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I’m Going In A Field by Ivor Cutler

I’m going in a field
I’m going in a field
I’m going in a field to lie down

I’ll lie beside the grass
I’ll lie beside the grass
I’ll lie beside the green grass

I’m going in a field
I’m going in a field
I’m going in a field to lie down
Yellow flower in the grass
Yellow flower in the grass

I’m going in a field
I’m going in a field
I’m going in a field to lie down

My lover’s eyes are blue
I’m going in a field to lie down

Green grass, yellow flower, my lover’s eyes are blue

I’m going in a field

If you know me over and above a cursory viewing of this blog, you’ll hopefully already be well aware of the work* of Maxim Griffin. I can’t recall how I stumbled upon his particular take on the landscape that surrounds him however I think it likely that it was via a certain idiotically owned social media application, and for that alone, I’m willing to forgive it its many failings (well a handful of them anyway).

Since making that accidental connection with what Maxim was up to out there in the east of Lincolnshire, I am proud to admit to becoming an immediate and vocal convert to the cause.

I followed his comings and goings on Twitter, I made sure I secured copies of Lincolnshire Life magazine – which featured regular articles by him, I even invested in four small, but spectacularly good paintings finished with his signature (which Royal Mail mislaid for over a month before eventually deciding to return them to me – can’t blame them for trying to take ownership by stealth mind).

So when news arrived that he was working on a book “of words and artworks that capture a year spent on foot in the Lincolnshire landscape” through Unbound (a “crowdfunding publisher that gives people the tools, support and freedom to bring their ideas to life”) I signed up to support the project there and then, to help ensure that a book I really wanted Maxim to write, became a book that I would eventually get the chance to read.

That was back in March of 2018 – but if anything is worth doing it’s worth doing slowly. 

Fast forward through to Saturday 11th June 2022 and my copy of Field Notes arrives – a red-letter day and no mistaking, and on an initial dig through the book it’s clear that the work involved in the last four years has been time very well spent indeed.

Georges Perec wrote that within society, railway trains only begin to exist when they are derailed, and the more passengers that are killed, the more the trains exist. And while Maxim writes rarely of railways, Field Notes does an admirable job in derailing the landscape around him (and beyond) through his repeated journeys out into the edges, with the alchemy that follows bringing everything around him into a brilliantly realised existence. 

I could ramble on about Field Notes for longer than would be helpful, however before I switch off to give it the time it deserves I was reminded of an interview with Bill Drummond in The Guardian (from an age ago) that I recently came across in the archives here at Weir HQ on “the strange wisdom of theatre maverick Ken Campell”. In the piece Bill talks about the various lessons he learnt as a result of time spent with Campbell with the first of those taking place on the day after he met him:

Bill,” he said “Bill, don’t bother doing anything unless it is heroic.”

Evidently Maxim received the same advice.

Onward.

BLOG - Field Notes image

*Never sure whether this is the right term – answers on a postcard please.


Cheering news this week, with the announcement that detectorists is returning to us – with a feature-length, 75-minute episode due to air later this year. Nice to have something to look forward to eh?

In the meantime, I’ll be investing in one of these superfine prints from designer Sean Coleman.

And if you need some detectorists distractions between now and then I can wholeheartedly recommend Landscape of Detectorists – a brilliant little book that collects a number of papers originally presented at a conference of the Royal Geographical Society in 2018, and all three issues of waiting for you: a detectorists zine produced by the people at Temporal Boundary Press.


Shingle Street

04May22

The shell line at Shingle Street - "a long line of white shells started by two childhood friends while reflecting on their treatment for cancer"

Spent a few days in Suffolk last week, a county almost as fine as Norfolk. This meant I was able to return to Shingle Street, described by W G Seabald in The Rings of Saturn as “The most abandoned spot in the entire region… which now consists of just one wretched row of humble houses and cottages, and where I have never encountered a single human being.”

I first visited it at the very end of February 2020. It was cold and gloomy, with rain, sleet, and snow taking turns to discourage anyone considering visiting. I was there on my own (I’m not easily discouraged), and it felt like I was standing at the edge of the world.

Then days later an eager to please infectious disease arrived in the UK, and everything got bent out of shape.

On this return visit I was with Mrs Weir. And arriving in warm spring sunshine, with the sky a brilliant blue, it felt a little less bleak than it did the first we met. That said it still it remains an oddly disconcerting location whatever the weather – especially so with the distant sound of a nearby navigational marker buoy just out to sea, its bell ringing in the ebb and flow of the tide.

For Shingle Street’s a single street
A row of shacks in stone and wood,
The sea out front, the marsh out back,
Just one road in and one road out,
With no way north except the spit,
And no way south except on foot,
A cul-de-sac, a dead-end track,
A sandbanked strand to sink a fleet,
A bay, a bar, a strip, a trap,
A wrecking ground, that’s Shingle Street.

From Blake Morrison’s poem The Ballad of Shingle Street,
from his third collection of poetry – Shingle Street


Pick A Card

22Apr22

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I’m hoping that investing in a set of these excellent cards from Nick Parker will help with my anxiety enhanced procrastination, he says of them:

Use them however you want. Personally, I shuffle the pack, take a card, read what it tells me to do, then do that thing. Obviously, it always tells me the same thing: GET THE FUCK ON WITH IT. It’s really stupid, but it actually works. At least it does for me. I make no guarantees.

Watch this space.


Fun

20Oct21

Over the last couple of months or so my anxiety has been doing some disappointingly brisk business – thankfully things are now improving, partly due to some talking therapy, partly due to some new magic medication, and partly due to taking some time away from work – the longest period of time I’ve not been ‘in’ work for over thirty years.

Tomorrow sees me return, so in preparation for this, I’ve invested in a new print from Mr Bingo – to remind me, because as idiotic as it sounds reminding is sometimes needed, not to forget to have fun.


I’ve no idea how many poets use Tripadvisor, however after Philip Larkin’s damming review of the Duke’s Head Hotel, located in the centre of my hometown (see previous post), it was good to stumble upon a slightly more positive view of another hotel that sits on the other side of the market place – this time from Mr Siegfried Sassoon.

September 14 1924 (Globe Hotel, King’s Lynn)

… after a stroll round, I set off through the orchard-fringes, and arrived at 7. This place was equally attractive. The hotel, though less distinguished than the Rose and Crown, is by no means bad, standing in a derelict square (of the French place type) and backed by the river (almost a harbour).

Sunday evening – a red sunset, church-bells tolling, citizens strolling – how pleasant to arrive. (And to read, unexpected, my twelve lines in the Observer.) (In me, past, present, future meet.)

And cold pigeon-pie for dinner. Inspired by Tidnam’s wine-list, I ordered half a bottle of vintage port (8/6) and drank it all. Hence my garrulity. (497 miles since September 6.)

September 15 1924

This morning I awoke at 4 a.m. and peered out on my window. The cobbled market-place wore a glimmeringly forlorn aspect and its eight trees shivered under a cloudy sky. Six hours later I emerged from the hotel, feeling slightly invigorated by my overnight port – a tribute to its authentic quality. I inspected a couple of antique shops; bought a duster for fourpence-halfpenny (to wipe the car with); looked at St Margaret’s Church; purchased a guide to Norfolk (at W. H. Smith’s); entered the Guildhall and was shown over it by a withered white-haired woman; Fanny Burney’s portrait (a copy) was there (her father was organist at St Margaret’s, and she was born in Lynn). A portrait of Sir Benjamin Keene was said (by the caretaker) to be by Hogarth, but was less interesting than a curious eighteenth-century painting of the Market Place; anonymous, and presented by a Miss Cruso.

A little before noon, in cloudy but pleasant weather, I slipped out of the town, taking the Hunstanton Road.

Not sure he’d be quite as taken with it now given that it’s a Wetherspoons, as I imagine they no longer stock vintage port. 

In other news, I shall now be lobbying the local council to arrange some kind of blue plaque along the lines of, “Siegfried Sassoon bought a duster (to wipe his car with) from a shop on this site on September 15th 1924”, as it seems an inexcusable shame not to commemorate such an auspicious event.


For over thirty years I’ve worked in the centre of my hometown of King’s Lynn – and yes you’re right, I am a man who constantly craves high-octane adventures of an increasingly dangerous kind.

This has meant that I’ve visited almost every possible place in the town where respite from the world of work can be taken, including the Duke’s Head – a hotel built in 1683 for Sir John Turner, and designed by architect Henry Bell.

The current owners describe it as “the quintessential market town hotel – a handsome hostelry with history at every turn, restored and restyled for the discerning twenty-first century traveller”. Whether this is an accurate description or not is difficult to say given it’s been a while since I could describe myself as a twenty-first century traveller, discerning or otherwise. What I do know though, is that Philip Larkin wasn’t much of a fan, so if you base your recommendations on those made by English poets then I’d give it a miss.

The following extract comes from a letter to Barbara Pym, who he maintained a correspondence with for many years, is addressed from the Duke’s Head Hotel in King’s Lynn, and shows that had Trip Advisor been a thing in the summer of 1971 he would probably have been heading towards a one-star rating.

I have a theory that “holidays” evolved from the medieval pilgrimage, and are essentially a kin of penance for being so happy and comfortable in one’s daily life. You’re about to point out the essential fallacy in this, viz., that we aren’t h. & c. in our daily lives, but it’s too late now, the evolution has taken place, and we do the world’s will, not our own, as Jack Tanner says in Man & Superman. Anyway, every year I take my mother away for a week, & this is it. God knows why I chose this place—well, there are certain basic requirements—must be fairly near where she lives, must have single rooms with private bathrooms & lift, must for preference be near the sea … even so, one can make grave errors, & I rather think this is one of them. One forgets that nobody stays in hotels these days except businessmen & American tourists: the food is geared to the business lunch or the steak-platter trade: portion-control is rampant, and the materials cheap anyway (or so I guess: three lamb chops I had were three uncuttable unchewable unanswerable arguments for entry into EEC if—as I suspect—they had made the frozen journey from New Zealand). The presence of the hotel in the Good Food Guide is nothing short of farce. Of course it’s a Trust House, which guarantees a kind of depersonalized dullness. Never stay at a Trust House.

If you’re still considering a visit regardless I should confirm that the hotel hasn’t been a Trust House for some time and it no longer appears in the Good Food Guide either. 


Am currently obsessed with local news reports of mysterious noises, (there’s plenty of them). And while I know I should be using our current predicament to learn a language, or become proficient on the sousaphone, I’ve been wondering whether I should perhaps start building a sound map of Britain instead.

That said a quick search to check for rival attempts has taken me to The World Hum Map and Database, a website that “documents and maps the self-reported data from people around the world who can hear The Hum, and also provides a serious and disciplined forum for scientific investigations and commentary”, so maybe the sousaphone it is.


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.




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