Diodes and semiconductors

Understanding resistance, resistivity and conductivity

Electrical resistance is a measure of an objects opposition to the electron movements that constitute a current flow. It is related to the atomic particle structure of the object but also to its area and length. Resistivity and its inverse conductivity are measures of that part of resistance which is entirely related to particle structure and therefore are fixed for each type of structure.

A voltage across an object provides a surplus of electrons at one pole on the object and a deficit of electrons at another. The surplus electrons produce photon pressures that encourage the least bound outer electrons of the object structure to move away. The deficit produces locations (holes) in the structure that desire electrons and their photon energy gathering capabilities. Energy stable structures have strong holds on their outer electrons and so have high resistivity. Energy structures that have little hold on their outer electrons have low resistivity and good conductivity. Silver, copper and aluminium are good conductors.

Resistance is related to structure length because the voltage pressures are trying to set in motion outer electrons and they in turn are trying to set in motion other outer electrons along the length of the object.

A conductor’s area provides a multitude of pathways along which outer electrons can move. For larger areas the voltage pressures on electrons are more spread and the least held outer electrons are the ones that move. To get the same current flow through a smaller conductor we have to increase voltage and push harder. Measured resistance is increased.

Harder and more concentrated pushes mean the displaced electrons leave with more speed. When those speeding electrons are attracted to new atom homes high photon energies are exchanged so as make their motions appropriate to their new environment. When these photon energy releases are high in relation to the particle numbers they might overcome those particle photon energy links and destroy the structure. We deliberately arrange for this to happen in fuses when its rating is exceeded.

Silicon and germanium as semi conductors

In the periodic table of elements both silicon and germanium atoms have four outer electrons.  Their atoms come together in energy saving arrangements in which they share their 4 outer valence electrons covalently with 4 neighbouring atom. Such structures are energy stable and will not easily part with their outer electrons. They have resistivity millions of times that of good conductors yet millions of times lower than insulating structures like rubber, air and quartz. They are semi conductors.

We can upset the energy linked structures by doping them with small quantities of other elements. The doping elements boron, aluminium and gallium have only 3 outer valence electrons and semi conductor material doped with them is termed p type material. Such material desires electrons to improve its energy stability. Doping with phosphorous, arsenic and antimony with their 5 outer valence electrons makes for an n type material willing to part with electrons to improve its energy state. In both cases the level of doping lowers the material making it much nearer that of good conductors.

Diodes and depletion zones.

When we bring together p type and n type materials as in the diagram the electron desiring p type materials take from the n type materials some of their surplus electrons creating a depletion zone. Structures created in that depletion zone are more energy efficient and highly preferred by the structure. They build a resistance to the changes that the doping levels are pushing for and so the established depletion zone width is a function of the doping levels.

Suppose we now apply a voltage across this p n diode junction as in the diagram left.  Our voltage is pressuring electrons to move into the n material and encouraging electrons to move out of the p material. However the depletion zone wants to stay as it is and it takes about 0.7 volts of pressure (the forward voltage) to get current to flow in a silicon diode from p to n.

There is a limit to the current a diode can pass. As with our fuse the heat produced by electron photon emissions can destroy a diode. However, unlike the fuse, the level of doping is what creates more electron pathways and increases the diodes current rating.

If we reverse the voltage supply on the above diode we push electrons into the p material and pull electrons out of the n type material. Both actions extend the energy saving depletion zone structures making for a larger and more highly resisting depletion zone seriously limiting any reverse current flow. However if this reverse voltage is higher than the manufacturer’s peak inverse voltage, a breakdown current will flow via limited pathways which is usually destructive of the diode.

Zener diodes have highly doped structures that are designed to breakdown at a specific reverse voltage. The high levels of doping provide many pathways for good conduction at and above this zener voltage and so avoid damage to its structure.  The breakdown voltage of zeners can be as low as 2.4 volts and as high as 200 volts. When source voltages are above the zener voltage, current flows. The flow lowers the source voltage and so the diode switches to off which raises the supply voltage.  This on/off switching of a zener at the zener voltage makes it a useful device in voltage regulation.

Light receiving photo diodes and light emitting diodes (LED’s).

We explained above how putting a reverse voltage on a diode extended its depletion zone and how the energy stability of that depletion zone offered a high resistance to any further current flow; it acted as a current blocker. Suppose we now make a diode so that photons of light energy can get through to its depletion zone materials and apply to that diode a reverse voltage .

The diode won’t conduct until many photons of light energy land on its depletion zone. Such photons remove electrons from their desired homes and being no longer firmly held by a specific atom they are influenced by the photon pressures of the diode supply voltage. The result is that these electrons drift in the p to n direction between atomic structures and in so doing influence other electrons in the circuit causing a current flow. We have a photo diode in which light causes a current flow.

LED lights generally use aluminium gallium arsenide as the doped semi conductor material. As for a forward biased silicon or germanium diode the depletion zone is overcome and current flows when the forward bias voltage is exceeded.  However outer electrons in the doped aluminium gallium arsenide are held onto more strongly than those of doped silicon or germanium. They require increased photon energies to set them in motion and carry higher energies which they release, on engaging with an atom, as the higher energy photons of visible light. By changing the characteristics of such diodes we can get them to emit specific colours of visible light, infra red light or ultra violet light.

Rubik group method

This method is born out of mathematical group theory. In it we first nominate top, front and left cube face colours and regard their opposite face colours as part of the same group. The solution is in stages and algorithms (move sequences) are provided for some stages.

In what follows TB is our reference to top and bottom faces, FK to front and back faces and LR to left and right faces. Clockwise turns to Front, Back, Right, Left, Top and Bottom faces use capital letters F, K, R, L, T and B and anti clockwise turns to those faces use non capitals f, k, r, l, t and b.

Stage 1: Prepare edge blocks : This stage seeks to have all top or bottom edge block colours either on a TB face or on the mid layer of an LR face and all front and back edge block colours on a FK face or on the top/bottom layers of the LR face.
One 90 degree turn of an LR face will correct 4 non complying edge blocks, so the objective is to move 4 such edge blocks to one LR face without using any 90 degree turns of an LR face and then to turn that LR face through 90 degrees so as to have those four non compliant blocks comply.

If you have a situation where only two blocks do not comply position just one of them on an LR face and rotate it 90 degrees. That move will make that one block right but three others wrong. Replace the righted block on that face with the other non complying block and turn the LR face again 90 degrees to correct the now four wrong blocks. 

As an example the cube shown has four blocks in need of correction. Two are opposite one another on the top face. If we turn the front face anti clockwise and the back face clockwise these two blocks are opposite one another on the vertical edges of the left face.

In doing the above we moved the white blue edge block to the back bottom position and therefore by turning the bottom face clockwise we can position it in the left bottom position. Now we turn the top face 180 degrees to place the yellow orange block at the left top position. We now have the situation illustrated and can correct all four blocks by turning the left face 90 degrees.

Stage 2: Position all TB edge blocks on TB faces: Doing this we must avoid 90 degree LR face turns.
First establish three TB edge faces on both of the TB faces. Maintain these triples whilst positioning the two other TB edge colours facing away from and opposite one another on the LR faces as shownas shown. Now do a 90 degree turn of the front face. on which the other 2 TB blocks are situated.

Important note: At stages 3, 4 and 5 below 90 degree turns are only allowed on TB faces except where using a stage algorithm

Stage 3: All TB face corner blocks to show a TB colour: Two algorithms are provided. To move TB corner colours facing front right bottom and facing left front top do algorithm r, B, L2, b, R. To move TB corner colours facing front left bottom and right front top do algorithm L, b, R2, B, l. If left with three corners to correct, locate two blocks as required but with one not facing as required.  Now do the appropriate algorithm. It will correct only one, leaving two blocks to correct as above. stage.

Stage 4:  Match TB corner colours with centre face colours: You can easily move pairs of corner blocks between top and bottom using 180 degree turns. If you are left with unpaired blocks top and bottom position the bottom block so that when you do a 180 degree turn of the face on which the lone top corner colour block resides it makes for a pair on the bottom face. Now you can manipulate that pair to the top face.  The illustration below shows TB faces at the end of this stage.       

Stage 5: Temporarily finalize all corner blocks: Two algorithms are provided. The first is r, F, r, K2, R, f, R. The second is R2, F2, R2.

Look at each of the FB and LR faces. You are looking to see if there are any corner block colour matches either on the top layer or on the bottom layer of those faces. The example shows 5 matches and e) below applies
a)  if no pairs match do the second algorithm.
b)  if one pair match position that pair top front and do the first algorithm.
c)  if two pairs match (one top layer, one bottom layer) put top pair at rear. Do the first algorithm and then proceed as for b) above.
d)  if all pairs match one layer and no pairs match on the other, turn the cube so that the matching  layer  is down and do the first algorithm. Now check the faces again and proceed as for a) or b) above.
e) If all pairs match one layer and one pair matches on the other layer. Put the one pair rear top and do the first algorithm then proceed as a).

You should now be able to turn faces so that all the corner blocks are in their final positions.

Important note: At stages 6, 7 and 8 avoid any 90 degree turns except when part of an algorithm

Stage 6: All FK and LR edge blocks to display their group colour: One algorithm is provided. b, L2, R2, T  will correct 4 bad edges at front top, back top, left bottom and right bottom. This algorithm will upset the corner situation achieved at stage 5 but they will be made correct again at stage 7.
Look for LR colours on a FK face and FK colours on a LR face. Correct four of them by first appropriately positioning them using 180 degree turns followed by the algorithm. When or if only two need correcting put them on the top layer and perform the algorithm. You now have four blocks in need of correction so proceed as for them. At the end of this stage all TB, FK and LR faces will have blocks that show their group colour.

Stage 7: All corners in final positions: Use 180 turns to finalize all corner blocks.

Stage 8: Finalize edges to complete the cube: At this stage any face can be identified as the front face, etc.

Two algorithms are provided. The first (F2, R2) x 3 (180 degree turns of front and right faces performed 3 times) will swap the positions of the front top and front bottom blocks as well as the positions of the right top and right bottom blocks. The second F2, L2, R2, K2, R2, L2  will swap the front top with the front bottom but also the back top with the back bottom. Note:  It may be necessary to do 180 degree or 90 degree turn(s) before doing an algorithm so as to suitably position blocks for the algorithm. If you do this you must reverse the order and direction of rotation of those turns as soon as you complete the algorithm.

If at some stage there are just 3 blocks to correct use the algorithm to swap a pair of them and correct one block whilst also swapping another pair that are correct. Now we have four blocks to correct and one algorithm should correct these if you do the appropriate preparatory move undoing it after performing the algorithm.

In the example shown it is best to first tackle the blocks that are doubly wrong. I would swap the green and blue faces along with another pair that need swapping. By turning the top face through 90 degrees and regarding it as the right face with the blue as the front face we can do the first algorithm and finalise one pair. Don’t forget to undo the 90 degree turn. Now we have four pair of blocks that want simple swaps. Use the algorithms as required doing and then undoing any preparatory turns required to enable the algorithms to work.

About our ancestors

My brothers and I were given the surname Simpson because my dad had become known as Albert Simpson. His marriage certificate to our mother records him as “Albert Simpson otherwise Littlefair”. But he did not officially become Simpson until 1967 when we were all in our twenties. 

An unmarried Margaret Littlefair, aged 19, had given birth to dad in the November of 1915. She registered the birth some three month later giving her address as 44, Anchor Yard, New Elvet and her occupation as a Domestic Servant. Number 44 was a large communal dwelling where the King’s Gate Bridge now is; the 1901 census shows it housed some 47 people in 10 families. Margaret gave dad the name Albert Brown Littlefair.

Less than a month after registering dad’s birth Margaret married a John George Gill.  Dad’s half sister Elsie, in later years, told me she believed Mr Gill was dad’s father but I still wonder about the Brown in dad’s name. An R. Brown had resided at 44 Anchor Yard in 1914, the year World War 1 started. Was he dad’s father?  I have not traced him and he may have volunteered, as did over two million, in response to the Kitchener “Your country needs you” campaign before conscription started. Soon John George Gill was in the Durham Light Infantry and killed in the war in its final year, 2018. His grave is in St. Oswald’s church yard.

Margaret, Dad and Scotty

Margaret Gill, a widow became Margaret Simpson when she married Alfred Simpson (Scotty) in 1920. Dad, at this time aged 5 came to be known as Albert Simpson. I believe he attended St Margaret’s School in Crossgate because he spoke of a teacher called Tommy Bar there who meted out much punishment.

In the August of 1938 when dad was 22 and a barman he married our mother, Ruby Gladys Wells, a Gown Store Assistant aged 23 and living at Nova Lima, Moor Edge. Earlier, in this same year, dad’s mother Margaret had died aged 42 at 87 Elvet Bridge. Dad had been there in 1937 but his marriage certificate of 1938 shows him as residing on the market place end of Elvet Bridge at number 47.

Though we have none of Scotty’s genes we do bear his name. He had been born in 1897 at Partick in Lanarkshire, soon to become part of the growing Glasgow. His father worked in a Clyde shipyard and he joined him there but was soon conscripted into the army as a driver in the Royal Field Artillery. They operated lighter more mobile guns, like howitsers and mortars and moved in close support of infantry. Scotty would drive the transport that kept the guns and their operators in close positions. However,it is almost certain that the transport he drove was horse drawn because first world war guns were nearly all pulled by teams of horses.

Later when we were boys, Scotty was a bookies runner operating in Durham Market Place and always on the look out for police because such activities were illegal. He worked for a bookie Teddy O’Neil who had premises in the lane joining mid Silver Street to Moat Side Lane, that runs around the castle. I would sometimes put bets on for dad there, using his non de plume (no real names given) Scott X1

Dad’s mother”s parents were a Ralph Littlefair and an American Mary Ann Turnbull, known as Polly. They resided at Daisy Hill, near Sacriston and later had a small holding at Nettlesworth. Ralph, like his father Ralph, had worked as a miner but became a cartman and horse dealer. His oldest brother William had been a cartman but then bought a Wheatley Green Farm and later a second and larger East Edmondsley Farm. Farmer William and his wife, also Margaret, had given birth to their fourth son Albert in 1895, the year before dad’s mother Margaret was born. My guess is Margaret and Albert, at near the same age spent a lot of their growing years together. It is almost certainly why Margaret named dad Albert.

Mam’s mother and father were Jessie Pook and William Maurice Wells. My mother was their second child and born in London’s Hammersmith, near Shepherd’s Bush. They moved to the North East and had three more children but were not married and did not get married until 1934, two years before William died. That marriage was at the Durham Registry office and witnessed by strangers. It is most likely that mother and her siblings never knew they were born out of wedlock.

Maurice William Wells had been a telegraphist before the age of 18. He then signed on for 12 years with the Household Cavalry at their Hyde Park Barracks where he was assigned to the Royal Horse Guards, otherwise known as the “Blues”. His rank was that of Trooper which unlike lowest ranks in other services was seen as that of a a gentleman. No rank of sergeant (servant) in the “blues”.

Nearly three years later Queen Victoria granted permission for members of her Cavalry to fight in the Boer War. So, for 14 months Maurice was fighting in South Africa against the Boers (descendants of Dutch settlers). The Boers were non uniformed farmers resisting British control of their Transvaal state. They had grown up with rifles and horses and so were proficient marksmen and horsemen and did not use conventional war tactics. Not only were the troops fighting the Boers but they were poorly fed and in conditions where high numbers succumbed to disease.

After the war and back in London Trooper Wells would have been on parade at Queen Victoria’s funeral early 1901. Later that same year he was discharged from the Horse Guards and we can only guess that he worked in the electrical industry because 12 to 13 years later he is describing himself as an electrician.

Back in the 1861 census, Jessie Pook’s father to be John Francis Pook, was at 13 years of age apprenticed to a green grocer. He was a lodger at the green grocers in Bath. His father was a Butler in a house at Bath and his mother was a resident in the Bath Workhouse. At 22 years of age John Francis is in London and working as a green grocer assistant when he marries a grocer’s daughter Eliza Dennis. At the time of Jessie’s birth he is an oilman, selling lamp oils, etc and employing others. When Jessie is 7 he dies aged a mere 37.

Though left with children Eliza would manage because her father and brothers were nearby to give support. Eliza’s dad Reuben Dennis had kept cows near Marylebone, now at the heart of London. The Dennis family later owned multiple properties including green grocers, master butchers, an oil business, tailors, a fruiterers for the gentry and several top class hotels including the Rose at Hatton Garden that they rebuilt. One of Eliza’s brothers was Mayor of Marylebone, another a building society director.

When Jessie was 11 her mother married a tailor’s shop-man and widower James Hemming, who had children of his own to support. A tailoring business followed in which the older children participated. Later the now Hemmings owned a 12 bedroom “Prince of Wales” pub in St Pancras,
shown in the photograph as a Japanese restaurant. Jessie at the age of 23 worked as a barmaid in that pub.

Jessie and her two older sisters moved in high society. Her oldest sister married a barrister to be. Her slightly older sister Nora married a Septimus Sydney Wilkins Horncastle and had three children by him Harold, Sydney and John. Jessie must have been close to Nora because two of Jessie’s later family were named after these boys.

Septimus, aided by family, seems to have done a runner to America under the name of Jack Williams. Nora followed by boat giving her name as a Mrs Jack Williams. She gave incorrect ages for her sons but correctly listed her mother Eliza as her next of kin. She says she is bound for Elmendorf Farm racing stables at Lexington in Kentucky. I speculate that they were not going there and that Septimus had fled to America, being threatened for gambling debts. At this time Jessie is 32, has left the pub and is at Bexhill on sea, near Hastings, where other Pooks reside. Here she is working in a care home for the well off.

When nearly 37 years old Jessie has a son to Maurice William Wells at Kensington. They call him John William (Jack) and just over a year later in the April of 1915 they have a daughter and our mother to be Ruby Gladys at North Hammersmith, London.

In 1916 war conscription started and although William was a low priority at 37 years of age and married he would know the realities of war. He would know he could be called up and I suspect his move north to Gateshead and his becoming an electrician in William Armstrong’s Elswick essential armaments factory was his way of avoiding conscription.

Maurice William, with Ruby (left) and Maude (right) at Office Street, Browney Colliery.

When Jessie is nearly 40 Sydney is born near Lobley Hill, Gateshead. A year later Maude is born near the Swallwell Road and a year after that a James is born at Newcastle

At Newcastle, William probably no longer worked in armaments and he and Jessie would have 5 children, the oldest of which (Jack) would be just over 5 years old.

Next the family moved to Browney Colliery near Durham where they resided in Office Street and where William worked as a Foreman Electrician. There, in 1932 when mother was just 17 her youngest brother James died. He was just 13.

We can trace our Pook ancestry back to 1822 at Tiverton in Devon, our Dennis/Pook ancestry back to 1799 at St. Pancras, our Wells ancestry back to 1815 at East Meon in Hampshire and our Gibson (William Wells mother) ancestry back to 1816 at Mortlake in Surrey. We can trace our Littlefair ancestry back to 1641.

Littlefair as a surname originated in Durham and spread from there. Like all worldwide Littlefair ancesties we trace ours back to a marriage in 1641 of a Thomas Littlefaire to a Dorathie Sigsworth at Gateshead. We know not why but some 12 years later Dorathie took her sons Ralph Littlefair aged 3 and Edward aged 1 to an area at Hamsterley/Cockfield in County Durham. Here she had relatives and here in 1655 she married a John Mayer. In 1658 she inherited a farm at nearby Woodland from her uncle and further inherited from her husband on his death in 1678.

Elsewhere in the north east the Littlefair name died out and for a time it was lost at Cockfield where the names of the two sons of Dorathie Littlefair were written down as Littleforth’s. When the mistake came to light their Littlefair name was restored and the worldwide Littlefair tree grew from there.

We are descended from Dorathie’s son Ralph and his “wife” Margaret Elstob. They did not christen their early children Rachel and Ralph in the Church of England. When the travelling Bishop’s Court visited the area in 1675, Margaret was charged by the court with being a Papist and clandestinely married.  Two years later both Margaret and Ralph were charged by the same court with cohabiting in fornication or being clandestinely married. Thereafter their subsequent children were christened in the Church of England but Margaret remained a non conformist Quaker until her burial in 1716 at a Raby church where there were monthly meetings of the Society of Friends (Quakers). 

Ralph died in 1696, aged 46, some 20 years before his mother. His will, below, is about leaving his land and a share of a Colliery he owned, but also about how his inheritance upon his mother’s death was to be distributed.

My interpretation of the above is
In ye name of god Amen. I Ralph Littlefare of ye High Rowe in ye pish of Cockfield and in ye County of Durham, being visited of the sickness, but notwithstanding of good ——– (praised be god therefore) doe make this my will as hereafter follows.
First I do give unto my son Ralph Littlefare all my land after ye death of my mother and alsoe halfe of ye Colleyry after her death, and ye other halfe after my mothers death to my wife for her life and after her death to my son Ralph and his Heires, and ye pt of yeColleyry wch I have in my possession I do also give unto my wife until ye death of my mother.
I do give unto my son Thomas Twenty pounds to be pd by my son Ralph within four years after he enter upon this land if he be then living.I do alsoe give unto each of my Three Daughters Ten pounds to be pd by my son Ralph. Ten pounds to be pd to my daughter Rachell within six years after he enter upon ye land (if she be then living) Ten pounds in ye next year after to my daughter Mary (if she be then living) and Tenn pounds in ye next year following to my daughter Elizabeth (if she be then living)
I do give unto my son WillTenn Pounds to be pd by my son Ralph within Twelve years after he Enter upon the land (if he be then living) and Tenn Pounds to my son Daniel to be pd by him in ye year next following.
All ye Rest of my goods I doe give unto my wife Margret whome I do make my E –ecutaix of this my last will and testament, and hereto I have set my hand and seal this 13
th day of July in ye year of our Lord god 1696.


The sealed will was witnessed by an Antony Hodgshon jur and a John Ward jur. It bears the name Ralph Littlefaire with a large B in the middle which will have been his mark and noted by “mk” above it. The Cockfield Parish records show Ralph’s burial on the following day 14th of July 1696.

Ralph’s son Ralph also had a son Ralph from whom we are descended. His son John had left Cockfield and had married at Bishopwearmouth (now part of Sunderland) an Elizabeth Foreman. Their son John married at Washington a Mary Teasdale and they and their family lived at nearby Biddick, where a son Ralph was born, before moving to Ryton and then Edmondsley, where John died aged about 49.

Ralph (Margaret Littlefairs grandfather to be) was about 15 when his dad died He went on to marry a Margaret Proud at Chester le Street in 1955. They had all their family at Edmondsley, christening them at St Mary and St. Cuthbert Church, Chester le Street until 1866 when St Peter’s at Sacriston was consecrated. Their family included Margaret’s father Ralph and her uncle William, the farmer.

It pays to look up

The following are just a selection of many sky pictures taken by my son John. He was never further than 100 yards from our house and no we don’t live in some special area. Such views of the sky are there in your locality All you have to do is look up.

Galactic scale

Distances in our solar system are hard to imagine. At its heart is our sun, some 864,938 miles in diameter. But if we imagine it as a 15 cm (6 inch) ball then on the same scale the following would be the size of the planets and their distances from the sun.

Mercury would be a tiny grain of sand 6.4 metres away away, Venus and Earth would be grains of sand 12 and 16.5 metres away and Mars a slightly smaller grain of sand 24 metres away. The gas giants Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune would have diameters of about 1.75, 1.43, 0.63 and 0.63 centimetres and be at distances in metres from that scaled sun of 84, 155, 311 and 487.

In 1977 we launched the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 Spacecrafts with missions to explore the outer gas giant planets of our Solar System. In August 2012 Voyager 1 which is travelling at 17 kilometres a second made an historic entry into interstellar space. Voyager 2 travelling at 15 km, a sec. did likewise in November 2018. They are both now out of our solar system and in the region between stars where scattered material remnants of stars that died millions of years ago reside. Both spacecrafts continue to emit data that takes hours to reach us on earth.

The stars of the milky way are all stars in our “Milky Way” galaxy

Our sun is one of about 200 billion linked stars in our galaxy, that we call the Milky Way. Our nearest neighbour star is Proxima Centauri. It is often referred to as Alpha Centauri C because it has links with a pair of binary stars (Alpha Centauri A and B) that rotate about one another. Light from that near neighbour takes 4.24 earth years to reach us. Light from its binary neighbours take 4.44 years to reach us. Such distances mean that even if we travelled at 20 km per second (faster than Voyager 1 and 2) it would take 15,000 earth years to get to that closest neighbour star.

The Milky Way is a Spiral Galaxy

The Milky Way galaxy is a pancake shaped galaxy with spiral arms and a bulge in the centre that includes a black hole whose mass is two million times that of our sun. The solar system is sited on an edge of one of its spiral arms and is located about two thirds of the way from the centre of the galaxy and just slightly above the equatorial or, if you prefer, pancake plane of the galaxy.

Our ancestors were more familiar with the night sky than we are. Very few of us now see the milky road of dense stars crossing the heavens. Only those living in or visiting remote areas get to see it. It is our view along the plane of our pancake like galaxy. The less dense stars we see are the one’s above and below us in that pancake formation.

On the scale we used for our solar system our pancake like galaxy would be about 68 million miles across and over 600 miles thick. Some pancake. The solar system is on this same scale located about 20 million miles from the centre of the pancake and about 9 miles above the pancake equatorial plane. The milky way galaxy rotates about its centre. It is estimated that the time our solar system takes to orbit the galaxy centre is between 200 and 250 million earth years. Toward the edge of our galaxy and diametrically opposite the solar system our galaxy is merging with one or perhaps two dwarf galaxies. I use the word merging because the vast distances between galactic stars mean collisions are improbable

The Andromeda Galaxy as photographed in our back garden using a 6 inch Newtonian Telescope. The light travelling at 300, 000 km per second had taken 2.537 million years to reach us.
We can clearly see a lot further than the horizon.

Let’s now change scale and consider our Milky Way galaxy as being just 15 cm (6 inches) in diameter. The Milky Way galaxy is one of about 30 in the “Local Group”. This group includes the well known Andromeda Galaxy (another spiral galaxy and on this new scale 20 cm in diameter and 4.9 metres away) and two galaxies that are clearly visible in the southern hemisphere namely the Large Magellanic Cloud (a tennis ball 30 cm away) and the Small Magellanic Cloud (a ping pong ball 35 cm away). These latter two galaxies are regarded as satellites of the Milky Way Galaxy.

A group of over 1000 galaxies called the Virgo Cluster is on this same scale about 55 metres away. This cluster is no bigger in size than the local group but with many more galaxies it has much more mass. This additional mass is pulling the “Local Group” toward it. The Virgo Cluster and Local Group together form part of what is called The Local Super Cluster covering 183 yards long on our scale.

The universe has many super clusters in all directions. The entire visible universe, on our galactic scale would be a large sphere about 28 miles in diameter and containing over 200 billion galaxies. Surely our earth and its life forms cannot be unique in such an extensive distribution of energy and matter.

Most of the smaller distances in space are measured in light years. Light in a vacuum travels at 299,792,458 metres per second. A Light year is the distance light travels in one earth year. It is just less than 6 trillion miles or just less than 10 trillion kilometres in metric. A parsec, the preferred unit in Astronomy, is about 3.26 Light Years. Hans Solo made reference to it in star wars.

You have to realise that when looking at the stars you are viewing objects as they were many, many years ago. Some will be as they were many of the millions of years. Many of those stars seen will no longer be where we see them, some will be bigger, some smaller, many will have changed colour, some mat no longer is. In viewing the heavens nothing we see is “as is”. Everything is a multiplicity of views of the past brought to us by light’s journey through space and our atmosphere and terminating on the retina’s of our eyes, where the information received is transferred to our brains to provide the image we see.

Away Days

This blog is about the days out we had as a family, the trips the chapel organised, about camping with the scouts and the expeditions we ourselves organised. My earliest memory of a day out was when dad took us to Butterby Wood near Croxdale, through which the river Wear flows toward Durham City. The area was one he knew well from his youth and he quickly found a spot where we could safely take a dip. I remember dad doing breast stroke in the river with Derrick on his broad back.

Meal time at Billy Butlin’s Holiday Camp Filey.
Bill and I in foreground. George, Ed, Brian and Peter behind.

Family trips to relatives were minimum expense. Mother’s sister Maude lived at Willington Quay, north of and above Howdon and Wallsend. The skyline was quite different to that at Durham and dominated by shipyard cranes. Uncle Ernie worked in the shipyards. Not far away was a foot tunnel under the Tyne to Jarrow and we would go through it with cousin Ernie. Once Bill and I bought ice creams with pocket money mam had given us but did not get young Ernie one. We rightly got a scolding by our aunt. They had a budgie called “Beauty” and Maude talked to it a lot. Years later when we had a budgie I realised they could be taught to repeat phrases. Ours had quite a repertoire and was comfortable walking on the floor in front of our dog’s nose. Later still my dad bred budgies and canaries in our back garden. Any poor quality birds, skemmies he called them, he would dunk in a barrel of water.

Kelloe was where mother’s brother Sydney, a miner, lived with his wife Olive. They had a son Kenneth, whom I must have played with but I have no memories of doing so. Unlike our house at Durham they had outside earth closet toilets with bench seats.Nearby Sid kept pigs. I loved aunt Olive’s apple pies. They were about an inch thick and with very little pastry edging. Mam’s apple pies were not even half as thick and always had at least an inch of pastry edging.

Uncle Sid was in later life committed to Winterton Hospital, Sedgefield. We knew it as the lunatic assylum and had been given that name by the authorities when built. I saw him there once and though he must have had problems he seemed fine to me. I have to concede that not all things in the past are better than they are now.

Brimham Rocks near Harrogate, North Yorks.

A Betty and Tommy Nichol at Thorne, near Doncaster had accommodated dad in the early war years. We knew them as aunt and uncle. Tommy had a car and would take us to places in Yorkshire like Brimham Rocks. I remember him showing Bill and I how to adjust his car distributor points. It was our first introduction to car maintenance.

The Methodist chapel we attended would organise away trips, mostly to the sea side at Sunderland’s Roker and Seaburn. Many of the neighbourhood kids attended that chapel and so these were days out when the families in our street came together and linked up with known neighbourhood families.

On the left, left to right Elaine Rickerby, Eric Lumley, Dorothy Mede Keith Mawson, Jennifer Rickerby, Bill, David Mede, Derrick and Merle Mawson.
On the right there are also left to right Mrs Mawson, Mrs Rickerby, Mrs Lumley and Mrs Mede.

Our first experience of camping was as Cub Scouts. We pitched our tents next to the River Swale between Reeth and Gunnerside in Yorkshire. Whilst sat round a blazing camp fire one evening the local farmer told tales of tidal waves on the river and explained how it would rapidly fill up the land on which we were camping. Off to bed and I was at the door end of a tent of six boys. My friend George at the other end had a distressed night and the following day when several mother’s came to visit he went home with them.

The 4th Durham Scouts were based at the Vane Tempest Hall and we would play games there like British Bulldog and make twist (pastry twirled on a stick baked over a fire) in the nearby Pelaw Wood. They organised a camp near Easby Abbey just outside Richmond in Yorkshire and we travelled there on the back of a lorry. We had great fun building a dam across the river using stones from the river bed and there were also rope walks and pulley rides between trees. I was one of the younger ones and left to stir a cauldron of rice on a really hot fire that was cooking me. The rice did not get stirred as much as it should have been and was burnt. I don’t remember one word of complaint.

One Easter weekend several of us went by train to Richmond. With rucksacks on our backs and under-slung tents we set off walking toward Reeth. It was snowing and getting dark when we spotted a small clearing by the roadside near Hag’s Wood. With a struggle we pitched our tents there and slept well but next morning we realised we were in a roadside lay-by. The snow was high on the tent sides and we upped sticks and retired to a local barn, Their we ate tins of cold beans and creamed rice and decided to abandon the trip.We later tried hitch hiking/camping in that area. Only Peter and one other, I forget who it was, were successful. They managed to get to the lake district and back but then amazingly ended up at the same camp site at Barnard Castle that we others had come to.

George and Bill front, Ed and I rear. To the left our chalets. To the right more upmarket chalets.
John, Bill, Ed, George Peter and Brian at Butlins. Brian must have been standing at a lower level because he was taller than Ed, George and Peter.

By this time a lad called John Earwaker had joined our group. He was in Brian’s class at Whinney Hill but had become a particular friend of Bill. As a group we went to Butlins Holiday camp, Filey occupying two chalets that each slept four persons.

Chalets may sound posh but they were just sheds suitably partitioned. Each partition had an entry door with a window each side of it. Inside and behind each window were two bunk beds. Opposite the door and between the beds was a wash basin. Toilets were nearby for “lads” and “lasses”. It was a luxury form of camping with many events organised by “red coats”. You could take part in them if you so wished. The tv program hi – de -hi is not far from how it was

When we were at or near 18 in age Scotland became the place for trips and Loch Lomond was our destination. We assembled at Durham Station for our first trip but John was not there and we left without him. At the southern end of Loch Lomond was Balloch Pier station. You couldn’t have got nearer to the loch and as it was a beautiful sunny day the scene of numerous bright coloured small pleasure boats, some with sails, remains in my memory.

We had not planned any walking route and set off up the east side of the Loch, going via a wood and the village of Drymen to Balmaha. Here we pitched our tents on the top of a hill and experienced a night time downpour accompanied by thunder and lightning. Unknown to us John had got a later train to Balloch Pier but had there decided to walk up the west side of the Loch toward Luss. We never met up with him but can I say a belated well done to John.

Next stop for us was Rowardennan and its Inn where we asked for halves, What we got was a Scotland hauf n hauf, a wee whisky and a half pint beer chaser. We didn’t argue but on hindsight I think the Scottish landlord was taking us for a ride. A paddle steamer service operated on the loch and called at Rowardennan and we took it to Tarbet, on the other side of the loch, and then were back on foot to Arochar near the top of Loch Long, a sea loch. We walked around the top of the loch and camped at the base of Ben Arthur, otherwise known as the Cobbler. From here we could see Arochar on the other side of the loch and the West Highland Railway line above it that ran on the hill side. We weren’t far from and could see the submarine base on our side of the loch, in later years the scene of protests when its submarines became carriers of Trident missiles. Whilst camping there we climbed the 900 metres to the top of the Cobbler and discovered coming down was worse than going up. The much slipping and sliding removed a heel of my boot. How I repaired it I remember not.

Lochgoilhead Church – an 18th century church

From Arochar we trecked up the long steady roadway climb to the appropriately named “Rest and be thankfull” and then took a mostly downward route to Lochgoilhead. where enquiries led us to camp in its church field. Here we visited the local pub and got “our” halves. However, when the landlord learnt from us that we were staying in the minister’s field, he decided we would be limited to that one drink.

At Lochgoilhead our camping ended and we took the steamer service down to Dunoon, and then the Ferry Service across to Gourock and trains home.

Walking and Camping in Scotland.

A second trip to Scotland quickly followed, with reduced numbers but I do not remember who they were. This time we took the “Maid of the Loch” steamer from Balloch that criss crossed the lock before arriving at Inversnaid with its loch side hotel. We walked via Loch Arklet and visited Stronachlachar on Loch Katrine where the “Lady of the Lake” steamer was anchored. Signs told us it was Glasgow’s water supply. What we did not know was that we were in the area of the outlaw Rob Roy McGregor made famous by one of Sir Walter Scott’s novels and that “Lady of the Lake” steamer bore the name of one of his poems.

There were no inns en route for “refreshment” as we walked the roads between wooded hills and past Loch Chan to an overnight roadside camp before proceeding via Loch Ard to Aberfoyle, which was busy with tourists. From here we headed north and saw the colours and beauty of the Trossacs before passing via Loch Achray and Loch Venachar, beneath Ben Ledi to Callander.

Never again did I look so cool

At Callander we took time out to visit the spectacular falls of the river Leny as it descends from the hills. The only photograph I have of this whole trip is of me by the falls acting cool. From Callander we went north via Lochearnhead to Loch Tay.

Approaching Killin on Loch Tay we must have been getting walk weary because I remember us debating and deciding to take the longer (on the map) but less winding road along the north side of the loch to get to Kenmore where we camped. From there it was to Aberfeldy and trains home.

Later, dad bought a family car under pressure from Bill and he and then I learnt to drive. Scotland became a place where we would go and camp as a family. I remember us camping in Glen Coe and taking a morning dip in a mountain stream there. Brrrr. On a later camping trip the site was a farmer’s field near Comrie. That trip led to my youngest brother Derrick making many subsequent motor bike trips there and marrying the farmer’s daughter.

As lads, our numbers were now being depleted by girl friend and work involvements and so the last trip I mention involved just George, Ed, myself and a friend of George, one Geoff Winter. We flew from Newcastle to Jersey, stayed in a hotel there and did some serious drinking around the Island. George must have said something on our arrival back at Newcastle airport because the bus was kept waiting for him whilst he underwent a strip search.

My advice to all youths would be to enjoy it while you can because you can never return to it.

Growing up

Musgrave Gardens was a great place to move to. There were two lads in our street of Bill’s age and in Bill’s class at school. They were George Sellers and Brian Lumley. Brian was just seven days older than Bill. At school I made a friend in Jimmy Dixon but he did not live close. George and Brian were as much my friends as Bill’s. The streets, nearby fields and lanes at Musgrave where we played were not as restrictive as those at our former Moor Edge residence. It was a great place to grow up.

The school Bill and I now went to was called the “tin” school because its exterior was clad in corrugated steel sheeting. It was sited on the corner where Dragon Lane meets the Sunderland Road; opposite both Belle Vue Terrace and the Travellers Rest pub. The school’s official name was Gilesgate Moor Junior Mixed but boys would play with boys and girls with girls. There was a large playing field and school yard. Derrick was too young to attend school at the time but would later go to this same school and gather his own group of friends. Kids these days struggle to learn multiplication tables. We learnt them by the whole class saying them over and over again out loud together.

At the time of our move there were plans to build substantial numbers of Council Houses linked to Musgrave and soon Bradford Crescent and Annand Road were built and occupied as a part of that plan. Fortunately the development did not encroach on our lanes. In Annand there now lived two more lads of Bill’s age and in Bill’s class and they also were our friends. They were Peter Bunting and Edward Lowery. At times we used nicknames; Bill was Sim, Brian was Lum, George was Podge, Peter was Bunty, Edward got Ted and I was Al.

Bill’s class of 1951 W (William-Bill), B (Brian), G (George), P (Peter), E (Edward)

Although living only a couple of hundred yards from the school we regularly had to run at the sound of the school bell because we dawdled on the way. En route we would play marbles (alleys as we called them), have conquer matches, play ball games and sometimes chucks with stones or we were just plain messing about. At one time it was a craze to collect cardboard milk bottle tops. They had a press out hole in the middle to pour the milk out and we threaded them onto a chord. I was the proud possessor of a rope with about an 8 foot length of milk bottle tops threaded on to it. It went everywhere with me. It seems crazy now but for days on end I would drag it to school and back with me.

By the time the above school photograph was taken I was in class 1A at Whinney Hill Secondary Modern with Jimmy Dixon. At the tin school I was one of about a dozen who had passed part 1 of the 11+ exam. The headmaster asked that all passing that part attend his office. He asked what I was doing there and I had to assure him I had passed that first half. I then attended the old Johnson Grammar school in Crossgate to take the second part of that 11 plus exam but failed it which is why I was at Whinney Hill.

A year later Bill passed both parts of his 11 plus and so went to the Johnson Grammar School which was at that time a boys only school and at its new location opposite Moor Edge. Brian and George both joined me at Whinney Hill but we did not play at school together. This school had a boy’s end and a girl’s end with the cookhouse in between a long row of classrooms One icy morning on my walk to school down Bede bank and over Bath’s bridge I decided to test the river ice at some boat launch steps. I went through the ice and was pulled out by an older Gordon Watson that I walked to school with.

The physical education teacher Tommy Watson would send us on a run down through the wood to Hollow Drift at the rear of the school. Our return route took us up a high and steep sandy slope emerging at the girl’s end, puffing and panting but trying to look cool as they watched us through the mesh fencing.

At Musgrave we would play football with a tennis ball at the crossroads in the street, always ready to disappear if Bob Scott, a Musgrave residing policeman appeared. We would walk on our hands in that area and balance broom sticks on our noses there. We could all do it for about a minute. There were no cars parked in or using these streets, just the occasional coal, milk , grocery or other delivery vehicle. The streets were ours and a street light on the corner was ours allowing us to play after dark.

I remember once when we were out of coal, I was sent to the Gilesgate Goods Station to get a bag. My bike became a push bike as I carried it on its crossbar. In later years when dad worked at Bowburn Colliery we were never short of coal. His coal allowance would be dropped in the road outside our house and Bill and I would bag it and carry it round the back to the, by then, outside coal bunker.

Next to Musgrave was a levelled out and grassed over Kepier Colliery duff heap we called the duffy. It had goal posts on it and we could play football with a leather laced football there. When wet, heading a lacey would just about take your head off. We would also play cricket on the duffy and do things like communicating with tin cans connected by string and daft things like exploding carbide and water in topped bottles. The raised level of the Duffy meant blown snow caused drifts at its descending edges and we would have great fun diving into those drifts.

Two lanes led away from Musgrave. Kepier lane took us under the Gilesgate goods railway line and down to Watson’s Farm, the Free Orchard and the Farm Orchard (which wasn’t supposed to be free). On the left were the “banky” fields where in winter we would sledge down to the river. One steep track we called suicide. I remember my sledge hitting the remnants of a growth on it. I shot forward off the sledge and got mildly cut down my chest by the remnant. A lad called Peter, the youngest in a family of three lads, hit a post when turning fast to avoid going into the river. He was unconscious so we took him to Sands house and left him with the woman there. Summer time and we might have four wheel steerable bogies made from wood, pram wheels and axles. They had a wooden lever as a brake and would pull them on the roads or let them run down the lanes but not down those banky fields.

The farm at Kepier is on the site of the hospital of St Giles. The Kepier hospital was for the local sick and poor and originally built next to St. Giles church but rebuilt here in the 12th century after the original was destroyed. King Edward the first once stayed here and later Robert the Bruce attacked and burnt it down. It had to be rebuilt again so what you see as the entry arch dates from the fourteenth century. Interestingly the once extensive lands of Kepier were at one time owned by a Musgrave family.

On the right of the farm was Harper’s pond full of frogs, toads and newts and close to it the remains of a kiln. Downstream of the farm and shaped by the river were the “half moon” and “shooting gallery” fields. Round that half moon field we once found a female body lodged by the swollen river face down in riverside bushes. We weren’t sure it was real. Someone suggested it was a shop model but then Brian poked her leg with a stick. We told nobody and revisited the site. Brian was having trouble sleeping and his dad learnt why a few days later. His dad went to the police telling them that he had discovered the body.

The shooting gallery field was so named because it had a world war one target site at its corner. Practice shots would have been at it from as far away as the farm. Around its concrete structure and under its sloping thin metal and rusting roof you could find numerous spent cartridges. That field also had a great stony riverside area where we would play ducks and drakes and a stile entry into Kepier Wood.

The other lane from Musgrave was Dixon’s lane named after the owners of the high grange farm thereon. It took us past many wooden garages where the few people who had cars kept them. We would sometimes play on top of and among the garages and I remember one moonlit night my diving into a hedge because someone was coming. I landed in a pile of soot dumped from a swept chimney. In that same area in daylight I remember Bill falling when walking along a rail that held pointed fence timbers together. He was going from support post to support post. I had to lift him off as he was hanging upside down between two pointed uprights with a bleeding thigh. He was fortunate to have not been impaled on them.

Dixon’s lane also went down to the Gilesgate goods railway line. Here it did a right turn and between it and the goods line there was an area we called “Nanny Goat Ranch” It was the grassed over site of a former railway cutting between two tiny embankments and made for a great play area. Many kids; girls as well as boys would venture here and play. About 50 yards further along the lane was the large pit heap from the defunct Kepier Grange Colliery. It had steep sides and an uneven up and down top which created an obstacle course for bikes.

Behind this pit heap ran a small tree – lined stream. I remember our doing pole vaulting there. The stream tunnelled under the railway line and we once went through it. Its entry was tiny and wet and required a bent double, bent legs struggle. However it got taller and exited as a portal structure about 10 foot high into the upper levels of the wood. In front of the pit heap was the mine shaft turned pond with its own array of water creatures. Between “nanny goat ranch” and this pond were typical railway gates that gave us a much simpler access over the once a day train line and down to what was increasingly becoming our second home – Kepier Wood.

The River Wear on its way from Durham to Sunderland passes through the wood lined gorge that is Kepier wood. Its trees, high rock faces and streams made it a great energy consuming play area in both summer and winter. It was an area that gave us the freedom to do what we wanted to do. It was also a place with many earth mounds, filled in mineshaft holes, hollows and pathways created by bygone coal mining and quarrying activities. At the wood centre was a tree felled and more level area we called the “flats”. You could play football there at that time using tree stumps as goal markers; now it is well on its way to being mature woodland. On a hot summer day you would often find a dozen or more kids of mixed ages, girls and boys, swimming in the river at one sandy banked area of these flats.

Yet further along the river and still there is the “vi” – our name for the viaduct that in those days carried steam hauled trains on the Durham to Sunderland route. To us it was just one means to get to Frankland wood and the Brasside ponds on the other side of the river. Our main way of getting to the other side was by plodging (geordie for wading) across the river. We went across wider parts of the the river guided by rapids and with our footwear round our necks. Leaches would often adhere to our legs as we crossed and we would have to pull them off. Some of the bottom rocks were flat and slippy. If we fell in we would start a fire and dry out our clothes.

A tramp called Buller lived under primitive conditions on the other side of the wood. We would sometimes approach his abode up an old wagonway incline and call him. If he appeared we would run like mad things down the wagonway tumbling and falling. I don’t think he ever gave chase.

Brasside ponds in those days were bigger than they are now. They had been created by the extraction of clay by a brick works. Narrow walkways between ponds allowed us to walk around one of them in about twenty minutes. They were sheltered by a wooded surround and a great and peaceful area for ducks, geese, swans, water voles etc. We rarely made much noise when we went there because we were never sure of our right to be there. On one occasion some of us on a homemade raft decided to shoo off an approaching swan. It raised and stretched its wings and we all finished up in the “drink”.

We weren’t confined to this area. There was the Vane Tempest Hall, Pelaw Wood, the old Durham area and the scrambles area where motor bikes raced round hilly circuits. Then there was Renny’s lane and the areas of Sherburn and Sherburn House. There were and still are woods at Maiden Castle, Houghall and Shincliffe all with their own streams, woods and relics of the past. We sometimes would go beyond Kepier to Rainton Park and Mally Gill Woods and to Finchale Abbey.

Brian and I delivered morning papers from a shop on Gilesgate bank I at one time delivered evening papers collecting them from the Chronicle office in the market place. We were not townies but we had relatives who lived there. Dad’s dad Scotty or Jocka, (real name Alfred Simpson and actually dad’s step dad – which we did not know then) was a bookie’s runner taking illegal bets in Durham Market place for a bookmaker Teddy O’ Neil who resided behind closed shutters up a lane off Silver Street. I would sometimes tap on the shutters and place a bet for my dad under his non de plume Scott X1.

Scotty’s window is that in the middle of the white curving building on the left. From it you could see all the banners going to the racecourse field. Herbie’s window was on the side of that building and from it you could view the waves of banners and bands and miners coming down over Elvet Bridge

Scotty lived in a most advantageous position for observing the Miner’s Gala and we would go there and watch the proceedings out of his window. The room was lit by gas lamps, had a huge range and fire and featured china dogs on the mantlepiece. Across the stairs and with a window view toward Elvet Bridge lived Herbie. We did not know it then but he was Herbert Littlefair, a brother of dad’s mother Margaret Littlefair who had died in 1938 and who had married Alfred Simpson a few years after dad’s birth.

Saturday mornings we often went to the Majestic cinema on Sherburn Road to watch cowboy films. The Rex was closer but like the Globe at the top of North Road a very dark cinema with seats in need of repair. The Palace cinema down near the river below St Nicholas church was a little better and dad’s sisters (actually half sisters) Doreen (Reeny) and Elsie along with a Peggy worked there.If they were manning the box office and acting as ticket collector/usherette we would get in for nothing. Better cinemas were the Palladium in Claypath and the Regal/Essoldo in North Road.

Sunday’s we went to the methodist chapel near the duck pond (no duck’s or pond there in our days). I think we were encouraged to go there so that mam and dad had time on their own. We went for years, signed a pledge not to partake of the evil drink and I would teach some of the younger ones. To watch a nativity play or similar show (I can’t remember what) we all assembled early on the front pew. The place filled up and the superintendent decided we would be moved upstairs to accommodate some late comer friends. As he turned up the stairs we turned out of the door and never went back. None of us kept that pledge.

A big woman called Jane would occasionally come to Musgrave and we were told she was our great aunt. We would later discover she was Margaret’s youngest sister and the Peggy mentioned above was her daughter and dad’s cousin. But Margaret also had an older sister Annie, who with her husband John Wyatt had witnessed Margaret’s marriage to Scotty. Bill told me that once when in the police force he had been taken aback at seeing a photograph of himself and his wife Ann on a sideboard. He was in the home of Annie Wyatt, our great aunt Annie.

Those were great times, but unlike Peter Pan, we grew up. Our group of friends grew bigger as we went to different schools, were in different classes and joined different groups like the scouts and St. Nicholas boys club. At St. Nick’s we played table tennis. Brian and I played football for them. In yet later years many of us would drink and play darts together in the Half Moon Hotel located next to what had been Scotty’s place. We young men were now in jobs, going to dance halls and befriending girls and each making a separate way in life.

Early Years at Nova Lima

Mam, nana and me at Nova Lima

I was born in a house named Nova Lima at Moor Edge, Crossgate Moor, Durham City in the April of 1939. I was named Albert Littlefair Simpson after my dad who, just a few days after my first birthday, was conscripted and in the royal artillery. After a few months training he was in one of many anti aircraft gun crews at Spurn Head on the Humber.

Meanwhile in the June of 1940 my mother Ruby Gladys had given birth to my brother William Fenwick Littlefair Simpson. Though I have no memories of her at Nova Lima, photographs show my mam’s mother Jessie Wells was living there and helping my mother care for us. Also living there before their marriages , though again I have no memory, were my mothers younger brother Sydney (married 1942) and youngest of the family sister Maude (married 1941)

William, later known as Bill, was named after Jessie’s husband and mam’s dad William Maurice Wells who had died in 1936 aged 58 at Office Street, Browney. That property had been owned by Browney Colliery for whom he had worked as an electrical foreman and his death required Jessie to move her family elsewhere.

In the back garden of Nova Lima – Bill’s birthday? – he is holding on to something. Me on the right with a Douglas, Laurence and Gordon behind. Cheer up lads.

We believed for many years that Bill’s Fenwick name had come from Maude’s husband Ernest Fenwick but much later discovered it was in memory of dad’s cousin Fenwick Harrison Littlefair who at the age of 14 and in the January of 1940, some 5 month before Bill’s birth, had been crushed and killed by a colliery lift shaft.

Nova Lima was the house of mother’s older brother William John Wells known as Jack. It was in a then “well to do” area of Durham and I suspect most of the neighbourhood kids went to private schools. Jack, at the age of 19 had gone to Brazil to work as an electrician. He was employed in a British company owned gold mine and living in the company owned town of Nova Lima. He came home about 18 month after his father’s death and bought this house in the Cul de Sac at Moor Edge and named it Nova Lima (now number 20). He then moved his siblings and mother from where they were living at Mowbray Street in the City into his house and returned to Brazil.

Memories of my time at Moor Edge are few and far between. One memory shared with Bill was of my being on a trike and not looking where I was going. I ran into the midriff of the milkman’s horse and it bolted the few yards to the end of the cul de sac. I was run over by the tiny two wheeler cart but unharmed. The bike was mangled by the bolting horse. My mam was most concerned about the bike which belonged to an Arthur whose mam was more concerned about me.

A 3.7″ heavy anti-aircraft gun.

I have just two memories of the war. One was of looking and seeing some things in the night sky as we made our way to a corrugated steel sheet bunker sunk into the back garden. The other is of standing on a street corner with my mam and dad. Dad had left his mates and a large gun that stood on the outskirts of streets to come and talk to us. My mam must have taken me to Thorne, near Doncaster where dad was residing with a Betty and Tommy Nichol. We visited them several times in later years and referred to them as aunt and uncle. The year must have been 1943 when I was 4 and Bill nearly 3. Bill must have stayed at Nova Lima with his nana Jessie. The gun was most likely a 3.7″ heavy anti aircraft gun and there to shoot at German planes on bombing paths from Hull to the industrial areas of Yorkshire and Lancashire.

At moor edge we had access to a field next to Arthur’s house at the bottom of the cul de sac where we would play. I remember a number of us being told off by a girl’s mother when playing at “doctors and nurses” there. Across the top of the cul de sac ran the then main north south road but with only a tiny fraction of today’s traffic on it. I was at that time frightened of dogs and remember their concern, when walking with mam and dad, at my running onto that road in front of an approaching car to avoid a dog.

At Neville’s Cross school I remember someone in front of me getting a clouting for spilling an ink filled well onto the teacher’s stockings as she walked the aisle between the desks. They did not hold back in those days and accident was no excuse. On another occasion I got stuck in deep snow at the top of the cul de sac on my way to school. It was over the top of my wellies and my mother must have been watching out of the window as she came to rescue me.

When I was 5 and a half and in the December of 1944 my youngest brother Derrick was born. I have a memory of playing in the cul de sac outside the front of the house and excitedly telling others that he was there in the front room, a room not so much used. Dad was at the time training at Blairgowrie in Perthshire and I think Derrick had been conceived on one of his leaves from there. He was training to be one of a ten man gun crew that would later take to France their 25 foot long, five ton, 6″ gun towed behind a Leyland Matador truck. He was in a medium regiment that would have 16 of these guns that operated as two 8 gun batteries about a mile apart

Derrick is a type of crane and I was told that the spelling of his name was a mistake at the registry office and that it should have been Derick. However Derrick was a name long before it referenced a crane. Seemingly a 17th century hangman at Tyhurn called Derrick gave his name to gallows and subsequently to that crane type.

I have no memories of going to school with Bill but I think we must have walked to and from the Neville’s Cross school regularly together and I think in the company of a Barry Smurthwaite who lived in Tollhouse Road and whom we had befriended.

A further memory I have is of us as a family walking up the steep Red Hills bank heading for Moor Edge with dad pushing Derrick in his pram. Dad must have been superbly fit because the bank itself is a hard climb but he was giving the pram hard pushes so as to send it up the bank and collect it on its coming back to him. I know not whether I remember that because I feared for Derrick or because I had not seen such things before.

The record shows dad was a Gunner in the Royal Artillery from 18/4/1940 to 13/4/1946

The above memory must have been after dad got his army release papers in the April of 1946 when I was 7 and before August/September of that year when Jack and his Brazilian wife Nelly arrived in the country via Tilbury.

Jack and Nelly had no family and never had one; they were not used to kids and were desirous of their own space. Bill told me and I suspect dad had told him that Jack had said “get these f” ing kids out of here”. Seems harsh but let’s remember it was his house that we had enjoyed in those early years. We consequently moved across town and into a Council property at Musgrave Gardens in Gilesgate Moor whilst Jessie remained with them until the house was later sold. My understanding is that she went into service as a sort of ladies helper come companion in properties including one at High Shincliffe.

Energy – introduction

Have you ever looked around you and tried to visualise how your surround would be if humans hadn’t evolved or how it would change if humans were to become extinct. It would surely be a more tranquil world as we, the supposedly intelligent life form, seem to be the most stressed and agitated life form. Whilst most living things only take from the environment that which they need to survive and reproduce their like our human demands on the environment seem limitless.

Many species have become extinct and others are under threat of extinction as a result of changes we have made to the environment. Now our demands for energy and other resources seemingly threaten us with extinction. Burning fossil fuels to get our energy needs adds to the carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere. Its increase is sending more earth emitted energy radiations back to the earth. That returning of energy is why we refer to carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.

In the diagram above the longer wave heat energies circling between the earth and the atmosphere are on the increase. They are contributing to global warming and climate change.

By way of making matters worse deforestation is removing trees. Trees, like plants, are very much carbohydrate energy stores, drawing in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, sun energy and root water. If less energy is stored in trees it has to go somewhere and if they are not taking in carbon dioxide it ends up in our atmosphere.

I do think it would make for considerably reduced stress in our lives if we were less driven by economics and innovations and the “must haves” of our modern lives and instead cooperated so as to satisfy our basic human needs. However, my blogs on energy are not about the rights and wrongs of man’s treatment of his environment.

My blogs on energy are more about what energy is and about how it behaves. Some scientists do not regard energy as a reality They regard it as a mathematical construct, a calculation. But can something that clearly has such impact on our environment really be unreal?

Albert Einstein’s famous E = mc2 has mass, our measure of a structure’s matter, as a measure of energy. The photon radiations travelling from structure to structure at light speed through space are energy and whilst science tells us photons have no mass Einstein told us that when photons are released from a structure it is at the expense of its mass. Mass is energy.

If material structures are in reality energies that interact via energy exchanges we must surely regard energy as real and the basis of everything. Accepting the above can you think of anything that isn’t either energy or space?

Solid, liquid and gaseous structures aren’t as we see them. All earthly structures are composed of neutron, proton and electron particles. They are energy nodes in space yet you may be surprised to learn that such particles take up less than 0.000001% of the space that a structure occupies. Atoms, molecules and compounds that build into solids, liquids and gases are just collections of particle energy nodes that work well together exchanging energies across the relatively vast space volumes between them.

There are no boundaries round structures. Outermost electron particles of one structure may be seriously under the influence of another structure. Such influences may combine smaller structures into a larger one if this is in energy terms beneficial or they may keep structures apart and independent of one another if there is no energy benefit. We humans are energy efficient structures and when we come close to a structure we don’t merge with it. Our sense of touch is due to photon energies trying to keep us and the “touched” structure apart. However we do take on board and integrate into our structure the structures of food and oxygen because they are of energy benefit to us.

Clearly photons engaging with structures are in reality engaging with particles, because that is what structures, even tiny cell structures are. Photons being released by structures are being released by particles. Strangely science seems reluctant to accept that it is actual photon energies that pass between and influence the particles that make for structures. Instead it talks of electron and proton particles as having an inbuilt charge property that influences these particles, though now and again it will make reference to virtual photons acting between particles.

Surely real photon energies play a part in the atomic world, attracting particles together and yet keeping them apart just as they do in the macro world of the structures that particles create? Surely the macro world we observe and which we know so much about is just a total of zillions upon zillions of interacting particle energy nodes.

Next time you watch and enjoy a colourful TV image, see a beautiful country scene or admire an attractive person, be aware that such shapes and colours are perceptions created in our brain from the energies received by our eyes and emanating from atomic particle structures. Then forget all this and enjoy and protect the treasure trove that is our energy environment.

The blogs on energy that follow will try to convince you that energy is a living proactive thing.

Mathematical Wanderings

This section of my web site was in part inspired by my late brother Bill (William Fenwick Littlefair Simpson). When helping his grandson with mathematics he had rung me up and asked why is a minus times a minus a plus. I knew it was so and could demonstrate that it was so but I was never satisfied with the depth of the explanation I gave him.

Sometime later Bill came to my house. He had now encountered imaginary numbers when aiding his grandson and he was understandably highly sceptical saying the idea was crazy and that there could be no such things and that all numbers are real. I, in my engineering training had repeatedly done calculations with imaginary numbers and could only argue that they worked and gave satisfactory results.

Bill’s arguments set me thinking and if you read my blog on operators you will discover, as I did, that Bill was right and that there are no such things as imaginary numbers. It isn’t as if we are giving pupils a simpler version which they can understand and which can be expanded on. No, we are misleading them and those who go on to use such things in their work may never understand. We spend vast sums on often meaningless research projects. Wouldn’t it warrant just a little being spent on correcting our teachings and improving understandings.

My opening blogs on numbers and operators seemed a little lost so I added a few more bits of maths that are I hope understandable.