A few days I ago I heard on the radio that Wilko Johnson had died at home on 21 November. He was diagnosed was diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer in 2013 and was told he had nine to 10 months left to live but it turned out not to be as serious as originally thought and he was able to undergo surgery to remove the tumour.
Wilko was the original guitarist in Dr. Feelgood, the raw R&B band from Canvey Island who were very popular in the 70’s. I was a big fan at the time. I saw them live twice – once at the Reading Festival and also at Liverpool Stadium. I also Wilko’s band in St Helens back in 2010.
Wilko will be sadly missed. His distinctive guitar style, manic stage presence and eccentric character.
While browsing on the web yesterday I found out that Wilko Johnson’s band were playing at the Citadel in St Helens that evening. Wilko is one of my all time “guitar herose”. He used to be the lead guitarist in Dr Feelgood, who tasted success for a short while in the 1970’s with their raw version of R & B. He has a very distinctive style, managing to combine lead and rhythmn guitar.
I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to see his band and after several attempts I managed to get through to the box office on the phone and, luckily, was able to sort out one of the last tickets. Wilko does have a loyal following but I guess his current tour has had more interest due to the release of Julien Temple’s film about Dr Feelgood, “Oil City Confidential” that I saw at the cinema in February…
It was such a lovely afternoon that after my post walk coffee and cake, I didn’t feel like heading straight back down the motorway. Instead, I decided I’d have a short walk down to the River Rawthy.
Passing the church and Public School and a row of colourful cottages, I made my way to the Millthrop bridge where I joined the riverside path walking in the direction of the New Bridge further upstream.
The river was shallow – it would be much deeper and faster flowing after heavy rain and in the winter.
I passed a weir, after which the river became deeper and smoother
Reaching the New Bridge, I crossed over to the north bank, passing the picnic area
Carrying on just beyond the weir
Where the right of way along the river ended, so I cut up along the path uphill through the field and skirted Winder House, then making my way back to the car.
I rather liked the decoration applied to this window in one of the cottages I passed
I made my way back to the car via the Folly one of the the old “yards” which emerges on the narrow main street opposite the market square, by the side of the rather old fashioned ironmongers shop.
Like in Kendal, these are old, narrow passageways branching off the main streets.
This will be my last walk for a little while as the next Wednesday I had a minor op scheduled and I’ll be out of action for several weeks ☹️ (recuperating at home as I write this). However, I have a short break booked in Borrowdale in August, so something to look forward to – although I’m not sure I’ll be up to tackling the bigger fells by then.
For this old Christmas song, of Elizabethan origin, they’re singing to a modern arrangement using synths rather than traditional instruments and with the singer’s voice electronically distorted. I rather like it.
The song is about putting aside differences, forgetting old wrongs, and singing, dancing, eating , drinking and playing together. Although this arrangement is much less jolly. More like a lament for activities that aren’t allowed at the moment. Very apt for our times, I think.
Way back in 2012 we went to see Kate Rusby’s concert at Warrington’s Parr hall during her annual Christmas tour around the UK. Since then we’ve been to see her perform several times, usually at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall when we would combine the concert with an afternoon looking round the Christmas market and a bite to eat. None of that was possible this year due to you know what. It’s been a difficult time for musicians with no venues open but there have been some imaginative initiatives where artists have ben able to perform over the Internet.
We’ve always enjoyed Kate’s concert’s immensely. For someone who isn’t so tall (!) she has a big stage presence and twinkling eyes and a smile almost as wide as the stage. She chats away between the songs and really does seem to be enjoy the Christmas celebrations. And combined with the Christmas market her concert has felt like the start of Christmas for us, so I was delighted to find out that she was arranging to stream a concert from Doncaster with a limited live audience (of family and close friends, I guess) so we signed up to watch the performance which was broadcast last Saturday.
Her Christmas concert is based around old traditional versions of carols as performed around the pubs in South Yorkshire . Some of the songs were well known carols but sung to a different tune with other traditional songs sung to more familiar tunes. She was accompanied by her band of folk musicians and also by a brass quintet, which makes the performance particularly Christmassy for me.
Of course, watching a concert from your own living room isn’t the same as being in the midst of a crowd in a concert hall, but we made the best of it, streaming onto our main TV. We’d put the tree up during the afternoon and we even arranged to have our own version of Christmas market food with German sausage hot dogs with mustard and (well we like it!) a helping of saurkraut (or choucroute if you want to be French). The concert though was pure Northern English entertainment and accents (listen her pronounce “come” and “choir”) – I’ll always forgive Kate for being from the wrong side of the Pennines!
It was the first time my daughter, who has moved back in with us for the time being, has seen Kate perform but, just like us, enjoyed the performance.
So there we are – our Covid Christmas has started. And next year, hopefully all this mess will be in the past and we’ll be able to see her perform live to kickstart the Christmas celebrations.
So I hope everyone reading this has a great Christmas break – but make sure you take care so that all your loved ones have a good chance to be around to celebrate properly in 2021.
Last week Florian Schneider, one of the founders of Kraftwerk died of cancer aged 73. I was never a massive fan of the band. Although I could admire the cleverness of their work, I always found purely electronic music didn’t stir me emotionally. Neverless I liked some of their songs. Perhaps my favourite was Autobahn, although due to my ignorance of the German language, until J, who studied German to A level, put me right, I was convinced they were singing of having Fun, Fun, Fun on the Autobahn.
Anyway reading of Florian’s passing I was reminded of a favourite tribute to Kraftwerk by Bill Bailey.
Well February was an utterly miserable month and I’m glad to see the back of it. Rain and wind every weekend which curtailed getting out and about other then snatching a local walk out into the Plantations when the rain decided to stop for a short while. Will March be much better? We had a decent day last Thursday and I managed to take a day off work. I’m off this week but so far it’s not looking good for getting out. May even be forced to do some decorating 😦
So, not much to write up lately. But last weekend I got “tagged” by Wednesday’s Child with a nomination for the Sunshine Blogger Award –
given to creative, positive and cheerful bloggers by their peers as a token of appreciation and admiration.
If you’re an avid reader of blogs you’ll be familiar with this “meme” where you’re asked to answer some questions then tag some other bloggers and set your own questions.
The “rules” for the award are
Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link back to him/her.
Answer the 11 questions provided by the blogger who nominated you.
Nominate 11 other bloggers and ask them 11 new questions.
Notify the nominees by commenting on one of their blog posts.
List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo on your post.
I started writing this blog as a type of diary for myself, recording what I’ve been up to so I can look back and remember. It’s worked like that but it’s also been good as a way to communicate and make virtual friends with other bloggers. And I feel like I’ve become part of a little community of bloggers who comment on each other’s posts. So thanks to Wednesday’s Child for being part of that and also in showing some appreciation for my ramblings.
The first tricky one! I’m scared of heights, which wouldn’t normally count as bizarre, but given my love of mountains, perhaps it is!
Which fictional character would you invite round for dinner (or lunch, afternoon tea, breakfast, brunch or any meal of your choice), and why?
Another difficult one. So many books so many characters! After scratching my head I’ve gone for Shevek from Usula le Guin’s novel, The Dispossessed. We could spend some hours discussing science and analysing and debating the practicalities and difficulties of establishing a fair and equitable society.
What are the last 5 songs/pieces of music you listened to?
But if I’d written this another time the list would have been quite different as I’ve got quite a broad taste in music. Besides Northern Soul (I have quite a collection from my 20’s) I might have been listening to Indie music on Radio 6, Prog Rock from my collection accumulated from my 6th Form days, Folk, Jazz or Classical. My Spotify play lists are very wide ranging.
What’s something about your job/field of study that people/media often get wrong or misunderstand?
An easy one to answer! It’s the title of my profession – “occupational hygiene”. Hardly anybody knows what it is. They usually think I’m responsible for cleaning the works toilets, or perhaps looking after teeth. It’s neither of those, of course – it’s about preventing people being made ill by their work.
What is your favourite type/flavour of chocolate?
At the moment favourite is dark chocolate with sea salt
Have you ever been profoundly affected by a book/movie/piece of fiction? (Feel free to share as much/little as you want!)
There’s a few where that’s happened. probably the first one was To Kill a Mockingbird that was a set book for my O Level in English Literature.
What country have you always wanted to visit, but never had the opportunity?
Victoria sponge, lemon drizzle cake or chocolate cake?
Oh dear – all rather verboten as I’m diabetic – but of these three Victoria Sponge with a few extra shots of insulin!
What would be your superpower of choice?
Well we’d all love to be able to fly, wouldn’t we? But I reckon I’d like the power to make people more empathetic, to stop being selfish, xenophobic and racist. I reckon it would be easier to fly, though!
What makes you happy?
Family days where we get the chance to spend some time doing something together with our 2 grown up offspring; alternatively, spending some time on my own up on the fells and mountains
What one thing to do you hope to achieve in 2020?
Spending less time working so I can do more of the things I like to do. I’d always planned to slow down gradually towards retirement when I hit a certain age and start to pick and choose which work I take on. I’m in the fortunate position that I can do that if I want and I’m finally starting to do just that (not easy, mind).
So now I’m supposed to nominate another 11 bloggers and set 11 new questions. That’s not easy as my tag list would be very much like Wednesday’s Child’s. So I think I’ll bend the rules and think a bit longer about that!
So, after completing my 1000 miles challenge in 2019 (hurrah!!!) I made a start for 2020 with a local walk around the Plantations on New Years Day. But I was still itching to get out into the hills, so as Friday looked like it was going to be a decent day and I was still on holiday from work, I decided to head off up to the Lakes and tackle Seat Sandal, the mountain that dominates the view to the north from the western and southern shores of Grasmere.
Rather than scrabble for a parking space in one of the lay-byes on the A591, I parked up in Grasmere. Some walkers are reluctant to pay the parking fee but I don’t think £8 for the day is unreasonable – especially when you compare it with what you have to pay in central Manchester. Starting from Grasmere added 2 or 3 miles along a rough road to my walk, but that wasn’t a problem.
I set off on a bright sunny morning with bright blue winter sky. A little chilly but I was wrapped up and you soon warm up walking.
Leaving the car park there was a good view of my objective.
I walked into the village, stopping at Lucia’s takeaway to buy one of their Cumberland sausage rolls to make sure I had fuelled up ready for my walk. I then set off down Easedale Road before turning north up Helm Close, a rough road (a track in places) which took me up past fields and isolated houses, passing to the east of Helm Crag
Steel Fell dead ahead
and there’s Seat sandal with a glimpse of Fairfield to the right
My route would take me up the gill (valley) between the two mountains up to Grisedale Hause.
I crossed the busy main road – it was a bit of a blind corner so I had to take care not to get run over by the cars that speed up the road between Grasmere and Keswick – and then set off along the path up the gill
Looking back across to Helm Crag
There are two paths up towards the hause, one to each side of a minor hill, the Great Tongue. I crossed over the beck to take the right hand path, which is part of the Coast to Coast route
I was climbing up through rougher country now
Climbing up towards the hause
I eventually reached the hause and was greeted by a view of Grisedale Tarn and Dollywagon Pike
While I was walking the wind had been picking up and the cloud stared to appear covering what had been a beautiful blue sky. Here’s the view back down the gill
Time to stop for a break, shelter from the wind and grab a bite to eat, and a hot coffee from my flask.
Over to the left was my Seat sandal and a steep climb up the scree (not a route for Anabel, then!)
It certainly was a steep climb and hands were needed in a few places. But it wasn’t too bad and it didn’t take me too long to reach the top of the slope. Pausing part way a took a few snaps back down towards the Tarn and Dollywagon Pike
St Sunday Crag and the slopes of Fairfield with Ullswater just about visible in the distance down Grisedale
It was windy when I reached the summit and there was thick cloud over the fells to the west and north
Looking across to St Sunday Crag and the mighty Fairfield
After a short break to take in the views I set off down the ridge towards Grasmere – a much more gradual descent renowned for great views down to Grasmere and over to the fells to the west. Unfortunately the thick cloud rather obscured them today.
More and more cloud came in as I made my way down the ridge, but I managed to snap a few atmospheric shots (spruced up with a little manipulation with Snapseed!)
The path along the ridge eventually joined the track down the gill and I retraced my steps back towards Grasmere
The rain finally arrived as I walked along the lane back to the village. Looking back over to Seat Sandal and Fairfield looks like I got back down just in time to avoid a downpour.
I called into the village, had a browse in Sam Read’s bookshop (and was tempted to purchase a slim volume) before heading back to the car. It was just after 3 o’clock so I decided to drive up to Keswick and a visit to the Keswick Boot Company – after all the walking I’ve been doing I needed a new pair of boots
I’ll need to get out on the fells again soon – these boots are made for walking!
I woke up on Tuesday to be greeted by, as expected, a wet and windy day. It was forecast that conditions would change mid afternoon, but most of the day looked like it was not going to be conducive to getting up on the fells. So after breakfast I had a decision to make about what to do. I hadn’t come up to Buttermere to spend the day in a Youth Hostel and working on the principle that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing, (I don’t actually agree with that statement) I donned my waterproof coat and prepared to get wet!
I decided that my best option was to spend the morning taking a stroll around the lake and decide what to do in the afternoon later on, depending on how things were looking.
As I set out, this was the view over the valley towards High Stile
Approaching the small picturesque Church of St James at the end of the Newlands Pass,
I decided to pop inside and take a look.
Under this window, which looks towards Haystacks (not visible today, alas!), there’s a monument to Alfred Wainwright
Leaving the shelter of the church, I set off through the village towards the lake, passing the Fish Inn
which, in the 1790’s, used to be the home of Mary Robinson, the landlord’s daughter, who was known as “The Beauty of Buttermere“. In 1802 she was swept off her feet by a visitor to the Inn, calling himself “Colonel Alexander Hope” and they were married. It turned out, however, that he was in fact John Hatfield, an undischarged bankrupt, who was already married. After conning some local residents out of money, he scarpered, but the law caught up with him and he ended up being tried in Carlisle and hanged. More detail can be read on the Fish’s website.
Famous visitors to the Inn have included the Lake Poets, Wordsworth, Southey, and Coleridge.
The circuit of the lake is very popular as it’s quite an easy walk, but very scenic, so on a fine day the route gets busy. It was quieter today, but I wasn’t the only one braving the wind and rain.
Carrying on I soon reached the lake to be greeted by choppy waters and an atmospheric view down towards Fleetwith Pike.
The waterfalls of Sourmilk Gill were in full spate
I carried on through the woods down the west shore of the lake
Looking across towards High Snockrigg (great name that!)
I continued down the path . Another view of Fleetwith Pike
and to my right High Stile visible through the cloud
and High Crag
Getting near to the top of the lake
There’s Haystacks. Glad I wasn’t planning on going up there today!
An atmospheric view of Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks
I crossed over, past Gatesgarth farm, to the east side of the lake. A walk down a short stretch of road and then back on to the path along the lakeside.
Looking across the lake to High Crag and High Stile
Getting closer to Buttermere village, the path goes through a tunnel excavated through the rock.
Looking across to the waterfalls of Sourmilk Gill and Red Pike
It had taken me just over a couple of hours to circumnavigate the lake . My coat had kept me dry but it was time to get out of the rain. There are 2 cafes in the village. Unfortunately one pf them was closed for the week for renovation but the other, at Sykes Farm, was still open, so I popped in for a brew and a nice bowl of hot pea soup. In fact, I ended up having a couple of brews as I whiled away the time for an hour and a half, drying out and deciding on what to do in the afternoon. There were signs that the cloud was beginning to clear, so there was a chance of a drier walk in the afternoon.
Last Saturday we travelled over to Liverpool to take a look at the latest exhibition at the Tate on Albert Dock. It’s had a lot of good reviews so I wanted to see for myself what the fuss was about. I didn’t know a great deal about the artist, Keith Haring, but had seen some of his works, probably most notably his large canopy was hanging in the ceiling of the stairwell in the grand hallway of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam during a visit last year. He’d painted it for a solo exhibition at the museum in 1986.
So, the extensive Tate retrospective was a good opportunity to find out more about the artist. The exhibition was busy (but not crazy busy like some of the blockbusters held in London), so it was clearly popular. But there was plenty of space to allow us to take time to look at the paintings and reflect on them.
The Tate exhibition website tells us
A part of the legendary New York art scene of the 1980s, Keith Haring (1958–1990) was inspired by graffiti, pop art and underground club culture.
Haring was a great collaborator and worked with like-minded artists such as Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat. All were interested in creating art for the many. Haring designed record covers for RUN DMC and David Bowie, directed a music video for Grace Jones and developed a fashion line with Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood. In doing so, he introduced his art and ideas to as many people as possible.
The exhibition covered the whole of the top floor of the Tate and there were a large number of works on display from the whole of his career, including these two early works when he was influenced by Walt Disney cartoons. And cartoon like figures and symbols were prominent in his work throughout his career. Unlike most Tate paid exhibitions photography was allowed.
When he moved to New York, he became known for chalk drawings he produced on the black paper on empty poster spaces in subway stations; drawing quickly as people walked past and stopping to watch him. There was a video in the exhibition of him doing just that and then getting arrested! The pictures became popular that they were taken away almost as soon as they were finished. There were a few examples in the exhibition, although they were difficult to photograph due to reflections in the glass protecting them.
He’d paint on almost anything he could lay his hands on, like this Yellow Taxi bonnet (or “hood” as our American friends would say!)
and quite a few works on display were painted on tarpaulins – a lot cheaper than canvas.
A number of icon like symbols recur throughout his works, including a crawling baby, a dog, a figure with a whole in its stomach, a cross, computers and some others. Most of his work contain one or more. There’s a good discussion of the symbols and what they represent here, and the Tate provide a key in the free booklet you’re given as you enter the gallery.
And, as a gay man living in New York in the 1980’s, he used his art to raise awareness of AIDS. He himself was diagnosed with the disease in 1988. His poster Ignorance = Fear refers to the challenges people who were living with AIDS faced.
Here’s a few more examples of his work
Before the visit, I was a little sceptical about the exhibition. I knew about his cartoon like paintings and thought it would be fun, but that I’d have tired of it after seeing a selection of them. But that wasn’t how it worked out. Despite the apparent simplicity of his style, there was a lot more depth and complexity than I expected.
There was a lot to see – besides the paintings there were a number of videos about his life and work – so there was too much to take in in one visit. One advantage of being Tate Members is that we can hopefully go for another look before the exhibition finishes in November.