Last of the melting snow

After the previous frantic post, this is a calmer time-lapse video to soothe the frayed nerves. The view is across the fields from our front door – as far as I am prepared to travel before breakfast (in my dressing gown¬†ūüė®) . The morning started well enough but even over the hour this was shot, the day started to dull down. Passengers flying into Amsterdam from Minneapolis on a Delta AIrbus A330 and those¬†on a Lufthansa A380 from San Francisco into Frankfurt were treated to the best of Northumberland – they streak across the sky near the beginning of the video.

There is still some snow but the sun is doing its work at least until the next batch arrives:

... the melting snow

And finally – this looks perishing but it wasn’t – the camera always lies ūüėČ

... across the Tyne

Visions of Johanna

My internal roadmaps contain a section dedicated to the streets of Manchester in the 1960s. ¬†Most of these monochrome memories¬†start from Oxford Road station¬†with its three wooden conoid roofs, a remarkable building for its time with echoes of the¬†Sydney Opera House. ¬†Even a self-absorbed teenager noticed such things but when it came to railways, I had previous. ¬†An avid trainspotter from the age of eight, what else was there to do, I knew Manchester’s stations intimately: Manchester Central, Piccadilly, Victoria and Exchange – all of them dark, filthy and rundown – hell’s Cathedrals. ¬†This was the norm, this was all I knew – smog, steam and rain – the assumption was that this was the way everything ended, Oxford Road included, the station where most of our journeys on clackety closed compartment trains from Altrincham would finish.

Down Station Approach to the left was the Corner House Cinema specialising in ‘adult entertainment’ and to the right, along Oxford Road, was the Family Planning shop, nothing more than a hut beneath the railway bridge. I had no use for either of these services but like forbidden fruit,¬†they intrigued.

The main attractions were the musical instrument shops that lined the south side of Oxford Street, full of guitars and drum kits well beyond our means.  At the junction with Portland Street was a sheet music shop, another frequent haunt Рwe were as likely to buy the sheet music as the vinyl.

St Peter’s Square is dominated by Manchester¬†Central Library,¬†no longer the blackened cake tin¬†of my youth, it roughly marks the point where¬†Oxford Street becomes Peter Street. ¬†Less than 200 yards further on is the Free Trade Hall¬†where, on May 17th 1966, Dylan had his confrontation with Judas¬†–¬†“I don’t believe you”¬† ¬†…….. ¬†“You’re a liar.”¬†

This goes some way to explain an obsession that has not left me.  My head is full of disturbing verse, none of it attributable to Wordsworth:

Inside the museums, infinity goes up on trial
Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while
But Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues
You can tell by the way she smiles

So when I create an image such as this, inevitably it is Visions of Johanna that conquer my mind:

And these visions of Johanna ...


“Bob Dylan – Visions of Johanna” ¬†Director: John Hillcoat

One thing …

… leads to another. ¬†This is my (much ūüėČ ) older sister. ¬†She¬†spent¬†many years at icy altitudes, first with long-gone British Eagle, then BOAC and ultimately British Airways. ¬†My Dad, a twenty-a-day man and keen photographer, spent hours in the darkroom processing snaps of Pat in far-away places. ¬†This in turn inspired him to book a series of package holidays in Spain and Italy, holidays I detested – there was simply nothing for a sullen teenager to do.


My sister’s flying exploits meant something different to me. ¬†Firstly she brought back an endless supply of cigarettes for my Dad – such plenty meant¬†he was relaxed about¬†Benson & Hedges’ unreliable packing system. ¬†Sometimes there were only 19, even 18 in a twenty pack (the ‘how to’ instructions for invisible extraction of¬†cigarettes from cellophane wrapped packets is contained in this book ūüôā ).

Secondly, it provided access to cheap LPs from the States. Unfortunately, much like my Dad’s cigarette cartons, some of these albums did not contain the full shilling. ¬†The most significant example of short-changing was Revolver – the US release did not include Doctor Robert, nor one of their very best¬†– And Your Bird Can Sing. ¬†Every element of their genius is contained in this one track¬†– two minutes of sheer delight that I¬†was denied.

Those early foreign escapades cured me of any desire for package holidays in later life while easy access to cigarettes started a habit I only managed to kick in my late thirties.

This post was inspired by an electronic conversation with RestlessJo. Like I said, one thing leads to another.

Highway 61 Revisited

Highway 61 Revisited¬†was released on 30th August 1965. It is now more than fifty years old and yet, it still sounds as fresh as when I first heard it, hidden away in my bedroom¬†– turn that awful music down Robin – this minute! ¬†Except it wasn’t awful and I didn’t – so the rebellion began.

Michael Gray, author of the first critical study of Dylan’s work, Song & Dance Man: The Art of Bob Dylan,¬†argues¬†that the sixties started with this album. ¬†By contrast, Joe Boyd suggests the sixties began in the summer of 1956, ended in October of 1973 and peaked just before dawn on 1st July 1967 (from his memoir, White Bicycles).

I was born too late.  My sixties began on 25th April 1969 and ended on 6th October 1973. Regardless of beginnings and endings, it is certain that this album and these songs were an essential part of the mix. I remain eternally grateful for its sound and influence, so this post is a brief tribute:

Highway 61 Revisited ...

Rule of three …

There is no direct connection between the image, the music and the poetry other than¬†I became aware of¬†them over¬†the last forty eight hours. ¬†The picture is from a walk to the aptly named Crow Wood near Newbrough on the southern Tyne. ¬†The music was brought to my attention by my eldest son, Patrick – @smallhours2 – it pays to take notice of junior. The poetry is an extract from Norman MacCaig’s Close-ups of Summer – I am slowly working through his entire works. Poetry should not be rushed:

Hens sloven. But the cock
struts by – one can almost see
the tiny set of bagpipes
he’s sure he’s playing

The sun’s the same – pipemajoring
across space, where the invisible judges
sit, wrapped in their knowledge,
taking terrible notes

Above the south Tyne ...

This is all a reward for keeping the mind open to new things.
(click on the image to enlarge)

Max Headroom

Weekly Photo Challenge: Room РI have used a similar image to this once before but regardless of the repetition, when I get an idea in my head, I find it hard to dislodge.  These heads hang in the East Court, a magnificent exhibition space within the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum in Glasgow. There is maximum head room as East Court is open to the ceiling, the atrium space being surrounded by the Picture Promenade, the gallery where this image was taken.

Max Headroom

These heads and this space reminded me of something, and suddenly it came to me – Max Headroom – the World’s first computer-generated TV host.
(click on the image to enlarge)


It all started so well. ¬†The photo-book I ordered for my big sister’s birthday arrived just as we were setting off on a 600 mile¬†round trip to her party. ¬†We arrived in good time for the big event at Waddesdon Manor¬†and the slideshow ran faultlessly until the screensaver kicked-in due to lack of any¬†keyboard depressions – the Rothschilds obviously don’t do PowerPoint. ¬†It was strange because I was mostly surrounded by people I had either never met or had not seen in over thirty years – “should I know you”¬† is not a good opening gambit.

Then about ten minutes before ‘carriages’ (up t’north, we call it the¬†last bus home) it got stranger still – I took a very unpleasant turn for the worse – not through over-indulgence I hasten to add. ¬†This was the start of something that continued for the next seven hours – I was then semi-comatose for the next twenty-four. My stomach muscles still ache.

Big sister had a great time though which was entirely the point of the exercise. ¬†I take no credit for any of the photos in the slideshow only the many hours¬†spent re-editing in Photoshop CC, OnOne and PowerPoint – a labour of love. The edits were not always strictly necessary, it is just one of my compulsive habits. ¬†I trust Ray Davies, Guy Garvey et al will forgive me for ‘borrowing’ their music – the second track demands a decent sound system to get the full effect of Elbow’s magical production – something else the Rothschilds don’t do.

This is my favourite image from the slideshow – my sister is about three or four years old which makes it 1947-1948. A friend of the family is on the left, my mum¬†is in the centre and my dad to the right is acting-up in front of the camera – it’s not just me, it’s in my genes. I’m Not There – not even thought about at this stage I imagine.

Manchester - 1947 or 48

Act III, Scene 13
Alexandria. CLEOPATRA’s palace.

Come, Let’s have one other gaudy night: call to me
All my sad captains; fill our bowls once more;
Let’s mock the midnight bell.

It is my birth-day: I had thought to have held it poor: but, since my lord
Is Antony again, I will be Cleopatra.

Ness Walk

Travel theme: Romance РHere is a romantic notion РNessie deserted the Loch years ago, disgruntled by the media attention.  Making her way north she finally washed up on the Ness Islands just to the south of Inverness town centre:


More romantic perhaps is that we were there for Valentine’s day. I have travelled the A9 on many occasions by car and have always liked the idea of the train journey which follows the road to Inverness for much of its path. On a couple of occasions I drove north in deep winter, en route to Dounreay, but the worst I had to contend with was black ice. We chose the right day to travel by train – last week there were blizzards near Dalwhinnie and the road was blocked in both directions by jack-knifed lorries. Some drivers were in for a long cold night. The train continued serenely on its way and on time. The next day we would see¬†McGoldrick, McCusker & Doyle at Eden Court but not before we had done the walk to Ness Islands:

The River NessBench sculpture

The weather was foul throughout the three days, even the seagulls preferred dry land; this one seems to have expressed an opinion about it all. The the local fishermen are made of sterner stuff:

Sterner stuff

(click on the images to enlarge)

The wet walk was invigorating, the train ride wonderful but the undoubted highlight was McGoldrick, McCusker & Doyle.  First class musicians in a first class setting with guest appearances by Julie Fowlis and Eamon Doorley. Music to make grown men cry:

Here Comes the Sun

I have been out of circulation for a few days. We have been on a rail trip to Inverness where we saw every conceivable type of weather except sunshine. It wasn’t until this afternoon that the sun finally emerged over righteous Hexham – it has been a long time coming. Fortunately, I was persuaded to abandon the keyboard for an hour and these are the results which, once again, owe more to Velvia simulation than nature. I like the effect so I have resisted de-saturating:

The Sun at LastTh Sun at Last

Despite the sun, in our absence, it would seem that Hexham has had a spot of weather too.  Some of the roads are more like rivers:

River Road

(click on the images to enlarge).

PS – I am having problems seeing the images on some blogs. Apologies if I seem to be ignoring some postings but I can’t see them either in the reader or directly in the blog.

The Outer Limits

I have been sat too long at the keyboard again this week so I became determined to take some ‘exercise’. This is not exercise in the conventional sense as it involves playing around in the garage, my second home. To be precise I am cleaning underneath the arches, the bits of the beloved that nobody sees; this is an annual ritual. ¬†Emerging from the garage into the light, I chanced to look up and see this cloud formation above the trees. It reminds me of The Outer Limits – to be precise Series 1, Episode 4, The Man with the Power. A man’s anger is transformed into a menacing cloud which ultimately wreaks vengeance upon the subject of his resentment. This line of cloud looks like it might become something else – like I say, I have been at the keyboard too long in recent weeks. (best to click on the image to enlarge as the tree looks very fuzzy in its compressed state).

Above the trees

It is that dead time of the year in the northern hemisphere. This morning the temperatures have risen but the rain and heavy clouds have returned. One way of alleviating the winter blues is to plan adventures for the rest of the year – I am Googling around planning three at the moment. And then, a tweet from Craig Potter announces a new Elbow video. Album #6 cannot be far behind – suddenly, there is a spring in my step: