Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Aston Manor Road Transport Museum

Some of you will know of the Aston Manor Road Transport Museum, a collection of vintage public transport vehicles, moistly from the West Midlands, which has existed for many years inside the old Witton Tram Depot in Birmingham.

Well, after a long period of uncertainty, issues surrounding the future of the building and the funding of the Museum have come to a head and the collection needs to find a new home.   This is a long, involved story and rather sad story which I won't recount here, although you can read more about it here.

Well, through the good offices of Walsall council, a new home has been found in Aldridge (hooray!) but (there's always a "but", isn't there?) the Museum now have the not insignificant logistical problem of actually moving a lot of the exhibits.   To make matters worse, the City Council want possession of the site by 28 December 2011;  not a good time of year to arrange this, is it?   Given the fact that these are in many cases full-sized vehicles and pieces of heavy equipment this really is a major issue and the good folks there have appealed for help.   Specifically, they need things like a fork lift capable of lifting up to a ton, a suitable vehicle onto which to lift them and similar help at the Aldridge end.

If anyone reading this knows of someone able to provide help in this manner, could they contact Richard from the Museum on 0121-449 4606 as a matter of some urgency.

And even if you can't passing this message on via the likes of Facebook and Twitter would be appreciated.   I can't help personally but am happy to use my online presence to spread the word that help is needed.

If, as they say, you know a man who can, do get in touch with Richard.


Monday, 19 December 2011

Vegetarian Cuisine

Mother-in-law is a vegetarian* so obviously needs a separate meal when she joins us for Christmas.

This often involves a bit of experimentation on Louise’s part, so tonight our meal was the “try out” for m-i-l’s Christmas Day lunch.

It was an unusual recipe:  courgettes stuffed with ricotta and spinach and topped with pine nuts and roast breadcrumbs.   It was very nice but it needed a little "something extra" to bring out the full flavour.

Louise though a bit more cranberry juice.   I thought a lamb chop.

*  Eats fish.   Don't get me started.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Glass Houses, Stones, etc.

I was having a rant during my Birmingham Walk today (no, really?!) about the fact that it's now possible to buy stupidly basic things in supermarkets, such a mashed potato, grated cheese and - saints preserve us - ice cubes.

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

Tropicana: Decision Day

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.

This is very sad, although today’s events in Liege have rather put subjects like built heritage into perspective. It’s sad and regrettable. It’s not a tragedy.

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 Britain and the Continent.

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 Liege. So for that reason, I was especially horrified to hear today’s news story about the shootings and explosions there. I know the Place Saint Lambert, where they took place, very well indeed. In fact I often went there to visit the Christmas Market which is on at the moment.

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 Belgium follows a well trodden and highly touristy path around the Flemish cities of Bruges, Ghent and Brussels. So working in Wallonia, the French-speaking Southern part of the country, was refreshingly different and I can to some extent thank the citizens of Liege for helping me to learn and to speak French, albeit with limitations!

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

The Decline of the High Street: Expertise in Shops

I've always believed - through years of good service and advice - that the place to buy quality photographic equipment was Jessops.

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

Weston Tropicana Website

A minor development on the Weston-super-Mare Tropicana story. All is not (yet) lost and there is a glimmer of hope.

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)?

Many thanks.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Some thoughts on this week's UK Veto at the EU.......

Well, where do I begin? Is it the end of the EU? (No.) Am I a xenophobic Little Englander? (No.) Are we now in a two speed Europe (Yes and we have been since the early 1980s.) Can I imagine the UK outside the EU? (No.) Will the UK one day leave the EU and concentrate on Commonwealth and wider world trading? (No.)

Had the UK not taken the position it had, then given government policy, a UK referendum on the change to our European Treaty obligations would have been necessary. Had such a referendum taken place, I think it would inevitably resulted in a heavy vote against acceptance.......putting us right into the position we're in now.

People do love to blame "the bankers" for everything, forgetting that "the bankers" concerned are a tiny group of people, whereas the banking industry (which people would apparently like to shaft mercilessly until it ****s off somewhere else) employs thousands of ordinary people whose companies would at the very least contract, throwing more people out of work. Just what we need at the moment.

I really am angry at the hypocrisy of the Labour Party stance in the last 48 hours. Had Gordon Brown or Ed Milliband been Prime Minister and gone off to this summit, do they really expect us to believe that they would have done anything different? And if they had, they'd have been slated for it anyway. They - and all UK politicians, including the remarkably subdued Liberal Democrats - know that tying the UK into a Euro-rescue policy would be both economically dangerous and electorally fatal.

The fact is, "the bankers" didn't cause this particular problem. Nor even did the start of the recession in the US mortgage market cause it. The Euro's problems stem from countries lying their way into the currency and then being allowed to do so by other countries that should have known better but which turned a blind eye in the name of the Great European Ideal.

We're told that we're now "isolated". That might or might not be true. But given that the alternative was doing something we wouldn't want to do, then apparently "not being isolated" means "doing what other countries tell us"?

And as has been said elsewhere, we're actually "isolated" in the same way that a passenger left on the dockside in Southampton was "isolated". When they missed the Titanic.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Help: Structural Engineer Needed!

An odd request but using all avenues open to us.......

I need to help find a structural engineer, preferably in the West of England but not essential if there's one elsewhere. (This is tied up with efforts to save the former Open Air Pool - "The Tropicana" - in Weston-s-Mare.)

If you can help or know anyone who can, e-mail me at and I'll pass on details as necessary.

Thank you.