The Jackdaw Flies And Then Roosts

Well, this should have been a post about markers and anniversaries.

About how City Jackdaw has now been flying for six months, and about how my last post was my 100th post. You know the one-that deep, meaningful, reflective piece about the crow carrying a takeaway tray. I am still expecting to make several short lists for that one.

About how fast it has gone, and how I had no idea how it would develop. About how I had no pre-concieved ideas for it, and it just developed naturally, organically. Being a big reader, I thought the books that I read would feature, but it hasn’t turned out that way.

I was going to suggest how our blogs could be an extension of ourselves-hinting at parts of our personalities that are sometimes on show, sometimes buried. Particularly in the case of those who blog anonymously.

I think mine does occasionally reflect my interests and my traits. Sometimes humour, sometimes curiosity, sometimes a sense of spirituality, or a search for meaning, sometimes a glimpse of family life. And often, for balance, pathos.

I was going to go into all of this and more in this post, but relax-you have been saved.

The best laid plans of mice and men. Pride comes before a fall. And any other pearls of wisdom you care to aim my way.

I have lost my internet connection, my telephone line is defunct. I am now sat in the local library writing this, that great bastion of education and escapism. (And really people-use it or lose it, they are closing all the time). I knew I had people waiting for me to reply to their comments, waiting for the next Jackdaw post. Really-I can see you all there, perched on the end of your swivel chairs, poised in front of your screens in frustration-

Where is he? How long has it been? How will he ever be able to top the crow with the kebab house takeaway tray? How do you follow something like that?

I am just letting you know that I am still around, but I don’t know how long it will be until I have full internet access again. I am off to report it now-but you lot came first. See the responsibilty I feel for you all?

Spare a thought, though,for a social animal like myself-I have been unable to Google search, Facebook chat, WordPress post, or anything. It is like living in the Dark Ages.I may have to resort to knocking on people’s doors.

Pray for me, please, pray for me.

(Oh-and one last thing City Jackdaw isn’t-over the top dramatic).

Claws for the Weekend:Grim Reality

I was walking the dog early this morning. As I passed a parked car I happened to glance at my reflection in the window. For the first time ever, the thought came:

I am getting old.

Despite my collar turned up and cap pulled down low, I could see it.

Autumn is here, the season of change and decay. The natural way of things.

Hold that happy thought.

Try and feel comfortable in your skin. Avoid all smoking mirrors.

And don’t forget to moisturise.



Have a great weekend.

See you on the flip side.

Food Fight

Well it had been two weeks since the kids all returned to school after the summer holidays, and now it was time to apply for any after-school activities that your child wants to do.

Or, rather, apply for ones that they don’t want to do-on their behalf.

Millie, my six year old daughter, was adamant that she didn’t want to join any club.

Millie, you say this every term. You say you don’t want to do them, but when it comes around to it you really enjoy it. Now-for Year Two there is cookery and there is craft club.”

She screwed up her face. “No I don’t think I will do them.”

I persevered:”Come on, it is first come first served. All the places will go if we don’t take this in tomorrow. I will tick both boxes for you.”

I don’t think I will like either of those clubs.”

Listen, I will get an extra forty-five minutes for both days before I have to pick you up. You will like them. You will learn to love them.” I ticked the boxes.

Of course I had her best interests at heart. All that social bonding, learning new skills. For forty five minutes.

Guess what? She got in both clubs.

Yesterday was the day of her first activity-cookery club. She could barely reveal, I mean conceal, her excitement.

After a luxurious three quarters of an hour of extra time, I got her three year old brother ready and went to pick her up. Stood outside with the other huddled, leisure plagued parents, I wondered which Millie would come out. The happy, smiling girl, skipping along with a warm baguette tucked beneath her arm, or the scowling, sweaty headed creature covered in flour, snarling “Never again!”

The door opened, and there she was. A great, beaming smile lighting up her young face, a pizza held triumphantly before her on a paper towel. “Dad-I made pizza!”

James’ eyes became like saucers.

It looked like there was a bit of everything on it. Sweetcorn, tomato, pepperoni, pineapple. Not a charred bit anywhere. I idly wondered if she could teach her Mum her secret at the weekend.

We began to walk home, fastening up our coats against the wind that suddenly seemed to spring up from nowhere. How foolishly I ignore the omens.

Can I eat it on the way Dad?”

I said that she could, and to watch where she was walking. Pizza doesn’t taste as nice when it is squashed flat between your face and a lamp post. She had barely had a nibble when James piped up “Me too? Me have some?”

No James-there’s not enough” big sister replied, immediately holding the pizza higher.

Awwwww!!!” A great, drawn out cry of injustice. “Pizza! Dad!” The instant tears started, seemingly in tandem with the hard, cold rain that suddenly, unexpectedly, opened up on us.

Millie give him some,” I said as I attempted to force the hood of her coat over her head.

She refused repeatedly, stamping her feet. James wailed, stamping his. The rain came down harder. I used all my Kofi Annan diplomatic skills to finally get her to let her brother have a nibble. A little nibble. You can imagine the line I took:show your brother how great a cook you are/see if he likes it more than mummy’s/hurry before the rain makes it cold/just give him some and don’t be so tight.

It was like a switch had been thrown. As soon as the pizza was lowered to three year old height, James’ tears stopped. “Just a little bite James,” she instructed.

It was like a dog with a frisby.

You know when they latch on, breathing out of the side of their mouths?

No James, just bite a bit off. James….no…Dad tell him to let go!”

Then he was like a bull terrier with lock jaw.

She tried pulling it away, but he resolutely clung on. She swung it from side to side, he kept his teeth clamped onto it, eyes fixed defiantly on her.

I tried to intervene but they span away from me, Millie squealing “James! James! Dad….my pineapple is falling off…”

Then: “His nose is running!…HIS..NOSE..IS..RUNNING!!!!

Then he made his move-reaching out to take the pizza with both hands, a rapidly becoming soggy pizza, which began to split down the middle.

In desperation,unexpectedly, Millie let go with one hand.

Who would have thought an umbrella could be an offensive weapon?

The rain continued to come down. What a lovely walk home it was. Tuesdays are going to be so much fun from now on. But to be honest, it is the Thursdays I am worried about.

Craft club.

All those sharp instruments and flammable liquids. There will be gallons of blood and snotty noses.

And that is just the teachers.

Coffee in the Crypt

When I was in London last week, assailed by waves of caffeine withdrawal, I decided to call for a coffee in the crypt. Don’t worry, this is not the type of dramatic expression of being on my death bed which we blokes normally come out with as soon as we get a headache.

No, rather, it was a visit to St.Martin-in-the-Fields church in Trafalgar Square, which has a cafe downstairs in the, well, crypt.

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And no, before you ask, it wasn’t dead. In fact it was quite busy. A perfect place to find respite from the crowds of the square, where you can get something to eat with ancient tombstones beneath your feet and modern tourists above your head.

When I went into the church itself, there were many people spread out among the pews, sat with their heads face down on top of their arms. At first I thought they were all praying. Then the penny dropped-they were all sleeping. At the root of the church’s ministry is care for the vulnerable and disadvantaged, and these were all homeless people catching up on the sleep I guess they miss out on when out in the cold and inhospitable outside world.

It was impressive. This is how I imagine a church should be.

I had only ever heard of the building before in relation to the many renowned classical concerts that it hosts. I have spotted it on the odd cd that I own.

Outside the church doors is a sculpture by Mike Chapman called ‘Christ Child’, commissioned for the MilleniumAround its base the inscription reads:

In the beginning was the word and the word became flesh and lived among us.

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On top of the stone is a newborn baby, its umbilical cord disappearing into the rock from which it is emerging.

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The contrast of smooth flesh and rough hewn rock.

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Whatever your opinion of Christmas, and of the nativity stories in particular, the sculpture is stunning. It reminded me of this photograph I have seen of the carving of a fetus into rock along a road in Columbia, which I think was done to create awareness about abortion.

photo (31)Stood on that outer porch, I could hear the whisper of Michelangelo:

I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.

The freed Christ Child, the realised vision of the creator, (with a little ‘c’ or capital ‘C’, depending on your perspective), is pretty impressive.

So too is the ministry of this church, begun in the early twentieth century, among the most marginalised members of the community. If ever you find yourself in London go and check out the church yourself.

Maybe grab yourself a coffee down among the dead men.

Claws for the Weekend:Some Guys Have All The Luck

There was a British Officer of the First World War named Major Summerford. During the conflict of Flanders Fields in 1918 he was knocked from his horse and paralysed from the waist down. Was it a shell that felled him? Or a bullet? No-he was struck by lightning.


He retired, and sought a more tranquil life in Vancouver. In 1924 he sat beneath a tree quietly fishing. Well, you know about lightning and trees. The tree was hit and he was paralysed down his right side.

It took two years for him to sufficiently recover so that he was able to take walks in a local park. (I am not sure if that first waist-down paralysis was temporary or improved a little to give him some mobility). On a summer’s day in 1930, walking in that green and peaceful place, yet another lightning bolt struck him, this time permanently paralysing him. Two years later, he died.

Four years after this, in the midst of a storm, a lightning bolt struck a cemetery, destroying a tombstone. Go on, have a guess. Whose tombstone do you think was struck?

You couldn’t make it up.

Talk about a marked man.

With luck like that, a guy like Major Summerford should steer clear of jobs like the following:

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This is an early bullet proof vest being tested in Washington, 1923. I don’t know how confident they were, but those on-looking officers appear a bit grim faced, standing well back. And that aim looks a little high. There is a bicycle behind them, I hope they haven’t just commandeered an innocent cyclist passing by. “We will just like to check your tires sir. Here, put this vest on-your country needs you”.

I know there is no link between this picture and Major Summerford, but after coming across it I was just looking for an excuse to use it somewhere.

Anyway, have a great weekend. Hope you dodge all lightning bolts and bullets.

Go sit under the stairs.

See you on the flip side.

Snaps and Snippets

Well I had an idea about a post I was going to do on here about my recent trip to London. But everything has gone pear shaped due to me losing most of the photographs that I had taken on my phone.

Damn Gremlins.

Deep breaths.

Nostalgic thoughts of Polaroids.

So, instead, from what I have salvaged, I will just post the shots that I do have along with snippets of conversation heard along the way.

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Boudica hopping on.

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Buckingham Palace

Hi Millie, it’s Dad. I got that photograph of the Queen’s house for you. Was she there? No, she was putting her wheelie bins out around the back”. 

King Charles had a crane with a wooden leg“.

If you don’t like your personal space being invaded, do not go on the tube“.

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From St.Paul’s Cathedral

If you don’t like heights, don’t go up St.Paul’s“.

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Tower Bridge

What do you expect me to do? What do you expect me to do? What do YOU expect ME to do ?” This was a security guy to a tourist on Tower Bridge. The tourist wanted to cross to the other side, but we had to wait as a scene was being shot for a new film-The Gunman . I tried to get the helicopter in the photo that was swooping low, supposedly with police or a marksman or something in it, but guess what? Yes- the phone!!

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Monkeys in the tower.

All I could get on the tv in my room was porn channels. I was looking for the football “. I believed him.

They never knew who disposed of the two Princes in the Tower. And they never knew who Jack the Ripper was either”.

Probably not the same guy in the frame though.

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The White Tower.

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Scaffold Site Memorial

This is the memorial on the scaffold site in the Tower of London, where some private executions took place. Not many took place within the Tower  itself, and among those unfortunates who were awarded such privacy were Henry VIII’s two wives Ann Boleyn and Catherine Howard, along with Lady Jane Grey.(See-he was a sensitive soul). The site was set apart and made a memorial place under orders from Queen Victoria who was deeply moved on visiting it. Behind is the chapel that houses their remains.

I guess the cushion on the sculpture is to catch the severed heads.

Asian tourist:”In the olden days they used to eat fish and chips out of newspaper.”

American tourist:“I envy you for having all of this history.”

British tourist:”I hate it. I’ve always wanted to come here, but it’s the ugliest place I’ve ever seen. In future I will stick with the Isle of Skye“.


Wellington’s Tomb, St.Paul’s.


Nelson’s Tomb.

In St.Paul’s: “You cannot take photographs of the donkeys.”

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Claws for the Weekend:Departure

Today I leave the delights of oop norf  behind me for darn sarf. Which translates as I am leaving Manchester to go down to London again for a few days.

Something tells me those southerners have been tipped off.

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Alas this time there is no Neolithic exhibition for me to get lost in wonder, but going back almost as far, I am meeting up with an old school pal while I am down there. Exorcising old memories and creating new ones.

I don’t get back until Monday, so until then have a great weekend Jackdaw spotters.

See you on the flip side.

Fright Fest. I Shouldn’t Laugh…….

I like to think that I have a sense of humour, but when it comes to what makes me laugh not everything tickles. I don’t really go for stand-up, and cannot listen to more than a couple of jokes without my laughter becoming forced.

What really cracks me up though are wind ups, pranks, over-reactions, and (non-injurious) mishaps. Just everyday people in everyday situations doing something fantastically funny.

There are wind-ups though, and then there are potential heart attack wind-ups.

This first video here is from Japan. Now you and I, switched on, level headed people that we are, know full well that dinosaurs became extinct millions of years ago.  But when you are put on the spot, and you don’t have the luxury of time to use your reason…..

If you thought that was a little too close to flatlining, the Brazilians went one better with the good old ghost girl in the elevator trick :

Yes it was cruel, potentially harmful, and genuinely terrifying for those unfortunate people who will never ride an elevator again. It is maybe a step too far to provide entertainment for the likes of you and I, safely sat in our homes and in the know.

And did I laugh?

You bet.


Both videos from YouTube.


Shamanic September

September already. How soon the seasons pass.

Harvest time, fruits of the earth. Our spirits warm with the russet colours outside. I took the dog for a run over the fields this morning. Wind-frenzied trees could not dislodge raucous crows, shy jays, and their more cocksure magpie cousins. Though these are the early days, there is definitely a sense of being on the cusp of autumn.

Soon we will see the squirrels working overtime among the toadstools and wild flowers, the martins, swallows and other migrants gathering to make the long journey back to African shores.

Much to my wife’s distress, daddy long legs seem to be everywhere. One got in as I went out with the dog (again) last night, as my better half was busy preparing a meal for the next day. I said “Don’t harm it, I will catch it when I get back in”. 

On my return she said, apologetically, “I’m sorry I had to kill it-it was ferocious”.

Lions. Tigers. Sharks. Daddy long legs. Ferocious.

I’ve always been an outdoor person. I’ve always been moved by nature, the landscape, and the elements. Maybe that is what gave me a poetic voice, and an early sense of spirituality. I guess I am just one small step away from being a pagan. The appeal of Celtic and Native American spirituality. Perhaps this is where they can find common ground with Christianity-the idea of the goodness of creation, shot through with spirit. The whole of nature ablaze and alive and sacred.

My favourite place is Orkney. The sky there is vast and all encompassing, the sea wild and hungry and raging on all sides. There is something different there about the light, changing as it does above the ancient ancestors, long entombed in chambered darkness. When I haven’t visited for a while, I begin to get my Orkney Itch.

Some of my earliest memories involve my reaction to the elements and the outdoors. I can recall being very young, in a park in Heywood. My grandfather pushing me in a swing, and around 100 metres away there was a huge tree, swaying from side to creaking side in a gale. I loved it.Today I still love to get outside on windy days. As a postman I once did my round in 100 mph winds. It was fantastic.

Another memory is of my Dad walking me to school as a four year old Reception pupil. Dressed in a fur-lined parka coat and a leather satchel over my shoulder, I was fascinated by the dew that clung to every blade of morning grass as we cut across the fields. The sheen of diamonds and the cut of the fresh air.

Not long into my school life I caught chicken pox, and had to stay off school. As morning phased into afternoon, I remember being knelt on the couch, watching the heavy rain beat against the window, trickles racing each other down to the sill. Soon we moved house, and a new primary school beckoned. Being new, and initially friendless, in the inner mirror of my mind I can still see myself stood on the edge of the playground at playtime, watching a gull glide effortlessly above on a current of air, drifting over our fields of triumph. These are the fields that I now walk with my dog, the school having been demolished, the site now given to wilderness.

Being reclaimed.

I stood recently on that very same spot, thirty years later. Guess what? There was a gull-drifting above me. I watched it for a while. Joining up the dots.

It was as a pupil of this school that I first walked in woodland. The teacher that took us was called Miss Ambler-Ambler the Rambler.  Being in deep woods, far from any concrete path or road, in that complete stillness,had an inner effect on me. I felt it in a juvenile, inarticulated way. From that day I have walked coasts and forests and mountains and river ways. I experience it still in an almost shamanic way, without the trance bit. Pretentious though that sounds.

Of all the seasons-and I love them all, my favourite is winter, in all its transformative beauty. The iron earth and starry nights.

And my favourite half of the year begins with autumn.

And autumn begins with September.

The first inward-turning month. As the nights grow longer, and rain hammers against the doors in an attempt to seek entry, it is the perfect time for reading, writing, and pampering our interior selves.

It is the time to quietly withdraw and conserve our energy by lamplight and fireside.

Oh and did I mention-it is also the time that the kids go back to school 🙂