Sunday, 24 April 2011

Monton Village in the Spring - Photo's

Monton Green

Yep! Spring's well and truly here, and yours truly is out and about on his local walks again. And this afternoon I actually remembered to take my camera with me. So I've just uploaded a set of photo's to the sharing website entitled "Monton Village, Salford, in the Spring", with the description "Including the very pleasant Linear Walkway, which runs through Ellesmere Park from Monton Road, and is a former mineral railway line converted into one of Monton's several scenic walking routes."

Linear Walkway, Monton Village

See the full set on Flickr

(Just click on each photo to enlarge and appreciate, and note the couple of comments I added).


Monday, 21 March 2011

Text Messaging, or 'Texting'

Sunday, 4 July 2010

My sepia photo: "The Four Generations"

I know that most people like to have lots of family photo's scattered around their homes, but I have to admit that I don't.  Perhaps it's because I have just the one which is far more meaningful to me than any collection ever could be.  It's known in our family as "The Four Generations".   

This is actually a scan of my own copy of the original, but as far as I know my elder sister still has the actual original photo as taken by the photographer.

On the left is my grandfather, on the right is my father, and seated is my great-grandfather with my elder sister as a baby on his lap.  That's four direct descendants in one photo.

I seem to remember being told it was taken in Argent's Mead, Hinckley, Leics.  It would have been in late 1948 but I don't know what the occasion was. 

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Recycle wheelie bins

Well I suppose it just had to happen eventually. 

Salford City Council has finally got round to our block of flats with their silly coloured Recycling wheelie bins, and to celebrate it they have very kindly given me a couple of free shopping bags - which ain't half gonna come in handy on my shopping trips over to Morrisons. 

Oh??  You mean I'm supposed to use these 'shopping' bags to carry my recyclable waste down to these new coloured bins?  And the items have to be lose as I'm not even allowed to use biodegradable bin-bags?  And I can only put certain items in each?  How am I gonna remember what and which?  And you want the items washed first?  Won't that waste water and put up my metered water bill?  And anyway how am I supposed to know which bag and bin is which as I'm colour-blind; now if one was black and the other white then I'd have some sort of a better chance of getting it right.  (No jesting on that last bit as I know someone in a nearby block who really is colour-blind to that extent.  They have to compare as to which seems the darker!).

Not only that, so far the collection of these recyclables has been a shambles.  The stickers on the bins indicate alternate Mondays, Salford City Council's website says it should be alternate Thursdays.  In reality it seems to have been random bins emptied on random days.  But then this is after all 'In Salford', so there's also a good chance that there's a black market trade going on!

And without everything in the recycle bins being wrapped in bin liners it's quite an eye-opener on the lifestyles of your fellow block neighbours.  Like, judging by the large quantity of bottles and cans, someone in our block surely must be an 'in denial' alcoholic.  (Now I wonder who that is?).

Reminds me of an old friend of mine when she said "the biggest problem with having a few glasses of wine with friends at the weekend is the tell-tale 'chink' 'chink' 'chink' when you later pull the wheelie bin down the drive for emptying!".

Monday, 24 May 2010

Too warm?

Just thought I'd do a follow-on from my last posting (four months ago, has it really been that long?), given that us British seem to enjoy talking about the weather. Besides which it also gives me a chance to check a few things that have recently been updated before I venture into any further updates.

Well these last few days have been rather too warm for me, and yet it seems only just a few weeks ago that it was too cold!  Here in the Manchester area this Whitsun weekend we've had the hottest weather so far in Britain for this year with temperatures at up around 25 to 27 deg. C.  Not bad when you consider Manchester's (inaccurate) reputation for cold, windy, and wet weather!

So just to cool us all down again here's a reminder of only a few months ago from just up the Bridgewater Canal footpath from here:    :)

Isn't it strange how dogs seem to love the snow so much?

As this isn't one of my own slide-shows then full credit must be given to its real author: 

Saturday, 9 January 2010

'Says it all!

Firstly, a link to our local Council's website here In Salford who are keeping us up to date with how this extreme weather situation is affecting local public services.

Second, a link to some photo's on the Salford Advertiser's website. The article is appropriately titled "An ice New Year", and I think sums up very well how bad the snow hit us last Tuesday and Wednesday. Note the photo's of the Bridgewater Canal just up from Monton here approaching nearby Worsley. And would you believe how big some of those snow creations are?

"In the bleak midwinter..................".

Friday, 1 January 2010

Happy New Year!

Unless you suppress it, at the top of the standard Blogger web page is a header which includes the link 'Next Blog'. Have you ever been tempted to click on it? Well I have been occasionally and have then gone through a sequence of usually quite fascinating personal web sites.

Earlier tonight, after clicking through several 'Next Blog's, I found this article:

I'm not so sure about the white text on the black background, which hurt my eyes whilst I was reading it (although that's the great thing about blogs - you do what you wanna do!), but the article was so very true that I thought I'd share it further.

Happy New Year All !

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Autumn, Seasons, and the Grey Squirrel

The two seasons of the year I enjoy the most are the Spring and Autumn. To me the Summer is the worst season as it's the most unpredictable, and it's either too hot for me or I get fed-up with being drenched in sudden downpours of horizontal rain (of the type that saturates and leaks through the left side of your jacket, yet leaves the right side stone dry!). At least in the Winter I know it's going to be cold, windy, dark, and frosty, and with surprisingly less horizontal rain than in the Summer, and it's far easier for me to wrap up warm against a cold climate than it is for me to keep cool in a hot sun-burning climate.

But there's also the transition of nature during the Spring and Autumn. Almost as though I'm not the only living being that prepares myself between the two extremes of Winter and Summer.

Where I live (In Salford) in an urban village I'm very lucky to be able to see these transitions of nature between the seasons, and in fact much of it happens right on my doorstep within the grounds of the little block of flats I live in. From the hedge sparrows, to cheeky chirpy blackbirds, and certainly to the antics of the Grey Squirrel!

Actually I took these next two photo's last Spring, but seeing as the grey squirrel is most active in both the Spring and the Autumn I guess it just about fits in with this Autumn.

I think the next photo shows just how well adapted the grey squirrel actually is to it's environment. Just compare those feet claws to those of the Red Squirrel.

Sadly this cheeky chap must have moved on. I guess it maybe due to the ground-floor tenant who used to put out the birdseed and nuts earlier this year has also moved on. However, a cheeky chirpy blackbird and some 'spuggies' are still there in that area of the garden. Who knows what next Spring will reveal?

Friday, 4 September 2009

There are computers, and there are 'Real' Computers

In the past I've obviously had a bad habit of throwing out the photo's that mattered, but keeping the photo's that didn't matter. Hence a while ago I found these two pieces of nostalgia from my mainframe computer operating days. And yes I did operate both of these computers, including the constant mag tape loading/unloading, printer stationary changing and alignment, button bashing, etc.

The first shows part of a basic Honeywell 2000 Series mainframe computer of circa 1974 vintage. It was actually from the second major upgrade of a 1968 vintage original Honeywell 200, which originally had just 8K of memory!

The photo clearly shows the punched paper tape readers to the right, the operator's console in the centre, and slightly obscured between them is the 80 column punched card reader. On the edge to the left was an online 132 column revolving cylinder high speed impact printer (probably capable at best at 30 seconds per page, but was actually much slower as the computer printed as it processed). Off the photo to the right was a row of five rather slow and cranky vacuum chambered magnetic-tape drives, one of which held the 'BRT' - the tape containing all the programs required to run each 'batch processed' job, of which only one could be run at a time and which stopped at required intervals to allow operator intervention. Octal (base 8) was used to communicate with the computer via the Teletype console on this 2000 machine as the original 200 version had a large illuminated push button console. (Push 126 into the I address, set Admode from 2 to 3 by pushing once, replace 152 in the Contents with 153 by pushing 153 in, push Enter on the Address line, then push the Run button. - And that was just to restart the currently running program!!).

The second photo is from about ten years later, the early-mid 1980's, and shows part of an ICL 2956 mainframe computer. This machine still used 'batch processing' but could run several jobs at the same time by 'time slicing' the CPU between them, had offline printing (printouts were spooled during processing), and had modem communications link capabilities for remote data input and remote print output. No punched paper tape on this computer, which is a shame as by now I had become an expert in reading all those holes visually myself.

The bottom left of the photo shows the operators console, now a VDU with a PC style qwerty keyboard, and with two higher speed (probably 2 to 3 seconds per page) 132 column impact printers behind. To the right shows part of the row of higher speed and higher density magnetic tape drives. I think we started with seven of these on the original 2946, with at least two more added later. More important to this generation of mainframes was the long row of (originally 'Winchester' style) fixed and exchangeable disk drives, one of which I was obviously sitting on in order to take this photo!

And then I moved on into a new world of PC computing......!


For more information on both these computers, and some better photo's, visit:
Which has a superb photo of the illuminated flashing 'button bashing' console of the Honeywell 200.
Which also has in the External Links some good photo's of the aforementioned rows of disk drives!

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Same Narrowboat as Before, But!

Well I'm now going against all my previous criticisms of YouTube, not least due to the amount of music I've been downloading off there recently (hint: install the latest free Flash Player package - it includes a very good .FLV downloader, and a reliable DVD burner), but also because it's become an almost standard host site now for linked or embedded videos within blogs and discussion forums. As such this has tipped the balance back towards us, the sane majority!

So here again is my previous little video clip of a narrowboat having just left the Barton Aqueduct on the Bridgewater Canal. But this time it can be expanded to full screen, and the quality is also better - even though, so I've found, YouTube loses massive amounts of detail due to its excessively high compression.

'Must go out with the camera again and get some better video clips of some of the more decorative narrowboats I often see passing by through Monton Village here.

Edit: "FLASH Player" above should have been "REAL Player".

Friday, 10 July 2009

Monton Village Fete ( 2009)

I've been intending for some weeks to take some more photo's of Monton Village, where I live in Salford, to post on here. Last Saturday, 4th July, was our yearly village summer festival/fete, so it was an ideal opportunity.

I decided to throw all these photo's into a slide show to make them easier to view.

It starts with a view over the canal bridge (near my home), goes past Monton Green and into Monton Road (the village's high street) where most of the stalls were located, and including the occasional view backwards, back up the other side of Monton Road towards Monton Green again (note the village church's spire just visible above the trees), then around Monton Green itself where the (mainly?) kiddies entertainment was located.

Obviously, like most YouTube videos, it's best viewed in HQ and Full Screen.

Sunday, 31 May 2009

It's gotta go!

Ref my last little experiment with an online weather service. Well it was good. But!

Unfortunately it insists on refreshing its status every one to two seconds (and would probably have been every half second if my internet connection had allowed it!), which is one heck of a waste of internet bandwidth. Especially considering that normally the updates to the figures from the site are actually Half-Hourly!

So I'm taking the realtime facility connection off my blog, as it's slowing down my viewing of my links, and may well be interfering with the viewing of my blog by others . However I would still recommend this weather site as an alternative to the BBC weather sites.

Actually rather reminds me of a previous place of work where I helped set up a Webcam broadcasting a live continuous stream into the internet. It had only been running for less than 24hrs when a guy from our business internet service provider phoned us up and said he was very impressed with the view from our webcam, but unfortunately it was consuming so much bandwidth that it was actually slowing down the internet access to the rest of Manchester's city centre! We immediately frantically dived into the webcam setup to cut the resolution down, and cut the 24fps down to one frame per minute! A definite case of 'oooerrrrr, whooops!'

Friday, 29 May 2009

The Weather 'In Salford'

I've just added a little 'gismo' to the bottom of this Blogpage.

It's the current weather situation here In Salford.

Please scroll down to it, watch it's online updating, and let me know what you think of it.

It may seem trivial, which indeed it is. However having spent well over my spare time the last two days trying to update the calibration of my two weather indicating devices, and searching the internet for real-time information as close to where I live as possible, I stumbled upon this site. You can select your area from drop-down lists, and hopefully will be able to select an area as close to you as I was able.

e.g, For Central England you may start from this URL:

Note that this information is not from the Met Office, it is in fact from a large group of semi-professional people who monitor the weather as a serious hobby, and release that information gathered straight onto the Internet. But the probability is that you'll find a site a lot closer to you than the more usually used BBC Weather centres.

Oh, the two weather indicating devices I have here are at the two extremes. I can't remember the last time I checked either of them in terms of their calibration?!!

The one unit (in the lounge) was purchased from a 'Pound' shop in probably circa mid 1990's, it consisting of a digital clock, a thermometer, and a hygrometer. The clock in it hasn't been used for several years, so was ignored. However I did find that the thermometer was still within 2 deg C, (which was probably the best you could read off the scale anyway), but the hygrometer was very sadly out by approx -15 to -20. (Dangerous this - humidity levels above 80% in a home in Winter will cause mould formations, at the very least that black stuff around window frames. Like I had last winter on the bottom of the glass in my balcony doors, and also white specks on the wood below. I now know that 75% humidity or below within the vicinity of those doors would have prevented this, but what can you do when the outside humidity was beyond 90% throughout the Autumn and well into the Winter!).


My other weather indicating unit is a proper maritime device featuring a thermometer, a barometer, and a hygrometer. I purchased this unit (for the then expensive approx £30!) somewhere around 1981 from a boat-yard whilst on holiday in, I think, Weymouth. It's travelled the length and breadth of England with me on my travels since then, and the only thing I've ever done is correct the barometer occasionally to reflect height above sea level. The thermometer on it still appears to be as close to 'spot on' as you could ideally expect. The hygrometer - which has never been adjusted and was actually reading approx -5 out, which I probably would never have noticed anyway as it's located in the hallway and influenced by the kitchen/bathroom. However, after slight adjustment, and with the unit spending the last 24hrs outdoors, it can still follow very closely the humidity figures from the above web site! Not bad for a device intended for day-tripper yachts around the bay, and it being over twenty five years old anyway!

Monday, 30 March 2009

Where to from here?

As you may have noticed I haven't updated now for about a month. It's not that I've had nothing to talk about, quite the reverse in fact. It's just that I've been unable to decide whether or not a particular topic was appropriate to include. The fact is that I can't decide which direction to take this blog. Or even whether to just leave it as it is. I now have so many draft unreleased postings in here, most of which are topical issues both locally and nationally, that tonight I took the decision to delete most of them as I do know I don't want to run a political blog.

My original idea was for a 'magazine' style website of my own featuring the things that interest me and which hopefully would also interest others. The advantage of using a 'blog' is that it also allows feedback comments from readers who can agree or disagree with, or to even add additional information to my published articles. In this respect it has been highly successful, I've read so many blogs where there's no feedback comments at all.

Worth noting that I'm not a journalistic person in any way, definitely not a scholar nor an academic, I can't spell (I need an online spellchecker, and a dictionary to hand), and I fully appreciate my English Grammar is atrocious!

I'm a practical 'hands-on' technical person far more suited to building and supporting large IT infrastructures than I am to using 'Weblog' facilities . And yet, with this screen up, with thoughts of what I want to say in my head, with six flexible fingers poised around the keyboard, is it just possible that I've actually caught the dreaded 'Blogging Bug'?

Anyway, I do intend to review the postings I've made on here with the intention of deleting several of them, mainly where I'd drifted away from my original ideas. Certainly as the weather improves I will be out and about with my camera again, so there's definitely some posting update potential there. But who would actually be interested?

And my own hobbies and leasure interests are mainly technical ones (apart from my local walks and strolls along the Bridgewater Canal, the interesting 'Linear Walkway' through the originally posh Victorian area of Salford behind 'Millionaire's Row', and I have still yet to tackle the full length of the scenic re-landscaped disused mineral railway line path right up to the outskirts of Bolton). But again, given that this area is already well documented via Google searches, and given that the technical stuff could possibly go beyond the understanding of the average reader, who's actually going to be interested?

Oh, a question I'm often asked is why did I call this blog: Kevin 'In Salford'.

Quite simple, my name is Kevin, and for good or bad I live within the Salford boundary.

No, actually there's also the fact that Salford City Council wasted hundreds of thousands of pounds on changing a very attractive and meaningful crest of arms, referring to the seven original urban district towns that formed the City of Salford, into a very bland car numberplate style "IN Salford" in white letters on a Pink(!) background. Hence a local saying around these western areas of Salford, including Monton and Worsley villages: - "IN Salford? - We'd rather Not be!".

Monday, 12 January 2009

Another Salford Bridge

On a lighter note to my previous posting I thought I'd throw in another couple of photo's from my collection. (Actually not an easy task when I'm also watching the film 'Blazing Saddles' on the television at the same time! It's a Western comedy film classic!).... Anyway!

There's a section of the River Irwell that defines the border between Salford and Manchester. This photo shows the footbridge between the Lowry Hotel in Salford stretching across the river and into Manchester.

The Lowry Hotel is in the background, with the footbridge in front of it. This photo is taken from Bridge Street, part of which is in Salford (to the left), and the rest (to the right) is in Manchester. (There's even a bus lane on the Salford side of Bridge Street which comes to an abrupt end at the borderline with Manchester, which says a lot about how the two neighbouring City Councils get on with each other!).

Another view taken from outside the Lowry Hotel (on the right). Notice how the footbridge's main support is actually 'In Salford' and leans in the Salford direction!

Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Britain Freezes

According to the BBC's Teletext service I see that the majority of Britain tonight is suffering sub-zero temperatures. At this time, in Degrees C., Manchester is -6, Birmingham is -5, and even the usually milder London is -2. In fact looking at the updated refresh they are now all minus figures! Add to this there's still a solid wind blowing from an easterly direction.

Spare a thought for the people in Inverness, Scotland - their daytime temperature today was -2C at best, it's now -10! Yes they're now suffering in a temperature of just Fourteen Degrees Fahrenheit.!

'That's cold - especially for Britain!'

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Happy Christmas

To everyone in Blog-land, and anyone else who knows me anyway!

My favourite Christmas song over recent years has been this one from the traditional Irish folk group The Pogues, live, with Kirsty MacColl as guest singer- who actually stole the whole show with the now increasingly popular 'Fairytale of New York'.

(Edit: 30-01-09: Link deleted. May be it will return next year?).

Happy Christmas all, and enjoy!

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Some grumps and ramblings

I've just realised I haven't posted anything on here for a whole week, so I thought I would keep the Google search engine web crawlers happy by submitting an up to date grumps and ramblings post. The truth is I've been so busy at night reading other people's blogs, and dropping in the odd comment here and there, that I've neglected my own!

Plus, I've been trying to keep up with my email contact exchanges which seem to have increased due to it now being Christmas. I know, in years gone by at this time of the year we sat down and wrote letters (remember them?) to keep in touch with old friends and distant relatives, but these days it's all done by email (hence our Postal Service now delivers more fast food leaflets than it does letters. Talking of which I notice that TNT are interested in bidding for a share of a possible partial privatisation of the UK's Postal Service, but to me the only advantage(?) I can personally see is even more junk through my letterbox - including more of those silly glossy magazines from Salford City Council that always paints a rosy red picture of their actually insignificant achievements and ignores the real issues).

On top of that I had a domestic upheaval last week which has taken up time - I'll just say that nothing was taken, but that was only because I was at home at the time, and that I'm o.k. (though still shaken up). This has also highlighted the fact that in spite of the propaganda put out to the contrary, Greater Manchester Police have lost all control over crime in their region and their officers are running around like headless chickens after the fact. It also enforces my previous observations that if you live in a decent area then you Will be targeted by the rapidly increasing number of lawless violent scum we now have breeding within British society.

My "Countdown to Christmas" counter is showing that it's only one week away! Panic! I'm nowhere near ready! I called in to see a friend of mine earlier this evening and he had a very welcoming Christmas decoration display. I had to admit that I haven't got mine up yet, to which he replied "well we were a bit later this year but they've been up for over a week now"! However he did say that they were leaving picking up a Christmas Tree until at least the weekend.

Now, I can remember an old workmate of mine who used to do that 'cos the nearer you get to Christmas day the cheaper the live conifer xmas trees are. This one year he'd left it until just the day before, and well of course we had the usual few xmas eve lunchtime drinks. Late afternoon he left us with a slurred "I relly musht gerra twee!". We heard afterwards that all he could get was the bottom few feet of a tree which must have been originally at least twenty feet tall! Imagine his wife's reaction as he stumbled over the front door threshold attempting to pull behind him the remains of the lower branches of a conifer at least twice the width of the door frame!

We laughed! - She didn't!!

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

A Narrowboat on the Bridgwater Canal

Not sure if this is going to work. But it's a video clip of a narrowboat having just left the Barton Aqueduct (as previously mentioned in a recent post) on the Bridgewater Canal. Somewhat less than two miles further on this narrowboat would have passed through Monton Village (where I live) and would probably have made its way at least onto the next village of Worsley.

This is from my archive of pictures and video clips I accumulated for a multimedia module within a recent higher education course I took. I had merged into the soundtrack some music by Paul Hardcastle as background. (So switch your PC speakers on!)

You will need the Adobe Flash Player plugin installed, which you should have anyway. To start just click on the right arrow.

(Well it eventually uploaded, though probably taken a good proportion of my blog disk space!). Works OK here, but won't go into Full Screen which is a shame.

I would appreciate some feedback on this experiment (including if and how you got it to display full screen), and if it's ok then I'll repost. Possibly could even post some more from my archive.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Oliver Postgate, RIP.

Oh why is it that the very best people in the world eventually have to die?

Oliver Postgate was the man behind so many popular children's television animated character puppet series on British TV for many years. They were so good that even us adults enjoyed them. My personal favourite was 'The Clangers' - they never spoke, but their whistle sounds were far more expressive than human speech could ever attain!

He must surely go into the children's 'Hall of Fame' alongside Fred Quimby, who was the man behind the 'Tom and Jerry' cartoons.

For more details follow this link:

Sunday, 7 December 2008

My home audio system

Note that when I say 'Home Audio System' I do not mean today's surround sound type systems often sold to go with an expensive domestic plasma TV set, nor do I mean the multi-unit Music Centre's as sold by many domestic electrical retail outlets. What we are talking about here is the world of good quality audio separates and their use in the crossover from home hi-fi into that non-domestic world of 'Studio Audio', which is at the lower end of the professional audio systems as used in recording studios, radio and TV studios, and the like. These Studio systems need to bring together a wide variety of sound sources, to have full control over them (including monitoring individual sound levels and tone), mix or separate them, switch quickly or fade between them, and possibly add voice commentary as well.

I've had a fascination for this professional approach to audio for many years, and it was a heavy influence on me in the building and upgrading of the various mobile disco systems I used back in my Disco/DJ years.

The lounge in my flat is only 20 feet by 10 feet, so obviously I don't need the big loudspeaker stacks I had back then (even though the last system used a pair of HH 15" bass/midrange reflex cabs and HH radial tweeter horns, mounted on stands - very compact, very loud, and very clear!). So these days the speakers are a pair of Cerwin Vega LS/8's (one pictured above) which are just as comfortable being used for playing background classical music at home as they are for blasting out the latest Disco trends inside your local HMV record/CD Megastore.

The heart of my system is a 'Dynacord MP-7' professional audio mixer with built in 200W stereo amplifier, which gives me full studio level mixing and monitoring facilities, and provides more than enough power into the Cerwin Vega's to upset the neighbours in the next block of flats! This unit is shown to the left in the photo below:

To the right of it is a Technics SL1200 turntable fitted with a Stanton 680EL pickup cartridge. It's Industry Standard! It will play any vinyl record you care to throw onto it, and with the highest possible quality sound output. Anything less and you're missing out on a lot, anything better and you'll end up listening to the dust that's accumulated in your old record collection. The headphones there are Beyer Dynamic DT931 open backed studio monitor 'phones. The shelves in the unit contain the rest of the audio (and video) equipment, note that it's mainly Technics gear.

In there are two VCR's, a FreeView box (recently replaced with an upgraded model), a DVD player, an FM stereo tuner, two cassette decks, a KAM 30 chanell graphic equaliser, a Behringer four channel stereo headphone amplifier, and a filtered mains supply to feed the lot. Alternative headphones are Sennheiser 2270 or Beyer Dynamic DT250, though personally I prefer the sound that the open-backed Beyer DT931's produce.

The one thing I like about the cassette decks (Technics RS-B705) is their auto-cue facility. In play mode you can forward to the next track, and again if needed, and when it's the track you want you just press the back button and it automatically recues back to the start in pause mode. When you're ready to play just hit Play! If only cueing vinyl records was that easy! (Though back cueing on the SL1200 with a Stanton 680 cart is probably the only time you won't bend the stylus backwards!).

Oh, and nearly forgot. I can also run a lead across from the Dynacord MP7 audio mixer into the computer at this end of the room. This enables me to add/edit customised audio tracks into video clips taken on my digital camera.

Friday, 5 December 2008

A few ramblings

For the first time this week I find I have nothing new to have a 'grump' about. Or have I?

Except maybe that pig ignorant rough[ly] pensionable aged woman (no missus you didn't "fight two World Wars for the likes of me" 'cos you're barely ten years older than me!) the other day who stood just in front of me at a Bus Stop at Eccles Interchange. (It's officially called an 'Interchange' rather than a 'Bus Station' because you can jump straight off a bus and onto one of Manchester's marvellous Metrolink trams, assuming it's not already full, or vice versa, but unofficially it's because of the severe (private car) traffic congestion around here which prevents our excellent public transport network to run according to it's published timetables you are better off jumping on the first bus (sic: First Bus Company, the bus company which has the monopoly on this side of Manchester) that comes along that's going in your required direction, hence you will probably end up having to change buses at Eccles Interchange anyway!).

Are you keeping up? Well I did say I would be rambling! Anyway!

Did you know it's now fifty years ago since the STD (Subscriber Trunk Dialling) upgraded telephone system was first introduced into the UK? Before this upgrade UK telephone users had to interrupt the knitting of (or sometimes even wake up!) that nicely spoken lady in the local telephone exchange if you required a number outside your local area. The system works by prefixing local numbers with a unique set of three digits (now four) according to the area you wish to connect to. It's very simple, just dial the STD code number for the area you want followed by the local number. So why is it that, after fifty years, I'm still getting 'wrong number' calls from locals?

Actually, I recently read an article on t'internet about the official Royal approval opening of this system by H.M. The Queen. Apparently at the last minute someone asked 'but what if she dials the wrong number?' End result was that the entire UK telephone system was shut down but with just the one line enabled. She could have dialled anything and would still have got through!

PS. It would seem that my last posting re the 'God Damn Snow' joke fell rather flat, certainly amongst my local Salford/Manchester area friends judging by emails received. In reply, no I do not approve of foul (obscene) language - not on the Internet or anywhere, especially if it contains the 'F' or 'C' words, and is definitely not a normal part of my own vocabulary. However this was an old classic joke of American origin, I had censored it further, I had preceded it with a warning, and if you read it through properly you would have seen the joke - as it also reflects the British reaction to a light fall of snow compared to longer term heavier falls. For goodness sake! Enough said!

Actually, from that same joke website is another classic:-

"Look, I don't care what star you're following, get them blasted camels off my lawn! "


Edit: The Snow joke referred to above was later deleted when I did a clean-up of the site.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

'S'now't worse than Snow!

I really can't believe it. Here in the northwest of England last night we had our fair share of this winter's first proper fall of snow over mainland Britain. Fair enough, according to our climate it should happen at least twice each winter, and I appreciate that some areas can potentially get hit very hard. But here in the Manchester region we had at best (or worst, depending on your viewpoint) just two inches of snow, and an overall average of just one inch. What annoys me is the number of Schools that had to be closed, sections of our main roads and Motorways closed off, and all because of a silly little one inch sprinkling of snow!

When I was a kid (in Leicestershire) I can remember walking through snow up to knee high on my way to School during the two bad winters of the early and late 1960's ('64 and '68 I think, certainly the latter involved a much longer walk across town), and I thought nothing of it other than a challenge. The local schools remained open, no matter what the weather, and absenteeism was often even lower than normal. What's happened to the kids these days, are they really that scared of a little bit of snow?

No, my view is that today's lazy British teachers take a look out of the window first thing in the morning and see a bit of sleeting snow and then phone the Headteacher, who has already had a couple of phone calls from 'concerned parents' claiming they can't get their cars off the driveway (conveniently not mentioning it's only a patch of ice!). The school is then declared 'Closed For The Day', and everyone goes back to bed for a lie-in and a seemingly valid day off work!

I'm not really that sceptical am I? Or is it that I'm becoming a realist as I get older?

Monday, 1 December 2008

By 'eck! It's cold ' 'ere chuck!

When I added the BBC Weather's RSS feed into this blog page I didn't realise just how inaccurate our weather forecasting here in Britain actually is. It's supposed to show the weather for the current day and the forecast for the next two days for the Manchester area, including Salford.

Yesterday it showed +3c for the daytime temperature, in fact it was around 0c at its peak, and for last night it showed -1c, whereas in fact it was -2c in the early evening and by midnight it was -6c and still going down (now that's cold! Especially for Britain!). Surely they can get more accurate than that!

However, maybe my expectations are too high? Despite all these high-tec computerised thingumy whatsits available these days to the BBC, us 'old timers' still prefer to rely on our tried and trusted bunch of seaweed and pine cones hanging outside the front porch. Actually no, they're not quite as reliable as we'd like to think - but with a bit of past experience and imaginative waffling we're not too far off! And usually a lot closer than the BBC!

Perhaps the BBC might do better scrapping that expensive computer system, and replace it with a bunch of seaweed and a few pine cones. We, the TV License paying public, would probably then receive an improved weather forecasting service!


Sunday, 30 November 2008

Where I live - 'In Salford'

I've received a couple of email comments regarding the header picture I'm currently using. Yes it is actually in Salford, in fact if I cross over the main road from my home and walk down the side of the canal bridge (designated as the Monton bridge on the Bridgewater Canal) then this current header photo is the view to my left. This footpath does narrow somewhat further on, but does lead eventually in a northwesterly direction into the neighbouring village of Worsley.

Anyway, the following is the view to my right showing the Monton bridge itself, though admittedly taken from the footpath on the opposite bank where the Victorian origins of the bridge can be more clearly seen, and the Victorian post railings on the right hand side border the previously mentioned footpath down to the canal bank.

On the other (south) side of the bridge the canal opens up into a bend, and that's where you can see a modern day 'Folly' in the form of a lighthouse!

This is still only a couple of minutes walk away from where I live but in a slightly different direction, the Monton bridge over the Bridgewater Canal is still clearly seen on the left - but unfortunately the Victorian ironwork of the bridge is obscured on this side by the more modern cladding enclosing our utilities pipework. However, this photo was taken from outside one of the many very pleasant eating establishments in Monton village, Salford - The Waterside Restaurant:

Now I have to hastily add that I have no connection with this establishment whatsoever, but it is only a couple of minutes walk round the corner from me and I have very occasionally had the odd bar meal there washed down with a half o'lager! (Note that the 'Waterside' is now actually based around an expensive but full 'A La Carte' menu in the restaurant, but during the summer they do get many narrowboat hollidayers on the Canal and so normally serve meals over the bar as well).

Anyway, I must end with this next photo. The first time I walked southwards from here on the canal towpath towards Patricroft on the western side of Eccles, where there are still many reminders of our industrial past, just around a slight bend I took one of my most favourite photo's ever:

Well, what more can I say?

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Amateur Radio (Part. 1)

I always find it difficult to talk about technical things without talking technical, but here goes:

You may have noticed that my blog URL includes my Amateur Radio callsign, G8FYK, so I just had to get something posted sooner rather than later on this technical hobby which I have indulged myself into on and off since I was in my mid teens.

The first thing to note is that this hobby has little, no I would say nothing whatsoever, to do with that other thing called CB Radio. First of all we cannot make up our own radio callsigns, they are allocated to us by the Radio Licensing Authority in a strict internationally recognised format. I obtained mine in 1972 after sitting a tough City and Guilds exam (now NVQ Level 2 equiv., so I understand) which included the theory of radio transmission and reception, and the transmitting licence regulations and how the owner of a transmitter would be able to demonstrate compliance. Sounds tough, but the fact is that so many people are so fascinated by this technical hobby that they find the basics get easier over the years as the thirst for technical radio knowledge increases. (See also my link to the 'Radio Society of Great Britain', affectionately known as 'The RSGB').

The hobby of Amateur Radio is now so diverse and encompasses all forms of communication via radio signals, so much so that the morse code is now considered irrelevant in this modern digital age. I myself was experimenting with the digital modes twenty years ago with AX25 'Packet Radio' (so very similar to the Internet instant messaging and bulletin boards of today), RTTY (radio teletype, the digital version of the old teleprinters), and SSTV (slow scan television, which is probably best known for obtaining weather pictures from orbiting satellites), and all this via a Sinclair Spectrum Plus Two home computer connected to dedicated Amateur Radio transmitters and receivers.

So that this post doesn't get too long I will end this (Part. 1) with a couple of photo's of my Amateur Radio setup from the early/mid 1990's.

Please feel free to comment on the the equipment in there, especially if you recognise any make / models or have any questions. The details of the antenna system will be included in a future post. Personally, I think this looks like a reasonably smart and neat setup, but look what happens when we move the camera back a bit:

Now that's a bit more like a traditional 'Radio Shack'! Even though you still can't see the workbench on the left hand side, with the maxi and mini vices, 'multiple hands', vertical drill stand, soldering 'station', abandoned Verostrip projects, total mess including buried telephone, left over bits from the disco days stored underneath, etc., all of which I must have been ashamed of to include when I took this photo!

Notice also the then newly acquired second hand ICL DRS and DEC VaxMate computers on the right hand side, not clear but hopefully may be recognisable to anyone who knows them.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

A few pics of Salford - some bridges.

This is the first of many short picture sets featuring 'In and around Salford'. As far as possible I will be using photo's I have taken myself, but if I do need to pinch any from the Internet I will quote their source.

For those who may not be aware Salford is an urban city wrapped around the western side of Manchester in the north west of England, and is probably best known (apart from the TV soap series 'Coronation Street') for the Old Trafford football ground which of course is the home of the Manchester United team.

These days Salford is a mixture of its old Industrial Revolution heritage and the massive redevelopment undertaken within recent years, much of which the latter lays down a new heritage for the future. To me this makes the area fascinating to live in.

Within the boundaries of Salford there are three waterways, namely the Manchester Ship Canal, the Bridgewater Canal, and the River Irwell. I won't go into details as the three can be easily 'Google'd', except to say that I live very close to the Bridgewater Canal. The following are just a few landmarks on these waterways:

The Barton Swing Road Bridge near Eccles, Salford. This carries traffic across the Manchester Ship Canal and is one of the few remaining working swing bridges today. The road section is pivoted at its middle on a turntable (which can just be seen in the middle of the water) and can be swung around on that central pivot to allow ships to pass.

Now this really Is a feat of engineering! Probably only a hundred metres away from the swing road bridge above is the Barton Aqueduct swing bridge. This, surprisingly, carries the Bridgewater Canal over the Manchester Ship Canal. And not only that, it too can swing around on a central turntable to allow ships to pass - and remain filled with water to enable narrowboats on the Bridgewater Canal to continue their journey when the aqueduct has swung back again.

Another view of the Barton Aqueduct, as seen from a narrowboat on the Bridgewater Canal. What amazes me is how the ends of the aqueduct bridge, and their junctions with the canal, can be so effectively sealed off to allow the swinging of the bridge still full of water - and without emptying the Bridgewater into the Manchester Ship!

Another crossing over the Manchester Ship Canal, this is Centenary Bridge, which is on a more recent bypass road linking Eccles, Salford, with the Trafford Park Industrial Estate. This one doesn't swing, instead an entire section of road is haulled up into the air between four concrete tower posts. Frightening enough, but you should see the winch cables in the towers - they're only about an inch or so thick!

Friday, 21 November 2008

My first update

Well the initial setup and testing of this blog appears to have gone OK. I have made a few changes in the blogger 'Settings' options which I think improve the usability slightly. I have also noticed the differences in the display formatting depending on whether you are viewing via MS Internet Explorer 7 or Mozilla FireFox 3. This should not be happening as both these web browsers are supposed to be W3c web standards compliant. Or is it that the underlying code within is not W3c compliant?

In connection with my previous test posting relating to 'my dim and sordid past', I have also included a link to the website of an old friend of mine from the 1970's. John ran the Funky Parrot roadshow disco for many years around the Leics. / Warks. area, and I'm staggered to see that he's still going strong - he must be getting towards the 'big 60' by now! Check this out for 70's nostalgia:

D'y'know, I'm sure there's at least one speaker cab in there that he had off me?

Anyway, I'm now sorting out material for my future posts ( a mammoth task!). Future topics will include In and around Salford, the urban village of Monton, Amateur Radio (and my part in it!), and anything else I can think of. All interjected with comments on topical issues, like "why did you 'buy to rent' anyway when housing is the roof over someone's head which was never intended for a third party to attempt to make money out of!".

First Test

For a test, knowing I can delete it later, is a badly scanned poor quality photo of one of the mobile disco setups I had in the mid 1970's. It was taken at the Earl Shilton Albion Sports and Social Club in Leicestershire.