Posts Tagged ‘1974’

A moped

August 14, 2016

The year is 1974 and the location is Brittany in France. It was the first time I had been to visit our Gallic friends and neighbours and I enjoyed seeing how similar they were to us, yet with many differences to enjoy. In visiting Brittany I probably ought to compare with the west of Ireland rather than the more prosperous south of England. The lifestyle I saw in the parts of Brittany visited was certainly more akin to the west of Ireland.

But youngsters and older people were allowed to ride mopeds which to my eyes were of a fairly primitive kind and here is one from 1974 – forty two years ago.


This little beast is little more than a bicycle relying on pedal power. But that strange front carrier holds a little motor which I believe spins a wheel which rubs against the front wheel of the bike driving it along. It was a simple system which certainly allowed a peddler to let the engine take the strain. I can’t imagine it did much good to the front tyre which must have worn out quickly.

The brake levers seem to be mounted the opposite way round to our UK bikes – but I say ‘vive la difference’.

We can also see that the car behind has the once compulsory (in France) yellow headlamp. Then bike is not equipped with luxuries like lamps.

Interesting – and I never did see anything just like it in the UK.

Quimper Market

August 10, 2016

One of the things you don’t always notice in real time is that ways of life change – people move on. Looking back at older photographs can bring these things to the front.

Yet having said that, I can’t be sure things have moved on. Maybe there are still people selling a few odds and ends at market stalls out in Brittany in France. For it was at Quimper and back in 1974, that I took this photo.


This chap looked so typically Gallic with his beret. I just had to take a snap of him with his box of apples and splendid blooms. I find it hard to imagine that anyone would take such a small collection to a market stall now. Actually, I’d love to be wrong. It would be good to think this less grand scale style of life continued.

I think, though, I captured a little bit of an old France which has gone. This is being written after the awful carnage in Nice – no doubt always a far cry from Brittany, but who can say we live in a better world 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.

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.

Locking up

March 12, 2016

Back in 1974 a group of us hired a narrow boat for a holiday. It was the first time we did this although some of us had canal experience already.

Canals, of course, are man-made waterways and need to conserve water. So all sections of a canal are dead level; and if hills are encountered, steps are constructed and have to be negotiated. These steps are called locks and they are containers of water with gates at each end to keep the water where it is wanted and sluice gates (often called paddles) to let water in and out. Water is heavy stuff and you can only open gates if the water level on each side actually is the same.

There’s plenty of scope for making a hash of things so it’s best to be careful and thoughtful, particularly when you start. So rather than using the motor to power us into a lock, here we are using human power.


The boat (don’t call it a barge) is a snug fit in the lock but actually they are usually easy to steer and you soon get used to motoring in.

Once in, the bottom gates will be closed (hence a person on each side and then the top paddles will be opened to admit water. Once the boat has floated up to the higher level the top gate can be opened and the paddles closed. The boat can then leave, but the rule on canals is that you leave things shut so somebody has to close the top gate behind the boat. This was quite a shallow lock. The driver’s eye view can look quite intimidating.


The brick sides seem like cliffs and the space seems narrow. In days of yore, of course, all boats were horse drawn and that footbridge across the lock has a gap in the middle for the rope to pass through – so much easier than unhitching the horse! Sam the dog, one of our fellow travellers, has a commanding view!

Within the next dozen years I probably worked through at least 500 locks. They are all different and should never be rushed. Well, the fact of the matter is you can’t rush them so as locks fill or empty just relax!


North Yorkshire Moors railway

February 26, 2016

Yes, this is the NYMR, but not recently and this photo was actually taken by my brother in law.


This was back in 1974 and back then, if I remember correctly, the line ran steam trains from Grosmont to Goathland and a diesel train down to Pickering. This is taken through the front window (or it could be the back) of a diesel train. Now personally, I’m a steam lover, but the front of a ‘heritage’ diesel train is a great way of seeing what goes on

Here, we nerds can see the train is running on the old bull head rail but passengers behind a steamer would never know the reason the train slowed down was because of sheep ion the line. One seems to be sitting very comfortably on the sleepers, resting against the rail. Fences have to be really good to keep those moorland sheep in order.

These days the NYMR is a big concern and runs a variety of locos and services between Pickering and Whitby and sometimes on the Esk Valley line. 2016 will see Flying Scotsman on the line between the 12th and 20th March.

Whatever the loco/train, the scenery will always be stunning.


The Gas Works

September 6, 2015

In the bad old days ‘town gas’ was made by cooking coal in a furnace without air so the coal couldn’t burn. Gas was driven off and could be collected and the solid that was left was still a burnable fuel always called coke. The gas often called town gas or coal gas was nasty stuff. One of its burnable products was the toxic carbon monoxide. The gas also had large amounts of hydrogen in it as well as a range of hydrocarbons.

In my local town of Devizes the gas works was sited alongside the canal. This was an obvious choice since coal could be brought in by canal boat although in my memory of the area, which only goes back to the 1970s the works itself was already closed. No doubt, towards the end of its life, coal had been brought by lorry and actually that was easier since lorries can tip whereas coal on a barge would have to be shovelled out.

Alongside the coking and gas plant there had to be storage tanks for the gas and gasworks always had gas holders, often called gasometers. And it’s the Devizes pair of these that we see today.


The gas holders consist of two parts. The base is fixed and a moveable top part can go up or down according to how much gas there is. The gasometer name (meter does mean measure) came about because the height of the holder gave an idea of the amount of gas inside.

Many people of an age will remember cricket commentator John Arlott commenting on the size of the gasometers by the Oval cricket ground.

The clever bit was that it was the weight of that top part which provided the pressure to pump gas to houses.

Those gas holders stayed in place until about 1990.

On the Nottingham Canal

September 5, 2015

It was back in 1974 that my wife and I, with friends, made our way to Nottingham on a canal boat, hired for one week. I took many photos on my good old Canon Demi and it included inevitable cast iron signs. Here is one of them.


What I find most interesting here is that as recently as 1922 the canal was enough in use for other folks on the towing path to be a nuisance.

Nottingham is more or less where the Trent and Mersey Canal meets the River Trent. The canal had broad locks in the Nottingham area which made it much more commercially viable than the narrow canals which could only handle boats which were seven feet wide. Maybe it thus had plenty of traffic at a time when railways were king and road haulage was getting into its stride with army surplus lorries.

I also rather like the way different types of possible vehicle have been listed. Was somebody on a monocycle OK? Or if anyone had a pedal car was that OK?

Although in need of a bit of paint the sign had clearly been kept in good order although by 1974, when I was there, towing path haulage was very much a thing of the past.


An old tourist flyer

February 20, 2015

What strange things turn up when you decide to have a sort through old tourist leaflets and brochures.

Amongst our rather overblown collection was this flyer from 1974.


Regular blog readers might recognise that named paddleboat, Charlotte Dundas. Back in those 1970s we used to be one of the volunteer crews who took folks for trips on this rather quaint old vessel. She has appeared before on this blog. Click here to see it.

But back to that 1974 flyer which really does make the past sound like a foreign country. Open up the flyer and this is what you see.


For most of the season Charlotte Dundas operated from Honeystreet. In fact another earlier post on this blog shows the boat there and you can click here to see that one. The canal was much more what people wanted there. In all honesty it was a tad dull through Devizes, sunk in quite a deep cutting, but Honeystreet offered a bit of canal side industry and lovely open views of downland and the Vale of Pewsey.


The flyer has been pen altered and it looks as though four one hour trips were offered. But just look at that price of 30p. It sounds absurdly cheap but in real terms it equates well with the £6 hour and a half trips from Hungerford on an altogether classier trip boat.

We also have the same flyer for the following year – 1975. Inflation was rife back then and a swingeing 25% increase in fares had been made – 40p for adults!

Groups could hire boat and volunteer crew for a two hour trip on a summer’s evening as well. I used to love doing those trips. The groups were always fun and two hours allowed one to get to Ladies Bridge before returning the group for refreshments at the Barge Inn at Honeystreet.

Happy memories!

The cat, the cow and the railway line

November 10, 2014

Please don’t turn away from this post. It is NOT about railways or trains. So I’d better explain that first of all.

Back in 1971 my wife and I – just married – moved into our first home. We were able to buy a small, brand new semi-detached house.  It was fine in every way except that the garden was small. Behind the garden there was the track bed of a closed railway line and the other side of that there were fields.

We grew veg on a little bit of the embankment above the track bed of the old railway, but we had an aim to buy our bit of railway. And, eventually, we did. We had to persuade ten householders in a row that they wanted to buy it as well. Actually, we didn’t get all ten of us, but some of us decided we’d have two plots so one could be garden and the other an allotment. We had to create a three foot wide path along the bottom of plots so people could get from the garden behind their house to their allotment behind another house. According to the deeds drawn up we had the right to ‘pass and repass with or without wheelbarrow’ along that path.

And it is that path that forms the scene for today’s little story.

Beyond the old railway line, which became garden, there were fields and in 1974 there were young cows in the field. One produced calves just behind our garden.


It was inevitable that our young cat would come into contact with cows and so it did.


There’s the cat – it was called Inca – sitting on the path looking through the old railway fence at a curious cow. It was quite a stand-off as I recall with much hissing and yowling by Inca and a bit of hoof stamping by the cow. Presumably, eventually, the two parties declared their own truce and each went about their own business.

A couple of years later, Inca moved with us to our present house. Since then the cow field has been built on so similar encounters won’t happen there any more.

By the way, the photos were taken on my good old Canon demi camera using agfachrome film and digitised using my current scanner.