Thursday, 28 April 2011

Wild West Train Ambushed!

6 May 1982. I saw in the paper a week before that the Common Market Tourism Minister, Georgis Contageorgis was being given a ride in the wild west tram to see Blackpool's sights. It was very rare then for any of the illuminated trams to be seen on the track during daylight and I went down to the North Pier to take a few photos.

I took a shot at the North Pier and then though it may be worth driving past it up the coast to get a few more shots.

On the way up to Bispham Station where it was due to turn round I saw a lot of people at Uncle Tom's Cabin. It turned out to be a demonstration against the continued closure of the cliff lift down to the boating pool.


Some are waving banners written in Greek but the tram does not stop. I get a photo but so does someone with "Press" written all over him. However he now slopes off, no doubt thinking he had done his job. Some of the protestors are quite angry at this point as the tram, whilst not travelling very fast, was obviously not going to stop and they had had to jump out of it's way. I know the tram has to come back down the track again so I wait with the protestors.

I'm in luck, the tram stops and the Minister gets off to talk with them and walks over to look at the lift.

I ring the Gazette and go to see a reporter called Steve Tate and they take and process my film. They phone me up later to say the photos came out well although they are not used. They do give me two fresh rolls of Ilford FP4 film for my trouble.

Large versions of the photos: tram, protestors, minister

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

My Petrol Poem

We might have gone out this weekend
If petrol had not been so dear
We used to go all over the country
Now we stay at home or quite near

We used to go searching for circles of stone
For hillforts or something to see
But now we stay home doing hobbies
Or go for a walk, her and me

Here's our car on the left up at Thirlmere
The one on the left nearly black
Even then motoring wasn't so easy
Cos the darn thing broke down on t'way back

On that day we visited Grasmere as well
And saw Ambleside, Bowness and such
We might have gone out too this weekend
If petrol hadn't cost quite so much...


Large versions of the photos: Castlerigg stone circle, Thirlmere, Grasmere

Friday, 22 April 2011

Foreign Food, Winter Gardens and Footwear

Good Friday. Name and nature. We set off this morning with breakfast in town with David and Jeannie. I almost decided to forego the fry-up but I've never liked muesli since almost drowning a while ago - a strong currant pulled me in...

Anyway, Fran had said to take my camera as the Continental market was in town. This was a French pastries and bread stall but the one that had me almost forgetting I'd just stuffed bacon and eggs down my chops was the German one opposite. I've never really trusted sausages that are admitted by the makers to be wurst, but the stallholder had shovelled a massive amount of potato slices into a massive pan and the smell of those scallops was drawing people from far and wide. I desisted easily though after a full English - and I was supporting the home country!

The Winter Gardens has been having a bit of a refurb recently. The doors were open this morning though so we thought we'd have a shufti!

Nice and shiny (I presume they haven't yet got round to washing the outside of the glass panes in the arched roof - and to be fair, access looks as thugh it may be a bit of a job!)

This hasn't really changed but I've never got a decent photo of it before. The Galleon Bar is themed around an old sailing ship and is absolutely stunning inside. Normally filled with people every night trying to grab a drink at half time from the theatre and neck it quick in order to get back to their seats for the second half!

The adjoining amusement arcade has lost its machines and is now a cafeteria. Looks a little bit like Jazz Age styling.

Oh! And there's one other thing to show you...

I've been fancying this front shoe for ages... It's just a touch expensive but wouldn't it look great on stage?!? Sooner or later I'm going to ask if they've got one for the other foot...

Large Versions of the Photos: market stall, Winter Gardens, Galleon Bar, cafe

Sunday, 17 April 2011

I've Been for a Spin!

A beautiful day in Blackpool! And here's a view of St John's church tower from an angle you don't often get to see!

We set out early this morning to our favourite cafe, Quilligan's, for breakfast. As we walked in Sean told us we had just missed David and Jeannie by 5 minutes. So we met up to find David with his camera round his neck fancying a go on the Big Wheel that's appeared in St John's Square.

I didn't have my camera with me so the photos here have been taken on my mobile phone. The big wheel is there until May so hopefully I'll get a chance to take some better quality photos before it goes.

This is the view looking down Church Street. The Winter Gardens is first on the left and the new street lighting posts which have projectors so that designs float up and down the street at night. The green dome of the Grand Theatre can be seen further down the street and then the sea and Tower forming the backdrop. At the very top left of the photo can be seen the Central Pier with its own Big Wheel.

Looking north east over Cedar Square and Topping Street towards the bus station. Above it, sticking up on the horizon, is the water tower at the top of the last hill before the ground slopes down towards Bispham and Thornton and the River Wyre.

And then home to put up the kitchen blind I've been putting off for weeks... It was just as frustrating and fiddly as I expected...

Wrea Green Windmill

Oho! The scanning of my old negatives has moved on a pace! We're now into 1982! On the 1st of April that year I was taking photos of various windmills for an article that eventually was published in Lancashire Magazine.

We are well blessed with windmills on the Fylde coast. The famous ones are on the Green at Lytham and at Marton where you get off the M55 motorway to head into Blackpool on the old road before the link from the old end of the motorway to the town centre car parks was built.

But then there's Marsh Mill at Thornton, there's one at Staining, one at Kirkam and another nearby at Treales, one at Salwick and there are a couple "over Wyre" at Preesall and Pilling.

This one is Wrea Green mill. Wrea Green, or Ribby with Wrea, is a small village just off the A583 as you head from Blackpool towards Kirkham.

It has a small and olde worlde feel to the village centre that gathers around, but allows plenty of space for, the large village green complete with duck pond.

In April 1982 the windmill at Wrea Green was little more than a ruin. The tower of the mill was there and the single storey building next to it, but the inside of the tower was empty and uncapped, showing signs of that all too common a fate for windmills - fire.

The miller's skill was in regulating the flow of grain to the stones. Too fast and the grain wasn't ground properly so your flour would have lumps in it. Too slow and the stones would touch and spark and so you had a fire. Flour is combustible - and rather good at it!

In this case however, the cause of the fire was an exploding steam engine!

Windmills make a bit of noise when working as you might imagine. Apart from the sails creaking round there are all those big wooden cog wheels clacking about inside and the stones spinning round and the sound of grain falling from hoppers...

A neighbour was incensed when the mill was built. He planted a row of trees to block the wind. You can imagine how this may have led to a certain tense relationship between the miller and his neighbour...

With the mill unable to use wind power, the miller turned to a recent invention: the steam engine. Now, what a noise that must have made! But alas for the miller and the bread lovers of Wrea Green - the engine blew apart and started a fire that gutted the mill.

Shortly after I took these photos the mill was converted into a home and now has a new lease of life.

Large versions of the photos
I have a set of photographs of windmills at Flickr

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Blackpool Postcard - A Real Photograph

I like this one! I love old postcards. So often they were 'enhanced' by the makers - daytime shots made to look like night; seaside illuminations painted on with blobs of colour, other photographs printed over the top to add an item of interest such as a tram... or a wave...

On the face of it, this is a straightforward photograph of the sea crashing up at Blackpool. Not an uncommon occurrence - though it may become less common with the new Promenade steps hopefully to be completed this year.

However a closer examination has me convinced that these waves are flowing over into the sea from the Promenade side!!! I suspect they may have started life as a waterfall somewhere!

Although the sea can spout upwards quite spectacularly and at least as high as these waves appear to be, you would not get such a wide expanse bursting upwards all at the same time. The waves approach the sea wall at a slight angle and so out of the cluster of three waves at the left you would see the left hand one, followed a few seconds later by the middle one and then after another few seconds by the one on the right. This isn't a time exposure because the waves are not blurred from a long exposure.

I'd date this in the late 1920s. The Big Dipper, far right, was built in 1925. The Rainbow Wheel is the centre with the Scenic Railway and the familar Maxim Flying Machine to its left and the original casino building on the extreme left.

Now, where was that water coming from???

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Do You Know about Lyme Disease?

My friend Marlene, one of the Ladies-Over-The-Water has been battling Lyme Disease for the last four years and having to battle Canada's medical community for the right to be helped.

It seems that some of Canada's medical profession are so determined that "there is no Lyme Disease in Canada" that they will sue and hound out of the profession those doctors who are willing to treat it.

What is Lyme Disease? It comes from the bite of a tick. There is a typical bullseye rash - a red spot ringed by normal coloured skin with an outer ring rash.

Marlene's summary in her own words from her web site:

Infected Date: August 2007: I was taking pictures and was bitten by something, but did not pay much attention, thinking it was a spider.

Place: Near Picton, Ontario: Taking pictures of Dragon Boat Races in Bloomfield, in pretty Prince Edward County.

Diagnosis: Years later, Feb. 2010: Been sent from doctor to specialist to test to ER over months, with various diagnoses, medications and getting sicker.

Symptoms: Early on, flu-like symptoms, fatigue, headache, low-grade fever, stiff neck, knee pain. A rash appeared a week after the bite, but I did not connect the two, only took pictures.

Problem: Doctors are not trained to look for Lyme disease; there are no conclusive tests; in Canada, many doctors refuse to admit it exists.

Treatment: In March 2010, I started antibiotic treatment, which has to be long-term to have any effect. Things started improving and I was optimistic and grateful.

Update: On March 17, 2011 - abandoned by the Ontario Health Care System, because of a complaint against the specialist for "treating something which does not exist in Canada."

Result: Infections coming back, symptoms becoming noticeable, quality of life affected.

May is Lyme Awareness month: Please be aware of Lyme disease, that it is the fastest spreading infection in North America, and that everyone is vulnerable, even in their own back yards or city parks. How many more people have to be sick, disabled or even dying before something is done to protect patients and the doctors treating them?

Prevention:
Simple precautions can be taken, like wearing insect repellent with DEET, or using lemon and eucalyptus creams. Check for bites. Pay attention to symptoms. If found early, antibiotic treatment can prevent long-lasting symptoms and damage to organs. Fight for doctors to be aware, and for parks to put up warnings and information! Knowledge is power.


Now when Marlene said she had antibiotics, she meant having an intravenous drip - a bag permanently attached to her arm. The side effects sounded horrendous. However, she was starting to feel the benefit when her treatment was withdrawn due to the threat of litigation against her specialist.

Anyone travelling to North America needs to be aware of this and to check themselves and children for ticks, particularly following a walk through grass. See the Canadian CanLyme Association web pages for more details.

There's a month of walks and rallies going on in May across Canada and in America, Amanda has arranged a rallying walk in Virginia Beach on May 21.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Peugot Shark

The car hire firm dropped off a car I'd never seen before, when they delivered my works car last week.

It turned out to be a Peugot Shark - named after someone in the trade, perhaps?

It was one of those pseudo 4-wheel-drive things. I'm not a fan of 4X4 cars and can't really understand why anyone who's not a farmer would want one.
"I have a dog!" they cry. Well before I met Miss Franny, one of my girlfriends had a dog - a big one. I had a Mini and old Scamp never once complained that the back seat wasn't big enough... Most dogs fit neatly into the back of an estate car or an MPV.

Anyway, what did I think of the Peugot? For a start, it was designed by someone who had been driving a long time. By which I mean they had forgotten what it is like to be nervous at getting into a new car. I don't mean myself here. I drive around 30,000 miles a year and drive a different car almost every week and have got to know where most knobs and switches are.

But this thing had 4 sticks coming out of the steering column. So one will be wipers and one will be lights... One was to control the sound system - they are not just "radios" anymore! The other was for cruise control.

The problem was that the middle of the steering wheel was so big that it hid all of the markings on these controls. I only found out what did what by experimenting. Not good. The good people at Peugot thought so much about their airbag that they had created a space for it that almost equalled the diameter of the steering wheel. There was room to curl my fingers around the wheel but not much to see through except at the top where they left a gap to allow you to view the dashboard displays. Good unless you were going round a corner and wanted to know how fast...

This is really picky I know, but in the centre of the steering wheel is the Peugot rearing lion motif. It isn't on any sort of plinth and the leather of the steering wheel centre is cut around the emblem. Except it has such little inlets for mouth etc. that a snug fit is impossible and to me it looked really tacky.

It drove fine. The diesel engine wasn't over noisy though it did have the characteristic pause before it revved enough to nip out of a turning, by which time it was no longer safe to nip. The 6-speed gearbox was smooth, though compared with my Mazda you had to be going at a higher speed before you could change up and feel comfortable that the engine was going to cope.

The parking brake is electronic and the toggle sort - pulling the handle up both puts it on and off, though after the initial start you can forget about letting it off and just set off and it will release the brake automatically. With features like this on modern cars it makes me wonder why I have to pip my horn at so many pillocks who can't control their clutch and start rolling backwards at you at the traffic lights...


The speedo was much more accurate than most cars too, when the dashboard said 70mph my SatNav said 68 - the average car seems to be doing around 66 or less. I have, by the way, checked the SatNav against lots of roadside speed displays and the speed shown by the SatNav tallies with those at 30, 40, 50 and 60mph. Quite often to do 70mph the car's speedo will be only just short of 80.

So to sum up, a nice car with a badly thought out steering wheel and control design and one that will cost you more than necessary to put new tyres on. Buy an estate or an MPV. Unless you really are a farmer...

Sunday, 10 April 2011

I Must Be Somewhere Around Here...

Several weeks of travelling about and being busy at weekends have left me with little time for updating the blog lately.

However, here's a bit of an update. "Bit" in that it skims the surface and just gives a flavour...

This last week started with a train trip to Edinburgh.

I'm not a big fan of trains. It seems that every time I take a trip by train it reminds me why I don't like them...

On the day I was coming back (Tuesday), the power lines just north of Carlisle decided to come down. As they do... It meant that no trains passed that point until lunchtime that day. Now that's not bad as it was teatime by the time I was ready to roll out, but all trains were running late. Quite late... And by the time we got to Preston, the usual three-an-hour trains to Blackpool had turned into none-this-hour but four-in-the-next...

I got home late and of course Fran was on a late shift so I had to set to and make some tea, after cleaning up the cats' litter trays. As my meal was almost ready for coming out I heard the merry sound of one of the cats upchucking a hairball... He sat looking at me as though to say "Hey Dad! Welcome home!"

Then on Thursday I had the joys of a hospital trip in the morning for some tests that involved taking a fasting blood sample then administering obnoxious gloop and then taking another blood sample after a couple of hours of doing nothing, eating nothing, drinking nothing to see what my body had done with the gloop. I had a rather queasy feeling that I knew exactly what it had done with it but never mind...

Then after a very late breaking of fast, it was almost time to set off for Shrewsbury.

The Lion Hotel had a notice in their windows - their own cat had gone missing...

I was running a workshop in Telford but the travel agents had decided there were no hotels with vacancies closer than Shrewsbury so I had a half hour drive on Friday morning in the fog to get to Telford.

After that, all I had to deal with was a trip up the M6 on Friday night which is never a good thing. I might have been tempted to head back towards Shrewsbury to go up the A49 to Chester but someone said the M54 was blocked due to an accident that way... I reckon it still might have been quicker!

Anyway a good night last night as we went to Garstang to watch Garstang Musical Whatever (used to be Garstang Light Opera Group and I could remember that name...) doing a show of musical numbers from all their productions over the past 25 years as they celebrated their 25th anniversary. Brilliant night!

Saturday, 2 April 2011

The Last of the Four Funnel Liners

This afternoon we decided to make the most of the sunshine and had a walk round Lytham, to find there was an antiques fair in the Lowther Pavilion.

I came across a postcard sent from New York on November 7 1924 by a passenger who had just arrived on the Cunard ship Mauritania (although the postcard shows the later Aquitania).

Evidently the crossing had not been as smooth as Babs would have liked.

Indeed she was so disoriented on arriving back on terra firma that she inadvertantly wrote her message with the postcard upside down, realising and rotating it before writing the address of her friend on Central Drive, Blackpool.

She wrote:

Dear all,

Here I am in U.S.A. Sailed 1st Nov on "Mauritania" it's been 6 long days and very rough. Hope to winter in Bermuda and Nassau but will write you soon.

Hope you are all well.

Best love and Cheerio,
Babs


The Mauritania was built on the Tyne and her maiden voyage was on 16 November 1907. She won the Blue Riband for the fastest westbound Atlantic crossing in 1909 with a record that stood until twenty years later. Even on her final Atlantic crossing in 1934 she managed 24 knots, the original speed she had to meet in order to secure the mail contract when brand new. She was on her way back to England to be scrapped, docking in Southampton next to the Olympic, sister ship to the ill-fated Titanic and also awaiting the scrapyard.

One of her former Masters, Sir Arthur Rostron came to see her leave Southampton for the Rosyth shipbreakers. He had captained the RMS Carpathia during the Titanic rescue.

And what of the Aquitania? She was the last of the great ocean liners with four funnels. Built on Clydebank and launched on 21 April 1913 she was one of the first post-Titanic-disaster ships to be fitted with enough lifeboats for all crew and passengers, two of which were fitted with Marconi radio transmitters.

A month after her maiden voyage the First World War broke out and she acted as both a troop carrier and hospital ship during the war.

She served during the Second World War also and her long service ended in 1949, precipitated when a piano fell through the floor of one deck, crashing down into the dining room below and upsetting a corporate luncheon that was taking place... Her 36 years of service made her the longest serving Express Liner of her time, a record only broken by the Queen Elizabeth II.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Sunnyside 2011 - Saturday 19 March

The second half of my report of our annual Billy Fury tribute at the club which saw his final public performance.

Saturday dawned and we sat down to an excellent cooked breakfast before heading into Northampton for a look round. In past years we've gone into Wellingborough so it was a morning of discovery, which I'll show a little of in another entry. I know they are a bit few on the ground recently, I've been rather busy!

Then we headed for Sunnyside to suss out the new layout. The old club layout has now totally gone and the place is a pub restaurant. The new layout works very well for that, with new wall partitions with gaps or "windows" cut through to allow views into different parts of what once was the concert room.

The old stage area at the bottom end of the large room is therefore cut off from the rest of the space. It was reached down a ramp from a slightly higher floor at the back of the room where there was a bar. The balcony created by the higher floor extended down one side of the ramp to overlook the stage area on the left, whilst on the right, tables gave a same-level view of the stage area with access on that side into the main pub.

It was in this area that we set up the stage to allow a viewpoint from as much of the room as possible.

It did mean that the artists were singing to a line of people getting progressively taller on the ramp, but it worked fairly well!

We had been asked to bring our own kit this year as, rather than a band, the main professional act was Johnny Red, a well-known local act with a great Billy tribute set. Taking all our own gear meant that we needed a full half hour to set up. We decided to leave this until later as once Johnny Red had set up his very comprehensive stage gear, a crowd of singers gathered to test their tonsils around the mic and we walked back to the hotel to get showered and changed.

Then I got the PA, speakers and keyboard set up and we blasted through our version of Bad Moon Rising to test the sound, Jeannie and Miss Franny running round the different areas of the place to listen for any imperfections in the sound - hiccups, burps, slurred words, bum notes, swear words, that sort of thing...

We'd had to crank it up a bit because of the size of the room and standing just in front of the speakers, I have to say we enjoyed ourselves immensely on that test; it was obvious that a ripple of excitement had gone round the room and it was a struggle to force ourselves off, but we did!

More new faces turned up - I'd never met Russ Dee or Roger Sea before, despite having "known them" from the billyfury.com forums for years and it was great to shake their hands and catch up.

And then, such was the number of artists attending, the music started at 4:30pm. Dave Jay, thwarted from walking into the audience by the new layout, still delivered some cracking numbers and then switched on his polished MC mode, introducing each act. There are very few seats now with a view of the stage. People were standing and crowding around the gaps and doorways through the new walls and partitions.

It did make it a bit frustrating but the sound carried and there was plenty of applause and cheering and a really brilliant atmosphere and there were some absolutely superb acts.

Jane Hubert made her Sunnyside debut with some fabulous vocals. She sang a fast Helen Shapiro song and then started "Funny... but it's true..." and I went cold and all the small hairs on the palms of my hands - er... I mean back of my neck - stood up. Wonderful!

Roger Sea had a brilliant mirrored jacket - I want it when he's done with it ha ha! We followed Michelle Gibson onto the stage. David had blabbed it was my birthday and Dave Jay got the audience to sing Happy Birthday to me. As he said, "suitably embarrassed"!

Harry, the organiser (who has obviously got to know us by now), came to whisper in my ear to make sure we finished our set on time! We started with an Elvis number, Suspicion (the video of this is at YouTube) and then went through our set, ditching a planned number in order to get in a request from the audience dedicated to the perfect woman - When You Say Nothing At All...

We had to ditch another song in order to finish on time (a Cliffy too - Moya would have loved that one...) as both having to bring instruments forward from the back of the stage and the Happy Birthday bit had eaten into our time, but when I checked my watch we had finished on the dot of our allotted time - by heck, and I still had a joke or two in hand...

Laura and Emily followed us after the raffle. A brilliant set and two great girls - we were chatting with them later (closely watched by Miss Franny and Jeannie of course...)

Johnny Red delivered a great tribute act to Billy and then we all came on for the traditional rendition of Halfway to Paradise to finish the night.

A brilliant night! Everyone calling for a repeat next year. Everyone happy. Everyone quite willing to have stayed another few hours and sung some more. Harry, we salute you. Sunnyside 2012 will be on 16-17 March. Can't wait!
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