Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Photos from Haworth

In September we went to Haworth in Yorkshire. It was home to the Brontë family in the nineteenth century. We visited the Parsonage, which was their home and is now a museum to their often very sad lives. The place has a bit of a feel of death and unrequited love about it. Notable exhibits were Charlotte's tiny dress and impossibly miniature-seeming shoes. People were smaller then, evidently. Also, apparently the dress has shrunk a bit over the course of 150 years.

Jo and I listened to this audio drama in the Parsonage's churchyard. It definitely added to the atmosphere of the place, since it was well-written and had good sound editing.

Apart from the Parsonage, there are lots of old-fashioned looking shops in Haworth. This chemist sells bath salts (like Epsom salts, not the designer drugs) and other potions and lotions. There was a sign in Japanese by the door warning about the uneven floorboards.
We went to the tourist information office, so that we could plan the route of a walk we wanted to take through the countryside back towards Hebden Bridge (where we were due to take a train back to Manchester). We were directed to a path that runs alongside the old railway line, where some of the film The Railway Children was shot. Jo has seen this film and spent a lot of the walk describing it to me. I now feel like I've seen it.

The man in the tourist information told us about the Tour de France's 2014 visit to Haworth's cobbled streets. He then spoke about the vast numbers of Japanese tourists who visit Haworth. He made them sound like a nuisance, which seemed odd for a man employed in the tourism industry. According to this man, Japanese people are particularly interested in, and indeed travel around the world to Yorkshire in search of, sheep. He expressed bewilderment at this. The tourist information office at Haworth does, by the way, sell postcards on which pictures of sheep are printed beside Japanese characters.

view from the tourist information centre - there's a lovely view from that cobbled street, trust me

one of Haworth's many independent shops - there wasn't a chain store in sight

view from a cosy pub which I'd recommend if I could remember what it was called

on the walk through the country to Oxenhope, where we literally got on the bus to Hebden Bridge - again, there were good views all around - not  pictured: streams, railway lines, dales and sheep

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Cherish Anger

If I want to go on getting all self-righteous on the roads, shuddering to a halt in front of motorists so I can gesticulate wildly in a poor attempt to mime "I dislike you and the way you drive" then I must stop spending time with other people. It's making me go soft.

I sit there, seeing them (the same kind of them who populate the cars at which I direct my irate, improvised traffic signals: new to me, as yet nameless, neutal-looking folk) as they talk or smile or otherwise enjoy themselves. They're hard to hate at these moments.

Perhaps they're just now, like me, expressing a fondness for a nice cup of tea or in the next moment they are, again like me, getting excited as the conversation turns to that programme on the Baltic Crusades or how comfortable socks can be. Seeing these relatable, human sides of their character is good, and then it's swiftly slightly disturbing. This unexpected feeling's hard to place. Maybe I'd no longer flick the vees at them simply because they got near me when overtaking.

Life is confusing like this. Getting to know someone definitely makes it harder to treat them like a complete fool - the idea that they could, though appearing to be human, actually be made of straw and powered by mindless impulses ceases to be plausible.

We discuss the merits of ginger in biscuits and the point at which coffee intake gets to be a bit much (the nauseous-shakes stage). At this point I decide I wouldn't want to lose my temper. Perhaps it's just context. The road is, helpfully enough, not a tea parlour.

This is all probably only too obvious to everyone else. For my part, the revelation that I should get to know people before slagging them off for not indicating is stunning in its brand-newness.

There is a definite need to remain focused: when you see that wrong is being done, and you know you should act to create change, then it's essential to hold on to your anger. In these cases it's important to cherish rage, since it could be a force for good. However, shouting "you almost killed me, you twat" at anyone who happens to drive near me, whether they're a little old lady or a hair-trigger ignorant ultra-violentnik, or both, this is not the best use of my energy.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Sorry I ate all your Nutella

Awfully sorry but I ate the whole jar
I lost control while watching Andrew Marr
"Doom!" say the headlines: I take it to heart.
Spoonfuls of Nutella are only the start.

We're told to live in fear, like it or not
duly obliging: more than surviving
I'll eat all the sweet chilli crisps you've got.
While Farage grins, my waistline is thriving.

I weep into Pot Noodle: Trump's pursed lips
and the sight of a real alt-right rally
have this chocolate cake going to my hips.
Is this a re-vote, who's keeping tally?

The saddest thing of all is simply this:
faced with what they say is a grim future
it's all I can do to sit back and eat.
Enough's enough - time to get to my feet!

Got to be calm. With right's rise or left's drop,
I'm eager for a political fight,
but now I have to pop to the shop
because I've eaten all your Marmite.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

A Bailiwick Reading List for Trump

Following the example of Gavin St Pier's generosity towards the soon-to-be leader of the free world, I've put together a brief list of local books that Trump might enjoy. If he has a quiet moment while transitioning, I invite him to kick off those campaign-worn loafers, put up his feet and settle down to a brew while a servant reads one or all of these books aloud.

Mr Pye by Mervyn Peake

Though he was born in China, Peake's joyous surrealism should really appeal to an entertainer so dedicated to his art that he's willing to drop everything and go along with the joke hairstyle-wise.

Peake, who is best known for his Gormenghast books, moved to Sark in his twenties. Along with a cohort of liberal arty types -  whose modern counterparts are only now, with incremental slowness, coming round to the Orange One - Peake built an art gallery that is now Sark's Post Office. 

Trump will surely enjoy Mr Pye, which is about a newcomer arriving in Sark as a total outsider. He has radical ideas and is not only misunderstood but conflicted, especially once he starts growing both wings and horns. However, he firmly believes in the power of love. While seeking to unite a divided community, Pye inadvertently creates havoc. Lots to learn, Donny.

Derek Jacobi plays Pye in the Channel 4 production

Toilers of the Sea by Victor Hugo

Hugo had such strong opinions about the ruling class of his day that he was exiled to the Channel Islands. I hope Trump does well, if only to save him from having to seek refuge in St Peter Port.

Spanish version of Hugo's novel.
Perhaps Gavin should send a copy to Enrique Peña Nieto,
so we can build ties with Mexico. 

Donald could learn a lot from this novel, which Hugo set in Guernsey. Its hero is Gilliat, about whom rumours and criticism abound. During the course of the narrative Gilliat proves himself to be a dedicated, hard-working man. Eventually, he gives up his well-earned fortune for love. He has integrity to a fault and embodies the belief that actions speak louder than words.

Gilliat realises he's grabbed the wrong thing.

Ebenezer Le Page by G.B. Edwards

A 1981 review in Trump's local paper, the New York Times, called this "one of the best novels of our time".

Trump will relate to this story of a self-made man
who lives life by his own rules.

Ebenezer Le Page is a stubborn, outspoken man who lives a full life. He survives two world wars, refusing to get involved politically or militarily in either of them. He overcomes heartbreak and social isolation until, at an advanced age, he gives away the whole of his scrimped-and-saved fortune. Read it, Don.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Colours by Yevgeny Yevtushenko


When your face appeared over my crumpled life
at first I understood only the poverty of what I have.
Then its particular light on woods
on rivers, on the sea
became my beginning in the coloured world
in which I had not yet had my beginning.
I am so frightened, I am so frigthened
of the unexpected sunrise finishing, of revelations
and fears and the excitement finishing.
I don't fight it, my love is this fear,
I nourish it who nourish can nothing,
love's slipshod watchman.
Fear hems me in.
I am conscious that these mistakes are short
and that the colours in my eyes will vanish 
When your face sets.

Yevgeny Yevtushenko was one of the most successful poets of the latter decades of the Soviet Union. He published as recently as 2006. He is now a professor of  poetry and divides his time between Russia and the USA.

He was born on July 18th (also my birthday) 1933 (not my birth year) in Zima, Irkutsk Oblast near the Oka River of South-eastern Siberia. 

Yevtushenko is vocal in his demands for greater artistic freedom, as well as ferocious in his attacks on the USSR's bureaucratic system. He became an iconic figure for the anti-Stalinist Soviet youth of the 60s. 

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 90s, Yevtushenko played a big part in persuading the new regime to build a monument to victims of Stalinist repression. This monument, the Solovetsky Stone, consists of large granite stone transported to Moscow from the former Solovki prison camp, which was part of the Soviet gulag system. It stands to this day in Lubyanka Square, the location of KGB Headquarters. 

 The Solovetsky Stone monument outside KGB HQ

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Photos from Manchester

In September we flew to Manchester. It was sunny and dry during our stay and we had the pleasure of exploring the city on pushbike, as well as on the tram. We were staying with family in Northenden, which one of our octogenarian hosts described as "a nice village that's now just full of restaurants and fast food". There are a lot of take-aways in Northenden.

As far as cycling goes, we began by venturing into the local area. We rode a circuit that took us on a riverside path along the Mersey and up to Didsbury, where we visited about four charity shops, which meant that we only visited half of the charities shops we saw. The ones we did visit were good. Excellent collections of clothes and books and whatnot, although not always at cheap-cheap prices.

Jo under a tree in Wythenshawe Park, which we crossed to reach a relative with bikes to lend
statue of Oliver Cromwell outside the timber-framed Wytheshawe Hall

A definite highlight of our visit to that area was the Didsbury Village Bookshop. Even after spending a long time browsing all sorts of books in those four charity shops, the library on offer at DVB was astounding. The best part: this is a proper second-hand bookshop. Piles of paperbacks sit stacked precariously on chairs that jut out into the narrow pathways that have been formed between high shelves and full-to-the-brim cabinets. There was such a range of titles there. Also, the shop is attached to The Art of Tea, which does good cake.

crossing the Mersey between Northenden and Didsbury

Another day we took a tram into the city. I think we were either coming back from or going to Yorkshire. It was, in any case, good to explore the Northern Quarter, with its trendy cafes, vintage camera shops and art suppliers. I bought my niece some origami post-it notes and a top trumps game based on cats. She likes cats.

Manchester Art Gallery

On the Saturday, Jo headed to Poland to attend a conference for her work. Sadly I couldn't join her, but my disappointment was short-lived as I had surely the best tour guide Manchster has to offer: Jo's Irish Uncle John. We took two of his bikes and embarked on the Fallowfield Circle: a circuit that encompassed half of the city, taking us up and down the Rochdale, Ashton and Bridgewater canals, into the Gay Village, and past both City and United's football stadiums. 

We also visited Home, which is near the old Hacienda nightclub (now flats) and Cornerhouse cinema, and seems to have taken on the arthouse/exhibition space mantle of the latter. We had coffee and cake. Finally, we wound up in Sale where Jo's grandad and his skiffle band were doing their regular busking stint.

John checking our schedule near Worsley

The Lamplighters (combined age: 235)

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

I just drowned in uplifting memes

I just drowned in uplifting memes
It's been coming for a while
Previously I favoured darker themes
Optimism was never my style
One or two Gandhi quotes crept in
Dipped my toe: tweeted "I had a
Dream" - Martin Luther King
Now my throat's stuffed to the top
Sunsets crest my cracked maw
Yoga beauties weigh my lids sleepward
As I'm stuffed with images of beatific serenity,
Wise vomit fills my lungs

Information's a wave that breaks
Over me's the sea and under
A thousand fathoms every-directioned
Beside the wall waves flatten every effort

Forget being a good swimmer
You can't just decide to be a winner
And sure all you need is love
But retweeting second-hand wisdom, well,
That just made me sink, bruv