October 2018, London

I am wary that this blog, Ijo Pona, is turning in to a ‘look what I had for tea’ blog – but, I need to talk about Potatoes. London-shaped Potatoes. Me and Mrs Backhouse paid a visit to the capital and spent a long w/e down there. It was fun. The excuse for the visit was that an artist on my label, Chris P. was putting on a gig at S. Augustine’s Church, Kilburn and I was not going to miss it for all the bass-bins in Nottinghill.

It was a bit more ‘Speedcore’ than ‘Spandau” on the way there as we missed our train after getting stuck in traffic. But, the Lovelies at Leeds sorted us and we were only an hour late arriving at Kings Cross. We checked in to our Russel Square located room and set about exploring.

Lambs Conduit Lane is an amazing place to spy Men’s Clothing. We stocked up on Espresso and Swedish Cake and made off to the theatre to bask in its Neon Wholesomeness – it was reet mint! I at the best Italian Food I have ever had – Spaghetti Carbonara and a lemonade to wash it down with. Homeward bound for a night of great sleep.

Can’t fault the accommodation – very central, but with that comes central noise. Thankfully we both had earphones and had a good nights sleep. We went to the V&A the next day. Caught the tube to South Kensington and walked past the Natural History Museum. We had missed the show for the Wildlife Photographer of the year as it started Monday and we were coming home that day.

The Frida Kahlo exhibit at the V&A had sold out – I was not sure people would be booking museum tickets at such a rate but the Photography room was working and we visited that in the first month of being open. That was amazing. There was a massive cross-section of photo history; everything from old daguerrotypes to modern digital art. It was reet mint!

Kathryn had a ball at the V&A – she loved seeing the Porcelain section. To me, it was just old crockery, but Kathryn quite likes the history behind the Staffordshire miniatures and seeing Ming-era Vases was a real eye-opener. Ming Dynasty China was hundreds of years ahead of us when it came to … well … china. We walked miles and saw the Norfolk Music Room – a room that was the interior of a Bloomsbury manor hose but said manor house had been gutted – the interior of the gutted mansion had been placed in the V&A to put on gigs – an amazing, windowless space that had excellent acoustics.

Then it was the night of the label’s gig.

The gig was by Chris Parmenidis at Saint Augustine’s Church in Kilburn, London – Chris met me at the gates of the church and we took our seat. I was shocked to see a good mate, Paul, turn up – we muttered away and then the gig started – it was how 8B5C3B++ should have sounded – an eight-speaker sound immersion. Whether it fell on deaf ears I do not know but I invited a member of The Wire to come and review it.

It was awesome and Chris received a standing ovation.

I hope he got as much from it as his audience did.

Me, Paul & Mrs Backhouse went out for a few beers afterwards – I was surprised to see most people I saw in London still smoked and did not use Vaporisers. The bar staff knew the policy on Smoking – and adhered to it – but they had to ask their boss if I could vape. Seemed a bit weird – but the weather was amazing that day and night so I did not mind standing around being given permission.

It really was balmy. I was walking around Kilburn and Kings cross in Jeans and T-Shirt at midnight in the middle of October. Storm Callum was battering Yorkshire and we had escaped the worst of it. I was perspiring!

Sunday was spent getting lost on the tube. It delayed us by an hour but the Tate Modern was open until 6 pm so we had time to make up for it. This is the plaque for my personal favourite installation in the gallery that day –

We heartily munched on Chinese food for the evening – my fortune cookie said “Family is a bit like Fudge – very sweet but sometimes with a few nuts”

We ate the fortune cookies on the train back up north.

The thing I got from London was that you did not have to go to exotic destinations to experience culture – sometimes it is only 3 hours away. I hope to go back down to the Smoke for a few more days next year. We are already looking at destinations elsewhere for our next break. We do not have an excuse. And, for once, my health permitted me to do what I love; spending time with Mrs Backhouse.

Here are the photos I took of the Gig & Tate Modern –

Our Trip To Manchester

Our trip to Manchester: Me and Mrs Backhouse visited my sister, Alison. Alison lives in the Chorlton area of Manchester and it is the first time me and Kathryn went over to take in the sites. We have been to her house before over Xmas 2017 – but – this was the first time we went on a jolly without the Parentals.

We got there in good time on train and Alison met us at the station – we hot-footed it across town to Firswood on a Tram! Trams are ace!

Alison has become a weekday vegetarian for ethical and environmental reasons – more power to her for doing so, I reckon. But tea was ace – veggie cottage pie! I must get the recipe for when I am entertaining culinary perverts like vegetarians or vegans.

Saturday was a bit wobbly – my head was all over the place to start off with but then Alison came home after volunteering in town. We met at a bar called The Font. Being a designer I was drawn to this place but it had absolutely nothing to do with design. Tasty food and alright beer.

We caught the tram (Tram!) up to Media City and saw the sites – I was shooting on a LOMO LC-A Film Camera so it’ll be some time until I get the results developed. But I asked my sister to take this photo …

 

Made it to the Blue Peter Garden – #FunTime – no sign of John Noakes.

A post shared by Andrew Backhouse (@hi_andy_b) on

We were exhausted by pacing around and headed home to a tea of Fajitas and then slumped in front of the TV.

Sunday – right laugh; went out to the City Gallery and saw this loads of Lowry paintings. There was a good blend of contemporary and classical art – the Pre-Raphaelites were good but the Lowry paintings stole the show – there was also a good study on ‘The Identity of An Artist’ – how identity is explored in Art and the works that it came up with.

 

An Accident – Lowry, 1926.

 

Roast chicken at Alison’s and a visit to the pub followed. We went to The Chorlton Tap and Kathryn got me using UnTappd – the beer drinking Social Network. It is something I feel massively uncomfortable doing so I will probably just log the outstanding beers.

Quite drunk I came home and ate all the crisps. We watched The Shape Of Water. Early night other than that, to sleep off the beer and get prepared for …

… the breakfast of Champions. We visited an American style breakfast diner called Moose, on York Street. I ate three cheese-pancakes the size of my head with bacon, fried egg and maple syrup – It is now just gone 3pm and I am still very, very full.

More to come on the photos – I will comment in the footer as to when I get them developed. We got home around 1pm this afternoon after a well-spent w/e. Thanks to Alison for putting up with my snoring and we hope to see you again soon. I really enjoyed myself and so did Kathryn. Thanks Alison! Thanks Manchester!

A Peasant’s View Of Art: Beuys @ Leeds

Kathryn had the day off work today – so we decided to pop over to Leeds to take in some culture. The City centre Gallery had benefited from a refurb and we were pleased to see that Joseph Beuys was the artist featured in the ARTIST ROOMS in the gallery. Not that I knew much about him before I arrived.

“Joseph Beuys (1921-1986) was one of the twentieth century’s most important and revolutionary cultural figures, who changed the look and meaning of sculpture forever. A political and social activist and educator, Beuys believed in the healing power and social function of art. He saw creativity as central to all aspects of human existence, declaring that ‘everyone is an artist’.”

I appreciate I may not be the most qualified of chaps to comment on the artist, Beuys, output. So, if you have anything different to say please leave a comment in the footer of this post. However, I went to an exhibition and this is my blog – so I will write about the exhibition.

But what did I make to the above art and, inevitably, the artist’s take on life: I loved it. I believe Beuys was trying to merge the Scientific and the Spiritual through his sculptures and, personally, I think he challenged the way people see the world after being exposed to his art.

I know it has for me.

The materials he used were not the most palatable of choice for me – lots of materials that set my teeth on edge: felt & fat being two choice examples. But I love the symbolism of what he was hoping his viewer would get. Like Shakyamuni’s finger pointing towards the moon, the works I saw in Leeds today spoke of wider memes and counterpoints to the global psyche of the latter part of the twentieth century. I actually, for the first time in my life, think I got an art exhibition!

Beuys was instrumental in the founding of the German Green Party and used his profile as an artist to speak out for the disenfranchised and dispossessed. He actively campaigned for environmental issues and befriended a coyote. Were his works aesthetically appealing? No. In short, I believe his point was to provoke and administer a revolution of the individual. To overthrow our self-imposed rulers and set our selves free to be who we want to be.

After a bit of research into Beuys when I got home I read this about his choice of the before-mentioned materials: in 1942, Beuys was stationed in the Crimea and was a member of various combat bomber units. From 1943 on he was deployed as rear-gunner in the Ju 87 “Stuka” dive-bomber, initially stationed in Königgrätz, later in the eastern Adriatic region. On 16 March 1944, Beuys’s plane crashed on the Crimean Front close to Znamianka. From this incident, Beuys fashioned the myth that he was rescued from the crash by nomadic Tatar tribesmen, who had wrapped his broken body in animal fat and felt and nursed him back to health:

“Had it not been for the Tartars I would not be alive today. They were the nomads of the Crimea, in what was then no man’s land between the Russian and German fronts, and favoured neither side. I had already struck up a good relationship with them and often wandered off to sit with them.” –  Joseph Beuys

Was Beuys an artist or a revolutionary … or a healer? I cannot answer that & I will leave the answer to those who knew him best. Either way, his work has left an impression on this peasant. I see him as someone who used the tools at his disposal, what he was good at, as a way of effecting long-lasting social change. Whether he was successful or not, I doubt it – but it has made me want to take up the baton for improving the self for the sake of others.

Backhouse Fieldtrip 2017

I thought about titling this post as “Camp Backhouse” but then that would lead to all sorts of rumours about that time I went fly-fishing. Instead – I have called this post “Backhouse Field Trip 2017” – for it is the largest gathering of our sect of Backhouse’s since Granny’s funeral at Easter. It was really great to see everyone and ‘make memories.’ There were a few cousins who could not make it due to prior commitments but there was a good representation.

Me and Mrs Backhouse caught the bus to Ripon on Friday and mum cooked. We pegged it all the way to Derby down the M1. After a quick drink, we set up for the night.

…. I then realised I had left my medication in Yorkshire!

I called 111 and spoke to a couple of people after they had phoned me back. An appointment was made for the following morning at 0810 in the nearest town – there would be medication, just not that night. I messaged my brother on Whatsapp to tell him of the pickle I was in and he said to meet at breakfast as he had just rolled into the hotel with his wife and daughter. I was going to be spending a night in a hotel unmedicated!

I actually managed to sleep for a bit despite not having my medication – It was full of lucid, weird dreams that felt like reality. I am of the opinion you should not tell about your dreams in public so I will keep them close to my chest – but they involved a lot of celery and high-heels.

Morning came and I awoke tired – hot-footing it down to two plates of cooked breakfast and then whisked along the Sir Frank Whittle Way to Derby Emergency Health Centre – I was tripping balls by the time we got there and did not really enjoy the Abba that was being piped into the waiting area. I had an appointment and was seen prompt where I was issued my prescription – I really can’t fault the NHS for the help they gave me. They recommended that we head out to a retail park in my brother’s car.

Boots was the destination and Jas Dhillon was the super-pharmacist who bent over backwards to ensure that I got my help. She really was a star – I took her name and I will phone Boots HQ to praise her. She was ace and a Yorkshire lady too. Fair enough, Boots is not yet Nationalised and they do not pay their %%% of tax having relocated to Switzerland. But, Jas gave me hope that the company is more than just the decisions of its board members. She was a warm-hearted individual who put me at ease and took charge of the whole shenanigans. Whilst we waited for my script to get corrected, we went for a coffee and I told my brother, who I affectionately call Nobhead, where he went wrong with his driving. The coffee tasted good.

The rest of the day was spent at Heights of Abraham – not the best place for someone in smart shoes, symptoms of a psychotic relapse and with a bad knee – the first two were my fault, but I cannot take the blame for the bad knee. Geological, cable-car amazement was had by all and ‘memories were made.’

The highlight of the Saturday was the 21+ person meal. We all sat down at the restaurant at Breadsall Priory and tucked into a hearty meal – I was running on vapours after a rough night and had to leave earlier than The Norm (whoever he is).

Still plenty of vivid dreams – the next day we went for a stroll around an area of natural beauty & then we bid farewell to each other …. until next time.

 

Dornoch 2017: The Return Leg

So, as you can tell by the amount of “Checking In” I have done today – we covered some ground. This can be seen on the ‘About Me’ page. The morning was a bit overcast in Dornoch and we were on the road for 0730 – I pumped out the zzzzz’s until the House of Bruar. Full English // Cooked Breakfast achieved (have paid a lot less for a lot more) we were on the road quicker than you can say “Black pudding?” Passing the site of Sterling Castle, crossing the Border at Gretna Green and winding over the Pennines towards North Yorkshire. Thanks Dad.

I would be lying if I said there was not a lump in my throat when I said “Cheerio” to Granny – the dear is 91 and visibly getting frailer – her memory is not all that now and she is a bit unsteady on her legs.

However, she is as good as gold – she is a very sweet old lady and we need to treasure the time we spend together. Much like my Dad (except he is not an old lady). I had tried to tell him I love him on Father’s Day but instead I opted for a backslapping hug and my wonky smile – he caught the sentiment though. We are not really in a “I love you” stage of life // death so I will not let it slip until he is in his dotage and then cheekily remind him of the time he came home pissed as a fart and fell down the stairs naked.

If you want to check out the other Dornoch blog posts from 2017 then they are here in the Dornoch 2017 tag.

We made it home home (to Ijo Pona HQ). We mucked out the fish (Ted – Goldfish) and set about catching up on things. Dad & Mum had a surprise when we got home in that a tree had fallen down in their garden knocking out the Telephone. We had no such issues and went about telling everyone we were home.

There is a scene of domestic bliss here – Kathryn is watching the Foo Fighters on TV (Glastonbury coverage on the BBC) and I am sipping ice cold water on what has proved to be the hottest June in 40 years, according to the Met Office.

Dornoch 2017 – Roadtrip: North Coast 500

When we were on our way up North, we stopped overnight at my Aunt’s house near Glasgow – she mentioned something had changed on the north coast and called it The North Coast 500. There was an article in the Highland Times about it that she showed us all. Well, what is The North Cost 500? It is the highlands equivalent to Route 66 and we did the bulk of it today. It was brilliant.

As you can see from the above map, and the previous Blog articles, we are in Dornoch, a bit further north than Inverness. We started our day with tea, toast and grumbles but were soon cake-bound-north. We left Dornoch around 9am and travelled up the A9 through Helmsdale (which I chuckled to myself, Helmsdeep – ammirite!) and by that point I was pumping out the zzzz’s as the landscape inland changed from rugged hills to the flow country.

The Flow Country – Biologically important boggy meh!

 

We stopped off for tea and cake at the TESCO’s in Wick around 11am – the longest I had been without cake this holiday. We were then speeding off to John O’Groats – allegedly the most northerly point on mainland Britain. Here is a photo to prove this –

 

 

We then turned West along the A836 and saw some of the most jaw-droppingly rugged coastal and inland views framed by our car window. Dad took responsibility for getting us home and we were whisked past (at a pace) Beinn Ruadh and Beinn Ratha among a whole other heap of incredible mountains, passing through farmsteads, crofts and working fields – complete with growing lambs and electrified deer fences to stop, what must be, stock straying too far so assuage the blood lust of the rich.

I felt like NC, c*cksman and adonis to Kathryn’s Ginsberg as we hurried through the star spangled æther toward more cake. We were on a road trip and breaking free.

🙂

But … this was the highlands and not Route 66, famed by the Beats in the middle of the C20th – there was not really the opportunity to break free as most of the road was single-track carriageway and we had to keep our eyes peeled for traffic incase we had to use a passing place.

Allegedly, The North Coast 500 has bought in £9m of revenue to the local hotels so far – but why brand it as something adventurous when in reality you are too busy watch for German motorcyclists rather than take in the scenery. Because it puts these incredible sights on a framed point of reference – here is hoping it will do the local economy wonders. I for one am proud to have seen the landscape that inspired men to rebel against England’s rule and try and strike with Bonny Prince Charlie. It was awesome. And I did not get sunburnt.


We turned west around Laxford Bridge and headed past Loch Shin to Lairg. The Reason Granny Dornoch became Granny Dornoch was because, after the war, she and her sister Nett got jobs in Lairg Tea Rooms (which my Gran’s Aunt owned) and there she met a dashing Highland laddie who would become my grandpa.

We arrived full circle at 5pm just in time for cake …

If anyone has a car and the time whilst in the highlands I really recommend The North Coast 500.

The Battle Of Embo

As readers of this Blog will be aware, I am staying in Dornoch – Dornoch is where my Granny lives and Dornoch has remained a source of inspiration to me for years. When I get up here it is as if I settle down – yes, I am on holiday and therefore in holiday mode – but, there seems a slower pace of life here than urban Yorkshire where I work. There are less distractions in Dornoch to being yourself.

We had the day off and I managed to get sunburn in the Scottish Highlands. Alison & Dad went for a walk and saw someone panning for gold. I took advantage of a break in walking & eating cake and went with my wife to the History Links Museum in Dornoch – the staff were knowledgeable and friendly and the exhibitions were local but on point. There was a plethora of early C20th Photos and a great bit about the Battle Of Embo among other time periods explained from Dornoch’s point of view. It really is worth the £4/adult entry fee. However, it is about the Battle Of Embo I want to write about now.

Dornoch’s Coat Of Arms

According to the History Links site, some doubts remain as to the exact date of this battle: tradition suggests the 1240s, but more reliable recent evidence places the battle in the 1260s. The battle took place after a party of Danes landed at Little Ferry and encamped near Embo. The Earl of Sutherland asked Richard de Moravia (St. Gilbert’s brother who had been given Skelbo Castle by him in 1235) to engage the Danes and hold them in check until he assembled a strong enough force to come to Richard’s aid.

The plan worked, and the Danes were routed on the arrival of the Earl. During the battle Richard was killed and Earl William reputedly slew the Danish leader with the leg of a horse,* an incident that accounts for the horseshoe on Dornoch’s present coat-of-arms. After the battle the Earl arranged for Richard de Moravia’s burial in Dornoch Cathedral, where the remains of his damaged sarcophagus can still be seen.

The only primary evidence I could find was this image on a Dornoch History Links image library. It is cited as –

Copy account of the Battle of Embo written in old English style taken from an old book. 2 A4 pages glued on a sheet of brown paper

Picture added on 22 February 2012 at 12:53

… so the origin is lost, but I am not too tempted to dig deeper about a man who kills people with horses legs. But here is the image** –

 

*Emphasis on my account

**No mention of the horse leg

Dornoch 2017 – Pt I

So, we are in Dornoch again. After what was around 24 hour’s worth of travel, me and Kathryn are snuggled up in twin beds in a shared house – the rest of the guests (my sister, Mum & Dad) are pumping out the zzzzzz’s. Kathryn is tucking into a book (The Bookthief) and I am lying next to her having dosed up on evening medicine and getting prepared to tilt against the windmills of my dreamscape. I intend to write a blog article every now and then throughout our stay in the highlands. This is more of a keepsake for me than a public announcement – I doubt the few visitors to my blog will get much from these post, it is more for me.

But, how did we get here and why are we here? We started to prepare for the journey up here a few weeks ago – Kathryn gave here clients enough time to work out what they will be doing without a walker and I made emergency plans to stop DJing for two nights.

Well, I stayed up the Thursday night drinking beer and talking talk with Allan until 5am – I was quite ready for bed when I came home as that was 24 hours since I had last slept. I was too tired to put my pyjamas on and fell asleep in my Bill Grundy’s. I was up four hours later buying posh tea from Betty’s for the reason’s we were visiting Dornoch – my Granny.

We got picked up from Harrogate around 1430 and Dad was ready for us when we arrived at the farm. I admit I slept for most of the journey up to Lennoxtown to stay at Aunt Elizabeth & Uncle Robert’s – still I was mightily refreshed for when we did arrive.

It turns out Uncle Robert has a similar interest in the Fair Folk – he mentioned about the myth of the Færie Bridge of Dornoch Firth – something I will write about at a later date. However, we set off around eight thirty – but – you – dear reader will be assured I was pumping out the snores by the time we left Lennoxtown.

I was woken up to be told we are stopping off at Pitlochry – I am hesitant to put in to words what I feel about the place that is on the the roadside there; but I will launch in to a bit of a bitch:

Everything I dislike about the northern part of the union is encapsulated by The House Of Bruar. Yes, the stuff on sale there is of high quality – indeed it is a luxury product shop – so it is priced out of the majority of people’s range – I splashed out on a Pastry and regret it. Because of the whole clansmanshp-for-sale aspect of it, it attracts old age Daily Fail readers who want a condensed view of the land of my mother – they do not want to watch a Kevin Bridges show but they want to buy their Heather pot-pouri surrounded by their own, the older by one or two, generation all sat around ogling the fly fishing, golfing and single origin malt gift packs – the whole thing sat uneasy with me and I am glad we made a bee-line for the exit after spilling pastry crumbs everywhere.

We arrived in Dornoch around 1400 and popped to see Granny whilst we were waiting on our holiday cottage becoming free. Alison was at Granny’s and feasting on Tunnoch’s tea-cakes.

Tea was a family favourite of steak pie. I remember reading an edition of the Dandy and seeing Desperate Dan eat cow pie on of the times we visited my granny years ago. When we were about seven we used to call the steak pies that Granny got from the Butcher “Cow Pies” and make the appropriate horn actions – We were sat in the same places we have sat in since we were old enough to make the journey up to the highlands.

The TV in the house could not have been more Scottish – I appreciate we are in the heart of the highlands. However, they were advertising a documentary about The Proclaimers (hosted by David Tennant) and there was a another trailer for a programme abut Big Yin. It was ace – I forgot how insular England has become after both Brexit and the Indy Ref.

It seems Scottish Media has made a break with Salford Keys and is striking out on it’s own – I think this is fantastic – I am unsure how long BBC TWO Scotland has been running but I thing it is fuggin great – more power to them. And, as they keep my Granny entertained for the evening (she live on her own) then I want to say “Thank you” to them too.

The night was ending and we switch off the TV back in the holiday cottage after watching a broadcast of Kevin Bridges genius stand up comedy – the man was on fire!

So, I am sat here with a week’s worth of relaxing and helping my Granny – a well deserved break, I think.

Dornoch from the air