December Photo Fun – Week 2 – 2014 – Squash

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After last week’s Twist theme the kids picked Squash for week 2 and when they picked it I must admit I was a bit stumped for a while wondering what I would do other than take a photo of an actual squash of course.  I think for many they also found it hard this week but as well as a few squash we had some fantastically creative interpretations which have made me smile and marvel in equal measure.  Click on the gallery to see the pics in full and do let us know which ones you liked.  If you want to play along with us during the rest of the month then follow me on twitter @ianstreet67 or keep an eye on the hashtag #decemberphotofun, you’ll be welcome and it will be great to see how you interpret the next theme.  Massive thanks to all of you who played along with us this week.

Me and the Manics

 

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Ever since I set this blog up I’ve wanted (but struggled) to write a post on the Manic Street Preachers and I guess more specifically my relationship with them and what they mean to me.  This week I’ll be going to London to see the Holy Bible gig at the Camden Roundhouse (thanks Phil) and I’m excited beyond belief and certainly perhaps more than a man of my age should be but that in itself is testament to the band, their longevity and relevance.

When the Mancis burst onto the scene in the early 90’s proclaiming they were going to be bigger than Guns N Roses and Public Enemy many (especially those in the music press, yes Steve Lamacq I’m looking at you) sneered and dismissed them as fake but what I heard was ambition.  Ambition was an important attribute in South Wales, not in the naked greed sense displayed by the plastic spray tanned idiots paraded on our TV screens on a daily basis, but in the ‘I don’t want my kids to have to work in the pits type of way’.  ‘I want you to get an education and get a good job’.  Good jobs were often seen to be teachers, lawyers, ministers and to this day if you walk into any secondary school in England there will be a good chance you will find teachers of Welsh heritage.  It was recognised that to escape the manual labour and better yourself then education was important.  This had been the case in South Wales right from the early days of industrialisation through the formation of the strong trade unions, miners welfare and institutes that established principles of looking to improve both yourself and your community along lines of equality and social justice.  Many left leaning leaders came out of this approach none more so that Nye Bevan, founder of the National Health Service. Libraries did indeed give us power.

When the Manics started releasing incendiary recordings chock full of pride, passion, emotion and intelligence I felt a clear lineage through to the likes of Bevan using the microphone in a different way but still using it for powerful oratory, strong messages and vision.  They were light years ahead of any other band at the time and picked up the gladioli dropped by Morrissey and breathed some Welsh fire back into the music scene.  It’s impossible in a simple blog post to cover all of the themes, authors, philosophers, cultural and political reference points that make up so much of their music because to do so would require the writing of a book.  Suffice to say that for me it is so good to have a band writing songs that actually mean something, have been thought about and that provide a fantastic education in their own right.  Having an intelligence in your lyrics however is irrelevant unless you can back them up with brilliant tunes and scorching, visceral live performances which the Manics do in spades.  I’ve been lucky enough to see them in all sorts of venues over the years from tiny sweat stained clubs to Glastonbury declaring they should build a car park over the lot of it.

I grew up in Newport in South Wales, and after stumbling through school travelled north each day up the Gwent valleys to go to Crosskeys 6th Form college.  This was at a time when my home area was being decimated by the Thatcher government and the miners strike was honing my political education.  The year below me at that college were the individuals who would, a few years later, emerge as the Manics and I understood where they’d come from and what they were singing about.  Over the last 20 odd years I’ve aged along with them, but also hopefully changed and developed along the way as they have.  Whenever I hear them, and particularly when it is live, I am transported back to where I’m from and I experience feelings of pride, passion and emotion that no other band can provoke within me.

The Manic Street Preachers – original, intelligent, controversial, ambitious, exciting – simply one of Britain’s greatest ever bands.

Manic Street Preachers - 02 Arena, London 17/12/11 | Photo by Jason Williamson

December Photo Fun – Week 1 – 2014 – Twist

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The kids have come up with some really interesting themes for the few weeks of December and kicked things off with Twist and I must admit it put me in a somewhat philosophical mood.  When they came to me with the theme I immediately thought of books and the twist in the tale and as I was looking through the bookshelves of course I came across Oliver Twist, not what I was originally looking for but a good take on the theme I thought.

As I was thinking I was shaken by the first photo that came in – a twist in the skeleton from Lyndon.  Now Lyndon has recently undergone a pretty horrific accident while out walking in the lake district, he fell, badly injuring himself and there he lay for seven and a half hours waiting, hoping and I’ve no doubt praying to be rescued.  Lyndon is an experienced outdoor person so he had left details of where he was going and when he did not return the alarm was raised and Kewsick Mountain Rescue team eventually found him and he was airlifted to hospital.  He is now starting the long road to recovery and rehabilitation.  I don’t normally ask for donations for anything but for those of us who explore off road in the woods and the hills, on foot or bike the Mountain Rescue and air ambulance teams are our lifeline so if you can spare anything then please consider them.  They save lives.

Lyndon’s accident made me think about the subject of twist, a twist in the tale is not reserved for novels, it can happen to any of us at any time none of us really know what’s around the corner.  Hopefully it won’t be falling off a mountain but mountains are not just made of rock they exist for many of us in our imaginations and the trials and tribulations that we face in life.

As always there have been some lovely interpretations this week, I’m never sure if people will take part but it’s so nice that people take the time to play along with us.  We really appreciate it and once everything is pulled together the gallery looks great.  If you click on the gallery you can scroll through the pictures in the size they came through.  Do let us know which ones you liked.  We’ll be playing #Decemberphotofun throughout the month so check out the hashtag on twitter or follow me @ianstreet67 all are welcome to take part.

Get well soon Lyndon :-)

Book Club 2014

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I wrote last year of the 99 books we had so far read in the boys book club and the joy, friendship, camaraderie and nourishment that I get from it.  I decided after pulling all the books together in one post last year that at the end of each year I’d do a post on the books of that year.  We always have a review of the year and last night was no exception, we both reviewed the current book and reflected upon what we’ve read across the year.  What I like about this process is that a book you might have scored very highly on the night originally does not stay with you as the year develops, whereas other books seep into your bones, resonant and you come to remember and reflect on them far more even if you didn’t score it that highly when you first read it.

Some thought that this year has been a poor year for us in terms of books but I think that they are letting the clang for a few shockers reverberate across the great books we have read the noise drowning them out.  The reflection last night was good as it dispelled this as we looked back, yes there were a couple of really bad books but there were some gems as well that will live long in the memory.  I think the year was roughly split actually between the good and not so good.  What I did notice though was that we have read a real range of stuff from 16th century political treatise right up to current day publications hot off the press.  We have covered huge issues through books covering slavery, genocide, class, gender politics, body image and ‘normality’ as well as different genres.

As always though it is the discussion that brings the books alive as we view the issues through the prism of our own experiences and world view and it is this that makes the boys book club so special.  Through the input of the other members I continue to grow as a person, they help me reflect on who I am and why I think the way I do.  I’m challenged, amused, horrified, perplexed but above all nourished by them.  One of our founder members is bowing out as they now live in another city and have struggled to keep up with the rigour that is required.  It’s a sad day in many ways as he will be deeply missed by us all but the book club will go on evolving and I can’t wait to see what 2015 will bring.

So without further ado what collectively were our top three books of the year:-

1. Ask the Dust – John Fante

2. Zone of Interest – Martin Amis

3. The Year of the Hare – Arto Paasilinna

I’d love to know what you think of the range of books we’ve read this year and whether or not you are in a book club, what has been your best books of the year, what would you recommend for us to read in 2015?

 

Scavenger Hunt

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City centres are, much to my dismay at times, places that seem to exist purely for commerce they are not generally somewhere where you go to play but they are full of all sorts of building, objects and people and so in many ways they are perfect places if you think of them in different ways.  Doing the photo fun projects that we do has helped me look at my city through different eyes as I try to interpret the themes set by my kids.  I cycle through the city most days which odd as it may sound enables me to turn the streets into my own private play ground, not in the stunt cycling way, but just in the way that cycling instantly transports me back to my childhood.

Today we used the city centre as a different type of playground as we undertook a family scavenger hunt.  I’d been chatting to my kids recently about a scavenger hunt I’d done when I was a kid and they liked the idea of this.  One of them said could we do one and perhaps could we go into Leeds to do it so this morning we split up into two family teams and standing outside the city museum we were handed our list of things to find that one of my kids had created and set off to see what we could find.

It was a great list, split between photographs of things and objects:  The full list was this

We needed to find the following photographs:

  • One of the team in front of something that begins with a J
  • Something that sums up the best thing about Leeds
  • Graffiti
  • A woman wearing a green shirt
  • One of the team in a window
  • Something spotty
  • The adult of the team in front of a well known building
  • Something that is American themed
  • Something that sums up the worst thing about Leeds
  • The number 82
  • One of the team stood on / in front of a statue
  • Something beautiful
  • One of you with a hand dryer

Objects to collect / find

  • A leaf
  • A takeout menu
  • A receipt with the letter ‘k’ on it
  • A sample of a product
  • A stranger’s autograph
  • A leaflet
  • A train ticket

Some of these were relatively straight forward but the task was not just to find and/ or photograph the things but to try and interpret them in the best way we could.  I completely loved the variety of tasks we had, some of which asked us to potentially go up and talk to strangers, not something that I (perhaps like many of us) are totally sure of but hey most people are lovely and we got an autograph and photos of women in green shirts.  Also by not stopping for the first thing we thought of but keeping that as an option we moved on to better things, the yellow American school bus being a great example.  It was so nice to explore the city centre with one of my kids chatting away, getting their ideas for things we could interpret and seeing the city through their eyes as well.

When I asked what photo we could take that best sums up Leeds she simple said this here on Briggate right now, all sorts of people from all different cultures eating all sorts of street food from all over the world.  There’s hope for us yet.

I can hugely recommend this as a great way to turn the city into your own playground and have some fun.  Feel free to use the list one of my kids came up with and interpret it how you want or come up with your own list – put the kids in charge it’s great fun.  Do let us know if you go on a hunt and what you found.

As the viaduct looms like a bird of doom

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I wrote recently of my new found exploration into night time MTB riding and I was not expecting to write something else on it so soon but last night I was out again and this photo of me and my experience encapsulated in many ways what is so magical about it.  A short time before this photo was taken we’d careered / slithered down a muddy field and I was trying to learn fast how to control a bike that was quite frankly moving around all over the place as my wheels skidded and skipped in the mud.  I tried very hard to relax, stay off the brakes and feel the movement, letting the front wheel go where it wants and slowly correcting.  Trying to do this intuitively and by feel was tricky but I did reasonably well I thought.  Plenty to build on and a very interesting experience.

Then after much mirth and a short pedal I looked up and wow, this incredible structure loomed up in front of us.  Being pitch black you couldn’t see it until you were almost underneath it.  It was a jaw dropping moment.  The others who ride the area regularly take it for granted but I thought it was mesmerising.  It reminded me of some old mid west American coal or gold mining track and it was really eerie and atmospheric.  Apparently we’d ridden over it an hour or so previously on our way out on the ride and it’s pretty cool on the top but approaching it from below in pitch black was just ace.

I must admit that I love bridges, there is something about the concept of reaching out to cross a divide that appeals to me, perhaps because it goes to the heart of human desire for exploration as in “I wonder what’s over there?” but also because bridges link places and help people to connect with one another which I think is a fundamentally good thing.   Although perhaps they just remind me of my own mortality, no matter how many bridges I cross, I can’t escape the ultimate crossing from life to death.

All these thoughts and heightened images were whirling around in my head as I pedalled off under the bridge and Rob @chasingsheepMTB took the amazing atmospheric photo above.  As I rode under it there was one song that was playing in my head, the brilliant Red Right Hand by Nick Cave, the lyrics to which I’ve used for the title to this post as it was so apt.  The track is below if you don’t know it.

 

The Singing Ringing Tree

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I’d heard of and seen a few photos of the The Singing Ringing Tree (designed by Mike Tonkin and Anna Liu) and was quite enamoured by the idea of this wind powered sculpture up on the moors above Burnley so took a trip over to have a look on the weekend.  It’s described as a Panopticon which is apparently a structure providing a comprehensive view which it certainly does over the town below and across to Pendle Hill, a twist on the panopticon prison design which has a concept of all prison cells being able to seen by one guard in the middle without the prisoners knowing who is being watched.  The tree is part of a series of similar sculptures around the area including the Halo, Atom and Coloufields.

It’s an unusual structure, individual metal tubes, some with slits in allowing the wind to play sounds.  On the day I visited it was just a faint whisper but I can imagine that it would sound pretty eerie when the wind is blowing.  I liked that as you moved around the sculpture it takes on different shapes and conjures images…. an alien spaceship or a metallic ostrich head were two that came to mind and I particularly liked the way that despite all of the individual pipes being straight the way they have been put together reveals some interesting curves.

Overall I rather liked the Singing Ringing Tree and next time I’m over that way will have to take a detour to see the other panopticons.

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