Tag Archives: Travel

Scrap Book Project – Twenty Years of the UK National Lottery

19th November 1994 was the day of the first UK National Lottery draw and a £1 ticket gave a one-in-14-million chance of striking lucky and guessing correctly the winning six out of 49 numbers.

I remember that everyone was talking about the National Lottery and I bought my ticket a few days in advance of the Saturday night draw.  This was in the days before ‘Lucky Dip’ so I had to choose my numbers and like a lot of people I selected meaningful dates like my birthday, my house number, my age and so on.

In 1994 I was working for Cory Environmental at Southend-on-Sea in Essex and I used to drive there everyday from Rugby, a journey which took just a little under two hours (it was a company car so I didn’t mind putting excess miles on the clock, running up a massive fuel bill or making a major contribution to global warming with my diesel emissions) and on that Saturday morning I was on weekend duty and as I drove along the M25 my head was full of plans for spending the winnings that I was absolutely confident of picking up later.  I mean, how difficult could it be to pick 6 numbers out of 49?

After a day at work the return journey was the same, would I move to France or Spain? Would I have a Ferrari or a Lamborghini? How would I tell my boss to shove his job and how far and how much would I miss my friends and family? I was totally confident of a life-changing moment in just a couple of hours or so.

Well, it wasn’t to be of course, I don’t think I even got one number, eight people shared the jackpot that night and I wasn’t one of them and I never have been of course and except for the occasional £10 win I have suffered from twenty years of LDS – Lottery Disappointment Syndrome!  I live in Grimsby, I have a Volkswagen Golf, three years ago my boss told me to shove off and made me redundant but on the upside I still have my friends and family and that includes three grandchildren who are worth several times more than any multi-million pound lottery win!

Children

 

Scrap Book Project – British Birds, The Wren

I like the Wren and would like to encourage them to pass by more often and I have put a wren box in a yew tree in the hope that this might encourage him to nest here.  Although I don’t see them very often Wrens are among the most common birds in the UK, and according to the RSPB there are currently around ten million pairs.

They suffer from heavy losses during the winter though because food can become hard to come by for them.  In the most recent coldest winter, 1962/3 there wasn’t a frost-free night from 22nd December until 5th March.    The continuous freezing temperatures meant that snow cover lasted for over two months and the winter of 1962/63 was the coldest over England and Wales since 1740 with mean maximum temperatures for January and February 1963 more than 5 °C below the average.

Seventy-five per cent of British wrens were thought to have died during the harsh winter of 1962-3.  That is why it is important to feed them in cold weather.  They suffer from cold because at a length of less than ten centimetres they are the second smallest birds in the UK, after the Goldcrest.  Because it may be difficult to catch spiders and I am not going to do it for them a handful of grated cheese is the usual recommendation.

The food needs to put on the ground and their scientific name explains why, it is taken from the Greek word “troglodytes”, from “trogle” a hole, and “dyein” to creep, which literally means “cave-dweller” and refers to its habit of disappearing into cavities or crevices whilst searching for spiders or to roost.

Another interesting fact about the Wren is that it has an enormous voice for its size, ten times louder, weight for weight, than a cockerel, so try and imagine, if you can, a cock-a-doodle-doo with that sort of vocal power!

Wren postage stamp

In the Spring the male Wren builds several nests, as many as six or seven and then invites a female to select her favourite. These are called cock nests but are never completely finished or lined until the female chooses the one she wants.  I suppose that is a bit like a man building a house and leaving the decoration and soft furnishings to his wife.

According to European folklore, the Wren is the King of the Birds.  Long ago the birds held a contest to see who could fly the highest; at first it looked as though the Eagle would win easily, but just as the Eagle began to get tired, the Wren, which had cleverly hidden under the Eagle’s tail feathers, crept out and soared far above.

The Wren also features in the legend of Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr, who was supposedly betrayed by the noisy bird as he attempted to hide from his enemies. Traditionally, St. Stephen’s Day on 26th December has been commemorated by ‘Hunting the Wren’, when young Wrenboys would hunt hedgerows and catch the bird and then ritually parade it around town,

The diminutive Wren also appeared on the last farthings to be minted in the UK from 1948 until 1956 and it ceased to be legal tender from 1960. I don’t know this for sure but I have always assumed that the image of the Wren appeared on the farthing because of the fact that it was such a small coin.  That seems plausible to me anyway.

Shakespeare refers to the wren no fewer than nine times in his different Plays. Its small size is noticed, and the bird is credited with an amount of courage disproportionate to its stature. When Macduff flees to England his wife bitterly complains that he left her and his children without his protection:

“He loves us not;
He wants the natural touch:
for the poor wren,
The most diminutive of birds, will fight,
Her young ones in her nest, against the owl.”

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Other Posts about Birds:

Blackbirds

Collared Doves

Dunnock

Fat Balls

Mozart’s Starling

Robin

Starlings

Starlings in the USA

Vinkensetting

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Scrap Book Project – The Annual School Outing (Away Day)

In the 1960s one of the highlights of the school year was going away for the day on the annual school outing.

When I was at junior school at the Hillmorton County school this was usually a simple affair with a trip and a picnic to somewhere fairly close by.  Dovedale in Derbyshire was about the furthest the teachers would venture to take us but it was more usual to stay within the county of Warwickshire and trips would inevitably be to Warwick Castle or Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon.

I can certainly remember going to Stratford-upon-Avon for the day and visiting Shakespeare’s House on Henley Street in the town centre, Anne Hathaway’s House in Shottery and Mary Arden’s House in nearby Wilmcote.

One special trip from the Hillmorton School was an outing to London and a visit to the Science Museum in South Kensington in about 1964.  I had been to London several times of course because my grandparents lived in Catford and we used to visit and stay there regularly.

The Science Museum has always been one of my favourites.  I liked Stephenson’s Rocket and the replica coal mine, a sort of early interactive experience where we stepped into a dark world of a Welsh mine.  The exhibit may not be there anymore because since all the country’s pits closed in the 1980s you can go down real ones instead.  But my real favourite, and I agree that this is not especially exciting, was an exhibit that explained ploughing and tilling and was in a glass case with three tractors and three different types of plough and when you turned a handle then the whole thing moved and explained the sequence of farming. I was delighted to see that that particular exhibit was actually still there forty years later when I last visited the museum in 2002.

The junior school annual outing was generally a well behaved affair that can’t have been too stressful for the teachers and we would obediently form organised lines and follow them like sheep from place to place as we went through the day.

This was not the case however with school trips at secondary school when the day was a perfect opportunity for mischief and mayhem.

The day started with a lot of pushing and shoving waiting for the coach to arrive because, a bit like the classroom, it was essential to get the back seat and be as far away from the teachers, who inevitably sat at the front, as possible.  When I say coach what I really mean of course is the most ancient and worn out vehicle in the fleet partly because the school would have paid the lowest price possible but mostly because the coach operating company was not going to provide its best vehicles for a bunch of unruly school kids.

On account of the age of the bus and the worn out state of the engine it would take a couple of hours to get to London including a fifteen minute stop at a service station to let the engine cool down and give us an opportunity to run around the car park and for no reason other than we could, to cross the bridge to the other side of the M1.

After we had arrived in the capital we would go to the Tower of London, or Buckingham Palace or to some other sites as part of the formal part of the day.  Once we met the MP for Rugby, William Price, who took us on a tour of the Houses of Parliament.  In the House of Lords he carefully explained that it was absolutely forbidden for a commoner to sit on the red leather chairs so we then spent a few minutes trying to force other kids into the seats in the hope that someone would have their heads chopped off.

After that it was time for lunch so we would parade off to Hyde Park or somewhere similar and eat our sandwiches.  Most of us used to carry our sandwiches and our raincoats in a duffle bag, which was a sort of draw string canvas bag which no self respecting school kid would be seen dead with these days.  They were about forty centimetres deep with soft sides and a rigid round bottom, they were lined with plastic that used to split and break off and around the top were some brass rings where the cord passed through and was tightened to close it.  Even though our sandwiches were in airtight Tupperware dishes they always tasted of chlorine because these were the same bags that we used to take our swimming trunks and towels to the baths for our weekly lessons and it was impossible to get rid of the smell especially after you had left them in there over the weekend.

After lunch it was free time and this was the opportunity to let our hair down. Out of sight of the teachers the first thing we did was to take off our caps and maroon blazers and roll them up into our duffle bags and then we made for the city centre.  Sensible kids did more sightseeing or a bit of shopping but I always hung around with the boys who wanted to misbehave and do silly things.  On one trip I remember that we wasted a whole afternoon by buying a ticket on the underground circle line to the next stop and then going all the way round, again, just because we could and it felt as though we were doing something wrong.

On another occasion, when I was about fifteen, one of my friends, Paul Connor, who was more sexually advanced than most of us, arranged for us to go to Soho because he had heard that it was possible to see live sex shows. He was confident that the way to do this was to go to a dirty book shop and just hang around and then someone would come and ask us if we wanted to go through to the back room.  We did this and we didn’t have to hang about too long at all (probably no more than a few seconds) before a man came and asked us what we were doing there (we were only fifteen and probably had no more than ten shillings each to spend) and Paul told him we wanted to go into the back room.  He told us to follow him and he took us down a corridor and opened the door at the end and ushered us all through – back onto the street!

At five o’clock or thereabouts we had to return to the rendezvous point for the trip home. Someone was always late or worse, lost, which meant thirty minutes of adrenalin filled panic for the teachers but eventually everyone turned up, sometimes accompanied by a police officer and by the time everyone was accounted for it was back on the bus to eat the last of the chlorine sandwiches on the way home.

school-trips-and-feeling-homesick

Scrap Book Project – Cycling Proficiency Test

In the 1960s before families had two cars most of us went to school on our bikes.  This was a much better arrangement than today when every school morning and evening the roads are clogged up with cars taking lazy kids to school.

Everyone had a bike and every school had a row of bike sheds and with so many on the road the Government was concerned about highway safety and in 1967 along with a load of other boys I took my Cycling Proficiency Test.

Cyclist training began in 1947, although its roots stretched back to the 1930s when cycling organisations were pressing the Government to include cyclist instruction in the school curriculum and finally in 1958 the Government funded the introduction of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) National Cycling Proficiency Scheme and cycling instructors came to the school to prepare us for the test.

Tufty Roadshow

RoSPA by the way was also responsible for the Tufty Club and the Green Cross Code and were completely detached from reality because we had all been out on the open road for years on our bikes and had already perfected some of the finer points of cycling, such as riding backwards or with no hands for example.

Most of the ‘training’ took place in the safety of the school playground where we had to demonstrate our biking skills by cycling between bollards, learning the Highway Code and how to maintain our machines in good mechanical order.  Once we had done all of this to the satisfaction of the instructor there was a final road test under the watchful eye of the examiner.

I don’t think anybody ever failed the Cycling Proficiency Test and at the end there was a certificate and an aluminium badge to attach to the handlebars so that everyone knew just how safe we were. I was awarded my certificate and badge on 19th May 1967.

Scrap Book Project – Spalding Flower Parade

In the late 1970s my first job in Local Government was in the Finance Department at Rugby Borough Council and I worked in a small office of six people one of whom was a man called Ron Lindley (in the picture on the left).  Ron was in his late fifties and had previously served in the army and had worked for a long time at British Leyland in Coventry and, I’m afraid this has to be said –  he was a bit boring!  He had a lifetime full of stories about serving in India and production line techniques and if Ron caught you for a chat you’d really want to make sure you were the one nearest the door.

Anyway, one Monday morning in about 1978 Ron came to work after a week off and I made the mistake of asking him what he had been doing.  He told me he had been to Spalding to the Flower Parade and would I like to see some pictures.  I didn’t even know where Spalding was but it was rude to say no so I said that I would love to.  To my horror Ron produced five ‘Photo express’ packs of thirty-six photographs each and proceeded to go through each one with an explanation and a commentary.

This took some time I can tell you, and by the end I was close to using the office stapler on my leg to keep me conscious but eventually it came to an end and I mention all of this because when it was all over I clearly remember saying to myself, “Andrew, whatever you do in life, make sure you never go the Spalding Flower Parade!”

The history of the Spalding Flower Parade stretches back to the 1920s when the sheer number and variety of tulip bulbs grown throughout the area surrounding the market town became an annual feast of colour.  The crowds that came in created many problems for the town and coaches and cars caused chaos on the narrow lanes around the fields and this continued to happen until in 1948, the Growers’ Association became involved in organising a Tulip Week.  With the help of the Royal Automobile Club, a twenty-five mile tour through villages and country lanes was planned to show the best fields.

So successful was the attraction that by 1950, Tulip Week had become Tulip Time.  A Tulip Queen competition was organised and the crowning of the Queen was performed just before the start of Tulip Time.  The Queen and her two attendants had to be employed in the flower bulb industry and were selected at competitions held at village dances.

An influx of visitors created an opportunity and an idea to put on an attraction to publicise the bulb industry.  A few experiments with decorated cars showed that the tulip heads could be made into garlands and pinned onto backing materials in colourful designs and would still hold their colour for a few days at that time of year.

To ensure that there would always be tulips on display, even if they might not be in the fields, from the many millions of tulip flower heads removed it was decided that keep some available for decorative purposes, firstly for static displays and some selected carts and vehicles, and these eventually started to drive around the town until, in 1959, the first Spalding Tulip Parade took place.

Building of the floats began with an intricate outline of steel tracery welded on a base carefully measured to fit a tractor underneath it. The initial form and steel skeleton of each float was skillfully constructed into the outline shape of the subject and then the steelwork was covered with a special straw matting to form a base to which the tulip heads could be attached.

Teams of up to two hundred people then worked throughout the two days before the Parade using up to one million tulip heads and pinning each one onto the floats in the colours and patterns required until all the floats were covered with tulips.  A single float, which can be as much as fifteen metres in length was decorated by as many as a hundred thousand tulip heads.

The first Parade was described as ‘a floral pageantry a mile long’.  There were just eight floats but it became an event not to be missed – twenty special trains came from all over England to the sidings at Spalding station.  Temporary caravan villages sprang up and two hundred thousand (sad) people would watch the spectacle. The success of the Tulip Parade, the only display of floral floats in the world using just tulips, brought Spalding and its horticultural industry to the notice of the country. Within only three years, the Parade had become so famous that a quarter of a million people were coming to Spalding on Parade Day to line the four mile route around the town.

Fast Forward…

In August 2000 I had a change of job and went to work for South Holland District Council and over the next few months I became aware of preparations for the 2001 Flower Parade and it seemed that as part of the duties of the job I had a part in all of this.  Even then I had forgotten about Ron’s boring story and just made my contribution.

On Saturday May 6th I got up for a day at work and travelled to Spalding and spent the morning making sure everything was in place for the event and still my memory wasn’t nudged in any way until the Parade came into view and started to pass by.  It seemed to take forever and suddenly it came to me, my words from 1977, “Andrew, whatever you do in life, make sure you never go the Spalding Flower Parade!”

This goes to prove that we really need to be careful what we say because our words can come back to haunt us.  I have now been to ten Spalding Flower Parade’s, each one has long and tedious as the first, each one just as mind numbingly boring as Ron’s never ending packs of photographs.

I left Rugby in 1980 and never saw Ron again, he died a few years later but I will never forget his Flower parade photographs.

International Women’s Day

On a visit to Riga and the Hotel Latvia in March in addition to enjoying the Skyline cocktail bar we decided to eat there as well.

The food was excellent and there was a reasonably priced self-service buffet but what was especially good about his meal was that it happened to coincide with ‘International Woman’s Day’ and there were free cocktails for all of us and flowers for the girls.

To be honest I had never heard of ‘International Woman’s Day’ before, it certainly isn’t that big in the United Kingdom, and to be honest I have to say that I thought it was a bit odd to have it on a Saturday, which is a day really reserved for sport, but it turns out that this was just an unhappy coincidence because IWD is held every year on March 8th and is a day of day of global celebration for the economic, political and social achievements of women around the world.

It all started in New York when in 1908 fifteen thousand women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights.

Then, in 1917, with two million soldiers dead in the war, Russian women chose the last Sunday in February to strike for ‘bread and peace’. This turned out to be hugely significant and a contribution to the overthrow of the Romanovs and four days later the Czar was forced to abdicate and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote.  That historic Sunday fell on 23rd February on the Julian calendar, then in use in Russia, but on 8th March on the Gregorian calendar that was in use elsewhere.

It has since become very important in Eastern Europe after a 1965 decree of the USSR Presidium that International Women’s Day was declared as a non working day in the USSR “in commemoration of outstanding merits of the Soviet women in communistic construction, in the defense of their Motherland during the Great Patriotic War, their heroism and selflessness at the front and in rear, and also marking the big contribution of women to strengthening friendship between peoples and struggle for the peace.”

Another interesting thing is that although Latvia doesn’t care to remember or celebrate much about the Russian occupation they seem happy enough to continue with this day off from work arrangement.

In these days of equality it is important to be fair of course and I am pleased to say that ‘International Men’s Day’ is an international holiday, celebrated on the first Saturday of November.  It was first suggested by Mikhail Gorbachev in 1999 and was supported fully by the United Nations.

Scrap book Project – Feeling Homesick

When I went to school in the 1960s school trips were simple affairs with a visit to nearby Stratford upon Avon and possibly a coach trip to London to go to the museums. Thirty years later when my own children were going to school trips were much more interesting with more adventurous and stimulating itineraries sometimes including overseas travel.  My daughter Sally loved these school holidays and I was always paying for one trip or another and she would leave home full of enthusiasm.

Jonathan on the other hand was not nearly so keen and I remember him going away only once.  This was in 1998 in the final year of Junior School when he was eleven years old.  For the top class there was always a few days away on the Isle of Wight.  Sally had gone two years earlier and now it was Jonathan’s turn.  He didn’t really want to go and had no enthusiasm for the affair but we packed him off and patiently waited for the postman to deliver to us the letter that told us what a brilliantly good time he was having.

Imagine how guilty we felt when this letter popped through the post:

Scrap Book Project – I-Spy Books

I-Spy books were small paperback volumes that were popular in the 1950s and 1960s.  Each book covered a subject such as I-SPY Cars, I-SPY on the Pavement, I-SPY on a Train Journey, and so on and so on.

The object was to be vigilant and spot objects such as animals, trees, policemen, fire engines, sea shells etc. etc.  and they were recorded in the relevant book, and this gained points.  More points were available for the more difficult spots.  Once you had spotted everything and the book was complete, it could be sent to Big Chief I-SPY for a feather and order of merit.

No, I kid you not! 

The books was supposedly written by a Red Indian chief called Big Chief I-Spy who turned out to be a man called Charles Warrell who was a former school teacher and headmaster who created I-Spy in 1948. He retired in 1956, but lived on until 26th November 1995 when he died at the age of 106.  For part of this time he also worked as an antiques dealer in Islington.

Those who played the I-Spy game became members of the I-Spy Tribe and were called Redskins.  The head office was variously known as the Wigwam by the Water or the Wigwam-by-the-Green.  Neither of these exotic sounding places were situated on the American Plains or in the Black Hills of Dakota, the former was located next to the Mermaid Theatre at Blackfriars and the latter was in London’s Edgware Road.

I had quite a collection of I-Spy books but to be honest I never finished any of them because some of the items were absurdly difficult to track down (how, for example, do you I-Spy fish unless you are a deep sea fisherman working on a trawler or a scuba diver?) and I never got a single feather although I did join the club and had an I-Spy badge that I used to wear on the lapel of my school blazer.

I-SPY Badge

The original first thirty-two I-Spy books were in black and white only and cost sixpence each and the titles were:

At the Seaside The Army
On the Farm The Wheel
History Sport
On a Train Journey People and Places
Dogs Musical Instruments
In the Country Men at Work
At the Zoo- Animals Antique Furniture
At the Zoo – Birds and Reptiles The Universe
In the Street Road Transport
On the Road Town Crafts
The Sights of London Country Crafts
Horses and Ponies The Sky
Ships and Harbours People in Uniform
Boats and Waterways Motorcycles and Cycles
Aircraft Bridges
Cars Sports Cars

Some of these books were extremely useful for parents, especially on long jouneys.  For a small investment there would be short periods of peace while children were preoccupied with spotting things –  ‘On a Train Journey’‘Road Transport’ and ‘Cars’ were good for this sort of thing.

On a long car journey my dad would invent his own I-spy games and challenge us to spot a red lorry, spot a black cow, spot a petrol station, in fact spot pretty much anything he could think of if it successfully kept us all quiet.  This didn’t last very long of course and when he got desperate he would tell us to look out for the sea and when we were on the way to Cornwall or Wales he usually started this little distraction roughly at about Oxford which is of course just about as far from the sea as you can possibly get!  That was very optimistic.

ispy

At the Seaside’ was also useful for parents because they could send you off for hours at a time staring into rock pools and poking around at the shoreline to find things while they sat and enjoyed the sunshine.  I suppose some would be frowned upon today because they encouraged kids to go off to places that parents today would consider dangerous, ‘In the Street’, ‘Boats and Waterways’, ‘Bridges’ and especially, probably the most dangerous of all, ‘Wild Fruits and Funghi’!

Some were useless of course and we didn’t buy them, I mean what chance was there of completing ‘The Army’ I-Spy book unless your dad was a squaddie? And how were most normal kids supposed to spot ‘Aircraft’?  I never went near an airport until I was twenty-two and neither did most of my mates.

Some people took this all a bit too seriously and here is an entry that I have found on www.doyouremember.co.uk : “Glad to know that others remember the I-SPY Books. I used the books regularly as a child in the 1950s and 1960s (and beyond), was a member of the I-SPY Tribe and won various prizes, including a wigwam (or tent!) I led my own local “patrol” and we met the second Big Chief I-SPY, Arnold Cawthrow, on a number of occasions. He visited my home in Barking twice and mentioned me and my Red Arrow Patrol in a number of his Daily Mail columns. I kept in touch until he retired in 1978 and remember the whole I-SPY experience with much affection.”

I-Spy a sad man!

Scrap Book Project – Dad’s First Car

Like a lot of families in the 1950s we didn’t have a car and had to rely instead on public transport.  Dad leaned to drive in 1962 when he took lessons with Terry Branston’s school of motoring.  Terry lived opposite to our house and well as being a driving instructor was a professional footballer who played for Northampton Town.

Once he had passed his test he bought his first car, an old fashioned white Austin Cambridge A55 registration number SWD 774.  The Cambridge had been introduced in January 1957 and was in production for two years.  It had a straight-4 pushrod B-Series engine with a maximum power output of 42 brake horse power and an alleged top speed of 71 miles per hour at 4,250 revs per minute, power was transmitted to the back wheels by means of a four speed gear box controlled with a column mounted lever.

It was a big heavy thing and by modern standards hopelessly inefficient, it only managed a disappointing thirty miles to the gallon or so but with a gallon of leaded petrol costing only five shillings (twenty-five new pence) this really didn’t matter too much.  I can remember dad pulling into a garage where an attendant put four gallons in the tank and dad handed over a crisp green one pound note!  I wish I could do that!  Dad always insisted on buying Shell petrol because he thought it possessed some sort of magic ingredient but at one point we successfully nagged him enough to buy Esso so that we could get the gold and black striped tail to hang around the filler cap to show other motorists that the car had a tiger in the tank!

On the outside it had a lumpy bulbous body shape, chrome bumpers and grill, round bug-eye lights with chrome surrounds, the Austin badge in the middle of the bonnet and the flying A symbol on the nose at the front.  It was a curious shade of white, a bit off-white really but not quite cream with ominous flecks of rust beginning to show through on the wing panels and the sills.

I would like to be able to get behind the wheel and take a drive in it now to fully appreciate how bad it must have been and with narrow cross ply tyres it must have been difficult to handle.  Dad obviously had some problems in this department because he had two minor accidents in it.  On the first occasion he misjudged his distances when overtaking a parked car and clipped a Midland Red bus coming the other way, he was upset about that especially when he got a bill to pay for the damage to the bus.  The second occasion was a bit more dangerous when a car pulled out on him from a side street somewhere in London and with inefficient brakes dad couldn’t stop the car in time and did a lot of damage to the front off side wing.  Fortunately this wasn’t his fault and someone else had to pay for the repairs this time.

Having an accident like this in 1964 was potentially quite serious because cars didn’t have seat belts and in a crash passengers could be tossed around as though they were in a tombola drum.  Drivers and front seat passengers were not compelled to wear seatbelts until 1st February 1983 by which time the Department of Transport estimated that thirty-thousand people a year were being killed or seriously injured in road accidents.  It seems bizarre now to think that there had been a long running row over making front seatbelts compulsory which had been going on for fifteen years with eleven previously unsuccessful attempts to make it law.

SWD774

And it wasn’t just seat belts that the A55 lacked because in the interior this was a car with few refinements and even lacking modern day basics such as a radio, air conditioning or satellite navigation!  There were no carpets, just rubber mats and the seats were made of imitation red leather that were freezing cold in winter and if you weren’t especially careful burnt your arse in the summer if the car had stood out in the sun for any length of time  For the driver there was a big skeletal steering wheel, column mounted gear stick and a hand brake that was adjacent to the steering column on the left hand side.

It didn’t have a heated rear window either so to tackle frost and condensation you had to buy a piece of plastic that we stuck onto the back window, about forty centimetres by twenty-five, which had to be wired up to the electrics somewhere under the dashboard and so long as nobody pulled the wires out when they were getting in and out of the car it then heated up and thawed the window.

Austin_A40_1956_2

For the controls there was a simple dashboard display with a basic speedometer and warning lights for oil and water, headlamps and indicators.  The ignition key was in the middle of the dashboard alongside the manual choke and the knob to control the windscreen wipers.  There were air vent controls for the driver and the front seat passenger, a long open shelf for keeping miscellaneous motoring clutter and a glove box for the AA book and important membership details.

Dad only had the A55 for a couple of years and after that he had a white Ford Anglia, 1870 NX, which I always thought was a bit chic and stylish with that raking back window and flashy chrome grill that looked like a permanent happy smile.  Then he had a two tone blue and white Ford Cortina Mark I and he must have liked the Cortina because after that he had first a blue one and then a white one.  Sometime in the early 1970s he traded up from a Mark I to a Mark II and had a model in a curious duck egg green.  These were all second hand cars of course but then in 1975 he had his first brand new car when he paid £800 for a metallic gold Vauxhall Viva, which he kept for four years before selling it to me.  After that he had a succession of red Escorts before finally downsizing to Fiestas, and back to blue again.

Scrap Book Project – The Edinburgh Military Tattoo

In the summer of 1972 the family went on holiday to the Croyde Bay Holiday Camp in Devon.  I was eighteen and had finished my ‘A’ Levels and was probably waiting for the results.  Whilst we were there I met a girl called Jackie Grieg from Edinburgh and we became quite friendly.

After the end of the holiday we kept in touch by writing to each other and she invited me to visit her for a few days in August and it seemed there might be a romance on the cards.  One tea time my parents drove me to Coventry bus station where I had a ticket for a three hundred mile overnight coach journey to the Scottish capital and soon I was on my way north.  I don’t remember the price of the ticket but a single National Express ticket today costs nearly £6o but looking at the advert below from 1972 I suspect it was quite a lot cheaper then, probably no more than a couple of pounds.

Edinburgh Postcard

In the early hours of the morning the coach pulled into Glasgow to drop off some passengers just as the city was waking up and then continued east to Edinburgh where we arrived at around breakfast time and where Jackie and her dad were waiting to meet me and take me home for a full Scottish start to the day.

After a few days in Edinburgh it became obvious that it was very unlikely that there was going to a romance, I had been rather impetuous and this was not a match made in heaven and we would have to put up with each other until my return journey a few days later. Luckily her brother came to the rescue and we struck up a short friendship.  He worked at Scottish and Newcastle Breweries and had unlimited supplies of McEwan’s beer which I was happy to help him dispose of.  It was obvious that Jackie wasn’t madly in love with me and he took over the hosting responsibilities.

One evening we went to see the Scottish folk group The Corries in concert and I liked them so much that when I got home I bought an LP record and I still have it somewhere in my redundant vinyl collection.

Like a lot of other artists the Corries were in town because my visit coincided with the annual Edinburgh Festival and at the end of the week we had tickets to go and see the Edinburgh Military Tattoo on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle and on that chilly evening we took our seats in the open air arena and watched the show that included the pipes and drums of the Scottish Regiments and the Massed Bands, a drill display from the Norwegian King’s Guard, a Lion Dance and a Frog Dance performed by the Singapore Armed Forces. I remember that I really enjoyed it!

Tattoo 1972 2

When the week was over I caught the bus at Edinburgh coach station, said goodbye to Jackie and waved through the window as the bus pulled out and then slumped back into the seat relieved that it was all over.  I suspect she was as glad to see the back of me as I was to be returning home and we never spoke or wrote to each other ever again.

1972 Military Tattoo 1972 1Edinburgh Military Tattoo 1972 2