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/
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.
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…..
On this day in 2016, Mrs Gnomepants V2.0 and I went for a succulent Chinese meal at the Dynasty in Long Buckby, Northamptonshire. At the end of the meal, they bring your bill with some fortune cookies. Which is nice. However, as Mrs Gnomepants v2.0 is allergic to dairy and fortune cookies contain milk I ended up with two.
Then there was this one time when we went to the annual medieaval fayre thing they have at Tewkesbury and we were wandering about looking at the various stalls and things. Then Zoe cries “Aww look at the ferrets” so we went to the ferret stall where Zoe paid to go and handle the ferrets.
It was so cute. I took photos and a film.
But then typically we were photobombed by flouncy flowery ponce interior designer Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen. The ferret is the one in Zoe’s hands, the flamboyant Jason King impressionist behind her is Bowen.
Sometimes I like to turn my pictures into little videos. I’ve been doing this since about 2008 when I learned how to do it while doing a degree in Television Production. At least it makes me feel like it was worthwhile eh?
Anyway, here is a collection of photos taken today in 2014 at the Steam Fair in Bloxham. Although I go to a lot of steam fairs I do not own an anorak nor do I enjoy flasks of weak lemon drink.
Long term readers might remember Mrs Gnomepants V1.0 was a multitalented artist, but if you are new, this will probably be news.
This is the Green Man, taken today in 2007, which Mrs Gnomepants V1.0 sculpted out of clay for our second house, the one in Barnsley. It is a hollow plant pot holder with an entry on the top which you can’t see from this angle. We coated him in yogurt before putting him outside so that the moss would grow over his face.The idea was that he would age through time and become greener and greener with the moss and his ivy hair would add to the effect.
I don’t know what he looks like now but I’m sure he’s doing well.
I love these things. Whenever I go to a steam fair or county show, I look out for them so I can film them. There will come a time when these things will fall silent for the last time and I fear generations to come might not care to preserve them as well as people today.
Like most people who own cameras these days, sometimes you take a photo that makes you feel like one of them high-brow artist type photographers. You just want to get it framed or put on display in a gallery. Instead you put it on your social sites or have it as your wallpaper on your phone, tablet or computer.
Of course you could go the full gamut and grow the Van Dyke beard, wear rose tinted spectacles ironically and wear a beret with your trouser legs at half mast while prancing around like a ninny. But you would need a voluputous naked lady to stand in shot in silhouette.
This is the sunset over Medulin bay in Croatia which I took on my holiday there today in 2017. Such a lovely place Croatia.
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….