Wednesday, 26 August 2015

The caterpillar

It took a couple of hours to seal itself itself up safely inside the nettle leaf, pulling each side together with its thread, like a sewing machine.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Bit on the side

I'm putting together another blog, as a kind of side-dish to this one.  All the same posts have been, or will be, on here, so for some it may be a repetition - it's just that the other new one will be like a specifically edited version of Sun Dried Sparrows.

It'll focus on the theme of growing up and the past, with a leaning towards (but not exclusively) my musical experiences.  So - no birds, no outpourings about families, no spiders or snails, no mention of my current work or art or country walks, etc.   However, there may well be reference to '70s childhood summers and the rite of passage into punk...

I'm getting it up and running with just a couple of posts at a time and intend to add more each week, so if you haven't read them here before, please feel free to visit

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Random access memory #2

I heard a song the other day - I can't even remember what or where and it was barely in my consciousness - but there was a staccato guitar in it and it prompted a thought.  A fleeting one - one of those that drifts in vaguely and out again quickly, like a faint wisp of smoke.  "That sounds a bit like Marquee Moon" went the thought, and promptly disappeared.

But it came back and this time it brought along a random memory - of late Summer 1977, the weather a bit like now, when I had just turned fourteen.  I was venturing - half of me tentatively, and the other half of me very brazenly -  into a lot of new experiences,  most of which revolved around boys and punk.  I'd only bought one proper grown-up album so far - the eponymous Clash first - and was saving my pocket money for more 12" vinyl.  What were they, about £2.49, something like that?  I couldn't just go out and buy one, it had to be planned. So the cheapo singles bin in Martins was always worth a look in case I could pick up something for 10p, something I didn't have to scrimp for nor plan, but something I could actually take home the same day and play.

A lot of band names were becoming familiar;  I was latching on to what I thought 'fitted' the punk scene, but often without having first heard the music.  I mean, bands like The Cortinas had the honour of getting their name carefully written on my school science overall in permanent black pen alongside the more obvious ones like Buzzcocks, Sex Pistols et al, even though I hadn't yet heard one track by them (the Cortinas, that is) .  I got it wrong sometimes... like, I thought Dead Fingers Talk must be young, new and very raw just on the name alone... wrote that name on my school satchel too... they weren't, though, were they?  And it was the same with Television.  It was a name which was linked to all this new stuff I was exploring with limited means of doing so, and I imagined that they must be making songs at least as aggressive as White Riot or snarly as Pretty Vacant, whoever/whatever they were.  So when I flicked through the cheapo singles bin in Martins and saw the 7" of 'Marquee Moon', I was quick to hand over my 10p and dead excited at the prospect of hearing it.

I remember walkng home with it feeling really chuffed.  I had to go past the petrol station which was usually a bit nerve-wracking because there were always some young guys working there and I didn't know quite how to strike that balance between feeling horribly shy and yet also wanting their attention.  Just having to walk past was a big deal.  Funny how you remember these odd details but I recall very vividly that this time there was a new petrol attendant there, a tall bloke with acne.  He smiled at me.  Actually he stared.  I think I got more of a look than I really wanted.  I didn't fancy him at all... but I sort of wanted him to fancy me... I smiled back.  Then I immediately regretted it, in case I was giving him the come-on, which I didn't really want to even though my heart was beating fast and oh now I'd never be able to walk past that garage again.  It would make it really difficult going into town because that was the main route,  I'd have to take that funny detour down the other side of the hill.... oh what was I thinking.....   Ha, they were confusing times, those early teens.

Anyway, I got home, unwrapped my new purchase and put it on the turntable on the family stereogram.  I was so excited.. hopeful for some thrashing chords, some fierce drumming, hadn't a clue what a song called Marquee Moon might be about, but I'd heard of The Marquee...

Erm, it wasn't what I expected at all.  It was weird.  And the B-side was more of the same!

So, I had to work really hard to convince myself that I could, perhaps, sort of, like it.  Or I could at least grow to like it... one day... maybe.  I played it again.  My sister came downstairs and said she thought it sounded a bit like Yes.  I didn't know what Yes were like but that didn't seem to me to be a good thing.

Well, I kept the single anyway, in my little cardboard box which I'd covered in an offcut of orange patterned wallpaper, and it stayed there amid what I deemed to be far more worthy 7"s by Buzzcocks, the Adverts, etc.  I did grow to like it in the end, although I have to admit, it took time.  And even now I can't be sure, I wonder if I like it really only because I just can't separate it from that time, that feeling, that age and stage in life, the mood it evokes... the memories.  These things are so inextricably linked.

I also got brave and walked past the petrol station again, continuing my ambivalent flirtation with a boy I didn't fancy one bit.  I never grew to like him, although even then there was this naive teenage thought process which went along similar lines to my feelings about the record... like, maybe I would if I really tried... should I just keep playing him again in case....?!

Tuesday, 18 August 2015


Just a quickie music post tonight and it's a new one.  It's also a very new one on me because I only heard it for the first time a few hours ago, and since then I've been jumping up and down thinking, who can I tell?!  Why, you, of course!

Mr SDS heard it earlier on the radio in the car, and said he thought I'd like it because it was a bit weird and arty. (He knows how to flatter me, that man.)  Described by Greg James this afternoon (yes, on Radio 1!) as being what you might get if you put David Bowie, Village People and Franz Ferdinand into a blender, WHITE are a Glasgow five piece and this is their new single 'Blush'.   I'd add that there is also a dollop of Edwyn Collins, a spoonful of Billy Mackenzie and perhaps even the merest pinch of Peter Murphy (sort of), oh and a sprinkling of sax that made me think of Blurt of all things.  Funk it all up and serve immediately!  I know that doesn't make sense but who cares.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

So, who are Robert & the Uptights?

Something is amiss in Coronation Street.

The lovely Lloyd (soul aficionado and part-time DJ with a big record collection) played by the lovely Craig Charles (soul aficionado and part-time DJ with a big record collection) has lost one of his singles.

It's by Robert & the Uptights and it's worth £1000.  Some of us here in the UK know what's become of Lloyd's rare and treasured soul 45 but I'm keeping shtum in case anyone is behind on their Corrie episodes.  But that's not the issue here.  What I really want to know is, does a Robert & the Uptights single actually exist outside Weatherfield?!

A quick internet search brings up a picture... but there's no mention of it on 45cat.  A highly knowledgeable and reliable source tells me it doesn't appear on any of their soul compilations or lists (thank you!). Could it be a hype?  Or a spoof? Could someone behind the scenes in Corrie, perhaps a soul aficionado and part-time DJ with a big record collection, have mocked up a convincing looking label and put it out there just to get us wondering?  Of course I'd love to know it was genuine.  Surely I can't be the only one who wants to know if a Robert & the Uptights single exists in the real world...  (or can I?!)

Thursday, 13 August 2015


Yesterday's funeral and associated experiences made me completely re-think a few things.

My dear aunt died on her 97th birthday. My first reaction to that was, oh, how awful - to die on your birthday. And then Mr SDS said he thought it was somehow poetic and I have to agree. A kind of perfect circle.  To be on this planet for exactly 97 years, not a day longer nor shorter; to come into the world and to depart it on exactly the same day of the year. It is poetic!

She had requested: no funeral, no ceremony or service, religious or secular, no eulogies, no music, etc. I'd never have considered that. Being non-religious, I just thought a humanist service was the viable alternative. To have nothing... nothing at all... seemed a slightly awkward idea. But it worked so well. The gentle simplicity, the complete lack of fuss, only the bare essentials of a structure, and just people talking amongst themselves (or not) as we stood in a group by the grave, well, that was rather poetic too.

So yes, it was a burial, not a cremation. I've always been on the side of having a cremation, no question, but my aunt's choice has made me change my mind. She was buried in a coffin made of plain cardboard which looked rather unnervingly like an office packing box (including those recessed 'handles'!) in a small woodland plot. No headstone, nothing to mark it except the nearest trees. Beautiful. Quiet. Except for the rustle of the oak leaves and the long dry grasses underfoot. That'll do for me!

I was inspired too by my aunt's 90-year old sister, in her chic pink dress and pearls, her head held high (well, as high as her short, petite frame allowed!), her natural air of dignified warmth and elegance which transcended age. I'd want to be like that too, if I could.

And then there was the strange reunion with my Dad. My wild-haired, ever-smiling, tall, thin, wouldn't-say-boo-to-a-goose, 86-year old Dad, wearing a shirt that I'm sure I recognised from about 1975. You wouldn't have known from my cheerful, confident discourse with him but it fucked with my head completely. Whilst unexpectedly shedding some tears late last night I realised I do have feelings for him - and it felt a bit alien. The trade-off with having a father who hasn't been in my life for decades and who hasn't taken any active interest in his offspring in that time was that I never needed to reciprocate either. I had let it all go some time ago. For years I had had it easy! Thus I've been shielded from all the normal anxieties one might have about ageing parents and I had relinquished my responsibilities too – always thinking of myself as not really having a dad, or certainly not one I need worry about; he had a wife who could do that, someone else to make decisions with. Suddenly, on finding out about his quite shockingly disorganised and unsatisfactory lifestyle and stuff it wouldn't be fair to talk about here, it's like being presented with a backlog of worry, pity, frustration, love and even a little anger (but that's not towards him) all in one big hit, rather than a natural accumulation, and consequent aclimatisation, over many years.  Actually seeing him too; whilst mentally he's as sharp as ever (and still participates in conferences in Japan!), physically, he is starting to show his age.

As of now, something needs to change, but I think it can...

Monday, 10 August 2015

Family ties

Sadly, I have a funeral to attend this week, for a lovely elderly relative.  It will be a fairly untraditional and very low key affair; she was from the secular and somewhat eccentric intellectual side of the family - my dad's.

I'd love to think I could be even just a little like her in my final years - still attending educational courses, travelling and embracing new technology into her early 90s and keeping healthy and youthful until very recently.  Funerals are so hard, aren't they, and this will be no exception, especially as I feel desperately sad for the husband she leaves behind -  my dad's brother.  In recent years, I've seen more of him than I have my father.  And this is where it gets weird and is the reason I feel the need to write something here... because my dad may be at the funeral too...

So, I was trying to work out how many times in total I've seen my father since he and my mum divorced around 35 years ago... There can't have been more than about a dozen occasions and the last time was around 2005.   He lives the other side of the country, frequently forgets my birthday (as he did again this year); he's only phoned a handful of times and then only when there's been big news (like when he was getting married!)  Oh and one time to ask if I could record something off the telly for him when he was at a conference in Japan....  that may not sound so odd until you know that it was completely out of the blue - we hadn't been in touch for a couple of years beforehand and I didn't know he was in Japan.  So our relationship seems pretty non-existent.   I know that on paper, or in the eyes of anyone more judgmental, it might seem like he's not a good father, yet I feel the need to explain that he is a good man - he's just, well I don't know, but I think perhaps he has a degree of Asperger's. He's highly intelligent, something of a mathematical genius in fact (god knows where those genes went - down the back of the sofa?) and I know he has a kind heart and a very gentle nature.  He's just 'different' - and I really don't think he knows how to 'be' when it comes to interacting with his two daughters.  I simply think that we are not a part of his world, but - and it's difficult to explain - there is nothing deliberate or harsh about that, it's just the way it is.

Anyway, I'm just airing this now because tonight I'm full of so many mixed emotions at the thought of seeing him, particularly on such a sad occasion, that I'm already steeling myself for it.  I may report back, or I may not -  but I've realised that however bizarre and confusing it might be,  I actually really do want him to be at the funeral, because I don't want the next time I see him to be at his.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Bring on the dancing boys

Nice arse

You know how it is - or at least, please tell me you do - when sometimes you just can't help looking at something you feel you really shouldn't.  No matter how much you may deny it to others, you can't kid yourself: you're looking, and looking again, and getting off on it.  It's a weakness.

Well I'm coming clean - this is mine (or at least one of them): men dancing in ways you don't expect.  I get this weird thrill from it.  I think I could watch all of these on an infinite loop...I just can't take my eyes off them.



Honestly, they just make me happy.

I mean, first of all, there's pin-up boy Jim Dandy from Black Oak Arkansas.  He's made an appearance on this blog before but, as I say, it's a weakness.

He starts to get particularly interesting around 2 minutes 20 seconds in on this clip.  Watch him strut his stuff - pull up a chair and open that bag of cheese'n'onion crisps (don't worry about the crumbs, you can hoover them up later).   It feels so wrong... but yet so right.

Samuel T Herring's name alone is the stuff of my dreams.  Then I saw him dance.  I wish the frontman from Future Islands didn't look quite so much like the bewildered love child of Elvis and Norman Wisdom but you can't have everything.  

"Mr Grimsdale!  Mr Grimsdale!"

Now... keep your eyes on the tambourine player from the 1910 Fruitgum Company on the right in this clip below from the German show Beat Club, performing Goody Goody Gumdrops (or cumdrops as I accidentally typed just now... honestly I did!...I know, I know: you didn't come here to read such filth).  God, I love him.

Finally, the Fine Young Cannibals and guitarist Andy Cox's bendy legs. Bassist David Steele is at it too. I'm thinking of those cardboard puppet things. Actually I can hardly bear to watch.  More!

Don't judge me.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Dem bones... (slight return)

I was recently reminded about a chicken bone necklace (thanks to a post over at the fine blog Across The Kitchen Table).  Oh, I loved that necklace - for a particular period at least.  Through what you might call the 'goth' phase, though it seemed different then ('81/'82). Anyway, I mentioned it here once a few years ago (when I was still quite new to blogging) and, being stuck for time and inspiration at the mo, thought I'd give that old post another airing... here it is.  Sorry for being so lazy!

 ~~ O o ~ :~ x ~: ~ o O ~~

The other day I mentioned to someone that, when we were children, my older sister had a pickled bat in her bedroom.  I know that sounds weird out of context but, for my teenage sibling who excelled at Biology, the obvious thing to do with a dead (but otherwise perfect) pipistrelle that had been found in the garden was to preserve it in formaldehyde and keep it in a jam-jar in her room.  It then formed part of a display that would have been at home in any scientific laboratory or natural history museum. If my memory serves me well the pickled numbers included a fish eye and a chicken’s foot, which were given space alongside various dried butterflies, a sheep’s skull and a tank full of (thankfully alive) African aquatic toads.  It may sound like something out of the set of a horror B movie or perhaps some strange herbal medicine emporium but as she was my big sis it seemed normal to me, and nurtured a keen early interest in all things natural.

If only I'd realised the value of drawing such things from life then rather than just drawing characters from my imagination, I could have sneaked into her room and filled a sketchbook with studies of these fascinating objects too.  But I think perhaps it did spark a rather subtle fascination for bones.  I’ve no desire to see or find any human bones, although I did like looking at the repro human skeleton we had hanging up in the art-room at school, but I do like it when I’ve been digging in the garden and come across a tiny bone from a small rodent or perhaps a bird.  They're so fragile and yet so strong, so insubstantial looking but so robust.  When you look at a bird’s skull, a casing so fine that it seems more delicate even than eggshell and the connecting bones as thin as a thread of cotton, it's a wonder that the bird itself could ever have been so strong and unbreakable to get through its life at all. 

It’s with some embarrassment that I recall using bones to make my own jewellery.  It seemed right at the time – listening to music that was part tribal, part goth (Southern Death Cult being favourite) – to accessorise with some strange ancient or ethnic objects, especially anything that could be found for free.  So, my mum boiled up some chicken bones from a roast dinner (I didn't eat roast dinners!) and a friend from college brought in some of his dog’s old teeth, and I strung them together with some wooden beads.  Here's a drawing I did at the time of the necklace I wore daily (usually teamed up with some earrings I’d made from the smaller bones).

Proof that my fascination with natural history has remained is that I still feel compelled to keep any bird skulls I find (although not in the bedroom...).   I think the small one below is from a goldfinch and the larger one from a starling.  Whilst I always prefer to see these wonderful birds alive and well, I like looking at the skulls just to remind myself of how amazing these delicate little creatures are underneath their feathers.  And if I were ever to find a dead bat, I might just be tempted to pickle it as well.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Hello, it's me

Oh, sorry it's been a while!  Are you well, everything ok?  Hope so.

I've been immersed in work.  The publishers - lovely Slovenians - have been totally brilliant, giving me a completely free rein on the whole book, leaving me to my own devices and ideas (I much prefer this to a prescriptive brief) and then approving it all very quickly without any changes (unusual!), so it's been an absolute dream job.

If only the bloody illustrator wasn't being a pain in the arse.  Now she's started on the final artwork and she's not happy with anything, keeps changing her mind, going for a new style, nothing she does is good enough, she keeps re-painting, trying out different paper, throwing things away, getting frustrated.  Working all hours and still there aren't enough in the day; you should see the bags under her eyes.*

Bloody artists!  An album title springs to mind: 'The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect'.  Couldn't remember where I'd heard it, anyway I had to look it up and see it's by Todd Rundgren.  I'm not familiar with much of his output but I do remember his multi-coloured hair, and I do like a couple of tracks by his early band the Nazz.  So here's one of them while I try and sort out this so-called illustrator.  She needs a chill pill.

*Not helped by her mobile phone going off at 2.42 this morning.  There was no caller, no text,  no voicemail, no record of anything or anyone in the log.  It just went off on its own....

Wednesday, 1 July 2015


Our friend Singing Bear of the excellent Warp Drive Duffle Buttons posted a nice tribute to Chris Squire yesterday.  News of his death prompted some spins of this brilliant B-side by The Syn from 1967 here at SDS Towers.  It was one of the first psych/freakbeat/whatever-you-want-to-call-it tracks I'd heard in the '80s, courtesy of the Psycho label's 'Perfumed Garden' comps (this is on the first one).

If you haven't heard it in a while - or at all - go on, treat yourself! It'll make you feel good.  More mod/soul than psych really, to these ears.

I'm off to give a talk to the WI in a couple of hours.  I'll bring you back some cake!

Monday, 29 June 2015

Bristol diary - part 6. Safe from harm

Did you know that lobsters can live for up to a hundred years in captivity? I learn this while admiring Patrick the Giant Lobster at Bristol Aquarium. He's fifty.

I love watching cute clownfish, very 'Finding Nemo', diligently attending to the tentacles of anemones (and that's not easy to say).  A group of schoolchildren are so excited that they beat out a rhythm with their feet on the wooden floor which could be mistaken for an African drum ensemble, and we watch delightful rays and wrasse get their lunch together.

It's an education... as are the exhibits in the waterside M Shed... dinosaur bones, a book bound in the skin of an executed man, posters, bus tickets, shoes, fossils...oh you know, loads of other stuff too... I forget now...all from this lovely city.  On one of many screens in the museum I watch TV news footage from the 1980 St Pauls Riot.

Later I ascend Christmas Steps, look in some unusual shop windows...

...then find the mysterious scarlet painted door that opens to The Red Lodge Museum, where portraits in the oak panelled rooms seem almost alive (they always make me feel funny, like you know their subjects personally).

I wander again, take some very random photos...

"Nice things in stock"... 


stop off at St Nicholas Market to absorb it all for one last time.


Unfortunately I don't make it to half the places I wanted to... I never get to Stokes Croft, or take a tour round the SS Great Britain (a queue earlier was too much).  And now it's my last night here.  I'm catching a bus to meet my friend and see the UWE art students' degree show at Bower Ashton tomorrow morning, and then getting the train home after lunch.  I'll just have to come again.

Same time, same place, next year?

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Bristol diary - part 5. Hell is round the corner

... So I'm standing outside the Arnolfini with three men, one of whom is holding a hand-made contraption up to my face, like a miniature slide viewer/binoculars thingamajig housed resourcefully in cardboard (!)  Kind of Blue Peter-goes-hi-tech... an old cornflakes packet perhaps... some sticky-back plastic.  I haven't a clue what's about to happen.

This is all new to me

The 'proposition' was to help test out a new app they're developing and be interviewed about it.  Why... what were you thinking it might be?!

 “Tell me what you think,” says the smiley tall chap with the floppy hair. He has a rather lovely voice too, now I can't see him, what with this whatchamacallit covering my eyes.  "Say what you see..."  I don't think this is going to be an episode of Catchphrase.

In fact I can't see anything. Nothing at first, just blackness. He and his bearded cohorts could be rifling through my handbag for all I know... or filming me anyway even though I declined... or drawing an ejaculating penis on my back in chalk... maybe all of the above... but I trust them! Then I see just this, a pair of doors, painted like so:

and the words 'The Garden Of Eden' above. I'm being taken towards it and the doors magically open outwards and let me in.  Oooohhhh!

This is what I see, but I see it opening out in front of me slowly in 3D...  all around me...

...and I'm riding on the back of a huge fish.

If I look down I can see the top of the fish's head. And as I turn my head... tilt it left, right, up, down again, I see creatures and trees and weird and wonderful things. Well, various elements of this section of Hieronymus Bosch's triptych (The Garden Of Earthly Delights). I'm asked to describe my experience as it happens... it's strange, spectacular, a little unnerving, travelling through a surreal parallel world, and I'm not in control, I'm on a ride, seeing an elephant on the left, a white giraffe on the right, birds flying all around... All the while with my feet firmly planted on Bristol harbourside on a sunny afternoon, near a couple sitting on a bench eating cheese and tomato sandwiches (that's if they're still there. I can't see them any more with this contraption over my eyes).

It finishes as I'm taken back through the black door.  Fortunately I don't have to continue my virtual journey through the final section of Bosch's triptych as pictured below; his vision of the underworld might have freaked me out a bit.

So it's ok, hell isn't round the corner.  My hotel room is!

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Bristol diary - part 4. Wandering star

...I keep on walking.  It's around the next corner.

Ah, the famous Clifton Suspension Bridge! 

I'm enthralled by Brunel's elegant structure. It's currently undergoing work; on my side here the brickwork is draped in green tarpaulin and scaffolding and I can't seem to get a great photo - but never mind, just seeing it is enough.  I think it's beautiful.

The drama of the Avon Gorge makes me feel momentarily breathless for the second time today.  And everything else around here, big and small, is a joy to witness: the water, the views, the wild flowers, a friendly cat even (what's it doing up here?) and a blaze of fluorescent yellow as some miniature hi-vis jackets gather in the distance, worn by a troop of tiny schoolchildren.  (Either that or it's a gang of vertically-challenged scaffolders.)

I stop walking and just look for a while.  My camera seems redundant.

On the way back I get lost – I was going to say 'slightly' lost, but surely you're either lost or you're not?! - and meander the tranquil residential roads of Clifton (I think) in completely the wrong direction(s), not that it really matters.  I have the navigational prowess of a concussed butterfly.

But once I get back on track (the friendly couple who are pruning a tree and whom I ask for advice suggest I keep the sun on my right hand side, and it works) I recognise Queen's Road.

Here I stop off at the Royal West of England Academy of Art but it's being refurbished, so there's only one small room of drawings on show. Still, I enjoy them... as well as coffee and a slice of cake (orange and frangipane, since you ask).

I've been out for nearly four hours and decide to head back to the harbourside.  Outside the Arnolfini Gallery (also being refurbished - it's not my week!) I'm approached by three men, mid-thirties probably. Two with beards (of course, seeing as nearly every man in his thirties has a beard), one clean-shaven with floppy hair. They have intelligent faces, friendly smiles and, hmm...  a film camera and sound equipment...

Don't know what gets into me when I travel alone but it seems I'm up for anything. Well, almost.

So I say “Yes!” to their proposition (but “No!” to being filmed whilst doing it...)

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Bristol diary - part 3. Roads

The day starts with the most wonderful room service and a morning in the lovely company of another friend I haven't seen in ages.  It seems like this trip is as much about some personal (re)connections as everything else. I'm even feeling a bit overwhelmed - the combination of only having just arrived somewhere new and already the pleasure and associated poignancy of reunions.  I have the rest of the day to myself so I go for a  long walk... to get my bearings... psychologically as well as geographically.

I wander across town from Welsh Back to Clifton, taking various detours.  It takes as long as it takes; for once, time is of no importance.

Living amid the flat fields of East Anglia, it's also easy to forget what it's like to be elevated, to look down on rooftops and trees and to see for miles, and the first time I glance out from Brandon Hill at the view the vastness of it adds to my slight dizziness. It may not be that high up in the scheme of things, but it's SO different from home, and I just want to take it all in.

View from Brandon Hill

Cabot Tower, plus squirrel on bench

As I leave the main thoroughfares behind and venture into the back streets, it's very quiet, I barely see a soul...

... apart from around a corner where some students are packing up for the Summer.  The car boot is open and a pile of assorted ephemera being loaded into it by a dutiful dad.

I feel an unexpected sort of envy, witnessing them right at the start of their adult lives...who knows who they'll meet, where they'll go and what they'll do - they don't even appreciate it yet.  What must it be like to stay in digs on Royal York Crescent with those odd little storage spaces under the arches?  I love looking into them through the barred gates and at the stalactites of ceiling plaster plus all sorts of randomness: a discarded door, the figurine of a duck.   I believe this is one of the most expensive addresses in the city.  

I keep on walking.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Bristol diary - part 2. Be thankful for what you've got

Until recently we'd lost touch, but Bristol has brought us together again - we work out that we haven't seen each other for ten years.

She has Scoliosis (an abnormally twisted spine) which affects her posture as well as her breathing and makes her prone to really horrible chest infections. Apparently Frida Kahlo was one of the first patients to have had the same spinal surgery that she herself had in her teens. In spite of her disability, or perhaps partly because of it, she's plucky, determined, gregarious and driven. We meet up this evening, my first night here, and head out for something to eat.

Pink Floyd and Nick Drake are being played on a small boat moored on the floating harbour where we're served tapas by smiley well-spoken student types who may quite possibly be a little stoned.  We chatter merrily, catch up on a decade's worth of life - and it's lovely (even though the toilets are out of order).  Afterwards I see her off by bus and walk back to my hotel in the dark; the city centre streets, though alien to me, still seem busy and safe.

Earlier in my room I'd been looking out at this unpretty view, and I like it. It's that easy shabby reality which contrasts with the more antiseptic aspirations of corporate hospitality on my side of the glass.

 There are Christmas snowflake decorations stuck to one of the windows of the buildings overlooking the back yard, (saves putting them up again in December I s'pose) and feral pigeons flirting on the ridge tiles... and gulls! All of them make me smile.  We don't get many gulls round my way, so I poke my head round the voile to observe this one who appears to be posing for a fashion shoot or something.

Yes, yes, these pictures could be taken almost anywhere, I know - but I'm glad it's here!

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Bristol diary - part 1. It could be sweet

So I'm heading for Bristol!

I know that little of what I'm going to do over the next few days is out of the ordinary to most people. But, right now, it is to me! (I'm out of practice.)

I have a piece of paper with an online booking reference on it but there's no office at my local railway station.  The guard says I can get my physical ticket issued at the connecting one and she reckons the four minutes I have between arrival and departure should be enough.  Should be.

...Two stops later I run up what feels like a hundred deep concrete steps to cross the bridge over the tracks, down the other side, more steps up to the ticket office, wait to be served.  Hand my paper to a surly-looking girl behind a greasy glass window.

“I've only got four minutes...” I say (not demandingly... more sort of desperately) and by now I've probably already lost three of them.

"It will take as much time as the machine takes to issue it and no faster,” she replies in monotone without smile or understanding and I have to press my face up to the pane to hear, making me feel disadvantaged, like a small child.

“I know...I just meant...”

She says nothing.  Maybe she's just having a shit day.

At the same time, the rumble... the elongated squeal of metal brakes... look over my shoulder... aargh, no minutes now, no time to wait for a machine.

“Oh! My train's here!"

Surly girl shrugs, hands me back my papers; I race back down jarring steps and make it into the carriage a split second before the doors close, without a ticket.

I'll spare you more detail but of course it's not straightforward. After much hassle I have to buy a whole new ticket when I get to London, even though I've paid for one online already and have all the proof.  Fuck it.  Because of this delay I only just catch my Bristol train and I'm flustered as well as out of pocket, so it kind of gets me off to a bad start.

But for now, never mind!  My frustrations drop away as we accelerate out of Paddington. I'm on my way now, on my way West, where there are hills! And warm accents where they pronounce all the 'r's!  Through Didcot Parkway and Reading stations where huge red kites (the bird, I mean!) circle above the tracks.  Onward through Chippenham and then Bath Spa, where the memory of once sleeping in a condemned squat by the railway line resurfaces vividly as we pass boarded up cottages behind overgrown buddleia (I'm sure it's the very same terrace). I disembark at Temple Meads late afternoon.  Excited!

Friday, 12 June 2015

Time in...

...perhaps you'll know where?!

this one (above) is for Singing Bear :-)

I loved it.
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