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.

Wednesday 9 May 2018

Ddoe roedden ni Cadair Idris

Well, last Monday actually, not yesterday.

A notable trip because

  • We've lived down the road from Cadiar for more than 7 years and driven past it umpteen times, saying "One day ... ".
  • It's astounding and everyone says so. To my inadequate mind much more spectacular and fun than Yr Wyddfa [Snowdon], not least because it doesn't have a tacky tearoom on top [it's at the bottom, and very welcome too].
  • Sundry undiagnosed neuropathic nuisances meant I had not walked any distance for about a year so there was some fear in pursuing this idea at all.

We took the Minffordd path which is billed as the "least hard". A fabulously steep ascent through woodland until after maybe 1.5 hours you reach Llyn Cau:

and from here you can see the peak, and realise how far there is to go. Some of the subsequent ascent was also fabulously steep.

Unsurprisingly, from the peak the Llyn is visible. There is something satisfying about seeing from where you have come.

The ascent was slow but achievable. The descent was exceptionally punishing, but that is all to do with knees in their 64th year. Hey ho.

To own up, we didn't make Pengadair, the actual peak. That would have been another two hours of intense up/down gradient, but what we did was just fine. And - two days later - the evidence is that my legs and feet do still work.

Friday 23 February 2018

Terminalia 2018

Collected pictures may be seen.

A party of 25 or so gathered to celebrate Terminalia in Aberystywth. This attendance was more than 6 times greater than last year's hardy numbers. As the Frau remarked - "Bugger me Rog, carry on like this and you'll need to do a risk assessment next year".

We trod the path of the walls, and noted several places where arguably stones from the original might be seen. Some highlights:

  1. King Garage is sadly now out of business.
  2. A psychogeographic moment: As we crossed Pier Street, I pointed out a little-known alleyway up which some ancient fisherman's cottages still stand, very much on the line of the wall. "I live in one of those", vouchsafed one of our number.
  3. A plaque commemorates the position of the main gate. A member of the party was heard to call "Does anyone remember the old Police Station?"
  4. Our route followed Chalybeate Street (etymology explained in the fuller account of the walls), on which Geraint Furnishings sells magic carpets. We didn't have time to stop, but I'll be back.
  5. A street name that captures it all: Dan Dre is "under the town" in Welsh, meaning just outside the wall. Mill Street refers to a later mill that re-used the wall ditch as a leat. The most recent mill building still stands.
  6. A second psychogeographic moment: the hated and unwelcome Tesco have desecrated the townscape to build an entrance worthy of a prison.
. Fuller, and probably duller, details of the wall can be read.

Monday 8 January 2018

In Percy Pilcher's wingsteps

Some time ago, in Leeds, I went to a jolly interesting talk by a sociologist. I'm ashamed to say I have forgotten his name, title, and all other useful details. His broad topic was Louis le Prince (one of my heroes) and his claim to be the first to succeed with moving pictures. The speaker did a good job of telling the story (and detailed that bastard Edison's malign, interfering influence).

He then moved on to some very interesting meta-issues: so, the word "first" can often be a tough one to define: First to make a film? First to screen it? First to screen it publicly? First to make apparatus that could be re-used and generalised? First with a process? And so it is little wonder that there are several, often equally valid, claims to being "first". But he also noted that step changes in engineering and science often emerge because the time was ripe: moving pictures, television, control of fission - there is a long list that had numerous parties pursuing the goal contemporaneously, so it's no surprise if more than one crosses the finishing line pretty much at the same time. Sometimes these teams are competing, sometimes they are ignorant of each other.

So no surprises that powered flight also had a number of keen folk after the prize. There's not much argument that the Wright Brothers were indeed first with their short flight in December 1903, although the fact that it was so short made some question its use. But there were indeed a number of competing claims - the time for powered flight had come.

And presumably no surprises that there were a lot of others of whom we probably haven't heard who tried and missed the cut completely, which brings me to my point. On a Sylvester excursion with the In-laws, we are guided to the Percy Pilcher memorial:

Percy Sinclair

The British aviation pioneer who
conducted extensive trials with full
sized hang gliders of his own design
and construction from 1896-99
He made successful towed flights
in his hawk glider from this site
during 1896-97.

Percy was just one of those who was having a go, but didn't come close enough to be remembered in many history books. His story is fully told elsewhere so I won't retell it here. There's a rather good BBC documentary on him that you can view.

There's a psychogeographic twist to it: the memorial had been in the middle of a golf course (like most things in Kent) which closed recently so that certain reptiles could make more money. This necessitated the moving of the memorial (which is still, however, on the hill from which Pilcher flew) - hence the very new looking railings and barbed wire. This means that in going to view the memorial, you can see what a golf course looks like when it is neglected for 12, 24, 36 months. How thin the veneer of civilisation.

BBC production