Wednesday, December 27, 2017

James Michael McLellan MBE - a celebration

10-March-1925 to 27-December-2016.

It says something about Dad that so many people, when I told them his funeral was on Friday 13th, said "He would have loved that" or "That would have tickled him". His choice of music for the committal was Abba's Waterloo - "Finally facing my Waterloo".

From the Order of Service:

Michael McLellan, formerly Chief Architect of Waverley Borough Council, passed away peacefully on 27th December, 2016 at the age of 91.

Born on 10th March, 1925 in Battersea, London, Michael’s training as an architect was interrupted by serving as a sub-lieutenant in the RNVR during the war, and he took part in the operation on Omaha beach in the wake of the D-Day landings in June 1944.

After finishing his studies at The North London Polytechnic he worked for the architects’ department of Scotland Yard before becoming Senior Architect and then Principal Architect at Coventry District Council from 1956 to 1973. He was responsible for much of the re-building and regeneration of Coventry after it had suffered so badly during the war. He is particularly remembered for the much-acclaimed Swimming Baths, which have recently been listed as a Grade II building by National Heritage.

From 1973 to 1987 Michael was the Chief Architect at Waverley District Council. He led a dynamic and imaginative team who worked on a broad range of projects, winning a number of awards and distinctions, including for the Sports Centre and the St James’s Church conversion. He was awarded an MBE for services to architecture in 1984.

After retiring as Chief Architect Michael continued to work as a consultant for a number of private architectural practices and to develop his interest in painting. He enjoyed considerable success as a painter, and had numerous exhibitions, most significantly a major retrospective at Wolfson College in 2006.

He was also actively involved in Farnham life, particularly as a member of The Farnham Society and of The Farnham Public Art Trust.

Michael is survived by his wife Geri, and two sons and a daughter.

Michael was not your stereotypical father. He didn’t take me to the park to kick a ball around. He didn’t take me to a football match to see his favourite team be trounced.

Instead he took me to Stratford to see Peter Brook's production of a Midsummer Night’s Dream. He took me to the Tate to see a Roy Lichtenstein exhibition. He took me for a weekend away to Chichester to see Fishbourne Roman Villa and to stay up all night to watch the moon landing live. That’s the kind of dad he was.

His own father died when he was only 10 and so he had no role model on how to be a father. By his own admission he made it up as he went along and a damn fine job he did of it too.

So thank you very much, Dad.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Castle Rock feat. Tyrannosaurus Rex

Dudley, Zoo, Dudley, Worcester, UK. Friday 05-June-1970

This was the first time I saw Marc Bolan live after listening to him on the John Peel Late Show and buying all those Regal Zonophone singles and the four Tyrannosaurus Rex albums. This was just before they shortened their name to T.Rex and burst upon the pop world with Ride a White Swan.

I bought my ticket somehow, there was no TicketMaster in those days. Off I went by train from the soon-to-be-reopened Kenilworth station to Birmingham and somehow from there to the Zoo. This was my first ever open air concert so it was all very strange and a little bit scary for a non-streetwise schoolboy.

I still have this programme.

Text of the above page.


Tyrannosaurus Rex are two.

Marc Bolan is one. He sings, plays guitar, organ and bass, and writes all of T. Rex's songs. "How do I see myself? I suppose I'm a poet. Well, sometimes."

Marc's first contact with top music came when he worked in Soho selling cokes at the 2I's coffee bar—the starting ground for early British rock’n’rollers like Adam Faith, Terry Dene and Screaming Lord Such. "I remember Cliff Richard being thrown out 'because you can't sing' I was nine at the time."

Marc is now 22 years old and Tyrannosaurus Rex are two. From their earlier accoustic songs, the group has travelled into electric music. . . . "But 1 don't think about it as 'being electric' I'm into the media power of the electric instrument, to reach as many people as possible."

Aiding Marc in reaching these people is Mickey Finn, the other half of T. Rex. Mickey plays bongos. And sings. And sometimes plays bass.

"Before I joined up with Marc, I was into painting. I painted the Beatles' shop—actually painted it and organised it so it'd be ready in time. Before that I sometimes played with Haphash and the Coloured Coat. We made an LP and did just one live gig, in Amsterdam.

Mickey, who particularly enjoys the music of Jack Bruce, The Band and The Flying Burrito Brothers, is a motor-bike freak. . . . "And I'd like to take up drag racing."

Following a chance meeting with Marc in a London macrobiotic restaurant, Mickey became T. Rex's other half.

"I wouldn't have put myself forward. He had an ad in the paper, didn't he? It came so easy. We met talked and then went down to Wales for three weeks."

"Since Mickey became a part of T. Rex the music has become freer, more relaxed, and we can improvise—which we could not do before."

And Marc's songs, those songs of fables and fantasies and dreams and images.

"I don't write the songs—inspiration does.

I couldn't write those songs—I'm being used."

And not badly either. Not badly at all!

I hadn't thought through the transport logistics and ended up missing the last train home. I didn't have any money to speak of, certainly not enough for a taxi or a hotel.

I had somehow picked up from my father the bizarre idea that in an emergency police stations acted like Western Union, that he could go into Kenilworth police station, hand over a tenner and the Birmingham police would give me the same. I told you I was not streetwise, not then, not now! They didn't, of course, and the upshot was that they took pity on me and let me sleep in a police cell overnight. The next morning I made my bleary way home by train again.

I had been sufficiently geeky during the gig to note the set list on an old scrap of paper. That set list eventual found its way into the excellent book Marc Bolan: A Chronology by Cliff McLenehan:

Set List: One Inch Rock, Debora, Hot Rod Mama, Wind Quartets, Pavilions Of Sun, King Of The Rumbling Spires, By The Light Of The Magical Moon, Organ Blues, Elemental Child, Conesuela, Salamanda Palaganda, Fist Heart Mighty Dawn Dart, The Wizard, Jewel.

The track that has stuck in my memory was an extended version of The Wizard with a long guitar solo to the words "he was a wizard and he was my friend he was [repeat * n]". Ah, that was all a very long time ago.

PDF of the complete programme.

TXT of the complete programme.



Sunday, November 12, 2017

Olive Harvest 2017 Part 02

Puglia, Italy. Sunday 12-November-2017.

The second pass through our trees to pick the later ripening olives. Over the last few years various friends have come out from the UK to help with the harvest. This year it was a full set of friends plus one mum.

Planning session in the local Cisternino pub, Diaulicchie.

The harvest went much as Part 01 but yielded more per tree: 60 kg from four trees as opposed to 26 kg from five.

When we were done we went and harvested our nearest neighbours' trees and reaped another 20 kg. Olives of all different sizes and ripeness.

The happy pickers: Mark (me), Tony, Terri, Gavin, Tania, Kate, Christine, Nigel, Mary (photographer).

We delivered the olives round to our friend Mino in the nick of time just as his first batch was on its way to the press. That meant we were able to collect our own oil in time for the return drive to the UK. The yield from our batch was 14% so that's 11 litres. Excellent.

Harvest over, we took our friends for a trip to see some gnarly trees down on the coast. These are truly extraordinary, ancient looking trees.

Then a dip in the Adriatic has become a tradition with the hardier members of the party - which does not include me.

"It's lovely once you're in" they claim. I'll not put that to the test.

One final harvest before we set off: lemons from our tree on the apartment terrace. Still a little green but they may ripen some more off the tree.

That's it apart from close down of the properties and packing up ready for the long drive home and our return next year.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Olive Harvest 2017 Part 01

Puglia, Italy. Saturday 04-November-2017

This year was a unique two-part harvest. We have two types of trees: five smaller trees with large black olives which ripen early November and four larger trees with small green olives which start to turn black late November.

Previous years have always been a compromise. When we flew out for a weekend to harvest we either came early and picked a good crop of the black olives and smaller, lower yield, green olives or came later for a good crop of green/black olives but lost the early ripeners to windfall.

Now we are retired and able to spend more time in Puglia we were there over the full harvest period. Another contributing factor is having two neighbours with whom we could combine our olives for the press. The local press has a minimum batch of 220 kg, we are lucky to reach 100 kg. Our friends' neighbour was due to pick and press imminently so we harvested the first batch.

The crates, nets and rakes.

Spreading the nets in preparation.

Plum, juicy olives.

Raking out of the trees onto the nets.

As they fall.

Herded olives ready to pick out leaves and twigs.

Approx 26 kg ready to go to the press.

While at the local tyre shop we saw a large 220 kg crate as used by the press on the back of an Ape. No need for a jack with this, the owner simply held it up while the wheel was changed..

When our neighbour's oil came back from the press a few days later we received two 1 litre tins. Very happy with that. Murky, as it is unfiltered, also more than a little peppery on the back of the throat. Give it a month or two to settle and mellow and it will be ready to use.

Next up the "team" out for the main harvest...

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Winter Droving 2017

Penrith, Cumbria. Saturday 28-October-2017.

Last year we enjoyed The Winter Droving 2016 so much that it was the trigger for this whole week's visit. After four days walking, Saturday arrived. A little cooler than last year, we wandered around for a few hours but there didn't seem to be as much street entertainment as last time. So we watched a couple of bands then retreated into the warmth of Dockray Hall for beer.

We emerged from the pub for the main event: the procession of giant illuminated figures, fancy dress and marching bands.

The ram lead the parade, of course, as The Winter Droving is about the sheep, but the wolf got a look in as well.

All participants are encouraged to wear masks.

After the parade it was back to Dockray Hall for more beer and victuals. The food was excellent as was the company.

The next morning we had time before our train home to visit two ancient monuments within minutes walking of our B & B. First up King Arthur's Round Table, a Neolithic earthwork henge, dating from about 2000 BC, but much later believed to be King Arthur's jousting arena.

Just 0.2 miles away is Mayburgh Henge is a large and impressive Neolithic henge. Its banks stand up to three metres high, constructed of pebbles collected from the nearby river.

Then it was time to pack up and taxi back to the station and train home for a rest.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Walking in the Lake District 2017 - Day 4

Penrith, Cumbria.

Friday 27-October-2017: Great Langdale.

This day we were joined by our co-host, Kate, who was able to get the day off work. A walk that she and Nigel had been wanting to do for some while.

The best weather of the week. Look at that sky. Walking weather doesn't get much better.

I insist on tucking my trews into my socks and carrying a map case. The former looks a bit naff but keeps my trouser hems clean. The latter is prudently essential on any walk - I love OS maps..

None of the route was particularly strenuous. Just as well as I am not the gung-ho mountaineering type.

This stream was crystal clear. A joy to see and a contrast to the River Wandle, my local, urban river.

More beautiful sky, typical bridge and crystal waters. Truly lovely.

Stats: 3:44 hr 12.9 km.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Walking in the Lake District 2017 - Day 3

Penrith, Cumbria.

Thursday 26-October-2017: Saint John's in the Vale

A pleasant circular walk, neither too strenuous nor too long and more clement weather than the day before.

The cute church of Saint John's in the Vale was our start point.

The clouds were lowering overhead but brighter over Thirlmere reservoir in the distance.

We saw free-range goats...

... and goats in a paddock. We were not sure if they were friendly and hoping we were bringing food or being territorial and seeing us off the premises. Either way we didn't hang around to find out.

Eli the dog led the way for most of the walk. We reckon Nigel was cheating by being canine assisted.

Stats: 2:46 hr and 8.4 km.

Walking in the Lake District 2017 - Day 2

Penrith, Cumbria.

Wednesday 25-October-2017: Threlkeld to Blencathra via Blease Fell.

This time we went for height rather than distance. We were joined by our friend Nigel and dog Eli, a Husky-Malamute cross.

Bit of a gloomy day with sunshine trying to illume the far valley

A fellow walker took this photo of us at the very windy apex.

On the way down the effort was less but the wind chill factor was a killer! Steep and muddy paths made for interesting walking including some unintentional backwards grass surfing

More "operator error". Checking the Garmin on the way up I accidentally turned it off so lost the first part of the track from the car park to Blencathra. Luckily I noted the time and distance so know the full walk stats as 14 km and 5:04 hr.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Walking in the Lake District 2017 - Day 1

Penrith, Cumbria.

We were visiting friends in Penrith for the Winter Droving festival and decided to go up early for a few days walking.

Tuesday 24-October-2017: Eamont Bridge to Askham and back via Brougham Castle.

The aim was to visit a potter in Askham where we bough a teapot last year. Unfortunately he was closed, recuperating from a lengthy operation so maybe next visit.

Weird looking tree with high level shoots. Maybe an effect of animal grazing?

Typical Lake District bridge.

The River Lowther at Askham Bridge

Great lunch at The Punchbowl in Askham plus a paddle of beers for tasting.

The impressive Lowther viaduct.

Brougham Castle - using our English Heritage membership for the first time.

Wordsworth looked out this very window and was inspired to write:

“... That river and those mouldering towers
Have seen us side by side, when, having clomb
The dark some windings of a broken stair,
And crept along a ridge of fractured wall,
Not without trembling, we in safety looked
Forth, through some Gothic window’s open space,
And gathered with one mind a rich reward
From the far-stretching landscape...”

Brougham Hall was an extra stumbled upon by chance.

A fascinating and ambitious restoration.

The Garmin battery died so I only have the plot for the outbound leg which was 12km in 2:35. We walked about twice that in the day so we'll call it 24km then.