Sunday, 17 December 2017

Creeping Bentgrass Christmassy Car Club Concert!

Thursday 14 December 2017. All awash with alliteration, no... that's it. I'm not going to be able to keep that up... Thursday night saw us battling torrential rain and hail in Fleetwood as we set up in the Cricket Club to perform at the Christmas Party of a local Classics Car Club.

We have played for this club several times in the past and strangely, whenever prizes for the best car are handed out, the judges have always managed to overlook my Mazda... However, no prizes tonight as the order of the day is to celebrate Christmas and have a party!

I'm trying out my new American Professional Fender Stratocaster for the first time at a gig tonight and it sounds lovely and is a perfect match for the old faithful cherry red guitar.

A surprise visit from Father and Mrs Christmas and... surely that's not a reindeer...!

Highlights of The Mediterranean, 18-25 May 2013 Index Page

A series of articles covering our holiday with David and Miss Jeannie (Creeping Bentgrass on tour!) on the Thomson Dream cruise ship. We'll be calling at Palma, Majorca > Day at Sea > Ajaccio, Corsica > Civitavecchia, Italy > Livorno, Italy > Puccini's house at Torre del Lago, Italy > Pisa, Italy > Villefranche, France > Barcelona, Spain. At some point we'll be treated to a storm with storm force eleven winds and a somewhat rough sea with decks closed and lots of people turning green.

I usually take something like 300 photographs during a week's cruise. David came back with 2000... I have therefore had to be ruthless when it came to selecting photos for these articles unless I was willing to write - and you, dear readers, were willing to read for as long as it took us to live through the cruise!

Each of the photographs below will take you to the related article and photographs.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Scenic Photographs from the Geoff Burke Collection

Out of the 1,157 photos that I've scanned of those in the my late uncle's collection, only a few are scenic in nature. Of those many are similar views of his home town, Rochdale.

I'd guess that whenever he got a new camera or tried a new type of film, he would go and take the same views to compare with previous photos and cameras etc. This did mean that I looked at many of the slides and negatives and thought "Oh, not again..." and just discarded them. But there were some interesting ones and some of those are presented here. This is the corner of the A58 Manchester Road and the splendidly named The Esplanade, leading off towards Rochdale's beautiful Town Hall seen in the background to the right of the photograph.

Taken in 1956, this shows the statue of the Angel on the corner opposite the town Library and at the entrance to Broadfield Park. It dated from 1899 and bore the inscription, "Presented to the town of Rochdale by Ellen Mackinnon. In memory of her mother Augusta sister of the late John Smith Entwisle of Foxholes". At one time it had two drinking troughs in front of it, a large one for horses and a smaller one for dogs. By 1961 it was showing signs of deterioration and was removed to the local Transport Depot where it was presumably broken up.

I'm not sure entirely which road this is, but there's a wonderful collection of 1950s cars travelling sedately down, whilst a convertible-topped sports car takes advantage of the lack of oncoming traffic to overtake the Vauxhall nearest the camera.

Taken in 1963 from Broadfield Park, all that space across the road is now taken up by an Asda store and the Sixth Form and Hopwood Hall colleges.

Taken some time in the 1960s this signal gantry was quite close to my grandparents' house which was only a ten minute walk away from the railway station. Semaphore signals have been in the process of being phased out in favour of coloured light signals for quite a while now. They were standardised in the 1870s at which time signals had mostly a horizontal or inclined downwards at 45 degrees position. Horizontal meant Danger/Stop whilst down meant Caution/Off (Clear). Heavy snowfalls could cause the arms to drop so it later became customary for arms to incline upwards instead of downwards for Caution/Off (Clear). This meant that if snow did cause the arm to fall it would be in the safer Danger/Stop position. Signals with a "fishtail" notch cut out at the end are Distant signals. They give advanced warning of the position of signals ahead, allowing a train to slow down should it be indicated that the next signal would require the train to stop.

Taken in 1968 (I only know from massively enlarging the photo to find the ABC cinema towards the right is showing Rosemary's Baby), this looks to have been taken from the balcony of Rochdale Town Hall one late afternoon. No fewer than four banks are seen here and identifiable traffic includes a Wolseley waiting for two people crossing the road, a Hillman Husky, Commer van, a Saab and the front half of a Hillman Imp on the extreme right. Three half-cab and open rear platform double decker buses are also in the scene.

A jump to 1984 now and another Hillman Imp travels past Rochdale's high rise flats. Known as the Seven Sisters, they were built in 1963 and currently plans to demolish some of them are meeting opposition from residents.

Taken in 1989 this is the magnificent Rochdale Town Hall, built to the designs of William Henry Crossland who won the competition for designs in 1864 and it opened in 1871. The original clock tower of 240 feet was destroyed by fire in 1883 and the current 190-feet tower was built in 1888. The interior and stained glass add to its beauty which apparently caused even Adolf Hitler to so desire it that he planned to have it shipped brick by brick to Germany had they won the war.

Behind the Town Hall the land rises very steeply to the Parish Church above, the rise occupied by Broadfield Park which we have seen before. Bordering the park then, are some very steep roads. Sparrow Hill led off to the right of the angel statue we saw earlier but the road was blocked off when Manchester Road was widened. Church Stile and Church Lane lead to the east and School Lane where the school sat on the corner, roads falling on all sides!

As far as I know Uncle Geoff only went abroad once, as a teenager with his Uncle Percy and Auntie Elsie. My Great-Uncle Percy had a photographic shop on Spotland Road, Rochdale and took commissions from local travel agencies and coach firms to take photographs and 16mm film of coach trips to the Continent, Austria and Switzerland. This is a view of Vienna taken in the 1950s. I still have some spools of 16mm film taken by Uncle Percy and some spools of audio tape containing Austrian music that would accompany the films at film shows at community halls and other venues in and around Rochdale.

Closer to home - indeed it is my home town - this is Blackpool, taken in 1956 at the Gynn area. In the background are the plywood laburnum tree illuminations that are probably the earliest of the Blackpool Illuminations themes that I remember.

And on the first day of December, I'll finish with this one taken of the beach at Blackpool with frozen seawater, Christmas 1976.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

In My Uncle's Cellar

So few houses have a cellar these days, but my late uncle's house, which had previously been my grandparents' house, not only had a full height attic but a full cellar as well. One corner was used as a storage for coal, with a trap door in the front path that the coal men could tip their sacks of coal down.

It was the last room of the house for us to look through and we weren't really expecting to find much of value in it. And in that we weren't disappointed! My Grandad had his workbench down there. Equipped with a large vice on either side it was used for woodworking and probably metalworking too as his trade was as an engineer. We found lots of taps and dies for cutting threads in both screws and screw holes and for all I know he may well have made the taps and dies himself as well.

The first thing to catch my eye was this rather gruesome looking figurine. Made of early plastic I remember it from being small when this topless grass-skirted beauty induced both embarrassment and a strange fascination for a twelve-year-old! The years have not been kind to her...

A vinegar bottle, complete with traces of vinegar in the bottom. Over the last twenty, thirty or even forty, fifty, sixty, or seventy years, the fumes from the vinegar have eaten away at the metal cap, enlarging the sprinkler holes and creating a few new ones!

My uncle had his photographic darkroom down here, though at one time he had been making preparations to move it upstairs into the attic. It was - by design I suppose - dark in there! A new stainless steel sink and drainer was propped against the wall either taken out, or waiting to be fitted, I'm not sure. There were still jars of chemicals, labels long since made unreadable. Developers, fixers, toners, model aircraft fuel? Who knows... Against walls shelves held faded tins of motor oil, old Christmas sweets tins full of paper clips, pen nibs and rotted rubber bands and a cardboard tube of some probably toxic toilet cleaner.

There's also a tin of grease here. Cars in the 1960s had to be greased regularly by pumping grease from a hand pump into nipples set into axles and other moving parts. The tins had an inner lid with a hole that when pushed down, dispensed an inch thick rope of grease, like squeezing a toothpaste tube. For some reason motor grease was hugely attractive to earwigs and by the time of a tin's second use, there would be several of them either crawling about, or immobilised by the stuff requiring you to scrape their bodies out...

A Valor paraffin heater. These were in use every winter to heat those rooms without any heat or where you only needed a small amount of heat to keep water pipes from freezing etc. They burnt paraffin which you bought in gallon tins and they smelt and had to be sited carefully as if one was knocked over it could easily start a disastrous fire. One of the more memorable TV adverts of the early 1960s was for Esso Blue paraffin.

They asked me how I knew, it was Esso Blue
I of course replied, "with lower grades one buys
smoke gets in your eyes!"

A strong box. Iron bound. Locked. Entrancing, exciting... did we have any pirates in our ancestry? It took us a while to find a key which was eventually found elsewhere in the house. With amazement I turned the key easily in the lock and opened the lid to see... more woodworking tools...

A 1955 Wolf Cub electric drill. Costing five pounds nine shillings and sixpence or yours for a five shillings deposit plus two shillings post and packing followed by six monthly payments of nineteen shillings and sixpence.

There were lots of tins. My brother opened this without looking at the description and poked his finger in. "Eeeew! It's some sort of white gunk!" he said, regarding his sticky white digit.
"I think you'd better go and wash your hands..." I said. Before plastic rawl plugs that enabled you to screw into walls, you drilled a hole, spooned in some of this asbestos paste, left it to harden and then screwed into it.

A Hotpoint rotary ironer for fast ironing of washing. Fitted with a 1940s Wylex plug.

More paraffin heaters. Smaller and more easily knocked over than the Valor, these burned with a blue flame and the thin metal cage under the cone-shaped top would glow red hot, the heat being reflected forward by the large reflector. There is little protection in front of it - plenty of space for fingers or even a small child's entire hand to get through that grill on the front.

The cat's basket, sitting in a stone sink under the cellar window. The cat this belonged to was called Sooty, a tiny demented ball of speedy black fluff when a kitten in 1963, he grew into a right bruiser of a cat, but died in 1974 after having to have an operation to remove a tumour. This cat basket has stood here for 43 years...

I've no idea how long it has been since these large ceramic electricity fuseboxes were in use, but they too have been lying on the workbench for a long time!

Trench art - two shell cases, I suspect from the First World War, one still with fire irons. When houses were heated by an open coal fire it was essential to have a set of fire irons. They comprised of a metal poker to stir the coal and mix the layers of warm and cold pieces; a pair of tongs to put fresh pieces of coal on the fire (it was usually wet from bringing it in out of the rain and in any case left your hands black if you touched it) They were also used to quickly retrieve pieces of red hot, burning, coal that fell out and rolled onto the floor before the carpet (or cat) set on fire! Finally there would be a small dustpan and brush to tidy up any coal dust that fell off the pieces of coal or to sweep the hearth once you had taken out the ashes of a dead fire before making a new one.

A house fire would be made on a grating in the fireplace, with either some twists (known as "spills") of paper or perhaps a commercial firelighter - Zip Firelighters were a well-known make. On top of this you would build a latticework of firewood to rest the coal on. The cellar fireplace still had a pile of firewood waiting to be used. It had been waiting since the 1950s.

More chemicals. On the left is one of those grease guns I was talking about earlier. Somewhat rusted now, but you gripped the bottom and pushed the nozzle against the nipple on the car and the body of the gun would slide up the tube at the top, pumping grease through the nozzle into the car's innards. When the gun was empty you unscrewed the bottom and refilled it with grease and earwigs. There's a bunsen burner there too - probably used my my Grandad in his metalworking. Or to light his pipe...

A bit of personal nostalgia. A 1950s Ludo board. A long time since I pushed a counter on that board!

And to finish this time, as we are almost into December now, a sheet of charity stickers from Christmasses of the 1950s. In those days whilst proceeds went to charities, their name would not be plastered all over the sticker (which was not sticky - you had to lick the gum on them). We would be disappointed as kids had a present not had one of these charming little Christmas scenes on them. I might put one on the presents I send this Christmas!

In memory of Geoffrey Burke, 24 May 1933 - 18 March 2017. R.I.P.

Charity Night For Trinity Hospice At Coast Riders

Saturday 25 November 2017 saw us back at Coast Riders Diner and Bar for a charity night in aid of Trinity Hospice and in memory of the wonderful Janet Houghton, whose baby Coast Riders was.

There were stalls selling all manner of crafts, perfumes, cakes, jewellery and lots more. Coast Riders was filled to bursting with people. There was a tombola and a raffle. Miss Franny came home laden with handbags and other stuff...

Two old geezers got up on stage and played a bit - a bit??? I think it was getting on for four hours but there was quite a break for food and the raffle. Even so by the end of the night I had some sore fingers after playing guitar!

A fabulous night was had by all though and it was the sort of night that Jan - "Big Jan" as she was known on account of her being ... not that tall really - would have loved.

We made sure we played all her favourite songs and everyone - eventually - went home happy...

...once the vampires had been seen to!

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Photographs from The Geoff Burke Collection

My late uncle was a keen photographer, but didn't exactly show us very many of his photographs... Perhaps it might be said he was a photo enthusiast more than a photographer, for although he had lots of photographs from the 1950s, 60s and even into the 1970s, after that they sort of peter out. Even though, during these later years he spent a great deal of money on darkroom and other equipment, much of which is of only academic interest these days.

So today I am going to delve into the collection of photographs uncovered after his death, with the focus being mainly on his lifetime, either photographs of him, or family, or taken by him.

A hand-coloured studio portrait of Uncle Geoff on the left sitting with his brother, Allan, my father on the right. This photograph always sat in a frame on top of the piano in the parlour which was only used at weekends and special occasions.

Uncle Geoff with his parents, my grandparents, at his Christening in 1934.

A street photograph of all the children living in the street. Taken around 1936, Geoff Burke is sitting on the knee of the young lad on the front row, third from the right. This must be Church Street in Rochdale, near the gasworks and the general poverty of the times can be seen particularly by the state of the two cricket bats, proudly held by boys in the photo. Both are splitting and coming apart, yet bound together by string, rags, anything that could be used to extend their life as precious playthings.

There were very many photographs, loose, framed and in albums, that were older (in some cases much older) than Geoff and I'll just include a couple here. Labelled on the back: "Charabang trip, Rochdale, early 1900s". The correct term was "charabanc" but they were commonly called "charabangs". I suspect they did bang quite a bit... The two ladies towards the back of the carriage - third and fourth from the left of the photo - are both relatives: my Great-Grandma Brierley and the other being Great-Gt-Grandma Woolfenden or Brierley. I've no way of knowing which.

The same two ladies are seen on a spanking new form of transport a year or two later, back row, fourth and fifth from the left.

This photo is of the Nativity play at St Alban's, Rochdale somewhere from 1948 to 1951. My Dad stands behind his mother who is looking somewhat glum. She was always apt to be a bit maudlin at Christmas and could be counted upon to stop most Christmas parties with "Eeh, our [name] would have been here last year..." Making the most of this hobby, the X markings are made by her to highlight people who have died since the photo was taken. Names and dates are listed on the back...

My Mum and Dad at Belle Vue Manchester, 1952/53. The zoo and amusement park had opened in 1836 and at their peak covered 165 acres and attracted in excess of two million visitors a year. The zoo closed in 1977 and the amusement park in 1980.

Dated 1966, Uncle Geoff picks up a prize at Rochdale Photographic Society. His attic still held a small collection of large prints of some of his photographs from competitions and exhibitions. A couple of the subjects were quite stunning young ladies. He used to hire photographic studios in Manchester along with models during the early 1960s. These young ladies would be in their 80s, if still surviving today. He had meticulously written records to be kept with the negatives. "x: petite, good figure, poses well, very good indeed." or "y:" (less enthusiastic description) "no good at all..."

My grandparents outside at the back of their house. This is the one we have just cleared. This will be in the first half of the 1960s.

In the harsh winter of 1962/63 the local beauty spot, Hollingworth Lake, above Rochdale froze over solid enough for people to enjoy a February day walking across it. Today if we had such a winter again there would be chains and "DANGER - DO NOT CROSS" signs everywhere!

Very rare are photographs of possessions. In the days when photography was film based and required expensive developing and printing, few people thought to "waste" film on what was then quite ordinary day-to-day objects. This type of travelling alarm clock, again from the early sixties, can still be found today, but the modern ones do not glow in the dark like this one would have. The green coloured dots at each number and on the hands was radioactive paint. So radioactive that it would glow in the dark. They were commonplace. Everyone had a watch with similar properties. Even my cherished Mickey Mouse watch glowed in the dark. In pitch dark we would hold it right up to our eyes to see how bright it could be! I'm still alive...

Many of the workers at factories though contracted cancer and died early. They had been told the radium/paint mix was harmless and as japes they would paint their fingernails and teeth, turn the lights out and smile at each other... They had also been told to ensure a fine point on the brush using their lips... Do a search for radium girls to find out more.

And we'll finish this time with a slightly less tragic story, but one much closer to home, as the fire in Uncle Geoff's photo here is his garage and car which was set ablaze by arson on 7 May 2002. Two garages and cars were destroyed, my uncle's Nissan Bluebird being only a few months old at the time.