The old Loop Line

Snagged from eBay, some pages from a mid 1970s booklet on the reclamation of the old Potteries Loop Line for pedestrians and cyclists. A pleasing pen-and-ink drawing, map, gradient cross-section, and list of key dates.

Coming soon: new ebook edition of my Gawain book

I’m preparing a new expanded ebook edition of my recent print book on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. I’m now near to completion on it, and only need to: i) plug in two additional print-only sources I’m awaiting postal delivery of; ii) get the images looking as good as they can on the Kindle ereader and 10″ Kindle HD, while also keeping file-size down; and iii) then give the resulting generated ebook a proof-reading looking for mis-formatting in the HTML. And, of course, then upload it to Amazon. It’ll have indented quotations and hyper-linked ’round-trip’ footnotes.

Tolkien reviewed

Oh dear, SFX magazine is not so keen on the first of the new ‘young Tolkien’ biopic movies. Their review gives Dome Karukoski’s Tolkien (May 2019) just three stars and barely a quarter of a page. The dire new Hellboy gets two and a half stars, by comparison, in the same issue. The main complaints seem to be un-engaging acting and lack of cinematic flourish…

[The love] scenes are earnestly performed, but don’t feel particularly cinematic or engaging. The better sequences are those that follow Tolkien while he’s suffering from trench fever during World War I, where – delirious – he starts hallucinating the bones of future ideas.”

In the Midderlands

Good to hear, from the Lovecraftian Rlyeh Reviews, that…

“On the tail of Old School Renaissance* [in tabletop RPG gaming] has come another movement — the rise of the fanzine.”

There’s more good news. The article unwittingly made me aware of a new British Midlands-based fantasy game, which the particular fanzine in question is dedicated to celebrating and exploring…

“The Midderlands, the horror infused, green tinged interpretation of the medieval British Isles flavoured with Pythonesque humour and an Old School White Dwarf sensibility, published by Monkey Blood Design and first detailed in [the book] The Midderlands – An OSR Setting & Bestiary.”

The game is made by MonkeyBlood and Glynn Seal, who is presumably based somewhere in the Midlands. A 2018 review of this points up the transmuted West Midlands setting for the game…

“the Midderlands goes a step further [than most medieval-ish RPG fantasy], taking the English West-Midlands and twisting them into a grim, grimy, gritty, green-tinted land full of monsters, weirdness and subterranean horror.”

I wonder if they’d care for a Brummagem add-on? There seems to be a big space on the map where a surreal steampunkish Birmingham might arise, filled with Broomies and mysterious Buzz Tins…

Ey… or what about a Stoke-on-Trent addon? Stoke seems to be slightly off the north of the Midderlands map, even though we’re in the Midlands. We could be all liminal and mysterious to the game’s dwellers. [Update: I wrote one]

Anyway, looking at The Midderlands online store I see not only a second issue of the fanzine and the original book (£30, successfully Kickstart’d, seemingly paper only), but also some award-winning mapping.

Apparently it runs on Swords & Wizardry Complete, which looks fairly short and is now officially free as the Revised PDF.


* Old School Renaissance — “seeks to recapture the magic of the early days of tabletop RPGs, particularly early Dungeons and Dragons” (Fantasy Faction).

The Middleport and Longport work of Maurice Wade

Art UK now has images of the Stoke-on-Trent paintings by Maurice Wade. Specifically, Longport and Middleport on the edge of Burslem, plus widely-seen pictures from Etruria and some obviously commissioned for the new Wedgwood factory at Barlaston. Here are the Longport and Middleport pictures, with my explication of exactly where they are and what they show…

On the Trent and Mersey Canal towpath at the edge of Middleport, looking north. On the right are the garages sited at the foot of Middleport Park alongside the canal. Ahead is the point at which the footpath from Wolstanton to Burslem crosses the canal on a bridge and enters into Middleport from the west, passing from the left to the right of the picture.

This is the other end of the Wolstanton to Burslem footpath-way (seen crossing the first picture in this post, above), but here we see the the point at which the footpath enters/exits Middleport on the east side. The viewer of the picture is placed in the position of a visitor from Burslem who has walked ‘down the back’ by the quiet Navigation Lane, has gingerly crossed the often-flooded patch of the lane at the corner by Rogerson’s Meadow, and is about to enter into Middleport (probably with trepidation, if not a local) by ascending by the sloped path up to Dimsdale St. Usually known as ‘the Dimsdale St. bridge’, it crosses a disused dry canal spur.

On the Trent and Mersey Canal towpath at the edge of Middleport, headed north toward Longport. The tall buildings are part of Burgess and Leigh, aka Burleigh, aka Middleport Pottery. Behind the hedge on the left, allotments slope down to the Fowlea Brook.

Seems to be the Trent and Mersey Canal towpath at Longport, looking north toward the Bradwell Wood (would be visible behind the line of the bridge), with what is now the boat-building yard and Steelite on the right. One can just make out the grilled gate-fence that gave canal-access to the beer-garden of the pub which was sited just before the bridge and to the left of the towpath.

A typical Middleport/Longport scene, with a slightly sloping road letting onto a back-alley. He’s got the telegraph pole exactly right.

What’s missing here is the people, for which you need to go instead to the paintings of Arthur Berry. Middleport was one of the strongest communities in the city, until its deliberate destruction as a community — first by twenty years of official neglect and then by the Council bulldozers levelling the most important parts of it.