Monday, 26 March 2012

Birthday Gig

On Saturday night we were playing a private booking for a birthday party in Thornton - a gig close to home for a change!

The birthday girl was very keen to secure our services and both she and the rest of the party-goers were enthusuastic in their applause during the night and their praise at the end of it.

We enjoyed ourselves too, giving Elvis's Burning Love its first public airing.

To book Creeping Bentgrass for your own party, event or club, email bispham2@hotmail.com or telephone on 01253 301324

Saturday, 24 March 2012

On The Tram Tracks, May 1984

A few recently scanned tram photos from May 1984.

We'll start off with the spectacular 1904 Blackpool Dreadnought tram. Originally built when the trams were still powered by a conduit slot between the rails, these huge trams took large numbers of visitors up and down the Promenade with the entire end of the tram used as an entrance.

Balloon 720 heads up Lytham Road towards the sheds at the end of its shift.

1984 was the run-up to the tramway centenary in 1985. A number of trams were on loan to Blackpool being tested on the Blackpool tracks in 1984. Blackpool had also recently restored their 1953 Coronation tram, seen here in front of the landmark honeycombed front of Lewis's store.

A peek into the tramsheds on Rigby Road. On the left is a Glasgow tramcar with the Bolton tram behind it. Large versons of the photos: dreadnought, balloon 720, coronation, tram sheds

Friday, 23 March 2012

Billy Fury Weekend

Cor - and there it was, gone...! Another totally brilliant Billy Fury weekend.

We set up our gear at Sunley and ran through a couple of numbers. We had only gone on to warm up, but then the room filled and despite several offers to allow others up, the audience kept us working for an hour or so - slave drivers or what?!? We threw a bit of Abba and Take That into the proceedings in an attempt to get them to eject us but no...

Then one by one the other artists came to show us how it should be done and what a fabulous night! Phil Jennings told us over and over and over again my friend... A chap called Hetherington spun round three times in a quiet corner and in a flash returned as Johnny Storme. The feeling and emotion coming through Johnny's music never fail to move me - magical. Alan Wilcox made a very impressive debut. We had a great spot from Dean and Jane singing together, shiveringly good!


Johnny Storme

There were no bad performances of course. Dave Jay, Paul Wilcox, and the Grand Master Rob Dee, who asked if we'd finish the night.... What?!? You want us to go back on?!? Reluctantly we drag ourselves back up to the microphone. It may have looked as though we couldn't wait...

Anyway we are always immensely grateful for the reception we get from the Billy crowd - no matter what provocation we give, no one has ever thrown anything... A brilliant, even BILLYant, night full of friendship and good fun. Apologies to any singers I've missed, we loved you all.

Saturday. Sunley do a purty good breakfast! Then we dragged ouselves into Northampton so the girls could look round the shops and David and I went up and down the mall on the ground floor and then on the upper floor and then gave up and went to sit in a Costa with a bucket of coffee each and waited for the Misses Franny and Jeannie to come in laden with bags.

Then the main event of the weekend - Sunnyside. It is the pub where Billy Fury played his last gig before his untimely passing in 1983.

Dave Jay got the ball rolling with a cracking set and the time just flew by. Steve reprised his Secret Agent Man from Friday night - what a cracking song! We went and did our spot - Somebody Else's Girl, I Can Hear Music, The Young Ones (for Moya!), Tulsa, The Single Girl, Love Hurts, Lost Without You and You've Lost That Loving Feeling. Then the long hook came out from stage left and we were dragged off...

Thanks to all those who asked when we were going back on - no that was just the Friday night...! Gluttons for punishment some folks... Great to meet up again with a few day trippers - Snowy (all that hair and at such an advanced age - has the man no feelings for the follicly challenged?), Russ Dee came in his white coat - and left with it still white - I'm sure I couldn't have managed that... Laura and Emily, gorgeous as ever and a great great set, Roger Sea, Rob Dee... it's just such a wonderful event.


Rob Dee

Again a series of excellent performances, culminating in Johnny Red's tribute to Billy and all of us up to sing HTP and then it was all over. We packed up the gear, headed back to the Sunley and opened a bottle of bubbly in David and Miss Jeannie's room before Miss Franny and I slunk quietly back down to our room tripping up, banging against doors, giggling and setting fire alarms off etc... Hey rock and roll! Songs from our set available as videos at YouTube

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Hall i' th' Wood

September 1983 and on one of our forays out to take photos of old and curious things we come across the half-timbered Tudor hall known as Hall i' th' Wood.

It can be described as 16th or 15th century - mostly the Tudor half-timbered part of the hall is from the early 1500s, making it 16th century, but some parts have been described as going back to 1483 or 1487 which would make it 15th century. You'd have thought the builders could have left a blue placque ready prepared wouldn't you?

I always think non-Lancashire folk have a weird idea of how the abbreviated form of the word "the" should be pronounced. There is no t sound in the phrase "going in t'shed". Instead the word "in would end a little abruptly. The t sound is formed at the back of the throat rather than just behind the teeth.

Here it may be acceptable to say "thwood" but equally acceptable to say "Hall i' Wood with the throat closing slightly after the "i".

It was here at Hall i' th' Wood that Samuel Crompton invented the Spinning Mule that was used in countless Lancashire cotton mills. It allowed cotton thread to be produced in a quantity unheard of at the time. Large mill mules would have 1320 spindles and a mill might contain 60 such machines, each tended by just one man and two boys.

Large versions of the photos: photo 1, photo 2

Saturday, 10 March 2012

2012 Reading Part Two

Another eight books gone...

We'll start with this one, the second of Anthony Riches' Empire series. Our hero - on the run from enemies in Rome - is incognito (a type of Roman tent) north of Hadrian's Wall and inducts a troupe of Syrian archers into his Century (the 1st AD). Those pesky Picts manage to whittle their numbers down proving it'll never get better if you pict it. Good story, but I can never remember all those Roman names!

Next one is a fast moving undercover cop tale from Stephen Leather. His Dan Sheppard character is one tough cookie and this is the third of the books I've read, though the second in the series.

I read all of J K Rowling's excellent Harry Potter series as they came out and now having seen all the films, have decided to read them again. Well a couple of series were coming to an end...!

One of Dad's sci-fi collection, this tells the tale of a humanoid robot that was built to take on characteristics of alien species in order to understand them and then return to Earth to report. Something goes wrong and it cannot release the characteristics so on returning to Earth with two samples it keeps changing from one to another - hence "The Werewolf Principle". Bazzin' - as I would have enthused some 40 years ago...

Meanwhile, the seventh of the Tarzan series from Edgar Rice Burroughs is a flashback to the days before he met any other humans from a "White British" ethnic background. Still living in the jungle with the apes, he laments his hideous pointy nose and hairless skin whilst having love pangs for a gorgeous hairy flat-nosed she-ape... ooh-er... Unlike other Tarzan novels, this is a collection of short stories.

I'm currently midway through writing a commissioned book on Blackpool for publication towards the end of the year and this provided a map that answered a question for me. Kathleen Eyre wrote this in 1961 and it was subsequently updated and remains a fascinating read. Keep tuned for more news of my own efforts...

The fifth (and to-date final) Matthew Shardlake thriller from C J Sansum this has our Tudor lawyer hero heading to Portsmouth at the behest of Queen Catherine Parr, dodging the King and his chief lawyer, Shardlake's nemesis, Richard Rich in a tale of exploitation and murder during which Shardlake finds himself on board the warship, Mary Rose - said to be somewhat overloaded with men in armour and with a French fleet about to give battle. I love this series! Write another quickly CJ!

I find myself wanting to sing the title followed by the words "...in the sunset..." but there is little of the dreamily romantic in this short story of Robert E Howard's barbarian hero Conan, save a short interlude with the voluptuous heroine and pirate Valeria, up above the treeline hiding from a jungle dragon... Soon enough our sword-wielding pair are in a familar maze of passages fighting familiar hordes of monsters, magicians and gigantic serpents!

This part two came round fairly quickly, but then again, many of the books were a lot shorter than modern books. How many books I read tends to have quite a bit to do with how many train journeys and hotel rooms I come across, so I think the next couple of months might see another few books devoured!

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Zoo Rhyme

The zebra are watching with interest
Cloaked in their black and white stripes

The parrots are excited and chatting
"I think there'll be trouble, oh cripes!"

The camels are watching but placid
Too much excitement can make their humps sag

And the cause of all this kerfuffle?
The lion's missus is having a nag...

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Lighting Up Blackpool

I've reached the last quarter of 1983 in my scanning now. The famous Illuminations start every year on the Friday following August Bank Holiday Monday and end on the first Sunday in November.

One September night saw me down on the Promenade by the Pleasure Beach. A highlight of the Illuminations was always seeing illuminated trams going up and down the Promenade. There were more of them on the tracks in those days than there are now.

The Hovertram in 1983 carried advertisements for Oystons Estate Agents, but was far better known for its previous sponsor and still referred to as the "Shell" hovertram. It is seen here passing the amusements arcade by the northern entrance to the Pleasure Beach.

For several years during the 1980s lasers were used to create startling rods of light that swung across the sky from the piers and the Tower top. They were green in colour and could be seen quite spectacularly from the approach to Blackpool along the M55 motorway if you were driving in at night.

The Pleasure Beach Casino building has never been a casino. It was a name carried over from the building's predecessor, which likewise was more about restaurants and bars than gambling. The art deco circular building housed the White Tower Restaurant and for a while a grotto-style ride through which you travelled in a large suspended seat.

Balloon tram 708 stops to let passengers disembark. From the background you could be forgiven for thinking that this was taken along the Bispham cliffs, but at this time there were still a limited number of large tableaux on the Promenade south of the Pleasure Beach.

Large versions of the photos: hovertram, lasers, casino, balloon tram

Friday, 2 March 2012

Whalley Abbey Church

August 1983 again. This time we are in Whalley, this being the same day as our visit to Hodder bridge, seen in the article from a few days ago.

Whalley's abbey has an impressive gathehouse, said to be one of the most haunted buildings in England. The rest of the abbey is not in quite as good condition...

It was a Cistercian Abbey, dating from the 14th century.

In 1537 it was closed as part of Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries. The last Abbot, John Paslew, was executed for High Treason, due to his activities in the Pilgrimage of Grace when the North of England rose up against the King's (or more properly Thomas Cromwell's) reforms.

In addition the Northerners were angry at the way Queen Catherine of Aragon had been set aside and whilst few may have mourned the beheading of Queen Anne Boleyn on trumped up charges, the exectution of his second queen did Henry no favours with his northern subjects.

The lands of the Abbey were eventually bought back by the Diocese of Manchester in 1923, passing to the Diocese of Blackburn in 1926 and there is now a centre for religious education there.

The parish church of Whalley is St Mary and All Saints. Extremely old, dating back to Saxon days, there are a couple of ancient cross shafts in the churchyard - we'll have a look at those in a later article.

Also interesting is the great octagonal font, which bears the marks left by a lock fitted in the 16th century in order, so it is said, to prevent witches from stealing the Holy Water.

Large versions of the photos: gatehouse, abbey site, church, font

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Knaresborough Pencil Sketch

I don't know why I don't do more of these. This is a sketch I did with coloured pencils at home in 1993 from a photograph taken ten years earlier.

It shows people enjoying the River Nidd at Knaresborough in Yorkshire, just down from the famous bridge in the background.

Normally sketching is just something I do on holiday. But it's a bit more personal than a photograph somehow.

A large version can be viewed at my Flickr account.

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