Wednesday, 30 May 2007

June's Music at

The online Sounds Special feature at has changed a couple of days early this month as the site administrator is taking a well-earned break!

Our track for June is from our 2003 "Kites" album and is an updated version of Del Shannon's "Runaway". Expect a touch of fuzz from my guitar! No more fuzz than usual from David's voice though...!

The web site commemorates 1960s British pop idol, Billy Fury. Every month the site features the work of artists from both the UK and further afield in its "Sounds Special" feature. Fans of Billy Fury will also find lots of original sound and video files available to download as well as a thriving community of fans and enthusiasts of all ages.

Many thanks to the good people at for continuing to allow us to contribute!

Talk of Holidays

Talk from the "Ladies over the Water" today was about holidays. The "Ladies over the Water" are Marlene, whose visit ten years ago en route from South Africa to Canada kicked all this off; Evy, who helped provide Marlene with info on Canada at that time and who has since paid dearly by being confused by us; and Amanda, an old chum of Marlene's who now resides in America.

Marlene started things off by saying she had booked a holiday with Sandie Gotours - an honest mistake for anyone to make - what she really said was she had booked a tour to San Diego...

Amanda is getting ready for a trip to Mexico and said, "I thought to myself, in one month we will be on vacation, great was my disappointment when I realized, I will actually be home – back from my vacation - how depressing"

How can you be depressed at the thought of being back home before you actually set off???

"No, I’m depressed because I will be back from vacation"

Yes but... Whoa! If there's one thing I've learned in ten years of regular sparring with the Ladies over the Water, it's that I won't win...!

Anyway I thought I'd better start limbering up the old bod ready for the hols and a few exercises turned my already rather trim figure (stop that laughing!) into this! Alex, eat your heart out, mate!

Monday, 28 May 2007

Photographing the Ladies

Ooh, an email flooded in from an old mate today, Billy, who asked, "Remember all those photos you used to take of gorgeous girls at the Photo Society?"

No, absolutely not, Bill... Ah that's going back a while. I was President of Blackpool & The Fylde Photographic Society in 1987 or 1988, not sure now! It sadly closed during the 1990s I think - hopefully nothing to do with the fact that I'd been a past president!

There were some real characters, and I particularly remember the studio nights where we had a model or two. I got press ganged into finding some of these but honestly folks, none of them were ever students at a college where I've worked! Important fact related to staying in employment! - although I have to admit it has been many years since I did any serious portraiture.

Staff of colleges were a different thing though! So there's a few colleagues in the photo above! Linda (top left) and Bridgette (bottom left) came from Preston College, Carolyn (top right) came from Blackpool College, Christine (top centre) was the daughter of a work colleague from my Cash & Carry days, Fiona (bottom right) was a fellow student when I was on a course and Donna (bottom centre) was a member of the photographic society.

There were a few members who turned into gibbering wrecks almost as soon as they were confronted by a pretty girl and a few girls who responded by immediately getting very nervous! There were some who almost every photo came out a cracker and others who I can't look at now without cringing! My lips are sealed! But of course the ones featured could never look bad! There's only Carolyn that I've seen in the recent past, I hope they are all as lovely! Ok Chuck? Not going to sue or anything...? :-)

Cheers Bill, good to hear from you - no you can't have larger copies...!

Saturday, 26 May 2007

The Preacher Man

David and Jeannie are round at ours for a meal and brought a load of photos up with them of various Creeping Bentgrass gigs and also this superb pic of David in costume for Seven Brides For Seven Brothers. (See the entry for 29 April)

Anyway, Gill - this is the outfit he's wearing for your wedding, providing that he's been able to catch up with and despatch Count Dracula of course...

Friday, 25 May 2007

My Course - Final Day

Ah, Home, Sweet Home!

I'm back in Blackpool now with the memories of that final 3-hour exam behind me! It's a toughie and no mistake, but after sitting it I'm now feeling what can best be summed up by one of my classmates' phrases - I'm "stupidly optimistic"!

I have to remain that for 8-12 weeks before I get my results though!

I've never before spent a full week in London and seen so little of it - apart from last night where we had been told to relax, every night consisted of leaving the course, buying a sandwich, taking it back to the hotel and studying after checking work emails and occasionally updating this blog.

I've overdosed on AirCon - 10 minutes fresh air a day just doesn't add up to enough really! Has it been enjoyable? Well in what could seem a masochistic way, yes it has. Such an intensive course generates strong comradeship in any group and we've all swapped email addresses and went for a pint together after the exam.

The train was absolutely packed coming back - a Friday before a Bank Holiday I suppose it's only to be expected. Passed through a storm too at one point although both London and Blackpool seem to have reserved some sunshine for me!

Ah... long weekend... sleep... music... family... sleep... sleep... slee-e-e...... zzzzzzz

Thursday, 24 May 2007

My Course - 4th Day

Day Four, water ran out on 2nd night. Last night Carruthers left the tent saying he'd only be gone for a few minutes. He made a hell of a racket and eventually we went out to drag him back in...

Ok, fiction over, what follows is almost the truth of it! Phew this is not an easy course - even for someone like me who has been running Project Management workshops for 4 years! That means I've got 4 years of "other terminology and methodology" in my head of course, so have had to ditch that for the week.

This morning as I expected I passed the Foundation Exam with plenty of marks to spare. I was feeling very wary of the Practitioner Exam which is tomorrow but the tutor gave some excellent exam strategies and tips this afternoon so that I'm now ready for them to wheel on the question paper! (Well I am now - tomorrow morning may be a different thing!)

We were told not to do too much cramming tonight but to have a rest and relax. I've been out for the first time this week. Every day so far has been leave hotel, walk 5 minutes to course venue, leave at 5:30, walk back, study, rush out for meal (or have taken a sandwich back) and then more study until falling into bed. Heavy going!

Tonight I walked down to Trafalgar Square and was aghast to find it crowded with people sitting on grass!!! It is extremely warm and humid in London tonight, I walked down to the river and then past the Eye to the Golden Jubilee Bridge and back up to Bloomsbury by the back streets. I was a dripping mess by the time I got back to the hotel! (Cuts an attractive mind picture eh, ladies?)

Am back to my usual cool sophisticated self now though! Where's that exam? Let's get it over with, then let's hit the train for home!

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

My Course - Second Day

Well I have to admit there's a bit of a culture shock for a 50 something year old to find he has 2-3 hours studying to do every night on top of a very full day's course. It's full too - I can't do it in 2 hours and it's been 3-3.5 for me the last two nights. That means I get up, go to the course, come out, study, go to eat very quickly, come back and study, go to bed.

The Prince2 Course is not for the faint hearted. Thursday has a Foundation Exam - signs are that I will walk that but I'm not going to get complacent about it!

Friday morning is a 3-hour open book exam but with a lot to do so knowing where everything is in the book is paramount. Last night's exercise showed that I would pass that - just, which for day 2 I suppose is about right and I need to apply myself to make sure the next day and a half (after Thursday's exam) is used to full effect.

Interesting to see the similarities and differences between the JISC infoNet approach and Prince2. I had to set my head to a different mindset for this week and forget what I already know so that I will give the correct references for everything!

Ding Ding - Round 3...

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

My Course - First Day Report

Oh... my... God...!

Train of Disasters

Well, Fran and Gill got home ok on Sunday night but only just.

The train from Liverpool St Station - the Stansted Express - had to stop because of overhead problems at Cheshunt and they were told it wouldn't go any further. Ten carriages full of folk needing to get to the airport to catch flights. Some had already missed their check-in times by the time they were told it would go no further and most jumped off at the tiny station to form an impossibly long queue at a taxi rank that probably sees no more than two taxis at any one time. (The good folks at Cheshunt will forgive my ignorance if that assumption is a bit wild?)

The point being though that train companies show a complete and utter disregard for any passengers when this sort of thing happens. "It's not our problem", "It's not our fault", the best you can hope for is "You can claim your train fare back..."

Do they not have Risk Management at train companies I wonder? Presumably they do as far as health and safety goes, but they never seem to know what to do when a train breaks down or has to stop where it is for any length of time.

In mainline carriages where no windows open and you are totally reliant on the air conditioning that has gone off the guards still insist they cannot open doors even when it is so hot that smoke is coming from passengers' skin! "We'll sue you if you break that window" is the normal response.

Anyway, as the two ladies were getting somewhat worried and the time for their check-in to close loomed ever closer the decision was made that the train could, after all, carry on to Stansted. By which time Fran said there were not many more than two dozen passengers left on it. I wonder how many hundreds missed their flights?

Come on train companies - you should at least carry the phone numbers of all coach firms along your route, even if you leave it to passengers to pay for their coach trip.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Sunday in London

Well I got to London on time - Virgin Trains actually got in a little early although it was a long journey compared to the more usual weekday one! We went via Coventry and all round the houses it seemed.

Met up with Fran and Gill on Trafalgar Square where they were resting their feet and getting splashed by the spray from the fountain every time the wind blew their way. They didn't have a great deal of time with me as they have to get over to Stansted for their flight back. Why oh why are Ryanair stopping their Blackpool/Stansted flights? Doesn't seem to make sense, every time I've been on them they have been very nearly full and over the past few years I've used them quite a bit!

When you consider the cost of train fares if you have to book close to the date of travelling, being able to get a flight and then be in London by 10:00am was brilliant! Even considering the train to and from Stansted-Liverpool St station, it was still less than half the price of Virgin's fare.

We had a trundle up Regent Street and into the big HMV on Oxford Street where I was delighted to find at last a DVD of "Prehistoric Women", a Hammer film starring the lovely Martine Beswick as a queen of a tribe of women stumbled upon by Michael Latimer. I've met Martine several times over the last few years, she was a Miss Jamaica, a stunning beauty in the 1960s (and not at all hard on the eyes now!) who starred in several of Hammer's films and a couple of Bond films; "From Russia With Love" as a fighting gypsy girl and "Thunderball" as one of Bond's doomed helpers! Anyway, I've never watched this film before so I will enjoy that once I get home again!

A relaxing night in store I think - chance to finish my book, the 10th in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. And yes... I did bring No.11 with me!

Off to London

As I said yesterday, I'm off to London this morning for this course. Fran and Gill (wife and daughter) are already there as they had a girly day yesterday going round the shops no doubt - slight pause for quick worry about bank status - and we'll meet up once I get there before they come back tonight.

I hadn't realised how long trains take on a Sunday - they must stop far more often so it will be almost a 6 hour journey down, yuk!

Yes I did manage to get the reading done - well, given that I thought I'd get another 3 hours on the train what I mean is I will get the reading done and have marked myself against the tests after every section and am doing ok!

The photo was taken on the last visit on 12 May and is of the Inland Revenue building, part of Somerset House.

The statues are of Tax Inspectors - the two statues on the right of the balcony hold the scrolls proclaiming your worth (to them). Two of the statues hold tridents - an ancient sign of the Devil's work!

One figure holds his spear downwards ready to prod the unfortunate prostrated taxpayer, another holds his tally stick aloft, counting your resources. Meanwhile two tax dodgers are riding hell for leather towards the Precipice of Evasion...

Saturday, 19 May 2007

A Flower for Jackie!

3:00pm. Warning: this may be incomprehensible unless you have read the previous entry...

So have I got lots of reading done, ready for my course? Uh, well some...

The garage had part of the wing mirror but when unpacked it appeared to be missing a vital ingredient - the mirror bit... We agreed it may be better to keep with the cracked mirror for the moment. It works up to a point - I keep thinking a Picasso is driving up behind me...

Then into Blackpool to pick up the mysterious package - Blackpool has free carparks on Saturday mornings but I of course drive into one that has to be paid for... Not to worry, park the car and trot down to the post office full of anticipation to see what's in store - package contains a Gillette Fusion shaving razor and is addressed to Fran... I never knew - she must normally manage quite a smooth shave, I haven't noticed any stubble problem...

Then off to my Mum's to take her on the tour of markets and Tesco's. Stomach was rumbling as I had skipped breakfast in my haste to read the Prince2 manual. Luckily Tesco's had some free samples of pork and apple sausage - very nice! Mum caught up with me outside after I was ejected for eating too many bits... But they were getting cold - I did you a favour!!! Mum said she'd never been so embarrassed so I reminder her of 17 June 1983, 5 Sept 1991 and 21 May 2000. I mean, she still does those things but she's given over getting embarrassed about it now...

Got an email from Jackie who said (rather ungraciously, I thought) "By the way if that's what you call an apology I think I'd rather have abject grovel"

Which brings me back to the subject - a flower for Jackie, delivered on my knees over several yards of cinders (abject gravel, geddit? Geddit???)... Honestly dear readers, it would bring tears to your eyes to see the state of my legs - but we won't go into that! She's fighting back now - got her own blog...

Playing Catch-Up...

Agh! - I dreamed I was falling asleep whilst reading my required pre-course manual for a week long course with a [gulp!] three-hour exam at the end! At my time of life (8:05am on a Saturday morning) I thought I'd done with all that!

Have just taken wifey and daughter to the airport - they are having a weekend in London to celebrate Gill's forthcoming nuptuals (she's getting married too). I'm following them tomorrow as I'm there for the week on this course. We figured the cats might like some food over the weekend though.

A few follow-ups from previous entries.

After the entry about Ingrid's new film, I had a friend request from film director Mark Redfield at my MySpace Account which was very nice of him! Look after Ingrid for me Mark and don't believe everything she says about me!

I was contacted by someone who had attended the Change Management session at Gregynog in Wales, looking for more of the same in-house for their college.

I was contacted by my old mucka, Jackie, after the gig at Witton Park, Blackburn. She claimed I'd sent her to Croxteth Park, Liverpool - and had the cheek to send me a copy of my email proving it... oh... er... sorry about that Jackie... good job it wasn't raining then! Oh... it was in Liverpool...? well... ah... and what? You'd brought along lots of things for me to look at...? I gave myself 99 lashes with a rusty chain - she very kindly agreed that 100 was too much... "forgiven not forgotten" is what she said... The Croxteth Park gig is on Sunday 15 July - come and see a man berated... if she's dried out enough to come...

Ok - I'm off - the local garage have booked me in to have my broken wing mirror fixed, the postman tried to deliver a parcel the other day but we weren't in so that needs picking up (no idea what it may be either?!?) and must whiz my mother around the market and Tesco before getting back to the rivetting manual for this course!

Thursday, 17 May 2007

A New Friend

It's always nice to make new friends and receive email and I've had the good fortune to be contacted today by "William". I'll add William's email in red and add my comments along the way...

Hi there lovely,
Well "Hi there" to you too, you little charmer!
This kind of opportunity comes ones in aa life.
"ones" presumably means "once" and "aa" - are we talking battery sizes here? (for the benefit of folks across the Atlantic a battery = a cell and an AA battery is the size you would put in a portable CD player) (remember those?)

I don't want to miss it. Do you?
Certainly not - I'm all for getting as much life from my batteries as I can!

I am coming to your place in a few dacys
oh, I love those little French cars! Why do you need more than one though? Do you come as a kit? Pull yourself together!
and I though may be we can meet each other. If you don't mind I can send youb may picbture. I am a girl. Ybou can correspond with me using my email

Well, William, it's all starting to come to pieces at this point and whilst not wishing to appear picky or ungrateful and I certainly don't wish to criticise but I think you may find it useful to fish out that bit of chewing gum from the side of the "b" key on your keyboard... Now William, I need a little more information at this point because when you say "I am a girl", does that mean that operation? I know they can do wonderful things these days - a quick snip here... a quick snip there... and Bob's your auntie, but there's a little niggle making me wonder whether you are really all that you are making yourself out to be...?

Welsh Sojourn

I'm just back from a two-day trip to Wales, land of unpronounceable place names and bestest hospitality!

Clive and I were joined by Marianne from JISC infoNet at Gregynog, a hall owned by the University of Wales and used as a base for the JISC Regional Support Centre for Wales's annual conference. JISC RSCs have a new remit which has more of a strategic content and manager, Peter Scott, had invited us to deliver the Change Management workshop and EduChallenge simulation over the entire second day, with an initial input at the end of the first day.

Apart from one instance of misunderstanding the language - I said "Who has a lawn?" and my Lancashire accent caused them to think I'd asked "Who has a loan?"... Probably not the most politically correct question to have asked and of course it was a while before I understood what they hadn't - if you see what I mean...

Anyway, this was the largest group we had ever run the simulation with and it went down well, once delegates got over the usual first hour frustrations and started to make some headway. Feedback was excellent anyway and lots of folk told us how much they had got out of it.

I was glad of the SatNav getting there and the mobile phone refused to work at all, although it was rumoured there was a "hotspot" if you stood next to the third rhododendron from the left whilst holding your right leg aloft!

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Risk Management Workshop

Clive and I have been in Nottingham again today, delivering a Risk Management Workshop for JISC infoNet.

Based on the Risk Management infoKit, the day introduces delegates to a methodology for identifying and assessing risks in order to make better-informed decisions.

Feedback gave us 37 out of a possible 40 "Excellent" ratings with a few ad hoc comments:

"Both presenters friendly and knowledgeable"
"Broadened my perception of what is involved"
"Engaging and very informative"

New Film for Ingrid Pitt?

The American horror magazine Fangoria has announced a new film planned for Ingrid Pitt which would team her with Count Yorga's Robert Quarry. Count Yorga and our own Countess Dracula - now that's a horror team-up!

The film is a new version of Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart and is due to film in Baltimore and Los Angeles in July under the direction of Mark Redfield who will also star in the film.

The Fangoria article is available online in full.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Creeping Bentgrass at Witton Park

Well the weather forecast was anything but good, but in the event it was quite kind to us!

We took up our usual spot in one of the outbuildings around the courtyard at Witton and were soon joined by an enthusiastic crowd of people as we went through a country set, then folk and Irish before moving onto a few 1960s numbers.

Lunchtime came and it was still fine and most of the crowd stayed put whilst we took a break and came back to let Bob play his mandolin to John's keyboard to get everyone tapping their feet to "Bluebell Polka".

We went back to do a few more country hits then started on the 1960s with the bit between our teeth. "The Young Ones" (our signature tune for obvious reasons!) then "Halfway to Paradise", "I'm a Believer", "The Wonder of You" (gives the audience a chance to go "Whoa-oh-oh-ohhh!"), "Please Please Me", "When You Walk In The Room" and onwards through the afternoon to "The Wanderer", "Johnny B Goode", "That'll Be The Day" before finishing with "The Night Has 1000 Eyes".

Fran and Jeannie were kept busy giving out cards and seling the odd CD although Jeannie found time to wrap a couple of snakes around her neck, perhaps getting a little mixed up? No dear - it was a "feather boa" you were after!

If you were there, then thanks for the support - the rain caught up with us later on in the afternoon but it wasn't going to deter the hardy folk who were sitting listening to us and umbrellas came out, hoods went up and feet kept tapping!

Thanks also to the organisers, to Blackburn Council and Myerscough College, who were instrumental (sorry about the pun!) in getting us there and who were showing some of the animals and other resources used by them in their courses that are held at Witton.

Our next public appearance is another Myerscough Open Day on Sunday 3 June from 10:30 to around 4:00pm, this time at their main campus at Myerscough Hall, St Michael's Road, Bilsborrow, just north of Preston.

Saturday, 12 May 2007

London Workshop

Yesterday Clive and I were in London to deliver the third of JISC infoNet's Project Management Workshops for JISC Development Projects.

We were at Brettenham House on Lancaster Place - a short skip to Waterloo Bridge from which I took this photo during a lunchtime sniff of fresh air.

Brettenham House houses some office space for the JISC Executive and also the JISC Meeting Rooms in which we held the workshop.

The workshop seemed to go down well, the comments on feedback forms included:

Organisation of Workshop Content
"Good Use of the day to take this overview"

Tailoring of Session to Audience
"Both facilitators excelled at this"

Presentation Style
"Style was excellent - informal and interactive but also very informative"
"An authorative yet entertaining double act!"

"Very lively and a good opportunity for peer sharing of knowledge or expertise"
"Fun and engaging"
"Well-timed and very valuable"

If you work in Higher or Further Education in the UK and would like more details of this or other workshops by JISC infoNet then contact us directly, or contact your local JISC Regional Support Centre (RSC).

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

On This Day...

I thought it might be fun to look back to see what photos I'd taken over the years on this date: 9 May.

There's absolutely none would you believe!!! But had I done this yesterday then I'd have come up with the following...

8 May 1977 - the christening of our daughter, Gillian, who later this year is getting married. Of all the family shown only Fran, Gill, myself, and Mum are still with us.

8 May 1982 - ITV were filming their series "Airline" with Roy Marsden, using Blackpool Airport and the Dakota aircraft of Atlantic Airlines.

8 May 2005 - Fran was doing the Blackpool 10k Fun Run with colleagues from Sainsburys.

So... 9 May - not a big news day in the Burke household!

Fossil Hunting

I can't quite remember how this cropped up, but I'd left my desk to make a brew and one of the girls in the office mentioned Dorset.

"Where's that?" came a puzzled question. So after a bit of arm waving which in my mind I fondly imagined to be a fair attempt at drawing the south west coast in the air a light switched on... "Lyme Regis!" she exclaimed "There's a dinosaur museum there!"

So I started to describe finding some fossils just lying about on the beach way back in 1993, but it was far easier to post a photo here tonight and show her later! This is a photo of my Dad with a particularly spectacular set of fossilised gruntodon nostrils. Unfortunately they are broken in half - must have been a heck of a sneeze...

Monday, 7 May 2007

A Taste for Windmills

After scanning the photos of windmills in Norfolk yesterday, I thought we'd have a bit of a windmill tour today.

In the photograph is one of the Fylde's most famous windmills, Lytham's mill next to the old lifeboat house on the fabulous green sward that so characterises Lytham's coastline.

It was a clear day too, Lytham is at the mouth of the River Ribble which has its source in the Yorkshire Dales, passing Selside and Settle before crossing the border into Lancashire. It then passes through the witchlands of Pendle and past the castle at Clitheroe. It remembers the Roman bath house and cavalry fort at Ribchester and maybe knows the true story of the Grey Lady of Salmesbury Hall, before remembering great docks at Preston.

I stood for a while admiring the large rusting anchor in front of the lifeboat house with the rooftops of Southport clearly visible on the far side of the river. Back in the car, we motored through Warton. Now more known for its British Aerospace test flights, it had at one time an early windmill. It was a post mill - a structure built purely of wood, a design in use long before the brick-built tower mills that still exist in the Fylde. This mill had been brought over the Ribble as it used to stand at Tarleton.

When I visited the site in the early 1980s all that remained was the central post and a couple of mill stones to tell what it was. Now there has been some more development and the spot where it stood has been tarmacked over to form a car park. The only clue to the one-time existence of the windmill is the name of the road - Mill Lane.

Sunday, 6 May 2007

Can you Identify this Windmill?

How many times does this happen? You go somewhere on holiday and visit a place but you have nothing to write down the name of where you are and when you get home you cannot remember!

This is either a windmill or a wind-driven drainage pump on the Norfolk Broads about half and hour to an hour out of Great Yarmouth. Can anyone identify it for me? If you can give me any information on this building please leave a comment either against this blog post or against the photograph at Flickr. The photographs were taken in 1995.

The Flickr site no longer exists, but grateful thanks to Andrew Dunn who left a comment on the photo at Flick - it's the Berney Arms Windmill on the River Yare.

Saturday, 5 May 2007

Scanning Old Photos

Several years ago I bought a film scanner to be able to scan all my old slides or transparencies.

Once I started I found that I could get much better scans of the black and whites and colour negatives than I achieved by scanning 6"x4" photos so started to work my way through them. An almost never ending job as I have at least 30,000 negatives!

Every time I think I'll just choose the best ones I always realise afterwards there was another one I missed out that I want to see so I started scanning them all. It will take years of course as I could spend all my spare time doing nothing else.

The sad bit is that as I got into digital photos early on there's a gap in the 1990s where I stopped taking photos on film but the quality of digital wasn't up to having full-screen sized shots. Nothing I can do about that now!

The one featured was taken on my Canon EOS 500 in 1995 and shows the then new "Big One" (then known as the "Pepsi Max Big One" - sponsorship and greed don't make for snappy names or titles!) and the 1904 Hiram Maxim Flying Machine.

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

More Online Music

I've got a solo instrumental track available for download this month at

The web site commemorates 1960s British pop idol, Billy Fury. Every month the site features the work of artists from both the UK and further afield in its "Sounds Special" feature. Fans of Billy Fury will also find lots of original sound and video files available to download as well as a thriving community of fans and enthusiasts of all ages.

The photograph was taken especially for the site and is my first attempt at "cloning" or putting a photograph together from a number of other photos.