The steam engine negative has been in my desk drawer for some months, awaiting a spare moment to scan. I was not optimistic about the results, the 120 negative appeared over-exposed but, after fiddling with the levels in Photoshop, the positive image is better than I had expected.
I would have taken this on the family Kodak Brownie Cresta 120 roll film camera. This Bakelite device with cream shutter release and film wind-on, captured our family history from the mid 1950s to the early 1960s. According to Saturated Imagery, this chunky viewfinder camera was made by Kodak in the UK from 1955-1958. It is typically simple, virtually the same as a box camera in features except for the moulded Bakelite body. In a slider over the lens, it has a close-up filter for use with a range of 4-7ft, and a yellow filter – used to heighten the contrast when shooting skies.
The image dates from 1962, a summer’s day out to Doncaster Station with the Altrincham Grammar School Trainspotters Society – an august body of young enthusiasts with a constant eye for mischief. The LNER Class A4 streamlined 4-6-2, Guillemot, is heading north with a passenger service, probably destined for Edinburgh Waverley. Introduced in 1935, the Gresley streamlined design included a corridor tender, but not this example which is sister to the more famous 60022, Mallard.
Introduced on the 8th January 1938, it was taken out of service on 20th March 1964, not that long after I took this picture. I have resisted repairing the image – the dust spots add an air of authenticity and help fill an otherwise blank sky – I obviously neglected to use the yellow filter 🙂
To the left of the image is what appears to be a Standard Class 9F emerging from Doncaster sheds – introduced in 1955, these were the last steam engines to be commissioned by British Railways. To the right, in shorts, is a fellow trainspotter, Peter Parker – I could be wrong on both counts.
… probably for some time, unless I start shopping for essentials on two wheels. These were taken yesterday, on a trip into Northumberland designed to avoid almost everyone and everything. Hexham to Cambo can be done via B roads and from there it was a circular trip around Harwood Forest.
From door to door it was exactly seventy miles and I hardly saw a soul – these roads are empty, virus or no virus.
Harwood Forest – somewhere near the ‘U’ in Rothbury
This final image shows the railway bridge to the left at Scots’ Gap and the converted station buildings to the right. Sited about midway between Redesmouth and Morpeth on the Wansbeck Railway, the line closed in 1952. According to Disused Stations: The station opened as Scots Gap on 23rd July 1862 being renamed Scotsgap in October 1903. The station was poorly equipped as a junction with no branch bays and a single platform on the down side. The station building was solidly built of local stone with a stone signal box at the east end. The station had two parallel loops with two sidings on the north side. There were three short spurs, one serving a locomotive turntable. The outermost siding served a goods platform and cattle dock and a goods warehouse.
Having posted a series of images of magnificent Norwegian landscapes, these are ad hoc moments captured along the way. It turns out, by good fortune, we just about timed it right. We returned to the UK on 9th March and this was announced on the 14th: Millions of Norwegians and foreigners living in or visiting Norway will be impacted by a drastic set of measures announced by Erna Solberg today. Norway is essentially shutting itself down for two weeks, in a bid to stop the rapid spread of the coronavirus and COVID-19 disease.
Gardermoen Stasjon from the airport concourse
All points on the compass
Black Crow Blues
Start them young
Some don’t seem so keen
As we left Svolvaer Airport – one last abiding memory.
Eight train journeys, four flights and I am home. Every connection was made but that’s not to say everything ran like clockwork – a landslip heading north delayed the train’s arrival into Bodø by one hour and, on the return leg, the sleeper service was cancelled between Trondheim and Oslo due to a derailment. It is reassuring to know that it is not just the UK that struggles to run a reliable rail service, although, in the land of darkness, snow and ice there may be better excuses.
The day we arrived in Svolvær, it was a Fuji Velvia day – a bright, vivid landscape and light, nature’s colour saturation turned up a notch or two. The next day, we toured the northern islands under leaden, monochrome skies – regardless, it remains a spectacular place to be and already, I am plotting my return:
A cormorant drying its wings.
The road to Gimsoy.
Abandoned landing stage.
Light and shade.
The beacon at Kabelvag
Where sand, sea and snow meet.
Near Lofoten Links.
The bridge to Henningsvaer.
It has been some journey. Over two days we flew from Edinburgh to Oslo, caught the sleeper train to Trondheim, swapped onto the daytime Vy.No service to Bodo (complete with line closure and bus detour) and then, this morning, we flew the red-eye island hop into Svolvær. This trip was always going to be as much about the journey as the destination, the railway journey into the Arctic Circle being a highlight. The problem with rail journeys is they provide little opportunity for effective photography – through glass, at speed and with reflections, it is never going to produce good results.
Svolvær, our destination, provides more than adequate compensation. This morning we walked the road bridge to Svinoya and Kjeoya islands – dried fish central. There is a distinctive smell to these small islands – and this is their unlikely destination – Nigeria.
Racks with a view
Dried fish head anyone?
The source of the smell
Fortunately, there is more to the beautiful Svolvaer than dead fish …
Svolvaer Harbour, Lofoten Islands, Norway – colourful and busy.
The view from the bridge
Something fishy going on …
Svolvaer Harbour, Lofoten Islands, Norway.
The view from the small islands
… Svolvaer skyline
We have been dog-sitting these last two weeks – two golden retrievers with eyes that could melt hearts. The younger was nine months and the elder four years – a teenager and a sensible grown-up. Junior was into everything and was a constant source of irritation/entertainment – delete as appropriate. Sadly, the weather was thoroughly miserable throughout their stay. This didn’t constrain their activities, it just made life harder for the sitters – I had forgotten just how much work is involved in drying and cleaning a dog after winter runabouts and this was times two. Needless to say, I fell for both of them but, especially junior – that said, now they have gone home, it is quite nice to have the house back and I am not missing the 7am walks:
Do not disturb …
Resting between walks
Feeding time – a serious business
Bed time for the youngest
Too early one morning
My mother and I didn’t agree about much but, the one thing that was never a source of contention was her cooking – she was a genius. I have never tasted better and she remains the culinary benchmark. There was nothing flash about her repertoire, it was plain English cuisine – roasts, Yorkshire puds, Cornish pasties, liver and bacon, bread and butter pudding, treacle tart and lemon meringue pie to die for – to name but a few. She dismissed all “foreign food” which loosely translates as anything containing garlic.
Her pièce de résistance was chocolate cream biscuits. Time consuming and fiddly to make, they were a rare treat, consumed with dog-like enthusiasm by my sister and me as soon as they emerged from the oven. Garrison Keillor’s aunt Myrna and her Chocolate Angel Food Cake was surely nothing by comparison. For years we tried to extract a recipe but my mum, like all good cooks, worked intuitively in the kitchen. Nothing was ever written down because, pressed to define precise quantities and ingredients, she would probably struggle.
And then last week, I was hovering around the reduced cakes and pastries counter in Waitrose and there I spotted an individual, over-sized,store-baked, broken bourbon biscuit. I sneaked it into the trolley, away from the prying eyes of my trainer/dietitian. When I eventually bit into this large confection, I could not believe it. In more than fifty years, it is the closest approximation to the original chocolate cream biscuit I have ever found. My immediate thought was ‘I must ring my sister and tell her – go buy some immediately!’
My big sister: 1944-2019.
In an overwhelming moment, I remembered. The good news had come too late.