Back street politics


It’s the drawing of the pooing dog that makes it art


Slow down red squirrels

It seems that red squirrels, unlike their grey American cousins, are able to read.


Chill out red squirrels. Don’t be always rushing about red squirrels. Look both ways red squirrels.


On spectacularly grey Sunday morning in Leeds -in stark contrast to the prettiness of snow sparkling York in the sunshine yesterday – I saw this outside the station.


It doesn’t appear to be selling anything, and I find that pleasant.

Queues outside bookshops

I don’t know what was going on, and I don’t want to in case it spoils it, but I am pleased to report queues of young people outside both branches of Waterstones in Birmingham today.

Maybe books got sexy today. Maybe people just can’t get enough reading. Maybe books have been banned and are now subversive and cool.

Anyhow, outside the Waterstones with the glass lift near the bull ring there was a queue, I thought that was odd but carried on up New Street minding my own business. I passed the other branch, this is one of my favourite shops. The Waterstones near my home is all white and shiny and cool and totally wrong. Bookshops should be cosy, bookshops should have hush, bookshops should be sacred portals to a million other impossible, fantastical and reachable worlds. You should feel that possibilty when you walk through the door. There should be chairs. You should be left alone to look at the pictures in the knitting books, run your fingers down the spines of books, sniff the ink… er… Maybe that’s just me. New Street Waterstones has corners, it has levels, it has a fabulous sweeping staircase going up the middle of it. And today, all the way up the staircase and out of the door into the street; teenagers. Please don’t tell me why, I like to wonder.

Teenage zombies against cuts


Street picnic

On my way to the shop today I stopped to say hello to Heike, our fabulous building manager, she was lounging about on a deck chair in the street. I asked her why she was doing so. She was hanging out with Friends of the Earth who were taking part in no parking day. “How much nicer would it be if cities were designed for people and not cars?” they said. How much nicer it would be if people gave out cupcakes and coffee in the street, I say20110916-194009.jpg

Peace vigil in Piccadilly Gardens after the riots

On Tuesday night I sat in my living room watching news footage and talking to friends online while the police helicopter circled overhead. People were rioting on the streets of Manchester and looting from shops around the corner from my home. I was mainly hoping it would rain. I felt safe enough. My flat is is an a little pocket of residential flats but alarmingly near to where twitter told me riot police had moved crowds from a main street, scattering them in alleyways behind. In the early hours of the morning, friends were tweeting a link to the webcam around the corner and declaring it pretty dull viewing. That’s the way I like it. I liked it enough to feel safe enough to sleep.

It was an odd way to experience my own neighbourhood. I stayed in the flat for my own safety, watching video footage from twitter of the streets around, taken by neighbours I will probably never meet. It raises questions for me about where my community is, how I connect with people, where I get information I trust. Largely the online conversation was comforting, making me feel connected.

Today a friend sent me an invitation to a Vigil and Prayer for Peace in Piccadilly Gardens and I thought I’d pop by on my way home from work. I hadn’t read the invite properly and was delighted to find that it was an interfaith vigil organised by the Faith Network 4 Manchester.

Many different faiths were represented and people from different faiths led prayers, songs and chants. I took this picture while some women from the fabulous Buddhist centre were leading the group in a mediative  chant. The atmosphere became very peaceful, on the other side of the square some lads were sharing their chips with the pigeons, resulting in a flock of them flying to them, the sunlight catching their wings in an unexpected moment of beauty. Some young women in a lot of make up and tiny shorts came over to look at us and giggle and then seemed oddly quietened by the chanting, stood around smiling shyly at the group.

Interfaith vigil after Manchester riots

The photo doesn’t capture the scale or the diversity of the gathering, at one point the group spontaneously decided to form a circle and join hands, the circle spanned one of the green areas on the Gardens. I saw Jews wearing Kippah, Sikhs with their headcoverings, many Christian clergy, I chatted to a scientologist and an interfaith minister. A Muslim man was offering round a box of dates, a gesture which is only properly appreciated when you consider that he has been fasting all day and would not eat till nearly 10 o clock tonight. My thanks was heartfelt.

Some of the very many police officers around got talking to us, we asked how they were, had any of their colleagues been hurt? They said no, no one they knew. They were on duty tonight, we wished them luck and hoped it was boring for them, they agreed. “You know what’s been amazing?” they said, “you don’t get a lot of thanks in this job but for the last two days loads of people have been coming up to us and saying thanks and asking us to pass it on to our colleagues.” they shook their heads in amazement. “I was watching it on the news in London” one said “and saying to my wife, this country is going to the dogs. But seeing the public with us next morning and the clean up volunteers… this country is a fine country.”