My life in words and pictures

Well, mainly pictures.

Welcome to Breakfast in America

My photo journal is an eclectic mix of things; there’s no guiding theme or topic. It is whatever happens to catch my attention, what I’ve been thinking, doing, and whatever my current obsessions are. At the moment, they are clearing some of the backlog on my ‘honey-do’ list, backpacking, hammock camping, and, I’m always, taking pictures.

Recent Pictures/Posts

  • Robert’s ‘Official’ Christening Picture

    Robert’s ‘Official’ Christening Picture. Copyright © 1985 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

    The Christening of my eldest son Robert — Christening was the CofE’s term for baptism at the time, I’ve no idea if that has changed.

    I found this picture a couple of days ago (2019) and set about restoring it. I just wish I’d had a higher resolution original to work with.

    I remember the photo session, I used one of the studio Hasselblads and my own lighting, which was high wattage incandescent lamps. Hot! I borrowed the Hasselblad from a fellow photographer at the studio where I’d previously worked weekends shooting weddings — Thanks Geoff!

    This picture captures what a cheeky chappie Robert was (and remains). The Christening gown must have got lost in the divorce, which is a shame, as here in Missouri I see a one-hundred-year-old christening gown doing the rounds, and this one is only 40 years younger.

    My notes on this picture say:

    [Taking this picture I used] My Photo lights which I ditched years ago (why?) And [this was] the only time I got my hands on the studio Hasselblad.

    Robert is wearing my christening gown. Unfortunately, when the time came, Keith was too big to fit into it.

  • Old cuttings of my father

    My Father (second from left) at the Eastney Gas Engine House
    My Father (second from left) at the Eastney Gas Engine House

    I’ve had these pictures for years

    I thought it’s about time I posted them. Above: Taken in the late seventies, my father volunteered to help keep the old Gas engines going for the local museum at Eastney.   

    C1973 Father giving some gearbox maintenance training for the benefit of the local paper.
    C1973 Father (right) giving some gearbox maintenance training for the benefit of the local paper.
  • The Power of Mnemonics

    Hadham Hall School – Form 5T. Last day of school, July 21st. 1972. Form teacher Jack Doyle – crouching, center. Copyright © 1972 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

    A friend posted a mnemonic on Facebook for the sequence of the royal houses of England in chronological order — Neighbours Actually Persuaded Lovely Yvonne To Shut Her Window (Norman, Angevin, Plantagenet, Lancaster, York, Tudor, Stuart, Hanover, Windsor. He’s a history Prof., a Brit, an expat, and he has an excellent aircraft blog, so we can forgive him — or should that be thank him? — for a historical/intellectual Facebook post. 🙂 ).

    It was a great reminder to me of my uncle John (long gone). Way-back in the late sixties uncle John taught me a totally non-pc and unrepeatable mnemonic for remembering electrical resistors’ color codes. The colors and their order gives the resistance value. I can still recall the order thanks to his little rhyme:

    Black, Brown, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Violet, Grey, White.

    As I said the mnemonic is not repeatable in polite company. I hope I got the order of the colors correct, with green and grey having the same first letter it plays havoc with one’s memory, and I refused to check it online. It’s probably been over 40 years since I last had to recall that!

    I also have to thank my biology teacher — Jack Doyle for ‘Kinky Pat’s Crazy Over Fred’s Gumboot Socks’ (Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species). He also got me to memorize (I had to pause there because I could remember the text but not whose text it was … ) Archimedes Principle. Which put’s my math’s teacher’s SOHCAHTOA (Sine = Opposite over Hypotenuse, Cosine = Adjacent over Hypotenuse, Tangent = Opposite over Adjacent) to shame.

    Mind you I still remember it, so it can’t be that bad.

    What mnemonics/childhood memories does that trigger for you?   

    Hadham Hall School – 5T July 1972 – Relaxing after ‘O’ Levels.
  • Hadham Hall School, October 1968

    Hadham Hall School, October 1968. From original scanned images provided by Jeremy Andrews. Originator unknown

    Back at the beginning of the 21st century (I couldn’t help myself from saying that, it sounds so grand!), Jeremy Andrews, a former classmate, sent me a copy of an old official school photo. It was fairly low-res and in three parts. It’s been stuck in my hard drive(s) ever since. Today (April 11, 2021), spurred on by an email I recently received from another alumnus, I did a quick stitching job on the pictures. Unfortunately, neither Photoshop nor Lightroom’s auto stitch could merge the images, so I ended up doing so by hand. As the image is low res, and time is short, that was the extent of my repairs to the photograph.

    I’ve studied the pictures many times over the years, and while I can identify a dozen or more people in it, I’ve never found myself, though I’m pretty sure I remember the day this photograph was taken, the date I’ve picked for this post is a guess, but I went for a Wednesday as that was sports day and the most likely time for it to be scheduled.

  • They Built Their Own Yacht

    Photograph from the Herts & Essex Observer of Len Thomsett and Steve Allman with their yacht Miga
    Len Thomsett (Left) and Steve Allman with the 24ft Eventide Sloop Miga May 13, 1960

    Before he was married my father lived in a motorboat on the River Lee at Broxbourne in Hertfordshire. I’m told by family friends that he turned down a very lucrative job with Jaguar Racing Boats, to move to Portsmouth. That probably explains his love for the old Jags, and the couple that he owned over the years. I was four when they built this boat, a twenty-four-foot Eventide named Miga – taking the first two letters of Len and dad’s kids’ names MIchael and GAry. I remember standing on the deck while it was on the garage forecourt. I was not at all convinced that my father would be able to catch me when I jumped down.

    So started a life-long interest in sailing. Somewhere, probably my sister has it, there’s a picture of me aged five or so in my own little sailing dinghy – complete with a white teddy bear on the dark tan sail. I have to admit that at the time I was much more interested in submarines than sailing boats.

    Len & Dad with Miga a little later (the mast is raised and the standing rigging is attached so she must be very near to being launched).
    Len & Dad with Miga a little later (the mast is raised and the standing rigging is attached so she must be very near to being launched).

    Sailing was nearly the death of me

    Twice I took unexpected trips over the side. Once while we were moored and I was enjoying boyish fun on the shore, I ran back to the boat and missed the gangplank. I fell between the bank and the boat straight into the Chelmer canal. Fortunately, a near-by adult reached down, scruffed me, and hoisted me spluttering out of the water. I have never forgotten the long embarrassing walk back to the car in my PJs.

    My second attempt at drowning myself was very nearly successful. We were anchored near Mersey Island in the Blackwater estuary. Dad and a friend were fishing from the cockpit, and I was playing with a toy submarine over the stern. There were no guardrails in those days and I rarely wore a lifejacket. I’ve not got much recollection of how it happened.

    I was on my hands and knees and must have reached down over the transom for some reason, and slipped in.  I clearly remember looking up and seeing my father’s white jumper with a blue band swimming around frantically searching for me. Apparently my departure over the side had been quiet and unnoticed. It was pure luck that they realized I had gone.

    To add to my father’s sodden discomfiture, once back on the boat, I made a huge din. Not because I’d nearly drowned – but because my favorite bobble hat had floated off and was disappearing down-tide. He had to row like a maniac to get it – still soaking wet. I kept that hat for over forty years. The hat was cyan with a red and yellow bobble. It stretched over time so it always fitted me, man and boy. I somehow lost it in one of my recent moves. I was very upset when I discovered I no longer had it.

    There was a family story about me being lashed to the mast while we sailed through some storm in the English channel. It never happened. I only found out about it by accident in 2008. My uncle was convinced it was true. He’d have only been a kid himself at the time. I’m sure one of my other uncles, always ones for the tall tales fed him the story and he swallowed it whole.

    They kept the boat for around four years, and I believe my father used the proceeds of the sale to go towards buying some land and building a house.

    Apart from a couple of weekends crewing, I was twenty-one before I went sailing again. In the meantime, I read all the Arthur Ransome ‘Swallows and Amazons’ books and graduated to stories of people racing and cruising their sailboats around the world.

    Herts & Essex Observer Article text in full

    More and more people are becoming addicted to “mucking about in boats” and two men who have been bitten by the bug in a big way are Hare Street garage manager Mr. Len Thomsett and his foreman Mr. Steve Allman. Since Easter of last year the lights have been burning until mid-night almost every evening at the premises of Newmarket Motors as Mr. Thomsett and Mr. Allman toiled away at their project – the building of a Bermudan sloop 24ft. 6in. in length and with an 8ft. beam.

    Their progress has been watched with considerable interest by the villagers, not least by the 22 men who man-handled the hull which then weighed about 1½ tons from the workshop where work began to Newmarket Motors’ main garage.

    When an Observer representative was shown over the yacht by its two creators it looked somewhat out of its element in a corner of the garage but still a thing of great beauty. Of “Yachting World’s” Eventide class, it has a 30ft. mast and is equiped with an auxilary engine. The yacht has a double mahogany skin and four full berths. Its modern navigational equipment includes an echo depth sounder.

    Mr. Thomsett, who valued the craft at about £2,250, told the Observer that during the course of construction he and Mr. Allman used 9,000 rivets and 63 gross of brass screws.

    In the near future the yacht is to be taken to Rye House for launching after which it will be taken by way of the River Lee and River Thames to the Heybridge yacht basin. In July Mr. Thomsett and Mr. Allman, whose previous boat building experience was confined to two small sailing dinghies [plan to] take the yacht to [Holland for a] well earned holiday.”

    I remember the evening the boat was launched. Nothing specific, in fact, the only detail I remember is the twilight silhouette of a huge cast-iron water or sewage line. The pipe ran alongside a bridge that was a short way downstream from where the boat was moored. I also remember the trip to Holland. I didn’t go, but I kept the postcards they sent from Holland for years. They brought me back a pendulum clock with a windmill whose sails went round with a regular ‘tick, tick, tick’. Oh, and of course a tiny pair of clogs.

    Heybridge Basin & Chelmer Canal – revisited in 2007.

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