Sunday, 30 January 2011

A Peek in the Tram Sheds

10 October 1981. A nice man did something that no one would do today. He allowed me to go into the tram sheds on Rigby Road Blackpool for a look round and to take some photographs for an article I was writing for The Lancashire Magazine.

"Just mind those inspection pits - we don't want to have to fish you out..." he said. By heck, they were daring days...

The first thing that caught my eye were the two battered and ancient trams in the corner that were then serving as engineering cars.

These Blackpool Standard trams dated from the 1920s and whilst this may not have been the best way to see them, at least they had been saved from the scrapyard!

The last of the 1953 Coronation Class tramcars to remain in Blackpool. They had a history of jumping the tracks apparently and it was also said that the weight of them wore out the track too quickly to be economic.

The granddaddy of them all - the 1904 Dreadnought tram was the very first tramcar to be preserved and is the last of its type. It has been restored more times than I've had hot dinners. Well, maybe a slight exaggeration. The original preservation came in the 1930s with the arrival of the double-deck Balloon trams. Then a restoration was carried out at the end of the 1950s and once again for Blackpool's Centenary in 1976.

The 1934 open air trams replaced the earlier open-sided Toastracks and became known as Boats due to their streamlined bow. They are the oldest original public service vehicles in routine service.

As such they are of particular interest to tram enthusiasts all over the world. This one was back in Blackpool after a spell on the tracks in Philadelphia, USA.

Looking from the rear of the shed with a couple of the illuminated fleet seen on the left of the photograph.

No automated washing in those days! A one-man-operated tram gets a wash and brush up from two workers at the depot.

Crashes between trams have always been thankfully rare occurrences. The worst occurred when a tram was unexpectedly diverted by the points at a loop into the path of an oncoming tram.

Return to Blackpool Tram and Bus Index Page

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Windermere Sunset

The last entry of the 4 October 1981 Lake District set.

We had ended the day at Ambleside and before we set off back we watched the sun disappear over the horizon from Waterhead, the northern tip of Lake Windermere.

We walked along the lake edge for a while drinking in the tranquillity and loving the colours in the sky.

This sort of photograph was notoriously difficult to print and I've never seen these black and white photos look so good!

Return to Lake District and Cumbria Index

Join us for Saturday Brunch

Ooh, here's a bit of excitement!

Creeping Bentgrass will be the live studio band on the radio programme Saturday Brunch broadcast between 10:00am and 12:00am on Saturday 19 February on Preston FM.

Broadcast in the Preston Lancashire region on 103.2 FM or online at

Radio, so no need to wear masks... If any listeners would like to know what we look like, we are in our early 30s, tall and slim, straight hair and curly teeth... We each have our own full set of cutlery.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Deja Vu Part Two - It Rhymes...

So you already know where I've been this week so why am I writing? Well, having not updated this blog for a week it's nice to be able to sit down and connect and lovingly compose a message to the faithful followers - are still there, yes?

And it gives me an opportunity to put a couple of old sketches up here from 1992. This was drawn whilst on one of Wales' great little trains and shows Llanberis lake and Snowdon. It was done in a rush because the train wasn't hanging about...

The trip down to Bridgend was uneventful - actually all the trips this week were uneventful thank Goodness. Travelling the mileage I do, you do tend to see a number of accidents but the only one I saw being recovered this week was a minor shunt on the motorway during a slow stop-start patch in the Birmingham area.

I pulled in at the hotel only to find I'd been booked in one further away this week. I suspect the travel agents had been told to find the cheapest accomodation for the standard required and got one Premier Inn branch to knock off a quid or so. I had to get back in the car, feeling foolish and quietly berating myself for not having checked the hotel address closely and then cheerfully spent the quid (or more) on petrol driving the extra distance...

The following day I ran a Change Management workshop to a mixed audience from universities, colleges and private training providers and then settled down to drive up from Bridgend to Colwyn Bay. From the south coast of Wales to the north coast. I'm not sure how far it is as the crow flies, but crows have it easy in Wales and I had to go west to join the M5 then up the M6 to the M56 towards and past Chester. 250 miles almost, with a meal snatched on the motorway services.

My hotel was a family run one this time and they were busy enough to have given me the Honeymoon room!!! Imagine my disappointment... I slept in a four poster bed with all the regulation draperies. You know, whenever I watch The Tudors on the telly this type of bed is always dripping with nubile young maidens, eager for the mature manly presence. But nothing! Not a one! Over-rated, honeymoon suites...

So I went downstairs and joined mine host for a drink in his bar and watched Birmingham and West Ham whilst the rest of his family wanted me to side with them for a channel change to Gold...

Yesterday I was at Coleg Llandrillo to deliver a workshop on Managing Multiple Projects in a Complex Environment. Almost as hard to say as "Coleg Llandrillo", though I had had practice for both. The last time I was at Llandrillo must have been around 15 years ago and I was doing a session at a conference for college people managing computerised Student Records systems. A colleague started his session by saying "Bore da" ("Good Morning" in Welsh) and got a murmer of surprise and a round of applause. I've never quite replicated the effect...

The day went well and the drive home this week was fog-free I'm glad to say and it was nice to get home last night and be welcomed by Miss Franny's loving words, "We're up early in the morning, I'm in work at seven..."

This sketch, also from 1992 was drawn at Beddgelert. This was fairly early on in my sketching days and my tree technique was perhaps a little short of something but not to worry! Someday I might even get it right!

Friday, 21 January 2011

The First Stage of Deja Vu

The first stage of experiencing deja vu is to have an experience. In my case it was starting the week with a day north of Lancaster followed by a trip to South Wales, followed by a trip higher up in Wales.

Next week will be the same. Deja vu...

Except that what I do there won't be quite the same and where I go (for the bit further north of South Wales anyway) won't be the same. South Wales in both weeks was and will be Bridgend, between Cardiff and Swansea. The bit higher up in Wales was Welshpool in Mid-Wales this week but will be Colwyn Bay next week.

The drive from Bridgend to Welshpool the night before last was an absolute delight. Had the route, weather and lighting been arranged specifically by the "Welsh Marketing Board" I would not be surprised!

As I turned north off the M4 motorway and into the remoteness of Wales, I passed under the shadow of mountains and was flashed by the low sun through the shutters of trees, and then into a vista of a long valley with a steep hillside on one side extending up beyond the top of the windscreen so I could only guess at its height by what I could see a mile or two in front.

The roads became narrower and had someone told me I was on the alpine passes of Austria I'd have believed them. Mountains, sheer drops and hairpin bends were the order of the day.

The sun disappeared and the most glorious thing happened. The moon, either full or as near as makes no difference appeared through wisps of cloud and mist, shining with a brilliance so great that it appeared to have a corona. This gave it an ethereal fairy story quality and I was now in the Celtic fastness, the descendants from those of Arthurian legend and keepers of the tales of elven folk. Werewolves are not really seen around Britain but instead, if you look for them, there are stories of other creatures. The church where Miss Franny and I were married had a legend of a were rabbit that used to frequent the churchyard. By day a man, by twilight a pest and once told to "hop it"... he did...

This mist and cloud disappeared after a while and as it got dark the moon shone with a brightness that I've seldom seen. This wasn't just me, because I was travelling through areas with no street lighting, the locals in the hotel and on the workshop were commenting on it the following morning. In fact the entire country as they were talking about it on the radio last night.

But those roads! They twisted, they turned, they did everything but complete a loop. If I hadn't known better I'd have said the moon was on strings and a mad puppeteer was swinging it across the sky. It started at the side of me then disappeared behind me then swung madly around the other side of a mountain to rise pop out of the trees in front of me! Despite the fact that the sun had set a couple of hours ago I could still make out details in the distance, so bright was the moon. Was that a werewolf? Where wolf? There wolf! No... I think it may have been a sheep... But it could have been a were sheep... What a shame that the road conditions did not allow me to stop for a few photos.

It took me a while to find the hotel. It was an old village inn on the high street but they hadn't got as far as illuminated signs and as it was right on a set of traffic lights I was concentrating on those and missed it. I only found it by parking the car and having a walk round.

Last night's drive home was not as enchanting. Fog. I got as far as Cheshire and then the fog came down and once I turned onto the M56 heading East towards the M6 and Thelwell Bridge the entire trip was a case of peering through fog, braking, watching as the other two lanes of traffic became faster than me, and most certainly allowed no time for romantic notions of ethereal or supernatural creatures. This morning I am certain my body clock is several hours behind the one on the wall... yawn...

Saturday, 15 January 2011

The Lakes in Sunshine

The last entry showed England's Lake District through a veil of rain. Probably, it has to be said, the most common view to be had of the region.

However on a sunny day it really is one of the most truly beautiful places on earth. If you can find a parking place (because everyone else knows this is a beautiful place too...) then it's a joy to just totter about on the two sticks we call legs.

These photographs were taken on 4 October 1981 of Monk Coniston, one of the corners of Coniston Water which is a little quieter than Bowness on Windermere or Derwentwater and Keswick, though again if people get into double figures at this spot then it's crowded! Three people are enough to block access to the lake edge almost...

This is a fabulous place to be when the leaves are changing colour in the autumn though.

From there we motored along to Yew Tree Tarn, a man-made lake with an earthwork dam at one end. It's not too well known - I had to find it on the map to name it. It takes just 20 minutes to stroll round it, which even my townie feet can manage!

A couple of these photos were published in the magazine Lakescene in the early 80s. I used to be a fairly regular contributor.

Return to Lake District and Cumbria Index

Monday, 10 January 2011

Rainy Days and Memories

Remember when petrol was so cheap that you could take the family out at weekend just for the joy of a drive in the country? Recent governments seem intent on taxing things so much that we stop using them for pleasure. The only people left smoking are addicts and the only people driving do so for essentials only. In the search for alternative ways of raising revenue it's already been proposed that parking fines will punish you more than if you cause grievous bodily harm...

Anyway, in the last days of September 1981 I could still afford to use a bit of petrol for a family run out and so we found ourselves one rainy Sunday waiting for the ferry to take us over Lake Windermere to Hawkshead.

It was really pelting down, but that's a regular occurrence in the Lake District anyway so we were prepared. If you can see past the discomfort of heavy waterproof clothing and the odd trickle down the neck you can savour the muted colours and soft, soft lighting that comes from the grey sky and rolling clouds. So it was this day. We took the Ford Cortina up the narrow ways to Tarn Hows and found we had the car park almost to ourselves. That didn't happen all that often...

We got out for a short walk. Short because it really was uncomfortable in the pouring rain and whilst our coats were waterproof a soggy squelching soon made me realise that my shoes were just ordinary day wear and not the rugged hiking boots that may have kept my feet a bit dryer. A good pair of wellies may have made more sense, though then they always drip down from the top don't they?

So we stayed long enough to take a few photos and then got back in the car where our waterlogged clothing really started to make us feel uncomfortable...

Return to Lake District and Cumbria Index

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Colin Paul & The Persuaders

Last night Miss Franny and I visited a fairly local part of the world that I'm not totally familiar with - Altrincham. Despite the spelling, you say it "Oll-tring-am".

But who cares whether the original inhabitants were poor spellers? The present locals know their rock and roll!!!

We were there to share in the experience that was Colin Paul and The Persauders with The Passionettes providing backing vocals. And the result? Crackin', our Colin!

We've been privileged ourselves to appear on the same bill (if somewhat lower down) as Colin in the past but this show was his own showcase, doing tributes to Billy Fury in the first half and then to Elvis (whose 76th birthday it would have been yesterday) in the second half.

He can make his voice resemble Elvis quite closely - The Sweet Inspirations, Elvis's own backing singers for a period described him as "The closest voice to Elvis we have heard" and he is known as "The Brit who rocks Memphis".

A brilliant night, made better by catching up with a few pals from the Blly Fury forum at If you like a good night out and like good music then don't miss the chance to see these guys if they are anywhere near you!

Colin Paul and the Persuaders website:
The Passionettes website:

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Christmas and New Year Gigs

A couple of gig reports. Fran hadn't picked her camera up for the first one but yesterday David gave me a disk of photos taken by Jeannie so I can now include a report here!

23 December 2010 saw us at the Wyrebank Banqueting Suite in Garstang, battling snow and ice to get there to play for a rather unusual event.

This was a pig club - a group that had reared a pig and was celebrating this night with the fruits of their endeavour. A meal of pork sausages and mash with plenty of sausages was followed by a sale of yet more sausages and a raffle - no they had other prizes for that!!!

Generously they invited us to sit with them for the meal and whilst David and I hardly ever eat much before a gig, (belching down microphones is never good...) it was an excellent meal.

Then we played for the rest of the night before slipping and sliding back on the ice to load the car in rather cold temperatures! Oh - and we were given a big bag of sausages as a bonus! They are rather yummy...

Last night we played the New Year in at Lancaster Golf Club. As I tuned the guitar just before starting I hit the end of a string with the tip of my thumb, feeling the string go right down into my thumb.

Muttering a surprised "Good Gracious!", I had to stick a plaster on the end of my thumb to avoid getting blood all down the neck of the guitar which would have gone sticky and perhaps not looked as aesthetically pleasing as I'd have liked.

Unfortunately the only plaster they could find was designed to cover the whole of the upper torso... Still, after a couple of songs I was able to take it off and apart from a mild soreness the thumb performed it's usual task of keeping the neck of the guitar pressed against my fingers with no problem!

And what a night! The dance floor filled as soon as we started to play and as we counted down to midnight there were balloons, confetti, cheers, hugs and kisses all round. No sausages though...