A Grim North

Musings from a northerner living in the deep south…

Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Arundel Castle

Posted by Alan on May 3, 2010

This early May bank holiday saw Simon, Emo and I take a trip down to Arundel castle, about 4 miles north of Littlehampton on the south coast. Arundel castle is actually two castles – the stately home built in Victorian times (when castles were all the rage) and the actual castle a mott/bailey fortrification surviving (with modifications) through the civil war to this day.

Arundel castle, stately home

I'm not sure that turret could actually hold a cannon worth using...

The place reeks of power and status. There are many grand rooms full of large paintings of the Dukes of Norfolk, who still retain this as their home today. No pictures allowed inside of course – I don’t mind that since I can imagine how much flash might damage fragile paintings and also revenue from the tours must go some way to keeping the place…

Arundel castle, mott & bailey

The real castle

As well as the paintings, stuffed animals and trappings of gentry, the grounds includes some well kept gardens and the Fitzalan chappel.  The chappel is unusual as it is actually two churches stuck together – a Catholic side and a protestant/Anglican side but neither connected bar a single door in the main area of the chappel. In fact, the Anglican side is outside of the grounds!

Inside Fitzalan chappel, looking towards the protestant side

Looking towards the protestants

Photography was allowed in the chappel so I got to have a bit of play with the EOS…

Praying monk

Praying monk

close up of angel wing and blurred photographers

Winging it for the angels

Praying for the next life - grave statue

Praying for the next life

Next up were the gardens – unfortunately a day for frequent heavy showers meant that most of the flowers had closed up, but there was plenty of colour available to enjoy.

A splash of colour - red flowers

A splash of colour

Pink rose

Pink rose

spots of rain on a green leaf

Drip drip

We probably spend 4½ hours all told wandering around – very enjoyable.

Next up – the pub and eventually Sussex pub crawl… to be continued.

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Pure Groove and SMWS London

Posted by Alan on April 27, 2010

This is totally a post for one of my other internet presences – @pigsearcamra on twitter (stop reading now if you don’t like beer… or whisky for that matter…)

First up I called into Pure Groove tonight – a record shop/label come club come beer festival. Well, this week anyway.

Record Decks and Beer Casks

Decks and Casks @ Pure Groove

All this week they’ve got a whole host of stuff on – so if you have some time to spare an you happen to be in EC1 check it out. Beers are a reasonable (for London!) £3/pint.

Then… I got invited over for a wee dram at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, London.

Whisky in a nosing glass

I'll have a wee one please...

Again, seriously worth it. You might have to find a member to get in though…

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Up the Orient, Down the Pond

Posted by Alan on April 18, 2010

Yesterday was pretty good day. The sun was shining (and still is). There were no vapour trails in the sky (Thanks volcano – I wonder if our air quality has got better?!).

We started the day here with the arrival of a new TV. This is about 4 months late but a failing on my part to actually pick one to buy! Never mind… it’s here now and last night we could finally tune into HD via freeview.

Come lunchtime it was time for some Saturday afternoon football. I’m not really a football person but when it was suggested at work I thought why not. We started with a pre-match pint in the William IV, Bakers Arms and then headed for the game.

Leyton Orient

Leyton Orient Football Ground

Pie at half time and we watch Leyton beat Stockport 2-0. Not a huge surprise since Stockport are going to be relegated anyway… a post match pint in the lovely beer garden at The Birkbeck, Leyton gave us time to enjoy the sun and the sky. (Sadly the Supporters Association at the Orient who have an awesome bar wouldn’t let us in…)

Lastly… I went down to the pond in the fading sunset light to see if I could get any decent shots of the birds on the pond and practice a bit more with the D-SLR. I think perhaps an hour earlier would make a lot of difference but here’s the best few.

Eagle Pond

Do not feed the birds!

Snaresbrook Crown Court

Snaresbrook Crown Court & Eagle Pond

Canadian Goose

Canadian Goose

Swan

Swanning About

Pond and Bus

Passing the pond by W12 bus

Leaves

Leaves

Sometimes I do have the remind myself I live in Z4 and not in the vast countryside of Essex…

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Spring Beer Festival

Posted by Alan on March 27, 2010

Today and tomorrow sees the bring beer festival at the William IV in Leyton (Bakers Arms). Myself and Jon popped in for a couple of beers.

The William IV - Bakers Arms, Leyton

For about 2 years now this place has been a brew pub – i.e. a pub that brew’s it’s own beer. Today they had put on a range of about 15 beers to sample, from the lightest lager to the strong Romanov Empress Imperial Stout (12.1%).

The Beer Menu

Romanov Empress Stout

Amarilla

Favourite beer of the day was probably Red Sun – a blend of Brodies Red and Brodies Sunshine. Dark but also light – lovely.

Last beer of the day was Brodies’ blue – which is surprisingly red…

Brodies Blue

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Secret Nuclear Bunker

Posted by Alan on March 20, 2010

Today we took a trip out to the secret nuclear bunker near Brentwood, Essex. Brentwood is just outside of Zone 6 so not too far into deepest darket Essex to scare us much!

The bunker itself is much less secret that it used to be.

Subtlety defined eh?

About 14 quid north of Brentwood by taxi we found ourselves next to what appeared to be a farmhouse with a few ex-military things littered around the yard.

A Tractor & Green Goddess sleep peacefully

A peaceful missile

Bunker History

From here on in it was stranger still. The museum was largely based on what felt like 1980s technology and honesty. On entering the unassuming looking door, we picked up a red handset about 30 cm long. Not too dissimilar to an early 90s telephone this was our guide for the next couple of hours.

There was no attendent.

There was no cash desk.

There were plenty of signs however…

Photography from here on in was only allowed with a permit – but since I am still awful at low light photography I decided to give that a miss, especially after we had found someone who appeared to be staff to ask and he presented us with many forms…

The bunker itself is very interesting. Many fittings and fixtures have been put back representing it’s varied life – from radar station to government emergency HQ. I’m not sure how well I would cope in a small windowless concrete box shut off from the world for up to 3 months – the designed life span in the event of a nuclear attack. In it’s role as government HQ up to 600 people would have been incarcerated here – with just 200 beds. And I complain at having to hot desk sometimes!

Helpfully, plenty of videos and the wry humour of the red phone commentary reminded us how much devestation a nuclear attack would cause and how unlikely that if a HQ had been setup here there would have been much left to return to after 3 months.

After ending up in the gift shop, returning the red phone and paying for the trip we headed back to closest village to find some food & beer.

Kelvedon Hatch

The Eagle provided us with decent enough pint of Doom Bar and a chance to watch Scotland win a 6 nations match – their first this season!

All in all a cracking day out.

State of Security

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Ready for the Floor

Posted by Alan on February 24, 2010

Almost another month goes by without me spilling diatribe onto here. Just what is wrong with me? Well, as per usual I just got busy and forgot. Lame eh?

So heading backwards… last Friday saw me at Manchester Academy 1 to see Hot Chip. Not a bad gig, the band took a bit of warming up but after a couple of old numbers mid-set got into their groove. Loved the fact that I bumped into ‘old’ uni-mates, nice to have a home 🙂

Hot Chip - Manchester Academy I

Hot Chip - Manchester Academy I

Hot Chip in pink

Hot Chip in pink

Academy I has changed a bit since uni…but not loads. I really should do more gigs…

Spotify nerds click:

* * *

Saturday week ago, Henry and Alice were in town so we figured we should check out some of the bars in the Shoreditch triangle.  Not quite enough to consititute a real pub crawl, but:

The Reliance - Old St

Nice little pub, selection of ales and ciders. Not too expensive for the trendy part of town!

Bricklayers Arms - Charlotte Road

Without a hat,  scarf or haircut we looked a bit out of place. OK ale though and decent jukebox at least!

Spread Eagle - Kingsland Road

No ale but interesting enough inside…

Then we took in some food at The Diner, back towards Old St again.

Finally we finished up in the Pembury Tavern, Hackney for a game of bar billiards.

Bar Billiards - Pembury Tavern

The Pembury is well worth a visit if you are in the area. Quite an unusual pub – huge, has a young clientele but sells only real ale, real cider and real lager (I think the closest lager was from Germany!).

Much of the rest of the time has been taken up working or thinking about BCS stuff.

It’ll be Easter before I know it.

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Cemetery Gates

Posted by Alan on February 1, 2010

A dreaded sunny day
So I meet you at the cemetery gates
Keats and Yeats are on your side

A dreaded sunny day
So I meet you at the cemetery gates
Keats and Yeats are on your side
While Wilde is on mine

So we go inside and we gravely read the stones
All those people all those lives
Where are they now?
With the loves and hates
And passions just like mine
They were born
And then they lived and then they died
Seems so unfair
And I want to cry

* * *

I haven’t really done any proper new year’s resolutions for years now. Probably just a lack of willpower but I tend to flunk them before February has started like most other people. But I do try have a ‘theme’ (or vision if you want to be caustically corporate). Last year this was achievement. Targets included getting a good job (tick), finding a better flat (tick) and reading more (sort of achieved…).
This year, arguably, the theme is consolidation (yeah, I *do* know that doesn’t sound awesome). Essentially though doing more with what I have achieved and being a bit better at delivering anything I promise. So, this weekend when we got invited to wander around the cemetery at Nunhead I jumped at the chance. Time for the new camera to come out to play and also chance to learn a bit more about the city we live in.
It also helps that Ruth has a strange obsession with death from her archaeology days.

Cemetery Gates

We'll meet you at the cemetery gates

Nunhead is in South East London, about 5-6 miles from the centre and we took the 2.15 tour from the gates. It is sister cemetery to Highgate (where Karl Marx is buried) but being South London it doesn’t boast the same kind of clientèle Highgate aspired too. Not that there aren’t famous people buried there, it’s just they have faded from memory as time has passed.

Cemetery Chapel

Nunhead Cemetery Chapel

The cemetery was hit several times by bombs during WWII, which has led to gaps in the trees/monuments. Some 250,000 people are buried here so the gaps are very misleading!

Amongst the formerly famous were several local philanthropists and also a Labour MP responsible for introducing the first old age pensions back in the 1930s.

It’s quite forested place – during it’s heyday some 200 people were employed to maintain the grounds but as death became less profitable the numbers dwindled and eventually nature started to claim back the land. Today it’s maintained in part by the Friends of Nunhead Cemetery who also run the tours.

Silhouette

Silhouette

The cemetery boasts a view of St Pauls from the top of the hill. Sadly I don’t have a lens capable of really showing that view!

Sculpture

Sculpture carving

There are some fantastic examples of carving amongst the memorials. Sadly, during the 1970s many were vandalised and removed. Those that do remain are often missing limbs, noses or unrecognisable. This one was very lucky indeed.

So. If you have some time on a Sunday and are inclined either to play with photography or learn a bit of history go find it! We plan on Highgate sometime later this year (maybe when it is less cold!)

The trip was rounded off by a pint in the Market Porter and in the Royal Oak (Borough). Also worth a look in if you fancy a pint though weirdly the Royal Oak was still full of xmas decorations…

The Market Porter, Borough

The Market Porter, Borough

Enough drivel for now. To finish with the start…

Cemetery Gates – The Smiths (The Queen Is Dead, 1986)

A dreaded sunny day
So I meet you at the cemetery gates
Keats and Yeats are on your side

A dreaded sunny day
So I meet you at the cemetery gates
Keats and Yeats are on your side
While Wilde is on mine

So we go inside and we gravely read the stones
All those people all those lives
Where are they now?
With the loves and hates
And passions just like mine
They were born
And then they lived and then they died
Seems so unfair
And I want to cry

You say: “ere thrice the sun done salutation to the dawn”
And you claim these words as your own
But I’ve read well, and I’ve heard them said
A hundred times, maybe less, maybe more

If you must write prose and poems
The words you use should be your own
Don’t plagiarise or take “on loans”
There’s always someone, somewhere
With a big nose, who knows
And who trips you up and laughs
When you fall
Who’ll trip you up and laugh
When you fall

You say: “ere long done do does did”
Words which could only be your own
And then you then produce the text
From whence was ripped some dizzy whore, 1804

A dreaded sunny day
So let’s go where we’re happy
And I meet you at the cemetery gates
Oh Keats and Yeats are on your side

A dreaded sunny day
So let’s go where we’re wanted
And I meet you at the cemetery gates
Keats and Yeats are on your side
But you lose because Wilde is on mine

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And they’re off…

Posted by Alan on January 27, 2010

This Christmas was pretty relaxed for me. I got in plenty of sleep. Had some great beer in Littleborough with my closest friends from home. Visited Rodge and had more good beer out in Haworth (Timothy Taylor make more than just Landlord – it seems the others are just too good to escape the West Riding!)

On Boxing Day at home we had a games night with my parents, Grandma P and Ron. Key highlight was Totopoly – a game based around horse racing. Recently my parents have joined Facebook and Dad found a friend from primary school, who he swapped a gramophone with in receipt of this game.

Totopoly Box

They don't make box lids like that anymore...

We’ve no idea quite how old this edition actually is but given the swap must have been about 1968/69…

It’s quite unusual for a board game, in my experience (which admittedly isn’t expert) as it comes in two halves. Play part one, have a cup of tea whilst you flip over the board to play part two.

Board 1 - Training

Board 1 - The training board

The first board is the training circuit. Here you must train your horse, collecting advantages in the process and hoping to avoid pricey vet bills, food bills, owners club bills and most importantly disadvantages. This is important for board two.

Horses

Die cast metal horses. Wouldn't be allowed today eh?!

Horses are divided into 4 colours and two types. Black and red are heavyweights, blue and yellow lightweights – these are also conveniently the ‘stables’ and certain squares require a stables card to be picked up, much like community chest in Monopoly. Again more important in board two.

Keep this card

Keep this card - the best advantage

Training complete, fed and watered we flip over to board two. The first exercise is to place bets – like the real tote you can bet on winner, 2nd and 3rd each with different odds. Betting complete, you ditch one die and they are off…

The horses line up for the big race

The horses line up for the big race

The coloured squares are where the advantage cards come in. Land on a black square with a black horse – you automatically advance another 4 spaces. Land on another colour and you can chuck in an ‘advantage card’ and do the same. Or, if you land on a black square and you have a white ‘disadvantage’ card you can forgo your extra 4 lengths and ditch the disadvantage. (It’s worth noting that you get disqualified if you pass the post with a disadvantage).

However… all things are not equal. Red horses only go forward 3 lengths, yellow 2 and blue a measly 1. There are plenty of opportunities to burst a blood vessel and for your jockey to fall off too!

Racing into the first bend

Racing into the first bend

The winner is the person who has the most money then the 3rd horse comes home.

I don’t think it’s a particularly common game these days hence the pictures and the story.

I hope I haven’t bored you!! 😉

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Have *I* Got News For You…

Posted by Alan on November 27, 2009

Last night I got the chance to queue for Have I Got News For You. It’s the kind of stuff London dreams are made of (well, a few of them) and a great reason for living in the city… Having queued and been disappointed before we headed off early arriving about 1h30 before doors! 1½ hours of cold didn’t matter too much when we got into the studio.

It was widely reported beforehand that one guest would be Bob Crow, leader of the RMT so perhaps it could be a great setup.

Alas, as another blog notes (http://www.ianvisits.co.uk/blog/2009/11/27/bob-crowe-on-have-i-got-news-for-you/) it was not to be. Pitted against Bob and Paul were Ian and Jimmy Carr.

Bob came on to a chorus of boo’s. There were the inevitable late and strike jokes. Bob hit back with some assumptions about Ian’s upbringing. There were awkward silences many “moving on” moments.

Nevertheless, if you get the chance to go – do it. Be prepared to queue for ages, it is worth it.

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Hurricane

Posted by Alan on November 7, 2009

I haven’t done much new music lately. I am hoping not to get stuck in the 00’s!

I have however really enjoyed Lungs by Florence + The Machine. Favourite track is Hurricane Drunk (Spotify required). Lyrics as follows…

Hurricane Drunk – Florence + The Machine (Lungs, 2009)

No walls,
Can keep me protected
No sleep,
Nothing inbetween me and the rain
And you can’t save me now,
I’m in the grip of a hurricane
I’m gonna blow myself away.

I’m going out,
I’m gonna drink myself to death
And in the crowd
I see you with someone else,
I brace myself,
Cause I know it’s going to hurt,
But I like to think at least things can’t get any worse.

No home,
I don’t want shelter,
No calm,
Nothing to keep me from the storm,
And you can’t hold me down,
‘Cause I belong to the hurricane,
It’s gonna blow us all away.

I’m going out,
I’m gonna drink myself to death
And in the crowd
I see you with someone else,
I brace myself,
Cause I know it’s going to hurt,
But I like to think at least things can’t get any worse.

I hope that you see me,
Cause I’m staring at you,
But when you look over,
You look right through,
Then you lean and kiss her on the head,
And I never felt so alive, and so.. dead.

I’m going out,
I’m gonna drink myself to death
And in the crowd
I see you with someone else,
I brace myself,
Cause I know it’s going to hurt,
I’m going out, woah-oh-o

I’m going out
I’m gonna drink myself to death
And in the crowd
I see you with someone else,
I brace myself,
Cause I know it’s going to hurt,
I’m going out, woah-oh-o
I’m going out, woah-oh-o
I’m going o-o-o-o-o-o-out
I’m going out, woah-oh-o
I’m going out.

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