Sunday, 26 October 2008

Normal Service Will Be Resumed

I'm sorry folks, it must look as though I'm being a bit tardy here, but the PC has been replaced and I'm in the midst of taking up broadband through Sky.

The router still has to be delivered as yet though so the new PC is sitting there doing little other than acting as a jukebox.

To be honest I've not had a great deal of time to play on it as last week I was in Newcastle all week on a course - doing homework and taking two exams towards the end of the week. Little was done at all other than work - and eat... I've put on a couple of pounds - Jackie from work taking me for countless curries - must be a staple Geordie diet? The photo was taken one night as we walked back over the Millenium Bridge over the Tyne.

Anyway, to get back to the plot, the chap has been to put the Sky dish up today and I got my first taste of HD TV around lunchtime. So the next few nights could well be spent comatose on the sofa watching the telly.

Whether that's as a result of the HD picture, the lack of access to the Internet unless I get the works laptop out, or the aftermath of an exhausting week's course I leave to your imagination!

I'll be back soon though!

Large Version of the Photo: Tyne Bridge and Sunset

Friday, 17 October 2008

My PC's Not Well At All...

Alas and alack I'm having one of those periods where inanimate objects are out to get me.

At the moment it's my home PC which has given up the will to play and I've had to restore it - which means all the way back to it's original self something like 5 years ago and it still thinks Wanadoo exists, if not Freeserve...

And can I remember my passwords to set up the Internet again? And all the software? All my data is securely on an external hard drive so no problems with that but I'm coming round to the idea it's not worth spending all this time and grief on a 5 year old machine.

So, readers, the key message is:

Please don't send me any emails to the Freeserve address!

Use instead my second (now only) personal email - bispham2-at-hotmaildott.com. I'm sure you know where to put @ signs and dots!

I'm away from home all next week so not a lot of point trying to sort out stuff this weekend - I might indulge myself and do some music instead!

Just before the PC went bye bye I reconfigured all the music links in the left hand column so they should all be working again now. All links to music on this blog are my own music - ie me playing all instruments and singing all the voices.

The band's music can be found on the band's blog.

Another thought has struck me. The PC demise may well spell the demise of my websites too - if I move away from Orange which I may well do. So these blogs and the Flickr account will have to do!

I'll try to recreate some of the websites as articles on here anyway. It might help me when I'm struggling to think of something!

Sigh, the Aston Martin purchase leaps further away - again!!!

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Keith Duckitt

Keith Duckitt of the Further Education Funding Council (FEFC) looks on as the Chairman of the National College Management Information Services Board (National CMIS Board), John Rockett, shakes hands with the Chairman of the National Association for Information Technology in Further Education (NAITFE), Malcolm Himsworth, to merge the two organisations and form the National Information and Learning Technology Association (NILTA) in July 1995.

I attended Keith's funeral yesterday, a sad occasion as all funerals are, but a celebration of a man who was much loved by those of us in the Further Education Sector of those days and a veritable mover and shaker in the implementation of new technology in learning.

He is pictured doing what he did best - bringing people together to get things done. One of the tributes given yesterday mentioned that many people have said of Keith; "If it hadn't been for Keith, I wouldn't have been where I am now." I am one of those.

Keith Duckitt 1940-2008 RIP

Large Version of the Photo: Keith

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Hiram Maxim's Flying Machine

We were in Blackpool this morning to meet up with David and Jeannie for breakfast and afterwards whilst the ladies went off shopping, David and I had a wander round the antiques market in the Winter Gardens.

I came across a stall selling old postcards for 25p each and had a brief rummage, coming up with a couple of postcards one of which was this one.

It shows Sir Hiram Maxim's Flying Machine, one of three such machines he produced in the early days of the 20th Century to stimulate public interest in flight, which was very much in its early infancy at the time.

The Flying Machine shown was at Southport, standing next to the Water Shute that gives the postcard its caption. It has a number of large open rowing boats suspended from a spider-like arrangement of arms and steel bracing cables which when spinning would cause the boats to fly out sideways from the platform over which they would sit when stationary, this "flight" powered by centrifugal force.

The other two Flying Machines were at London and Blackpool.

The Blackpool Flying Machine still exists of course and has been a feature and landmark of Blackpool Pleasure Beach since 1904.

I took this photograph in the mid to late 1990s when the motor powering the Flying Machine - still the 1904 original - had been opened up to public viewing by knocking a wall through and installing a large glass window.

Sir Hiram Maxim was an inventor and made his fortune selling the Maxim machine gun which was used extensively in the first years of World War One. Flying was his own personal ambition and enthusiasm. He turned his hand to a number of varied inventions though, one being an inhaler for asthmatics, an example of which is exhibited in the Science Museum in London.

Larger Version of the Photograph: (postcard not available as large image), flying machine at night

Friday, 10 October 2008

More Dansettes

Another of the Dansette style record players I've had in various states of disrepair!

This example came from the antiques and collectables warehouse, Bygone Times near Chorley in Lancashire.

It looked good but when I tried to move the switches they immediately came away in my hand. They had been broken and "fixed" with a weak glue that was not strong enough to stand the pressure required to turn the switches. I had to replace them with the knobs you see here, being unable to find anything that resembled the originals.

For a while the record player worked quite well though. Eventually however, this didn't last long as the electrics were shot. The amplifier went, then the belt drive and in the end I scrapped it and went looking for another! Which I'm sure will turn up in an entry before all that long!

Larger Verions of the Photo: dansette

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Ice at Cheddar Gorge

After leaving Wookey Hole on 23 February 1996 we drove to Cheddar and down the famous gorge.

Come on, keep up... what do you want? All these memories in order???

Anyway Cheddar Gorge was absolutely deserted. No cars. Nobody on foot. Not even a car park attendant wanting money for parking in one of the many deserted lay-bys.

The temperature had dipped considerably and even with the heater on in the car we were concious of the cold.

We stopped near a cave and got out to peer in and to stretch our legs. Phew! It was cold!

In fact it was so cold that water running down the cliff face had frozen and there were huge patches of ice clinging to the sides of the gorge.

We drove down further towards the tourist attractions but they were all shut. Even the shops were shut.

Had been, in fact for some time perhaps, because one of them had a string of bells hung outside with all the rest of the Christmas decorations and the bells were electronically ringing out Good King Wencelas the sound carrying all the way up and down the deserted street giving a quite eerie rather than cheery effect.

It was our last call of the holiday. A holiday that had taken us in order to:

Portsmouth
The Isle of Wight
Poole
Corfe Castle
Wookey Hole Caves and Museum

We had also been to Eastbourne, Bognor Regis, Brighton and Bournmouth during the holiday - a measure of how cold it was and therefore much better to be in the car than outside!

Large Versions of the Photos: car at the cave, ice on the cliffs

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Absolutely Steaming!

Back in the early 1980s we used to regularly visit the steam railway museum at Steamtown, Carnforth.

They had a shed full of old locomotives and carriages, a couple of really famous and one later-to-be famous engines normally standing in the sunshine (ah, remember those days...) outside the sheds.

The famous ones were the Nigel Gresley, easily mistaken for the more famous Mallard and of course, the ultimate in steam locomotives, 4472 Flying Scotsman.

The later-to-be famous locomotive was painted a dull black but is today better known in its red livery as the Hogwarts Express.

I was a keen member of the Blackpool and Fylde Photographic Society in those days and entered the photo above in one of the many competitions. A visiting judge said the locomotive was excellently placed but what a shame I couldn't have waited until the wind had stopped blowing so the reflection in the puddle would have been clearer.

He did admit that had I done, the train would have no longer been there but perhaps I should have waited as the train at the museum constantly goes back and forth along the line, passing the puddle on every occasion. Twit!

Did he not think I might have done exactly that and that the photo I entered was the best of the bunch? Well perhaps not because, in the days of film cameras, taking photographs was an expensive hobby and you thought about every shot! I was at the time, though, taking photos with a view to magazine publication and that meant forgetting about the expense of film in order to get that ultimate shot.

It makes me think now though, when people are so clearly shocked by Simon Cowell telling them they can't sing (when it's patently bloody obvious they can't sing) that a good bit of honest criticism is a rare thing. Politically incorrect you know. And other such piffle. Friends encourage them by lying through their teeth and saying "Yes, you're really good, you should be on telly!"

Have a look at comments on Flickr for instance. I've seen photos on there with scores of comments from admiring friends saying how great the photo is and offering all manner of meaningless awards. I look at them and want to add a comment saying "But it's wildly out of focus for Heaven's sake!!!" Try it...and see the abuse you get...

Larger Versions of the Photos: train and puddle, tank engine

Saturday, 4 October 2008

The High Alpine Road

After the entry on the Grossglockner Glacier someone said they wanted to see the road and its hairpin bends so here are a couple of shots showing just a taste of the spectacular scenery there is on the High Alpine Pass to Grossglockner.

We were on coach trips each time we've been to Austria and at times the coach was filled with the sound of "Ooooh!" sometimes in awe and sometimes in terror!

The glacier ends when the ice breaks up and melts, resulting in a river of glacial water that feeds a high dammed reservoir of cool turquoise water. The colour of glacial water has to be seen to be believed, it is the most beautiful of colours.

Water from the reservoir and other meltwaters cascade down the mountainside in streams, cascades and sometimes giant falls of water, visible from far away.

The memories stirred by writing about that holiday made me want to go again as it's a few years since we were there and I'd enjoy a holiday in the Tirol again. We've stayed in Mariastein and Niederau, but my favourite was the first trip we took to Austria when we stayed in Schuttdorf, just 15 minutes walk from the lovely Zell-am-See.

Large Versions of the Photos: hairpin bends (a wider view), mountain scenery

Thursday, 2 October 2008

View Across The Tyne

I'm in Newcastle again at the moment, spending a few days working in the office.

I didn't bring my camera with me so I thought I'd have a go at seeing how well my phone takes photos. I'm actually fairly impressed with the quality - click the link below to see the larger version and then click the link on Flickr for "All Sizes" and you'll see what I mean. For a telephone it's not bad. It's totally the wrong shape for a camera of course and so it's hard to take a photo without moving and causing camera shake and the tiny little window of plastic that they call a lens can't hope to compete with my usual Canon digital Eos, but... for a telephone this ain't bad!

Viewpoint from Jurys Inn, Newcastle on Tyne.

Larger Version of the Photo: Newcastle view

Grossglockner Glacier

As we were talking about Austria a couple of posts ago and seeing as my web pages on our Austrian holidays have gone bye bye, I was nudged to follow the entry on Krimml Falls with a memory of Grossglockner Glacier.

We've visited it twice,on 16 August 2000 and again on 13 August 2003 when we thought it was somewhat diminished in size from our previous trip.

The High Alpine Road that you must take to reach the glacier is one of those spectacular car-advert type of roads with series of S-bend hairpins winding their way up the mountains, gorgeous scenery and views of distant waterfalls, cascading immense vertical distances. It's well worth a trip!

The Austrian Marmot is much in evidence at Grossglockner too. Larger than praire marmots, they have a liking for bread that we took advantage of on our first trip, though by the second there were notices asking visitors not to feed the marmots who were by now sitting around looking up at the roadway expectantly and muttering amongst themselves; "Are they not going to chuck us anything to eat? I'm dying for a good butty!"

You can climb down to stand on the glacier but we didn't. In fact there's a funicular railway to take you part of the way down. Fran decided that the souvenir shop was a better bet...

Larger Versions of the Photos: the glacier, marmots

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

The DIY Bowel Cancer Test

Another example of all things bizarre...

Just got off the phone talking to my uncle. They've just had an advert for a "Do-It-Yourself Bowel Cancer Test"! It's not strictly D-I-Y because what you do is collect samples from three stools from your bowel movements and send them off in the post to a laboratory who will test them for you and send the results back.

It is apparently important to catch the sample before it hits the water. This obviously makes sense as otherwise it might go too soggy and ooze through the envelope...

In the interests of appearing supportive and helpful I did suggest he could employ a catcher's glove something like the one shown here.

Also if you, dear reader, are fortunate enough to receive an advert for this service and want to take advantage of it, we further thought that any rather too solid stools should be placed in padded envelopes for safety reasons. Indeed if you were particularly badly compacted it may be best to use parcel post as otherwise the envelope may not squash through the letter box...

If you want your original back, remember to include a stamped addressed envelope.

Oh and finally - remember to mark your envelope "sort by hand". The thoughts of them being forced through the rollers of an automatic machine doesn't bear thinking of...

Big Ben The Pinball

Here's an entry to tie together a couple of previous themes.

We've had a few entries, with more to come, of our 1995 London Trip and I also mentioned helping the Pinball Owners' Association put together a pinball convention in the same year.

This Big Ben pinball links them nicely as the photo was taken at the convention and features the famous clock tower in London. It is, of course, the bell that tolls the hour that is Big Ben, not the tower itself, which is St Stephen's Tower.

The pinball was from the pre-electronic days of pinball, so is a 1970s game and was in tip top condition having had a repaint and an excellent restoration. Sound effects were provided by a triple chime bar, sounding a bit like a doorbell but with different musical notes for the 1000s, 100s, and 10s reels.

In fact later that year when we were restoring our own Lucky Ace pinball of 1976, we replaced the missing chime mechanism with a standard "Avon Calling" doorbell chime bars!
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