Archive | March, 2014

Underground Shops!

31 Mar

 

Lost for words! Make your own up!

Lost for words! Make your own up!

Our mention of buried streets and underground shops brought a flurry of emails in last week. Two from the same person but if I said that first it wouldn’t have sounded as good!

How good is this eh!

How good is this eh!

Here’s a few snaps from a former arcade in Keighly up in Yarkshire that was completely covered over but is still accessable if you know who to ask! I’ve also been asked to point out that there is a group called Subterrainea Brittanica that are big into going into underground lost spaces!

Come in, we've been expecting you!

Come in, we’ve been expecting you!

Local Newspaper hits the wall?

31 Mar
They killed my comic!

They killed my comic!

 So its half a bye bye to the Bedford Times and Citizen one of our two remaining free newspapers. Not quite a total goodbye as its moving from its current location in the centre of town to a new location just down the road in…Milton Keynes. Various staff members have been made redundant or have departed on terms unknown and young clueless journalists fresh out of school will be travelling to and fro along the Bedford bypass as they get the real scoops on the low-downs of Bedford. Top investigative journalism like people organising bike rides, cats up trees and rehashed press releases from the Police. Oh and fetching pictures of the Mayor on every other page. Move over John Pilger!

When I was a kid my favourite comic was called Cor!. One week they jubilantly announced that they were joining up with another comic called Buster so we’d get one comic called Buster and Cor! A few month on the Cor! bit of the title vanished and you realised that it was just a way of getting rid of some title that was selling enough! Never got over it!

Set the controls for 1973!

Set the controls for 1973!

With a bit of luck the Times and Citizen will just slide away. It’s been bloody awful for the last few years since Ben Raza left and was replaced by what seemed like school placements one of whom had the look of being perpetually baffled.

What stood out was a total lack of in depth or any depth for that matter reporting and for the most part it seemed to adore those ready-made stories from business or the council where they could just fill up the news copy bits with dirge to the point where half the time our copy went straight into the recycling bin! Jim Stewart (Editor) was going on at me a few weeks back about how they championed the town…no they didn’t! they fawned, grovelled andbent over backwards to give the Mayor space at the drop of a hat yet when you give them a story about a Bedford school fiddling the exam results they didn’t have a clue what to do with it to the point where I simply stopped telling them! Three months later this story appeared in the Beds on Sunday but even they seemed to have lost their way!

You need decent local journalism. Someone with a local connection or a questioning mind, given time to build up decent contacts, knowing who to trust, someone who uses the “two way” approach rather than just waiting for the phone to ring or an email to pop up with a ready made story about someone losing their glasses or equally riveting story!

Bedfordshire Police Community Awards

26 Mar

I’m actually feeling quite sorry for Collete Paul the rather diminutive Chief Police Constable for Bedfordshire. She;s quite petite though her old fashioned hat makes her look smaller!

Where did you get that hat?

Where did you get that hat?

That’s not why I’m actually feeling quite sorry for her!  A few weeks back our local force were asking for nominations for community bobby of the year and the article was accompanied by a picture of two smiling plods! At the same time a real storm was brewing down Luton way as allegations were made of an assualt by two non smiling plods on an autistic man who just happened to be Asian. Actually they might have been smiling. Then there’s the death in custody of Leon Briggs who just happened to be black that is still moving through the investigations system at a snails pace.

Leon BriggsThen there’s the assualt on a man in Bedford with plod standing about not doing much, the man just happened to be black. Collete and Olly Martins the hapless Labour Police Commissioner (politically neutral!!!) who both happen to be white must feel really “at one” with the community down there! Olly’s still probably smarting and more than a bit embarrassed at having been told off for leaking sensitive info to a friend in the Home Office about the Leon Briggs case and now to add to the payload a senior police officer has been charged with two counts of rape and assault. Not very good is it. No it isn’t! Oddly enough when our Chief Constable was in the local papers trying to put a brave face on she made reference to various incidencies of national concern that have brought police / community relations crashing down but she didn’t mention any of the ones that have happened on her doorstep!

Olly calms the crowd down. The police were there just in case!

Olly calms the crowd down. The police were there just in case!

Ah, Mr McLaren, may I call you Malcolm? Please do come in!

25 Mar

Malcolm McLaren was a mix of Fagin, artful dodger, jolly swagman, entrepreneur, bohemian visionary and…look if you want to know the full story, or at least one interpretation go find “England’s Dreaming” by John Savage, it turns up in charity shops, Debs got me a copy from Oxfam!

Malcolm McLaren on Oxford Street

Malcolm McLaren on Oxford Street

Film-wise McLaren is indelibly associated with The Great Rock and Roll Swindle which on the face of it seemed at the time to be a Sex Pistols “cash cow” but quite enjoyable 30 years on along with Alex Cox’s Sid and Nancy. I digress…McLaren back in 1991 made a short film for Channel Four called “Ghosts of Oxford Street” shown at Christmas in which various historical characters tell their stories. 

Ghosts of Oxford Street

Ghosts of Oxford Street

Shown just once, never released commercially and removed fromYoutube under legal threat I can only assume that while the soundtrack is still available the various artists that appeared (Tom Jones, Happy Mondays, Kirsty MacColl et al) never cleared copyright so it’s essentially lost. Having that fascination for things hidden underground I remembered a sequence set in a sort of cellar with derelict shop fronts in which John Altman (Nick Cotton from Eastenders) and Sinead O’Connor in the roles of Thomas deQuincy and Ann of Oxford Street, both factual characters from the early 1800s perform their parts. 

Ann of Oxford Street

Ann of Oxford Street

Thomas deQuincey, born in Manchester. Actually its him that played Nic Cotton

Thomas deQuincey, born in Manchester. Actually its him that played Nic Cotton

deQuincy was an opium addict, he lived rough with 15 year old street girl Ann for a period, went to Oxford (the city) to secure money, came back and she was gone. He spent the rest of his life chasing her ghost which essentially is the story told in the film with O’Connor. Having perused the web this section of the film seems to have led to the urban myth of their being a surviving section of a Victorian street (see picture) complete with derelict shop fronts several layers beneath Selfridges. Several contributors refer to Alman going through a basement wall and into this wondrous artefact…but as its not available how the bloody hell can you check?

Well an email was sent to one of our good pals and by sorcery or something similar (look I’m, not that good at the internet and downloadology!) a copy of the film arrived a few days later!

Ghosts enjoy dancing!

Ghosts enjoy dancing!

Highly entertaining in fact a real hoot, various historical inaccuracies which can be forgiven after all its light entertainment not Peter Ackroyd but as for a buried street, well the sequence is there but no suggestion of it being below Oxford Street just careful editing and so in addition to two enjoyable hours (I’ve watched it twice) I’ve also quite enjoyed reading all the stuff about the lost street and oddly enough many other towns have supposedly hidden underground streets but memories do pixilate and distort!

Fashion Beast: McLaren and Moore

Fashion Beast: McLaren and Moore

More McLaren…recently published is a compilation comic book version of a lost script that McLaren developed with Alan Moore entitled Fashion Beast. It’s been sitting about for 30 years and having been devised when Moore was writing his opus (one of) Watchmen it shows him at his best. A bit clunky in parts giving away its origin as McLarens script Moore who is a longstanding loather of film adaptations of his stories jumped at the chance to work with McLaren and several decades on broke another mould by writing an introduction to the compilation, an act of self-indulgence which he deplores) published last year which brought together the 10 issue limited comic book version from 2012!

I’m not going to review it, I’ll leave it up to you to decide if it’s worth a peekaboo! If you do you can get a copy at Close Encounters on Midland Road where Bub and colleagues will greet you with a cheery smile! That’s assuming you live in Bedford and haven’t stumbled on this blog whilst trying to find out about a buried street!

Methodist or Anarchist

24 Mar

And now a quick few words from Debs who has been wandering about…

 

Walking down Park Road West yesterday, I saw a scruffy looking man carrying a holdall and looking like he had too good a time in the sixties leaving the Methodist Chapel.  He stopped short when he saw me and said conspiratorially ‘I suppose you think I’m a Methodist’.  Not in the mood for codgers who think they’re characters, I said ‘sorry, I’m not interested’.  Hurt and disappointment flitted across his features for a second, then he said ‘actually, I’m an ANARCHIST!’ Carrying on walking, I roared with laughter.  He followed this with ‘And you’re a PUNK!’ ‘YEAH!’ I shouted back over my shoulder.  I walked on for a bit and looked back.  He was still staring at me.  Maybe he hoped I thought he was a burglar.  He was certainly dressed as one – if you were going to a fancy dress party dressed as a burglar.

I missed a trick there – what if he really was an anarchist? Maybe I should have asked him if he had internet access, and if so there was a rather fine web site called Bedfordbypass he might like to peruse.  Or I could have called his bluff – and asked him to explain what he meant. You really had to be there I suppose!

Bypass

A Bargain you can’t afford….

24 Mar
NLP will most certainly NOT allow you to defy gravity!

NLP will most certainly NOT allow you to defy gravity!

Quite clearly  G Wiz training don’t read Bedford Bypass or they wouldn’t keep sending us email flyers for their rather odd courses in NLP. Personally given that all the people I’ve come across that have be re-invigorated by being trained in the pseudo science of NLP have all been a bit on the dim side with personality flaws that haven’t been NLP’d out I tend to think it’s just a nice money earner but don’t listen to me here’s the contents of the email. Maybe your boss will pay, one staff member at Central Bedfordshire Council went on the course in exchange for keeping quiet about her bosses rather misogynistic way of describing female staff members!

NLP Master Practitioner (intensive format),

11th to 19th October 2014 – Crowborough, East Sussex
 
At Master Practitioner level you will learn how to take your skills to the next level, becoming more conversational with your interventions and more elegant in your language.

In addition to new key NLP models such as sleight of mouth, logical levels, re-imprinting and the meta pattern[I haven’t made this up! ]  (to name just a few), you will also explore the following topics:

Personal Identity, Creating your own reality, Life purpose, Health applications and ecology, Time and paradox  
We are offering a special extra early bird if you sign up and pay your deposit of £300 by 30th April 2014.

Special Early, Early Bird price £2100 inclusive when a deposit is paid by 30th April 2014

Early Bird price £2500 for payments made by 11th September 2014. Full price £2880. For fucks sake!

Guardian Underground Telephone Exchange: A story for little children!

21 Mar

The children are round at Bypass HQ!

“Oh Uncle Steve do tell us all about growing up in Manchester, walking along the canal saying “hi” to the boatmen, playing out till late on endless hot summer nights and the time you blagged your way into a “D” listed NATO nuclear bomb shelter below China town!”

You children don’t half talk bollocks, the canals were full of upside down dogs and dumped washing machines, the boatmen were long gone and it always pissed it down during the school holidays. All the time come to think of it! But as for the underground bunker…well then!  (cue swirly going back in time music..woowoowishywurly…you get the drift!

Guardian Underground Telephone Exchange

Guardian Underground Telephone Exchange

I was working for the GPO aka the Post Office which at the time (late 70s and into the 80s) also included British Telecom. As a stroppy sixteen year old I kept being told that I had a job for life. Fucking “wow!” delivering letters till I drop, I lasted till 1984! When I started I had to sign the Official Secrets Act because I was handling the queens mail but never saw anything from her to be honest. Kids would write to Jimmy Saville a lot!

What I did find out through various sources was that there was a nuclear bomb proof telephone exchange and bunker to the rear of Piccadilly Gardens and it seemed a good thing to have a nosy round. Trouble is despite the D notice being lifted in 1968it wasn’t supposed to be common knowledge which means that anyone that wanted to know about it knew but no one would confirm it in case the Russians found out. Not that they wouldn’t have bought a book published in 1970 called Beneath the City Streets (by Peter Laurie) which blew the gaff on this and a load of other post Cold War structures nestling away under the bus stops and boulevards of our major towns.

This gives you an idea of size!

This gives you an idea of size!

Ours was called Guardian Exchange, Birmingham had Archway and London had a whopper called Kingsway!  So with the help of a friend who we shall we refer to here as Keith who worked in the building York House above the entrance to Guardian he told me that the engineering section down below was called C55 (as far as I remember) so I put some old Telecom magazines in an envelope, tootled into the commissionaires room and said I was taking this to Guardian….he pointed to these old concrete stairs and that was it. Down a few flights of stairs..along a corridor to an old lift with those folding doors that you had to shut yourself, two buttons up and down… to this seriously impressive structure of tunnels and telephone stuff! Aware that I shouldn’t really be there I had a little wander about and no one took any notice which I found a bit odd!

Anyway I emerged to daylight after half an hour or so and wandered back to Spring Gardens where we were based! And then a few months later things took a remarkable turn!

Going Underground!

Going Underground!

As a junior postman one of the duties was to do mail to various BT buildings criss-crossing the City and I got assigned to Guardian twice a day, stairs corridors, lift and so on, I went on my first official visit and acted suprised, got friendly with the blokes down there and the main man above ground called Anthony or maybe Andrew Bunnis (I think) so for the best part of a four months I wandered all round this hush hush James Bond villain secret bunker! Almost to the point where it got a bit tedious to be honest.  At one point I was approached by a chap called Rees who was part of the Manchester Anti -Nuclear Group, they wanted to storm Guardian as a protest which never happened as there was only four of them. The most peculiar thing about the structure is that in terms of defence if Manchester had have been nuked the communications network may have held together but anyone down there, there were beds, welfare facilities and six month’s supply of food, they would have been fairly bolloxed as the air was pumped down from above! Guardian Exchange

It’s still there, intact, sealed off apart from maintenance, BT still own it but it ceased being an active exchange about 10 years after my walkabouts although the cable tunnels were still an active part of the general BT system. Just to show how safe and secure it was and a vital component in maintaining the communications network a fire in the cable tunnel in 2004 took out 130,000 phone lines and then all of sudden Guardian Underground Telephone Exchange was back in the news! And again the year after when someone broke in and went wanders. He got nicked!

Now I mentioned my signing the official secrets act and for once I’m going to use common sense and I will give no mention whatsoever to what at the time appeared to be an area where phone conversations were listened into as you entered the main exchange from the lift. If I was to do so I might get a knock on the door from the Men waving a 36 year old bit of paper with my scrawled signature on it!

Right children, that’s enough about the good old days,  time you were going to buy drink and drugs, next time you come round bring me some more of that nice flapjack and I’ll tell you about something called “Backbone” which was another now obsolete communications system that we weren’t supposed to know about despite being very visible!

Top Secret Plans. Burn after Reading. For close ups see Google!

Top Secret Plans. Burn after Reading. For close ups see Google!

A big door, designed to keep the radioactive fall out at bay!

A big door, designed to keep the radioactive fall out at bay!

Bedford Food Bank

12 Mar

OK, it got the better of me. Yesterday Bedford Bypass carried a blog about a very lacklustre website warbling on about Bedford’s Labour Party Councillors visiting the Bedford Food Bank. By fluke someone was there to take a picture. Here it is again! Now I’ve totted the expenses for this bunch of community spirited folk who found the time to visit the foodbank to thank volunteers and it come to a staggering £202,795. I hope they took some food along as a donation although it doesn’t actually say so I assume they felt their presence was enough!

Any opportunity!

Any opportunity!

Rather cheeky of me but  used the caption of Addams Family remake beneath the same picture and I’m sure you could do better so drop us a line. Those where the ratio of laughs to libel content is acceptable will be published!

How much is this please?

Do I qualify?

Bedford Borough: Town of Fines!

12 Mar

And now we take you close up to the white sentinels. The CCTV vans so beloved by Mayor Dave Hodgson and ex cop now man of god Cllr Charles Royden, there’s two vans, this has a 2010 plate, the other is 2007 and surely up for replacement?. Both the Mayor and his Deputy are Liberal Democrats, a party that supposedly  champions civil liberties and common sense but both of them seem to be rabid champions of fining people to the point where these two vans are running at a loss despite them stalking the boulevards of Bedford till 9.30pm most nights. Regardless of what they get up to the traffic round town most weekdays is comparable to London!  The signs that greet you when you cross the Borough boundary say quite boldly “Average Speed Cameras” which just about sums Bedford up, is that all we have to offer?  Most towns have something nice on their signs like “Hay on Wye: Town of Books” “East Drayton..Home of Nicholas Hawkesmoor”. We just want to fine people!

That's were your money goes!

That’s were your money goes!

Oddly enough, I’ve sort of made pals with one of the traffic wardens, quite funny given the circumstance. Say no more! Just a normal person, bills to pay, doesn’t like the job, doesn’t like the way they are managed, looked on by the townsfolk as pariahs. Some of them are officious jumped up parasites on power trips, others will think their way round problems. They all have to write tickets out and the easy option is to go for soft targets safe in the knowledge that when the vehicle owner / driver writes in they’ll get they stand a good chance of getting the ticket overturned. Some will advise said miscreants what to say!  They have a “favourites” list, shops that they look after, not so much turning a blind eye to someone delivering stuff, more turning round and heading in another direction.

Close up. What a dispiriting job it sounds like!

Close up. What a dispiriting job it sounds like!

When told (by me) that head council honcho Stewart Briggs pulls in circa £130,000 a year, my traffic warden “buddy” looked resigned to knowing their place in the grand scheme. Small people given a degree of power start acting like important people!

Support your local Blogs!

11 Mar

As bloggers we really do appreciate that it’s hard to keep the thing going! Some days Bypass hits 200 views and about 50 of these are where people have stumbled over articles from a year or so back! We get very few comments but increasing numbers of emails pointing us to this and that!

Richard Fuller MP. Passionate about Bedford as you cn see!

Richard Fuller MP. Passionate about Bedford as you cn see!

Two local blogs that I suspect have succumbed to the pressure of having to keep fresh ideas up and coming are oddly enough those of the two main political groups. First up is the local Bedford and Kempston Conservative’s who’s latest “item of News” was last August (2013 if you are reading this next year which for the record will be 2015 or 2016 if….). Their events page is like Mother Hubbards proverbial cupboard and that’s about it really. Apart from a bit about Richard Fuller MP who apparently is passionate about his home town despite having a big house in Warwickshire. And a flat in New York. And a place in London. And a flat near Bedford Station, an area which at times resembles a sub plot of The Wire!       www.bedfordandkempston.org.uk

Not to be outdone the local Bedford Labour group started a WordPress blog last year in addition to their piss poor main website http://bedfordlabourgroup.wordpress.com/   and their last entry was October 16th (2013..you get the drift) where a bunch of Labour councillors were collecting for the foodbank. At this point I should in theory tot up all their expenses, it’ll be about £80,000, say no more. Have a look if you feel the urge to invest your life in some mind rotting tedium/ Like Leonard Cohen on vallium. There’s a funny link called “Upcoming Council Meetings” which when you try to pursue a particular month, it knows what you are aiming for and vanishes so you end up chasing the date across the screen, a bit like that “Small Penis Alert” one from a few years back. When you actually get to the date and open the link there’s nothing there. Dead Good that!

New version of The Addams Family announced.

New version of The Addams Family announced.

Talking of small penis’s the Bedford Lib Dems site is a different kettle of fish being bang up to date (ish) with all the stuff the Lib Dems are up to, curing leprosy, sight to the blind, increased broadband access, supporting the Bedroom Tax and banning the moon. Mayor Dave does move in mysterious ways…no mention of Lord Rennard and ex local councillor Susan Gaszczack though. Its unusual for the Bedford Lib Dems to miss an opportunity to hijack local issues!

So that’s your evening sorted out! Enjoy and don’t forget The Samaritans are also there to listen to your plaintive cry of distress. Or failing that Bedford Bypass keeps on going. Bit hit and miss sometimes!