Oct 26 2011

Carnforth Station Pictorial

Here speaks the usually silent photographer. Set loose from my usual job of photographing stuff that Cyberfairy points out as curious, winsome or tragicomic, I had free rein to indulge myself in my chief delight. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s a short photoblog where I ignore pretty things and give you instead mould, concrete and aging roofs out of context. Don’t worry, I shall return to Penn-like (or is it Teller-esque?) silence now and your enjoyment of our heroine’s adventures in unlikely places shall continue unsullied.

Apr 26 2010

Wray Scarecrow Festival 2010

Wray is a neat pretty little village buried deep in the Lancashire countryside, half an hours bus ride from Lancaster. There is a school, post office, two pubs, a garden centre and cafe. There are woods, moors, hills, footpaths, a river and everything you could ever ask for in a countryside idyll. It is pure Enid Blyton but with the house prices of today. Every year it hosts a Scarecrow Festival with a central unifying theme. The entire village seems to take part and the results are spectacular. I have chosen just a few of the many pictures we took and more can be seen here.
The official theme for the festival this year was a mystifying blend of ‘TV Detectives,’ ‘Reality TV’ and ‘Topical’ and the pictures below are grouped accordingly.
Topical and Celeb!

Oh dear, not only are the unhappy couple being pursued by paparazzi and celebrity magazines but now their unhappy plight over betrayal, lies and infidelity has been faithfully renditioned in glue, old newspapers and a Matalan top. The attention to detail is superb. The signs at the bottom say ‘Cole’s been given the red card” and something along the lines of ‘Now you’re off’.’ Take that, Cole! I bet when you were bedding the attractive blonde, you never considered how the residents of Wray would render you in scarecrow form. Mark Owen, take note.

The makers of this Jordan do not approve of such a blatant Jezebel with her false breasts and money making ways. It is a curious sight to see, a plastic huge breasted Jordan dangling out of a beautiful old village house decorated with bunting. I imagine the Cotswolds must be like this.

The owners of the house are clearly on Team Peter. The straw sticking out of his chest shows his hirsuteness and his flat shrivelled face is instantly identifiable as Peter Andre. Imagine watching your marriage breakdown portrayed on a white stone wall! It would be awesome! Sadly no cagefighter scarecrows as yet.

Andrew’s cushiony pockmarked face looks somewhat flabbergasted and there is an unseemly bulge in his trousers whilst Dorothy looks suspicious, open mouthed and won’t catch his bulging eyes. Hmm. Naughty Dorothy.

You are an American with big dreams, a love of Madonna and bizarre clothing and you dream that one day you will break through and make it. You persevere, you work hard, you pray, you wear glasses made out of cigarettes and one day, you finally make it. Welcome to Lady Ga-Ga’s first appearance at the Wray Scarecrow festival. She is in a tantalising melding of genre, fact and fiction in a cage and covered in snakes and spiders as a contestant in I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here. That programme is often represented at the Wray Scarecrow Festival. I think the villagers like the thought of cowering big breasted celebrities in cages being humiliated and teased.

‘Help, my arms have turned to bubblewrap!” “Never mind that now dear, get me another glass of Chateau Neuf De Pape.”
This delightfully detailed scarecrow tableau is Celebrity Come Dine With Me (I think) The celebrities appear to be Pob and Marie Stopes. And someone with no head. Charles the 1st?
Biting Political Satire!

I loved this. I first thought it was a scarecrow who had hung himself but it is ‘The Floating Voter” and he has a very good pastiche of a ballot paper in his lumpen hand. The residents of Wray are united in their politics by the fact they (well, their scarecrows) seem to hate all political parties although it is mostly Gordon Brown their creative rage is wrought on. Should Labour lose the next election by a very small minority, I shall think of the thousands of people who walked through Wray being pleasantly bombarded with anti Gordon messages and I shall wonder if scarecrows in a village in the North changed history.

This one had me hysterical. It was all context-the Gordon Brown scarecrow (below – how to make him look more sacky and scary than the real thing?) was a work of art-I thought he was canvassing for a minute but the tiny chirpy mass produced Nick Clegg in a plant pot just seemed so weirdly perfect.

Oh very good. This was a real audience pleaser. Tattooed young families, old women and seemingly everyone were all delighted by this all saying in varying sorts quintessentially English accents, ‘Well, they’re all the same aren’t they?” before nodding sagely and resignedly and going to get an ice-cream. I felt sorry for Gordon with his dark baggy face and suit next to tiny happy Nick Clegg in the primroses. It was like the telly debate all over again.

This one is quite baffling but I am sure there is a cutting rebuke against the Labour government here somewhere. I was going to say the scarecrow presence is rather sidelined and who is going to scare the crows away but fortunately there is a picture of Gordon Brown to keep the crops safe. I like the attention to the lines around his eyes.

Just excellent. It features my favourite drink, is both topical, political, makes a dig at a celebrity, all in a rhyming format and in under thirty words- I spy the new poet lauriette! It was outside one of Wray’s two pubs and we shall leave aside the fact the 10% duty idea was happily, quietly and quickly abolished-and the fact that depressed alcoholic scarecrow tramps surrounded by cider bottles was the main reason the idea of the tax was introduced in the first place.

Sleep well, children! This was part of a bigger tableau randomly set up in a dingly dell outside the village featuring Batman, and an amazing MDF Batmobile etc. It had been cunningly made political by laminated sardonic print-outs about how the various figured represented each political party. I can’t remember who the Joker represented-probably according to Wray’s no nonsense scarecrow politics-everyone! If only Newsnight were here-you don’t need any Swingometers in Wray. They could save a fortune on pie charts alone.

And in true Nostradamus/Chaos Theory, thousands will die in a terrorist attack on a new Country, many many more will die in the aftermath leading the world into political unstability and war and the hidden ring leader will be finally found in a battered bin in a village near Lancaster. I do not know what the other sign means. It is either clever political satire or something snarky about local recycling. Or something else.

The residents of this house are so topical it hurts. People at the time of writing are still stuck abroad and don’t even know they have been portrayed in scarecrow beer swilling form. There was another one but I chose this because the other scarecrow looked sad. I like the crow pecking the goggles as well.
TV Detectives!

In which leading fictional detectives are portrayed fighting in a water butt. There is nothing else which needs adding.

Miss Marple would love Wray-it is St Mary Meade and revels in it. There were many images of Miss Marple herself but I liked this one for its simplicity, absence of Miss Marple and jolly delight in the concept of someone being killed.

It’s Inspector Gadget looking like he is now in a Russian Intelligence Squad-careful now-his gloves contain high levels of cancer causing chemicals!

Crowjak-Nothing else needs to be said. The ‘Crowlumbo’ was also good. I love Wray.

This was a masterpiece. Inspector Clueso was not only himself personified in straw but the Pink Panther music played from hidden speakers, the pink abnormal beast leared over him and there were pink wooden paw prints dotted around the outside of the house.

How can one get over a hangover without watching Poiret twiddling his moustache on ITV 3 on a Sunday afternoon? There were quite a few of him in Wray but I liked this one as it was in the sort of grand central village house that you just know has had many a body flop lifelessy to the floor in the library. The bunting, the figure in the window and Poiret’s eyes gazing sightlessly over the village makes you just know that someone is gasping their last breath inside-Good luck Poiret! I hope you untangle the sticky web of intrigue before another scarecrow dies.

The house in which this is set belongs to a proud Scotsman who always has detailed and Scottish scarecrows on the theme of choice.Which must take some doing. His ‘Captain Crowscarer’ was a masterpiece…

Wray Village

Not only is this a surprising faithful rendition of a googly eyed Nessie outside a barn but check out the faint chalk graffiti on the wall. It’s what he would have wanted. Micheal and Nessy togeva foreva -both misunderstood legends prone to rumour and hype bothered by tourists and unrealistic depictions in the media.
The sadness, loneliness and hope in rural communities as depicted by a sack, an old floral dress and the waiting graveyard. There is no vicar in Wray anymore.

When buildings have faces…

Dec 6 2009

Morecambe in Winter

A busy train. I didn’t expect it and am strangely disappointed. A thin girl punk and discarded copies of Metro.  It’s one of those trains that doesn’t seem like a real modern train-it is dirty velour, nothing slides open and there is a breeze and a drip. I prefer that sort of train somehow. Feel more connected to the outside with such a thin tin layer between outside and me. Then a shudder and we go over a bursting Lune, the nuclear power station highlighted to the left across the marsh, past the council estate and the bewildering array of children’s toys thrown over the embankment and ooh countryside! For almost a minute there are fields and animals until an instant suburbia as bungalows appear with the lurid colours of the TV singing through the midday dusk.

And then Morecambe where no sea can be seen but a Frankie and Bennies in lurid technicolour against its imagined backdrop. And not fitting in with its cheery chilly bobbing balloons and American breeziness.  You are an outsider Frankie and Bennies and you won’t last long. The locals will never forgive you for the parking ticket travesty of your early days-the letters dripping with vitriol, bewilderment and sadness when you charged people to park.  They trusted you, you see. Not again, not for all the bbq steak ribs you can eat-they’d be cheaper down Rita’s café anyway. Not that you can get such things there-but you can get ham, egg and chips, a roll and a cup of tea for 3.99. So who wants your starters and fading balloons and cheery smiles?

It is cold. I walk down the brassy swirly promenade with embossed quotes and riddles and poems from famous writers who I suspect people never actually read.  Maybe lurid Daily Mail headings would keep people moving fascinated further into the mire. And towards the sea.

The view across the bay to Nirvana. White capped mountains across a grey sea, a promise of beauty so near and so far away. A clichéd beauty that doesn’t seem real because it’s so ethereal, magical. Especially when looking at it from Al’s Den.  Eric Morecambe is dancing his merry eternal jig on a plant-bedecked plinth, cafes are offering ever cheapening selections of dead things, fried things, rolls and tea. I wish to buy a wedding cake hotel boarded up and decaying surrounded by bedsits and closed pound shops. It is for sale by auction and will be cheap.  It’s quantity and quality but in the wrong era. Many dreams will have been forged and died in its no doubt once grandiose lobby. But Morecambe is a town of ghosts. Nobody should venture to venture here.

The charity shops are filled with supermarket label clothes at optimistic prices. The ladies in them chat resignedly and /or chirpily about cancer. The Methodist church has a stall in the rain of old lampshades and rubbish.  It is an enthralling place to be.  I go for lunch in the Palatine, a place with pretentions, a cocktail list and papers. The same two old soldiers are talking as were there last week. I eat my excellent pizza with toppings worthy of a trattoria in Roma (capers, olives, spinach, aubergine mozzarella) and have a glass of wine (total seven quid) and listen for the sea over the sound of passing traffic.

B and M bargains is the chain store where famous brands go to die. At pleasing prices. Jamie Oliver’s brand of pesto, olives and pasta are for sale at 49p so I have a happy portent that his chirpy star is on the wane. B and M bargains knew it first.

I don’t go into the Midland but I like it-it is alien yet squats as comfortably as it ever did here-cocktails are £6.95-that’s about four portions of pie’n’ peas at Rita’s café. But it is James Bond in the interior and overlooks the best view known to humanity as the sun sets across the bay and the Lake District Mountains slowly dissipate into the nuclear glow. You can see the Wacky Warehouse from the rear window-a glass of wine here costs more than a bottle there. But there is only one Midland.  And I am scared of the Wacky Warehouse.

The sea whips up and the north wind blows. I see a ginger cat cowering in Morrison’s car park, a place inhospitable to humans, cars reversing and forwarding as random as machinery, where no house can be seen and grey roads stretch to infinity or at least to Heysham. I go to Customer services, my head filled with cats innards strewn across Ford Kias, screaming children, a desperate pensioner searching forever for her lost cat. ‘ Is it the ginger one? He comes around a fair bit-belongs to them estates at the back. Nowt we can do.’

I feel sorry for and angry to the cat. I hope he or she is ok.

In Morrison’s a woman is buying San Pelligro mineral water and I stare at her and am guiltily surprised when she speaks in a Lancashire accent.

I miss the train by one minute and get a bus that wheedles its way around every depressing outcrop of Morecambe for an hour. It is grey; children suddenly run in front of the bus which brakes and an old lady falls over. People say that it is ‘a crying shame.’ A woman listens patiently to and answers every single question her toddler asks. Another woman tells her child that he is ‘driving her up the wall’.  People seem to know each other. A poultry factory blackened by fire is a highlight, almost romantic in it’s gothic intensity as it looms above the single story pre-fabs and the caravan park which stretches into infinity. I know it from Court Watch in the local paper.  I don’t get off.

I start to envy people with cars. A Fiat Uno acquires an almost glamorous aura. Coming into Lancaster is like arriving in LA. The lights, the soaring bridge over the Lune, the old warehouses.

I love Morecambe. I shall go again next week.