Tuesday, 30 June 2009

My Michael Jackson Story.

Back in the eighties I was teaching at a comprehensive school in Salford. I discovered that the school possessed a video recorder that had been donated by a former pupil. Video recorders were fairly new back then, I imagine now every school has DVD players and computers coming out their ears. The school had a couple of famous ex pupils, Ben Kingsley and Albert Finney to name them both but the donator wasn't either of them. The Video recorder had spent all it's time in a store room because no one had bothered to set it up. So I went out and bought a bit of cable and wired it up. A few weeks later Michael released Thriller and one of the girls in my registration class brought in the video to lend to a friend. I offered to show the video that lunch time to any one who wanted to watch not really expecting more than a few people to turn up. When I got to the video room there were a couple of hundred children waiting. Over the next 3 days I showed it about 15 times to about half the school including many of the staff so Michael must have been popular. I am not a fan but I can recognise genius when I see it.
A few months later I was again in the video room when a little incident happened. Nothing to do with Michael but still interesting. It was the last period on a Friday afternoon and I was due to teach 4D some maths. These 15 year olds had learnt all the maths they were ever going to learn and some one had given me a tape about tessellation and I decided that a walk up to the video room and 20 minutes watching shapes fit together was the easy option. By the time the tape ended it was only 5 minutes to home time so I stopped the tape and expressed the wish that the pupils had enjoyed the show and as it was only a few minutes to the bell would they all mind very much watching the TV program that was now running. At that moment the head teacher walked in. This guy wore suits that must have cost £200 but looked like he had been to Oxfam for them. Anyway he must have wanted me for something, I never did find out what. Now I was standing with my back to the screen and had no idea what was showing but at 3:30 it was fairly safe bet the BBC weren’t showing a porn movie. He took one look at the TV and shouted loudly from the back of the room, “I though you were a maths teacher Mr Banks.” Now this was a typical example of this man’s bad manners. Even the children look surprised. I looked at the TV which was showing a nature film, Twenty rabbits were in a field eating grass and other things. So much for the BBC not showing porn films. “I am a maths teacher,” said I. “Today we are covering multiplication.”
There was a slight intake of breath from the class and then some one laughed and the headman stalked out. Shortly after that I decided that I had spent enough of my life in teaching and got a job as a driving instructor.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Three photos from Torquay. The first is the Curly Wurly Bridge at the bottom of Belgrave Road, the second is at the bottom of Fleet Street and used to be the estate office for Cary Estates who used to own Torquay and the 3rd is an advert for the Abbey. The balloon just got in the way.

Days Out.

Had a couple of days out this week. Both were a little disappointing, both partly for the same reason. The first trip was to Buckfast Abbey, a 12 to Newton Abbot and then an 88 to Buckfast. The timing of the 88 meant I could spend either one hour or two hours at the Abbey. Now I am not a church going person but churches can be quite dramatic to photograph. So I took myself into the church and this is where two things happened to provide the disappointment. One, a big sign saying we sell photographs of the church so none of that 'Do It Your Self' stuff here thank you very much. The second disappointment was the church itself. Grim and dull. OK, I know the monks built it themselves with their own bare hands after the worlds best know bigamist tore it down in the 16 century but a bit more imagination next time please Fathers. I did find something interesting to photograph, a 1957 AEG open top bus.

So I caught the next bus back to Ashburton which is a small town about half way to Newton.
I have driven through Ashburton many times back in the days when I used to work out of Newton the 72 went up to Buckfastleigh every hour Monday to Saturday. So I got off and had a look round. And took a few photos. This used to be the A38, the main road to Plymouth before the by pass was built. Used to get crowed.

A couple in Sands School where the pupils were staging a small exhibition of their art work.
The second trip wasn't as far, just to The Spanish Barn. Number 32 from town heading for the Willows but get off at the end of Falkland Road and turn left into the grounds of Torre Abbey. This Abbey dates back to the 13th Century and was also closed down by our friendly bigamist but he must have forgotten to send the bull dozers in because the building is still there and for a small fee you can spend a few hours wandering round (and take all the photographs you want). But I wasn’t after the Abbey, I was after the Antony Gormley show. This one is the opposit of his Angle of the North which is big and stands on it’s own. This one is called Field for the British Isles and consists of 40 000 6 inches high statues all looking at you. As with Buckfast Abbey there were two disappointments, the first was the positioning of the clay figures. The Barn is about 3 times as long as it is wide and the eyes are all facing one end. This means the poor sods standing at the back are so far away they don’t get a look in. If they have eyes they are too far away to notice. I do feel it would have been better if they were turned through 90 degrees and the door in the centre of the barn had been used as the viewing place. It took two days to set the figures up so it wouldn’t be too hard to turn them all round one night half way through the two month long show and see which way we, the viewers prefer. The second let down was again the bar on taking photos. Now I know there are photos for sale and if you go on the internet you can download any amount of photos but they are not the shot you would take if you had permission. It’s not as if there were football match type crowds waiting to get in. (See photo). Still get along and have a look. Catch the 12/12A to the Grand Hotel from either Torquay or Paignton/ Brixham and walk up Kings Drive or get a 32 to the end of Falkland Road and turn left into the Abbey grounds. The Land Train from Torquay Strand also goes there.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

RIP Kodachrome

Kodachrome has gone the way of the dodo. It has starred extinction in the face and blinked. It's gone. Kodak announced today that no more rolls of this excellent film will be made. Killed off not by the economic down turn but by the digital image. Well that's not exactly true, the millions and millions of images taken with Kodachrome and all other film makes and types will last much longer than the images stored on most hard drives.
I’ve always had a camera starting with a Box Brownie an aunt gave me when I was about 7. So why are there so few photos of me taken between 1950 and 2000. I bet if I went through the various photo albums belonging to family members there wouldn’t be more than 15 photos of me and so few holiday shots. I’m sure I went on more than 3 holidays in 50 years. Many have become lost, you would take a roll of film, which cost money to buy and to process, so due economy would be exercised in the pressing of the shutter. So much economy that a roll of 36 would usual start with summer holiday snaps and end with a Christmas party. Sometimes not even in the same year. But the roll would be taken to the chemist and the photos collected a week later, the photos looked at, disappointment expressed at least half the photos and the rest put to one side to be put in an album later. Sometimes later never came and photos which had been sitting in a camera for months or even years would be looked at once and end up in a cardboard box under the bed.
Now the photos end up on a hard drive in a computer or a mobile phone. They get emailed round the world in seconds, appear on sites like Flicker and Picasa and in Blogs, sent to the local paper or the BBC. Some even get printed, on paper. But billions get taken, terabytes of zeros and ones sitting on the hard drives of the worlds computes waiting for the click that will bring them on to the screen to be admired or deleted. How long will they last on the hard drive compared with Kodachrome and all the other films we knew and loved back in the bad old days? Actually the question isn’t how long will they last on the hard drive but how long will your hard drive last. Backup your photos now, on write once CDs or DVDs. How long will these backed up images last? Well the truth is we don’t know. I have photos taken in 2004 and copied to CD so they are 5 years old and were looked at a few weeks ago and are indistinguishable from the copy I have on the hard drive on this computer. I have a photograph taken in 1890 of my grandparents and it shows no sign of deterioration yet. Who knows how long it will last. Longer than Kodachrome anyway.

PS. If you have any photos on your hard drive that aren’t copied somewhere else then don’t go to work tomorrow. Spend the day backing them all up, on CDs, DVDs, memory card, or even email them to yourself. ( That last method is free).

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Teignmouth Festival

Yesterday, being a nice sunny day I decided to go down to the Harbour for a little walk round fallowed by a long sit down. As I got into Fleet Street I noticed a bus coming, a 32T, it goes to Teignmouth, a small sleepy town a few miles north of Torquay. Why not thinks I? So a bit later I end up in Teignmouth (pronounced Tin mouth) and discover it's Teignmouth Festival. First thing I notice is the Folk band playing folk music and children dancing. After getting slightly bored slightly quickly I wandered off and found the Morris Dancers.
Now I have never seen Morris Dancing before, not for real anyway. Just a few seconds on the TV. Men dancing around with bells tied to their legs and hitting each other with sticks. In this case BIG sticks. This dance was introduced as The Bear Dance, a throw back to the bad old days where MPs amused themselves by fiddled their expense claims and the plebs amused themselves by baited bears, hitting them with sticks and setting dogs on them. Doing that to bears is now illegal so the Morris Dancers have to call for a volunteer to play the part of the bear in this dance. No MPs have volunteered so far.
Click here to watch.

Friday, 19 June 2009

"Who ate all the pies?"

This was the headline in the local paper today. It is a reference to the fact that Adrian Sanders has over the last 4 years claimed £15 000 for food as s serving MP. When asked about the amount he is reported to have replied, "It only works out at 20 quid a day." True, but £20 a day seems to be a bit more that I spend on food. So unless Adrian has a second life as a mysterious benefactor who wanders the streets of London by night giving down and outs meat pies and cups of coffee how could he be spending so much on food? Actually when you think about it is quiet easy. Imagine; he gets up in the morning in his 9th floor London flat 250 miles from all the home comforts and doesn't have time to cook, or maybe he can't cook. So he nips into the local cafe and orders a full breakfast plus and extra cup of coffee. £5.00. Then down to the House for a mornings work. What exactly do MPs do, they don't spend all day debating? Eventually lunch time comes along so he wonders into the canteen and has lunch. Now I can go in probably the best pub in Torquay, The Cider Press, and have a good, sustaining lunch for about 5 or 6 pounds, a pint on top will set me back an other £3 but Adrian has still a busy afternoon in front of him so he almost certainly does without the pint. So we still have 9 or ten pounds left to spend. The idea of getting back to his lonely flat and cooking a meal doesn't really appeal, especially if the debate has gone on longer than hoped. So a take away on the way home is the solution and maybe a bottle of wine, though I have to say I have no idea if Adrian likes a drink or not. But once you add it all up we are as close to 20 quid as make not a jot of difference. So what's all the moaning in the Herald Express about. The poor man has to keep his strength up and food is the best option when it comes to keeping one's strength up. Better than an intravenous drip and much more practical. I’m on your side Adrian.
Erm, err..... hang on a moment, let me just give that a little though, maybe run the above around my head a couple of times before I press the Publish button. Hang on a moment, I’ll be back.
Yes, I knew there was something nagging away in the dark place I call my brain. The claims Mr Sanders made for all this food came in the Expenses Form marked “Additional Costs Allowance.” Also in this section are his claims for the rent on a second home. Now no one can expect Mr Sanders to go home everyday after work it’s 250 miles home and then 250 miles back to work the next day. So he needs a second home, that’s why it’s called additional costs. So as a MP he has two homes but does he also have two appetites? If he is in London he can not be at home in Paignton eating can he Where ever he is he can only eat once. So how can food be considered an additional cost?
PS I should point out that Adrian isn’t the only MP claiming for food but lets hope the new rules Gordon Brown is busy setting up make it clear that food, like duck islands, is not an additional cost, not if my taxpound is going to pay for it anyway.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Shark's Fin Soup

Yesterday I was looking through the BBC news pages here on the computer when I spotted an item about Tagging Sharks. It interested me, down here in Devon we get visits from several types of shark including the Great White. Ok there have only been unconfirmed reports of Great Whites but one can hope. The most famous shark we get round here is the Basking Shark. The second biggest fish in the sea. Swims around all day with it's mouth wide open feeding. Harmless, unless you are plankton of course. So I clicked on the link and the article appeared. University types were in some foreign land catching sharks and fitting them with tags. Not much is known about sharks, where they spend their summer holidays, what they do on a Saturday night, how they entertain themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon in the English Channel. Things like that.
Then suddenly, tucked away near the bottom was this, and I quote," Many species found here are endangered but Scotland still issues permits to allow finning - the practice of cutting fins off the living shark and dumping the low-value carcass at sea." That's all it said, nothing about how barbaric this practice is and what we need to do to get Scotland to stop allowing sharks to die in such a needless, stupid way. As a species we have, almost, stopped hunting whales, Problem for the sharks is they have had a bit of a bad press. They are always eating people; if you go to Australia the locals will tell you what a dangerous place it is. Crocodiles, spiders, snakes, box jelly fish, even water buffalo kill hundreds of people every year but the biggest killer is by far the shark. Load of cobblers. In the last hundred years the biggest wildlife killer in Australia is the humble bee. Averaging about 5 people a year. (It would appear someone has realized and is going round killing all the bees.) Anyway finning is not nice, it is not the sort of thing that comes to mind when you think of Scotland, whisky, dramatic mountains and lochs, shortbread, people speaking a language that I am assured is in fact English (OK I'll buy that, reluctantly) midges and football fans ripping Wembley Football pitch up, are on the list, but now all I can picture is giant oil tankers leaving Scottish port carrying thousands of gallons of Shark Fin Soup to the Far East.
I’m not sure how wide spread this practice is but it should stop now. Write to Alex Salmond leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party at mailto:FirstMinister@scotland.gsi.gov.uk
and ask him to stop it.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Scaffolding; What Scaffolding?

Above you can see what used to be the Queens Hotel on the Harbour side. It is now well on the way to becoming a block of luxury apartments. It took a long time to make the transition from hotel to apartments, not because the builders didn't have any more orders on the books due to the credit crunch and were trying to make the job last as long as possible. No, the problem really started in Spain, no the builders weren't from Barcelona, it's just a few years ago a group of 400 Spanish tourists turned up with out booking in advance and had to sleep in a barn because there weren't enough hotels for them. The council were so embarrassed, they probably even wrote a grovelling letter of apology to the King of Spain. You know, that nice King Philip. Anyway the council decided they would put a clause in the town charter that once a building had opened as a hotel it had to stay a hotel. Even if it had failed as a hotel, probably due to lack of Spanish tourists. Well the Queens Hotel was derelict when I turned up ten years ago but because of the charter mentioned above it has taken those ten years to get planning permission to turn what was a dump, covered for the last year with scaffolding and plastic sheets flapping in the wind into the luxury apartments they almost are today.

The building just a few doors to the right is being done up but is unoccupied. Suitable as a restaurant, cafe or souvenir shop if you are looking for a centrally placed nice little earner.

The building above has been covered with scaffolding for a couple of months. Just a clean up and a few minor repairs. Radio Gemini have offices in there and there are plenty of office spaces going I believe.
Nice view of the Harbour from the top floor.

Sailing Into The Wind?

While many pubs are closing down, smoking ban, high prices, screaming kids, cheap booze at the off-licence, high rents by the brewery, Breathalyzer, yellow lines, smoking ban etc, etc, here is a pub that is going against the trend and opening up. The Clipper in Melville St just up the hill from Abbey Rd has just had paint job and a bit of a face lift and has thrown it's doors open in an attempt to sell the beer before it reaches it's sell by date. I shall give the place a visit but given the amount I drink these days I can not see the licensee booking a Caribbean Holiday on the profits of my look round. But good luck to him/her anyway.
Give the place a visit, it could be the best pub in Torquay.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Goodrington Water Park

Goodrington Water Park which closed down last year is set to reopen next week. The water park slides were surrounded by trees that the council decided were in a dangerous state and were all cut down. (See here) The lack of trees does make the place look more attractive and will improve the view for those hardy souls who make it to the top of the slide. The no longer there trees will also make the park more visible from the main road which should help the new owners,
Bournemouth-based Splashdown, make a profit running this out of town attraction. (Catch the number 12 from Torquay, Paignton or Brixham to Tanners Road) Goodrington also has a fine beach, boat hire and a big pub with plenty of grub. The steam railway also runs past the beach and there is a train station for trains to Kingswear on the Dartmouth estuary. There are then regular ferry services to Dartmouth.

The overgrown landscaping and debris that had built up over the closed season has been removed and sections of the flume that were badly worn have been replaced and the surfaces of the rides re-done, walls painted and plant overhauled

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Head Line in the Paper

999 Men Sign Up To Run Half Marathon
Now I know tens of thousands run the London Marathon but round here that looked like we were going to get a record breaking number of runners for our seaside run. No sorry, just newspaper headline grabbing. Turns out there isn't nine thousand nine hundred and ninety nine entrants, they are a few ambulance drivers making the charity run. Well good for them anyway. I wish I could run a half mile never mind a marathon.

My Cats and Abbey Bank

Cats are a pain to photograph. These two were having a little sleep in the sun so I got the camera to take a photo of then lying next to each other, to show how well they got on together. The moment I pointed the camera Ginger stood up and walked away. Must think it is an affront to his cat rights to have his photo taken. I took it any way.
The second photo that looks like a couple of important but discarded letters after they have been through a shredder. I don't have a shredder because most bills I get these days, ones that contain details that certain sections of society would grub through waste bins to find, come online. But these don't. They are our bank statements. Even though I and my partner bank on line and can check the contents of our joint account 60/60/24/365 for up to the second information, Abbey send us two statements every month even though they are identical and are several days out of date by the time we get them, we have asked then to stop sending the statements as they cost money to send and the paper ends up either in a landfill site or recycled into toilet paper. I did email Abbey and they sent an automatic response saying Thank you for your email we will reply in due course. They never did. I tried phoning. I was told that there was a legal requirement to send paper statements and there was nothing I could do to stop the bloody things turning up every month. If one of the largest bank outfits in the world won't get the government to scrape this legal requirement and save paper and postage and help save the world why should I bother.

Friday, 5 June 2009


Yesterday I voted even though a few weeks ago I said Would never vote again, all politicians seemed to be on the make and didn't merit the 10 minutes walk to the polling station it would take to bother voting. Not to mention the ten minute walk back which is up hill. That was the first reaction not only for me but for many people when the news began to emerge about how rich some MPs were getting just by being an MP. Now I have had time to think about the problem and it would appear that not every MP did in fact have his hand in the till. David Cameron, leader of the Tory party is demanding a general election NOW which shows he hasn't sat back and spent a short while considering the situation. Several of the money grubbing dishonourable members are in his party for one thing. The other thing is he hasn't connected his brain with his mouth. He accuses the Labour Government of not putting the best interests of the country first. He says all they are concerned about is saying their jobs as MPs. But I would have hoped that someone who has risen to the dizzy heights of leader of a political party to realise that a general election now would almost certainly give him victory but would most definitely not be in the best interests of the country. A general election now, as Mr Cameron knows would be about MPs bleeding the country dry with their expense claims and not as Bill Clinton once said, “The Economy. Dummy.” At least I hope Mr Cameron knows that. If he doesn't then he is as thick as two short planks. And as he does he is just being hypocritical which is probably built in to the core of most politicians. Especially those in opposition.
What needs to happen is all expenses claimed by MPs be made public. Each MP can then explain where and why he spent the money. The local selection committee can then decide if their MP is squeaky clean, or maybe if not exactly 100% squeaky then clean enough to carry on being our representative in Westminster. Then the local paper can make the same decision and the candidates stand against the MP can decide what ammunition the expense claims give him/her to attempt to blacken the sitting MP enough to gain an advantage and a seat in Parliament. Finally we, the voters can make our decision. There is a saying in earthquake regions about waiting for the tremors to stop before rushing in on a rescue attempt.
The second thing that needs to happen before the next General Election is a committee consisting of a taxi driver, a bus driver, some one claiming job seeker’s allowance and a union shop steward should be convened to produce a new set of rules regarding exactly what MPs can claim for in the future. The taxi driver because they know everything about everything, the job seeker because he will know how hard it is to work through the reams of paper work just to get enough to live on every week, the shop steward because he is used to arguing on behalf of the workers, now he will be on the side of the tax payer. And the bus driver because I wouldn’t mind the job myself.
Once all this is done we can have a General Election. The Tories will win so have a little patience please Mr Cameron. Also in need of a little patience are those members of the Labour Party who are trying to get rid of Gordon Brown. In particular a female ex government minister for European Affairs who yesterday praised Gordon to high heaven but when she didn't get promotion stabbed poor Mr Brown in the back. I wish she was my MP, it would give me great pleasure to vote for some one else come the general election; which has to be some time in the next 12 months. Should be an exciting time between now and then. Mean while my message to any Labour MP is, get rid of Gordon now and you also get rid of a Labour government and who wants David Cameron as Prime Minister?