Picture of the day: Mary Janes, Cromer [2017]

A sacred place

Imagine the best fish and chips you’ve ever had. If it wasn’t from Mary Janes in Cromer, you’re wrong.

I believe that there is an ancient gnostic scripture held in the cathedral in St Davids that says eating fish and chips from Mary Janes in Cromer is akin to 400 pilgrimages to Rome. I was here in on this day in 2017. By all reckoning I’ve made something like 2000 trips to Rome now.

I am blessed and have the belly to prove it.

Behold its saintly visage.

Picture of the Day: Funicular, Lamport [2015]

Judging by the quantity of photos and films on the topic it seems that May is the traditional start of the Steam Rally season. I love going round steam rallys and looking at the old workhorses many fully restored and condemned to a life of display. 

Most of the time the motors are doing nothing but running but occasionally they power things. Like this funicular which I have seen in many steam rallys over the years, each one it looks a little more dog eared.

I guess allowing shot intruding crotch goblins too close doesn’t help.

Picture of the Day: Party Shed – Leamington Spa [2013]

Just add disco ball

Mrs Gnomepants likes her fairy lights and no garden is complete without a set. Today’s picture is of our shed in Leamington Spa festooned with fairy lights. Some items of note — 1. The plant pot stand with pie crust terracotta pots 2. The top of Keith’s caravan 3. The curtains in the shed window 4. The bunting.

Picture of the Day: Up Above The Streets and Houses, Liverpool, 2006

Everyone can see you smiling – on CCTV

One of the last days of ordinary life for me in Liverpool had me taking random photos of things around me. I’d also discovered after nearly five years of working there, that parking at the back of Syndey Jones Library worked out better than walking back across campus to my car behind Computing Services and struggling with traffic up Brownlow Hill. 

On this day in 2006 as I was getting into my car, I noticed a beautiful rainbow, a sign perhaps, that a new stage of life was about to begin or maybe just how sun light refracts off raindrops as it does regularly. 

Picture of the Day: Brave Girl, Arundel Castle [2008]

Balls of steel

There are many things I won’t do like stick my fingers in the electric socket, swim with radioactive sharks, walk down Granby Street naked or jump off a bridge with nothing but knicker elastic around my ankle. Indeed, there are many foolish things I have done that I won’t ever do again like fall off a waterfall in Wales , ignore a chest pain or abseil down a concrete wall in Port Erin at the age of 10.

Of course, I will look on with admiration as other braver folks than I do things that I wouldn’t. And this is what I did on this day in 2008 when Mrs Gnomepants V2.0 abseiled down Arundel Castle for shits and giggles.

If you get a magnifying glass you can probably make her out on the tower there. 

Picture of the Day: Seaward, Aberdaron [2004]

If I’d stood on something to make myself taller I could have made a penis joke

For some reason the auto post for this entry didn’t trigger. Usually I’ll write entries days ahead during busy times and the WordPress scheduled post thing isn’t always reliable. Anyway, I’ll back date these next two posts….

Aberdaron, on the western coast of North Wales, is, as many long term readers will know, my favourite place in the world. In fact, you can probably take it as read that I’d like to be part cremated and part buried. That way I can have my ashes scattered in Aberdaron and the rest can be buried there too with a commemorative bench and a statue and a fountain and a big old banner saying “Stegzy Gnomepants Loved This Place”. Perhaps with a commemorative bandstand too. And a band.

Anyway, you’ll be surprised to learn there aren’t that many pictures of me in my collection, but unsurprised that there are loads of pictures of Aberdaron. With your minds eye seeing some weird mental Venn diagram you will no doubt assume that there are fewer pictures of Aberdaron with me in them. And this is the case. At least in my collection. 

So here I am. Looking out to sea in 2004 when Mrs Gnomepants V1.0 and I took the crumblies for a weekend in Aberdaron at the Ship Inn or Gwesty Ship back when it was a quiet, cheap and cheerful place and still to appear in the Guardian and every middle class affirming Sunday suppliment since. 

Picture of the Day: Sheffield’s Wheelie Good [2010]

Instead of tripods it was big wheels that the Martians used to invade

Evidently in 2010 I was in Sheffield. Can’t think for the life of me why although I was living in nearby Barnsley so it is possible I was there for commuting purposes or for meeting friends. 

I’ve been to Sheffield many times in the past. I lived there in 1992, visited again in 1997. It a damn good place to get the train from if you’re visiting the south coast. The people are ace and there was so much to do of an evening, at least when I was young there. 

One place I used to visit regularly was the world famous Frog and Parrot which was a legend in its own right. Beers as strong as Buster Crabbe and an atmosphere so dense with cigarette smoke they’re probably still scraping it off the paint work.

 When I visited again in 1997 the city had changed so much since my student days. A great deal of the buildings I was familiar with had been bulldozed and even the Frog and Parrot had begun to drop in popularity. I guess it was around this time that I began to realise, time does not stand still when you leave a place and cities and towns evolve. Indeed, Liverpool, my home town, is a shade of the place I remember leaving nearly 15 years ago — new shopping centre, new hotels, old pubs closed and new places opened.

Picture of the Day: Benchmark, Northampton Guildhall, Northampton [2017]

Benchmark – the latest ARG.

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…..

Picture of the Day: Budget Kiss — Stilton, UK [2014]

Ace Frehley was unavailable for comment

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.

Of course this highly dangerous practice is an affront to the gods of Health, Safety and of course, fashion and it seems the last one was held in 2018 — https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-42788965

Still, I have a couple of photos from the event, mostly of the crap Kiss tribute band and Mrs Gnomepants has a few too. Historians and archivists can fill their boots.

Happy day. Ringstone round.

Peter Kriss there on the left.

Picture of the Day: Tunnel Vision, Catesby, Northamptonshire [2009]

The darkness beckons your soul

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.

No way in. No way out.

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….

Knickers!

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/

Yay!