Sandylands to Regent Road: The promenade façade, the streets
behind and the insanity of i gabbiani[i]
Promenade from Sandylands jetty, 14th March 2022
Now that the more open essence of the holiday camp[ii] has been left far behind, beyond Twemlow parade and into Sandylands begins the area of big Victorian terraces, once boarding houses and holiday tenements. Although the prom’s façade maintains a good impression, immediately behind, lie streets of often crumbling houses – flats, dives and refuges. Edmund Glasby’s parallel[iii] with Lovecraft’s Innsmouth[iv] was well made.
Angular mementos of summer on the borderland of shadow, 19th February 2022
Morecambe’s fortunes are predicted to change if or when[v] the Eden project arrives – a forecast of prosperity. But is such optimism blind considering the tendency of investors to take their profits and run? And considering the more severe forecasts of sea-level rise, if the complex is eventually built, how long before it is swamped?
Theme in pink, Sandylands promenade, 22nd July 2022
Many people we know or meet who are only visitors to Morecambe and Heysham, find the place beautiful and inspiring. As chimes with my experiences of 2018 and 2019, they are unaware of the huge chasm in atmospheric difference between the open coastal space of the prom with its frequently sublime views, and the confining, litter-strewn dirge of the backstreets. Between the Sandylands area of Heysham, through the West End and on northwards to the centre particularly, you have only to cross the Heysham Road to be repeatedly dismayed by the contrast.
A sunny back garden in Heysham, 1st September 2022
From an email of Sept 1st, 2022:
‘K saw a boy yesterday – about 8 years old, she guessed – happily sitting barefoot in the gutter amongst the litter and dog crap. A girl of about 6, presumably his younger sister, came out of a nearby house saying, “here’s yer dinner”, passing him a plate and putting a fork on the kerbstone. Swinging around, he took the meal and started eating spaghetti with his hands. K smiled as she passed, and the boy grinned back.
If you had photographed this and turned it black & white, it could look like the 1930s[vi] – except that rather than skinny, most of the malnourished kids here are overweight from junk food and fizzy drinks. Dogs also would’ve been limited back then[vii] – or rounded up and dispatched. To be fair, you don’t get many loose dogs here except on the beach – only dogs being towed or towing along their owners.’
Dinner facing the wall, alfresco, (no connection to the email above) Sept 1st, 2022
Such sights can’t but create an internal conflict, partly because I suspect – as was not so much the case when I was a kid growing up on a council estate in the 60s and 70s – that residents can’t afford to care. If you are the one that noticeably objects, it’s you who’ll get the brick through the window late at night or your kids that will be bullied. Supposedly, arson attacks[viii] are increasing – though the frequency and malicious intent of such events may be exaggerated.
Arson damage in a Heysham Road flat – image courtesy of the Lancaster Guardian.
Despite the merriment of impromptu pubs and barbeques, proliferating under heatwave conditions in front gardens, yards and alleys, in 2022, there seems little community spirit of a more widespread or mainstream variety. Friends, gangs and cliques yes, the remnants of lockdown survival groups perhaps, but no overall spirit. The closest thing to it in my experience, is the “village atmosphere” generated by artistic and alternative political and ecological groups. I put the phrase in quotation marks because though such a friendly, cooperative atmosphere is true enough, I suspect the several people who’ve used the phrase favourably, have never lived in such settings and are idealizing villages.
Unlike when I was a kid, few in Morecambe and Heysham in 2022, would dare to tell other people’s kids where to get off – nor risk being kind to them if they were hurt. The street life of kids and teenagers (moderate I’m sure, compared to many inner cities) is rarely interfered with or restricted.
Happy View, Heysham Road (7) 20th May 2022
To invoke that old chestnut regarding the change from face-to-face to window-to-window[ix] relationships, taught in Sociology in the 1970s – there’s no doubt that working-class communities were sundered all across the country from the 30s onwards by well-intentioned, frequently necessary, slum clearances and post-war rebuilding schemes. In the case of my own housing estate – exiles and London ‘overspill’ shifted to new or expanding towns – this change from face-to-face to window-to-window relationships, was probably inevitable. On top of this, since just before the millennium[x], we’ve had the further distancing of mobile screens: selfie relationships perhaps? An extra-terrestrial observer would certainly wonder whether the chief relationship (for some potential benefit but predominantly for ill) these strange bipeds have, is with the screen in their hand.
At least here the contact is direct. Back-alley kids nr Brunswick Road, 9th April 2022
So, when it comes to the barefoot boy on the hot street, no-one here is likely to bother – unless they want to get back at a neighbour. That’s just life as it is . . . In any case the boy may have requested the gutter. After our own experience with the community police[xi], it’s impossible to know where to stand on the shut-your-eyes/do-gooding spectrum. Even if we were able to return to living in rural isolation and therefore limit our contact with the human race, we could never escape the news stories of stupidity and injustice writ large:
“I spend as much time taking food away from children as I do serving it” ran the headline of a recent petition[xii]. This was the voice of a dinner lady from Lancashire dreading the approach of a new school term. In a video, she tells how she’s “forced to tell more and more children they can’t afford to eat a school lunch as they reach the front of the queue and find there’s no money in their account.”
Another twist on this, is that if their parents are a little better off, all too often the children chose badly or carelessly waste the food, knowing they can fill up on rubbish elsewhere or back at home. No one is looking out for them. Do we have to leave it to dire poverty to challenge materialism and waste?
Stanley Road Baptist Church, poster/votive text & image/god-slot for September, 1st Sept 2022 (bloody big pencils!)
“Going back to school? We’re praying for you”: An innocent enough poster perhaps? I liked to imagine there was someone of genuine conscience behind its wording. Someone treading carefully in case of managerial or ecclesiastical ire. Someone all too well aware of deprivation, overcrowding and bullying, even of the limitations of the national curriculum and the expensive time-wasting, soul-destroying pointlessness of Ofsted[xiii] and SATs. K is resigned to its simple-minded literalness. Another friend jokes that I am being cynical.
Climate change leisure in Morecambe/Heysham, 20th July 2022
Back to the theme of mass insanity: not the human race this time, but less damagingly, the chaotic cult of Morecambe and Heysham seagulls – a dysfunctional family second only to us allegedly intelligent primates perhaps? Not that they stand the remotest chance of knocking us off our ascending podium. Last year these raucous scavengers appeared notable by their absence – maybe because we couldn’t start refurbishing the owl house, with its flaking walls, flooded cellar and tottering chimneys, until after the breeding season was done? Probably the few listless birds occasionally encountered in early streets were the fagged-out parents and all the teenagers had already gulled-off?
Cats may go for rats & mice, but I’ve never seen one tackle a gull, 13th August, 2022, 6.22am
In those innocent days of a year ago, I was amused when a friend in Dorset told me he was using a drone to buzz the gulls off a neighbour’s chimney stack to prevent them nesting. Expressing surprise that gulls would be deterred by a drone, we agreed it must be fear of the unknown. “They can be frightened off easily until they lay eggs” he wrote, “after which they can become aggressive.” “Aren’t they supposed to be dying out quite rapidly?” I asked, having just looked it up[xiv] and feeling some slight gull sympathy.
Long burnt-out house, Cavendish, 9th April 2022
Beautiful to look at and spectacular in flight, this year my attitude has been cruelly altered. Penetrating the backstreets and inhabiting numerous skewed chimney pots, round here it’s one long gull party, a loud carousal of obnoxious oiks with no natural predators, indulging in incessant early hours disputes and dustbin sorties . . .
While not entirely scorning the sentiment – as regards tax returns and other bureaucracy – this long and winding road is much more appealing than some straight and narrow path . . . as I’m sure in the deepest windings of their minds, the gulls would agree. Stanley Road Baptist Church, August 2022
Often – reasonably enough in moderation – the gulls sound like gulls, but at other times they can project a noise like a baby in distress, a cat in agony, a nervous rat stuck inside decaying wainscotting, a pack of coyotes[xv] chaotically ad-libbing, or a troop of deranged monkeys.
Tactical nuclear attack on Morecambe town centre? . . . Horror or wish-fantasy? May 2022
Squabbling geese, knife-skewered children, car alarms and even the robotic beep of reversing warnings . . . all seem to be in the back catalogue or varied repertoire of Inner Kingdom gulls, and I’m beginning to wonder whether they make more unwarranted and pointless noise than any other living creature – barring human beings, naturally.
The onset of night from the owl house, 4th June 2022
Recently, I was unsurprised to be woken at about 3.30am by some mass disruption. At first I thought it must be some impossibly delayed revellers. Next, more encouragingly, I began to hope it was an unusually early-morning demonstration demanding the downfall of our diseased and pitiful government – a very necessary noise. But before I could get dressed and join in, I realised that it was an entire squadron of seagulls flying up and down scything over the rooftops, declaiming loudly outside, just for the hell of declaiming.
Domain of the psychotic seagulls, 18th July 2022
Sometimes in the middle of the night a loud cackling of laughter turns out to be a seagull. Normal specimen or cracked? Are they all trying to out-do each other? Is this or that gull a one-off or only the precursor – another unhinged, volatile trigger to the small hours outbursts of Nazi-inflected triumphalism which all too often wake me up. Midnight rallies gathering for Nuremberg . . .
. . . the crooked bins and cobbled alleys appear gaslit, seriously suggesting attack by razor.[xvi] Alexandra & Clarendon West, 14th March, 2022
Just a few nights ago, another seagull flew round and round in circles as if on a string, squawking and screeching for hours. Every second or third revolution it sounded like it was about to drop out of the sky from sheer exhaustion, and yet – as if being attacked by some rogue, night-hunting, golden eagle[xvii] – abruptly it geared itself up to psycho pitch all over again. Did I but possess a rifle with infra-red sights, I would have been saddened (slightly) to put the poor mad thing out of its misery[xviii].
Brunswick alley in the small hours – another night of the long beaks . . .[xix] August 2022
Perhaps all seagulls are born insane straight from the egg and take months to acquire a modicum of sanity. Perhaps last year we were too busy to notice them before their lifestyle returned to a more maritime and diurnal pattern? Come August or September things may go quieter again?[xx] Maybe all the insanity is down to early parenting? Quite understandable that. How tragic that human lunacy is so relatively permanent.
Gull vs God: “Remember who’s in charge around here”. St John The Divine, Sandylands, August 2022
There remains one other possible explanation: Perhaps the gulls are stoned? For I could certainly recommend Morecambe if you like to get mildly stoned[xxi] without paying for the leafly buzz[xxii] . . . simply leave your windows open and the smoke comes in as obviously as the nuclear miasma[xxiii] remains imperceptible – the down side being that moronic conversation, crap ‘music’, yapping, woofing & howling dogs, car alarms and the circling squadrons of looney gulls are naturally exaggerated by open windows.
THE MEDIA IS THE VIRUS / BORIS IS A LIAR Heysham Road, 7th June 2022
From a petition entitled Greed is Good . . . of August 2022:
‘I don’t believe that economic equality is possible; indeed, some measure of inequality is essential for the spirit of envy and keeping up with the Joneses that is, like greed, a valuable spur to economic activity.’ – Boris Johnson.
Sounds like the classic creed of wasteland materialism to me: envy, greed and the illusory god of economics. Anyone with sense must have always known that Boris was a liar, but before I had a chance to finish this paragraph[xxiv] the floppy-haired, partying dissembler had gone, leaving his successors[xxv] and even dimmer and more reckless colleagues[xxvi], inadequately staked . . . As Tom Peters succinctly writes in his piece, The Great Tax Robbery[xxvii] in The Tribune:
“Tax is about political choices. At the worst possible time, our government just made all the wrong ones.”
This inequality “budget for bankers”[xxviii] is an incitement to revolutionary system change.
A sharp snowfall on the Heysham Road, 4th Sept 2020
Contrasting the light September snowfall above, I’m astonished at how many suntan ‘parlours’ or ‘salons’ there are in Morecambe. The Sunseekers Tanning Studio of Yorkshire Street, illustrated in part one[xxix], may have long gone west, and only four may be shown on the online map, but plenty of others exist. A solution to rainy days? The most baffling factor is: why does anyone want to be orange, let alone pay for the privilege?
“Sandwich toaster” (to quote K) or vast car boot devours young woman . . . Another Yorkshire Street Tanning Parlour window[xxx]. Go orange before you die! 10th July 2022
I can understand the desire to be out in the sun and a light tan is the natural result, but why the irradiated tinge? Although now less topical, this email from Tuesday 19th July also centres on the strange appeal of the over-tan.:
K tells me she’s seen reports that large areas of France and Spain are now on fire thanks to the heat. I just hope the FACT of climate change really SINKS IN and more citizens start forcing governments to act. Here, most people just seem to think it’s wonderful[xxxi] and take off their shirts, looking forward to being lobsterised. The Morecambe attitude generally appears to be exactly like that on the council estate where I grew up 50 years ago. There, no one thought they’d had a good summer unless their skin peeled off at least once – preferably two or three times.
Heatwave morning West Street, Morecambe, 13th August 2022
Compared to climate change, covid was a piffling nothing[xxxii]. Those ‘strange times’ (god, I got sick of hearing that phrase), were an overreaction as relatively hysterical as the general attitude towards climate change is insanely inadequate. The ‘times’, our times, are not likely to be ‘normal’ again. We’ve been sliding into climate disaster without noticing for the last fifty years. The truth is, that in overall terms covid was trivial enough for us to be able to admit to, whereas the accelerating fact of climate change is too serious for most to admit. Our tiny, randomly sentimental[xxxiii] (and currently queen-obsessed[xxxiv]) brains can’t face it. It’s the insanity of the ostrich rather than the seagull.
Back to the façade:
Forget the resignation no-one ever wanted to foresee – of gratitude to a tiredness come with age, to the fleece of indifference. Hearts do not understand, they only see now and forever: they will always need help to smash through the pasteboard, to ram Time off its pedestal![xxxv]
STOP JACKDAW[xxxvi] stickers on lampposts and BT boxes are invisible in the dawn. August 2022
In the almost 5 miles of promenade from beyond Happy Mount Park in the north, to the Mad Hatter’s tea garden above the sea in Heysham old village to the south, there is perhaps only one point where the darker interior of Morecambe and Heysham briefly threatens to disrupt the façade: here (above), near The Battery Pay & Display car park, where Sandylands (Heysham) meets the West End of Morecambe.
The Beach Café seen from the top deck of RCK 920[xxxvii] (1962), Vintage by the Sea, 4th Sept 2022
Not far inland from The Battery and The Beach Café, down Bold Street, an old piece of wasteland is reputedly set to become the sight of a posh new development[xxxviii] – a 4.5 million “luxury apartment block”. The idealised artist’s impression of the building is fascinating given that such a development will project into what is currently a relatively povertous looking area. Both the burnt-out house in Cavendish and the ‘sharp/light snowfall’ bus shelter illustrated above, are but a stone’s throw from the plot.
The Beach Café, 9th April 2022
Vaguely reminiscent of American Airstream[xxxix] caravans – or perhaps even more of the 1980s revival of such 30s styles? – the “Silver Promenade” Beach Café was designed by Cheadle Hulme (Manchester) based architects Arca[xl] and completed in 2009[xli]. Endlessly photogenic, it’s hard to choose two out of many close-ups. Until the day of these words, I’d never been inside. With friendly staff and an interior offering large views it was a pleasant experience – yet internally the building is far less distinctive than it’s outer appearance suggests . . . recalling so much art which lacking content, hides behind style. With a building, however, such an arrangement is surely ideal – striking to look at, yet comfortable to use.
9th April 2022
Beyond the children’s playgrounds and the beach café, The Battery[xlii] dominates the centre of the views above and below. Until 1928, The Battery marked where Morecambe ended and Heysham began. An unusual friend of mine who feels “connected to the spirit world” claims the building is haunted[xliii] but I can find no references to this. As he appears to feel and see ghosts all over the place (including the ex-B & M variety chain store in the Arndale Centre in town, which “has a chillingly cold spot just inside the stockroom door”), perhaps his sixth sense is preternaturally sensitive?
Shadows of the sunrise, August 2022
The mocking scythe of another gull cut itself away from the blind white of sunrise, as the siren sounded. Into the end I commend myself, no time for regrets or money. It has to be away from the sea, now every scrap of blue is going. Stubbed streets beyond the main road are disappearing into the pouring fog pushed ahead of whatever’s coming. The blaring siren muted and was made dumb. The very sky was thickening; it was like breathing foam . . .
West End gulls, 9th April 2022 – An en masse hive mind. That scavenger individualism is a blind.
. . . Where had everyone gone? I can’t have been paying attention. Cars piled up, scattered clothes, and now, glancing back, a growing roar. A helpless ship, forging high, burst between the five floor terraces on the promenade, the vast hull momentarily jammed. Then the wall of water surged it onwards, breaking over the peeling roofs and flying bricks. Gulls spiralling frantically upwards were the last sight anyone saw . . .[xliv]
“Morecambe is packed with all kinds of other (appealing) clutter . . . including the ‘picture frame’”[xlv]. West End promenade, 9th April 2022
Are disaster scenarios harmful – a jolt of adrenalin or dread that subsides to wash us further back into our usual complacency?[xlvi] The vast extent of Morecambe Bay means that high tide never seems to last long, and the sea soon becomes lost in the distance and easy to forget. Similarly, the steady predictions of sea-level rise – “A global rise by more than one metre by the year 2100”[xlvii] – sound too dangerously reasonable on the surface to arouse fear. Let’s just go back to sleep . . .
The Weird Shadow over Innsmouth[xlviii], Morecambe’s West End, 4th June 2022
Morecambe no longer has any piers, only the Stone Jetty, once part of a harbour near the Midland Hotel. A Time and Tide bell[xlix] rung by the sea itself, is fixed onto the northern wall of the jetty to indicate high tides. It is also “designed to signal the danger of climate change.”[l]
The old Alhambra and the so-called Fishhook on the prom above the beach, 9th April 2022
As end-noted in Part 3 of this digression, it’s difficult to photograph the façade of even so vast and magnificent a relic as the Alhambra[li], without bins, lamp posts, signs, memorials and other clutter obscuring the view – not to mention the constant stream of foul modern cars. Double decker buses and L driver HGVs from the training centre in Heysham, I can tolerate, they at least have some atmosphere, but modern cars – lumpy, sleek, or appearing like enlarged trainers on wheels – invariably induce nausea.
The old Alhambra (Burlesqued), Regent Road/Marine Road West Junction, April 2022
The semi kitchen sink[lii] drama (in character if not milieu) of The Entertainer (1960)[liii], still feels relevant to the Morecambe of 60 years later, for despite the polished façade now provided by technology, there’s no doubt that our situation – locally, nationally and globally – has become far worse. Like so many movements that offer brief promise – social, political or artistic – our fundemental human shortage of sense and our blind selfish drives, quickly sabotage, falsify or betray their hope and energy. The anger of the Angry Young Men[liv] may in some cases have proved reactionary[lv], but many of the background implications of their work remain sound – clearly revealing another junction where (as usual), ‘we’ chose the wrong path . . .
Joan Plowright & Roger Livesy on the now lost West End Pier which, judging by the façade of the Alhambra, appears in line with Regent Road – as if the latter continued into the sea . . .
from The Entertainer (1960)
Breakwater – and approximate site of the old West End pier, April 2022
Years later, the director of The Entertainer, Tony Richardson said in The Long-Distance Runner: An Autobiography:
“I couldn’t have articulated it, having never been introspective (but) “The Entertainer was a key moment in my development, because all the ideas and convictions I was to work with afterward were crystallized in its making.” Of the character of Archie Rice, Richardson said he was “… the embodiment of a national mood… Archie was the future, the decline, the sourness, the ashes of old glory, where Britain was heading.”[lvi]
Morecambe’s West End pier after the 1977 storm[lvii]
Quite by chance I came upon this 1 minute silent film showing Morecambe’s West End Pier in 1901 – close to the period in which, to recall earlier parts of this digression, The Ghost and Mrs Muir was set[lviii]: https://player.bfi.org.uk/free/film/watch-west-end-pier-morecambe-1901-online . I’ll have to take the BFI’s word that it’s filmed in Morecambe as it could be almost any pier from that period.
West End Pier in better days – circa late 1960s early 1970s
Meanwhile, half way between 1901 and now, apparently The Entertainer (1960) was costed at £193,000 but went over budget due to a “variety of problems in production and post-production, including noise from seagulls in Morecambe.”[lix] Obviously the gulls, i gabbiani, were just as insane back in 1959 and 1960 !
Regent Road, a rainy Vintage Bus Day, May 2022
Judging from The Entertainer (1960), the pier was virtually a continuation of Regent Road beyond the promenade. The so-called Fishhook – in line with the centre of the road in the photo above – provides a good link with the photo below looking in the opposite direction. Apparently the proper name for the 14-metre-tall “Fishhook” is simply The Hook an artwork from 2007 designed by Stephen Broadbent in collaboration with local schools[lx]. As art gimmicks[lxi] go, I’ve come to like The Hook. The weathering steel[lxii] construction is striking and the shapes evocative of both strength and flow. From certain angles it looks poised, and despite both name and nickname, brings to mind sailing ships, anchors and above all perhaps, the bow. I might even scrap the word gimmick . . .
The Alhambra, with the gap of Regent Road heading inland from the The Hook, 10th July 2022
From higher vantage points around Morecambe Bay, only a few buildings protrude above the Morecambe-Heysham skyline. Inevitably, at the southern end, the two nuclear atrocities are most prominent. At the northern end comes the striking-if-you-like-that-sort-of-thing[lxiii], ten storey, Lakeland House in Bare, Morecambe, built in “approximately” 1976 (see the opening photo of part 2 of this digression[lxiv]). Inbetween, only two other buildings tend to stand out. The gently stepped, 8 storeys (plus car park underneath) of the Broadway[lxv] completed in August 2019, and, surprisingly, the Alhambra, which although always an impressive stomp of a building, seems weathered into almost a natural feature:
Apocalyptic sunrise over the Alhambra, August 2022
In shadow and stone, I am the bass rumble and blanked eyes
the ruined memorial palace of Morecambe’s West End –
its seaside lives and aspirations of 120 years
In wind, rain, salt and sun, my metamorphosis is slow,
subsiding towards an amnesia I resist . . .
but if all else fails
to turn back or challenge the tides
my thoughts will turn to solid rock[lxvi]
© Lawrence Freiesleben
Morecambe, Lancashire, May – October 2022
NOTES All notes accessed between May and October 2022
[i] The Seagulls in Italian. I’m not good at European languages – but heard the word when we were travelling in Italy a few years back. The very look and sound of it is perfect.
[ii] My sister and I longed to go to Butlins, Pontins or other such places in the 60s and early 70s – like all our friends from the housing estate. But although working class in origin, being bohemian and/or aspirational, my parents would never have been seen dead in such places.
[iii] fantasticfiction.com/g/edmund-glasby/weird-shadow-over-morecambe.htm – see earlier parts of this digression for more details: internationaltimes.it/?s=lawrence+freiesleben
[vi] Though the conditions in Housing Problems (1935) are clearly worse, the attitude of complacency in 2022 combined with the knowledge of where so much slum clearance led, is almost levelling. imdb.com/title/tt0290660/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_1
[vii] I couldn’t find any statistics for the increase in dog ownership since the 1930s only a graph showing the catastrophic rise during lockdown – coming at a time when all but the lonely and blind should be thinking carefully about their dependence on any large pets. statista.com/statistics/515379/dogs-population-in-the-united-kingdom-uk/
[ix] Failing to find the appropriate reference for this and having long since lost all my old sociology textbooks, I nevertheless came across this very interesting section from Introduction to Sociology – 2nd Canadian edition opentextbc.ca/introductiontosociology2ndedition/chapter/chapter-22-social-interaction/
[xi] Not long after we moved in, someone anonymously reported that our elder daughter (12) was sitting in the car outside the house after school “for hours”. Actually, it was 10 or 15 minutes at her own choosing and usually one of us sat with her to talk about the school day or was unloading shopping. Naturally the Community Police (nice but dim) had to investigate this, and it was very hard not to laugh with incredulity, considering the wealth of other ‘activities’ in the local area – such as, for example, virtually naked 5 and 6-year-olds, riding bikes down the middle of the road at strange hours shouting and gesturing abusively with not an adult in sight. It was still more galling, that despite a simple explanation (which the officers clearly failed to comprehend), they spent far too long writing up this non-incident, asking us in laboured wording not to do it again. Naturally we ignored this ‘request’ and should they return, I’m afraid I’m likely to be more forthright in my approach and tell them in local argot to “Eff off and mind your own business!”
[xiv] An old article but newer ones reaffirm the same underlying facts – that the rising number of gulls in towns and cities is masking a severe overall decline: .theguardian.com/uk/2010/jun/06/urban-seagull-numbers-falling#
[xvi] Ibid., Bombed Out
[xvii] Following up on the (eternal) theme of human stupidity, another example which arose the same day as the email about seismic blasting (see Part 6) concerned the poisoning of Golden Eagles in Scotland. RSPB research: rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/advice/wildlife-and-the-law/wild-bird-crime/golden-eagle/ strongly implies that “illegal persecution” is “the most severe constraint” on stable or expanding eagle populations, “and incidents were more common where grouse moor management predominated”. In other words, eagles are being poisoned so that rich twits can have an extra grouse or two to shoot at. How stupid is that? It would make far more sense to poison the rich twits and feed them to the eagles!
[xviii] A friend has since informed me that this is almost certainly a parent gull alarmed by a chick having fallen from a nest or off a roof. Had I known this, I might have had more sympathy and stuffing some tissue in my ears tried to go back to sleep. Unable to fly, once on the ground, the gull chick’s chances are limited – it will probably be attacked by rubbish, rats or rioting wheelie bins.
[xix] britannica.com/event/Night-of-the-Long-Knives – amazingly, there is no mention of gulls at all.
[xxii] From Morecambe to California!: leafly.com/news/strains-products/12-top-weed-strains-may-2022
[xxiii] From an unfinished story, Shuffling the Priorities: “. . . there were so many serious and far-reaching laws required, as well as false trails which cried out for cancellation. All things nuclear and atomic were obvious. Both the weapons of abrupt mass destruction and the power production’s (generally) slower ruination. Going back to the start: how can anyone have thought that nuclear testing was acceptable? To lay waste entire natural environments, like spoilt kids playing with their latest unpredictable toy . . . Every high-up politico or government, military bigwig or scientific stall-wit from the 40s onwards who had anything serious to do with this project, should be tried in the manner of war criminals . . . though no doubt many are already dead – frequently due to the contamination they helped create and release. These days all cigarettes must carry health warnings and usually (albeit less so in Morecambe and other built-up areas), we can choose whether to poison ourselves or not. With nuclear rubbish we never got the choice, we are all passive victims!”
[xxiv] Partially employed in the Report internationaltimes.it/enough-is-enough-trade-unionists-and-climate-activists-unite-against-the-bin-juice-of-conservative-rule/ which knocked this part of the digression on a week.
[xxvi] One speaker at the recent and very well-attended, Enough is Enough action day in Lancaster (1st October 2022) described the unelected Truss regime as “the bin juice” of conservative governments – a flawlessly apt phrase.
[xxxi] Though this enthusiasm notably declined during the second heat wave
[xxxii] I stress that this is a relative comparison. However covid came about (and it was pretty convenient for some governments) it obviously devastated many people’s lives, leading to the death – among millions of others – of my daughter-in-law. Yet climate change will destabilize the entire world and continue to spiral in a way that will make the covid scare seem insignificant in retrospect.
[xxxiii] As with the word reactionary later in this Digression, the description sentimental, is more a can of worms than a designation. For example, why should people cry about the death of a very old lady (the queen) who few of them personally knew and who would probably have died a decade or so back without her extreme wealth to sustain her? Is it the sense of the end of an era? Is it the reminder of time and of one’s own demise? No doubt much grief is self-pity – as I painfully realised when my own mother died. And yet on a recent cycle, I ended up in the heartbreaking Neptune memorial garden for babies and children in Westgate cemetery, Torrisholme, Morecambe: lancaster.gov.uk/environmental-health/cemeteries/torrisholme-cemetery Despite toys and photographs on the graves and the recurring line of valediction “Born sleeping” or “Born into Heaven” and “We asked for a Baby, God sent us an Angel”, somehow, all the trappings of sentimentality are left far behind. Anyone encountering these memorials can feel the pain of loss, and even if the world appears to be such a rapidly declining place, full of stupidity, deprivation, greed and unwanted children, the ideals behind it, and even behind family, remain.
[xliv] Adapted from the flash fiction, Ivory Tower, of July 2022
[xlv] From an endnote to Part 3: internationaltimes.it/in-her-kingdom-by-the-sea-part-3/
[xlvi] Perhaps many of them are – like the coziness of the ghost story at Christmas? Although the water goes out rather than rising up in the reissued 1958 classic I’m currently reading to K: The Tide Went Out (by Charles Eric Maine) britishfantasysociety.org/reviews/the-tide-went-out-by-charles-eric-maine-book-review/ the book, despite inevitable implausibilities, seems two pronged in its applications to the world today. Yes, the awfulness of its scenario makes our situation more bearable – the complacency prong – but although the chief character, hypnotized like the Ladybird title Great Inventions was by the benign wonder of “Atomic Energy” (See part 6 of this Digression) is rather too respectful of science and scientists, the reasons and consequences of the disastrous situation featured, strongly advance an anger prong . . . a call to action more than 60 years after the book was first published.
[lv] Reactionary is a very inexact term, almost a curse. There’s nothing wrong in hating change for the sake of it or being deeply suspicious of countless aspects of so-called ‘progress’. Brainwashed into numerous levels of consumerism, we constantly throw away valuable things without thought. Rather, it’s the drift to the right, the acceptance of the Establishment and, having become part of a cultural elite, of closing ranks . . .
[lvi] Ibid: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Entertainer_(film)
[lviii] See parts 1 & 2 of this digression: internationaltimes.it/in-her-kingdom-by-the-sea-visionary-seaside-suburbia-part-1/
[lxi] From internationaltimes.it/the-angst-of-extinction-a-leeds-influenced-digression/ (published 23rd February 2019) : “From the putrefaction encouraged since the Greed is Good faith of the 1980’s, the mould spores giving rise to much Gimmick Art as well as the Turner Prize, arguably puffs up from the cynical manipulations of rich, private collectors: experts at the ‘art’ of the self-fulfilling investment. Others less arrogant are quickly infected. Anxious to be in the swim, public art-buying bodies too, have aped the dismal perceptions of these shallow trend-setters – unfortunately, there are several obvious examples at Leeds . . . but in active counterbalance to such mistakes, in a corridor of the library upstairs, hang the Leeds Tapestries.[lxi]
Taking the meaninglessness of ‘market value’ as an indicator of quality, has no doubt helped us down the road of self-satisfied relativism – on which blind eyes only flick open in response to noisy controversy. Capable of being as destructively consumptive as the sick capitalist society which gave it birth, Gimmick Art blares like a bent trombone – an ultimate exemplar of consumerism (and one which can make its perpetrators rich beyond the right of anyone to be). Not always though. Occasionally, it effectively serves some socially observant, ecological or political purpose. In which case I’m prepared to remove the Gimmick epithet.”
[lxiii] I do.
[lxvi] The beginnings or end of something I can’t yet say – a tribute or poem along the lines of an Old English riddle perhaps: What am I? Answer: The Alhambra. NOTE: despite the implication of these lines, the Alhambra is NOT a ruin and has been on the recovery since 2016: Ibid., en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alhambra_Theatre,_Morecambe