More Perils with Pigeons.

Scoop!! Pigeon survives 3 days in the chimney and flies to freedom.

Scoop!! Pigeon survives 3 days in the chimney and flies to freedom.

This is a follow-up pigeon link recalling my forays with this bird.  During my time in Boscombe, I lived in a bedsit in what had been an old Edwardian hotel.  A pigeon fell down the chimney and was trapped behind the gas fire for three days. It was very cold weather and I was really worried about dislodging the fire to enable it to escape. I had three days of guilt and punishing myself for being scared to risk moving the loosely fixed fire from its place in the hearth. The ugly piece of primitive equipment had been sealed around three sides with insulation tape, which was half peeling off, and looked like it was an domestic accident in the making. Every night I tried to survive the cold without turning the fire on but gave in for brief interludes to warm my bones and check the bird was still alive. On the third day, I’d had enough and set my stall out. I opened wide one of the windows of the bay and grabbed a newspaper. In a fevered fit of determined panic, I pulled the insulation tape off the fire and tugged the fire away from the hearth.  The huge bird, responding to the light, squeezed out of the space and almost knocked me sideways. I wafted the bird desperately towards the open window and watched it fly to freedom.

I had saved the world!!!! Afterwards I did what we British always do in situations like this – I put the kettle on and made a cup of tea, feeling incredibly good to be alive. I’m sure the pigeon came back to sit on the verandah the next day. I can only think that after a night outside in the freezing cold, it had preferred to be bricked up, warm and cosy, behind the fire. It probably would have preferred food to freedom.


Taking liberties with the wheel.

Being from Doncaster, which had the cheapest bus fares in the country, I formed a deep and lasting relationship with public transport from a very early age. I recall the trolley buses that flashed in the frosty weather and have a faint memory of travelling on the Newcastle trams, the same trams that were responsible for my mother losing her front set of teeth. She rode her bike into the tram lines and cracked her teeth as she fell. False teeth were fitted whilst she was still a teenager. The second time she cracked them was down to me when I gave her olives with stones in with her dinner and forgot to mention it!!

Only one family down our street had a car and they always seemed removed from the community because of it. We wondered why they needed one. It seemed completely unnecessary to us kids. I was once tempted to move into the world of the automobile when I was in my early 20’s. I invested in a lock-up garage from the Council but never quite got as far as buying a car to put in it. A friend of my brother once asked me,”Did you go far in your garage?” I think the few driving lessons I had exposed me as an accident waiting to happen and a still, small voice inside me addressed the issue of driving with honesty. I quickly dispensed with the garage and any pretensions I had to take to the road.

I was a great hitch-hiker in the 80’s and once hitch-hiked with a heavy Singer sewing machine from Doncaster to Howden. Looking back now, I’m amazed anyone stopped for me but stop they did and I eventually got home tired and achy with the said sewing machine in tact. I like to think my success relied on the shock factor.

Amongst the oddest things I have ever been allowed to take on to a bus was a 2.5m length of pipe insulation bought for a specific use in my feltmaking business. When I sat down with the monster I was a bit concerned because it lay balanced on the seat in front and overhung the next two seats. As the bus proceeded, the bendy tube kept bobbing hysterically with the momentum of the bus. I watched nervously as the poor passengers who were sat on these overhung seats fixed their gaze on the oscillations of this lengthy, precariously poised piece of polystyrene, a spongy harmless sword of Damacles.

After hosting a workshop with a Canadian feltmaker who specialised in using super-saturated dyes, I was faced with the decision of either disposing of the dye that was left or transferring it to two large plastic buckets and taking them home on the bus. I chose the latter being aware of how expensive the dye was. Fortunately the driver allowed me on the bus with the buckets and I sat trying to steady the sloshing of the dye whilst trapping the buckets firmly between my legs. It was an anxious journey that thankfully ended successfully with a few stains on my trousers but no rivers of dye running down the bus aisle. All this was achieved before our lives were burdened with health and safety regulations. Maybe they were introduced to combat challenging creative travellers such as myself.

The Old Farm

Marian walked me around the muddy grounds of her last employment, a farmhouse, mouldy with age and deep in mourning for its own demise. The person who had loved it the most had died some time past. There was little optimism left for bricks and mortar.

The old man had gone to his grave leaving Marian, his cleaner, to respect his memory by wiping away mould from the woodwork and damp walls once a week. She, now, was departing her duties, succumbing also to the effects of the damp air.

The son, who lived away, was rarely seen locally. He was left with little money or desire to restore the family home to its former glory. It was not for him to put pigs back in the stys and apples back in the orchard. Those memories from his childhood were best stored away in the photo albums.

The persistent subterranean streams will have their way with this memorial to village life, seeping through home and heritage, without so much as an eye being batted from this cricketing community of Hawk Green.

Only when I larf

Today I visited “The Retirement Show” at Manchester Central Exhibition Centre with a bevy of friends who are all past or approaching retirement.

As we walked from the Metro station, around the side of the building to the Centre, an employee in a fluorescent orange jacket told us to turn right at the gate and carry on down the steps. We smiled and thanked him. 5 seconds later we all turned to each other and said, “Which way did he tell us to go?”

To cut a long story short, we walked round picking up brochures on all manner of things from solar heating to Manuka honey. We sat and ate our butties, relishing the smell of the toilets and nearly falling out over who should have a home estimate first from the dishy Irish solar panels rep.  We ended up attending a short workshop on laughter to cement the cracks in our relationship.

The guy who took the workshop used to be a high-power executive in IBM but suffered a breakdown and hauled himself out of it by adopting a laughter cure which he hoped to pass on to the rest of mankind. Sadly there were very few in the audience to listen to him but we had a lot of fun. He used these wobbly rubber toys which he tossed at us and encouraged us to toss at other members of the audience with a smile on our faces. The problem was when people turned their heads away and the toys caught them flat on the cheek. It almost became violent and I saw fear on his face. He had a box of funny objects like a foam ham sandwich and a Manchester United toothbrush where the brush was the footballer’s head and the belegged shorts became the handle end………….ha, ha, ha.

He was going to get us up on stage to play ‘laughter games’ but was waved off and told it was against Health and Safety Rules.

On train encounters

Don’t you know you’re in for a treat when the train door opens and a guy gets on, mobile in hand, and booms out, “Hello, Bob Shmeichel here”.

Should I have known this man?

As his conversation continues I find out he has just been on TV telling of his experiences and the public have gone potty over his tale. Unfortunately they got his name wrong and called him Schmickel but they were so amazed they have put him on to someone who will make a book of it.

“I’ve got no money”, says he.

“You will have when its published”, say they.

Just then the train goes through a tunnel and his signal is lost.

“Eh up!!!!”, says he. The signal comes back. “Eh up!!!”, says he.

“My experience was such a unique one”, says he.

“They left me alone over Xmas and all I remember is rushing out of the house shouting,”They’ve won, they’ve won!! Who knows, if my father had won, I might have had a happy childhood”.

Just then the train goes through another tunnel and his signal is lost.

“Eh up!!!!”, says he. The signal comes back. “Eh up!!!”, says he.

The caller rings off and our man of the moment gets off at Meadowhall.

Worthy of note is the fact that on the same train, getting off at Doncaster, was a man in an illustrated leather jacket, biker boots, a knuckle duster and eye make up carrying his shopping in a bin bag with handles. I recall thinking this must be the first time I’ve seen a man wearing eye make up at noon travelling standard class. Maybe I’ve led a sheltered life.

On the return journey I was sat next to a very sharp-suited gentleman who wanted to talk freely about his life. Maybe I should have worked for Samaritans because I always seem to be considered a good listener and find it easy to accept the role of mobile therapist.

He told me about how he had always been good at modelmaking and when he was in the Army they had offered him a position down in London for £70,000 per year making models alongside artists like John Piper. He was married at the time but his wife had turned schizophrenic after the birth of their child and the mother-in-law had plotted to try and thwart his success by hiding the Army letter inviting him to accept this post. He only found it years later and by this time he was making a living driving long-distance trucks around the country and getting more and more bitter.

Along came the British Legion and arranged for him to move into a new apartment and make a fresh start in life. He had recently bought himself a set of drums. The guy who lived downstairs from him suffered from night jitters and moaned and screamed in the night. He said he had threatened to start playing the drums if he was woken up again. Am I painting a picture here?

He finally showed me a photograph of the armoured car he owned, which he kept at the local Territorial Army base. Handing me his calling card, we parted like patients in a doctor’s waiting room and he left the train at Sheffield.

Some days you can watch the film of several lives without appearing in it yourself. You are just placed where you are as a passive observer but obviously have some healing effect on the life you have brushed against and they, in turn, open up caves of deep thought in your mind to be explored when circumstances provide the links.

The Slow Train

Yesterday was picking-up day at Kirkby Gallery where I have been exhibiting my bags and jewellery for a couple of months. I sold pretty well and was fortunate to be asked to leave some work for the newly created Craft space. I was a bit shellshocked when I got there because the gallery was magnificent; very large and very modern, not what you would expect to find in a place like Kirkby (no disrespect to Kirkbyites).

The journey from Manchester Victoria to Kirkby was another matter.  Man Vic is begging for a refurb ( I travelled from Picc to Vic, as the stationmaster at Marple HILARIOUSLY put it). It is cold and dark and pretty characterless as stations go with more staff hanging around than passengers. The journey took me through the Victorian outer city grime but failed to deliver a pastoral film set once out of Manchester. Everything had that look of being powdered with the stuff that gathers on top of your wardrobe. I was also looking at the outside through windows that were dirtier than my own glasses, and that’s saying something. I think I should suggest to Northern Rail that they might consider a discount to passengers if they agree to clean their own window prior to departure – bring your own vinegar and shammy leather. 

I read somewhere that a futuristic architect had proposed to build a giant metropolis that ran from Manchester to Liverpool. The space is lying in limbo at the moment and begging for a bit of inspired planning. I nominate the Manchester to Kirkby rail route as the dullest and slowest journey in the whole of the UK rail network. If I was to compare it to food, it would be like sitting down to a plateful of pasta, potatoes, rice and white bread marinated in Night Nurse.

The Burns Night Fiasco

I know that Burns Night has long gone but couldn’t rest until I had recorded our bizarre celebration this year.
We had a girl’s night out, myself and three friends, and decided to go to an advertised event at the Navigation Inn at Bugsworth Basin. The people of Bugsworth sound like an odd bunch because they decided several years ago that they were ashamed of the name Bugsworth and renamed it Buxworth. Hence the fact there are some road signs saying Bugsworth and some saying Buxworth – take your pick!!

Bugsworth Basin is a canal enthusiast’s heaven and the Navigation Inn, an old country pub that has been there since the canal was built, no doubt ( a ‘navigation’ being the old name for a canal).

The haggis was going to be brought in at 8.00pm so we were a bit concerned about being rather late. We had all made an effort and either dressed in kilts or something vaguely Scottish. As we pulled into the carpark we all had that sinking feeling as there were only 1 or 2 cars there. We walked into the pub and realised we were the only people there. As we sat down with a drink, the landlord and lady came over dressed in scruffy blue jeans and washed out sweaters welcoming us to the evening. I was rather miffed they hadn’t made the same effort that we had.

‘You are staying to eat, aren’t you?’, was the utterance said in a pleading tone.

‘Of course’, was our reply when we’d really been planning a quick getaway to another pub where we knew they were giving out free whiskies.

Duly the haggis was brought in by the larger than life Scottish chef and the knife was plunged in to the poem ‘To a Haggis’. Afterwards  followed a cringeworthy modern take on the legacy of Burns delivered by the landlord, which nearly had me lobbing the haggis at him with the knife still in it. The landlady delivered her response, which was mildly funnier, and then the pair of them scuttled off to watch Man United beat Blackpool in the other room. Accompanying all this was a 6 foot piper endeavouring to stand upright in the low ceilinged room and failing miserably. He tried to walk down the room playing the pipes but was stooping and giving a very good impression of John Cleese. The droning stopped abruptly and the Scottish chef  defined this in a way only a Scotsman could. The Chef then read several Burns poems, no-one, sadly, having a clue what he was talking about.

The food that followed was very good, especially the Typsy Laird, but the conversation with the chef tapered off until the financial disaster of the evening finally dawned on him and he reverted to discussing Lockerbie and friends who had committed suicide.

We all had another whisky and left like wee timorous beasties.