Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Road to nowhere

What's happening with the local roads? Hardly a day seems to go by without a "M6 closed" or "A500 closed" headline. Is it some curious effect of a change in the autumnal humidity? A slight increase in the density of the haze layers?

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

An old Staffordshire insect trap for allotments

From The British Florist, 1846. An old Staffordshire insect trap for allotments, which works largely unattended...

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Stratfor in Stoke

Ian Morris, an old Stokie, returns to Stoke for the first time since the 1970s...

"The Jolly Potters in Hartshill, where I used to drink myself 40 years ago, was even more revealing. In the late 1970s, the pub was a distinctly dodgy place, where the clientele might be anything but jolly. Now, though, it positively shines. The Jolly Potters' enthusiastic young landlady gave me a tour of its beer garden, children's play area, pizza oven and ice cream maker — all brand new — and poured me a very good pint or two of Bass. ... The customers at the Jolly Potters weren't angry or fearful about globalization; they weren't denouncing Europe, the government or anything else. Their conversations were about lost keys, babies and used cars. No one sounded 'left behind' ... Stoke-on-Trent is not so much hollowing out as it is filling up with contrasts. For the now much more numerous homeless and drug-addicted residents, things are probably grimmer today than they were in the 1970s. For the great majority of the city's population, however, Stoke is more affluent, relaxed and open to the outside world than it used to be."

Yes, that's about right. Not all his comments are so positive, though, and readers who only bother to skim the the first half of the article would get a far grimmer impression of the city...

"On some streets, the police seemed to outnumber the shoppers".

That doesn't sound like Stoke at all, where police are absent expect on the big home match days or sliding by in a few rare police cars. Probably there was a big football match on that day he visited. Might be a bit misleading then, that bare comment, if he knew the police presence was the result of a big football match. Still, he's got a bit further that most fly-by London journalists do. Given that he's with Stratfor, one wonders if the article is part of a quiet 'testing of the waters' ahead of a visit by President Trump to the Brexit heartland in the Autumn.

And one more memory...

"Back in the 1970s, the slope between Hartshill and the main concentration of pottery factories was a gigantic dumping ground, piled high with fragments of misfired bathtubs, plates and roof tiles. One of the first archaeological digs I went on, in fact, was in the dump belonging to the Whieldon factory, where Josiah Wedgwood had been an apprentice in the 1750s. The area has since been remade as Hartshill Park with funds taken from the National Lottery. Well-maintained paths now wind through dense vegetation, opening up every so often onto follies made from abandoned potbanks. It is a delightful, whimsical spot in the middle of the city."

His "follies made from abandoned potbanks" presumably means the old Convent grotto, which the sisters there made above the pools as a stone shrine for a statue of Mary. I'm fairly sure there was never a potbank on Hartshill Park.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Hartshill Church, circa 1905?

Another postcard view of Hartshill Church, circa 1905 at a guess. Definitely an electric tram rather than a steam/horse tram.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Hartshill church, circa late 1930s?

A nice postcard of Hartshill church, road junction and bus stop. At a guess it looks like circa the late 1930s? I've lifted the dense shadows, taken off the gross coffee-coloured cast on the postcard, and repaired a few spots of damage.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Friday, 9 June 2017

The Stoke-on-Trent results are all declared

A turnout of 57% in my own Stoke Central, for the predictable Labour hold.

Looking at the basic figures it seems that local former-UKIP voters steeled themselves to make an unexpected last-minute surge for the local Conservative candidate. Good for them, for making up their minds. But even the combined UKIP + Conservative vote just wasn't enough to defeat Labour in Stoke Central. My first guess, looking at the raw local results (above), is that this must have been because of the big surge in turnout. The Stoke Central vote as a whole was up by nearly 12,000 votes from the by-election (21,200 votes then, 33,145 votes yesterday), and it looks like a big chunk of that increased vote must have been for Labour. There seems to have been some sort of tightly organised 'youth surge' nationally, aided by the claim that Labour would scrap their university tuition fees. This was specially effective in university seats such as Stoke Central, and actually caused the semi-mythical youth vote to materialise for Labour for once. There was better weather here, too. I suspect that both factors have strongly helped Labour in Stoke Central.

Also as I expected, Labour have held Stoke North, where a very similar UKIP shift + Labour turnout combination occurred.

Most of the surrounding seats have announced and are Conservative as expected, including Stafford. Stoke is the red bit in the centre of the map...

But the Conservatives have taken Stoke South, so congratulations to our new MP for the city — Jack Brereton.

Nationally, about a third of UKIP-ers seem to have gone back to Labour. On current form at 5.30am it seems we may be headed for a Conservative government propped up by Unionists MPs in Northern Ireland, with a new PM in the next few weeks. The bookies favourite is currently said to be Boris Johnson for PM. I'd imagine that Gove will probably also make a return, though probably not as a PM candidate.

One bright spot is that in Scotland the SNP has been badly weakened, both in terms of leadership and Westminster MP numbers, and so it seems that demands for a second Scottish Independence referendum will now be far more muted if not impossible. That may help matters somewhat, re: Brexit.