Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Red Car

TFE asked if people could put poems on their blogs with the words RED and CAR in them. Here goes...

Red Car


And, on a lighter note (we don't live that far from the East coast of England),


a tanka

When I want to go
to the seaside I drive to
Redcar. It's not far.
There's a good fish and chip shop...
In fact I think I'll go now.

Tanka: a Japanese form employing the syllable pattern 5-7-5-7-7.

Monday, 25 January 2010

A Challenge!

I was checking out The Wire magazine's website the other week when I came across the music of Simon Fisher Turner. Listening to a track on his MySpace site, I was immediately struck by what a good film soundtrack it would make. I grabbed pen and  paper and replayed it...

The challenge is to produce a piece of flash fiction (or, if you prefer, poetry) as follows:

1. Armed with pen and paper, go to Simon Fisher Turner's MySpace site and listen to Ghost Road Berlin (it's one of the tracks on his playlist).

2. Write down what comes into your head as you listen.

3. Knock the result into shape and post it on your blog next Monday (February 1st).

4. Leave a link to your post in the comments below, and I'll post a list of the links I receive.

I was initially going to post a preview of what I've written here, now, to get the old ball rolling - but then I decided not to. It will interesting to see the similarities and differences in the ways we responded to the music.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Out and About

Christmas is over, the new year's begun. The snow's turned to slush and melted (well, almost). Life has returned to normal (well, almost). I was sitting in the car in Leyburn the other day. Feeling indolent, I decided not to get out and go looking for photographs, but to simply stay put and take what I could see.

I didn't take any photos of the surrounding countryside. I'll leave that to Kenneth Grahame. We're re-reading The Wind in the Willows here. It's a great book. It's most famous, of course, for Mr Toad. However, the Toad parts of the book are my least favourite. I much prefer the less burlesque bits, such as Ratty and Mole's encounter with The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and their visit to Badger's house in the Wild Wood. Bits like this:

"It was a cold still afternoon with a hard steely sky overhead, when he [Mole] slipped out of the warm parlour into the open air. The country lay bare and entirely leafless around him, and he thought that he had never seen so far and so intimately into the insides of things as on that winter day when Nature was deep in her annual slumber and seemed to have kicked the clothes off. Copses, dells, quarries and all hidden places, which had been mysterious mines for exploration in leafy summer, now exposed themselves and their secrets pathetically, and seemed to ask him to overlook their shabby poverty for a while, till they could riot in rich masquerade as before, and trick and entice him with the old deceptions. It was pitiful in a way, and yet cheering -- even exhilarating. He was glad that he liked the country undecorated, hard, and stripped of its finery. He had got down to the bare bones of it, and they were fine and strong and simple."
Personally, I find it hard to feel as positive as Mole. I find the bleakness of winter anything but exhilarating, but reading the book makes me almost believe that I like the landscape that way too. To really enjoy winter I have to get out and run - or cycle. The "high" one gets from exercise makes the world look wonderful at any time of year. It leaves you feeling warm, too.

As I've mentioned before, the beck that runs past our gate has the tenuous claim to fame that it may have inspired the river in the book, as it runs through the grounds of a nearby "big house" where Grahame sometimes stayed. However, I suspect this claim is made for just about any watercourse that passes near any of his known haunts!

Sunday, 10 January 2010


If this weather continues much longer, there is a risk our house will become an icicle-cage. We'll wake up, try to get out, only to find ourselves imprisoned behind a wall of ice bars!

Not that I'm competitive or anything, but I've had a look round the village and I think that if there were a competition here for the best icicles, we would win it. If I find better ones, I'll photograph them, too.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Little Whernside

On the way to the supermarket the other day, we stopped to take some photographs. This is Little Whernside: not to be confused with the famous Whernside, the highest hill in Yorkshire or, for that matter, the cloud behind it. "Whernside" simply means a hillside considered good for quarrying millstones, or "wherns".  There are four in the Yorkshire Dales: two more are concealed in the cloud-bank. One of the them, Great Whernside, is probably my favourite hill in the Dales (it's also the nearest to us of the bigger ones). The famous one is miles away, to the West.

I love it when the shapes of distant cloud-banks get all confused with the shapes of the hills, especially when the hills are covered in snow. Sometimes -but not here- it's hard to tell which are which.

To change subject entirely, the Guardian newspaper have just published a great short film about the sculptor, Terence Coventry.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010


Today I built an igloo. I've always wanted to do this, ever since I saw a film as a child of a real one being built. I've built shelters in the snow before, but never out of "bricks". I used a plastic storage box as a mould, and made the bricks as one would make sandcastles.

The finished result was a bit on the small side, but it would take one person comfortably. Karen and I took some photos of it as it was being built.

The first course:

Almost finished - just a few more blocks to put on:

Making the doorway:

The finished article:

I thought of spending the night in it (there's just room) but chickened out!

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Let's Hear it for Who!

It was excellently done. And, as is the way with excellence, once it's gone, it's hard to imagine anything ever being done that well again. I'm not talking about Late Beethoven here, but Dr Who.

One might envy Matt Smith landing the role of the new Doctor, but not for having to take over from the man who was probably the best ever. The manner of David Tennant's leave-taking said it all. This was no bog-standard "regeneration" in which the Doctor, being a Gallifreyan, merely changed his face: this was a death, with all the attendant pain. The Doctor paused, wistfully: "I don't want to go," he said. His body first glowed, then exploded. The pillars of the Tardis fell in, the windows smashed outwards - one was reminded of the events immediately following Christ's death on the cross. Then straight on to the resurrection: Matt Smith picked himself up, wondered if he was a girl, discovered that he wasn't, and picked up the role where Tennant had left off. If the trailer below is anything to go by, we're in for another good one.

Which would hardly be surprising. Tennant is an excellent actor (he packs a mean Hamlet in his spare time). But, much as I think he was the best Dr Who ever, it would be wrong to him single out. If one person could be singled out as being responsible for reinventing Dr Who, it's probably Russell T Davies. Tennant's predecessor, Christopher Eccleston, did an excellent job too - possibly an even a harder job than Tennant's, as he had to revive a role that had been mothballed for years by the BBC. And it's not just about individuals, it's about the whole production. As anyone who has watched the behind the scenes programmes, Dr Who Confidential can see, the show is produced with unbounded creativity, commitment and energy.

What exactly is Dr Who? These days TV pads the gaps between the reality shows with entertainment masquerading as drama in the form of realist soap, hospital dramas and whodunnits. For me, Dr Who is the opposite. It's drama masquerading as entertainment. It is itself: there is nothing quite like it.


The 10th Doctor's 10 Greatest Moments. A great link for Who fans (worth it for the clip from The Christmas Invasion), but none of them are from my favourite episode (well, it's a two-parter):