Centenary Remembrance

 

One hundred years ago, attacks were fought near Ypres from 31 July to 10 November 1917, in Belgium battlefields that turned to liquid mud and witnessed the biggest loss of life of any battle in the First World War with over half a million British, Commonwealth and German troops killed, wounded or missing.

 

Scottish regiments played a pivotal role in the Passchendaele campaign with extremely heavy losses, and it is remembered as one of the harshest of the war, with heavy rain contributing to the Allies gaining only five miles of ground in three months – or, as it was more bitingly put in Blackadder Goes Forth, “Field Marshal Haig is about to make yet another gargantuan effort to move his drinks cabinet six inches closer to Berlin.” 

 

And yet a century on, the absurdity of war, that battle, and hundreds upon hundreds of thousands’ of simple little wooden crosses is still best remembered by war poet Siegfried Sassoon’s bleak line from ‘Memorial Tablet’: “I died in hell, they called it Passchendaele.” 

 

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Of all the technological feats and wondrous designs to come out of The Great Exhibition of 1851, there is one invention that we still use regularly today without even thinking about its ingenuity; and to many, this will, at some stage or other, have been a life-saver – particularly after a lunch time drink…

 

The designers, architects, and engineers of the Victorian era built public conveniences to a very high standard – and they soon spread across the country for health reasons. A great majority of them were underground, but when conveniences were to be above ground, they were built to be aesthetically pleasing, to blend in, and built with high-quality materials such as marble and copper, and furnished with fine ceramics and tiles.

 

Not many original Victorian public toilets survive today. In most big cities across the country, they are recognizable by the fine and fancy railing work above ground, with steps leading under street-level.  In London, many have become Grade II listed buildings – some were even converted into flats and small pubs.

 

Here in Glasgow, just about all of these wonderful Victorian relics were underground, but now all closed, concreted over, with only a few remaining that still show its Victorian railing works. One of the last to close in the city – and the only one I can ever remember spending a penny in as a kid – is on St.Vincent Street beside Buchanan Street, that was known as “The Palace of Light” because the sun would shine down through the heavy glass translucent pavement tiles.

 

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There are homeless bad-news stories, such as the previous blog entry – but sometimes, just sometimes, there comes along hope for our society with a homeless good-news story.  And one such can be found right here in Scotland, with a new venture that was created back in late 2012 – and already it has piqued the interest of two legendary Hollywood A-listers.

 

Josh Littlewood is an entrepreneur who was so upset and concerned with seeing the rising level of homelessness on the streets that he came up with the brainwave of being the creator and co-founder of Social Bite, a successful sandwich chain with five stores in Scotland – two in Edinburgh, two in Glasgow and one in Aberdeen – that’s now set to expand nationally and possibly internationally.  

 

The mission of Social Bite – whose food costs about the same as Pret a Manger and Eat – is to be more than an upmarket soup kitchen. Apart from 100% of the profits going to helping the homeless, a quarter of its staff have experienced homelessness and paid a living wage; and now subsequently fully trained to work in a cafe/kitchen environment.  The chain also offers “suspended coffee and food”, which means customers can pay in advance for a coffee or any item of food from the menu and a local homeless person can go into the shop to claim it.

 

And all of this has attracted much interest and many plaudits. In the last 18 months, Hollywood superstars George Clooney and Leonardo DiCaprio have both made high-profile visits to the two Edinburgh Social Bite stores that originally started the revolution – and there’s mounting speculation that the A-listers could well be looking to help expand the chain into America.

 

And like the store on Glasgow’s St. Vincent Street in today’s blog photo, each Social Bite store frontage comes with a donated reworking of a piece by the renowned Australian street artist, Meek, in Banksy’s “Keep Your Coins. I Want Change”, seen as a damning reminder of the unsympathetic march of economic progress.    

 

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It’s impossible to swing a guitar in the Glasgow streets without knocking over a busker or two! Buskers have become as much a staple of the High Street on a Saturday as over-spending with performers of all shapes, sizes and styles delighting shopping crowds with their own acoustic efforts or their unique take on classic pop and rock songs.

 

And perhaps paying homage to the city’s busking scene, there now comes “The Glasgow Busker”, one of the latest top-notch permanent murals located on Sauchiehall Lane from Rogue One, the Glasgow-based aerosol artist who’s forever brightening the streets of our city with his wonderful work, and features in today’s photo.

 

In recent years, though, there’s a trend for even famous singers going undercover as buskers and performing to the public. And I can tell you where this trend is first thought to have originated from – right here in Glasgow, back in 1976, and by no less a figure than the fabled Canadian singer/songwriter that is Neil Percival Young!

 

Young and his backing group Crazy Horse were playing the last gig of their European tour at the Glasgow Apollo – never forgotten, but alas sadly now long, long gone – and his record company had hired a local camera crew to film his arrival in Glasgow from London and to cover the last gig of their hugely successful tour.  But with hours to kill before the gig, and not to mention being ever so heavily stoned out of his mind (Hey man, it was the ’70s…), Young came up with the wheeze of going incognito onto the streets with a long scarf and a deerstalker with the intention of just flopping down outside the entrance to Glasgow’s Central Station to strum away with his banjo and harmonica, just to see if anyone would recognise him.

 

Understandably, David Peat’s footage and his story behind Neil Young surreptitiously busking in Glasgow has since gone into rock folklore; and it also became something of a sensation when the footage resurfaced for the first time a few years back, as it went viral after it was posted on YouTube.

 

Leica M3 & 4/21mm Super Angulon
Sekonic L-308S
Fomapan 100
Xtol (1+1 – 8 min)
Plustek 7600i & Vuescan

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