Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Sailing into Gorleston

A quick one for the ship enthusiasts out there. This is Gorleston, East Anglia. It stands facing east, a little south of Great Yarmouth and it's the place where the River Yare enters the sea.

The river heads south from Great Yarmouth and does a right angle turn at Gorleston to enter the sea. The docks extend for quite some way from just before the bend and Great Yarmouth has its own docks of course before the Yare turns inland and breaks up into tributaries and becomes part of the Broads.

I was there by chance as one of the service vessels for either gas/oil rigs or wind farms appeared on the horizon, obviously heading for harbour.

Sure enough it turned in and is seen here coming down the short stretch from the sea before the river turns.

I don't have a great deal to say to add any sense of commentary or description of the ship. A quick online search tells me that her last logged position was off the Yorkshire coast so I imagine she supplies the North Sea rigs.

She did enliven what was an otherwise quite dull afternoon in Gorleston for me. Fran and my Mum who were with me were spending money on the slot machines in a amusements arcade but, as expected, it had no pinball machines and I don't have much interest in spending a fortune watching moving shelves push money into the arcade owner's pocket. Nor do I feel the urge to try to make a weak-armed crane pick up stuffed animals...

So I walked down here to the river, bracing myself against the cold wind and putting up with the chatter of a ship nut who when I admitted to coming from Blackpool (trying to shut him up talking about the traffic in and out of the port) turned out to be a tram nut too...

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

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Clown Time

A while since I featured any coin slot machines, so here's a short article around the theme of clowns.

In the amusement arcades of the 1950s and early 1960s most machines were still mechanical rather than powered by electricity. In any case "electrONic" was a word with an extra syllable and not yet in everyday use. It certainly did not mean the current meaning of the word, which now implies printed circuit boards. And that was probably because transistors were not in use until the mid sixties so complex electronics had to be performed with valves and wires and a chunky base unit.

There were lots of these in those 1950s arcades. Most people called them "Allwins", though that was a popular model of them. We called them "Flick-a-Balls" because that's what you did! They were an efficient way to lose money, though if you got the trick you could usually replicate it. A win got you your penny back and a free go.

Peppy the Clown (Sometimes "Pepe") was popular with children because at the time there were lots of puppet shows on children's TV. Cheaper to make than either cartoons or live action shows with expensive actors, the strings were painfully visible even on the small black and white TV screens of the day. This arcade machine played music and you could press any of four buttons which lifted his arms and legs. Wow, we knew how to have fun in those days...!

Moving out of the arcade to the stalls along the pier or on the Pleasure Beach, these were usually lined up side by side along the stall. Ping pong balls were put in the clown's mouth and dropped through the tube and into a numbered slot below which gave the score. Of course, the clown's head and therefore the tube would be moving all the time and ping pong balls bounce a lot! A variant had a goose's head instead of a clown and the cheapie version had no moving parts, but had a sloped perspex sheet down which you rolled the balls which bounced off a back plate before dropping to the lower level and then rolled back down towards you, landing in a numbered slot.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

The London Horse Drawn Tram

Looking back over the years at a few visits to Caister Castle in Norfolk.

This was taken in 1981. From somewhere the castle - they have a large motor museum - had acquired a London horse drawn tramcar. In fairly poor condition, it had been severely chopped about with the driver's platform removed along with the brakes and the entire top deck folded flat with a tarpaulin over it. It looked as though someone had saved it from disappearing altogether by using it as a shed...

Every bit of paint had worn away and the woodwork was in a state of distress. It needed a lot of work to restore it.

The next time I remember seeing it was ten years later in 1991. A superb restoration job had been done on it. The driver's platform, controls and staircase had been replaced and the top deck had been opened up. The woodwork had been restored and the whole given a brilliant paint job of red and cream with gold striping over the red.

A few weeks ago we were back in Norfolk and we visited the castle again. The motor museum has grown in size but I wanted to see the tram to see how it had fared after another twenty odd years had gone by.

It is now housed under shelter, which is good. It looks as though it could do with a tidy up - years spent out in the open never does anything to help the brightness of red paint whether on a tramcar, a motor car, or a house! It has to be expensive to try to maintain anything of this age in anything like good condition and Caister has a massive collection of cars, a Welsh mining locomotive and, let's not forget, a 15th century moated castle with a 100 foot tower that is still sturdy enough for visitors to climb.

After Dinner Entertainment

Last Saturday night we played at Lancaster Golf Club for a members' social evening. The food was excellent and there was lots of it. David and I don't eat much before playing but I couldn't resist a small helping from the buffet after the members had all been round it.

It put them in such a good mood they hit the dance floor almost immediately too and we had a great night. We think they did too!

Friday, 26 July 2013

Creeping Bentgrass Flyer for 23 August 2013

For the past couple of years we have been rained off our usual spot outdoors at the Garstang Arts & Music Festival, so this year the organisers are putting us indoors at the Wyrebank Banqueting Suite by the canal on the Friday night. It's a great venue that we have played several times before. There's a buffet included in the ticket price and there's a bar.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Book Scenes in the Northern Lakes

Saturday 15 June. We took half a day to drive up to the Lake District, intending to call in at Ambleside. However it was the day of the Great Northern Swim. Roads were choked and when we crawled into Ambleside all the car parking spaces were taken.

We carried on through and towards Grasmere where we stopped for a bite of lunch. But even there we only managed to park for an hour.

We set off to Keswick but I had an idea. In my book, King And King To Be, a couple of key scenes are set at Lake Bassenthwaite which can be found on the A66 just north west of Keswick. I've driven past it but never stopped to take any photos.

The A66 is a fast road and splits into a dual carriageway past the lake, but just past is a turning that leads to a parking spot by a path down a steep bank to the lake itself.

After you climb, step and slither down the slope you find a paved area skirting the lake. It makes little sense - why is it there? Why does it stop before it reaches the water? But actually, why does it need to make sense? In the book Bassenthwaite is the home of Vivien, the Lady of the Lake. This area has strong links to the King Arthur legend and Bassenthwaite does have a legend that Excalibur, the sword of Arthur, was thrown into it at his command and that a hand rose out of the water to catch it.

So is this line of stones the last remaining remnants of the path to Vivien's lake stronghold? No... my book is just a fantasy tale. ...isn't it?

We climbed back up the path to the car and drove back to Keswick, managing to park quite easily by the lake - this time, Derwent Water. This is where the dragon... but no... it's just a book!

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Creeping Bentgrass at Larbreck Hall 2013

Last night we played at Larbreck Hall Caravan Park. Since 2004 when my Dad died we've done an annual night here, donating our fee to cancer research.

For all of those years until this year Mum, who has a resident van on the site, has arranged things. Last year she announced it was her last one and the site owners, Roland and Edith Armistead took over. Not that she slowed down all that much - she was there running stalls, managing a guess the number of buttons in a jar and (OMG...) having her hair dyed orange to gain sponsorship.

Around 80 people packed into the barn to see us last night and they seemed to have a good time! Overall over £700 was raised for charity with Mum's contribution being a hefty" £220. Ah well... it'll grow out in a few weeks I suppose...

As always, the people from the site had done a great job on the stage dressing and we unveiled a new song on the night - the Everly Brothers' So Sad.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

2013 Reading Part 4

Another eight (nine and a bit actually though the rest will wait for next time!) books have been read. I've been in a few hotel rooms recently and some of these are older and therefore much shorter books anyway. Here we go...!

You may remember I'd got the entire Sherlock Holmes collection for free on the Kindle and this is the second one, where a betrayal in India has consequences that involve our super sleuth in a hunt for a murderer. Holmes gets his man... Watson gets the girl...

Wow!!! Long awaited, this is the final instalment of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time saga and in its entirety deals with one huge battle. Now that sounds a boring book, just one huge, stupendous battle, but somehow he and Brandon Sanderson who tidied up and edited Jordan's notes after his death, turning an intended single book into three books, managed to make this a gripping edge-of-your-seat yarn with the battle raging whilst the hero of the piece is locked in a personal struggle with Evil/Death/The Dark One all of his own. A worthy end to the series, I loved it.

It took a while to read the Robert Jordan book so I followed it with a book from the past. Sudden gets his guns out once more and involves himself in another range war in the American West at a time when men were men and women were glad of it...

I enjoyed this immensely too. Macro and Cato, our favourite Roman soldiers get involved in a political mess in Rome itself for a change, shoved into the Praetorian Guard under cover and under rewarded where they have to watch out for Emperor Claudius' back and save Rome from starvation. And in their free time...

As a youngster I read all of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan books, but never got round to the John Carter, Mars books. However, having watched the recent film I realised what I may have been missing and again - these are old books - downloaded the entire series for free. The first is the story from the film - almost... A belting read!

Back to Holmes and the most famous case of all. Escaped prisoners, servants with secrets, betrayed women, spectral hounds, Watson lusting after yet more women... By Jove, Holmes! Keep the man on a leash!!!

Cor, this was a bit weird - in a goodish way. A comic fantasy probably best describes it, the comedy being a bit hit and miss at times and the start of the book containing flashbacks with the same characters involved which got a bit confusing, but I stuck with it to the end. The main character, described in no uncertain terms as a bit of a swine who got much worse after he dies doesn't really er... live...(?) up to that... Enough genuinely funny moments to keep me at it though.

O.M.G.! Back to the 100% certain wow factor with this one, the second of Stieg Larsson's books about the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Here we learn much more of her back story and her partner from the first book, Michael Blomkvist makes a return along with a few other characters. Pounding storyline that never lets up and a wham bang ending that is making me itch to read the last book. (I'm being strong, it's not one of the one-and-a-bit books I've read since finishing it!)

Keep tuned, holiday season approaches and I have a new conservatory to plonk myself in and zombify myself in a good book! Part 5 coming to a blog near you...

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Last Night on the Thomson Dream

Friday 24 May 2013 was our last night on board the Thomson Dream cruise ship. We had had a week on the cruise which was called Highlights of the Mediterranean.

It was the night of the parade of the baked alaska in the restaurant. We've seen and enjoyed this bit of fun on a number of cruises but it was David and Jeannie's first experience of it.

The chef (he has the burns to prove it on his arm!) decided he should have his photo taken as well as the head waiters who carried the flaming meringue and cake-encased ice cream!

Our Head Waiter, Manny, brings his baked alaska for a closer look. Miss Jeannie is wondering just how close it's going to get...!

The Argo Lounge, where we spent some time every evening.

The largest lounge was the Medusa Lounge which had a stage for cabaret at the far end.

The party band, Strum Jam, a cheerful, fun band who played a string of medium and fast beat hits. I can't say I was keen on the colour of the Stratocaster guitar but... And someone seems to be missing...

Aha! She spies us from the side of the stage and comes out for a photo call and a hug for David and I! We'll come again...!

The bar staff are kept busy at all times and are not averse to tossing bottles in the air as cocktails get mixed together!

We head back to the Argo Lounge and the slightly more mellow classical sounds from the Boros Art Duo.

Cecille brings another round of cocktails and we are settled for a while, to listen to the music and talk over the events of the week, which by now have all appeared on the blog!

Large versions of the photos: my photos (but not David's) can be found in this set at Flickr.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Last Day of the Cruise in Barcelona

Friday 24 May 2013. Last night had been a doozy! As we left Villefranche we ran into the storm that we had tried to avoid by not going farther west to St Raphael. It reached Storm Force 11 and there was a fair bit of up and downing going on, combined with a lot of rocking forward and backwards and side to side for good measure.

We felt the effects but didn't see much as all doors to external decks were locked and going out was not allowed on account of it being a bit suicidal...

We woke the next morning to calm and peace and Barcelona. A few passengers were hobbling about with ankles in plaster...

We were in Barcelona and yet again were just going off on our own to fend for ourselves. We hailed a taxi and had him take us up the hill to Parc Guell, the famous park designed by the artist, Gaudi.

Every direction you look has a pleasing aspect to it, but first task is to climb those steps!

Gaudi had no liking for straight lines! His designs are sinuous curves and lots of colour from fragments of tiles juxtaposed to form a riot of colour and, almost as a bonus, plenty of seating!

Once you have climbed to the large plateau formed partly on top of pillars and partly by the hill itself, there is an excellent view over the city of Barcelona, all the way to the Mediterranean Sea on the horizon.

From the side you can see a different view of the seating shown earlier and the "plateau" from where I took the photo overlooking the city. Clever stuff!

And as we come down the series of steps again we pause this time to admire the sculptures, including the most famous one of the komodo dragon, colours picked out in mosaic and surrounded by school children, who I think were enjoying being on so many people's photographs!

We reach the gates and ignore the row of taxis waiting for a fare to take down the hill. Having looked at the map, the other place we wanted to see - Gaudi's cathedral, La Sagrada Familia - is a downhill walk which should be easy enough. And so it proves to be, if a trifle warm going!

By the time we are getting near the cathedral we are all ready for a drink and stop at a pavement cafe, the owner of which turns out to be a fellow Brit. He warns us against pickpockets in the area around the cathedral but fails to warn of the dangers of sucking in and swallowing the blossom that is falling from the trees lining the road. Fran consequently has a choking fit and, having finished her drink, swipes some of my beer... This not stopping the coughing she goes in to ask for a drink of water, not appreciating the thoughtfulness of the bar owner who insists on running the water for a while to ensure it is cold. [cough] "Just [cough] give me the [cough] glass!" she splutters.

And as if that weren't enough, there's another bit of drama at the next corner as we hear a bang and then see that someone has been knocked off a scooter by a car. Luckily there were no injuries and we hurriedly finished our drinks and got out of there before the third thing could happen...

And just a few yards on from round the corner we came to Barcelona's famous cathedral. It is still a work in progress which makes it all the more interesting as every time we see it there are new things to see. Barcelona is a brilliant place for lovers of architecture and ornate street furniture and I loved this street lamp in the photo above right that stands on a junction facing the cathedral.

Some of the stunning detail on the face of the cathedral - no squared off blocks of stone for Gaudi. Each side of the cathedral presents a different aspect, different styles of carving, little splashes of colour here and there. The distinctive round spires are due to be dwarfed by a central tower and work seems to have started on that since we were there last.

It's getting towards afternoon. We cross by a park and find somewhere to eat some lunch before having a look in a few souvenir shops and adding to the collections of fridge magnets (we need a bigger fridge...) and other essential items. I stay out of the shop - I'm a bit of the proverbial bull in china shops... But it gave me a chance to snap these glass figurines of flamenco dancers in the window.

So we had a look at the map and decided it was just a bit too far in the now considerable heat of the day and also after our long walk of the morning. We agreed a price with a taxi driver and headed back towards the port area and the Thomson Dream.

From the deck of the ship we had a great view of Barcelona, but we ignored it and consigned ourselves to wallowing in the sunshine with a good book and a glass of something. Soon it would be time to prepare ourselves for our final evening aboard. This book is really heavy you know... [yawn] I think I'll just put it down for a moment and..... zzzzzzzzzzzz....

Large versions of the photos: my photos (but not David's) can be found in this set at Flickr.

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