Oct 1 2016

Relating a pleasant apple based day to the misery of politics

It is 11.20am and Apple Day is doomed. bunt An over-officious and over-wrought woman who looks like Theresa May is explaining the various catalysts that have occurred since Apple Day’s official starting time of twenty minute ago to a volunteer Apple Day assistant who has  the contorted, confused but benign face that reads ‘Why did I agree to help on Apple Day? In fact did I ever agree to help on Apple Day?’ apple ‘It was a lot busier than this last year, a lot busier at this time,’ Overwrought Managerial Apple Day woman who looks like Theresa May says staring with bleak despair at the happy throng skipping towards the Apple Day festivities. ‘I think the problem is is that people looked at the initial weather forecast and planned home-based activities instead.’ I think about the concept of looking at a weather forecast and planning a home based activity in the unlikely event Apple Day in Ulverston  is called off. I think about the concept of a planning a home based activity. Either Overwrought Managerial Apple Day Woman who looks like Theresa May  knows better people than me or they don’t get CBBC in Ulverston. boar Overwrought Managerial Apple Day Woman who looks like Theresa May has not finished explaining yet. I wonder when she actually started. She shows the volunteer a basket of lumpen sturdy apples and explains the concept of the game. The concept of the game is to peel the longest unbroken piece of apple skin. Then the health and safety kicks in. ‘This stall can’t be left for a minute. Because of the peelers’. apllllll Suddenly all I can see through the warm October shards of sunlight are cruel twisted faces of evil. Evil that given a chance will peel you with an unguarded peeler and leave your broken slimy entrails dangling by the apple related bunting whilst it goes to to peel and peel again.

 

Serious faced people trundle past with manky apples in wheelbarrows to see them transformed into what strongly resembles the viscous  first wee of the day. There are Morris Dancers! There is bunting, apple cake, apple pie! It’s like if the Great British Bake-off and that poem about spinsters on bicycles playing cricket or whatever has all become one great ‘Brexit’ dream about the identity of England. rot A Blackcurrant Fruit Shoot adrift in a fake purple shoe on the vaguely apple themed tombola is Judas and all the genial looking men proudly holding warty but honest apples are definitely Jeremy Corbyn. shpot A polite well dressed man smiles amicably as his dog has a shit near the playground and suddenly I remember the heady days of Nigel Farage. Oh England. Oh Apple Day. Oh Blackcurrant Fruit Shoot on a raft of fake shoe with a trail of bedraggled peeling glitter behind you. I do like you.   lat


Sep 10 2016

A train station pub in Weston Super Mare.

pa

 

I thought I’d hook you in with that pithy title full of promise.

I think the world is jaded by clickbait offering breathy questions as to who  was having sex on drugs with what and the disappointing answer being someone you have never heard of but with some impressive bronzed breasts that reach to the sky and you haven’t even heard of the actual drug and it’s all a bit safer when you go to bed listening to Radio 4  at 9pm apart from all the mass murders they insist on telling you about when actually all you want to hear is a pleasantly spoken person speaking anything as long as it stops you thinking.

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I tried to think of a clever or interesting title about the train station pub in Weston Super Mare to reel you in. I’ve not written for a while and sometimes thinking of a good, funny or clever title for an article can make the article write itself.

This has not yet happened.

I don’t normally even write about Weston Super Mare, Unicycle Emptiness being predominantly concerned with the North West of England but I can’t think of a pun-laden attention drawing title that encapsulates that. I’ve not written for ages due to finding myself lurching despondently around the same postcode but again, not a snappy title.

I am in a train station pub in Weston Super Mare.

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My brother is here and asks me why I don’t write anymore. I explain that everything feels moribund and I have found a grim pleasure only in looking at stranger’s  complicated parking arguments with their  neighbours on Mumsnets’ Am I Being Unreasonable page. He looks disgusted and talks about his forthcoming trip to North Korea.

I attempt to show off myself so detail the price of the short yet pleasant trip to Ulverston  from Lancaster when using a Family and Friends Railcard but I don’t mention how I now take the trip too frequently so it becomes something more of an OCD tinged embarrassment rather than a nice day out and how I feel I have forgotten how to write and my friends and family are sick of going to fucking Ulverston again.

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He looks around and tells me I should write about this place, the train station pub in Weston Super Mare. I sip on my three pound double house vodka and lime and soda and think about it. He warms to the theme and tells me I should change my horizons and write about train station pubs.

There’s a whole new world out there of pubs on the periphery, where locals go to watch frazzled strangers arrive, frenziedly neck an overpriced pint of Stella and depart, the over-lit chain pubs with Meal Deals and a pretense of friendliness and places like this, the train station pub in Weston Super Mare.

It is connected to a shop, the shop is now closed but a bobbing cardboard cutout of a large ice based confectionary remains swinging in the breeze in the periphery of my eyesight.

It is friendly. Whilst I wait for my brother, I chat to a quiet voiced regular from Durham about the astonishing price I paid for a can of G and T at Birmingham New Street after four hours of the usual terrifying train chaos of what should have been two hours swooshing genteelly through the Midlands.

Someone appears to be dying outside. She lies resplendent in the road by  the bus stop. It is not yet 5pm. Paramedics arrive and the scene is watched and commented on with varying degrees of sympathy, knowledge and sarcasm by the regulars. I seem to be the only person who is not a regular, an unusual occurence for someone at a train station pub.

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The choice of cider is superb and I suddenly wish to live in Weston Super Mare, to come here on weekday evenings, chat to the locals and feel like I belong, become a permanent fixture in a building built for transience.

Emboldened by Red Square doubles, I decide my brother’s idea is fantastic, rivers of fantastic, obscure and banal conversation drifts over me, all gold, all pure gold. I take photos, banter, watch the girl on the floor and think of all the things I can write about.

I can’t remember them now. And my photos are terrible.

I will probably go to Ulverston again next week.

Although I have now just wasted a perfectly good title for the next blog post.

pubby

 


Feb 25 2016

Lancaster’s history is being stolen and sold to the highest bidder

best oic

I used to look at picturesque ruins and think of them in their glorious heyday, long dead people suddenly moving , blank stone arches alive by the sun splattered pattern of long smashed stained glass.

 

Now I look at the present and see a dead  future.

 

Ever since my child was a few weeks old we would go to the Maritime museum in Lancaster. A grandiose yet cosy building with smiling staff who knew my child by name- I watched him grow there by the way he stared then grinned at painstakingly made model ships, shouted then talked to the model stagecoach whilst I  listened to the smooth pleasantly spoken recording  of deaths via quicksand  on Morecambe Bay as the rain lashed outside.

new castle

He crawled then walked around the museum, noticing more every time he went- each time we watched the ‘History of Lancaster’ film getting a bit more of the way through it. And I can recite the first ten or so minutes off by heart- a party trick no-one will ever want to see.

 

He will probably never get to see the end. The Maritime museum has been closed since December due to the flooding but a man-made disaster wants to close it to ‘save money’.

 

A canny trick that, in a small ancient city reliant on tourism.

 

In the summer months, I can’t remember an occasion when I have been out and about and not been asked directions to the city’s museums by tourists. Sadly due my dyspraxia, despite being eager to give advice, there are probably some lost souls from Tokyo and Plymouth still wandering around looking for that promised ‘up a bit, then down a bit then left, no right, past that good pub’ golden path.

2mari

Maybe I did it.

 

‘Never go to Lancaster, my good friends, they don’t know their left from their right but they pretend they do.’

 

Now it will be, ‘Don’t go to Lancaster, my good friend. All the interesting things about its history you can see on the internet only. It has a new Primark though.’

 

‘But new Roman roads were discovered in Lancaster last year!’

‘ Yes, they have been covered over and you can’t read about it or see what was found because the museums are closing.’

‘But  amazing ancient treasures have been found near Lancaster!’

‘ Yes, they are in London. The museums stay open in London. London is the SOUTH. Things are a bit different, once you get past Crewe, my good friend. Only one museum per city is sacrificed there’.

maritime

The Judges Lodgings has already gone, fallen under the knife. Fortunately the finances of the country are not in such perilous straits that the MP’s can’t award themselves pay-rises and hurray, they still have subsidised lunches and booze. Phew.

 

Nevermind that the handsome Judges Lodgings was an amazing multi-tasking museum of stunningly intricate and local Gillows furniture, a treasury of toys, interactive Victorian playrooms and costumed guides who lead generations of kids around its ancient rooms and told them all about their own local history. A history now denied. It saves money, you see.

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The cottage museum. A tiny little portal into the past, one wee terraced house preserved from the past for the present and the future- a chance to see for two pounds, a slice of history shadowed under the great castle. No. One person in a waistcoat or pinnie to smile and take your two quid, to show you around three floors of untouched past,  tell you about wattle and daub and give you a chance to add to a rag rug using an old clothes peg? No.

In the City Museum, right in the centre, Anglo Saxon and Roman artifacts rub shoulders with waxworks of Victorian men on the toilet and has a whole room dedicated to the First and Second World Wars. Meh. Who need to know about that? Who needs the original art displays and sweeping staircases featuring oil paintings of the entire history of the area? Who?

 

Right- now think of Lancaster.

new

 

What do you think of?

 

Is it student housing, the new Primark or that massive historical structure that dominates the city?

 

That’s right, the castle.

 

Lancaster castle.

 

That looming  landmark that has decided history, changed history, been the death of many and the birth of legends. Where so called ‘witches’ died to earn the council a fortune in perpetuity and crude drawings of witches in black hats on broomsticks rule sublime over a rather more unpleasant actuality of elderly women dying in the dark dark cells.

Dark dark cells you say? Market them!

Imagine an eternity pool in the black of a witches cell! With Jo Malone candles- only rich people who mostly aren’t local will die to come to a place where many local people actually died!!

What Lancaster needs is a luxury hotel.

 

Museums are old-fashioned.

 

Oh what a joke! Oh the hilarity! Oh the despair!
‘Don’t go to Lancaster, my good friend-the past has gone and so has its future. But soon, soon, it will have a fucking Primark and a maybe a cocktail in the Castle called a ‘Long Drop’.

 

picnew

http://www.lancashireatwar.co.uk/save-our-museums/4591249007


Dec 9 2015

Flood

 

Two days ago I lay in the dark with no electricity or phone signal listening only to the sound of sirens and rain.

 

I say only. Both sounds were vivid and pulsating, unsettling and foreboding. And they continued all night. In the day it wasn’t so bad. Their noise was diminished by the grey glow of dawn but the night went on and on and on and I wondered what story they were telling.

 

It’s weird to be cut off, to be left adrift in the middle of a city, fingers instinctively tapping at light switches, grazing down darkening unresponsive phone and computer screens.

 

It takes a long time for morning to appear and when it does it is not with the bright chaos that normally accompanies it, a cacophony of alarms and cBeebies, kettles and toast. No, we get up and wait for the morning to come to us, huddled under a blanket as candles flicker, waiting for the dark of the sky to lighten, slowly so slowly lighten.

sainsbury

By seven am, we are desperate for something to happen, some news from the Outside. We live near the river and have no idea where it is and what has happened , how safe we are. My four year old and I get dressed haphazardly  in the dark. I can’t find anything, spill tealight liquid  and one Thomas the tank engine sock hugs tightly around my foot.

 

Outside is a relief, brighter and warmer than inside. I want to look at the river but my child is scared to. I have an idea that Wetherspoons will be open. It must be. Wetherspoons is always open. Wetherspoons can survive anything. We walk towards town in the expectation of lights and warmth.

 

Town is closed. Wetherspoons is closed. These are clearly the end times.

 

I never before knew how many noises alarms could make. There are sharp peeps, loud Whaas, stoppy starty screams, panicky bips all intermingling into a onslaught of Not Normal. It is still raining. You never normally notice how so many things are lit up- bus stops, shop signs, roads until they are gone.

The traffic lights are blank- I go to get cash out to be met with an impassive grey screen. I never thought of that.

 

My child is crying, desperate for somewhere to sit down, we are flotsam in a familiar yet unfamiliar environment, aliens. Home is not Home anymore, we keep walking- we are at the top of town, no idea of what lies at the bottom. I think of places that might have their own magical power supply that aren’t Wetherspoons and thus we head like cockroaches to the hospital.

 

It is not yet 8am.

 

I am annoyed at myself for getting so concerned. I have not seen any floods as yet and it might just be a power cut.

 

Then I see the army.

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The army appear to doing Selfies outside the hospital which allays my fears somewhat especially as my first point of contact today is an elderly Lancastrian who tells me it  ‘owt but a few puddles’.

 

Inside the hospital I parasitically charge up my phone expecting the whole generator to go off and a few thousand people to die as a result but an elderly lady tells me  when I am being indecisive about this potential transgression that ‘you pay your taxes, love’ which convinces me. I am worryingly easy to convince.

 

The cafe opens and and a coffee and baked beans on toast has never been better. Then my child drops a bottle of Lucozade bottom down on the floor and my head erupts in surprisingly painful Lucozade lava. More NHS supplies and staff help me. I resolve never to moan about taxes again whilst leaving the hospital sticky and reeking of glucose with a Thomas the Tank Engine sock slowly cutting off all circulation in my right foot.

 

Lancaster is now full of zombies. I have never seen it so busy. With the absence of phones, people are sharing new rumours and gossip and queueing for public phone boxes. Every shop and cafe is closed and we head down to the bottom of town, our town to see it is pretty much afloat.

 

Abandoned cars with their numberplates dangling at unnatural angles, the insistent discordant squeal of a thousand alarms punctuating the air.

 

No-one is on their phones. Strangers stop to talk. There are water bottles for sale on trestle tables and a Samaritans van has a long long line of people who are not smiling and gossiping.

Everything familiar is unfamiliar. I want to take pictures but want my phone, my unresponsive phone to still retain its charge. I can’t believe how lost I feel without it.

The bus station is a river, the fire engine has a boat going down the road. Still people surge, never knew there were so many people in Lancaster. I see through windows of flooded student accommodation, people huddled in blankets in the rank mud of their living room.

I don’t want to go home.  I like the safety of people, like hearing second hand the rumours ( ‘the power station is on fire,’ ‘Lancaster is an island’)  the guilty sense of excitement.

 

Home is dark and cold and empty.

 

An enormous queue forms outside the one tiny corner shop open. It Is hard to believe how different things were yesterday.

 

But we are tired. We walk through a changed small city, a city where everyone is outside and where the alarms punctuate the cold air, a place of mud and water where Christmas and commerce seems to have suddenly vanished.

car

Then in the typical black hole of a formerly brightly lit establishment, the Robert Gillow we see candles. And hear music. We step inside into the black. A jazz band is playing lit by tea lights. A table is full of sandwiches and biscuits and at the bar, a man offers me warm beer or wine. He tells me not to bother about paying ‘as we are not counting pennies at a time like this, we just want to help people.’

I nearly cry. We sit in a corner and swap stories with strangers. My child drinks milk and smiles.

 

Outside,  it is turning out to be a beautiful blue sky day.
Then I go home back to the dark and the unnatural noise of sirens, alarms and the river in my cellar.


Sep 8 2015

Real vintage hell at Morecambe Vintage Festival

m1

I don’t really know why Morecambe feels the need for a vintage festival. Morecambe sells nylon slacks for £3.99 in the street and five bedroom houses for eighty grand. Morecambe has crumbling ghost signs and liver and onions advertised as an actual selling point on blackboards outside cafes.

Now Wayne Hemingway has driven up from Islington in his fancy sports car (conjecture-don’t sue me Wayne or I will show  you the broken hinge on my twenty pound Red or Dead purse- WHO’S LAUGHING NOW?) to DJ in a tent and Morecambe is surprisingly populated by an uncanny and unnatural mix of fur stoles, heels, red lipstick and overstretched Primark leggings and cans of Polish beer.

m2 I am somewhere in the middle.

It is a beautiful day and Morecambe looks resplendent, it suits men in cravats playing ukuleles outside the Midland Hotel. Inside the Midland, I see that a glass of house wine is seven pounds and go to steady my nerves in the licensed Wacky Warehouse. It is less glamorous here but I have saved three pounds and twenty pence although lost any semblance of dignity and romance.

In the world’s most sullen funfair, I wait patiently whilst a stall-holder has a fight with another stall-holder about a lost dog, child or husband and notice that salted caramel has definitely jumped the shark as now one can purchase an oversized salted caramel dummy for £1.50.

m3

Queues for the food stalls are long and we meander through the dim recesses of back streets until we decide to stop at the Worst Cafe in the Universe. The Worst Cafe in the Universe is all the unpleasant elements of Vintage- varying shades of brown, at least 46756766 sticky place-mats featuring paintings of unexotic expired brown fruits, a menu seemingly inspired by the more desperate age of rationing but with prices from the Midland Hotel in 2015.

There I could have had a nine pound vegetarian platter featuring spinach falafel and olives and other such glamorous things whilst also engaging in gin and flirtation with men with a sardonic twinkle in their eye in a fashionable well lit Art Deco environment.  Here, in the dark, a fucking omelette is £8.95. Incredibly, some of the 4768 tables have brass triangular Reserved signs on. I have a minuscule soup  with cubed carrot bobbing miserably in and out of the salty broth ( my tears)  and sulk bitterly. It says a lot that I decide not to try the wine.

m4

I go wincing back into daylight and return to a brighter prettier version of Vintage with flounces, ruffles, poodles and Prosseco.

 

Give me artifice or give me death.

 

m5


Aug 25 2015

Dismaland

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The thing that shocks me is the sudden realisation I have not been shocked and surprised for so long. This is sudden sensory bombardment and I can’t cope so do what everyone else is doing- take out my phone to take bad photos of it instead.

banksy1

 

From a bright white entrance airport style cubicle where my child and I are not smiled at and told to walk separately, we enter the vast concrete expanse of Dismaland. Cracked tiles and broken shopping trolleys, bins artfully already overflowing.

 

A gargantuan installation of a dancing truck pirouettes against the gloom of a grim  August sky. The tannoy crackles with bursts of sinister noise, disembodied cold speech and slowed down fairground music. I am stupidly excited.

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A rusty Ferris wheel stands in the centre, seats blowing emptily in the breeze. I have been yearning to go on this Ferris wheel since I saw it being constructed in a few days from across the cold grey walls surrounding the former Tropicana pool.

We get on. A man in mickey mouse ears looks grimly at me as I nervously clamber on, pulled by my excited four year old. ‘Be careful’, he states dispassionately to my child.  ‘I would hold on to her tight if I were you.’

We start to elevate. I start to notice the rust. We go higher and faster, rocking in the wind and I am annoyed by the prospect of dying before seeing the rest of Dismaland yet slightly impressed by the manner and glamour of my imminent  death.

banks4

 

I never thought I would say that about Weston Super Mare.

Things are not helped by the fact a camera man is recording my terror and my child’s glee every time we swoosh around the bottom of the wheel. Everything is being recorded here.

 

Leaving alive, we stagger over the cracked tiles and a man lurches up at me shouting, ‘it’s not right, it’s not right, they’ve not even cleaned this place up’, and points angrily at an artfully placed broken child’s scooter in a pile of mirk. I beam at him presuming he is part of the event but notice the ‘local’ wristband on his arm as this is the day 1000 locals have been allowed access with a coupon from the local paper.

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This is the confusing bit for me. I appreciate the detail with the unhelpful glum attendants (and they are delightfully glum) but you get sucked in, I presume deliberately, into a topsy- turvy world of what is real and what is not. I ask for directions to the toilet, they are barked at me, I smile and simper the ruder people are to me, become politer and more English like some weird Stockholm Syndrome victim. My child is so excited when I nearly reach a duck in the Hook a Duck and beams at the stall attendant who glares at him and throws the nearly caught duck away into an oily mire. I strangely appreciate the casual cruelty so far from the pasted on smiles and bored eyes of most theme parks.

banksy6

I walk into a tent and try to work out what spectacular Look at Me! multi-media installation to look at first. Another grim faced woman in mickey mouse ears comes up to me and asks me to leave through the entrance.

Aha!

I have cottoned on to this deliberate confusion and cruelty!

 

I smile and continue to feast my eyes and take bad photographs. Then two grim faced women in mickey mouse ears come up to me and ask me to leave through the entrance. They really really mean it this time. One of them angrily points to my cider.

 

I leave through the entrance.

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The grey broken spire of a Disneyesque castle has been greatly appealing to my child so we  enter into the pitch black to see in stuttering strobe lights a dead princess hanging out of a pumpkin carriage being photoed by creepily real paparazzi models.  The  child worryingly declares this wonderful and wants to go in again. He is also under the impression this is actually Disneyland but is perfectly happy. This might possibly affect him in later life.

 

What I thought would be a novelty few hours is in fact an eyeball bleeding onslaught of magnificence- every tattered  billboard is  artfully designed to execute a statement of political intent, fairground attractions are cruelly witty- we win a fish finger in a plastic bag and my child tries to crash into a boatful of refugees with every anguished desperate face vividly executed.

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Banksy has stated that the Tropicana meant a lot to him as a kid and the media attention and subsequent cash from Dismaland and all its attendant artists hopefully means that it will be restored to its former glory. There  is well meaning anarchy at work here in every broken stone,  a finger up at the system in every tattered poster, in every artful splatter of random graffiti. Some might say the messages are obvious but if the media can convey simplistic messages and agendas every day to appeal to suit their viewpoint and agenda then why can’t Art for once give a sudden differently skewed perspective to those who don’t generally frequent art galleries?

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And the artwork itself is truly unique- loud, flamboyant, angry, kitsch- the embodiment of crumbling seaside towns desperate to keep the neon lights still flickering.  A model town featuring the aftermath of a riot in mesmerizingly intricate detail, paintings of urban dereliction with uncanny observation and cruel twists. I walk around mesmerised, can’t trust my eyes, take bad photos.

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My phone camera memory dies under the onslaught and the next day in a local paper I see a photo of me in the background of a room of art, my head bent low, desperately trying to delete photos so I could take more but not looking at the art itself- a parody of a parody.

 


Aug 5 2015

A guide to East Lancashire involving singing trees, seeing no ghosts and eavesdropping on East Lancashire men at a real ale and steam train pub in Bury.

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Hall i’ th’ Woods.

Has ever a more evocative name been heard? It has a sense of place, a fascinating history, regalness and ancient romance. Open at irregular times and of course reputed to be so utterly haunted it has even featured on that grand portal in the unknown, Most Haunted.

 

We enter via the council estate to a genial woman inviting us on a bug hunt.

This is what happens when  haunted houses are owned by Bolton council.

 

The genial Northern woman is so genial I at first want her to be an ambassador for the North, such is her lovely burring tones and quiet enthusiasm. Once she gives my boy a silhouette matching worksheet, I have quietly raised her above Jeremy Corbyn in the Prime Minister stakes.

Sorry, Jeremy, I tried to imagine you patiently explaining to a cross four year how a spit worked in the kitchen of an ancient hall but I can’t. Well, I can definitely visualise you more than the other Labour candidates doing such a thing but Genial Northern Woman could probably ward off ISIS with a twinkle in her eye and a local wildlife worksheet.

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I try to soak up the atmosphere of the history ( and definitely ghost) soaked building but it is slightly marred by the loudly enunciated complaints of  the job in question, boss and fellow workmen by a man by a ladder in a yellow tabard staring grimly and unromantically at the ancient walls.

I think if a headless white woman appeared, he would tell her she ‘wasn’t in his job description.’

 

Burnley

 

There is a singing ringing tree in Burnley. I have read about it often and wanted to see it. On a Trip Advisor review of the Singing Ringing Tree, someone is angry about the free and beautiful attraction. He says he could have done it for sixty quid instead of the actual cost of the installation. Whilst looking and listening to the art installation, instead of listening to the finely tuned pipes sending glorious music across the landscape, I am being cross about the stupid review and decide I will offer him sixty quid to make exactly the same installation. It will be worth not eating for a week.

Bury

 

There is a pub, the cosiest pub in existence that sits next to the East Lancashire Railway in Bury. Steam trains puff past, there is a sign at the door that says badly behaved children will be made into pies. Pleasingly, my child believes it and sits still and terrified.

 

Someone has been so shocked by the menu of a pub nearby they have painstakingly photographed the menu on their phone  to further shock other locals  not acquainted with the menu in question.

The  entire menu ( yes, entire menu) is read out with great solemnity and fanfare ending in outrage when it comes to the price.

‘Cheese and Onion Pie’- ‘How much do you reckon?

People give prices from the seventies.

Fanfare- ‘£8.95!

People gasp.

 

‘Yes’ says the grand orator wielding his old Nokia. ‘£8.95’!

‘Now,’….an expectant pause.

‘How much do you think for a cheese toastie?’

Silence

‘I’m telling you, £3.95!’

There is shock and awe.

He continues.

‘So four quid for cheese on toast!’

Someone intervenes.

‘So cheese on toast is more than the toastie?’

‘No! I’ve rounded it up to show you the actual price!’

A low mutter commences.

 

‘Now, get this!’- The phone is wielded around like an oracle of God.

‘There’s a children’s menu!- that’ll be half a sausage then!’

People nod wisely.

‘Four quid!’

This creates a low hubbub.

Someone else chimes in the price of a scotch egg he once had but I am tragically unable to hear it due to the quiet roar.

It continues. Every single item on the menu is listed to a shocked pause. Meals are  discussed  as to their constituent ingredients to prove the shocking price of it combined, cooked and served. I know more about this averagely priced menu than I do about my own family. I listen in a bubble of steam train smoke and strong perry (£3 a pint 7.5%)

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THEN the outrage over a sign by a nearby gastropub.

‘Well, it said free beer but it was a trick!’

‘It said Free in big letters and wifi in small letters and beer in big letters’.

Everyone is disgusted.

‘I won’t go to a place that lies’.

‘To resort to those tactics shows the sort of place it is-they’ve reduced themselves and shown the sort of place it is.’

Tragically, just as the conversation turns to the death of Cilla Black, I have to leave.

This, more than even a stuck ghost belonging to Bolton Council  will forever haunt me.


Jul 10 2015

Bolton

It’s been a while. Inertia creeps. The same places, the same constant confusion about how to add a photo to a post. But then I went to Bolton and saw an advert for a fish stall featuring a dead shark with a crab in its mouth and thought more people should delight in such laminated items of glory .
bolton 2

 

 

I had a pleasing time in Bolton possibly due to the fact I was not expecting to. Nobody ever rhapsodises about Bolton in the Guardian. I suspect nobody ever rhapsodises about Bolton in the Bolton Guardian.*

It’s just that place near Manchester. Hey, Manchester! Let’s go to Manchester! But on a grim wet Tuesday, the thought of heading to Bolton seems impossibly glamorous. I possibly need to get my passport renewed at some point.

 

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In Bolton, an old man is playing a tape recording of the Pogues and playing a recorder along with it.No mean feat.  I wonder if he has been the victim of a hipster in a second hand record store. I would have liked to have taken a closer pic but did not have the nerve. This is why I am poor. Yes, you, old polite gentleman with an upturned hat dully glinting with a few coppers and a saliva drenched recorder. I blame you. Somehow.

In a  lacklustre charity shop I hear the decisive snip of a label being pulled off by the woman next to me then I hear her ask the price of the item in question causing the flurry of anxiety an unpriced item in a lacklustre charity shop can cause on a dull Thursday afternoon. People are called ‘from the back’, they all insist the price is definitely inside the bag despite numerous frantic searchings. I am paralysed by indecision and English nerves. Do I say I heard her rip it out ( a known scam so a dithering volunteer on the spot can price it for 20p) but what if I am wrong? What if the nylon twang was from something else at close range somehow? I leave the panicking cluster with a feeling of guilt and disquiet. I have only been in Bolton ten minutes but have potentially assisted in robbing a charity shop and will never be able to listen to Rum, Sodomy and the Lash again without thinking of the desperate parping of a recorder accompanying it.

 

 

Sanctuary is sought in The Old Man and Scythe- tumbling and beautiful- ancient beams, stone floors, hot pasties and a large range of strong perries. It’s pretty much everything that is wonderful and good.
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I try not to eat all the pasty as wish to try to sample something exotic and glamorous in Bolton Market. But it is a pasty. A hot pasty. I keep putting it back in my bag. It steams lustrously back at me in its nylon cell. I am defeated.

Bolton museum is a thing of even greater glory than the pasty. Especially after a Raspberry perry at 7.7%. There is an aquarium, an art gallery an Ancient Egyptian room and 50% off certain things at the gift shop. I decide I love Bolton. And bug keyrings for 50p.

Then, then, then, Bolton Market! Not only is there the previously mentioned laminated dead head eating a dead  crab tableau but it has a craft ale and cheese stall and wooden stalls in the middle of the market means you can sit in a strange otherworldly existence of drinking a glass of wine (2.90 for a large glass of Chardonnay) watching Wimbledon on a big screen, some genial African  men selling curried goat and plantain, women in burqas walking past, a really really pissed off looking woman drinking a cup of tea from the tea stall and some cheery blokes at the ale stand, so happy and comfortable in their own bubble of Northern bonhomie  that they  look like they belong to the stall and get folded up at the end of the afternoon.

In a glow of cheap refreshment glory, I admire puns on the stall names and declare them worthy of Dickins himself then float home with a bag of short dated premium goods for a pleasing price and a dry mouth.

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bolterino*In my head, furious readers will write in to complain that Bolton does not have a Bolton Guardian but in all actuality I could say that the Bolton Pound Bakery was a hotbed of Isis insurgents and still not have this post merit a comment apart from someone who is determined to sell me viagra at a good price.

 


May 2 2015

Wray Scarecrow Festival 2015

Yes, I know that he is a scarecrow. But I still would.

This is terrifying. It is not the first time that scarecrows have terrified me or my loved ones at Wray but normally they’re flammable zombies or creepily trying to be sexy or something ( (Poldark scarecrow doesn’t count- Poldark scarecrow worked it)

This time a scarecrow is doing a straw poll (sorry) to see which way people are planning to vote in next week’s elections. I hate the fact the faded blue child’s  ballpit balls overflowing in the Conservative tub might actually have some actual impact in my actual real life scarecrowless life. A sentence I should not have to ever say.

I have a  urge to wee in the Ukip tub and then watch them bob all around in a sea of wee but refrain. Only two people in Wray vote Labour. This so beats a swingometer. I wish all voting was done with plastic balls at Scarecrow Festivals. It would make Newsnight far more colourful.

I don’t know what this Angel of the North is meant to represent. I like to think the people who made it are aloof and alone- possibly the  Barclay Brothers and people are scared of them and the sinister message the scarecrow is somehow conveying to the village and the village’s children and the villagers’ childrens’ children.

The theme this year was ‘fantasy’ and this animatronic scarecrow diorama shows a man actually ironing and holding a child. Sorry, suffragettes. It is fantastic of course. I have however got to the stage where I am eyeballing scarecrows to work out the creator’s political persuasions in the hope I can discover the two Labour voters in the village. This is not one of them.

There was a similar Scottish/ anti- Scottish themed scarecrow in this pleasant little nook by the river last time. I like to think it is an embittered husband and wife (one of whom is Scottish)  with different political persuasions  fighting each other through the medium of Scarecrow.

This is just the real Nigel Farage.

I hope the real Nicola doesn’t see this.

No, THIS is just the real Nigel Farage. It’s made even better by the slight suspicion that Nigel Farage is made out of last years Bilbo Baggin’s scarecrow. And look at his toes! His toes are terrifying and I see them at night sometimes in the dark.


Apr 24 2015

Be careful in Settle.

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I am not allowed to take photographs in a museum in Settle.

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It is a small museum that you have to pay to enter. There is nothing of particular interest in the museum in Settle apart from some Okish chairs and a vaguely pleasing window which I am afraid I can’t show you because you are not allowed to take photos in the museum.

Maybe those stacked plastic chairs are of particular interest to ISIS? I hope they are. I would quite welcome a violent insurgency right now due to the lack of a nice licensed tearoom.

I try to take my time to get my three quid’s worth of value but after a look at some pottery shards, I just want it all to end in a massacre of gunfire so take a quick photo. Sadly I remain alive, I don’t even get tutted at so I go to look at overpriced bronze hares in a shop that sells overpriced bronzed hares and Farrow and Ball paint.

Set 2

A bakery named The Naked Man is sadly not what it purports to be but a feta cheese  and spinach pasty numbs the pain despite the  disturbing lack of gunned insurrectionists. I suspect they have seen the sad remains of spinach residing in my teeth, noticed the fact that people will pay sixty pounds to have their walls in the same shade as ‘Elephants Breath’ and been told off for not paying Gift Aid when storming the museum.

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Thus Settle remains quiet.