Wednesday, 31 December 2008

The Family Album

I've not added many photos to the Flickr account over the last few days as I've been scanning mainly family type photos.

Such as this one which was taken on my daughter Gill's 18th birthday back in 1995. I've had the film scanner for ages but of course every time Windows decides to upgrade (to be more honest, it's every time I buy a new computer so around once every 5 years or so...) the thing stops working and I have to download new software and drivers.

These just keep getting better and better though and I see photos in a state of pristine sharpness and colour (though not unfortunately cleanliness) than I've ever seen them before.

This always leaves me in a kind of quandary of whether to carry on scanning stuff that I've never scanned, or should I go back and do all the cruddy stuff again?

This one is of a line dancing event at Thornton Windmill and Craft Village that Gill helped to organise as part of her HND course at Blackpool College in 1997.

The only problems with scanning slides and negatives is that they are:
  1. inevitably dusty and dirty, even having been kept in proper storage sheets

  2. hardly ever dated, leaving me wondering how old people look...

  3. time consuming! Editing out the worst of the dust spots in Paint Shop Pro is laborious and a hair on a negative leaves a huge white worm trailing over the photo!
It's worth doing however. It would certainly have helped if I (and my parents and grandparents before me) had written names and dates on the backs of their photos. Make sure you label yours. Or when you get a bit ancient you'll be wondering "Darn it... what was she called...?"

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Meccano Engineers

I watched the repeat of James May's Top Toys on BBC2 on Sunday and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Apart from the fact that he had come up with exactly the same design for a Lancaster bomber as my brother Frank and I used to make with Lego and had the cheek to claim it as his own, I have to agree with him that today's toys, including those still around from 40 years ago like Lego and Meccano, are absolute rubbish.

When we used to play with those building toys you had a pile of bits, either metal rods, bars, nuts and bolts, or square and rectangular bricks and then you used your imagination to build something.

These days Lego kits and Meccano kits all contain specially shaped pieces designed to build just the one particular model that is shown on the box. Since the 1980s we have been breeding generations who have never needed to use their imagination and, as a consequence, many people don't have one.

Whilst I was looking for the photos to accompany the last blog entry on Austria, I found these photos from a visit to a modelling exhibition in Fleetwood in 2000.

The chap who built that marvellous model of a steam engine in Meccano didn't do it from a set of instructions I'm sure.

And there was this ingenious device. Hardly a work of art in itself, but this complicated set-up of cogs, chains and pulleys was turning out works of art like the one shown below.

Rigged up to a turntable, the device had a pen holder in the shape of a drum with a hole in it that you could drop a ballpoint refill down and it then drew the pen back and forth whilst the turntable revolved slowly. The other bits and pieces varied the length of the stroke to come up with all the intricate geometric designs that later generations would create using Spirograph.

Many towns have a modelling society and many of them have an annual exhibition. They are well worth going to have a look at if you get the chance.

I'm sure I saw something in the paper the other day about another one in Fleetwood... What, Fran? Oh... I'm supposed to be tiling the kitchen...?

Königsee, Lake and Mountains

Monday 14 August 2000.

We were on a coach holiday with Leger and were touring the Austrian Tyrol. On this particular day we spent the morning in Bavaria in Berchtesgaden.

After lunch we got back to the coach and motored on for another while before coming to Königsee. We learned that the "see" part of the name meant "lake".

In the case of Königsee it was a crystal clear turquoise lake with tiny fish darting from underneath at any bread thrown to the ducks. We had been told there would be time for a boat ride across the lake and back before the coach left, but there was a huge queue and we decided instead to go up the Jannerbrau mountain by cable car.

The cars turned out to be quite effective ovens and we were boiling by the time we reached the top of the mountain 30 minutes after climbing into the small fibreglass pod!

There was some lovely scenery as we climed steadily upwards, but we were a little disappointed to find there was no clear view of the lake. We caught glimpses of the edge of it from time to time.

At the top there was a cafe and bar and we were able to cool down for a while before clambering back into our own personal sauna for the ride back down.

Once back on the coach we had to wait for a family of four, who had been assured by the joker in the boat ticket office that there would be plenty of time for them to take the boat trip and be back for the coach.

They had jumped ship at the very first stop and then persuaded 100 people to let them queue jump and still arrived back at the coach half an hour after the appointed time.

"But was it worth it?" one of the other passengers wanted to know.
"No!" he was assured, "we spent the whole time petrified the coach would go without us!"

Note: I have no larger versions of these photos, sorry! Here's another to make up for it...

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Christmas Gifts To Treasure For Always...

Loony pressies are something of a tradition at Castle Burke... Mind you... these are quite tasteful don't you think?

So what did you get? Take a photo and leave as a comment on the large version of this photo!

Large versions of the photos: (Why?!?) guitar glasses, tasteful socks

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Christmas Music

Happy Christmas everybody!

Three Christmas songs from the band for you to enjoy.

Good King Wencelas
A Winters Tale
I Believe In Father Christmas

Large version of the photo: Christmas store

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Christmas Performance

Yesterday we were invited to perform for a staff party and turned up early to set up whilst the party-goers were enjoying a festive meal.

We were provided with our very own buffet and what an excellent start to the session that was for us. The food was excellent and given that the kitchen staff were serving up a couple of hundred full Christmas dinners, was a tribute to them. Wonderful!

The staff came back from the meal and we started off with a new instrumental by Bob and myself; Foot Tapper. Then on came David and we played a few country songs, a couple of Irish charmers and then launched into the dancy numbers.

Lots of compliments, lots of dancing and even a couple of guest singers! Christmas has started - bring it on!

Large version of the photo: creeping bentgrass

Snow Memories

A couple of postcard images today. That means no large versions, sorry!

We don't get such extreme weather as we used to these days. Global warming and, more personally, living close to the coast where there's lots of salt in the air all seem to be having the effect of keeping snow at bay.

I remember as a lad regularly seeing snow above my head up on the moors near Rochdale and even in drifts in the garden.

It only takes a few flakes in the air now and drivers particularly here in Blackpool feel they must stay in second gear and not venture above ten miles and hour. It makes me laugh.

We used to think nothing of putting a few coal sacks - now that dates me - and a spade in the boot and setting off knowing that at some point we'd have to dig snow out from under the wheels and use the sacks to give the tyres something to grip to get out of a hole the car had sunken into.

Mind you, there was a hole in the dry stone wall over Owd Betts Moors that my Grandad's Ford Prefect made...

Happy days...

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

York Minster

This evening shot of York Minster was taken in December 1997 and I was lucky in getting the low winter sunlight on the front of this glorious cathedral.

Earlier in the year I had climbed up the tower - a rather testing feat of legs and stamina! What a view from the top though!

The Minster is one of the most beautiful cathedrals in England and is set in the heart of a city with plenty of sights and attractions. It is well worth a visit for anyone who has the chance.

We have missed going this year - a visit to York in December has been a regular occurrence for several years but this year, somehow, we haven't made it.

Perhaps we'll make an early visit in 2009.

Yikes! 2009!!! It only seems like 5 minutes ago there was all that fuss over the new Millenium!

Large version of the photo: York Minster

Monday, 22 December 2008

Mechanical Stamping Machine

I used to love these! These machines had a thin roll of metal and stamped out your message as you painstakingly moved the finger around the letters of the alphabet then pressed down hard on the lever on the right hand side.

The machine then delivered your message on a short length cut off the strip. Totally useless, you couldn't really do anything with it afterwards but put it in your pocket to gather fluff, but as a kid I used to love spelling my name out and getting a metal label! They were totally mechanical - if you didn't press hard enough on the lever that particular letter wouldn't be well defined. They worked on the same principle as (and were forerunners of) Dymo labellers.

They were often found in railway stations - this example is from the railway museum at York.

Coin Slot Machines Index

Saturday, 20 December 2008

In Search of Merlin

9 August 1996 and the last day of our Cornwall holiday.

We drove north to Tintagel but were disappointed to find that the tide was in and we couldn't get down to the caves to explore them.

Legend has it that this is where King Arthur was born, being handed over to Merlin the wizard for raising in secret. The castle on top of the hill looks every bit the part - but was built some 800 years after Arthur would have lived. An early Christian settlement was there before it.

All the shops there sell swords called Excalibur and I even saw some morning stars in one shop - an absolutely horrible weapon from medieval times. It's a spiked metal ball on the end of a chain which is attached to a handle.

They were used to either brain somebody (armour made little difference if a blow from one of these landed) or the chain would allow a strike at a shield and the chain would then whip the spiked ball behind the shield's rim to smash the hand of the person carrying it. Can't understand how they are allowed to sell them.

The town is a half mile from the cliffs and beach, which are reached either by a walk down (and back up) a reasonably steep and not exactly smooth dirt track or by bumping up and down the same track in the back of a Land Rover shuttle.

We had walked down, but if I was hoping to take photos from inside the caves - and I most certainly was - then I was to be disappointed. The tide was in and you definitely would be risking your life trying to wade into a cave that was flooded. The sea rushes into the small cove with quite a force.

I took this one in 1987 and ever since had been hoping to reproduce it in colour.

This cave went all the way through from the cove, under the castle and the sea had broken through from a cave on the next cove so that you could walk through from one side to another.

I'm not sure whether in the years since then, the cave had collapsed at one point. It was spectacular as you can easily see in this photograph.

We had a ride back up the very steep hill in the back of the Land Rover shuttle. I was crushed next to a girl in very short shorts - you have to make these sacrifices...

Large versions of the photos: I haven't yet got one of the black and white cave shot I'm afraid... looking at the caves, castle on the cliff

Friday, 19 December 2008

First and Last

8 August 1996.

We drove to Lands End. On the way we saw a column of smoke and a few yards farther on found a car on fire. A fire engine was approaching on the other side of the dual carriageway and I stopped to let the firement run across to fight the fire. Frank was driving behind me and pulled into the other lane to stop traffic getting past us in case they hadn't seen the firemen.

The owner of the car was sitting on the grass at the side of the road. He didn't look too pleased...

By the time the firemen let us carry on, his car was a wreck, all the paint had cooked brown and blistered round the bonnet and the inside of the car had filled with smoke. On the positive side it was very entertaining for us...!

The rest of the journey was fairly non-descript after that. From the north of Newquay down to Lands End is around 43 or 44 miles straight down the A30 until you end up at the end of the peninsula where the only way to go is back the way you came.

There is a signpost there that you can have the mileage to your home town put up and you have your photo taken. There is a similar one at John O'Groats up in Scotland but that's probably not a viable day trip from Newquay... We gathered round the post and had a group photo taken.

Everything here is described as the first and last in England - first and last inn, first and last shop etc. Steve was pointing the video at complete strangers and asking what they thought of the first and last public toilets...

We went into "The Last Labyrynth" an exhibition of Man and the Sea and an audio visual display of the Disneyland type. It took an hour to go round the exhibition which was quite good and when we came out it started to rain heavily. Gill had been to a shop and picked an oyster shell from a pool and there was a pearl in it that she had made into a necklace.

After that we had more or less exhausted the delights of Lands End, apart from drinking in the pub. The rain had set in so we made our way back to Newquay and walked into town with Gill and Steve, who took me into the arcades to play on some simulations of skiing and motor bike racing. Never mind the real thing, you have to be fit for these machines! Steering was done by body movements, I felt like an old crock by the time we had finished! Joints screaming for mercy, I crashed my Ducatti into a wall and gave a sigh of relief as the screen went black...

Large versions of the photos: the peninsula, rocks, large photo of group not available.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Shooting the Cats!

A glimpse of a not very politically correct past! It's a while since I featured a coin-operated game so here's one I remember with great affection.

Strange really, because, as a cat lover, I would never dream of shooting cats in real life but then again, this is exactly what is wrong with some of the politically correct pillocks in life - they can't separate the difference between harmless and harmful or vindictive. I'm sure the designers of this game were not expecting anyone to be persuaded by it that shooting cats with a real gun was a good idea!

Anyway, the game was common in arcades in the 1960s and shot very small ball bearings at the puddies who fell over backwards if hit. You had unlimited shots in the space of ten seconds after which you totted up the number of "dead" cats!

Coin Slot Machines Index

Sir Walter Raleigh's Prison

Going back to our 1995 visit to London, this was taken on a very cold 5th of December.

Sir Walter Raleigh was imprisoned twice at the Tower of London. Queen Elizabeth had been embarrassed at his hounding of Spanish galleons at a point when she was not actively encouraging such action.

The second time was after the Queen had died in 1603. James I took the throne and Raleigh was framed as a member of a plot against the throne and sentenced to life imprisonment.

This is the room where he was kept and it has been kept the way it was when he was there in the 16th Century, with his writing desk and bed, which is over against the opposite wall, to the right of this photograph.

He was able to take some exercise along a short parapet on the wall outside his room.

At one low point in December 1603, convinced that the King would order him executed, he wrote a most moving letter to his beloved wife Bess:

YOU SHALL RECEIVE, dear wife, my last words in these my last lines. My love I send you that you may keep it when I am dead, and my counsel that you may remember it when I am no more. I would not, with my last will, present you with sorrows, dear Bess. Let them go to the grave with me and be buried in the dust. And seeing it is not the will of God that ever I shall see you in this life, bear my destruction gently and with a heart like yourself.

First, I send you all the thanks my heart may conceive or my pen express, for your many troubles and cares taken for me, which-- though they have not taken effect as you wished-- yet my debt is to you never the less; but pay it I never shall in this world.

Secondly, I beseech you, for the love you bore me living, that you do not hide yourself many days, but by your travel seek to help your miserable fortunes and the right of your poor children. Your mourning cannot avail me that am but dust.

...To what friend to direct thee I know not, for all mine have left me in the true time of trial; and I plainly perceive that my death was determined from the first day. Most sorry I am (as God knoweth) that being thus surprised with death, I can leave you no better estate. I meant you all mine office of wines or that I could purchase by selling it; half my stuff and jewels, but some few for my boy. But God hath prevented all my determinations: the great God that worketh all in all. If you can live free from want, care for no more; for the rest is but vanity. Love God and begin betimes to repose yourself on Him; therein shall you find true and lasting riches and endless comfort. For the rest, when you have travailed and wearied your thoughts on all sorts of worldly cogitations, you shall sit down by sorrow in the end. Teach your son also to serve and fear God while he is young, that the fear of God may grow up in him. Then will God be a husband unto you and a father unto him; a husband and a father which can never be taken from you.

...[F]or my soul's health, I beseech you pay all poor men. When I am gone no doubt you shall be sought unto by many, for the world thinks that I am very rich; but take heed of the pretences of men and of their affections, for they last but in honest and worthy men. And no greater misery can befall you in this life than to become a prey, and afterwards to be despised. I speak it (God knows) not to dissuade you from marriage-- for that will be best for you-- both in respect of God and the world. As for me, I am no more yours nor you mine. Death hath cut us asunder, and God hath divided me from the world and you from me.

Remember your poor child for his father's sake, that comforted you and loved you in his happiest times.

Get those letters (if it be possible) which I writ to the Lords, wherein I sued for my life; but God knoweth that it was for you and yours that I desired it; but it is true that I disdain myself for begging it. And know it (dear wife) that your son is the child of a true man, and who, in his own respect, despiseth Death and all his misshapen and ugly forms.

I cannot write much. God knows how hardly I stole this time when all sleep; and it is time to separate my thoughts from the world. Beg my dead body, which living was denied you; and either lay it at Sherburne, if the land continue, or in Exeter Church by my father and mother. I can write no more. Time and Death call me away.

The everlasting, infinite, powerful and inscrutable God, that Almighty God that is goodness itself, mercy itself, the true life and light, keep you and yours, and have mercy on me and teach me to forgive my persecutors and false accusers; and send us to meet in His glorious kingdom. My true wife farewell. Bless my poor boy; pray for me. My true God hold you both in his arms. Written with the dying hand of sometime thy husband, but not (alas!) overthrown, yours that was but now not my own.

W. Raleigh

From Choice Passages from the Writings and Letters of Sir Walter Raleigh; being a small Sheaf of Gleanings from a golden Harvest by Alexander B. Grosart, printed by Elliot Stock, London, 1892.

Large versions of the photos: WR's writing desk, WR's bed, the White Tower

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

London at Night

When it gets to this time of year we tend to leave our homes in the dark to go to work and by the time we set off to return home what bit of daylight we can expect has already gone and we go home in the darkness too.

Even for those who get to see a bit of daylight at weekend the quality of light is very different. Grey days, low contrast, muted colours all mix with wind and rain in the face to dissuade the photographer from going out with a camera.

It's at this time of year though that I like to venture out at night and take photos of floodlit buildings, shadows and wet reflections on streets.

The top photo is another from our 1995 trip to London and as I took this shot of Tower Bridge it was snowing quite happily. This was a straight photo of the bridge but I took another one with flash to light up the snow falling down on us. The trouble is that it looks a bit like I'd got lots of dust on the negative...

London is a good place to take night photos due to the large number of floodlit landmarks and lots of traffic that you can use to create long streaks of white and red light by use of long exposures.

A starburst filter has been used here to add those star rays of light from the brighter light sources.

I very rarely use effects filters. They were all the rage for a time in the 1980s, but it's very easy to over-do brown skies and star bursts.

There were a few filters that I used a lot but they had very subtle effects. For black and white photography I used a yellow filter to put a bit of detail into skies. Black and white film was very sensitive to the colour blue and therefore even the most vivid blue sky came out white without a filter to darken it. The yellow filter caused them to come out light grey and so you could see white clouds against it. A red filter had the same sort of effect but to a much greater degree and you could turn skies almost black with one.

To this day I still use a circular polarising filter for colour photography. On a sunny day this filter turns a blue sky a bit darker and a secondary effect is that you can reduce reflections from windows or from water.

Large versions of the photos: Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square

Down The Mousehole

7 August 1996.

After the stones we stopped in Mousehole, which the locals pronounce "Mowzil".
A bit like Polperro this is a small fishing village, but this is much more relaxed than Polperro.

It's one of those places where you can sit and relax and just drink in the unhurried atmosphere. The harbour is extremely pretty but nowhere near as busy as Polperro. There's a small beach that faces the harbour with sand at one end with pebbles making up the rest.

Chains snake down from their anchoring point on the wall behind the beach to individual boats that either bob on the water or, at low tide, tilt attractively on the harbour bed.

Not that this picturesque quiet place has always led a sheltered life.

A placque on a wall reminds us that the Spanish landed here and ransacked the place, killing inhabitants left and right. This was, admittedly, a few hundred years earlier than 1996 so we felt safe enough...

I sat on a bench next to a sleeping black cat and did a sketch of the some of the buildings facing the harbour.

On the next bench a man was painting designs on round stones in water colours, presumably to sell as paper weights. I got sunburnt a bit on the back of my neck!

A very agreeable place!

Large versions of the Photos: walking to the harbour, the harbour

Monday, 15 December 2008

A Deathly Game of Quoits

7 August 1996.

Dad and Fran left me at Chun Castle and I walked a couple of hundred yards to Chun Quoit, a megalithic burial chamber.

This was older than the nearby hill fort by two or three thousand years.

It was originally built to house the ashes of one of the race of stone age "Beaker" People - so called because they were cremated and interned with their ashes in earthenware pots the shape of beakers.

I walked round the quoit, savouring the atmosphere of the place and set up the camera on the ground to take a self timer photo of myself. I'll spare you that one as there's another - equally gruesome - to come...

The quoit would originally have been covered by a mound of earth to make a barrow or tumulus.

I braved the gorse spines again and returned to the car and we drove about half a mile to another quoit, Lanyon Quoit.

Easily found in a field just at the side of the road this quoit was originally tall enough for a man on horseback to ride underneath the capstone without bending his head. My sense of humour would like to say that this is because the horse's head would have crashed into it first, but in truth it was indeed possible to ride beneath the capstone!

A violent thunderstorm in 1826 caused the quoit's collapse and it was re-erected, but with the supporting stones sunk deep into the earth. The people of 1826 were taking no chances...
"I'm not lifting yon bloody stone again and that's for sure!"

The cromlechs or quoits of Cornwall are as mysterious and atmospheric as you can make them. Lanyon is a bit too close to the roadway to have an atmosphere. At Chun Quoit you can be quite alone with this mysterious chamber of the dead. Would you dare go at night to see if any spirits remain?

Large versions of the photos: Chun Quoit, Lanyon Quoit

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Knaresborough and Mother Shipton

30 June 2000.

A family outing to Yorkshire. With Mum and Dad we call off first at Knaresborough, an extremely pretty town on the River Nidd.

An afternoon on the River Nidd is a very popular pasttime in summer. Rowboats, punts and canoes are available for hire and there is plenty of scenery to be enjoyed.

The building shown here is the entrance to the home of Mother Shipton. She was a foreteller of the future - England's Nostradamus.

She lived in the 1600s and left a legacy of prophecies including cars, telephones and World War II. She probably wasn't as pretty as Nostradamus though... A hunchbacked hideous crone, she would have been burned at the stake anywhere else, perhaps proving that the people of Knaresborough were more enlightened than those of places with similarly disfigured women who were promptly ducked in the river - "Look, she's not drowned! Burn her!" or "Oh... that's a bit of a bugger... she's drowned... must have been innocent then... ah well, mistakes happen..."

On the other hand it could be an indicator that the people of Knaresborough were scared out of their wits by her. "Try to duck me, you buggers and I'll call up all the demons of the Underworld to nibble on your privates!"
"Is that bad, Dad?"
"Aye, Sarah lass, it means... er... well you just concentrate on your tatting..."

In any case, just to add to her air of mystique, (if a hunchbacked, warty-faced, wrinkled old crone needed to add to her mystique) instead of living in an unspeakable hovel like anyone else, she lived in a cave.

Caves were known to be entrances to either Fairyland or the Underworld and it was a brave and somewhat reckless chap in the 1600s who decided on a spot of adventure caving for an afternoon's diversion. Besides, the cave that Mother Shipton scattered her few belongings around had a somewhat strange property. It still has.

A cascade of water falling from a rock face and known as The Dropping Well contains so much mineral content, coming out of a spring fed by an underground lake, that anything it falls on, as long as it stays still for long enough, acquires a coating of minerals that over a few months - 5 to 6 months for porous items such as soft toys, clothes etc., "turn it to stone".

It is England's oldest tourist attraction, being opened to the public in 1630.

Absence of large versions of the photos: From 1999 to 2001 I'd started to go digital but the quality of photos was such that I only saved them at small sizes.

Chun Castle

7 August 1996. The Cornwall holiday continues...

We drove with Mum and Dad round the coast past Zennor and climbed a gorse covered hill towards Chun Castle, an iron age hillfort.

Britain was cut off from the rest of Europe when the last ice age melted and whilst the first cities were being built in the middle east the British were still living in stick and mud huts in fortified circles on the tops of hills.

The gorse was in abundance - the farmer on whose land we parked told me the weather "...has been very good for the shrubs this year!" The gorse looks lovely from a distance. Close up it has small two inch branches covered in spine like leaves which just then were pricking through trousers and skirts and up to shirts and tops as the bushes were anything up to 3 feet tall!

Chun Castle boasts the foundations of much of its surrounding defensive wall, now reduced to what looks like a pile of rubble in the shape of a huge ring. It has a couple of gateposts still standing.

In a clearing in the gorse which now covers most of the interior, the castle's well, choked with fallen stone can be seen.

The hillfort is in a superb position on the Lands End peninsula and you can see both the south and west coasts from its wall which afforded its residents some amount of warning should an enemy appear.

Also clearly visible that the residents would not have been familiar with are the remains of a couple of the distinctive engine houses of Cornish tin mines.

Mum had given up in the face of the gorse (well it came farther up on her than anyone else as she's a bit smaller than the rest of us!) and she had gone back to sit in the car whilst we explored.

Fran and Dad decided to go back and keep her company. Meanwhile I have one more thing to see which will take me back in time a further two to three thousand years from the hillfort. But that, as a quizmaster would say just before a TV break, is why you will come back tomorrow - won't you?

Large versions of the photos: castle wall, Fran and Dad near the well

Saturday, 13 December 2008

i-Pod Random Test

Marlene, one of the Ladies-Over-The-Water sent me this one but the answers are mine...

1. Put your iPod, iTunes, Windows Media Player, etc. on shuffle.
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.

“Dreamin’” – Bobby Darin

“I Remember Yesterday” – Donna Summer. Heck, that's a bit sad isn't it?

“Caravan” – Jack Ambrose Orchestra (1930s). Oh sorry - I thought it said "What do you like a girl in"...

“That’s My Desire” – The Shadows. What do you mean; it's not yours?

“Summertime” – Leona Lewis

“Loveboat" – Kylie Minogue. (!!!) Oo-er...heck – why limit it to a boat...!

“When Lovers Become Strangers” – Cher. Hey – who are you calling strange?!?

“The Little Shoemaker” – Petula Clark. Huh, what a load of cobblers...

“Ride My See-Saw” – Moody Blues. Oh yes....yes....yes...etc...

WHAT IS 2 + 2?
“Pastures of Plenty” - Solus.

“Sweet Words” – Peter Skellern. What is my “bestie” exactly?

“Good Companions” – Billy Cotton Orchestra. Well....we’re getting on a bit you know...

“That’ll Be The Day” – Linda Ronstadt. Ha ha ha yep, had to give a wry grin at that one!

“Om” - Moody Blues. Meditation... it’s all I might have one day...

“Our Day Will Come” – Billy Fury. You couldn’t make these up could you?

“Take Me In Your Arms and Love Me” – Gladys Knight & The Pips. When will that be exactly? Thought I already was married. Well... make another girl happy - that would be big o' me wouldn't it?

“Karlekan Ar” – Jill Johnson. Swedish entry in 1998 Eurovision contest – a translation website merely gave me “Karleken am failing”. Any Swedish speakers out there who can help with that one?

“Will I Grow Up To Be A Man” – Beach Boys. Hey cut me some slack here huh?

“Old Rocking Chair” – Al Bowlly. When I was 17 my girlfriend’s uncle said “Just get it near the fire with her on top and put your foot on the mantelpiece and just keep pushing...” No idea what he meant...

“Shoulda Woulda Coulda” – Beverley Knight. So many missed opportunities... So many friends who won't speak to me after this...

“Innuendo” – Queen. ha ha ha now this I really love – see there is someone with a sense of humour watching over us!!!

It was duly sent back as an email with the subject "Innuendo" to the Ladies-Over-The-Water!

Try it and leave your answers as a comment?


6 August 1996

It's raining hard as we have breakfast and we hear a rumble of thunder.

Prolongued discussion about what to do and where to go and we eventually head for Mevagissy where we have never been before.

The car park at Mevagissy involves driving along the sea wall with water at the bottom of the sheer drop to the left and cars leaving the car park squeezing between you and the safety of the bit of road next to the buildings!

The rain had reduced to showers every now and then and the water was crystal clear even in what was obviously a working harbour. Huge rocks stretched out from the stone-built harbour wall, showing how little the builders had reclaimed from the sea, and various kinds of seaweed waved gently, green, red and brown, ten to fifteen feet beneath the surface.

Mevagissy was beautiful.

The village had very very narrow streets and yet were carrying traffic in both directions. There was a traffic warden kept very busy sorting out which of two head to head cars, each with a long queue of other cars nose to tail behind them should reverse to let the other pass. If ever a traffic warden earned his pennies it was this guy.

As we left the village, my sister-in-law Joyce driving the other car with my brother Frank, their daughter Heather and Mum and Dad in it. We followed with daughter Gill in ours. Joyce was leading but was behind a delivery van. It stopped on a steep incline and I put on my handbrake, prepared to wait but she screeched the wheels and shot through the narrowest gap you can imagine.

Fran said "Well Joyce got through so you can!" but I went through very slowly! The following day Dad described the event as follows:

"Frank was saying 'You'll have to slow down, SLOW DOWN! ...well maybe not...'
Joyce was saying 'Is there enough room? I don't know if there's room...' but zoomed through at breakneck speed anyway!"

Both Mum and Dad closed their eyes expecting to hit either the van or the wall and none of us know how she did it!

Large versions of the photos: quayside buildings, fishing gear

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Busy Week

After the flu it's back to work with a vengeance as I left the house on Monday and am not due back until Friday night.

I met up with Clive in Birmingham on Monday night to talk over our input to a project meeting on the following day. This seemed to go down well, the project was a JISC 4-year project looking at the process of designing the curriculum. One of the problems with such a project is in controlling the scope as just about every other process in an university either impacts on it or is impacted by it.

We introduced some Process Review techniques and some issues for Change Management and communications, given that for many stakeholders the implication that there could be changes to such a core process could be quite challenging.

Then it was off to Shrewsbury last night where we sat in front of a log fire that we tried hard to make roar... but we did get a whimper or two and briefly let out a cheer as a flame appeared for an instant!

We've spent today working on our own Business and Community Engagement related project and then headed north and we are currently in Ormskirk, prepared to deliver a Project Management workshop tomorrow. Then it's back down to Shrewsbury to end the week.

The voice is a little croaky after so much talking straight after the flu and a bottle of Buttercup Syrup has made the journey with me and been an essential if somewhat face pulling piece of equipment!

Glad we don't have a gig with the band this weekend...

Not sure the photo would stand enlarging - it was taken on my phone from the hotel window in Birmingham.

Monday, 8 December 2008


From the 1996 holiday photos. We took a day trip to Polperro, a fishing and smuggling village on Cornwall's south coast.

Some of the family had decided to go on a boat trip and I took the opportunity to sketch a couple of drawings.

Now in 1996 my confidence and prowess at sketching had not reached the dizzy heights of mediocrity that it has now and having people come up to look over my shoulder at what I was drawing was a bit of a nerve racking experience!

Anyway most people made satisfyingly appreciative noises and managed to contain their laughter until they were out of earshot. One old chap in particular started a conversation, much to his family's discomfort, who obviously thought talking to strangers was not the thing to do.

This was a somewhat speedy sketch - I wasn't into the more detailed stuff I do now - an example here - and this probably took no more than 20 minutes or so.

When the family came back I was halfway through another sketch and was standing next to a crab stall.

The stall holder had some very large crabs and was grabbing hold of them and literally cracking and tearing them apart with her hands. Not the sort of lady to argue with...

Polperro has to be one of my favourite places in Cornwall, I've lost count of the number of times I've been there and there's always something fresh to see.

Altogether an excellent place to be - unless you're a crustacean...

Large version of the photo: (believe me, the drawing isn't worth seeing any larger!) Polperro jetty

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Ancient Newquay

I don't suppose many of Newquay's visitors go to soak up its prehistoric antiquities but there are some if you know where to look.

It was 4 August 1996 and we were walking from our hotel near Porth into Newquay itself.

High on the cliffs at the northern endge of the town is the Barrow Field where at one time 17 prehistoric barrows popped up over the landscape like zits on a teenager's chin.

Most of them have disappeared, dug into and flattened or fallen into the sea as the coastal cliffs eroded. There are a couple left though to give Fran a chance of saying "But it's just a hill...!".

There is also a low earthwork wall that my niece Heather squealed with delight as she ran up it, then squealed with something else as she tripped and fell down the other side... She's almost 16 now...she'll love being mentioned like that...

One of the saving graces of taking lots of photos during the years is that there are very few of me...! My God, did I really wear that???

Large version of the photos: barrow, earthwork wall

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Trevelgue Island Defences

3 August 1996.

We had just arrived in Newquay, Cornwall and set off to walk onto the island at Porth. It is a true island only at high tide when the sea surrounds it completely.

The island is an iron age promontory fort. It was easily defended as it had sheer cliffs and was joined to the mainland by only a narrow strip of land or a bridge.

Certainly in living memory it has been joined by a bridge and on either side of the bridge are high earthwork defences.

Some idea of them can be gained here. The first photo looks towards the bridge from the island itself, the huge bank of earth seen here being man-made.

Many people laugh at me when I get excited at stuff like this. Even Fran tends to say things like "It's just a hill..." It's not though. Someone had to decide that there was going to be a "hill" there and then they had to build it, forming foundations, packing material into a dense self-supporting mound and then many times, digging a ditch at its foot to make the slope even higher.

The second photo shows the earthworks on the mainland side of the bridge.

How long must it have taken with no machines to help them make these long earthworks? And Trevelgue isn't a true hillfort with earthworks surrounding it. The defences are concentrated in around half a dozen walls, three to either side of the bridge. Compare it with Maiden Castle or Cadbury and the work involved is miniscule. Even so, someone had to design and then build these walls.

I find sites like these fascinating.

Large versions of the photos: view towards the bridge, mainland earthworks

Friday, 5 December 2008

Cornwall 1996

I must have taken a heck of a lot of photos in 1996 as I'm still scanning the negatives from that year on my little film scanner.

I reached our summer holiday from that year - notable as it was one of the last holidays we took as an extended family and typical in that it included several memorable and hilarious moments.

We went to Newquay in Cornwall, staying in (taking over almost) a small B+B guest house at the northern end of Newquay where the buildings peter out and the footpath leads on to Porth.

We had gone down in three cars, four of us in mine with Mum and Dad following us in his battered old Skoda seen here and brother Frank with his wife, son and daughter in their car. Joyce, his wife was learning to drive at the time (this caused one of the hilarious moments - later, later, don't get impatient!)

All holidays to Newquay as far back as I can remember have started with a walk to Porth and then an exploration of Trevelgue Island, an iron age promontory fort that we have always called "Porth Island". We'll have a look at that in more detail in another post but here is a view of Porth which is only a tiny village, seen from the island.

As we sat on a bench watching the sun set over the sea and the island, a seagull lovingly christened my new jeans. "Oh... where's the tissues?" cried Fran.

"Don't be daft - it'll be miles away by now..."

Large versions of the photos: family group, Porth

Thursday, 4 December 2008

A Tale of Lingerie

Friday 21 November 2008. We had arrived into London after a long drive and were hot and sticky. I just shrugged off clothes, letting them fall wherever and went for a shower. I put on fresh undies, socks and shirt and pulled on my trousers and, once Fran had done the same, we set off to have a look up the Oxford Road shops.

As the lift reached the ground floor of the hotel I strode out into the lobby only to feel something slip down my leg and there, lying on the floor of the lift, were the underpants I had travelled in... They must have fallen into the leg of my trousers and when I put them on my leg must have just wedged them inside the leg of my trousers just waiting for an opportune moment to fall out and embarrass me! We killed ourselves laughing for a minute then I shoved them in my coat pocket and we went out to the shops.

It struck me as we were in Marks and Spencers that had I been challenged I would have had a pair of their underpants in my pocket... Imagine trying to explain that away? Fran said "They're not expensive - throw them in a bin," so we did that, though what the street cleaners may have thought the following morning I'm not sure...!

Anyway a little later on we were walking down Bond Street which is the really exclusive street with Gucci and all the other designer label shops and two women were walking towards us. One dropped her bags and all her shopping tumbled out. I started to help her pick it all up and realised that I was handling her newly-bought lingerie! Her friend thought this hilarious enough to photograph us picking it up... It did occur to me after though that had I not thrown my undies away I could have slipped them in her bag ha ha ha! Can you imagine?!? Have I a warped sense of humour or what?