Category Archives: Personal

The Peregrine : the Fastest Creature in Victorian Nottinghamshire (2)

Last time I was talking about Joseph Whitaker and the many times he saw Peregrines in Nottinghamshire. Here is the great man:

He isn’t the only overweight old bloke with excess facial hair to have seen Peregrines in action, though.

Very early one morning in Cornwall, I once watched a Peregrine chasing a Herring Gull. The latter was so scared that it landed and walked across to stand right next to me, like somebody queuing for the bus at a bus stop.  When the falcon flew away, the gull departed a few seconds later, in the opposite direction.

Shortly after May 1, 1920, Mr Frank Hind,  one of the leading members of the Nottingham Natural Science Field Club wrote:

“A very large bird was circling high up in the sky over Gedling. From its manner of circling, and flight and the great height, I can think of no bird but the Peregrine Falcon as likely to be the one seen.”

peregrineflying

The following account was published in the Nottingham Evening Post of April 14th, 1976:

“The pigeons in the Old Market Square in Nottingham had better watch out. For a bird of prey has been spotted on top of the nearby Council House. And it’s thought his taste for city life might be due to the prospect of a convenient meal of pigeon.
A spokesman for the Trent Valley Birdwatchers said the bird had not been positively identified but it could be a Peregrine Falcon. It was disturbed by one of the club members who was carrying out repairs to the Council House.”

pery grin1

Nowadays,  of course, this scenario is an everyday one. I wrote about the peregrines on the Newton Building of Trent University in an article entitled:

Jer Falcon. one shot at Park Hall by Mr Shelton. Now in my collection

There are live webcams of city dwelling peregrines across most of the developed world including Derby.

And Norwich

And Mississauga

And Etobicoke

The camera at Phoenix in Arizona is of very good quality:

If you get bored, go to Bowling Green in Ohio.

or Kitchener in southern Ontario in Canada.

Peregrines are pretty much the same the whole world over. They breed in every continent except one.

If you get tired of travelling the world, you could always use the webcam on the Newton Building here in Nottingham.

One of my favourite webcams though, is one that shows lots of brightly coloured American birds, and another where you can try to see the Loch Ness Monster.

Good luck  with that one.

 

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Filed under Cornwall, History, Nottingham, Personal, Twitching, Wildlife and Nature

Football in the Old Days ; Derby County v Norwich City

Imagine it is the late 1970s. We are walking down to the old Baseball Ground, and about to turn into Harrington Street. The floodlights of the ground are just visible:

A fur x police hors 4

My Dad, my brother and I used to park on what had been the Parade Ground at the old Victorian army barracks at Normanton, and then walk down to the football ground. If we were at all late for the kick off, Fred, my Dad, was quite capable of generating a punishing pace along the terraced backstreets. It was with complete justification that my brother would regularly accuse him of setting off like “a long dog” (whatever that was).
On one occasion, Fred was extremely late for the game, so rather than miss a second of the action, he just left the car on the grass verge of the Ring Road. He accepted as a necessary evil the inevitable parking ticket and fine he would receive, and paid it without demur, but both my brother and myself were advised, “Don’t tell your mother.”
This was not too dissimilar from an incident when he damaged his beautiful pale blue Hillman Minx quite badly by reversing it into an, admittedly, pale grey, well camouflaged lamp post, down near the bridge which went over the railway lines at Swadlincote Station:

building site 3asdf

Again, he accepted the cost of the panel beater and a resprayed rear wing, on the basis of “Don’t tell your mother.”
Closer to the ground, Harrington Street was closed to traffic because of the thousands of people all rushing down to the game. The single floodlight is even more obvious:

B - Copy (3)
Here is a backlit policeman on his horse, and more terraced houses, looking back past the long demolished Baseball Hotel:C x police horses - Copy (2)

Two rather drenched policeman on their horses, walking down Shaftesbury Crescent. Look at the fashions! Look at the flares!

D r x police horses 1

At last! These two policemen have the sense to find a little shelter from the weather:

E ur more police horses -photo 3

They are at the back of the Normanton Stand, at the entrance to the Popular Side. The “Popside” was where hooligans of both teams would stand. There would be disorder at virtually every game.
Fred, as a man of some fifty or so years of age, was himself physically attacked, on two occasions, both of them by those lovable, loyal, warm hearted supporters of Newcastle United.

We had a period when we used to park the car in the playground of Litchurch Lane Junior School, for a mere 25p. One day, as we returned from the game, I was surprised to see large brown birds flying over our heads. Only when one of them crashed into the wall of the railway repair works, did I realise that they were not birds, but bricks, thrown by a group of discontented Newcastle supporters.

On another occasion, a group of Newcastle supporters set about giving a damn good kicking to an innocent young man and his girlfriend, who had the misfortune to be walking along Osmaston Road, just in front of us. My Dad, Fred, of course, armed with his RAF maxim of “it always happens to somebody else, never to me”, raced off to help out the young victims. I can remember how Fred grabbed one hooligan’s foot as he prepared to kick the poor young man, and then wrenched it around backwards as hard as he could. That must have hurt! Afterwards, I remember too how the young victim had been kicked so much that he had lost the face off his watch.

When I got home, I discovered a tear on my favourite green USAF war surplus jacket. That tear was present in my T-shirt as well, and my back had a long red mark on it. I have always reckoned that that was as close as I ever got to being stabbed, by somebody I did not even see, in a mêlée of whirling bodies.
The opponents for this match are, I think, Norwich City:

F football x four photo 4

They are playing in yellow shirts and white shorts, which was a slight change from their normal kit with green shorts:

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The problem was that in the early 1970s, lots of people still had black and white televisions, and Derby and Norwich would have looked very similar, as Derby were wearing white shirts with dark blue shorts, and Norwich yellow and green. Here Derby press forward with yet another attack:

F football x four photo 4

I can’t remember the score of this game, but I think it is safe to say that Derby probably won. They used to beat Norwich fairly regularly in the 1970s.

 

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Filed under Derby County, Football, History, Humour, Personal

High School Football Team achieves Perfection on the Forest

Wednesday, January 21st 1981

On a dull, dreary, drizzly day in winter, the author stood with the football team coach, Tony Slack, watching the First XI play a well contested match against High Pavement 2nd XI. We were on the Forest, at the side of a pitch which has now been partially covered by the all-weather facilities. Look for that orange arrow:

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Suddenly, eighteen year old Norman Garden, his sleeves rolled up in determined fashion, won the ball with a strong, vigorous tackle at the edge of his own penalty area:

NORMAN GARDENxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

He came forward with the ball at his feet and set off thoughtfully towards the opposition goal. Looking up, he sent a long, curving, arcing pass out to young Bert Crisp on the left wing. Bert trapped the ball, then ran forward ten yards or so, and looked across at the attacking possibilities:

BERT CRISP the one
Five yards outside the penalty area stood Chris Ingle, the team’s centre forward. He was in his usual pose, apparently disinterested, lacking commitment, without any apparent desire for hard physical involvement, a young man who only came alive when he saw the whites of an opposing goalkeeper’s eyes:

CHRIS INGLE ONE WWWWWWWWWWWWWWW

Chris began to move. He accelerated slowly but purposefully from his standing start as he crossed the white line of the penalty area. Bert Crisp instinctively knew what to do. He clipped in a wickedly curving centre, about four or five feet above the ground. It was timed to arrive at the penalty spot at exactly the same time as the deadly centre forward. Chris Ingle, as the ball flew in front of him, launched himself full length over the cloying mud.
He met the ball hard with his forehead, catching it a blow which rocketed it towards the top corner of the net. “Goal!!” we teachers both yelled in our minds. But it was not quite over. The opposing goalkeeper soared backwards and with a despairing left hand just managed to flick out at the ball. He diverted it upwards, and it flew onto the crossbar and behind the goal for a corner.

Chris Ingle got up and wiped the mud from his hands down the front of his white shirt. Tony Slack turned to me and said, “You wouldn’t see anything better than that in the First Division.” And he was right.

And, in case you missed it, here’s that fabulous save again…

banks defesa

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Filed under Football, History, Humour, Nottingham, Personal, The High School

Wolves (the animal not the football club)

When I wrote about the Beast of Gévaudan, I came to the conclusion that the ferocious creature was a previously unknown type of wolf:

bete-du-gevaudanzzzzzzz

For some unknown reason, it was being forced westwards from its normal habitat of the Polish or Russian primeval forests such as Białowieża. If ancient bison could live there, so could something even more prehistoric:

rejigged bison

At the time I did research the likelihood that the Beast was an ordinary wolf or wolves but I rejected that as a theory because I did not think that wolves would eat human beings.
It would be dishonest, however, not to make it patently clear that in the past, wolves certainly have eaten people but they don’t seem to now. Why should this be?
Firstly, extremes of weather centuries ago, more severe than what we have now, may have lead to a situation where wolves either ate any available prey items or just died. This would account for the Wolves of Paris which I have previously discussed:

wolf bounding

In actual fact they may also have acquired a taste for human flesh by eating corpses. Apparently, until as late as 1820, corpses in France were frequently thrown into open charnel pits. Presumably, these were paupers, drunks, stillborn babies, in short, anybody dead without the money for a funeral. And it is not outrageous to presume that this lovely way to dispose of the late dearly departed might have taken place in neighbouring countries too. An unfortunate situation that taught wolves to associate the scent of Man with a full belly.
If the hungry wolf wanted a better quality of prime human meat, young, and blood drippingly fresh, the best place was the battlefield straight after the battle. Once the local peasantry had stripped the bodies of everything valuable, they were not buried, but were gradually eaten by the ravens and other corvids, the eagles, both golden and especially white-tailed, and most of all, the local wolf pack.
This association of human flesh, its scent and taste, with a full stomach, was a recipe for disaster when wolves came across, say, lone travellers or children picking berries deep in the woods. And don’t forget. In France the peasantry were forbidden to own firearms to reduce the admittedly tiny risk of a blood spattering revolution.
Nowadays, the situation is completely different. Admittedly France had 7,600 fatal attacks by wolves between 1200–1900 but there has been nothing since. Italy has a population of wolves but without any fatal attacks on humans since 1945 and no attacks by wolves since the eradication of rabies in the 1960s.

wolf pack one

In the Baltic states, where rabies is still allowed to exist, just under a hundred people were bitten between 1992-2000 in Latvia and Lithuania, although the statistics are muddied somewhat in Estonia by the locals’ love for wolf-dog hybrids and keeping wolves captive on their properties.
And what about North America?

wolf baby

Well, in 2002, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game stated that there had been no human deaths in North America attributed to wild, healthy wolves since at least 1900. Concerns were caused though, when, on April 26th, 2000, a six year-old boy was attacked by a wolf in Icy Bay, Alaska. He was not killed, but then, on November 8th 2005 the body of Kenton Carnegie was found in northern Saskatchewan. He had died from “injuries consistent with a wolf attack.” The local wolves had apparently lost their fear of him because he fed them regularly.

Kenton_SKxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

To increase the risk, natural food was scarce in the area at the time and four wolves had been feeding on rubbish tips in the previous weeks. They were no longer scared by human activities. On November 4th, two of Kenton’s fellow campers clashed with two extremely aggressive wolves. Zoologists have now said that this was probably an “exploratory attack” just to see how difficult it was to kill a human being. Another perhaps more serious attack was imminent.
On the day of his demise, Kenton ignored warnings from his companions and went for a walk in the woods. It took the Coroners’ jury two years to rule out Black Bear, but their eventual verdict was “Death by Wolf”.

Iberian Wolf alpha male feeding on deer, its mouth tinted with f
On March 8th 2010, Candice Berner, a thirty two year old special education teacher who had only been in Alaska since the previous August was killed by two, perhaps three, wolves as she jogged along a road outside Chignik Lake. It was late afternoon.

Candice_Berner12

This was the first ever fatal wolf attack in Alaska. David Mech, a senior research scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey has studied wolves for more than fifty years. He said:

“There have been about two dozen nonfatal attacks in North America in the past century or so. Most involve wolves that have become habituated to people who have been feeding them at campgrounds, dumps and other sites near wolf habitat.”

Ms Berner was only 4 feet 10 inches tall and weighed just over eight stones (c 112 pounds). David Mech said that her slight, almost childlike build, and the fact that she was running may have attracted the wolves, who, after all, are predators by nature:

“Wolves are very much like dogs in a lot of respects. Things that are running, they have tendency to want to chase them,”

 

DogChasing

Ms Berner was thought to have been listening to music on a headset, but Dr Mech discounted this, as in his experience wolves move so silently that the wind is enough to mask their presence completely.

Whatever you think about wolves, the truth is that the inhabitants of the tiny village of Chignik Lake have lived alongside wild animals since time immemorial:

chig

This one attack has spooked all of the 73 inhabitants of the area, so remote that it can only be reached by aeroplane. The school’s stuffed wolf mascot had been there a good while, but now it has been kicked well into touch. The wolf badge of the school will also have to go if Virginia Aleck, a local woman, gets her way.
She said that everyone felt trapped in the village. None of the surrounding hills were considered safe anymore.  Nobody walked on their own and everybody carried a rifle.
Is this an over-reaction? Or are wolves just a part of living outside the big city? I’ll try to answer that question in a future article.

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Filed under Canada, Cryptozoology, France, History, Personal, Science, Wildlife and Nature

The Second XI Football Team 1980-1981

The Second XI had a pleasant and reasonably successful season back in 1980-1981, although it was possible to organise only seven fixtures. They lost their first match against Becket School, but were only to lose one more of the next five matches. Their record for the season of two wins, three draws and just two losses would have placed them comfortably in mid-table in the Premier League of today. Perhaps another Crystal Palace, Everton or West Ham. We drew games against High Pavement, Bramcote and Clarendon and then defeated Clarendon by 3-0 in the return and Bilborough by 5-2. Not a bad record for a team of eleven players picked from just nineteen available candidates:

asecond THE ONE

The goalkeeper was Richard Clark:

richard clark 700
And his deputy was, I think, David Lloyd:

other goalie

In defence we had Chris Turner:

chris turner 700

Alongside him was Julian Bower:

julian bower 700

Ken Blecher was the sweeper. He was the Team Captain, so he had the shiny satin finish shirt:
For some reason, we played in fairly dark blue shirts of a shade called ‘Admiral’ or ‘Azure’ apparently.  This had been worn as a change strip by Sunderland in the First Division a few years previously. The sleeves had a red and white design on them, as did the collars.

Ken Blacher

Now, back to the players.

Phil Sermon was a 100% team player who, although he was often a little quiet, always gave everything on the pitch:

phil-ser-mon-700

Paul Chappell was almost surgical in the strength and calmness of his tackles:

Paul Chasppell
Chris Batty was an accurate passer of the ball, with a powerful shot:

chris batty 7oo

Bert Crisp was a strong runner and created many chances:

bert crisp 700
Phil Colley supplied energy in midfield:

phil colley

Chris Ffinch played well in attack:

Chrs Ffinch 700

Robert Harwood was a confident goalscorer:

robert harwood 700

Stuart Burns also contributed well in attack:

stuart burns 700

On the team photograph, two players remain a mystery to me, although this all took place some 35 years ago now. The first is CD Richardson:

one

And the other is David Nowell, who, as you can see from the comments below, was the left full back, but who was unfortunately injured very early in the season :

three

Forgive me gentlemen.
Overall, the Nottinghamian reported that the players were “all keen to play and all contributed to a most enjoyable season. Everyone has done his best and given his all.”
A lot of my readers, of course, will not be familiar with any of these young men. Let them stand, therefore, for your own sporting efforts at school. Did you do your best and give it your all?
Perhaps you were not in a sports team of any kind. Well, just look at the faces of these sixteen, seventeen and eighteen year old young men. Look at their expressions. Their inner thoughts.
Nowadays they will be in their early fifties. Their team coach back in the day was in his late thirties. Well now, I am in my early sixties, and I just regret that I didn’t enter more Ché Guevara lookalike contests when I had the chance:

me close up

.

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Filed under Football, History, Humour, Nottingham, Personal, The High School

All Quiet on the Western Front (1)

graves1

The film All Quiet on the Western Front was first shown in 1930. It won Oscars for its director, Lewis Milestone, and its producer, Carl Laemmle Junior:Carl_Laemmle_Jr

During his years as head of production at Universal studios, Carl Laemmle Junior was to be best known for overseeing  the classic old horror films such as Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932), The Old Dark House (1932), The Invisible Man (1933), and Bride of Frankenstein (1935).

Lewis Milestone, born Leib Milstein, is best known for directing films such as Of Mice and Men, Anything Goes,  Halls of Montezuma Oceans Eleven and Mutiny on the Bounty.

My own favourite is All Quiet on the Western Front and that fondness for the film is based on a conversation that occurs right at the very end.

220px-AllQuietOnTheWesternFront

The film as a whole was written by Maxwell Anderson, George Abbott and Del Andrews. I do not know who was responsible for these particular extracts. The two writers who narrowly failed to win the Oscar for best writing were Andrews and Anderson. In it, one of the wise old soldiers gives his idea on the solution to war.

all-quiet-467 - Copy

I have decided to divide the dialogue into four sections. Here is Number One:

“Ah, the French certainly deserve to be punished for starting this war.”

“Everybody says it’s somebody else.”

“Well. how do they start a war?”

“Well, one country offends another.”

“How could one country offend another?”

“You mean there’s a mountain over in Germany gets mad at a field over in France?”

graves1

To be continued…

 

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Filed under Criminology, History, Personal

My latest book

snip-of-coverThose of you who follow my blog will be familiar with the many stories I have told about Nottingham High School; its Founders, its coat of arms, its war heroes, its caretakers and its one or two villains. I have recently finished compiling these stories, and many more, into a new book called Nottingham High School: The Anecdotal History of a British Public School, published with Lulu.com.

My history is an entertaining one about the people behind the institution – what they thought, said, and did from the reign of Henry VIII up to the modern era. I want to tell the stories of the ordinary people whose actions changed the history of Nottingham forever, and those whose lives had much wider influence on the history of our country and on the lives of people across the world. I tell the tales of all people connected with the High School – teachers, support staff, boys, alumni… from caretakers to kings!

image_update_72e24141db868b82_1348683417_9j-4aaqskThe book is written in diary form and runs from Thursday, June 30th 1289 to Thursday, July 12th 2012. It’s an easy read that you can dip in and out of as you wish. Find out about the antics of the boys, the excesses of the staff, the sacrifices of the alumni, and the castle-like school building in all its majesty.

My book contains new and previously unpublished research into the lives of some of the most famous ex-pupils of the school. Read about the childhood of scurrilous author D.H.Lawrence, whose controversial books were still banned 50 years after he wrote them. Read about the disruptive antics of Albert Ball V.C., the daring air ace who always fought alone. Read about American Old Boy, Major General Mahin of the U.S. Army, a man whose power and authority in the Second World War rivalled that of General Patton, until he was killed (or was it murder?).

The tone of my work is interesting and light, but at the same time, as you know from my blogposts, I can show my more serious side when occasion demands. A very large number of former pupils from the High School died in the two World Wars and their sacrifices are reflected in my book.

I have really enjoyed writing this new history book, and I hope that you will find it an entertaining and intriguing read. If you would like to give it a go, then it is now available from my page on Lulu.com.

p1040694

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Filed under Aviation, Criminology, History, Literature, Nottingham, Personal, The High School, Writing