Can this 'Indian summer' last? Seven days of unseasonal, continual sunshine. The best part of the day during this sort of weather is, I think, when the last rays of the sun, low in the sky, make one sigh to just relax and take it easy.
Some walk a dog, while some check their texts outside the pub as this young lady is doing - at The Vaults in Uttoxeter.
As I passed this patch of waste ground to the back of Tesco in Hanley, I did a double-take, thinking I could see some poor homeless man, who had been pushed back against the wall - and was perhaps being crushed by a fall of loose earth.
As I was about to race over and save him, I realised it was just a piece of graffiti.
I can't help thinking the artist was trying to create the exact illusion that I fell for...!
‘Tent’ is the event during the London Design Festival week that tends to showcase the more innovative or younger & exciting designers. Hundreds of ambitious youngsters take over empty spaces – warehouses and the like – to exhibit their work in the city.
I really enjoyed this particular showcase, ‘Emerge’ at Spitalfields, which featured the crop of young graphic designers, including Matt Lucas from Staffordshire University. His brilliant take on an astrological table was really inspired. Trouble was - I missed him by one day. (I should have read his table!)
You don't often see solar panels on private homes in Staffordshire. This householder in Tean clearly thinks they are the way forward though.
The literature suggests that they are an investment in the long-term, not just simply a way of keeping your bills low.
But, as the technology in gathering solar power improves, will they turn out to be that much of an investment? It's a dilemma.
I decided to visit the London Design Festival, which runs across the city for a week in late September every year. The big event, '100% Design', was at Earl’s Court, where dozens of Europe’s leading design firms had stands.
I was really happy to turn one corner and find Denise O’Sullivan, who makes her colourfully individual ceramic pieces in north Staffordshire. She said that the latest news was that her newest range, a skull & crossbones crockery set, had attracted the attention of a bikers’ club; and she had been booked in to present tea for them at a rally.
There’s something very spooky about angel-memorials in graveyards. They should be reassuring, but they have exactly the opposite effect on me, even one with a beautiful face, like this one in Aston churchyard. Her wings are really like pinions too; it's quite a piece.
The fact that her arms have broken off may contribute to her spookiness.
And I can fully understand why the makers of Doctor Who should have based one of their alien-creatures, the ‘Weeping Angels’, on these statues.
Looking spookily like the birds in the Hitchcock film of the same name, these birds collect on a roof, gathering themselves for the day they finally take the big decision to migrate off south for the winter.
It's a gloomy sight. It means winter is on the way...
I also saw the first Christmas cards on sale a few days ago - another sign of approaching winter!
One of the most successful churches in the Potteries is this one.
I had thought Spiritualism declined out of sight after its heyday in the late nineteenth century (famous names including Oliver Lodge and Arthur Conan Doyle were believers then) - but I am clearly wrong.
The church here has a sort-of open service on the afternoon of October 1st when some new mediums are being inducted.
The best weekly flea market in Staffordshire is the one at Leek (in my opinion), which is on Fridays. You can find some truly quirky stuff there, and the prices aren’t outrageous. It takes place in the old market-square by the market cross.
As for other flea-markets in Staffordshire: the Newcastle flea market (sorry Newcastle) seems a bit predictable to me. I haven’t yet been to the one at Penkridge.
The Jan Harris Quintet play easy-listening swing standards, and their style matched beautifully the small but perfectly-formed concert room at Middleton Hall. It showed me that jazz can work quite well outside the pubs and clubs where I usually see it...
Middleton Hall is an old manor on the Warwickshire-Staffordshire border that has been lovingly restored by a volunteer-group of conservationists; and they were holding an open day.
The painting behind Jan, of the woman in the blue dress, is of Cassandra Duchess of Chandos. She was born at the hall in 1670, and was an historian and a painter. The painting itself may be modern though I think.
The odd weather over the past couple of days - rainy, windy, sunny, cloudy (all in the space of ten minutes, and repeated every ten minutes!) - has brought a real English September. Green and lush, turning into russets and ochres.
Of course, I also got soaked through in a thorough shower yesterday when the afternoon almost turned black...
Good ol’ Heritage Open Day. Today is the day that many historic buildings that are usually closed to the public are opened up - and we can all see them. (Sadly, not as many buildings as one would hope are in fact opened up, but there you are…)
One of the most unusual structures people got to see this year was the two-hundred year-old limekiln (which is on private land) at Sandon. The Staffordshire Historic Buildings Trust is gradually restoring it, having got it listed.
Chris Wakeling (second from left) of the SHBT was an enthusiastic guide.
There’s not a lot of information about Beech Caves. The incursions into the rock, which created caves out of an original outcrop, must have been a way of quarrying for their sandstone, but any exact history seems vague.
They do seem to have been used for storing munitions during the war, but exactly who was storing the munitions is up for debate. They are abandoned now, and signs warn they are dangerous..
Anyway, even though they are a good walk from Tittensor, the nearest town, teenagers still like to hang out there and build little camp-fires and write graffiti and scare themselves, as teenagers do.
A local band, The Machine Is Off, even decided to make a video there. They called it ‘rave in a cave’…
The quarry environment at Freehay (named Croxden Quarry, oddly) draw a lot of people - walkers and bird-watchers mostly, who can walk around the diggings area, though they are not supposed to trespass into the working area, obviously.
And I think it's great that the quarrying company, Tarmac, has created a bonus for them by providing custom-made viewing platforms, like the one in this photo. Obviously, it makes the site safer: by stopping the curious wandering on to the working part of the site to see what's going on, but it still shows some public awareness by the company.
However, hmm, why anyone would want to sit and watch diggers at work is a mystery to me!
Though I guess the need to sit and watch is more comprehensible in the case of bird-watchers.
This is a sight to warm the heart of a Staffordshire person. In the cupboard of a kitchen belonging to a small firm I was visiting, I noticed that the two jars with apparent pride of place were both Branston foods.
The famous pickle was first dreamt of, made, and named after the village of Branston in east Staffordshire - though, in fact, nowadays its production is elsewhere.
Staffordshire is equally famous for Marmite - which is made at nearby Burton.
There are a number of pubs in Staffordshire where one might go specifically for the sunsets. They have to have a sloping beer garden (facing west of course), and a good long view to an even horizon.
The two pubs in Dilhorne, the White Lion (excellent view) and the Royal Oak (not bad) both fit this bill – I took this photo there.The best of all though for a sunset must be the Cheshire View pub, high up at Mow Cop, at the north end of the county. It has a view stretching seventy miles, from where you can see over three counties; people often go there just for the sunsets.
When you walk into the toilets at Granvilles Bar in Stone, it’s quite a shock, because this magnificent mirror is the first thing you see. You don’t often come across a work of art in pub conveniences.
It turns out it's by a ceramic sculptor who trained locally, Philip Hardaker. Looking at it, it seems to be on the theme of womanhood, which is odd, as it has been placed in the gentlemen’s toilets. (At least, I think that’s odd).
Philip Hardaker has an exhibition coming up soon in the town, at the Radford Gallery toward the end of September.
Cricket is a strange game. I don’t think I could play it - as it takes up the whole day (I mean local cricket, not the mad Test game which can last even longer - five days…!), but I can watch it for hours on end.
Most local cricket clubs maintain a bar while the game is on, so the spectator can just sit there and slowly drift the day away in a soft & blithe semi-alcoholic hypnotised haze - a brilliant way to spend an afternoon.
In Staffordshire, some of the clubs have some great grounds too, with panoramic views across the countryside.
This ground, belonging to Blythe CC, is one such. The one at Stanley (in the Moorlands) is also spectacular.
Not sure what’s happened here. The stalks on this bean field on the A38 in south Staffordshire seem to have withered, and the beans in the pods are black and desiccated. I know it's been a dry summer, but...