It’s early Saturday evening, it’s quite warm and the sun is still shining; just the conditions to tempt me to take a bike out for a short spin and get the lie of the unfamiliar surroundings. Getting the bike in and out of my apartment is no mean feat; with carpets and white walls to consider, as well as the veneered doors which probably wouldn’t take kindly to the attentions of a rogue pedal or handlebar. How I will achieve this in less favourable weather remains a challenge. Perhaps I shall become a fair weather cyclist. Anyway I digress. I was vaguely aware of a track leading down to the Wear from the heights of Gilesgate, having fallen victim to a sat-nav that wanted me to drive over a footbridge some years back, so pedaled off in that direction. I not sure what the cycling equivalent of a stroll is, but that summed up my riding style. I didn’t want to miss anything through riding fast and hard (or so I told myself). After an initial false start that took me in the wrong direction I soon found what I was looking for; a riverside trail that would take me right into the heart of the city and just as importantly some new views of old favourites. Initially I was disappointed at the number of telephone lines in shot, but once the sun caught them they took on the appearance of gossamer, trailed by some giant spider with a sense of aesthetic. A little further on and I found another piece of history, and one that I didn’t even know existed. Seemingly in the middle of nowhere (though there was once a manor house here) I found a 17th Century formal garden, totally deserted but floodlit by the evening sun. What a gem; this is Old Durham Gardens. Shortly afterwards I reached the river and the rowing club. I could go no further as the heavy rainfall that has characterized most of the last 12 months has washed out some of the route. No such problem for the oarsmen. I couldn’t decide what I liked about the scene, so initially included the trees and clouds. Then I decided that I lost too much detail by taking this wide approach. Cropping in gave me more attention on the cyclist and his friends in the boat, but even this wasn’t enough. Cropped really tight you get the feel of different characters of the cox and eight, and you can make more of the sun throwing highlights off the water. Crossing the river by footbridge I was fortunate not to encounter any lost motorists coming the other way, and this brought me to Maiden Castle. It wouldn’t be right not to have cricket on such an English evening. Just time to sprint into town before tackling the climbs back to my abode, but there was one more surprise in store; a new (to me) development at the University with windows that were perfectly placed to reflect and emphasise the evening light. Not bad for a first look around.
The summer’s out of reach.
The strong NNE winds bringing cold air and wind chill were enough reason to keep people in today, so I’m going to let the pictures do the talking. If you’ve seen some of my kite surfing shots in the last week, you might have spotted one man who loves taking to the air, and this morning I was lucky to catch him before he entered the water.
This was the third time I’d spotted him in the last few days, and he explained to me that the kite surfers have been waiting six months for conditions like these. His name is Russell and he shared with me his secret weapon – the thick neoprene gloves that keep his hands warm are fine for the control bar that steers his power source but would presumably be too thick to hold the larger boom used to steer when windsurfing.
On the days that I travel into Darlington quite early, I frequently pass two similarly attired women on North Road. Dressed in long coats of high-viz yellow, which in case anyone should miss them are augmented by matching hats, they carry oversize black tennis racquet bags slung across their backs.
They are not however exponents of some new ball game with a complete disregard for fashion, out to bag the court before anyone else (though it would be amusing to see them trying to play with these “racquets” and trying to run in their long ungainly coats). They are a School Crossing Patrol, dressed to ensure that they are visible to motorists, and the bags they carry contain their “lollipops“; long poles with a round sign attached, used to stop the traffic.
When I was young, these lollipops were constructed of a single long pole, which the lollipop man or lollipop lady would carry home with them on foot at the end of their shift. They were far too long to fit into most vehicles. Modern lollipops now break down into something more portable and pack away like a sniper’s rifle.
The idea of the patrol developed in the UK in the 1950’s (though they also exist in Australia), but it was in the 1960’s that the term “lollipop man” was coined following a successful road safety campaign featuring a ventriloquist whose dummy used the phrase, although lollipop ladies are just as prevalent. It seems strange that as children we were warned against accepting sweets from strangers, but then expected to befriend one who was associated with a lolly!
The round sign at the end of the pole instructs motorists to “Stop” and carries either the word or a symbol for children, and between these is a wide black stripe. Apparently the intention of this element was to allow patrol men or women to record, with a piece of chalk, the registration numbers of any motorist who refused to stop. I have never ever seen this done, and wonder if any of our numerous lollipop men and women who patrol our roads today even carry chalk.
The lollipop man who patrols the crossing at the school where I run my photography club is not stranger to having his photograph taken. In a competition run by local paper The Sunderland Echo he was named School Crossing Patrol of the Year a couple of years back, and has featured in other local press stories too. John Plumb who originates from Plymouth (that would be a long walk with a lollipop) has even had a song written in his honour – though it wasn’t the one that is the title to this blog.
Viewing the images of him that have appeared in the press, I didn’t feel that the quality did justice to this special individual. I hope he likes the picture I took today. Wish I’d asked him about the chalk though!
*”My boy lollipop” was written in the 1950’s, but became a huge UK hit in the 1960’s when recorded by Millie. (I’ve never liked it because you can’t get it out of your head – even now!)