Beer Mat Collecting

Does anyone still take beer mat collecting seriously?  The answer is undoubtedly yes. I used to, though my quite healthy collection vanished before I moved to a new city (Preston).  I have picked up a hundred or so since moving. I have a long way to go to catch up with Guinness Book Of Records winner Leo Pisker in Austria who has 152,860 in his collection. There is a British society of Beer Mat Collectors and several auctioning websites dedicated to the pastime. 

Some of my beer mats

Tegestology, or beer mat collecting is the best known ‘breweriana’ hobby (collecting anything to do with pubs and brewing / distilling). My pub sign photo collecting is a form of Breweriana too.  

There is some debate online as to whether beer mats are coasters or not.  They certainly serve the same function, to collect liquid spilling from cups and glasses and bottles to help ease staining to tables and bar top services.  Coasters tend to be made of more durable re-usable wood or plastic or even metal, while drip mat-beer mats tend to be cardboard, and wear out after a few uses. In the US drinks are more often served with paper tissue soakers, which can be inadequate to the task at hand and can get stuck to table tops and require scraping off in bits when the surfaces are cleaned. 

Beer mats can carry advertising or public information. The breweries will promote their wares on the mats, or give ‘did you know’ factoids on pubs, beers and brewing history.  

Some mats offer details on local businesses, such as taxi services while others may offer police advice not to drink and drive.  Sadly, many beer mats promote gambling online and in betting shops, replacing one risk of addiction (alcoholism) with another (gambling). 

Knowing that beer mats can be seen as highly collectible, mats have sometimes been purposely promoted in limited collector’s editions. Some may be part of a set and pursued with similar gusto as Pokemon Cards. Some mat sets can form a jig-saw puzzle if put together in the right order. 

My collection, past and present was only ever whatever mats I stumbled on in pubs I have frequented.  I was rather disheartened at a beer festival to see traders exchanging mats and collectors buying them in packs by the score, and hundreds in one go. It seemed like cheating. 

More often than not collectors including myself just take an unstained mat from the pub table it has been placed on. This can make some publicans irate and it is polite to ask for a mat rather than just taking one. Some bar staff bar customers plundering mats. 

Another sacrilege is the use of beer mats as post-it notes, using them for scribbling phone numbers or to do lists or bits of poetry on. 

My tegestology is of an if it’s there I’ll add it to my stash approach rather than a dedicated pursuit approach (unlike my inn-sign obsession). I do have a few interesting mats, and it is great that the hobby endures to this day. Many pub walls are decorated in drip mats and I always enjoy looking through them to see which ones include beers and breweries I have experienced myself. 

Arthur Chappell 

Amazon Book Reccomendation Gaffe

Amazon often send me reccomended books to read next based on their files on me. Today they surpassed themselves and reccomended I read Watch The Signs! Watch The Signs! – I can see why I might appreciate it. I Wrote it.

Shows what the feature refers to
Book cover for Watch The Signs! Watch The Signs!

I find their tendency to bombard me with such now buy more from us messages over aggressive and obviously machine driven. Many rightly fear the rise of artificial intelligence. Amazon and other companies often use Artificial Lack Of Intelligence.

You can see the details on the book here, at the Shoreline Of Infinity publisher’s page. https://www.shorelineofinfinity.com/product/watch-the-signs-watch-the-signs/

Arthur Chappell

Live Music Event – Chris Atherton – Friargate Tap – Preston Sunday 19th June 2022

Already established as a great new place to drink in Preston City centre, The Friargate Tap has now proved itself a worthy live entertainment venue too.  

Chris Atherton performing The Friargate Tap – taken by me

Acoustic guitarist, Chris Atherton performed a number of well known covers, from James’s Sit Down, to Oasis’s Don’t Look Back In Anger and Deep Blue Something’s Breakfast At Tiffany’s.  He only performed one song of his own composition, which was a shame because that was pretty good in itself. 

Attendance was modest, but then the Sex Pistols debuted to a near empty Free Trade Hall, so hopefully as word gets around that The Friargate is a cool venue for a relaxed music set numbers will swell. The potential for other performers, singers, poets, comedians, etc, is high, and I hope the pub goes on to showcase many more great entertainers. 

Poster for the show – taken by me

Thanks to Chris for a great performance and Conor for organizing the show.

Youtube of Chris Atherton in performance https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mBPbWkWCPx4

Arthur Chappell 

Theatre Show Review – H P Lovecraft Gallery Of Screams The New Continental Preston 16th June 2022

Theatre Show Review – H P Lovecraft Gallery Of Screams The New Continental Preston 16th June 2022

The Show’s Poster – taken by me at The Contintal, Preston

I went to this great recital / faithful performance version of two of Lovecraft’s finest non-Mythos tales, Pickman’s Model, and The Music Of Erich Zann.  The one man show, staged by Robert M Lloyd Parry (of Nunkie) was a balance of acting and memorised reading, on a minimalist stage with just a desk, a table lamp, and a projection screen showing Durer-esque demon-art creations.  Robert often performed in shadow, with his face spotlighted by a simple hand-torch giving the readings the cosy yet disquieting feel of campsite campfire ghost story-telling, as his narrators tell us of the ghastly horrors they have witnessed at great cost to their minds. 

Strangely the horror show was the least grizzly part of a day that had turned into a catalogue of mishap, misfortune, and blunder.  Several buses I needed to travel by over the day failed to turn up, and later services ran late.  I had to pay some money from a small tax rebate into the post office and got there to find that i’d forgotten to take along a passport I needed to prove my ID, because ne’er do wells obviously go round putting money into accounts anonymously rather than nicking it.  Later, getting changed to go to the show, my trousers split with a loud ripping noise, from knee to groin, instantly trashed. I had to scramble round for another pair.  A night of eldrich terror was the perfect antidote after such ‘could this get any worse?’ (Yes) mishaps and misadventures. 

Lovecraft was always a favourite horror author for me. A true master of the craft, and the leading light of Weird Tales, alongside Clark Ashton Smith and Conan creator, Robert E Howard among others.  Lovecraft was best known for the earliest tales now collectively regarded as ‘The Cthulhu Mythos’ about extremely pitiless, malevolent, and deranged entities that defy description, and explanation. His Cthuloids (only one actually called Cthulhu) were often presented as creatures that might or might not be fish, mammal, squid, reptile or amphibian, of colours that might be green, or black, or some unknown colour, dwelling or operating in impossible Escher-like islands, cities, or forests where the geometry and landscape seems impossible. To Lovecraft, alien and monstrous meant literally that. He disliked how rationally writers had protagonists in works like those of Bram Stoker accepted the existence of vampires and werewolves, calmly reaching for stakes, holy water and the Bible to go and sort the blighters out. To Lovecraft, the rational scientific mind tells us such creatures do not and cannot exist. If we find they are real, our grasp of reality and comfort in knowing there is some consistent natural order would snap and we just couldn’t function. His work almost invariably sees human explorers encountering the weird beings, and if they survive at all, they are driven completely out of their minds. His Cthulhoid entities seem fully aware that they achieve this, and even seem to have driven each other to extreme madness in the same understanding. The whole universe in his work is inexorably sliding to irrational dark insanity. 

Lovecraft did write work that was closer to more traditional horror too, as the two tales presented by  Robert Lloyd Parry demonstrated. He has been presenting tales by British writer M R James for some time, and these tales bear some similarity to work by James, such as the terrifying O Whistle And I’ll Come To Thee. 

Me in my Lovecraftian Comicon Garb – taken by another attendee.

1926’s Pickman’s Model is about the friend of a controversial Impressionist style painter, Robert Upton Pickman, given to creating work depicting ghastly demons devouring human flesh (in one case encouraging an abducted human infant to join in the feast cannibalistically).  Pickman’s work has been banned from academic and gallery display. It is too realistic in presentation for most people’s comfort and taste. The narrator visits the crazed artist to find that not surprisingly, he is not just a man with a warped and sick imagination, but that he paints literally what he sees.  As one painting has shown a prophecy of a whole hunting pack the monsters tearing apart terrified citizens in an underground subway station, the narrator is committed to never travelling by subway again. Who could blame him? 

Pub sign for The Continental, Preston (currently not on display) – taken by me.

The Music Of Erich Zann from 1921 was reportedly Lovecraft’s personal favourites in his own catalogue. In many ways it is a direct reversal of the previous reading. While Pickman openly seems to seek out the demonic,  Zann uses his Stravinsky-style discordant violin music as a wild desperate warning shriek to try to drive back and repel a terrible all consuming darkness that threatens to consume him in his strangely landscaped corner of a French student community.  The narrator hears some of the music and wants to learn more about it, but Zann only wants to share his conventional melodies. Gradually the narrator uncovers the awful truth. 

Cthulhu And Friends wishing They Had Seen the show too – taken by me

While the Pickman tale shows its demons in fully gory glory,  the Zann tale offers only a dreadful dark sweeping void that consumes all in its path.  It is in many ways closer to the Mythos tales than the Pickman tale.  We never really know what forces are after Zann, or why, and his efforts to use music in his defence, perhaps with a ‘music hath charms to calm the savage fury of the beast’ incentive are doomed. Again, the narrator is lucky to get away alive, only to find no trace of even the street Zann lived on, as if the great darkness has absorbed even that away, even from memory. 

The performance was great, complete with shrieks of terror and need of a stiff drink to keep going with the grim tale. It was utterly spellbinding, and wonderful for newcomers to Lovecraft and established fans alike. 

Robert M Lloyd Parry’s website http://www.nunkie.co.uk/

Youtube of a quite apt Ink Spots song that opened the show – We Three (My Echo, My Shadow And Me) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQ_Lzh_S-2c 

A huge thanks to The New Continental for bringing such shows to Preston.  Thanks also to Lord Cthulhu for promising to save me for among the last to be devoured when he wakes from sleeping in death at R’lyeh. 

Arthur Chappell 

Strange Beer Mats – Pie And Ale Manchester. 

Strange Beer Mats – Pie And Ale Manchester. 

At one of the pubs frequented on my visit to Manchester over the weekend, (see https://arthurchappell.wordpress.com/2022/06/13/manchester-visit-june-2022/) Pie And Ale, I saw a wall display of several beer mats, which is not unusual in pubs, but some of the mats displayed here were quite unusual and sometimes hilarious. I’ve included them in this feature.

I had already seen the Yard And Coop’s Giant Chicken 3D sign,

Giant Chicken – Yard And Coop – Manchester takrn by me

And the Boom Battle Bar gaming octopus, in Printworks, Manchester but the Pie And Ale Beer Mats make these pale by comparison.

The Pie And Ale pub itself is tucked away in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, in The Hive, off Lever Street M1 1FN.

Pie And Ale, Manchester – Taken By Me

The Beer mats include;

Attack Of The Geek Beer Mat – Pie And Ale Manchester – taken by me

Attack Of The Geek looks like a B-Movie Troma movie title caption, and presumably appeals to student nerds and geeks. Quite a potent ale at 6% too. (None of these ales were on the bar on this visit).

Dr Morton’s Mandarin Claw Of Death – Beer Mat – Pie And Ale Manchester – taken by me

Dr Morton’s Mandarin Claw Of Death – beer or film? Either way I’m up for it. Quite like how it is confusing Martial and marital arts and helpfully warning us not to give it to ducks.

Hermit Crab Of Hope Beer Mat – Pie And Ale Manchester – taken by me

If You survive the claws of death and Geek attacks you might need the hermit crab of hope. Even more so if you also end up Lost In Ikea.

Lost In Ikea – Pie And Ale Manchester – taken by me
Zeppelin Raids – Pie And Ale Manchester – taken by me

Another real oddity, naming a beer after airship bomb attacks. Maybe you’ll want some escapist fun at the circus after that, but this circus with the creepiest clown since Pennywise? Weird Beard’s Bazooko Circus could be the show to see.

Hopefully I’ll find more wacky beer mats on my travels. I’d love to find these actual beers too.

Arthur Chappell

Manchester Visit – June 2022 

I visited my Mum in Manchester, at the house I lived in for over fifty years up to August 2016 when I relocated to Preston. I stayed from Saturday to Monday. 

Seeing my Mum was great, and I caught up on lots of news, and helped my Mum celebrate her birthday, the first she was able to have any visitors for after the Covid Lockdown hiatus. 

Daisy The Cat – Taken by me

As well as seeing my Mum and her great cat, Daisy, I got to explore the bars, statues and sites of the city, frequent a few pubs myself, and unite with several friends. 

Pub Sign – Man With The Fish

In my Saturday walkabout I saw some unusual bars, including one eccentrically called Man With The Fish, having to add a window statement that they are not a fish and  chip shop and don’t know themselves how they got the name.  I wanted to look in but they were not open when I saw the pub. 

Window apologetics – Man With The Fish pub, Manchester – Taken by me

I visited three bars (including one of which divides into three), The first pit stop was on ald favorite, Pie & Ale, the only Manchester pub to ever serve zebra testical pies (the current menu has bison and camel flavor pies). There is also a wall of beer mats including some very strange ones, covered in another article from me here on WordPress. https://arthurchappell.wordpress.com/2022/06/13/strange-beer-mats-pie-and-ale-manchester/

Window – Pie And Ale – Manchester

I later went in The Molly House, an easily overlooked real ale and tapas bar in The Village which was very quiet and offered a great selection of ales. 

Finally on the Saturday I went to Kampus Bar, a new venue to me, on the borders of the canalside Village and the student quarter. The large spacious dog friendly bar doubles as a branch of Nell’s Pizza Bar which also has links to Common Bar and a bar in Chorlton. I’d arranged to meet a friend, Carl Dyer here, and we almost missed one another but then enjoyed a few drinks in lovely Nell’s-Kampus beer garden which was hosting a third, if temporary pop up bar, called The Pop Up Pod,  a parked up transit van with beer taps installed and trestle tables promoting additional ales and craft beer cans. 

Kampus Bar Pop Up Pod Bar – taken by me

The Pod is on site to June 26th. It provides Latin American jazz sounds, giving way to pop as I left, getting away early as there is a major pop festival in the city (Parklife) leading to some serious transport congestion. 

I spent the evening at my Mum’s and much of Sunday before joining other friends in the city centre in the beer garden of another favorite pub, Bar Fringe. I got to chat with regulars I knew from the pub before moving out of the city too. 

Bar Fringe Beer Garden Cassette Robot – Manchester, taken by me

Post Fringe I grabbed a kebab in Chillis, a restaurant I used several times before skipping town, and staff here even remembered me.  I returned to my Mum’s, seeing her again Monday morning before heading for home about 10.30 am, getting to my flat just before 1pm. 

A big thanks to Carl Dyer, The FONT Science Fiction group, Fringe customers, and the staff of all the lovely bars I popped into. I hope to revisit some day soon.

Arthur Chappell

Preston, Manchester, real ale, pub signs, kebabs, cats, science fiction,

All About Evil – The Film The Cabaret The Controversy

If I had to say what the strangest movie ever was I’d have no hesitation in declaring it to be Joshua Grannell’s hilarious gore fest All About Evil from 2010.  This is not just for the splatter-gore and quite intentionally bad taste humour on screen but for the players often supporting the film with an outrageous live pre-screening cabaret. I was privileged  to be in the cast of the stage antics before a screening in Manchester’s Cornerhouse cinema at the UK premiere in 2010 which was great fun, and very hard work as the choreography for the sketch and dance I was involved in was taken very seriously so we had a few days of incredibly intense rehearsals. 

Me In All About Evil, The Cabaret – Taken by offstage production crew

The film, with a title spoofing Bette Davies’s All About Eve, centres on a deranged former librarian who saves an inherited cinema by making short snuff movies (killing the cast members for real). 

As the film depicts librarians in an absurdly bad light, Grannell (who appears in the film as his alter-ego Peaches Christ), arranged a mock protest outside the cinema by angry librarians calling for the film to be banned. The  stunt was realistic enough for the police to turn up fearing a real riot.  In fact the ‘librarians’ were professional burlesque performers who we had invade the cinema itself to interrupt the cabaret before an audience unsure if they were for real or not, before breaking cover by breaking into their full on erotic burlesque dance routines. 

The film has some knowingly but tongue in cheek shocking moments. One scene caused a chap in the audience at our premier to vomit and another to storm out declaring the film utterly disgusting.  We thought we had done a grand job in that. 

Meeting and interacting with the cast was a wonderful experience, and apparently the film and stage shows are now on tour again in the US.  Catch it if you dare.  It makes the Rocky Horror experience look tame. 

Photo from the stage show – I’m the Cthulhu creature with the crab claws.  The centrestage lady in the huge wig is the director, Peaches Christ. 

The film summary on IMDB https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1307858/ 

Youtube movie trailer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9LUyVRw1pg

Arthur Chappell

Day Trip To Bilsborrow, Lancashire

Day Trip To Bilsborrow 

I wanted a day free from the saturation media hype over the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations so I decided it was a time to check out the pubs of Bilsborrow Village, near Preston,  There are three bars there, close by one another, one run by a manager who previously did a great job running one of the best pubs in the city centre, The Friargate Tap. 

Pub sign for Owd Nells – Bilsborrow, Preston, taken by me

I got two buses to get to Bilsborrow, checking out the lovely Lancaster Canal which is very popular with boaters.  The first pub I visited was appropriately right on the canal towpath, Owd Nell’s Tavern, looking very Georgean outside, with sections of thatched roofing, but rather modern and dark on the inside, but the beer and service were fine. Outside they were gearing up a large stage area for live entertainment as part of their cider festival. The pub is awkward to get through on foot rather than for  boat or car users. There was a large stairway to negotiate getting down to the canal-side, or a long walk round the block. 

My second port of call was the Chef & Brewer (Greene King) owned Roebuck, which seemed pleasant enough but no different to any other Greene King franchise bar.

Pub Sign for The Roebuck – Bilsborrow, Preston, taken by me

I saved my friend’s bar, The White Bull, for last, and it was great as I expected, offering lovely hospitality. I was introduced to the customers and staff as ‘the regular’ from the Friargate Tap bar (which certainly has other regulars too). The beer selection was yop notch and the food was to die for. I had a burger & Brisket combo with chips, called amusingly ‘The Full Bull’. Such humour runs rife in the bar. The cocktail Sex On The Beach is here renamed Sex On The Canal.  

Pub sign for The White Bull – Bilsborrow, Preston, taken by me

I had a lovely time, so big thanks to everyone I met but especially Alys and Conner at The White Bull.   While unlikely to become a (or ‘the’) regular there due to the distance I certainly hope to return some day soon. 

Arthur Chappell 

New Beers Enjoyed In May 2022 

28 ales quaffed this month, often at arts festival events in Preston.

Anspach And Hobday – Sea Salt & Chilli Stout – 6.8% *** A real oddity of strong ales, promoted for accompanying oysters, and with added Scotch Bonnet chillies but there is precious little taste of those though the salt is present giving a sense of added Margarita, not entirely unpleasant but even if session strengthened it would not be high on my must get more list.   Canned craft ale – Once Was Lost – Preston

 

beer – taken by me

Bank Top – Drayman’s Draught 3.6% Pleasant session ale made with American hops but not particularly outstanding, just an OK. Draft Ale – The New Continental, Preston 

Bank Top – Flat Cap  4% *** A golden pale ale that tastes pretty basic as a traditional bitter goes though a mild citrus-ness creeps on as a not unpleasing aftertaste – nice enough. Draft Ale – The New Continental, Preston 

Bass – Premium Pale Ale 4.4% ***** An all time classic traditional giant ale, rich in maltiness and flavour. A yardstick by which to measure the competition. 

beer – taken by me

Beavertown – Gamma Ray 4.4% *** Somewhat over-chilled but otherwise a pleasant enough malty session ale.  Real Ale – The Roper Hall – Preston 

Beer Brothers – True Brit 3.8% ***** A very tasty amber ale with quite a warming feel as it glides down. Barley mixed nicely in with the hops and tastes stronger than it actually is.  Bottled ale – The Larder – Preston. 

Bowland – Boxing Blonde – 4.5% **** A pale golden shine citrussy ale with a dash of gooseberry, now a fixed house ale in the bar I first enjoyed it. Real ale – Friargate Tap – Preston 

beer mats – taken by me

Box Steam Brewery – Soul Train 4% **** White gold IPA benchmark session ale, with a pleasing refreshing mildly malty citrusy edge. Real Ale – Wings And Beer Co, Preston. 

Downland – Lost Weekend 5.3% ***** A strong stout that tastes deceptively session, so easy to see how apt the name is. Real ale – The Golden Tap – Leyland 

Farmyard Brewery Company – Chaff 4.7% *** Not particularly outstanding but still decent golden session ale with a cloudy citrussy finish, but it could be better.  Draft Ale – The New Continental, Preston 

Farmyard Brewery Company – Uncle Nelson Session IPA – 4% **** A quite nice tasting ale, with the citrus elements balancing nicely with the Nelson Hops that give the beer its name. Craft ale, canned – The Larder – Preston 

beer – taken by me

Flying Gang Brewery – Prince Of Pirates Porter  4.7% *** A rather over-sweetened porter, as if someone added Doctor Pepper or several teaspoons of sugar to the mix. Not an unpleasant taste but a little odd for a porter.  Real Ale – Guild Ale House – Preston 

Fyne Ales – Hurricane Jack 4.4% ***** One of the hoppiest session ales I have enjoyed, a very citrusy blonde neer with a nice malty finish.  Draft Ale – The New Continental, Preston 

Fyne Ales – Jarl 3.8% *** Heavy on the citrus golden session ale, with a US hop called appropriately, Citra. Drinkable though I prefer the darker ales –  Draft Ale – The New Continental, Preston 

Hophurst Brewery – Arlo 5.5% ***** Deep mellow serious tasting US pale ale, with Chinook hops unrefined golden colour – excellent. –  Draft Ale – The New Continental, Preston 

Kirkstall – Black Band Porter 5.5% ** Not a coffee lover and this tastes of coffee or I might have rated it higher, and it seems to veer to the dark copper colouring than the pure black of most porters. Draft Ale – The New Continental, Preston 

beer – taken by me

Kona – Big Wave – 4.4% ***** A Hawaiian craft/cask ale with a nice balance of hops and malts , and quite a rich tasting hazy golden pale ale that tastes stronger than its session ale ABV declares. Real Ale – Roper Hall – Preston 

Loddon – Gorgeous George 4.3% ***** A very tasty barley malt packed session ale brewed annually to mark St George’s Day and still going strong a month later in 2022.  Real Ale – The Black Horse, Preston 

Maxim Brewery – Maximus – 6% ***** Quite a sweet ale given it uses demeria sugar and a dash of liquorice, creating a rich cakish taste effect, but still feels quite traditional Bottled Pale Ale. 

Moorhouse – Finchy 4.2% **** Real ale with craft ale pretentions in adding passion fruit citrusness but not to bad effect, quite dry with a lingering hoppy aftertaste. Draft Ale – The New Continental, Preston 

Moorhouse – Straw Dog 4.2% *** A very golden hazy ale permeated with grapefruit which is not a favourite taste for me or I might have awarded it more stars. – The New Continental, Preston 

Ossett Brewery – Voodoo Orange Stout -5.0% ***** Cruelly above session strength, a mild smooth subtle tasting stout where the chocolatey orange or orangy chocolate comes up gently in the aftertaste. Real ale – Friargate Tap – Preston 

Me aged about 6 with a beer bottle – taken by my dad

Ossett Brewery – Yorkshire Blonde 3.9% *** A discreet golden session ale with lots of hops and sharp citrus flavour – pleasing but unexceptional. Real ale – The Stanley Arms, Preston  

Pictish Brewing Company – Alchemists Ale 4.3% **** straw coloured session ale with a name that promises something darker and less orthodox but a pleasing little number nevertheless. Hops and malts in nice union. Draft Ale – The New Continental, Preston 

Salopian – Golden Thread – 5% ***** Classic golden wheat beer, with a real lagery edge to its citrus flavour – very nice.  Draft Ale – The New Continental, Preston 

Seven Brothers – Hoppy Pale – 3.8% **** Modest mild citrusy elements and a crisp hoppy taste, lovely golden shine strong headed session ale. Real ale – Friargate Tap – Preston 

Shipyard – American IPA – 5% *** A very nice imported ale that is perhaps a little too citrussy though the grapefruit (which I can rarely abide) doesn’t do it too much har. Bottled.

Vocation – Naughty & Nice 5.9% ***** The most chocolatey of all the chocolate milk stouts I’ve tried to date, , utterly delicious and sadly off the session ale scale – like having a pint of Black Forest Gateau.  Real ale – The New Continental – Preston. 

Arthur Chappell

Story – Pedantic Education Time 

OK son, with the aid of the Powerpoint slides, allow me to elucidate and elaborate on why your little joke failed to amuse me very much at all. 

The obvious slides are of course, 1/. a live typical farm chicken. 2/. A road, a small one, without traffic (though yours could easily be a motorway, A-Road, B Road, or the very street we live on). Any flow of traffic might of course interfere with your chicken’s venture, putting it off undertaking the journey, or even jeopardize its chances of success and survival. As your attempt at amusement implies the mission was completed successfully, we should surmise the road was relatively traffic free and at least during the time of the expedition, safe to cross for your perambulating poultry.  3/. The somewhat lame and disappointing joke’s punchline centres on explaining the motivation behind the chicken’s odyssey, the ‘why’ of the venture, asserting simply that it was because the road exists in a location readily accessible to the chicken. 

Humour / tragedy masks on The Scarbrough Inn sign – Leeds – taken by me

Lots of things exist, mountains, rivers, chickens and roads among them, unless we get truly Carteasian and question the nature of existence but I’ll save that for a near future powerpoint education exercise next time your Mum isn’t here trying to stop me advancing your ability to rationalize. 

The chicken’s motivation is unexplained and ill thought out. This surprises me after all I’ve tried to teach you so far. You really should pay more attention to my observations.  Did you not question these factors when your mates shared this jape with you? Surely you ought to be able to enlighten them by now. I refer to my analysis of the knock-knock stories we covered a few days ago. I do hope you are taking my observations seriously.

Postcard – cute chicken – taken by me

To get back to the subject at hand, plainly we have a road right outside this very house which both you and I have crossed and walked up and down on multiple occasions. We have however embarked on our activities to go to places and do stuff, be it a part of a journey to work, school, shops, the park or for you, visiting friends who fill your head with such ill-judged philosophizing as this trivial chicken and road merriment. Have you ever simply crossed the road outside this very dwelling for no other reason than because it exists and therefore you can? No, neither have I, and it strikes me as unlikely that such reasoning was behind your chicken’s meanderings too. 

Now I have no doubt that chickens have crossed roads, when their owners, on farms, allotments, etcetera, be they free range or battery intensive, have not provided adequate fencing to prevent the livestock breaking free, temporarily or more permanently.  The chickens are however not going onto or over the roads simply because the concrete or stone highway happens to have material presence. The chicken may not be sentient even to think about such matters at all, or it may be wondering if there is more grain, and possibly other chickens and cockerels to interact with on the other side of the road, possibly just beyond the horizon or obstructing tree-lines.  The chicken may of course even find itself unwillingly transported over the road by human hand, being carried by a fox, etc.  We also lack reference to its return journey, if there ever was one. Nor do we have word or observation from independent objective witnesses to the achievement described or even the dating of the event, its location or weather conditions at the time. Are we talking of local roads and chickens here? To all intents and purposes your chicken and the aforementioned road, avenue, boulevard or autobahn  could be on another continent entirely. Such data could affect the statistics of your misjudged study enormously. 

The fundamental core problem with your jest is that it provides inadequate information regarding chicken, road and purpose of journey. We have no way of seeing what was going through your chicken’s mind, if it has a mind in its little brain. Look at this slide depicting a chicken brain. Does it reveal, intact or, on this next slide, dissected, what the chicken concerned thought regarding roads or anything else? Clearly not, therefore, in conclusion, your joke falls flat for its lack of completionism, and poor understanding of agricultural chicken husbandry, animal biology, road safety, and cognitive philosophy.  

Now, lesson completed, or at least the first portion of it, so perhaps we should get some lunch. There is a KFC just over the road, so for convenience’s sake let’s just go there. 

Arthur Chappell 

Event Review – Damson Poets – The Continental – Lancashire Fringe Festival 25th May 2022 

The final event in the Lancashire Arts Festival that started a month ago on April 26th, and a great finale to one of the best months in the history of cultural entertainment in Preston. 

Damson Poets are the premiere poetry events in the city. When I arrived here in 2016 they had monthly events at Ham & Jam, which were among my first poetry performance opportunities after Manchester, and then the events moved to The Continental which I got to visit less frequently until now, on the other side of Covid and my own health issues. It was so lovely to get back to a poetry event here. 

Pub sign for The Continental, Preston – taken by me

First half open mic poems included a look at both gallery art, and household painting, mental health support services, football, the pending royal Jubilee bank holiday events, the importance of words and just getting on with life. We were invited to think of ourselves as plants and flowers and asked when we last truly loved being ourselves. There was work on grief, losing family members to dementia, and much more. 

I was fortunate enough to get to present two poems of my own relating to having to wear a stoma, the first was quite serious, the later one more humerus, (possibly the first time a fresh stoma bag has been transformed into a glove puppet).

Stoma glove puppet

Afterwards, several audience members in succession praised the funnier of the poems which left me worried that the more serious and personal one had gone down less well but then a few people thanked me for that too, including a lady who’s partner had been through similar experiences through his own struggle with bowel cancer. It helped me realize that I had got my thoughts across just fine. Thanks to everyone for your kind feedback on the poems. 

Part one closed with a set by our first of two showcase performers, Amina Atiq, wonderfully creating a picture of life in pride in being both a Yemeni woman, and a Liverpudlian Scouser, her love of an assassinated Yemeni poet of the 1960’s (I didn’t catch his name sadly), and being subjected to racist and sexist abuse in a police shakedown strip and search. 

Lancashire Fringe events flyer – Taken by me

After a thank you message to the work Garry Cook has put in throughout the festival there was a short interval, followed by an opening set by the second featured poet, Steve Rowland (Seaside Steve), with references to how Fu Manchu going down to Wuhan Flu and other very funny word play, and a piece on Preston football hero Tom Finney. .

The second half open mic’ers again covered the whole spectrum of themes and moods between them. With a look at how ADHD can mean ADH-Me and ADH We, a tribute toast to a performer’s 98 year old mother,  and comparisons between getting through life and surfing the waves, plus one entitled ‘My Mother The Car Crash’,  a parody of  T S Eliot’s The Love Song Of J Alfred Prufrock, a piece on the obscene excessive wealth of Jeff Besoz & Elon Musk, a very moving series of linked poems on lost pet dogs and possibly reuniting with them in the afterlife, and a visit to Lake District Coppermine regions. 

Lancashire Fringe events flyer – Taken by me

Again, thank you to everyone involved, not just the poets at this show, but everyone I saw and spoke with throughout the festival, venue hosts, MC’s, and especially organizer and photographer Garry Cook without who none of this would have happened. I was privileged to get to do stuff alongside other participants at Spark Storytelling and this event too, and everyone who said lovely stuff to me about my own performance at this event.   

Links 

The text to the two poems I read out – Burden – https://arthurchappell.wordpress.com/2022/03/21/poem-burden/ 

Heist – https://arthurchappell.wordpress.com/2022/03/21/poem-heist/ 

On having had cancer and having to wear a stoma https://arthurchappell.wordpress.com/2022/05/26/me-bowel-cancer-and-stoma-wearing/ 

Youtube Amina Atiq  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQIpXmoXys4 

Arthur Chappell

Me, Bowel Cancer And Stoma Wearing

I’m lucky to still be here, in the land of the living. I ignored the advice and broke all the rules regarding cancer.  Watch any interview on health issues or read any articles on cancer and you will see the emphasise on importance of getting an early diagnosis and treatment at the earliest opportunity. Basically if you find lumps, feel pain or just find yourself under the weather beyond colds, headaches and hangovers, see your doctor as soon as possible.  I didn’t. 

Stoma bags – Taken by me

I ignored two vital warnings for some time.  I found I was barely visiting the lavatory other than to empty my bladder. I felt no constipation, but I did think it unusual that I could eat and eat, but barely needed to sit down on a toilet and didn’t do much even when I did.  As there was no pain or discomfort I just shrugged that off, joking to myself that I might have a tapeworm saving me investing in loo rolls. 

The other symptom was more alarming. Though quite out of shape health wise, reaching 21 stone in weight at peak, I always had lots of stamina. I was a pikeman in an English Civil War regiment up to 2013, and up to 2019 often walked six to eight miles a day taking photos with my cameras. 

Me, alive! taken by Andy N

By Autumn 2019 in my late 50’s I found my photo taking walks were leaving me unusually fatigued. On my last pre-lockdown walkabout I went to Fleetwood, but found my progress sluggish. I had to stop and rest frequently and though I saw all I wanted to see it took me quite a long time compared to other walks. 

Then I found that even going to the local shops was leaving me exhausted. That hadn’t happened before. The gaps between bouts of gasping for air were shortening, and I told myself that if it got worse I’d see my doctor, but kept putting it off.  

Covid slowed things down from March 2020, for everyone, not just me and there was less to do that could leave me getting tired. My big shopping hauls were now being made online.  However, by June 2020 even just short trips to the corner shop for bread, or soft drinks was getting tiring and again I told myself to report it, but I used the excuse that the NHS was busy with dealing with Covid cases and didn’t need me griping about getting short of breath over exerting myself. 

In August 2020, the problem got too heavy to ignore or excuse further. I went to buy a loaf at a shop just ten minutes walk from home.  Returning towards my flat in Preston I got so short of breath I had to sit down on a bench, and stayed there gasping like I was drowning for twenty minutes despite torrential rain.  I told myself the call to my doctor was getting made as soon as I got home, and after having to lie down in the flat for half an hour after completing my journey, I made the call.  That was on the Wednesday or Thursday.  My doctor gave me an appointment for the Sunday morning. 

I started thinking maybe I had lung cancer, despite never having smoked a single cigarette, after all my breathing was my main symptom. Checking my lungs my GP assured me they were fine but drew attention to my bowels and bowel movements. That lack of need to excrete suddenly came into play. It seems the bowels area generates the red blood cells that help carry oxygen round the body in the blood stream.  My bowels being out of sorts was crunching down my red cell pool, so my otherwise healthy lungs were pumping away on empty for much of the time. The words ‘bowel cancer’ were uttered by my Doctor then, though it would be months before that diagnosis was proved to be 100% accurate. 

Bowel cancer! The words were a shock wave to me. I felt doomed. Actor Cadwick Boseman, (The Black Panther in the MCU movies) had died of bowel cancer earlier in the month, so what chance for a 21 stone lumox like me? 

I knew of the work of US psychologist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, who had broken the process of coming to terms with grief or accepting that you have a life threatening illness into five stages.  I found that I immediately bi-passed the first four stages of the process,  Denial. Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and went straight to the final stage, Acceptance. I took it as read that I was doomed and that the looming tests I was booked in for would only really tell me whether I had three months to live or six. 

I made calls and sent messages to friends to tell them what was happening. The toughest was telling my Mum, who is seriously frail and ill herself but she coped well and everyone rallied round me with enormous support. Many generously sent me money.  Of course, Covid meant no one could come to see me. 

The tests came thick and fast in Autumn 2020. Blood samples, urine and meagre stool samples taken, iron infusions, a full blood transfusion, a CAT scan, and a colonoscopy (the only one in which I got to see the white blob cancer cells in my bowel on a big projection screen in real time).

In November, I had a long meeting with the chief surgeon specialist assigned to me. He confirmed what I had already taken as read by that stage, it was definitely bowel cancer, but then came the unexpected add on – they thought they could get it out of me surgically. There was hope I could survive the blighter after all, though I was warned that it has splashed currently dormant flakes around itself, some having settled on my Pancreas. If they ever activate, I truly am stuffed as they will prove inoperable. I still feel like a walking time-bomb. 

My outlook shifted immediately from preparing for my imminent demise to fighting back and surviving. There was one last test though. I had to ride an exercise bike hooked to medical monitors to test if I could even get through the op safely.  It involved riding a bike while being put in a tight rubber mask the average BDSM gimp would love to don.   I passed the test, but only just. I was told that post op I’d have up to a week in intensive care in case my heart caved in to the ravaging my guts were due to face. 

December 2nd 2020.  Surgery day, and straight in for the op on arrival at the hospital, and also my first warning to expect to have to wear a stoma post-op.  The stoma nurse was advising me on this right up to me being wheeled to anaesthesia. 

I woke feeling fine, and deep joy, no stoma! I was put in intensive care, with a bed to myself but they moved me to an ordinary ward two days later. I felt sure I’d be home and back to normal, albeit with a brutal looking scar up my belly, like I’d received a Caesarean with a chainsaw. 

Then on day four things went pear-shaped. Though I felt fine, my surgeons came to tell me tests had revealed dangerous internal complications. The uncut bit of colon not removed with the cancer contaminated portions had been stretched to my anus, but it was splitting, and bleeding badly. X-rays, and scans conducted while I was still under the anaesthetic revealed that a crucial follow up op was needed to fix it all. 

“When?” I asked. “Right now,” they said, and wheeled me right back to the operating theatre. This time I came round feeling seriously crap, apparently gibbering in delirium, and now I had my first stoma bag in place.  Normally, stoma surgery can be reversed after a few years but as mine had been imposed due to a failed if valiant attempt to save me the indignity of a stoma, it is more likely to be a permanent part of my life. 

Again, I got intensive care before going on the ward, and the stoma team came to change my stoma bag daily, (eben though it wasn’t producing anything yet). I was instructed to watch closely as I had to learn to change the bag myself.

Daily drug treatment, endless blood samples, injections, visits from a physiotherapy team (the nicest torturers I ever met), and endless inspections by specialists followed. I felt on the mend, though I was hooked to three machines that meant getting up and walking unassisted was impossible. About ten days in, they decided to start feeding me – big mistake. The food made me go into projectile vomiting mode, and one poor nurse who just tried rubbing a salve on my chapped lips ended up literally plastered from head to foot in the thick black oily contents of my bile sack.  It made the puke scenes in the Exorcist look amateurish.  

I was given a morphine pain-killer on demand switch but I quit using it when I started having very scary trippy hallucinations from it.  

I was given anti-vomit meds, had a tube stuck through my nose right into my stomach via my throat, and they fed me intravenously for about three weeks.  

Nose-line removed, I was tried again on food (not that hospital food is that appetising – bread seems to be bought at a quid per shovelful at Poundland and I hadn’t seen boil in the bag fish steaks in Parsley since about 1987). For a week, I was eating OK. They even talked of me going home in time for Christmas, but without warning the vomiting came back. I was right back at square one, though I was getting quite adept at changing the stomas with the watching eye of the stoma nurses). 

There was an additional open wound in my stomach from the second surgery, which was slow to heal and needed daily dressing changes. The would looked like the exit-wound from a gun-shot bullet in a Clint Eastwood movie.  

The return of the vomiting meant the return of the nasal line and the nutrient food bags in my arm. This stayed rolling through Xmas and New Year and way into January.  Finally I was detached from the apparatus, eating freely and able to walk round, go to empty my bladder (rather than using a paper-mache bed-pan jug devise and even shower unassisted.  

Another patient on the ward was due to go home before me, but the stoma nurse tested him to see if he could change his bags by himself. He failed the test and got told he had to stay another few days to learn better. He was so frustrated that he angrily discharged himself from the ward.  I knew I’d face the same test before I was allowed to leave, so I decided to Star Trek Kobayashi Maru  the matter. Before the stoma nurse could come and watch my next bag change I changed it myself completely without supervision.  She arrived surprised to see a fresh unfull bag on me, and feared it had been totally inactive since her previous visit. I confessed to what I’d done and she was genuinely impressed but insisted I waited for her the next day which I did, and she saw that I had the bag changing off-cold. I had passed my test without formally taking it and I was finally discharged on January 18th, 2021 eight week after my first operation, but I had to have my dressing changed by district nurses daily (including Easter holidays) every day until April when my surgery wound finally healed up.  I am now officially seen as disabled, even issued with a radar key as I sometimes need access to disabled loos for stoma changes. That label really hurts and I do my best to be as undisabled as possible in all things.

Now I face the daily mental anguish of my stoma burden, which has pushed me into anxiety and mild-depression. There are a few nasty surprises with stomas that the nurses don’t prepare you for. 1/. Bags that don’t stick to you properly. (generally the brands I receive are fine though) 2/. Pancaking – Instead of filling evenly from bottom to top, the waste congeals in one high spot and presses the bag until it splits open or away from the stomach, so it needs changing prematurely.  C/. Gushing – The stoma takes badly to its contents and turns into a pyroclastic blast of diarrhea that makes a dreadful mess of anything in its path, trashing the bag and whatever clothing or bedding the wearer has on at the time.  A rare event though it once hit me during a hotel stay when the electronic key lock (not the key but the door lock itself) to my room and access to essential changing/cleaning kit became impossible until engineers repaired the room door. 

Today, stoma wear is very routine for me and I refer ri it in poetry, stories and other writings a lot, and I have contact with other stoma wearers and their families, friends, carers etc, There is a terrific Stoma wearers support group on Facebook and my counseling sessions are also a great help to me.  If you have cancer, or need stoma care, get it attended to and don’t suffer alone. I was lucky. You might not be if you don’t get onto it right away. 

Links – Stoma support group https://www.facebook.com/groups/colostomyassociation2011

The text to my two stoma  – Burden – https://arthurchappell.wordpress.com/2022/03/21/poem-burden/ Heist – https://arthurchappell.wordpress.com/2022/03/21/poem-heist/

Arthur Chappell