Winter on the Trent Mersey canal…..

Having just moved to Cheshire I took the opportunity of exploring the local canal on a glorious winters day. Many of the trees were still in full autumnal colour and a sight to behold. I came across some volunteers who were tidying up the trees alongside the canal and they were using some very interesting tools to cut the trees. I look forward to exploring more of the canal in due course.

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Photographs (c) Kindadukish 2017

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Autumn at the Sculpture park

Took myself off to the Yorkshire Sculpture park this morning was it was such a lovely day, albeit the remnants of Storm Ophelia (who the hell came up with the idea of giving bad weather names?) were still around in the guise of very blustery winds.

Despite this a longish walk around the two lakes was very rewarding, beautiful colours of the tress and an abundance of bird life. I do no think I have ever seen as many Mallards or Canada Geese in residence, and I presume the abundance of sea birds was the result of the storm.   

There is a new exhibition in the Underground Gallery by the Chilean “artist” Alfredo Jaar as well as an outdoor installation by the same artist. To quote the YSP blurb about the artist “Widely regarded as one of the world’s most politically engaging and poetic artists, Alfredo Jaar addresses human trauma and the politics of image-making, creating visually and emotionally stunning works.”

My own view is that it is a load of left-wing “agit prop” with the finger being pointed at the usual suspects, i.e. USA, CIA, the West, United Nations, various European nations. I note that he chooses to focus on these targets but says nothing about the brutal repressive regimes of Soviet Union (or the current Russian regime), China, North Korea, Cambodia, but then that would not fit with his left wing ideals (perhaps someone should introduce him to Jeremy Corbyn, they would make good bedfellows). Still. each to their own and I leave you to make your own mind up once having visited the “exhibition.” All I can say is that after the fabulous Tony Craggs exhibition, this is a massive let down.

On a lighter note, below are some images that I captured today.

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Photographs (c) Kindadukish 2017

Posted in Art and Sculpture, Sculpture, Sculpture Park, Uncategorized, West Yorkshire, Yorkshire | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Self help psychobabble………………

For years I have argued that the “self help” industry is potentially the biggest con trick perpetrated on society. People are often told “you can be anything you want to be”, which is demonstrably untrue e.g. I cannot become Pope as I am not a catholic, and even worse, an atheist. Snake oil salesmen like Tony Robbins have been peddling false dreams based more on psychobabble than any scientifically validated programme. He will invite you to the famous “firewalk” (in Hawaii and at considerable expense) where you can overcome your fears and realise what can be achieved if you BELIEVE.

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Many will be encouraged to get a “coach”, and believe me there is a coach for EVERYTHING in life. One coach I have seen promotes their service with the following strap line “Live your best life – get a coach”. How did we ever cope in pre coaching days, how did our parents who lived through a major war, rationing, relative poverty and hard manual work ever cope and survive without a coach? It seems to me that these days people often lack resilience, the capacity to get knocked down, then get up and try again. Even worse we are currently developing a generation of “snowflakes”, people who think they are “entitled” to everything in society, scream “I am offended” if someone offers an alternative view on controversial subjects (LGBTQIA+ anyone?, no and I have no fucking idea what this drivel means).

Today I was reading the http://www.skepdic.com website to catch up with issues around NLP and various “self help” topics when I came across the following:-

Steve Salerno’s Sham: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless (Three Rivers Press, 2006) attempts to deconstruct the nature of the self-help industry and explain why it is more destructive than constructive. “Self-help,” he says, “is an enterprise wherein people holding the thinnest of credentials diagnose in basically normal people symptoms of inflated or invented maladies, so that they may then implement remedies that have never been shown to work.”

And I thought, this sums up beautifully my own thoughts on the self help business. Some time ago I came across another book that was very illuminating about the self help industry  “Smile Or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America And The World”, by Barbara Ehrenreich. This brilliant book from the author of Nickel and Dimed and Bait and Switch explores the tyranny of positive thinking, and offers a history of how it came to be the dominant mode in the USA. Ehrenreich conceived of the book when she became ill with breast cancer, and found herself surrounded by pink ribbons and bunny rabbits and platitudes. She balked at the way her anger and sadness about having the disease were seen as unhealthy and dangerous by health professionals and other sufferers. In her droll and incisive analysis of the cult of cheerfulness.

Do read these two tomes as they make very enlightening and educative reading, as well as challenging a good deal of the bullshit that is promoted around self-help.

Happy reading!

Posted in Culture, Paychology, psychologists, Psychology, Woo Woo | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Opera!…….ee lad, thats music for posh folk

Growing up in a working class family in Lancashire in the 1950s and 60s I can’t say that opera was something that I was exposed to, nor did I seek it out as it was considered “music for posh folk.”

My early musical tastes ranged from “blues” (Sony Boy Williamson, Big Bill Broonzy, Blind Lemon Jefferson), “rhythm and blues” (Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Lowell Fulson), jazz (Ellington, Ornette Coleman, Mike Gibbs, Harry Beckett) ands some American “folk music” (Joan Baez, Leadbelly, Jessie Fuller, Woody Guthrie).

It was in my mid 20s that I “discovered” classical music, in particular the music of Mahler, Sibelius, Bruckner and Shostakovich, and have remained a devoted follower ever since.

It was when I was in my 30s that a friend (who later became my wife) persuaded me to go and see a production of Verdi’s Nabucco by South Yorkshire Opera at the Crucible in Sheffield. Sceptical, I went along, but was very impressed with the production, and of course what I now know as probably the most famous chorus in opera “The Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves” This became known as the unofficial national anthem of Italy and remains so today.

In a production at the New York Metropolitan Opera a few years ago, the audience demanded an encore of this chorus, allegedly the first time that this had ever happened to a chorus at the “Met”.

Since then I have ventured out to see more operas, Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde in Vienna (5.5 hours!) and various productions by touring operas in the UK e.g. Beethoven’s Fidelio and Mozart’s The Magic Flute.

I am very lucky to live about half an hours drive from Leeds, where Opera North are based, and where in recent years saw an excellent production of Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier and Janacek’s Jenufa. The latter I consider to be the greatest opera I have seen (even surpassing Tristan and Isolde) and I left the theatre emotionally wrung out, after two hours of stunning music and singing. The closing scene is one never to be forgotten.

People have said to me that Janacek’s music is difficult (particularly the Glagolitic Mass) and dissonant, my response is to try to listen to a different musical world and it will reap many rewards. I have included the finale of the Mass but be warned it is like no mass you will have ever heard before. The organ intro leads into one of the most exciting pieces of music that I know.

So, I shall continue my exploration of the “operatic world” and no doubt there are many masterpieces for me to still discover. One day I shall try to attend a full performance of Wagner’s “Ring Cycle”………..but I am not sure if I am ready (or ever will be) for this!

 

 

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Marsden Jazz festival is sidelined for a visit to Standedge Tunnel and a boat trip!

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The “creature” emerges from the tunnel!

Today was the final day of the Marsden Jazz festival here in West Yorkshire. Marsden is tucked at the foot of the Pennine Hills and as such suffers from very variable weather. Yesterday was grey, grim and raining but today was bright, occasional azure blue sky and a fair deal of sunshine around.

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The short trip boat returns from the depths of Standedge Tunnel

I decided to wander down to the village to see what was happening, stopping off for coffee of course in an excellent coffee shop in the centre of Marsden.

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Shuttle boat full of children

I then made my way up to the station and commenced the shortish walk alongside the Huddersfield Narrow Canal to Tunnel End. Standedge Tunnel is Britain’s longest, deepest, highest canal tunnel and is a spectacular adventure beneath the Pennines. As I arrived I could see the gates to the tunnel were open and looking into the opening I could make out two small lights deep inside the blackness.

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Leaving Standedge for the return trip to Marsden

These were moving towards me at a very slow pace and it seemed as though some unknown creature was emerging from its lair to wreak havoc on a small Pennine village (what must they have done to upset it?). Gradually the lights emerged to display a small industrial tug pulling a perspex-canopied narrow boat with several people on board. Short rides were on offer today but at various times in the year it is possible to do the full journey through the tunnel (The Standedge Tunnel, pronounced “Stannige” is the longest, deepest and highest canal tunnel in Britain. It is 5,500 yards (5,000 m) long, 636 feet (194 m) underground at its deepest point, and 643 feet (196 m) above sea level).

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Tying up by one of the volunteers

Just as this docked another small boat arrived from the direction of Marsden, full of children and parents and was appropriately named “The Marsden Shuttle” Not wanting to miss out on a boat journey I decided to travel the short distance back to Marsden by boat, and as there were very few on board for my trip I was able to sit at the front of the boat, on the deck, ideal for taking photographs.

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The very welcoming and hospitable captain

So, for a nominal fee of £1.00 you get to travel along the Huddersfield Narrow Canal in a wonderful little narrow boat, skippered by volunteers, and through stunning countryside. The trees are just beginning to display their autumn colours which all adds to the beauty of the area.

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Approaching Marsden………….

So, whilst I didn’t get to hear a great deal of music this year, I did get to travel by boat, and for the first time for as couple of weeks was able to get out my trusty Nikon camera and shoot some of the countryside.

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The canal at its finest………….

If you have never visited Standedge Tunnel, then put it on your list of things to do. And if you are brave enough, and don’t suffer from claustrophobia, then do consider the full journey through the tunnel.

Photographs (c) Kindadukish 2017

 

Posted in blue sky, Canal, Flora and fauna, Industrial Heritage, Jazz, Nature / Flowers, North of England, Pennine hills, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Graffiti in Madrid…….art or vandalism?

I have held the view for many years that those cretins (I refuse to call them graffiti artists) who go about spray painting graffiti on buildings that do not belong to them, should be rounded up and strung up from the nearest lamp-post by their feet, and left to rot in the sun, or in the UK the rain.

On my recent trip to Madrid however, there seems to be a move to utilise the talents of these graffiti sprayers by getting them to come up with designs for the shutters that are pulled down at night to protect shop windows. I even saw a school that had designs on their gates at either end of the school.

Below are a sample of the “graffiti art” that I photographed on my ramblings around Madrid, I leave you to make your own mind up about the “art”.

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Photographs © Kindadukish 2017

Posted in Art, Culture, Photography, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Madrid Revisited…………….

After visiting over thirty major cities in Europe, twenty of these were capital cities, I had always held the view that top of my list would be Vienna for its architectural and cultural history, closely followed by Lisbon with its shabby chic quality and the feeling of “its good to be here” when you visit the city.

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It could be New York…………but it is Madrid

I am now having to seriously consider reviewing my list after completing my second holiday visit to Madrid recently. Madrid is a city of architectural magnificence, beautiful buildings and churches along with parks that simply take the breath away. Moreover, the choice of art galleries and museums is probably greater than any other city in Europe. I would strongly recommend Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza (free on Mondays between 12.00 – 16.00pm) with its collection of masters from all over the world.

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The magnificent Roman aqueduct at Segovia

I also discovered the Museo del Ferrocarril de Madrid, which is the train museum housing some old steam trains and stock and an absolute must for a steam enthusiast like myself. They have a fabulous buffet car where you can sit inside, or on the platform sipping your double espresso as I did.

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Church in Segovia

The people of Madrid couldn’t have been more welcoming and helpful, several times we were stood in the busy city consulting our street map when we were approached by local people offering to help us find a route to our destination. Through their limited English (but a dam site more than my Spanish) they were able to send us on our way with a smile (can you imagine this happening in London?).

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Inside the church in Segovia

We also visited our local market and through my very limited Spanish but lots of hand gestures we were able to purchase fresh fish, meat, fruit and vegetables. The stallholders were more than happy to offer us tastings of cured meat and cheeses, all served up with a smile. On the fruit and vegetable stalls everything was loose and you could buy as little or as much as you liked, none of this supermarket malarkey here in the UK where everything is pre-wrapped and you have to buy the amount the supermarket dictates. One young Spaniard (who had spent time in the UK) I discussed this with referred to the UK as “Tesco land.”

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Just after leaving the church………..sheer elegance

We were only in Madrid for six days so tried to make the most of our visit by exploring different parts of the city on foot, brilliant place for walking as not too many hills, and venturing out by train to Segovia and Aranjuez. It was nice to sit back in a comfortable train, plenty leg room and then look up at the screen to see the train was doing 250km per hour. Note, if you go to Segovia on the fast train you will be deposited at a futuristic new train station, 6 kilometres from the city and in the middle of nowhere. Buses are laid on to transfer passengers to the city but if there are a couple of you or more, it is virtually as cheap to get a taxi.

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Beautiful tiled church dome

The trip to Segovia is worthwhile to see the lovely city but also the world famous aqueduct built by the Romans, which still remains a breath-taking piece of civil engineering.

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Local market stall

Unfortunately, we did not have much time to explore Aranjuez as we got lost on the walk into town from the station. A local said it was “ten minutes” but almost one hour later we managed to find it……….its a long story and have no wish to embarrass myself further, with details of determining the route. My mitigating plea is that we did not have a map.

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A fruit stall we can only dream about in the UK

Although the holiday was rather brief we did manage to pack a lot into the six days. One little pleasure was to visit Cafe de Oriente and have morning coffee and croissants, sat outside in the sun and with a view across to the royal palace (reviews on Trip Adviser for the cafe are mixed but our experience was excellent).

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The square in Aranjuez

So, I have finally arrived at my verdict and have to admit that Madrid has displaced Vienna as number one city in my affections……………I think a return visit to Vienna will soon be called for!

Photographs (C) Kindadukish 2017

 

 

Posted in Architecture, Art, Art and Sculpture, Culture, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment