Blue February

Here in Salford, the day is glass, reflectively crisp with a brittle veneer. But, as we look towards Manchester beyond Centenary Bridge, there are hints of the summer to come. Faint embers, glowing, offering promise to burst into flame.

Distance to fly; distance to burn.


At The Hop

In my online meandering, I came across this great photograph of hop pickers in Kent, sometime in the early 1900’s. All those kids in the great outdoors, grass in their hair, dirty faces, dirty hands. Just like when I was a kid. Except I didn’t know I was born, as the saying goes.


You know how much I love old photographs? I went looking for more.

I reckon the two adults on the left of this photograph are sisters. What do you think? Maybe all three? Look at the little Shirley Temple in the centre.


When the time was right, farmers down in the South of England would advertise for people to head over and stay for six weeks, picking hops. Invariably those responding would be women and children who didn’t have other jobs to do. They would respond, swapping the polluted air of the cities for the clean, fresh air of the rural land. A working holiday, if you like. The two girls at the very front are speaking conspiratorially about the photographer. Listen hard, you may hear them.


I like the way the girl third from the left is looking at the girl to her side, laughing eyes, secretive thoughts. I reckon the other girl has had a ticking off from her Mum here, looking down sulkily. That’s the thing: we will never know. We can make up anything we want. At the other end of the shot: nice wellies.


I had problems making this photograph larger, but I still want to include it. The ancestors insisted: us too. I’m sure you can make it bigger on your tablets with a bit of index finger-thumb stretching magic.


How confident (and truculent) does the lad in the centre look? I’ve seen a similar photograph of a young John Lennon with that very same expression. And how feisty does that terrier look? Put him down and you just know he’s gonna scamper right after the photographer.


I know they are working, but most of the people in these shots look a lot happier (and healthier) than the folk we see in contemporary portraits, working in the mills and factories. Perhaps it is just the outdoor setting causing me to read this into them. Always the subjective optimist.

These fading photographs of Southern England have got me all of a sudden sensing the approaching summer.Can you smell the meadow flowers? Taste that scrumpy cider?



If any of you are wondering why I love old photographs so much, see the highlighted post below: A Sense Of Absence.


Musings With A View

I was sat in my favourite coffee shop, my book finished. I had already made a mental note of my next one. Could see the shelf it resided on at home, the volume nudging its way forward to prominence.

There was only a handful of people here in the waning light, a litany of indistinguishable murmurs in a fade-out of Evensong.

I was watching the rain, coming in at an acute angle, as the shadows lengthened despite the town centre lights flickering into life. This cross-over time was occurring later than the last time I was here. Night was bleeding in.

Often I make a casual case for a move further north, envisage a settling down among complicit folk. But could I really do it? This town outside was my town, my roots deep and tangled. There were people passing, hunched over against the winter rain, people I have known since a younger sun shone upon their face.

I could close my eyes and still find my way around this town, imaginatively. Every short cut and ginnel. See the ghosts still anchored to place.

These ghosts traverse, still, their long trodden paths.

My thoughts turned to how late was the day, and how soon the seasons expire.

When all is said and done

I’m rubbish at art, I wish I could draw. Anna can-here are sketches inspired by the lyrics of When All Is Said And Done by some of her fellow Swedes that you may know as Abba. I love them. Even picked up a pencil. Put it back down again.

Annas Art - FärgaregårdsAnna

More Swedish music inspiration.
Viktoria Tolstoy with Benny Andersson (from ABBA) at the piano.

A song from the Nils Landgren album Funky ABBA
Funky Abba | Nils Landgren
An awesome album by the way!

“When all is said and done” is one of my favorite ABBA songs. Love the lyrics and the Nils Landgren/Benny Andersson/Viktoria Tolstoy version is great.

So great that the version of the song inspired me to draw the lyricss. I borrowed (didn’t ask for permission) the lyrics and did some drawings.

Here are the drawings. Have fun!



when all is said and done_Sida_01when all is said and done_Sida_02when all is said and done_Sida_03when all is said and done_Sida_04when all is said and done_Sida_05when all is said and done_Sida_06when all is said and done_Sida_07when all is said and done_Sida_08when all is said and done_Sida_09when all is said and done_Sida_10when all is said and done_Sida_11when all is said and done_Sida_12when all is said and done_Sida_13when all is said and done_Sida_14when all is said and done_Sida_15when all is said and done_Sida_16when all is said and done_Sida_17when all is said and done_Sida_18when all is said and done_Sida_19

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Woman In A Café

Laura Bruno Lilly, for whom the issue of homelessness is close to her heart, has done me the great honour of sharing my poem Woman In A Café on her blog. The poem was inspired by the memory of a woman who used to come into the café that I frequented in my lunch hour some years ago when I worked in Manchester.

You can read it (and also check out more of Laura’s great posts) at the link below: