Wednesday, 25 January 2012

On the Road With Sid

Carry on Camping and Convenience both use a post war housing estate for outdoor scenes.  According to
this is the Pinewood Green Estate in Buckinghamshire.

These scenes have unlocked a memory of mine - something trivial yet a marker for a past life lived.  It's the road surface that does it.  Not Tarmac - ubiquitous to us - but concrete blocks separated by little gaps.  It made a significant difference to the noise of riding in a car - it was more like riding on a train with the rhythmic thumps.  When I was growing up in the 1970s/80, my grandparents lived on a post war housing estate on the edge of Sheffield - which also had roads just like those.  I wondered what happened to these roads.  I'm sure they've been Tarmaced over now.  Why were they originally surfaced in this way?  An internet trawl brought up just one site that might answer my question:
Apparently at one time a high price of oil and so bitumen resulted in many roads being made of concrete.  That would be it then.  A little snapshot of transport history brought to us by Carry on.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Is it a ship? Is it a train? No, it's Sealink!

"On the Buses" must have proved to be a very popular film, because two more followed - "Mutiny on the Buses" and "Holiday on the Buses."  Both sequels had an airing this Christmas holiday - in fact several airings I think.  Anyway, 'Holiday' is notable for the scene where Olive loses her bikini bottoms in the swimming pool (breathlessly funny to my 9 year old) and for Wilfrid Brambell in the role of Mrs Butler's holiday romance.  But as I watched it, I was yet again sent into a reverie of nostalgia - this time over the view of a Sealink ferry.

The scene shows a large ship making its way through a rough sea - it has a red painted funnel with the BR double arrow symbol emblazoned across it.  This white logo on a red background is still used to denote today's privatised rail network.  For example, signs directing people to stations, and the signs at station entrances all use it.  It is a universally recognised part of the railway infrastructure.  People now may wonder what an earth a railway symbol is doing on a ship - because sadly the connection between rail and shipping has been fuzzed.  The shipping services were the first part of the railways to be re-privatised back in the 1980s.  And there ended a connection that went back to the beginning of rail travel.

Victorian railway companies were quick to realise that by connecting their trains to boats, they could tap into a lucrative desire to travel to the Continent among the richer classes.  Boat trains whizzed to major ports, where pleasure seekers could step from train to ship easily.  There are a range of beautiful posters from the early 20th century that advertised such services.  Railway companies also built docks - the Great Central Railway for example were responsible for founding the Port of Immingham and shipped in freight for rail distribution.

On nationalisation of the railways after World War Two, many shipping services remained in British Railways' hands - they crossed the channel and the North Sea, as well as ferrying people across the Humber to name but a few routes.  But then came aeroplanes and package holidays and the Humber Bridge.  When "Holiday on the Buses" was filmed in 1973, Sealink - the name that BR ships went under - was on its way out.  Thankfully, the Channel Tunnel has restored a link between this waterway and rail that has been too tenuous for too long.

See for more on the BR logo - yes, a whole website is devoted to it!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Saving a Stamp

Following on from my previous post, the holiday season brought yet another showing of "On the Buses".  And if it's scheduled, then it's on in our house, being an inter-generational hit.

When Jack and Stan spike the women drivers' tea with something that makes them constantly desperate to spend a penny, we get to see a series of public conveniences.  This is the perfect way to view some of the aforementioned buildings that have been lost.  I took particular notice of this scene because of my recent blogging interest, and caught a glimpse of something else which awakened a whole new set of reminiscence.

The thing that I saw was an advertisement for Green Shield Stamps - an orange and white banded poster declaring that the stamps could be obtained there.  This took me right back to a youth spent sticking strips of stamps into paper books - both Green Shield and Co-op Divi ones.  When your book was full, it could be exchanged for a useful household gift in the precursor to Argos.  Which home set up before 1985 doesn't have a set of glasses or crockery that were an exchange for a wodge of Green Shield books?

The most wonderful thing about these stamp based shopping reward schemes was the lack of need to carry plastic cards around with you everywhere.  My wallet bursts at the seams with shop reward cards.  I feel I must have them because I'm sure that shops factor in the costs of the rewards to their prices - so not to participate is to lose out.  And they're all at it now!  I curse the time I waste in searching for the card for that particular shop, the cuticles ripped and the nail varnish chipped while rooting around in the densely packed corners of my poor strained wallet.  And then there's the junk mail - because the real reason behind modern reward schemes is data collection.  Wasn't it all much simpler when you got a small child to stick stamps into a book to keep them quiet and then selected a gift from a catalogue?  I'm sure Olive would agree.