Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Up Against The Wall 16: Vagina Walls.

From the hand which gave us Big Giant Poo Stain in the summer. More surreal graffiti from Ancoats.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Everything's Gone Green.

Well, it may as well have done for all the use these ruddy colour-blind eyes of mine are for identifying birds. Take the Teal, for example, still hanging around on the Irwell near Peel Park in Salford. My identification notes for him said "Dark head, side-stripe, diff col. tail"; I then had to take that pattern and apply it to various duck-shaped possibilities. In the end, after discarding a small number of possible rarities, for various reasons, I alighted on Mr. Teal. Identification had been made easier because he had The Mrs. with him, and the pair taken together are fairly distinctive.
I've had to learn to use patterns in identification to such a degree that unless the colour on a bird is blatantly one of those I can confidently identify (such as the vivid blue found on the back of a Kingfisher) I don't use it. Identifying a solo redwing, particularly when framed against the bright low sunshine we are currently enjoying, is a right pain in the arse, but my job is made easier if I see 80-100 'redwings' flitting from tree to tree. I don't need to see the red stripe then as I'm very unlikely to see a large flock of thrushes. Am I?
A further wrinkle is the change made in some birds between their Winter and Summer plumage. The Little Grebes on the Irwell also caused me some confusion as they're currently 'between coats'; the darker winter colours are being replaced by the more varied, and lighter shade of their summer outfits.

Thanks to Len Blumin off of flickr for the use of his picture of a Eurasian (Common) Green-winged Teal.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Big Gold Dream.


Friday, 19 February 2010

Candy Apple Grey.

Grey Heron, originally uploaded by marcmo.
Despite being greeted by thick, icy fog when I got up this morning, I decided to hop into town early to have a bit of a mooch about on the Irwell. Just over the road from Boddies on the nameless bridge I had my usual look up and down. Up towards Salford, a couple of mallards and a visiting pair of goosander could be picked out on the river. Looking the other way, under the railway bridge, towards Chethams, there seemed to be nothing at all. Until, perched in his usual place on top of a fence on the right, I saw a grey heron. They're such, big, lumbering birds, but they seem to have a supernatural ability to melt into the background, fog or not. This one sometimes perches on the other side of the railway bridge, surveying the passing buses and pedestrians, all seemingly-oblivious to his presence.

Thanks to marcmo on flickr for the use of this great picture of a suitably chilled-out grey heron.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

McCarthy - Red Sleeping Beauty live

It’s funny how often the phrase ‘critically-acclaimed’ is paired up with the word ‘neglected’ when looking back on bands from the past. Some bands just don’t reach their potential through a mixture of poor decisions and bad luck. Some bands get to a certain point then lose their momentum or are rendered pointless by the world moving on around them. Some bands have neglect built into them; it’s coded in their DNA. In many ways I count the critically-acclaimed, but neglected McCarthy in the final group. Ultimately, there was no way in the world they were ever going to end up anything but ‘neglected’. Their sound, a mixture of glistening, post-Marr hi-life guitar and sometime Motown beats topped off with weirdly pre-pubescent vocals was never going to get the postman whistling. Coupled with the band’s confrontational, satirical lyrical approach, it was even more damning, and the world’s stadia and festival stages never beckoned to McCarthy.

Instead, they exist in a limbo where they are periodically dragged back into the light to represent all those bands ignored by many and loved by few. We all have our particular favourites in that category; McCarthy happen to be one of mine. I love their sound. I love their intelligence. I love their wit and humour. All these years later they still make me laugh.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010


NO BEER in GYM!, originally uploaded by roboppy.

On the 137 and just over Albert Bridge into town, turning onto Deansgate at the corner where Pizzeria Italia used to be, a familiar sight rolled into view. A pair of 'double baggers'; briefcase/manbag in one hand, sports bag slung over the shoulder, a purposeful stride to/from the gym. It's a cult which has grown in size over recent years. Fertilized by relentless government health-scare adverts, media body fascism and the rise of Macdonaldlike gym franchises (do people still go to ‘The Y’?).

As you may have already guessed, Gyms Aren't For Me. It's not that I don't see their value, it's the rigmarole surrounding them which leaves me cold. That, and the decades-long trail of misery which leads back to school, sadistic gym teachers and pointless physical activity. I did once, a few years back, join a gym. It was being provided free through work and it seemed rude not to. So I bought a pair of shorts, selected a suitably baggy t-shirt and put myself through the induction process. So far, so good.

Flushed with success I booked myself on a tai chi course which started at 8am, meaning I would be able to do it before going to work. Tai chi because it felt like something which was about something which wasn't about 'going to the gym'. I knew I wasn't ready for the Olivia Newton John-soundtracked mouse on a wheel activity I'd observed previously through gym windows, or in the videos for dodgy Euro-rave tunes. So, Tai Chi. With everybody else who was in denial about going to a gym.

On the day, as it turned out, I was the only person there. An hour's worth of Tai Chi one on one with a tutor, complete with sixty-minutes strained, pointless conversation. That wasn’t the worst thing, however. The worst thing was The Changing Room. Cold, sterile and weird-smelling. Like changing rooms always are, always have been and probably always will be. Did I want to voluntarily put myself into that environment on a weekly basis? No. I never went back. And that’s why I can never be a ‘double-bagger’.

Thanks to roboppy on flickr for the use of the picture.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Ça plane pour moi.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose...

I came across the piece below in a July 1965 copy of The Daily Mail. It was written by Peter Black, one of the newspaper's television reviewers. You could easily subsitute the name Savile with that of any number of modern day Aunt Sallys; Jedward, John Terry and Chris Evans spring to mind. Their chosen occupations seamlessly mirror that of Savile in terms of endless, effortless, irritation; "popstar", footballer and, errr... disc jockey. Stick a few obscenities in there and a reference two to casual ultra violence and we could be looking at something disturbingly Brookerish...

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

The first time I saw Jimmy Savile I observed in quite a neutral way that he wore a blond wig (actually it's his own hair).  The notice brought me a letter from a friend of his, saying Savile had been struck all of a heap by the ferocity of my attack.  It is strange that a man so sensitive to ridicule that he where it isn't should go out of his way to excite it.  The B.B.C.'s documentary about him, The World of Jimmy Savile, was well worth doing.  Most of us are shockingly ignorant about these disc jockeys, who are as meaningful in our times as frozen food and all-destroying insecticides.  I cannot help seeing his professional personality as an embodiment of everything I most detest about the Pop cult.  Nothing personal Jim.

What does he do?  He introduces gramaphone records.  What's so special about that?  He does it in cowboy boots and a Little Lord Fauntleroy coiffure.  Anything else?  He has a quick, crude and ready tongue.  For this he picks up £1,000 a week, mainly from Radio Luxembourg shows, plus occasional gifts from interested parties.  "If a geezer wants to make me a little present of course I'll take it.  He buys me a few smelts.  He's going to make £20,000 out of a song..."  It seems the total triumph of a gimmick.  The idea of him is so unpleasing that had only to present himself as a reasonably nice person to seem a positive ornament to society.

This entertaining film (by John Robins) showed the jockey in various aspects: telling his beads, doing the rounds of an old persons' home, being nice to his mother, introducing records in a weird mix of Yorkshire and West End American, driving his £11,000 Rolls up for a snack at Fortes on the M1, being chucked around the wrestling ring by Gentleman Jim Lewis.  Evidently, he is nicer, tougher, and more intelligent than one might think.  He is a genuine eccentric show-off who really likes people.  He is not a butt as he showed in his talk to medical students, admittedly no severe intellectual challengers.  The film could not explain why these humble virtues earn so much money.  His appeal to the rich, ignorant, bamboozled teenage market remains a total mystery.
 Alas, I couldn't find a sniff of the original documentary. Instead, here's a British Rail advertisement from the 1980s. Apologies also to anybody expecting to see Plastic Bertrand.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Mojo Kitty.

Spotted on Quay Street on the walk between Peel Park and Dolefield on Wednesday - the route I didn't think I would be taking any more, but which keeps happening. Anyhow, I'm not sure what this poster is all about but it made me smile. Earlier, the gift that is The Irwell coughed up another treat in the shape of a pair of Teal feeding near The Crescent. A first for me on this river.

Incidentally, I am aware that the longer, more considered, posts I hinted at in a January post have not materialised. This is mainly because I have been blogging directly from my phone (I am so 2008) along with  spending nearly every day training in or travelling to and from Dewsbury. All change on Monday, though, as it's back to Manchester and the first day at The Hive.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Hurry Up Harry.

We're going down the pub ... to sit on office chairs. Spotted in the bar of The Staff of Life near Gigg Lane, Bury, last week. Somebody had a particularly good skip find. I somehow resisted the temptation to spin around the room. Maybe next time after a stronger drink?