Friday, 31 July 2015

Passport Portraits of Yesteryear No.2

The passport photographs in today's documents are characterless approximations of the subject, formalised by the constrictive rules governing pose, and then pixilated and digitised into homogeneity.
It wasn't always like that.
Over the next few weeks I shall present to you a selection of portraits from my collection. 
Study them and imagine what the person's life was like.

Mademoiselle Renson, Belgian.

Living at 
86 Boulevard St. Germain, Paris.

7th June 1917.

Her country has been occupied by the Germans and she is now asking for permission to live in Paris.

I wonder where the rest of her family is?

Thursday, 30 July 2015

St Peter & St. Paul at Upper Hardres.

I made a short visit to the church of St. Peter & St. Paul last night, organised by David Eaves, a very knowledgable friend. The church dates from at least the 14th century and is in the hamlet of Upper Hardres, south of Canterbury. As is often the case nowadays, the size of even the small parish churches argues that the local population was greater many centuries earlier.

Cruck-type arch for the chancel.
Like many of the churches in this area it is built in flint but I was surprised to find that the chancel was supported by a wooden arch rather than stone. This appeared to my unknowledgeable eyes to have been constructed on the 'cruck' principle often used for rustic cottages. This was a system whereby in order to ensure that an arch was symmetrical, a curved tree trunk was split lengthways and the two halves joined together, one making the mirror image of the other.

Bracket Brass of John Street, 1405.
Set into the floor of the chancel David showed us a monument dating from 1405. It represents the vicar, John Street, kneeling to pray and the words of his prayer are fed on a ribbon upwards towards the two figures at the top who represent St. Peter and St. Paul – they being the saints to whom the church is dedicated.
David's rubbing of the bracket brass.
It is called a 'bracket brass' because the two figures are placed on a bracket at the top. This is a very English design; the contemporary continental practice, as often represented in our area by the Huguenots, was for the monument to be a solid rectangle of brass, usually carrying much more complicated and 'busy' decoration. Few of these bracket brasses now remain.

Luckily for us, David had brought along a rubbing that he had made of the brass when he was a teenager. The detail is far more apparent even if my photograph is a little blurred.

As I cycled back down the hill to the old Roman road, Stone Street, which leads back into Canterbury, over to my left I could hear the distant roaring of a combine harvester as it frantically combed the acres in advance of the coming rain.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Volkswagen T4 Transporter & Caravelle pedal box.

I apologise immediately to my regular readers for using such a technical title to my post but it is necessary. I want to reach the owners and drivers of this particular make and model of vehicle. When I am not flitting about on my bicycle I use my Volkswagen Caravelle, which is an 8-seater car into which I can load all that I require for the lecture trips that I undertake up and down the country. The car is very reliable and has just completed 200,000 miles.

My car has just completed 200,000 miles.

It celebrated this achievement by breaking its pedal box at the clutch pivot. I knew immediately because the pedal went to the floor with a thud and  I could not declutch.

I also knew because this was the third time it had happened to me on this vehicle.

The pedal box of my VW T4.
The pedal box is a complicated steel structure which is bolted to the floor so that the accelerator, brake and clutch pedals can move up and down as required.

It always breaks at the same point yet VW claim that this is not a design fault. My readers in America and other countries where they drive on the wrong side of the road (on the right) will wonder what I am talking about because this problem apparently only affects cars intended to be driven properly i.e.: on the left side of the road, and thus provided with the steering wheel and pedals on the right side of the car.

The bracket that you need. Fit it now!
Despite VW denying that a problem exists, there are at least two enterprises which make a living from fabricating a modification to the pedal box which expressly cures this 'non-existent' problem.

It is a very simple reinforcing bracket which your garage will fit for you. Mine cost me about £14 which is a darn sight cheaper than a new pedal box every 60,000 miles.

If you drive a VW Transporter or Caravelle, Type 4, and you do not have a bracket fitted to your pedal box, do it now. It will save you money and time.
Have a look at the bracket.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Passport Portraits of Yesteryear No.1.

The passport photographs in today's documents are characterless approximations of the subject, formalised by the constrictive rules governing pose, and then pixilated and digitised into homogeneity.
It wasn't always like that.
Over the next few weeks I shall present to you a selection of portraits from my collection. Study them and imagine what the person's life was like.

Karl Wild.

A seventeen year old German from Lothringen (Lorraine) photographed in 1915.

Three years later at the end of the Great War, this German region in which he had been born and in which he lived, was returned to France.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Thames sailing barges in Whitstable

I cycled to Whitstable today with MyMateJohn and we both had a bacon sandwich, or 'sarnie' as it is known locally. We always pop down to the harbour which is still a working concern with fishermen and dredgers and the support vessels for the wind farm which has been installed just off the coast. Also in the harbour was the Thames sailing barge, S.S.Greta which we often see moored alongside the quay, ready to take passengers for a five hour trip around the coast at £35 per head.

Up in the town, opposite the cafe in which we were eating, the Whitstable branch of the local ladies' outfitters, Whites of Kent, were decorating their window ready for the best dressed window competition. 

 And their theme was the sailing barges.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Now that's what I call a bicycle!

I am on a French course in Newport, Shropshire and I cycled into town today to buy some fruit at Waitrose. I saw this transport of delight parked outside. It is obviously a power assisted bicycle and by the size of the battery box I should imagine that it has a good range before recharging. It also has a windscreen and a roof! I am not certain how practical they would be in a strong wind but in the gentle breeze and falling rain today they must have been perfect. 
Electric bicycle with windscreen and roof.

I looked all over it for a maker's name, without success.

If anybody knows what it is, I would be grateful to learn. 

None of us is getting younger!

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Dog poo at the Griffin's Head.

Every month I meet some friends for a cycle ride. I have been doing it now for over thirty years. The arrangement has no name – they rejected my idea of putting it on a formal basis by calling it our 'menstrual cycle'. The meeting place has changed several times over the years. Our most successful rendezvous is the current one, viz: the Griffin's Head pub at Chillenden.
The Griffin's Head at Chillenden.
We start off with a cup of coffee and an animated discussion over where we intend to have lunch – the mandatory qualification of the venue being that it must be another pub. 

This morning we took our refreshment in the garden. The landlord has a clearly stated policy towards dog-owners using this facility.