Cars and Girls

Durham songwriter Paddy McAloon was in his late twenties when he wrote

Life’s a drive through a dust bowl, what’s it do, do to a young soul
We are deeply concerned, someone stops for directions,
Something responds deep in our engines, we have all been burned
Will heaven wait all heavenly over the next horizon ?

But look at us now, quit driving, some things hurt more much more than cars and girls.
Just look at us now, start counting, what adds up the way it did when we were young ?
Look at us now, quit driving, some things hurt much more than cars and girls.

Prefab Sprout – Cars & Girls

The lyrics now seem strangely prescient; and I’m sure that Paddy and my contemporaries have all been burned and do find that the pursuit of love doesn’t add up the way it did when we were young, but how did he know all of that when the album From Langley Park to Memphis was released in 1988?

I’ve been musing on cars as a metaphor for relationships for about a week now, prompted partly by one of my friends decision to invest in a new set of wheels.  For several weeks she has endured a torrid time emotionally due to her ex husband, his family, and his girlfriend, problems she could well do without when her emotions have been tested by another.  I’m pleased that the worst seems to be over for her, and part of her response has been the change of vehicle.  Meet Precious.APW_8942-Edit

Owning a new car is pretty special.  We take great care of them, nurture them, attend to their needs.

Or at least until the first scratch.  At that point the shine is lost (perhaps literally), and unless this is true love they are taken for granted.  In some cases neglected, forgotten or abandoned.

APW_8854_5_6Wandering round the farm where I was staying last week I made a surprising discovery in one of the barns.  Once upon a time this Rover 2200 twin carb was doubtless someone’s pride and joy.  Clearly the love ran cold.

I’m in love with my car
Gotta feel for my automobile

Queen – I’m In Love With My Car

A Day At The Races

Employee engagement is a concept that has gained a lot of recognition in recent years, though it has been around under other names (Job Satisfaction for example) for decades.  The benefits to businesses of achieving engaged employees include lower staff turnover, reduced sickness, better problem solving, greater commitment and so on, and no two businesses approach it in quite the same way.  Factors that affect the level of engagement that employees have include; clarity of goals and expectations, opportunities for development, quality of communication and working relationships etc.

I mention this because today’s pictures are from a day out I recently enjoyed with my colleagues.  A day at the races*.

Thirsk Racecourse was our venue, with a marquee by the finish line, a barbecue lunch, and a constant stream of liquid refreshment.  Topping all of that was the serious business of picking the winners.  For some this is a serious business; studying the form, the size of the field, the handicap carried by the jockey, the behaviour of the horse in the paddock, advice from those “in the know” and  more to identify the dead certainties, dead certainties which seemed determined not to conform with the background data!  For others it was no more scientific than looking for steeds with significant names (a strategy that worked for me in the first race when the classically named Marcus Caesar romped home.  Others just as randomly based their decisions on the colours worn by the riders.   These less logical methods proved just as successful.

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Not a single portrait today, but a montage of candids of my colleagues.  A sensible and sober bunch I’m sure you’d agree…Talent


It was a great day, though in the end I came to grief with Karate Queen.

*Incidentally – A Day At The Races was Queen’s 5th album, and took its name from a Marx Brothers film, as did it’s predecessor A Night At The Opera.  Luckily they followed it with News Of The World rather than Duck Soup!

Connect And Be Receptive

The rock band Queen began their career by famously proclaiming on every album cover “No Synthesizers”, not because they objected to the instruments, but to clarify that their rich, textured sound was achieved with guitars and vocals instead. Midway through their career they released The Game, which proclaimed something along the lines of “This albums marks the first appearance of a synthesizer on a Queen album”.

The photographs that have appeared on this blog have thus far all been shot using a digital single lens reflex camera, mostly a Canon 5d Mk 2 (though sadly this is still being repaired), and with a few additions from an old Olympus.

I’ve referred before to the precept of creativity that forms the title of this piece. It’s about keeping your eyes open to the potential of everything around you to solve problems, provide inspiration, make connections and so on, so today I was sitting in a training room, in a manufacturing plant in County Durham at 7.45 am. The sun was still low in the sky, and was streaming into the room casting interesting shadows.

I didn’t realise at first that there was something out of the ordinary, but as I looked further, it dawned on me (sorry for the pun) that the light was travelling in two opposite directions. I understood that one was the sun coming directly through windows, but how was there a second? Simply because in a privacy measure all of the windows in the building had been treated with a reflective film, and the room I was in was close to the junction of another part of the building at right angles to mine. The run of windows continued around this corner, so the sunlight, striking the other building obliquely, was reflected straight back into my room where the forest of chair and table legs provided an abstract image.

Of course I wasn’t sitting with SLR to hand, but the iphone came to the rescue.

Today’s blog marks the first appearance of a photograph taken on a camera phone in a photogenic world!



The Kinks – The Village Green Preservation Society – Stereo Version

Britain’s longest reigning monarch to date has been Queen Victoria, who was queen for over 63 years (although as she became queen at 18 she had a good start).  Until now she was the only monarch to celebrate a diamond jubilee which she did in 1897.  This was at the height of empire, and Britain was at the height of her powers as a result, so the celebrations were lavish.

Here in Whitburn the event was marked by installation of a drinking fountain in the village green, though in the decades that have followed it has suffered some wear and tear; the ornate bronze workings that topped the structure have long gone, and there is no longer a water supply.

Today marked the completion of the first phase of restoration of the fountain, funded by a collection amongst the village residents, and initiated by two leading lights of the village; John Shield, one of the churchwardens and his able assistant Ken Smith, the Rector.  The project was launched to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, and with this being the weekend of many of the official celebrations it seemed fitting to aim to complete the work in time for an official unveiling today

The first phase has seen a new inscription on the west side of the fountain, and a general clean up of the structure.  With a little research in Durham Records Office, it is hoped to be able to replicate the original metal work on top, and fit two ornamental covers over the concrete that was used to fill the holes left by the original spouts.

To mark the occasion in true celebratory style John suggested that residents along the main street in the village might wish to congregate for a picnic, and so one of those rare expressions of quintessential Englishness ensured.  Flags and bunting were strewn liberally, red white and blue clothing was virtually compulsory, and picnic blankets and tables disappeared under sandwiches, cakes, and bottles of fizz. 

Special mention must go to a particularly patriotic trifle…

Some 200 people were expected, but it felt like many more made an appearance, probably passers-by drawn by curiosity at the throng enjoying the sunshine on the green. John and his band set up outside his farmhouse to provide entertainment,

the kids enjoyed a bouncy castle,

and a moment of formality was provided when the Mayor officially unveiled the fountain.

We have only lived here for 9 years, but it was clear that there is still a community at the heart of the village who know each other well and it felt great to be a part of it.  We just need an excuse to do this on a more regular basis!

There were many people who could have featured on my blog today, but there was a woman near us who stood out as an obvious choice with her Pre-Raphaelite hair.  Actress, model and musician, Alicia was an English rose on this most patriotic of days.