Living by the Sea

 

Ice Cream on Scarborough Beach, September 1963

Ice Cream on Scarborough Beach, September 1963

The photo above shows (from left to right) my mother, me and my brother enjoying ice cream cones on the beach in September 1963.

I generally don’t give much thought to the fact that I’ve spent most of my life living in coastal areas, in homes which, even if some did not have a direct view of the sea, were only a few miles from it.

This wasn’t entirely a deliberate policy on my part, and things just seem to have worked out that way. Nonetheless, I’m very glad that things did work out that way!

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my parents and my grandparents all came from Leeds, and they used to look forward to annual vacations in Scarborough and other coastal Yorkshire towns. (They usually seemed to choose Yorkshire destinations, although my grandparents did occasionally venture further afield, to such exotic locations as Grange-over-Sands!)

In those days, the air in coastal towns was much cleaner than in inland industrial cities, so there was a clear health benefit to living by the sea. The photo below of Scarborough Harbour, which was also taken by my father in 1963, shows smoke rising from buildings, a nuisance that was much worse in inland locations. The image also includes various other nostalgic features, such as a fleet of fishing boats and a commercial cargo ship in the Harbour!

Scarborough Harbour, September 1963

Scarborough Harbour, September 1963

In 1972, while still living in Scarborough, I bought my first copy of Railway Magazine. Given that the magazine has been published continuously since 1897, there was nothing momentous about that event, except for the cover of that edition, which didn’t mean much to me at the time.

Railway Magazine, September 1972

Railway Magazine, September 1972

As shown, the cover featured the famous locomotive Flying Scotsman, which I recognized, but I was completely oblivious as to the location. I knew that the locomotive was touring the USA, but that was all. In fact, it shows Flying Scotsman at a far-away seaside location, near Fisherman’s Wharf, in San Francisco. How prophetic for me!

(The astonishing subsequent story of how Flying Scotsman’s owner went bankrupt during its US tour, leaving the locomotive impounded at Fort Mason, can be read about here.)

The sea often featured in my childhood paintings, as in the image below, which I produced at school, at the age of 14. It purports to show a British flying boat over New York, although at that time I’d never seen New York except in pictures. (The cheap paint used in the picture has decomposed over the years. Originally, there was a calm moon shining over the sea, but now it seems to be exploding!)

Flying Boat over New York, as imagined when I was 14

Flying Boat over New York, as imagined when I was 14

A Very Significant Sea Change

In November 1987, I arrived for my new job in San Mateo, California, and found myself once again in a seaside location, albeit on the opposite coast of a different continent. I was initially quite confused, because I hadn’t been aware of the existence of San Francisco Bay, so, living on the Peninsula, I wasn’t sure whether I was looking west at the Pacific Ocean, or east at the Bay!

Nonetheless, I soon figured out the local geography, and settled down to live the remainder of my life by the sea! The 1996 photo below shows a view over San Francisco Bay from the kitchen of our house in San Mateo.

San Francisco Bay from San Mateo, 1996

San Francisco Bay from San Mateo, 1996

Mount Fuji: The Right Place at the Right Moment

Sunset on Mount Fuji, Japan, November 2007

Sunset on Mount Fuji, Japan, November 2007

I took this photograph of the sun setting on Mount Fuji as we were flying towards Osaka, in November 2007.

Looking back on my life, there have been several occasions where something happened to me that was simply the result of being “in the right place at the right time”. These occurrences were not the result of any great skill or prescience on my part. This photograph was one such instance.

As a Flight Attendant, my wife Mary typically worked flights to Japan, and occasionally I was able to accompany her on those flights. For me, it was a short vacation to a fascinating place.

Mary elected to work a flight to Osaka over the Thanksgiving holiday in 2007, and I went with her. We spent an enjoyable few days there and avoided all the travel hassles in the USA.

As we were approaching Osaka to land, the sun was setting. I happened to look out of the airplane window, and saw the view in the photograph above. It was hazy, but the low rays of the sun were just breaking through and catching the top of the volcano. I’ve never seen Mount Fuji like that again!

Toji Temple, Kyoto, 2007

Toji Temple, Kyoto, 2007

During our stay in Osaka on that occasion, we made a special journey to the grounds of Toji Temple, Kyoto, to visit a flea market. Mary wanted to buy a bead from Japanese beadmaker Akiko Isono, who had a regular stall at the market, and that was exactly what she did.

 

Covent Garden: Then & Now

Covent Garden after the Rain, 1982

Covent Garden after the Rain, 1982

I took the color transparency above in Covent Garden, London, one afternoon in 1982, just after a short rain shower. Even though the buildings were against the sun and mostly in darkness, the wet cobbles reflected the sunset and created a fantastic lighting effect. It really was a case of being in the right place at the right time, and with the right equipment.

I’d actually been inside the London Transport Museum, which was immediately behind me in the photograph. While in the museum, I heard the rain on the roof, but couldn’t see it because of the building’s high windows. Soon after the rain stopped, I noticed a brilliant orange glow reflecting onto the ceiling. Thinking that this might be a great opportunity, I rushed outside, and I wasn’t disappointed. Ever since then, I’ve been glad that I impetuously cut short my visit to the museum that afternoon!

Yesterday’s pointless atrocity in London brought to mind this photo, and the terrorist threats that always hung over us, even back when I lived there in the 1980s. In those days, most of the threats came from the IRA (or people claiming to represent them), but only a very small number were real.

As a student, I worked as a Sales Assistant at Selfridges store in Oxford Street during some of the university breaks, and sometimes on Saturdays. As part of our training, we received specific instructions as to what to do if we were notified of a bomb threat, because the store received such threats almost every day! Fortunately, while I lived in London, all the threats at Selfridges were hoaxes, but there was a car bomb at Harrods during Christmas 1983, and I had worked at Harrods only the previous Christmas.

Covent Garden in 2001

Covent Garden in 2001

In 2001, I returned to Covent Garden, and took the photo above from almost the same position as the 1982 photograph, but in obviously different weather conditions. (It’s true that a further 16 years have passed since I took the “Now” photograph!)

At first, everything seemed to be just the same as it had been in 1982, and it wasn’t until I compared the two photographs that I realized what had changed.

The building that was originally Covent Garden market hall is still visible on the right, and it’s as popular a destination now as it was then.

In the earlier photograph, there’s a multi-storey building on the left with many rooms obviously lit by fluorescent strip lights. By the time of the later photograph, this building had been completely replaced. Had that happened a couple of decades earlier, it’s likely that the entire street would have been razed and replaced with examples of “modern architecture”, but fortunately lessons have been learned since then. Many modern redevelopments at least attempt to blend with the surrounding architecture.

Evening in the Valley of the Moon

Sonoma Mission with Full Moon

Sonoma Mission with Full Moon

We had an excellent dinner this evening at the Depot Hotel Restaurant in Sonoma. After all the rain in California during the past few months, this weekend’s weather was perfect.

The night-time view above was snapped with my phone, but it does just show Sonoma Mission on the left, with the full moon visible as a bright dot! (The word “Sonoma” was thought to mean “Valley of the Moon” in the language of the local natives.)

The photo below shows the Depot Hotel from First Street. As its name suggests, the hotel was adjacent to Sonoma’s railroad depot when that was in use. To the left of the hotel, you can see where the tracks crossed the road. The trackbed has now been converted into a cycle trail, and the depot itself still exists in replica form.

Depot Hotel, Sonoma

Depot Hotel, Sonoma

Given the beautiful weather, we sat outside for our meal, in the pool area at the back of the hotel. Here’s the view from our table.

Depot Hotel, Garden Area

Depot Hotel, Garden Area

Thank you,  Mary, for a fantastic birthday dinner!

Signs of Spring

Daffodils and Tulips on Fresno Avenue

Daffodils and Tulips on Fresno Avenue

While out walking on Fresno Avenue on Friday evening, I noticed these daffodils and tulips blooming underneath one of the small ginkgo trees there.

In England, the appearance of crocuses and daffodils (or “daffs” as my mother called them) heralded the approach of Spring. Here in California, the flowers bloom earlier, and of course there’s not such a marked change of seasons.

The tall cypress tree in the background of the photo used to stand against the stockyard building, until that was demolished last year. In fact, there were two such trees, but one blew down in windy weather a few weeks ago. The fallen tree can still be seen lying behind the standing one.

Shoveling Snow

Snow in the Garden, February 1962

Snow in the Garden, February 1962

For today’s “throwback” picture, I chose an old (and rather blurry) slide that my father took in February 1962. It shows me shoveling snow in our front garden in Scarborough.

The shovel I’m using came from our coal bunkers, since we had both coal fires and coke furnaces at that time. The gate behind me led to what had been the original driveway of the house. In those days, “mobile shops” were still making the rounds, and it wasn’t unusual for those vehicles to back down that driveway, so that the driver could open the rear door safely. My favorite mobile shop was that of Woodhead’s Bakery, which sold all kinds of baked treats. I always wanted my mother to buy “iced baps” (if you don’t know what those are, click on the link), but she frequently made the excuse that they were too expensive!

There was some significant snow that year, but little did we know that the subsequent Winter (1962-63) would be the most severe for many decades. For my part, I had nothing with which to compare any of it, so I just assumed that deep snow was an annual feature of the season.

The Met Office weather report for that month is available at:

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/binaries/content/assets/mohippo/pdf/t/2/feb1962.pdf

Today, however, the weather problem in Britain seems to be wind rather than snow, thanks to Storm Doris:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/02/23/Storm-Doris-uk-weather-bomb-snow-travel-distruption-batters-britain/