Monday 19 December 2011

Christmas on Mars

So here it is - Merry Christmas! Everybody in these pictures is guaranteed to be having fun. But they can't look to the future now. Something something about it's only just begun.

I don't know where these places are. The photographs have no identifying text on the back, and have been sourced from various sets. They do have one thing in common though - they all encapsulate the festive joy that is the Christmas period.

Muffled against the cold and driving rain, she presses gamely on, the pram cutting through the puddles like the bow of a destroyer on the Arctic convoys. Her quilted anorak is soaked through, and her heel is sore after the inattentive gentleman behind her trod on it. The shops don't have what she wants and little Frank is crying somewhere beneath the transparent plastic cover on the pram. If only his father were here. Then again he'd probably be craning round to look at that dolly bird in the black boots' legs. Trollop. The only comfort she has is that this moment of ordinary misery will never be captured for the world to see. That would be awful.

The problem with modern towns is traffic. High streets that were laid out before the age of the motor car just can't cope with modern traffic volumes. That wasn't the case in the old days. Oh no. Take a look at this - all the Tizer lorry has to do to progress up the street is drive round the Mini van, slalom past the Austin 1100 and the other thing, and then pass through the generous gaps left by the three lorries entirely blocking the road. Piece of piss, or indeed, Tizer. They're probably all going to the Town Centre Exhibition. Yay. Two things of note; it's a shame that you don't get shops called 'Hump' anymore and secondly, the photographer took this picture whilst attached to the bonnet of a P6 Rover, having absent mindedly wandered into the road.

The twins liked nothing better than a day out at the precinct. All day they'd just hang about, looking at all the half-masts.

If you want to get your Christmas shopping done, there's always the arcade just down the road. It's nice, honest. You could place a bet for your loved one (William Hill hasn't had to spend its profits re-designing its shop fronts) or go to John Fane and get, well, whatever John Fane sells. John Fane, incidentally, was the tenth earl of Westmoreland so perhaps it sells grouse or ermines or something. The area is also, for the Christmas period only, suffused in a poisonous brown mist.

Terraforming on Mars was not easy.

A lot of the colonists got a bit depressed.

Feel free to print any of these images out to send as Christmas cards. Though only for work colleagues, not friends or family. If I don't post anything before, have a very Merry Christmas and don't go back in time to any of the places shown above.

Sunday 11 December 2011

Creative Masks

Oh, hello! You know how it is when you compile a load of old photographs and books to put up on your blog and then they just disappear from your house? No? Oh. I do. I just can't find anything. Its all gone. Disappeared. Apart from 'Creative Masks for Stage and School' by Joan Peters and Anna Sutcliffe (pub. Plays Inc, Boston 1976). And something about shopping centres which I'll put up once I've ripped the floorboards from the house in search of my stash. Anyway, lets get on with it.

According to wikijustmakeitupedia masks are worn for 'protection, disguise, performance or entertainment'. I'm wondering which one of those functions this one performs. All four probably.

That's not a mask! It's a sweater and a half though.

All teachers wear glasses do they, Jenny? Well actually I do, but that's not the point. Actresses and spies are fair game though. None of these are masks by the way.

These haven't come up very well, although rest assured she is holding a pair of scissors in front of her face in one picture, and wearing a pair of tights with two chocolate digestives stuffed down them in the other.

Now THEY are masks. A stately home garden setting, although it looks a bit damp underfoot for leotards and bare feet. If you can name the performance these are for, I will give you a biscuit and an M&S Frosty Ball.

(Note - I do not know what performance these masks are for).

Well that has eased me back into the whole posting on my own site thing. If I find the other bits and pieces I'll let you know (I say bits and pieces - two months worth of yellowing instamatics!), in the meantime I'll meet you in the shopping centre for the crippled children's bangers and mash party. And I'm not joking.

Tuesday 4 October 2011

The Hanging Gardens of Redditch

Me - Welcome to the Kingfisher Centre, Redditch. Fancy a look around the shops?

You - Um, no. I'm actually quite thirsty. Is there a pub in the Kingfisher Centre? Why are you walking off towards the shops?

Me - It's hard to imagine shiny tiles and prefabricated pebble-dashed concrete panels as being the materials of the future, but that's what they were once upon a time. What have we got beneath this lovely cladding? There's Martins (THE newsagent). Who's that anxiously stepping out?

You - I suppose you're going to tell me. Fred West?

Me - I thought it was Peter Green with Holger Czukay in the background. But now you mention it ... anyway, my favourite feature is the vacuum tube system for transporting old ladies to the upper levels.

Me - There they are - the Hanging Gardens of Redditch as promised. Pretty impressive actually, with a huge prehistoric fern in the middle of each concrete cylinder, with a spotlight shining down from underneath. It's better than a fountain or a poor likeness of a dead local celebrity (who in this case would be John Bonham, although when Nigel from Dodgy drops from the twig I'm sure they'd form a statuary supergroup). I also like the various yooves 'angin round the benches, with the White Panther guy on the left being by far the best. To balance it out there are five menacing old ladies who resemble the Batley Townswomen's Guild. There'll be no bother today.

You - It's all very good but I bet there isn't a pub here.

Me - There is actually. It's called The Swinging Sporran. I don't have a picture of it.

You - That's disappointing. Did you take these photographs yourself?

Me - Thanks for asking - no I didn't actually. They were taken by Peter Moss Ltd of Halesowen. That should deflect any anonymous cheese-paring in the comments section.

You - I'm off to The Swinging Sporran. Meet you under the giant, swinging concrete flower baskets.

Me - Bye!

Happy Birthday?

It was my birthday recently, and I thought I would mark the occasion with a celebratory post. Something with a fun birthday flavour eh?

Then my laptop suffered a nervous breakdown, and the new laptop doesn't recognise the scanner and Oh Lord, what a to do. Luckily, being a resilient sort I think I've ironed out the problems and here we are.

Old fun can look pretty creepy, although my favourite detail is the small sausage lying on the tray of my high chair. I'm assured that it is a sausage, by the way, by two very reliable sources. I believe the stardate is 1979 but oddly enough I don't remember being there.

Now that we're back on track I should see a little bit more of you. Right. Where are the rest of those photos?

Tuesday 13 September 2011


Hello there. Apologies for the recent inactivity on the site, but my work takes pretty much one hundred per cent of my time at present, and although I am still stockpiling things to post I just never seem to get an evening to do anything productive, let alone compose the sparkling comments to go with the pictures. Ah well. Soon, soon.

As an interim measure I will share some of the top beat sounds currently reverberating throughout the concrete walls of bc towers.

Be seeing you!

Wednesday 10 August 2011

Lets Make Puppets!

Hello. Sorry for the lack of action recently, and thank you for all the marvellous comments from everyone relating to the last post. You're all ace. Back to business. What do we do in the school summer holidays?

We make puppets! This recent find (by A.R. Philpott, pub. Evans Brothers London 1972) shows us how to go about it. But like the hasty child I am, I've ignored the 'Let's Make' parts and skipped to the 'Puppets' bit. The young man on the cover seems to be a little ... apprehensive about the relic on his arm. He doesn't seem to be able to ... stop looking at it. It's all pupaphobia you know (yes there is an official label for fear of puppets, although as my father would probably say "Whats the Latin for 'For God's sake pull yourself together?'")

Maybe for a primary school production of 'The Fog'?

I refer the Right Honourable Readers to my comments on Found Objects.

I remember that glue. It ate into polystyrene and left a wonderful gummy cap over the nozzle when left for a while. It could also cause blindness and hallucinations. Be careful, little girl!

Yeah yeah, nice puppet. It's the background I'm interested in; slatted wooden benches, smooth pebbledashing on concrete surfaces, hardy shrubs in containers, plastic-coated wire fences with gaps just big enough to fit the toe of your Clarks in ... Ladies & Gentlemen I give you the Seventies School Playground!

The title of Janis Joplin's posthumous unreleased live album.

Barely able to function after being parted from his puppet-master, the young boy sits slumped on a bench in the playground. I'd be catatonic as well if I had to untangle the wires of 'the metal tape creature' whilst Miss Goody Two Shoes gets to swoop about with the ace 'Let's Pretend'-style cat. Look at his knees. Pre-five pound jeans, these haven't been patched for the sake of fashion!

'The thing that stuck in young Jenkins' mind was the hands. As the apparition bobbed silently behind the chair towards him, he noticed that the hands, ostensibly shaped rosewood, had a peculiarly sinuous and lifelike quality. Indeed, Jenkins was almost convinced that he could see the tiny veins rising and falling slowly and miniature beads of moisture glistening among the folds of skin. The effect was as if some person unknown had replaced the puppet's hands with those of a large frog.'

'The Imp' by M.R. James from 'Ghost Stories of an Antiquary', 1904.

I don't really fancy making puppets any more. Back soon with more handicraft, markets and shopping centres. And music. Check behind the sofa before you turn the light out tonight.

Sunday 24 July 2011

Struck down by Anonimity, or, Ron Adams' Photographs

Hello. Sorry I've been away for so long, but work has been a priority over the last few weeks and for various reasons I haven't been able to post anything. Thank you to the people who have kept looking in (albeit in vain).

It was particularly heartening to read the two recent comments posted about the Friars Square shopping precinct in Aylesbury. Before getting to the point, I have to say that many of the pictures taken were by Ron Adams - sorry Ron, I would never have posted any of your pictures had I known you had taken them. They were sent to me, and not nicked off your flickr page. The point of the photographs on this site is that they were taken, and then discarded by, anonymous people. If anyone else sees their stuff in the post, apologies for not crediting you - I didn't know anyone else had ownership of them. I'll edit the posts accordingly.

Which moves me to my point. Hi Anonymous - thanks for the heads up re the photographs. And now for a between channels impertinence. The very nature of the internet means that a lot of people can do things anonymously (or at least under a different handle, as I do!) be it hack into NATO or leave a comment on a web page. Which is fine - free speech and democracy and all that. All I ask for is a little courtesy to go with it - chippiness and / or haughtiness seems to be a default mode for some folks on the web, especially those who don't care to leave their names.

If anyone has a problem with a photo credit or with any comment I make on the site, just PM me (the email address is on there) - don't just leave an anonymous comment on the site which is designed to make me look foolish. I wouldn't do it to you, Anonymous. You have made a very good point but there are better ways to make it.

Wednesday 15 June 2011

Friars Square Shopping Precinct, Aylesbury. Part 2

Welcome back to the between channels Aylesbury extravaganza at Friars Square shopping precinct, courtesy of Sean Hancock. More pics of the place in various states of decay as well as a couple of examples of local colour. Lets press on.

Very nicely composed picture - it almost looks, well, quite nice.

Garments galore at the market, although judging by the heavy attire of the punters I reckon it's a little early for short sleeves (to be fair they are old ladies and as we've seen before on this site, old ladies tend to wear overcoats in all seasons).

Could be a photograph from an old Cabaret Voltaire album cover. Businesses that wouldn't do very well these days Number One: Visionhire.

Peering through the Instamatic murk we have the Friars Square facade. It has some nice municipal sculpture-y bits underneath the lettering, but apart from that it's as cold and unyielding as a former Soviet remand centre. I like old photographs taken on overcast days. They seem to say 'Remember - the past was also this.'

Looks like things are slowing up a little - when the big shops start to shut you know you've got problems. Some japes from the blokes who were whitewashing the windows and also note the large quantity of weeds roosting in the concrete planters. Really sets the place off don't you think?

Cheer up, it could be worse. It might NOT be a unisex hairdressers. Where would you get it cut then, eh?

The strain is etched onto the faces of these people as the siege of Leningrad dragged on for another month. Things are still ticking over, despite the utter devastation that has been wrought in the background. It's interesting to see how the phased demolition has spared some parts (presumably the less sepulchural and profitable ones) and bashed the rest down whilst the shoppers go about their business. Tea, Coffee? No thanks pal, I'll have a drink.

A modern re-imagining of 'Quatermass and the Pit'. The old market square is gone, but at least they've left the Wimpy bar with its bold, raked windows and decorative flanking towers.


More mayhem and dismemberment as the demolition teams move in. Not even Granada was saved.

A pigeons-eye view of the redevelopment. Note how Friars Square stands out from the rest of Aylesbury - those rendered and pebble-dashed concrete slabs are in stark contrast to the rest of the town huddled to the right of the picture. The Wimpy and Granada are no more. But I won't leave you with sad memories..

The Olympics have come to town! Well, not your town because they're in Los Angeles but they've sent out an envoy. I've never seen an Olympic mascot sent out as PR before - I wonder what London will be sending for 2012 (insert bit of politics here)? This American Eagle is definitely making himself at home, swaggering round outside Wimpy. I like the synchronicity of the large white patch on the ground behind the 'bird', as if it has just made a man-sized excretion at the feet of the two unimpressed looking young men standing adjacent.

Milton Keynes has its cows ... and that's about it, but Aylesbury had its ducks. I say had, this one seems to have survived destruction, propped up as it is in somebodys garden. What would you do with it when you moved house? And seriously, if Aylesbury had any sort of civic pride, surely it would want to reclaim its concrete duck for a nominal free? As an aside, this picture is a companion to the 'Seventies Recreation' post, featuring as it does one of the most badly sited children's swings in Christendom. Yeah, put it next to the hardcore on the pallet. Next to the duck. On top of the remains of the industrial waste we burned. That's it.

That is also it for Aylesbury. I've enjoyed posting these pictures as they really give a flavour of a long-gone sixties precinct. I may never visit Aylesbury in the future but I can say with certainty that I have visited its past. Until next time...

Tuesday 14 June 2011

Friars Square Shopping Precinct, Aylesbury. Part 1.

Morning! This is quite exciting for me because the pictures posted here have been sent by between channels' first ever contributor. Take a bow Sean Hancock, who sent me this motherlode of pictures depicting the rise and dear decline of the Friar's Square shopping complex in Aylesbury.

An example of early sixties 'brutalist' design, Friars Square was used by Stanley Kubrick for some of the location shooting on 'A Clockwork Orange'. It's not there anymore, at least not in the form shown in the photographs here. There seems to be a peculiar undercurrent of dread running through the place - the local duck breed was originally wiped out by 'duck fever' in the nineteenth century (although it sounds a bit like a David Essex album title) and in the seventies a pamphlet called 'What's Happening to Aylesbury?' was produced, which detailed tales of unemployment and bored youth causing mayhem on the streets and concrete underpasses. I think we'll be right at home here, then...

This ticks all the right boxes for this website, I think.

The biggest Woolies in the country.

How's this for a central feature? A damn great wedgy, glass-fronted cafeteria horned by two retro-futurist Mayan towers. Note how dark and dingy the surrounding area is, even in bright sunlight.

A market AND a sixties brutalist shopping precinct? Marvellous. All told, it looks a bit - well, bleak, bringing to mind post-war Dresden. At least the 'cafeteria' has gone and turned itself into a Wimpy. It'll be a burger eaten with a knife and fork first, and then down to the square where a young John Peel will sell you a wicker shopping basket on wheels from the shadows.

Pretty impressive, nice and clean - nothing can make this square look cluttered and untidy.

Ah. Looking a little more weathered a few years down the line, the market is in full swing. Lots of sprouts on offer - quite a few market stalls mark their prices up in that font even now. Any idea what it's called? I'll start us off with 'Brussels New'.

The Wimpey bar has been condemned and moved to redevelop are afoot. The spiral fire escape is rather lovely, like the inside of a whelk shell. There's a similar one atop Sheffield's Castle Market, next to the winding gear for the lift. I tried to go up it and then had to retreat quickly. God knows what the vertigo-suffering office workers of Aylesbury would have done in a fire.

Zodiac Toys in the background, when there were still toy shops in shopping precincts. Note the street furniture; prismic advertising posts and those deep concrete planters, nominally flower beds but actually a handy place to store soaked cigarette ends and crushed cans of lager.

Our Price, a chain much derided in its declining years, but try finding a record shop nowadays (HMV aside). To be fair most of the chain record shops all sold the same stuff, and when you did find that Jesus Lizard cassette you really wanted, it was £18.99. The only exception I found was the HMV down The Moor in Sheffield, which stocked an incredibly large amount of krautrock. You'd see people's mums flicking through the racks and looking at albums by Grobschnitt and Embryo in bewildement. So to conclude, Our Price was rubbish, good riddance.


More Aylesbury images to come. Don't have nightmares.

Thursday 2 June 2011

Covered Markets of Olde England - Rotherham!

I know what you're thinking. Ok, I don't - but I think people are thinking 'why so many covered markets and shopping centres?' Well a) I like them, and b) by taking a microcosmic look at unfashionable and neglected parts of a societies popular culture and infrastructure, I think you can learn a bit about them and 'enter the time machine' more easily than, say, looking at the same images of swinging london or that eighties clip of a yuppie in a bar thumbing loads of fivers. And c) I've got a lot of photos of covered markets and shopping centres.

But I digress. Here we are in Rotherham, and this is a covered market in the literal sense - a load of market stalls in a vast hangar. It looks quite futuristic - like the alien virus from The Andromeda Strain multiplying in your local town centre. Attractive too, with muted tangerine and mustard (did I say attractive?) pyramids topping each stall. And they're good stalls - Lees of Leeds (a jewellers that is still going strong), a toy shop, book shop, tree overall shop. Tree overalls? Must be a word that has been obscured, although it is a gap in the market.

I would describe this gentleman as 'solid'. More old ladies, one of whom has a jellyfish-skin cap.

The view from the walkway. Is it just me or can I smell damp cement dust when I look at this? Main thing of note is the yellow cabinet on the far wall - I have a distant folk memory of something like this being a children's ride, where you sat in it and lights went off and it rose up and down on a hydraulic arm. Is it a Yellow Submarine? Is it a children's ride at all? This seems to have contradicted my earlier statement about learning things from the past - perhaps I'll amend it to 'you can observe things from a distance and try to join up the dots'. If anyone can assist re this tantalising image, please let me know. We shall take our leave from Rotherham. Until next time ...