Friday, October 24, 2008

Bring Me Sunshine

Prompted by the final demise of the Jug Of Tea, I thought I'd have a look on Googlemaps at the site. Happily, the aerial shot is so old it shows the Arena Funfair prior to its closing, rather than the bleak expanse of concrete it is now. It's a late summer evening with the last of the days visitors pottering around. Some of them will have been to Brucciani's café, which is nearby.


Brucciani, Morecambe

Brucciani's has been open since 1939, and is just about the only place left from the days when Morecambe considered itself a cut above the brashness of Blackpool further down the coast. The interior is completely unspoiled by progress, although the exterior has had a rubbish makeover. There's a picture on This link which shows it as it was until recently. I doubt Brucciani have ever sold tea by the jugful.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

What Do You Mean Going To be? I AM One Of The Faces

It's in the catalogue as a 1967 Lambretta li150. On the 25th of November, Bonham's auctioneers will be selling the world's most famous scooter. Of course, I'm talking about KRU 251, ridden by Jimmy in Frank Roddam's Quadrophenia. It's been owned for several years by Allstyles scooter shop of Portsmouth, and in the past they've been offered very silly money for it, mainly from Japanese collectors. As it is, the Lammy's expected to realise £25,000. Not bad considering that after it was used in the film, it mouldered in a garden hedge for several years before being rescued. You don't get the seat that Lesley Ash parked her posterior on though - the original is part of the Quadrophenia Collection at Littledean museum in Gloucestershire.

Quadrophenia is the scooterist's Wild One or Easy Rider. It was the film that kicked off the early 80s mod revival. There's a lot wrong with it, as any mouth-breathing scooter purist will tell you. Half the extras are wearing flares, a rocker's got a 'motorhead' shirt on and loads of the scooters were still in the mind's eye of Innocenti or Piaggio's designers in 1963 when the film is set - including Jimmy's. Ace Face's Vespa GS is actually a poorly disguised Vespa Rally - the sensuous lines of Piaggio's Gran Sport masterpiece were too lovely to be chucked off Beachy Head, even in 1979.

The film's not quite the reason I'm a scooterist - I was too young for the film's first release - but seeing a thousand Vespas and Lambrettas lined up on childhood visits to Scarborough stayed with me, and I've loved scooters ever since. I'm not a mod, but Quadrophenia's the reason I've got a (seldom worn) 1955 fishtail parka and a red, white and blue roundel on both my scoots. Bellboy!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Jug Is Empty


So, farewell to Morecambe's derelict Arena Funfair and its bleakly photogenic Jug Of Tea hut (though it was more of a bunker). According to This article this ugly-beautiful bit of Lancashire history is finally going to be removed. I'm amazed it lasted as long as it did. I've long been an admirer (is that the right word?) of the place, and about 18 months ago I wrote this article for Nothing To See Here.

Thanks to Trevira for the link and This photo of the workmen moving in.

Sun-a-shine Rain-a-fall

It's a beautiful day, The Man has sorted the lights at Aldgate and I'm back on the PX. Let's celebrate with Boris Gardner and Byron Lee.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Muencher Freiheit

Is that the time? It’s just dawned on me that it’s exactly ten years since I kicked off my year-long stint of working in Munich. I was entirely ignorant of the Bavarian capital, other than it was the cradle of Nazism (bad) and had loads of first-class breweries (good). I didn’t meet any Nazis*, although I did have a great many successful encounters with the local beer – especially Augustiner, Hofbrau and Andechser. The latter tasting as pure and fresh as the air at the top of the Zugspitze.
Work was a chore. The picture editor sulked for days if you disagreed with her choice of image. The editor spent most of the day watching TV or arguing with me. The sub was so incompetent even I could spot his spelling errors. We would get frequent visits from the London-based bosses, who were each and every one of them foul, arrogant idiots. One of them came over just so he could have it off with a member of staff. One memorable week I worked a 24 hour stretch without a break, ruefully watching the sun come up over the towers of the Frauenkirche.
It’s a shame the job was so bad, because the city is so wonderful. 70% destroyed in WW2, it was rebuilt with a very obvious lack of community-scything A-roads, grey concrete eyesores or urine-soaked underpasses. It’s a human-scaled city of 4 million people – that’s four times bigger than Birmingham – with the feel of a market town. One legacy of the disastrous 1972 olympics was the transport network. A seamlessly integrated system of trams, buses and local rail (above and below ground) that guarantees you will be where you want to be at the time you said you would. They’ve just phased out the old clanging-bell articulated trams, which is a shame because on the way home from the pub you could pretend to be in The Third Man.

I got a bit obsessed with the dummies in this gents outfitters, photographing them many times. One looked like Ronald Reagan,and the rest looked like Kraftwerk. Munich tenaciously hangs on to its independent shops. The streets are full of them. The chains like Kaufhof and Hertie are there, but there’s a shop that sells just socks, another that sells scarves, and one that sells only leather gloves. There's a place that only sells fountain pens. Each neighbourhood has a place dealing in very sensible looking bicycles. Everyone cycles. I bought a cruiser-braked boneshaker from a bloke in the fleamarket who was using it to display his old shirts. I went everywhere on it, including getting lost in a city centre forest that I’d previously failed to notice. I spent the next four hours cycling around in darkness that all but swallowed the meagre beam my lights produced. I only escaped because I got a faint but unmistakeable whiff of the city Zoo, and followed my nose to the main road.

Eventually, I couldn't take it any more. It remains the only time I've told the boss where he could poke his job. On the day I was due to leave, the company's driver overslept and I missed my flight. I spent the next six hours in the airport's excellent restaurant and sent my former employer the bill. Prost.

*I was called an “English Pig” by an old fool of a shopkeeper. I’d annoyed him for not being able to work out how many Deutschmarks he needed for a copy of Munich Found. I was a bit disappointed that he didn’t call me an Englander Schweinhund.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Staring At The Sea




These beach huts are in Westward Ho! North Devon, about a mile from where my in-laws live. There's maybe a hundred of them, huddled along and behind the promenade at Braddick's caravan site. Some of them are literally glorified garden sheds, and each one is unique. Years of repairs and patching-up have given them each a distinct personality and character. Sea Haze, Sea View, Sea Mist, Sea Haven, Sea Breeze. Lazy Days, Ocean View. They contrast starkly with the VeryDesirableLiveWorkApartmentsOnlyThreeUnitsRemaining developments that are growing like ulcers on this bit of coast. Every time I visit I'm dismayed to see that another one of two of the huts have gone, leaving an empty concrete plot with its memories of sandcastles, tea in chipped mugs and the Beano Summer Special. If there is an upside to the so-called Credit Crunch it should put a halt to anymore soulless bunkers being built, with their us-and-them barbed wire and security gates.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Say Arrgh. Now Spit.

I had to go to the dentist today. My appointment was at tooth hurty. Yes, really. The dental practice is run by a husband and wife team. God help you if you get her. She was trained by Smithfield market. After years of terrifying treatment at the hands of her and her blunt chisels I swapped to him. Much better. Although today I noticed that among his tools is a perfectly ordinary household Dremel.

Monday, October 13, 2008

It's Not All Scooters

my 1986 BMW R65 Monolever
Until february I also had a motorcycle. It was this 1986 BMW R65 Monolever, which compared to my diminutive Vespas felt like sitting astride a Clydesdale. I nicknamed the bike Wolfram, after a bloke I knew when I lived in Munich - also home of course, to Bayerische Motoren Werke AG. Earlier R65 models had much smaller geometry, and they are derided by bikers for being the runt of the family, along with the (admittedly underpowered R45). From '86, the bike shared the same frame as the legendary R80. The R65 was always overshadowed by its big brother, though with 650cc, the R65 is hardly a small-capacity putt-putt. In fact, Wolfram could be quite terrifying - traffic that had been miles up ahead of you quickly became very close indeed. It sounded great too. I recall one fat-necked Cityboy clown in a TVR trying to out-rev me at the traffic lights on Bow Road. I let him zoom off to be flashed by the Gatso. Oddly, drivers of old Beetles often used to wave. Riders of modern bikes were amazed to find that my steed wasn't from the 60s.

The previous owners were two Californians who'd ridden it and an R65LS (The R65's space-age cousin which could only have been designed by a German) around France and Spain for several months. When they dropped it off they didn't tell me that the battery was knackered. The replacement cost me £100. So did the two fork seals it later needed, three months apart. Each service was £100. Everything seemed to cost £100.

I'd originally bought the bike as my commuter when the PX was off the road after my disastrous attempt to fit a Malossi cylinder to it. It did the job admirably, if slightly impractically. It took longer to get ready to ride the thing than it did to actually ride to work. But what a great ride it was, cornering like a Pendolino, and as comfortable as an armchair.

The picture above was taken on the longest trip we made on the bike - Aldeburgh. It took us both there and back, with all our luggage without a hiccup. On the return journey we rode though rain so horrible that at a fuel stop a couple in a Ford that had been following us ran over to ask if we were OK.

Reliable as it was, it just wasn't as practical or as cheap to run as a scooter so the bike had to go. It was bought by another American, who was the tallest man I've ever met. He's given me first refusal if he ever sells.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Light That Never Goes Out

"Who's that bloke with the flowers and woman's blouse? He's rubbish. He can't even sing."

And so was my appraisal of the Smiths performing What Difference Does It Make? on the 26th of January 1984 edition of Top Of The Pops. A thursday, of course. Thursday night was Top Of The Pops night. No doubt I was doing my art homework as I watched with mum, dad, my brother and our dog. Somehow, I'd entirely missed their previous performances on the much-loved show. However, the more I heard WDDIM, the more I liked it. And after I liked it, I loved it. It remains my favourite song to this day, and the Smiths are still my favourite band. Others come and go, but I always go back to Morrissey, Marr, Rourke and Joyce (and Gannon if you want to be picky). To a bespectacled bookworm like me, growing up in a very economically depressed North, I could relate to a lot of their lyrics. Their cover art really put the hook in me. Billy Fury, Shelagh Delaney, Vivian Nicholson, James Dean, Pat Phoenix. Jurgen Vollmer's photo of young rockers at a funfair in Hamburg. Nobody else had really done anything like them. I think I can trace my love of photography back to those images, as well as other interests like the works of Alan Bennett, steamy old cafes, decrepit shops, the seaside and er, George Formby.

One of the internet's best reads I Like has a link to Vulgar Picture, an illustrated Smiths discography. As far as i can tell, it has every variant of the Smiths album and single artwork, and more besides. Brilliant.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Musical Interlude

Smith - Baby It's You

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The last kiss of summer



This weekend I was up 'home'. While the South suffered gale force winds and torrential rain, the North sunbathed. We spent the day in Hawes, reached via Hubberholme and Oughtershaw. I like Hawes, a solid little town with a tuesday market. This is hill farming country. Every fifth vehicle seems to be a blue series 2 Land Rover with a dog in the back. A lot of the families here have worked the land for generations. It can be a hard and often solitary life. Modernisation seems complete now, but as recently as the mid 70s some of these farms had neither electricity nor running water. Of course, a lot of the farms have become second homes, holiday lets, outdoor centres, cafes and small business complexes with wi-fi and cappuccino machines, but it can still be a surprisingly 19th century place. At the tail end of the 1990s, a friend of mine - a district nurse - visited one of her patients, an elderly spinster who lived alone on a remote farm. Her companion that day was an African doctor. The farmer took one look at him, bolted the door and hid upstairs, squinting at the couple from behind her bedroom curtain. My friend had to get a ladder from a barn and coax the lady down, like a fireman with a kitten in a tree.


I took this picture of Pen-y-Ghent from the B6479 near Selside. We were on our way for fish and chips at the Fisherman in Settle. Very good they were too - fried in beef dripping. Mushy peas. Bread and butter. A pot of tea for four with an extra pot of hot water. The chap on the table behind was a 101 years old. Who says fried food is bad for you?