Saturday, November 25, 2006

Aesthetes 0 Philistines 3

I took the dog for a walk by the Great Broad at Whitlingham Country Park, Norwich, Norfolk and saw this sculpture which is always a source of amusement for me.

At the very same moment the sculptor was determining the exact spot that his (or her) work had to be sited to show it off to best advantage, an unknown official was signing a decree that lifebuoys had to be planted at predetermined distances -without variance- along the bank.

I find joy in the fact that no compromise could be found in this clash of titanic egos - one artistic, the other faceless and bureaucratic - with the result that the lifebuoy is partially hidden and thus made useless while the sculpture loses all the effect that should be given by it's solitary position on the waterside.

Further along the waters edge one comes to the Millennium Marker (Illustrated below) which is inscribed with the most awful tosh imaginable. When someone had the idea to put these up did they read what they said? Had they no pride?

Funded by the Royal Bank of Scotland (presumably in revenge for the Highland Clearances, Culloden and the failure of the Jacobite cause) it reads.

We have endured all of time to be here together today,
We are all children of the stars
We have navigated the heavens
We have travelled the earth

Oh please stop. It hurts. Mummy make the cruel man go away.
Whitlingham New Age Tosh

Envoi . A further explanation for the presence of the Life buoy has occurred to me; What happened was the sculpture was so outstanding that it would draw crowds from miles around. People would naturally stand back to admire it and then....................... splash!
The life buoy was installed, as an emergency measure, after a whole minibus worth of the New Catton branch of the Townswomen Guild stepped backwards into a watery grave.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Bombed culture

Where the serious daytime drinkers used to meet. Not only the smallest pub in Norwich but quite possibly the darkest as well.

When I first used to visit there it was as a school boy and amazingly it had two bar rooms in the space not one. As underage drinkers we would be sent to the back 'snug' bar and have to sit on the single narrow bench squeezed in between old women with warts on their faces who never spoke without first giving a high pitched single laugh (or was it a sneeze). HA!! How are you love? or HA!! What have you been doing? The landlady would never let us drink more than two pints of bitter or mild. I wish I could remember her name.

Latterly a succession of landlords and ladies managed to move the daytime drinkers out. First their was a failed attempt to turn it into a lesbian pub (whatever that is) and then they stopped serving draught Stella Artois. The final straw was when they made it non - smoking which as any fool knows sounds the death knell for city centre pubs. (Weatherspoons, the MacDonalds of the licensed victuallers trade, attempt to turn all their pubs non-smoking before the ban comes into place lasted just two weeks because the drinkers - smokers and non smokers alike stayed away in droves.)

It also for a long while after his death contained the last piece of writing that Tim Sillence ever committed: regulars jealously guarded the biroed scribble above the gents urinal St Ignatius Loyola Rules Ok. Not I feel one of his better poems.

In the 1960s Tim had run with his friend Giles Bristow Norwich's only alternative bookshop in Bridewell Alley called Bristows. It was here we got our copies of Oz, IT and Friendz. I remember him at this time giving a poetry recital/having a poetry duel with Jeff Nuttall (of Bomb Culture fame) at Studio 5. For the last years of his life Tim drank regularly in the Vine. It was in the Vine that he was last seen alive.

So its goodbye Tim (he died in 2002) and its goodbye The Vine (It died in 2006 but went into a coma some years before)

Postscript: I received a request for more information about Tim so here goes: He was to be honest a minor poet. The local library used to have his complete works which were about two small press volumes and some photocopied and stapled things as well as inclusion in some anthologies.

He was always going to be the next best thing and then suddenly one morning he became someone who missed his opportunities. Drink and drugs did for his "art".

Hugely influential in the Norwich Arts Scene though. He was well loved and the crematorium was too small to hold all the people who came to his funeral.

A search using Google would have found the following three liner which proves really like everything else connected with the Sixties and Seventies it was the singer not the song.
Norfolk is a flat land
within easy reach
of the Himalayas
and a reminiscence by someone called Shaggsy written before Tim's death.
".......I like old Tim but he is one strange boy and he introduced me to the seamier side of Norwich.

I met him in FREEWHEEL next to the Plough in St Benedicts in 1979. Or was that the Brown Derby? He kept refering to every one as his "brother." Being a bit naive I thought, "he must have a big family." He was using it as a Romany address.... As in George Borrow's book. Mmmm The Romany Rye.

"Thank you my brother."

Well we went home to his flat in St Clements Road and I got pissed for the first time on vodka and became quite unecessary. An....he shew me his photo album which appeared to consist of him dressed up in women's clothes standing on a stage somewhere. Probably UEA where he used to perform. Well...I stood up after further madness - Jesus - and was violently sick in the toilet. I lay there for some time too blocking all other traffic to the bog which caused some consternation.. God I was bad. I eventually made it back home with my girlfriend and...thats it really.

Tim boozed in the following main Norwich hostelries: The Shrub house, (Gone). the Plasterers, the Wildman, the Plough, the Derby, (Now the Potty) The Red Lion at the fart Skool.The Dial, (Gone). The Ten Bells Whites near the Royal Bank numerous others but those were his faves and he ended up in the Vine, happy.

I never went to the Shrub house (Exchange Street?) but have heard that it was pretty wild in there. The Dial (Dereham Road) was weird too and kind of dodgy..

All I can say after that lot Tim, is Vodka after Directors bitter doesn't mix at all..

Tim and his mate Giles had the Bristows underground bookshop in the Bridewell Alley but that too is before my time. mid late 70's probably. Giles was normal then but he just went noo nah, quite suddenly in the 1990's

I think what really screwed Tim up the most was Giles. Herein lies a tale.

Giles burnt all Tim's limited edition signed underground books. Irreplaceable, experimental poetry by 60's and 70's "heads." Sorry - alternative types.

His clothes,burnt, sold, worn by Giles. He attempted to fry eggs in White Spirit, burnt/destroyed all Tim's floorboards and woodwork, Poured pound coins down a drain outside the Nuts 'n' Bolts and tried to sell complete strangers old string vests, flip flops and total rubbish he found in the street for silly money. Just being a complete loony. This was consistent behaviour. Not just after a skinfull serious bad craziness. Some of this seems tame but I wouldn't want to be around it.

Tim was in despair with that one. And Giles was his landlord too.

They found Giles dead in the house. After Tim had got the **** out. He'd given up on Giles ever having a normal mind again. I think the inquest returned a verdict of self neglect. The usual high smell had been noted by neighbours. The man died of egg poisoning cos that was all he ate. And onions - his guts must have been in a terrible state. He smoked Gauloise rollups but not once, twice, three times yeah four times - till what he was smoking was more like I don't know what than tobacco. He'd been stiff about ten days.

Sad really, Yes once were Gods! Giles was a qualified lawyer and a nicer, kinder person you couldn't meet but...he burnt out and just went to the devil really. Pore bugger.

These - in the main- were the topics me and Tim jawed on. So don't mention his friend Giles when you see him. I think Tim will write again after he gets his own place once more and is away from the alkies and dopers. Here's hoping. He's a part of Norwich and when I get back the first thing I will do is hit the market for the peas and then go check him out. "

Shaggsy's account is fairly incoherent. It was Giles who tried to sell the the string vests, destroyed the flat etc not Tim. He also fails to mention the "woman in the case".

Tim's longer work The Norwich Speed Wars is not without merit and worth seeking out.

Did I mention that in one period of his life Tim took to wearing a crash helmet because he was tired of hurting his head when he fell over drunk?

Market Forces

'Lizzie' begging, originally uploaded by Colonel Blink.

The news follows my photography! What better epitaph for Milton Friedman the inspiration behind Thatchernomics than a photograph of a heroin addict with severe mental health problems, homeless because her lifestyle is so chaotic, rough sleeping because she is too violent for any hostel to take her, begging on the streets.

Every time I see her and think of the political decisions that have helped her to which ever doorway she is sitting in I am reminded of Nye Bevan's verdict on The Conservative Party; "Less than vermin".

"Hug a hoodie". Don't make me laugh. There are only two sides. Which one are you on?

Don't bother commenting I shall only delete it.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

It's different up North.

This is a photograph from the vault. It was taken in the year 2000 and shows Ken Keating and his ex-Police transit converted to a GrassWatch van in which he would drive around Salford. The van as well as having a lit sign on the back saying "GrassWatch" had painted on it various slogans such as "NO GRASSES NO JAIL" and "Is your neighbour informing on YOU"

Lest anyone think this is charming, eccentric stuff, a bit extreme but what you expect from Class War associates let me draw your attention to the leaflet he would stick through peoples doors (See inset above). Featuring a mans head ringed by a rifle target sight it starts off; "Informing can seriously damage your health. It is a major cause of smashed knee caps and regular visits to the hospital."

I thought of this photo when looking at some photos of the Lowry exhibition uploaded by a flickr contributor and I wanted to demonstrate what a hard town Salford is, full of hard people and consequently how sentimental (almost sweet) Lowry's paintings are. To my mind Lowry converts unpalatable reality into pictures that can be put on any living room wall without causing offense. This is why he is so popular as a hanging for doctors' and dentists' waiting rooms. He is a mere creator of decor pictures that emasculate his subjects. He turns his northern England world into a suburb of Disneyland.

I also put it here for Simon K, a fan of the Smiths, as the photo was taken just a stone throw away (and a lot of stones get thrown in Salford) from the Salford Lads Club.

Oh yeah in an interview with Ken Keating I asked him about Lowry: He gave me a contemptuous look and said "Lowry he was just a f******g rent collector."

May I urge caution in commenting on the subject of this photograph.

I am very upset by how this photo has "degraded" in only six years. It was stored to a Kodak Photo Disk which promised "an estimated lifetime of 100 years or more"
Happily I did not believe the boast and kept the negative. All I have to do now is find it.

One, two, three.

One O' Clock, originally uploaded by Colonel Blink.

Two O' Clock

Three O' Clock

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Way We Were not

Angel in the kitchen, originally uploaded by Colonel Blink.
Get out in that kitchen and rattle those pots and pans,
Get out in that kitchen and rattle those pots and pans,
roll my breakfast 'cause I'm a hungry man

I said Shake, rattle and roll
I said Shake, rattle and roll
I said Shake, rattle and roll
I said Shake, rattle and roll
Well, you never do nothin' to save your doggone soul

Provided as a public service; an antidote to all the revisionist histories of the 1950s that are appearing at the moment suggesting that it was a wonderful time. It was not. Oh yeah the sixties were crap as well; think of all those high rise flats and as for the music for every Beatles and Stones album there were twenty by the likes of Brian Poole, the Bachelors or (gulp) the Dave Clarke Five. The best time is always tomorrow.
Her New Appliance

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Gonna make you a star

Gonna make you a star, originally uploaded by Colonel Blink.

I was witness to one of those moments that the old MGM musicals used to love. The impresario comes up to the poor but talented musician and asks him onto the show. "Stick with me and next year", he says, "Your name will be in lights".

If it had been a movie he would have be wearing an astrakhan coat, be accompanied by a platinum blonde (who later falls in love with the musician) and sucking on an impossibly long cigar. The climax of the scene would have been the buskers, scantily clad passers-by and a comic policeman or two breaking into a Busby Berkeley style routine down London Street, across The Gentleman's Walk and into the provisions market. (There is scope here for Carmen Miranda wearing a hat made of two pineapples, a pear and a bunch of grapes to emerge from one of the remaining Fruit and Veg stalls)

The more prosaic reality on a rainy November afternoon in Norwich is that he is asking them if they would be interested in appearing in one of the three acoustic gigs he organises around local pubs and clubs every week.

But it was still a magic moment and they were delighted.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Unleashing the dogs of law.

Levi McCarthy's Last Caper, originally uploaded by Colonel Blink.

This is Flossie. She used to belong to Levi McCarthy and was at the centre of the last two fingered salute he gave to the law. She is an old lady now but can still be found every day sleeping in a Norwich City centre jewelry shop

Levi was, depending on your point of view, either a criminal or a counter-culture local hero. Like all such people the stories about him grow and grow but this one I got from the horse's mouth.

In the days just before his death from a heart attack Levi was still a familiar face around Norwich; a big man you could hardly miss him in his blue Crombie coat. He had taken to traveling around on a moped with Flossie his dog in a basket at the front. As someone put it to me 'a young copper up at Bethel Street police station wanted to impress his superiors' and charged Levi with endangering the public because it could cause an accident if the dog jumped out of the basket.

Came the day of the court case. The policeman made his case and Levi who was defending himself stated that his dog would never jump out of the basket. He then persuaded the magistrates to go outside the courtroom and look for themselves. He had he explained left her in her basket in the car park. There then followed five minutes of farce as various officers of the court unsuccessfully tried to call and cajole Flossie out of the basket. As a result the case was dismissed and Levi was found not guilty.

It was quite easily done of course. Levi had got up at 6am that morning and taken Flossie for a twenty five mile walk. The dog was so tired it could not have got out of that basket if it had wanted to.

My favourite Levi story I got from one of the night editors of the Eastern Daily Press after he had left his job and become a stamp dealer. In the late 1960s he had been at work in the press office when they got a visit from an angry Levi holding a baseball bat. The cause of the fury was that they had reported one of his court appearances and in it had called him McCarthy throughout. This he felt was disrespectful. Those present agreed (unsurprisingly) without hesitation, the anger subsided and their visitor left. After that visit Levi was always called Mr McCarthy in the local press and never plain McCarthy.

Levi died in 2002