So, How’s Your Boxing Day Going?

So, how’s your Boxing Day going? Feeling lethargic and in need of some fresh air yet? Me too. But not just yet.

In the meanwhile, I thought I’d check in to share this photo with you all. Though it’s from 1905, I’m sure that those two children are Jools Holland and Paul McCartney!

And Cindy Lauper’s not looking her best, is she?

Claws For The Weekend: Window Shopping

I love this photo by Arthur Leipzig of children looking at Christmas toys in 1944. The little girl at the bottom looks like she just can’t stand the allure, I think I’d have to buy her something.

Anyway, have a great weekend everybody, Christmas is a week today.

I hope you get all you wish for. Be careful what you wish for.

See you on the flip side.

V-Day, Great To See Day

A fragile, frosty morning, with the Warwick Mill intangibly framed against the dawn sky.

I took this photograph yesterday; today I awoke to rain. And you know how cold rain in December can be.

The Warwick Mill is an empty shell, surviving changing times and the neglect of abandonment. But for how long? The target of children and arsonists, it is the relic of a time when my town was a cotton town, employing hundreds of local people over many years. Today, if it was closer to Manchester, it would undoubtedly house converted apartments.

Instead, it houses pigeons and rats. But for now it’s still with us, and who knows what the future holds?

*

Speaking of the future:

Having been short on good news lately, there was such a lift today in learning that this December day is not only Tuesday, it is also V-Day. I’m not sure if the ‘V’ is for victory or vaccination, but they are both going hand in hand, anyway.

A 90-year-old grandmother this morning became the first person to receive the new Covid-19 vaccine. She was all over the news, sat in hospital having her jab while, symbolising the restored festive feel, wearing her Christmas jumper.

What a multi-cultural collaboration it has been to get here. The drug is from a US pharmaceutical company, the scientist behind it a Turkish immigrant to Germany, it’s manufactured in Belgium and our UK regulator is the first to approve it.

All of that ingenuity and endeavour and cross border co-operation has delivered.

I cannot remember the name of the woman who as first in the queue without googling, but I do remember the second patient: William Shakespeare! Not only William Shakespeare, but William Shakespeare of Warwickshire!

How’s that for a Winter’s Tale?

When asked how it went, I’d have really loved it if hed have replied “It was much ado about nothing,”

But still, at this time of year, the end of a cold and sorely taxing year, while the hours of darkness are deepening, there can also be discerned a shining light, a light that is slowly growing. A light that is heralding the hopes of a nation, coming with us through a gateway into a bright new start.

#80 Dream

John Lennon would have been eighty today. Can you imagine that? The founder of The Beatles being an octogenarian. He’s now been dead for the same number of years that he lived, and there’s always a sadness in that. It’s hard to consider the life without the tragic end. But we must try.

The other morning I downloaded this and listened to it over a coffee in McDonald’s.

A two-parter, it features both Sean and Julian Lennon for the first time speaking publicly about their father. Sean also interviews his Godfather, Elton John, and also Lennon’s songwriting partner Paul McCartney.

Speaking to the latter, Sean mentioned how Love Me Do was written before The Beatles existed as the group we all know, and asked if there were other such early songs? Paul confirmed that there were, for example One After 909 and I Saw Her Standing There. Commenting that they were such strong songs that still stand today, Sean asked did they ever write any bad songs or did they always strike gold straight away?

When Paul replied that there were bad ones, the reaction was along the lines of Oh, thank Christ for that!

I guess that gives hope to we mere mortals, scribbling along in the sand.

Sean also asked about Paul’s first meeting with his father, which I guess every fan knows took place on the 6th July 1957, when John’s skiffle band The Quarry Men were performing at a church fete.

What I didn’t know was that Paul had seen John around a few times before this, but that he didn’t know him. A couple of times he’d caught Paul’s eye when on the same bus, when John would have been travelling to see his mother. Paul had thought that Lennon had looked cool, sporting the rebellious, Teddy Boy look of the time. Then another time he saw him in the queue at a chippy, thinking hey, that’s the guy from the bus. But at this point they’d still never spoke to each other.

That all changed when mutual friend Ivan Vaughan took Paul so see John playing at the fete, and the penny dropped that his friend’s friend was the same guy he’d been noticing around the neighbourhood.

This is artist Eric Cash’s conception of John and Paul’s introductory meeting in the church hall after the performance.

Sometimes in life it seems like the paths of certain individuals keep crossing. The universe has a way of bringing together people who are meant to meet.

Just this morning I saw this image posted, announcing the birth of a young son to Julia and Alfred Lennon.

Who could have had any idea at the time, when skimming the announcements in the local newspaper, the impact that that boy would have on the world?

I wonder about those other babies, too, for example the Looney daughter stated immediately below the Lennon son. What life did she go on to lead? Did she ever know the brief illustrious company that she once shared in her origin? Did she go on to impact the world in some other, less celebrated way?

Eighty years on, I was draining the last of my coffee as Sean finished the show with:

Here’s wishing a Happy Birthday to my Dad. People may grow old, but great music never does.

And that’s true. All art is nailed at the time in a form that lasts forever, untouched by shifting context and the changing mores.

On Poetry:Inspiration

City Jackdaw

For me, my poems serve as a diary. When I look at them I can remember where I was when I got the idea for each one, and what it was that acted as the initial inspiration. The opening poem in my book, Heading North, is called Midnight, July.

The title indicates the when, but not the where and why.

The words for this one came when I was sat in the back garden with a coffee. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and I was looking up at the stars and wondering whether we could be alone or was there life somewhere out there?

We writhe 

with a rage to know 

the unknowable,


blind to great masses

that dance in dark orbits. 

And a soft, summer wind 

on a night beneath stars 

is no balm.

While I was sat there, neck craned in the quiet of the…

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R.I.P Astrid Kirchherr

I’ve just heard of the death, at 81, of Astrid Kirchherr, the woman who helped define the early Beatles look when the then unknown Liverpool group were in Hamburg in the early sixties.

She took some of their early photographs, iconic photographs in a style that were ahead of everyone else at the time.

After these she also gave the (then) Fab Five their distinctive Beatle haircuts, the fifth being the talented but doomed artist Stuart Sutcliffe who she fell in love with. Later, reduced to four, and with Best replaced by Starr, they went on to conquer the world, as she proudly and sadly looked on.

Fifty eight years apart, I’d like to think that they’ve found each other again. R.I.P

Echoes Of Tears On King Street

I’ve just finished reading The Last Time I Saw Paris, which is a biography of a Parisian Street, rue de la Huchete, running from the early ’20’s to the time of World War Two. Featuring a wide cast of characters, though it’s non-fiction it reads like a novel, and I can’t remember the last time I read a book where the final words moved me so.

Anyway. There was a passage in it that reminded me of something else:

There were, in those days, certain grey-blue postcards that meant someone had been wounded or missing, and some black-rimmed white ones that spelled dark death. The women at the far end of streets would, if they saw the postman’s pouch contained no black-rimmed messages, wave and sometimes cheer with an edge of fear diminishing in their voices, and up and down the street the watchers would relax. Very often no such reassurance was forthcoming, and everyone had to wait, breath caught, nerves throbbing, until someone let out a shriek, or turned wordlessly away or dropped in her tracks and the postman wiped away a tear from his eye with the back of his hand before continuing.

I was a postman for ten years, and one of my rounds was in Cheapside, one of the oldest parts of Middleton. One of the streets there was King Street. In this photo you can see King Street, viewed from behind the cottage on Idler’s Corner, Rochdale Road, climbing ahead. If that pub on the hill is The Beehive, then this was taken before 1919, when it closed. The cottages were gone by 1925.

(Incidentally, Idler’s Corner was so called because weary travellers would stop to rest against the large York stone slabs, ‘idling’ for a time. It was directly opposite King Street.

Of course, this was well before my Royal Mail days. As was the following photograph, which lists the streets running off King Street.

This next photo, though, shows King Street as I know it.

There were no longer any houses lining the road for me to deliver to, I used it just to reach the flats that await at the top of its crest, just the odd business drop along the way.

When I used to walk up there, occasionally I would recall a story, recorded some years ago by an older resident, about a postman that had long preceded me. He was tasked, unenviably, like that postman in Paris at the beginning of this post, to deliver similar telegrams during the First World War.

Each morning, as he navigated the street, women and children would watch from behind net curtains, fearfully, waiting to see who would be the latest recipient, summoned to answer that fateful knock at the door.

Filled with a combination of dread, is he coming here?

then relief, he’s going to Maisie’s

then sadness, poor, poor Maisie

The witness told how one day the postman, having broken under the strain of this daily burden, was sat on the kerbside, sobbing, a woman from one of these houses sat silently beside him, arm around his shoulders in consolation.

I can no longer recall where it was I read this, but sometimes I would remember the story as I followed in that long-gone postman’s footsteps, climbing the hill and feeling the connection of that man and the place in which we both lived, echoes of people and homes now lost to time.