Wednesday, 29 August 2012

One Out Of Three Ain't Bad...

What a weekend we have just had!!! After the summer we have (not) had, I suppose we couldn't have expected anything else, particularly with England's ability to pour water from the sky on Bank Holidays anyway.

We should have played three gigs this weekend but only managed the one.

Saturday and Monday should have seen us at Garstang's Music and Arts Festival. But on Saturday morning as it came time to pack the gear into the car, the rain was just coming down like stair rods. The car in the corner of the cul-de-sac was up to its wheel trims in water as the drains refused to cope. A couple of streets away, the residents made the local paper, wading knee deep in the street. I called our contact in Garstang and we agreed to cancel for the day and keep fingers crossed for Monday.

It did no good. On Monday morning we watched the rain lashing down and the phone rang to cancel the gig.

At least our Sunday night gig went ahead. This was out at Over Wyre Football Club in Stalmine and was for a 70th birthday party. We were safely indoors. But the weather, perhaps somewhat infuriatingly, was gorgeous anyway!

This was a record event - we played 6 full hours! Oh... my fingers...!

From Riva to Torbole and Back

Sunday 19 August. Sunday morning and we set off to walk the 4km to Torbole.

This is the day for some wonderful Lake Garda scenery. Although we set out straight after breakfast the temperature was already in the mid to high 30s and climbing. The last 2km were gaspingly hot!

This is one of the most scenic walks to do. The Via Gardesana. From this little inlet you could hire boats and small yachts to go out on the lake. Tiny black fish were swimming in the water.

Now we come to the beaches. Pebble beaches but none the worse for that. This being a Sunday they were crowded. The north of Lake Garda is within easy reach of Munich and lots of Germans come down for the weekend either to laze on the beach and top up tans or to squeeze themselves into lycra and scare you to death by powering past on racing bikes, groups of ten or more all dressed exactly the same, determined looks on their faces, sparing neither man nor beast... Even if they are not exactly in a race they act as if they are and any lesser mortal who doesn't give way will soon be shy a limb or two!

I didn't take any photos of the beaches because I didn't want to be labelled as I labelled the several old guys who were wandering up and down past the bikinis and odd topless young damsel openly holding their i-phones in the air, videoing the female delights they passed. For Heaven's sake! Now I can appreciate the feminine form as much as anyone but this was a step too far methinks! However, nice to see that the Italian elderly have a grasp of technology...

And so we reach Torbole. Hot. In need of a drink. Wanting to sit somewhere in the shade. And this spot, overlooking Torbole's harbour with the delightful little building on the jetty affords us just that with a set of tables under a roof but open on the side to allow us the view.

We were sitting behind the arched windows seen on the right of this view. No matter what angle you choose that little building just looks perfect!

At the northern end of Lake Garda the mountains rise up on both sides and it's almost impossible not to point your camera here there and everywhere, snapping away.

What an expensive place this would have been twenty years ago when we all had to use film and then pay again to have it processed. I used to spend a fortune on film and "D+P" as we used to call developing and printing. I'd have bankrupted myself here!

We spend a little time in Torbole. Then walk down to the landing stage to catch the ferry back to Riva. It's only 4km. But that is just too far to repeat the walk in this heat!

Large versions of the photos can be found in this set at Flickr.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Malcesine, Lake Garda

Saturday 18 August 2012. Well we had a full post just about the ferry trip here so I'd better make this one as interesting as I can!

Luckily there is enough in Malcesine (say it Mal-chess-in-ay with the accent on the che bit) to look at and ponder over.

The ferry landing stage is next to a very small but quite busy harbour. A fairly large masted ship does one hour trips (under motor not under sail) and another firm hires speedboats by the hour. Not the English seaside town idea of speedboats either. They look the real thing! And are priced as such. The basic one will set you back fifty euros for an hour, but I expect that the posing value and a chance to thrash it about on the huge lake for an hour makes it better value than, say, a three-minute roller coaster ride.

Malcesine's castle is perhaps best seen from the lake itself, but that shouldn't put you off walking up the hill through the narrow streets to get there. The host on the airport shuttle who brought us from Verona Airport on Wednesday had told us the castle was the setting for an unbelievable number of weddings a year. I think he said 800!

One such was going on because a little blue golf buggy decked out in flowers and a bride and groom tootled past us as we walked up the narrow cobbled streets towards it.

Once you get there, there's probably going to be a queue for the tiny viewpoint under the castle overlooking the lake.

But it is so, so worth waiting to catch this beautiful viewpoint. Turning the other way to look up at the castle is not the best view of it so people tend not to stay here a long time, blocking your access.

A glimpse of one of the narrow streets. This one is at least on the level. Others seem to have been built more with mountain goats in mind, but perhaps I exaggerate a little here.

We came to a small piazza halfway up a hill with the bar cafe shown above right. We stopped for a drink and whilst we waited for it to come, the sketchpad came out and I spent 45 minutes capturing the essence of the piazza.

Our latte machiattos had long gone and a beer seemed a good idea after a while... I left the cobbles to do once I got home. They took at least half as long to draw in as the rest of the picture!

Fran disappeared into a jewellery shop to admire the Venetian glass and I got bored enough to start getting all arty-farty, photographing colours and textures. The shot of the shop front and the fruit by the way is not quite what it seems as this was a pottery shop and all the fruit... isn't fruit...!

And so back eventually to the harbour area and some lunch. Halfway through another wedding party came down and onto one of the boats for their photos to be taken, whooping and looking like they were having a good time.

In fact when we got back to Riva that night this same party had taken over the bulk of the dining area - they were staying at our hotel. Which meant we had to listen to the speeches... The father of the bride's speech was nowhere near as good as mine... Five years on and still some of Eddie's friends and family mention it to me... [blush]

Anyway, Rosie and Rich, (Rich?!? Could you not find anyone called 'Jim'?) have a good long and happy life together.

Meanwhile we are still in Malcesine despite that swift bit of future gazing. After dinner we decided to walk it off a bit rather than sit an hour and a half on a ferry so we walked south, finding more shops and a lakeside view missed by many visitors who tend to walk north from the harbour.

Large versions of the photos: there's quite a few there now in my Lake Garda 2012 set at Flickr!

Monday, 27 August 2012

Ferry to Malcesine

Saturday 18 August. We take the ferry down Lake Garda from Riva to Malcesine.

The nine o'clock ferry from Riva is the G. Zanardelli, a paddle steamer that is so beautiful it deserves - and will get - an entry all to itself in a day or two.

Meanwhile Fran stretches out as at this hour we do not have too many fellow travellers!

I always think that the view of Riva from Lake Garda is one of the most beautiful bits of scenery on Earth. Who could fail to fall in love with a view like that?

The nine o'clock ferry does not cross the lake to Torbole, but instead immediately heads southwards down the lake towards its first stop at Limone. This takes 40 minutes and the time is spent relaxing, drinking in the views and feeling the breeze in your face.

There's a set of dots floating in the sky in the distance and we wonder what they are until we get closer and can make them out properly.

They turn out to be the large canopies of kite surfers. These criss-cross the lake at a few points but these are whizzing to and fro in front of our path and seem almost suicidally eager to get as close to our bows as possible, like birds darting in front of your car down a country lane.

The Zanardelli may be an old ship, but there is nothing wrong with its hooter, which frightens us to death never mind the kite surfers!

And then the imposing cliffs of Limone. The first sight of Limone is of the terraces of stone with pillars rising as though to support a roof. These are lemon terraces. Limone does not grow all that many lemons now, but in the past these groves were filled with trees and produced some of the largest lemons you can imagine. Nothing like the small weedy things we get in England! They are like small rugby balls! You will find some on the markets and shop fronts in Limone.

The Zanardelli hooter blasts again briefly to let the shore staff know to leave the ticket office and stand by to receive the next group of tourists.

There's a sizeable crowd of people waiting to board, armed to the teeth with cameras, sun tan lotion, excited children and aged mothers. The Italians have far more aged mothers than aged fathers it would seem... They swarm onto the ferry, jostling for places against the rail where they can be photographed with Limone as the backdrop.

"Bella!" enthuses one daughter as she snaps for posterity a wrinkled 80-year-old, clad in a skirt matched (I say this loosely) with a bikini top that has a rather optimistic cup size. What used to be her breasts hang into it and curl back up in the bottom of the cups...

For the good of my health and the retention of my breakfast I try to concentrate on the lakeside scenery of Limone. There for instance is the bar cafe we sat in, in 2004 with my own mother, who would not be told not to flap away at a hovering wasp and when she did connect, she managed to knock it out of the sky and straight into her glass of wine...

Ah... we're off again!

The crossing (for Malcesine is on the eastern side of the lake) from Limone to our final destination takes a further 25 minutes. We are now on a quite crowded boat and there are people to watch - and avoid watching - and a new set of kite surfers to negotiate.

Malcesine has a castle set prominently on a huge jutting rock by the lakeside and this is what you look at to gauge how close you are. The Zanardelli will turn at this point and return to Riva so we sail past the landing stage and turn to come back to it.

The ramps clatter onto the side of the boat and we are herded off and onto the terra firma of Malcesine (say it "Mal-che-sin-ay" with the accent on the second syllable).

The first thing you have to do is to watch your ferry depart. The side paddles of the Zanardelli churn the water from blue to white and she pulls away from the landing stage, leaving you to the tender mercies of Malcesine for a few hours.

Large versions of the photos: all photos from this holiday can be found in this set at Flickr.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

The Grand Dolomites Tour

Friday 17 August 2012. The only organised excursion we decided to do was to the Dolomites.

So we stood at some early hour waiting for our coach to pick us up, watching as masses of people came to join us, then a coach would come and pick the bulk of them up and leave us waiting again. But our bus did come pretty much on time and we found ourselves in a mixed bag of Italians, Germans and English and luckily with a multi-lingual guide!

This was to be a full day tour and lasted around 11 hours. We spent a lot of it on the coach as could be expected, but once we got to the Dolomites the views and the time we got to wander around were well worth the day spent on the coach.

We started off with a coffee stop at a place called Moena. We were shown to the terrace of a hotel with some excellent views from the tables. They offered tea as well as coffee and I have to say it was a good cup of tea!

Our next stop was just a five minute photo stop and the guide apologised for the colour of the lake. I suspect it is normally the turquoise of melt water but the rain had brought a fair bit of mud down with it!

Anyway - that's long enough! Back onto the coach folks!

We drove for another long spell, passing through the Rose Garden, where the pink stone of the mountains combined with a sunset create a glorious colour. Of course we were still only approaching lunchtime so we missed out on that. But we passed through some lovely villages and saw lots of wooden statues and heard the story of the Dwarf King, Laurin, who stole away a beautful maid, Kunhild, to be his wife and kept her captive in his rose garden when she would not accept him.

We came to the road to the Pordoi mountain with 27 hairpin bends to negotiate before we came to the highest point the road reached.

Here we had lunch. We were on a table of six, with another English couple who it turned out were staying at the Hotel Centrale near our own hotel and two German girls, who unfortunately were a bit excluded from the conversation either by their lack of English or by design, I'm not sure. My own command of the German language allows me to buy food but not hold conversations, but I did confuse them once or twice with attempts to converse...

We now had free time either to look around the small village where we found ourselves, or to take the cable car to the top of the mountain. We had done that before, in 2003, so we decided to have a look round the shops and stay warm. It had been snowing at the top when we went up before!

There were a lot of bikers going up and down the road and one party included a matching pair of scarlet vintage bikes from the 1940s or 50s in glorious condition.

We bought the inevitable fridge magnet and went to have a look at the ski slopes. Near the chair lift we found an ice cream stall and I invested in an orange ice lolly - the first such I'd had in a good 25 years I suspect. I went all nostalgic as it melted over my hand, making my fingers sticky...

And then it was time to leave. The tour takes a large circle before rejoining the road back to Lake Garda and this afternoon we will have a stop at Ortisei, which is well worth a visit. Join us for a look around in the next entry!

Large versions of the photos: all the photos from this holiday will be available over the next few days in this set at Flickr

Friday, 24 August 2012

Night Time In Riva

Thursday 16 August 2012. The rain stopped after about an hour and it was so warm that ten or fifteen minutes later you couldn't tell it had rained at all.

We ate our evening meal in the hotel's open air dining area. They had a promenade restaurant with tables on the Promenade by the lake side and then a glass wall separated the space reserved for hotel guests. The space was open to the sky, but with large canvas blinds that could be drawn to shelter diners from rain if needs be.

We didn't rush the meal and so by the time we ventured out again it was almost fully dark. The temperature was still well into the 30s.

The photo shows the castle La Rocca from the north. I was standing on the edge of a piazza or square, set above the Promenade which comes behind La Rocca as the moat is connected to the lake. La Rocca is a museum these days and perhaps more welcoming than it may have been in days gone by.

On the edge of the piazza is a pond and a row of small foot-high fountains, lit from underneath. Very effective.

On the north west corner of the piazza is this fountain with a statue of a young naked girl or nymph, very reminiscent of Copenhagen's Little Mermaid. Or - as I've never been to Copenhagen - very reminiscent of what I think the Little Mermaid looks like... but with legs...

Via Lipella, leading off the piazza from behind the fountain of the naked girl. The streets are all much of a muchness in fact - warm, narrow, partially blocked by tables and chairs and people eating, lit as much by shop lights as street lights, made more dangerous by hurtling cyclists clad in matching lycra and with determined faces. As far as they are concerned, pedestrians and targets are pretty much the same thing...

But it is just wonderful. Had we not been on our feet all day we could have walked around for hours. As it was we walked a few streets and thought "Stuff it, I need a drink..." and we ended up at a gelateria called Cristallo, who gained a lot of our custom during the week! This is the same gelateria where we were when it rained in the last entry. If you go there, give them a try.

The main piazza and Via Concordia. There was always something to watch around it. Either there was a concert going on in the piazza itself or in front of one of the hotels and bars that surrounded it on three sides.

It had an old old clock tower that rang the hour and with a different bell rang the quarter, half, and three quarter hours. The bells echoed off the buildings so you always got a double strike!

Fey-like blue lights shot into the air and then floated down slowly. The latest fad. A small missile and a catapult with sails at one end that as it fell opened and spun round, slowing the descent. Presumably they had batteries for the light. Very beautiful and very hypnotising! Several nights I went to bed with a crick in my neck from watching them. Every night we turned down several eager sellers. They looked great when five or six rose into the air in quick succession. They would look a bit silly just the one being shot into the Blackpool sky by a near 60 year old... It didn't put the sellers off - they asked me every night and sometimes every half hour...

Our favourite warm drink by the way was a latte machiatto. Don't ask for a "latte" in Italy and expect to get what Costa Coffee would give you. Latte means milk - so that's what you would get... A latte machiatto is a weak latte coffee that was served slightly hotter than we remembered. The Italians always used to serve them just lukewarm - it's a warm country, they don't drink many hot drinks. But perhaps they have had so many complaints that they've shrugged and gone over to the way the crazy Brits want! Certainly we used to laugh at cafes when a voice in our own native tongue said indignantly "It's cold, this!!!"

Book Writing News

I've now seen and approved the proofs for the Blackpool book - Blackpool Then and Now

I see that Amazon have listed it with a discount for pre-orders too (use the above link) so what a bargain that makes it! The book is due for release at the beginning of 2013 and contains old postcard views from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, contrasted with my own photographs of modern day Blackpool taken as close as possible from the same spot.

The postcards have been put in a standard shade of sepia which compliments the colour of the photos of today.

This is not one of the photos from the book so you'll have to wait and buy it to see what is in it! [Chortles wickedly]

The postcard above shows the old Tower Menagerie, which I remember well as it still existed for the first few years of my life. This is the scene for Stanley Holloway's monologue Albert and the Lion where Wallace the lion gets an earful of a stick with an 'orse's head handle closely followed by a mouthful of Albert...

My novel, King And King To Be is still available for Kindle from Amazon and is selling steadily if not rushing out of the Kindle Store in droves. But early days yet... I've seen other books a lot further down the charts described (and not by the authors) as "doing well" so I'm happy every time I see it has sold a copy or every time someone else mentions it somewhere.

Without too many spoilers, it's a King Arthur story involving time travel, Merlin, elves and fairies and links back to as many national and local legends about King Arthur and the other legendary characters as I could work in! Oh and a dragon for good measure...

Buy it now and you'll be able to boast that you bought it before it became famous... Currently it has 3 reviews - all of which give it the full 5 stars.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

A Week at Lake Garda

We're back! Back from a week at the beautiful Lake Garda in northern Italy.

We stayed at Riva on the north eastern corner of the lake, in the Hotel Sole, right on the edge of the lake. Beautiful place and a very good hotel.

It was a very relaxing holiday - we only did one organised tour. But we did a couple of disorganised ones too... By which I mean we just took ourselves off on a ferry down the lake a few times. A holiday at Lake Garda doesn't need much organising beyond finding a hotel and booking in.

The ferries start at 8:00am and finish around 8:00pm or thereabouts. They don't operate after dark. At the northern end of the lake where we were, there are mountains all around. You won't get spectacular sunsets there because the sun doesn't set - it just goes behind the mountain and then it gets progressively darker.

We'll no doubt have a look at some of the things we got up to in the next few entries, but suffice it to say that I can gel completely with the culture of sitting in pavement cafes, sipping granitas (Slush Puppies) or something called Aperol Spritzers which was quite nice too. Or even just a limonata - a lemon soda.

And the ice creams... did I mention the ice creams...? This is a coppa fragole. Strawberries, vanilla and strawberry ice cream and fresh cream. Later in the week I took to dispensing with the fresh cream - it detracted from the taste in my view.

Anyway I mustn't rush ahead of myself. So to come - more slouching around the lakeside cafes (we did an awful lot of that...) and a look at the Dolomite mountains, some night views of Riva and trips to Limone and Malcesine by ferry. And we might take a closer look at one of the ferries - a beautiful 1902 paddle steamer called Zanardelli. It doesn't steam any more, but is still driven by its side paddles rather than a propellor.

Large versions of the photos: Give me chance - we've not been back 24 hours yet, but all the photos from the holiday will eventually be found in this set at Flickr.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Tourists For A Day

Yesterday we decided to be tourists for a day. We started off with breakfast with Gill and Grace and David and Jeannie in Quilligans and then whilst the ladies went shopping and D&J went off to do their own thing, I took myself off down to the North Pier.

It was a gorgeous day for being out and about and I decided to go onto the pier and take a few photos.

As you walk down the ramp onto the pier this Victorian Penny Arcade faces you at the bottom of the ramp. I love these places. They are bits of my childhood that I can relive and wallow in. When I was a boy and Mum and Dad took us to Blackpool, the arcades were still full of these wonderful machines, hardly any of which relied on electricity. They were all mechanical machines.

Most of the machines are a little later than Victorian, but many of them date from Edwardian times - 1901-1910.

Above, the Bryans Clock on the right is one such. A game of chance where winding the key after dropping your penny causes the big hand to spin. If it stops over a red line, you win. They hardly ever stopped over a red line of course...

The shooting gallery used tiny ball bearings to shoot at targets. They were fired by spring action, the spring contracted when you pulled the trigger until it was released as the trigger reached its full draw. Animal welfare would have a riot with these today - many of them had metal cats as the targets, which fell over backwards on a pivot when hit.

The North Pier never went in for the full scale amusements and darts and hoopla stalls along its length. It remained true to its original purpose - that of walking over the waves and resting in the sun. Just a few shop kiosks were to be found along its length and even those sold more refined goods. They no longer sell fur coats, but most are food related. Being on holiday obviously requires stoking up at regular intervals. Ok when I was a slim teenager - not so good now...

At the far end of the pier is a fairly modern 2-storey carousel. Of more interest is a smaller kiddies' roundabout with some far older items to sit on or in. I'd say they date from the 1940s or 50s. Western stagecoaches, rocket ships and train locomotives - engines as we used to call them.

I met up with Fran again and we took her shopping home. But given the weather which was showing no signs of reverting to the year's usual heavy showers, we decided almost immediately to go out and ride one of the new trams. They had started running in April and we had yet to set foot on one.

So we decided to play tourists for the day and got on a tram at Bispham, heading for Fleetwood.

I've described the trams in the previous entry, so I won't repeat that here. The people sat opposite smiled indulgently when I whispered to Fran "Ooh! We're on a tram!" in best excited schoolboy mode.

I gathered they were from London. They spent the entire journey moaning about how long it was taking. "We've been on this thing half an hour already!" he complained in a refined voice. She vented her spleen with a vicious (but refined) slap against the window, crushing a small fly with a satisfied grimace. I struggled to keep a straight face...

We arrived at Broadwater. "Oh, Broadwater," she exclaimed in a surprised tone, "It's lovely there!" Now I don't know which Broadwater she had in mind. I used to work in Broadwater, Fleetwood at the Nautical College in the mid 1980s and it's a nice place for certain, lots of houses and a couple of shops where the tram tracks cross the road, but "lovely"? A step too far methinks...

And so we reached the terminus at the Ferry. As we got off he stopped me and said "Where is Freeport?"

My surprise must have shown. "Freeport's out of town - you should have got off about four stops ago for there." The stop after Broadwater in fact...

"Can we not walk there?" he gasped. The tram conductor told him to get on a No.1 bus. We left them to it and bought ice creams from the large fish and chip restaurant nearby.

We wandered up the Promenade which is very pretty. The surface has a different coloured sinuous line like a river with tiny metallic fishes stuck to it that kiddies love to walk along and there are statues and memorials to fishermen who have been lost at sea over the years. There are a couple of lighthouses, one huge and one small.

We started to walk back and watched the ferry cross the River Wyre from Knott End. We stopped for a coffee at a pavement cafe, sitting outside, watching people and trams going by.

The latest female fashion for wearing tights under incredibly short shorts requires a restraint that wearers do not always possess. Like mini skirts in the 1960s and early 70s, the fashion only suits a minority. Unlike mini skirts, this particular fashion calls for a sense of gusset management, or perhaps selection, that, I have to say, causes several spectacular fails...

Ah well... mini skirts > leggings > tights with micro shorts. Times move on...

We had bought day tickets for the trams, this being cheaper than a single return trip. So to make the most of them we decided to ride the tram all the way to South Pier and went for tea to Pablo's Chippy on the Promenade.

The last time I was in there was probably when I was taken in by my parents with my brother some time in the 1960s. I remember distinctly that fish and chips with bread and butter and a cup of tea was two shillings and sixpence. Today it is six pounds and twenty five pence but you also get mushy peas and a choice of tea, coffee or a standard cup of fizzy mineral. You would have paid extra for the peas and alternative drinks in the 60s. 50 years on the price has increased 50 times. Which is probably about right. So with the extras this was darn good value. I don't recommend restaurants lightly.

It was clean, it was fast service and the food was excellent. As a bonus, the two blokes on the table behind Fran made it hilarious. Somewhat the worse for drink, one was trying to teach the other to speak French. So this is the conversation as it went. I swear I am not making this up...

"Bonjour..."
"John Bower"
"No - bonjour..."
"John Bower..."

Repeat ten times...

"Try again: bonjour"
"bun jower?"
"Now try: je m'appelle Martin"
"Je propel Martin..."
"No... je m'appelle..."
"My uncle used to say that to me. He's not with us now."
"Was he French?"
"No, he went to a better place"
"Oh dear... well you still remember him though?"
"Yes... he moved to Torquay..."

Large versions of the photos: north pier, penny arcade, shooting gallery, bryans clock, north pier kiosk, roundabout fire engine, tram at fleetwood, ferry, pablo's cafe, john and fran in pablo's

Riding Blackpool's Flexity2 Trams

Yesterday Miss Franny and I decided we were going to have a ride on one of the new Blackpool Trams, the Bombadier Flexity2.

The Flexity2 came into operation from April 2012 and has replaced the older trams for which Blackpool was so famous. Some of the older trams run as a heritage fleet, running from the Pleasure Beach to Bispham only with a round trip costing £5 per adult or with an option to pay £10 for a full day ticket. It operates on a 4-stop hop on-hop off basis.

But it's the Flexity2 that we are about today. Our first trip took us from Bispham to Fleetwood.

We were lucky to get a seat, it was fairly crowded, though this we were to find was the norm. The interior shot was taken looking forwards (though the trams are symmetrical - they look the same from either direction) and to explain the above sentence was taken later in the day after leaving the Starr Gate terminus.

We are sitting close to one of the flexible junctions between our section and the one in front. The Flexity2 has five such sections which severely restricts the number of seats. There were far fewer than I had expected.

There are two wheelchair stations included - one each in the second and fourth segments. The entry points for these are helpfully marked on the platforms. The new platforms mean that you walk onto the tram from the same level as the tram floor rather than having a step to climb.

In this shot the tram is turning quite steeply to the right (taken at Fleetwood Ferry loop). The flexibility of the trams is very smooth, with the flooring coping by having a circle from one segment fitted into a socket on the next segment. It means people standing are not affected unless they have one foot on the circle and the other in the next segment and even then one foot will move in relation to the other no more than six inches at the very most. Again although the tram has spare seats at this stage, this was after leaving the Fleetwood terminus.

But it is the standing aspect that I found the most disappointing. The trams run every 15 minutes. In the middle of August in Blackpool that is nowhere near enough. The effect is that unless you get on at one of the terminus stops - Starr Gate or Fleetwood Ferry - there is a very good chance that you will have to stand or may not even get on.

The number of people standing was ridiculous. It also meant that not only was it hard to get off when you reached your stop, but the poor conductors had one hell of a job. I suspect at times they were taking only a quarter of the potential fares through no fault of their own.

So no way should Blackpool Transport claim it would be uneconomical to run more trams - I reckon that even running them every 5 minutes they would still have been full yesterday and the conductors would have a chance to collect all fares due.

As it was, the trams were uncomfortable - even sitting down I was constantly prodded with whatever the person standing next to me was carrying. At every stop there were huge queues, some of whom were left behind, who then faced a further quarter hour wait. The old trams used to almost move in convoy. So should the new.

A case of design by someone who had never been to Blackpool and could not envisage the demand. To end on a positive note - whilst one or two adverts have started to appear on the sides of trams I'm glad to see that they have not been painted over the windows. The amount of complaints about that from riders of the old fleet were sky high.

Large versions of the photos: tram near pleasure beach, interior 1, tram at south shore, interior 2, two trams

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