Sunday, 29 July 2012

Background Details

Taking further the thoughts I expressed yesterday (see Blackpool South Shore Station Demolition) about not taking photographs of things that change a lot but instead taking views of lakes, stone circles, major public buildings etc., I never the less find that the background detail of many of my 1980s photos often has reminders of the past. As a few examples, here's a selection taken over a period of just half an hour at the most.

In this photo of Blackpool double decker bus 355 traveling along the Golden Mile in April 1985 are reminders of Mr B's amusements arcade, the old corner of Coral Island before the present large sculpture of pirates and skull and as a bonus I've identified a Mini Clubman and Datsun Sunny amongst the cars. Datsun were soon to rename themselves Nissan, the company's Japanese name.

OMO (One Man Only) tram No.8 taken from the same spot but looking south. On the corner of the Promenade and Chapel Street, opposite the Central Pier, is the Talk of the Town pub. It would become a MacDonald's restaurant and then later a market which it remains today. On the side of the pub is a large notice quoting an advert that immediately brought the advert tune into my mind - Smile, you're in Greenall Whitley Land. Greenall Whitley... whatever became of them?

Balloon tram 724 in front of Pricebusters which had taken over the old Woolworth's building. Woolworths would not have a presence in Blackpool until Lewis's had vacated their store which would be gutted and transformed into a new Woolworth's, lasting until the company's demise, now Poundland.

Demonstrating that traffic queues along the southern route on the Promenade are nothing new, although forcing all traffic into a single lane cannot have helped! Double deck buses 323 and 338 are followed by a single deck bus and an Austin Princess in the taxi rank on the Promenade opposite makes me wonder... I've met people who almost worshipped this (to me) hideous wedge shaped car.

My Dad had one and driving it made me hate it even more - finding gears was awful. You could literally grasp the gear stick and move your hand in a wide circle, it was such a loose gearbox.

Return to Blackpool Tram and Bus Index Page

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Blackpool South Shore Station Demolition

It always happens that the things I should photograph, things that are about to disappear, I never seem to get round to until they either are no longer there or are already smashed to bits.

As witness these photos of Blackpool's South Shore railway station, the buildings of which, when I arrived with camera in hand in March 1985 are well on the way to nothingness... I could also cite the lack of any colour photos of those stocks on wheels I featured a while ago. Long gone by the time I went looking again with some colour film in my camera.

And yet I regularly take photos of things that don't change over and over again. Take a typical town. People take photos of its grand public buildings, town halls, parks etc. Not so much the shops on the High Street. Particularly not the small shops on the High Street. But they are the things that change. They are the photos you can look back on and come over all nostalgic. Stonehenge looks pretty much the same as it did when I were a lad. The stones I mean not the now elaborate entrance and gift shop. You see? The small shops...

So I have no photos of the South Shore station before its demise. No photos of the wonderful model railway set that resided within. #fail as my Twitter friends would say.

South Shore station today is still in use as Blackpool's second terminus. Just a couple of shelters adorn the platforms. The line that comes to it splits from the main route into Blackpool North at Kirkham and stops at Lytham, St Annes and the Pleasure Beach.

Return to Blackpool Town Index Page

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Relief at Last

No... not anything to do with the Siege of Mafeking, or shift work or massage parlours...

After 3 days of hell, the midge bites sustained during the garden party gig on Saturday are at last starting to go down! Phew!!!

The things are voracious! Whilst looking for ways of reducing the appalling itching I came across loads of surreal (and useless) tips. Dabbing toothpaste on them looks unsightly (minus one point) but does make your arm smell minty (plus one point) but does absolutely zilch to stop the itching (minus one million points...).

Also there was a mix of "use a mild acid like vinegar" and "use an alkaline like baking soda" - come on, make your minds up!

Then the really surreal ones - "Put an elastic band around the arm and snap it onto the affected area" huh? It went on to say, "...however the pain of this may not be preferable to the itching!". Well thanks for nothing! Minus two million points...

In the end I went into Boots for some antihistamines. The bloke ahead of me in the queue insisted on showing the assistant a couple of spots and whining how painful they were. I have at least 50 of the bloody things and was on the point of snorting at him when he finally decided to take the assistant's advice.

She looked at my arm as I asked for the same stuff and held out the money. "Now that does look like something to whinge about..." she commented.

Apparently it's only pregnant females that bite you but then are so overcome at your kindness in giving up a miniscule amount of blood that they immediately send out a signal to all other pregnant females who swarm around you and dive in for a snack.

And if you are playing guitar at the time it's not easy to brush them away or move yourself out of their vicinity!

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

King And King To Be Locations and News

The Facebook page for my book, King And King To Be now has several photos of different locations to be found in the book.

I've found it amazing how much it shoots up the bestsellers lists when a sale is made and how quickly it drops when no sales are being made - a bit like a yo-yo!

Today I have uploaded a photo of the location for one of the final scenes - the slope from the Roman fort Camboglanna ("Camlann" in the book and possibly the best candidate in real life) down to the River Irthing at Birdoswald on Hadrian's Wall.

Facebook users can "like" the page and I'll be very grateful if they do!

The URL address for the page is!/KingAndKingToBe

The book received a 5-star rating recently from Mr W J Peacock who wrote: "As an avid reader of any books about the dark ages and the Arthurian legends in particular. I was interested when I heard of a new author entering this popular arena where the competition is so tough. As soon as I stared to read this well written and engaging book I was hooked. An enticing mix of fact, fable, legend and fantasy with a clever twist. I would certainly recommend this book and am looking forward to this author's next book, albeit sequel or prequel."

Well I can reveal that I've started writing a prequel which will concentrate on the story of Myrddin and Nimue/Vivien. Don't hold your breath... I remember how long the last one took...!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Went to a Garden Party

Yesterday saw Creeping Bentgrass out at Darwen, playing at a friend's garden party. I took the blue Mexican Stratocaster along for a change - nice to play it again.

Huge garden on several levels and a lot of people there - not that I am surprised by this in any way because Chris and Brian are excellent hosts and the food is always scrummy.

Not that Mr Lancaster gave me much chance to get my gnashers around much of it... "Keep playing while they eat, we'll stop in a bit..."

My fingers are an inch shorter... Great party Chris and Brian, thanks for inviting us!

Saturday, 21 July 2012

The Giant Childe of Hale

In March of 1985 I was freelancing photos to magazines and was particularly successful with those of things that had a story attached. In the trade they were called curiosity photos.

This is the cottage of a certain John Childe. He was born in 1578 and lived in this cottage in Hale in what is now Merseyside. He was a giant of a man. He grew to an incredible nine feet and three inches tall (2.82 metres).

When he was inside the cottage he could only stand up in the very centre of it with his head up in the eaves.

He was taken to Court to see King James I where he fought and broke the thumb of the King's Champion. James wasn't too pleased at that, but gave him half a crown and sent him home!

In later years his height was thought to have been exaggerated but, when his grave was opened, the bones proved the height of nine feet three inches. The local pub is named The Childe of Hale in his honour.

Hale also has this row of thatched cottages opposite the village green and a lighthouse on the shore.

Return to Legends, Lore and Superstition Index Page

Friday, 20 July 2012

Austin J40

Just harking back to last weekend's Tram Sunday event in Fleetwood for a moment, there was one other item of interest on display that I haven't mentioned.

The Austin J40 was based on Austin's A40 model, scaled down for children and fitted with pedal driven power. These were not pedals as in a bicycle but square hoops that you pushed alternately, first one foot then the other to power the car.

At Fleetwood there was a roundabout operated by Howard Brothers (see the entry about their gallopers).

The J40 model produced for roundabouts had no pedals fitted but was fitted with two steering wheels for two children sitting in each car.

The Austin J40 was built in a factory in Bargoed in South Wales and provided jobs for miners who had either been injured or who had become too ill through lung problems to carry on working underground.

The J40 followed a previous pedal car called the Pathfinder.

Here are a number of Pathfinder pedal cars presented as an attraction in Great Yarmouth. I took the photo in 1981 whilst on holiday there.

These were expensive toys. The Austin J40 cost £33 including purchase tax which in the day would have been 3 or 4 weeks wages for most people.

I emailed my son-in-law, Eddie, a copy of this one. I'm not sure he was all that impressed though...!

Large versions of the photos (advert not included): roundabout, pathfinder, eddie

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Bristol Temple Meads

The other day I had to go to Bristol for a work meeting and took the train. It's a fair chug down from Blackpool to Bristol, involving changes at Preston and Birmingham New Street.

As I got off the train onto the platform at Bristol Temple Meads I thought my luck was in and that a steam train was in the station. It turned out to be a static display of old coaches bearing adverts for the Dartmouth Steam Railway in Devon. This used to be known as the Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway so what Paignton have done to be so ignobly dropped from the name I'm not sure - the train still starts from there.

Bristol Temple Meads has an interesting history, being the original western terminus of Isambard Kingdom Brunel's Great Western Railway (GWR). The original station has changed a lot, being expanded twice and having extra platforms slotted in when the broad gauge (7 feet and a quarter inch) track originally used by Brunel was converted to standard gauge of four feet eight and a half inches.

It has platforms numbered from 1-15. Passenger trains do not use platform two and platform 14 does not exist. Some of the signage refers to an older platform numbering system. Altogether my sort of station!

Temple Meads refers to a nearby church built originally by the Knights Templars and "Meads" being an old word for meadow - the area around the station was meadow at the time of building.

Large version of the photo: temple meads

Monday, 16 July 2012

Fleetwood Tram Sunday, 2012

Yesterday we went out for a morning's stroll around Fleetwood as it was Tram Sunday, the town's annual transport festival.

In common with the last few years, there weren't all that many trams at Tram Sunday. But that's not really why I like to go anyway. I like to go because it's a chance to see some of the cars I remember from childhood and my own early driving years.

We'll start off with a 1960s Ford Anglia Super - no that was the name, the word Super replacing the more common Ford term Deluxe. The standard model did not have the chrome trim down the sides.

The owner was sitting by the car and kindly opened the door for me to grab a photo of the Anglia's unique dashboard. I really can't understand why car manufacturers moved away from the dash-mounted keyhole for the ignition. Something to do with the wheel lock I suppose, but how frustrating is it when you can't see the slot and have no idea whether your key is aligned with it! You get used to your own after a while but I'm always driving different cars for work.

An early 1970s Hillman Hunter GLS (another version of Super!) Grandad had one of these and passed it onto Dad once he had done with it. It was a nice car to drive, but my favourite Hillman will always be the massive tank that was the Hillman Minx - my own first 4-wheel car, after owning a couple of old Reliant 3-wheelers.

A couple of Jaguar MkII cars. My brother had a couple of these at one time. One that he used to drive about and another that he poached for parts. A lovely car though. The car of choice in all 1960s British gangster films...

The van that revolutionised vans - the Ford Transit MkI. Here presented in a motorhome variant. This van sold like the clappers when they first came out, they were everywhere. The alternative seemed to be a chugging Bedford or Commer and those just didn't have the same modern lines or appeal. And just look at the size of those indicators!

Not only were trams in short supply this year, but buses and certainly coaches were few and far between aswell. Here a 1955 Leyland Titan PD2/11 gets a wash and brush up ready for the visitors of the day. I'm not sure if I even saw another half-cab bus there...

And finally, a car that wasn't entered as an exhibit. We found this superb Jaguar E-Type parked on a back road as we walked back to our own, far more modest, car.

Don'tcha wish your own car was hot like me - don'tcha?

Large versions of the photos: all the photos can be found in this set at Flickr.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Howard Brothers Gallopers

I've just got in from spending the morning mooching around Fleetwood's Tram Sunday. Not too many trams in evidence, but we'll save the transport for another article, because of all the things on show, this took my fancy the most.

The carousel of gallopers presented by Howard Brothers of Derbyshire looked absolutely wonderful in the bright sunshine - yes for a change, the sun made an appearance today!

The ride has a three-abreast layout, is driven by steam from an onboard steam engine and has a 54-key Limonair organ fitted by the present owners, whose own website has a comprehensive history of the ride.

Built in 1886 in Kings Lynn, the ride's carriages for younger riders are decorated with paintings of 19th century military heroes such as Lords Wellington, Roberts and Kitchener.

The ride has been restored to a spectacular condition and with the organ playing and an occasional puff of steam from the engine made a great alternative to the static displays of buses and cars which were, perhaps, meant to be the main focus of the day.

Large versions of the photos: carousel, horse, birds, head,

Friday, 13 July 2012

Ambleside Visit

I had a day off work yesterday and we had a trip out to Ambleside in Cumbria, at the head of Lake Windermere in the Lake District.

Poor Eddie had to go to work, but we picked up Gill and little Grace and headed up the A6.

Bowness turned out to be heaving and we did a circuit of the full car parks and carried on to Ambleside, arriving close to lunchtime and having a roast beef dinner at the Queen's Hotel.

Whilst the ladies headed for the shops, I wandered around taking photos of the wonderful Bridge House and the Old Mill with its water wheel. It's a hard climb, but well worth the effort to walk up the road beside Stock Ghyll until you come to the waterfall - Stock Ghyll Force. But quite apart from being too full of roast beef, I didn't have time. Maybe next time...

I wandered round for a bit before meeting up with the others. The pram was making it difficult to get into the shops they said. So I dutifully pushed Grace up and down ("Keep her moving, she'll go to sleep") round and over the same bit of ground, round the other way over the same bit of ground but now in a clockwise direction... Grace smiled beautfully at me every time I bent to see under the hood. But she did eventually drop off to sleep, no doubt thinkng that it was getting boring seeing the same bit of scenery every 30 seconds.

In the end I was thinking fondly of a snooze myself, but they came out of the tiny shop they had gone in - how could they spend so much time in there?!?

We inevitably had to go into the gift shop to buy another little cottage for the sprawling conurbation that Fran now owns. Lilliput Lane quite early on became Lilliput Village and then town and then city and now rivals Greater London for the number of buildings I think...

Return to Lake District and Cumbria Index

Monday, 9 July 2012

Creeping Bentgrass at Larbreck Hall

On Saturday night we played at Larbreck Hall Caravan Park. A smaller audience than in recent years, though with the amount of wet weekends we've had it's hardly surprising that weekenders have tended to stay at home this summer!

None the less, we had a good night and from all the compliments and an immediate re-booking for next year, we knew at the end of the night we were leaving them happy!

I mentioned the stage being built for us at the Wharles do a couple of weeks ago and it would be wrong not to mention the work that a couple the regulars put in every year to build a stage and put in lights - not just on stage but as this is in a barn where caravans are usually stored, there's a lot of preparation goes into these events before we even get there.

Barns are not noted for their lighting, so a night like this requires lights to be set up so the audience can see their drinks on the table in front of them!

And here's Fran doing stirling work with the little Flip video camera. We are hoping to have a DVD available soon as a souvenir of our gigs. Apart from anything else, it will give us something to watch and cringe to when we reach our dotage. Not long now...

Friday, 6 July 2012

Colne's Stocks on Wheels

In March 1985 I was trundling around East Lancashire looking for a few curiosities I had read about in Arthur Mee's wonderful series of books The King's England.

Each county had its own book - and they were slightly different counties when the books were written in the 1930s. Westmorland and Cumberland, Rutland and perhaps a couple more were still to be found on a map of England. Other modern county or administrative names such as Merseyside or Greater Manchester were absent. Both Manchester and Liverpool, as well as Windermere, were to be found in Lancashire.

Anyway, I wasn't in any of those places, I was in Colne. You hardly ever hear the name on its own. It's normally the final part of a string - "Burnley, Nelson and Colne"! But Colne had something exciting to show me that day in 1985.

In the churchyard, protected by a slate roof on a timber frame, were a set of stocks mounted on a little cart on metal wheels.

There's not a lot to say about them except that I have never ever come across another set of stocks like them. They would have been dragged round to the local markets so that miscreants could be imprisoned in them for people to mock or throw things at. Stocks were therefore a less harsh punishment than the pillory where the head and hands are shackled, making it impossible to protect the face.

I went back to Colne not all that long after these were taken, hoping to take colour photos in better weather, but the stocks had disappeared. What a shame.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Ancient Wonders Cruise Ends

A while since we last heard about the cruise, so it's time to finish things off properly and bring the cruise holiday to an end.

We had spent Sunday 27 May in Mykonos, Greece and that night saw us once more in the Horizons Bar onboard the Thomson Celebration for our last chance to hear Tomas and Maris singing.

In fact it was Maris's comeback night - she had been stricken with laryngitis and had totally lost her voice earlier in the week being ordered by the doctor to keep to her cabin and not sing, not speak for three days. She had been devastated by this - it's something that affects most singers at some point and is worrying to say the least. But she had been very good. We joined them for their evening meal most nights and she was doing her best to keep quiet, only whispering. All those good looks and silent too - an ideal woman, hee hee! Sorry Maris! Tomas had done a magnificent job on his own but it was great to have 2 Intense back together again for our last night.

And Maris was sensational that night. We spent some time chatting with them afterwards and I'm sure will see them again before too long.

Monday 28 May came along and we awoke back in Marmaris, Turkey where we had to say goodbye to the ship and travel back to England.

Dalaman Airport was its usual crowded and chaotic self. We were told to join a queue only to see lots of later arrivals bypassing us and after a while we bailed out to join the less formal crush. You go through security with your bags on entering then go to check-in where your bags are taken as usual, then you go through another security check and then through passport control. I beeped going through the first security, was ignored, retrieved the bags and then got an apologetic tap on the shoulder and was frisked.

Then six or seven hours later we were home. The sun had been cracking the flags whilst we were away and we enjoyed the last evening of that before the rain started again the following day...

Return to Ancient Wonders Cruise index