Friday, 20 April 2018

Cumberland pencils.

When I was at primary school I was given a set of coloured crayons made by the Cumberland Pencil Company. I think that there must have been about fifteen colours in the set. I had shades such as, spring green, grass green, ultramarine blue, burnt sienna, yellow ochre and crimson.

The crayons and pencils were made in Keswick in the Lake District. This was because of the discovery, centuries earlier, of very pure graphite in the hills around the town. I visited the Lake District for the first time in my life a few days ago. I was pleased to be there outside of the tourist season – it must be hell in Summer – and I went to see the Derwent Pencil Museum in Keswick.

My entry ticket to the museum.
The museum is set in the grounds of the former factory. The latter is now awaiting redevelopment and production has been moved to another location in the same area.
The disused Cumberland Pencil factory in Keswick.

If you are in the area, visit the museum and you will learn how pencils are made and a lot more besides. You might have to elbow your way through hordes of schoolchildren doing 'projects' but it is worth the effort.

And for a good light lunch, served quickly, go to the upstairs restaurant of the bakers in the high street.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Kendal is not just mintcake

If you say 'Kendal' to many people it will conjure up the flavour of Kendal Mint Cake which is a confection of mainly sugar and peppermint but the town of Kendal in the Lake District has other curiosities.

The Carnegie Library in Kendal, Cumbria.
The Carnegie Library in Kendal is one. Andrew Carnegie was a Scottish American who started work as a telegraph boy in Pittsburgh at the age of 14 and progressed to become a millionaire in iron, steel and oil. He spent much of his wealth on endowments to universities and in other educational projects.
This library in Kendal was financed by Carnegie, designed by a Kendal architect and opened in 1909.

Iron house fronts in Branthwaite Brow.

The fronts of these buildings in Branthwaite Brow are iron faced. Installed in 1863 as part of a street widening scheme, the plates were cast by a local iron founder, John Winder.

And exploring the many alleyways that creep between the buildings one can sometimes come across evidence of a former activity. 

Sunday, 25 March 2018

I didn't know Daleks were bronze coloured.

When I arrived at BBC Broadcasting House for my recent interview, apart from the security search, baggage scan and the issue of a pass, I was met by a Dalek. This was the first one that I had seen in the flesh and I discovered that they are bronze coloured. Well I never knew that. I had always thought that they were a silvery colour.

When Dr. Who came on television in the early 1960s the picture was in black and white and by the time colour TV had arrived, I had moved on (grown up) as it were.

You live and learn don't you?

Friday, 23 March 2018

De la Rue? Gemalto? Blue passport? Who cares?

Yesterday evening I was called in precipitously to BBC Broadcasting House to be interviewed live on BBC TV News 24 Hours about the De La Rue/Gemalto controversy.

Martin Lloyd being interviewed by Ben Brown on BBC TV News 24 Hours.
The problem was that De la Rue had submitted a bid for the tender to print the next British (and blue) passport and had been outbid by a Franco-Dutch company called Gemalto. The latter had succeeded by the simple procedure of offering to do it for less money than the other bidders. De la Rue are incensed that the British passport should be manufactured abroad and I was called in to opine about it. Which I did.

I timidly suggest that this is how the business of tendering actually works. The bidder who can satisfy the requirements of the customer at the lowest price will win the contract; as would appear to be the case here. It is a little hypocritical of De la Rue to complain, given that when they won the contract to print the British blue passport in 1921, they did it by undercutting the current supplier, Harrisons & Co. Ironically, once they had the job they found that they could not fulfil it unless they ordered a Chambon roll (an expensive piece of printing equipment) from? Guess which country? Yes, France.

And this morning, BBC Tees. local radio, had me on just after their MP had been complaining that the British passport should be made here, in the De la Rue factory in his Gateshead constituency. A British passport should be made in Britain. I pointed out that De la Rue made passports for over forty foreign countries. Did he now want those countries to withdraw their custom from Gateshead and make their own passports?

Saturday, 10 March 2018

The Rising Sun in Watford.

Premier Inn, Watford.
We recently stayed at the Premier Inn in Croxley near Watford. It is called the 'Rising Sun'.  I remember riding with my mother on the top deck of the London Transport bus to Watford as a pre-school child. Where the road crossed the canal there existed two or three quite distinct hump backed bridges which I referred to as the 'water hills', presumably not having 'bridge' in my vocabulary at that age.

Sun clocktower awaiting restoration.
Opposite the hotel I noticed this clock tower and I remembered the Sun Printing Company which must have occupied a site near here. At one time the Sun Engraving Co. was the largest engraving and rotogravure plant in the world. When the Sunday Times launched their 'colour supplement' it was the Sun who printed it.

I went for a stroll around the block and found a couple of signs suggesting that the hotel and associated shops had been built on the site of the Sun Printing Works.

The Sun clocktower in the middle of this aerial photograph. It is surrounded by allotments.
Above it, the Sun Printing Factory, now the Rising Sun Premier Inn Hotel.
A fascinating history of the Sun Engraving and related companies can be found by clicking here.

Monday, 26 February 2018

Ice on the Winding Pond

Ice on at the Winding Pond, Clowes Wood, Canterbury
As the weather forecast was for a wind chill of minus 8 degrees C,  John and I decided on a short ride along the Crab and Winkle Line to Whitstable.

Readers of this blog with good memories will know that this pond was excavated to provide water for the stationary steam engine which hauled the trains up the incline from Whitstable in 1830. As a relic of the steam railway age, you will not find many older. To read about the Crab and Winkle line, click here.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Passport Portraits of Yesteryear no. 33

Continuing the series of passport portraits in my collection.
Peruse and wonder.
Paul Godart is 34 yrs. old and is the works manager for the shipyard of Germe et Jouy, a company in Boulogne building trawlers, patrol boats and dredgers. He lives at the factory.

This is his photograph on his safe-conduct issued to him on 22nd June 1918 by the controller of the armies in the north of France to allow him to travel in and around Boulogne within limits of about five miles.

The means of transport allowed him?

A bicycle.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Margaret Thatcher in Grantham

 The museum in Grantham is excellent – well laid out, uncluttered, interesting and legible.

This is the portrait of Baroness Thatcher painted by Lorna May Wadsworth. 

Lady Thatcher said to the artist, "It's very fierce." 

Wadsworth responded with, "Sometimes, Lady Thatcher, we women have to be fierce to get our own way."

"Very true," Thatcher said.

As a student Margaret Thatcher graduated in chemistry and applied for a job with the giant chemical company, ICI (Imperial Chemical Industries). The appointment board's assessment in rejecting her application was, 
"...this woman is headstrong, obstinate and dangerously self-opinionated..."

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Train vandalism in miniature

Some railway modellers are imaginative in their search for realism in miniature. This train, seen recently at the Canterbury Model Railway Exhibition, had suffered graffiti spraying down its side.

Elsewhere on the same layout, this car was being impounded. Perhaps the driver should have used one of the hire bikes you can see in the racks.

This representation of a diesel motive power depot was throbbing with realism as all the locomotives were generating the correct engine noises. The miniaturisation of electronics has been welcomed amongst the modelling community, allowing lighting and sound effects hitherto unrealisable.

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Another bargain from M&S Food.

Coming back down the A1 we popped into the services at Baldock to possibly grab a sandwich at the Marks & Spencer food store.

And I was sorely tempted by this bargain offer: 

'3 for £8 or £2.60 each'

Read it carefully and work out the maths for yourself. You could save yourself some money!

Monday, 22 January 2018

Progress on the Great North Road-A14 junction.

I do not know if there has been any progress since last I travelled up the Great North Road, or A1 as it has been called since the 1930s.

The junction linking the A14 Cambridge road to the A1 is being re-planned on a grand scale.

There is a lot of infrastructure dotted about the landscape.

I hope it all joins up when they have finished.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Sunset in Lincoln

I had never been to Lincoln until a few days ago.
Unfortunately my work did not permit me the time to explore as I would have liked.

I did, however, see the sun setting on the cathedral as viewed from the bottom of this steep hill.

And the name of the street is: Steep Hill.

How imaginative!

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Passport Portraits of Yesteryear no. 32

Continuing the series of passport portraits in my collection.
Peruse and wonder.
Hortense Marie Stulz, a sixteen year old girl born in Toulon, France; the description in her Swiss passport  reveals that she has brown eyes and her height is marked as 'tall' to which somebody has added, '1metre64' in pencil.

She lives at 40, rue du Marché, Geneva and has been issued this passport to enable her to visit her father who lives in Toulon, France.

Throughout the rest of the Great War she regularly visits him, travelling by train via the frontier station at Bellegarde. By 1919, he has moved to 5 rue Diderot in Nice and she is obliged to travel through Vengtimiglia, Italy, to reach him.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Google kills famous author.

Result of search on Google under 'Martin Lloyd'.
What can I say? The usual denial, I suppose. 
'Reports of my death have been exaggerated.'

National Museum of Scotland.

Unfortunately we did not have much time in hand because of cancelled tram routes, recalcitrant taxi drivers and kilt hire guaranteeing but we did manage to slip in to the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh for an hour.

This is a museum not to be missed. 

Apart from the stunning architecture of the building, the exhibits and displays were fascinating.

The history of telecommunications had me absorbed for some time. I would need a week to do the museum justice and the entrance is FREE.

The usual gripe, however, has to be made to the curators. Why do the printed explanations have to be in such small type, so far away and so dimly lit? It is possible now to cold light a notice in an exhibition case without affecting the temperature of the contents. 
Please sort it out.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Edinburgh passport.

 Whilst in Edinburgh I was called in to stand guarantor for a friend who was hiring a kilt but had no UK address. All I needed to do was to provide a utility bill and a 'means of identity, such as a passport' they said.

Well, that was too much of an invitation for me.

To the consternation of the shopkeeper I pulled out one from my collection: a passport issued by the Lord Provost of the City of Edinburgh to a Scotsman and his nephew allowing them to go to Paris via Calais, Boulogne or other port in 1851.

Until 1914 it was possible to obtain a passport from the Lord Provost who had the authority to issue such documents in his capacity as 'Admiral of the Frith of Forth.' 

And no, that is not a typo. Read the passport carefully. It was oft-times called the Frith of Forth.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Edinburgh taxis want you to walk.

Arriving at Edinburgh Waverley Station on the evening of 30 December, we pushed our way through the thronging crowds on the pavement in the blustering wind and rain, and lugged our suitcases towards the taxi rank. 

What taxi rank? 

With 23m passengers per year passing through the station you would have thought they could have provided a taxi rank. The doorman at a nearby hotel suggested that we walk the hundred or so yards to Waverley Bridge and we would find taxis there.

We did eventually find a taxi there. The driver, on hearing our destination said, 'You can walk that. Just go back up there, turn right at the top then turn left, walk up through the square and turn right at the end and the hotel is along there on the left.'
He was right. We could walk it. Just as we could have walked the 450 miles to Edinburgh had we wanted, but we had not. We wanted a taxi but he would not provide it so we carried our baggage in the pouring rain and wind for the ten minute walk to our hotel.

Welcome to Edinburgh.

On the following evening we tried to buck the system by telephoning for a taxi to pick us up from the hotel. The taxi telephonist, upon hearing the destination, said, 'That's only about two miles. You can walk that.'

Is there some anomaly in the Scots mind which confuses ability with desire? 

And what do taxi drivers live on?