Thursday, October 28, 2021

Around The World In Eighty Words : 9. IRONING



The Story So Far .....

It started as a harmless question during one of those long lockdown days: was it possible to travel virtually around the world in just eighty word changes to my what3words geolocation code and return to my starting point?. For a companion I had my six year old labradoodle, Lucy, and seeing as it is a virtual trip I allow her to speak occasionally (although she never makes much sense). My starting point was the what3word location code for my desk at home - /// - and so far our travels have taken us to such diverse places as America, Australia, Libya, Ireland - and precariously balancing on a floating plank in the middle of the North Sea. Somewhere along the line, we invented a rule that we take it in turns at choosing a new word which will take us to a new, unknown, location. Our last stop was in the suburbs of Sydney, Australia (///sake.wink.quite) at which point Lucy chose the next of our eighty words - ironing.

“You said it!.” “No I didn’t!” “Yes, you did. I distinctly heard you say it”

Lucy and I had been arguing like this for what seemed like the best part of an afternoon. In truth, there was little else to do, as we were walking through the Karakum Desert in south-east Turkmenistan.

“You said “Ironing”, I know you did”, I tried to sound authoritative, which is not easy to do when you are in the middle of a desert with a defiant dog and nothing to sustain you other than a quarter of sherbet lemons.

“It was not “ironing”, it was merely the sound of satisfaction at having located that last piece of Chinese dumpling that had been stuck to my tail.” Lucy said that, which is a good thing as you would have reason to worry if it had been me. “And I hate all this sand, it gets right into your paws.” Lucy said that as well.

Whether we liked it or not - whether we intended it or not - we finished up with a what3words code of ///ironing.wink.quite, and that had placed us in the Karakum Desert in Turkmenistan. It could have been worse, I suppose, another two hundred and fifty miles south and we would have been in Afghanistan with more than an excess of sand to put up with. I’m not sure than the Taliban are quite ready for a talking dog just yet.

Even if we were to avoid Afghanistan to the south, we were still faced with Uzbekistan to the north, or Tajikistan to the east - it is really difficult to avoid a stan in this part of the world - so I had decided to head west, heading further into Turkmenistan.

“There’s a city called Mary about fifty miles west of here where there is a hotel with a swimming pool, free wifi, and free breakfasts,” I said after consulting the guidebook.

“Does it have a bar?” Lucy had become quite attached to a glass or two of stout of an evening ever since our trip to Dublin

“No, I don’t think so,” I said, “but they have a whole selection of fruit juices.” At that point Lucy insisted on consulting the guidebook herself - which was a pointless exercise because she was not a good reader.

“Let’s go to Merv”, she said, “it’s only thirty odd miles away and is the largest city in the world: surely a dog can get a decent pint of Guinness there”.

“No, no, no,”, I said, “it was the largest city in the world 900 years ago, it’s nothing but a series of spectacular ruins these days.”

And so the argument continued as we made our way over the endless sand dunes. “Mary”, I said. “Merv” she countered. “Mary”, “Merv.” Eventually I said “Hang about there is a village even closer, only about 12 miles away, we could try that.” “What’s it called?”, asked my dog. I checked the map again - “ahh, no, perhaps not - it’s called Perv.” We continued on through the sand, occasionally stopping to have another chorus of “You said ironing / No I didn’t.”

 Eventually we decided that there was nothing for it but to abandon the delights of Turkmenistan and move onto a new word and hence a new location. I told Lucy in no uncertain terms that it was my turn to choose a new word and that we would see a return to something like logic in our word choices. “Seeing that we are stuck with “ironing” for a bit” what about having an ironing basket”, I said. So, look out ///ironing.basket.quite, here we come.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Brighouse In The Sixties


Around The World In Eighty Words : 8. QUITE



“Sorry!” I repeated the apology to yet another driver, as I dragged myself, my backpack, and my five year old labradoodle, Lucy, out of the middle of the road. It was difficult to judge from the look on the drivers’ face, whether he was angry that such a strange combination of man, dog, and luggage was blocking his progress down Wilfred Avenue in the Sydney suburb of Campsie, or shocked that they had suddenly appeared from nowhere as if by some form of supernatural transposition. He had disappeared down the street before I had chance to explain to him that we were seeing if we could get around the world in eighty word changes to our what3words geolocation code, and the simple replacement of the word “change” by the word “quite” had plucked us from a most enjoyable tour of pubs and bars in Dublin, Ohio and landed us on the other side of the world in the middle of a road. “The thing about these what3word location”, I explained to Lucy, “is that their precision is great if you want to deliver a parcel or rescue someone, but potentially hazardous if you are experimenting with the possibilities of virtual travel” Lucy ignored me, she’d picked up an interesting scent and was dragging me down the street in the direction of the main road.

Today Campsie is a busy suburb of the city of Sydney in New South Wales, Australia, but just over 100 years ago this area, about seven miles south-west of the city, was still mainly agricultural. It was the coming of the railway - the self-same railway that Lucy and I were now walking alongside - at the end of the nineteenth century that led to a period of growth and development. Beamish Street, the main street that Lucy was now eagerly propelling me towards, has always been one of the busiest streets, being not only the site of the railway station but also endless shops and restaurants.

I was intrigued to know what was attracting Lucy. I asked her, but she was going through one of her uncommunicative phases in which she pretended to be a dumb creature. As we progressed along Wilfred Avenue and the houses turned into commercial premises, I searched for clues. The “Vibe Health Clinic” (“get fit, get healthy get the vibe”) - no, that won’t be the attraction. Thai Massage, only $49 - hopefully not. My Vitamin World and the Campsie Denture Clinic - surely not. We eventually turned into Beamish Street and the reason for Lucy’s distraction became obvious. Aromas assaulted us without any pretence of restraint. There were Chinese restaurants, Vietnamese restaurants, Japanese restaurants - restaurants of every category with the possible exception of Australian restaurants. It was sensory heaven for a dog.

She eventually settled on the Chinese Dumpling Hut and following on from a substantial take-away, she became a little more communicative. “I could live here”, she said. “Forget that, we’ve got another seventy two words to go, and if you insist on eating any more dumplings you’re going to finish up at ///obese.dumpling.dogs, which, it might interest you to know, is in the middle of a lake in Northern Canada”. She returned to her normal “ignore the old fool” mode and made a bee-line for the Golden Territory Seafood Restaurant on the other side of Beamish Street. A determined yank on her leash corrected her trajectory to the VIP Lounge of the Station House Hotel where I enjoyed a reasonable pint and a read of the newspaper.

It was the newspaper that accelerated our departure rather than the quality of the beer on offer or Lucy’s over-indulgence in Chinese dumplings. The headlines showed a now reasonably familiar map, with many of the places Lucy and I had just visited marked on it. “COVID STREET, CAMPSIE!” the headlines declared, and the story went on to claim that it was the street with one of the worst infection rates in the country.

It was clearly time to move on and it was Lucy’s turn to choose the next word. She had just found a bit of dumpling that somehow had got stuck to her tail, and was desperately trying to nibble it off. “Come on, let’s have a word”, I said. She was too engrossed in her task and merely let out a kind of pleasurable growling sound as she located the dumpling remains. “Did you say ironing?” I asked in the kind of astonishment that is fitting for any conversation with a dog. “So be it”, I concluded as we set out co-ordinates for ///ironing.wink.quite. See you there.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Around The World In Eighty Words : 7. WINK


"That's better", I confessed to Lucy as I allowed an Autumn breeze to dry out the still damp turn-ups of my trousers. They were still wet from the North Sea waves that had pounded the little plank of wood my dog Lucy and I had shared a couple of hundred miles west of Trondheim in the Norwegian Sea. We were travelling around the world in just eighty word changes to our What3Words geolocation code, and ///sake.drink.change had dropped us in the middle of the freezing ocean. A simple change of a word - "drink" for "wink" - had rescued us from our watery confinement and transported us to ..... a car park!

"So, this is Dublin?", I asked with just a hint of understandable doubt in my voice. It was a very pleasant warm day for October and there were a lot of rather large looking cars in the large looking car park. The perils of the North Sea had caused me to beg Lucy for a return to our previous location - just North of Dublin, Ireland - as it was her turn to choose a new word. "It sure is", she replied in what was a decent attempt at an Irish accent - well decent if you are a five-year old Labradoodle, that is. "It doesn't feel like Ireland", I said. "Now, come on", she replied, "you never said anything about Ireland. Welcome to Dublin, Ohio in the USA".  I wasn't going to object; anything was better than a plank of wood in the middle of the North Sea, and this car park was a step up on anything. 

And to be exact - and the delightful thing about What3Words is that you can be exact down to a three metre square - we weren't in the actual car park, but on a grassy verge next to the car park. There was what looked like a pleasant park just a few hundred yards to the north west of us and what looked like a fascinating area of shops, bars and hotels a few hundred yards to the south east of us. And just in case you were missing the "real" Dublin, there were harps, and clover leafs and stalls selling Guinness all over the place.

We spent a bit of time just wandering around, looking at the shiny new office buildings, the tidy sports fields and the frighteningly busy freeways. "That organisation", I explained to Lucy as she sniffed a brick wall with unseemly enthusiasm, "is the 14th highest revenue generating company in the USA". "And, that, over there, is the headquarters of the largest global library co-operative on the globe" I could tell that my companion was flagging and it was time to go in search of some food and drink, and it appeared that we had landed on our six feet as far as that was concerned. All we had to do was to cross a newly opened footbridge and we were in Dublin DORA!

The DORA (Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area) lines the banks of the Scioto River and is now linked by a new pedestrian suspension bridge. "It's the largest single tower S shaped suspension bridge in the world", I explained to Lucy as we walked it's 760 foot length. "Indeed", I added, "it's the only single tower S shaped suspension bridge in the world". But I could tell that my dog was getting bored with my constant recital of facts and figures. It was time to hit the bars.

And what a choice we had. We dined at the Avenue Steak Tavern, supped pints at the Dublin Village Tavern, called in at North High Brewing, and ended the night at the Urban Meyer's Pint House. As we sank a final glass of Fat Head's Bumble Berry, I had to congratulate Lucy on bringing us to such an oasis of sophisticated booziness. I, personally, didn't want to leave but we were only 7 words down and there were still another 73 to go. We needed to be on our way, but not quite yet. And so it was decided and the coordinates were set for ///sake.wink.quite. See you there!

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Random Woods


Somewhere In Yorkshire


This is a new scan of a thirty-five year old negative of mine. Maybe it was the original shot, maybe it has decayed over time: whatever the reason it is grainy and discoloured. This, however, is what memories are like. I have no real idea where I was when I took it, and it could be anywhere in Yorkshire. There are rolling hills, stone walls, and wool stuck to the barbed wire. This, however, is what Yorkshire is like.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Daily Calendar : Harold Kelley


The Bikers In Colour


For the last decade or so, I have been producing a family calendar which gets distributed to various relatives for Christmas each year. Over the years I have worked my way through many of the old photographs that chart the history of the Beanland, Berry, Burnett and Usher families. For next year, I have decided to revisit some of the best of those photographs but, with the aid of AI smart programmes, to give them a more colourful presentation. The first of the bunch is this photograph from the 1930s of four bikers taking a break during a road trip. The couple of the left are my mother and father, and the man in the middle is Charlie Pitts, a close friend of the family. I am not sure who the man on the right is.

Thursday, October 07, 2021

Around The World In Eighty Words : 6. DRINK


"I bet you wish you had listened to my question now". My dog, Lucy, and I were floating on a plank of wood in the northern regions of the North Sea, three hundred or so miles west of Trondheim. A few weeks ago we embarked of a ridiculous challenge to see whether we could go around the world in eighty word changes to our What3Words geolocation code. Simply changing the word "luck" to "drink" had transported us to ///sake.drink.change, which turned out to be in the middle of the freezing ocean. If that wasn't bad enough, my companion, my dog Lucy, insisted on talking to me, and even worse, she had turned out to be the kind of smart-alec companion nobody wants to share a floating plank with. "OK, do tell me, what was your question?", I enquired. "Simply this, do What3Word locations cover the seas and oceans as well as land?", she replied, and then added, "and you've no need to be so grumpy"

"I would have thought that the answer to your question was all too obvious, after all we are floating on a plank in the middle of the bloody sea", I replied, attempting to balance on a plank, with a dog, in a rough sea, miles from even the nearest oil rig, which is by no means easy. "No need to swear", she retorted in a prissy fashion, "we will just have to try and edit the water locations out in the future. "I wish we could edit this one out. I'd give a lot to be back in nice, dry, interesting, bar infested, hotel bound Dublin right now" "No problem, Lucy declared with a degree of satisfaction that is unbecoming in a dog of dubious pedigree, "we can be there in a wink!" You guessed it, ///sake.wink.change here we come.

Friday, October 01, 2021

Around The World In Eighty Words : 5. CHANGE


"Well, OK, it's a change", said Lucy as we walked across another field in another country. I detected an element of sarcasm in her voice - which is not easy to do when you are talking to a dog - which was completely undeserved. "Can you see any frozen lakes?", I asked. She didn't seem to want to reply, so I did on her behalf. "No! Can you see any snow covered mountains? No! Can you see a sign saying the nearest pub is a three day walk away? Precisely, no!. It's a change"

My dog and I had embarked on a challenge to see if we could go around the world in just eighty word changes to our what3word geolocation code. So far we had bounced around like a hyperactive pinball in a global machine: simple word changes had so far taken us to the USA, Libya, Honduras, and the frozen lakes of Alaska. Changing the word "anywhere" for "change" had rescued us from an Arctic wilderness and landed us in the northern suburbs of Dublin, Ireland. "There's a park over the wall, the airport is only a couple of miles down the road, there is a Hilton Hotel within walking distance, and there's a pub just the other side of this housing estate" I listed these advantages like they were the result of intelligent design rather than pot luck.

"What's that funny smell?", Lucy enquired. She's good with smells. She is a dog, after all. "I've no idea", I said, yanking on her lead as we walked through a somewhat shabby park and entered an even more shabby housing estate. And so we entered Darndale, a community to the north of Dublin City, a place where someone has once written graffiti on a wall "Welcome To Darndale - Twinned With Beirut!". It turned out that the place had such a reputation for crime, poverty and social division, that a long-running TV documentary series had been made about it - "Darndale, the Edge of Town".  OK, it was a little rough around the edges, and it had seen more than its fair share of drug crime and murder, but a fortnight ago we had been on the outskirts of San Pedro Sula in Honduras, the murder capital of the world. Darndale was a Kindergarten by comparison.

Who'd have thought, I mused as I waited to buy a souvenir postcard at a shop, that when we embarked on this trip around the world we would finish up comparing levels of violence and anti-social behaviour? What happened to the wonderful world of the Louis Armstrong song? Why aren't I visiting the Lemonade Springs next to the Big Rock Candy Mountain? I shared my musings with Lucy as we continued our walk down Belcamp Grove towards the Priorswood Road. She just ignored me, which she has a habit of doing when she is in need of food and drink, so I headed for the nearest pub.

So we were sat on the terrace outside the Priorswood Inn with a pint of Guinness, a couple of bowls of chips from Daisy's Grill, and a bowl of water. We'd played a couple of games of Virtual Bingo, but our luck was out. "Our luck's out", I said to Lucy. It's easier talking to your dog after you've had a pint or two of Guinness. "OK, I've got a question", said Lucy. It's easier hearing your dog talk after you've had a pint or two of Guinness. "Drink!", I said. "Fair enough", said Lucy, "but I have a feeling that you will wish that you had listened to my question". And so it was decided: ///sake.drink.change here we come.

Daffodil On The Water

When I was young, back in the early 1950s, our family’s annual seaside holiday would alternate between Bridlington on the east coast and New...