Tuesday, 17 July 2018

The Exterminator of the Year 3000

On the way home from work, near the station waiting to cross the road I witnessed a bizarre figure go by on a motorbike. It wore a vest made out of what looked like armour over a leather jacket, metal gloves and boots and a horned helmet. The latter made the head resemble a junior version of the 'Scafolk Beast'. A devil-biker. Psychomania. Music was emanating from  the motorbike which was decorated with horns and other pariphenalia.

A being sent through a gap in the fabric of space and time, from an age of early 80s Italian Mad Max rip-off films. An Exterminator of the Year 3000 from a place where water is so scare people kill for it, while fuel, guns and ammo are plentiful. Today the first hospipe ban in Britain was announced. We haven't had rain for about 2 months. Could the appearance of this post-apocalypic figure really be a coincidence?

I later discovered this was in fact the 'Viker Biker', a local 'character' who assumes a part Viking/part knight persona and is probably the nearest thing Peterborough has to a superhero. He says if he happens to be near someone in trouble he trys to help, and he seems to want to cheer people up. If I'd have been watching About Anglia closely enough in 2005 I would have already knew all this.

More certain that apocalypse by drought was unlikely having seen some clouds and the About Anglia clip, or that gangs dressed in spikey leather driving spikey cars were not about to start maurading in the remains of a desolate East Anglia, my mind was diverted to 'characters' that inhabit every town and city. Cambridge has had its fair share over the years, Disco Kenny, The Man-With-The-Loaf of bread on his head, IRA Shouty Man and many others. The nearest Cambridge has to the Viker Biker is Heavy Metal Biker Man, a bloke on a racing bike with a ghetto blaster in a plastic bag that blasts out tinny heavy rock. These people are essential parts of the city they inhabit. Like human pieces of 'folk art' they are creations of themselves alone, often by accident. They are the antithesis of the 'clone town'. Long may they continue.

Friday, 13 July 2018

Millfield Meander

The recent prolonged hot spell finally over. I'd been lethargic, mush brained and irritable. Not inspired to walk, blog or do anything very much else. But today I felt newly energised, lighter, in need of a wander.

Lunchtime I headed out, no destination in mind. I passed an avant garde road works sign, depicting what looked like a black sun and a torch, which by a trick of light had it's beam provided by the real sun. A sign that pointed the way, encouraged me to take my time, do a longer walk than usual if I felt like it (I did).

I turned onto Lincoln Road, deciding to head in the rough direction of the Hand and Heart pub, my only point of reference for the area. This part of Lincoln Road is a somewhat ramshackle and dilapidated affair. The buildings are a crumbly. The street brought to mind how I imagined somewhere like Hackney to have looked in the 70s or 80s, or maybe Bradford as dipicted in the film East is East. The latter maybe due to the obvious multi-cultural character of the area. There is a large Muslim population as well as a Portuguese and Eastern European presence. A mural on the back of a large food shop celebrated the community of the area, known as Millfield. The feeling was different to that of Mill Road in Cambridge where a mural on the bridge has similar sentiments.  Or the hipster streetart of Hackney and Shoreditch. This felt more of an honest attempt at creating cohesion and part of an effort to heal tensions that had existed in the past, created by the people involved rather than the remote concerned. There were no signs of the middle class 'do gooder' to be seen.

Not far from here on a back street is the Hand on Heart. The 1930s flat roofed Square building is both utilitarian and spectacular. It's renowned for keeping the best beer in Peterborough. The sort of back street pub that is rare as hen's teeth these days, but once would have been a ubiquitous feature of most towns and cities.  The pub sign, a surreal giant hand either giving a friendly wave or possibly a command to stop, take some time out, slack off and have a pint. I hadn't intended to stop for a drink on this occasion, which was just as well. The curtains were still drawn. They don't open till 3 on weekdays. To my shame I've only visited the establishment once before and I resolved to return at the earliest opportunity.

I wandered through the backstreets in the general direction of back-to- work. Further along I passed an unassuming end of terrace building, housing on the ground  floor PG Reeves Pneumatic and Compressed Air Specialists,  possibly a relic from from the 50s.  Above this was the 'Kurdish Association In Britain Kurdish Centre'. A combination that appeared to represent a genuine and most likely wholly accidental mix of cultures. I suppose it might have been the Kurds dispensing the compressed air but in my imagination the shop was run by a man who resembled Roy Cropper from Coronation Street.

The coming together of cultures was further represented by artwork on an electricity/telecoms box I encountered soon after. Hands shaking amist a swirl of either ribbons or tentacles of a colourful beast. This was part of a series of three 'arted up' boxes in a row, the doing of someone or something called 'Ink Spot'.  One of the others depicting trees. The third an old beared man patting donkey and featuring the RSPCA logo.

I headed back to work strangely optimistic and refreshed. This despite England getting knocked out of the world cup the night before, the imminent arrival of Donald Trump to these shores and news of the closure of The Golden Curry on Mill Road and it's replacement by a wine bar. It wasn't all gloom.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

The Watchers of the Cathedral

I had my lunch in the Cathedral cloisters..when uninhabited an unusually serene place given it's proximity to the main shopping drag. Once nourished, I had a short wander, circling the Cathedral.

The building felt imposing and monolithic, parts of the walls black with grime. I looked for gargoyles but there were none. A smattering of graves along one edge, a sparse cemetery.

Coming back along the other side I looked up. No gargoyles here either but some stranger apparitions, at least to my eyes. Four figures adorned the building. Their faces appeared weathered away, one to the point of having the front half of the head missing. From where I was standing they looked small but radiated an aura beyond their size, sort of God like, alien. They reminded me of the statue-like figures in a vaguely recalled series of episodes of Dr Who (Sylvester McCoy and Ace vintage) titled 'Ragnarok', which had something to do with Norse Gods and sinister clowns. The cathedral figures seemed as much akin to Norse figures as Christian ones, but appeared to be neither. Despite their facelessness, they looked like ominous  watchers from another time.

I could only get three of them into the picture, and even then from a distance. It was only later when I looked at it and zoomed in that I noticed two of them had heads that appeared to be covered by nets, or possibly hoods. No doubt an illusion of weathering but still adding to the sinister strangeness of the figures. What were they waiting for?

Around the other side of the building I spotted a small engraving or what appeared to be a reverse sunrise. With the solstice approaching, this furthered my  feelings of unease.