Monday, 24 October 2016

tunnel of love

Now that I’m back in Hong Kong, I don’t expect to be writing anything about the UK for the next seven months, but I do have one loose end to tie up first. On the weekend prior to my departure, I travelled down to Manchester for the christening of my grandson. It wasn’t possible to travel early enough on the day—that’s the modern British rail network for you—so I was obliged to travel down the day before and check into a hotel in the south Manchester suburb of East Didsbury.

Once I’d done so, I had the rest of the afternoon and the evening to myself, and I spent much of that time walking around the area. Among the city’s public transport options is a modern tram network, some of which follows old railway lines that may have been disused for decades prior to their incorporation into the network, and I was walking along a path (shared with cyclists—there appears to be an extensive off-road network of cycle routes around these parts) that runs alongside one such line when I came across a brick-lined tunnel, the walls of which were covered in graffiti.

Regular readers will know that I don’t automatically regard graffiti as vandalism—they can have aesthetic merit—although in this case a degree of vandalism must be conceded. However, the vandalism here appears to be against older graffiti, which have often been overwritten. There are also a lot of meaningless scrawls, often on top of more elaborate pieces of work, so that often the result is, unfortunately, a mess. As you can see from the following sequence of photographs, the tunnel cannot be compared with Ghost Alley or Penrith’s Answer to Ghost Alley. Nevertheless, I felt that it was worth recording.

Having checked out these images, you’re probably wondering why I gave this post the title I did, given that I often use common phrases that don’t appear to be directly relevant as titles. In this case, I was listening to music on my MP3 player, and Tunnel of Love by Dire Straits came on just as I reached the tunnel. But for this serendipitous juxtaposition, I might never have bothered to write this post.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

linguistic legerdemain

I will be setting off early tomorrow morning on the long haul back to Hong Kong, and as usual I have a little puzzle for readers to ponder while I’m en route. Of the following six words, which is the odd one out, and why?
citizen ● partner ● recruit ● scholar ● sponsor ● steward
Obviously, a person can be a citizen, or a partner, or a recruit, or a scholar, or a sponsor, or a steward, but one of these six differs from the others in a fundamental way. Which one?

All correct answers will be acknowledged at the time of posting, but the comment(s) that include such correct answers will not be posted for a month from this date. If no correct answers are received during this period, this puzzle will remain unsolved indefinitely. I will not be providing the solution.

If you have found this one easy, then you should try An English Question, for which no correct solution has been submitted despite its having been posted almost two years ago. Rhyme Cryme, posted earlier this year, has also not been solved yet.

spoiler alert
Correct solutions have been submitted below by an anonymous reader and by Siegfried, and by Claire via email. Only Siegfried has explained the reason for his answer.

Monday, 17 October 2016

penrith’s answer to ‘ghost alley’

If you’ve read Ghost Alley, you will know that I’m fascinated by what might loosely be called ‘street art’. However, I never expected to see anything of this kind in my home town.

Earlier in the summer, I noticed that the walls of the passageway connecting the bottom end of Bluebell Lane to Little Dockray had been painted in vibrant shades of yellow and orange but thought no more of it at the time. However, I was walking through this alley a couple of weeks ago when I noticed that a range of decorative motifs had been added to the walls. A friend told me that they had been painted by children under the tutelage of an established street artist, who showed his students how to achieve smooth edges to their designs and other skills. The first photograph is a general view of the passage from the Bluebell Lane end. This is followed by a view from the Little Dockray end.

The remaining pictures are of individual designs on the walls. The symmetry evident in these designs suggests to me that stencils and other templates have been used in their creation, although this is not to imply any kind of criticism. After all, Banksy uses stencils, and nobody criticizes him for doing so. I believe this to be a welcome modern addition to the town’s historic landscape. The next time you’re in Penrith, check it out.

Anyone who is familiar with Penrith will recognize motifs in the fourth and fifth photos that are based on the tower on top of the Beacon, which was erected in the mid-eighteenth century to commemorate hundreds of years of pillaging by Scots marauders, by then coming to an end, and in the second and fifth pictures, a stylized version of the Musgrave Monument, which was built by a prominent local family to mark the loss of their son in the Crimean War (1853–56) and which is usually considered to be the centre of town. I’m not sure what the cupola that appears in several images is supposed to represent, although there are no examples of this architectural feature in the town that are as prominent as the Beacon Tower or the Monument.

Friday, 14 October 2016

favourite photos: summer 2016

I haven’t taken any photographs this summer that are immediately striking, but I think that the images I’ve included in this collection are at least interesting.

Several of the following pictures were taken while I was out cycling, starting with this photo of Greystoke church. The yellow flowers in the field in front of the church are buttercups, while the small tree on the left with the white flowers is a hawthorn. The blossom on the hawthorns was especially abundant this spring, and the trees are now absolutely covered in red berries.

If you’ve read Quiet Riot, you will know that one of the delights of cycling along narrow country lanes in June and July is the mass of wild flowers in the grass verges. The next two photos are typical, although they do demonstrate an intrinsic weakness of digital photography: that pinks and mauves appear washed out. The actual colours of these flowers are far more intense than they appear to be here.

The next photo was taken during our trip to Chester in July. It is not a particularly good photograph, but I just love those chimneys.

A few days after our visit to Chester, Paula and I travelled to Ravenglass, on the Cumbrian coast, to ride on La’al Ratty, the local name for the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway. This narrow-gauge line runs up into the picturesque valley of Eskdale, and the next photo was taken during the journey up the valley.

Having reached the terminus of the line in the village of Dalegarth, we went for a walk, during which I photographed a well-developed cluster of toadstools on a decaying tree stump:

Eskdale is unique among Lakeland valleys in that its topography is determined by a huge granite intrusion (the rocks in other valleys are volcanic). This difference is most clearly seen in the dry-stone walls seen in all valleys. Volcanic rocks tend to split along lines of cleavage, meaning that individual pieces are likely to have flat surfaces. Clearly, this makes it easier to build a wall without using mortar, but the wall in the next photo was built using rounded granite cobbles, making this wall a minor masterpiece.

Hedgehogs have been in decline in the UK for decades, but I photographed this individual while out on one of my early-morning walks:

I haven’t posted anything related to ‘oil paintings’ this summer, but on one occasion I noticed a line of oil stains that extended the full length of the street where I live. This photo was taken directly in front of my house:

When I’ve been out cycling, I’ve occasionally seen a few goats around the hamlet of Ellonby. I photographed this billy goat as it walked up to sniff my outstretched hand:

Finally, I offer another landscape photo taken while out cycling. Although they appear to be a minor feature in the picture, the small herd of cows in the foreground is the reason I stopped to take the photo in the first place. Every cow was lying down, and they were all looking at me while I took the photo.

The day after posting this collection, I travelled down to Manchester for my grandson’s christening. I was out and about very early the following morning, and there was a most spectacular sunrise:

In fact, the entire sky glowed red, and it was therefore impossible to capture it all in a single image. And as every Cumbrian knows, ‘red sky at morning, shepherd’s warning’. It started raining heavily an hour later.