Monday, 27 March 2017

Teapot and tins

I was browsing last week in the local 'vintage' charity shop, which can be quite expensive, but I found three things for the boat which weren't, very.
I had to ask myself if I really needed another brown enamel teapot, but I couldn't resist this one - its unusual shape and excellent condition - and only £4 so I had to have it.

And then there were a couple of tins. A 1953 Coronation sweetie tin
and a 1935 George V Silver Jubilee tin
I'd already packed them in the car when I though of taking photos of them, so I snapped them in situ, sitting atop my historic British Waterways holdall.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Where to next?

I wasn't going to select my next random destination until after I'd written the very last Saltaire post. However, in was in the pub on Tuesday (the very good Rutland Arms, even if they do have rather a posey website) with a couple of friends, and I was explaining the Big Days Out concept, in the course of which I showed them how I set to choose a number between 101 and 186 for me. It then would have seemed churlish not to ask one of them to hit the button to determine the next port of call, which I then cross referenced with the Town Class Sticker Album.

And oh dear. If Saltaire was a really lucky first pick, this one's going to be a lot harder. Until I looked it up I had only the vaguest idea of where it is (other than a long way away). It's a small place, and doesn't seem to be famous for anything, unless you count golf, which is not something I can get passionate about. I guess I may have to learn, as that is, in part at least, what the Big Day Out is all about. The station could be interesting, as it might (according to Wikipedia) be the oldest in the country. It's going to take me around five and a quarter hours to get there (but only one change; Sheffield's a handy place to start, being on the Cross Country route) and will cost me £120. So I could get there and back in a day and still have about five hours to explore...

It may be a while before I get round to this one though, as there's a bit of boating to do first...

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Saltaire summary

For each Big Day Out I shall create one final post with links to all the others, which will then be listed in the widget to the right.

My Saltaire sortie will probably turn out to be one of the cheaper ones, coming out under fifty pounds in total, made up as follows:
Off-peak day return train fare from Sheffield: £12.50
Shipley Glen Tramway day ticket £2
Tramway history book £2
Ice cream £1.80
First ice cream of the year
Concert ticket £10
Concert tea and cake £3.50
Raffle tickets (non-winning) £1
Dinner and drinks (approx) £16

I got a Cross Country service from Sheffield to Leeds, and Northern from there to Saltaire. On the way back I should have caught the train at Shipley, but missed it, so David kindly gave me a lift to Bradford to pick one up there. The outward journey took just over an hour.

Other posts:
Trains and stations
The journey there (and Saltaire station)
Roberts Park
Saltaire village
The Shipley Glen Tramway
Saltaire in sanitaryware
Salts Mill steps
The arcana of the cinema organ
The Saltaire Wurlitzer
The concert

Friday, 24 March 2017

In concert

Saltaire's Victoria Hall was opened in 1871 as the Saltaire Institute. Work had begun on building it four years previously, and the cost was £25,000.
The outside is stunning, and the interior is beautifully restored and maintained.

But I wasn't there for the architecture - at least not primarily. I was there for this:
And so were these people, who started gathering well in advance of the two o'clock advertised 'doors open' time.
I have to say that the policy of admitting under-25s for free is unlikely to bankrupt the Cinema Organ Society any time soon. Indeed, they could raise it to fifty with no discernable effect on their revenue. Which is both a shame, and an inexplicable one. I mean, you can understand the cinema organ being more popular with people who remember it from their youth, but for it to have no traction at all not only with teenagers, but even with middle aged people like I must now be... Maybe it's since Radio 2 moved The Organist Entertains (my introduction to the genre) to its 11 pm graveyard slot some years ago.

David also made an interesting point - that children of his generation (which was just about one before mine) were privileged in having a contstant stream and variety of good quality music piped via the wireless into their homes as they grew up, when the Light Programme (later to become Radio 2) broadcast live performances of a range of different musical genres. (They also got all the National Health orange juice of course, sweet rationing, and real food, whereas my generation was raised on Findus Crispy Pancakes and Angel Delight.)

Anyway, back to the Victoria Hall and Nicholas Martin. For the first half I sat three rows back from the front , having first collected my cup of tea and slice of buttered Yorkshire teabread and chatted to a couple of other audience members - one of whom (rightly) confided to me in an awed whisper that I was 'in for a treat.' I also got to eavesdrop on the men behind me talking arcanely (I wrote this down): ''s wired and winded and on the stop rail...'. I think they might have been talking about the new krumet. One of these same men caught up with me afterwards and showed me photos of the 3/4 size replica Wurlitzer console he'd built in his bedroom.

I'm actually not going to try to describe the concert, because it's impossible to convey... but one thought I had towards the end was that this is music to wallow in - not emotionally, but literally, aurally. The choice of tunes hardly matters. A nice touch, that worked really well - and also indicates that the audience was largely made up of cognoscenti - was that there were cameras trained on the organist's hands and feet, displayed on a screen to the right.
The console at Saltaire is on a hydraulic lift so that it can do the classic thing of rising up from the stage, already being played. It also of course went back the same way at the end, leading to the rather surreal scene of the MC looking down a hole saying 'Will you be doing an encore, Nick?'

In the interval I was taken down the back stairs by David and shown the organ chamber with its ranks of pipes and other things I'm afraid I can't even remember the names of (at least, not in relation to the right things). What I do remember is that it costs a thousand pounds a year just keeping it at the right temperature so that stays in tune. I snapped a few hurried photos but they really don't do it justice.

David was concerned that I might be being too blasted away by the sound to fully appreciate it from where I was sitting, so for the second half I repaired to the balcony. I must confess that my ears were not sufficiently sensitive or well trained to appreciate the difference, but it was good to have the change of scene and sample the lovely old worn red plush tip-up seats, and look down on the hall.
Looking down from the balcony in the interval
I do apologise for the poor quality snatched photos. The internet can furnish you with many much better ones.

This was of course a fabulous way to round off my first Big Day Out - which wasn't quite finished, as I then went and had tea (dinner to those of you still down south) with David who shared fascinating stories from his playing career before dashing off to catch my train back to Sheffield (and missing it, but all was right in the end).

Massive thanks to David Lowe for making it such a brilliant day.

(This post has been written to the accompaniment of The Organist Entertains via the magic of iPlayer.)

Thursday, 23 March 2017

At last: The Saltaire Wurlitzer

A terrible photo, but mine own. Many better ones are on the COS website (link below)
You probably wondered where I was going with that flight of fancy. Of course I was leading up to the high point of my trip to Saltaire: the organ concert. Saltaire's Victoria Hall has, since 2009 been home to the Wurlitzer cinema organ first installed in Oldham's Gaumont cinema in 1937 (that most significant of years) and owned, since the cinema's closure in 1961, by the Cinema Organ Society, who found it a number of different - and more or less successful - foster homes over the years. All the details, and some super photos of it in its original home, are on their website here.

I was extremely fortunate in that fellow historic boater David Lowe (Swallow and Apollo) is also a cinema organist, leading light of the Cinema Organ Society, and currently tuner of the Saltaire Wurlitzer. David wasn't playing the concert this month (although he is doing the April one) so in between operating the spotlight and checking on the organ, was able to give me a tour of its hidden workings in the interval. I am going to squeeze one more post out of this, so I'll say more about that next time :-)

In the meantime, here is a potted history of the cinema organ that David very kindly sent me when I first revealed my both unformed and uninformed fascination with this most extraordinary of instruments:

The great town hall organs became very orchestrally biased with many imitative stops.  Eccentric English organist and organ builder Robert Hope-Jones took the idea further at the turn of the last century with his organs which also had electric action (so the console could be detached from the organ itself), and even more percussions and effects.  He also advocated the unit system where one rank of pipes serves many purposes so a smaller number of pipes gives greater versatility.  His ideas were not well received in the UK so he emigrated to the USA and after some false starts ended up in partnership with the Wurlitzer company – a well established builder of high quality musical instruments.  Although intended for ballrooms, skating rinks, bars, hotels, town halls, residences, etc., an early Wurlitzer was installed in an early cinema in Chicago in 1910 and this was so successful that most Wurlitzer organs were installed in cinemas thereafter.  Though not designed (as some claim)  to accompany silent films the Wurlitzer (and other similar makes) were ideal for the purpose, far better than the church or concert type pipe organs (or harmoniums or automatic instruments, or a pianist; and cheaper than an orchestra).  With the coming of talkies only the larger  USA cinemas continued using the organs, but in the UK most unit type cinema organs were installed after the coming of talkies (i.e. post 1929), providing interval music, organ interludes etc., though it maybe that some accompanied silent films in the early 30s.  Another important use was for radio broadcasting.  Three Wurlitzer organs were installed in ballrooms in Blackpool (one post-World War 2).  Cinema organ use declined for a number of reasons;  post 1948 cinema audiences were falling off and many full time organists were dispensed with (but ABC Cinemas carried on with a reduced number), and some continued part time.  In the 1960s there was a bit of a revival until removal of organs began in earnest as cinemas closed or were twinned etc.  In the USA the revival was prompted by the early 1950 s ‘hi-fi’ stereo LP records by organists such as George Wright, and by the late 1950s and 60s organs were being re-installed in pizza restaurants, public halls and private residences  or restored in situ – similar over here but not, regrettably, the restaurants – not sure why. The Blackpool Tower ballroom Wurlitzer carried on but with the massive decline in ballroom dancing (now only for aficionados rather than the general public) its use is very much less and numbers on the dance floor very small.  

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Other people's arcana: the cinema organ

When I was a child, and there wasn't much on the telly, sometimes I would be up early on a Sunday morning, before the rest of the household had stirred, and I would watch the Open University. It was invariably someone demonstrating mathematics and I just loved letting the incomprehensibility of it wash over me.

People are passionate about all sorts of different things. Most of those passions I don't share; many I can't even comprehend; some I have an interest in; a curiosity about. But whatever it is you're obsessed with, I get it; I respect it; I admire it. I am passionate about narrow boats (ok, a small subset of them). Other people are passionate about trains, or buses, or the Archers, or Scott Walker - so that I don't have to be (my brain would explode). And I am very, very glad that there are people out there whose passion is cinema organs. Because without them, we wouldn't have any, just as we wouldn't have steam locomotives or big Woolwiches. And they are such extraordinary, marvellous, and almost pointless, things.

They don't transport you from A to B; they don't provide clean water; a Mighty Wurlitzer never, ever, carried goods around the country; you can't even take one on holiday. They provide music, for entertainment - just as countless other instruments and electrical and electronic devices can. They do it at great cost, in terms of space, time and money. If they were animals, they would long be extinct. They are complex, massive, delicate, expensive, greedy, scary... and quite fabulous.

Here is (are?) the arcana. This 'simple glossary' is, in fact, a failsafe way to recreate that Sunday morning Open University feeling. And - on a serious, and professional, note - brings home just how easy it is to forget that something familiar and easy to you (me), whether that be historic narrow boats or Marxist theory, is a foreign language to the uninitiated. Fortunately for me, I don't have to learn it; I can just revel in it. And that's before we've even heard the organ played. That's just the poetry of the naming of its parts.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Following in the footsteps

The steps leading up to the street from Salts Mill, worn by hundreds of feet every day, thousands if not millions over the years. And I very much doubt whether they are the original ones.

You know sometimes when you're working a lock, you can't help but be standing in a puddle? As Pete pointed out to me at the AGM, that's not coincidence; that's a hollow in the stome worn by the boots of those who worked the lock before you. And I find that a pretty amazing thought.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Tiles and toilets

As a boater, of course I need no excuse to introduce the subject of toilets. It is a subject quite dear to my heart, I must confess, and one that frequently haunts my dreams in quite surreal ways (and that is all I am saying on that subject).

A philosopher friend of mine once, he claimed, sought words of wisdom from a venerable and respected sage, and after this guru had thought for a few minutes, this is what he brought forth: 'You never regret going to the toilet.'

Now, I can, hypothetically, conceive of circumstances in which that might not hold true - for example, if there is an axe murderer hiding behind the cubicle door - but as a rule of thumb it has served me well. So I like toilets for their practical value; but I am also very keen on their social history and aesthetics. For example, some old pubs have fabulous Victorian toilets - at least that is what men will tell you. But the ladies' will be sadly disappointing, often a 1960s adjunct - because when the originals were built, ladies didn't go in pubs.

So, when I go off on my travels, I am going to see whether I can find any interesting loos to report on. Not quite in Lucinda Lambton's league, but the third and fourth division of conveniences.

And I struck quite lucky in Saltaire. Firstly, I visited the toilets in Salts Mill. And when I say firstly, I do mean as soon as I got there. Having been there before, I knew this was a safe bet. The sanitaryware itself was very modern, as befits a recently renovated and repurposed building, but the tiles - or in this case, I think, glazed bricks - were rather good.

The basins were very new, but I rather liked them.
It was at the Victoria Hall that I struck sanitaryware gold though. Not original Victorian, but lovely thirties-ish tiles,
and even toilets.
Look at that fabulous cistern. I think it was porcelain, although it might have been enamel. And that pedastal. And what en excellent flush you would get with the help of all that gravity. I do wonder, in these days of saving water and using it more effectively, why the high level cistern hasn't made a comeback.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

The Shipley Glen Tramway

And so to the Glen Tramway, Shipley's premier visitor attraction (if you don't count Saltaire, which I suspect the residents would prefer to categorise as a separate place); a small thing, with a long history, and, it seems, two competing websites - beware, only the latter is approved by the Trustees!
The Tramway was opened in 1895, to carry visitors up the hill to what was then a very popular spot for picnicking and promenading - only the steep ascent deterred people. Initially the fare was 1d each way, but people were inclined(!) to take the tram up and walk down, which meant the tram cars were unbalanced and this put additional wear on the mechanism, so the downhill fare was reduced to a halfpenny. It doesn't appear to be recorded whether this had the desired effect. The fare is now a very reasonable £1 each way, or £2 for unlimited travel for a day (I think you would get your full entertainment value out of this quite quickly).
The tram car is hauled up the hill on a rope made of steel with a hemp core, winding round a drum under the floor of the Top Station, from where the 'driver' controls it. Since an almost nasty accident in 1966 in which someone hurt their ankle, caused by the driver feeling peculiar and stepping out for some air, the controls have been fitted with a dead man's handle, and buffers installed at the bottom, so you can ride with confidence.

The motive power was originally provided by a gas engine supplied by John Robson of Shipley. The proprieters of Saltaire would not allow mains town gas to be piped across the park to the tramway, so it had its own gas plant for a number of years. Eventually it was supplied from the gasholder at Saltaire, but in 1915 was converted to run on oil - probably paraffin (hooray! It's a long time since that's had a mention on the blog). This was relatively short-lived, with an electric motor being installed in 1928, lasting for nearly forty years until it was irreparably damaged by vandalism and theft during one of the Tramway's very few and brief periods of disuse in 1967. It now has a new electric motor.

I eventually found the Bottom Station after a few fruitless detours through the car parks of Shipley. There's a small 'museum' here - basically a nice little collection of old tins and adverts in a shop setting. Passengers were outnumbered by volunteers when I arrived and I rode up the hill (top photo) almost alone (and I think the other three passengers were all volunteers).

There is not much to do at the top, other than go down. You can buy sweets in the shop, or make a selection from some rather sad looking postcards
Or you can promenade. I had planned to eat my lunch at the top, and so I did, but there was nowhere to sit (I had hoped at least for a bench) so I ate it standing up. Once a decent period had elapsed (about five minutes) I headed back to the station for the down hill journey.
Crowds of passengers had suddenly appeared, and on the way back down, the tram was full. In the shop I purchased, for £2, a copy of The Shipley Glen Tramway: Its Social History Since 1895 and its Mechanics by M.J. Leak (a former owner of the Tramway), first published in 2003, from where the information in this post was gleaned.

If you're in Saltaire, and especially if you have children to entertain, it can't hurt to go and have a ride. If you're a fan of historic funicular railways, you're probably already a volunteer.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

The Venice of the West Riding

According to Wikipedia, nearly forty places in northern Europe have at one time or another been called The Venice of the North. The main qualification for being likened to that unique city seems to be some buildings, and the presence of some water, and English pretenders to the title include Paddington and Birmingham.

Well, as that's not much in the way of competition, I would like to nominate Saltaire for the title. It has canals (ok, a canal and a river); it has campaniles. And it has lions. I don't think Paddington has lions. (Although it does of course have a bear.)

Saltaire's lions are lovely. There are four of them, although I only photographed two. They are called War, Peace, Determination and Vigilance, and were originally commissioned from the scuptor, Thomas Milnes of London, to go at the base of Nelson's column. Some versions of the story have Milnes's lions being rejected for being too small - and the commision went to Landseer, whose lions were indeed bigger, and bronze - but arguably not as leonine and to my eyes certainly not as characterful. Anyway, it seems that Sir Titus had had his eye on them in Milnes's studio and was more than happy to snap them up for Saltaire.
Here is Peace, enjoying a restful snack (or possibly doing his nails) outside the Victoria Hall, relaxing in the sun like all good lions should,

And here is Vigilance, keeping a lookout outside the former Factory School.
Did I mention that it was a lovely day?

The Victorian Web

Friday, 17 March 2017

Where the streets have no plastic windows

A fairly typical street in Saltaire. Saltaire is, in many ways, an odd place; odd in ways you can't quite put your finger on - and this is one of them. There are no uPVC double glazed windows. Not all the houses have their original windows - I would guess very few; not all the houses have windows in the original style. But there's no plastic.

This isn't just because it's a conservation area. Conservation areas are funny things - I recall from when I was on a planning authority, a conservation area made it just as hard to change a seventies replacement back to a Victorian replica as vice versa, which could be quite frustrating.

But Saltaire is a very old conservation area. Conservation areas were introduced under the Civic Amenities Act of 1967, and Saltaire was designated one in 1971 (Stamford in Lincolnshire - which is another of the Big Towns on my list - was the first). Whilst it feels as if uPVC windows have always been with us, they didn't in fact gain traction in Britain until the early 1980s. So there were none to be frozen into Saltaire's street scenes.

In 2014, the Bradford Telegraph and Argus reported a council crackdown on 'rogue doors', helpfully printing the addresses of the four offenders, presumably so that people could go and give them deprecating looks. I didn't take note of this before I went, otherwise I could have checked and reported back on whether the threats of enforcement action had been carried through. One of them was in Fanny Street. As most of the streets in Saltaire are named after members of Sir Titus' family (including himself), that's not so remarkable (she was one of his daughters), but I bet people seeking a desirable residence in Saltaire would, given the choice, rather live in any one of the other roads. Shallow and puerile it may be, but when I was looking at houses recently, if all other things had been equal I'd have paid a couple of thousand more to live in Industry Street or Freedom Road rather than spend the rest of my life giving my address as Cundy Street (as it turned out I ended up with none of these, which are all roads in the Walkley district of Sheffield).

I got the information about uPVC windows from the website of the British Plastics Federation, whose 'History of Windows' (admirably potted into a few paragraphs) also tells us that 'building down to a price rather than up to a standard post-Second World War lead [sic] to little of architectural merit in fenestration.'

Other sources:
Historic England

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

A walk in the park

On arriving in Saltaire, I first got my bearings by finding the canal. The trip boat was just leaving, but I decided against paying four quid for the half hour round trip. In fact, the boat had just left as I dithered; I considered following its route on foot, thus getting a better view (all the outside seats were taken) and saving the aforementioned four quid, but in the end I conceded that there wasn't really enough time; it being Sunday there hadn't been a sensibly early train, and I didn't arrive in the village until 11.20.
Canal without Trip Boat
So instead I went straight to Salts Mill, where I had a brief wander around, taking in the toilets (of which more anon) and the antique shop. The National dried milk tim (with 'cotton wool' scratched into its paint) was still there - at £16, not the £12 I'd remembered - but sadly the red cut glass lamp wasn't, or I'd have had it.

My next appointment was with the Shipley Glen Tramway, which opened at 12. To find that, I took a stroll through Roberts Park (and a few unintended detours, which are par for the course when I'm navigating). This was originally Saltaire Park, built along with the village for the healthy enjoyment of the workers, but became Roberts Park in 1920, when the Roberts family donated it to the local council in memory of their son Bertram.
A large sign sets down the rules of the park as set down by Sir Titus Salt (sadly now superceded), which include:
  • Visitors are not to interfere with the cannons or the flag pole, nor to touch the trees, shrubs, plants of flowers, now to throw or leave about any orange peel or other refuse...
  • No shooting no discharge or firearms of any kind, except by members of the Rifle Corps when on drill, and no bonfire or fireworks will be permitted without the permission in writing of the Firm.
  • Stone throwing, disorderly and indecorous conduct, profane and indecent language, gambling, pitch and toss, and soliciting alms are strictly prohibited.
  • Smoking is not allowed in the alcoves, nor spitting on the paths.
  • The play grounds are not to be used on Sundays.
There are twenty rules in all, ensuring that the residents of Saltaire enjoyed themselves in the proper fashion.
 The original bandstand was long lost, but was replaced with a larger one as part of a four and a half million pound refurbishment in 2009. The statue was provided by Sir James Roberts (the same one who later handed over the park) in 1903, to mark the centenary of Salt's birth. Most pictures of it show his impressively bearded front view, in which he appears to be holding a scroll of paper modestly across his groin, but the sun was behind him, so I had to go for the less orthodox angle. He is surrounded by various sheep, goats, alpacas and other wool-bearing animals from which he made his fortune.
On one side the park is bounded by the River Aire, which separates it from the village and the mill.
It was certainly a lovely day for it.

More photos and info here (which is where I got most of my info from)

Tuesday, 14 March 2017


Usually when I'm on a train I'm not that bothered about having a clear view out of the window; even less which direction I'm facing. Just give me an aisle seat, airline style, and I'm happy; extra legroom and I'm delerious. Normally I'd have my nose in a book for the entire journey.

But Sunday was a bit different; I wanted to savour every bit of the trip, including the journey. Unfortunately, I didn't think of that until I'd chosen my seat, which did not have good window access. This was a Cross Country train with the notorious Virgin windows and I was in the worst possible spot for looking out. Nonetheless I craned my neck and did my best. Almost invariably when I leave Sheffield I'm heading south, so this was different from the start; deep, stone-lined cuttings, green and wet, interspersed with tunnels. Over the Don and through Attercliffe; a sea of factories, steel mills and scrap heaps - but how many of them still operating? 'Special Steels Limited: Long Bar Treatment'.  Lots of cleared sites too; places in the throes of demolition, and new housing on virtuous brownfield land.  Past the sewage works, through a disused station, red brick, five minutes out of Sheffield - what was that? Ten minutes before we reach the suburbs, then green fields; glimpses of canal. Spring sun emerging and the sky turning blue. Change at Leeds and run with the canal now for a way; I'm standing at the doors now looking out like a kid. Flashes of river, a tunnel and we arrive at Saltaire.

The station itself is characterless, rebuilt in 1984 almost two decades after it was closed, with hardly anything of the original remaining. Here's one old photo - the buildings were demolished in 1970, five years after it was closed. Quite a few people got off - I suppose the first sunny Sunday of spring brought them out - so I didn't stop to take any pictures on the platform. Here's what it looked like from the road above:
And the other side:
I didn't come back from Saltaire. I planned to come back from Shipley, but I didn't come back from Shipley either - having gone there for a bite to eat at teatime I managed to miss my train despite a mad dash for the station that got me there moments before it should have left (but with no sign of it in sight) I ended up getting a lift to Bradford Interchange and catching the Leeds train there. I'd never been to Bradford before.
The return fare was £12.50. I suspect this will turn out to be one of the cheapest of my Big Days Out.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Back on track

I love railway stations.* I love the sense they always give me of setting off for somewhere; the potential for adventure.
When I worked in Huddersfield, which is ten years ago now, I would get the train to Victoria, and then the tube to Kings Cross. People from all over the world would be milling around, speaking dozens of different languages, both travellers and residents of the most diverse city in the world. But none of that gave me the same thrill as the broad Yorkshire accent of the red-faced guard, straight out of central casting, who was frequently in charge of the GNER train I was catching to Wakefield. It was that voice that told me I was going somewhere; somewhere new and different. I still love to watch the landscape changing from a train window, whether I am travelling north or south, but there is still something about the stations themselves.
I love the architecture and the engineering, living history in iron and glass.
And I'm sure it's wrought iron, too, in this one.
I love the prosaic exoticism of the lists of stations that I shall probably never visit, each of them home to hundreds of people I shall never meet.
I love the numbers and the patterns, the lists and the things you can remember. I could so easily have been a trainspotter, if someone had introduced me to it at an impressionable age.
And I particularly liked this announcement board at Leeds last night, which gave the time of the train at each intermediate station. I hope that's something that will be rolled out more widely.

*Except Birmingham New Street, of course.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

One down, 85 to go

 Yes, I finally made it to Saltaire. I had a splendid day, and I have only just got back, so more (at length) anon.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

One for the road

Every now and again I have a burning question I need to ask about roads. Like why does the two lane A42 become the M42 at an apparently arbitrary point after which it continues with two lanes for many further miles? And I always turn to SABRE, the Society for All British and Irish Road Enthusiasts. I suspect the Irish must have arrived at the party after the acronym had been joyously pounced upon and the logo designed. If you are the sort of person who likes that sort of thing, it is a delight. They have a forum, in which they set each other quizzes, such as 'guess the road number' or 'identify fourteen badly drawn bridges' and get excited about rare street lamps.

It's a mine of information about roads, their history, their numbering (and its anomalies!) and an absolute must whether you like roads or simply enjoy immersion in other people's arcana.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Single handing through life

My first real single handed trip last autumn gave me time to do a lot of thinking. A lot of that was making up a fairy story, but thats another... well, another story.

Single handing was a very positive, and, dare I say it (because of the very real risk of sounding tossy), even a profound experience, which, I realised, provided a lot of useful parallels with life in gereral, especially for someone like me who has never felt entirely at ease in the social world.

Whe I got back, I jotted down a few of those points, and I recently came across that notebook again. This is a very personal take on things, but these are some of the things single-handing means to me, whether it be in boating or in life:
  • Embracing solitude and finding strength in it.
  • Enjoying meeting other people and spending time with them, but not being dependent on them.
  • Taking responsibility for everything I do.
  • Standing up for doing things the way I know, or feel, to be right.
  • Being self-reliant, but...
  • Asking for help when it's really needed, and...
  • Accepting help gracefully even when it's not.
  • Appreciating the moment.
  • Setting my own boundaries and being clear about them.
  • Setting my own pace and not being rushed.
What lessons from boating would you carry over into life in general?

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Local interest

There are many excellent pubs in Sheffield. But for the four and a half years I have lived here, in leafy Broomhill, I have not had a decent local.

If things go according to plan, that might be about to change...

Monday, 6 March 2017

There are 10 sorts of people in the world...

... in the words of the old (well, relatively, I guess) joke.*

And I was led to wonder at the weekend which category I fitted in. Well, strictly speaking, I know, but more broadly, whether I would be classified as someone who knows about/can use a computer.

And I was wondering because our esteemed Chair, on Saturday, perpetuated that well known preconception that if you want anything done that involves a computer, then you need a young person. People seem to have been saying this for nearly as long as I can remember; since I, in fact, was myself a young person. It so happened that I was sitting next to a person who probably knew more about computers than anyone else in the room; he is in his sixties.  And I thought to myself, why does this idea, that might once have had some currency, persist so strongly?

Sure, young people can text with two thumbs, Instagram their breakfast, and conduct their social and sex lives online. But swiping a smartphone or tapping an app is no more using a computer than putting a ready meal in the microwave is cooking. And anyway, what is 'using a computer'? Does it mean being able to program one? In which case someone in their fifties might well have the edge over the younger generation. When I was at school, computers were The Future, and it was widely believed that we would all need to be able to program. Leaving aside that I was not a maths superstar (sadly) and one lunchbreak spent in a stuffy prefab classroom with smelly Mr Amor watching a gaggle of boys hunched over the school's one Acorn or BBC Micro or whatever it was was enough to convince me that this was not where my future lay (at least I tried!), the principles still underpinned much of the maths we did and what we were expected to understand (which is why I fall into the category* I do).  But then along came Apple, and Windows, and suddenly you didn't need to know how a computer worked in order to be able to use one, and so arguably the younger generation know less, not more, about such things. But when I ran this theory past a colleague today, she suggested that schoolkids are, once again, learning to code; this time so that they can all become games designers.

That is, in any case, mostly irrelevant, because when people say we need a young person to do this computery thing, they don't mean they need someone to program it; they mean they need someone to operate a software package. There are a vast number of things a computer can be made to do, and no one (at least, no one in HNBC) has mastered all of them. But most people who have had any sort of white collar job over the past thirty years will have mastered some of them, and the older of us will have had more practice and been exposed to a wider variety of packages and ways of doing things.

That was a bit of a rant that's not going anywhere really, but was just sparked by realising how absurd that well worn claim is. If it was ever true, I'm sure it isn't now.  What do you think?

* Those who understand binary and those who don't.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

The first day of Spring

The sun was shining as I got out of the car outside Lapworth Village Hall, and I thought, this is what marks the end of the winter and the first green shoots of hope for the summer ahead: the HNBC AGM. Just as the November Social wraps up the boating season and is a chance to recap on the summer's boating just gone, and say au revoir to boating friends for the winter, the AGM sees us say hello again, pick up the conversations where we left off, and the plans made over the winter for the year's boating to come start to feel real.

So I do like the AGM. This year there were no contentious motions, and no contested elections (I miss being on the committee though, and knowing what goes on behind the scenes). I chatted with lots of people, and bought some books. The guest speaker was Julie Sharman, head of CRT's Asset Management. Asset Management is a more interesting subject than you might think, but not as interesting as the slideshow of old boatyard invoices we had in November.

Phil made an appeal for additional volunteers to help with the tea, but my HazChem training's not up to date so I had to decline.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Badge of honour

The other week, Sebastian dug out an old cello case from when he was a lot younger, and it had a collection of badges on it. And among them was this one, which I shall wear with pride whislt boating...

It would be nice to have an adult one too though...

Thursday, 2 March 2017

A few deletions - and an addition

I've finally got round to tidying up the blogrolls, and getting rid of the moribund blogs that haven't posted for years. It's a shame, but in line with a decline in blogging generally, a lot of boat blogs - especially old boat blogs - seem to have fallen by the wayside. I've also mover the - now much shorter - 'old boats' blogroll above the much longer gereral one. This is purely for my convenience, so I don't have to scroll right down to see the new posts each day.

However - there is a bright spot, and it's what propmted this little sort out - thanks to Alan for drawing my attention to Enceladus' new blog. Great writing, Grand Unions and greyhounds - what more could anyone ask?

And I - along with Alan - played a small part in the unfolding of this story.