Back in March of last year when I had no idea how to deal with the arrival of the happening, I decided to “…try and post something positive each and every day for the next one hundred days, something that avoids the pathogen in the room because otherwise I’m not entirely sure that said wonky wiring will last as long as it’s needed”.

The good news is that almost a year has now passed, and my wiring remains functional, not spectacularly so, but the fact that it’s functioning at all is surely something to celebrate.

Anyway.

One of the first few posts was about a revised set of much-loved books:

I’ve mentioned it before now but for those of you who don’t make a special effort to keep up to date with each and every post I publish (don’t worry I’ve got broad shoulders), I am a collector of Ladybird Books – one thousand seven hundred and thirty eight books, and counting, to be specific (plus a considerable amount of associated ephemera).

Of the many Ladybird books that I own one of my favourite sets (and it’s safe to say I’m probably not alone in this) is the four What to Look for titles written by E L Grant Watson and illustrated by Charles Tunnicliffe, originally published back in the early 1960s.

It’s difficult to imagine how the What to Look for series could be bettered given the pedigree of the original writer and illustrator (both of whom already got a mention in post number #006), however Ladybird are about to try by publishing a new set with a new writer and illustrator and they look really great.

I’ve no idea what the purists will think, and to be honest I haven’t seen any of the texts (by Elizabeth Jenner) yet but the illustrations by Natasha Durley are mighty handsome.

The set of four, namely What to Look for in Spring, What to Look for in Summer, What to Look for in Autumn and What to Look for in Winter were due to be published by Ladybird in May, and are definitely something to look forward to, whenever they do finally emerge.

Many months have now passed since the set was originally due to be published, but the good news is that they’re being released into the wild later this week.

And in even better news, having now had the chance to dig through them I can confirm that they are nothing short of wonderful – beautifully written and with illustrations that I’m already impossibly fond of. 

Those of us who have a love of all things Ladybird know that since the 1980s the imprint hasn’t always been used for work that deserved such a reassuring jumping off point. So it’s cheering that things have obviously changed for the better, because while this new set isn’t better than the books published back in the 60s (to be honest it’s a bit reductive to compare them), they stand up to them admirably – whatever your age go and buy a set now – you will not be disappointed.


Mud & Sand

06Jan21

It seems that we’re back to travelling vicariously for a while then, which works for me better than it does for others (sorry Mrs Weir).

Given that I can journey to any location of my choice in relative comfort and at insignificant cost, I should perhaps set my sights to somewhere a little further than Gibraltar Point on the Lincolnshire coast, but that’s where I’m starting thanks to this Sunrise Sound Walk with Horatio Clare broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on 26th December 2020 – “As the sun rises in the east across the mingling of land and sea on the northern most tip of The Wash – that great bite out of the east coast of Britain – the stark, remote, unspoilt beauty of the mudflats and saltmarsh is brought to life. From the glimmer of first light to the great golden flare of the risen sun, this moment of serene natural drama reveals the vast skies and shimmering waters of one of the UK’s great wildernesses.”

Despite making plans over the years to visit the Point I’ve yet to manage it, partly because it’s so close to home (an oddly obstructive factor), and partly because it takes over two hours of travelling on the less than direct Lincolnshire roads to get there.

For the moment thought this will more than do.

There’s another Sunrise Sound Walk also available over on the Radio 3 website – The Pilgrim’s Path to Holy Island, which is just as good – but different to – the one above. There’s also a number of his Slow Radio pieces still available if you dig around a bit – and it’s digging that will be well rewarded.


“I’m going to try and post ten highlights a day for the last ten days of this year – although I’m not terribly adept at sticking to the plans I make so we’ll see.”

At least I didn’t overpromise eh?

Anyways, happy New Year.


For reference if you’ve come to #51 – #60 before #01 – #10.

#51 The picture above, Skating by Moonlight by Ronald Lampitt. Lampitt was one of the great illustrators employed by Ladybird Books (and there were more than a few), and this particular image was tweeted by Helen Day (over at @LBFlyawayhome). Helen’s a wealth of knowledge on all things Ladybird and her twitter feed often provides a very welcome escape from everything else that’s going on.

#52 David Boulter’s Yarmouth album, released on Clay Pipe Music, which should be all you need to know.

#53 New books by Peter Ashley are always a treat. I’ve only invested in one of the three new titles available, however I’m sure the other two will make appearances soon.

#54 The London Review of Books cover illustrations by Jon McNaught – always ensuring the magazine stands out by a country mile on the shelves of my local WHSmiths. (And as a further highlight here’s a great little comic strip he posted on Christmas morning.)

#55  A Tomb With a View by Peter Ross, “the stories & glories of graveyards”. Not a book you would necessarily gravitate to given the year we’ve had, you should though because it’s a delight. 

#56 The Speed Cubers. A short but cheering documentary on the competitive world of speedcubing. I taught myself how to solve the Rubik’s Cube many many years ago and recall being able to do it pretty quickly albeit nowhere near as quickly as those who feature here. I’ve started to teach myself again having watched this, but my ability to commit the algorithms needed to memory is sadly not what it was.

#57 The Hidden Wilds of the Motorway, “Author and naturalist Helen Macdonald embarks on a clockwise loop around the M25 to discover if there is a wild side to Britain’s busiest road.” 

#48 Shingle Street. One of the few places I managed to visit this year. A disconcerting landscape perhaps not helped by the weather (sleet alternating with driving rain) but one that has stuck in my mind ever since.

#49 Being reminded of these postcards by Japanese conceptual artist On Kawara – think I originally saw them a few years ago at the Tate (in Liverpool). 

#50 And finally for today, and continuing the theme (somewhat), the sending and receiving of postcards. As everything becomes digital my love of the physical increases.


For reference if you’ve come to #41 – #50 before #01 – #10.

And we’re back.

#41 The picture above, The Force by Lee Madgwick, whose slightly unnerving work is something that I’ve enjoyed a great deal over the last year. I first came across this particular image on the cover of issue #94 of Norfolk poetry magazine The Rialto, and was so taken with it I now have a print of it on my wall.

#42 The Personal History of David Copperfield, which I first saw earlier this year in an actual cinema, back before the arrival of the happening. Hugely enjoyable with plenty of great performances, including my hometown of King’s Lynn which doubled for a number of alternative locations.

#43 The successful funding of Maxim Griffin’s Field Notes, a book I very much look forward to owning a copy of – although all good things come to those who wait.

#44 Cold War Steve.

#45 The heroic poetic efforts of Nick Asbury, whose experiment to write “fast poems” is by his own admission now an experiment that “is wildly out of control”. Never quite sure how he manages such an industrious output while maintaining the quality that he does. I have all three volumes of his collected poems in the poetry wing of the library here at Weir HQ. Would recommend them all.

#46 I’m not sure what to call these show and tell images from Emma Mitchell (that appear on her twitter feed from time to time), however if you’re in need of some visual joy then I’d recommend digging through her past tweets to find her previous efforts.

#47 Lego Lost at Sea. “On this day in 1997, nearly 5 million bits of Lego, much of it sea themed, fell into the ocean when a huge wave hit the cargo ship Tokio Express, washing 62 containers overboard.” As someone who daydreams of becoming a professional beachcomber this account is a treat – albeit that it makes me a little envious that the Norfolk beaches don’t provide a higher number of finds.

#48 Crimson Star by Hen Ogledd.

#49 One Thing Leads to Another, “A short film about collecting, cycling caps, art and design, personal connections and why it’s worth doing something for a long time, even if the benefits are not clear at first.” Saw this first as part of Glug Birmingham’s Collectors Edition – which is in itself well worth investigating further.

#50 BBC Radio 3’s Slow Radio, “An antidote to today’s frenzied world. Step back, let go, immerse yourself: it’s time to go slow. Listen to the sounds of birds, mountain climbing, monks chatting as you go about your day. A lo-fi celebration of pure sound.” The Flying Scotsman episode is particularly good.


BLOG - Test Card

A short intermission – to be fair I did say that “I’m not terribly adept at sticking to the plans I make”. Anyone looking for a refund should contact our customer service team.


For reference if you’ve come to #31 – #40 before #01 – #10, oh and happy Christmas 🙂

#31 The picture above by Dutch artist Raymond Lemstra, of architects Alison and Peter Smithson, which I found while digging through the archives of the Architectural Review while it was open to all for a few days earlier in the year. (Actually, I’ve just checked and it’s free again to access until Sunday 3rd January.)

#32 This online version of the Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer (and Roland TB-303 Bass Line) created as part of The Design Museum’s Electronic: From Kraftwerk to the Chemical Brothers exhibition, something that you’re guaranteed to lose yourself in for quite some time.

#33 Roadliners, a short documentary film which celebrates “local road marking heroes, Tam and Jim as they hand pour and paint lines and type on the streets of Glasgow”. When I tweeted about this earlier in the year the internet seemed to be very fond of it too.

#34 King’s Lynn of Silence. Drone footage of my hometown, King’s Lynn, in the early days of the first lockdown. I’m hoping that it’s never quite this quiet again, although it’s not wholly unpleasant to see the streets free of traffic.

#35 Goldfinches.

#36 Learning the names of wildflowers. Which I incidentally started to do just before reading an interview with Mackenzie Crook on the CPRE website in which he recalls his dad “quoting a line from The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, where Reggie was complaining that his tombstone would say that he didn’t know the names of the birds and the flowers, but he knew the names of all the Sunshine Desserts”. Tempted to find the exact quote and get it painted on a big sign to remind me.

UPDATE: After posting this earlier today I searched out the actual quote, which comes from the Bilberry Hall Speech in episode five of the first series: “More rubbish, that’s a very good point, thank you Hump. But what has all this growth done for me? Well, I’ll tell you. One day I’ll die, and on my grave it will say: “Here lies Reginald Iolanthe Perrin. He didn’t know the names of the trees and the flowers, but he knew the rhubarb crumble sales figures for Schleswig Holstein.” Look outside at those trees – beautiful. But soon they will all be cut down to make more underground par carks (sic). But I have got good news for you, because half the parking meters in London have got Dutch Parking Meter disease.” You can read the whole scene over on this somewhat inelegant but entirely thorough ‘official’ website and a good chunk of it is also available to look at on the BBC Studios YouTube account – and while it’s no surprise to find out quite how good the script was it’s good to be reminded.

#37 The BBC Motion Graphics Archive – “a showcase of the history and development of motion graphics across the BBC”. Another internet rabbit-hole full of memories of television programmes that I vaguely recollect, shame that the television programmes that follow aren’t included but you can’t have everything.

#38 Kevin Boniface’s video/audio columns over on the Caught by the River website which I’ve no idea how to describe so you’ll have to go and investigate yourself if you’re interested (you should be). He’s also got a great book out called Round About Town, another one published Uniformbooks.

#39 Matt Berry’s Take A Bow, “All that I hold dear, take a bow. Living without fear, take a bow.”

#40 Watercolour World, not a homage to the notorious post-apocalyptic action film starring Kevin Costner, but “a free database of pre-1900 documentary watercolours from private as well as public collections around the world”.


For reference if you’ve come to #21 – #30 before #01 – #10.

#21 The painting above, Everything’s Gone Green by Sue Asbury, whose abstract work is just tremendous. In fact, I was so keen on her work that I managed to acquire this and it now hangs on my wall, which I’m very happy about.

#22 Wake Up Calls by Cosmo Sheldrake, “Wake Up Calls was created over a nine year period, using recordings of bird song featured on the red and amber lists of endangered British birds (with the exception of a Robin and a Blackbird, which aren’t endangered – yet).” I can’t think there’s much like this out in the wild (as it were) which is a shame because it’s properly lovely.

#23 This side-by-side application “allows you to compare selected geo-referenced maps to each other and to modern map or satellite layers in a split-screen viewer”, which doesn’t sound especially engaging but it’s a joy. I’ve spent an age lost in this, so thank you to the fine people at the National Library of Scotland.

#24 The twelve-hour episode of The Third Day – my grasp as to what was happening was thin, but that was fine. Sadly there doesn’t appear to be a recording of the entire thing available online (which is a shame) but HBO have put a ninety-nine minute version up on YouTube here.

#25 The Present & Correct twitter account, which regularly points me into, always interesting, corners of the internet that I wasn’t previously aware of. And they run a super-fine stationery shop too.

#26 The Sainsbury Archive. Which is a brilliantly put together archive full of impossibly handsome treasure. When I’m eventually fired from my current place of employment I’d be very happy working here. (As an aside if anyone from the Sainsbury Archive happens to stop by I’d be more than happy to jump ship sooner than later – am very much open to offers (surprisingly low ones at that)).

#27 “Paul Graham spent the early 80s going up and down the Great North Road with nothing but his camera and a few fry-ups for company.” I’m very glad he did because his photographs are a complete joy.

#28 Count Arthur Strong.

#29 Working from home for large parts of the year has meant that I’ve been listening to a lot more instrumental music, and the soundtrack of The Conversation by David Shire is something that I’ve returned to time and time again.

#30 The Art Deco By The Sea exhibition at the Sainsbury Centre in Norwich. Sadly I didn’t get to go. But this short film over on the iPlayer was a great way of people getting the opportunity to see some of it from the safety of their own homes. I hope that this kind of thing continues when the fallout from the happening subsides. I also bought the catalogue too which I can’t recommended enough


For reference if you’ve come to #11 – #20 before #01 – #10.

#11 The picture above detailing some spirographic automotive fun on the top deck of one of the multi-storey car parks at the Bluewater Shopping Centre (as noticed by @Commonor_Garden). Obviously I don’t approve of such behaviour but it does make for an oddly interesting take on a largely dull location.

#12 This fascinating story of the many treasures found at Oxborough Hall in the remnants of “two massive and ancient rat’s nests”, unearthed while it undergoes a £6,000,000 restoration and repair programme. I should I suppose be most excited by the sixteenth century book found beneath a piece of wall-plate, however it’s the handsomely preserved empty Terry’s Gold Leaf Chocolate Assortment box that initially drew me in.

#13 Radio Lento, “A podcast service that provides places to escape to.” through immersive field recordings. 

#14 Marcus Rashford.

#15 The Tripping Forecast by L_o_n_g_w_a_v_e (which is “mostly Rob Manuel – with thanks to David Ault & Chris Barker”): “It’s 1989 and you’ve taken a pill in a club; it gets too much and you wander into the chill out room and the DJ is playing a super mellow set of Radio 4 classics – This was mixed to play quietly in bed, to do the washing up to or maybe some light tidying.”

#16 The BBC have left all three series of Detectorists available to view over on the iPlayer – which quite frankly has done more for my wellbeing than anything the government has managed in the last twelve months – however it’s Landscapes of Detectorists I’m highlighting here, a book that considers “the programme’s engagement with landscape, its ecological resonances, and its attention to place and identity”. I don’t think there are many sitcoms (no idea whether that’s the right category to place the programme in) that have inspired such thoughtful writing, but I suppose it’s perhaps no surprise that if any of them were going to it would be Detectorists that did.

#17 Tweet of the day. It’s pleasing to note that the best programme on Radio 4 is also the shortest, coming in at under two minutes each morning (before things take a turn for the (much) worse with the Today programme). This episode presented by Samuel West (yes him again) on the eider duck was a particularly fine example of it.

#18 The govbins.uk Instagram account, which I was proud to contribute to earlier this year.

#19 Being woken at 1.30am one morning in June by what we thought was a car alarm, but on further investigation was the barking of a muntjac deer. I stood outside in the road, in the warm morning air, listening as he/she slowly disappeared into the distance.

#20 Paul McCartney talking about Homes under the Hammer on The Adam Buxton Podcast.


Think I might need to come back here more often – if for no other reason than to add another diversion to the collection, to in turn ensure that my limited ability to cope with our current circumstances is maintained.

As it’s the end of the year, and because quite frankly I need this as much as anyone, I’m going to pull together a collection of bits and pieces that have helped keep me cheerful throughout the last twelve-ish months. I’m going to try and post ten highlights a day for the last ten days of this year – although I’m not terribly adept at sticking to the plans I make so we’ll see.

Here goes.

#01 The picture above by Michael Kidd, of Derek Jarman’s garden – which I was introduced to thanks to the twitter account of @HenryRothwell. It’s a place I still haven’t managed to get to, so this will more than do for the moment.

#02 Melissa Harrison’s The Stubborn Light of Things podcast, “As spring breaks over the British Isles, and summer settles in, I’ll be documenting the wonder and richness of the natural world and bringing it into as many homes as I can.” There’s twenty-seven episodes of this to catch up on if you’ve not yet had the chance, and listening to them as the year unfolded was an education and a joy.

#03 The television show Ghosts.

#04 Tom Hollander’s – A Life in the Day. “Sometime between 6 and 8 I wake again, turn up the Today programme gently. If my girlfriend is there we hold each other in different positions. If she isn’t I wrap my arms around a pillow and continue listening to the bad news.” (I love Tom Hollander, one of the few gentleman I’d consider eloping with were I not already married to the marvellous Mrs Weir.)

#05 Watching, via the wonders of the world wide web, Quinton Lake finish up his walk around all 11,000 kilometres of Britain’s coast. He started at St Paul’s Cathedral on the 17th April 2015, and finished just over five years later on the 15th September 2020. On more occasions that I care to remember his photographs of some far flung corner of Britain have cheered me no end.

#06 Finding out more about the different aspect ratios of the various Nordic cross flags via Samuel West – it’s this kind of thing that I pay my twitter subscription fees for. Other than the obvious exceptions – Switzerland, Nepal, and it appears the Vatican City too – I’d always assumed that flags were identical in their dimensions. The fact that they’re not pleases me greatly. It’s the simple things eh?

#07 This advert from the AA featuring Tukker the dog.

#08 Margaret Calvert at the opening of the exhibition, Margaret Calvert: Woman at Work, sporting a tremendous (and entirely on brand) bag.

#09 Erratics & Unconformities the first album from Craven Faults, “Half-remembered journeys across post-industrial Yorkshire.” Which I was introduced to by the fine people at Norman Records (who are themselves a reason to be cheerful, a great record shop based in Leeds, with a mail order department second to none). 

#10 Lev Parikian’s imaginary bird names.




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