Tag Archive: Flying Machines

White Knight Two Good

Even though the whole thing is going to be a hugely expensive treat, suitable only for those people with big pockets, the successful test flight of Scaled Composites‘ WhiteKnightTwo aircraft is a fantastic thing.  It’s truly one of the most beautiful flying machines I’ve ever seen and is much more impressive in video than in still photographs.

Now what I’d like to see is somone doing a wing walk on it!

Burt Rutan’s work seems to be making real the fiction that I used to watch as a child that was Thunderbirds!

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Henry Vacuum Cleaner and Powered Flight

Well I Never!

Numatic HVR200-22 Henry..should be the title of this post.  Having lived in the South-West for nearly quarter of a century, it’s come as a complete shock to me to discover that my favourite vacuum cleaner (if there is such a thing, I’m now defining it here!) is little old Henry, and it’s made about 20 miles from here in Bridgwater!

Henry Mk 1 (or 2 possibly)

I first bought one in 1986 when the babies started arriving.  It lasted, and lasted and lasted.  It had a 1kW motor, little dinky wheels and a smile.  It could suck the carpet off the floor.  Below, is a really daft video of someone vacuuming with one from that era.. ?? (youtube never ceases to amaze me)

Dyson Animal

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John Stringfellow's Flying Machines

When the motor & fan finally packed in by wearing so much that there was hardly any suck, we got a Dyson Animal.  What a mistake that was.  No suck and yes, there was a filter that needed cleaning perpetually under a running tap and then took ages to dry…  When it worked, it didn’t lose suction, just like the advert said –  but there again, it never had much in the first place!

The Henry lasted over 15 years – the Dyson we left out on the pavement after 18 months in the hope that someone would swipe it – which they did.  I expect they thought they were getting a bargain.

Miele 600

In 2003 I got  a little yellow Miele which worked very well for me but was chucked out by Jillian as she didn’t like it, after a year or so.  However, the benefit was that she walked in with a…

Henry HVR200-22

This has worked fine for 3 years but now needs a replacement head.  Fortunately, this is no problem as the factory, I’ve just found out, is down the road in Chard.

Chard – the Birthplace of Powered Flight

You see, all I thought Chard was famous for was it’s lace and for being the site of the world’s first powered, man-carrying aeroplane flight…

Yes it was!  Over half a century before the Wright Brothers at Kittihawk.  see link at Chard Museum.

I Love Chard Decorated Mouse PadIt was steam powered(!!) and launched inside a disused lace mill down a guide wire.  This was remarkably similar to the Wright’s Flyer which was launched down a guide rail to get up speed in a similar way.

The museum’s article has different information to mine which I’ve got from various sources.  My take is that it wasn’t Stringfellow who did the flight, but his manservant!

Upon landing, his manservant refused to go in the machine again, even when offered a five pound note – a lot of money in 1848!

Vacuum Cleaner beyond Excellence!

Numatic HVR200M-22 Henry Micro Vacuum Cleaner, Microtex Filtration System, 1200WWell now I’ve found that Chard is famous for something much more practical than a history lesson, and it’s a real innovative success story (see company history here) employing 700 local people.

And now, I’ve had a bizarre request from my daughter to get her a Henry for her birthday present.  Women are weird.  But I’m considering it because of her asthma. ;-)

Bad Joke Alert

Back in 1987, the Piper Alpha oil platform exploded in the North Sea, killing many men, mostly in horrible ways.  In the office where I worked, the black humour started up immediately.  There are two endings to the question;

Q.  Where do oil rig workers go on holiday?

A.  Burnham on Sea

or…

A.  Chard

Sorry about that.  Fortunately, my mind has forgotten the even worse jokes surrounding the Lockerbie bombing only six months later.  That was one bad office.

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Colony Holidays and Tubby the Tuba

Colony Holidays

 I’ve just had a hit from someone looking for Colony Holidays…  Sooo I’d better write this down fast!  I’ve been meaning to do it for a while.

Typical ATE Centre (Bredenbury Court, an original Colony Holiday location)

Typical ATE Centre (Bredenbury Court – my first one!)

A few years back I fished around on the web to find out what had happened to the CCHS, Council of Colony Holidays for Schoolchildren.  I wanted my final child to have a crack at it.   I found it had morphed into ATE by getting in touch with Chris in his last tenure of office, but to my eternal chagrin, all my kids have now grown up and missed the benefit of a Colony Holiday like I did, something that I went on half-a-dozen times when I was at school.  The last child never made it and is now too old….

I’ve just read this article in the Telegraph which describes the organisation and all the real fun and confidence that children get from it.  True, my children had their times at our local council’s place, Kilve Court Residential Educational Centres, but when I visited – well it just wasn’t the same.

It lacked the joie and the vivre.  The madcap antics and bizarre quests.  The nutty tunes, most of which I can remember, and the practical tasks and games.

Tubby the Tuba

Chris Green (Tubby the Tuba) - an original from the Council for Colony Holidays for SchoolchildrenChris Green is a genius, and a very hands on genius at that!  He’s now 74-ish I suppose.  The picture is taken on our beloved Malvern Hills back in 2006.

I spent many a time up there on bizarre hunts and quizzes.  In total I went to;

  • Bredenbury Court
  • The Abbey (Little Malvern/Malvern Wells) – 4 weeks at that one, the best year of my life.
  • Ramsey, Isle of Man (forgotten the name)
  • Inverliever Lodge, Argyll

I think I had one other but it’s slipped my mind.

The important thing, I now realise, is the amount of work that Chris Green did.  The centres were dotted all over the country, and usually three or four were on the go concurrently – all summer if need be.  I think at the peak, maybe seven centres were running at the same time.  You could tell this from the catalogue.

Someone once said to me, “Hey.  I bet Chris Green is coming.  He always comes to every camp.  He makes sure of it.”

I said, “Who’s Chris Green?”

He said, “It’s the guy that runs it.  He’s Tubby the Tuba and nobody is supposed to know!!!”

It was at this point I realised that I had indeed seen Tubby the Tuba running over the Malvern Hills to British Camp, hiding (not very well) in bracken and heather around Inverliever Lodge, and yes, even on the Isle of Man.  True, he’d be doing his checks, staff and all, but it was the effort that I noticed at that point.

When I say Tubby the Tuba – it really was the same man, dressed almost head to toe in stiffened gold foil, face hidden, arms poking out the side, hands playing the valves at front, making muffled farty noises as he passed on the next clue.

The ramblers and holidaymakers didn’t know what to say…  it was just sooo funny.  A bit like Gert Frobe in “Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines” – but covered in a gold tuba costume, of course!

So hats off to Chris Green and Tubby the Tuba.  A life well spent!

Nutty Tunes

When I get time, I’ll write some ‘lyrics’ out here and try and get the tune out as an mp3 to give a taste of them.  I well remember doing the tongue-twisting ‘Poor Old Man Crossing the Road’, ‘Old Abram Brown’ and others on the platform of New Street Station on the way home with my new found friends.  Then, as the journey lengthened, the party would get smaller and the volume quieter until eventually there was only me in Newcastle.

I’d stop singing then.

It gets a bit daft singing “steam engine with a chimney that sends smoke signals to Ceylon” repetitively on the 403 back to Ashington.

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