Thursday, 24 December 2009

Up Against The Wall XVI: I Wuv You!

I wuv you!, originally uploaded by mithering.
Obscene, angry and pointless graffiti has been a bit thin on the ground recently, so here are some sweet, fluffy, bunny-hugging scrawlings in the snow outside the Lowry Hotel in Salford. Just because it's Christmas and all that. Back to the rude stuff soon.  Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Ice Ice Baby.

Redwing, originally uploaded by purplerabbits.
I've been on twitter since February 9th this year.  It took me two days to realise its potential for list-making/diarising.  On the 11th of February I listed the birds I saw on my walk into work between the car park in Salford University (where my wife works, and I get [or got - more later] a lift to on appropriate days) and work.  It became a regular habit, and later I added my other route, the one I take when a lift is impractical or impossible, the 96 bus into town. The two routes eventually settled down as Peel Park to Dolefield and Boddies to Dolefield.  Last week I did my last Peel Park to Dolefield.

Today, snow-willing, I probably did my last Boddies to Dolefield.  It was, appropriately, and weirdly, the day I saw more species than I had on any other day when taking that route.  The highlight was seeing twenty or thirty redwings in a tree opposite the berry-laden bushes which skirt the cheap carpark seated where Boddington's brewery used to be.  It even outweighed seeing a gorgeous drake goldeneye on The Irwell.

Thanks to purplerabbits on flickr for this fantastic image of a redwing guzzling berries in Edinburgh.

I'll edit this into coherence over Christmas. Posting drunk after spending hours wrapping presents is not a good thing.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Nine to Five. Overtime.

Mistle Thrush, originally uploaded by NEdwards1.
Following on from the theme of the post from November 24th, the shifting pattern of bird dominance has seen the mistle thrush lurch into the limelight recently. There are a particularly beautiful and prominent pair who hang about in and around the hidden little park between Chapel Street and East Ordsall Lane in Salford. The recent bright sunshine brought them both out into the trees, onto the balcony of the flats opposite and, one morning, onto a street lamp high above the Chapel Street morning rush hour traffic.

Thanks to NEdwards1 for the photo.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Disco Inferno.

Is this possibly the first ever 18-rated video game based upon a poem?

We were in The Arndale yesterday (fifth level of Hell; inner-city shopping centres on any Saturday in December) and EA Games had a promo stall set up, from which The Eldest picked up a brochure.

Had a quick look through it last night and all the usual things were there - football games, tennis games, boxing games, Sci Fi games, war games - and this, "based on part one of Dante Alighieri's classic poem 'The Divine Comedy', Dante's Inferno is a 3rd person action adventure game that takes Dante on an epic journey through Hell as he seeks to rescue the soul of his beloved Beatrice."

In a way it makes sense - death, destruction and levels. Measureable, achieveable levels of activity. It's almost a no-brainer. "Just like the poem, players will descend through the nine circles of Hell: Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Anger, Heresy, Violence, Fraud and Treachery."

The perfect Christmas gift for the poetry fan in your life.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Camera Obscura - Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken (Alt)

I'd had this idea, that I've been mulling for a while, that I would post something about 'Indie' Answer Songs. This came about because I've been listening to a lot of Camera Obscura lately - mainly since My Maudlin Career was released. Before then, they'd been almost unknown to me, lost in the endless sea of music I never get the chance to really sit down and listen to. However, 'French Navy' acted as the catalyst and on hearing the LP, 'Swans' became a big favourite. Since then I've moved backwards and hit upon Let's Get Out Of This Country which opens with the track above, which gave me the idea to write about Answer Songs. Or, to widen it out a bit, songs about or referencing other songs, but not cover versions.

I thought that the average 'Indie' (I know it's a devalued word, but I take it to mean bands or acts who should be on labels which record and release music without direct influence from the majors, whether they are or not. If you know what I mean?) mindset would lead to loads of them. You know, that impossible to ignore urge to quote, parody, pastiche and copy songs you love. A hidden code of reference and sub-reference. A great example is Edwyn Collins dropping the 'guitar solo' from Buzzcocks' 'Boredom' into 'Rip It Up' and letting us all know that his favourite song is entitled ‘Boredom’. (That 'Rip It Up' then went on to become Orange Juice's only real hit single foregrounds that reference, but it's one we all know).

However, when push came to shove I hit a massive brick wall in trying to think of more than a tiny handful. The two above and 'I Can't Get Bouncing Babies By The Teardrop Explodes' by The Freshies, in fact. So, instead, I’ll not write about them.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

A Dazzling Array of Talent.

Reed Bunting posing, originally uploaded by Steve_C.
As the FC United game against Kendal was called off yesterday due to a waterlogged pitch at Gigg Lane we all headed off to Pennington Flash for a bit of a walk and some birding.

It's a great place for The Kids as there a number of accessible hides, a small play area and a chip van, so it's possible to get them interested without seeming to hit them over the head.

The easiest and most 'spectacular' hide is The Bunting Hide, in front of which food is left out in Winter. This leads to a parade of some of the most beautiful birds we have out there - the Bullfinches in particular looked as if they just been into make-up to have their colours touched-up. There were also the usual sights - bright robins, greenfinches (there was a dead one on the floor of the hide which provoked some interest from My Young Ghouls), chaffinches, dunnocks, blackbirds and even a pair of mute swans which had made themselves at home in what can only be described as the small puddle underneath the tables.

It was all wonderful to see, but there was a feeling that I was shooting fish in a barrel. Not to the extent I've felt it at some nature reserves, but it still felt as if seeing birds there was not as satisfying as when I see them 'on the hoof' and in an urban setting. I think that a large part of the joy I get from seeing birds in Manchester or Salford is the knowledge of how run-down, dowdy and poisonous the areas had been in the past.

Six months ago I wrote, with breathless excitement, about seeing a Kingfisher shoot under Victoria Bridge adjacent to the site of the old Victoria Bus Station. On Friday, my perceptions heightened through the use of my Kingfishervision super-power, I leant over from the Salford-side, old tax office to my rear and looked down into the scrubbage which has grown on the bank down there, inaccessible to all. From towards Albert Bridge something approached, and my first thoughts were that it was a blue tit, as I've seen them hopping to and fro on the weeds. Instead, it was another Kingfisher, which landed just below me and proceeded to stare into the water.

It was raining quite heavily and a cold wind, aided by the intensity of my staring, forced tears from my eyes which made it difficult to watch, but I persevered for a few minutes until it upped and flew under the bridge. I crossed and looked down again until I spotted it. This time I was able to use my small, cheap binoculars to get a look straight at it. Unromantically, it squirted out a shot of white feces, then dropped briefly into the water. After it emerged empty-beaked, it headed off again, up towards Chethams.

I headed off to work.

Thanks to Steve C on flickr for this lovely shot of a male Reed Bunting, which was part of the dazzling array of talent on view at Pennington Flash.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Nine to Five.

Papa Blackbird, originally uploaded by LuLu Witch.

If I opened up the BBC News website one day, and discovered a link to a story which said that scientists had conclusively proved that birds operate a shift system I wouldn’t be in the slightest bit surprised. It was something that I first started noticing when I was pushing my eldest son around Heaton Park on a daily basis, back in the Summer of 2001 when he was brand new and all that.

On different days and at different times there would be a noticeable surfeit of one species of bird in particular. One day it might be blue tits, other days, robins, twittering across the paths, breaking the daytime silence. Half an hour later, another species would be in the ascendancy. I’m sure that there’s a logical and no doubt scientific explanation for it, but it always felt like they were taking turns, clocking on and off duty, as the day went by.

I was put in mind of this early today when walking to work between Salford University and Manchester House I was confronted by a small army of blackbirds. Male, female, on paths, in bushes, up trees, static and scattering to the four winds as I passed by. Normally, I may see one or two, but today was definitely their day at the coalface.

I also had happy encounters with a pair of Little Grebes - a male by the abandoned footbridge, and a tiny female bobbing up and down into the water by The Old Pint Pot, and a Kingfisher skirting the Manchester bank of the river as I peered over the metal and wood-barrier round the back of Café Rouge in Spinningfields.

Thanks to LuLu Witch on Flickr for this great photograph of 'Papa Blackbird' in Sheffield.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Between The Wars.

Ghost Poster IV - Salford., originally uploaded by mithering.

Spotted at the end of Greengate, Salford, near the old Victoria Bus Station, ghosts from the past. Dating from the time of the Miners' Strike (1984-85) , nearly twenty-five years on they've almost faded away.

Ghost Poster II - Salford.

This poster refers to the Wapping Dispute of 1986, another to a May Day Rally of 1983.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

'How I Wrote Elastic Man' Issue Two, Alan Moore

It must be said, I have no real desire to read Alan Moore’s output these days, but the impact and power of his earlier work, particularly the Warrior-published twin giants ‘Marvelman’ and ‘V for Vendetta’ and his 2000AD work, especially 'The Ballad of Halo Jones', in the UK and his ground-breaking work on DC’s Swamp Thing in the USA is undeniable. The black and white 'Marvelman' strips with Garry Leach’s ‘court artist’ photo-realist style and Bissette and Totleben’s scritchy, scratchy, surface-irritant work on Swamp Thing blew me away at the time and maintain their power whereas their contemporary and fellow standard bearer for the 'Comics Aren't Just For Kids' campaign 'The Dark Knight Returns' doesn’t.

This 1988 interview is from Newcastle-based music and youth culture show, The Tube, and features Moore talking about, amongst other things, 'The Ballad of Halo Jones', his never-completed future-world tale of the unemployed.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Islands In The Stream.

Grey Wagtail, originally uploaded by nickpix2009.

Last week’s relentless and heavy downpours meant that the water levels in The Irwell rose quite dramatically. It also meant that many of the usual birds to be spotted, either in the river or on the bank, were taking shelter elsewhere. The Grey Wagtails which feed between Victoria Bridge and the Irwell Street Bridge came up with a novel way to ensure they got their fill. In the river, vast islands of debris, comprised of garden waste, twigs, furniture, and an inordinately large number of footballs, careered, Laputa-like towards the sea at great speed. As they passed, the wagtails would fly aboard, then rapidly bob around searching for insects, before disembarking further down the river.

Thanks to nickpix2009 on flickr for this picture of a grey wagtail.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Pennies from Heaven.

penny for the guy, originally uploaded by mrpattersonsir.

Oops, here we go. The pixel ink is barely dry on my review of Belle Vue #2 and I'm already lurching into nostalgia myself. Ah, well, I did say so...

When was the last time you saw a kid, like this Glaswegian street urchin above, doing Penny For The Guy? Going, "Penny For The Guy?". Whatever happened to kids stuffing old clothes with newspaper, sticking a Halloween mask on it, dragging it down to the local shops to do a bit of good old begging for money to buy fireworks, before committing the Guy to the bonfire. On bonfire night. Not the weekend before or the weekend after, and not as some joint Halloween/Bonfire Night 'extravaganza' organised by some bunch of money-grabbing, safety-jacket wearing, stand behind the line, men with moustaches.

What used to be a random collection of street-focussed celebrations of pyromania, preceded by weeks of dragging bits of timber, old settees, cardboard boxes etc onto the local croft and punctuated by rumours of raids from other streets' kids, all armed with paraffin and matches of course, is now completely neutered and drifting into obscurity. It's not that we didn't light fires all year round anyway, it's more that this was the one time the adults condoned it. Although there was usually one Dad (always a Dad) who took it upon himself to light the bonfire according to his timetable, and not to that of the kids who had spent all their recent post-school hours scavenging and stockpiling wood and who had gone home to get their tea before coming back to find their work reduced to beautifully-glowing ashes.

At one point you could wander the streets of any major city on Bonfire Night and encounter any number of bonfires in various settings - back gardens, sports fields, school grounds, crofts. Nowadays, you get the odd organised fire, but even they are dying off. The availability of Apocalypse Now-level public display fireworks from the local paper shop and the commerce-driven, sugar-sweet pull of Halloween has meant the B of the Bang of Bonfire Night is spread over a longer time and no longer focussed on November Fifth.

Anyhow, the last time I saw a kid doing Penny for the Guy was outside Shalimar Stores, opposite Salford's lumpy Cathedral. It was about five years ago. The site behind Shalimar was also the last time I saw a random, roadside, disorganised community bonfire. The wood had been building up there for days before the final act on the fifth, I passed it every day on my way into work. This week, I'm still making the same journey, but the local kids are no longer dragging, stacking and guarding piles of wood and settees.

Thanks to mrpattersonsir for the beautiful photograph.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

'How I Wrote Elastic Man' Issue One, Ben Katchor.

How I Wrote Elastic Man., originally uploaded by mithering.

I've been wanting to post about some of my favourite comic artists for a while, but I wanted to do it in a way which added something beyond just pretty pictures, so here are some pretty pictures which move and make noise. In the pipeline, and amongst other things, are Mark Beyer and Drew Friedman clips from Liquid Television, Alan Moore being interviewed by a twelve-year old on The Tube and (when I eventually find it) an animatic from Peter Bagge's uncommissioned Buddy Bradley cartoon.

I was prompted to find, and use, this particular interview by a post on the Lost In Manchester blog, which discussed 'ghost adverts', almost wiped away or preserved by accident (they were usually covered up by something which protected them from the ravages of man and time) painted advertisements on the sides and fronts of shops and other commercial properties. There are several around Manchester, periodically revealing themselves to those who look above the pavement, then disappearing forever or being shrouded again, waiting for the next festival or accidental revelation. Ben Katchor's art works in that domain - the deliberate illumination of hidden worlds which were once the mainstream but now lurk, moribund, above and behind the city's walls, streets and shop-fronts.

You can find his website here: Those $25 signed posters look like good value for money.

About Ben Katchor, from Wikipedia.

Ben Katchor (born 1951 in Brooklyn, NY) is an American cartoonist. His comic strip Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer paints an evocative picture of a slightly surreal, historical New York City with a decidedly Jewish sensibility. Julius Knipl has been published in several book collections including Cheap Novelties: The Pleasure of Urban Decay and The Beauty Supply District. Other serialized comics by Katchor include The Jew Of New York (collected and published as a graphic novel in 1998), The Cardboard Valise and Hotel & Farm. He regularly contributes comics and drawings to The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Metropolis magazine. He was a contributor to RAW and published and edited two issues of Picture Story magazine, which featured his own work along with illustrated articles and stories by Peter Blegvad and Jerry Moriarty. He wrote and illustrated a "weeklong electronic journal" for Slate in 1997 and contributed articles to the now-defunct Civilization: The Magazine of the Library of Congress. His comics have been translated into French, Italian, German and Japanese. He currently draws a weekly strip, Shoehorn Technique, for The Forward.
In 1993 Katchor was the subject of a lengthy profile by Lawrence Weschler in the The New Yorker.[1] He won an Obie Award for his collaboration with Bang on a Can on The Carbon Copy Building, a "comic book opera" based on his writings and drawings that premiered in 1999. The same year, he was the subject of Pleasures of Urban Decay, a documentary by the San Francisco filmmaker Samuel Ball. In Michael Chabon's collected essays,Maps and Legends, (McSweeney's Books, 2008, San Francisco), he somewhat idiosyncratically describes Katchor as "the "creator of the last great American comic strip."
The first cartoonist to receive a MacArthur Fellowship, Katchor has also received a Guggenheim Fellowship and is a fellow of the American Academy in Berlin.
Katchor has written several works of musical theater, including The Rosenbach Company (a tragi-comedy about the life and times of Abe Rosenbach, the preeminent rare-book dealer of the 20th century) and The Slug Bearers of Kayrol Island, or, The Friends of Dr. Rushower, an absurdist romance about the chemical emissions and addictive soft-drinks of a ruined tropical factory-island. Both feature music by Mark Mulcahy.
Katchor also gives "illustrated lectures" at colleges and museums accompanied by slide projections of his work.

Partial Bibliography
Cheap Novelties: The Pleasures of Urban Decay (Penguin, 1991)
Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer: Stories (Little, Brown & Co., 1996)
Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer: The Beauty Supply District (Pantheon Books, 2000)
The Jew of New York (Pantheon Books, 1998)
Picture Story Magazine (editor and contributor) (Two issues, self-published, 1986)

His work also features in the CD booklet for R.E.M.'s 1991 release, Out of Time.

A new book, The Dairy Restaurant, is due later this year.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Ebony and Ivory.

Cormorant in the Trees, originally uploaded by rutthenut.

I walked back up to Salford University along The Crescent yesterday afternoon and noted the cormorants coming in to roost in the trees across the river, opposite the back end of Maxwell Hall. In retrospect, what I thought might have been a variant crow with white on its wings (see previous post) could, in fact, have been a young cormorant, given that the incident occurred only a few hundred yards from the roost. I'll have another look this morning on my way in.

Thanks to rutthenut on flickr for the super photo of a cormorant in a tree (although this chap is in Surrey).

Monday, 26 October 2009

The Streak.

IMG_1760, originally uploaded by melvinheng.

I went through the first 44 years of my life only managing to see two; more recently I began to notice flashes of colour out of the side of my eye, now I can barely look at The Irwell between Peel Park and Boddies without seeing Kingfishers. It reminds me of the time when my mother-in-law was slightly obsessed with those magic eye 3D images that were all the rage a few years back. I looked and I looked and I couldn't see anything. One day she said, just defocus your eyes while looking at one. I did. WOW! A 3D cowboy on a horse. From then on whenever I was looking at one I'd just go 'doink', and defocus my eyes. Two seconds later, there was the image in full effect.

It's like that with the Kingfishers, as if my eyes and my brain suddenly worked out how to go 'doink' so I could see them. This has meant over the past three or four weeks I've been seeing them almost as often as I see the Grey Wagtails, and more often than the Goosanders. Best of all was this morning when I was looking from inside Peel Park towards the opposite bank of the river and heard the now familiar twitter-gargle they make - a bit like a more high-pitched finch song. My eyes went 'doink' and I found it heading up towards Castle Irwell, low above the water. When it reached the gated and locked footbridge, which no longer takes students over the river between Salford University campusses, it turned and headed back, landing about twenty feet in front of me on the concrete riverbank. I tried to get a better look with the binoculars but the movement must have disturbed it and it flew off.

Earlier, I'd been looking from the bridge described above and heard a commotion among some carrion crows in trees on the far bank. Some swooped out and swooped into the foliage, again and again, calling angrily. They were obviously mobbing something. I tried to see clearer what it was, but as I only use a pair of 10x25 bought from Walmart in Canada purely functional compact binoculars it was difficult, but it looked a crow with a thin white stripe along each upper wing. I couldn't get a clear enough view as it, and they, kept moving, but I can only presume it was a crow with a few stray, mutant white feathers. Further along, and now opposite the tree, I looked again, but this time they seemed to be working out their anger on a smaller, brown bird, possibly one of the sparrowhawks which can be seen along there.

Following on from this blog's first anniversary at the weekend I've decided to post a few more of these longer, more city centre nature-focussed pieces, and also to source more photographs from Creative Commons (as I'm never going to get good wildlife photographs). So, thanks to Melvin Heng for the usage of the photograph.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Happy Birthday.

Yesterday was this blog's first birthday and although I fully intended to post something, I never felt quite in the right mood. I exceeded my initial target of posting, on average, at least once a week. As for the direction of the blog, that's something which has evolved during the year, and I'm still not entirely sure what sort of blog this is. In some ways, it's a personal blog with most of the personal stuff taken out. It's also a nature blog, a blog about graffiti, a blog about comics, a blog about the twin cities. I suppose it's a blog about living and working in the north west and sharing the stuff that I enjoy, whether it be kingfishers on The Irwell or obscene graffiti in Salford.

There's more to come, I have three posts currently in draft format, one of which is about European Football Hooligans stickers, and has been in draft for about six months now. I guess I need to kick on and finish it. More recently parked posts cover the non-avian, non-insectoid fauna of Manchester and Salford and the cartoonist Ben Katchor (the first of a series of posts about some of my favourite cartoonists providing I can find appropriate video footage). These will probably show up sooner than you think.

The only constant ingredient for these posts is that the title is the name of a song, something which some correspondents have spotted, so here is the annual round up. From the top:

  • 14 Iced Bears - Jumped In A Puddle
  • James - What The World Is Waiting For
  • The World Of Twist - She's A Rainbow (I know, but that's the version I was thinking of)
  • The Bee Gees - Tragedy
  • New Order - Round and Round
  • Four Below Zero - My Baby's Got ESP
  • The Status Quo - Pictures of Match Stick Men
  • Run DMC ft. Aerosmith - Walk This Way
  • The Hollies - Bus Stop
  • Dion - The Wanderer
  • The Police - Visions of the Night
  • The Tom Robinson Band - Up Against The Wall
  • Roy Orbison - It's Over
  • The Go-Betweens - The Streets Of Your Town
  • The Drifters - Under The Boardwalk
  • Josef K - The Only Fun In Town
  • Slaughter and The Dogs - Where Have All The Boot Boys Gone?
  • Pink Floyd - Careful With That Axe Eugene
  • Sham 69 - If The Kids Are United
  • The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Castles Made of Sand
  • MUFCUM Fans - From The Banks of The River Irwell
  • Jonathan Richman - Chewing Gum Wrapper
  • The Ray Bryant Combo - Madison Time
  • Queen - Another One Bites The Dust
  • The Pixies - In Heaven (The Lady In The Radiator Song) (Again, I know, but this is the version I was thinking of)
  • The Pooh Sticks - It's A Good Day For A Parade (Again, I know, but this is the version I was listening to at the time)
  • The Mekons - Never Been In A Riot
  • Sonic Youth - Kool Thing
  • The Jam - News of The World
  • Fear - I Love Living In The City
  • Indeep - Last Night A DJ Saved My Life
  • Husker Du - Something I Learned Today
  • The Stone Roses - Sally Cinnamon
  • They Might Be Giants - Snail Shell
  • Big Flame - These Boots Are Made For Walking (Nancy's version is pretty sound, as well)
  • John Otway - Cor Baby (That's Really Free)
  • Doris Day - Que Sera Sera
  • Talking Heads - Little Creatures (Okay, I cheated here, it's the title of an LP, but you'll forgive me this one discretion, won't you?)
  • Buzzcocks - Nostalgia
  • The Go-Betweens - Right Here
Even though I don't like every track on there it would have made a pretty good soundtrack to the birthday party which never happened. Next year, I'll have a full-on party with jelly and ice cream, and a bouncy. (Or is that when Glazer dies?)

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Up Against The Wall XV: Louis is a Bum

Louis is a Bum, originally uploaded by mithering.

Barbarism Begins At Home. Written in the dust that gathered on the base of our television by his younger brother, Our Louis becomes the latest victim of pointless, stupid and angry graffiti.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Right Here.

Stalybridge v FC United FA Cup 3rd Qualifying round replay - The Goal from FCUM TV on Vimeo.

This deserves a wider view. Jerome Wright's winning goal from last night's FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round replay in Stalyvegas. One more qualifier, a difficult one, against Northwich Victoria at their ground and FC United are in the first round proper of the FA Cup.

Apologies for those of you who dislike football; more senseless graffiti and a post about frogs coming up soon.

Friday, 9 October 2009


Belle Vue 2, originally uploaded by mithering.

So, the second edition of Belle Vue finally rolls into town. I intended to review the sold-out first issue back when I finally managed to get my hands on one, but felt that it wasn’t fresh enough to cover as by then most of the print-run had sold out. The cynic in me also decided it was better to wait and see if they had the staying power to produce another issue. Which they have. Obviously. Good for them.

This time round, the cover features a view under the Castlefield railway arches, lovingly rendered by Neil Dimelow, who also provided the ‘view from Cornerhouse’ drawing on the front of the first issue. His finely rendered work looks like something produced by a slightly dope-addled Chris Ware. The magazine contains mostly illustrations, and one photograph. These work fine, but it’s not clear if there was any collaboration between the writers of the pieces and the illustrators.

The writers of this magazine consist of some people who I’ve known for a long-time, some people who I’ve known for a relatively short time, some total strangers, some people whose work I admire, some people whose work I dislike, and some people whose work just fails to engage me on any level. In the main, it’s well-written, and contains some interesting information and reminiscence, but there’s a huge problem with it. And it’s something that editor Joe addresses directly in his opening editorial; (so directly, in fact, that it’s as if his future-self wrote it as a warning message to an earlier incarnation, but past-self went and ignored it anyway), there’s too much nostalgia contained within.

Now, I’m as guilty as the next man for yanking the nostalgia chain. This blog contains several examples of it. But in this case, it is relentless, and it makes me wonder how the magazine would be received by an audience for whom the little details pored over in here are either exotica (I once put on a musician from Columbus, Ohio, who was thrilled to be driven through Prestwich, regarding it as some sort of northern Memphis, Tennessee) or just navel-gazing.

The real challenge for Belle Vue issue Three is not to come up with another dazzling cover, nor to maintain the already high-level quality of writing, it is to harness the talent evident in that writing and force it to look beyond the local history society and over-30s bar-room banter.

I’m already looking forward to it.

Belle Vue issue Two is available from Piccadilly Records on Oldham Street and Cornerhouse bookshop on the corner of Oxford Road and Whitworth Street West. Edit. I saw it on sale in The Britons' Protection this afternoon, so it may be available in other 'appropriate' hostelries.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Up Against The Wall XIV: Dick Head iz ur dad!

Dick Head iz ur dad!, originally uploaded by mithering.

I forgot about this! Had to go to Liverpool on business the other week so couldn't breeze into town on The Village Bus, so took the 135 instead. Different bus stop. At this one there's a bus shelter. If you're waiting for The Village Bus there's a bush and a suspiciously-high mound of tarmac to wait on/by. Anyhow, bus shelter had (relatively) fresh graffiti. So here it all is, for your delight and delectation, most juvenile first.

Prestwich is shit.

Prestwich is shit? A little unfair, if you ask me. It may not soar to the pretentious heights of whichever south Manchester hell hole is currently overflowing with students, but it has a tidy modesty, a historically-significant mental health facility and my house.

Arse Wipe.

Some times words are enough.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Little Creatures.

Little Creatures., originally uploaded by mithering.

Just a few tiny things to catch up on.

First up, I’ve now seen Kingfishers on the Irwell in town/Salford two mornings in a row. Yesterday, two shot under Millennium Bridge, near Salford's five-star Lowry Hotel, heading towards Victoria Bridge at quite a pace. This morning, as I sped along The Crescent towards The Old Pint Pot, I saw one heading in the counter direction following the course of The Irwell, low above the river, towards Castle Irwell. Their colours seemed more muted than previous viewings, and I’m not sure if this was because they were juveniles (I hope not, it’s getting cold) or because their colours flare or wane according to seasonal need.

Second, there’s a new issue of Under The Boardwalk out. Under The Boardwalk, FC United's Fanzine! Get one while there are still some left, or download an excerpt, from

Thirdly, I’ve added a Library Thing widget to this blog, and decided to theme it. Have I got 200 graphic literature books? You’re going to find out soon enough.

Finally, a quick plug for little adele - funemployed , a blog put together by one of the wittiest people I know to detail the journey from restructure to relief. Or something like that…

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Que Sera Sera

Que Sera Sera, originally uploaded by mithering.

Had a cracking day out yesterday with eldest son. FC United were playing North Ferriby United in the F.A. Cup Second Qualifying round over at their place. A good thing as playing 'home' cup games at our rented bedsit in Gigg Lane means that we have to pay the rent after the takings for the game are split between the two sides.

A pair of sainted FC Fans run their own coach - The Boogie Bus - seats for which are sold at cost, with the price going down the more who book on board. This time round a double decker luxury coach was secured and quickly filled up. A buzz was created around our house as the kids both whispered about this magnificent 'Double Decker Boogie Bus', even though only one was going the other thought it one of the best things they'd ever heard of. A comment on a forum and some digital communication later and we've got the top front seats reserved. (Thanks Gally and GRS). Mrs. Mithering and I subtly whipped up the hysteria by suggesting that top front would be a great place to sit but that it was probably unlikely as other people like to 'drive the bus'.

The Magic of The Cup.

Come Saturday morning and we head into Stevenson Square to pick up our ride opposite The Koffee Pot. Upstairs and straight to the front. We notice that on each seat there is a free t-shirt courtesy of United Nation t-shirts and a Double Decker chocolate bar courtesy of The Boogie Bus. Up above us is a DVD screen. Five minutes into the journey Manchester United 100 FA Cup Goals starts up. Great footage of the team in the 70s and 80s brings back a lot of memories. The bloke behind me seems to have been to most of the games, or knows why he wasn't at particular ones.

En route to the game the tradition is to stop off at a countryside pub where free food is laid on - trays and trays of chips are the norm, or weird-looking meat dishes - and people can have a pre-match pint in comfort. The place chosen this time was The Percy Arms in Airmyn, and the method of food distribution was unique. They had arranged for a burger bar to set up in their car park with and distribute food (from a limited menu) for free. Cheese-burgers, chips and chilli. Past experience meant I had made myself and eldest son delicious vegetarian sandwiches, although he did help himself to a portion of chips.

Allotments at North Ferriby.

For once we arrived at the game before kick-off, our previous Boogie Bus experience was usually that of arriving just after or bang on kick off. Not so, this time. North Ferriby is a pretty small place just outside Hull, and is proper Posh Village territory. When we parked up on the road near the ground there were allotments between us and the entrance. Once inside, it became clear that this was one of the more well-appointed grounds we are likely to see - allotments at one end, a clear view of the Humber Bridge at the other, a railway line down one side (just like at Old Trafford) and lots of random greenery down the other.

The game ended in a one-nil victory for FC so we're in tomorrow's draw for the Third Qualifying Round. Now only two games away from the First Round Proper and the chance to make some much-needed money. In the meantime, let's hope for another away trip and the opportunity to dust down the double decker again.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Really Free.

rachaelball, originally uploaded by mithering.

Sometimes things just fall into place. Spent some time on Twitter recently wondering what had happened to Rachael Ball, the fantastic and talented comic book artist who I was lucky to work with for a very short while at City Life. Then, on Sunday, having been instructed that 'those shelves will have to go' I was going through some old boxes of stuff and came across various issues of Hungry and Homeless, a free magazine I used to produce with Mr. Richard Hector-Jones and Mr. Jay Taylor. On top was the one which had a cover drawn by Rachael Ball.


Hungry and Homeless started out as an A4 sheet, folded down to A7 in order to create a pleasing little beast which we used to leave in the bars, shops and public conveniences of Manchester. To quote one issue, "Reviews hardly ever exceed 20 words, features end around fifty, and interviews are usually one question." Those were the rules. We accidentally invented Twitter. In the end we produced about 16 issues, the later ones, including the Rachael Ball one above, were A3 folded down to A6, with covers drawn by a number of comic book 'superstars', including D'Israeli, Evan Dorkin, Sue Platt, Phillip Bond and (to his great confusion) Art Spiegelman. Random interviewees included Arthur Lee of Love, DJ Superstar Justin Robertson, Her out of Bikini Kill, Al Jourgensen of Ministry and Ornette Coleman.


In the spirit of giving, I rescued a small number of spare copies from the bin and will send them to those of you who want them, and who promise me they will not be offended, insulted or otherwise outraged by the offensive juvenalia contained therein. e-mail details to rapwithlester -AT- googlemail -DOT- com (reconstruct the address using Airfix Glue).

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Up Against The Wall XIII: No War Eny More

No War Eny More, originally uploaded by mithering.

Crass have a lot to answer for. Not least encouraging the youth of the Midlands to daub anti-war graffiti along isolated country walls and the substitution of peace signs for the letter 'o'.

Obscene graffiti has been a bit thin on the ground recently. People are either a lot more chilled than in the past or the price of paint has gone up.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Up Against The Wall XII: Tweeness

Hi Windmill, originally uploaded by mithering.

"Hi Windmill" Written on the side of a Wind Turbine, Scout Moor Wind Farm, near Rochdale. A very disappointing site if you want obscene graffiti; the two Turbines we walked up to mainly had people's names scratched or written onto them. That aside, I can thoroughly recommend the short walk up the hill from Owd Betts, an old pub on the A680 between Rochdale and Edenfield, to the turbines themselves as they are massively impressive. Here's a video I shot of them. What you don't get is the eerie, screaming noise they make randomly, every now and then.

Scout Moor Wind Farm

Friday, 11 September 2009

Fleet Foxes "Mykonos"

Off to see The Fleet Foxes at The Apollo tonight. Nice'n'gentle. Taking eight-year-old eldest son as The Fleet Foxes are like The Beatles in our house. Hope to pick up tiny tees for him and his little brother. Failing that some sort of souvenir made out of pieces of twig will have to do.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

These Boots Are Made For Walking.

What are we all going to do when the work on Deansgate is finally finished and the chaos returns? No more ambling down the middle of the road, no more dancing between the single line of slow-moving motor traffic, no more disregarding the traffic signals and just going.

I've just been outside to get some GT85 for the bike from Evans and found out that the sun is shining and there's an end of Summer, grab-it-while-you-can atmosphere about the place. Imagine how fantastic it would all feel if Deansgate were permanently closed to traffic.

No more footballer wannabees revving their (inevitably, head-shakingly, dull-as-dishwater black) cars up outside whichever current ludicrously-named bar attracts them like rap-spurting, bass-addicted thunderfly, insinuating themselves, Thrip-like, under, in and through the fabric of everything, outside Sofa, Pram, Log or Head.

No more stop/start queues of traffic everynight. Jumping the lights, blocking the crossings, stinking the place up in their selfish desperation to lop ten seconds off the journey between Kendals and The Model Shop.

No more buses, vans, trucks and lorries bullying and bulldozing their way through. Instead, you could have a pedestrian superhighway, with all the space you would need to overtake a slow-moving, prevaricating tourist pensioner. Enough space to accomodate the Golf Umbrella pavement posse. Room enough even for those groups of shoppers who like to spread themselves in a line right across the pavement, holding invisible hands and tutting when you head through them, even though the alternative would send you into the road.

Hell, we could even invite the cyclists in. As long as they all agreed to stop dressing like twats and use some deodorant...

(Thanks to pit-yacker for the fantastic photograph).

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Snail Shell.

Snail Shell., originally uploaded by mithering.

Tiny snails found just alongside my front door, with a five pence piece in the picture to give you a sense of scale. Super-Macro, and proof I can hold a camera steady. Sometimes.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Pictures of Match Stick Men IV

Pictures of Match Stick Men IV, originally uploaded by mithering.

From the clubhouse at Kendal Town FC, scene of February's Mort Drucker for Mad-esque rendition of The Police comes this depiction of Tina Turner, which looks entirely lifted from a Frank Bellamy drawing. At first I thought there was a possibility that Martin Asbury could have been the source, but the angles aren't sharp enough for him.

Frank Bellamy - The Pit and The Pendulum.

Apologies for the blurry nature of the photograph - I'm still trying to master the settings on my new camera phone (which resets all the changes I make every time I close it up). I'll take another if we go back there next season.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Sally Cinnamon.

sallyhead, originally uploaded by mithering.

Given the obsessive, list-making, desire for clarity and rediscovery that drives so many comics fans it's amazing how little information about or passion for 'girls' comics there is. Granted, the fare served up in many of them was pretty weak - Bunty and Tammy in particular - but some of the more war-centred boys comics suffered from a similar lack of tone.

There are exceptions to this. Girls' horror comic Misty has managed to maintain a high profile based on the back of how many boys read their sister's copy during it's two year run between February 78 and January 1980. I know, I was one of them. That said, I had been reading girls' comics since the early 70s due to being at the end of a long chain of handed-down titles which because it had both boys and girls contributing meant I got my hands on Bunty, Valentine and June as well as The Beano, The Valiant and Scorcher, amongst others.

A couple of summers back I picked up a couple of hundred comics from a car boot sale in North Wales to get my hands on a few copies of The Valiant. I intended to sell on the rest at some point, mainly a large number of Tammy comics, and a handful of other girls' titles. One of which was Sally, 'The Paper for Adventure-Loving Girls'.

On further inspection, Sally, which was published by Fleetway, and ran for 94 issues between June '69 and March '71, was pretty interesting. The subject matter of the strips was similar to that in many girls' comics of the period - misery, subjugation and dealing with your mischevious younger brother or unsympathetic stepmother - but the settings were different. Instead of the usual public school or domestic worlds, the characters in Sally operate in something closer to that favoured in non-war, non-comedy, boys' comics. So we have The Cat Girl, the acrobatic, agile daughter of a private detective dad, Legion of Super Slaves, a group of girls enslaved by evil genius 'The Grand Termite' to help him take over the world, Tiny Tania in Space (the title speaks for itself), The Justice of Justine, in which the title character gains super powers from a mysterious cloak and The Girl From Tomorrow which features a girl from the future who gets into various scrapes.

It's not all space and ray guns - Farm Boss Fanny is traditional and class-obsessed, The Castle Kids and The Very Important Cow is as dull as it sounds, and Daddy Come Home! brilliantly plays on youngsters' fears of parental abandonment in a World War Two setting.

Sally cover.

Anyhow, have a look for yourselves. I've uploaded a complete scan of this issue in CBR format, which is a full-screen image reader usually used for reading comics and magazines on computer screens. CDisplay Comic Reader can be downloaded, for free, here: CDisplay details and download. An issue of Sally from August 1969 can be downloaded by clicking

Let me know what you think.

The Gories - Boogie Chillun - Paris, July 2009.

On my top ten list of bands I wish I'd seen in their pomp, along with The Fingers, The Go-Nuts and The Untamed Youth, The Gories reformed to perform a couple of US dates and a month's worth of European engagements alongside the also-reformed Oblivians (who I put on at The Britons Protection a few years back). For various reasons, including it was in Nottingham, tickets were expensive, and I'd made a promise to myself after Magazine that I wouldn't do any more reunion gigs, I didn't go.

Anyhow, this clip from rapido1 on YouTube (Merci, fella) shows that they're still in pretty fine fettle, although Mick is packing on the pounds and Dan is looking creepily like Mr. RHJ of Chorltonville.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Up Against The Wall XI: You Human Vermin

Human Vermin, originally uploaded by mithering.

Over the past two days I've seen two things lying helpless in the road. Yesterday, as I was walking to work up New Bailey Street, outside Salford Central Station, a pigeon fell from the railway bridge that shrouds the vicinity. It fell as if it had been pushed, stone-like, into a gap in the morning rush hour traffic. On its back, weakly-flapping, helpless to get up. I felt I should do something but knew there was no point. It was dying in some way and that had now been accelerated. I watched as I walked, the traffic just missing the bird, until it became impractical on a busy pavement to keep looking back. Later, I had a lift home and we drove down that way and all that remained of it was a millimetre thin, great coat grey, smudge on the road.

The day before I had been on Deansgate, heading off for some dinner when I heard a cry of pain some way behind me. I'm nosey by nature, so I stopped and looked back to see what it was. Over the road a man had fallen into the road, on his back. People hurried past him. Fortunately, traffic was at a minimum due to the ongoing road works. I headed over to see if I could help. Some more people hurried past, but by the time I got to him somebody else had stopped. The man was having a fit of some sort. He looked lived-in, with scruffy grey hair and could have been homeless or drunk, but how can you tell when somebody is floundering just short of the pavement, eyes rolling back?

"You have to let it pass," my kerbside companion said. I acknowledged this but went into a shop and got them to call an ambulance. Just in case. We weren't doctors.

When I came out a number of people had gathered to help. Somebody was administering basic first aid, so I headed off. What could I do? Thankfully, I didn't feel the need to keep looking back. And when I'd bought what I wanted for dinner and was heading back to work I saw the whole scene had cleared and the usual Deansgate promenade had been restored. No grey smear apparent.

Image for this post was supplied by Renaissance Man and Fall Fan, David Gaffney.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Up Against The Wall X: Merseybeat Special.

Numbnuts, originally uploaded by mithering.


Like one of those Ishihara Colour Test plates used to diagnose colour blindness (or Daltonism as we like to call it in Manchester), this one can be difficult to decipher.

Taken somewhere in Liverpool.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Something I Learned Today.

Observations made on holiday:

1. Walking distance from nearest shop is much more important than actual distance from nearest beach.
2. Rock pools > Sand.
3. There are loads of dolphins in Cardigan Bay.
4. Every other pub in Mid Wales is called The Ship Inn.
5. Birdwatching is much harder in the countryside. There are too many trees and bushes for your quarry to lose itself in, particularly if they use that pesky camouflage developed through millions of years of evolution.
6. People go shopping in cities for a reason.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Happy Mondays - Performance - The Other Side of Midnight. UK TV late 1980s.

What's a Manchester-based blog without even a token nod in the direction of 'Madchester'? Incomplete, that's what. So, from that weird period when a Manchester postcode or 061 STD code had A&R men swarming round dull, talentless copycat bands like flies buzzing round Asia Fields, here are the only truly great band to emerge from that period.

This performance of Performance is from an episode of The Other Side of Midnight, at the point when Tony Wilson morphed into Anthony H. Wilson. An arts and culture programme which featured local and international musicians and artists; can you imagine Granada TV commissioning something like that these days?

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Up Against The Wall IX: International Special.

Photo-0027, originally uploaded by mithering.

Spotted yesterday, outside Greggs in Carmarthen, Matin Lewis is a tramp 4 eva. A little bit of Wales which will be forever Salford.

Last night a three down saved my life.

A good, brisk walk between Tresaith and some other identically apportioned beach shook the cobwebs out of my head today. Right up high there were loads of butterfiles - peanutbutterflies the youngest called them - mainly painted ladies, a few red admirals, lots of those white ones with the wing-trim and a single spot, and enough others to be intriguing.

The calming influence of The Guardian Cryptic Crossword enabled me to fight my deeply-engrained anti-beach instincts for a couple of hours, but in the end I had to pull the plug on it all. No toilet, no pub, no shelter from the sun, no papershop, no benches, not even a bin to put rubbish in.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

I Love Living In The City.

I Love Living In The City., originally uploaded by mithering.

Sorry to moan but it's what I do best.

We're just into day four of our annual summer holiday to the usual place you can only really drive to. In this case, Tresaith in Mid Wales. It's a nice enough place but I wouldn't want to live here. I wouldn't even want to be here for more than a day if I was being honest. The things I need around me are not easily found in a place like this, but are often the things taken for granted and often ignored on a daily basis. Like a newspaper. My heart sang like a lovelorn lark yesterday when we deviated (in the car - always in the car) far enough from our new routine of cottage - path - beach - path - cottage - path - beach to pass a Spar from which I was able to buy a copy of The Guardian. The Monday Guardian too; Media Guardian, round-ups of the weekend's 'football action' and, usually, the most-straightforward Cryptic Crossword of the week. And that's sad. I don't even buy the paper everyday when I'm back in Manchester, but there's the requisite amount of stimulation there. And if there isn't I can always walk to the papershop at the top of the street and buy myself a newspaper. And The Beano, if I'm so inclined.

Friday, 7 August 2009

News of the World

Photo-0008, originally uploaded by mithering.
"(esp. in contemporary writing) a manner of organizing a work so as to give full expression to contradictory or complementary impulses, attitudes, etc., esp. as a means of indicating detachment from a subject, theme, or emotion."

Friday, 31 July 2009

Kool Thing.

lil'cutie goes it alone, originally uploaded by mithering.

Not had the time/inclination to blog of late. Been doing other stuff. Out and about in the real world stuff, scanning and manipulating stuff, ripping and sharing stuff.

In the meantime, here's a picture of a Coot chick.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Up Against The Wall VIII: Slates, Slags Etc.

"Slags go Prestwich! haha", back seat of The Village Bus.

Male slags...
In the cold nearly old ska Jamaican dawn
Dead publisher's sons
Material hardship pawns
The Beat, Wah! Heat
Male slags...

The first Village Bus of the day runs past the bottom of my street at 7.55, the last one leaves Shudehill Interchange at 17.27. A single fare is more expensive than a single fare on the other buses which get me home, or into town, but a day pass is notably cheaper. Ho, and also Hum, you say, but the good thing about The Village Bus is that there's only one an hour, which takes a lot of the randomness and pain out of journeys into and out of town. I have to be in the Interchange at a twenty-seven minutes past the hour, or waiting on Heywood Road at five-to. Previously, when I took the 135, "Bus of the Stars", I would turn up at a bus stop and wait, sometimes for up to twenty minutes, whereupon one, two or even three would turn up at the same time and stutter into town, picking up and dropping off at virtually every stop along the way.

In more recent times, before I discovered the mono-glory of The Village Bus, I had started getting the 137, the 135's shorter, less glamorous cousin, from a stop near Blackfriar's Bridge. This runs every twenty minutes, which was good for organising my life, but less good when it didn't turn up. Which was often.

Now, I take The Village Bus as far as the site of the old Boddies Brewery cross Great Ducie Street and head onto New Bridge Street to stare at wildlife from the runtish bridge which crosses The Irwell there. It's a fairly deserted spot - most of the activity along there comes from cars heading towards the crofts of car parks - and I've been lucky enough to watch an American Mink climb up and down the bankside vegetation, searching for something or other, herons fishing, fish-jumping and bizarrely, but weirdly appropriately, a moorhen chasing a rat.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Never Been In A Riot.

Never Been In A Riot., originally uploaded by mithering.

I've generally fought shy of posting Visual Arts related stuff here due to the nature of my job, but I've hit upon a compromise. From this point on I will only blog visual arts material which is, in some way, about birds. Might as well combine the two.

This piece is from a group drawing show at Bluecoat in Liverpool, entitled End of the Line: attitudes in drawing. Due to a prior commitment and my lazy nature I'd not managed to get up the stairs to this particular element of the show (having seen the rest of it earlier) until this past Friday. This was a shame, as this playful installation by Garrett Phelan, 'Battle for the Birds.' , 2008, takes the idea of an Avian Liberation Front and runs with it as a pre-Digital, wing-crafted, homage to Old School protest movements. There's also something of the uneasy glamour of vintage British war comics, with hand-drawn portraits of the various corvid military personnel central to The Struggle.

The show finishes in The Bluecoat on July 19th, but is touring to The Fruitmarket in Edinburgh later in the year.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Up Against The Wall VII.

Shannon Taylor Dose Not Suck Dick 2009.

There's no such thing as bad publicity. Bus Shelter, Chapel Street, Salford.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

It's A Good Day For A Parade

It's A Good Day For A Parade, originally uploaded by mithering.

I've generally not used this blog for promoting or pushing things as it's too easy to offend people by accidentally missing them out, particularly when you are as forgetful as I am. I'm going to make an exception for Jeremy Deller's Procession though, as it's such a wonderfully daft idea.

So, tomorrow, July 5th, 2pm, Deansgate, Manchester, there's going to be a Procession in the name of art. There are going to be ramblers, Happy Mondays fans, football mascots (here's hoping they all fall into the large holes currently dotting Deansgate while the gas mains are done up), and unrepentant smokers amongst other things. All ten boroughs of the thing they call Greater Manchester will be represented in some form or another, get down there and cheer on your favourites.

More information at

There will then be an exhibition documenting the process, and no doubt giving you some insight into previous processions, marches and parades around town (and beyond).

Also, while we're not plugging stuff, why not truck up to the newly-built 'Chips' building in Ancoats for the opening of Trade City, a cross-city launch event for Contemporary Art Manchester featuring some of the city's smaller-scale artists, curators, galleries and associated buccaneers.

That kicks off at 3pm and continues until July 19th.

More information at

Monday, 29 June 2009

Up Against The Wall VI.

Prick Me Pussyjack, originally uploaded by mithering.

More surreal crudity. This time from the village of Moira in South Derbyshire. Click on the image for full text. Is it a message for Jack? Is it a message for Pussyjack? Is it a message from Moira herself? In some way it put me in mind of The Scottish Play.

James - If Things Were Perfect - Live in 1985

Just to remind myself how good James once were in a low-budget Indie, hi-life guitar, singing like a little kid trying to sing like a big kid kind of way. How tight. Pre-Ja t-shirts, pre-major label, pre-strident, pounding stadium rockers. Sit down and admire that knitware.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Up Against The Wall V.

Big Giant Poo Stain., originally uploaded by mithering.

Poetry in motion. 'Big Giant Poo Stain'. Just off Swan Street, near The Band on the Wall, Manchester.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Fire Engines - Big Gold Dream

I've not posted a video for a while, so here's Edinburgh's finest, The Fire Engines or firengines or Fire Engines, depending upon how you're feeling that day. They weren't on telly much - this is from BBC2 music and arts programme Riverside back in February 1982, and it was possibly their only appearance on network television. I was just 18 and this was at the arse end of The Fire Engines stay with us.

Previous to this they'd released the spiky Get Up and Use Me on their own Codex Communications label, followed by instrumental mini-LP 'Lubricate Your Living Room' (it came in a carrier bag because it was PRODUCT) and their alternate universe number one hit 'Candyskin'.

I was living in Grantham, Lincolnshire, when 'Candy Skin' came out and there was a small independent (not in its current musical sense, more owner-run) record shop situated in what was known locally as 'Wide Westgate'. (It was where Westgate got wide, of course, and was the counterpoint to 'Narrow Westgate'. We're not talking about Fifth Avenue here, we're talking about a street you could almost hop the length of, but the distinction was always made).

Anyhow, when 'Candyskin' came out I was in the shop when they opened the delivery and I got them to put it on. Now, bear in mind we're talking about two middle-aged women here, one of whom was wearing a Johnny Logan 'What's Another Year?' promotional sweatshirt. I saw the look in their eyes when they heard 'Candyskin', by the angular, obtuse, arty (the cliches that launched the career of many post-art school bands) Fire Engines. I saw that they could see the merit of it, that there was life beyond Eurovision, and I thought that was it, The Fire Engine were going to go on and become huge.

Which of course they didn't. My point? None, really, beyond the capacity for a good tune to transcend its genre and trappings and make a woman in a Johnny Logan sweatshirt smile.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

In Heaven (The Lady In The Radiator song).

Not the greatest photograph I ever took, but the last time I attempted to blog on this subject I used somebody else's YouTube content, pressed the 'blog this' button, spent a not inconsiderable amount of time writing, pressed send... and nothing. Into the white.

So, this time, playing it safe, I've used a picture I took myself, last July, of the actual spot where I saw it. In case you're wondering why I took this picture of an indiscriminate part of the Irwell, well the tiny grey smudge near the far right of the greenery is a grey heron with its wings spread out, as if it's taking the applause of the river.

Anyway, I've tested this with a few people I know. The types who know I'm not a bullshitter. The types who know, colour-blindness aside, my eyesight is, to quote my dear dead Dad, "like that of a shit-house rat'. The types who know I say what I see, without any prompting from Roy 'Catchphrase' Walker. I've mulled it over, I've rolled it around in my head, I've even tried blogging it a couple of weeks back.

It was the afternoon of The Big Cup Final back in May. A Wednesday. Too eager to get home and enjoy the feast of football which was due to be served up I logged off my computer prematurely and found myself with half an hour to kill before the last Village Bus left Shudehill Interchange at 17.26. I decided I would take the scenic route in order to do a tiny bit of birdwatching.

So, across Bridge Street and left onto the footbridge which takes Inland Revenue Staff and the odd confused foreign tourist over The Irwell into Salford. Right along the river, keeping my eyes open for something. Anything. Nothing but boring bastard black-headed gulls on the mither for food.

Up the steps and left down Blackfriars Road onto the scrag-end of Chapel Street, right towards the old Victoria Bus Station, then right again up the hill and over the river again. Look right, back towards where I'd come from, as a heron sometimes fishes under Blackfriars Bridge, commuters and shoppers passing oblivious over his head. Nothing.

So up and left, opposite the Cathedral. Further round to the left than the view in the photo above, which was taken on the approach to the car park where Exchange Railway Station used to sit. Bear in mind I'm a pretty happy bunny at this point - off to watch his team play in the European Cup Final, with two days off work in front of him. (Just in case). Anyhow, I pause again and look over the metal fence, down towwards Victoria Bus Station where we used to come into town on the 95 bus from Broughton. Back in the day. Still nothing. Time to kill. I notice a grey wagtail and begin to follow its progress around the banks, eyes left, eyes right.

Then, in the water I spot a large fish. I'm intrigued. I've seen fish jumping in the river several times, but they were small and silver. This is much larger. I watch its movements for a few seconds until it's head comes up. Ah, a rat. Not seen one in the river since I used to go down The Landslide in the 70s. It's a bloody big one, though. I carry on tracking it until it reaches the bank you can see in the photograph (although there was less of it, the river being higher). Out it comes. It's not a rat. No rat-like tail, no pointed head, no ratty little ears.

It's an otter. Long, bendy and with the tail of an otter.

The otter, my otter, ran along the bank and headed behind the greenery in the photograph. I exclaimed, I grinned, I high-fived myself. I blinked, I doubted, I watched the spot for as long as I could and then I headed off to get the bus.

At home I hit the books, the internet and the descriptions of things that it might have been. The closest thing was a mink. It wasn't a mink. The shape was wrong, the tail was wrong. It was an otter.

In the end, losing to Barcelona carried no shame. They're sort of fan-owned, they play attractive attacking football and they're not Chelsea. Which is nice.

The football went wrong, but I had my otter to keep me warm.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Another One Bites The Dust.

I've had some interesting stuff from this place over the years, mainly obscure and out of print VHS tapes and the odd morsel of indie or punk vinyl. Episodes of Spectreman, Godzilla films, even an uncut copy of John Waters' Female Trouble. The vinyl was more of a problem - seven inch singles were often adrift of their sleeves and given a burnishing by the grit of Church Street. A single by The Pop Rivets, Billy Childish's first band, and much desired, had to be abandoned as it was so scratched the sound of an egg frying would have dominated. On a positive note, I did pick up the one and only single put out by Kevin Rowlands' punk band, The Killjoys, and then moved it further up the food chain via an eBay transaction with an enthusiastic fan in Japan.

It was never a place for spectacular finds like Rare Records (Damn the IRA and their shitty fucking bomb) or Paramount Books during the time when they were buying in amazing stuff and selling it at a pound an LP (Scott Engel's 'Scott 4', Big Black's 'Sound of Impact' and Neil Young's 'After The Goldrush' on vinyl in the same day made Lester Sands a happy boy), but it was there and it was steady, and there was always the chance that something might turn up.

Now, it's set to close. I don't think it's a Recession Thing, more that the bloke who runs it is getting on and I don't think there's the money in crap porn DVDs there used to be.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Up Against The Wall IV

This particular piece of Salford graffiti is perhaps where my interest in stupid and ineffectual wall-daubings began. From what I remember, it was added in the mid-70s when I lived a couple of streets away. There used to be steps and an opening on the right, so this was a shortcut from home (Wellington Street West) or my maternal grandparents house (Kipling Street) to the papershop or the Chinese Chippy whose backyard is to the left of this image.

There was a 70s porn star, reputed to have a particularly large member, called Long Dong Silver and I've always assumed that this was a joke on that. Although, as with most of the other graffiti I've posted, you have to wonder why somebody went out of their way to paint it on a wall.

When I moved back to Salford in the late 80s it was obscured by wall-climbing plants. For all I knew, it had gone forever. That's the nature of graffiti - 'Victoire Vietnam' on the side of The Manchester Tennis and Racquet Club is slowly slipping away, 'Heath Out!' near the tip the other side of Drinkwater Park has vanished behind brambles for the time being, and 'Anita Hepburn Is A Coppers Nark' has been cleaned up.

Then, about a year ago I was passing the site and saw that the buddleia or ivy or whatever it was had been cleared away. Why, I don't know. Another fan of 1 Ball King Dong desperate for a nostalgia fix? Either way, there it was again, in its full glory. 1 Ball King Dong. I'd been meaning to get a picture of it since then, but the only time I passed it was in the car and I kept forgetting to take the camera, or forgetting to ask the driver to stop, or not having enough time to stop, snap and go get the kids.

Recently, though, I've taken up an interest-free loan from work in order to buy a bike. It's been liberating, and my route of choice into work takes me through my old territory. Down streets I've passed along so many times you could take a swab from them and clone me from the DNA. It was a natural to pop a camera in my bag and head there. There's a locked gate across the bottom of the entry now, so I couldn't get as close as I wanted, but I did manage to squeeze the lens through and get my shot.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Pictures of Match Stick Men Remixed

I posted this picture and two others from outside The Black Lion hotel back in January. Cycling past today I saw it was boarded up with corrugated iron. I used to go in there a few years ago, playing pool and boozing at dinner time with a friend who used to work in the tax office round the corner. Last time I was in there was during In The City, to see The Raveonettes. They were shite, and I was drunk, so I heckled. If I had been them I would have shown me my arse, but they let me be. The room upstairs was good, though. Round, with a high ceiling. Now, it may never see light again. Two years ago it would have been redeveloped into flats, without a doubt, but now? Who knows?

Madison Time.

Louis and Paul, originally uploaded by mithering.

I've not posted here as much as I'd like to have done recently. One reason is that I've been dead busy; work is getting heavier, and I've been working on a project which deadened my thoughts for a while. There's also the fact of writing a very long blog post attached to somebody else's You Tube content only to find it never made it from You Tube to Blogger. Shit. That's linked to a rod I made for my own back by worrying about temporal consistency within the blog. I was not adding some things, even though they were interesting, because their timeline was either too far in the past to fit my restrictive notion of 'news', or because their time had not yet come in the timeflow of the blog.

So I'm posting this to say To Hell With That. I'll be posting more randomly from now on. More to come.