Monday 21 August 2023

Tees artist

We all have a favourite bridge. What's yours? I've actually got two; I know, that's just greedy. Number One has to be this beauty from my hometown. (Though it wasn't actually built at the time I emerged kicking and screaming into the Hull of the 1960s.) However, the Tees Transporter Bridge, just an hour or so up the coast from the River Humber and opened in 1911, most certainly was. And unlike the Humber Bridge, I've actually painted the Tees Transporter more times than I've photographed it. So, coming back from a weekend in Newcastle I couldn't resist calling into Ironopolis* and shooting it again - the first time in nearly 20 years. It probably won't surprise you that sometimes I get quite emotional when photographing iconic buildings and structures. I can't help it.  Anyway, I was OK; thank you Middlesboro' - I won't leave it so long next time.

* By the end of the 19th century Middlesborough was producing a third of the UK's Pig Iron output. It was during this time it earned the 'Ironopolis' moniker.

Monday 14 August 2023

Zombie Hunter

I blame Ben Dakin; I can't stop photographing phone boxes. I posted this one (above ) on Twitter the other day and levelled my accusation at him: "It's all your fault," I said. Fair play, he came back ten minutes later: "Sorry! It's a curse - I am hundreds in and my spider senses still tingle when I pass one." (And yes, there was an accompanying photo of a 'fresh find'.)

So, that's it then, am I cursed to wander this land, camera in hand, trawling the highways and byways, the avenues and alleyways, the back streets and the mean streets, in search of moribund metal & glass boxes? Essentially, I've turned into a zombie hunter. I'm going up to Newcastle this weekend. Bet you can't guess what I'll be doing...

Saturday 12 August 2023

What's the best dog you've ever had?

I lost touch with Blancmage (the band) sometime in the 80s (I lost touch with blancmange, the party food, a good ten years earlier). And then recently (this year) I found them again. What's the Time from their Unfurnished Rooms album is on constant rotation here at Medd Towers. Not sure blancmange will ever make a comeback though - my head was turned by Angel Delight (butterscotch flavour) in the late 70s and I've never looked back since.

Blancmange - What's the Time (2017)


Friday 11 August 2023

Everybody's Saying That

Smiling beguiling

When is a gig ticket not a gig ticket? That's right, when it lives on your phone; but not only that, turns out I need an App for these particular tix - Girl Ray playing & signing their new album at Rough Trade - and I can only 'activate' them two hours before the gig. Aaagh! It was probably more by luck than judgement that by the time I had to show them on the door the QR codes were good to go and we got waived in in an almost VIP lane manner. 

Said QR codes were then dutifully swapped for some rather sexy vinyl (yellow and pink  versions available) and it was straight into the tiny bar for a quick pint of Roadie IPA before the girls came on at 7. And what a formidable band they are. Tight as a tiger and owning every inch of the tiny stage they'd set their gear up on, their infectious guitar lead, disco leaning, pop (this new album would put Nile Rodgers to shame) is the perfect summer soundtrack. Everybody's saying that.

Girl Ray - Everybody's Saying That (2023)

Although I'd seen Girl Ray before (supporting Metronomy at Rock City in 2019) I hadn't really picked up on the fact that they have an almost gang mentality and really enjoy playing live and are supremely confident in everthing they do. It comes over both on stage and afterwards when we met them and got our records signed. Leaving the venue I couldn't stop smiling. And thinking how cool it would have been to have had sisters like Poppy, Iris & Sophie when I was growing up.

Sunday 6 August 2023

Bugging me

The Bug Club

Not for the first time, I have a new ear worm and this one has really taken hold and is showing no signs of leaving anytime soon. It comes from the Bug Club who I discover, after bit of fishing* on Google, hail from Caldecott in Monmouthshire.  Now I'm going out on a limb here and saying they are probably the only band of any note to hail from this particular enclave of south-east Wales. Though, as ever, I stand to be corrected. Before I sign off I must mention that I have seen a lot of these short and round haircuts on young lads of a certain age. I was in an Indian restaurant in town on Friday night and six of them on one table were sporting identikit haircuts; with the ubiquitous beard, obvs. I wanted to take their photo but two of them, at least, judging by their demeanour, may not have acquiesced to my photoshoot opportunity. So I left it. Anyway, here's that song...

The Bug Club - Short and Round (2023)

* Where I also found out that they're playing a clutch of UK dates in October, one of which is at the Rescue Rooms in Nottingham.

Saturday 5 August 2023

Seek Council

One of my home city's most iconic buildings, and one that I've photographed countless times*, is the Council House. Located in Nottingham's Old Market Square** it was designed by Cecil Hewitt*** and constructed between 1927 & 1929 in the Neo-Baroque style. Other buildings built around the same period and in the same style include the Port of Liverpool Building, Belfast City Hall and, just across the pond, St. Barbara's Church in Brooklyn, New York; fabulous buildings all, however, I doubt they are protected by a 'Left Lion' and a 'Right Lion'.

* Tho' never from this aspect: taken from the top of a steep hill in nearby Sneinton, I captured this image between two residential dwellings.
** Or Slab Square, if you're a local.
*** He's got form.

Tuesday 1 August 2023

Putting you through now

Wow, it's the 1st of August already; where did July go? Those of you still playing along at home will know that last month I set Phone Boxes as August's photo challenge. Ben Dakin's brilliant book There Go the Pips was the inspiration to go out and photograph this endangered species of British street furniture. And, knowing I have a few dedicated followers dotted around, hither and thither, this sceptred isle, I was hoping for a good spread; I wasn't disappointed.

A timely image to kick proceedings off: Hull Images (a great Twitter feed documenting my home town) has come in with a Pride decorated box taken in the city last weekend. What a great way to start. A big thank you to Dave Wise.

I told you I had a readership scattered far and wide - Stevie at Charity Chic got in touch: ''Hi John, my phone box entry is from the wonderfully named Strathbungo district on Glasgow's Southside.'' Cheers, Stevie.

Rol at My Top Ten next. Unable to find anything in his archive, Rol told me he was forced to go out, phone in hand (oh, the irony), to visit one of the only few remaining boxes in the area. ''This one has been turned into a mini library. Not sure what the local charity shops make of this, but it's full of second hand books and DVDs.'' Thank you, Rol. A few round here have gone down the library route, in fact I've got one further down this piece.

Another cracking Twitter contributor next. Carl Thompson appears to spend much of his time documenting the cities of Salford and Manchester and his photo archive will, I'm sure, be invaluable to future generations of historians and psychogeographers alike. This image, however, was taken some 200 miles south: ''Gasping, dying, but somehow still alive. Phone box, Limehouse, London.'' I absolutely love this shot, Carl. Thank you.

The Number One Son has got in on the act this month. This came in a little earlier. (James & I were both listening to BBC's Test Match Special at the time - following the Oval Test): ''The two shitty old phone boxes I walk past every day covered in shitty 'street art' and rained on by the same shitty rain that cost England the Ashes.'' Thanks, James. File under grim.

Swiss Adam has been out and about in his hood: ''This one, an old K6, is in a front garden not far from us. The owner has a collection of signs and bits & bobs but the phone box is the centrepiece. And rightly so.'' Nice one, Adam

My friend Riggsby in America comes bearing bad news this month: Hi John, I've not found a single working box to contribute to this month's theme. I did snap an old fashioned (empty) British box but it's just an oddity outside an English pub on India Street in San Diego.'' As I told Richard, there appears to have been a worldwide cull on these once omnipresent communication icons. It's really quite dispiriting.

Another newbie: my friend David asks, ''Does this count? I think there's a phone in it.'' Of course it counts! Thanks, David.

A fellow blogger next. Khayem, from the excellent Dubhed site, writes: ''This one is in my home village on the high street next to a pub and a bus stop. Not the most inspired of shots, but quite sad with one of the 'telephone' signs smashed and lost.''

''Same phone, different angle, the hazy sunlight making it seem like the phone box has just landed a la Doctor Who's Tardis.'' K goes on to say, and I love this bit, ''Note the phone handset cord is twisted. I always found this when using phone boxes back in the day.'' Quite. Thank you, K. Good to see a working K8, even with a twisted cord! 

Martin at New Amusements, someone who was greatly missed at York's BlogCon 23, has not only a tasty photograph, but what Steve Wright would call, I'm sure, a factoid: ''The little red caps appearing on top of some phone boxes are a BT pilot to make Wi-Fi available for their customers when they're out and about; basically turning phone boxes into hotspots.'' Thank you, Martin. Every day's a school day and all that.

The Swede got in under the radar just as I was typing this: 'Sitting outside my local sorting office is this magnificent beast, which I'd assumed contained a defibrillator, but upon closer inspection is an actual working phone box - Marvellous!'' Marvellous, indeed! Thank you, TS. Always a pleasure doing business with you. 

Living in a large city I was able to find quite a few specimens, but I was mainly drawn to the scuzzier end of the spectrum and as you can see below this particular one (only a mile away from me) is, unsurprisingly, earmarked for a telephonic lethal injection.

It really is a pitiful sight...

Another quartet of dodgy phones, not always in dodgy areas, can I just say, but again, you wonder how long they've got left... 

Before I sign off I'll leave you with a couple of more upbeat images. A mini library that sits outside one of the University campuses in town (where I chanced upon a recent John Harvey). It also comes with a solar panel.

And finally, just around the corner from my auntie and uncle's place in Hull is one of the iconic Kingston Communications white K6 telephone boxes. Thank you to everyone who took the time to join in this month - see you next time...


Next Month's Challenge

Imposing edifices: tall buildings, masts, towers, obelisks - you name it, if it's imposing I really want to see it. Ping them over to me by the 1st - that would be fab.