musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Category: Hobbies and Interests

Remembering the Telegram

While rooting through my stuff in SA I found an envelope related to the passing away of my father in 1981. Apart from the usual cards and leaflets there were a few telegrams of condolence. It got me thinking about how telegrams were used way back in my day,

Telegrams broadly fall under “Telegraphy”,  and while I do not know how they were used in 1981 when these telegrams arrived at our home, I used to work with Telex machines and the idea is roughly the same as the Telex. 

In short, you popped into your local post office, grabbed a form and filled it in. I think you paid by the word, or possibly by letter, either way they were not cheap to send. The operator at the sending station would then type out the message (or use Morse or a telex machine) to send it to the receiving station. The receiving station would then print or write it out on long strips of gummed paper and stick those to a form (as above) and it was dispatched via a special telegram messenger on his bicycle, the recipient signing for the telegram when they received it. 

The telegram messenger on his bicycle usually signified that somebody was going to get bad news as it was common to send telegrams of condolence to a family who had lost a loved one (as per my example above), or congratulations for the birth of a child or a special event.  There were also the sinister telegrams from the military cancelling your leave or calling you up for a camp or a parade. The beauty of the telegram was that it was convenient and quick, and was one way to get your message across before the advent of the fax machine or email and instant messaging. 

During the wars many thousands of families would receive notification of the death of their family members in the forces, and it is possible that this was one reason that everybody seemed to dread the messenger on his bike with a small pouch on the crossbar.  The movie “We Were Soldiers Once” has a poignant scene in it that deals with the delivery of those dreaded telegrams and how they affected a community. If you consider the Pals Battalions from the First World War and how they were wiped out in battle, you can get some idea of what those messages did to a community when casualty notifications were delivered. 

Strangely enough the telegram is not dead, in the UK you can still send a telegram, although it is now handled by TelegramsOnline.

The first telegraph services arrived in South Africa in 1859 and in 1860 the Cape of Good Hope Telegraph Company opened its Cape Town – Simonstown line This was a single-wire earth return telegraph line (circuit run) on wooden poles between Cape Town and Simonstown. In 1922 The multiplex telegraph system (aka “teletype”) opened between Cape Town and Johannesburg. This allowed four telegraphs to work in each direction simultaneously on a single line. (More about the Telegraph system in South Africa at https://mybroadband.co.za/news/telecoms/133136-how-south-africa-went-from-its-first-telegraph-service-in-1859-to-100mbps-fibre-in-2015.html)

The whole concept of the telegram has changed since we can now sms or email somebody in another country almost instantaneously, in fact communication has changed so much that the days of the letter are almost coming to an end, and the fax machine clings on grimly as its market shrinks too. 

The telegram is rapidly heading into the history books, but I am  glad that I was able to see those telegrams from 1981 once again, Those forms with their gummed strips tell the story of people reaching out from far away places, to express their condolences. It was the right thing to do, that was just how people were. Today they would just send an sms instead.

© DRW 2017. Created 23/04/2017.

Updated: 23/04/2017 — 12:03

Curse this war!

Its that time again… Wartime in the Cotswolds with the GWSR (Gloucester Warwickshire Steam Railway). The theme? The Battle of Britain. So grab your gas mask and tin hat and follow me….

Last year I attended a similar event and it was amazing and I was really hoping for the same on this day. The weather has been changeable this whole week, but there was the promise of sunshine for later in the day with no rain in sight. I headed out early in the morning to grab a bus to Cheltenham and another bus to Cheltenham Race Course station. On the way I spotted Captain Mainwaring on his way to the station too!

I just hope that Private Pike isn’t lurking in the bushes somewhere.

Although the Americans had set up camp outside the station and that can only mean silk stockings and chewing gum for the locals. 

ARP had set up their barricades too and were checking tickets and dishing out ID cards. Naturally they were looking out for Fifth Columnists too. 

Unfortunately our train was the class 117 diesel railcar  that I always seem to end up travelling on. http://www.gwsr.com/planning_your_visit/what_to_see_and_do/DMURailcar_1.html She is not my favourite rail vehicle. I would have preferred a steam engine, but this was wartime after all, we have to make do with what we have.

The train was full, and many of the passengers were dressed in period clothing or military uniforms, it never ceases to amaze me how the British tackle something like this with so much enthusiasm, and I would really like to thank them for paying homage to a bygone age with so much enthusiasm.

And then we were off….  Our destination: Gotherington

The view out of the window was Britain in Spring, it was really beautiful, especially the huge fields of Rapeseed.

Gotherington was like a military camp, and I expect will remain like that until tomorrow when the event finishes.

It is a very quirky place and one day I must really bail out and have a look around. 

The next stop on the line is Winchcombe, I had visited the town in May last year and I was considering doing it again today, although it really depended on train timings and my own energy levels.  At Winchcombe the train to Toddington stops and waits for the train from Toddington. It is single line working between stations and a token system is used to ensure that accidents don’t happen.

It too had been taken over by the military who were cleaning their rifles and doing what soldiers have done since the days of yore.

Curse this war! how much longer must it go on?

As an aside, there was even a military dentist in his own private rolling surgery, just ready to declare you dentally fit in 7 days!

And then we heard a whistle in the distance and the oncoming train appeared around the bend.

The loco in charge was 4270, a  “42xx” class tank locomotive. She was running bunker first to Cheltenham Race Course, and would carry on with her journey once we had departed. 

The next stop was Toddington, which is really the current endpoint of the GWSR, although they do run trains to Laverton halt further up the line, and in a few years time there will be another station on the line as they extend the rail network closer to the mainline all the time.   Toddington is also where the loco shed is and the majority of displays were being held. There were a few that I had my eye on too..

As usual there was a mixed bag of cars, military vehicles, squaddies, GI’s, airmen, sailors and all manner of uniform on display, along with the usual bag of stalls selling militaria or hobby-est items. There was even a tank just in case there was an invasion.

I had seen her last year at the Welland Steam and County Fair, and just in case I need a reminder, she is a M18 Hellcat Tank Destroyer.

The jaw dropper however was the reproduction Spitfire that was on display. I am struggling to find a definitive identification of the aircraft, but it appears as if she is based on the aircraft that Johnnie Johnson flew (MKIX EN398). More information on the “Spitfire Experience” may be found on their website. 

And yes, the engine did run while I was there and it was awesome. Unfortunately it did not run at full power, but it was really something to experience.

Meanwhile, back at ground level, I strolled down to the workshops to see whether there was anything there that interested me. Fortunately it was not a wasted trip because there were a number of diesels in the yard.

GWSR has a number of heritage diesels and they are quite handsome beasties, although against a steam engine they are reasonably insignificant.

Class 47376 (D1895), a Brush Type 4.

Class 37 no: 37215

Class 26043 (D5343)

Class 45/1 45149 (D135)

At the Toddington Narrow Gauge Railway they too had a train at work, although I did not go for a ride this time around. They were using “Tourska” , a 1957 Chrzanow build with works number 3512.

There was still quite a lot to see so I did the rounds once again, hoping to find a few warships for my collection, but there were lots of distractions.

It was really time to head towards Winchcombe, the train at the platform was headed by the 1950 built 7820 Dinmore Manor, a Manor class light mixed traffic locomotive.

We were supposed to leave at 11.30, but somewhere along the line the timings of the trains went haywire and we sat for an additional 20 minutes. I know there is a war on but….  

Winchcombe was crowded, and our altered timing meant that we had to wait for the train from Cheltenham Spa to arrive before we could leave. 

Fortunately ENSA was at hand to provide some wartime melodies, but I think seeing Laurel and Hardy really made my day.

And then I got suspicious because I spotted Oliver Hardy on the cellphone!  It was another fine mess he got Stanley into.

I had decided to not continue into Winchcombe because the messed up times just didn’t fit in with my plans. Remember, Cheltenham Race Course is not the end of the line for me. I had to get back into Cheltenham, catch a bus to Tewkesbury and then hoof it to where I lived. It was a long stretch ahead of me and I was tired.

Then the air raid siren went off……

and once again I could not help think of what it was like living in wartime Britain. The ever present threat of aerial bombing, rationing of food, the long lists of casualties, propaganda, soldiers, aircraft overhead, overzealous ARP members, children being evacuated, family that never returned home. This was the reality between 1939 and 1945, this small experience that I had was nothing like the real thing, and I am fortunate that I did not experience it. When I see the people dressed in their period uniforms and glad rags I cannot help but think that these were the sort of people that took it on the chin and gave it back 100 times more. I suspect the British enjoy these re-enactment events because they are reminded of what their parents and families went through in those dark hours of war. It is their way of saying: “We have not forgotten, and never will.”

And as the Home Guard peddled along the platform on his way to the NAFI, I felt a tinge of pride because I understood what Churchill meant when he said….

“Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”

And then the train departed for Cheltenham Race Course with me on it.

The War was over, the Battle of Britain won. 

The event was great, although last years was definitely better, there was much more to see and experience than there was this time around. The delayed trains were an irritation because you do not want to be stuck in a place like Winchcombe of Toddington with no way of getting home. And of course my own stamina is not as good as it used to be. I tire very easily nowadays and that’s not a good thing at all. Still, sign me up for next year if I am still around. Now where did I leave my tin hat?  

© DRW 2017. Created 22/04/2017

Updated: 27/04/2017 — 18:07

Watches and things

In 2012 I posted about having fun with my overpriced watch after travelling though various time zones. However, in my Looking Back post on allatsea I added in a section dealing with clocks and watches. It is quite an interesting retrospect and worthy of being duplicated in here too.

Way back then wrist watches had “winders” (I believe they call them “crowns” in the trade), every day you wound your watch, or, if you had an “automatic” it wound itself as your arm moved. The beauty of those manually wound watches is that they actually ticked!

My first watch was a hand-me-down and I got it at quite a young age and proudly wore it even though I did not know how to tell time. However, the movement in that watch would occasionally come loose inside the case and would then have to be sent back to a jewelers to be reset.

You were loathe to take any watch to a jewelers for repair because rumour had it that they would “steal the jewels” inside (referring to the “jeweled bearings” (many watches were advertised as having “17 jewels”). My parents eventually bought me a replacement when I was in high school and the watch on the left is that self same watch. Made by Lanco it went to the army with me and was a windup watch. I finally disposed of it in 2017. It probably still worked. 

Casio Wrist Calculator

My father, being an early riser, used to have a manually wound alarm clock (I seem to think it was a “Zobo” or “Westclox”) and every night before he went to sleep you would hear the familiar “croink croink croink” as he wound it up. You barely heard it go off though because he would instinctively wake up before the alarm went off.  

Travelling alarm clock

Then the LED watch came out (as opposed to the LCD watch) and everybody wanted one, even though they were kind of lousy when it came to battery life. My brother had an LED watch but I never bought a pure digital faced watch and even today I still have a watch with “hands” even though it has an electronic movement. My personal preference in watches includes a day and date function as well as an easily adjustable strap because I have thin wrists. I woke to the sound of a battery operated alarm clock for many years but nowadays I do not even need an alarm clock as I wake up at least an hour before I have to get ready for work. I DO NOT subscribe to the habit of using a cell phone to tell time with.  

And, amongst my stuff I still have a manually wound el-cheapo pocket watch and I am kind of proud of the cheapness of it (Only R5.00). When this thing ticks you can hear it and it’s cheapness really makes it one of those strange collectables from an era gone by. 

Whether we like it or not, the wristwatch is really here to stay, although nowadays it is laden with all manner of features that really have no place to be on a wristwatch. And of course the mania for really really overpriced tickers escapes me completely. I know a certain political figure in South Africa that has been criticised for wearing a watch that costs more than a car, and the irony is that he still does not understand the concept of being on time for a meeting. But, that’s a story for another day.  

© DRW 2012-2017. Created 01/04/2017

Updated: 15/04/2017 — 11:55

Return to the UK

On the 6th of April I packed my gear and prepared to go home from South Africa. I still struggle with the idea that South Africa is no longer home, and that I really was doing things the other way around. I was flying Virgin Atlantic again, and would use the Gautrain to get to the airport.

The weather had been typical summery weather (even though it was Autumn), but rain was forecast for the later that week, although by the 6th the rains came.  

Driving in Johannesburg is a challenge, the roads are crowded, potholes are large, idiots abound and law enforcement is usually absent. The highways are really a free-for-all and at times a giant parking lot. After having lunch it was time to go and my friends took me to Marlboro Gautrain station where I caught the airport link to Oliver Tambo International Airport. It started raining just as we left and fortunately we were heading east as opposed to west where the traffic was bumper to bumper. I did attempt photography from the front seat but the combination of rain, vibration and everything else rendered the images useless.

Once at the airport things got really slow as we queued to go through immigration. So much so that by the time I got through it the gates for boarding were open and I was not able to take any images in and around the international departures. The one thing I do recall was the exorbitant price for half a litre of  water (R35), at one vendor and R10 at the duty free.

The flight was scheduled for over 10 hours and we took off at 8.30ish and it wasn’t too awful and there were just over 250 people on board. It always amazes me how some people consider 5 items of luggage as being perfect for carry on luggage.  Service was much better on this return flight than it had been on the departure flight and I didn’t watch too much though. A rewatch of Rogue One was in order and I also took in Hacksaw Ridge and Arrival. Those two were really good watches and I recommend them both. 

I had an aisle seat in the centre aisle and for once I actually remembered to show what food was available on the aircraft and the menu is to the left of the text. I had the Bobotie and the eggs for brekkies and they were not great. 

I managed quite well during the flight and my bladder did not make a nuisance of itself for once, and I did not sleep at all as we headed North with the longest stretch over Africa.

We landed around about 6.30am and after a long queue at immigration I had my baggage and was on my way to the Heathrow Express station to catch my ride to Paddington. I had used the Heathrow Express to get to Heathrow initially, but wanted to use the Heathrow Connect for this trip so that I knew it for the future. The Express does not cut too much time off the trip to Paddington, but is more than double the price of the Connect option. The first time I landed in the UK I had used the Tube to get me to my destination, although that made more sense considering I was heading to South London whereas now I had to get to Paddington Station.

The train is comfortable and got quite crowded as we got closer to Paddington and it appears as if it is used by a number of locals to commute with. The cost for a ticket is £10.30 (or thereabouts)

At Paddington I finally stopped and grabbed a breather. I had almost 3 hours to kill before my next train to Cheltenham Spa was due. It was too short a time to go into London but very long if you have time to spare. If I had not had luggage with me I would have spent the time in reckless abandon in London on what was a really nice Spring day. I had deliberately planned the train time to be able to deal with any eventualities or delays along the way.

Paddington Station is an interesting space, especially when it comes to the roof. And, while there is not a large variety of trains in it you do get unique images if you look for them.

I am quite proud of seeing 4 HST’s under one roof on the same day!

The new shopping area is also open and I found that they had installed a Paddington themed shop in it too. 

I also found a neat Paddington shaped collection box in the shop and was able to donate some of the heavy change that I was accumulating along the way.

Paddington Station can be very full at times, and there is a constant hussle and bustle as trains arrive or depart. My 11.36 train appeared on the board at roughly 11H10, and was listed as “preparing”. 

They put up the platform number roughly 10 minutes before scheduled departure and then there was a mad rush as we all headed to the platform for our train. 

I arrived in Cheltenham Spa close to 13H30 and managed to grab the bus to Clarence Street Bus Station and then a bus to Tewkesbury where I found that there was no real way to get home with my luggage unless I hung around to 15H45 for a taxi or 15H17 for the local bus that goes through the area where I live. It was too far to hoof it with luggage though so once again I waited. 

It was all done and dusted. I had used 8 trains, 2 aircraft and 3 buses on this trip, I had covered a lot of kilometres, and discovered that even though I had last driven 3 years ago, still knew how to drive. Unfortunately my trip was not about pleasure and more about reality, it was not a holiday either, although I did get to renew acquaintances with friends I had last seen in 2014. 

South Africa has changed and is constantly changing as people get more cheesed off with the powers that be. At some point something is going to have to be done. The events of 7 April show that more and more people are getting very unhappy with the status quo. Whatever happens I just hope that it does not involve violence. 

And, to make matters worse it is back to work on Monday.

Random Images.

© DRW 2017. Created 08/04/2017

Updated: 19/04/2017 — 19:35

James Hall Museum Of Transport

One of the better museums in Johannesburg is the James Hall  Museum of Transport in La Rochelle in Southern Johannesburg. It is the sort of place that is always worth visiting even if you have been there many times before. The museum was founded in 1964 by the late James “Jimmie” Hall and in conjunction with the Johannesburg City Council. The oldest motorcar on display is a 1900 Clement Panhard, but there are other items that are much older.

I have spent many hours there, meandering through the exhibits and I really enjoy seeing so many vehicles from my past. However, it is very difficult to present a balanced view of the museum because it has so many exhibits, and they are really a feast for the eyes. The museum consists of a number of exhibition spaces. Entry is at the doorway on the image above. This part of the museum does not really interest me because it is really about the days when the petrol engine was but a dream.

From this hall you move into the open courtyard area where many of the vehicles are stored or displayed. This is also where the majority of the traction engines are housed behind a fence. Many exhibits move around within the museum so some of my images show the exhibit where it was at the time and it may no longer be in that position at the time of writing or reading.

This is supposedly the largest collection of traction engine and steam powered vehicles in the country. However, I do not know how many of them can actually run. Many of the exhibits are related to transport in Johannesburg, so you will find the Christmas Bus, travelling Library and a number of ex-council vehicles in this space 

This is also where you can find the toilets and a small refreshment concession. The entrance to the next hall can be found in this courtyard and it leads into the hall where the majority of the exhibits are fire engines. 

This space leads into the blue tinted hall that houses the classic cars and motor cycles from many eras. It is a fascinating space and I remember many of those vehicles from my own childhood.

The door to the outside shed is to the right in this hall, and to the bus hall in the corner on the left of this image. The outside shed is where the agricultural machinery and steam engines are stored. I photographed the steam engines many years ago and their history may be found at old Steam Locomotives in South Africa (4 pages)

You get to the last exhibition space through the motor vehicle space and this hall is used to exhibit buses from various places in three lines. It also has the last tram that ran in Johannesburg. Unfortunately, the nature of the hall precludes effective photography because it is a very narrow space.

The exit to the museum is through this hall (image below)

 

That is the museum in a nutshell.  Do not take my word for it though, it is an awesome museum and well worth a visit. The museum does not charge for entry but a donation is always helpful, and always check the opening times so that you are not disappointed.

Many years ago the Transvaal Branch of the World Ship Society was given an area to exhibit nauticalia in when they held an open day. There are almost no aircraft or ship related exhibits. All the images in this post were taken at the museum over 4 different visits. 

© DRW 2017. 03/04/2017

Updated: 11/04/2017 — 06:56

Return to West Park

My very first war grave photography for the South African War Graves Project happened in 2005 according to the file information that I got from the images that I took. 

It is hard to believe that so many years later I would be standing in front of the CWGC Plot in West Park Cemetery ready to do it all again. 

I was never really happy with my original images, my camera back then was not the world greatest, and to be frank I messed the first row up badly and ended up redoing it at least twice. I now have over 10000 war graves to my name and am probably much better at taking war grave images now.

The layout of the plot has not changed and my map from back then is still relevant today.

The major difference was that I was going to photograph the whole plot in a morning instead of over a few days. 

L/Cpl Lucas is grave number one in the plot.

And once the first image is taken it is really a continuous process that is only interrupted when a shrub gets in your way.

The plot is looking very beautiful, the grass is cut and the beds are planted and tended, and that is very different from when I was first here in 2005. Back then the grass was dry as it was winter, whereas it is now April and heading into Autumn in South Africa. Make no mistake, it was a hot day! In fact the weather on this day was very similar to that predicted for the rest of the week, although by Friday I will hopefully be back in the UK.

There is something about the symmetry of this plot that I find fascinating,  

There is also a cremation memorial behind the Cross of Sacrifice and it commemorates those who were cremated.

And behind the plot is a small SADF/SANDF plot where a number of soldiers are buried. You can see the memorial to the right of the big tree. There are quite a few Border War casualties that are buried elsewhere in the cemetery, and I spent many hours over the years looking for them. 

You can see the original graves as well as the newer additions to the plot of graves of members of the SANDF. Once the graves were photographed I moved across to the Police Plot which is a bit deeper into the cemetery. Sadly there have been a few new additions to the plot, and that is never a good thing, especially when a the policeman is killed in the line of duty.

However, before I photographed the war graves, I had stopped at the “Heroes Acre” area of the cemetery to see if there had been any changes, and of course I was curious to see the grave of Ahmed Kathrada and Joe Mafela. They had been buried 3 days prior to this so the odds of a headstone were small.

Admittedly, many of the names on those headstones are not known to me, but some are, and a number of them touch a chord. None more so than Nkosi Johnson. At the time of his death, he was the longest-surviving HIV-positive born child, and the furor that was created when he tried to attend school really opened many eyes in South Africa.

Right opposite that area is the Westdene Bus Disaster Memorial and graves. In 2012 I had photographed them all and was saddened to see how they had been vandalised. It was the anniversary on 27 March and yet there is still a very raw wound around the disaster. I was able to get new images and shall process them and pass them onwards to eggsa for updating. 

The last bit of graving that I did in West Park was to re-photograph some of the graves in the EC section (English Church). It was really a case of having better quality images because my early images were not as good as they are today. Does a new camera make a difference? certainly, and of course the right lighting does help too. Unfortunately I now struggle with getting down to take the image, actually, I struggle to stand up. 

It was time to go home and I bid the cemetery goodbye and drove out the gate. I have 800 images to process, and they will show the difference between 2005 and 2017, assuming that there is one. Will I return one day? if I am in the country and I have transportation I probably will. It is important to monitor the condition of the graves, although CWGC does tend the graves under their care, and City Parks does look after this large space. And while the cemetery does have its moments it is not a great one like Braamfontein and Brixton where the weight of ages is heavy. In the almost 3 years I have been away quite a few open spaces have been filled, and technically the map that I drew many years ago has changed quite a lot since I started it. 

Maybe one day I shall complete it, but not today. 

© DRW 2017. Created 02/04/2017

Updated: 06/04/2017 — 06:21

Where I am now

It is 29 March and I am midway through my trip to South Africa. It has not been a very busy time but I have had to do certain things that needed sorting.

My mother was doing very badly when I first saw her, her situation is complicated, and there is no hard and fast solution, At this moment the best we can do is try to find some way to ensure that she is safe and cared for as best we can. After typing this I will be heading out to visit her. The traffic in Johannesburg is still a mess; that never changes! and as a result I have to wait until rush hour ends before venturing forth.

The roads were very quiet on the morning I landed because it was a public holiday, on a normal day this area is like a madhouse with the rules of the road being ignored by all and sundry. The tallest building in this image is the Carlton Centre and at the top of that building is the viewing deck where I took pics in 2011

The image above is taken from the top of the Carlton looking East in the direction where the first image was taken from.

I stayed with my brother for a day before heading to the West Rand where my friends stay and my storage unit is. I will stay on the West Rand until I fly home on the 6th.

The West Rand is not as bad as it is made out to be, and parts of it are very pretty. I used to live on the border of the Kloofendal Nature Reserve where the Confidence Reef is situated. It is a very unspoilt bit of land and my one friend has a wonderful view of the area from her flat.

There are a number of small mammals in the reserve, although all we could see on that afternoon were “Dassies” (Rock Hyrax).

There are also a lot of Guinea Fowl, and we often used to find them foraging in the parking lot of the building.

I did have a few places that I wanted to see once again, and I was keen to take a look at the Reid Tenwheeler that had been plinthed at the Rand Society of Model Engineers in Florida.

Of course I also got to see my favourite cat… Unfortunately he thinks he is a catfish that is trapped inside a cat’s body and that leaves him very tired and prone to wearing odd things on his head.

I was also re-acquainted with Niknaks. There are Niknaks in the UK but they do not come close to the ones that are sold in SA.

Talking of prices: Petrol is R13.31 a litre for 93 Octane. From 1 April it will decrease by 22 cents, however there is a 30 cent increase in the fuel levy and a 9 cent increase in the Road Accident Fund levy. 

The political situation in South Africa is of concern as the corrupt battle it out with the non corrupt and there were some interesting developments during this past week. Two famous South Africans passed away so far: Ahmed Kathrada,  a politician and former political prisoner and anti-apartheid activist.  As well as Joe Mafela, a popular TV star and entertainer. Both are being buried from West Park Cemetery this morning (Wednesday). Unfortunately my plans for the day involved a visit to West Park, and those plans have now been changed.

I am also going to try get to as many memorials as I can to see what condition they are in. The Ferreira Deep Memorial is a bit of an awkward one to photograph and I only managed a quick pic while we waited for the robot to change.

I also went to take a look at the war memorial in Rotunda Park in Turffontein. The long missing name plaque was replaced in March 2015 and this was the first time I had seen it after it was restored.

I spent two days sorting through my storage unit and disposing of more of my “stuff” but there is still a lot there and I am moving it to my brother’s house so that the money saved there can contribute to some sort of help for my mother.   

That pretty much sums up where I am now. 

29/03/2017. 15H35. I am at home. It has been a hot day, possibly one of the hottest I have experienced in quite some time. I have had quite an interesting morning, and here are some pics.

After visiting mum I headed to Turffontein Race Course where I wanted to photograph the Hennenman Air Crash Memorial. I had heard about it following photographs by Clinton Hattingh of a memorial in Alberton. The security at the race course were not sure where the memorial was, but they went out of their way to assist me in my quest. The Memorial is situated close to the offices of the race course, but inside a secure area. 

Once I finished with the race course I headed to the James Hall Museum of Transport in Rosettenville Road.

Last year when I did my blogpost about Bubble Cars and Micro Cars  I had two vehicles that I could not identify and I was hoping to rectify that today. However, between when my original pics were taken so long ago, and today the 2 vehicles have been removed and there is now a small exhibition on small cars that features a Messerschmitt, a BMW Isetta, The Enfield Electric Car as well as an Optimal Energy Joule.

At a later date I will do a blog post about the museum because it really deserves a post all on its own. The museum is in a beautiful condition and it is well worth making the trip to see it.

While I was in the area I stopped briefly at Wemmer Pan.  Sadly Pioneer Park is somewhat of a mess, it really seems to serve no real purpose anymore. Surprisingly enough the swimming pool is still open, but I was unable to get into the building.

The station and roof where the Johannesburg Live Steamers club used to operate from are still there, but the trains no longer circle the raised tracks. The tracks have been lifted and club has relocated Rietvlei Zoo Farm.  

Leaving Wemmer Pan I climbed onto the M1 and headed off to Newtown to photograph two items that I had seen at Museum Africa in 2012. I had first been in Newtown in 2011 and revisited it in 2012, and at the time there was a lot of talk about redeveloping the “Potato Sheds” and erection of an office block/mall etc. That has now happened and frankly I think the end result was disappointing.  

I was glad to see that the old railway footbridge still survives, but it was barricaded closed.

Museum Africa borders on Mary Fitzgerald Square and it was a let down, the one exhibit I was after was closed and the other did not have the items I was looking for.  But, that’s how things go when you have after thoughts.  Sadly the museum is not a tourism hotspot and it was very quiet when I was there.

It was time to start heading home, and there are a number of possible routes to the West Rand. The one I chose would take me past Brixton Cemetery and I decided to pop in for a visit.

The cemetery is looking beautiful with its masses of green trees and beautiful light. It is a very pretty place, but I did not feel very secure there as vast sections of the fence have been stolen. Just before I left for the UK a lot of gravestones in the Jewish section had been vandalised and since then it has been fenced off. More images are available at my Photo Essay about Brixton Cemetery

I have spent many hours in this cemetery and it is like visiting and old friend. It is just such a pity that I did not really feel very safe, certainly not as safe as I feel in some of the cemeteries in the UK.

And that was my day. West  Park has been shelved for another day, and on Friday I am going to relocate my stuff from the storage unit so the blog may be slightly quiet for awhile. Once I have returned home I will expand this page and create subposts about some of the things I have seen. But, that is another story for another time

© DRW 2017. Created 29/03/2017

Updated: 11/04/2017 — 07:12

The Science Museum

The Science Museum in South Kensington is probably one of the most innovative and interesting museums that I have ever visited. It is the sort of place that has something for everybody, and it is probably one of the best places to take children to when they need to explore.  I have visited it twice (2016 and 2017) and would visit it again if ever I get the chance. It is that sort of place! 

The Science Museum

The Science Museum

To cover everything in this blogpost would be impossible, there is just so much to see. Founded in 1857 from the collection of the Royal Society of Arts and surplus items from the Great Exhibition as well as a collection of machinery that originated from contents of the Patent Office Museum. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science_Museum,_London). There are over 300000 objects in the collection, many of which are very rare and of historical importance.

Over 450 000 children visit the museum every year, which ranks it very highly in museum popularity. 

My first visit in 2016 was a short one, I literally ran out of time and I had really wanted to return at some point but my finances precluded a day trip just to see the museum, unless I was in London for another reason.  

I had heard great things about this museum too. and they are all true; it is an amazing place, although I did find the Munchkins crowded me out. However, they were having a blast and I hope that someday they will become great scientists instead of bankers and accountants or “something in the city.” 

Again there was just too much to see and I did not see a third of it. But, there were a lot of exhibits that tied into my interests. (I will be adding many more images to this gallery below at a later date)

 science1314  
   

Now who says Science is not fun? Oh, and by the way, the basement has a really interesting exhibition in it called “The Secret Life of the Home”, and it was amazing.

My 2017 trip was really to see the flight gallery. I had missed it in 2016, and from what I had read it held a number of interesting aviation artefacts.

   
   
   

Unfortunately the flight exhibition is in a very dark environment so pics were almost impossible to get, I was disappointed in that, but it just means a revisit is required.

From there I explored another area that I had missed, and it was really about communications and computing. 

At some point I will caption the images above, I do not have all of my Science Museum information with me so it will happen when I return to the UK. In the meantime I shall leave you with this image.

© DRW 2016-2017 Created 24/03/2017

Updated: 06/04/2017 — 06:21

Going home

Early on Monday I started my long journey to South Africa. It entailed 4 train rides and an 11 hour flight. I am doing a direct flight this time around so won’t have that long layover in Dubai to deal with and two flights. Frankly I do not mind flying Emirates but really dislike that airport and I am struggling with my lower back and hip pain.

It is worth noting that my destination is no longer what I consider “Home“. 

Why am I doing this? My mother is 87 and doing poorly. My original intention was to head down there next year, but I am sufficiently concerned to change my plans. I do not know what the outcome of this trip will be. Actually, if things do not go well in the future I will be flying back anyway. 

The chances are I won’t be posting many updates until I get back in April, so till then keep the powder dry, and boil the kettle!

And don’t forget to put the cat out, although I did not know he was on fire.

Getting underway…. 

I left Tewkesbury early on Monday 20th from Ashchurch for Tewkesbury Station. It was a cold and gloomy day and from there I traveled to Cheltenham Spa and boarded the GWR train to London Paddington Station.  I had last been at Paddington in June 2016, so was more confident of what I could do or not do from the station. 

Our loco; 43187, was one of the recently repainted GWR operated vehicles, and she was  branded as “The Welshman”. My plan was to leave my luggage at Paddington and grab the tube to South Kensington and then go visit the Science Museum as well as photograph the interior of the Natural History Museum. I had allowed roughly 3 hours to do this before I had to get back to catch the train to Heathrow,

However, before I did anything I went to the War Memorial on the station that has really taken on a deeper meaning since I read the book (Letter to an Unknown Soldier) that is based on this famous statue.  

I then caught the Circle Line at Paddington, heading west towards South Kensington Station.

There is a subway that runs under the streets from the tube station to the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum, and that saved me a long walk through Kensington Gardens in what could have changed to wet weather.

Emerging from the subway I was at the Natural History Museum.  I had seen the building in 2016, but had not really taken much notice because I am not really interested in a museum like that, however, the building is magnificent and unfortunately the entrance where I emerged was closed, and at that point alarm bells started to ring in my head.

The museum was boarded off and my heart sank when I realised I was not going to be seeing the interior of the building. I had seen it briefly in the Paddington Movie and that is what really spurred my interest in seeing the interior. Unfortunately, this part of the museum was closed and I had to make do with a few long shots and not much else.

Around the block I schleped… thoroughly browned off at this happening, a similar thing had happened when I first arrived in London in 2013 and went to visit the Imperial War Museum.

My walk around the block did reveal one interesting object worthy of photographing:

Known as the “Queen’s Tower” it is all that remains of the Imperial Institute, which was built to mark Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887. The unveiling stone was laid by Queen Victoria on 4 July 1881,  The Imperial Institute building was demolished between 1957 and 1967 and between 1967 and 1968 work was carried out to enable the tower to stand on its own and the lower portion of the tower was substantially rebuilt. (https://www.imperial.ac.uk/about/history/queens-tower/)

The London Science Museum

The London Science Museum

My first Science Museum visit in June 2016 was by necessity a short one. I had missed the entire flight exhibition and I really wanted to explore it further.

The London Science Museum

I have created a post dealing with the Science Museum visit but I will expand it when I return home in April, This post is really a quickie to establish some sort of continuity, and as such we will jump forward to Paddington Station where I boarded the Heathrow Express  and headed off to the airport to board my onward flight to South Africa with Virgin Atlantic.

It cost me £22 for the one way trip, while the trip from OR Tambo airport to Marlboro Station in Johannesburg on the Gautrain set me back R150. It is an interesting comparison. (£1 = ±R15)

Check in was easy although I kept on dropping everything, and after a shortish wait I was on board the Boeing 787, with a row to myself. This particular aircraft is called “Birthday Girl” and it would be the first time I have flown in a “Dreamliner”. 

As far as flights go it was not too bad, the food was ok, the onboard video service was reasonably good, although I only watched 3 movies. What I did find poor was that that they did not come around with beverages often and luckily I had a small water bottle with me. Service wise Emirates wins hands down, but I was not as sore and tired after this flight as I would have been had I done the stopover in Dubai.  The interior of the aircraft changes colour which explains the pinks and purples, and the windows do not have blinds, instead they have a button that either lightens or darkens the window when needed. I was however concerned that there were not as many toilet facilities as on the other aircraft I have flown on. 

Because I had a row to myself I was able to indulge in some photography too as we headed south.

And then we were on final approach to OR Tambo, and I saw Johannesburg in the distance. I had last been here just under 3 years ago, and considering how much I had read about the economic and political situation in the country I was not too sure what I would find.

Approaching ORT, with Johannesburg in the distance (1500×964)

Because it was “Human Rights Day” the airport was relatively quiet, and by 8.30 I was on my way to Marlboro where I was collected by my brother.

24/03/2017

My mother is doing very badly and drastic action has to be taken and tough decisions made and I do not any quick and ready answers. To be frank I was shocked, and at times I still cannot believe it. However, we can only do our best with what resources we have and then take it from there.

© DRW 2017. Created 21-24/03/2017.

Updated: 11/04/2017 — 12:39

Return to Worcester

On 13 March I returned to Worcester as I had some free time. It was a spur of the moment thing though because the weather was wonderful and Spring is in the air. Unfortunately the trains were not. Somewhere something had broken and Ashchurch had one at the platform and one in the distance and none of ours in sight.

The train was delayed by 20 minutes and in an effort to make up the schedule was only going to Worcester Shrub Hill Station.  It is also a larger station than Foregate, but seems to take very little traffic compared to Foregate. Last time I was in Worcester I spotted the semaphores again and the set at Shrub Hill is much larger than the one I had seen previously

Here you can see the split in the rails (Shrub Hill sits on the vertical leg of the T junction, with Foregate on the line to the left and Birmingham to the right). I asked a conductor about them and he said that they are still in use and they do not know when they will be replaced. There is signal box located at the south end of platform 1, and two signal boxes at Henwick (west of Foregate Street), and Tunnel Junction to the north of Shrub Hill. 

Bailing out at Shrub Hill messed with my plans because I had planned to head off to St John’s Cemetery in Henwick, and then return via the cathedral. Now it made sense to go to the cathedral first, take my pics and then go to the cemetery. I could see the cathedral from the station so really just had to head in the general direction. 

Actually I am glad things did work out like that because I saw more of Worcester as I wobbled along. 

Presumably this was the local Great Western Hotel associated with the station. The station building is quite impressive and was designed by Edward Wilson and built in 1865. It is a Georgian-style building mainly of engineering brick with stone facings, but situated where it is you cannot get a decent image of it from the parking area beneath it.  

To the right of the hotel was what seems to be an “Industrial Park”, what it was before I do not know, but it is large and very impressive. 

It is really a large warehouse type structure, and at the far end is one of those wonderful clock towers that seem to pop up in the strangest places.

Then I crossed over what I suspect is the Worcester and Birmingham Canal that eventually comes out at a set of locks into the Severn River. If you follow the Severn there is a good chance you may end up in Tewkesbury.

Just look at that sky! I had not brought my parka with today and eventually had to remove my hoodie because I was getting decidedly overheated. 

I then threaded my way through the maze of streets towards my end destination.

Finally ending up at the Guildhall. 

And if you know where to look you will spot Cromwell above the door, with his ears nailed to the wall (theoretically).

While Edward Elgar looked towards the traffic and probably lamented the lack of Pomp and Circumstance.

At this point I went to the cathedral to photograph the “Woodbine Willie” plaque and window, and those will be covered in my “Connections: Woodbine Willie” post. Suffice to say I did take some new cathedral images and you can view my original Cathedral post on its own page.

After finishing the cathedral I then headed to the right of the image above into what is known as Deansway Street, passing the Ducal Palace 

Until I detoured to the remains of the Medieval Church of St Andrews. 

The structure is also known as “Glover’s Needle”. The plaque inside gives more information, unfortunately it is affixed to the far wall of the spire and not readable from the locked gate. Thank goodness for optical zoom. Click on the image to read the plaque. 

It is a very pretty spot and it overlooks the river close to the bridge. It must have been a fine looking church and today is a very easily recognisable landmark in the city. 

This is the road bridge over the Severn, while the railway bridge and viaduct is in the image below.

Once across the bridge I entered into Cripplegate Park.

And then through the park and onwards to my destination: St John’s Cemetery in Henwick. 

As far as cemeteries go, this one is reasonably uninteresting, there are 33 CWGC graves in the cemetery and I would photograph those that I saw, my final tally being 29. My real aim was to photograph this grave.

Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy, also known as “Woodbine Willie” would gain fame through his work on the Western Front during the First World War, and his devotion to the poor. He was an orator and a poet who drew crowds to hear him speak. He was also the vicar of St. Paul’s in Worcester (next on my bucket list).

This grave really closes a chapter for me, one that started in London in 2016, and which led me here in 2017. Read about the strange chain of events at “Connections: Woodbine Willie”

Then it was time to head back. I had 2 choices. I could increase speed and make the 13H03 train, or dawdle and make the 15H06 train. Given how wonky the trains were the former seemed like a better idea and I rang down for full ahead. 

Back along the path I had come, passing over the railway line with it’s signal cabin that was mentioned above,

Past St John’s Church,

Through Cripplegate Park with its really nice ornate non functional fountain,

Over the bridge, pausing to take a photograph,

Up Broad Street and past All Saint’s Worcester,

along Foregate Street, pausing to take an image of Lloyd’s Bank and the former church alongside. Now called “Slug and Lettuce”  it was the former St Nicholas Church that dated from the 18th Century. It is a Grade II listed building but is no longer an active church.

I snuck a peek inside and it was stunning. 

Leaving slugs and their lettuce I finally arrived at  the station with 6 minutes to spare.

That was not my train though, mine was the next one. And, while it left on time it tarried before Shrub Hill and did not rush to Ashchurch either. 

Worcester was in the bag, although there are enough reasons to return one day, It wont be anytime soon though because I have an even bigger trip ahead of me, but that is another story for another day. 

© DRW 2017. Created 13/03/2017. 

Updated: 06/04/2017 — 06:21
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