Saturday, 31 December 2011

A Small Matter of Sewage

Amongst all the revelry of Christmas, which mainly involves wondering what to say to break the awkward silences, I managed to scan a few more photos amongst which were these...

This is a sewage outfall pipe, running treated, but not quite pure, water directly into the sea at Lytham St Annes.

I have no idea whether this is still in use. In fact I suspect not given the current green agenda and our concern for the environment. But it may be. It may not still exist, because I haven't been to see it for years on years. The photos here were taken in 1983 and it's certainly not gushing out in these photos!

The sea perhaps has receded a little since it was built anyway.

There was one near the open air baths just south of Blackpool's South Pier I seem to remember. Visitors (which would include us when I was little) were often ignorant of the purpose or contents of these pipes and certainly I remember playing on them, under them and paddling in the pools near them as a child.

Some pipes ended in a rusty grill rather than with a downturn and children standing against the end would sometimes get a quick impromptu shower...

"Jimmy, don't drink that - you don't know where it's come from...

We don't know how lucky we are these days. My first house had an outside loo in a row of such that served the row of houses they belonged to. But at least it was a loo with a flush and took away the need for storing or moving...

My Great-Aunt had an outdoor privy which was at the bottom of the garden and inside the small shed was a smooth wooden seat with a hole directly over an open sewer - today you might call it a "stream" which was a frightening 40 feet below. As a small child with a small bum I was petrified of falling down that privy...

In rainy times streams took sewage down to the local river. In dry times it piled up. Farmers used their own muck to fertilise fields. I have a friend whose uncle used to do that.

Many towns had a stream known as the Shit Stream or Shit Creek.

Those who lived away from waterways had tubs that were emptied each night onto carts by the Council's nightsoil men. Can't you just see the queues for those jobs if they still existed? I suspect you always knew when one of them entered the pub... Progress.

Friday, 30 December 2011

a-Peeling We Will Go!

More domestic strife...

Last night just before tea time, I was sitting in the living room trying to make sensible conversation with my mother (never easy...) when Miss Franny shouted from the kitchen.
"I can't find the potato peeler!"

I gave up trying to make sense of the tale I was struggling with - no my brother hadn't had an accident, Mother was talking about another Frank without considering I might think of one I actually knew...

"When did you have it last? Last night?" I asked unthinkingly.
"No I was working remember? You cooked yourself chicken korma last night!"
"Oh yes... Tuesday then?"
"We went to David and Jeannie's for tea on Tuesday!" Ah, yes... and they definitely didn't ask to borrow it, because we had lasagna...

We came to the sad concusion that it may have inadvertantly been wrapped with its very last peelings on Boxing Day... The bin men came yesterday... So it was a choice of knife and very small chips or fingernails and very long ... time before chips...

The daft part is that this was one of Fran's favourite types - a potato peeler with a detachable plastic handle that when reversed turned the peeler into a knife - gradely for making chips! A flick of the wrist and chop, chop, chop, chips!

That's not daft in itself, the daft part is that, having taken ages to find one the last time we needed to buy one, we bought two so that when it wore out next we would still have one. Yes... but where did we put it...?!?

Anyway I found an old faithful Lancashire peeler hidden in the depths of a kitchen drawer.

"I can't use those!" Fran complained.

I think I'm on peeling duties for a while until I can find a replacement...

Saturday, 24 December 2011

The Great Christmas Eve Bulb Blow-Out

All is not well. Miss Franny left for work this morning before 8:00am. Her last words to me were: "Do you know what you're doing?"

"Yes," I said confidently, "Put all the gear away after last night's gig, do the hoovering, make a loaf and try to get some spare bulbs to mend the Christmas tree lights."

She paused dramatically and her lips pressed together (something little girls' mothers teach them from an early age...) "You will get some bulbs, not try!" she said. "I'm not having a blacked-out tree on Christmas Day!"

Anyway I hoovered. I stowed all the band gear away. I went out but it's Christmas Eve so no sets of lights to be had. A nice man at B&Q pointed to a small almost empty box and said "These are the only spare bulbs we have - you can help yourself now, compliments of B&Q!" What a nice man! "They're all last years models..." he added.

What?!? They bring out different fittings every year?!? But our set is a good five years old! Maybe the setting has come round again...? Some of them looked a bit like them. I grabbed a small bag of six bulbs and hefted them.

"Alright if I take these?" He nodded, "Sure!" he said, "Merry Christmas".

The bulbs fit!!! The lights still don't work though...

I tried every bulb in the other set and the ones that are in the bottom half of the tree all work in the top half set but the bloody thing is still dark as a squirrel's hidey hole at the bottom.

It could be the fuse in the plug and the set is old enough to allow me to take the plug apart to get at the fuse. Something that you can't do these days because the government have convinced us we're all too stupid to tie our own shoelaces unless qualified... I've got the fuse out but can't find any others to replace it.

Fran finishes work in 25 minutes. [Gulp!] I'm going to have to confess. At least the bread maker has just beeped to say the loaf is done!

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaggghhhh!!! It's not risen and where it has, it's sunk in the middle and split and all dough-like inside!!!

I followed the instructions carefully! Kept salt and yeast apart! Though with its first jerk it mixes them up anyway! Measured everything minutely! Failed spectacularly...

Christmas dough balls in the dark, anyone?

The Big Wheel Cafe

In April 1983 we went out over the River Wyre to have a look for a curiosity I had wanted to find for some time.

On the Out Rawcliffe road from St Michaels was a cafe that had been once connected to a petrol station, though that had since been demolished. The cafe extension is the last surviving carriage from the Blackpool Ferris Wheel, demolished in 1928.

At the time, the carriages had been sold off to be used as summer houses and greenhouses and this one, which can still be seen by the roadside, was and is the only one left to remind us of that great Big Wheel that is such a feature of early Blackpool postcards.

Return to Curiosities: Buildings and Infrastructure Index Page

A Night in Liverpool

Last night we played at Croxteth Hall in Liverpool for a Silver Wedding and Revewal of Vows party. To all extents and purposes it was a wedding party.

It's a while since we've been to Croxteth and with new developments we took a wrong turning somewhere, but got there in good time without too much panic!

David knew the lucky man and he had arranged for a DJ to take over later in the night so that we could join the party as guests. There were a few people there that I knew as well so it was a very pleasant evening for us!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Can You Hear the Drums?

So we were just having a rare rehearsal to remind ourselves of a few new songs we had stuffed into the repertoire...

Not the most polished sound - no microphones, no sound system, the keyboard is coming from its own speakers which of course point straight up and the guitar was plugged through the computer into the hi-fi. Recorded on a Flip camera - no expense spared...

Can you hear the drums?

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Memories of the Press Gangs

Just over the river, north of Lancaster is a road to a couple of small villages. Middleton and Overton are reached by a tidal road, that floods at high tide to an extent that makes them impassable.

Along this risky stretch of road is an old inn called The Golden Ball. In the days when ships used to dock at Sunderland Point with goods from the cotton fields of southern America, the regulars learned to get out quick and disperse over the fields otherwise they would be caught by gangs of men sent to find crew members for the ships. Impressment was a long standing tradition. Sanctioned too, as the Royal Navy used the Press to take protesting men forcibly away from families for years at a time. Today we would call it kidnapping. To the Navy it was simply a method of conscription. They visited so often that the pub earned the nickname of Snatchems!

The Good Old Days are a bit of a myth really...! Incidentally, if you visit: once you have parked your car, have a look at the high tide mark painted onto the car park wall. It will be above the roof of your car! Time your visit carefully!

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Monday, 19 December 2011

Wrea Green and Warton Curiosities

Once again going back to 1983 and a couple of curiosities from the Fylde countryside.

This is the old village pump at Wrea Green. Hard to imagine in England in the present day having to go outside with a bucket or other container to fetch your water from a communal source. At least water from a pump like this had a chance of being clean and pure in a small village. Pure even so is probably a relative term... From open wells, the chances of polluted water were much higher and in hot weather you had to fish out the tadpoles, frogs and newts and algae!

As far as I can tell, all traces of this have disappeared now apart from the name of the road. Mill Lane in Warton, near the gates of British Aerospace, gives a clue to what this is. There are three types of windmill. There are lots of examples of brick tower mills left in England and the Fylde and Wyre countryside manages to get into double figures. Then there are the wooden smock mills, seen mainly in the south of England. The earliest form was the post mill. A wooden building sat on a central post such as this one - for that is what it is. The post acted as a pivot in the days before they worked out how to sit a windmill's cap on a circle of cogs to rotate to keep the sails into the wind. Around this central post the entire building was rotated by means of a post sticking out of the back of the mill attached to either a horse or the miller's wife...

The mill in question had originally been built at Tarleton between Preston and Liverpool, but was then moved painstakingly to Warton where it eventually rotted away. Developments since 1983 have led to the post's removal.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Blackpool's New Wedding Venue

An unexpected treat today. We went down into Blackpool to meet up with David and Jeannie for breakfast at Quilligan's. Sean provided us with the usual excellent breakfast and we took our time over it, interrupting our eating with plenty of chatter. Then we went down onto the Promenade. The fencing and scaffolding and machinery has now disappeared from the final part of the new Promenade in front of the Tower and up to the North Pier.

On this part of the Promenade is a new rather weirdly shaped building. This is the new Register Office for weddings. The tall narrow window of the upper floor has a wonderful view of the Tower. We hadn't realised but the building was open this weekend for the public to have a look around it. Someone came out to invite us to look round and we took them up on their offer.

Despite the rather odd appearance from outside, the interior is really well thought out. Wood panelling makes it look modern and won't require redecoration every two minutes and the wedding spaces are excellent.

Thanks go to David for the photos - he had his camera on him and I didn't! We couldn't get one with the Tower view as the sun was right behind it and extremely bright!

One room looks out over the beach and sea and from the staircase there are views up the Promenade and over the sea to Cumbria and Barrow where we could see plenty of snow on the Lakeland hills!

Return to Blackpool Promenade and Beach Index Page

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Devil's Bridge, Kirby Lonsdale

More black and whites from 1983. This time our topic is the Devil's Bridge at Kirby Lonsdale.

The 14th century bridge has a legend that the Devil built it and spilled the stones he was carrying in his apron. They can still be seen in and around the river below. Kirby Lonsdale is a favourite stop for bikers after a ride through narrow twisting moorland roads close to the borders of North Yorkshire, Lancashire and its own country, Cumbria.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Barton Swing Aqueduct

The Bridgewater canal was a marvel of engineering. Canals made it possible to transport people and goods long distances in an unheard of short time. People could take on a barge drawn by a single horse goods that would have required many carts and horses over land.

Where the Bridgewater needed to cross the River Irwell a bridge was constructed in 1761 to take the canal overhead as an aqueduct. All went well until the 1890s when the River Irwell was to become the Manchester Ship Canal. Those ships destined for Manchester and Salford docks would crash spectacularly into the canal bridge.

The answer was a swing bridge to carry the aqueduct. The photos show it in the open position. In this position the aqueduct is aligned along the island that was constructed to take the brick tower that contains the control system.

The aqueduct is an iron trough 330 feet long and containing around 800 tons of water held by gates at each end. Other gates hold back the water in the canal itself. Amazingly there is a similar swinging bridge on the island on the other side of the brick tower to take the road over the Manchester Ship Canal! I was standing on it to take the top photo

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Around and About

The week started with a train up to Glasgow. A few minor hiccups due to signal failures but once on the mainline everything was fine. The ground turned a bit white once up in the Lake District and then ccloser to Glasgow it got a bit more pronounced!

I had my meeting with the staff at the JISC Regional Support Centre for Scotland and met a couple of new staff and exchanged ideas with them over ways to engage the Scottish colleges.

Then it was back to the station as I had to get back down to Birmingham for the night ready for an event the following day.

It soon went dark, but I got a chance to snap a couple more photos on my phone from the warmth of the train.

It was getting on by the time I got to Birmingham but on the way from the station to the hotel I found myself in a Christmas market with German steins of beer, all kinds of sausages and frying potato and onions adding to the smells.

Whilst I ate in the hotel rather than in the street, I couldn't resist wandering back out to walk up the market and back.

There may have been no snow down here but it was certainly cool and crisp!!!

There were all sorts of stalls, from the food and drink, to jewellery, wooden toys and reindeer skins. Failing to spot one with a red nose, I breathed a sigh of relief and headed back to the hotel...

Large versions of the photos: motorway, farm, Birmingham, market stalls, waiting to buy

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

3/4 Million Views

Today the counter at my Flickr account topped the 3/4 million views milestone.

This is by way of saying thank you to all of my readers here and viewers at Flickr and to those who download both my own and the band's music to the tune of 1000 downloads a month.

A particular thank you to all who have taken the trouble to follow this and any of my other blogs, or make me a contact at Flickr - the numbers creep up every now and then. Welcome to those who have joined recently and I hope you continue to enjoy these articles.

The scanning of the black and white negatives is entering an interesting phase with lots of articles to come for those who enjoy the curiosities topic - glimpses of England's past and tales of ghosts, old hillforts and Victoriana etc. At around the time I've reached in my scanning - 1983 - I was starting to freelance regularly to magazines such as Country Life, This England and even gained my own regular series, John Burke's Curious Lancashire in the Lancashire Magazine.

So more to come whenever my dashing around the country for work allows. Though even that can be very interesting sometimes - both for good and bad reasons!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Stretford Great Stone

Back in March 1983 I'd come across a reference to this curiosity whilst researching for a book I was writing on the King Arthur legend. The book was written but has remained unpublished until I get some real time to revise it and sort out a few unrealistic time frames! Probably a retirement project, but seeing as it has waited almost 30 years a few more won't make too much difference!

Let me introduce you to the Stretford Great Stone. Probably dropped here by mischance by some ice age glacier, it's a sizeable chunk of millstone grit. For ages it rested alongside Great Stone Road - wonder where they got that name from... but it was moved in 1925 to a small park nearby. I must go again someday but from photos I've seen it is almost hidden by undergrowth now.

It may have been the base of a cross shaft at some time, but there are two indentations, not one. Perhaps someone made a hash of the first one? There is a strong tradition that it was used as a plague stone in the 14th century, the holes being filled with either holy water or (far more effective) vinegar to disinfect coins passing in and out of the village during time of plague.

So what is the link to King Arthur? In the later Arthurian tales Lancelot fights a giant, Tarquin, at Castlefield in Manchester. There is a legend that Tarquin threw the stone from there, several miles away. The holes are the marks made by his thumb and finger!

Lancelot was invented in Norman times, 700 years after Arthur - if he existed - would have lived. I rather suspect that this tale may have been similarly invented...!

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Saturday, 3 December 2011

Family Memories

The other day I got a message from a distant relative attached as a comment to this photograph at Flickr.

The photo shows my grandparents, John and Annie Burke, getting married. From the left is Percy Alston, with his soon to be wife, Elsie, the bride's sister.

On the right is Jim Ivory, who I never knew and the groom's sister, Mary who was always known as Cissie.

The message was from someone descended from the sister of my Great-Grandma, who we called Grandma Brierley.

Here she is on the left of the photo taken Boxing Day 1966, my Great-Great-Auntie Florrie with her sister, Great-Grandma Brierley in the centre and my Great-Auntie-Cissie on the right. Percy Alston, by then my Great-Uncle, is in the rear of the photo, not quite getting enough illumination from the Instamatic camera's flash-cube!

Auntie Elsie and Uncle Percy retired to a lovely bungalow on the banks of the River Lune at Overton, which is where we see Elsie and Florrie on this photo, scanned from a rather washed out snapshot from 1972.

The bungalow had a 1/3 of an acre of garden, mostly lawn and I remember regular visits up there to mow the lawn using Uncle Percy's motor lawn mower.

And finally, here's my Dad with Great-Grandma Brierley sitting on that very same lawn in 1968.