08 October 2007

Summer Was Gone...And The Heat Died Down....

16 Asvina - Year 1929

October, already! Summers get shorter and shorter, it seems. Cheers to the Bear for pinch-hitting here while we were away. Hopefully the man will make more appearances soon.

We were in Shropshire for a week and it turned out to be a really nice break away from home. We rented a cottage in Ironbridge, one of the birthplaces of the Industrial Age in Britain. The views are pretty spectacular and the cottage, built onto a steep hillside, was quite cozy, with a nice comfy sofa for me to kick back and read on. The village gets it's name from the intricate bridge that spans the River Severn--the first of it's kind in the world, at least that's what the local museums claim. We visited several of them during the week, the most interesting to us being the working Victorian-era village at Blists Hill. There wasn't much on the day we were there, as the weather was a bit drab, but seeing the staff in costume and even using as much of the speech of the time was a hoot. There were a couple of school field-trips going on and we had a chuckle when a group were visting the cottage of a stern farmer. He informed them they they would've finished school at age 11 and would've been working in the mine at age 12, child labour laws being lax at the time. The kids looked horrified when this was relayed to them--no doubt I would have, too, at that age.

Since most of the museums are clustered around Ironbridge, we decided to check out most of them. The Museum Of Iron at Coalbrookdale and the Tile Museum at Jackfield each had their fascinating aspects, though personally I liked the Tile Museum more--some truly beautiful designs and colours are displayed. It's even more amazing to consider how much the countryside has recovered since the heyday of the various ironworks and coal pits. There are artists renditions of the industry at the time and some parts of Shropshire must have seemed like living near a small volcano at times. Add to that the dreadful cholera epidemics and there doesn't seem to have been much benefit to the working classes, except a steady pay packet.

We ventured out to Shrewsbury one day, to visit the Abbey and do a bit of shopping. On the way, we stopped at the Roman ruins at Wroxeter. It's just foundation stones and part of a wall of the town's basilica now--but it made for a nice detour and the coloured drawings on the information plaques around the site give you some perspective on the actual size of the town and buildings contained within. Pixie and I visited the Abbey, but I got a bit vertiginous inside and stepped outside for some air--then gamely stepped back inside for a quick tour around. The architecture of cathedrals does spell-bind me and I enjoy looking at the stained-glass windows. Crossing the English Bridge, we wandered through the Wyle Cop district and around the High Street. I was looking for a funky, indie record street, preferably with cheap prog-rock LPs for sale, but failed to find one. I ended up giving money to the ubiquitous HMV and Virgin shops--oh well, I picked up some good stuff (a Richard Hawley disc, the Neil Young Live At Fillmore East 1970 'performance series' disc, The Move's self-titled album (the 2-disc re-issue) and a few other gems). We couldn't decide on a cafe to eat lunch in and settled for Subway (mmmm...meatball & cheese sub). After milling around the shopping district some more, we decided to pick up some local bottles of beer for Pixie's parents (a gift for taking care of the dog for a week, you see) and headed back to the cottage for the day.

On the way home, we stopped at Ludlow Castle for couple of hours. There's a couple of cool shops along the High Street. I found a Thoth Tarot deck at a shop called Kaboodle, so I picked it up, as I've been meaning to buy one for some time. The castle itself is quite well-preserved, at least the stonework and you can climb to the top of a lot of the towers, if you want. Unfortunately, the day we visited was a bit overcast--but it did little to dampen the majestic views in the area. We returned to our humble home late Friday afternoon--collected the dog, then settled back into our usual routine.

Yep, back to work and that--still hoping to win the lottery one of these years. I've got lots of tunes to check out and I've recently finished both "Confessions Of A Crap Artist" and "The Dice Man". Those have been returned to the library and I've taken out Black Swan Green, David Mitchell's follow-up to "Cloud Atlas", which I'm reading at the moment. I also grabbed Donovan's autobiography, The Hurdy-Gurdy Man and another Philip K. Dick book, Dr. Bloodmoney.

Island/Universal have just released a special edition of The Orb's seminal U.F.Orb album (first released in 1992). It's a 2-disc'er, like the "Ultraworld" 15th anniversary edition released last year. The first CD is a re-mastered version of the original record. It's possible that because I had the sound turned up a bit more than usual when I listened to it, that the mix does sound much better with this version. A few synth lines and sound effects jumped out at me that I hadn't noticed before (and I've heard this album quite a bit in the past 8 or 9 years). The second disc features demo versions and a couple of rare mixes, including a version of Assassin, a non-album single released after "U.F.Orb" had been out for a little while. The demos for O.O.B.E. and Towers Of Dub seem quite different from the finished album takes and make for interesting listening. A nice booklet accompanies the CDs, giving a mini-history of The Orb and an overview of the creation of "U.F.Orb" and what happened following it's release (including the oft-told story of LX Paterson and Thrash playing chess on Top Of The Pops, while their 40-minute single version of Blue Room played). Needless to say that the re-issue has been on high rotation in the disc-player the past couple of weeks.

I picked up a load of cheap vinyl at Avid Records a couple of weeks ago. They're having a 'stock clearance' sale, as they're finally shutting their doors for good at the end of December. It's a 15-for-£10 sale and sure, there's a lot of tat--but I found a few good'uns..among them, a copy of Mike Oldfield's Ommadawn, Jon Anderson's Olias Of Sunhillow and Camel's The Snow Goose. I ended up with 20 altogether, for £15--not a bad haul. I plan to go back at least one more time before the doors shut for good.

2 comments:

Flaming Pixie said...

Such a beautiful part of the country - it's on my list of places to move to (if I can stand the Wolverhampton accent !).

Singing Bear said...

There's definitely a real difference between a genuine Shropshire accent and one from the Black Country. Real Shropshire is like a cross between Welsh and West Country...pretty perfect! It's probably only the old blokes who use it now.

I'm so glad you had a groovy time.

Wish we had an Avid Records with a £1 sale here!