Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Coronado Christmas

Today was my second meal at this terrific Downtown dining club in the past week. My belt is tightening.

Steph and Al have such an easy way of making an opulent meal and an incredibly lavish event seem like its done just for us and their lovely family. I am thankful.
Here is our picture with Santa Claus....

We had a great meal and the kids were so well behaved. I didn't take any
movies until the end of the event when I took these vids of the kids with Santa's talented elves.........

Nelson is neighbors Will and Lisa M's son. He's the little guy in the first two vids. He is so cute in this bit with the elves. I missed some of his better stuff too!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Ferry Hut

Along the Manchester Ship Canal in Runcorn there is a strip of land called Ferry Hut. The name is a vestige of the ferry that operated across the river between Runcorn and Widnes until the MSC was channeled and opened in 1894. The ferry cost 2d per person per trip.The hut was a little protective building for the ferryman.
There is a song famous around the area about the ferryman and a family who wanted to get across the river cheaply.
Here's link. You'll need to hit the return button after listening to get back to my blog.
This is how the unspoiled Ferry Hut looked.

In 1905 the Transporter Bridge was built as another means of crossing the river. As you can deduce from the proximity of the railway bridge in both these photos its footprint was right on the hut building.

In 1961 the bridge was demolished as a new road bridge was constructed to allow cars
to cross the river easily.

One of the most prominent memories I have of Ferry Hut was an unpleasant one- I was 3 years old and reaching for a stick in the water and I fell in. I was with my mate Joey who was 4. Luckily I had on an overcoat which I think had a little buoyancy and kept me relatively close to the surface until 16 year old Jackie Gleave, who had a magnet tied to the end of a length of string, swung the magnet my way and on the second attempt, just as I was going down for my third gobful of canal water, I grabbed it and they pulled me ashore. I vaguely remember being carried/dragged up the wall to safety but I remember well grabbing the magnet.
I have good memories of all the football matches that we played down there. We seldom had a real soccer ball. Usually it was a (new at the time) plastic ball about 1/2 the size of a regulation soccer ball. It wouldn't last but 1/2 an hour before bursting under the pressure of all the scrambling feet and from being in the cut (water) every 4 or 5 minutes. Then they'd fill the thing with rags and kick it about for another half hour till it was so split it wouldn't hold rags..

I remember pogging (throwing stones)at those stumps that came out of the water near the hill (under the bridge)by where the original hut had been.
We'd make a game of seeing who could hit the most stumps with 10 stones each, or we'd line up glass bottles on the wall and pog at them till all were broken.
Another activity we enjoyed was digging. We would spend all day digging 6 ft deep trenches in the sand at Ferry Hut. High up enough above water line so it didn't fill with water and cave in. Alfie Collins had a shovel that was cut off at about 7 inches of blade and he could dig like an prairie dog with that thing. His brother Leslie was my friend and we would watch with awe as he went deeper and deeper.

Climbing the sandstone wall that led up to the Transporter was another scary thing some kids would do. With lifelong acrophobia I was only able to go up the wire alongside the wall about halfway, Joey went all the way. However on the western side of the approach road there was an easier climb where I got a real scare one day. I climbed about 8 ft high and grabbed a wire coming from a little utility building. I got an electric shock so bad that my hand was frozen to the wire and I was dangling 6 ft off the ground. Fortunately the electric sputtered and I was able to let go and tumble to the ground scared as hell but grateful.

Another great memory of Ferry Hut is the American ships that would come carrying goods to Manchester. Ships as big as 10,000 tons were able to make the trek up to Manchester from Liverpool. We knew which ones were American because the same liners came year after year. Lykes Lines had a few repeaters. When a ship came into view by the bridge you would hear the kids in the street yelling " Big feller" and everyone would scramble down to FH and beg the Americans to "Throw us summat Mister"
And they more than not did. They threw cigarettes, apples, oranges, candy and chocolate. Every one would fight and scramble on the shore for the goodies. One guy tried to throw a watermelon. It dropped real close to the ship and after the ship was gone we spent an hour pogging at the water just beyond the melon to make it come closer to shore where we could wade in and retrieve it. It tasted great and was the first watermelon I'd ever had. Must have been the same for my mother too for she put salt on her slices!

Ferry Hut was unhealthy because effluence from the sewers overflowed into it, and also the petroleum sludge from the nearby Stanlow Refinery was evident throughout the year, still many people swam in the canal every summer. It was a growing up rite for boys to be able to swim out to the gantry wall separating the river from the canal. You had to go out about 50 feet and look both ways to be sure no boat traffic was coming. Some of the tugs and smaller ships moved quickly and once you decided to continue on to the gantry, speed was required.

My sister Sybil recalled the time I took my nephew Roy out to the gantry on my back. He could not swim but had more guts than sense and was confident I could do it. It turned out OK.

There's other stuff I could pass on but this has already become too hefty.

Anna's Recital 2009

For the past three years Anna's ballet group performed a recital at Christmastime.
The first year it was in a small hall with folding chairs. Last year they upgraded to the nearby High School auditorium. It has padded seats and is pretty plush.

We drove up to P'ville Sunday a.m. and drove back to Houston after the show. Gruelling I know but well worth the effort.
They do a great job and while the tickets are expensive the results are worth it. They even give you Dean and DeLuca class snacks at intermission. The costumes are world class and the kids have a great time performing.

Despite the hours of practice to make everything perfect, the law of contrary seems always to find its spot and something goes awry. The first year a little girl tumbled and broke her arm in what at first appeared to be a harmless slip. This year the cardboard cup that the kids were hiding behind fell forward and revealed them. Funny. And I captured it on forbidden video.

Here's Nana and Colin before the show started.

And the pretty flowers Nana bought for Anna.

Here's video of Anna in her routines. It's not professional camera work but you can see the nice job Anna and her helpers did.

And here she is with her bouquet of roses.....Picture courtesy of Anthony and sorry it will not enlarge.

Well done Anna. We love you.
Nana and Grandad.