In The Country


BLOG - Detectorists #S3E1C

If you’re a returning visitor to this particular corner of the internet you’ll hopefully be aware that I adore Mackenzie Crook’s Detectorists.

The good news is that having watched the first episode of the new (and sadly last) series my adoration remains undiminished.

BLOG - Detectorists #S3E1
BLOG - Detectorists #S3E1B

Back To Nature


Whilst I’m an enormous fan of the changing seasons (and the transition from summer into autumn in particular) my little grey cells always suffer from the lack of sunlight available to me at this time of year.

The one and only thing that seems to help remedy this situation is immersing myself in the great outdoors.

So on Sunday Mrs Weir and I travelled a few miles North to Sculthorpe Moor Reserve to do just that.

As ever we read the ‘spotted today’ board at the entrance of the reserve with a certain amount of cynicism, unconvinced that we’d manage to tick off quite so many of the great and good that others had seemingly seen in abundance. I’m never particularly annoyed that this happens, I know that you’ve got to put in the hours, it’s just (mostly) amusing to consider the number of hides we’ve sat in over the years without seeing a thing – and I really do mean a thing. It also probably doesn’t help that the time it takes to remove my glasses and focus the binoculars is usually well in excess of the time that anything of note is prepared to hang around in order to be observed.

Today was different though.

We’d wandered across the length of the reserve with a number of unremarkable sightings of some of the usual suspects (although to be fair the sight of a goldfinch in all it’s finery is never not remarkable). Then as we turned to slowly head back, Mrs Weir heard the sound of something in the water nearby, and there not fifteen feet from where we stood was an otter arcing slowly through the river away from us.

The temptation when this kind of thing happens is to pack in whatever you’re doing, you’ve struck lucky and expecting it to happen again is a foolhardy presumption. However we’d not been there long and as it was a handsome autumnal morning we wandered back to one of the hides we passed earlier, the hide feted as the most likely location to spot the kingfishers that were alleged to live in the vicinity.

We’d visited a handful of times before now and had always come away sensing that our expectations had been unnecessarily raised. So we were more than prepared to just sit and stare for a while.

However only a few minutes later, out in the distance in front of us I noticed something hovering above the water. I couldn’t tell what it was to start with but my brain knew that it was new to me so I took notice. And then it clicked.

A kingfisher.

Before today we’d always assumed that the mention of the kingfishers was bait to lure unsuspecting visitors to this easily missed corner of the Norfolk countryside. Thankfully we were wrong.

I don’t spend nearly as much time as I should out in the wilds, however whenever I do it always rewards me more than I probably understand. To quote Mr Tom Cox (author of the excellent 21st-Century Yokel): “We need to stop perceiving nature as an outsider’s hobby. It’s not some quirky extra to the main business. It is the main business.”

A Civic Vision


Blog - Civic Centre#2

On Tuesday, Mrs Weir and I spent the day in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, apparently the 21st best place to live in Britain.

Whilst there I managed to pick up a copy of a book produced by the City Architect’s Department back in November 1968, about one of my favourite Newcastle buildings, namely the Civic Centre.

Sadly on the very same day we were visiting news filtered through that the City Council have plans for it, plans that the Twentieth Century Society object to in the “strongest possible terms”, believing they would cause “substantial harm” to what it describes as “one of the most important pieces of post-war civic architecture in the country”.

The fact that the plans proposed by the Council include “the construction of meeting pods and a café” perhaps tells you all you need to know about those responsible for looking after this building. As Adrian Jones (aka @jonestheplanner) says over on his blog “the Civic Centre reminds us of the sort of civic vision and initiative that cities like Newcastle used to have”.

Sadly it looks like some people need reminding of that more than others.

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Foggy Notion


Blog - Foggy Notion#1

In an attempt to subvert the trend elsewhere I’m going to try to increase the frequency of my blog posts by embracing the concept of brevity.

So hello from the impossibly murky North East where Mrs Weir and I have been enwrapped in thick fog for the last few days.

Blog - Foggy Notion#2

On Friday night, Magoo are celebrating their 25th birthday at the Norwich Art’s Centre, and whilst there’s always more to be said in looking forwards rather than backwards, it seems a more than appropriate point to briefly return to a moment that is now a somewhat indistinct memory.

Back in a time when the world seemed a slightly less finite concept, I attempted to forge a life in the world of light entertainment looking after the “telephones and typewriters” for a band called Magoo.

To be frank I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.

Thankfully I don’t think the band were entirely clear what was going on either, so we kind of suited each other just fine for a while.

When I first started working with the band I only really had one goal, and that was to record a session for John Peel. I made a vague deal with them that I’d help as much as I was able to, as long as when, or at that point probably more honestly if, they ever got to record a session for Peel I would be allowed to make a guest appearance.

So you can imagine what the 12 December 1995 meant to me, as that was the day Magoo travelled down to the BBC’s Maida Vale recording studios (number four from what I can recall) to record their debut session for the show.

As ever with this kind of event I don’t recollect much about the day, other than feeling wildly overawed and hugely out of place. After all, this was the place that almost every band I’d ever loved had come to record at some point. This was the place where Delia Derbyshire had laid out huge lengths of tape loops in the corridors to produce the theme tune to Dr Who for the Radiophonic Workshop. The BBC Symphony Orchestra even called it home.

And here we were.

Magoo recorded four songs that day, namely Baxter Preminger, Eye Spy, Goldwyn and last but not least Valley As A Whole. And it was in the middle of this last tune that the band got to make good on that earlier agreed deal. With a good understanding of my limitations as a musician I played just a single chord during the three minutes of treble-heavy racket – a hugely enjoyable chord mind, and one that will stay with me until little else does (if you’ve got things to do and people to see, my moment of infamy begins at the 3:02 mark and ends, well, quite quickly after that).

Here are three of songs from that first session, sadly my recording of Eye Spy seems to have gone missing in the intervening years. 

Of the three songs that still remain in my archives I have to admit to never having really liked Valley As A Whole, despite my appearance on it (contrarian to the last). I much prefer Goldwyn – which owes more than a little to the repetitive racket of the band Loop, and Baxter Preminger – which was always a favourite and remains so twenty plus years later.

(For reference the ‘bloke’ mentioned by Peel in the introduction to Valley As A Whole was probably me – I’d gone up to Leeds for Sound City (do they still do these?) in an attempt to learn about “telephones and typewriters” and bumped into him after one of the events – in my defence I don’t think I ever claimed I was a member of the band but to be honest all I can really remember about the conversation was that he’d been for dinner at Delia Smith’s the previous week. This probably says all you need to know about my ability to make the most of a situation.)


So come along on Friday if you can, Magoo are well deserving of your time and support and twenty-five years is a mark well worth celebrating.

Happy birthday Magoo!

Exhibition openings in my hometown are somewhat few and far between, so it’s pleasing that one such event last weekend was dedicated to a subject that has become an increasing obsession with me, namely the flatlands.

Of the six artists responding “to the idea of flatness” Rhona Fleming’s work was what I found most intriguing, with a number of abstract pieces featuring fragments of objects and ink sealed in resin. Christopher Skinner’s range of lino prints, detailing the telegraph poles that often appear the only sign of life in a otherwise empty land, were also highlights, as were Andrew Olley’s excellent photographs of the largely featureless fens and the architectural detritus of the industry of agriculture that inhabits them, (Andrew also scored extra points for featuring Ongar Hill in one of his chosen shots – which was always going to play well with me). 

Flatlands, the exhibition is on at the Greyfriars Art Space in King’s Lynn and is open until Saturday 29 July 2017, if you’re in the vicinity in the next week I’d recommend a visit.

Me Again


It’s been a while eh?

Have been struggling to be inspired and upbeat in the last couple of months – a variety of factors, most of which I have little or no control over. That said I do have (some) control over how I respond, so I’m back here to attempt to continue to accentuate the positive.