Monday, 23 September 2013

Did the Mafia ever use Concrete Shoes?

Or concrete wellies, boots or overcoats for that matter? It is an image we're all familiar with from TV, films and books, but is there any truth in it?

The Last Shoes You’ll Ever Need

In episode 295 of The Simpsons, Fat Tony, the resident Mafia boss, is seen pouring cement into a bucket around the feet of a nervous looking man while a pair of goons observe.

Above Fat Tony’s head, a sign informs us that he is selling cement shoes, touted to be ‘the last shoes you’ll ever need’.

Season two, episode 17 of Star Trek: The Original Series, has an irate (when wasn’t he irate?) Scotty threatening a 1930s mobster with a pair of ‘concrete galoshes’.

Meanwhile, the 2006 short film featuring Dylan Moran, Tell it to the Fishes, involves a pair of gangsters, whose feet are encased in concrete, arguing on the beach at low tide.

Sleeping With the Fishes

If there’s a link between these depictions of the infamous ‘concrete wellies’, it’s the use of the image for entertainment purposes.

Nobody in The Sopranos was thrown off a bridge with their feet encased in concrete.

Likewise, The Godfather might have featured the line ‘sleeping with the fishes’ but Don Corleone never poured cement around his enemies’ feet, waiting a day for the mix to cure before taking a leisurely drive to the nearest pier and dumping them over the edge.

Mafia godfathers are business men (albeit with guns).  He’d never have allowed that sort of slack in the system!

Cement Overcoat

The entire premise of concrete shoes, or cement overcoats, arose after a couple of sensationalist stories printed in America in 1935.

There was talk of hits involving encasement in cement or, as in the Simpsons parody, someone standing in a tub of cement while it hardened so that they could be thrown into the sea.

No evidence of these murders was ever found, but that didn’t stop the idea spreading into popular culture, and in particular to the minds of writers of crime spoofs and parodies.

A Glimmer of Truth

Historically, there has long been a tradition of weighting down bodies, alive or dead, to ensure death or disposal.

In the age of sail, cannonballs were tied to the feet of deceased crew to ensure their bodies sank to the sea bed.

During the Reformation, Anabaptists were sewn into sacks with bricks and thrown into rivers or lakes.

Over the years, many bodies have been discovered weighted down in some way, with heavy chains or concrete blocks attached to them, including some Mafia hits, but never where the victim's body was in any way encased in the concrete itself.

Unless, of course, they do it so efficiently that the evidence has never surfaced (no pun intended!).

Nuisance Footprints

So, concrete wellies remain the stuff of fiction, for the most part.  But shoes and wet concrete are two things better kept apart as separating footwear and concrete can require specialist tools:

As you'd expect Northern Cobblestone are careful to ensure that driveways are protected whilst they set, giving you access to your property, but ensuring that the only imprints left are ones from our extensive range of styles and colours!

Concrete Driveways, Blackpool

The seaside resort of Blackpool in Lancashire is famous for many things, including Blackpool Tower, the Illuminations, Pleasure Beach and three piers overlooking it's expansive sandy beaches.

Perhaps lesser known, is that it is also right next door to Northern Cobblestone, specialists in pattern imprinted concrete based in neighbouring Poulton-le-Fylde.

Driveway Installers, Blackpool

With over 30 years paving experience, Northern Cobblestone have installed hundreds of miles of driveways, paths, patios and more in Blackpool and the wider North West.

Take a look below at a few recent examples:

If you live in the Blackpool area and would like an attractive low maintenance replacement for your tired old driveway, why not contact Northern Cobblestone for a quote?

More Photos

Take a look at the Driveways Blackpool page on our website for more examples of our stamped concrete installations.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Origins of the Word Concrete

When we say the word concrete today, the first image that jumps to mind is probably that of the well-known rather solid construction material, but has that always been the case?

Well, that has been the most common English use of the word since the renaissance of concrete in the building industry in the late 19th century.

Prior to that however, the earliest English uses of the word concrete were far more likely to relate to the fields of alchemy, philosophy or chemistry.

You Say Concrete, I Say Concrētus

Like many words, concrete has its origins in Latin, the language of English academics since the French language infiltrated Anglo Saxon following the Norman invasion of 1066.

When it first turned up in written text, in 1471, it defined something which had grown together. In 1536, H Latimer described, in a written sermon, "A thing concrete, heaped up and made of all kinds of mischief."

This was a direct translation of the Latin con (together) and crēscere (grow) or rather the past participle concrētus (grown together).

Con appears frequently elsewhere in English with the same meaning of coming together. Think congregation, concoction, concur and conflict. Plus, it is the Italian word for "with". 

Concrete Facts

A hundred years on in the 17th century, academics started referring to things which were concrete to separate them from more abstract ideas.

Hence we have concrete numbers and concrete nouns.  In this instance, the word concrete refers to something real, something that can be observed, so a concrete number would be three stones or seven trowels rather than the abstract numbers 3 or 7, which aren’t counting anything you can see.

A concrete term also refers to something observable, so a fool is a concrete term but foolishness is not because you can’t see foolishness.

A Word of Substance

You might be forgiven for thinking that this latter use of concrete, as something that’s real and observable, is related to the rock hard material we use for our driveways.

After all, it’s heavy and there’s no denying its existence, as anyone who has dropped a bag of it on their toes will confirm.

But of course, concrete is an aggregate of various materials bonded together and therefore the literal Latin translation grown together applies.

In fact, the Romans used concrētus extensively as a building material (see Long Lasting Concrete). The name and the building material were simply lost to us and then re-discovered.

Regula Imprimitur Concretis

If the convoluted history of the English language is too confusing, the same can’t be said for Northern Cobblestone’s regula imprimitur concretis (or pattern imprinted concrete).

A simple coming together of style and technique, gracing properties across Lancashire and the North West!

Monday, 16 September 2013

Beware: Wet Concrete!

No, not freshly laid concrete, but rather a heralding of the coming Autumn and its associated weather front.

Yes folks, the weather in Lancashire and the rest of the UK has certainly changed from the lovely heatwave we were all enjoying.

Wet Look Concrete Driveway Photos

Given the awful weather, we thought why not upload a few that show how lovely pattern imprinted concrete can look when it's wet.

Take a look at these examples:

See, a pattern imprinted concrete driveway, path or patio from Northern Cobblestone will compliment your property, even after a rain storm!

Not Too Late!

If you like what you see and live in Blackpool, Preston, Lancaster or surrounding areas, there's still time to get yourself a lovely new driveway before the end of the year.

That way, it will be ready and waiting for next year's hoped for heatwave!