Follow your nose

Gather round for a tale of Strange London; of randomness and hidden mysteries. A tale of noses.

One of London’s (many) mysteries-that-isn’t-actually-that-mysterious, is that of The Seven Noses of Soho. Dotted about the city, attached to various walls, are life-sized noses. The fable says that if you can find them all you will gain great wealth. This, of course, is rubbish. The real story is less mysterious but still pretty good. In 1997, artist Rick Buckley decided to stage an artistic protest against the pervasiveness of CCTV cameras, but art-bombing the streets. Basically he wanted to see if he could get away with gluing noses all over the place.

He could.

He is supposed to have set up about thirty-five noses but these have been whittled down to seven. Mostly around Soho and Covent Garden.

So me and my friend Craig set off to see if we could find any of them. Starting at Trafalgar Square we scouted the first site; Admiralty Arch and, after a little while, we found the nose (1).

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Craig is actually pretty tall so we did wonder if the artist had gone about the place with a pair of steps because that nose is quite high. I kept saying “no, no, no” but looking at this photo, now I think he would have needed steps. Certainly for this one.

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Next we trotted up to Piccadilly and wandered about in confusion looking for…(2)

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We found it in a random ‘ah ha!’ moment on Coventry Street.

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We searched and searched on Great Windmill Street and just couldn’t find the one that was supposed to be there. We couldn’t find the one of D’Arblay Street either 😦 I don’t know if this was because of renovations to the buildings meaning that the noses aren’t there any more or just us not being eagle-eyed enough but, either way, we couldn’t find them.

Then we went towards Dean Street and immediately spotted the oversized hooter on Meard Street (3).

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The extra-large size of this nose has lead to speculation about whether this was one of the original noses or not. As well as being larger, it’s up much higher than any of the others. It could be an extra one, which would mean that we’re really looking for eight noses.

Anyway, then we stopped for coffee and to warm up a bit.

Setting off again in the direction of Covent Garden, we quickly spotted the one at the end of Bateman Street (4).

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Then at St. Giles, we easily bagged the one at the top end of Endell Street (5).

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By this time it was raining a bit but we weren’t deterred.

Alas, we just couldn’t find the one on Floral Street but we did find an ear!

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So we went out looking for seven (or eight) noses, but found five noses and an ear. Not bad, I reckon.

London is so random   😀

The Cupboard of Indie Nonsense: Bangers’n’mosh

P1030425Back in the day, the yummy mummy heartland of Hampstead was the scene of some rather less-than-yummy activities. Hampstead Heath was, and is, known for racy nocturnal activities and not-very-twee cottages frequented by such illustrious figures as Joe Orton.

Still fairly messy, but less illegal, was the fantastic indie night club called Sausage Machine, held in the titchy basement of the White Horse Pub (on the corner next to the bus terminus by the Royal Free Hospital). Put on by Paul Cox, from Too Pure record label, all kinds of cool bands played; Gallon Drunk, PJ Harvey, Therapy, Silverfish, Th’ Faith Healers, The Keatons, Teenage Fanclub, Pram, Moonshake. Lots of Riot Grrrl, and proto Riot Grrrl bands like Huggy Bear, Mambo Taxi and Bikini Kill. They also had the best, and messiest, New Year’s Eve parties.

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Some gigs featured pretty big names.

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Ok, Suede weren’t that big in 1992, but they were bigger than the White Horse.

There was always lots of ‘Camden lurching’ going on and the room was so small that there was always a crush and people falling over the front of the, very low, stage. The basement room was reached by a treacherous spiral staircase; the scene of many a tumble.

I don’t have any photos from the Sausage Machine, just a  few flyers and posters.

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This poster for the 2-day 4th Birthday party in 1992 (?) has clues about which four bands were playing.

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Can  you guess?*

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If I find any more posters or flyers in the course of my rummagings, I’ll post those later.

TTFN

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*It was Gallon Drunk, PJ Harvey, Moose and  Stereolab.

2016 – annus horribilis

Where to start with 2016.

What an absolute shower. Brexit, Trump, our heroes dropping like flies, Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary. This is all, all awful.

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Which is why I’m not going to write another word about any of it and focus on all the cool things about 2016.

2015 ended like this…

And 2016 started like this…

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I spent the New Year in Jordan, at Petra and also a few other places like Madaba and Amman, over the course of a week or so. This was pretty cool, although it was quite cold and there was something going on at Petra which meant that the army was called out. This was, initially, slightly alarming, but it was all fine and I was able to spend some quality time looking at archaeology and cats. Two of my favourite things.

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By the end of January, I’d handed in my notice at work and was looking forward to some freedom. As I had to work quite a long notice period, freedom had to wait, but at least it was on the horizon.

If it’s Tuesday, this must be…

I’ve been travelling a fair bit this year, mostly, but not exclusively, in northern Europe and mostly chasing Romans, so here’s a little round-up (with links where I’ve already blogged my travels).

At Easter I popped off to Morocco for a bit. Friends had warned me to be careful because some people have had negative experiences, especially in Tangier, getting a lot of hassle from pushy touts and over-eager shopkeepers. I had no problems at all (except for one grumpy taxi driver). No, I had a great time visiting some of the Roman sites in northern Morocco, including Volubilis

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Lixus

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Chellah

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and Tamouda.

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I think that most people don’t really think of Morocco as a Roman area and, it’s true, the Romans only really settled the north, away from the main tourist areas of Fez, Marrakesh and the desert. Still, Romans were what I wanted and Romans were what I got.

Once I’d done with work and was free (FREE!!) I was off to Paris.

While there, I visited the last resting place of millions of humans (Les Catacombes de Paris) and hundreds of animals (Le Cimetière des Chiens). It’s rather telling that it was only the latter of these that reduced me to a sobbing wreck.

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Then up to Northumberland to meet up with some digging pals; Tim and Laura, AKA Lord and Lady Trowelsworthy; Pete; Pierre; Scott; Jeff…the gang.

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It’s not often that I get a welcoming committee and a banner!

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And then down to Marseille for a week of sun, ships and … Romans 😀

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And now I must mention ATP.

In the spring, ATP was holding two festivals at a holiday camp in north Wales. I wasn’t going to go because I find the whole holiday camp schtick a bit trying, but a number of friends were at the first of the two. These festivals didn’t exactly go as planned (cue: divers alarums) and the fall out left a rather bitter taste in many mouths.

There had been another ATP festival due to take place in Iceland  at the end of June, which I was going to. To be honest, I was already well prepared for this to go pear-shaped and, as I’d been able to book flights and accommodation for good prices, I had already decided that Iceland was on, whatever happened with ATP. Obviously, as it turned out, ATP went west but I still went north, and had a great time.

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Boats, beaches, puffins, architecture, spelunking, and football 😀

And even…Romans!!

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Seriously, these are the only four Roman coins in Iceland.

In August, I spent some time in Belgium, again looking for Romans. Based in Liege, I made several trips to sites in the surrounding area.

Heerlan

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Tongeren

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Arlon

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and in Liege itself

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At the end, I popped over to Berlin for a few days (the flight from Brussels was £9! £9!!) and hit the museums and hot-spots like a total tourist.

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I was actually back in Berlin again in November, as my friend Katherine was going over and that seemed like a great excuse to join her.

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Levitation France was on in Angers in September, so I went over for that and…Romans (obviously).

Starting off in Nantes

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Then moving on to Angers for the festival with side visits to Jublains

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Le Mans

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and Tours

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Life is good

The dark dreary wintery end of January was brightened up with groovy lights at Lumiere London.

Summer saw a visit to excavations at the Curtain Theatre in Shoreditch

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And I started working on a research project for the Petrie Museum. This is the museum of Egyptian archaeology at UCL and the project was looking at archaeology in the middle east during, and around, the First World War.

Summer also saw me doing a bit of digging with Hendon & District Archaeological Society at a site in north London.

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The society has been investigating Clitterhouse Farm for a while and my friend Roger suggested that I come along for a bit of a dig. We had a lot of fun and found 6 courses of a wall that wasn’t supposed to be there!

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September started off with a horrendous dental nightmare (root canal is hell) which I managed to get sorted, eventually. To cheer me up, the Dice People, John, Guy and me, went on a jolly to Richborough Roman Fort.

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The Dice People also became Lamp People as we spent a few days at the Archive (LAARC) seeking out all the Roman pottery lamps for the next Volunteers’ project. We found some cracking lamps, some of them complete.

London also commemorated the 350th anniversary of The Great Fire of London, by building a huge model of the City on a barge on the Thames and torching it!

This was actually ridiculously exciting.

Luck was on my side when I entered a draw for tickets to attend a lecture by Stephen Hawking at Imperial College. The lecture was on recent developments in the science of black holes. Apparently, 25,000 people applied for tickets so this was a bit of a coup for me.

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Now, I’m a scientific ignoramus so most of the sciencey stuff went whizzing way over my head but Prof Hawking is actually quite an accessible speaker. He tries to make it comprehensible even to thickies like me so the opportunity to attend one of his lectures was a treat.

Also, he’s on Big Bang.

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2016 was also the year that I, rather unexpectedly, became a great-aunt when my nephew and his girlfriend popped out a surprise baby. None of this was planned of course but, hey ho, these things happen. I’m delighted to report that all is well and his name is Roman…ROMAN!! 😀 😀

Music makes me lose control

There has been no Loop in 2016. This is a source of great sorrow to me and the implosion of ATP caused me to assume that there would be no more in the future. I’m pleased to say that there is now the promise of more Soundhead action in 2017, so I live in hope.

Nevertheless, I have been to some cracking gigs this year and here’s a little round-up of some of the best.

Cavern of Anti-Matter at The Moth Club, Patterns in Brighton, Dingwalls (for my birthday), and at Liverpool psych Fest. I like Cavern of Anti-Matter. The band features Tim Gane and Joe Dilworth of Stereolab  fame and sounds pretty well as you’d expect them to sound. This is a good thing. Plenty of bounce, groovy drums and some cool squelchy electro- synths. Nice.

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The Vacant Lots at the Shacklewell Arms, the Prince Albert in Brighton and The Moth Club. The Vacant Lots are definitely too cool for school, but Jared really should be more careful. He actually ended up in stitches (at Homerton Hospital) after the Shacklewell Arms gig.

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My focus in the first quarter of the year was to drag myself to the end of my notice period and escape work with my sanity, and I was helped along by two cracking, and very loud gigs by The Heads.

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I also got to see The Coathangers at The Moth Club and Follakzoid, playing at the Raw Power Festival. I was also treated to a brilliant gig by Sonic Boom with a new find (for me) in support; Happy Meals.

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And Sonic also played at Levitation France, and with Etienne Jaumet (of Zombie Zombie)  at a gig with James Holden at St. Luke’s.

There have also been lots of very good gigs by (in no particular order) Camera, Michael Rother, Damo Suzuki, Xaviers, Silver Apples, Minny Pops and Ulrika Spacek. Girl Band, Big Naturals, Spiritualized, Spectres, K-X-P, Anthroprophh, Zombie Zombie, Traams, and Tomaga.

And a spooky Christmas gig from Low.

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However, the latter part of the year has undoubtedly been owned by Teenage Fanclub.

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I’d had to miss the Teenage Fanclub gig in Islington in September because of the aforementioned dental issue and the resulting facial deformity (seriously, it was baaaad 😦 ) but I was recovered sufficiently to see the Fannies at Rough Trade the following week, with Dave and Adam.

That album I’m holding was their first new album for 6 years and I have been crushing on it, HARD, ever since the second listen (the second listen, mind).

To support the new album, the Fannies had embarked on a pretty extensive tour, first in the US/Canada then the UK. Initially, I only had a ticket for the Cambridge gig but that would just not do, and I was fortunate enough to bag a ticket for the London gig just a couple of days before the gig.

Good move 😀 I haven’t seen TFC in ages but seeing them again filled me with all the same good feelings of old.

After the fun of the London and Cambridge gigs I was eager for more so, having a pal up in Scotland who I knew was going to the Barrowland gig, I set about investigating the possibility of getting up to Glasgow without being utterly ridiculous. This worked out pretty well (despite the initial hiccup of my train being cancelled!!) and I was able to go to a top night out in the East End with Simon, Andy, Rob and Donna. I wished that I could have stayed for the second night (at the ABC O2) but, really, there are limits and I had to get back for the cats.

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So,  2016 has been, nationally and internationally, as dodgy as flip, but, personally, I’ve had a blast. Clearly, I’ve had a pretty self-indulgent year so I’m ending it working some shifts at a Crisis centre. I haven’t done this in a couple of years because I’ve been out of the country but now I’m back in my usual chair with the sewing team. We do repairs and alterations for guests, on items that need a bit of TLC; clothing, bags and rucksacks, sleeping bags, that sort of thing.

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It’s fun and we always have  a good time but housing insecurity and rough sleeping are on the increase and, clearly, it would be far better if this wasn’t necessary at all. It can feel a bit overwhelming and I certainly can’t fix anyone’s problems. I can, however, fix the seam on their trousers, or the zip on their bag, so that’s what I’m doing.

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Of course, I’ll have to go back to work now. I’ve had my fun but, not being independently wealthy, I do actually have to earn a living (my friend thinks that I’ve won the lottery. I haven’t). Still, it was great while it lasted.

So goodbye 2016 and hello 2017. Love to you all from me, and from my own little Beastie Boys, Archie and Bertie.

The Cupboard of Indie Nonsense: Sexless things

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Older readers may remember one of Madonna’s (many) memorable moments. One that saw her letting it all hang out all over the shop.

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In 1992, Madonna released her coffee tables tome entitled ‘Sex’. It consisted mostly of Madonna hanging about the place in the scud, with famous snappers taking photos of her. The tabloids were horrified and a reviewer in Spin magazine declare that Madonna was “…becoming the human equivalent of the  Energizer Bunny”*

Most of the people I knew were mildly amused for about 5 minutes but not especially bothered one way or another.  One person I knew, Sean Forbes from Rough Trade, AKA Big Sean, and his band of merry men, responded with a style and panache rarely seen in indie-land.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Wat Tyler’s ‘Sexless’.

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Wat Tyler was one of those eighties/nineties punk bands that played crusty places like Club Dog at the George Robey and bounced about on various labels releasing whatever they fancied, without seeming to bother their heads about what the rest of he music biz was doing.

Released in 1993, ‘Sexless’ saw Wat Tyler picking up the gauntlet thrown down by Madge, giving it a sniff, and wiping their bums with it. And then, probably, giving it another sniff. It consists of a booklet of ‘erotic’ images paying homage to her Madge, and a 7″ single.

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Madonna’s original was made with aluminium covers with the name stamped in the centre, giving it a high end, hard edged, somewhat fetishistic feel.  Each book reportedly utilised a pound of aluminium resulting in a $100+ price tag.

Indie bands, and indie fans, just can’t run to that kind of money so, as a token, each release contained a little piece of tin foil with a hand-written message. Mine says “Brown love”. I’m just going to assume that that’s rude.

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So what’s inside?

Madonna’s book featured the lady herself in a state of undress and in a range of increasingly provocative poses. Working fetish looks, exploring erotic fantasies, and simulating sexual acts of all kinds. Madge was joined by her, then, beau, Vanilla Ice and a cast of famous supermodels, socialites, porn stars, and other assorted publicity-hungry types. But where were the Wat Tyler lads going to find models willing to strip off and stand about in the street having their pictures taken? For no money?

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Oh!

Where Madonna’s publication revelled in shiny, stylish, stylized erotica, Wat Tyler were a bit more…earthy.

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One of the images was later released on a picture disc so you could watch it going round and round, but I don’t have that (I don’t think so anyway).

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I don’t know how Sean feels about this now, but I think it’s a masterpiece from a Master Piss-taker.

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*This image is from the Wiki entry for Madonna’s Sex. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_(book)

The Cupboard of Indie Nonsense: 7″ of fun

The Cupboard of Indie Nonsense is being reopened following a special request from my pal Dave.

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As the core business of Indie Nonsense is indie music, I’m going to put on display a few of the oddities and rarities that The Cupboard contains.

I was having a chat with a couple of pals a while back about, among other things, the silly money that some records and band memorabilia go for on ebay. I haven’t looked up prices for any of these because it just makes me roll my eyes but I do know that collectors can get a bit ‘keen’ for some of this sort of stuff. These are not for sale.

Anyone who has ever read this blog will know that I’m a bit of a Loop fan, so I’m starting with a little bit of Loop-related nonsense. First up, The Field Mice.

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This vinyl flexi-disc (BULL 4-0) is The Field Mice’s celebrated cover version of Loop’s ‘Burning World’. A classic.

Being a flexi-disc puts it in the category of REALLY indie nonsense. Flexi-discs are, unsurprisingly, thin, flexible little 7″ records* which were often given away with magazines and fanzines or sold for about 50p at gigs.

This one is extra-indie because it’s clear vinyl.

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Incidentally, in the making of this post, I’ve discovered that I’ve actually got three of these! Random.

Here’s another Loop-related disc, only this time, it’s the boys themselves.

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This hard vinyl disc, Sniffin Rock #8 (SR005A7), was given away with Sniffin Rock magazine in 1989 and contains 3 tracks; ‘Pulse’ by Loop, ‘For Dude’ by Gaye Bykers On Acid and the delightfully entitled  ‘Wanking In The Bog’ by The Abs.

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As the wonderful Teenage Fanclub are currently on tour, wowing audiences up and down the country, I’d decided to include a few little nuggets of Fanny nonsense here but then I realized that I’ve got loads of TFC 7″, so I might do a whole separate post of those. Here is just one goodie to finish with.

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This song, ‘Everybody’s Fool’ is the final track on the Fannies’ first album ‘A Catholic Education’ (PAPLP004) and it contains the classic lyrics “‘I don’t fucking care, what clothes you wear, you’re still fucking square”.

It was also released as a 7″ in 1990, backed with ‘Primary Education’ and ‘Speeder’ (OLE 007-7).

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In late 1990, Teenage Fanclub were touring with Gumball and did this hilariously good fun free gig on a Saturday afternoon at Rough Trade, Covent Garden. So I had my record signed by the band and by BMX Bandits guru Duglas T Stewart.  I actually have a photo of this historic moment.

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But wait, there’s one signature missing. Where’s Raymond? I’ve no idea. Maybe he wasn’t there that afternoon (he isn’t in any of my photos).

Still, this is a prized possession and the splodgy-evil-grin-Norman-face in the top right of the front cover, and across the back cover, was replicated on another prized possession; the corresponding badge.

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If I ever lost these badges, I would cry so hard.

More nonsense indie records next time.

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*other sizes are available.

Teenage Fanclub and Friends

Christmas 1990.

At The Venue in New Cross, we celebrated the season with music, booze, fun, booze, youthful hijinks, booze and spray snow. And booze.

Teenage Fanclub played with a range of pals including the BMX Bandits, The Pastels, Primal Scream, Robert Hampson (from Loop), Eugene Kelly and the amazing Duglasettes (AKA Chantelle in the silver dress).

This is one of those nights that I thought I’d imagined. I had a vague recollection of Teenage Fanclub playing with Loop but that just sounded so unlikely. And then I found the photos.

The image quality is universally terrible because the photos were taken by a drunk person with a crappy disposable camera. The venue also seems to have been incredibly smokey. Or maybe the film is fogged. Or both. Probably both.

 

Looking at some of these pictures, it looks like I may even have been climbing the speaker stack in my glee. I’m an old lady now and my speaker-stack-climbing days are over (you’ll be pleased to hear).

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Caution: may contain #wallporn

I was in France again last weekend and it was heritage weekend;  Journées européennes du patrimoine. I was staying in Angers (for Levitation France) but, as always, I was looking out for places to visit, places of a Roman persuasion, and I found a cracker.
About 100km north of Angers is the small village of Jublains. Jublains may be small but it is built directly on top of a Roman civitasNoviodunanum, so there are lots of fantastic standing remains as well as a Roman museum.
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This being the case, it was a prime target on the list. Unfortunately, as is the way with small rural villages, getting there by public transport is fiendish. Nevertheless, where’s there’s a will (and BlaBlaCar), there’s a way.
I arrived at the north end of the village where there are the remains of a large temple and sanctuary. 
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The lower courses of the porticoed peribolus (courtyard) wall survive, along with some traces of the supporting buttresses, a pool in an external annex and traces of the western gate.
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Inside the peribolus is the temple itself, which was reached via steps up. The stone and brick-work remains to a greater height and it’s possible to make out the platform and the internal cela where the rituals were performed.
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Excavations at the temple site suggest that this may have been the location of an earlier, La Tène ritual site, although evidence is relatively scant. There were no inscriptions relating to the Roman temple found but here was an abundance of ritually deposited fibulae and pipe-clay Venus figurines, along with fragments of a pipe-clay seated mother goddess
It seems that the local council is keen to promote its claim to fame, the extensive Roman remains, and ensure that they are as accessible as possible (to car drivers in any case), as there is a walking trail throughout the village, making all the visible archaeology very easy to find. Parts of the route follow the roads of the Roman town’s grid street-plan.
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There are workshops in the artisanal quarter.
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These may represent some of the earliest settlers in the Roman town, possibly dating from the Augustan period.
There are the remains of a bathhouse under the church, although only the frigidarium (cold room) is accessible.
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In the centre, the impluvium (pool) is beautifully lined with schist tiles, many of which are still intact.
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The church was actually built out of the bathhouse, utilising the walls and parts of the foundations.
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A few steps away from the church are the remains of two theatres, built into a natural slope.
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The earlier, first-century theatre (in red below) was roughly circular with internal semi-circular buttresses. The second theatre (in black below), built on the same site, is a d-shaped layout with regular cavea (seating sections) and scalae (stairways).
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As part of the heritage weekend, a production of Aeschylus’ Suppliants was being performed at the theatre and my visit coincided with some last-minute preparations.
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And so to the largest and most striking Roman structure in the village.
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It looks for all the world like a Saxon Shore Fort but we’re nowhere near the coast. It’s enormous and well-built, and yet Jublains spent much of its history as a bit of a back-water, relatively under-populated for much of the Roman period and superseded by Le Mans. It’s so random.

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The site is actually a little less square than the model but you get the idea.

The layout, from the outside in, involves a thick outer wall with regular external bastions, an earthen bank and ditch (only the bank is visible today), an inner fortified building with corner towers, and two bathhouses.

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Here is part of the external wall. Look at this #wallporn! And it’s positively bastion-tastic!

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The site was built over the period of about a century, with the internal buildings dating from the early third-century, followed by the inner earthwork, probably from the late third-century, and finally the outer rampart, which dates from the end of the third-/early fourth-century. The purpose seems to have been altered during this time with it finally functioning as a fortified storage enclosure, possibly a military supply depot. The defenses were probably a response to the invasions by Germanic tribes in the 270s.

The external wall, with bastions, is faced primarily with rectangular/sub-square blocks, as you’d expect, but, weirdly, there are also these shaped and interlocking blocks.

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These don’t look like most of  the Roman #wallporn you see around so I can’t offer any particular explanation for them but, in any case, these elements are beautifully well-made.

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The internal structure, which may have been the granary building, features some lovely #portalporn (new #) alongside the #wallporn.

Excavations continue in Jublains, so this is a developing story.

Go visit.