Apollo 11 – the Moon landing’s legacy

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Hand’s up who remembers 21st July 1969? Did your parents wake you up, in what felt like the middle of the night, to watch on a small black and white TV screen the moment that Neil Armstrong, leader of the Apollo 11 mission, stepped out of the Lunar Module (‘Eagle’) to became the first person to walk onto the lunar surface? There are a handful of childhood events, including this momentous step, that this viewer, as an eleven year old, remembers with absolute awe and clarity.

The enormity of men being shot into space ahead a giant fuel canister to orbit the Earth and then be pointed in a different trajectory to the Moon’s orbit and surface, there to land safely, open the sealed hatch and climb out. Simply breathtaking both in its spirit and execution. The First Walk on the Moon was simply awe inspiring.

Armstrong was followed onto the Moon’s surface by his co-venturers, Buzz Aldrin. They spent a couple of hours making auspicious speeches and collecting rocks. After nearly a day in the Sea of Tranquility they blasted back to the command module (‘Columbia’) piloted by Michael Collins. They were returned to terra firma having safely splashed down in the Pacific on 24th July 1969.

I was certainly old enough to realize that the Mission to the Moon was the most magical blend of evolutionary technology of semi-conductors and computers, the guile of America’s military aviators, the obviously immense resources of the NASA Space Program. It was also the culmination of the dream of a brilliant and driven leader, the late President John F. Kennedy, who in 1961 launched his country’s aim to land a man safely on the Moon before the end of the decade.

Aside from the warm and fuzzy feeling of all things vintage and American, Coke fridges, leather sleeved varsity jackets, Levi’s and classic muscle cars what else can be seen as the legacy of man’s early musings with space travel?

The Apollo mission kick-started a series of major innovations the legacy of which continue to be seen, felt and enjoyed today. Some of the many spin-offs from the Space Race include the following:

The Computerized Axial Tomography (CAT) scanner now more regularly used to detect cancer and other abnormalities was used to identify any imperfections in space components that would only be magnified by the unique stresses and environmental issues associated with zero gravity and the g-force associated with space travel.

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The Computer Microchip, the integrated circuits and semi-conductors used in the Apollo mission’s guidance software spawned the modern microchip that appears in everything from you laptop, to you TV remote control and your oven’s regulatory systems.

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Cordless tools. Lacking the inability to plug in electrical tools on the Moon’s surface, power tools including cordless drills and vacuum cleaners were developed – initially by Black & Decker in 1961 – with integral battery packs enabling the collection of rock and dust samples.

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In-Ear Infrared thermometer. A detector of infrared energy that is felt as heat that was developed to monitor the birth of stars found an alternative use with In-Ear thermometers.

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Freeze-dried food. Since the Moon mission we have been fascinated by rehydrated food, Thai pot soups, noodle dishes and the like. Originally devised to minimize weight these packets of goodness fueled the men in space. This technology had first been developed in the Second World War for carrying blood long distances without refrigeration. Nasa was first to create freeze dried iced cream – but it doesn’t seem to have been that popular amongst the astronauts.

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Home Insulation materials. If you have ever unrolled in the your attic reflective insulated matting you may not know that the shiny material used was developed to deflect radiation away from spacecrafts.

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Invisible braces. Each of my three children has received the attention of the dentists and the application of braces that resulted in perfectly straight teeth. The process has been improved by the use of transparent ceramic brace brackets made from materials developed for spacecraft.

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Joysticks as used on computer gaming consoles were devised for Apollo Lunar Rover.

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Memory foam – for many, me excluded, they say that sleeping on a memory foam mattress or pillow results in a splendid night’s sleep. For me they are usually too firm but the underlying tech was created to improve the comfort of aircraft seats and helmets.

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You may not be surprised to hear that satellite television technology, primarily devised to repair relay signals from spacecrafts and to unscramble satellite sound and images sent from space now sits at the core of home satellite driven services.

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At the optician when ordering a new pair of glasses you will almost certainly have been asked if you would like a ‘scratch resistant coating’ to be added. Substantially improving the long term wear and tear on glasses these coatings were developed to make astronaut helmet visors scratch resistant.

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Whilst shoe insoles have been around for years, indeed the likes of trusty beach worn Birkenstocks are based on the eponymous insole a challenge for athletic shoe companies was to adapt an insole for the Space missions boot designs to maximize on ventilation and springy comfort.

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An absolute must around any home is a smoke detector with good batteries. It may surprise you to know that Nasa invented the first adjustable smoke detector that was programmed with a level of sensitivity that prevented false alarms. Just as essential in the small cabins on board spacecrafts.

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The design of a space rocket is perhaps a classic example of drag reduction. Interestingly Nasa deployed the same principles of drag reduction to help create for Speedo a world beating, but highly controversial, swimsuit the LZR Racer.

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Aside from bottled oxygen, filtered and clean water was one of vital elements needed in space. NASA developed a filtering technique that killed bacteria in water. This has subsequently been used to deliver filtered water in millions of homes.

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Velcro – whilst not strictly a product developed for the Space Race, the system of a hook-and-loop fastener was originally conceived in 1941 by a Swiss engineer George de Mestral. NASA made significant use of touch fasteners in myriad of ways including the closing of astronauts’ suits, anchoring equipment during maintained and for trays at mealtimes to avoid them floating away.

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Artificial limbs – Nasa is a world leader in the science of robotics devised primarily to remotely control space vehicles. The technology had been adopted to give artificial limbs greater functionality.

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If you have ever completed the London Marathon, for example, you may recall crossing the line to be shrouded in a silver foil blanket. These blankets were developed in 1964 they are excellent at  reflecting infrared radiation but they also enable the body to they retain heat and reduce the risks from hypothermia.

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The Bacon hydrogen-oxygen fuel cell celebrated British engineer, Tom Bacon, developed an existing and century old technology to create a patented fuel cell that provided electrical power for the Apollo mission. The science that combined hydrogen and oxygen to create a reaction that caused heat that could be converted to electricity also had a useful by-product, water: which the astronauts drank. Fuel cells have been used to create electric vehicles including the Toyota Mirai, Honda Clarity and Mercedes-Benz F-Cell, where the technology is seen as a having great green credentials.

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The Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch is part of a range of manually winded chronometers launched by the Swiss watch brand in 1957 and used as part of Omega’s role as the official timekeeper for the Olympic Games. The “Moonwatch”, a combination of both timepiece and stopwatch, was water-resistant, shock-proof, and could withstand 12Gs of acceleration endured by the astronauts during their mission. It was first worn during NASA’s Gemini missions that included the first space walk. The Moonwatch was on the wrists of Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins, when the former two took their first steps on the Moon. It remains a firm favourite with those who love this Swiss watch brand which has created a series of Special Editions to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the first Moon landing.

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Driving Miss Dolly

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I have just found the original of this piece written in 2003 – I couldn’t resist reposting it.
I have just driven over 1500 km in two days. Hearing you say that your Land Rover or Audi could do that standing on its head is fine, except I have completed such a distance in my wife’s sixteen year old, 506 cc, Citroen 2cv known to all as “Dolly”.

Living in the Southern Europe I have found a compelling urge to share this glorious place with as many people, or things, as possible. Moving here a year ago from Wandsworth, leaving family and friends to battle the Congestion Charges, the M25 and the May Day riots, the only thing that wasn’t put on the back of the removers truck – and God knows we stuffed it – was our cherished 2cv.

There came a time when seeing our re-built classic rotting in my Mother’s Surrey garage became all too much.

[2019 Addition: Aestheticons readers will know of my adoration of these characterful and timeless little cars – and their big sister the Citroen DS]
Having lain dormant for 12 months, the points having been flooded by previously abortive attempts to start her, I asked Mark Waghorn at MWR in Battersea – a 2cv expert – to give her a full service. I wasn’t about to undertake a trip across two international borders in a car that hadn’t run for a year.

Booking on line the Dover/Calais leg I decided to play safe and also book a French Motorail trip from Calais to Toulouse. I tried to book the next leg on the Spanish equivalent from Barcelona to Malaga but that gets booked up seconds after going on sale, three months ago. So I had to face up to driving home from Toulouse – around 1500 km.

To make sure I got to Dover, I decided to drive there mid evening to find a B&B and wake refreshed for my 10.00 am crossing. At least I could push the car onto the Seacat, if necessary.

B&B’s in Dover now don’t really exist in any meaningful way. They have been seized by the Immigration Service to house the influx of asylum seekers. The locals now call the Old Folkestone Road, “Asylum Alley”.

I had visited the site of David Blaine’s most recent inexplicable stunt. He is encasement in Plexiglas overlooking new look London. His main views are the Mayor’s rotund office and the new Gherkin.

He had been boxed for 4 days and 21 hours by the time of my visit and was condemned to watch the British public hurling insults and golf balls at him as he slumbered scribbling in his journal. I would come to appreciate David’s predicament a whole lot more after my ensuing days of intimacy with Dolly’s minimal grey velour seats.

The mileometer at Dover read 66228.

The Seacat was a breeze – except for the loudest and most strident lady passenger who didn’t draw breath the whole of the one hour crossing. Her main pre-occupation was a solution to the asylum seeker problem. Perhaps she should be retained by the British and French Governments who thus far have struggled to solve this thorny issue.

I arrive at the Calais/Motorail terminus about six hours ahead of boarding. So if you have six hours to kill a visit to Calais centre ville is a must.

The Town Hall, is the home of the Rodin statue known as “the Burghers of Calais”. It features a number of wizened individuals bearing keys and such like. The depiction is of the proposed sacrifice of a few senior citizens of the town in return for Edward III lifting the blockade on food supplies. The old folk were saved by the swift actions of Queen Phillipa of Hainault – top aren’t they – those Essex girls.

Loading of the cars is a haphazard arrangement. The SNCF employee has never had the joy of driving a 2cv and stalls a couple of times before lurching Dolly’s into her resting place behind a Mercedes whose hazards are already flashing. The late evening calm is punctuated by screaming car alarms and the fulfilment of earlier placed orders for “pique nicque”. This is essential as we are told that the train has no catering facilities. The 20.30 pm train this evening is the last of the summer from Calais to Toulouse.

We set off 45 minutes late.

The carriage compartments on Wagonlits are box like – about as deep as I am tall – 6 feet – and close to four feet wide. There is something military about their regiment throughout the carriage there must be at least twenty or so cells. All the fabric seat covers, the ceiling, walls and blinds are all khaki.

The top bunk is open and very neatly turned down. There is a small oval basin with neat “Wagonlits” ancient publicity packed soap. Beneath the basin is a plastic commode which when its retaining door is closed deposits its contents directly onto the rails – via a wide mesh

There is a steward in a smaller cabin at the end of the carriage. He explains the operation of the lights and wakes you moments before you destination. For the rest of the time he smokes, drinks from short green cans of Heineken and read l’Express.

We are towing around thirty cars arranged on car transporter like carriages. At least six pairs of tiger’s eyes continue to flash and alarms sound. Their batteries will have nothing left to get their occupants to Beziers or Perpignan.

The first third of the bottle of Beaujolais Village bought at the station buffet and uncorked by their staff when picking up the excellent “pique nicque” kicked in shortly after departure. Sleep and Toulouse await.

Before dawn we arrive in Brive.

As first light breaks we are greeted by dense forests and quaint villages with their beautiful stone towers and red tiled roofs. We emerge from a long tunnel high over the Dordogne a stunning Norman chateau is perched high behind us.

We are following the Lot peppered with caravan sites through Cahors, with its stunning three squared towered stone bridge. Past low built houses fused onto higher and ancient pigeon lofts. Field after field of fruit trees and sunflowers discolouring in the late summer morning light.

We follow the back of several towns along the Canal into Toulouse. On every available space there is graffiti. One particularly good artist has “signed” more than fifty walls in a twenty kilometre strip with his distinctive “tag” the word, “Arse” – it cannot mean the same.

In Toulouse it takes an hour or so for the cars to be off loaded. Unfortunately, the road to Montpellier and Barcelona is shut “pour travaux” and a “diversion” takes us around the city to be released back onto the E80 an exit or two further out.

Finally, I am on the E80 “hurtling” at a maximum of 65 mph through Carcassonne, then Perpignan and over the Spanish border – where for some curios reason one of the Guard regards the car as of Italian origin and waves his arms shouting “avanti!”.

I am in Spain – well that was reasonably easy. I am about 250 kms into the journey and its late morning.

The peage through France may be costly but the Catalan tolls are even more expensive. At each toll booth driving a right hand drive car can be perilous. I have to stop, run around to collect the ticket or pay the fee and get back into the car before the barrier falls.

The E15 (the same road that runs through Malaga) is easy driving and Barcelona with its pistachio and baby pink tower blocks and canary and black taxis looms mid afternoon.

Barcelona has its own new Gherkin under construction complete with exterior crazy paved walls and incrementally small terraces for the top five or so penthouses.

On crossing the Plaza Cataluna, I spot a car park showing a “libre” sign so seek to enter. Shouting and waving ensues as the gate keeper explains that he does not allow right hand drive vehicles to enter as they tend to scratch the other cars – great logic.

La Rambla district has a “scalextric” shop with a huge window display and an artist in white robes and make up sitting on an un-plumbed loo. There is a wacky tiled Bullring and the famous multi-spired cathedral.

It’s worth a longer visit but come by train.

The exit road signs seem to refuse to use the same numbers as the official road numberings. They are replaced with a “C” preface. There are no signs for Tarragona – yet alone Valencia or Alicante. As a result, I get back onto the North bound E15 taking me probably 40 kms out of my way before I can change direction.

South of Barcelona become thick with grapes in the Penedes region – grapes then rock and then open plains as I head towards the hilariously named Tossa del Mar and onto Peniscola!

Arriving in the Comunitat de Valencia every available square meter is planted with orange and lemon trees.

I have seen 11 magpies by this time. After “10’s a bird you must not miss” does it start at “One for sorrow” again?

Having exceeded the boundary of my boredom threshold and with fading light I decide to stay at a road side hostel near Castellon.

I am back on the E15 by 7.30 am and by 8.00 the sky is blood orange.

I have already seen two magpies – “joy” – that’s good.

I wait until 9.00 am – it is Sunday after all – before the first of many calls to the family. At one point they were every half an hour as boredom really set in.

I scoot past the huge Valencian tile and porcelain factories and hill top fortresses.

Rainbow coloured pipes extend over the road to greet your arrival in Valencia. Your departure is marked by a road side flock of monochrome metal sheep.

The Manhattan skyline of Benidorm is incongruous but rising as it does majestically above an arid plain I guess it’s the closest thing Spain has to Las Vegas.

The heat of the roasting road is seeping into the car and I am drinking probably a litre of water an hour.

Two more magpies.

Clearing the toll booth at Alicante – a hiccup.

For a while I have been trying to ignore that Dolly is over revving. The only way to stop it is to lift the accelerator pedal with your foot. As I leave the toll booth she’s screaming, so I pull over and lift the bonnet.

She cools quickly and I notice that a spring has rusted away and is lying against the engine casing. A quick clip and twist with my Swiss army knife’s pliers and a new spring is formed. It works perfectly allowing the accelerator cable to return. Now could you do that in your Land Rover or Audi? I don’t think so.

As my wife will tell you, my mechanical skills are minimal, so I am feeling a sense of achievement as Mark Waghorn confirms over the phone that I have cured the problem.

There follows a lengthy stretch passed Murcia towards Almeria where an arid moonscape has been created by the constant excavation of the hills to provide a raw material for the Curtidos factories.

A fifth magpie.

The mileometer hits 66666 so I speed up to 66 mph to give some shape to this numerical wonder.

I am very, very bored by the drive now but hearing my family’s voices – for the 10th time today – stirs me on. I have by now lost count of the number of times I have filled Dolly’s tiny fuel tank or paid toll charges.

The whole of the Eastern Costa del Sol is under plastic tarpaulins. This region is known by the locals as “the Plastic Sea”. For such a shrouded area there’s little surprise that a local town is named “Vicar”

The first signs for Malaga –219 kms. At last!!!

About 120 kms from Malaga the Autovia del Sol – the main trunk road from Barcelona to Algeciras becomes cobbled – well not quite. It is stopped by traffic lights outside the tented suburbs of Motril.

The E15 becomes a charming twisty road through some very picturesque – and some not so – white villages. It reminds me of the old Corniche along the Côte d’Azur.

Eventually we are forced to hill climb. Only a couple of times approaching hills around Alicante was I required to change down a gear, I now have to take most of the next ten miles in second. The far sides of such ridges are a roller coaster for a 2cv. Dolly may be unhappy on steep gradients but the trip down is hairaising. The turning circle and cornering are dire. I am convinced a couple of corners are taken on two wheels.

Finally, I am onto the all too familiar stretch passing Malaga airport.

The mileometer reads 67299. I can hardly believe I’ve done it – in two days with about twelve hours a day behind the wheel – or should that be behind a juggernaught.

Post script – in 2006 following many years of truely faithful service and after a number of months of “tricky” engineering issues Miss Dolly is returned the UK for a complete rebuild!

© Mark FR Wilkins 2003 (Iberia)

Crocs

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They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, if so, the bosses at Crocs must have been be swollen with pride. Or were they?

Perhaps the most blatantly ripped off shoes, er… in the history of jelly shoe rip-offs – Fakes infringing the patents owned by Crocs – called “croc-offs”- can now be purchased at leading hyper markets at a bargain basement price point. A supermarket pair of knocked off at €7.99 are a sorry challenge to the real thing that you can buy on Amazon from €19.00. The hookie versions are not as good as, or even similar, in quality to the originals, but how often can that be said.

Why is this product so clearly ripe for rip-off? Crocs are “good” but they are not a Louis Vuitton handbags or a Rolex watches.

The manufacturers has striven to make a distinguishable difference between their better designed and better made products in an apparent ambivalence to the knock off version. 

Fluffy linings, flip-flop versions, extreme paint jobs and themed versions have not save this iconic product from throwing itself on its sword as it was announced in August 2018 that in the light of the wholesale rip-off market Crocs will be ceasing production and closing its manufacturing facilities. Curiously the announcement went on to say that production would be shifted to third parties “to meet the growing demand for Crocs.” It seems the future for a version of Crocs is “bright and bold”. May be its worth storing in your wardrobe a pair as they become scare and increase in value.

I have a pair that resemble a French maritime uniform they are unbelievably comfortable and comprehensively over deliver in most respects. That said they are a little prone to make already hot feet a little stickier. They are not particularly good looking but neither were their wooden antecedents.

See here a piece I did for Aestheticons on Jeremy Atkinson a Master English Clog Maker Jeremy Atkinson – The Last English Clog maker

What’s the story of these favoured jelly shoes that have become the guilty pleasure for many of us.

Founded by Scott Seamans, Lyndon “Duke” Hanson, and George Boedecker, Jr. who had acquired the design from a third party. Originally intended for the boating community the injection mounded foam clog was launched at the Fort Luaderdale Boat Show in 2002 with two hundred pairs being sold.

Word has it that over 300 million pairs of shoes have been legitimately made. In plants in Mexico and Italy. There have been many colourful variations including those decorated with bling called “jibbitz” – the company that created these was acquired by Croc in 2006 – that clip into the holes on the upper. In 2008 a pair of Croc styled golf shoes called “the Ace” were launched.

The subject of some controversy Crocs had become the preferred footwear for the medical profession. Now effectively banned for anti-static reasons; though Croc has responded producing pairs that dissipate static. The shoes have featured in more contentious situations including several claims, particularly in Japan from parents that argued their kids Crocs had become dangerously lodged in escalators.

Image Credits – Crocs

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Hobie Catamarans

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Like many I suffer from seasickness. The only real way I have ever been able to cure my “Mal de Mer” is to do one compellingly easy thing. If you are on a small sailing craft, a refurbished Thames Barge lunging down the East Coast of the UK or on a Cross-Channel ferry – stay outside. There is something in the combination of salt air, the roll of the sea, and the wind in your face that combines to prevent the inevitable heave!

Years ago a couple of friends suggested I should try wind-surfing. It was long before the invention of kite surfing and years before I was to fall in love with Tarifa on Spain’s Costa de la Luz. It was my second sailing experience but like my first it was on a reservoir this time, a former gravel pit, St Mary’s Reservoir near London’s Heathrow Airport.

After not many lessons I mastered the trick of standing on the surf board, lifting a knotted rope to engage the mast and triangular sail, a few square metres of clear plastic, and a wishbone that required quite careful control. It helped to have some understanding of the way of the wind. I was soon pelting across the water jibing and tacking to avoid a drop into the merkey depths. A bright spark then suggested I should consider a sailing holiday.

Sunsail – still a respected operator – in Bodrum (Turkey) was the preferred location and after a barrel of Turkish beer, a fight in the Halikanas night club and shots of raki, I found myself at the shoreline wearing an orange life vest. The wind surfing was wonderful, great beach, good waves and a brilliant hippy vibe but the one thing that really caused my adrenaline to pump was riding the Hobie Cats!

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One of the instructors who’d already spent years in Mirror Dingys, GP14 and the like was an excellent coach. We hit the trampoline of the Hobie and he explained to me both the agility of this excellent craft and the fact that, if I felt up to it, I could find my self on a trapeze hanging at perilous angels over the side as it approached maximum speed. They were amazing and whist I never really mastered the tiller of these simple crafts or the full extent of the trapeze the ride was breathtaking.

So where did the iconic Hobie Cats come from?

In the early 1960’s, at Laguna Beach (California USA) a foam and fiber glass surf and skate board manufacturer and surf team entrepreneur, Canadian born Hobart Alter, set up, with his Father’s help, a surf shop. He had determined at a young age that he wanted to make a living that didn’t involve wearing “hard soled shoes”!

Hobart saw and was influenced by the Aqua Cat catamaran designed by Arthur Javes. For Alter, the Aqua Cat suffered as it needed a dagger board to ensure under-sail stability. He set to work to re-imagine the catamaran.

The first dagger-boardless Hobie Cat, that could be easily beached and launched into the surf, was built in 1965 with two asymmetrical – banana shaped – hulls, a connecting trampoline and aluminium mast.

The Hobie Cat Company was founded in 1967 and in 1971 the Hobie 16, designed by Alter and Phil Edwards was launched.

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The robust Hobie 16 – which I sailed in Turkey – has become the world’s most popular catamaran, with over 135,000 manufactured to date in the US and France. Later versions of the Hobie 16 included a two piece fibre-glass composite mast after the families of owners in the US successfully sued the Hobie Cat Company arguing that deaths by electrocution had been caused by hoisting the aluminium mast near overhead power lines…..

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Image Credits – images used with grateful thanks Pinterest, the Hobie Cat Company and Wikipedia.

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The Stone Roses

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Music has for close to fifty years been a key component of the jigsaw of my life. I have loved music since I was a child captured by the exotica associated with some fine recording artists including Three Bob’s, Dylan – see my earlier post here – Bob Dylan  – Marley and Springsteen, Leonard Cohen, The Eagles, The Doors, Paul Simon, The Rolling Stones and Tom Waits.

In later years, and for the best part of quarter of a century, I earned my living in the Law, specifically Music Law representing some fascinating entrepreneurs, vagabonds and minstrels. It paid the bills and kept my music opiates topped up. I met some truly extraordinary people, who often lived complicated but wonderful lives devoted to engaging and entertaining others. Equally, I have met a fair proportion of consummate egoists, disinterested in those who don’t pander to them.

Simply put, music talks to my soul. It evokes memories. It causes the recall of sights, sounds and emotions.

Asked for my favourite song – that’s easy – U2’s “One”. I can rarely listen that complete wonder of a composition without tears in my eyes.

My favourite – what we used to call “Album” – being a collection of several songs that the artist (or their record company) has deliberately chosen to join together in some overall theme, concept or message. Honestly, again, that’s an easy one, the 1989 iconic debut album of the Manchester band “The Stone Roses” is simply one of the most complete and luxuriously beautiful bodies of work ever collected onto a 12” vinyl record, 4” digital CD or stream.

Depending on the format and country of release, “The Stone Roses” comprises a minimum of 12 recording that lasso a time, a mood and a vibe of the UK pre-BritPop explosion of the early 1990’s. Along with fellow Manc, The Happy Mondays, this album defined an era and is the soundtrack to the lives of me and many of my contemporaries.

Ian Brown (vocals) and John Squire (guitars) who had known each other from Altrincham Grammar School For Boys – somewhere I often played rugby on Saturday mornings in the late 1970’s – formed and disbanded several bands prior to being joined by Gary “Mani” Mounfield (bass) and Alan John “Reni” Wren (drums) to form The Stone Roses (Squire’s name), a guitar indi-rock band that sprung from the vibrant Madchester scene of the UK’s second city.

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Having composed and recorded songs for a demo, the band sent out 100 demo cassettes that featured the artwork of Squire, a very talented fine artist. This was followed by touring, further production and the release of some tracks to little commercial effect.

In August 1988 the band played Dingwalls in London in the presence of A&R representatives from South African owned label, Zomba and Geoff Travis one of the founders of the seminal indie, Rough Trade.

Rough Trade paid for some studio time and suggested Peter Hook bassist with New Order as a potential producer, when Hook was unavailable, Geoff suggested John Leckie a former Abbey Road award winning producer with an amazing production pedigree including Pink Floyd, XTC and Radiohead. The Stone Rose were signed to Zomba by Roddy McKenna and appeared on Andrew Lauder and Andy Richmond’s  Silvertone inprint. Rough Trade sold their tapes of “Elephant Stone” to Zomba.

Singles from the eponymous album were released in early 1989 and drew the attention of the all important Radio One. The Album, with John Squire/Jackson Pollock inspired artwork, was released on 2nd May 1989, went on to win the NME Reader’s Poll for Best Album of the Year. The Album is certified in the UK as triple platinum, notching sales in excess of 900,000 units.

To add a copy of The Stone Roses to your collection – click the link below the image:

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The Stone Roses (20th Anniversary Legacy Edition)

Images used with grateful thanks – Sony Music and Ian Tilton/NME

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Zodiac Inflatable Boats

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I like boats but I have always thought that a conventional rigid hulled version was somewhat limiting. The practical reality of an inflatable boat means that it can easily be moved from one location to another and stored away from the water when not in use – thus saving a killing on mooring fees.

There are certain iconic products that through familiarity, usually based on exceptional built quality or performance, become the noun that defines the object. Hoover, Durex and Zodiac. A heritage brand.

Mrs W. spent many summers on Spain’s Costa del Sol as a teenager and when describing an inflatable boat she uses the term “Zodiac”. The boat owners she knew had their Zodiacs equipped with Mercury or Johnson outboards for use as ski boats, fun day boats or as tenders to larger vessels.

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It will come as no surprise that these air filled and thermobonded tube-gunwaled boats can trace their origins to the airships of French company, Zodiac Aerospace founded in 1896. In the 1930s, Zodiac engineer, Pierre Debroutelle, developed early prototype inflatable boats for the use of the French ”Aéronavale” – the aviation arm of the French Navy. In 1934 he invented an inflatable kayak and catamaran and in 1937 Aeronavale commissioned Zodiac to produce inflatables pontoons to carry naval ordinance.

Following its development for military use, in the 1950’s French Navy officer and biologist, Alain Bombard, is credited with designing the combination of an outboard engine, a rigid floor and the boat-shaped inflatable. The resulting design was built by Zodiac. Bombard sailed a version across the Atlantic in 1952 and with his friend and fellow naval officer, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, it’s excellent performance made the Zodiac the tender of choice. See our previous post on the inspirational Jacques-Yves Cousteau here – Jacques Cousteau

The 1960’s saw a growth in the recreational use of small boats and Zodiac answered this demand partly by increasing their own production and partly by licensing others, such as Humber in the UK, to produce their boats. Further, US culture was exposed to Zodiac inflatables in Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau“ – get your copy by clicking the AMAZON link below the image.

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The Undersea World Of JACQUES COUSTEAU 6 DVD Box Set PAL

Increasingly from the early 1970’s the modern rigid inflatable boat (RIB) was a development of the classic – almost unsinkable – inflatable boat, enhanced by the addition of a rigid floor and solid hull – in GRP, steel, wood or aluminum. Adding a transom mounted powerful outboard engine made these craft highly manoeverable and able to cope with the roughest seas.

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RIBs became a favourite with the military – Zodiac established a separate division Zodiac Milpro to service this demand – and sea rescue services. Illegal smuggling gangs, intent on landing contraband whilst avoiding detection, in a part of the world I know well, made RIBs their vessel of choice – the authorities using even more military grade versions to thwart this ambition!

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Image Credits – with grateful thanks – Zodiac Nautic.

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STOP PRESS

20.07.18 – It’s been announced in Madrid, as part of Spain’s ongoing war on drug smuggling, particularly on the Costa del Sol and Gibraltar, that the Spanish Government is taking steps to ban the private use of RIBs that are longer than 8m or smaller but with a 150kW engine or bigger. Once sanctioned the ban will come into effect after six months.

Clarks Desert Boots

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The Fast Show – a UK TV show from the mid-1990’s  – had a wealth of characters created by Charlie Higson and Paul Whitehouse – amongs others. One particular favourite was “Louis Balfour” – played by John Thomson – who was the oh so slightly pretentious presenter of “Jazz Club” with a catchphrase – when all else failed – of “Nice!”. You rarely got to see his feet but my bet is that he would’ve worn Clarks Desert Boots

See here a sample of Jazz Club The Best of Louis Balfour’s Jazz Club

Now you have to follow this, Louis was cut from a very similar cloth to a couple of Art Masters at my last school. They insisted on being called “Chris” and “Steve” as indeed I suspect they were their real names and as 6th Formers it seemed odd to continue with “Sir”. They wore corduroy jackets – in brown and country green – one with contrasting leather elbow patches – they had a penchant for practical Farah Hopsack trousers – don’t ask – and each had several pairs of iconic Clarks Desert Boots.

Quite what desert there were planning to cross in leafy Cheshire was uncertain but none the less these two were simply the coolest guys in the school.  “Steve” with his long hair even drove a late reg VW Beetle – click here to our previous post Volkswagen Beetle – an icon re-imagined – you can imagine he was already ice cool to me.

Assured not to be bitten by scorpions nor rattle snakes, Clarks Desert Boots to this day are an iconic and a highly flexible wardrobe essential that you can wear with jeans, moleskins or chinos and they will always look the part. Just avoid wearing in the rain – they are suede and, after all, are intended for deserts!

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C. & J. Clark International Ltd, (“Clarks”) was founded in 1825 by Quaker brothers Cyrus and James Clark in Street, (Somerset, England) where its HQ is still based – although manufacturing is now predominantly undertaken in Asia. Clark’s continues to be 84% family owned.

Since 1879 the Clark’s trade mark has been the distinctive Glastonbury Tor with the St Michael’s tower.

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The Desert Boot was launched in 1950 having been designed by the co-founders, James’, great-grandson, Nathan Clark, a serving British Army Officer based in Burma. It is said that the Desert Boot was based on the unlined boots made in the bazaar’s of Cairo for returning British Army Officers during the Second World War.

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Post War the Desert Boot saw adoption by the Mod Culture in UK, the Beatnik Culture in the US and were known to be a favourite of the Student anit-capitalist demonstrations in Paris in May 1968.

Why not be like Steve McQueen or Liam Gallagher and get a pair of Clarks original Desert Boots – please click the links below the images below to be directed to AMAZON – the two links show the full colour range available.

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Clarks Desert Boot, Men’s Derby, Braun (Cola Suede), 10 UK

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Clarks Originals Desert Boot, Men’s Derby Lace-Up, Brown (Brown Sde), 9 UK 43 EU)

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Images courtesy of C & J Clark International Limited