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We only made one mistake, visiting a "tourist attraction" - inevitably a bad choice in Yorkshire where quality and value are NOT on offer in such venues. We tried to visit the Prisoner of War Museum Camp, "Eden Camp". This is a very widely advertised venue, we went mid week and the car park was not full. The museum was and in three hours we saw virtually nothing, obtained a refund and left. A widely advertised tourist attraction which cannot cope with tourists, and with management entirely happy to have people leaving with negative feelings about the place (many left before us, having surely seen a lot less!).
In general the museums and art galleries do offer better value- we did not visit them this year but found nothing bad last year about the museums in Hutton, Pickering and even Scarborough.
. This year we visited Duncombe Park, to walk around the truly ancient landscaped "garden", very enjoyable. The refreshments and shop there are also very good.
We discovered "Silver Birch Wine" - excellent. And as the local brewery won National first prize with one of its bottle conditioned beers, we bought a bottle of that too. (Croptons Monkmans Slaughter, named after the man who grows the barley and a regular drinker at the pub!).
Our visit to the enormous "Pickering Traction Engine Rally" added to our collection of fairground organ recordings (there were some 16 or more organs there) and there must have been over 100 steam traction engines. It was especially nice to see the organs were powered by coal fuelled traction engines instead of the usual diesel engine. The local press also covered the four day event, and from a page of nine pictures, there we were- middle of the page, the Shaw family.
Our other big outing was to the Thornton Agricultural Show, which attracted some 8000 visitors. Here the community showed all it could produce, with livestock from the farms and craft items from everyone.
Walking from Thornton we came to a small church where the stonework attracted my attention -surely Saxon? The church was open and also offered a good illustrated guide. The saxon stone was only discovered buried in the grounds when the church was renovated in 1905 and was probably from an earlier wooden Saxon church. The stone church now standing (although renovated and altered since) was from before 1066, having avoided the harrying by being so remote. Saxon stone carving included a spiral, identified in the guide book with Whitby ammonites, but I suspect an older Scandinavian origin as ancient spirals are carved in remote rocks around Sweden.
And we also repaid a visit after 11 years to the pre-Raphaelite Scarborough church of St Martin on the Hill, much decorated by most of the pre Raphaelite artists, including stained glass, carvings and paintings.
The Hologram World exhibit, visited in 1989 and 1999 was no more, a pity as many of their exhibits were excellent and unique holograms, including animations, full colour, and 180 degree.
We did -for the first time- ride on the oldest longest cliff railway (244 feet) in England, to the South of Scarborough Spa complex.
Public transport was excellent, with hourly busses along the North coast, plus other regular services, and Sunday only services to Sandringham and Fellbrig.
We enjoyed trips along the North Norfolk Steam Railway (opened in 1975, and seen in British tv comedies Dad's Army and Hi di Hi.) which runs standard gauge trains between Sheringham and Holt (2.75 miles).
And a return trip between Wells and Little Walsingham on a lovely 10.25 inch gauge line pulled by a powerful articulated steam engine (based on the Beyer-Garratt steam locos), as well as a much shorter journey along the Wells harbour railway of the same guage, but using a diesel engine.
At Little Walsingham we did visit the Anglican Shrine, a place of pilgrimage since the 1920s, after a very long break since the Restoration. The new shrine is not on the site of the old one, the well may be old but has no long history of holiness, and my credibility becomes a little strained when the guide book mentions having several pieces of the True Cross... but an interesting building. I quite enjoyed the Georgian Methodist Church in the same town- but the congregation have forgotten why it was designed as it was, putting the large central pulpit down to Victorian fashion, rather than the Wesleyan Methodist insistance on the centrality of the Word of God.
We also travelled behind a steam loco between Aylsham and Wroxham on the Bure Valley Railway (15 inch gauge), an unusual council run railway.
At Holt we got off the steam train to then travel into a beautiful old coaching inn on a horse drawn bus (The Holt Flyer). Excellent.
The windmills on the coast are none working but we did climb into the fan tail gallery of one in Cley. Later, whilst visiting Wiveton Church we met a lady who lived in the windmill when a little girl.
From Holt we walked into Letheringsett to visit a working water mill, presently producing some 360 tons a year but with potential to grow to four times that. Rescued by a retired sailor, who has rebuilt the ruin from scratch and turned it into a very fine business by lots of hard work. The water mill grinds only local grain, and all of either organic or conservation certification, all grown within 15 miles. They grind not just ordinary corn, but also spelt and we were able to enjoy a fine spelt bread loaf, from grain grown and ground and baked locally. A fine treat.
Norfolk is known for Norfolk Lavender, and we hugely enjoyed eating Lavender Ice Cream (available in Sheringham) and Lavender Bread (available in Cley).
We walked along some sections of the North Norfolk Coast Path - made easier by the frequent busses along the coast. We walked from Weybourne to Sheringham, from Blakeney to Cley, and from Cley to Salthouse (where they sell the local vegetable, samphire, fresh collected from the salt marshes) - the coast is mostly a shingle beach but with fine sand at Holkham Beach, as seen in the film Shakespeare in Love. Perhaps the best beach I have seen, with a gentle slope and fine sand - but absolutely no facilities! At Holkham we (legally) enjoyed a day of bathing without costumes, an enjoyable experience. (NOTE: with Internet perverts blamed, the nudist beach at Holkham was closed in 2013 so keep your costumes on now!)
I cannot comment on Holkham Hall as despite the large Open sign on the main road, we were roughly and abusively turned away from the entry gate.
We had a better reception at the National Trust owned Felbrigg Hall. There remains much work to do there, but the old Chinese wall paper is excellent and the library is a dream for old book lovers. One set of books was a copy of Johnsons Dictionary, presented to the then owner by Johnson himself...
The bus drivers were quite exceptionally helpful, especially a driver for First Blue Coaches. Parking is difficult in Sheringham, and the house we rented had no parking facilities - no road access either - so our travel by public transport was a plus.
We enjoyed a good walk around the National Trust owned Sheringham Park (alas the old hall is still privately owned) - and discovered possibly the best garden ever just inside Beeston Regis (Priory Maze and Gardens), which boasts a large and excellent maze as well as superb gardens. We also inspected the ruins of the old Priory nearby.
Sheringham is blessed with retaining all but its first lifeboat, forming a very unusual collection. The buildings in this area are usually faced with the hard flintstone from the beaches, sometimes knapped (broken open to show the hard polished interior).
We visited a number of churches, most built in the 15th Century on a grand scale, and noted the variation between low church and very very high church, noting at Holt our first Anglican church with holy water at the entry. At Wiveton, now quite high above sea level, and indeed some distance from the water, we saw marks on the church wall where anchor ropes had rubbed back in 1580 when Wiveton was a flourishing port. We walked along the road to nowhere, an old road from the Church which was often under water and replaced by a ferry.
Blakeney Church was exceptionally restored in Victorian times in keeping with its previous splendour with high quality woodwork. Only in the last ten years has a headstrong high churchman desecrated the church by removing front pews, and extending the raised Chancel flooring in order to make more room for a Nave Altar, with new modern wood block flooring and modern wooden chairs, throwing the body of the Church quite off balance.
North Norfolk has a long and very interesting history and we were able to see and enjoy much of it.
We really did enjoy our holiday.
The guests in Manchester included Nana Visitor, Alexander Siddig, Garrett Wang (who had his parents with him), David Allen Brooks, Judson Scott, Robert Gillan and Richard Arnold. Plus a surprise visit from Trek celebrity fan Jim Davidson, and a concert by Tim Russ with the Cosmic Orchestra of Neil Norman. Collected a few autographs.
Archived copy of my Plaza web page from 2003. At the bottom of the page there are links to archived pages from the pre-2002 Plaza web site, which are no longer otherwise available and are most interesting.
My sister June and her husband called briefly in July, having been on a tour of childhood haunts in North Wales and Mickle Trafford. June was especially delighted to be able to enter her old primary and junior school (still standing!) and see her name on the Roll of Honour for passing the entrance exam to Grammer School (secondary school). She also found a photo of herself that the family was not aware of, with her arm in plaster. She also collected a part of the family tree to enable us to get more detail from the Web.
At work the Royal Bank of Scotland took over in March the National Westminster Bank, with much more job uncertainty following. A small number of the people I have been working with moved to a NatWest office, whilst the rest of us should have known our fate by October or so - with the emphasis very much on the or so- all bets cancelled in October- by the end of the year it was anticipated we would be joining our colleagues in the less accessible NatWest office in 2001, but the particular office organisation regarding my own job was still uncertain.
By this time at work I was authorised to bind the bank up to half a million pounds by signing (alone) cheques, drafts, etc, and also sometimes solely authorised much larger payments, often with only moments to consider them. I looked after the admin on a complex loan book of many millions, unsupervised and unchecked - a small error dealing with these amounts could have cost the bank many times more than my tiny salary. Possibly could have lost even an appreciable part of the banks huge profits! In some cases I led the admin on loans scattered across several banks (syndicated loans) and in one case dealt with a complex dollar lending. Weird. There was much customer contact- often with the senior officers of large companies, and it was nice to have reported to me sometimes the odd word of appreciation from the customers.
A word of appreciation for a Commercial Manager I worked alongside, Jim Mosley. Like me Jim was a little overweight, and told by his doctor that he had high blood pressure. He was on medication for this. He often discussed his blood pressure with me, as a fellow sufferer. Unfortunately following some stress placed upon him by the NHS, which he reported to a colleague at the time, to the great shock of the whole office, Jim died of a heart attack.
My own doctor kept harassing me about my blood pressure, did extra kidney and heart tests, no problems, and finally, due to my obvious reluctance to be talked into a lifetime of drugs, made an appointment for me with a specialist. He repeated the heart scan and again found no faults, and also fitted me up with 24 hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring. Then asked why I was taking his time up as my blood pressure was fine. I seem to have a very well known oddity called white coat syndrome- which means that your doctor always gets a remarkably high blood pressure reading, although in normal life it is fine. All doctors should know this and check first before prescribing drugs.
Our personal computer hardware has been upgraded by the purchase of the latest Epson scanners and printers- at last Epson are back in the printer field with a vengeance, and the negative scanner at last enables me to print / save the old 620 family negatives- no-one seems to want to print these nowadays. Plus a CD Writer, and with CDs at 50p each this makes a fast and efficient way of backing things up.
After just two years the Mesh PC power supply was struggling and needed replacing, and despite having paid for a three year guarantee, we went to a local shop to have the work done. We also had installed a modem which we had initially specified to Mesh for and not received. At last we could surf at 44k! Of course due to the apalling build job by Mesh (who continue to receive awards from the magazines!) we did have some initial problems with the modem, as Mesh had swapped Com1 and Com 2 ports around. And the PCI expansion slots were dead... All problems now solved with no help from Mesh.
We have redecorated, refurnished and cleared out our Master bed room at last - we filled countless plastic rubbish bags, and a large builders skip, so it was a job worth doing. We have since tidied out the cellar, and placed there a new automatic washing machine to replace our ageing twin tub. The front bed room and dining room have had little more than a good tidy whilst we save some more funds to upgrade storage. Even George has had a good sort out of his old toys and books.
The year has again been extremely wet which has seriously hindered any outing we could have gone on this year. Just a handful of concerts and meals out really. The time has been used in growing my collection of old videotapes and radio programs.
By the year end George had moved into his new college, one of an intake of 750. This year the government has introduced a new structure for college subjects, leading to many timetable problems for colleges. Early on George was having maybe one lunch break a week, and coming home with his sandwiches uneaten. We seem to have made some tiny improvements on that since then, but George has almost no "social" time at the college. Due to his good GCSE results (all subjects passed at A star, A or B grades) he is one of just 29 pupils sitting five AS level subjects. When you add on the new mandatory Key Skills subject this means his exam work this year is exactly twice the load that mine was at his age.
One of his subjects is Computing, which he hopes to take on to University, so to assist him we bought for him a new PC, which meant we had to buy a computer desk- and before we did that we had new carpet put into the front bedroom, and of course needed some new electric sockets... and after all that we had another major clear out and refurnish of the front bedroom, this time also refurnishing the cellar and cloak room.
The 2000-2001 music season in Manchester was a great disappointment and we could not find even 8 concerts we wanted to go to- from three leading orchestras. Add to that significant problems with public transport to Manchester, with no weekend train services, and the local body responsible for public transport moving the bus terminus even further from the city centre- now a significant walk indeed from the bus stop. 2000 marked the movement of our cultural world to Stockport. Manchester became more and more a city of pubs, clubs and drunks.
It cost more to travel the few miles to Stockport (double the cost of going to Manchester), and night time travel continues to be badly disrupted by yobs and drunks, but it is close enough to walk. Stockport now has a first class historic theatre, a major Wurlitzer organ, a brass band, and two Symphony orchestras. We also discovered at year end a very attractive oriental restaurant with a good line in vegetarian dishes for George.
The old 1930's art deco cinema in the heart of Stockport, the Plaza, which spent rather longer as a bingo hall than a cinema, reopened as a theatre/cinema in 2000. The first film of the millenium was shown in December and we were part of a sell out audience.
Nigel Ogden played the Compton Organ, there was a cinema orchestra, and the film was preceded by a live entertainer, a good impressionist of Al Jolson. (Historically, the "B" movie later replaced the live entertainment. Now we don't have any support!). The film was the excellent 42nd Street, shown on a cinema screen much larger than any the multiplex can offer.
We also enjoyed a concert at The Plaza by the Stockport All Stars Pantonic steel drum band- how could they make mere steel drums sound like violins, guitars, choirs, saxophones.. excellent.
Our final 2000 outing to the Plaza was for the Christmas Pantomine, Cinderalla - the attendance was very poor but the cast gave a good performance.
We are also attending concerts in Stockport on the town hall Wurlitzer (the largest Wurlitzer in Europe), and by Stockport Symphony Orchestra and Gorton Philharmonic Orchestra. Also annual concerts by our local brass band, the Williams Fairey Brass Band.
In 2013 I learned almost by accident that in October 2000, I was awarded an "Eddy Mauk Award" in Ghent, "for remarkeble achievements in the TI-hobby made by European TI-users." in the category "Userservice" "for the support of the British TI-community.". The awards only started in 2000, five awards given, and in 2000 I was the only Brit. And it took me 13 years to find out about it.
Town hall concerts included one by a town centre brass band, a fairly newish one (not that young- they used to be the Post Office Engineering Union Band!), The BT Brass Band, but due to poor publicity we missed a concert by an older local brass band, The Vernon Band, which has its origins in the long departed coal industry of Poynton (the Vernon Family estate).
After many years of the local Council being finely balanced at last one party had a majority- the Liberal Democrats, who have pushed through some quite anti social measures.
Most affecting us was their decision to charge one thousand pounds rental for hire of the town hall ballroom on a Saturday night, with no reductions for charities.
The immediate results were the transfer by the BT Band of their concerts to the Plaza Theatre, and the end of Stockport Town Hall concerts by the Gorton Philharmonic first moved to a Manchester school then on to Romiley Forum. Concerts by Stockport Symphony Orchestra (who have been enjoying free use of the Town Hall) might not have continued.
At last by the end of June 2001 my job relocated to the most expensive office building in Manchester, very posh outside but inside about the worst office I have ever worked in, with no staff rest room and to go to the loo I have to leave the bank premises to use a public loo. Very solid floors with very little carpet - quite hard on the feet. Our little section had dwindled to a mere two staff (out of 6) causing some problems during the holiday season, but lots of proactive work seems to have avoided the worst problems, and new staff now joining me now make up the very best team in the bank (honest).
Year end brought yet more uncertainty as more reorganisation took place, and with a target date of December 31st 2001, by mid November I had no idea what job I would have or with who. Certainly can't get bored...
Very busy for all the family researching Universities as George has to make his applications this year (a short list of six). Visited three and George was duly impressed by all, but especially by Aberystwyth.
Not many offer the subject he wants (Computer Engineering) so the choice is not that large. With his college estimating he will receive five Grade As at A level, all six he has applied to should make him an offer. He is also going to apply to Aberystwyth for a bursary, which he should stand a good chance of receiving.
More entertainments this year included the movie King Kong, with personal appearances by Ray
Harryhausen and Forrest J Ackerman (autographs from each). An appearance by Paul Eldani
(sorry, Daniels) the comedic magician. The film Yanks, partly filmed on location in
Stockport (viewed on 1st September).
1st April 2001 was a couple of silent Chaplin films with music by a live symphony orchestra- Carl Davies conducting the Halle for The Adventurer and City Light. Very good.
July 2001 was a visit to the Plaza for a very entertaining stage production of Return to the Forbidden Planet.
9th December 2001 saw Carlo Curley playing the Stockport Town Hall Wurlitzer.
October 2001 was a visit to the train depot at Newton Heath, which had a few visiting steam locos.
An intended visit to a Manchester Star Trek convention in August didn't happen due to ill health of one of the organisors. The third Trek Con in Manchester to be cancelled in 18 months. A message there somewhere...
My collection of old radio programs continues to grow, I am now placing them onto audio CDs
for longer life. Still collecting anime. And now have a multi region DVD player, which
together with a new multi region TV set allows me to watch those videos that will never be
released in the UK- like the old tv programs from the 60's. We bought the DVD player from
the same supplier NASA went to for a special player for the International Space Station.
Our Sony video recorder is just four years old, and has been repaired under guarantee twice. Our Sony tv set was a write off before the four years were up. My new tv set is a Thomson - I think I will avoid Sony electronics from now onwards, reliability seems to be a problem.
Sufficiently impressed by the Thomson tv set, that when our ancient hi fi system ceased to function as a radio, I bought a small Thomson radio/tape/CD player. Unfortunately the CD player almost immediately began to behave stubbornly (not play). A replacement radio/cd/tape player player from Bush was worse- the tape player didnt, the cd player skipped tracks - but it was a cheap dab radio. Cheap CD players seem problematical.