20 April 2014

Bakelite Box - Ekco PB505

The alternating current PB505 was released by Ekco in 1939, and was available in both a wooden cabinet and this 'walnut' Bakelite one, the same chassis in each. There are nine push buttons for pre-set stations. The cabinet was shared with the AC-only PB507 and the AC/DC PBU505. A variant of the cabinet was used again, after WWII, for the more common A21, released in November 1945. The latter can be recognised by having five, instead of nine, push buttons.

13 April 2014

April Fools' Car Show 2014

The third running of the April Fools' Car Show, held at Canal Central in Maesbury Marsh, Shropshire, featured everything from the agricultural to the seriously exotic. The above McCormick Farmall, a brand of America's International Harvester, is a row-cropper, built in France, and looked very fine in its new paint.

From Telford came a lovely Jensen FF. Built between 1966 and 1971, the Jensen Ferguson Formula was the first production car to feature four wheel drive - from Ferguson Research Ltd - and anti-lock brakes, the Dunlop Maxaret system, and is five inches longer than its sister Interceptor. Placed third in show.

Show winner was a stunning 1947 Jaguar Mark IV 3½ litre cabriolet. The 3½ litre was introduced in 1938. This example has a very unusual two-door body, all the panel and mechanical work undertaken by its owner. This year's steam came in the form of a 1924 Clayton and Shuttleworth road roller, Ironside.

09 April 2014

Bishkek - Brutal & Beautiful

The capital of the Kyrgyz Republic, Bishkek, is a city of concrete on an Altaic plain - altitude 2,600 feet - just north of the Ala-Too portion of the Tian Shah mountain range, which boasts peaks over 15,900 feet. A dramatic setting for a time capsule of concrete Soviet Brutalist architecture.

The Kyrgyz Republic gained its political independence from the USSR in 1991. The White House, of seven storeys and faced with marble, was built just six years previously. Originally the headquarters of the Communist Party's Central Committee for the sometime Kirghiz 'Republic', it is now the presidential offices.

On Ala-Too (once Lenin) Square is the Historical (once Lenin) Museum, of 1984. The square is enormous, designed to both impress and intimidate, but the surface is subject to subsidence due to poor substrate. Out the back of the museum is the giant statue of Lenin that previously stood out front, but now points into history.

Appended to the headquarters of Kyrgyz Telecom, also the post office, is a tower that houses a clock presented by Armenia in 1984. This broke down in 2000 and was silent until 2013. It sounds exactly like the Great Clock of the Palace of Westminster.

On Togolok Moldo Street is the National Centre of Cardiology and Internal Medicine, the centrepiece of the republic's efforts to rebuild its healthcare system, which has suffered due to sharp cuts in expenditure since 1991. The UK's hospitals often look brutal unintentionally. This is the real deal.

Hand-in-hand with health often goes sport. The nearby Sports Palace (above) was built in 1974 as part of the modernisation of the city, and is Bishkek's largest indoor venue, with seating for 2,500. The statue is of Kojomkol, born 1889, seven feet five inches tall, and famous for his feats of strength.

Bishkek is a bustling place, without being manic, and there are plenty of signs of a café life for the well-heeled. Yet the residential areas are largely of Soviet bloc blocks, architecturally interesting, even beautiful, but not necessarily much fun in which to live. The Ala-Too Cinema, likely of the late 1960s, adds some colour.

08 April 2014

Istanbul - Blue Mosque

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, popularly known as the Blue Mosque because of the dominant colour of the interior decoration, must be one of the most visited buildings on the planet, but no pre-reading prepares for its calm, stunning beauty.

The mosque was built in just seven years, starting 1609, on the orders of Ahmed I, upon the site of the palace of Byzantium's emperors. The architect, Sedefkar Mehmed Agha, designed an extraordinarily grand space composed of a main dome surrounded by eight smaller domes. The mosque boasts six minarets, instead of the normal maximum of four, the first to do so.

The interior is simply gorgeous, over 20,000 handmade ceramic tiles from Iznik (Nicaea) at the lower levels and upon the massive piers, the decorative scheme at higher levels executed in paint. There are over 200 subtle stained glass windows. Humankind be praised.

07 April 2014

Istanbul - Balat

Balat, traditionally a Jewish quarter, is a part of the Fatih district of Istanbul. It is located on the western side of the Golden Horn, and forms part of the old city of the peninsular, the erstwhile Byzantium and Constantinople.

The Jews began to leave Balat after the major earthquake of 1894, and the quarter is an intriguing mix of grandeur and neglect, some buildings holding up others. Few tourists make it from the grand bazaar to this quarter, but more should. Ruin porn at its best.