Many years ago, perhaps even around the 1980s, I noticed a curious little symbol on a gatepost near my school. As the internet hadn’t been invented, I had no option but to draw it and ask older people what it might be.
Of course old people are not Google and the various responses I had included — Aliens, graffiti, markings showing where World War 2 bombs fell, natural formations and markings to show were treasure/secret passageways/underground bases (complete with monorails) are located. Which, I suspect, is as about accurate to Google results these days anyway.
Much poking around, the passing of time and asking actually qualified people who work at universities later revealed that the symbol is what is know as a benchmark. Then came Wikipedia and that cemented it for me — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benchmark_(surveying) Another childhood thought bubble popped.
Sometimes, when I see them, I will go “Oooh! Look a benchmark” and people around me look at me as if I had just escaped from the loonie bin (or psychiatric rehabilitation centre in the modern parlance). This usually then results in the conversation continuing without me, patronising “listening” as I explain or me having to put that nice jacket with the buckles on.
In 2017, while exploring the local-to-me administrative county town of Northampton I saw a benchmark on the Guildhall and took a photo, with the intent on starting an internet based map showing where all the benchmarks are in the UK. Of course, I don’t have the wherewithal, patience or technological knowhow to even set up such an endevour, instead I present it to you here — to gawp at and tell people, with confidence, when you see one yourself in the wild, that the weird symbol shows that nearby there is a secret underground base run by Bill Gates nanobots is and protected by Jewish space lasers…..
May is that time of year in the UK when villages start to become alive. Hipsters gather their trailers and converted caravans to vend organic vegan fat-hen flavour ice cream shampoo and barbecue slow cooked artisian oven baked allergen free squid rings to shuffling Guardian reading zombies. While village community association members bicker about who is in charge of procuring the orange squash and tombola this year.
May is also the time of year when bearded Arran sweater wearing ukelele and folk instrument players gather to play arcane tunes and songs devoted to John Barleycorn, the Green Man and other ancient deities of agriculture and fertility. They then sometimes dance around a pole waving their hankies or bopping sticks together or maybe they will cart a village teenager around in a wagon before sticking her on a pile of faggots and setting her alight.
Ah traditions. Long may they continue.
Sadly this year and last year most of these celebrations have failed to be performed causing the ancient gods of fertility and abundance to rouse and show their displeasance by causing Brexit, disease and embarrasment to the Prime Minister.
Although, as the plague is now on the wain, it is possible that such village celebrations will reemerge in 2022 and once again, people can wave hankies at each other while dancing around a pole. Lech Wałęsa need not apply.
I can’t remember why we went. It was possibly to see the Bell inn, a haunted inn mentioned in Marc Alexander’s Haunted Inns but it turned out that it was the annual Cheese Rolling day in Stilton. Cheese rolling is where, for some forgotten tradition, people gather to chase a “cheese” down Stilton high street.
Back in 2009, I got seriously into geocaching in a big way. It was niche, nerdy and didn’t really have much of a cost other than the travelling around. Perfect for a geek with no money and a car.
Geocaching (see www.geocaching.com), if you didn’t know, is a worldwide game where containers or caches are hidden around the world for people to find, sign or move on. It got very popular in the UK during the noughties and early teenies after The Guardian did an article about how much fun it was to do with kids and spoiled it for everyone.
Geocaches were scored on their difficulty, with 1 being easy peasy and 5 being you need specialist equipment or balls of steel to find it — usually because the cache was hidden on the side of a cliff or on the space station or at the top of a Chilean plateau. You could also get an award for finding one geocache in each category.
At the time I was short of 2, the 4 and the 5. Level 5 geocaches in the UK are not abundant. Health and Safety laws and lack of difficult places to get to see to that, but as luck would have it, one was in the sleepy county of Northamptonshire which seemed to be fairly easily accessible with a bit of bravery — if not with a teaspoon of trespassing. So it made sense to jump in the car and head to Catesby to try and nab it.
The cache was hidden in the old Catesby Tunnel. A Victorian marvel of engineering and once the longest brick lined tunnel in the UK. Northampton was not a great receiver of the railways. Indeed the Tory royalist hotbed was well versed in resisting progress over the centurys and so it is not really surprising to find a great deal of the former railway network in Northamptonshire was ripped up by good old Tory whipping boy Dr Beeching leaving it with as much public transport connectivity as a SCART plug. As a result the line was removed and the tunnel and the viaduct at the other end were left to nature and to return to the landowner.
After scurrying down an old railway embankment, dodging farmers and getting wet from the sodden grass, eventually the portal for the tunnel was reached. The dark insides seemingly swallowing the light less than 5 feet away. It was creepy. It was also disappointingly sealed off by a metal fence.
This meant no getting a level 5 geocache and mega disappointment all round. However it seemed that a previous visitor to the location had some fun though….
A few years after this adventure I moved to Daventry which is about 5 miles away from the tunnel. I often drive past the area on my way into Banbury. But now, the cache is no more. Geocaching got expensive and inaccessible and the tunnel is now part of the Catesby Tunnel Vehicle Testing Facility — https://catesbytunnel.com/
I love lighthouses. When I was a child people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up. Having consumed an unhealthy amount of Enid Blyton, Portland Bill and sea mysteries my answer was always a Lighthouse Keeper.
I fancied (and still do) being the stereo typical lighthouse keeper – growing a beard in my old age, wearing a white sweater and a cap, smoking a pipe and telling gullible children and their dog about stolen treasure hidden in caves.
Sadly, nobody told me all British lighthouses were subjected to an automation program that began in 1973 and the lighthouse keeper of yore was rapidly becoming a job similar to today’s milkman, fax machine sales person or VHS repairman. But hey, I don’t hold much of a grudge….
Anyway, this is South Stack near Holyhead in Anglesey. Its a right rugged place to get to out but amazing views and thrilling scenery. Mrs Gnomepants V2.0 and I went there in 2011 for what became our traditional Easter break.
Mrs Gnomepants v2.0 introduced me to a thing where whenever you see an animal in an old film, say older than 20 years, you point out to whoever is listening that the animal is dead now.
“But wait!” you say, “2008 is less than 20 years ago, ipso facto, you may be wrong if you’re about to say the horse in this picture is now the glue on the back of a stamp”. Ah but no. I know more than you….
Along the opposite side of the Lane with No Name to the houses were lovely undeveloped fields. Legend has it that this was the site of the former Brierley Colliery hence why no houses were ever built on it. Other tales and theories include a wealthy farmer buying the land for tuppence hapenny from the mine owners, an ancient covenant linked to Moses and aliens using it as a base to extract liver fat from rotund Yorkshire folk.
Regardless, in the field lived a couple of randy horses. Randy because one of them would be constantly trying to hump the other and would often make the most frightful noises. Today’s picture shows one of the horses.
Sadly, about a year after this photo was taken, some awful types poisoned the horse for some reason (Apparently this is a common thing to occur to horses according to a couple of horse owners I’ve spoken to since). But still, I was fond of the horse as it would often poke its head through the hedge to say hello when I was parking my car.
Not all of my photos have exact dates of when they were taken. In the old days, only really fancy cameras recorded the date when the photo was taken. Not only that, a lot of photos I have are of people I still know and I don’t really want to be posting them online without permission in case they have a privacy issue. I am a considerate blogger these days.
So to fill the days where I don’t have photos I can post on the day they were taken I thought I’d post pictures that don’t have exact dates or people I don’t know anymore.
Today we have three chaps I met when I was a student in the then newly formed Sheffield Hallam University back in 1992-3. I was there “studying” HND Chemistry, still unwise with the world and very broke. As a way to meet new people and on the advice of the student guides I had read, I had joined the Sheffield Hallam Amateur Dramatics Society. It was a fun thing to do, lots of drinking and lots of mucking about.
Todays photo shows three of the funniest guys I met there. The name of the bald guy at the back I have no idea, but the guy dressed as a Mexican in the middle went by the name of Paul Brewster-Davis and the guy in the tartan was a chap called Gareth Tucker. I have tried to track them down in the past but have not been successful and I doubt they would even remember me now.
Gareth and I got on really well and we would often talk about common interests like Viv Stanshall, weird 1960s sci-fi films and obscure comedians. We also both dressed in black shirts one night with white dog collars and went round student bars pretending to be priests. What a laugh! It was sad to lose touch with him.
Back at the turn of the century, Mrs Gnomepants V1.0 landed a sweet gig working as part of a millenium fund funded project to do with artistic green spaces. The culmination of which was a topiary garden known as The Peace Garden. Her job was to show people around the garden and tell them the purpose of the project. (See https://www.landscapeprojects.co.uk/copy-of-hulme-park for how it should look)
The garden is topiaried yew bushes laid out to spell the names of wild flowers. The main idea is that the bushes would grow out and tall, forming a maze. At the time, like the economy, it looked promising and sustainable, however, as this photo doesn’t show clearly enough, time and people are the enemies of all things green.
When I took this photo, nearly 14 years had passed since the garden was first planted up and you can almost see how some of the bushes have been removed or damage irrepairably. What you can’t see is there was also a lot of litter and discarded bottles around and behind me someone had damaged the board describing what the garden was and its purpose.
Much like the Millenium Waste Paper Baskets, the Millenium Benches and the Millenium Dome, the Calderstones Park Peace Garden shows how when governments give people money to spend on “what they like” without proper scrutiny, sustainability plans and forward thinking, things can seem a little wasteful nearly twenty years later.
Some people like trains, some people like football, some people like to collect little thimbles with pictures of penises on them. Not me. I try not to be anoraky about things. But if I was to decide to put on an anorak, it would be a motorway service station one.
Forton is my second favourite motorway services in the UK, the first being Tebay which is 37 miles further north. In 2013 I made several stops there as my work at the time had me attending regular meetings nearby. The tower was once the restaurant of the services but was eventually closed on Health & Safety grounds due to the lack of emergency escape. It has a really good loo and also has a Burger King, a Greggs and an M&S shop.
I fondly refer to it as Fortran 90 services as a kind of nerdy “in joke” from my IT support days that would take too long to write out and explain here. But if you didn’t know, Fortran 90 was a computer programming language. Hilarious eh?
I thought I’d resurrect this meme I started but didn’t finish last year again. Likelihood is I’ll probably do a few then stop again, but hey, I’m a busy badger these days what with all the zombie killing and space faring I’ve got going on.
Anyway, long term readers (hello if you’re still reading), will remember when I lived in Yorkshire, my house backed onto the fabled Lane-with-No-Name, an access route for brewery wagons making deliveries at the village working men’s club at the end.
As you may remember, the lane often featured in posts due to the hive of activities recorded on hidden CCTV cameras there – well, my webcam at least which I would place in the back bedroom window with motion sensing software recording any and all activity there.
Dodgy types those Yorkshire folks you know. They’d get up to all sorts of mischief all of which would be caught on my camera and discussed on Livejournal. — who could forget the timeless classics of G-the-Human-Dog having a crafty fag and weird badger thing…..