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.

Monday 10 October 2022

Two things

Two things I have just learned:
  1. A very rare instance of a Welsh word finding its way into English: penguin. originally, of course, pen-gwyn - white head. Except penguins have black heads.
  2. A committee is sitting in the Vatican considering what to do if and when extra-terrestial intelligence makes itself known to us. Of course, there is but the one God for the entire unverse, but it's not clear whether JC is Saviour of the human race, or all intelligent races. Either way, there will be a need for some sort of evangelism, post discovery. Tricky.
These things wre discovered during the most recent Offa expedition, a worthy project interrupted for 2.5 years by, you guessed it, Covid-19. This leg was from Four Crosses to Trefonen, which - on paper - was "just another leg" but as ever in reality turned out to be stunning. Flat bits, up bits, down bits, view bits, golf courses ... I could go on.

Inter alia, we saw

  • Evidence that Offa got the boundary between Wales and Lloegr in the right place.
  • Views to left and right. Or right and left if you're going the other way.
  • Many fungi. One of our number said he knew which were which, and he is still alive.
  • The Montgomery Canal.
  • Evidence that Oswestry was once railway central.

Culminating with a pretty VR wall box as we relocated our transport.

We are now more than 2/3 of the way up - here we come, Prestatyn.

Thursday 24 February 2022

Terminalia 2022

Is it just me, or does Terminalia seem to come round earlier each year?

Finding myself halfway between Peter Hammill and Henning Wehn, circumstance caused me to celebrate the festival in Scrobbesburh, which was especially exciting as the town was partly submerged as a result of storms Derek, Eric and Fuckwit arriving in a 6 day period. Rudimentary Internet research revealed the course of the largely pillaged town walls and so I advertised a circumnvagation, fully expecting a 25 minute solo perambulation. Imagine my surprise to find Andrew, Andy and Kate the Pipe ready to join me at the start.

Andrew knew a lot already, and we had the most marvellous document prepared by the Archaeology Data Service. Coupled with Kate's enthusiasm to engage everybody in conversation ("We're doing a tour for Terminalia ...") this turned into a much longer and really fascinating trip. I think we fulfilled all the aims of the celebration, and I don't recall us mentioning Brexit, Covid, or Ukraine once.

There's no secret about the tour, so anyone could do it. Just the odd picture may communicate the enthusiasm of the day:

  1. Fragments of the wall can be seen in many places, together with some intact sections. These were at their best when they were not really accessible and you had to take sneaky looks ... On the way (1), On the way (2); a secret bit; in a pub garden; a surviving, rather pretty, tower. God bless Kate Humphreys, although how did she come to own it in the first place?
  2. We met a very nice chap who owned property on the course of the wall; he had been very badly flooded but took a long time to explain to us how the area had once been.
  3. A collection of wall and other stones had been assembled near a very wet bridge. One was not of the local sandstone, but was very smooth volcanic rock. There is an unflattering picture of Kate smoothing it a little further.
  4. Stopping for welcome refreshment, Kate showed us her current plan, which we followed as best we could.
  5. Throughout, we were awestruck at the quantity of water flowing down the Severn (more properly Afon Hafren, since it rises in mid-Wales) in the wake of Storms D, E and F. This picture fails to capture the awe: on a normal day, this shot would have had no water visible at all

I wonder where Terminalia 2023 will be observed.