… and one I might struggle to keep – to post on WordPress at least once per week. Not that I will necessarily have anything illuminating to say but, as I post on Blipfoto everyday, there should be no shortage of images.
It has been a quiet week in Beaufront Woodhead. The hard frosts have disappeared, to be replaced by a gloomy light, plenty of rain and high winds. Occasionally the sun has slid through a gap in the clouds and then it is a few short paces from the front door to grab the light. This is a series of local images from the last few days rounded off by my middle son eyeing up his inheritance – we took the Elise 117 miles into the Borders because we could and because driving that machine is always a joy. Thanks to the bikes I am very familiar with all the routes heading north from Carter Bar, to Newcastleton and south via Keilder:
The sun going down across the Tyne Valley
Taken before the sun disappeared for the day
The view from the trees back to Beaufront Woodhead Farm
A brief moment in time, the sun shining on Keith’s house – earlier today, 7th January.
The trip to Duns has become an annual pilgrimage. Last year in April, to commemorate fifty years since Jim Clark’s death at Hockenheim in 1968 and, this year, for the opening of the extended and much enhanced museum. Last year in the Elise, this year, 167 miles on the F850 GS on a perfect day for riding.
The displays include a new commemorative film, his trophies, a walk-around time-line of memorabilia and two of his iconic vehicles: the Lotus 25 R6 on loan from the Tinguely Museum Switzerland and a Lotus Cortina on loan from Dario Franchitti – perfect choices. Clark was stunning in any Lotus but for real entertainment, there was no better sight than Jim flying the Ford at ten tenths through the apex on three wheels.
The Power of One
The Lotus 25 R6
The Lotus Cortina “in flight”
Lotus Cortina – close up
Looking at the Cortina more closely, I was reminded that they were originally badged under the Consul brand. My parents belonged to the ‘Ford family’ owning three consecutive Consuls throughout the 1950s and early 1960s. They have appeared at various times in this blog, including the original MK1. Just at the time they might have gone down the Cortina road, they chose the Corsair – a big mistake, the first being so unreliable, it was quickly replaced by another. I can only assume at a significant discount.
The primary difference between the two Corsairs was that the first’s crunchy column-change was finally replaced with a standard floor-change in the second. Mother had learned with a column-change and in her usual determined fashion, she was sticking to it, long after it was a good idea. When they returned from working abroad in the mid 1970s they remained loyal to Ford, finally acquiring a Mk III Cortina. After that it was a Volvo 343 followed by a series of pedestrian Vauxhalls. As with many other aspects of their later years, automotively they had lost their way.
There are no signs. The implication is that if you don’t know where to go then you shouldn’t be here. It will be different when the Open arrives along these shores but at all other times, Muirfield is discreet, understated, almost forbidding.
It starts in the car park. Should I really be here. Is this row of covered stalls really intended for guests. The pewter grey Elise looks perfectly at home, more at ease in its surroundings than me. The walk to the course and clubhouse is no less a pilgrimage than first steps along Magnolia Drive. Still there are no signs but the imposing P Johnson & Co Iron Gates is the obvious direction – if Bates Motel had boasted a golf course, this is how the entrance might have looked. To the right is the pedestrian gate and this alone solemnly announces that you have arrived at The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers.
Inside the clubhouse my generous host for the day gives me a tour of the inner sanctum: the wood panelling and changing room reminiscent of a boys grammar; the polished trophies, some of the earliest ever played for; the tall red-coated portraits; the maps portraying the evolution of the course; the dark bust of the 1950s Captain, C J Y Dallmeyer; the scorecards from past Opens and a replica of the Claret Jug, complete with up-to-date engravings – 2017 Open Winner, Jordan Spieth. Quiet as a library, this place is special. In the hall I meet the Recorder, various members and later the Captain – all welcoming, polite, men of standing. This is not the stuffy, jurassic establishment portrayed by the social and print media, this is the polar opposite.
The seventh, Muirfield
We play foursomes, the traditional Muirfield game – my playing partner takes the odd tees and I take the evens such that I will take the final drive up the eighteenth. I had no preconceived agenda about setting a score so assistance and a joint responsibility suits me fine. More than that, it is a thoroughly enjoyable team game and we rise to the occasion, hitting fairways and sinking putts – a birdie at the par 5 ninth puts us five up. At the turn, we head to the clubhouse for lunch. This is how all golf should be played. ‘And, if it be retorted that a player plays twice as many shots in a fourball game as in a Foursome, the Muirfield man would reply – “Play 36 holes in 4 ½ hours and you will get the same number of shots, twice the exercise, far more fun, and you won’t have to wait between shots. Furthermore you will learn to play better golf.” ‘ – Foreward to G Pottinger’s Muirfield and the Honourable Company.
The thirteenth – unlucky for some, we made par 😉
Lunch is taken in the lounge, jacket and tie being mandatory. I have brought a tie from the funerals drawer for the occasion – I am a guest and I must honour club traditions, no matter that such attire is at complete odds with my late hippy demeanour. A generous tray of sandwiches is accompanied by a gunner (ginger beer, ginger ale, dash of lime and a measure of angostura bitters), followed by coffee and the traditional Muirfield and Prestwick liqueur – kümmel, a sweet, colourless drink flavoured with caraway seed, cumin, and fennel. First impressions are mixed but I warm to it as the glass empties. I am unsure of the effect it may have on the back nine.
Sure enough, post lunch, our partners make a comeback. We are playing to Colonel Dallmeyer’s rules. Individual handicaps are ignored – each team plays level until one pair goes three-up and your opponents receive strokes until the leading pair are back to one-up. After the sixteenth we are playing level again – we lead by one with two holes to play. All of the Muirfield holes have witnessed high drama and historic occasions, none more so than the 17th at the 1972 Open. Trevino has hacked his way into rough at the back of the green in four, Jacklin is sitting comfortably on the green in three:
On the same hole we are lying three in the semi-rough to the right of the green having avoided some monstrous bunkers – our opponents have been in several:
… Hew extracting himself from a bunker on the 17th – not for the first time.
I chip within a distance short enough to be given the hole – we have won 2&1 – what Jacklin would have given for five at the 17th in 1972. That year I was oblivious to the high drama being acted out at Muirfield. On the same day and around the same time I know exactly where I was – at Brands Hatch for the 1972 British Grand Prix, watching Emerson Fittipaldi take the flag for Lotus. In those far-off days, major sporting events were concluded on Saturdays, not Sundays. The modern migration to the Sabbath has less to do with the slackening of religious observance and more to do with maximising TV exposure. This fuzzy clip from Brands was filmed by BBC Eurovison and the commentary is in Austrian:
This youthful obsession explains the Lotus in the Muirfield car park – it is not about prestige or one-upmanship, it is about history, teenage dreams and the joy of driving – as Andrew Frankel recently observed in Motor Sport – ‘The secret is not to go lobbing it around – the pleasure comes not from power and slides but feel and finesse’ – it has ‘a level of feel that makes all other sports cars seem like you’re driving them wearing oven mitts … the car is simply fabulous’.
However, I confess, given the choice now, I would be at the Open – modern day F1 is a pale shadow of its former self. It has been a convoluted journey from Kentish tarmac to the fairways of East Lothian.
The eighteenth – as a consolation, our opponents win the hole with par.
With sincerest thanks to David S-S for organising my visit and to Hew and Mark for their excellent company. A very memorable day.
Everything passes, everything changes. The objects I idolised as a boy are now museum pieces and the heroes I worshipped are gone but, the obsessions remain. I am old enough to look at these machines and remember their day of revolution; the days they rolled off the transporter ramps into a world aghast at their modernity. I am old enough to remember the consequences of their frailties.
plural noun: relics – an object surviving from an earlier time, especially one of historical interest. – a part of a deceased holy person’s body or belongings kept as an object of reverence.
Both definitions apply. All of these machines have personal significance beyond their histories: the first time I saw them in the pages of Autosport; the first time I saw them in the ‘flesh’; the first time I saw them in flight; the still moment I heard of the tragedies. All of them represent remembrance of things past and none more so than those that carry the green and yellow badge:
Maybe in some distant place, everything is already, quietly, lost. Or at least there exists a silent place where everything can disappear, melding together in a single, overlapping figure. And as we live our lives we discover – drawing towards us the thin threads attached to each – what has been lost.
Sputnik Sweetheart – Haruki Murakami
Jim Clark’s 1967 Dutch GP winning Lotus 49 – Classic Team Lotus, Hethel.
… credit where it is due, Nikon have finally done the decent thing. Earlier this week I took delivery of a brand new Nikon D610 to replace the three year old, and seriously flawed, D600. A few days later the invoice arrived – total cost £0. I am of course delighted and the last few nights I have been re-studying the many-paged manual in earnest. Not that there is any difference between the two models (at least none that I can remember) but I had grown seriously disaffected with the camera and the brand. Sitting on the shelf, the subtleties of its dials, buttons and menus are soon forgotten.
It remains to be seen just how much I will use it. The Fuji X100s is still my weapon of choice not just because it is small, easy to carry about, beautifully retro and produces such wonderful results but because it is so intuitive – yes, it too comes with a many-paged manual but I rarely look at it. The dials are entirely consistent with a ‘proper’ camera and the menus easy to navigate, which prompts the question, will I be able to resist the rumoured 24MP X100F.
Enough of the hardware – the skies above Northumberland have been putting on a show this last week and here they are. The stills are captured with the Fuji and the videos with the even more diminutive GoPro Hero 4. The first two are time lapse recordings across the neighbouring fields and the last, a ten minute edited drive in the Elise from Hexham to Warkworth Golf Club (across country via Corbridge for fuel, Fenwick, Whalton and Morpeth):
This is a collection of images from a week of change. Down the Birkey Burn there are signs of leaf fall and the woodman has been wielding his axe. In expectation of some autumnal rides, the Scrambler has been fitted with a new FEK (fender eliminator kit) and front indicators to replace the ugly chrome originals. The sun has emerged but the temperature has dropped so the Elise has got its hat on and walks down the Tyne and Derwent have been illuminated by a bright low sun. The competitive golf season is near an end for another year – change is in the air.
This is a lethal combination: 135bhp in a car weighing just 740kg in the hands of my middle son, Matt. He spent too much of his upbringing in the company of a madman behind the wheel (:-)) to be trusted with such exotica. More relevant and nearer the truth, my bank balance would not stand the premiums if he were added to the insurance.
Consequently, in this image, both man and machine were stationary and the blur added retrospectively – a much cheaper, virtual solution:
… is in the detail. This is blatant self-promotion but I trust I will be forgiven. I have been working on another promotional poster for Golf in the Wild, trying to convey its real ‘charm’ i.e. it is about much more than golf. The detail in the image connects with some of the topics – the Great War medals belong to my maternal grandfather whose exploits appear regularly throughout; the AA (Automobile Association) badge is the one that adorned all of the family cars that I grew up in and with, starting with this one; the ignition key with Lotus badge is from here and connects with the motor racing of the 1960s and 70s, a teenage obsession that is referenced throughout; the background images are from the Armistice Day edition of the London Illustrated News, the day my great Uncle Billy was buried; the card in the top left hand corner is from Uncle Charlie’s collection, one of the many from his lady friends; the rose is just a rose.
The ‘On sale here’ text box is ‘cunningly’ positioned to be replaced with an alternative text label e.g. book signing at The Gale Centre, Gairloch – 13th April 2015 🙂
I have been sat too long at the keyboard again this week so I became determined to take some ‘exercise’. This is not exercise in the conventional sense as it involves playing around in the garage, my second home. To be precise I am cleaning underneath the arches, the bits of the beloved that nobody sees; this is an annual ritual. Emerging from the garage into the light, I chanced to look up and see this cloud formation above the trees. It reminds me of The Outer Limits – to be precise Series 1, Episode 4, The Man with the Power. A man’s anger is transformed into a menacing cloud which ultimately wreaks vengeance upon the subject of his resentment. This line of cloud looks like it might become something else – like I say, I have been at the keyboard too long in recent weeks. (best to click on the image to enlarge as the tree looks very fuzzy in its compressed state).
It is that dead time of the year in the northern hemisphere. This morning the temperatures have risen but the rain and heavy clouds have returned. One way of alleviating the winter blues is to plan adventures for the rest of the year – I am Googling around planning three at the moment. And then, a tweet from Craig Potter announces a new Elbow video. Album #6 cannot be far behind – suddenly, there is a spring in my step:
This is one of the earliest photographs of my mum; she is stood next to her dad’s motorcycle and sidecar with the infamous Mrs Kipper securely fastened aboard in furs and compulsory hat. Mum looks to be about four so I would guess this is the summer of 1927 – no helmets for the passengers in those days, the speed of the bike, the state of the Hampshire roads and Mrs Kipper probably militated against any dare-devilry: “Slow down Fred my hat’s coming off!”
As a teenager there was never any possibility of me acquiring a motorbike – “too dangerous; not to be trusted; you would break your neck” are just a few of the phrases that echo down the years. Judging by my subsequent exploits in a Mini 850 my parents were probably right, nevertheless, it is odd that my mother, raised with motorcycles, should be so set against them (Peg was always Chief Whip). She passed away in May 2012 and in a final act of rebellion there I was, just a few months later, taking my CBT and buying my first motorbike.
This was the start of an unexpected journey – my RV125 Suzuki Van Van is a sensible, modestly powered first bike, ideal for roaming the back lanes of deepest Northumberland with none of the effort required by a pushbike. Feeling moderately confident on two motorised wheels and embarrassed by the ugly learner plates, I decided it was time to acquire a full licence. This is a complicated process in the UK but suffice to say I am old enough and therefore deemed sensible enough to acquire the full Category A licence which meant supervised riding on a significantly more powerful Honda CBF600. The first time out on one of these machines, scales fell from my eyes – so this is what all the fuss is about – four wheels moves the body, two wheels move the soul – I was hooked. No longer a ‘nice to have’, the full licence became an imperative.
It has been a long and testing summer which involved re-learning how to behave on the road with two wheels after developing 45 years of bad habits on four. The experience has been enlivening and frustrating, culminating in the on-road test which I finally passed this week having previously gone through the rigors of the theory and manoeuvrability tests.
And so to the real point of this post – an electronic thank you to Newcastle Rider Training who had the wit, intelligence and patience to teach this old dog a new trick. In order of those most exposed to my limitations – many thanks to Kevin, John and Neil – in particular Kevin whose patient tones I can still hear through the headphones as I invented yet more ways of doing things wrong. If you live in the Newcastle area and want to learn to ride a motorbike, these guys are the best.
Now I have the wonderful prospect of trading in the 125 and acquiring a meatier machine – if you are aware of the design connection between a certain bike manufacturer and the Beloved, you can guess where I am heading next 🙂