Category: Popular Posts
You were a landscape in my dream
Dr Oetker Backen macht Freude 5 – Baking Makes You Happy vol 5 (1985)
Another Dr Oetker cookbook from a charity shop in Austria, focusing on winter and Christmas treats this time. I don’t really have much to say about this one, I just thought the photos and styling were cool.
Interview with Sajan Rai
A short interview with my friend, illustrator Sajan Rai. I first met Sajan when we were assigned adjoining tables at a zine fair, and he was offering to draw people as sloths for £5. This clearly being a sign that he was the right kind of person, we became friends.
If I remember my dreams I try to write them down in a notebook, to use for later inspiration. The one I’ve been using suddenly fell apart yesterday. I tried to stick the pages back in, but the spine was completely disintegrated. I think I’ll just start a new one and copy the old entries over. Here’s some various bits from it.
Goat Comic #1 pre-orders
I had dream that there was a craze for parmesan-infused mineral water, and everyone was obsessed with the stuff. I didn’t like it, and was considered extremely uncool.
90s Vegetarian Food
I haven’t eaten meat since the late 90s. Vegetarianism was on the rise at the time in the UK, but the selection of meat-free products was very poor compared with the current day, and many of them had to be bought in the health food shop.
Some tips for making online content more accessible
Some tips and tricks for working with subtitles, text formatting and image descriptions.
Sew A Dinosaur (1992)
I was given this book as a gift as a child. I never made anything from it because it’s definitely much too difficult for children, I just admired the projects.
Ruth had a dream that you could buy tins of something called “Greencheeks” that seemed to be tinned Kermit meat. I had to make this a reality in Photoshop using a stock can mockup template.
I’ve finished my 2021 calendars, and they are available to order.
8 Track Tape photoshop mockup
I love using Photoshop product mockups – there’s something satisfying about creating a total lie of an object that doesn’t exist. I wanted an 8 track tape mockup, but I couldn’t find one. So I made one and you can download it.
Puffin Annual 2 (1975)
Second volume. This time with Tove Jansson, leylines, derelict canals and a strange comic about insects.
Superbook of Things to Make (1974)
Another charity shop book- this time from the 70s. It’s a slightly strange mix of technicolour things made from recycling bin objects or fabric scraps, and then a section about making candles.
Puffin Annual One (1974)
This edition has a behind the scenes of Captain Pugwash, extracts from Tove Jansson, Jill Patton-Walsh, an article about CS Lewis, and interviews with various different authors.
Dr Oetker Book of Cakes for Special Occasions (1998)
Another book from a charity shop in Austria. I love how incredibly cack-handed some of the cakes are. Most themed cake books are impossibly professional, these ones actually look like the result you’d realistically get.
Goat comic: A visit to the Oracle
Museum of Old and New Art, Tasmania
MONA was one of my main reasons for visiting Tasmania. It’s basically in an underground bunker like a Bond villain’s lair, and requires a boat ride to get to. The owner David Walsh, is the richest man in Tasmania and a very strange character in his own right- he grew up in a rough area of Hobart, and made his fortune by using maths to outsmart the gambling industry, and then spent it on this museum. He’s simultaneously “mathematical genius” and “13 year old edgelord”.
Das Große Bastelbuch für Kinder (1996)
I got this craft book for kids from a charity shop in Austria earlier this year. Austria doesn’t have the same volume of charity shops as the UK, but when you do find one they’re usually really good, especially in small towns, where vintage isn’t really a big thing.
Jane Asher’s Fancy Dress (1983)
This charity shop fancy dress book is certainly… something. Lots of 80s actors modelling the costumes.
I stepped out onto the midway
I meant to do a lot today but ended up napping on the sofa, so I went for an early evening walk along the beach to see the sunset and get some fresh air. The funfair was in town but there was almost nobody there on a Saturday night. Surreal.
The Fictional Books of Jorge Luis Borges
Some ideas and resources for arguing against common racist comments in the UK
At the time of writing in June 2020, we’re going through a dramatic shift in public consciousness in many countries about racism, the problems with current society, and nasty histories that have been brushed over and ignored. A lot of my friends are arguing with family members and acquaintances, or discovering that friends are much less well-informed than they’d hoped. Here’s a resource page of response ideas and links to resources.
How to spot fake Twitter accounts and misinformation
The main way to keep up to date with what’s happening on the ground with the Black Lives Matter Protests is via social media (and Twitter in particular).
It’s really confusing though, because there are a lot of people and organisations acting in bad faith and deliberately making communication and fact-checking difficult, and using manipulation strategies to drown out the real information about what’s happening on the ground.
Special Effect Photography – 1983
I got this 1980s guide to using lens filters from a charity shop. Of course a lot of these effects can be created in Photoshop these days, but actually for a lot of them the analogue method creates something unique, so a large proportion of these filters are still on sale.
Amps for Total Beginners
If you are playing an electric guitar or bass, you will need an amp. Here’s a guide to how they work, and how to find the one that will suit you.
Tim and the Hidden People
Tim and the Hidden People is a series of children’s school reading books from the late 70s/early 80s that a lot of schools had. They have a strange, bleak folk-horror atmosphere, and the illustrations in the first three collections are a little uncanny valley. Tim is always walking along lonely canal paths with strict instructions to not look over his shoulder and tie the silver string around a particular tree or else.
This was my April 2014 piece for Storyboard , a writing site with monthly prompts run by a friend. I couldn’t think of a story idea, so I wrote a kind of essay instead.The theme that month was “Ichi-go ichi-e”: a never again moment. I couldn’t think of a story, so I decided to talk a little about ways other writers have handled the theme. I suppose you could call this a casual essay. I’m afraid it won’t be closely argued or meticulously footnoted, and it is quite loosely put together, but maybe it will give people some good recommendations of things to read
Ink Master Copies
I had a whole folder full of artwork masters, so I decided to stick them into sketchbooks this afternoon (these kraft paper folio-sized books are around £6 from Muji). I tend to draw the line artwork by hand with a non-photo blue pencil and posca marker, and correct mistakes/add the colour digitally.
I thought while stuck at home I’d do regular posts showing things I like which other people may not have heard of. Ivan Bilibin was a Russian artist most famous for his lavishly illustrated books of fairy tales taking inspiration from Japanese wood prints, Russian icon painting and Ye Olde Slavonic script.
Diana Wynne Jones zine- digital edition
A few years back I made a zine with articles about writer Diana Wynne Jones (probably best known for writing Howl’s Moving Castle), and an interview I conducted with her before she sadly died. The paper edition is still available here, but for the foreseeable future I can only send physical copies to the UK. So I’ve made a digital edition for people to read.
Hibernating & cleaning
I was supposed to be in Austria right now running school workshops, but obviously that’s not happening. Like many other people right now I’m unemployed as my whole industry has stopped existing overnight. Seeing as I’ll be spending a lot of time at home in the foreseeable future, today seemed like a good time to have a big cleanup of the living room.
Photoshop Digital Colour tutorial
Multiple people have asked me for a tutorial of how I do colour in Photoshop. A lot of people think my prints are analogue screen-prints, but they’re actually mostly digital. I draw the ink lines by hand, but all the colour and texture is created in Photoshop.
Magic Stories From Around the World (1986)
Here is another scan of a vintage book I have had since I was a child. This is a collection of myths and legends from around the world. It was originally Czech and translated to English, and has a large selection of central European stories less known in the UK, along with stories from places like the high Arctic and Polynesia. There are also lovely illustrations by three prominent Czech illustrators.
The Ghost Stories of M.R. James
Around this time of year on the Solstice there are two things I like to do as a personal tradition- go for a walk to Botany Bay around sunset and read the ghost stories of M.R. James. Includes full text of Whistle My Lad, and links to read the stories and watch the 1970s films for free.
Costume Through the Centuries – 1963
Scanning more vintage books – this time a history of costume book that my mum won as a school prize in the 60s. The illustrations are lovely, but the pages are yellowed and stained, so I did some clean up in Photoshop.
A brief guide to guitar pedals for beginners
I wrote a few of these music basics guides to use in a promo zine I used to make with listings of the gigs I promoted. I thought I’d post them here, in case they’re of continued use to people.
Alternative London 1969/70
I found this book in a charity shop. It’s a practical guide to alternative living in London from 1969/70 covering a wide range of topics from rent laws, to sexuality, drugs and communes to join. This is the first edition, there were yearly updates throughout the 70s.
70s Soft Toy Book
Here are some scans from a 1970s craft book I got from my grandparents’ house.
60s slides: Costiera Amalfitana
Here’s some more 60s tourism slides from my grandparents’ house (you can see others here). This time from the Amalfi Coast in southern Italy, now a UNESCO site. Again I have posted all 36 images. It looked pretty much the same when I was there about 10 years ago, minus the annoying coach party of loud Texans who kept appearing everywhere you looked and complaining there was no Taco Bell and you had to walk places. Further along the coast in Sorrento I bought a very fancy waffle-knit towel that still serves me well for travelling. The shop assistant seemed very confused that I wasn’t buying a whole matching set of them like the majority of their customers. Afraid I could only afford one small one.
60s slides of Herculaneum
When clearing out my grandparents’ house a couple of years ago I found seven packets of these 60s tourist slides of various places around the Mediterranean. I’ve been scanning and restoring them. First up, these from Herculaneum.
Herculaneum is a smaller coastal town near Pompeii that was also destroyed by the volcano. It’s not as well known, but there are some magnificent villas there in a similar but smaller archaeological park to the one you can visit at Pompeii.
Cadbury’s Novelty Cookbook
I got this late 70s/early 80s book from a charity shop a while ago. A lot of families in the UK had it when I was a kid I think. I got it out because I promised to make my friend a really ludicrous birthday cake from inside. The recipes are fine, various flavoured sponge cakes with buttercream icing (albeit with gratuitous Cadbury’s product placement in every recipe). It’s the choice of cake themes in the book that’s a bit odd …
Shortly before I left London a couple of years ago I got a roll of the Lomochrome Purple film, a new formula designed to mimic the surreal colour infrared film you used to be able to buy.
In which I explore an abandoned boarding school in 2012 while going through some very hard times.
Old Stripy Bum
A couple of months ago I adopted a young cat from the local animal shelter. The profile said he was playful and curious, had a missing tail and needed a lot of attention and activity.
Hello from the southern hemisphere. Here’s some new press shots of my friends’ band Bismuth I took a few weeks ago at the original UK Botany Bay…
On my way back from the Tyrol, I stayed in Munich en route to the airport, and visited the Dachau concentration camp museum- it was the first Nazi concentration camp and served as a template for many of the others…
A short train ride or couple of miles walk outside Kitzbühel is the Schwartzsee (“black lake”). It’s full of minerals washed down from the mountains that give it the glassy black effect…
In July I went to Kitzbühel in Austria for work. I was there to run a workshop in the local middle school, and the mayor gave me and my three co-workers tickets for the local ski lift…
Enter the Vortex
So here’s the posters I designed for two gigs I’m helping to put on- one in London, the other in Margate. As per the press release “Girl Sweat is the ever-changing garage-noise project fronted by the 6ft 5” beast that is ‘Sweat’” along with the fine collection of psych and drone weirdos assembled in support. My brief for the poster was “illuminati/masons cult shit”. I hope I delivered.
Margate is currently hosting a variety of art events related to T.S.Eliot (who wrote the Wasteland here almost a century ago), including a weekend dedicated to cats over Easter. I created this print based on Bulgakov’s the Master and Margarita, and a giant painted banner version of it to hang up at the show. It was a bit last minute, but I got it all done on time. The show is on at the Viking Gallery off Northdown Rd over the long Easter weekend and until the 7th of April.
Here’s some photographs I took of my friends’ band Very Friendly. For a while we had intended to take some promo shots with a miserable day at the beach theme, and then the beach was suddenly covered in thick snow, so this happened over a lunch break. Harry eventually got warm again. Eventually.
Here’s a gig poster I drew recently. I was given free reign to do whatever I wanted, and it turns out what I wanted was to do a fake cyanotype of pondscum. Facebook event for the show here.
New print- Sheep Skull
So here’s a new illustration I did. It’s actually based on a drawing I did when I was 17 that I found while sorting out some paperwork recently. You can buy monochrome and colour prints for £3-£30 over on the shop.
I spent most of August in Germany, teaching some school workshops and going to Documenta art fair along the way. My first assignment was in rural Nordrhein-Westfalen. The agency has a tendency to book you on flights at brutal times early on a Sunday, so instead I booked my own flight to Cologne on a Friday evening, and claimed it back off them. I have been to Cologne loads of times, and my colleagues were flying into Düsseldorf, which I had never visited. So I decided to stay in Düsseldorf, do a bit of sightseeing, and then meet up with the others before heading to the Sauerland.
They only want you when you’re seventeen
I made this playlist a while back, and the post has been languishing in the drafts for a while, so I thought I’d finish it off for the end of the year. It’s all songs I liked when I was 17, which was in 2002
British Museum Sketches
Here’s some more old sketchbook pages I scanned, this time from the British Museum.
Cloudrat & Moloch
A couple of years ago my friend Steve Larder’s band Moloch did a split LP and tour with American grindcore band Cloudrat. I found the unedited photos the other day, and finally sorted them out. Enjoy.
I’m Curious To Know Exactly How You Are
I had to put a Hüsker Dü song in this list, as they are one of my all-time favourite bands, but it was hard to decide which one. In the end I went for a really obvious choice- the first song of theirs I got into.
And to round off my stuff from Croatia, here’s some sketchbook notes from Zadar museum and Trogir. Hobotnica (pronounced hobotnitsa) is Croatian for octopus. It’s a good word.
If you keep walking out of Split you end up on the Marjan peninsula. The first time I visited I made the mistake of climbing up to the peak in 35c heat. After that I sensibly took the coast road.
Here’s some photos from my trip to Croatia this summer. It was a real last minute thing, I suddenly had a week free in a packed summer of teaching engagements and still didn’t actually live anywhere yet, so I bought a cheap flight to Croatia and did some sightseeing.
Ponder this to get nearer to nothing
When I wrote the 50 Things About Me entry a little while ago, I started creating a playlist of 50 favourite songs. It got unwieldy and didn’t flow well though, so I gave up. Instead I’ll write a little bit every so often about songs from the list.
The Van Pelt are not famous or well-known outside a small niche. The singer/song-writer Chris Leo’s brother Ted Leo is much more well-known, and bass player Toko Yasuda has had success over the years playing with Enon, Blonde Redhead and St Vincent, but they never hit the big time. Instead they released two quietly treasured albums in the mid-90s (Sultans of Sentiment and Stealing From Our Favourite Thieves) and then disbanded- they’ve released a collection of sessions that were intended for a third album (Imaginary Third) and done the odd reunion tour (I was lucky enough to catch one in London-it was a very special evening) but I’m guessing only a small selection of my readers will know them.
I used to work at Hampton Court. This is a marker drawing of some of the trees in the gardens there. I earnt a pittance, worked every single weekend for six months, and wore a terrible polyester uniform. I got very used to being surrounded by incredible splendour though, and spent quite a lot of happy hours minding the maze, sitting in a shed reading long Russian books, listening to whatever mellow music wouldn’t annoy tourists (lots of Elliot Smith, Fleetwood Mac, Tortoise and Grandaddy), and making up lies about the maze to tourists. (I wrote about being in charge of the maze in issue 22 of my zine). I also used to get a good amount of free glasses of Pimms too from jugs that were left over from the outside bar.
A magician calls
Another old sketchbook page I scanned in. This one is from a couple of years ago. I was teaching on a residential course for teenagers. It was in an old nunnery in the middle of nowhere, so the staff organised a lot of evening activities and film showings to keep them amused. One night a magician came to do a show, and I made these notes.
This summer I had to chance to go to both Documenta in Kassel and the Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts. Here’s my photos from one of the Ljubljana Biennial exhibitions that allowed photos. The theme of this Biennial was this poem by Slovenian writer Jure Deleta.
Earlier in the summer I went on a ghost tour of Cambridge via work, and I took these notes.
(((O Boards of Sunnada O)))
Anyway, in July Sunn O))) toured the UK, and I couldn’t go because I was committed to working long hours on this residential course I was teaching, and I felt pretty sad about it. So I used It Took The Night to Believe as the prompt for that week’s creative writing activity for my students. The previous week I’d used the video for Reach for the Dead by Boards of Canada (both pieces of music gave good results in the student’s writing) . While setting up the activity I accidentally set off both songs at once, and discovered they actually sound amazing together. So enjoy. For best results, start the Boards of Canada song first.
An important aspect of Japanese shrines and temples are ema plaques (the name 絵馬 literally means “picture horse”). These are small wooden signs with a picture on one side. You write a wish on it and hang it up (or take it home as a souvenir). Each site has its own design, so I made a collection of photos of different ones I saw in Japan. They are originally a Shinto tradition, but can also be found at Buddhist temples. At bigger sites you can find messages written in a lot of different languages.
While we were in Nara we also visited a traditional Japanese tea garden. Unfortunately the tea house was shut, and it was raining, but it was still a lovely garden.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Deer
Our final stop in Japan before flying home from Osaka was Nara. In the 700s it was the capital of Japan, at the time when Buddhism really became established in Japan. Nowadays as well as Buddhism, it’s known for the tame deer who live in the forest park surrounding the temples and shrines. We stayed in a hostel in the forest. It seemed a short walk from the train station, but we ended up walking along dark forest paths dragging cases seemingly forever, with deer staring at us accusingly like something out of Princess Mononoke. (The hostel turned out to be a pretty weird place too).
Craft as radical?
I’ve split the article up into four sections- my criticisms of radical spaces and scenes I’ve known, of the fashion industry, and of the current commercial craft revival, and then at the end explaining the ways I think doing textile crafts can be radical. In writing the article, I was specifically thinking of crafts such as sewing and knitting, both because they are things I do, and also because they are stereotypically done by women and often dismissed as silly and frivolous, but a lot of the points can apply to any handicraft. As well as dealing with the topic of crafts, it’s really more of a kind of wander round my thoughts about “radical”. The section on crafts is actually the shortest, but I’ve used it as the overall framing device. I’ll probably manage to piss off both the cliquey punx and the craft blogger people with this, but never mind.
Okunoshima- Rabbit Island
While I was in Japan we visited the island of Okunoshima. In the Second World War it was a top secret chemical weapons plant, but now is a nature reserve famous for its free-ranging tame rabbits, who are probably the descendants of the lab rabbits.
Naoshima is tiny idyllic island in the Seto Inland sea devoted to modern art. The opening of the Benesse modern art museum (owned by the same organisation as Berlitz language schools) revived the island’s fortunes, although it’s still a small and quiet place with only a few villages and a lot of old people.
Kyoto Shrines and Temples
Kyoto is famous for its Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, many of which are UNESCO world heritage sites. There are so many in the city that even though I spent a whole day walking round different sites, I only saw a small percentage of them. People place stones on these Shinto torii gates for good luck. You can also see my photos of ema good luck plaques here.
Here’s some more photos of Kyoto. I have split the pictures up into several entries. You can see more photos from Kyoto and other cities in the Japan category, and also read about the trip in the zine I wrote. Kyoto is famous for its cherry blossom, but sadly we were there a couple of weeks earlier than it comes out in full bloom. You did see the odd bud here and there though.
Miyazaki’s Reading List
When I was in Japan I went to the Studio Ghibli Museum just outside of Tokyo. Sadly pictures were not allowed inside, but I wrote about it in my zine of the trip. I highly recommend the museum, it’s magical. The bookshop was also stocked with Miyazaki’s own favourite books, as well as books related to the studio’s films. I didn’t buy anything, as they were all in Japanese, and it would take me forever to read anything, but I noted down a lot of less well-known books I saw in the shop to compile a reading list (helpfully the copyright tends to list the author’s names in roman text rather than try to make it fit katakana). Unfortunately I wasn’t able to write down the Japanese author’s names in most cases as reading unknown names written in kanji is very tricky. However Miyazaki made a list of classic children’s books (including a lot of the usual suspects like The Secret Garden) elsewhere which also includes some Japanese recommendations.
Moss is slow life
Here’s some photos of details of the Zen moss gardens of Kyoto.
Here’s some photos of Kyoto. I have split the pictures up into several entries. You can see more photos from Kyoto and other cities in the Japan category, and also read about the trip in the zine I wrote. While I was there I also met up with local zinester and researcher Kiyoshi Murakami (村上 潔), who kindly took me to some of his favourite places in the city:
Polly’s reading list
Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, based on the folk tale Tam Lin and Eliot’s Four Quartets, is one of my all-time favourite books. The gifts of classic books that the protagonist Polly receives from Tom, the other main character, are an important part of the plot, but not listed anywhere in the novel. I made this reading list of the books for the zine of essays about Diana Wynne Jones that I made.
All Neon Like
Here’s a selection of instagram photos I took in Tokyo. I felt I was giving it short shrift only having one post with a few photos. You can see more in the Japan category, and also read about the trip in the zine I wrote.
I took a lot of photos in Japan, and it’s taken me a while to sort through them. I’ll be spreading out the posts over this week to avoid having one giant pile of photos at once. I wrote a zine (available here) about the trip to Japan as well, so I’ll save blog posts for the pictures (which you will be able to find under the Japan category).
These are from Tokyo. I didn’t actually take that many DSLR photos in Tokyo, mostly film and phone photos. You can see the phone pictures on my Instagram account, with all of the neon skyscrapers you’d expect from Tokyo. The gate above is in Taito, an area further out of town where we stayed.
Triffids in search of a new home
I’ve got a large number of cacti and succulents, some of which I’ve had for years (and have their own offshoot children growing in separate pots now). By the end of the summer, some of them were looking a bit sad, and were in serious need of repotting. I collected a load of Hornsea ware and other vintage pottery for £1-3 a time over the summer, and then had a big repotting session outside, just before the weather started turning cold.
After Malcesine, Limone sul Garda and Riva del Garda, I present to you Torbole. I went to Torbole just because the boat from Riva del Garda to Malcesine stopped there along the way, and I’d never been there before. It was a weird little place. Like Riva, it used to be in Austria until 1918. Everyone except the staff of the restaurants seemed to be German, and really into intensely staring at you in the street. The light and the way the water looked along the harbour front was beautiful though, and I spent most of the hour before the boat back sitting on a bench soaking it in. I don’t think this is a real place, I think it’s a screen from one of those new-age computer games from the 90s like Myst.
Riva del Garda
So far I’ve shown you Malcesine and Limone sul Garda. I also took the boat to Riva del Garda at the northern end of the lake (which is also in a different province- Trentino). It was raining all day, so I figured I might as well go to the colder, rainy end of the lake and visit the museum, and save the outdoorsy stuff on the southern end like archaeological sites for a sunny day.
Limone sul Garda
Now I’m heading over to Limone sul Garda on the other side of the lake. I didn’t spend much money while I was in Italy, but a hefty chunk of the (tiny) budget went on ferry tickets. Boats constantly criss-cross the lake to all the towns, and it’s the most scenic way to see the area. If you’re in a hurry, you can take the bus on land, but I was on holiday, so by definition, not in a hurry.
Malcesine, Lago di Garda
At the end of May I went on a last-minute trip to Italy by myself. I had given up my tenancy in London, because I was fed up of paying a small fortune to a landlord who was unwilling to fix the serious leak in the ceiling that was probably going to bring the plaster down sometime soon, and a relative asked me to house-sit. The house-sitting date then changed, but it turned out to be cheaper for me to visit friends in Yorkshire, and then go on holiday for a week than it was to extend my tenancy, which shows how ridiculous the prices are in London now. As it was a last minute thing, I had to go on my own. I don’t mind travelling solo though, I used to do it regularly for work, and travelling alone is better than going on holiday with someone who doesn’t want to do any of the same things as you. (In my case, wandering aimlessly for hours and hours, taking hundreds of photographs and eating a lot). I also got to re-read The Name of the Rose in peace.
Bienvenue à Lassay-les-Châteaux
My mother lives in a small town in Northern France called Lassay-les-Châteaux. For a few years she’s had a holiday caravan in a park nearby, and at Christmas she bought a house in the town. The English version of wikipedia has practically nothing to say about Lassay-les-Châteaux other than showing photos of two of the three local castles- one in the town centre, the other two just outside. (The town’s name also sounds like it means “leave the castles” in French). The French entry doesn’t tell you much more, except that a lot of people were guillotined there in the Revolution, the local mayor doesn’t belong to a political party (after a long line of right-wingers), and that Victor Hugo visited once. It’s just not a place where things happen. If you want the quiet life, you can find it in Lassay.
Vegan Nanaimo Bars
I was watching a BBC series recently about the history of the native peoples of the Pacific Northwest, and it gave me a hankering for Nanaimo bars. I used to have a co-worker from Manitoba, who would make this typical Canadian treat from time to time, and bring it in. Those were good work days. It’s something in between a millionaire’s shortbread and a cheesecake, requires no baking, and is totally delicious. As well as the standard vanilla filling, mint or coffee variations are also common.
Low stress travel on the cheap
I love to travel, but I don’t have much money. Although long-haul flights and luxury holidays are out of my reach at the moment I’ve managed to see a fair bit of the world for not very much, and perhaps my budget limitations have meant that I’ve seen some interesting places I might have otherwise missed out on.
I find online budget travel tips not that great though. They seem to swing from “save money by only eating ityereal bars and sleeping on trains on your trip” to “cram in thirty museums in one day with this special ticket” to “get this special Air Miles credit card only available in Florida, and book your flights at 3am on Thursdays Alaska time”. I want to eat nice food from the cuisine of the country in question; sleep in a clean, safe and comfortable hotel room in a convenient location; and get a chance to explore and see things properly, not treating sights like a tick list to complete as quickly as possible. I don’t want to be cold, hungry, exhausted, or put myself in danger; this is supposed to be fun. I just don’t have a lot of money to spend.
Mont St Michel
I went to Mont St Michel last week for the first time in years. It’s a medieval abbey on an island on the border between Normandy and Brittany, about an hour’s drive from my mum’s house in France. We went there a few times when I was a kid, and the last time I was there was in the late 90s on a school trip. It has dramatically changed since then.
There was something a bit seedy and cynical about the place in the 90s despite the spectacular town itself. Buses and cars drove over the causeway to the island, and parked in a decrepit carpark on the shore, which had a tendency to flood. As you made your way up through the snaking medieval street to the abbey at the top of the peak, there were endless shops selling cheap replica hunting knives, saucy postcards and boxes of firecrackers. It must have been a nightmare for teachers supervising school groups.
15 fun ways to learn languages better
15 fun and effective ways to brush up on your foreign language skills.
General wandering round Copenhagen
About 6 weeks ago I went on a short break to Denmark and Sweden. It shows how busy I’ve been lately that it’s taken me so long to post these. I unexpectedly had some extra holiday days I had to use up quickly before the end of my work contract, and none of my friends were free to travel on the specific weekend I had to use them, so I went by myself. I saw cheap flights to Copenhagen, and booked them on a whim, on the grounds that I’d never been to Denmark before, and it was also easy to visit Sweden from Copenhagen. I also have a danish friend Sanne I used to work with in London, so I arranged to meet up with her while I was there and drink some Mikkeller beer at normal prices (rather than the exorbitant prices they charge in the UK). (Good luck with the PhD viva Sanne!). I liked Denmark a lot, although I’m not sure if I’d want to live there. They seem very set in their ways. In fact it reminded me a lot of Austria, but with sea rather than mountains.
Blogs -vs- zines
People who don’t make or read them much themselves sometimes ask me why I still make zines, even though the internet exists, and the world is becoming more and more digitally-focused, and I have this blog. In short, the answer is for the same reason I still have hundreds of records and books, and develop black and white film at home, even though I have an ipod, spotify subscription, e-reader and two digital cameras, and I’m far from a luddite: I feel the physical medium offers me something that I don’t get from the digital version.
My zine, Fanzine Ynfytyn, is named after a song by Welsh language post-punk band Datblygu (“Develop”). The name could be construed as either “Fanzine Idiot”, “Idiot Fanzine” or “Idiot’s Fanzine”. People either look at the name with bafflement, go “uh, is it Welsh in some way?” or are pleased because they know the song (those people get a free copy). In some ways I regret giving it a name that so many people struggle to pronounce or understand, but I’m on issue 22 now, so they’ll just have to get used to it. When I started it, I only expected to give a few copies to some friends who were already familiar with the song, so it wasn’t really a concern (I also had a mini collage zine called “Pobble Eh Come?” like a really mis-spelt version of the soap opera). Seeing as one of those people was a fellow language student penfriend who I had a running joke with of us mangling Welsh and German together to make one überbendigedich language, I wasn’t too worried about the palatability of the name. I was never expecting to get to issue 22, and have sold or traded hundreds of copies of some of the back issues and have them in libraries and academic collections. I was surprised I got to more than a couple of issues to be honest.
Here’s some more pictures of Paris, this time of the Canal Sainte-Martin, once again taken with an old Pentax ME Super from the 70s. The film was expired and from Poundland, and went through the x-ray machine at the airport, which resulted in it having a red cast. I colour corrected it out where I could, but the pictures don’t quite reflect the aqua green water as I saw it. I also took some b&w pictures of the same area, which I’ve developed but not yet scanned.
Not gate-crashing a funeral
I actually attended this funeral/memorial for children’s writer Diana Wynne Jones over 2 years ago. I had meant to write about it for a long time, but I didn’t want to write anything without having the programme of speakers from the event to hand, and it stubbornly disappeared until recently when I had a big clear out of papers (and faded with some print rubbed off after 2 years), so here it is.
When I was in Liechtenstein, I went to the Modern Art museum there. I was really impressed with the quality of the museum, especially in such a small country. They had a special exhibition about Swiss artist André Thomkins (whose estate had donated his works to the museum). I hadn’t come across him before, but I really enjoyed what I saw (and his large array of German puns), especially the short film where he was talking and demonstrating how he made marbled paintings by floating lacquer on top of water, something he started experimenting with after washing a brush he’d been painting furniture with.