Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

We have been carving some pumpkins this afternoon in readiness for tonights Trick Or Treat fest. Archie did the big one and I did two little 'uns. Have a big bowl of seeds and gunk and another of pumpkin flesh for soup tomorrow. Yum!
The big bowl of sweets, candy and gooey eye-balls is made ready and waiting. Its getting dark - ooer - something is clawing at the front door - better go and open it. Have a fun time.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Liverpool Biennale

We went to Liverpool by train yesterday to meet up with some of Hazel's 1st years and take the Biennale art trail around the city. The train was late ofcourse but we did get there first and had time to take in the Walker Art Gallery exhibition of 25 years of the Whatnots painting in coils competition- past winners being David Hockney, Lucien Freud, Bridet Riley etc. mostly incredibly tedious abstracts or splodgy figaritve works which have not stood the test of time. The most enjoyable thing we found was this silly "Loophonium" by Fritz Spiegl who was Austrian but lived in Liverpool for many years. There was a button to press so you could hear what it sounded like. Buttons to press are always a winner with me!
After the coach party arrived we went our seperate ways. First stop was the old ABC cinma which had been converted into a library and visitor centre for the MADE UP partof the Biennale. In the old auditorium was a gloomy installation by Annette Messenger of half the cinema seats covered by a big billowing tent affiar with air being pumped into it every so often. This gave the illusion of a wave rolling down to the stalls. On the stage was a very tawdry sculpture of a half skeleton and big dangly hands and feet manipulatedby strings like some weird puppet. What it was all about beats me!
The catalogue throws around various clues and pretentious mumbo jumbo but cant quite put its finger on it. "Messenger delights in multiplicity and plurality,incorporating numerous games for the viewer in her works, material and verbal."

A bit further on down the road was a an old paint shop with installations by Richard Woods and Jesper Just. More baffling painted boards to look like old signs and a video of three screens depicting the antics of a depressed hermaphrodite being dragged around Bucharest.
It was flippin' cold and wet so glad of my duffle coat and scarf. Brrrr!

Next stop was several holes in a wall to peer through at a gloomy room by Manfredi Beninati. Not sure what this was about either. Its all about Memory we are seriously informed.
Next is the wooden steps of some demented architect. This mini stage is merely a temporary resting place and would be a nice place to sit if it wasn't so wet and dreary. The only view is the church opposite which is our next port of call. Here Yoko Ono has invited people to donate stepladders and there are a dozen or so standing forlornly in the rain in the middle of the ruined burnt out church. There are several musical instruments to play on including a load of drain pipes and a dangling set of bells. You can ring these if you wear the hard hat provided, incase of falling masonry.

Then the long walk to the spinning trees and the Bloomberg New Contempories in an old factory just past the cathedral. Tons of weird stuff here- some amusing like the chinese video of a quiet wooded glade - suddenly it is invaded by men in orange boiler-suits who drag off all the trees and roll up the turf for the next picture - a street scene. Most though is typical art student graduate stuff and one can see the influence of Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, et al. The chinese work seemed the most exciting and original especially in the area of video and performance. I came away feeling rather confused by the whole thing- not unusual these days. Maybe I'm just getting cynical in my old age!

Then back to the station via the shops and a quick look in a great antique place. Hazel bought some old cards with buttons on for a pound. Also some old "Sparky" comics for Archie. 50p each.
I looked through some old LP's but they were quite expensive. Quite an Aladdins Cave though and well worth a visit just to see so many cabinets of curiosities.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Beyond Our Kennel

Rather annoyed to be missing John Hegley's annual "lecture" at the Interactive Arts course at MMU in Manchester today. Archie has a mock exam and so can't have the day off either which means I have to stay at home too.
Nevermind, here is a couple of songs from his excellent 12" single on the Glass Fish label from 1986. Nice memories of the "Nuclear Family" gigs at Lauderdale House in North London. We once became roadies for the Popticians ( John's backing band ) and helped our neighbour Keith Moore who was in the band take some instruments and other props to the event in a lovely old house, gallery, cafe and extensive gardens where all the kids ( including Archie ) used to run around.

Its been a quiet week and not much has happened. Hazel has had a nasty cold and had to have Monday off college. As luck would have it that was the day Stella Brian and Joel decided to pop round to see us on their way to Blackpool or whatever place it was? We haven't seen them in years as they live on Guernsey now , so a nice suprise.
Like Archie, Joel has been stretched and now a tall gangly teenager looking to go to university for goodness sake - how time flies!

Went to town on Tuesday to get photos from Boots and buy a few things including some cheap zombie films given away at one time in some newspaper- "Night Of The Living Dead" (colourised and B&W versions ) and "Day Of The Dead" the sequel.
yesterday it was just a trip to Aldi to get some groceries and fireworks. Hazel has forgotten we still had some left over from last year! O well we'll have twice as many for November 5th which incidentally is our 26th anniversary of our first date at a firework party in Alsager. It don't seem a day too much, as the old song goes.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Short Walk Sorted

Its quite mild today so goodness knows why the heating is up so high- no wonder we were all dozing off in front of How The War Was Won or whatever it was called. Some old ex-RAF chap with huge moustache going on about the capture of enemy radar which turned the course of the second world war etc. Nobody had the strength to push the Ooffah-doofah ( what we call the remote in our house ) It has various nick names around the country it seems. Flipper, blipper, fat controller?
So with great effort and willpower the TV was turned off and we drove over to Shackerley to feed the ducks and geese with the few bits of crusts we had left over.
It wasa lot cooler outside and so the walk woke us up as it always does. Not many others taking the air but Hazel met her old yoga class chum who had dragged her hubby out for an afternoon amble. So they had a little chat about how things were shaping up down at the yoga class which Hazel stopped going to some months back because the new teacher was too erratic. Was it erratic or energetic? I know it begins with an "E". Erational? Anyway it seems the class has settled down now and the new teacher is not so bad after all. So Hazel is considering going back.

Home again and much refreshed by the smell of damp leaves and beaks. I rustled up some leftover lasagne and cheesy broccoli. Roast parsnips and mini yorkshire puddings. Phew! Time to slump back down in front of the TV again!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Not A Place To Dangle David Attenborough

Another week wizzed by. Nothing much really to report. Have been having fun with Crazy Talk software again to add stuff to YouTube. I can't seem to get onto my old YouTube page so have started another which is annoying. The computer can be so frustrating at times!
It's been pretty awful weather all week so havent been out much. Went to town the other day and got some old Humphrey Bogart films on video- 25p each! Those old Warner Brothers film noirs are really great. "The Big Sleep" and "The Maltese Falcon".
I made the mistake of getting some smoked haddock which still has the skin on and made a fish and egg kedgeree with it. The skin was tougher than i thought! I will stick to skinned cod next time. It was very sticky too - I think they must use fish skin to make glue?
We had a look round the Mid Cheshire College open evening the other night. Archie wasn't keen to go but it was interesting to look round the new art block. The tutors seemed very enthusiatsic about the courses they provide and the work looked good. Amazing facililties for ceramics and printing etc. Tons of Macs everywhere. Archie still has a while to make his mind up what he wants to do.
Still looking back fondly at last weekends beautiful summery weather and how lucky we were to go to the beach for a picnic.
Hazel had a cake made for Tony by the lady over the road. She lugged it into college for a party at some wine bar. She said it was nice and lots of ex-students turned up to wish Tony well on his retirement. The cake had a little model of a campervan on the top as Tony has a new one now to travel around to visit his grand children etc.
Nice and sunny today. Hopefully can get out for a walk this afternoon if Archie gets up!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Talacre Beach

Nice day out to Talacre Beach in Wales today where we met up with lots of Hazel's colleagues celebrating the retirement of Tony from the Interactive Arts course at MMU.
Beautiful weather - can't quite believe how lucky we were - it was even better than the so-called Summer! Lovely realxing time with huge picnic that we all chipped in with and wine and cake etc. Yum!

Also silly games on the beach and sand dunes like - kite flying, quoits and boules. Some beautiful shaped kites of all descriptions and even one from the first world war that had diagrams on the cloth of how to assemble.

Quite lot of people had the same ide and the beach was pretty busy with families walking dogs and horse riders - lots of kite flyers too besides us.
The only downside was the toilets were locked up so we had to sneak into a pub nearby to use their wash rooms. Nobody said anything.
Tony gave Archie a nice card for his birthday ( Friday ) witha photo of the lighthouse on. So a nice double take here. Archie's friend Jack came along for the ride and kept Archie company- playing cricket on the sand with the tiniest wickets ever made.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Regal Memories

Just found this old clip again from local news channel about the Regal- our local cinema before it closed two years or so ago. Very sad to see it still empty and falling to bits now as we drive past it. No sign of the proposed arts centre and multiplex and hardly likely now in currant financial situation- credit squeeze etc.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

More Badges

Next door have left there bin out again which is annoying and it's right in Hazel's way - not room to park the car. I moved it and cut my finger for my trouble which annoyed me even more. Trust me to cut my finger ona perfectly smooth plastic wheelie bin!
The badges are from our collection of many hundreds- found at boot sales and flea markets over the years. They attract quite a lot of comments on Flickr which is another annoying thing ( o dear I'm starting to sound more like Victor Meldrew everyday! ) as the exciting photos of us feeding the ducks and wearing tea cosies get hardly a sideways look.
With collections like this you can pretend we were very politically minded and right on in the 80's - going on CND marches and camping out at US bases but the this could not be further from the truth. Large gatherings of this nature make us both feel queasy. I've never protested about anything in my whole life , not even as a student. I suppose I did protest about the art school regime of compulsory life drawing and colour wheel experiments by not going in and staying at home to paint what I wanted.

I was awoken from a vivid dream this morning at 6 when Hazel's radio timer came on and plunged me bleary eyed into the reality of bankers and money troubles. I was at a doctor's waiting room or maybe a flea market - they looked very similar - and I was looking closely at some mail art I'd found among the sandwiches and cakes on one of the stalls by the receptionist. It seemed to be a tiny packet of hand carved wooden blocks - for printing pictures of boats and sunshiney seaside views. As I peered through the useful periscope I always carry for such occasions I could see that it once belonged to Joe Decie. The stamps on the envelope suggest it originated in Australia. The receptionist went into a long diatribe about the sender who was travelling around England as a scaffolders mate and had fallen from a high building into some trees. It's then I woke up so don't know what happened to the stamps. Did I buy them? Was it my turn to go in to see the doctor? Did he hurt himself in the trees? I shall never know I expect. How would you make a poem about all this for national Poetry Day?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


Find more videos like this on OPEN Fluxus

My pathetic efforts at trying the play the ukulele in the back garden. Not sure why this film is so grainy.
A quiet weekend. Weather awful. The rain put pay to the boot sale on Sunday but brightened up for a walk round Shackerley in the afternoon. The Sunday Times had a free CD of the Doors "Strange Days" in which was nice to hear again - reminded me of art school days in the 60's - one of the first west coast bands I'd ever heard. On Monday they gave away Love's "Forever Changes" - amazing! I still have a scratchy vinyl version of this somewhere so nice to get a pristine CD copy. Still sounds great today. Strange days indeed , when banks and economy is crumbling they can give away classic albums for nothing. Some more next week including New Order and Joy Division.
Archie had a day off school yesterday because of staff "Inset Day" - never figured out what they are actually for? Archie was happy though and slept most of the day to celebrate.
I walked to town and bought some lentils and curry powder. Also a paperback copy of Norman Wisdom's autobiography. I've read the first chapter about his deprived childhood - reads like a Dickensian novel!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Auntie Olwen

It will take me ages to find the very small photo I have of my Auntie Olwen so here's one of WRENS scrubbing the sides of a boat during the war. Not sure if Auntie "O" used to do such things but she did get rowed round Grimsby harbour by a sailor boyfriend she said- the nearest she got to any ships whilst she was in the navy during the war. She was just on the phone to me and it's hard to get a word in when she gets going - all about her childhood and the war etc. I expect I'll be like that when I'm 85 or whatever age she is.
She also told me about when my mother carried her into the Broadway cinema in Pitsea as "babes in arms" got in free. She was 7 at the time! My mother who must have been about 9 or 10 had some cheek! She spent the three pence entry money she saved on sweets. Olwen confessed it was very embarressing when the usherette came round and shone her torch on her and she had to pretend to be very tiny.
She also told me about Pitsea at length- a bigger place than it is now - having been swallowed up by Basildon New Town which did not exist in the '30's. They used to live in a bungalow down by the Station Hotel, opposite the market. I explained that the market has been gone many years. She seemed incredulous - "What, Pitsea market gone?!" Yes, and the cinema is now a Bingo Hall and has been for 25 years or more. "Never!"
Pitsea school is still standing and was "new" in the 30's she said- she remembers the teachers quite well- the four masters and the one lady teacher Mrs. Peace. I said I remembered only one teacher as her name was Mrs. Ramsbottom which always stuck in my mind and the howls of laughter from my mother whenever I told her what Mrs. Ramsbottom had been up to that day. I only went to Piteas school for a year back in the mid 50's , before the new Greenstead School was built in Basildon, just down the road. You had to walk miles down a concrete path , through fields and old bungalows to get to Pitsea school. As a five or six year old it was common to send children on their own to school in those days. With my satchel heavy with Shipham's bloater paste sandwiches ( if we were lucky!) or jam if things were a bit tight that week.

Auntie "O" also told me that she left school at 13 and worked in a shop in Southend for a while and then in Grays at the State cinema as an usherette. then she joined the WRENS ( Woman's Royal Navy Service ) . Or did she go to Grimsby to work in a rope making factory? Yes, that's it. She was told she could avoid being called up to fight if she worked in a factory doing essential "war work". But then joined the WRENS as she fancied the uniform and the sailors!

Thursday, October 02, 2008


Like the lady said in the post office - "It's a funny old day". Sunshine and then heavy showers and then sunshine and then drizzle and then more sunshine. Quite nippy too, except when the sun come out. The man behind the counter was having trouble with his machines that printed the labels and stamps - piles of screwed up labels lay about the counter as he once again fed my details into the machine - "It's a funny afternoon" he said, "Nothing seems to be going right". I had to agree , "It' one of those days". Yes, it has. Anyway, after a small hiatus the machine started working again and the label came out and he stuck it on my small packet to the U.S.A. " That will be one pound and eighty pence please."
Tuesday was a funny old day too.
I made a vegetable stew with dumplings and afterwards went with Archie to his postpond piano lesson. He had practised a bit so surprised when he kept missing all the notes - he sounded like he was playing with boxing gloves on! Even the piano teacher noticed the decline and said "It's been a funny old day - it all sounds a bit off doesn't it?" We all get days like that- when nothing goes right - fingers turn into sausages and machines go on the rampage - you trip over your words and kerbs.
The dumplings tasted like bits of rubber.
The following day was hardly better. I bought some reading glasses in town and some fish for a fish pie. Hazel didnt fancy the pie but would prefer a kedgeree. Only two eggs left and one had a crack in it. I did the old test and floated it in some cold water - it rose to the surface and so I knew it was off. Only one egg but better than no eggs atall.
The new glasses worked fine despite being cheap ones from the Poundstretcher shop. Hazel got some new glasses too but expensive ones from Dollard & Acheythumb.
Archie had a glue stick thrown at him today he said. His friend threw it in a fit of pique and Archie happened to get in the way. He has a big bruise under his left eye. The second in command at the school just phoned to explain how she would deal with the matter and to assure us wheels were in motion. "It's been a funny old day." What with one thing and another.