Archive for Non Fiction

All Remaining Paper

‘Remove all remaining paper before reloading.’, it says here. It says so on the front of my printer. Being so literal minded, I find I don’t quite know what to do with this. Whilst it’s plainly something to do with the paper feed tray, the object so enlabelled, I cannot help but feel that it must apply to some greater referent.

All remaining paper? It would be such a huge undertaking even were I certain that it applied to me in particular. After all, I know I’m not the only one in the world with such a printer. I can’t even be certain that no other type of printer does not have a similar demand plasticly and blackly emblazoned upon it. Perhaps it’s intended for the first person who both feels moved to obey it and is capable of doing it? For it ought to be reasonably clear that once somebody has removed all remaining paper, whether or not they reload afterwards, that it will be no longer possible for anybody else to do so, except trivially. I mean, were I certain that someone had indeed done the necessary, and consequently that no scrap of paper remained, then I could feel easier about my inaction since my doing nothing would be all that’s necessary to remove all remaining paper.

But of course this will not do. I know I’m outcopping on the flaky rock of rationalisation. I know, and cannot unknow, that paper is produced more or less continuously in gloopy vats of sticky fibrous whiteness. And the sighing — nay moaning — of air dryers whispering with their hot sweet breath over the sheets of floppily freshformed laminas, well, it keeps me awake at night so it does. So much paper. And nearly all of it remaining. It’s just not possible for one person to remove it all. Then it hits me. The removal of remaining paper is intended as a communal activity. It’s obvious. Why did I not see this before? Why else would they mark everybody’s printer with such an exhortation? In the hope that just one of us might do something about it? Of course not. It isn’t cost-effective.

This realisation has hit me with the same dread certainty of one who discovers, when one is about seven years old, that one is supposed to join the cubs. Despite all the voices inside you which rage against it, despite all the cries, the protests, the echoes of which you can feel humming within your very teeth, you know that you must thrice dib and triply dob with all the rest of them.

They say a child has no conception of this kind of catharsis. They lie. They say it would not occur to a child to rail against such monstrosities, for it knows no better. They fib. They say a child will not question authority until it has seen its own betrayal enacted in its own parent’s humanity. They tell porkies. Children know. Adults forget — it screams for epithesis, scit infans, adultus obliviscetur.

But all of this Munchish, Baconian screamery is to no avail. We all give in in the end. We capitulate and eventually become our own internal scout, guide, soldier, wac, rear admiral, judge and Ian Drury all rôled into one. We see that everybody else is already at it. Why else would they be trying to eliminate all the trees in all the parks in all the world? Why the deliberate introduction of Dutch Elm disease? Why all this land clearance in the Americas and in Africa and in Malaysia? Why all this schlaßenbrennung? To get rid of the wood of course. To remove all possibility that any paper might remain.

Were it not such a desperate thought, that all the trees be doomed, one might easily be seduced, entranced, enraptured and bewitched by the scale of such a collective-unconscious-bogglingly grand concept. The organisation that must have gone into it. The marshalling of forces, the necessary indoctrination. In all that time it must have taken to educate entire populations for this task, imagine all the civilisations that must have fallen, risen, fallen again, like the heaving breast of some gigantic Cartlandish heroine finding herself under the spell of a still more corpulent Sir Jasper.

But we have forgotten, have we not, that all of this is merely means to an end. I feel it is up to those of us who know, who have remembered, to remind all these countless generations of actors, generals, cooks, thieves, wives and lovers, that after all of the remaining paper has been removed, we are expected to reload. There’s no point in it otherwise. We must warn everyone now, before it is too late. We rush collectively towards our own annihilation. It may not have occurred to anybody that perhaps it were wiser not to reload, that we don’t really have to remove any remaining paper, let alone all of it. We must fly, fly like the wind. We must feel the swish of hair in our mouths, the brush of furze and gorse against our bare ankles, the rivulets of sand between our toes. Will you join me in this noble task? Dare you refuse? I know you cannot.

Aircraft Factory, England, 1917

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Ye Olde

It should by now be common knowledge that the use of Ye, for the, is based on a mistaking of the older orthographic rendering of the word the as Þe. Maybe it’s odd that an almost equally common misreading of ſ – the old long form for s, as an f, hasn’t produced a bunch of Ye olde tea fop from Þe Olde Tea ſhoppe, but the shop’s h probably stops that happening.

But Ye Olde has been around a lot longer than I thought. Here it turns up on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1887. They even had the quainty-wainty f-word (that’s Fayre) back then.


This picture is an engraved illustration from The Graphic (1869 – 1932) of May 21 1887, reporting on the Newcastle Exhibition where they’d had the wherewithal to build a complete half-scale model of the heavily ſhoppe-laden medieval Tyne Bridge which had been washed away in the flood of 1771.

Said Jubilee is why Exhibition Park was born, and is also what spawned Newcastle Exhibition Ale

The Melotones


I thought, from a long time ago when I first knew about my dad’s early career in music, that this band had been called the Mellotones, with two ells. Mellow Tones, of course. But there it is in the pic – just the one. Now I think it should have been pronounced /mi:lotonz/ (a rhyme with me low tones). Or perhaps after the great ancient greek hero /məlɔtəni:z/ (muh-lot-unease). The other greek hero on the right, /vəbrafəni:z/, is being played by m’dad.

Phoenix, Arizona

At the southeast intersection of South Central Avenue and East Jefferson Street. Central Avenue runs north – south through the city centre. Jefferson runs east – west, and is a bit south of the centre. In fact it’s south of the city-crossing Van Buren – the other street of fame and of 50s motels.

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This building now houses the Phoenix Police Museum. The window/door shown is the one just occluded by the front of the yellow bus shown in the other image. The museum’s website appears reticent regarding the building’s connection to the location shooting for Psycho. But I suppose, as nothing bad happened there, they wouldn’t be interested.

The Leith Police

The Leith Special Constabulary of 1916 look like they could dismiss us without too much bother. Tom Archibald’s book on the History of the Lothian and Borders Police doesn’t mention if this particular photograph was ever seen outside the police station – it merely states that it’s an unusual picture. Other group portraits exist which show police in front of a wall sporting earlier (of course, pace Mitch Hedberg) group portraits. I suppose it possible that such photos are taken in places with public displays of police group portraits, but it doesn’t seem very likely.

Leaving work for the weekend

If you don’t know what this two and a half minutes of rather grainy and blocky night-shot YouTube video ‘footage’ is about, you might think it odd that somebody decided to bother posting it. It’s one of those what’s that all about?, pretty much nothing without its context. As some of the comments that go with it have said, the silence – and it’s mostly silence with measured footsteps – is deafening.

It followed something shown in a rather more dramatic eight minutes of video recording events that had happened the day before. It may not be so obvious in the first couple of minutes, just more bullying by people who ought to know better, but there’s a reason the video’s that long.

The story behind it is amazing. And wonderful. A lot has happened over the past few days. Most of it will not have been covered by mainstream news. But the story these clips tell is something significant.

It’s difficult to say with any certainty that some of the police (police are people too) in these recordings are getting pretty uncomfortable with what they’re doing. That may just be a case of inferring mental states of others from only the evidence of outward appearance – never a very clever thing to do. But if the state militarises its police force in order to keep its citizens under control, it should maybe allow for the outcome that – one day – the state might end up having to deal with a militarised police force.

Teenage Skinhead Geordie Cyclists

I keep seeing – not regularly or even frequently, but often enough – lone cyclists pedalling along the road with knees pumping away rather faster than their resulting progress seems to indicate. They’re sat much too low down and would benefit enormously from the increased power from their legs if only they’d raise their seats.

The riders are invariably helmetless, young, close-cropped-fair-haired and dressed in ordinary non-bikey daywear. I suppose it possible that maybe there aren’t as many of them as I think. Could be the same bloke every time. I wonder if he’s just wary of the ‘bum in the air look’ and thinks he’s too ‘hard’ for that.

All that effort going to waste. It pains me and I know it shouldn’t and it’s none of my business. But, sheesh.

How the B939 got its Spot

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Could it be that this Scottish Connection known as St Andrew’s Road, the B939 which connects St Andrews to Ceres (and beyond), was constructed at the behest of one Oliver Gourlay (1740-1819)? According to this snippet (of which there is more here) from “Memorials of the Scottish House of Gourlay“:

In acquiring these and other lands, Oliver Gourlay was led to believe that by a course of high farming he would attain opulence. Ardent in his enterprises, he in 1780 invited the Town Council of St Andrews to construct a superior road between their city and his estate, assuring them that thereby they “would eternize their names.” Impressed by his agricultural activities, capitalists extended to him a large credit, so that prior to 1803 he was enabled to purchase the estate of Kilmaron, near Cupar-Fife, of which the modern rental was upwards of £3000. But Mr Gourlay failed in his agricultural adventures, and disposing of his lands, he retired from public concerns. He died on the 10th October 1819 in his eightieth year.

Though the estate mentioned (Kilmaron) is not in Ceres but is a little north of Cupar, there’s no road from St Andrew’s to Kilmaron. And the road from St Andrew’s through Cupar is a fairly important A road which needs no excuse to be there anyway.

So who was Oliver Gourlay but a distant (and severally-removed) cousin of mine. His grandfather John Gourlay (1678-1723) was (take a breath) my mother’s father’s mother’s mother’s father’s father’s father’s father’s father. Oliver was also the father of Robert Fleming Gourlay – rather well known in Scotland, England and Canada.

Monumental Movies

Tyneside Cinema and Newcastle City are again showing free films, open air, at Grey’s Monument in the run up to christmas.

It’s a big outdoor screen with a bunch of deck chairs on the monument’s south facing (down Grey Street) steps, so if you think it’s gonna rain, bring your own protection. PGs and Us, only. No 15s or 18s of course – it’s in a public place.

If you have a google calendar, feel free to take advantage of my ical connection to get the event times into your own calendar by copying the (ical) link address.