Archive for May, 2011

The inside of a power station: a 500 mega-watt unit

This much I know.

That duct-looking thing at the top left is where the pulverised coal comes in, I think (the single thing you’re guaranteed to hear about the coal used in a coal-fired power station is that “it’s ground as fine as face powder”).

The big rectangular thing to the right of the duct is the boiler.

Near the extreme right of the picture is the turbine (the three cylinders).

And the bits inbetween? Um… Pipes, mostly.



The French Elvis (4)

And so we finish in 1999, with Un Jour Viendra (A Day Will Come), a string-laden, heart-felt, bitter-sweet love song. This song, co-written by Johnny’s son David, was released during my time in France, and I have pretty vivid memories of it, and the accompanying video, which can be described in the following thought process:

Ah, a pretty waitress… And there’s Johnny, playing his guitar… The waitress is being ogled by some horrible bloke. What a cock… Wait, now she’s taking her clothes off and having a shower. Am I now the cock who’s ogling her?… Johnny’s still playing, where is he? A Roman ampitheatre?… Oh, she’s off somewhere. But her moped won’t start… What lorry driver in his right mind wouldn’t stop to give her a lift??… Ah, she’s sorted out now… She’s very friendly with that security guard, where’s she going?… There’s a big crowd, is it for a concert… It seems to be the same place as Johnny… Wait, he’s gone, and there’s loads of strangers around… Who have they come to see? Oh of course: it’s Johnny in concert! Hurray! Now I get it…


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The French Elvis (3)

Back in time by 10 years, it’s 1966 (do keep up). A cover of Los Bravos’ Black Is Black, this was another massive number 1 for Johnny.

This is a very enjoyable video, with lots to talk about. The dancers stay just the right side of amateurish (they’re so nearly synchronised), while Johnny himself looks like some kind of wax-faced animatronic. Gone is the audience-pointing, hip-wiggling funster of 1960; we are instead witness to Johnny seeming to be glued, at various points, to a white pillar, a black pillar (trying to shake or sway himself free), and the floor (his arms swing, his knee moves, but he won’t be freed), while at about 2:20 he signs directly to one of the dancers, and looks like a shy teenager in a nightclub trying to chat up an attractive young lady, complete with visible nervous swallow.


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The French Elvis (2)

Forward now to 1976, and a number one, sold gold hit. In France.

Gabrielle tells the story of a love-hate relationship, in which Johnny portrays himself as some kind of chained-up sex slave.

I couldn’t track down a ‘proper’ video for this song, though I did find one with lots of lovely photos of Johnny. This one on the left is my favourite. I can’t decide whether that’s a bottle of alcohol or aftershave in his hand.

Either way, he’s clearly been drinking it.


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The French Elvis (1)

It really is lazy to describe Johnny Hallyday as ‘The French Elvis’. But I will not apologise for it, and I will continue to do it, most probably for the duration of this Theme Week.

Despite every instinct in my body and mind (and ears), I love Johnny Hallyday. I love what he represents to France, I love the love France has for him (apart from when he decides to live in Switzerland and stops paying taxes to the Elysée), and I love his style.

Here we see him in an authentically flickery 1960 clip, playing “Souvenirs, Souvenirs”, his second single and his first big hit. A fairly straightfoward early rock and roll love song (which reminds me of the Ren and Stimpy theme tune towards the end of its middle eight), it’s worth noting his confident gestures towards the (unseen) audience, his very Elvis-esque hip-swaying, and also the on-screen graphics’ mis-spelling of his name. This seems apt, as legend has it he went by the name of Johnny Hollyday until a promoter inadvertently gave him what would be his final pseudonym on a bill poster even earlier in his career.



Flamanville nuclear power station

Flamanville, Manche, France

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Tony time

This is the sweat; this is the sweat that’s going to happen

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The Silver Jubilee Bridge..

..or the Runcorn-Widnes Bridge, or the Widnes-Runcorn Bridge, depending on your particular point of view. What’s not up for debate is that it crosses the River Mersey between Widnes and Runcorn and is, believe it or not, a Grade II listed building.

I had a quick glance at Wikipedia to check a couple of things before including them on here, but the following sentence stopped me in my tracks and made any other comment seem pointless:

“The bridge transformed Runcorn from an effective cul-de-sac into a town with through traffic”

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From the streets of Whitby

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I [heart] Saltergate

When the makers of The Damned United were searching for locations suitable for the adaptation of David Peace’s novel, one of their tasks was to find a contemporary football ground which could represent Derby County’s Baseball Ground as it looked in the early 1970s. They were probably expecting to have to settle for somewhere which was similar in its original structural design but, inevitably, in a much more modern condition.

Then they found Saltergate. In the end all they needed to do to travel back in time by 40 years or so was to cover the main stand’s blue paint with green. Chesterfield Football Club decided not to bother repainting in the main stand after filming had ended – after all, it had needed a new coat for years, and with the club due to relocate just a few months later, there wasn’t really any point.

Here, Brian Clough (Michael Sheen) directs the Derby County players’ training session. This scene is great for views of Saltergate: this shot sees the Main Stand in the background, complete with era-authentic advertising hoardings (Texaco) added. The bright patch over a hole in the Main Stand roof (top left of picture) was there before filming. The stand looks a lot darker than in real life due to all the green paint. And what the hell have they done to the pitch??

As Clough and his Chairman, Sam Longson (Jim Broadbent), argue, The Kop is visible in the background.

And as they continue, we see the Cross Street end, where many an away fan would get soaked by the North Derbyshire rain, and laughed at by the home fans (“you’re getting wet, you’re getting wet, we’re not, we’re not” – oh the wit).

There’s very little of the Compton Street stand visible in the film, presumably because, with 1,000 or so bright blue plastic seats it was the most un-1970s-Derby-County of all the stands. It’s visible here behind Clough as he argues (again) with Longson. I assume they covered the seats with a bit of grey tarpaulin to achieve some kind of non-descript terracing effect.

On the other side of the Main Stand is (oh… ‘was’. It breaks my heart to correct myself in that way) the main entrance to the club. Clough and his assistant Peter Taylor (second from the left, Timothy Spall) welcome three new signings to the club. The rusty corrugated iron with its paint peeling off was, again, not added for the benefit of filming.

Here’s a clearer view of the main entrance. CFC’s official club letterbox remains visible, at least in this photo (not taken from the film).

And finally, here’s a close-up of the press box, its surroundings painted green for the film (I’m not entirely sure why a section of the roof has been removed).

(Many thanks to the kind gentleman at DoingThe116 for the use of the photo of the press box, taken during a wander round the ground which he details in a wonderful, touching post here. And indeed, reading here, he appears to be more more of a Spireite than me. These posts are all in Dutch, so you might want to have the Google translation bar, or something similar, at the ready)

I was genuinely delighted when I heard that Saltergate would be used as a location in the film, meaning that a personally evocative, but to others obscure, part of my life would be immortalised. I didn’t know it at the time, but the choice of Saltergate would also come to mean that the savagely crushing realisation that my digital camera’s memory card had failed during the last ever match there (thereby forever losing the photos carefully taken from my own long-standing vantage point within the ground) was slightly eased.

Only slightly, mind. I’m still bloody upset about it.

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