Monthly Archives: August 2009

A Birthday Treat

Although I let the beginning of another year of my occupancy of this planet pass unremarked on this blog, my family and friends certainly did not let the occasion slip quietly away. Our front room is still, as I write this, full of cards and echoing with best wishes. My Facebook page (for yes, even an old curmudgeon has to have a Facebook page these days) contains considerable praise for the outstandingly wonderful orange and chocolate cake that Mrs Chuffing Hog produced for the edification and delight of my colleagues at work. I only wish I had exercised the foresight to capture a photo of the cake to share with you here.

Anyway, this lengthy preamble is a build up to one of the best presents that an overgrown child could have dreamed about, the opportunity to go and play with some machinery – some very BIG machinery, for Sue’s present to me was a Steam Experience Day at Papplewick Pumping Station.

At some point, I will post something on this blog about the remarkable story of this building and its survival into preservation, but this present scribbling is about my day there. It was certainly not the first time that we had visited the place, for it is less than half an hour’s drive from home and over the years we have been there with my sons as well as as a couple for a day out.

Although the experience itself was all mine, Sue came along as my official photographer.

We arrived promptly at 9:00am to be greeted in the cafe with a cup of tea and where we met the other people who were on the day. There were six of us there for the experience and at least as many of Papplewick’s volunteer team. The “locals” were led by their knowledgeable, interesting and enthusiastic chief engineer, Tim Simons, who started the day with warm welcome and a safety briefing that simply emphasised that there is a lot of very heavy machinery that is perfectly capable of doing a great deal of harm. The two rules were to exercise common sense and not to touch anything unless we were told to. With this message firmly on board, Tim led us on a tour around the site. 

After the tour we were divided into two groups for the first of our hands on sessions. I went with the group who were stoking the Lancashire boilers. After a brief introduction, I was allowed to shovel coal into the furnace.

Stoking a Lancashire Boiler at Papplewick Pumping Station

Stoking a Lancashire Boiler at Papplewick Pumping Station

 Several years ago, I started to train as a fireman at Peak Rail, and found it very difficult to get the coal spread evenly across the firebox. In contrast, I found it much easier to control where the coal ended up in the Lancashire boiler and enjoyed the firing experience much more than I had aboard a railway locomotive. I also raked the fire to even out the inevitable pile of coal that I, as a beginner, had stacked up a couple of feet inside the door. Those gloves are an essential part of the kit because that rake can get quite hot.

Raking The Furnace

Raking The Furnace

I also went and fetched a couple of barrows of coal from the outside coal stack in one the wheelbarrows that they use.

The coal stack at Papplewick Pumping Station

The coal stack at Papplewick Pumping Station

Another difference between the boiler house at Papplewick and a railway locomotive is that everything was kept very clean and tidy. Although I was wearing a boiler suit, I didn’t end the day completely filthy like I did at the railway.

I really enjoyed firing this boiler and felt a little sad when it was time to move on.

After a coffee break, it was time for my group to move into the beautifully decorated engine house itself to drive one of two beam engines that have been restored and are lovingly maintained by the volunteers.

Chuffinghog Driving a beam engine at Papplewick Pumping Station

Chuffinghog Driving a beam engine at Papplewick Pumping Station

OK, this picture records my moment, but doesn’t start to do justice to the building or the machinery. In fact, nothing short of a visit to the place can do that.

The pillars that support the beams at Papplewick Pumping Station, showing the elaborate decoration

The pillars that support the beams at Papplewick Pumping Station, showing the elaborate decoration

I would add that my starting and stopping the massive engine was described by the volunteers who were supervising us as “textbook”, but I am modest enough to recognise a certain degree of luck and a lot of help and support from the experts.

After an excellent lunch back at the cafe, with a jacket potato, salad, sandwiches and a delicious, home-made blackberry pie, it was time to go and see the other engine on show at Papplewick, one of the winding engines that used to be at Linby Colliery. Again, we were given expert instruction before being let loose to drive the engine for ourselves.

The lighting in the building that now houses this remarkable machine was not conducive to great photographs, so I have “borrowed” this picture from here

Linby Colliery Winding Engine, now housed at Papplewick

Linby Colliery Winding Engine, now housed at Papplewick

Finally, we boarded Papplewick’s own bus and set off, after some effort by the volunteers to get the things started, up the hill to the one part of Papplewick that Sue and I had not visited before, the Victorian reservoir that used to hold the water that the station used to pump from the ground. We descended a set of stone stairs into  a huge chamber with a most amazing brick built fan vaulted roof. Again, our camera was not up to coping with the very low light here, so thanks to photographer Tony Bacon for posting this image.

Papplewick Reservoir © Copyright Tony Bacon and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Papplewick Reservoir © Copyright Tony Bacon and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence

 After returning to the main site, we were presented with our certificates and a year’s membership of the Papplewick Association before ending a most enjoyable day. Sue also became a member while we were there and we are considering becoming volunteers there ourselves.

Ride safe
Dave

Our Bus Adventure

It must be some kind of measure of how busy my life is. I started writing this post on Saturday 15th August. It’s now Tuesday 19th when I finally have time to return to finish it. 

The Chuffing Hog family holiday for 2009 was a stay-at-home one, but it was very far from boring or routine. In addition to Sue getting me to do some gardening (an amazing achievement), I spent a lot of time eating and drinking beverages that included tea, I started an exercise programme (which will have to be the subject of further ramblings here soon). I even spent time sitting in the aforementioned garden reading. We also went out with my mum for a birthday meal. )No you haven’t missed it – it’s not for a another week or so.)

I have also been unable to drive for the whole of the fortnight, so Sue has been my personal chauffeur. So for both of us, one the highlights of our fortnight off was the simple pleasure of letting someone else do the driving.

We spent a day out travelling by bus.

Trent Barton have a great all-day ticket called a Zig-Zag. For just £4.60 each, they offer almost unlimited travel on their buses after 9:00 am. So we set out to the end of our street where we caught the 9:01 departure of the Rainbow 3, a bright orange bus, into Victoria Centre Bus Station in Nottingham.

Trent Barton Rainbow 3. Image from djp3000 on Flikr

There we boarded the Red Arrow, limited stop service to Derby. We luxuriated in the sumptuous leather seats, hopping on quickly as soon as the drive allowed us on board and grabbed the seats right at the front on the left.

A Red Arrrow bus. Image from Trent Barton’s September 2007 Newsletter

The trip to Derby was fast and we arrived in the centre of that city in some seasonal summer rain. We had planned to visit Pickford’s House museum in Derby, but while we were blundering about the city centre, we stumbled on the city’s main museum and went in. We spent a couple of hours there and I was particularly impressed with the Bronze Age log boatthat had been found in a quarry at Shardlow a few years ago.

Bronze Age Log Boat in Derby Museum

Bronze Age Log Boat in Derby Museum

After thoroughly exploring this museum, we ventured outdoors to find that the rain had eased off and consumed our packed lunch on a bench close to some traffic lights. We also discovered that Pickford’s House was just a short walk down Friar Gate, under the old railway bridge. This Grade 1 listed building dates back to 1770, when it was built by architect Joseph Pickford as both family home and impressive business premises. We spent an enjoyable hour or so there before heading back to Corporation Street, which seems to have replaced Derby’s demolished (and much lamented) Art Deco bus station as the public transport hub of that city.

Derby Bus Station during the final, unsuccessful campaign to save it from demolition
Derby Bus Station during the final, unsuccessful campaign to save it from demolition

We boarded another bus, our third, again with leather seats and a smooth comfortable ride to travel northwards out of Derby to Alfreton. This bus was one of the “Nines” and delivered us to the main shopping street of Alfreton. We spend another hour or so there and visited (I think) every one of the large number of charity shops before returning t the same bus stop at which  we had earlier dismbarked to board another one of the “Nines” to Mansfield. Once aboard this bus, we discovered that we had been a few yards away from Alfreton’s bus station at one point, with a block of shops firmly between us and it.

 
By now the afternoon was well into its stride and we decided not to spend a lot of time in Mansfield, although when we arrived at Mansfield bus station, we discovered something of a shortage of what I will call “comfort facilities” on this upmarket blog. So we ventured down the stairs and round to the Four Seasons Shopping Centre to make use of their basic, but clean accommodation.
 
After another brief wait, an orange vehicle branded with Rainbow 3 logos hove into view. This turned out to be a number 3, with no appended “a” or “c”. This turned out to take an interesting route around the industrial estates that litter the former mining areas between Mansfield, Sutton and Kirkby. We even took a trip around the business park on the site former Annesley pit before being deposited back at the end of our road just about a full working day after we had set out from the same bus stop.
 
Overall, it was an inexpensive day out, it was something different to the things that we would normally do and Sue has already said that our next Zig Zag adventure should be to Leicester.
 
I’ll have to see if that can be done. Meanwhile, whether by bike or bus,
 
Ride Safe
Dave

Gareth and Emma’s Wedding

It seems ages since my eldest son, Gareth, and his partner, Emma, asked us to keep 11th July 2009 free.

In fact he asked if we would be willing to do the disco for their wedding. Willing! I was absolutely delighted to have been asked. I really felt that it was an honour to have been asked.

This conversation must have been at least a year ago and the wedding was always a long way into the future. However, the date did have some impact on our plans. Before we became the victims of a successful campaign by a few members of the Sherwood Chapter of the Harley Owners group, we realised that we would not be able to attend the weekend of drunkenness that passes for their rally. Not that this would have mattered to us, but I am at risk of digression into old wounds and that’s a story that has already been told.

As July approached, we discussed music with the bride and groom and found out a little about their music tastes (Gareth is into Kings of Leon and also uptempo house, while Emma is a huge fan of Take That.) We also compiled a CD for the wedding ceremony itself which included the traditional Wagner Wedding March, better known as “Here Comes The Bride”, a superb mix from Take That’s “Rule The World” to Shania Twain’s “From This Moment” which was to be played while they were signing the register and posing for photographs at that point, and their unusual choice of exit music, “All You Need Is Love” by the Beatles. 

I was most relieved that this CD worked perfectly on the day, but was a little disappointed that the person operating the CD player in the venue stopped the music just as Take That had mixed seamlessly to Shania Twain. However, I was probably one of only two or three people who noticed.

But, as usual, I have jumped out of any kind of logical sequence for this story.

The big day really started on the Friday before when several of us went over to Long Eaton to deliver the disco equipment to Trent lock Golf Centre, the venue for both the wedding and reception. It was then that we hit a small snag. They were expecting a few people, including both bride-to-be and groom-to-be to bring in table decorations and place names, but because they weren’t expecting a large pile of disco equipment, we couldn’t set up until the following day, but they allowed us to stack it in a corridor close to the dance floor area, but warned us several times to be careful of the newly decorated paintwork on the corridor walls.

So ended the build-up. Dear reader, you should breathe a sigh of relief that I spared you the reminiscence of shopping for my shirt and tie as part of this build up, but I make no apologies for this post capturing the memories of a a very proud dad, as we finally get to the big day, which can best be describedwith a few (hundred) well-chosen pictures, almost all taken by Sue.

Sue and Dave arrive at the wedding - Visual proof that I can scrub up quite well when the occasion demands it.

Sue and Dave arrive at the wedding - Visual proof that I can scrub up quite well when the occasion demands it.

The morning rather dragged for me as we didn’t have to be at Trent Lock until 2pm. We arrived at the appointed hour and got into conversation with some other early guests and a very nervous bridegroom along with his best man and one of the ushers, my other two sons, Daniel and Matthew respectively.

Best Man Daniel, Bridegroom Gareth and Usher Matthew at Trent Lock before the ceremony

Best Man Daniel, Bridegroom Gareth and Usher Matthew at Trent Lock before the ceremony

The ceremony itself took place upstairs in the Nicklaus Suite. Emma, naturally, looked beautiful and once the formal part was over, Gareth’s grin seemed to be fixed in place for the rest of the day and evening.

Emma and Gareth had only been married a few minutes

Emma and Gareth had only been married a few minutes

After the official photographs outside, it was time for the best meal I have ever tasted at a wedding. Sue captured this picture of the menu, which doesn’t do justice to the food or to the very good service from the venue staff.

The Menu for Gareth and Emma's Wedding Reception

After the speeches, all of which were sincere, funny in parts and far more real that some of the over-rehearsed and stage-managed presentations that we have seen at some weddings, we were amazed that we were singled out to receive some flowers from the bride and groom for our help in doing the disco. (Remember that they hadn’t heard us play at this point!) My mum was also given flowers for her skill and hard work in making the wedding cake, which was a work of art in itself.

Gareth and Emma's Wedding Cake - Made by Mum ChuffingHog

Gareth and Emma's Wedding Cake - Made by my Mum

 With the afternoon part of the proceedings over, it was time to swing into action and get the disco set up. Sue and I were helped by Daniel and Matthew and one or two of their friends and the rig was quickly assembled and the entertainment started. I was really pleased that there the dance floor filled up straight after the first dance (Bryan Adams – “Everything I Do”, with the long intro edited out) and stayed full all evening.

I made sure that I played Kings of Leon and plenty of Take That and from all the singing along and joining in, I am sure that most of the guests enjoyed the evening as much as I did. We did have a minor problem in that the after I had turned the volume of the music up to “disco” level, rather than “background” the lights were overwhelmed by the sound and their sound-to light function simply shut down. This was solved by Sue keeping one finger on the microphone at the back of one of lights for the rest of the night.

It’s great to realise that more than 40 years after I started playing records for people to dance to, that I can still keep a dance floor full and happy. It’s even more amazing that many of those dancers would be the sons and daughters of people that I entertained all those years ago.

Gareth and Emma on the Dance Floor
Gareth and Emma on the Dance Floor doing Cha Cha Slide

Sue took  a LOT more photos, and if you want to see them let me know and we’ll find a way, but for now, I’ll just say:

Ride Safe
Dave