The Dewrance Connection – update

Almost two years ago I told the story of my connection to father and son engineering ancestors John and Sir John Dewrance, as I understood it at the time, including references to John Dewrance having built George Stephenson’s Rocket. Quite recently I have been assured by a learned reader that this was unlikely and that the Rocket was built by Robert Stephenson. Since my original post was primarily about the family connection, only mentioning the Rocket in passing, and in the interests of accuracy, I have updated it accordingly. I do hope this meets the concerns of anyone more interested in railway historical minutiae than in a family yarn, of interest to anyone sharing the family name.

Updated post

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Thank you General de Gaulle (for my bubble car)

1965 was not a good year for me. As a student reading French I was required, not unreasonably, to spend a year teaching in France. This ought to have been a pleasure, but by and large it turned out not to be. However there was one unexpected consolation prize, thanks to General de Gaulle, then president of the republic.

For some unknown reason, that year he decided to pay an extra month’s wages to all those like me who had been engaged in the mostly futile task of teaching English to French schoolchildren. This inexplicable but welcome gesture enabled me to buy my first car – an Isetta bubble car.

From two wheeled hell to three wheeled heaven! Continue reading

The great nativity pilgrimage

Spot on Caroline!

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I have a theory. The increase in road traffic at this time of year can’t be due to Christmas shoppers as we all shop online nowadays. And it’s too early for the annual dash to the airport for the great Christmas getaway. And as I sat on the A1 the other day in a traffic jam, I had this blinding realisation as to who it was blocking up the lanes – it’s us! Us lot, the over 50s/60s, the grandparents, the proud parents of children who are proud parents of angels, kings, wise men and sheep and what have you. That was it – we were all on the great annual nativity pilgrimage – some driving from one end of the country to another – and mostly, it seemed, on the A1.

Families don’t all live in the same town these days – we know that. So there we all…

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Me and my Palm Beach

In my teens, my liberation from the dull confines of life in NW9 was my bike – a Triumph Palm Beach 3 speed tourer, on which I used to escape to Hertfordfordshire and Buckinghamshire, or to my Auntie Ellen’s place in Kenton and later in Shepperton, or to spend the summer holidays on long distance youth hostelling jaunts.

I think I was fifteen or sixteen when I finally got the bike. For ages I had been lobbying for one, mainly on the reasonable grounds that everyone else had one, but my Dad was adamant, on equally reasonable grounds, that I would not last five minutes on London streets. As a result, when I did get my way, I had missed out on a few years of practice on the road, compared to other kids on the patch. I can’t remember anyone teaching me to ride, so I guess it’s ironic that I successfully taught my own children to ride a bike years later. Continue reading

Brexit and Trump – an apology

I’m not a Facebook fan, but today I read something on my timeline written by an old friend and colleague which alone justifies the existence of social media:

phil_cosker_fb_150An apology (by Phil Cosker)

I have no witty aphorism to offer in the face of Brexit and Trump’s victory in the US presidential election. No pithy pun to make me look good. No alliteration to amuse you. And why not? Because Brexit, and now this latest populist insanity in the USA, are not funny. If Brexit was bad Trump’s victory is terrifying. I may have no jokes but I do have something to say – and it’s an apology.

But before that – I am heartbroken that the majority of the people of the countries that make up the United Kingdom (sic) have decided to leave the European Union. Continue reading

Prefabs are back!

So the UK government has rediscovered prefabs! Well done – better late than never I guess. Anyone who had the privilege of growing up on one of Churchill’s post war prefab estates and has lived long enough to tell the tale could have told our leaders at any time since the sixties that prefabs have the potential to transform our endemic housing problem and even help banish enforced homelessness.

Perhaps the government has been influenced not so much by the  opinions of the diminishing number of people who, like me, experienced prefab life in post-war Britain, but by more recent and newsworthy examples of successful prefabricated housing interventions elsewhere, in response to chronic housing problems and international emergencies such as the 2011 Tsunami. For instance, since the only home to remain standing in one devastated Japanese village was a prefab made in the Philippines, business has apparently been booming:


Continue reading

East Coast Reflections: Gibraltar Point and Gunby Hall

Full marks to the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust for the splendid new visitor centre at Gibraltar Point which opened earlier this summer. The spectacular new £1m building replaces the former centre, which suffered extensive flood damage during the storm surge in December 2013. The trust is taking no chances this time – the building is raised on stilts to protect it from any future flooding.

Spectacular is not too strong an adjective, in my opinion. Continue reading