Friday, September 24, 2010

Dark Thoughts.

As regular readers will know, I spend half the year in Florida, half in England and the other half wondering how I flunked math(s) at school.

It's a little known fact that Florida gets better weather than England, at least my part of England, 'oop north' as they say. We've had a relatively dry summer this year but not a sunny, warm one and any tan I got in Florida over the winter, has all but faded now.

This is a good thing. You see I'm not a sunbather and so any tan I get over the winter tends to come from just daily living there. As t-shirt and shorts are the order of the day, my face, arms and legs return to England looking like they've been in the tropics while the rest of my body looks like it's spent the winter down a mineshaft in Chile. As a result, I couldn't possibly reveal my torso here even on those rare summer days when the temperatures make it an option.

Then again, being about 30 lbs overweight is another good reason !

So as I see it, I have two options to overcoming this two tone problem over this coming winter.

The first option is to 'fully' expose my now uniformly pale Brit body to the Florida sun at every opportunity. Worry not, Floridians, as when I say 'fully', I've no intention of becoming a part time naturalist. For one thing, those 30 extra lbs rule that idea out. This also won't be a great sacrifice as I want to do much more walking and swimming this winter, two activities where it's acceptable to go topless......for men anyway.

The other option has several obvious drawbacks and might make me stand out even more than I would if I wandered around flashing my man boobs to the world.

And anyway, where could I get a burqa in blue ?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Judge For Yourselves !

The law is an ass.

How often have we heard and said that over the years ? I know I've said it quite a few times myself.

Usually we don't mean the law itself but those that we rely upon to enforce it. Or not.

I don't often get annoyed with anything I read in a newspaper as, for one thing, I haven't bought a newspaper since 2001 and that was only to get the historic editions that came out the morning after 9/11. Prior to that ? Well when was the internet 'invented' as I know that brought about the end of my newspaper buying days as I could get news minutes after it happened rather than many hours later ?

However I do like to get news sent daily to my email inbox via newspaper web sites so in a way, I guess I'm still supporting these businesses, albeit for free, which is fine by me.

So it was that I was lying in bed this morning, scanning the headlines from my local newspaper, the Yorkshire Evening Post. The following headline grabbed my attention : -

Have a read and I'll wait for you.............

Well ? What do you think ?

The article annoyed me on so many levels. Putting aside the actual story for a minute, what about the reporting of the details ? Did these 7 children actually belong to the woman as it's not clear, is it ? What ages were they ? Did she drive them to the club before her binge drinking session and if so, where were they during this time ? Did she leave the club and THEN pick them up somewhere ? What were they doing out at 11:30pm ? And best of do you get 7 children and an adult into a ford Escort anyway ??!!!

I have no answers for any of those questions (and you may think of a few more) and obviously neither did the reporter or if he did, he decided to keep them to himself. I don't see a Pulitzer Prize on his CV anytime soon. I fear a Yorkshire Reporter Of The Week award might pass him by too.

And then we have the details he did actually supply.

Let see now; a woman gets blathered and drives a car on our roads, endangering herself (a VERY minor consideration it has to be said), the occupants of the car (7 sardines, sorry, children, somehow squished in with her) and then any other pedestrians or motorists who might come into contact with her, literally. Mercifully for all concerned, it was just an inanimate object in this case.

Then she left those children (after 11pm remember and some of them were slightly hurt) and went off to get help. But lets not be too harsh on her for that as, after all, she was drunk so not really in the best frame of mind, eh !

The number of laws she broke that night had to have been impressive when read out before the judge. Then we read she had a bit of 'previous' too. A prior drink driving offence in 2005 and others for wounding and criminal damage. Nice.

And what does she get for all this ? A suspended sentence ! WHAT ???? I mean even if the 7 kids were hers and so would be motherless for a few months/years, it hardly seems a big loss ! And does having 7 kids give you immunity from prison ? I sense a population explosion if it does !

Then we read that she expressed regret, no wait, deep regret, for her behaviour that night and "accepts full responsibility for it." Well that's just awesome. That's spared the kids from sharing the blame and lets that bollard off scot-free. Brilliant.

Given the lack of relevant details in the article, I guess we may not have all the facts. Hell I KNOW we don't have all the facts as shown by my questions at the start. But you know what ? The part of the article that infuriated me more than any other was the following......

...the 37 yr old woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons.....

And THAT, my friends, is why in this case not only is the judge an ass, but so is the law !

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Rubbish Post About Amsterdam !

After that last post about my yute as a money grabbing altar boy, I was in a nostalgic mood and was going to do another one about events from my past. Sadly I can't remember any !

So in order to give my poor old brain a rest, I'll do an easy post about something more recent.

When we were leaving Amsterdam a few weeks ago on our way down into France, we got stuck behind a refuse wagon on a narrow city street. Now the previous evening as we'd been walking back from a day in the city, we'd noticed these large bins along the pavements. It was so refreshing to see that not only were they not overflowing (it was a Sunday evening after all), but there was no litter or rubbish strewn around them. So unlike here in the UK.

Being curious, we peered inside one of them and were puzzled to see no rubbish and no obvious bottom to the bin. Just darkness and a strange echo when we shouted into you do, as you do, as you do !

The answer to our questions came the next morning when we were stuck behind this wagon and if a picture's worth a thousand words, then here are a few million to explain it all.

Clever lot, these foreigners.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Four Weddings And A Funeral ? Lovely Jubbly.

The Pope is in England at the moment and right now, as I type this, is celebrating Mass in Westminster Cathedral. It's a High Mass, mostly in Latin with lots of singing parts and lots of extra ceremonial bits. The sort of event the Catholic Church does so well. Uniquely well I guess, given that not much Latin is spoken these days.

Especially where I live in Leeds 17 where Yiddish is the language of choice !

The thing is, I know all the words. The Latin words. You can't be brought up a Catholic in Norn Iron (Northern pronounced by the natives) without knowing the words of a High Mass or those of certain prayers said only in Latin. Usually these Latin words and phrases were just learned parrot fashion and could be trotted out like quotes from a Shakespeare play or a Wordsworth poem without having a clue what they meant.

Maybe that was just me, of course.

In my yute, I rarely knew what was going on during Mass. It was old school back then and even a normal daily Mass was said in Latin....and in black and white if I remember correctly. That was a shame as a Mass can be a very vibrant event with the bright red and gold vestments on display so I was glad when colour finally arrived in our town in the 60's and going to Mass became quite a sight for the young Silverback !

Like most Catholics, when the time was right, I became an altar boy. Despite the financial rewards (see later), I hated being an altar boy.

"But mum, do I have to ? "

"Yes son. You know it makes us so proud to see you up there on the altar in your freshly ironed surplice"

"But mum, I'm 37 !!"

It was also my introduction to the competitive world as we altar boys would fight over who got to serve at funerals and, to a lesser extent, weddings. These were events where we could actually earn some money for performing our duties and it was a sort of early acting gig as we could put on a pretend happy or sad face to increase our chances of receiving a generous tip. Of course this came with added responsibilities and woe betide anyone who mixed up the events. Many a confused altar boy got little or no tip for being a sourpuss at a wedding ceremony and similarly, any who committed the worse crime of being a beaming cherub at a funeral usually got a clout around the ear from the parish priest as well as relatives of the recently departed. Ironically the 'recently departed' cared not a jot and would've probably liked the idea of at least one smiling face at their send off. As usually happens, they weren't consulted.

At funerals, we always hoped that grief would play into our open hands and it often did. You see when grief is present, logic and clear thinking go out the window and protocol tends to break down. Unlike at a wedding, where one person is usually charged with paying us off (the best man), a funeral isn't often as organised and this worked to our advantage. After the graveyard burial (no one was cremated back then) and before everyone cleared off for the traditional meal, we altar boys would ignore all previous parental advice and hang around with these total strangers in the hope that many of them would take it upon themselves to be the one to slip us a tip. If we did it right and weren't too obvious, we could 'work the crowd' and make a tidy little sum from several mourners which we'd split between us.

In retrospect, this was not a good life lesson as we equated "cute" with "money" and would push the more cherubic boys forward to do 'do that thing with your big doe eyes' and thus rake in the dosh. Little did we know what we were setting some of these little angels up for in later life but that's another story !

I remember that, like many a restaurant waiter, we didn't take kindly to the crowd dispersing and leaving us penniless. This was just not on ! On these, thankfully rare, occasions, we'd pull back the doe eyed cherubs as their time had passed and instead, send in the big guns......literally.

Big Tommo or any other equally obese altar boy would be sent in to intimidate any lingering relative as we didn't really care if the tip was given freely or with some resistance. Resorting to Big Tommo came with a financial downside however as often he kept the bulk of money for himself so in every way, he was a weapon of last resort. Our last resort.

Despite what we're seeing in Westminster Cathedral today, the life of an altar boy is relatively short and few make it into their mid teens (so many many.......). In my small farming town, newspapers were never delivered and so being a paperboy was never a career option. Once a new batch of clean faced yutes came along and we oldies were all going down with serial acne and wispy chin stubble, our time was up and most of us had to wait until after school, college or University to again make any money.

In my case, it was 8 years, although as I did keep my surplice when I stopped being an altar boy, I did pull off the funeral trick once when times were hard at college ! I can tell you now that a long haired, bearded 19 year old in a surplice and tatty jeans tends to stand out at a funeral but like I said before, grief does funny things to people - although I had to become more of a Big Tommo than a cute cherub to add to my student funds.

On a serious note if I may (and it's my blog so yes, I may), I think the Pope missed out on a great opportunity for cross faith harmony today. There is a part of every Mass where the priest, or in this case, the Pope, opens up his arms towards the congregation and says "peace be with you" and after the congregation answers with "and also with you", he adds "let us give each other the sign of peace."

At this point people turn to those around them and either shake their hand or, if a relative or 'good' friend they give a hug or even a cheek kiss and repeat the peace exchange. Putting aside the golden opportunity to snog the beauty two aisles away by climbing over a few people to get to her, I always feel this is a nice gesture and sometimes the priest will come down from the altar and shake hands with a few members of the congregation to show he's not above a bit of mingling himself. Email addresses can be exchanged and promises to write or ring.

Anyway, given that there were loads of members of other denominations and faiths at the front of the congregation in Westminster Cathedral this morning, I feel it would've been awesome if the Pope had gone and shaken hands with some of them and wished them a bit of peace. I noticed a few Greek Orthodox priests by their distinctive black headgear............

"Peace be with you, Stavros."

"Right back at you, Bene"

Now THAT would have made my day ! Pax vobiscum

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

When Milk Turns Bad.

I'm having a service tomorrow morning.

I don't mean my car. No, it's me who is having a service tomorrow morning and believe me, getting this service has taken several months to set up and it could have taken a few more if I'd not helped things along.

It all started last January when I was getting milk out of the fridge. In America, cows produce milk in gallon containers and as they weigh about 8.5lbs each (the containers, not the cow), trying to get one out from the back of a full fridge is no mean feat. The shelf was on the same level as my arm so when I went to manoeuvre the container out, something 'gave' in my left shoulder and even if I'd been alone in a forest, my brave and almost heroic cry of pain would've definitely been heard by someone.

"Oh my goodness but that hurt a bit"

Anyway, as it only hurt when doing something similar, I switched to orange juice on my Cap'n Crunch, put up with the pain and hoped my shoulder would heal itself with time.

"Shoulder, heal thyself" was my maxim but as time went on, my shoulder, close as it was to my ear, just wasn't listening.

Forward space to early May by which time I was back in UK and able to go see my own doctor. After exhaustive tests and using his x-ray vision, he said I'd need to have a scan to show what was what.

Forward space again to early July when I finally went for my scan. The nice scan man smeared some gel on my shoulder, moved his scanny thing over it and announced with some conviction that I wasn't pregnant after all but that I'd torn...ah....something or somethings important. I can't remember exactly what he said now as I was still in shock from not being pregnant !

He said, in his opinion, there were 3 options.

1) Do nothing and it might repair itself. An unlikely option to be fair.

2) Have physiotherapy and it might heal itself. Only slightly less likely than option 1.

3) Have surgery and let a nice man from India on work experience fix it for me. I think I'd get double Nectar points too with that option.

Two days later my doctor rang me. He never writes, he never calls but oh yes, ringing is fine it seems ! Pah !!

He'd been sent my scan results and we discussed my options. He felt a visit with a shoulder specialist might help me make the right decision. I agreed and asked him to make it so. But as he wasn't a Patrick Stewart fan, he hadn't a clue what I meant. Where do they find these people ?!

That was on 7th July and 8 weeks later when I'd heard nothing, I visited the surgery (doc's office for Americans) to get the scoop. The receptionist checked my records, threw out all the Michael Jackson ones (everyone's a critic) and told me the request for an appointment HAD been made but he'd ring the hospital to check the reason for the hold up.

The reason for the hold up was - the hospital said it had never received any request !

This was on a Thursday and the receptionist said they'd put in another request - the following Tuesday when the person in the office who was responsible for such things came back from the bank holiday !

Does anyone want to buy our NHS ? Going cheap as it not really very good !

A week later I got a letter from the hospital and this brings me back to the very beginning, a very good place to........and so on, and so forth.

I'm having a service. An orthopaedic triage service to be precise.

To quote the letter, I've been.......referred to the orthopaedic triage service of Chapel Allerton Hospital with an appointment to see an extended scope practitioner of musculoskeletal services in the physiotherapy department.

What now ?

I put that statement into my phone's Google Universal Bullshit Translator app and it came back with the following : 18 weeks after first mentioning this to your GP, your shoulder will be poked and prodded by a 3rd year foreign medical student to see if he might have actually picked the right career path or if he would be better suited well away from the general public and their limbs. Have a nice day.

I'll take my phone with me and if I'm still able to use my arm after this service, I'll let you know the outcome.

Right now, I'm pretty sure I'll be rejecting option 3 as the thought of surgery freaks me out. As for option 2, I can't imagine any sort of physiotherapy that would help with a tear, like what I have. Given that I can still pick my nose and play golf without any pain whatsoever, I'm favouring option 1 myself and I'm hoping Mr. Triage will agree.

Being a medical chap he'll probably recommend surgery but I'm not having it. Oh no I'm not.

Not even if he twists my arm !

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Tarn Both Ways.

Last Sunday on the drive back to Leeds from The Lake District, we took a slight detour. We wanted to return to a favourite pub, The Black Bull at Coniston, an inn and hotel frequented by artists, poets and writers like Turner, Coleridge and De Quincy and more recently, the speed king Donald Campbell stayed there when attempting his water speed records on the nearby lake.

To get there, we stopped at another favourite spot, Tarn Hows, that despite its remote location, is one of the most popular and most photographed destinations in The Lake District.

On my last visit, I took this panoramic photo showing the lake, the trees surrounding it and the grassy areas facing them both that scream out for picnics and lazing in the sunshine admiring the stunning views.

This time I wanted to show the lake in its true setting, surrounded by trees but also by the majestic mountains that helped form the Lake District and make it the delightful area it has been for generations of visitors.

I knew there were such views at the top of the narrow road that leads up to the car park but not wanting to ask for the car to be stopped, I took one quick snap out the windscreen as we drove along and this was the result.......

It's no oil painting and Turner might not have been impressed but it does show how the tarn, or lake, nestles serenely in the bosom of the trees and mountains. It's not a view you can get once you get there so I am more than happy that this photo from the car has given me the memory that I wanted.

I hope you think the same.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Money Doesn't Grow On Trees.

Or does it ?

This morning on our way back to Leeds from our b&b in Bowness in the Lake District, we went to Tarn Hows, a lake 2 miles northeast of Coniston.

Walking around the lake we came upon this felled tree which for some bizarre reason, had been used as a money tree by hundreds of passing visitors.

From this distance it looks like cuts have been made in this tree but those aren't cuts. Oh no, those are coins. Coins embedded into the tree.

And here is the proof.

Most were pennies and I suppose they might as well be shoved into a tree as you can't even get a 'penny chew' with one these days.

It certainly made for an interesting curiosity and it could be argued that it deserves a place in an art gallery as why is it any less of an art exhibit than a pile of bricks.

Bricks with no money in them !

The Italians can have their three coins in a fountain. We've got hundreds in a tree !

That's class.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

European Trip Day 2 - Bruges

After a lovely breakfast at our b&b, we were ready for action. It was an overcast morning but we only had this one full day so we set off into Bruges with rain wear if needed. Although it threatened, it never did rain.

First port of call was back to the nearby square we'd visited the previous night as we wanted to get a large scale street map from the tourist office. We were too early and rather than wait for it to open, we decided to leave it and just use the maps in our guide book instead.

We looked at the fountains again and in daylight, there was more to see. There were bronze statues of people riding surprise there. There were bronze statues of naked people....again, no surprise. I wasn't so sure about the mermaid with the water pouring out of her breasts though. I guess if there can be statues of little boys peeing.........

As with the rest of Bruges, the square was clean and litter free. It was lovely to walk around a town, a city, where the locals had pride in its appearance and even the visitors fell into line.

We then walked through the wonderful old town with its narrow cobbled streets and steep sided, colourful buildings. It was a fairytale place and I loved it. We arrived at the central Markt and although early, it was much busier than it had been 14 hours earlier. The horse drawn carriages were already ferrying people around the town and, more importantly for us, the bell tower was open for business.

I was hoping to meet the ticket seller featured in the movie "In Bruges" but I guess he was an actor. Probably just as well as he'd had the s**t knocked out of him by Ralph Fiennes !

Then it was up the steep narrow steps of the tower and man were they narrow...and steep. Now I've had experience of steep steps from visits to various towers and domes in my travels but either I'm getting older (which just may be the case ) and more unfit (which is definitely the case) but those steps just about killed me. Then again it could've been the extra 35 pounds I carry about these days !

In any case, I was very glad there were a few stopping places on the way up - they were there to show off parts of the structure and then, nearer the top, the workings of the clock but to me they were aid stations where I could regain my breath and my legs could stop shaking. If there had been a suggestion box around I'd have suggested a nurse with some oxygen equipment to hand, although to be honest, the oxygen wouldn't have been a deal breaker !

The views from the top were stunning and really gave a wonderful view back down to the Markt as well as views over Bruges.

Going back down wasn't much better and we also had to contend with those making their way up. After several rather intimate exchanges, I reached the bottom with 2 marriage proposals and the unwanted knowledge that a sweaty German man in a Bayern Munich t-shirt had an uneaten braadworst in his front trouser pocket ! I hope.

While getting our bearings in the sizeable area at the tower bottom, we saw that those excellent Segway 'people movers' were being used in Bruges. I'm all for them in tourist towns but given that every street in Bruges is cobbled, I'd have to think that unless your job involved the use of a pneumatic drill, a few hours of Segway use in Bruges would leave your joints a bit jarred.

With the tower conquered, our only other challenge for the day was to visit a windmill. I'd also set myself the task of finding a view that I'd seen in my guide book and with no proper street map, it wasn't going to be easy. We set off to walk to the east of the old town as 'there be windmills' there. It seemed that around every corner there were photogenic houses, canals and streets and here are just a few of what we saw.

We had a lovely lunch in a restaurant on one side of the Jan Van Eyck Plein (Jan Van Eyck Square) and a statue of the famous painter was just outside the large panoramic window. This square also featured in the movie I've mentioned several times now and the leading characters had a deep conversation while sitting on the bench near to the statue.

I read the guide book again while waiting for our food to arrive and studied what maps were available and by checking with the names of streets I could actually see out the window, I realised that MY VIEW wasn't far away. The view I'd wanted to find since seeing the guide book photograph. A few minutes after leaving the restaurant, we were there and this is that view.

I've probably talked it up to being more than it is....but I lked it in the book and was pretty chuffed to be there in person.

A relatively short walk then brought us to a lovely grassy area where there were 2 windmills with the wonderful bonus that the first one was not only working, but was open to the public. Yes we could go up inside it.

Of course that involved more steps and amazingly these were even steeper than those at the tower. Admittedly there weren't many of them but they were open steps and climbing up them almost on hands and knees, it was obvious that on the return journey, they'd have to be negotiated backwards !

That last photo shows Stephen climbing up the steps and given his fear of heights, he did well to even attempt it. The top of the steps was really the base of the windwill, or at least the part where the grain would be milled and bagged. Another set of steps took us up into the workings of the windmill and provided great views back to the town. The wooden cogs and gears were all very interesting but I preferred the views.

We managed to make out way back to the ground without incident and to celebrate this and the fact that the weather had improved enormously, we unanimously decided to have ice cream. As you can see, we didn't have to go far !

Fully refreshed, we set off again to return to the Markt and that meant walking past the other windwill. With its blades stopped, it raised the interesting question of what position they should be in to give the most pleasing view. Whether by luck or design, these blades were in the perfect position we felt.

It helped that the weather was so much better by now and we had a lovely time exploring the sights and streets on the way back. Bruges does have its cyclists but nothing like on the same scale as, say, Amsterdam and it's all the better for that. We came upon various examples of how the locals had either bought unusual bikes and cycles or else created them themselves.......

After all that walking and step climbing, we got back to the Markt and rested for a while and people watched. Then it was time for supper and a return to the b&b to think about our trip the next day to Amsterdam.

We all agreed that we loved Bruges and for me it was another location ticked off on my 'must visit' list. It was everything I'd hoped it would be and much more and as is the way with the places that impress like that, I would have no hesitation in returning another day. simply blew me away.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Fun At The Seaside.

It was a lovely warm 1st of September and with the Bank Holiday over and many kids back at school, I decided to go.....on a road trip. Wooohoooo.

Ok just a one day road trip but hey, still a trip.

I looked at the Google map of England and hadn't a clue where to go. It was 11am already (he typed in a non Jewish way) so it had to be less than 2 hrs drive away as I didn't want to be on the road longer than I was at the destination and it had to be somewhere I'd never been to before.

Southport ! Yes Southport, that seaside jewel of the North West. Well that what it said on its web site anyway. It was on the coast, 80 miles away and the weather forecast suggested it would be slightly warmer than in Leeds. I had a winner.

A couple of hours later, I was on the beach. I think. Oh I was in Southport alright.....I'm just not sure I was on a beach.

I've never seen anything like it. It was a beach, but not as we know it. (I must find a new phrase for that). I mean there was light brown sand and with a bit of digging it could be made into sandcastles and it had donkeys on it so it HAD to be a beach. There was just so much of it.

Normally the order of things is - a strip of sandy beach all fluffy and soft that goes out to meet the water which is much bigger in area and this water goes all the way to the horizon where, depending on your beliefs, it either pours over the edge into some cosmic black hole or else it just goes on till it meets Terra Del Fuego.

Southport beach just goes on till it meets the horizon. Someone told me there was water out there but I donno....I'm still unconvinced. Maybe it all poured over the edge decades ago and there is none left. It's a theory.

Being a beach, there were donkey rides for the kiddies. This is a very strange British tradition and I've never bothered to have an opinion about it. Normally the animals are well looked after and lets face it, they get to walk on a beach all their lives so what's to complain about ? They get regular rest periods and smoke breaks and unless American, the kids aren't exactly heavy either.

They're all given names to make them more appealing to the little ones....look, it worked for Cabbage Patch Dolls so why not donkeys ? This one didn't do so well in the naming stakes.

I do think the owner might be in for a Dreamworks law suit though as his poster donkeys bore more than a passing resemblance to 'DON-KEY' as Shrek would've said if he'd seen it.

Note the price. The ride lasted just 45 seconds and so I think my all day parking for £2.20 was a steal by comparison.

I then wanted to walk out along the pier, at almost 3/4 of a mile, the 2nd longest in the UK. Just before I got to the start of it, I noticed a parked up lifeguard with the easiest job in Britain, nay the world. What was his role ? To protect kids from falling over sandcastles ? I mean...we know there is water somewhere in the far off distance but he'd need to refuel before he got there !

Cars were allowed onto the hard packed beach although they were only there as a car park overspill and it didn't have the same kudos as being on Daytona Beach. Still, they'd lined up neatly and were just begging to be photographed. So I did.

Then it was onwards and upwards onto the pier. I noticed right away that it was in excellent condition and had rails running it length. Tram rails, not hand rails. A unique 100 seater tram ran down the middle of the pier and a return trip cost £2. This was an excellent way for the elderly and unfit to travel the pier but as I'm neither of those, I walked.

No turnaround is needed as when it gets to the end of the pier, it just falls off and everyone dies. No, seriously...most survive. just goes back again without turning. All clever stuff.

And speaking of the end of the pier, this is your reward for that long walk, or quick lazy ride......

Actually before that, there is a modern structure housing old fashioned penny arcade machines which take pre-decimalisation coins. You exchange modern coins for the old ones and off you go - and lose the lot. It's a bit like an airport foreign exchange booth. You hand over your hard earned sterling and get a load of strange money in return but not worth as much ! Talk about teaching kids a lesson.

I've still to find out what the statue is at the pier end but it's all frightfully grand and shiny and I enjoyed it better than the penny arcade machines.

Several miles across the water.....yes the water.......lies Blackpool (noted for fresh air and fun) and on a clear day you can see its tower. Today was a semi clear day but I still need the power of my 200mm lens and a bit of photoshop magic to bring it to you here.

It's a town I have no desire to ever visit again.....once was enough. It's everything I hate about a British seaside town with a "kiss me quick hat" thrown in. Shudder.

Walking back along the pier I took a couple of photos that were a bit different from the norm. First I noticed that all along the length of the pier were name plaques screwed into the wooden decking. Some were company names but most were names of people, presumably dead people, as we have this tradition of having our loved ones immortalised by plaques on park benches and now, it seems, on seaside piers.

The other photo was of this John Voight lookalike who came towards me just as I finished taking the previous shot. He looked interesting from a distance and I hastily adjusted the camera settings to aperture priority for this shot. It was only when I looked at the results that I noticed the flag on his hat and for me, it made the shot.

Near the pier was a funfair, dubiously called Pleasure Land. I say that because I'm not a fan of funfairs either and I only went out of interest to see what rides were on offer. As it happened it was a decent place with many decent rides but it was STILL a funfair and in this day and age, more a curiosity than any land of pleasure.

I wanted to use the opportunity to try taking photos of the moving rides with various camera speed settings and I've found in the past that although a 4,000th/sec will freeze most action to the extent that I might as well take the shot when the ride was stopped......that slow shutter speeds are much more pleasing and show colours and shapes not seen by the naked eye.

Just as I was leaving the complex, I was stopped by two large staff members who asked me what I had been photographing. Thinking it was yet again another case of being accused or suspected of photographing kids for some perverse reasons, I was immediately hacked off. But it turned out their interest was more personal than that and they were just concerned that I might be taking photos to show 'them' in a bad light !

Once assured that my blog post about their lovely, well managed and well run con...I mean funfair, would be positive, they let me down, handed me back my testicles and let me go. Result.

Finally (and yes I realise this post has been as long as the walk to the end of that pier), I was driving home when I saw a horse and trap combo on the other side of the road. Not being pressed for time, I did a u-turn, overtook the pair and lay in wait for them at a layby further along the road. By now the light was fading fast and I've had to use photoshop again to lighten the photo. It was a one shot deal as they passed me so fast and I was slightly annoyed that a couple of cars had managed to be trapped behind them. I wanted them isolated. Maybe another photoshop session will isolate them but for now, here they are.......

Due to the low light I couldn't use a fast shutter speed so it's a bit blurred. I still like it as it's an unusual trap (if that's the correct term) and I'll always remember it as the last photo I took on my Southport trip.

Well as you know, I'll have the memory only as long as I keep the photo.

(by the way, when they were making up the "i before e except after c" rule, what about Alzheimers ? Did they forget about it ?)

Always good to go out with a joke.

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