Thursday, November 18, 2021

Around The World In Eighty Words : 10. BASKET

The Story So Far …..

It started as a harmless question during one of those long lockdown days: was it possible to travel virtually around the world in just eighty word changes to my what3words geolocation code and return to my starting point?. For a companion I had my six year old labradoodle, Lucy, and seeing as it is a virtual trip I allow her to speak occasionally (although she never makes much sense). My starting point was the what3word location code for my desk at home – ///tall.logo.select – and so far our travels have taken us to such diverse places as America, Australia, Libya, Ireland – and precariously balancing on a floating plank in the middle of the North Sea. Somewhere along the line, we invented a rule that we take it in turns at choosing a new word which will take us to a new, unknown, location. Our last stop was in the middle of the desert ion Turkmenistan (///ironing.wink.quite) at which point I chose the next of our eighty words – basket.

“Can you stop whistling that tune?” If there is one thing worse than a talking dog, it’s a whistling dog. Lucy ignored me and continued with a somewhat tuneless rendition of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”. “And as I have already told you, there are no lions around here – I’ve looked it up”. Lucy continued with her whistling – “..In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight”. She was feeling pleased with herself as it had been my choice of word that had propelled us into the Bundas municipality of the Moxico province of Angola. In our quest to go around the world in just eighty word changes to our what3words geolocation code, we had come to ///ironing.basket.quite which was a kind of scrubby plain with not many people and a lot of zebras and wildebeest.

Angola, sadly, is as famous for its long running civil war – which came to an end in 2002 – as most other things. The country itself, and Moxico province in which we were, are equally famous for one of the most destructive and terrifying legacies of that war – land mines. Someone has calculated that there are still between 10 and 20 million unexploded land mines in situ in this wretched country, a couple for every living citizen. Each day, each week, each month they provide a harrowing reminder that the price of war can be as enduring as the metal caskets that were buried in the fields, along the paths, and by the roads. As Lucy and I walked across the open plain we might have been risking our lives much more than when we flirted with the murder capitals of Honduras, or the deserts of Turkmenistan.

But, Lucy and I were lucky. We inhabit a virtual world – a world in which children maimed by exploding land mines can be conveniently sidestepped, a world in which poverty can be forgotten about, a world in which deforestation is rarely seen. And so we walk on, trying to spot wild animals, or, even better, a decent hotel with rooms for the night. So in this virtual world of ours there  were zebras quietly grazing, wildebeests getting wild over nothing in particular, and the odd hyena casting a curious glance or two in the direction of my travelling companion. I tried to distract her with information.

 If you look this area up on Google, you see it is famous for the Tsessebe, which is a large antelope. We watched one or two pass by but Lucy was unimpressed. “They seem to have far too many “s”’s and “e”’s in their name for their own good, she remarked as she kept a weathered eye on a gathering pack of hyenas.

I delved back into Google and did an image search for Bundas Municipality, Angola, and then quickly wished that I hadn’t! (Don’t try this at home if you are of a nervous disposition!). I managed to clear the search results before Lucy managed to see it. She was more interested in the hyenas. She’d obviously attempted to engage them in canine conversation – saying something or other about her Aunty Miriam having been descended from a hyena – and it hadn’t gone down well. The pack of hyenas seemed to be viewing her more in terms of lunch rather than a visiting celebrity taking part in a dog version of “Who Do You Think You Are”

“Let’s go,” she whispered. “Where to?” I replied. The nearest town of any significance was Lumbala, the administrative centre of Bundas, but in terms of fine hotels, posh bars, and entertaining nightlife, it would come a distant second to Cleethorpes on a wet Tuesday in February. The alternative was to cross the border (only five miles to the east of us) into Zambia and then head north to the town of Zambezi. It didn’t take much thinking about. Lucy started whistling “Zambezi” and we started for the border. The eighty mile walk to the town of Zambezi would have been arduous if it hadn’t been for the fact that we were doing it virtually, and therefore it was virtually over before it had begun. Before you could say “open sesame” to a Tsessebe, we were unpacking our suitcase at the Royal Kutachika Lodge Hotel overlooking the Zambezi River and trying to decide whether to book a day trip to see the Victoria Falls or go Tiger Fishing in the river.

We decided on neither but went to the bar instead for a well-earned drink, but for the first time on our trip around the world I was met with canine discrimination. “Sorry sir, no dogs allowed,” the doorman explained. And so we finished up at  the appropriately named “Poorman’s Restaurant” – who, since 1984 have been “striving to offer satisfactory service to people of all status in life.” If you visit the restaurant now, you might notice that someone has amended the proclamation by adding “… and dogs” at the end of the statement.

As we returned to our hotel room we ticked off another word, another country and another continent on our round the world adventure. “Your turn to choose our next word”, I reminded Lucy. “What do you want to put in your ironing basket? “Shirt!”, I think she replied, although I couldn’t be sure because at that precise moment we heard the call of a hyena in the distance. So, for whatever the reason, that’s where we are off to next – ///ironing.basket.shirt.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Day By Day

 


The project I started almost a year ago - producing a daily calendar image which sits on top of my desk - has continued throughout 2021, although I don't always get around to sharing these online. Here, however, are the last three :-


A rare early colour photograph of mine from the mid-1960s which shows Market Street in Halifax. Back in those days, colour film was something that had to be saved for the annual summer holiday, and this must have been am exercise in using up the last few frames of the film.


One of the great advantages of taking photographs is that you can mostly avoid having photographs taken of yourself. This, however, is a rare excursion into the realms of selfies and as a selfie-stick was not available, I made use of a shop-front mirror, which, like me, had seen better days.


This is another of my late-night experiments into the effects of different single malt whiskies on the creative process. This was a photograph of an abandoned car I took back in the 1980s, reimagined with the help of Photoshop and a 12 year old Old Pulteney.


Monday, November 15, 2021

The Rise And Fall Of The Crown

 
I had an email last week from someone who is writing a history of the Crown Brewery in Northowram, asking permission to use some of my photos of the building from 45 years ago. I was more than happy to grant permission as this was a building that I grew up with, living, as I did for twenty or so years, just a few hundred yards from where it was situated.


When I knew the building in the 50s and 60s it had long ceased to be a brewery, and was the works of C&R Construction who manufactured asbestos sheds and garages. When I took these three photographs in 1978, the old brewery building had been partly destroyed by fire and asbestos garages were rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

The old brewery building was replaced (probably in the 1980s) with a new furniture showroom and then that later became a showroom for a flooring company, and it was at that stage that I again photographed the building in 2015. Before sending these photos off to the person researching the brewery building, I decided today to drive to Northowram and check the latest status of the building. To my surprise, I discovered that the new building that replaced the brewery building has itself been demolished. Hopefully I will still be around when the next building goes up on the site, so I can continue to document the rise and fall of the Crown. 





Thursday, October 28, 2021

Around The World In Eighty Words : 9. IRONING

 

 


The Story So Far .....

It started as a harmless question during one of those long lockdown days: was it possible to travel virtually around the world in just eighty word changes to my what3words geolocation code and return to my starting point?. For a companion I had my six year old labradoodle, Lucy, and seeing as it is a virtual trip I allow her to speak occasionally (although she never makes much sense). My starting point was the what3word location code for my desk at home - ///tall.logo.select - and so far our travels have taken us to such diverse places as America, Australia, Libya, Ireland - and precariously balancing on a floating plank in the middle of the North Sea. Somewhere along the line, we invented a rule that we take it in turns at choosing a new word which will take us to a new, unknown, location. Our last stop was in the suburbs of Sydney, Australia (///sake.wink.quite) at which point Lucy chose the next of our eighty words - ironing.

“You said it!.” “No I didn’t!” “Yes, you did. I distinctly heard you say it”

Lucy and I had been arguing like this for what seemed like the best part of an afternoon. In truth, there was little else to do, as we were walking through the Karakum Desert in south-east Turkmenistan.

“You said “Ironing”, I know you did”, I tried to sound authoritative, which is not easy to do when you are in the middle of a desert with a defiant dog and nothing to sustain you other than a quarter of sherbet lemons.


“It was not “ironing”, it was merely the sound of satisfaction at having located that last piece of Chinese dumpling that had been stuck to my tail.” Lucy said that, which is a good thing as you would have reason to worry if it had been me. “And I hate all this sand, it gets right into your paws.” Lucy said that as well.

Whether we liked it or not - whether we intended it or not - we finished up with a what3words code of ///ironing.wink.quite, and that had placed us in the Karakum Desert in Turkmenistan. It could have been worse, I suppose, another two hundred and fifty miles south and we would have been in Afghanistan with more than an excess of sand to put up with. I’m not sure than the Taliban are quite ready for a talking dog just yet.


Even if we were to avoid Afghanistan to the south, we were still faced with Uzbekistan to the north, or Tajikistan to the east - it is really difficult to avoid a stan in this part of the world - so I had decided to head west, heading further into Turkmenistan.

“There’s a city called Mary about fifty miles west of here where there is a hotel with a swimming pool, free wifi, and free breakfasts,” I said after consulting the guidebook.


“Does it have a bar?” Lucy had become quite attached to a glass or two of stout of an evening ever since our trip to Dublin

“No, I don’t think so,” I said, “but they have a whole selection of fruit juices.” At that point Lucy insisted on consulting the guidebook herself - which was a pointless exercise because she was not a good reader.

“Let’s go to Merv”, she said, “it’s only thirty odd miles away and is the largest city in the world: surely a dog can get a decent pint of Guinness there”.


“No, no, no,”, I said, “it was the largest city in the world 900 years ago, it’s nothing but a series of spectacular ruins these days.”

And so the argument continued as we made our way over the endless sand dunes. “Mary”, I said. “Merv” she countered. “Mary”, “Merv.” Eventually I said “Hang about there is a village even closer, only about 12 miles away, we could try that.” “What’s it called?”, asked my dog. I checked the map again - “ahh, no, perhaps not - it’s called Perv.” We continued on through the sand, occasionally stopping to have another chorus of “You said ironing / No I didn’t.”

 Eventually we decided that there was nothing for it but to abandon the delights of Turkmenistan and move onto a new word and hence a new location. I told Lucy in no uncertain terms that it was my turn to choose a new word and that we would see a return to something like logic in our word choices. “Seeing that we are stuck with “ironing” for a bit” what about having an ironing basket”, I said. So, look out ///ironing.basket.quite, here we come.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Brighouse In The Sixties

 


Around The World In Eighty Words : 8. QUITE

 


 

“Sorry!” I repeated the apology to yet another driver, as I dragged myself, my backpack, and my five year old labradoodle, Lucy, out of the middle of the road. It was difficult to judge from the look on the drivers’ face, whether he was angry that such a strange combination of man, dog, and luggage was blocking his progress down Wilfred Avenue in the Sydney suburb of Campsie, or shocked that they had suddenly appeared from nowhere as if by some form of supernatural transposition. He had disappeared down the street before I had chance to explain to him that we were seeing if we could get around the world in eighty word changes to our what3words geolocation code, and the simple replacement of the word “change” by the word “quite” had plucked us from a most enjoyable tour of pubs and bars in Dublin, Ohio and landed us on the other side of the world in the middle of a road. “The thing about these what3word location”, I explained to Lucy, “is that their precision is great if you want to deliver a parcel or rescue someone, but potentially hazardous if you are experimenting with the possibilities of virtual travel” Lucy ignored me, she’d picked up an interesting scent and was dragging me down the street in the direction of the main road.


Today Campsie is a busy suburb of the city of Sydney in New South Wales, Australia, but just over 100 years ago this area, about seven miles south-west of the city, was still mainly agricultural. It was the coming of the railway - the self-same railway that Lucy and I were now walking alongside - at the end of the nineteenth century that led to a period of growth and development. Beamish Street, the main street that Lucy was now eagerly propelling me towards, has always been one of the busiest streets, being not only the site of the railway station but also endless shops and restaurants.


I was intrigued to know what was attracting Lucy. I asked her, but she was going through one of her uncommunicative phases in which she pretended to be a dumb creature. As we progressed along Wilfred Avenue and the houses turned into commercial premises, I searched for clues. The “Vibe Health Clinic” (“get fit, get healthy get the vibe”) - no, that won’t be the attraction. Thai Massage, only $49 - hopefully not. My Vitamin World and the Campsie Denture Clinic - surely not. We eventually turned into Beamish Street and the reason for Lucy’s distraction became obvious. Aromas assaulted us without any pretence of restraint. There were Chinese restaurants, Vietnamese restaurants, Japanese restaurants - restaurants of every category with the possible exception of Australian restaurants. It was sensory heaven for a dog.


She eventually settled on the Chinese Dumpling Hut and following on from a substantial take-away, she became a little more communicative. “I could live here”, she said. “Forget that, we’ve got another seventy two words to go, and if you insist on eating any more dumplings you’re going to finish up at ///obese.dumpling.dogs, which, it might interest you to know, is in the middle of a lake in Northern Canada”. She returned to her normal “ignore the old fool” mode and made a bee-line for the Golden Territory Seafood Restaurant on the other side of Beamish Street. A determined yank on her leash corrected her trajectory to the VIP Lounge of the Station House Hotel where I enjoyed a reasonable pint and a read of the newspaper.




It was the newspaper that accelerated our departure rather than the quality of the beer on offer or Lucy’s over-indulgence in Chinese dumplings. The headlines showed a now reasonably familiar map, with many of the places Lucy and I had just visited marked on it. “COVID STREET, CAMPSIE!” the headlines declared, and the story went on to claim that it was the street with one of the worst infection rates in the country.



It was clearly time to move on and it was Lucy’s turn to choose the next word. She had just found a bit of dumpling that somehow had got stuck to her tail, and was desperately trying to nibble it off. “Come on, let’s have a word”, I said. She was too engrossed in her task and merely let out a kind of pleasurable growling sound as she located the dumpling remains. “Did you say ironing?” I asked in the kind of astonishment that is fitting for any conversation with a dog. “So be it”, I concluded as we set out co-ordinates for ///ironing.wink.quite. See you there.

Around The World In Eighty Words : 10. BASKET

The Story So Far ….. It started as a harmless question during one of those long lockdown days: was it possible to travel virtually around th...