Monday, 19 December 2016

University of Kent - too many addresses or not enough?

I recently requested online for the University of Kent at Canterbury to send me a prospectus. As part of my request I had to select my country of residence from a drop-down menu upon which I could not find, 'United Kingdom', 'Great Britain' or 'England' so I had to claim residence in Afghanistan.

When it came for me to enter my personal details, 
I had a choice of twenty nine forms of address.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Astonishing power of Harrogate Water

On a recent trip to Scotland we stayed at our favourite staging post, The Golden Fleece Hotel in Thirsk. Now, Thirsk is in Yorkshire and Yorkshire people are not backward in coming forward. 

In our hotel room we were supplied with a complimentary Yorkshire refreshment in the form of Harrogate Spring Water.

I was astonished at the capabilities of this water as declared on the label by the bottler. Was it really capable of enriching the rock with minerals as they so proudly claimed?
Or is this just Yorkshire people bragging again?

Friday, 25 November 2016

Seeing more with the lights off

A pair of street lights were switched off at the bottom of my road last night and as I stumbled along the pavement, the headlights of the oncoming cars showed me why I was having such difficulty in keeping a straight line.

 Look at the unevenness of the paving. Such ankle breaking terrain is far less obvious under vertical light.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

What a difference a day makes.


A tree in Broome Park yesterday which was loaded with golden leaves.

We had some wind overnight.

The same tree today.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Filming at the Hilton

Can't get to the hotel entrance? Wait until the film comes out.
What were they filming at the Hotel Hilton in Watford on Friday? Whatever it was it caused a nuisance. First of all nearly half the car park was coned off for their use. This included the approach and entrance so taxis and others had to unload in the car park somewhere and point their customers in the right direction.

All the luvvies in their woollen hats getting in the way.
Then when we came to check out in the morning we were held back from the front desk so that various film extras could be filmed wandering across the car park and into the hotel.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

A direct hit from HMS Belfast?

As we fiddled our way through the northern suburbs of London on the A1, or the Great North Road as it used to be called, we stopped at a green space which declared itself to be Scratchwood. Now, I had only ever heard of Scratchwood in the context of the M1 motorway services but Scratchwood was part of the great Middlesex forest dating from the last ice age. 

Scratchwood Open Space
It has been variously managed since that time for rearing game, raising timber oak, supplying coppiced hornbeam and even as hay meadows to provide the fodder for the horse population of London.

To the south of this wood is the motorway service station which is now called London Gateway and if you have ever visited it you might wonder why the access road is so convoluted. The reason is that it was designed as the roundabout for Junction 3 which was intended to link the M1 with the A1 but was never built.  So the M1 motorway has no Junction 3; the numbering jumps from 2 to 4.

And another interesting fact about Scratchwood Services is that the Royal Navy's heavy cruiser HMS Belfast  which has been moored in the Thames near Tower Bridge as a floating museum since 1971 has its forward 6" guns targeted on... Scratchwood Services.

Which made me wonder if this unfortunate car had suffered a direct hit?

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Jam making at Tiptree

Should you be in Essex in the vicinity of the village of Tiptree, halt awhile and look around. It appears at first sight to be a linear village of no particular remark yet not so very long ago it was the home of the Anchor Press, one of the largest book printers in the UK.

But why is this terrace of houses called 'Damson Gardens'? Because they were built to house the workers from the jam factory. Wilkin and Sons, manufacturers of the famous Tiptree range of jams, farm about 1.000 acres around the village and have been making jam here since 1885.
The genuine article.
If you are unfamiliar with their vast and excellent range of jams, preserves and sauces, click here

Wilkin and Sons have now expanded into tea rooms. We visited their museum, and then craftily nipped into the tea room for an early lunch snack at about 11.30. By the time we had finished the room was full and customers were queueing, waiting for tables to empty.

A fraudulent copy, but amusing nonetheless.
Now, thanks to successful marketing, the famous Tiptree jam label is recognisable worldwide. In the museum is displayed a collection of fraudulent copies produced by enterprises hoping to 'pass off' their inferior product as the genuine.

The jar on the left I found quite amusing and was disappointed that Wilkins had not made it themselves.

Tiptree claims to be the biggest village in Essex with a population of approximately 9,000. The Anchor Press has gone and I should imagine that Wilkin and Sons are the largest employer in the village. Tesco's have moved in and I was pleased to see on their otherwise blank facade to the high street this tiled mural depicting the village with the light railway in the background, the jam factory and fruit fields and orchards and in the foreground an Edwardian picnic laid out with... Wilkin and Sons jams in obvious evidence.
The Tiptree tiled mural on the wall of Tesco's.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

The lost Routemaster.

I cycled to Sandwich today to sow a few thousand hollyhock seeds along the banks of the Stour and I saw this London bus, ostensibly on route 13 to London Bridge.

I don't think route 13 runs via Sandwich normally.

Passport Portraits of Yesteryear no. 23

Continuing the series of passport photographs from my collection.
Peruse and wonder.
Edward Peter Rice, a British missionary born in Bangalore, India in 1849. It is now 1916 and at the age of 66 years he is sent by his employer, the YMCA, to the war zone in France.

First he has to obtain security clearance  from the War Office in London, he then is examined by the French police in London who issue him with a red identity book which is his permit and is valid only whilst he is employed by the YMCA. 

With this authority he obtains a visa from the French Consulate for 3/9 (three shillings and ninepence) which allows him to travel to Le Havre and thence to Rouen where he will be based. On landing at Le Havre on 11 February 1916 he reports to the British Military Authorities who give him permission to travel on to Rouen. He then has to visit the town hall in Le Havre to obtain the same permission from the French. 
Three months later he came home.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Discworld bores cats.

Shock horror revelation!
The cats in Wincanton are sent to sleep by Terry Pratchett's Discworld.

Snoozing moggy seen in a shop window in Wincanton.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Cobnuts and caterpillars.

I have stripped my various cobnut trees and am now waiting for an interesting programme to be broadcast on the radio to entertain me whilst I crack the nuts.

Over the years the squirrel has buried tons of nuts in my garden, many of which sprout in awkward places and then have to be pulled up.

Some I leave in the ground if they are not an obstruction to normal life. I noticed that the squirrel-planted cobnut bush near my garage was sporting some skeleton leaves.

Upon closer inspection I could see why.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Bank and Beakers in Bungay

On my previous visit to Bungay in Suffolk, when driving around the town I encountered with astonishment the chicken roundabout. If you have never heard of it, click here. The hens have now all been moved on which is a shame for the town but no doubt a relief to the motorists who had to face a daily slalom around poultry.

But Bungay is not just chickens. 

You can buy beakers.

And see a former branch of the London and Provincial Bank.

Be informed about Bungay's Great Fire

And see a fire hydrant sign which was painted on the wall in the Second World War so that it could be found in the blackout.

But for me, an author and publisher, I will always know Bungay as the home of the Chaucer Press and the book printers, Richard Clay.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Not another boring sunset!

Yup! Seen through a dirty porthole on the mv Cap Finistere.
Why do people take these photographs?

The hotel's bath plug.

I last mentioned the bathing arrangements at the Hotel Puente Colgante here. Since then the hotel has changed hands and in my experience, that sometimes has deleterious effects for the guests. The new owners are usually unwilling to accept the hotel as it is; they must make changes.

In this case it seems that the new owners have decided to economise on bath plugs – neither washbasin nor bath was equipped with the necessary obstruction to retain the water for a useful period of time.

I went to the reception desk and explained in my fluid rather than fluent Spanish that it was muy difficilo to bathe if the agua kept salida-ing down the plughole and was presented with the hotel bath plug.

Rather selfishly I kept it for two days and then ceremoniously handed it over upon departure much to the consternation of the guests who were waiting to check in.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Tuning the wireless.

Do you remember tuning the wireless set to listen to your favourite station?

Radio Luxembourg on a Sunday night? Trying to hear the top twenty before the signal faded out?

Or laughing at the outrageous propaganda from Radio Moscow on the whistling short wave?

Here are some radio dials I photographed in the Museo Rialia in Portugalete, Spain where they have a temporary exhibition on communications.

A bit of nostalgia does not hurt from time to time. (Sigh.)

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Frank Gehry's Balls?

I have just visited the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao again, this time to see the Andy Warhol Shadows and the exhibition on the Paris School 1900-1945. 

Having satiated myself with Picasso, Kandinsky, Delaunay, Braque et al, I came outside and saw this sculpture.

Frank Gehry was the architect who designed the museum. Are these his balls?
The little black stick in the middle of every sphere is a reflection of me taking the photograph.

At last, my genius is reflected in a work of art.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Sheep on the Somport

Went up and down the Col du Somport three times in one day. 

(Don't ask why, you really don't want to know.)

Met these sheep on their way down.

They looked quite soggy.

Friday, 16 September 2016

The Yellow Train at Bourg Madame.

I had to go to the railway station at Bourg Madame in the Pyrenees in order to check some facts and quite by chance I managed to time my visit to coincide with one of the two daily departures of the Train Jaune.

This electric train runs on a single line, about forty miles long, from Villefranche, down on the Mediterranean side of the Pyrenees, up into the mountains to within strolling distance of the Spanish frontier.
The Train Jaune at Bourg Madame station on its way down to Villefranche,
14 September 2016.
The line was opened in the early twentieth century as a metre-gauge line and was designed to be powered by hydro electricity from the various dams and power stations built along the line. It is the only metre-gauge line run by the French national railway company, SNCF.

If you get the chance, take a ride. The scenery is delightful.

The only way to enjoy Andorra.

This is the only way to enjoy Andorra – put your head down and eat grass.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Kerbstones in Prades.

How about this for an attractive line of kerb stones?

Seen at our picnic spot near the swimming pool in Prades.

They knock the rather bland concrete lozenges used far and wide in the UK into a cocked hat.

Strange creature in Ceret.

How would you like to wake up and see this in your bedroom?

It was on the wall above our door in the Hotel Vidal in Ceret.

Upon closer inspection, it reveals itself to be a plastic oil container, cleverly altered. Some artists have terrific imaginations, don't they?

Some hotel guests have terrific nightmares...

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Stegasaurus on the roof.

We stopped for a coffee and returning to the car found a stegasaurus on the roof.

Sommières – tiny streets and Lawrence Durrell

Sommières town gate.
If you cross the old bridge over the river and enter the town by the main gate you will see a plaque on the wall directing you to the Espace Lawrence Durrell.

Being a complete ignoramus I did not know that the writer Lawrence Durrell had spent the last years of his life in the town.

In fact, I have never read any of his works and often confused him with his brother, Gerald, whose books I read as a child.

Further down the street is a secondhand bookshop, open Monday to Saturday, 10.00 - 17.00. 

But don't take your car into the town unless you know exactly what you are doing.

You could easily be faced with streets like this:

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Sommières voie verte.

Sommières railway station as it was.
We are staying in a hotel which is the former railway station of Sommières. The voie verte starts at the gate and runs for about 22 km in an easterly direction.

I am not particularly fond of the countryside through which it passes. At this time of the year the Languedoc is brown earth, brown grass and brown rock. 

Langlade railway station on the voie verte.
The most green to be seen is the paint on the tarmac where the cycle track crosses a road.

But the ride was enjoyable despite this and the temperature in the low forties centigrade.

It has been superbly maintained by the local authority of the Gard département. 

Voie verte at Sommières.

They were resurfacing parts of it with a dedication unseen in the UK. The surface was being skimmed off, the sublayer scarified and then tarmac laid and rolled. To protect the edges the verges were being raised with topsoil.

If we did this to our roads instead of throwing a handful of chippings onto a smear of tar then perhaps they would last longer.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Not the Fréjus Railway Tunnel.

The railway tunnel under the Col de Fréjus was built in the years 1860-1870. It was a magnificent achievement made possible by the invention of a tunnel boring machine by an Englishman.
This is NOT the Fréjus railway tunnel. It is not a tunnel at all.
It now carries the fast international trains between Italy and France. Soon after  the original tunnel was built it was extended by over a kilometre to avoid some persistent rock and mud falls.

As we drove up the old road out of the frontier town of Modane, we came across this magnificent monument. I assumed it to be the first entrance to the railway tunnel but when I looked at its alignment I could not see how the trains could possibly have turned on so tight a curve as would have been necessary to avoid their plunging off the side of the mountain.

Further research revealed that this is not a tunnel at all and never had railway tracks in it. It is a museum installation which is a complete fabrication. I had to ask somebody in the town for this information for the museum is only open in July and August.

Chalons sur Saone

We passed through Chalons sur Saone, known for being one of the authorised crossing points of the Demarcation Line which divided unoccupied France from occupied France in World War 2.

The historic trace of the line itself was marked only by a rather insignificant road sign on the road bridge over the river.

However, in the town I saw this building about which I can tell you nothing.

I know not its history or its purpose but this did not stop me from gazing in awe at the stone decoration on its facade.

If you know anything about the building, do enlighten me.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Do you remember the Peugeot 204 Coupé?

We stopped at a services point on the motorway near Belfort and this is what was on display inside the building.

A Peugeot 204 coupé. What a pretty little car it was. I think the bodywork was by Pininfarina if I remember correctly.

It was the first mass production Peugeot to have front wheel drive and a transverse engine and they built 143,000 of them at their factory at Sochaux near Belfort.

I wonder what happened to them all.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Twelve thousand miniature bottles.

We stayed at the Hotel Remotel in Knutange for two nights. It is situated a few miles to the west of Thionville. An old fashioned style hotel with large rooms and high ceilings. Just right to try to keep cool on a day when the temperature reached 41 degrees centigrade. That is very hot. It was 37 degrees in the shade and not much under that in our bedroom.

The patron of the hotel collects miniature bottles.

He displays them all around the hotel.  

He says he has 12,000 of them. 

 I haven't counted them. 

I decided to just believe him. 

It was too hot to haggle.