'Agree With Everything - Deny Nothing - Embellish All

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Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Paws That Refreshes

Just when you thought that there were no more Cumbrian bloggers out there, another one comes swaggering over the horizon, full of the energy and pleasure of the landscape of this county, the smells and sounds of our hills and valleys. Brina Katz's Paws 4 Thought appears to be the fell-walking diary of a Cumbrian writer - just the thing, in fact, that I originally had in mind for this blog till I unaccountably became detained by such nonsensical ephemera as the life of a rural IT consultant, lexicography and the Keswick Film Festival website (which you are strongly encouraged to visit).
Brina's blog is a splendid record of the landscape with some haunting photographs. Go read.

Pumpkins 3.. or even Carlisle

Yes, last night we had pumpkin pie, and very nice it was too. Must be the only thing you can do with the big orange squash thing. 'How' I asked the hostess 'Do you make the pumpkin pie?' Here's the killer .. despite the thousands sacrificed in the pursuit of 'trick or treat', the first thing you have to do is import 'your pumpkin pie mix from America'.
For those of you who didn't know already Thanksgiving is the North American harvest festival celebration held on the 3rd/4th (?) Thursday in November and was started when the founding fathers had managed a full year, including a harvest, and had a dinner with the native Americans to thank them for showing them some of the local farming knowledge. At least that's what I think our hostess and the American chap guest said. Sounds reasonable to me and a lot better than the reason for the Christmas excesses we will soon have to endure. Why do we have to have turkey at Christmas? What drives the population in general to wear Santa hats?
I digress. In Cape Town, as we know, it is currently Summer. Christmas music can be heard in the shops, trees are on sale, Santas can be found on street corners doing..?? (do you know I haven't got a clue what they are doing) .....but anyway.. Santas are on street corners. Predominately black and coloured Santas. Post apartheid white Santas appeared. Then a pressure group insisted on Mother Santas (of all colours). Last year I noticed pink Santas. As SA's constitution is very liberal in the recognition of same sex relationships, and Cape Town is the home of the Mother City Queer Party (MCQP) we now have Santas of every persuasion colour, creed and age.
I can't see it happening in Aspatria yet ... or even Carlisle. Cumbria has persuasion and age but the colour and creed is still a long way off.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Friday 25 Nov 2005

6.45pm. Just got home feeling a bit sleepy as it has been a long cold week. I could do with the night in front of the fire preceded by steak and salad and a bottle of Graham Beck Railroad Red. However - we have to attend a Thanksgiving dinner. Our Canadian friend and lowland Scot hubby have invited another North American, a friend and the Ren couple. They obviously haven't read the blog and I hope that pumpkin is not on the menu. I will be good though.. don't want to get into anymore trouble - do I? For what are we giving Thangsgiving for? Will there be deep fried turkey? Will there be any North American Indians slaughtered? Will we toast the King? Why the 24th of November.
4 years back I was staying in London. In the hotel at breakfast a tartan trousered American couple were having steak and eggs whilst their gawky tooth-braced daughter was picking the food out of some muesli. They were reading the Daily Mail which had the headline 'World to End February 23rd 2042- Official'. The mother said 'jeez Elmer we must get hold of an American calendar and see what date that is back home'.
I decided against an explanation. 4 years later I feel I need one.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Prefab plant sprouts

Prefab plant sprouts on CORUS site … (see 13 Nov 05 Workington Edition of Times & Star ). We Cumbrians are always keen to embrace the superior knowledge and entrepreneurial prowess of people from ‘out of County’. I have no doubt Colin Ratcliff-Springall has lived in Cumbria, with interests in Keswick and its history, for sometime, and that he did design the front of a school in Humberside (it says so. See Kingswood High School). Putting aside my inherited hostility to All Architects (My Dad was a builder) I have real doubts about the feasibility of this plan. If I had come up with the plan I am convinced that it would be entirely overlooked. Our local politicians would have stood on my shoulders to see if there was anybody outside of the County available to support . I know! Yes! I know! that ‘you cannot be a prophet in your own land’ but I live in hope. So what makes me so negative about Architect Ratcliff-Springall’s scheme? First I’m almost certain that CORUS themselves investigated the idea of manufacturing prefabricated steel frame housing in their redundant facilities in Scunthorpe and Sheffield. So why should CORUS move the Workington rail making plant to Scunthorpe? I do have an idea (as I used to work for CORUS/British Steel). It would make sense though to prefabricate the houses nearer to the source of the raw materials and also the use of the final product. Actually that’s the main reason for moving the rail plant to Scunthorpe. Cumbria (as usual) on the West Coast of the West of Europe has very poor access. West Coast Rail and the M6 should be known as the Joint Cumbria By-Pass. All the better for that in my opinion but not good for economic development. Ratcliff-Springall’s other scheme -‘ a new guild of Lakeland Artists and Craftspeople’ is a slap in the face of our own artists and craftspeople and the existing guilds. We have a heritage. Designs in metal… fixtures, fittings, embellishments, high volume….. hang on - they come from China. What we need is high margin, high skill, high art, high craft. It’s going to be fine though because the Arts & Crafts scheme would be lead by artisan teachers brought in from Eastern Europe. Hello…. that’s ok then because our existing teachers, colleges, schools and soon–to-be-university are pretty rubbish? The Cumbria Institute of the Arts is the biggest Art, Craft, Media education establishment in Europe and has Eastern European links and students. If we haven’t already got artists, workers, teachers then by all means bring them in. But can’t we use up what we’ve got first? In anticipation of the Eastern Europe link and the obvious lack of legal expertise in Cumbria, our Architect has employed Russian lawyer Olga Kalinina to help him with the driving of the plan. Rule 2 in my business is ‘never employ a lawyer’. Rule 1 is something to do with never employing family.
The Web threw up very little on Radcliff-Springall or his daughter Sophia (BA Fine Arts Manchester Met 2003), but just out of interest I did a search on the Russian lawyer. The only hit I got was in Brides Find UK. Same name, but described as a ‘manager’ not a lawyer so not the same person. The Brides Find Olga, under My future husband should be says“ I would like to fall in love and stay forever with intelligent, well-educated, very serious, kind, honest , romantic, understanding , passionate, financially secure man. A gentleman who knows how to enjoy life, how to love and to be loved, who needs love and family, but at the same time - a very simple guy with a very simple life. Age is not important for me. Aged 35-55.” Rules me out on age.. simple life… romantic… hang on I’m not looking for a bride and I’ve digressed .. sorry … I was ranting about local development strategy. Our local agencies and their officers do find it difficult to convince the public at large that they are doing a good job. It only takes one bad investment to overshadow all the good stuff. That’s the way of the World. Phil Cram (who wrote the Times & Star article) I think sees this plan for what it is and by exposing it in his very dead pan and matter of fact way has probably done enough to sink it. I was going to write to the ‘papers’ but I might as well be stereotyped …. ‘Cumbrians can’t be arsed’.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Blogger Stress

Blogger Stress
Web Log. I have to remind myself that this is what it is – a Web Log. A log a diary, a journal. How I feel on a subject? I know that we have an audience and that sometimes we address ‘the readers’ but - it is just a personal log fergodsake. Recent threats of litigation, visits from the Russian mafia, critical comments on style, content, grammar are conspiring to restrict the flow.
We had the upset over a film critique and the incredibly silly flag thing and trouble brewing over hostility to train managers and architects. It set me thinking that maybe that’s the problem with personal logs in that they depend so much on our own inside knowledge. Readers have to have the background and understanding of the writers to appreciate why the piece was written. The blog postings are not neutral newspaper reports nor are they essays to be marked and returned with ‘must try harder; grammar poor; do you really have to be so hard on Barrow-in Furness’
I tracked back some links to a small rant I produced about Santander. Some reader blasted, what I thought was a clever debunk of,  my attempt to speak a foreign language, in particular Spanish. The post praised the Spanish diet and suggested that if it wasn’t for their smoking they would live forever. What put the back up of my critic was the title ‘ My Spanish is Trez Merdre’. An in-joke in the Ren household and therefore I should have realised incomprehensible to anyone other than family or the David Jason school of comedy. A few years back whilst on hols with my mother in the Picos Europa, at breakfast I attempted to get some more butter for the mother’s toast. I managed to mangle some French, Italian and Spanish and asked for three more donkeys. Trez Mas Burro Por Favour GasOn Is what I actually said. There was much laughter from the kitchen.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Rock & Roll Heroes - Part II

Your bloggist, quite overcome at meeting Martin Belmont in Blencogo Village Hall.

Blencogo - pronounced Blencogo

Blencogo - pronounced - Blencogo. Letter from Aspatria:TWO
To get to the Hank Wangford gig we had to divert via Blennerhasset as the sewers are up in Spyatree.

Blennerhasset is fairly easy. Drop the Blenne and turn the e into an uh.
Rassut. Got it? Rassut.

Bi for now.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Rock & Roll Heroes - Part I

I've just come back from Blencogo Village Hall. The occasion - a gig by Hank Wangford, sometime gynaecologist of my friend the Nutritional Goddess. Blencogo's a tiny village on the fringe of the Solway flow-country - north and west of there it's peat moss all the way to Scotland. The village hall was packed for Wangford, who came on and did his sincere/kitsch Country & Western schtik with immense charm and enthusiasm. It was after the third number, when he introduced his band The Lost Cowboys by name that I realised the evening was very special indeed. 'And on guitar, Mr Martin Belmont'. Yes, Martin Belmont. Legendary guitarist of Graham Parker & The Rumour, absolutely the tightest rock & roll band in the world between 1975 and 1982 (American readers may be surprised to learn that The E Street Band were their only serious competition). Martin Belmont whom I'd first seen playing to 400,000 people at Blackbushe Aerodrome in 1978. That day The Rumour, token new wave act in a field full of old hippies, were supporting Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton, and comprehensively ripped it up with storming performances of 'Hey Lord Don't Ask Me Questions', 'Mercury Poisoning', and 'Waiting For The UFOs'. Belmont's guitar was an absolute revelation of colour and emotion then - and here he now was, 27 years on, playing to 60 people in a village hall with a disabled toilet for a dressing room. At half-time I went over and introduced myself to one of my real rock'n'roll heroes - and found him affable, friendly and full of memories of The Rumour's gigs. The second half of the night was sheer joy. Belmont played delicious guitar - there's something about the tone he gets from the instrument that's a heart-rending mixture of soulful distress and sheer luscious hedonism. I sat and listened entranced by the way that his hands could hale men's souls from wire coils. If you doubt my words, get down to Amazon, and watch and listen for yourself.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Vexillatious Litigation

Readers with long memories will recall this summer's saga of the Cumbrian flag. It has been brought to our attention that someone has taken exception to our vexillographic blogging. This someone believes that the Cumbrian flag is his own intellectual property and has wheeled out the lawyers to park their tanks on the lawn. Not on our lawn, you understand, (above which the Cumbrian flag still flies proud and unvanquished), but that of the estimable Turtle & Pearce, flagmakers to the quality.
One really doesn't know what to make of this. I'm told that the only flag design you cannot legally copy is the Royal Standard (to which Mrs Battenburg is welcome). So far as we know there is no other flag, national, regional or county, over which an individual has a right of property. So someone asserts that the Cumbrian flag is his. But if it's the Cumbrian flag, surely it belongs to the county and citizens of Cumbria? If it belongs to a private individual, then it is not a Cumbrian flag. We confess to disappointment: we'd thought the Cumbrian flag genuinely archaic, an authentic expression of our fabulously tangled cultural heritage, but it seems that the owner dreamt it up himself some time last year. So in what sense is it Cumbrian? Better not ask the lawyers. But we're anxiously scanning the horizon for sight of their tanks, should they try to park them on our lawn too. As a precaution we've wrapped barbed wire round the flagpole, set up a gun emplacement, and spent the evening rehearsing a harmony version of 'Oh Say Can You See By The Dawn's Early Light?'
We'll keep you informed of developments.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Oh Wont you write me.. a letter from Aspatria: ONE

Oh Won’t you write me .. a letter from Aspatria: One

The first thing to learn is the pronunciation: ASPEYTREEUH.

It is the only place I know in the world with 3 A’s and all pronounced differently.
The first A is pronounced as in Bath (the short guttural Northern version please).
The second A is like the A in Cake.
The third A is an uh .. a sort of grunt.
Ok you got it Aspeytreeuh - ASPATRIA.
Repeat after me - ASPATRIA.
It gets complex now. The locals drop the first A…..more like move it to replace the e in Spey… move the Y in front of the moved A to make SPYAT (not SPY AT but SPYAT (like SPLAT) but with a YU. You then have to drop the last A and pronounce the I as EE. So? if you are still with me . SPYATREE.
BUT .. just in case you are getting comfortable with this. If you mention SPYATREE to any West Cumbrian, the conversation assumes some sort of Pavlovian call and response.
Where’s th’ frae?
Spyatree? LowpOot?
Aye. LowpOot

I have this cunning plan to replace the Aspatria signs with Spyatree LowpOot. I’ll sponsor the making of them (I have a friend in Wukintun with a sign making business) I just need some help under cover of darkness for the realisation of this fantasy.
LowpOot dates back to the 1860’s when the railway guard informed the third class passengers that ‘the train had now arrived at Aspatria station.. would the Third Class passengers care to disembark’, by shouting ‘SPYATREE – LOWPOOT’

Next letter from Aspatria, I will attempt to teach all our blog readers to pronounce Torpenhow, Baggrow, Workington, Broughton, Moota and Blindcraig. I also have a cunning plan to replace all their road signs too.
Whilst I am in this frame - why is Harker Marsh subtitled Sunny Slack?

The Passion Of Remembrance

Sunday morning I went, with the Intrepid Mountaineer, his wife & a friend, to the summit of Great Gable. The occasion: The Fell & Rock Climbing Club's annual act of remembrance, now thrown open to all comers on the hill. The morning was a sudden exception to our wet autumn: frost on the ground, pellucid skies, and the mountains a dappled blanket of ochre and earth. We drove to Honister and walked along Moses Trod, below Brandreth and Grey Knotts, then up Green Gable to Windy Gap. The rocks were rimed with the lightest of frosts, making the ground treacherous. It was when we looked up to the hills that we first realised something extraordinary was happening. Many hundreds of people were walking across the fellside. The crests of Gable, from Windy Gap to Kirk Fell, were covered in tiny figures, silhouetted against the sky, all making their way to the summit.
This was the first time in 30 years I'd attended any sort of act of remembrance - I'd been put off the idea at school when, as trainee member of the officer class for the world war that never happened, I was lined up and forced to listen to brutal nationalism at the war memorial outside the school chapel. This was something quite different. The Fell & Rock gathering has taken place every year since 1924 when the club dedicated a memorial to their members who died in the Great War. They bought 1,184 acres of land, including the summits of Gable, Sca Fell and Sca Fell Pike, and gave them to the National Trust, a permanent remembrance of their dead friends. It's impossible not to think, high among the cold air and the open spaces of rock, bracken and grass, of the deaths in mud, destruction, darkness and insanity which this landscape remembers. It's a profoundly moving testament to the deep need we have for things to remain unchanged in the face of eternity. A few minutes before 11.00am a distant droning caught our attention: a helicopter appeared in the middle air above Lingmell and turned towards us. RAF Mountain Rescue flew past and saluted us: for a moment it was as if we were part of a Goretexed Woodstock, high above our nation. Then a member of the Fell And Rock read out a short announcement: not the overblown rhetoric of Winthrop Young 80 years earlier, but a reminder that our remembrance was non-sectarian, non-denominational, international and all-embracing - a remembrance both private and communal. We fell silent for two minutes, each wrapt in our private thoughts and recollections. Then, the silence broken, we looked up and began the long walk down from the hill. There was neither melancholy nor foreboding on the way to Honister, but a profound feeling of peace and the perception that we had taken part in something that was, however dimly understood, right.
The shock was all the greater when we returned to the valleys and the world of men, and saw, at the other end of the country, the hypocritical obscenity of the Prime Minister, who forced this country into an illegal, immoral and unnecessary war, memorialising the youths he sent to their deaths.

God Damn Blast Bugger and Fuck Health & Safety

The scene: Morrison's, in Whitehaven. I stoop to take a basket at the door. It is the last in the stack. For some reason I cannot lift it. I tug it. It sticks. I pull again, hard. Too late, I realise the basket's firmly attached to the metal contraption in which it's stacked. The chrome tubes of the basket-stand tip over, knocking me on the head, while below the wheels on which it swivels turn alarmingly and hit my shins. I am within an inch of collapsing in a heap of confusion, basket, stand and self splayed out on the floor. By some miracle, I recover. Standing up, still basketless, I notice that the stand next to this one also has but one basket within. That basket contains a simple notice: For Your Health And Safety, This Last Basket Has Been Attached To The Stand.
That's very helpful, I think. Clearly somewhere an under-manager has ticked his Health & Safety checklist and all is well with the world. So that's all right then.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

The Hole In The Wall Gang

We thought you might like to see this picture of the handiwork of the local architectural consultants/wealth redistributors in Aspatria.

One can only lament their lack of judgement. Their next target should be the shysters and scam-merchants responsible for this outrage.

Friday, November 04, 2005

The World's Local Bank (Not, Again).

Readers with long memories will recall my previous blogging upon the inadequacies of the world's local bank (not). Well it seems that some public spirited Cumbrians with pronounced views upon architecture have decided to take matters into their own hands. I noticed their handiwork earlier today when a trip to Aspatria to use the cashpoint once again ended in skint frustration. Can't they get anything right at the HSBC? The fact that the assault vehicle was nicked from our village is no comfort. Local opinion has it that the villains must be the same comedians who last month tried to drill through the wall with a Black & Decker - but first broke into an adjoining property to plug the drill into an electricity supply . . .

And did those sheep

And did those sheep in ancient times part 2

Well – did you see ROME on Wednesday night? I watched the first 50 minutes of the spectacular and then got bored just after Brutus had his way with the shepherdess with the sheep looking on, or queuing up, I’m not sure which. They weren’t running away!. AND before anybody else says it – yes it is quite possible that it was filmed in Cumbria. No wonder the sheep look worried. That must be what sheep worrying is all about.
I hope no cattle were harmed in the making of the series. Or tench. Or dormice.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Pumpkinisation of Our Society

The last time that I remember anything from Halloween must have been 10 years ago. The time before that there was something about nearly drowning in a zinc bath of water trying to bite a floating apple whilst blindfolded with my hands behind my back .. or was that the time I was a hostage in Beirut. Anyhow it was all good fun BUT I still have the nightmares and am unable to eat a whole apple without being sick and confessing to being a witch. So where do these fucking pumpkins come from? We used to hollow out turnips (Swedes to you Southerners) and have the house smelling like stale farts for weeks and that was it as far as I remember – no pumpkins, no Bush/Blair masks. My sister made a pointey hat once, and there was something about bed sheets and the mother’s best table cloth to do the ghost thing but that was it.
Penny for the guy I remember but I do not remember the trick or treat mugging.
What happened?
Whilst I’m almost on the subject: why have there been fireworks going off since last week and why will they last until a week after bonfire night, and, why did Christmas start in July?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Double Feature

Avid cinephiles among the readership have another chance to listen to the Cineaste & I talking about film on Radio Cumbria at about 10:00am GMT tomorrow (Wednesday) morning. We'll be covering current mainstream releases - as well as local independents and film clubs. And with stuff on release like Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, in which Helena Bonham-Carter gives a completely lifeless performance, expect some serious disagreement between us. If you're outside Cumbria at the time you can listen to the show live via this link (RealPlayer required).