Sunday, 29 April 2007

7 Brides, 7 Brothers and a Preacher...

Last night we had the most excellent night out. We went to the Spring offering from GLOG - the Garstang Light Opera Group - who were staging "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers".

Band member David Lancaster is a member of GLOG and was playing the part of the Preacher. As usual he put in a fine comedic turn with lots of face pulling and a few ad libs here and there. There were some fine performances from Marion Gaughan as Milly and Roger Lloyd Jones as Adam and I must especially mention some of the younger members of GLOG who turned in blinding performances as the brides and brothers.

The more experienced of the cast being chastened to realise the script would have needed rewriting a touch as "Seven Widows for Seven Divorcees" perhaps? No matter! I always remember the excellent line from "42nd Street" which goes something like "Son, I've been playing juveniles on Broadway for 15 years and no one is going to tell me..."

As it was the last night for the show the cast traditionally have a last night after the show party, the last few of which Fran and I have been privileged to attend. I travel too much to be able to attend rehearsals to be a member, but the band play GLOG's fund raising evenings and I've sort of been adopted as a sort of associate member! In order that both David and Jeannie (who works behind the scenes) can enjoy the night I've always driven on these occasions.

Last night the party was held in the Church Inn, giving David the chance backstage to adopt his Preacher persona and announce "Everyone to the Church!". GLOG Chairman, Peter Cooney and I took along accoustic guitars and after the hotpot supper we gathered the cast of the show around us for a couple of hours of sing-a-long fun to the music of the Everly Brothers, Dylan and did I somehow launch them into Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody???"

Friday, 27 April 2007

Wear is This?

No, my speling hasnn't gon on the blinck - this is the River Wear at Sunderland. Or just outside Sunderland anyway. This was taken last night just after I arrived in Sunderland ready for running a Change Management workshop with Clive today for JISC's RSC Northern.

I normally have a look to make sure I know where the venue is if it's somewhere I haven't been before and this was the view from over the road, so it was worth rummaging in the boot and taking the camera out. Makes walking very uncomfortable anyway...

The photograph shows the cliffs alongside the Wear at Wessington, just outside Sunderland. Clive lives in Sunderland anyway and said he used to climb them as a lad - must have been mad! He did tell me the name of them but it's gone!

The workshop went well, in fact we got almost a perfect score from the feedback forms. Thanks to the delegates - we thought you were pretty good too!


I went a bit mad on Wednesday night and went for a walk to pick Fran (wife) up from work instead of driving there. Took the camera with me just in case and was glad I did as the sun was starting to disappear and the colours were quite vivid.

Normally I don't expend this much effort once the evening stodge is working its way down the digestive system but I've been zooming around the country for work as previous entries will show and therefore was feeling perhaps a little guilty about being a lazy bugger...

It's my mate Alex's fault probably anyway - he keeps telling me he's off to the gym 6 nights a week trying to get in shape. I think if I was that energetic I'd be in shape but too knackered to enjoy it!

The traipse up to Sainsbury's and back is enough for me. Fran decided she was starving and we had to pass the chippy anyway... Perhaps I'll drive next time...

Wednesday, 25 April 2007


Whilst at Durham at the event described below, I was asked for directions to Lancaster by a long-time colleague from Oaklands College. I started thinking of directions but it made more sense to say "Well, if you like I can show you..." as I was going to get a train back to Blackpool. Richard readily agreed to drop me off at the station at Lancaster where I would do the last hop to Preston and then to Blackpool.

"Have you a lot of luggage?" he asked. It seemed a bit mysterious until I saw his car... The luggage went in just and I got in...just... and we headed off for the A1 in one of the most fun cars I've been in for a long time! I've not sat 6 inches off the road surface since my brother Frank had an MGA - well... he's still got an MGA but it must be 30 years since it moved of its own accord!

Thanks Richard for the lift - he brought me all the way home in the end for which I punished him by making him listen to a track from the band... And at no time did we break the World Land Speed Record...!

Photograph from

Learning Spaces

Yesterday I was at New College Durham at a joint LSC / JISC infoNet / CEL event: Leading a New College Build.

New College Durham have completed a project which included replacing their old campus with a brand new one on the same site whilst remaining open to students, a project that caused a few challenges but which has come to an excellent conclusion.

The day included a tour of the New College campus (including the music recording studios that made my mouth water!) and the design and layout is stunning.

Not designed merely to be attractive to look at, the college took stock of how it expected learning and teaching to develop over the lifetime of the new buildings. Things are moving so fast currently, especially within the ever-developing world of new technology, that this is an almost impossible task but the design incorporated lots of innovative ideas and technologies.

Learning is much more interactive than it used to be. Whilst yesterday's students were used to lecturing staff imparting knowledge, today's students want a say in how they learn. They discuss things in groups much more and a lot of learning comes from more informal social interaction than it used to. Colleges are now incorporating lots of social spaces into their design, with comfortable seating and a mix (once seen as risky in the extreme) of refreshment outlets and IT equipment!

The staff at Durham were extremely open and honest about the challenges of their building project and the delegates of college estates and facilities directors and other senior managers were enthusiastic about what they had seen and heard.

My own organisation, JISC infoNet has a large resource for colleges and universities involved with Planning and Designing Technology-Rich Learning Spaces backed up by our core resources or infoKits on such things as Project Management, Risk Management Change Management and more.

Photograph by kind permission of New College Durham.

Saturday, 21 April 2007

Nostalgia Day

It does you good every now and then to reflect back on where you came from and what led you to where you are now.

Not that I'm a great one for digging into the family past but my maternal grandfather had a go at tracing his family tree once in an unsuccessful bid to find a claim to a fortune that is held forever waiting for a member of the Metcalfe family to prove their right when the relevant records disappeared in a church fire long before records were collected and held centrally. So all you Metcalfes, don't get too excited now ok???

He did find out that one of our ancestors fought at Agincourt. In the battle of 1415 I mean, not some football match scrum outside the gates of the local ground...

Frank Metcalfe, Grandad, passed on several years ago but one of the things that came to light was this photograph of him as a two year old in 1910, with his father who was also Frank, his grandfather Charlie and the old head of the family, whose name I don't know but he must be my great-great-great-grandfather! If you hanker after the old days, have a click of the link for "Nostalgia" below. That should bring back a few memories of the 1950-70s!

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Ingrid Pitt's Newsletter

Ingrid's Spring Newsletter has just dropped through the letterbox today.

It has some news of a few events coming up - seems some Americans are coming over for a tour of our haunted mansions and manors sometime in September and want to fete our heroine! Hopefully not a fete worse than death... indeed not as they are dedicating their final night party to Ingrid! Ingrid's managed to get the ok for fan club members to attend! You'll need to ask her about it though, not me.

November's Fright Night event in Sheffield looks like being a two day night this year with a fancy dress parade, a dinner and a dealers' room.

Ingrid gives the horror story about her recent change of computer and there's an article about Memorabilia written by moi. She also mentions introducing me to Hazel O'Connor so we could "natter about music". She says "I think John enjoyed it." Yes he did actually!

Sunday, 15 April 2007

Cleveleys Promenade Works

After having been to see Blackpool's sea defence and Promenade widening works yesterday, today I thought we'd go and have a look at what they are doing at Cleveleys, just up the coast.

It's a somewhat similar story, although they haven't widened the Promenade all that much. They have certainly added a few feet of height though, the Promenade walk is now several feet above the road surface and requires a safety wall which has waterproof gates at the points at which you can descend to the roadway.

The kiddie's funfair at the end of Victoria Road West has gone and the ground level raised almost to the top of the wall that used to act as a backdrop. Whether rising tides and sea levels are to do with global warming or not, someone is taking the risk seriously!

It reminded me that the new tram track at Blackpool's South Shore where I took yesterday's photographs has been raised up a foot or so. Will the level of the new Promenade, when finished, be higher than before at Blackpool?

Saturday, 14 April 2007

Blackpool's New Promenade

It's turned unexpectedly sunny in Blackpool, so I dragged myself away from the computer and clipped the pedometer to my belt and forced myself to clock up my 10,000 steps for the day along the Promenade.

At the moment the Promenade is being widened as part of the general upgrade of the sea defences. You can't help but be impressed with the scale of the project. But given that Blackpool's Promenade was perhaps the greatest slab of concrete in the country already and had been getting less and less crowded over the past few years, did it need to be made any bigger?

It's what will be put on it that will make or break it. The kiosks on the Promenade near the town centre were only allowed to sell "quality products" - i.e. the sort of things that people went into town to buy, not to a kiosk on the Prom. I have to say that the walk along the Promenade from south shore didn't raise my hopes too much. I'd had to go all that way down to the Solarium past the Pleasure Beach and then turn off the Prom to park for free - the dreaded pay and display machines are almost everywhere now. They don't give change, they don't accept paper money, they don't accept credit cards and you have to decide on parking how long you will stay. There's no refund if your kids upchuck on the Pleasure Beach and you have to go home early!

I walked past some of the new sculptures. Not sure what they are supposed to be but it's probably art so I don't need to know and the fact that I even ask marks me down as someone who "doesn't understand". Anyway the huge slabs with the hole in and the huge metal studs has now gone rusty - sorry... it's acquired a patina. Parents make sure your kids don't brush against it or the patina will have the skin off their legs...

Then I walked past the large scale model of Thunderbird 3. Kids of all ages used to see the bright red spaceship and immediately recognise it. Great fun! However someone in dire need of a lobotomy decided it would be a good idea to paint it with Picasso's "Guernica". A great improvement don't you think? No... neither do I... Mixing two design classics together doesn't always lead to an improvement - cross a chicken with a waitress and you will not get a hen that can lay tables...

Then on reaching the South Pier (I was walking north) I saw that the widening and refurbishing of the Promenade had started. I couldn't help but be impressed with the scale of the project to improve the sea defences and widen the Promenade. Work on the Promenade from the South Pier northwards to the North Pier will take until 2012.

The amount of land being reclaimed from the sea (it covers the beach entirely twice a day) is staggering. There will be land stretching fully one third of the way down the pier!

Admittedly, at the moment it looks a bit of a mess and I suspect will look a mess at one part or other of the Promenade until the work finishes in 2012 (fingers crossed!) It's ambitious certainly. Let's hope I can rave about it in five years time rather than rant about it!

Return to Blackpool Promenade and Beach Index Page

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Article Writing for Ingrid Pitt

The past couple of nights have been a bit frantic - I got my daily email from actress Ingrid Pitt's Yahoo Group to find she was expecting 500 words from me for her fanclub newsletter about her appearance at the Spring Memorabilia Show at the NEC over the weekend of 31 Mar/1 Apr. (See previous entry)

"Did you not get my email?" she asked. Er... no... but anyway 500 words isn't a lot so I started jotting a few bits down. Quite a few bits down actually... 500 words isn't a lot at all - I had to cut some of my best jokes out!

Anyway the article got sent off last night and I breathed a sigh of relief until this morning when at breakfast another email came in:

"Sorry John, can't open your attachment. Can you send it in the email. Thanks Ingrid"

Well that was easy enough - open Word file and copy and paste into a fresh email. Then noticed a further email. This was the one asking for the article. Tone (Ingrid's husband) had sent it on the 2nd but it had arrived on the 10th... Well that'll teach them to buy Apple Mac heh heh!

It went on: "The connection between Ingrid and Hazel is lost in the mists of time. Ingrid was at her wedding. Can't remember the religion but fruit, particularly bananas, played a significant part." Huh??? "Funniest memory of Hazel was going to a posh premiere in the West End. Went to get some drinks and when I came back Ingrid and Hazel were sitting on the stairs eating sandwiches from a lunch box Hazel had brought while all around people were quaffing champagne and nibbling nibbles..." Yep, that sounds like Ingrid!

Tonight was an email from Ingrid asking for photos of me with Hazel and Toyah - sent off in record time as I'm currently waiting for the other two members of the band to turn up for a rehearsal - blimey, when did we start having those? Oh sorry, it's half a rehearsal and half another recording session for the album!

Oh... and no, I can't let you see the article here as the fan club members have first priority!

Links to all three ladies so I don't get accused of favouritism! Names are in order of how long I've known you!

Ingrid Pitt's Pitt of Horror
Toyah Willcox's Web Site
Hazel O'Connor's Web Site

Monday, 9 April 2007

Blackpool Zoo

Well I'm not sure where all the promised sunshine and warm weather went to but it wasn't Blackpool this weekend!

We decided we were going to get some fresh air today though and ended up visiting the zoo. It's quite a while since I went there and it's changed a fair bit - there's a large area full of dinosaurs now - though rather more static than the Jurassic Park films!

I dug the telephoto lens out of the camera bag and managed the odd photo despite the grey weather.

Sunday, 8 April 2007

Tidy Up for Easter!

How do we amass such a load of stuff???

I sometimes think I have some sort of unknown magnetism so that junk of all sorts is irresistably drawn to me and just collects around me.

It's Easter so I decided to do a bit of tidying in the box room. This (believe it or not) is the "after" state of affairs. Those who know me will testify to the truth of the statement because you can actually see carpet here! And bearing in mind that the black plastic bag is full of rubbish to be thrown out there's even more floor space in the offing!

Normally tidying up is the sort of activity where I demolish piles of stuff, look at the individual bits fondly, thinking "I haven't seen this for ages!" and then stack them up again in a different corner (should there be a space in a different corner...)

There's no truth in the rumour that the stepladders were bought so I could stack junk higher...

In fact we did have a sort out a while ago with the view to doing a few car boots or indoor sales. This led to even more junk coming out of the attic and being sorted into the plastic tubs ready for selling. This did however fill the box room a bit more! But once we get rid of it...

Some of the band gear is evident - white low-powered PA which we use for private parties in houses, keyboard and guitars, a bubble machine and blue bottle of bubble fluid (which we don't use for private house parties), white carrier bag to the left containing spare leads and microphones...

Then some computer "junk" - old knackered PC on the floor which needs getting rid of, blank CDs, external disk drive and a laptop CD Rom drive.

Other bits just need courage and an empty bin bag - why do I still have cases holding audio cassettes??? And all those huge books of the Christmas and birthday present variety... go go go! Ok, I'm off - they are going! Thanks for the courage!

Friday, 6 April 2007

Tram Photos at Flickr

I've uploaded a few more tram photos to my Flickr site. (no longer active)

I know that the Blackpool trams generate quite a lot of interest on my Blackpool website (sadly also no longer active, though most content is now included on this blog) and many of you have asked for larger versions of the photos to be made available.

All the photos at my Flickr site are 800x600 unless they are portrait oriented in which case they are 600 pixels high and as wide as the format allows.

The tram pictured is the oldest electric street tram in the world - Blackpool had the very first electric street tramway in 1885 and this is the only one of the original fleet still in existence. It is running on battery power because Blackpool originally had a conduit system instead of overhead lines. Power was picked up by a third slot running between the rails. However the problems with sand from the beach being blown into it led to the installation of the overhead system which is still in operation today.

Thursday, 5 April 2007

The Band featured on

After having one of my own music tracks featured on last month, this month sees the band's cover of Billy's hit "Somebody Else's Girl" available to download in full.

Creeping Bentgrass recorded this track especially for the Billy Fury website as the track we were aiming to upload, "Last Night Was Made For Love" was covered by another artiste last month.

Anyone who is a fan of Billy Fury, or of 60s music in general can find a host of resources at the website and a series of forums with a great bunch of people waiting to welcome you!

Sunday, 1 April 2007

April Memorabilia Show, 2007

Hazel O'Connor and Ingrid Pitt

Actress and singer, Hazel O'Connor (the film "Breaking Glass" gave her punk rock status and hits such as "Eighth Day" and "Will You") catches up with actress and writer Ingrid Pitt. Ingrid is best known for Hammer Horror roles in "The Vampire Lovers" and "Countess Dracula" but has an impressive string of movies including a debut in mainstream movies as the lovely Heidi in "Where Eagles Dare" starring Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood.

I met up with them at the Memorabilia Show, held this weekend at the NEC in Birmingham. I've been friends with Ingrid for ten years but it was the first time I've met Hazel, whose first Memorabilia appearance this was. I've always said I don't have favourite artistes, as every song has to stand on its own merits, but Hazel's "Will You" would be in my top ten of best ever musical recordings!

I also caught up again with Toyah Willcox and owe her a debt of thanks. Fran took a photo as we were talking and she said "Take it again - I probably look all gobby!" Anyway Toyah, you looked fine but I look like a complete prat in it... The second one has been added to the Celebrities set at my Flickr site (no longer available) along with others of Dr Who, Colin Baker, helper Deborah Watling, and me with Hazel and Ingrid. The first one will never see the light of day!

Ah, and thanks to Ingrid who enthusiastically told all these successful singing artistes that I was a "fabulous singer"... Yep - 35 years on now so it can't be long before I become an overnight success...

Trevor Payne's "That'll Be The Day"

Last night Fran and I went with David and Jeannie to see "That'll Be The Day", a rock and roll extravaganza of a show at the Blackpool Grand Theatre.

Incredibly this superb show has been running 21 years - and it's that long since I first saw it! Personnel have come and gone but there are still a core of the original cast and the new version of the show now heads all the way from 1956 into the 1990s.

It includes hits from every decade in between those dates and a hefty helping of comedy too - ah yes... and Andy Pandy is back!!! If it comes anywhere near you, don't miss it!