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Picture Stories

A few picture stories ‘& essays
Scroll Recent Posts‘ and ‘Categories‘ for more words & pictures combinations.

 

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Andre Agassi

Ode to Andre: An essay, which grew out of a review of Andre Agassi’s Autobiography, ‘Open’.

I first saw Andre Agassi play live at the French Open, in 1987. I was keen on becoming a tennis coach in those days, and I already knew about Andre. So when I saw he was scheduled to play Peruvian Pablo Arraya, I was first on the scene on one of Roland Garros’ outside courts. Another débutante was a tiny ball boy with red hair and a broad batch of freckles. The kid was full of energy and enthusiasm, but he looked nervous. It was a nice touch that Agassi put the youngster at ease and I immediately liked him for his consideration. Continue reading Andre Agassi

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Northern Soul

Dex Drugs and Northern Soul

Looking back on a time of youthful excess, at Wigan Casino and Blackpool Mecca’s Highland Room.

It’s not often I can pinpoint what I was doing on a given date, let alone one from forty years ago. But I have near-perfect recall for the 23rd of September1973, which is the morning Wigan Casino opened its doors for the first of many Northern Soul all-nighters.

I’d arranged a ride in one of a fleet of cars heading on to Wigan from Blackpool Mecca’s Highland Room. But I ended up entwined with a pretty brunette from Burton on Trent, who, midway through the night, asked if I wanted to share her guest house room on Blackpool’s South Shore?
Indeed I did!
I forsook my lift to Wigan Casino’s opening night and spent whatever cash I had on her drinks. Come night’s end, she went to the loo with her friend and when I was the last person left in the Highland Room, it dawned on me that I’d been had-over for a half-dozen lager and blacks: the girls had done a side-shuffle through the alternate exit in the lobby.

At 4 am I was sitting on the steps of a deserted Blackpool Mecca and trying not to think about the good time my mates were having in Wigan. I was considering climbing the walls of the bus depot behind the Mecca and sneaking onto a comparatively warm yellow bus until morning (it wouldn’t have been the first time). But a local drunk wobbled past, on his way home from a lock-in at one of Blackpool’s working men’s clubs.
What’s up, lad? Nowhere to stay?’
I told him about my pretty brunette.
Come on. You can have the settee,’ he beckoned.

Latterly, I would’ve been wary of such an offer. But back then I was a teen schoolie, and I made the spot decision that this bloke was OK. He lived with his Ma in one of the streets off Bloomfield Road, and I sat chewing my face off on the living room settee until his mother got up. Withstanding my protests, she insisted on cooking me a full English fry-up: for reasons I am about to explain, getting it down my throat caused great difficulty, and for years afterwards I couldn’t look an egg in the eye without nausea.

 

Northern Soul Dancer - 'Phet Sweat and Talc
Northern Soul Dancers – ‘Phet Sweat and Talc

 

The elephant in the Northern Soul ballroom has always been amphetamines, often skirted over with a nudge and a wink and dressed up in blurry euphemisms; one such, from Blues and Soul Magazine in the 70’s, stated that ‘there was enough energy at the Torch to light up the whole of Stoke’.

Mmm. The detail omitted was that the energy was provided by amphetamines, manufactured to industry standards by pharmaceutical giants Riker, and Smith, Kline & French, which had been jemmied out of local chemists, or siphoned from your aunt’s bottle of slimming pills. Put plainly, ‘speed’ was as integral to the Northern Soul scene as the vinyl spinning on the decks, and without it there would have been no all-nighters.

Back in the day, my weekend started at the Blue Room at Sale Mecca on a Thursday, then on to Blackpool Mecca on Saturday night, Wigan Casino until Sunday morning, and ended in a twitching, exhausted heap after a Sunday all-dayer like The Ritz in Manchester, which still lives up the road from what was the Hacienda (and I passed it only yesterday).

After leaving school, I’d got a job at a textile mill and on my way to the 6 am early shift on a Monday, I was so delirious through lack of sleep I sometimes thought I was being followed…by my own shadow!

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Laura West, from the town where all the most original Northern Soul dancers originated… 🙂

Continue reading Northern Soul

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Everton Goodison Park

Goodison Park Everton

The brother of a friend tells a good story about Everton’s football ground.

In the days when he worked for a Spanish bank, he decided to take one of the bank’s bigwigs to a European night match against one of the Spanish sides. The fact that it was November 5th and bonfires were raging across the city didn’t raise any alarm bells, until they drove through one of the rougher parts of the city that now resembled a war zone.
Continue reading Everton Goodison Park

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Highbury Stadium Arsenal

Arsenal’s Highbury Stadium on Match Day

Photographically, I have many regrets, especially in relation to those football grounds that have disappeared forever. But I’m super-glad I had the foresight to get to Arsenal’s Highbury Stadium, before it shut its doors to football’s paying public. Continue reading Highbury Stadium Arsenal

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South Beach Miami

Colony Hotel Ocean Drive, South Beach

I think this picture of the Colony Hotel at sunrise is amazing and not just because I shot it (print available here).

South Beach Miami. The Colony Hotel in a sumptuous light
South Beach Miami. The Colony Hotel in a sumptuous light

I’ve been many times to shoot pictures at the tennis tournament on Key Biscayne, just south of Miami, though I always ended up in some cheap and tatty dive on Collins Avenue or Indian Creek. Continue reading South Beach Miami

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Es Vedra

Es Vedra, Ibiza

The rock of Es Vedra, on Ibiza’s Cala d’Hort, was the body double for the Island of Bali Hai in the movie South Pacific and – amongst many other walk-on parts – it featured on the cover of Mike Oldfield’s Voyager album (not his best work). In fact, the house with the very impressive view of this Mesozoic slab was owned by Oldfield (and latterly by one of the well-known musical Manc brothers in sky blue shirts…allegedly). Continue reading Es Vedra

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Salamanca

A while ago I had an idea for a (grown-up) younger person’s novel, about the ghost of a Priest from the Spanish Inquisition, who – for his sins – had been condemned to tread unnoticed amongst buildings from his own time, until one day he meets….(hey, the idea’s too good to share).
But where to set it?
A trawl through my stack of guide books suggested Salamanca. Continue reading Salamanca

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Hacienda Manchester

I have no recollection whatsoever of these picture (other than I was going through a phase of colouring my flash with blue filters!), though I have the feeling I’d been shooting pictures somewhere else beforehand and managed to get my cameras past the doormen (maybe with one of G.L.’s many forged VIP passes!). Continue reading Hacienda Manchester

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Clitheroe

Clitheroe, Lancashire
Clitheroe, Lancashire

Like much of the Ribble Valley and Lancashire, the weakness of under-funded tourism-cum-marketing is also its endearing strength. There are some wonderful places to see and things to do around these parts. But happily for those of us who avoid the crowds, comparatively few folk know about them: if it thrives, it does so because of locals and surrounding villages, though the train brings in a good number of walkers. Continue reading Clitheroe

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Manchester Cathedral: Ten to Seven

mancheste_2_CATHEDRAL
‘Ten to Seven’. Manchester Cathedral made more complete, by amazing light and an unsuspecting understudy.

In an ideal world (for photographers), people would look at an image and appreciate only the juggling of the various elements that make that hallowed image. Continue reading Manchester Cathedral: Ten to Seven

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Gabriela Sabatini

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Gabriela Sabatini, pictured contra jour in Miami.

On the main stadium courts at tennis tournaments, everything is staged and everyone is clambering for the same shots (and these days independent photographers would struggle to even get a credential… agencies are the new cartels). Continue reading Gabriela Sabatini

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John Rylands Library

John Rylands Library Deansgate.
John Rylands Library Deansgate.

The John Rylands Library, on Manchester’s Deansgate, has never seen as many Tories as it does in the film about Winston Churchill, Darkest Hour.  Apart from the Historic Reading room, the original men’s toilets is also made good use of, where Neville Chamberlain defies library rules by using the loo to take his morphine. Continue reading John Rylands Library

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Downham

Downham.
Downham.

There’s a subtle perfection about Downham, and throughout the stunning May of 2018 I’ve intended merely to pass through (on my way to Bolton-by-Bowland or the Trough), only to get hijacked by seasonal subtleties of light and texture that won’t let me go until I’ve done it some kind of justice. Continue reading Downham

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Goya

Francisco de Goya

I’m tempted to state that anyone even remotely inclined towards artistic expression will know the pain of compromise, particularly if working with (and in) the media or on commercial commissions.
But this is perhaps less true now than it ever was, and here are two of the reasons why: Continue reading Goya

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Doctor Jack & Calcutta Rescue

Doctor Jack Preger and  Calcutta Rescue remembered.

Doctor Jack Preger has a slightly twisted sense of humour and I hadn’t been in Calcutta long before I was on the receiving end. Driving through the city in what was then a twenty six year old Jeep (and for all I know, Jack’s original four-wheeler is still on the road over two decades later), Jack kept pointing out the signage on Calcutta shop fronts for me to photograph, asking if I’d later send them to his favourite satirical organ, Private Eye: ‘Big Belly Bras’ is one shop sign etched in my memory. Continue reading Doctor Jack & Calcutta Rescue

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Missionaries of Charity Calcutta

Shishu Bhavan and Mother House in Calcutta / Kolkata remembered

Like many others, it was Malcolm Muggeridge’s book about Mother Teresa, Something Beautiful for God, that inspired the first of my two visits to Calcutta, and on the first visit I booked a flight to Delhi because it was a cheaper option than flying direct. Continue reading Missionaries of Charity Calcutta

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Jimmy Connors

I thought tennis was a game for pampered wimps, until the day I saw Jimmy Connors play, on a school trip to a local tennis tournament. With a mile-high chip on his shoulder, and groundstrokes to thump the opposition with, Jimbo left an indelible impression on my cocky, working class sensibilities and pretty much changed the direction of my life. Continue reading Jimmy Connors

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Mary Joe Fernandez

Not long after the first Gulf War, I got to sit down and record an interview with Mary Joe Fernandez, who was about 3 years into a pro career. If I’m being honest, I am not the world’s best interviewer. For starters, I can have a lot to say and I’m not shy when it comes to voicing an opinion. I’m therefore better suited to those willing to swap a few jokes, as well as have a hot discussion: coaxing publicity handouts from pampered egos, which is what most ‘interviews’ have become, is just not me. Continue reading Mary Joe Fernandez

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Yorkshire Travel Guide

Ten of the best things to do and see, in Yorkshire and the Dales. This is just the beginning of a list of worthwhile places to visit in Yorkshire and The Dales … Continue reading Yorkshire Travel Guide