Saturday, 31 July 2010

Squashed Into the Kiosk!

New venue for the band again last night. We played last Saturday at Turton Tower for the start of a walking festival and it was the end of the walking festival last night. The walkers were a little tired after tramping about for a full week I should imagine...

We were at the Olde England Kiosk in Darwen and weren't exactly sure what to expect from the name - visions of trying to play in a telephone box inevitably sprang to mind!

But we needn't have worried as the "kiosk" is an old lodge with a hall that will take 80 or so people quite happily.

I didn't fare too well in the photograph stakes last night for some reason. Everyone seemed to take the opportunity of setting up to take photos of the top of my head... This was the best of those from my point of view and some will never see the light of day... or the dark of night either for that matter...!

And I'm not sure why I'm looking so despondant here either. Sigh... It was an excellent night despite an extremely wet start and we had a brilliant time, with a hotpot and mushy peas supper and some enthusiastic dancers.

We played Clapton's Wonderful Tonight for the first time in public and it sounded very nice and certainly brought dancers together instead of the modern minimum 12-inch gap we see so often!

I'm not really sure what Miss Franny thought was so appealing here as to warrant a photograph but she seems to think it "turned out rather well"...

Monday, 26 July 2010

Diamonds Are Forever

18 August 2001. You may remember we were on a canal boat trip in Amsterdam.

There are two coach loads of us on this holiday and we take full capacity of the boat.

The Amster Hotel is where royalty and celebrities stay - rooms cost several zeroes more than ours!

There will be plenty of time later to wander around on our own and it is those shots of canals and houses that are better than the ones taken from the boat, which were through glass and also from a very low viewpoint. We also have a night-time cruise to come when all the bridges are lit up with thousands of bulbs.

The boat drops us opposite one of Amsterdam's many diamond houses. Diamond cutting was introduced into Amsterdam in the late 1500s. They've been at it for a long while and many of the diamond firms offer tours which explain the cutting and polishing process, so that you understand exactly what it is that they hope you will buy.

There are some spectacular pieces on display - and no doubt far more spectacular diamonds to be seen on demand should they think you a serious buyer.

I saw a glint on the floor and licked a finger. It was a piece of "diamond dust", about 3 x 0.5 millimetres. Not the easiest thing to see if it hadn't been for the bursts of colour reflected off the corners and edges. I showed the store's guide and he was quite happy for me to keep it. It of course fell off my finger as soon as we got outside... Ok, form a line! Chris is about to take us on a quick walking tour of the city before leaving us to our own devices for a bit. See you next time!

Return to Amsterdam Weekend Index Page

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Weekend in Amsterdam

One of the set of web pages that was lost a while ago when my Freeserve-hosted pages disappeared following my jumping ship to another provider told the tale of a weekend trip with the coach firm Leger.

We took quite a few trips with Leger before we discovered aeroplanes and always had fun with them. This trip was with an early digital camera and therefore photos were small - I saved most at 320x240 resolution only. That means they have been digitally enlarged for this series of articles and may be slightly less than my usual quality.

17 August 2001. We are all up at some unheard of hour in the morning for our third Leger trip after a couple of weekends in Paris. This time we are heading for Holland and the beautiful city of Amsterdam. "We" are: myself, John Burke, wife, Frances and my Mum and Dad, Evelyne and Allan. We arrive at Blackpool Tower 15 minutes early at a quarter to five in the morning to find the coach already waiting for us.

Several hours later at Dover we wait to board the ferry to Calais. The crossing takes one and a quarter hours but clocks go forward one hour on landing in Europe! (This means the return trip "takes" only 15 minutes!)

18 August 2001. Morning already?!? It had been a very long day yesterday! We are staying in the Carlton President hotel in Maarsen, about a half hour drive from Amsterdam. The rooms have full bath and separate shower en-suite facilities and the pay TV channels must be kept away from the children...! We had a brief coach tour of the city with Chris our tour guide. She was a bit of a bundle of fun our Chris... In fact a couple of years later we ran into her again, leading another set of tourists onto a coach that we were already on in Italy and she came to sit with us, claiming her own group were far too serious and boring... (whatever you think of me, dear readers, you have to admit I'm not that...)

The building above is the royal palace on Dam Square. You can tell from the elevated camera position I took this from the coach...

The coach drops us by the side of one of the many canals and we traipse onto a boat for a tour of the canals. More on this in the next entry as, for now, it looks like Miss Franny wants a quick forty winks. Also in the next entry I find a diamond on the floor of one of Amsterdam's top diamond houses and am allowed to keep it. To come in further episodes: I suffer pain in a rather sensitive spot during a trip to the Red Light District (if that doesn't make you come back nothing will...) and we applaud the tenacity of a bicycle thief!

Return to Amsterdam Weekend Index Page

Playing at Turton Tower

Creeping Bentgrass were booked to appear at Turton Tower yesterday afternoon for the launch of a Walking Festival. We will be at the Olde England Kiosk on Friday night in Sunnyhurst Wood to celebrate the end of the festival too. Though they are not that far apart come to think of it, so if it takes anyone 5 days to walk from Turton Tower to Sunnyhurst Wood then they aren't trying! Far enough that I'd not try it though! Somehow I don't think that walking from one to the other is the aim of the Walking Festival to be honest!

We arrived a little early in order to give ourselves time to find the venue, which I'd not visited before.

Turton Tower is one of Lancashire's old halls. The house was built during the Tudor and Stuart period in the 1600s, though by making additions to a Pele tower which had been built in 1420. It was bequeathed to the local council in the 1920s and has been open to the public since 1974. More information can be found at the website of the Friends of Turton Tower.

We were sited against the wall of the tower and the kitchens to the tea room (from which came a wonderful range of smells throughout the afternoon and also a peal of delicious laughter at one point - not sure what was going on, but I did ask to join in, which got a laugh from the audience!

There was a wonderful view before us. Picnic benches were dotted around the grassed area where we were playing and we had a number of people listening to us throughout the afternoon, whilst over the hedges and fence opposite, woodland stretched in front of us an people walking along paths in the middle distance waved to us as they walked with family and dogs. The Mayor, who was present for the launch of the festival came to meet us and helped make it more of an occasion and the staff at the house were fantastic.

A sudden shower made us stop for a moment to withdraw under the cover of our gazebo, but we were soon set up and playing again and the audience were very brave, staying put. Sure enough it soon passed over and apart from having to shuffle a bit more backwards as the gazebo roof started to drip a bit we were fine. The sides of the gazebo were utilised to provide matching speaker covers!

It was a wonderfully relaxed afternoon. We were on form and we had a very appreciative audience - for this type of open air gig such enthusiastic applause is rare and was very much appreciated by us. This year has been busy for us. We normally play around a dozen gigs a year but yesteday was already the 13th public performance of 2010 and there's enough in the diary to take us to twice our normal quota before the year's end.

The first gig using the new car too - all the gear went in the back without too much trouble and David and Jeannie were able to sit on the back seats without having to share footspace with speaker stands!

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Blackpool After the Parade

A couple of days ago I published an entry about a Marching Bands Parade which took place on the 26 July 1981.

Once the parade was over I turned the camera onto Blackpool itself and a couple of entries have already used some of those photographs. Cinema USA was an inflatable dome on the Central Pier which showed short films on a large scale (the wall of the dome was the screen) before IMAX came along. The other entry - Blackpool's Golden Mile 1980s Style describes how the Golden Mile evolved from house gardens to the ramshackle add-ons and extended porches that we see in the above photograph and described some of the activities you may have seen in the heyday of the Golden Mile in the 1930s.

By 1981 many of the old Edwardian penny slot machines had gone. There were still the odd one or two knocking about but most of the All-Win flick-ball machines had disappeared and the old pinballs without flippers from the 1940s and even the 1950s wooden-railed pinballs had disappeared. Pinball was experiencing a bit of a heyday though. The move from the old electro-mechanicals (where electricity powered lots of relays and levers) to electronics (which had computer boards inside) was well underway and the newer games allowed more than one player to compete with each other with the game able to remember all the previous achievements of the player.

In 1979 Gorgar became the first pinball to speak - though its vocabulary was limited to just seven words which could be delivered in various combinations "Me Gorgar, beat me" to "Me got you" to "You beat Gorgar" with the initial deliciously chilling phrase uttered when you pushed a coin in: "Gorgar speaks!". The other word in the vocabulary was "hurt".

It was not unusual to see a row of 15 pinball machines in arcades at that time. They were fun, they required skill and they were a nightmare to keep in good working order. They started to disappear once video games came out in greater variations than the tennis game. But the impact that the tennis game with its two rectangles for bats and a square ball was unbelievable. People queued up to have a go as they previously had for the better pinballs. It was practice to place your coin on top of the machine whilst a player was playing their game. The popular machines could have a whole line of coins and people standing waiting.

For the Golden Mile itself, the future would look more like this. The old houses swept away and a purpose-built arcade with modern styling and neon signs erected in their place. The Penny Booth would later change its name to Funland and the old style of arcade would eventually disappear altogether. Inside the atmosphere changed as the electronics machines filled the air with piercing shrieks and snatches of tunes. High pitched sound effects, amplified to annoying levels for anyone who wasn't actually playing, replaced the gentle gongs and chime bars of pinball and the soft mechanical whirrs and kerchunks of one-armed bandits.

Jukeboxes, which had been a feature of most arcades (seldom played loud as it stopped you having more than one to take money) almost disappeared overnight from the Golden Mile. Arcades became far more than in the past a haunt of the teenager only.

The Golden Nugget Bingo was a poor substitute for the fantastic billboards claiming (but not really delivering) the flames of Hell in Dante's Inferno or the Two-Headed Giantess. Perhaps the Trades Descriptions Act of the late 1960s did for Chard's Theatre in the end. Or perhaps the police, from their new headquarters in New Bonney Street in the rear of the photo were now close enough to take an active distaste to the shows which were hinted at on the hoardings with phrases such as "The naked truth!" or "In the flesh!" or "Laid bare to be seen!"

Return to Blackpool's Golden Mile Index Page

Friday, 23 July 2010

Comment of the Year

If there was to be such an award I'm sure it would go to Moya Gleave, for this post which was attached to my Facebook page rather than the blog itself. It went...

Luv reading your writings Sloop. If you ever get alzheimers I'll come and read them all back to you :-)

Er... thanks, Moya!

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Boy On a Bike

These went through the scanner a bit ago too. Taken in 1967 these show me as a spotty 13 year old, voice just breaking, eyes starting to go blurred but still before I admitted I needed glasses at age 15.

Here I'm showing fine sporting form with my racing bike with Sturmey Archer 3-speed gearing. I think the bike had gears too... My jeans are far too long for my legs but Mum hadn't mastered the art of cutting them off and ripped jeans were still a fashion faux-pas so there are horrendously large turn-ups in evidence here!

I'm standing outside our house (which is behind the camera so you can't see it). We lived then in a village called Milnrow, between Rochdale and Shaw which, at the time of this photo, were still officially in Lancashire rather than some post 1974 made-up area called Greater Manchester.

The chap who lived opposite was called Norman and drove a ten-year-old Ford Anglia with a stick on anti-mist panel on the rear window. This worked on the double glazing theory except that if the glue was missing from any point around the edge of the panel then the panel used to mist up on the inside where you couldn't wipe it...

This one shows me standing in the local park, Stanney Brook park, named after Stanney Brook, the small gurgling stream that flowed through this part of the park on the right of the photo. We would go down trying to entice tiddlers into empty jam jars.

Sometimes we would play at rolling down the slope behind me in the photo until we felt sick, in some cases unfortunately meaning that we would feed the fish in the stream... 13... Such an awkward age for a lad in those days...

The park is seen in the distance in this shot which was taken from the back of the houses at the top of the road. We were on the edge of this little estate of bungalows and therefore had lots of spare rough ground we could play on.

I sent a couple of the photos to the Ladies-Over-The-Water via one of our regular emails.

The other two must have been too busy laughing but I got a comment back from Evy that said "I just love your photos John. You were really quite a handsome guy."

Sigh... "were"... past tense... and is that a note of surprise I read into it? Even bigger sigh...

Large versions of the photos: Oh come on, give over... Apart from anything else they were taken on a Kodak Instamatic so are not exactly great quality!

Marching Bands from 1981

Ah, the sound of kazoos, drums and glockenspiels! For the past couple of nights I've been scanning these and other photos of a marching bands parade along Blackpool Promenade from 1981.

In fact I can be really precise. They were taken on the 26th of July 1981. Blackpool had two carnival processions a year in the 1980s and my problem is I can't remember which this is. Both the Lions and the Round Table charity groups organised parades.

One was a regular carnival-type procession of floats from local societies, businesses and groups, themed individually and the other was this one which was made up of marching bands from all over the country who would arrive in fleets of old buses and coaches, curtains twitching as youngsters got changed into uniforms to march up the Promenade and then compete in a competition.

Now how does that little lad with the maraccas see where he's going...?

Anyway, I'm looking to my knowledgeable readers now for help! Is this the Lions or the Round Table event? Does anyone know? Does anyone recognise themselves or have memories of marching in a band like this that they may care to share either in a comment or in a future entry? Does anyone have hip trouble because they were one of the retinue of young girls waving pom poms and slapping their thighs until they were red raw on cold and windy days in what we rashly call Britain's summer?

It's been a while since I've been able to feature a reader's memories on here - so the challenge is open! My email address can be found in the left hand column should you not want to leave memories as a comment.

After the parade had ended I turned the camera onto the Golden Mile. The photos are still waiting to go through the scanner so a joy to come...

All 23 of my photos of this parade can be seen in a set at my Flickr account.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

John Burke's Heysham

The title of the entry was the title of a web page that I had at one time. My web pages were originally with Freeserve and survived through the takeover by Wanadoo. They finally disappeared when I moved from Orange, who took over Wanadoo to my present ISP. The page was immensely popular and so the text is reproduced here almost word for word. The photographs are, however, new and were taken especially for this reproduction of the web page.

Heysham is a tiny village on the edge of Morecambe Bay, North West England. A nuclear power station and ferry port are two modern points of interest but the village has so many old and interesting things to look at that, for a village of this size, it really is almost unfair! This is the parish church of St Peter, first consecrated in the year 976 and therefore over 1000 years old. Most of what can be seen here is younger than that, the belfry added in the 1600s, the South doorway which replaces the original Saxon doorway - still visible in the West wall. It is also obvious that the church has been expanded a few times with the nave extended and side chapels added.

There are several interesting items in the churchyard of which this sundial of 1696 is one of the youngest. However, whilst the sundial may be relatively young the material of its base is older as this was originally a Saxon cross shaft of over 1000 years ago. It must have contained carved images and the marks of the 17th Century hammers wielded by the Puritans can be clearly seen, low down on the shaft. They took to extreme the theme of not allowing worship of graven images.

Given the above it is perhaps surprising then that this Saxon cross shaft - which may be a different part of the same - was allowed to remain. The deep scrollwork and carving was done probably when the church was new. On the reverse side is a depiction of the raising of Lazarus and the three figures in the windows of the building above a swathed body in the doorway visible here are thought to depict the three Mary's visiting the tomb of Jesus.

Many visitors pass by this stone container, thinking it merely a horse trough or similar. It is however a stone coffin, thought to be that of the Norman cleric responsible for restoring a church that was old even by the time of the Conquest.

In the Southern side chapel inside the church is yet another treasure. This is a Viking "hogback" tomb cover from the 10th Century. With bears clasping each end of the stone, the carvings represent scenes from Norse sagas. It is easy to pick out this deer hunt. This is no ordinary tomb cover. This was for a chieftain or king. It is the finest example ever found in Britain.

St Peter's church was built to replace the chapel seen here which stands just above it on the hillside. By the time the Vikings raided Heysham in the 900s this chapel was already around 300 years old. They left it without a roof and the villagers, presumably too numerous anyway for this tiny chapel, decided to build the new church. The chapel was dedicated to St Patrick, who was rumoured to have been shipwrecked here in the 5th Century, on his way to Scotland after fleeing from his Roman captors in Ireland.

Close by the chapel is a row of six graves, dug with primitive tools out of the solid rock of the headland on the very edge of the cliff. Thought to date from the first half of the 11th Century, they would have been reserved for local notables. Sockets for cross shafts can be seen at the head of some of the graves.

Two more graves are uncovered at the other end of the chapel. One is obviously that of a child. The graves originally had covers over them and two are seen above in the foreground of the photo of St Patrick's chapel.

Return to Curiosities: Buildings and Infrastructure Index Page

The Sun Sets on Cornwall 89

11 August 1989. Well it made a comeback yesterday but today the sun sets, literally on the entries about the Cornwall 1989 holiday.

Our final day had been spent in Newquay close to where we were staying at the Porth Beach Holiday Camp. We spent it on the beach and doing a final tour of the shops. In particular the gemstone shop I seem to remember...

The sun was going to stay out until it hit the sea. I started my final shots with the camera with a silhouette and we walked over the cliff footpath back to Porth.

The sky was promising great things already. We went into the cafe for our evening meal instead of cooking back at the tent. As the meal ended, the sun was low in the sky which was turning a brilliant mix of reds, purple and deep blue...

You just couldn't help but take spectacular photographs!

I dragged Fran out onto the promotory fort as the light faded. It was still incredibly warm even though the sun was now dipping below the horizon.

As the sky above turned to a dark cobalt blue the horizon glowed, giving those last few shots of the hillside.

Then it was time to turn back for the campsite. Gingerly we picked our way along the path in the dark. The lights of Porth were coming on and that didn't help too much because it made the unlit path seem even darker!

And so our 1989 holiday week comes to an end. The blog report took somewhat longer than the holiday itself... And for those waiting for me to finish the Sidmouth 1993 holiday tale, I'm afraid the missing negatives still haven't come to light...

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Picturesque Polperro

Ages ago... 11 months to be precise (blush) I somehow managed to get diverted from a series of entries about our 1989 holiday in Cornwall, the south western bit of England that juts out into the Atlantic.

So for all you readers that have been waiting patiently for the next instalment - here it is. If you need to catch up on that week so far you can do so by clicking this Cornwall 1989 link!

10 August 1989. We found ourselves in the gorgeous village of Polperro. It didn't come as much of a surprise because we had deliberately set out to go there...

Polperro, for anyone not familiar with it, is a village of ancient shops, inns and cottages clustered around the hills and cliffs surrounding the harbour and is reached down a long sloping road from the car park at the top of the hill. The only cars allowed down the hill are those of residents, whether permanent or tourists staying in accomodation in the village.

It has a tradition of smuggling in the past. In 17th to 19th centuries this place was full of short bow-legged swarthy men in black and white striped t-shirts with barrels of illicit port and rum over one shoulder and a parrot on the other. They probably had a pipe in the corner of their mouths and only one eye. Or was that Popeye I'm thinking of...?

Fran and Gill have a look at the smallest shop in England. Didn't take long...

The place is full of inns, fascinating nooks and crannies, inns, tea shops, inns, boats bobbing in the harbour, inns...

It's a wonder the inhabitants were ever able to go down to the sea to do a bit of smuggling - they must have been permanently three sheets to the wind... Well I suppose they had to do something with all that smuggled brandy...

Oh, and scrumpy of course! From Wikipedia: "Scrumpy" is a term often used for ciders made in South West England. Scrumpy can be dry or sweet, however tends to be stronger in alcohol and more tannic than most commercial ciders.

The modern equivalent of a barrel isn't anything to write home about, however the nautical nature of the village is well captured here! Buy a gallon of Dead Dick's Scrumpy! Drink a gallon and join Dead Dick...

The Old Forge no longer fires up the bellows, but instead forms the entrance to the Model Village. This isn't your ordinary collection of model houses which starts as the gentleman of the house's way of justifying his outdoor model train set, but a faithful recreation of the entire village of Polperro in miniature. Worth seeing, if only for the model of the model village... seriously...

There are two harbours at Polperro - an inner and an outer, which leads to the sea. We see the outer harbour above with boats to take tourists for a half hour cruise along the rocky coast. (Don't get on the wrong one, you'll find yourself expected to help carry brandy barrels up a winding cliff pathway...)

The inner harbour has a fish landing stage and a house which has a lifeboat hanging from davits over the harbour! Not that the house has ever had to be abandoned that way as far as I know... But if it did ever sink in a storm, the inhabitants could rest easy in the knowledge that they'd be able to get out safely!

The Pottery Shop has a novel sign above the doorway!

Polperro also throngs with artists during the summer. You will find plenty of them slapping Dulux onto canvas boards. Whilst I only started my own sketching efforts the year after this trip, I have returned to do a few pencil sketches which you can find in other entries on the blog.

Did I mention there were inns? Here's one that advertised a Childrens' Room on the first floor. I nipped up to look at the sad sight of all those 5 and 6 year olds, sleeping off the effects of a half pint tankard of Dead Dick's Scrumpy...

There was a shout... Fran and Gill had climbed onto a horse-drawn bus which would take them back up the hill to the car park. I had to trot along behind them wearing my legs out (no wonder they are short!) and taking pictures to prove their laziness...

Large versions of the photos: All photos of this holiday can be viewed in this set at my Flickr account.