Teamwork’s for the birds

Don't Stone the Crows, a homage to crows, my entry in the Calverley Scarecrow Festival
Don’t Stone the Crows, a homage to crows, my entry in the Calverley Scarecrow Festival

We make a great team, Noel and I. I have all the creative and wacky ideas, Noel brings the snigger of reason…’you want to do what?‘ and ‘have you thought this through?’, or just the plain old sucking of air through the teeth and shaking of the head.

Still, this time it was different. With the village scarecrow festival fast approaching, I had an idea, though this is usually the point where creativity and practicality go their separate ways. A book I picked up in Canada talked about the near-human nature of crows, they look after each other, they mourn their dead, they use tools (which is more than can be said of some humans who, say, still haven’t fixed the shed door…), they recognise individual humans and they have a memory or, in cases where they have been ill-treated, they hold a grudge. The more I read, the more I liked them, so I decided that rather than making a straw effigy that would scare them, I’d celebrate this remarkable species.

The idea was simple, fill the front of our terrace house with crows, not real ones of course, that would be foolish, they’d make far too much racket not to mention all that poo. With the lounge full of hand-drawn crows and bits of black material, I announced that I was going to make them fly from the bedroom window, suspended in mid-air, like a scene from Hitchcock’s avian frightfest The Birds . I had this vague idea of dangling them from wire, then anchoring them to the ground with Gaffer tape and garden canes, maybe a pulley or two.

Fortunately Noel has done maths, physics, trigonometry and woodwork, so he suggested (ever so carefully, mind you, he knows how sensitive we creative types can be) that good though this concept was (genius was the word I might have heard), there may be some practical challenges in its execution. At least I think that’s what he said, he had difficulty getting the words out because he was sniggering so much.

So a trip to various DIY stores and the local angling suppliers yielded fishing line, eyelets and a fancy twisty turny thing to fit them along with a multi-meter, but I think that was for something else, which I was assured would ‘come in handy’. There were diagrams, graphs, simulations and a project plan with gantt chart, followed by a ‘you stand outside and catch the bird’ discussion, much to the amusement of the neighbours and a passing outing of the Calverley Walking Club who stopped to eat their sandwiches before striding out in their stout shoes to the woods, clicking their trekking poles on the pavement as they went.

Although I say it myself the team effort looks not too bad at all. Living beside the main road, I fear our birds may already have spooked a few drivers, heads are certainly turning. Thank goodness I didn’t go with my original plan and give them all human faces!

The Calverley Scarecrow Festival starts tomorrow (10 August) and runs until the 18th.

There is no ‘away’

Everything an arty type could possibly need!
Everything an arty type could possibly need!

If you’ve ever turned out a few hundred Quality Street caramel noisette lookalikes and want to wrap them up like the real thing, or can’t find the 25 metres of extra strong bra elastic you need for that extra support, I now know just the place.

My mission, as Chief Out-Of-The-Box Strategist and Head of Left Field Thinking, tasked with designing and producing the winning entry in this year’s village scarecrow festival, was to find something crow-like. I’ll not reveal any more at this stage, as competition is fierce and scarecrow spies are everywhere, though they’re not too hard to spot as they leave a trail of straw.

The design concept relies on  large-scale production, so Hobbycraft, always a pleasure to visit, but too dear by half, is out of the question. Even tax-dodging Amazon with its free delivery can’t offer me what I want. But it turns out that all I could possibly need plus much much more that I will need at some stage and hardly anything I won’t need at all, is right on my doorstep.

Scrap is one of those ‘oh my!’ places. Once you’ve negotiated the metal steps to the cavernous rooms in old factory buildings on Kirkstall Road, Leeds, and go through the door, all you can say is, ‘oh MY!’ Shelves, barrels, drums, hooks and rails are full of stuff. I have to use the word ‘stuff’ because everything is so random. Giant gold Christmas baubles, bandages and dressings still in their wrappers, spools from old reel-to-reel tape recorders, a barrel full of lenses, five miles of tarnished ‘happy baby’ giftwrap and reels of the afore-mentioned Quality Street wrapping and bra elastic. And somewhere in there was just what I was looking for.

This fabulous randomness makes Scrap the best play and certainly cheapest resource in the city. Companies who would previously have sent these treasures to the tip now give it to this wonderful social enterprise which, for a very reasonable price, provides materials which are used by schools, arts organisations and individuals to do their creative thing. They also run workshops and, when they’re not busy the volunteer staff do their own creative thing. Oh my!

Scrap is next door to Seagulls, another social enterprise with environmental values, which re-uses all those part cans of paint we have hanging around in our cellars. It’s a very green part of the city.

More will be revealed about the StripeyAnne scarecrow ‘Don’t Stone the Crows’ at the Calverley Scarecrow Festival in August. I think I may have to make a return trip to Scrap in the meantime, just in case I’ve missed anything…

Local ghosts for local people

My favourite from the Calverley ScareyCrow Festival

Stepping out into the cold night for our Friday night fish-and-chips gave us a touch of the heebie jeebies. There was a whiff of something sinister in the air and it wasn’t the prevailing wind from the Number Twos bin in Victoria Park.

Someone, something was watching us as we navigated one of Calverley’s many ginnels. The village is ancient and used to be the dead centre of the greater Pudsey area as it was the only place with a graveyard, so coffins were carried here from miles around. We also have a couple of resident ghosts, who aren’t a lot of bother, though they do get a little giddy this time of year with all the trick-or-treaters around.

Hovering above the chippy was a devil of a ghost, we weren’t sure whether he was trying to frighten us away, or make us run inside. Up the road outside the cafe was a ghostly tea party with quite a lot of hubble, bubble and trouble, though very little toil and Pinhead was doing his scary thing up the busy Woodhall Road, with a bit of luck he was scaring the speeding drivers. Esmerelda the witch was keeping watch over the dog club and Boo the ghost had risen from his garden grave on Shell Lane. It was all very spooky.

In all there were 18 new ghosts in the village for the Scareycrow Festival, here at the invitation of Creative Calverley’s very own Ghostbuster Gael Timbers. Gael has special powers to make things happen here,  she’s brought in a community cinema, craft market, Christmas fair and now this. It was going to be a conkers challenge, but as this year’s summer was so appalling, there were no conkers to be had for love nor money. And anyway, it gave the ghosts a weekend out and about.

The last time I looked out of the window, though, the ghosts had packed their bags and were off on holiday. Esmerelda told me they were dying to get away from all the humans dressed up as ghosts and ghouls this halloween, they were either too scary or too cheesey. Can’t say I blame them, I’ll be hiding behind the sofa with the lights out on Wednesday.

Crows scared, job done.

Crow Scaring for Dummies. Priceless

There wasn’t a crow within a five-mile radius of our village this weekend when a motley collection of straw-stuffed scarers moved in and showed them who was boss.

The first ever Calverley Scarecrow Festival caused a stir in the corvus world. They are known for their intelligence, so when they saw the signs in the local newsagent and heard the Tweets they packed their bags and were off to Bradford.

While the crows left, the visitors flocked in, walking through the many ginnels of our little village and hopefully spending their money in our local shops! They saw just short of 30 scarecrows skulking in gardens, churches, the library and even the dog club. Scarecrows included Olympians like Bradley Twiggins and Lunch Box Delight featuring Linford Christie and figures from literature such as 50 Shades of Hay and Gypsy Rose Tea. The winner was a splendid Gruffalo, hiding in full view on Shell Lane.

I hadn’t got my act together in time to put in an official entry, so I just did it anyway. Bob started life as part of a health promotion scheme aimed at encouraging self-examination in men, who we all know are a bit squeamish about medical matters relating to their manhood. So in celebration of the gold medals won by the Yorkshire athletes, five when I made them on Friday night and six by Sunday, I stuck him outside to join the other scarecrows. He was quite popular with passers-by and fortunately his fig leaf stayed intact.  I predict he’ll return for a future Creative Calverley event.

Bob, medals and fig leaf