Steam at the Bluebell and Bury

Originally uploaded by fred pipes
There were two steam galas on the trot, last two weekends: first on the Bluebell, then on the East Lancs. I made use of the vintage bus to get to the Bluebell on Sunday 19 October. Star was GWR Prairie 5199. Jinty 47493 had broken down, so the only other locos in steam were Southern Railway U Class no. 1638, Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway class 7F no. 53809 and South Eastern and Chatham Railway O1 Class no. 65. I didn't take many snaps, concentrating on Flip videos, which can be seen on Vimeo. I met my friend Karen and 3 kids (and Johnny) there and we travelled back to Brighton on another vintage bus.

Up in Bury I was joined by my sister and brother-in-law on the Saturday train to Rawtenstall. It came in as 61994 The Great Marquess, but as we pulled out, there she was on another platform! Andrew Barclay 0-6-0ST Austerity no. 2183 was chuffing up and down taking footplate passengers for a tenner. At Ramsbottom, we found out we'd been pulled by Jinty 47324 (I still don't know why they're called Jinties!) and they jumped ship and headed back to Bury - pulled by 71000 Duke of Gloucester, the lucky things! I carried on to Rawtenstall where I headed off to the R Lowry exhibition. After missing the Duke again on the way back I had to be content with a double header of L&YR 0-6-0 Class 27 no. 1300 and the Jinty. On Sunday I met my friend Lois, Pete and little Joe. I'd calculated that we'd get the Duke this time, and in she came from Heywood. But... again she was detached and we ended up leaving Bury with 61994 The Great Marquess! At Ramsbottom we saw pig's ears at the car boot sale, had black peas in a polystyrene cup (60p) from Ye Olde Black Peas stall and a chocolate drink in the strangest footballers' wives cafe. It was a cup of frothy milk you had to dissolve a bar of German chocolate in and whisk up (3 quid)! I can't see it catching on! We continued to Rawtenstall pulled by Black Five 45407 and back to Bury. On the way back I was filming the Duke stopped at Ramsbottom when a torrent of rain came off the roof of our train and soaked me! Took some more films back at Bury, then went for a pint of black stuff in the well stocked Trackside bar. Lois had a black pudding bap and then drove us through the rain to New Mills. Pocket rocket BR 2-6-0 Class 4MT no. 76079 (running as 76001) was also in steam but I couldn't get a decent shot of it. Next day I travelled to Liverpool to sample some Biennial art (not that impressed by the videos at FACT or the paintings at Bluecoat) and visit and photograph various houses my Grandad lived in - in Toxteth and over the water in Egremont.

Ray Lowry exhibition

Originally uploaded by fred pipes
I love my bus pass! When I was Up North last week, I used it to visit houses in Toxteth and Egremont lived in by my Grandfather (still amazingly in existence), and to reach the tiny Lancashire town of Crawshawbooth to visit the Ray Lowry exhibition at the See Gallery. It's incredibly sad that I'd only heard of this exhibition because he'd died, and sadder still that he won't profit from the sales of his artwork (but he does have a son I believe). Along with Bill Tidy and Larry, R Lowry was a great influence - I loved his surreal scratchy drawings in NME and Punch, but know nothing about him, apart from his unhealthy interest in the nazis! I was in Rawtenstall anyway, riding the East Lancs steam railway, so on the advice of gallery owner Julian Williams, caught the X43 bus along part of 'The Witch Way' towards Pendle. The gallery was easy to find, in an Oddfellows Hall and I was taken aback by the crisp gorgeous oils he'd started painting of Manchester (aiming to become 'the other Lowry'). Around the corner were the cartoons I'd known, loved and laughed at. And there were plenty more up the stairs, including folders full in the photographic studio up top. I got a cup of tea, but had to be quick browsing so as to catch the bus back. I bought one depicting Bob Dylan trying to buy a drink at a bar. In another building were his large oils, incuding swasticas made from eggs and bacon and confectionery, an attempt to rehabilitate that bad symbol. Back in the gallery the curator of the Bluecoat in Liverpool was discussing the possiblity of moving the exhibition there. There were plenty of red dots tho, so it won't be the same. The bus driver on the way back was intrigued by my Brighton bus pass. Back in Rawtenstall I searched for Britain's last temperence bar to no avail - maybe it was shut on Saturdays? After buying some batteries at Boots, I got to the station to find the Duke of Gloucester had just pulled out, and the cafe was closing. And it was raining...


Having a Wii

Originally uploaded by fred pipes
Am I old? Am I? I do have a bus pass, but don't feel that old. Mind you, when I look in the mirror, I don't see my dad, I see my grandad! Roy Lowry didn't even reach state pension age before snuffing it. Does old mean sitting in overheated communal rooms smelling of wee and watching loud daytime TV like my poor old dad before he died? Going to genteel tea dances, and not even ironically? According to Age Concern, old means over 50! That's a shock. Most of the people in my choir are older than me. And I'm one of the younger members of the Clarion Cycling Club, Brighton and Hove Section. So, am I old? With an invitation from my 'old' friend Patricia who works at Age Concern, I popped down to the Royal Albion Hotel to see what the nu-wave old folk are up to these days. It was the final of the Nintendo Wii ten-pin bowling tournament and the two teams were T-shirted and ready to go. Marion, Pat, Margaret, Fred, Tony and Eric from Somerset Point, a sheltered housing block in Kemp Town, were in black; Frank, Mal, Michael, Joan, Les and Eileen from Woods House, in Hove, were in white. And they were good. Strike followed strike and lots of arm action led to the blacks winning 681 to 669. Thankfully, the Wii software kept track of the complicated scoring. Then it was a photo call and off across the road for fish and chips (I headed to the Off Beat). If it's that much fun, I can't wait to get really old!

Ray Lowry RIP

Ray Lowry, punk cartoonist, and no relation of L S, has died age 64. Must go see the exhibition of his work in Rawtenstall when I'm up in Bury next week... Ray Lowry, the artist/illustrator who worked for NME and designed the front cover of The Clash's classic album 'London Calling', has died aged 64. Lowry died in his home in Waterfoot, Lancashire yesterday (14 October) after suffering from illness for a number of years. Lowry contributed illustrations to NME throughout the '70s and '80s as well as The Guardian, Private Eye and Punch. A Ray Lowry exhibition is currently running at the See Gallery, Rawenstall, Lancashire until 7 November.


Three Bonzos and a piano

My most favourite band of all time has to be the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. I saw them for sure in 1966 in the Great Hall of the University of Surrey (at Battersea) where I was studying and I'm positive I saw them even before that, more informally in the student bar. I was privileged to be at their reunion 40 years later at the Astoria, have seen Roger Ruskin Spear's Giant Kinetic Wardrobe - at the UoS free festival in 1973 - and have enjoyed seeing Neil Innes many times over the years. So it was with great excitement last Saturday that I cycled to the Latest Musicbar (formerly the Joogleberry) to see Three Bonzos and a piano, namely Roger Ruskin Spear, Rodney Slater and Sam Spoons with Dave Glasson - particularly since Neil Innes and Fatso had cancelled their gig at the Duke of York's cinema the night before. Thankfully, Jo and Laurence had saved me a seat up front (though my view was obscured by Rodney's music stand!). They opened with Cool Britannia, swiftly followed by Watermelon and On her doorstep last night, Roger taking most of the vocals and the audience joining in with gusto. There followed two energetic sets of mayhem, with many Bonzos numbers covered, and a few surprise items too: viz: Punktuation and Sprouting Broccoli. We had the trouser press, shirts, the Leg, and all manner of special effects, ending with a tribute to Viv, Tent. It was great to be so close to three living legends and I managed to capture some videos on my Flip Ultra. At least two others were videoing the performance on proper camcorders. I'll deffo be back next month, and hope it'll be a regular gig. Andy Roberts was in the audience - maybe he'll play next time. You can find my videos here. And here's a video from a better angle by David of the Do Dah Diaries also on Vimeo.


The Weasel

The only papers I buy are the Saturday and Sunday Independents (cos they are manageable reads and I'm not a social worker). Last Saturday morning I was devastated to discover that my favourite columns: The Weasel, which had been going since the start of the Indy in 1986, and Will Self's PsychoGeography had both been axed! Not only that but we'll lose the lovely drawings of Lucinda Rogers and the always entertaining scratchings of Ralph Steadman. Saturdays will never be the same again!


Caravan Gallery

Originally uploaded by fred pipes
I haven't managed to catch many of the Brighton Photo Fringe shows yet, but I did pop into town last Friday to buy some postcards from the Caravan Gallery, parked in Jubilee Square. Their photos make me laugh out loud and we even made a pilgimage to 'Thistle Do Nicely' in Edinburgh on the strength of seeing it on one of their cards. I bought their book and loads of cards and Jan Williams was very impressed by my stories of Mr Cooper, the Baker Street barber featured on a Brighton postcard, now sadly deceased.

Farley Farm

Originally uploaded by fred pipes
You lazy blogger, I hear you cry! It's not as though I've had nothing to blog, you understand. Truth is, I haven't had much work to avoid, but now I have. So, we're back! On Saturday, I had a motor car journey out to Chiddingly, to visit Farley Farm, the home to Lee Miller and Roland Penrose. The Clarion visited Chiddingly last Sunday on a bike ride from Berwick, to coincide with their Festival, which included Morris dancers, belly dancers (not dancing together, unfortunately), apples and beer! One feature of the festival was that there were cut-price tours of the farm for three weekends. Tessa suggested we go this past weekend. Unfortunately, she was too poorly to go, so I piled into Mark and Anna's car with my neighbour Marion Charles.

Just turn up, said the flyer, so we did. Waiting for the next tour at 2.30, we looked at the mini-print exhibition in the barn, but it was too wet to consider the garden. No photos were allowed to be taken inside, and the two delightful guides kept their beedy eyes on us! I love places full of stuff! There were paintings everywhere, Picasso plates and tiles in the kitchen, a Man Ray collage in the hall, African carvings and curiosities all over the place, and of course Lee's photos and Roland's paintings everywhere. In a big room was a case full of Lee's wartime souvenirs, including two sets of knuckle-dusters and Hitler's stationery. (Apparently the farm is a magnet for Neo-Nazis, according to her grand-daughter Ami in the gift shop.) In case you don't know who Lee Miller was: she was a Vogue model and the Kotex Girl, then went to Paris and met Man Ray and took up photography, was a war correspondent (for Vogue!), and ended up with Roland in a Sussex farmhouse, being visited by Saul Steinberg, Picasso and Man Ray, amongst many other esteemed Surrealists. Her photos can be seen here. If any 'Johnny Foreigners' arrived at Lewes station looking lost, the taxi drivers would take them to Farley! The house has a feel of Charleston about it and Roland went up a few points in my estimation - I'd always considered him a bit of a toff dilettante like the Bloomsbury lot. Go see it if you can - the big 25 quid tours are booked up for the rest of the year, but the downstairs festival taster tours are well worth it. Afterwards we had tea at Silletts Cottage tea rooms in Selmeston!

Saturday night was the debut of the Twilight Club in the Argus Basement. Organised by David Bramwell (of Catalyst Club fame) and Rachel Blackman, it involved parlour games on a medical theme and a show in the pit by Foz's Sawchestra. There's a video of some of it on Vimeo. I was a bit unsure of the geography of the place so missed the first sitting, but they sell proper beer (in bottles) and the performance was worth waiting for. Reminded me of those happenings at All Saint's, Powis Square in the late 1960s, but much more entertaining! This is a welcome addition to the Brighton scene, for the older and more discerning punter.