Archive for December, 2007
La la la, blogging on a train. This time, from Lincoln to London. And it’s a bloody nightmare. It’s ridiculously busy, and there’s no seats, so I’m squatting on the floor next to the toilet. It’s not fun. But, hey, at least I’ve got free wifi.
Lincoln isn’t all punctuation-less graffiti; there’s a beautiful cathedral too.
Part of the loveliness of Lincoln Cathedral is that it is on top of a hill. They built it there because God likes people to work up a bit of a sweat. This part of the country is very flat, so as you approach the city, it’s great to see the cathedral just sat there above everything else; especially at night when it’s illuminated. You’ll see in this photograph that it’s not night-time, and it’s a bit foggy, therefore the photograph is not as impressive as it could’ve been.
Here’s the West Front. It’s the part of the cathedral that’s at the front of the west side.
Here’s some roofy bits.
Some sort of column holding up the roof so that God’s children don’t get wet when it is raining.
This is the Bishop’s Eye. It’s not really the eye of a bishop, it’s actually a load of stained glass.
More stained glass. A bit half-hearted compared to the Bishop’s Eye, but quite nice all the same.
A jolly little carved fella. The place is full of these chaps. All different, too.
A nice high bit of ceiling slap bang in the middle of the building.
Another load of stained glass.
This is some rather splendid carved wood in the choir area. It’s my favourite bit of the cathedral, but I couldn’t get any good photos cos there was a guided tour going on.
This slighty shitty photo (sharpened up a bit in Photoshop, cos I couldn’t keep my hands steady enough while zooming in) is of the Lincoln Imp. It’s probably the best known feature of the Cathedral, and is the reason why Lincoln City Football Club is nicknamed The Imps. It’s very small, and high up above a big column and would be difficult to spot if there wasn’t a sign telling you where to look. There is a story about why he’s up there, but I forget how it goes exactly. Probably something to do with God liking imps.
A statue of one of Lincolnshire’s finest dudes, Alfred Lord Tennyson; who, if truth be told, probably wouldn’t get past the first round of auditions on The X Factor these days… moan moan moan chunter chunter bring back National Service it was better in the old days when we all had the Plague but we were happy moan moan moan blah blah blah…
And finally, some flying buttresses on the outside of the chapterhouse.
Should you ever find yourself with an hour to spare in Lincoln, visiting the Cathedral is one of the better ways to spend your time (and four quid). Unless you bump into Miss Kelly, that is.
I don’t know who Alice Kelly is, or whether she is as promiscuous as this graffiti suggests; but my oh my, have kids these days not heard of an apostrophe?
This is the Arboretum. It was common land until 1870, when the city decided it would be a public park, and hired Edward Milner to design and build the Arboretum. It opened two years later.
It’s one of my favourite parts of Lincoln. I have vague memories of being here as a kid, but I don’t think we came here too often, as there were parks nearer to our house and my grandparents’ house.
I do remember being a bit freaked out by this lion, though.
And there’s a frisbee on top of this bandstand, which, I like to think is the same one I accidentally threw up there one summer’s afternoon in 1990 when a few friends and I decided the weather was too nice to spend working at art college.
There’s good memories of walking through here on my way to and from my first serious girlfriend’s house, too. It’s a splendid place to feel all loved-up.
What a great idea the Arboretum was. Yet again, though, it makes me a little bit sad that our generation isn’t going to leave much like this behind for future generations to enjoy. We’ll leave them shopping malls, with the occasional shitty plaza, full of bland benches, bland fake-Italian ice cream cafes, and bland children’s play areas; with lots of regulations describing what type of fun you’re allowed to have.
A jolly old fella, bald as a coot, covered in liver spots was frying up some chips while I waited at the weekend. My face kinda naturally falls into, not a scowl as such, but the corners of my mouth dip down, so even when I have a blank expression I don’t look like I’m particularly happy.
And without pausing for me to reply to any of it, he said, “Cheer up, young man. It might never happen. Who is she, anyway? You’re better off without her! Scraps?”
It interests me how we, as a species, have developed a way of asking personal questions to complete strangers that don’t seem particularly intrusive.
I didn’t say anything in reply to the majority of what he said, just a quick smile and a “No, thanks” regarding the scraps.
(As far as I know, scraps might well be a local term; so I dunno if people in other parts of Britain, let alone outside the UK, know what they are. They’re small bits of fried batter that, I assume, fall off the fish, and in chip shops around here, are put to one side, ready to be sprinkled on top of your chips. Kinda like a crunchy, cholesterolly garnish.)
Yesterday was the first Christmas Day that I’ve spent entirely on my own. I’ve done New Year’s Eve alone before, and I’ve done my birthday alone, too; but the different thing about those – I now realise – is that life is going on outside on your birthday and on New Year’s Eve.
Here, in my mum’s house, at the end of a cul-de-sac, there are very little signs of life.
A car will pull up now and then, people will take bags of presents to or from their cars; but there’s very little of the normal background hum of life.
And it was a bit lonelier than I’d imagined it would be. Not that I felt sorry for myself, or for that matter, want any sympathy. It was entirely my choice to spend Christmas alone. My mum and her husband had already booked their holiday when I decided to spend Christmas in Lincoln, and my mum did feel guilty about leaving me alone here when they left a couple of days ago, bless her.
Where the reality of Christmas almost always fails to live up to my romantic view of it, being alone only drives your in the wrong direction from Christmas joy.
So I found myself mindless flicking through the channels on TV. I watched a DVD (Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait). I stood on the back doorstep, smoking and drinking instant coffee. I had a long bath. Put my Marks and Spencer oven-ready dinner in the oven and watched the Top of the Pops Christmas Special.
Then, even though I’m no fan of the monarchy, I sat down with my not-particularly-festival chicken in garlic sauce with roast potatoes and some vegetables (M&S; had sold out of turkey stuff), and watched the Queen’s Christmas Message.
When there’s no one else around, the Queen talking at you is a fairly comforting thing. Still, that was the first of my thirty-eight Christmases that I’ve spent it alone, and it was quite a timely one, I suppose. Over the last couple of years I’ve retreated into a fairly hermitic existence, so this has been a good reminder that this is not what I want out of life.
Still, Finding Nemo was on telly, and that was ace.
I wonder if they celebrate Christmas in Heaven.
I wonder if Jesus goes ’round to God’s house for Christmas dinner.
I wonder if they have turkey or goose.
I wonder if Joseph is invited.
I wonder what sort of presents Jesus gets for God.
I wonder if Jesus really has to buy presents for his family and friends.
I wonder if they exchange presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning.
I wonder if they wear paper crowns at the dinner table.
I wonder if crackers have better toys and jokes in Heaven.
I wonder if Jesus calls it Memas.
Just imagine how bad a Christmas album by the Black Eyed Peas would be…
A brief little note to say Merry Christmas to y’all. Thanks for the comments, emails, etc. It’s been a fun year, especially considering I was determined to never blog ever again at the end of 2006.
Anyway, if you celebrate Christmas in any sort of way, I hope you have a good one.
I wonder if the Archangel Michael gets pissed off that Michaelmas is virtually ignored. And I wonder if Jesus lords it over him, like “September 29th!? Nobody knows that’s Michaelmas, you loser! They don’t even eat turkey! And there’s certainly no presents or James Bond film on telly!”
To which, I imagine, Michael might reply, “Fuck off, hippy. And don’t you dare go running off to Daddy to rat me out, Sandal Boy.”
Tired of waiting for a bus that didn’t come, I walked into Lincoln city centre the other morning. It was a nice 40 minute stroll that brought back lots of memories.
That is the closest part of the River Witham to my childhood home; where I’d go to get frog spawn and watch it grow into tadpoles and then tiny frogs. Quite a magical process, really; something that makes me look forward to possibly having children so I can go through it again.
Just across the road from that bit of river is this path. Walking down this path as an adult feels totally different from when I was a child. That area of grass between the path and the road felt massive. That massive childhood version of the grassy area still pops up in many a dream.
And I’d walk down that path with my mum and sister to get here, our local library. Quite a grim looking place, really.
This corner shop is directly opposite the library. Nothing special about it, really, but it has – for as long as I’ve been alive – always been a corner shop. Not sure who runs it now, but I only remember this place cos my mum always used to tell us that her old boyfriend used to run the shop. Funny how in the olden days an ex-boyfriend might be one of very few pre-marriage relationships, which is probably why she was always a little giddy about it.
A relatively fancy-looking front to this Walkers factory. If I’d have taken a better picture, though, and you could see behind it, you’d see it’s just a big old metal shed with a vaguely nice front building. When I was growing up, this was a Smith’s Crisps factory. I can’t begin to describe the thrill that the idea of being along in that factory gave me when I was a child. Alone with mountains of Chipsticks and Salt ‘n’ Shakes, gorging myself, hands covered in what would be salty, potato crumb-y gloves. And when we went on our summer holidays to South Wales, Somerset, Devon, or Cornwall, I’d feel a pang of pride that the crisps I was eating in our tent might have been made in Lincoln.
The seven-year-old Craig wanted to live in this house because those coloured glass bricks were the coolest thing ever ever ever in the whole wide world.
Something I’ve noticed in the last few days is that a lot of the public toilets in the city are now closed. Anyone who’s been in a British public toilet, though, might well understand why this is no big loss.
Why are there park benches here? Why would anyone want to have a nice sit down in front of a roundabout?
After seven years in Berlin, and seven years of extolling the virtues of the British dog owner who, as I rosily remembered, would always scoop the poop; the past few days have made me re-evaluate that a little. Lincoln’s full of the stuff.
This is the part of town that locals call Little Venice.
(Not really. That was a jo-ho-hoke.)
And, despite having some fondness for my hometown; this is probably the best bit of Lincoln for me: the way out.
The eye clinic of Lincoln County Hospital has meagre, perfunctory, Christmas decorations. And amongst the laminated A4 notices about glaucoma and blindness, are laminated A4 Santa Claus and Christmas tree clip-art pictures.
There’s a pretty receptionist with a lovely blonde bob, in a black roll neck sweater, who looks like she’d be right at home on the reception of a swanky hotel in New York were it not for her ever-present smile and chirpy, sibilant, Lincolnshire accent.
She takes people’s details and directs them to sit on one of the large waiting room’s wipe-clean chairs. “Good morning,” says the marker pen on the white board behind Jeremy Kyle on the TV, “we have 4 doctors in clinic this morning with a total of 60+ patients to be seen. We thank you for your patience.”
A cannonball-shaped nurse barks names in a hurried, bored manner, the final syllables of the names drifting off into nothing. A procession of British names that remind me once again that I’m not in Berlin any more: Frederick Staines, Leonard Newell, Richard Durham, John Mitchell, Jack Pennant. And female names like Joyce and Phyllis that only seem to go with grey or white hair, names that – I imagine – girls aren’t given these days. And the youngest patient in the waiting room, the only one younger than me; a boy of around eleven or twelve called Liam, his parents probably Oasis fans.
There are lots of copies of the Sun and Daily Mail being read, lots of walking sticks, hearing aids, and whispered conversations. There’s a ginger-haired teenage girl already as hard-faced as her mum, her little brother incessantly banging the bell on his plastic toy, much to the obvious annoyance of, well, everyone apart from his parents, who, after about ten minutes of the banging, finally ask him to stop, which provokes a big mardy sulk on the floor.
After two and a half hours, the cannonball calls my name, and I go and see the doctor, who is far more thorough than any German doctor has been. Yes, my iritis is back, she confirms. She gives me a prescription and wishes me a Merry Christmas.
I think I should be a doctor. Suffering from a bunged-up nose and a chesty cough, I decided that the best cure would be to go and sit for two cold hours on a plastic seat, and watch Lincoln City lose 4-0 to Darlington.
Very clever, Craig. Very clever…
It always feels weird doing one of those end of the year lists. Partly because it could look like one is full of ego, like, my taste rules! But also because, in this iPod age, newer records don’t get put at the front of a pile and listened to more often like they used to.
Still, I like to read other end of year lists, if for no other reason than to check out what I’ve missed and should pick up in the January sales.
So, my ten favourite songs of the year. Feel free to share your favourites in the comments.
(It’s pretty tight in the top three of those songs. Having just listened to them all again, I’m tempted to change the order, especially listening to the beautiful guitar solo on “Either Way” which reminds me so much of lovely warm summer mornings and lovely warm summer evenings in the park with Billy.)
Well, I made it back home. Still not worked out how to connect my computer to my mum’s internet thingy yet, so any time I want to send emails or do this kinda stuff, I’ve been sat in a pub. Feels slightly weird to be blogging in a pub. I can try and kid myself that I’m some sort of modern day Hemingway or Kerouac or something, but it isn’t gonna convince me; I’m just a speccy dude with a MacBook Pro getting odd looks from the locals.
Coming home is always an odd experience. Every time I’m here, more and more things have changed, and it feels less and less like my hometown.
And, seemingly, you can’t have a conversation without people mentioning the “bloody” illegal immigrants. Sadly, my hometown now feels like I’m living in a real life copy of the Daily Mail.
But, no matter how much I sneer and chuckle at Lincoln, it’s still my hometown, and if you were to slag it off, we’d have a problem, pal.
In the next few days I’ll be taking some photographs to introduce you to the wonders of this tiny, nothing town in the middle of nowhere.
Gotta go now, cos there’s a bloke with unfortunate hair sat quite near me, and he’s finger-snapping along to Bon Jovi’s “Please Come Home For Christmas”…
Right now, I’m taking advantage of the surprisingly generous free wifi on the train up north; from London to Lincoln.
As I mentioned the other day, I went to Oxford. Blimey, it’s posh there. All the buildings are posh, the people are posh, even the beggars are asking if you can spare some change for an antique Dickens first edition. You can smell the poshness. Fusty books and daddy’s money are the perfumes of choice. This is what the ghetto looks like in Oxford:
That’s what it felt like around where all the posho colleges are, anyway. But move out of the centre and Oxford begins to smell like most towns in Britain: of kebabs and pissed teenagers.
Anyway, I was only there for an afternoon and an evening, but I managed to have fun and visit a couple of nice museums which I’d recommend should you be in the area: the Pitt Rivers Museum is full of, for want of a better word, crazy shit. I visited this place many many years ago, and it’s a lot better as a grown-up. The other place is the Museum of the History of Science, which is excellent. Very enjoyable indeed if, like me, you enjoying gawking at odl fashioned sundials, telescopes, microscopes, globes, orreries, clocks, barometers, and induction coils.
Next update will be from Lincoln, where I’ll be staying at my mum’s house, so expect that entry to be full of moaning about having to eat my vegetables before I can have my pudding and it all being so unfair.
Well, I presume it’s the M40. Not totally sure about that; my memory’s a bit cloudy on which motorways connect which towns in England. Anyway, I’m currently sat on an omnibus on my way to Oxford.
Frankly, it’s a pretty sweet deal. Fifteen quid return with free wifi and a powerpoint to use, too. Considering I’d spend about eight quid on two coffees and almond croissant at Le Pain Quotidien (the nicest time-limit-less free wifi place I’ve found in central London, mainly due to the cute East European waitress and those mmm-mmm-mmm almond croissants), then this is cheap cheap cheap.
Honestly, though, this blog post is utterly superfluous. I have nothing to say. Just that I’m on a bus speeding down the motorway with brief thoughts of bus crashes flitting though my mind. I feel quite modern. It’s like being on an episode of Tomorrow’s World.
Who actually likes this song? Really. I’m a bit perplexed.
After listening to a couple of recent Word magazine podcasts where the topic of Led Zeppelin came up, I got to wondering how many people are actually happy to hear this song.
I know that amongst my friends, and I suspect most people who quite like the band, that none of us really enjoy it. We’ll occasionally add the caveat that it gets better in the latter stages when it begins rockin’, but on the whole, it’s no-one’s fave Zep song. And I don’t ever remember it being one of my favourites, it’s not just that I’ve heard it too many times (even though I have).
Looking in my iTunes at the play count of Led Zeppelin IV, every song is in double figures, apart from Stairway to Heaven.
So, with this in mind, why is that most of us assume that they must play it? It’s not like it’s their only popular song; it’s not like T’Pau not playing “China In Your Hand” at one of their shows. Zep fans are gonna be happier, I suspect, to hear a less-often-played-on-the-radio-song in its place.
So, with this in mind, do any of you like Stairway to Heaven? I’m not being snooty about it, it’s just something I genuinely wonder about.
I had a nice day in Brighton yesterday, visiting a couple of mates and staying with James, an old friend from Lincoln and, incidentally, the man who thought of the name Minipops for the small pixelly dudes I’d begun drawing in the late nineties.
I went down there around lunchtime, so had a nice couple of hours sitting on the beach and walking on the pier, then getting quite drunk in the evening and wandering around the Lanes amongst the seemingly endless parade of lads and lasses on Christmas dos. (I wonder what the etymology of the word “do” meaning “party” is?)
Show and tell time…:
I’m not a bird skeleton expert, but I think this is a seagull.
I had a very nice walk with my pal Ben along the northern bank of the River Thames a couple of days ago; from Kew Bridge to Hammersmith Bridge. And very enjoyable it was too. It felt longer than the four-ish miles it is.
And it was a joy to spend that much time chatting and giggling with an old friend. We spent a lot of time wondering how disgusting various quantities of different food might be.
For example; eating a square metre of fried egg white. Or eating a brick of marzipan. Drinking a pint of hot butter, or a pint of aspic. Having a leaf-blower blow a crushed croissant’s flakes right down your throat. Or wearing a complete fried chicken’s skin as a helmet and eating your way out.
Anyway, here’s some photos of the Thames.