Friday, 31 August 2012

Sex Change at the Tin Tabernacle

The 26 Cheshire Locks from Wheelock, near Sandbach, to Red Bull, near Kidsgrove have become known as Heartbreak Hill. Since the 1830s, however, when most of the locks had duplicates built alongside them this has hardly been an appropriate nickname. Not only did this improve the flow of goods in and out of Stoke-on-Trent but also reduced the likelihood of a lock of water being wasted.
The most efficient use of locks occurs when one boat ascending is followed by one descending but this cannot be relied on to occur so  the pairing of locks increases the chance of a lock being set to suit the next boat going up or down.
This principle was not understood by British Waterways during the water shortage last year as they closed one of each pair in the Hillmorton flight. I wonder if the new Canal and Rivers Trust which has assumed responsibility for the English waterways will have a better understanding.  After lock 57 there are two locks which were never paired and this is where we stopped for a few days, near the village of Hassall Green. We always find something to interest us wherever we stop and this is no exception. 
First on the list was a visit to  The Romping Donkey . A pub with a name like that has got to be interesting! It is in the process of being restored after a change of ownership and some major demolition work. Rumour has it that the new owner was fined £40,000 for unauthorised demolition of a listed building. Hopes for a sympathetic restoration were enhanced, however,  by watching two men from the Peak District building a new dry-stone wall around the perimeter of the property.  The local stone is sandstone so the style varies a little from the more commonly seen constructions in limestone. But a pretty job just the same.
A stroll in the opposite direction brought us to St. Philip's Church. This charming church is known locally as the Little Pink Church. It was repainted by a grateful wedding couple in 2001
Constructed in corrugated iron, it would have been a Tin Tabernacle to those who built it back in the 1880's.
It started life with a different name and a differed location.  It was originally in Crewe Road, Alsager and was then St. Mary's church.  In 1883 it was brought to Hassall Green on a horse and cart and re-erected on the present site.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Time to Make Sundays More Special

Today is the eighteenth anniversary of the Sunday Trading Act and to celebrate

I am returning to that subject by reprinting my post from March this year.
On the 25th August 1994 the British supermarkets like Tesco which had been flouting the Shops Act conditions relating to trading on Sundays won a victory for bully-boy tactics. Since that date the Sunday Trading Act has permitted stores of more than 3000 sq ft to sell anything they choose for six hours between 10am and 6pm. This change was opposed at the time by Waitrose, M&S and House of Fraser amongst others The argument which won the day was that with so many women working the opportunity to buy groceries needed to be expanded: an argument John Major the Prime Minister accepted.
However,it is now possible to shop online and receive all your Tesco groceries at your front door at an agreed time. For those without a computer it is also possible in most parts of the country to shop in a supermarket non stop from 8am Monday to midnight Saturday so why do we need supermarkets open on Sundays at all? Surely the likes of Tesco have shot a hole in their own argument.
Some of you will recognise the above text from a few years ago but I am revisiting the subject because there is a proposal for the Sunday Trading Act 1994to be relaxed for eight weeks this summer to allow foreign visitors to spend more money here during the Olympics and Diamond Jubilee.  Whist I have no objection to a temporary measure such as this I suspect it will be the thin edge of the wedge.  It will of course be supported by the major supermarkets with equally spurious arguments as 18 years ago.  
Is it a co-incidence that Tesco has just posted the worst profit figures since 1994?  Recognise that date?  
Over the last six months Tesco sales declined 0.5% whilst Sainsbury's increased 1.9%
At 22 January the  market share of the  grocery trade was as follows
Tesco   -   29.9%
ASDA   -   17.5%
Sainsbury   -   16.7%
Morrisonss   -   12.3%
Co-Op   -   7.0%
Waitrose   -   4.3%  
Aldi   -   3.5%
Lidl   -   2.5%
Iceland   -   2.1%
The only one to have lost share was Tesco.
I expect the supermarkets will claim that opening all day Sunday will increase sales but how can that be?  Are people currently starving because they cannot shop all day on Sunday?   In the current economic climate it would be irresponsible to encourage unnecessary spending. By closing all supermarkes on Sunday costs would be reduced without affecting sales. And more people would be able to enjoy a peaceful family day instead of working.
I think it is time to claim back Sunday as a day for relaxation and contemplation by repealing the Sunday Trading Act 1994.
Perhaps Tesco would like to take the initiative and start closing their shops on Sundays after they have fleeced the foreign visitors this summer. If they also restricted the sale of Hot Cross Buns to the appropriate time of the year they might help to re-establish British culture rather than destroy it. 
As I suspected, there are suggestions that the relaxed regulations during the Olympics might be made permanent.  When will our representatives in parliament stop treating those who elected them as fools? 

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Unexpected Meetings - Happy and Sad

Last year we attended the Ricky Canal Festival an integral part of which is the tug-of-war which takes place between various pairs of boats.  The highlight for us was the battle between business partners John and Derek on their Stewarts & Lloyds tugs Pacific and Atlantic  respectively.

It was their first such encounter and the victor was Derek on Atlantic

I am not sure how he managed to get so much fuel into the engine but it did the trick.

Last week as we were returning from a farewell dinner with Norman and Margaret - who are selling their boat and returning to Canada - we came across Atlantic in Middlewich and had a chat with Derek and Sue.
A few days ago we were moored at Kings Lock having some work done on Gecko and we were hailed by a couple on a boat waiting to ascend the lock, And lo! there were Jean and Mark on Ardanza.  Haven't seen them for five years when they first moved onto the boat in Sawley Marina. 
Six years ago on our first journey to the Leeds & Liverpool canal for our son's wedding we stopped a few days in Nantwich and were chatting with a chap on his boat - Dame Edith - he was waiting for his son to arrive.  He came from Rochdale and  knowing we were new to the L&L he sat down with us and went through's the route, marking the good and bad moorings etc.  On our return from the wedding we saw him briefly on the Middlewich Arm.  We did not see the boat again until three years ago when it was moored in Hapton.  Tonight, just as The Archers finished on Radio Four it came past us and we dashed out to say hello. It was being driven by the son  and we leaned the sad news that his father had died two years ago.  He suffered a heart attack whilst preparing to enter one of the Wigan locks and fell overboard. We shall not forget the kindness he showed us

Monday, 20 August 2012

Olympic Opening Ceremony - The Secrets

The secrets behind that jaw-dropping Olympic opening ceremony. For many, it was the most stunning and captivating opening ceremony to any Olympic Games.
More than one billion people around the world watched Danny Boyle's astonishing and fantastical journey through British history which kicked off the London 2012 Games.
The theatrical tour de force included a series of dazzling spectacles, from a 40ft oak tree rising serenely from a grassy mound, to a towering 18metre Voldemort character roaming around the stage.
Even Her Majesty the Queen featured in the show - apparently parachuting into the Olympic stadium in Stratford , east London .
Today we can reveal  (courtesy of another Peter) some of the secrets and technical achievements - until now have been shrouded in the strictest secrecy - which it took to produce this breath-taking performance.
The 40ft model of an oak tree that rose above the grassy mound representing Glastonbury Tor) in the opening ceremony was made of steel and fibreglass, and was lifted by a winch. Inside the mound two spiral staircases allowed actors to emerge from the ground. Around it, 79,000sq ft of real grass and wildflowers adorned a stage set 11.5ft above the stadium floor  to allow for the technical crew beneath. In total, 161,000sq ft of staging was used over the ceremony - equivalent to  12 Olympic-sized swimming pools. 
 The 18 metre Voldemort was controlled by wires from the rigging, and puppeteers under the stage using rods. Set designer Mark Tildesley was in charge of the props team which made it.
The NHS scene used 1,200 volunteers from UK hospitals, including 600 nurses. The giant baby was made from fibreglass paper. Switches lit duvets on the 320 beds.
 Thirty-two actresses were dressed as Mary Poppins to descend on wires attached to rigging which could support 25 tons (the weight of five elephants).
They carried umbrellas with lights attached - just some of the 2,000 props used over the night, from 737 suppliers.
 High-powered fans inflated the seven fabric chimneys, up to 100ft high, from trap doors in the stage. Crew kept them upright using winches while trapeze artists used gears and pulleys to secure them from a mesh of wires suspended over the stadium. Alongside them, five 32ft long, 9ft-wide steam engines made of steel, aluminium and wood were assembled by ten crew members to help represent the Industrial Revolution.
Amber lights lit in sequence created the illusion of a 100ft molten steel river, with pyrotechnic smoke and 'dry ice' as the steam. The steel 'flowed' into a 39ft diameter trough to form an aluminium ring, which was raised to join four other rings flying in on cables to form the Olympic symbol 328ft above the stadium. The 30-second shower of sparks was real, with actors and crew protected with fireproof costumes. It was masterminded by Brighton's Howard Eton Lighting, which has designed special effects for West End shows.
 Despite rumours that David Beckham wasn't actually driving the speedboat - named Max Power - that sped him down the Thames, organisers insist he was operating the controls, with other crew members on hand just for safety (though they admit he didn't dock the boat himself). Apart from close-up shots of Becks, the entire trip was filmed live, overseen by Billy Elliot director Stephen Daldry.
Stuntman Gary Connery dressed as the Queen to leap from a helicopter 550ft above the stadium. Mark Sutton, a former soldier, jumped as 007. They had taken off from Stapleford Airfield in Essex and hovered over London for 30 minutes before the jump - then landed outside the stadium, next to Anish Kapoor's steel tower.
The Windrush, representing the ship that brought the first West Indian immigrants to Britain in 1948, was assembled by hidden crew carrying four parts made of steel rods covered by fabric made to look like newspapers from the time. Wires decorated with bunting kept the ship upright, while actors on stilts played its passengers.
The 75 'dove bikes', 70 ridden by volunteers found on internet cycling forums, rehearsed in secrecy. The fabric wings had tiny LED lights and were operated by aluminium rods attached to the handlebars which riders pressed to create the flapping effect. Bob Haro, who created the flying bike scene in ET, choreographed the sequence.
The spectacular pyrotechnics finale was devised by Kimbolton Fireworks, founded by Cambridgeshire vicar and former chemistry teacher, the Reverend Ron Lancaster. The firm, now managed by his son-in-law, also devise the fireworks for the Mayor of London's annual New Year display. The pyrotechnics were transported to the stadium by canal barges. (Yippee!)

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Catch 22

Welcome to Follower No 22
No membeership card;
No discount vouchers;
No free legal services;
No secret handshake;
No travel insurance.
Just the satisfaction of making a lonely blogger happy.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Apologies to Middlewich

I have been taken to task for denigrating Middlewich and I feel perhaps some redress is called for. One saving characteristic in an otherwise uninspiring town is that not all the interesting buildings have been demolished yet and many have found new uses.

The Alhambra has found a new life as a Chinese restaurant which we have not eaten in yet. The building is in need of some TLC but at least it is still standing

Next to the Tesco Express and opposite the Bull Ring where bull and bear baiting took place until 1834 this balti house occupies what must have been a butcher's shop.

The Bull Ring used to be called King's Mexon .  The term Mexon  I believe may have refereed to a muck heap but if so would be at least 500 years old. (the term, not the dung)

The Council School no longer houses Junior Girls and Junior Boys in separate wings but is, in fact, now a secondary school. It is certainly more pleasing on the eye than the ubiquitous concrete and glass constructions of the 1960s and 1970s.

Built a little later, in 1897,  and sited more prominently in the main street, this magnificent structure housed technical schools and a free library.

The breadth of the skills taught are apparent in the  sculpted panels on the front of the building.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

A Straw Wiggo

If, as one climbs Hurleston locks, one's gaze drifts a little to the left the effort will be rewarded by a sculpture in straw bales.  When we last traveled up there the subject for that year was St. Stephen's Tower (or Big Ben as it is often and incorrectly called) .  You may wish to refresh your memory by checking back to my post on 11 October 2009.

 If not, here is the picture

Last Saturday we went to Chester by bus and viewed this year's most appropriate offering from the road.
As we have just learned that Bradley Wiggins has won a gold medal for the Olympic time trial to add to his Tour de France yellow jersey perhaps I should have Photoshopped it to appear golden.  But that is beyond my abilities so you will have to use your imagination.