Winter Coughs To Announce Her Presence

Officially it is not winter for five weeks or so, but the seasons sometimes blur the calendrical boundaries and fixed points that we like to attribute to them.

Yesterday was the first real cold morning of the year. Crisp and clear, a light frost covered everything, a promise maybe of what is to come. And, perhaps with a sense of the shift in things, it seemed that my Facebook feed was filled with photographs by people drawn to mark this liminal time.

An old school friend by the name of Dave Wright lives up in Inverness, in Scotland. He has two things up there that I don’t have: a decent camera and the northern lights.

He took this photograph as a cold dusk fell upon the land, he himself hunkered down for the night. The tree serves as a point of focus in an otherwise horizontal sweep.

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And then, as he quite aptly described it: the moment the sky danced. 

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Further south, across the English border (how we like to divide and designate, whether with land or time or people) another old school friend, Derek Bates, paused to take in the view from his works window. This was in Duckingfield, a town in Greater Manchester, with light struggling slowly over the bare hills, the low-lying land shrouded in mist.

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To the east of Duckingfield, in my hometown of Middleton, the temperature stubbornly refused to rise. The mist appeared hesitant beyond the trees.

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And then the school run beckoned, drawing us out of our heated home. Ignore that sun, it may as well have been a snowflake.

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“It’s cold,” my daughter exclaimed as we hurried along the main road. “I can’t feel my legs.”

“They’re still there,” I replied. “Keep going!” 

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When A Day Of Death Became A Bridge

It is now fourteen years since that day. R.I.P X

City Jackdaw

My Dad died ten years ago today. Although we mark it, the day itself is not significant.

There were days when he was here, then there are days when he is not. There is just a before and after.

Time appears cyclical to me, when I view the seasons, married to the differing stages of our lives, but we chart things in a linear fashion. That day ten years ago perhaps became a bridge, where plans/hopes/dreams pass by memories/regrets/hindsight , each moving in opposite directions.

What is known of us, that which survives us, becomes less and less as memories fade along with the number of storytellers.

The personalities and stories behind the details, enshrined in the remembrance of others.

I was going to publish some photographs here, reducing a full life to a handful of images, but instead I have decided the best way to honour him and the…

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Mural

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Russ Meehan, aka Qubek, is an artist whose work can be encountered during any walk around the Manchester area.

His murals feature throughout the region, including a huge image of 22 bees in the Northern Quarter, which represents the 22 killed in the Manchester Arena attack.

Meehan was asked to do the mural by Marc Gallanders, a graphic designer who set up the Bee Strong MCR in a bid to spread positivity in the wake of the Manchester bomb, and help children and adults have conversations about what happened. His project supplies worker bees which will be placed across Greater Manchester in a show of condolence and solidarity.
The 22 bees mural – a tribute to those killed at Manchester Arena was created in Monton.
Gallanders says: “We decided on Monton as I live there and a lot of the local schools had children directly affected by the attack, and we wanted to spread the love and the message of togetherness beyond the city centre.

“As months have gone by since the attack, we wanted the piece to help move the city and the community forward with a symbolic design.”

The new painting gives the illusion that bricks have been taken out of the wall, revealing a garden with bright flowers, blue skies, and of course – bees.

Meehan explains some of the symbolism in the work: “The flowers have all got meanings – I went through a library of flowers and read through what each of them meant.

“Snapdragons, they symbolise grace and strength, and in the same family there are some statice – which aren’t fully in bloom in the picture, they’re just behind the daffodils – they are a symbol of remembrance and symbolise sympathy and success.

“The rose at the bottom symbolises love, when you think of all the love which poured out of Manchester I thought that was a nice symbol to put in there.

“Also the rose is red because of Lancashire. Daisies symbolise innocence and purity.

“On the left hand side there’s a flower called the king protea, that stands for change and transformation and it signifies daring and resourcefulness.

“The daffodil, it’s indicative of rebirth, new beginnings, and eternal life. Now I’m not really very religious, but I think that’s a nice meaning, it’s like the flowers and the piece is in remembrance to those who have passed away. It’s almost like they’re living on through the art work.

“The bees represent the people of Manchester: hardworking individuals around the city. I didn’t want to drag it up again… I wanted to make a piece of art that celebrated not just the people who were there on the night but everyone in Manchester.

“It’s an overall celebration of people, and the love that people have for each other in this city.”

 

Homeward Bound

I’m sitting in a railway station, got a ticket to my destination 

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I know I’m a poet, but the credit for those lines goes to a certain Paul Simon. I thought of them today when in Victoria Station.

It is said that Simon wrote that song while waiting for a train at Widnes, which is not too far from here.

And each town looks the same to me, the movies and the factories

certainly has a period North-West feel to it.

Everywhere we go; everything we read; everything we listen to: there are always connections.

Except when the trains are on strike.

Taking The Leeds

This is becoming a long term relationship. Once a week I commute between Leeds and Manchester; forwards and backwards; linear and cyclical.

As I approached the train, waiting on the platform in Manchester Victoria, the lines from Robert Johnson’s Love In Vain came to mind:

When the train, it left the station, with two lights on behind/When the train, it left the station, with two lights on behind/Well, the blue light was my blues, and the red light was my mind/All my love’s in vain

Maybe distance gives you a penchant for the blues. The separation from all that is familiar.


All I need to pass the time on these journeys are two windows: one to the outside world racing to keep up beyond the glass, and one to an inside world constructed within a book cover.

 I had picked up a copy of The King In Yellow earlier for a couple of quid.

The first four stories in this collection are linked by mention of The King in Yellow, a forbidden play which induces despair or madness in those who read it. 

 It was not what I was expecting, though. This is a book of two halves-the first being stories of a weird and macabre type that gradually fade away during the remaining stories which are of a romantic fiction style. 

My preferences are those from the first half. I guess you have an idea by now that I’m that kind of guy. The Repairer Of Reputations, The Mask, In The Court Of The Dragon, The Yellow Sign, and my favourite The Demoiselle d’Ys. These were up there with M.R James and my favourite Le Fanu.

There was a woman in the seat opposite me. I caught her glancing at the cover of my book, much in the manner that I often do. Whenever I see someone reading I am filled with a curiosity about the book that is holding their attention. 

Due to the theme connecting these tales, I thought it could be appropriate to warn her:

“Beware the King In Yellow!”

“Beware the infernal influence of books!”

But of course I didn’t. I imagine she may have sounded the alarm for an emergency stop, and Lancashire to Yorkshire is an awful long way to walk.

Later, my business in Leeds done, I caught a return train home to Manchester. Last week I returned under beautiful blue skies as captured below, but this time it was gloomy and raining, my journey moving through a deepening Autumn.

And yes, I loved it.

Back in my home city I caught a coffee and finished my book, shaking off a travel induced lethargy, before emerging into a darkened metropolis. All around familiar landmarks, monoliths against the sky, were lit up in a futile attempt to hold back the night: blues; yellows; reds.

The blue lights were my blues. The red lights were my mind. Is my love for Manchester in vain?