As easy it was …

… to tell black from white
It was all that easy to tell wrong from right
And our choices they were few and the thought never hit
That the one road we traveled would ever shatter and split.

Bob Dylan’s Dream – 1963

I was first brought to the north coast of Cornwall in the 1950s.  I returned in the 1980s when the children were young and now I am back again.  The difference between the first and second visits was a lifetime, the difference between the second and third, no time at all.  Between the 1950s and 1980s I changed utterly, between the 1980s and 2017, the world around me changed while I stayed much the same. Almost everyone is gone.

A life can be wasted trying to go back.  Is it the people, the place or moments in time that always remain just out of reach, like the punishment of Tantalus.

On this first day of meteorological autumn, I allow myself the luxury of squinting into a bright setting sun and imagine everyone is here again, heading for the shoreline.  Safe, certain and watched over, what could possibly go wrong.

Advertisements

LPs and fag breaks

Christmas 1972 and I bought her Joni Mitchell’s Blue and she bought me Santana’s Caravanserai.  Seven days previously I had offered a cigarette and we took it from there.  What do the young do now, buy an iTunes voucher; where is the history, where is love’s audit trail.

I worked shifts at UMRCC on Oxford Road, Manchester.  The route to work was by train from Altrincham and then a short walk from Station Approach to the University’s computer centre, passing an array of guitar shops, the discreet family planning outlet next to the railway arch and the Regal Cinema rebranded as Studio 1 to 5 which, that summer, was prophetically screening Peter Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show; all of this is gone.

Thanks to the endless trivia available on the Internet, I know this to be true.  On Tuesday 19th June 1973, I was working late shift and when The Old Grey Whistle Test was broadcast that evening, I was having a fag break in the rest lounge. I don’t know what struck me first – the music or the video, a black and white montage of formation skiers in descent which, as one online reference claims, is Nazi propaganda. I was hooked and the next day went in search of the LP.  Released on 25th May by Virgin, the record was Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells.

Fags and LPs were the passport to many things – a life without them would have been unthinkable.

Odd that this uplifting masterpiece should be the product of such a tortured young individual.

Some grief, some joy …

… memories are made of this.

The joy comes from the company, the startling landscape and the occasionally well struck golf ball.  The grief comes from the sliced drive into a rising westerly, the ball never to be seen again.  Sconser and Traigh are the distilled essence of Golf in the Wild – when the going gets tough, the tough don’t get going, they stand and stare.

It has become an annual ritual – drive part way into Scotland on Thursday night; head for Skye on Friday morning and meet up with David C of ScottishGolfbyTrain; play Sconser on Friday afternoon; catch the Ferry to Mallaig from Armadale on Friday evening; play in the Traigh Open on Saturday.  People might question the sanity of driving such distances (760 miles) for golf but that’s life, some will get it, some won’t.  It’s like riding a motorcycle at high speed or throwing an Elise into a long sweeping corner – until you have done it, there is no understanding.

I cannot get enough of Traigh so when the golf is done, I head for the ridge across the top of the course to watch the setting sun – there is nowhere else that provides such a magnificent panorama of the long day closing:

… Skye Golf Club, Sconser – more #GolfintheWild http://www.golfinthewild.co.uk

… the most spectacular places to play golf on the planet. The 2017 Traigh Open – more #GolfintheWild http://www.golfinthewild.co.uk

… below the golf course at Traigh.

… the clubhouse from the beach at Traigh

… the third green at Traigh.

… the view from the second tee at Traigh.

… below the golf course at Traigh.

… the ninth green at Traigh

On an entirely different topic, music has become a too cheap commodity. As a full subscriber to Amazon Music, I have access to a vast library way beyond my teenage imaginings. New releases are immediately available, listened to and then largely forgotten as I move on to grab the next handful of free sweets. I have lost touch with the cherished LP, the carefully considered purchase and the endless plays until every track was imprinted. I mention this because I hooked up my phone to the hire car’s sound system to find that only three albums were accessible, all by The Boxer Rebellion. After twelve hours behind the wheel, all the tracks are now reassuringly familiar:

Relics

Everything passes, everything changes.  The objects I idolised as a boy are now museum pieces and the heroes I worshipped are gone but, the obsessions remain.  I am old enough to look at these machines and remember their day of revolution; the days they rolled off the transporter ramps into a world aghast at their modernity.  I am old enough to remember the consequences of their frailties.

Relic
noun
plural noun: relics
– an object surviving from an earlier time, especially one of historical interest.
– a part of a deceased holy person’s body or belongings kept as an object of reverence.

Both definitions apply.  All of these machines have personal significance beyond their histories: the first time I saw them in the pages of Autosport; the first time I saw them in the ‘flesh’; the first time I saw them in flight; the still moment I heard of the tragedies.  All of them represent remembrance of things past and none more so than those that carry the green and yellow badge:

Maybe in some distant place, everything is already, quietly, lost.  Or at least there exists a silent place where everything can disappear, melding together in a single, overlapping figure.  And as we live our lives we discover – drawing towards us the thin threads attached to each – what has been lost.
Sputnik Sweetheart – Haruki Murakami

Jim Clark’s 1967 Dutch GP winning Lotus 49 – Classic Team Lotus, Hethel.

Rindt’s Lotus 72 – the Donington Collection

Lotus 25 – Classic Team Lotus, Hethel.

Lotus 25 – Classic Team Lotus, Hethel

Clive Chapman

Worsley

Like Runcorn, Worsley is another place I would never think to go but for the canals.  Also, like Runcorn, it is on a branch of the Bridgewater Canal although in this instance it ultimately leads somewhere – to Leigh and a branch of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Despite its proximity to Manchester’s extensive motorways and the industrial centre of Trafford Park, Worsley is significantly more prosperous than Runcorn; it is almost prettified. The approach by canal requires a high level crossing of the Manchester Ship Canal, achieved by the remarkable Barton Swing Aqueduct – a waterborne route designed to swing open for the passage of ships beneath.  I don’t know if the aqueduct is still able to swing nor if it is ever necessary – large shipping into Manchester ceased many years ago. I last passed this way in 1980 when the bridge was still manned:

… crossing the Manchester Ship Canal by water.

… the Barton Swing Aqueduct – a view of the Manchester Ship Canal and Barton Road Bridge

The canal is at Worsley’s centre, overlooked by the magnificent Packet Housethis grade 2 listed building, and the Boat Steps directly in front of it, date back to 1760 and the half-timbering was added in c.1850 by the 1st Earl of Ellesmere. You would have purchased your ticket for the ‘packet boat’ at the Packet House and boarded at the Boat Steps.

To the right of the Packet House is the entrance to the Delph, a forty six mile underground canal system  which intersected with coal mines to the north.  It was built on four different levels and connected by a water powered inclined plane and lifts.  There is a neat symmetry to this engineering marvel.  The underground waterways provided a connection from the mines to the surface, transporting coal on narrow thin-ribbed boats nicknamed starvationers.  The canals provided an effective drainage system for the waterlogged pits and the water from the pits helped feed the canal.  The bright orange of the system around Worsley provides ongoing evidence that the supply system remains in place. The Delph and its tunnels are my idea of hell – the creepy 2926 yard Harecastle Tunnel is as subterranean as I am prepared to get.  The final image shows an inspector legging a starvationer in the 1960s (I assume the water levels have risen since the tunnels were last used commercially, that or working conditions were even worse than I imagined).

The Packet House

The Boat House

Filling the water tank

… heading back to the Bridgewater mainline.

This photograph was taken during an inspection of the Underground Canal in Worsley in the 1960s – sourced from: http://www.canalarchive.org.uk/Tpages/html/T1688.html

Runcorn

One of the benefits of travel on the English canals is that it takes you places you would never think to go, some by routes hardly ever used. Why else would you think to go to Runcorn. The branch that leaves the Bridgewater at Preston Brook once connected this stretch of inland water to the much grander Manchester Ship Canal but, no more. The locks that connected Runcorn’s Waterloo Basin with the Mersey and later, the Manchester Ship Canal have been filled in but their outlines remain and it is still possible to walk much of the route. The Unlock Runcorn website provides the full history and the hope that one day this route will return to navigation.

It is not the Bridgewater Canal that predominates in Runcorn, it is the bridges – the Runcorn Railway Bridge opened in 1868 (also known as the Ethelfleda Bridge) and the Silver Jubilee Road Bridge opened in July 1961. The bridges span both the Manchester Ship Canal and the River Mersey at Runcorn Gap – I suspect most speed across without being aware of the town beneath. It isn’t pretty but it has its attractions:

Silver Jubilee and Railway Bridges, Runcorn

The bright side of Runcorn

Waterloo Bridge, Runcorn

Silver Jubilee Bridge, Runcorn

The Clarendon, Runcorn

The Chambers Building, Runcorn

The ‘beach’, Runcorn

More motorcycle diaries

I have been neglecting this blog.  The weather has been unusually good, flaming June has given Northumberland a taste of Tuscany or, should that be North-umbria. These images, which have all appeared on Blip, explain the neglect – there will be plenty of time to sit at the keyboard over the winter months 😦  – frost and snow are not conducive to bikes or golf:

Green Rigg

… to Carter Bar via Carlisle and Hawick – 134 miles

The Monster – clean and at rest

Press start for instant exhilaration

Skid risk … actually a certainty with steep gradients and hairpins.

To Vindolanda under hot Northumbrian skies