Sunday, 14 April 2019

A covert trip

The Frau went to Belfast with a sister only marginally less beautiful than herself, leaving open an opportunity. Having been plagued with foot/leg pains for too long, and having learned to live with it most days, I wanted to know whether a long walk would make matters any worse than usual. So I embarked on the 13.5m Knighton-Kington leg of Clawdd Offa (I am irrtatingly two legs behind the peloton - this outing would help).

This is, of course, one of the sections with lots of dyke to be experienced.

The route permitted an escape trajectory to the 41 bus route after 6m, which I chose not to take. It's fair to say that after 10m or so it became quite a struggle, but hey ho - it's been done. Tomorrow will permit an assement of the lasting damage. Pictorial evidence recorded en route:

I think it's believed these days that the Dyke was an economic barrier more than a military fortification. Might come in handy, post-Brexit.

Anyway, hats off to Offa's boys and girl who built it.

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Terminalia in Haverfordwest: a mildly psychogeographic weekend

The NHS instructed the Frau to voyage to Haverfordwest (town of many dentists), so we use the opportunity for a Citybreak in that fine Pembrokeshire settlement. Unfortunately the appointment is on Terminalia, celebrated in Aberystwyth in 2017 and 2018.

Nothing daunted, I embark on a one-man celebration of Terminalia by walking the Haverfordwest walls. This is a challenge as no real trace remains of them: luckily, the RCAHM have a fine map: this is a hand-annotated copy of the 6-inch OS of the town, allowing a tour of what-was, or what-might-have-been.

Many pictures exist, and your particular attention is drawn to

  1. The sites of four gates: the North gate, the Red Gate, the South Gate, the West Gate
  2. The only likely remnant of original structure, by Perrot Road.
  3. Between Bridge Street and the river is a ginnel (gwli yn Gymraeg) named Hole in the Wall, with its own local attractions. It's now a car park.
  4. . . . and various instances of the course of the wall, where the structures in place may well have reused original materials.
(I have laboriously noted lat/long in wall feature captions, should anyone wish to follow in my footsteps).

The day was certainly not without psychogeographic, or pseudo-psychgeographic, or perhaps quasi-pseudo-psychogeographic, experience, and much of this can be seen in the series of pictures. Again, highlights would be

  1. An uncaptioned but important looking piece of stone.
  2. The beautiful Palace Cinema.
  3. An interesting use of the word managemen. The picture includes nice reflections of St Mary's Church and the author.
  4. The Price of Rice.
  5. The somewhat forlorn St Mary's Cemetery on Portfield. "Something" was done about this last year.
  6. The Old Quay Snooker Club [closed].

An absolute and psychogeographical highlight was approaching the Haverfordwest Museum in the ruined castle, advertised as open 10.00-4.00, except Sundays. On arrival, we discovered the qualifying phrase "Easter-October", making us about 2 months too early. Luckily, a fine beshorted angel in company of two baby labradors was there and we fell into conversation. He learned that the visit was primarily to visit Wales' oldest pillar box, and lost no time in beating on the window of the closed, dark building. A woman appeared, looking out suspiciously. "Oi Morag", he cried, "This bloke has come a long way to see the postbox".

So Morag opened up and let me in: a very fine box - the pictures include supporting documentation, and a picture of Morag.

(The angel later confided "Post-boxes don't do it for me".)

Friday, 25 January 2019

Brexit preparations

M Thatcher, who went on to commit damage to our country that rivalled D Cameron's, was once vilified for stockpiling groceries in anticipation of upcoming food shortages [1974], which she countered was nothing more than good housekeeping. “I am just being prudent”, she said, in an eerie prescience about G Brown as Chancellor.

The lady was quite correct, of course, and the Frau and I are prudently stockpiling things that we regard as essential, and likely soon to be in post-Brexit short supply.

In alphabetical order, our stockpile now contains:

  • Fat balls for the birds: Much loved by the bluetits, the starlings seem able to defeat the counter-squirrel measures, and the little ones don't get much of a look-in.
  • Guitars: it will be important to be able to make our own entertainment in the bleak desert-island future, so we have amassed more guitars than we properly need. Actually, one of them belongs to Ben, while another is held together by half an Embassy Regal packet [circa 1972].
  • Pickled beetroot: In point of fact, it looks like a stockpile but a better explanation is that we forgot how much we had, and it is stored in a dark corner on a top shelf, which only 50% of us have any chance of reaching. It's home produce, so all in all, a Very Good Thing.
  • Prescription pharmaceuticals [various]: The merit of repeat prescriptions is that the GP will routinely sign them off because we are obviously to be trusted and it would take time to check our aggregate consumption.
  • Rock salt: Which takes us back to Thatcher. During the 1974 Sugar Shortage I worked for British Rail Catering on York station, and had access to a limitless supply of sugar cubes, easily converted back to sugar with the aid of a rolling pin. Later that summer, a newspaper floated the possibility of a salt shortage, and within days supermarket shelves had been cleaned of the stuff. You can't be too careful [although I believe the wet bit to the west of Aberystwyth still contains a fair amount of it].
  • Wholewheat Fusilli: Clearly an "at risk" foodstuff. We have cornered, we believe, Ceredigion's entire stock of the unusual reverse-threaded spiral variety.

In other measures, we continue to nurture an indoor slug population, so if things become desperate we have a source of protein [always assuming we can catch one - they seem to move at quite a pace].

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Empire of the Lizard: you can keep your hat on but there's no cat food

Robert and the boys performed at the Liverpool Empire last Saturday, so Steve, Mary and I went to see them. Not knowing the venue, I asked a local (i.e., living in Wales) Liverpudlian where the Liverpool Empire might be - he gave me a Merseyside look and said "You're in it. Always".

As you will know, I reviewed this orchestra in 2015 and 2016, so there's no need to duplicate observations already made, which largely apply unaltered (good!). So be assured it was a jolly night out, with significant differences as:

  • Where once there were 7, there are now 8, with Bill Rieflin appearing on keyboards, looking a little like one of Andy Warhol's cousins. The KC nerd press records that the last time KC had a "dedicated" keyboard artiste, it was Keith Tippett, whose wife I intend one day to marry. But I digress.
  • Most of them dressed as funeral mourners, as expected, but an air of slight frivolity seemed to have been allowed into the wardrobe. Stacey kept his hat on throughout.
  • The Merseyside audience were a lively lot, and rather less respectful than the Aylesbury crowd.
  • Two young Spanish persons were in the row behind me; I doubt their parents were born when I first saw this lot in the Exeter ABC in 1971
    (Photo: dusashenka) The young Spaniards looked enthused at the interval break, but baffled that the show had been so short with no encore (they did not know the word in English so struggled nobly and successfully to explain their problem). Characteristically helpful British people explained that we were only halfway through, and they cheered up.
  • Prince Rupert Awoke.

Not being so close to the stage, it's hard to be sure, but Mr Fripp appears to be in very good nick and we can probably disregard rumours of "the last UK tour", although we can all agree that the Times they are Uncertain. There are many of us out here just itching to sing along to "Cat Food", and give the show a "Half Man, Half Biscuit" feel, but I suppose we just have to wait a bit longer.

Thursday, 13 September 2018


This post is tiresomely long: you may care to jump ahead to a point of interest [sic]. Images will be clearer if clicked upon.

The Welsh in Huddersfield
What is Psychogeography?
Boundary no boundary
New slices through old places
The world's shortest dérive
The Head of Steam
A bus dérive to Marsden
The Red and Green Club
Coffee race

The 4th World Congress of Psychogeography convened in Huddersfield in 2016; at the end of the programme it was not formally closed so when it reconvened in 2017, that was the 2nd 4th World Congress of Psychogeography. This year I attended the 3rd 4th World Congress of Psychogeography on September 7th and 8th, and may well attend the 4th 4th ... next year.

The Welsh in Huddersfield
Approaching the Congress via a cashpoint, I was surprised to find the Santander branch had two cashpoints that were both conversing in Welsh. In my own land this is common, usually with an option to deal in English. These two did not offer that option so I felt very knowledgeable when extracting money successfully. I had a chat with the lady in the branch on the topic, thanking her for making me welcome. I don't think she believed me.

Sadly and stupidly, I did not photograph this.

The Congress was free to attend. On arrival there was a flipchart listing some of the forthcoming options - this is instructive, and rather set the tone for the Congress.

(although it did turn out to be incomplete).

Day one was a mixture of formal sessions and outings: day two was all outings.

What is Psychogeography?
This was a jolly useful opening session as I turned up without any sort of coherent answer, and most other people knew what they were talking about. I did contribute to the discussion that, while I wasn't sure what Psychogeography was, I knew it when I saw it. People nodded at this.

I'm still unsure.

Boundary no boundary
The standout formal session for me was Tony Wade's circumnavigation of Wakefield in which he executed 20 3-mile stretches of the Ordnance Survey map boundary (as best he could), painting a triptych on each stretch and speaking with locals.

I especially liked his attempt to re-create one of the map dashes on the ground with lino, having first asked OS (unsuccessfully) how big it ought to be.

I won't insult him by including my photos of this - see instead his web site.

New slices through old places
My talk was received politely, although several people came up afterwards and said how much they had enjoyed it. I think I was a little frivolous for the more serious minded folk. (This was certainly true of my lecture on Leibniz, given in German on a quite different occasion).

If you're mad keen, read it here.

The world's shortest dérive
The outings began in the early evening. David Upton led this, having pioneered the idea in Waterloo Station during rush hour - the idea was to negotiate a very short distance in a very long time. He had planned to use Huddersfield rail station, but the geography of barriers, and the lack of variety of passenger behaviour, made him move it to the bus station:

This was jolly successful - I travelled about 25 yards in about 40 minutes and saw and heard rather more than I would normally. One feels very conspicuous and self conscious: if the surveillance system had been furnished with some AI, we would have been identified immediately as deeply suspicious.

I liked the way that the bus station was like a small version of the legendary Preston Bus Station (q.v.).

The Head of Steam
A very congenial evening social was held in the Head of Steam by the rail station. Too much was said and drunk to remember or record, but we played Taylor Butler-Eldridge's excellent game

(note, inter alia, the dice). I was also given a copy of Sonia Overall's limited edition Psychogeography cards.
Thank you, Sonia!

It was not possible to miss several highlights of Huddersfield: the photographic record captures several, but highlights must be:
  • Caged chess pieces
  • Burtons 1 and 2. The second is a Macdonalds!
  • Merrie England
  • A to/from milestone - no vagueness here!
  • A listed bus shelter
  • ... and several coal holes

A bus dérive to Marsden
Day 2 dawned rainy - good-oh, this is the day for outings. We were "working our way up the valley" in several parties; by some sort of accident I joined John Rooney's bus dérive to Marsden, which involved catching a bus (which seems to take some of the uncertainty of the travel away). We were issued with notebooks in which to record anything that took our fancy - John collected these from us (for his PhD work) at the end so I cannot reproduce my many insightful observations and drawings, which captured well the weather, which made the bus windows opaque. We did notice that Manchester Road had house numbers in excess of 1000, which is unusual in the UK. Perhaps Manchester Road is long?

I shouldn't be flippant - this was provoking and enjoyable as a way of travel.

The Red and Green Club
Leaving John to return to Huddersfield, we disembarked at Milnsbridge to meet others at the fabled [sic] Red and Green Club. It had once been the Socialist Club, and in a political comment, evolved into a Social Club. The environmentalists then swooped (?) and it is now red and green.

We actually dérived to the Club via Downtown Milnsbridge, where I had a mildly psychogeographic encounter with a postal worker who wanted to know if I was a tourist.

He didn't know of my fascination with all things postal.

The Club had some super socialist memorabilia with it.

Dave Smith gave a most entertaining talk on Victor Grayson, something of a local lad. We were enjoined to go out and seek traces of him that postdated his mysterious disappearance ... I am afraid I failed in this task.

And thence to Slaithwaite for the remainder of the programme, although many stayed later to soldier up to Marsden for the end of the day. This involved a queue of psychogeographers - probably the wrong collective noun:

The rain by now was enthusiastic, so soggy psychogeographers holed up in the Civic Centre to drink tea and coffee, and eat splendid locally provided cakes.

I opted for the Sonic Walk led by Victoria Karlsson; we visited 3 venues and listened to things audible and inaudible: the venues were a colossal disused mill, a super viaduct (many arches), and a secret graveyard just nigh the railway station:

Time had passed and I had to make excuses to get to Halifax, so missed events after 4pm. Slaithwaite and Milnsbridge also had many coal holes, and the former had a splendid pharmacy where all the pills were blue!

Coffee race
The next morning, we had a race between the two identical coffee machines in Bill's kitchen.

Other pictures exist.
I'm looking forward to the 4th 4th World Congress.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

The Worst Things About Aberystwyth

I've made an alphabetical list of the worst things about Aberystwyth.
  • Arriva Trains Wales rail-replacement buses
  • Beach litter
  • Closure of the Post Office
  • Cycling Cefn Llan (up or down)
  • Jellyfish
  • Mobile phone coverage
  • Municipal treatment of the Carnegie library building
  • No artificial snow ski slope
  • North Parade traffic system
  • Parking enforcement by Parking Eye
  • Seagulls
  • Some weather
  • Tesco
  • The Cambrian News is not daily
  • UKIP
It's good that 100 words suffice. In fact, I have 2 words unused.

Bum bum.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Not the Lambeth Walk

An impromptu stroll through Camden after a visit to the (highly recommended) Crick Institute. A Camden stroll is not a Lambeth walk.

It's a strange land: you pass through Somers Town where the population are fighting a rearguard action against a tribe of bastards. At least they have a [suitably fortified] laundrette

Tripmisleader will tell you that Camden High Road is humming. Which it is, but I can think of lots of annoying things that hum. What passes for useful in 2018 certainly doesn't include tasty looking pubs like the Hope and Anchor

(although do pay heed to the figure surmounting the frontage), or the Princess Beatrice
which has lost its name to one of those silly quasi-enigmatic titles that are supposed to make it attractive.

Coming clean, I have to confess that I knew there was a Burton to be found here:

Whether Santander get the credit for wrecking the street level decoration, or whether they inherited it from some earlier generation of vandals, I do not know. But Monty's original and beautiful octagonal panelled doors survive (bottom left), so good.