Monday, 18 February 2019

Passport Portraits of Yesteryear no. 37

Into a country at war.
Continuing the series of passport portraits in my collection.
Peruse and wonder.
Jeanne Marie Antoinette Joseph Gurrey is 40 yrs. old. She was born in the Nord département of France and is now married to a British national. This is the photograph in the British passport issued to her by the Foreign Office in London on 12 March 1940.
Merely obtaining a passport at this time  is quite unusual. The UK is exercising strict controls over who can leave during wartime. But what makes her journey astonishing is that she is granted a UK Exit Permit, a French visa and sails from Folkestone to Calais on 21 March in the company of her British husband. They are sailing to a country at war and disembarking at a port through which the British Army would be retreating merely eight weeks later. What were they doing? One can only speculate. France signs an armistice with the Germans in June and by the 21st of that month, Jeanne and her husband are in Toulouse and Pau, obtaining Spanish and Portuguese visas.  They make their way to Portugal where they board a ship and disembark at Liverpool six days later.
Before Germany is vanquished, she is back to France – a country still at war. She leaves Newhaven for Dieppe on 29 March 1945.  Her visa is issued gratis, for a business visit and on the telephonic personal authority of the French Minister of Foreign Affairs. What was she doing?

Thursday, 14 February 2019

It's all happening at Rye Harbour.

As the sun was shining we went for a walk to the mouth of the River Rother at Rye Harbour Village.
The River Rother at low tide flowing into the English Channel south of Rye.

What a busy time we had!

We saw five dumper trucks.

And a tin hut with a red roof.

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Made in China but does it work?

Fifty years ago, if you wanted to calumniate a product you turned it over and pretended to read on the bottom, 'Made in Hong Kong' and everybody would laugh because they knew that if it were made in Hong Kong then it would be manufactured from bright yellow plastic and probably came from a Christmas cracker. And then somewhere along the line the Japanese electronics manufacturers realised that they could teach the Hong Kong Chinese to assemble their stereo systems and pay them not much to do it and gradually 'Made in Hong Kong' lost its reputation for cheapness and unreliability.

It would seem that it is the mainland Chinese who have now adopted the poor reputation. Have you managed to purhase anything electronic that has been made in China and which functions correctly? I have owned a digital letter scale which tried to convince me that my airmail letter weighed as much as a bag of apples; a video camera which would record for one minute before the image began to flick back and forth across the screen; I've had torches that won't switch on and cycle lights that won't switch off. The extent of the problem is insidious. I bought a Roberts radio (a traditional British company) which I discovered had been manufactured in China when I turned it over to assertain why the pre-set tuning system was failing.

What are we to do? China now dominates the manufacturing scene but seems to be providing us with second rate products... or are they merely exporting their faulty goods and keeping the properly functioning stuff for themselves? I ask this question because when I worked in Bangladesh in 1987 I bought a Chinese vacuum flask which leaked and a Chinese speaker told me that the text on the box indicated that it was faulty. I returned to the stall from which I had bought it and checked. The entire stock was faulty. 

Is the West being used as a dumping ground?

Monday, 31 December 2018

Me and the Media

I cannot let this year depart without just mentioning something. In the last two months I have turned down invitations to appear on BBC TV, The One Show and to contribute to BBC Radio 4, Making History. I am not averse to appearing on the television or to broadcasting on the radio – I have been doing so since my stupendous performance on Does the Team Think? in 1966 – but since my best selling book, The Passport, The History of Man's Most Travelled Document was published in 2003 I have been waiting for the Media to substantiate their declared enthusiasm for making the documentary about the history of the passport with me yet all they will ever do is to nibble at the subject.

I have the knowledge; I have the artefacts; I have the presentational skills. What is the problem? They know the subject is interesting because they keep asking me to talk about it and with Brexit possibly looming it will remain a popular fascination.

In the interim I prepare meticulously for their broadcasts; it takes a deal of my time. For a multinational media company to offer me £50 in recompense is insulting. Fifteen years ago the Womens Institutes were paying me more than that for an evening's entertainment. 

Let's see what 2019 will bring....

Saturday, 22 December 2018

Passport Portraits of Yesteryear no. 36

Continuing the series of passport portraits in my collection.
Peruse and wonder.

The next time you are sitting in a photo booth in order to have your passport photograph taken; having naturally combed your hair and removed your hat and spectacles, and having succeeded in constraining yourself from any facial display of enjoyment of the rigmarole which might be interpreted by the digital camera as a smile (heaven forfend) I suggest you think of Madame Hélène Guimard Massé who, when entreated to supply a photograph of herself to put in her Italian passport in 1927, went into her garden and sat under a tree with a good book.

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Checking passports again.

On 8th October I was requested by the Worshipful Company of World Traders to assist them in their attempt to break the Guinness World Record of the greatest number of different nationalities all singing the same song at the same time.
Had they heard of my beautiful singing voice? Was it my mellifluous syllables that had enchanted them? No, they needed me to check the passports of the participants in order to compile the list of nationalities.

It was a fun evening at Goodenough College in London and although I was obliged to refuse recognition of several participants' claimed nationalities I did not feel that it was in the spirit of the evening to have them deported.

Did they break the record? Click here to find out.

Monday, 29 October 2018

The cat by Betty's Tea Shop

Whilst enjoying tea and scones at Betty's Tea Shop in York the other day, I happened to look out of the window at the facade of the building opposite and noticed this cat. I wondered if its intended function had been to deter the pigeons. Judging by the amount of droppings on its back, I would say that it failed.