• Kester Eddy

Sunday Morning Stroll, UK, March 1980 - UPDATED

Updated: Nov 19

Every Picture Tells a Story [Don't it?] - 04

In contrast to last week's EPTASDI, here we have an urban street scene, although the traffic density is not much different from rural Transylvania - at least at this particular time of the week :)


TBH, I must confess that once again there is not so much of a story behind this photo directly. In fact, I have forgotten why I was in this place at this time, and I never thought I'd use this piccie in this series. But an event last week reminded me of this pic, and I have a vaguely remembered back story to the event itself. So I went through my boxes and found I still had this print. I don't think it ever sold, so it's nice to give it the light of day, or at least the computer screen :)


I wonder if anyone can guess the location? (Apologies, this will probably be very difficult indeed for non-Brits, but if you are bit of a detective, there is a way.). I'll post the answer here tomorrow.


Have a great day!


ps I wonder what the girl with the pram is looking at?


pps I have changed the title to March, 1980 as I've just looked on the back of the print, and it says 3/1980


Preliminary Update: I have to publish this, because I laughed out loud so much when cooking my potatoes an hour ago. From a certain J MacKenzie esq:


"Sunday stroll in Northampton? The girl is watching the wheel fall off!

Happy days

Jock"

UPDATE with Answers


​This is a tough one for folks not well acquainted with the UK, but I was surprised at how it stumped a lot of older Brits for much of the day! Meantime, the photo garnered suggestions from Lewisham (SE London) to Bristol in the west, Cambridge (in the east) to Lancaster and Durham (in the north) – but none in Scotland or Wales. A number opted for Northampton, but a good chunk of folk suggested Lancashire or Yorkshire, with a particular penchant for Sheffield early in the day. Now, unless you happen to be a historian of house architecture or lamp design (comparatively obscure subjects, I'd say), I think there is only one real clue as to where this photo was taken; the number plate on the Volkswagen, parked to the left of the two figures. Now the GB car registration system – unlike, say, the Austrian, German or Turkish – is fiendishly difficult to fathom, with little or no apparent logic, both in 1980 and today. Most cars running in the UK today will be registered under a new system, begun in September, 2001, which I've never bothered to study. (I think a few punters tried to apply the plate in the photo to this system, which explains the handful of suggestions for Northampton.) Before that, the system was largely based on one dating back, I assume to before WW2, which had been tweaked over the years to accommodate the massive increase in vehicles from the late 1950s and 60s on the roads. In essence, from 1963 to 1983, all registrations consisted of three letters, up to three digits and a final suffix letter. (This latter letter changed every year, usually on August 1, causing a mad rush of sales to get a car with the new letter.) The plate visible in the photo, KWY 955 V, is a perfect example of one from this era. Now the key to getting any info out of this is to know that the first letter is random, but the second and third letters, in this case WY, tell you where the car was first registered. As noted, there is next to no logic in how these letters are matched to their area of registration. True, many of the codes beginning with a K are Kent - which seems sensible - but equally KD and KF are (were) Liverpool. Of course, no foreigners could be expected to know this, nor many younger Brits – but I was surprised to find most of my older compatriots seemed to have forgotten it too – from dozens of suggestions – some of which were kind of shotgun efforts naming several cities which included the correct location - nobody nailed the answer until about 4.00 pm. You can see the system for yourself here: https://www.drivearchive.co.uk/regcodes.htm It was then that – drum roll please - Master Sleuth Greg Dorey offered – LEEDS! (And to think there is a life-long Leeds Utd Fan here who didn't get this! No names to be mentioned in this case.)

Credit to Sarah Williams, who earlier reckoned “Bradford or Leeds” based on the housing and where she thought I might have been around then. And a few hours later, Richard Lock confidently said: “It has to be Leeds”. Hmmm. That's not quite true (because if you move house in the UK, unlike, say Germany, you don't change your car plates), but his confidence in this case was understandable because, from the suffix letter Y, the car was less than one year old. (Local hero detective Hubert “Poirot” Warsmann even found out the car was painted yellow. Thanks for other details, Hubert.) Now why should I be reminded of this photo by a recent event? (And Master Sleuth Greg Dorey nailed this too!) This photo is odd, because I really can't remember why I was in Leeds in March 1980. In fact, I can barely remember taking the pic. But what I think I can remember is being in the suburbs at night, and seeing an unusual number of police cars about. Indeed, I have a vague memory of being questioned by the police as to why I was there – and it is highly unusual to be checked like this in the UK. The sad, gruesome reason for this is that at the time, there was a hunt on across a great swathe of northern England for a serial killer dubbed by the media “The Yorkshire Ripper”, who had brutally murdered 13 women (and attempted to murder a further seven) between 1975-1980. The man convicted of these murders was Peter Sutcliffe. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Sutcliffe Ironically (at least for this story) Sutcliffe was caught for driving a car with false number plates. But there is another, final and personal twist in this sordid tale, because one of the police officers who apprehended Sutcliffe was at the time the brother-in-law of my now deceased best friend. Unfortunately, I forget the details (and the name of the cop in question), and indeed, it was only related to me in the 1990s, but it turned out that, somewhat incongruously, that the officer's most notable piece of policing did not help his career. I wish I had taken notes, but it was just a private conversation at the time. As I remember, my friend was not uncritical of the brother-in-law, but defended him on his story, which I believe ended up in him leaving the force some years later less than happy with his treatment.

I suspect this aspect to the Sutcliffe story will never see the light of day. Life can be unfair.


Apologies for length - it is the nature of the beast.

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