Thursday, April 21, 2016

Queer: The Lacy Frock Brigade

Funny how the official vestments for the Year of Mercy just happen to have a rainbow on, and what a fun juxtaposition they make with Liberace!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Urban gulls

I was surprised recently, when I told a friend that I like sleeping with the window open because I like to hear the seagulls circling. 'You don't have seagulls in Birmingham, do you?' he said, and was frankly rather incredulous. I hadn't realised that it is only of recent years that seagulls have moved inwards from the coast (sensible chaps, it's warmer, and with more food, which also means they breed earlier and longer - virtually exactly the same advantages which city living holds for humans as well!). That said, it seems I am about the only person who likes them:
If ever the world goes into financial meltdown and cities fall into an Orwellian dereliction then it will be a close contest between seagulls and the buddleja as to who will reclaim the land from mankind.
At first, the buddleja seemed a sound bet inhabiting every square inch of vacant industrial land but I’ve decided to give the seagulls my vote following their invasion of the city centre. The threat was brought home to me at a presentation by an unfortunate from Birmingham City Council’s Environmental Services, at a recent Ladywood Ward Committee meeting.
Feelings were running high in the Jewellery Quarter particularly and I had personally been inundated with complaints from residents who complained  that a good night’s sleep was just a distant memory as they suffered  a literal remake of The Birds. Tales abound ranging from black cars turning white under the weight of guano, residents stepping in bird poo as big as elephant’s wotsits, bird cries registering the same decibel levels as a Take That convention and, most frightening of all, seagulls swooping down to try and snatch babes in arms.
Unsuprisingly, cries have gone up from even the most mild-mannered residents to exterminate them Terminator style and therefore solve the Quarter’s insomnia problem in one ‘fowl’ swoop.
But it’s not that simple…
Firstly the seagulls (or urban gulls to be ornithologically PC) are split into black tipped gulls and herring gulls. The latter are a protected species and very difficult to tell apart when they’re young unless you’re a budding Bill Oddie. This means a seagull shooting season is currently out of bounds, although seagull kebabs or gull goulash spring readily to mind.
Consequently, the guys from Enviro Services have tried a number of alternative strategies commencing with mock hawks which the, apparently not unintelligent, gulls have treated with contempt and used as a convenient shelter for egg laying. The next idea was calling in the ornithological equivalent of the SAS (Seagull Attack Service) i.e. a hawk. Apparently this is unlikely to scare the seagulls who can apparently look after themselves – know wot I mean? Source
The author of this article, of course, makes no mention of the rats which are a much more traditional enemy of humanity and are also getting bigger, fatter, and more comfortable. And since I live on the other side of the city centre from the relatively more swanky Jewellery Quarter, I can of course lie in bed secure in the knowledge that the gulls are merely looking for food in the markets before wandering off home to ruin some posh person's sleep. In the Chinese quarter, we don't sleep, we merely stay up and scream at each other.
Never one to miss an opportunity, this invasion of gulls has provided the Hound with another urban totem to invoke and work with. Like the cockroach, the gull is one which takes over and is difficult or impossible to move on, however it also has overtones of being at home and not leaving on that account. Always a mistake to try to resist the winds of change, you just end up (haha) beached.
Since Inexplicable Device is determined that I am going to post on my rather bizarre taste in music (and I think he may have forgotten his reaction to my last post in the Witches' Hymnbook series, which was Drowning Pool's Let The Bodies Hit the Floor, I will finish by just posting a song with which I grew up, and which seems strangely suitable at this point.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Burning Boats

I have discovered, on reading round the subject, a long military history of success being dependent on burning bridges before you start the battle. Humanly, of course, this means that failure isn't an option, and no doubt it focuses your mind in a marvellous way.
Magically it also seems to have the same effect on the universe. So much of magical training and teaching is based on the development of an undivided Will, and one way of making sure things can only go one way is to destroy all exit strategies and other plans. When you do that, things can only go in the direction of your plan.
I have noticed this time and again, that magic works best when your back is to the wall. Of course it requires some nerve volitionally to burn your boats so that the only way is ahead, and there is also a human tendency to watch the burning rather than pressing forward. However this is the point at which the sorcerer will step forward and welcome whatever is coming next, knowing that the universe will fill the vacuum created by what is being left behind (admittedly, usually with some other idiot).
Go ahead, burn your boats!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Hidden City: Castle Street B4

‘Look up’ is the usual advice given if you are interested in finding out the history of a built environment. Granted, digging will usually provide much evidence, but looking up provides immediate evidence as to how buildings and so on have changed over the years. When shops are refurbished, it is naturally much cheaper just to put a new front on them than to rebuild the whole things, and the upstairs stories can provide much evidence. The whole building may not be leased to the same person, and the different floors can show evidence of different current uses, and even previous uses in the form of ghost signs. This practice of looking up can be supplemented in a place like Birmingham, which has had its share of rebuilding and change over the years, by looking at some remnants at ground level, including the many stubs of former streets which have been left hanging by rebuilding. The tell-tale sign of these is often that there will still be a street name, but it may not seem to go anywhere.
The classic example is Castle Street, which is next to Marks and Spencers in the High Street, and cannot really be described as a street in any meaningful sense of the word. This has been raising my historic suspicions for some time, but only this week did I get to the library to investigate. I also read on the internet that it was an actually street right up to the 1990s – I don’t remember it as such myself, and imagine that it must have been one of those passages we take for granted, and also that Castle Street’s demise was caused by the linking of Marks and Spencers to the Pavilions . The giveaway signs that it must have been a recent thoroughfare are the street sign showing the postcode and the sign advertising the salon, which surely nobody would put up in a dead end like that, and which must have been put up in 1995 at the earliest, when 021 area codes changed to 0121.
First stop as always is maps, and I discover that Castle Street is clearly shown as a street in the 1979 A to Z. In fact it is shown as a street as far back as the 1780s, when it must have been a relatively more important thoroughfare in the pre-industrial revolution town. The map which illustrates this post is the 1912 ordnance survey, which shows how Castle Street was a warren of entries and presumably tiny, higgledy-piggledy buildings, before the post-war rebuilding of the city.
I see that one of the buildings is called a hotel, and have read rumours on the internet of there being a pub in that street, so that may be it. To find what these buildings actually were and give a flavour of what life in Castle Street was actually like, the old faithful Kelly’s Directory was my next stop. The latest I have access to is the 1973/4 one, and unfortunately wasn’t that helpful in terms of Castle Street, showing only the Birmingham Co-Operative Society Ltd at no 10.
The 1916 Kelly’s Directory, therefore only a few years after the map shown here, was much more helpful. It gives the location of the street as 42 High st. to Moor street. I will give the businesses occupying the street in full, because they are redolent of a different age:
4 Woolley Tomas F. Manchester warehouseman
5, 6 & 7 Goodman John & Sons, printers
8 Sumner’s “Ty-phoo Tea” Limited, tea specialists
9 & 10 Bromley W. R. & Co. provision merchants
15 Shaw Harry, dining rooms
16 Broberg Soph, prov[i]s[io]n mer[chant]
18 Booth Frank, shopkeeper
19 McCullagh George B. provision merchant
20 Laming W. C. & Co. provision merchants
21A, Eagles & Co. printers
……… is Moor st………..
Gordon & Lowe, shop fitters
21 Tidmarsh Ambrose, provision merchant
24 Watson & Ball Limited, paper merchants
……… is High st…………
Once again, I am struck by how this list speaks of a different age. In our retail habits, for example. All those tiny provision merchants under the name of their owners rather than large chains with no individual names at all. Presumably going out shopping in Castle Street meant visiting several little shops, which must have stocked different things. The old photograph shows the Typhoo tea factory when it was in Castle Street, and since it moved well before 1912 the Typhoo name must have been kept for the tea merchants as the single example of branding here. And this list also a different age in terms of the names above. The most foreign-sounding name is Scottish, indicating how different the population of Birmingham was before the multiculturalism heralded by later immigration.
Well before all of this happened, I see that a murder took place at the Golden Elephant pub (or inn) in Castle Street, in April 1888, committed by the landlord’s son:
' Widower [Nathaniel ] Daniels, a printer, was in the habit of visiting Emma Hastings, the daughter of a Birmingham publican with whom he was having an on-off relationship. At closing time on 14th April he called at the back door of the pub, and after kissing her he shot her twice with a revolver. One bullet hit her in the chest, the other blew her brains out. His defence of insanity failed. Sentence of death was carried out in Birmingham on the 28th August 1888.  Daniels was thirty four at the time of the execution.' (
So by looking round a corner, as opposed to looking up, the history of this corner of the city has been revealed.
Oh, Inexplicable Device will be disappointed that this post is not about music, but the music I grew up with really is genuinely too embarrassing to post about in any great detail…
Picture credit:

Friday, April 1, 2016

The INFJ Door Slam

High time for another INFJ-themed post, this time about the famous door slam. If I can make myself stick to my plan for this post it will not be about the door slam as generally experienced by INFJs, since there is loads of stuff published about it, and since I find I differ slightly from the general experience I want to make this a much more personal post.
The first difference I have with much that is out there is that people start with the door slam itself, whereas my experience is that when you arrive at the door slam the roots of it can be traced back to months or even years before. For me what underlies the door slam is the way the INFJ's world is dominated by rules. I have written about this before but suffice to say that one of the more difficult aspects of dealing with INFJs is that we expect you to abide by these rules without being told them!
If you break the rules, here's what happens: we obsess about it. Remember that the INFJ organises information into patterns in his head. If you break the rules we try to fit this action into what we already know about you in our heads and come to some conclusion about what your breaking the rules means. Here is where I find I tend to differ from some of the accounts on the internet, which speak about the door slam as if it happens in discreet stages: my personal experience is that this analysing (don't call it over -analysis unless you want a slap) stage is already into door slam territory because for an INFJ the rules are non-negotiable.
The rules are non-negotiable, and we understand that relationships require negotiation and so on,  but if you are ever in the position of having an INFJ explain the rules to you, you need to understand that you have violated our trust on a very deep level and it may even take years to get back to where we were.
I understand that other people don't necessarily see my rules, but I find that the other person's response to my reproach can be a deal breaker. Remember also that INFJs are people of complete integrity, so doing anything which may be perceived as rubbishing what we are telling you at this point will almost certainly lead to a door slam.
I find at this point I will often just freeze someone out if it is someone I like but who has violated my trust in some way. For an INFJ to let someone in, it requires you to get the rules and if you have to have them explained to you, you are already beyond the pale, however I won't necessarily take you apart at this point.
The more classic door slam is reserved for people who have either violated our trust for years or who we have taken an instant dislike to. These people are the classic example of people we will have loads of information on, which we will have been storing up for years. Personally the only people I can identify as in this category are my 'manager' and 'colleagues', and I have been making little notes about things for literally years. It is at this point that with relentless logic the INFJ will produce this information and destroy you with it. You will actually be surprised at what we know about you, and we will use this information.
This is the classic door slam. If we have to be in contact with you beyond this point you will find us coldly formal. However you will notice that I haven’t described a single act of slamming a door, with its overtones of temper or tantrums. That is the reason for the illustration I have chosen for this post: what actually happens is more perceived by the INFJ as you making it gradually, brick by brick, impossible for us to let you in at all.