Saturday, 30 April 2011

Gathering Ghosts In May

For  May ghosts we travel from the shores of Loch Ashie near Inverness to the bridge over the River Thurne at Potter Heigham in Norfolk.

On the shore of Loch Ashie - by Mike Coats (CC A-S A Generic License)

 The origin of Loch Ashie's name is unknown; it is not a Gaelic word, and may be derived from the Norse warrior, King Ashie. From a boulder called King Fingal's seat he watched one of the Norse- Pictish battles that took place in the area.

Shortly after dawn on May morning a silent ghostly battle is often seen; records of it run back into antiquity. Large bodies of men in close formation and smaller cavalry groups face an attacking force advancing from the east. Injured men are said to bind sphagnum moss to their wounds with strips from their shirts.

Blickling Hall - by Les Hull (CC A-S A 2.0 Generic License)

The ghost of Anne Boleyn appears at Blickling in Norfolk on the anniversary of her death on 19th May, 1536. A phantom coach pulled by four headless horses drives towards and pulls up on the driveway of Blickling Hall (the place of her birth and childhood). Anne is said to be sitting in the carriage with her head in her lap; she climbs out and inspects each room of the Hall.

On the same date Sir Thomas Boleyn is said to drive a team of headless horses in the area, cursed to cross twelve bridges including those at Aylsham, Coltishall and Wroxham.

 Bridge over the River Thurne at Potter Heigham - by David Metcalf (CC A-S A 2.0 Generic License)

The three-arched bridge over the River Thurne at Potter Heigham is reported to be haunted by a phantom coach and horses.

In the 18th century Lady Evelyn Carew was married to Sir Godfrey Haslitt in Norwich Cathedral on 31st May. But Lady Evelyn had already sold her soul to the devil who wanted payment. At midnight she was seized by the devil's henchmen who seized her and carried her off n a coach pulled by four black horses.
The coach raced down the road to Potter Heigham but crashed into the bridge before it got there, smashing into a thousand pieces and throwing the occupants into the river. All were killed.

Now at midnight the coach is said to reappear and re-enact the fatal crash.

Thanks With A Second 'Z'

Special thanks to all A-Z Challengers who stayed the course. Thank you to those who joined my followers and also to those who didn't but still found time to comment on my posts. I know from the site stats that many others visited my blogs but did not comment. I can fully understand that as I had the same problem with so many blogs to read.

I've learned a lot - quadragintals, drabbles, mythology, words I had never seen before, books and films I've never read or seen.

All this has tired me out so I guess it's time to reach for my Zimmer frame and hobble off the scene. ZZZzz.

Zeus Asks...

A-Z Challenge – ‘Z’

Who Would Be Immortal?

It used to be so simple; there was no doubt I was in charge. Top god and if anyone stepped out of line I got stroppy and tossed a thunderbolt or two. Olympus was an idyllic place to live; from its heights I could watch over all the land. My brother, Poseidon and I were a perfect pair. I ruled the skies and made my presence felt through thunder, lightening and storms. He had a line in earthquakes and ruled the seas. Just to make sure that we were in total control we let our other brother, Hades, control the underworld.
To sort out the tribes and cities in the land I had to dominate their female deities. There are all sorts of myths about how many I seduced. Not all of them were myths. I even married some.
However I suppose the biggest problems arose when I married my sister, Hera who has been called ‘her indoors’ down through the ages. We had two sets of twins, including Helen later know as Helen of Troy. Our son Ares became the god of war and battle and the instigator of violence. Because of his cruel and warlike nature he was despised by all the gods. To tell you the truth I wasn’t too keen on him myself. He was bloody and merciless but also fearful and a coward. He had no moral attributes. I’ll never know how he persuaded the lovely Aphrodite to become his consort. Mind you he was a giant of a man with a loud voice; none of the other gods could match his speed.
I don’t know how Blair and Bush decided on the slogan of “Shock and Awe.” On the battlefield Ares was always accompanied Phobos and Deimos who were also known as “Fear” and “Terror.” He was also attended by Eris, the goddess of discord and strife. She became his constant companion and followed him everywhere. With Eris about there was bound to be trouble. I never understood how he became of the father of Harmonia, the goddess of harmony.
Sinister and mean, Eris took great joy in creating discord. I never did find out who gave her that golden apple. It was so bright and shiny that everyone wanted it. When she throws it among friends the friendships come to a rapid end; thrown among enemies it leads to war. Not for nothing is the golden apple of Eris known as the Apple of Discord. There was uproar when she threw it on the floor during the wedding banquet of Peleus and Thetis. Paris had to use his judgement to decide who had succeeded in getting hold of it. Some say the Trojan War would not have happened if Eris had behaved herself.
When wars have broken out since, right to the present day, you can put money on it that Eris has had a hand in it. To make matters worse she’s immortal.
I just can’t understand the modern day cult of celebrity. Those ‘A’ listed celebs are not the slightest bit immortal. What do they mean by a domestic goddess? Being able to clean and cook is no criteria. It’s no good using those anti-wrinkle creams they won’t work. This modern nonsense makes a mockery of my being immortal at all.
To rub salt into the wounds they have even nicked the idea of the great gymnastics and religious festival set up at Olympia in my honour. If they cheated in my day I fried them with my lightning bolt.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Happiness - Thematic Photography

You can be happy even if it is a dog's life.

As their tongues will tell you.

The Yorkshire Town of Yarm

A-Z Challenge – ‘Y’

When we moved to Yarm in 1970, the town was said to be in Teesside. Since then it has been in Cleveland (which is still the quoted postal address) and latterly in the unitary Borough of Stockton-on-Tees. Despite these administrative changes I have never forgotten what a resident said when we first arrived, “None of this Teesside nonsense, lad. We’re in Yorkshire! Don’t you forget it!”

I wrote about the bridge at Yarm under the letter B, and the  Valiant DragoonYarm Fair, 300th Anniversary of Yarm Town Hall and  Yarm Writers Group last year.

I ought to tell you about the Castle, but as you can see you will not need a guide to show you round.

The railway viaduct is on a different scale and can hardly be missed.

 The viaduct is nearly half a mile long; its 43 arches span the town and the River Tees, over seven and a half million bricks were used. Designed by Thomas Grainger and John Bourne of Edinburgh the viaduct was opened in 1852 to extend the Leeds and Thirsk Railway from Northallerton to Stockton and Hartlepool.

The cobbled areas on either side of the road are a feature of the Georgian High Street; the cobble areas are now used for disc controlled car parking. Even so through traffic still disrupts passage through the town. The High Street was voted best in Britain in a BBC poll in 2007.

The Dutch style Town Hall built in 1710 stands at the centre of the High Street which once boasted 16 inns. The Ketton Ox named after a famous shorthorn bull bred near Darlington was at one time noted for cockfighting. In 1820 the George and Dragon was the site of the meeting at which a decision was made to build the Stockton and Darlington Railway. The Cleveland Bay across the Tees in Eaglescliffe commemorates the well known breed of horse which originated in the hills east of Yarm.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Clock In For Sepia Saturday

In the days before clocks you had to devise other means to tell the time:

Sundial Cottage, Kirklevington

At this university the students, including my daughter, had no excuse for being late to lectures:

Birmingham University

You may have to look hard to check the time when sight seeing in Holland:

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

It's not much clearer in this university town where my daughter spent a year:

Freiburg, Germany

But nearer home everything becomes much clearer:

Yarm Town Hall Clock (Not taken in 1710)

Clock in for more at Sepia Saturday 72

Xanadu to Xerox

A-Z Challenge – ‘X’

“In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:”
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

If Xanadu was the place to be, and in Vietnam, I wonder whether you had to pay for the pleasure with a xu, one-hundredth of a dong. If a dong sounds musical to you could play the note by hammering on a xylophone. I’m sure however that my efforts would not qualify me as a contestant on the X Factor show.

I understand that birds and bugs may be xylophagous, i.e., they bore into wood. I hope that they would not choose to bore into the three masts of a xebec, a Mediterranean sailing ship on the way to Treasure Island.

On treasure maps X always marks the spot. If pouring over an old map hurts your eyes then perhaps you need a fluorescent lamp containing xenon. Bones recovered from the treasure site may even need to be X-rayed.

To relax at Xmas time you might decide to watch episodes of the X Files. If an alien can be a foreigner it’s no good being xenophobic. It’s definite that as a blogger you can’t be with followers from all over the world.

I’ll bet that you are all glad that X is the 28th letter of the alphabet; think of it, if the letter for today was xi it would only be the 14th.

There is to be a referendum in the UK on May 5th on possible changes to the voting system. The AV (alternative vote) system would require you to record your preferences for candidates in an election as 1, 2, 3 … and would do away with the current first past the post system. As an advocate of X all I can say is that A and V have had their chance.

If you believe that this post is worth saving you could always print it out and use a Xerox machine to copy it to your friends.

Finally, love and xxx to you all.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Am I A Wimp?

A-Z Challenge – ‘W’

Am I a wimp because I don’t understand a ‘window, icon, menu, pointing device’ (WIMP)?’

WIMPS are systems where a WINDOW will run a self-contained program, isolated within that window from other programs running at the same time (used to create multi-program operating systems), ICONS act as shortcuts to actions to be performed by the computer (such as execute a program), Menus are text-based or icon-based selection systems to again select and execute programs or sub-programs. Finally, the Pointer is an onscreen symbol that represents the movement of a physical device to allow the user to select elements on an output device such as a printer.

Okay, I’m a wimp!

Does it make me cowardly or unadventurous because I was born in 1937 and have retired? It was a retired baseball coach born in the same year named Winfrey Sanderson who was known as “Wimp.”

As I get older and weaker, and put on weight I could become a hypothetical particle of matter a so-called weakly interacting massive particle or WIMP for short. In which case I would be an ideal candidate for the WIMP Argon Programme which is researching cold dark matter at the National Laboratory of Gran Sass, Italy.

I’ll bet they need one of those ‘window, icon, menu, pointing thingies’ in that research and the WIMP software bundle as well, (the web stack of Windows (operating system), IIS (web server), MySQL (database management system), and PHP/Perl/Python (programming language))

I guess after that lot I’d better stick to being a cowardly or unadventurous individual, i.e., a wimp.

[You can blame Wikipedia for this]

Tuesday, 26 April 2011


A-Z Challenge – ‘V’

Verily I’m very vexed with ‘V,’ so many verbs and so much verbosity. 

I had a vision. I ventured forth clad in a vestigial vest which I hoped would vanquish the cold. I should have verified the weather by referring to grandma’s varicose veins; I was too vain to visit the weather vane. The heat from the volcano’s vent was vital for the violent vibration of my ventricle valves.

I smelled the viola and the violets along the way, playing the violin with verve at the verge, quite the virtuoso. My joie de vivre proclaimed my virility. Now was not the time to be vile or vitriolic; it was time to find a vendor of vanilla ice to present to virtuous vestal virgins before they vanished before my eyes.

Should I have had a vaccination before I visited Vesuvius or stopped for a bite of Vegemite in Victoria on a round trip via Vancouver; perhaps I should wash the victuals down with vinegar or vermouth.

With victory (Z) within sight it’s time to vacate this post. I hope it was not too vacuous. As I’m a male you can’t call it a vagina monologue. However I wish those virtual spammers would lay off the emails for Viagra.

Oh! I missed out ‘voluptuous,’ ‘vultures,’ all versions of ‘verse’ and volumes more.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Seated in Brunel's SS Great Britain - Thematic Photography

Over Easter we visited the SS Great Britain at the Great Western Dockyard in Bristol. The ship sits in the dry dock where the ship was built, and launched in 1843.

In the First Class Dining Saloon there are some special seats.

The benches have hinged backs which make the them reversible - they can face the table for meals or the centre of saloon during a concert.

These are a bit of a contrast with the contents of a First Class cabin:

And with the accommodation in steerage:

Check out more seating arrangements at Carmi's thematic-photographic - please be seated

Up In Annie's Room

A-Z Challenge – ‘U’

Up In Annie’s Room

This was a phrase I heard a lot when I was a boy in the 1940s and early 50s. I never gave its origin a thought in those days; I knew exactly what it meant.

In the stone cottage that was home we had a sitting room that was reached along a stone flagged corridor from the back door. The first door on the left led into the kitchen, the room that was always warm as it contained the black-leaded grate in which a coal fire burned. A second door on the left at the bottom of the corridor took you into the sitting room.

An open fireplace occupied the centre of the wall facing you, the deep red stone hearth bordered by a brass fender inside which rested a pair of heavy brass tongs. It was a party trick to place the tongs on the floor, to press down and lift one of the brass arms into the air. The trick was to challenge the unwary to repeat the feat. Of course you had to make sure you turned the tongs over to rest the raised arm on the floor before inviting the challenger to perform. They failed because the arm now on top was not articulated. I was banned from taking money from my friends in this way.

A polished round table occupied the centre of the room. This was the table, seating up to ten, that was used for countless wartime games of cards – Snap, Whist, Strip Jack Naked (Draw the Well Dry) and Cribbage – and board games like Ludo and Snakes and Ladders.

A dresser containing the best crockery stood against the left hand wall. To its right hung the board for the best game of all. Before I was allowed to play I had to learn to score; it was darts that made me proficient at mental arithmetic.

Watching adults play was frustrating, but it wasn’t long before I could join in. This is when I first hear the phrase ‘Up in Annie’s Room,” words that were uttered when you kept missing doubles and finished up needing double one to win. Annie’s Room has always been double one to me. I always assumed that this was because next to double twenty, double one was at the top of the board.

In our house though there was an additional hazard. Above the board the wall was made of canvas so if you missed up there the dart was liable to pass through the wall. Anyone sitting at the kitchen table was in the line of fire!

In researching the origin of the phrase again I found a suggestion that the complete phrase was “Up in Annie’s room, behind the clock” used when someone enquired about the whereabouts of some (lost) object. This either meant “I don’t know” or “I’m not telling you” and might be used by a mother to a child.

The 1995 Cassell Dictionary of Catchphrases gave “up in Annie’s room behind the clock (or…behind the wallpaper) as an explanatory phrase for when something disappears unaccountably about the house. It may have originated as a services catchphrase before the First World War, in reply to a query concerning someone’s whereabouts.

But who was Annie and where was her room?

I like the suggestion that the phrase may have arisen in the servants’ quarters in a stately home, Annie’s room belonging to either a child or a maid-servant.

It’s a coincidence, I think, that my grandmother and my mother were both called Annie and that my mother was once in service at a stately home. Sadly there is no-one in the family still alive who can tell me where.

I’ll have to settle for “double one.”

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Middlesbrough's Transporter Bridge

The Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge was opened in 1911 by Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, the third son of Queen Victoria.

The Transporter Bridge towers over Middlesbrough and stands 225 feet high. It is a working bridge ferrying people and vehicles 580 feet across the river. Its Grade II listed status means that it cannot be demolished, which is just as well as it stands on the banks of the River Tees adjacent to the waste land that makes up most of the ongoing Middlehaven development.

The first proposal for a transporter bridge was the design of Charles Smith, a Hartlepool man. His design had a span of 650 feet, and a height under the span of 150 feet; the gondola suspended from the structure had to dodge ships passing up and down the Tees. The estimated cost £31,136.

Eighteen transporter bridges were built in the period 1893 – 1916, a number of the earlier ones in France. Today only eight remain. In 1906 the Frenchman Ferdinand Arnodin resurrected Smith’s idea. Arnodin’s design was 160 feet high under the span. 571 feet between the piers and foundations down to 90 feet on the Port Clarence and 70 feet on the Middlesbrough side of the river. The total length of the bridge is 851 feet, the height 225.

Royal assent for the bridge was obtained in 1907. Sir William Arrol and Company was awarded the construction contract at an estimated cost of £68,026. Arrol brought in Scottish steel from Lanarkshire so despite what so many people believe the bridge was not built from local steel companies. The foundation stone was laid on 3 August 1910.

When opened by Prince Arthur in 1911 the bridge had cost £84,000.

In its first year the bridge carried 2 million passengers, in 2010 the total was 120, 000.

In 1974 the actor Terry Scott had a moment of fame when he drove his car over the edge onto the support frame, thinking it was a normal bridge.

A small visitor centre on the Middlesbrough side was opened by Fred Dibnah in 2000. There are plans to fit lifts to the walkway at the top of the bridge. If you are feeling brave the Transporter is licensed for bungee jumps.

The bridge has been described by Sir Nickolaus Pevsner as, “A European Monument, in its daring and finesse – A Thrill to see from anywhere.”

Friday, 22 April 2011

Apologies to A-Z Challenge Participants

To those who are following me and any new visitors - I will be unable to comment on any of your posts or comments yo leave until Monday next week.

All I can do at this time is to put up my daily posts.

Scarlet Lily Puts Her Case

A-Z Challenge ‘S’

Hopefully you will remember Lily Scarlet
She  sent me this email to put the record ‘straight.’


I hear there's been some bad press about me lately. Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? Ok, ok, I guess I was caught in the act of the dishwasher thingy, but there is currently no evidence to suggest that I bunged up the dang toilet. Daddy is still threatening to smash open the toilet, so until then, I'm in the clear.

I do try to be a good girl. I got smacked on the nose for stealing Gem's bone the other day. I think stealing her bone was well-deserved though because (1) Gem thinks she can carry it around until we have all eaten ours and then torment us with it and (2) I can fit two bones in my mouth, so I look particularly cute. Oh, but FYI-smacking me on the nose does work though.

I am actually learning not to eat Gem's food when I am done. Actually, I don't do it at all when Mummy and Daddy stay for dinner, but if they go inside, then Gem has it coming really. She should learn to eat faster.

I absolutely must wear the bell any time the garage door is open. It's called the Scarlet Letter--hence my middle name (and after some equally obnoxious lady in some film). Anyway, I need the bell because apparently "come" is not in my vocabulary yet. I never run away. I just take my puppy-old time coming back, that's all.

I think you are going to fall in love with me when you get here. I'm not bad, I promise. Daddy says I'm just "spirited" and Mummy says that I'll grow out of my puppyness, but I am lovable--you'll see.

Lots of love
Your Project, Lily Scarlet

Thursday, 21 April 2011


A-Z Challenge – ‘R’

Yesterday was a sad day to remember; my wife and attended the funeral of her best friend. So for ‘R’ I offer you:

Remember me when I have gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land,
When you can no longer hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you planned:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far that you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

Christina Rossetti

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Quarry Wood

A-Z Challenge – ‘Q’

Quarry Wood is the local nature reserve at Preston Park (see yesterday’s post for ‘P’).

As the name implies this area was once a quarry. Whinstone, a basaltic dolerite rock, originating from volcanic activity in the Tertiary Period 65 million years ago, was mined at the location from the 1830s – 1850s. The rock formed part of the Cleveland Dyke that stretched as far as the North York Moors.

The stone, used for road construction in the expanding cities and London was transported by barges along the River Tees. Once the Stockton- Darlington Railway was built, the stones were moved by train to the port of Stockton.

The pond in the centre of quarry wood is where the main shaft of the mine was located. The pond is believed to be no deeper than 10 metres due to the technology available at the time and the cost of extracting the stone. The pond is fed by rainwater from the slopes of the surrounding landscape; water cannot pass through the impermeable rock and so the pond is not connected to the River Tees

After mining ceased in the 1850s nature reclaimed the area which became a habitat for many species of trees and birds. In the summer the water may be clothed in a blanket of duckweed; this provides a haven for frogs, newts, nesting moorhens and mallards.

The mature woodland of beech, alder, ash, horse chestnut and oak provides for a wealth of wildlife and woodland flowers. You may hear the drumming of a great spotted woodpecker and at night the hoots of a tawny owl. Rabbits abound and foxes and even roe deer have been seen.

During the day dogs rule OK.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Preston Park

A-Z Challenge – ‘P’
Preston Hall and Park overlooks the River Tees at Eaglescliffe. The Preston Hall Museum and its surroundings in 100 acres of beautiful park land are currently undergoing a make-over as the result of winning a Heritage Lottery Grant.

 In addition to the winter gardens at the right, the museum houses displays of art, which normally includes Georges de la Tour’s famous Dice Players, armour and social history. (The Dice Players are on loan to the Shipley Art Gallery until 2012).

Exhibitions show visitors what life was like in the 1800s with craft workers in a typical local street of the1890s. The street includes the shop of John Walker from Stockton; Walker was the inventor of the safety match.

 Permanent attractions include and aviary, a wild fowl pond, riverside and woodland paths. The Butterfly World  contains hundreds of butterflies from around the world. When we visited this week many of the attractions were empty due to the make-over work. Meerkats are said to be recent arrivals.

You may ride on the Teesside Small Gauge Railway or take a trip on the river to Yarm and Stockton aboard the pleasure boat, the Teesside Princess.

The park is an ideal place to walk a dog. Other facilities include safe surface play area for children, crazy golf and a café.

There's also a safe surface play area for children and a cafe.

The walks by the river and the Quarry Wood Nature reserve are havens for wild life. [More about the quarry will follow under ‘Q’.]

 Grassy areas are perfect for picnics and if you have a piscatorial bent the banks of the Tees provide pleasant spots for plumbing its depths.

Monday, 18 April 2011


A-Z Challenge – ‘O’

One of the best books I have read recently was ‘How To Be A Bad Birdwatcher’ by The Times columnist Simon Barnes. So I thought I would write about birds. Unfortunately bird begins with ‘B’; being a twitcher or a tweeter is no help either; I’ve had to settle for ‘O’ for Ornithology and birds whose names begin with ‘O.’

The shortest bird name I could find is the ou, a fruit-eating honeycreeper from Hawaii with a stout bill and green and yellow plumage. I’ve never seen a picture of one and have no idea of its size; I’m told it’s very rare and may even be extinct.

In North America the orioles are smaller and slimmer than an American robin and are closely related to the blackbirds. The Northern Oriole also known as the “Baltimore” Oriole may be recognised by its flame-orange and black pattern and black head. The Northern (“Bullock’s”) Oriole is similar but has orange cheeks and large white wing patches. Neither can be confused with the Orchard Oriole which is dark-hued with a deep rich chestnut rump an underparts.

The Osprey, or Fish Hawk, is found in America and in Great Britain where it has been successfully reintroduced after being nearly driven to extinction. This medium sized bird of prey has white underparts, dark brown upperparts and a white head. It hovers over the water on its large wings before diving feet first to catch its prey. A majestic sight indeed.

 Osprey with Big Fish (By Tim from Ithica: CC A 2.0)

Most people will be familiar with the concept of the wise old owl. There are many species to choose from – over a hundred in all, eighteen in North America, ten in Great Britain. The Barn Owl is common to both locations and is probably the best known with its dark eyes set in a white heart-shaped face. At night its whitish underparts and silent flight gives it a ghostly look as it cruises the fields for mice.

Eastern Screech Owl ( By Wolfgang Wander: CC A-S A 3.0)

The oxpecker is a brown African bird related to the starlings that feeds on the parasites that infest the skins of grazing cattle and large wild animals.

If you believe the world is your oyster then you need the oystercatcher to be your friend. This wading bird with black and white plumage and a strong orange-red bill feeds mainly on shellfish.

If none of the birds I’ve described take you fancy then I shall bury my head in the sand and pretend to be an ostrich.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Sunday Stamps - A Religious Theme

I also found it difficult to find stamps for Easter or on a religious theme if I excluded Christmas stamps. I finally came up with these:

St Francis talking to the birds (on the left)

A Madonna (I hope) from Sweden

St Columba who died in 597

Check out more at Viridian's Sunday-Stamps-15

Saturday, 16 April 2011

I can't see the wood for the trees - Thematic Photography

A few years back I studied the history of a wood close to my home and as a consequence have a batch of photos of trees. The problem is which ones to post.

This one caught my eye on Tresco in the Scilly Isles
This is close to the wood and suffered in a winter storm but seems determined to survive by leaning on those next to it.
These have become the place to be for a desirable rookery.

Or a refuge for a wood pigeon

Dead silver birch have become the home for something else.

Becoming the host for the tinder (Horses' Hooves) fungi kills them off.

Never! Never!

A-Z Challenge – ‘N’

Do you have an unrealistic dream about the future?

The ‘never-never land’ is a term often used dismissively when some one dreams unrealistically about a utopian future. I just might win the lottery today.

However the Never Never Land actually exists. The remote outback regions of Australia’s Northern Territory and Queensland are known by that name.

The Australian Henry Lawson wrote a poem called the Never-Never Country the second verse of which reads:

My home lies wide a thousand miles
In Never-Never Land.
It lies beyond the farming belt,
Wide wastes of scrub and plain,
A blazing desert in the drought,
A lake-land after rain;
To the skyline sweeps the waving grass,
Or whirls the scorching sand-
A phantom land, a mystic realm!
The Never-Never Land.

But it was Barrie’s Peter Pan that brought the term into every day language. When Wendy asked Peter where he lived, he replied, ‘With the lost boys. They are the children who fall out of their prams when the nurse is looking the other way. If they are not claimed in seven days they are sent far away to the Never Land.’

 Peter Pan Statue in Kensington Gardens, London (Photo by Sebjarod)

Millions of children live in a dream world, their Never-Never Land. They probably won’t have heard of the ‘never-never.’ Buying something on instalments was once described as, ‘you pay $80 down and more than you can afford for the rest of your life.’ Students’ tuition fees may fall into this category.

Never say die, never say never, never again, never been kissed are phrases that trip off the tongue. 

Just don’t ask young girls today have they heard of ‘Never Say Never’ and you will deafened by screams for Justin Bieber.

Me? I’ll settle down with the book ‘Never Let You Go’ by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Friday, 15 April 2011


A-Z Challenge ‘M’
Claus Oldenburg's and Coose van Bruggen's Bottle of Notes outside mima
‘M’ is for Middlesbrough, but it’s also for ‘mima’ the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art. I wrote this piece on mima in February 2007 just as its first exhibition opened.
mima is a Draw
Whether you like and understand modern art or not, a visit to mima is be recommended.
‘mima,’ a mnemonic for the £14.2 million new Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, is situated between the Carnegie Library and Oldenburg and van Bruggen’s ‘Bottle of Notes.’ The building and surrounding square were designed by Erick van Egeraat Associated Architects.
From the front of the building you see a glass wall with an overhanging canopy supported as part of the flat roof by grey steel pillars behind the glass. To the right a white limestone wall is set back to permit access to the main public entrance. On your approach your eyes are drawn to what, on a rainy day, looks like a wall of water falling from the roof parallel to the glass frontage. Sunken lights lead you to the base of not a waterfall but steel cables tethered to the ground in stainless metal sockets.

 The first exhibition is entitled ‘Draw. Conversations around the legacy of drawing’ and runs until nearly the end of April. It features drawings by significant 20th century artists in relationship to works of contemporary artists.

In the shared gallery on the second floor you may recognise some of Picasso’s and Matisse’s drawings of nudes and, while the contemporary artists Chantal Joffe and Chris Ofili may be less well known, Joffe’s collages and Ofili’s pencil on paper drawings stand out too. Ofili’s use of a beaded look appears as though he is constructing a work from necklaces, with some beads creating a stack of three dimensional images in a mirror. The head of his ‘Belmont Guru’ will leave a long lasting impression with many who see it for the first time.
In the four ground floor interconnecting galleries, paired artists are Jackson Pollock and D J Simpson, Francis Bacon and Damien Hirst, Marcel Duchamp with Ceal Floyer and Joseph Bueys with David Musgrave.
An immediate impact is made by Simpson’s ‘Extension 3’, a six- by five-metre lucida mirror on birch plywood, where the gouged patterns stand out and the mirror reflecting the gallery’s parquet floor gives it further depth. If you do not turn round you will not see Pollock’s dwarfed abstract works in oil, pen and ink and watercolour, and ink and gouache on paper until you leave the galleries.
It is difficult to be inspired by Bacon’s figures while Hirst’s pen on paper skull and words remind you of what you are and will become.
What else? Well, older school teachers and trainers may well connect with Bueys’s Four Blackboards in the days before whiteboards when chalk and talk prevailed.
Project spaces hold photographs of local views not normally seen, accompanied by a ‘Geographics’ newspaper, and work which shows how local school children have been encouraged to draw and paint.
Damien Hirst has said, “All children draw; it’s stupid that most of them stop.” Adults and children please stop and enjoy mima and the ‘Draw’ exhibition. It’s free!

Update 2011

 View from terrace

Despite the poor economic times mima – Middlesbrough’s flagship Institute of Modern Art – has recently received a major funding boost from Arts Council England. The gallery has attracted more than 500,000 visitors since it opened.
Its annual funding will almost treble over the next three years. The Arts Council is currently making significant cuts to arts organisations some of which are losing 100% of their funding. The support for mima demonstrates a commitment to the gallery and acknowledges its achievements in its first four years.
Find out more at

Thursday, 14 April 2011

A Horse Designed By A Committee

Sir Alec Issigonis, the designer of the Mini, is said to have described a camel as a horse designed by a committee. But if you ever want to see an animal designed for its surroundings look no further than the camel and it doesn't matter whether you like one hump or two:

Dromedary and Bactrian Camels

The Camel's hump is an ugly lump
Which well you may see at the Zoo;
But uglier yet is the hump we get
From having too little to do.
(Ruyard Kipling)

Resting camels - they are good at this.

This is an environment in which they thrive:

Imagine being behind a caravan this long on a motorway.

On holidays they have their uses, even if some of their load is overweight.

A few words of warning - never attempt to kiss a camel
Kissing Camels red rocks from inside the Garden of the Gods park in Colorado Springs. 
By Beverly Lussier (cc-by-3.0)
Learn more about camels at Alan's Sepia Saturday 70