Friday, July 29, 2005

Soda with that sir?

Soda with that sir?
Rechargeable soda syphons: (left) 1896 patent Sparklets bottle, (centre) Gasogene circa 1890, (right) Sparklets rechargeable syphon circa 1960.

Sparklets and Gasogenes


From "The Sketch" May 11th, 1898. Page 97. (with photo. not reproduced)

"Every Man His Own Lawyer" is the title of a book which a solicitor once told me has been the means of producing litigants. "Every man his own soda-water maker" is the observation that suggests itself by an invention called the "Aerator"; but, in truth, this useful article is not likely not intended, to supersede one's favourite Schweppe. Its value is in circumstances where the ordinary aerated water is not easily obtainable; it has a vast field of usefulness in its applicability to campaigning alone -under conditions where it is only safe to drink your water after it has been boiled. Boiled water is always flat, but with this simple contrivance, simple in its application, you can charge it with carbonic-acid gas, and, by adding a small lozenge, give it a soda, seltzer or potass character. All you have to carry is one bottle, as shown in the accompanying picture, with the carbonic-acid in small steel pellets. Each of these contains sufficient for the one bottle, and the charging is a simple process, easily understood. The bottle is covered with fine wicker, so there should be no danger if it burst in the charging, although this is not expected to be a likely contingency. A company has been formed to work this invention, and the price of your aerated water thus obtained will, it is said, be very moderate."

The British company that is spoken of' in the article was the 'The Continental Sparklets Co. Ltd' of 60 Broad Street Avenue, London, EC.

GASOGENE BOTTLES (American spelling may be Gazogene)

For those who do not know (and why should you) a gasogene is another type of soda syphon. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Dr Watson recorded that Sherlock Holmes kept one at his rooms at 221b Baker Street. They were popular from the middle years of the 19th Century.

Photographic examples will be found at
and at

an example will be found at along with a sparklets syphon at

Tuesday, July 26, 2005



Photographed by Cow Tower, with permission, during the twelve days of Christmas 2005

Sunday, July 24, 2005

ATL (Against The Law)

This graffiti comes from Gurney Road which is the main road that cuts through Mousehold Heath, Norwich Norfolk. The roadsign in question is overlooked by no house and it must have taken all the bravery of a rabbit to spray paint the letters ATL on it.

I first came to hear of the ATL or Against The Law 'gang' about two years ago when I was working as an unpaid volunteer Appropriate Adult in Bethel Street Police Station, Norwich.

They are the result of what happens when the local Darrens listen to too much Tupac Shakur and the like and try to form their own street gang. But the Larkman is not the Barrio and Cotessey is not Compton: these guys if they are involved in crime at all it is of the stealing sweets from newsagents and minor vandalism variety.

As I understand ATL draw their membership from the centre of the City, the orbital estates such as the Heartsease, the Mile Cross, or the Larkman having their own groupings. There have been a loose knit collection of Teenagers calling themselves the Lakenham Boys since the sixties.

There are stories currently going the rounds that ATL are involved in organised bullying at the Hewitt and the Blyth-Jex Schools.

This is a transient local phenomenon that will pass away eventually.

It must be emphasised that these are just local 'lads' kicking their heels around bus shelters and bandstands in parks not tooled up American style street gangs.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Robin Goodfellow

Robin Goodfellow

Original caption in ran as follows:

PUCK, generally called Hobgoblin. Same as Robin Goodfellow. Shakespeare, in 'Midsummer Night's Dream' represents him as " a very Shetlander among the gossamer-winged, dainty limbed fairies, strong enough to knock all their heads together, a rough, knurly-limbed, fawn-faced, shock-pated, mischievous little urchin."

from E Cobholm Brewer - The Reader's Handbook. (1887)

And yes I 'cleaned' the little wart's teeth in PSP


Another photographic failure.

The 'story' of this photograph is as follows. The boy had just finished his last day at his first school. His uniform shirt was stained beyond further use and we said when he got home he could rip it to shreds. He is a little upset at leaving his school and his friends (he is going to another out of our present catchement area) and a nervous at the prospect of going to the next one. This was one way of him dealing with the issue.

When I saw him with the shirt half torn I suggested that he put it on and so I could photograph him. We would try and transform the picture into the 'incredible hulk'. This was irristable to him as he spends his whole life (when he is not creating mayhem) writing, designing and drawing comics with his friend H.

Unfortunately the result was not successful. We got the 'Comic Book' effect but however hard you try he is only ever going to look like a mischievous eight year old. He may not be a beast but he has enough of the thug in him to remind me of Shakespeare's Puck though.

And the shirt? With the help of his mother it was burnt with great ceremony and ritual. A viking funeral for his first school days.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Year 3 Leaver's Assembly

Year 3 Leaver's Assembly

Created from a photograph using Paint Shop Pro 8 with the Virtual Painter (version 1) plugin. The original photograph was OK and capable of being 'published' to the internet without any of this arty-farty embellishment. It was taken using available light (the flash would have put off the children) in a fairly gloomy 1930s school hall using a piece of string as a steadying line. I am leary, however in times like these, of publishing too many photographs of children to the Web -especially if they are not my own and I do not have every child's parent's permission.

I am not too happy with the result except that it perhaps succeeds in becoming a representation of all the chidren's concerts I have attended instead of being a record of a particular one.

There is one unanswered question about school concerts; How come no matter how early you get to them the front row is already 'taken'? Do these people camp out overnight? Live in the school?

Formula (if I remember correctly):

Using PSP 8 and Virtual Painter v. 1.00

One stop photo fix > VP Watercolour (everything -5 except focus which is +5)>despeckle>adjust contrast and lightness(manual)>adjust colour satuation(manual)>maximum edge preserving smooth>VP Collage (everything -5 except focus which is +5)>adust contrast and lightness(manual)>VP Oil Painting(everything -5 except focus which is +5)> One stop photo fix>adust contrast and lightness(manual)>adjust colour satuation.

Very simple very quick. There are other adjustments to the picture but they like seasoning in receipes are 'to taste'.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Norwich Cathedral from the East (Kett'sCastle)

Norwich Cathedral from the East (Kett'sCastle)
Norwich Cathedral from the East (Kett'sCastle)
Originally uploaded by Colonel Blink.

Both these photographs represent a failure; I was attempting to take a panoramic shot of the whole of Norwich in the style of the 18th Century Panoramic topographical prints that were once so popular. In the event my little camera was not up to the task so I had to make do with a picture of the Cathedral and another of the Lollards Pit Gasometer.

I find both subjects equally monumental and beautiful in their own way.

Unfortunately the cast iron and steel gasometer is due for demolition and has not been in use for a year or more while the Cathedral Close has become nothing more than a very exclusive car park for those who work in the Solicitor's and Accountant's offices that surround it. There are still services held in the Cathedral that do not interfere too much with the opening times of the Gift Shop or the Cathedral Restaurant (culinary speciality Curate's Egg on toast).

Lollard's Pit Gasometer, Norwich

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Guitar George plays Anglia Square

JULY 16th 2005

Question: When is a street performing musician not a busker?
Answer: When he brings his own stage, has his Dad doing the mixing and his mum selling his CDs (that's her in the backround).

He played (and sang) Elvis, Buddy Holly and the Shadows in a performance and presentation that was beyond criticism and owed more to Butlins than to MTV.

It was as if Punk, club culture, post-modernism and every other popular (and populist) trend of the last 40 years had never happened. He belongs to the world where British Variety subsumed and made safe any subversion within Rock'n'Roll. The world where British rock'n'rollers would name themselves after meteological events (Storm, Typhoon, Hurricane) or a synonym for being cross (Wilde, Fury) The world where 16 year old skiffle stars when asked what their ambition was would reply "to become an all round family entertainer".

If you think I am kidding check out his website by clicking here.

The tragedy of it all is that, that for his age, he is very talented guitarist. I could, of course, be completely wrong and be the victim of some dadaist or surrealist prank. There might be a sudden roll of drums and Neil Innes perhaps or some BritArt Brat will reveal it all as a terrific joke at the public's expense.

Sadly it is more likely that Guitar George is in a blind alley that will lead him only to being the warmup act at Dame Cliff Richard's hundreth birthday concert. And that will only happen if Hank Marvin isn't around to play 'The Theme From The Deerhunter' for the umpteenth time.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


Originally uploaded by Colonel Blink.

The most iconic popular design of Britain in the 1930s; the sunburst. Used on everything from wireless sets (that's what we now call radios) to fabrics to food wrappers. It fell out of favour, supposedly, during the Second World War because of its association with the Japanese Flag.

Sunburst: My favourite armchair.

Its use in garden gates (illustrated) and front doors caused it to become a symbol of Surburban living. Once you start looking for them sunbursts in one form or another become ubiquitous; one imagines future archaeologists digging through the dust of our world and concluding they formed part of a religeous cult.

The Sun in the East (with lens flare)

Earlier examples start to reveal themselves; this from 1912

Pitman House (1912) Corner of Recorder Road and Prince of Wales Road (detail)

The confusion with the Japanese flag was not coincidental; the design first came to the fore before the First World War as Japan 'opened up' to the West. There were any number of Japanese exhibitions London. The Japanese flag with its use of a circle for the sun and straight lines for its rays had obvious attractions for cubist and art deco influenced designers.

Sunburst -78rpm record label

Note: The 8" Eclipse record was launched in 1931 and was available at only 6d (2½p) from Woolworth's. The recording quality was good, as was the material. To keep the costs down, one side was usually a non-copyright song bought outright from the composer or publisher. All matrices were English, and the catalogue started sensibly at 1 and ran to just over 1000 by 1935 when they were discontinued. There was also a blue-labelled SC-1 series for more serious music.
Iinformation from the excellant British Dance Band Encyclopaedia

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Sunday, July 03, 2005

The Blickling Park Pyramid

In the middle of the parkland that surrounds Blickling hall in Norfolk may be found a 45 foot tall pyramid which houses the remains of of the 2nd Earl of Buckingham, John Hobart, and his two wives. Over the portico one can see the Earl's coat of arms.

Brought up on a diet of Enid Blyton and Errol Flynn's film of Robin Hood I have a very fixed idea of what the English greenwood should be like; sadly the reality rarely lives up to the dream. When one finally finds one that could be home to Puck, or Will Scarlet or Julien, Anne, Dick and George you walk through it experiencing a gale force 10 feeling of deja vu. It is completely disorientating, therefore, while walking in such a wood to step into a clearing and discover a pyramid. File under magical or surreal or just plain strange.

Try this links page for more information about Blickling Hall, and the surrounding parkland

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Friday, July 01, 2005

Weekday Buskers in Norwich

I love photographing buskers in my home town of Norwich. There is such a wide range of musical competance and motives why people busk.

Some see it as a branch of Show Business; the bottom rung perhaps but show business non the less. Others -fewer than some loudmouths would have you believe- see it as a semi-legal form of begging. Whatever the reasons street perfomers have an instant way of calculating their appeal; its measured out in pennies. It takes a lot of bravery to do what they do.

I have a number of self imposed rules about photographing buskers

1. I always give them some money first.

2. I then ask permission of them (so the act of giving me permission is not conditional on my giving them money.

3.I only photograph buskers Monday to Friday because weekday buskers do it for one reason and one reason only; the money.

4. The photograph must be the most 'positive' image of the busker that my small skill allows.

A very few buskers -by no means all and DEFINITELY NOT the guy photographed above- are very vulnerable and easily exploited. The decision to say 'no' to having a photograph being taken may be the only decision they are allowed to make that day. They have the right to keep their dignity and I feel I have a duty to preserve it. I am not interested in trying to be an objective observer; I want to be part of mankind.

My series of photographs of buskers may be found here.