Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Gertie Gitana - in Stoke

Talking of Gertie Gitana (see posting a few days ago), I realised that - apart from the spot in the photo above - I couldn't think of anywhere in Staffordshire that our local superstar of the past is remembered.

This poster is found in Gitana Street in Hanley near the Stage Door pub, though, curiously, it is unlabelled (with only the name of the Theakston beer company over it) so, if you weren't aware, you'd never know that it was Gertie. It's fading too.
The council renamed the street as Gitana Street because her family once lived in it.

There used also to be a pub in Hartshill called 'Gitana's' but I think it is now an Indian restaurant.

Link: Life of Gertie Gitana

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Rag & bone man returns

The rag & bone man was a common sight years and years ago... cruising up and down residential streets in a battered old pick-up, collecting scrap metal, junk etc - and doing it all with a rasping street-cry which would alert householders that he was around.
Well - I heard that cry again the other day (though, I couldn't really distinguish what the actual words were - can anyone???) . And there was the type of pick-up, and its back full of junk...

What has caused the return of the rag & bone man?

Monday, 27 June 2011

Bottle ovens... still

I hear that there are only thirty or so bottle ovens still standing in Stoke-on-Trent, and - since the one at the Gladstone Museum stopped doing any firing - none working for a living.
Still, it's good to see that the last remaining icons of the area's pottery industry are mostly listed, like these two on the fringe of Longton town centre. They haven't been used here that creatively; but, elsewhere in the city, they've been incorporated into offices or made into a feature.

Another hot one today.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Jay at Lichfield Jazz & Blues fest

The three-day jazz festival at Lichfield takes place every year at the town's rugby club. This year the Jay Phelps Quintet was one of the headliners on the Saturday night - you can see Jay himself in the grey jacket in this photo getting ready for the band's spot. I have to say that the quintet do the lot, from standards to experimental (the experimental stuff was dizzyingly good).

I hadn't realised that there was a real ale fest in the club at the same time, otherwise I would have been tempted to take advantage of the camping, which was on the adjacent practice pitches...

Link: Lichfield Jazz & Blues festival

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Fulford Fete

The weather was too unpredictable for Fulford Village Fete to be held outdoors - so it was held in the village hall.
But everything - the tombola, cake stall, raffle, everything - came to a halt as the children from the primary school did their songs.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Tamworth Castle flies flag

Tamworth Castle flies the fleur-de-lys flag (as here), as well as a number of other flags, including the Cross of St Alban's - the flag of the Saxon king Offa, who ruled this part of the world - and the checked flag of the Marmion family, which held Tamworth and surroundings after the Conquest.
Not sure what the fleur-de-lys represents here in its Tamworth instance. I will find out.

The sun emerged rather unsteadily today. Is the run of rainy days over?

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Refugee Week celebration

It's Refugee Week, and in Shelton (in the city of Stoke-on-Trent), The Shelton Women’s Drop In Group were celebrating it with a tea-and-scones morning. Some forty or so people - some of them refugees or asylum-seekers themselves, some of them supporters - turned up for the event in the meeting-room at St John's. A clown was on hand to entertain.

Funding cuts mean that the support-group for refugees at St John's is now run on a string and a prayer, by volunteers - but they seem strong.

Links: Refugee Week

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Jesus and cake

Just laughed my socks off at this poster I saw in Hanley. It shows the famous Leonardo da Vinci painting of The Last Supper (the one that Jesus held with his disciples), but with a big fruit cake superimposed on it, in front of Jesus; and the words 'People - Jesus - Cake' underneath.

It's irreverent I suppose but, after all, Christians will have created it themselves, as it's for the Christian young people's meeting room in central Hanley - so that's okay I presume...
I think 'Church Without Walls' youth workers work from there with clubbers late into Saturday nights too (that's why it is called a 'chill out lounge' I think)..

The poster strikes the right tone all round I think, making both Christians and non-Christians laugh. Quite an achievement!

Monday, 20 June 2011

The Dovedale Twelve

Can you see the 'twelve apostles' in this photo? The guides I had with me assured me that, at this part of the River Dove (in the Staffordshire Peak District), the rocks that rise steeply from the water are known as the 'Twelve Apostles' - aka the dozen saints (except Judas of course) who followed Jesus around as he preached during his lifetime.
Er, perhaps.
I stared for quite a time, but couldn't make out 12 distinctly individual rocks, let alone a formation.
Was I at the right place even?

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Surreal hay bales...

Whether in tubes of black plastic wrapping randomly sited across recently-mown meadows, or piled in symmetric pyramids at the farm, hay bales in the countryside always have a slightly surreal - even sinister - air for me. Don't know why.
And when they glow in the setting sun, as in this photo taken near Newborough (nr Abbots Bromley), they have it even more.

Maybe it's just me.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

St Modwen of Burton

This sculpture of Saint Modwen sits on Andressey Island, the large patch of land in the River Trent at Burton. If you look at it from this angle, you can see her face - out of what is actually just some lines of wire; though I don't know if the sculptor realised the pylon in the background also becomes integral in the view from this side!
St Modwen was the 7th century saint who set up a healing shrine on the 'island'.

I must admit I do admire Burton's efforts with the island. The town has decided to leave it largely untouched, apart from the fact that some half-dozen sculptures are dotted about on it, some in unepected places.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Saved by graphic design

...if the Fine Art show was poor, the Graphic Design section (see photo) of the Staffordshire University Degree Show saved the blushes of the creative community at the Stoke campus. There really are some bright young students in that department, and the ideas fizzed about there in a way sadly lacking in the Fine Art show.

But what of the work of the other students - the ones in Photography, Ceramic Design, Textile Surface Design etc? All a bit desultory i thought. Each of those departments has so much of an eye on the commercial viability of what it does that the work sank without trace for me. (Though you'd think Graphic Design would have similar worries about 'viability'... but it didn't quash their ideas).

I didn't get to see the Film students' work as they decided they would go home early. Some things don't change...

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Staffordshire University Degree Show

The Staffordshire University Fine Art Degree Show is something I'll attend each year. It's the show in which final-year students (mostly from the Stoke campus) show works they've created during their three years. It's a chance for the students to show off something really out-there.

This year was the usual mix of the nutty, the disposable, the mildly inventive and the strangely traditional. The piece in the photo, by Debbie Mills, consisted of a cardboard box, an old rug, and two offcuts of carpet: so, what you see is what you get.

But I was disappointed this year - as I have been for the last three years. The nutty stuff is uninspired, almost mundane, while even the inventive stuff is forgettable. Maybe fine-art just isn't exciting any more; certainly didn't feel like it.

I honestly can't recommend any of it; though I did have a soft spot for Sarah Mellor's interpretation of blues singer Bessie Smith, and Sara Austin's new take on pornography, where all the naked girls' heads were substituted with those of animals.
Both give a new insight to their subject - but is that enough? Sadly, no. I want more!

It's on until the 18th June.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Rootsy in Alton

Nature is amazing, huh? Nothing new in that statement, but I was reminded of it during this walk near Alton Towers.

I felt I had to take a photo of this huge tree (100 feet high) which appears to be supporting itself even though the ground beneath half of it has fallen away. It is balancing itself by inserting huge and strong roots in... what looks to be sheer rock.

PS - sorry to have been away a while. My internet-access went down, which seems to happen more and more.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Grindon Church horrors

Most gargoyles are nothing out of the ordinary - horrifying devils driving away bad spirits from the church.
But these two - on Grindon Church in the Moorlands - are that little bit different, and (I would guess) were created in the 19th century, so are not that old comparatively. They show some real character, especially the geezer on the right...

Monday, 6 June 2011

Beacon Park wedding

Lichfield's Beacon Park is often used for wedding photos because of the lovely backdrops, but (IMHO) the most interesting photo opportunities at a wedding are of the friends and relatives scrambling for a snap. There's a liveliness and excitement to their activity that the poor weary bride and her bridesmaids sometimes lack...

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Throwley Old Hall slumbers

Throwley Old Hall is now just a ruin, but is easily accessible, lying just off the narrow road to Grindon in the Staffordshire Peak District. The ground is all overgrown, and, despite being listed, it still lies amid a lot of its own collapsed rubble.
It's in a beautiful spot, but very few people seem to know about it - which maybe is a good thing.

I love it because of its elegant Tudor shape and a couple of old stonework mouldings which weren't spoilt when it was refurbished in the 19th Century. Now, it just lies in the sun, slumbering.
Because it is next to a farm, it has not been vandalised. For which we should be thankful.

Link: Throwley Old Hall

Friday, 3 June 2011

Punning chip shop

Codsall's fish & chip shop is like a lot of chip shops: it can't resist a pun. As it says in its slogan, it "puts the cod in Codsall". Ho ho. At least it creates a smile in Codsall, which, despite being the 'capital' of the South Staffordshire council area, has a pretty dull town centre.

Somewhere in Stoke (is it Bucknall?) there is also The Codfather (!), there is 'Codswallop' in Forsbrook and almost too many others to mention.
Hairdressers also have the same tendency to pun.

(But no other types of shop, which I don't quite understand... Why just these two types?)

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Sad love sign

"I Love You FAY. RIP 07-12-2000" - so reads the writing on this sad little sign, which stands on its own in woodland by Milford Reservoir.

Is Fay the writer; or the beloved who has died? It's not clear. And did the beloved die near this spot? Who knows?
Someone took the time to pen it on to this marker; so I guess we should respect it.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Rabbit survives

You think older rabbits look after young bunnies? Think again.

I had managed to creep within three feet of these feeding rabbits, in the hope of a close-up photo, when the old one sensed my presence. It was clear he was an old bruiser, and he may have been a little blind.
But instead of bolting, he only limped steadily to cover a few feet away - thus NOT alerting the youngsters around him, who, in their inexperience, continued blithely to feed just feet away from me.
I guess his tactic was: sacrifice the kids, and live another day! And maybe that's how he's lived so long...