Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sufficient unto itself

The snow has gone, mostly; a few dull scraps here and there and saucepan lids of stubborn ice like stranded jelly fish. But mostly now, gone.

When the 'flower boxes' in the street outside here were smothered by the Council with 2011's chipped re-cycled Christmas trees for a mulch – it's too soon yet for 2012's crop, – there was something in the mixture. Amazingly, during the cold weather leading up to New Year this happened:

A fungi associated with pines or firs sprang up in some profusion in two adjacent brick built boxes. Few mushrooms are deadly, but evenso, one doesn't like to risk it. Besides, they look so good just as they are, a sign of resistance to conformity, a small spontaneous gesture that not everything is done by committee or the result of an 'initiative' foisted on an indifferent populace.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Climate science

One of the largest post 1945 building projects of its kind in this fair city – excluding shopping malls and motorways – is underway. Or is it? Rumours of various kinds surround 'Science City': It's going ahead; it isn't; the site will be a park; money will be available; we're broke and no money will be available. It depends who one listens to and how much of it is wishful thinking, if not downright misinformation.

The site was previously occupied by Scottish & Newcastle Breweries, spread across the western flank of the high ground that steeply inclines towards the Tyne gorge below. Scottish & Newcastle in their day were part of a triumvirate of 'interests' that seemingly had special rights over the city. The other parts of the axis were Newcastle United Football Club and Newcastle University. Anything they wanted they got. The general feeling among the city's ruling circle was Scottish & Newcastle were somehow the soul of Newcastle, embedded in the city's history, part of it's fabric and wedded to it's identity... They were, as they say, 'Canny'. Until the director's got an offer they couldn't refuse and sold up to a multi-national who promptly closed the operation down. Today, for all I know or care, the famous Newcastle Brown Ale is brewed in Poland ...

But just supposing the rumours are correct and money isn't there to throw at University vanity projects? A park then? With views over the city like these, that might be a distinct gain.

The spire of St Mary's Catholic church, designed by AWN Pugin (1812-52), points skyward above a snow covered spoil heap.

Coal is being extracted from the near surface before any works are undertaken. Close by, to the north, was a deep coal mine, closed in 1944.

St James Park football stadium. A controversial 'scheme' to grant the then chairman of Newcastle United F.C., property magnate Sir John Hall, the right to develop neighbouring Leazes Park was enthusiastically agreed by Newcastle City Council, ably supported by the Freeman of the City and local media. It failed largely due to angry local protests and the little matter of obtaining a Parliamentary Bill – Leazes Park is Common Land.

The tower of the cathedral church of St Nicholas, right centre and slightly further to the right , the bulbous outline of the roof of The Sage, Gateshead on the other side of the unseen Tyne and the curved steel work of the famous Tyne Bridge built in the 30s.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Forbes List

First it was headlines on ending funding to arts organisations. Now the gloomy news reported in today's Guardian that Newcastle will not – perhaps – be able even to support the basic needs of vulnerable people following central government cuts, has given free rein to the curtain-twitchers eager to install misery and prejudice as the guiding cultural outlook for all.

The comments thread on this piece say much about how little influence the arts have had on shaping opinion and the widespread ignorance on the role the arts play in social and economic life – is there a difference?

Read for yourself,

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Keith Crombie 1938 - 2012

I was told about Keith's death only a hour or so ago and I am amazed how much it affects me. One of the rudest people I ever knew, I was somehow compelled to forgive him his transgressions. I did not ever want to become a Jazz Café regular; I enjoyed the arty parties we organised and meeting regulars, musicians, enthusiasts and waif and strays.

The atmosphere in the increasing shambolic Café was utterly unique and on my last visit just before last Christmas, even among the towering heaps now of second hand books and DVD's gathered weekly from charity shops ('thrift' U.S.), I realised why: It was a theatre. I watched twenty minutes of a black and white British film Keith projected onto a wall for me, for once not a war movie: "Make Mine Mink" from the 50s – our era, so to speak. It seems entirely appropriate for something shared on our last meeting this side of Eternity.

Keith phoned me often, usually to vent ire at the shameful results of planning in the city, that and the lack of interest in those (himself obviously) who had been pioneers of the cultural vanguard. Somehow it wasn't absurd; it was of course, but, inside the theatre that was the Café, one dispensed with realities. My heart will be there always I think.

Love and Goodnight dear Keith,


A Facebook tributes page together with many fine photgraphs can be found here.