Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Lamp posts, library and other stuff

On our street they are replacing the streetlamps. Or at least, that’s what they say they are doing. Up to now they have got as far as digging holes (which have filled with water from the recent downpours), sticking a lamp post (without lamp) into some of them and covering some of them with yellow plastic covers (hopefully an interim measure) which become extremely treacherous in the rain. The existing streetlamps appear to be working fine, causing me to wonder why money, essentially OUR money, is being spent replacing something unnecessarily. 

Each hole, whether covered or containing a lampless metal pole, is surrounded by a barrier providing a supposedly safe passage for pedestrians and preventing them from falling into the water-filled holes while at the same time sticking out into the road and reducing the number of parking spaces available. As I have been driving my daughter’s car around for the last week and a half, I have become more aware than usual of the lack of parking spaces. Parking in odd, often illegal places, is almost reaching Spanish standards. I shall have to start posting photos of some of the worst offenders. 

Down near the crossroads is an industrial park with its own (sadly inadequate) parking area. The overspill goes onto the main road, with cars parked dangerously near the corner of the crossroads itself and causing great difficulty for residents who happen to want to park outside their houses just after 9 or 9.30 in the morning. I swear I had to park almost half a mile away yesterday. 

Because I have the use of the car, my daughter sees fit to set me errands to run for her. Monday’s was the hunt for children’s books about castles. She is currently on teaching practice at a local primary school and her topic of choice just now is castles. So I was sent off to our local branch library with a list of possible titles. Not a single one was available there but the catalogue told me they were all available at the central Oldham library. So off I went with my list, only to find that a large number of them were only theoretically available. No sign of them on the shelves! When I enquired about these missing books, the librarian helpfully looked them up on her computer, which has the borrowing history of the books in question. Almost every investigation came up with the same explanation: no history of “movement” by that book since 2010, 2006 or even 2001, so the book was presumed lost. So why, I ask myself, are they still appearing in the catalogue as available? 

As I was out and about I decided to go just a little further to the B & Q store, no longer in the town centre but handily placed on one of those retail parks on the edge of town. I wanted a new plug for the kitchen sink, one of those which you twist to close it but which will trap bits and pieces in the water as it drains away and stop the pipe from clogging up too quickly. Unable to find what I wanted, I asked an assistant. He asked what make my sink was, explaining that this made a difference as to which “kit” I needed to buy. “Kit”? I had no idea what make my kitchen sink was so he showed me what was available: “kits” indeed, comprising a plug, a plug-hole fitting and a collection of pipes to go under the sink and connect it to the drain. I told the helpful assistant that I really didn’t need all that stuff, retailing at £10 at least, but just the plug. No, he told me, they didn’t sell such a thing individually. I should have known. These huge stores sell everything on a big scale. You may need only one screw but you have to buy a packet of 50. Bring back the small hardware shop, I cry. Long live Spain’s “ferreterías”! 

Today has been less frustrating so far. Once more, I was up at the crack of dawn to go to my daughter’s house and take the children to school. On my way home, I stopped at the Wednesday market in Uppermill. It’s smaller than it used to be: a biscuit and wholefoods stall where I can buy excellent muesli, a fruit and veg stall which also sells winter-flowering pansies (“the colder the weather, the better they like it!”), a slipper stall and this morning a new one, a stall selling bottles of vitamins and homeopathic remedies. Most importantly it has the fresh fish van. Consequently, most Wednesdays we have fish! 

 Today I also bought Cox’s apples from the fruit and veg stall. They boasted that these apples came from their own orchards down in Kent. Wherever they came from, they are splendid apples. Cox’s are almost always the very best of apples but these are quite exceptional and taste like the apples of my youth. Proust can keep his memory-inducing madeleines; Cox’s apple do the nostalgia trick for me. 

Of course, my stop-off at the market meant that I arrived home after the workers at the industrial park had stolen all the best parking places and I had to park a good long way up the road! 

Looking at the papers on line later, I read about a collection of photos of shipwrecks off the coast of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly which has been purchased by the National Maritime Museum. I don’t know whether the Cornish coast equals the Costa de la Muerte at the top of Galicia for danger but I remember reading about wreckers who used to go along the beaches collecting potentially valuable stuff washed ashore form boats that had gone down. Four generations of the Gibson family have been taking pictures of wrecks for around 125 years. 

It was John Gibson who founded the family photographic business in the 1860s, taking his first wreck photograph in 1869. But it was his sons Alexander and Herbert – born four years apart but inseparable brothers – who perfected the technique of photographing the raw drama of wrecks. The images have been featured in newspapers, magazines and on TV and film, as well as in books by John Arlott, John Fowles and John Le Carré. 

If a ship ran aground off the Cornish coast, a member of the Gibson family would be one of the first on the scene. The wrecks include that of the 3,500 ton German steamer Schiller in 1876, which caused 300 deaths, and happier stories such as the British-owned barque Glenbervie, which went ashore on rocks at Coverack – all the crew were saved plus much of its cargo of 600 cases of whisky and 400 cases of brandy. The NMM paid £122,500 for the collection. 

Here is a link  to some of the pictures but I think my favourite is this one:- 

1 comment:

  1. That's an incredibly poignant photograph.

    With regards to books on castles, Google has a plethora of images, if your daughter has access to a computer at school.

    One of the most beautiful is Himeji Castle.