Holiday Part 2: The Isle of Man(anan)

I could regale you with tales of yore when I stayed at Port St Mary Station in 1983. I could relate tales of adventures, visits to the seaside, fine dining, light snacking and large breakfasts.

 

But I won’t.

 

Instead I present a pictorial representation of our holiday on the Isle of Man.

 

Behold

 

A Holiday on the Isle of Man from stegzy gnomepants on Vimeo.

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The Old Grey Stegzy Gnomepants Test

So following the untimely passing of one of my fellow students, I have been digging around my old archive to see what stuff I have from the time.

One of my favourite all time things was when I directed and produced a “Live” broadcast as part of my Media Production Degree. The first we heard of it was when our lecturer, Alf, told us the previous day we were to be filming and mixing a “Live” performance of the Music students. I had always wanted to produce a music video and my this was my chance. However, before you judge, there are some things you should know:-

  • The whole thing was unprepared.
  • The musicians had never performed with each other as a group before.
  • The musicians had only 3 days or so to practice.
  • The sound mixing came from the Sound Technology students who also didn’t appear to be prepared (as you will hear from the video)
  • I started to get into the swing of it by the third set.

Anyway, as you will see, there are some talented people out there. I just wish I knew who they all were! If you know, feel free to post a link to the video on your Facebook.

Bands from stegzy gnomepants on Vimeo.

Holiday 2012: Part 2–Day2 Plymouth

 

Ah Plymouth.

So when I was a kid I had a healthy interest in lighthouses. This was piqued by stories in a school book regarding the Eddystone Lighthouse on Eddystone rocks just off the coast of Plymouth.

In case you were unaware the Eddystone Lighthouse has been built four (arguably five) times. The first was made of wood and got washed away during a storm. The second caught fire and melted onto the people trying to put it out, the third developed cracks, the fourth still stands (with modifications such as helipad). The whole romance of the sea, mystery and adventure surrounding lighthouses just fuelled my desire to become a lighthouse keeper. The third lighthouse, Smeaton’s tower, was dismantled and rebuilt on the Hoe for shits and giggles  as a kind of public monument to those lost at sea and a museum of lighthouseololology. Or summat.

Smeaton's tower

Anyway because the tower had been rebuilt on the Hoe, it had always been a place I’d wanted to visit. So when the weather turned for the grot on the Tuesday we decided to continue our previous nights walk along the Hoe after we had found somewhere to eat for breakfast.

Our choice for breakfast was Little Chef. My map of Little Chefs (well…the map on their website) was a bit crap. The two identified on the map had either gone, as in the case of the one at Saltash, Cornwall  or it had the wrong address (as in the one supposedly to the east of Plymouth). So we thought stuff it, and went for breakfast in a quaint cafe in the Barbican district as long as we walked it off.

Our next intention was to go to the National Aquarium. But because of the crap weather the queues to get in were round the block. So the walk to the Hoe took priority.

Plymouth Hoe

Walking round the back of the Royal Citadel we made our way towards the Wheel. I wanted to see the Smeaton tower but I wasn’t prepared to pay £3 each just to go up some stairs and down again. Instead we looked at the other monuments and Zoe offered to pay for a ride on the Wheel.

 

 

IMAG0212

Despite the rain and the clouds there were some good views from up there. I never knew Plymouth was bombed like Coventry during the Blitz. It was interesting listening to the commentary though. I liked how the avenue was designed to be a pathway from the station to the Hoe. It’s a shame that the architects who redesigned Coventry didn’t have similar artistic skills instead of a passion for concrete.

So after that we went into the town centre where I bought a new bag, a nice shirt and some new trousers. I had intended on wearing the trousers that evening but Zoe suggested I waited because the wet pavements would have made them mucky.

 

That evening we dined on fine fish at Platters. We both had white bait for starters and the seafood mixed grill for mains – Five types of fish, grilled and served with a mountain of chips. Ace biscuits!

 

Flat cap hour

Recently I reconnected with an old school friend. In honour of this reconnection I give you a post from my LJ from back in 2006.

—-

Eeeeh I remember when….

When I was wee we had a telly, an evening newspaper, a collection of reference books and plenty of old people. If I had a question or wanted to know about something I would do some research. First port of call would be an old or older person. The ensuing conversation would go something like this

Wee stegzy:- Dad, can you tell me who Jethro Tull was?
Dad:- No idea, ask yer mam.
Wee stegzy:- Mam, who was Jethro Tull?
Mam:- oooh stop askin’ complicated questions an’ eat your grilled marigolds

So then left with no answer I’d ask our kid who always seemed knowledgeable about such things.

Our Kid 1: Jethro Tull? Thats that bloke with the flute and the beard. Sings that song about underwater breathing apparatus1

Our Kid 2: Shut up I’m watching Sunday Night at the Paladium

Of course, if that answer was deemed also unsuitable, further questioning of elders would be required. My OLD gran was too old to even think but my other less old gran sometimes came up with the goods.

Less old Gran:- Didn’t he have an allotment down in Garston?

So when I wrote the answer to “Who was Jethro Tull?” for GCSE History, it would be no surprise that I would come away with a Grade D for writing “Jethro Tull was a bloke with a beard who had an allotment down by me nans. He played the flute and liked to grow turnips.”. Of course that is all lies2.

Should I want more indepth information I would be forced to consult the vast collection of out of date reference books dotted about the house. The house library consisted of the following:-

– a big heavy green coloured hardbacked dictionary with pages missing, a section on Modern Electrical wiring, several pages on the British Empire and a section containing a kind ofWho’s Who for 1952
– a big book entitled “Reader Digest Childrens Big Answers to Big Questions” containing such gems as “Is there a man in the moon?”, “Can dogs eat in the dark?” and “Where is Africa?”
– Several volumes of the Orbis publication “20th Century Science” which suggested that “by 2001 we may well be travelling in personal rockets to holiday destinations such as Jupiter.”
– An old dog eared copy of Calculus by E R Chewing, the first page of which was stamped Property of Liverpool Technical College, Aigburth3

Occasionally the Liverpool Echo or the Merseymart would yield some item about some key historical figure (but it was rare that these newspapers would regurgitate their treasure at the appropriate time), or the telly would have a TV programme about turnips or something but these programmes were usually flicked off in favour of Nationwide, It’s a Knockout or reruns of Magnum:PI.

Then someone invented the school library, either that or someone found the key to it and my knowledge base increased with back issues of the school magazine, ancient dog eared copies of popular science magazines, old books containing biro sketches of Ajax bottle shaped penises and 113 copies of To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee4. As if by some clever marketing scheme the council proclaimed that they too had libraries which the public could and had always been able to use.

Libraries are kind of like an analogue version of Wikipedia . A wealth of books with every single bit of information available to Jo Public should they require it. Of course only if they knew where to look for it. That was the trick you see…keep the public dumb but let them have access to the knowledge you see? You don’t? Ahh well let me explain further, nobody wants to admit they don’t have a clue how to use a library and nobody really wants to ask a librarian a question (ask zoefruitcake and see what happens ;-)) especially as asking librarians where a book is, in my experience at least, results in something like this:-

stegzy Hello I’d like to see a book about building my own spaceship out of a corrugated iron dustbin, some sticks and an old speedo from a Morris Mini
Librarian Tut…**huff**…Hmmm…You’ll want **huff** **sigh**…have you checked the catalogue?

This then resulted in half an hours fruitless search through a paper based card index before giving up and going off to draw Ajax Bottle shaped penises in copies of Catcher in the Rye. It was a small wonder I passed my GCSE’s and even more of a wonder that I managed to blag my way through my A’levels using cunning and a clever arrangement of mirrors and ESP.

Indeed, readily available knowledge was sparse and difficult to locate. Like wise, my musical tastes were trapped in the 1970’s with my 4 Yes albums and 3 Top Of The Pops albums (1973,1976 and 1977), until about 1990 when Mike Regan introduced me to Chris Isaak, The Doors and The Stairs. When new bands came out I’d only hear of them if they played at the Picket, were played on the radio or Mike Regan had their album. Later I discovered that Mikes musical knowledge came from reading wanky magazines such as Face, Rolling Stone and NME, I of course was still reading bollocks like MAD magazine, Look In and Just 175. I didn’t have a clue. If someone had asked me if I was street wise I’d have thought they were asking me if I knew my A-Z Street map. When I went to the likes of HMV or Virgin I’d spend hours leafing through the T’s and Y’s looking for bands that nobody in my class or the shop assistants had heard of.

Then in about 1997 I got the internet and for the first time in my life I became able to find stuff I’d always wanted to know about. Of course I had the internet before then in 1986. But it was known as Prestel and Micronet in those days and looked a bit like Ceefax.6 Prestel and Micronet were shite for finding information on. Not like today’s internet anyway. But even then in 1997, the internet wasn’t shit hot. It mainly consisted of saddo’s with fan sites, some occasional useful snippets of information and the back door to WOPPR7. Searching on Yahoo or AOL for information on something obscure like Triumvirat would yield an entry on someones basic home grown Prog Rock Encyclopedia and a couple of pages where someone had spelt the word fork wrong.

Those days have long passed. Now when you want information on anything all you do is whack it into google or some specialist website and lo and behold you’ll find the answer 8 out of 10 times. I reflect on the issue and think of how bloody easy my homework would have been, how my GCSE and A level grades could have been much much higher, how I wouldnt have wasted 10 years of my life wanting to be a lighthouse keeper8, how I’d of had an MA and a PhD by now and how I’d have known who Jethro Tull really was without having to choke on those blasted grilled marigolds.


1 Humour for those trained in the art of Prog
2 Jethro Tull was actually a Chinese woman who lived near Tranmere. She invented water in 1962.
3 Liverpool Technical College (for boys), Aigburth closed in 1953 and is now/was Shorefields Comprehensive School
4 Bet you didn’t think I knew who wrote that..
5 Pinched from Nicola Hughes via my paper round
6 2400 baud connections….well fucking fast that.
7 Humor for the Matthew Broderick fans
8Nobody told me they were all automated in 1973

This post originally appeared on my LJ on 13th September 2006

Holiday

I’ve been musing and fantasising about going to Wales, I got thinking about the way my Dad used to take us to Porthmadog in the 70’s and 80’s. Instead of taking the A55 along the north coast through Conwy and then down the A470 through to Betws-y-Coed and Blaenau Ffestiniog we would scuttle down the A494 via Mold and through Denbighshire to Ruthin and Bala before gimbling down the A4212 which goes round the beautiful Llyn Celyn.

During this time my Dad drove a yellow MkI Ford Escort. It had vinyl seat coverings. Alighting from the car on a hot day would always result in cries of pain as you left the upper epidermal layer of your thighs on the black seat coverings. Regardless of this inconvenience, it seemed like we would always stop at Llyn Celyn and have our lunch while my mum told us about the village that was flooded to make the Llyn.

Lunch on such occasions nearly always consisted of cold bacon sandwiches on white bread with a thickish layer of butter or margarine. The sandwiches would be wrapped in silver or aluminium foil and they would be accompanied by a melted KitKat and a cup of warm milky coffee served from a tartan thermos flask. We would eat our lunch at the road side picnic tables and watch the rest of the holiday making public go past to their destinations. This seemed to be a traditional repast in the Gnomepants household as whenever my Auntie Joyce took us on picnics, the same fayre would be served (though more often than not accompanied by sweets and cake).

Our hearty lunch devoured, we would then continue on our route, down some twisty bendy B Road across the Snowdonian moors bypassing Blaenau and then down the A487, along the causeway (paying our 5p toll…heh) before pulling into Porthmadog itself to do the grocery shopping that would see us through the week of staying in Uncle Nat’s caravan.


In case you don’t know From Left to Right:- Me mam, our Carl (avec trainee scouser moustache), me (the little one at the front in the Paddington Bear tshirt), me dad (balding one) and our Chris (looking thin there, now he’s a bit chunky).

The caravan was near the fabled Black Rock Sands in a caravan site called Greenacres. Now it has its own swimming pools, luxury static caravans, security watch towers and special 4×4 Chelsea Tractor parking facilities, Cocaine snorting area and swinging club. Back then, in the 1970’s/80’s it was a basic caravan site with a small amusement arcade containing table top Asteroids and Space Invaders. If you wanted a swim you would nip down to the beach and paddle in the sewage outflow safe in the knowledge that nasty diseases and child snatchers hadn’t been invented. (Now you need to take a prepreswimmingpoolshowershower, a preswimmingpoolshower and a swimming poolshower before you are even allowed to look at the swimming pool, then you are required to have a postswimmingpoolshower, a postswimmingpoolshowershower and then remain in quarantine for a week incase you pass something on to one of the precious little darlings that people insist on taking on holiday). The sea was unimaginably cold. Well. I suppose you lot that live out near the flipping North Pole (robynz,zelest and think4yrself for example) would probably scoff at me saying that. But Cardigan Bay was bloody cold.

Of course, at this time nasty skin cancer causing ultraviolet rays and holes in the ozone layer hadn’t been invented and if it wasn’t for my fair complexion requiring me to wear a tshirt when I went swimming which although protected my torso, didn’t do much for the arms and legs. Added to that, I wasn’t the strongest of swimmers because I had ear problems as a child and wasn’t allowed to go in water incase I did damage to the surgery. Not that it did like. All that meant was I couldn’t swim very well until I was about 10. But I digress. Greenacres also had acres and acres of sand dunes to explore and views of the Carn Fadrun, the Snowdonian mountains and Harlech Castle.

Further along the beach cars were permitted to drive. Two things stick in my mind about this privilege, the first being my first ever “drive” of a car. When the beach was quieter my dad would take the Escort onto the beach and I would sit on his knee and turn the wheel while he operated the pedals. The second thing being that often people would park their cars on the beach then bumble off to the pub or somewhere further along the beach to enjoy themselves. This would frequently result in people forgetting to check the tidal times and hilarity would ensue when cocky holiday makers would return to find their car somewhere in the middle of Cardigan Bay. Of course you wouldn’t get that today. Pretentious wankers in their smart pristeine cars would probably have some sort of tidal early warning system hot wired into their brain. Also the “risk” of having a car on the beach would probably be too great and the council have probably stopped the practice of cars on the beach in case someone mistakes a Porche for a tube of Smarties and chokes. Or in case it incenses someone’s religious beliefs or some other PC crap.

Happy times. Irreplaceable times. These days Porthmadog is spoilt by the frightful hordes of frightful families in 4x4s and other fat arsed cars. Screaming overly spoilt and cotton wool wrapped kids, disenchanted husbands and hyper-fussy mothers who either don’t give a shit about their kids or give too much of a shit about their kids. Cafe Bars, expensive boutiques, surf shops, stinky burger bars and snooty retired pensioners trying to recapture their lost childhood in their autumn years. But I doubt kids today have as much fun as I did dicing with death and mistaking cars for tubes of smarties when I was their age. This year I would love to travel to Wales along that route described. Eat cold bacon sandwiches and drink warm milky coffee from a tartan thermos flask. I long to stand on the platform of the Ffestiniog Light Railway, inhale the steam from the trains and admire the view across Cardigan Bay. Relive part of the magic but not all. Before such practices are banned because someone might get offended or some boffin discovers that there is too much salt in cold bacon sandwiches or that holidaying in Wales is bad for the environment. Happy fond times.

Thank you for reading.

The me meme theme meme (thirty day edition)

Day 03 – Your parents

There are a couple of elderly but spriteful pensioners about 2 hours drive away from me. Both very generous, caring and accepting yet often overly suspicious of others. These same pensioners will think nothing of driving a 40 mile round trip to get yogurts, throwing out perfectly usable objects because “Nobody will want them” or “they’re slightly scratched”. They will also amusingly tell me off for wasting money on things yet will quite happily leave VHS recorders on standby all year round despite not having played a VHS video for over 2 years and will buy more expensive pre-weighed ready wrapped (sometimes precooked) vegetables instead of the cheaper option of weighing out the required amount. These same people believe the ethos – the more it costs the better it is. Clearly the insanity of these people is only furthered by their ascertainment that they are my parents. Still, despite their ravings, I am happy to care for them and attempt to make them proud.

Because all know that my true parentage stems from a biblical giant and the Queen of Gondwanaland. Legendary. Cross-cultural mythology. Taught around the world, across generations. Oral and written traditions. Which if I went into would no doubt cause you to cease reading this series of entries out of boredom.

Words

When I was a little boy I was force fed religious dogma and idiom by my school. Of course, my grasp of the English language probably matched that of many of my peers and there were words I was unfamiliar with. One such word was “grace”.

I didn’t have a clue as to what it meant. Not being a shy type, I asked my learned friend Paul Midgley what grace was. He said he was unsure this, on reflection was probably because he was an Anglican. So, I thought about it. What could it mean? Well at school we said “Grace after meals” and usually after meals we had pudding. So perhaps that is what grace meant. Grace was a type of pudding. It seemed to figure because we also said something along the lines of “Hail Mary full of grace” and well, if Mary was like anybody normal she might have had too much grace after her meal so as to be full. This I suggested to Paul who agreed with my idea. He also agreed because it was just as plausible as my explanation of how when you died you went to a petrol station to lie under the petrol light (“May petrol light shine upon them” is what we said at school, at least that’s what I thought we said).

The grace theory also tallied when my Nan gave me some creamy Ambrosia rice pudding for my desserts one weekend. It was so yummy. What was this I asked? “Ambrosia!” she said. So, as any school boy would, I looked it up in a dictionary.

ambrosia [am-broh-zhuh] –noun
1. Classical Mythology. the food of the gods.
2. something especially delicious to taste or smell.
3. a fruit dessert made of oranges and shredded coconut and sometimes pineapple.

Of course, this wasn’t item 3. The Ambrosia in this case was the brand name [http://www.ambrosia.co.uk/]. But it seemed to tally. “The food of the Gods”. Perhaps this was grace. It made sense. Grace after meals. Being full of grace. Amazing grace. Sweet grace. Mmmmm grace….seemed in my imagination that grace was a Delicious yummy milky yummy pudding. Yummy.

Once I asked the dinner lady if we could have some grace for pudding. I can’t remember her reaction or answer but I imagine she probably thought I was a bit weird.

And so spin forward 30 years and whenever I hear the word “Grace” I think of this delicious pudding. Of course I know now that this is complete nonsense, but as a child it was completely plausible. When I hear or see the word, my mouth still salivates and my mind fills with images of this glowing creamy goodness in a bowl.

Cold

I don’t know the meaning of cold.

I do. It’s just that when people say to me “It’s bloody cold” that’s my stock answer.

It’s bloody cold.

Therefore I don’t know the meaning of cold.

I then usually go onto talk about my first flat and how I managed to try and keep warm during my days as an unemployed workless youth.

My first flat was above a fishing tackle shop on Smithdown Road in Liverpool. You can see the flat from the main road if you’re ever down that way.

pdale
Gnomepants Apartments


In summer the flat was so hot you had to have all the doors and windows open so that you didn’t melt into a pool of flesh. Furthermore, the wearing of clothes during this time was seen as foolish as the heat would cause you to sweat buckets full of perspiration.

Eskimo
Bit parky out!

The flipside though was the winter. During the winter that flat was so cold, you would come home from work (or in my case, from somewhere warmer)  to find polar bears sat round holes cut in the floor trying to catch fish, while Inuit tribesmen would try and barter cigarettes for blubber and animal furs.

The windows were those awful sash window jobbies. The sort that when the wind blew, it would come up between the top and bottom sashes and be like sheets of sharp cold steel piercing the air and stealing what little warmth you could generate. The window gaps soon got sealed with newspaper and the frames were shrinkwrapped with that double glazing plastic bobbins, you know the type that you heat with a hairdryer?

The mains electricity was delivered through an old 50 pence meter….and I mean old 50 pences. I had to buy the old coins off the landlord. With coin metered electricity you really don’t get a good deal. 50p would last you about an hour in cold weather.

Calor gas fire
Keeps you warm

To heat the flat, the landlord provided a calor gas heater and a two bar electric fire. The two bar electric fire only increased the temperature after I managed to procure 2 red bulbs to fit to the “Real flame effect” thingie that the fireplace had. So I think that was psychological heat anyway.

The single calor gas heater was as much use as a cigarette lighter and just made everything taste funny. Further fortune befell me however, when I managed to procure a second calor gas heater. That made it feel a bit cosier.

So with 2 calor gas fires and a two bar electric fire with real flame effect lighting you’d probably think you were nice and warm enough to hibernate for the winter. Well bollocks to that pal. It was still cold. More heat was generated by an electric fan heater (donated by the parents) and by switching the hot water boiler on. Yet it was still too cold.

So to further combat the chilly knives of doom the only line of defence was the clothing. Pyjamas were worn under everyday clothes and over underwear and a fleece coat was also employed in the “lets keep warm” fashion parade. The pyjama legs were tucked into socks and the sleeves were tucked into fingerless mittens. Gok Wan would have been so proud of my fashion statement.

So you’d think that you’d be nice and snug with all that going on….well you’d be wrong. On the couch I had a sleeping bag AND a spare duvet and in the bed I had an electric blanket and two more duvets. Honestly! It was so cold in that flat….Sleepwear consisted of two layers of pyjamas and the fleecy coat under a fluffy dressing gown.

Morning routine involved getting out of bed half an hour before you had to get up and switching on the shower so that it had time to heat up. With the shower switched on, the smaller calor gas heater would be moved to the sitting room (the bathroom adjoined the sitting room too) and switched on to heat both the sitting room and the bathroom.

The larger calor gas heater would then be switched on with the kettle, the electric blanket and the TV and a further half hour in bed was claimed while the shower heated up.

Sleeping bag
For the unemployed

The dash to the bathroom helped generate some body heat and a long shower was often had because leaving the warmth of the hot water would often be too much. On finishing the shower, the body would be wrapped in two towels and the fluffy dressing gown, a further cup of tea was had and, money permitting, a bowl of microwaved porridge consumed in front of the small calor gas fire and the electric fire on one bar (to conserve electricity).

After dressing quickly (well as quick as you can when you wear 4 layers of clothing) the flat would be left to cool down and the day’s activities, whatever they were, were conducted, usually in the free warmth of someone else’s flat, the pub or in the city centre shops, cinema or library…..

And to think I moan about the cold now…..ha!