Images and thoughts on my daily travels.
London October 14th 2019
Last Week October 13th 2019
Portsmouth My Island In The Sun October 10th 2019
I was back in Portsmouth yesterday, where the sun always shines for me. I was there with colleague Charles Close to research a new book on the city. The place reminds me of my mispent younger days, and two women who made me believe in romantic love. I also met my ex wife there, but that is another story. Marriage these days, in my view, is a good way to kill romance.
Like my marriage Portsmouth seems to have withered a bit, in spite of its many glamorouse towering new buildings- I worked in one of the city’s first smoke glass office blocks, Zurich House which is now a block of luxury flats.. That however may be just me that has withered. Maybe I am looking back like the old folk I remember from when I was young. They were always going on about the good old days.
Whatever, there have been many changes since the 1970s for sure. There was a lot more work for ordinary folk. Sailors were not afraid to go out and about in uniform. These ‘Jolly Tars’ had their favourite night club, ‘Joanna’s‘ near the South Parade pier. I recall the little dark blue Bedford CA vans waiting outside after midnight, with the Provost- Navy police- waiting menacingly inside, ready to loom out onto the road, brandishing truncheons, starch white belts around their smart uniform waits, ready to arrest the drunken ones disgorging onto the pavement.
I recall it because I was there in the 1970s, prefering the more sophistcated ‘Nero’s’ night club next door. Back up in Havant Tax Office, I had repsonsibility for the two clubs’. tax liabilities. The parent company was fittingly called ‘Pleasurama.’ Amusingly, both adjoing clubs were demolished in the year of my divorce- I met my ex wife in Nero’s in June 1976.
As the northern quarter has declined, bright new buildings, the Spinnaker Tower, Gunwharf Quays and luxury apartments have risen near the waterfront offering another world to those who can afford it. Old buildings have been converted into flats for a growing student population, forcing housing prices higher and higher.
Portsmouth was the birthplace of Charles Dickens, his first home is preserved. Fittingly, Portsmouth’s story is also ‘ tale of two cities.’
London a city of wonderful diversity- October 8th 2019
I made my second trip into Central London this week, slightly concerned about the traffic due to environmental protestors.
What have they done to the rain? October 6th 2019
I have spent too many hours on the road this week, with little time for photography. Driving in the rain is challenging. This week I have seen rain everywhere, from Lincoln, the Midlands, to Mid Wales, Gloucesterhire, Central London to Brighton. Years of poor maintenance and neglected drainage makes the roads very unsafe.
No one is perfect at driving. The ones who think they are can make winter driving all the more dangerous. I dread to think what the winter will be like. A couple of years ago I was driving all the way to Hereford, via Cheltenham and back, through snowdrifts.
The best that can be said about that sort of experience is to quote from Dr Johnson: ‘Fear Concentrates the mind.’ Meanwhile it goes on raining, posing the question why so much? What have they done to the rain? Ask little Greta, she might know.
Rambling Away Again October 1st 2019
I have been on the road again. Had over two weeks off working on my new books and doing my Certificate of Professioanl Competence for HGV driving. Same ex police Inspector. Learned a lot from him and he had some good vidoes, real hooror stories, like a woman who went to recue a tanker driver because she was a nurse. Didn’t realise what she thought was water was flouric acid which absorbs water. Firts her shoes disappeared, then the resy of her. Life on the road is dangerous. i went back last Friday.
Yesterday I was around Birmingham and the Cotswolds. Not good weather for photographs. Saw a couple of castles on my way. Castles remind me that this country has always been a very violent place. My first castle visit was in Studley. It is now the much improved site of a lusury hotel. My final Castle viewing was in the pleasant little town of Kennilworth, near Warwick.
The whole area, from here to Warwick, Bosworth Field and Leicester was a very violent place during the Wars of the aRoses, leading to the death of England’s much maligned last warrior King after betrayal by the Earl of Warwick.. So began the rise of the Tudor’s beginning with Henry VII;
Swanbourne Station September 17th 2019.
The old Swanbourne Station on Thomas Brassey’s Oxford-Cambridge Railway line is due for demolition. The line was closed, not by Dr Beeching as many like to say. it was closed by Labour Feminist icon Barbara Castle, Minister of Transport in 1967, the year they started buillding the new London overspill town of Milton Keynes- Milton is still not officially a city. Labour intellectual and Oxford don ridiculed Castle in his diaries, saying taht she knew nothing about transport and could not even drive.
I knew Mick Waters from schooldays, last seeing him a few months ago walking a local farmers dogs. a gentler man you couldn’t hope to meet. I will miss him. his joyous outlook and friendship.
His lifelong home was also home to bats in the roof. The plan is to build a replica of the station adjacent to the re opened line when it is realligned to the west. They hope to move the bats into the roof of the new station.
There were fears that the new Oxford Cambridge Expressway which is to follow the old rail line as far as possible, would cut through this beautifull part of North Bucks. Latest news is that it will not, passing through Shipton south of Winslow, joining the leighton Buzzard by pass and then on to the outskirts of Bletchley. Robert Cook September 29th 2019
Bletchley Town, a place past its best – September 21st 2019
I am a frequent visitor to Bletchley. It is an interesting place with a particularly evocative town centre. As a youth it was very bright on a Saturday afternoon with sharply dressed young men and girls stalking along Queensway in mini skirts and high heels. These days it is redolent with decay and lack of hope or direction- anomie for the socilogically minded. Street sweepers are either in short supply or lazy.
This afternoon I visited Bletchley Tesco. Shopping done, I went back to my car. Parked next to mine was eighty three year old David and his fifty five year son. Both had severe medicaal problems. Age had not dimmed David’s wits or memories of a hard life.
David apologised for smoking, explaining it was a habit from army days. Joining as a non smoker, he said when his platoon took its first smoke break he was a non smoker, but joined in so as to be as one with the rest. ‘It was a slippery slope. We were given a hefty weekly ration of cigarettes. ‘ No doubt the authorities knew being in Malaysia was going to kill men one way or another and nerves needed to be steadied. So much for the privileges of being a man.
David returned to England, marriage, a son and work as a chippy. When building work dried up, David began a 15 year stint collecting trolleys together in Bletchely Tesco car Park. The flambuoayant military style baseball cap he was wearing today, was found, by him perched on a pillar in the car park.
David looked sadly at the world around him, with his son ,who like him has severe health problems, lamenting all the trees that have been removed for more parking spaces.
I wanted to take his picture but he protested it was better for him to keep a low profile. That is just another aspect of the world of fear we now live in, a wolrd based on elite greed, hopelssness, skimping and afraid of other people. So I bid them both a fond farewell as they limped off, holding on to each other and bound for Tesco phramacy before it closed at 4 pm on the dot.
At least sheep can’t see the slaughter coming. August 27th 2019
Men not at work August 27th 2019
Gloucestershire Today August 24th 2019
I am lucky that my current work frequently takes me into Gloucestershire. Some years ago, with Andrew Shouler, I wrote the pictorial Francis Frith history volume ‘The Cotswolds in Living Memory.’
My first literary experience of the Cotswolds was Laurie Lee’s ‘Cider with Rosie’ which we were reading as part of our school English Literature course. It was so evocative and moving that I read it twice. My teacher was a wonderfully inspirational teacher, her name was Mrs Horner -though no one in town ever saw her husband.
At the end of my run, I head back along towards Oxford, stopping at my favourite lay by. Today I was lucky enough to meet wood carver Jacob Spore who’s work and home is pictuered below. Though born in Cheltenham, he says, poetically ‘ I don’t really come from anywhere. Jacob can be contacted on facebook at Crazy Crafts Co.
Jacob pictured at home today. Robert Cook August 24th 2019
Tractors August 18th Marsh Gibbon
First vehicle- apart from the petrol driven go kart I built aged 14- ws a Massey Ferguson 35 tractor when I was 13 and working on Shipton farm. Winslow. As a country boy I love tractors. So when I was driving back from work a few days ago, I was delighted by this sight of an historic tractor convoy parked up in Marsh Gibbon, Bucks.
Dangerous Dagenham July 28th 2019
I don’t know whether Dagenham is dangerous, but it looks like it might be. First time I heard of it was seeing and hearing the Dagenham Girl Pipers on the old 405 line black and white TV. Next time was going on a school trip to the Ford factory, which I visited again as a school teacher from Spencer Park Boy’s School in South London- that definitely was dangerous.
So this morning I had to go to Dagenham Dock, quite early. Been before, first time on a rainy windswept night. Today it was just very grey. On my way, I saw a queue of European big double decker coaches near the 406 flyover, parked with curtains and big trailers, loading or unloading people, they looked like weary workers.
Maybe they were holiday makers. They were young enough looking to find a good time somewhere, even here maybe.
But the strangest thing was on a roundabout. I saw it just before I turned into the dock (Choate) road, was the thing pictured below. Maybe it is a local art form. It ceratinly looks expensive and probably sums the place up.
Is this Dagenham’s idea of sculputure? It is on a roundabout at the entrance to Dagenham Dock. Even the ubiquitous cyclist looks puzzled by it. Robert Cook July 28th 2019
Still, some good things have come from Dagenham, apart from the cars and tractors. There was Dudley Moore, Sandie Shaw, Terry Venables and Alf Ramsey to name a few of my favourites. Dagenham is exquisetly ugly in my view.
Cliveden on the Bucks Berks border July 20th 2019
Off the top of my head, I believe Cliveden was in Bucks until vote hingry Tories had the boundaries redrawn to manipulate Britain’s undemocracy. No matter.
Anyway, I happened to have to visit the old stately home this Saturday and what a marvel it is.
Now an upper crust hotel, the publcity material boasts: ‘
‘With a history of unapologetic debauchery, our Grade I listed stately home’s most heinous of scandals shook the British parliament and played out on these very grounds.
The year was 1961. While the Cold War was slowly chilling British politics, Cliveden House was engulfed in a sultry summer of sweltering heat. Cooling off in the now famous outdoor pool, was Christine Keeler, a nineteen year old mistress of a suspected Russian spy.
Attending a hot mid summer’s party hosted by the then owner Lord Astor, the young woman was one of a few exclusive guests enjoying the luxurious celebrations held within Cliveden House’s magnificent gardens. Also in attendance was John Profumo, an up-and-coming Conservative Secretary of State for War and husband of well-known actress, Valerie Hobson.
Profumo and Keeler embarked on an illicit affair following their chance meeting at Cliveden House; an affair which was to force his resignation, irrevocably damage the Prime Minister’s reputation, and impact on the course of British politics forever.’
50 years has passed since that fateful meeting which was to alter Britain’s political landscape. Discover the scurrilous secrets of the time with our Profumo Affair Break and find out all about how the political establishment finally thaw out.’
Christine Keeler was 19 at the time of her affair with John Profumo. Effectively she was pimped by Dr Stephen Ward, who may have been linked to MI5, but we will never know because he apparently took an overdose rather than face trial. Keeler went to jail and Profumo turned to charity work. As the old song goes, ‘It’s the rich what gets the pleasure, it’s the poor what gets the blame.’ Still at least politicians had te decency to resign in those days.
Female Equality in Politics, Nancy Astor first woman MP, contrast with Keeler.
Nancy Astor was the first woman to sit as a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons.
She was viewed by some as Adolf Hitler’s woman in Britain, and after the war became known as the ‘Member for Berlin’.
Some went so far as to claim that she had hypnotic powers.
After marrying Waldorf Astor she moved into the Buckinghamshire pile of Cliveden.
A right-wing, upper class group of intellectuals that came to be known as the ‘Cliveden Set’ formed around her and developed their own form of fascism whilst supporting the appeasement campaign of Neville Chamberlain. Although Nancy herself said she supported German rearmament there is some dispute as to how deep the Nazi affiliations went with her and her Cliveden coterie.
Lady Astor plays golf with Edward VIII, the Nazi Traitor King of England at Walton Heath, Surrey, England
Nancy and Waldorf used Cliveden for entertaining on a lavish scale. The combination of the house, its setting and leisure facilities offered on the estate—boating on the Thames, horse riding, tennis, swimming, croquet and fishing—made Cliveden a destination for film stars, politicians, world-leaders, writers and artists. The heyday of entertaining at Cliveden was between the two World Wars when the Astors held regular weekend house parties. Guests at the time included: Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill, Joseph Kennedy, George Bernard Shaw, Mahatma Gandhi, Amy Johnson, F.D. Roosevelt, H.H. Asquith, T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), A.J. Balfour and the writers Henry James, Rudyard Kipling, and Edith Wharton. The tradition of high-profile guests visiting the house continues to this day, largely due to the house’s conversion into a hotel.
The Astors ceased to live at Cliveden in 1968, shortly after the Profumo Affair and Bill Astor’s death.
Comment Interestingly to me, Popular Feminist Princess Meghan Matkle stayed at Cliveden the night before her wedding to popular Prince Harry.
Plymouth Tuesday July 16th 2019
As some of my followers- I have some regulars, they know who they are- I get to travel a lot. On Tuesday I visited Exeter, Plymouth and a little place called Coombe in Devon.
Plymouth’s distinguished naval history goes back to Sir Francis Drake, cicumnavigation, raiding Cadiz and the Spanish Armada. For some odd reason there is a large model of Drake’s ‘Golden Hind’ poking out of the Grovesnor Casino in the city centre.
Plymouth like near coastal neighbour Portsmouth was heavily bombed during the last World War. It was a prime strategic target. Rebuilding brought typically hopeful bright shop and office styling in the centre. Such was the damage, a lot of the old has gone. The 1950s, 60s and 70 rebuilds are strikingly different. As for the 21st century, it is something rather different as the above picture shows.
In the 1950s and 60s, concrete was seen as maleable, rather than something from which to make jails. As the city grew, car park space had to go vertical. ( See Tricorn, The Life and Death of a Sixties Icon by Celia Clark and Robert Cook ). These car parks offer a quick exit for sad and hopeless young men like the one pictured above, in Plymouth City Centre.
Life is not so bad for the rich, as these luxury yachts, tied up in Royal William Yard attest. Modern technology and rolling wars make the rich richer, while the rest get poorer and less secure.
An old GWR signal gantry relic is an odd gateway to this new supermarket site in Exeter.
It is easy to romanticise the past, but not doing that is no reason to forgoe criticism of the selfish elite dominated present.
When I was a boy, back in the 1950s, I didn’t realise I was poor. The only travelling I did, with my family, was ten miles on the bus to Aylesbury, or trips in my father’s brick lorry. The closest I got to the South West Peninsula was by reading Enid Blyton’s ‘Famous Five’ stories. I travelled far and wide in my mind and could read before I went to school.
As a former schoolteacher, I know that our multi cultural education system is more interested in politically correct brainwashing than it is in lieracy and numeracy. It is about closing minds. The looney left of the 1980s has been replaced by something far more insidious and far more dangerous.
All Images Copyright www.robertcookofnorthbucks and Appledene Publishing.
London Pride July 14th 2019 by Robert Cook
I was in London again today, travelling over a wide area. It is always interesting, always on the move. My parents and sister were born there, I lived, worked and studied there for a while. I loved and hated the place.
Today I went on loving and hating it. As I went about my business, I noticed many banners across streets declaring a big no to discrimination and prejudice, proclaiming London as a place for everyone. Maybe so, but how much money and status you have will decide your experience. Age and ethnicity will be key related factors.
London is a far more complex place than it was in my parents day and when I lived there. Multi culture includes life in the gutter, being a victim of knife crime and the sex trade. There is also the reality of slave labour. However, spin doctors don’t want to talk about this.
On my travels I saw plenty of police vehicles and a few marked crime scenes like this one in Bermondsey.
London has always been a haven for crime, even during the hyped up nostalgia days of the Blitz. Poverty and ignorance breeds crime, but so does power mania, exploitation and arrogance of the ruling classes. The picture below was taken by me, this morning in Clink Street. The phrase being put ‘in clink’ was a synonym for prison when I was a boy. This tall old edifice in a very grim street was intended to strike fear in the oppressed underclasses, just as modern prisons and court rooms do today.
Yesterday, June 3rd when the Sheeple were protesting about Trump in the London bubble, all my troubles did not seem so far away, but my destination did as I approached gridlock going south from Watford on the M25.
Today, June 4th, I went to an obscure place near Oakham in Rutland. nearly there, I saw this amazing railway viaduct. My thoughts went back to the 19th century engineer who designed it, the political morons who closed the line in the 1960s, and the men who built and died building it.