Archive for March, 2014

Port Charlotte

March 21, 2014

We seem to have enjoyed islands and have often taken opportunities to visit them – both the well known and those less often visited by tourists. Islay is perhaps a bit more visited than some. When we went – it was back in 2001 – we went for a day out from the mainland and booked a combined ferry/coach tour. There were many places to enjoy, but this was Port Charlotte.

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Port Charlotte is on the east coast of the Rinns of Islay overlooking Loch Indaal.

It’s a pretty little place.

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The coast is gentle and very pleasing as we look past the lighthouse and across the loch.

There is a wonderful museum with fantastic jigsaw puzzles or perhaps I should say, ‘dissected maps’.

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The nerd in me loved the enamel signs on the Post Office.

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But let’s allow the last photo to pay homage to those cottages.

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The weather may have been less than perfect, but what a pleasant way to spend a 30th wedding anniversary.

Barwick Place

March 20, 2014

In case anybody wonders, this blog has no connection with Barwick green. That’s the title of the signature tune used in the radio ‘soap opera’ The Archers. Yes, I am something of an Archers addict but I can manage to separate fact from fiction.

Barwick Place is a small terrace of houses in Ashton on Mersey, Cheshire.

But first some background. When I started doing family history I was firmly of the belief that all my family came from the South of England. My dad’s family came from Sussex and Mum’s came from Kent. How simple was that. Meanwhile, my wife’s family, with homes near Stockport in Cheshire good humouredly teased me for my Sussex voice and my ways of pronouncing words like grass and castle. I vehemently defended my pure Southern upbringing and heritage. It was all very jokey so please don’t feel offended at my attitude. People from the north are really no different from Southerners in real matters.

Prior to the publication of the 1901 census I had little knowledge about my maternal grandmother beyond a name. She was born Jessie Jones and had a short life. She died with four little children, one just a baby in the 1930s. We knew she was born in 1900 and had a marriage certificate that gave her father as R Jones (a cowman). We knew the names of some of her brothers and sisters.

Armed with this information my cousin trawled through the 1901 census and eventually found the right family living at Barwick Place. As Jessie was only a few months old then, and we were able to discover she was born in Ashton on Mersey, we surmise that she was born at Barwick Place. That’s not proved but we do know she lived there for a while.

In 2003 I visited. Barwick Place is almost within spitting distance of where my wife’s relatives lived and I had to put up with quite a bit good natured chafing about being a northerner after all. Here is Granny’s birthplace – Barwick Place.

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What a very nice street sign and I note the brick bonding is odd. I guess the walls are 9 inch solid.

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The houses looked quite good. They are solid looking and with decent sized windows.

I was certainly pleased to discover where Granny came from.

Sorvaag

March 19, 2014

Back in 1944/45 my father in law was a serviceman based on the Faroe Islands. These remote, North Atlantic islands had been taken over by the British and were part of a chain of listening and radio transmission stations which helped to control shipping which might have been going to or from the then enemy.

But Doug, for that was his name, had time to take photos and here is one of his showing Sorvaag across the bay.

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Let’s zoom in a bit.

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We can see a decent road (it links the village and the wharf) leading around a sheltered bay with the village nestled under the sheer slope of the mountain. Virtually all Faroese places are in that kind of situation for in times past communication between places was by sea so settlements were by the water.

Now we’ll fast forward 60 years to 2005 when we visited the islands – a wonderful experience. We managed to find just about the identical spot for a photo.

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I have zoomed out a bit for I felt the picture was better with all of the mountain and some sky in it.

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That’s about as similar as I can make it. There’s no doubt the village has grown but the road and the wall look just about identical.

But what a difference colour makes. In Doug’s photo Sorvaag looks a rather forbidding place but with colour (and a bit of sunshine) it looks colourful and pretty. It was probably just as colourful back in the days of World War II.

But fishing boats, at the wharf, would not have looked a bit like this.

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Well what do you know? It’s the good ship Venus!

The Dipping Duck

March 18, 2014

I do like my scientific toys and none come much better than the one I call ‘Dippy’.

Dippy is shaped a bit like a bird and once you give him a drink of water he continues to dip his beak into it until he can no longer reach the water. It is as if by magic!

Here is Dippy.

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Dippy is an old bird – definitely over thirty. Sadly, his feet split many years ago and they are fastened up with splints – actually sticky pads.

To see Dippy working, click here.

Sorry folks, you’ll have to have a bit of science because, of course, Dippy is not magic. He’s a clever mix of well-balanced technology, a volatile liquid and a way of creating different temperatures.

Dippy’s head is covered by a thin layer of absorbent material. It gets wet each time he pokes his bill into the water. That water evaporates. In the film I have created a draught so that it all works quickly. When water evaporates it takes heat from the surroundings so the vapour in Dippy’s head is colder than the vapour in his tail end. That creates a pressure difference and the red liquid is forced up through Dippy’s pipe shaped neck. Eventually there’s more weight above his hip joint than below it and the head falls forward into the water. Whilst near horizontal the pressures can equalise and the liquid all falls back into the body sending Dippy to the upright position again. If you keep water in front of him he’ll drink indefinitely.

But for those who don’t like or who aren’t interested in the science, just enjoy the quirky shape keeping going for ever. For after all, it does seem like magic.

Playing Cards

March 17, 2014

When I was a child we played cards – often. It was never for money although just sometimes we might have gambled with matchsticks or buttons. We played games of pure chance or games deemed to have more skill We ended up with a few favourites. We could play canasta (Italian canasta) with two or four of us but you needed a bit of time for that. What we called ‘slippery Anne’ was a big favourite. That’s the one called hearts on your windows computer. My dad loved solo whist and so did I. We played a variant called auction solo. And then there was a version of rummy – ideal for two people. Another game popular with the younger members of the family was racing demon – a mad scramble to get rid of all your cards first, hopefully thwarting others as you played.

Playing cards tended to be bought at jumble sales, with just occasionally new packs bought.

These days it is quite rare for a pack of cards to come out and packs of cards are almost fashion accessories. Here’s a pack I was bought a few Christmases ago.

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These cards are lovely, of course. Each card is individual with some piece of transport heritage on it. Here, for example, is the nine of spades.

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Aha, Volk’s Railway which still runs along the seafront in Brighton, as it has since 1883 when it was one of the earliest electric railways in the country.

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My picture dates from 1969 and shows a very bored looking driver and a smart front seat passenger with Brighton’s shingle and sea beyond.

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That driver looks a bit more alert.

I wasn’t the only person to visit that line. This picture was taken by father-in-law and shows his daughters and a couple of nephews. It dates from 1964.

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So happy memories for all from a box of cards.

Uncle Bill and railway track

March 16, 2014

Uncle Bill is too fresh in the memory to actually appear in this blog – but I think of him often and I still have one habit, pointless since he died. I take photos for him from time to time. Mind you, I still take photos for my dad and it approaches twenty years since he died.

Uncle Bill was a railway engineer. His area of expertise was track. Trains were of very secondary concern to him. It was track that mattered. I think Bill enjoyed my visits because I had some understanding of that favourite topic of conversation of his – railway track. Nerdiness clearly runs in the family!

Back in 2008 – Bill was still with us then – we were in the south of France and we stopped for a breather on a bit of a journey. There was a railway line near us and I snapped a couple of photos for Bill.

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I thought (and quite rightly) that Bill would be interested in the chairs and, in particular the fishplates which held rails together.

Now, lest anybody thinks that a bit of old railway track near Lapradelle was a strange thing to take an interest in whilst on holiday in the south of France, I’d better include some other photos from this brief roadside stop to stretch legs and partake of a mug of coffee.

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The scenery was delightful with the glorious colours of a mid-April morning.

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The road side flora was special as well.

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I’m no expert but I think this is a lady orchid.

Not bad for a random roadside stop!

The Childhood Garden

March 15, 2014

Today I am looking at the backdrop for much of my childhood – the little garden at our house in Ifield.

Ifield had originally been a village to the west of the little town of Crawley but by the time of this photo – 1955 – it was rapidly becoming a part of Crawley New Town. It still remains on the edge of the town/

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My dad has taken this photo from the bedroom window. He has placed my mum in the photo, looking over the garden.

Let’s start with the crazy paving – irregular shaped slabs of Yorkshire stone. This had been purchased at a house clearance sale which I have memories of. I dare say it was bought cheaply. The difficulties of transport and the inconvenience of laying it must have kept the price down to something we could afford. I have no idea how dad moved it all. Neither do I remember what covered the yard beforehand. But I know my dad was delighted with his purchase and even took it up and moved it when a garage was built and then moved it to a new house when he moved across the road.

On the left, the open window under a lean-to roof was our bathroom. Originally it had been an outhouse but conversions were made. I remember that window being put in. I’m sure Perce, our next door neighbour, helped. That’s odd, for he was a plumber.

Down the garden there is a structure that looks like a well head. It isn’t and never was. Seemingly there were a lot of bricks scattered about and dad gathered them up and made a garden feature. I think of it as growing nasturtiums. This was something I rather approved of for I liked the flavour. My dad tended to go in for dual purpose plants – both pretty and functional. After our mock well head was made, similar structures popped up in other gardens in the street.

In my memory, beyond the ‘well’ there was a rough area, left available for small boys to enjoy. We dug holes, made dens, played jumping games and took our dinky toys out to drive around roadways in the dirt.

Dad had decided that soft fruit was the thing to grow in the garden – pretty but functional. There were strawberries, gooseberries, red and black currants and raspberries. These could of course be eaten fresh but could also be preserved by jamming or bottling. My mum did both and with luck we had fruit from the garden for much of the year. We also had a peach tree which grew up the house wall. It is those twigs at the extreme left and also a plum tree near the bottom of the garden. My brother and I used to enjoy climbing in that tree.

Near that plum tree, and visible to me in the photo, were dad’s bees. Again, they were multi-purpose. They provided honey and also ensured a good set on the fruit bushes and trees.

Just behind our back hedge there was ‘the factory’. This small works was a part of British Manufactured Bearings. They had a radio and when on it was tuned to the Light Programme. How I loved the sounds of ‘Music while you Work’ which came through each morning and afternoon. But just what work the people did I never really knew.

That back garden was my back garden from 1949 until I left home. That, I could say, was in stages between 1967 and 1970.

Connel Bridge

March 14, 2014

Connel Bridge

We are on the west coast of Scotland here, near the mouth of Loch Etive which is one of the sea lochs. It is a few miles north east of Oban.

How I would have loved to have seen it pre 1966 for then it was a railway bridge carrying a branch line to Ballachulish. Ancient locos from the old Caledonian Railway clanked along the line which opened, like the bridge, in 1903.

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My view of the bridge was in 2009. The bridge still stands and it looks like a railway bridge but now it carries road traffic.

When built, back in 1903, this bridge had the second longest clear span in Europe at around 500 feet. It was built on the cantilever principle.

Road traffic was able to cross the bridge from the day of opening, but at first vehicles were loaded on trailers to go across. People were allowed to drive their own vehicles over the bridge from 1912 – when trains weren’t using it.

It is still single file traffic, controlled by lights but without this bridge, the journey to the other side is enormous. A walk around Loch Etive from one side of the bridge to the other is a good 35 miles.

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The bridge, perhaps, is not pretty, but it is elegant. It has served the locals and tourists well for over 100 years.

A bit of a hoot

March 13, 2014

Yes, once upon a time my son bought me a hooter. I never imagined really that it was anything but modern repro, but I liked the look of it. Now I have no idea whether it is a repro item or whether, perhaps, it did once grace a vintage car. But actually, I don’t really mind. I like it and that’s enough for me.

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There is the hooter with a nice big rubber bulb to squeeze and a well-engineered horn which does get wider throughout its length. Also visible is a rather careworn bracket which may have fixed it to a car.

Give the bulb a squeeze and a very satisfying hoot comes out of the horn.

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A traditional sounding time for this horn has been midnight as a New Year begins. It adds to the general cacophony that greets each New Year in a village.

Last of an age

March 12, 2014

Back in 1971 we camped, for a while, in Connemara on the West coast of Ireland. It really was, back then, moving back to a past time – and a delightful and friendly time too. But here is an example of the past in agriculture.

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The rather ramshackle haystack on the right is what now catches my eye as something from the past. I may have seen haystacks like it in my extreme youth but if I did, I have no memories. In my experience, haystacks were made out of neat bales of hay, stacked well and securely and then covered with something. In truth, the ideal cover was often a Dutch barn – one of those curved roofs on legs. This haystack is made of loose hay. I can only imagine it has been cut with a hay knife.

It has to be said, that my old ‘I Spy book suggests that loose hay was still normal enough.

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But even that shows bales in a Dutch barn. Inside there is loose hay to illustrate the elevator.

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In feint pencil it records that UI saw an elevator at Beddingham on 15th July 1957. At that time it wouldn’t have been hay making and certainly wouldn’t have been loading loose hay. There was always an elevator in the farmyard where we camped. It was used sometimes to help build stacks but I was more likely to see a corn harvest and the building of corn stacks made of sheaves.

But back to Connemara in 1971. It was, actually, our honeymoon and of course, I was a good and dutiful husband in those days. So when my wife said, ‘Ooh! There’s a beautiful donkey in the field down there’, I did my duty. I carefully reversed back round a blind bend on a narrow road with a rocky cliff on one side and a drop away on the other until we found ‘the donkey. It turned out to be that truss of hay wrapped up in a dark cloth in front of the haystack. So I took the picture. The incident is well remembered by us although the precise location is not. And it was much more recently that I realised it was a kind of ‘last of the past’ picture.