Exploring Berwick-upon-Tweed with LS Lowry

I don’t pretend to be anything like as talented, great or utterly brilliant as LS Lowry, but on a recent trip to the delightful northern country of Northumberland, I discover we have a little in common. We both find respite in the sea- Lowry was sent to the North East in 1936 to take a break from his stressful home life and fell in love with the North Sea – and I can certainly understand his statement that ‘It’s all there. It’s all in the sea. The Battle of Life is there.’ Lowry was one who sketched on the go for his own amusement, forming these scraps later into something final, and I too scribble on patches of paper and torn envelopes whenever something catches my inspiration, in the hope it may one day be useful. We both love the bustle, cities, and social situations, whether as people watchers or nosey citizens.

And finally, we both became enamored by Berwick-upon-Tweed, Britain’s most northerly town, where the LS Lowry in Berwick & Northumberland exhibition takes place at the Granary Gallery until September 21st.

Staying a few miles down the road at Lindisfarne Inn, it was actually just the necessity of heading to a supermarket for some fruit (the shame), which brought us to Berwick-upon-Tweed, but as we dipped down into the Elizabethan walled town, Robert Stephenson’s Royal Border Bridge standing grand ahead of us, it became clear that there was more here than just shops for sustenance.

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With no local guide at hand, it seemed sensible to enlist the help of another great to help us, and that was where the Lowry Trail came in. Eighteen different information points are dotted around the city, giving details on the work they inspired or their personal connection to Lowry. The narrow streets and lanes and Georgian buildings of Berwick were included in his first one man exhibition in London in 1939, and he continued his explorations of the region, from Middlesbrough, Stockton, Barnard and Blyth, right through his life.

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A wander to the Pier allows you to stand in the spot where Lowry sketched the comings and goings of fishing bars, and the 1936 pencil drawing of Dewar’s Lane (where the Granary Gallery is situated) was inspired by the street’s tall enclosing buildings which reach up to twelve metres high.

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Spittal Sands inspired one of the more colourful, verging on impressionist, works that will be in display this summer, and the Promenade was the setting of a departure from matchstick men to cartoonish oil painting of a young girl in 1966. Lowry loved his football, and it was spotting a game at The Stanks (a Scottish term for ditch) that he captured the game taking place in this former moat, in a nod to his iconic work Going To The Match.

It’s surprising to see how little has changed in many ways. Over six miles, the Lowry trail takes you through Lowry’s own story, a creative journey, and facilitates an exploration of a town filled with historic and personal activity. Lowry’s depictions of Berwick are infused with a spirit and fracture that capture the turbulent urban lifestyle, the artist’s own personal, fractured, outlook, and this region’s distinct magic. We’re glad he was our guide.

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Post It Love

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Few things inspire the written word more than a good cup of coffee. Caffiene seems to power the brain, and by association, the pen. An elixir of creativity. Vietnamese coffee is one of the best, perhaps the epitome of good coffee. Rich, deep, and potent. It’s the way they roast over here. Roasted and ground with locally grown cocoa beans, creamy butter and a sprinkle of sugar, it is brewed quickly and served short and strong.

In Vietnam inspiration is not hard to come by. Stalls gather in the spaces on the streets not filled by chatting and conversing locals, wandering tourists, men perched on stools watching the world when not putting it to rights, and women selling their wares harnessed in baskets aloft a shoulder balanced pole. That is in the gaps where motorbikes and scooters are not weaving and winding, flitting in and out of every conceivable hole in the road. Vietnam is built on bikes, often holding five people, and one upturned bowl between them all for safety.

And so it is at The Note Cafe in capital Hanoi. Early until late and overlooking the Hoan Keim Lake, this refresher coloured cafe serves coffee and cakes that are a welcome fuel before hitting the Old Quarter of this northern city. Busy and bustling, visual and flavoursome stimulation are not hard to find around here. But what if, whilst supping the coffee, feeling the macaroons melt, absorbing the million miles an hour view, you find yourself struck by an urge to compose or a penchant for penmanship, but no tools to undertake the craft with.

Grab a pencil from the pot, pick up a post it, and scribble away. Quotes, lyrics, pourings of the heart, a witty quip, messages to yourself, loved ones or strangers, whatever it may be. Then add it to the confetti of sticky squares on the wall and add to the ambience. Culinary and creative.

 

Free Time

‘New York was there, but what did I care,’ sings lead singer of Free Time, Dion Nania, on Here & There from their debut and eponymous album. Apparently, a lot, since he upped sticks from home town Melbourne to the big city in 2011, and brought his jangly strained guitar vibes with him. With a disinterested bounce, Free From tell the tales of suburban frustration and misery in a whimsical fashion, and where similar bands Real Estate, Beach Fossils and mates Scott & Charlene’s Wedding vibrate slowly with resurgent intensity. Song titles such as I Lost Again, World Without Love and It Doesn’t Stop suggest a pessimistic outlook, but new tracks Guess Work and Esoteric Tizz, the new 7″, are delivered with such nervy skittish disillusionment that the songs never sound bleak. Sunny melodies and exasperated lyrics just sound like the reality of being in the world’s greatest city, but on a rainy grey day

Icewater – Bite Fresh Air

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Delicate and detailed, Bite Fresh Air by Brooklyn band Icewater is a song of understated dexterity, all meandering melodies exploring the soundscape, waves of colour and visions of yearning. Not folk exactly, not acoustic, it is earnest and entrancing, with shifting strains of elegant guitars and a hazy spirit that lays over rhythmic and hypnotic gentle beats. Although housing a bittersweet sound that surely must be imposed by the listener given that it was recorded before the tragic and sudden death of founder member Grant Martin in August last year, there’s a gentle warming feel to it that endures and endears throughout its wandering.

Fish Doctor

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It’s funny how we think that bands must have one style or be part of one genre. That would be like telling people they could only wear full evening dresses and tuxedos, never rock the casual style. Or that they could only be part of one group – family, doctor’s surgery, or blood type, but never all three. Given that most people go through numerous fluctuations of personality strain daily, what are we to expect when 6 of them are thrown together? Not only that, but when those people are ‘creative types.’ Yes, you know what I mean.

And so I wasn’t surprised to hear that Brooklyn’s Fish Doctor (Michael, Jared, Michael, Alex, Brian and Rocco) change musical direction every time the wind does the same. Sometimes surf, like on last June’s Atlantic and the lead track from their 2011 EP Summer In Wintertime, sometimes electro a la Infantry Song, and sometimes going off kilter completely on the chilled psyche Hawaiian Blizzard, complete with hazy feminine vocals. Things are never as happy go surfy as they seem, with even the simple refrain of ‘and you drown in the Atlantic’ hinting at a more sinister layer below. Fun but far from throwaway, full of confidence and frivolity that smells of experience rather than naivety.

 

 

Alan Hollinghurst – The Stranger’s Child

Glory Days – WWII Book Reviews

Issue seven of New Zealand’s premier vintage lifestyle publication coincided with the start of the World War I centenary, so, in the spirit of remembrance, they focus on stories related to both World Wars this issue. One of which is a little book review of Alan Hollinghurst’s The Stranger’s Child.

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Wyldlife

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Whilst some of us are wondering how on earth it is mid way through 2014 already, New York’s Wyldlife are back in 1979, unwrapping their newly purchased The Buzzcocks records and wondering when The Clash might make it over the pond. Before slicking back their hair, downing some beers, chucking on a leather jacket shredding up their six strings and having a party on the Lower East. From debut The Nicotine EP to their first full length The Time Has Come To Rock’n’Roll the band have not hidden their passion for making sweaty, scuzzy, irreverant music, and having a damn good time, fearless and thrusting as they do so. Opening track The Right from TTHCTRR kicks off with the definite and defiant statement that ‘at 10pm it’s time to party,’ not fooling anyone that Wyldlife ever stopped their rampage and reverie. Loose morals, tight chords, rocking melodies and brash attitude. Roll on the seventies.