Monday, 9 September 2013

Classic Car Rally at Fairhaven Lake

The other day Fran noticed an announcement in the local paper about a classic vehicle rally at Fairhaven Lake, Lytham St Annes. I love any chance to wallow in a bit of nostalgia, so we shrugged at the weather and ignored the threatening low clouds and made our way in my own somewhat less than vintage Mazda to find a large display of cars, motorbikes and dolls prams. I'll concentrate on the cars...

The lovely Ford MkII Zephyr was amongst the first to catch my eye. I have a strong liking for Zephyrs as my Dad had three MkIVs and both my Grandad and I had a MkIII at various times. The Mk II was one of the Three Graces of Consul (basic model), Zephyr (mid range) and Zodiac (executive model). The name Consul got dropped from the MkIII and MkIV ranges, being instead applied to the MkI Cortina and the stylish Ford Consul Classic, the first British car I remember having twin headlamps. The name then disappeared until the Zephyr and Zodiacs were replaced by the first Ford Granada, which had a Consul as the basic model.

Oh and these are just lovely! The second half of the 1940s saw the Bentley MkVI in production as the first luxury car of the post-war period. I've never had one sadly, though I have driven one on very rare occasions as I spent six months in the early 1970s working in a photographic studio that had one for wedding work. The gear lever sat in the door well on the driver's right side and the steering wheel included levers for advancing or retarding the carburettor timing and also an early form of cruise control. A real head turner. A real pocket emptier... the one at the studio only did 8 miles per gallon!

Late 1950s or early 60s Ford Anglia. This was the two-door version of the Ford Prefect. There were few other external differences between the two cars, the rear light cluster was the only way of telling them apart, other than counting the doors! One of the first Fords to have flashing indicators fitted. They were worked from the tiny wing-like thumb switch on top of the steering wheel hub, which you pushed to either side to confuse fellow drivers, who up until then had been used to drivers either sticking their arms out of the window or using the semaphore-like trafficators which popped up from the side of the car between the front and rear doors of most cars.

This is an interior view of a Standard. The company became part of the Triumph company but this late 1950s car is unusual for having no clutch. Despite the standard (sorry!) gear lever, it had a semi-automatic gear system. In common with all cars of the time, the headlight dip switch is a toggle foot switch high up on the left of the driver's foot well under the instrument display. To the left of the single dial is the heater control - a single knob moving from top (hot) to bottom (cold).

The Riley 1.5 touring saloon has a mascot depicting a skier which would definitely do damage to any unfortunate who might be hit and thrown over the bonnet... Lots of older cars had these mascots. You could even buy other designs to fit your car. Later, laws came out that any mascots fitted by manufacturers had to be safe from causing injury. Rolls Royce have a mechanism that causes their mascots to fall away, Mercedes ring mascots with the three spokes are sprung so they would fold flat (but are handy as a sighting device...) but mascots such as the famous leaping jaguar on... er... Jaguars, have just about died out altogether. However the legislation (Type Approval) seems to be now defunct and I've seen advice that owners can retrospectively fit mascots, but in so doing lay themselves open to legal action if the mascots subsequently cause injury. Don't take my word for it - if you fancy fitting a mascot, check out the current law!

A trio of Morris Minors. These sold in huge numbers and are a much-loved car even now. The forerunner of the Mini, the dashboard arrangement and interior trim is instantly familiar to anyone who had an early Mini, the single large dial for the speedometer, open shelving to the side of it, leather straps rather than solid handles to close the door. Though this open-topped example does have door handles on the inside rather than the early Mini's "bit of string". (They had a chord that hung over the side map pockets in the doors and the door was opened by grabbing and pulling the chord.) The second example is a Morris Minor Traveller - commonly used by company representatives, who as a body were called commercial travellers in the 1950s and 60s. The woodwork suggests the old shooting brakes of earlier decades and are part of the transformation of that type of car to the more modern estate car.

A Triumph Herald. I used to like these cars as they were uniquely shaped. The bonnet and wings are a single piece - opening the bonnet is a matter of swinging the entire front of the car upwards. It is hinged at the front, not the rear, so when it is raised, it forms a wall at the extreme front of the car and you can lean in over the wheels because the wings are not in the way. The suspension is such that when the car was jacked up the wheels didn't remain vertical but sort of droop...

The Vauxhall Victor F, made from 1957 replacing the chunkier Wyvern model with a car that leaned heavily on America for its styling, yet was designed in-house in Gt Britain. It had a 3-speed gearbox with steering column mounted gear lever and front bench seat. Compare the rake of the windscreen with more modern cars!

The Ford Cortina Club had a collection of mainly MkV Cortinas. There was one MkI, one MkII and a MkIV. Elsewhere amongst the cars was a MkIII. Dad had had a couple of MkIs and I had one of each of the MkIII, MkIV and MkV. My favourite had to be the MkIII of the early 1970s, a beautiful car.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

2013 Reading Part 6

It seems I am racing through the books at the moment. However by present day standards I've been reading some quite small books this time!

The Third Pig Detective Agency is such a case in point - a novella rather than a novel. This had some funny moments as the third pig - the one with the brick house, that is - takes on the Humphrey Bogart role in a book noir. Witches, dames and some tough spots for our hero to get his trotters dirty with... Brill name for an author too!

Enjoyed this! Matthew Bartholomew works at the fledgling university of Cambridge and finds himself embroiled in solving a number of deaths. At first he's wondering how many more will occur. Then the Black Death arrives... I really got into this, I bought it on the Kindle without knowing anything other than it was a historical murder mystery set in Cambridge University but I'll be looking to get the next in the series!

And I think that's the Kindle out of the way for the rest of this entry. This book and all the rest were read on good old fashioned paper... This is one of Dad's old Sci-Fi paperbacks and covers the story of a slave who ends up a millionaire on another world. I always enjoy Robert Heinlein's writing and during my holidays this summer we visited a number of antiques and collectables warehouses and second-hand book shops and I added a number of these to my collection.

I've been watching The Borgias on TV and thought it would be interesting to read the true story. This is one of two books I got out of the local library - as if I didn't have enough books overflowing my spare bedroom and taking up millions of bytes worth of space on my Kindle! You used to be able to take three books out on a library ticket. You can take fourteen out now - crumbs I don't read that fast! I did find this fascinating and as I expected the TV series contains quite a bit of rubbish to make a better story. The real story is compelling enough and certainly filled with lots of unsavoury goings on from Pope Alexander VI, his daughter Lucrezia and most of all his son Cesare. Perhaps the most gob smacking made up bit from the TV series was the death of Cardinal Della Rovere, who in real life becomes the next pope and brings about Cesare's downfall. It was also surprising, though quite uplifting to read that Lucrezia became a popular figure in her middle age, though she was certainly no angel!

This was the other book from the library. One of Tom Holt's magic tales in which a businessman builds an estate of homes and sells it several times, each in different dimensions. When all the dimensions start to collide pigs turn to humans, humans turn into chickens, the battling medieval knights find themselves looking round a dry cleaners, the magic ring becomes a pencil sharpener, the road out of the village enters the same village from the other end, the solicitor wins a darts match, and they all ponder the same question: which came first, the chicken or the egg...? Yes I know it sounds improbable - just read it, ok?

Yay! I finish the trilogy of Bernard Cornwell's books about the archer Thomas of Hookton and can now read the fourth in the trilogy (huh?) which is waiting on the Kindle. I might leave it a bit whilst I get through some more paperbacks... In this, only the battle that introduces the book and our old friend from earlier - the Black Death - are real historical events. The rest of the book is made up, very rare for Cornwell, who has to be one of my favourite authors. Luckily he writes a lot of books! Thomas is seeking the Holy Grail, which may or may not have been once in the keeping of his family who come from France. Thomas is at war with France, but has a penchant for falling in love with French women whilst bumping off a lot of French men. His women tend not to be all that lucky really - few of them survive to get dumped (as we say in the modern idiom). This is a cracking addition to the series so I'll just let the suspense grow for a bit before reading the fourth book (called simply 1356)

Good Heavens! I'd been rooting in the attic, trying to do some tidying up and to Fran's joy found a load of books to add to those overflowing from the spare bedroom. All my Sven Hassel war books were up there. Must be 30 years since I read them and I shall enjoy going through them again. This, the first of his autobiographical accounts, is generally reckoned to be likely to be the most true account of his exploits in a German Penal Battalion in the Second World War. The books are a bit relentlessly extreme in their descriptions of battle and cruelty - made a change this time round from the Famous Five...

But I did manage to sneak a childrens' book in this time. Regular readers may remember that way back in December 2011 I mentioned a book by John Robb about a trail scout called Catsfoot. Anyway, going through the second hand book stalls during my holidays I found another. I've no idea how many of these there are, they are quite short and Catsfoot, though a thoroughly decent chap with a lightning draw is incredibly keen to risk his life on behalf of others. Here he takes on the role of the entire Magnificent Seven single-handed. Well... dual-handed because he wears two guns... "Bazzin'"... as I might have said when I was eleven.

Are There Any More Variations?

Every time I think I must have hit the limit on this photograph, another variation comes to light...

I had two night time views based on this - the original daylight photograph of Blackpool, taken on what is now the Middle Walk, looking from the Gynn down towards the Tower. Then this week I received a message from Jim Exley who kindly offered and then sent me the following version - which I include second in the sequence as they from here get rapidly more subjected to the somewhat wild imagination of the postcard company's artist... Jim, thanks very much.

Surely there must be another with aeroplanes, trams and elephants careering along the path...? You know where to send them!

But taking a step backwards (in time) let's have a look at a couple of shots of the same area before those little pavilions got built.

This is one of my earliest shots of the Middle Walk, a bit closer to the Gynn as the path curves eastwards behind us up the slope to the Gynn itself. There are no railings as yet and definitely no lighting.

A little later and the lower level Promenade has been built and railings have been erected to stop people from nosediving down the cliff. Sloping paths lead down from the road level pavement. The pavilions were added when the roadway above was widened, driving the pavement over the cliff. In the top photo you'll see that the arcades are roofed with the pavement above them. Where the two sloping paths meet, pavilions were built all the way along Middle Walk.

Monday, 2 September 2013

An Elevated View of Blackpool

The last article had me up on top of Wilkinson's car park, taking photos of the Blackpool Gateway developments. I didn't just take photos of the new buildings though, so here are a few of the other views that I could see from a few storeys up!

This view looks from my vantage point over Dickson Road down along Queen Street towards the sea. The Grundy Art Gallery and Central Library are the imposing red brick building with the rather out of place blank white wall facing us. Queen Street itself then curves to the right before its junction with the Promenade Road, joining opposite the War Memorial which can be clearly seen breaking above the horizon.

Swivelling ninety degrees and looking from the rear of the car park, we are looking along High Street. Despite its name it is a back street of residential properties with one or two guest houses. On the horizon are the Savoy and Hilton hotels, showing how the seafront has curved from our previous photo.

Once again a ninety degree turn, we now have the sea at our back and are looking over the roof of the railway station (Blackpool North) along the snaking lines as the tracks from the various platforms merge into the lines going to and from Poulton-le-Fylde and onward to Preston where it meets the main West Coast Line. All trains from Blackpool stop at Preston without fail - the question I am most often asked when on a train from Blackpool! Bispham water tower is the prominent structure, sitting on top of Warbreck Hill on the horizon..

From the south west corner of the car park roof, a view down Talbot Road. In the foreground a new mini roundabout has replaced the traffic lights that used to be here. Talbot Road is west bound for cars only - buses and taxis are the only traffic allowed to come up east beyond Abingdon Street, though Dickson Road, which used to be one-way northwards is now a two-way route to this junction. At this point it ceases to be Dickson Road and the road heading left from Lloyds Pharmacy is Topping Street.

Looking towards the Tower, the large building in front just to its left shows the route of Deansgate and the side away from us is on Abingdon Street, which leads further into the main shopping area. Talbot Road can be regarded as the northern edge of the shopping centre, it's a street of modern frontages under more interesting and varied upper storeys. The road heads down to the Promenade and seafront, ending in Cocker Square with the Town Hall tower on the left and then the old Clifton Hotel, now a Travelodge.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Blackpool Gateway Progress

The last time I had a look at the Blackpool Gateway building work was way back in April. So I thought it was time for another look!

I'm up on top of Wilkinsons car park on Talbot Road. We're looking at Cookson Street, as it joins Talbot Road. New council offices are being built on the left, on the site of the Your Father's Moustache club and a couple of car parks. On the right is what used to be the bus station.

The old bus station hasn't been a bus station for quite a bit really. It was a dark, dangerous place to be where buses came in at one side, maneuvered to orientate them to the right place and left via a second exit. The stands were completely uncluttered by pavement, so would be passengers had to cross a large expanse of what was virtually an indoor road where queues often had to move to allow another bus into an adjoining space.

It had a number of years of use as a car park and the plans now are to turn the upper storeys into a multi-storey car park - it did have that function before... and introduce retail outlets on the ground floor.

A little further inland, a supermarket is being built on what used to be Seed Street car park and before that Blackpool's only WWII bomb site. It was hard to tell the difference...

Shifting the lens to telephoto, here is the Ramsden Arms hotel and beyond the tower blocks of Queen's Park, themselves scheduled to come down before too long. They are to be taken down a floor at a time, rather than dropped with explosives. Takes all the fun out of it from a spectator point of view...

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