Archive for October, 2013


October 21, 2013


Regular readers of this blog may recall that Father in Law spent some of World War II as a radio operator in the Faroe Islands, midway between the Shetlands and Iceland.

Whilst ships and boats could brave the wild seas of the North Atlantic, there was no aerodrome at which to land even the smallest of planes. However, the lake on the island of Vágar near the little village of Sørvágur provided a smooth landing for sea planes.

Doug, my father in law, snapped this photo of a seaplane ‘landing’ on the lake. I have been told the plane is a Catalina flying boat. Seemingly these aircraft were in military service from 1935 until 1980


Doug captioned the photo in the then more prevalent Danish version of the name.


Our visit came in 2005 when we met a chap called Lars Larson who showed us around the former military areas. This is the lovely Lars.


Behind Lars, who is sitting in his hotel, you can see that the area now sports an airport. When British forces arrived on the island during WW2 they found an area where a landing strip could be built and this is now the Faroese airport. Jet planes can now make it to these wonderful islands and to make the point, one flew over us, coming in to land.


Lars was able to show us many places Doug would have known and used. For example, we’d never have known that this block of masonry was the remains of the forces entertainment area. There is every chance that Doug watched films here.


But Lars also knew what was where on the lake and this was the slipway that Catalinas could be hauled up to get them out of the water.


It is recognisably the same site as in Doug’s photo from 60 years earlier.

One more photo from Doug’s album I can’t match. It is the outlet and waterfall from the lake, straight into the sea.


Again, we have Doug’s caption.


Apparently the winds could be so strong that the falling water got blown back up the waterfall!

Bufo bufo

October 20, 2013

Bufo bufo is the Latin name for the common toad. Now a lot of people don’t seem to like toads much but in my household we love our amphibian cousins. From time to time we come across toads.

I suppose, if I am strictly honest, they are not as lovely to look at as frogs. The warty skin could be off putting. But we are, after all, British, so we like underdogs. Toads are popular here.

This one turned up recently, luckily unharmed, as the veg garden was being dug over.


There’s something a bit pre-historic looking about them – but I think they are gorgeous.


Was this an attempt to look dignified?


Well, time to get this one back to a place of safety where the toad eating carnivores of the world won’t find it.


October 19, 2013

When is a nerd not a nerd? The answer, at the moment, is when he has a brand new granddaughter who is a tiny bundle of cuddle and that’s the situation now.

My wife puts up with me being a nerd incredibly well and gets almost as excited as I do over things like K1 telephone boxes and steam railways. She’s a great believer in making gifts with love, rather than buying them with money. She made new granddaughter a delightful pair of bootees.


Now I won’t claim to be much of a knitter, although I was once, when a worker, left looking after a textile class of 15 year old boys and girls who were supposed to be knitting. I think I amazed them by being able to knit at all. But I had learned young. Back when I was a kid presents for granny had to be cheap and I was encouraged to knit her a dishcloth for Christmas. I guess that sounds bizarre today, but it probably made me realise that ‘made with love’ was more important than bought with money.

Anyway, I can vouch for the work put into these bootees. Making them was not a job for doing like an automaton, whilst the mind was engaged elsewhere. Being so small, the rows were short and always changing. They required concentration.

So an odd blog for a nerd perhaps, but we are, after all, human and we have our normal human emotions.

Little Isabel can wear them with pride – not that she’ll know that yet!

An early Telephone Kiosk

October 18, 2013

The iconic British red telephone box was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott and it came into use in the year 1935.


This is the nearest one to my house and the photo dates from December 2003.

This style of kiosk was designated as the K6 which does indicate that there had been five previous designs tried out before the K6 became the standard.

Bembridge, on the Isle of Wight has a rare K1 survivor.

The K1 was the first kiosk and dates from the early 1920s. The first of Scott’s designs, the K2 came out in 1927. It’s a big box and was too costly for rural areas so the concrete K1 was redesigned a bit and continued to be installed. Some 6300 K1s were set up before the K6 became the standard. According to a very thorough web site at just five of them remain. Four of them are in Hull and this one is the Bembridge one.


It is a listed building and the listing citation reads:

Telephone kiosk. 1921 K1 design. 3 sides are of concrete with 2 sides having metal windows and 4th side has wooden door. Concrete frame has moulded cornice and tented canopy surmounted by metal finial and 4 metal plaques with the word ‘Telephone’. Plinth. Two 8- paned metal framed sashes with perspex panes. Wooden 8-paned door with leather hinges. Telephone apparatus is modern. Only others surviving are in Hull.

How wonderful is that? It was a chance find for us on a recent holiday. We did not know it existed.

Then and Now on the Isle of Wight

October 17, 2013

It was almost a year ago that this blog was about a very special day – the day I took my mum to the Isle of Wight and was able to get her onto the footplate of one of the Isle of Wight railway locomotives. I make no excuse for showing this photo again.


This was at the magnificent Ventnor station in August 1965. My mum was ill but still well enough for a day out and she was thrilled.

Just recently my wife and I spent a few days in the Isle of Wight where I still like visiting Ventnor, albeit the railway closed in 1966. Perchance, our driving out of town took us past the station site and I took a look. It wasn’t really in my mind to create a then and now shot, but one of my pictures matched the old one quite well.


The area is now a light industry or trading estate. Ahead is the old railway tunnel mouth. It is now bricked up. The concrete silo thing on the left would prevent an identical view being taken but it must be roughly where the train stood in 1965. Compared with back then, it is a sad place which has had the character ripped out of it in the name of progress. But there are still little oddities to bring a smile.


The station site had caves cut into the chalk face. They are still there and clearly still in use.

And now to a totally different ‘now’ photo. This one was an attempt to match my 1965 photo, but in a different location – Havenstreet, headquarters of the Isle of Wight steam railway.


The engine isn’t the same one. Back in 1965 number W28 ‘Ashey’ provided the motive power. This one is W24 ‘Calbourne’. But they are sisters and alike as peas in a pod. I should say they were, for Calbourne is the only survivor of the class. I was delighted to be hauled by her on the steam railway. It provided a genuine bit of nostalgia for me.

Back in 1965 nobody wanted the filthy, unsocial job of being an engine cleaner. Ashey looks grubby in the old photo. These days, volunteers do the job for fun and Calbourne looks resplendent in, essentially, the same livery of lined black.

Also resplendent is my lady on the footplate. This time it is my wife.

I’ll commend the Isle of Wight Steam Railway for all sorts of reasons. But here I’ll mention friendly, beyond the call of duty helpful volunteers and staff.

Leigh, Kent

October 16, 2013

Like any place, Leigh, a village near Tonbridge in Kent, will mean different things to different people. It is a quintessential English village with a green. In the summer that famed sound of leather on willow can be heard as games of cricket unfold. Cricket bats and balls are (or at least were) made quite locally.


For me it is a family history place. A number of relatives lived there and some died there and are buried in the churchyard. According to a plan my great aunt Mabel occupies a spot somewhere in this photo.


It’s the gap where there isn’t a stone.

I’d love to know more about Mabel’s somewhat short and varied life. She was born in 1893 in Sale in Cheshire and came south with the family in the early years of the twentieth century. In 1916 she had a daughter who never knew who her father was. In 1919 she married Robert Baker and had a daughter called Beryl. Robert died in 1920 and probably should be regarded as a victim of the First World War. He took his own life and it would seem he suffered from what we now call post traumatic shock syndrome – then, more simply, called shell shock.

In 1922 Mabel had another son. Again, the father is not known.

Mabel died in 1937. Daughter Beryl followed in 1939. It sounds a sad, tormented life, yet my uncle, who lived there when his mother died, found it a wonderfully warm and friendly household.

I’m pleased to say I have a picture of Mabel on a seaside jaunt.


Mabel is on the right. The other lady is Alice Smith, mother in law of Mabel’s brother, Stan. I think that is a wonderfully charming photo.

But do you know, my main thoughts of Leigh centre around a true gentle man (deliberately two words although he was also a gentleman) who lived there. He was a family friend called Dick Wood and I must write about him one day.

Unc’s Funeral

October 15, 2013

A few days ago it was Unc’s funeral, but this will be no miserable blog. I’ll celebrate the life and the wonderful fun that was Unc.

Unc was born in 1926 so, although he served in the army (and he loved it) he missed most of the war. I have a picture of him in Germany in 1947


Unc married in 1950. He and Auntie were a devoted couple and they doted on their daughter,

I probably got to know unc best in the late 90s. He was an unhappy widower and enjoyed a visit, each summer, to our house, He stayed for a week. Another relative of ours, but not his stayed at the same time.


There’s Unc in 1998. He was in Horsham in Sussex enjoying a pint. We were visiting his sister who lived nearby. I was touched that this photo was chosen to represent Unc at the funeral wake.

Unc was famed for catchphrases and occasional gaffes. On this 1998 visit he was not long widowed and we had gone for a walk up a peaceful hill. Some young ladies were also walking and Unc’s booming Stockport voice rang around the hill.

‘Here comes the talent’, he shouted for all to hear.

But the catch phrases and mimicry stick in the mind. I come from the south of England and speak with the long A sound that, in truth, makes no sense. I’d like to say, for example, that our lawn is made of Grarse (but it would barely be true because the grass has to fight through the daisies, dandelions, moss etc.). But you’ll get the point about my accent. Unc loved taking it off, particularly with respect to a road – the Balcombe Road. I must have used this road once and talked of it pronouncing it, as all locals do as Borlcoom. I couldn’t meet Unc afterwards without him asking how things were down the Borlcoom Road. There was no malice. It was just good-humoured fun.

Other members of the family remember other things. Following one rather odd duck chasing episode (don’t ask), my son exclaimed, ‘What a palaver’. Gordon then made the phrase his own so that if the rest of us used it we adopted his accent.


Here’s Unc enjoying a garden in 2002.


And again in 2003


2004 – Unc has a go at croquet.


2006 – Unc enjoys  a family get together.

As for many people, the last years for Unc were of a slow decline. This was recognised by him and he reached a point where he wasn’t sure why he was still alive. He was saved the bother of being too unhappy by a sudden, massive heart attack.

Unc, you are gone, missed and certainly not forgotten. Your fun will live on.

Tower Bridge (2)

October 14, 2013

Yesterday we looked at Tower Bridge in Meccano form. Today we’ll take a sideways glance at the real thing.

Tower Bridge is one of the iconic sights of Britain. We all recognise it and love it. We all really rather hope and imagine that when the folks of Lake Havasu City in Arizona bought London Bridge, they thought they were getting Tower Bridge.

By UK standards Tower Bridge isn’t old for it was opened in 1894. But it is a wonder of engineering and very much loved.

When it was built it was felt that walkers wouldn’t wait when the roadway was raised for river traffic to pass under, so the girders at high level were made into walkways. In fact, pedestrians found the climb up, across and down, made it worth waiting and the walkways were closed in 1910.

I was able to cross on an ‘educational’ visit in the 1970s. In fact the walkways re-opened in 1982. My photos date from 1975 (ish).


The old sign looked Victorian and clearly no love was granted to it with more modern electric conduits placed over the top.


Don’t expect me to understand this magnificent array of dials, pipework and valves. I just thought then, and still do, that they are things of beauty.

Let’s get up the top.


I’m not enough of a Londoner to know just where I was looking to take that photo, but clearly it was dockland. The docks were there then. The shipping was not. I’m going to guess that it was St Katharine’s Dock and here’s hoping somebody in Blogville will put me right if it’s somewhere else.

But I know where this is.


I was on the east side walkway and through the West walkway, we see St Paul’s Cathedral.

It was a real experience back then. I wonder what it is like in much more sanitised today.

Tower Bridge

October 13, 2013

Yes, I like bridges. But this isn’t the real thing. It’s a model. The model was notionally made by my brother, but I rather imagine my dad had a lot to do with it. It was made of Meccano and the year was 1954.


That’s my brother with the model and he certainly looks proud of it so he must have felt well involved in the making.

The scene was our dining room and I feel I should just say ‘room’ for the front room was rarely used. The dining room had the kitchen range in it so it was warm. Lighting the front room fire was for special occasions only. It looks to me as though the cupboard behind my brother has greenery on it. It must have been at Christmas time. The model was on our table – a tiny affair on which the bridge hardly fitted. My dad had covered the table with lino at that time. Later it got ‘new’ Formica on it and still later it reverted to a wood finish. It still exists in that form.

The bridge was a working model rather than an aesthetically pleasing one. One might say that summed up Dad who did appreciate things for aesthetic reasons, but that tended to be a secondary consideration. The phrase, ‘like father, like son’ comes to mind there.

As a child I never got on with Meccano. Fine motor control was never my forte and I found those nuts and bolts far too fiddling and small. As an adult it presented no problems to me but back in those early 1950s, my efforts with the stuff were limited to say the least.

But the photo brings back happy memories of a brother who died far too young and a father, also deceased.

A Happy Nerd at an Antiques Market

October 12, 2013

We recently passed through the charming little town of Buckingham. It’s a lovely place and well worth a visit and if you arrive, as we did, on a fair weather Saturday, you may find the main street has an antiques market in the middle of it.

Antiques markets are always fun and there are often items I feel I could add to the clutter in our home. One item that really caught my eye here was a wooden box carrying the message, ‘Norfolk Samphire’. I liked it very much, but I am somewhat reasonable and knew that I had no need of it and no use for it. I decided the £24 it might have cost would be better used elsewhere. In any case, I was really looking for a something for a three year old grandson but then something caught my eye, very much for me rather than him. So what does a happy nerd buy? Why, a bundle of old magazines about railways of course.


That’s about half the collection I purchased. These are the 12 magazines entitled Trains Illustrated that cover the year 1960. At that time I was an avid train spotter and in fact I received, each month, a magazine at that time. What I got was the one I regarded as much superior, ‘The Railway Magazine’ which, of course, I still have. My friend Bob often got Trains Illustrated so I did see it sometimes.

Now they’ll make a good read for me, remembering those old days of more than 50 years ago.

I paid roughly 20p each for these magazines which is double the price they were new. They were sold for two shillings originally.

By the way, the trader threw in a brand new toy car for grandson so I reckoned I had a tolerable bargain.