Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Blogger Break

As some of my regulars are probably aware, I'm taking August as a posting Sabbatical. It isn't a European thing (many Countries seem to take August off) although I will be fitting in a holiday to Spain during the month. I'm particularly looking forward to a visit to Barcelona- I've had a fascination with the style of Antoni Gaudi since seeing photos of his works in my youth and I'm looking forward to taking the Kodak up the Basilica.

Thnking back over a hectic July, the highlight for me was the Dean Friedman Concert in Morley. I planned it really carefully so that the show would go well technically and theatrically. There was only one problem- the Turn was late for his sound check. Eventually, I prowled the perimeter of the building a couple of times and, standing looking expectant in Queen Street, an Estate car pulled up and a silver haired troubador wound the window down and said "Are you Ian?" I said I'd hop in and get him round to the back of the Town Hall (as it is all one way there) at which point I realised the Guy was practically living in the car, or certainly using it as a travelling Restaurant. He handed me a couple of boxes, scraped assorted detritus onto the floor & into the back then I eased in. (I'm sure his Jewish Mother would have disapproved- "My Son, the International singer/songwriter, brings disgrace on our family with his shitpit of a car!"). As we navigated the One Way system two thoughts suddenly struck me- he was touring all by himself- and he was having trouble with the gears. Flashback to Northern Telecom in the 80s, where it was Company Policy that all Company Cars had automatic gears as the Canadian Wives struggled with having to drive on the "wrong" side of the road and have to wiggle the wand of power and pedal of slippage as well.

Getting to the Venue, he opened the Boot to reveal a Guitar, a Ukelele, and a suitcase- full of CDs. We unloaded and he moved the car as he didn't want to risk the wrath of double yellow line guardians. As he drove off, another car pulled up on the lines and the Morley Mayor & Deputy got out- unworried about the Wardens.

He eventually reappeared and the sound check was surprisingly short as he only had accoustic instruments. We sorted out various details of the running order and he agreed to pop upstairs and visit the Mayor in her Parlour (which he thought sounded rather quaint) whilst I nipped home for tea.

Later on, we opened the doors and the expectant crowd arrived, although by 7:55pm Dean hadn't. Suddenly struck by a thought I nipped round to the side entrance, opened the crash doors- and there he was trying to work out how to get in. To preserve the theatricality, I took him the concealed route backstage (down into the smaller Morleian Hall and through the platform doors) rather than through the audience. I showed him his Dressing Room (labelled Ladies Chorus, the Mens Chorus also led to the Custodian Office so there was the possibility of passing traffic in that one) and left him to prepare, limbering up his vocal chords with some type of Yiddish chant and giving him a chance to put his showbiz togs on (a change of shirt!). At 8:05pm I went down to call beginners please
and he said that if I wanted to introduce him that would be fine. That caught me out slightly, as my mate Lincoln had joked that he wanted to make the offstage announcement & big build up before he found he couldn't get a pass out but if I'd thought about it I would have arranged for a Mic in the Wings. Anyway, I switched off the house lights, faded up the PAR Cans to 6, nipped on to an expectant silence and made my entirely unscripted announcement for posterity:

"Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Morley. Sorry we don't have a Bar but we have some cans at the back for the interval which will be 15 minutes. Anyway, enough from me, lets have a big cheer for the main man: Dean Friedman!!!" Cue applause and cheering...

Scurrying back, he gave me a warm smile and a twinkle as he walked on and I returned to the Wings to give him the Cans at 10. Wow! I thought, it is finally here, Dean is playing Morley and the crowd love him already. Finally, I can enjoy the show!

Anyway, I'm going to enjoy August because I can devote time to the other important thing in my life- my family. I'll still be around keeping an eye on other Blogpower blogs and my other regular haunts but I won't feel the need to come up with postings. Instead, I'll mentally file away any experiences and thoughts, hopefully returning energised in September.

Shades of Grey won't be Tumbleweed though- a number of Blogpower Bloggers have agreed to put some posts up in my absence and I look forward to seeing what has appeared on my return. This is what I see as the spirit of Blogpower, it wouldn't even have occurred to me six months ago, or have a happy band to call on.

Bye for now.

Guest posters, start your engines...

Cinema Ephemera

This is something rather unusual. Fred Fullerton used to be the Chief at the Empire Leicester Square and he had a passion for presentation. About twenty years ago I visited the Empire to see their new laser show that preceded the feature. It had three variants and we were treated to all three. Fred has documented it along the way on a YouTube video which you can watch below. (You also get to see his cat!)

The current Empire was a rebuild of an old theatre and was an early conversion with a Club in the Stalls area. What you can't see from this is that the Empire had three colour neon cove lighting in the auditorium and that was also controlled as part of the show. The contour curtain was something special, the only other place I knew had one was the Talk of the Town and Radio City Music Hall (New York). You get to see it rise during the third laser routine. Also look closely at the canopy above- it was fitted with twinkling fibre optics.

Photo from Cinephoto.uk, lots more at the other end of the link.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Finding life hard?

Liz, this is especially for you. I stumbled across it tonight looking of something else and I hope you enjoy it. A lovely song and a few words from your favourite book ;-)

Militant charity shops?

We went round Morley's Charity Shops at the weekend, Karen looking for clothes, David looking for Annuals, me looking for Media (books, CDs, DVDs, Singles etc.).

Morley is well served by Charity shops, there being at least half a dozen, both national and local. Some retailers, however, have expressed annoyance to me on occasions, as some of them sell certain new goods in semi-direct competition (items like cards, flowers and branded goods). When I have pointed out that competition is healthy, they generally grouse that the shops don't pay business rates so their cost base is much lower. (They don't have to pay most of the assistants either as they are volunteers but the retailers don't have an answer for that).

Shopping in charity shops is normally a benign experience but I have noticed two trends that I don't really like. The first one is social- shoplifting seems to be a problem in charity shops as well as everywhere else and many of the changing rooms have implemented systems for tracking the number of items in and out. (All shoplifting is wrong of course but robbing a charitable concern seems particularly low, it is not as though the prices are high, except in perhaps Harrogate).

The other one is the in your face approach some charities seem to adopt to fund raising and campaigning. Many of the shops were actively encouraging Gift Aid and I hate to think what army of volunteers and Civil Servants are kept busy validating my 99p video.

I recently joined Diabetes UK and the week after I sent off a cheque for £400 in fund raising I was called by a "TeleChugger" (made up word, but it fits the bill) who tried very hard to persuade me to sign up to small ongoing Direct Debit payments. I'm made of sterner stuff to get suckered by cold callers but I imagine lots of people would feel pressurised into agreeing to it as a few quid a month doesn't sound much and after all, they are a charidee...

Britain used to have a great tradition of charitable giving from all social levels (most of the NHS started off as charitable organisations) but the Welfare State kicked the soul out of it. We still have some outstanding organisations like the RNLI who still do what they say on the tin, but some others seem more intent on getting money from the Government for their work or indeed campaigning at the trough of state influence through the relentless process of scope creep from the founding fathers' visions.

Speaking of Scope (with a capital S, formerly the Spastic Society), their shop had huge posters about their "Time to get equal" campaign, which I think has actually been and gone, at least the week of action has. It also had many signs decrying something they call disablism. (I had to look it up, I'd not heard of it before). Something felt not right about this, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Getting my head round it afterwards with a trawl around on the web pulled up a good article by Tom Shakespeare on the BBC Disability website- Ouch! which voiced and reflected my concerns. The campaign actually makes much more interesting reading than the hectoring tone of the shop slogans. Maybe it is because we are British- we don't want our Churches making a fuss, and perhaps we don't like our charities doing it either! Is polite indifference no longer acceptable, do we have to care about everything?

There are a massive number of different disabilities and no one person can realistically grasp the specific needs that an individual has without making assumptions, frequently wrong ones! The person who I knew the best with a serious disability was my Father who was mostly wheelchair bound in the last five years of his life. he was, however, strongly against compulsion in the need to make everywhere retrospectively "disabled friendly", regarding it as a socialist plot to put small businesses out of business and get everyone working in the public sector. (He had seen Reds in the Bed everywhere throughout my formative years!) I have always had the view that it makes good business sense to make any enterprise as accessible as possible to customers and that people should be hired for what they can do, not what they are.
The only type of "ism" I approve of has the word "individual" in front of it...

Escaping the ordinary

Bradford STIR was a four day event taking place this weekend and we briefly touched on it in our travels. As we passed through the main square, a silent rave was taking place, people dancing to apparently nothing.
They all had headphones and were listening to BCB Radio, the music being mixed from the milk float in front of the town hall.

A number of these strange structures were scattered around. They had been a former art installation along the length of the M62 at motorway service stations. Visitors could write a message onto thin metal sheet and tie them on with a ribbon to form a shrine to anything anyone wanted it to be. This one was near a number of art stands near the former police station where lots of interesting works were on display and could be bought.

Lots of curious things were going on in the St. Georges Hall scattered all round the building. The event was called 12 squared and it was to turn into a Gig in the evening. I snapped a shot of the ceiling on long exposure under various wiggly lights. (It might have been an installation, but it looked pretty standard fare to me, not doing anything particularly innovative)

In the Circle Bar, I found Being 747 performing Amoeba TO Zebra. It was too loud for David so I didn't have time to work out if it was good, clever or just cak. (The introductory video & spiel sounded a bit pretentious but it could have been irony, they seem to get good reviews).
Meanwhile, the hug the Odeon event has been airbrushed from history, all the chalked messages of support have been painted out. All of the canopies have been cut off and the large signograph structure has also been dismantled. (Good job really, it was becoming a hazard). The building is now revealed looking what it was when it opened, other than that doorway cut in below the upper windows so the projectionists could change the fluorescent tubes. There is a bit of a tide mark, though!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Bradford's Media Museum

Interested in historic TV & animation?


Wallace & Gromit

Zippy & Bungle

Jemimah, Hambel, Humpty, Big & little Ted

Gordon the Gofer!
Ever fancied reading the news?
Ever wondered how they project Harry Potter in IMAX?

Ever wanted to appear with the Teletubbies?

Or on Coronation Street?

Ever wondered how they filmed The wrong Trousers?
Or just want to chuckle at wierd and wonderful old tellys?

(I think Jason King had the round white one in his groovy pad).

I had one of those Philips V2000s! It looks huge now!
The Bradford National Media Museum is a fascinating day out and it is free! Lots of stuff about photography too. As recommended by the Greys...

Have you seem my Rs?

As seen in Bradford yesterday for an Arts event.

This got me to thinking about a Saturday job I had in my mid teens working at a Garage in Newcastle, cleaning out trade-in vans. My dad worked there and it was a Ford main dealer. There was a new product launch of a range of light trucks, known as the "A series". To support this, seven huge boxes arrived, which when unpacked, were found to contain huge white polypropylene letters spelling "A series". Once the sales Manager had gone home, however, they were re-arranged in the showroom window to spell "Arses".

After five minutes or so and getting lots of car horn toots, we put them back. I wonder if anyone ever took a photo?

Getting more hairy

Six weeks since I cropped my locks. It just looks like a rather short haircut now at about 2cm all over, except the top front and temples where is a bit thinner (and had been for a while but the longer hair concealed it somewhat). It changed from a hedgehog look at about four weeks, where it started lying on the head rather than sticking out of it. It doesn't appear to be any greyer than previously so I mustn't have frightened it too much after the recent trauma.

I will be taking a blogging break during August, returning with a vengeance in September. In the meantime, I have lined up a number of top quality bloggers from Blogpower to guest here so that it does not become too much of a tumbleweed gulch.

Going to the Dogs...

We went to see the Greyhound racing last night. It was held at Kinsley Stadium, Kinsley being a small village between Wakefield and Doncaster, classed as being near Pontefract. It is a fairly small stadium, without Stands as such but holding 3000 spectators. There are two large buildings housing a Restaurant, Cafe, Bars and Tote windows. A large shed-like structure encloses the Bookies area and the outdoor tote office. There appears to be a lot of construction work in progress although it is too early to be able to work out what is coming.

The last time I went to the Dogs was in Slough back in the late 80's. It was actually Saturday 21st March 1987, as it was their closing night. I enjoyed the evening with good company, although the races seemed to be rather short! Karen used to go to Belle-Vue Dogs as a St. Johns Ambulance First Aider and she much preferred the Dogs to stock cars or speedway.

The event is promoted as a great day for a family outing, although as it revolves around eating, drinking, smoking and betting, this is slightly questionable- they don't even appear to have a Children's menu. Despite this, however, David had a great time, particularly as he befriended a number of Grannies, offering them Chips and being offered prawns in return.

Betting is the raison d'etre for most visitors. There are two approaches to this- Tote or Bookmakers. The Tote works on the basis of a lottery- all the money goes into a pot (after a cream-off, of course!) and is redistributed to the winners in proportion to the stakes and combinations. On this basis, the punter has no idea how much he will win until it is declared. This is known as Totaliser, or Parimutuel Gambling.

The Bookmaker, however, gives fixed odds at the time of the bet so the punter knows how much they might win if their dog comes in. It is fascinating to watch the bookies in action and how much they collaborate. The systems may be manual or high-tech but it is simple enough- you pay them, call your dog and get a ticket, with the odds being transcribed into the book.

Odds never got above 3:1 last night for the first six races and went down to 5:3, the other common variants being 2:1 and 5:2. The bookies didn't put up the odds until a few minutes before the race so a small crowd of expectant punters (including me) hung around to find the best odds. Three of the Bookies had a minimum bet of £5 so I stuck to the Tote when I couldn't read the form too well.

Each race follows a time honoured ritual. The six dogs are brought out acros the oval sand filled track with individual handlers and are paraded whilst announced. The starting numbers are pre-ordained and the colours worn to reflect which trap they will go in. The dogs are then led down the course to the starting traps, mostly muzzled (and some stopping on the way for a call of nature). The course has two sets of starting traps, a regular (465m) race being a straight and a lap. The main trap box is to the left of the stand, the finishing line to the right. (For the longer 655m races, the second set of traps are used on the rar right of the oval). The dogs are loaded into the traps, the course official checks them then raises a signal paddle at which point a claxon sounds to acknowledge it and the dogs are under starters orders.

The electic hare starts up from the mid point of the left hand bend and scoots past the traps as the doors fly open and the dogs give chase.

The dogs whizz past in a blur and again down the home straight. Less than thirty seconds after the off, the winner crosses the line and it is all over. The dogs peter out on the opposite side of the course, the electric hare is covered (an Outside Swaffham McGee, apparently) and the lucky punters go to collect their winnings whilst the losers tear up their slips. Then it all repeats again fifteen minutes later for another twelve or so races, three times a week.

Greyhound Racing
has a devoted following and it is much cheaper to own a Greyhound than a Racehorse. However, the prizes for the owners are sub- £100 here so it is perhaps the Sport of Plumbers rather than the Sport of Kings. As animals are involved, there is inevitable contoversy about the well-being of the animals, although Kinsley stresses that it complies with all NGRC requirements and actively supports adoption of retired dogs.

Here is a race in full. It doesn't take long! How did I do? Won two, lost four, made slightly more than the admission price but not enough to pay for David's Sausage Roll & Chips.

The Dogs is unostentatiously working class, as is bingo. Some people get dressed up for a night out but many don't and nobody cares. The place has the feel of a working mens club and is a bit shabby but I prefer the honest feel of the place to the fake chic of a Casino. I enjoy the odd flutter and don't have any hangups about gambling- it is a mugs game, although some people seem to do better than others (& I'm not one of them, other than winning minor prizes in raffles). (Previous racing post here, (including a rude word!) and a bingo post here.) What generally puts me off is boredom- betting and playing bingo gets a bit tedious after a while.

Saturday, July 28, 2007


The final Policing post from the West Yorkshire Police Ops Support open day is the CBRN team. CBRN stands for Chemical, Biological Radiological and Nuclear. This is the team that responds to incidents that could be terrorist related, or possibly industrial accidents causing hazards. Their main role is for initial assessment at unknown substance incidents in conjunction with partner agencies (undefined, but presumably the Armed Forces and Agencies like the National Radiological Protection Board which became part of the Health Protection Agency in 2005. The team demonstrated a range of their equipment for detection and protection, including protection suits and gas masks.

Despite all the interesting stuff with dogs, horses, hi-tech gear & choppers, this is a reminder that it is all for a serious purpose and often ties in with violent behaviour, really horrible incidents and sometimes death. The Police need to be able to handle most things thrown at them, expected or otherwise.

The centre at carr Gate had lots of other teams dealing with motorway patrols, logistical support, a VIPs, collision investigation, motorbikes and even a wildlife officer. It is a little village with several buildings sprawled across the site and it is rare that the Public would get an opportunity to go there. The site had been earmarked for a new Force Headquarters building a few years back but all of the likely Force merger plans (that came to nothing) scuppered that.

No doubt all 43 Police Forces in England and Wales have similar arrangements to a greater or lesser extent (some Forces share Helicopters, for example). I found it re-assuring- I didn't feel that the facilities were ostentatious (far from it) or neglected, giving us good value from taxpayer money. If you need to do a job, best to do it properly.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Dive... dive... dive...

The Police underwater search unit are used whenever water is involved, whether searching in boats or diving for search & recovery of victims or evidence. At the Carr Gate open day, they had their large incident support van, some canoes and a large container tank with viewing windows (hired in, presumably they have other training facilities that are not so eye catching to the Public. Officers are selected with a one week suitability course then an eight week national diving course.
Looking into the tank (which had a number of fake knives and pistols in it), the submersible camera swung round and came to the window and faced me. I waved and it flashed its lights back at me! It was capable of very delicate movement and had a claw arrangement at the front, although it proved not very adept at picking things up and needed a bit of help from the diver.

Looking in the support van, we found the mini-sub operator. The picture on the control box screen was very clear and sharp indeed, although in murky water I imagine it is a bit harder to see, especially as the thrusters will shake up the sludge on the bottom.

I'm always interested in the minutae of other jobs and seeing these storage bins, I was curious to know what strops are. (I thought it was something that you did with a razor blade on a leather thing, or something that people throw when they are very grumpy. It turns out it is a type of Lanyard).
Here is a demo of using a lifting bag, notice the mini-sub camera mooching round in the background.

Armed and extremely dangerous...

At the Police Open Day at Carr Gate, members of the Firearms Support Unit were on hand to show us their equipment, let us hold them and ask questions. Needless to say, most of the audience were boys. The Officers showed us their protective wear, including flak jackets with removable ceramic inserts for absorbing the impact of high velocity rounds. They also had baton rounds, also known as "rubber bullets", although they are generally made of plastic. I've seen them before but they are surprisingly large, blunt and apparently painful. (If used incorrectly they can be lethal).

In order to become a Firearms Officer the Police have to undertake intensive and vigorous training and the use of weapons is always regarded as a last resort. Police don't shoot to kill, they shoot to stop- aiming for the central body mass. (Of course, that can be lethal if vital organs are damaged. Someone asked about shooting people in the legs but the reply was that it was hard to hit people in the legs, you had to be a very good shot.) They had two types of weapons on show, a Glock pistol made in Austria and the short semi-automatic gun that had the legend "for law enforcement/ military use only" engraved in the side. (That'll frighten off the criminals).
Interestingly, the weaponry on show varied when we walked past as it had to be locked in the Police Car Safes when the assigned Officers were on breaks. Two other more mundane items were also part of the armoury- an immediate method of entry door buster (a sort of in-line hammer/battering ram) and an extensive first aid kit. No bullets were in evidence other than the baton round, although paint balling was happening nearby. What was creating some interest, however, was the Taser. (According to Wikipedia, Taser stands for Thomas A Swift's Electric Rifle, follow the link to see why). The tazer looked a bit like a toy but the Officer assured me that it was the most horrible experience you could have in life. He had received it once in training and he had no desire to do it again. To use it, a clip on disposible blue box is fitted and when triggered, it fires two tiny barbs which drag tiny filament wires behind them. When they make contact, a very high voltage (about 30,000 Volts but a very small current) temporarily disables the victim. The BBC have a video of the Chief Constable of Manchester agreeing to be tasered in 2005, you can watch it here. With the cartridge off, the officer demonstrated firing the weapon and large sparks jumped between the terminals. The advice from New Scientist to avoid getting tasered is to wear medieval armour, although they haven't tried it!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Keith Emerson's Piano

Pure Rock Theatre...

I don't think we had the budget to do this with Dean Friedman at Morley Town Hall...

Every cloud has a silver lining

We had some sporadic torrential rain today, delaying David's return from a trip out to Sundown, (a place worth a blog in its own right) when the wipers packed in on the double-decker bus. After an early evening storm I was delighted to see this magnificent rainbow, the vividness of the colours not entirely carrying across to the digital camera.

Whilst I watched, the main rainbow disappeared whilst the final bit leading to the crock of gold (somewhere in East Ardsley) grew even more vivid vibrance and the white fluffy cloud grew ever brighter.
Then the colours saturated, the view pixelated and started pulsating as the acid contaminating the Morley water supply kicked in.

(OK, I made that last bit up...)

Four legs good, six legs better...

The Police Mounted section provides a strong tactical option during outbreaks of disorder, potential or actual. They are regularly used at football matches and assisting with searches over large areas.

The riders have a 16 week basic course and get regular refreshers on public order training. Surprisingly, the riders don't need to have any previous riding experience. Everyone is allocated a specific horse but will ride and care for all of the horses.

At Carr Gate, there are a number of stables arranged in a U shape around a curious circular structure which appeared to be the horse version of a hamster wheel. In it, a number of horses could be seperated into curved corridors in the quadrants and the innards appeared to be able to rotate. I forgot to ask what it was for but I imagine it is to get the horses used to noisy jeering crowds without anyone getting harmed.
The courtyard also leads off into a large training arena and seeing the soft soil I immediately thought of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show at Disneyland Paris, despite it being outdoors without a roof, seating, lighting or Red Indians.

We were able to watch a training exercise where the horses trotted around the ring and the front one would veer off to join the rear. (The Horses have to overcome the urge to follow the leader when this happens). A more complex arrangement of going down the centre and then alternately turning left and right was also carried out.

The Tack rooms were less shiny than some, being working horses rather than show horses. (No polished brasses, but the horses do wear the West Yorkshire Police emblem below their necks and some pendants were evident on the walls). Each one was named with a white board on the stable door for any special instructions (mostly about damping down the feed). Police Horse boxes are very large, the size of furniture vans. We saw at least three, one you could look in and two others parked in a side street.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

colourless food

I recently bought some ice pops at ASDA, two boxes of twenty for £2. In the UK, an ice pop is a tube of flavoured ice sealed into a plastic (originally waxed paper) tube. It is not a Popsicle, we call them ice lollies if it has a stick. (My favourite childhood one was the Jubbly, now available again).

The odd thing about these ice pops (or freeze pops, as some makers call them) was that they were not only sugar free, they were totally colour free as well. They tasted normal (they certainly were not flavour free) but they took a bit of getting used to.

This took me back to when I was about Fifteen and took part in the Newcastle University Theatre Young People's Festival. I was on a 10 day sabbattical from school to attend the theatre as part of the technical team. Every morning there was a show called "Betty in Bodgerland" which featured a large pedestrian operated milk float as the Bodgermobile. (Bodgerland was a pun on the then Artistic Director, Michael Bogdanov (who courts controversy on occasions). During the run, I got to operate the lighting desk for most of the shows, a Strand Electric Three Preset SP80 similar to this one. Whilst it was a manually operated desk, the cues had been created in such a way that it could be done using the six master faders in combination without needing to reset any individual faders.

What has all this got to do with colourless ice pops, I hear you ask? Well, before every Betty show, a performance artist blew up a number of interestingly shaped inflatables on the nearby lawn for the kids to have fun with. (Having fun extended to the little horrors trying to push one over railings onto a crowd of other children at a lower level, it took all of us to pull it back from the brink). This performance artist was also interested in doing unusual Banquets as art installations. Using food colourings, he would dye the eggs purple, the mash green, the bread orange and the chicken blue. He'd then let the Public loose who would tentatively nibble then eventually eat with gusto once they overcame the strangeness. I never saw one but read about it.

Strange, the odd things that float around in the recesses of the mind waiting to be unearthed.

One other thing I recall about the Theatre Festival- there was this huge green soft toy snake that must have been 20' long and 15" diameter. It kept appearing in unusual places- in the Auditorium Bar behind the counter, inside the Director's Office, hanging outside the Theatre suspended from the roof. The guilty party consisted of Laurence Southon (Technical Manager, who had all the keys)... and everyone else!

Is that a cyclic stick in your hand or are you just pleased to see me?

To fly a helicopter, it is necessary to manipulate the collective control stick (or handbrake), cyclic control stick (gearstick) and tail rotor pedals (clutch and accelerator). In order to hover motionless, it is necessary to keep all three sets of controls moving in an incoherent fashion. Once you get your head round that, the rest is easy...
This is the Humberside Chopper, the West Yorkshire one not being at Carr Gate for some reason. From this angle, it looks rather sinister, the instrument tubes looking somewhat like weaponry. The slogan "Protect, Help, Reassure" seems to conflict with the militaristic feel.

A longer range shot shows the helicopter to look a lot less threatening. Notice that there is not a tail rotor, this is known as a NOTAR design.

The compound was temporarily closed to visitors due to incoming Aircraft. This turned out to be the Yorkshire Air Ambulance, which is stationed at Carr Gate. (The Charity is in the process of obtaining a second Helicopter to be stationed in South Yorkshire).
Up close the air ambulance is festooned with sponsor organisation logos, including a Square and Compasses of the Yorkshire Freemasons below the exhaust. It seems that the small boy on the step was in need of some genuine first aid as he was being bandaged as we walked past. The Charity needs all the money it can get- according to the Website it costs them £6,900 every day to keep the Helicopters flying and it is funded by mostly voluntary contributions, not the NHS.
The Police Helicopter took off and landed very neatly onto this trailer platform, presumably to be able to stow it in the nearby Hangar. My eye was caught by the searchlight assembly which is used to track suspects at night, it being remote controlled for pan and tilt.
A look at the rating plate showed it to be rated at 1600 Watts- being a discharge lamp this is about the equivalent of about 6,000 Watts of regular lighting, tightly focussed into a near-parallel beam.

The Force Helicopter is looked after by the Air Operations Unit and it is manned by 24 hour shift based a crew of three, the Pilot and two Police observers, one of whom sits in the front to communicate to the Pilot and the other in the back to work the cameras & equipment. They can record normal and infra-red (thermal) cameras with recording both on the aircraft and by a downlink to the ground when required.

Other unexpected items of equipment are a vehicle tracker monitor, a full length stretcher, a siren and PA speakers. It is used for searches, suspect pursuit and crowd control. It can fly for 90 minutes at a time and is only ten minutes away from everywhere in West Yorkshire. The Police seem a little coy about the specifications but it seems that it can fly at up to 175 MPH. The Police have taken the trouble to create a pair of quicktime views, here and here.

We hear the helicopters fairly regularly and even occasionally see them at night with searchlights on. Apparently the NOTAR design makes them much quieter than regular non-fixed wing aircraft, but it doesn't feel it at 2am! It was reassuring, however, to actually see them, know what they are used for and talk to the people that make it happen. These mechanical bumble-bees cost more than 3 Million Pounds to buy but the Police presumably make a good case to Local and National Government as to why their Forces need them. This Pilot's Forum makes interesting reading, ever wondered how Rotorheads land on a lighthouse?