I have an enormous amount to thank Anne Ward for.

After all if it wasn’t for her (and it must be said, her Newspaper Club colleague Mr Russell Davies) I probably wouldn’t be writing here. That may seem largely insignificant (and yes I know what that sounds like but I’m not digging for compliments, or laying the blame elsewhere, I’m just being realistic) but through the process of looking outwards rather than inwards (which is my factory setting) I’ve been a lot saner than I would have been otherwise and in addition (and it’s a big addition) I’ve been introduced to a world of wonderful things which otherwise would have passed me by.

I wrote the text above a while ago when Anne’s first book, Nothing To See Here, was published, but it bears repeating so I thought a little recycling wouldn’t go amiss – especially given that Anne’s second book, Northern Delights, has joined her first on the shelves of discerning bookshops across the land.

And the good news is that it’s as delightful (pun slightly intended) as the first.

Nothing To See Here was a guide to the hidden joys of Scotland and whilst Mrs Weir and I aren’t averse to visiting our friends over the border we sadly don’t get there as often as we’d like, so the fact that the second book sees our guide travelling further south is good news all round. In fact it’s particularly good to see that we’ve already ticked off a number of recommended locations for “lovers of the unusual” including Another Place in Crosby, Barter Books in Alnwick, the Couple in Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Fortron Services on the M6 and Grainger Market in Newcastle Upon Tyne - but it’s even better that there are plenty more places still to be visited.

I suggested previously that you should invest in a copy of Anne’s book to help direct you to some of the many hidden joys of Scotland, if you haven’t got around to doing so do it now – and while you’re at it buy a copy of this one too.


That was a week that was.

So a Sunday morning spent reacquainting ourselves with the North sea.


Prior to Mackenzie Crook’s Detectorists going out on BBC4 the National Council for Metal Detecting (no me neither) came out fighting, with the Council’s general secretary, Trevor Austin, stating that “They approached us but we didn’t want to get involved in a comedy which would belittle detecting and make detectors look anorakish.” He went on, failing to notice that in doing so he was probably achieving more harm than good, by adding “Detectors are hobbyists. They don’t go out to make a fortune. Any serious metal detector knows there isn’t much money in it. And they don’t dig without getting a special licence and abiding by the rules.”

If he’s been watching (which I admit is unlikely given his statement above), I hope that by now (the final episode of this first series goes out on Thursday night) he’s realised that the programme is actually an enormously affectionate and beautifully filmed portrayal of a group of people (in this case largely people with x and y chromosomes) who have a passionate interest in something that’s just a little off the beaten track.


Mackenzie Crook responded to Austin’s claims by saying that “In this country we take the mickey out of any hobby that isn’t sport-related, we see them as anoraks or sad people with no friends. But detectorists have real expertise in archaeology and the fields they study.” Which reminded me of James Ward’s wonderful opening talk from this year’s Boring Conference in which he spoke about the disappointing differential in respect given for those whose hobbies are based around cars, music and football compared to those who have interests which are considered a deal more niche.

To be honest though, Detectorists isn’t really about the investigative activities of the fine people of the Danbury Metal Detecting Club, which is another reason why Trevor Austin was enormously wide of the mark with his criticism – you’ll understand if you’ve watched the programme and if you haven’t then I don’t suppose you’ll probably care (although I think you probably should).

So here’s to the rise of the hobbyists, the anoraks and the detectorists of this world (even those who take themselves a little too seriously) because without them life would be tremendously dull eh?

[If you do care (and you really really should) the theme, especially recorded by Johnny Flynn, is also a delight.]


Skylight

30Oct14

“We don’t normally look at light. We’re generally looking at something light reveals.”

For those of you who stop by here from time to time you’ll perhaps be aware that I’ve already documented my enjoyment of staring into space on more than one occasion – and as member of The Cloud Appreciation Society I’ve also expressed my love of “visible masses of liquid droplets or frozen crystals made of water or various chemicals suspended in the atmosphere above the surface of a planetary body”. So quite why it’s taken me so long to become aware of James Turrell’s Skyspace over at Houghton Hall is beyond me.

Commissioned by the 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley (sadly commissioning great pieces of artwork is not for likes of me and you) and constructed in 2004, ‘Seldom Seen’ is a one of Turrell’s Skyspaces – a handsome modernist wooden box hidden away in the nearby woods. And to a certain extent that’s about it. On venturing inside you’ll find benches running around the perimeter which in turn allows those who’ve got this far to look to the perfectly square hole framing the sky above.

So whilst I understand that I’m not exactly overselling Skyspace as a spectacle, you really do need to believe me that once you’re inside it’s a revelation.

I could if I had the time (and perhaps more importantly the literary capabilities) try and explain quite how affecting Skyspace is, but I don’t think I’d get even close so I won’t.

Instead I’ll point you in the direction of the various Skyspace installations that can be found scattered across the globe (with a recommendation to get to your nearest example sharpish) and this short video from Turrell’s website (where the quote above comes from) about the development of this simple yet extraordinary art.


"

Another evening at the tremendous Lee Valley VeloPark with Mr Weir snr. as a belated birthday celebration. Once again I took a large number of photographs, and once again I don’t think I have a single shot in focus.

Still as taken with it as I was last time and to an extent that’s because I still wasn’t entirely sure what was going on.


Bright Ideas

20Oct14

Being encouraged to think isn’t something that happens as much as it should do. So time spent at the Battle of Ideas this weekend, a two day event encouraging “free thinking and open-ended public discussion” at the Barbican, was a bit of a treat.

In the America: the twilight years? session that I attended on Sunday morning Sir Christopher Meyer referenced the much disputed quotation from Zhou Enlai who when asked about the impact of the French revolution several hundred years later replied that it was too early too say.

So I may scribble down my (largely illegible) notes at some point soon, although I might just let the thoughts rumble about making connections when the time is right. That said unless medical science takes some leaps and bounds in the next few years I might not be able to wait quite as long as Enlai to reach my conclusions.

I shouldn’t hang around though.


75rpm

30Aug14

Today would have been the 75th birthday of Mr John Robert Parker Ravenscroft, known to most as Mr John Peel.

If you’ve visited here before you may have caught my ramblings about John in respect of my work with the wonderful Magoo and in particular my efforts to get their second single played on the radio :

I tried to instigate this radio-play by hand delivering copies all over London town and remarkably bumped into John Peel outside BBC Radio 1, who commended me on my Bill Shankly t–shirt (boy was I trying hard) and promised to listen to the record that very evening – whether he did or not remains unclear however he played the all the tracks from the record over the next few weeks and remained a fan / friend of the band up until his death in 2004 – in fact Magoo were one of the very last bands who recorded a session for him).

As my recollection of events fade it’s nice to have some evidence to back up my claims, and having dug around the various John Peel show recordings that can be found on the excellent John Peel Wiki I stumbled upon this:

I hope John knew the extent of the affection many of us had for him whilst he was alive – as he’s still very sadly missed by the extended family of those who knew him through his largely peerless radio programmes.

Happy birthday John.




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