Something Wicked This Way Comes

If it’s a quiet night, why not track Dracula’s journey to England? 😀

Courtesy of Whitby Dracula Society 1897

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It’s All Greek To Me

I travelled into Manchester on a warm and stuffy bus, the heat only adding to my lethargy. I’d had only four hours sleep due to the late arrival of the student due to stay with us. (Don’t ask. No really- don’t ask! My WordPress word count couldn’t take it.)

After delivering him safely to the academy I called for a quick early lunch at the food court in the Arndale Centre. Sporting different stalls offering food from many different countries, I opted for a  halloumi pitta from Zorba’s.

Don’t worry this isn’t a food post, I’m not that kind of blogger.

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I took a table and began to eat while reading the book I was currently in the middle of, maybe not a good idea whilst making a mess of myself with yoghurt sauce. A voice reached me from a neighbouring table: “Do you like Greek writers?”

I looked across to him whilst frantically dabbing at my chin with a napkin. He did indeed look Greek, but I don’t think he was one of Zorba’s workers. Perhaps an expat with a craving for home cooking.

Emboldened by the name of the food stall, I replied “I’ve read most things by Nikos Kazantzakis.”

“He is Cretan.”

I conceded that he was, and that I’d actually seen the author’s grave in Heraklion.

“Crete is not Greece,” my neighbour said firmly. And then he glanced down at my plastic tray. “And halloumi is not meat.”
You had to hand it to the guy, he certainly knew his stuff. Again I conceded the point, and briefly considered asking him for both author recommendations and favoured meat dishes but decided to cut and run. For no doubt English would not be Greek and my wife’s cooking would not be his Mother’s.

I packed both my book and lunch into my backpack and said a hasty goodbye, bus to catch and all that, making  my escape through the adjacent indoor fish market. As usual with the fish market it is your sense of smell that registers before your sense of sight, but then Conga eels, live mussels and all types of fish parts catch your eye, including, at the end of the display, a sign for Cod Flaps.

Cod flaps? What part of a fish could that be?

Surely not?

 

Roman; Saxon; Norman; Schoolboy

Whatever your persuasion, whether you look at it as Beltain, May Day, or the first day of summer, yesterday, for once, the weather played its part. Actually the weather always plays its part-it’s just that it’s not always the weather you want!

Anyway the sun was out, and after doing my errands for She Who Must Be Obeyed I took time out in our local Jubilee Park which was certainly dressed for the occasion.

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Adorned in her best Cherry blossom, who cannot be lifted on a day such as this? Even I-Autumn and Winter lover that I am.

Though it may not be the exact geographical centre of my town I certainly look upon this area as both its historic and spiritual centre. St.Leonard’s church, part of which dates back to Norman times, is the church that my wife and I were married in.  It is believed there was a wooden Saxon church here before this, and possibly built, as was the custom, on the site of a pagan temple. A stone’s throw away is the suspected place of a Roman signal point, and just behind it some long gone prehistoric barrows.

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And speaking of history-here’s a building that has figured prominently in mine. This is Middleton Library. You guys know I’m a bookworm, right?  Go beyond those upstairs windows, in what is now the reference library, and you just might see the ghost of an eleven-year-old Jackdaw diligently doing his homework with his school mates in the former children’s section.

I wonder if I’d recognise him? Would he know me?

I’ve been a member of that library for something like thirty five years. And now my own book is in there. How cool is that?

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Near to the bandstand I found the Middleton coat of arms, shyly stating its claim in the grass. And those dandelions-so important for the early bees when many flowers have yet to bloom. At least that’s what I tell my wife when she wants the garden doing.

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When In Crete: The Author’s Tomb

A timely photo maybe, with today being Good Friday, but this isn’t a religious site-rather it’s the tomb of Nikos Kazantzakis, author of works such as Zorba The Greek and The Last Temptation. When we were in Crete in 2008 I travelled to Heraklion to seek it out. I have most of his books and I do like to make personal connections. Fortunately I have a very understanding wife.

Although deeply spiritual, his books often reflected his struggle to find truth in religion and spirituality. Many Orthodox Church clergy condemned Kazantzakis’ work and a campaign was started to excommunicate him. His reply was: “You gave me a curse, Holy fathers, I give you a blessing: may your conscience be as clear as mine and may you be as moral and religious as I” 

The tomb is quite plain, made of stone marked with a wooden cross. The epitaph, taken from one of his works, reads:

 ‘I hope for nothing, I fear nothing, I am free’.

Heading North Turns Two; Put Up The Cards And Bunting

Happy Birthday HN!

Coronets For Ghosts

My debut poetry collection, Heading North, was published by Nordland Publishing two years ago today. I’m still rather proud of it.

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If anybody wants to buy a copy, with Christmas around the corner, there is a link below. Or, if any of you should find yourself near the Middleton public library in Manchester, UK, or the Norway National Library, you could have a read for free.

I’m all for the opportunists among you 😉

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Heading-North-2-Songs/dp/8283310097/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1512565332&sr=8-1&keywords=Heading+North

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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?

City Escapes, In Starbucks

I’ve been in Leeds for a few days, but I’m hoping return to Manchester tomorrow. Hope my usual seat is free.

City Jackdaw

Today was a good day.

I spent much of it in Starbucks, in Manchester, drinking spiced pumpkin latte and reading accounts of adventures in such far off places as Tangier; Haiti; Ischia; New Orleans.

Sitting directly opposite me, oblivious to my mental escapes, was a young woman, wearing a blouse of long, black-laced sleeves, locked in an insular world with her bespectacled beau. She looked comfortable enough in their interactions, but had enough self-conscious affectations to suggest that their love story was still in its infancy.

Whoever they were, they weren’t local, and their story had brought them here.

Perhaps they were from Tangier, Haiti, Ischia or New Orleans. You know how sometimes coincidence plays itself out.

Sometimes I find myself people watching, wondering, creating, until I realise I am in danger of becoming the Shopping Centre Creep and shake myself back out of my reverie.

I plunged myself back…

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