Saturday, 29 February 2020

Customs House, King's Lynn

Sometimes I think places try too hard to get the people in; take this light show on the Customs House for example. Is it really necessary? Does it add anything to the place? I'm not convinced. Oh it's an entertaining five minutes or so and, yes, I took far too many pictures but I feel it somehow trivializes the architecture. Simple lighting would satisfy me. There's four of these shows on in the town apparently but when we were there this was the only one actually working. Does a 900 hundred year church like St Margaret's need decorating by projected illuminations to please tourists? Maybe it does these days I don't know.

Weekend Reflections are here.

Friday, 28 February 2020


The Great Ouse looking south towards the magnificent sugar beet factory paper mill.

Thursday, 27 February 2020

Bank House, King's Lynn

Here's a thing you don't see that often: a statue of King Charles I, he who picked a quarrel with Parliament and lost not just the quarrel but his head as well . Here he stands on top of Bank House on King's Staithe Square (a nasty symbol of royalist oppression and tyranny). The building was once a bank (hence the name, clever eh?) and is now a restaurant. Charles is dressed in armour and looking a bit of a pillock. Couple this with the statue of Charles fils (proud symbol of the blessed restoration) on the nearby Customs House with his louche gowns and a wig that could house a small family and King's Lynn has a right pair of proper Charleys to be proud of.

The building dates from early 1780's and was the home of Gurney's Bank which went on by stages to become Barclay's Bank which you might have heard of. I'm guessing it's a listed building of some sort but sloth prevent me checking...

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

St Nicholas Chapel, King's Lynn

While in Lynn this was the view that greeted me each day on my way to get the newspapers in Norfolk Street. Bit different from the usual streetscene.

The weekend in black and white is here.

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

The Public Library, King's Lynn

One thing I have learned in all my years is that when you come across a library dating from the turn of the last century looking overly ornate, beyond the reach of any ordinary town council's budget, then it's a good bet that Andrew Carnegie's vast wealth lies behind it somewhere. Here, on London Road, is a fine thing opened in 1905 by the very man himself (see below). It's still the library of this town though I've read that modernity in the form of WiFi and digital computery things are available as well as old-style books.

The library is reputed to be haunted by a monk no doubt wandering in from the old Greyfriars monastery just behind.

Somewhere in that impressive crowd stands Mr Carnegie so I'm told. There's a tale, little more than scuttlebutt, that he built this particular library to get a knighthood as it's close to Sandringham and the then king's winter retreat. Firstly I wouldn't like to walk all the way from Sandringham to take out a book and second I can't see Mr C being impressed by mere baubles. (This picture courtesy of the generosity of the internet)
There's a Carnegie library in Hull, here, that also opened in 1905 a busy year for Mr C as he tried to give away all the wealth he had accrued. Now I come to think abut it there was a Carnegie library in my old home town, Hartlepool.

Monday, 24 February 2020

Under the Mistletoe

Well I'd been in and around the Walks before but somehow I'd not noticed that just about every other big tree had huge fuzzy globes at their tops. Weird, alien looking things still green while all the leaves have long gone. It is, of course, Mistletoe (Viscum album or white sticky stuff ... ). I've never seen anything quite like it, there was just loads of the stuff. What makes this King's Lynn park such a fine place for these hemiparasitic plants I can't imagine but both hosts and guests are definitely doing well.


Sunday, 23 February 2020

The South Gate, King's Lynn

I suppose in a rational ordered world this vestige of medieval urban protection would have been cleared away and become nothing but an entry in obscure historical chronicles. A wee sign informs us that this was put up in the early 15th century clearly to bottleneck the flow of carts and horses causing tailbacks over the river Nar and along Friars Street as toll charges were levied and collected on traffic. The sign mentions that the gatekeeper was also "keeper of the muckhills" but thankfully does not elaborate on what that might mean ... The small doors on either side show where pedestrians had had enough and were allowed through. Later on London Road was developed and was as you see it is twice as wide as the gate. So there it stands covering half a road serving no useful purpose other than being a delight to the eye, an oddity in the blandness of modern life.

The gate is open to visitors during the warmer months but not on a chilly  Sunday afternoon in February.

The stone clad frontage is to impress visitors, it's really a brick building similar to the North Bar in Beverley.

The South Gate was the site of the town's gallows where poor unfortunates were hanged if they weren't being roasted in Tuesday Market... Margot suggested these orbs might be the restless souls of the condemned hovering about the place, I think it's just a stinky picture ...

Here's the wee sign I mentioned earlier.

The building is, of course, Grade 1 listed. Here's more by folk who know what they are talking about.

Saturday, 22 February 2020

Frederick Savage

One thing that I did not see at the Mart was a roundabout with horses, folk are more interested in being put at the end of a vertical centrifuge and spun up above the chiminey tops than going round and round and up and down on wooden horses accompanied by steam powered organ music. 
Times and fashions change but once upon time steam powered galloping horses, invented by this guy, Frederick Savage, were all the rage. I read that showmen could make close on a hundred pounds a day from penny rides on one of these machines; that's old pennies, 240 to the pound. He sold his contraptions around the world spreading dizzy fun while making a small fortune.
Frederick Savage became mayor of Lynn three times (a veritable Dick Whittington) and died in 1897. This statue was erected in 1892 paid for by showmen and the people of Lynn. He was clearly much liked as a banquet was held in his honour.
After his death the works nearly went under and were only saved by being bought up by local firms. Steam engines were not the way of the future, at least not for farm work or fair grounds. The last Savage roundabout I saw was at Hull Fair several years ago, I don't think any are left in active service, they are all museum pieces. The factory in Lynn where Savage made his machines is now a tame arcade of shops. 
This statue has him in mayoral ceremonial garb giving a priestly benefaction to all who pass. It stands, as it always has done, on London Road close to the South Gate.
By way of postscript; while going through the papers of Margot's late mother I found that her house, off Loke Road a stone's throw from the old Savage works, was built on land sold off by Mr Savage's widow in 1898. 

Friday, 21 February 2020

King's Lynn Mart

I mentioned in a post a while back that every year on Valentines Day the Tuesday Market in King's Lynn becomes fun fair for a fortnight or so. When I first heard about this I wondered how they could squeeze a fun fair into a small town square but fit it in they did and have done for centuries so I'm not one to speak...
This year's Mart was shorter than usual due to Council works needing to be done or some such excuse. We caught it on Thursday evening when it seemed a bit deserted and again on Friday afternoon when it was full of screaming kids as fun fairs ought to be. 
The Mart marks the start of the year for those involved in fairground entertainment, the year ends with Hull Fair. It would otiose to compare this neat compact attraction with the sprawling noisy brash thing that sprouts out on Walker Street each October.

Oh yes, I should mention in case you haven't noticed that I've been to King's Lynn for a few days so expect posts from Norfolk for the time being.

The rotating arm thing was visible for miles as you approach the town.

By Sunday evening it had all gone; no sign it was ever here but it'll be back next year.

Saturday, 15 February 2020

Whole trees in motion

For the past three or four days they've been at it again. Barely had one little storm faded away than they issue warning of impending doom with another approaching Atlantic depression. They've called this one Dennis and it promises the usual big blow and a whole ocean of wet stuff. Maybe a month's worth of rain in a day, there'll be flooding, there will be recriminations ... But as of now it's just a fresh breeze stirring up my neighbour's birch trees and a little drizzle, time to walk the dogs and get the shopping done or just put your feet up and forget about it.

The weekend in black and white is here.

Friday, 14 February 2020

Roses are red

Roses thrive on a rich well manured soil ...

For reasons that escape me our media follow closely the ins and outs of the quadrennial, seemingly perennial, US Presidential wooing game. For as long as I can recall they have bored us with it, as if it mattered more than Tesco not having any milk ... They gave us blow-by-blow reports of Iowa's arcane and somewhat sweet caucas process (that went well didn't it?), of the New Hampshire Democrats' desire to have their very own and original magic Grandpa as their choice and how Biden is vexed and Warren is, well let's not talk about Warren ... Commentators over here cannot decide how to pronounce "Buttigieg" (it's a name that gives those of us on this side of the great watery divide who have failed to find our inner adult the titters  but then we don't have a vote, no wonder he calls himself Pete; President Buttigieg!, nah can't see it ... but then there's been a Trump in orifice, sorry office, for the past four years  and we, well, we have our very own Johnson and his special friend Cummings ...). The wannabes are such a deep well of oddly 'talented' (by which I mean rich) folk all convinced that they have what it takes to be The Candidate; filled with the right amount of righteous indignation and large amounts of steaming hot  phony baloney ... it is, as I say, a mystery why we get such coverage when, from this distance, it is clear the short odds favourite will walk it with his hands in his very deep pockets. I can't say it worries me much: the current guy hasn't started any wars (yet) and the world is still spinning ... from what I see and hear he is far from ideal but as someone once said "The real American is all right: It is the ideal American who is all wrong."

Sunday, 9 February 2020

A Darkness at Noon

A storm in February used to pass by unnoticed, it was the kind of thing you expect, happened every year, through out autumn and winter we'd have storm after storm. A few dustbins would get blown over, maybe a tree or two, a power outage ( to use the American term) was not unknown. But it was winter, you expected it and got on with stuff. Nowadays everything has to have some malign anthropogenic cause and we'd better beat ourselves with birches until we come to our senses and/or die and leave the planet to all those cuddly animals and nice trees and flowers and grasses ... The chiliastic numpties gather in their covens and murmur misanthropic millennial doom and say we must expect these "extreme weather events" even more frequently now that there's so many people on the earth all making nasty carbon dioxide. They are, as I've said before, quite mad and completely wrong: we have fewer storms these days ... but mere facts never faze a craze.
Also crazy is giving these passing Atlantic depressions names: today's puny effort has the name Ciara which means "dark haired"; apt given that it was getting quite pitchy at just gone noon when I took my photo coming back from Tesco.

My bin blew over (almost!) , we must expect more events like this ... We shall rebuild! I don't know if the trauma will ever  leave me.

Thursday, 6 February 2020

Puddle Reflections

Between the western edge of Hull and the village of Cottingham there's a no-man's land of so-called green belt, rough unwanted grazing pasture, land really not fit for crops, land that regularly floods, a land fit for gulls, horses, dog walkers, grey-bearded loons and youngsters up to no-good, a land that is a site of special scientific interest. In short just the sort of land developers salivate over; they would love to drain the place and cover with as many units as they can. To add a layer of complication the land is in the East Riding of Yorkshire Council (ERYC) but much of it is owned by Hull City Council (don't ask how). So you can see how conflict between the neighbouring authorities might arise. Hull has filled its boundaries and has no more room, it would love to take over Cottingham, Anlaby, Willerby and the outlying villages and fill in the gaps in between and then spread out to Beverley. The good people of these villages voted overwhelmingly to tell Hull to get stuffed in a referendum a while back ... Thankfully ERYC usually denies permission for development, as it did for the creation of Hull's Cottingham cemetery, to get that built Hull had to go to a public inquiry (at ERYC's expense) ... I hear that the graves of Hull's dead still fill up with flood water and new drainage is being planned (at Hull's expense). 
The latest attempt is a desire by a charity to build a mini-village of 48 dwellings, huts, a cafe, parking, poly tunnels (?) with associated landscaping and infrastructure... you get the picture ... all for ex-army personnel, they call it a veterans village,  on land off Priory Road, close by this puddle. Quite whether Cottingham village and ERYC social services are up to dealing with the expense of dozens of so-called "heroes" has not been mentioned but it is obviously the thin end of a developer's wedge, cynically using a supposed "good cause" to create a precedent so more permissions will have to be granted. Then all our messy puddles will be gone and the incurable, suppurating pestilence that is Hull will be upon the land that no-man wants.

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Uniform Rip Off

A strange thing today on the local TV news; a Labour MP calling for more competition and openness in business: the business, that is, of selling school uniforms. A fine scam this; where a school is legally allowed to demand its pupils wear the school uniform (I'm not happy about even this but there's more...) and then demand that the uniform is bought from a particular shop or supplier. The school having a deal with said shop is, of course, profiting from its own regulations... Naturally such a practice, enforced monopoly, acts to no-one's benefit but the school and the shop. Many poor parents are finding uniforms prohibitively expensive (for each child between £255 for primary school and £340 for secondary school; that's per year ...I'm sure you'll agree this is  absolutely ridiculous! ) and this restricts their children attending the appropriate school. Simply buying a cheap uniform and stitching the school badge (as my mother did for me way back when I went to school) is not good enough for the money grubbing school who now require the school logo on socks! on blazers, on trousers! probably on the underpants ...
By way of a reaction to these scandalous practices and high prices a system of recycling uniforms (called Re: Uniform) has sprung up centred here at the Methodist Church on Cottingham Road/Newland Avenue. 
So a bill is being presented today in Parliament, the Education (Guidance about Costs of School Uniforms) Bill, I think every parent in the land will be wishing it to pass ...

Sunday, 2 February 2020

Never Fails to Disappoint

I knew that the light show in town was going to be a dull affair, I'd read what folk had said about it on social media. Still nothing could quite have prepared me for how truly insipid and utterly pointless the installation called Navigate would be. This was being put on by the Council to mark the start of the Hull town council's latest £24million trick to pull in punters by calling itself Yorkshire's Maritime City, frankly they need not have bothered... and if this is a measure of what we can expect then they should give up now and go lie down in a darkened room.

We'll start in Queen Victoria Square with something called Zenith, supposedly an "immersive sonic landscape of the sea". It was eight or so silly lights and some indistinct noise that might have been music or just random noises on a looped tape. It put me in mind of a dismal 1970's disco.

Next and not moving far at all is something called Meridian: four beams of light from the City hall. Wow! Just wow ... maybe a Gee! as well but mainly just wow ...

Oracle I posted before in its daytime slumber. It gets no better illuminated. It too had some rumbling noise to go with and the white light points to the direction of the wind. But as the Bard sang so many years ago you don't need a weatherman to know which way the money goes  ...

The crowning  inanity award has to go to this automated drum machine outside Holy Trinity church, going by the name of Pendopo. I read that its metallic percussion was inspired by east Asian drums and not by the thought of easy money from a Council lacking two brain cells to rub together.

The most impressive light show, however,  was nothing to do with this tawdry pathetic nonsense; the church behind was all lit up in varying hues but hardly anyone paid it or Andrew Marvell any mind. I'd like to see those lights from inside the building, through those massive windows, now that might be worth the bus fare ...


Still it didn't take more than ten minutes to see what little there was to see and the trip wasn't a totally wasted journey as I managed to do my shopping in Tescos and get the things we could only get from town.

Saturday, 1 February 2020


I go along this street, Strathcona Avenue1, every day to pick up the newspapers, a pint of milk and a loaf of bread. The street dates from the early 1930s and was built on the fields of the old West Bulls farm around what is now Bricknell Avenue. It is very typical of the housing built at that time, boring three bedroom bay-windowed terraces with small gardens front and rear. Most of the outer western edge of the town is filled with stuff like this, not exactly made of ticky-tacky but they all look just the same.
Over the fifteen or so years I've been around here what has changed most markedly is the disappearance of front gardens and their conversion into parking spaces. The street on a weekend is packed with parked cars as many houses have two or more vehicles each so off-road parking is considered a must-have... This means less space for blackbirds, dunnocks and thrushes to rummage around and their numbers have declined, though house sparrows seem to have made a bit of a come back in the past two years. The street is one of those that has it's feet in Hull and its head in Cottingham meaning two councils run the place.

Streetscape is the theme for the first day of the glorious month of February. Go see other much more interesting streets from much more interesting places here.

1The street takes its name from Donald Smith, 1st Baron Strathcona, a Scottish-born Canadian businessman who made his millions from other people's work and then gave some of it away so becoming a philanthropist and not just a common bum. I think I mentioned a while back the tale I heard of how he wanted to be known as Lord Glencoe but the murderous connotations of that place (a bloody massacre in case you've forgotten) meant a change and the invention of the Strathcona name. I admit I'd never heard of him until I moved here; I guess he's better known in Canada as he ran the Hudson Bay Company for seventy five years and many institutions and places are named in honour of his big beard and gratitude to his bounteousness.