Thursday, 21 August 2008

Killer Shark

There have been numerous shooting games in amusement arcades over the years. Bulls eye targets, Red Indians, ducks, cats, clowns, jungle beasts... Then when computer electronics got good enough we had Space Invaders, then Asteroids and once all the outer space scenarios had been used up we went back to dangerous animals.

Killer Shark was released by Sega in 1972. The premise of the game was that you were a scuba diver with a harpoon gun and you had to kill the sharks that were threatening you. A hit made the shark writhe amidst a cloud of blood. The game was immensely popular in Blackpool's arcades and I presume everywhere else as well. It was even featured in the famous shark film, Jaws!

Coin Slot Machines Index

Garstang Music And Arts Festival

Were we lucky or what?!? At 6:30am this morning the Heavens opened and as the radio news came on half an hour later it was all about floods and dire warnings.

We got to Garstang early and the sky was cloudy but it was dry. We set up and played an hour and a half then there were a few spots of rain. We switched off and covered over and took a lunch break whilst the rain stopped and blue sky inched its way over us.

By the time we started again at 2:00pm we had bright sunshine and a decent sized audience. We played our way through the 1950s and 1960s and then launched into Status Quo's Rocking All Over The World. It was like switching on an audience magnet. People started coming our way from every direction and we ended the afternoon with a few rock and roll numbers each one generating enthusiastic applause.

All day the fire brigade were just a couple of hundred yards down the road pumping away water from a flooded stretch of road!

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Chester Cathedral

We had a day out to Chester yesterday.

It stayed dry for most of the day but wasn't exactly sunny, sparkling weather. Having carried the camera about all day taking what I expected to be (and what in fact were) dull uninspired photos of admittedly wonderful buildings most of which I have already photographed to much greater effect before, I suggested going into the cathedral.

Chester has two cathedrals in fact. The earlier St John's Cathedral is a ruin to be found near to the Roman ampitheatre.

At the Reformation in 1541 the Abbey Church of St Werbergh was saved from destruction by being designated as the new cathedral and it was rededicated as the Cathedral Church of Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary.

There has been a church on this site since the 900s and it is thought the place was a place of worship since Roman times. Most of the early Christian churches were built over places of pagan worship as it not only got rid of the opposition but people in the habit of going to the same place whether they liked it or not, now had to worship in a Christian setting regardless of which god their prayers were directed towards.

At the Reformation the shrine of St Werbergh was broken up and scattered about the cathedral, though it has recently (1993) been reassembled into the Lady Chapel and is a rare survival. She was a Saxon king's daughter, who brought a goose back to life after it had been killed, cooked and eaten! Not a girl to be messed with!

"But I thought it had a black band around its leg...?"
"Shhh... you'll annoy the king!"
"Ah... Yes... A Miracle!!! Look everybody! It's the same (burp!) goose! Oops...!"

The choir stall tracery did manage to survive not only the Reformation and Henry VIII's men, but the Puritans, who during the Civil War took hammers to everything they considered to be a bit Popist. A knight and his Lady had their hands smashed off their monument because one black-garbed zealot said to his mate, "Hey up, Jeremiah, do you think they look to be praying a bit Catholic-like?"

The tracery shown here was carved around the year 1380, probably the life's work of their craftsman.

We headed for the Refectory, as we both needed something to drink. The Refectory is that of the Benedictine monks, though these days there is no one sternly going Shhhh!!! if you want to talk to your companion or a neighbour at the next table.

I spied some dark blue glass bottles with a wired cap. Oh wonder! Fizzy sasparilla!!! I haven't tasted that since I was a teenager, taking my school dinner money and going into town for a bag of chips instead...

There used to be a shop in Heywood, Lancs in 1967 (where I went to the Grammar School) that opened bottles of Ben Shaws sasparilla, dandelion & burdock, cream soda and all the rest and would sell a glass full in plastic glasses for 6d (2.5 pence for you young things).

It cost considerably more than sixpence but it was with reverence that I pushed the wired top off with a startlingly loud pop (the monks would have had heart attacks!) and poured it into a wine glass (the only sort on offer).

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.... I didn't buy any to bring home. That sort of spiritual joy is fitting in a cathedral and should be an experience kept as a special treat at long intervals and thus Chester Cathedral is assured of my patronage at some future date! And the fact that it was in a small wine glass only added to the experience as I sipped it instead of glugging which, had the glass been a larger one, I may have been tempted to do!

We had a walk along the cloisters with their wonderful stained glass. These two windows were side by side, but I've taken the liberty of moving them closer together on the photograph to fit in a bit more detail.

There are 150 saints represented in the stained glass of the cloister. Shown here are an angel weighing human souls against a couple of demons and one of the archangels, Raphael, although his name is hard to make out, being broken by a cross member of the window's stonework..

We came out of the cathedral into a summer shower. That's all this summer seems to have been so far isn't it? Ah, well, not to worry as they say.

We walked back to the car under the cover of the Rows, Chester's famous 14th century double-decker shopping arcades.

Larger versions of the photos available - cathedral nave, choir stall tracery, stained glass.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Blackpool Tower and Beach

A couple of today's photo uploads to my Flickr account.

I could almost have included this in the Vanished Blackpool series as these days it is rare to see the number of people on the beach that you see in this photo from around 1980.

Even by the 1980s the beach was still a favourite spot for tourists to park a deckchair and put up a wind break. The Council used to employ a number of staff every year to man stations all along the promenade, hiring out deckchairs and windbreaks by the day or half-day.

A path from the slade has to be kept free of deckchairs as this is the route down which the lifeboat will be brought in case of an emergency. Most of the ice cream koisks still relied on insulation and lots of ice rather than generators and refridgeration to keep their ice cream cold.

Moving into the Tower for a photo again taken in the very early 1980s, this shows the Tower Ballroom.

Phil Kelsall is playing the Wurlitzer, although the dance floor is empty as this was a Sunday night. Dancing was still not allowed on Sunday nights and instead the organist gave a recital of film music, popular classics and fun items.

When he played The Dam Busters March the Ballroom vibrated as the very loud sound effect of a Lancaster Bomber was played over the organ music!

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Vanished Blackpool - Tram Depot

Whilst no town can ever hope to preserve all of its historic buildings without halting all progress, this loss was a particularly sad one.

The tram depot on Rigby Road Blackpool was subject to a lot of public interest in 1982 as the town at the time had just three years to go before it celebrated one hundred years of electric trams. It was the first town to have electric trams as well as being the only town in England to retain its trams to the present day. There were calls for the building to be preserved to house a museum to the tramway system (something that Blackpool still doesn't have in 2008). However the building was demolished shortly after I took this photograph on 18 March 1982. Nice Ford Cortina MkIV parked outside too.

Return to Blackpool Tram and Bus Index Page


It was the annual reunion yesterday.

Alex, Jackie and I met up in Liverpool - European City of Culture for the year - to... well to get some culture, what else?

Jackie's home town, so she was in charge of venues. In the plural. More than one. Three in fact. And with scenic walks through the streets of Liverpool to get from each to the next. Some of these walks were strangely reminsicent of Disneyland ride queues... as in we zig-zagged up and down streets trying to find where we were going.

Eventually Jackie admitted she was lost and both Alex and I pulled maps from our pockets... "Yes! Pilgrim Street!" she said enthusiastically. We walked along Pilgrim Street. "It's up here!" she said, taking us away from Pilgrim Street. "Well I thought it was..."

Let's not get too far ahead. I was first on the scene at the Fly in the Loaf, an atmospheric pub, which...didn't look open... Ah, wait - as I was on the phone to Jackie the shutters went up!

Jackie walked round the corner, we got a drink, Alex walked in and we yattered as we always do on these occasions - about anything but school funnily enough. Considering we were all friends at school, school didn't come into the conversation much. Old friends got a mention but most of the day was about what we are doing these days, hopes, aspirations, life.

The menu was a bit sparse so Jackie took us to an Italian - a good find, excellent food, haven't clue what it was called or where it was... So a great meal and a bottle of wine which Jackie did very well out of as both Alex and I were driving.

Conversation turned to a day in the Lake District thirty seven years ago. Six of us were piled into my Hillman Minx. It was a wonderful day of teenaged togetherness and fun. We were lucky in the group of friends we had. The bonds are still strong enough to draw us back every year even now.

"We were lucky to come back from that one..." Alex said. Well we skidded a bit round one corner! Six of us in that great tank of a car, no servo-assisted brakes. You put your foot on the brakes, pulled on the wheel until you were standing on the pedal and hoped for the best! No power steering either. With six people in it, steering was a test of strength! I had muscles like Charles Atlas in those days! (I mean Charles Atlas when he was a teenager - you know, the one on the beach having sand kicked in his face...)

Jackie went off to the loo leaving us with her diaries from 1970-72 to thumb through. (See, that's dedication! She even thinks about entertaining us whilst absent for a minute or two!) She was back far too quickly and took (took? snatched!) them back off us.

Then the rather less-than-straight walk as described above to find Ye Cracke, Liverpool's oldest pub, which we did eventually find after asking someone. How do you ask where a pub called "The Crack" is without it sounding as though you want to buy something? Must have looked bloody desperate, three mid-fifties old farts looking for transcendental spacial experiences...

Anyway here it is, loaded with atmosphere, dark, seemingly built of wood and glass - stained glass too and the three old farts on a mid-fifties version of a pub crawl. "Three diet cokes please..."

A great afternoon guys and many thanks to Jackie for acting as hostess with the mostess!

As a follow-on, Jackie left the following comment which I now transfer to here :-

Hi John,
Funnily enough not two months ago I was snapped looking at maps to work out exactly where said pub was and have pic which I will send...
...and with the photo...

Does this scene look familiar?...we were , erm... I was , looking for the Cracke - it is a bugger to find , sober or squiffy...
Which one's me and which one's Alex...?

Oh and don't forget you are charged with finding out about the Heywood reunion in September!

Friday, 15 August 2008

Thornton Windmill As It Was

This is Thornton Windmill taken in 1984 before the craft village and Tavern At The Mill pub restaurant were built. Thornton is reached by heading inland from Cleveleys, near Blackpool. The area around the mill at that time was just scrubland and a high concrete fence surrounded the back of the mill. The photo was taken on a 2¼" square colour transparency or colour slide, on a Mamiya C330 twin lens reflex camera. I've currently no way of scanning such large transparencies so this was scanned from the 1985 Blackpool Gazette calendar in which it appeared.(1) This was my first calendar publication. The following year I had not only the front cover of the calendar but another two or three shots inside also. The front cover was shown on a previous posting.

The windmill is the tallest one in the Fylde (the larger area including Lytham, St Annes, Blackpool, Cleveleys, Poulton and Singleton). There are around half a dozen windmills still standing in the Fylde with another two "over Wyre". At one time though the sails of around 40 mills could be seen from the top of Blackpool Tower. Built in 1794, by the 1920s the first two floors of Thornton Mill had been converted into tea rooms, run by the Misses Barter and Baldwin who advertised:

The Ideal Place for Motorists
Rooms let for picnic, Wedding and
other parties. Parking Ground

(1) Having subsequently bought a scanner capable of scanning large transparencies, the photographs here have been re-scanned and updated as part of a project begun in 2019 to bring all of my Blackpool entries up to my current standard.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

The Golden Age of Rock 'n' Roll

This tidy up lark's not all bad is it? By which I suppose I mean it's not always all that effective either...

I found these...

A set of six triple CDs with some great early rock 'n' roll music on them. Yes ok, I already had much of it but there were some gems I've had to stop tidying up to listen to and then I had to rip them to the PC so the CDs can go back up in the attic (which at least stops them cluttering up the spare room a bit).

How do we acquire so much stuff???

And how does a week fly past so quick? I mean - it's Thursday already! All I've done is tidy up, rehash the website, realise how few of the lost websites I can find the original photos of to scan them larger (film huh?), go into town, upgrade my phone (still same number for those who know what it is), take Fran looking for a craft shop in Preston (small - hardly worth the trip), watch DVDs (Kingdom of Heaven, Sing As We Go, That'll Be The Day, Stardust), take Fran to work (heh!), taken Fran to lunch, plan to meet Alex and Jackie for lunch in Liverpool...

I don't feel so bad after reading Jackie's email which goes along similar lines to my own experience. She writes:

"Mr W is off on hols this week and we've been having a de clutter fortnight instead of a holiday---- -great... So far I've only suceeded in moving clutter around and forming new attachments to it, much to Mr W's dismay."

I can relate to that...

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Web Sites Gone Permanently

The other day I mentioned that some of my web sites were down and it now looks as though it's a permanent thing.

Orange had sent out notifications in July but, as they say in their response to my plea for help, I might not have received them "due to a restrictive spam filter". Does that mean any spam filter, Mr Orange or just those that are worth switching on? Or perhaps you don't consider news about the pending disappearance of web sites important enough to send notification in a way you know has a good chance of reaching your intended recipients?


Anyway I have rehashed the main web index quite drastically and a lot of older pages have disappeared. I'll try to add some of them back in the form of sets of photos at Flickr but don't hold your breath.

Also if you do visit the web sites often please make sure you have bookmarked the Flickr site and this blog as the longevity of the main website must be in question - freeserve was bought out by Wanadoo long ago and in turn they were bought out by Orange a couple of years ago.

So if the main site disappears - please let me know as they probably won't have told me in a way that I'll get to know...

The future's bright... but not "bright" as in clever...

Tuesday, 12 August 2008


I'm just starting my annual summer break.

Fran's still working this week so it's my catch-up-with-all-the-things-I-haven't-done-yet week. Not fun things I hasten to add, though I may try to sneak some of those in as well. Nope - there's the floor in the spare room to reclaim, the fence to paint, the photos to be re-hung in the hallway that were taken down for the central heating to go in a year ago... You get the drift...

I took the first of the boxes of old CDs, DVDs, books and bits to the charity shop yesterday. Why are they so ungrateful? They either want it or not, but if not I'd rather they said and I'll take it somewhere else. Instead I got, "Oh, we're bursting with those things, I haven't got room, well if you just dump it there I'll have to put them in the toilet..."

I almost said "Where is it? I'll drown them myself..."

So the rest can go to the tip - easier for me. You can't pass on electrical goods these days because they should be PAT tested in case they electrocute someone who might sue so the old karaoke machine is definitely destined for the tip!

We used that for the band's very first gig before we bought a PA. Sheesh that's going back a bit! Seven years in fact - we've come on a bit since then and we hardly suspected then that we would be the sort of band we are now.

Talking of which - next Thursday we are playing at Garstang Music Festival, on the corner of the car park near the council offices. Depending on the weather of course as it's an open air gig with no cover. Previous years have been kind to us and we usually draw quite a crowd of onlookers as an audience.

The photo at the top of this post reminds me of a very chilled morning. It was taken at Woodbridge, near Ipswich very early one morning in 2003, where I was attending a meeting for work. I was awake early and got up to look at the river, being rewarded by this tranquil scene. The Sutton Hoo archeological site is close by this place. It was quiet, the water was like glass. It was February.

Chilled? To the bone!

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Some Web Sites Down

I'm sorry to have to announce that some of my web sites are down at the moment.

They are all of the sites hosted on Orange's MySite servers. They include the pages covering :

  • our Paris trip in 1999

  • our Austrian Trip of 2000

  • our Amsterdam trip in 2001

  • our Disneyland Paris trip in 2001

  • our cruise around the Canary Isles in 2004

  • Sorrento in 2005

  • our Mediterranean cruise of 2006

  • my Nostalgia site (which I know is a popular one)

  • my London site

  • my Sketches site
I've reported the problem to Orange and am now waiting a resolution. I can still see the files by opening an FTP connection so it must be something to do with the URLs or something.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Blue Skies in Photographs

A couple of weeks ago I was idly trawling through the Internet, looking for anything vaguely interesting and I came across a blog for travel writers that was giving advice on photography.

Most of it was good, but I left a comment on the entry that the best bit of kit I carry with me is my circular polarizing filter. Working on the same principle as polaroid lenses, by rotating the filter I can make blue skies darker, which can have a dramatic effect and makes your photos look much more professional.

They work best when the sun is slanted sideways across the photograph - they have little effect if the sun is directly behind you or in front of you. They do cut down the light a little too, which used to call for careful exposure if using film, but with today's digital cameras is no problem at all.

All you need is a camera that is capable of taking filters, such as a digital SLR, and a filter with the correct size of screw mount. Typical sizes are 52, 55 or 58 millimetres and the correct size should be written on the front of your lens around the rim. Happy shooting!

My photograph here is of Wareham in Dorset, a town that retains some evidence of the old Saxon town walls built for King Alfred the Great as a defence against Norse raiders. It was taken in 1997 on colour negative film with a Canon EOS camera.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Moreton Corbet - Castle and Mystery

Ah! It's been a bit of an impulse day! I was in Shrewsbury for a meeting and having had that, I was driving merrily back towards the North West, wondering where I would be by the time my stomach signalled it was too long past lunch, when I saw a sign for a castle.

There's so many brown signs on the road these days (you can buy them I think - which explains why you see tourist signs these days pointing to "Lil's Burger Caravan"). Anyway, I wasn't going to stop for a lunchbreak and therefore thought a quick ten minutes look at a castle I'd never even heard of might be fun.

This is Moreton Corbet, which is almost two castles in one. An older castle has a few remains dating from the 1200s and this shell dates from the 16th century. It was originally built, not by a Norman, but by a Saxon who had found favour with the new rulers in our country. A rare castle then - although apparently the Saxon, Bartholomew Toret, fell out with King John and was thrown in jail in 1215. The castle passed into the hands of the Norman Corbet family when Toret's heiress married into the family a couple of dozen years later.

I started off at the 16th century block and then walked through to the remains of the older castle. Part of the keep tower still stands and some of the outer wall, though little remains of any rooms. The most complete part is the gatehouse which had been remodelled in the 1500s.

Walking out via the gatehouse I passed though a fence with two very unusual "gateposts". I was now in the driveway to a church, St Bartholomew's, which had a very fine old building nearby - the old rectory perhaps. I didn't go into the church as I still get twinges of guilt at sightseeing on a working day. How ridiculous that is considering I could have legitimately taken an hour for lunch and in any case had been away from home for two nights... Well, I spent perhaps a quarter of an hour altogether and had driven a massive 4 miles (counting both the journey from the main road and going back) in a diesel hire car that reckoned it was doing 56 miles per gallon.

It was whilst looking at the church that I got an inkling of where the "gateposts" had come from. I wonder where the other two were? I was also amazed at the number of helicopters that were buzzing about my ears. At least ten had flown over during my visit and some of them were very low. Looking up the castle on the Internet just now, I found I was just a short distance from an RAF helicopter training school. So not the castle to go to for peace and quiet then!

There is a ghost story here, of the Puritan who was a guest and who outstayed his welcome, being thrown out of the castle. He cursed the new block so that it would never be completed and it is said that his ghost haunts it still to make sure it won't ever be. It wasn't ever finished in fact and the Roundheads setting it on fire certainly helped the ghost put the kibosh on the Corbet family's building aspirations! The bright sunshine today though, certainly didn't have me thinking of ghosts and hauntings! It's good sometimes to go aside from your route on impulse!

Return to UK Castles index page

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Funhouse Pinball

Someone gave me a nudge the other day and said "It's ages since you did an entry about coin-slots and pinball." They were right too - so here's one I didn't prepare earlier...

Funhouse was a brilliant game. Produced by Williams in 1990 it had an animated mannequin head on the playfield whose eyes swivelled towards whichever target had last been hit by the silver ball so it appeared to be watching the ball. Using an extra flipper positioned on the left hand side of the playfield halfway up, it was possible to send the ball to hit the head upon which it would say "Ouch!" and "Stop that!" in a very aggrieved tone! If you could time the shot to hit the mouth whilst it was open (you could get him to go to sleep upon which his mouth opened to snore!) then the ball disappeared down his throat to the accompaniment of a gulping noise and he came awake hurriedly and "heaved" the ball back at you with an appropriate sound effect to start a multiball sequence.

It had two plungers also - a second plunger on the left came into play if you could get the ball down a particular chute. Extremely funny to play, lots of skill needed to get some of the trickier shots and superb fun. One of Williams' staff told of the time when he was alone in the factory with lots of the games plugged in on test and in the eerie silence every now and then a voice would come from one of the games to say "I'm watching you"!

Coin Slot Machines Index

Monday, 4 August 2008

Cack-Handed Record Player

Every now and then (when I'm fed up enough) I go through my photos to see whether I was doing anything this day 5, 10, 15 whatever years ago. In 1998 I'd gone to the antiques warehouse GB Antiques in Lancaster.

We came across this rather strange record player, though quite admirably I resisted buying it! The casing is a bit weird in that the lid seems to cover the entire thing rather than sitting on a bottom half. Then a closer look at the record deck itself made me wrinkle the noble brow in surprise. The pickup arm rests at 90 degrees to the usual resting place. It looks almost back to front! Unfortunately it didn't have a maker's or model name, so unless someone can identify it and leave a comment then it will have to remain a mystery for another ten years or so...

Return to Record Players Index Page

Darwen Charity Gig

Yesterday saw us out in Darwen, playing for a charity event in aid of cancer research at the home of our special friends, Christine and Brian.

It's a large garden and we had a gazebo in one corner just in case but the rain was good to us and stayed away whilst we played throughout the afternoon and into the evening.

A slight technical mishap - we'd taken our smaller PA system and then blew one of the speakers... A touch of repair work needed I think! Anyway the remaining speaker was made of hardier stuff and performed well for the rest of the gig!

And I gather whilst we were out and working, we had a track played on London's Radio Northwick Park - thank you to DJ Pierre Petrou and our friends at!

The track at the Billy Fury site this month is one of my solo efforts - Tracks of My Tears.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Buying More Junk (I Mean Gems)

I know, I know...

I've been saying for ages, "I must tidy up, I must throw stuff out, I must clear some space..."

But then the little horned side of me says "You can never have too much stuff..."

I went in the second hand records shop today. By-product of having started the day talking about records... Came out with a handful of 45s and an LP. Ha! Look at this though! How do you get a record sleeve in such a horrendous state? It looks as though it's been chewed by the family's dog or something. But the record seems ok. (I'm not referring to the content now, ok?)

Aw, come on! It roared to No.1 in the charts when it came out! Was it the catchy tune? The naff lyrics? The curiously flat intonation of singer Sally Carr?

Agh... I've just listened to it. It really is awful isn't it? But even so, part of me wanted to sing along! This is the Spanish version too. It's the standard song in English alright, but the sleeve is written in Spanish. It's not clear if that is Spanish or English Sellotape that was so clearly a last ditch effort to hold the cover sleeve together. Failed!


This is the album I bought. After going down to Babbacombe to see the current line-up of The Honeycombs in concert, I've been wanting to listen to the originals of their songs and, I'm afraid, the only one I had until recently was the big hit Have I The Right (to which the correct answer is "Yes and it's a match for the left").

A few weeks ago I found an old battered single of That's The Way but it is more crackle than honeycomb so it was with relief that I saw that this 1964 album includes that excellent track. So, let's give it a play!

Ah... yep... well, nothing that a lot of work with spit, an oily rag and a pair of pliers won't put right I'm sure... The first three tracks on side one jump a bit. Well, ok a lot... But hey! That's The Way is track 4!

There must be a better preserved version somewhere - Marty! Tone! Can I get a swap??? Oops, no Tony wasn't around at this point, like me he was probably still running around in shorts, although come to think of it perhaps he was running around in shorts and swilling vodka...?

I'll work on this folks - the tracks I have heard mean it will be worth a careful immersion in water and then a few hours scraping sludge out of the grooves! Oh... I'm supposed to be spending my time tidying up aren't I...?

Friday, 1 August 2008

Vanished Blackpool - Space Tower

There are lots of photographs in my collection of things that no longer exist. Even were I to limit the photographs to my home town of Blackpool, there are still lots of photos showing things that are no longer there.

This photo showing the Space Tower at the Pleasure Beach is one such. It opened as a new ride in 1974, a 160 feet high column with a slowly spinning pod that rose to the top, spun round a couple of times and came down again. It stood next to the Watson Road junction with the Promenade and for around 20 years was a landmark of the Pleasure Beach.

It stood in the way of the development of the Pepsi Max Big One in the 1990s and was taken down in 1993 and re-erected in the company's Frontierland park in Morecambe, repainted in green following a sponsorship deal with Polo Mints. That park has since disappeared but the last time I was there, the only thing that still existed to show the park had been there were the sad, neglected remains of the Space Tower. More Vanished Blackpool to come!

Return to Blackpool Pleasure Beach Index Page