My week started when Charlie from out of the internet blue wrote to me. I was a little confused by his punctuation but ultimately he told me that I am the best, that God blesses me, and that I should keep preaching the pole gospel. He signed it with thanks from friends in Los Angeles. Goodness me ! Alright then Charlie, thank you. I will.
There were the usual letters with questions about telegraph poles: how high, how long, how big a gap between etc. Then there was another question about a fault that had been reported to a phone line in Yorkshire – to which my answer is always “Yep, we’re right on to it”. And I would expect no less gittish an answer had I rang the Keighley Valley & Worth Steam Railway and asked them if there is a buffet trolley on the 9:30 Arriva Trains service from Aberystwyth to Shrewsbury. Maybe the distinction between appreciation society and directory inquiries is not so clear cut as I imagined.
Then, of course, there was that brilliant video John Brunsden sent us – see our facebook presence for that particular gem.
And finally, a succint email from Jamie, also from the internet, who asks “Do you accept members from Australia?” Do boys play football in the park I thought to myself. We accept anything from anyone from anywhere (at any time) is probably the best way to answer that question. Anyway, Jamie sent us the lovely power pole photo you see below together with the caption “High Wycombe, Perth, Western Australia”. Well, High Wycombe is in Buckinghamshire actually Jamie, so you got that wrong. And High Wycombe, being in British Buckinghamshire, almost never experiences blue skies like that. So someone’s got their lines crossed I think. Speaking of crossed-lines – I counted no fewer than 30 parallelograms created from those bisecting power lines. So well done me.
We seem to have missed out February's Pole of the Month. It's only a short month, and my attention span is such that entire years can pass me by so a tiddly little month like February is nothing.
Anyway, we were traversing the dark underbelly of Wales from Brecon back to Aberystwyth via Llandovery and Lampeter and the badlands in-between. And just where the A482 leaves the A40 is Llanwrda - and March's P.O.T.M. Glorious it is too. Had the effect of causing a screech of brakes, a burnt rubber smell and the utterance "for Christ's sake" from Mrs TPAS. You don't need to have a near fatal accident in order to view it - simply go on a popular internet street view application and have a look for yourself. A worthy winner. I couldn't find anybody there to congratulate them, so if you're going that way do please tell them.
Click an image to see it in glorious bigness.
Blimey, this came around quick. March 5th – as if you’d forget – is Lei Feng Day – a special day in the Telegraph Pole calendar. Here’s a celebratory poster made especially and exclusively for us by wonderful Wiltshire artist, Dave Bennett. Who, co-incidentally, has the TPAS membership number #666. Make of that what you will. And if you want a reminder of who the hell Lei Feng is go <here> or buy our book. We think the latter is the better option (esp. if you use the 10% off coupon code: IAMSKINT).
Stephen Poole from New Romney asked us to help identify the lump of wood you see below. Found on a beach on the south Kent coast and he thought it might be a ship’s mast. There were two support timbers linked with a metal bar that went through the pole. The markings are three crown symbols, the number 26 and a capital letter H. Somebody told him that it might be a telegraph pole.
Anyway, no point in having an Honorary Technical Adviser unless you’re going to bombard him with questions. And I happen to know that our H.T.A. T.P.A.S. Keith S**** is also on an eternal quest to find a pole butt with his initials on. And because he is likely every bit as old as the pole you see here, we just knew he’d have the answer:
“This is a 26ft stout pole, the growth rings very tight, certainly imported from Finland, British pines do not grow this slow,(the tighter the rings the slower has been the growth) species is Pinus Sylvestris ie. Scots Pine. Light poles had one crown, medium poles 2 crowns and stout poles had 3 crowns , a little unusual to find a stout ie. larger girth pole at this shorter length.
Some poles were imported from Russia but that was at about the time of the revolution and I have seen in the old GPO archives a report from a poles inspector, out there to buy poles, which describes violence in the streets,” I hied myself to a doorway for safety ” he reports.
The letter H is interesting – there would usually be the 2 initials of the inspector who accepted the pole,so probably before the time of even my older colleagues. I can go back to 1969. A shame that we cannot see the scribing at the ten foot mark which would give us a date. It looks free from rot but would be better preserved in the sea than in situ and in contact with the ground, so my guess (educated, but still a guess) would be sometime in the 50s.”
Thank you for that Sir Keith. Anyway, speaking of beach finds, some time ago I was out jogging on a beach, probably on the south coast, and a wooden treasure chest stuffed with gold and jewels of immeasurable beauty and worth fell out of my pocket. So if any detectorists down there (or indeed anywhere) come across any or all of this fabulous fortune – it’s mine, all mine I tell you. And I can easily identify it – it’s shiny and has immeasurable beauty and worth.
Praise be for thesauruses (thesaurusii?) - for helping me find the pompous splendiferosity that is the word "pulchritudinous". Definitely not part of my everyday lexicon, nor indeed anyone that moves in my immediate circle and I suspect that Thomas Hardy was probably the last person ever to make use of it without sounding a pretentious twot. And I bet he wasn't describing such telegraph poles of pulchritude as these sent in by Openreach Engineer Daniel Ferrier who correctly guesses that they would be to our liking.
"They are situated outside Meigle Village in rural Perthshire opposite the Belmont Arms (PH12 8TJ) along what used to be the old railway line. There are at least 5/6 that i could see but I believe there are more further along. All of which are cross arm poles many of which still have the original insulators and wire connected along the route."
And there I was feeling really clever because I snapped a brilliant pole in South Wales that I was going to post today only to be completely blown away by these from Daniel. My one can wait. Time to check out the ale pumps at the Belmont Arms I think. Appreciate away folks...
Compliance with The Official Secrets Act meant that we’ve always had to obscure the name of our society’s Honorary Technical Adviser – Keith S**** was as much as we’ve ever been allowed to divulge and we could only ever show his photograph in sillhouette form. Until now that is.
Thanks to the thirty year rule various documents have recently been declassified so that we can, finally, reveal a bit more about the rank-holder H.T.A.T.P.A.S.
For starters, it turns out we’ve been using his real name all along – Keith S**** is actually what he’s called. Though I’m not quite sure how he pronounces it.
That same set of documents has uncovered the photo below from the mid 70s of a dashing, debonair Keith S**** inspecting a batch of fresh poles from Finland (pinus sylvestris) – ‘open stacked’ for seasoning.
The photo was taken at Blyth Pole Depot, Northumberland and for his role as pole inspector, Keith had to undertake an intensive language course to learn “Pitmatic” – the Geordie language of the coal mines. Many of the yard-workers, who provided assistance to Keith were ex-miners and their gutteral dialect was entirely unintelligble to to the rest of mankind – as well as to themselves.
In Pitmatic ‘cuddies and bogies’ were horse and carts, spuggies were sparrows, and aeroplanes were said to be ‘up a depth’. Apparently there is even a Geordie translation of the King James Bible which tells of the parting of the waters so the people of Israel could cross the sea in their ‘cuddies and bogies’.
Keith S**** learned Pitmatic like a native and still speaks it to this day in his native Rochdale – much to the confusion of his neighbours.
A bit like the football transfer window*1, we couldn’t close this off and announce the winner until we’d seen all the candidates. Now, with just 6 hours remaining, we are delighted to present for you, dear viewers, The Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society’s Telegraph Pole of the Month for January 2018.
I should also like to share with you the accompanying, long hand letter from Norwich:
Please may I submit the attached image for consideration as your esteemed organisation’s Pole of the Month for January. Photographed in Sutherland on the third day of 2018 with the snow-capped Coire Gorm looming above the mists of Loch a’ Ghriama, the pole outside the remote Merkland telephone exchange resembled a forlorn post-festivity Christmas tree, its branches bare and shorn of ornaments and tinsel – or, in this case, insulators and all but a couple of wires.
At least, that’s how one member of the Norwich and District branch of the TPAS saw it. And as Mrs Bracegirdle was the only one of our party still capable of standing and focusing after the branch’s annual week-long Hogmanay celebrations near the fishing port of Kinlochbervie, she made marginally more sense than the rest of us.
W. Montgomery Stack
Do keep ’em coming dear connoisseurs. Poles like this almost extinct in the wild nowadays, about which David Attenborough and, indeed, the BBC are depressingly quiet. Remember though, please attach your photos to any emails you kindly send us rather than insert them into the text – the email masher seems to make them smaller and I have to magic them into a useable size with my special thingy (whose name escapes me for the moment). Send to firstname.lastname@example.org. We regret that at the moment we are no longer accepting photos of genitals.
*1 Ok, not at all like the football transfer window, it’s just that I’m in confused focus at the moment due to our need of a decent midfielder and it looks like we might have just signed Nicky Deverdics from Hartlepool Utd FC. In the nick of time too.
The amygdala is a small but important region within the frontal temporal lobe of the human brain. This dense bundle of nerve tissue is thought to be part of the limbic system, responsible for our emotional responses, memory and survival instincts. What is less well known is the role it plays in the proper appreciation of telegraph poles. A double-blind study by Scientists at University of Port Vale-Nil discovered that subjects with a strong emotional attachment to redundant telecommunications equipment experienced a surge in activity within the β-adrenergic and glucocorticoid receptors when exposed to images of telegraph poles or ceramic insulators. Subjects who had previously declared indifference to such things demonstrated no such activity.
So if you were to cut out a lid from the top of Aaron Bailey's head, plunge your hand into the warm, moist interior and rummage around in all the jelly and stuff for two distinctly almond-shaped pieces of brain you would be holding an organ positively fizzing with love for all things telegraphpoleic.
This thought passed through my own frontal lobe when Aaron, from Hull, wrote in to tell us about his recent insulator hunt along the disused Hull and Barnsley railway line. For here he discovered various olde telegraph poles both standing and grounded and in various stages of decay. Pictures below. Aaron has previously reported on HCT (Hull Corporation Telephone) poles but could find no markings or dates on these but did notice that they were thick as well as short. I should point out here that it was Aaron and not me who mentioned that this was also how the ladies of Hull preferred their menfolk.
Aaron also recommended the pole you see in the last two pics as possible POTM. This slim, moss-covered pole in a relaxed position is on the Hull to Withernsea line. Complete with two crossarms, a pothead insulator and, until recently, two perfect 1940 GPO double-groovers. These by strong coincidence are now to be found in a jug of vinegar in Aaron's workshop. From here they will likely spend eternity surging activity in Aaron's glucocorticoids.
Anyway, sadly, our rules disqualify this pole from the Pole of the Month competition. Rule 7a[i, iii, iv] states that a pole must be tall, wooden, sticky-uppy and wires all coming out the top. This pole clearly fails on the first count insomuch as due to it's low lying position it would be described as wide rather than tall. Bad luck Aaron.
This post has rather jumped our highly regulated in-house publication queue due to its intense ambrosial delectability.
These photos were sent in to us by Telegraph Pole top-tabler, member #666 Dave Bennett who was on his way to deliver some artwork to the National Truss at Avebury when he spotted this at Great Wishford, Wiltshire. No I’ve never heard of it either.
“Evidently this pole has been neglected for decades – long enough for a good covering of ivy to grow – maybe due to cruel funding cuts. The essential pole info had been covered so the ivy has been chopped off ( much in the manner of the good old ‘basin-cut’ haircuts I suffered in the ’50’s – more cruel cuts!) but funds didn’t extend to trimming the rest of the pole thus leaving it in this caterpillar-like state. They’ll need a tree surgeon to climb this one.”
Thanks Dave, that is a corker.
Now I also know this for a fact – Dave’s girlfriend Sally’s mate Trudy gave her husband a copy of Telegraph Pole Appreciation for Beginners (Key Stages 1-4) for Christmas and he said it was “the best Christmas present ever”. Just saying…
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)