Thursday, 18 December 2014

Eyeless mannequins

Eyeless mannequins

Spooky stories are part of the Christmas spirit, but sometimes even Christmas shopping can be spooky.  For example, why Marks & Spencer think it is a good idea to have these eyeless mannequins lining their fashion sections bewilders me.
I don't know about how children react to them, but these supra-normal creatures sure gave me bad dreams...

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Panther in Staffordshire

Fireplace at Chillington Hall

The grandiose stone fireplace in the main saloon room at the stately home of Chillington Hall reflects an outstanding story from the owning family's past.

Five hundred years ago, one of the Giffards of old managed to fire an arrow, over a huge distance, killing a panther (believe it!) that was about to attack a woman and child.  Such accuracy and self-belief become an ambition for later generations, so much so that a panther is now the family's heraldic symbol.

You don't see a lot of panthers in Staffordshire, so this is worth seeking out.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Leaded lights nostalgia

Leaded lights at the Middleport Pottery

'Leaded lights', such as in this example, always give me a strange nostalgic feel for the past.
Once upon a time, any establishment with any claim to respectability (a hotel-pub, an office or a shop even) had these kind of windows, in order to echo their own sense of importance about themselves.

This photo was taken at the Middleport Pottery, much of which has been preserved, in a strange stopped-time sort of way.

Friday, 12 December 2014

The best fish & chips you can get

Mothertown Fish & Chips, Burslem

Fish & Chip shops don't usually appear in the form of an eighteenth century building (that was once a bank).  This one in Burslem is also probably unique in having a Wedgwood-style ceiling inside.

Of course, the question is: are the chips as classy as the classy surroundings?  Indeed yes! 'Mothertown Fish & Chips' was even lauded by The Times newspaper as one of the Top Thirty F&C Shops in the whole of the UK in 2014...  Pretty good....

All in all, it's definitely worth trying a bag-full - you can even get gluten-free versions (who would have thought?!)

Wednesday, 10 December 2014


Animal skulls

We were walking by the River Dane, the river that separates Staffordshire from its northern neighbour of Cheshire, near a place called Gig Hall.  It is in quite an abandoned part of the country. 
By the bank was a rough-hewn set of shelves on which were these animal skulls.
Were they just found objects?  A collection drying in the sun? Some evidence of esoteric research? A warning?
No idea.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Last in the county for livestock

Leek Cattle Market

The Leek Cattle Market, which takes place every Tuesday, is the last livestock auction venue left in the whole of Staffordshire. 
It seems strange that such a rural county should have only the one market - but that tells you something about farming I suppose.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Hot wet marshes in 2014

Doxey Marshes

Well, it is now virtually a certainty that 2014 will be Britain's hottest, and possibly wettest year since records began 350 years ago.  
The summer, without being outstandingly hot, was consistent and long, so I guess that's what it's about.

Doxey Marshes on the outskirts of Stafford (see pic) were completely impassable a lot of the year...

And, it's only going to get warmer in years to come.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Wedgwood in Mumbai

Display case of Wedgwood objects at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) Museum in Mumbai, India

Talking of Josiah Wedgwood, it's really extraordinary that, in virtually just one generation, he turned a small pottery concern in an insignificant North Staffordshire town into a worldwide business. 
It was the beginning of the age of the entrepreneur, but even so...

Nowadays, Wedgwood is a name revered all over the globe.  Even in the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) Museum in Mumbai, India, Wedgwood objects get a display case all to themselves....

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Wedgwood statue is a lie

Statue of Josiah Wedgwood

This is Stoke-on-Trent's most famous statue - it is the potter Josiah Wedgwood, on a plinth outside Stoke Railway Station.
But... bearing in mind that December 3rd is the International Day of The Disabled... it is an impossible depiction, as Wedgwood should be really shown with just one leg.

Wedgwood is holding a copy of the Portland Vase (a piece of ancient Roman work), but he actually was not allowed to borrow the vase from its owner until 1786 - before reproducing his famous replica of it in 1790 (when he was 60).
But... the fact is that, many years earlier, in 1768, Wedgwood had had to have his right leg amputated.  So, the statue is a lie.

Of course, the statue was erected long after Wedgwood died in 1795, but the sculptor may well have known of Wedgwood's amputation anyway... and simply ignored it. 
The tendency to want our heroes to appear 'perfect' often overcomes a desire for truth. Sadly.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Knitting is spreading

Knitting exhibition

The craze for knitting goes on.  Staffordshire seems to like it; one village in the county claims to be the most knitted-over in the country. Hmm.
And at the Burslem School of Art, knitting has recently taken over the exhibition area.