Category Archives: Beaches

Greek Islands, Amorgos

Amorgos

After walking around the village we set off back to Aegiali and came across a group of walkers who enthusiastically showed us a short cut but it was down a tricky path and they had stout leather walking shoes with knotted laces and we had inadequate sandals with synthetic soles so we ignored the advice and stuck to the road instead.

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A Postcard From Northern France

France Postcard

My favourite part of all of France.

Something like ten-million British travellers arrive in Calais each year and then without looking left or right, or stopping for even a moment head for the motorways and the long drive south and in doing so they miss the treat of visiting this Anglo-neglected part of France; the Côte d’Opale is a craggy, green, undulating and often dramatic coastline stretching for eighty miles between the port towns of Calais and the Baie de la Somme and the mouth of the river.

English tourists may avoid it but it has been long prized by the French and the Belgians, who enjoy the informal seafood restaurants in fishing villages dotted along the coast and the miles of intriguing coves and sandy beaches that run all the way down this coast that looks across at the south coast of England and leaks away inland to a glorious countryside.

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

A Postcard From Sardinia

Sardinia 2015a

“This land resembles no other place. Sardinia is something else. Enchanting spaces and distances to travel – nothing finished, nothing definitive. It is like freedom itself.”  D H Lawrence – ‘Sea and Sardinia’

Cheap flight tickets are top of a long list of good reasons to travel and when we spotted some reasonably priced return flights to Sardinia it didn’t take long to make a decision to visit the second biggest island in the Mediterranean Sea (just slightly smaller than Sicily).

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Alghero StreetsCastelsardo Sardinia ItalySardinia BeachSardinia Symbols

Early Days, 1954 Part Three – The Nuclear Arms Race and the Bikini

1954 Nuclear Testing 1

“Approximately five hours after detonation, it began to rain radioactive fallout at Rongelap. Within hours, the atoll was covered with a fine, white, powdered-like substance. No one knew it was radioactive fallout.  The children played in the snow. They ate it.” – Statement by Rongelap Atoll Local Government

I confess to finding it an intriguing fact that it was only in 1954, the year that I was born, that Germany and Finland finally made peace and declared the end of the Second World War.  I find that sobering, European conflict was still going on during my early lifetime! There were no serious hostilities or gun-fire of course but I still find that a chilling fact.

While some were making belated peace other countries elsewhere continued preparing enthusiastically for hostilities and in 1954 the United States began serious nuclear testing in the Pacific Ocean on the island of Bikini Atoll and they carried out the detonation of a truly massive bomb codenamed Castle Bravo.

The result was rather unexpected. Rather like a bunch of ten year old’s messing with a box of fireworks, they really had little idea what they were doing and when it was detonated it proved much more powerful than any of the boffins responsible for developing it had predicted.  Combined with meteorological factors prevailing at the time (high winds I imagine) it created serious widespread radioactive contamination which even today has prevented people from ever returning to the island and has cost the US taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in on-going compensation payments to the unfortunate islanders that were affected.

Bikini Atoll evacuation

 

Sadly, it seems to me, military people anywhere don’t mind spending millions of taxpayer’s dollars/pounds/roubles/euros anywhere that suits their inherent belligerent redneck tendencies. Between 1940 and 1996 it is estimated that the United States spent a massive $5.8 trillion on its nuclear arms programme or about $21,000 per US citizen.

Figures as massive as this are impossible to imagine, it is as meaningless as telling me that the Earth is one hundred million miles from the sun when I only drive my car about eight thousand miles each year. It is as meaningless as telling me that UK national debt is rising by two billion pounds each week when I only get £130 a week state pension. It is as meaningless as telling me that the Earth is five billion years old when I struggle to believe that I have reached sixty!

To try and help, someone once calculated if you attempted to count $5.8 trillion at the rate of $1 a second, it would take almost twelve days (non stop) to reach $1 million, nearly thirty-two years to reach $1 billion, thirty-two thousand years to reach $1 trillion and about one hundred and eighty-five thousand years to reach $5.8 trillion.  If after all that time you had counted it correctly you would certainly be guaranteed a job as a bank clerk!

chemistry set

A piece of advice – never trust a scientist – especially a nuclear scientist. With a yield of fifteen Megatons Castle Bravo was the most powerful nuclear device ever detonated by the USA. The scientists were completely surprised because this far exceeded the calculated yield of four to six megatons, which by any standards is a fairly serious miscalculation.  I would have liked to have been in the control room at the time to see the reaction because if the sky was red the air would certainly have been blue!

This margin of error would mean that man would never have landed on the Moon in 1969 because they would have missed it by several thousand miles and Armstrong, Collins and Aldrin would have travelled further into deep space than the Starship Enterprise;  but then again perhaps man never did go to the Moon!  I previously wrote a post about the hoax here.

As Charlie Croker famously said in the film ‘The Italian Job’ – “You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off”

1954 Italian Job

or as Sundance Kid similarly remarked – “Do you think we used enough dynamite there Butch?”

1954 Butch and Sundance

More big figures – to put that into some sort of perspective the bomb was the equivalent of fifteen million tonnes of TNT and was about one thousand two hundred times more powerful than each of the atomic bombs which were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.

This is what happened in Japan in 1945…

1954 Hiroshima

This isn’t the biggest test bomb ever however because that distinction belongs to the Soviet Union who in 1961 exploded a test version of the biggest bomb ever made, the Tsar nuclear bomb, which was between fifty and sixty megatons, so enormous in fact that no one can be absolutely sure just how powerful it was!

Castle Bravo was important for two reasons, firstly it signified the state of tension in the world called the Cold War (more about that later) that was around for the next thirty years or so which wasn’t such a good thing but secondly and much more importantly it inspired the introduction of the bikini swimsuit and I’ve always been grateful for that.

The new swimsuit pushed at the boundaries of what was previously considered acceptable in respect of flesh exposure.  Devout Catholic countries like Spain banned people from wearing it in public places.  The swimsuit, that was a little more than a provocative brassiere with tiny g-string pants, was invented by a French engineer called Louis Réard and the fashion designer Jacques Heim. It was allegedly named after Bikini Atoll, the site of the weapon tests on the reasoning that the burst of excitement it would cause on the beach or at the lido would be like a nuclear explosion. Plenty of fallout and very hot!

Read here about the War of the Bikini in Benidorm Spain

Thankfully in 1996 the nuclear powers signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty’ and since then only North Korea has continued to test nuclear weapons.

The USA remains the only country to use a nuclear device in a combat situation.

Famous actresses wearing bikinis.  Can you name them? Click on an image to scroll through the gallery…

Every Picture Tells A Story, Friends on Holiday 1946

Ivan with pals

This is a picture of my dad and two of his pals and I guess was taken in the summer of 1946 when he was fourteen year old.

I like the picture, it has a swagger and a jauntiness about it, it looks like three boys on holiday and off to the beach.  My dad, in the middle, has spade and his friend on the right has a metal bucket, the tall boy on the left has a cricket bat which suggests beach cricket to me.  I always wonder who took the picture, it isn’t posed but is a walking action picture.

These were surely days of optimism with a country led by a Labour Government that had been elected in the summer of 1945 with a landslide majority and a promise to make everything better and which had embarked on a radical programme of nationalisation including coal mining, electricity supply and railways.

These were the days of the new National Health Service and the Welfare State all based on the optimistic principles of socialism.  And to add to all this good news the United States announced the Marshall Plan to pay for the reconstruction of Europe and that meant over three billion dollars was on the way to the United Kingdom to rebuild its bombed-out cities and its shattered economy.

So where were they?  The picture isn’t dated accurately or gives any specific location, but it does give a couple of clues.

In 1945 my dad lived with his family in the town of Rushden in Northamptonshire where his parents ran a corner shop.  The nearest seaside to Rushden was North Norfolk and I think that this picture was taken somewhere near the seaside resort of Hunstanon, about eighty miles away and easily reached by a Midlands Railway train to King’s Lynn and then a change to Hunstanton on the Great Eastern network.

The properties on the left of the picture certainly have a north Norfolk look about them.  But then again they could be South Lincolnshire, I am open to being corrected.

Dad is wearing a sleeveless cricket sweater, his shirt sleeves are rolled up above his elbows as they always were and he is wearing socks with his plimsolls.  Dad always wore socks with his plimsolls.  This is him on holiday in Sorrento in Italy in 1976.

Ivan Sorrento 1976

Tea Towel Souvenirs, Cleethorpes in Lincolnshire

cleethorpes tea towl souvenir

I don’t understand why people go to a place like Cleethorpes for a holiday. The weather is unreliable, the sea is permanently cold and everything is expensive. Really expensive. Half an hour in the amusement arcade can take a heavy toll on the wallet, the funfair isn’t cheap, there are the pointless rides to contend with and then the donkeys. £2.50 for a five minute one hundred yard trudge up the beach hardly represents good value for money in my book.

It is surely so much better to get a cheap flight to Spain, send the children to the kids’ club and sit in the sun and drink cheap San Miguel and almost certainly spend less money.

I often feel an urge to walk across to point this out to people as they sit shivering behind a wind-break or sheltering under an umbrella being turned inside out by the wind, but of course I never do.

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More posts about Cleethorpes…

Three Trains – Cleethorpes, Amusement Arcades and the English Pier
Three Trains – I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside!

Travels in Italy, Updated

I have got a few gaps in the map, so I will have to get travelling…

Italy Visited