Saturday 28 July 2018

Walks on the Wild Side. Inspirations and Connections.

I already had the photographs for this post but got the title and general idea for it after watching an old film recently I'd never seen before called Walk on the Wild Side, a black and white film about a colourful bunch of characters who end up frequenting a brothel in New Orleans called The Dollhouse or Doll's House. A young Jane Fonda, Laurence Harvey, Capucine, and Barbara Stanwyck appear in it along with a guy with no legs who slides around on a wheeled board. As it was fairly racy for its time, 1962, ( Barbara Stanwyck plays a lesbian brothel boss, but still with her trademark no nonsense style) I found myself wondering after watching it if this inspired Lou Reed's famous classic song and indeed this was the case. It was the original 1956 novel, A Walk on the Wild Side by Nelson Algren that inspired both Reed and this film although Reed soon changed his early musings on the subject into a more modern cast of characters- the people he met frequenting Andy Warhol's famous factory premises. So New Orleans prostitutes became NYC drag queens, hustlers, and transgender drop outs.

Anyway, it was more the idea of this, until now, unknown link inspiring a famous song that intrigued me. Reed was well educated and well read so had a long history writing songs inspired by books or films, some of them very obscure. The band's name The Velvet Underground came from a cult novel and the song Venus in Furs from another obscure source - the 1870 classic by Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch who gave his name to a condition along with the book. Think Fifty Shades of Grey. Old subjects never die -just get recycled for a modern audience. For instance Belle de Jour, a 1928 novel that inspired the French 1960s film of the same name starring Catherine Deneuve, another cult classic of cinema, may well have had the same original inspiration source given that Lou Reed's song, Catherine D's fictional name and the 1800s main character all share the same name of Severine/ Severin and subject matter.  Reed, similar to Mick Jagger/Keith Richard or Kate Bush, came from a rich background which provided them with good vocabulary skills/ education/access to a wide range of subject matter and influences growing up so was perfectly placed to capture and document the lurid street life around him but embellish this with poetic and literary flourishes. A gifted singer/songwriter he used words with great efficiency to explain each story layout in verse, never faffed around to explain things when fewer carefully chosen words would do, as someone less educated and gifted might struggle with, and crafted songs with the skill of a poet- which he also was- like Leonard Cohen. Both found a better income with songwriting though.
So I got the idea for this post. My own Walks on the Wild Side compilation.
On a bus trip through to Edinburgh with Anne and Belinda we spotted this splurge of colour chaos spread over a sizable area and had to get off to see what it was. Well, I did... and they followed... more reluctantly.
We had no idea what this place was at first but I was intrigued by the underground tunnel, disappearing below.
Turned out it was the old Meadowbank wooden Velodrome where track cyclist Sir Chris Hoy trained before going on to win his three Olympic Gold Medals in a single games. A and B were both impressed by this fact when we eventually worked it out- less so by their surroundings.
"I've found a way in. " I enthused, puzzled why this area had so much graffiti in one place- more than I'd ever seen before in one large concentration. 
"It's through that hole in the fence- might lead around the back into the centre of it."
Anne just looked at me. "You are joking. There's no way I'm crawling through there."
I was on my own for the next bit, leaving instructions to whistle if anyone dangerous or threatening looking showed up.
" Only me if you don't come back within five seconds." Anne declared. "You better not leave us here long. I know what you're like once you go off exploring anything."
As I soon found out there was plenty of extra graffiti on show here but not much in the way of actual mural painting.
I found out later local Edinburgh graffiti artists had been allowed the run of the place to cover it before it was pulled down but left to themselves to do their own thing it was fairly undisciplined without an overall plan of action to follow. ( No idea if it's still standing as this was a while ago. It's been replaced by the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome, a more modern equivalent in Glasgow's  East End near Celtic Park FC.)
With good art getting over painted in some cases.
There was potential talent on show here but not enough to keep my companions amused for long. So when I returned we headed for more regular tourist attractions that they enjoyed more.
WALK TWO. This place was better- St Peter's Seminary near Cardross. An interesting building with some well painted murals.
The entrance guardian to St Peter's.
Unlike the velodrome, which was empty of people, we did bump into others here but they were merely curious visitors like ourselves as it's firmly on the underground urban disused buildings/ art trail.
Gangway leading to the upper levels in this large multi floor construction.
So well known that they turned it into an exhibit in its own right with a price tag of £4 million.
I'm glad Alan, an artist himself, and I saw it first for free a few years ago ... without any arty hype or lofty pretensions to go with it. I suppose though a lot of older people, including interested locals, might be scared to come here or find access difficult so a safe guided tour would suit them. Not sure what conditions or access is like now though. It may be restricted, off limits, or paid entry only. Link here to St Peter's art installation and short video history and where the £4 million is going/went. As soon as its labeled "art" instead of an old abandoned ruin the price jumps up accordingly.

WALK THREE. A less well known ruin is this one so I'll keep it that way. A grand house in a remote location that we visited. It was a private residence once in another age then a children's home/hospital/care facility. With a long list of children being historically abused in care, seemingly new details unfolding every month for the last ten years in the media, by the very people supposed to be protecting them I'm not sure what went on in this place but some of the graffiti certainly reflects this current perceived vibe.
A creepy place and a very unsafe structure if visiting the crumbling upper levels. You could easily get killed here walking over a hidden drop then falling several floors onto rubble and sharp metal edges sticking up.
The staircase to the upper floors.
A carved face inside. Welcome children to your new home.
At least they had swings....
WALK FOUR. I'll finish off with a solo walk round the Tradeston district of Glasgow, an old area very close to the city centre but neglected and left behind. On the Central Station train leaving or entering the city towards the south side you pass through this 'wrong side of the tracks' district. Cut off by a motorway and the railway itself it's a semi abandoned area of waste ground, small factory units and still operating small businesses.

From the train or bus though all you see is a long line of derelict properties, graffiti, and empty spaces rolling past the windows.
Even vehicles left here in certain streets are not immune if they stand too long in one place.
With most of the roughest schemes/areas/ estates in the city either knocked down, tarted up or gentrified and any poverty far better hidden than in the past  this is one of the few remaining pockets of old school run down districts left.
It's also a stone's throw away from Glasgow's gleaming financial and business district on the opposite bank of the River Clyde so a perfect location for a giant Barclay's Bank campus complex, generating over 2000 to 5000 new jobs potentially and a host of new buildings along this waterfront which should transform this run down area. I live in hope of a huge 100 floor tower rising phoenix like, similar to the new skyscrapers in London, in Central Glasgow someday, but failing that any new development here can only be an improvement.
There was an original award winning song to go with the 1962 film and also a good compilation of film noir through the ages to go with it. And here it is.

I was also intrigued by the way Barbara Stanwyck usually played strong women in positions of power in her films and was very convincing at it. So I looked her up to see if anything in her history made her that way, as a tough attitude is not really something you can fake for so long, more a natural outlook. As indicated here she didn't have an easy upbringing and learned very early to fend for herself- something that always came across in her films. But she was also approachable, down to earth and well liked throughout her career, also due to her background. Interesting info as I enjoy going on journeys and playing detective, both online and on foot.

Sunday 22 July 2018

Micro Worlds. The Hidden Kingdoms All Around Us.

 When you are a child you notice certain things far more than as an adult. New wonders exist all around you... everyday. Things adults often take for granted or simply ignore. Because you are small- the world around you is also small. You notice the small things therefore....tiny details....and if you are outdoors you often find the 'hidden kingdoms.' Most adults do not see them anymore. Most adults do not believe in 'fairies.' I do. I always have.  They are visible but so tiny as to be irrelevant to modern life. Children can see them, or used to before smart phones and ipods came along, but then they grow up and they completely forget the tiny wonders all around them.
The British landscape is a vibrant, teeming jungle filled with strange exotic life- a Serengeti of the just have to look for it. That magical thrill just observing a humble caterpillar moving across the ground or a ladybird landing nearby like a rescue helicopter to eat troublesome aphids spreading rapidly on flowers has not faded completely within me.

                                               ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
Fairy life is everywhere in the summer months. You just have to see it. Damsels dancing along the canal, most folk not even aware of their existence. For those that do know they take some tracking down. Twenty minutes to get this single photo but fairies 'are so worth it.' Origin from 'damoisele' meaning a young lady (of noble birth) = so...fairy princess in my book. Keep your unicorns- this will do me.

Dragonflies are far easier to see in any landscape. They are larger and skim along at adult eye level so grown ups notice them more.
Same with butterflies. Highly visible. Very apparent when they are around. Painted Lady Butterfly. It's other name, Vanessa Cardui, sounds like a female character from Dynasty. A rival for Joan Collins to fight with perhaps. Cynthia family, appropriately.
Young Green Hawker Dragonfly at rest.

Fairies fly mostly at knee height however... slim, fast, and largely unnoticed by the majority of passers-by- but crucially just at young child eye level- in the water reeds, over ponds, or out in the grasslands. In the summer months many hundreds can fly about in one single field alone yet only a tiny percentage of adults will ever know they are there.. or care. Instead they send Valentine Cards to each other with human heart shapes on them- except the human heart looks nothing like that in reality. The human heart exposed is an ugly mess.
So I wonder where humans got the heart shape idea from in the first place... signifying love, companionship and togetherness. Couldn't be from fairies could it....  as they do not exist. If they did exist - let's just say for argument, these little creatures are sometimes found dangling from reeds or stems upside down, not like here standing upright together, thus forming a perfect, more open, heart symbol, dangling off a plant. A light bulb moment I've seen myself many times outdoors along the canal when you really look at things in detail, in static admiration. Just a thought. Nature has provided so much inspiration we just take for granted- as our own ideas.
Romance is everywhere in the hidden kingdoms of the waist high summer jungle. Solider beetles here I think.
Warrior class. An armoured ground beetle.
Common Lizard. A real life dragon in this mini world.
An Adder. As large as they get. Not dangerous unless you sit on one by accident. Snakes and lizards may do well during this heat wave... other species less so.
A young stoat guarding its den, probably fur lined with rabbit pelts and other soft discarded animal parts for a bed. Cosy inside.
A baby newt- smaller than a two pence coin. As very little rain has fallen over the UK since early May amphibians could be hit hard. Puddles, mountain streams and ponds have disappeared over large parts of the country so not easy to find life giving water when you are finger sized.
Newts may suffer long lasting damage this year as they are already scarce.
Frogs too without the normal ponds or wet hollows to soak in. Pitfalls also exist in the shape of large open cracks where the ground has split open in the heat to trap the unwary. At this time of year thousands of tiny newly formed frogs, the size of a pinkie nail, are setting out to explore the land for the first time. Many will die down cracks or just roasted crispy in this unusual prolonged heat wave. One of the warmest spring/summers on record over large areas of the planet, not just the UK.
Flies meanwhile are doing very well with reports of vast quantities of bloodsucking Scottish midges, ticks, and clegs flourishing on the mountains and in the glens.
So it's not all bad news :o) Dung flies on a turd here. Mating, fighting and guarding going on, in little protective hidden kingdoms everywhere.
Micro Worlds. Jungle life all around us. Battles, sex, fights to the death- fairy realms. You just have to see them on a different level. Close up, dung flies are almost cute- like furry tiny monkeys or cuddly teddy bears. I did say... almost. They are also brave, guarding the spoils against all comers, even skyscraper sized human monsters approaching their treasure.
It took a while for them to settle back on the dung but eventually they did. I lay still beside them. Patient. Waiting.
" Hey. That guy's photographing a shit! " A fellow path walker observed to his very attractive wife. ( I notice these details. I observe these things, even at a casual glance. Trained eyes :o )
As I was lying down I was at a distinct disadvantage compared to these vertical unwanted interlopers but I was very focused now and in the zone- well, I had to be... in case I was accused of being an upskirter pervert. Heaven forbid. I kept my camera carefully positioned on the turd.
" Are you collecting animal droppings?" His wife asked, vaguely interested. ( she'd probably watched Chris Packham on TV munching animal pellets or some such, the thinking women's nature prog crumpet. A green, smart, tech savvy, Chippendale, albeit with Asperger's and quite happy living alone.
" Photographing dung flies." says I , keeping the camera steady on the turd action and pointed nowhere near her exquisitely matched summer attire, reflecting ruefully this was maybe one reason I didn't have an attractive wife... or even an ugly one. My mind always focused on the wrong priorities in life.
" They look far better close up. Surprisingly clean wee beasties considering." I offered as a partial explanation.
" I'll take your word for that."
They passed by overhead, like alien spaceships. A different universe away from mine.

Six spotted Burnet moth. A dazzling little flier- with iridescent glamour as bright as any flashing kingfisher. They flash as well... dancing past- in a blur of vivid scarlet.
Drinker moth caterpillar. A cow for the mini grasslands.
Emperor moth caterpillar. A tasty snack for someone.
Safety in numbers here.
Fox moth caterpillar.
Wood boring Long horn Beetle.
Red Eared Terrapin. As summers get warmer we may find other species, more suited to heat, adapting to our new climate. Some good- some bad. This one was spotted in a local park pond in Glasgow's west end. In London they are already breeding in numbers, wiping out local wildlife. The heatwave may aid them more.
Mating flies. This weather suits them.
Peacock butterfly.
Red Admiral Butterfly.
Rudder Darter maybe? A Four Spotted Chaser?
Meadow brown Butterfly.
Sexton Beetle on the prowl. A rare sight this one as it homes in on small dead animals, injects them with anti-decaying fluid then buries its young with the corpse, also hidden underground. It looks like its own young being carried or parasites on its head here. Badgers, burying beetles, moles, anything that moves soil will be finding it very tough right now I would imagine with the ground like concrete and any worms left alive deep down so spare a thought for them. Micro Worlds. A tribute....      And pray for some much needed rain.