'Agree With Everything - Deny Nothing - Embellish All

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Caravans Are Ycumen In

I've just spotted the first caravan of spring - heading along the A595 in a northerly direction towards Moota. In fact there were two of them - a breeding pair no doubt making for the mating grounds of Bassenthwaite where they can spend the summer spawning more of their satanic offspring. These two were of course driving as slowly as could be contrived, and generating huge amounts of offspray with which to soak passersby. Loude sing goddam.

Monday, March 27, 2006

King Of The World

In the course of our love-tryst on the banks of the Tyne, La V & I crossed and recrossed the Millenium Bridge - a dashingly elegant piece of engineering that is one of the few genuinely successful public works spawned by that arbitrary menagerie of a spectacle.
On the second occasion a wedding party were in occupation, lining the walkways under the direction of a professional photographer and a clearly amateur wielder of a video-camera. Obviously the bridge is the place to go for your wedding snaps if you're a Geordie - and we soon discovered why. Bride and groom leaned cosily together against the balustrade, gazing wistfully upstream. The pose was, of course, a conscious re-enactment of the iconic depiction of Kate and Leo in Titanic.
It struck me that only in the Canny Toon would the obvious subtext of the likely longevity of (i) the relationship and (ii) the engineering be so blissfully overlooked . . .

Geordie Workmanship, Cumbrian Design

To The Sage, Gateshead, on Sunday afternoon, where La V's daughters were at music lessons and a concert respectively. We filled in time with a delicious picnic in the foyer and I admired the building's spectacular architecture and sightlines. Its open bays, wide decks and warren of passages between rehearsal rooms would make the perfect location for the climax of a thriller - rather like the scenes in Edge Of Darkness where Bob Peck manages to lose his pursuers in The Barbican.
Then La V & I walked along to the Millenium Bridge and crossed over to the Canny Toon. On the quayside we paused to admire the spectacular Blacksmith's Needle, designed by our friend the Mighty God Vulcan The Smith. This is a beautiful piece, fifteen feet high and elegantly tapered, encrusted with images of Newcastle, the Tyne and the North Sea. Parts of it are even interactive - there's a bell at head-height that rings out beautifully clear. Altogether a lovely piece of Cumbrian design.
Back at the Sage, mid-concert in the sumptuously timbered Hall One, a disturbance broke out in the row just in front of us. Ushers came and went, arms were stretched high, heads looked up, fingers pointed. Water was dripping from the wooden panels just above. Eventually the dripping stopped, though its source and cause were never revealed. Presumably the builders have been loudly reassuring the owners "Howay man - the job's as good as done," ever since the building opened.

Les Delices De Cumbria - Part IX

Cancel that dinner party, skip the snack, forego breakfast, forget about your tea, abandon lunch all ye who eat here - get down to Tangier Street in Whitehaven where Crosby's produce what are possibly the finest fish and chips available to humanity. I stopped off there on Friday en route to La Virtuosa's, being sternly enjoined not to turn up without supper. The result was haddock and chips - straight out of the frier, sizzling hot, huge fillets of beautifuly flaky, moist flesh encased in deliciously crisp, richly hued batter. We devoured them.

Standing On the Corner . . .

En route to visit La Virtuosa on Friday afternoon, I drove to the road-end at Moota. Before me, a magnificent panorama of the north-western fells, from Skiddaw round to Grasmere and Melbreak, cloaked in the checkerboard remnants of late snow. As I paused at the junction, the radio played the Velvet Underground's Sweet Jane, quite the most concentratedly gorgeous plea for release into a remembered past produced by rock'n'roll. Those were different times - when poets studied rules of verse and ladies rolled their eyes. Quite why I've never managed to understand, but they must have had their reasons . . .

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Happy Blogiversary

Exactly twelve months ago I started blogging with this post about my experience as a Proustian roady for the Renaissance Man & Renaissance Woman at a St Patrick's Day gig in the Red City. News From Beyond The North Wind celebrates its first birthday today. Wish it well! Since then the three of us have recorded our experience of being Cumbrian as a kind of commonplace exercise, recording whatever seemed notable amusing ridiculous or enjoyable about life in the big county. We hope you've enjoyed the ride and will continue to join us in the part of cyberspace that lies beyond the north wind. Many happy returns to these pages.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

It's an illuminated mirror John

I was on the way to the bottle bank in Aspatria (putting in you understand) and thought I would tune in to Radio Cumbria. Two reasons for this: 1) I quite like the amatuerism of local radio.. and 2) Sunday Morning Love Songs does my head in. John Mann is the Radio Cumbria Jock who gets this Sunday morning slot and how he keeps a straight face I have no idea. Ok he says 'time for the 'whats in the Box' item. He then goes on to describe, without mentioning the name of this thing, a vegetable/fruit juicer. " 14 inch high, plastic and stainless steel electrical appliance, pictures of fruit and veg on the outside of the box... smooth drinks very in fashion and so on. Eventually Bert from Maryport(?) rings in. Morning John.. I know this one (what is it then Bert)... just thought I'd call as I'm waiting for my helper to take me to Morrisons .. having trouble with my eyes you know.. like the programme by the way (thanks Bert .. what's in the box then Bert?) ah yes John I know this one .. 14 inches high hey? (Yes Bert) Ok John I know this .. It's an illuminated mirror John .. got a light in the middle ... magnifies .. you can use it for shaving or applying makeup. Yes definitely an illuminated mirror. (Sorry Bert .. not even tepid) Are you sure John? It sounds just like an illuminated mirror to me (Nope Bert) Ok John great talking to you - Tarra.
You can't make this stuff up. Did anybody hear the Liverpool Radio quiz some years back when they had a phone in quiz? Which vegetable is Sir Walter Raleigh famous for? Is it the Bicycle Jimmy?

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Strange Case Of The Ambulant Toilet

A day in Preston at the wonderful Harris Museum, a stunning monument to Victorian philanthropy and a gem of a provincial collection, its galleries stuffed to bursting with fascinating objects and some rather good paintings. If you're visiting Preston, go see it and be enthralled. But most enthralling of all was the sight I encountered just outside the Gents. The next door along sported an alarming nameplate: Ambulant Toilet. Give-me-convenience-or-give-me-death being the spirit of the age, and mobile phones being terribly last-century, my mind boggled for just long enough to allow a vision of porcelain bowls sprouting legs, disentangling their plumbing, and following their owners like faithful dogs around the streets, ready to drop anchor and re-plumb themselves into the town drains whenever the call might be felt. Perhaps Apple are already working on a carefully styled hi-tech miniature version to be christened the iCrap?

Brief Encounter - Cheap Return

The Carlisle-Preston train stops, of course, at Penrith. As we pulled into the station I rubbernecked enthusiastically, scanning the platforms to locate the wonderful sign blogged in a recent post. Alas, nobody was being sucked off . . .

Winter Journey

Travelling to Preston on business related to the Film Festival: early morning approaching Carlisle I noticed for the first time a sight which I must have passed hundreds of times. A patch of waste ground just south of the station has been colonised by silver birch. Their trunks caught the light of the early Cumbrian morning and seemed to burn with a hue of rich peach, exactly what you wouldn't expect and not at all the Old Russia / Ivan's Childhood associations one naturally makes with such a landscape. Later in the day, returning north through the Howgill Fells and over Shap, I watched another landscape, of limestone edges, drystone walls and long drifts of deep snow, pass by. Then I discovered that the grinning pullover has branded each of his trains with the name of a 'legendary voyager'. Yes, I was travelling on The Robert Scott. The perfect tutelar to safeguard a return journey through snow and ice.

Friday, March 17, 2006

All Have Won, And All Shall Have Prizes

It seems you can't turn round without stumbling over another awards ceremony - thirty years after Douglas Adams satirised the explosion of self-congratulation in The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy. At least that's the way that you feel until you win one yourself. The Keswick Film Festival website, which I designed and continue to webmaster, won a modest Distinction (i.e. 2nd place, but who's counting) in the Best Website category of the British Federation of Film Societies' annual awards last weekend. The first website I ever designed, so I am absolutely not going to get all competitive and try to win it next year. The Distinction was shared with the website of Jersey Film Society, coincidentally run by Martin Hodge, an old mate from Cambridge, to whom congratulations.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Days When The Snows Came

This morning I woke to snow on the ground and the sound of a brisk gale whistling in the cottage's portholes. Snow has finally come to West Cumbria - something frequent enough on the hills a few miles to the east but such a rarity most winters in the west as to be genuinely worthy of comment. There's an inch or two across the fields to Aspatria. Below my window, a dozen or so oval-shaped patches of green are neatly drawn up in the lee of the cottage. Around them another group of smaller, elongated ovals. Obviously Sheep-fighting Man's herd, who have been raising their new-born these last six weeks, elected to take shelter beside my bathroom window last night.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Brief Encounter

We're obliged to our correspondent the Herr Doktor Professor who has sent on exciting evidence of Virgin Trains' new passenger service initiative. Or health & safety. Or something. As he remarks, we Cumbrians have all the fun . . .