The Beauty of a Dream

all of the buildings, all of those cars
were once just a dream
in somebody’s head

dreaming of mercy st.
wear your inside out
dreaming of mercy

Peter Gabriel – Mercy Street (link to Iain Matthews cover)

In my frequent work trips to Bootle, Widnes and now Warrington, I feel I make more than my fair contribution to the 35 million journeys that take place annually along this stretch of the M62.  As I do so I often muse about the large luminous visage that peers down upon the traffic speeding past here on Merseyside and I’ve dreamt of the photographic opportunities that it presents.

Imagine my disbelief then, when having arrived for my first night in Warrington, I read a post from my fellow blogger Debra who posted her image of the sculpture on Vladography this week.

Expressing that disbelief to her she of course pointed out to me that there are many other angles on the subject, and so on finishing my work the following afternoon I determined to waste no more timing in unleashing my Canon upon the artwork. remarkably as I started my car, a drama called North of Riga on Radio 4 was telling the story of a mysterious stranger called the King of Winter who cuts a girl’s hair to steal her dreams.

Intentionally or not, Eoin McNamee‘s character, with his long black hair, immediately brought to mind the protagonist of Neil Gaiman‘s Sandman series.  This character Morpheus, is also known as Dream; a name shared by the tall, white voyeur atop the hill in St Helens.

Jaume Plensa‘s Dream is the North West’s answer to the Angel of North, and is equal in height, though to my mind less impressive when viewed from the roadside.  I’ve always seen the elongated head as androgynous from this aspect, but when you make the effort to climb that hill and meet her face to face she has just as much impact as her rusty cousin, in fact I found her slender beauty completely captivating.   Like the Angel, she stands on a site that was once better known for the dirty and deadly industry of mining, the faces of the men who worked here a stark contrast with the self-cleaning white concrete of the disembodied head.  Her pallor reminds me of the “engineers” of Ridley Scott‘s Prometheus, a film in which an arrogant and jealous android “reads” the dreams of a woman who is in stasis for an interstellar journey. (The film also features a large disembodied head; both in reality and as a statue!) Our fascination with dreams will continue long into the future it seems.  Funny things dreams.



The beauty of a dream is you don’t let it go,
You don’t ever let it go.

Once in a while a girl comes along
And opens your heart like a spam tin
Just how long can it take?
A bow bends, a bow breaks
And then when it’s time to return the key
She’ll flash you a smile as she slams the door
But you didn’t have to do that to me
To show me just how cruel love could be
And cruel’s a show I kinda starred in before.

Thomas Dolby – Beauty Of A Dream

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In the shadow of the Sage, Gatehead lies a small (by comparison) rectangular building, hugging the south bank of the Tyne.  This is HMS Calliope, a “stone frigate“, although prior to the establishment of the current building in the late 1960’s the Royal Naval Reserve had berthed ships on the Tyne which were used in training, and both of the predecessors bore the name Calliope at some point in their lives.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It always strikes me as a strange choice of name for a warship originally;  naming a ship after the muse who supposedly was Homer’s inspiration doesn’t seem calculated to fire up the resolve of the crew on board or chill the blood of the enemy.  Names like Dreadnought, Hercules, Colossus, Thunderer, Valiant and Audacious seem more appropriate (and have all been used).  And then there’s the pronunciation.  I wonder how many Tynesiders have passed comment on HMS Cal-ee-ope  rather than Cal-eye-oh-pea.

So who was this Grecian beauty?  The muse of epic poetry, her name means beautiful voiced.  She was also the mother of Orpheus, the legendary Greek musician and poet credited with perfecting the lyre.  Orpheus father was reputedly either Apollo or a King called Oeagrus whom Calliope married.  Nevertheless she was also the lover of the war god Ares to whom she gave four sons.  Ares seems the only martial connection for the muse.

Gaiman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Neil Gaiman‘s

highly regarded Sandman graphic novels, she is also a former lover of the eponymous anti-hero, Morpheus, King of the Dreamworld and is rescued by him from a life in captivity.  Gaiman was also responsible for the award winning Doctor Who episode “The Doctor’s Wife“, where the TARDIS became flesh in the shape of Suranne Jones.

What has any of this to do with photography?

_MG_8768-EditI was in Seaham today and visited Seaham Hall, a building noted for being the location for Byron’s marriage, a poet whose Don Juan is ranked by some amongst the greatest epic poems alongside the works of Homer.  Byron died in Greece where he is still held in high regard.  He travelled to Greece on the brig Hercules, a ship destined to run aground just south of Seaham when it was the same age as Byron when he died.

The front of the hotel, apart from commanding views over Seaham’s coastline with its four beaches that would be worthy of any sandman, has an interesting artwork at it’s door; a constantly churning vortex of water, rising up and down within a translucent column.  Must remind Doctor Who fan’s of something?

Seaham Hall; Hotel Entrance
Seaham Hall; Hotel Entrance
Do you seeing that thing swimming round and round?
Do you seeing that thing swimming round and round?

And is all this verbal meandering the work of Morpheus (who gives his name to morphine)?