Tag Archives: daily post

A Home Tourist in a World Heritage Site

I lived in Leeds for eight years before visiting Saltaire, and in the end I did it in the name of love. My second date with my now wife was Wednesday lunch and a wander around Salt’s Mill. The place was a revelation, a beautifully preserved and repurposed antidote to the north’s dark satanic mills, just a couple of bus rides from my home in Yeadon.
We finished our day with a little wander around Roberts Park, over the footbridge on the other side of the canal and river. On a February day two years ago it was a little worn and tired but we were enjoying our time together too much to worry about that.
We visit Saltaire quite often, and even considered getting married in Victoria Hall but we couldn’t decide on a date and it was booked up to a year in advance (we pretty much decided last August that we would get married in October so we ended up at Bradford Registry Office and it was no less wonderful). However, our February visits are special because they celebrate when we got together and started our story. We make a point, as well as considering lunch in Salt’s Diner and coffee in Massarellas (we combined both at Massarella’s this year as we were a bit late and didn’t have time for risotto or pizza), of visiting Roberts Park to see how the renovation is going.
The change over the last year is nothing short of miraculous. The wide promenade has been resurfaced and the shelters at either end have been restored. The bandstand has also been returned to its Victorian glory and the previously dilapidated cricket club building has been restored as the Half Moon Cafe by the cricket club who play in the park to provides snacks to visitors and a regular dining club. There’s a new skate park by the weir, which waswell attended on our cold Sunday afternoon visit.
Titus himself stands by the promenade flanked on his plinth by alpacas. The park’s restoration was financed by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and I think that Salt would be pleased that such altruism still exists in the twenty-first century.
The next time that you visit Saltaire, walk down past the station and the The Boathouse Inn and across the bridge. Roberts Park is a quiet wonder that should be an important part of the village.

Confessions of a cable hoarder

Ever since I’ve had disposable income I seem to have amassed cables. As a teenager it was guitar leads and the tools for my youthful indiscretions. On returning from university (well, it was still a polytechnic then), one of my jobs to was do something about the electronic rat king in my bedroom. It had become too tangled and too broken to do anything useful so it went in the bin to start again.
And start again it did. As well as being a failing musician now I had got into computers and guitar leads were joined by computer cables and components, which acreted into another tangled pile that was too intertwined to do anything useful. It went out when I returned to Yorkshire from my sojourn in the capital.
Fast forward another ten years and I’m clearing my house to sell it, and up in the attic is another nest of wires. It still a mystery to me how it piles up. I have bought guitar leads but surely not that many. My home has been wirelessly networked for years, and yet there are miles of CAT-5. It’s going in the bin again because there’s no room for it, and indeed no need for most of it.
The true explanation is of course that I’m naturally untidy and things tend to get pushed out of the way when I don’t use them, which is probably a metaphor in itself. I’d like to think that it’s not more complicated that and that things could be made better with a few hooks and clothes pegs. So if you’ll excuse me, I’ll have to go and sort out the skeletons in my cupboard.

Famous Grey Raincoat – an introduction

(This is probably not strictly a daily post but it’s what I’ve been thinking about today)
The years after punk were rich with possibility. The convergence of influences that freed music from the restrictions of big industry made it possible for so much more music to be heard. The first nihilistic roar that came out of London (via New York – or at least that corner that the Stooges lurked in) cleared the air for a more cerebral generation of bands: mostly northern, generally more artistically inclined, often soberly dressed and looking to Europe instead of the US for influence, or at least that Europe occupied by David Bowie and Can.
There was probably no movement as such – there very rarely was, just patterns in the minds of the music journalists that documented the bands who fitted the bill, but there were tags that could be applied. There was of course a certain sound, influenced by Martin Hannett’s production, a high register, low slung bass; chorussed and echoed guitar and an oceanic depth of reverb. The more observant would recognise U2 in this, and they wouldn’t be wrong. The biggest band in the world gained their inspiration from the same sources as many of the bands in this history, and indeed are one of the bands in this history.
Many of the bands in this history are now household names: Joy Division/New Order, Echo and the Bunnymen and U2. Then there are the bands who achieved cult status or even fame outside of the UK: The Chameleons, The Sound and The Comsat Angels. Following them were hundreds of contenders who may have had the thrill of hearing their single played by John Peel or got a live review in Melody Maker before sinking below the radar again.
I haven’t found a history of this specific musical non-genre, so I thought I would have a go myself. This is my statement of intent: if anyone comes across it and has done such a thing, then you can sell me a copy as I want to know more.If not, then give me time and I’ll find it out for myself. There might be a blog, but not yet, but I’ll keep you posted.

Home-cooked manipulation

Those of us who have been short of culinary cliffhangers in the last couple of months (except of course the bite-sized re-runs of Celebrity Masterchef on Swap Shop, sorry, Saturday Kitchen) may have found ourselves turning to the Australian and New Zealand,er,ian versions of the franchise on Watch. Last year saw the respective third and first series in their territories and both have been refreshingly understated combinations of education and competition. The plot (it is a plot, this *is* drama, after all) got rather convoluted, with the early leavers getting second chances, the Australians being flown all over the world to cook for different celebrity chefs (this hasn’t happened in the Kiwi version yet, which is probably cautiously finding its way before the big money gets invested) and increasingly complicated ways of serving chocolate mousse.

The competitors were given more prominence, including being part of the titles, and have, certainly in the Australian version at least, gone on to some actual culinary celebrity. It seemed fairly likely that some or all of the new format was going to make it back to the UK, and, after trailers that showed at least one element, the competitors as performers, the new UK series of Masterchef started tonight with, gordon crikey, auditions.

Twitter is all ready full of the accusations of ‘X Factor’-ness, and there are the starts of stories attached to each winner, and some competitors seem to be being picked out for extra attention (the young carpenter who turned up mob-handed with his mates got a Reservoir Dogs film introduction), but Greg Wallace is still Greg, John Torode is still, you know, him and India thingy is still narrating like she’s trying to pass a horse.

The soundtrack is much the same as the Australian and New Zealand versions but far more obtrusive, and the amiable friendliness of the format in Antipodean hands has been overlaid with the usual artificial tension and Greg and John’s Mr Nice and Mr Not-as-nice act. True, it’s only the first night but the emotion is being signposted several miles away all ready.

It is early days, but over the next 98 weeks (sorry, I haven’t seen how long it is, but they’re starting with 20 contestants, and allowing for returns, nervous breakdowns and assassination attempts, and following the Australian version, which was seemingly challenging Mahabarat towards the end, that can’t be far wrong) we’ll see what elements of the new version have been brought in – I’m expecting communal house, early dismissals and returns, and probably a reciprocal week or so in Oz at the very least – and how they’ll be slathered with the artificial tension that detracts from what the show used to be about.

The fashion and the fight

As a non-aligned sort-of-punk, sort-of-goth of the late 70s, and a football fan firmly stuck in the armchair, the casual movement was a small blip on my radar. There certainly didn’t seem to be any in Doncaster at least, but back at the time Doncaster Rovers had hardly any fans, sharply dressed or not. Those of us who looked up the M1 to Leeds might remember the casual violence of time more from the articles that picked up on the trend in the Face and ID trying to slum it with a working class trend that they tried to turn into a movement.

A photographic exhibition at Temple Works on Saturday remembers the ‘dressers’ of Leeds and charts the changing styles that of the Leeds United supporters of the early 80s, as evolve it did, from the sharp dress of the mod revival to the dope and tracksuits of the early stages of baggy in the space of a few years. This article remembers the time for the clothes, the friendship and the adventure as much as the football and the accompanying battles.

Wish You Were Here, Saturday 19th February 2011, Temple Works, Holbeck 11am – 2pm and after Leeds United v Norwich City at Elland Road.

United, the Leeds Tiger and the return of civic pride

It’s a rainy Sunday afternoon in February. On the other side of the Headrow the main shopping streets of Leeds are busy with winter weekend shoppers, but Millennium Square is also busy with visitors to Leeds City Museum. Occupying the former Mechanics’ Institute building that used to house the Civic Theatre, the museum is a recent addition to the square, but its design and integration has already established it as a landmark in the city.

On this wet afternoon, there are many attractions: on the top floor, the Special Exhibitions room is host to Spiceworld, a retrospective of the Spice Girls, whose late 90s heyday is drifting into cultural history. It’s relevance is of course that Mel B, Scary Spice, is a local daughter, born in Burley. Other parts of the building are, however much busier. The map of the city on the floor of the arena around which the musuem is built, is covered with kids pointing out their homes, picking out places or just sliding around. The back end of the Leeds Collectors Gallery is playing host to a storyteller and a small crowd of enraptured children and their equally entertained parents. Downstairs, the Life on Earth gallery also mills with children and places Leeds and the surrounding area in a context in the evolving world.

Standing guard over the Life on Earth exhibition is the Leeds Tiger, a stuffed Bengal who has been in the city for very nearly 150 years. Its story is the usual one of colonial barbarism, twisted slightly by the charming fact that its first few years in this country were spent as a rug. The tiger has become a touchstone for many in Leeds, not least my wife and I, as it was where we went on our first date two years ago.

Leeds hasn’t had a proper city museum since the mid-1960s, when the former museum located in Park Row closed its doors for the last time. A small part of the collection lived in the municipal buildings on Calverley Street until 1999, and other parts of the collection were distributed across the city’s other properties such as Temple Newsam and the Abbey House at Kirkstall.

Towns need their civic collection though, and a city such as Leeds, if any city can be like any other, with such a lot to be proud of, needs one more than most, and the two and a half years since the new museum opened its doors have also seen a improvement in the city’s view of itself.

For many years Leeds was the London of the north, the capital of Yorkshire, a financial centre in a county known for its canny way with brass, a centre of the legal business, and that mythical 24-hour city where, in the Englishman’s view, it was possible to get a drink at any time of the day. There was a near-victorious football team that almost didn’t have to look back to its last glory days of the mid-1970s.

But these things ignored the city’s civic and industrial history, trusting in the future of service. When I arrived in Leeds from London in 2001 it seemed to be lacking a real identity. The Bank of England had closed, leaving only a junction on the Loop as a mark of its passing, and much of the money had gone with it. Leeds United were in the top half of the Premiership but not far from the collapse that saw them drop to Division One. The city was prospering but at the cost of its past. The idea of Leeds was hollow.

When Leeds United were relegated in the disastrous but not unexpected season of 2003-4, the fans sang’We’re not famous any more’ and ‘We’re going down, but we’ll be back’. In 2011, the club is in the top six of the Championship and on the verge of a return to the Premiership, and the city is rediscovering itself through the museum, projects like the Leeds Owl Trail and a grassroots campaign in support of the city centred around the Culture Vultures blog, alongside cheerleaders on Twitter who have driven the discussion and promoted new businesses and ideas in the city.

Millennium Square has been at the heart of this renaissance and the placing of the City Museum there has served to confirm it as the civic centre of the city. The Leeds Tiger is a fond memory for older generations of the city, and its place in the museum has created continuity with the past. Leeds is a place to be proud of again.

Our visit to the museum today was to see the tiger, and show him that we got married in October. Two years ago I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to be in this city but my wife, the way that the museum celebrates Leeds and the way that it has been a part in creating pride in it has confirmed that it’s where I want to stay.

Starting again

I’m going to start writing more, and try and post something every day. It could be about anything. It might sometimes be interesting. Feedback would be welcome. As you were.