Thursday, September 15, 2011

Countdown to 1,000 - 1 : Three Tenors On A Towpath

And so to my final archive selection. This countdown to my 1,000th News From Nowhere post has featured a few randomly chosen posts (although I have re-arranged the selection into chronological order) and I was pleased to note that my final selection features images as much as words. We are only stepping back eighteen months now - to March 2010 - and the post dates from the time when I first thought of consolidating all my blogging activity into just one endeavour. 


News From Nowhere  Friday 19 March 2010
Searching For Balance On A Canal Towpath And Discovering Thermodynamics

I have this grand dream : I will simplify my life by consolidating all my blogging activity into one super-blog. It will be the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young of Blogs, the Three Tenors of on-line journalism. Some days it will feature photographs, other days it will rely on the usual fare of circuitous ramblings that I call writing. It will incorporate my efforts on Theme Thursdays and Sepia Saturdays and serve up the whole thing accompanied by a glass or two of my meditations on beer and brewing. But if it is going to work I need to master the art of balance : when featuring images, for example, I need to know when to stop wittering on and let the images do the talking.


I was musing on this problem yesterday whilst I took Amy The Dog for a springtime walk along the banks of the Calder and Hebble Navigation Canal just down the road in Brighouse. The canal is a grand old piece of industrial archaeology, over 250 years old and brimming with history. The stone markers (above) that record the distance to the next lock deserve to be preserved behind a glass case in a museum, but - I am glad to say - are not.

Every time you come to a bridge you can trace where centuries of wear by the heavy ropes - used by horses to pull barges - have carved their story into the stone. You could sit a class of children around such stones and design a week's learning project on almost every aspect of science, history and art.

And there is the sheer tranquillity of a place where a rich vein of nature intrudes into the original test bed of the industrial revolution. My third picture shows the lock-keepers cottage at Ganny Lock a few miles east of Brighouse. In the background you can just make out a featureless concrete warehouse defiling the rustic romance of the scene.


But hold on a moment. When the great eighteenth century civil engineer John Smeaton, designed the canal his proposals represented the very latest thing in technology. His plans were opposed by many a land-owner who believed his stone-lined cut would ruin forever their slice of nature. But Smeaton was a modernist who worshiped at the altar of progress. Not only did he build canals, bridges, harbours and lighthouses, he was also a noted physicist. Did you know, for example, that old John Smeaton was responsible for some of the most important developments in the theory of thermodynamics in the eighteenth century. Without his work it is unlikely that the Wright Brothers would ever have managed top get their plane to fly. It all revolves around what is known as the Smeaton Coefficient (k) in the equation L=kV2ACl, where L is ....... Alright, I will stop right there. I don't want to lose my balance do I? Especially when I am walking along a canal towpath.

Looking back, I am glad that I went ahead and combined the images with the words to make the consolidated blog that News From Nowhere has become. Back in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s there used to be a thriving area of the media known as photo-journalism - based on magazines such as Picture Post, Paris Match and Life - but this has now become something of a backwater relegated to the occasional colour supplement. I suppose I like to think of News From Nowhere as a paean to that tradition.

So now I need to go and think what on earth I can do for my 1,000th post tomorrow.

14 comments:

  1. Oh noooo - not another milestone for me to identify on the OS map?

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  2. Alan, I remember this one. It's just as good a read now, as ever. Did you ever get the book into any sort of draft?

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  3. Martin : Sadly, as with so many things, no.

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  4. This is a great post, encapsulating your earlier one. I think it's the juxtaposition of things that make them more interesting, such as the nondescript building in the romantic nature scene. I also love your idea of teaching children about science, history and art around bits of history, such as those stone markers. I've always loved the idea of teaching children all subjects in an outdoors setting. I tried it a few times, as a teacher, long ago. Administrators have trouble thinking outside the box.

    When I was Much younger, I wanted to be a photojournalist. I like your notion of blogging being a paean to that tradition. And, I didn't think it possible, but you've even made mathematics and equations sound enticing. Thank you.

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  5. Very nice pics and should be interesting to see what you come up with for number 1000.

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  6. Standing on the Shoulders of Giants, eh? Always difficult on a narrow towpath with those rounded bridges.

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  7. What an achievement! I really enjoy seeing history for across the waters. In many ways, the things that were done along the canals were duplicated over here as they were tried and true endeavors from the home land. I enjoy the photos of you past blog and I don't think I was on board at that time. Keep up the great work.

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  8. I just love your turns of phrase - the Three Tenors of on-line journalism, indeed! I think you achieved your aim.

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  9. A grand achievement in the offing. As a novice I have a star to be guided by and a whole archive to peruse.

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  10. "Words Words Words Words ! is that all you blighters can do?" Wonderful wunderbar words Alan! Congratulations! I am expecting fireworks and multi-colored balloons for the 1000th!

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  11. You are one of a kind and I'm never disappointed visiting your blog. Happy 1000!

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  12. Wonderful images, as always. I think the Paris Match/Life comparison is right on!

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  13. Yes, I think you’ve got the balance just right! I like the canal path pics very much but oh dear that white warehouse; however was it allowed?

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