Norton Signal Box

Party political leaflets that drop through our letterbox usually have a short journey to the recycling bin, especially the Conservative ones – but the local ones are more likely to be read, even the Conservative ones!

One of these Conservative leaflets arrived a few days ago, and because it was about local issues I saved it. One item of interest concernes the fate of the Norton Signal Box on Station Road.

The above photo is one I took in July 2020 on a walk with Freddy to explore our new area, having recently moved into our new house.

The railway line that runs through Norton, a short distance from our home, was one of the oldest stretch of mechanical signalling in the UK. Because of modernisation, the signal box is now redundant and face potential demolition.

The local Conservatives have been working proactively with Network Rail to retain this important piece of local heritage by looking for groups and organisations who might put this signal box to good use. The mechanical signalling will be dismantled and gifted to a railway heritage organisation.

The signal box has space that could be used in a variety of ways, it also has kitchen and toilet facilities. Hopefully, it can be put to good use. If you live locally, do you have any ideas?

We will remember them!

Yesterday (29 June 2021) England beat Germany 2-0 in the delayed Euro2020 football tournament at Wembley Stadium.

Having experienced England win the World Cup in 1966 by defeating Germany aged 12, I’ve waited 55 years for England to beat them again in the knockout stage of a major tournament. It was glorious!

Having said that, I do worry for my country when some England fans boo the German national anthem, laugh at a crying German girl being consoled by her father, and give her despicable abuse online.

We were victorious over fascism in 1945, not Germany. The Second World War is NOT a justification for England fans to demonstrate the very attitudes our forefathers died to defeat. We will remember them!

See also: They think it’s all over!

They think it’s all over!

On the day (29 June 2021) that England play Germany in the knockout stage of Euro2020, I remember England beating West Germany to win the World Cup in 1966. Yes, I’m old enough to remember it!

Not only was the win memorable, so was the BBC television commentary.

“They think it’s all over” is a quote from Kenneth Wolstenholme’s BBC TV commentary in the closing moments of the 1966 FIFA World Cup Final, when England beat West Germany 4–2 after extra time to win the FIFA World Cup. In the final few seconds of the match, Wolstenholme said:

And here comes Hurst! He’s got…
(Wolstenholme is distracted by some of the crowd spilling onto the pitch)
Some people are on the pitch! They think it’s all over!
(Geoff Hurst scores to put England two goals ahead)
It is now, it’s four!

Soon after the 1966 victory, Wolstenholme’s quote became a widely used expression. Source

See also: We will remember them!

Windrush Day (1948)

The Empire Windrush that brought Jamaicans to Britain in 1948 actually began life as a German liner. Her passengers were indoctrinated with Nazism while cruising around the coast of Europe, later taking German troops to invade Norway, and Jews back across the North Sea to death camps. She was captured by the British in 1945 and carried British troops to the Far East via Suez.

When they landed in Tilbury, just east of London, today in 1948 they were taken to an air-raid shelter in Clapham, and many sought work at the nearby labour exchange in Brixton. Their arrival was electrifying. There were howls of outrage, one politician claiming ‘they won’t last one winter in England’. The new arrivals experienced overt racism. Some were beaten up for dating white girls and landlords displayed signs saying ‘No Blacks’. But many settled, stayed and thrived. Sam King became Mayor of Southwark. Source

Today, their families have benefitted and enriched our society beyond measure, but it’s a scandal that they have been treated appallingly by government (see here).

Racial Violence in Tulsa (1921)

History is vitally important, we need remember events from our past and learn from them.

On this day (31 May) in 1921, one of the worst instances of racial violence in the United States occurred, one that for decades was rarely mentioned in classrooms or in history books.

A large white mob attacked both residents and businesses in the affluent black community of Greenwood in the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The violence began when a black man was arrested and accused of raping a white woman. She didn’t press charges and there was little basis for the claim, but rumour and ignorance took over. A mob of white people descended on the police station to be met by a black crowd seeking to prevent a potential lynching, in a state where they were commonplace.

Thousands went on the rampage amid hysterical talk of a ‘negro uprising’. They destroyed properties, killed many people, and left as many as ten thousand black people homeless. Plausible eyewitnesses reported that the police were complicit in the violence.

Sometimes truth is uncomfortable. Even today, racial violence can be misrepresented in an warped attempt to distort truth and make events more palatable.

Remembering School House Teams

Do you remember your school house teams and colours?

Of course, the most well-known ones are probably from Harry Potter, but which team were you in?

Naomi’s house teams were castles and she was in Richmond: Alnwick (blue), Bamburgh (yellow), Raby (red), and Richmond (green).

Mine (going further back) were poets and I was in Shelley: Byron (blue), Chaucer (yellow), Milton (green), and Shelley (red).

What were yours, and which one were you in?

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Lady Chatterley’s Lover

A controversial reading choice perhaps, but a book that is far more than its infamous descriptions of sex, and one that is extremely well written. By comparison, I had to force myself to read page 2 of Fifty Shades of Grey before giving up, it was so badly written.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover is a novel by English author D. H. Lawrence that was first published privately in 1928 in Italy and in 1929 in France. An unexpurgated edition was not published openly in the United Kingdom until 1960, when it was the subject of a watershed obscenity trial against the publisher Penguin Books, which won the case and quickly sold three million copies. Source

The edition I read (above) had one section missing that is particularly explicit, but I only found out because I was occasionally reading from a different Kindle edition. It doesn’t really contribute much to the book, and it’s not for the easily offended.

Arguably, not his best novel, but a classic of modern literature nevertheless.

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First Telegraph Message

My father served in the Royal Signals during the Second World War, and was a Morse Code operator. This fascinated me as a child as he remembered and demonstrated his skills, so much so that I learnt all the letters – not that I could remember them now!

On this day (24 May 1844) Samuel Morse sent the first telegraph message over a line strung alongside a railroad between Washington DC and Baltimore some forty miles away. It was an early step in the subsequent rise of technological change upon society, one in which has resulted in me being able to write and publish this post to the whole world from the smartphone in my pocket.

Morse conceived of a rapid communications system using electricity and the electro-magnet while travelling from Europe to take up a post as an arts professor in New York. It was as a result of this idea that he first developed what became known as Morse Code, a method of rendering the alphabet in a sequence of dashes and dots which allowed the sending of messages by telegraph, though his system was significantly simplified by his colleague Alfred Vail. Source

The rest is history, as they say, for in less than two hundred years we have the whole of human knowledge at our fingertips. Unfortunately, we often sadly lack the wisdom to use it wisely.

All Saints’ Church Northampton

On this day (20 May 1950) my parents (Fred and Jean) were married in All Saints’ Church Northampton.

I took this photo on a visit with my daughter Sarah two years ago (2019) on their anniversary. We’d just visited my mother in hospital, where she died a few days later. It was a poignant occasion then, as it is as I write this. I miss my parents very deeply, and tears are in my eyes.

The church stands prominently in the centre of Northampton, my home town.

There has always been a church on the site of All Saints’ since Norman times, although All Hallows, as it was then, was not the ‘Mother Church’ of the ancient settlement. The church we see today, however, is that built after the Great Fire of Northampton in 1675. Source

See also: Silent Joy in Grief

Enigma Machine Seized

The story of cracking the secret German Enigma Machine codes at Bletchley Park is well known, but on 9 May 1941 an extraordinarily brave salvage team boarded a sinking German U-boat and seized one of the encryption machines.

The U-boat was chased and hit with a depth charge. It surfaced after being badly damaged, and the bold decision was made to board it and remove anything that might prove valuable.

A sublieutenant named David Balme, who was given the job of leading the boarding party, found it empty and ‘abandoned in great haste’. When one of his men saw what looked like an unusual typewriter, bolted down and ‘plugged in and as though it was in actual use when abandoned’, he unscrewed it, managing to carry the heavy machine out and onto HMS Bulldog. Such a device had never been seen before. The salvage team also took various codebooks. This little heralded moment of bravery was one of the most significant of the war, assisting in the breakthrough that is credited with shortening the war by years and saving countless of lives. Source

Realising the importance of not alerting the Germans that an Enigma machine had been captured, Winston Churchill didn’t even inform President Roosevelt, his closest ally.