Sunday 8 December 2019

Lion's Holt

I journeyed from Aberystwyth to Lympstone, involving 5 trains - the last leg was the branch line from Exeter Central down to Exmouth. As you will know, Central was the high level station operated by Southern, who also controlled the Exmouth branch, green livery and all. The major Exeter station was St David's, built and operated by IKB's Great Western, in sensible coffee and cream. The link between the Exeter stations was a gradient of 1:37, which I believe remains the steepest mainline stretch on the UK network.

On my lucky day, I encountered a fragment of scheduling worthy of a GCSE pupil that let me leave St David's and alight at St James Park, then 5 minutes later board another train for the journey down the estuary to Lympstone. In all my years of travelling in and around Isca Dumnoniorum I had never before either boarded or alighted at St James: what an opportunity!

Midway between Central and Polsloe Bridge Halt [for Heavitree], it was opened in 1906 as "Lion's Holt", and acquired its proper name in 1946 in recognition of the adjacent St James Park, home of the mighty Grecians. (It is believed a similar name attaches to the ground of a little known northern club). The railings on the steep access ramps are periodically repainted in the Red and White (see below).

The branch was late to open, which is ironic as IKB once had plans before 1850 to run an atmospheric broad gauge line down to Exmouth, another instance of his ambition far exceeding practical realities. The line is now often a victim of its own success as the high-flying Exeter Chiefs play just outside the Digby station. If City are at home, the trains cannot accommodate the sporting fervour, meaning they either stop at St James, or Digby. Never let it be said that the UK rail system is a total fucking shambles.

Anyway, here it is. Below, the view toward Polsloe, with red sandstone bridge and at right, a glimpse of the theatre of dreams.

Monday 9 September 2019

What's in Ironbridge other than an iron bridge?

A trip to Ironbridge for Gillian's 60th, regrettably coinciding with the 4th World Congress of Psychogeography in Huddersfield which regular readers will know I was part of in 2018. Spookily, many of the others at the Ironbridge gathering were from Huddersfield so they were missing the Congress too.

Ironbridge and Coalbrookdale look as though they were built just last month for a new BBC period drama - nothing is out of place except the people and queues of tourist buses. The evening life is also a little anachronistic, although certainly quite fun.

I psychogeographically compensated for all this by executing my own score for a quasi-derive on Saturday morning: locating all the scarce postboxes in the postcode (categorised as "A" by LBSG).

It was successful in the respect that I saw many bits of TF10 which others didn't, and that were really very jolly. Two boxes evaded me, but here is number 1036648, with its grotty replacement in the foreground.

But in the nature of the exercise, other discoveries took precedence. The highlight was without doubt the Quaker burial ground

wherein is interred Abraham Darby, the man whose name is on the eponymous bridge. The description shows the grave locations, but all headstones (written in true Quaker style) have been moved to the rim. The result is an area that has a tranquility that makes most cemeteries look like Leeds railway station at 5pm on a weekday.

Other highlights included a marvelous telephone exchange building

and a Euro-relic.

I also rather liked a view from the bridge that omitted the bridge.

I believe the birthday party went very well but I find my memory incomplete. And so do many other people. Thanks, Naz.

Other pictures exist.

Friday 21 June 2019

Impaled on nails of ice, bareback ladies had fish

Regular readers will know of earlier reviews of Mr Robert Fripp's current ensemble: so please take comments therein as read, and I will add an incremental review from the Royal Albert Hall show on 20th June.

For those unaware, the RAH is big, so it was a handy thing that the 3 drummer lineup persists. Together with a modicum of electronics, hearing them was not a problem. Had they played any errant notes we would have noticed and poured ridicule, but this turned out not to be necessary.

In appearance there is not much change: Collins now starts to resemble a retired physics teacher, although I have never met a physics teacher who can play sax like that. Stacey kept his hat on throughout (again), and spent a protracted period with his back to me hunched over a keyboard that was the size of of a small meringue (I think - maybe he was trying to thread a needle?). Mr Fripp remained imperious at the rear. I suspect he had invisible pieces of string attaching his fingers to each member of the band, thereby ensuring good behaviour.

Reviews of earlier concerts in the tour promised a long-overdue outing for Cat Food; indeed Levin's web site had a picture of the setlist confirming this. Well, it seems that on taking the stage, Mr Fripp saw me and my all-too evident enthusiasm for this ditty, so he substituted The Letter. This is, of course, a very jolly song which drew prolonged applause, but I remain unsated. Likewise, LotR remains unexhumed; would it attract negative attenton these days? Hmmmm. Ballads old and new reinforced the fact that there is a half-century of back catalogue to call on, and three hours was not really enough to do this justice. Unsurprisingly, C21SM appears as encore but this as a new arrangement, including a splendid contribution from Stacey, and a couple of bars of Colonel Bogey for good measure.

Shall I see them again one day? It would be hard to resist the temptation, but I'd be pleased if they were to appear closer to Abersywtyth: I understand the Caersws Ice Rink makes a good high-capacity venue.

The succeeding day, I visited the roof garden at 120 Fenchurch Street (free!), of which more anon.

Friday 7 June 2019

Llanfihangel Genau'r Glyn [Llandre]

In search of Castell Gwallter.

The castle was a text book motte and bailey (lat/long 52.462459, -4.028706), presumably of timber that was built by a Norman invader (Walter de Bec), captured by a Welsh chieftain (Owain Gwynedd), retaken by the French, and abandoned, all between 1100CE and 1200CE. On the ground, the earthworks are very evident still, but hard to capture from ground level through spring foliage.

The Coflein entry has many excellent pictures, some aerial, that make the matter clear.

The castle overshadows the small church of St Michael which is very grand: in its grounds lie a 2000 year old yew and a terrific cemetery on a precipitous incline.

There is a circular walk which takes in the cemetery and skirts the castle site, along which there is a collection of poetry. Most poems are (wrth gwrs) in Welsh, but here is one that mentions the castle.

The excellently maintained Llanfihangel Genau'r Glyn website is full of historical information, including a complete list of the cemetery inscriptions, a Herculean achievement. The area was once central to coastal trade, and the parish of disproportionate local importance, meaning that many of the graves are of great interest and significance.

Dr Beeching did for the railway station, but the line remains, with regular trains to Aberystwyth.

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].