March Mutterings

A quote to start – mainly to divert attention away from a lack-lustre month…

“Sobriety diminishes, discriminates and says no; drunkenness expands, unites and says yes.”

William James – The Varieties of Religious Experiences


I managed to finish the illustrations for another children’s book this year.

This one’s called Ollie Collie’s Daydream by Hermione Bailey, and above is one of the panels, which won’t make the slightest bit of sense out of context. It’s about a daydreaming collie (they should put that in the title) who has to keep counting his sheep in case Freddie the Fox steals them away.

I already completed the illustrations for George and the New Noise earlier in the year – and pinched the eponymous hero for my Christmas greetings card. Here’s another sampler:


So you can see, there wasn’t a great deal going on this month, and I‘m just looking for filler really.

March did actually have much to recommend it but just about everything clashed with everything else. However, when paying £80 (including the insufferable booking fee) for Great Britain’s clash with Japan in the Davis Cup, the tennis obviously held sway.

We saw a mammoth five-hour match between Andy Murray and Kei Nishikori in which the Brit prevailed 7-5 7-6 (8-6) 3-6 4-6 6-3

Special mention to a tremendous atmosphere at the Barclaycard Arena, helped in no small measure by the rousing vocals of the Stirling Uni Barmy Army, who provided a brilliant backdrop to the match.






Now it’s time for Film Club:

Following on from the Golden Raspberry Awards (Fifty Shades of Grey picked up the most awards including Worst Picture) the Flat Disc Society this month marked the anniversary of the first Golden Raspberry Awards evening (31st March 1981) by screening Robert Greenwald’s musical fantasy Xanadu, one of the two films that inspired the event.


It was truly awful – here’s the lowdown from Wiki:


A box office flop, Xanadu earned mixed to negative critical reviews and was an inspiration for the creation of the Golden Raspberry Awards to memorialize the worst films of the year. Despite the lacklustre performance of the film, the soundtrack album became a huge commercial success around the world, and was certified double platinum in the United States. The song “Magic” was a U.S. number one hit for Newton-John, and the title track (by Newton-John and the Electric Light Orchestra) reached number one in the UK and several other countries around the world.


As usual, an unusual short feature was shown first – Rita Heyworth is Stayin’ Alive – a YouTube production.

Xanadu’s plot is inspired by Down to Earth (1947), which starred Rita Heyworth (both Hayworth and Newton-John play the mythological Greek muse Terpsichore).


After this, I needed to source a deeper film with lots of killings and blood and slaughter – something rom-comish.

Deadpool was brilliant.




February Frollix


The Dearne Valley was the venue of choice this month, and the WMBC (West Midland Bird Club – keep up!) left Birmingham on a chilly and rainy morning for the Old Moor Nature Reserve.

This reserve is based around several lakes, reed beds and marshes with various trails winding between them.

Not far from Barnsley, Old Moor is impressively well maintained with good facilities for the visitor. Entered through the visitor centre (an old converted farm building) an essential first stop – not counting the café – is the small garden it leads onto.

There was an impressive selection of garden birds ebbing and floing between the feeding stations and the backdrop of bushes and shrubbery – Bullfinches, Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Yellowhammers, Tree Sparrows, Robins, Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Siskins, plus the usual tits including a Willow Tit. In fact, just about the entire cast from the Ladybird Book of Garden Birds.

There are several hides based on the land cutting through the middle of the main lakes and, as would be expected, there was an equally impressive array of wetland birds on the waters – Goosanders, Widgeon, Teal, Goldeneye, Cormorants and plenty of other ducks, geese, swans and gulls.

Old Moor certainly has enough for a good day’s mooching, and we even copped a Barn Owl just before leaving.

I’m short on photos this month, so here’s another cartoon to lead us onto the cultural bit.



A bit of theatre seldom goes amiss, especially when staging the Green Day musical, American Idiot. Dave, Padge and myself took our seats for an enjoyable performance at The Old Joint Stock Theatre.

The Old Joint Stock was originally designed as a library before becoming the Birmingham Joint Stock Bank. Lloyds Bank then took it over in 1889 – the same year that Birmingham officially became a city.

Making a feature of the original fixtures and fittings, the high windowed dome and massive front windows, the Old Joint Stock has now evolved into a welcoming old pub (it is also a very enthusiastic throwing-out pub when last orders are called).

American Idiot is a stage adaption of Green Day’s Rock Opera, American idiot, and includes all the songs from their landmark album (also spookily called American Idiot).

It was an bustling and energetic show performed by the very creative Old Joint Stock Musical Theatre Company, who probably only need to work on a snappier company title to go with their vibrant mix of dance and music numbers.

Better throw in another ‘toon before the walking photos kick in.

This is one of the early ones from the Crow Collection.


The Film Club – Flat Disc Society’s – offering was a little hairy this month: The Hairdresser’s Husband.

Here’s a brief rundown from entertainment website http://www.avclub.com

As a young boy, the hero in Patrice Leconte’s The Hairdresser’s Husband dashes out to the barbershop at every opportunity, no matter whether his hair is already cropped to a trim quarter-inch. For him, the place carries sensual associations that are endlessly intoxicating, from the subtle aura of shampoo and perfume to the lusty power of the generously endowed women wielding the scissors. One day, he makes an announcement: When he grows up, he aspires to marry a hairdresser. And in spite of his family’s horrified response, he goes on to do exactly that. What better dream than to find the thing that makes you happiest in the world and commit yourself wholly to it?

We don’t know what happened in the decades since childhood, but by the time that barbershop-loving boy has grown up to be played by the charming Jean Rochefort, he’s so certain of what he wants that he proposes to gorgeous barbershop proprietor Anna Galiena the moment he sits in her chair. Remarkably, it only takes a couple more visits for her to accept.

The remainder of The Hairdresser’s Husband is a tribute to the simplicity of their relationship: They enjoy each other’s company. They dance. They make love at every opportunity. The only time they ever fight is over a trivial item in the tabloids, but the sting is enough to keep Rochefort from ensuring it never happens again. If for nothing other than Rochefort’s mesmerizing interpretive-dance sequences, the film succeeds swimmingly.

It was a short and enjoyable little film, much like one of those slim novels where nothing much happens but you carry on reading nevertheless as it’s just a pleasant little diversion. As diversions go, it went well.

There was also another short feature of a hairy persuasion – Rhod Gilbert’s Work Experience: Hairdresser.

The stand-up comedian goes straight from the stage to the hair and beauty salon, trying out spray tans and bob cuts along the way. Quite funny but Rhod should concentrate on his roots.


ER Hughes, Night with her train of Stars, 1912 (Birmingham Museums).


I just managed to catch the latest exhibition at the Gas Hall before it finished on Sunday.

Enchanted Dreams was the first ever exhibition dedicated to ER Hughes, a lesser-known light of the famous Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

The art of Edward Robert Hughes has been largely overlooked compared to his rakish familiars, and the exhibition brought together various strands of his oeuvre (basically: his work – one is allowed certain pretensions when discussing culture) with the red chalk drawings equally as compelling as the more familiar watercolour pieces.

Birmingham is world famous for its collection of Pre-Raphaelite works, and one of its most popular paintings is by ER: Night with her Train of Stars. I also liked the slightly less mystical rotting corpse in a ditch – ‘Oh, What’s That in the Hollow…?’), The Valkyrie’s Vigil, and a sort of hippy minstrel with piercing blue eyes – Blondel’s Quest.


ER Hughes, ‘Oh, What’s That in the Hollow…?,’ 1893 (Royal Watercolour Society).




Night with her Train of Stars was inspired by this poem by William Ernest Henley who was musing on death (as you do) and likening it to a damn good sleep.

Margaritae Sorori

A LATE lark twitters from the quiet skies:
And from the west,
Where the sun, his day’s work ended,
Lingers as in content,
There falls on the old, gray city
An influence luminous and serene,
A shining peace.

The smoke ascends
In a rosy-and-golden haze. The spires
Shine and are changed. In the valley
Shadows rise. The lark sings on. The sun,
Closing his benediction,
Sinks, and the darkening air
Thrills with a sense of the triumphing night–
Night with her train of stars
And her great gift of sleep.

So be my passing!
My task accomplish’d and the long day done,
My wages taken, and in my heart
Some late lark singing,
Let me be gather’d to the quiet west,
The sundown splendid and serene,

Poem alert: Henley also penned the oft-quoted Invictus – you know, captain of my soul and all that.


I thought an appropriate photo from Haselour Church would link the Henley poem to our latest walk.


Stuart led the line with this jaunty little romp across the Warwick shire from the charmingly clichéd market town of Alcester


Location gumpf: GR: SP088572. Postcode for SatNav: B49 5BA.

Head south through Oversley Green to cross A46. Pass Oversley Wood and head north passing through Exhall to recross A46 to Haselour (walking past the village stocks) and climbing up towards Haselour church for some good views (altitude a dizzy 70 metres).

Descend northwards to cross River Alne for lunch in Great Alne at the Mother Huff Cap pub. Good food and beer (the Purity Brewery is a short distance northwards).

After lunch a short road walk northwards before following Arden/Heart of England/Monarchs Way westwards to return to Alcester.

When Stuart pre-walked the route about a fortnight ago some of the fields and minor roads north of Haselour were under water. The recent dry spell flood levels had receded but parts of the walk were very muddy. It was!


Trev just couldn’t put it down


Yes, it actually was the library



Haselour Church


The long and winding path