Saturday, 26 November 2011

Hobnobbing November 2011 Part 2

I meant to publish this one last Sunday... It was last Saturday when we went with David and Jeannie down to Birmingham to meet up with Caroline Munro, who was at the Memorabilia Show.

When we got there she had a massive queue of people in front of her. I recognised a couple of mates sitting with celebs as minders and they were waving to indicate the size of the queue and raising eyebrows and thumbs at me.

We stayed to say "Hello" and exchange hugs and then left her to get on with talking to fans who were now queued up behind us. We promised to come round again and she pointed us towards where Martine Beswick was sitting so we went off to boast again about being grandparents to her!

Martine has had two featured Bond roles and a walk-on part to make the hat trick and was the dark-haired counterpart to Raquel Welch's blonde in Hammer's One Million Years BC, going on to play a memorable part in the same company's Dr Jeckyll and Sister Hyde.

Lindsay was acting as her minder and I nudged him to get some of his wonderful celebrity sketches out. He's a talented lad!

Then I spotted another acquaintance. I sat next to Fenella Fielding at one of Ingrid Pitt's birthday-party-cum-fan-club-nights. She remembered us and we spent a while chatting.

There was a large number of other famous people here and there at the show. So much so that I found a young lady sitting all on her own on a row of seats with no one taking any notice of her. Always a sucker for a pretty face I said hello and then noticed her photos showed slightly more than her face - but those bits were quite pretty too...

Busy Busy Busy!

Hi folks, remember me? I seem to have spent this week on the road. On the road, on the rails and in the air to be precise. I spent the first half of the week up in Musselburgh which is just outside Edinburgh.

Then on Wednesday night I had a dash to the airport to go to Belfast where I had a really good day with a great collection of participants as I delivered a Project Management workshop.

I flew back to Manchester on Friday morning. There seemed to be a gamekeeper's trip as a number of young men in 1950s tweeds, caps, trilbys and even a deerstalker invaded the cafeteria.

Then a short delay caused by a stewardess breaking the aircraft's fold-away steps as she dragged them up into the aircraft... We had to wait for engineers to come and get them into the plane so we could take off and then we all had to use the steps at the front of the plane to get off again.

I got to the station in time to wave goodbye to the disappearing Blackpool train, but got home safe and sound.

There was a very important person to see on Friday night. Our lovely little Grace!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Welcome Grace

On Thursday evening we heard the exciting news that we had become grandparents!

Grace Margaret Statham weighed in at a mere 4lb 12oz, being a few weeks before schedule. She was just so excited at meeting us all she just couldn't wait!

Above she poses with poud Mum and Dad, Gill and Eddie.

And here Miss Franny comes over all lovey with her. I did myself... She's gorgeous!

Hobnobbing November 2011 Part One

Last week saw me in Birmingham for much of the week for the Association of Colleges annual conference.

It's an event populated by the movers and shakers of the Further Education sector and a chance to sit in front of Government ministers, Lords of the Realm (and a Baroness) and some great inspirational speakers.

Add in a huge exhibition and a number of workshops debating all sorts of things from use of technology to literacy and numeracy.

Plus as an added bonus for me, the chance to catch up with friends who I tend only to see here once a year these days and you can see why I look on it as a chance to recharge enthusiasm and chip in with my pennyworth every now and then to remind people that my organisation (JISC infoNet) has something to offer.

The venue is Birmingham's International Convention Centre which backs onto Brindley Place with its canals and restaurants.

I was however keeping a close ear on what was going on at home as my daughter was being whisked into hospital with a baby arrival imminent! More of that in another entry!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Wish You Were Here

I've been struggling to find time to update the blog recently. Work is taking me around the country and I have a book project to work on at home that has had me searching for old postcards of Blackpool.

I'm indebted to Chris Wynne of Shrewsbury, a Blackpool enthusiast who I met on a Blackpool-related forum. Coming to Blackpool for a week's holiday he took the time to bring me 90 old postcards to scan and get back to him during the week and it was good to meet up and chat.

Having a deadline for the scanning I hadn't really time to read the backs of those cards that had gone through the post, but last weekend Miss Franny and I went to a postcard fair where I spent far too much money and came back with a few that have made me chuckle as I read the hot topics of Edwardian England. I have far more postcards now than I need for the project - though not necessarily enough to cover all the bits of Blackpool I'd like to cover... (This hopefully justifies to Miss Franny why I might need to buy more...)

Anyway, here's a few to savour!

Here's one of the Pleasure Beach, posted in 1943. Of course the photo may have been taken before World War II, as I expect some Air Raid Precaution officer may well have been doing his nut at the display of lights. To be fair, from above they may well have spelled out "Dresden Illuminations" to confuse the Luftwaffe... Message reads:

Blackpool. Dear Aunty, I am here for a week with three friends. The weather is not too good but we are hoping it will improve. It is not nearly so crowded as the papers say and we are having a lovely time. Love Jean

Weather may well be a recurring theme here... Though not necessarily so on every postcard, as witness the next!

When Blackpool was growing, what we now call Central Pier was labelled the South Pier. Until they were renamed, the building of a third pier further south meant that a less geographical name had to be thought of so this view from around 1905 shows the Victoria Pier. The viewpoint looks too far west to include the Tower, so it's been thoughtfully drawn in on the right hand edge where at best it's sitting on top of the Metropole Hotel or at worst in the sea... The card has been written but not sent through the post unless in an envelope with a few others. Message reads:

Dear Dada, Nearly finished hay. If you come on Saturday bring my white shirt, if you don't come send it. All write (sic) at present. xxxxxxx

No signature, but at least we know that either the farming isn't being neglected, or the writer was very very hungry...

Again this one has been written but presumably sent in an envelope to save money sending several cards. It has meant the entire back of the card could be (and has been) used for a message in which we find a certain amount of scandalous gossip...

I'd date this to the 1920s, the Big Wheel towards the left occupied the plot currently taken by Olympia at the Winter Gardens and it was demolished in 1928. I suspect that this is a daytime shot printed so as to appear night but it has been done quite well apart from the reflections in the sea where the wheel has been painted rather larger than the actual thing above it... Message reads:

Dear Elsie, Just a P.C. to wish you many happy returns of your Birthday. It is taking me all my time to keep Edith good. We went in the Winter Gardens Saturday evening. She got talking to a young man while I was tired, so I got up and left them. Of course she soon followed. He was telling her about a holiday he had in America, so I expect she will be going with him next year. This is perfectly true Elsie. I know Edith is telling you not to believe me. Love from M.

Edith, if you are reading this and can remember back - you must be about 110 by now - please let us know how you got on...

This card must have been taken home unused as it was posted sometime around World War One to the local butcher from Burslem which is near Stoke on Trent.

It was taken just north of the Metropole Hotel, the only hotel to be built on the seaward side of the Promenade roadway, just north of the North Pier. The gardens now contain a Crazy Golf course and it is one of a pair flanking the Metropole. Its southern counterpart now houses the town's war memorial. Message reads:

Dear Sir, Please send (?) neck - mutton 2lbs - mutt chops small roast of beef. V obliged. Your truly, S Spraston.

If any readers from Stoke on Trent know Thomas Shufflebottom's butcher's shop on North Road, Cobridge, perhaps they could call in to make sure he received the order?

And finally...

Taken from a viewpoint from the other side of the gardens to a view that now is occupied by the Lower and Middle Walks. This postcard was posted in April 1904 and, to amuse a niece, makes light of an event that was probably a little frightening for all concerned at the time...

What do you think? Kathleen and Maysie got lost this afternoon. Weren't they duffers? Aunty Kittie

Saturday, 5 November 2011

T'was a Dark and Stormy Night...

...and the following morning I ventured out with the camera to take photos of the aftermath. This was early February 1983 and Blackpool had been treated to a combination of high winds and a high tide. Whilst lots of people think this is fun to walk up to the railings to see if they can dodge the waves, these photos show what power there really is in the sea...

The old Open Air Baths were still down at South Shore Promenade where the Sandcastle is now. The car park below Promenade level had filled with seawater overnight.

To give this some meaning, here's another view looking back to where I was standing to take the first shot. The entrance to the Baths was reached from a footbridge over the car park. There was 15 feet of clearance beneath the bridge...

A little further north, the ice cream, fancy hat and rock stalls that flanked the South Pier had not fared all that well. One lies on its front to the left of the photo and another has been knocked over by a combination of wind and sea and left stranded on the tram tracks.

Just next to where it used to be the sea has torn huge chunks out of the sea wall and Promenade and collapsed the iron railings.

Closer to the Central Pier and there is more damage. The cast iron bench has been tossed about from its place at the side of the Promenade shelter as though by a giant, the cast iron legs and feet in broken pieces over the pavement. For company the sea has left it a cast iron manhole cover, lifted from its place and swept here by the weight of water swirling about on the Promenade. The shelter's own seating and internal structure has been broken and swept into the sea.

Respect the sea. When it is rough and backed by high tides and wind the sea has no respect for you. At all...

Large versions of the photos: baths landscape, baths portrait, broken stalls, promenade damage, shelters

Friday, 4 November 2011

Cat in the Dog House

I've been away in Newcastle since yesterday afternoon and tonight came back to find Jess had been giving Fran a somewhat "interesting" time.

Apparently this morning whilst she was in the shower she heard the merry crash of things falling...

A strange cat had had the temerity to jump onto the window sill outside the kitchen and look through the window into the room.

Jess, who had been sitting minding his own business in the plastic drainer on the sinktop was incensed at this wanton behaviour and showed his displeasure by leaping onto the window sill on the inside and doing a shadow boxing routine with the other cat, separated by the window glass, which stopped any injuries from being inflicted.

However, he did manage to fling every single item off the window sill bar one. The kitchen roll with its wooden holder, a couple of ornaments - all were rolling about either on the work surface or the floor.

The only one that remained on the window sill was a battery-powered liquid soap dispenser. Unfortunately, every time Jess flounced up and down the length of the window sill he passed close enough for it to register him and it faithfully dispensed each time a glob of soap... Fran was not amused...