This past Monday was the last day of Junior Unsubscriber’s summer holiday and so I said I’d take her for lunch, the park and do all the other things such young folk enjoy doing. It was drizzling during the morning which put a slight dampener on our initial plans but after heading out for a bumper sushi lunch and a bit of treat shopping we set of to the park for some much needed exercise. My spirits were high until I fell off her skateboard during a coaching session and almost smashed my glass back into a million pieces! When will I finally learn that I’m a 47 year old wreck of a man and no longer 16, thrusting and vital?
We later ran into Sheffield city centre for a wander around in the warm September sun and try to locate some sticky buns to consume. After parking the car I noticed a shop I hadn’t been in for a good many years called Rare And Racy, a place which I happily called my second home for most of my formative years. I asked Junior Unsubscriber if we could pay a quick visit to which she shrugged her shoulders and nodded blankly – oh, she knows me only too well.
After just fifteen minutes I came away with a hardback, two Silverberg novels plus an anthology and two other paperbacks for just £8! I probably could have unearthed a few more treasures but the extreme avant garde jazz being played at high volume in the shop was beginning to disquiet Junior Unsubscriber so we beat a hasty retreat in search of the aforementioned sticky buns.
So, all in all a great day – the small one was happy with her sushi lunch, treats and various activities whilst I was delighted with my wholly unexpected finds. I really must pay Rare And Racy a few more visits in future.
The shop can be be found at 164-166, Devonshire Street in Sheffield. They also have a website here which is worth looking at to get an idea of just what kind of treasure trove the place is.
Here are the aforementioned newly acquired books in all their glory;
Visions & Venturers by Theodore Sturgeon
1980 – Readers Union / The Science Fiction Book Club (UK)
Cover artist uncredited
Fabulously minimal cover which almost looks like an Open University manual on Technical Drawing.
The Green Brain by Frank Herbert
1975 – New English Library
Cover art by Bruce Pennington
Another cover which only serves to deepen my love of the human skull, here rendered brilliantly amidst swarming insects by Bruce Pennington.
Chains Of The Sea edited by Robert Silverberg
1974 – Dell Laurel-Leaf Library
Cover art by Gervasio Gallardo
Vornan-19 by Robert Silverberg
1972 – Tandem
Cover art by C. Achilleos
Next Stop The Stars by Robert Silverberg
1977 – Ace Books
Cover art by Don Punchatz
This frankly bizarre piece of cover art apparently shows a man in his long johns doing battle with a purple, two headed, four armed alligator-style alien and winning by the simple application of a large stick! I like it, although I’m just not entirely sure why…
Yesterday I wrote about a little urban exploration I undertook with the kindly Mr Cafe as my guide (here) in order to see some hidden paintings by street artist Phlegm. After quite some time hacking through dense foliage, huge nettles and the unforgiving bramble thorns we retreated to a huge disused factory which was literally covered in artwork. Every wall was alive with colour, each new painting giving way to another huge piece of work. It was like the most amazing art gallery – all around were weeds and the discarded remnants of industry whist the walls vibrated with thousands of strokes of spray can paint.
I took a few photographs whilst I was there, the following pictures are my favourites;
(Click on each image for a larger view)
Yesterday, my good friend Mr Cafe (who blogs here by the way) took me on an urban ramble to see a few old Phlegm pieces which are a little off the beaten track. I won’t go into any details as to where these paintings reside as they are all rather inaccessible and I feel it’s best just to let them get on with becoming enveloped by the surrounding environment and let nature take her inexorable course.
Needless to say, there was much rustling through the undergrowth, weaving around thick brambles and plenty of nimble footwork involved. Luckily, neither of us sustained even a nettle sting which is quite hard to believe as there were so many of them around us in certain places. We even bumped into a tiny little horse at one point in our wanderings!
My thanks go out to Mr Cafe for being such a genial and knowledgable guide on this tour of secluded and little seen artwork. Here are some of the pictures I took along the way;
(Click on an image for a larger view)
Bridges and Waterways
I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus from blogging of late and so the last post featuring book covers was published back in September. In the intervening period however my new, non-surly postman has been bringing me armfuls of wonderful vintage paperbacks – some of which I’ve even found time to read. I decided it was time to share some covers and thought this was a great collection to start with.
This uniform edition of three novels was published by Tandem in 1970 and 1971 so the covers share a common design theme and brilliant artwork, sadly none of which is credited. These are still on my ‘to read’ shelves so I can’t comment on the stories themselves but as any regular visitor to my blog knows, I like to leave the reviews to much better writers than I consider myself to be.
The first title presented here is my favourite, not just because of the cover painting (which is fantastic) but because it features a quote on the front of the book from my local Sheffield newspaper – the Sheffield Telegraph.
The main thing I love about blogs is the wealth of knowledge and boundless enthusiasm possessed by the people who write them. The endless diversity of subjects covered and the information contained within most blogs is truly staggering, something I couldn’t possibly have imagined I’d have access to during my pre-Internet teenage years. I have found several such blogs recently which cater for my somewhat outré taste in music and books resulting in a rapidly expanding list of items requiring further exploration.
The other kind of blogs which I like to frequent cover art and photography. One of my favourites in this category is Little Bits of Sheffield (here) which documents street art and other intriguing pieces discovered around my home city. One of the artists frequently covered here is Phlegm who has rightfully gained a worldwide following of late, his paintings cropping up at various locations all over the globe. There are some fine examples on his own blog too (here). I had commented on a brilliant photograph of one such piece on Saturday evening and began a conversation with the blog’s author during Sunday morning regarding a recently issued book of Phlegm drawings. I had attempted to purchase the book last week but was disappointed to find that it had been temporarily withdrawn from sale and headed over to eBay to see if I could find a copy there. I was horrified to discover that the vultures had already begun to circle and ‘buy it now’ prices were reaching £150. I totally object to this sort of crass exploitation of other people’s hard work and talent so resigned myself to waiting for the book to reappear in the online shop (here). During our exchange of comments however, the blog’s author kindly informed me that the book was being stocked by an establishment called The Old Sweet Shop in Sheffield and so I decided to give them a call to check if any copies were available. I spoke briefly to the shop’s owner Emma Hudson who confirmed that they had plenty of books available and then headed straight into the city in a state of excitement.
The Old Sweet Shop is located on Nether Edge Road in Sheffield and is a small gallery shop which stocks a variety of art, prints, cards, t-shirts, fanzines and other pieces which are sourced from local talent. A website containing contact details and full address is here. I chatted to Emma about the Phlegm book, copies of which were lined up neatly in rows across several shelves. She explained that Phlegm had worked on every aspect of the book’s production and was personally dispatching copies purchased through his online shop but had suspended sales until he returned from a trip abroad.
As I spoke to Emma my eyes were drawn to a grid of small square frames hung on the wall, each frame contained a print depicting the head of some kind of fantastical demon. She explained that the gallery was hosting an exhibition by local artist Tom J. Newell and directed me to a small room filled with a selection of prints and original pieces. The various images hanging on the walls featured snakes, skulls, vinyl records, bizarre creatures and oddly morphed faces. They almost looked like the glyphs, ciphers and crests of lost, eldritch societies. Tom’s exhibition is running at The Old Sweet Shop until the 31st of July and is very highly recommended. He also has his own site (here) which contains links to other work and an online shop. I couldn’t leave the gallery without buying at least one piece and so I opted for this stunning print which was made by Tom with assistance from Phlegm;
When I returned home, I sat down with Phlegm’s book and spent the next hour poring over the beautiful drawings contained within its pages. There are no words to be found anywhere except for the spine and an embossed stamp on the cover which has a wonderfully tactile feel, almost like the image has been etched into the card. The drawings within are executed in an incredibly detailed manner showing layer upon layer of texture. It’s astonishing to think that each stroke was made using an old fashioned ‘dip and scratch’ ink pen which leaves absolutely no margin for error. The quality of the printing throughout is crisp and clear too, each drawing almost leaping off the page to reveal its myriad secrets. Phlegm’s style is instantly recognisable, the bizarrely clad figures, animals and weird contraptions he depicts are all products of a singular and hugely fertile imagination. When I reached the end of the book I discovered a fold-out section inside the back cover featuring many of these peculiar denizens of Phlegm’s mind in their natural habitat. These three panels alone contain so much lavish detail that I spent another hour trying to absorb everything that was going on.
Below are a few small examples of larger drawings but these don’t do this incredible piece of work justice, it truly has to be seen to be believed. However, don’t be tempted for a moment to part with obscene amounts of money over at eBay for this book. Make arrangements to visit Emma at The Old Sweet Shop in Sheffield to secure your copy for a much more reasonable sum then prepare to spend many hours in quiet contemplation as you lose yourself in Phlegm’s wonderfully strange pen and ink world.