Sunday, 31 August 2014

Physician, heal thyself.

An overflow pipe projects from the wall of my house and I noticed some time ago that it had been leaking. In the true tradition of the procrastinator, I did nothing, hoping that the problem would go away. 

This morning, I don't know what came over me, I decided to sort it out. I popped along to that temple of DIY - Homebase. There I would find a solution. There would be pipes and gaskets and tubes and washers and ball cocks and all other manner of plumbery.

As I walked along the path to the front of the store, I discovered that this giant of the DIY world was suffering exactly the same problem as I was. Now, how would they deal with it?  What new technique could I learn from this font of knowledge? What would be their high-tech solution? I marvelled at the simplicity of the answer.

Stick a bucket under it.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Permabulators perambulating

Walking along St Peter's Street in Canterbury today on our way to the Goods Shed for lunch I was astonished to see this parade of permabulators appearing around the corner from the Westgate Towers.

As one who can remember sitting in his Nibs Chariot (I think that is how it is spelt - I was only two years old at the time) and who, as a father, wheeled his baby daughter into the garden to sleep outside the kitchen window in a coachbuilt Silver Cross, I found the sight of this procession doubly nostalgic.

I sent an ambassadress to enquire whether the participants belonged to a club or were engaged in some festival and she returned to inform me that they had denied affiliation to any organisation; merely declaring that 'they were all mad together'.

Of course, today's children are shaken to pieces in small-wheeled tube and canvas contraptions. Is it any wonder they always seem to be grizzling about something or other?

A 'perambulator' originally meant 'a person who walked', and there was usually a purpose attached to the exercise such as surveying or measuring. 'Permabulating' was thus the activity of a perambulator. The word was first used to describe a child's carriage in 1858 and three decades later 'perambulator' had been abridged to 'pram'. But even this word is falling into disuse. When did you last say 'pram'? 

Probably when you were talking about the Parameter Random Access Memory of your computer.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Skyways Coach Air & Café Rouge

One of those really weird happenings occurred yesterday. I was having lunch with Peter Bates. Now those of you who have read my book, Neither Civil nor Servant, might recognise the name. Peter worked for Skyways in the early 1970s as a management trainee at the time that I was working for Paris Travel Service as a travel rep. Our paths crossed several times and then we went our separate ways to end up working in different jobs but in the same port at Dover.

As we finished our lunch a lady came over to our table and declared that she recognised us from Skyways. I was dumbfounded. We had met forty five years ago. How do people keep a memory like that? Jo Dunn is her name and we then sat and made a lot of noise reminiscing about the good old days. We came to the unanimous agreement that the Skyways Years were great and that it was a super little airline staffed by a great bunch of people.

So here is a present from me to all the ex-Skyways staff who made my job so much fun at that time.

An original Skyways Coach Air duty-free goods bag.
PS: If you read my thriller, Rue Amélie, which is set in Paris in the 1970s, you will discover that at one point the hero drives a Skyways coach up from the République terminal to Beauvais Tillé airport. To find out more details of my books, click on the link 'What books have I written?' in the right hand column of this blog.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

The Macdonald Arch at Folkestone

So, Folkestone now has a Memorial Arch at the end of the clifftop promenade called The Leas. Its purpose is to remind us of the thousands of soldiers who marched away down what is now called the 'Road of Remembrance' to the quayside in order to embark for France in the First World War.

Folkestone Memorial Arch

But who chose the design? Situated as it is, right next to Macdonald's, I am afraid to say that it reminds me more of 'take away' than 'march away.'

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Runnymede Tranquility

We left the M4 at Windsor and cut the corner to join the M25 at Runnymede. The traffic on it was stationary, nothing new in our experience, so we paused alongside Old Father Thames to soak up the peace and tranquility of this historic site.

But these confounded birds were chattering away.
They looked like goslings of some sort. 

The Thames at Runnymede

And then around the corner chugged a narrow boat on its way downstream.


And not very high overhead 

                              one of these things roared 

every 50 seconds.

Nirvana is achievable by everybody. You just have to recognise when you are beaten. We climbed back into the tranquility of the car and drove on.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Hovis Hill

I was recently invited to give a talk in Gillingham in Dorset. This I found a little confusing since there is a Gillingham in Kent; the difference being that the one in Dorset has a hard 'G' whereas Gillingham in Kent is pronounced, 'Jillingham.' 

We stayed overnight in the nearby town of Shaftesbury. Now, I don't have a television, and although I am familiar with Hovis bread, I was not aware of the apparently famous television advertisement of several decades ago wherein a lad pushed a bicycle up a cobbled street. The street is called Gold Hill and in the advert it was supposed to be in Yorkshire, or, at least, somewhere 'up north'. I have since watched the advert on the internet and can confirm that the street still looks as it did then. 

Gold Hill, Shaftesbury, scene of the Hovis advert.
Having ingenuously revealed my unworldliness with regard to television ads, let me tentatively display my erudition. Do you remember when the word 'Hovis' always used to be written 'HoVIS', usually with a small dash below the letter 'o'? This dash signalled that a word had been abbreviated. I have seen the same mark in sixteenth century documents. So what did 'HoVIS' originally mean? It was a trade name invented from the Latin phrase, Hominis Vis, meaning 'the force of Man'. I was lousy at Latin in school, but I did study advertising at college.

Friday, 1 August 2014

You just can't win.

I was seventeen years old when I started driving motor cars. The insurance premium for drivers under 25 years of age was astronomical. I looked forward to that magic birthday but when I reached it nothing got any cheaper. Then it transpired that it was drivers aged over fifty who were cheaper to insure. When I reached fifty, the insurance premiums did not go down because now we had to pay for the under 25 year olds who were driving without insurance. Ironically, I was a good insurance risk up until my fiftieth birthday. After that, I had one car stolen and another written off. 

And having driven for forty five years I was for the first time in my life pulled over by a police patrol car in north London two years ago because, unlike everybody else in the street, I was driving below the speed limit and so the officer suspected that I was drunk. I have been a teetoaller since 1976.

But before I passed my driving test I succeeded at another examination: the only exam that I have taken in my life whose lessons I still apply today -- the National Cycling Proficiency Test which I passed in 1961. When I turn right I still look behind me before I signal, I move to the centre of the road and on turning, I aim at the kerb on the left hand side of the road, avoiding the temptation to 'cut the corner'. 

As I turned right from Old Dover Road, through the traffic lights into Nackington Road today, I could not help but feel a little pride at the clear signal that I had given to the other traffic and the safe path that I followed across the junction. Perhaps it was arcane, but it was how I was taught and it was safe. So I was surprised when, a hundred yards further along, a police car pulled up alongside me and ordered me to stop.

"Red lights apply to cycles as well," he said.
"Yes, I know, but it changed to orange as I went through."
"You went through on the red."
"I did not. I went through on the amber but that junction is so long that by the time I had crossed it, the light had changed to red."
"Well just bear that in mind," he said obscurely.

The problem is that the 'stop' line has to be drawn far from the actual junction to give space for large lorries to turn without colliding with the waiting traffic. Of course, if I had cut the corner, I would have been across the junction in a jiffy and there would have been no problem.

You just can't win, can you?