Monday, 31 October 2011

Halloween - coffins at BCB

Julian Stair’s two burial sarcophagi for children make a suitably ghoulish photo for Halloween today. They are a feature of the current British Ceramic Biennial exhibition at the former Spode factory in Stoke.

Made completely of black ceramic, his range of 'cinerary jars', as he calls them, are not just for artistic effect. Julian seems to think they are an alternative to wooden coffins.  (Out of picture is a huge, black, upright, man-sized urn, in which he is proposing one would place a corpse...).

Links:  Julian Stair / British Ceramics Biennial

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Looney Lynne

Birthdays (especially the big ones, the ones that end in zeros) can be a difficult time for the one who’s at the centre of the attention.  You have to be able to take a joke, and the joke might be made very public and very embarassing…

I didn’t know who Lynne was before I read the community notice-board in Cheadle.
But now I do.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Stoke - by any other name

This Stoke village is actually in… Devon.  But, heck, I just thought it was an interesting example of the fact that place-names, even those of major cities like Stoke-on-Trent, are very often not unique.

The etymology of the name Stoke is “a place where a fire is stirred up”.  So – it could be just about anywhere really…

Friday, 28 October 2011

Ceramics without zing

The British Ceramic Biennial (2011) is going on in Stoke at the moment. It’s supposed to be a huge six week jamboree of all that’s best on the ceramics and pottery scene, but it all feels disturbingly low-key to me. The number of venues doing very much has reduced considerably since the last one in 2009. Maybe it’s the recession.

The old Spode Pottery factory in Stoke town centre is more or less abandoned now after Spode got into trouble and had to be taken over.  However, as you can see, its large, empty spaces have provided the ideal site for the exhibitions being mounted during the BCB.

It’s all free of course, so one shouldn’t complain I suppose, but I did feel the site – and the way things were displayed – did lack a certain zing.

Link: British Ceramic Biennial

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Gargoyles' holiday

People are gearing up for the Halloween weekend. Even I have lots of invitations to ghoul-style parties and ghost walks.
Apparently Halloween, after being virtually a non-starter as a festival twenty years ago (on British shores) is now the third biggest holiday-excuse here - after Christmas and Easter.

Gargoyles, like these on St Edwards Church in Leek, will get the shivery recognition they crave over the next few days...

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Clock of 1902

You don't often see clocks on the exterior of buildings now, so this clock is quite a collector's piece.

It was placed on a smart row of town houses, the London Road Villas, which, as you can see, were proudly constructed in 1902.  London Road is the main road out of Newcastle-under-Lyme going east.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Legendary Lonnie - Stoke legend

'Legendary Lonnie' is one of the great characters of the Potteries. One of the earliest rock ‘n rollers, starting a band in 1959, he’s been playing rock guitar ever since.
Despite his advancing age, he recently re-issued one of his CDs for the American market!

He had a record shop in Stoke town for a long while in the seventies and eighties. This dilapidated sign – a cartoon image of the great man himself - was all that remained of the shop when he left it, but even this is gone now. I managed to snap a photo of it before it was ripped down.

Link: Legendary Lonnie Band 

Monday, 24 October 2011

Extraordinary Les Oakes

Les Oakes was the extraordinary man who owned this extraordinary house, Hales View Farm (near Oakamoor). I say was, because, sadly, he was killed in a road accident a few years ago.

This eccentric (but very shrewd) operator picked up anything and everything from demolition sites – from old statuary to chimney pots to ancient doors – and sold them on from this former farmhouse. He had a terrific eye, and wasn’t afraid to be wide-ranging in his selections.
He wasn't afraid either to keep the stuff that he personally liked for himself: as you can see, he had a liking for lions and teelphone boxes! The farmhouse itself became his huge personal jigsaw too...

Some of his wonderful and strange personal collection is kept on the site now as a private museum by his family.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Rugby World Cup Final

Yes, to watch the Rugby World Cup final, I had to find a pub - at nine in the morning. Sure enough, there was one open; with a bunch of New Zealanders there (and two Frenchmen) to see how their country's teams fared.

It was an extremely close and tense match; and people watching seemed to be holding their breath in anxiety...
The release of emotion at the end for the New Zealanders (whose team won by one point) was quite incredible!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Swastika at Brewood

Swastika design at Brewood Church

The swastika symbol is now so associated with Nazism that there is a feeling of distaste whenever one sees it.
So, it’s quite a shock to see it in the design of the floor-tiles in a church - as here, in the parish church in Brewood.

Of course, what we sometimes forget is that the swastika is an ancient, very widespread symbol, which is used quite innocently all over the world - and in fact was innocently used all over Europe too, right up to the 1930s. (The English writer Rudyard Kipling even had it as his personal symbol, until it became inappropriate).
It has lots of meanings, though sometimes it was just decorative, like here at Brewood.

The tiles you see were probably installed in Brewood in the early 1900s.

There is also a strange myth that the Nazi version of the swastika, which is generally left-facing, like this one at Brewood, was deliberately faced in the reverse way to the ancient swastika. In fact the ancient swastika could face either left or right.

Links: Brewood Parish Church / Meaning of the Swastika

Friday, 21 October 2011

Pig Heaven

Pig heaven is what a, er, pig might call this place I suppose.
In fact, as I was walking toward, I thought – from a mile away – that it was a sort of holiday camp. In the distance, there seemed to be small Nissen huts scattered over a large amount of fields, and I wondered if they may be there for campers.

Close-up, I could see that the huts are for pigs. Packington Pork farms – at Hopwas - pride themselves on making the environment free range, and, from what I could see, that’s the way it was.
You can see for yourself, by walking the path on the edge of Hopwas Hays Wood.

Of course, the creatures still end up on the dinner table – but that’s farming.

Link: Packington Pork

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Buddha temple

A Buddha temple in deepest Staffordshire? Yes indeed. As you walk a public path near Croxden, you can just see the back of it through the undergrowth. It may be in a field, or very large private park.

I wonder who put it there? Someone who wanted a memory of a time in South Asia? A devotee who meditates there now and again?  A lover of mystery?

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Canal missionaries

The Days Of Elijah narrowboat can be seen touring the canals in this part of the world over the summer months. Its purpose is to bring the Gospel to boaters, and – well anyone else I guess…

It seems odd to think that Christian missionaries are sailing along the canals of the region some thirteen hundred years after St Chad converted Staffordshire, but there you go.

I guess it’s heading for its winter quarters now.

Link: Days Of Elijah ministry

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Offensive (?) poster

This is another photo from my archives, this time from 2009. 

The poster on this bus-shelter originally showed a naked woman, sunbathing, lying on her front, wearing only ... boots. It was for a shoe company.
I passed this spot a lot, and the poster must have been up for a year or so, I’d think.

It had always puzzled me as to why the advertising company put it there. The site is in Shelton, a well-known multi-ethnic area, and I was pretty sure it would offend Muslims who passed it on the way to the mosque.

Eventually, as you can see, the naked body was carefully (but anonymously) blacked out with paint. By the careful way in which it was done, I’d think it was an organised protest.

A fortnight later, it was replaced with another poster altogether.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Smallest church

St Saviour’s is (was) a tiny church, hidden down a back-lane in the district of Rookery, in Kidsgrove. It’s one of those ‘tin churches’ that were hastily thrown up to care for the needs of expanding working-class populations in the late nineteenth century.

I’m willing to bet it’s the smallest in Staffordshire. The rows are only four chairs long! I guess it would hold forty people.

However, it had its last service last month, so its history is finished.
A preservation group may be set up to save it, but – unless it’s seen as part of working-class history – I can’t see why. It was only ever meant to be temporary, like all 'tin churches'.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Smashing conkers

The annual conker tournament, fifteen years old this year, took place again at The Red Lion pub in Boundary (near Dilhorne) today.
If you think it looks a little low-key, then you don’t know that the winner’s name is inscribed on the shield that hangs in the pub. Yes, the winner gets a guaranteed posterity!

Oddly, the winning conker also hangs there...

See: The Red Lion

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Spider vs moth

Spiders seem to be thriving in the continuing mild weather. 
The sunshine means that even bees are still about - but the spiders seem to be mopping up the remaining moth population - if this web is much to go by.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Beware the horns

Highland cattle have a charmingly uncoiffured look about them. But the long curved horns are not so reassuring...
These two were grazing right in the middle of a public footpath near Abbots Bromley.
They may have looked friendly, but I decided discretion was the better part of valour: and I circled round them, keeping very near to the fence.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Wedgwood ... is back

In early 2009, Waterford-Wedgwood went into administration with debts of £4million. The iconic Staffordshire pottery brand, founded in 1759 by Josiah Wedgwood, was in danger of disappearing.
It was touch & go, before American firm KPS bought it two months later.  

Yet, it is amazing to report that WWRD (Waterford Crystal, Wedgwood & Royal Doulton) - the name of the company these days - is one of the companies now chosen to produce official souvenir merchandise for the Olympics. Quite a revival.

From beyond the grave, Josiah (standing guard here at the Barlaston factory site) must be relieved.

However....  the future of the Wedgwood Museum (which is also on the factory site, and which Josiah is facing) has been placed in doubt because of the 2009 problems. Its exhibits may be sold off to pay the debts. Naturally, people aren't happy about that. See: Save Wedgwood Museum

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Car as ghost

This car may be a Morris Minor. Not sure. I took the photo in Fenton, the most 'unimproved' of Stoke-on-Trent's six towns. Strolling through Fenton is like walking through the city's industrial past, as nothing much seems to have changed since the 1950s.
The car surely must date from that era, which is why seeing it there was a bit ghostly.

Incidentally, the composition of this photograph appeals to me greatly.
A quick bit of instant word-association made me come up with the word 'revelation' as a title, but I don't really know why.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Ancient field monument

The medieval Challinor Buttercross is one of those things that would normally be only found in a museum. Yet, here it is, just standing by itself, in an isolated field - though near to Cheddleton Railway Station.

I’m so glad that it hasn’t been carted off to a dusty municipal gallery. Yes, it is at risk of bad-weather and vandalism, but it’s wonderful that it’s just been left alone too.

A buttercross marked the spot where country people in years gone by would meet - to buy, sell and barter their goods. They often were the prelude to an established market-place.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Miniature railway

The North Staffs Model Engineering Club takes what it does extremely seriously. On the Brampton park at Newcastle, these men look after the miniature railway, which the kids love of course.

They can have a smile too though. This engine driver said to me “Do you want a ride on here? You’re not too old. Yet…”

Sunday, 9 October 2011

World's ugliest stile!

Good grief. Is this the world’s ugliest stile?  Trouble is that it’s not the only one of this type in this area (Biddulph) – there must be half-a-dozen more of them.
Bloody horrible.

The weather is back to normal: grey skies again.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Jetty? Pier? Mooring?

I can't quite think what the purpose of this platform is, let alone what it is best described as (jetty? pier? mooring?).

It sits on the Staffs & Worcester canal at Acton Trussell, but is not near any house... Hmm.

I guess it could be a restful platform from which to watch the boats go by, but why didn't they just site the benches on the grass? Or is it a fishing-point?  It doesn't look strong enough for a mooring.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Gi-normous fungus

This fungus is quite huge – as big as a man’s head. I haven’t seen one as big as this for a while.

But what really impresses me is that it is growing on a tree in a residential road where every child in the district has resisted the temptation to reach up and pick it off!

Thursday, 6 October 2011

The leaning stones

There’s a huge problem in graveyards across this part of England: ancient standing gravestones are slowly collapsing and falling, and some people have been injured by them.

It’s a safety issue: and some authorities are insisting that all older standing stones be pulled up by the buried person’s descendants, and laid flat. I think that's a shame.

I’m not sure if these descendants in Upper Tean have cleverly forced this support under such a collapsing stone, or whether it’s got there, er, by accident. I think it’s probably deliberate.

The words on the stone say it holds Charlotte & John Travis. It's dated late nineteenth century.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Old post box - new use...

I just love this. Whoever bought the old post office building in Totmonslow to convert it into a private home decided not to break off all connections with the building’s former use.

The old post-box is cleverly re-used as a private letter-box. After all, that arrangement is bound to work well too!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Cyclist sun tan

It’s the warmest ever start to October, they say.  Naturally, we are all soaking up what the sun has to offer, even though it didn’t seem right to be getting a tan this late in the year.

And some of us just kept on cycling like it would be summer forever anyway.

Link: BBC Weather predicts hot October

Monday, 3 October 2011

Venerable old hall

I guess Keele Hall is a welcoming sight for the fresh-faced new students at Keele University as they turn up for their first week. I suppose it might remind them that a university education has been prized as something precious for many centuries.

However, actually, the university itself is a modern one, founded in 1951, so the rest of the university's buildings are the usual concrete stuff. This old mansion is simply the centre of the former landed estate, which was taken over by the education authorities in the 1940s. The hall is used for some teaching rooms though.

Still, it’s nice for those students to have something old and venerable around, something that is different to the concrete and glass on the rest of the campus.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Chestnuts & Conkers

As we’ve noticed already this month, there is more than enough fruit on trees this year. This chestnut tree is simply loaded.
And of course, all the kids (well, boys mostly) are scurrying about collecting the zillions of horse-chestnuts (aka conkers) that have fallen, preparing them for playground contests to come.

The annual Conker Fighting Festival at the Red Lion pub in Boundary (near Cheadle) falls on October 16th this year. It's a event when fierce rivalries surface...

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Sandals & socks

Sandals and socks are a fashion mis-statement, I’m told, but this chap doesn’t seem to care. Why should he? He just wants to read his paper in the unexpected late September heat.