Monday, 31 October 2011

Monday Evening

My day was cheered when I came across an old news item concerning my secondary school.  Stupid people claim, for reasons I have never understood, that schooldays are the 'Happiest days of your life!'  I never found this to be the case, nor have many others.  Education I could stomach, well some of it but certainly not the bit concerning 'sums,'  but being locked into Stalagluft XVII I could have done without.  However trawling through the web for some other reason that slips my mind I came across the story of the school fire! This school was begun in 1960 and by 1964 I was frogmarched into it by the city authorities. In the year of our Lord 2010 those same city authorities closed the school and moved the terrorists further down the road and into a new prison camp school building. Naturally this was done as the school closed for the holidays at the beginning of July with the intention of beginning the new school year in the new premises. Now consider, you literary lot, that the area behind the school was the district in which the book of the film 'Trainspotting' began life then you will gather that the residents are not the most intellectual that the 'Athens of the North' has bred.  Within a week or two the school was burning to the ground and the noble gentlemen of the 'fire and rescue service' were attempting to do their duty while also attempting to help the police discover which of the wretches were cutting the hoses as they worked!  Only one feeble 14 year old laddie was held, the other thousand ex-pupils escaped!  I write this to indicate my sadness - at not being there to light a match!

I also had nothing else to write, so that somewhat smug report from last year will have to do.


Sunday, 30 October 2011

A poor attempt to capture the stained glass window. Without a telescopic lens it is a bit of a failure.  
In real life the window is well worth a look.


Did you ever wonder why there are no dead penguins
on the ice in Antarctica – where do they go?

Wonder no more ! ! !

It is a known fact that the penguin is a very ritualistic
bird which lives an extremely ordered and complex life.

The penguin is very committed to its family and will
mate for life, as well as maintaining a form of
compassionate contact with its offspring throughout its life.

If a penguin is found dead on the ice surface, other members
of the family and social circle have been known to dig holes
in the ice, using their vestigial wings and beaks, until the hole is
deep enough for the dead bird to be rolled into and buried.
The male penguins then gather in a circle
around the fresh grave

“Freeze a jolly good fellow”

“Freeze a jolly good fellow.”

“Then they kick him in the ice hole.”

(In spite of what some may say there is no truth in the rumour that this was stolen from 'Kenfitlike.')


Saturday, 29 October 2011

The Saturday Picture

This is because I have nothing to say.  This is my default position in reality, a quiet, retiring sort of chap who keeps out of the limelight and leaves others to take all the praise and glory.  Oh yes it is!


Friday, 28 October 2011

Country Air

For the first time in a while I cycled, slowly, up the old railway line. I went around eleven as it is quiet then and stupid me forgot the kids are on holiday. Therefore as the sun was shining the families ponderously made their way up the line.  The kids chatting to all the dogs that passed by, when that is they were not wandering through the bushes, the women gossiping about nothing and blocking the way for normal human beings going about their lawful business. The dads being dads, carrying the bags on their backs, sometimes alone with one child, as indeed were a granddad or two, and making me miss the not so young kids way up north.  In one way this was nice to see, in another they just got in the way! A good day out and of course I ache all over now. I must get out more, as people often tell me.

I was attempting to add the 'Beach Boys' song 'Country Air,' because this came to mind when sitting enjoying the sun, greenery and fresh air.  EMI do not allow this (are they not the folks who turned 'The Beatles' down?) so find it on 'YouTube' and hum along as you read.  I was indeed 'humming' when I got home.  

A good day also in that I had a £5 off voucher for the new 'Morrisons' supermarket. The staff, for the most part, are very friendly, you can tell they are new to this game, and I will certainly return next Friday - I have another voucher!  This means that this small town has three large supermarkets represented.  Tesco have three stores, one which has just been redeveloped. Sainsburys have one which is about to be redeveloped and they plan another so big it will replace a small industrial estate! There is already a 'Lidl's' and now the Co-op has closed 'Morrisons' have moved in.  Just how much do the thirty five to forty thousand folks here eat I wonder?  I spent £16:98, and that was after taking advantage of the voucher to stock up, consider how much others must be spending on things they can afford but do not actually need?  Being poor makes me careful with money and I tend to notice prices more.  I also notice how folks buy things with little thought and choosing the label not the product!  An expensive item will be brought rather than try the store version, even though they are just as good nowadays.  Something is bought because it has always been chosen rather than because of any worth it may have.  The tricks of the store also make us all spend on things we don't want and they laugh all the way to the Swiss Bank where the directors store their ill gotten gains. I prefer 'Tesco,' but I will suffer 'Morrisons' for one more week as I use up the last voucher.


Thursday, 27 October 2011

Life Returns

After another two calls to Mumbai this morning, I cut the call off by accident myself the first time, I was convinced by a pretty young Indian lass that all would be well. Yet again this was an operator who had to stick to the script!  She did very well and was only perturbed when I asked where she was.  "India," she replied somewhat confused as people are not supposed to leave the script and she was more troubled when I indicated 'India' was a big place. Possibly she thought I might visit, fat chance, however she was somewhere I didn't quite catch, near Mumbai. Lunchtime and the Internet ceased once again and a noise outside forced my nose to the window.  There I beheld, and almost enfolded in my arms, the man from BT fixing the wires on the telegraph pole outside my window. Later, with one or two blips as he played around with the connection back at the exchange, I was left with the normal slow speeds that I have come to expect from 'Pipex,' or 'TalkTalk' as we must call them now. I checked my mobile phone for cost.  I have £3:62 left on the phone, (Virgin, 'Pay as you go') and I reckon there was about £16 in it to begin with, but cannot be sure!  Whatever, today's calls cast about £7 in themselves. Good job that phone was filled up some time ago when rich! Maybe I will once again compare prices of these ISP's. Still, all is well now and I no longer have to go outside and talk to real people.  


Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Now I am not one to Complain but,

So after the e-mails I phoned using my dying mobile phone. I ensured I charged the battery as I expected to listen to "Your call is important to us," several times before getting anywhere.  This indeed occurred and starting from being "Seventh" in the queue I soon moved up to "2nd," although I was beginning not to care when the man in Bangalore answered. We went through the whole thing again, he following his script well, and in due course sent me on to the 'Technical' people.  I can well understand a need for one to remove all the simple fault, check the connections, pay your bill etc, so I happily (ha!) waited as the music played.  What the music was I know not, the sound distorting on the phone, although it may have distorted over the ten thousand miles it was travelling of course. Eventually a lovely young Indian women cheerfully and pleasantly went through the script and tested the line.  "There is a fault on the line," she told me helpfully, and asked of she ought to call my mobile while she did what she had to do. I had informed her the battery would run out but happily (again) decided to wait the "two or three" minutes this would take.  On minute later the battery died!  She never called back, I fear to do so especially during the day, and I have now no idea if the thing will be fixed or not.  The staff were indeed friendly and efficient but I wondered how they cope with strong accents?  I speak clearly to such as they, my time in London taught me this when dealing with 'Foreign Johnny's,' but upset folks from Newcastle or Cornwall may not be so considerate!  At the moment the Internet works, but does collapse at busy times or stops for no reason, the phone remains dead.  Ah well another 24 hours may well explain it all, possibly. 


As I type my spelling mistakes I am listening to the 'BBC Democracy Live' programme offering live debates from the UK House of Commons.  I like this site as it allows us to watch Parliament at work both in the House and in Commons Committees.  We are also offered the Scots Parliament, Welsh Assembly and the European Parliament (for what that's worth) and within a few minutes we can find live, or recorded, all our politicians lying in their teeth in every part of the nation and indeed in Europe!  This is indeed a find!  The debates never vary, the government defends, the opposition attempts to pick faults, the 'other side' is always in the wrong and facts are used to support any argument! The best occasions are when the House is almost empty and a Bill, of major or minor importance, is being debated by those with a particular interest in it. Often these can be knowledgeable or just plain funny!  The wit and friendliness of many debates are rarely reported however I find some better than the usual TV offerings. Others of course debate long and hard on Bills of major importance and very serious indeed.  Today we debate the NHS, "The other side was at fault." "Oh no it wasn't, you are."  Money amounts, in the millions, are quoted by both sides, but in the end we know the Tories will kill of the NHS if they can, and the 'other side' (Labour) want to save NHS costs also.  In the end we lose out as hospitals close, queues lengthen, and those office workers I once worked amongst still squander millions with no thought for patients anywhere!  What is the answer?  The Tories want to sell it, Labour keep it (Tony Blair would sell it also as he is well off!) but cut costs.  In short none of them know what to do!  In the end ideology, not facts, will tell.

Turner painted this in his 'impressionist style. Some tell me his paintings like this of the later part of his career are fabulous but I wonder?  I went to the gallery some years ago and saw many of his pictures 'live' and it appeared to my mind that in the end he had just got to much yellow and white paint delivered and didn't wish to waste it. As each was produced they became more or less white and yellow mixtures with added darker blobs. On a decent day I get similar experiences simply by removing my glasses.  This does not give me an 'impression' of the world around me it just leaves me falling over litter bins and park benches.  While I admired much of Turners work and I love the bright colours of such a painting I must wonder if it deserves the respect it receives, although much of that comes from fawning critics who don't wish to be different from the crowd. I would rather see the train, the sky, and the colours.  My twisted and perverse brain can accommodate these and supply a suitable impression when required. What say you?



Tuesday, 25 October 2011


This pretty boring picture I took some years ago through a wire fence.  It shows one of the platforms at Granton Gas Works. These premises opened in 1902 and my aunt claims hr dad was driving the shunting engine there. This is likely as he was named as a Steam Engine Driver in the 1891 census.  By 1901 he was a 'general labourer,' possibly because of his drink habit.  If only we knew more about him!  This platform was a workers only halt into  the works  I wonder if a special train was in operation to bring them in on time? Certainly they booked in nearby and crossed the line via a bridge to enjoy a day shoveling coal.  The red brick used to such good effect was typical of a building of the day.  These days factories are so boring and functional but the Victorians built such quality even into factories.  Progress has led to plastic buildings and lack of character while in days of your the buildings had bags of character, although long hours and low wages were common. 

Gas was made from the coal, about 200,000 tones a year at Granton and this was heated by furnace underneath the 'retorts' with temperatures of around 1500 degrees. Gas was drawn off and cooled, cleaned of impurities such as oil and tar by ammoniacal solution. Afterwards the gas was washed by water leaving an ammoniacal liquor, this was made into sulphate of ammonia and used as fertiliser.  Further treatment removed lots of stuff I cannot spell and the gas completed the journey into the large gasholders from where it traveled to serve the city.  I well remember the gas sometimes containing an 'air pocket' and having to turn it off and starting again.  Gas taps in the science labs at school (science? aye right!) would cause the teachers to cry out when the air pocket was noticed.  An explosion could have destroyed the school, if only!  The coal waste became coke, and the smaller dross was turned into briquettes.  Nothing was wasted by this business.  The sixties however saw an end to coal gas and a massive transformation of cooking and other appliances as 'Natural Gas' was introduced.  The final end of gas at Granton came in 1987 and the buildings were soon headed for destruction. The rail lines possibly used by granddad have long gone and only the station building, now refurbished remains.  Granddad also went in 1917, he collapsed on his way home from the pub, aged 71.  Offices and housing now fill the redeveloped space once the home of rail, coke and coal, and nothing else remains bar the iron standings of the gas holder.  Even that is threatened.  

Progress takes away memories.  From our window, and much of Edinburgh, the gas holders stood out as we looked north. The sounds of the works, there were other works nearby plus the docks, would float through the dark silent evening air. One other factory nearby, 'The United Wire Works,' for whom my father spent several years slaving away, has also gone.  'Google Maps' show just a bricked up 'Works Entrance' and a large despoiled building and surroundings now.  Even the rough 'Anchor Bar' has gone!  Although there are those that claim that indeed is progress!  How strange that a building that stood for almost ninety years, and which was part of my childhood simply by it existing, has now gone, as indeed has sound 'floating on the night air,' the traffic drowns it out. The new developments may indeed be grand in the long term but it is not my Edinburgh any more.  The world moves on and our 'lives are only in our memory, the no longer exist.

Granton History

Monday, 24 October 2011

The Day Dawned Brightly...

How soon before it all goes wrong?

Not long!
Rotten day, foul mood, tired, aching, and the oven does not work.
Luckily I am using the microwave and electric rings mostly at the moment.
Worse, the Broadband keeps cutting out!  Horror of horrors!  How can I live with no Broadband?
However after fiddling with the plugs the Broadband works, slowly.  Too slowly at times, and it was not fast to begin with.
But the phone is dead!
I never call unless I must, and I must log in the replacement credit card by phone, and it is dead.

How do you call when you have no phone to call with?
I e-mailed the only address I know and immediately received a reply stating I must go elsewhere!
I did, and filled in the form, hopefully the right one, and by the time I finished both engineers will have gone home. (I say both because there can only be two, and one is off sick, as they are slow!)
'Pipex' have sold out to 'Talk Talk,'  who have a bad reputation, so I am wondering if anyone will be there to read this ( and I am typing slowly so the Broadband does not get flustered.).

Now I am tired, flustered, anxious, and staring into the abyss - again!

It's being so cheerful wot keeps me going!


Sunday, 23 October 2011

Saturday, 22 October 2011


Sadly I cannot find where I came across this gem, but gem it is.  One of those early experiments at creating a car that can drive on water, or is it a boat that can sail on land?  This is an American attempt from the twenties or possibly early thirties and I wonder if it worked?  I note that the woman has a chauffeur but she has both hands on the wheel, typical!  You can bet when the tyre requires changing he does that bit!  This idea has proved successful once or twice.  A good car that could be used as a boat did succeed to some extent in the sixties but I doubt many were sold.  Of course you will recall the DUKW from the second world war.  This also came from the States as a vehicle was required to aid transporting troops from ships on to shore quickly.  An American engineer took the base of a lorry and added a boat, this became successful and the DUKW transported many men during the war and can still be seen around the coasts occasionally.   A DUKW was chosen to land Churchill and all the senior officers on the day the PM was allowed to cross over to France in 1944. One was in use at Portobello Beach in Edinburgh during the fifties to give trippers a short ride on the Firth of Forth, for ten shillings I believe.  The price is why we never got on it!  Hmmm I wonder if the lassie in that car/boat ever got onto the lake?  Did it sink perhaps?


Thursday, 20 October 2011

The Gaddafi Escapade Comes to an End.

So Gaddafi is dead, apparently found hiding in a 'hole' and then beaten and shot to death by his captors. This reminds me how Mussolini met his death, hanging upside down from a lamppost.  Mussolini was the man on whom the Colonel styled himself.  He has met a similar fate to his hero.  Touching in some way, but just a little bit barbaric. Now the comrades who have fought and suffered together will soon begin the long hard process of stabbing one another in the back to grab power, democratically, for themselves. The allies who have supported them with air power are as we speak sending their representatives to Libya to grab as much oil, reconstruction contracts and trade as they can grab before the others move in.  Still, a 'dictator' has gone.  
Hmmm I suppose there are a few questions that require asking, I wonder how many will be brushed under the carpet?


Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Remus Memorial Horse Sanctuary

As the market was closing today I wandered around looking for dropped coins and or discarded vegetables for my tea.  As I entered the glorified shopping area I noticed a stand with two very smart black Shetland Ponies for the 'Remus Memorial Horse Sanctuary.'   The centre is a great place to show off a variety of organisations and events, usually terrible I must say, however  once or twice a year this sanctuary appears in the centre.  There usually is a sheep, goat or pony or two, and today we were presented with these ponies.  

The Remus sanctuary was named after a horse of that name that had been tied up and left for up to four months by the owner.  It appears the horse had not been fed or watered in any way for thirteen days and was very emaciated. When rescued the horse was in a frightened state, collapsed and was manhandled into the rescue vehicle where it lay in a sad state.  Remus died the next day from internal bleeding.  This does happen all to frequently, and in Britain, a country famed for the love of animals!  

The animals on show naturally attract a crowd and donations are received gladly, although she nearly broke my arm helping me to donate.  It's not often I am turned upside down in a shopping centre by two strapping lassies!  It is however a very good cause.


Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Up Town Again

The trains were in one of their little anarchic moments today.  One train  has a problem very early in the day and everything falls apart. So as the timetable was out the door, made worse by the driver of my train claiming the brakes were not working!  Thanks for that pal!  So after the meeting with the man I made my way around the historic town.  Historic it is indeed, and I passed the 'Castle,' without entering and avoided the tour of the two large Roman arches that hold the beast in place.  The two large rooms were the last hiding place of the Roman and Romanised population when Boudica came calling.  her gentle womanly side saw her burn the town to the ground and this included those hiding here.  The remainder of the castle were rebuilt several times and the building is less a castle and more a large house, much altered!  

Outside the entrance stands the splendid War Memorial.  This historic town was also wealthy by the end of the 19th century and liked to do things in style.  A town this size sent many to the war and this is still a garrison town.  The town is the base for 2 and 3 Para battalions.  Several large expensive trucks roared past me today while several cars ferried off duty soldiers to places of refreshment.  The castle grounds contain several memorials including one of the few to those who fought in the 'Forgotten War,' the Korean War!  So few cared about that adventure, and with few televisions around information was not available then as now, so people just ignored it.  After the previous fifty years the UK rightly wished to get on with its life and avoid further entanglements. The 'end of empire' was sufficient trouble for most.  I wish I had pictured this now. 

I am not sure which battalion of the 'Essex Regiment he served with. 

The town hall has an excellent council meeting room and the late Victorian building is still the centre of the council. Next door stand the 'Old Library,' an outstanding building for such a work, and now a mere 'refectory' for the council staff.  Down the same street a lawyer has moved into a Tudor like building which, like so many here, dates back into the mists of timet.  The difficulty is that this area was used by weavers who arrived from the Flanders and Netherlands in days of yore and roads are very narrow, and indeed busy.  This makes photography difficult!  Vans and passersby do not help much either.  

  Ye olde Lawyers with ye new charges you bet.

 Town Hall and Old Library

Heading back to my wait for the train, and it became clear that the staff were working on a moment by moment basis as the announcements were somewhat unpredictable.  One train causes problems and the effect on a busy commuter line can take two days to put right!  On the way I stopped my weary body to get strength by stepping into St Peters Church for a moments contemplation.  This church is on the hill heading north and it becomes clear why this was used as a fort town.  The steep hill at this side gives a clear view for miles around, or would have in past times, and following on from the Britons work the Romans strengthened the defences and much of the wall still remains. None of the wall crossed my path today, actually walls rarely 'cross my path,' they do have a habit of staying put I find.  Originally the town was almost defenceless, hence Boudicas success, but after this Roman engineers got to work. St Peters is one of those rare churches mentioned in the Domesday book. There were at least two vicars in 1086, the town clearly wealthy even then, and it is likely that a wooden Saxon building stood here before this date, the Normans having the habit of rebuilding old churches in stone to impress on the populace their domination. The original building may go back further still but no record exists. There are foundations of a building from the 300's which appears to a church to the south of this hill and it is possible there may have been a small building here at that time also.  There as many old churches as buildings not surprisingly in this important town.

Inside I found a somewhat dark, and surprisingly large, almost cavernous, building.  Heavy dark wood, large windows but not receiving the sunshine during the middle of the day, and a aroma of candle wax hanging in the air. The place was empty and very quite, noticeable as a busy main road is right outside the front door, and I wandered down the aisle and deposited my self gladly in a pew.  Clearly this is an Anglo Catholic church, the wax aroma and what I took to be a confessional at the side indicate this. Many Church Of England buildings are closed and locked these days unless someone is on guard, theft being a major problem.  In busy towns there are those who remain open nevertheless to allow those who wish to a few moments of reflection, specially at lunchtimes. Maybe I am wrong but it appears to be the Anglo Catholics who do this more than others, I could of course be wrong.  When these imitation Roman Catholics emerged in the 19th century they chose a road that differed from the rest of the churches.  As towns and cities expanded the churches followed the people. Good idea I say, however the poorest were left behind in what became slum areas.  The Anglo Catholics chose to 'pastor the poor,' and built magnificent church buildings among the poorest people.  Possibly that attitude continues and is revealed in churches remaining open, quiet and ready for the individual. Another entered and I left him in the dim, quiet basilica and very happy indeed with my few moments headed for a disjointed train ride home.


Sunday, 16 October 2011


As a kid my first experience of photography was the 'Kodak Brownie 127' camera.  The big fat oval shaped beast enabled me to produce my first blurred picture, at the zoo I recall.  The camera was used on many occasions, usually by my dad, but rarely by myself.  I suppose this enabled the black box to survive so long! I did have some sort of rubbish camera around 1970 and attempted to get the thing to work.  This had similar success to my picture in the zoo!  Rude murmurings from those around me distracted my learning process and my interest waned somewhat. Later, far removed from such 'friends,' I did try a 'Lomo LC-A' camera, which was a Russian produced piece of rubbish that has become a cult among some. One day in the late seventies, before most of my readers were born, I purchased a 'Zorki-4,'  from somewhere. This camera began after the war in a factory that had been produced a 'Fed' camera, a poor imitation of a 'Leica' camera. Such copies abounded after Leica introduced their high quality produce during the twenties and thirties.  These Russian cameras worked well enough, and were being produced right up till 1978.  Then one day my brother gave me a 'Zenit-E' of dubious age and condition.  

My brother, ten years older and nowhere near as good looking, took to photography in a big way.  So much so that he ended up in the RAF photography section. After his demob his mechanical knowledge saw him repair Leica cameras until his retirement.  At one point I myself considered the RAF but while the nice sergeant informed me of all the good times I could find in the services, good pay, friends, travel and so on, he forgot to mention the millions of armed men standing guard throughout western Europe.  He also forgot to mention the nuclear bombers and fighters high above as we spoke training for nuclear war, although he did say I could learn a trade, death probably!  The photography section was closed at that time so I declined the joy of being told my eyesight was so poor I could not be accepted, and also my habit of screaming "We are all going to die!" would unsettle other crewmen on the aircraft.I dared not inform my brother I had considered this as I felt he may resign!  He still doesn't know.  

The Zorki was an excellent camera for a simple amateur, or so I was called rather too often by some. However mine had a small problem in that a hole appeared in the screen and if I recall right my brother took it to fix and I never saw it again!  However the Zenit made up for this.  The Zenit was an SLR camera with TTL metering. Certainly the metering was aged and of dubious quality but I took many pictures with that camera and thoroughly enjoyed using it.  In time I added extension tubes, enabling me to take close ups of objects.  I had wished to do this for many years, since one day I had watched a bumble bee happily brushing the pollen from his fur into those pockets on his legs.  He stayed outside my window for ages and I had no means to take his picture, and extension tubes were the answer.  Naturally once I had them no bumble bee has come my way.  The Zenit was a popular camera, cheap, as the Soviets wanted foreign exchange, easy to use, and as it weighted a ton it was marvelous for Irish weddings.  Simply by keeping the beast in its case, grabbing the strap firmly, and then swinging it around the head it became a terror weapon in such circumstances. As the ambulancemen loaded up the guests you would be enabled to take photographs of both the wounded and their broken cameras.  The Zenit was photography's equivalent of the T-34 Tank! 


Enjoyable though the Zenit was I had seen enough Irish weddings and spent £125 on a good second hand Minolta X-300.  This was, and is a great camera for such as I. By adding a couple of lenses I was soon able to see great distances and into folks windows got shots of objects far away. The only problem I found was settling down on a south coast beach, with the Isle of Wight in the near distance, yachts making their way up the Solent, hundreds of pictures available, all the lenses, filters, and other things I never understood standing by, and realising I had run out of film! I can see that view still.  I did enjoy taking portraits of people, if I could get them to stand still long enough.  Candid shots I find a but invasive but I have taken thousands of pics of people and now have three good ones to show for it!  Very enjoyable this hobby.  Quite why we enjoy it so much I sometimes wonder, especially when looking at old pictures and wondering who, or what, I am looking at!  However since it arrived on the scene photography has always been popular.  When Kodak enabled the majority to benefit with the 'Box Brownie (and who hasn't got one somewhere in the family even today?) and a wide variety of folding cameras a rich heritage of photographs has been left for us all. I never fail to be amazed at some of the pictures I find on the web, from the 'ordinary' person let alone the one willing to pay a bit more for the camera.  People have such an eye for the unusual, the humerous and the beauty around us.  Looking at pictures takes us out of ourselves in a way that differs from reading prose.  That too can open windows in the mind but a photo makes it easier, and brings us a more factual representation of a situation and can set the mind enquiring about life.

Digital cameras have revolutionised photography in a way unimaginable just twenty years ago!  No fiddling with films, no waiting for developing, and by clever use of the pc it is possible to improve the picture in front of us.  A snap taken now can be uploaded and transported worldwide in minutes!  The pocket size makes it easy to slip in the pocket, and the use of a small screen instead of an even smaller viewer enables more options for picture taking, fantastic I say!  One day, when rich, I will obtain a bigger version, although not a Leica!  I will also find some friends and take a few portraits again as I have not done that for years. Daft I know but this is one of my favourite activities these days, simple and enjoyable, and I still don't comprehend just why it should be so enjoyable, but it is!


Friday, 14 October 2011

Proper Music Friday

Those amongst you daft enough to read Fishawks blog will notice that he is going through one of those music less periods.  The time when all musical taste flies out the window and a surfeit of cowboy movies that he was reared on begin to bear fruit with the softening of his brain.  Therefore I decided to fill my head with proper music for a change and via YouTube I have brightened and enlightened the world by listening to the worlds greatest rock band - The Beatles!  Only a sad wretch would be unable to comprehend the talent shown by these men.  Only a tone deaf individual could fail to be stimulated by such marvels.  Note that no cowboy hats were worn during the making of this music!

Isn't that just fabulous?

Eric Clapton on guitar here.

Now who could fail to enjoy these great musical moments?


Thursday, 13 October 2011



 A Scottish prayer -
 "Oh Lord, we do not ask you to give us wealth.
 But show us where it is!"

  A visitor to an Aberdeen bar was surprised to find the beer only two pence a pint.
The barman explained that it was the price to mark the centenary of the pub opening.
 The visitor noticed, however, that the bar was empty.
 "Are the regular customers not enjoying the special prices?"
 The barman replied "They're waiting for the Happy Hour"

 It is rumoured that the entire population of Aberdeen took
 to the streets with an empty glass in their hands when the
 weather forecaster said there would be a nip in the air.

 You should be careful about stereotyping the Scots as mean.
 There was a recent letter to a newspaper from an Aberdonian which said
"If you print any more jokes about mean Scotsmen I shall stop borrowing your paper."

 Angus called in to see his friend Alan to find he was stripping the wallpaper from the walls.
 Rather obviously, he remarked "You're decorating, I see."
 to which Alan replied "No, I'm moving house."

 "Alan suggested a candlelit dinner last night" Sarah reported to her friend the next day.
 "That was dead romantic" said her friend.
 "Not really. It just saved him having to fix the fuse."

 The Scots have an infallible cure for sea-sickness.
 They lean over the side of the ship with a ten pence coin in their teeth."

 "In some Scottish restaurants they heat the knives so you can't use too much butter."

 McTavish broke the habit of a lifetime and bought two tickets for a raffle.
 One of his tickets won a £1,000 prize.
 He was asked how he felt about his big win.
 "Disappointed" said McTavish. "My other ticket didn't win anything"

 Have you heard the rumour that the Grand Canyon was started by a Scotsman who lost a coin in a ditch?

 After discovering that they had won £15 million in the Lottery, Mr and Mrs McFlannel sat down to discuss their future.
 Mrs McFlannel announced "After twenty years of washing other people's stairs, I can throw my old scrubbing brush away at last."
 Her husband agreed - "Of course you can, hen. We can easily afford to buy you a new one now."

 As a Christmas present one year, the Laird  gave his gamekeeper, MacPhail, a deerstalker hat with ear-flaps. MacPhail was most appreciative and always wore it with the flaps tied under his chin to keep his ears warm in the winter winds.
 One cold, windy day the Laird noticed he was not wearing  the hat.
 "Where's the hat?" asked the Laird.
 "I've given up wearing it since the accident," replied MacPhail.
 "Accident? I didn't know you'd had an accident."
 "Yes. A man offered me a nip of whisky and I had the earflaps down and never heard him."

 When a bus company was prevailed upon to increase the concessionary fare to frequent travellers so that they got six journeys instead of four for a pound.
One elderly gentleman, renowned for his frugality, even in a town where frugal folk are common, was still unhappy.
 "It's all damn foolishness," he declared.
"Now we've got to walk to town six times instead of four  to save a pound!"

 Did you hear about the Aberdonian who got caught making nuisance telephone calls?
 He kept reversing the charges.

 A Scotsman, an EngIishman and an Australian were in a bar and had just started on a new round of drinks when a fly landed in each glass of beer.
 The Englishman took his out on the blade of his Swiss Army knife.
 The Australian blew his away in a cloud of froth.
 The Scotsman lifted his one up carefully by the wings and held it above his glass.
 "Go on, spit it oot, ye wee devil" he growled.

  MacDonald was awarded £15,000 for injuries received after a  traffic accident and his wife got 2,000 pounds.
 A friend asked how badly injured his wife had been in the accident.
 MacDonald replied "Och, she wasn't injured but I had the presence of mind to kick her in the leg before the polis arrived."

 There was understandable scepticism when it was suggested that Napoleon Bonaparte was the grandson of a Scot from Balloch. But now it has been pointed out that there is further proof that Napoleon was indeed Scots - his hand was always under his lapel, to make sure no-one had lifted his wallet...

Wednesday, 12 October 2011



You may jump to the conclusion that this is my abode, but in fact you would be incorrect, this is a bandstand. I cannot say when the last band stood here, one did play one warm Sunday afternoon but lined up out on the grass, but today the older kids collect here away from normal human beings. Our friend Sydney Courtauld is responsible for this.  His 'Big Hoose' stood over the road and this was part of his private gardens.  However in 1888 he donated the Gardens to the town and since then a trust has run them for the benefit of the townspeople, as long as they wiped their shoes upon entering!  

I was sitting there this afternoon resting my show soles and pondering the future when I realised how quaint the bandstand actually was.  This must have cost a bit to renovate last year and it looks good now.  It has been there since the park was opened and possibly before that.  I can imagine the family having a garden party, band playing, smart military suits and all, servants running about, expensively dressed women bitching behind one anothers backs, bright sunshine, and a garden full of colourful flowers, a lovely sight. A great nosh that would be, and he gave it all up and handed the Gardens to the town.  Since the end of the 19th century the Gardens have been developed of course, and now sweaty, overweight, fat people can be seen gasping during the summer while playing tennis against cool young people.  Children annoy their parents at the playpark, as far away from me as possible, a garden specially dedicated to the memory of one John Ray, a famous naturalist whom I, and probably you have never heard off!  There is a large pond which once contained fish, however early this year I noticed a Heron standing there and have seen no fish since!  

A pathway or two allows folks to wander among a variety of shrubs, trees and bushes while being chased by squirrels for handouts.  I wonder if these squirrels originated in the west coast of Scotland?  There is also a noticeable war memorial and I often wonder how many consider the names on the sides.  On Armistice Sunday a service will take place here and small crosses with Red Poppies attached will be left to remember individuals alongside the many wreaths from various organisations. 11th November is the date of the armistice and the service of remembrance takes place on the nearest Sunday.  A black stone nearby also commemorates the men of HMS Kite who were lost n patrol in the North Atlantic in 1944. Some of those names must have wandered through this garden. Their parents may have brought them to listen to the band and check for fish n the pond and later they may have been checking for the girls in their frilly long dresses and carrying parasols to avoid the sun burning them.  William George Ambrose may well have wandered through the gardens chasing the birds, he fell, a serjeant, at Gaza in 1917, he was 21.  Alex Easter left his wfe Kate to walk here alone after he fell at Ypes. The Coopers, Bertie and George brothers probably preferred one of the towns many pubs by the time war erupted and the manner of their death, one at Arras and the other a couple of months later at Passchendaele,  stands in stark contrast to the childrens laughter and the sound of despairing tennis stars of the future.  

When the park is quiet it is possible to enjoy the vegetation and the flowers, the birds in the trees and the buzzing of insects. Gardens are a requirement we need to stabilise the mind. At one and the same time green surroundings are restful and re-creative. The wildlife takes us out of ourselves, unless we get stung, and a variety of birds brighten the day.  I was told that a badger or two can appear during the night, creeping in from the wild area outside the garden, also a roebuck does indeed appear at times, I have seen it twice rushing for shelter.  Why Courtauld gave the Gardens I know not, although such public spaces were being created in overcrowded cities in those times, and this may have been a realisation that many had no garden or poor housing.  This was indeed a useful benefit to the town then, and still is!



Tuesday, 11 October 2011

The Day Began Brightly....


then went rapidly downhill.
Gazing bleary eyed at the dawn leaving its colourful imprint on the clouds racing overhead I spent a moment full of wonder and delight, then I checked the paperwork piled up on the desk. The Water People have decided to raise my direct debit, as also have the Gas people a second letter informed me with a smug grin.  Further down the pile I retrieved a note from 'TalkTalk' who have taken over the ISP duties from 'Pipex.' The pricing for the new deal was complex, and I cannot make out if there is a time limit on this and what the exact price happens to be!  Several others I find later are in the same boat.  I add these to the Electric bill which has not raised its prices, yet!  I suspect this will follow in the next quarter.  Things look bad, I must find a stupidly well paid job soon, but as I have not done so this far I am somewhat perplexed!  

The gas price is a killer as I use so little.  It merely heats the water and central heating, which is only used when it must be.  Putin showing his muscles to his browbeaten population must be rejoicing whenever the bill flops through my door, as will the French money men who probably own the gas company as well as the electric one. Thatchers love of greed while blethering about 'Britain' shows just how stupid she was,  All the energy companies cost a packet and almost all are owned by Johnny Foreigner!  The worship of money gets you nowhere, well it got many of her friends to where they wanted to be I suppose!  Today the 'Daily Mail' the only paper she could understand, proclaims London and the south keeps the country going, allowing that Edinburgh and one or two other places do OK also.  It would be the south of course, Maggie killed of all the manufacturing and jobs in the rest of the nation and only money men in London and Edinburgh can compete!  The electricity that drives their computers while they enrich themselves comes from France but I suppose they care not about that.  The French were no fools, the Germans have banned nuclear fuel as it might b dangerous, their 'Green Party' being very vociferous.  So Germany gets its electricity from France, who create this by nuclear energy.  The same energy that powers the UK half the time.  I believe we also get gas from Norway, which is fine by me, but once again we have none, ours has ran out, or is about to run out.  

Dirty big windmills all around are now producing just enough electricity to power themselves, and we have a bill for this added to our electric bills, well done the ageing Hippies!  Solar power which some add to their homes is not the success that had been hoped for, it may work well in Crete I guess.  The whole things is a mess from start to finish, and we pay and nothing is done about it, except words of wisdom from our PR PM.  Maybe he pays for the needless bottled water that floods Downing Street?  I bet he doesn't pay the water rates for the flat above.  Why is water so expensive?  There is a lot of it about the UK, especially in Scotland and along the west coast, so why does it cost so much.  My bill appears to charge an awful lot fro what goes down the drain rather than what is supplied, could this be a con I wonder?  They appear to make a lot of profit, as do all these companies, maybe I ought to start an energy company? It appears to be a money spinner.

After I had worked my way through the paperwork the day then went further downhill.....hello!  hello!  oh there is no-one here, I wonder why....?


Monday, 10 October 2011

The Big Hoose


The park opposite was once the grounds of the man who owned this 'Big Hoose.'  He was one Sydney Courtauld, descended from George Courtauld who opened a Silk Mill in 1809.  Weaving, of one sort or another has continued in this part of Britain for around a thousand years, give or take a few. The lowlands of Europe, the Netherlands, Belgium, Flanders and Northern France, abounded with weavers of high quality and the wool trade at first, and silk later, became major industries. Many small towns, large villages to us today, have huge churches built around 900 years ago, less to worship God than to show the world just how rich the town had become! Various wars and persecutions arose from time to time, almost weekly as far as I can see, and many weavers arrived in the British mainland.  This town has much evidence of this, one small item being naming the many narrow passageways 'Gants' after the Flanders style.  House roofs also show indication of Dutch design, and the establishment of the weaving trade is evidence itself.

George Courtauld had emigrated to America where he gathered to himself a wife and produced eight children, seven of whom survived.  I suppose there was little else to do in the colonies with no football to watch. However he returned to his homeland in the late 18th century and began to work at his trade of weaving.  In 1809 he opened a silk mill creating 'crape' a hard stiff material that was very popular in the 19th century. A Unitarian and a believer in social reform, as long as he made vast profits, his mills were worked mostly by women as they were cheaper to run.  Many were children, aged around 10-13, and  a great many of these came from 'well run' workhouses.  Not quite slavery, although they worked long hours for one shilling and five pence a week, women got five  shillings, the workhouse however got £5, and another £5 after a year.  Where was Dickens at this time I ask?  

George returned to America in 1818 and remained there until his death allowing Samuel his son to run the business.  By the 19th century Samuel Courtaulds had three huge mills, powered by steam, spread around the area, employing many workers, although not on the most generous wage, and naturally sacking those who went on strike. Like his father he was a Unitarian, a supporter of reform and yet failed to develop the workers wages according to his profits.  As wages rose fifty percent, from 5 shillings to10 shillings for women, his profits rose by 1400 percent. Men by they way got 7 shillings and twopence, and this also rose in time.  However fewer men were employed. Today I suspect he would be a Liberal-Democrat, or rich communist if you prefer. He lived in a stately manor called Gosfield Hall to the north of the town and the family graves can be seen in the small Gosfied churchyard, for those who delight in that sort of thing.  Death makes all equal, although the poor have no stone slabs to mark where they lie.

The Unitarian heresy was taken up by all the family and a great many 'good works' proceeded from this. Various members of the family built hospitals, public gardens, houses, schools, town halls and the like.  Some also went on to encourage the arts, got involved in public service, such as becoming members of parliament and participated in a variety of benefits to the districts in which they lived. However these benefits, positive as they indeed were, came from the low wages paid to the workers. Would higher wages meant less benefits, I wonder?   

Bocking Place gardens were indeed laid out by someone with a very good eye.  A walk across the park in summer shows a remarkable variety of excellent trees, thoughtfully planted, and it is sad to think that the designer would not see his design at its best. The huge house was sold around 1920 and and later became a girls school. This closed in 1993, and occasionally an ex-pupil will be seen skipping over parts of the grounds once strictly forbidden. The glee these, not so young girls have in this is astounding!  The house has now been developed into flats for those who wish to emulate the rich.

While it would be nice to say this building is home, it represents a somewhat pretentious approach to life, now long gone.  Essex has many large houses, once owned by the rich and important, all surrounded by large well laid out grounds, now rarely used as homes, although my landlord lives in one!  His staff are underpaid and overworked also!  Today's rich still like the pretentious big house, but while some may be businessmen others may well be footballers, actors or musicians.  The days of the landowning powerful have not gone, but they have certainly shifted. Personally a small house would suit my little life, I have no desire to be that important.  There again, I have no chance anyway, ho hum.....       


Sunday, 9 October 2011

Brain Dead Sunday


This was not stolen from the Ben Lomand Free Press, honest....


Saturday, 8 October 2011

Almost Derelict


Before the sun was up this morning, and it never bothered to get up in truth, I wandered out to catch the early worm.  My eating habits are not what they were!  Passing one of the crows so intent on removing a snail from its shell it allowed me within four feet of himself before he looked up, somewhat irritably, and glared as I moved away.  Not much else moved even though the market was opening up. This line of garages manages to look almost derelict and because nobody had bothered to rise I took this snap.  Usually the doors are open and mechanics are very busy chatting while attempting to work out how much to overcharge the car owner who's precious beast is undergoing surgery there.  It may well be these are just the workshops of the building on the right that constantly offers large cars at bargain prices.  They do not mention such cars are cheap to buy and horrendous to run!  Petrol, repairs, spare parts all cost a fortune, that is why muggins (always men who have watched 'Top Gear') falls for the cheap prices.  I would like to take better pics of these but some folks like to call the constabulary for some reason.  

As winter is closing in let's have a warmer picture for Saturday night. 'Off Scarborough,' by Ernest Dade. Very nice and makes me want to go to sea again.  It's not that I once went to sea, it's just that I wanted to go to sea once before.  I didn't, it was too cold.