Sunday, 26 July 2009

West Kennet Long Barrow

I've moved on from scanning photos from 1986 to Spring Bank Holiday weekend 1990.

That weekend saw us bundling family and luggage into my Ford Cortina and we headed south towards Wiltshire. We found a guest house in Devizes and used that as a base for the weekend, visiting the fantastic henge at Avebury (one of my favourite places in the UK), Stonehenge, the impressive hillfort and ancient royal city of Old Sarum near its modern equivalent of Salisbury, and then as we headed for home the long way, Bath and Glastonbury.

The photos are making their way into a new set at the Flickr account so I've been a bit selective here and chosen some from the same place - the wonderful and mysterious West Kennet Long Barrow.

The front of the barrow is a statement of respect and protection for the dead people whose remains the barrow contained.

There were around 80 interments of cremated ashes in pots found inside. The entrance is hidden behind the huge standing stones and is reached around the side, where the two girls are heading in the photo.

I wanted to take photos inside and so in the interests of not frightening the two girls to death, I waited for them to come out. A high-powered flash unit going off in almost pitch dark is very disorienting - and that is just what you don't want to be when you are in an underground tomb!

I've gone inside the tomb, ducked under the low doorway behind the standing stones and moved about 3 paces inside. It is dark!!!

There are supposed to be glass panels let into the roof here and there. Well actually there are glass panels but they don't let in a lot of light, especially at that time because they were mostly overgrown above...

From the same viewpoint. I forgot to close my eyes and had to stand still for a good 5 minutes until my eyes were able to make out anything in the dark. Had I know I was going to be visiting the tomb I might have thought to bring a torch... The Famous Five would never have been at such a loss...

Also taken from exactly the same spot but having turned to face away from the entrance. I remembered to close my eyes this time and it only took just over a minute before I realised that I wasn't going to be able to see anything more than I could already...

There are 5 chambers off this central courtyard. I poked the camera and flash into one and heard a cry of sheer terror followed by a "Bloody Hell!!!" and some skidding feet as whoever had come in unseen as I went into the side chamber was startled out of their wits by the bright flash from a camera they couldn't see! I must have frightened them good - there was no one else there when I came out later...

Fran said a young couple had come up and he had taken a while to persuade her to go in only for her to meet him coming out in a panic and that had impressed her so much he then had to chase her back down the hill towards Avebury!

Having literally groped my way to the final chamber, inch by inch with my hand outstretched until it struck the rear wall, I backed off a little and took this photo of the final chamber. Large uprights are capped by horizontal stones and small flat stones almost like tiles are stacked to fill the gaps.

The roof is made up of impressively large slabs of rock... The silence and claustrophobic environment is making me keen to get out by now and there is nothing else to see even if I could see... There was nothing else to feel or smell or listen to either. I hope...

The next time I was to visit would be in 1998 and then the glass panels had been cleared and it was quite possible to see to walk round without having to feel your way. It made such a difference. And yet... I was quite pleased I had had the experience of walking round it in the dark. The only thing that might have made it more authentic was a smoky burning torch of fire!

At the moment there's just short of 50 photos in the set at Flickr with about the same amount still to do. They might have to wait a few days now as I'm off to London for two days tomorrow morning. I'll let you know when I've done them all with a look at Glastonbury in a future entry.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Messing About On The River

I've been scanning a few photos from old slides that I took in 1986

At that time I was working for Fleetwood Nautical College as its Registrar in the last year it existed as an independant college before its merger with Blackpool College at Christmas 1986.

They had (and still have) a working platform on the River Wyre at Fleetwood to train workers on oil and gas rigs in safety procedures for offshore workers.

On the platform they had some brilliant bits of kit, including this jet-powered fast rescue craft designated FOSC-5. FOSC stood for Fleetwood Offshore Survival Centre.

Offshore workers had to undergo a 5-day survival course in order to be certified to work on a rig and had to undertake a 3-day refresher every 3 years.

Not all of the equipment was as fast or glamourous as the fast rescue boat. There were enclosed lifeboats, including stranger shaped craft than this one. There was an almost circular one that pumped water from underneath and sprayed it down the sides of the craft - to cool down the sides of the thing whilst floating on a sea covered with burning oil.

Being almost circular, it bobbed about a bit! It was not a craft for those who were easily seasick!

Part of the course involved jumping off the platform into the River Wyre and clambering into an enclosed inflatable life raft - a feat that took nerves and a lot of strength to clamber into the life raft!

Another exercise involved getting into a mock-up of a helicopter cabin which was filled with smoke and then dropped underwater and inverted before the "crew" could escape.

Great fun! Happy days!

Friday, 24 July 2009

Fleetwood Tram Sunday 2009

Last Sunday we went up to Fleetwood to have a look at the cars, buses and trams at the annual transport event that is Fleetwood Tram Sunday.

Despite the name, trams take a back seat these days, if you'll forgive the pun!

However one of the stars of the show was undoubtedly this - the newly restored Wild West Loco tram with trailer caboose, still in the original ABC Weekend Television livery. It had been a favourite sight during the Illuminations since the 1960s and has been sadly missed. Now it's back and it looks just wonderful!

It was nice to stand watching the parade at 11:30 and take part in the huge round of applause that was given to the RNLI Lifeboat crew, who were pulling the lifeboat along Lord Street. Fleetwood, as a fishing town, has a deep respect for the sea and has lost too many sons to it over the years.

Congratulations too to the local Chinese community whose 2-man Chinese dragon made a colourful addition to the parade!

And so to the displays of vehicles. Far too many to show on the blog, but the whole collection of photographs can be seen with photos at 1440x900 definition as a collection at my Flickr account

So here are a couple of interiors. This is the 1950s Ford Prefect. The horn is in the centre of the steering wheel and the little white stub on top can be moved sideways either way to turn on the indicators which were ultra modern flashing lights rather than a semaphore arm coming out of the side of the car which had been common up until that time.

The pull switch marked S is the starter. The ignition key (in the dashboard rather than the steering column) did not operate the starter motor until later and had only two positions - on and off. In winter it was still common to have a starter handle to manually stick it through the bumper into the engine and hand crank it to turn the engine to help it start.

This is the early 1960s Wolseley 16/60 which was the first car certainly that I remember with an indicator stalk coming from the steering column. It had a neat little lamp with a green cover on the end of the stalk too, which flashed with the indicators as a reminder that they were on.

The dashboard has a nice bit of (real!) walnut wood and the glove box has room for not only a pair of gloves (you'd be lucky to get those in some modern cars - why would you need shelves in a glove box for Heaven's sake???) but also a bottle of slightly soapy liquid and cloth, which was used frequently to wipe the inside of the windows to demist them. Heaters were not very strong as yet!

My Grandad had swapped his Ford Prefect for a Wolseley 15/50 and that in turn for the 16/60 like this. In fact apart from the engine size the only difference that I could see at my tender years (8 or 9 at the time) was that the 15/50 had been two-tone green and black whilst the later one was all black in colour!

Happy memories of "helping" Grandad deliver the groceries from his shop. Before long the supermarkets would start to open and they had a devastating effect on his little shop, spelling also the end of personal service and forcing everyone to pick up and carry their own goods to the till!

Wednesday, 22 July 2009


I'm in disgrace...

Not because I've been away from home for two days... I've been in Newcastle for a planning meeting with colleagues and Fran got used to me being away years ago.

No, it was that when I got back last night and she'd cooked a meal I reached for the bottle of tomato sauce and gave it a good shake. Ah... the top wasn't screwed on, was it?

There was a red intermittant streak from wall to wall in the kitchen. It covered the carpet. It covered the freezer. It covered the kitchen cupboards.

It covered me - the clean PJs that I'd just changed into, all down one leg, up and over the shoulder, across my glasses and up my forehead...

It covered Jess, one of our two cats... He was sitting on top of the freezer and caught quite spectacularly a large dollop all down his side. He immediately scarpered and took refuge on the window sill in the living room where he generously smeared it on the floor, net curtains, ordinary curtains and the door as he rushed through...

We had to wash him ... and the floor, the furniture, the curtains will have to come down today, the PJs etc. etc... I've been warned never to have ketchup again and never to shake anything until I've checked that the lid is secure. I was almost sent packing back to Newcastle... You know, women lose all their sense of humour at things like that, don't they? I think a change of kitchen carpet is imminent...

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Charlie the Wheelchair Cat

We've spent the afternoon at an open day of a Cat Sanctuary in St Annes that we have supported for a while.

David and Jeannie first told us about it and we did a charity gig a while ago where the proceeds went to help them.

Their star resident is Charlie the Wheelchair cat. Charlie has a condition very similar to cerebral palsy in humans and cannot balance on his legs at all. His front legs are still quite strong though and the sanctuary have fitted him with a cat wheelchair on which he tears about the garden with his tail held high and happily comes when called to be petted and to love you back.

He does get the shakes a bit, but is such a wonderfully inspiring cat as he is determined to get on with things despite his handicap and no one who sees him can doubt that he enjoys life. This afternoon we saw Charlie and all his fellow rescued cats, including a tiny bundle-of-fun 4-week old kitten called Basil, who has taken to Charlie in a big way and sleeps with him and follows him about - or even rides on him when he's in his wheelchair!

Fran was lucky at the tombola - more or less walking away with all the booze... and we bought a few bits in the auction too!

Walking Festival at Blackburn

Yesterday we were playing at Witton Park in Blackburn at their Walking Festival.

We had a steady stream of folk coming to see us and stay for a while and the weather wasn't so unkind that anyone needed to dash for cover.

The Mayor and Mayoress came for a word, the Mayor showing great interest in the keyboard.

Thanks to all those who came to support us and the event!

Thursday, 16 July 2009

A Week On The Rails

It's been a busy week so far. I was in Leicester on Tuesday, a four and a half hour rail journey from Blackpool, though enlivened for a while as Chrissie Turkington from the JISC RSC Northwest walked past me on the platform at Preston so we spent ten minutes between Preston and Wigan, where she got off to continue to St Helens, catching up and swapping news.

I had another change at Birmingham New Street with its underground platforms - not the most pleasant of city stations, I always think.

Finally to Leicester where I joined a CAMEL workshop (Collaborative Approaches to Managing e-Learning) and joined in the conversations on communication with stakeholders, even being videoed playing the part of an Australian distant learner at one point, and ran the Change simulation, EduChallenge with them during the afternoon.

Then onto London, where yesterday I met with someone at Kings College London to discuss the sort of activities that a Centre of Expertise in Project Management might get involved with and how my organisation, JISC infoNet, might help support that with our online resources and participation in events.

Today I am feeding back on a project to a group of university and college IT Managers, who are meeting to discuss Business and Community Engagement and how IT might support that type of activity.

London is having what I'd call Blackpool weather - brilliant sunshine one minute then a monsoon and then back to sunshine!

I'm travelling back home tonight and tomorrow will be a well-earned day off!

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Special Edition Album

I've had this in mind for quite a while.

There were a couple of tracks on the very first album we produced that didn't sound quite right. They were recorded way back in 2002 and I hadn't then brought the keyboards into the band and so the tracks had no drums or keyboard sounds at all.

By the standards we reached even on the other tracks of that first album they were a bit raw and so David and I had a crack at re-recording them last night and will use them to produce a Special Edition of the first album Keeping On... which will be the one on offer from now onwards.

The tracks were the two Creedence Clearwater Revival tracks and you can download for a listen below.

Bad Moon Rising

Proud Mary

The Penguins are Back in Town

We had another trip to the zoo yesterday to see the new penguins that have arrived at Blackpool. The last trip to the zoo 3 weeks ago didn't include them as they were still in quarantine at the time.

Blackpool has had penguins before, but that was quite a while ago and otters now live in the habitat pool they used to have.

So Blackpool have created a new, much bigger and deeper habitat with glass windows so they can be observed under the water and it really is excellent.

In fact it was amazing how one individual in particular displayed as much curiosity about us as we did about it. It dived down to see us again and again, coming right to the glass and eyeing us over one by one!

Underwater shots another time perhaps - I had my telephoto lens on the camera and taking photos from less than 6 foot away was a no-no!

Large versions of all the photos from the day are available in a collection at my Flickr site.

Back to the Past

I've laid off the negatives for a while and have dug out some old slides to scan.

These are from 1969 and go back to the first SLR (single lens reflex) camera I ever had. I paid a princely £20 for it...and it was brand new too! It was a Zenith B camera made in Russia and I bought it from Dixons who badged it as a Prinzflex - their own brand, gluing a plastic Prinzflex badge over the front of the camera where the word Zenit (the Russians didn't use the 'h') was etched in the metal body.

This shot is of a rose stem with the sun coming from behind it. I only noticed later that the thing was covered in greenfly - that'll be my mum not spraying it then... ha ha!

The second shot is of some of the berries that grew in abundance on the trees at the back of our house. We lived in Milnrow, a village between Rochdale and Shaw in what was to become Greater Manchester, but was still part of Lancashire at the time.

Larger versions of the photos: rose stem, berries

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Lunchtime in Lincoln

I've been to Lincoln today for an afternoon meeting with some people at the university and having arrived just before lunch, parked in the old part of the city and went to find something to eat there.

There were lots of school trips going on - everywhere were uniformed children with clipboards, looking for things they had on a list to find, drawing the castle or cathedral and somewhat bizarrely in a small group in an alley listening to a man dressed in a toga... Lucius Dressdus...

The castle is imposing and stands squarely facing the equally impressive gateway to the cathedral.

This is pretty much a building in its own right that has a gateway cut through it. It makes entering the Cathedral grounds something of an experience.

The cathedral houses one of the original copies of King John's Magna Carta document and a nearby pub is called the Magna Carta to commemorate the fact. Not that Clive and myself knew or thought to ask why it was called that when we called for a pint a few years ago whilst in the city to deliver a workshop...

There's an incredibly steep and long shopping street that leads from the castle and cathedral's hilltop to the modern city below.

They call it The Health Walk these days, but then every night you can take one of several ghost tours which probably list off all the people down the ages who have had heart attacks and died whilst walking back up...

Nearby is this very ancient Roman archway over the road - one of the original gates into the Roman city. It had a close call with a rather too large lorry in 1964, the damage costing over 1500 pounds to repair. And before anyone thinks that's not a lot, you could buy around 80 Mars Bars for a pound in 1964. A useful measure of worth, the Mars Bar, I always think!

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Farewell to Sorrento

Wednesday 24 August 2005. It's our last night in Sorrento.

Night time in the market streets of Sorrento. Whilst colourful by day, at night they have a special atmosphere! It's a place to see and be seen.

Whilst most holiday makers are dressed casually, occasionally a couple, a group of girls or an Italian housewife will stroll by, dressed to impress.

There were a large number of folk with rather familiar accents too - snapping up tiny bottles of Limoncella lemon liqueur, saying "Eeh, George, let's take some o' this back for our Florrie!"

In fact we've still got a couple of said small bottles gathering dust on the shelf, contents separating and looking not quite as appealing as it did when we bought it that night...

Eventually even the ladies had had enough of the markets and shops. We started to head back towards the hotel, past this little park which looked completely different to how it appears during the day.

The hotel next door had a DJ playing loud music until the early hours. The DJ was indistinguishable from an English DJ actually. "Verberve buh vebberrev, ha ha ha! Beverber ha ha! beebussy cooooobah! Hey ho! Ha ha ha!" Yep... just like any DJ in England at weddings, in pubs, clubs, etc...

The next day we have a few hours before the coach picks us up to take us to the airport. The ladies make back straight for the market streets, so I have a wander inland and find I'm walking over a bridge across an immensely steep and deep chasm.

At the bottom are the ruins of a large factory and to take the photo I'm shooting almost vertically down from the roadway bridge. A quite awesome viewpoint.

Further inland I find some of the old city walls. I hadn't even known that Sorrento had a city wall until I wandered up this far and passed under the gate in the photo.

They are fairly solid chunks of masonry though as you can see. And these lengths of wall that I saw are so complete and seemingly in such good condition that I had to conclude that the rest of the city wall was deliberately demolished, probably to allow the town to expand.

I couldn't really work out what the three corner corbels would have supported... The wall above them is unbroken so they are hardly likely to have held a fighting platform - which would have been more use on the inside of the wall anyway. Perhaps they had some extremely large hanging baskets?

Then as the heat grows, I head back towards the market and harbour and find somewhere cool to wait for Fran and Mum. The little open space here looks like they have set up for an open air concert of some kind for tonight. Typical - the day we go home! Ah well...

Ahhh.... yes, that'll do! And that's about it. Now we are whisked off to Naples airport where my battered hat gets stuck in the X-ray conveyor to be eventually thrown out to a bemused person who couldn't remember putting it in... I forgot all about it until I was on the plane when I suddenly said "Where's my hat?" but it was far too late! And probably far too battered to make me care all that much!

And by way of coincidence, as I finish writing about our Sorrrento holiday, my mate Clive is about to set off on his Sorrento holiday, so have a good one, bud!

Return to Sorrento 2005 Index Page

Friday, 3 July 2009

Good Old Microsoft (Not)

They've done it again haven't they?

My computer downloaded the new Internet Explorer last night (taking so long I had to leave it on all night) and now tabs no longer work as they should. You can open new tabs ok and you can right-click a link and open it in a new tab, but just clicking one opens it in a new window.

Head for the options page and there is no longer an option to open links in a new tab. Duh! One of the best things that came with Version 7! Do they just not test or do they just not think?

Oh - and it refuses to open this blog for some reason. I only managed to post by opening one of my other blogs and then going to Blogger's Dashboard to post from there. So hey - you will see this before I do!!! (Unless you get the same problem...)

Although I suspect the problem is with Bravenet's counter as the page opened ok but then a message came up before I had a chance to view the page.

Once you click the Ok button the page that has already opened... disappears...

The pop-up window is what I get when I click the Diagnose Connection Problems and is pretty much what I'd expect...

Come on Microsoft - try harder! I'm reminded of an earlier version of Microsoft's Word which if you typed "Microsoft boffins" suggested you should mean "Microsoft buffoons"...

UPDATE 5:00pm

Well well... I'm now getting here ok and whilst at first I got here and the counter wouldn't load but now all appears well.

Had an email from my mate Alex to say the blog hasn't opened for him in IE for a week or so. If he hadn't gone on to say he was using Firefox to open it I'd have been tempted to think that was his way of tactfully avoiding having to read it but good man him!

Oh and after the negativity in the title, let's hear it for those hard-working nice people at the mighty MS! Good Old Microsoft... (by the way... can you fix it so that links targetted to open in a blank window can be directed to a new tab again please? You know it makes sense...)

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

A Trip To The Vet's

I'm up in Stirling in Scotland at the moment, ready to deliver a Change Management workshop tomorrow.

It's a bit muggy but thankfully I've missed all the rain that's been sweeping the eastern side of the country. We got it last night around 3:00am when the bedroom kept lighting up and all sorts of crashes and booms were heard - yes, I'm a strange sleeper...

Actually I can't remember when we had the last decent thunderstorm. The one that sticks in my memory was when a single thunderbolt crashed through the roof of a house about a quarter mile away also in the middle of the night and just about everyone in Bispham jumped out of bed in a fright thinking Hitler was having another go...

Anyway, last night's was a doozie! Consequently I'm bushed. We got up and had to take one of our cats, Tigger to the vet - she's been a bit off for a week or so but was really off this morning. Not that she was too far out of it to resist going into the travel box and she most definitely did not appreciate where the vet put that thermometer...

But she was most thankful to be home and brightened up considerably, thus making the whole journey a bit of a mockery. She was suffering from a bit of heat exhaustion, poor thing. So am I now...

She was also a bit put out to be called obese too, but never mind Tig... runs in the family...! So I left the house with fans blasting out and am now wishing I'd brought one up here with me! Jess, our other cat kept a wary eye on proceedings once he saw the travel cage come out and when we got back with Tigger, he was sitting underneath the table on one of the dining chairs, right against the wall where he thinks we can't get at him. He says he doesn't care what his temperature is after talking to Tigger...