Winter of 82

It was my 17th birthday and I’d just started an Art A level course at the Sorbonne, sorry Halton College of FE at KIngsway, Widnes. After leaving school, me and my mate Kev didn’t really have much of an idea what to do next and decided that art seemed a soft touch before the YTS called us.

At Widnes we met a pair of young scal-ettes dressed in the standard uniform of nubuck jackets, skirts and boots, gold tom and blonde bobs. They danced to Gino Soccio, Rick James and ParliaFunkadelic. At the time I was listening to Scritti Politti and Defunkt and dressed in what I could afford which was a lame imitation of current scally styles.

However, for my 17th birthday in the December of 82, I’d requested a joint birthday/Xmas box of Adidas shoes and Israeli Parka. Luckily, I’d been given the dough to traipse around St John’s precinct before my birthday and proudly ventured out in my new rig out to meet the gals. Aaah, the smell of cold winter air, the smell of leather and nylon and the smell of E’s front room as we watched the first days of Channel 4, Brookside’s Damon, Ducksy and Gizmo and the Young Ones Rick, Vivian and Neil.

Whereas the 80s are remembered for wacky hairstyles and daft clobber amongst most cultural commentators, I remember the era as a constant merry-go-round of instant fashions that lasted a few months tops, before being instantly out of date. The winter of 82 was my coming of age, my introduction into the frivolous and fast moving vagaries of scally etiquette. Ofcourse by the time I’d bought my Israeli Parka and my Korsicas and my faded Lees and my half in/half out buttoned down Lee shirt it was on the way out. Never mind, for a few months I actually felt part of the new scene.

  

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Swede Harmony

Our Culture is a Swedish based website that celebrates decent shmutter and the joys of a shared aesthetic and ‘lifestyle’ for want of a better word. An outlook that spans not only generations but also geography and language. Thankfully those Anglocentric scandies often post in English and although a small enough ‘community’ their manifesto (below) expresses all that is noble about ‘this thing of ours’ : their new tee-shirts featuring the OC logo are also boss. Our Culture are true Magnetic Northerners and we salute them!

http://forum.thisisourculture.com/


Blencathra via Sharp Edge

BLENCATHRA via SHARP EDGE

Blencathra is the first big mountain you came to as you enter the Northern Lakes from the East. It sits brooding on the right hand side of the A66 with its huge ridges falling down to the main dual carriageway. These are the ridges that give the mountain its distinctive shape and alternative name – Saddlebacks. I prefer Blencathra, an evocative name of times gone by. Behind this huge rump, hidden away from the eyes of the thousands of motorists chugging by, is what Bill Birkett describes as ‘the most demanding ridge in Lakeland’. Sharp Edge, Its scythe like appearance looming menacingly over Scales Tarn. Sharp Edge is the only way to do Blencathra; otherwise it’s a straight up and down hike with little or no enjoyment to be had.

I started the walk at The White Horse Inn at the bottom of Scales fell. The path starts just behind the pub. The planned route is a circuitous one ending back at the pub for a fully deserved pint. More of which later. The beauty of this walk is you gain height quickly up Scales Fell with Mousethwaite Comb falling away spectacularly to your right hand side. The A66 quickly diminishes into a thin ribbon in the distance. The only downside at this stage is being averse to the odd gallon of lager, means I’m sweating like a wrong ‘un after 20 minutes, so one layer has to go. Apart from Sharp Edge, this is the hardest part of the day as you climb monotonously onwards and upwards. Thankfully, the path eventually levels out and you have a nice walk on the flat through a long valley with the fells high above you. Time here to catch your breath and enjoy the solitude.

Sharp Edge now comes into view, looking ridiculously uncompromising. At Scales Tarn, Its time for a rest. Rucksack off, and time to refuel. It’s also time to take stock. Sharp Edge is a tough ridge to get over and in poor conditions it shouldn’t even be considered without crampons and an Ice Axe. I know many lads who’ve got this far and said ‘No way, Jose’. There is an alternative path that leads off to the left of the Tarn, which takes you straight to the summit. Anyone with vertigo or doesn’t feel right about it, its best to take this alternative. Sharp Edge isn’t as long as Helvellyns Striding Edge but its much more difficult. Particularly in wet conditions such as this day. As I was halfway across, with the sun blazing away in the distance, sleet started falling. It’s that type of place. There was a group in front of me of around a dozen people; this meant I could take my time about it. There was an old woman amongst them. I was amazed and full of respect for her. I know nothing of her of course. For all I know she’s done K2, but I got the impression they were novices being herded along by 2 or 3 blokes in the group who seemed to know their stuff.

There’s one particularly hazardous slab of smooth rock on the ridge that needs extreme care to cross. One slip and the still waters of Scales Tarn are waiting hungrily below. I’ve got 2 pairs of boots for walking. A lovely old pair of Berghaus Explorers, which suffice for most stuff in Britain. Today, though I’d plumbed for a sturdy pair of ‘Scarpa’ boots. It’s like having a pair of diving boots on but I have total faith in them in wet and slippery conditions such as these.

At the end of the ridge is a short but steep pitch of jagged rock. I ignore any technique and use any part of myself that moves to push, pull, squirm and wend my way ever upward. Two hands, two elbows, two knees, two feet and when needed, my arse. It’s not pretty but it achieves my goal. At the top on Atkinson Pike you can look back down, take a bow and say ‘Christ, I must be mad’.

It’s just a short pull to the summit from here, which in keeping with the day was shrouded in cloud. This started to lift as I wended my way back down the hillside giving clear views westwards towards Derwent Water, south to the Helvellyn range and Eastwards towards north Yorkshire and the Pennines.

The day was only partially spoiled by The White Horse being shut as hordes of thirsty walkers pulled and prodded at the front door to no avail. If anyone knows if this is a permanent thing let me know so that I can come down a different way next time. The half a bottle of water I had left was small consolation..BAH!

Chris Collins

 

 

Spike Island – Mersey Paradise # 2

Following on from our piece on Wigg Island on the southern shore of the Mersey, here’s a piece by our Penketh pal from the other side of the Manny Ship, on the charms of cycling to Spike Island on a Tomahawk.

One of the advantages of going back home to the Magnetic North is being able to make good use of the array of bikes in my old mans shed. Be it the Colnago Decor road bike for twiddling around the Cheshire lanes, the Merlin Mountain bike for clogging it up the Trans Pennine Trail, the Cougar time trial bike for testing along the Rainford Bypass or the Colnago fixed wheel for shooting to the bookies on. The bikes all stand proud in a neat row, all gleaming, polished, oiled and begging to be ridden. Highly tuned Campagnolo groupsets scream at me to put it in the big ring, the comfy Sella Italia saddles wait for the warmth of my buttocks and the Cinelli bars yearn for the grip of my gloved hands.

 

The Mountain Bike – Trip 1

 After buying a pair of Vittoria Act MTB shoes, from Ron Spencers on Orford Lane, to fit the Shimano XC off-road pedals on the mountain bike, I was ready for the off. A short ride to get the legs going after all the stuffing of ones face at Christmas time, with the likes of Quality Street, pork pies, thick slices of honey glazed ham and cheese. Spike Island and back should be a doddle. It was cold, wet and damp, with just a hint of blue sky peeking through the chemically induced cirrus minors.

 

Pollution

all around

sometimes up

sometimes down

But always around

Pollution

are you coming to my town

or am I coming to yours?

We’re on different buses, pollution

but we’re both using petrol

BOMBS

 

That poem comes into my head as I round the bend on the path at Ditchfeilds farm and cross the railway bridge that ends up on the tow path of the St Helens canal. Fiddlers Ferry Power Station comes into sight with it’s eight towers all spewing out gallons of smoke. We used to come drinking down these parts when we were kids of 15. A bottle of Sherry and hike to the ‘Outer Hebrides’  as we christened it, when really it was just the back of Warrington tip where the River Mersey snaked by. Our time was spent drinking, making fires and taking a shit in the bushes, before departing back to the shops at Honiton Way, to carry on the drunken revelry. 

 

Down past the Fiddlers Ferry pub and on to Anglia Canners or the Fiddlers Ferry Sailing Club as it’s known now. Boats now fill the harbour, all emblazoned with far off places: Poole, Plymouth, Saint Malo and Nassau. Years ago this place was just a muddy trench with the odd rotting hull of a boat littered here and there. We would climb into the deserted pump house and scare each other with horror stories of Kev the Kitten – the local loon.  During the hot summer months gangs of us would go swimming in the canal behind the pub and throw passers by in to relieve the boredom. One summer about twenty of us decided to take the Mersey on and swam over to Moore Quarry the other side. I look out to where we made our crossing and a lonely off white swan swims by in the sludgy brown water, making a better job of it than what I did 25 years ago. I ended up about a two miles away on the other side of the river bank when the current took me for a spin.

 

The tow-path takes me down the back of the Power Station and I look across to the long conveyor belts near the railway line that come out of the coal house then disappear from view up towards the main building. They stand still, not moving an inch and were once there was, on average,  about four trains an hour pulling up, I haven’t seen or heard one today. Pipes of ‘God knows what’ spew out into the canal and as I stare an oil can comes sailing by and I feel like growing fins and falling in with the bricks the bikes the rusty tin. I dismount and take a few pictures but I’m scared off when a couple of traveller urchins from the near by camp eye up my camera. So off I peddle towards Spike Island, stopping off only once more before I reach my destination, at some jetty thing that has been purposely been built for twitchers. There is information boards telling you of the wildlife to look out for in the marsh land, some weird metal tree/mobile mast?? and a load of empty Super Tenants cans. I look over yonder at Runcorn and to to where the new apartment blocks have sprouted up on the water front. A Ryan Air bus fly’s past and disappears over the Jarg Sydney Harbour bridge on towards JLA. 

 

I make it to Spike Island and what first hits me about the place is how small it looks. Last time I was here was in 1989 to see the Roses and from memory it seemed bigger. I cycle around it in minutes avoiding the early morning dog walking drunks trying to hide there moonshine in paper bags. I turn round and retrace my tyre tracks back towards the starting point of my journey. Face and kit full off mud I strip off in the back garden and hose down the bike, before replacing it back in the shed.

 

Tomorrow my ride will take me up the St Helens Canal in the opposite direction, going through Sankey Valley and ending up at Carr Mill Dam. Then the next day I will follow the Canal and then the Manny Ship Canal, before I get on the Trans Pennine trail at Latchford locks. A ride that will take me through Lymm and past Dunham Massey before meeting up with the Mersey again in Carrington near the Ashton-on-Mersey Golf Club. Then the day after I might head out to the quiet lanes of Cheshire on the road bike and go eyeballs out towards Acton Bridge then ride on to Delamere before descending down into Frodsham and taking the Runcorn Bridge way back home. Just hope it stays dry*.

 Bernie Bostik

*Got absolutely drenched on the Carr Mill trip and sheltered from the storm under the Sankey Viaduct.

John Stammers – Straight Outa Chorlton

She’s got plastic sunshine in her hair”

 

It has been a long while since Manchester was Mad.

Now it is more downbeat and thoughtful and the melancholic sounds of the city now emanate from the tea rooms of Chorlton rather than the dancefloor of an industrial space. A Chorlton where Liz Green and Nancy Elizabeth’s ethereal neo-folk soothe the punters’ souls on a rainy Sunday. Either there or in town at bars like The Brink haunted by characters such as the Seldom Seen Kid and Johnny Bramwell.

One man that has been a fixture on both these scenes for many years is John Stammers and now – after many false starts – his self-titled debut album is ready for release on The Superimposers’ Wonderfulsound label next month.

Recorded to reproduce the quality sound as if you were there when they recorded the songs Stammers took his band to the recording studio and recorded these songs with his band straight to 1/2″ tape instead of the more traditional 21st century method of recording to digital and the results are beautiful.

Stammers may be a Chorlton lad but from the opening track Idle I’m you’re soon under a pink moon with the spirit of Nick Drake or high on Primrose Hill, finger picking with John Martyn.

While the feel of Drake may be in the air the tragic singer-songwriter never got jaunty in the way that Stammers does on Hit you from Behind. I mean I can even here some horns in there! Yet when he slows it down on the delicate and emotive The Fridge you are there with him. As are the girls with flowing hair in their denim and cheesecloth shirts while a scent of Jasmine and patchouli fills the ether.

Baby Dea – another standout song – comes via Laurel Canyon with a bit of Simon and Garfunkel thrown in before the album ends with some deft guitar playing on Your Good is as Guess as Mine.

The album is an understated joy. And it is an album as a vinyl – 100% analogue release cut from tape and limited to 300 copies is available. While a handmade silk screen printed sleeve keeps the authenticity high. Each vinyl copy is numbered and comes complete with an MP3 download whilst the CD and Download has been mastered via lathe to CD, creating an authentic tone and quality of a vinyl record.

For more information visit http://www.wonderfulsound.com/ 

Andy Vaughan