The Great North Road

BBC online have been doing a bit of a feature, of late, about the A1(M) which runs from London, north and into Scotland. Well this paragon of tarmac tedium was preceded by an altogether more romantic route called the Great North Road. Littered with coaching Inns, quaint villages, hand-pumped petrol stations and myriad telegraph poles this road took rather more of a meander to get to the same place.  Until, that is, the demands of the motorist widened it and took all the bends out.

Secretary of Norwich and East District TPAS, John Cranston (#0620), alerted us to the existence of the delightful film you see below. Shot in 16mm by Colonel Lionel Paten in 1939 who was expecting the imminent war to make a bit of a mess of the old place so set out to capture it as it was.  “…The poles just get more scrumptious as the cameraman gets further from London”, said John, “Watch as he eventually decides to set up his camera in front of his parked car and not behind the bloody thing every time.  A few minutes of silent heaven.”  And this it truly is.  I promise you will gasp, your spectacles will turn a rosy hue and your eyes will mist… or you’ll reach for the off switch.

This youTube representation also holds the world record for the quickest descent into racist bigotry within its comments section.  From the very first, those emboldened by recent political upheavals were at it like rabid bull terriers with their trolling hatred, xenophobia and bile.  As a species we deserve everything we get.  Mr Cranston was rather less sanguine about the levels of vile acerbity and I’m still wiping his metaphorical spittle from my lug-holes!

(Twiddle all you like, you’ll get no sound out of this video)

 

 

The Fabled Lost Pole of Bala Leisure Centre

We’ve had a fabled lost tape-measure in this house for many years now – last seen when putting some shelves up under the stairs. Apparently, it’s right where I left it according to Mrs TPAS.

Anyway another futile hunt for same earlier put me in mind of a conversation I once had with Ged McCarthy the old pole prospector from them thar Mersey hills. We were sat around his camp fire in a layby on the B5105 late one night, eating beans from a tin and retelling tales about poles of yore, stay wires, double grooves and all that when he started to scratch out a map in the dirt on the back of his van and proceeded to mark an X.

“Ooh aar!”, he said, “Arr!”, he insisted, “Arr! here be found the remains of the fabulously fabled five-armed pole of Bala Leisure Centre.” {further oohs and arrs omitted for brevity} “Lost for many a year in the undergrowth it be, and nobody that has set eyes upon it has ever lived longer than a lifespan.” he warned. My spine chilled – Ged’s mate Deggsie had spilled Special Brew all down my back.

So magnificent is this pole that back in the 1920s they used to run bus trips to see it. People came from as far away as Norwich to gaze upon its tall wooden sticky-uppy grandeur. Slowly, though, fashions changed, fibre broadband arrived and BT Openreach came along and stuck a ‘D’ plate on it and its fabledness became lost to mankind.

Not any longer, because now you can light up the walls in your office/lounge/kitchen/bedroom/massage parlour with our reproduction of the original art-deco unoriginal fabled tour poster of the day. These come in A2 size (420 x 594 mm), unframed, satin finish all posted in a lovely refreshing cardboard tube. Just what your Christmas pressie idea head-scratching was looking for and only £8.99 plus p&p. And while you’re doing your Crimbo shopping you really ought to stock up on our diamond-encrusted*1 Telegraph Pole Appreciation for Beginners book. Key Stages 1-4 will delight, amuse, educate and something else your appreciative gift recipient – and they might just buy you something much nicer in return.
And if you enter the code IAMSKINT during checkout you’ll get 10% off everything – yes, everything: posters, memberships, mugs, books, everything. So just buy everything. What are you waiting for?The fabled lost pole of bala leisure centre
*1 We use only the finest homeopathic diamonds to encrust our books.

Scaled down brilliance

posted in: Art, models | 0

A rare thing it is for me to be so moved as I was when I received the photo below this last week.  This was sent to us by TPAS member #0654 Paul Kirkup.  And so elevated was I that I woke Mrs TPAS from her post-prandial sofa-slumber to share with her this brilliance.  Once she had calmed down from my intrusion and stopped hitting me she too became as enthused as me over the picture. I mean, just look at those hands! I could only ever dream of having fingernails so exquisitely manicured as that.  Then that is because I am the British freestyle nail-biting champion three years running and Paul obviously isn’t – but does make wonderful dioramas.
Paul tells us he built the pole as part of a diorama for a railway-themed competition – so the model must contain at least two railway elements and fit within a cakebox sized 8″x8″x6″. The full model you can see in the second picture and is called “No more coal”.
I fell in love with the concept of dioramas a couple of years ago when I attended an art exhibition in south Shropshire – Chapel Lawn if you must – and there were a couple there that I just couldn’t draw myself away from.  The attention to detail is simply stunning and requires a bloody-good staring at to take it all in.  And so it is with Paul’s model as a whole.  But this telegraph pole just blew me away.  There are rust stains from the step irons, and the insulators are broken just as they are – from catapult kids like me.
I don’t know if “No more coal” won the competition, but it should have.  Paul’s metaphorical ears picked up when I mentioned commissioned pieces – so I’m going to somehow engineer my little face lighting up on Christmas morning when I find one of these in my pillow case.  I’ll take her up a cup of tea just now I think.

The Lost Pole

posted in: Art | 0

Nat Simons artist

I would like to draw our sage readers’ attention to this new (to us) and quite lovely telegraph pole painting by Wiltshire based artist Nat Simons.  Nat is the curator and resident artist at Samsi Studios in Salisbury. Astute readers may remember said gallery’s display of a previously lost masterpiece called Insulators No. 1 by Tamsin Pastelle.  We were never told how that painting got lost or even found again.  But for this particular painting we do know.  Apparently, this chalk canvas had been turned against the wall for many years to avoid small hands smudging it. That storm has passed, so it can come out like the Sun, Nat told us. And how nice to see it again. For this reason if not any other, it is called “The Lost Pole”.  There are many “lost poles” in telegraphic folk lore.  One of which being “The Fabled Lost Pole of Bala Leisure Centre”.  More on which in a later post.

Meanwhile, to encourage this talented telegraph pole painter to spend more time painting telegraph pole pictures and less at having to work night shifts, we could all visit Amazon and buy his latest children’s book “Dee Dee and the Frangle“.  More from Nat Simons can also be found at the facebook page “Unfolding Tales“.

Addiction

Addiction
 /əˈdɪkʃ(ə)n/
noun

Addiction is a brain disorder characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli, despite adverse consequences. We’re all familiar with the image of the park-bench wino supping from the brown bag containing turpentine, or the nicotine addicts huddled in windblown corner of a public space or even the terrible affliction that is addiction to peanut M&Ms – Incredibly, my wife once witnessed a yellow M&M roll all the way down the aisle of the 101 service to Oswestry (via St. Martins & Chirk) through all the spilt pop, spittle and shoe poo debris only to be picked up and eaten without a thought by an addict at the back. She said she wouldn’t be surprised if I got dysentry.

And so it is with Hops. Anyone who knows me will know of my affinity for hoppy-as-hell IPAs. Sometimes with ale so bitter as to turn my face inside-out. My ability to combine, chemically, with pale ale is such that it ought to be taught at schools. And it doesn’t have to be in beer either. Picture #2 below is a hop plant I grew up my very own telegraph pole. Crush those drying flowers in your hand and sniff – your life will never be your own again. This is called the “Hop Scratch” apparently, and I have it bad. Once we had cut it down for the garlands supposedly for decoration, my wife (again) caught me rolling in it on our dining room floor like a cat in the catnip.

Anyway, I was reminded of all this by an email received this week from Alan Pink who sent us picture #1 of a hop-infested pole in Kent, on the corner by Thanington church on the outskirts of Canterbury). He wonders if we might be interested… As if?

Pole tubes

Alan Barton from Yahoo wrote to us.  “Good afternoon” he says – well, maybe it was when he wrote it but there was nothing good about the afternoon when I received it.  Anyway, “Could you please tell me what the small steel tube fixed into the ground at the base of the telegraph pole, and often with a black plastic covering the end above ground, is use for?”

This all puts me in mind of an extended and entertaining emailic conversation I had with Bedfordshire-based engineer in permanent magnets, Martin Cummins, some years ago.  He, by his own words is a nosy sort and wanted to know what are these similar, but more  rectangular devices that are attached to the base of telegraph poles.  Between us we guessed so far that they may be a means of delivering creosote preservative to the pole base.  Or a means of checking just how deep the pole is planted.  Or indeed a mini reverse periscope to have a look at the bottom of the pole, just because you can. The possibility that it may be some sort of anti-rotation device – which fits with our previously discussed notions of telegraph pole alignment – was also discussed.  Then Mr Cummins had a letter back from BT at the time saying that they actually had no idea what they are for.  Not a flipping clue.

If this is the case, I can only imagine pole-erection crews working through their checklist thus:

1 Park lorry.
2 Have a brew.
3 Check out the form in the Racing News.
4 Put the bloody pole up.
5 Fit the little black tubey thing.
6 Not forgetting the cap.
7 Don’t ask.

Well now we are asking ???

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rooftop poles

posted in: History | 0

Jeremy Boot has a keen eye and an interest in vintage townscapes. He wrote to us of the largely forgotten practice of putting telegraph poles at rooftop levels in large cities. At some point this ceased, he told us, presumably as more and more cables were laid underground. Here's a couple of examples he pointed us to. Credits to Nottingham Archaelogy twitter feed for the first and to flashbak.com for the Picadilly Circus photo. You have to squint to see the pole in either pic.

Pole of the Month – October 2017

We haven't done one of these for a while.

This really is a celebration of the mundane.  This charming, simple and unassuming 1958 GPO 24ft Light pole has never carried so much as a single volt of electricity.  For its nigh on 60 years its role has been as stay to the larger, more important pole, across the lane.  Pole senior carries phone and fibre-optic all the way down said lane and right past my house where only the telephone wire stops off but not the fibre.  I am only slightly bitter, twisted and sick to the stomach about this though.

The pole was last checked in August 2012 and is free from D plate but it does have quite a lean and can't be much support to the big one.  Anyway.  It's not big, it's not dramatic, but I appreciate it in all its nondescript glory and so do the sheep judging by its own shaggy stay wire.  So herewith, Pole of the Month October 2017 at Rheidol reservoir near Aberystwyth, Wales.

Edwardian poles in Berkshire

posted in: Vintage | 0

Great news from Berkshire this week – the RG5 postcode to be moderately specific. RG5 6LN to be more specific and the naugahyde chair by the writing desk in the corner of the front bedroom at No. 67 Kensall Rise, RG5 6LN would be about as specific as anyone could ever ask for and likely more than our readers need. But I made up the bit of the postcode after RG5 anyway – so Reading-ish. My dad always said to me “Son, when you’re in a hole – keep digging.”John Smith* from RG5 couldn’t tell us about this great news though until after his good wife Jane had woken from her nap. To cut a short story really long it seems they found a run of 1904 poles and sent us the pictures you see below. They can be found at Turville, near the Cobstone windmill. The poles, not John & Jane – see sentence #1.

Now, 1904 seems to be something of a lower limit for dated telegraph poles. It is NOT absolute though – see footnote. The telegraph as a system of communication would have been at its height in 1904 and whilst amplitude modulation for voice and music were demonstrated in 1900, radio was a long way from obviating the need for the telegraph – and its poles. 1904 was the heady Edwardian era and a time when the world was having to come to terms with the idea of Doncaster Rovers failure to be re-elected to the football league. This was also the year that the United States of America paid Mexican president Porfirio Diaz, $14 million for the entire territory that is New Mexico. It was only when they got home and checked that they discovered that they already owned it.

Footnote #1: I have it on good authority that these are NOT the oldest poles out there. More on this in due course. Meanwhile, enjoy John & Jane’s fine Berkshire telegraph poles – they’re in Buckinghamshire it turns out after all. (click to enlarge)

Footnote #2: I had a really funny joke for this post but my wife made me take it out. So just imagine something really funny and laugh along anyway if you want.

Footnote #3:  Names changed to protect the innocent (until proven guilty)

5970d73b385be IMG 0991 a 1904 pole at Turville, Bucks.

Either the start of the walk or one of the poles. And one of the poles – serving suggestion, finger not included.

5970d73b385be IMG 0991 a 1904 pole at Turville, Bucks.

Look carefully – double D plates. Fear the worst for this one. And again, helpful pointer to the 1904 date.

Long time, no hear

posted in: Vintage | 0

Campbell Brodie knows a bit about poles.  Former GPO to Overhead Survey Officer for BT up there in Dunfermline Athletic Nil.  According to my pre-school arithmetic levels I make that 41 years looking at telegraph poles.  We owe much of our telegraphular wisdom at this here website to Campbell for sure.  Anyway, he has written in for the first time in a while – prompting me to make the first post in a while…  He was recently sent to do a survey to recover 3 telephone poles and says “These beauties have been up since 1910. Showing signs of decay now so they have to come down”.  [click to enlarge]Any advance on 1910?

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