Saturday, 29 March 2008

Italy and Skipton

Oh dear, another week has gone by!

Well, I've found enough to keep me busy without venting my spleen at anyone or feeling the urge to rave about something or let off a few quips of humour.

I've spent most of my spare time this week trying to finish a project that's been ongoing for far too long. I've been creating a set of digital montages to create a year book. You'll understand what I mean about it having taken a long time when I point out it's a year book of 2005...

I've got as far as our Sorrento holiday from that year and the resulting montages have been being uploaded to my Flickr Account at the rate of a couple a day.

I have just about finished the holiday photos now and moved on to the rest of 2005 but it will take approx a couple of weeks for the photos to appear on Flickr - unless I get fed up or find something else to post up there in which case there could be a flood of photos uploaded at some point in the next few days!

Today we had a run out in the car to Skipton, taking the long way round, via Lancaster then Ingleton and back down.

We passed through some lovely little villages that are a definite for a return visit some day and the weather was really great until we got just a few miles from Skipton, after which it has poured down all day...

So here's a rather dreary photo of Skipton Castle just to prove we were there and I'll try to drum up some sunny weather for our next trip out!

Now - see if you can find a blog entry anywhere else that gives you Italy and Skipton in one entry!

Saturday, 22 March 2008

The Postcard Fixer's Art

I love this! On the back of this postcard it says "This is a real photograph." In actual fact it's a bit of a pre-digital mash-up. There's at least two photographs plus a great deal of a painter's imagination here!

I can confirm that it's the tower at Pisa that leans, not Blackpool Tower, and the tram in the foreground is smaller than the tracks it's supposed to be running on! That's the other photograph sitting under all that paint. All the illuminations are painted on, in fact, as are the rather fanciful headlamp beams of the cars. Dipped headlights in the UK point to the left of the vehicle. Even on full beam they point ahead, not to the right!

I suspect the main photograph was originally taken during the day when the sun was shining. There's too much detail otherwise and the area in front of the row of hotels is a bit of a giveaway. Come to think of it so are the shadows! Not every lamp post has one and the shadows of the cars are in a different direction to those of the illuminated laburnum trees!

The card was sent to an address in Hertfordshire on 9 July 1945. The writer packed so much onto the card that he or she had no room left to sign it! So unless the recipient recognises it then we'll never know who it was that sent it.

The card says (spelling and grammar as is): Dear Annie just a card to let you know we are having a nice time the weather as been good to us this time, been nice, we have got about a bit but it is so very crowded every were it tires you out. We are going to South port to morrow, for the day, all the shows are booked up, but we managed to book for the circus last Monday for Wed. afternoon this week. Hope you are well, love to your sister.

Friday, 21 March 2008

Rock On Rock-Ola

I thought it might be fun to choose a photo at random from the many thousands I've taken over the years and see if I could dredge up a memory about it.

This one turned up. It's a Rock-Ola jukebox of the 1960s and we came across it at the Jukebox Madness Show in late 1995. Jukeboxes are hugely collectable. Even then, thirteen years ago, this jukebox was for sale at 4,250 pounds. It's the fact that it's a "visible mech" that makes it so pricey - you can see the records being selected and played. Compare that to my 1979 Rowe-Ami model that I bought in around 1992 for 250 pounds and you can see there's a bit of a difference. I've never really understood why jukebox manufacturers moved away from having visible mechanisms because it was such an obvious draw. But if you have a collection of 45s it's a great way of playing them!

Once properly restored a jukebox (I've found anyway) gives very little in the way of problems. Unlike pinballs where the game revolves around the various parts being battered to hell by the silver ball, jukeboxes don't have much in the way of internal impacts to make them go wrong. I've had mine repaired once in the sixteen years I've had it and it sounds as good today as it's always done. It would be great, however to have a visible mech in the front room wouldn't it? Perhaps one with bubbles...

Coin Slot Machines Index

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Sandwich Weaving

A hand-coloured postcard showing a decidedly ancient lorry is my offering for today. The caption reads "Strand Street and The Weavers, Sandwich".

Which probably means the shops and cottages were originally weavers' cottages from the times when cottage industry was the main source of income for many of England's population.

A sign painted over the window at the near end of the row says "Sandwich Weavers" and that sent my (admittedly weird) sense of humour off on a tangent!

I've only been to Sandwich once. It was during a holiday in 1999 when we stayed for a week in Hastings and toured around the Cinque Ports and the south eastern corner of Britain.

There's a lot of England's history to be found in that part of the country and some lovely countryside too. One of my websites is devoted to that holiday if you want to see what we got up to.

This is one of the few photos of Sandwich that I took and it gives a totally different view and impression of the place. I took it from an old toll bridge that was a controlled way into the town. The gatehouse still exists with a list of tolls for various forms of conveyance.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

First Gig with New Keyboard

We played a charity gig in aid of Sports Relief last night at Bispham Conservative Club arranged by the ladies from Sainsburys store next door. They raised over two thousand pounds for the charity altogether so a tremendous effort.

We did a couple of spots, starting and finishing the evening and there was a performance by Britain's Got Talent contestant Tom McLeod.

The new keyboard sounded good, but I'm still not totally familiar with it yet and there was a moment's panic when I couldn't find an entire folder of rock and roll songs. It took a while before I realised there were too many folders to show on one page and there was a page 2 button lit up! Duh!

Anyway we got everyone up dancing, which we were told was a most unusual feat!

Carrying all the gear down a very steep fire escape in the dark was a bit hairy!

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Today in Blackpool

"We're doing a charity walk", Fran said. "What???" "It's only a mile..." she added hastily. Ah, well that's not so bad perhaps!

Mind you, walking for a mile along the cliffs at Bispham, north Blackpool is akin to walking ten anywhere else. Utter the words, "We've had fifty miles per hour gales!" to anyone from Blackpool and they'll look at you in contempt and say "That's not a bloody gale!" So off we went to find all Fran's mates from work. They had either all sensibly stuck a wet finger in the air and decided to stay at home or Fran got the wrong message about meeting place, time or day.

"Let's just go for a walk on our own then," I suggested as the wind whipped tears out of my eyes to the extent they were dripping off my chin onto my coat. So we walked from Red Bank Road (where the illuminations finish at Bispham) down to the Gynn (the roundabout on the Promenade road) and back. This is about 2 and a half miles altogether perhaps, half of it done at the trot with the wind behind us and the return with us leaning forwards at an angle of 45 degrees, enjoying the sudden but thankfully brief downpour. All along the way there were little groups of men in high visibility jackets working on the tram tracks. Given that Easter is next weekend I can with confidence say there's no chance of seeing a tram in Blackpool unless you nip up to the tram shed. They do seem to be getting on with it though.

From the cliffs we also had a good view of the stricken ferry, Riverdance, that as every Blackpool resident predicted, has stubbornly refused every attempt to re-float her and has now rolled over to an angle of 110 degrees and is busily engaged in burying her head in the sand a few more inches every day. Several weeks of being battered by the hefty winter seas as the tide comes in twice a day have had their toll and the structure of the ship is starting to get damaged. So presumably now they will start to draw up plans for dismantling her and hope to keep any leakage of oils and fuels to a minimum. Not an easy task I should imagine. It will be easier though to keep contamination down whilst it is above the sand than it would be if it sank down much further! Every time the tide comes in it washes sand away from around the hull, letting the ship settle a bit more then filling the gaps back up with sand.

Talking of disasters... Down at Uncle Tom's Cabin the long disused boating pool which had had some recent use as a go-kart track now looks even more attractive. Yes, this'll bring the families back... You know, with all the hotels and the council bemoaning the fact that families don't come to Blackpool any more you only have to look around and wonder what they would find to do that doesn't cost money. Yes we have one of the best beaches in the country, but when I think of all the things I loved to do as a kid, once away from the beach, pushing my toy yacht around a boating pool came high on the list. All that new expanse of tarmac on the new Promenade - I'm sure they could have included a paddling pool and a model boating pond.

Return to Blackpool Promenade and Beach Index Page

A Good Night

Last night I was looking forward to an uncomplicated night and a meal of sausage egg and chips. I thought I might push the boat out and shake a dollop of brown fruity sauce onto the bangers but then when Fran got home from work she decided I was going to take her out for a meal instead.

"But there's nowhere I know of that does sausage egg and chips that'll be open at that time..." I said, plaintively.
"You'll have to take me for something else then, won't you?" was the response.

So we left the car wondering what it had done to offend us and walked - sorry let's give that some emphasis - walked to the local Beefeater which is called the Red Lion.

There is nothing remotely historic looking about the Red Lion, though regular readers may recall me mentioning it as being the place where the crew of the shipwrecked Abana were taken to after being rescued in 1894.

Anyway, these days they do less of the peering from the doorway with a burning lantern in case the lifeboat comes back their way and more of the relaxed dining with what we in Lancashire might call a gradely-slab-of-cow-on-a-plate.

We had fillet steak and a bottle of merlot to go with it. Then we happily set off to walk/sway home, whoops, it's over that-a-way, feeling full, a little tipsy, giddy and full of bonhomie! Grand as owt! The Red Lion is just past the Bispham roundabout on the road towards Cleveleys. I didn't take any photos so you get one of the aftermath...

Saturday, 15 March 2008

A Definitive Hobby

Do boys, I wonder, in these days of computers and Nintendo, still go through a phase of collecting stamps?

My old stamp albums are still knocking about up in the attic, though it's many years since I had a look at them. The last time I bought a set of stamps was in 2000 and then I only bought it to serve as illustrations on the pages of a website about our holiday in Austria that year.

Before that it must be around 30 years or more since I bought stamps specifically with a view to keeping them. I had sets of the commemorative stamps for the launching of the QE2, the investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales, and the set released with Concorde on them. After that I don't really remember anything sticking in my mind. Just on envelopes...

It was always seen as a good hobby for a young developing mind. All that sorting, collating, cataloging and conserving. It did have its messy side too which appeals to young boys. It was far cheaper to soak old used stamps off envelopes than buy new ones so most of the time my brother and I would sit cutting the corners off envelopes and plunging them into a cereal dish of water that by the time we finished was the consistency of gloop and only half full because the other half had gone over the floor or over ourselves.

Then there was the tricky bit about stamp hinges. We would take even our brand new mint condition stamps and apply liberal amounts of spit to a stamp hinge then plaster it onto the back of the stamps.

Anything would do as a stamp album. We had bought ones for a while but they filled up and then when you had Australia on one page and Brazil on the next someone would unthinkingly buy you a set of stamps from Austria and you realised you had no page to put them in alphabetical order.

In the end my stamps all ended up on loose sheets in ring binders. They are still there. Next time I go up in the attic I must have a look and see what I've got. In fact somewhere, I'm absolutely sure, I have a large brown paper bag stuffed full of the corners of envelopes! Where's that cereal bowl?

Friday, 14 March 2008

Painted Postcards

I used to make a point of buying postcards everywhere we went and have quite a large collection, but recently I realised the bits of the house we live in have been getting smaller and smaller as shelves surround us and I've cut back a bit!

It didn't help I suppose that some of the collections were of quite large objects such as jukeboxes and pinball machines, but anyway, I digress.

Instead of just buying any old postcard these days I look for something more unusual. Postcards with photographs that I could (and do!) take myself are definitely out and so I look for something like this.

It is one of a set of six (yes, I couldn't resist buying the full set!) of watercolour paintings of Riva del Garda at the top of Lake Garda in Italy. The artist had chosen their viewpoints carefully and they make a really attractive set.

Thanks to the anonymous comment for pointing out this is the castle at Sirmione on the southern end of the lake! Have had my glasses changed but must do something about the eyes...

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

1950s Pop Parade Vol.3

Whenever I'm in Keswick I invariably go to have a browse through the old records at my favourite antique store.

This time I came away with half a dozen 78rpm records and this old 10" early LP. "LP" stood for Long Player; in an era when records had been just a single song per side for 40 years, having a record that delivered 5 tracks on each side was a novelty and the name summed it up.

Later LPs were standardised at 12" and could fit 20 minutes of music per side.

This example is the Pop Parade volume 3 an early compilation album. The artistes seem to be all American. They rejoice in names like Rusty Draper, Nick Noble and Jan August (who wears a suit and tie and sports a moustache). There are some well-known names there too - The Platters, Dinah Washington, The Crew Cuts and Patti Page.

Well, to be honest, they are all shown on the front cover. Sixteen artistes are shown. There are only ten tracks on the album though and they are delivered by only seven of the artistes shown!

The record itself looks in excellent condition and I'm looking forward to having a listen. So far I've only looked fondly at it...

Monday, 10 March 2008

AA Telephone Box 487

It's Fran's birthday today!

To celebrate I took a day off work in lieu of working on Saturday and took her on a day out.

We went to look at this magnificent antique AA telephone box. Now before anyone takes a dim view and starts thinking of berating me, I should point out that not only is it rare these days but it is an icon of Britain's motoring past. Any birthday girl should be proud to have been taken to view it. When I was a lad there were many of these telephone boxes. They could only be opened by AA members (that's the Automobile Association, by the way, not Alcoholics Anonymous) who were issued with a special key that fitted all the telephone boxes. It meant that in the days before mobile telephones any driver who suffered a breakdown in a remote area would have to walk no more than, say, fifty miles or so before being able to call for rescue!

This box seems to have been fitted with a non-standard lock. Had I still carried my AA key about with me I could have tried it out, but:

1) I threw it away years ago
2) The lock definitely looks to take a large Chubb type key
3) After all the rains we've had the ground around it was boggy and waterlogged to a depth of several inches
4) I wasn't technically broken down

Anyway, Fran really enjoyed her trip out to see the telephone box, although I was a bit disgruntled when she stayed in the car and only got out when we stopped in places like Keswick and Kendal in the Lake District. Even then, she insisted on looking at boring things like shops, instead of searching for old telephone boxes. Women... just not easily understood...

Return to Lake District and Cumbria Index

There's No Business Like Snow Business

Far too long since I mentioned the Ladies-Over-The-Water.

Evy, who lives in Mississauga (which isn't even anywhere near the Mississippi) sent this photo of her street after shovelling solidly for three days and nights with just a knife and fork to clear her drive.

Now the last time I saw snow like this I was:

a) just a kid
b) in a bright white room and imagining
c) in a cinema watching Scott of the Antarctic

Mississauga is somewhere near Toronto in Canada. Evy writes: "Okay, the drive is cleaned out. It's very narrow at the end of it though but we should be able to get the cars out. When we are more refreshed, we'll go out and see if we can widen it. It sure would be nice to have the double drive back one of these days. With this photo, I think you'll get a pretty good idea with the car in the driveway. You might also take note of the car driving down the street and compare the snowbank next to it. Yesterday's storm is wild."

Marlene, who lives just a snowfall away in Brampton had said yesterday; "We had more snow and don't know where to put it any more - I should send an updated shot of what our street looks like now, since the one taken on Feb. 23 - and we were told to expect another 30 cm / 2 ft (eeek!) this weekend!"

Sheesh. We had a bit of snow falling the other weekend for ten minutes. Didn't stick...

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Frankie & Bennies' Disaster

I mentioned recently that we were going for a meal at Frankie & Bennies.

Prophetically it was at the end of a post entitled Trials and Tribulations. We've been to Blackpool's Frankie & Bennies so many times and always had a great time but last night was unfortunately not one of them.

We went with David and Jeannie as a foursome and were told we'd have to wait 30 to 40 minutes for a table which wasn't great but we could put up with that. In the end though it was 1 hour and 20 minutes and despite asking where we were in the queue the chap on the door was obviously putting other people in first.

The manager said this would be because of bookings. I did point out that the whole point about making a booking would be so the restaurant was expecting people and could therefore surely have told us there were so many people before us in the queue and so many bookings to come in?

I think the doorman simply either hadn't a bloody clue (and I'd have to have similar thoughts about the manager) or he hadn't the courage to tell people a realistic waiting time. Had we been told it would be over an hour we would have gone somewhere else. What he did was to put both the kitchen staff and the waiting staff under so much pressure that even the meals were not as good as they should have been.

Meat ordered medium was well done and a tomato was crisped on one side and left raw on the other - classic symptoms of a chef too busy to cope. The fact that the tomato was green though wasn't good...

Once we were seated it took another 40 minutes for the starters to arrive. Now given that the restaurant is opposite the Odeon cinema and used by lots of people wanting to go onto to watch a film, you can imagine that people at just about every table were getting agitated. Some swore a lot more than we did!

Luckily we weren't going to the cinema but had we been we would have had to miss either the film or a meal. Not good!

Anyway, I'm going to look for something good to put on this blog - I'm sounding more and more like a grumpy old man...

Friday, 7 March 2008

Is Anyone Left Alive?

Ye gods, I've just sat through the most depressing presentation I've ever had the misfortune to endure.

It never ceases to amaze me how many people who speak to conferences never ever smile, show enthusiasm or express any emotion at all. Are there special classes you can take on how to bore an audience rigid?

This guy could have offered a million pounds gift to everyone in the audience and no-one would have even clapped. After three minutes he had sent everyone to sleep by talking in an unexpressive monotone whilst using phrases like "I'm really excited" and "we're desperately keen to do this"... Well, mate, you had everyone fooled.

The only reaction he got around the table I was sitting at was when he had the barefaced cheek to say after droning for what seemed like hours; "I can't cover it all in such a relatively short presentation..." Any longer pal and they'd have been cutting their wrists!

So who was he? No names - but he was a very well known person in the Further Education sector, talking at a leadership conference to an audience of governors, one of whom muttered afterwards, "Well after that I think FE deserves all it gets..."

The stupidity of it is that he will be invited to speak again at another conference somewhere. Personally I think anyone displaying such a charisma deficiency should be quietly put out of their misery ... or is that everyone else's misery?

If by chance he sees this - I have enough witnesses to prove my case. So read and weep and then read this article: How to Avoid Death by PowerPoint.

And finally - one slide had black text on a dark purple background??? For crying out loud...

Thursday, 6 March 2008


I spent yesterday at the old Royal Naval College at Greenwich. It is now Greenwich University.

Altogether an impressive place. Clive and I were delivering a Project Management workshop but managed a lunchtime walk-about. Unfortunately I hadn't picked up a camera before leaving home. A very late doctor's appointment the day before had made me miss my booked train and very nearly had me missing Fran who was working from lunchtime so it was a bit of a rush to get down to London.

Luckily my phone takes photos - of a sort - and I was able to at least get something. Hopefully we will get a chance in the future sometime to visit again.

The place is steeped in history with a royal park and house which has a vista down to the River Thames, through the Naval College. The Meridian, zero degrees Longitude runs through Greenwich and King Henry VIII was born there.

The Cutty Sark, the famous tea clipper was badly damaged in a fire recently and is currently swathed in hoardings undergoing restoration. It is hoped to have it back on display within a year.

We walked down from the hotel on Tuesday night to have a look at it whilst we looked for a place to eat and sadly apart from a glimpse of the stern you can't see anything of the ship currently.

We did come across this rather strange little building. It houses the entrance to the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. If you have a fancy to walk beneath the Thames over to the Isle of Dogs then you will find a similar building to emerge from on the other side!

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Caroline Munro

I got the Spring Newsletter from my favourite Bond Girl, the glamourous Caroline Munro yesterday.

I see there's to be a reunion of the cast of the Hammer film Captain Kronos Vampire Killer at the Lumiere Theatre in London on 29 March. Caroline says it's 35 years since she last saw her co-star, Horst Janson.

Other shows and appearances listed are:

15-16 March, Courts Chicago Collectors Show, Chicago, US
10-11 May, Movie and Comic Event, Bottrop, Germany
18-20 July, Western Film Fair, Charlotte, US

Caroline is still struggling to get an update of her website after the tragic death last year of Steve Goss who managed it on her behalf.

Trials and Tribulations

We've gained a new backing singer!

David's wife Jeannie joins us for a bit of help on the chorus of Be My Baby. Which is a good thing because my falsetto is not was it used to be...

We were round at our house last night for another run through of the new stuff and to see if we can revive a couple of numbers that have fallen by the wayside a bit. A good time was had by all, helped by Fran's cubed chicken in white wine and garlic which was just a bit yummy!

At the same time though we've had a gig called off this weekend so are going to console ourselves with a trip out to Frankie & Bennie's!

Monday, 3 March 2008

Chester Zoo in 1981

Desperately casting about for something to say...

I see from the archives that 17 years ago on the 4th March we took our daughter Gillian to Chester Zoo. She was 4 at the time and by a coincidence so was the date and probably so was the temperature!

So was the baby elephant that had been born in the Queen's Silver Jubilee year and was therefore named Jubilee. Ha - why did we not think of that. See, Gill, you could have been Jubilee Burke!

The elephant shown here is not Jubilee but a bigger one. In the language we used on the day probably either Mummy Elephant or Daddy Elephant. Gill's expectation of our language has developed a bit since then. My own mother's seems to have reverted though, but now I'm digressing...

She's just got back from a week in the Costa del Sol which seems to have been more of a Costa del Pour-Down from all reports. My brother Frank and his wife took her this time and we are booked to take her away later on in the year.
"Think of it this way," Frank reflected, "it'll broaden your horizons..."

Back to the Plot
During the early 1980s I was occasionally freelancing photos to magazines and the photo here was taken on that visit to Chester and was published in a Club Canon magazine and then picked up by a photo developing house and used in their promotional leaflet.

I got about a fiver for each use. Five pounds was worth more then than now but it was still not a viable way to earn a living!

Saturday, 1 March 2008

1980s Photo Mags

I suppose it was inevitable wasn't it?

I mention finding a load of photography magazines from the 1980s and then get emails wanting to see photos of all the glamourous models...

Well, in answer to the somewhat accusatory missive that came in amongst them, yes I was only 15 when I started to buy Practical Photography, but whilst I certainly didn't skip past photos of topless models, throwing my hands up in disgust, I do have to point out that the photos of the 60s and 70s were a bit more tame than you would find in lads' mags of today!

Even in the 1980s they were hardly what you'd call porno! Cheesecloth was used quite a lot to great effect and there were a few shots along those lines in the mags I came across so I've included a couple here in answer to most of the emails, which were of the begging sort...

Remember not to look when your Gran is in the room.