Thursday 26 May 2011

The Ridings Centre, Wakefield

If the Waverley Centre was 'a bit much', lets visit the whitewashed chill-out room that is Wakefield's Ridings Centre.

A nice view this, giving us the full vista of 'The Garden', a central snacky-communal-mingling area. Quite a bit to look at here - most notable is the streamlined and illuminated 'Metropolis' style lift, which takes you from outside Miss Selfridge (pink neon sign = ace) and sets you gently down amid bubbling mini-waterfalls and garlands of flowers. A good place to relax before you go to ...

Britain's premier door fittings and domestic fixtures outlet! Don't worry if you haven't seen a branch for a while, they still have a reassuring presence on the internet. Speaking of reassuring presences, the chap with the khaki bodywarmer seems to radiate good vibes - people pass him in the arcade and can't help but be drawn to him. As he descends the stairs to browse for a clock in 'Knobs and Knockers', an old couple bow and curtsey to him as they pass. You don't get deferential old people like that anymore. I like the style of the young chap with the green cardigan, looking a bit Miami Vice as he strides past the lamps and brass fireguards in Ks & Ks window. No accessorising necessary for him.

As for the decor, we've got it all really; mirrored panels, mock street lights, little coloured in-fills on the railings and that honeycomb roof-material that looks like it's made of balsa wood. This riot of colour and artifice has all been a bit much for me so next time we're going back to the sixties. Until then ...

Tuesday 24 May 2011

The Waverley Shopping Centre, Edinburgh

Yeah, Fine Fare can sod right off when you can go and visit the city where the Tripods lived. Forget trying to make your shopping centre a tasteful, neo-classical, 'up-market' experience, you should instead fill it with mirrored panels, tinsel, spotlights and a glowing hive mind that levitates in a pool of water.

I don't remember places actually looking like this, but I'm sure my nine year old self would have been in seventh heaven. I love the lack of delineation between steps and water - you could just take your Spud-U-Like and groove on in there. Try and imagine the results of a potato-related slip: a cross between Don't Look Now and the beginning of Scanners.

Here's a better view of the paddling, water feature, with various punters making themselves comfortable (or as comfortable as you can get on potato-flecked toilet floor tiles). Points of interest - the two identically dressed men hustling a youth out of his place on the step. What's in the bag? Also note the hold that the glowing sphere has over the boy in the blue jacket. They'll find him, last man standing with just a small white plastic knife and fork in his hand, still staring, oblivious to the sirens.

Well, it's not all snacks and fountains. There are shops too - here's the mini-market. You know the story. You go to Edinburgh for the weekend and want a souvenir for your other half. What, this? Yeah, I got it from Little Haiti. You know, the one in Edinburgh. The older lady in the doorway is tempted, but not sufficiently so to cross the threshold.

It's time to leave Edinburgh, but I'll be making a stop at another palace of shopping delights. I'll wager it will be understated, uncluttered and timeless. See you shortly.

My Fare Lady

Hello! After a short (long) hiatus, we're back with more eighties life, although this time we're taking a step back from your grandparents' sitting room and having a look outside. This picture was amongst a batch taken in Edinburgh, so I presume that this branch of Fine Fare is in the Athens of the North. As for the year, Fine Fares were re-branded as Gateways from 1986, so maybe just before that. OK, I haven't a clue.

Lets have a look then. Ever get the feeling someone's following you? Keep walking girls, Mummy's just taking you for a nice walk. Yes, keep a tight hold of Teddy. No, I don't care that Coca Cola is only 63p. It's a brisk march past for this lady and her kin, although I don't blame her as she seems to have attracted the attention of Molly Weir off of SuperGran and her beige husband, who are left spinning in their wake.

As for the prices, we have Red Salmon at £1.29, and Stewing Beef at an outrageous £1.34. The rest is sadly pixellated beyond my ken, although I would love to know what only cost 29p. Having seen the other pictures in the set, I think I have a rough idea where mother and daughters were heading, and it certainly ain't Fine Fare...

Sunday 8 May 2011

Covered Markets of Olde England - Huddersfield Queensgate!

Hello! Huddersfield Queensgate Market is one of yer actual bona-fide buildings of architectural merit, with a roof made of 21 distinct hyperbolic paraboloid parts, and a series of relief panels outside designed by artist Fritz Steller. Overall it's a pretty impressive place, and given that the photographs aren't exactly of the first order, there isn't much scope for the usual facetious comments. I'll try my best with the slim pickings at hand.

Here are the relief panels and a nice bit of landscape gardening. I particularly like the rustic looking man trotting by like a frisky Lippizaner stallion - there's none of that in Castle Market. Place like this make people happy!

After World War Two ended, Robert Capa spent a lot of time in Yorkshire, taking action pictures of covered markets. Here he is accompanying a crack couple of middle aged people past the fruit and veg store. You really get a feel of what it was like there - the smell of concrete and cabbages, the chirp of sparrows that have got trapped inside. On a serious note, just look at that roof. Bluewater doesn't have anything as bold or well-designed.

Sadly, due to an error in the processing lab, Capa lost most of his Queensgate pictures and so we have to end with this tantalising view of John Lewis's Bookstall. THE John Lewis's? I'm not sure but it looks ace, although I will forever be tantalised by the Wiltex sign. The suffix '-ex' suggests a modern and durable man-made fibre: the prefix 'Wilt' suggests the smell that will arise from your armpits after a hot days shopping in late sixties Huddersfield.

If you want to know more about Queensgate, and see what it's like now, go to Huddersfield Gem.

If you want to look round a mind-melting eighties shopping centre or go for a black and white ramble through a provincial English town of the sixties, come back here in a bit. And an additional thanks for the response to the Eighties Grandparents - I think the hauntological community has adopted Grandad Le Mesurier as something of an icon. It's all been rather lovely. Mind how you go!

Tuesday 3 May 2011

Grandparents of the Eighties Part Two

We've been to one set of grandparents, now lets visit the others. If they offer you any sweets, don't eat them. I'm not cleaning the car up for your sakes. But we'll talk about cars later.

And here we are! Grandad, and he's a hard character to pin down, what with the twinkly smile and old-Ted hairstyle. Part of me pictures a career in the Merchant Marine and a whole afternoon of risque stories about Sierra Leone and posh officers, but I'm also getting a double dose of John le Mesurier a bit down on his luck, holding court in the front room of his new council bungalow. Anyway, things aren't so bad - there's always Sherry, sat there faithfully, and a footrest to take the weight off while reading the papers.

But let's look around again. You're not telling me there isn't a Grandma right? This isn't one of those aesthetic Grandads with a Daschund and a lavender scent packet on the radiator. Plus, he's sat in Grandma's chair (check out the Grandad-proofing on the cushion and the antimacassar.) But what sort of Grandad sits on the settee? Agh! This is proving to be a stressful visit.

What's the reason behind this picture? Perhaps they were trying to capture the rather globular daschund doing a trick, although it could be one of those photographs people used to take in case they were burgled, to show the insurance man they had a telly. Anyway, here we are and I'm liking the brass hood over the fire and the turtles underneath. The decor is quite larky at first glance; lethally spiky conch on the telly, a little brass beer bump handle, a brass counter bell that goes DING when you strike it - but then have another look around. Anything missing? What have Granny and Grandpa Le Mes done with all those school portraits you sent them? Yes that's it, they must be in the other room. The one we're not allowed in.

Time to go home, and it shouldn't take too long because isn't that a Fiesta XR2 parked outside? You're the greatest, Dad, although it isn't too far beyond the imagination to picture Grandad Le Mesurier screeching up to Fine Fare to get some evening drinkies. Anyway, it's been really rather lovely to see you, thanks for dropping by.

Grandparents of the Eighties

Hello! Aren't you growing up fast? Make yourself comfy. Is he allowed a drink, Keith? Today we're visiting our grandparents at between channels. These pictures were in a hoard I recently purchased. The others in the series were of various non-descript garden scenes, but these two caught my attention straight away because this is an actual view of a real grandma's house in the eighties. Take your shoes off when you get into the kitchen.

Dad and lad have sat down to read The Sun. The haircuts match, but that's where it ends - whereas Dad has cunningly angled the paper to hide what he is looking at, son is checking out an Annabelle Croft-alike on the facing page. There isn't a hint of sideburn between them, as befits the decade. Although there's no sign of a dog, we do have a tank of those swollen-eyed goldfish that fascinate grandchildren so much. Don't bang on the glass.

Other things to note; the phone with one of those little phone number holder things next to it (from the days when we wrote down a phone number ONCE, and then that was it), a letter rack nailed to the wall, a sizeable antimacassar on the velour sofa and the obligatory grandparent accessory, an ashtray.

Here she is! And I have to say that the photographer has crept up on their subjects twice, because Gran isn't aware of the presence of the camera - she's more intent on watching Spurs on the telly! This Maysles Brothers-like unobtrusiveness lets us have a good look around. Brass things on the wall, and what looks like a video with a wig on. This is some serious kit - my parents didn't have a video for years and when we did get one I'd get told off for rewinding for too long 'Because it will wear out'. There's either a packet of cards or a packet of cigs on the gas fire, although looking directly down from there gives us a clue as to what's in the box.

One last thing before I give you a mason's handshake that conceals a pound coin - look at the photographs. On the windowsill, above and beneath the telly ... that's real love that is. There are more covered markets, shopping centres and bits and bobs to come, but I have to confess that there wasn't just one set of grandparent photographs ...