15 years ago

July 28, 2016

A few days ago I looked back ten years. Today I’m looking back 15 to 28th July 2001. It was the day of a stunning sunset.


This was taken at the front of my house. I found the important thing was to use spot metering for light levels rather than averaged metering. Point the centre of the frame at a suitable bit of sky and half press the shutter. With it half held compose the picture you want to take.

This blacks out the land and gives us a nice silhouette of the shapes at the bottom. I could wish there wasn’t a double telegraph pole – but it is there. Yes I could clone it out very easily but on the whole I take what I can see. Personally, I think the end result is stunning.

By the way, my camera in 2001 was a pretty basic affair. The best assize was 1.3 megapixels – tiny by present day standards but it seemed to take good photos for which I don’t claim credit. I’m a recorder with a camera rather than an artist.

Up in the air

July 27, 2016

I have remarkably little flying experience. Flying to places just hasn’t fitted our life style which has favoured the car and, when needed, ferries. In fact I have only left the surface on one occasion and that was in a glider. There was (maybe still is) a gliding club at Upavon. On occasions they’d have a party of people who’d pay for a couple of brief flights in a two seater. It raised money for the gliding club and gave the group an experience. The team of staff I worked with did this once – one of my colleagues was a member of the club.

The Upavon club flew from the old airstrip situated on Salisbury Plain so the photos I took – on the little Canon Demi = were of that area. The view was good for the passenger gets the front seat.


This looks down onto the airstrip buildings


Another view of the area which is no longer RAF Upavon but is an army place called Trenchard Lines.

And this must be a part of Upavon Village. The River Avon, which this village is ‘Up’ can be seen.


I can recommend gliding. It was a wonderful experience to float slowly and noiselessly above the world. This must have been more than 30 years ago now.

The village Pump

July 26, 2016

This is an example of me liking simple mechanical devices. There are people who think I’m a computer expert but frankly I’m not. I’m as good as the next person at shutting a computer down and restarting it if it isn’t behaving properly. It usually sorts things out. Back in the 1980s I earned money writing programs and articles for magazines and even appeared on technical help desks at shows. But we are talking about more than thirty years ago and maybe back then I did have expertise.

But my preference has always been for simple mechanical things for I reckon I reasonably fully understand how they work. I like pumps – those village pumps that folks used to have to use to get their water. This one, with me alongside, is actually in Brittany at a lovely place called Camaret.


I suspect this is a lift pump. Your job in pushing the lever down was to reduce the air pressure above the water. Normal air pressure pushed the water up into the space and out of the spout. Such pumps could lift water from a depth of about thirty feet.

It isn’t the prettiest of pumps but it goes to show that I had these interests more than forty years ago for this was in 1974.

Kew in summer

July 25, 2016

This is another image advising us of the wonderful sights at Kew Gardens. And please get there by Underground!


This is a July calendar picture and it features water lilies. It was from an original painted by Wilfrid René Wood in 1926.

Now I’m quite fond of lilies – water or otherwise so here are some from my garden and elsewhere.image004Water lilies in 1998



A garden lily from 1999 – all early digital photos in my garden.

And how about a lily at Kew – my most recent visit in 2014.


Ten Years ago

July 24, 2016

24th July 2006

This may look like a scene from the 1950s but it isn’t. It is perfectly possible that I could take photos of a similar scene today. We have fairly local farmers who grow long straw wheats for thatching. Combine harvesters trash straw so harvesting is in 1950s style with a tractor hauled binder (correctly a reaper binder). The cut wheat is ‘stooked’ up to dry and later a threshing machine is used to remove the grain from the ears. The straw is fed to a reed comber which makes up neat bundles of straw for the thatcher to use.

I didn’t see any of the mechanical processes on this day – but stooks of corn just look lovely anyway.



The binder has left neat rows of sheaves on the ground. It needs a team of workers to erect the stooks.


And there they were, away in the distance. It’s a labour intensive business.



Doesn’t it look grand? Maybe it would loom more 1950s if we converted it to monochrome.


For the record, what I saw operating that day was a combine!


A woodpecker in the roses

July 23, 2016

I love the woodpeckers – and indeed the other birds that visit our garden. But woodpeckers, both green and spotted are special if not uncommon. We are accustomed to the green peckers getting down to business on our lawn, picking ants out of it. We are accustomed to them on tree trunks, telegraph poles or fence posts – just hanging out. But I was surprised by this one which perched in a rose climbing over a pergola.


The astute might recognise that this is not just rose. There is a grapevine as well.

What a marvellous scene and once again I can talk of my luck in being able to sit at our meal table watching this kind of thing.

I had a camera to hand because a few minutes earlier a red kite – not yet a common sight here = had flown over. By the time I had my camera it was gone and as yet I haven’t seen it again. But the camera was there for our woodpecker friend.

Cooper’s Marmalade

July 22, 2016

Cooper’s Oxford Marmalade was ‘invented’ by Sarah Cooper in 1874. It proved popular and became the main item produced by Frank Cooper in Oxford. It was sold in very lovely stoneware jars and we have one.


We can see the marmalade is claimed as ‘homemade’ and had a royal appointment badge.

I can’t date this jar. I guess at early 20th century but that is, as stated, a guess. If you know better then let me know.

The jar maker has impressed his name in the base.


The manufacturer was Maling of Newcastle.

Any further information will be gratefully received.

Please note that I do not buy or sell items like this. They just form part of my personal history.

Sightseeing in London

July 21, 2016

Sightseeing in London

I’m not really a lover of cities and I think it is a dozen or more years since a previous trip to London. But on that enormously hot day – July 19th 2016, my wife had a need to go there and I went along for the ride.

Part of my going was that South West Trains were running £16 returns which made things viable financially, but I shall ignore the train journeys. From Waterloo we needed to get to a place near Baker Street and Regents Park. We used the 139 bus. We are of the bus pass generation so we had no extra to pay for this. The bus made for a mini sightseeing tour.

But let’s start with Regents Park where we joined many a lunch break person by the water.


A great place for water fowl. Canada geese dominated but there were some greylags as well. I’m fairly sure I saw some barnacle geese as well, but they were quite a distance away. There were mallard ducks and tufted ducks. And then there were moorhens, coots and some grebe.

But now let’s catch our number 139 bus and get the top deck – front seats as we headed back to Waterloo.


This is Baker Street – known as the home of that fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes.

London’s most famed shopping street is Oxford Street. It is much used by buses!image006Oxford Circus is no more than a roundabout.


This is where Regent Street crosses Oxford Street. We went down Regent Street which took us to Piccadilly Circus famed for the statue we call Eros.


From here we reached Trafalgar Square.


The fourth plinth generates interest these days. The present statue is a skeletal horse with stock exchange ticker tape!

image014Charing Cross is one of the Eleanor Crosses (well actually this one is a replica) 12 crosses marked the overnight resting places of Eleanor of Castille when she died in 1290.


Being on the top deck of a bus brings odds and ends into view – things you might miss from ground level.


What I couldn’t see was the shop below to know why we had a barrel clock. And by the way, that wasn’t the right time.

As we waited to turn onto Waterloo Bridge Road we saw an icon of London – still going strong.

image020Yes, a real Routemaster bus.

We passed over the bridge which afforded views of St Pauls Cathedral…


…and also the Houses of Parliament.



You also get glimpses of The Shard.

Not bad for a half hour (or so) bus journey.

Taking on water

July 20, 2016

It shocks me to realise that this photo, taken almost inevitably on my little Canon Demi, is now 42 years old. A group of us – mostly in what now might get called the ‘Dual income, no kids yet’ group had hired this narrow boat for a week. It was the week before Easter – a week chosen to keep the price down and (hopefully) make sure there was plenty of water for canals in the Midlands. The boat was hired from Penkridge in Staffordshire. I do remember it cost us £47 for the week.

By present day standards it was primitive. We could start with the loo which was just a chemical toilet which needed emptying fairly frequently at designated points along the canal. The motor control was not just the one lever pushed forwards for forwards and backwards for reverse. Instead there was a thumping great forward/reverse gear lever in the middle of the rear deck and a separate throttle. Crises, where a boat suddenly appeared in the opposite direction on a narrow stretch  could be a bit fraught. You had to throttle right back, pull that gear lever into reverse and then throttle up again – travelling forwards all the time. The heat insulation was limited – non existent really – as well. On chilly March nights condensation formed on the ceiling and top bunk dwellers could find bedding frozen to the roof! But it was all great fun.

Let’s see the scene as we moored up to fill the drinking water tank.


The real interest is the bridge. It’s a bit of a problem for all. You can’t see through it to know what might be coming the other way. That crisis might occur. Well actually, in this case one of the team would have walked up to the bridge to give an all-clear signal before we set off so that wouldn’t have been a problem. But now consider the original motive power for canal boats – the towpath based horse.

There is no towpath through the canal bridge. Instead the horse has a separate little bridge hole to go through. But it can’t haul the boat from there. So the horse has to be unhitched and the boat then has to be man powered in some way as it passes under the road. Under these circumstances, there is no real reverse gear should a crisis occur!

Three years later we had lefty the ‘DINKY’ group and canal holidays faded away. Canals are not the best place for children. Bigger boats were now needed and incomes had halved.

Gilsland to Greenhead

July 19, 2016

Gilsland and Greenhead are in Northumberland. They are both close by Hadrian’s Wall and about a mile and a half about. I was there on what was a very adventurous family holiday in 1962. Up until then I had never left the south of England and the previous year had seen my first trip outside the home counties.

1962 was at the peak time of my railway mania and I needed to prove I had been places by buying tickets. Often it was a platform ticket but smaller stations often didn’t issue them so I got a cheap ticket – like this one from Gilsland to Greenhead.


Now I find that ticket interesting now for all sorts of reasons. First of all it is a 3rd class ticket and that class had ceased to exist on 3rd June 1956 so although the ticket was issued in 1962, it had been printed long before. But it was printed only from 1948 when British Railways came into being. The price had been hand altered as well from 5½d to 6d which is 2½p in present money.

But also making it interesting is that, presumably, 625 people had bought such a ticket before me. One wonders why that number of people wanted to make that single journey. Maybe they were people visiting forts on Hadrian’s Wall. Gilsland is close by Birdoswald Fort and Greenhead is by Magnis Fort.

Sadly, both stations were closed in 1967 although the line, between Newcastle and Carlisle still exists. There is a campaign to reopen Gilsland station


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