Water dissolving and water removing…

Linked articles from the BBC and PLOS ONE science journal bring interesting tales from beneath the ice at Lake Vostok, Antarctica.

Which suggested a Neil Young tune:

Of course, these seemingly disparate, obscure materials could be precursors to the discovery of chilling cyclopean statues detailing nameless forms from beyond geometry…

…but let’s just go back to that ice for a second… perhaps some tonic… mmmm.

Station ident: Tuesday 9th July 2013. The Mortal Bath is liking it hot, sunny and quiet in York. May your day be merry and bright.

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Glorious summer sun in York, about 10.30am, as I arrived for day two of the book sale at St Edward the Confessor Church in Dringhouses.

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Regular readers of The Mortal Bath will have an idea of the extent of my bibliophilia, but to those dipping their toe in the waters here for the first time, my book lustings are extensive and entirely incorrigible. Nothing sets my nostrils twitching like a second hand book sale, and if you throw in a bit of church architecture as well… you had me at ‘book sale in a church’.

It_begins

St Edward’s is a building I have passed often enough but never made time to pop into as I’ve toiled along Tadcaster Road on cycle or in car. Taddy Road, the A1036, is not really conducive to passing trade. Often absurdly busy at rush hour, it turns into the A64 (river of death) shortly after the Askham Bar park and ride, which abuts one of York’s growing number of superTescos…

Yet there is a fair bit of green belt/garden suburb here as well. A lot of leafy and pleasant (Valley Sunday) residential streets vein off the slightly furred arterial road. Those on the south side, by St Edward’s, back on to the Knavesmire, York’s racecourse. Away from the main thoroughfare it is a delovely locale for a walk or jog, and there are cycle routes around and about the place, leading to Fulford, Bishopthorpe, Selby. And, to counter my passing trade mumbles, there is a Co-Op, a petrol station (both massively undercut by Tesco, of course) and two pubs here that seem to do quite well, in particular The Fox and Roman, for ale and food. I cannot speak for the The Cross Keys as I’ve not been in, but it is currently being refurbished.

The pubs form a triangle with St Edward’s, framing the junction of the A1036 and St Helen’s Road. The Church was built in 1850, all in one go, unusually, and under the watchful gaze of Frances Barlow, local dignitary and recent widow to Edward, one of the church’s namesakes. She then got remarried in 1851, which seems to be a sensible approach to the grieving process.

The building has been extended in more recent times, with an extra aisle space screened with a movable partition, for meetings, societies, band practices and so on. Apart from the primary school a short step up the road, Helen the book sale organiser told me, it is pretty much the only community resource in Dringhouses – not vending ale or BOGOFs, of course.

Today’s book sale was not in aid of the worthy cause church fund, however, but the worthy cause Feed the minds, a charity aimed at promoting education and literacy. I did say you had me at ‘book sale in a church’.

Feed_the_minds_banner

My intention had been to bike to the book sale across Hob Moor and along one of the aforementioned cycle paths, but I got me bike out to discover an aggravating slow puncture. With such a lack of compunction it pains me, I drove across town, radio tootling Classic FM to amp up the ponce factor, and parked outside the church, thereby adding to the furring and, book fever’d, giving not two shites about it.

Hey, the roads are quiet at that time. And look! Books! In a church!

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Entering the cool of the building, I spent a few minutes getting some snaps before settling down to the serious business of splurging my daughter’s inheritance on inessential tomes.

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St_Edwards_book_sale_2

Purty! Being the second day, there was a feeling that one might have missed a few bargainous volumes, although I imagine that Saturday will see some new leaves turn up. There was a good selection of paperbacks. I was strictly budgeting, however, and I forced myself to forgo some Will Selfs with scarcely a whimper.

The pricing system was colour coded stickers, as seen on the large sign at the door, reproduced in miniature on pretty much every table, handily, for every time I looked up trying to keep a running total of the teetering pile in hand.

price_list

The books were mostly yellow stickers, or the ones I picked were, anyway.

The_haul

Complete works of Saki, and a selection of pre-Shakespeare English plays (‘Ralph Roister-Doister’ ‘Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay’ &c) are the two hardbacks in the middle. Third title down is heading for J.C. Greenway at ten minutes hate, to make up for a previous second hand literature event, from which she enjoyed a complete absence of any booky goodness.

Any road up, as no one says here: Feed the Minds benefited to a moderate extent, and I had an edifying chat with the volunteers staffing the cash tubs, about books, buildings, bikes and balmy weather. Then it was out in the sun to tootle home, via a brief stop to procure a puncture repair kit in Tesco. Very well, I am a critical mass of contradictions. Blame it on the book fever.

The ‘Feed the Minds’ book sale continues at St Edward’s on Saturday 8th, and throughout the summer in York.
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May the days be as glorious, sunny and packed with reading as today.

To my considerable delight, a day off just coincided with a giant book sale beginning at York Library Explore.

We got there just after 11.00am and it was rammed with browsing bibliophiles, many heaping teetering piles of tomes into cardboard boxes. Librarians with belted satchels marshalled a brisk trade. What we might have missed, I groaned inwardly, although without much vehemence. There were still some great volumes on offer.

One shelf unit catching a number of bargain hunters’ eyes held an extensive collection of Loeb Classical Library editions of your big name Greeks and Latins, at an astonishing 50p each. I started chatting in a jocular manner with one guy about needing some sort of wheelbarrow, and we both had a mutter about the mark-up applied by second-hand booksellers to items in the same condition. The jocularity was partly a function of me having mistaken his ‘mine’ pile for still-available books, eagerly snatching the Juvenal out of it. He saw my crestfallen expression and offered me a choice if there was anything I really particularly wanted, magnanimously, which I wasn’t about to start disputing. He staggered off eventually with as much of a cheery wave as he could manage under the weight of 14 volumes of Livy plus the same again of assorted others.

I managed to restrain myself to the Juvenal and another of my favourite dirty dog Latins, Petronius, plus an Herodotus:

Booksale-sofa

…and an entertaining history of the British beat pop groups of 1962-67, which I was tickled to pick up having spent the morning reading about Robbie Williams’ intemperate musings on the Britpop beat-ish groups of 1990-1999. Ride indeed, Williams, you fanny. The set is made up with two “Oh, looky here!” last-minute Huxley spots. I do like a bit of Aldous…

An appealing little selection, I am sure you will concede. £4.00 the lot – you can’t say fairer than that.

I am a bit sad that no room in the library can be made to keep the books, when it is clear there is plenty of room for a cafe selling giant milky coffees and burning cheese toasties, but, yeah, at least it’s still open. Many localities are not so fortunate.

Here’s the York Library bookplate from the front of the Juvenal:

Ex-libris-booksale-flyleaf

…which is kind of completely sexy.

The Giant Booksale continues Saturday and Sunday, finishing on Monday 25th.

This morning I read with interest that today, 7th March 2013, is World Book Day in the UK and Ireland. This is a quaintly Britannic bit of individualism at odds with the rest of the World, who will be found Celebrating The Tome on 23rd April – Shakespeare’s deathday and Cervantes’ birthday. Anyway, here’s a bookish piece in celebration.

Last week I had a day off, and spent some of the afternoon reacquainting myself with the booksellers of York. I was looking for some volumes (copies of Paradise Lost, War Music and All My Sons) to help with a teaching placement what I’m doing, but really it was just an excuse to go and run my fingers along the spines.

It’s pleasing to see bookshops still functioning as the economic climate continues to be wintry. I was pulled up short in mid-march by the now defunct Army and Navy Stores at the top end of Fossgate, standing in need of attention and likely to get it only from international coffee vendors or bookmakers… or it’ll become one of York’s many gift shops selling extraneous London tat to geographically-confused tourists, such as those littering the Shambles.

Fortunately, the book vendors in our city remain in rude health. At the first stop, I picked up this leaflet with a map showing the booksellers of York:

The other side has notes and contact details for each shop. The design was by Amy McKay in 2012. The watercolour cover illustration, by Ron Wilson, appears to be a view of the public toilets at Bootham Bar.

That first stop was Ken Spelman Books. Ken Spelman has a nicely creaking feel and polished old wood – and his shop is delightfully appointed as well, boom boom. Antiquarian and modern volumes jostle on the shelves. Lots of quality fine arts and ephemera. The leaflet claims they have four floors, which is intriguing: a vertiginous – and pram-thwarting – staircase to an upper floor and more books, and a slight ramp into the downstairs back section only gives them three, if I squint a bit, as far as I can see. I shall ask next time I’m in.

Ken Spelman was followed by Oxfam, on Micklegate. Oxfam, about which I have kvetched previously regarding its pricing, does still have a pretty good stock, including a bookcase of classic orange Penguins (“I am Klassic Oranj”) and a leafable discarded comic section. Well-stocked as they were, they were yet unable to furnish me with that which I sought, so, onwards.

universus-alex-woodsWaterstones came next. Miller and Milton were in evidence, but no Logue. I did, however, get The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence, which had presented itself to me twice previously and would not be denied thrice. I know nothing of the author, but the bits I browsed tickled me Extencively. I shall provide a review when I have read the rest.

I ended up on Fossgate. Realising I was in a rush slightly, the clocks striking 17, I was going to hurry straight on up to Stone Trough Books on Walmgate, but I was stopped in mid-step by the clean lines and delicious looking volumes of Lucius Books, right next door to Fossgate Books. They are a new, to me, emporium, although they told me they have just moved down the road a few doors. The store looks spanky and clean and heartbreakingly chockful of delucius-looking books. Selling mostly modern first editions, many of them signed, it’s the sort of place one might easily spunk one’s family’s inheritance in an orgy of shame-faced indulgence. A slim, hard-to-get hardback volume of B.S. Johnson’s poetry for £250, that sort of thing. Inscribed James Bonds, Aldous Huxleys, delicious kids’ lit – see, the infants have not been forgotten. Resorting to my usual technique, I took a Get Out of Shop card from the proprietor, muttering something about coming back when I’d remortgaged the house, which, as it would mean first getting a mortgage, means 12th Never. Or 11th March, whichever’s nearest.

I stuck my head in the door and had a quick natter with the proprietor at Fossgate Books. We circled round a few titles, including a BS Johnson book, the title of which I failed to remember. He knew the one I meant, though, the one published in a box with no binding so the reader can put it together their own way, which I had seen in a shop in West London for £75 about five years ago. He said he had a cheaper copy in the stock room he could look out, which gave me an excuse to return after a quick trip up Walmgate.

Stone Trough Books has a front door with an traditional shoppe bell that clangs loudly just above ear level on entry, presumably to disorient potential thieves and alert the owner, who is to be found upstairs. It looks like a house that has over the years become a shop. The front room downstairs sets the scene. It is like walking into someone’s home moments after a massive box of books has exploded in the lounge. Ace. However, despite moving a series of piles of books to get at other piles of books, we were unable to find any of my literary requisites. Prop. was particularly miffed about the Logue not being in evidence, as he had worked on a bibliography for him at one point and ‘had a couple back at home…’ Fortunately, in the front room I had seen there was a copy of Areopagitica and other writings in a nice little hardback Everyman version. I was so taken by the fact that it used to belong to the Eastern Command Education Library, I was unable to prevent myself spending £2 on it.

Back up to Fossgate Books, then, where I peeked through a much-better-value-than-£75 (but-not-so-much-that-I-could-justify-buying-it) reprinted version of The Unfortunates – “THAT was it!” – and where I went for a copy of Paradise Lost, an illustrated one with Philip Pullman introductions. Virtually brand new too, although someone had got as far as starting to annotate the first 11 lines, writing OREB, SINAI, SION and SILOA in v e r y heavy lettering:

Seriously, though, that SILOA is on the next page! It looks like they were using a heated lance… but it was in otherwise pretty good (old) nick.

I got All My Sons at Waterstones on the way back through town. War Music remains to be ordered. It was a moderate success as a shopping expedition, then, and a soothing reminder of why I love yer actual texts-in-books. There’s something about the gravity or the waveform, or something, of books. It is a particular niche – tomes flogged by foxed but still slightly desirable vendors – yet it continues to be one in which I am happy to place pennies.

So, hurrah! for books. And hurrah for World Book Day, whenever you have it.

While loath to send traffic towards the Daily Mail’s website – as if the Keyword Kings of Northcliffe House need the help – this article about “vintage” record bags was forwarded to me. It is worth a look, if you can bring yourself. I tried to find a tumblr account with similar images, but couldn’t, sorry.

Alors, it stirred some interesting thoughts about records. Actually, the first thing it made me do was turn around and look at this on the wall behind me:

Satisfaction guaranteed in Gothenburg

That’s a carrier bag from Satisfaction, which was a second-hand record emporium in Gothenburg, Sweden. The bag-in-frame is situated above my record collection, illustrating a decorative taste for the obvious that can be seen also on the other side of the room, where I have a bag from Gosh! comics, London, above the comics shelves.

So, bags. The Daily Heil article of course touches on the seeming demise of record shops over the last 10 years, as new means for the mass production and distribution of pop music are embraced. Regular readers of The Mortal Bath may recognise a theme relating to hard copies, in particular the superiority of vinyl/CD/cassette over many aspects of e-music, for want of a better all-encompassing term. I’ll not grumble too much about it: there’s a lot to commend the digital age, but a lot of ways in which It Just Ain’t The Same.

It doesn’t take much to make men of a certain age and demographic wax prolix and nostalgic about stuff in any case (or sleeve). I remember the colours of the WHSmiths bag shown in the article. The first single I remember buying myself came home in a WHSmiths bag just like it. I’d like to say it was one of the Adam and The Ants’ records, but I’m pretty certain it was Brown Sauce’s ‘I wanna be a winner’.

Written by B.A. Robertson (my childhood’s second-favourite B.A.) Brown Sauce was loveable Cheggers, the lovely Maggie Philbin, and N**l Ed****S, off Swap Shop. I think it safe to venture that my purchase proves the diabolic power of TV on impressionable young minds.

Smiths is probably not on many people’s list of go-to places for records now, although they do still stock a Top 40, I think. Further mental baggage includes leaving Our Price, Harrogate, with carriers containing They Might Be Giants (Lincoln on vinyl, an absurd £1.99 in the sale and one of the best spends ever)… singles by The Wedding Present (most of The Hit Parade as it came out) and Manic Street Preachers’s Motown Junk, which I heard on Steve Lamacq’s Evening Session and was totally smitten with, HAD to have it, one of the rare occasions I have actually gone out the next day to buy a record I heard on the radio.

Our Price has closed too, along with pretty much every other record shop in Harrogate. I understand the relatively-recently-arrived HMV is still holding on by the skin of its teeth, although it’s probably only a matter of time before it and all its brethren and sistren are turned into earphones-and-mobile-phone-skins shops by the new owners. Mutter, bah, grumble.

I visited Satisfaction when holidaying in Sverige with pals. Ah, happy memories. The record in the bag was some version or other of Rarities Volume 1 by The Who.

I could have spent about 10m Kronor in there, but I only had 70 SEK spending monies spare. Discovering little troves like that and making a small deposit (“A MONETARY deposit!”) are part of the glory of wandering about in the real world, perhaps an increasingly rare experience in many places. Finding record shops, I mean. Discovering just now via the magic of the webs that Satisfaction has closed down, with the magic of the webs a possible contributing factor, gives me all sorts of contradictory feelings. Much like the Brown Sauce record, in fact.

Yet there are pockets of resistance to this march towards the Musical Singularity. Local-to-me shops in York, UK, such as the excellent Inkwell and Rebound Records (both on Gillygate) or Attic Records (near the market), to name the three I can think of right now, are troves similar in ethos and layout to Satisfaction. As I mentioned in a previous post about jukeboxes, charity shops here remain quite reliable sources for yer vinyl fix, although often they have fallen prey to using Record Collector to price their Fair or Good Copies at Near Mint prices. Hiss, crackle!

When I go a-browsing I tend mostly to have my own bag with me these days, but if I find a shop en passant that has an appealing design on their carrier, it might well end up decorating a wall. And you can’t do that with a zipped folder, kids.

The Kindness of Trees blog has been running an excellent series of cycle-related pieces. There is something really reassuring in the descriptions of bespoke(d) equipment, provenance, history.

Cycling culture, on or off road, is not something of which I have any detailed knowledge. Not the serious ‘as a sport’ aspects, I mean. I’m aware of its importance to millions of people, and I love the abstractions, the sort of chivalric mix of romance and cynicism exemplified by the Tour de France, for example. In 2012 I was diverted by the attention lavished on BBC Sports Personality of the Year and knight-in-waiting national hero Bradley Wiggins. As “Le Gentleman” winner of Le Tour, and Olympic gold, it was a very sunny period for him. With the Mod stylings added in, he can be seen perhaps as an avatar of enthusiasm for retro-styled, oily-handed, but sharp, honesty.

Perhaps. In yet another sport that is tainted by commercial interests, he represents a need for oily-handed honesty, at least. Doing it because it’s it, sort of thing.

So: Two Wheels Good. I’ve loved whizzing about on a bike since as long as I can remember. I got a National Cycling Proficiency Certificate in 1985 and since this legitimation have only looked back over my shoulder to check the oncoming traffic when turning. As mentioned in a previous blog, apparently written by a persona more willing to indulge the semi-colon:

I can’t not cycle, it’s a joyful thing.

I think my true love of cycling comes from very early bezzing about, freewheeling, pretending to be on hover bikes, finding shortcuts to adventures, all the way through to the days of whizzing past traffic in various cities throughout the UK. Working to facilitate the commute. Locomotion for fun.

This winter has been very grey and wet in Yorkshire, one of a number of easy reasons to let my bike sit in the shed waiting for me to go and play. The few times I have ventured out, the winds have been unfavourable and my wrist/shoulder discomfort pronounced. Old man, take a look at yourself. So, part-inspired by The Kindness of Trees, I have shaken off this torpor and am dedicating January to reinvigorating my love of the bike.

With all this in mind, when asked for ‘ideas for Santa’s elves’ (by my mum), what I really wanted were some bar ends. I received with gratitude a pair of Specialized Targa contour grip combis:
bar-ends-in-place

This weekend I made time to fit them. That’s them in situ on the bike. There is nothing like a shiny new piece of equipment to help you feel like you’re devoting attention to something. Yet in fitting them I realised how little attention I devote to this ‘truly central’ bit of kit (see Bruce Sterling on ‘truly central’ bits of kit). Here’s the rest of my bike:
bike

It’s a Ridgeback Cyclone. It was bought under the criteria of cost and being able to withstand the rigours of London commuting. I like the lightness, the robustness and the speed. It serves me very well. But, but, looking at it through the camera lens, I was struck by what an ill-treated mongrel it is. Witness this manufacturing mash-up:
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That’s actually four different logos visible, I forgot to include the new bar ends. And fair dos, Shimano gears are fairly ubiquitous. The handlebar, however – I’m struggling to identify the brand – was a budget-ish replacement for one that I bent out of shape by interfacing with a tree, cycling home drunkenly. My thighs had a superb handlebar-shaped bruise for about a month after. Moving along, in every sense, we see a lot of corrosion on the stem and a very rusty bell:

rusty-bell

…both of which descriptions have me sniggering like Finbarr Saunders in Viz. There’s also corrosion on the forks, from where they’ve been bashed by locks and leanings.

I felt slightly worn myself looking at it. So, I booked it in for a service. During the next few months, I intend to replace all worn parts and get it looking cared for again. And in the spirit of promoting the notion of ‘two wheels good’, I shall post some regular cycle-related updates.

This was my inaugural bike ride of 2013:
About 14km

Sorry about the squinty image, you can click to see it larger. Along the yellow line, taking in Hob Moor, Cycle Heaven on Bishopthorpe Road, then a turn round York City Wall, then back via Clifton Moor, was about 14km.

Just a short one, I’m still feeling the mince pies a bit. Very, very satisfying to be back in the saddle, though. Fnarr! Fnarr!

Press play and read on.

My day yesterday was crap.

I mean, actually. First thing in the morning, baby has a poopy diaper. Of course, I don’t mind changing my little darling’s nappies throughout. Part of the job, innit?

But then it got to half four and there I was, hosing adult human faeces from the rear wheel of the pram. Not the little one’s, not mine, not no one’s I know, no.

[stunned shrug]

Like, actually, what is this shit? I suppose it’s true what they say, one man’s ginnel is another’s FUCKING TOILET. I know everywhere has some variant on Dog Poo Alley, or Little Shitaly as we term it… but people of Acomb, I expect more from you, I really do.

So, that was me. Ready. With a pressure hose, and a value pack of Huggies, yesterday. YesTURDay. Harrumph!

[FX: Flush]