Monday, 21 September 2009

Happy Birthday Herbert!!

Yes, it's the 143rd birthday of famous Worcester Park resident H G Wells (Herbert George Wells)... at least it would be if he was still alive. He was born on the 21st September 1866 and lived at Heatherlea in The Avenue briefly and if you want to get a flavour of the man then this exchange of letters in 1896 with Mr Gissing might help.

Letter to George Gissing from Herbert George Wells (1866-1946), novelist. Wells writes: "If Mr. George Gissing can tear himself away from the pleasant Epsom house at any time he will find a fervent admirer in a charming house (a little defective as to the roof & water pipes) & picturesque (if insanitary) surroundings at Worcester Park... he [Gissing] will be fed & given drink, tea, lemonade, or alcoholic fluids as he may prefer, & he will be conversed with in a genial but respectful tone. But as Mr. H.G. Wells rarely washes and is commonly unshaven and dirty about the cuffs, it will be refined behaviour on the part of Mr. Geo. Gissing if he abstains from any aggressive neatness of costume. (There is some accommodation for bicycles)."

There is a signed note in Gissing's hand: "The first letter I received from H.G. Wells." Gissing notes the receipt of this letter in his diary on 26 November 1896 (Coustillas, 'Diary', p. 428): "An odd letter from H.G. Wells asking me to go and see him in Worcester Park. He seems the right kind of man. Replied that I would go presently." On the front of the letter is attached a fragment of a newspaper clipping to which some of Wells' comments appear to refer, includes a small pen sketch by Wells depicting gate posts and a pathway.
Dated at Heatherlea, Worcester Park, Surrey.

He did mention Worcester Park several times in the famous "Argonauts of the Air" (rather than the lesser known "War of the Worlds"), which was published in 1895, though I think he'd be hard-pressed to identify the Worcester Park he knew if he was to see it today.

Friday, 18 September 2009

In The Night(mare) Garden

Over the last week my evening routine has been ruined by those inconsiderate people at CBeebies changing the second half of Bedtime Hour so gone are "Charlie & Lola" and "64 Zoo Lane" and instead we're confronted by the horror that is "In The Night Garden" (henceforth known as ITNG).

In case you're fortunate enough never to have seen ITNG some kind of description would be handy and where better to start than its own official website:
"In the Night Garden is best described as a modern televisual interpretation of a nursery rhyme picture book. It is about a magical place that exists between waking and sleeping in a child's imagination."

A magical place between waking and sleeping? Only if you're on crack it is. I've never seen such a bizarre collection of mind-torturing images since I inadvertantly saw the video Frank Zappa and Bickford put out for "Dupree's Paradise" late one dark night.

I struggle to come up with way of explaining just how painful I find ITNG but I'll try. Many years ago I had a broken tooth extracted at the London Hospital with the aid of a local anaesthetic and a valium and I have to say that it was one of the most surreal and unpleasant experiences of my life as floaty white-coated people with pliers tried to take things out of my face while all I could think to do was laugh and I start to have flashbacks of that type when I start to watch ITNG. I've never taken recreational mind-altering drugs, though some of you might think I ought to try, but watching ITNG is what I imagine a bad trip must be like and if you think the drug references are an exagerration I'll point you to The Guardian who described it as "The opium of the (little) people"... and that's from someone who LIKES it!

"At the end of every episode there is a recap, which is signposted by the Tittifers, brightly coloured birds who come together to form a harmony that acts as a signal for bedtime for all the characters."

Let me explain this. Just when I'm mentally screaming for it all to stop I'm confronted by hallucinogenically coloured birds introducing a recap of a story that I desperately don't want to remember, allegedgly for my benefit. They don't say that of course, they just tweet in an annoyingly repetitive manner in their hallucinogenic way and then just as they appeared for no apparent reason they disappear the same way. The floaty Derek Jacobi narration doesn't help matters as I've heard and seen Derek in a number of great productions as I hear his voice in ITNG I can almost picture him with a vacant stare of the insane induced by trying to understand what the whole things supposed to be about.

If you're not familiar with what I hesitate to call a 'cast' the main characters are Upsy Daisy, Igglepiggle, Makka Pakka, the three Tombliboos, not to mention the tiny Wottingers and Pontipines (did I forget anybody). In addition you have an airship called the Pinky Ponk and a train called the Ninky Nonk but trying explain this menagerie would take too long so I'll pick on the Tombliboos:
"There are three of these tumbly, pepper-pot toys – Unn, Ooo and Eee. They totter about as a group, rarely individually, and their trousers tend to fall down at unexpected times."
They'd be at home late night in Sutton or Croydon then wouldn't they!?!? If, for some strange reason, you find yourself in late night conversation with an officer of the law whilst you are in a state of some inebriation you might want to say:
"I am Eee. I am a Tombliboo and I always stagger around with my trousers round my knees".
I wouldn't recommend it as such, but it might give them a laugh, particularly if try and you stick to that story when you get down the station.

Now if you're thinking that these things aren't for adults so I shouldn't be judging the official web site does say
"The programme is consistently rich in music and rhyme, so that parents and caregivers can pick up on the fun and share it with their children"
Right. Sure they can.

Back to the Guardian for the final word:
"Some parents cry with frustration at their kids' devotion to it; others just weep along as their own most tender childhood dreams and memories are expertly pricked by its ingenious, half-submerged allusions and atmosphere."

I'll be in that first category then but the littler Brinksters love it of course. If you've never seen it do watch one episode.... your life may never be the same again...

Friday, 11 September 2009

Nonsuch Mansion revealed

Last night myself and Mrs Brinkster were honoured to be guests at a pre-opening party in Nonsuch Mansion and I have to say that its transformation from local authority education centre/spare building to prestige events venue is complete!

The interior, as I think the photos show and as I've mentioned before, is stunning and with people inside it really comes alive with the different rooms having their own ambience with people seeming to gravitate towards their "favourite" room as the evening went on. As the sun went down exterior also took on a whole new appearance with the mood lighting (of which more later) and of course if you wanted to have an event of your own there the whole lot can be tailored to suit what you want. Some people may have recently been thrilled to see the first steam train in x years on the move and others may have got chills watching the Vulcan bomber return to the air but for me it was a great feeling to see this lovely building in action, my geeky thrill if you want to call it that.

The canap├ęs, provided by caterers Bovingdons, were gorgeous with food ranging from crab to mushroom, quails eggs with smoked salmon to wasabi and were all beautifully prepared, both in appearance and flavour, and I just had to try them all.... several times.... If you haven't heard of them before Bovingdons cater at a range of venues from Kew Steam Museum to Kensington Palace and from the Royal Observatory to, appropriately for Nonsuch, Henry VIII's Hampton Court Palace. I know that bookings are already coming in for weddings and anniversaries but if you work locally then it'd be a special place to stage a Christmas party, office event or customer seminar.

Normally a trip to a venue of this type would involve a trip up to London or a fair old car journey but to have one this close to home is bliss and I have to give a big "Thank you" to Lucy of Nonsuch Mansion for inviting us both!

Extra shouts are required as the cool jazz mood was provided by DJ John Clark of Shifty Translation who has the fabulous talent of jamming along to the tracks with his muted trumpet and additionally the mood lighting, so evident in the photos, was provided by Worcester Park's own Effectevent Ltd, who can provide sound, light, projection and other event services.

There are some more photos of the evening on Flickr here and you'll need to see them if you want to understand what "visiting the velvet dogs" is a euphemism for!

Anyway, as I've mentioned before it's open on Sunday from 11am until 4pm to have a look around so I'd recommend you give it a visit, whether you have an event in mind or not.
020 8786 8124

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Am I going soft?

With the recent focus on spelling mistakes on street signs and the like I began wondering whether the amateur pedants, such as myself, are at risk of playing into the hands of the professional organised pedants e.g. Sutton Council.

Perhaps like some of you I work for a large organisation and in order to buy anything more complicated or expensive than a stapler means that quotes have to be gathered, forms have to be filled in, approvals have to be received from everyone who may or may not possibly be interested before the item stands any chance of being ordered. It would then need to be delivered by someone who'd done manual lifting training, probably passed another Health & Safety assessment of some kind and a workstation evaluation had been carried out to ensure I wasn't going to breach some obscure regulation handed to them from a higher body.

What I came to thinking in the end was do I really want Sutton Council to have someone to go around and check x thousand road signs for spelling mistakes? How much would that cost, and how much would it cost for replacements for those misspelled ones? Firstly that person could be better employed at something else more important but secondly should they succeed in their task of finding misspelled signs that might then set off a frenzy of processes as signs are ordered, checked, rechecked, requoted, installations scheduled, environmentally sound disposals of old-signs arranged, etc, etc.

It's the same kind of chain of events that fills the NHS with managers rather than nurses and fills our newspapers with Health & Safety stories and I don't think society is going to break down and anarchists are going to move in just because a street sign remains uncorrected. All of these things are a trade-off and rather than thinking "Should this road sign be corrected?" and give a yes or no answer I'm starting to think "Should this road sign be corrected or would I rather keep weekly rubbish collections?"

I may have to hand in my Amateur Pedants Association membership, if such a thing existed, for merely even thinking this but the next time I see a misspelled street sign I think I'm going to just get over it. I may grind my teeth, laugh or groan, depending on my mood, but I won't be setting up a Facebook group, writing to the newspaper, the Council or whoever... I'll just think about all of the money I'll be helping to save but not making a fuss about it and how it could be better used heating old people's houses or providing care for neglected children.... and I'm going to start my post-pedantry rehab by not spell-checking this post!

Anyone want a used copy of "Eats, Shoots and Leaves"?

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Mobile phoney

Sometime last week I was driving towards New Malden from Worcester Park and as I got to the Plough there was a car coming the other way with a portly late-middle-aged male driver who was trying to turn into the Harvester with the result that he and his car were blocking the traffic on his side as nobody would let him across.

Possibly because he was blatantly on the phone (which is illegal by the way).

Being well brung-up like I are I slowed down and flashed my lights to let him across so he, with his one free hand, tried to turn the steering wheel to the right and move forward at which point his car jerked forwards and then stalled, straddling both lanes. With one hand still holding his phone to his right ear he then smiled at me in a "These things happen" kind of way and then rather sheepishly tried and failed to restart his car whilst still talking on the phone and it was at least 15 to 20 seconds before he managed to get it to come to life and drive it into the Harvester, where he probably consoled himself by ordering every deep fried item on the menu.

I'd have thought that if someone was going to use a mobile phone while driving their car (which is illegal by the way) they'd at least have the sense that if they stalled their car then they might want to, perhaps, interrupt their phone conversation and give the task their full attention seeing as they're now blocking two lanes of traffic.

Or am I asking too much?

Monday, 7 September 2009

Some advantages to commuting

With the days becoming shorter I'm aware that I'll soon be getting up for work in the dark but in the meantime there are certain treats to be had as an early-morning commuter. Proudly presenting early morning sunrise over Worcester Park as viewed from the station.

Sunrise is 6.23am tomorrow in case you were wondering.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Nonsuch preview

As I mentioned last week I had the opportunity for an exclusive sneak peek at the renovation work that has been carried out inside Nonsuch Mansion in preparation for the official opening on the 13th.

As you may recall there's recently been a big fuss as Surrey Council were going to sell it off for development but a huge local campaign saved it for local use and now life is being brought back to the building as it's opened up for hopefully a long future of public use. You may even have seen it pop up recently on "Who Do You Think You Are" when Kevin Whately traced his ancestors back to the house.

In order to restore it to some of its former glory there's been a renovation of the main rooms downstairs and selected rooms upstairs, with the hope that more of the upstairs can be given a makeover in due course.

The pictures here will give you a taster of what it's like but as lovely as they might make it look the reality is far better as they don't really convey the scale of the place. The picture to top right shows a view through the line of rooms which overlook the lawn from east to west and the one below shows the two rooms at the west end of the house looking from the south to the north, a large 'L' shape if you can picture it. Now when you look at these pictures I want you to notice the chandeliers in each room because as these hang about eight feet off the ground that will give you the scale of just how big the doors are and how high the ceilings are.

Now pictures are all very well but you want to look around for yourself don't you and I'm pleased to be able to say that on the 13th September from 11am to 4pm it's Nonsuch Park Awareness Day and as part of the programme the Mansion will be open for you to have a look into with tours provided by The Friends of Nonsuch.

Epsom and Ewell Council's website explains:
"There will be a host of Let’s Get Active events including free cycle training and tours, health walks and Tai Chi demonstrations as well as a chance to meet ramblers and running clubs and even get a cycle MOT with Dr Bike check-ups. Dog owners can take part in a dog training clinic or meet a police dog handler to get some top tips and vets will be on hand to carry out check-ups."

Now that the Mansion has been saved the best way to keep it in the public domain is to use it so whether you're planning a a birthday party, wedding reception, anniversary celebration or company event get in touch with the folks at Nonsuch Mansion to see what you can do with this fabulous building.

If you want to see more photos from the inside check out this blog too:

Phone: 020 8874 8032

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Bad language

After recovering from my apoplexy induced by Vodafone mail I've spent a weekend away in Norfolk introducing the Brinksters to some dinosaurs, spending a day on the beach searching for crabs and digging for fossils and then fulfilling my paternal obligation surrounding them in military hardware and then letting them shoot things and get (tiny) gunpowder burns.

Meanwhile, back in Worcester Park, there seems to be plenty of opinion being voiced with the Sutton Guardian getting on its high horse about hand-written Council signs and then pointing out the typo in "Assembley Walk" in Carshalton and meanwhile Worcester Park Blogger, freshly returned from his holiday, has posted a well-measured response to the Guardian and chucked in a couple more points on top.

Picture and story from BBC News There seems little else for me to add other than to say that we've got a long way to go to catch up with Swansea Council who famously sent an email back in 2008 to their local Welsh translator with a phrase for translation "No entry for heavy goods vehicles. Residential site only", and then faithfully added the reply to the sign.

It was only once the sign had been put up that a proper Welsh speaker pointed out that what it actually said was "I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated".

Yes, it was the translators out-of-office reply and, apart from the obvious embarrassment of the whole thing to Swansea Council, it still begs the question as to the viability of the Welsh language as the sign would have had to go through several layers of design, approval and manufacture and it appears that nobody picked up the mistake at any point, suggesting that Swansea Council doesn't actually have any Welsh-speakers involved in that process.

I'd love to speak Welsh but I'm having enough trouble with Italian at the minute...