Friday, 30 September 2011

1967: The Best Year

Someone asked me this morning what I think was the best year of my life. It didn't take much thinking to come up with an answer. It has to be 1967. That was the year that I left school and got my first job (a job which I was to be made redundant from six months later when the store burned down). It was also the year that I left home and the year that I started my naval career.

There were some great songs around at that time too. I remember getting a small transistor radio when I started working and listening to the crackling broadcasts of Radio Caroline when I went to bed. Some of my favourite tunes back then (and still favourites now) were 'Puppet on a String' by Sandie Shaw (I think I'm right in saying that one was a Eurovision Song Contest winner for the UK in 1967), 'I'm a Believer' by the Monkees and 'This is My Song' by Petula Clark. Then during the summer there was that huge hit for Scott McKenzie, 'San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair)'. I used to listen to all these on Radio Caroline, but later that year saw the launch of BBC's Radio One so we were able to listen to the tunes without all the crackling. All in all though, it was a great summer - we didn't have a care in the world.

Even back then I was interested in the sea and ships. I remember taking a lot of interest in the QE2 when she was launched that year, and I remember Sir Francis Chichester finishing his round-the-world solo sailing trip. Even the bad bits come to mind - like the Torrey Canyon supertanker running aground off the coast of Land's End and the Royal Air Force having to bomb her a couple of weeks later to try and sink it. And I'm sure that 1967 saw the Queen Mary passenger liner coming back to England and entering Southampton after her last ever transatlantic voyage.

And then there was television. I know that we had got our first ever TV a couple of years earlier, but I remember coming home from work and going to one of our neighbours house to look at a colour TV. I left home in 1967 to join the navy but I don't think we ever owned a colour TV while I was at home. I remember some of the programmes though - 'I Love Lucy', 'My Favourite Martian' and everyone's favourite at the time, 'Mr Ed', the talking horse.

Right at the back end of the year, just before Christmas, I went on my first long train journey, from Huddersfield down to Plymouth, and joined the Royal Navy. It was the first time I had been that far away from home, and the first time that I had spent the night anywhere else. It was scary to say the least but there was a whole load of us in the same boat and we all helped each other through those first days and nights away from home.

I don't think any other year comes anywhere near 1967. It was such a special year.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Worst Place To Live

Why is it that on some mornings we can wake up feeling on top of the world while on other mornings, like today, we can wake up feeling really depressed. I used to think that there had to be some sort of event in your life to make you feel this way but I think that needs to be re-thought. Nothing has happened. Today is just the same as yesterday. Yet I woke up this morning feeling as though today is the last day on earth. A totally weird feeling.

Then I read an item on one of the news web sites that a 'think tank' has carried out a survey and drawn the conclusions that the UK is the worst place to live in Europe. They say that one in ten people are "seriously considering" emigrating. I know that if I were younger and I had more money, I'd be gone faster than you could say 'emigrate'. I'd love to move to Malta and settle down there, something I should have done a long time ago when I had the chance.

Amongst other things, this survey says that we are getting a "raw deal" on quality of life and high cost of living. It also tells us that food prices in the UK are the highest in Europe. I could have told them that. After serving in the navy for almost thirty years, I came back into 'civvy street' hoping to start a new life. It's certainly not been through lack of trying but so far I have been unable to start that new life. I've moved around and lived in different places in the country looking for employment but without any luck. Three years ago the government froze ex forces pensions and during that three years the cost of living has rocketed. I'm proud to say that I have always managed to pay my bills but nowadays that leaves me with just £9.16 a week to live on. Three years ago I didn't have any debt but I have had to use plastic for day to day living and have now got a credit card debt running into thousands of pounds. And the worst thing is, because the navy pension is just above the 'legal amount' the government says we need to live on, ex servicemen don't qualify for any benefits. Who needs a 'think tank' to tell us we're living in the worst place in Europe?

Oh dear. Reading back on this post tells me that someone really did get out of bed on the wrong side this morning. I think I should go back to bed and try again. Go back and wake up to nice sunshine and feeling on top of the world. Turn the clock back and wake up as though you haven't got a care in the world. Now wouldn't that be nice?

And talking of 'turning the clock back', well, that's a whole new story to save for another day......

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Mining Museum

The National Coal Mining Museum
I recently spent an afternoon at the National Coal Mining Museum with a couple of old school friends. A nice day out made even more enjoyable by the fact that, apart from buying things from the cafe or gift shop, everything was free.

The mine provides a good insight into the working lives of miners throughout the years and you have the opportunity to go on one of the guided tours and travel 140 metres underground down one Britain's oldest working mines. I gave that bit a miss and stayed topside. But even without the underground tour there's still plenty to see, both indoors and outdoors. The museum is spread out over a large area and is home to a lot of original colliery buildings. You get to see the pithead and an 1876 steam winder, or you can visit the pithead baths where miners cleaned up after their shifts. There's even a medical centre showing how injuries were treated in days gone by. Plus there's a picnic area and a nature trail for the more energetic.

Dosco Roadheader Mk 2A
As you walk through the grounds you'll see old mining machinery on display. One that caught my eye was the huge Dosco Roadheader. This machine was used to make arched roadways underground. It has a small cutting head mounted on a long boom, which cuts in an arc, moving from side to side.

The apron at the front has a built-in chain conveyor to shovel spoil as the machine crawls forwards on its caterpillar tracks. The conveyor carries the spoil to the back of the machine where it is loaded onto another conveyor for transport to the surface. This machine was still being used as recently as the seventies. The machine in the picture is of a static display but there is a similar machine in another part of the museum which can be driven out for demonstrations on working days.

The Dosco Roadheader
There are loads of these old mining machines scattered about the museum grounds and each one has an information board next to it with photographs and diagrams telling you what they are and what they were used for. I wasn't particularly keen on going down the mine, but I found all the mining machinery interesting.

Another interesting part was Hope Pit, a colliery complex which is totally dedicated to science. Here they have hands-on interactive models with touch screen displays. The kids I saw there were having a great time with them, especially with the air speed and wind pressure monitor and the ventilation game.

We were only there for the afternoon but I don't think that was long enough. My mates took the underground tour and didn't get to see the rest of the site so I think that you'd need to plan an all-day visit to get to see everything, including the underground tour and nature trail.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Playing Out

Over fifty years ago a couple of school friends used to come to my house and ask if I wanted to 'play out'. Nothing has changed over the years, the same two friends are calling today and we'll be 'playing out' somewhere. Last week we went to Tunnel End at Marsden, otherwise known as Standedge Tunnel. I'm not quite sure where we'll be going today but wherever we go, we've got nice weather for it. Nowadays though, our little trips usually involve something we didn't have when we were kids. We were too young to know about the amber nectar back then.

Did a bit more playing about with my widgets today (now there's a sentence I never thought I'd be saying). I added a 'live traffic feed' of visitors to the site which just confirmed what I thought when I started these ramblings - that I'm ranting on to myself and the men in the white coats are going to be knocking on the door soon. The only one it shows on this live feed is me. But then I added a 'flag collector' to the side bar which blew those early ideas straight out of the window. Apart from my own flag, I've got two from America and another from India. So I'm not talking to myself! Welcome to my blog people, I hope I didn't bore you TOO much.

I also added another picture of the two latest additions to my family at the top right hand side of the page. But I've put them there purely for selfish reasons. I doubt I'm any different from any parent or grand parent when it comes to their children or grand children, we all love our own to bits. So the only reason they've been added to the page is for me. So that I have something nice to look at each time I open the page - and I think the titles above each picture just about says it all. You can't get any nicer than Sugar and Spice.

Monday, 26 September 2011

The Ageing Process

I've been playing with pictures and widgets this morning. I added a couple of widgets, or gadgets, I'm not too sure which is the right name to use, to the right had side of the page. I've added most of my books on to the 'Shelfari' bookshelf. It didn't take too long adding them either, I have less than a hundred books so it was done in less than and hour. I initially put the gadget at the bottom of the page but it looked a bit big there so I decided to move it to the side bar.

My favourite addition is the one that I've added to my biography page, a picture that I created from several photos taken over the years. I've called it "The Ageing Process" as it starts back in 1955 and goes all the way up to just a couple of years ago. I thought I should end it in 2009 though as I've piled on a few extra pounds since then and some of the later pictures are not a nice sight.

I don't think I shall be spending a lot of time in front of the computer this morning. The weather is absolutely glorious today so I'm going to make the most of it and go on a nice leisurely stroll somewhere. I have no idea where I'll be going but it's too nice a day to stay indoors.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Happy Days

Tracy and Vicki Lou
My kids left home many years ago and are now living their own lives. The two boys have moved to the opposite ends of the country and I very rarely see them. I haven't seen the youngest boy for two years and I haven't seen his older brother for going on for probably five years or more. (It doesn't help when they 'forget' to give you their address or phone number either. It makes any sort of contact impossible). Thankfully it's a bit different with my daughter though. She's also moved out of the area and started her own life with her husband and two little girls, but even though she's not living in the same area as me any longer, she's still within travelling distance so we get to see each other whenever we can.

Vicki Lou watching one of her favourite shows
So it's extra special whenever they visit. When my daughter and grand-daughter paid a visit over the weekend we had such a great time without even leaving the house. It was only a short two-day visit but we packed in as much as we could, playing games and watching DVD's. Although there was one particular film we had to watch 'more than once'. Vicki Lou's favourite film happens to be Ice Age and she wasn't content with watching it just the once. Still, I'm not complaining. I was happy to just sit and watch her enjoying herself. She has such an infectious laugh, once she starts you have to join in. She's such a star she brightens everyone's life up.

Vicki Lou and mum waiting for their train to arrive
Whoever coined the phrase, "Time flies when you're having fun", got it spot on. The weekend just flew by. It seemed to be over before it had begun and before we knew it, it was time for them to leave.

When we got to the station for them to catch the train home, the platform was deserted. Our bus into town had got us there a little bit early so we had a bit of time to wait before the train arrived. It was like a ghost station. Certainly different from during the week when it is usually packed with commuters and students. There were only two others waiting to catch the same train so it turned out to be a pretty quiet journey back. It doesn't make things any easier though.

"Bye bye, granddad, see you soon"
I hate 'goodbyes'. I had enough of that when I was in the navy and I was the one having to go away. It broke my heart having to leave my family when they were growing up. Sometimes I was away for months on end. It's not me doing the leaving now, but the goodbyes are still just as painful.

We have to look on the bright side though. It's not going to be long before we see each other again. It's going to be my turn for a train journey soon, when I go to visit them at their house. (Note to self: remember to get a timetable so that I can check the times of the connecting trains). At least this time it's not going to be as long a wait as what it was was when I had to go away - back then I could have been gone for anything from six months to a year. It was awful. Thankfully those days are long since over and done with now.

Life Is Cruel

I had a bit of a restless night last night and couldn't sleep so I've been up since 4 o'clock this morning. To while away the hours I went on line and spent a bit of time reading through a few blogs. One that I found grabbed my attention and I couldn't tear myself away from it. The lady writing the blog seemed to have so many problems on her hands but still managed to give a daily report of her life. She must have been in tears while she was writing her posts (I know I would have been), but she still managed to sound upbeat. I'm not in a position to help anybody but it doesn't stop me from wishing I could. I'd love to be able to reach out and help her with her problems.

Being from the other side of the world I don't know much about American laws, but apparently this lady's house has been put up for sale because of non payment of taxes. It sounds as though there is a problem with jobs in America too. Reading through her posts she has said over and over again that she wishes her husband's boss would get in touch and say there is some work available for him. She has had several problems over the last few weeks including, amongst others, her washing machine breaking down, water pump not working, and an infestation of ants and having to rip the carpets up. And on top of all this she has had to cope with a death in the family. Yet she still finds time to post a daily report and concentrate on homeschooling her children.

I know things have not been going too well for myself recently but after reading about this lady's problems, I don't think I shall ever complain again. I only hope that if things ever got so bad for me that I could have the strength that this lady has and be just as upbeat.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

That's Life

No planned outings for today. Just another quiet day spent at home, and another chance to sit in front of the computer and practice my typing. I think I'm getting quite good at it, even though it is only two-fingered typing. I used to do a bit of typing many years ago - still the two-fingered type, but I remember when I made a mistake there was no 'back button'. It was a case of either starting over again with a fresh sheet of paper, or getting the bottle of Tippex out and try to correct the mistake. (I wonder if they still make Tippex. Or more to the point, do they still make typewriters).

There's a new tab at the top of the page. I added a tab called 'That's Life' and have included a few short stories looking at the  funnier side of life. If you want to start your day with a smile it's worth having a look. I'll try and add a few more stories to the page when I can. One of my favourites is the mobile phone etiquette for the older generation, the senior texting codes - ROFL...CGU. (You're going to have to check out the new page if you want to know what that means).

As it's Saturday and I have nothing planned for today, I think I might do a bit of 'blog-surfing' for a while. Out of the millions of blogs out there, I'm bound to find some that are of interest. I've noticed that there are some who only write a few posts during the year, but there are others that write regular updates. These are the ones I'll be looking for. I might even get a bit daring and follow them. (I remember the time when, if you used to follow someone, you'd more than likely get done for stalking). Nowadays it's encouraged. There's even a little button on some pages, as with this one, saying 'Follow me'. Imagine walking down  the high street with a note pinned to your back saying 'Follow me'. I don't think I'll be doing that any time soon.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Standedge Tunnel

Wow, who would have thought that finding events taking place in Huddersfield could be so hard? I spent quite a bit of time trying to find things that may be of interest but only managed to find two. There are plenty of things happening for specific groups like mother and toddler, baby fayres, wedding fayres and book signings, but not a lot of events that would be of general interest. I'm either not looking hard enough, or there's nothing planned for Huddersfield in the near future. I'll keep looking though and add more events if and when I find them.

I added a few more pictures to the 'Huddersfield' tab and I've included a little bit of information about them for anyone who may be interested. All the pictures shown are fairly modern but as I was adding them to the page another thought came to my head; I might try and dig out some of my old photos and add a 'Memories' tab. That's not going to be any time soon though. First of all I'm going to have to try and remember where I've put the pictures then I'll have to scan them all and put them on to the computer. It may take a while so don't hold your breath.

Standedge Tunnel at Marsden, Huddersfield.
A couple of friends and I had a trip to Standedge Tunnel the other day, the highest, longest and deepest canal tunnel in Britain. It reopened in 2001 after a 20 year restoration programme and stretches for 3.25 miles (5,029 metres) through hard millstone grit.

The canal is 636 feet (194 metres) underground at the deepest point and 643 feet (196 metres) above sea level.

The visitor centre offers a 30 minute tunnel trip in a  glass-topped boat but, personally, I can't see the point in that. Apart from being able to say, "I've been  in the highest, longest and deepest tunnel in Britain", there is nothing else to it. There is a tour guide on the boat telling you all the technical details but the tunnel is in complete darkness so what are you going to see? There were plenty of people taking the trip but I decided to give it a miss. I sat on the canal bank enjoying a nice refreshing drink.

We have a few different outings in mind for the next few weeks, all local attractions, so I'll mention them as and when I can. It could be interesting. Apart from my time in the navy I've lived in Huddersfield all my life and now I find myself visiting local places that I've not heard of before.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Busy Busy Busy

Yesterday  I spent a couple of hours adding a few new pages to this blog (the link bar is at the top of the page).  The first page I worked on, the biography, has the least amount of detail but it took the longest to create. Sixty years condensed into three paragraphs, what an exciting life it must have been. I enjoyed working on the second page, the one titled 'Huddersfield'. This one tells about my home town and includes several pictures of the town and surrounding areas. I'll add more pictures over the coming weeks. The next page I added, the 'History' page, is just a list of notable dates in Huddersfield's history. Check it  out, there may be some events there that you remember.

Talking  of events, that's where I'm thinking of going next. I thought it might be a nice idea to create a page showcasing events taking place in Huddersfield. I know, I know, 'what's the point' you are asking yourselves, 'when no one is likely to be reading these pages'. Maybe, maybe not, but I do know that I'm bored out of my tiny little mind and I need something to do. This little project I've started is taking up a couple of hours of my day so it doesn't really matter if anyone reads it or not, but if they do, I hope that at least some of what I write will be interesting or useful for them.

I still haven't managed to find any other blogs that can give me some ideas for me to use here so I think I may have to carry on searching. I've got to say that there have been one or two that have caught my eye while I have been flicking through and I've stayed on their pages for a little longer than I have for most. Some of them I'd like to have visited again but I've not been able to find them again. I'm going to have to look into how to make a 'favourites' list, or consider following some of the pages I visit. By doing that I should imagine that, at the very least, it's going to let the owners of those pages know that there is someone out there who is interested in what they write.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Getting There

Last night I spent a bit of time playing around with images and links, adding some pictures to the right hand side of this page. The first one shows the cover of the latest book I'm reading and if you click on the book cover you'll find a brilliant review about that particular book. Very impressive, even though I say so myself.

By clicking on the 'Next Blog' link at the top of the page I have been looking through other people's blogs. I noticed that there are quite a few of them that seem to have been abandoned and haven't been touched for several months. Could that be because they have simply got fed up with the whole idea of 'blogging', or perhaps because their lives have got a bit more exciting and they haven't got time to update their pages. Or, even worse, they've passed away! I wonder which of those categories I shall fall in to. I hope it's not the latter.

I still haven't fathomed out how to view blogs of specific topics. All I've been doing is clicking on that 'Next Blog' link at the top of the page and reaching various pages. There's an awful lot of them written in languages which I cannot understand so I have to skip past those. There is also a large number of them that seem to be commercial sites which, if I had found them in any other way, I would have simply assumed that they were just another web site. I guess I'm going to have to spend a bit more time looking at more personal blogs as I still have no idea of what I should be doing here - I'm enjoying the writing though and it's also good typing practice for me (even though it is just two-fingered typing).

I finished off yesterday's ramblings with the question "Do you WANT people to read what you are writing". I still don't have an answer to that but I think I can see which way it's going. An old school friend paid an unexpected visit last night and this page was open. Once I'd let him in to the house and into the study where I'd been sitting at my desk, I had to rush to turn off the computer to prevent him seeing what I had been doing. I'd only been putting my thoughts into writing - I hadn't been doing anything I shouldn't have been - yet I still felt embarrassed about the whole thing. If I'd had something of interest to write about it may have been different, but because it's just random 'ramblings', I thought I should keep it to myself.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Second Call

This blogspot has done what I had hoped. It's taken up a bit more of my time and killed another couple of hours. I came back last night and did a bit more tweaking. This time playing around with different layouts, adding pictures and links, and finding out what I can do with the title bar at the top. I'm happy with how it's turned out so I think I might leave it looking like it is for a while.

I looked at some other people's blogs to see if I could decide what I am supposed to do with mine. Looking at them just made me even more confused though. There are some weird and wonderful pages out there, ranging from "The Life of Worms" and fan sites (or should they be called fan pages?), to people writing their life stories. There are some that have written huge amounts on their blogs. There's so much on their pages - even in one post - that I imagine it would take forever to read. Some of them are so good at putting words on to paper that I think they should consider writing books. Perhaps that is what they are doing.

There are also quite a number of 'family' pages out there. I read a few of the blogs, although it was only bits of them, but it still seemed strange reading about the private lives of complete strangers. Some just write about routine events, perhaps using the blogspot as a daily journal, while others have written about special events in their life, like holidays, or medical events like trips to the hospitals or how a family member is progressing.

I felt uneasy reading some of these pages. It was as if I was prying into their lives when I had no business to do so. But the more I read, the more I thought that the people creating these blogs want the world to know about their private lives. Why would they put so much information out there if they wanted to keep it private? Surely they would have altered their privacy settings if they wanted to keep it to themselves.

So, even after looking at all those sites last night, I am still unsure of how to use these pages or what I should write in them. I think I may have to keep looking at other blogs for inspiration, to try and get a bit of an idea of what I should (or should not) be doing. It may be early days yet, but I have come to the conclusion that what I am writing here is for my eyes only - why on earth would anyone be interested in what I have to say?

Which leads to the question, "Do you WANT people to read what you are writing?" I don't know. I can't think of an answer to that but I'll let you know when I find one.

Monday, 19 September 2011

First Post

I found this thing called 'Blogger' today. As I have too many hours in the day I thought this may be a way of filling some of them up. On this first visit I've spent a while playing with templates, backgrounds and layouts, etc., so it's already filled in a couple of hours of my day. I might try playing around and 'tweaking' a bit more on my next visit, but how much can be done before I get fed up of tweaking remains to be seen.

I'm not sure if a blog is supposed to be for everyone to read or just for your own private ramblings. Are other people really going to read random ramblings by a 'nobody'? Although after saying that, I think I may have to read some other people's ramblings just to find out what they are writing about and how they use a blog. For example, are they simply using one for their own personal diary (in which case should I really be reading it?) or are they shouting out as loud as they can to tell the whole world something?

There is one thought going through my head as I am writing this first post, "If someone is sitting in a room all alone and they start chatting away to themselves, are they not ready for a visit from the men in the white coats?" By writing it down instead of speaking the words, is that not just speeding up the inevitable? I'll let you know when the white coats come knocking on the door.

I wonder how long it will last before the blogging novelty wears off and this becomes just another site that I signed up to and no longer use. Only time will tell. I'll have to try and remember to keep coming back (and then try to find something to write about).