Thursday, 7 August 2014

One picture, loads of words


This is what happens when there are no planning laws in force - the right-hand side of this haphazard conglomeration of architecture is 17th century. This is also what happens when businesses fail and the landlord does not maintain the structure - look at that luxurious bush of Buddleia growing from the parapet of the tower.

This random collection of buildings is right opposite the Theatre Royal, and one of the finest early 18th century interiors in Bath. The current occupant of this interior is the Strada chain of deeply mediocre restaurants - only chains like these can afford central Bath rates and rents.

Up until recently, a bingo hall occupied the space beneath the tower, and the players trooping in were in stark social contrast to the theatre-goers on the other side of the road.

Just to the left of this photo is 'Bluecoat House', which used to be Bath's central clinic for treating sexually transmitted venereal disease. Many participants in one-night stands would meet a week or two later in its waiting-room, but these days the arrangement is a little more discreet.

To the right of this photo is Bath's first Irish theme pub. Guinness still flows freely there every night of the week, and it has seen off a few imitators which set up only a stone's throw away - in a de-consecrated Methodist chapel.

The two green doors seen to the left of the tower used to house a couple of young mechanic brothers, who specialised in servicing Citroens. It is still unusual to find any mechanic who is willing to maintain the hideously complicated, hydraulic systems of 1970s and 1980s Citroens, but to find one right in the middle of town was almost incredible.

H.I. used to use these brothers when she owned an extremely quick, Citroen Pallas 2.5, and to give you an idea of how much these cars relied on hydraulic pressure, I can tell you that even the speedometer employed the green fluid to operate.

When the brothers moved away from this location, I would take the car to a specialist in Temple Cloud - a village about 15 miles away and very difficult to get to, let alone get back from without a car. It is called Temple Cloud because it was an ancient centre for Knights Templar, whose activities were almost as arcane as the average Citroen mechanic's.

The engine of this Citroen had only done about 40,000 miles, and was in very good condition - unlike the bodywork and hydraulics systems. For some reason, the feminine, shark-like curves of its body attracted a lot of attention from very bad drivers, and the sides were covered in dents from failed attempts to park next to it.

Toward the end of its life, I was putting in about one gallon of green oil a month, and one night after I had just bought a fresh gallon drum, I got a call from H.I. who had gone to Bristol in it and had broken down because the suspension had failed to raise itself as it famously - and startlingly - had to.

I told her to top-up the system using the new oil, and she said she had done, and used it all up in the process. I said that was impossible. She said it wasn't.

I borrowed a friend's car and went out to pick her up in the dark. All the fresh oil which she had poured into the little reservoir at the top, had gone straight down and was lying in a pool on the road.

I scrapped the old thing the next day, and was glad H.I. didn't have to witness the final insult of the lorry's crane going through its windscreen to pin it to the flatbed.

28 comments:

  1. The only Citroen I've owned was a 2CV. It blew up through lack of oil.

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    1. I once had a similar Renault 4. I sold it to a friend and it literally collapsed into two pieces a week later.

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  2. As a child we had two Renault 4's and two 2CV's and my mum and I were constantly standing by the road, mournfully waiting for the AA. Fucking French cars.

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    1. I've had one R4 and one 2CV..... both were wonderful fucking French cars.

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  3. I had a Peugeot 104 and the oil filter rusted away at its base and let all the oil out. I didn't know for several weeks. I had a Citroen AX10, went like a bomb, one of the best cars I ever had.
    The VD clinic in Norwich never had a mixed waiting room, and it had separate entrances marked Male and Female. The only difference being that people used to run into each other on the street outside.

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    1. AND they were probably close relations as well - they probably ran into each other at home as well.

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    2. Funny about the separate entrances. I just googled 'Bluecoat House' and found out that it was originally a school with, here it comes, separate entrances for boys and girls. It seems that nowadays you can buy a flat in this building for about 260,000 pounds.

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    3. Yes, they recently tarted it up and put it on the market. 260 thousand sounds about right for a one bedroomed flat in Bath. I know there was no sexual segregation in the clap-clinic waiting room, but not from personal experience.

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    4. We used to run into each at the pub.

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    5. Right into each other, I dare say.

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  4. I'm on the design review sub-committee in our town - we review and give recommendations on building changes, etc. and then pass them on to the planning department.
    I caused a bit of a stir when I commented about the plans for the new hotel that will be on the square. Ugly ugly ugly. I'm not a big fan of modern, but they could have referenced the other buildings in town, and I said that. I also said "I know that the shipping container look is cool these days, but what about in 10 years?" Yeah I'm a big mouth.

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    1. oops planning commission not planning department - I'm a bit sleepy this morning

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    2. Planning departments/commissions need as big mouths as possible.

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    3. The College architect (who hates me btw) piped in "but the College Board of Trustees love it" and I retorted "So tell me how many Trustees live here?"

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    4. Do your best to get rid of the bastards, and if you cannot do that, make their lives as difficult as possible.

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  5. From building history to car demolition...love how your mind works Tom.

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    1. I would be arrested if you knew how the rest of it works.

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  6. Several years ago my mother and I had many enjoyable lunches at Popinjays restaurant next to the theatre, and presumably opposite the buildings in your photograph. I know we were devastated on one visit to find it had been taken over by a mediocre chain. Actually I thought that was Strada. Maybe my memory is tricking me. I haven't been back to Bath for a while.

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    1. Yes, Popjoys was taken over by Strada.

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  7. Does Crispian Mills drink at The Bell? I see that he lives in Bath; I still think his 'Hey Dude' with Kula Shaker is one of the best songs since Rolf Harris's version of 'Stairway to Heaven'.

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    1. If he did and admitted to the name, he would get his head kicked in - by me. (Only joking...)

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  8. The car park opposite is nuts. I stupidly went into the Schwartz burger place one time and watch a couple drive in and out and reverse in and out of one spot. the food was dire. I wont eat in the strada, I don't eat cheese and when I sent something back I saw them scrap it off and bring the same plate back.

    Obviously I wont ever go back into Raymond blancs bistro up the road after the soup made me sick the other Christmas.

    I quite like the thai balcony for noodle soup at lunch time.

    Bath is so much better than other city/towns at least they make them use the same colour stone now

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  9. Oh dear Tom, reminds me of a Simca I used to have in the far distant past - good engine, terrible bodywork. (Come to think of it, bit like me now!)

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    1. I would reply to your comment, but I am too busy coughing right now.

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  10. I have had to remove your carrot penis from the flower show display
    I was outvoted by the committee who thought it bad taste

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