Sunday, May 17, 2009


Funny the map thing should happen here, It's been on my mind for some time now. I had a mate in the RAF in the 50's, he lived in Sheffield, as did I during the war, about a year ago I came across the Sheffield Star [evening paper] online, they had a thing about locating lost friends so I put in a request. A week later I got an email with my mates address and phone number, I called him. He couldn't believe it, we hadn't spoken for 50 odd years, lots of catching up.
And then I started playing with Google Earth, if you haven't done so do it now, it's free and fabulous! I started visiting places all over the world, it's amazing in that you could type in Kingston and it will go directly there and you'll be looking down on the entire city, satellite photos, and then you can zoom down to street level. At first I cursed it 'cos I couldn't remember street names and I then discovered that with a click you can have an overlay that gives all the street names plus photos of local spots.
So since I had my mates street address I typed that in, it immediately went there and when I zoomed down to rooftop height there was another option; ground level photos. So I switched to that and was able to progress at ground level down his street looking directly at his house and front garden, I could tell him what flowers he has growing next to the door, [blue clematis!] I could even look into his front room and tell him about the vase of flowers on the window sill.
Back to the picture above. When I left Sheffield in 1946 that's exactly what it looked like; everything was black! I posted my old address into Google Earth and it took me directly there and I was able to look at a close up of our old front door at 49 Barber road Sheffield with the #49 very obvious. I toured all around the neighborhood at street level checking all the streets I knew as a kid, I went to my school, Crooksmoor road school and was amazed at how it had changed, everything that used to be black is now nice clean sandblasted stone, all those empty spaces now have new houses in 'em, every empty lot is full of mature trees! It's changed beyond belief but of course that was 60 odd years ago.
Earlier I used Google Earth for a different purpose, I'd just finished re-reading the Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell, a great series of books if you're looking for a great read, the author describes one of the characters leaving Alexandria [Egypt] and driving along the coast past several villages, I wanted to see them. I searched through my map collection but nothing was to that scale, it occurred to me that Google might do it so I typed in Alexandria, sure enough it took me there and I was able to navigate along the coast road but unfortunately my villages were not there, probably were in the 30's when the story occurs but now long gone to coastal development. But since I was there anyhow I thought I'd have a look at the Suez canal that starts right there. I was able to cruise the length of it clearly seeing all the shipping in transit plus all the roads and traffic along the banks.
It's a great resource and if you haven't checked it you should, but do it when you have a few hours free, it's totally addictive. No music to go with this one.


AliMunday said...

Goneforeign - I used to travel through Sheffield on the train when I was on the way to visit my brother, further up country. This would be about 35 years ago. At night you could see the red glow from the steelworks as you went by. Now, you see the green glow from Meadowhall shopping centre - a sort of infernal Royal Pavilion! Whatever one feels about the demise of industry in the UK, and the seemingly inevitable rise of 'the mall',it's true that Sheffield has turned itself around and now prides itself on its 'greeness'. I travel there quite often for work and I really enjoy walking up from the railway station, there are now fountains and 'water features' outside on Sheaf Square and the university tower block has a poem by Andrew Motion displayed down the side. You can sit and eat your lunch in the Winter Gardens if it's raining,or in the square in front of the Town Hall, which is full of flowers in the summer, if it's dry. Sure, there are still grotty bits but I think the planners are doing an amazing job, for once. here's a link which will tell you a bit about the poem, which is appropriate for Sheffield (but which I won't reproduce here in case the copyright police get cross):
Sorry, seem to have gone on a bit!

tincanman said...

Like everyone as soon as I heard about it I checked if I could see my own neighborhood, but I've never thought of using it to visit places I used to live. Duh. So thanks for the idea, and as I have moved around a bit over the years, see you all in a week.

Michael Haag said...

One of the places Durrell mentions west of Alexandria is Burg el Arab -- but he spells it Bourg el Arab, I think. It is just south of Abousir. Both can be seen on Google maps.

Michael Haag said...

In fact Abousir (or Abusir), which is the modern name for Taposiris, is the site of a Ptolemaic or Roman tower which in medieval times became known as the Tower of the Arabs, ie Burg el Arab in Arabic. So Abousir is Burg el Arab. But also in the 1920s a settlement was built to the south of Abousir, and this was also given the name Burg el Arab. Durrell writes of driving along the coast to swim, and says in the distance there is something that looks like a crusader fort -- the latter is the 1920s settlement which was built like a Tuscan walled town in miniature.
Another place Durrell mentions is Karm Abu Girg, where the Hosnani family have their home. This is in fact an ancient town that exists only as a ruin. It lies about halfway between Ikingi Maryut and Taftish Gianaclis, both of which can be found on Google maps. It is due south of Alexandria as the crow flies, though to have got there in Durrell's time one would have first driven west.

goneforeign said...

Well Michael Haag, you sound like a true kindred spirit and a fellow Durrell fan, I certainly didn't expect that response. Burg el Arab plus Karm Abu Girg are the places I wanted to find the location of. I shall now have another go with your assist. You sound as though you've lived in or visited Alexandria? Where are you now; is this your first visit to the Spill, I haven't noticed your name before, welcome and stick around.

Ali: Such a nice comment, thank you. I don't know what it is about the BBC, they act just like the Stasi. EVERYTHING with bbc in the URL is private, off limits to anyone outside the UK so consequently I wasn't able to see the poetry website! It's also the same with all their programs that they advertise so much online.
You mention eating lunch outside in Sheffield, when I was a lad my Granny would make my lunch everyday, usually a bowl of tapioca or semolina and place it in a bowl on the kitchen windowsill to cool with a saucer over it. I'd come home from school at noon and the saucer was always covered with black spots, effluent from all those chimneys, that's what we were breathing!
It's not just that that's changed, whole streets and neighborhoods have gone, I tried navigating streets that I used to know well and suddenly they dead ended or went off in totally 'wrong' directions.
I grew up there and have many fond memories of it as it was then, I'd love to spend time there and see it now.

AliMunday said...

Goneforeign - here is:

What If..? by Andrew Motion

"O travellers from somewhere else to here
Rising from Sheffield Station and Sheaf Square
To wander through the labyrinths of air,

Pause now, and let the sight of this sheer cliff
Become a priming-place which lifts you off
To speculate
What if..?
What if..?
What if..?

Cloud shadows drag their hands across the white;
Rain prints the sudden darkness of its weight;
Sun falls and leaves the bleaching evidence of light.

Your thoughts are like this too: as fixed as words
Set down to decorate a blank facade
And yet, as words are too, all soon transferred

To greet and understand what lies ahead -
The city where your dreaming is re-paid,
The lives which wait unseen as yet, unread."

it's displayed on the 'cliff face' of Sheffield Hallam University and you can read it as you walk up from Sheaf Square to the town centre. If anyone objects to my quoting it here, then 1,000 apologies, but it's so appropriate I thought I should share it with someone who likes Sheffield too.

goneforeign said...

Thank you, thank you, absolutely no one could possibly object. Your comment "'cliff face' of Sheffield Hallam University" meant nowt, t'university's up on Glossop road near t' Weston Park!
So you prompted me to google it and find a wonderful page with lots of info, pictures and sound. It's at:
There's several more poems there by Sheffield people, a couple of which made me laugh out loud.

There used to be two stations, the LMS and the LNER, the LNER was down by the market. The LMS was on Pond street and they built a large bus station there, I remember there used to be some steps that led up to somewhere near the main library. If you're curious there's a bookshop on that street next to the town hall that specialises in all books 'Sheffield', I once picked up a 1903 census map of Sheffield there, an interesting resource for remembering 'the good old days', it hardly changed through the '40s.

AliMunday said...

Hi GF - that's the link I gave you, so perhaps it only works through Google? Anyway, glad you found it!