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.


“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.


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