Monday 24 July 2023

This is the Modernist world

I do love clubs. Always have. And societies; places, forums, where, for want of a better expression, you can find your tribe. What I also love is the fact that you can find your tribe, tribe
s even, at any point in your life; but I'll be quite honest with you - even I never thought I'd be joining another society. In 2023. Not with my advancing cynicism.

But hey, every day's a school day - to use another hackneyed phrase. So, long story short, I've thrown my lot in with the Modernists: formerly known as The Manchester Modernist Society (they've now dropped the Manchester) they're a not for profit creative project dedicated to celebrating and engaging with twentieth century architect and design through publishing, events, exhibitions and creative collaborations. Icing on the cake time - their patrons include Jonathan Meades and Johnny Marr*. Pretty cool, huh?

Their quarterly magazine is in itself a thing of rare beauty and their subtle pin (pictured above) is just the sexiest thing I've seen in a long time. Next time you see it on my jacket I'll allow you to drool over it.

*Johnny Marr - Musician, Mancunian and modernist. (His bio from their website.)

Wednesday 19 July 2023

Night Flight

Remember 80s Britfunk - Hi Tension, Freeez et al? Gilles Peterson (Acid Jazz founder) certainly does. Together with partner in crime Jean-Paul 'Bluey' Maunick, they recently created a throwback project - STR4TA - which reinterprets this much loved genre; keeping things tight and soulful at the back (in true 1983 style) whilst at the same time giving the grooves plenty of 2023 bandwidth to play around with. 

And with a summer ahead of us threatening some batshit crazy temperatures, I can't think of a better soundtrack to accompany it, wherever I might find myself - Medd Towers or Club Tropicana. If you've not heard them before, why not dip your toe in the water... 

STR4TA - Night Flight (2022)

Monday 17 July 2023

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition

The Spaniard, Belfast - ''A rocking little rum bar in the Cathedral Quarter.'' So says the blurb. It goes on to say - ''Attracting a collaboration of interesting folk, do not be surprised if you end up meeting a cousin/friend/relative twice removed, or even chatting to a stranger who becomes a new friend for life.'' Uncanny. I think we got the hat trick.Olé!

John, James, Raymond - well on their way to being twice removed

(Too many beers were consumed and too many stories exchanged to even begin writing up what happened a couple of weekends ago. However, it was both fast and furious - and very funny. Anyway, what happens in Belfast stays in Belfast.)

Friday 14 July 2023

There Go the Pips

You know that feeling when you see a book and realise immediately you've got to have it? Of course you do. Well, I've just blagged myself a copy of Ben Dakin's There Go the Pips...A Photographic Love Letter to Britain's Phone Boxes. It was published last year and if like me you're interested in social history and/or psychogeography (of course you are) then I honestly can't recommend this fabulous slice of modern Britain highly enough.

Here's an excerpt from Ben's foreword: ''I started taking photos of phone boxes almost by accident. I filled my Instagram feed with random photos of everyday minutia - shop signs, abandoned trolleys, discarded foodstuffs etc. - the backdrop to our everyday lives. Because they were in the right place, phone boxes started to make an appearance. Another factor in their favour is the inherent incongruity of their locations, like a bus stop in the middle of nowhere, their very presence is so at odds with their location and surroundings, they take on a volume which other urban street furniture cannot match. When I passed a location that I had posted previously and noticed the phone box had been removed in such a clinical manner as to leave no scar, I was intrigued. The more I looked for phone boxes the fewer I could find. So I decided to document some of those still standing...''


Anyway, this book has quite nicely dropped August's photo challenge into my lap. Phone boxes. Ones that are still working, preferably. Yes, I know a lot of the red ones (the K6) have been turned into mini libraries, vape shops, cash machines & libraries; some even house defibrillators. But if you see a box where you can still make a call, or at least not one that's not been reappropriated, I'd love to see it. 

And if you can get them to me by the 1st I'd be eternally grateful. Pip pip.


Postscript 31.7.23 

I recently contacted Ben on Twitter and he kindly agreed to answer a couple of quick questions. (Though, thinking about it, I should really have phoned him from one of his boxes.)

* Did you not pay a visit to Hull - home of Kingston Communications and all the legendary white K6s?

* My interest was in the KX range that replaced most of the K9s and K6s, as it was these that BT are removing wholesale. They are unloved, unlike the K6s, which have whole websites and societies devoted to them! Sadly Hull, because of it's interesting telecoms history doesn't have the same KX box issue! 

* I know exactly why you’ve put Longitude/Latitude of the box locations, but why not also the town/area?

* The spread of boxes isn't from as wide a geographical area as I would have liked it to have been. I took photos of boxes where I saw them - I didn't travel the country to get them, so if I'd have put town/area it may have got a little repetitive and exposed areas I didn't go! Sadly I work for a living and so do not have the luxury of travel just to take photos!

* Wots yer next book?! 

* Well, I have just funded a book of closed down pubs (and a few shops) on Kickstarter, and that is on sale on my Etsy page. I have also completed the photos for another volume of phone boxes called, 'Can you call me back...' - and am just waiting on being able to afford to get it printed!


PPS 1.8.23

You can now see the phone boxes that came back from August's Photo Challenge throw out.

Wednesday 12 July 2023

Our figurehead

Monday night, still on a high from my recent Belfast jolly-up, and it's off to Wolverhampton; not the most glamorous of cities, I grant you, but legends know no borders when it comes to treading the boards and letting the world know they're still kicking a ball. Steve Jones, for it is he, has spent the last few weeks with his mates Billy Idol, Tony James and Paul Cook schlepping round Europe under the Generation Sex moniker - half Gen X, half Sex Pistols - and, as you'd imagine, playing a veritable live punk jukebox in front of sell-out crowds. And tonight they're at the recently refurbished Civic Hall.

Whilst Jones has always been happy to let vocalists like Idol and John Lydon hog the microphone, the sheer firepower he provides (courtesy of his iconic Les Paul Custom) is nothing short of  staggering. Totally self taught he has never been hamstrung by the 'rules' of music, and as the clip below attests, his prowess then, and now, ensures that the Pistols will always be seated at the head of punk's top table - no ifs, no buts. And yes, he still plays Pretty Vacant as if his life depends on it, including the two majestic power chords right at the very end. Once a legend, always a legend.  

Steve Jones - How to play all the Pistols' riffs.

Monday 10 July 2023

Sunny disposition

Summery and sun-drenched. Two words that describe perfectly my recent getaway to Belfast; James and I had had this boys trip/spiritual homecoming in our diaries for the longest time. And so last Thursday we pointed the car in the direction of the Irish Sea. Give a me a wee while and I'm sure I'll get around to dropping a couple of photos and sharing some of my memories from our mini odyssey.  And not just the Guinness fuelled ones. Grand.

In the meantime, where was I? Oh, yes - summery and sun-drenched. Two words that have been used in many a review of this exceptionally talented Australian born musician: Joel Sarakula grew up in Sydney, plied his trade in London for over ten years and now resides In Las Palmas. As he said when I saw him live last week: ''My islands are diminishing.'' Unlike his uncanny talent of writing perfect pop songs. Even when the sun goes down, seemingly.

Joel Sarakula - Sun Goes Down (2022)

Saturday 1 July 2023

Let's go round again

Going round and round

It's that time of the month again. Remember last time when I said - ''Circles, rings, discs, orbs, plates, platters. Yep, July’s photo challenge is round things. If it can be measured anywhere between 359 & 361 degrees it’ll fit the bill. Get snapping and I'll post them on the 1st.''? Well, you did. And I have. Thank you.

I seem to have a brace of trees this time. Rol, I'll let you go first. ''No extensive research was needed this month - I found this straight away and reckoned I wasn't going to find a better circle. It's a hollowed out tree stump at Beeston Castle in Cheshire. The photo is only 13 years old, so a relative youngster.''

Next up is Helen. Helen Barrett is a superb journalist who recently posted this on Twitter - ''Staying on a Dutch barge, built in 1898, with its original interior fittings still intact. May never leave.'' She kindly donated this shot to July's photo challenge.

C at Sun Dried Sparrows never disappoints and has given me a rather wonderful pair. I'll let her explain. (I must just add that her email was titled Roundly Speaking). ''The first is a mill stone, once used by a local factory (now closed) dating back to the 1830s. It was used for milling herbs & spices to make fragrances, seasonings etc. I like the way the refracted sunlight forms and arc in the photo too, an unexpected circular(ish) bonus.''

C goes on to say -''The second is actually a speaker of all things, hanging from the roof of the garden centre. I think the bloke at the till thought I was a bit mad when I checked if it was OK to take a pic; I'd only gone in for some bird seed! C x''

C subsequently sent a couple more across which (like Riggsby's overspill below) I'm planning on putting in an end of year collection comprising all the 'outtakes' you wonderful people send me.

Stevie at Charity Chic, who I had the pleasure of meeting again last week, sent me this beautiful picture whilst waiting for his train - ''Roof of Edinburgh Waverley Station - my circles entry!'' Perfect, CC.

My good friend TS has really raised the bar this month. ''Hi John, here's one taken at Snape Maltings a couple of summers ago, looking out across the Alde estuary reedbeds through Barbara Hepworth's Family of Man sculpture.''

Our Californian correspondent Riggsby has, once again, sent me a shedload of photos to wade thru. I hope he doesn't mind but I've edited them down to what I think are the month's highlights!

This was the first to land: ''First circle for July, noticed in a second hand shop on Sunday.'' Beautiful, Richard. I'm sure it's not just me who has a penchant for old typewriters; in fact, what other kind are there?

Similarly, old jukeboxes. Riggsby doesn't say where this one was spotted - tho' he did notice the price - ''For interest, tagged at $8,000.'' A snip, I'd say.

''Overlapping circles on 9th. St. in Del Mar.''

I love cheeky entries. ''A drinking water machine at the local gas station.''

Riggsby bows out with ''Curled up kitty.'' I'm sure he'll tell us his/her identity in the comments below.

I said I'd got a couple of trees - here's #2 from Alyson. ''One from Lockdown. Hope it passes muster.'' Certainly does, Alyson. And it appears to come with a smaller semi circle behind it too.

Adam's gone all glam this month -''The glitterball at the Golden Lion, Todmorden, mid-afternoon last Saturday. Waiting for A Love From Outer Space with Sean Johnston to send it spinning outta this world.'' Sounds like I need to get myself to the Golden Lion.

A trio from me to bring proceedings to a timely conclusion. I've taken liberties with this first one, I know, and buggered about with the format. All I can say is, it's nearly a circle. (Spotted in Derby btw.)

Finally a couple from earlier in the week when I went up to York to meet with other like minded blogging coves. We call it BlogCon23. Next year we'll call it BlogCon24. We can write and count; who knew? The first is from the platform edge at Grantham Station. And the one beneath it is a brass Jorvik stud set into the footpath adjacent to a set of stone steps that take you up onto the city walls.

Once again, thank you to everyone who took part this month. I love you all! Seriously, I do. Next month's theme will be posted in the comments below in a week or so.

As Jimmy Young used to say, BFN.