Historic Steamships

Recently I was helping my father clear his home and came across some old family documents and photographs which he had inherited from his own parents. Amongst these treasures was a large foolscap sized accounting book which contained some handwritten accounts dated between 1824 and 1829 plus oddly had some unrelated large old black and white photographs of early steamships glued in the back. The sort of steam powered vessels built with sail masts in case the power system failed.

No notes were written for the photographs of these substantial ships which were located around a docks environment, probably in Southampton. Many were obviously taken during the Second Boer War era, around 1899 as evidenced by the painted numbers on the sides of the ships which aided me in their identification and dating.

This time coincided with the fact that my paternal Great, Great, Grandfather, Henry Poynter, worked at Southampton Docks as a Police Constable. I have seen evidence of documentation that put him there at least between 1895 and 1903 so he would have had access to photograph these mighty vessels from advantageous vantage points. So credit for these pictures should probably go to Henry Poynter.

This photograph of Henry in his Police uniform was probably taken around 1900, deduced from documents I have seen. He would have been in his forties at the time.

Earlier in his life when he was in his late teens he had served in the Coldstream Guards. I have even seen his old army book showing his enlistment in March 1875.

However, as I have no certain proof that it was Henry who took the pictures I should also consider it may have been another member of the family, maybe Henry’s son Harry Poynter, my paternal Great Grandfather, who would have been in his twenties around the beginning of the twentieth century and may have had dockside access granted from his father.

This next image shows Harry, stood over his family. It shows my paternal Great Grandmother, Florence Gertrude, nee. Shearman, known as Gerty, with their children, Dorothy and William, William being my paternal Grandfather. The children’s age dates the photo to around 1911. Harry and Florence later had another son, Charles but Florence sadly died during that childbirth at the age of just 29.

Other possibilities include that another unknown member of the family took the photographs or maybe they were just aquired and collated for a small private home collection and were originally taken by others. Please contact me if you have further information on any of the original shipping photos shown below.

Most of the ship photographs as they were printed measured around 12″ [300mm] and like the family ones above have been rephotographed into my iPhone X for digital storage and use here and have not been enhanced or retouched to maintain as much originality as possible.

I have gathered as much data as I could on each vessel from existing online sources to tell their individual stories and have listed them below in alphabetical order.

HMT Idaho

First up is [Her Majesty’s Transport Ship] HMT Idaho, a British transport cargo steam powered ship built in 1899 by William Gray & Co, West Hartlepool.

Originally called the [Steamship] SS Idaho it was 99m long, weighed 3,023 tons and could reach nine knots.

The photograph is likely dated around 5 June 1901 when HMT Idaho, temporarily designated number 38, embarked from Southampton to South Africa with 640 members of the 3rd East Surrey Regiment onboard.

At that time many former merchant class passenger and goods vessels were being commandeered by the British Admiralty for use as troop ships taking soldiers, their equipment and supplies to assist in the Second Boer War and then returning wounded men back to Britain.

The Second Boer War, commonly called The Boer War, the Anglo-Boer War or the South African War, was fought between the British Empire and two independent African states in modern day South Africa. It lasted between 11th October 1899 and 31st May 1902 with a resulting British victory. The first Boer War had previously been fought between 1880 and 1881.

Idaho itself survived the Second Boer War but was lost during its next war involvement, World War One, in August 1918. Idaho was torpedo by the German u-boat U-107, 120 miles north west of Cape Villano, Spain losing 11 persons.

HMT Kildonan Castle

The main ship in this photograph, the one on the left not docked, is HMT Kildonan Castle, a ship built by Scottish shipbuilders Fairfield Shipping and Engineering company Limited of Govan in 1899 being launched on 22nd August of that year.

It was a steel hulled steamer and weighed in at 9,652 tons, was just over 515 feet long and propelled by twin four cylinder engines producing 1,663 Nhp and had two screws. Well, probably many dozens of actual screws but also two screw propellers.

Kildonan Castle was commissioned for Castle Mail Packets Company and registered in London but soon transferred to Union-Castle Mail Steamship Company in 1900.

Kildonan Castle operated as a troop ship carrying forces to South Africa for the Second Boer War where it carried the most men to any war by any boat or ship at the time.

The ship served as HM Transport number 44, shown here in Southampton docks probably on or just before 4th November 1899, so would have still been a Castle Mail Packets Company ship.

It was on this date it first set sail with close to three thousand men including a Welsh Regiment of 29 officers with 827 men and their regimental goat, the Northumberland Fusiliers with 29 officers and 981 men, a detail of 5 Black Watch officers plus 41 men of the 3rd Stationary Hospital, 21 officers and 143 men of the 2nd General Hospital, 4 officers and 141 men of the pontoon troop, Royal Engineers and the 1st Battalion section of the Royal Engineers. No other goats were mentioned.

Kildonan Castle was departing for Cape Town to arrive on 22nd November 1899 then onto Port Elizabeth on the 26th and finally to Durban on 27th November 1899.

After that it returned back to Southampton to do it all again at least another two times, averaging 2,700 officers and men per journey. By then the goat sailing average was probably about 0.33.

During this time Kildonan Castle had J C Robinson as her captain and earned in total fifteen Transport Medal Clasps.

Later on in 1915, during World War One, it served as a Hospital Ship, then in March 1916 was commissioned by The Admiralty for troop service, being released back to previous owners in January 1919.

The KC sailed on until 1931 when it was broken up in Stavanger, Norway in May of that year.

I cannot identify the other ships in the photograph. Or if they had any goats on board. Can you?

RMS Majestic

RMS Majestic was a 9,965 ton Teutonic class ocean liner built by Harland and Woolf based in Belfast, Northern Ireland and launched on 29th June 1889.

The ship measured 582 feet, which would be called just under 178m today with a beam of nearly 58 foot [or 17.6m] with twin triple expansion engines able to carry 1,490 passengers with 300 in first class, 190 in second class and the other 1,000 in third class.

Majestic was built for the White Star line, delivered in March 1890 and in late July, early August 1891 temporarily gained the Blue Riband, an award for the fastest ever transatlantic crossing with an average speed of 20.1 knots over five days, eighteen hours and eight minutes.

In 1895, RMS Majestic was assigned Captain Edward Smith, the captain who went on to sink as Captain with the ill fated Titanic but when this photograph was taken there were no icebergs to hit in Southampton Docks.

When the Second Boer War started in 1899 Captain Smith and RMS Majestic were twice called on to transport some troops to South Africa, being designated troop ship number 68. Once in December 1899 from Liverpool, then another on 9th February 1900 from Southampton when I suspect this photograph was taken due to its three mast configuration.

Interestingly, Titanic’s surviving second in command, Charles Lightroller was also on board Majestic during these trips serving at the time as a deck officer and may possibly be in this shot.

RMS Majestic underwent a refit during 1902 and 1903 including fitting new boilers, taller funnels and removing one of her three masts. After that the ship returned to its Liverpool to New York runs.

Majestic had survived a bunker fire in 1905, then in 1907 transferred to run the now main White Star transatlantic routes from Southampton to New York only retiring when RMS Titanic started her runs, or rather a single attempted run, in April 1912. All of which required Majestic to be reinstated under Commander J B Kelk, with the first post Titanic crossing taking seven days and one and a half hours, averaging 18.4 knots.

Later it assisted in a rescue of the wrecked French Schooner Garonne on 17th October 1913, then on 14th January 1914 embarked on its final Atlantic crossing having carried 276,887 passengers across the pond.

Majestic was scrapped on 5th May 1914 after 24 years of service.

The Mexican

The Mexican was a 378 foot long, 47 feet wide iron, screw, three cylinder steamer built in 1883 by James Laing & Co of Sunderland. It weighed 4,668 tons, could produce 649 NHp and had a cruising speed of 12 knots. These are the stats for the ship, not for the city of Sunderland.

When entering service as a mail ship for Union Company Line it was the largest of such ships operating between Britain and South Africa.

During May 1885 Mexican temporarily served as a troop carrier taking troops to Hong Kong where it remained as a garrison ship for three months to see out the Russian Scare, a conflict between the Russian and British Empires due to territorial advances into Afghanistan by Russia, which threatened to spill over into India.

According to the London Times around the beginning of October 1899 the ship was to leave Southampton and would convey various named Lieutenants, Royal Horse Guards, officers and men from the Army Ordnance Corps along with a couple of surgeons bound for Cape Town in South Africa to arrive in November of that year. A later report added the names of many other lieutenants, officers, captains and a Viscount from various Royal Horse Guard, Lancers and Fusiliers regiments.

I might also note that Robert Baden-Powell, the man who would become known for starting the Scout Movement was also on board as a war correspondent.

This conglomeration of important soldiers and a big Boy Scout made sense when, less than a month later, the Second Boer War commenced in South Africa.

The Mexican was later used in December of that year for ferrying a consignment of chocolate from Her Majesty Queen Victoria sent free of charge to troops in South Africa. I can only assume this was not the only cargo on board. If it was that would have been an enormous floating pile of calories.

This photograph was probably taken whilst Mexican was being used as a mail ship after war service as there are no signs of deck bound troops or Scout leaders. Furthermore when first commissioned for the Union Company Line it would have been painted black. The white livery suggests Union Castle Mail Steam Ship Company ownership which took over in early 1900.

However on 4th April 1900 the Mexican set sail once more back to Southampton from South Africa with mail, 106 passengers and 120 crew but when just 80 miles north of Cape Town in early morning calm seas, amongst some heavy, patchy fog which had rolled in Mexican commenced sounding the fog horn whistle and dropped to half speed. Captain B Copp and his crew carefully watched out for other vessels and at 2am heard another ship’s whistle, then a light so stopped their engines slowing the ship to around three knots.

Suddenly a much larger troop ship, the Winkfield, sized at 4,009 tons and transporting 15 officers, 310 men and 241 horses from London came into view and despite immediate corrections of speed and trajectory by both vessels the two ships collided.

The crew on board the Winkfield had not seen the Mexican until too late and had not heard any fog whistles.

Due to the size and the angles of collision the Winkfield holed the Mexican badly mid ships so Captain Copp decided to abandon his vessel onto the more stable Winkfield. The crew firstly aided the passengers, then returned to salvage as many mail bags as possible and managed to get 194 of the 429 bags to safety, including some diamonds that were being transported back to Blighty, before the Captain was forced to completely abandon the ship.

There was then some effort made to tow the stricken Mexican but this failed so by noon the next day it had sunk.

A story in the Mafeking Mail printed on 4th May 1900 reported the incident and added that an officer had claimed the crew of the Mexican, who were largely from Southampton, had been looting the passengers belongings then some had acted subordinately on board the Winkfield.

In subsequent hearings this was dismissed as unfounded as the largely long serving crew had acted with great speed and professionalism without panic to assist the rescue of all passengers and whatever belongings they could. All with no loss of life.

The hearings also cleared both captains of any wrong doing.

USMSS New York

When the 527 foot long, 10,500 gross tons, steel hulled British steam ship City of New York was built by James & George Thompson of Glasgow for the Inman Line, part of the International Navigation Company, at a cost of $1,850,000 it was designed to be the largest and fastest passenger liner on the Atlantic. It entered service in August 1888.

As the first twin, triple expansion, 9,000 horsepower engined, twin screw, express liner she managed to get the eastbound Blue Riband and held it between August 1892 and May 1893 achieving a speed of 20.11 knots.

The twin screw design was to mitigate in the event of single engine shaft failure and the necessity to keep onboard an excessive amount of rigging for emergencies.

The ship was designed to accommodate 540 first class, 200 second class and 1,000 steerage passengers with quarters fitted with running hot and cold water, electric lighting and electric ventilation. Yes, right from the start this ship had its fans.

Before SS City of New York could be completed the British Government had revoked its licence to be a mail carrier. Therefore the Inman Line lobbied the US Congress to allow American registry and it was on a snowy 22nd February 1883 that the vessel was formally merged into the American Line, personally by US President Benjamin Harrison as one of his final acts of presidency where he raised the American flag and renamed the ship USMSS New York, from then on to use Southampton as their UK port.

In April 1898 when the Spanish-American War started the vessel was chartered as an auxiliary cruiser and renamed USS Harvard. The ship served in the Caribbean Sea including rescuing over 600 survivors from high seas riddled with explosives from stricken ships.

There was also an incidence on board when some onboard prisoners were tragically shot due to a misunderstanding over language which became known as the Harvard Incident.

The ship was decommissioned as the USS Harvard on 2nd September 1898 back to SS New York, then in 1901 underwent a rebuild to be fitted with three engines but also reduced to twin funnels in readiness for more transatlantic runs.

With this information I can therefore date this photograph to between 1898 and 1901.

In 1902 New York received yet another engine update, now sporting quadruple expansion engines.

A couple of years later, on 20th March 1904, the ship had a collision in thick fog near Hurst Castle in the Solent with HM Assaye, a single funnelled troop ship used to transport soldiers to the Second Boer War and then as hospital transport back again. New York’s bowsprit was carried away and Assaye had her starboard bow severely damaged. Note that I’ll write about HM Assaye again later as its story has a personal family connection.

Getting back to the New York, another notable moment came on 10th April 1912 when the ship broke free from its berth in Southampton when the Titanic, yes that enormous ship again, passed by creating a suction effect powerful enough to rip off the three inch steel ropes previously securing the New York to the dock. The Captain of the Titanic, Edward Smith, had to act to avert a collision ably assisted by a local tugboat Vulcan, whose help he could have done with four days later in an icy North Atlantic sea.

The next year USMSS New York was again reconfigured, this time to a second and third class only ship and returned to sailings out of Liverpool. I do not know who made the assumption that Liverpool did not need first class accommodations.

When the First World War commenced in 1914 the USA weren’t involved so the ship temporarily became a commercially successful, neutrally flagged, liner but when the US decided to join the war in 1918 the vessel was again commandeered as a troop carrier and this time named USS Plattsburg then became damaged by a mine placed in the Mersey river, Liverpool. Again, I cannot ascertain that it was not deliberately placed there by a snubbed first class local.

After World War One duties were over the ship was reconditioned including removal of a mast and again renamed USMSS New York continuing with the American Line until 1920, finally being scrapped in Genoa in early 1923 after first passing through four other owners.

HMT Roslin Castle

The Roslin Castle was a 380 foot long, iron, single screw, British, passenger mail ship steamer of 2,742 tons which would cruise at twelve knots, built in 1883 by Barclay, Curle and Company, Glasgow and launched on 24th April of that year.

The ship was built for D Currie and Company of London and in 1888 was lengthened and her engines tripled to provide 800 Hp allowing the ship to reach 15 knots despite the weight increase to 4,280 tons.

Also that year Roslin Castle transported the English national cricket team, known as Major R G Wharton’s team, to play the inaugural First Class international cricket match with South Africa.

In 1896 the ship was transferred to Castle Mail Packets Company and was involved in taking troops to South Africa on 4th April 1896 as part of the Jameson Raid which was intended to start an uprising but failed in its mission but did became a contributory cause of the Second Boer War three years later, although by then the vessel was under Union-Castle Mail SS Company Limited.

HMT Roslin Castle was involved in many trips to South Africa taking troops to that war as troop ship numbered HMT 26, as seen in this photograph. In fact on one occasion she took a young Winston Churchill, future British Second World War Prime Minister, there as a War Correspondent and I like to optimistically think it was this photo that captured that departure.

On another occasion in December 1899 the ship Armenian hit the Roslin Castle damaging some of her rail and davits.

She was also used to transport Boer prisoners of war from South Africa to India, for example 507 men on 11th April 1901.

In Roslin Castle’s later years the ship obtained a reputation for breaking down. Nothing to do with the dented rail or davits, I guess.

In 1905 it was renamed Regina by new owners M Jensen of Hamburg and in May 1907 was broken up in Genoa after suffering major heavy weather damage.

HMHS Spartan

Her Majesty’s Hospital Ship, HMHS Spartan started life as a Union Steamship Co, Southampton, passenger cargo iron screw steamer on 12th July 1881.

Like the City of New York [later USMSS New York] above the ship was built by James & George Thompson in Clydebank.

Weighing in at 3,487 ton the vessel was 363.6 feet long and had 600 Nhp.

In October 1899 Spartan was requisitioned as a hospital ship and converted into a Hospital Ship at Southampton with accommodation for 144 sick and given the transport number 11.

From the smart clean finish of the ship as pictured it is likely this photograph was taken around November 1899 just after its conversion.

I haven’t discovered much more about the ship but it clearly survived all its Boer War exploits as its end came in April 1902 when it was broken up in Italy.

But it is a lovely photograph.

SS St. Louis

Launched on 12th November 1894 by William Cramp & Sons Building & Engine Company of Philadelphia for the American Line SS St. Louis was a twin screw, transatlantic passenger line of 11,659 tons.

The maiden voyage took it from New York to Southampton in June 1895 but only a few months later, after the transatlantic crossings by this vessel and similar sister ship St. Paul were too slow they underwent modifications, returning to service considerably faster.

In April 1898 St. Louis was chartered at Southampton as an armed cruiser for use in the Spanish-American war. For clarity, on the American side. The ship was renamed USS St. Louis by the United States Navy and fitted with four five inch guns. Which doesn’t sound very big at all until you realise that’s the shell diameter, not the gun length. The ship also had eight six pounders fitted.

Manned by 350 men with 27 officers under captain Caspar Goodrich St. Louis set off for the Caribbean to deploy heavy drag lines in order to destroy undersea communications links between the West Indies and South America, between Guantanamo Bay and Haiti and also cables serving Cuba.

Plus it was also involved in several naval battles and bombardments including capturing merchant ships and transporting prisoners of war, finally returning to the States for decommissioning back in the shipyard in Philadelphia in August after a busy five months service.

Renamed back to SS St. Louis the ship returned to commercial transatlantic service after having her guns and six pounders replaced by buns and quarter pounders [probably], resuming trips on the regular Southampton to New York route pausing only during 1903 to be fitted with new boilers and taller funnels and during 1913 to be converted to carry second and third class passengers.

From 1914 during the first half of the First World War the St. Louis changed to serving a Liverpool to New York route but in 1917, as renamed vessel SP-1644 or the more snappily titled USS Louisville, had another three guns fitted, this time six inch ones. Cue same old joke.

During service on one memorable occasion the vessel dodged out of the way of an incoming torpedo successfully hitting the submarine that had fired it. And that wasn’t the only encounter with a u-boat. The final war efforts were spent as a troop transporter up to the end of the war in 1919.

Following that in January 1920 and renamed back to St. Louis the ship caught fire causing it to be scuttled in Hoboken during a planned refit back to commercial service in New York.

This effectively meant the ship never sailed again and was eventually taken to Genoa in Italy for scrapping in 1925.

I have no idea of the exact date of this photograph. It must have been somewhen between 1899 and 1914 as the ship does not appear to be fitted with guns. Unless they really were only five or six inches big. A clue could lie in the funnel size increase made in 1903 but I have not seen any dateable photographs or card depictions of the ship with alternate funnel heights. My guess due to the inclusion with the other photographs in the collection would be that it was taken around 1900, before the larger funnel refit.

SS Suevic

This rather broken ship started life as a Belfast built ship of 12,531 gross tons by Harland & Wolff able to carry 400 third class passengers plus refrigerated cargo for the White Star Line for journeys between Liverpool and Sydney via Cape Town and it’s story is peppered with interest.

SS Suevic was launched in December 1900 and the maiden voyage was in March 1901. However the ship was soon pressed into service as troop transport during the Second Boer War, returning after that to her commercial role.

On one notable trip a young Charles Lightroller, the future Titanic second in command and most senior serving survivor was assigned to Suevic as punishment whereupon he met his 18 year old wife on board. Which was handy as he was then able to marry her in Sydney when they arrived.

Things sailed along nicely for Suevic until February 1907 when it all went a bit un-ship shaped. Leaving Melbourne the vessel headed for Cape Town then proceeded to Tenerife then set sail for Plymouth in England, intending to continue on to London and finally Liverpool, which seems a bit of an odd routing choice. I’m just reporting the story as I read it.

However just outside Plymouth on 17 March 1907 in thick fog, rain and strong winds Suevic’s crew miscalculated the distance to the Lizard Lighthouse by an incredible sixteen miles and ran full speed into the shore hitting a series of part submerged rocks known as Maenheere Reef at Stag Rock, which must have come as a bit of a shock to the 524 people on board.

I assume the £400,000 worth of frozen sheep carcasses also carried on board the vessel at the time were almost certainly not the least bit concerned.

Despite major damage the Suevic didn’t sink and Captain Thomas Johnson Jones, was able to attempt several tries at reversing off the rocks. All unsuccessfully.

Thankfully all passengers and crew were saved by the gallant efforts of the RNLI in their largest ever rescue in its history saving 141 crew members, 382 passengers, which included 70 babies and a presumably embarrassed Captain. All using just four open wooden lifeboats together manned by twenty four local volunteers.

Then just as the sixteen hour ordeal had ended another ship, the SS Jubba, also ran aground within sight along the same coastline and the lifeboat crews, aided by some of the Suevic crew this time, carried out another rescue. For their efforts two members of the Suevic crew were awarded RNLI silver gallantry medals, alongside four of the lifeboat volunteers for their work during the rescues.

Captain Jones himself was awarded as well. Awarded liability for the accident and had his Competency Certificate withdrawn, coinciding neatly with his immediate retirement.

Although the bow of the Suevic was crumpled beyond salvage the rest of the ship including the boilers and engines was intact. So the aforementioned cargo of indifferent sheep bits was removed and several attempts were made to pull the vessel off the rocks at higher tides. All attempts were unsuccessful and at each try the ship was taken back by the force of nature further into the rocky reef.

With forecasts of worsening weather most thought abandonment to nature was the only option but the Liverpool & Glasgow Salvage Association, acting on behalf of the White Star Line, came up with a brave plan. To dynamite the front section away, using divers, or rather explosives set by divers because divers aren’t naturally explosive enough themselves, with the idea being it would leave a movable 120m long middle and rear end bit which could be rebuilt anew, that being a cheaper option than having to create a whole new ship.

The ambitious and dangerous plan was successful and on 2nd April 1907 the Suevic, or rather 400 feet of it, drifted free assisted by a remaining watertight bulkhead. It worked so well the ship, or what was left of it, could reverse under its own steam guided only by tugs all the way to Southampton’s Test Quay on 4th April 1907.

After that SS Suevic was transferred to the Harland and Wolff owned Trafalgar dry dock in Southampton where the vessel awaited a new 65m nose to be built in Belfast at which point it became known as the longest ever ship being a third in Northern Ireland and two thirds on the South Coast of England.

It was in Southampton some time in 1907 that these photographs were taken because the new bow arrived on 26th October of that year.

The Harland and Wolff team were joined by shipbuilders from J. I. Thornycroft and the largest cut and shut ship ever was completed by mid January 1908.

Up until the First World War in 1914 Suevic continued commercial service to Australia. The ship continued its runs whilst in readiness for Royal Navy service but wasn’t called upon until a commission to take British Troops to Greece. Not on holiday but to the Dardanelles Campaign, under the title Hired Military Australian Transport or HMAT A29 Suevic.

Suevic survived the war and was refitted in 1920 to carry 266 second class passengers, returning to familiar Australian commutes completing its 50th trip in 1924 and going on until 1928 when the ship was sold to Yngvar Hvistendahl’s Finnhval A/S of Tønsberg, Norway for 35 grand, renamed Skytteren and converted to an Atlantic whaling ship, complete with a new stern ramp.

The whaling continued until the Second World War commenced. In April 1940, along with several other ships Skytteren was interned in Gothenburg, Sweden. Norway wanted their ship back but met with legal resistance due to a squabble between the exiled Norwegian Government and the German collaborationist Norwegian Government. As a result in April 1942 ten ships, including Skytteren made a dash for it out of port towards the safety of some British warships.

Sweden protested against this manoeuvre so the ships headed instead for international waters but met awaiting, tipped off, German ships. Only two made it to the safety of the British ships, two were sunk by the Germans, the rest including the ex-Suevic were voluntarily scuttled by their crew. One crew man from Suevic was lost and the other 110 became prisoners of war.

The fascinating Suevic story didn’t quite fully end in the waters off Sweden in the early forties. Lying in 70m depth of water the wreckage still housed a large amount of oil in the tanks and in 2005 was seen to be leaking and the still decaying hull is now threatening an environmental incident.

Unidentified Ships

The collection also contains three other photographs of ships which I have failed to identify.

There were many ships operating from Southampton at the time and these photos do not contain enough individually identifiable data for me to positively name or date them.

This one for instance could be a Union Castle Mail Steam Ship Company vessel. They were common at the time and were usually painted white. However not all light coloured ships were from the Union Castle Mail Steam Ship Company.

If you know how to identify the ship please message me and I’ll happily add this ship properly to the list above.

Some clues may be the twin funnels [fairly common], the height of the funnels [less so] and the three masts [also fairly commonplace].

The next photograph was bigger so should it’s resolution should make identifying distinct attributes of this ship easier.

The same might be said about the backward sloping funnels although the fact there are only two and the ship has a fairly standard set of three masts doesn’t assist.

The photo is in black and white so I cannot be certain of the hull colour but assuming it was black it could be a Union Company Line vessel. But even using that fact doesn’t allow me to name the vessel.

If only the angle of the composition was more acute then a nameplate may have been visible on the rear which would have made this task so much easier.

Again, if you know the identity of this ship please let me know so it can be properly posted in its rightful place above.

Finally, another twin funnel ship also with a dark hull and twin funnels but this time smaller in size so only sporting twin masts, discounting the rearward post supporting an apparent vessel lamp.

Again, if black hulled is it serving the Union Company Line? Are those funnels red perhaps? If only colour photography was common at the time.

Now some might, at this time, be thinking of web based photo matching services. If you think this might work with these photographs please feel free to try. However this may be hampered by the resolution available, the newness of such matchmaking technology and the fact that these photos are in all likelihood originals having never been seen in the public domain before now.

However, if you do get a breakthrough please let me know via the comments.

Family Connections

Finally I would like to take this chance to honour two other members of my family who’s stories are tightly linked to shipping at the turn of the twentieth century and The Second Boer War.

My paternal Great Grandmother, Florence, mentioned earlier, was born Florence Shearman and she had just two siblings, her older brothers Harry and William.

Both Harry and William probably sailed together as they both went to South Africa with the Durham Light Infantry to play their part in the Second Boer War which had kicked off in November 1899.

In all likelyhood they were part of the intended relief of Ladysmith in the Natal area where 13,000 British Forces had repelled a 21,000 strong Boer attack and had endured a consequent siege there.

They travelled to Cape Town in the single funnelled 7,396 gross ton HM Troopship SS Assaye, yes the one mentioned earlier which collided with USSMS New York in thick fog later in 1904.

As I didn’t have a photograph of the actual Assaye I decided to draw a picture of it, from memory. That is, the memory of a photograph of SS Assaye which I recently discovered on the internet.

The vessel had started life in 1899 being constructed by Caird & Company, Scotland for the Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company being launched in October 1899 intended to be a commercial transport service.

The Second Boer War put an end to that idea and the Assaye was commissioned as troop transport immediately, a service the vessel seemed destined to perform its whole life.

The ship was also used between 1903 and 1908 for various other troop transport duties and when not a troop ship the Assaye remained laid up in Southampton awaiting similar roles.

SS Assaye’s first commercial work came in 1908 between Bombay, now Mumbai and the Far East before being hired again by the Admiralty as a troop and hospital ship for First World War use in 1914. Then continued in similar roles until being eventually scrapped in Stavanger, Norway in 1928.

Back to my family’s connection to the Assaye and we pick up the story on 1st March 1900 where the ship left Southampton with 2,083 troops onboard including 150 men of the Durham Light Infantry, including the brothers, disembarking them at Cape Town, South Africa on the 21st of the month.

Some complications with illness, possibly started during the voyage on the Assaye, rendered both brothers sick. This was not that uncommon on these troop ships at that time.

Harry was so much affected that by 7th April he had already been transferred back onto a returning hospital ship the SS Nubia, which was heading back to Southampton.

The hospital ship, the SS Nubia, originally called SS Singapore was a £100,000, 430ft (131m) passenger cargo ship of 5,914 tons, launched in 1894 after being built at Caird & Company, Greenock, Scotland and completed in 1895 for the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, later to become P&O.

Again, the picture is a representation of what the SS Nubia would have looked like around 1900 based on modern historical records lying around the servers of this world. Credit to the drawing should be given to me because that’s who drew it.

The ship could travel at 14.5 knots from its three-cylinder triple expansion steam engine of 662 Nhp. The maiden voyage took the ship towards Calcutta but it ran aground in Fukon Bay off Aden, Yemen.

Nubia was deployed between 1899 and 1903 transporting and treating patients during the Second Boer War.

The ship ended life wrecked in 1915 whilst heading from Bombay to Shaghai in the Bay of Bengal less than a kilometre north of Colombo, Ceylon, now Sri Lanka.

Harry’s time with the SS Nubia in April 1900 was lamentably short. Unfortunately he never made the journey back home and died on board so was subsequently buried at sea off the west coast of Africa just a day before the ship docked in Las Palmas in the Canary Islands.

Then tragically, less than a month later Harry’s younger brother William also died, this time in South Africa. He died from Entric fever, of which Typhoid is a form and was buried at Estcourt, a place described at the time as ‘a collection of about three hundred detached stone or corrugated iron houses, nearly all one-storied, arranged along two broad streets’. That was a contemporaneous report according to Winston Churchill who was based there as a war correspondent in 1899.

These men were the only two siblings of my Great Grandmother and so my paternal family the only ones now left with personal connections.

Of course as war wounded their names shall remain in records and have also been inscribed on the Durham Cathedral Boer War Memorial Cross. William unfortunately spelled as William Sherman and his brother Harry as a postscript, out of alphabetical order, near the base and so now quite worn. I presume because the records didn’t originally record him as a casualty of the war having being immediately transferred back towards home.

They do have a personal headstone though which was probably erected around 1900, as deduced from the reference to the Queen on the inscription, who would have been Victoria who died in 1901. Given the condition of the photograph it was probably taken soon after placement.

I do not know where it is situated but suspect it is in the Southampton area. The suppliers mark seems to show Mapen Winchester but I cannot determine further information about this or a similar name.

If you have seen this memorial stone and remember where you saw it please let me know so I can make a visit.

Notes

Information and data about the ships shown was collated from internet searches within angloboerwar.com, bandcstaffregister.com, clydeships.co.uk, greatships.net, norwayheritage.com, queensroyalsurrey.org.uk, roll-of-honour.com, uboat.net, en.wikipedia.org and wrecksite.eu

The photos used are all from the collection of Vince Poynter, from his family records

The original sketches and drawings were created by Vince Poynter on an iPad Air 4 using the Sketchbook App to illustrate this article and are © 2021

Suitable credit should be given if any of this media is used elsewhere

Buying Time

I missed out on Bitcoin. I remember when it was at an early stage, around 2011, a curiosity in technical articles and I was intrigued by the idea. I wasn’t confident enough in computer programming to work it myself and would have had to use a third party to purchase some but I did have an amount of spare money I could risk so I thought of trying. I even discussed the idea with my wife and recall talking of trying out a £500 risk. At the time that would have bought me a fair number of Bitcoin, around 3,000 if I recall correctly. The real problem was the lack of knowledge of how to do that. It functioned on a Windows PC system and my own PC had been getting old by then and I had already migrated to using an Apple device. Traditional routes such as banks were not available to use. The only sellers were unknown to me.

When Bitcoin returned to the news again, such as when I first heard of Laszlo Hanyecz buying a couple of actual pizzas for ₿10,000, I was pleased I hadn’t paid out five hundred quid for the equivalent of a pizza slice, no matter how tasty it may have been. However this was the first purchase of actual, physical goods but Bitcoin had been generally weaving its own path, trading and rising for services amongst reprobates particularly on the dark web and the subsequent value climbed and climbed, fallen then climbed again. I didn’t like the sound of trading with people in the dark with the real potential to become prey to criminals, so once more I didn’t invest.

Had I bought the first coins I considered and then had I kept them, an unlikely probability given their often meteoric rises, my portfolio from such a £500 investment back then would be worth around £127m now. Or over two hundred and thirteen billion per pizza. It seems I may have missed out on this one because of my valid concerns about values going down as well as up.

The same happened on other occasions. For instance, when I read of more technical or specialist news regarding other embryonic cryptocurrencies including the second one issued, Lifecoin in 2011. Again I thought of investing but faltered due to the potential prospect that mainly they were not Bitcoin leaving me wondering whether the market would surely only need just one cryptocurrency. Again I didn’t know who I was dealing with, knew that these markets seemed highly risky and anyway, surely the bubble of growth was about to burst. And have subsequently lost out on every opportunity in this field since.

Even as recent as a few weeks ago, on news of more Bitcoin trading reports going up to record levels once more then settling back down again I was considering perhaps spending a sum on buying a small stake in every known cryptocurrency available in a spread bet on the suspicion that even if most of them faltered the probability was that one or two may rise enough to counter any loss. I would have been risking my investment so would only gamble what I could afford to loose. But I didn’t. However, shortly thereafter there was the situation with GameStop being over egged by early speculators via Reddit which took traction, sending values through the roof and inspiring thousands of small investors clamouring to invest via micro investing stock market Apps, which then encouraged major mainstream traders to join in the stupidly overvalued rising mini bull market. Then, inevitably, the Apps were pulled creating a sudden distrust in the mainstream stock market by all the micro investors and a subsequent rush by some into cryptocurrencies driving these currencies up an average 20% more. I really should trust my instincts. But again caution held me back.

In reality I only want to participate in such a trust based market if I can be in at the beginning, fully understand how it works and where it offers reasonable protection against criminality. I am not educated enough in complex computer programming to start and develop a new cryptocurrency that I can be in at the tier one level so have to think outside the box to come up with something that I could actually make work for me by making it work for you. I think I may have the answer but I will need some time.

Thankfully for me history has already provided this and it has been patiently waiting for me to market it all. After all it has lain unclaimed up to now and I formally stake my claim on it all. Plus because time is limited and only progressing slowly it could become ever more valuable plus it is also easily divisible into commonly recognisable and simple to understand divisions and so become marketable units. Allow me to explain.

Now that I own time, or at least the notion of it as understood by us all, I shall put an initial value on every year since year 1. And to date we have 2021 years since then. If you are not clear on my mathematics here check your calendar. I will value each year at, say, £200 and you are welcome to buy from me as many as you want or can afford until all the years are sold. I will obviously invest in a couple of years myself and give away some more to family members plus a few as gifts for worthy causes or for marketing purposes etc but most will be available to buy. Let’s say 2000 of them. At £200 each I will personally gain £400,000 before tax. Well I did come up with the idea.

So why would you buy these years from me? Well, simply because you might be able to sell them on for more. Which is why we invest after all. To speculate. Just think, all those who own years, including myself, will have great incentive to help drive up their value. All you need to get payback is subdivide your own year and sell the individual components for more overall than you paid upfront. Let’s say you divided your year by, what shall we go for?, I know, days. You have 365 units to sell and could price them howsoever you wished, but lets say you choose to sell your days at £200 each. With a potential gross return of £73,000 at that valuation. For each of the years that you originally bought.

And naturally as momentum builds all those next level day keepers will turn to subdividing their days and selling off their hours. Why? Because by then these will now be recognised off grid trading devices much like cryptocurrency units are now and consequently likely have a market based trading value. Particularly as the price each time is set by the seller and the market now limited in supply.

The great news is that up until this point the majority of the investors would likely be up on their deal. The others may have less potential to make more but will have a trading currency outside of mainstream banking

And then comes 2022. And I will sell that too or issue days in that year all of which could share the same excitement and newsworthiness as finding new bitcoins do now.

The mathematics mean that in truth it is unlikely that each year, day and hour would be fairly equal in value. I used the £200 examples as a guide to represent how each sector would return on the risk. At first I suspect it would be expected that a year would be worth roughly 365 times the value of a day and so on but as interest grew speculators should quickly realise the advantages of getting in early and subsequently drive the market naturally up across each division. With the higher tier levels containing the most lower tier units they would naturally be the most coveted. That year you initially invested in could be worth quite a lot more than you paid for it if you held on to it because there will only initially be 2021 of them.

At present this is just at the idea stage. No business has been set up, no © formally registered. No securing of any trademarks and no website. This will only transpose to an actual thing if enough interest is shown.

I should set out a way to show how I envisage it would all work in principle, which would basically amount to these few rules shown below. Please note these are guide lines and have not been legally checked to ensure the correct phrasing so must be considered proposals at this time issued with good intent.

• It shall be known as Thyme [a working title for the purposes of this idea] or a similar name registered as a legal business and chosen to facilitate an easily discovered url where initial transactions take place, a name reserved for a future App if that is wanted and various social media sites

• It must be a legal system. I do not want to create an underclass system that people are afraid to deal in. It should be transparent and open within reason yet subject to privacy plus any tax due on any gains must be paid by the seller

• Any investment can be a risk and no recompense will be made due to not meeting expectations of performance. Caveat emptor

• Thyme units shall be known as Years, for the top tier, then Days and Hours. The subdivision of which would match common understanding, i.e. a Year would consist of 365 Days or 366 in the case of a leap Year and a Day would be 24 Hours

• The common place to go to check values and to confirm ownership, would be the Thyme url, initially maintained by me or the company I form to administer this, subsequently known as the Top Level Administrator and would have sole ownership rights of and control over issue or sale of the original top level Year time periods

• Year zero or any negative year such as 1 BCE will never be issued which would ensure a limited supply of time units available

• The minimal divisible unit will initially be the Hour, again to limit the supply of units available

• Thyme units shall be fixed and only be traded whole or broken into their constituent parts. For example if you own a Day it can be traded whole with another person but once part of that Day, i.e. an Hour, is sold then it becomes a collective number of the Hours remaining, no longer a Day

• Thyme units can be collated to form larger values only if the specific Thyme unit values are concurrent. For example you could purchase 24 separate Hours from up to 24 different sources but that will not become a Day unless each of those Hours are consecutive and from the same day

• There is no maximum or minimal value limit on any unit of Thyme

• The value of any one unit at any given level shall not automatically alter the value of any other units of the same or any other level. This is a purely market driven system

• There is no maximum limit to how many units of Thyme of any level that can be held by any individual, group of individuals or businesses

• Administration costs at the year level will be borne by the Top Level Administrator. There shall be no fee in addition to the sell price for purchasing any original Year unit transaction. However, subsequent transactions of any Years will attract a 1% of traded value commission fee or a minimum of £25, whichever is greater, plus relevant taxes payable to the Top Level Administrator to cover database maintenance costs

• Administration costs at the lower tier levels such as individual Years or Days will be borne by the original purchaser, who shall become a Level Administrator and they must be administered in accordance with the way described directly above. At the discretion of the Level Administrator similar updating fees may be applied on an individual basis. Any Year or Day Level Administrator should choose and declare such processing fees, as has been done in the paragraph above, in advance of selling

• Owners of Hours are not Level Administrators

• Level Administrators shall be responsible for maintaining accurate records of their units and subsequent sales until such time as they are fully dispersed of and then must maintain their transaction records for a minimum of seven years afterwards. This way buyers will only trust sellers if clear and accurate, historically traceable information is available

• Subsequent years from year 2022 onwards will only become included in the system as they occur at 00:00 on 1st January of each year and shall immediately become owned by the Top Level Administrator. They can then be sold, gifted or broken into constituent Thyme parts at the discretion of the Top Level Administrator at the time of his choosing and in the manner in which he shall decide

• The value of any Thyme unit and when it will be available will be soley market driven, either set by the seller and subsequently accepted or auctioned however-so the seller wished it to occur. For example, I, as the Top Level Administrator, shall decide when I will issue my Thyme Years for sale and at what price. As a result each buyer can then choose what their subsequent sell price is and when to sell

• Ownership changes should be reported back to the Level Administrator for the particular unit level for verification to ensure records of ownership can be maintained

So how do I propose administration should work? As stated earlier my skills are not rounded enough to run a fully safe encrypted database, which would be needed if this took off due to its potential value and susceptibility to interference by computer savvy near do wells. So I have come up with a neat solution to recording legitimate ownership using readily available equipment which anyone could use. I will simply hand write the data down then scan it to distribute as a record, subject to data protection limitations.

I recognise your first thought may be that this method is fallible. After all scans can be manipulated by photo editing software. But this is the solution, the scan would be an oversized image with the scan data resting on a unique background, for instance a random newspaper sheet, then cropped to fit thus hiding the background. If there were any subsequent disputes in the data record the Level Administrator would be able to cross reference any disputed scans with the original.

The scanning idea came from the fact that when I scan a document with my smart phone it photographs the general area then automatically zooms in on the document. All very smart but never quite perfect. If I save it unedited the over scan may include some of the table I have placed it on and possibly my feet. Actually, usually, my overhanging belly but this is a detail you didn’t need to know and I really must fix. I can correct the zoom more perfectly myself by dragging the scan perimeters more precisely and save it in a more cropped way but the original still retains the outermost details. This is the security needed to verify originality. In fact it is a common way of identifying expensive art copies. If a good fake is painted it can be made to look very much like the original but it would not have the same details that are wrapped around the framing rails and hidden by the outer frame.

Obviously there are other things that would need to be addressed such as data privacy issues but full legal compliance would be set in place to take care of this.

So are you interested? If so what are you going to offer me for a year of my Thyme? And which years would you choose to buy? Hint, leap years may be fractionally more valuable. And in case you are wondering I am keeping year one, my birth year and the year 2021 for myself, plus a handful of significant date years. See, the supply limitation is already happening so helping drive the value up.

I welcome any comments you have and if you wish to get this thing off the ground with me please make contact. If there is sufficient interest I’ll update on this website after I set it up. So it could be a wise move for you to keep checking back for future updates.

Why not take the Thyme and get onboard now?

This article was first published on my website at vinceunlimited.co.uk on 1 February 2021 (version 5.320)

Little App Ideas

Lots Of Little Ideas – Part 2: Apps

Last month I introduced my series on ‘little ideas’, that is all my big ideas but in bite size form. I continue that theme here in this article where I provide a number of other little ideas but this time all with a similar theme. In this case, all my digital app ideas. So now they are in print and no longer hidden out of sight on my hard drive.

The usual caveats of copyright apply and I note that I believe each to be original in their concept having not seen any like these before. However I would note that on the iOS app store alone there are millions of app variations and I have no intention of checking through each one to check this. Let me know if you have seen or are using anything the same and I’ll correct as required. Then feel proud that the concept I invented as well was indeed sound.

The App Ideas

  • Let’s start with something silly. A toaster app for iPhone. It will be pointless and of course not work but your friends with Google Android phones won’t know that when you turn it’s dials to make the setting and watch as the bars glow ‘hotter and hotter’. For the full fun effect ask them to get some bread and try it out. Variants will include the hot-plate, the ceramic hob and the five bar electric fire. Now what about getting sponsorship from a company like Dualit? If you think this is just too out there remember an early app on the iPhone was the larger drinking simulator. No beer but it was sponsored. And extremely popular
  • ValueMyStuff. A valuation site with sections for houses, automotive, furniture, tech, paintings, antiques, clothing, animals etc. Each item for valuation has a photo, condition percentages and links to sponsored 3rd party sellers and buyers sites. Ideal to get a value on that old watch in the cupboard or the rare toy car from childhood. Interactive ability to have viewers’ stuff valued by the community
  • Short Films. Pitched between the might and mess of YouTube but with the quality and seriousness of Netflix. It would only have short films of up to 15 minutes, both professionally produced and amateur made providing they are of sufficient quality. Sections to include showcasing of new film producers, directors and talent. It would be a subscription model, say £2 per month with unlimited viewings
  • Mirror Drawing, a tablet app where you can draw one side of an object and the other side appears at the same time. Ideal for plans such as car, boat shapes etc.
  • Live Podcast Finder. An app showing when live worldwide podcasts are happening. Able to filter for favourite podcasts. Podcasters encouraged to input data. Possibly also other livestreaming events as well from YouTube, Instagram and Peppar as well
  • Car decorating. Photos or drawings of plain coloured cars provided with paint colouring tools to allow the user to customise at will. Would include options for two-tone, shading, metallic paints, graphics and crazy decals, which could be purchased, earned or sponsored for a race car look. The app would feature best user section where people rate their peers’ efforts
  • Twitter grammar correction. Type in a Tweet and the app changes it to become more gramatically correct or even hip. Incorporating a range slider from Professor, through business like, cool, hip to phat. Plus in app purchases for cockney, Yoda, Data conversions as well
  • Collections. A photo collection service, e.g. Cars, trains, celebrities, sports stars. Collect photos into pre-set albums. Can purchase and trade content
  • Colourshift. Convert your own photos into component RGB with sliders to reconstruct or move around. Additional sliders for contrast, light etc
  • Clone camera. Make the display on your smartphone resemble the [top and] back of a serious DSLR camera. Not so useful if the clone you are copying doesn’t have an LCD display
  • Averages. Before you check into a restaurant see the lowest, highest and average prices of the main meals. Would also convert nicely into an app that does other comparison items, such as cars
  • Gigging App. For bands and comics. The app can show where talent is performing on a particular date with links to booking websites etc. Perhaps a subscription model to include travel arrangements so car sharing can be accommodated

And finally a few Navigation or Map based Apps

  • En-route app which specifically highlights things en-route. Using a route selected from the your favourite Maps app. Find food, fuel, attractions etc. Better than the normal radius based systems
  • Retrace route function on Sat Navs
  • Petrol prices by location incorporating a calculator using your own vehicles mpg to assess whether it’s worth diverting to get a better place to fill up
  • Train Sat-Nav. Not for the drivers, they know where they are going and cannot deviate off those parallel steel lines anyway. My idea is a map showing where you are on the network because normal maps aren’t good at this. Would also clearly show key rail features such as stations, crossings, junctions and odd interesting information, perhaps also the speed you are going. Could be integrated with rail planner and train finder services perhaps?
  • Attractions, a list of places to go in an area, such as National Trust etc. Plus an element of gamification by getting a score based on the percentage of an area, country, or the world explored

These are just the ideas I have come up with so far for apps. In part one I had already listed a bunch of miscellaneous ideas and have yet to set out my other themed ideas sets covering Games, Technology and Transport. If you have a particular desire to see one of these subjects next let me know.

Vince Poynter

Originally posted on my website on 28 Jun 2020 
If you want me to expound on any of the above ideas just let me know 
As usual if you know of any of these ideas actually existing in the real world please let me know so I can update my page. If not and you wish to exploit these concepts and commercially pass them off as your own just consider this, you have accessed this webpage so I may be able to trace and claim ©. If you want peace of mind just let me know beforehand and we can probably come together and agree on a mutually acceptable arrangement

Cosmic Symbol

My Camera History Part 2 – The Cosmic Symbol – 1980s

In part one I told the story of my first introduction to photography with a Kodak Instamatic. It was now time for a change.

Around the late seventies I wanted a better camera and yearned for something more than the toy like Instamatic. My budget wouldn’t stretch to a full SLR but I wanted something as close as possible to that type of machine.

I remember discussing all this with my father. I’m not sure where he had come across the Cosmic Symbol, a UK adapted Russian Smena Symbol first launched in 1973, but he suggested the simplicity of the operation would suit someone like me graduating from a snap camera. I can’t recall anything of the purchasing process, the price or where I got it. Or even if it was a part present. Or what I first used it for but I think I got it around the very beginning of the eighties.

The camera was a boxy shaped device that looked semi-serious with it’s black plastic corrugated panels on front and rear. It had a matching black plastic fixed lens featuring focus adjustment as well as another ring to set the exposure. To add further complication around the lens itself was another fiddly fingernail operated adjustment for the film speed.

Taking a picture involved pressing a plastic horizontal lever to the right of the lens, which moved with an initial gentle movement but then clicked on as it fired. On the top left was a lifting film loading wheel spline which incorporated a swing out metal crank handle and in the centre a hot shoe accessory mount for flash units.

On the back of the camera was a centrally mounted image counter, a large cocking lever to quickly move the film stock on one frame in a single action plus a small moveable dial mounted in the centre to remind you what film you had installed.

The worst feature was the same as experienced on the Instamatic, a lack of SLR functionality, again relying on an offset viewfinder meaning the picture taken was never quite the one seen, particularly for close shots. The second worse feature was the reason it was named.

The Symbol moniker was included because this camera not only featured focus gradations on the lens in metres and feet but also added little pictograms to help indicate which settings to use. Icons of heads, full bodies, buildings and mountains were included making the camera look like it was designed for a child. These simple representations were also on the settings ring showing various weather conditions. I suppose they helped the user get a good photo without being able to see via a focus screen but it made the thing look amateurish. Unlike the gorgeous, two piece, protective brown leather case it came in.

Loading a film in those days involved a process of opening the back of the camera, lifting the crank, dropping in a 135mm film roll cartridge, commonly called 35mm film, lowering the crank, feeding the film strip out of the roll and onto some splines on the right hand side, cranking the handle to feed a few turns securely on the shaft, closing the door, winding the film a couple more times all ready for the first shot.

On completion of all shots the crank handle would again be deployed to wind the film back into the roll ready to be removed in the opposite sequence from above.

Film rolls commonly came with a capacity of 36 frames but with judicious use you could get about 38 or even 39 pictures which was pleasing as the price was based on a per roll basis, not per image. Also in those days the price paid for a film included postage and processing which ensured you paid up front. Not only that but with the returned photos you received a money off voucher and freepost envelopes to keep you returning to the same supplier.

You could also select film roll cartridges with 12, 20 or 24 frames which were naturally much cheaper. You also had to choose the film speed, measured in ISO. If you were going to capture shots on a sunny day you would select an ISO 100 film but if you wanted to take pictures in dull lighting or indoors an ISO 400 would be better. ISO 400 would also work best for fast moving subjects as well, such as moving animals or racing cars. Particularly useful if the Grands Prix circuit passed through your bedroom at dusk.

The problem with all this was you couldn’t chop and change meaning if you had an ISO 100 film in the camera all the darker scenes would look dark and blurry and if the film was ISO 400 any bright scenes would be grainy. So to counter the problem many usually used a mid point ISO 200 general film meaning sunny shots were not fully crisp and darker scenes had a modicum of grain. But at least you didn’t have to use a crystal ball to foresee what you might be photographing in six months time.

The other decision to make was whether to use film roll and processing that returned actual physical photographs or the much cheaper slides. Either way you would also get your originally exposed negative film roll returned as well. Having slides in those days wasn’t an issue as many homes had slide viewers or projectors.

I tended to opt for an ISO 200 film stock in a 24 roll format with about two thirds of the time using slides. All decisions made based on my budget limitations, which also restricted the number of times it was used.

I owned the camera for about a decade and remember it fairly fondly. It was rugged, durable and mechanically reliable, particularly in the fitted protective case which aged wonderfully. I always yearned for a true SLR and should have painted out the childish pictorial icons to make it look more mature. Furthermore the brand and name left any enquirer non the wiser so I was lucky to be able to move on.

Author: Vince Poynter
Originally published on the vinceunlimited.co.uk website on 25 Jun 2020
The image shows me holding the Cosmic Symbol in a photograph taken by my new best friend Lynda around 1983 on her Canon AE-1 Program SLR camera. The Cosmic Symbol was produced by LOMO in Leningrad [now St. Petersburg], Russia and has a LOMO T-43 40mm f/4 coated triplet lens. It was produced between 1973 and 1993. Camera data source: Camera Wiki

Kodak Instamatic

My Camera History – Part 1 – The Kodak Instamatic – 1970s

The first camera I owned was a basic Kodak Instamatic. I have no record of the actual model but upon image searching the internet I figured it was probably a Kodak Instamatic 133 as these were very popular at the time and the look seemed familiar.

I recall it was lightweight to hold and simple to operate with few settings to tax my skills, including a tacky bent metal shutter release which needed too much force to use so shook the camera with a noisy mechanical clunk whenever pressed. The automatic functioning of the camera was overwhelming so it soon gave up all joy as it lacked creative possibilities. The only decision to make wheen shooting involved making one of two choice settings in the twist action of the lens dependant on whether the shoot was in sunlight or inside

The simplicity did allow the novice camera operator to concentrate on composition however as the lens offered no zoom facility composure involved moving towards or away from the subject. Also as it did not have a direct view single lens reflex [SLR] function whenever you got too close the captured image was not the same as viewed through the edge mounted viewfinder, causing many early photographs to look offset.

Flashcube connection was available for night shots, although this destructive flash photography method was so expensive and yielded such poor results I rarely used this function.

At the time lining up film roll was a complex process, which I shall cover in greater detail in another article, so the Instamatic range used a 126 film cartridge system meaning loading film stock was a simple case of opening the back, lifting out the cartridge and dropping in a new one. Then wind the film on to start. Then a couple more winds before every other shot. Finally after about 20 odd shots the cartridge was removed and posted off to be returned as a set of negative strips and printed photos. All at great expense. Plus a film processing wait time of a couple of weeks.

This expense meant that shots were considered semi-precious so were limited. It was common to put the camera away with a half used film cartridge then to get it out again several weeks or even months later. So you had to have a system of remembering to roll to the next film image after shooting, to safely secure the picture just taken.

The film selector wheel mechanism was designed to prevent double images being taken. The process was to gently rotate the wheel until a click was felt, which released the shutter for the next shot, then another wind or two until a clunk to signify you had correctly aligned the next image placement whereupon the film counter in the small back rear window advanced the frame counter by one.

With such a design, using a careful rolling of the wheel you could engage the click in readiness to reshoot without moving the film on, meaning a double exposed photograph of two or more separate images. This occured once by accident when I got a picture of both my siblings superimposed onto an image of me. Naturally I tried this technique again in a creative way to get a picture of my sister fleeing an enormous guinea pig [a close up of my pet, Squeeky]. I have posted the pictures as the featured image in this article.

You will see the monster guinea pig picture didn’t really work as well as I had hoped. Composition was fine but the exposure between the two frames was mismatched and the pet would not be obvious without explanation.

This was the other issue with film roll photography, any taken image wasn’t seen instantaneously, editing wasn’t possible and after several months you may receive back many prints of dubious quality. Exposure issues, irregular framing and errant thumbs were commonplace in those days.

In time the days of having a child’s camera ended and I will continue the stories of my cameras in a later article.

Author: Vince Poynter
Originally published on the vinceunlimited.co.uk website on 13 Jun 2020
The image shows two side by side photos taken with the Kodak Instamatic camera, both featuring multiple exposure images. The one on the left includes three similarly positioned shots with Vince in the centre, my sister, Dawn, in the foreground and my brother, Mark, in the background. All taken in the back garden of our family home in Southampton, around 1972. The image was mistakenly grouped and only discovered after printing. The right hand image is an attempt to be creative by utilising a similar technique. The idea was for Dawn to be seen fleeing from a monster sized guinea pig with both shots intently merged. The images were taken by Vince and his family around 1977

Citroën BX

It was 1983 and we were in need of another car. The Renault 6 had finally persuaded Lynda and I that it’s clutch wasn’t long for this world so we sold it. The whole car, not just the clutch. That bit was fast becoming worthless.

By now I had got a job so we had a few more spare pennies each month allowing us to be a bit more frivolous with our purchasing. With Lynda’s enthusiasm for all things brand new, apart from me, coupled with the fact I had never owned a new car we started to look at what dealerships might offer. So instantly made our way straight to the Renault garage where her family had jointly bought their last three vehicles from.

I was no particular fan of Renaults myself because their line up was uninspiring. At the time they had the ageing, pressed tin 4, the chubby little 5, the uninspiring, dated 6, two boring box shaped saloons in 9 or 18 patterns and the Fuego, the expensive, dumpiest fastback on the planet which no one had ever owned. Except Lynda of course, a year or two back.

But they had recently released a new, updated model 9, more modern in styling with a sharp looking front end incorporating quadruple lamps, more reminiscent of a Lancia than a Renault which is never a bad thing. Unfortunately the designer popped to the loo before he got to draw the back end and they just used an Etch-a-Sketch to finish it. Luckily by the time we got to the dealership the designer had finished his ablutions and had set about creating a new hatchback end, so improved from the staid saloon rump that they called it the 11 as it was at least 2 better than the three box solution. So we borrowed one for a day long test drive.

We decided to visit my family who were unimpressed, largely because no one from our side of the street had ever seriously been able to entertain buying a new car and their spotty 22 year old fresh out of unemployment was hardly likely to break that mould. We were told to take it back to the adults and apologise for stealing it.

We were more smitten though. It was smart and modern both inside and out and like all Renaults extremely comfortable. We were leaning toward a high spec 1.4 litre GTS model so started to get together our finances and choose colours when we had an epiphany. We saw a big road side poster of a car we had never seen before and it looked fantastically modern and chic. The poster gave no obvious indication of who built it.

We checked more carefully and upon closer inspection the car was a Citroën BX. Brand new into the country and like nothing we had seen before. Apart from a vague styling nod to earlier Citroëns, our experiences of which until that point were mixed.

My brother, Mark had an old, white DS. It was like being in a spaceship designed in the Victorian era but more comfortable than nestling in a freshly laundered bed. It swooped about with a lightness of steering, strange swivelling front lights and a button mushroom to call upon the braking system. The dials and switches were somewhat unconventional and placed at random places about the car which itself rose and fell at the behest of the owner or upon accelerating or cornering. And not always in the direction one would expect. All this strange and lovely comfortableness supported upon metal bowls filled with green fluid located under the wheel arches. Which eventually leaked all over the road whilst my brother was taking a guitar lesson.

The unreliability didn’t put Mark off though as he then bought one of its smaller brothers, a GS which was slightly more modern, slightly less weird but sadly slightly more suffering from I’ll let you down at the most inconvenient time syndrome.

Lynda’s brother, Kevin, also rambled on fondly about the brand and had long harboured thoughts on changing his Renault, the aforementioned tubby 5, in would a man really buy it in that colour yellow, for a GS himself. Side note, he never did because he bought a CX instead. Then an XM. But only after he bought our… Hang on the story isn’t there yet.

We suspended our prejudices and hot footed it to the local Citroën garage where we discussed the car. Not that we could actually get to see one it was that new. Notwithstanding this small hurdle we agreed to buy one and choose the BX16RS version. They even threw in a free hotel stay as inducement to buy, which clearly sealed the deal and saved us paying for our upcoming honeymoon stay.

The BX16 rather than BX14 because in cars bigger numbers are preferable and the RS because it was better equipped than the base model. We could have gone all out on the TRS version but felt the extra money for plastic windowlets in the C pillar wasn’t worth the upgrade.

The 1580cc motor would put out 91 horses when spun over 6000 times per minute and 97 units of imperial pulling power at a lower 3,500 but as it was French the figures were 68kW and 131 Newtons respectively. Which is all utter taureau-merde because who cares about how many horses are put out? It’s far more important to know why 91 were on fire in the first place.

The net result of all this revving and powering was a 0-60 time of under 11.3 seconds which I know because records indicate that it could go to 62mph by the 11.3rd second and then proceed on to do 176 but this was because it was French and they measure in something called kilometres which are like miles only in France. In England where I was it could only get to 109mph and that never happened anyway. It had to be run in.

There is a certain thrill of driving away a brand new car. The excitement that you are the first to drive it. After the man driving it off the production line, the factory delivery driver who puts it on the lorry, the guy who loads it onto the ferry, the one who drives it off the ferry the other end, the person who puts it on the transporter in this country and the other who gets it off the other end before being tested by the PDI technician and used by the salesman who nips out in it to get his sandwiches on the Thursday before you arrive to pick it up. Once it has been driven about the place by the valet cleaner of course.

But you believe you are the first one in it and you find yourself edging out carefully onto the highway with not a care in the world. Apart from a real fear of every other road user who seems to eyeing you up and waiting for an opportunity to administer the first scratch or dent. Along with an underlying gut feeling that you have just spent far too much on what amounts to a piece of metal sculpture.

In fact a lot of it wasn’t even metal. The modern design incorporated new fangled lightweight materials for the bonnet, hatch and bumpers. Not carbon fibre, just a form of wobbly plastic. Like some big red Reliant Robin.

Yes it was red. A deep post box red with a suitably contrasting light grey interior finish. We had opted for the fabric seats as leather was a spend too far but they were accommodating and adjustable enough to get at all the strange and quirky controls that Citroën decided to design into the first variant of this model.

For example, the indicators were not on handy stalks like every other car but instead incorporated into a rocker switch on the top of the lighting cheek protruding next to the binnacle, a handy finger stretch away from the wheel. All well and good for operation when approaching a bend, provided the bend wasn’t ahead of a long curve when your hands may not have been at the ideal position to reach. Plus their lack of proximity to the wheel shaft meant that no self cancelling function was incorporated so more thought had to go into repositioning hands for indicator cancelling after a manoeuvre as well.

The speedometer was also different from standard cars of the time. Instead of the standard big dial and sweeping pointer the speed numerals were printed on a vertically rotating drum which rolled past a fixed point line. All very Star Trek. All very difficult to read at a glance or at night.

The wonderfully sounding rear speakers set into the parcel shelf. Big enough for all the bass you need, despite needing a better base themselves

One thankfully useful feature was a standardised DIN space for a retrofit stereo, a common upgrade to cars at the time and we spent time hunting out a fantastic Pioneer set up incorporating a slick KEH-9300 head unit coupled to a pair of TS-168 door mounted speakers and another stunning pair of powerful TS-2000 speakers inset into the hatchback cover which created a great deep, lustrous sound using the whole boot space as a bass box. We had to incorporate quick release audio leads but found the structural reinforcing within the plastic cover made it difficult to add extra strengthening to dampen out the uninvited audio induced bounce every time the volume went up.

Citroën fitted the car with its famous hydropneumatic suspension. Still using the gloopy green gunge that had visited the road outside my brother’s guitar learning shop but this time reliably contained within the pipes and spheres of the car. This gave it four settings of height. Maintenance level for fans of low riding, standard, raised and fully raised for wheel changing. It always travelled best in standard mode as raised firmed up the ride to extremely bumpy. As the years passed we saw a number of older BXs travelling out on motorways in raised mode which meant one of three things, firstly, that the system had failed, secondly, the operator didn’t know they could or how to alter the setting or thirdly, the driver was an idiot.

When driving our new, correctly set up car it felt modern, free-revving and comfortable. The manual five speed gearbox slipped into each ratio nicely albeit being a bit spongy in feel plus the power assisted steering was super light. The interior was spacious and having a hatchback always assists the practicality. The only real fault being the aforementioned non cancelling indicators. In fact I’m pretty sure they were still clicking quietly on and off when we sold it. Which was so much sooner than one should for a new car.

It’s not that there was a problem. In the year of ownership it never missed a beat. Unfortunately it also never missed the company entrance gatepost I drove through either but that minor scrape was soon fixed.

A time to practice getting through small gaps. A skill which would have been useful near a certain entrance

We had used it to visit t’North, a camp site in the west and to compete in a local manoeuvring contest held by our Institute of Advanced Motorists group wherein I proved conclusively that I could have missed the gatepost if only I had tried harder.

The reason we sold it was I got a new job. This came with not only a new gatepost entrance but more importantly to this tale a fully expensed company car rendering a second vehicle a bit of a luxury that we had to fuel ourselves. Lynda carried on commuting in the bee-ex for a while but we decided to sell it to Kevin’s partner, Rob, who needed some wheels and a mint condition [once the door was repainted] Citroën was a great deal for both of us. We got back some cash and he got a pretty new low mileage car that he kept for a number of years. With a banging stereo fitted.

My Citroën bubble had been pricked but the experience was far too good to be so short lived. I would no longer refrain from visiting the brand again. And I didn’t… But that story is for another day.

Author: Vince Poynter

First Published in my website vinceunlimited.co.uk on 30 May 2020
A DIN space is a reference to a standardised opening panel space of 180mm x 50mm for dashboard mounted head units as prescribed in ISO 7736 
The header photograph shows the actual Citroën BX16RS in the story, parked on the author’s driveway shortly after it was purchased in 1983
The second image shows a close up of the Pioneer rear speakers fitted in the back parcel shelf of the car. The photo was taken by Lynda after the car had passed ownership to Rob around 1987 
The final image shows the author manouvering the Citroën at an IAM day in Southampton, around Spring 1984

Lots of Little Ideas

Part 1 – Miscellaneous Ideas

Sometimes an idea or concept can be summarised in just a few lines. In fact as an example I can tell you an original thought I had using only three words – Chocolate coated crisps.

In fact I can do it in just two words – Black Wine.

Or I could use three words but add a bit of humour – Square Chocolate Eggs – Cluck, cluck, Argh.

I had considered collating the above three tiny ideas together under one banner of food concepts and publishing an article for my website. But if I did that the other dozen or so ones listed below would fester for longer on my hard drive still awaiting the light of day. So I had another idea. Why not just publish a whole list of my one or two sentence concepts? Each has no particular association with any other, except emanating from deep within the recesses of my imagination.

The Miscellaneous Ideas

  • Various sports series for the over fifties. For example: An over fifties track racing series using something like a simple space frame car with an off the shelf engine
  • A self contained mist sprinkler set for fire protection. Containing all the components for easy installation with localised control, all ready to plug in with an option to extend with simple pipe work and push fit fittings
  • A short range defence gun firing large soft missiles designed to knock over targets without permanent damage. Legal to carry by non firearm trained police and possibly the public
  • A boat underwater damage repair device. Magnetic doughnut ring with neoprene centre that secures on the outside around the hole with the rubber skin providing the seal by means of external water pressure. This could be developed for military use by incorporating permanent awning style attachments that could quickly roll out from above the waterline to the damage below
  • Weight watcher or dieting cards – Congratulations on reaching 70… kg
  • Base speed limits on car standard fitment tyres using the aspect ratio between width and height. Vehicles with wider tyres could travel faster than those with skinny tyres. It’s a safety issue. Fatter tyres have more road contact so corner and stop quicker. Plus the types of vehicles with wide tyres usually have uprated brakes
  • People should take their rubbish home but too many don’t respect supplied litter bins or use them because they cannot be bothered to get out of their cars. So why not have highway litter troughs? Open troughs alongside the road for people to simply dump litter incorporating a standardised size to aide scoop collection from predesigned trucks
  • Print a premium line number to on the back of a van to be called if the vehicle is driven badly or in the wrong lane. Then drive along in an outer lane without moving over
  • On comparison sites rank restaurant menus based all of their items on the menu as cheapest, standard and most expensive averages. The same could be done for other comparisons such as car prices [entry level model, average specification and fully specced versions]
  • A solution to the housing crisis. Build more suitable family homes, designed to accommodate multiple generations of the same family. With separate living spaces within the same footprint of a normal house. Multi storey, individual facilities, shared spaces, joint ownership etc.
  • Shared car park and apartment building structures in city centres. Designed like a multi-storey car park but incorporating apartments as well as the many parking spaces
  • Films set in space often utilise spinning structures to provide gravity. Why don’t they hang something the mass of Earth, although not the size of it, under the ship. A custom built black hole, powerful enough to draw everything towards it but not so big it would suck the whole thing up
  • Table Tennis played on an hexagonal court with radial nets. The idea is to have the least losses in your sector. If one good player starts to win all the others should attack them. This would keep the scores even
  • A dictionary of collective nouns
  • Large or mid size water bottles the shape of large hip flasks to enable carrying in rucksacks
  • A headset designed like the bottom half of a a full face motorbike helmet with attached earphones, allowing private web based communication in open office environments

These are just a few of the ideas I have come up with and I indeed have many more. So here is another one. At some point I shall revisit this concept for all the other sectors that I haven’t covered above including Apps, Games, Technology and Transport. If you have a particular desire to see one of these subjects first you know what to do. If not let me give you one more idea – Contact me.

Author: Vince Poynter

First published on my website in Version 5.308 dated 26 May 2020
If you want me to expound on any of the above ideas just let me know 
As usual if you know of any of these ideas actually existing in the real world please let me know so I can update my page. Also, if not and you wish to pinch these concepts then commercially pass them off as your own just think, you have accessed this webpage so I may be able to trace and claim copyright. If you are concerned just let me know beforehand and we can probably come together and agree on a mutually acceptable arrangement.

Lockdown Return

In March 2020 about seven and a half million people and about a million businesses had a lifeline thrown to them under the UK Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.  The scheme allowed companies to furlough their workers with the majority of their wages being funded centrally by the British taxpayer utilising tens of billions of pounds of additional national borrowing and debt.

This short term solution isn’t permanently sustainable so as the COVID-19 crisis gradually eases more businesses are being allowed to reopen and we will soon all be back to work.  Lockdown is ending.

But how easy will it be to return?

Firstly, many managers and supervisors have already started to go back to reset our working environments to set out our new social distancing practices of keeping two metres apart.  Modelled on government and industry recommendations and examples based on the designs worked out and rehearsed by our national supermarkets.  By using notices, taped areas, arrows, perspex screens and reduced traffic we will be entering a slightly strange version of the place we abandoned in a relative hurry just a couple of short months ago.

Some of us, due to our particular jobs and restrictive work places may not be able to do all our work ideally spaced from our colleagues and there will inevitably be a lot of dancing and hopping about as we pass each other and jostle for position at toilets, photocopiers and shared work terminals.  Fun at first but eventually tiring and frustrating when the novelty wears off for different people at different times.

I foresee much frustration and anger between those who maintain the need to isolate for their own sanity or the safety of their families at home and those who care less about the potential reoccurrence of the virus.  The latter presumably from the same pool of people we have witnessed crowding onto beaches and into parks in a desperate last minute ditch to get some sun because slightly recolouring their skin seems worth the risk to them and their families of dying whilst desperately coughing up a sickening disease.

Much the above is pretty much widely known or already considered.  What hasn’t been covered is the fact that our sustained absence from our colleagues may bring some unexpected problems.

I’m not referring to the potential issues of subconscious, petty jealousy or alternatively envy caused by the gradual returning of staff, between those who wanted to return early or those who didn’t, or couldn’t.  There will inevitably some of this going on and we should make allowances.

What I am concerned about is whether this period has actually made us forget about some critical things.

Already there will be a natural variance in speed that some people can reengage with their work but add in learning new practices and processes caused by renewed working arrangements we should be sympathetic to those who cannot get back into the swing as fast as others.

But before all that what about our personal greetings to those we haven’t seen daily for many weeks?  We are all used to going on holiday breaks for a few days or even a couple of weeks and returning to a barrage of ‘hellos’, ‘how are you doings’, ‘tell us about its’ and ‘at last you’re back there’s a pile of work awaiting yous’.  Now we have all shared the break together so these salutations will be even more intense.

There is, however, another thing to factor in.  Particularly if we work in large establishments or haven’t been working there long before all this blew up.  How good are you at remembering names?

This issue has troubled me for ages, long before this pandemic.  Each morning I greet about a dozen people before the novelty of the day has waned and because of the irregular first entry time into my main workplace these dozen people may differ.  For each of those greetings I use a mix of ‘hellos’, ‘good mornings’ and ‘how are you?s’ dependant on the duration of the meet.  And for good measure and politeness I add their name where possible.  It makes the salutation more personal and assists in human camaraderie.

The responses I get vary from enthusiastic greetings through polite acknowledgement to complete ignorance as if I am actually invisible.  This hurts but I have learnt not to be offended if I get no response because I cannot know what is consuming their inner thoughts at the time.  Plus with repeat offenders I think their rudeness is a personal trait burden that they themselves have to carry.

Another consideration here may be another issue that prevents civil response.  Embarrassment.  That is they do know you but at that point, or possibly always, they cannot for the life of them remember your name so turn away or ignore you as this is easier.

It happens to us all.  Just think of all the films and TV you see, recognising thousands of faces, what they do and have been in but you are unable to recall their name.  Just the same in your busy workplace.  You recognise virtually every face but can you name them all?  It is probably a natural human condition, a result of our long having eyesight and less developed period of vocal speech and in particular identity.

In practice at work it may be that you rarely meet, maybe have never spent time working closely together or even you were not there when they were marched round with the supervisor to be introduced.  It seems that there is a window of about two weeks when you get a chance to ask a newby their name, after that the question becomes psychologically difficult.

In theory you should never be embarrassed about making a ‘late’ introduction.  “Hey, we’ve known each other for three years now and do you know what, I don’t know your name.  What is it?”  Would you be offended if someone asked you this?  Even if you knew many small details about them.

Name badges help of course but not everyone wears these and as they are usually pinned on the chest it can feel awkward to attempt to stare at tiny fonts placed in that area on a woman.  And what sort of name is ‘Fruit of the Loom’ anyway?

The theory of name badges could assist though if we are prepared to rip up convention and adapt a novel approach to introductions.

What about the idea that when we offer salutation we should include our own moniker.

I shouldn’t greet you with the words “Hello Karen” but instead say “Hello Vince”.  After all I can always remember my name.  This does at first sound strange but will avoid any faux pas if your name is not Karen but was instead Bill.  Plus time will resolve the issue of strangeness.

The downside is getting universal acceptance of this change.  The upsides are that we are never embarrassed by forgetting a name again and constantly remind each other of our own identity, which can be as formal, informal or extravagant as we choose.

Maybe as we come out of this unprecedented period we could take the chance to make an unprecedented change for the better.

Author: Vince Poynter

This article was adapted from my website entry within the Blog section dated 24 May 2020
With apologies to all those key workers and staff that have had to work throughout this time and never experienced a furloughing.  I thank you all

Stand Up Story – Part 3

On 21 August 2019 and 20 April 2020 I told the first two parts of my story on how I performed a few open mic slots to see if I could develop a comedy style and do some stand up routines.  You can check the full story on my web site and on my YouTube channel but for those of you who are not able to access these resources here is the third and final episode of this particular epoch.

By mid April 2020 it was the seventh time I was due to do a monthly stand up routine at my local comedy venue at The Point, Eastleigh.  It wasn’t compulsory that I performed every month, in fact the slots were getting so popular with different performers from all over the country that Richard, our organiser, ‘invited’ all the main group members to not participate but we were nevertheless allowed as we had been regular attendees on the intervening weeks.

However, my comedy performance learning process had hardly started and I had harboured a personal plan to give it at least ten gos to see if I really wanted to continue, to take it further or abandon the idea.

The problem for me was finding another form of stand up to try.  Reading my previous story you will know I had tried everything from observational, through ranting to one-liner gag comedy.  I had even done character comedy and wanted to do a variant of that.  I wanted to find a way of delivering another monologue piece.

Writing something brand new, learning it and perfecting a performance was getting more difficult.  My routines had been getting an improving response, particulary after the previous one which had more base laughs.  My standards had to continue improving and this takes time and effort, something that is limited for all of us.

I considered not doing a slot, giving myself an extra month to get a routine perfected.  However I knew such a break could also stall my continuity, potentially causing me to be forgotten by the audience, make it easier for the Richard to overlook me on subsequent occasions and possibly destroy the confidence in performing that I had built up.

I also had some ideas about the overall evening’s presentation.  Each month one of the established performers from the group carried out the role of compère, to varying degrees of success.  They were usually selected from established group performers based on who was available but at times it seemed there was reluctance to do this from some quarters.  Mind you, in the end there was always somebody who carried out the role on the night.

I thought I could handle this seemingly unpopular task and more importantly actually wanted to try it.  I thought maybe once I had carried out my ten performances and had amassed more stature that I might be accepted to turn my hand to this to see if compèreing was my thing.  It could suit my favoured style of quick wit and unrelated gags.  Plus it would mean less line learning as recalling a full, unbroken routine was far more difficult than remembering some amusing links.  It was another reason I didn’t want to break my pattern of monthly performances.  I needed to keep attending and performing to show my colleagues that they could have confidence in letting me carry out this important role.

But what to do?  I wanted to do a monologue performance but had little time to get something together, potentially gather together any props needed then learn it to an ability to convince an audience of the character.

To solve some of these issues I had an idea that my character could just read from some sort of manuscript or book from a podium or something, such as might be seen by a vicar, a lecturer or presenter.  Then once more found a solution by raiding my historic content and adapting the first part of my Podcast 009 CreationiOS.  I made a ‘book’ [i.e. a modified lever arch file] into which I printed out the script.  Hence a bit of preparation but not much learning needed to get it word perfect.  It was so suitable I had to hardly make any changes to the text although adding the faux blank pages was inspired.

On the night the performers gathered early as usual, before the audience was due to arrive.  However on this occasion there was a problem.  The compère due to host the evening phoned in his absence.  Richard called another to see if he was available but he too claimed to have something more important to do.  Richard was getting a bit flustered and I considered putting myself forward to help out.  We had enough acts to fill an evening without my particular performance and I could always do my routine on another month.

I suggested the idea to Richard, albeit a little reluctantly.  The audience had now started to flow in and I had no time to prepare any lines, other than a few I had sketched out and had saved in my phone previously.  And if I was to do this for the very first time I wanted to have my misses holding the phone to capture my efforts for prosperity and future learning.  Also I was naturally nervous about handling such a role having only performed scripted stuff so far and had no idea how I would cope with riffing it on the fly.  I wanted to get to this stage but was not fully confident that this should be the time to try it out.

My nervousness must have shown because Richard dismissed my offer and instead considered doing it himself.  However a late comer act turned up to save Richard’s evening.  I didn’t know Glenn West.  He wasn’t a member of our comedy group and not even from the immediate area.  But Richard knew Glenn and of his ability so invited him to help out as the evening’s compère.  After just a few seconds of consideration he had agreed and seemed quite happy to drop his own prepared material, although used some as his introduction to the evening.

It was a very full evening.  The popularity of the monthly performances was increasing along with the number of acts coming from far and wide, many who were bringing their friends and families along to support them, a normal thing in Open Mic sessions.

Glenn did his piece and the evening got underway.  I was scheduled to start after the interval so relaxed back to enjoy the other comics which were the usual mix of abilities and styles.

The audience were numerous so the atmosphere was growing nicely until a confident young guy delivered a fairly audacious routine including gags about his private parts.  Unfortunately a middle aged woman became offended and started to heckle.  The guy was able to pick up on this but his witty retorts met with further noisy, interruptive, comments which basically continually called him out on whether he thought what he was saying was funny.  He tried to move on but she persisted, despite the audience starting to turn against her.

When the comic finally finished his routine Glenn stepped in to introduce the next act and remind the audience, or rather the heckler that it was a polite group, an adult audience, that no one has the right to expect to enjoy every act and everyone was free to leave if they didn’t like what they were witnessing.  Unfortunately the heckler didn’t leave although some others did, embassed by the growing tension.

Other acts followed and each got shot down once more by the woman, hysterically asking whether they thought their comments suitable as soon as the remotest personal detail was discussed.  And a lot of that sort of stuff is infused within amateur comedy.  After all it is easier to be rude or shocking than to write an actual joke or funny line.  This jostling went on until the interval, with Glenn trying to assist the sometimes newby acts and those who had no comeback lines readied.  Meanwhile Richard was getting increasingly frustrated and angry with the woman and the event staff who could do nothing to physically manhandle her away.  She was like a dog with a bone and noisily wrecking the atmosphere.

The womans’ friends could do nothing to stop her, even attempting to walk out but she refused to move.  In the end a group of other woman stood up to create a barrier in front of her to shield her from the acts but still she moaned and groaned.

Everyone was glad of the interval and we all hoped the heckler would go home but amazingly she stayed put, despite the pleas and reasoned arguments of the group, other audience members, the staff and her own friends.

Although annoyed and a bit destabilised by what was going on I thought at least my routine didn’t reference male members so I might get away without the heckling when it came to my turn.  After all how could a highly strung and seemingly over sensitive woman possibly be offended by an act which parodied Genesis from The Bible and mentioned bright red bums on baboons!

After the interval Glenn continued to do stirling work in attempting to maintain the peace whilst simultaneously assuring the less practiced performers and eventually it was my turn.

I settled in quickly.  The content of my narrative was not the least bit rude and having a large file in front of me made me look less like a typical in your face stand up comic.  In fact I didn’t notice much heckling at all, just a bit of unecessary general muttering.  Afterwards my colleagues mentioned that she had been rudely talking all the way through but this doesn’t get picked up on the recording.

In hindsight I was glad that this evening wasn’t my first attempt at trying out being a compère.  It would have been a total baptism of fire.  But Glenn did stirling work that night.

On top of all this going on during the interval I received a call from my sister, Dawn.  She advised that our mother had been admitted to hospital.  I considered about whether to rush to see her but she had been admitted before and from what Dawn was saying I knew there was no real hurry so I carried on.  My mother did eventually deteriorate, then my father got sick as well and joined her in the same hospital before getting out a week or so later.

Mother never recovered and died a week or so before our next open mic night.  As you can imagine I had no enthusiasm for comedy that month and called Richard to explain my absence.  As expected he said I should take my time.  But I never really got back into the swing before the summer break so as a result lost contact with the group.

In all I had done seven consecutive monthly stand up routines.  Each written especially for the genre, each unique, each trying out a slightly different form.  Not once did I repeat any of the routines, nor tried any other venues or sought any other audience.  I never refined any of the performances.  Had no chance to redo any script or to make sure all the lines were delivered as written with suitable laugh points checked off.  I took no opportunity to get fresh feedback and so improve my act.

It wasn’t the last time I did stand up but this period for me was over.

Author: Vince Poynter

You can view the routine by accessing my YouTube channel, the link being https://www.youtube.com/user/Vinceunlimited
This article was adapted from my website entry within the Videos Section section dated 18 May 2020 where a transcript of the set is available
My website can be found at vinceunlimited.co.uk/index.htm or if you are on a mobile device and want a more suitable reading experience use vinceunlimited.co.uk/mobile.htm

300

Think of the number three hundred and chances are that your mind jumps to the legend that 300 Spartans fought off tens of thousands of Persians during the Battle of Thermopylae around 480BC.

If only each of those 300 Spartans had instead concentrated on doing just a single page update on their website each then they too could have celebrated about a significant milestone as I do today.

If you notice the version of this article on my website is 5.300 or to put it another way the three hundredth update to Version 5 of the site.

That means I have written or adapted 300 different articles.  And so updated the home page 300 times.  Also considered on 300 occasions where to permanently post those 300 articles.  Plus updated my vSearch page 300 times.  Then up to 300 times checking and if necessary altering my associated Javascript page.

Then done the same 300 times over, only slightly altered, for the mobile version of my website as I do not have facility to auto scale between landscape and the more mobile friendly portrait mode, such as is available in WordPress.

In all probably around 2700 separately hand coded and checked HTML pages and countless other CSS page updates to suit.

Not forgetting the 300 times signing in to an FTP account and 300 times connecting to my web host to upload on average six to ten pages and a couple of photographs or so each time.

And now I’m set ready to start on my webpage Version 5.301.

Because unlike those Spartans my legend will continue.

Author: Vince Poynter

First published in the Web section of the vinceunlimited.co.uk website on 9 May 2020 as Version 5.300
The Battle Of Thermopylae consisted the defence of Greece by somewhere between 3000 and 7000 soldiers against an invading Persian force numbering probably between 100,000 and 150,000 men.  Impressive defensive odds but not as romantic a notion as a small force of just 300.  It was probably true that around 300 of the total Greek force were Spartans and they were probably within the last group of defence, numbering around 2000 to 2500, at the final pinch point.  The defence was finally overwhelmed and as a result the Persians captured the capital, Athens.  The romanticised notion of a few brave souls valiantly defending their homeland stuck and has been reinvigorated through Hollywood, firstly in the 1962 film The 300 Spartans then more recently in the 2007 film 300, based on a comic series of the same name by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley and its subsequent sequel 300: Rise of an Empire in 2014
The photograph depicts the author sat on a hired Honda 300 Big Red Quad Bike near Bala, Wales, taken by Lynda Poynter around May 1994

Wealth Equalisation

Our lives, our country, indeed our world has suffered a huge economic impact due to a destructive little flu like virus which shot around the world at the speed of our modern interconnected life.  And there will be huge impacts on everyone from the very richest to the extremely impoverished.  And proportionally the worse off you are the bigger the effect that this disease and the subsequent outcomes will be.

And when it’s all over or genuinely receding an increasing wave of questions will be vocalised about how we could do better to address this inequality.

Inequality is not a new thing.  The world had looked economically skewed for as long as records of society have existed.  We may think our modern lives are terribly unfair to many souls but compared to our pasts we have greater equality than ever.  If in doubt just imagine life as a Victorian Briton.

We need to continue on this path of fairness for all humanity and this situation we find ourselves in should be the catalyst to make thing happen.  But how?  A wealth distribution system?

The problem with wealth distribution systems is that most generally see this is as taking from the very richest and giving to the poorest.  Sounds idealistic but in reality no one is really keen except the very poorest and their needs are never considered as they own a very quiet voice.

The reason for this is the very richest see themselves as unfairly being the only contributor.  The very poorest, because they are also the most numerous would see so little difference, particularly as someone in the distribution chain usually scrapes off too much in ‘admin’.  And the ones in between don’t care enough.

The traditional, simplistic argument that the very richest alone should be singled out to solve the situation is too naive and frankly wouldn’t work anyway.  Naive because mathematically it would not work.  If a dollar billionaire gave away his whole billion to the whole world there would be two problems.  Everyone else would get just 13 cents each.  A one off, once in a lifetime payment.  This would barely make a difference to the world’s poorest, who live on less than a dollar a day plus it would make no difference at all to the rest of the world.  The second problem would be that the billionaire would now be one of the poorest and is that really fair?

It’s a matter of maths.  There are simply not enough billionaires despite what a Saudi high street located in Monaco might suggest.

So what about raiding the bank accounts of the millionaires as well then?  OK, then why not the accounts of those with over 100k, or even those whose assets exceed 10k?  And accordingly strip the world of all the business owners and employees who drive the very economy we are trying to assist.

If you calculate world wealth divided by world population every person on average should have just under $12,000 or less than £10k.  Ask yourself, would you sacrifice your entire owned assets for humankind equality and just ten thousand pounds?  If you say yes your assets are already probably less than ten thousand or you forgot to include your house, your car, your pillowcases, your cupboard of food, the clothes you are wearing and everything else.

So if we can’t rely on just a single group of admittedly rich people plus almost everyone else in the western world what could we do that seems fairer.  I have a solution.

Firstly we sub-divide everyone into just seven wealth sectors.  For simplicity sake, Billionaires, Millionaires, those who are worth over 100k, those with more than 10k, the poor who can only claim to have at least one thousand, the impoverished who nevertheless have over a ton and the very poorest who own no more than a hundred.

On month one all the Billionaires give 10% of their value shared out equally to all the Millionaires.  Hang on stop stressing.  It does get better.

The next month all the Millionaires share 10% of their worth equally with all those worth over 100k.

In subsequent months the pattern continues with those whose assets are greater than 100k passing ten percent of their money equally down to the next group.  And so on etc.  etc.

A couple of years later the whole process starts all over again.

Wealth distribution not from the richest direct to the poorest but cascaded down the line because each sector would be proportionally numerous further down the line.

Every group except the billionaires would benefit.  And the billionaires, who are generally altruistic anyway, would be seen to be assisting everyone else and their reputations would be raised accordingly, helping remove the stigma that they are all money grabbing selfish individuals.

Yes there are things to consider.

I am not actually aware of exactly how each of these simplistic groupings are valued.  Would these sectors unfairly penalise or even benefit a particular group?  For example, would those whose valuations are greater than 100k receive less from the millionaires than they have to give to those with valuations between 10k and 100k?  A pyramidical structure does exist in there somewhere but is it as fairly sub-divided as the sectors listed above imply?

Could the valuation of wealth, particularly assets, be accurately calculated?  Generally the richer you are the more non-cash assets you have.  A technical billionaire is likely to have less than ten percent of their value in greenbacks so would have to ‘realise’ something to make up their contribution.  Offering of Ferraris or small businesses into the mix may not be that easy to redistribute.

Despite this, a good thing is that if it is calculated to make every group richer, other than the top group obviously, then more wealth will naturally flow back into the economy.  The natural effect of such a system is that this would probably disproportionally re-increase the wealth of the richest again.  A win win system?

Other issues must also be considered though.  That not everyone would be honest in their valuations, that some losses from the system would occur due to the inevitable administration and generally the further down the line the money goes the more chance of corruption and bribery.

So maybe the groups should be easier to control.  Perhaps an alternate split may be to instead of grouping by individual wealth and asset maybe classify whole countries into wealth groups based on their GDP, whilst in consideration of population levels, then do the same dribble down solution from the richest to the poorest countries using national tax systems.  Because as we all know every country has a fair tax system and country level corruption doesn’t exist.  Hmmm.

But we really must do something.  Can you think of the solution?  If you can’t let’s just use mine.

Author: Vince Poynter

First published in the Blog section of the vinceunlimited.co.uk website on 4 May 2020

Suzuki TS185

In 1982 Lynda and I were using her Suzuki GSX250.  You may have just read the story [See my WordPress post 29 April 2020] but in essence her bike was as new as our relationship and I had no wheels to call my own.

Enter stage left my brother Mark.  Once again you may have read about his first bike, a Gilera 50 Touring moped [See my WordPress post 6 February 2018] which I had commandeered on regular occasions to get my inaugural fix of two wheeled action before graduating onto some actual motorbikes.  These actual bikes had since gone the way of my job and were nowt but memories, plus photos of some of course.

Mark now had a job and more interestingly a new two wheeled powered toy.

It wasn’t Mark’s first off roader.  His first foray into trail style riding was a few years earlier but that had ended in a wheelie attempt on rough terrain and a broken ankle.  I can’t recall the bike he had because he owned so many vehicles and he hasn’t documented his motorised transport life story so fastidiously as I, so let’s just say it was a 125cc Japanese single cylinder trail bike.  Probably in white.

marksuzukits185
A compilation of shots of Mark, Vince and Lynda riding the Suzuki off road

Now he owned a slightly bigger, blue one, specifically a Suzuki TS185.  And one day he invited Lynda and I to have a go on it on a bit of rough in the Lordshill area of Southampton.  Now I am not one to turn down having a go on a bit of rough from the Lordshill area of Southampton so we agreed to join him one sunny day to play about on his Suzuki.

It was an R reg model, making its birth day somewhere between August 1976 and July 1977 and it featured off road style knobblies, a raised front mudguard, a light blue colour scheme with stripes and an optional front headlamp guard.  And it was terrific fun.

We rode singly, two up, sat on the seat, stood up on the pegs, revved the thing across some fields, balanced carefully at the top of hill descents and generally went a good deal of places we couldn’t possibly countenance on our, sorry, Lynda’s GSX.  Ingrained memories from that afternoon would stay with us in spirit and on film stock for years afterwards.

Move on a couple of years from that day mucking about on the rough and Lynda and I had moved into our first owned property.  The Suzuki had been changed for carpets and a little later the empty bike space had been filled by a stunning Kawasaki GPz750R.  Again, I have already written and published the story of this monster on this web site [See my WordPress post 4 May 2018] but as I was now working and more importantly earning we had a bit of spare spondoolies so were able to entertain expanding our garage portfolio.  It seemed a natural thought to recreate the fun we had in Lordshill, only this time we could do it all over again and again and not rely on a once more generous brother/in-law.

Suzuki TS185 & Kawasaki GPz750R
Just the right mixture of road and off road wheels to chose from

So we bought our own Suzuki TS185 and it looked great parked next to our big sports bike.

It was a slightly newer bike than my brother had, having been assembled around the time we had been originally riding Mark’s one.  But it was chosen partly because it had the earlier styling of a lowered front mudguard.  You may already know that I favour this style and if you didn’t you haven’t read the road test of my Yamaha DT175 [See my WordPress post 9 January 2018] .

We could have picked a Yam DT again but I am not fond of repeating my choices when choosing vehicles as variety is more interesting so we went for the Suzi.  Kawasaki also offered a similar bike called the KE175 and Honda the four stroke XL range but the former was considered less reliable at age and the latter too heavy.

We planned some lovely off road trips on our brand new, second hand bike.  It was styled for fun, not showroom new so we could feel comfortable taking it places where damage could ensue and it was light weight enough to manoeuvre around some awkward routes.

Trips were planned and maps poured over.  It appeared we could travel anywhere, even on roads marked as RUPP which stood for ‘roads used for public purposes’.  An Act from 1949 allowed use of powered vehicles along such marked routes and my Ordnance Survey map was consulted to pick some great local routes.

Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman we were not.  More like a pair of Charlies but in our minds such road trips represented a new found way of enjoying our bikes.  And every ride seemed to feel like a long way round because, as is often the case, reality doesn’t always match the ideal of dreams.

Firstly, if we wanted to go a-travelling off road we had to go together on one bike and it wasn’t great at getting us both to the dusty/muddy bit.  Its power was no better than the Yamaha I had when I was seventeen.  Apparently, six years of development had not added to the basic physics of the machines.  Again the ride could only be described as poor when riding alone and positively dire when two up.  The passenger still bounced around on footpegs attached to the swing arm so comfort on even medium journeys was cramped when setting off together.  The electrics were poor as well making even fairly local jaunts seem like a trial, even before we got to the actual trail.

Then there was the ability to actually go off road.  The bike could manage something of this ilk but it seemed there was nowhere really suitable.  We live a half hour from the most wondrous place in the UK to enjoy a spot of rough riding with excellent terrain amid perfect views.  It’s called The New Forest.  And they hate anyone using it.  Despite the size no trail routes are allowed for motorised vehicles and mini moats are carved into the grassy bit on every side of every road way to yell at motorists and bikers to stay away.

Of course any decent trial bike or 4×4 could surmount such obstacles but one just knows that such action would immediately summon a resident, a rambler, a horser or by-law ready to shout at you.  So we looked beyond such a natural playground for other routes and set off looking for some alternative dirty fun.

Vince on Suzuki TS185
A scouting trip to the Portsdown Hills, probably mainly to get a good photo

The first was a route down the side of some farmer’s fields but farmers don’t really like you doing this, even on the edge of their selfishly, massive plots, so they build in difficult obstacles to negotiate.  Such as turnstiles, deep ditches and one tonne, unnecessarily testy bulls.  We got stuck too many times and didn’t really enjoy the route.  So planned an alternative the following week.

I found another RUPP in the area.  We would ride up to Farley Mount, a popular tourist destination on one of the highest hills in Hampshire.  Both Lynda and I had been there several times as kids with our respective families and parking was allowed in those days all over the place.  The only limitation being the trust you had in your vehicle’s handbrake and ability to hill climb the car back to the roads.  However our modern world determined that cars stick to the roads and wait in the soulless, gravel car parks.

Craftily, my map reading skills determined I would not just be able to get to the car park where most cars go but be able to continue on across more of the hillock on one of the rough surface RUPPs back to terra tarmac on the other side.

It was a beautiful sunny day and the usual crowds on The Mount seemed to be joined by another set of crowds making the place, how shall I put it, crowded.  Cars had filled the top car park and on either side of the single track road leading to the views.  On two wheels we sailed by, up to the top and across the car park headed for the marked dusty lane.

A big wooden horizontal pole stopped all the cars from going further up the hill but was easy to circumscribe by a little lightweight bike.  In fact I could have probably done a ‘Dougie’ and crawled over it.  I chose to push the bike through the pedestrian side option, Lynda remounted my pillion and we set off up the track.  I was particularly careful due to the huge number of people also walking along, armed with children and dogs.  I was going barely more than their walking pace, threading myself in between the groups but carefully not speeding or revving my motor to avoid any nuisance.

Although progress was slow on this bit I did not loose patience and ticked over slowly behind each walker until they saw I was there and politely moved aside.  That is until we came across a two family group taking up much of the path.  There was a small gap between them and I rode toward this in the same careful way.  Then suddenly, at his own risk, one of the fathers, without looking, deliberately side stepped into my path.  As I was not going fast I was able to stop easily.  Then he turned around.

He stepped forward, legs each side of my front wheel and started up a tirade on why we shouldn’t exist in the universe, that I had been tearing up the trail like MeatLoaf in a scene from Bat Out Of Hell and that I had one thing on my mind which was to to reduce his precious children into a sticky strawberry jam like mess all over the path.  Lynda dismantled as he noisily fumed but I was unable to go anywhere due to his positioning.

Things got more heated in his tiny, biased mind as he edged closer toward me, whilst I carefully and calmly explained my interpretation of a RUPP.

The situation was getting more tense and I knew I was in a position that had no good outcome for me.  It looked like he was about to get physical, or explode and the thought of dropping the bike to defend myself, or preferably running the bugger over would not look good on a future police report.  The headlines in papers the next day would almost certainly read ‘mad biker cuts up family during peaceful sunny day out’, no matter what the reality of the circumstances were.

By now Lynda had moved around the back of him and his mate who was also getting closer, buoyed by his fat friend’s positive action and my non fighty, calm response.

The rotund geyser, upon getting no irrational argument from me, decided to up the stakes and give me a good shove, using both arms, into my chest.  This caused two things.  Firstly I continued to not respond in kind.  He wasn’t going to trick me into an aggressive situation.  The other thing done was that Lynda grabbed his mate from behind in an attempt to even up the fight, as she figured two against one was just not cricket.

This caused a bit of a Mexican stand off.  The Chubby bully didn’t understand why his pathetic shove hadn’t goaded me into being an aggressor and the skinny one trapped in the clutches of my beloved started whimpering about how he wouldn’t hit a lady.  She of course carefully explained to the shivering specimen that she held no such concerns and was more than happy to kick him black and blue at a moments notice.  That’s it, go girl power.

I had to properly diffuse the state of affairs so switched off my motor, carefully walked it backward out from between the legs of Hardy whilst Lynda finally let go of Laurel.

Thankfully the fathers stayed put, allowing us to make a tactical retreat back to the car park from whence we came, no longer in the mood to argue the laws regarding RUPPs.

We were back at the car park discussing our options when we saw the pair coming back down the track to the car park.  We stayed put but they hadn’t seen us and veered straight off to their cars.  Presumably only to check they were OK as they looked but took nothing from them.  Mind you we had now seen what they arrived in and duly let their tyres down as soon as they resumed their walk back up The Mount.  Our day had been spoiled for no reason other than selfishness so it was the least we could do and besides we were very angry.

Our anger continued as we went back home, with our day wrecked we stewed on this.  Angry that our day had been ruined.  Anger that we seemed unable to use our off road bike anywhere, anymore.  Angry that I had to accept an unrequested shove which wasn’t returned in any way other than vocal reasoning and a spot of tyre air letting.

We decided to go back.  I voiced my concerns about still being labelled the big bad biker in the ensuing newspaper article so we took my car.

It was later in the evening so getting to the car park proved easier but when we got there their cars were gone.  They obviously had Formula One tyre changing skills.  However, we spotted one of the cars leaving in the queue so set out in hot pursuit.

They must have seen us behind them.  After all it is difficult to not notice a speeding saloon in your rear view mirror overtaking every car down a dusty lane which was only one car wide.  By the time we got to the bottom of The Mount we were directly behind our prey.  He moved over to let us by but I stopped short, just looking at him.  He eventually pulled out, his estate laden with family.

I continued to follow him, always keeping a distance.  He knew we were there but would have no reason to understand why.  Just this mad driver overtaking anything that got between us but driving at a great stopping distance when directly behind.  So far back he could barely have been able to read my number plate.  He started to weave around various roads, clearly trying to see if we would follow, which we did.

By the time we got to Southampton we were still on his tail and his contorted route had not lost us.  So he decanted his family at the side of the road and sped off.  We followed, again down various roads until we eventually started to get bored.  After all we had no real reason to catch him.  Causing him distress seemed to be so much more fun.  But he never went down a no through road, presumably reasoning that he didn’t want to be trapped by a scary car full of unknown beasts.

Eventually we gave up and dropped right back.  However, he then foolishly drove into a close just as we rounded the previous corner.  I noticed his diversion and stopped across the junction of the close and looked down only to see him parking up in front of his house, chatting to his re-found family.  I revved the motor, he glanced round, looked as scared as a rabbit in the headlamps and we shot off.  Never to return.

He must have pissed himself for weeks afterwards.  Even now I presume he can never watch the film Duel without feeling some sort of angst and whilst I rarely hold grudges I hope he still has nightmares to this day.

Vince stood on Suzuki TS185
Unable to find somewhere to go the bike is ridden off into the sunset [read text for actual reality]

There were never any repercussions from our antics.  Over the next few days I half expected a visit from the local constabulary but then again I had not actually done anything wrong in my car.  And unless the half wit is reading this now and finally making sense there was no apparent link to the earlier biking episode.  Where again I had done no wrong.

Actually there were repercussions.  Lynda and I decided that off road trail riding was just too much of a trial.  Nowhere to go in our local area and too uncomfortable a ride to get to other parts of the country or world.  After all we already had a super bike on our driveway which was much more fun and adventurous.  Plus a car.  The summer days turned to autumn then winter as Lynda started using the little blue bike as a commuting tool until it finally gave up.

In many ways the Suzuki was much like my earlier Yamaha DT.  Fun but flawed and I would love to have it parked ready in a garage for use whenever I wanted it.  Which in truth wouldn’t be many times a year.  But unlike the DT it wasn’t my first so ultimately doesn’t hold such emotion.  Just that great pub story.

Author: Vince Poynter

First published in the Bikes section of the vinceunlimited.co.uk web site on 28 Apr 2020
The first photograph, or rather collection of six photographs, show scenes from the day out on Mark’s Suzuki TS185 trials motorbike in Lordshill, Southampton.  The riders are Mark, Vince and Lynda
The second photograph shows the author’s two bikes owned in 1985, a Kawasaki GPZ750R and Suzuki TS185 trials bike, parked on his driveway in Eastleigh, Hampshire
The third photograph shows Vince sat on his Suzuki TS185 trials bike parked on Portsdown Hill, overlooking Portsmouth
The final photograph shows Vince riding the Suzuki TS185 on Portsdown Hill
All photos were taken by the people named in this article on Lynda’s Canon AE-1 Program 35mm SLR camera fitted with a fixed FD 50mm 1:1.8 lens.  On Mark’s Suzuki in 1982 and on our one in 1985
Full disclosure we had another trip out with Mark into the New Forest to do the same sort of thing again but the lack of much photographic evidence and the spoiling of a good narrative implied we only went on Mark’s bike on one day.  But this was still once more than the number of times he went out on ours.  Why did we never return the favour?  Probably the lack of a third seat
Knobblies is a term to describe off road style tyres
A RUPP [Road Used as a Public Path] was defined in the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 and were generally used as footpaths or bridleways but could be accessed by motorised transport.  The Countryside Act 1968 required councils to redefine all RUPPs as public footpaths, bridleways or a BOAT [Byway Open to All Traffic, except ironically boats].  I recall the RUPP marks on my Ordnance Survey maps but not BOATs.  So I presume the 1980s maps I had were unmodified from before the late sixties, therefore I blame the OS for the whole situation
A ‘Dougie’ is reference to the skills of Douglas Lampkin, a professional, multi World Championship motorcycle trials rider.  Only it isn’t as I invented the term just for effect in this article.  Only it will be now
The references to Hardy to Laurel are descriptive of a comic duo called Laurel and Hardy, who were big when TV was in black and white.  Stan Laurel was a slight, slender guy teamed with the larger, fatter Oliver Hardy.  If you haven’t heard of them then you are a millennial and you should educate yourself
The 1971 film Duel was written by Richard Matheson, based on his own previous short story and was about a lone driver which overtakes a huge Peterbuilt truck which annoyed then appears to hound him across many miles in a mad, murderous way.   It was the directorial debut of Steven Spielberg

Suzuki GSX250

Lynda on Suzuki GSX250
Lynda’s Suzuki GSX250 so new it’s still proudly displaying its L plate.  Her now superseded Renault Fuego now skulking in the garage behind

The Suzuki GSX250 came into my life at the same time as my wife, for it was her bike so the story must start with her.

Lynda always hankered after a motorcycle but left it until her late twenties in the early eighties before taking the plunge.  An inexperienced rider who had owned new cars for ten years took her disinterested father to the local bike showrooms to choose a steed.  She wanted the fantastic new six-cylinder Honda CBX1000 but laws restricted learners to a maximum of 250cc.  Unfortunately she discovered the Honda CB250N Super Dream was more difficult to get on the centre stand than the big six.

Honda didn’t produce a two stroke 250cc road bike but other manufacturers did as this was a popular option at the time, offering high performance, light weight and easy maintenance for these ‘starter’ machines often purchased by those on a tight budget.  Kawasaki offered the manic, thirsty but ageing, triple cylinder KH250, Suzuki the super light, super fast GT250 X7 and Yamaha the stunningly engineered, water-cooled RD250LC.

Four stroke options other than the Super Dream included Honda’s own slim CB250RS, the similarly square and unremarkable Kawasaki Z250A, Suzuki’s ageing GS250, newer GSX250 and Yamaha’s twin-cylinder XS250 or custom style, single cylinder SR250.

There were also some alternative options to the Japanese big four but none were widely sold.  Benelli 254 anybody?

Given these choices my heart would have hankered after the Kwacker triple but my wallet would note the high fuel costs and suggest the ultra smooth, modern, beautiful, water cooled LC.

But I wasn’t around and Lynda’s dad advised her to avoid the two strokes, purely on engineering grounds.  It was also this thinking that considered the high level of sophistication of the Suzuki’s DOHC motor.  It’s a pity that they didn’t stand back and look at the damn ugliness of it compared to its contemporaries.

Kevin on Suzuki GSX250
Lynda’s brother Kevin sitting on the Suzuki.  Unfortunately for the viewer he is stationary so has his leg down, revealing the horrendous side panel

Looking at it now you may wonder why I disliked the look so much.  Yes, it has a slightly dated 1980s vibe, but it was the 1980s so that can be forgiven.  The overall styling is fairly neutral and the twin megaphone, slightly upswept exhausts look OK.  I preferred the circular cam covers of other Suzuki four cylinder bikes over the newer more befitting square ones on this model but this alone shouldn’t relegate the thing into the ugly bin.  What did this was mainly the slender, tall styling exaggerated by the crappy side panels with their multiple parallel indents.  Furthermore, the upswept optional rear rack and engine mounted crash bars didn’t help.

The NVH was also irritating and shouldn’t have been so.  It was designed to be able to willingly rev to a maximum power at 10,000 rpm but didn’t have the banshee lightness through the power train of a two stroke, meaning a chainsaw motor but no pay off in top end speed.  Buzzy but strangled.  It lacked the lazy, comforting thump of other four stroke motors and allowed the motor’s vibes to be easily felt through the handlebars and hard, narrow seat, which inexplicably rose over the tank.

But it was brand new, a nice red and Lynda liked it.  Slightly less than the physically bigger, more accommodating Super Dream which she admits she should have had.

However before I entered the picture Lynda had to set about becoming a motorcyclist.  Enter brand new bike matching leather jacket, trousers, gloves and moto-cross style boots.  On her head a matching, quality full face helmet, around her a fluorescent body sash and in case of rain a full one piece Belstaff all in one waterproof suit.  She was quite literally the example set to others on her motorcycle training course.  In fairness the other young lads there hadn’t just sold their less than year old new Renault Fuego to their dad to fund their steeds.

Lynda riding Suzuki GSX250
A shining example of how all new motor bikeists should present themselves.  All the gear and riding in a carefully controlled, professional manner

It didn’t take long for Lyn to get her riding skills up to speed.  She passed her gold star training easily, utilising the benefit of a decade of driving and set about joining a local club to meet new friends in her newfound hobby.  Which is where I joined the story.

I was a reasonably experienced biker by then and a member of the same local club.  I was without a ride due to self imposed poverty and had virtually only the clothes I stood in.  But I did have my jacket and helmet which became useful when I persuaded this naive, new biker to give me a lift back to my place.  We became close friends and have spent the rest of our lives together.

Her dad wasn’t impressed.  Nor her mother.  They never liked the idea of Lyn taking up two wheeling and thought it dangerous and dirty.  My lust for life and adventure and unwashed jeans only served to confirm their suspicions and it took me some time to win them over.  And one episode in those early days didn’t help.

I never minded being on the pillion seat whilst Lynda was riding, other than the narrow, hard seat.  Many men feel this placement is incorrect and wouldn’t countenance the idea of sitting at the back.  But it was her bike after all and it was very snuggly holding onto my new girlfriend, knees tightly gripping her bum and indicating directions by friendly taps on her thighs.

However she also liked me riding her bike.  When tired at night it’s nice to just sit there holding your partner whist they do all the riding and concentrating stuff.  Plus I had to show her how to really ride.  All the stuff that the new riders course didn’t go into.  Such as how a bike could perform, why full revs don’t harm the thing, how it could really lean in corners to the point of foot peg grinding, how you can overtake any car you chose to, the safest way to brake sharply in full control and most importantly be ultra defensive when needed to survive.

But an early incident could have derailed all this.  I was riding, Lynda on pillion and we were leaning through a series of tight corners when I hit a huge pothole with the front tyre.  It destabilised the bike which slid away leaving us sat on the tarmac.  The corner was so tight that there was virtually no speed and we were properly dressed so there was no human hurt.  But Lyn’s shiny new GSX had picked up some battle scars.  Still, it was her first lesson from me on how to crash.

I made sure she was alright, retrieved the bike, jumped back on and we shot off to my parents house for a quick fix.  Within moments Dad had helped me remove the handlebars and crash bars, straighten them back into position, reverse the clutch and brake levers so the damage didn’t show, tugged the loose rubber snags from the grips and forced the left foot peg back into shape ready to get back on our way after a nice cup of tea from Mum.  Lynda was astonished by the speed and efficiency of repair and her own parents never found out about the incident until we told them several decades later.

Suzuki GSX250 at MAG Rally front
The Suzuki attending a Motorcycle Action Group [MAG] rally in Southsea, Hampshire.  We were also there, me riding helmet less with many of the other attendees in protest about compulsory helmet wearing laws.  Which we actually agreed with.  Still, anything to have fun when a biker

We had many more adventures on the thing.  Pottering around two up all the time, going places, touring, learning together improving our riding, avoiding any new crashing etc.  But I never really enjoyed the bike itself.  It wasn’t something special to ride or to arrive on.  It never excelled at anything or even disappointed in any aspect to give itself some sense of character.  It was just there.  Well engineered but ultimately soulless.

It should be noted that Lynda doesn’t share the same negative feelings as I do.  But consider it was her first steed and on it she was introduced to a wild new world and friend in me so must be influenced by this.  But unlike my feelings for Lynda the bike never really grew on me.  She should have had the Yamaha ‘Elsie’ or the Honda Super Dream, both of which still have legions of fans nowadays.  I could have taught her how to get the awkward Honda on the stand in no time.

Author: Vince Poynter

First published in the Bikes section of the vinceunlimited.co.uk web site on 29 Nov 2019
The first image is of Lynda Clare sat on her brand new Suzuki GSX250 outside her parents home in 1981.  Photograph taken by Lynda’s brother Kevin Clare on her Canon SLR digital camera
The second image is of Kevin Clare sat on Lynda Clare’s brand new Suzuki GSX250 outside their parents home in 1981.  Photograph taken by Lynda on her Canon SLR digital camera
The third image is of Lynda Clare riding her brand new Suzuki GSX250 outside her parents home in 1981.  Photograph taken by Lynda’s brother Kevin Clare on her Canon SLR digital camera
The final image is of Lynda Clare’s Suzuki GSX250 parked in Southsea, Hampshire in 1982 at a Motorcycle Action Group [MAG] Rally.  The helmet and gloves on the seat are Lynda’s and the one strapped to the rack is the author’s.  Photograph taken by Lynda on her Canon SLR digital camera

Stand Up Story – Part 2

On 21 August 2019 I told the story of how I started doing a few open mic slots to see if I could develop a comedy style and do some stand up routines.  I noted that I would record my progress on my web site and on my YouTube channel.  However for those of you who are not able to access these resources, firstly why and secondly here is an interim update.

By 20 February 2019 I had carried out my fifth Open Mic set at The Point in which I spoke about liking technology, discussed some issues with autonomous, driverless cars, came up with an idea and then got into a rant about how we can keep our current cars relevant.

I had now been a member of the Eastleigh based Comedy Lab group for over a month and regularly attended their weekly meet-ups.  There were only a handful of regulars each week, some who had been going so long it was more of a social gathering, a couple like myself wanting to become a stand up and the odd visitor who came on one week but may never be seen again.

For myself I hadn’t joined to do stand up but to find fellow minds and maybe get a writing collaborator with whom I could spark off and so produce more and better content.  Unfortunately there wasn’t such a person and any ‘collaboration’ seemed to consist of some of the others wanting assistance with their own private projects.  The trouble was we all had a slightly different take on what was funny so often ideas were dismissed out of hand as not matching a particular style.

This also affected the feedback given following our monthly stand up performances.  Comments such as “It’s just not my kind of humour” were not constructive enough to be helpful to someone starting out in the business.  Also another comment I regularly got was “The writing is good” meaning of course that it was my performance that was letting the side down.

Of course I was trying to address this.  In fairness in all I had only ‘stood up’ five times in my life, the four recent performances plus a routine on a cruise liner many years ago.  I hadn’t yet figured out a style and in every case had written and learnt a brand new routine.  No chance to practice how to deliver any of the pieces, perfect the timing or work out which gags worked best.  In fact it was more of a memory test, being unable to fully relax and adapt as I was attempting to remember my lines all the time.

Most stand up comics gather together a few unrelated gags and shoehorn them together in an incoherent way.  They then do exactly the same thing again, maybe in a different place.  And again.  And again.  Gradually working the piece into something more credible and adding some better jokes and their personality along the way.  In many cases when you see a popular TV comic perform a piece you can go deep into YouTube and find examples of how that routine started many years ago.  Possibly even using some of the same lines.  In fact our group had requests to join the monthly stand up nights from all over the country and we saw many examples of performers at different levels in their comic careers.

We did have one guy at the Comedy Lab, Harri Dhillon, who was starting down this road, developing a unique style and building on what he seemed good at.  He also assisted himself by taking his routines to other places.  Like me, he figured he couldn’t keep giving the Eastleigh audience the same stuff so did repetitive, extra curricular performances at other comedy venues which helped him understand his timing and what worked.

For me, once again I had a month to write, learn and perform a brand new piece.  I particularly wanted to try out a previously untried style – the rant.  I also wanted to write a completely fresh, original, up to date, modern, technology based script and so avoid this time relying on a previously recorded podcast of mine.

Over time I had been becoming more interested in technology related to driving.  My job allowed me to witness first hand the best commercial development of this sort of stuff and I was in a good position to test the operation and think about the ramifications of autonomous driving.  I had made notes about this over time and had sometimes published a few thoughts on some aspects, usually in a humorous way such as on my Twitter feed.  So that is what I set out to do.  Use some of my notes to craft an original , humorous, technology based piece ending in a rant.

The evening’s compère was Paul Jones and it was, once more, filmed by my wife, Lynda Poynter, on my iPhone X using the sound captured from the phone.  The video was later edited by me in the Apple Macintosh iMovie application using my MacBook Pro and customised stock title cards.  All in it lasts 5 minutes and 57 seconds.  The film was then uploaded into the Comedy category of YouTube on 22 Feb 2019 and at the time of publication had received just a humble 12 views.  In fairness, I only have eight subscribers, so quite an elite group.

On my web site you can read the routine text by clicking the big blue button to toggle between hiding and showing the transcript.

The story does continue still and I am documenting this on my web site and you are welcome to visit there to see more of this story with links to all the video uploads.

Author: Vince Poynter

You can view the routine by accessing my YouTube channel, the link being https://www.youtube.com/user/Vinceunlimited
This article was adapted from my web site entry within the Videos Section section dated 19 April 2020 where a transcript of the set is available
My web site can be found at vinceunlimited.co.uk/index.htm or if you are on a mobile device and want a more suitable reading experience use vinceunlimited.co.uk/mobile.htm

The Renault 6 Story

Slippery Comfort

The story starts with a couple of push bikes.

It’s 1983 and a year since I met Lynda.  I had become a we and together we had just purchased a brand new apartment to live in but had no vehicle as Lynda had sold her Suzuki GSX250 motorbike so we could have carpets.  Of course I was ahead of the game as I already had no wheels.  However, we needed some form of transport for commuting and shopping so decided to purchase a couple of push bikes.

I had never had a new vehicle, powered or pedalled and only one previous, very second hand ‘bitsa’ bike.  So I enjoyed going out to choose something special.  Lynda had owned a number of bikes growing up including models from Dawes, who made quality bicycles, so it was natural we looked at the choices offered by them and ended up with a pair of stunning matching Dawes Shadow racing bikes.  They were a gorgeous, shaded silver to black colour with velour seats and cushioned drop handle-bars.

Lynda & Vince with Dawes Shadow bikes
The we had smart, matching new pushbikes.  For a little while at least

We purchased the bikes on a weekend, the next week we insured them and added postcode stamping of our names onto the underside of the frames.  The week after we took a trip over to the Isle of Wight.  On the third we joined a bike riding club and ended up cycling over 70 miles in a day and on the fourth weekend we took them into Southampton and chained them to a lamp post whilst we went to the cinema.

They were stolen.  Completely removed from the lamp stand they were attached to apart from their locks which remained in place, still secured shut.  Oh, and we had the frame mounted hand pumps that we took into the cinema with us so that they wouldn’t get nicked.  Which in fairness did happen.

We immediately reported this to the police who rather dismissively said they were wearisome of dozens of bike theft reports as apparently some low life thieves had driven around town that night and taken everything with two wheels.  We had an offer to check out their selection of recovered bikes in a few weeks and picked up a crime report number.

The next day we claimed on our new insurance policy and had the retail price paid for both bikes.  In under six weeks we had bought new bikes, had some adventures and got paid back in full.  In fact a few extra pounds as we had previously negotiated a discount with the retailer for buying two at once.

We did go back to the police station a few weeks later but they had no bicycles there in their stolen and recovered bike pile, just a pile of scrap metal as far as we could tell.

Ern and his Renault 6
Uncle Ern stood next to his pride and joy.  His garden. Whilst leaning on his car

All this explains why we needed another form of transport and helpfully Lynda’s auntie Ethel came to our assistance.  Her recently deceased husband, Ern, had owned a nearly new Renault 6 for less than a year.  Ethel didn’t drive so kindly said we could have the car.  We offered to buy it but she was adamant that she wouldn’t charge us so we agreed to give her any money we got for it if we sold it.

The Renault 6 was originally launched in 1968 but the one we had been given was a face lifted ‘R’ plated model, the version with square headlamps.  The registration plate dates it from around 1976/1977 but the black grille it sported suggests a 1978 minor face lift model making it around five years old when we got it.  Ern had not put many miles on it and kept it very clean so it was in as good a condition as you could expect.

Not that the condition had any bearing on the perception this car made.  It was dated both in styling and power output and was not a remarkable car.

It sported an unusual dash mounted manual gear selector which felt like you were stirring pudding rather than selecting a gear and our version had the exciting option of a slipping clutch.

It was, however, extremely comfortable.  The big bouncy front seats were able to be extra wide because of the front wheel drive arrangement and the column mounted gear selector so making use of the lack of a central transmission tunnel.  This gave the impression of a front bench seat and coupled with the typical french soft sprung suspension it felt so cosseting.

Vince with Renault 6 at Launceston Drive
Now we had finally repainted the awful green frontage to a lovely red.  Oh, plus we had a matching car parked outside

The downside of such a plush ride was massive lean during hard cornering.  A useful option Renault could have offered would be casters on the door handles.  Also the skinny tyres couldn’t grip such a slippery surface as dry tarmac and stressed the rubber in fast or tight bends to the point it felt like at any moment there would be an unscheduled, imminent tyre change.

Furthermore the wide front seats had no bottom cushion shaping so cornering was also limited by the ability to stay in front of the wheel and not slide around the car from one side to the other.

The weedy litre sized engine produced only around 45 horsepower and many of these horses were usually asleep.  This made progress more leisurely than hurried which aided the dull braking system no end.

Good things about ownership was the aforementioned ride comfort, reasonable economy and the bright front lights.

A few paragraphs back I mentioned the slipping clutch.  It is still slipping, only worse, when we reach this paragraph and in it I am to tell you about our trip to Cornwall.  An obvious holiday destination when the engine doesn’t always wish to connect with the wheels on any kind of incline.

We wanted to go on a road trip and the West Country beckoned.  A bed and breakfast was booked, the fuel tank brimmed and the AA Atlas referred to.

Lynda sat on Renault 6
Lynda demonstrating that the bonnet wasn’t as nearly as slippery as the tyres or clutch

The 200 odd mile trip there was, as expected, comfortable and taken with just a single stop at a Little Chef but as the inclines increased so did the engine revs despite the actual progress slowing.  Most hills were taken without too much thought but one or two tested our limitations in the way one would expect of any car if driven up a steep mountain in the Himalayas.

In fairness this amused us young adventurers more than anything else and added to the thrill of intersecting Cornwall’s narrow lanes.  So much so that now, many decades later I recall the driving experience more than the actual holiday bit.  As is usual Lynda actually remembers everything about the car and holiday like it was just yesterday and what socks I had on.

In the end we didn’t keep the car long, certainly not as long as my socks.  I was re-employed by the company with which I had served most of my apprenticeship and as I would now be a fully fledged engineer would get a fully expensed company car.  We no longer had need for the little red Renault and sold it.

In our ownership we had never spent a penny on servicing, clutches or tyres but got £600 for it, sold as clean as the day we picked it up.  We then gave Ethel the £600 as promised despite her protestations.

In hindsight we enjoyed having the car at such a critical point in our lives but could never really love the thing.  It just wasn’t the sort of thing you could be passionate about.

Really loved those bikes though and wish I still owned them.

Author: Vince Poynter

First published in the Cars section of the vinceunlimited.co.uk web site on 17 Apr 2020
The header image shows the Renault 6 with Lynda parked near the rocky coast of Cornwall and was taken by the Author in 1983
The second image shows Lynda and I posing with our brand new Dawes Shadow racing cycles in 1983, taken by a passing neighbour.  The bikes were completely stock except for some reason the pedal cranks had black painted spurs.  If your ancient Dawes Shadow looks exactly the same check under the frame stock.  If this is scraped or has our names engraved on them they are our actual stolen bikes.  So give them back
The third image shows Lynda’s uncle Ernest Dollin leaning against his car and was probably taken around 1982
The fourth image shows the author holding onto the open hatch in front of our house/flat/apartment/flying freehold place in Boyatt Wood, Eastleigh and was taken in 1983 by Lynda
The final image shows Lynda sat on the bonnet of the Renault 6 in Cornwall, taken by the author in 1983.  Note the little red enamel badge affixed to the front grille.  This is Lynda’s Institute of Advanced Motorists car test pass badge.  She also had a white plastic cover which had to be fixed whenever a non IAM driver, i.e. me, was behind the wheel.  We didn’t keep the Renault long enough for me to study and take the test
You may wonder why our first new bikes were not of a mountain bike style.  The reason was that ‘mountain style’ bicycles were not commonly available at the time.  Although mountain biking as a sport can be dated back to the 1970s road versions were only introduced around 1979/1980.  All this was happening in the United States of America and took a few years for the concept to mature then cross the pond.  The earliest form of a tough framed bicycle with off road wheels that I was aware of was the Raleigh Grifter.  That was introduced in 1976 but was in essence a child’s toy.  BMX as a concept became popular in the UK around 1982 but these bikes still suited children or chimps rather than grown adults.  Accordingly in 1983 adults usually rode either traditional road/commuter bicycles or more lightweight racing style models