it for that and the new keyboard doesn't recognise the control file. Could be a lot of work for me!

But the progress I made in just one afternoon was excellent and a heck of a relief after struggling with the Korg.
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