Advent Calendar

The Towns of Two Halves Countdown to Christmas featured 24 doors behind which lurked noteworthy tourist attractions in the vicinity of the 92 league clubs:

1 Dec The street art known as Out of Order, by David Mach, is on Old London Road about half a mile from where AFC Wimbledon play in Kingston. The artist proposed that the vertical box on the end be wired up so that people could use it to make phone calls. It’s on p345 of the book.

2 Dec The Newcastle ‘coat’ was a punishment for drunkards in the Stuart period – they were made to wear a barrel around the town. The temptation to push them over and see how far they’d roll must have been irresistible. It’s at the Discovery Centre, Newcastle, and on p214 of Towns of Two Halves.
3 Dec Oxford’s Pitt Rivers Museum of anthropology and ethnology contains many charms, not least of which is the display of Tail & Buttock Ornaments. It’s an informal treasure house laid out ‘as though someone has recently returned from a distant and exotic car-boot sale and turned out the proceeds for an impromptu police inspection’. It’s on p244.

4 Dec Salvador Dali’s Mae West Lips sofa is a masterpiece of Pop Art created a quarter of a century before pop. You can see it (them?) at the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, and much more besides. See townsof2halves.co.uk/home/services/brighton/.
5 Dec Very few are the football fans who wouldn’t have reached for the Baldwin’s Nervous Pills at one time or another. ‘Cures nervousness, irritability of temper, fear, dread, neuralgia, hysteria, disturbed sleep, melancholy, insomnia and all nerve pains and diseases,’ the advertising proclaimed. The poster in the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising, on Ladbroke Grove, near QPR, dates from about 1900. You can still buy a reproduction of the poster for £7.49p – the pills themselves, 120 years ago, would have set you back less than 14p a box. P264 of the book.
6 Dec Marco the European Brown Bear came to Rotherham’s Clifton Park on a free transfer from Warwickshire County Council. “As part of the school loans service for almost 20 years, Marco must appear in the nightmares of a generation of Rotherham schoolchildren.” P276 of Towns of Two Halves.
7 Dec The Swindon ‘crocodile’, probably a gharial, is one of the main attractions at Swindon Museum & Art Gallery (p317).

8 Dec This was to have been from Fountain 17, Hull’s homage to Marcel Duchamp as part of the City of Culture year (the picture here is Paul Collinson’s Caspar David Friedrich bowl). But after a short visit to Stoke, Fountain 17 closed and the exhibits were auctioned off. So the ‘window’ reveals a truly extraordinary urinal in Barnsley, fully appreciated on p21.

9 Dec Alan Wilson’s life-size bronze statues decorate the approach to Blackburn’s bus/train interchange. The child has dropped a teddy; grandma appears in a hurry to catch a bus. Just over 20 years old, they were re-sited as part of the 2015 Cathedral Quarter redevelopment.

10 Dec The Fan Museum, in Greenwich, has a spectacular variety of fans for the fan visiting Charlton or Millwall to admire. The feathered ones aren’t all associated with burlesque in the modern sense; many are Victorian, which by coincidence is how far back football fandom goes. There’s more at http://townsof2halves.co.uk/home/services/charlton/.

11 Dec The Derby Arboretum supposedly provides the model for New York City’s Central Park and was England’s first landscaped public park when it opened in 1840. There’s more on p117.
12 Dec The Lincoln engineering firm William Foster& Co built the first military tanks, of which one is on display at the Museum of Lincolnshire Life. They’re called ‘tanks’, by the way, because the prototypes were referred to as ‘water carriers’ for reasons of security: hence ‘water tanks’ and eventually ‘tanks’. Read more on pp170-171.
13 Dec All over Morecambe there are sculptures of birds – mainly but not exclusively seabirds – on plinths, pedestals and pillars. Many are stylised to a greater or lesser degree, some are more naturalistic, and all are great fun and an adornment to the town.
14 Dec Robert Cadman’s death in February 1740 ended the Golden Age of Flying, during which ‘flying men’ ascended high places and rapidly descended along a rope, on a grooved wooden breastplate. Cadman, from Shropshire, is honoured in the Shrewsbury chapter on p289.


15 Dec Accrington is the home of the Ewbank carpet-sweeper, Terylene and NORI, the hardest brick in the building world. If you go, don’t miss the Tiffany display at the Haworth Gallery.


16 Dec The National Football Museum in Manchester has a fine cafeteria but how can Pukka Pies not be on the menu? More on p185.
17 Dec Newport has plenty to offer on its own account, but on the outskirts is the town of Caerleon, one of the most interesting, varied and complete Roman sites in the country. Both Newport and Caerleon are in the book, from p217.
18 Dec The magnificent Musical Museum in Brentford (p44) is best enjoyed in a guided tour, culminating in a performance of the Mighty Wurlitzer.
19 Dec ‘The stones have a louche, malingering air, as though waiting for a sculptor to turn them into something recognisable.’ This is the village of Avebury, where you can wander freely among standing stones. It’s only a small diversion from a game at either of the Bristol clubs. It’s on p53 in the book.

20 Dec It used to be the National Media Museum in Bradford; now it’s the National Science & Media Museum… You might still find Tony Ray-Jones’ photographic record of an English way of life he feared would be Americanised and disappear. P39 of the book.

21 Dec There’s a gallery in Middlesbrough’s Dorman Museum devoted to H2O, and set into the floor is an interactive pond-screen. When you step on it, fish flee and water ripples. Magic. I thought I was witnessing an assisted suicide when two people pushed their friend in his wheelchair on to it. See p199.
22 Dec The Winter Gardens, Museum and Art Gallery in Sunderland is a building of many wonders, not least the recreation of a tropical rain forest amid the foliage of which dinosaurs lurk. Close by, in a smaller tank, don’t miss the real axolotl. This is all on p307 of Towns of Two Halves.
23 Dec Close to Northampton town centre is Delapré Abbey, which has its fair share of ghost stories – plus plenty to enjoy in the present day. On p225: ‘The Grey Lady is said to be a nun restlessly searching the house for the wounded soldier she nursed and fell in love with.’
24 Dec In Huddersfield’s Art Gallery there’s a Henry Moore piece called Falling Warrior which a writer to the local paper proposed should be renamed Huddersfield Rate-Payer, according to the accompanying note. It is on p148 of the book. Happy New Year!

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