Ballad of a Thin Man …

… You walk into the room
With your pencil in your hand
You see somebody naked
And you say, “Who is that man?”
You try so hard
But you don’t understand
Just what you will say
When you get home

Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

Top House 2 – North Shields

Pete Beat.

Lauren Stones

Jackie and Helen

Arrid Foo on percussion

Jaktrax & Arrid Foo



Top House 2.

Live streaming

The night wears on.


I have been ploughing my way through David Nasaw’s biography of Andrew Carnegie.  I have been panning for gold.  Carnegie was an avid golfer and somewhere in this 878pp tome there are unique, if short references, to the man’s passion for the game.  Golf in the Wild research can be a slow and laborious process.

I mention this only because I have been itching to move on.  Intrigued by the reference to Nancy Ridley in the previous post, ‘buried by the Lych gate’, at St Cuthbert’s Beltingham, I was curious enough to buy her long-out-of-print Portrait of Northumberland, first published in 1965.  I am a short way into its pages but her descriptions of Roman Wall Country are instantly recognisable, a litany of names and places I know intimately by foot, by car and on motorcycle.  It is our home.

After too many years ping-ponging between northwest England and the south, chasing IT’s filthy lucre, it is odd that I should find myself tied to this place, at the very edge of England’s last wilderness. Now, nearly twenty-five years in the same place, it would be unthinkable to be anywhere else other than here.

‘Here’ is a landscape that would be entirely recognisable to Nancy but her introduction to Portrait of Northumberland is from another time entirely – “The Tyne still maintains its reputation as the greatest ship repairing river in the world” – “Every Northumbrian town has a live-stock mart for the sale not only of home bred but also Irish cattle” – “This is one of the most popular holiday districts in Northumberland where the same people go year after year.  There are many good boarding houses in Allendale Town”.  Sadly, the ‘same people’ are now most likely to be found on foreign beaches.

Nancy’s introduction also includes many references to the Great North Road which in her time would have run through the heart of towns and cities on its way to the Scottish Borders and beyond. The same would have been true of the old Newcastle to Carlisle A roads on their journey through the Tyne Valley.  We walk round with computing power in our pockets, unimaginable in 1965 but, the most visible aspect of change are the roads and vehicles on them – this from

In contrast, these recent images from around Beaufront Woodhead present a landscape unchanged since Nancy’s time and long before:

Lone trees on the lane to Acomb

Broken gate

Unbroken gate

Bridge on the lane to Acomb

This morning, while snow still lay all around we drove to the Allen Gorge car park and again walked to Beltingham, this time in search of Nancy’s grave. It should be easy to find but even after a relatively short time, the headstone is almost indecipherable:

Nancy’s grave – almost indecipherable

Time, she says,
“There’s no turning back,
keep your eyes on the tracks”
Through the fields, somehow there’s blue
Oh, time will tell, she’ll see us through

Finally a technical point re the images – generally I will shoot in Acros (+Yellow filter) so I can see the tones of a mono image on the camera LCD. Then, I will normally process the RAW image, sometimes colour, sometimes mono – for once these are all straight Acros jpegs from the ‘can’ – tweaked with the Camera RAW filter in PhotoShop CC. Interestingly, it is surprising how much shadow detail can be recovered even from a jpeg. Use of the original Acros image also preserves the film grain that Fuji have worked so hard to emulate.

Dunston Staiths

Dunston Staiths, on the River Tyne, is believed to be the largest timber structure in Europe. It is a Scheduled Monument, Grade II listed and is owned by registered charity Tyne and Wear Building Preservation Trust (TWBPT).

Opened in 1893 by the North East Railway Company, it was built to allow large quantities of coal arriving by rail from the Durham Coalfields to be loaded directly onto waiting colliers (coal ships) ready for the onward journey to customers in London and abroad. At the coal industry’s peak around 5.5 million tons of coal was moved this way each year –

This short film, Coal Staiths of the Tyne, shows the site in operation in the early 1970s,  The set of wonderful stills were taken by Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Let there be Light – the sequel

According to Wiki:  The Gateshead Millennium Bridge is a pedestrian and cyclist tilt bridge spanning the River Tyne between Gateshead’s Quays arts quarter on the south bank, and the Quayside of Newcastle upon Tyne on the north bank. The award-winning structure was conceived and designed by architects Wilkinson Eyre and structural engineers Gifford. The bridge is sometimes referred to as the ‘Blinking Eye Bridge’ or the ‘Winking Eye Bridge’ due to its shape and its tilting method. In terms of height, the Gateshead Millennium Bridge is slightly shorter than the neighbouring Tyne Bridge, and stands as the sixteenth tallest structure in the city.

This Let there be Light sequence was taken, handheld, with a Samsung SII smartphone, so less than ideal for the task. Watch and wait for the colours to change; in real life they do this on a much slower cycle – you get bored and very cold in November, standing, waiting and waiting for the next colour shift:

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Hidden Streets

In my continuing quest to grow old disgracefully, I am now on a mission to acquire a bike licence.  On a recent Saturday morning I joined the leathers brigade and went looking in the toy shops down Westgate Road in Newcastle.  The great attraction is that it is a much cheaper road to hell compared with any four wheeled equivalent and my better half gets to choose a new wardrobe; she is oddly excited at the prospect of black leather.  However, the Ducati Monster with Girl on a Motorcycle attached is some way off for a novice who has yet to book his CBT.

In the middle of the bike shops are two excellent greasy spoons and in the allies behind there is something quite unexpected.  I am sure Geordies know all about this but as a new boy to the area (coming up for twenty years), this was quite a surprise.  Walk through Greenfield Place, under the arch which cuts through the terrace and suddenly you are in a city centre oasis.  A three storeyed Georgian terrace overlooks mature gardens from ornate iron balconies.  A few doors up from the arch a blue plaque declares that Robert Stephenson 1803-1859, Engineer, lived here from his marriage in 1829 until he removed to London in 1883.  During this time he designed and constructed the “Rocket” and later the “Planet”, the prototype for more than a century of steam locomotive development.

A little further down the hill is Swinburne Place leading to Summerhill Terrace, another oasis with a small public park.  This plaque I found more moving; Mo fought adversity to achieve something quite different but no less remarkable than the feats of Stephenson.  “It takes courage to push things forward”.  And not just that.

In my experience, success with people is so much more difficult to achieve than success with machines.  I always preferred the softer option; I know what it means to work hard on machines.  Its a labour of love so please don’t ask me why (with apologies to the Thompson Twins).

Hexham GC – Journal Photographs

High above the Tyne Valley this morning, the sun was shining bright and clear.  Totally out of character, I leapt out of bed, grabbed the camera and 5M pole and headed down to Hexham Golf Club to take some photos for the next Newcastle Journal article on Northumberland’s signature holes.  When you drive down from Beaufront Woodhead into Hexham you are quite frequently presented with a ribbon of mist stretching down the Tyne Valley (sometimes it is just steam form Egger) and this morning was no exception.  I eventually got the photos I needed but it was a full hour before the mist burnt off by which time the sun was rising into cloud.  I won’t pre-publish the Journal photos but the attached is what welcomed me on the 18th tee.  So much for early rising.

This one is slightly more inspiring and won’t be used by the Journal, mainly because it is not the right hole for the article.  There is still some mist in the air: