Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Krimml Falls

Our friends Chrissie and Alex visited Austria this year and made a trip to Krimml Falls. Chrissie has uploaded some of her photos to Flickr.

We were there ourselves on Friday 18 August 2000 and she was asking how far up we got. My photo here shows exactly how high we went.

It was a hard slog up some very steep pathways, that zig-zagged up the mountainside. The height at the coach park was 1100 metres above sea level. We reached 1330 metres so in the limited time that we had, we had climbed the equivalent of one and a half Blackpool Towers!

Chrissie asked if we got as far as the cafe and to prove it here we are - on our way down, I might add - having our lunch all on our own!

We'd been told not to miss having some Wiener Schnitzel. It was excellent and we both enjoyed a really great dinner.

We ordered in German and after a while a waiter came in and rattled something off that I didn't catch. Presuming it to be "Is everything ok with your meal?" I answered cheerily, "Ja, danke!" on which agreement and thanks, he opened the windows, turned the stereo down and left...

I'm afraid I haven't any larger versions of these photos. From around 1997 I started to take digital photos, using the film camera only sparingly. The early digis weren't up to large format photos so there is a bit of a gap in my collection of large photos until around 2004 when I started saving photos at 800x600 size.

Here are a couple more of Krimml though!

Monday, 29 September 2008

Family History

Amongst all the old photos being scanned are some older photographs from both sides of the family.

This is one from Fran's side. Her dad, Bob Perks, is second from the right of the front row. He joined the army in 1937 and by 1939 had been transferred to the Leicestershire Regiment.

He served in India on the North West frontier and then to Singapore. He was taken prisoner by the Japanese on 15 February 1942 and remained so for 3 years and 239 days, being required to work on the Burma railroad.

Never once did he talk about his experiences to the family. His wife, Peggy, even in the 1990s, would say "What did the Japs do to you in the war, Bob?" and would get just a terse "Nowt!" in reply.

Whatever the real story, spending 3 years and 8 months in the conditions that there must have been would have been no picnic.

The photograph started out as a dark brown scrap of torn paper, creased and with chunks missing. I've spent hours trying to reconstruct it. At least one person had lots of damage across his face and so apologies if anyone knows the regiment and fails to recognise someone they are looking for.

Large Version of the Photo: Leicestershire Company

Sunday, 28 September 2008

A Glass of Tadpoles?

There's a gorgeous little village close to Cheddar Gorge in Somerset. Axbridge village centre is in the form of a market square - or market triangle to be more truthful, around which is gathered a couple of pubs, one or two shops, King John's Hunting Lodge and the church, looming over the rest from its perch on a hill.

By the church wall is this curious feature - the old village well where in times as yet untapped (sorry!) the villagers went for water. Very few old wells still exist in such good condition and I couldn't resist going for a closer look.

Yes, well... I put my water bottle back in the car unfilled... I suspect the village folks would have kept it a little cleaner and free from tadpoles when the wells were in daily use, but I couldn't help remembering the bit in the film Back to the Future III where Marty is offered a glass of water which turns out to be slightly more brown and cloudy than he was expecting! We take water very much for granted these days when we can just turn a tap in our kitchen and cool, clear, decontaminated water flows on demand. The good old days? I don't think so!!!

London By Night

Someone was very quick off the mark this morning.

As I uploaded this photograph of Admiralty Arch at night up to Flickr, someone had viewed it and left a comment on it even as I was still editing the title and tags!

It's another of the photos I took on that weekend trip in December 1995. I've always liked night photography, though in the days of film it used to be much trickier than it is these days with digital cameras coping with low light levels.

We spent ages wandering around London that first night, photographing floodlit buildings and of course, as it was December, it went dark very early anyway!

Here's one that was taken from one of those open-topped tour buses as we crossed Westminster Bridge towards the Houses of Parliament. It was dusk and the lens picked up those strange relected images of street lights, placing them to float in the sky.

We found a discount theatre ticket office and booked to see the life story of Roy Orbison the following night. So we ensured our second night might be a little warmer than the first!

Large Versions of the Photos: Admiralty Arch, Westminster Bridge and Parliament

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Our First London Weekend

The scanner has been busy remembering our first London weekend, way back in 1995.

We had been to London before but only once and that was a very brief day trip from a holiday in Great Yarmouth!

It was a 3-day visit starting on a Friday. This was our first chance to see the West End and the Christmas Lights - which were somewhat disappointing as we were expecting something like Blackpool Illuminations...

Also it started snowing on the Saturday morning and kept it up all the way through the weekend with temperatures reaching -8 at one point. But we didn't let that stop us enjoying ourselves though we gained a few pounds weight because we kept having to go into cafes for something to warm us up!

The first day we spent the afternoon in Madame Tussaud's waxworks which was a good way of staying warm and then went along the West End shops, having a good laugh at some of the prices and, where none were displayed, thinking that if you felt the need to ask...then you couldn't afford anyway!

We kept up this wide-eyed provincial wonderment all the way along Oxford Street until we reached Marble Arch then repeated it back down the other side of the road.

It had gone dark by this time and we were starting to think of something to eat which entailed walking down Regent Street towards Leicester Square and trying out one of the many steak houses there.

Then it was another session of walking slowly up shopping arcades, Bond Street, where we spotted David Attenborough and then wandered round the theatres seeing what was on and wondering which one to book for the following night.

Large Versions of the Photos: london buses, department store

Friday, 26 September 2008

The Orgasmic Tortoise

Anyone who remembers the Yoghurt Saga will know that the ladies in the Library at work lead somewhat adventurous lives.

But this has to take the biscuit...

Quite how anyone could sit unknowingly whilst an amourous tortoise charges up to do unspeakable things to your trainers is a bit beyond me. Get the thing some glasses! It should be attacking upturned cereal bowls and planters rather than your feet! What have I told you about washing between the toes?!? This is what you get when you have crusty feet!!!

Larger Version of the Photo: not a chance... Disgusting...! Going to have to shell out for a new pair now...

Admission Charge to BPB

This week Blackpool Pleasure Beach announced that free entry to the park will soon be a thing of the past. They plan to introduce a £20 admission charge which will include unlimited rides. However that means a family of four will pay £80 regardless of whether some family members will not want to ride. A family trip with grandparents will probably mean that a decision has to be taken whether to split up for a while or stay out of the park altogether.

I can't help feeling that since the passing of Geoff Thompson, the park has become increasingly anonymous and detached from reality. Almost every night Mr Thompson would be mentioned in the local paper, getting involved in many diverse activities in the town and coming across as someone genuinely concerned with the growth and reputation of Blackpool as a whole. There has always been an acknowledgement that the park was there to make money. The TV fly-on-the-wall series showed that quite clearly, but it was balanced with a personality and a face that was seldom seen in public without a smile.

Will I pay £20 for the privilege of going in to take photos as I have been used to doing over the years. Well there's nothing in me at the moment even saying "Go on... you know you want to..."

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Down To The Depths

Friday 23 September 1996

After leaving Corfe Castle on the previous day we decided to head northwards a little so as to have a more leisurely journey home.

We broke our journey on Friday to visit Wookey Hole Caves, sharing our visit with a crowd of children who were on a school trip. One little girl decided as soon as we were inside that she didn't like it and a teacher, sounding quite relieved herself, immediately offered to take her back out and wait for the others!

Wookey is one of England's great show caves. They make a big thing about the witch, but I've never been able to see that to any satisfaction - perhaps it's more wishful thinking, I'm not sure!

The floodlit pool - really the River Axe - is splendidly atmospheric, with its tethered boat or coracle. The river flows through the cavern, flooding several other caves that can only be reached by divers. Yet more caves in the system wait to be discovered.

I've never understood why caves have the fascination for me - as my one phobia would be about getting stuck and unable to move. You wouldn't find me doing any so-called "adventure caving". I'll stick to the easy lit pathways thanks!

Once out of the caves, Wookey has much more to offer. A paper mill still making quality paper is the first thing you come to followed by a display of fairground memorabilia and carvings.

Then there is an Edwardian Penny Slots arcade, with the vast majority of exhibits in working order and just waiting for you to swap your modern money for some old big heavy copper pennies so you can have a go!

Many of the coin slot entries to be found on this blog have photos that were taken at Wookey.

Large Versions of the Photos: the cave, carousel lion

Monday, 22 September 2008

Pinball Owners Assoc. Convention 1995

I've been scanning more of the dusty old negatives from my goody bag this weekend.

I'm trawling through the bag more or less at random but it still seems to be 1995/1996 that's coming up to the top.

In 1995 I helped the UK Pinball Owners' Association arrange their annual convention and World Pinball Championship at a hotel venue in Lytham St Annes.

We had a fabulous weekend playing the silver ball with a huge number of machines on free play to delegates. I managed to do extremely badly in the competition but never mind!

I had taken two older pinballs from the electro-mechanical age along - Williams' Lucky Ace and their Spanish Eyes machine. Also my jukebox was employed all weekend, belting out early 1960s tunes at top volume!

Happy memories!

Coin Slot Machines Index

Sunday, 21 September 2008

A Cottage Industry

Thursday 22 February 1996

Corfe Castle. Somewhere I'd always wanted to go to having seen so many beautiful photographs, but when we got there the weather had decided to do the nasty on us and we had to wander around in the rain. Still, without a doubt it was a lovely place to visit.

Not only the castle was of architectural interest. Almost every building was unique and we found the smallest Town Hall in England, a village pump encased in a blue-painted wooden casing and a gorgeous view of the ruined castle on its high mound, towering over the main street.

Fran was interested in finding the inspiration behind one of her Lilliput Lane cottages, Purbeck Stores.

We decided that the shop shown above was the closest contender.

February is probably not the best time to see England, though it gives a different perspective to some of the picture postcard views that you see on chocolate boxes, jigsaws and cards.

We vowed to return in better weather. All we've actually managed to do since then is visit in summer... which is not quite the same thing!

Large Versions of the Photos: Corfe Castle shop, Purbeck Stores model

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Where's The Gents?

From the same holiday as the Isle of Wight photos in the previous post, I couldn't resist taking a photograph of the stunningly tiled gable end of the Poole Arms at Poole in Dorset.

How many slightly inebriated folks have staggered out of the pub and then thought they were in the Gents, I wonder...?

Sorry for the short post - I'll think of another in a couple of shakes...

Large Version of the Photo: Poole Arms

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Snow at The Needles

If you can remember as far back as May, you may remember a post with a photograph of Lord Nelson's flagship The Victory which lies in permanent dry dock in Portsmouth.

We were on holiday at the time in February 1996 and despite the cold weather it was quite a good holiday that we spent moving from place to place.

One morning we had got up in Southsea to find snow on the ground and seeing the ferry in the background gave us the idea of going over to the Isle of Wight.

We braved the cold weather on the deck of the ferry and then drove around the coast of the island stopping here and there when we felt brave enough to leave the warmth of the car.

We had to stop at The Needles of course, though my feet got cold and wet from tramping through the snow to take a couple of photos.

We definitely did not do the Isle of Wight justice! Though on that particular day it was a mite inhospitable. I have a tape recording of the wind whistling like a banshee through the rigging of yachts moored at the side of the pier at Yarmouth and we got soaked in a downpour on our brief charge from the car into a large pearl centre where Fran talked me into buying her a string of pearls!

Someday, hopefully someday in the nearer rather than distant future, we will have to return on a warmer day and enjoy what the Isle of Wight has to offer!

Larger Versions of the Photos: ferry at Southsea, The Needles

Island Star Sailaway from Mahon

Friday 29 August 2008. We heard the call of lunch and walked the short distance from the cafe to the ship.

We entered on deck 3 and Mum got into the lift. We told her we'd see her on deck 11 and set off up the stairs. On deck 8 we told her to get back into the lift... Having had a spot of lunch, I wiped it off with a hanky and we went to find our usual table on the pool deck.

The usual crowd of waiters came round to talk to Mum; "Mom Evelyne, you want a drink from the bar?" Ha! The normal correct phrasing would be "Do you want to drink the contents of the bar...?" Eventually she allowed her favourite waiter, Julius, to take her over to the ice cream point for a Magnum.

I spent a happy hour with my mind switched off, doodling this view outside the window with a certain amount of head bobbing called for as the handrail was right at the height of my eyes.

Well, put a Magnum, my Mum and the hot temperatures together and this was inevitable. She even managed to get some on her glasses somehow. "Well, it gives you something to do..." she remarked cheerfully, watching me struggle to clean them.

Sailaway time came and, as the sun had moved around from where it was on our sail into Mahon, we now had another wonderful opportunity to photograph the opposite side to the channel on our way out. The ship's rail was lined with people.

"That one's mine!" said a crew member, pointing at a particularly gorgeous villa. "Oh, you must have moved in next door to us then," I laughed.

I particularly liked this one, with its many steps, its sun terraces and boat house. Fabulous! I imagine the rent is too...

We had our evening meal once more in the Steak Restaurant, ably attended to by Vivian and then went to watch the show in the theatre.

After which, the captain came on with a crowd of crew and staff to say goodbye. It had been a good relaxing holiday. Mum enjoyed it - she's already wanting to know if she can go again in a couple of years. Next year she's going off to Malta with my brother and his wife. As for us - well Fran had decided we were going back and booked it whilst we were on board, upgrading us to a cabin with a balcony. She'd have opted for one with a veranda if I hadn't said that it was the bridge she was looking at...

The following day we were back in Palma and faced with a three hour delay to the flight. In the light of the crash of the XL companies, perhaps we weren't so badly off!

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Sunday, 14 September 2008

The Wigtown Martyrs

A couple of years ago it was the 30th anniversary of the making of the cult hit film The Wicker Man and director Robin Hardy and actress Ingrid Pitt returned to Wigtown in Scotland where the film had been shot for a celebratory weekend.

We went along to support Ingrid and had a great weekend of which the abiding memory is of driving down pitch dark country lanes having no idea where I was heading with Ingrid saying "You're doing very well, I wouldn't be so confident about finding my way..." We stayed ourselves in a more modest little guest house on the edge of a great salt marsh which was so flat that the incoming tide covers a huge expanse of land. It had been the scene of a great tragedy of justice in the 17th Century.

Kings since Henry VIII have been Head of the Church and an oath recognising him as such was required. With the union of Scotland and England under King James I, the oath was required for the first time of Scots. Many refused, saying that Jesus was obviously the Head of the Church. Those refusing to give the oath were known as Covenanters. Two such women were gruesomely martyred here on 11 May 1685. Margaret McLachlan, an elderly woman in her 60s, and Margaret Wilson, a teenager, were sentenced to be tied to stakes on the merse at Wigtown Bay to be drowned by the incoming tide.

The old woman's stake was further out than the teenager's so that the sight of her drowning might influence her to give the oath. However she would not and was also drowned as the tide rose further. The pillar shown was set up on the site, though the tide mark has since receded from that of 1685.

Related: The weekend with Ingrid Pitt at the Wicker Man anniversary

Mahon, Menorca

Friday 29 August and we have arrived at Mahon on the island of Menorca where the ship has sailed right up the the streets of the town.

Mum made it up the four series of steps from the quayside with a stop to catch her breath every now and then and we found ourselves in the town of Mahon.

We had a short and gentle walk around the immediate area.

Brightly coloured streamers were flying, giving the place a carnival appearance. Put these up in a resort in England and I suspect they would be faded and dirty and giving anything but the right atmosphere before too long!

We wandered the streets and shops for a while and decided we didn't want to buy any souvenirs and that Mum had bought enough new clothes to last a lifetime...

We went back down the steps and along a row of cafes on the port road, but they all seemed to have square umbrellas that made an unbroken roof and were a bit smoky underneath from cigarettes! After they were banned from enclosed premises in the UK we've got used to clean air and notice cigarette smoke more.

We got back to the cafes at the foot of the set of steps that we had walked up into the town this morning. Just up a few steps overlooking the cafe tables was a market with perhaps half a dozen stalls.

Fran and Mum went off to a market whilst I drew a quick sketch of the steep hill seen earlier and then I caught up with them back at the cafe.

Fran had a slush drink - not sure what it was but it was based on some sort of red berry and it was delicious. I got one myself and we spent a pleasant half hour just talking and watching the comings and goings taking place around us.

Mum was happy with a new top that she had bought. Fran was less than happy at the fact that she had taken her eye off Mum for just a second or two only to find she had totally vanished from this very small market. She had gone behind a stall to try on the top without telling Fran where she was going. For a while Fran was on the point of going frantic. Mum remained unconcerned... "I knew where I was..." she said.

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Saturday, 13 September 2008

Sailing Into Mahon

We had been told to be up early for our final day on the Island Star.

It was Friday 29 August and the final port of call before heading back to Majorca for the flight home was Mahon on the Mediterranean island of Menorca.

"It's the most beautiful approach to a port in the Med," one of the crew had told me. "Make sure you are up on deck as we come in."

And here is the proof to the accuracy of that statement. Whitewashed buildings, cliffs and a deep blue sea. "Of course it's the same view going out..." the crew member had shrugged, but as a photographer I knew that wouldn't be the case. The light would be totally different and, as it turned out, the morning light was ideal to take photos of the beautiful scenery coming in. Menorca has a long channel down which the ships sail before reaching the port and Mahon itself.

It took 30 minutes from turning into the bay to reaching our docking point.

We sailed past this tiny island with the ruined buildings and wondered what it was.

"It's a plague island!" I heard one passenger say. It could have been a leper or plague colony, but just as equally it could have been a prison, a military academy or a school or a religious colony. As always, Google provides an answer. Its name is Illa Del Rey, the Island of the King. The king in question was King Alfonso III of Aragon who landed here in 1287 prior to his conquering of Menorca away from the Muslims. The hospital was built by the British in 1711 and was so successful that the island became known as "Bloody Island"...

Over the years the island was used variously as a refuge for those with Yellow Fever (plague island - tick), a storage space for coal (didn't think of that one...) and in 1843, a military hospital with a much better reputation than the British effort. In 1888 traces of a very early 6-7th century Christian basilica were found and in 2004 a "friends" organisation was formed to restore and take care of the island.

We stayed standing against the ship's rail until the call for breakfast became just too much and the rumbling of our tummies rivalled the ship's engines! We went down to the Beachcomber restaurant and ate, then came back out into the daylight to be astonished at the view.

The ship was docked right at the edge of the town as this shot shows. Mum was looking slightly askance at all the steps leading upwards but we knew she'd make it ok if she wanted to! Ok, hats, cameras, suntan lotion, money, sunglasses - oh, no, the sunglasses are still in the car in Manchester aren't they... Too bad! Let's go!

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Friday, 12 September 2008

Island Star Deck Party

Thursday 28 August 2008.

If you ever sail on the Island Star then don't miss the Thursday night deck party. At this party all the senior officers of the ship, including the captain, line up above the pool deck and perform a dance routine.

This particular night there was a stiff breeze on the Mediterranean and for the only time on the entire cruise (or any of the 4 cruises we've done on the Med) we were cold! It must have felt freezing up on the balcony of the sun decks.

I'd spent the night on my own after Fran and Mum decided to go for the Ladies' Night pampering up in the spa salon. I watched the show and explained to the bar staff several times where "Mom Evelyne" was - huh? She was in her element all week as they all made a fuss of her!

Can you believe it? Tomorrow is our last day!

Larger version of the photo: Island Star Deck Party

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Fruit Carving

Thursday 28 August 2008. We left Villefranche and returned to the Island Star. Whilst I folded myself into a sitting position on the pool deck and was happily making people around me nervous by chortling away at random to my book, Fran and Mum went to watch the afternoon's activities near the stage.

One of the kitchen chefs was carving melons, pineapples and other assorted fruits into flowers, horses, cartoon figures etc.

By controlling how deep he cut into the melon he could introduce different colours, the deep green of the rind, the lighter green of the outer flesh and the red of the inner flesh.

Fascinating to watch and you have to marvel at how they can visualise something so intricate before they start, so they can make the first cuts.

A few of them are shown here. Every afternoon there was some sort of demonstration. Fruit carving, ice carving, towel and napkin folding - a bit like origami with thicker materials, to make swans, monkeys and more...

The bar staff gave demonstrations of cocktail making, juggling bottles and shakers and handing out the results of their mixing!

The poolside bar. There were so many roving waiters there was no need to go up to the bar unless you wanted to sit at it.

That night Fran and Mum went to a ladies-only evening in the Spa. I went up on deck for the Captain's Party and would meet them there once they had pampered themselves.

The Island Star's Captain's Deck Parties were legendary. The entire management team of the ship came out to line the rail of the top balcony deck over the Pool Deck and performed a semi-choreographed dance with more enthusiasm than co-ordination perhaps, but it was very enjoyable.

Fran and Mum turn up, looking happy, but hot!

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