24 January 2010

Arrival of the K9

Maisy, who appears to be a cross between a Jack Russell and a corgi (and maybe a bit of chihuahua or dachshund), with supersized ears and very long toes, arrives at her new home. Unfortunately, her previous owners could no longer keep her because of a restriction in their tenancy agreement. As is natural, she's quite disorientated, yet very quickly makes friends. She's very inquisitive, and like all JRs loves a game of tug. It will obviously take her a while to settle in and relax, but the signs are pretty positive thus far - she seems readily adaptable.


Bringing together his design and mechanical skills, Andy Smith makes unique clocks. With forms reminiscent of fish and of finches, and boasting moving 'mouths' and 'beaks,' Andy calls them Cloquefinches. He started making clocks ten years ago, the designs straight out of his head, with influences from Czechoslovakian animation, Art Deco and Art Nouveau. Each clock is of wood and aluminium, handmade right down to the top hat bushes cut on the lathe in the garage.

(Photographs by Andy Smith)

Corrugations I

Maesbury Marsh boasts a couple of interesting small buildings made of corrugated sheet. Resplendant in green and with a black roof is the Womens' Institute. This was originally a working men's institute and, during WWII, was lived in by a couple evacuated from Birmingham. Nearby, at Bromwich Park, is a vintage petrol pump, possibly a Bowser Fat Lady.

20 January 2010

Arrival of the K6s

Designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, he of the Liverpool Anglican cathedral and the power stations at Battersea and Bankside (now Tate Modern), the elegant K6 telephone kiosk is an archetypal symbol of Britain, along with the Spitfire, Routemaster buses and London cabs.

K1, the first standardised telephone kiosk, was usually made of concrete and went into production in 1921. It wasn't liked by the London metropolitan boroughs, which resisted its introduction to their streets. In 1924 the Royal Fine Arts Commission ran a competition to find a replacement design, on the basis of three invitations to architects. Designs by the GPO and the Birmingham Civic Society were also considered.

Scott's design was chosen, and the resultant K2, in cast iron, was introduced in and about London from 1926. This was the first "red box." Shortly after he designed the K2 Scott became a trustee of the Sir John Soane Museum. The lantern of the mausoleum at Soane's Dulwich Picture Gallery, and similarly domed tomb of Soane at St Pancras Old Churchyard, appear echoed in Scott's design.

The K2 was expensive, and in 1928 Scott was commissioned by the GPO to design a cheaper version for nationwide use. The result was K3, introduced in 1929, similar in look to its cast iron cousin, but built in concrete and usually liveried in cream with red glazing bars. K4 was designed by the Post Office Engineering Department, starting in 1925, and incorporated a post box and two stamp vending machines; only 50 were made. K5 was made of metal-faced plywood and intended for temporary use at exhibitions.

The K6 box, the first red kiosk to be extensively installed outside London, was designed, again by Scott, to commemorate the 1935 silver jubilee of King George V. Essentially a scaled-down and simplified K2, it was also more modern in its lines. The K6 first appeared on British streets in 1936, and was standard issue through to 1968. At one time over 60,000 were in service. Approximately 11,700 remain, 2,500 of which have Grade II listed status.

K6 boxes can be roughly dated. In 1952, Queen Elizabeth II decided to stop using the so-called Tudor Crown as the symbol of her government, and adopted instead the St Edward Crown, used at coronations. Pre-1953 K6s, as pictured, thus sport the 'Tudor Crown.' Some while after introduction of the St Edward Crown, it was realised that QEII was not the second Queen Elizabeth of Scotland - Scots had doubtless recognised this immediately - and from 1954 K6s sited north of the border featured the Crown of Scotland. In the interests of efficiency, from 1955 K6s were cast with a slot into which the correct crown could be introduced.

Eight feet and four inches tall, three feet square, and formed of 18 cast iron sections and a teak wood door, K6s weigh upward of three-quarters of a ton. Mark and Jules of Schneider Electric Logistics did a fabulous job of positioning their truck so as to drop the boxes, using the Palfinger, precisely where desired.

18 January 2010

Pola Cinema, Welshpool

The Pola is a family affair. Opened in 1938 as the flagship of Paramount Pictures' north Wales circuit, the cinema has Art Deco written all over it, beautiful curves and splendid stained glass. Originally seating 800, the majority of the building is now given over to other uses, but there are two intimate salons on the first floor, seating 210 between them and showing recent releases.

17 January 2010

Knockin on Heaven's Door

The radio telescope at Knockin is part of the Jodrell Bank array. This is one of seven radio telescopes that, operating together, form the MERLIN (multi-element radio linked interferometer network) facility, which investigates the evolution of stars and galaxies. Operated remotely from Jodrell Bank, the Knockin 'scope, built in 1976, works in conjunction with its six siblings to provide an effective aperture of 135 miles. It moves almost silently.

Llandrinio Dreaming

The crossing at Llandrinio was the first stone bridge built between the source of the Severn and Shrewsbury, in 1775, and is a Grade I listed ancient monument. Built in pink sandstone, it has a pair of concrete blocks at either end, designed to impede enemy military progress, a relic of the Second World War. But today the road beyond is flooded and passable only in the largest of four-wheel drives and in articulated lorries.

The Powysland Internal Drainage Board constructed the flood protection wall and bund on the northern side of the river. The wall is of stone-faced concrete and apparently continues a good twelve feet below ground. Mighty glad must be Stuart and Freda Connell, whose house is behind the wall and, today, below the level of the river. In their yard is a twin axle Airstream trailer.

The couple  have a fantastic collection of motoring and caravanning memorabilia and, wonderfully, a second American trailer, this one a Silver Streak Clipper; a Humber, and a Pontiac Straight Eight. Stuart has had a series of classics over the years, starting with a MG TA, and has owned a couple of Citro├źn H vans in the past.

Single Yellow Line

A plug for a fantastic magazine, National Geographic, which arrives in the letterbox twelve times a year for the genuinely bargain price of £19 annually. NG is that rare thing, an American magazine that has both fantastic photos - the reproduction quality is second to none - and erudite and well-written articles. The maps and graphics are superlative. The January 2010 issue for instance has stunningly beautiful photos of the Hebrides (above), and of clownfish, and a fascinating article about 'bionic' prostheses. Highly recommended. And still with its distinctive yellow border on the cover.

(Photograph by Jim Richardson)

16 January 2010

Lozenges & Pips

A television advert for Fisherman's Friend, the menthol and eucalyptus lozenges created by James Lofthouse in Fleetwood, Lancashire, in 1865, prompts curiosity about the fate of other similar products from yesteryear. Fisherman's Friend is obviously still going strong, is still made by the family firm, and now comes in over a dozen flavours, but what of Victory V and Mighty Imps? Victory Vs, liquorice-flavoured lozenges, developed in 1864 in Nelson (hence the name), also in Lancashire, are today manufactured by Ernest Jackson & Co. Ltd, in Devon. The lozenges no longer contain the ether, chloroform and cannabis they once did, but are still "forged for strength." Mighty Imps, hard little liquorice and menthol pips, are still available too.