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Sunday, 1 January 2012

Social history in photos

It's mid-afternoon on New Years' Day in NZ and everyone is chilling out in our household.  I was inspired by fellow blogger Trobairitz' gorgeous photos from 2011, so spent the last hour rifling through one of our old photo boxes for stuff from years gone by.  No particular reasons for choosing the ones I did except that in most cases, there was a bit of a story to go with them.  Hope that you aren't bored witless!

Let's get the most embarrassing (groan, blush) one out of the way first.  It was taken when I was 16, the year before getting my first motorcycle.  I'd been into building model aircraft for years and this photo was taken at the national championships.  We always used to wear some wacky clothing when competing but whatever possessed me to wear a leopard print shirt defies rational explanation - I hope you've kept your lunch down.  The birds nest hair just adds to the appalling fashion statement.  No wonder that girls steered well clear.....


It's highly arguable whether my fashion sense got a lot better but you have to take the next photo in the context of the era - 1972.  It was taken on our wedding day at a very old church in Kent, UK.  Jennie looks a million dollars and her wedding dress wouldn't be out of place today.  I wore a brown suit with matching waistcoat, flared trousers and wide, wide tie - totally in keeping with the Swinging 70's.  I don't know what my Mother in Law had to complain about - I'd had a very substantial haircut for the occasion which should have been enough.  However, I had the temerity to wear a cream shirt instead of a white one - something which she never forgave me for and still grumbled about over the decades which followed, sigh......

Meanwhile, 40 years later......

This picture was taken at Mallory Park in the UK in 1968.  At first glance, it's just a race bike from that area.  However, there were a number of innovative privateer bikes around that time which gave the factory-supported race bikes a real run for their money and this one was no exception.  It was ridden by a chap called Peter Humber who stuck a 3 cylinder 2 stroke Crescent outboard boat engine in a  special frame.  Not only was it extremely fast but it sounded incredible.  I don't know what happened to the development of it, but bikes like this enriched the racing scene in the late 60's.

Crescent 3 cylinder 2 stroke 500cc bike

Drag racing in the UK back in the 60's produced some interesting machinery and the car below was based on a Reliant Scimitar GTE with an unblown 427 powerplant - it was called Whistler.  The Reliant Scimitar was manufactured by a company better known for a range of ghastly underpowered 3-wheelers and it was a real surprise when the Scimitar was released.  Glass fibre body powered by a straight 6 Ford engine - looked great and performed well too.  There's still a cult following in NZ with a Scimitar owner's club of around 150 cars.  Amazing for a country with only 4M population.

Scimitar GTE drag car

1970 was the year in which my drag bike really started to perform, particularly over the longer distances.  The photo below was taken at a standing start mile event which I was taking part in at Greenham Common.  This was a USAF base in southern England with a 2 mile runway.  The photo is of the doyen of motoring journalists at the time, Dennis Jenkinson.  DSJ as he was known to most, had a phenomenal knowledge of anything to do with motorsport and was equally at home writing deep technical articles or lighter material.  The consummate professional.   

One further comment before we leave this photo.  Greenham Common was a base where nuclear weapons were stored.  It was in the days before terrorism and security was rudimentary to say the least.  Our event was on their main runway and all I can remember about getting onto the base was rocking up at the guardhouse with my bike on a trailer behind the car and an entry acceptance form - incredible!

DSJ checking out a competitor's bike

The bike below is the one which got me back into bikes in the 1980's.  It's the Japanese domestic market version of the internationally-sold Honda XBR 500 single.  This particular version is the GB400 TT which was modelled on the classic British singles of the time  - the Gold Star, Manx Norton and so on.  The fairing is an aftermarket one based on a Yamaha RZ 350.  The fairing looks like it was made for the bike and I loved it to bits.  Photo taken in 1989.

1987 Honda GB400TT

Back in 1989, I was well into bikes again but still competing at a national level sailing catamarans.  The photo below was taken on a lay-day at the national championships in Nelson, south island.  I like it simply because it's a natural photo of our daughter Victoria and me chilling out together.  Regular readers of this blog may remember that she became a professionally-registered psychologist last month.  Where on earth did the time go???

Victoria and her soft-touch father

For part of 1996,  I was attached to our parent company in the southern US.  One weekend, I visited Barksdale AFB in Louisiana, home of the 8th Air Force's B52's.  As per my experience at Greenham Common, security in those days was non-existent by today's standards.  The only worrying thing as I recall was a guard barely out of his teens carrying a monstrous sidearm!  They had an open air museum of memorabilia which was amazing and the photo below sets the scene.  The fuselage below is from the Hustler supersonic bomber, IMHO, one of the loveliest aircraft ever built.  This one was particularly interesting as it had been converted into a rocket sled which had been fired down the test track at Holloman AFB at some ungodly speed.  Eagle-eyed observers in the background will note the business end of a Minuteman nuclear missile!

Hustler fuselage at Barksdale

The photo below was also taken at Barksdale.  It's a Mitchell WW2 bomber which had been impeccably restored.  It struck me how small it is compared with modern warplanes and how vulnerable the aircrew were.  Deep respect.

Mitchell at Barksdale

The next photo is of my 1985 BMW K100RS which I bought in 1993.  I was looking for something to replace the GB 400 and hadn't even contemplated a BMW.  However, I wandered into an Auckland bike shop and there was the Beemer.  It was being sold on behalf of a customer who had been working overseas for several years. It hadn't been used for 3 or 4 years and had only covered around 20,000 km.  It was in near-flawless condition and to get it off their hands, I was offered it for a ridiculously low price, complete with new tyres and official BMW panniers.  A true long distance sports tourer with elegant looks.

I loved that bike and with a couple of fairly minor exceptions, it served me reliably until I bought the Blackbird in 2001.  The photo was taken in 1999 (I think) when my Godmother and two daughters visited from the UK.  In fact, we recently received an email from Linda in the photo remembering one of the highlights of the visit when I took both of them on the back and did "The Ton", an old British phrase for cracking the 100 mph barrier.  Happy days!

Linda on the K100RS

Moving right up to the present day, I took the photo below on Christmas Day.  Regular readers may remember the post 6 months ago when a starving kitten 5 or 6 weeks old appeared in our garden and never went away.  Little Orphan Annie has since grown into the most gorgeous, affectionate kitten who rules the household.  Like the rest of our family, she over-ate on Xmas day and flaked out on our bed.  Her tongue just poking out adds to the cuteness factor!

The ever-vigilant Annie

A happy and prosperous New Year to everyone!


  1. Geoff & Jennie:

    Happy New Year to the both of you. It's always interesting to read about your past and see the old photos, Hmm leopard pattern shirt, must be a collectors item by now.

    Riding the Wet Coast

  2. Hi Bob!
    Only a few hours to go for you guys - all the very best!

    I think that shirt had a very short shelf life - like maybe the weekend when we were at the fly-in!!

  3. Next time I am down, remind me to have a we rummage throgh your photo box, it looks most entertaingin! Happy New you you to mate! I am looking forwar to a great year ahead for us.

  4. Rog:
    As long as you don't threaten to take me shopping for decent clothes, looking through the masses of photos are no problem. There are still boxes of them which have yet to be opened!!

    I think it will be a great year for us both at IAM!

  5. Behind every photo there is a story to be told. Thanks for sharing some of these with us Geoff.

    Happy New Year mate and happy riding.

  6. Chillertek:
    Yep, the stories make the pictures 3-dimensional.

    Same to you mate - take care on those roads with loopy holiday cagers!

  7. Pretty brave of you to post some of thos pictures....

    Happy New Year!

  8. Richard:
    ... or foolish :-). As Trobairitz said in one of her posts, poking fun at other bloggers is all part of the fun!

    And to you my friend!

  9. HAPPY NEW YEAR GEOFF!!!! I love looking at people photo's and reading the story that accompanies them. You look like your life has fulfilled and wonderful! I wish you and your family many blessings in 2012 and can hardly wait to read about further adventures!

  10. Happy New year Geoff - and keep up your exellent writing quality - your posts have become essential reading.

  11. Thanks for a good read Geoff that shirt or the tash vie for 1st place! Annie has it all worked out....have a good 2012 James family and hopefully we will meet soon......

  12. Happy New Year fellow model plane enthusiast....


  13. What fabulous photos Geoff. Thanks for digging through your photo box.

    I think that leopard shirt is interesting not scary, mind you I was in high school in the 80's and so we wore some weird stuff. I think leopard would have fit right in.

    My favorite picture is of your and Jennie's wedding day. The smiles just say it all.

    And that Annie has grown to be stinking cute. No wonder she rules the roost.

    Happy New Year and All the best in 2012 to you and Jennie.

  14. Dar:
    Thanks very much and the same to you and your family. Well, life has been pretty full-on so far so there's little point in changing now!

    Thanks for dropping by and the same to you! I've nearly stopped blogging several times but still just hanging in there!

    Hahaha! I have worse photos of me with a Zapata 'tache when they were all the rage and I won't be posting them!!! Fingers crossed about meeting you soon and hope you didn't lose too many brain cells yesterday!

    And to you my friend. We must have a discussion off line about model aircraft so that we don't fully disclose that we are/were complete geeks :-). Confession: I even did a bit of train-spotting as a kid AND had an anorak!

    Thank YOU for the idea! It's fun going through past photos, in't it? Mind you, from the number of photos you and Troubadour took in the last year, the digital camera has made recording our histories so much easier. Thank goodness for a decent scanner in our household!

    Very best wishes to you and Troubadour - just love reading your blogs.

  15. Happy New Year to you and your loved ones, Geoff.

    Kudos to publishing the first pic with the daring leopard shirt. What a chick magnet ;-)
    Looking at pictures from you and Jennie in nowadays I find the smile in your faces hasn't changed a bit after 40 years of marriage... impressive, we are working on our 13th anniversary...

    I didn't know that you were into Beemers once. Interesting choice, although I must say I love that little Honda CB. Beautiful bike.

    Thanks for sharing all the goodness of your life with us.

  16. Sonja!!
    Frohes neues Jahr to you and Roland.

    Oh haha, I only wish it was true! So you're up to your 13th - many congrats, I think that's already well beyond what seems to be the average these days. I wouldn't say that it's all goodness - you well know what it's like being married to an engineer - you and Jennie have a heck of a lot to put up with. "Things" ahead of people and similar generalisations!

    Apart from a rather spectacular water pump failure and a totally unexpected problem with the in-line fuel filter, that K100 just ran beautifully for the 8 years I owned it.

    Take care over winter....

  17. Nikos:
    Nope, that would be real ANORAK behaviour :-).

  18. Quite right!

    My friend's brother used to hang around Thornton Heath bus garage whilst I hung around Biggin Hill and Gatwick "aerodromes"....

  19. Geoff, I thought that was a pic of Johnny Rotten with the model aircraft!

    Cheers Jules.

  20. Jules:
    Oh lordy, never even considered that. Even more reason to wince! In return, will have to see if I can persuate NZ Customs to slip on the rubber gloves when you visit. No need to thank me :-)


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