BARRY LEIGHTON WRITES WHAT HE WANTS... EVERY WEDNESDAY
5:37pm Wednesday 1st October 2014
The recent discovery of the fossilised remains of the world’s largest dinosaur, Dreadnoughtus has prompted some recollections on long gone beasts that once roved the Swindon area… THEY would have been long dead anyway, having departed to that elephant’s graveyard around 40,000 years ago, give or take a millennia.
10:09am Wednesday 24th September 2014
IT is not difficult, with a little imagination, to picture the scene among those battle-hardened Viking warriors, draped in thick skins, huddled around crackling fires, as they camped within the sturdy earth ramparts of White Horse Castle next to that enigmatic hill carving 1,143 years ago.
9:57am Wednesday 10th September 2014
AS our car crunches along the driveway of Sheila Crown’s detached country house I feel as though I am heading into the pages of some weird Beatrix Potter story or perhaps one of those risible horror B-movies where giant bunny rabbits or cow-sized ants terrorise the neighbourhood.
9:39am Wednesday 3rd September 2014
AS the bright evening sunshine turns the redbrick houses of a typically Edwardian terrace in Swindon a luminous shade of orangey-pink I can see a man at the end of the street comfortably installed on a camping chair who is utterly engrossed in his work with a sketchbook.
12:59pm Friday 29th August 2014
ON a grey and cloudy Thursday afternoon 20 years ago a group of people are standing on the blustery downs above Swindon. Necks craned, we are keeping an eye out – and indeed an ear out – for the sight or the sound of a distant speck of silver.
2:07am Wednesday 13th August 2014
LIONISED like few other popular figures of the 19th Century he was singularly acknowledged as ‘Hero of the Two Worlds’ for his unremitting endeavours on behalf of embattled masses fighting for freedom and independence on either side of the Atlantic.
11:00am Wednesday 13th August 2014
FROM the rhythmic piano of Charlie Kunz and the classically-furnished duets of Layton & Johnstone to a quirky array of oddities such as Leslie Sarony’s Ain’t It Grand to be Blooming Well Dead and the beergarten hits of The Obernkirchen Children’s Choir.
4:22pm Wednesday 6th August 2014
REX Barnett, the Mayor of Swindon, is saying something to me over the phone which seems so extraordinary, so unlikely, so “surely he’s got it wrong” that I have to ask him to repeat it not twice but three times. This is what he is saying: “My dad fought in World War One.”
5:30am Wednesday 30th July 2014
WE were plastered in make-up to look pasty, pale and sickly… those haircuts were so severe it was like being sheep sheared… we were told to scream ‘die, I hate you, death’… sitting in the front we could feel the sheer force of the hatred… my hair was gelled into a fierce quiff… no laughing, no swearing, just jump up and shout… we were told to show as much hatred as possible… on no account should we laugh… And on one occasion, when they hadn’t quite shaken off their initial inhibitions to hit full-on hate mode, an assistant director glared at the assembled crew and sneered: “Is that the best you can do – no wonder Swindon are in the Fourth Division.”
3:15pm Wednesday 23rd July 2014
AS the sun beats down on a lazy Sunday afternoon in the green baize of the Wiltshire countryside a troupe of Pakistani devotional singers, strikingly draped in silky orange stage costumes, marches in unison from an open-air arena where they have just performed a heartfelt set of choral, call-and-response pieces.
5:30am Wednesday 16th July 2014
MOST of us have seen them at one time or other… those grainy monochrome films that help define our nation: Winston Churchill resolutely striding through the blitzed streets of war-ravaged London, the Coronation of the Queen in all of its pomp and ceremony, the toothless grin of Nobby Stiles as he joyfully jigs around Wembley Stadium with the World Cup on his head.
5:30am Wednesday 2nd July 2014
3:24pm Wednesday 25th June 2014
“YOU have to work yourself into a lather… a screaming demented rage… you have got to look brutal… you must seethe with hatred… stomp your feet… shake your fists… grind your teeth… groan with passionate, frustrated loathing… you must become A REAL NAZI FACIST…”
11:58am Wednesday 18th June 2014
The Wild Westerners were a Swindon based football team formed in 1988 by ex-Advertiser journalists-turned-travel industry writers Stewart Cruttenden and Steve Kelly. The aim was to combine a passion for travel, football and drinking.
5:30am Wednesday 11th June 2014
WHENEVER Swindon pub landlord Richard Bullen downed a swift half of Hulbert’s finest ale, brewed just a few miles away in hilltop Highworth, he almost certainly did so from his personalised pewter beer mug.
5:30am Wednesday 4th June 2014
IT is just an old bag really – a throwaway item of which several thousand were produced over the years and duly consigned to the bin without a moment’s thought when its purpose had been served… which in most cases was as soon as you got home.
5:00am Wednesday 28th May 2014
AS the final strains of the band’s heady take on Howling Wolf’s Chicago blues classic Killing Floor evaporate into the dank air of a packed, smoke-filled pub, the sax player’s timing is perfect as he proclaims, with the exaggerated swank of a fairground barker: “Ladies and Gentlemen, I want you to put your hands together and welcome onstage the man everyone is talking about… in the flesh… the fabulous… the one and only… the unmistakable… Paul Cooke.”
5:30am Wednesday 21st May 2014
3:20pm Thursday 15th May 2014
WITH what we can safely assume was a mixture of grim determination and a steely resolve to discharge his public duty, Superintendent George North entered the Town Hall on the evening of Friday, April 2, 1880 and did something no other person in Swindon has done before or since… he read The Riot Act.
12:20pm Wednesday 7th May 2014
FORMER scrap dealer and cardboard recycler, one-time butcher and ex-market trader turned occasional model maker Michael White is sitting on a double-decker bus next to peer of the realm Lord Stoddart of Swindon beneath a formidable fug of bluey-grey smoke.
5:30am Wednesday 30th April 2014
ONE hundred years ago yesterday evening Walter James White, a 22 year-old Swindon house decorator, visited his sweetheart Frances Priscilla Hunter at the Goddard Arms Hotel in Old Town, where she worked as a maid.
2:40pm Wednesday 23rd April 2014
IN one corner is a phalanx of smartly suited planning and legal experts whose names are suffixed with an admirable array of initials denoting hard-earned degrees and qualifications while besides them sit several hefty boxfuls of documents that include statements in triplicate, examples of legal precedents and door-step thick volumes pertaining to the case in hand.
12:51pm Monday 21st April 2014
5:30am Wednesday 16th April 2014
DURING a sold out show at Swindon Arts Centre around 18 months ago Andy Fairweather Low, former Sixties pop star turned exquisite guitarist who for many years toured as a member of both Eric Clapton and Roger Waters’ bands, took a couple of minutes out to make an announcement.
12:11pm Wednesday 9th April 2014
5:19pm Thursday 3rd April 2014
WHEN American military bigwigs arrived in Swindon to prepare for D-Day they were no doubt as happy as clams to learn they would be billeted in nothing less than a genuine, historic mansion that many an English toff had called home for the best part of 500 years.
9:41am Wednesday 26th March 2014
IN the Mid-West city of Rochester that is strung along Minnesota’s Zumbro River, Shari Jarett became intrigued by a box crammed with an eye-catching assortment of pewter vessels which was going under the hammer at auction.
9:46am Thursday 20th March 2014
FROM elaborate Edwardian edifices and cavernous industrial structures to grand Victorian institutes of further education, leisure and pleasure… not to mention shops, pubs, schools, places of worship and row upon row of terraced houses.
4:08pm Tuesday 11th March 2014
WHENEVER Swindon Town hire a new manager, as they are sometimes inclined to do, the immediate reaction of the avid fan formerly known as Dave Clark is not to agonise over what players the boss is likely to sign up or wonder whether he will go for a different formation or switch tactics.
5:30am Wednesday 5th March 2014
PERCHED on stairs, crammed into the kitchen, squatting on the floor, sinking into the settee, circled around the dining table and occupying just about every other mode of seating that she has resourcefully amassed… it is another full house down at Joy’s Joint.
1:44pm Wednesday 26th February 2014
12:40pm Wednesday 19th February 2014
5:30am Wednesday 12th February 2014
3:39pm Wednesday 5th February 2014
AS A Swindon bus driver Jeff Starr’s route regularly took him to all corners of the borough but as he ferried passengers through the estates of Penhill, Freshbrook and Moredon his mind was usually elsewhere… around 4,000 miles away on the Great Plains of North America where his forefathers once hunted buffalo.
12:43pm Wednesday 29th January 2014
THE Great Wall of China, the Pyramids at Giza, the Grand Canyon, the Coliseum, the Rose Red City of Petra, Niagara Falls, Pompeii, Machu Picchu, the Parthenon, the Tower of London, the Great Barrier Reef, the Taj Mahal.
10:46am Thursday 23rd January 2014
2:40pm Wednesday 15th January 2014
HAVING tragically died before the full bloom of youth, the body of the boy priest Hatemui was meticulously prepared for that final journey through the darkest chasms of the Underworld in anticipation of attaining the ultimate, eternal goal… a place in the Afterlife.
2:32pm Wednesday 8th January 2014
STANLEY Frost – ex-prisoner of war, artist, electricity board employee and, as it transpires, a true romantic - is walking through Swindon shopping centre when he is stopped dead in his tracks. He cannot believe his eyes. He is aghast.
10:55am Wednesday 18th December 2013
PROPPED up in bed at Princess Margaret Hospital, old school bobby Richard Webb is in all likelihood wondering what has happened to his life after it has been turned upside down by a particularly savage blow.
3:30pm Wednesday 11th December 2013
AS THE needle drops onto The Family That Plays Together, a long playing record by the Los Angeles-based Sixties hard rock psychedelic blues quintet Spirit, Eric Stott proclaims, with a mixture of conviction and satisfaction: “You can’t beat vinyl – there’s nothing like it.”
10:22am Wednesday 4th December 2013
HARVEY and The Rent Boys, Bantu, Ska Trek, Up Yours, Pignose, The Mill, Erin Bardwell Collective, Vindaloo Brothers, The Unmistakable Paul Cooke, The Michael Alexander Express, Sneaky Feet, at least half-a-dozen varied incarnations of the Teddy White band; mustn’t forget greasy rocking rodents The Hamsters From Hell.
1:52pm Wednesday 27th November 2013
9:24am Wednesday 20th November 2013
NOT for the first time – but certainly the last – protesters are brandishing banners and chanting slogans outside a cinema in the middle of Swindon. Like their heroes John Wayne and Clint Eastwood they have a cause worth fighting for.
9:18am Wednesday 13th November 2013
HE walks past that fading, threadbare little shop, with its cracked and rotting wooden frames, grimy windows, crumbling plaster and peeling pink paint, at least a couple of hundred times. Glenn Mason nearly always stops and stares in, even though nothing ever changes. The box of Whiskas Cocktail cat food, as always, is sandwiched between the family-sized packets of Corn Flakes and Quaker Oats.
7:10am Wednesday 6th November 2013
JASON Moore is in the midst of a violent melee as dozens of Palestinian demonstrators hurl rocks and stones at Israeli troops. Armed soldiers charge protesters and everyone runs for cover. Well, almost everyone. Jason, a photographer, is keen to capture the dramatic scenes as they unfold so he decides to hang around. He is close to a demonstrator who is about lob a hefty missile. Jason has him in his sights. Click. Gotcha.
7:30am Wednesday 30th October 2013
5:14pm Thursday 24th October 2013
AS dusk is about to fall on a drizzly summer evening I am in West Swindon contemplating a futuristic structure held aloft by an ensemble of yellow painted tubular steel columns that, from a certain angle, resemble spiders’ legs.
10:30am Wednesday 16th October 2013
10:10am Wednesday 9th October 2013
IT is, everyone agrees, a jolly good day for boating. Ablaze with celebratory bunting a modest cruiser chugs triumphantly up and down a sun-dappled stretch of waterway while a Victorian skiff called Emily expertly skirts the grassy banks and rushes.
9:38am Wednesday 2nd October 2013
STANDING in a muddy field on the edge of Chiseldon Peter Hyams peers into a shallow hole that he has just finished digging and studiously appraises what for most of us would appear to be the remnants of a rusty bucket or perhaps a crumpled paint pot.
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