Friday, 20 March 2015

Art Deco in Abergavenny/Dead dogs

I was able to use Dirty Protest's Cardiff performance of my play Mae Ben wedi marw (tr. Ben is dead) as cover for a trip to Abergavenny to see their 24-carat branch of Burtons.

These panoramic views are anomalous as the building is in fact apical. That may be clear from geometric oddities of the rectification (but Matthew Brown's Autostitch software is fantastic).

In case it is unclear, the branches advertised in the window lights are: Stockport,Halifax, Leicester, Darlington, Plymouth, Leeds, Wrexham, Manchester, Newcastle, London, Birmingham, Sheffield, Bradford, Belfast, Dublin, Bristol, Glasgow, Cardiff, Derby, Norwich, Dundee, Preston, Northampton, Edinburgh, Reading, Swansea, Portsmouth, Newport, Exeter, Southend, Blackburn, Bolton. It is now a crusade to capture those which I have as yet not seen first hand – many, of course, are victims of the Luftwaffe or town planners [sic].

As luck would have it, there was a magnificent partial solar eclipse this day, in cloudless skies; at its nadir I captured this very fine GviR 2110/1.


NB: The play was very well received by a capacity audience, as were the other seven presented on a platform of "New work by Welsh writers". Me - Welsh? Me - a writer? Bendigedig!
Here is a crap blurrrrrry picture of the excellent Hannah Jarman & Rhys Warrington performing my piece.

And big thanks to Sandy.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Re-enacting the battle of Edgehill

Circumstance permitted me to attempt a one-man re-enactment of the battle of Edgehill (Warwickshire, 23rd October 1642) on March 13th. It remains very easy to capture a panoramic view of the battlefield.

Full accounts of manoeuvres can be read in a hundred places; here let it suffice to say that a large proportion of the field is inaccessible as it is owned by the MoD, which seems strangely appropriate. Ergo, no attempt at complete re-enactment was going to succeed, and I compromised with a gentle stroll around the prettier bits together with some isolated theatrical displays. Unsurprisingly, the local churches had some information to give.

Kineton was just behind the parliamentary lines on the day and would have seen a lot of action; I recreated a small piece of this outside the post office. In St Peter's church there's a dinky mermaid on Frances Bentley's tomb:

Radway is stationed at the base of the “edge” (bank) that was strategically important to the Royalist army on the day. Henry Kingsmill was interred in St Peter's church here after falling in the battle (beautifully re-enacted by me, if I may say so).

It reads:
HERE LYETH EXPECTING THE SECOND COMING OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR HENRY KINGSMILL ESQ. SECOND SON OF HENRY KINGSMILL OF SIMONTON IN YE COUNTY OF SOUTHERN KENT WHO SERVING AS A CAPTAIN OF FOOT UNDER HIS MAJESTY CHARLES 1st OF BLESSED MEMORY WAS AT YE BATTLE OF EDGEHILL IN YE YEARE OF OUR LORD 1642 AS HE WAS MANFULLY FIGHTING ON BEHALF OF HIS KING AND COUNTRY UNHAPPILY SLAIN BY CANNON BULLET IN MEMORY OF WHOM HIS MOTHER THE LADY BRIDGET KINGSMILL DID IN THE 46TH YEARE OF HER WIDOWHOOD IN THE YEARE OF OUR LORD 1670 ERECTED THIS MONUMENT. I HAVE FOUGHT THE GOOD FIGHT I HAVE FINISHED MY COURSE HENCEFORTH IS LAYD UP FOR ME THE CROWN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.
Unsurprisingly, his Mum had to wait for the re-establishment of the Throne in the form of the debauched Charles II before putting this thing up.

Ratley is over the edge and was presumably a royalist haven on the day. Here's a nice picture of Mary Magdalene up to her old tricks (not really part of the re-enactment) in the church of St Peter ad Vincula:

The day was accompanied by a lowlight and a highlight.
  • Both of the Kidderminster restaurants billed as “the best curry in town” were closed, so I had to settle for a steak pie in the 3-Shires Cafe. It was not good.
  • Hard by Radway church was PB 1086272, a type 3204/1, numbered CV35 147 by RM. It's seen some use; in my view these look all the better when they have not been beautified by RM:

Friday, 6 February 2015

A red letter day

I recently attended a talk where the meaning of "Red Letter Day" was explained. In illuminated manuscripts, the jolly nice red pigment was reserved for saints - it was important, you see.

Well - today is such a day.

I first saw Robert Fripp in the Exeter ABC in 1971 - dominated by Lizard. Then again in York in 1973/4 with Bruford, Muir and Wetton alongside. Then again in 198x at the Leeds Irish Centre with the League of Crafty Guitarists. To my abiding regret, I had to miss a gig in Manchester in the 90s with David Sylvian when I was ill - now of course never to be repeated.

But this year Spike and I will see him in Aylesbury on 1st September. With every chance of a second viewing in Birmingham.

I wonder if he remembers me?

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Hele's School, (more than) 40 years on

A shocking picture of a painting of S L Medlar (but honestly, it's not in an easy position to photograph):

Sam Medlar was Head of Hele's Boys Grammar School, Exeter through the 60s until 1973; he probably disliked being called Sam but all the boys did it. At that time the grammar system was still the default and he presided over a school named after Elize Hele, an illustrious Tudor Exonian who left money in his will for the school's establishment. It was explained to me once that Hele's executors were so corrupt that it was not in fact founded until 1850. Of course, in the town Hele's was overshadowed by Exeter School - “Public”, with all that word doesn't imply.

Sam's tenure coincided with well documented British social change. He was, almost literally, “old school”, and I think he struggled with the sight of boys with immensely flared trousers (nowadays rightly regarded as laughable) and hair of sometimes extraordinary length, school rules notwithstanding. I had a couple of minor run-ins with him but nothing serious: corporal punishment was on the books as the ultimate sanction but I have no memory of it ever being deployed. His difficulty with boys who were plainly intelligent (no conceit intended), but who enthusiastically adopted the fashion of shabby and disorderly dressing was obvious. I think this was the only fashion in which I ever took any interest and I have still to move on from it.

Sam's revenge came at one's exit interview: after suitable small-talk and probably sincere wishes for the future, some but not all boys were invited to join the Old Heleans and left his sanctum clutching an application form – not me. Time has passed and you can now join online, which I have done.

The buildings I recall are long since demolished and the name of the school has lapsed (at least partly under pressure from the OH). Odd bits of memorabilia are on display in the replacement school, St Peters. 40+ years ago, I had an unthinking teenage disrespect for the war memorial and portraits of Heads past, but the passage of time is a curious thing. Of course, the school song was “Forty years on”.

Exeter School continues in uninterrupted business.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Fork Stoan and Bernt Arse

A weekend with the Enkelkindern. Very hard to travel around Kent without seeing it through Riddley Walker's eyes, but I tried.

Notably

  1. Banksy's latest, entertainingly augmented only recently.
  2. A sad loss.
  3. A surprise visit by David Byrne.
  4. Another one for my collection! Neglected, but fine.

A small number of other pictures may be seen.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Hello, is that Mrs Jones?

Misdirected mail is commonplace, and usually presents no problem. Envelopes addressed to "Prof. April McMahon" are redirected in a trice, and parcels addressed to "Dafydd Raw-Rees", postmarked Todmorden, likewise present no obstacle.

But today arrives an envelope addressed to "Mr and Mrs Jones".

FFS. I've just counted and there are over 2500 "Joneses" in the Aberystwyth phone book, and it's a slim volume.

This is going to take ages.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Charlies to manage Kate Bush nuptials

I have asked Kate Bush to marry me, and await her decision. She is a lady who takes care over these things and, while she didn't scream "YES" in immediate hysterical glee, she certainly didn't say "no" either.

So keep your diaries cleared: a date in mid November seems most probable, just after Claire's.

The Wedding List will be managed by Charlies of Aberystwyth (with branches throughout Wales, and one in Shrewsbury).