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.
While I was in Paris I visited the famous Père Lachaise cemetery, and took a lot of photos both monochrome and colour, which I will post later. One roll, however, turned out to be half-used already and I ended up with double exposures. It turned out I’d already taken photos of a place called Domfront in Normandy with it. Domfront is a bit of a ghost town, which made me laugh to get double exposures of a literal graveyard over a figurative one.
I wandered up from near the Opera (where the hotel was) through back streets up to the top of the hill, where the church is. I think it’s a much better route. You see lots of interesting tucked-away things, and avoid crowds and having to climb lots of steps.
My university library had a massive stack of printing industry annuals from the 1890s through to the 20s. I always enjoyed looking through them because the illustrations and articles they chose to showcase new printing technologies were often really odd, and were good to photocopy for collages and zines. Next to them on the shelf was a strange little book called Professor Knatschke. It’s a comedy book written and illustrated in 1912 by Alsatian satirist Jean-Jacques Waltz, aka Hansi, about a clueless German professor and his daughter’s trip to Paris, mocking both the French and the Germans (but mostly the Germans) in a more innocent pre-WW1 pre-Nazi era. I always really liked the illustrations (and Elsa K’s obsession with making gifts embroidered with “inspiring” mottoes) , and now it’s available free online as a copyright-free ebook.
Recently I went to the Malevich exhibition at the Tate Modern. I was vaguely aware of him as an avant-garde Russian artist (turns out more Polish-Ukrainian) and his black square paintings which caused such a fuss, but I didn’t know much else about him. I’m glad I went to the exhibition.
In other old photos I’ve dug out recently, here’s some photos of Liechtenstein from last summer. I’m currently writing a zine about that trip, so I’m not going to go into a lot of detail here.
Liechtenstein is a very weird place. It’s one of the smallest countries in Europe, and is essentially a small Swiss town that is a separate country by historical accident, and now stays a separate country because they have a nice income from being a corporate tax haven. The entire country has one high school. I was working at a school just across the border in Austria, and there were a fair few students from Liechtenstein at the school. The capital Vaduz has a small parliament building, an impressive castle, a small museum like that of any small town, a really big and impressive modern art museum, a big post office that does a roaring trade in souvenir stamps and a town square with some expensive cafes and assorted useful shops. There’s, Schaan, a suburban town where most people live, a couple of other villages and a big supermarket, some lovely mountains and that’s the whole country really. I saw pretty much most of it in an afternoon, which you can’t say for most countries.
In the days when I worked at Hampton Court I got to go to quite a few of their special events. They had a roster of actors who could portray the various monarchs who had lived at the palace (and two Henry VIIIs) and would do special days with re-enactments based on various time periods or themes. On one of the days they had a day based on science in the time of Charles II. I found some photos when I was tidying up the computer the other day.
A little while ago I went to visit my pál Erika (sorry, can’t resist the terrible pun) in Surrey for blackberry picking. Her friends Stephanie and Katja came down too, and we went out on a sunny day into the woods and picked some berries and had a picnic and drinks (for N. American readers, British woods aren’t very wild). Blackberries grow everywhere here at the end of August and most of September. They don’t belong to anyone, and it’s safe and legal to pick and eat them. I used to pick huge amounts of them when I was growing up. They’re also good for jam, pies, crumbles, coulis and wine-making. We made jam this time. Foxes also like them as much as humans.
My flickr account has 370 albums on it, dating back to 2007, before I started this blog. A little while ago I dug out some pictures of Bracknell from the archives, and I thought I’d find some more things from the oldest albums.
My all-time top Finn Tukru, sent me some weird Finnish music videos from the past. (Don’t introduce me to any other Finns, Tukru, you might get demoted).
I have kept scrapbooks like this since about 2002, sticking in things like ticket stubs, catalogues from art exhibitions, food packaging, passport photos etc. Future historians will probably not be that grateful to me. Once a year or so I also make a general list of things I like, to compare with previous years. The lists have been pretty consistent though, my tastes don’t change a lot. This scrapbook spans late 2011 to the end of 2013. I photographed all the pages and made this gif. I took photos of some other old ones too, but I haven’t finished editing the pages yet.
I recently watched this documentary about the Phantom Tollbooth, one of my favourite books when I was younger. (I still have the same battered, dog-eared paperback copy). Milo, the main character, is a boy who is always bored and doesn’t see the point in anything.
A while back I went to Fishbourne Palace. In the 1960s engineers digging a new drain in a village just outside Chichester discovered some Roman mosaics. When they were excavated, they turned out to belong to the one of the largest Roman palaces outside Italy. My thing I wrote for Storyboard this month is based on it (and yes, the building really does look like a swimming pool). No one is one hundred percent sure who it belonged to, the most common guess is Tiberius Claudius Cogidubnus, the local chieftain / Roman ally / client king, but there are no inscriptions or historical records either backing it up or proving otherwise.
For the past few months, I’ve been working with a group of students and an English teacher at a school in North London to create a small animated film. The students were set the challenge of coming up with a story that reflected something about the school and the students within it. The school is very diverse, and they created a story about a girl who comes to London as a refugee, and is miserable at school because she doesn’t know any English yet, and can’t understand anything or anybody. However, she soon starts to learn the language, and becomes far happier once she can understand and make friends. The animation deliberately has no music or sound effects other than the voice-over, because the music teachers are planning to use it as a composition project in class.
The other weekend I went to visit Erika and her partner at their beautiful house. I always have a nice time there. The worst thing that ever happened to me there was that I once ate too much Stilton and had to have a lengthy lie-down. If the worst thing about your day is that you ate too much blue cheese, then the day is going well.
On the way from Niederösterreich to Vorarlberg I stopped off alone in Salzburg along the way. I had to change trains in Vienna, and after a week of hearty, dairy-laden alpine food I was very, very thankful to eat some dhal and chapattis at the station. I really, really liked Salzburg and would gladly return there. I don’t know what it is about the city, but it just had a really nice atmosphere. I arrived at about 5pm, found the hotel really easily, and dumped my stuff and went for a wander. It’s an old university town, with a castle perched on an outcrop of the mountain looking down. There is a stereotype in Austria that people in Salzburg are snobby, but I found them friendly enough.
While in Kirchberg-am-Wechsel we were given a tour of a disused church perched up on the mountainside. It has suffered a lot of misfortune over the years (if you can read German there is a wikipedia article here), it burnt down and was rebuilt twice, and is furnished with all kinds of leftovers from other churches, which makes it more interesting.
While in Kirchberg am Wechsel I also got to go on a tour of Hermannshöhle with another teacher. It’s a series of caves inside one of the mountains, with lots of stalactites and a bat colony. Usually the tours are at set times and only in German, but we got a private tour in English, which was really nice.
Last Summer I spent a week working at the junior school in Kirchberg am Wechsel, a tiny mountain town on the eastern end of the Alps on the border between Lower Austria and Styria. It is essentially one long street between some mountains, with “Lower Austria’s finest stalactite cave” (more on that later) and a yearly Wittgenstein festival. As mountains go, by Austrian standards they are pretty tame, mostly being below the tree-line. When I said something to the kids about the mountains they basically went “what mountains?” and when I pointed out of the window they went “oh yeah, those, there are much better mountains in other places”. Still, I like any kind of mountains, and the Wechsel is still 1,743m high, so it’s hardly a hill. Mountains/hills and water, that’s what I like. I wouldn’t do well somewhere like Kansas.
I spent a lot of last summer travelling up and down the Alps by train. Here are a couple of pictures I took out of the window. Taking photos from the window of a moving train can be very frustrating, you see a spectacular view, but by the time you have taken a photo something like a fence is in the way. I like long-distance solo train trips, especially ones with spectacular scenery and no stress or time pressure when it comes to connections.Both of these pictures are somewhere near the Austrian/German border. Interestingly German for nightmare is Alptraum – “Alp dream”. That alp is a night time incubus type thing, not the mountains, but it gives a strange mental image if you’re an English speaker. An Alp dream would probably involve frolicking with goats in a sunny mountain pasture. I clearly read Heidi too often when I was younger.
Since just before Christmas, I have been doing a weekly animation workshop with kids at a school in North London, working with one of the English teachers. The brief was to create a short film which told a story that represented the school and the experiences of the students in some way. The students range from 12-18, with the younger ones being the art assistants, and the sixth-formers being the producers. They came up with a story themselves about a refugee girl from an unnamed country who flees from a war to London, but is then unhappy at the school because she doesn’t speak English (quite a common real story at this particular school). Gradually however she starts to learn and understand, and feel happier and make friends. In the initial sessions, some of the inspiration clips I showed them included Persepolis, The Science of Sleep, and my own Erika Pal’s the House.
We also went to the baroque St Nicholas’ church in Prague. I’m not at all religious (and it seems neither are the Czechs), but I like visiting churches for the art and architecture. I really liked the faces of the statues inside, especially this bishop type who seems to be going “who? me?”.
The pavements in the Old Town in Prague are all decorated with mosaics. Perhaps they’re not so great for the feet, or people with wheelchairs or buggies, but they do look good.
Puppetry is a big thing in the Czech Republic. As well as being the home of Jan Švankmajer and Jiří Trnka, there are a few puppet shops in the Old Town in Prague selling the work of local puppet artists. I’m afraid I didn’t get the names of the artists who made these ones I photographed. I really wanted to buy a small puppet, they weren’t hugely expensive, but I didn’t have much chance of getting it home in one piece, so I reluctantly gave it a miss.
We didn’t have a long time in Prague, so we didn’t get to sample that many places, but the ones we did go to all seemed to be based on books. Fun, and a little strange. (And the beer in the Czech Republic is both very cheap and very good).
After a week in Dresden at the end of August, I went to Prague for the weekend with my work colleague Hazel. We both had to go to Vienna en route to our next assignment, so it made sense to fit in a quick trip to Prague on the way.
I’m fascinated by the history of the Cold War. Both the political side, and the social history of people’s everyday lives. I’ve always been extra fascinated by the former DDR, both because I can speak the language and because they tried so hard to be a “model” Iron Curtain society. You read about people being “internal emigrés”. Being a good comrade and worker on the surface, but internally escaping to their own world via drink or just plain daydreaming. I suppose that’s what I’d do in the situation. I have a lot of thoughts on the subject, but I’m currently writing a zine about the trip this summer, so I’ll save them for there.
While I was at my grandparent’s place, I scanned some books. Here’s the Golden Hands Book of Crafts from the 70s. I have some of the magazine of the same name, which I scanned before. You can see that here. Most of the tutorials in the book weren’t very exciting, but there were some nice 70s stock pictures.
Flickr have massively changed their website recently, and I took the chance to go through all my old photos and re-organise them a bit, so I’ll be digging up various things from the archives over the next few weeks. Here’s some of Bracknell from 2005.
A couple of years ago I interviewed the children’s writer Diana Wynne Jones, my favourite writer growing up. I was compiling a zine of articles about her work. Unfortunately I didn’t finish the zine before she died of cancer, because I’m a terrible procrastinator, and she never got to see it. When I get a chance, I have another entry to add about attending her funeral.
I have been busy recently, and the ever-present backlog of photos and so on I mean to post gets ever longer. Here’s some photos I took of Brighton Pier at some point. I have no idea when I took them, probably when I lived in Brighton, but I scanned them the other week.
Every so often I like to write on here about things I like, and why I like them. I’ve (finally) been finishing my zine about Vienna, and there’s a section about Hundertwasser in there, but I didn’t really have enough space to say everything that I wanted to say, and in a b&w zine obviously you totally miss out on the colours, which are a major part of his work, so here is a longer thing about him and his work. I’ve visited the Kunsthaus/Hundertwasserhaus in Vienna quite a few times, and I wrote about one of my visits here. I first came across his work in 2001, when I was 16/17, and bought a £3 book from a discount shop because it looked interesting from a quick flick through. I’m glad I did! All the pictures in this entry are either taken by me, or come from hundertwasser.at. I don’t feel like I’ve really caught my exact favourites here, but collecting images from lots of different sources and making sure they were all credited properly would have taken a long, long time. Here’s an overview of some things.
Here are some scans from a 1970s interior design book- House by Terrence Conran. Some of the stuff in it is really really 70s looking, and some is very clean and timeless-looking. The pictures I’ve scanned are a mix of the two categories. I just scanned the pictures that appealed to me, as it’s a massive book. Some of them are a little grainy due to the printing technique. I scanned another 70s interior book I have here.
This is how I personally make my zines. There’s no right or wrong way (aside from doing things like accidentally making it unreadable once photocopied or forgetting about your margins and cutting off half the text). If you want a more in-depth guide to all things zine-related, I can recommend Stolen Sharpie Revolution. You can see all the back issues of my zines on my website.
got this stack of 70s craft magazines in a junk shop in Devizes a few years ago. That place was amazing, a multi-floored cavern of junk. It’s gone now, I think. Here’s some photos.There’s the usual ultra-cheesy raffia work projects and crocheted plant holders and so on, but the clothes patterns are actually mostly pretty nice, which is why I bought the magazines. What I’ve scanned is a mix of nice things and weird stuff though. I also couldn’t scan double page spreads very easily, because the binding on the magazines is dodgy, and I didn’t want to pull them about too much in case they broke. These issues are from 1972 and 1973. I have another issue from 1976, but it’s printed on much cheaper paper (the paper quality wasn’t sterling to begin with) and the contents are pretty dull.
As part of my MA, we were required to keep a creative diary keeping track of the professional practice lectures, research, reading, exhibition visits and general inspiration. I finally got around to scanning some of the one from my second year. In the first year I used blog posts for the same purpose, but I felt the need later on for a physical record.
When I was a kid I used to borrow this book again and again from the local library. The first thing I ever sewed myself was from it. A friend of mine at junior school’s older sister was in a school play of Toad of Toad Hall, and we went to watch. When you’re 7, 13 year olds seem incredibly impressive. What impressed me even more were the weasel costumes. I wanted one for myself. Armed with an offcut of brown fabric and a toy sewing machine I’d got at a bootfair, I made a hood with ears like the ones in the book. It was wonky, and I was a bit ashamed of it though, and wished I knew how to sew straight (looking back, I’m not sure the toy sewing machine was actually capable of a straight seam). My opinion of my sewing projects has improved slightly since.
I was doing some residential teaching for the last 2 weeks. A group of year 9s from Chile came on a school trip, and I gave them lessons about English and British History/Culture and took them to various historical places like Cambridge and Canterbury. I was working in the middle of nowhere, in this old manor house in the middle of a national park. The house had been a boarding school from the 1920s to 2005, and the company I worked for was only using part of the building. We were the last school tour to be there before it was going to be handed over to the new owners, who no-one knew much about, but didn’t seem to be using it as a school. There were lots of locked up rooms that had been used by the boarding school, but weren’t used for the language holidays, like the science lab, and they had piles of school stuff lying everywhere. The attitude was pretty much feel free to explore, just make sure the kids don’t get into anywhere that could be dangerous.
For 3 years I was part of the group that ran the Brighton Zinefest. We started just with the idea it would be fun to have a zine event in Brighton and managed to build a successful and fun event. Sadly we don’t run it any more because some of the original organisers live in Brighton any more, the others were too busy, and nobody new appeared to take over, and so it just wasn’t practical to hold another.
Film photos of Bulgaria
Last week I was in Bulgaria teaching. I didn’t have too great a time, because all of us teachers got food poisoning, and there was one particular class of kids who were a pain, and due to all round tiredness and illness, I didn’t get to leave the dull suburb we were staying in and venture too much into Sofia. I went twice, and here are some phone pics. I’ve got some 35mm ones too, which I need to scan, and some diana ones, which need developing still. I think if I went again to Bulgaria I’d go somewhere in the mountains or coast. Sofia isn’t their top tourist destination, it’s really more somewhere where people work, and the natural scenery of the country is stunning. I’m in the process of writing about the trip in more detail for my zine.
I like buying 70s craft books from charity shops. I’m not sure what it is about them, but maybe it’s the colours and the quite often bizarre project suggestions. Here’s 2 of them scanned in.
Here’s some Puffin books I scanned so I could stick the pictures in my art college diary.
These are some pictures I scanned from a 1970s kids book at my dad’s house called Nature All Around. My uncle used to work for a non-fiction publisher and we always seemed to have strange free books from his work around the place. It has drawings and photographs of things children can spot around the average british garden/field/beach and information about the lives of the various creatures.
I’ve had this book since forever. It was part of a set of educational books that were a hand me down from my cousin. The others in the set were pretty standard, on topics like animal migration or cars, but this one is a bit odd. The others in the set have long gone to the charity shop or another relative, but I’ll always keep this book.
I got this 70stastic book for £1 from a charity shop, mainly because of the pictures. The textual parts are worthy and Blue Peter-ish, with lots of making things out of tea chests and copydex (why doesn’t tea tend to come in chests these days?), guides to home tie-dying, and sentences like “and kitchen foil gives a touch of glamour”.
Some snaps of the mist in my dad’s garden this afternoon. Sometimes I wish my hometown would burn to the ground and be replaced solely by trees. (Rochester excepted)
One of the many rolls of film I have sitting around waiting to be scanned. This is from the days when I used to live in Reading. I want it to be sunny now! I long for long walks and picnics and lying on the grass in the sunshine, I’m fed up of the scrag end of winter. Diana + camera & Kodak Ektachrome 100 cross-processed.
Today Tukru helped me take some photos for my uni project (someone needed to stop the camera tripod falling down the hill and be able to touch things without covering them in blood. Today’s myth was Pentheus & the Bacchae. I was a Bacchant/Maenad. I got to sit around in a vest in the winter doused in fake blood, clutching a mostly empty bottle of booze and a fimo human heart and trying not to squint in the unexpected February sunshine. How I usually spend my Tuesday afternoons, really. Fake blood is surprisingly cold in the wind. Clearing up felt like we were covering up a murder.
On Saturday I went to White Night rather than doing anything big for Halloween. It’s an all night art festival in Brighton on the night the clocks change. I knew some people who were doing stuff in it, and there was plenty of interesting stuff to come across anyway.
I was working in Vienna a few weeks ago, and I haven’t got round to uploading photos and putting them here. There’s plenty to come. I went to as many art exhibits as I could in the week I was working in Vienna. I’ve never felt so spoilt by all the free entry in London. I think I spent about €40 overall just on museum entries. It was worth it to see some things in the flesh though.
When I was 17 or so I used to carry this notebook around in my bag to jot stuff down in. In boring moments in the pub, friends used to draw in it too. I managed to lose the insides (I’ve still got a few pages somewhere, but I haven’t seen then in a while, I’m sure I’ll uncover them when I return to Brighton and unpack my stuff). You can see where other people have scribbled stuff on the cover too, and polaroid stickers got stuck on, and then fell off where the material was so flimsy. Those polaroid izone stickers were a bit rubbish really. I scanned the covers a while ago, and forgot about it, and just noticed them on my flickr.
This is a board game I got in a charity shop. I think the title deserves an exclamation mark. It encourages children to lie to customs officers convincingly. You get to smuggle dodgy perfume and boxes of cigars through customs. In my head it belongs to an imaginary Father Ted episode where Ted & Dougal are stuck inside on a rainy day, and decide to play a board game, they have a choice between Trivial Pursuit- Papal Edition or Smuggle, then Dougal turns out to not understand the concept of bluffing
I also didn’t put my pictures from Canterbury Museum up. Here is Bagpuss on his cushion, he has an honourary doctorate from the University of Kent you know. In real life, he’s about the size you’d expect.
I’ve got a new print for sale on Etsy $15-$30 depending on the size.