Thursday, April 16, 2009

On arriving in the country

It's hard to start this without hearing the Whitsun Weddings in mi head.

"We were late leaving Whitley Bay... "

Anyway, got here. Bliss. Walked down to the pub, drank lovely beer in lovely sun and had lovely sandwich. Then went for a walk down the river to Skelwith Bridge and had lovely date cake.

It was lovely. And walked back. Still lovely.

And now i'm very happy. I hope you are too.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Elterwater by the pub.

I am so pleased to be going to Elterwater for a few days. Hip hip hooray.
Oh, a pal just asked me about Elterwater .. so here's a few snaps, higgledypiggledy. Elterwater top, the River What's It next to top, the Britannia Inn above left and Chapel Style above right.
See you there.

Monday, April 13, 2009

What comes around ...

It's funny stuff, industrial heritage.

One century you're waving placards, getting up petitions and demanding the truth.

"Out demons OUT..."

And the next, you're waving placards, getting up petitions and demanding a different truth. A chapter in the KeyStage 3 history curriculum, perhaps.

There's no way of knowing when or where it will strike, industrial heritage.

Take Seaton Sluice, for example.

Back in 1860 it was the largest bottle maker in the UK. It says so on a plaque.

Now, i don't know much about bottle making but i'm prepared to bet that it wasn't a very nice process. Hot things, smokey things, kill you when you're not looking, things.

I bet too that the Duke of Northumberland had a finger in those bottles; shaking them up, making them fizzy - and getting money back on the empties.

But just how bad was bottle making? Was it worse than mining, for example?

Well, the folks of Seaton Sluice could easily find out because just across the field, was Hartley village and its pit.

"Was" because in 1862 the colliery beam engine fell down the shaft; the only shaft, blocking the only shaft - and 204 men and boys suffocated. Slowly. Helplessly.

And that was the end of Hartley.

Perhaps it was the pit disaster that also spelled doom for the bottle factory in Seaton Sluice - it closed eight years later.

Or maybe Wimpey built some smart new hovels in Seaton Sluice and the incoming residents objected to the bottle factory.

"We prefer Evian..."

Anyway, today they're all gone.

There's just the plaque that i mentioned. And in Earsdon church yard there's an overgrown, tear-stained memorial to the people who died down Hartley pit.

Maybe they're your tears. It's impossible not to weep.

Oh, and out in the middle of the field, there's a bloody great big, cold, dark monument. But i never go there.

In 1862 they took up a collection for the people of Hartley and Queen Victoria sent a few bob. I bet the Duke put his hand in his pocket too.

I think that's how they built the monument. I bet the bereaved families of Hartley were grateful.

They're generous people, the rich. Oh ... and parliament passed a regulation saying that henceforth all pits had to have two shafts. Thoughtful.

But by then, Hartley was just about gone.

And soon, soon without its bottle factory, Seaton Sluice would be a 'nice place' for a walk, for a pint and for fish and chips.

Today people living there look happy. Blokes in boats look happy. I was happy.

How do we measure these things? Dunno.

But take it from me, me up-north, someday, when all the placards, spit, venom and unhappiness have gone, the yet-to-be-built third London airport will also be, 'gone'.

Gone, perhaps to open space. Or gone, but remembered at local insistence - by a 'living heritage centre'. Or maybe recalled by just a plaque - like the one for Seaton Sluice bottle factory

Funny stuff, industrial heritage.
* Seems that some of my guesses were right .... which ones? Have a look here, it's an interesting read, i promise

An account of the Hartley Disaster

Photo, 204 names on church memorial

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Baltimore IE

If you're at a loose end and have no where to go this Easter, here's a splendid place.

Baltimore is about as far as you can go in Europe without setting off for the USA; to the left of Cork, without the over-sourced foodies of Kinsale and just below Mizzen Head.

In 1631 some pirates turned up from Algiers and kidnapped everyone. Really. There's a book that tells the story - The Stolen Village by Des Ekin.

It's a bit sad (I'm not a Leavisite) but Baltimore today is good fun.
There are islands to visit - filled with never-sprayed plants and wildlife. And walks. And pubs and Irish things.
If you like sailing, you will think you've been delivered.

Nearby, there's Castletownsend with really posh people, Range Rovers and that chap who thinks a lot of himself from Newsnight. But the food in the pub is extraordinary.

The landsape is softer than further north.

Despite, or because of, a splendidly republican history, County Cork has always been very cosmopolitan and today is packed with rich Germans, Italians, French and English. Well they were rich.
The islands seem dotted with people in denim shirts who say they run some net business or other.

Why am i writing this? Oh to be sure, go to Baltimore.

One-way dialectics

I love shopping in Currys.

All trainees have to learn the company's approach to customer assistance as part of a challenging corporate induction process.

This is their side of the conversation.

"No such thing ..."

"It's discontinued ..."

"It's rubbish ..."

"We don't stock it ..."

"We don't stock it anymore ..."

"You got the last one yesterday ..."

"That will be £19.50 ..."

Oh blimey.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Recipe for watermelon birthday cake

This is a delightful recipe. Quick and simple, but it can take a lifetime to perfect.
  • Put watermelon on table
  • Folk come
  • Like them

There are a few variations and you're welcome to try them. Laughter works well we find, and you can try hoots of laughter, if you're feeling extravagant.

Children are especially good, if you can manage to find them, in season

Saturday, April 4, 2009

There's a man on the pitch ...

It may not feel like it. Of course it doesn't feel like it. But it's just possible that we are living in some heady days.

Ok, maybe like lovely Robert Kee in old East Berlin, i've got my eyes a little crinkled up. Or maybe like Leonard Cohen, i'm getting this democratic vibe through the wall on a flood of alcohol.

Or just perhaps.

Just perhaps, the reason the right is going quite so nutty here and in the States is that they're terrified this could all come right. I mean left.

In the USA, the attacks on Obama read more like a plot from the X Files. Or something. Listening to web radio is bizarre.

There's straight-faced discussion of the claim that Obama is the puppet of a left wing cabal set to introduce a world currency. That's the woolley-brained IMF to you and me.

And of course the new president is giving all the USA's money to ... well somebody.

Trouble is, most US citizens name a celebrity as their major source of information.
Now we may think that's Oprah - but the big O is a little too high brow for many. Truth is, for many of our cousins, the celebrity to whom they refer / defer is the Rev Cleetus Awreetus. Or somesuch. And he's white, he's right and he's barking.

The real plot in the USA - just as it was here when Blair won - and just as it was when Labour was elected in 1945 - is the plot of the right. The difference is that, in the States the right just gets madder and even more forthright.

Not quite so, here.
Sixty years ago in the UK, in the face of mass rejection, the Tories went underground. They infiltrated every organisation they didn't already own. And then they invented a few more.

The League of British Housewives - supposedly a non-political campaign to take bread off rationing - was in fact a Tory puppet.

And 50 years later, Tory candidates whipped their party off the ballot paper and became .... independent something or other. But it was the same old dowager duchesses who turned out as number takers on election day.

Then, with the apparent nose-dive of Gordon Brown, they threw off their masks and took up, once more, their Daily Mail 'Mr Hiter is not all bad' chants.

There is nothing better than an over-confident Tory. Their smugness is like cheap melting chocolate; it's messy, difficult to shift and ... tastes crap.

Where was i?

Oh yeah ... the good news is that Obama, for a few lovely moments, has turned the UK clocks back. We are in summertime again. (That would be forwards but never mind).

And the good news is ... well ... the good news is that Gordon Brown just got called "Brilliant Brown" by Bob Geldof.

And the good news is, Gordon just pissoir'd on the French. Err, and the Germans.

And the good news is we'll be out of Iraq (kind of) in a couple of months and the good news is ...
Well ok , i'm pretty sure there's some worse bank stuff to come. And Afghanistan is stupid and Obama may be digging in Dennis Healey's hole.
Or maybe not. Maybe Obama can work some sexy magic on the war lords. Err no. Even i can't dream that. But he does seem very very bright. And for once, as an ENTJ, he may just have the right personality to see the job through.

Anyway. The right are worried.

In the States they will have to put up a laughable Really Really Right candidate in four years time. (Although the American constitution almost guarantees that Obama will be struggling for a majority in Congress very quickly.)

And over here, Cameron, looks increasingly like last year's Tracy Island, Pokemon, Ben Ten. So what, he won the X factor. He's lost his record contract already and must rely on Labour hanging itself. (Which admitedly is what happens to most governments.)

Anyway. Look, we know G20 wasn't that great. But your average newspaper editor is too thick to work out that detail.

And they certainly can't afford to take the fragrant Mrs Obama off their pages. Crumbs, she's the Jackie Kennedy / Mrs Diana they were praying for. Something has to go in between the adverts they're trying to flog.
Sorry Mrs Obama, it's up to you. She's good too. Better than Hillary. Gosh, there's a thought.

Now i know the Guardian isn't the Sun. It isn't even the Guardian. But it's more than a start.

So. Steady as she goes, Brilliant Brown. "Four more years, four more years, four more .... " Oh Blimey.