Friday, 27 November 2009

754 - Gary McKinnon Update

An excellent phone-in on BBC 5Live this morning, after Alan Johnson failed to stand in the way of the extradition to America of Gary McKinnon, illustrating the poverty of thought behind the way the British Judicial System (and politicians, and some members of the public) treat people with mental disorders.

Jonathan Sacks, the chief rabbi, in Radio 4 Today's Thought For The Day slot, said of justice and charity that in Jewish tradition a word exists with nuances of both. Justice in this sense always includes a flow of compassion from those with power to those without.

Pertinent, given that America and the British Government possess the power in this instance, and Gary's is being withdrawn by them bit by bit.

As for the argument that due legal process should be followed, it occurred to me this morning that whenever a new sense of human rights is taking shape, there are those behind the curve and those who lead. If we are becoming aware of the need to respect people with mental disorders like Asperger's Syndrome, still a new diagnosis, we should expect that aspects of our legislation do remain unenlightened.

To catch someone up into such a system, once we are aware of its failings, is as if the American Union had allowed a former slave to be dragged back across the border to the Confederate States in the American Civil War, and is just plain wrong.

755 - Cats, Pigeons and Christmas Get-Togethers

A paragraph from the excellent and provocative book Spent by Geoffrey Miller, applying kin selection to family parties and the like:
Thus, the healthiest, most attractive individuals in an extended-family clan tend to elicit the greatest attention and fondness from their relatives. They get more cookies from grandmothers and more job offers from uncles. From this viewpoint, family reunions can be seen as periodic rituals for mutual quality displays among genetic relatives: each individual tries to display his or her physical and mental traits in the best possible light to potential familial benefactors, and at the same time tries to assess which relatives are worthy of receiving his or her generosity. Poor families may have public-park barbecues while rich families congregate at estates in Kennebunkport or Balmoral, but in each case, similar social functions are served. Privileges, hopes, expectations, and resources are redistributed according to quality inspections of newborns, marital-prospect assessments of juveniles, and longevity assessments of the elderly. We all want to look worthy to our relatives, to the extent that they can do anything for us.
(p. 101)

As a recipient of profoundly average-sized caches of cookies I find this oddly comforting. It gives me a positive handle on all the tugs and torsions I've resented myself for feeling, whenever I've been at festive gatherings in the past.

This year, grasping at what is going on, Christmas is going to be fun!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

756 - Angel

Need to get back to the oils....

This is a miniature from five years ago. A bit freaky?

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

757 - Sexing Whitley Bay

But it's not just the Kiss-Me-Quick heyday, or the post-nineties Nuts generation Stag and Hen hostels on South Parade.

More important than these - got to be - are the Lighthouse and Dome. Classic rod and cup imagery. That St Mary's Lighthouse - on the site of an illicit and rowdy tavern, souwestered keepers gone, but up-thrust tower still in place, north end of the bay, outcropped in the sea - is masculine, is more obvious. Even though night sees it sheathed in pink, it's the deep pink of a raspberry condom.

The Dome at the south end of the bay is perhaps a little less sexed. There's a hope tentatively floating that it becomes the headquarters of Mind Sports UK, and, as one myself, I agree it does look like a slaphead with a wonky crown. But that might be to miss the point. Crowns and bald heads are male, but the milky-white dome is a smooth breast, nippled (the flagpole on top a not-so-subtle disguise), and fronted, when the statues on its towers are in place, by the twin girl-muses of dancing and song. Tonight I noticed the dome, too, was lit up, or at least part of it: a circular window, from below, ringed in white light - an invitation in, as the pink light on the lighthouse is an invitation up.

That North is masculine and South is feminine is well recognised: the positioning of these edifices, at either end of the curved bay, suggest a provocative beach-long celebration of our whole, and wholly sexy, humanity.

A recent news report in the Journal suggested the dome might be abandoned. Why the dome, and not the Lighthouse? These two landmarks need equal weighting, or the cultural politics of Whitley will be left decidedly lop-sided. There's no place for that any more. Instead, seize the moment: sex our seaside properly for the 21st Century!

758 - Rockcliffe Tennis Courts

... For the sunlight on chain fencing, and an empty seat - always evocative...

Thursday, 12 November 2009

759 - Work Under Way At Whitley's Old Woolies!

Walking past the old Woolies tonight I saw shopfitters at work. I nipped home for the camera. One guy was having a fag outside, so I asked him if I could take a couple of shots through the open doorway.

He told me the new store's going to be a B&M Bargains, kind of like Wilkinsons, or what Woolies used to be.

We looked at the Whitley Bay Football Club fixtures posted on the shop hoarding over the road.

"At least you've got a better team than Middlesborough!" he said.
"First team from the North East to play in the New Wembley," said I.

Whitley FC winning the FA Vase in 2009 was a turning point for the town - an injection of "Let's stop waiting for someone else to change Whitley, and get on with it ourselves". They drove an open-topped bus through the town, with the vase held aloft.

A young guy, curate at St Pauls, I guessed, came over while I was taking photos, and asked the shopfitter what was going on. When I left he was behind me, so we joined up and chatted for a bit. I told him I was into church post-church, networks not institutions, that kind of thing. A happy meeting, I think.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

760 - Some More Found Objects


1. A free mince pie at the Wunderbar Festival Hub.
2. A house mouse scuttling by my feet over the decomposing leaves on Eslington Terrace, Newcastle upon Tyne.
3. A blaze of wild mushrooms on a tree stump beside the Metro line; also Eslington Terrace.

Monday, 9 November 2009

761 - Flowerbed

These pansies are planted on Roxburgh Terrace, alongside another bed rather more abandoned in appearance. How do I feel about them? Tear-tugged by their scrawniness, cheered to a mini-nova by their aspirations.

I guess the Council gardeners could have planted them, but why then only one out of the two flowerbeds? So part of me wants to believe it's one of the shopkeepers.

Last I heard, the gardeners all get the shove the month before Christmas, before being taken back on every February. I understand the Council (Labour at the time) were using short term contracts as recently as two years ago to this effect, which doesn't sound very legal to me. But maybe that situation's changed.

I was a gardener briefly, sixteen years ago. Vested interest maybe. If I had my way the gardening teams would be tripled in size, and the beds they planted up similarly. They'd be full of perennials, edible at that - massive herb gardens. And the brownfield sites lying idle, they could become allotments, or pocket parks, or communal gardens.

Meantime, I salute the pansies, the weeds that grow between them, the shopkeepers, and the North Tyneside council gardeners. Thank you. Thank you.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

762 - Through A Letterbox

Stuck my camera through the letterbox of Rainbow Arcade and took this picture. Apparently it may become a martial arts studio.

There's a fern growing inside the arcade, halfway up the wall, where it has seeded itself. Only tiny, though. And not in this photograph...

This pic for a reader who grew up in the Arcade, overlooking the rollercoasters.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

763 - One Song To The Tune Of Another

There's an old guy with a Belfast twang who busks in the escalator well at Monument Metro Station. He raises money for the Red Cross.

Alongside hymns like 'Rock of Ages', and songs I imagine go down well at Working Mens Clubs - '(I don't wanna leave) Old Durham Town'; anything by Roy Orbison - occasionally he places a more modern song in the mix.

Today you've about got it if you can imagine Ian Paisley singing 'Blowing In The Wind' with a heavy nod to 'An English Country Garden'. I kind of think Bob Dylan would have been proud.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

764 - Halloween, Whitley Bahamas (2/2)

...Followed by a paddle in the sea at Tynemouth Long Sands.

765 - Halloween, Whitley Bahamas (1/2)

Ice cream from Delaval Ices...