Sunday 24 March 2024

23rd March things

March 23rd was unusually productive for Things.

VoR museum

Opening day for the VoR museum. I went down fully expecting large banners and welcoming volunteers - perhaps a brass band. I had obviously forgotten this is Abeystwyth. A nice man reminded me it was opeing day and sold me a ticket, after which I strolled alone among some shny exhibits, having passed through an archway recyled from London Bridge (seriously).

I'd seen many of them before, but the standard gauge Dukedog (on loan) was new, and it's never disappointing to see the Beyer Garratt. One of the highlights of the VoR is standing near a steep incline (there are many) and just listening to a loco labouring uphill - apparently the B-G is so powerful it barely makes a sound. When used in South Africa, two of these monsters were harnessed at the head of timber trains that were very very long indeed.

Other pictures exist.

Bryntail lead mines

There were mines just all over the place, but the Bryntail site is distinguished by having many remains of buildings, wheel pits etc, all in the shadow of the Clywedog dam. It is a short distance to the very productive Van site, so ironic that despite huge investment and innovation by a Cornish engineer, Bryntail never produced much and closed very shortly after the fellow's death.
Other pictures exist.


A refreshment break in Llanidloes - didn't meet any Chartists.

Alison Cotton

Something drew my attention to A Cotton opening her tour at Gregynog. A cursory search suggested that if Godspeed You! Black Emperor operated in the folk music sphere, this is what they would sound like. A must-do. On arrival, the Gregynog organisation was just as expected (yeah), and the remainder of the audience looked as though they knew just why they were there, and might all be related to Vashti Bunyan.

The lady plays drone viola, but is actually a vocalist and her unaccompanied singing dominated (a pest, as she had a sore throat and had to abandon an attempt at one song. Never mind, we got lots of others). She played from her very recently released Engelchen, about two Tyneside sisters who rescued large number of Jewish children from the Nazis. She sported gold boots and eyelids, and from time to time was accompanied by Chloe Herington on percussion and harmonium. Both of them made interesting use of loops and other electronics. If there's one thing in the world I don't need it's another T-shirt, but I was easily persuaded to buy one in her support.

Support came from Elizabeth Still, who played a fabulous short set. She was a bit of a one-woman band with lots of instruments and electronics. Apparently the founder member of Haress, of whom I had never heard - there's always something new.

Tuesday 26 December 2023

I Want To Go To Togo, Ghana, Togo

We all know that a happy combination of luck, aggression, predestination and geography causes the base meridian of longitude to go through Greenwich. In earlier times there were several others: Paris, Copenhagen and Berlin all had "their" meridians but we won out (anyway, wouldn't it be stupid to call something the "Greenwich Meridian" if it went through Berlin or Copenhagen?). Incidentally, the French clung on to their Méridienne Parisienne well into the 20th century, silly lot. There is some interesting psychogeography to be done in following it.

Knowing that it goes through Greenwich is useful, but where else? France, plainly (but not through Paris 😀), but where else? Google to the fore, we can draw a circle that goes from pole to pole and back, following the 0° and 180° meridians (Click to enlarge, obvs.).

No surprises that the majority of this is sea (counting the arctic as sea, which it is). The 180 meridian intersects very little land (all Russia), and the 0 meridian is just wet in the southern hemisphere. There are, however, four countries which intersect twice.

The UK

Maybe it's cheating to consider the Humber Estuary as an interruption - make your own mind up. The meridian just misses Flamborough Head, but if were visible, you'd see it.


Given its size one cannot be surprised that Mother Russia figures in the list. Off the north coast of Siberia (north of the 70° parallel) lies Wrangel Island [О́стров Вра́нгеля]. The Island was named by a Briton after a Russian Admiral who was German, but it has a variety of other names derived from languages more appropriate. It is designated in its entirety as a "nature reserve", which might mean anything in modern Russia.

There is a great deal to be read about this place; it was home to the last surviving woolly mammoths on earth.


The shape of Spain's Mediterranean coast provides a 30Km (or so) land intersection just south of Valencia. Pleasingly, the Meridian exits toward Africa at Marina Greenwich.


When those Imperialist bastards decided where to draw national boundaries in Africa, they plainly decided to have a laugh when it came to Togo. Leaving Burkina Faso, the Meridian enters Togo, leaves it, enters it again (from Ghana), then leaves it back to Ghana and onward to the seaside.

The first Togo stretch is about 2Km long (my estimate - it really isn't easy to get precise measurements from Google).

The second stretch is rather longer, at something like 30Km - again, rather approximate.

I have searched in vain for images of the Meridian meeting/leaving Togo, thus far with no joy. Any I receive will be posted here without delay.

Friday 27 October 2023

Many inflatable unicorns

A twin-porpoise trip to Shrewsbury, both fulfilled.

Firstly, a trip to the world's first iron-framed building, and a trip up its smashing tower. Some pictures exist elsewhere.

Second, to attend the entertainment of Mr and Mrs Willcox (née Fripp) who are touring their Sunday lunch. One wasn't quite sure what to expect: queueing for a beer on arrival I texted the Frau "The regulation KC audience has brought its wife" - Mr Willcox will be surprised to see an audience that is 50% female. She was quick to point out that actually the regulation Toyah audience had brought its husband. The stage was scattered with inflatable unicorns, instead of the 3 massive drumkits KC fans might expect.

Fashionably punctual the band appeared. Mr Willcox in his customary funereal garb, and Mrs Willcox in an outfit that would have been awkward to wear on a bus. She provided lively banter throughout, reminding us early on that he is 77 and she 65. There were a few occasions where we got a monosyllabic comment from him, rather more than I have heard him say since I saw him in York in 1974. There was a solitary drummer who, despite coming from Leeds, did not fill the space that three do, two keyboard artistes (one accompanied by her teenage daughter), a bassist, two guitarists, and Mr Willcox. He sat still througout, as one might expect, although was downstage, which I had not see before, and was unaccompanied by the massive cabinet of electronics that is his customary security blanket.

The set list was straight from the Sunday Lunch, and Toyah was very happy for us to sing along with her, which I think we all did rather well. Interestingly, the guitarists were of such quality that Robert could be seen just strumming rhythm from time to time. But he also set himself free on a few occasions, notably playing a version of "Enter Sandman" that we certainly hadn't heard before. My neighbour enquired whether I expected them to perform any KC pieces - I thought not. I was correct, although they did do two Bowie pieces on which he has been an original musician (Fashion and, of course, Heroes).

The English Music Hall is alive and well, and of great quality.

And I found this - isn't it lovely?

Wednesday 19 July 2023

Not one, but two!

Montague Burton's retail acumen is well known: ideally chosen corner plots, a style recognisable from 100 yards, complete understanding of the psychology of the customer base, and teetotal dance halls or snooker halls above the showroom. Appealing to the less well moneyed gentleman, his shops were to be found in nearly all industrial or otherwise working-class conurbations. Lucky old Aberdeen: not only two Burton buildings, but separated by a distance of less than 100 yards.

Like so many others, these splendid edifices are in need of a little TLC. Number 1 on Union Street is currently vacant: the building is instantly recognisable, and has one surviving foundation stone - highly likely there were once 2 or more.

Number 2 is a very short step away on St Nicholas Street: also instantly recognisable, but no foundation stones remaining - the building has been reworked at street level at least once. No matter - the upper stories are easily viewed by a pedestrian walkway.

In spotting this frontage, it suddenly became clear that one could see both buildings at once.

I don't know if this can be done anywhere else in the world. When you consider the Keighley Dee-Fest, and meetings with Ben, Katie and Jenny, this seems to have got the Orkney holiday off to a very good start. (Ironically, we parked outside the latter-day incarnation of Burotns. So three, I suppose, on one day)

Monday 24 April 2023

The game is up

The jury remains out on precisely which drugs W Shakespeare had been smoking when scribing Cymbeline, but we'd all like to know. It's not commonly staged: In 1970 (I think) I performed in a production of this play, directed by a far-sighted teacher of English; I saw it again on the West Yorkshire Playhouse stage the evening before one of my weddings in 2006, and then once more last Saturday, produced by the RSC in Stratford.

I managed to enter the auditorium with some very cocky foreknowledge of this madness, but had forgotten (before checking) that this is where the phrases Boldness be my friend (A1,s6), The game is up (A3,s3), and I have not sleep one wink (A3,s4) originate. Now you know.

It's fairly well known that he got a little wacky towards the end, but this play scales amazin' heights; the appearance of Jupiter at the end, descending from heaven amid thunder and lightning, was even better that that depicted by my late friend Peter Gleeson on the Hele's School stage half a century ago. The RSC could have taken advice from us on the length of the play, which kicked off at 7.15 and let us out at 11pm, with two very short intervals. During the second interval we got to look inside a props cupboard which included a dead chicken and a dead goat. How I wanted to nick one (or both) of these.

In preparation we viewed Anne Hathaway's cottage, which remained in Hathaway hands into the C20. There was, recently, a Hathaway gathering at the place, when those attending did not have to pay the £13 entrance fee. I told them I was a Hathaway and asked for a refund: while too courteous to tell me to bugger off, they weren't giving in.

The Crowne Plaza Hotel has corridors that make you feel you are in an Escher drawing

Interesting, but insufficient to make the shocking service bearable.

Anything else? The usual RM hotspots.

Saturday 18 March 2023


Having gone over 68 years knowing nothing about Rabelais, I fear I have come to him too late to take maximum advantage.

It surely suffices to draw attention to his list of candidates for toilet paper (appended here) - among my favourites are "Mother's gloves" and "A cormorant".

Of the goose, Rabelais notes But to conclude, I say and maintain that there is no arse-wiper like a well-downed goose, if you hold her neck between your legs. You must take my word for it, you really must. You get a miraculous sensation in your arse-hole, both from the softness of the down and from the temperate heat of the goose herself; and this is easily communicated to the bum-gut and the rest of the intestines, from which it reaches the heart and the brain.

  1. A lady's velvet mask
  2. A lady's hood
  3. A lady's neckerchief
  4. Some earflaps of crimson satin
  5. A page's bonnet, all feathered in the Swiss fashion
  6. A March-born cat
  7. His Mother's gloves, well scented with maljamin
  8. Sage
  9. Fennel
  10. Anise
  11. Marjoram
  12. Roses
  13. Gourd Leaves
  14. Cabbage
  15. Beets
  16. Vineshoots
  17. Marsh-mallow
  18. Mullein, which is as red as your bum
  19. Lettuces
  20. Spinach-leaves
  21. Dog's Mercury
  22. Persicaria
  23. Nettles
  24. Comfrey
  25. His Codpiece
  26. The Sheets
  27. The Coverlet
  28. The Curtains
  29. A Cushion
  30. The Hangings
  31. A Green Cloth
  32. A Table-cloth
  33. A Napkin
  34. A Handkerchief
  35. An Overall
  36. Hay
  37. Straw
  38. Litter
  39. Cow's Hair
  40. Wool
  41. Paper
  42. A Kerchief (again)
  43. A Pillow
  44. A Slipper
  45. A Game-bag
  46. A Basket
  47. A Hat... and some hats are
    • Smooth
    • Shaggy
    • Velvety
    • Of Taffeta
    • Of Satin
    ...though the best of all are the shaggy ones
  48. A Hen
  49. A Cock
  50. A Chicken
  51. A Calf's Skin
  52. A Hare
  53. A Pigeon
  54. A Cormorant
  55. A Lawyer's Bag
  56. A Penitent's Hood
  57. A Coif
  58. An Otter
  59. A Well-downed Goose

Wednesday 4 January 2023


To Llundain, to see in the new year, inter alia.

Thursday 29th was an outing to Fulham to play in the EBU Year End Open Pairs event. Partner was the ever understanding Jerry F, who tolerated a number of schoolgirl errors on my part to allow us 49% in the morning sesion and 47% in the afternoon. I count this as a triumph and know we'd beat 50 in another outing. Jerry, if he as as wise as I suspect, probably wouldn't permit another outing to occur: here is a picture of Jerry in motion, warming up for the day, and the record of how it went.

Friday 30th, to Holborn for the latest of a sequence of beery chats with P and J. Whether the world will actually improve as a result of our analyses of its problems is unlikely, and perhaps the world didn't even know we were there. We last attempted this in 2018, so perhaps of most interest is the before-Covid/after-Covid comparison. Can you tell which is which?

Saturday 31st, to Ashford and around for a Porkrun, and to make the Yuletide visit that was kiboshed by a mysterious esophegeal complaint. Urban highlights were an elegant OOU Post Office,and the partially restored Burton, now a splendid Polish cafe:

And a very jolly visit to the Enkelkinder
Blywyddyn Newydd Dda - let it be better than its predecessor. At the very least, let's not break any ribs.