Thursday, 8 June 2017

Passport Portraits of Yesteryear no. 27

Continuing the series of passport portraits from my collection.
Peruse and wonder.
Marjorie Crocker Fairbanks, a US citizen, at the age of 22 in 1916 took a ship to Europe. She stayed for a while at Cheyne Walk in London and then sailed for France where she worked as a volunteer ambulance driver. Her letters home she published, along with those of her friend, Esther Sayles Root, in a book entitled Over Periscope Pond.
Read it here
In 1925, now married with a son, she left her family and departed on a tour of France with a woman friend and two men. On her return to the USA she was divorced.
This is the photograph on her passport issued in Washington in 1948. In New York she obtains  multiple business visits visas for France and Belgium and arrives in Rotterdam on 30 August 1948. She is now 53 years old and her occupation is stated as 'writer'. Over the first five months of 1949 she is issued with ration coupons for a total of 2,000 litres of petrol. She visits Belgium and Germany and changes money in Paris, Montauban and Perpignan. She flies home to the USA for Christmas 1950 but is soon back, presumably on business. This passport finally expired in August 1952 at which time she was still in Paris. What an intriguing person.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Warwick Museum


Whilst in Warwick we visited the town museum. 

Most disappointing  

I understand that exhibits sometimes need to be kept in low light to preserve them, but do the commentaries have to be written in a small white typeface on a pink card pinned to the back of the cabinet? You need opera glasses to read them. 

One of the most interesting displays was the floor, about which nothing was said.

Bubbles in Canterbury

















Well why not?

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

A Broad Gauge Premier Inn in Wolverhampton

We recently stayed overnight at the Premier Inn in Wolverhampton and discovered that it was built on the site of the railway platforms of the original Great Western Wolverhampton Low Level station. The High Level station is still in use and overshadows the hotel from an imposing viaduct built of Staffordshire blue bricks. 




The Low Level station building is now grade II listed and serves as a function venue. 









The Premier Inn hotel incorporates part of the arcading of the original station.

To learn the fascinating story of this station, click here.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Shakespeare – the businessman.

I have spent the last two days in Stratford upon Avon which everybody knows is famous for its Shakespeare links. I had only known Shakespeare as a poet and playwright. It seems that he played a more complex role in Elizabethan England. Apart from seeing both his birthplaces I have also remarked that he either managed or owned the Shakespeare Cinema, the Shakespeare Fish & Chip Shop, the Shakespeare Tea Rooms, the Shakespeare Newsagents, the Shakespeare Service Station, the Shakespeare Bookshop, the Shakespeare Hospice Furniture shop, the Shakespeare Car Sales Centre and the Shakespeare Gift Shop.


So here is a picture of some exquisite brickwork above a doorway, and an interesting jumble of roof angles.






I have found no evidence that William Shakespeare ever built houses or constructed roofs.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Let's build on the orchards.





Enjoy the blossom whilst 
you can – 
this is destined for 3,000 houses and a new road junction on the A2.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Passport Portraits of Yesteryear no.26

Continuing the series of passport portraits from my collection.
Peruse and wonder.
Alfred Maximilian Perray, a 58 year old organist from France. It is 26 October 1918 and the end of the Great War is expected any day now. M. Perray is particularly impatient. Because of the war he has been unable to visit his son who is in prison in Kandersteg, Switzerland.

This is M. Perray's photograph on the French passport which has just been issued to him, 'valid for fifteen days to count from crossing the Swiss frontier, once it has been re-opened.'

He is waiting in his garden. Waiting to 'see' the son he has not seen for more than the four years of the conflict, for Monsieur Perray is blind.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Update on old fashioned arithmetic for Southern Railways

See my post of 14 April.
Just for a laugh I decided to claim compensation as recommended to us passengers by the driver of the train who announced, just before dumping us all at Croydon East, short of our destination, that, 'this service is now running more than forty minutes late'.

To remind you of the incident: the train from Gatwick Airport to Victoria was ten minutes late arriving at Gatwick, 30 minutes late departing and stopped short of the destination. I missed my connection at St. Pancras and had to wait for the next train, one hour later.

Southern Railways use a different arithmetical model. Their response:

Having checked our records for the details of the delay you provided to us, our systems show that delay was 1 minute, which is below the minimum threshold for which you are entitled to Delay Repay compensation.

So that is all right then, isn't it? I know I cannot argue because I never managed to pass my 'O' level maths exam in 1965.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Martin in the Derby Bar, Sauze d'Oulx has read one of my books.

Sitting quietly in the Derby Bar in Sauze d'Oulx, Italy, on Saturday night awaiting the arrival of the rush, I fell into conversation with Martin who lived across the square. When appraised of my occupation he declared that he had read one of my books and it had surprised him and amused him. 
Oh what it is like to be famous!

The Derby Bar in Sauze d'Oulx on Saturday night.

The calm before the storm.

You should have seen it thirty minutes later.

It was heaving.

Old fashioned arithmetic problems by Southern Railway

Q: If a train is due to leave Gatwick Airport at 19.41 on a Sunday night to arrive at London Victoria 25 minutes later, how fast must it travel?

A: It will arrive late at Gatwick Airport, stand at the platform for twenty minutes and then crawl at 20 mph as far as Croydon East where the service will terminate because it has lost its timetable slot at Victoria Station.

Q: If a train composed of ten coaches, each coach containing 100 passengers sitting and standing nose to nose crammed up to the doors and all with suitcases, is emptied onto platform 4 at Croydon East to await another train which will already have its own passengers on board, to carry everybody to Victoria, what proportion of the passengers of the first train will be able to board the second train?

A: see below:


Thursday, 13 April 2017

Triumph of design over function - Hotel Assietta



This is the headboard of my bed in the Hotel Assietta in Sauze d'Oulx, Italy.

Can you imagine gently resting your weary head against that construction? Or stirring suddenly in the night and knocking yourself unconscious on one of those timber medallions? It could serve duty as an indoor climbing wall.

But the hotel is well situated and serves a brilliant breakfast.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Does this man like railways?

Entrance to a private house in Bridge.
I see some funny things when I am out delivering letters on my bicycle...

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Violets in the workplace.

One day, many years ago, I was instructed to attend a one day seminar on Violets in the Workplace. I thought it a bizarre topic but, always ready to widen my knowledge base, I dutifully trudged along to the meeting.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the subject of the seminar was not a discussion of the place of floral arrangements in a working environment but the threats of coercion, bullying and physical abuse and how they should be dealt with. 

'Violence in the workplace' is what the man had said, not 'violets'. 

Perhaps he had skipped the classes on enunciation.


As I was mowing the lawn today I decided to leave my 
wild violets in their workplace.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Filming for The One Show, BBC TV 1

Several weeks ago I spent two hours in this room at the London Passport Office 'filming' for the BBC TV's One Show.

The result was broadcast yesterday.

Don't bother to watch it.

This is the crew who filmed me.

They are more interesting than the programme.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Passport Portraits of Yesteryear no. 25

Continuing the series of passport portraits from my collection.
Peruse and wonder.

Gacesa Vikola and his wife, Margarita, are subjects of King Alexander I, monarch of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. Vikola studied and then obtained an official position in the administration. These are the photographs on his passport which enabled them to visit the Colonial Exhibition in Paris in 1931. 

The exhibition was organised by France in response to the Empire Exhibition in which Great Britain had showcased all the products of its empire in Wembley in 1924. France invited all the colonial powers to take part. Britain declined the invitation.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Westminster attack.

I don't like being too close to the action.

Police presence outside the Houses of Parliament after the attack.

The cordon closing Parliament Square.






My day in London was in Central Hall, Westminster.













Turning around the buses to send them back.










Blocking off the streets.





I was glad to get home.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Silly place to park a lorry.



What a silly place to park a lorry! 

It is blocking the end of the cycle lane. 

But the lorry is quite legally parked because the council have painted a parking space on the road in exactly that spot.

It's called an integrated transport network.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Dear stupid pigeon...






Dear stupid pigeon.

This is called 'a window'.

It is made of glass which is a hard but transparent substance.

This means that you can see through it but not fly through it.

Every other bird in the garden understands this.

When will you get it into your birdbrain that you are not a special case?

Why not just sit in the tree and watch us eat our supper like all your feathered friends?

You will find it less painful.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Famous author at the BBC

Martin Lloyd and Katy Long discussing passports,
 as seen from the producer's box.







I spent a pleasant hour and a bit today being interviewed by Katy Long who is making a documentary programme for BBC Radio 4.

No broadcast date yet but I'll 
let you know.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Moonrise over the orchards.


Opposite my house, the moon rising over the orchards, soon to be covered with 3,000 new houses. 
The orchards that is, not the moon.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Tarporley welcomes cyclists.



The Old Fire Station Coffee Shop in Tarporley is not the only enterprise to apparently welcome cyclists.

The Swan Hotel, also in the High Street sports an ancient Cyclists Touring Club winged wheel on its facade. 




Although why they have painted out the lower 'C' on the sign I cannot imagine.














If you are cycling to Tarporley, here are the relevant distances for you:


Thursday, 2 March 2017

How much is that doggy in the window?

How much is that doggy in the window and how many of them are real?

I'll give you a clue: it's more than one and less than five!

Monday, 27 February 2017

Strawberry cake at Willington


Whilst in Derbyshire collecting my new bicycle, we went to the Cherry Tree Farm Carvery Restaurant in Willington. There you can eat a plate of roast dinner for £4.75. or a 'standard' plate for £6.45. The standard plate was ample for my requirements and the food 
was excellent.


But what I really wanted was a wedge of the strawberry and cream cake.

But I resisted.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Dobbin retires at 49,286 miles.

Dobbin at Mercian Cycles, Derby in Sept 2015
My faithful bicycle, handbuilt for me by Mercian in 1995, has now been retired at 49,286 recorded miles.

49,286 recorded miles travelled.

Those miles have taken it and me into France, Spain, Andorra, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany.



It has traversed the Pyrenees three times and crossed France from top to bottom and from bottom to top. It has spent years commuting daily between Dover and Folkestone in ice, snow, fog, gale and tempest; at all times of night and day.


But more than that, Dobbin is famous in its own right. It has been my faithful companion on many of the rides which have featured in my stories and it has appeared on the cover of three of my books:







The broken baguette for The Trouble with France.









The falling oranges for The Trouble with Spain.










And famous Author cycling in his pyjamas for Hunting the Golden Lion.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Steam rolling in Tenterden.

It is good to see that Tenterden take seriously the maintenance of their 
streets and employ the latest equipment. 
At least it is not diesel powered.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Immigration Service cyclists find a bike in two halves.

Seen in the pub car park where we had lunch – a child's ancient bicycle. On the right is the rear wheel and the saddle and on the left is the front wheel and handlebars. The peg under the saddle slots into the socket on the front fork. The bicycle is propelled by the pedals on the front wheel.

Looked in the pub, couldn't find the owner.

Friday, 20 January 2017

On the m.v. Cap Finistère in January

Were you on the m.v. Cap Finistère in January?



Did you see me sketching you?




















If you did, see me sketching you...






















....why the devil didn't you sit still?


It's not easy drawing people when they keep moving about.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

The English and Greeks do it on Brittany Ferries.

But not the French and Spanish?

The Brittany Ferries vessel m.v. Cap Finistere which plies between France, Spain and England took us to Bilbao and brought us back from Santander. On board ship all the announcements and all the notices are in the three languages of the passengers: French, Spanish and English.

Except for this one in the toilet.

Is it only the Greeks and English who block the toilets or is it that the French and Spanish don't ever use the toilets?