Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Sunday, 13 December 2015

St Lucy's Day

After the dreadful weather in the north of England I offer the following to brighten up your day.
Last year I wrote a piece about St. Lucia Day in Sweden which you can re-read here if you wish. Following that post I was admonished by one of my regular readers for missing the most important element of the festival: it is all about light and the celebrations start before dawn. As I write this  it is dark and I humbly offer a potted version of that post today to make ammends.

St. Lucia for Dummies
View the film here to understand all that I failed to convey in my original post.

Then watch this charming amateur film and wait for the rendering of Rudolf

Saturday, 21 November 2015

EU Bull-Fighting Subsidy

In 2013 a team of Spanish MEPs estimated that the EU Common Agricultural Policy was worth £110 million to the farms that raised bulls for bull fighting. Three weeks ago 438 MEPs out of 687 voted  for an amendment to the budget that Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funds “should not be used for the financing of lethal bullfighting activities”, adding that such funding “is a clear violation of the European Convention for the Protection of Animals Kept for Farming Purposes”.
This should mean the end of CAP support for Spanish bull fighting. However, the devil is in the detail as it always is.  The inclusion of the word lethal in this amendment could mean that these subsidies may continue in Portugal where the bull is not killed.
Whatever your view of bull-fighting ,the use of agricultural subsidies to support it does seem tenuous. I wonder if race-horse breeders also receive CAP subsidies.
The budget now goes to the European Commission for consideration where the amendment could be deleted.  So it's wait and see time again.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Handel & Hendrix

I heard on the news last night that the house in Brook St, London where Jimi Hendrix lived is to be made into a museum. This seems a good time to re-publish my blog post from five years ago........
14 September 2010
Handel & Hendrix
Apart from their alphabetical proximity in the dictionary of music, George Fredrick Handel and 'Jimi' Hendrix were close in another way: They both lived for a time in Brook Street, London.
When Jimi moved into the top floor flat of 23 Brook Street in 1967 there was a blue plaque on the front of the building commemorating the previous tenant - G. F. Handel. Whether this had any bearing on his seeing Handel's ghost I could only speculate. However, Handel actually lived next door at 25: The plate has now been moved and Jimi has his own plate. Two weeks ago I had a hospital appointment in London and took the opportunity to visit the Hendrix in Britain exhibition at the Handel House Museum, which celebrates the 40th anniversary of Jimi's death.
The museum receptionist enquired whether I had come for the Hendrix exhibition or the Handel museum which I considered a little presumptuous on her part. I may have been in a minority having both sung The Messiah in St. Paul's Cathedral for Radio 2 and also seen Jimi Hendrix perform at the California Ballroom, Dunstable. However enjoyment of the two styles of music are not mutually exclusive. Amongst the things I learned at the exhibition was where I was on the evening of 28 October 1967?! I well remembered the night but not the date.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Landmark Trust on TV

Channel 4 have made a series about the work of The Landmark Trust  which will start at 8pm on Wednesday 14 October and run for six weeks

The series will follow the restorations of Belmont and St Edward’s Presbytery, as well as the history behind several other Landmarks. The stories will be told by  Alastair Dick-Cleland - Conservation Manager and Surveyor, John Evetts - Furnishings Manager and Anna Keay – Director.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

(Who was?) Kathleen Ferrier

1953 was a year of celebration for Britain: The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II; the conquering of Mount Everest by Sir Edmund Hilary and Sherpa Ten-sing; and my success in the sack race at primary school for which I received a  *Matchbox model of the Coronation Coach. All these events had a lasting impact on life in Britain: my contribution was the perfection of the technique of pushing my feet into the corners of the sack which allowed me to walk (albeit like a bandy-legged lady in a pencil skirt) rather than to jump.
But on October 8th the country was plunged into mourning with the death of the greatest contralto this country has produced. Sixty two years ago today Kathleen Ferrier died in London from breast cancer. at the age of 41 after ten years of phenomenal success. As a teenager I  was frequently moved to tears on hearing her rendition in English of What is life to me?  (listen here)   from Gluck's Orfeo & Euridce. Her unaccompanied rendition of the Northumbrian folk song Blow the Wind Southerly (listen here) was  a popular request on the BBC Light Programme in the 1950s and 1960s.
Kathleen's birthplace
Kathleen was born in Higher Walton near Preston but she did not  begin her career as a singer. She was a keen member of the school choir but even then she had a big voice and she was usually asked just to stand at the back and sing quietly. Her mother, keen to encourage Kathleen’s musical interest, arranged piano lessons for her and, as a talented young pianist of only 14 she passed the final grade of the Associated Board of the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal College of Music
Kathleen left school at 14 and went to work for the GPO in Blackburn, first in the telegrams department and then as a switchboard operator. In July 1930, at the age of 18, she took part in her first concert as a pianist, which was broadcast from Manchester.  In 1935 she married Albert Wilson and had to leave her job as the GPO did not employ married women. Albert was moved to Silloth, on the Cumbrian coast, to manage a local bank and Kathleen gave piano lessons to the local children. When she entered the prestigious Carlisle Festival in 1937 as a pianist, her husband bet her a shilling (5p)that she dare not enter for the singing contest as well as the piano prize. Kathleen accepted the challenge, entered the contralto solo class and not only carried off both trophies, but won the first prize for the best singer at the Festival. Carlisle was a turning point, and this brilliant new singer was in great demand. In 1939 she made her first radio broadcast as a singer.  Most of her subsequent career is well documented and I am not reprinting it here. However one aspect which seems to have evaded most historians, and indeed also The Kathleen Ferrier Society, is that when she was working in Blackburn she would cycle to Withnell Fold on a Saturday evening (when she was not needed as accompanist at King George's Hall in Blackburn) to play piano for the village dance.
The Old Reading Room, Withnell Fold

The dances took place on the upper (sprung) floor of the  reading room  which had been built for the residents when the village was established in 1843 for the workers at the new paper mill.

Here she met a local resident, Albert Wilson.

I was relating this tale at an illustrated talk I gave a few months ago and afterwards a chap, aged about 40, approached me and asked  
Who was Kathleen Ferrier?

As we are currently living in Preston for a while we made a trip out to Higher Walton to see the Kathleen Ferrier Memorial Gardens.

 What a disappointment this was.

Higher Walton seems to have forgotten Kathleen Ferrier
The site is a disgrace and its neglect an insult to the memory of this great singer.

I am writing to the parish council and I hope others will too

Pedants will have noted that at this time Lesney did not use the Matchbox brand name: these models were labelled A Moko  toy by Lesney made in England
From time to time I wondered why my coach was silver and others appeared gold until I realised that the silver plating was apt to tarnish.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015


After ten years living aboard Gecko and cruising each year from March - November, we have decided to spend the winter months ashore. To facilitate that we have sold the house we let for holidays in Bath and are looking for a bungalow  in Lancashire. In the meantime we are renting a flat in an old cotton mill in Preston.

Centenary Mill was built in 1895 by Horrocks Ltd to celebrate their centenary.
Horrockses Fashion Off the peg style in the 40's and 50's V&A

It closed in the 1960s but was converted to 180 flats about ten years ago.

This impressive  entrance hall

was originally the engine hall

Which looked like this, apparently

Wednesday, 30 September 2015


Well, it seems one of my photos has made the front cover of NABO News.  I have to admit to forgetting I had submitted it. Still, it does make an extremely good cover in my unbiased opinion.

National Association of Boat Owners  (NABO) is the paramount association representing the interests of all boat owners in Britain and in my opinion is the only one seriously holding C&RT to account.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Rainy Day in Blackburn

Why did we pick today to visit Blackburn?
Well, all over the country, except London, this weekend is Heritage Open Day   (London Open House is next weekend)

Walking the L&L towpath in pouring rain is memorable but not necessarily enjoyable.
When the sun is shining it is easy to overlook the rubbish donated to the waterway by local heathens.
But this is not the view we have ventured out for........

.......we are taking the opportunity to view the wallpapered bridge.

Local wallcovering firm, Graham & Brown, have adopted a stretch of the canal and decorated this bridge in their very personal way.

You may already have seen their decorated telephone box,.  (on the right of this picture)

After walking back to Eanam Wharf we boarded Daisy, the 1950 Leyland Tiger to dry off during a free tour of the town. I was surprised to find that the indicators are original: our first car in 1954 still had semaphore  arms. or trafficators.

We left Daisy at the university automotive centre to see what  delights they had to offer.

Amongst a small selection of  Rolls Royces and Bentleys we came across Graham & Baker wallcoverings again.

I wonder if they could decorate a narrowboat.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Toilet Talk

Traveling down the M6 a few weeks ago we stopped at Charnock Richard services to use the facilities. The ratio of toilets to hand-basins and drying facilities always fascinates me. (I have a very sad life). Once upon a time we had time and motion men in industry but these skills are now seemingly done either by computers or idiots. Consider this set up:
12 urinals
12 cubicles
12 wash stations each with a tap
2 hand dryers
Perhaps it was designed by a lady who wanted men to share in the queuing experience.

On a brighter note, the Wetherspoons pub in Preston - The Twelve Tellers - has some lovely tiles

Twelve Tellers Preston

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Burnley Canal Festival

This weekend is the canal festival at Weavers' Triangle in Burnley. As we were  passing through on Friday evening we noticed the Liverpool Short Boat Kennet moored on the wharf  so on Saturday morning we took the bus from Preston to Burnley. One hour 45 minutes: interesting ride but not a journey to do twice in a day.

Kennet was built in 1947  to carry freight between Liverpool and the Pennines. It is 61'6" long so fits very snugly into the locks.
It was taken out of service in the 1960s and is now used as a peripatetic school room.

We were welcomed by a brass band which was surprising as we had not announced our intention of attending the festival.

There were plenty of things for children to spend their parents' money on and some for adults too.

But support from the boating community was very disappointing.  Apart from Kennet, there were two boats from Hapton hire fleet with Lee, the owner; the Tug Anna and nb Black Sabbath.

Five years ago we spent about a week cruising with  Alan onTug Anna whilst she was being filmed for a German TV programme. This can now be viewed on YouTube   Gecko has been edited out of the final broadcast version, however. 

We enjoyed catching up with all of these who we knew from our  winters in Reedley Marina but by lunchtime we were ready to return to Preston by rail.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

What's In a Name?

A few years ago BW renamed Kegworth Deep Lock as they considered it too scary for  novice boaters. It was christened Kegworth New Lock although there is nothing new about it.
Perhaps these unhappy hirers might have taken more care  last week with their Wyvern Shipping cruiser had the name not been changed.
Photo courtesy of Narrowboatworld.com