Friday, 29 May 2015

Silent Pool not so silent.

We stopped in a car park at the side of the A25 in Surrey in order to eat a sandwich and took the opportunity to visit the nearby 'Silent Pool'. This is an ancient pool which, many centuries ago, was dug out on the site of a spring to make a reservoir. The store of water was then used for several purposes such as  servicing fish ponds and watercress beds.

Silent Pool near Guildford, Surrey.

The spring water comes out at about 10 degrees C all the year round which means, of course, that the pond does not freeze. 

The site is wooded and very pretty. This tree looks like something out of one of the Harry Potter films.

But the assertion that it is the eery stillness of the locality which gives it its name is somewhat challenged by the rumble of traffic passing on the A25, two hundred yards away.

Perhaps it was silent three hundred years ago. 

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Pavements are not for pedestrians in Borehamwood.

This is a sign displayed in a street in Borehamwood, Herts. The local council obviously believes that it says, 'No cycling'. A very common and confusing perpetration. A glance at the Department of Transport's guidance on road signs will inform them that the red ring around the sign signifies prohibition, as does the diagonal red line. Thus the sign says, 'No, no cycling'. If there is no, 'no cycling', then there is cycling. It is a double negative. I can understand that they do not want cyclists to use the pavement and I concur with that desire. Adding the assertion that, 'Footways are for pedestrians' in their case is cynical to the point of hypocrisy.

This is what they have done with the pavement.

The pavement is clearly not for pedestrians, or pushchairs, or wheelchairs or window cleaners with ladders. It is a depository for street furniture.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Elstree studios are not in Elstree

Having a spare hour on my hands whilst in the region of Watford, Herts, I decided to visit Elstree to see what I could find of the famous studios. Many of the films I had seen as a child had announced on the final frame that they had been filmed at Elstree Studios and as a college student, helping the van salesman of Brazil's Sausages & Pies, I had carried boxes into the canteen at one of the studios but such was the pressure of work at the time that I was never really sure of where I was geographically. 
MGM Studios, Elstree Way, Borehamwood.

I suppose that it should have come as no surprise to me to learn that Elstree studios are not in Elstree; they are in the neighbouring town of Borehamwood and always have been.

Gate Studios, Station Road, Borehamwood.

And it was not just one studio.

From the arrival of the first cinematographic company in Borehamwood in 1914, looking for cheap land, clean air and easy access to London, at least six film studios established themselves in the town.

British International Studios, Borehamwood.
Famous film stars of the eras purchased houses in the town and frequented the pubs. The films made here were world famous.  In the 1980s, six of the top ten box office grossing films had been made in Borehamwood. Do you remember: 
Ice Cold in Alex, 
The Dambusters
2001 A Space Odyssey
Star Wars
Summer Holiday
The Railway Children and The Go Between?

The Dambusters –made in Borehamwood.
When film gave way to television, many studios closed, others turned to the new medium and the tradition was continued with TV series such as, The Prisoner, The Avengers and The Saint, Top of the Pops and latterly, Eastenders.
The Big Brother house is actually built on top of the water tank set that was used for The Dambusters. What a pity that they did not leave a bomb behind...

The present Elstree Studios are now 
owned by the local council and leased to television companies, but they are still in Borehamwood. 

Go to Borehamwood, start at the railway station where you will see this striking bas-relief, and follow the cinema trail through the town.

Monday, 11 May 2015

The Ritz Cinema in Thirsk

We went to the pictures last night. It was a most entertaining evening. Not only for the hard-hitting story line and superb acting in 'X + Y', but also for the venue – the Ritz Cinema in Thirsk.
Entrance of the Ritz Cinema, Thirsk.
The cinema has an interesting history, having started life in Victorian times as a Mechanics' Institute where the working class would go to educate themselves from books in the library or attending lectures. It opened as a cinema in 1912 and passed through various stages of rise and decline. One of its most successful periods was during the Second World War when it rivalled Thirsk's other cinema, The Regent, for the patronage of the airmen stationed in the area.

The Regent has gone. The Ritz has been reborn as a result of the enthusiasm of Thirsk Town Council and several local volunteers. It is now run as a not-for-profit organisation.
The ticket lady and the refreshment lady.
What beautiful smiles.

First, we bought our tickets at the booth and then our ice cream tickets from the refreshment lady who delivered the ice cream to us personally during the film as the distributors did not allow an intermission.

Up the stairs to the balcony.

We decided to sit in the balcony. The seat price was the same throughout – £5. So up the stairs we went.

The seating was comfortable and the leg room extraordinarily generous. I always sit at the end of the row to be able to stretch my legs out into the aisle but at the Ritz, this was unnecessary.

View from the balcony rail.

The cinema has been re-equipped with full Dolby surround sound and digital projection but the original silent film screen still remains, hidden behind the new screen.

The next time you are in the area, you must go to the Ritz cinema to experience real 'picture-going' as it used to be. With friendly staff and all the latest releases at seat prices of £5, you really cannot go wrong.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Your vote is not secret.

Well, they did let me in to the polling station (see previous post) and I read the notice at the entrance. This smugly assured me that voting is secret.

The marking of the ballot paper may be secret, but the choice that you make is not. They can discover it quite easily. When I was issued with my ballot paper the ladies there present ticked off my name on the list and wrote alongside it the individual serial number of my voting slip. This ensures that it can be traced back to me.
If you want to know how I voted, just look for ballot paper CPC 17453. It will be in the pile with all the others.

And why were only pencils provided for marking ballot papers? Was it so that the choice could be amended afterwards by application of an eraser?

Yes, parliamentary democracy is a great thing.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Will Canterbury let me vote?

It's that silly time when we have to pretend that democracy rules by putting a cross on a slip of paper so that politicians can continue to claim that they are running the country.

We all know that the country runs itself despite the politicians. It is a good job that we have a big building in London that we put all the MPs in otherwise they would cause havoc if allowed to roam the streets.

The City of Canterbury has introduced an interesting refinement to the electoral process in my ward, as mentioned on my poll card – the concept of the non-accessible polling station. I suppose it has its merits. It would be cheap to administer since there would be no voting slips to count and no staff needed but one could go further and enquire why one would bother to hire some premises for the day just to make them inaccessible.
Why would you have an inaccessible polling station?

I suppose I shall find out tomorrow.

If they let me in.