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Churches of Porto, Portugal
Spectacular Death, Golden Temples and the glamour of Faith.
East Europeans have always been able to do Gothic. Thanks to the below:
Our Best American Customer
Had to post this as it is so American. Ricky and family enjoying a quiet moment at the inauguration of President Obama.
Works related injury
Over the years I’ve been pretty lucky with injuries at work. A few hundred splinters, a couple of pulled back muscles and some stitches when a pew fell on my head (don’t ask) back in 1991. On this recent job in Surrey my luck came to an end; although, hey, it wasn’t that bad. There was this long abandoned pub which might once have been a church. Or simply had been made to look like a church. That was our tenuous connection with the job which was simply to take out as much stuff as possible within one day before the demo people trashed it. Frankly the place was a damp, stinking pit but potentially profitable with 30 plus tables, dozens of chairs and a couple of van loads of random furniture. Everything was fine till we ran out of light and my greed meant that I simply couldn’t leave this last section of panelling behind. By fading torchlight we jemmied, tore and ripped this stuff off the walls until there was one piece left behind a counter top, Standing on top of this counter I prised and hauled until this lump came off. Calling out something like ‘That’s it, we’re going home now!’ I jumped off the counter straight onto the nail shown above which was on the floor.
There are some kinds of pain which I would describe as ‘Mummy’ pain. Pain where, for a few moments at least, one regresses back to an infant state and you just want a big hug from mother. This was that sort of pain. As my shoe filled up with blood the pain subsided but it still wasn’t very… nice. Driving home that night wasn’t easy as this was my clutch foot but I sort of managed by using the tips of my toes. Later I peeled my shoe off and soaked the foot in a bowl of hot salted water while more blood pulsed out. I had less sleep that night than when I was a teenager celebrating Scottish Hogmanies many years hence. The pain now was now like an iPod playlist; sometimes the tune was an insistent tap tapping, sometimes more of a Drum and Bass throbbing. Then there would be waves of sensation akin to a particularly vile Philip Glass track. Even Co-dydramol didn’t turn that down very much. Next day I got my tetanus jab, the first since 1982. Apparently risk of that disease is slim - you really need to have earth or excrement on your nail to have much chance of getting it. In the USA something like only 32 people had tetanus last year. The bad news was that it might take months to properly heal up. Feet are not great healers and the ball of my foot, where my nail was, has got all these ligaments, tendons, small bones which now have to sort themselves out. Two weeks on and I’m still limping like Richard the Third, but at least it doesn’t keep me awake at night. Curiously, a few days later, I managed to drive a spike into the side of my right hand trying to force a frozen hasp on a jagged old gate. That hurt like a bugger as well. ‘You’re starting to know what it was like for Christ’ my Anglo-Catholic wife observed. Hopefully there’s not going to be a spear in my side anytime soon. After all, this is Christmas, not Easter.
Footnote for Health and Safety wonks: I am not asking for sympathy. I know I am stupid. We were all wearing helmets and High Viz vests. I was the only one not wearing steel soled boots. I will fill out a mission statement the next time I am at a crumbling old dump. And not rely on ‘Flashlight’ mobile phone apps for illumination.
Firework Display with Indie Soundtrack
Finally finished editing my mobile phone video opus of Cliffe Bonfire Socs fireworks. Took nearly as long as trying to find an acceptable video format for YOUTUBE. Stuck on a couple of songs by The Morning After Girls and hey, here it is. A small slice of November 5th, 2012 in Lewes, East Sussex. Paste and enjoy.
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There are those who say Bonfire night in Lewes is some sort of quasi-pagan event. I say nonsense - we only burned one virgin policeman inside our Wicker Man this year.
100 Year Old Jam Jar
Found this in an old church cupboard with a bunch of pre WW1 papers. All were filthy with a hundred years of dust. Cleaned the jar up during a bored moment… And aren’t the colours lovely? And was the jam good?
Sorting out some of our old paperwork, fines etc and came across this old ‘Ghost’ parking ticket from Camden. This is where the warden doesn’t actually put a ticket on your vehicle (usually because you haven’t stopped long enough to warrant one). In the pictures above you can see a ticket and the time span, all of 30 seconds, but by the time our driver had come back the ticket had gone. This way, the warden avoids any recrimination and Camden gets the full £130 fine - none of that 50% reduction for paying within 14 days because, hey, you never knew about the ‘offence’ in the first place. It’s got to the stage now where we won’t deliver to Camden unless we have the customers credit card details on file in order to pay for whatever fine we get hit with. Here are just a few of the tricks and scams they do that we have come across…
* ‘Decluttering’ the streets around the British Museum. This basically means removing yellow lines and normal sized restriction signs with a few pretty studs on the carriageway. People think it’s OK to park. But it isn’t.
* In cases where motorists appeal against their tickets, Camden will supply copy tickets that are different from those originally handed out. They have been caught doing this. But.
* Setting up diversion signs at road works, then filming motorists from their nifty little CCTV Smart cars in order to fine them for making an ‘illegal turn’. They are happy to rescind the tickets if you appeal but also very happy to keep the money if you don’t.
* Those same Smart cars will also land you with a fine if you stall in the wrong place or even just drive into a no-parking area. They love school runs - if you drop a child off chances are you will have to stop in a restricted area.
* Look out if you get badly hurt in a traffic accident in Camden. If your vehicle is not immediately removed after a crash it will be ticketed again and again. Tricky especially for bikers where a machine might be shoved onto a pavement while you are taken to hospital.
* Faulty meters are not replaced as a matter of course. If you put money in you will lose your money and leaving a note to this effect will not stop you from getting a ticket.
* But maybe the best example, and never mind lifting up cars to paint yellow lines under them in order to give them tickets, is the example of Grafton Road, NW5. This was/is a rat run which was originally sealed off with bollards which would raise up at peak times. No revenue there. So Camden got rid of those and fixed it so that motorists are literally funelled into this street. The only warning signs are ones mentioning a 7 foot width limit. By the time you see the red circle car and bike sign it is too late - you have been busted. They reckon the council has made £5 million from this little wheeze alone.
So this is Camden, who have always claimed they are simply doing the best for everyone concerned. But even if you really hate cars and vans and lorries delivering stuff, remember this is the same council that sued itself and then asked for costs.
Only recently finished what might qualify as the longest clearance ever. First saw the job in Summer 2011. Started it in Winter 2011 and finished it Summer 2012. Bearing in mind that we have completely emptied whole churches in under a week, this was quite slow for us. However, this was fine with the owner, the widowed partner of Julian Spalding who had died previously. Spalding Joinery was a small company that had originally started life as Robinson Carpentry back in 1875, specialising in eccleisiastical woodwork - hence our connection. Mr Robinson the original founder was told then by doctors that he only had a few months left to live. Determined to create something of value before he died, he carved a large elaborate wall panel several feet across. Instead of becoming his memorial this object became a highly useful CV as it turned out that he had another 60 years still to live. Robinsons became famous as a supplier of carvings and artefacts for churches ranging from Westminster Abbey to the chapel at Lancing Boys School.
As years went by the firm diversified into other kinds of carpentry and joinery without ever completely leaving behind the church business. When Julian died it was a full stop to over 120 years of craftsmanship. And we were the undertakers. Firstly,we had to remove probably over 50 bags worth of accumulated sawdust and chippings. The we could properly see the 3-phase bench machinery - planers, routers, thicknessers, ancient pillar drills that might have been used to make Sopwith Camels.
These all went up North to form the basis of a new carpentry business there. The workbenches, all 8 of them, went to a small shipyard on the Thames specialising in the repair of small pleasure boats. Smaller tools and materials were snapped up by our own carpenters and a car boot person who sold them, one by one, to the DIYers of Surrey. Random things like the 1960s Nike Draughtsman desk went to a Swedish collector/designer. Drawings, plans and books, including some original Pugin guide books went to the Art Department of Tassis, a nearby private American school. The Art Teacher there is planning on holding an exhibition there in December, dedicated to Splading Joinery. Some sort of poignant Belle de Jour/Fin de Siecle/Excuse my French testament to lost British glories.
It was a bunch of work and one of those jobs (after you’ve been to the dump for the 20th time with yet another load of MDF offcuts) that you think maybe you should have paid a wee bit less for. (Sample dialogue from our main driver after our industrial hoover had sprayed out another heap of toxic sweat soaked dust: ‘You mean you paid them to do this??’)
But it was a good thing to do. Most of our work is just selling stuff, spinning it, turning it over. This, however, had some kind of meaning. Bev, the widow, seemed like a decent person to us. Trying to do a decent job was our part of the memorial for Julian Spalding. Dust to dust. Ashes to Ashes.
Part of our occasional Men at Work Series. First picture shows the somewhat top heavy Reredos panel attempting to tip over. A bit of huffing and puffing and there’s Picture 2, a relatively stable Victorian Gothic Revival Altar floridly painted in a 1890s pastiche of the 1390s. And now currently in a Public School Chapel on ‘Approval’. Hopefully it isn’t coming back as we have now filled the space with what might be the biggest oil painting in Surrey. Or Walton, at least.
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The Devil Must Have Prompted You! vintage postcard c. 1910
What a cheerful looking Devil - the smiling, happy face of evil!
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Grease - Beauty School Dropout
Maybe its the mood I’m in, but I keep seeing Christian symbolism everywhere….
Paul and Talitha Getty in Marrakech, Morocco 1969
Love the vaguely Christian Iconography, especially with that 1960s spin. Talitha as Mary Magdalene, anyone?
Morality Tale Part 1
When we go on holiday we like to rent a car and like all things it’s getting more expensive. There’s the petrol scam where after you pay the rental the firm then hits you up for a full tank of fuel. The price is usually arrived at by calculating the absolute maximum of petrol that can be squeezed into same tank at the absolute maximum price. Plus an admin charge. Then you are told to bring back the car empty - just try it. It isn’t possible. And on a 3 or 4 day day hire you will probably bring back your motor with half a tank still sloshing around.
So far so mean. But the real kickers are the steadily upward creeping insurance excesses. You are covered for Third Party but if anything else happens then it will come out of your pocket. Our most recent car hire had an excess of no less than 1,100 Euros which is a scarily bonkers amount and no doubt why people will pay the extra 15 to 20 Euro per day ‘Super Insurance’ to iron this mostly out. Previously just called ‘Insurance’. And still not including tyres and underbody damage, either.
I’ve always gambled that things will be OK and not paid Insurance on top of my Insurance. And it’s always worked out. On this one occasion, however, I messed up. Unparking really badly I scraped our car all down one side against a painted lamp post. Front bumper, back bumper and everything in between. The car was already a mess of scrapes and dings, but none on the little chart thing that had been signed on collection. And there was the rub. As I saw it, some of the other renters had coughed up for their scrapes and thumps but it wasn’t as though the car had ever been resprayed or fixed. My guestimate excess damage hit was no less than 700 Euros. After all this was one of those Internet Comparison companies based in a shed some 10 miles away from the airport with a name like ‘Golden Lion Car Rental’. They weren’t going to say “We’ll get half a dozen quotes and fix this as cheaply as possible”. This would be a case of “You screwed up. We take your money. Whether we fix the car is none of your business.”
It wasn’t that long ago that my wife’s car insurance company had split a claim with another persons firm 50/50 over a parking bumper dent that was invisible to 9 out 10 people that saw it. The cost: £1200 for complete replacement of a Mercedes A Class Bumper.
I made the decision to try and avoid paying this particular holiday excess because
A) We couldn’t afford it
B) It wouldn’t make any difference to ‘Bright Diamond Motor Hire’
C) It was a challenge
Come the last day of the hire while the family were doing normal holiday things I went to find a good automative type DIY store. After a few false starts I found this great product in a very foreign Homebase sort of place. Just after the Smeg fridges and the fibreglass carp ponds there it was. Basically a sort of 2 part T-Cut polishing kit complete with various grades of fine sandpaper and cloths. The only other thing I needed was water which I got from an ornamental fountain outside the store.
For the next two hours I polished and fine sanded away all of the lamp post paint, then blended in the bare metal scores as best I could. A shallow dent on the offside front door I managed to pop out by peeling back the inside trim and pushing a stick against the skin. Ultimately, all that was left were a couple of creases and patches where primer showed. This was were Plan B came in. Driving to the beach I filled up some old water bottles with sea water and then headed out to a very dusty dirt track I had scoped out previously. Dousing the car with the water I then did some Colin McCrae stuff up and down the track until the car was completely and artfully coated in filth.
Shortly after at the car hire place a woman was going mad at the staff.
"You are not educated!" she kept screaming at the poor employees. Which seemed a bit rich since they were all able to speak about 10 languages. Apparently, this woman’s car had been hit by someone driving a ‘Platinum Car Rental’ vehicle. No she didn’t have the Reg details but apparently wanted all their cars recalled/a full police investigation/paint swabs etc. After more or less physically throwing this woman out of the office after the swearing got too much, a harassed staffer came over to our car. All she did was check the mileage and the fuel. Didn’t even glance at the bodywork. I sympathised with her about how difficult her job was and that was that. Credit card slip torn and we were on the bus back to the airport. Maybe they don’t really about bodywork stuff; short of a missing door or two. Maybe I was lucky to get away with it.
Since then I’ve tried to work out just how immoral this was. On Judgement Day how will this score? 2 or 3 out of 10? Or will it be 10 out of 10 as we are talking about pure dishonesty compounded by pre-meditated fraud? One interesting thing I have noticed is that as time goes by all the bad things one has done seem to become less…bad. This self-deception must be natures way of protecting us. In the short term at least.
The car shown above was hired from Avis on our most recent Greek Holiday. Believe it or not it came with the shown damage and lots more besides. The chap in charge of the damage chart cheerfully scribbled all over the picture of the car as if inviting me to totally trash their Focus. On our return Avis did not look even briefly for damage.
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