Miss Bracher

Miss Bracher lived at the bottom of our street and owned a Wolseley 150.  An ageing spinster, the Wolseley’s long face was entirely in keeping with her narrow features and thin life.  A few doors up, John Fawcett’s dad owned a Standard Vanguard.  A slightly rotund young boy with a matching father, the American inspired design, bench seats and column gear change, were custom-made for the over-size family (young John is second from the left, here).

The interior of an entirely original 1954 Standard Vanguard.

My dad’s Mk1 Ford Consul with its svelte modern lines was entirely in keeping with my view of the world and my place in it.

We lived at number 12, the duodecimal house. Years later I would come to understand the magic properties of the 1900 Series 24-bit word mainframes, supporting four 6-bit characters per word and using octal for binary short-hand, it was inherently superior to the IBM systems, which used 8-bit bytes and hex.  Not everything that is best survives. Similarly, for years I worked on X.400 based messaging systems, a significantly more elegant, reliable and efficient standard to SMTP which is used across the Internet. If I have lost you, worry not – put simply, once everything was right with the world, now I am not so sure.

That uncertainty crept in during my teenage years and never left the room.  My passion for the still image, I owe to my dad – an industrial chemist, he taught me the secrets of the dark room at a very young age.  I can still conjure him into existence with the smell of developer and fixer.  He had no real interest in cars and even less in motor sport.  When they became the centre of my existence, we effectively went our separate ways.

That separation means I struggle to connect with his ghost but there are plenty of photographs and, occasionally, words.  This from a blog post in 2013It is from a small photograph album made up of 3 x 2 inch contact prints which he put together as a young boy – they are individually captioned in a manner consistent with a 10-12 year old; this one – Mummy Daddy and Baby:

Mummy Daddy and Baby

Earlier this week I got the opportunity to sit in an Austin Ruby, a slightly later model of this car.  A wonderful machine, beautifully preserved, it would be a fictional pretence to suggest I was aware of my dad’s presence.  However, it did reinforce something I had always felt – we were born to an entirely different age.  Dad would have been 100 in 2020 – anything we shared together, is all so long ago:

Austin Ruby – the interior

Austin Ruby – the front end

Austin Ruby – engine bay

Austin Ruby – rear end

 

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Winter’s Gibbet

Another September day, another ride out – this time to Winter’s Gibbet, Steng Cross, just south of Elsdon.

In 1791 the body of William Winter was hung here in chains, in sight of the place where he had murdered old Margaret Crozier of The Raw, Elsdon.

The present gibbet was erected on the exact site of the original. The large block of stone at the foot of the gibbet is the base of the Saxon Cross which marked the highest point of the ancient drove road, down which cattle were driven from Scotland to the English markets.

It is the saddest and loneliest of places, even on a mild September afternoon.

The stone block is visible at the foot of the gibbet

Winter’s Gibbet into a September Sun.

Looking south

This time on the Scrambler

Port Carlisle

This small place, tucked away on the edges of the Solway Firth, has been on my motorcycle radar for some time.  At just over fifty miles from Hexham and on the coast, it is a comfortable riding distance on a good day and, today turned out to be just perfect – not much wind, no threat of rain and mild.  Huge skies, a wide open estuary and a flat landscape makes it photogenic in an Ansel Adams sort of way.

It was only when I returned home that I started to look for more information on the place, not the logical way of doing things.  Had I but known, it is right up my alley, having both canal and railway history.  This from the Visit Cumbria website:

The village of Port Carlisle, originally known as Fishers Cross, was developed as a port in 1819 to handle goods for Carlisle using the canal link built in 1823. The canal was 11¼ mile long, and had 8 locks which were all built 18 feet wide.

From a wooden jetty, through the entrance sea lock and one other, the canal ran level for nearly six miles. Then followed six locks in one and a quarter miles, with a level stretch to Carlisle Basin.

Sailing boats made their way by the canal from Port Carlisle (about one mile from Bowness-on-Solway) to the heart of the City of Carlisle. Boats were towed to the City (taking one hour 40 minutes) enabling Carlisle to be reached within a day by sea from Liverpool. Barges collected the grain and produce destined for Carlisle’s biscuit and feed mills. The canal built specially for this purpose ended in the canal basin behind the present Carrs (McVities) biscuit factory in Carlisle.

There is even the remains of a railway viaduct at Bowness-on-Solway – I am going to have to return!

Warning – don’t go for a paddle.

Port Carlisle in the distance

Dramatic skies, without the GS

Port Carlisle form the west

Strangers on the shore with a selfie stick.

Trainspotting …

The Irvine Welsh book title is derived from a scene where two of the main characters, Begbie and Renton, meet an old drunk in the disused Leith Central Station which they are using as a toilet. The drunk asks the two boys if they are “trainspotting”. I guess this is meant to be amusing on several levels, the prime one being that that there are no trains. The station closed to passenger traffic in 1952 and although it was retained as a diesel maintenance depot, this too ceased in 1972. The station has been demolished but the frontage retained. These sorts of facts appeal to an ex-trainspotter. I have never got beyond the first twenty minutes of the film and have never felt inclined to read the book – not so much a soap opera, more a dope opera.  I mention this only because I have found myself hanging around Mallaig station waiting for steam trains to arrive these last couple of days. It takes me back.

A trip to the local Heritage Centre provided some more appealing facts. The station was originally much grander. The platforms were covered, a turntable was located in a siding, roughly on the site of the current seashore car park and, a separate line used to run down to the quay to enable loading direct from the fishing boats. Without the turntable, the Jacobite must swap ends at Mallaig and reverse back to Fort William.

Mallaig still thrives but it has much less to do with fish. There is a constant supply of through traffic/people on the ferries to/from Skye and twice a day in the summer, the steam trains disgorge carriage loads of visitors. This must work wonders for the local traders, at least in the summer months:

K1 Class Locomotive 62005

62005 swapping ends at Mallaig

Black 5 45212 arriving at Mallaig

A mixed-traffic locomotive designed by Sir William Stanier in 1934

Keeping a clean machine

Black 5’s, as they were known by enthusiasts, totalled 842 by the time the last was built in 1951.

45212 about to swap ends

 

Harvest

I have been waiting for this for a while.  Driving up from Hexham, tell-tale dust was blowing across the road.  Armed with the X-Pro2 and the Fujinon 18-55mm zoom I was back to the field in minutes hoping to catch a monster in action.  It did not disappoint – a Claas harvester was lumbering around in ever-decreasing circles throwing up vast dust clouds to confuse the enemy.

It was a super-heated afternoon with a hot sun piercing high dark clouds – it was very ominous.  Within an hour biblical rain was falling on Hexham, the harvester and all souls beneath.  It seemed unlikely that the harvest has been completed in time and, sure enough, this morning there was still a large patch of uncut oilseed rape and an abandoned combine harvester.  The dust in the air had been replaced by expletives:

Will I see you give more than I can take

Will I only harvest some?

As the days fly passed

Will we lose our grasp

Or fuse it in the sun.

Ballad of a Thin Man …

… You walk into the room
With your pencil in your hand
You see somebody naked
And you say, “Who is that man?”
You try so hard
But you don’t understand
Just what you will say
When you get home

Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

Top House 2 – North Shields

Pete Beat.

Lauren Stones

Jackie and Helen

Arrid Foo on percussion

Jaktrax & Arrid Foo

Jaktrax

Jaktrax

Top House 2.

Live streaming

The night wears on.

Just some places …

… the bikes have taken me in the last few days in search of images.  The old rolling stock being put to an agricultural use sits in a field above Allendale.  Thorneyburn is way over yonder in the minor key – between Bellingham and Kielder.  Linnels Bridge and the Mill are on the road between Hexham and Slaley.  The transport for most of this can be seen in the last.  What an unpredictable summer it has been.

Old rolling stock

The gates at Thorneyburn

A cross at Thorneyburn

The Mill at Linnels Bridge

Linnels Bridge

Above Allendale and Catton