Tuesday 31 January 2012

Vintage Overstrand road sign becomes Norfolk’s latest Grade II listed building

British road signs c.1904

Vintage Overstrand road sign becomes Norfolk’s latest Grade II listed building

A quaint little story from Overstrand, North Norfolk now which reminds me of the fun that can be had keeping an eye out for old road signs and street furniture.

This particular sign looks to have fully deserved its preservation status as its 1904 date must make it one of the oldest in the country and it joins a further forty-nine such road signs around Britain that have obtained listed status.

Road signs that were designed prior to the 1957 Anderson Committee on traffic signage (which gave us the designs we see today) are getting rarer by the day, although some still remain dotted throughout the UK and hopefully like the one in this article will be preserved in future.  Many local authorities often already take care of any such signs in their area, as can be seen in the traditional "finger post" signs that still exist in rural areas.  I don't know about you, but I love seeing these old signposts when I'm in the countryside and the older-style signs from the '20s through to the '50s look positively delightful (although perhaps not easy to read at speed, hence the 1957 redesign).  Some of them look unfamiliar to us today - how many people would understand the "Flame of Knowledge" symbol used in the "School" sign? - but many of them remain largely recognisable, a testament to the original designs that were drawn up between 1904 and 1933.

source - Roads.org.uk
Until the Second World War motoring organisations like the AA and the RAC were also allowed to erect signs of their own design to complement the official ones.  They were mainly simple worded warnings with a triangular badge sign above, or circular when giving distances and place names.

It is wonderful to see a small yet important aspect of British motoring history recognised in this manner and I hope it leads to more rare signposts being saved by local councils and interested groups before they disappear altogether.  North Norfolk District Council are to be applauded for taking such a stance on its vintage street furniture and I think their suggestion of looking out for further examples of important historic road signs is an excellent one. I shall continue to keep my eye out for such rarities when travelling through East Anglia, and elsewhere.

Monday 30 January 2012

Southampton's 'oldest film' reshot in city centre

Southampton's 'oldest film' reshot in city centre

A pleasing little heritage project here as a Hampshire museum looks to retrace the steps (or should that be rails?) taken by the first moving picture camera to appear in Southampton.

I always find these kinds of "revisits" to be intriguing as it can be incredible to see certain areas and buildings virtually unaltered by the passage of time, yet others completely changed.  In this particular case there may well be more of the latter, as the earlier film apparently shows much of Southampton as it was before the Second World War.  In this I also have a personal interest, as my great-grandparents were born in Southampton in the 1880s and lived there for many years, so the original footage at least will likely show the town as it was when they were there and it will be fascinating for me, their descendant, to see what it looks like today.

Once again ideas such as this are, in my opinion, an excellent way to engage the younger generation in the history of their town.  To be able to see 100 years' difference side-by-side should make it easier for them to relate to the past.  I hope this reshoot is a success and it would be great to see it taken up by other towns wherever possible.

Friday 27 January 2012

Fred Astaire, Style Icon

Isn't it always the way?  When there's nothing in the news to blog about, I have itchy keyboard fingers but give me three or four posts in my Drafts and I procrastinate.  So I must thank Missy Vintage for giving me an idea for something else to blog about while I wait for vintage news pick up again.  Over on her blog MV has been looking at her "style icons" - ladies from the past who inspire and personify style and glamour - and the thought occurred to me, "why don't I do that for the chaps?".  Already I've touched upon one such fellow, Bertie Wooster (and I shall return to him again in due course) but to begin with we'll start at the top, with Number 1, Mr Style himself - the great Fred Astaire.

All images courtesy of Doctor Macro

In many ways embodying the elegance and refinement of the Thirties, Fred Astaire certainly kept right up-to-date with the latest fashions of the day and his influence can still be felt today not only in dance, film and music but also in men's style.  Have not the top hat, white tie and tailcoat of formal evening wear become inextricably linked to this man, and rightly so?  If you're ever lucky enough to attend an event that requires such a dress code, would you not feel even the slightest inclination to break into a little song-and-dance routine?  I know I would!

But even Astaire himself professed to liking the casual look more and in this he also excelled.  The word "casual" is bandied about a lot these days but in its modern interpretation generally looks awful.  But with Fred Astaire it is the exact opposite.  Tailored sports jackets and blazers, coloured shirts, ties and cravats, and classic slacks, the latter with that traditional Astaire touch - the tie as a belt.  And no man since has been able to make the humble cardigan look quite so stylish(!).

The thing about the Fred Astaire "look" is that it's still relatively easy to obtain the clothes to get it, but it remains almost impossible to get close to his style - that's his personality, ease and fluidity of movement which I feel sure no-one will ever get close to matching again.

To get to within a thousandth of the sophistication and stylishness displayed by Fred Astaire is every right-thinking chap's dream.  We may well achieve that, but nothing more.  Pure, unadulterated Astaireness is unattainable.  We can at least console ourselves with the knowledge that this incredibly elegant individual has been captured on film for us to enjoy and marvel at to our hearts' content.

The world is a better place for Fred Astaire having been in it and as long as his films exist we can forever be reminded of the epitome of male style.

His grace, panache and pure gentlemanliness are still an inspiration and I always have and always will look to him for sartorial ideas.  Mr Astaire, we salute you!

Tuesday 24 January 2012

By Jove, it's Jeeves & Wooster!

I'm feeling awfully jolly all of a sudden and in the mood to share a spot of musical fun involving everyone's favourite gentleman of leisure and his faithful valet:

Sartorially, at least, Bertie Wooster (with occasional gentle steering by Jeeves) remains every chap's ideal.

Image courtesy of Allposters.co.uk


Getting Married in 1929 - Advice from the Tit-Bits Yearbook

With vintage news again going through one of its periodical dry patches, I thought I'd turn again to my copy of The 1929 Tit-Bits Yearbook for blog post material.

Staying broadly with the etiquette theme that featured in my first excerpt we move to the section entitled "Getting Married".  Very little seems to have changed overall in the intervening 83 years, as we head straight for:


What to Wear at a Wedding

The Bride needs no guidance; fashion, custom, and her friends will tell her what is suitable and what is not.  For the Bridegroom a morning-coat and waistcoat, neatly striped trousers, patent leather shoes, white spats and a silk hat are the correct thing, but he is allowed a great deal of latitude, and a bowler often takes the place of the silk hat, and white spats are dispensed with, as are the patent leather shoes and tail coat.
Either a "wing" or double collar may be worn, but, with the former, the bow, which should be of a neat pattern, must be hand-tied.  Bright colours are taboo, but a small white flower may be worn in the buttonhole, and grey suede glove carried.  Coloured silk handkerchiefs are considered out of place; white silk or linen are correct.

The "best man" should follow the bridegroom's lead in the matter of clothes.  Remember that suitability is more important than what is or is not absolutely the correct thing, and that it is better to be married in a quiet lounge suit in which you feel comfortable and look neatly dressed, then to attire yourself in clothes in which you feel, and therefore no doubt look, ridiculous.

At the Church

The bridegroom should arrive, accompanied by his "best man", a quarter of an hour before the ceremony is timed to begin.  The bride, escorted by her father, whose right arm she takes, and accompanied by her bridesmaids, should arrive at the exact time appointed.
The groom stands on the right of the chancel steps, his "best man" a little in the rear on the right.  The bride stands on the left of the chancel, her father on her left hand and a little to the rear, and with her chief bridesmaid a pace or two behind her.  The bridesmaids should arrange themselves near to, and a little behind, the chief bridesmaid.
After the ceremony the register is signed in the vestry, and the bride's parents, best man, and chief bridesmaid, accompany the happy couple to see this little ceremony performed.
After the register has been signed, and congratulations given, the party leaves the church, the bride and bridegroom riding in the first carriage, the bride sitting on the groom's left.  The bride's father and mother ride in the carriage immediately following; the bridesmaids in the next carriages, and the guests are then allocated seats in the remaining vehicles, under the "best man's" directions.

At the Reception

If there is a reception after the ceremony, the newly-married couple remain near the entrance to welcome the guests - who need not, by the way, necessarily have been invited to the church - and to receive congratulations.
Afterwards, they take the place of honour at the top of the table, the bride on her husband's left, her father on her left, and her mother on the groom's right.

What to Say

The health of the bride and bridegroom is proposed by one of the oldest friends of the bride's family.  His speech might be on the following lines:

"Ladies and gentlemen, - It falls to my happy lot heartily to congratulate our newly-married friends, Mr. and Mrs. Blank, and to wish them, on behalf of you all, a very pleasant and successful time during the voyage on which they have just embarked.  The high seas of matrimony are still uncharted for them, and troublesome waters, as many of us may know, are sometimes encountered.  Let us hope and wish that our friends' ship may sail true, however stormy the weather around them.
Soon we shall be giving a hearty send off to the happy pair; first allow me to express the good wishes which we all endorse.  We wish you every happiness, and we hope, when they come round, your silver and golden weddings will find you with health and prosperity abiding with you, and still surrounded by all the staunch and loving friends gathered here to-day.
I propose the toast of "The Bride and Bridegroom."  May the always be as happy as they are to-day, and may good fortune attend them." 

The bridegroom's reply might take the following form:

"Ladies and gentlemen, - On behalf of my wife and myself, I want to thank you very much indeed for the kind and sincere wish which you have just bestowed upon us.  If I find it difficult to find words in which to express our appreciation, it is because I must thank you all doubly, not only for your good wishes, but for the delightful tokens of goodwill which you have given us.  Every one of these presents shall have an honoured place in our home, so that we may perpetually be reminded of their donors' happy smiles and good wishes.
My speech may be short, but my heart is very full.  You have made this day of days a wonderful one for us both, and, from deep down in our hearts, my wife and I thank you a thousand times."

It falls to the "best man's" lot to respond to the toast of "the bridesmaids", and his speech, smoothly couched in a light vein, might be as follows:

"Ladies and gentlemen, - I have performed a hundred and one tasks to-day, happy, agreeable tasks all of them.  Now comes yet another, although, perhaps, in all fairness, I cannot call it a task because it gives me so much pleasure to perform it.  Rather let me call upon all the men present to envy me my happy lot, for mine is the honour of responding to the toast of "The Bridesmaids."  The played their rôles to-day with consummate ease, as well they might, for they were cast for the part of looking beautiful, and right royally they played it: they were an overwhelming success.  But theirs is not the art that conceals artifice, they simply can't help looking beautiful.
Therefore, I count it an honour and a great privilege to be able to respond on their behalf.  They wish the bride and bridegroom every happiness - how could they be otherwise than happy? - and thank you warmly for your kind expression of thanks."

Friday 20 January 2012

Can Biggles sweep the skies again?

Can Biggles sweep the skies again?

With men like those in the article making sure that an aircraft linked to the Biggles mythos can continue to fly, surely the answer must be yes. 

Although it is a shame that a 1960s feature film was never made, at least part of it still survives in the form of this replica built to star in the proposed production.  Now thanks to years of painstaking work by two generations of the same family this reproduction BE2c biplane can and will fly again.  It may not have been able to take to the air for the B.B.C but as the above footage shows, it certainly can fly.

The wider question posed by the article is perhaps of even greater interest.  Should there be a new Biggles movie?  I say yes (well I would, wouldn't I?)!  An attempt was made in 1986 with the somewhat lamentable Biggles: Adventures in Time (almost a "so bad it's good" film, it is rarely spoken about - and even then in hushed tones - by Biggles fans) and a planned big-budget trilogy was in the early planning stages before being canned back in 2001.  But with the recent success of the Harry Potter and Sherlock Holmes films amongst others, perhaps the time is right for a new big screen Biggles adventure.  Imagine what a Biggles film could look like with today's special effects!

In the meantime the 98-odd Biggles books still exist to provide many a film in one's mind, and minor triumphs such as that of "Biggles' Biplane" can help to ensure that this dashing British airman is not forgotten, until hopefully there comes a time when he gets his own film(s) worthy of his exploits.  Chocks away chaps!

Wednesday 18 January 2012

First Oscar winner Wings flies back onto big screen

First Oscar winner Wings flies back onto big screen

With The Artist sweeping all before it (and quite rightly too) with three Golden Globes and twelve - yes, 12 - BAFTA nominations my prediction that 2012 would be the year of the silent film looks to have been correct.  If The Artist can renew interest in silent cinema, as it certainly looks to have done, then it can only be a good thing.

And as The Artist looks a shoo-in for an Oscar or two what better time to re-release the last silent film to receive the Best Picture award, 1927's Wings starring Clara Bow.  Some lucky American cinemagoers will today get the opportunity to experience Wings on the big screen as Paramount Pictures celebrates its 100th anniversary.  Even better the newly-restored footage will be accompanied by a live in-house organ!

Hopefully something similar will take place on this side of the Pond at some point.  With the success of The Artist it is more than likely.  In the meantime, by way of compensation, Wings looks to be available on DVD and Blu-ray from the 24th January.

Jack Powell (Charles Rogers) and Sylvia Lewis (Jobyna Ralston) in Wings.
Image courtesy of IMDb.com

Many people focus on Clara Bow in the film and perhaps rightly so as she was very much a sex-symbol of the time.  I must admit, though, to not being a huge fan of Miss Bow and particularly not in this film which also stars one of my favourite actresses of the 1920s, Jobyna Ralston, who is perhaps best known for starring opposite Harold Lloyd in six of his pictures from 1923 to 1927.  She's one of my vintage crushes, as it happens, and I think she deserves a post all of her own at some point in the future.

In the meantime I shall return to my Harold Lloyd collection and wait excitedly for further developments in the silent film revival that is definitely getting up a head of steam this year.  Hurrah for the silent black-and-white!

Monday 16 January 2012

The Artist paints a beautiful picture


Well, the day after it won 3 Golden Globes, I went to watch The Artist at my local cinema (and, for a change, top marks to Empire Cinemas for actually having the good sense to show it and so save me a 30-mile trip to Stratford) and all I can say is if you have even a passing interest in silent films and the 1920s/30s then you simply must see this film.

The craftsmanship and love that went into making The Artist is obvious from the first frame and the highest praise I can think to give it is that, with the odd momentary exception, I felt as though I could have been watching an actual silent film from 1927.  It was that good.  The cinematography (and traditional 1.33:1 screen ratio), the music (one of the winning Globes, and deservedly so), the inter-titles, and perhaps most amazingly the acting itself was top notch - almost as if the last 83 years never happened.

But The Artist is so much more than just a silent film.  The storyline, the characters - they all stand up to scrutiny and really help to make it more than the sum of its parts.  In fact I'm a bit surprised to see it win a Globe for Best Musical or Comedy because, while there were laughs aplenty and cracking musical numbers, there was also real melodrama and romance.

There really was something for everyone (my mother, who has hardly any interest in vintage and usually wouldn't watch any of my silent film collection, let alone go to the cinema to watch one, was particularly taken with the romantic subplot and lead actor Jean Dujardin's matinée idol looks) and I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were about a dozen people at the screening.  Perhaps there is some culture in Basildon after all(!).

If I get the chance to see it on the big screen again I shall most certainly take it, otherwise I will impatiently await the DVD release.  From what I saw The Artist fully deserves every award it has garnered, and if it doesn't win something at the Oscars I for one will be very disappointed.  I can't ever recall a film that has been so positively received by the critics, who have had absolutely nothing but praise for it.  Is it as good as they say it is?  YES.

Image courtesy of Warner Bros.

Saturday 14 January 2012

Glenn Miller clue found in Reading plane-spotter's log

Glenn Miller clue found in Reading plane-spotter's log

The music of Glenn Miller & his Orchestra was one of my first experiences of vintage; shortly after I started watching Laurel & Hardy and Harold Lloyd films at the age of about 9 or 10 I somehow stumbled across this Big Band sound.  Maybe I first heard it at my nan's WRVS club; if memory serves I seem to recall buying an old LP of The Glenn Miller Story soundtrack from a charity shop - my first record, I think.  As a youngster I lapped up anything to do with the man and his music until I became quite well-versed in it.  Since then my tastes have expanded to include most bands and musicians of the 1920s, '30s & '40s but Glenn Miller will always have a special meaning as my introduction to Big Band and Swing.

The fact that he mysteriously disappeared in 1944 - in an aeroplane no less, another interest of mine - simply added to the legend.  That his "sound" has endured to this day, and has become synonymous with World War Two (despite Miller's success predating the war by a few years) is a testament to the unique, instantly recognisable quality of the songs.  The Glenn Miller Orchestra still records and tours today and books, musicals and documentaries about Miller's career continue to be made.

The mystery of his disappearance over the English Channel on the 15th December 1944, in a flight from Bedford in England to Paris where he was due to join his band for a performance, has continued to puzzle Miller enthusiasts for nearly 70 years.  There have been various crackpot theories that I won't endorse with publication here, but a few years ago the account of an RAF navigator came to light that until now was widely accepted to be most likely - Miller's aircraft had strayed into the South Jettison Area, an agreed-upon place in the Channel where Allied bombers returning from abortive raids could unload their bombs safely, and had been struck by bombs jettisoned by a flight of Lancasters on their way  back from Siegen in Germany.

Glenn Miller death: teenage planespotter's logbook 'scotches conspiracy theory'

A Noorduyn UC-64 Norseman, of the type in which Glenn Miller disappeared
However, with the discovery of this latest information found in a young plane-spotter's book, that hypothesis now looks rather shaky to say the least.  There appears to be no doubt that the aircraft this young lad claimed to have seen that day was the UC-64 Norseman taking Glenn Miller to Paris.  Provided it stayed on course, it would not have gone anywhere near the South Jettison Area and so couldn't have been the aircraft seen to crash by the Lanc navigator. 

The quashing of this previously-favoured theory now means that we are once again no closer to knowing what became of Glenn Miller.  If he was travelling on course and was not struck by RAF bombs, then what did happen to cause him to disappear like that?

The last British government documents relating to such incidents during Second World War won't be declassified until 2025, eighty years after the end of the conflict.  There may be something in them that will shed some light on this enduring mystery but until then this particular enigma looks to remain unanswered.

Tuesday 10 January 2012

Vintage Adventure; Around Europe in 1920s Delage DI Series 5

Two stories here from before Christmas that I kept back until now (good thing too, as there's not a lot else in the way of newsworthy vintage happening out there so far, it seems).  They're so similar in spirit that I reckon they can both be covered in one post, involving as they do two vintage cars undertaking long-distance tours with their owners.

Vintage adventure

The first story begins all the way over in Australia where a vintage car enthusiast and sometime "adventurer" has already driven his 1913 Ford Model T clear across the country (a total of over 2,000 miles) before having it shipped to South Africa to continue right through to Moscow.  This epic road trip is designed to commemorate two similar long-distance drives that took place 100 years ago, and what a way it is to do so!

It just goes to prove what sturdy vehicles these early motor cars are, and reinforces my (and many others') view that these machines need to be used and can withstand great mileages and prolonged use.  The Model T was designed to travel on dirt roads, and be easy to fix, so Melbourne to Moscow shouldn't be beyond it(!).  In 1907, five years before the journeys mentioned in the article, a fleet of cars undertook to travel from Peking (Beijing) to Paris in the famous Peking-Paris road race (and if you can get hold of a copy of the account of the winning team, which included journalist Luigi Barzini Sr., do so).  These cars thrive on use, and there is nothing worse in my eyes than these wonderful vehicles sitting motionless behind a museum tape.  The reactions this Australian fellow has seen so far on his travels prove that vintage cars can engender a sense of camaraderie the world over.

I wish this Aussie adventurer the best of luck and hope he and his Tin Lizzie successfully make it to Moscow.

Around Europe in 1920s Delage DI Series 5

The second story is confined only to Great Britain and Europe but is still a marvellous tale of travel and history.  French car-maker Delage produced some of the most beautiful cars of the interwar years, including the now ultra-rare D1 S5 featured in this article.  This particular car has such an amazing history, yet another reason why it needs to be driven and displayed widely.  I'm glad to see that the current owner restored it and does just that, having travelled all over Europe in it in his quest to find out as much about its past as possible. It's also heartwarming to see that a new generation get so much enjoyment out of the vehicle, I hope they continue to have fun with it while enriching the lives of everyone it comes into contact with.

Saturday 7 January 2012

Driving Miss Lemon (away with Captain Hastings)

I was just thinking the other day that it was about time I did another Captain Hastings post and what should happen but Paperdoll, of The paper doll says "let's have tea!", features that notorious jumper, thereby giving me the perfect excuse to respond with some solid Arthur Hastings.

We've now reached The Adventure of Johnnie Waverly, which sees our heroes decamping to the countryside estate of Mr Waverly to investigate the threatened kidnap of his son.  As it only takes a couple of days for Poirot to solve the case Hastings' attire hardly changes, in fact he wears the same 3-piece suit the whole time, but that's not to say that there isn't any sartorial splendour to be had from the good Captain.

A little bit of Miss Lemon so people can't say I'm biased(!)
Captain Hastings has entered the Lagonda in the Le Mans 24 Hour race.  I think it's a shame we never get to find out if he made it to La Sarthe and, if so, how he did.  Miss Lemon remains largely unimpressed.

A sneak preview of Hastings' best outfit of the episode - the driving ensemble

The somewhat limited wardrobe of Captain Hastings at least means that we can focus a little more on the man himself:

A smile and a patterned (green) tie

A relaxed walk in the grounds
Hastings spends a fair amount of time wandering around with his hands in his pockets, giving a wonderful air of easiness mixed with thoughtfulness.

Even at the dinner table Hastings can't leave the cars alone(!)
Dressing for dinner (naturally) helps break up the clothing a bit.  The traditional 1930s peak lapel dinner jacket, waistcoat and dress shirt have never looked so good(!).

Back into the good old Prince of Wales check for breakfast
After a meagre breakfast ("I wonder if they're not a bit short of money, you know") it's off into the village to ask  a few questions and get a more substantial meal:

The brown trilby sets off against the grey 3-piece perfectly

If there's one thing Captain Hastings does know about, it's a full English breakfast with a glass of ale.  It's always a delight to see him educating Poirot once in a while.

"Two pints, please!"

Better light reveals the gorgeous pattern on the tie
In high spirits(!), it's back to the house in the Lagonda... which breaks down en route:

Off comes the jacket

Up go the shirtsleeves

On goes the oil(!)

Note the arm bands (not sure about the jug-in-the-ear look!)
Useful devices for keeping ones shirtsleeves out of the oil sump (and for avoiding the dreaded "monkey cuff" that can sometimes occur when sleeves are a bit too long - the edge of the cuff should rest nicely on the wrist) arm bands can still be had today.  Mine are a pair of Lloyd, Attree & Smith silvers, by way of Amazon.  It pays to get good quality bands, as some of the lesser ones tend not to have much give in them and so limit the blood flow a bit!

Rhodium-plated chrome colour arm bands by Lloyd, Attree & Smith (also available in gold) - £6.30 from Amazon

Finally we come to the pièce de résistance - the driving outfit.  Where do I begin?!  The cap, the gauntlets, the coat, the scarf - if I had a car this is how I'd want to be dressed when piloting it!  The whole thing just gels perfectly.
Gauntlets and myriad other gloves can be found for not unreasonable prices at Chester Jefferies glovemakers.  Two styles of gauntlet are available:

The Superior, from £65 @ Chester Jefferies

The Gauntlet, from £61 @ Chester Jefferies

The scarf, well I'm not sure but no doubt something similar could be found to suit in a charity shop or even a high street store.  There is always eBay and etsy too, of course.  Likewise the hat could easily be obtained from the likes of Village Hats for minimal outlay.

Check out that collar!
But that leather coat - oh my!  You'd have a job finding anything of the sort - particularly with that collar shape - anywhere these days.  We'll just have to admire Captain Hastings' example with envious eyes.

Beautiful scarf and cap

And so we reach the end of another Captain Hastings fashion post.  The man is obviously popular as he frequently appears as a search subject in my Blogger Stats.  The wonder coat-scarf-hat-gloves combo makes at least one more appearance in the series as well, so fear not - Arthur Hastings will return!

Thursday 5 January 2012

Britain's first seaplane to fly again as enthusiasts make replica of Waterbird

Images courtesy of flyingmachines.ru
Britain's first seaplane to fly again as enthusiasts make replica of Waterbird

I have "Richard Hannay" of the excellent blog Electric Edwardians to thank for making me aware of this fantastic article.  His site is a wonderful resource of pictures and information about the buildings, machines and related occurrences during the 1910s.

One hundred years ago, less than a decade after the Wright Brothers' first flight at Kitty Hawk, British aviation pioneers A. V. Roe (later to become Avro, creator of the Lancaster and Vulcan bombers amongst others) became the first company in the United Kingdom to successfully build and fly a seaplane - the A. V. Roe Curtiss-type "Waterbird".

Now I'm very pleased to see that local aviation enthusiasts have not only marked the centenary of the first flight at Lake Windermere on the 25th November 1911, but also intend to build a replica of the Waterbird and actually fly it!  To see such an important landmark in British aviation remembered in this fashion is splendid and everyone involved is to be congratulated - I hope the necessary funds to finish the aircraft are forthcoming.  It is indeed a good thing that this early trailblazing flight is not forgotten and is appreciated by a new generation and what better way to ensure that than with a working, flying example of the machine.  It would be a wonderful sight to see the Waterbird take to the skies - and the water - again, a century after its first foray across Windermere.  Best of luck, chaps!

Wednesday 4 January 2012

A Hatty New Year

Dear me, that's an awful title pun even by my standards!  It's accurate though; 2012 could well become the year of the hat as far as I am concerned.  I bought a couple of new ones with some Christmas money, you see.

I can honestly say that I am now well-represented in the hat department.  In addition to several flat and newsboy caps of varying thicknesses, my trusty fedora, a Panama, boater and even a pith helmet for when the heat really strikes(!) I am now the proud owner of a couple of trilbies.

They are quite a disparate pair of hats, but none the worse for it.  In fact it's an interesting illustration of how varying in style a hat can be and yet still be called a trilby.

Jaxon Hats Downer trilby from Village Hats, £7.95 from £14.95

The first is an inexpensive little delight (£6.76, if you're asking, but that was half price and with a discount) from my favourite on-line hatters - Village Hats.  I can't say it enough times; their range is extensive and quite reasonably priced and they are usually my first port of call when I am in the market for a new titfer.

Image courtesy of Dr. Macro
According to the accompanying blurb, this downer trilby is supposed to make the wearer resemble Rex Harrison (on a budget).  I'm not sure if it's quite going to manage that with me, but it is nevertheless fantastic for the price.  Beautifully lined and remarkably sturdy, it is actually slightly too big even for my oversized noggin.  As if ridiculously long legs weren't enough, I also have to take a modern extra-large in hat sizes.  The more traditional measurement would be 7⅜ (7½ US, 23½in., 60cm - actually 59½cm for me but all hatters recommend that if you fall between sizes you should always go up to the next one) although I'm sure the more famous hat makers such as Lock & Co. or Bates would say that I've measured it incorrectly - most people do, apparently.  

I've ordered a resizing headband from Village Hats to hopefully take care of the excess space (the over-the-ears look never suits!) but sadly this particular item of headgear is no longer available.  That amazing half-price with discount offer was simply because it was old stock. 

A few more examples of the Jaxon Downer trilby have just become available, in Extra Large only.  Get 'em while you can!

The "Kempton" trilby from Hornets, £25 (plus p+p)

Although I said that Village Hats' choice was wide, their more traditional trilbies are just outside my price range at the moment (and tend to come with a feather stuck in the side of them; I personally don't much care for that look and while it may well be removable I'd rather not have to find out).  My back-up in such scenarios is Hornets of Kensington.  Theirs might be a smaller selection but it is still kind to the wallet.  Their "Epsom" trilby is a very acceptable £25.  Once again I seem to have snapped up the last of a line though, as it has since been replaced with the similar "Kempton".

Now I really am covered (literally!) for all situations and styles.  Hopefully in the coming year I'll have a few chances to really give my new purchases a whirl, in the meantime my bonce will continue to be stylishly protected from the elements.

Monday 2 January 2012

New Year, Old Buses

This year's resolution, as far as I go in for that sort of thing, is to get to more museums, events and places of interest and hopefully to meet more like-minded folk in person.  I may even have a blogger meet-up planned!

For now, though, I've started the year as I mean to go on with a visit to the Castle Point Transport Museum that has featured on these pages before.

In a similar vein to the Keighley Bus Museum whose Christmas Day service I posted about recently, Castle Point Transport Museum in association with a couple of local bus companies have for the last 5 years been putting on special services in the local area on New Year's Day when no normal buses are running.  Made up entirely of exhibits and some of the bus operators heritage fleet, it allows people to move around the local area as well as visit the museum.  It's also an excellent excuse to ride on some old buses!

So bright and early on Sunday morning I was standing at the local bus stop waiting to hail what promised to be quite a different bus compared to the norm.  Rather a nostalgia trip to see this pulling in a few minutes later:

My transport for the day, a 1973 Bristol RE
And so on to the museum, with a some stops along the way as a few bemused members of the public hopped on and off en route.  Oh, the looks you get from people as you sail past in a vintage omnibus!

1949 AEC Regent RT III
The museum itself was fairly busy by its usual standards, even taking into account the whole New Year's Sunday date.  There was even a female 1940s re-enactor (complete with victory rolls!) visiting with her family.  It all added to the fun!

1959 AEC Routemaster in local operator's colours
Several buses were lined up on either side of the museum, which was the local depot between 1934 and 1978 and still has much of the workshop ambience about it.  Elsewhere there are display rooms and a model railway, with more being added continually.

1960 Leyland PD3

Some of the buses are still undergoing restoration, like these two PD3s, and there remain many signs that this was and still is a place for repairing public service vehicles.

1958 Leyland PD3

Many of the museum's top exhibits were present, such as this Bristol open-topper and a 1949 Leyland OPD.

1953 Bristol KSW

The traditional London Routemaster was also represented, with this example serving Hounslow.  All aboard, tickets please!  Note the period adverts extolling commuters to "Please avoid the rush hours".  Seems some things never change!

1962 AEC Routemaster
1959 Bristol LDL

I couldn't help but smile at the above LDL - service no. 13 served Runwell Hospital, the local mental health hospital.  No superstitious bus drivers worked that route, I'll warrant!

The relative quiet of the museum compared with the climactic annual open day in October meant I had more of a chance to take a few snaps of the contents of the display cabinets.  Most of them contained articles relating to vintage bus travel, but there were also several items pertaining to local and national history.

Enamel signs for the county's bus routes and local businesses

All kinds of bits and bobs could be seen, from razors to pumps to books.

Even some jewellery for the gals!

London Transport books and leaflets

Bus and railway paraphernalia

Children's toys



Do I remember?  I wish I did!

Clippy's Cafe

Not sure what the link is here...!

More wartime kitchenware and whatnots

Clock in (or out!)

Don't forget your badge!

Through the office

An Imperial 65 (wide carriage), the direct precursor of my own 66

All in all, another splendid day out with hopefully a lot more to come in 2012 from this museum at least.  The weather managed to hold off until just before I got home and it was a lovely way to spend the first day of the year.  So far my New Year's resolution is holding up well, and unlike some I can't wait to put in into practice again!


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