Wednesday, 21 December 2011
Monday, 19 December 2011
Sunday, 18 December 2011
How embarrassed I am, therefore, to have come back to find that Louise is including in tonight's meal.......supermarket bought mashed potato with swede.
(Mind you I do love all root vegetables, the rest of what she's working on sounds delicious: chicken with feta.)
Tuesday, 13 December 2011
While out today, I learned of the decision of North Somerset Council to press ahead with the demolition of the Weston-super-Mare’s old Open Air Swimming Pool, latterly the Tropicana.
This is a subject I’ve been writing and blogging about quite intensely recently, in the apparently vain hope that the structure would have a last-minute reprieve. Well, that hasn’t happened and now it looks as though the place will be demolished.
Even now – eternal optimist that I am – I hope that it won’t happen and that sense will prevail. This is undoubtedly not likely but I won’t give up hope until the demolition gangs move in and the concrete ball swings.
Those of you that knew me back then might remember that I spent a lot of the early nineties tour managing, ie taking British groups on tours around
For complex reasons I won’t go into here, I spent a lot (and I mean a lot) of that time staying with coach groups in the very pleasant Belgian city of
Of course, hearing about this sort of thing is always upsetting but when you know the place well, when you can imagine exactly where the reporters and witnesses are describing, it has a particularly disturbing resonance.
For most people, tourism in
Thus I’ve always had a fondness for the place, despite not having been there now for the best part of a decade I should think.
Chers Liegeois, je pense a vous.
Monday, 12 December 2011
Today, at their (recently refitted) Cherry Street shop in Birmingham, I realised that they have now basically become a cross between Argos, Dixons and Amazon. It was just as well that I knew what I wanted, because the assistant wouldn't have had anything to say to me on the subject, despite his nice Nikon-branded fleece, his fixed smile and the fact that a black & white portrait of him and his many colleagues was hanging in the shop.
I asked, I was told that the product was cheaper online, I was ushered to a computer where he logged on to the Jessops site and he ordered the piece for me. It arrived. It was what I wanted and it was competitively priced. But it was a world away from previous purchases there, where friendly, knowledgeable assistants advised me advice about investing next in a prime lens, about experimenting one day with RAW and lots of other little snippets which have helped me to take better pictures over the years.
I suppose they don't get that many people wanting that sort of in depth service nowadays. They probably sell mostly automated compacts. But it struck me as another nail in the coffin of the traditional High Street.
Sunday, 11 December 2011
Perhaps you'd do me the service of just taking s look at this site (and even of signing the petition, although I'm of the view that it will require a lot more than that to make a difference)?
Saturday, 10 December 2011
Sunday, 4 December 2011
Monday, 28 November 2011
I began today reading this article:
All the time, anyone with any sense sense (and there are plenty of those, believe me) has been saying that the answer is a remarkably simple one. Restore it as a pool, with a retractable roof, so that it could be used all year. It's in a good, accessible location and the town's only other swimming pool is well inland, on the edge of a suburban housing estate at Hutton Moor. The Tropicana site is ideal as a pool. To use modern parlance it's a no-brainer.
If these people allow (nay, cause) the loss of this facility, this monument, they will earn the enmity of all who truly love Weston-s-Mare. I for one will not forgive them. And I shall not be alone.
Tuesday, 22 November 2011
chance of a bit of sightseeing (or even shopping if you're that way inclined !) afterwards.
Wednesday, 16 November 2011
Let me tell you the story of a Pier. Not the one you think I’m going to talk about. Another one. And one that needs your help. Stick with me to the end and then follow the links and help to make a difference…….
At the Northern end of Weston-s-Mare, the end that hardly any casual visitor gets to these days, is the town’s other, forgotten Pier.
This isn’t the famous Grand Pier, burned spectacularly in 2008, speedily rebuilt and the subject of other Blog Posts of mine. This is something altogether different, more historic, more interesting and certainly more threatened. This, dear reader, is Birnbeck, or the “Old” Pier.
Birnbeck Pier was designed by a man called Eugenius Birch, the IK Brunel of pier-building who is said to have designed no fewer than 14 around the British coast. None of his designs is what you might call “ordinary” but Birnbeck is even more unusual, for rather than being a simple pier, it is in fact a pier-cum-bridge, linking the mainland with the rocky islet of Birnbeck.
It’s hard for us to imagine now what a major event this was. Flags flew, holidays were proclaimed and Weston took its place among those seaside resorts which “had arrived”.
We tend nowadays to think of piers as pleasure places, for promenading and for amusements and Birnbeck came to have all this. It shouldn’t be forgotten though that they originally had a practical purpose as landing places and in the pre-Severn Bridge Bristol Channel this passenger steamer traffic was significant. The relatively wealthy mining population of
For those venturing further afield, horse drawn carriages met the ferries at the Pier and from
1902 Weston’s electric trams arrived. By then, though, railway excursion traffic was becoming important, too and the focus of the town moved ever more Southward, prompting the opening of the Grand Pier in 1904. (The Grand Pier has managed to burn down twice; Birnbeck has managed it only once, on Boxing Day 1897.)
During WWII, Birnbeck was requisitioned by the Admiralty for weapons testing, receiving the designation “HMS Birnbeck”. Their “Directorate of Miscellaneous Weapons Development” carried out some work here concerning the famous “Bouncing Bomb”. As I'm always telling sceptics, there's real history in that mud. (And by the way, it's not mud at all. It's ozone-rich sand. So there.)
After the War it was quickly business as usual and the steamer services of P&A Campbell continued to bring visitors over from
Perhaps the biggest single factor was the opening of the
New owners, promising much from hotels to apartments on the island have come and gone and competitions for new designs have seen some suggestions which might be charitably described as “different”.
But what actually stands there, albeit crumbling, is a beautiful, elegant Victorian pleasure palace. For the past couple of years or so the wonderful vintage Carters Steam Fair has come to Weston with its brilliant period fairground equipment. And you know what? People, even the iPhone X-Box generation, love the simple old-fashioned stuff, so there’s certainly a market for it. A period looking hotel on the island would seem to have some possibilities, too. After all, it works at
So where are we? Well the Pier has now been sold (again) to two local businessmen, so let’s await the next plans.
But I told you this long story to try to get you interested in this fabulous bit of surviving (albeit dilapidated) Victorian social history. There is a body of people, interested, caring people, called The Friends of the Old Pier Society. You can check out their new website at
The Grand Pier came back from disaster and a generation ago so did Clevedon Pier, just up the coast (possibly the most beautiful in
Let’s get the Old Pier back, too and put some life into this lovely bit of Weston.
Yesterday I was lucky enough to be taken on a behind the scenes guided tour of M Shed, Bristol’s new museum which has gained a great deal of attention lately.
It has a remarkable number of parallels with
M Shed replaced the old
It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of Think Tank and miss Birmingham’s old
First impressions were good, though. The new museum takes full advantage of its position on the docks, with huge picture windows giving a truly panoramic view of
The second Big Thing is that admission is still FREE. There are the usual donations elicited and nominal charges for things like guided tours but otherwise, people can come and go as they wish. Not an easy thing to achieve in this day and age and Bristol City Council is to be applauded for it.
We were led first to the Museum’s store, where objects not currently on display are held. As with most museums, M Shed can only show s relatively small part of its collection at any given time but they’ve approached this “problem” in an innovative way, undertaking to change a proportion of their displays every year. In this way, things don’t languish out of sight for ever and people are given something new to come and explore each year, encouraging return visits. The store was very reminiscent of
Then it was into the Museum proper, which is arranged thematically rather than chronologically. As a chronological sort of person, I found this quite difficult, at least at first. But there’s no denying that it’s a though provoking approach and it does encourage looking at things from a different angle. There are three permanent galleries, looking at “Bristol Places”, “Bristol People” and “Bristol Life”.
But this juxtaposing of related but different subjects does work to some extent. For example, in “Bristol People”, the section dealing with the difficult subject of the slave trade is cheek by jowl with sections looking at Bristol’s race relations and the famous (in Bristol anyway) bus boycott in the sixties, prompted by the local bus company refusing to employ non-white staff.
Talking of buses, bus building was a big
The interactive displays weren’t overdone. Indeed, I found those examining the topography of the City to be the most effective way of telling that story. However, they had loudspeakers, not microphones and when two (or three or four) are being used simultaneously I could imagine it might be jolly difficult to concentrate or even hear your “own”.
The “Bristol Life” gallery was a bit too left of field for me (oh Museum traditionalist that I am!) but might well work in bringing the place to the attention and interest of those who don’t normally visit museums. And in any case, out on the dockside there’s plenty more stuff to keep me enthralled with the cranes (a real feature of the city) boats and dockside railway all integral parts of the Museum.
So, M Shed gets a pretty reasonable thumbs up from me; 7/10 for the statistically minded. Go and take a look.
(While you’re there, by the way, don’t miss out on the City’s many other attractions not least the splendid City Museum & Art Gallery up the hill near the University. This too is free and is felt to compliment M Shed. I rather liked the ethos that “M Shed shows
Monday, 14 November 2011
Answers on a postcard please to the great question: "Why in Birmingham?"
Thursday, 10 November 2011
What has happened with leaders writing letters and the press becoming angry, smacks of that haughty attitude which we British are sometimes said to have when dealing with others. I don't think we do usually; but I can see traces of it in this.
Wednesday, 9 November 2011
I'm off for a haircut later. I wonder if I'll find that I've been brushing my hair incorrectly?
Tuesday, 1 November 2011
Have you noticed how – whatever you do nowadays – and expert will ask you to fill in a form or survey which bombards you with various statements and then asks if you “strongly agree, somewhat agree, are ambivalent…….”. Well, you know what I mean. I think it’s called a Box–Jenkins survey, if my memory of studying statistics thirty years ago (ouch) is correct.
I’ve recently had this both at the doctor’s and at the bank and I’ve watched my mother be asked to do the same with regard to pain management at an arthritis clinic.
I suppose any tool to help comprehension is to be applauded. But there’s a slight nagging feeling inside me that this is turning the “professional” in front of me into a slave of the computer. After all, all this data is promptly fed in and then “the computer” says what the next step ought to be. It’s turning highly skilled professionals into data entry clerks. Sooner or later I fear I’m going to have a doctor say to me “Computer says no”.
Maybe the machines are closer to taking over than we thought.
Monday, 31 October 2011
Some of you will know that our garden, once an overgrown wilderness, has in the last couple of years been transformed if not exactly into something from
Not being very horticultural, though, one thing we don't have much of is.......soil. Which was fine by us until we started dabbling in growing potatoes. We invested in a couple, then three and then FIVE of those green polythene bags and some cheap seed potatoes and in no time at all the "patio" (Louise's word; I call it "the yard") resembled a mini-jungle.
Well in the last couple of months we've enjoyed a steady stream of spud which - while not always looking especially wonderful - have certainly tasted so.
This afternoon, we lifted the last of the crop which wasn't bad at all, so we'll have a few weeks of them yet.
Friday, 28 October 2011
It's been over TEN MONTHS since I've posted anything. Always mean to but somehow the rather, er, "busy" year that it's been and the fact that it's often simpler and quicker to post a solitary line or phrase on Facebook (or now Twitter which I've finally embraced as well) has left the poor old Blog somewhat on the sidelines.
So here I am, back. What can I post about?
Or the fact that the Queen took a ride on a Melbourne tram the other day?
Or something else?
I'll get back to you. And preferably not in ten months' time.