Sunday, April 30, 2006

Free House

A free house - what a bargain! Or perhaps not.

Unfortunately all it means is that the inn, in this case the Half Moon at Cheriton Fitzpaine in Devon, is not tied to a particular brewery and can serve whatever beer it cares to. When breweries could monopolise large areas and force drinkers into imbibing such swill as Watney's Red Barrel and Courage Best, the free house was an oasis. Cities like Bristol and Birmingham were particularly poor for choice.

This situation has been considerably eased by the growth of small independent breweries since the 1970s. Now it is possible to buy a wide variety of amber falling-over water in almost every town or village.

(This blog has been checked by the Tweeometer. No kittens, lambs or other cuddly animals were detected)

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Two Clichés

A solitary tree cries out to be photographed and I'm not one to resist such a heart-felt plea.

So let no cliché be left undigitised.

What's more, I must try and include as many clichés as possible.

How about silhouetting the tree against a sunset?

No, no, I hear you cry.

Oh, yes! I'm going to because I can.

Now I just need a gambolling lamb or perhaps a chicken.


I’m fresh out.

Friday, April 28, 2006

A Bunch of Sheep

Somewhere amongst these sheep, I wouldn't mind betting that there's a smart chicken.

(My car was parked just up the hill. Now one side of it is clean and polished)

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Hotel in Black & White

Although I'm not a great fan of cities, there is something about the buildings in London that I find compelling. I came across this hotel in Langham Street when Pixie and I were searching for a cheap eatery a couple of weeks ago.

The front is covered in black and white tiles so it seemed only right to discard what little colour there was when producing the final image.

I like monochrome images but I would never subscribe to the school that sees them as more artistic or pure than coloured ones. I'm sure we only have black & white photography because the technology did not readily exist for colour back in the Victorian era.

There again, humans love to make a virtue out of necessity.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

More Red

Not so much a 'splash of red' as a torrent.

This building houses, amongst other things, the studios of the BBC in Birmingham. They decamped here from purpose-built premises at Pebble Mill, further out of the city, a couple of years ago. At the time this idea was first mooted, it was the equivalent of taking a group of people used to sleeping in a king-size bed and putting them into a baby's cot. Rattles were thrown out.

Pressure was eased by making large numbers of people redundant, cutting corners, squandering expertise and transferring programme-making to less desirable locations like London and Manchester. No doubt that's progress (Axe to grind? Me? Don’t think so).

It also houses Harvey Nicholls, a shopping chain slightly more upmarket than Wal-Mart or Tesco's. Cheap jeans are not a speciality.

Peter and I had been in Brum to help send off some old colleagues into the great wide world of freelancing. On the way home we searched out a Balti restaurant, the Royal Watan in Selly Oak. It was excellent, the real taste of Indian food but somewhere other than India (or Kashmir, as this was a Kashmiri Balti).

They're Out To Get Me

Nearly fell off my bike this morning swerving to avoid a black chicken.

They're coming after me.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Red Light

Horror struck!

That's how I was this evening when I realised that my image making has been infiltrated by a malevolent and insidious affliction.

I have become 'twee'.

Just look at the evidence.

A blog with a cat and three pottery ducks.

A blog with a hen and some sheep.

A blog with even more hens.

I searched desperately through my back catalogue for a cure.

I found pictures of dogs. It must have been creeping up in me for some time.

It will have to be the short, sharp shock.

Tomorrow, rain or shine, more rust. Perhaps some barbed wire. A broken gate. Anything that's moribund, expired, no more, gone to join the choir invisible.

I have seen the light.

And it is red.


'Look here, Mr Photographer. I've found you a group of three and a splash of red.

So when do I get fed?'

(Shout appears courtesy of Lou and Dave Junior - she is available for any event involving food, sleep or small voles)

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Ring O'Bells

Peter's a fan of reflection shots so I'm presenting him with this one taken outside the ’Ring o'Bells' at Cheriton Fitzpaine in Devon. It's a fine pub - excellent food, well-kept real ales, and a friendly atmosphere.

Inside you can play darts - if you're under about five foot nine. Even with the cunningly contrived dent in the ceiling, I can't get a dart into the board from my lofty height although imbedding them in my foot is a cinch. I'll not say anything about Pixie's prowess with the arrows for fear of repercussions.

I am reliably informed that the Rioja was first class. I can personally speak well of at least one of the real ales available - a pint of 'Otter', a very quaffable brew thrusting its way onto the palate with bravado and aplomb.

It was dark when we left. None of us tripped over anything valuable or sentient as far as I'm aware.


In some areas of Britain, farmers are so poor that they must forego the traditional sheepdog and rely on other farmyard animals to keep the flock together.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Clucking at the Green Door

I can't see the charm of chickens and I'm certainly not smitten with the sound of cockerels. I used to live next door to one and it drove me bananas; if I'd had access to a gun I'd have used it and to hell with the consequences. In the end we moved house before I could commit cockicide.

Whenever someone complains about the incessant noise of a crowing bird (and if you think they only do it at dawn, think again), some local comes up with the same tired old retort - if you don't like the sounds of the country, don't live there. No doubt that was a valid argument fifty years ago. That was before the greedy farmer telling us to pipe down sold off his land for development and allowed us townies to gain a foothold in his supposedly rural idyll. You can't have it both ways - farm the land, make noise (and smell), keep chickens - sell the land, make money, keep your mouth shut.

Incidentally there's usually a flock/herd/gaggle of chickens in my path as I cycle on my way to Pershore. They scatter in all directions as I approach. I'll get one of them some day.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Ancestral Link

Peter and I had a boys' day out today. We'd intended to get the bikes out but a vicious south-westerly and squally showers put paid to that idea. I know there are some who get pleasure from cycling in the face of adversity but we're not amongst them, not when there's a perfectly sound Honda CR/V available.

We were stuck for photographic venues. I suggested Gloucester Docks, always good for a bit of rippling water and some photogenic boat bits. Then I remembered it's Easter week. There'd be people about, maybe children, clogging up the images with their untidy presence. I hate people in pictures, nasty undisciplined things, never dressed to suit the shot, wandering about, willy-nilly, with no concept of thirds or foreground interest.

Inevitably we found ourselves in church again, the only public buildings readily available in inclement weather. I hope we don't catch religion.

Staverton Parish Church near Cheltenham has strong ancestral connections for me. Samuel Leach, my great-great-great-great grandfather was the clerk there in the early 1800s and would have been involved in the building of the organ seen on the right of the picture. It was completed in 1825, two years before his death. He had joined the 29th Regiment of Foot in 1788, served in the West Indies, met his wife, Margaret Plomer, in Cornwall while standing by to repel Napoleon (who obviously fancied a tub or two of Cornish Clotted Cream otherwise he'd have been making for Kent or Sussex) and was invalided out as a sergeant in 1800.

He settled in Gloucestershire, became a schoolmaster and raised eight children. No doubt he had seen life and had stories to tell the children of the resident agricultural labourers. For them the trip of a few miles to Cheltenham or Gloucester would have been adventure enough.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Breakfast for Two

There are no points available for guessing which of these two breakfast offerings is mine - it's the paltry looking bowl of cereal, obviously.

The full English is often seen as the epitome of breakfast cuisine - a couple of eggs, bacon, sausage, perhaps mushrooms, black pudding, baked beans and hash browns in more upmarket establishments, finished off with toast and marmalade. These offerings always seem so much more generous than the French or German versions with their emphasis on croissants, hard bread and cold meats.

But you soon realise when you venture out in Western Canada that we Brits are not playing in the same league. Just look at this plateful! Salivation City! If ever there was a reason to get out of bed in the morning, this is it.

Healthy? Shouldn't think so for one minute. Just keep riding the bike and taking the statins.

(Equally impressive breakfasts available in Australia & NZ - I've not tried the USA so I can't comment)

Monday, April 17, 2006

Anonymous Corridor

Corridor, any hotel,
Would appear the same.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Return to the Fold

I've just finished a couple of months of creatively unrewarding work in London. Back into the swing of home life now, stripping wallpaper, a bit of carpentry, pottering in the garden, clearing out the shed - and breaking the Blog-Clog.

London was a very negative period. I think I switch off completely when no great demands are being made on me; despite spending hours in a dark room, alone, surrounded by the muted, soothing roar of cooling fans, I produced very little in terms of new writing. I re-edited a couple of chapters of my never-to-be-published novel and sorted out a lot of photographs. It was all concerned with past endeavours. Eyes open (most of the time), brain in neutral.

A brass knurled object kissed by a gobbet of back light - irresistable, particularly if your name is Stanley.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Three Blue Pegs

I've eaten too much today - big breakfast of sausages, bacon, mushrooms, beans and thick granary toast. Skipped lunch, made up for that with a toasted teacake, almond croissant and large slice of the birthday cake that the lovely Sparkly had made for me (with token candles so as to avoid a fire-storm in Birlingham). Supper at the Dog (formally the Gay Dog - can't think why they changed the name) - pate, steak, apple pie, simple foods, well cooked.

There was live music, a Country & Western singer. Fortunately he held off performing until we'd finished eating so we were able to beat a retreat before our musical sensibilities were totally eroded. He had a great voice but it was coupled to a dire repertoire. Country & Western might sound grand in the US (although I have my doubts) but it definitely doesn't sit well in the Vale of Evesham; I'd rather listen to fifty seven tone deaf chimpanzees playing the viola, a troupe of dogs attempting the Hallelujah Chorus or French pop music. Anything without some woman called Jolene in it.

Anyway, three blue pegs on a line - none of them have had dogs that died, wive's who've run off with their best friend or their love taken to town.

In the Can

Just the one variety, fifty seven times

Friday, April 07, 2006

Three Anoraks

Just paying my blog a fleeting visit. Normal service will be resumed after Easter.

The term 'anorak' caused some confusion last time I used it. In the UK, if not elsewhere, it's applied to individuals, usually male, who have an apparently obsessive interest in something technical or trivial. The classic anoraks are train spotters, people whose idea of a good time is to spend a whole day standing on the end of a windswept station platform, copying down the numbers of every graffiti strewn object that is dragged past their field of view. I used to be one many years ago and I'd hoped I'd been cured.

Alas, if that's the case, why am I here on the bridge at Lower Moor, diverted from my trip to the post office, waiting patiently with these three stalwart gentlemen? And not only that, but engaging them in conversation, talking about the good old days when the line was the haunt of Class 50s.

Notice how well equipped they are - all anoraks relish equipment, having the right gear. And, before you ask, they're not examining the content of the grit bin. They're checking the latest text message from a forward scout further up the line at Honeybourne - more technology.

Eventually a class 47, the last in Anglia livery so they told me, growls its way past heading for Worcester, its presence immortalised in yet another JPEG.

Happy days, and not a real anorak in sight - train spotter fashion has moved on - now the fleece is 'de rigueur' for the discerning trackside spectator.