Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Blackpool Pleasure Beach 1995

Today a look at the Pleasure Beach at Blackpool in 1995. I think this was one of my last visits to the Pleasure Beach. It remained somewhere I kept meaning to go to again and then from 2009 they started charging admission and for me that was a huge mistake and the end of my desire to go.

I know other parks like Alton Towers and so on all charge admission, but Blackpool is a seaside town. A holiday destination. The Pleasure Beach served that town, not the other way around. The other theme parks have more ground and are landscaped. The Pleasure Beach is crammed with rides which leaves little room for making it look nice. People holidaying in Blackpool for a week (it used to happen...) want to go into the Pleasure Beach for a bit every day riding maybe one or two rides. Now to make it economical, you have to spend a full day in there.

It quickly went from being the number 1 attraction in the UK to not even No.1 in Blackpool. A great shame. I used to love the waffles with strawberry syrup and cream... I wouldn't pay a fiver just to be able to walk in to the stall that sold them...

However, back in 1995 all was happiness and light for a visitor. The Big One roller coaster had opened the previous year and there were queues of people happy to stand in line waiting for a ride on it.

No matter where you were in the park, it dominated the skyline. Yet I always thought it a strangely uninspiring ride. I preferred the sinuous sine wave curves of the woodies like The Big Dipper and Grand National. The Big One was fast and high but not, to me, exciting. My opinion only of course!

The most up to date ride with the oldest ride in front of it. The Hiram Maxim Flying Machine is still turning today, still driven by its original engine. It was one of several such rides created by the inventor as a means of stimulating interest in powered flight and hopefully prompting an excited rider into sponsoring his designs.

He invented mousetraps, asthma inhalers and all sorts of things before he invented the first machine gun small enough to be called "portable" just in time for World War One. He grew immensely rich - and deaf - from it.

Originally the passengers sat in pods that looked more like rowing boats than aeroplanes or rocketships. He had wanted to equip them with controls so that riders could make them go up and down as well as swinging out but the fairground industry, no doubt with visions of customers screaming with pleasure turning into customers screaming in terror as they plunged into the ground, vetoed that idea, leaving the great man dismissing what was left as a glorified merry-go-round... A merry-go-round that has stood the test of time though!

The black swinging pods of the 1960s Monster ride had been replaced by a similar but inferior temporary ride here pending the building of the Play Station (now Tango Ice Blast) for 1997.

Opposite the entrance to another of the Pleasure Beach's veteran rides - the River Caves - was a development that looked as though it was based on the Bedrock town of The Flintstones.

And we'll finish with a couple of night shots taken during the same year, 1995. The new Big One roller coaster dominates the view of the Pleasure Beach as seen from the South Pier in this photo.

The Hiram Maxim Flying Machine, taken with a long exposure and the camera on a tripod from the balcony at the side of the Ghost Train. Alice in Wonderland is on the left, no doubt playing the music of The Cuckoo Waltz!

Return to Blackpool Pleasure Beach Index Page

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Glasson Dock and The Stork at Condor Green

The other week on my way back from viewing the remains of the Space Tower ride at Morecambe, I stopped at a pub that I must have passed over a hundred times without ever stepping inside.

The Stork at Condor Green sits on a bend, thus enabling it to face the oncoming traffic over the humpbacked bridge over the River Condor. It places an obstacle in the road as far as drivers are concerned, for the road bends to the right in front of it and then sharply to the left to bypass it and carry on into Lancaster just three and a half miles away.

The pub and B&B haven't changed in appearance, certainly since the 1970s which is when I took my earliest photo of it in glorious monochrome and I suspect it has looked the same for a good many years prior to that. The old coaching inn dates back to the time of Charles II - I'm sure he must have popped up all the time to get away from Great Fires and the constant pestering of Sammy Pepys for "any juicy tit-bits for the diary, your majesty...?" The wrought iron figure of a stork with outspread wings sits now as it did then (the 1970s not the 1660s...) over the doorway to the pub.

I didn't have anything more exciting than a tuna sandwich but my eye caught various bits on the menu like "Bobotie" and signs hung on walls showing the way to the "Braii / BBQ" and asking the young barman confirmed that it is owned by a South African. Not sure about the bobotie and if I'm ever offered Rooibos tea I run a mile I'm afraid, but the sandwich was excellent as was the beer that I ordered with it and I think a second visit must be undertaken at some near point!

Not visited on this occasion, but a regular afternoon out haunt of the late 1970s was the nearby Glasson Dock. I suspect it doesn't get as busy as I remember it in those days and the floating cafe, the Ba-Ba-Gee, on the side of the marina is long gone.

Glasson Dock is not as old as it might appear. It didn't exist at all until the 1780s when the River Lune up to Lancaster started to silt up and they built this dock here just a short distance from the river mouth and the Irish Sea. A set of lock gates against the river ensured that ships could stay afloat in the dock when the tide went out and when the canal was built ten years later a branch was built with more locks allowing the passing of ships from sea into the canal system. Here we see the lock between the dock itself and the canal basin and marina.

You would normally expect to see a sizeable town grow up around a dock, but the fact that schooners could enter the dock and then sail along the canals to Lancaster or even Preston meant that there were no vast requirements for employment of men and Glasson Dock remains a small village.

And amongst my photos of 1977, here is Miss Franny standing guard over the MacLaren buggy which holds our baby, Gillian.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Tomas And Maris On Thomson Dream

Monday 16 February 2015. Our excursion ends and we are back on board the Thomson Dream for the afternoon where we catch Tomas and Maris for their spot at the Open Air Bar on Deck 10 in the late afternoon before dusk.

In fact it started to go dark as we sat listening. As we had docked a day early at Montego Bay the ship was staying in port overnight. We had spent our last hours at sea for this cruise.

But it's not time to be sad just yet as we have another night of fabulous entertainment in front of us. So far south the dusk tends to pass very quickly.

As the sky got darker the ship's lights came on and the scene changed over the stern of the ship as features which had been clear a few moments ago became merged into shadow.

We tapped our feet and sang along and then Tomas had another rush of blood to the head and waved me to get up on the stage.

I blushed and waved him away demurely and shrank into my seat away from the gaze of... what? Yes Fran? I jumped up straight away and dashed for the stage??? Me? Are you sure? Oh... apparently I was up there in a flash and rocking away... Who would have thought...?

We had our last evening meal down in the Orion Restaurant and said goodbye to the waiters who had looked after us all week. Then as we wandered around the ship for a last look I heard my name being called. It was Beverley, who sings with the party band, Strum Jam.

"Are you coming to sing with us tonight?" she grinned. They are a great band and the male singer has a very neat electronic drum kit all contained as a package the size of a single snare drum. I still have nightmares about the pink guitar... lol

But we couldn't spend our last night anywhere but with Tomas and Maris in the Tides Bar. We had made several friends in there amongst the other passengers too, some of whom were already asking if I was going to sing that night.

The last night of a cruise is usually a brilliant night as everyone is making the best of their last night on board. This night was no exception and there was a full dance floor and Tomas and Maris were enjoying themselves and entertaining us with great music and lots of banter between them.

And I did force myself reluctantly to... What??? No Fran, I couldn't have been so eager... ah well... perhaps I was! Thanks to the audience that night - the roar of approval as I took a bow kept me floating long after the cruise finished!

Then at the very end of the night Tomas and Maris sang Johnny B Goode and called me up to play the guitar part. Photo from Maris's phone!

It's always sad saying goodbye at the end of a cruise, but we all know we will see each other again sooner or later. Much sooner as it turned out. The following morning we were told our flight had been delayed by four hours and we would be able to stay on the ship rather than have to wait in the airport.

Which meant we were able to catch another gig on the Pool Deck the following lunchtime! Our flight was now put back to ten thirty that night. The airport was very quiet apart from a bunch of passengers two gates down who were waiting for their own delayed flight to New York. New York was in the grip of horrendous snow storms. The flight crew had been on duty for hours waiting for a chance to depart and as a consequence on reaching Jamaica could not legally fly the plane back to America as they would go over the number of hours they could fly without a rest.

Given that there was a massive festival going on that night in Montego Bay and that every single hotel was full, the passengers were not happy to be told that their flight could not leave until 6:30 the following morning. All credit to the pilot who got a microphone and conducted a question and answer session - far more questions than answers actually.

"I can't answer that - I don't have a hotel myself..." he pointed out. In the end a hotel was found that would allow them to sit overnight in their conference hall where they could be fed and watered. Not a happy bunch of people. We were relieved to be called through and board our own flight back to the UK!

Mexican Medley Cruise Index

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Greenwood Great House, Jamaica

Monday 16 February 2015. The second of the Great Plantation Houses we are visiting in Jamaica is Greenwood House. Again there is a guide from the house waiting to take over from our guide who has accompanied us on the bus.

The house was built in 1800 by Tochard Barrett, one of the famous Barretts of Wimpole Street, London. He was cousin to the father of Elizabeth Barrett - the poet who married Robert Browning and together billed and cooed in verse to horrify schoolboys for future generations. She never visited this house and we can thankfully put her back in the cupboard...

The estate held 84,000 acres and they had 2,000 slaves to work it. Today the house is one of the best museums of all Jamaica, with collections of furniture, furnishings and musical instruments. These are conserved, rather than attempting to maintain or restore any damage, yet some of the mechanical musical instruments - hopelessly out of tune - are played for visitors.

A service of crockery is displayed on this drop-leaf table. When was the last time you had a nice cup of tea in a bone china mug on a saucer?

A canteen of cutlery is displayed on a side table under the mirror. Crystal glassware in the cupboard and a working Polyphon stands against the wall to the right. It is one of two in the house and we saw a huge collection of discs in a box.

The bedrooms are as lavishly furnished for the time as are the downstairs rooms. A copper bed warming pan can be seen hanging on the wall at the right. Filled with hot coals or embers, it would be pushed under the bed covers on cold nights and checked regularly to ensure it wasn't setting fire to the sheets!

Another more modest dining table with coffee and tea set on the table and a tureen set displayed on the dresser.

The windows are three-pane sash windows with shutters. The view from the upper floor out over the Caribbean sea is stunning.

A veranda balcony runs the length of the house facing the sea, set with deckchair style loungers.

The view from the veranda down the slope to the sea.

In comparison to the heat of the veranda, this room looks cool and inviting with old bottles displayed and some larger flagons that could have held wine or oil.

A high dining table, designed for standing at whilst eating. The men of the household and slave overseers would wear long riding boots to the knee, perhaps over the knee and sitting would be impossible or at best very uncomfortable whilst wearing them.

Let's not forget that this plantation was worked by people, bought and sold as possessions with as much say in their own lives as your mobile phone has about what you do with it. Another of these old notices said:


From Orange River Plantation

In the parish of St. Mary, in July 1778
a Creole NEGRO WOMAN named


She was harboured some time past, at a Penn in Ligianea(?)
but was seen about two months ago at Port Henderson, big with
child. Whoever harbours her, will be prosecuted according to
law, but whoever apprehends her and will give information to
WALTER POLLOCK on said plantation, or to THOMAS BELL in this
town, shall be handsomely rewarded.

As at Rose Hall, our last activity was to enjoy the amenities of a bar. Various artefacts were on display and lots more posters and old newspaper pages and (perhaps a trifle bizarrely) railway gate crossing warning signs... There were several old and damaged saxophones, a row of beer pumps for a bar, and then whips, leg irons and a horribly vicious sprung man trap. These were laid around the place to dissuade slaves from trying to escape at night. Getting caught in one of these would not just hold you in place until you were caught. If it did not sever the leg itself, it would certainly break the bone and severely lacerate the leg which would probably require amputation. Then the slave would probably be killed as a warning to his or her fellow slaves.

Mexican Medley Cruise Index

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Remembering Sunnyside 2015 - Billy Fury Weekend Part 2

A bit of a photo-fest this entry! The second night of the Billy Fury weekend held in Wellingborough over 27-28 March 2015.

The ladies are settled in their seats, we must be ready to go... Actually, one of these ladies is on first - come on Shelagh, stir yourself!

Dave Jay is again acting as compère for the night and announces Peter and Shelagh Cooney whilst fondly imagining that he is dodging the camera...

Peter always describes their act as having "stripped songs back to the bare bones". This is how many, if not most, songs are composed. With either a single acoustic guitar or perhaps a piano. Stripping off all other instruments can sometimes reveal the simplicity and beauty of the melody.

A corner of the room and a section of the audience.

Phil Jennings takes to the mic and reprises his song from last year - Bobby Darin's Things, inviting our table to butt in with all the chorus parts! "Yeh! Yeh!"

A smile from Cathy, the local, but the two canny northerners Jean and Russ are wondering how much to charge for being photographed...

John and Diane have travelled up from the Isle of Wight and in just a short moment John will shrug off his mild persona and transform into...

...heartthrob Johnny Storme, pouring emotion from every pore and melting the hearts of all the women in the room.

"Why do they not scream like that for me?" wonders Peter...

Steve Sinclair, provides a great set, winning the prize for the night's longest-held high finishing note!

Wait a moment... the ladies are sitting up again and waving their hands about!

And here's why - it's that smoothie from Macclesfield, Dave Jay getting the feet tapping with his own set as he transforms from compère to singer.

He has a roving mic and he's not afraid to use it! Working the floor...

It must be working, there's some happy faces there!

Miss Jeannie gets the personal treatment - not for the only time that evening as we shall see!

Oh and he's got us all waving in time again!

Russ Dee from Leeds was one of the first Billy Fury tributes on the road and shares some memories of those early days.

How do you keep a white jacket white like that? I'd have had half a meal down it if I tried wearing white...!

An accomplished club artist, Russ gives us a great set.

There's time to fill before the raffle and we are asked to step in. I do a solo spot to sing my version of Cilla Black's You're My World. (Photo credit: Michael Roche)

A couple of Billy Fury numbers and a couple of crowd pleasers (no: the songs, not us!) and it's raffle time!

Cathy is announcing the raffle numbers but then bursts into impromptu snatch of song!

Our table seem to be mopping up the prizes one after another...

"Mine! All mine!" chortles Peter.

Roger Sea. His musical career goes way back to the 60s. He was once in a band that played support to Shane Fenton - the late Alvin Stardust. And I want that jacket please when you've done with it Roger...

Ah yes, the hallmark of an all-round entertainer! Brilliant reworking of a song to include a ukulele.

All the artists for the night. This was in the middle of Roger's act too - takes it all in his stride, hats off to that man! Second on the left of the back row, Michael Roche gave us a couple of songs but I'm afraid I have no photos of his singing. Sorry Mike! You might recognise him from his appearances as an extra in Eastenders!

Steve Reynolds plays Shadows style. Last year Steve was on Britain's Got Talent and has been playing theatres with a couple of Shadows tribute bands.

The human dynamo otherwise known as Snowy takes the stage. "Photo opportunity!" he cries and strikes a pose. What can you say? Mr Entertainment... ...must be somewhere around surely...? Snowy, we love ya!

Miss Jeannie again - that perfume was certainly working... Though Snowy looks a bit as though he's set a death threat to music...

And then those two old geezers went on again to finish the night. Or, as David said, to empty the room... For the first time ever we played a Billy Fury set. A whole set with just songs from one artist. But, of course, that was what the night was all about. There's a handful of songs from this set at our YouTube site.

Thanks must go to all the artists who appeared over the two days and to Cathy for organising the venue and Dave for his work compèring and handling the sound and backing for the singers. Thanks to the audience who turned up to listen and cheer us on and to the Hind Hotel in Wellingborough for hosting the event. We hope to see everyone again next year!