'Agree With Everything - Deny Nothing - Embellish All

If you've come here looking for pictures of a camp Roman soldier - click on this link

Monday, November 27, 2006

Bring Back The Woolly Dice. Please.

Spotted driving between Harrington and Distington this afternoon: a red Rover 400, the back window adorned by a sign reading Porn Star On-Board and a large vibrator on a string. The driver was male, and not in the first flush of youth.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Undersea World Of Cushy Butterfield

The viewing platform of the Baltic Centre's a windy eyrie 150 feet above the Tyne: glass panels stand head height to discourage despair at the view of the Canny Toon's regenerated splendour. The architects may even have known what they were doing, because the panels afford a marvellous trompe l'oeil. Catch the light at the right moment and look downriver towards St Peter's basin: you will see a faint reflection of the Millenium Bridge caught in the panels. But it's a Millenium Bridge that has silently drowned, its apparent image deep beneath the waters of the Tyne where bollards and stanchions lurk to shipwreck unwary river traffic and a shoal of gasping pedestrians walk across its span, moving through their own underriver world, like limbo-wrapt souls caught in a fluvial mirror of the city above.

Oh No

To the Canny Toon on a bright winter morning, where I spent an idle hour by the Tyne. Most disturbing of all the generally rather bad exhibits within the Baltic Centre on Gateshead's quayside is Candice Breitz's John Lennon video installation. Ascending the right hand stairwell, 30-odd video screens replay 30 odd John Lennon fans recreating a capella the Plastic Ono Band album in its entirety. Somehow I can't help but think that this is a performance for which the world is not yet ready. However, their voices induced a certain catharsis by the time I reached the top, raising cruelly dashed hopes that the summit might feature Yoko being burnt in effigy.
I descended by the lift.

Before The Gold-Rush

The view from the train: at Parton 1024 shades of grey swell and coalesce from the horizon to the shore. Nestled in the lee of the Firth, just where the coasts of Scotland and Cumbria open into the vagueness of the Irish Sea, the oil exploration platform, dimly glimpsed, seemed to be sporting a distant flare on its starboard side. I don't suppose for a moment this means they've actually found anything, but the sight was curiously encouraging.

Goodbye Pork Pie

Travelling back to St Bees on the little railway that serves Sellafield, just south of my hometown I noticed that the Spillers Dalgetty Pork Pie factory in which I laboured, messily & mephitically, between school and university is now in an advanced state of demolition. This gave me a great feeling of gratification and pleasure.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Advice To Readers Contemplating The Purchase Of A 30-Bottle Self-Assembly Wine-Rack Kit

First, ask yourself the question: Do I possess an honours degree in structural engineering?
If the answer is No, pause to reflect upon how good life has been to you thus far.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Getting Jacobean With Your Ass

A number of American readers have asked me, a propos of my earlier ruminations on Trick-or-Treat, just what this November 5th Bonfire Night thing is that we Brits get so excited about. In the spirit of transatlantic education, I offer this link showing a typical British Guy Fawkes night being celebrated in traditional Jacobean fashion (hat-tip to the estimable Mr Arthur Clewley). Children: do not, under any circumstances, try this at home.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Vulcan's Forge

The other day I had to visit Distington & dropped in to the forge of Vulcan The Smith on a matter that need not detain us here. To my surprise and delight I was offered a quick tour of the establishment by the man himself, so we set off at a fierce pace around the fitting shop and other highlights. The sheer profusion and variety of the work was staggering - a set of bright brass handrails were about to be fitted in St Giles' Cathedral; metal boxes were waiting for shipment to Liverpool; balustrades to Manchester; a huge steel parabola, extravagently curved over upon itself, was destined for 'Skateboard Heaven' in Cambridge (Herr Doktor Professor - prepare for an outbreak of 'massive air' among the young people). The whole place was deeply compelling - on the one hand because pieces like the cathedral handrail are being designed and made with a thousand years of use in mind, on the other because I'd really been nowhere like this since my mid-teens when I'd had a holiday job in the fitting shop of the now sadly extinguished Phoenix Foundry. The collision of a timescale rooted in eternity with memories of sights and sounds long-unexperienced but remembered across half a lifetime was jarring but reassuring, if only in the knowledge that perfectly contrived beauty will survive us.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Americanisation Of Beatrice

I'm always angered when the right start banging on about how 'our British culture is being changed' (thinly disguised crypto-Fascistspeak for 'Britain should be a white country'). But it does beg the question of where the changes really originate. In the last week the household's been whipped into a frenzy by nightly trick-or-treat expeditions. Beatrice, V's younger daughter, was especially active, and proud of her haul of treats extorted from the Beghan burgers, but noticeably oblivious to the origins of the practice - to her, this was just how Hallowe'en had always been.
Would she be doing Penny For The Guy on November 5th? I asked her.
She looked at me blankly. Penny for the guy? November 5th? What was that about?
On the positive side you could just about view this as the end of 400 years of popular anti-Catholic prejudice. But it seems the Americans really have colonised us . . .

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Guided By Voices

New residence, new job. Thanks to a chain of events too unlikely and complicated to recount in a blog post I seem to have got myself a gig voicing corporate DVDs. Production of which appears to be rife in Cumbria, if the lavishly appointed state-of-the-digital-arts studio that I've just come back from is any indicator of these things. Faced with the task of conveying limitless fascination in the minutiae of health and safety statistics purely by means of my voice (if that's not too Gilbert Hardingesque) I seem to have passed vocal muster. No idea at present how much work this will amount to, but the blog will report on developments.

News From The Digital Revolution

One happy accident of moving to Beghan domesticity - nearby Whitehaven is the first part of the UK to be forced to cut over to a digital TV signal, an event currently scheduled for autumn 2007. As chance would have it, the valley of St Bees itself will remain as a small beach-head of analogue persistence, but for all other purposes, I'm going to be living on the bleeding edge of the British digital media revolution for the next year or so. News From Beyond The North Wind will be reporting regularly on what these changes mean for people and how the revolution goes. Stay tuned . . .

More Health & Safety Nonsense

A walk down to St Bees beach yesterday - its neo-brutalist concrete promenade is adorned by a message from Copeland Borough Council: Visitors Use The Promenade At Their Own Risk. Somehow this opens up a whole new dimension of experience never imagined by the writers of I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside. Walking along the prom prom prom where the brass band plays tiddly-om-pom-pom is not thought comparable to a bivouac on the north face of the Eiger . . .

Cut Up By A Hearse

This morning. In the Red City. Complete with top-hatted crepe-wrapped undertakers, silver-handled coffin and (presumably) corpse. I was astonished at the time and on reflection am not sure what the appropriate response should have been. Traditional parping of horns, expressive sign-language and choice comments on the driver's parentage all lack diginity and, besides, are likely to upset the mourners. Etiquette mavens among the readership please advise.