Category Archives: Humour

The place where I grew up (5)

After Smart’s wool and dress shop, the next shop was Burton’s Stores, which sold food and general groceries. As a little boy, of course, I did not realise that this was just one shop in a chain of many hundreds, stretching across most of the East Midlands, and in particular, the area around Nottingham. Still less did I anticipate the fact that one day, I would spend my entire working life in the school where the founder of the firm, Frank Burton, had received his education, in the last decades of the nineteenth century. Here he is, ten minutes after he won the Gold Award in “Waxed Moustache Magazine” for December 1886:

Here’s Burton’s Stores today:

Just past Burton’s Stores was Shepherd’s the Chemists where, one day in the late 1950s, I was treated for the severe forehead cut which I suffered when I fell over on the pavement outside the shop, near the bus stop. Here’s the Chemists today:

Conceptually, the last business in the High Street was the Post Office which was just past the chemist’s. It was run by Ernie Chell and many is the First Day Cover I purchased from him over the years of the late 1960s and 1970s. Here is a first day cover from the early 1960s:

And here is the Post Office today, its presence in this rapidly decaying village guaranteed by government hand-outs, as was recently revealed in the local newspaper:

Next to the Post Office was the motorbike shop, which we as little boys always thought was the home of the Woodville Chapter of the Derbyshire Hell’s Angels. Now its changed its orientation and is home to “Chaps” and “Swishhh”:

Opposite was Dytham’s Dairy, which delivered milk to most of the area. Now it is home to “Timber Town Trophies whose opening hours are on their website“:

Beyond that on the right was the road which led up to the Infants’ School and to Woodville Secondary Modern, the destination, alas, of so many young people of the village over the years.  More striking, though, before its demolition in the late 1950s, was the vast bulk of the Wesleyan Church, which, in the vision of a five or six year old boy, towered as high as a medieval cathedral. Like the products of so many of the local pipe works, it was of a dark, reddish brown, made of bricks which may well themselves have had a partially glazed surface:

Beyond this was Leese’s furniture shop, which, despite its distant location at the top end of High Street, survived as a business for many years after I left the village.

Here is the shop today. Closed at 11 o’clock in the morning:

I was simply amazed at the economic desolation of Woodville today. So many shops were derelict. Presumably that is why everybody voted for Brexit. It was hoped that this gesture would be a punch on the nose of our politicians who have allowed the life of the ordinary working man in the north and Midlands to degenerate to an unacceptable standard. He no longer has any pride in what he does, and that is wrong.

I suppose the slogan will have to be “Let’s make Woodville great again”. Or at the very least, nice to live in.

One feature of life in the 1950s which has disappeared for ever from Woodville, and indeed from the whole of the rest of the country, was what used to happen at the end of every single working day, as all the factories closed down at five o’clock in the late afternoon.

Every single works, every single factory, had its own siren or hooter which would be sounded loudly in the still calm of the evening. From my Dad’s own back garden, he would have been able to hear perhaps as many as ten different factories closing down for the day, one after another.

Each hooter had its own distinctive note, and this, coupled with the direction the noise was coming from, meant that, with practice, every single one could be identified. Every night too, they would sound in the same order, a few seconds apart, and it was therefore possible to anticipate Outram’s, say, or Knowles’s or Wragg’s, all finishing work for the day.

Pretty much the same thing used to happen at the end of every lunch hour, as the managers and owners tried to bring their tired staff back for the afternoon. This was always less impressive, however, as invariably, the end of the midday break was always slightly different by at least a few minutes for every single factory.

I could only find a single factory hooter on Youtube. Listen from one minute onward:

Youtube also features the really unusual work of composer Arseny Avramov who created both a “Symphony Of Factory Sirens” and a second “Symphony of Industrial Horns” in 1922, using the various factory hooters of Baku in what was then the Soviet Union.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The place where I grew up (4)

Last time we were walking through my home village of Woodville, down to the school and the church. Now, though, we return to the High Street, the most important street in the village. The first shop on the left was Ormes’s. Here they sold boiled ham, crusty bread, ice cold milk and cream cakes. Hot ham hocks were delivered to the shop, I think, on perhaps a Monday or a Tuesday, and there were also special arrivals of savoury ducks, which were very large meatballs, on a Monday and a Thursday. The manager here was Eric Boss, a man who could out-flirt and out-innuendo even the Co-op butcher. Here’s Ormes’s. As you can see, it too is nowadays derelict:

There’s one Eric Boss story that I cannot not tell you.

“On one occasion, my grandfather, Will was pushing his huge old fashioned wooden wheelbarrow up Hartshorne Road towards the Toll Gate at the top of the hill. It was full of clay, and weighed a colossal amount. This, of course, was of little concern to Will, who was extremely strong, having spent his entire adult working life carrying huge quantities of wet clay on his back at Knowles’s and at Wraggs.

Down the hill came Eric Boss, the manager of Ormes’ grocer’s and cake shop, and a middle aged “Jack the Lad”, a man with a great eye for the ladies. He was always chatting them up as he served them. When he met Will, he obviously saw it as a chance to show off, for he said to him, “Hold on there, old man, I’ll give you a hand.” He reached down to grasp the handles of the barrow and take some of the weight off my apparently frail old grandfather.

Imagine then his embarrassment, when he could not even lift the wheelbarrow legs off the ground.”

Next door to Ormes’s was Taylors’ newsagents, run by Albert Taylor and his wife. As you can see, it too is nowadays derelict :

Among many other products, Taylors’ sold magazines from America such as “Famous Monsters of Filmland”:

And I well remember having to go up to Taylor’s to pre-order my copy of the new British comic for boys, namely “Victor”, complete with free gift, a plastic presentation wallet full of postcard sized photographs of the great football and rugby teams of 1961-1962:

Next on the left was Renée’s fish and chip shop, with her fabulous fishcakes, made almost exclusively of potato, and her special batter, imported daily from Derby by special van in special plastic buckets.
Here is Renée’s today:

After Renée’s fish and chip shop, with her fabulous fishcakes, came the Viking Coach Company which took clubs, societies and just ordinary passengers all over the country. A holiday in Scarborough. A fortnight on the Isle of Wight. A visit to a show in London or off to Birmingham to see “Godzilla: the Musical”. Alas, the Vikings are no more. They are now a flower and furniture shop where business is so good that they are closed at eleven o’clock in the morning on a Friday:

Opposite Albert Taylor’s newsagents, was, I think, a dry cleaners, As you can see, it too is nowadays derelict :

Next door was Charlie Fowell’s barber’s shop.  Strangely, it is also closed this fine Friday morning:

Further up on the right hand side of the street was Ashmore’s, a second newsagent’s. As everybody has now forgotten how to read, it is now a curry shop:

Then there was Whyatt’s the greengrocers. Today, it is a Vape Shop, whatever that is:

I can remember though, the days when this greengrocery business was further up the street, on the left, until it had to be demolished to construct an important car park, and they had to move their premises. Here is that vital car park today, keeping the commerce of the area ticking over:

Whyatt’s original shop was at the side of a little road which ran away to the north from the High Street, on the opposite side from the Queen Adelaide public house. Whyatt’s always had boxes made of bright, thin, cheap orange wood on the pavement in front of their shop, where they displayed their fruit and vegetables. It was in this part of High Street that the demolition of a number of buildings occurred and, in the ruins of an ancient terraced house, a vast tangled rats’ nest was revealed in the ceiling of the back bedroom. It must have been ten or twelve feet across, and the product, one supposes, of generations of work on the part of countless hundreds of rats. As seven year old children, we always stopped to look at this natural wonder as we walked up to the Infants’ School at the top of High Street.

Opposite these shops and houses, on the other side of the High Street to Whyatt’s the Greengrocer’s was Woodville’s third newsagent’s, namely Jones’s, perhaps the least successful of the three. Nowadays it has been converted to a vitally needed fast food shop, one of forty three million  in the country:

Back in the day, the shop was a fine source of what we called “shilling war books”:

There was at least one other shop in this block, but I cannot remember exactly what it was. There are vague memories, perhaps, of a TV repair shop. As you can see, though, it too is nowadays derelict:

Further up on the opposite side was Smart’s shop, which was divided into two halves, both equipped with bright orange cellophane sheets in the windows to protect their goods against the sun. The right hand half of the shop sold, if I remember correctly, wool, knitting patterns, knitting needles  and sewing requisites, while the left hand side contained ladies’ dresses and other clothing. It was a marvellous shop for middle aged women to visit, to buy everything they needed for their hobbies.

Here is the knitting shop today. It was converted into a vitally needed fast food shop, one of forty three million  in the country:

And here is the clothes shop. It’s used, I presume, to store the uncooked ingredients for Kim’s Kitchen. It’s very pretty, though, and I take my hat off to the architect who came up with that conversion of the original shop, after only seven years of study:

Next time, my attempts to get Woodville twinned with Florence.

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What would you do ? (1) The Solution

Here’s the emergency from last time:

And here’s the situation:

The canoe’s occupants were threatened with a capsize. There were more crocodiles in the water, there was no time to use the rifle and there was a clear need to act fast.

And page 2 says that the solution is:

“The expert hunters have an immediate answer. They cover the crocodile’s eyes. Immediately the monster stops threshing. When a crocodile cannot see, it becomes docile. And then the net can be put round its body to prevent it escaping.”

And that solution is absolutely right. My Dad had a pet blind crocodile for years and he never ate anybody. Well, not completely anyway. And the crocodile was even better behaved.

And finally, always have something big enough to wrap round a big crocodile if you come across one:

 

 

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What would you do ? (1) The Puzzle

“What would you do ?” used to figure on the cover of a comic called “Boys’ World”. This was a publication, obviously, aimed at boys and first appeared on January 26th 1963, priced sixpence in pre-decimal money, two and a half pence in today’s money. There were 89 issues before the comic was merged with Eagle in 1964. The last issue of “Boys’ World” came out on October 3rd 1964. Here is the Eagle for that very same day. It seems to have swallowed “Boys’ World” without even noticing:

I used to buy “Boys’ World”, and this was mainly for the front cover which always featured a kind of puzzle. It was called “What would you do ?” and was based on somebody being in what Ned Flanders would call “A dilly of a pickle”. Here’s the great man:

Here’s the front cover with the situation for “What would you do ?”

The yellow box sets the scene, and the task is for you to solve the situation. Perhaps you might like to write your idea in the “Comments” section. Here’s the yellow box enlarged:

The monster crocodile has escaped and is thrashing about in the boat. The canoe’s occupants are threatened therefore with a capsize. There are more crocs in the water and there’s no time to use the rifle. There is, though, a clear need to act fast.

Both the picture of the situation and the yellow box can also be enlarged with a double click. I’ll be telling you the answer on December 5th. First prize is a chance to spend an evening Crocodile Rocking with Elton John, second prize is a stuffed thirteen foot crocodile and third prize is a thirteen foot crocodile which is not stuffed.

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The place where I grew up (3)

Last time, we finished Part Two standing in the middle of Moira Road with our backs to the traffic, hoping that Woodville, my natal village, did not yet have anybody with a silent electric car. First on the right is the Junior School that I went to, now closed down and fenced off, and used by Derbyshire  County Council as a Youth & Community Centre:

My Dad went to the Junior School in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and I went there in the late 1950s and early 1960s. My Dad then worked there, and, in fact, taught me in what would one day be Year 4. I was also taught by Miss Cartwright, Mrs Burman and Mrs Simpkin. All four of them were excellent teachers and tried as hard as they could, even though their classes had around forty five to fifty pupils.

Next to the school is the church of St Stephen:

Nowadays it’s a lot more dramatic as St Stephen the Martyr, but we all knew it as St Stephen’s. After going to the school next door and standing in the playground  as a little boy and watching the swifts nest under the eaves of the church, Fred had his funeral there in  2003.

The next building was the Church Hall where our School Choir, District Champions, gave a concert for the Old Age Pensioners in 1962:

I think it’s just being repaired rather than being derelict. Next comes the only shop in the road, namely Hopper’s, which always seemed to sell the coldest fizzy drinks and ice cream, when we returned from playing sport at the Recreation Ground. Hopper’s had a door which clanged with a mechanical ringing effect and this unique sound was emphasised by a grey, metal grille on which customers were supposed to wipe their feet as they entered the shop.

Here is the shop today, alas:

Between the Church Hall and Hopper’s is the house where Fred, my Dad, was born on November 30th 1922. No blue plaque as yet. It’s the house with the three windows in the roof:

Right at the very far end of Moira Road was another shop which was close enough to the Recreation Ground to provide cold fizzy drinks and ice cream for young children playing sport up there. I have forgotten the name of the shop owners, but they were much more like a convenience store with tinned vegetables and canned fruit for sale. Here is the shop today. It’s as good as derelict if you’re thirsty from a good game of football:

Next time a trip up High Street, or, as my Grandad would say, a trip “up Box”, using the old expression for Woodville, taken from the man who took the toll money in the eighteenth century. We’ll see Albert Taylor, Reg Ashmore, Renée and her chip shop and Graham Fowell, who left his Dad’s business to become a minister of the church.

 

 

 

 

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On holiday with Ross Poldark (3)

Last time I was showing you more of the attractions at Botallack, in West Penwith, in western Cornwall:

I introduced the Crowns Mines which I called:

“the most photogenic industrial location in Cornwall.”

From the base of the stone chimney, a long sweeping path descends the cliff face. It goes down towards the Crowns Mines:

Their position is so dramatic that it attracts film crews like bees to honey. Here is a slightly different shot which includes what looks to me like the silhouette of Pan and below that, to the right, a number of faces in the rock. At least two gannets are visible flying past as just two white dots. Notice too, the croquet lawn right in the middle of the photograph:

There must be quite a few people who are frightened by the path, which is wide and flat with a substantial fence made largely of rust. To your left, there is a very, very long way to fall on to the sharp rocks below . If you do fall, though, make sure that you look to the right as views are tremendous.

These mines had tunnels which stretched under the ocean for several miles, allegedly. Equally allegedly, the miners could always hear the noise of the waves above their heads.

As you walk down, the two mines gradually grow closer. If I remember correctly, you can go safely into the right hand structure:

But the left hand tower is a very definite “No-No”. Or at least, you’ve got a very large queue of kamikaze pilots to contend with.
Still, it’s a wonderful location. The ocean is so blue and it is transparent enough for the rock platform underneath the waves to show up. Gannets are still passing by . There is one to the right of the right hand tower, just where the wall meets the ground. Again, if I remember correctly, it is impossible to climb to the top of this tower, although a door lets you in to see a very limited part of the ground floor.

This is the best shot I could get of the left hand tower.

The National Trust says that the tunnels went out under the sea just 450 yards (very roughly 450 metres), and reached 1600 feet under the seabed, an amazing depth if you think about it (very roughly 487.68 metres).

Here is a comparison of the two mines then and now. If you look very carefully, you can see a lot of similarities but many differences, some of them the effects of a hundred years’ plus of Atlantic storms:

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The path leading back up to the main group of ruins is quite steep but you’re not going to get lost with such a landmark to guide you:

How long it must have taken to quarry the stones to build this impressive edifice! It’s certainly lasted a lot longer than the men whose toil and sweat erected it:

Back at the top, among the ruins, I found some intriguing graffiti. This first one could fire at least a couple of romcoms:

And this is a full length effort, vandalised by some moron, unfortunately:

My last memory of the place will be watching a couple of retired BBC planners (click on the picture to enlarge it, and they are on the cliff edge). They are working out the cost of a modern Poldark sequel starring Jeremy Corbin as Poldark’s charismatic youngest son and Vladimir Putin as George Warleggan:

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On holiday with Ross Poldark (2)

Last time I talked in very general terms about the main, and most obvious, sights at Botallack, a disused tin mine in Cornwall:

First, there is the enormous stone chimney, to power the pumps that maintain low water levels in the mine:

And then there is something which I have never managed to fathom out. It looks rather like Cornwall’s attempt at Peru’s Nazca lines, but constructed with stone and concrete:

In among them were two Georgian missile silos, their “Hanover” ICBMs targeted on Napoléon’s distant boudoir. Spot the photographer, by the way:

Walk a little further on to the south and there is a view of  the winding gear, the top bits of a more modern chimney, and a ruined wall. And what a sky! :

Keep walking and there is a view back towards the car park. The metal winding gear has not been used for a long time, perhaps as far back as 1900.

Again, everywhere there are ruined buildings, all of them in local stone:

At least one of the forgotten buildings was an arsenic-refining works. In areas of volcanic rock where tin and copper are mined, some nasty substances may always  be encountered such as arsenic, cadmium, lithium and even uranium.
I suspect that perhaps, over the years, the local builders and farmers have been helping themselves to many of the pre-cut stone blocks for their own walls and/or barn building or perhaps even as the hard core for country roads.

If you turn round and walk past the big stone chimney:

You can then continue for fifty or a hundred yards, until you get to the “abandoned mine engine of Wheal Owles”:

That particular disused mine is frequently used in Poldark episodes when the work force is filmed  actually working the mine. I have walked over to the Wheal Owles on just one occasion but I didn’t take any photographs. To be honest there are so many of this type of ruined pump house in this part of West Cornwall that the old adage “Seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all” comes into play.

This is the view straight ahead of the bench towards the north. There is another large ruined building and then what looks like the stump of a demolished chimney nearer to the tip of the headland.

Here’s that same view looking slightly more northwards;

You can just see the reason why the BBC people chose this site. It’s at the bottom left of the photograph above, and it’s one of the Crowns mines, the most photogenic industrial location in Cornwall and its second most photographed tourist site after the Men-an-Tol:

We’ll walk down to see  the Crowns mines next time.

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