Thursday, April 30, 2009

Picture Of The Day : Waiting For The Train

The reason why there has been no blog activity today is that I have been in Liverpool getting very foot-sore and very wet. All I want now is a decent glass of malt and a long sleep. See you next month, Blog.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Picture Of The Day : A Nice Cup Of Tea

Every so often I need to cull the contents of my filing cabinet to ensure that there is enough space to stuff the latest bank statement or electricity bill. During this morning's cull I found, lodged between two hanging files, the above share certificate for the National Tea Co. I am not sure where this came from, I can't remember buying it nor have I ever heard of the Mrs Emma Krumdieck who seemingly bought the shares in July 1925. Just as I was getting excited and planning a long-overdue spending spree I discovered two things. First the words "canceled" are stenciled all over it (it's an American spelling I assume). And secondly, similar certificates are available to buy on eBay for a few pounds. Nevertheless, it is a handsome object and I might still go on a spending spree - to but a small picture frame.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Picture Of The Day : Proof Of The Pudding

Whilst Harry (see previous post) is a splendid fellow, I have certain reservations about his wife. Regular readers will know that these reservations relate to her so-called home-made Yorkshire Puddings. We had a meeting of the Crosspool Cruise Club at the weekend and Elaine was at pains to show off her Yorkshire Pudding credentials (who wouldn't with me as a guest?). The puddings were passable and reasonably skillfully prepared. But clearly the preparation was to take them out of the Tesco packet and put them in the oven for ten minutes. Nice try Elaine, but the proof of the pudding is in the picture.

Dear Mr Rude

My friend Harry is one of the most affable and avuncular men you could ever hope to meet. Many has been the evening when we have shared a bottle of Marston's Pedigree as we watched the tropical sun set over the poop deck and you could not have asked for a more amusing and convivial companion. But when riled, Harry can bite back like a Rottweiler : one would expect nothing less from a former Guardsman and Police Sargent. And Harry - like most of us - gets riled by those people who knock on his door trying to sell him such things as double-glazing, loft insulation, roof reconstruction and drive resurfacing. In such situations Harry is a tad short on patience : in just the kind of way we would all want to be if we only had the courage.
Recently someone called on Harry uninvited and tried to persuade him to insulate his loft, inject cotton wool into his wall cavities or some such thing. He sent them away with a maximum of haste and a minimum of politeness. Having had my own experiences with these incompetent idiots, I admire his approach. Some time later an anonymous hand-written note was put through his letter-box. It is a note he is intensely proud of, a note he intends to frame, a note he has scanned and sent to me.
As a document it deserves to become one of the sacred texts of the League of Grumpy Old Men. I am thinking of printing a copy and attaching it to my front door to act as a warning. Congratulations, Harry : you make me proud to be a fellow Grump.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Picture Of The Day : Shop

This is a postcard I bought many years ago from the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television. It is simply entitled "Shop" and the name of the photographer is not recorded. However, it has always been an image that has been etched into my memory : it is something to do with the posture and facial expression of the shopkeeper. It is also something to do with the peeling Lifebuoy soap advert. I would guess it was taken in the 1920s or 1930s, but where, I have no idea.

A Cream Egg Left Too Close To The Fire

It has been a weekend when I have been forced to confront prejudice and preconceptions. Whilst there is nothing wrong per se with one's own prejudices and preconceptions - other people's are an entirely different kettle of fish - events occasionally conspire to make one question them and it can be an uncomfortable process. In case you think I am about to suddenly announce a decision to start buying the Daily Mail or supporting Manchester United or receiving religious instruction : fear not. I am talking music here.
For most of my life I have been a lover of jazz and, as with all things, I am a faithful lover whose eyes (or ears) rarely stray. During the years when I was deaf I shunned music like a Trappist monk at a girl band convention, but during my listening years I have seldom been happier than when Billie Holiday (or Gerry Mulligan, or Miles Davis, or Duke Ellington etc. ) was going in one ear and not coming out of the other. I avoid other types of music because "I don't like them".
So picture the scene : it is Saturday night at the White Horse Karaoke. A bloke I don't know (smaller than me, nearly as fat and just as old) is singing some country and western song about a love-sick truck driver burning rubber on the highways from Denver to Des Moines. My wife turns to me and whispers in my ear, "this is the kind of music I really like". I am shocked, how can anyone I have lived with for the last 40 years confess to such crimes? I decide to pretend that I didn't hear the comment, I have always been a great believer in denial. So there I  am sipping my pint of Tetleys with a sour look on my face when with horror I suddenly realise that my foot is tapping in beat with the music. By the end of the song tears well up in my eyes as the story unfolded of the truck drivers' young wife being accidentally crushed beneath his Firestone tires as he drove through Tucson, Arizona.
As I recall this on Sunday morning I hope that it might have been an alcohol induced dream. To take my mind off things I tune into CUR 1350, the radio station operated by Cambridge University. My good friend Tim Atkin is doing a Sunday morning radio show called Two Wise Men. It is a mixture of contemporary music and talk and Tim's on-air persona is a kind of cross between Alan Bennett and Alan Partridge. I fully intend to confine my listening to just the chat between the records but I don't. I listen to the music. My foot begins to tap in tune with some Glasgow Art-House Band and tears well up in my eyes at the rapping of some mono-denominated artiste (well, not quite, but you get the idea).
So what is happening here? It appears that my musical prejudices are melting like a cream egg left too close to the fire. Who knows where it will lead to, but I am anxious to explore the possibilities. I therefore invite anyone who is interested to suggest some particular track of music that I should listen to. It can be Grand Opera, Punk Opera or Pan's Pipes. I will honestly listen to the first half dozen or so recommendations I receive. I will explore life without musical prejudice. After all, you can only go deaf once can't you?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Picture Of The Day : Top Sail

Saturday night saw the eagerly awaited 40th birthday party of Sail. It was one of those memorable nights everyone enjoyed. The kind of night you get when you get thirty or forty good friends together in a decent pub, add some birthday food and some music from the karaoke. Top party for a top guy. Happy birthday Sail.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Further development

So, as you see, JG-C has recently been busy planting flowers in the borders of our Meadow Prospect house. This is in the lower (upstairs' flat's) garden. And, yes, there's a tree in the corner, kindly donated by a neighbour. (All neighbours there are most impressed at the way the gardens have gone from tip to lawns and patios and borders in the space of about ten days! - And are kind enough to say-so.)
And the 'French Windows' are now properly in place - inverted commas because they include the top (angled) 'lights' (glass panels) as well. Note how the pitch of the extension more-or-less matches the neighbour's without being so exact as to look mass produced. We intend to keep the lighter wood colour (compared to the neighbour's wood colour.) The photo reveals the patio (top garden)... and a pile of tiles ready to go on the sloping roof.
A shot from inside the 'French window' - also showing that the floor is in place and radiators hung (well, temporarily, they come off again for plastering - and you'll have to take my word for it the rest of the radiators (for this flat) are hung as well.)

What this photo fails to show is the pleasant sense of depth and size this room now has, with the floor fitted and building rubbish/bits/tools/supplies cleared. I'm not quite sure how to get a photo to show this sense of size - I guess one needs a wider angle focus than our camera will give - one certainly feels the space. And just as well, since this room is to be kitchen/living/diner.

Just visible, if you peer, are loops of wire coming out of sockets - in fact, Ta-rah!, the ground floor flat is now 'first fix' wired - meaning all socket boxes in the walls and ceilings, all wires in place, all ready for plastering - actual fitting of lighting fittings and mains sockets and actual connection comes after plastering...

Oh, and (due to more recent regulations) this 'first fix' has to be inspected by an electrical firm appointd by the council, and the appointment is still to be booked. I perspire slightly in case young Graham has any objections to my methods. Shouldn't have, we discussed most things on the phone (but I've yet to meet him.)

Picture Of The Day : Spring Light

It's not rained for days and therefore the woodland paths are dry and free from their usual mud. And now the bluebells are coming out and providing the most glorious carpet of blue. Add the spring light to the mixture and everything seems a little brighter, a little better.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Picture Of The Day : Riding Through The Glen

Today's picture takes up a theme I was running on the now consolidated "Pint Of Best" Blog and that is the survival of the British pub. With pubs now closing at a rate of five a day (is this what the Government meant by its famous "five a day" campaign) some time ago I decided that you should try never to pass an open pub without calling in for a pint, and if you can't have a pint at least take a picture of the pub before it disappears. The subject of today's picture - the Robin Hood which is on Wakefield Road in Brighouse - sadly fell into the latter category as I was on my way between two supermarkets (On a side issue, did anyone else notice the recent report which says there are now more supermarkets open in the UK than there are pubs?). So, as yet, I have not been in the Robin Hood, but I am determined to throw away my Tesco bag and call in there very soon.
So why, visitors from Beijing and Alberquerque (I know you are out there, you can't hide from Feedjit) will ask, is there a pub called the Robin Hood in Brighouse? Bighouse is nowhere near either Nottingham nor the Sherwood Forest Visitors Centre. Well it's a long and contentious story - some people believe that Robin Hood, if he existed at all, lived in the wooded glens just south of Pontefract making him a true Yorkshireman! But what is beyond dispute - if anything in a fictional story can be beyond dispute - is that he died at Kirklees Priory which was a few miles down the road from the Robin Hood pub. As he lay dying he is said to have shot an arrow and asked to be buried where it fell. In the woods just east of Brighouse is a Victorian grave which is said to be his. More recently someone has claimed that his bones were actually uncovered during building works on the site of the old Priory. I prefer the idea that the arrow - aided by a strong easterly wind - was carried into Brighouse and fell within the Tap Room of the Robin Hood. If I have time tomorrow I think I will call in and pay my respect to the old chap.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Fat Dog To The Big Apple : Week 48

As part of the long-overdue and on-going process of blog consolidation and in an attempt to kick start the Fat Dog To The Big Apple series into activity again I am moving it to the main NfN site. Fat Dog To The Big Apple was a silly idea I had several years ago when I decided to take Amy my wheaten terrier on a virtual walk from Los Angeles to New York. All the miles are actual put in on the damp grey pavements of West Yorkshire and then transferred - with the aid of all that the Internet has to offer - to the USA.  Since I started the project the resources available to the virtual walker have improved beyond all recognition and armed with such things as Google Earth, Street View and Panoramio,  Amy and I can enjoy the full experience of our trans-continental walk. Although we have been walking for over two years now, all sorts of delays, gaps and interferences have meant that we are only 48 weeks into our virtual treck. And week 48 sees is leaving Crescent City in Northern California, heading in the direction of the State line. So now, if you have the time and the inclination, read on ....
Week 48 : Crescent City To Smith River
Crescent City is a pretty place, although with just a few more than 4,000 citizens it isn't much of a city and you need to squint a bit before you can recognise the crescent shape of its bay. But both Amy and I agreed it was pretty as we gazed across the water towards Battery Point Lighthouse. The lighthouse is over 150 years old and was one of original eight West Coast lighthouses built to protect shipping en-route to the boom cities of the California gold rush. I tried to lecture Amy on the design of the lighthouse and its Fifth Order Drumm Lens (with 20,000 candle power!) but as usual on these occasions she yawned, scratched her ear and fell asleep. I moved on to tsunamis in the hope that it might hold her attention but the look she gave me implied that she had never heard of her. But Crescent City is surprisingly prone to tsunamis, research shows the city has been struck by more than 15 in the last fifty years. For most of them you would have to be a researcher to know they had taken place, but the 1964 tsunami was of a different order altogether : it destroyed the city (if, unlike Amy, you are interested in the story of the Crescent City tsunami you can read the story here). Noting that someone had once said that Crescent City acts like a magnet for giant waves, Amy and I decided to head inland. 
Although we left the Pacific Ocean behind us we didn't quite escape the water : it rained. It is not surprising that it rained : it rains a lot in Crescent City; with an annual precipitation of over 70 inches it is one of the wettest places in California. So it's small. it's wet and it attracts tsunamis, I summed up as we walked north up Lake Earl Drive. But it's pretty, Amy and I both agreed. Over the coming days that judgement was reinforced as we skirted the splendid Lake Earl lagoon with its profusion of wildlife. Amy noticed signs relating to the sport of duck hunting which is popular in these parts and was anxious to join in, but I put a stop to that. By the middle of the week we had discovered another potential drawback of Crescent City. This one was known as Pelican Bay State Prison. 
When I first checked the population of Crescent City I found two quite different figures : the first was 4,000 the second was 7,300. I subsequently discovered that the difference between the two figures was the prison population of Pelican Bay. And these aren't your ordinary mobile-phone pinching, chicken-bone stealing criminals, they are pretty nasty individuals. With this in mind Amy and I accelerated our progress north, and only felt safe once we had crossed the Smith River. Why we then felt safe I can't imagine : one strongly suspects that if an individual can murder a string of his fellow citizens without a second thought, he would be able to walk over the Smith River Road bridge as well.
Smith River spreads its bets in terms of its attraction to passing virtual tourists. It is a river (and very nice too) and then its an "unincorporated community" (which seems to be an American term for a village ... and very nice too) and eventually a seaside community (at the point where the Smith River meets the Pacific). And very nice too. As we headed west towards our rendezvous with the ocean we knew we were there when we saw a 490 ton steel-hulled yacht lying calmly at anchor .... in the middle of a field. The ship is now a central feature of what is known as the Ship Ashore resort. It is quirky, slightly eccentric and very American. It was the perfect place to end our walk for another week.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Picture Of The Day : Rhoda Remembered

It is now a year since Auntie Rhoda died and the new headstone is at last in place. Most of the family have been to the graveside in the last few days, all taking their own memories. The finest tribute is that still, one year on, we all talk about her and remember her unique ways - usually with a smile and a laugh. I'm not sure anyone could want much more than that.

Picking A Fight With A Potted Plant

I am currently in considerable pain : and it is all the fault of a potted palm tree. I was carrying the manky specimen you see illustrated here to a new location when my way was blocked by a closed door. Bending over to put it down whilst I opened the door I felt my back suddenly go. I was unable to fully investigate the physical consequences of this process as it was accompanied by the most intense pain which caused me to collapse and scream like a banshee. By the time the pain struck I had managed to open the offending door and therefore I fell, not on the hard floor, but upon the form of my ever-sleeping son. My screaming (due to piercing back pain) was now joined by his screaming (due to having a "slightly" overweight man fall on top of him). Amy, the dog, watched all this with great excitement and decided to join in by barking and whining. I thought I had at least slipped a disk, Alexander thought I was having a heart attack, Amy thought it was time for a walk. The medics tell me I have done nothing more than strained my back : but whatever it is, it hurts.
If a potted plant could lay me low, what real damage could it do if it took a serious dislike to someone? I went in search of an answer on the Internet. And, dear reader, you would be shocked and surprised by the scale of the danger we all face from potted vegetation. Did you know, for example, that US President William McKinley was killed by a potted palm tree? (well OK, his assassin hid behind a convenient potted palm tree but that is clear causation in my book).  Or did you know that the potted plant, Dieffenbachia, can cause serious eye injuries? (Ottosen CO, Irgens-Møller L et al Ugeskr Laeger. 1984 Dec 10;146(50):3927-8). And what about the dreadful case of the Lady in America who was re-potting a indoor plant and found a nest of Copperhead snakes curled up inside the pot? (the type of snake varies with the version of this story you read).
No, I consider myself lucky to have got away with nothing more than an horrendously painful back. It will be a long time before I pick a fight with a potted plant again.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Picture Of The Day : Until The Real Thing Comes Along

Today the weather was glorious : spring at last. I wanted to take Amy for a long walk through the woods to enjoy the green shoots and the blossom but we only got as far as the roundabout at the bottom of the road. Last Thursday my back lost out in an argument with a potted palm tree and I am still walking with a strange, doubled-up posture. I managed to take a picture of the trees on the roundabout. In the words of the old song, that will have to do, until the real thing comes along.

Neville Bishop And A Bag Of Yorkshire Mixture

Regular readers know that there is nothing I like better than to discover some new on-line digital archive. My little face lights up when I find that some splendid fellow has digitised the entire minute books of the Pontefract Band of Hope Fellowship and made them available on-line. I always think of such offerings as the digital equivalent to a bag of sweets. Like a bag of Dobson's Yorkshire Mixture they are sweet, enticing, tasty, and difficult to put down. However if one is to repeatedly dip into the sweet bag of digital archives one has a responsibility to occasionally replenish the bag. Unfortunately, I do not have a large historical archive waiting to be digitised and therefore you will have to be satisfied with forays into Uncle Fowlers' postcard collection and Uncle Frank's suitcases.
Today's selection comes from the latter (well from one of his scrap albums to be exact) and comprises a signed programme from a performance by Neville Bishop and his Orchestra at the Marina in Great Yarmouth in, I think, 1948. I know there is another Neville Bishop programme already available on-line in the archives of the Tikamoto Institute of Contemporary Culture (or some such organisation), but that is an earlier example. With my offering future researchers will be able to identify changes in not only orchestra personnel over time, but also programme elements. Of particular note to a mere amateur like myself is that by early 1948 Neville had already incorporated hit tunes from Oklahoma into his programme even though the musical had only been introduced a few months before (H K Longmoore et. al are going to have to revise their groundbreaking article "The Engagement Of British Riparian Entertainment And American Cultural Hegemony 1932-51" in light of this new evidence).
I have even included the back page of the programme in my scan as that incorporates several gems including "Popular Meals At Popular Prices at The Civic Restaurant" and the ever-satisfying "Pies From Pecks". Now that's what I call a bag of sweets.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Picture Of The Day : The Page Boy

I have not heard from my brother Roger for some time now. I know he occasionally checks out this blog (the Feedjit Live Traffic Feed is a wonderful thing) so in order to tempt him out of the woodwork, here is a picture of him. It was taken in April 1948 when he would be five and I was yet to emerge into the world. The event was the wedding of our Uncle John and Auntie Doris. Roger was the Page Boy. The photograph was contained in a wonderful album put together by the noted Uncle Frank and forms part of a sequence which has carefully crafted comments added in coloured crayons on the sugar-paper pages. Roger has swapped the soot-encrusted back streets of Bradford for the sub-tropical delights of the island of Dominica. So, if you are looking at the image above and recognise yourself, drop me an e-mail.

Friends, Mates And Webbys

I decide to start a new week by turning to the nominations for the 13th Annual Webby Awards to see if I get a mention. I don't. It looks as though it is going to be another of those weeks : disappointing, unfulfilling, the very opposite of life-enhancing. And then I remember that I beat my "friend" Martin twice at chess on Saturday night and the sun peeps out between the gathering clouds of despondency. As Saint Leonard once memorably growled, "the cameras pan, to  the stand in stunt man" and I decide to live for another week. 
I italicise the word "friend" not because I question his status as a true and loyal friend : I have known Martin for more years than Gordon Brown has been scowling and despite his obvious anger at frequently being beaten at chess he is what used to be called "a good egg". I italicise the word friend because he is my friend, at this point of time, my only friend. I'm talking Facebook here. 
Some time ago I joined Facebook to try and find out what my son was up to, but quite reasonably, he refused to be my "friend" and therefore I wasn't able to get access to his Facebook Home Page. After that, my Facebook site languished : slowly rusting away as it was being reclaimed by the primal Internet jungle (Yes, I am still reading the history of the Panama Canal!). On Saturday night, Martin - who is an active Facebooker - offered to be my "friend", which I think was a generous gesture from someone who had just had his intellectual heart ripped out on the chess board. Twice.
So my Facebook page is up and running again and I am the proud possessor of one friend. My son tells me that having one friend is really good and not many people have that many. He must be pleased for me as he has a wide grin on his face as he tells me this. Perhaps I can impress him even more by collecting other friends but I am not sure how to do this as there doesn't seem to be an Instruction Book.
Facebook doesn't seem to have any nominations for this years' Webbys but the full list of nominations in over 70 categories is available on the Webby site. It is good to see the Guardian listed in a number of those categories - a rare non-US nomination. If you feel you want to advance the Guardian's cause you can vote by using the Webby People's Voice voting site. If you can't be bothered you can always try and find my Facebook Homepage.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Picture Of The Day : The Engineers

It is quite liberating to realise that my "Picture of the Day" doesn't have to be one of my pictures. Despite my great age, I must stress that I didn't take this picture of a group of American engineers on a visit to the Panama Canal workings in February 1909. The picture comes from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Library website. One of their recent Objects of the Day was the original letter  from President Theodore Roosevelt to the engineer John Ripley Freeman asking him to take part in the investigative visit. The photograph - which forms part of the on-line exhibit - shows the six eminent engineers : Isham Randolph, Frederic P Shearns, Allen Hazen, James Dix Schuyler, Arthur P Davis, and John R Freeman. The gentleman at the left on the back row is listed as being Henry A Allen. He wasn't one of the engineers appointed by Roosevelt nor can I find any listing of him as being connected to the canal project. So who was he? One of the great delights of the Internet is that someone will know and at some point - probably many years in the future - they will let me know.

A Severe Defeat

I don't seem to have featured many of Uncle Fowler's postcards recently so here is one which, although not sent by post, does include a written inscription on the back. The photograph is of Langholm New Bowling Green and the Langholm in question is in Dumfriesshire in the Scottish borders. The message on the reverse reads : "This is where we got the severest defeat this season. Score : Langholme New 95; Longtown 62; No. Against 33". From the quick search I have just undertaken it seems that Langholm New Bowling Club is still in existence. When I undertake my long-promised visit to this area I will be able to check whether the rather solid and angular building next to the green still stands out proud against the border hills.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Picture Of The Day : The Runaway Car

I am trying a little Blog Consolidation again and thinking about incorporating the Daily Photo Blog into News From Nowhere. I will try it for the rest of April and then decide whether to make it a permanent feature. 
So the picture for today comes from the on-going negative scanning operation. It probably dates back to the early 1980s and shows Isobel's mother and father (Edith and Raymond) with their old Morris car. I remember the car well, it had a dubious handbrake and was inclined to run away at will. Raymond used to always carry a collection of wooden wedges and building bricks in the boot to help stabilise it on any kind of gradient. You may think that the picture shows Raymond lovingly caressing his motor : in fact he his stopping it from running down the hill into the adjacent Police Station. Ah, happy days of carefree motoring.

The Google Cam Driving Down An Archive Near You

Much is made about the dangers of Google becoming an all-powerful, all-embracing force which will soon control the Internet and stifle the anarchic individualism which has always been a key element of this most democratic of all mediums. Many such claims are simply re-workings of the allegations which were made about Microsoft a generation earlier, and practically all the claims are nothing more than sour grapes served on a bed of envious salad leaves.
In its prime, Microsoft brought enormous benefits to computer users which far surpass any associated drawbacks resulting from its market dominance. And today Google is pushing back the boundaries of on-line information at a pace that can be bewildering, but at the same time has the ability to take your breath away.
As I noted the other day, I am currently reading David McCullough's excellent description of the construction of the Panama Canal, "The Path Between The Seas". I always find that the reading of history is enhanced by the ability to cross-reference key events in contemporary archives, and the best archives are so often contemporary newspapers. In the past this could often be a difficult, time-consumer and costly task. Newspaper archives were difficult to access and often expensive to use. Until Google stepped into the picture, that is.
Imagine the now famous Google Street View Camera Van with its roof-mounted 360 degree camera, driving not down the back streets of leafy Surrey, but through the great newspaper archives of the world. It may sound far-fetched, but this is what is happening in a tiny corner of the Google empire. The results of this exercise are increasingly available on the Google News site. Just type in your search term and get Google to search its archives rather than current news sources. The results are absolutely fascinating. Try it for world events, try it for your local village, try it for your grandfather (Just see what the New York Times has to say about your grandfather JGC!), or try it for the Panama Canal. When this Google cam comes driving down an archive near me, I will cheer it on its way.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Titanic, A Lost Suitcase And Champion Jack Dupree

I am reminded by one of my favourite daily newsletters - the Daily Perspective from www.newspaperarchive.com - that today is the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. As someone who will set sail on a frightening large ocean liner in a few weeks time, perhaps I should steer clear of stories about the Titanic, but my efforts to avoid the subject are about as successful as Captains Smith's efforts to avoid the icebergs.
As can be seen from the extract from the newsletter, the original newspaper reports suggested that all the passengers had been saved. As with so many later disasters, the full extent of the tragedy only became apparent in the days that followed. The anniversary started me thinking about a story I heard many years ago and have subsequently been unable to verify and that is the story of how the news was first broken in the United Kingdom. 
For some reason I remember that the news was broken by the Halifax Evening Courier (and this, of course, is Halifax Yorkshire rather than Halifax Nova Scotia) and that the first the White Star Line offices in Liverpool heard about the disaster was when someone contacted them having read the report in the Evening Courier. Exactly how the Courier obtained this scoop is less clear, one is tempted to wonder whether the news was conveyed by accident in a message misdirected to the wrong Halifax.
There has often been confusion between the two Halifax's. I well remember hearing the famous American blues and boogie woogie pianist, Champion Jack Dupree (who for some unaccountable reason lived on a Halifax Council Estate in the 1970s) saying that his luggage was so often misdirected to Halifax NS that the airport authorities there had a permanent area given over to him alone.
One never had the problem of lost and misdirected cases when one crossed the Atlantic in a stately liner. Other than when they drifted off on the evening tide, that is.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Good Game, Whatever The Rules Might Be

Saw my first ice hockey match last night : Sheffield Bears versus .... well someone or other. Alexander plays for the Bears C team and can just about be made out in the centre of the above photograph. The Bears are the combined Sheffield universities team (Sheffield University and Hallam University) and they were playing another university team from the north-east. A good time was had be all : the Bears won 13-4 and Xan managed to score a goal and the audience was treated to a fast and exciting game. All I need to do now is to work out what on earth the rules are and who knows, I might become a fan.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Spending Easter With The Thoracic Inlet

Everyone will have their own ways of enjoying the Easter holidays. Mine will be testing my son on his anatomy ahead of his forthcoming exams. At first I tried using commercially produced "Anatomy Flash Cards", but everyone agreed that these were less than satisfactory. So I have now started manufacturing my own (see the example above). They seem to be going down a lot better, but it is a considerable undertaking when their is only one Medical Student as a potential beneficiary. I am therefore trying to persuade Amy the Dog to take up anatomy in order to achieve greater economies of scale. So far she seems quite enthusiastic but she has a tendency to take the illustrative examples and bury them in the garden!

Thanks For The Memories

I received a message the other day from Keith Mealey in response to a News From Nowhere posting way back in December 2007. In the post, I told the story of Auntie Rhoda and her time as a Winstanley Babe back in the 1920s. Keith tells me about his moth-in law, Edith Carr who was a Winstanley Babe back in the thirties. Since writing about the Babes, other people have also contacted me about their relatives who spent time as Winstanley Babes : some of them as recently as the 1960s. One of the great delights of the Internet is the way it can bring together people around shared interests. You don't need to spend twenty years researching a topic or organise complex reunions. You just need to mention a word or phrase and let Google or Yahoo do the rest. This is happened a number of times over the last year or so : I have had people writing to me to share memories of, say, Fircroft College or their enthusiasm for such things as motorcycle funerals. Helping to preserve such memories is one of the many pleasurable side-effects of blogging. Keith's message reminded me of all this and provides a perfect opportunity at the time of the Easter holidays to thank everyone for their messages.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

What Goes Around, Comes Around

One of the delights of scanning old negatives is trying to remember where on earth you were when you took the photograph. After scanning the above image I studied it for some time, looking for a clue as to where the street leading down to the sea could possibly be. Eventually I thought I recognised the faded headland in the distance as the Great Orme on the North Wales coast. From the arrangement of the Orme and the sea (always assuming I had not put the negative into the scanner the wrong way around) the photograph must have been taken in Conway. And then it slowly came back to me. Alexander was about eighteen months old, we had hired a cottage in Conway. Isobel was taking her final examinations for the Royal College of Pathologists and spent the days revising. I pushed Alexander in his pram up narrow street after narrow street. And here we are seventeen years later. Alexander is out of his pram and home for Easter from Medical School. And whilst I sit upstairs scanning old negatives, he is downstairs revising his biochemistry. What goes around, comes around.

The Path Between The Seas

Is it just me, or do other people find that they can't read the same type of books in the morning as they can at night? This strange idiosyncrasy is not new : for as long as I can remember I have only been able to read fiction at night and non-fiction in the morning. This means that I have to have two books going at the same time and twice as much space on my bedside table as most other people.
Yesterday I took delivery of a new Morning Book : David McCullough's story of the construction of the Panama Canal, "The Path Between The Seas". It is not exactly new : I did own a copy of this substantial and fascinating book some years ago and I started to read it just before my first trip up the Panama Canal. But I had left the task too late : the book was too long and my part-transit was too short and I never got further than the introductory chapters. This time I am making an early start - my full transit of the Canal isn't until next January. The book is as readable and informative as I remember which means that I should get through it in the next few weeks. I will need to, as once I have finished I need to pass it on to two other families in the Crosspool Cruise Club. 
So there will be a few lengthy morning lie-ins over Easter as I follow the path between the seas.

Dog And Owner At One Against The Worms

We spent a fair amount of time today at the Vets. Amy - our Wheaten Terrier - had to go in to have her teeth cleaned. This is both a time consuming and frighteningly expensive procedure as she has to be given a general anesthetic in order to have them scaled and polished. The risk of not having them done - according to the Vet - is that she will develop progressive kidney failure, heart failure, skin disease, distemper and piles. And if that was not bad enough we would also risk prosecution under the new Animal Welfare laws.  Faced with that, £130 every couple of years seems cheap.
Vets waiting rooms are far from entertaining places at the best of times : there are always rabbits waiting to be de-flead and cats waiting to be put down. The whole experience is made far worse by the dreadful posters that decorate the walls warning owners about an array of frightening parasites that lurk in wait for kitty-cat or wuffy-dog. Today I spotted a new one which warns about the dangers of lungworm infestation. "Lungworm : is your pet protected?" proclaims the poster. The effectiveness of its warning is amplified by the picture of a lungworm which appears to be the kind of creature that haunts your worst nightmares : a cross between an ugly snake and a piece of OAP's intestine. 
Never having heard of the dangers of lungworms to dogs before, I decided to check up before I subjected poor Amy to yet another medical intervention. If you do an internet search for "lungworms" and "dogs" you are directed towards several sites which proclaim that lungworms are now an insidious threat to dogs in UK with a big increase in the number of cases being seen by Vets. However, if you search for documentary evidence of either the scale of lungworm infestation in dogs or the rate of increase, you draw a blank. Indeed the only source of the current scare appears to be a press release suggesting that there is an increase in cases but without providing any evidence. And where does the press release originate from? From a veterinary pharmaceutical manufacturer of course.
I am always suspicious when the person telling me there is a new problem tells me in the same breath they have a new solution. Manufacturers of anti-virus software packages are famous for this approach : warning of some dreadful virus or worm that is about to cause every computer to self-digest its mother board.  I have learnt to ignore such warnings and face up to whatever the worst these worms can throw at me. After careful consideration, Amy has decided on the same approach.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Fencing

Talking of Google street photos (as AB was recently) what I really need to show the progress of our house development is Google-type photos so you take a virtual tour of our 'works' - it's very difficult to show how things are coming on - as they are, apace - with a single photo.

In fact the photo above is already out of date - but it does show how fences are now in place dividing our (development house's) garden into two - top garden for the ground-floor flat, bottom garden for the upstairs flat, shared path down the side with a little 'alcove' off this for bike storage and re-cycling bins. AB and IB saw the start of this operation on their very welcome visit... except what they saw we had to decide wouldn't do - following the architect's plan the bike (etc.) 'alcove' was initially taken out of the upper (nearer in the photo) garden... making this look very 'mean'. So, poor (builder) Alan (visible in the gateway to the lower garden) had to move some of the fence (he was very good about it!) AB and IB saw so the bike 'alcove' was/is taken out of the shared path.

Since this photo - only about a week - the path on the left is now surfaced... not with 'rammed hoggin' as the architect specified because.... well, thereby hangs a tale. No, I didn't know what 'hoggin' was either until I visited the web... and anyway nobody seemed to supply it. Except one firm (the web, again) nearby claimed-to... except, they told me, we didin't want 'hoggin' but 'self-binding gravel' - THAT was what was used for paths in (Oxford) colleges and London parks and due to a geological curiosity it was only available (near here) from Wicklesham quarry near Faringdon... I needed another telephone number.... 'hoggin' was by contrast horrid messy stuff... (I had to believe since I still didn't really know what it is...)

My mind slightly spinning that I'd obviously been speaking to a connoissuer of gravels and soils, amazingly I had the order made and delivered all during the day yesterday.

And since this photo the gardens are turfed - except for a border JG-C is due to start planting this W/E, top soil due to arrive tomorrow - around the lower edges - with paved patios in place at the top ends.

We had to whip in a sprinkler to establish the turf this morning. Water supplied from a 'garden tap' I fitted that's to the right of where Alan is in the photo. There's also an outside electric socket there - not yet actually connected but end of the cable waiting for this in the house - both supplies run under the now-surfaced path on the left. In a moment of blinding forethought I only recently suddenly realised the lower garden/top-floor flat would need supplies down there or how could they actually use their garden?

To supply the tap for the sprinkler meant making a temporary water link in the house - easily enough done using blissfully easy-to-use push-fit plastic plumbing. Gas-plumber Martin was there and leapt to help. Highly entertaining because he swears you must tighten push-fit fittings or they'll leak, and therefore carefully did-so. He's quite wrong (and every packet with a fitting says you only need to tighten the fitting if you want to stop pipes rotating!)... but I hadn't the heart or courage not to tell him not to bother. I mean, when Martin wasn't there and I made similar temporary connection to test for possible leaks before covering up the pipe under the ground I just clipped them on, no tightening, nary a leak....

Indeed, just recently ran a pressure test on the central heating pipes that run well under the floor to check no leaks before they become inaccessible. Interestingly the fittings under pressure lock tighter and tighter because of their natty design, so much so I couldn't initially undo them to end the test until I remembered that actually you can competely unscrew the fittings (revealing all sorts of natty washers an O rings and things.) I was just wise enough to point the pipe away from doing this - water shot out as from a fireman's hose.

(I took this to indicate no leaks.)

So, our "Easter holiday" is to be spent with me wiring busily - there's now enough in place inside for me to wire TO - and JG-C working on the borders. Thing is, however friendly Alan and Martin are, it's much easier wiring without having to dodge around them and their tools...

Happy Easter!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

A Pint Of Best

To mark National Cask Ale Week I have decided to consolidate all my beer-related blogging activities into a single new home : A Pint Of Best. My Great Yorkshire Pubs blog has been crawling along for over a year now and recently it was joined by a new blog which attempted to document British pubs before they are lost forever. Both these blogs have now been incorporated into the new Pint Of Best blog which will bring together pictures, cuttings, notes and jottings on all things related to beer, brewing pubs and bars.  Poor yourself a glass of beer, settle down and take a look. You can find the new Blog here.

Monday, April 06, 2009

The Freedom Fighters Of Broughton

Hats off to the proud British residents of the village of Broughton who took to the streets last week to stop the Google Street View van taking photographs of their houses. As one resident said, "we don't want people looking down our drives and at our houses". "We are fighting", said another, "for the age-old tradition that an Englishman's home is his castle".
But what kind of tradition is this? The idea that a person can do what he or she wants within their home and that they are guaranteed security and privacy has never existed. You cannot commit murder in your own home, nor can you emit noise pollution late at night. You cannot store stolen birds' eggs, beat your dog or download illegally copied music. You cannot build whatever type of home  extension you choose, erect a tall fence and sell alcohol to your neighbours. 
The concept of an Englishman's home being his castle (note the gender specific sub-text) is a seventeenth century conception with doubtful legal validity. What the citizens of Broughton are trying to do is to extend this dubious precept to cover the road, street or highway outside. If these people manage to stop the Google Street View Camera today, then they will no doubt try and stop me walking down the street and taking a photograph tomorrow. 
The Street View camera has not been down my street yet. If Google would like to let me know when it is due I will go out into the street and welcome them. I will make the driver a cup of tea and invite them to take whatever photographs they please. In the meantime, here is a photograph of our house that I would like to share with the good citizens of Broughton.

Friday, April 03, 2009

More up to date

Loathe though I am to follow AB's fascinating forays with trivia, nevertheless I thought the world should know we have just joined the modern world a bit - the thin black line (well, box) in the photo above.

In the way all such momentous decisions are made, last Sunday we realised we had used up all our spare VHS tape because I insisted on taping Harry Potter (which clashed with Time Team) and then we wanted to tape Lewis (just watched it - so well done in the spirit of Morse) so we could watch The Lady's Detective Agency (brilliant show catches the spirit of the original books so well) ... and then Damages (plot still impossible to follow) - thanks to the fates, the programmes we like to watch seem to turn up like London buses on Sunday evening at the moment.

But JG-C was due out to her 'small' choir Monday evening so we needed to record Crime Watch for her... and no clean tape left. Off we went on Monday morning to... er... buy some more tape. Except we'd long wondered about getting a DVD recorder, so we 'just had a look' in Curry's and... bought the box above. Where the fact it is a DVD recorder/player is almost irrelevant for us since we scarcely ever borrow (let alone buy) a pre-recorded DVD, nor do we tend to want to keep recordings long or archive them - no, no what the box does have which is absolute bliss is, firstly, an HDD (Hard Disc) recorder and, secondly, a digital tuner.

To deal with the second first, we increasingly find that programmes we want to watch (e.g. way-out zany Earl) - and therefore often need to record - are on digital (freeview) channels... previously only recordable by setting the digi-box (on the top in the photo above) for the VHS recorder (at the bottom in the photo) ... to record-from.... a process for not-quite-clear reasons by no means fail-safe and besides (the cheapo TV, just showing top of the photo, is old and only analogue) we couldn't watch a digital channel if we wanted to be recording a different one. So, to be able to record digital channel whilst possibly watching a different digital channel is good. And, shortly, analogue is going to switch off, anyway!

As for the former, the HDD not only easily can hold absurdly far more hours of recording than we'd ever want but has this godsend facility that you can watch from the start whilst the thing is still recording - thus JG-C could come in on Monday at about 9.20 and watch Crime Watch from the start whilst the programme was 20 minutes ahead of her. BUT, she could thereby be back to 'live' for the update.... and there's not much point watching a "live update" if in fact it's a recording(!)

Equally, now if somebody calls around (or telephones) when we are watching something and it's rude or inconvenient not to pay attention to them we can for a mere two flicks of the button start the HDD recording.... and go back to our programme easily after the interruption, watching without having to wait, merely watching five or ten minutes behind the actual transmission. This is SUCH a convenient practical facility...

Mind you, there is one snag with this ... fairly trivial but, then, 'trivial' is everything, I find. The new box takes about 30 seconds to get organised after switching on so you can't, actually, "just" hit the button unless you've neurotically set things with the recorder ready to go in case somebody calls. Nevertheless, what you can do once it's on is just so superb. Definitely a good buy. But for being able to do just exactly what you might pragmatically need... I find it funny it can do a million things we DON'T need which sound so glamerous... what's good is that it can do what we do need.

The Age Of The Digital Warehouse and a Narrow Pair of Corsets

One of the great delights of the web at the moment is the amount of material that is being added. We have managed to get passed the stage where a large proportion of the material available was not of the type you would want your maiden aunt to see. We have also got passed the stage where large parts of the web were given over to corporate shop-windows. We have reached the age of the digital warehouse : the age when the complete written records of mankind are slowly being transferred so they are available on-line. The true delight of being around at the moment is that you can wake up each day and discover yet another treasure trove of information. For information nuts like me it is not so much like being a kid in a sweetshop as being a kid let loose in a chocolate factory.
Yesterday I discovered that the entire British parliamentary records are now available online and free of charge. Hansard is the verbatim transcripts of the proceedings of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords and the digital archives cover every day of every session from 1803 to 2005 (more recent Hansard records are available from the Houses of Parliament website). It is the historical archives which are more interesting and offer endless hours of pleasure for information drifters like me. I tested the system out by calling up the day of my birth and was well rewarded with a tabernacle full of trivia. 
There, for example was a youthful Harold Wilson (then President of the Board of Trade) explaining to Reg Sorensen MP that women could get corsets without the need of clothing coupons as long as they were less than six inches wide. A few pages later, up pops a dear old friend of mine (Lucy Middleton, then MP for Plymouth) asking why Princess Elizabeth's wedding dress was not being exhibited in her constituency. Cyril Dumpleton MP - such a splendid name - rose to his feet in indignation to ask the Education Minister why a juvenile under the age of 12 was being allowed to take part in a public performance by conducting an orchestra at the Harringay Festival. The House of Lords was engaged in more weighty stuff but with their usual efficiency they managed to give a Third Reading to the Ascot Racecourse Bill in just 12 words and adopt the William Brown Nimmo Charitable Trust (Amendment) Order in just four sweet words.
I could go on, but I won't. Loosen your six-inch corsets and go for a wander yourselves.