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Having not had the need to consult the Highway Code for many years I wondered recently whether it was something that still existed as a thing in the era of “digital by default”. And as it happens it does – in fact according to a popular shopping website the latest edition is a limited one “Celebrating 80 years of the driving test 1935-2015” – although if modernity is you thing you can also follow the Code on Facebook and Twitter. Strange times eh?

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Anyway the reason for wondering was as a result of picking up a copy of 1964 edition of The Highway Code (including Motorway Rules). Considerably more handsome than the 2015 version it features a handwritten introduction from the Minister of Transport Ernest Marples (who apparently fled to Monte Carlo in 1975 to avoid a substantial tax bill) and some tremendously handsome illustrations, which sadly go uncredited – anyone any ideas?

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Today is Delia Derbyshire Day – a day to the celebrate “the late great Delia Derbyshire (1937-2001) – a pioneer of electronic music in England in the 1960’s”.

Delia was born in England in the 1930s and after successfully completing a degree in mathematics and music at Cambridge she sought work with Decca records, where she was told that they did not employ women in their recording studios. Undeterred, and after working in Geneva for the UN, she eventually returned to the UK to join the BBC as a trainee studio manager where she became attached to the fledgling Radiophonic Workshop.

Once ensconced at the Workshop she quickly and quietly came into her own, developing and researching into the theory and perception of sound whilst using only electronic sources, and within a few months had created her interpretation of Ron Grainer’s Doctor Who theme – perhaps the most iconic and recognisable piece of music to come out of the Workshop.

Unfortunately by the middle of the 1970s it seems that Delia became disillusioned with where electronic music was going – unhappy it seems (and this may seem a little perverse) with the lack of craft she associated with those involved in the emerging world of the synthesizer. As a result of this she disappeared off the radar for many years before reappearing shortly before her death in 2001 thanks to a resurgence of interest in her and her work by a number of musicians including, (and perhaps most principally) Peter Kember aka Sonic Boom – who she worked with on a couple of albums released under the E.A.R. (Experimental Audio Research) moniker.

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Thankfully (due in part to the people behind Delia Derbyshire Day) Delia’s name is perhaps better known, or at the very least more respected that it has been for many years.

So if you’re lucky enough to live in or around Manchester then there’s a number of events you can attend today including electronic music-making workshops, live performances and a number of film showings featuring her music. And if you don’t then Matthew Sweet’s radio documentary on The Lost Works of Delia Derbyshire from, originally broadcast in 2010, is well worth a listen instead.


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Although I often think of myself as a bit of a miserablist (and thanks but there’s no real need to confirm this to me), I’m actually remarkably content. That said from time to time the idiocies of modern life (Mr Albarn and friends were possibly onto something) push me nearer to the ‘grumpy old man’ demographic than is probably good for me.

Thankfully when this happens Mrs Weir and I are lucky enough to be able to pack up our necessary, and to be honest many unnecessary belongings and get out onto the tarmacadamed roads of Great Britain. Over the years destinations have varied although somewhere that’s always guaranteed to return me to my natural resting point is the village of Portmeirion.

We’ve managed to visit the village designed and built by Bertram Clough Williams-Ellis a number of times on our travels and I can think of no place I’d rather be than sat in the sun outside of The Hotel Portmeirion looking out across the Dwyryd estuary.

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So whilst in the deepest darkest recesses of this impossibly gloomy ‘winter’ I was a pleased as punch to come across this guide to the village (published in 1965) boasting “fresh words and bigger pictures”.

And what words they are. I have to presume that those found in the guide come from Clough Williams-Ellis given that they are as florid in their construction as the village itself, with this paragraph that comes towards the end of the guide entitled ‘The Welcome Guest – And The Other’ being a particular favourite.

“Portmeirion desires to thank the great majority of its visitors for their gratifying courtesy in helping to maintain a high standard of seemliness within its bounds. It hopes that this admirable example may perhaps shame the small and less thoughtful minority into the same mannerly behaviour. It is encouraging to record that practically no malicious damage of any consequence has been suffered in thirty years. But even the careless shedding of litter, the picking of flowers and trespass into places that are obviously private, or even so marked, are offences that, oft repeated, can prove extremely tiresome not only to the Portmeirion Trustees and the residents, but to the more civilised section of the general public as well.”

I’d like to think that I would be considered a welcome guest at Portmeirion but given the requirement of maintaining such a “high standard of seemliness” I can’t really be sure.

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2015 is a year that I’m happy to wave goodbye to.

At the start of the year I posted the following and then failed to take any notice of what I’d written. So for the sake of my mental health I’m returning to the plan albeit without being any more convinced that I’ll stick to it second time around. Hey ho.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to watch Marvellous, “the inspirational and incredible true story of Neil Baldwin”, I’d suggest you head over to the BBC’s iPlayer sharpish, because you’re unlikely to be anything other than delighted by it.

The following exchange, that happens about two thirds of the way through the film, that sees Lou Macari (not the Lou Macari, but the actor Tony Curran, (although the Lou Macari does also turn up at one point, which must have been a little confusing on set) quizzing Neil (also known as Nello, and in this instance played by the mighty Toby Jones) on how he remains so upbeat is particularly affecting, and something I need reminding of on a disappointingly regular basis.

Lou How do you do it Nello? How do you stay so positive?
Nello I’ve always wanted to be happy, so I decided to be.
Lou Brilliant. I’m going to write some of this stuff down.
Nello If bad things happen you think about good things.
Lou Like what?
Nello Like, the best signing you ever made.
Lou Well I wouldn’t know where to start.
Nello With the shorts. The cleaner the shorts the better the player. It means they’ve stayed on their feet longer.
Lou If you don’t mind me saying that’s very much a kitman’s point of view.
Nello Cloughie thought it too.

So today I’m reminding myself of this, whether it’ll work or not remains to be seen, but whilst happiness holds host momentarily as the word of the day it would seem apposite to wish you all a very happy new year.


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Well it’s not one that I’ve been looking forward to with any great zeal since the death of my dad earlier in the year, but he loved Christmas so we’ve raised a glass to him and carried on regardless.

Here he is, to be honest looking like a man on the run (not the best picture, sorry dad), with my sister, my mum and me back in what is probably 1979.

Hope you’ve had a good one, albeit in slightly less distressingly decorated surroundings.


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As I get older I suffer more and more acutely as the days grow shorter.

Thankfully today it seems we had more sunlight than yesterday – albeit (according to this) just an additional five seconds. That said five seconds is five seconds, so I’m going to raise a glass to the incoming light and look forward to a less gloomy new year.

[Pictures by Helen Borten (great blogpost on her over here) from a wonderful children’s book in the ‘Let’s Read And Find Out‘ series written by Franklyn M. Branley – called ‘The Sun: our nearest star’.]

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In attempt to embrace the season I’ve been trawling a popular video-sharing website to view a variety of Christmas specials from yesteryear and was particularly taken with these introductory titles from 1974.

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