What A World

10Feb17

Just over a month since writing about ‘the all embracing gloom that is January’ and  I’m still struggling. I used to be able to manage my mental state through the winter darkness much more easily than I seem to be able to do now, although I suppose to be fair to myself the background whine of rage inducing news doesn’t help.

So here’s Clive James, who finds himself in a far more perilous situation than me, to accentuate the positive in his ‘Reports of my death’ column in The Guardian.


Good Lobsters

02Feb17

BLOG - Cromer #1

When Daniel Defoe visited Cromer he was underwhelmed, “Cromer is a market town close to the shore of this dangerous coast. I know nothing it is famous for except good lobsters.”

I visited last Saturday and whilst I can confirm that Cromer is still a town close to the shore of the coast, I can’t vouch for its lobsters.


For a while now I’ve been meaning to travel deep into the flatlands to visit Holme Fen, supposedly the lowest land point in Great Britain. Obviously to manage such an achievement would take great planning and much effort, so on Saturday morning after a few minutes of clarification via the world wide web (admittedly not that much planning), I set out to make my mark.

To be honest living just under an hour away from Holme Fen did make the journey a little less arduous than had I been searching for height rather than depth, so in order to inject some jeopardy into the proceedings I did at least leave before sun-rise.

Originally Holme Fen sat within the Whittlesey Mere (at that time the largest lake in Southern England), which was drained by a group of local landowners in the mid 1800s in order to convert the area into (very successful) farmland. William Wells, the leader of the group, understood that draining the land would bring changes, so in order to help measure the evolving landscape he erected a post deep into the ground at the lowest point in the area.

The post (originally wood but replaced with cast iron a few years later) was set in 1848 with the top being cut level with the surface of the ground, and since that point the land around it has dropped by over 13 feet. In the picture above (taken before the sun came up) you can see the top of the post high above the ground, whilst the picture below shows two further marking points made as the years passed.

BLOG - Holme Fen #c

Holme Fen itself is one of the largest silver birch woodlands in Britain, contains several hectares of rare acid grassland and there’s still plenty of water to be found, despite the drainage that previously took place.

As ever with the fens, it’s a beautiful but somewhat peculiar landscape. And if my (admittedly very limited) experience is anything to go by it’s one that is largely ignored, as for the two or three hours I was there I didn’t see another soul.


In Other News

20Jan17

BLOG - Penguin Awareness Day

Today has seen a disappointing lack of coverage regarding Penguin Awareness Day. Hopefully the various news networks will realise the error of their ways and make amends on World Penguin Day later in the year.


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.




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