Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Recollections of growing up - the trip to The Rom

The perils of being a skater in the 70's

The other night I was lying in bed, couldn't sleep but my mind drifted back to a time long ago in my life when I was a kid growing up in Scotland. For those of you that know me will be aware that I was a pretty keen skateboarder. Others will know that I was brought up in Blantyre, a small village on the outskirts of Glasgow, an industrial, rugged former mining village. It sat on the Hamilton Circle, a train line that took you pretty much to Kelvingrove Skatepark. In those heady days it was all Rector Pads and Protecs, endless summers and rain affected skate sessions spent in the laundry on Argyle Street playing Space Invaders and drinking strawberry or chocolate milk.

The Blantyre and Hamilton skaters (essentially me, Eric Boyle (Boydy), Eddie Collins, Paul Bendoris, Phil O'Hea, and a few others) were a bit different to those that lived on the other side of the Hamilton Circle, namely the Bellshill Children's Home team. They were a pretty hardcore crowd. Big Phil Hayley was actually English, possibly from Essex, and he was somehow linked to the Children's home by his parents working there. Then there was another scruffy dude, Billy I think, best skater of all of us - he may have been a resident of the home, plus a few other hangers on. The thing they had was Phil Hayley's Mark 3 Ford Cortina - I shall discuss this at a later date and time with regard to a trip to Livingston.

Coming back to my insomnia; it was my attempt to recall a trip that I spent during one summer, maybe 1978, possibly 1979 that was keeping me awake. In our modern, paranoid, digitally connected world are we safer or more at risk than we were back in the 70's?

And what of that trip? Let me explain; I was raised by my grandparents, my granny, who I referred to as 'mum' died in 1976, quite suddenly. She had been unwell on and off and the evening before Mother's Day she became unwell and was admitted to hospital. I was awoken at about 7am the next morning with the news she had died. This meant I would now be raised by my granddad, a proud if ever so opinionated, bigoted and slightly bad tempered individual. An ex miner, soldier and engineer ill health had placed him outside the sphere of paid employment.

So it came to pass that in about 1976, just as punk was emerging, this thing called skateboarding appeared. I was desperate for a board. My first attempt at 'building' on featured a roller skate with no trucks, hence no steering, a gloss painted deck and a near death experience. Soon after I became pally with a school mate called Ian Hill; he had been to Canada and they had brought back two polyprops. I was hooked.

I then managed to get a fibreglass decked board, literally a polyprop with a flexi deck. The kick tail was so bendy that it literally could touch the ground without lifting the nose. Loose bearing wheels were later retro fitted with bearings acquired from Asda shopping trolley's. Coffins were the order of the day, one hill in Blantyre was particular good, very steep and in the poshest part of town, so we could annoy those that were up themselves. There was one guy, whose name I cannot remember, had a wooden decked board with dayglo yellow wheels and sealed bearings - he was fast, so fast the 'segs' in his shoes used to spark as he braked at the bottom.

So as I became more into skating I progressed, frequent trips to Kelvingrove, evenings at the Holy Cross banks, better gear, etc. Then the Bellshill bunch announced they were going to The Rom for the summer. The Rom, one of the best skateparks in the UK, near London, by themselves for a few weeks.  That was it, I was going. A previous injury (broken arm sustained skating illegally on the Motherwell Bridge full pipes), had made me miss a legendary trip to Colne to skate their square pool. There was no way I was missing out on a trip to The Rom.

I asked and was amazed that I was allowed to go, by myself, by train (overnight) to London and on to Romford, via Surrey Skateboards in Woking no less, for a trip to Romford. Now, I know this was the late 1970's, and the world was a very different place, no cellphones (in fact I don't think we had a landline till the 80's), no computers - there were paedophiles about, they just hadn't been outed.

So it came to pass, and being a bit of a train geek, selected the least direct route. At that time there were three night trains per night to London from Glasgow Central. The flashest one went at midnight. For some reason my granddad didn't think this was the best choice, probably for there being too many drunks about. The midnight one was also the one that had all sleeper carriages, only stopped twice (Carlisle and Preston) and probably cost the most. The second best went straight down the West Coast mainline, few stops and got in very early. My choice was the 9.50pm which took the scenic route; instead  of going direct it went via Kilmarnock and Dumfries, presumably to get punters off the Belfast ferry.

Now it was the lying in bed bit where I started; that night when I couldn't sleep the moon was amazingly bright - much like the early summer evening I headed off to the big smoke. I probably left Blantyre Station at about 9pm to get to Glasgow Central for my epic journey; most people must have thought I was a runaway, laden down with a skate bag, sleeping bag stashed inside, plus food, a calor gas stove, camping pan and cutlery. In my wallet was 40 quid - a massive amount in those days, but I did have to buy new gear from Surrey Skateboards (sadly the shop has gone, they are virtual, much like my memories).

The train was old, dusty and the carriages were those old cubicle kind that you get on Hitchcock films. To be honest I can't remember how crowded it was, whether I spoke to anyone, but I do know I didn't have any fear of the unknown; I must have been running on adrenalin, with a wallet full of cash, a rail card and a return ticket to London Euston. I do remember checking the countryside and the weird places the train went through, bits of Scotland I had heard of but as sure as hell had never been to. After a couple of hours the train reached the outskirts of Carlisle and the train came to a halt; this was near a big shunting yard full of freight trains and locos. It was lit up like a sports stadium; here they pulled off the slow diesel loco and replaced it with a slightly faster electric loco. From here it was another five hours to Euston - and I don't think I slept a wink.

At around 5.45am we arrived in London, the sun rising as we entered the station. This was the next part of my intrepid journey - navigating the underground to get to Waterloo to get the connection to Woking for the shopping bit of my journey. I can't remember whether I bought a one day pass or a separate return to Woking, but getting to Waterloo was amazing. I had never seen a train station as big, nor had I seen so many trains, and wait, there were Caribbean people too! I checked the departures board and headed off for Woking, at what must have been about 6.30am. I remember skating down the platform with my bag on my bag, with a member of British Rail staff who looked like Louis Armstrong actually singing "what a wonderful world", whilst in my head all I could think of was The Kinks Waterloo Sunset.

The journey to Woking was equally as exciting, crossing the Thames, racing through mythical places like Clapham Junction, Wimbledon and Hersham (as mentioned in the Sham 69 song Hersham Boys - lace up boots and corduroys), before getting to Woking, maybe at about 7.30am - a couple of hours before the shop would open. However, this is where things would become a little complicated. Now back in the day you had to show the man your ticket to leave the station - wait, where was the ticket, and the rail card and the fat wallet that was burning a hole in my pocket - all were gone. I was quite literally shitting bricks - 400 miles from home, at risk of being called a fare dodger, no money, no return ticket, nobody to call for help, with only a big bag, a skateboard and a broad Scottish accent for company.

I fronted to the first station person I saw; normally Scots struggle to be understood and they are not known for the slow pace of their delivery of words. How the hell the bloke figured out what I was on about I will never know. I had obviously dropped my wallet somewhere between Louis Armstrong and sitting down on the train, or perhaps it was on the train? Either way, it was gone.

They sat me down and figured a plan of what to do whilst I attempted to tighten my anal sphincter even more as the catastrophe of the situation began to grow in my young head. It probably didn't take that long for them to phone Waterloo, check lost property and despatch my wallet on the next train to Woking, where it arrived maybe an hour later, much to my relief. Could you imagine that happening today?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

NZTA clearly don't read the papers

I was at work the other day and on the table at lunch was a copy of the Bay of Plenty Times, the local newspaper for Tauranga. A couple of stories caught my eye. The first related to this piece of 'construction' (sorry can't find the link to the actual story). Anyway, if you drive or cycle this way you will see that $3.6 million is being spent demolishing a large hill to fill a valley to straighten a section of road that, according to NZTA, RDC and the Bay of Plenty Times is 'an accident blackspot'.

Great work you would think? Well possibly not. Turn over the page in the paper and there was another story highlighting there were 1400 serious crashes in the WBOP region last year, but guess what, less than 140 were caused by the conditions, the quality of the road or a defective vehicle.

So $3.6 million (and I bet it goes over that) to make a small section of road faster, which will in turn mean that the bendy sections after this new part, will become the new accident blackspots - so money well spent? The logging trucks will get to Tauranga a minute quicker?

Maybe the $3.6 million could be spent on measures to decrease motor vehicle usage, public transport, cycle lanes, etc - not whilst the car is still king!

So what do you stand for?

The local elections are coming, and one local has possibly the most ridiculous billboard ever. The woman is called Leandra Bowen  and her punchline is

Advocating crime prevention

Now some of you might think I am being a little flippant - but I do not see any of the other candidates with an opposite response, e.g. advocating domestic violence, supporting theft and/or encouraging fraud. I would suggest that my little town has its fair share of other problems - a polluted lake, a dying CBD, a lack of job opportunities, crippling debt and no population growth. I think Ms. Bowen needs to get out more!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Treatygate - the rise of the old white racists

Long time no post; I have kept my output going via various Facebook groups, but since some of them seem to have become the dwelling place of conspiracy theorists, with agendas on Fluoride in drinking water, 1080 poisoning everyone, etc. and, that I was so annoyed by a prat called John Ansell and his "Treatygate" get media commentary on the breakfast news, I felt obliged to start blogging again.

The issue on the news article that regrettably gave Ansell air time for his simplistic views was that of adding the Maori names for the north and south islands of New Zealand. From that link you can see that "the practice was common place until the mid 1950's". It isn't new and the lecturer on marleting that arued for the change blew Ansell out of the water.

Ansell did the usual fear mongering "next we'll be calling New Zealand Aotearoa" - the sooner the better, the sooner we become a republic and free ourselves of the shackles of the manarchy the better.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Collection of John Key's Lies

A selection - there are more (GST, ACC, etc)

On rivers and lakes or this one


The income gap between NZ and Australia

Oil and gas exploration of the East Cape

The SAS in Iraq and this about how prisoners were treated

About his share dealings before Kiwirail was renationalised

About those ministerial BMW's

Trying to offer the former National party leader a job out of the country

About job creation

Tax cuts

On mining reserves

More random 'Next Blog' stuff

This week every 'next blog' seems to be a cancer sufferer; I read somewhere that Google monitors the content you are viewing and selects content accordingly. I can't remember googling cancer!