Thursday, 29 January 2009

Edinburgh With A View

I've moved from Newcastle to Edinburgh and am now in the middle of two workshops that we are running for the JISC Regional Support Centre (RSC, but not the Royal Shakespeare Company) for Scotland North and East.

I'm staying in the Holiday Inn on Queensferry Road and from my 5th floor room have an excellent view towards the castle and city centre.

Having spent the first half of the week in Newcastle, it seems a long week. I travel a lot for work and quite enjoy it, but leaving the house on Monday mornings and not getting home until Friday night is not my favourite working week!

Clive has been with me today as we were running a Project Management workshop. Tomorrow I'm on my own, delivering an Information and Email Management workshop at the same venue in Edinburgh's Telford College.

We got here last night just a touch too late to take advantage of a brilliant 2-meals-for-£5 offer at a Sainsburys store just opposite the hotel. I made sure I was there in time tonight, but being on my own the offer was a bit wasted really... I did consider that it would only cost an extra 60p for a double meal but even I'm not that much of a gannet! Good meal though!

Back at home, Fran's busy psyching herself up to cater for 80-ish people at a gig the band have arranged in the Blackpool region. Saturday might be as much of a rush as the rest of the week has been!

Large versions of the photos: Edinburgh at night, retail park

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Canon 350D Download Problem

Yippee! At last I've managed to find a solution to a really niggling problem.

When I got the new computer it had Windows Vista and as with any new operating system I expected to find a few things that didn't quite work properly. One of these was the downloading of images from my camera, a Canon EOS 350D. I visited the Canon website and downloaded the driver they have on there and it downloaded, installed and opened up automatically when I connected the camera and switched it on. Lovely!

Except that it totally and utterly refused to do anything from that point onwards. It didn't download any photos from the camera. It didn't give me any error messages. It didn't want to close... I kept having to do a three-finger salute and force the software to close, turn off the camera, remove the flash card and insert that in a card reader.

I muttered and gnashed my teeth at Canon for having such a grotty driver and tried at intervals to download it again only to go through the same frustrating palaver.

Then tonight, having done it all yet again, I did a Google search and came across a blog entry by a chap called Tomek Onyszko from Warsaw in Poland.

He had also had the same problem and found out (I know not how) that you could solve it by going into the camera's menu (tools menu 2) and under the connection setting, change it from PC Connection to Print/PTP.

Tomek, thank you! I hope you see this because your own blog does not accept comments unless you are signed up to whatever it is you have to be signed up to to make comments. And I hope that by proliferating the advice someone else benefits. And I hope Canon pull their bloody finger out and tell people that the driver only works if you do this!!!

Look! New photo of puddy cats from recently re-connected camera!!!

And just to prove that I really did find out just this minute, tonight, sitting all alone in the Jurys Inn in Newcastle... here I am...

Large version of the photos: Well... you can have one of the cats anyway...

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Cherry Stone Game

It's been the negatives of 1991 that have been going through the scanner this week. Most of the photos, of course, wouldn't be of interest to anyone but family, but there are a few gems that remind me of a particularly fun day or something that made us laugh.

In the week of Spring Bank Holiday that year we went as an extended family group to Great Yarmouth for a week. One of the wettest, coldest weeks I've ever spent down there. On one particularly rainy day we hired a boat and took it down the Norfolk Broads from Wroxham. And it's in that maze of anonymous waterways (because from this kind of boat you can't see over the reeds on either side) that we indulged in this pasttime...

Step 1 - eat a cherry.

Step 2 - fire the cherry stone (bio-degradable, let's not be ungreen...) through the open
roof to try to hit passing floating objects, sticks, cans, cabin cruisers or duckies...

How to cheat - Mum uses machine gun fire...

Please note that no duckies were harmed during the making of this blog...

Large versions of the photos: Oh, give over...

Friday, 23 January 2009

The Haunted Hall of Wycoller

I said in a previous entry that Wycoller still had something to show us.

Wycoller Hall is a ruinous shell that only hints at the building it once was. But it has a romantic aspect, seen over the ford across the beck and it has a literary connection, a mystery, and a ghost story.

The view over the ford is better seen than described, so we'll start with that.

The ford - if not the cobbled surface that now leads into and out of it - is Wycoller Beck's oldest crossing. There are others of venerable age that you can find by clicking the link above.

Did I mention a ghost story? There are several actually. But one involves a West Indian woman who is sometimes seen standing by the ford. The story goes that a master of the hall visited the West Indies and married there, but on returning, regretted his haste and threw the unfortunate wife overboard on the way home. The spirit apparently swam all the way to England and upriver...

The hall was built by the Hartley family in the late 1500s. It was extended 200 years later incurring much debt. It is said that Squire Henry Cunliffe was hoping to attract a wealthy wife with the larger hall, but he was to be disappointed and left this world without heir or money but with the satisfaction of a man with debt and no close family to have to take it on!

Our second ghost story involves a phantom coach that draws up outside the hall. No one seems to know who it contains or what the purpose for the journey is.

Inside the hall is this splendid fireplace, with a seat running around the inside of the chimney so that guests can site all the way around the fire. A stairway entered to the left of the fireplace leads up around the back of the chimney to a room above and in front of the fireplace.

Up these steps runs our third spectre, a horseman - who courteously dismounts before running up the stairs - but who then commits a dastardly deed by murdering some unfortunate woman: a wife? a servant? an early exponent of girl-power? Sadly there is no historical evidence for any such murder at the hall, so either the ghost has lost his way and murders someone in frustration, or it's all a figment of someone's imagination...

To the right of the fireplace is our mystery. A keyhole-shaped opening in the wall with a space behind it. It could have been merely a wood store for the fire, but then why make it such an unusual shape? Or it has been suggested it could be a space for powdering wigs - the wig and powder being applied at arm's length and the narrowness of the opening lower down preventing too much powder from floating into the room covering everyone with a white dust...which could be another reason for the murder upstairs... "My best frock coat - ruined!!!"

The literary connection is of course that of Charlotte Brontë. She spent time here and didn't particularly enjoy it so we are told. The description of Ferndean Manor in Jane Eyre would certainly match that of the hall, approached through woods of densely packed trees...

Brontë lovers flock here in pilgrimage and to nearby Haworth across the Yorkshire border. The land rises steeply behind the hall and is said to have inspired Wuthering Heights.

The hall is well worth a visit, being romantic, atmoshpheric and intruiging all at the same time.

Large versions of the photos: hall and ford, interior, fireplace detail

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

There's No Business Like Snow Business

Blackpool actually saw some snow the other day! It snowed big flakes and everything! For ten minutes! Wow...

It didn't result in this though unfortunately. I took this photo at the top of a mountain in Kitzbühel in Austria in 2002. Blackpool hasn't had snow that thick in quite a while...

I had to go to Manchester yesterday as I had a meeting at the university and I took the train. As soon as we left Preston the white stuff was evident on the ground and there were fields and hills that looked decidedly white and wintery.

An inch of snow on the ground in Blackpool happens once every blue moon and thick snow is very rare.

I took this in 1996 and this was the last time that snow fell in any quantity in Blackpool.

Beyond that you have to go back to 1981 when we had 8 inches and the town ground to a halt for almost a week. Even half an inch is enough to get the kids out expectantly with sledges but the sad fact is that buying a sledge in Blackpool is to be saddled with something doomed never to be used. But you never know... 1981 to 1996... 1996 to.... We're overdue!

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Old King Cole Spending a Penny

What an irreverant title for a blog entry covering a character who has become a favourite nursery rhyme but who existed in real life and obviously made such an impression on the people of his time that his name was carried on down through the centuries.

The Spending a Penny bit however comes from this being one of many remembered penny slot machines in the arcades of the 1960s. This was never a favourite of mine personally as by the time it came out I was that bit more mature - I was six in 1960 for Heaven's Sake! By then I was wanting to push the buttons on the similar Pepe The Clown machine as on that you could control the puppet's hand and leg movements!

A penny well spent in this machine played a record (normally a naff one as I remember...) and the puppets jiggled about a bit, further tarnishing the good King's reputation, lovingly kept intact for some 15 centuries up to that point... He was King of Rheged, one of Briton's major kingdoms of the Dark Ages, stretching from the Caledonian Forest down to the River Ribble, so taking in today's Cumbria and north Lancashire.

Whilst I'm featuring arcade machines, here's a variant of a hockey game that I've featured previously. The game in my previous entry had a swivelling hockey player at each end, controlled by the two players. Here, the presentation is a little more basic with two simple rods acting as bats to both defend your own goal and try to direct the ball towards your opponent's goal.

Coin Slot Machines Index

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

A Puff of Smoke

There's something about steam trains that is guaranteed to quicken the hearts of small boys from four to ninety four.

My photographs today are from a visit to Haworth on May 4th, 1998, where we found this busy yard, part of the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway. A number of steam locomotives were out on display and at least two of them in steam. Here locomotive 75078 is being readied for an afternoon's work.

When I was a lad, the burning ambition of every young boy was to be an engine driver. It was a job aspired to as master of technology and power. For these things were and are unquestionably powerful and beautiful in form. When seen at the head of a train of a long chain of coaches the unconcious mind does a quick calculation of weight and momentum and goes "cor...!"

Whilst locomotive 75078 was being prepared, 75019 was busy drawing such a train along the line. I watched as it thundered towards the bridge I was standing on with a nostalgic thrill that I remembered from some forty years previously. Then smoke billowed about me, the ground shuddered and, with a quick cursory glance either way to make sure no traffic was about to knock me down, I dashed across the road to watch the leviathan emerge from the other side of the bridge until the last coach disappeared round the bend. "cor...!"

Large versions of the photos: loco 75078, train

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Help Me Rhondda

Hey ho, Sunday night and I've just driven 4 hours to get to Cardiff, where I have a day's business tomorrow.

Weather wasn't too bad and the motorway was fairly quiet except for one bit. Looked like an accident heading north on the M6 too - driving as many miles as I do, I see quite a few of those. I drive around 30-35 thousand miles a year. Clive puts that into the also-rans though as he's clocked up a staggering 51,000 miles in his car in the 13 months that he's had it!

The hire company have shown a bit of humour this week... As rain falls and temperatures threaten to turn it into snow, I've been given an Astra twin-top convertible... I haven't tried it out...

Subsequently this weekend has been a bit short. We had breakfast yesterday with David and Jeannie in our favourite spot in Blackpool and then I'd promised Fran a return trip to Cheshire Oaks outlet - actually finding it this time... One of those places that women like much more than men... It was cold, it was miserable, it was shops...

We came back after Fran and daughter Gill got cold enough. I was shivering and turning blue from the start... I had a lukewarm panini in a cafe which was cool enough to wolf down but it still burned my fingers!

The rest of the time has been spent watching Christmas present DVDs - I've got through the first series of The Tudors and am now looking forward to the second. Fran has taken advantage of me not being in to watch Mamma Mia...

The car had an MP3 player so I burned a CD to come down here then realised the computer rips CDs as WMAs which the car spat out with the digital display saying "Nice try but I'm not playing this rubbish..."

Yakky Da...

Saturday, 10 January 2009

By The Bridges of Wycoller

Finally getting around to showing you the other bridges of Wycoller (see previous entry).

This is the Clapper Bridge. Made up of two large slabs of stone supported on a central and one other pier and thought to be an early example of this type of bridge. I had an unexplainable urge that day to sit down in the middle of bridges, blocking traffic...

The third bridge, which is the easiest to reach, being right at the edge of the village, is a 13th century packhorse bridge. There are many of these dotted about the country - built when goods were transported on donkeys, mules, and asses and just wide enough to allow this form of transport to pass.

It's Fran blocking traffic on this one, but you can also see from this photo how much the stone surface of the bridge has been worn by countless generations of iron shod hooves and clogs.

Wycoller has something else to show us yet, but that is for another entry...

Large versions of the photos: clapper bridge, ford and packhorse bridge, Fran on packhorse bridge

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Ancient Wycoller Bridge

4 May 1998. We had gone for a run out to Wycoller on the border of Bronte Country close to the boundary between Lancashire and Yorkshire.

There are three old bridges to be seen at Wycoller, but two of them will have to remain for future entries.

Here I'm sitting on a huge single slab of stone that forms one of the bridges. The bridge is called Clam Bridge and is an ancient monument. It was set here over a thousand years ago - some descriptions list it as an Iron Age bridge. That would multiply its age somewhat, but whatever the truth of it is; it's an old bridge!

We were lucky to see it in this condition. The following year and again in 1990 it was swept away and broken into two pieces by floods roaring down Wycoller Beck.

Restoration work was done in 1991 to repair the bridge and set it back in place.

You can see from this photo that it is heavily worn along its length. This is the effect of countless generations of feet, with those of the later centuries until the second half of the 20th century being encased in iron-shod clogs.

This bridge is the furthest from the village of Wycoller, so a walk up the path alongside the beck is called for. This is part of the Bronte Way.

On the way you will pass a large barn which has been laid out as an information centre and museum.

It contains this wierd piece of agricultural machinery - actually most pieces of agricultural machinery look wierd don't they? It's an early grass cutter probably more for meadows than your lawn. It has a seat for the operator and would have been pulled by a horse or possibly a wife...

Large versions of the photos: me on bridge, bridge and ford, worn groove, grass cutter

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

A Penguin's Unexpected Shower

Horrible isn't it? For most of us it would have been the first day back at work yesterday after Christmas and straight away we're back to early morning rising, driving through the rush hour, struggling to park, dealing with the cold instead of staying warm at home...

So here's a few photos from November 1982 that I took at Blackpool Zoo. Hopefully they'll cheer you up a bit!

Hey! What's This?!?

I'm getting soaked!

Brrr! I'm going to have a word with him!

Hey! What do you think you're playing at?!?

Don't you yell at me!!!

Large versions of the photos: one, two, three, four, five

Monday, 5 January 2009

Memories of Manchester

The photos today are from 9 April 1998 and we were visiting Manchester.

We came originally from Rochdale so Manchester, being the nearest large city, was very familiar to us. We grew up with it, although it had changed hugely in the 1980s with the creation of the Arndale Centre down Market Street.

With the 1990s trams came back to Manchester, running between the two railway stations of Victoria and Piccadilly. The Metro Link also connects Manchester with surrounding towns.

Eighteen months previously to these photos the IRA had exploded a huge bomb here which destroyed the Marks and Spencers store on Corporation Street and badly damaged the Arndale Centre, seen on the right shrouded in corrugated iron and the historic Royal Exchange, which here has a sign telling shoppers that 30 shops are now open again.

Also destroyed were the offices of British Engine, where my Dad worked for almost twenty years before moving to Blackpool.

The night before the explosion, Fran and I were in Manchester with a party from work, visiting the theatre.

I walked down to Deansgate to visit the cathedral.

Manchester's cathedral is of the Perpendicular period (15th Century), though it was badly damaged by bombing in the Second World War. The 130ft tower was rebuilt in 1867.

As I entered, I was accosted by an elderly lady who was acting as a Cathedral Guide. "Most of us are in our 80s," she confided, "...but I'm only 72!"
"Still too old for me, love..." I thought.

Manchester's cathedral is somewhat gloomy inside. Dark stone, made darker by the smoke of Victorian factories gives it this feeling although it can be dramatically enlivened by a shaft of sunlight through a window. But then... this is Manchester...! Happily however, it did happen during my visit and the change was worth the seeing.

There was a service going on so I had no chance to view the carvings of the choir stalls.

I have some earlier photos of Manchester, showing a very different Market Street before the Arndale Centre. But you'll have to wait until I scan them!

Saturday, 3 January 2009

The 1992 Pinball Owners' Assoc Convention

Negatives from this event came to the top of the scanning pile over the Christmas period so I thought I'd share a few with you here.

The convention took place in Salford over the 3rd - 4th October, having been moved from Brighton over venue problems. Players and collectors gathered from all over Europe to play on some 50 pinball machines representing the 1940s to one machine which had yet to appear the arcades. An added attraction was the staging at the convention of the 1992 World Pinball Championships. We entered the hall to be met with the sight of four rows of gleaming, flashing machines, all waiting to be played and all set to give free plays. We ignored them with some effort and went to the POA stand where we bought POA badges and some books. Then into the fray!

At the top of the hall was a stage on which was a line of four machines. A 1990 Williams Taxi was the machine for the adults Hi Score competition. Next to it was a 1964 Gigi from Gottlieb looking as though it was brand new, not a blemish on the paintwork of either playfield or backflash. This was the machine for the Under 16s Hi Score competition, but many adults just had to have a go! Two brand new machines - one of which had still to appear in arcades at the time - had a crowd around them for the duration of the convention but we left them pretty much alone; the other machines on display were all doomed never to be played in arcades again!

There were several Bally games of the late sixties and early seventies with zipper flippers, where the 2" flippers close together preventing the ball from draining out between them. A Bally game, Nip-It of 1973 had an extra button on the right hand side of the cabinet which caused a metal rod to appear from under a cover, grabbing the ball and pulling it under the cover, to appear down a side channel, heading for the right hand flipper. There was also a Cosmos of 1969 which had 9 tiny rollover studs in 3 banks of 3 across the bottom of the playfield. Securing the ball in the covered kickout saucer at the top of the playfield caused a tiny moon to revolve round the planet on the backflash. Both the above games included Bally's mushroom bumpers, flat-topped plastic heads on a rear thin stalk which lifted when the ball hit them, closing the switch to advance the score.

There were some machines old enough to have a second plunger arrangement which lifted each of the five balls into the main plunger channel. These were mainly add-a-balls and were on continuous scoring, not having a start button. In the arcades they started when the player inserted money and stopped when all the balls had been exhausted. To put them on free play meant just having the balls repeatedly lifted to the plunger channel.

Fran and I entered into the World Championship, playing six games on a choice of 6 machines. You could choose whether to play all six or concentrate on a smaller number of machines to become familiar with it. By the end of the day we both had qualified to play in the quarter finals but then on the second day of the competition the unbelievable happened - we drew each other as opponents! One of us was bound to get into the semi-finals therefore and it was Fran who beat me by a narrow margin after taking it the heat to the maximum number of games. Sadly she was knocked out in the semis. It was the first of several conventions we went to and in 1995 I helped to organise the convention in a hotel in St Annes.

Coin Slot Machines Index

Friday, 2 January 2009

The Lancashire Hotpots - Pot Sounds

Trogging round the sales today during a brief break from the tiling.

Anything worth having has already gone from most shops but then this gem caught my eye in HMV...

It would have been worth the money just for the laugh of the cover, but it's playing now and the songs are quite funny too. With such gems as I Fear Ikea, The Beer Olympics and The Girl From Bargain Booze this will tickle the fancy of any Lancashire lads and lasses! Worra bunch o' nutters! Reet good!

Wareham and The River Frome

Welcome to 2009 and a new layout for photos embedded in the blog.

The majority of new PCs and laptops these days seem to have widescreen monitors and for anything over a resolution of 1024x768 the old format tended to give you overlapped placing of the photographs so from now on I'm going to centre them and so I can have a bit more control over how the blog will look on your screen.

My New Year's Resolution this year was not to post an entry on the first of January. So many people make resolutions they have no chance of succeeding in so I always make mine that bit more simple. Last year's resolution for instance was to breathe...

Anyway this year's is over and done with and I can get on with life.

These photos were taken at Wareham in Dorset in 1997 whilst we were on holiday down there, using Sidmouth in Devon as our base for the week.

Wareham is one of England's walled towns, though in this case the remaining walls are earthworks only. This is because it is one of only two Saxon walled towns and therefore they were not stone-built but presumably had somewhat formidable chunks of wood on top. They were built as defences against the Vikings whose sense of fun displayed itself as a shout of "Smile!" just as their axe swung at your head...

Today there is very little head lopping in Wareham and instead it is a lovely spot on a hot summers day to relax with a pint in the pub or an ice cream by the river just watching life around you.

Have a very Happy New Year!

Large versions of the photos: Wareham Quay, River Frome