Two more …

… recent rides out on the BMW GS.  In the first, a brief journey to Derwent Reservoir in County Durham where, like most places at the moment, the place was teeming with visitors. This included one very adventurous young boy who was running along the dam edge in pursuit of his friend on a bike.  He survived …

Everyone agreed, it was a miracle indeed that the boy survived …

Gone fishin’

Open Water

A few days later I headed west to Anthorn, the home of the Pips:

The airfield was built in February 1918 as a Fleet Air Arm (FAA) airfield. It was abandoned after World War I ended, however the RAF reinstated the airfield at the beginning of World War II as an emergency landing ground for nearby RAF Silloth.

The site was taken over by the Royal Navy in December 1942, and renamed as RNAS Anthorn. It was commissioned in September 1944 as ‘HMS Nuthatch’. The airfield served as No.1 ARDU (Aircraft Receipt and Dispatch Unit), a unit that accepts aircraft from their manufacturers and prepares them for operational use. The last official flight took off from the airfield in November 1957. It was then put on Care and Maintenance, before it closed down in March 1958.

In 1961 the site was chosen to become a NATO VLF transmitting site for communicating with submarines. One of its main functions is to transmit Greenwich Mean Time to the rest of the world. This time signal is heard as ‘pips’ on the radio and is used by everything from train companies to speed cameras. The aerial masts can be seen from miles around, especially at night with their distinctive red lights.

Text from the Solway Military Trail website.

Anthorn – home of the Pips

I dream of wires

The result of all these two-wheeled miles is that I am now just 4 miles short of achieving the 2020 #ride5000miles target. There was a time, earlier in the year, when this seemed a very unlikely objective.

Silloth

Silloth seems distant and out-of-the-way but was once a popular destination for Victorian holidaymakers travelling by train from Carlisle and Scotland.  The Carlisle and Silloth Bay Railway provided a connection from the east while trains from the north arrived by the Solway Junction Railway, a journey which involved crossing the Firth on the remarkable Solway Viaduct.  According to Visit Cumbria: The one mile 176 yard long iron girder viaduct across the water was damaged by an ice build-up in 1875 and again in 1881. It was repaired and continued in use until 1914 for passengers, and until 1921 for freight, and was finally demolished in 1934.  Apparently, part of the reason was that Scots, who then had no access to alcohol on Sundays, used to walk across to the more liberal English side, and returning in a less than sober state occasionally fell into the Solway, and were lost.

The well-tended, wide-open park, the grand hotels, the prom, all speak of a bygone prosperity.  It was all new to me but the Good Wife holidayed here as a child, staying at her aunt and uncle’s house adjacent to the RAF aerodrome which closed in 1960.  We went in search of her memories.

The house is still there and a happy-looking older chap was raking his lawn.  This was John, tending his front garden, as he has done these last fifty years.  Turns out, he not only remembered Pam’s uncle and his family, having both worked at the aerodrome but, his wife, Irene, went to school with Pam’s cousin. In his day, John was an aero-engineer working on the de Havilland Vampires and Hawker Hunters that chased across the skies of Silloth throughout the post-war years.  As he remarked at the end of the conversation, it’s a small world.

John in his front garden

Cote Lighthouse

The beach, towards Skinburness

Cote Lighthouse

The amusement hall

The Green

Harbour entrance

Silloth Station 1951 – By Walter Dendy, deceased

Empty Chairs

It is Christmas 1961 and I am, as ever, behind the camera.  This was the year I was given a flash unit to fit the family Kodak Brownie Cresta.  A sizeable attachment with a large reflector, it fired off one-time flash bulbs. Filled with fine magnesium wire and oxygen, a small current was sufficient to instigate the flash – all very satisfying to a boy who liked playing with fire..

You can tell I am responsible – it is taken from a low angle and the subjects tend to occupy centre stage.  I had not yet learned the rule of thirds  In the first image, dad is seated far left smoking one of the many Kensitas that would eventually take him.  He is at the beginning of his forties while mum, sat next to him, is still in her thirties.  My sister is too busy eating to take notice of younger brother’s antics but boyfriend Ricky is smiling keenly at the camera, also with cigarette in hand, possibly one of dad’s.  A too well-presented eighteen year old, I knew big sister could do better.

Cigarettes were socially acceptable at home but there was little or no drink. My teenage smoking habit went undetected until I tried Blue Book, a brand for “the discerning smoker”.  Each packet contained Turkish, Russian Egyptian and Havana blends.  An afternoon smoking these with an equally discerning friend and the house smelled like a souk.

It is the end of Christmas dinner and house-proud mother has already cleared most of the table.  The posh sideboard, table and chairs from Kendal Milne, Manchester;  the Regency striped wallpaper; the Wedgwood dinner service; the Peter Scott print; the understated decorations – all in the best possible taste.

Ricky took his time to leave – another three years before he abandoned my sister and her life took flight.  Now everyone has gone – empty clothes that drape and fall on empty chairs.

The ‘posh’ dining room

The living room – always coal fires burning

Big sister and boyfriend, Ricky – driving gloves and a too smart coat

Northumberland in Mono

This set of images were all taken within a 1.5 mile radius of our home – I know this for certain because I haven’t ventured outside this geofence since 24th March.  Hexham is a mystery to me now – the Good Wife has taken over responsibility for all socially distant shopping, mostly because I cannot be trusted to buy organic.  Any consequential savings I would spend on chocolate or similar.  Nevertheless, I am not complaining, I seem to have slipped into this secluded life all too easily.  The only thing I miss desperately is getting out on the motorcycles which, as any rider knows, is just self-isolation at speed.

Lean on me …

Always keep a-hold of nurse

Beaufront Castle Lodge …

In a big county …

The entrance to Fern Hill Farm

Five-bar Gate …

Do not disturb …

Another gate above the old kennels, Beaufront Woodhead.

The impression created by these images is of a country life continuing as usual, uninterrupted by world events. Isolating has also meant not listening to ‘news’, keeping socially distant from statistics and mortality rates but, just occasionally the bubble is burst. Peter Turnley’s images portray an entirely different, distant, monochromatic reality:

 

A dog’s life …

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

Brotherly love

Bed time for the youngest

Too early one morning

Chocolate Cream Biscuits

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.

 

Like a Pitcher of Water …

Troubled waters – Hexham Bridge

Anyone familiar with Golf in the Wild will know the book frequently leaves golf behind and explores a range of diverse subjects which include local history, the tyrant known as ‘my Mother’ (stolen from Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit) and motor racing of the 1960s and 1970s.  It is a journey into my past played out across golf courses in wild places to the distant sound of racing engines.

The sequel, Golf in the Wild – Going Home, will be no different although racing engines have been largely replaced by the sound of mono speakers and Dansette record players.  This is an extract from Chapter 10 of the new book – I am driving south on the A9, approaching the Forth bridges:

I bought Bridge over Troubled Water on the day it was released – 26th January 1970. I must have ducked out of college, caught the train to Oxford Road, Manchester and walked down to Rare Records, 26 John Dalton Street, the shop where Ian Curtis was employed in the early seventies – the first step in his musical career.

Bridge over Troubled Water is a fine album but not the defining work of art that is Bookends. Significantly, I had reservations about the title track. The first two verses work beautifully but the third is over-produced, too dramatic and the voice of the narrator changes from gentle reassurance to brash optimism. It is not the same person. There is a reason – it is not the song Paul Simon intended. It was Roy Halee, the record producer, and Art Garfunkel who insisted on a third verse – “the first two verses could be runway material for a take-off that is waiting” – Art Garfunkel.  Reluctantly, Simon wrote the additional material, too quickly and in the studio, something he never usually did.

So, here’s the thing – from the northern side, drive over the Queensferry Crossing when there is a high wind. Keep to the 40 mph speed restriction and turn on Bridge over Troubled Water at the first exit to the old Bridge. Turn up the volume and listen intently as you cross the troubled waters. When you reach the first gantry sign on the South Queensferry side at 3 minutes 4 seconds, start fading the track out and you will hear the song as Paul Simon originally intended – a small hymn, a small masterpiece.

And the title of the post?  When the orchestral string section came back from the arranger, Ernie Freeman, for over-dubbing in the studio, this was the title assigned to the arrangement – well, that’s how much attention he was paying to the demo! – Paul Simon.

The bridge from the western side

Time it was …

… and what a time it was …

… a time of innocence

It has been a tough week, saying a last goodbye to my big sister.  The service was held in the small church at The Lee, near Great Missenden.  A lovely place but, it came as some relief to return to the peace and quiet of deepest Northumberland.  There is always hope to be found in the wild places.

And so, the night falls …

Last sunrise …

… of the decade.  Yesterday I journeyed 94 miles on the F850 GS, riding into the sullen Scottish Borders – drizzle and heavy mist over the hills, having left the Tyne Valley in bright sunshine.  This morning brought a heavy frost and removed any temptation of venturing out again.  Ice and two wheels don’t mix.

… last sunrise.

… and a heavy frost.

… just north of Kielder

Riding the bike into distant empty roads focuses the mind, clears the head and banishes dark thoughts about the year gone by – it has not been a good one.  A new decade begins, turn, turn, turn

My big sister: 1944-2019

Another Baby Austin

In my unending quest to make connections with my past, I came across this magnificent machine at Mike Barry’s Motorcycle Museum, Scaleby, near Carlisle, Cumbria.  Any time I take a ride out for a chat with Mike is never wasted:

1931 Austin 7

The attraction of this vehicle is that it was probably manufactured around the same time as the one proudly displayed by my paternal grandparents and featured in an earlier post:

Mummy Daddy and Baby

My dad will have sat in a passenger seat very similar to this although, judging by his lack of interest in all things mechanical (an industrial chemist by profession), I doubt he spent much time looking under the bonnet:

Austin 7 – the interior

Austin 7 – the engine

Mike has attached the following to the windscreen:  This car has been donated to the museum by Dougie Hargreaves from Carlisle and I will restore it when time allows.  The engine has been rebuilt and running.  I have fitted a new windscreen and the lights and brakes are now working.  I have a new clutch to fit and then it will be roadworthy!  The car is an Austin 7 – 1931 – 750cc – three speed.

Among the documentation for the car is a 1940 Ration Book for the months of August, September and October 1940.  The coupons in this book authorise the furnishing and acquisition of the number of units of motor spirit specified on the coupons subject to the conditions appearing thereon.  The issue of the Ration Book does not guarantee the holder any minimum quantity of motor spirit and the book may be cancelled at any time without notice.  Any person furnishing or acquiring motor spirit otherwise than in accordance with the conditions on which these coupons are issued will be liable to prosecution … Private Walker, take note.

And for those wondering what else can be found in this ultimate man cave, an image of just part of Mike’s private collection:

Motorcycle Museum – part of the collection