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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Peace at Last

A town with Roman origins that developed through Saxon settlement into a medieval market town with an important textile trade.  There are several places that come to mind but I suspect the places that come to mind don’t include my destination this week.

Perhaps its Palladian Town Hall, rated by Pevsner as the finest late 18th Century home in South Lancashire.  South Lancashire?  APW_7436_7_8-EditProbably not where you had in mind.  This is a region famed for its industrial heritage and the industrial revolution really brought prosperity to the area.APW_7455-Edit

The town hall was originally the private home of merchant Thomas Patten, but this elegant property and some of its surrounding grounds were sold to the borough council a century later, the grounds becoming the town’s first public park. APW_7426-Edit Sadly the public toilets in the same grounds are more indicative of the more recent fortunes of Warrington.APW_7442

Now mention Warrington to me and I think of Rugby Union, and the team which has the unique record of being one of the founder clubs and the only one who has never slipped out of the top league.  Or rather that was the first thing that came to mind about this Merseyside town.

That all changed twenty years ago when the town was rocked by the explosions of two bombs planted by the IRA.  This came just a month after a gas holder was bombed in the same town which caused enormous damage but no casualties, though a policeman was shot and injured after stopping the bombers’ van.  Sadly the second event was more tragic.

The two bombs were small, and planted in cast iron waste paper bins in the town centre. The warnings given at the time are in dispute, but whatever the truth, Warrington was not the focus of police efforts to save lives.  The location and timing of the two bombs in Warrington meant that shoppers fleeing the first explosion were driven into range of the second, a tactic frequently used by terrorist bombers since.

The cast iron of the bins was turned to shrapnel and caused carnage.  Dozens were injured, but it was the death of two children that made the event notorious.  Three year old Jonathon Ball died in the explosions, but 12-year-old Tim Parry, who suffered the full force of the blast died in hospital a few days later when his life support was ended.APW_7356

People react to such attacks in a variety of ways.  In Northern Ireland loyalist paramilitaries predictably sought revenge, but this was eclipsed by a number of peace campaigns including that of Tim’s parents who began a campaign to promote greater understanding between communities in Britain and Ireland.  Now those efforts have a physical presence.  A large timber clad building in Warrington that bears the names of the two victims in now an international centre promoting peace and conflict resolution.

The ability of some to channel the pain of grief into positive action continually astounds me.APW_7397_8_9