A Colourless Cocktail

It has been a while since I have indulged my love of old photographs. Here are some that have recently caught my eye:

This is a street in Sweden, the day that the driving pattern switched from the left hand side of the road to the right. Looks like the drivers have all dropped an acid each. “Stop the taxi-I think I’ll walk!”

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These are damaged and melted mannequins after a fire in Madame Tussaud’s, London, in 1930. How realistic is that woman on the end? Looks like she’s dropped her dart. And one of those severed heads is peering up at his own backside. That’s the kind of view I always end up with every time I book a hotel room.

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Ban the bikini! Cover up your ribcage! And why have these women got babies’ faces on their knees?

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I really hate the idea of bringing animals into the hell of the conflicts we create. It’s bad enough to see them cower in response to the fireworks on bonfire night.

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These are Princeton students in the aftermath of a freshman v sophomores snowball fight in 1893. That must have been some snowball fight! It looks like an outtake from a Rocky movie. “Yo Adrian- I threw it!”

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Ghosts Out Of Season

I’m not exactly sure why, but Christmas, particularly Christmas Eve, seems to be equated with ghost stories, even more so than Halloween. Perhaps it’s down to that Dickens fella.

If ever I turn to such fayre, I prefer the older, Gothic-type tales, my favourite, so far, being The Phantom Coach, by Amelia B. Edwards, set on a wild, wintry, northern moor.

Recently, on a coach journey of my own, albeit a motorised version, I finished the book that I was reading, and searched my Kindle for something else to read. I found three books that I had uploaded last year, and hadn’t gotten around to reading yet, by Sheridan Le Fanu. Le Fanu was a great 19th Century Gothic writer, and really should be as well known as the likes of Poe and M R James, who himself was a champion of this author, and I decided to delve once more into his world.

I began In A Glass Darkly, a collection of five stories of varying length (in effect, a mix of short stories and novellas). They are all linked by being case studies of a certain Dr Martin Hesselius, who investigates medical cases with a twist of the supernatural about them. A stormy, winter evening would have been a more preferable time to immerse myself in these, rather than a sun-kissed August afternoon, but still, needs must.

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My favourite stories in this are Green Tea, a tale of a clergyman who is haunted by a freaky, red-eyed black monkey, whose plaguing of the poor man becomes progressively more disturbing, and also the wonderful Carmilla, the vampire story that was written before, and was an influence on, Bram Stoker’s Dracula. This has long been a favourite of mine.

The role of Carmilla was played by Ingrid Pitt in the film adaptation The Vampire Lovers. Just thought I’d throw a little Hammer connection in there for you!

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Immediately on finishing this collection, I ordered an anthology of shorter ghost stories by Le Fanu, selected by James himself, for the princely sum of one pence!! One pence-I don’t even mind if I hate it at that price. Maybe I will wait until late December to read it. That will please the wife when she starts planning for Christmas.

One of the other three stories in this collection is called The Room In The Dragon Volant. One of the characters in it made this speech:

“Just so! You English, wherever you are, always look out for your English boors, your beer and ‘bifstek’; and when you come here, instead of trying to learn something of the people you visit, and pretend to study, you are guzzling, and swearing, and smoking with one another, and no wiser or more polished at the end of your travels than if you had been all the time carousing in a booth at Greenwich.”

Over a hundred years later, and it seems that we English haven’t changed that much.

Throwback Thursday: Tracing My Blog’s Birth Parent

City Jackdaw was a weekly penny magazine that ran in my home city of Manchester from 1875 until 1880. I came across a reference to it at a time when I was searching for a name for my blog. I am a sucker for history and connections, so it seemed quite apt.

I also liked the idea that it was something that some of my Mancunian ancestors may well have read.

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I found the following description of it:

‘The subject matter was broad and current. Poetry, articles, sections on the theatre and “Claws of the Week” were regular features.’

That seemed quite relevant. When I started my blog, I incorporated into it a series of posts that occasionally feature on Fridays, called ‘Claws For The Weekend’.

Like I said, I’m a sucker for connections.

It was also described as ‘a humorous and satirical journal.’

I try.

One day I may get myself a copy of the 19th Century City Jackdaw, or check one out in the archives of Manchester Central Library. I think that would be kinda cool.

Like tracing a birth parent.

Hammer Chooseday #11: The Satanic Rites Of Dracula

The Satanic Rites Of Dracula (1973) 5/5

This was Lee’s eighth and final outing as the vampire Count, and the third pairing with Peter Cushing as Van Helsing (along with Dracula in 1958, and Dracula A.D 72 in, funnily enough, 1972). It was also the very last Hammer film that would feature both of those great friends.

A minute’s silence, please.

My wife: please stop rolling your eyes.

The film’s working title was Dracula is Dead . . . and Well and Living in London. 

Christopher Lee wasn’t amused: “I’m doing it under protest . . . I think it’s fatuous. I can think of twenty adjectives-fatuous, pointless, absurd. It’s not a comedy, but it’s got a comic title. I don’t see the point.”

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Eschewing the usual gothic setting, as was done in the previous Dracula film also, for Twentieth-Century London, this has the feel of a modern (for the time) thriller, complete with appropriate soundtrack. There are snipers on motorcycles, donning leather, fur parkas and 1970’s porn tashes.

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No, I wasn’t in CHIPS.

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I know-women chained up in the cellar. I can say from experience: it’s  a drag.

A research establishment and real estate business serves as a front for a satanic cult, headed by Dracula, which is developing a deadly strain of the plague to unleash upon mankind, at midnight on the feast of the sabbath of the undead. Suppose it sounded better than doing it on Pancake Tuesday.

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Lee as always, is iconic as Dracula, although in this film he doesn’t appear until thirty minutes in. At one point, with a flourish of his hands, he makes candles burst into life like a stage magician.

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And now for my ‘sawing a woman in half’ trick, Hammer style-best fetch a mop and bucket.

As his plans come to light, Van Helsing wonders why Dracula is attempting to destroy his only food source-does he harbour a subconscious desire to end his own torment?

This is a great twist, but unfortunately we don’t learn the truth of this, as, in the finale, Van Helsing’s granddaughter, played by Joanna Lumley, is rescued from the vampire’s clutches, and fire engulfs the only person stricken with the plague.

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Joanna Lumley: I should have stayed on the catwalk.

? playing ? : I should have stayed as a traffic cop.

Michael Coles, playing Inspector Murray: I should have stayed in the traffic division.

Dracula, in his endless pursuit of Van Helsing, becomes entangled and sliced in hawthorn, and is then dispatched by a fence post used as a stake.

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A (vampire) rose (from the dead) among thorns. No? I tried.

For the final time, we see Lee’s Dracula destroyed by Cushing’s Van Helsing. As the vampire wastes away, his destroyer picks up the only thing left: his ring. Perhaps paving the way for a further film that didn’t come? Regrets, I’ve had a few.

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Van Helsing goes into battle armed with a crucifix, silver bullets and a sticking plaster.

I loved this one, an imaginative twist on the Dracula franchise that felt like a thriller, with Dracula coming over as part vampire and part Bond villain. Perhaps it served as the perfect training vehicle for Lee’s future Scaramanga role.

Okay, my good wife, the film is over-here’s the remote. What’s going on in Emmerdale?

Book Update, While Trying To Be Zen-like

For those of you who have been asking, Nordland Publishing is bringing out my poetry collection Heading North in October.

For those of you who haven’t been asking, Nordland Publishing is still bringing out my poetry collection Heading North in October.

Although I am looking forward to this in the extreme, I am a father of four:

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Still counting down though.