Friday, August 30, 2013

Childhood memories

When I were a lad my parents took us on holiday to France in a camperva
n. We chugged around France, stopping at campsites, eating bread and other French-related activities.

During the trip my Dad read us a story called The Haunted Reef. In my memory this was an amazing tale of treasure and sailing, sharks and great escapades of derring-do. It was with nostalgic glee, then, that my girlfriend presented me with a copy after I'd mentioned it, sealed in a plastic sandwich bag.

Re-reading it, it was funny how little of the story I remembered, with almost none of the major incidents jogging any memories, while the story itself, read with critical, English literature degree eyes, was full of weird moments, and unsatisfactory outcomes. Also, the main character Dirk, (or, Dork, as my Dad reminded me he called him), is an annoyingly perfect hero - cool, strong, impervious to nerves and always quick with an explanation. He's hard to like.

Despite this I enjoyed reading it again and the story, with a few modifications, could make an excellent film, as there are plenty of good characters and some excellent potential landscape shoots, while the story has plenty of death and savagery that is required for all modern action films.

Pretty Saro and tired horses

As a big Bob Dylan fan it is no surprise I enjoyed Self Portrait (for the most part at least) and have also found the Another Self Portrait album a very enjoyable listen too.

The standout track from the latter is Pretty Saro, as you can watch and listen to below. It clearly dismisses the lame old criticism leveled at Dylan by people who have never listened to him, that he can't sing, as he croons his way through the lovely ditty:

Pretty good eh?

By the by, one of most intriguing tracks on Self Portrait, and no doubt purposefully placed at the start to confuse the hell out of listeners, is All The Tired Horses, which you'd never believe or guess for one second was Bob Dylan. Check it out below too.

DYLAN: all the tired horses in the sun by mrjyn

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Been listening to the new Bob Dylan, Another Self-Portrait at the moment on Spotify. Lovely stuff.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Unknown history

There are just so many stories in the world it's impossible to read them all, but it's always fascinating when you come across an incident you never knew of before, despite it's clear interest and wider impact on society.

The Bristol Bus Boycott, covered in great detail by the BBC today, is one such example, with a nice echo to the wider US race issues taking place at the same time.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Why is Bill Bryson so funny?

I've read several Bill Bryson books - Notes From a Small County, Neither Here Nor There, Shakespeare, Notes from a Big Country...and enjoyed them all immensely. Well, maybe not the last one, that was just a bunch of columns strung together.

Anyway, I'm now reading A Walk in the Woods, which is an enjoyable, funny account of his attempts to hike the 2,000 mile plus Appalachian Trail. I'm about two-thirds through.

The thing that has struck me is just how often I keep laughing, out loud, at what he writes. Yet, when I look back at what made me laugh, I don't really see why I laughed. It was an easy joke, and sign-posted a mile off, but he just delivers them with perfect timing.

I've read many travel books where the writer tries far too hard to make jokes in every paragraph and it becomes utterly tiresome and you just wish they'd focus on the traveling.

Bryson does it the other way, spending most of his time talking about the travel or the job at hand, and then throwing the jokes in at appropriate moments, meaning most of the jokes hit their targets with enjoyable regularity.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Face for radio

I was on BBC Radio 2 last night talking about the phone maker BlackBerry. As usual pre-call nerves disappeared the moment my name was said, leading to a jolly pleasant discussion about the firm and its troubles and what could happen next.

Listen below - nicely bookended by carvan chat and the theme tune to Grange Hill.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Kew Gardens

I've lived within 30 minutes of Kew Gardens for about four years and never once headed to its leafy environs - until now! (Well, yesterday).

What a lovely place. I highly recommend it - lush and verdant and full of lovely little hidden treats such as a Japanese pagoda or a bamboo hut that had been shipped from Japan. Huge greenhouses full of exotic plants (as you'd expect) and lovely rolling grasses and trees that you can wander around without over-zealous staff or officious signs directing you.

All in all, lovely, and worth a day out. And no queues either!

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Morning blues

I love endless skies of blue, so blue they seem to shine. This morning was one such example, with East Putney's ancient red-brick facade a brilliant and stark contrast to the backdrop.

In fact it was so good I actually stopped to take a picture, aware people walking past would be casting quick glances my way. They should have joined in.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Empty roads

The London cycle event over the weekend left Putney devoid of traffic for almost the entirety of Sunday. It was an odd sight and experience, to be able to wander down the high street that is so usually packed with buses and cars and instead hear nothing but the regular passing of cyclists wheels  - ssshm, ssshm, ssshm - zipping past. 

It reminded me slightly of the moments you get at crossroads with traffic lights where there are no cars, or you're the only car, stuck at red while the other lights change for nothing, as if allowing ghosts to proceed on their way. 

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Adventure stories for adults

The phrase page-turner is a highly subjective one. To some it's the single best description they can hear to be enticed to a book, while for others it implies moronic, endless-cliffhanger rubbish. And of course it can be a bit a of both. I read Child 44 earlier this year, the first 'page-turner' I've read in years, and I highly enjoyed it. Both for that longing to continue reading when each chapter ended with a twist or moment of drama, but also because it was an engrossing story. 

Most page-turners are, though, based around notions of terror and horror. How many awful-sounding novels do you see advertised on the walls of stations saying things like, "A horrific murder, a missing child, no time left... - Read the new thriller from..." and it sounds like utter rubbish. Yet these books, like those by Lee Child for example, sell by the millions and must have something to them. Yet I have no interest in reading about horrible murders or about ex-military types solving crimes where half a page is given to clinical descriptions of guns and cars.

This got me thinking, why are there no 'adventure' stories for adults? As children tales of pirates and treasure and all those sort of things were what you craved (see TinTin) and as adults, we still enjoy this - see the films of Indiana Jones or Back to the Future, but I don't know many books of this kind. Books that employ a shameless page-turning strategy, but cover adventure and escapades, without resorting to the darkest recesses of the human mind to stimulate interest.

Perhaps I'll write something, before anyone else has this idea. However, perhaps there are such books out there - if so please let me know!

Friday, August 02, 2013

A salute to Friday

Ah, Friday. Hallowed day, harbinger of the weekend, bringer forth of good times, and usually-quieter-day-at-work-than-other-days day.

Some Fridays rush up upon you, catching you unawares, some idle by, taking an age to reveal themselves, some seem days away, and some, like this week, just tick by with reassuring regularity.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

The ups and downs of escalators

I read an article the other day about the etiquette of standing or walking on escalators - let's not call it 'riding', it's not a roller coaster or a whale is it?. Apparently, in some cities, hardly anyone walks on the escalator while go-getter Michael Bloomberg said he walks up and down escalators at every opportunity.

Well, being financial titans isn't the only thing I and MBB (as his friends call him) have in common, as I too am a committed escalator walker. I love the double rising sensation of your legs being given a boost by the endlessly revolving loop of an escalator's giant silver steps. Twice as fast and half the effort. Of course sometimes I don't (see: hangovers, very early mornings) but this is rare as even in poor states I find a bolt up an escalator does you a world of good. 

It's also great free exercise and whenever escalators are out action on the underground, forcing commuters to trudge down and around spiraling staircases, it must make London a much fitter city. There should be a No Escalator Day. 

Two fun things: 1. In tube stations with two parallel escalators, take a different one each (if with someone else of course, or do it secretly with a random) and stand on steps opposite one another. Then watch to see if one goes faster than the other.  At Angel tube it used to be that one escalator was considerably faster so I'd give people six or seven steps head start and still win

2. When going up, stand (yes yes I know) and look straight up. If you do it right it gives the sensation you're at 90 degrees and the people above should be tumbling through the air towards you. It's worth practicing as it's a brilliant sensation. Waterloo is good for it. 

Of course the most importance thing in all this though is, while there is nothing wrong with standing, if you're going to, please stand on the right.