I saw an Oxford pudding yesterday. It made me realise just how many foodstuffs there are in the UK that bear a town’s name (not just a county) in their name. Obviously cheese is the most common contender - although I have read somewhere that Stilton is not where Stilton Cheese is produced but rather where it is distributed from…
- Manchester Tart
- Eccles Cake
- Chorley Cake
- Bakewell Tart
- Bakewell Pudding
- Oxford Pudding
- Manchester Sausages
- Everton Mints
- Kendall Mint Cakes
- Pontefract Cakes
- Barnsley Chop
- Eton Mess (I love this one for the fact that it is either named after a very specific location or it is perhaps a visual description of the dessert)
- Newcastle Brown Ale (there are probably lots of location beers really)
- Banbury cakes
I am guessing there are others that I can’t think of right now.
Other places are quite closely associated with a product - like Bury Black Puddings - but obviously not all black puddings are Bury ones and I am not sure that there is any too different between Bury and other black puddings. That is possibly a quite scary question. Of course, Scouse is now the nickname for Liverpudlians so it is possibly an example of the reverse situation. A group of people named after a local food product.
The interesting fact about these location foods is that so many of them appear to be luxuries in that location. Manchester Tart contains custard, coconut and a cherry - not that special but I suspect that coconut (if none of the other ingredients) was in fairly short supply in Manchester until recently. Similarly, I suspect the currants in Eccles Cakes were pretty rare in the late 18th Century in Eccles (or if they were available they would have been expensive). Same too, the almonds in Bakewell Puddings - which tend to be associated with the luxury of marzipan - would have been expensive in the 19th Century if not completely impossible to obtain. Even the Barnsley Chop is ‘different’ simply because it is so much bigger than a conventional chop - hallmarking it as something reserved for special events or celebrations.
Does the names of these foodstuffs offer something of a hint to the social conditions in these respective locations one or two hundred years ago?
I saw a data destruction van racing somewhere today. It claimed to offer on-site secure destruction of sensitive data - I had no reason to suspect that their claims were false. But this did prompt me to think about the fine line between data destruction and data preservation.
As companies rush to destroy old hard drives, various records and out-of-date data there is equally the desire to curate and maintain older digital materials in a museological sense. This really did make me wonder - what is destroyed when data is destroyed? If there is a ‘newer’ record does this new record capture the entirety of what was on the previous record? Does it capture it with the same degree of fidelity, does it perpetuate the same mistakes that may have cropped up in a previous iteration? (as is often the case with births, deaths and marriages records).
This is reminescent of the anthropologist’s dilemma - what to record when you are in the field. What should be recorded in some way and at what point is it simply pendantry? What should be recorded in complete detail and what should be simply summarised?
It may actually be a human tendency but the worry is that the likelihood is to descend to the lowest common denominator. Records are simplify, cleansed and edited. At the same time the need to ensure and maintain data privacy has to protected.
Like the UK census I think the 100 year rule provides useful guidance - what would you like your (yet to be born) descendant want to know about you in 100 years? Your browser history? Your credit history? Your electricity supplier? Equally, what would you like to know about your ancestors from 100 years ago - their financial circumstances? Definitely where they lived? The papers they used to subscribe to?
Somewhere in between perhaps?
I have been trying to unpick some word meanings; specifically ‘pikey’ and ‘chav’. I suppose it is partly inspired by the ‘racist voyeurism’ of “My Fat Gypsy Wedding” and the recent statement by Craig Revel Horwood. “Pikey” seems to get used a lot as a throwaway term of insult in the UK. What confused me (with the advantages of an Australian education) was that being a “piker” is simply someone who doesn’t want to take part, they are ‘piking’ if they sit out. I suspect the usage in Australia is borrowed from the UK (without the same apparent direct connection to the Romany and Irish Traveller communities). But then, similarly, the usage of “Paddy Wagons” in Australia is used without any direct reference to the Irish community.
So if “pikey” is a derogatory term used for the Romany Gypsy and Irish Traveller community where did it come from. From what I can work out (including a trip over to wikipedia) it comes from the connection of the mobility of these communities with the emerging turnpike system in England over the 18th and 19th Centuries. Given that the work “pike” seems to mean fast and “piking” seems to mean to move quickly (which would suggest a sensible connection to the fish called a pike too - always look for the neat solution!). So a turnpike would imply a fast road that you pay a toll to travel along… I think I can see where the reference to travelling communities might come from. The odd thing is that travelling on the turnpikes originally would have required money and presumably implied prestige to some degree. So I suspect ‘pikey’ and ‘turnpike’ share a common root word rather than ‘pikey’ coming directly from ‘turnpike’.
Rather by accident I also came across the Geordie dictionary hosted at Leicester University. The puzzle was how ‘chav’ and ‘pikey’ have come to be used interchangeably. According to the dictionary ‘chavva’ is ‘possibly’ a word derived from the Romany word for ‘friend’. If ‘chav’ is equally derived from this Romany word then this is a somewhat unusual derivation.
Effectively a term of insult that is used (overused) in colloquial English is a borrow word from another language where it is a term of positive association.
I’ve just been digging through my bookmarks. The Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co looks promising and offers a range of useful (maybe) products.
I’m not entirely sure what you would do with Sasquatch Mucous. Possibly to attract (or maybe repel) Sasquatches?
I’m surprised that there isn’t an Acme store as well somewhere - those roadrunners are not going to catch themselves.
It turns out that there is a backstory. The Superhero Supply Co is a cunning front(?!) for a creative writing workshop and space while being a clever and subtle comment on consumerism.
This is a plea/rant that has been brewing for quite a while. I travel a lot by foot; either walking or running. I commute to work by work and most of my weekends are spent walking around on foot. Inevitably that means I have to cross roads. That seems to be where the problems begin.
I’m not asking for the automatic right of way of pedestrians over cars on the road. Roads are basically built for cars and that does not look it is going to change any time soon. Equally, insisting on over a tonne of metal stopping in preference to sub 100kg of flesh seems to be destined for problems.
But why do the drivers of cars (and other vehicles) think that if there are no other cars in sight then signalling somehow becomes optional? Why is there a general attitude that turning left (in the UK, Australia, etc) makes signalling an optional ostentatious flourish rather than an equally important safety consideration? And why do drivers think that if they are already committed to a turn they cannot stop even if it means hitting a pedestrian?
The scenario is simple. I come to an intersection and ‘hope’ to cross the road, the road is clear except for one car oncoming from straight ahead. I start to cross the road as the car is not indicating - then I have to stop crossing because suddenly the car turns left (and even worse the car decides to indicate at the very last moment - what is the point?). I have been in this situation on many occasions with the driver in some cases looking at me directly while they do the turn - as if I’m the person who has committed the indignity.
I am not innocent in this - sometimes when I am running it would be preferable to continue running across the intersection. I don’t have indicators and drivers cannot read my mind (at least I hope not) but the drivers do have indicators and I am more than happy to stop and give them right of way if I know they intend to cut across my line of travel. Unfortunately not all crossings are controlled by pedestrian signals leaving the pedestrian themselves to guess the sequence of lights and ‘risk it’.
Ultimately if drivers recognised the need to indicating when pedestrians are visible on the roadside (in other words always indicate except perhaps on the remotest of country lanes and in that case why make the exception) things would work. The problem is that drivers only believe that other drivers are worth acknowledging (presumably because the operators of other vehicles are the only people who can hurt the driver).
I spotted a jigsaw puzzle for New York a few weeks ago on a US games/puzzle site. And yesterday I spotted a similar one for London. The big difference is that these puzzle claim to incorporate a fourth dimension - i.e. time. The concept is actually quite simple. You build up a three dimensional representation of the city (New York or London) but instead of starting from the straight edges and working your way in you build up the puzzle along the timeline of the city’s actual development. So the oldest buildings appear or are placed on the flat base of the city first. This is an interesting concept because it brings so much more to the act of completing a puzzle. By placing the 3D shapes onto the city in order you are capturing the development of the city, understanding the spatial relationship of the individual buildings to one another and recognising the changing shape of architectural form over time. For both of these cities obviously we are also talking about key tourism destinations so potentially building the puzzle helps to actually navigate the cities (as a tourism) (it was only in December I recognised the relationship of Harley St, Madame Tussads and Baker St - admittedly not something you normally ponder but it helped to find the hotel).
As an added bonus for the London puzzle the streets also glows in the dark - not sure why, but if you can why not…
Almost by accident today I came across a second attempt at representing the changes in a city over time in a 3D and interactive way. The popville pop-up book uses the tradition of book pop-up design to show the changing shape and pattern of a city over time. Each spread is a new moment in the development of the city. The tangible and interactive (in that pre-haptic technology way) nature of pop-ups makes the cityscape feel tangible but it also helps to highlight relationships (of relative size for example) that could not easily be done on the flat page.
Both of these products are good examples of education by stealth - if someone is going to ‘get into’ this they are really going to be engaged and will probably learn far more (in a very specific way) than the equivalent printed words. But aside from any pedagogic merit these have an intricacy, detail, and a touchability that are not always found in everyday products…At $11 for the popville book, just over £20 for the London puzzle and about £25 for New York (the UK price) it can’t be too hard to work these features in elsewhere…
I visited Blackburn today. After nine years living in the UK I thought I was probably tough enough. The family with three persistent and overly needy sub-5 year old children on the train probably should have constituted a warning. Even more worryingly, at the station after the family had piled out of the train they immediately walked over to the platform for the return train back to Manchester - perhaps they knew something I didn’t. I privately suspect that they had confused Blackburn with Blackpool (obviously only in name because we were obviously not at the seaside).
I have been fascinated with Lancashire towns ever since I first came to the UK. There is just ‘something’ different about these towns. There is a proud working history that is generally thoroughly documented in the local museum and art gallery. Some of the bolder presentations also document the subsequent decline of the manufacturing industry (usually cotton but there are some variations). This is a big part of the issue. Towns like Blackburn are so visibly depressed (and probably depressing) it is tempting to believe that it is simply the lack of manufacturing that makes them so. This does clearly contributes to unemployment and the lack of opportunities but after today I am beginning to think there is a more subtle level to what makes Lancashire towns special.
Travelling by train to a town is an eye-opener. This is the Victorian and Edwardian view of the town - you have side-stepped the suburbs and housing estates that have developed more recently to be dropped into what was the edge of the 19th Century town. I don’t tend to travel with a map (and avoid using Google maps on my phone) so upon leaving the train station I like to ‘go with the flow’. This is almost inevitably takes you past the 1970s bus station - the epitomy of travel intergration - and from there to the 1960s-ish market hall. Blackburn turns out to be no different. There is clearly a reason for this. Before the trains arrived the traditional market place would have represented the centre of commercial activity and for the majority of towns the granting of a license to hold a market is a key hallmark in their development. Of course, the market hall is not now usually a source of civic pride. The architecture and concrete of the 1960s or 1970s have not aged well and the empty stalls tend to add to the rather dilapidated look. I don’t really have proof but I suspect that when they were first built every town raced (competed even) to provide a large covered space in the traditional centre of the town. But times move on and few separate market halls have survived (as healthy viable venues for commerce) this rather brief space of time (in contrast to the original grant of the market). I am not trying to be nostalgic for some sort of imagined idyllic working class paradise - things were pretty grim in the 19th Century and in different ways through the 1960s and 1970s.
Blackburn’s tourist information centre was probably the second warning that I was not in a prime holiday destination. Too many of the souvenirs were Union Jack themed (rather than anything more specific), the information about Darwen (Blackburn’s near neighbour) made it look more interesting than Blackburn itself and the majority of flyers and brochures were either for Blackpool or Manchester. It was also housed in the market hall - itself not exactly a highlight feature of the town.
The more or less thorough abandonment by shoppers of the markets halls for the shiny new ‘mall’ has shifted the traditional town centre and just adds to the sense of urban despair. In so many ways the malls that replace the halls are more reinterpretations that are so much more bereft of character. Blackburn’s mall is very new, shiny and light - of course. It is also stamped from such generic cloth that the same logo and branding is applied to similar malls across the UK without irony and with no distinguishing local features except for the name of the local newspaper. The change is significant because the market halls would have formerley contained local produce and goods. But the efficiencies of national distribution networks and consumer desire for global brand names make the collective marketplace offerings unappealing. For Blackburn this shift to mediocrity is accompanied by the planned redevelopment of the old market hall and the removal of the market traders to the basement of the mall. Yet this shift itself may similarly be time limited. Increasingly ‘green’ awareness and a renewed interest in local brands could make national and global brands less attractive - and with them the business models of Next, Primark, etc. Even the model employed by charity shops - local donations returned to sale locally - may offer wider promise than they are usually credited - isn’t Oxfam the largest UK book retailer?
Of course, for those of us who utilise public transport such as trains we can avoid those extreme points of despair for UK urban centres; the retail parks perched on the cheap land on the edge of the towns. So many of these sites are so hostile to pedestrian traffic that actually walking to the shops requires braving the access road itself as no footpaths are provided. For cities like Manchester, even a retail park the scale of Trafford Centre is never going to detract from the town centre but anywhere smaller reinforces the perception (and perhaps some of the reality) of scary and dangerous inner city streets.
The decline of the town and city centres of Lancashire cannot just be tied to the decline in manufacturing. It also feels like lazy town planning, councils too readily succumbing to commercial interests rather than considering any overall civic needs. I would also speculate that the same competitive nature that appears to have seen the proliferation of market halls 50 years ago has also driven the race to adopt the ‘mall’ model coupled perhaps with a lack of pride in the local and declining market space itself.
There are glimmers of some sort of hope in Blackburn… there are a couple of shops at the top of King William Street (the main pedestrianised street) that are offered as spaces for youth(?) to showcase their work. You could sense that this is perhaps a token gesture. The fact that this also appears to be where the teens ‘hang out’ may have also contributed to the positioning. It is also somewhat depressing to discover that the old Cotton Exchange that backs onto this shop was never completed because of a collapse in cotton prices (100 years ago).
Having taken in the delights of Blackburn and heading back to the train station at about 5.30 it was disconcerting to find that the next Manchester train was an hour away. This, of course, led to another discovery. If you are a teenager in Blackburn the train station subway is a really cool place to hang out on a early Saturday evening.
Still the Cathedral’s lights look good after sunset.