Monday, June 29, 2009

In Search of the Brontes

The Bronte parsonage, in Haworth, Yorkshire, where the Bronte sisters lived and died. Charlotte and Emily are the two most well known sisters - but who was the third sister?

Trivia answer: Anne, also an author. There was a brother too, Branwell a painter and opium addict.

The average life expectancy in Haworth in the mid-1800's was 25. Emily died at 30, Anne died at 29, and Charlotte died at 38. Branwell died at 30.

Emily, Anne and Branwell died within six months of one another, from tuberculosis.

There were six Bronte children, though two didn't make it past infancy. Charlotte lived the longest, at 38. The father, Patrick, outlived all of them by some distance. He lived to the age of 84.

These are not their gravestones, but rather, random faded stones from the cemetery in which they're buried.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Strangeways Here We Come

Who but a comedian would name a prison 'Strangeways'?

In Manchester we call it The Strangeways Hotel. Boddingtons Brewery sits just across the street. Double penury.

There's something wistful about this image, taken late on a summer evening from the train, heading into Manchester.

Trivia note: I worked at the photo lab in Manchester where album artwork for The Smiths 'Strangeways Here We Come' was printed.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

An eye for the birds.

It's the colour of the brickwork that I like here. Reminds me of a Lucien Freud etching.

Monday, June 22, 2009


This is my Mum's bedside table. Invariably in poor health, yet cheery and indomitable, she had to stay in bed a couple of days while I was home. She's barely five feet tall, and once, years ago when she had been upset, crying, I tried to comfort her. "Oh, don't worry about me," she said. "You know it's just because my eyes are too near my bladder."

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Cemetery Gates

A dreaded sunny day
So let's go where we're happy
And I'll meet you at the cemetery gates.

The Smiths

The house in which I grew-up -indeed, the room in which I was born, since I was born in my parents bedroom - faced a large catholic cemetery. On Sunday mornings I'd walk with my dad through the cemetery, taking our dog out for a long run, on towards the park that sat on the other side of the cemetery. Along the way my dad would tell me stories, we'd read the gravestones of the Polish pilots killed during World War 2...

Also, I would receive answers to awkward questions: 'Why do the stones all talk about Mary as The Virgin Mary? What's a virgin?'

Later, during a brief period of adolescent gloom I spent many hours here, so that I could easily relate to Morrissey's lyrics. There was also a memorable New Year's Eve party here when I was 17, and a key scene in the film '24 Hour Party People' was shot here.

So we go inside and we gravely read the stones
All those people, all those lives,
Where are they now?
With loves, and hates
And passions just like mine
They were born
And then they lived and then they died.

Keats and Yates are on your side
But you lose
Because Wilde is on mine

Didn't Keats say of himself, 'His name was writ on water'?
Apparently though, stone is no guarantee of permanence either.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Liberal English

It's fair to say we're of a liberal bent in some matters in England, including the realm of public art. But a statue, in St James's Park, of a man attempting to violate a dolphin?

Of course, we're also regarded as a nation of secret spankers too... but I can't say the dolphin looks too thrilled by it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Modernist Manchester

The rivets along the side of this building remind me of something - but what? Tetris, maybe?

Anyway, here's the full image.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Tate Modern

Speaking of art museums, this is a shot taken inside the Tate Modern. Having visited a couple of times now, I feel confident in saying the building itself is more interesting than much of the art stored there. Reputedly it's the world's most visited museum of modern art, but I'm here to tell you, the collection is nothing like as good as that of MOMA in New York.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Gave Proof Through The Night...

...that our flag was still there.

The morning after the Champions League Final: Barcelona 2 Manchester United 0. Champions of Europe no more.

Man U flag, next door to my parents house.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

One United

On the day the announcement is made that Cristiano Ronaldo is moving to Real Madrid (for the absurd fee of 80 million pounds), a reminder that there's only one United.

The statue saluting the great United Trinity - Best, Law and Charlton - outside Old Trafford.

Top Shelf

Art exhibition poster, London.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The North Shall Rise Again.

The blue building in the background, the CIS building was, until recently, the tallest structure in Manchester (which isn't saying very much). When I was growing up, it was an ugly grey block, visible from outside my front door. In recent years its been fitted with attractive blue solar panels, and it is now entirely energy self-sufficient - and much more aesthetically appealing to boot.

Saturday, June 6, 2009 intimate as the rustle of sheets.

The quote is from Gatsby.

The girl is mine.

Wheel Spinning.

I haven't had time to fully catch-up yet from my trip. For now it feels a little like I'm spinning my wheels. Have patience though, my pretty ones.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Life in a Northern Town

While I may not be one for waving a Union Jack in the air, I do strongly identify as Mancunian, or a 'Manc' - that is, a native of Manchester. The world's first industrial city is undergoing changes, at last transforming itself into a great modern capital. Nowhere is this more noticeable than in the city's architecture...

More on this theme to come.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

This England.

And so I'm back - in the pages of this blog, and in the US of A. Over the next few days I'll share a few images from my trip back home to Blighty, and likely a few words to go with them.

This first image may be redolent of national pride, which is a little odd, since I'm not the most jingoistic man on the planet. But on this, my first trip home in three years, I found - to my surprise and delight - much to admire, recommend and take pride in, both in Manchester and London. England - there may be life in the old girl yet.