All At Sea

14Jan17

On Friday August 8, 2003 an interview with Graham Fellows appeared in The Guardian. I don’t actually recall the date in question, however the joy of the internet means that a copy of it sits quietly in a corner of his website to reward those digging deep enough to find it.

In an attempt to explain what influences his work, Fellows talks with the journalist Will Hodgkinson about a handful of his favourite books, one of which he says he returns to time and  time again.

“When I finish a tour I’m exhausted and I need a rest,” he says. “Then after about a week I think I’m never going to be creative again and go slightly mad. At which point I always read The Strange Voyage of Donald Crowhurst by Nicholas Tomalin and Ron Hall.”

I wasn’t aware of the story of Donald Crowhurst at that point, so I immediately sought out a copy of the book, and ever since have entirely understood the need to return to it whenever the path ahead seems a little unclear.

The story, which tells of Crowhurst attempting (and sadly failing) to sail single-handedly round the world as part of the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race back in the late sixties, is a fascinating and deeply affecting read about a horribly misguided attempt to find fame and glory. An attempt hampered by virtue of it being made by an inexperienced sailor in an untried and ill prepared boat, rushing to begin in order to leave before the departure deadline had passed.

For those of you who haven’t immersed yourself in Crowhurst’s story I’m not going to do all the work for you – after all where’s the fun it that, other than to say that things didn’t end well. The possibility of which he was all too well aware of as these words dictated onto tape early on in the journey attest.

“The thing about single-handing is it puts a great deal of pressure on the man, it explores his weaknesses with a penetration that very few other occupations can manage. If he’s lazy he’ll be twice as lazy when he’s on his own, if he’s easily dispirited it’ll knock the stuffing out of him in no time at all.”

The reason that Donald Crowhurst and his story have reappeared on my radar this time is as a result of hearing the news that a film based on the book is being made featuring Colin Firth in the lead role, due for release some time during 2017.

Unsurprisingly this won’t be the first time the story has appeared on film, if you can’t wait for The Mercy later this year you could track down Horse Latitudes that was released in 1976 (although you’d be doing well), Les Quarantièmes rugissants (The Roaring Forties)  from 1982, the 1986 film Гонка века (Race of the Century) or Crowhurst, a Nic Roeg backed film shot in 2015 which (with no doubt unintended irony) doesn’t appear to have ever seen the light of day.

There’s also a pretty decent documentary available, Deep Water, released back in 2006 from the same people who put together Touching The Void. However my advice, if you want it, is to start with the book. Always start with the book.


BLOG - Doing is better than perfect

It’s been an odd start to the year, not a bad start just an odd one.

So it’s been useful to have a variety of props available to help ease the all embracing gloom that is January.

Props including these unassuming practical action stickers from Alyson Fielding, which she’s made because it’s often “easy to feel overwhelmed” with what needs to be done. Each sticker details “a tiny thing that can be done right now” which in turn might help the move onto bigger things.

I think they’re great and they’re quickly appearing on a variety of surfaces in and around the world in which I work, fingers crossed that they help craft some magic.


BLOG - Field Recording

Over the last few years I’ve become more and more interested in the world of field recordings.

I think I was sold on the idea after hearing Felicity Ford talk at one of the early Boring conferences about Georges Perec and the infra-ordinary, and the recordings she’d made (and played to us) of the coffee dispensing vending machine at Oxford Brookes University.

(If you’re not aware of Perec go and investigate him further: “What we need to question is bricks, concrete, glass, our table manners, our utensils, our tools, the way we spend our time, our rhythms. To question that which seems to have ceased forever to astonish us. We live, true, we breathe, true; we walk, we open doors, we go down staircases, we sit at a table in order to eat, we lie down on a bed in order to sleep. How? Why? Where? When? Why?”)

Until now I’ve played about trying to make recordings with my mobile phone, and whilst they’ve been fine they have been a little rudimentary. So I’m now the proud owner of an Olympus LS-14 audio recorder and we’ll see how things progress from hereon in.

Here’s the first recording from the new machine welcoming in 2017 (happy new year to one and all) – admittedly still rough and ready, although things should improve further when I get the windshield for the microphones.


BLOG - NW1

I wrote the blogpost below over five years ago.

And since then I’ve become considerably less convinced that I am in fact invincible.

Despite the encouraging words of the estimable Mrs Weir, whose positivity should probably be made available on the National Health, I sometimes find my enthusiasm for what life has to offer less than impressive for someone born into such a comfortable situation.

So it’s good in some respects to re-read what I’ve previously written years later as it allows me, if nothing else, to realise that I’m not in fact wallowing in some kind of self inflicted fug but am just experiencing the ebb and flow of my normal self. That’s perhaps not an ideal situation, but the older I get the more I realise it’s a situation, and that’s fine too.

Anyways I still love this song despite it’s frailties, and should probably have it played to me every morning in an attempt to jump-start my serotonin, because quite frankly what other options are there?

I’ve no idea who this song is by. I think I took it from the band’s MySpace page, which shows how long it’s been knocking about on my hard drive for, because I haven’t investigated a band through the hideous hallways of Mr Murdoch’s least propitious investment for some time now. Anyone any ideas?

The reason it’s here is because I love it and I think you should too – it’s wildly unassuming and not hugely well recorded, but I think it’s just grand. It came to mind particularly after reading Miranda Sawyer’s quite bleak but additionally quite life affirming (which is a difficult balancing act to achieve) piece in Sunday’s Observer about “the quiet desperation of a midlife crisis”, because although plainly I’m not invincible sometimes it pays to think positively.

And for those of you interested no I’m not, well I don’t think I am, although given that I’ve been in a self induced crisis since before I can remember it’s a little difficult to tell.


Noel Coward’s assertion that the county I call home is “very flat” is a little unfair (locals would suggest that ‘undulating’ is a more accurate description). However if you study the maps where Norfolk heads towards Lincolnshire it is reasonable to say that contour lines are an infrequent occurrence .

Sadly as a result of this the flatlands never seem to get a particularly good press, which is a shame because despite there being a lack of geographical features it’s occasionally a spectacular place to spend time in.




Continuing on the Agatha Christie theme.

Whilst we were away a new set of Christie themed stamps arrived from the Royal Mail, celebrating the centenary of the writing of her first detective story, The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

As well as being beautifully illustrated and designed (by Neil Webb and Jim Sutherland of Studio Sutherl&), the stamps also come with a number of clues that help identify the murderer hidden in the artwork. 

Some of the stamps, including the one above, require magnification that’s beyond my somewhat tired eyes to fully appreciate their joy (the design of the stamp apparently appears in it’s entirety on the bottle of poison on the table). However an ever neater trick is deployed on the stamp for the Murder on the Orient Express (as below), as it comes with an area of thermochromic ink that when activated results in the disappearance of a curtain to reveal the killer waiting patiently for their victim. 

That such care and effort is made with an ordinary and often ignored everyday item always impresses me, and whilst the world of philately is not likely to become my second home I wholly approve of an occasional visit.

Before:

And after:

(For reference (bit of a theme this) the title of this blogpost comes from I’ve Had It With Blondes by Cud, which itself features on their album When In Rome Kill Me.)


A week ago today Mrs Weir and I (along with a more senior interloper) had just returned from a break in the South West, to be specific the handsome South Devon town of Dartmouth.

Unlike our last trip to the area we remained free of any driving based trauma as most of our journeys during the week took place via the Dartmouth Steam Railway and a variety of ferries travelling along and across the River Dart.

Seems an age ago already.

[I’ve started taking somewhat random audio recordings again, feels more satisfying than hundreds of low quality snaps. Not to say that the recordings are anything more than rudimentary but still. May investigate further how to do low cost audio on the iPhone without the intrusive interruption of wind-noise – any thoughts much appreciated.]

The Dartmouth Steam Railway, on the way to Paignton.

Agatha Christie sounding a little fierce at Greenway, her holiday home for many years.

Walking through the leaves at Dartington Hall (we arrived in unseasonably warm weather but by the end of the week Autumn was well and truly with us).

Back at Greenway, where they had a typewriter of dubious origin (albeit not misrepresented with any signage).

Arriving in Paignton on the Dartmouth Steam Railway.

The River Dart making it’s way into Bayard’s Cove.

*Well just South of the English Riviera but close enough eh?




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