Could Gold And Silver Bullion Be The Best Place To Invest Your Money For The Next Few Years?

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This is not going to be an easy article to write. Almost two years ago I wrote a similar article focusing on why investing in gold could be a smart move. This was around the time of Donald Trump’s surprise US presidential victory. Like the result of the UK Referendum to remain or leave the European Union, it was a classic black swan event, which very few foresaw. Around that time the conventional wisdom was that the world was going to go to hell in a handcart and that gold or anything seen with ‘defensive’ qualities was the place to invest your money. Gold in fact did not do much after Trump’s surprise win and actually went down in value. By the end of 2016 gold was just trading at less then $1200 an ounce. As of today gold is trading at $1232 an ounce.

Many analysts and others have been mystified by the lack of movement in the gold price over the last two years when one takes into account much of the geo-political situation and volatility engulfing the world. During that time period the biggest winners have been cryptocurrencies. 2017 was the year when Bitcoin and interest in other cryptocurrencies exploded. I mentioned Bitcoin briefly in my article from two years ago yet my understanding of the currency was limited. From January 2017 until the end of that year, the price of Bitcoin went mad shooting from $1000 a coin to almost $20,000 by December of that year. I remember being in a café in Amsterdam in June 2017 investigating Bitcoin further. Around that time the price was $2500 a coin. It had already more than tripled in value since the time I wrote my last article on gold around the start of November 2016. Even at that time I thought the price was overvalued and I was sceptical, especially since a new kind of herd mentality was manifesting. By that time interest in other cryptocurrencies was also taking hold. Ethereum, for many months just the preserve of hardcore crypto-heads and early adopters, was also exploding in value. It was my sister who first made me aware of Ethereum back in April 2017. Around that time the price was $50 a coin. At the start of the year the price was only $10 so it had an even bigger rise than Bitcoin. Yet two months later at the café in Amsterdam I was flabbergasted to witness the price shoot up even further to almost $400 a coin. Litecoin, the silver to Bitcoin’s gold, only around $4 a coin at the start of 2017, was trading at $30 a coin in June 2017. When the first surge of mainstream interest hit Bitcoin towards the end of 2013, Litecoin was by far the second most popular cryptocurrency. But since that first spike of interest, Litecoin (and Bitcoin) crashed and was in the doldrums for over three years before the next spike in 2017.

Since the start of 2018, the bubble burst for crypto and many cryptocurrencies lost a lot of their value. Interest still remains high and compared to the others, Bitcoin has held its value the best trading around the $6,500 mark over the last couple of months. You may be thinking why am I mentioning cryptocurrencies when the focus of this article is supposed to be on gold and silver? It is because there are some who think that certain cryptocurrencies take away the monopoly that precious metals have traditionally always had as a so-called ‘store of value’. It has been said that all the gold in the world amounts to the capacity of just three Olympic size swimming pools. It is scarce. Yet some argue that Bitcoin (and also Litecoin) is also a store of value since it has a supply cap of just 21 million coins. Two of the biggest investors in Bitcoin, the Winklevoss twins (also known for their association with Facebook), have gone as far as saying that Bitcoin will replace gold as a traditional store of value and that in the future, the scarcity of gold will be eroded by asteroid mining. It is true that Bitcoin has certain advantages gold doesn’t have. If you own lots of physical gold or silver you may have to store it in a vault and there will be storage charges. Moving it around with ease may also prove tricky. There is none of that with Bitcoin since it is digital and can also be used for swift payments. But that can also be its undoing; the fact that it is digital. In some countries such as Bolivia, it is illegal to trade Bitcoin or to use it as a payment method. At the end of the day, global governments can very easily outlaw it. Even if you had lots of Bitcoin in cold storage on an external hardrive in your bedroom it would be useless if that happened. That doesn’t mean to say I am against Bitcoin and crypto. I kind of have a secret admiration for it as, despite its volatility, it has enabled many ordinary citizens in some countries like Venezuela, which has been devastated by hyperinflation, to protect their hard earned savings from being further decimated in value. It isn’t always easy to acquire precious metals or even hard fiat currency for ordinary citizens in those parts of the world, so crypto can fill that gap in its accessibility.

I cannot predict the future of Bitcoin or where it and other cryptocurrencies may be heading. One of my biggest concerns regarding Bitcoin is that it is still far from being widely adopted and the people that own it are only doing so for speculative purposes. What’s more, I can only think of one place where I used Bitcoin and Litecoin to purchase something and that was at a Bitcoin café in Prague last year. Then again, more fool me if cryto goes an another epic bull run reaching dazzling new heights.

The reason why I like gold and silver is because neither are really in vogue at the moment. They are not as sexy or hot as crypto and I like the fact that the prices haven’t moved much and are still depressed compared with the new heights they both reached during the early part of this decade. Yet gold and silver can be frustrating assets to hold. If you go on YouTube there are no shortage of ‘gurus’ forecasting how gold will go to $10,000 an ounce and silver $1,000 an ounce. There is a lot of cynicism regarding gold and silver. Some argue that all those so called experts have been saying that gold will go to the moon for many years and it just hasn’t happened. Gold and silver haven’t moved much since the last spike around 2011-12 and so many gold and silver holders are understandably experiencing a heavy dose of fatigue and impatience.

Gold and silver prices are very difficult to predict and can sometimes move strongly for no rational reason at all. Traditional factors such as inflation, political instability, low interest rates, a weakening US dollar or a global stock market crash are no guarantee that a rise in the price of gold or silver will follow. Yet one thing is as clear as day; global debt levels are at an all time high. Not just in the developed world but also in the developing world especially in China. Most global stock markets have also been on a long bull run since 2009, yet this month we have witnessed the first signs of this bull market being derailed. In the process the price of gold began to rise, albeit very modestly. I would like to think that now the fortunes of gold and silver are finally about to change and I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point over the next few years, gold and silver prices started to go on a dazzling bull run similar to the one in the crypto space last year. If this happens sentiment towards these precious metals will change with a lot of ordinary investors wanting in to avoid FOMO (fear of missing out) syndrome thus enabling the price to rise higher. The beauty of the insane crypto bull run last year was that very few people saw it coming. If you read most of the comments on YouTube videos dated before 2017 relating to Bitcoin, most are negative and completely write off Bitcoin. A lot of that sentiment has changed now.

Generally, I prefer gold and silver bullion to owning shares in gold and silver mining companies. Yet on the other hand, just a modest rise in the price of gold and silver can cause an even bigger rise in the share price of gold and silver mining companies. What’s more, some of these companies also pay a dividend. But then you are also exposed to things like political risk if the mines are located in politically unstable parts of the world. Or company mismanagement etc. Owning gold and silver bullion protects you from these risks.

One site I like as a UK resident is called Bullion Vault. It enables one to invest in gold and silver bullion with no minimum limit. You can invest in just £10 worth of gold (which at current prices means owning less than a gram). And you can also choose the location of your vault in cities like London, Zurich, New York, Singapore etc. There are storage costs yet the storage costs are greater for silver than for gold. You do not own your metal physically in your hands (although there are bars you can purchase), but rest assured that the metal you purchase is yours safely in a vault and you would still own it even in the unlikely event that Bullion Vault itself went bust.

You can of course purchase gold and silver bars and coins, yet its your responsibility where you decide to store them. The Birmingham based BullionByPost is the largest online bullion dealer and a good contact to have.

 

Nicholas Peart

(c)All Rights Reserved

 

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the article are mine and shouldn’t be taken as gospel. It is always important to do your own research before making investment decisions. 

 

Image: mining.com

 

 

The Pimped Up Bar Mleczny

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Pizza King Express is maybe the best place to eat in Budapest. I will probably get shot down in flames for saying this. At the ‘traditional’ restaurants serving Hungarian cuisine you will likely hear more English than Hungarian and will pay more money. You may also encounter surely staff if the place is popular. But not here. The staff here are a bunch of jokers and the food is ridiculously cheap even with a lousy pound sterling. A slice of pizza is 200 Forints (less than 60p). A tiramisu (enough for two) – yes, you better believe it – is 300 Forints (a little north of 80p).

During Communist times in many Eastern European countries you had these places called bar mlecznys, which in Polish literally translates to ‘milk bars’ – dirt cheap restaurants serving pretty basic food, but perfectly good. They used to be very popular with students or anyone without much money. Most of these places are a thing of the past now. There are a few still kicking around. For me Pizza King Express represents a new kind of ‘pimped up’ bar mleczny. That is, it may not be as threadbare as a traditional bar mleczny. Maybe I am stretching it using the words ‘pimped up’. But you get my drift. It has the same prices as the traditional bar mlecznys of yore filled by the same type of people who used to visit the originals. The only difference is that the menu is more global. Dare I say more ‘Westernised’. You can get pizza, kebabs, baklava (delicious sweat cake), tiramisu and rice pudding and all for just a few coins. Its a fraction of the price of Pizza Hut, which is next door, and a better and more delicious experience.

Hungary is not a rich country and wages are feeble. Budapest can be an expensive city if you are a local in menial employment. For that reason places like Pizza King Express are a godsend for locals. Its funny that most congregate here for a slice of cheap pizza and less at the ‘traditional’ Hungarian establishments no matter how good or tasty the food may be at those places.

The original bar mzlecznys were not only a product of Communism. They were a feature of when that part of the world was a much less connected place and people had limited access to information. In today’s post-communist globalised world with this tool called the internet, that has all changed. Younger generations from former communist countries are more aware, savvy and knowledgeable about the world, other cultures and how other people around the world live and their tastes. Pizza King Express caters for this younger generation as well as others who don’t want to spend too much money. In a paradoxical way, it is more ‘authentic’ to eat here than at the traditional restaurants, which promote themselves as ‘authentic’. It may be a pedantic and trivial observation, but there is a kernel of truth to it.

 

By Nicholas Peart

(c)All Rights Reserved

Solutions Solutions Solutions

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There are many problems and challenges facing the world and no shortage of writers and journalists in the media who are only too willing to heighten our awareness of all these issues. What there is a shortage of though, are individuals finding solutions to all these issues.

Talk is cheap. Withering, junk-food grade criticism is even cheaper. I am forever bored of writing that amplifies the problems of the world without shedding at least a mere pinhole of light and solutions to these problems. This is one of the reasons why I am turned on by hearing and learning about new and emerging technologies, because more often than not they provide solutions to most of these problems. They also enable me to foresee a future that is not as dire as what is often projected in much of the media.

For example, a very real and pressing social issue in the UK is the underfunding of the National Health Service and the uncertain future it currently faces. This is a huge concern as private healthcare can be very expensive and not everyone can afford it. This is especially true across the pond in the USA, where healthcare is notoriously costly. The biggest solution I see to making healthcare cheaper, more abundant and available is the further development of new and emerging technologies. Many fear the rise of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. But the development of both these two technologies will bring unprecedented benefits in the race to making healthcare not only more affordable (or even almost free) but more advanced too. Imagine robotic surgeons much more advanced than human surgeons – they don’t get nervous or stressed, they can analyze the entire human body at the molecular level and perform surgeries with nano precision. Already robotic surgery devices exist yet the scope for further development is limitless. Nanotechnology will play a very important role in understanding the entire body at the celular level and will be revolutionary in enabling everyone to maintain optimum health at all times without any viruses and damaged cells occurring. And all this can be managed via a digital application or chip without intervention from a finite supply of human doctors. I could go on but it is solutions like these to a current and real crisis that give hope and enable one to re-evaluate their hard wired negative perceptions of a situation.

Worried about the rising costs of education? Virtual Reality will be a huge game changer. This will be an enormous boon in parts of the world where there is a limited supply of teachers. With VR you won’t even need to physically step into a bricks and mortar learning institution.

There are many parts of the world, which lack enough of the right type of land to grow crops. Vertical farming is one of the potential solutions especially at the aeroponic level where crops can be grown simply via the nutrients in the air. It is still a technology that is very much in its infancy yet would reduce global hunger levels dramatically once it gets to a stage where it is much more advanced.

These are just a few solutions. I am no engineer, scientist or inventor, but knowing that these are very real solutions with the capacity to eradicate many of the most pressing global problems fills me with hope and optimism for the future. It sure beats being constantly fed the broken-record narrative in much of the news about how awful things are and that they are only going to get worse.

 

By Nicholas Peart

(c)All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

Architecture Through The Ages In Budapest

The capital city of Hungary is a delightful city to wonder around. As with my wonderings around the capital cities of various Balkan capitals such as Zagreb, Sarajevo and Belgrade last year, in Budapest there are a wealth of buildings of different architectural styles. Most prominent though are the buildings dating back to the times of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. Those are grand old buildings with fabulously opulent adornments. It’s even more satisfying to discover some of those buildings in splendid dilapidation. That’s the difference between Budapest and its nearby cousin Vienna. Vienna has an abundance of lovely buildings, but almost all are periodically maintained and saved from slipping into ruin. In Budapest its not an uncommon site to see many buildings from that time period fallen on hard times; like a beautiful woman (or man) succumbing to ferocious ageing and too broke to afford a face lift. What money there used to be squandered long ago.

The buildings featured are magnificent Habsburg Empire era structures sometimes abruptly juxtaposed next to brutal and more austere Communist era buildings. Even some Ottoman/Eastern styled buildings. After all Hungary was ruled for 150 years by the Ottoman Empire. A lot of Neo Classical architecture can also be found. Sometimes these Ancient Greece influences are blended into more severe Art Deco architecture. Most of the time I know nothing about the buildings I come into contact with. I am simply just curious about their aesthetic qualities. Its all a fascinating melting pot of different styles. The pictures below, which I took on my wonderings, are evidence of this.

 

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Photographs and text by Nicholas Peart

(c)All Rights Reserved 

A Self-Guided Walking Tour Through Manchester’s Musical History

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A lot of the music I regularly used to listen to in my younger years came from the city of Manchester. Joy Division, New Order, The Fall, The Buzzcocks, The Smiths, The Stone Roses, The Happy Mondays and Oasis all hail from this city. I would need a good few weeks to navigate the entire musical map of Manchester, but since I only had a day for this, I had to be selective.

From my modest Air BnB lodging, located in the district of Higher Broughton in the north of the city, I take a city bus towards Strangeways prison. You may think what on earth does a prison have to do with Manchester’s music scene? It was however referenced in the final album by The Smiths, Strangeways Here We Come. Located in an industrial and non-descript part of the city, the entrance to Strangeways is an architectural gem. There are not many people passing by on this early morning and I don’t feel the urge for some unfortunate to take my picture next to the gates. I am glad I didn’t.

 

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The entrance to Strangeways prison

 

From Strangeways I walk towards the Arndale Shopping Centre in the centre of the city. I was hoping that today would be an overcast day to set the scene for the places I’d be visiting, but there’s sadly not a cloud in sight. I am truly disappointed. After purchasing a sandwich at Sainsbury’s Local, I board the city tram for Deansgate located on the southern edge of the city centre.

Close to Deansgate station I only have to walk a short distance until I am face to face with the site of the legendary Hacienda nightclub. During those heady ‘Madchester’ days during the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Hacienda was well and truly bopping with a big enough supply of ecstasy doing the rounds to fill a good few Olympic swimming pools. Today the site of the club is now home to a block of luxury apartments.

 

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By the site of the Hacienda nightclub 

 

A brief history of the Hacienda and its origins. The club was originally established by the founder of Factory Records, Tony Wilson, in the early 1980s. Factory Records played a central role in Manchester’s music scene since the late 1970s signing Joy Division (and subsequently New Order), the Happy Mondays and many other local bands. As instrumental as the label was to the local music scene, it was also victim to a streak of tremendous bad luck in failing to sign some of the city’s most successful talent. It came very close to signing The Smiths (yet Wilson doubted Morrissey’s potential and ability to be a pop star and encouraged him to be a novelist instead), missed the boat with The Stone Roses, and, allegedly, turned down Oasis. Much of the funds for the establishment and running of the Hacienda came directly from New Order’s royalties. The Happy Mondays, despite their commercial success, contributed towards the financial downfall and bankruptcy of Factory Records in the early 1990s. Yet it was very much the irresponsibility of Tony Wilson to give the band upfront an advance of almost £1m in cash to record their final album in Barbados in 1992. Most of the money went up, literally, in crack smoke and very little towards the actual recording of the album. The Hacienda plodded on for a few more years before shutting its doors permanently. Yet in it’s heyday during the late 1980s it was the place to be and the coolest club not just in the city of Manchester but across the whole country if not the world.

Also close to Deansgate station is the original site of the Broadwalk, which was a small live music venue in the city. For me it will be forever associated with the place where Oasis played their first live gig in 1991. Back then Noel Gallagher was a roadie for the Oldham band The Inspiral Carpets. It was only when he joined the band a year later in 1992, establishing himself as the main songwriter and driving force, that Oasis began to develop. In 1993, Oasis played a brief set at the King Tuts Wah Wah club in Glasgow, where Creation records founder Alan McGee spotted the band and signed them to his record label. The rest is over documented music history.

 

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Site of the Broadwalk music venue where Oasis played their first ever gig in 1991

 

From Deansgate I catch a bus out of the city centre to Salford. I must add that Google maps has been of great assistance in helping me navigate this city, finding the right buses and trams and, more importantly, saving me a good deal of time. After a few stops on the bus, I disembark off a busy dual carriageway close to a large Sainsbury’s supermarket. I desperately need to pee. I resist the temptation to do it near a bush close to a housing estate and duly cross the dual carriageway making a dash for the toilets inside Sainsbury’s. Returning to the bus stop, I walk a few blocks through a series of quiet residential streets until I encounter the iconic redbrick building of The Salford Lads Club. It was of course here where The Smiths posed for that infamous photo featured inside their seminal The Queen Is Dead album. I find a passer-by to take a photograph of me by this legendary site.

 

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By the iconic Salford Lads Club; a place forever associated with The Smiths 

 

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The Smiths at that same location 

 

A couple of blocks away is a bus stop with a direct bus to the district of Stretford. The Old Trafford, the location of Manchester United football club, is located over there, yet it isn’t football I’ve come for. Stretford is where a young Stephen Patrick Morrissey once lived before finding fame as the lead singer and lyricist of The Smiths. From the bus stop where I disembark, it is a 15 minute walk to reach his house located on Kings Road. When I approach the junction with Kings Road, there is a cheap takeaway joint serving kebabs, pizza and fried chicken. The childhood home of the one of the most celebrated vegans on the planet is about a two-minute walk away. I am mighty hungry, but I resist the urge to purchase a ‘donar wrap’ en-route to Chez Moz.

Kings Road is one wide empty street full of predominantly semi-detached suburban houses. I soon arrive at number 384. In one of the small top floor rooms of this house, an adolescent Morrissey would be furiously typing verse on his typewriter, reading Oscar Wilde and listening to The New York Dolls, Sparks, Sandie Shaw and other acts beloved by him. Oh, and the curtains would be forever closed. Morrissey often dreamt of stardom regardless of how remote the chances seemed to be for a cripplingly shy young man from greater Manchester. In fact, although Morrissey mixed with the local music scene of the city during the late 1970s and early 1980s, the consensus around that time was that he was the least likely person to make it as a pop star from that scene. And any such notion was immediately ridiculed. He was best known as the village idiot. Steve The Nutter. Bad judgement. The rise of Morrissey into one of the most iconic and influential pop stars of all time is one of the greatest black swan events ever to occur in the history of popular music. Nobody saw it coming.

 

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At 348 Kings Road in the Manchester district of Stretford; The home of an adolescent Morrissey

 

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A photograph of an adolescent pre-quiffed Morrissey taken during the late 1970s

 

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In the 1980s as lead singer of The Smiths

 

It was at this very address that, one day in 1982, a young guitarist by the name of John Maher (later better known as Johnny Marr), rang the doorbell to enquire as to whether Stephen would be interested in being the singer for a new band he was trying to put together. Morrissey could’ve easily just told the boy to go away, but thankfully he didn’t as this encounter would eventually change his life, propelling him from the bedroom to global stardom.

Leaving 384 Kings Road, I walk for some time towards the nearest tram metro stop, from where I board a tram all the way to the southern Manchester district of Didsbury Village. Didsbury Village is a well-heeled part of the city reminiscent perhaps of Hampstead or Muswell Hill in North London. I take a break here and order some lunch. There are some great charity shops in this neck of the woods too. Didsbury Village is the springboard for the less well-heeled district of Burnage, where the home of a young Liam and Noel Gallagher is located.

Walking away from Didsbury Village and past Burnage train station, I soon locate Sifters record shop. This is the place where Liam, Noel and their older brother Paul used to buy (or maybe, dare I say, pilfer?) their records. It is also namechecked in the early 1994 Oasis single Shakermaker in the line, ‘Mr Sifter sold me songs when I was just fifteen’. Unfortunately, the shutter is down. I read that today it was supposed to close at 5pm yet its currently only after 3pm. Perhaps Mr Sifter wanted a day off? Nevertheless, I get a young tattooed lad on his bike to take a picture of me by the shop.

 

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By Sifters Records in Burnage; a popular haunt of the Gallagher brothers

 

Now I commence the final part of the tour towards the home of the Gallagher boys. Burnage is a rather sedate part of the city. Nothing much goes down here. Yet its in no way the craphouse that perhaps Noel makes it out to be. The only other landmark I remember is some large Chinese restaurant whose name I can’t recall. Past the busy Kingsway dual carriageway I carry on towards Burnage Lane before arriving at Cranwell Drive where their old home is located. It’s a modest nondescript semi and that is all.

 

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The home of a young Liam and Noel Gallagher

 

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Early photo of the Gallagher brothers (Noel, Paul and Liam) with their mother Peggy

 

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Photo of Liam and Noel taken sometime in the 1990s 

 

Many years ago, I read their brother Paul’s book on their upbringing and it was a pretty shocking read. Their father Tommy was a violent man who used to beat Paul and Noel regularly as well as their mother Peggy. Thankfully, sometime around the early 1980s, the local council were able to move their mother and the boys to another house and this is the house. I believe their mother still lives there, but I could be wrong. As with Morrissey’s childhood home, I refrain from knocking the door out of respect for the privacy of the current residents as tempting as it may have been.

I have no desire to linger longer in Burnage so I catch a bus on the Kingsway road back to central Manchester for a well-deserved pint.

 

By Nicholas Peart

©All Rights Reserved

A Weekend In Hull

Hull Marina

Over the last several days I’ve been slowly travelling from Glasgow back towards London. One of the highlights of this trip has been the weekend I spent in the town of Kingston upon Hull on the mouth of the river Humber. In the past I never thought much about Hull and any previous notions I had of the town were unfavourable and extracted from the media. Noel Gallagher only added petrol to all the lazy stereotypes by branding Hull ‘a f***ing shithole’ at one of his gigs earlier this year. Ground-breaking statement Noel. Last year Hull was made the official UK City Of Culture. I’d also heard numerous stories about artists moving to the town. In the wake of all this it was only natural that if I ever had the opportunity, I should one day go and visit the Hull. With hindsight I am glad I made that decision.

The grand and historic station of Hull was my first taste of the city. My first links with Hull were via its musical history. The members of David Bowie’s backing band during his Ziggy Stardust days, the Spiders From Mars, were from Hull. The guitarist from that band, Mick Ronson, was a key Bowie collaborator and played a paramount role in shaping the sound of some of Bowie’s most important records. He was also a gifted producer. He produced one of Morrissey’s best solo albums, Your Arsenal, from 1992. During that time he developed cancer and sadly passed away a year later. The Beautiful South and Everything But The Girl are two other bands hailing from Hull. Yet its the counterculture history of Hull, which is of great interest to me centred around two founding members of the experimental 1970s group Throbbing Gristle; Genesis P-Orridge and Cosey Fanni Tutti. Cosey recently published her autobiography, Art Sex Music, which is a riveting and fascinating read. What’s more, an insightful slice of the history of Hull is featured in the book from the times of her upbringing through to the late 1960s when she first met Genesis until the early 1970s when they left Hull for London. During this time they were squatting in a disused industrial building in Hull living an unconventional life outside of mainstream society and setting up what would later manifest into the pre Throbbing Gristle avant-garde performance art collective, COUM Transmissions.

 

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David Bowie with his Spiders From Mars backing band

 

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COUM Transmissions 

 

When I arrived at the train station, there were numerous landmarks and tributes to the town’s history including a statue of the poet Philip Larkin who lived in Hull for many hears and a blue plaque dedicated to the Spiders From Mars. There were also numerous banners promoting the city’s UK City Of Culture status.

 

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Hull train station 

 

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Blue plaque commemorating the members of David Bowie’s backing band from the early 1970s, The Spiders From Mars, who hailed from Hull

 

From the train station, I took a local bus to my accommodation outside of the city centre. My accommodation for the weekend was a family home full of character located on one of Hull’s notable avenues; wide leafy streets in a conservation area of handsome Victorian and Edwardian style houses. The interior of the house had many works of art and lots of original features. It was a real treat to stay here. My hosts were kind-hearted, cultured and generous, and took great care of me during my stay.

 

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Westbourne Avenue 

 

After settling in my room, I took a stroll towards the town centre. I walked the length of Westbourne Avenue, were I was staying, marvelling at all the houses. One of the houses had a small blue plaque stating that one of the main crew and survivors of the Titanic had lived there. Another blue plaque was dedicated to a poet or playwright. As I walked along Princes Avenue I encountered many Kurdish restaurants. I later learn that Hull is home to a sizable number of Kurds from Northern Iraq. The main high street is deserted. In fact there is not much life in the centre of town. At one point I enter a Weatherspoons bar situated in a grand Georgian building. It is one of the few bars in town that has at least a modicum of life. I find a table and order an IPA beer and a Veggie burger, before deciding to call it a night and return to my accommodation.

The next day I wake up early and walk back to the centre of town. On the way I make an early lunch stop at one of the numerous Kurdish restaurants. For only a fiver I am served a substantial tray of shredded strips of meat and cheap with a pile of salad and two large freshly baked disks of warm pitta bread along with an ayran yogurt drink, a traditional tea and a bottle of water. Similar establishments in London districts such as Stoke Newington, Dalston or Harringay don’t hold a candle. Gilbert and George would love this place. I just wish I could remember the name. But I’ll find it next time I am in Hull.

In town, I visit the Ferens Art Gallery, located in a Neo-Classical Grade II listed building. It has a modest but notable collection of art. Highlights include a painting by the Spanish Renaissance master Jusepe de Ribera, a painting featuring a ship entering Humber Dock after a long voyage from Calcutta by the 19th century Hull painter John Ward, and a group of more contemporary works including a couple of Leon Kossoff paintings, a Nan Goldin photograph and an imposing statue of a naked pot-bellied man holding a long fishing rod like spear by the Australian sculptor Ron Muerck.

 

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Sculpture by the Australian contemporary artist Ron Muerck in the Ferens Art Gallery

 

Yet perhaps the most memorable works on display are the photographs by the American artist Spencer Tunick entitled Sea Of Hull from the summer of 2015. This was a monumental work which took place in Hull and featured over 3,200 naked participants painted blue; the biggest ever naked photo shoot in the UK. The event generated a lot of publicity and some argue that it was an important springboard for Hull being granted its prestigious UK City Of Culture title two years later in 2017.

 

Spencer Tunick

‘Sea Of Hull’ by the American photographer Spencer Tunick

 

I then walk to the old town and along the Hull Marina before approaching the Fruit Market district, reminiscent of a micro Shoreditch. Its principle street, Humber street, features chic arty boutiques and pop up art spaces. One of the town’s core art spaces and an integral part of the contemporary art scene of Hull, the Humber Street Gallery, is located here. It is set over three levels including a rooftop terrace. When I visited a performance art event was in the process of being set up.

 

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The Fruit Market district 

 

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The Humber Street Gallery 

 

From the Fruit Market I strolled towards the Hull Minster; an enormous parish church and the largest in the country. It is a masterpiece of ornate architecture dating back to 1300. It is just as impressive inside; a loving work of art. It is a delight exploring the interior of this church. At one point I sit down on a wooden seat at the back of the church and a full service commences. It is a hypnotic experience and I take it all in for some time falling into an almost deep meditation; carried away just as much by my surroundings as the service itself.

 

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The Hull Minster 

 

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Inside the Hull Minster 

 

Next I amble around the attractive old town of Hull to find the Lion and Key pub, which was recommended to me by my hosts. It’s a good choice. An old school tavern with tasteful aesthetics and character located on the old High Street. All the ceilings of the pub are covered in beermats and its a popular place. I am lucky to have found a corner to sit down. On tap are the usual well known lagers and ales plus a few locally brewed ales. I go for a half of one of the latter. There are a number of traditional taverns dotted around the old town.

 

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Inside The Lion and Key pub 

 

My next destination is one of the jewels of Hull; the Ye Olde Black Boy pub dating back to 1779. This is the kind of place I came to Hull for. The outside and interior is untouched. Surprisingly, there are less people there than at the Lion and Key and I have no trouble finding somewhere to sit. I have a pint of some nondescript ale. For me it’s not about sourcing the best craft beers and everything about finding and being somewhere authentic.

 

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The Ye Olde Black Boy pub 

 

A few blocks away in the old town, I pay The George Hotel pub a visit; another classic old pub located via a narrow alley way, similar in some ways to the historic Ye Olde Mitre pub in Holborn, London. This tavern is pulsating with life. Like the last pub I am perhaps the only outsider in the building. I order a half of a delicious stout and crash here for a while.

 

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Inside The George Hotel pub  

 

After my jaunt visiting some of the old pubs of Hull, I head back towards my accommodation via one of the local city buses. En route I make a stop to visit the Hull Fair, which has been in full swing since the start of the weekend. It is a huge event and the biggest fair in Europe. The main thoroughfare is bursting with people and its sometimes a struggle to make any movements.

 

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Hull Fair 

 

It is also louder than a Motorhead concert. A myriad of piercing sounds and bright flashing lights thunder at me from all directions. If I were on acid, it would be the worst trip imaginable. It is a fascinating experience and sight though. The lyrics of The Smiths song Rusholme Ruffians whirl around my head, ‘the last night at the fair, by the big wheel generator, a boy is stabbed and his money is grabbed, and the air hangs heavy like a dulling wine’. Yet I don’t sense any menacing danger. Just an overwhelming overload of sensations. I am not tempted to hop on any of the rides nor am I swayed by the fluorescent coloured Slush Puppy like beverages. After some time I decide to walk back to my accommodation located not so far away from the site.

On Sunday morning, I order and pack all my things. My host Ruth kindly allows me to leave my luggage at her home so I can have another day to explore Hull before heading to my next destination. I take the local bus into the centre of town. Around the modern part of town I find a chippy and have a brunch consisting of battered haddock, chips and mushy peas with a can of Cherry Coke. It goes down a treat.

On the edge of the old town and opposite the Ferens Art Gallery is the town’s Maritime museum, located in a lovely historic Grade II listed building. The museum contains information, artefacts, paintings and documents related to the maritime history of the town. One of the most visible objects in the collection is the entire skeletal structure of a North Atlantic Right Whale, which was killed off Long Island, New York in 1907. Nearby is a large cabinet containing a collection of whale teeth and tusks including a few of the sword-like tusks found on narwhales in the Arctic.

 

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Whale teeth and tusks inside the Maritime museum

 

One of the most important, if not the most important, figures to come from Hull is the English politician and anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce. His drive to abolish slavery led to the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833, which ended slavery within the British Empire paving the way for other Empires and nations to follow suit. There is a tall and prominent column monument entitled the Wilberforce Monument dedicated to him in town identical to the famous Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, London.

 

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William Wilberforce monument 

 

Located in the Museums Quarter of the old town is the Wilberforce House where he was born on 24th August 1759. The house is now a museum dedicated not only to his life and work, but also to the history of slavery. It is a real education and an eye opener to the inhumanities, injustices and brutality of the slave trade. In the outside Wilberforce House Gardens there is a white marble statue of the man himself.

 

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Entrance to the Wilberforce House Museum 

 

My time in Hull subsequently comes to a close. I go for an aimless stroll by the River Hull before taking a bus back to my accommodation to pick up my luggage and then take another bus to the train station where I await my train to Leeds.

 

By Nicholas Peart

(c)All Rights Reserved 

 

*All photographs are my own except the main article photograph at the top of the article and the photographs featuring The Spiders From Mars and COUM Transmissions

 

Accepting Your Contradictions

red purple dots pixabay photo

When I was younger, I tried very hard not to appear a hypocrite. I would look down upon those whom I perceived as blatantly hypocritical and unaware of their own contradictions. Yet no matter how much of a purist I tried to be, holes would always appear in some shape or form. The more I tried not to be a hypocrite, the more I began to feel the weight of life on my shoulders. In the process I felt my vitality and joie de vivre being sapped.

Some of the most inspirational icons in the world were full of contradictions. John Lennon is a great example. For much of his music career he promoted the ideas of peace, love and togetherness. He got his positive messages across to millions of people with great success, but his domestic life was at times anything but peaceful. It has been said that he could be volatile and even physically abusive. He spent very little time with his eldest son Julian (even though he wanted to mend his relationship with Julian before the time of his death). Yet does this diminish my opinion of John Lennon? Absolutely not. He was a hugely talented and authentic singer songwriter who openly acknowledged his flaws and contradictions, often in his songs such as Jealous Guy and Getting Better.

Accepting your contradictions is one of the most liberating and beautiful forms of surrender. The moment you do this, life becomes less heavy and sweeter.

 

By Nicholas Peart

(c)All Rights Reserved 

 

Image: susannp4