Saturday, 30 June 2012

Women explain Islam

The Islam Exhibition

The Islam Exhibition is in Shelton this weekend. Intended as an introduction to the faith for both locals and non-Muslims, it profiled Islam through a series of exhibits and displays.

The most worthwhile element of it all was, I thought, the local Muslims, who acted as guides to the exhibition and who answered questions about the religion surprisingly candidly. I was very impressed.

Among the ‘guides’ were many local women – both converts and those raised in the faith. The prominent presence of these women - who responded in a relaxed way to visitors’ concerns about a perceived second-class role of women in Islam, among other questions – was another surprise for those of us who dropped in.
Zaynah and Aaliyah were even happy to have their photo taken.

Link: Islam Exhibition

Friday, 29 June 2012

Daughters die of fever

If three children from one family died suddenly of fever today, it would be all over the national papers. But, 150 years ago, all it merited was the most basic of tomb inscriptions and a single grave.

Poor Henry and Caroline - three daughters taken at one stroke, and quickly buried, here at Holy Trinity Churchyard in Oakamoor.

We don't know how fortunate we are, do we?

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Sun-rain-sun growth

The torrential rain in England of the last few days has caused flooding in some parts; and means that this June will be remembered as the second wettest on record in this country.

Staffordshire has escaped the worst of the flooding... but the up-side of this sun-rain-sun-rain-sun-rain crazy weather is that some growers are reporting wonderful blooms, and fat vegetables.

Allotments - like this one at Cobridge - should have very good crops.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

No respect for Bear

The Bear in Stafford looks out over the main street through the town and has done for many years, so (you'd have thought) he deserves some respect.
However, the pigeons just don't seem to care...

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Rat immortalised

Modern art doesn't often depict rats, but this fine metal sculpture in Cheadle is a tribute to an underrated local resident living here in the Cecilly Brook.

Of course, it's really a water rat (aka a vole), so not a rat in the true sense. Still, it's close.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Killed by a tennis ball

Anyone who thinks tennis is a soft sport should consider the case of the poor youngster John Stanley, who was killed by a tennis ball.
As you can see in this photo of his tomb, he is depicted holding the offending ball in his left hand, and, with his right, cupping his head, where the fatal missile struck.
The idea would be funny if it weren’t so sad.

Of course, the year of poor John’s death was 1460, and the balls then were made of wood (true), and medicine isn’t what it is now… but still.
I thought it best to mention this fact on the day that the Wimbledon tournament gets under way.

The Stanley memorial is in St Peter's Church at Elford, which you should visit if you get the chance. It’s a large and amazing church with many more monuments.

Link: St Peter's Church / This post has been featured on Taphophile Tragics the cemtery-enthusiasts' website

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Back England - by betting

This betting shop seems to say that the best way to be patriotic during these European nations football tournament is by having enough faith in the English team to place a bet on them.

Am I alone in finding that a rather distasteful exploitation of our desire to see England do well? Or... maybe it's just me.

Anyway - good luck to England tonight.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

He made the desert smile

The Alton Towers Gardens were mentioned in a previous post on here, but I hadn't realised that the gardens had been articificially created in what was a 'dry valley'. Thousands of trees were shipped in and a local spring diverted.

The monument in the photo was set up to remember the man who undertook this huge work - Charles, the 15th Earl of Shrewsbury, who died in 1827.

The monument's subscription reads: "He Made The Desert Smile".

Friday, 22 June 2012

I-sola-ted solar panels

These are solar panels (I think) … and they are isolated on an island … in the middle of a park lake.
If they are solar panels, I can’t quite compute what they are doing there - unless the electricity generated from them is driving some pumps in the water (?).
If anybody who knows Longton Park (in Stoke on Trent) can tell me the answer, I’d be grateful.

Mind you, we’ve had so many cloudy days recently – with so much rain to go with them – that I doubt much has been processed from these particular panels anyway.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Taskers play STT

The Taskers are a garage-rock band from Stafford. Sophie here plays drums, while Jack (out of picture) plays guitar. They’ve been compared (rather lazily) to the White Stripes – because both bands are a brother-sister combination.

I was astounded to see that The Taskers, who have a very edgy sound, have entered Stoke’s Top Talent, a local version of the famous BGT competition. I’m not sure how well they will fit alongside the jugglers and crooners.
Still, should be an interesting occasion when they do appear…

Links: Taskers  /  Taskers enter STT

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Pigeons defy Bethesda 'hawk'

This hawk is a pretty poor deterrent to these pigeons, who seem quite content to share a perch with it.
The hawk (which is made in stone of course) was placed on the historic Bethesda Chapel in Hanley to frighten away the pesky pigeons - who nearly ruined the chapel during the time it lay derelict. (It's been much restored and saved, over the last few years).

I think the chapel's supporters may need to use another system.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Gooey sculpture

The long, caramel-golden strings in this art-installation are, in fact, stretched-out, gooey, semi-molten sugar. The 'strings' drip occasionally, due to the heat of the lights. As you can imagine, the smell in the gallery-space is wonderful: like a fudge factory…

The piece is being displayed at the Staffordshire University Fine Art Degree Show, where there is the usual mix of the weird and the frankly baffling.

The story behind this piece is interesting though. Hannah Golding, the artist, is intolerant to many foods; and sugar is one food that is safe for her to eat. (Well, as safe as sugar ever is).

The Degree Show ends on Saturday.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Hollybush welcomes the sun

The sun's back!!
It seems a bit odd to celebrate a sight of the sun in MID-JUNE (less than a week away from MidSummer Day) - but it has been a solidly grey few weeks until today.

The best place to celebrate the sun is at a country pub, preferably by water, having lunch. The Hollybush (at Denford) suited the bill.

Link: Hollybush Pub

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Nurture and non-nurture

I walked past this crop of poppies the other day. The splendour and size of them were just one piece of evidence to all the rain we’ve had recently.

So I looked for them again today – but, now, virtually all the petals were gone, blasted away by the heavy winds of two days ago.

Nature giveth – and it taketh away, eh?

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Longnor's ancient man

William Billinge was 112 years old when he died – or so this gravestone in Longnor churchyard claims.

Tourists, once they’ve tired of the tea-room, wander over to the church just to see this grave, as it's quite fun, and very, very informative. The long citation on it mentions that William fought at the siege of Gibraltar in 1704, as well as the Battle of Ramilles.

So it wasn’t as if he hadn’t lived dangerously.

This post was featured on the Taphophile Tragics website.
Taphophiles are people who take an interest in looking around cemeteries and graveyards. If that describes you too, it's a site worth looking at!

Friday, 15 June 2012

Hollie Vee, rockabilly gal!

Rockabilly music seems to keep coming back, even after you think it's gone forever. The eighties 'psychobilly' reincarnation was just one of the rockabilly revivals that I loved (still love).

Anyway, Hollie Vee & The Hubkaps are a north Staffordshire group that have gone back to the roots with a simple line-up and a fantastic-fifties woody-guitar sound from Hollie herself. They stray a little sometimes down odd avenues (such as Amy Winehouse covers...  don't get that really) but, altogether, it's a very cool exeperience indeed.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Mannequin mystery

The sign language of mannequins is a mystery to me, but this figure seems to be pointing at something - her over-red lips perhaps?  Her companion seems unimpressed.

Or maybe it all means something else altogether.
Or nothing...

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

The Place - forgotten

The Place Discotheque in Hanley was one of the great nightclubs of the past. Opening in the 1960s, it had a run of many years as a smoky blues club – with the likes of a young Rod Stewart appearing there – then as one of the first ‘discos’ in the UK.
It was so famed there were a couple of books written about it.

And now? The building is still there, and has had lives (under other names) as a cheesy bar and then a lap-dancing and swingers club - but the name and history itself is largely forgotten...
…except for this miserable little street-sign, which marks the undistinguished alleyway that runs down the side of the building. Perhaps the local authority put it up as a piece of heritage-remembrance.

But, how the mighty are fallen, eh?

Link:  The Place – memories

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Art gets cheaper

Being an artist is not easy these days. I wandered into this local (north Staffordshire) art-show where the works were very competent, and the artists (some of whom I spoke to) were of long-standing.
Yet the most expensive painting was around £70.
I was shocked - how can any artist make an income from that?

Even just a few years ago, the average price-tag on a painting at a local show would have been around £200-£250.

The artists said that the problem was partly the locale - it's easier to sell in other, more well-heeled parts of the country - but also the economic climate.
But, on the reverse side of the business, if you want to own original art, now's a good time to look for a bargain.

The works in this photo are by an artist called Roy P Rushton.

Monday, 11 June 2012

700 years of old smithy for sale

The chance to buy a 700-year old house is still fairly rare, even in in Brewood, which is about as Merrie Old England as you can get nowadays.
Yet, look here - the town's Old Smithy - parts of which go back to 1350 - is up for sale.
Ghosts are an extra.

Link: Old Smithy - Listed Building

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Buttercup field

Does this householder like butter?   I guess they must, as ... according to the old children's game, if you put a buttercup under your chin and it reflects yellow there, then you are a butter-fan.
And there's enough reflected yellow here in this field to colour a whole person...

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Roundabout shock horror furore

This is Leek roundabout. That’s all I have to say. In  fact, this photo could even enter the ‘most boring photo of the year’ competition, and probably win.

Yet this tiny roundabout has caused more upset and dissension than any other subject over the last eighteen months in the north Staffordshire town of Leek.
Apparently the local authorities want to demolish it and replace it with traffic lights, and build a new pedestrianised feature here in front of the memorial (the tall white building in the photo).

Outside of Leek, there would likely be no objection, as the roundabout is a fairly ugly structure (as I’m sure you’ll agree).
But the local population has gone wild in its opposition to the scheme - and it’s claimed that the petition to save it was signed by half the adults living there!

The council says the works have to be done to cope (they say) with an expected rise in traffic - so the council is also showing a proper sense of leadership and vision.
Yet... I have some sympathy – after all, what is democracy if the local representatives can just ignore such an outburst of anger? 
Who’s right?  What’s right?

Anyway, the demolition is supposed to start this Monday.

Link: Save Leek Roundabout (Facebook group)  /   ‘Save Our Roundabout’

Friday, 8 June 2012

Alton Towers gets green

The National Garden Scheme (NGS) is a great idea.
Lots of gardens - from ones at stately homes right through to your local suburban homes - are made open to the general public for one afternoon a year.
Nosy people (like myself) pay a couple of quid to wander round them – and the money all goes to charity.

This year Alton Towers took part in the scheme – for the first time in eighty or so years. About two hundred of us took the opportunity to check out the historic gardens, which were created some 150 years ago, not to mention all its eccentric features.

Some of us walked round them; and some of us just took tea on the terrace above the gardens' mini-valley and enjoyed the view.

Link:  NGS in Staffordshire

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Sacred stones... in Hanley

Giant standing stones  ...  Yes, I’m still puzzled – even after my previous post on the same subject - about why everyone seems to find them so fascinating.

Anyway, here are some more.

I was in Hanley, taking the woodland walk across the Etruria Festival Park ridge, when I entered this glade. And what do I find? More standing stones - all carefully arranged.

(Yes, yes, I know that ancient peoples found 'dolmens' sacred ... but why do we in the 21st century?)

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Cherry Lightning seek ... passion

Cherry Lightning are a teenage indie band from Leek, and they’ve appeared at a few venues, and really have a lot of potential.
Like a lot of young bands now, they have instruments which really are top range, and the three lads are all very skilled players. (I guess that’s the reward of 21st century middle-class affluence - all that money and all that training.)  So they are worth checking out - and have some great ideas.

But I just wished … oh, what? … that they had some passion
In place of passion, Cherry L just seemed to have a lot of rather annoying self-deprecating jokes in between their songs.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Sir Thomas Guy's leopards

Sir Thomas Guy's coat of arms stare down at you in the entry way to the group of buildings in Tanmworth known as Guy's Almshouses.
Nothing odd there, as Sir Thomas piad for and endowed the site for the poor of the town in 1678.

What is odd is that when the caretaker kindly showed it to me, I recognised the design straightaway - as being the same on the shield that surmounts the gates into the famous Guy's Hospital in London.
(Who could forget these crowned leopards with their very very handsome sets of whiskers?!!)

I don't know why, but I hadn't made the connection before. That is: the Sir Thomas Guy who is such a big name in the history of Tamworth is the same Guy who founded one of London's old hospitals.

Link: Guy's coat of arms at Guy's Hospital

Monday, 4 June 2012

Shorts rule for Jubilee

At last the sun shone for this four-day Queen's Jubilee holiday. I guess it was nice too that, after two days of rain, it shone for the 'people's day' when most street-parties are taking place.

Here in Stoke Town, the London Road Festival (organised by SWOCA) was a really community affair, with people from the surrounding terraced houses converging on the patch of grass in their midst for some ice-creams, music and kids' games.

I was a bit doubtful about the idea of wearing shorts - but this guy proved us all wrong, as it stayed fine all afternoon. He had faith!

Link: Stoke West & Oakhill Community Association (SWOCA)

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Union Jack gets it wrong

Which of these two flags is upside-down?  You might not think it matters but, during these Jubilee celebrations, people have been getting very strict on the matter. This householder is definitely confused.

The fact is: the one on the left is the wrong way up - as, in the diagonal up to the top left of the flag, a broad white stripe should be uppermost, not the red stripe.
I'm told that to get it wrong is (possibly) a criminal act.

And (for international readers, you can start to think we’re all crazy now), the flag is not – officially - called the ‘Union Jack’, but the ‘Union Flag’.

I’m glad we got that sorted…

Link: How to know which way up

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Diamond jubilee - literally

The Diamond Jubilee of the Queen’s reign kicked off in Uttoxeter with the unveiling of, er, a giant plastic diamond.
The town was taking the theme a bit literally, but at least they had found an original twist I suppose.

The structure is a scientifically correct 3D model of the diamond molecule.

Link: Diamond in Uttoxeter (BBC)

Friday, 1 June 2012

Tranquil Dovedale

Dovedale in the Staffordshire Peak District is (they say) one of the most beautiful spots in middle England. The River Dove is not very big here, more of a stream bubbling over stones, but all the more attractive for that.

However, I wouldn’t recommend you go there right now – except just after dawn maybe, as the rest of the day it’s thronged with tourists, mostly students from the rest of Europe.
So – for some tranquillity – get up with the dawn chorus to see the vale at its best.

The seventeenth century write Charles Cotton penned this poem:
“Oh, my beloved nymph, fair Dove, / Princess of rivers, how I love / Upon thy flowery banks to lie, / And view thy silvery stream, / When gilded by a summer`s beam.”  
It sounds corny to our ears now (and probably then, if truth be told, as he wasn’t a great poet) – but it tells us something of the feeling.

This post is part of the City Daily Photo's Theme Day on 'Tranquillity'. 
Click here to view thumbnails for all participants