Picture of the Day: Lookout! – North Wales, UK [2016]

When I was a little boy I was fascinated by lighthouses and all I wanted to be “when I grew up” was a lighthouse keeper. Growing a bushy beard, wearing a white sweater, smoking a pipe and telling outlandish tales about hidden treasure and sea monsters to passing groups of four children or more with their dog. Sadly the vast majority of lighthouses in the UK were undergoing an automation process so lighthouse keeping was, it seemed was a dying vocation.

When I was about 10 I went on a holiday to my favourite part of Wales. On this particular visit my parents took me up to see the view over Bardsey Sound and the lighthouse on Bardsey Island from Mynnedd Mawr. It was there that we came across this curious little hut, inside of which was a man, with a powerful telescope and radio equipment.

The man explained to me that he was a Coastguard lookout and his job was to lookout for ships in distress and report on wind and sea conditions. This, I decided immediately, was what I wanted to do for a job when I grew up. Sit in a cabin and look out to sea all day while telling tales of seafaring, pirates and giant squid to passing groups of four or more children with their dogs.

Sadly these days coastguard lookouts are as rare as dodo sausages and, as government funding decreases and technology improves, coastguard lookout has become a job similar to coal miner, fax machine sales man or VHS librarian — virtually non-existent. Indeed, when a few years later I would talk to school careers advisors about a job in the coastguard they would often counter with — “Sorry I don’t have a card for that career” or “You’ll have to ask at the library” or “But you can’t swim very well” or “Have you considered a YTS (low paid apprenticeship) at the local Ford factory?” and instead I became an unemployed multiskilled generalist.

Fortunately the little hut is still there and every year when I go back to this part of Wales I like to visit. Of course the man is probably long dead and his little hut is stripped of telescope and radio equipment, replaced instead by displays of local history, wildlife and birds. But I still think about how, for that brief moment in my life, I knew what I wanted to do in adulthood. I look out to sea and try to spot a ship in distress. But of course boats don’t tend to travel through that stretch of water as much now and you get put on a list when you’re a male and talk to children….

Grapes

Spring flowers are blossoming everywhere lately. The Camilia at the front of Gnomepants Manor is a shock of pink and looks very pretty. Furthermore, the well tended gardens at the front of the town hall in Barnsley are awash with fragrance and colour. As the daffodils of March die back, the tulips of April thrust skywards bold and proud and here and there blue flowers mix with yellows and light reds. It’s such a lovely sight to see.

Such sights remind me of childhood haunts. One being the hidden garden in Reynolds Park, Liverpool. The garden is a walled enclosure which traps the variety of strong fragrances and the warmth of the Equinoxal sun. Paths lined with memorial benches twist and turn between the flower beds. The benches remind the living of those who have passed before and how much they too loved the area.

Indeed, the gardens in Liverpool’s Calderstones Park, though a shadow of their former self, also pay tribute to those who seek sanctity and serenity in such locations. If you know where to look, there are walled gardens and forgotten Victorian hot houses brimming with fragrance and colour.

It should also be noted that at this time of year the colour green is a lot more vivid than at other times. The new leaves of the privet and yew hedges are striking and the twists and turns of climbing rose bushes ready themselves for their May blossoms.

Do you have a secret garden near you? Do you visit gardens such as these? If not why not? Simply saying “I don’t go to such places because there aren’t any near me” is just a cop out. Get out this weekend. Go see natures show. Rest a while in the sun, breathe in the scents and think momentarily, how people love these places.

Stuart Hall

The Belgians!

I’ve never stole sausages from a supermarket though I once pinched a little rubber ring that holds a face mask to a snorkel from a French Hypermarché and had 8 years of conscience nag. Think that’s the only time I’ve ever nicked anything really. Oh apart from when I whizzed some of Neil (now a hairdresser for the famous) Chase’s Lego but he never missed it and often buried perfectly good pieces of Lego in his garden (yeah yeah he was weird) and I once “borrowed” a book on long term loan from the son of a friend of my mum’s but the man is dead now so I don’t think he’d be missing it really. But these minor transgressions of youth aside I’ve never pinched owt.

Well…I pinched some girls bum…but I got a slap for that.