William Crane was the local blacksmith of Hevingham. This village is a few miles south of Aylsham in Norfolk. In 1841 he had a son, also called William. After learning the blacksmith’s trade from his father William junior set up in is own right in the village of Fransham, equidistant between Swaffham and Dereham. He was an enterprising young man, and he develop a new type of horse rake for farmers; he also made cart wheels and wagons. Later the business expanded further and was registered in the 1883 White’s Directory as ‘William Crane – Agricultural implement maker, joiner and builder, blacksmith , wheelwright and church bell hanger’. As a result of a bad debt he was given a quantity of timber in lieu of payment. Thereafter in the census returns he describes himself as a timber merchant, so this obviously became a major part of his business. Fransham had been provided with a railway station in 1845 and this enabled this small Norfolk village to have a global reach. Timber could be imported and the implements sent out by train. His bi.g breakthrough came during the Boer War, when the company won a contract for the manufacture of gun carriage wheels.
William died in 1907. By then he was living in semi retirement with his married daughter in Gorleston. Under his sons Edward and Walter the company of W. Crane expanded further. In 1913 the company acquired an agricultural equipment factory in Dereham. During the First World War the firm expanded with the great need for gun carriages and field ambulances. This trade ceased after the 1914-18 war but Cranes began to build trailers instead. To begin with the production of trailers still involved the use of timber, but in 1929 the company produced its first trailer for Pickfords, capable of taking 100-ton loads. This was made under the supervision of Walter’s son Guy. It seemed the ultimate in trailer production at the time. The company had been incorporated as Crane (East Dereham) Ltd.
Meanwhile in America August Charles Fruehauf was pursuing a similar career. He had begun his working life in the Detroit area as a blacksmith and carriage builder. In 1914 a local businessman asked him to build a trailer which could be towed behind a Ford Model T. This was to carry a boat. Fruehauf successfully built the trailer, and the businessman requested that he build additional trailers for use by his lumber yard. These were of the type that became known as semi-trailers, and proved to be popular. In 1918, he incorporated his business as the Fruehauf Trailer Company. In 1961 Cranes (Dereham) Ltd formed a partnership with Fruehauf International Ltd. and became Crane Fruehauf Ltd.
At the same time Crane Fruehauf decided that they needed an additional factory to maintain their output of vans and trailers. North Walsham was chosen because where there were existing engineering firms. in the town. Later vacancy notices outside the works attracted the attention of people from the Midlands who were holidaying in the area; this produced a small crop of men with special engineering skills who were provided with houses by the Town Council. Another source was the RAF; many finishing their time settled in the area and provided the basis of the Quality Control Department. Strangely, one of the town’s assets appears to have been overlooked – the railway connection. It is known that the initiative for moving containers by rail came from the very top of the British Railways board.
The new factory opened in early 1962 with a 7-man team from Dereham. Other workers were recruited from the local area and by the end of the year the labour force had grown to 36. In 1963 the workforce grew to 70 and the output to 4 trailers and 1 van per day. In the following years the factory expanded by adding 60ft wide bays on the side, ultimately 5 bays. Following the introduction of container shipping, in 1965 the first containers were constructed to Fruehauf designs at North Walsham. The first order from Overseas Containers Limited (OCL) was placed in 1967 and in 1969 Seatrain placed an order for 3,400 dry freight containers, which was more than the total UK production the year before. In 1972 the labour force had grown to 800 and a particular milestone was the handing over of the 20,000th container to OCL. In the late 1970s production peaked at 200 units a week. The last container was built 1982. Trailers continued to be made in North Walsham until July 1999. The labour force had dropped to about 100, of which 50 were offered jobs at Dereham; that in turn closed in 2003. So ended Norfolk’s involvement in the trailer making business.
Although the trailer firm has now moved from Norfolk and the name of Crane has long been abandoned by the trailer makers, there remains a flourish blacksmith’s forge in Fransham. There is working museum there, and you may buy ironwork at the shop. If you need proof of its connection with William Crane’s family the place it occupies is revealingly called CRANES CORNER.
What is my personal interest in Crane Fruehauf? My great aunt Mabel Rivett (1880-1970) married Edward Crane in 1901, She had been born in Beeston (near Fransham) so they were close neighbors. The story goes that the firm was so inundated with timber following a tremendous gale that they turned to making trailers as a way of using the wood! They prospered greatly after the First World War, as the growth of motor transport produced a huge need for road trailers. The company used to have factories at Dereham and North Walsham, but these closed years ago and now Fruehauf trailers is based at Grantham in Lincolnshire. Mabel and Edward Crane had three children, the eldest of whom was daughter Winnie (Winifred) 1901-1989. She lived latterly at Drayton near Norwich. Winifred had qualified a midwife but never married. She exercised her little terrier dogs in Ghost Hill wood in the next village of Taverham. She died a year before I moved to Taverham. My sister Tiggie and I visited her in her superior white-painted bungalow about ten years before she died.
FOR MEMORIES OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE
My introduction to First Aid was as a schoolboy. I have forgotten most of what I learnt in those tender teenage years, but I still remember the dummy on which we practised our CPR skills. I can even remember her name – it was Resusci- Anna! Luckily I have never had to revive anyone who has stopped breathing, but I still know what I should do in those circumstances; mouth to mouth resuscitation. We were instructed in First Aid by Harold Smith, He was not a teacher, merely a handyman, but he was very involved in St John Ambulance and anything to do with First Aid. He even drove the ambulance that carried my friend Bill to hospital when he got appendicitis. Harold had been in the Royal Norfolks during the war and was sent to the Far East, so he must have suffered terribly at the hands of the Japanese when Singapore fell. I do not know if his experiences as a PoW influenced his interest in First Aid. There was certainly no practical medical aid of any sort available to the working parties on the Burma Railway.
However the other First Aid techniques that I must have picked up at the same time have now left me entirely. As this was over fifty years ago this is not surprising, but I have been taught First Aid more recently than that. This is when I was trained in First Aid in 1986, when I took a course given by St John Ambulance. I even passed their examination. This was done in Aldershot, as part of my training as a Combat Medical Technician in the RAMC. I was in the TA at the time, so my attendance as a soldier-medic was short term. Nevertheless this should make me a super efficient First Aider, but as this is now over thirty years ago (and I have done nothing in the field since) the knowledge has deserted me.
The history of what is now known as First Aid goes back centuries. Roman legions had the specific role of capsarii, who were responsible for bandaging the wounded legionaries, and these were the forerunners of the modern combat medics. In 1774, the Society for the Recovery of Persons Apparently Drowned was formed, which later became known as the Royal Humane Society, This spread the knowledge of basic First Aid. In 1859 a military engagement in Italy led to the formation of the Red Cross.
Apart from CPR, the only First Aid I now feel competent to administer is putting a sticking plaster on a cut finger. A tourniquet would not be something that I would be confident to apply any longer- how tight should it be, to stop the bleeding without cutting off the whole circulation? This is something I would once have known, but no longer, I might just manage a sling for a broken arm, but even in that case I might do something awful that made the injury far worse. Anyway, where would I find the cloth to make a sling? No, much better I leave such things to others. In fact at my stage in life I am far more likely to be the recipient than the administrator of First Aid. That is fine by me, but best of all would be to avoid the need for medical attention in the first place.
THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF THE PAST
I became a blood donor in my twenties. I was only just under thirty however – by about a fortnight. Quite why I decided to join the blood donating fraternity I do not remember, but I have the impression it was done to curry favour with a young lady I was rather keen on at the time. It was certainly not because I had a sudden rush of concern for the community, although I am glad that many people are much more selfless than me. The first pint I gave was in January 1979. The place where I gave blood was in the Chantry, a building on the same site as the Assembly House. It was only a short walk from my place of work, and the whole process took less than an hour out of my day.
The Chantry is a modern building, but the name goes back to the thirteenth century. A secular college and chapel known as The Chapel of St Mary in the Field were built in the area which is now the Assembly House. The park known as Chapelfield Gardens gets is name from this medieval chapel. The college was closed in 1544 during the dissolution of monasteries, and was surrendered to the Crown under Henry VIII. Two years later the site was demolished, although the undercroft to the Assembly House dates back to the time of the secular college. Above ground level the Chantry consisted of six buildings, the sole survivor being Chantry Cottage, which abuts the Assembly House.
My blood group is A RH positive, which is common one, although the most common in the UK is blood group O. I gave up donating blood long before I had to. It must have been after I lost interest in Heather, the girl I referred to earlier, that I ceased to donate blood. Still I kept it up for several years, going once every six months or so. My wife Molly started donating blood a few years after I met her, but continued until her age dictated that she stop.
Here is what I said about my visit to the clinic on Wednesday the 16th of January, 1980: “…Mid morning I went off to the blood donor session at the Chantry. There were so few people there (and most of them seemed to be called Mason – a good chance to form a clan) that I was stabbed in my finger straight away (my blood was full of iron). I was sent through to the hall. I had my left arm done this time. The nurse who dealt with me seemed only about 17 but she is married. However she seems but loosely attached to her husband if at all. She told me that the time they do spend together takes place in hotels around East Anglia. When my pint had been drained I was put to lie down next to a lady who turned out to be one of the two flautists in our orchestra. She is not coming to our meeting this evening as she is rehearsing for a pantomime at Brundall. She lives in Acle, near Liz the cellist. I felt only slightly tired after the blood was withdrawn from my body, and I was soon back to normal.”
I believe the blood is only kept for a matter of months before it must be thrown out. I hope that at least a pint of my blood was used in replenishing that of some patient or other.
THE BLOG FOR THE STORY OF EAST ANGLIA
LIVERPOOL STREET AND BROAD STREET STATIONS, LONDON. These adjacent termini each had a very different feel.
I would not arrive in London from my home in Norfolk until mid-morning at the earliest. By then Liverpool Street station had seen the morning commuter rush, but it was still a busy and bustling place. The commuter traffic may have abated, but the long distance expresses from Norwich, Yarmouth South Town and Kings Lynn were continuing, taking up the daytime hours. (In Eastern Region days, as before that in Great Eastern times, all Kings Lynn trains ran to Liverpool Street, not as they do today, when most trains go to Kings Cross.) Similarly passengers from Ipswich and Cambridge were also arriving at Liverpool Street throughout the day. The paper stalls and cafes were still busy, serving the travelling public. In 1960 most of these expresses were still steam hauled, although commuter services into Liverpool Street relied on electric stock, powered by overhead gantries. This differed from Broad Street, were the power came from a fourth rail system.
The branch to connect the North London Line to the edge of the City at Broad Street was conceived in the 1860s, principally as a freight service. It opened in 1865 (a decade before Liverpool Street itself) but it proved a great draw to bring workers into the City. As a result the number of trains on the North London Line increased greatly. By the early years of the twentieth century Broad Street was one of the busiest stations in the capital. The spread of the motor bus after the First World War, and the growth of the tramways began the decline.
Broad Street Station was only a few steps away from Liverpool Street, but the atmosphere was entirely different. It had taken mainline trains in LMS days, but by the postwar era it was essentially a commuter terminus, serving the North London line. This terminated at the other end (as far as we were concerned) at Richmond station, and from 1956 until 1959 my sister Tiggy was studying at Maria Grey Teacher Training College, just across the river in Twickenham. And so we caught the train from Broad Street; it was a very convenient way for us to visit my sister.
I don’t remember the staff who checked our tickets (nor the booth where we bought them), but there certainly were employees of British Railways about at Broad Street. Nevertheless, it always seemed a deserted station. There was a long flight of steps that you had to ascend to reach the train hall at Broad Street. This was because the branch from Dalston Junction was a built on brick arches, so the track was on a high level. This used millions of bricks, but the arches were all let out to commercial concerns, which provided an ancillary stream of income for the railway. On reaching the train hall it was as quiet as the tomb. After the early morning rush hour (which we never saw) things became very ghostly. There were no shops on the concourse at Broad Street, only a 5 inch gauge model tank engine, which, when you deposited a penny in the slot below the case, started the wheels and valve gear that ran for a couple of minutes. It must have dated from the nineteenth century, when steam trains still ran into Broad Street, This I always had to have a go at, whenever I visited Broad Street station.
Travelling on the North London Line was much better than going by underground, simply because you could see the surrounding scene. By contrast the tube was dull and boring, dark and uninteresting. In 1960 the electric trains that had been the exclusive form of transport on the North London Line sine 1916 were all painted green. All electric multiple units on BR were painted in what had been called “Southern Green” under Grouping.
I cannot have made the trip more than a handful of times, but it was always exciting. I never imagine the station was doomed to an early demise. During the seventies services were gradually withdrawn, and the dereliction of the station became much more pronounced. The end came in 1986. It was the only large terminus in the capital to close, although others (like Marylebone and St Pancras) had been threatened. Now the area once occupied by the terminus is a financial centre. Commuter services have been diverted to Liverpool Street.
THE BLOG FOR THE STORY OF RAILWAYS
HOLME-NEXT-THE-SEA lies on the north west corner of Norfolk, between Hunstanton and Thornham. Besides being the site where Seahenge was discovered, it is where Peddars Way reached the sea and travellers continued their journey across the Wash into Lincolnshire. Seahenge was a circle made from split oak tree logs with a central upturned stump. The site consisted of an outer ring comprising fifty-five small split oak trunks, forming a circular enclosure of around 7 metres. Their split sides faced inwards and their bark faced outwards (with one exception). One of the trunks on the south western side had a narrow Y fork in it, permitting access to the central area. Seahenge (as it came to be called) was uncovered by the action of the sea in 1998. It was removed for preservation and for eventual display, before the regular process of the tides could destroy it, which they would have soon done, once the sea had uncovered it. It may now be seen in Kings Lynn Museum.
The poverty of stones to make up a henge does not mean that none were built in Norfolk – it just means that they were built of wood instead. Unlike stone, wood rots away, and so the ancient circles have disappeared from view. It took a dry summer and a passing aeroplane to reveal the Woodhenge in Arminghall, and the erosion of thousands of years of mud and sand to disclose Seahenge at Holme. Woodhenge (discovered in 1929) is said to date from late Neolithic times and this makes it considerably older than Seahenge. Seahenge was constructed over four millennia ago in the Bronze Age. This makes it a few hundred years younger than its more famous brother, Stonehenge. These two Norfolk structures are the best known wooden circles in Norfolk, but others undoubtedly existed in the past, and have either been obliterated by later developments or await future discovery.
NORFOLK is lacking in large lumps of rock, and this has made such stone circles as the Rollright stones (on the Oxfordshire/Warwickshite border) absent from our landscape. It is true that the monoliths that make up Stonehenge were brought from many miles away, but this was exceptional. Most of these structures were made of locally available materials. I know that most of these structures in Norfolk were built of wood, but this implies that stone was used for some. This I believe to be true. Stone is rarely found in Norfolk, but some large boulders may occasionally be found in the east of England, left here as parts of the moraines deposited by retreating glaciers in the last ice age. One such stone may be found at Ingatestone in Essex, where it forms part of the town’s name. Another boulder is to be found at Lyng in Norfolk. These single rocks cannot be made into a stone circle, but that does not mean they were not venerated; certainly that at Lyng has stories attached to it that indicate a ritual use in the past.
THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE
It was very hot today and rather humid. By post we got a replacement for our boat licence (my canoe needed one to go on the rivers in Norfolk; I think if I had only used it on the sea I could have avoided the need to licence it).
The phone rang at 9.30, it was Mrs Pound of the Society of Recorder Players to say that Roskins had my music stand, I could have it back when I next went to Howe Hill. In the meantime I could borrow one from her, but I told her not to bother as I had another one. After doing a little gardening (mainly watering) we took the dogs to Spur Lane. Next we did some shopping in the village (Poringand). Home for coffee and then up to my place of work in Norwich. There was a cheque in the post. I collected some plastic padding which I needed to mend the freezer. I went to the bookshop – I was looking for The Wheels of Chance by H. G. Wells but the search was in vain. A visit to the library was equally unrewarding. However I did get a copy of Under the Greenwood Tree (Thomas Hardy) which I brought home to read.
On the way home we stopped off at Lakenham so that the dogs could have a bathe in the river Yare (it was very hot). For lunch we had a quiche with salad and the last of our strawberries. My sister had picked them in the morning when she was weeding the strawberry bed. After lunch I read the Thomas Hardy book until I dozed off, while Tiggy (my sister) was gathering up the windfall apples. We took the dogs to the river again and then came home to have a game of croquet on the lawn.
At five p.m. we got the canoe ready for an evening voyage; this meant checking the ropes, the rudder bar and making sure the rubber bungs were securely in place (important that, we didn’t want to sink). We drove it to the dyke at Rockland Broad. For a change we paddled down the upstream channel and went up river a little way. We did not get as far as Brundall on this occasion however. Saw plenty of grebes swimming on the water with their young (by now quite as larger as their parents). Being on the water it was cooler than ashore, though still hot. We returned to the New Inn in Rockland where there was a herd of cattle.
Back home with the canoe (it ws quickly loaded on the trailer at Rockland, and need no further attention when we got back). We had the radio on as we drove home and listened to Robert Robinson (he is always good to hear). For supper we had potatoes and green beans (both our own produce) with sausages. Then blackberry and apple pie.
Took the dogs to the river at Whitlingham (this was before Whitlingham Broad had been dug out to provide material for the Southern Bypass). I mended the hole in the top of the freezer (I think this was only for appearances, I don’t suppose if affected the use of the appliance). Finally before going to bed I did half an hour’s practice on my double bass.
It was bacon and egg for breakfast. I had a look round the garden, planning next year’s crops and using the watering can. We went to Mousehold heath to exercise the dogs, stopping on the way to purchase the Sunday Telegraph. When we got home we had coffee outdoors as the weather was so fine. We had the fountain playing as we sat on the lawn. Then I got the mower out and cut the grass; next it was the hedge cutter, but to do the back hedge meant turning off the fountain, as I need the flex. Now my hedge cutter is battery powered, but that was not an option in 1980.
For lunch we had ham, with the first of our yellow tomatoes as part of the salad. I find yellow tomatoes unusual, but in flavour they are indistinguishable from red ones to me at least. For dessert I had crab apple jelly tart, these are all nice things to eat which rely on homemade ingredients. Then it was off to Abbot’s Farm Open Day. This is the farm we know as Kidner’s Farm. I don’t know if the farm house is in Shotesham or Stoke; the property must extend into both parishes. There was a crop spraying aeroplane to see, and (less modern) a horse was giving wagon rides. It is mixed farm, and among the animals there were cows with their calves and sheep. We walked over to see the ruined stables that had belonged to Stoke Hall. The hall had possessed an oak chimneypiece with the arms of Charles II on it, said to be from Sir Thomas Browne’s house in Norwich. (Gladstone had stayed here with the Birkbeck family.) It was demolished in 1937. The site of the hall itself is a pit with mounds of soil in the midst of the overgrown platform, which still has abrupt faces on the south and west. The19th century stable block had a Rhineland style tower which remains. This is in a derelict state. We were given a walk round tour of the overgrown gardens, conducted by Roger Kidner, who ended up by giving us a talk on the Hall. Finally we had to seethe pigs and chickens to please Tiggy they being more to her taste than old ruins. This makes her sounds like a child, but she was older than me by ten years.
Who was John Hilton? Apparently he was well known to us at the time. We met him and his family at Abbot’s Farm, though he was moving permanently to the Lake District in a week or two’s time. Perhaps that is why I don’t remember him, though I have to say that I can recall nothing of my visit to Abbot’s Farm either, which is a pity because it sounds interesting. (Nor do I remember anything about what I did the day before, at Rockland Broad, which also sounds fun.) We must have left the dogs in the car while we went round Abbot’s Farm, because next we took them a bit further to Smock Mill common (in Saxlingham) for a walk.
Back at home I played my tenor recorded while Tiggy cooked the joint of beef. We had it for supper with home grown broad beans and cabbage. For dessert she had done a blackberry sponge. In the evening I rode my bike through Caistor and Arminghall which did not please my dog Fido, as he was left behind. Then I practiced my double bass, which did not suit him either.
THE BLOG FOR THE STORY OF EAST ANGLIA
Cast your mind back to 1969 if you can; most people cannot, as they were not born then. If you can remember so long ago you may remember the hijacking of TWA flight 840 that summer. The plane was on its way from Rome to Tel Aviv when it was seized by a team of Palestinians, of whom the leader was one Leila Khaled. TWA is a long disappeared American airline. It was a different world then (over fifty years ago), and all sorts of things were done differently. Khaled was pictured wearing a headscarf as one would expect of a Middle Eastern woman, but this was a cultural thing, nothing religious about it; Leila Khaled (born 1944) was an atheist. We never hear of her today; her profile simply does not fit the modern picture of the world. Her pioneering role as a fighter for dispossessed Arabs would make her a hero to all Muslim, were it not for her ,atheism, which would even condemns her to death in the eyes of many of them.
It is extraordinary to think that any Arab freedom fighter could openly espouse atheism today, yet this didn’t seem anything other than normal fifty years ago. Religion had no place in politics anymore, or so we thought. As an example of how we used to view religion I considered it might be useful in trying to understand the history of the Middle East to read some of the Koran, but there was no copy in our history faculty library. We had a notebook in which we could write down our suggestions for additions to the library, and there was a column for the librarian to reply. I wrote down my request for a copy of the Koran; not only was it not forthcoming, but my request didn’t even merit a comment. Whatever place could a religious text have in an intellectual setting in 1970? I am sure copies of the Koran are freely available across all universities today.
Things were also carried out with more humanity then. We thought we had left wholesale slaughter behind in the 1940s. The Palestinian hijackers were careful that no one was killed , and passengers and crew were released at Damascus airport. An explosive charge did damage the plane, but that was all. A subsequent attempt to seize another aircraft was foiled by members of Mossad, the Israeli Secret Service. In this case the aircraft was diverted to Heathrow and Leila Khaled (her again) was held in custody. During her detention she met several British officials, who treated her with punctilious courtesy, and even a friendship developed between her and a couple of British policewomen. She was released as part of global power politics, but she apparently retained an affection for the UK. I can fairly say that most Britons were shocked by the very idea of hijacking aircraft. The most common destination for hijacked aircraft was Cuba, and had nothing to do with the Middle East.
The leaders of the Muslim world – Gammal Abdul Nasser, the Shah of Iran and Saddam Hussein – all had largely secular agendas, and Turkey had been an openly secular state since the fall of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War. Everyone assumed this process would continue. The harsh and despotic regimes of the Middle East were totalitarian but they ensured a mainly peaceful life for their inhabitants. The area was not a attractive one to Western eyes, but it was not the powder keg of Islamism and competing ideologies it is today.
THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES
It is undeniable that we can (and often do) hold two contradictory opinions simultaneously. Most examples of this kind of ‘cognitive dissonance’ are fairly easy to spot; the person who would like to go vegetarian, but still likes burgers is an obvious example. Likewise the driver of a gas-guzzling car who says how bad it is for other people to pollute the environment is similarly using two standards at the same time. But these all too human fallibilities, where an intellectual position runs up against a basic appetite. These are conflicts of interest, but they are not the conflicts of thought. These are what I am going to examine. In these instances, where the connection between things is not so blatantly obvious, the opportunities for doublethink grow impressive.
Take the coal mining industry in the UK; this was a continuous source of political and industrial strife since the General Strike, but particularly in the 1970s and 80s. Indeed it was so fractious an issue that Margaret Thatcher decided to close down he entire industry. Already in the 1970s domestic house heating was less reliant on coal fires, as gas heating became more widespread after the introduction of natural gas. The steam locomotives had vanished from the railways system, replacing coal with diesel. Coal fired power stations were the greatest users of this material, and they were progressively being replaced by gas powered generating systems. So the age of coal was coming to an end, but Mrs T accelerated the demise of coal with a vengeance.
The resulting loss of jobs among coal miners was a terrible blight on communities across the mining area of the land, where coal mining had been a way of life for centuries. Everybody regrets the human cost of the end of mining. Unemployment remain rife for decades and vast swathes of Wales, the Midlands and the North of England have only just recovered fully from decades of hurt. It is remarkable that these areas of the Red Wall are now increasingly turning to the Tories.
However, who would want to return to the use of such a dirty fossil fuel today? The proportion of electricity generated from burning coal has declined from 100% in 1950 to less than 2% in 2018, and for weeks on end can fall to zero. Unfortunately this change over, which most people would see as a good thing, was inseparable from the devastation of the coal mining industry. You cannot have both happy miners and clean energy. Yet almost everyone celebrates the new generating environment with far less reliance on fossil fuels. The necessary corollary of unemployed miners is ignored. You must take your pick of eventualities however.
FOR THE STORY OF THE PAST
Molly and I took our two children to Portugal for a one week break on Wednesday 20th Jul 2005. We flew put by Ryanair from Stanstead to Opporto. We stayed at the Holiday Inn there, a dreadful place; there was no tea or coffee making facilities (very unusual as this had been standard in the UK since at least 1980 )and breakfast was charged extra (contrary to what we had been told on booking). It was the first time that any of us had been in that country (naturally the children had not been anywhere abroad without us at that age, but neither Molly nor I had been to Portugal either).
We spent a pleasant morning sampling the Port that they hold in warehouses by the Luis I Bridge across the river Douro. The youngsters were only teenagers, but we must have thought it suitable to let them each taste a glass of wine; Port is very sweet and they enjoyed it. In the past they brought the wine down the river from vineyards up country by sailing boat, and examples of these craft were still moored by the quayside.
Another expedition was to the football stadium in Porto, it was almost new built. No matches were held in July of course, but the trip was essential as far as Peter was concerned. Not so much for me, but at least I was able to see round the empty stadium! In contrast to the splendor of the new football stadium I was rather shocked to see the living conditions of the poorest Portuguese people. Several of the buildings in the deprived parts of the city of Opporto had no running water (this was under twenty years ago) and the women had to fetch it from the many public drinking fountains in the streets.
I did not appreciate the attitude of some of the Portuguese. I know we must have seemed rich tourists to the natives, who are only now just catching up with the rest of Europe after centuries of poverty, but the attempt to do us down when we caught the bus to Lisbon left as nasty taste. The journey south took as through miles of burnt countryside, which had just suffered from a forest fire. Such fires happen frequently in hot dry Portugal, and they have strict laws about lighting of flames in an attempt to prevent them.
Lisbon is a very different place from Opporto. It has the feel of a capital. We stayed at a hotel outside the city in a town called Oerias. The area the hotel was in was being developed at the time, and it was quite a way from the railway station. Moreover it was in a desolate landscape, with rabbits as the only residents. The town proper is along the seaside, where the estuary of the river Tagus debouches into open water of the Atlantic. We reached it by railway, the Linha de Cascais. This is a pleasant journey along the coast. from Lisbon. We spent a day exploring the towns and villages along the routes of the railway. Despite some drawbacks it was all in all a lovely holiday as far as I was concerned, but my son had just fallen in love for the first time. His enamored was back in England, and he really didn’t want be all those miles away from her.
THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF THE PAST
Wednesday the 13th of January 1971 was an indifferent day; cold and grey. I got up in my digs and after having a shave went off to Summertown. I walked there, It wasn’t very far. I bought a newspaper – the Telegraph to read on the bus on the way into Oxford – a single decker this time, unusually. [Actually single deckers had recently taken over both the No. 2 and the No. 13 services.] A single ticket cost me 9d (nine old pence), but not for much longer however, We were due to go over to decimal currency in the next month, February 15th 1971. Nine pence does not convert exactly into new pence, so the price will go up; nothing went down. I went into the library and wrote a page and a half on building trades organisation. Despite appearances I was doing a Modern History degree, and I was working in that fine piece of architecture, the Radcliffe Camera. I had lunch in one my favourite restaurants, the Chinese in Ship Street.
After lunch it was only a short walk to the Bodleian (Seldon End) where I read Mrs Esdaile on the Stantons of Holborn. I don’t remember what this was about, but as I was doing 17th century buildings I guess it was something to do with this. It was in the Archaeological Journal so it must have something to with archaeology too. When I had finished this I went to the market; all these places I have mentioned are very close together in the centre of Oxford. By then it was half past three, and the market was packing up for the day, but this meant there was a lot of cut price items on offer. This was mostly foodstuffs (fish and meat) but there were also watches, foam rubber, clothes and general junk at reduced price too. Oxford market was still also a livestock market in 1971, and there was a pen of oxen and one of sheep left on this dreary afternoon.
Next I went to the railway station. It was a desolate place in the late afternoon, especially at this time of year. When I was a student at Oxford the station had not then been rebuilt, and it was a dilapidated place built of wood; nothing like the fine terminus at Norwich. As far as other things went it was no better; I had gone there for a Western Region timetable for the journey to London (a reasonable thing to request I thought) but they had none. Later in the week I tried various travel agents, but again with no luck.
The evening’s reading was McCullock’s economic history texts. I have always found economic history particularly dull, and these were no exception, so you may imagine my feelings as I returned to the Radcliffe Camera. I would have got out of it if I could, but economic history was a compulsory part of my course.
Why did I have a footnote “James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Cape, 15 shillings.”? I’m sure I have never read the book. I must have intended to.