Preston

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Miller Arcade, 1899. It wouldn’t have looked out of place in Paris last weekend.

I wandered around Preston with a camera to take photographs of my favourite bits and – armed with an Grand Provincial Tour guide to the city – ready to discover more.

Another war memorial at a railway station, although this one looks like a bit of an afterthought and not as quite set in stone as others:

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An Art Deco ex-Woolworths, which implies that Preston has never been afraid of being up to date:

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Then the Grade II listed bus station, which backs me up:

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Preston bus station, 1968-69, designed by Keith Ingham and Charles Wilson of Building Design Partnership, built by Ove Arup & Partners. Not as white as you might have thought, although today’s weather does it no favours.

The covered and indoor markets made me realise how far I have travelled from the days of traipsing behind my mother as she chatted to the gnarled-fingered women on the market stalls in all weathers. It’s Marks & Spencer and the self-service checkout for me these days. Neither market was particularly bustling . . .

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. . . but that may be down to the weather.

Greenhalgh’s neat window display prompted another flashback and a desire to walk in and buy cream slices and chocolate éclairs for the kind of tea that I no longer have:

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The weather drove me indoors to the Harris Museum, which goes up in my estimation each time I visit. It’s just the right size – not too big to overwhelm, but big enough to be interesting and offer serendipitous pleasures.

The radiators for example:

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and there was an exhibition of absurdist art entitled “Nothing happens, twice” (reference to a review of Waiting for Godot). The displays palled after a bit (yeah, yeah, a talking shoe) and after watching a film of Beckett’s short play from 1963, Play, I didn’t have the morale to watch anything else. Oh, but that was bleak! I barely had the courage to sit through one iteration of it, let alone the full 15 minutes. Three heads in funerary urns, their speeches intertwined so that you catch phrases before you catch the sense: “On the other hand things may disimprove, there is that danger.” Give me a scientific explanation of entropy and I will nod sagely, but after 5 minutes of Beckett I am a gibbering wreck.

But before that, I did enjoy looking at a couple of still lives that showed how artists develop over their careers.

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Still life with squid and sea urchin by Lucien Freud, 1949, oil on copper, before he swapped a fine brush for a coarse hog’s hair brush. (Actually, take out that space and you have a coarse hog’s hairbrush . . . and a well-groomed but foul-mouthed hog.)

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Still life with fruit by André Derain, painted between 1935-40. Derain was part of the Fauvist movement in the early 1900s, but this is more 18th century Dutch.

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