Monday, 28 February 2011

The Piley Diary: February 1977

Well, we only started this feature last month, but already we are at the penultimate month of my 1977 diary (what a five minute wonder that was!).

Alas, no more news on my attempt to build a model of Big Ben out of matchsticks, neither is there any update on how the new school meal regime is panning out... we can but only guess. But on the plus side, more mentions of Batman, Swap Shop, Arsenal, Sunday Gang and pianos!

Last month I went for edited highlights, but this month you can have the whole bloody lot!


Friday, 25 February 2011

(Another) One Of These Things Is Not Like The Others....

Back in December I spotted a Christmas DVD display in WH Smiths, set up, I presume, by a member of staff who didn't have the widest knowledge of films.... or Christmas.... or both.

After the success of the Christmas campaign, this guy or gal must have become the talk of the retail trade... perhaps a 2 page spread in 'The Grocer' magazine. No doubt a bidding war to poach them soon commenced, with Sainsbury's being the winner in snapping up their services. How do I know? Well whilst in there this week, I spotted their new display of 'Family Fun' DVD's... no doubt set up to tie in with half term week.... But which one of their selection is likely to give little Jimmy a bit of a restless evening, and requests to have the hall light on all night???

Can't get it? OK, have a little zoom in then...


Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Come To Our Zoo... Now With Extra Church!

As a child, I was regularly taken to Colchester Zoo by my parents. After a hiatus of some 30 years or so, I've been reacquainting myself with the place on a fairly regular basis (4 visits within the last 2 years). Of course this is now for the benefit of Piley Jr, rather than myself!

The place has changed beyond all recognition, and my still quite vivid memories don't fit in with the current surroundings in any shape or form. Back in the day it was all a lot smaller, and in those unenlightened times, so were the cages. And 'cages' are a thing of the past now too, it's all glass fronted 'enclosures' now. There is also much more of a 'theme park' feel to it these days, but I guess that's what you have to do to compete with so many other attractions.

In the 1970's this place was 25 acres, now has spread to over 60. But in more than doubling the size of the zoo, there's obviously been a few causalities over the years, and one of them stares you in the face, the moment you set foot outside the 'Orangutan Forest' enclosure. There, right in front of you are the ruins of an 800 year old church - All Saints. I certainly don't remember that being there in the 1970's!

I guess that as they snapped up more and more land, the zoo became the reluctant owners of this Grade II listed building, sitting slap bang in the midst of their purchase. I could be completely wrong, but I get the impression that the zoo feel a little 'saddled' with this sideline into ancient religious buildings, and would like nothing more that to build an Ostrich birthing pool or suchlike in its place. I can certainly feel some resentment oozing from the plaque in front of the church which reads:
"as part of the planning permission for building Orangutan Forest, Colchester Zoo was required (can you almost hear them saying "forced"!!) to renovate this listed building. The renovation took two years, at a cost of £180,000. These costs were covered by Colchester Zoo"
All Saints church was built in Stanway, as part of the Stanway Manor complex in the 13th Century. Thus designed to make it dead handy for the Lord and Lady of Stanway Hall to roll out of bed and straight into communion (there was even an underground tunnel linking the two, no doubt to combat any adverse weather). Not so lucky for the rest of the parishioners of course, as the remote location of the church meant a hike of a mile each way for their Sunday service - but I don't suppose that bothered the Lord and Lady unduly.

But just like when Tesco open up a superstore, and immediately nicks all the local clientele, a new church - St Albrights - was built in 1580 in the heart of the community, and the locals all jumped ship. All Saints church soon became a private church, for the exclusive use of the residents of Stanway Manor. As a result, the building went through a number of alterations in the early 17th Century, to reduce it's size. The Chancel and North Tower were removed, and the North porch was added.
remains of the north porch

the Chancel would have been here, where the bushes are now!

view from inside

Where the Orangutan Forest now sits, turned out to be a very heavily populated ancient graveyard. But as ancient graveyards aren't covered in the same way as ancient buildings, these were all quickly yanked out and disposed of.

As someone who is more than a little brow-beaten by the recent regular, endless sights (and lets not forget those smells!) of animals, I find this little piece of history fascinating, and a welcome diversion. But it's a real shame that anyone else with an interest, now has to shell out fifteen odd quid in order to get through the gates to see it.


Sunday, 20 February 2011

Delightfully Bad Taste!

As a fully paid up member of the 'people watching' club (nosey parker division), I am always interested to see what other people buy. I can't help but have a sly little peep in other shopping trolleys to see what goodies have been snapped up. And how about sitting in Argos?! Watching all those items crunch down the conveyor belt, proudly put on temporary display on makeshift racks (collection points A, B and C!), and then seeing who picks up what!
But the ones that really get me, are when you see an item in a shop, so awful, that you think (a) why on earth did the shop think this would be a good item to stock, and (b) who on earth is going to buy it?!
That thought hit me again last week, when I spotted a truly hideous item for sale in a new tat (but not cheap) shop in the high street. In amongst the 8ft high dragons, and 6ft wide Buddhas, was a item to out-class them all. Yes, this could be yours for a few measly hundred quid (yes, you read that right!), this years 'must have' home accessory....
The round, glass chessboard, lovingly balanced and screwed onto the head of Tutankhamen!
Each chess piece has been lovingly mass produced to represent some piece of Egyptian old guff.
A truly wonderful 'thing' I'm sure you'll agree. Form an orderly queue ladies and gents.....