I recently found a couple of Pathescope films shot by my father in the early 1950s. The more interesting one is of grasstrack motorcycle racing in September 1951.
Pathescope is a 9.5mm cine film format with the sprocket hole in the centre. It was introduced in 1922 and was most popular with amateur film-makers in France and the UK. Pathescope Limited was the subject of a workers’ buyout in 1959, but went bankrupt in 1960. In a precursor to the VHS/Betamax wars of the 1980s, an arguably superior format fell to the greater marketing muscle of Kodak and the far wider range of suppliers supporting the 8mm standard. The very late introduction of Pathescope colour film also didn’t help.
When I had the film digitised (+) I thought the location may have been Kirkby Mallory in Leicestershire. In 1951 Kirkby Hall was still standing, but only just (it was demolished in 1952), after wartime use by the military. The British Championships were held there on 2nd September, and this film was processed on the 25th. Grasstrack racing was held at Kirkby Mallory up until 1956. It ended when a tarmac circuit – Mallory Park – was laid for the princely sum of £50,000.
However, a closer examination of the film plus a glance through his 1951 diary instead confirms the location as Hopwell Hall (-), near Ockbrook. The racing took place on Sunday 23rd September. There’s a couple of seconds of my grandfather midway through the film, which was an unexpected bonus.
(-) Hopwell Hall was a Special School run by Nottinghamshire County Council (in Derbyshire) from the 1920s up until the 1980s/90s. In the 1950s, motorcycle racing took place in the surrounding parklands. It was converted into a £6m, 10 bedroom house in the late 1990s and has been privately owned since.
Carsington Water is a pleasant 30 minute drive from home. It’s somewhere I enjoy going to think, especially when it’s quiet. It was very quiet this morning, as well as being cold and rather eerie in the winter sunlight. It’s a good job the 7 has a heater – however inefficient. At least it keeps my legs warm while the top half of me is wrapped in a fleece, scarf, snood, woolly hat, driving gloves and a big coat.
This was probably the last excursion for Gnu this year as the weather for the rest of this week looks poor. He’ll be safely stored away and SORNed by 1st December for a couple of months.
I spent some time walking around Stones Island and reflecting on the last year. It’s one I don’t want to repeat in a hurry. Chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant is no fun at all. Worse than the treatment was missing out on too many social occasions – including work. But I hope that I’m now through the worst of it and that any relapse is many years away. Maybe something else will get me first after all!
Having made appreciative noises at the sculpture, my twenty-minute walk became too cold to bear. So I did what any sensible person would do and headed to the Mainsail restaurant. My sausage cob (breakfast is served until 2.30pm – very decadent) and pot of tea were a bargain at £5.25.
I’m cautiously optimistic about 2019 from a personal perspective. Maybe even my head hair will grow back soon. I hope this optimism is better-founded than my Old Timmy’s Almanac predictions were at the start of this year.
A conversation I had earlier on today reminded me that I have a photograph of the Spondon Home Guard. It was taken during World War II, outside the gatehouse lodge at Locko Park. I don’t have a key to the people in the picture, although my assumption is that there must be at least one Holyoake present. I can see a couple of possible candidates.
If anyone does recognise any of the volunteers, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
Since I last wrote on T+30 I’ve continued to make progress. I’m still tired much of the time and if sleeping was an Olympic sport I’d be a certainty for the gold medal. However, it feels as if some kind of normality might not be that far away.
This is the easiest to measure. Since T+30:
I no longer need my walking stick.
I’ve managed to drive both the Alfa and the 7 a couple of times, although not very far.
I’ve walked around the woods on Oakwood (several times), Kedleston Hall and yesterday spent some time walking around the gardens at Chatsworth (when I wasn’t eating cake, naturally). My daily step count has gone up from around 1,500 to averaging 5,000 or so. Yesterday I exceeded 8,000 for the first time in two months. My resting pulse has continued to come down (73 today), although it’s still a little above my mid-sixties norm.
This is a little harder to measure, but since T+30:
I’ve built a surveillance camera for the driveway. This was motivated by the possibly paranoid belief I hold that an intruder tried to get into the house the first night I was home from hospital. It consists of a Raspberry Pi 3B+ inside a custom case, running MotionEye on Raspbian. (I originally tried MotionEyeOS, but it proved to be unstable). So far the only intruder its spotted is a spider.
I’ve been thinking about what it might be sensible to stockpile ahead of what looks like is going to be an increasingly difficult Brexit. I’ve not gone “full prepper” – yet – as my list currently consists only of tinned tuna.
Last Friday afternoon I paid a farewell visit with some friends to the Donington Grand Prix collection. Although the museum doesn’t close until 5th November, the contents of the display cabinets were already being packed away. The café was shuttered and empty. The number of cars also seems to have declined since I last visited in mid-2017. There are now spaces between many of the exhibits. If you’re thinking of going, sooner rather than later is probably a good idea. The cost of entry is £12 per adult, £5 per child. We spent around 90 minutes in the museum, discussing (amongst other things) the evolution of F1 aerodynamics.
Skipping quickly through the first two halls that are dedicated to a collection of military vehicles, the real stars are the racing cars from McLaren, Williams, Force India and Vanwall.
One problem with having chemo fatigue is that I watch far too much television. This weekend I’ve managed to see some of the British Superbikes from Brands Hatch. I was delighted to see Leon Haslam clinch the championship. Back in the late 70s I remember watching his father, Ron, duel with the likes of Randy Mamola at Donington Park.
These fond memories set me wading through some reels of old 8mm cine film this afternoon. While I didn’t manage to find any of Ron and Randy in their prime, I did find a couple of minutes from the World Sidecar Trophy, shot from our favourite vantage point at McLeans. This featured Jock Taylor and his ‘passenger’, Benga Johansson. Normal motorcycle racing is daring enough, sidecar racing is terrifying. Much as the exploits of Ron Haslam appealed to me as a teenager, the real hard men were the sidecar racers. What’s noticeable in this clip is the fairly low-level of protection offered to riders, marshalls and spectators. These days McLeans has a much larger run-off area and catch fencing.
I can’t find the result of this particular race, but it would seem that Jock and Benga were leading in the number 7 Fowler Yamaha outfit at some point in the race. (See around 1m 16s into the clip). They certainly won the world sidecar championship together in 1980. Sadly, Jock Taylor was killed in a racing accident in 1982 at the age of 28.
Sad news being reported in the Derby Telegraph tonight. The last time I visited the Donington Collection was during the Lotus 7 60th anniversary celebrations in 2017. The grand prix cars and other racing memorabilia held at Donington is unmatched elsewhere. The crammed-in nature of the exhibits somehow added to the charm of the place, even if it meant that viewing conditions weren’t always ideal.
Since I started publishing my father’s photographs of bygone Spondon, I’ve been delighted by the interest that they’ve attracted. I was recently contacted by Kaff at Cherrytree Picture Framers in Spondon who asked if she could create display prints from four of them.
Yesterday I saw the results of her efforts – and they’re truly stunning.
The blemishes which scarred the original slides and negatives have been skillfully removed. High resolution scans (rather than scaled-down images from this blog) were used, producing great quality prints.
The photographs are currently on display at 3 Moor Street, Spondon. Prints can be purchased in different sizes and frames.
The best way to appreciate the pictures is to go in person. However, if you’re unable to visit and want to take a closer look, the colour photographs are blemish-free versions of the first two in this post. The black and white photographs are featured here.
An 8mm cine film of floats and marching bands participating in the 1977 Ockbrook & Borrowash Carnival. It was shot opposite the shops on Priorway Avenue. Corona soft drinks were still going strong (a wastebin with Corona branding appears 2s in). The Borrowash Mother and Baby club had clearly spent a lot of time and effort on their Magic Roundabout float (10s). The paddle steamer float that follows is equally impressive.
The dangers of open-sided carnival floats can be seen at 61s as the lawn tennis club lorry comes to a sudden stop. Despite this mishap, Ockbrook & Borrowash Lawn Tennis Club would seem to be celebrating their centenary next year.
But without me serving cotton wool balls into the crowd, fortunately.
Last week I paid a visit to Buxton for the first time in many years. Self-styled as “England’s leading spa town” (although I’m sure Royal Leamington Spa may have something to say about that claim) the visit was a disappointment.
The Crescent and Pump Rooms remain under renovation, with the 2018 re-opening date given on the hoardings looking optimistic. A BBC news article published in 2017 suggests that it may re-open in 2019, 12 years behind schedule.
However, the site was a hive of activity when I visited, unlike at the Octagon. This is also undergoing renovation, with the Pavilion Garden’s website suggesting a “late summer” reopening this year. This seems a tad optimistic.
The miniature railway in the Pavilion Gardens, supposedly open every day during the summer holidays was, you guessed it, closed.
The Opera House is lovely from the outside and had its doors open, but was inaccessible due to an extended fire drill.
The main shopping area is unusual as nearly all of the major high street banks and building societies (as well as some of the lesser ones) have a presence. The rest of the shopping area is unremarkable, with the former Grove Hotel at one end in a poor state of repair.
The only redeeming feature of the visit was Charlotte’s Chocolates in the Cavendish Centre, next to the Crescent. Great coffee, hot chocolate and cake. The homemade chocolates proved too tempting not to buy as well.
Buxton should have more to recommend it by 2020 – but until then it’s probably not worth a visit outside of the festival.