Sunday, April 30, 2017

75,000 Page Views Guest Post: Zigeuner by Noel Coward

As is my custom, a guest post as my counter passes a significant number. Unusually, though, the spirit of Noel Coward occupied me and insisted on a song, which is one I remember Hinge and Bracket singing. I did explain to him that appearing on my blog would mean a bare chest but he was ok with that and agreed with me on how healthy it is. Unfortunately I couldn't find the Hinge and Bracket recording online but will append a video so that any witch readers who don't know it can sing about the parallel figure of the 'gypsy'.

Once upon a time,
Many years ago,
Lived a fair princess,
Hating to confess
Loneliness was torturing her so.
Then a gipsy came,
Called to her by name,
Woo'd her with a song
Sensuous and strong,
All the summer long;
Her passion seemed to tremble like a living flame.

Play to me beneath the Summer moon,
All I ask of life is just to listen 
To the songs that you sing,
My spirit like a bird on the wing,
Your melodies adoring—soaring!
Call to me with some barbaric tune,
Now you have me in your power,
Play to me for just an hour

Bid my weeping cease,
Melody that brings
Merciful release,
Promises of peace
Through the gentle throbbing of the strings.
Music of the plain,
Music of the wild,
Come to me again,
Here me not in vain,
Soothe a heart in pain
And let me to my happiness be reconciled. Source of lyrics

Hockley Flyover Art

A pic-heavy post again, since it is about art, although this time the official installation rather than the graffiti which also flourishes in the area. The Hound's official position is that the graff round there may be the best in the city. The installation I feature here is described by Owen Hatherley as the best art in Birmingham, and while I would reserve that accolade for the Magritte in the Barber Institute, this work is certainly right up there.
Question: How do you annoy someone who lives in the Jewellery Quarter? Answer: Refer to it as Hockley. Reaction guaranteed. Of the two, I prefer Hockley, and was reminded of that fact as I wandered over this morning. There is a distinct line at Key Hill where you leave the gentrification behind and the real Birmingham spirit comes out again. I really went to look at Icknield Street School (which really deserves a post of its own) but took this in at the same time. The installation is a concrete climbing wall by William Mitchell. The work doesn't get much attention because you have to go to Hockley, have to go through underpasses, and have to be on foot. I have commented here before that the post-war planning of Birmingham was not as bad for pedestrians as it is made out and look, the spaces were beautified. Actually the residents of Hockley are a creative bunch, and the space under the underpass has even been the venue for a festival. Anyway, on with the photos. If they don't have a credit, they're my own.
Sorry lost the source for this one.

Spirit of Place: Mister Egg

I see that this is not the only food place I have blogged about here (I'm obviously being selective and sticking to the ones which in some way embody the spirit of place rather than merely reviewing the food, since I've previously blogged about the equally legendary Koh-i-Noor). In fact these two eateries seem to embody the Birmingham thing by repeatedly coming back from the dead, reinvigorated. You see, if you haven't been down Hurst Street this week, I have to break the news to you that the latest incarnation of Mister Egg has closed. But not to worry, the people who run Happy Lemon next door have taken it over and are reopening it as, erm, Mister Egg.
Yes that's right, Mister Egg is turning Chinese. Happy Lemon is always heaving with customers, but I hope they know what they're taking on, with the frankly mixed spirit of the Mister Egg brand/egregore. It's actually rather difficult to know where to start so in true witch tradition, I'll steal loads of information and keep anything that doesn't run away. Mister Egg has been part of many a night out or weekend away:
Roger and I had a fantatsic weekend in Birmingham this weekend; Joseph, Donny Osmond, Joan Collins, Mr Egg, Boots, Simon Pegg, the Fountain, the canal, Harvey Nic's, the Nightingale, the sunshine, Dr Aktins, Eurovision, the new bullring - it was almost like Amsterdam. Almost. Source
Danny Smith manages to say almost exactly what I mean about Mister Egg, just more elegantly:
Mr Egg is a Birmingham institution (and not just because there’s a rat in the kitchen), it’s something rare in Birmingham — independent. It’s  a lot like the sixties, if you can remember it you were never there, god knows no sane person would eat there sober. If pushed I can remember the giant cloth egg on the ceiling and the overpowering smell of grease. Just walking past has always a barometer of the current economic climate ‘EAT LIKE A KING FOR 50p’ declared the sign, and then in my teenage years ‘EAT LIKE A KING FOR £1’, a little later when the gay community settled down the road ‘EAT LIKE A QUEEN FOR £1.50’.
It seems to have survived due to clever marketing, location and cheap prices. The food itself was on the whole, greasy slop served on dirty plates. I like to think that the custom came from late night diners being loyal to an independent brand and making the choice to eat refried sausages and burnt beans rather than hand money over to the McCorps. In reality it was probably just due to drunken convenience of it being a short stagger away from the nightclubs on Hurst St, a place once described as ‘a cross between a Roman Vomitorium and a Bosch painting’. By me, just then.
Will Mr Egg reopen? I’m not sure, but what I do know from ten years working in the pub trade is exactly how hard it is to be closed down for health reasons. Sure, it’s a threat that’s used a lot, but you could introduce a giant radioactive cancer rat wiping his balls on individual fish fingers to the visiting EHO, and not be served anything more than a stern telling off. I retch at the thought of what was going on for the closure notice to happen.
But drunk people don’t care, if anything it adds to the myth of the place and brings in a new element of danger to eating there. And if giving dysentery to a few shaven headed Neanderthals stumbling out of Reflex is the price we pay for an independent and unhomogenised Birmingham – it’s a small price indeed. Source
In a rare piece of social history I am delighted to have found a video on the internet of the clientele, so that this legend is captured forever (now watch Inexplicable Device comment on the accents lol) Source:

It seems that this latest closure is just one of many very mixed events in Mister Egg's existence. In 2003 and 2004 it polled among the favourite greasy spoons nationally. In 2009, it was closed by environmental health. Also in 2009 thirteen customers were assaulted by the owner with concentrated vinegar: as a result of this, Mr Egg lost its late night license in 2010. The then owner was jailed in 2011 (my sources for these dates are various articles in the Mail and the Post).
I really wish Mr Egg with a Chinese flavour great success. So let's end with a suitably Birmingham song in Mr Egg's honour.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Urban grimoire: The Toxic Waste Dump

Today a very simple magical technique which has numerous variations and possibilities. It is based on the magical theory whereby thoughts and emotions are energies just as much as actions, and in fact embodies the occult idea that what we see is the visible manifestation of energies and powers on different planes.
This isn't as non-mainstream as it may seem: in psychdynamic therapy, for example, that dynamic is invisible, yet incredibly powerful. And in much more modern therapy, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy, changing one thing in your formulation changes everything else.
Don't worry - the Hound isn't about to collapse in a heap of fluffy mindfulness: this magic here is hard core and you won't find it in a book with a crescent moon on the spine.
As we go about our daily lives, we collect all sorts of invisible psychic nasties. Some of them are just residual daily stressors, some are entities that come and have a poke at us, some are the result of other people dumping their shit into us, and some are other people's emotions about us, such as jealousy, live, hatred, you get the picture. Traditionally this gunk has been dealt with by banishing or grounding it.
F*ck that shit, I can't afford to waste every nasty emotion, projection and so on, that comes my way, that stuff's a gift! But of course I don't want to have to carry all that rubbish around with me until I have a use for it.
That's where the toxic waste dump comes in. In practical terms you can use pretty much anything you like. At the moment I'm using a scarab from the museum. I carry it in my pocket and just touch it to transfer any bad vibes I feel coming this way. This lightens me up so I have that toxic waste if I need it.
You can of course do what you want with your toxic waste. A neighbourhood child abuser is frequently a good recipient. I won't insult my readers' intelligence - I assume you know how to move energy around, in your own way of course.
And of course the object you choose has a significance. Say for example yiur local psychic vampire is all over you, trying to suck the life out of you. Just exactly the person who may pick up your toxic waste dump and go 'What's this?'. Bingo - broken leg. Unfair, you may say. I say, I expect people to ask before messing with other people's stuff.
I did say this wasn't fluffy!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Digbeth Art Gallery

Another free art gallery today: this time a completely personal choice of graffiti art in Digbeth. Some of these certainly aren't there any more, and one of the things I like about graffiti is that it isn't fossilised into a canon and preserved in perpetuity.
Some are my own pictures and others are ones I have saved off the internet. I'm afraid I haven't kept the sources so if you own these pictures and want me to acknowledge or take down, get in touch with the contact form.

Time Travel: Cheapside

Back in time again today, specifically to 1968, but also further back into the history (purloined from someone else, but as usual I will acknowledge my sources as far as humanly possible) of my selected area. The street I'm time travelling through today is Cheapside, which is a formerly-industrial street in the B5 area of Birmingham. Frankly, I'm having difficulty placing it. Personally I would call it Digbeth myself, but what made me want to look into it was that I walked along it today and was reflecting on how the industrial buildings are rapidly being replaced by prestigious apartment developments, and I have read that there have been attampts by the council to refer to the whole of that area as 'Cheapside'. That said, I see it actually has a foot in B12 which I wouldn't hesitate to call Highgate, although of course that is also another of Birmingham's invented districts. While I keep wanting to say that the 'original' inhabitants of the area are the light industrial units which are still present at the bottom end, I think that probably isn't true and it certainly has a longer history that will appear from my post today, and of course has been a residential area before as shown by the picture of a back to back court. Here is the history:
Cheap derives from the Old English ceapan meaning 'to buy'; and Cheapside was used as a term for a 'market-place' or markets area. The name is found in many towns, but most famously in London where surrounding streets tells of the products sold there: Bread Street, Honey Lane, Milk Street, Poultry.

This was not a district but a streetname in Birmingham and could be a London import of the late 18th century, probably by Samuel Bradford whose potential estate this was. However, the name may have local connections. Before the Bull Ring was cleared of its encroachments by the Streets Commissioners in the 18th century, part of the markets area was known as Corn Cheaping ie. 'corn market'.

From the mid-1700s Henry Bradford owned Warners Fields in Deritend, south-east of the River Rea crossing at Digbeth. He offered development land here for sale, probably with the intention of attracting industry rather than housing. Perhaps due to the low-lying nature of the land at the town end of the site, there were no takers. although the site sloped uphill towards Highgate. It may have been thought to be to far from the town centre at that time. And so, in 1767 Bradford offered his first plots free of charge to encourage development on his estate.

Advertisement in Aris's Gazette 3 August 1768:

TO BE GIVEN GRATIS: Some free land, pleasantly situated, for building in Bradford Street, Deritend, to any person that will build upon the said land, and carry on a considerable trade there.

But it was to be the beginning of the next century before his estate around Bradford Street, Cheapside and Moseley Street was fully built up.

In proposals to redevelop the City Centre and expand it beyond the limits of the Inner Ring Road of the mid-1960s, the City Council in the 1990s perceived the central area of Birmingham in various quarters. It is intended to capitalise each quarter on specific aspects of its character. The areas include Chinatown, the Millennium Point education and technology district, the area around the International Convention Centre. Part of the intention was also to attract city centre residential living. The Bradford estate area south of Deritend High Street up to Camp Hill, currently a rather run-down industrial district, has now all been named Cheapside, probably again with an unconcious London connection, and is destined for both industrial regeneration and residential redevelopment. Source
This is a time travel post, and as usual we will be going back to 1967. This is because I happen to own a Kelly's directory for that year, and the library is closed today to go and look at any earlier ones. It is of course fifty years ago but I am still surprised at the variety and number of industrial units in Cheapside, but not only industrial units, there are eateries and a post office, so that while it looks as if nobody was living there are the time (in fact the colour picture was taken by Phyllis Nicklin and shows the street in 1960, only eight years before this directory, when it certainly looks as if people ought to have been living there), there were the services available to support the workers. So here is what was going on in Cheapside in 1967:
CHEAPSIDE, Jamaica row & Sherlock street to 19 Moseley road. MAP G 5 & 6, H 6)
[Nos. 1 to 57 & 215 upwards are in postal district % & the remainder postal district 12.]
1 Ashworth, Armitage & Ellison (Birmingham) Ltd. wallpaper mfrs
3 WYnne Rt dining rms
4 Birmingham & District Butchers' & Pork Butchers' Association
4 M.F.G. Transport Co. Ltd
5 Brushmakers Arms P.H
6/7 Clift S. & A. (Birmingham) Ltd. meat salesmen
6/7 Potter John Ltd. imported meat salesmen
17 Whitehouse George & Co. (B'ham) Ltd. flexible tube mfrs. (Barford tube works)
..... here is Barford st .....
Birmingham Garages Ltd. (The), service & filling station
..... here is Rea st .....
31 The Royal Oak P.H
32 Nation Geo. shopkpr
36 Ashton Richard & Co. Ltd. grey ironfounders
Perks N. Ltd. iron & steel scrap mers
Electricity Sub-Station
..... here is Birchall st .....
68 & 70 Smith Francis Tools Ltd. tool mfrs
Harrison (B'ham) Ltd (works)
..... here is Lombard st .....
80 Improved Metallic Appliances Ltd. (The), sheet metal pressings
89 Elliott E. Ltd. plastics moulders
92 Stuart Electrical Co. Ltd
93 Fountain P.H
..... here is Alcester st .....
94 Pickering R. turf commission agt
98 Calthorpe Engineering Products Ltd. precision engnrs
102 Anni's Cafe
106 to 109 Cheapside Stamping & Pressing Co. (1963) Ltd. hot brass pressings
106/109 Hawkins E. A. & Co. Ltd. brassfounders
106/109 Baker & Reynolds Ltd. machinists
British Road Services Ltd. (Cheapside branch)
126/127 Lancaster Bros. & Co. (Birmingham) Ltd. paper bag mkrs
..... here is Moseley rd .....
148 Nichols Joseph & Son Ltd. wire workers
158 Booth Samuel & Co. Ltd. brass founders (Cheapside works)
161 Roadley Jn. & Sons Ltd. toy dlrs (regd. office)
162/164 Midland Counties Dairy Ltd. (The) (depot)
..... here is Alcester st .....
178 Hales Mrs Florence May, shopkpr
181 Bishop, Mrs Edith Phyllis, newsagt
182 Matthews C. fried fish dlr
197 Rose & Crown P.H
..... here are Lombard & Birchall streets .....
221 Naval Ordnance Inspection Dept. & Radiological & Spectrographic Depts is Rea st .....
here is Sherlock street east
I love the way the entry in Kelly's directory keeps the real surprise for the end! I see that the naval ordnance inspection department was a department of the admirality, and its records are available online should you be interested, as I imagine were the radiological and spectographic departments! Actually it isn't so odd that the more technological side of defence should have had an office here, because of the amount of industry and technology which has always been based in the Midlands. I also particularly love that there is a profession called 'fried fish dealer': how that differs from running a fish and chip shop I am unable to say, but it speaks of a past age of trade. And can there really be such a business as a paper bag maker anymore?
Image credits: and

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

My Bathroom Books Redux

Since I last posted here about the books I keep in my bathroom, I have noticed that the blogosphere tends to promote posts about this sort of thing, so here I am with an updated review of what I am reading while sacrificing to Cloacina.
From left to right, we have a little book about astrology which I haven't opened yet, but since discovering that the Golden Dawn astrological correspondences for the tarot were much more comfortable to my mind than the Tree of Life correspondences, I have set my mind to trying to learn a bit about astrology. You will notice the rather ambivalent way I write about this study. Years ago I learned both Latin and Greek, having multiple goes at both. I just took to Latin like a duck to water, but for some bizarre reason Greek never stuck with me, and I have a feeling that while it will illuminate the tarot further, I feel it will be a system which will not stick with me.
Next is the wonderful Discovering Scarfolk by Richard Littler. His Scarfolk blog is one of the things I keep bookmarked on my phone and check often. The irony is, I find the book actually makes me want to go to Scarfolk. You will notive I have separated it from the Little Book of Birmingham, in case anyone makes comparisons between the two places.
Booth's Handbook of Cocktails and Mixed Drinks (by John Doxat) is the book to which I credit ny discovery that gin is called 'dry gin' on the bottle because it started off life as a sweet drink. Normally one of a sweet tooth, I can't begin to imagine what it must have tasted like. I will happily drink cocktails if I'm out in the sort of places which do them - I like a rusty nail but can chomp on negronis all evening - but would never dream of making them at home. Far too much like hard work. But one has to maintain a certain facade of sophistication so at least knowing about cocktails is de rigeur. That book is also fascinating for the way it talks about making and drinking cocktails as pastimes or hobbies. We are of course looking back to a time when smoking cigarettes was obligatory, but it is interesting how it now comes across as a manual for the alcoholic.
While it is obviously a medical textbook, The Oxford Handbook of Psychiatry is more interesting than most. As a weirdo myself, it appeals because it describes some of the wilder frontiers of human experience and behaviour. I have even been accused of having erotomania myself in the past, but of course that is all rumour. I bought the astronomy book by mistake when I wanted a book about astrology, but it is nonetheless fascinating to dip into.
I have only just been able to have it back in the house, but the next book I want to comment on is The Voice of Tobacce by Richard Craze. It is subtitled as his diary of stopping smoking, and unfortunately he died of smoking-related diseases after it was published. If I were to say that in that case he could have carried on smoking, he would understand that I am not merely being cynical, but listening to my own voice of tobacco. I didn't even realise it had one until I read this book and started listening, and I am delighted to announce that my own voice of tobacco is Fenella Fielding, in the scene in Carry on Screaming when she asks the sergeant if he minds if she smokes. This is the book for me which best portrays the smoker's real relationship with his substance. I roared with laughter as I read it, recognising myself and my father so often in the book. I have only just had it back but am ambivalent about reading it again because I got such a strong craving the other day as I walked poast the tobacconists, and this is six years after stopping smoking. Perhaps you never stop being a smoker once you've started, but that's ok, the relationship with tobacco is something with which nothing else compares.
I have been wanting to read Jacklyn Cock's Maids and Madams - about white madams and domestic servants in Apartheid-era South Africa - for ever. All those nine of Pentacles-type women, who have now had the tables turned on them and live in fear of being burgled, murdered, and what have you. Actually, I'm interested to notice another study of power in amongst those few books - Richard Davenport-Hines's An English Affair, about the Profumo Affair. Well. It's about facades, pretence, and privilege really. I really don't want this blog to sound like a conspiracy theorist's dream, but the Establishment seems always to create this web of privilege and corruption, which is always revealed just after the key players have died. Does nobody else notice this?
Finally the last book is one of the I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue spin-off books. See, I am middle class after all.