Tuesday, June 27, 2006

One Brave Lady

This report should have you thinking twice about all the political rhetoric from Westminster. How many MPs and government ministers have any idea what it is like to be living in the trenches of modern society? Not one. And the same sentiment must also apply to Derby City Council who blithely say that 69 year old Josephine Rooney should pay her local taxes "because by not doing so she is hurting all those that do". It takes a brave lady to take a stand and at her age she must be very brave to risk going to prison for her principles.

The footnote to this story is interesting. She will, apparently, have to serve her sentence in full because there is no remission for good behavior when you don't pay your debts. Monetary debts that is. Kill someone, rape someone, molest a child and you can easily get a reduced sentence for good behavior. Money talks.

That was then, This is now!

Another old photo I came across reminded me of a recent shot. Here they both are:

Lucy, Christmas 1976

This was taken of daughter Lucy at Christmas in Singapore in 1976.

Thomas Umbrella

And this of Lucy's daughter Isobel, almost thirty years later!

More Old Photos on Flickr

A visit to our storage unit has unearthed another supply of old photos (old means anywhere from 1964 to 1997 or so) which I am laboriously scanning and uploading to Flickr. Several new sets have emerged as a result, with the first two relating to cars I have owned (and in both cases restored).

Photo shoot after the first rebuild

The first one relates to my 1952 MG TD sports car. I bought this from a friend, Wybe Valkema, while living in Singapore in 1976. I already shared ownership of a 1954 Jaguar XK140, photos of which have yet to be scanned, so this was to be 100% my challenge. As the photos show, the car was stripped down to the bare frame, the drive train carefully rebuilt, and then re-assembled and used as every day transport as well as fun weekends in Malaysia. In 1980 I foolishly shipped the MG to Texas where it was not considered to be worth anything as there were a large number of VW knock-offs on the road. I eventually sold it to a Houston enthusiast in 1988. It was a fun car and the children (then small enough to fit behind the seat, even on long journeys) loved it. I raced it several times at the old Batu Tiga circuit at Petaling Jaya, near Kuala Lumpur, but never allowed the revs to go too high - I had to get back home somehow!

1935 Riley 9 Saloon

The second set is all about the start of a new restoration project which had to be abandoned in 1980. The 1935 Riley 9 Saloon was a classic British small car with a superb engine that was subsequently (much) modified to power the famous ERA racing cars. This car was heavy but still motored nicely. I bought it sight unseen in the UK and shipped it out to Singapore and used it for a while before deciding to rebuild the engine and gearbox. I never got to the bodywork but had realized this was going to be a challenge when on a sharp corner the body tilted over more than the chassis! The cable brakes were interesting - you could adjust them while driving. I regret never completing this resoration but I hope the new owners managed to do something with it!

It's interesting that today I have very little interest in old cars or their restoration. I see lots of them on the road at weekends but never do I feel any renewed desire to get grease under my finger nails. I guess I really did get the whole old car thing out of my system!

Monday, June 26, 2006


Sunday we went to Stowe, a place we had heard much about but had never visited. We went with son-in-law Jeff and grandchildren Isobel and Spike and we had a great time. Picnic under the trees, exploration around numerous mock-temples, ending up with ice cream. (An aside, never mention at the beginning of the day a treat that is intended for the end of the day!)


Lots of photos, mostly of family, with a few of Stowe itself. With two young'uns in tow it was difficult to focus too much on the history and grandeur of the place - better to simply enjoy the scenery - but this was clearly one of the great English country houses. The building and part of the grounds form the famous and exclusive Public School while the National Trust looks after the rest of the gardens. Plenty of space to roam with incredible vistas. Until I find out more, it is enough to say that the owners endowed the place with superb landscaping supplemented by numerous follies or faux structures including temples that reflect various ages past. The most bizarre must surely be the gothic temple. Another feature was a series of busts reflecting great people of British history, the Worthies. While a few famous scientists were depicted, it was easy to see the fawning nature of the display as several monarchs were included in the list (clearly you can tell from this that I am a republican at heart!)

England 1 - Ecuador 0

This was a tough game to watch. Once again, England hardly entertained (isn't that what football is all about?). Nail-biting performances are tough on the system of an England fan.

To be fair, Ecuador never looked a real contender but then again, neither did England except for a few rare flashes of soccer genius. More and more, England seems to be relying on the set piece to bring them goals and Beckham's bender was a much needed beauty.

But perhaps the most telling part of the game was during the first ten minutes. England came out dominating with some fine mid-field play. Then after about 6 minutes one break by Ecuador created a near opportunity (saved by a deflection from Ashley Cole, one of the better players of the afternoon) and England's impetus was lost until the 60th minute.

An aside, if Beckham was physically sick on the pitch because of the heat, why does he choose to wear long-sleeved shirts? Is it a fashion thing?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Argentina 2 - Mexico 1

I find it difficult to watch an entire World Cup game these days. There is something about most soccer games that reminds me I have better things to do, like re-organize my sock drawer (well, that's not true, I don't even have a sock drawer). The Germany Sweden game was a good example, being one-sided and often quite boring. I gauge boring as being in evidence when the commentator starts counting the number of consecutive passes.

But the Argentina-Mexico game was 120 minutes of riveting football. In the end Argentina deserved the win but Mexico played brilliant football against the favorites. I seriously doubt England could come up with a similar display (I hope I am wrong). The hype surrounding England's future will be tested this evening and I rather fear that the nation will, once again, be let down, even if England does defeat Ecuador.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Italy 1 - USA 1

Forgetting the trauma of being an England supporter for an evening, I pulled out my USA passport, poured a glass of Zinfandel and rooted for team USA against Italy. You might suppose this would be a lost cause but in fact I was real proud of the USA effort. It will be said that the Ref kinda ruined the game, but if he did it certainly wasn't to the advantage of the USA.

Now my many compatriates will complain that 1-1 is hardly a result, but in the world of football (a.k.a. soccer, a.k.a. assocation football, a.k.a. English football established in the late 1880s) a draw against a potentially superior team is considered "good".

Not that Italy looked the superior team. They looked Old World, but not superior. Shear energy and a lot of skill from US players who have been exposed to European football leveled the playing field.

I remember 4 years ago standing in a Houston office conference room (big screen TV) with the USA playing (not very well) in the last World Cup. Idiots who knew nothing about the game but thought they knew everything comlained when a goal was disallowed for being offside. I spent fifteen minutes explaining the offside rule but it never got through. Americans want lots of goals/runs/points and statistics in their sport.

I am not sure the USA deserves what it got tonight. The players deserve a medal but the nation that "supports" them probably still thinks the ball should be oblate.

Friday, June 16, 2006

River Chasing in Brum

This past weekend, at the Birmingham Flickrmeet, we stumbled across one of Birmingham's diminutive rivers, the Rea. This flows nearest to the heart of the city and was a reason why the city became what it is today, first during the Middle Ages, later during the Industrial Revolution. Most of the time, Birmingham's rivers, such as the Rea, the Cole and, to a lesser extent the Tame, have been subdued into culverts, sometimes even buried beneath large factory developments.

But, a tour on Google Maps can demonstrate, both the the Rea and the Cole can be traced across the southern and eastern areas of the city. And in many cases, the banks of the streams offer grassy parkland areas with trees and cycle tracks. Here are three points on an interesting urban safari. First, the (1) River Rea near Cannon Hill Park. Next the confluence between the (2) Tame (of which the Rea is a tributary) and the Blythe (of which the Cole is a tributary. And finally the (3) Cole at Sarehole Mill. If you should have nothing better to do, start panning across Google Maps and see if you can get from (1) to (3)!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

To support England you have to drink!

I just watched some of the England vs Trinidad & Tobago World Cup game and at the end of it I understood why English supporters drink a lot. Even when England wins it is best to forget most of the game, something alcohol will help you do. And if England were to do less well (which they could have today) then the alcohol will engender a false sense of goodwill toward mankind. Maybe.

These thoughts were prompted by an encounter on Sunday afternoon when the Birmingham Flickrmeet group was joined by an inebriated fan who was still celebrating Saturday's lacklustre performance and no longer knew or cared to know which day it was. These one and two links will take you to group photos with said fan as the subject. I suppose he's back in the land of Ansells by now.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Travelogues become Interactive

Starting today, you can add comments and updates to our travelogues. Using Blogger, we have linked each travelogue to a separate blog entry. If you have a different point of view or have some updated information, please take the time to keep us and others informed!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Devon - Hot and Sunny!

Last week (actually more than a week) the weather gods favored England. And how. A real heatwave with day after day of blue skies, hot sun and some cooling breezes (winds, actually). We were fortunate to be able to spend the entire week in Devon and the photos on Flickr show that the weather was indeed glorious. Plenty of time on the beach and, after a few days of thinking about it, many dips into the ocean! The warmest water was at Wembury Bay where we swam off the rocks into sheltered coves, lingering in crystal clear waters. Back in Easy Devon the water was just about OK for a quick swim - we can expect warmer waters later in the year.

We also managed a few hikes, doing the East Devon travelogue hike from Salcombe to Branscombe. While on this hike I had the idea of creating another Focalplane blog, this time to allow updates and comments on each of the travelogues. So this will not so much be a diary as a forum. I hope it takes off!

Birmingham FlickrMeet, June 11

Hot sunny weather, lots of empty streets, a few pubs, many factories surrounded by razor wire, Digbeth presented an interesting challenge. Should we look for the details or should we take in the big picture? One thing's for sure, there were precious few people to photograph! My portfolio will be up in a day or two as I struggle with a backload of images from last week in hot, sunny Devon.