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The Flat Cap on ... Gates

Over the past week The Flat Cap has been spending a lot of time thinking about buying a pair of garden gates to go across his drive. There used to be some wooden ones but they rotted with age (and a lack of attention). So he thinks the best bet would be to get some wrought iron ones.

There’s a place near The Flat Cap’s house that makes them to order, or you can go to somewhere like Wickes where a salesperson will go through their standard sized gate catalogue with you. Wickes also do one of those ‘click and collect’ options but The Flat Cap doesn’t really fancy trying to cart home a big pair of garden gates on the bus. There’s never a good time to be lugging cumbersome items on or onto a bus. If you travel early morning there’s no space because public transport is full of people trying to get to work. If you get on a bus later in the day it’s full of pensioners with shopping bags who are making the most of their concessionary travel passes and generally getting in the way. And if you live in the countryside there are hardly any buses anyway since bus deregulation was introduced in the mid 1980s. Fortunately The Flat Cap lives near a city and so there’s quite a lot of competition on the popular bus routes ; some of which go near his house.

Gates come in all shapes and sizes and the purpose of this blog isn’t to bore you with every available option. That’s the work of the gate sellers and the internet. Let’s just say that the variety of gates on offer is immense. Whether it be wood or metal, electric or hand operated, wide or narrow, tall or not so tall, left opening or right opening there’s a gate, or set of gates, to suit everyone. And you’ll also need a fixing kit with all the screws and brackets, nuts and bolts, to make sure the gate doesn’t fall off at the first gust of wind; or if the postman, the person that delivers your free newspaper, the milkman (if you still have one), or a clumsy family member closes it a bit too robustly.

Gates make your home that little bit more private. They’re also useful if you have young children or animals. Toddlers and some domestic pets don’t have much road sense and a gate, if closed properly, keeps them from running into the road and getting knocked over by one of the many vans that deliver your food shopping off the internet. Before the advent of these vans people used to lug their weekly food shopping back home by hand, and the world was a simpler and much safer place.

For centuries gates have been used to keep places like castles and other important buildings secure. The word for a gate at the front of a castle is “portcullis” and comes from the French words “porte” and “coleice” which mean sliding door. Sliding doors generally tend to move from side to side, but a portcullis slides up and down, and when it is down it keeps out unwanted visitors. The most famous gate in any castle in the world is Traitors Gate, which was built by King Edward I in the late thirteenth century as a water based entrance to The Tower of London. It was originally called the Water Gate. Later on in Tudor times prisoners accused of treason would come in via the gate, hence the name change. Unlike today these prisoners didn’t have colour television or a gymnasium. Instead the best they could hope for was not to be tortured or executed. The most unlucky prisoners suffered both torture and execution. In the middle ages there was no CCTV to deter criminals so the authorities would instead display the severed heads of those executed on pikes. As well as proving a popular tourist attraction for foreign visitors passing under London Bridge by boat it also served as a warning not to mess with the monarch.

The Flat Cap decided to visit his local branch of Homebase to get some gate ideas. During his tour round the store he met John who said he knew lots of random stuff about gates and shared the following interesting facts:

  • The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco Bay is the most photographed bridge in the world. Between 1937 and 1964 it had the longest span of any suspension bridge

  • Famous people with the surname “Gates” include former English footballer Eric Gates who played 296 times for Ipswich Town. Eric had a famous brother called Bill who played football for Middlesbrough FC. This Bill is not the same Bill who co-founded Microsoft. Despite being worth an estimated 90 billion US dollars the other Bill was a bit of a computer geek and not very good at football at all. Gareth Gates remains the most popular “Gates” named person after he overcame a stutter to finish runner up in the first ever series of Pop Idol. He also sang for Queen Elizabeth II when she visited Bradford in 1997

  • Unigate is a UK based milk company. In the 1970s their product was marketed using TV advertisements featuring Humphreys who were really thieves that would suck up your milk when you weren’t watching. Such was their cunning even World Champion boxer Muhammad Ali lost his milk to a Humphrey.

  • If you want make up a town name “gate” is a good word to add to another word. For example you can put it after another word like in Ramsgate, or before another word like in Gateshead

  • The top must see attraction in Berlin is The Brandenburg Gate. It was here that U.S. president John F Kennedy delivered his “ich bin ein Berliner” speech. A “berliner” is a traditional German pastry similar to a doughnut

  • In bingo number eight is the garden gate

  • If you have led a blameless life Christians believe that on your death you will enter heaven through the pearly gates. But if you have been particularly bad, like say a mass murderer, or a dishonest used car salesperson, then you’re likely to pass through the gates of hell

  • Up until the election of Donald Trump the biggest political scandal in the USA was “Watergate”. It was so bad that the incumbent president Richard Nixon was forced to resign on 9th August 1974. The good news for Nixon was that less than a month later his successor Gerald Ford pardoned him. Even today if you have a scandal, or just mess up, the very best way to publicise it is just to add the suffix “-gate”. Open the wrong envelope at The Oscars, hey presto envelopegate. The FIFA money laundering is Fifagate, and so on

  • In the UK the average cost of a set of garden gates is £372.04, although this rises to £8,104.63 when you include the homes of celebrities and Premiership footballers

  • The gates to Buckingham Palace are repainted once every three years

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