yesterday

After chatting to some lovely old people in Morecambe, who said the classics like ‘It’s not like it was in my day’ and ‘Young people today don’t know they’re born’ I got the bus to Windermere in the Lake District.  Another beautiful place, but for some reason a lot of things were annoying me, like the fact that they’d overbooked at the youth hostel and I was sleeping on a mattress on the floor, the unfriendliness of the militant hikers, the creakiness of the bunk beds, the distance the youth hostel was from civilisation, the hill you had to climb to get there, the sheer quantity of walkers in waterproofs, the sharing of a room with six other people, the noises strange people make in their sleep, and the time that militant walkers get up.  There wasn’t much I wanted to photograph.  I met a guy in the youth hostel called Adam and we went and got a roast instead, and then went rowing on the lake.   Then I went back to my bed and breakfast and watched Kes and thought things will be better tomorrow.

Isabela, Morecambe, Saturday 21st August 2010

Isobel, Morecambe, Saturday 21st August 2010

Public toilets, Bowness-on-Windermere, Sunday 22nd August 2010

Lake Windermere, Bowness-on-Windermere, Sunday 22nd August 2010

Dog talk, Bowness-on-Windermere, Sunday 22nd August 2010

Giovanni, Windermere, Sunday 22nd August 2010

Adam rowing on Lake Windermere, Sunday 22nd August 2010

Bowness-on-Windermere, Sunday 22nd August 2010

Posted in Country, England, Leisure, Old People, Places, Tourism, Traditional | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 133 Comments

blackpool to morecambe

The love affair with Blackpool has ended, although on reasonably good terms.  A guy I met called Mike suggested I come to Morecambe, where apparently there are lots of old people.  I love old people so this sounds good.  Everywhere seems pretty quiet in Morecambe.  I hardly saw a soul on the streets when I got here in the evening yesterday.  Last night I ended up in Tivoli Bar, where the landlord Eddie showed me his ‘throwing someone out’ routine.  I was going to walk home from there but apparently there are ‘druggies’ at my end of town so Steve and Sheila dropped me off in their taxi.  And today Sheila’s son Scott says he’ll drive me to the Lakes.  The sunset was beautiful here last night.  Sheila, Steve and Eddie agreed that the sunsets in Morecambe are probably the best in the world.

Blackpool, Thursday 19th August 2010

Blackpool, Friday 20th August 2010

Blackpool, Friday 20th August 2010

Blackpool, Friday 20th August 2010

Grenadier Hotel, Blackpool, Friday 20th August 2010

John, Grenadier Hotel, Blackpool, Friday August 2010

Grenadier Hotel, Blackpool, Friday 20th August 2010

Morecambe Funfair, Friday 20th August 2010

Eddie, Tivoli Bar, Morecambe, Friday 2oth August 2010

Posted in England, Leisure, Nightlife, People, Still-Life, Tourism, Travel, Urban, town | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 129 Comments

heaven and hell

More encounters with born again christians.  I asked what happens to the unbelievers and the street preacher said ‘I believe there is a glorious heaven.  But there is also a hell, I’m afraid.’  I’d say that works for Blackpool too.  I’m loving it so far, but tonight I’m heading out in the rain to sample the nightlife, so my feelings might me different tomorrow.

Grenadier Hotel, Blackpool, Thursday 19th August 2010

Born again christian giving me a leaflet, Blackpool, Thursday 19th August 2010

Blackpool, Thursday 19th August 2010

Blackpool, Thursday 19th August 2010

Beast of burden, Blackpool, Thursday 19th August 2010

Central pier, Blackpool, Thursday 19th August 2010

Blackpool Illuminations storage centre, Blackpool, Thursday 19th August 2010

Jenny and Laura working on the disco ball for South Shore, Blackpool, Thursday 19th August 2010

Posted in City, England, Leisure, Nightlife, People, Tourism, Travel, Urban, Young People | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 132 Comments

pretty nice

Pretty pretty Buxton.  It was nice.  I’ve been reading a book called Watching the English by Kate Fox where she talks about our love of the word ‘nice’ – it suits our moderate approach to most things, she says.  Possibly true.  The chapter I’m reading at the moment is about pets  It’s worth reproducing this paragraph here, because I find it so true, especially in slow-paced places like Buxton.  The dog was my way in with David, below:

‘The average Englishman will assiduously avoid social interaction with his fellow humans, and will generally become either awkward or aggressive when obliged to communicate with them…He will have no difficulty at all, however, in engaging in lively, amicable conversation with a dog.  Even a strange dog, to whom he has not been introduced.  Bypassing all the usual stilted embarrassments, his greeting will be effusive: ‘Hello there!’ he will exclaim, ‘What’s your name? And where have you come from, then?  D’you want some of my sandwich, mate?  Mmm, yes, it’s not bad, is it?  Here come up and share my seat!  Plenty of room!’  You see, the English really are quite capable of Latin-Mediterranean warmth, enthusiasm and hospitality; we can be just as direct and approachable and tactile as any of the so-called ‘contact cultures’.  It is just that these qualities are only consistently expressed in our interactions with animals.’

After the dose of nice in Buxton, I followed Stuart’s suggestion to visit Blackpool.  Shit loads of photographers have covered this ground, so it does seem fitting to also give it a go.  It’s a classic.  Yesterday evening was mellow, quiet, not what I expected at all.  Everyone seems quite smiley and I really enjoyed wandering around.  The three most recent news stories that came up on google tell a different story.  One was about a beggar who has been issued with a CRASBO (never heard of them), another was about a take-away around the corner from my hotel where there are inordinately high crime levels and accusations of supply of cocaine to young girls, and the last was about a woman urinating on the war memorial and then performing a sex act on a man.  It always amuses me when they say ‘performing’ a sex act because I just think of charades.  Risky these days.

Buxton Museum, Wednesday 18th August 2010

Millie and David Skidmore, Buxton, Wednesday 18th August 2010

Hello Blackpool, train from Buxton to Blackpool, Wednesday 18th August 2010

North Pier, Blackpool, Wednesday 18th August 2010

Posted in Country, England, Old People, Pets, Places, Rural, Still-Life, Traditional, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 149 Comments

buses and buxton

Yesterday Pauline and Alan said I should go to Buxton next, so that’s what I did.  I took a bus from Stoke to Leek, where I had to wait for the next bus so I went for pie, peas and gravy at a cafe.  A crooked old man shuffled in alone and ordered a cup of tea.  It was clearly a strain for him to lift his head so mostly he didn’t.  This was Michael, but he said people call him Dada.  Dada spoke really softly, but he said he’s always lived round here, he wouldn’t live anywhere else.  He said there isn’t anything particular about being English, each person is different and he ‘takes them as they come’.  He’s 69, not really so old to be so crippled.  He thinks this country is getting worse.

I went back to the bus station, or rather benches because that’s all that was there, and started chatting with a man called Stuart who was also getting the bus to Buxton.  He said the scenery is spectacular on the Buxton flyer, as they call this trip.  It’s the highest road in England apparently, and passes through the highest village, Flash, too.  It was a beautiful journey across the peaks, and when we got there, Stuart helped me find the tourist information office to get a room.  Then we went for a cream tea at an edwardian tearooms, and he told me a little about his life.  His mum died two weeks ago aged 90, and he said really he had been living for her.  When he was 30 he came home for a night and pitched his tent in the garden, because he wanted to try it out before setting off on a journey to anywhere – ‘a rolling stone, I was’.  That night his dad died suddenly, and he felt he couldn’t leave his mum.  And for almost forty years he never did.  Now she had left him.

We went to the dome in Buxton, and stood in the middle and clapped our hands, because the echo is indescribably brilliant, and then agreed to be pen-friends and said goodbye.  As I walked up the hill to my hotel, I heard clapping and looked down and there was Stuart in the distance, waving.

Dada, Leek, Tuesday 17th August 2010

Leek, Tuesday 17th August 2010

Bus from Leek to Buxton, Tuesday 17th August 2010

Bus from Leek to Buxton, Tuesday 17th August 2010

Bus from Leek to Buxton, Tuesday 17th August 2010

Charles ‘Stuart’ Barlow, Buxton Dome, Tuesday 17th August 2010

Posted in Country, England, Old People, Places, Rural, Traditional, Travel, Village | Tagged , , , | 115 Comments

stoke-on-trent

I haven’t been born again or anything but I have had the odd revelation here.  Yesterday seems like such a long time ago.

Stoke-on-Trent is a nice town.  The area is known locally as the Potteries, and there is a lovely dialect, where people say ‘duck’ and ‘shug’ rather than ‘love’ or ‘dear’.  It is somehow so much easier to approach people, no-one is in such a rush.  People actually talk to you just because they fancy a chat.  It’s great.  It’s moderately lively in the day when the shops are open.  When the shops have shut it’s desolate.  Then it comes to life again about 10.  Around the edges you get the sense of disintegration and dereliction, as the potteries have closed now, and so have the steel industries, and even Michelin tyres doesn’t employ many people anymore.  There are a lot of old people, and a lot of charity shops.  Curiously, there is also a local campaign against the number of charity shops.

At breakfast, over a full english, I met my first ceramics tourist.  He loves pots, and talking about them, and talking about them and also incessantly talking about them.  He visits England most years from Canada, and collects pottery which goes into storage and is never used.  This morning I overheard a civilised but clearly competitive ceramics collecting chat between him and an English couple.  I decided I better visit the Potteries Museum where I didn’t get into the pots but I did get into the Staffordshire Hoard, a treasure trove of Anglo-Saxon gold discovered last year by a man who was metal-detecting called Terry.  Metal-detecting is a strange, and I guess peculiarly English, pursuit.  I spoke to a man detecting on the beach in Newquay who said he found mobiles and watches and maybe some gold jewellery and then sold them at the pawn shop.  But finding lost things would be a bit more satisfying when it was actual ancient treasure and you got given one and a half million pounds for discovering it like Terry.

After I went to Munchies Cafe and chatted to Gail who works there, as well as customers Dorothy and her grandson Simon, who were very nice people.  Simon lives on the second largest estate in Europe.  He’s trying to find a job at the moment through the Job Centre, and sends off about 10 applications a week without once receiving a reply.  Although he’s only 19, he says he just wants to settle down and doesn’t care what he does for a job, but he’s feeling very downhearted about the future as things are.

After a coffee I went for a walk around town and down to the canal because I have embarrassingly vague memories from school about the intrinsic link between the building of canals and the ceramics industry.  I had a good talk with Pauline and Alan Mann who live on a canal boat and invited me in for a cup of tea.  They say they live at ‘canal speed’ now and wouldn’t change it for the world.  I thought Alan was going to be sick when I said I live in London.  ’I hate the place’ he said.

I sat on a bench in town and ate a cornish pasty and wondered about things, mostly what is in a cornish pasty?  It’s best not to look at the contents as you’re eating them, I decided, because I couldn’t tell.  A boy walked past with a plaster on his neck and the middle-aged couple next to me muttered together about it and I heard the word ‘stabbed’ and I thought how weird that that should be the conclusion they reached as to why a teenage boy would have an injury.  Teenage boys really aren’t thought of at all highly.

Monday night is student night in Stoke and with drinks at 1 pound each, you’ll understand I couldn’t miss it.  I ended up approaching a group of girls all dressed up for a night out and asked if I could join them and photograph the night.  It always feels a bit creepy and desperate approaching strangers like this, but I’m getting used to it!  They were great and lively and, it turned out, all underage.  It wasn’t a problem but it does mean they go to the dodgy places which don’t check ID.  Luckily Stoke has quite a few of these.

This morning I left for Buxton in the Peak District.  Edie gave me a miniature bible with a dedication inside it.  I think she hopes I can still be saved.

Full english breakfast, Verdon Hotel Bed and Breakfast, Monday 16th August 2010

Edie mopping the step, Verdon Hotel Bed and Breakfast, Monday 16th August 2010

Ladies toilets at the Potteries Museum, Stoke-on-Trent, Monday 16th August 2010

Dorothy Whitehead in Munchies Cafe, Stoke-on-Trent, Monday 16th August 2010

Gail Stephenson, Munchies Cafe, Stoke-on-Trent, Monday 16th August 2010

Stoke-on-Trent, Monday 16th August 2010

Jaz and Sophie getting shots, Stoke-on-Trent, Monday 16th August 2010

Sheena and Sophie, Stoke-on-Trent, Monday 16th August 2010

Jaz, Stoke-on-Trent, Monday 16th August 2010

Danielle, Sheena and Jaz, Stoke-on-Trent, Monday 16th August 2010

Sophie in the mirror, Stoke-on-Trent, Monday 16th August 2010

Posted in City, England, Nightlife, Urban, Young People, town | Tagged , , , , , , | 146 Comments

born again

To leave London randomly I decided to go to Victoria Coach Station and take the first National Express bus out of there in classic road trip style.  It transpires all the buses go at the same time, so my dream of not having to decide anything was thwarted!  The ticket man was a bit confused by my request for the first bus and that it didn’t matter where it went.  So finally I went for the first destination he mentioned that left at 1.30pm, Manchester.  The bus was going through Stoke-on-Trent so I decided to get off there instead, remembering that a guy I met in Newquay had said in my shoes that’s where he would go.  An information booklet has informed me that the  Stoke region is known as the world capital for ceramics.  They go potty for it here (sorry).

I found a bed and breakfast and over a cup of tea chatted to the owner, Edith, who invited me to what she called her ‘happy clappy’ church for evening service.  She warned me people might speak in tongues a bit, cause it was largely born again christians and apparently, that’s what they do.  There was a whole band, and lots of promises of suffering being alleviated, and also some politically troubling talk about Israel being untouchable as the blessed nation.  I was welcomed as a ‘sister’, but explained after the service I wasn’t exactly practicing.  Edie said I should really think about it.  She says being born again is wonderful.

Stoke on Trent, Sunday 15th August 2010

Stoke-on-Trent, Sunday 15th August 2010

Stoke-on-Trent, Sunday 15th August 2010

Stoke-on-Trent, Sunday 15th August 2010

Verdon Hotel Bed & Breakfast, Stoke-on-Trent, Sunday 15th August 2010

Posted in City, England, Religion, Urban, town | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 139 Comments

leaving

London is hard to leave.  There’s always tomorrow.

Here’s another collection of photographs from the trip….

Bath, Monday 9th August 2010

Lindsay and Isla, Bath, Tuesday 10th August 2010

From the bus between St Austell and Newquay, Thursday 5th August 2010

Grosvenor Centre exit, Northampton, Monday 2nd August 2010

Field overlooking the reservoir, Ravensthorpe, Northampton, Sunday 1st August 2010

London, Friday 13th August 2010

Posted in City, Country, England, Family, People, Places, Rural, Urban, town | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 122 Comments

interlude

From Bath it has been home to London, for commercial reasons (meaning I’m absolutely skint and was offered some work).  Bath is a lovely place, but I found it uninspiring.  I am definitely drawn to the grittier, more difficult places and encounters, rather than the nice, gentle ones.  I don’t have a desire to photograph the picturesque.  I’ve noticed too that generally I’ve been quite negative about places, people, and the success or otherwise of this venture.  Not sure yet what it all means – I’m hoping that, to paraphrase Kerouac, the form will find itself and some logic or sense will transpire as I continue to photograph what I see.  I’ve been thinking too that this project is becoming more of a visual diary than a narrative, less about English identity and more about my own identity than I care to admit.  Back in London, it’s hard to see how I will set off again.  (Though tomorrow I’m on BBC Radio in Northampton so perhaps that will give me a lead – you can listen live here).  Here’s an assorted jumble of photos from the first stage of the journey.

Between Chapel Brampton and Kingsthorpe, Northampton, Monday 2nd August 2010

Has Northamptonshire Got Talent? Grosvenor Centre, Northampton, Monday 2nd August 2010

Stephen Marsh at his family garage, Bath, Monday 9th August 2010

Step into my office, Bath, Monday 9th August 2010

Door to Bec’s work room, Monday 9th August 2010

Posted in England, Home, Pets, Places | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 114 Comments

not all bad

There are some nice things about Newquay too.  (Easier to say and see now that I have left).  The guy in the final picture kindly gave me a lift out of town on Sunday, and I’m now residing in genteel Bath with some friends.  It felt like I had spent weeks in the wilderness, but in reality I have been on my own in Newquay for a paltry three days.  This traveling alone malarkey is harder than I imagined.

Hostel stranger sleeping, Newquay International Backpackers, Saturday 7th August 2010

Mike Young gives a surfing lesson, Towan Beach, Newquay, Sunday 8th August 2010

Internet Cafe, Newquay, Saturday 7th August 2010

Getting shot, Fistral Beach, Newquay, Saturday 7th August 2010

Scott Robbins and friends at sunset, Fistral Beach, Newquay, Saturday 7th August 2010

Posted in England, Leisure, town | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 112 Comments