Life

This week

Some things I’ve been in to this week:

A TV series:  There’s nothing I like better than a good bit of infrastructure!  Actually, a good bit of infrastructure and a ‘behind the scenes’ type TV programme.  This week BBC2 started The Fifteen Billion Pound Railway a short series about the construction of Crossrail.  This programme was generally fascinating showing you things you never realised they did as part of such a major project but what was genuinely awe inspiring was boring a tunnel just 80cm above an Underground line and 30cm below an escalator whilst both were still in use!

A TED talk:  This is one of my favourites that I re-watched this week.  It’s Rory Sutherland talking about the value of advertising and how it changes our perception of products.  Whilst many may feel it shows why advertising is a bad thing, it also shows why what advertising achieves is useful in other areas and why it’s a fascinating industry to work in.  Rory Sutherland himself is also massively entertaining.


A book: I’ve been reading quite a lot of books lately on dealing with anxiety and depression (something which I expect I’ll write more about some time) and also the general area of getting more done in life and managing work better.  One book I’ve found is definitely from the latter but had massive parallels with the former and was really interesting and so I’d recommend it to anyone.  It’s called How to be a Productivity Ninja by Graham Allcott.  Don’t let the title put you off as it includes some really useful tips but is also an easy read.

A film:  I’m going to recommend a film even though I’ve not seen it (yet).  I’ve had a long standing love affair with the photographs of Vivian Maier and I want everyone to know about her.  This week the documentary Finding Vivian Maier about how her photographs were discovered and about the woman herself was released.  I imagine it’ll only be on at independent art cinemas, although I’ve not spotted it on at my own local one yet, but keep an eye out.  An amazing photographer and an amazing story.

Another TV series:  This week saw the return of Coast to BBC2 starting with a look at both sides of the English Channel.  It’s great that this series has continued when the original premise was just to go round the coast of the UK in one series, and it always finds things that are fascinating.  This week included amongst other things Mont St Michel (which I love from my one visit anyway), some impressive beach art at Arromanches, the dramatic Vauban forts off the coast of St Malo (a town which looks like somewhere I should visit some time anyway) and the interesting and surprisingly unknown story of the SS Mendi that sank of the Isle of Wight during the First World War.

An open letter:  Finally, and not something unique to this week but I think is worth reading and re-reading is this amusing Open Letter to Metrolink.  It’s nearly a year old now, but it is the result of someone finally getting so frustrated about problems with Manchester’s tram system that they penned this amusing open letter to its director.  Anyone who commutes regularly will share the pain.

This week

Some things I’ve been in to this week:

Actually it’s not just things I’ve been in to this week as I’ve not done this post for two weeks thanks t0 busy weekends and work, so here’s a bit of a summary:

A TV series:  I don’t watch loads of TV these days and yet I have a real soft spot for those series where they send in an expert to improve a business, and so Channel 5′s The Hotel Inspector Returns has become a highlight of the week.  This series shows Alex Polizzi returning to hotels that she improved before to see what’s happened since.  I also admit to a lot of childish humour at this week’s hotelier being called Muff, but then Channel 5 also shouldn’t keep using so much innuendo in its voiceover.

A song:  Last weekend I went to the wedding of two of my closest friends (more on this later), and it was there that I discovered that we share one of the same songs as a favourite from a musical which is Anthem from Chess.  It was brilliantly and emotionally performed at the evening reception by Nigel Richards, but as that’s not available online here’s the original version of it sung by Tommy Körberg:


A quotation:  One of my ambitions has always been to write my a novel, so this quotation from J K Rowling really appealed:

The best place to write, in my opinion, is a cafe; you don’t have to make your own coffee, you don’t feel that you are in solitary confinement while you work and when inspiration fails, you can walk to the next cafe while your batteries re-charge.

I found the quotation in the excellent How to be a Writer by Stewart Ferris, and it sums up my thoughts.  I may not be a writer (yet, I’ll say optimistically) but I am always more productive and thoughtful in somewhere like a cafe, a bar or on a train.

An article:  In Berlin they’re planning to build a joint church/mosque/synagogue called The House of One.  The BBC Magazine has the story and it’s quite interesting to see how it’s come about and how the design will work.

Another TV series:  It feels a bit pointless to write about this given that’s it’s finished and no longer on iPlayer, but I downloaded Happy Valley a few weeks ago and I’ve finally watched it and it’s brilliant.  As I work with people who live in the Calder Valley, I know its depiction of people there as constantly on drugs and as crooks didn’t exactly endear it to the local residents, but having finally been convinced I should watch it I am very impressed.  Dramatic and hard hitting and emotional, yet at the same time quite heart warming and showing (most) of the police in a good light.  I’ve also always rated Sarah Lancashire as an actor and so I also like it from that point of view.  But as it also includes lots of places I know from working in Hebden Bridge it’s quite interesting and it’s definitely worth watching.  I expect it’ll be back as a repeat at some point, but also I gather there’ll be a second series, so look out for it.

A wedding:  As I mentioned before, two of my closest friends Ed Fordham and Russell Eagling married at Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel in Hampstead last weekend.  They’ve been together for 16 years and I’ve known both of them since I was at university, and it’s great that they could finally could get married following the passing of the equal marriage legislation last year.  It was a brilliant occasion, and I just couldn’t let this post go by without a mention.  There’s been a lot on mine and other’s Twitter (it’s pretty much the Lib Dem Wedding of the Year), and this article from the Camden New Journal tells you some of the essentials.

A series of books:  I blogged about this the other week, but it’s worth repetition.  I’ve finally discovered Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct crime books and I’m really chuffed that I have.  I’ve always liked police procedurals as form of crime novel, and I always knew that Ed McBain was one of the most well regarded in that genre, and so I went in to Ed McBain’s books hoping for the best.  I wasn’t disappointed.

Another article:  I’ve noticed lately how many Jehovah’s Witnesses have suddenly appeared hanging around railway stations.  This article from the BBC Magazine explains how it’s part of a new strategy.  Whilst I don’t really want to be approached by Jehovah’s Witnesses in the street, I do wonder however, how this subtle approach of just holding out copies of their magazine near stations gets them anywhere.

Another song:  One of my favourite songs of this year (although it was actually released last year) is Help Me Lose My Mind from Disclosure featuring London Grammar.  It’s catchy, dancey but with a slight melancholy ambient feel, and makes me think of late nights relaxing to music with friends.  This video from YouTube is very well put together and fits perfectly, and is unusually good for a ‘fan video’.

This week

Some things I’ve been in to this week:

A statue:  I tweeted a picture of the John Betjeman statue at London St. Pancras Station last Sunday saying it was one of my favourite statues, and was surprised it was retweeted 20 times by people I don’t know (I think it may have something to do with this man retweeting it).  But it’s a great statue of a poet whose poetry I love anyway, and it captures really well not only him as a person but his belief in the glories of St. Pancras Station.

A pub:  As you’ll have guessed, I was in London last weekend, and I made sure I called in to my favourite pub in the capital – the Founders Arms at Bankside.  And the reason it’s my favourite pub is its view and nothing at all to do with its drink, food or decor (although that’s not too bad).  Looking out over the Thames watching the boats going up and down and the amazing architecture of the City of London on the opposite bank, makes it a perfect place to sit and drink.  As a result it gets very busy of course, but you can usually find a spot.  The best time to be there though is just before sunset as the ‘golden hour’ takes affect and creates the wonderful glow on the surrounding buildings.

An article:  There was an excellent article in The Independent Magazine last Saturday about Labour’s MP for Walthamstow Stella Creasy.  It’s a really good insight in to someone who’s gained a reputation for her campaigning on national issues, and who people talk about as a star of the future.  She’s also managed that unusual feat of using social media a lot and appearing both human and political.  I asked a Lib Dem friend who lives in that part of London whether she really is as good as the reports suggest, and his answer was that she really is that good.

A line from a TV programme:  This comes from one of the best ever comedies – Yes, Prime Minister – and in this episode Prime Minister Jim Hacker believes that the Employment Secretary Dudley is plotting to overthrow him (Series 2, Episode 1 “Man Overboard”).  It’s only a short exchange but it’s one of my favourites:

Jim: It’s envy you know. Dudley is consumed with envy.
Bernard: It’s one of the seven Dudley sins.

An exhibition:  There’s not long left of the Vikings exhibition at the British Museum (two days in fact) and so it’s time to visit if you haven’t.  I only just managed it last weekend.  It really gives a strong sense of what life was like in those times, the amazing art from that time (which we probably don’t generally realise) and the distances they travelled.  It isn’t just about raping and pillaging in the North of England.

A song:  Sometimes a song just comes in to your head for no apparent reason even though it’s not a song you listen to very often.  Last Sunday evening on the train back home it was Glorious by Captain.  A catchy sang that’s upbeat but also I detect a bit of angst.  What amazes me is how recent this song is and how unsuccessful it was commercially.  Sadly I’m not able to embed the video to this site, but you can watch it here.

Two more exhibitions:  Another trip last weekend was to The Photographers’ Gallery to see John Deakin and the Lure of Soho and also the nominees for the Deutsche Börse Prize.  John Deakin’s photos of Soho in the 50s and 60s really conjure up that time and a slightly curious mixture of glamour and mystery.  The Deutsche Börse Prize is one of the most prestigious annual photography competitions.  The nominees are always massively different and always fascinating, with my favourites this year being the eventual winner Richard Mosse with large format images of Congo using infrared film, and Alberto García-Alix with his four decades of personal and at times intimate scenes.  The Photographers’ Gallery is an amazing place and really handy near Oxford Circus and it’s free entry.  I just wish I could spend more time there.

A TV series:  There’s only three days left of the BBC’s A Very British Airline, but I recommend watching it before it disappears.  A glimpse in to the day to day life of British Airways.  It is a brilliant sales job for the company as you realise how particular and how meticulous (and I mean really meticulous) they are at making everything right, but it’s also quite inspiring to see the effort that goes in to create a genuinely quality brand.  A brand that I’d always seen as old-fashioned and fuddy duddy, but in this you realise is actually trying to become more modern whilst keeping many of their old values.

This week

Some things I’ve been in to this week:

A painting:  Last weekend I had a brief look around parts of Tate Modern, having never been and finding myself in the area, but then leaving after not long as it was just so busy.  However, this was the painting that stuck in my mind – Seated Woman with Small Dog by Meraud Guevara.  It’s perspective is a little weird but it makes you think – who is she, what’s she doing there, what’s she thinking about?

A map (or two):  As a geographer it’s inevitable that I love maps.  And it’s political geography that I particularly love.  I also quite like some of these counterfactual histories you get.  So what better than two maps that show what the Middle East might be like if boundaries were determined on what would make more practical sense and what makes religious, ethnic or linguistic sense.  These things are always controversial and open for debate and suspicions of motives, so I’m not endorsing any of these ideas, but these two from Ralph Peters and Robin Wright are particularly interesting and share some similarities, and it’s interesting to read the logic behind the boundaries and what the affect could be.

A song:  I was listening to Amy Winehouse on the way to work this week (partly inspired by reading this interesting book about Nica Rothschild), and one song from her first album Frank that’s always been a favourite is Take the Box.  It’s not one of her best known songs by any stretch of the imagination, but it shows off her voice well.


A blog post:  Mark Wallace of Conservative Home has written an interesting piece about how the Conservatives won the Newark by-election.  What strikes me from this article and what I’ve heard elsewhere is how much the Conservatives turned this in to quite a Lib Dem style of campaign by bringing in loads of helpers and picking on good local issues.  But what I also found interesting was a Conservative squeeze letter that Wallace mentions in his article that encouraged Labour and Lib Dem voters to tactically vote Conservative to keep Ukip out – having seen a copy it was a very well written letter that I can see would have worked well.

A photography exhibition:  Another discovery at Tate Modern was the exhibition of Incidents by Henry Wessel.  This show is highlights from a collection of photographs recently purchased by Tate Modern and depicts glimpses of ordinary life on the American West Coast.  Quiet and unassuming but full of intrigue.

This week

Some things I’ve been in to this week:

A song:  I discovered Paul Thomas Saunders through an iTunes free song a few months ago, but this was another one from the same album and straight away I loved it.  Good Women is relaxing and calm and great to just chill to.


An article:  I travelled on the Caledonian Sleeper on a round trip from London Euston to Edinburgh Waverley about 15 years and it was a great experience.  This article from the BBC explains why it’s wonderful and why it’s great that it’s being invested in, even if as the article says it can be difficult to sleep on on your first journey and why the bar is a little retro.

Another article:  I’m convinced that one reason I struggle to sleep as well as I used to is that my blinds aren’t dark enough.  It could of course just be a result of getting older – I need to get up and go to the toilet in the night more than I used to – but this article also from the brilliant BBC Magazine shows it’s not just me that’s not sleeping.

A photographer:  This is another brilliant Russian photographer but one I’ve only just discovered.  Alexey Bogolepov‘s photographs show scenes of ordinary buildings and landscapes.  If you’re a fan of brutalist architecture then it’s definitely for you.  For photographers who enjoy Bernd and Hilla Becher then his project Bloc is reminiscent and many of his other photographs would also fit neatly in to the New Topographics.

And yet another article:  Dan Hodges has rapidly become every Lib Dem’s favourite Labourite, but this article is great if you want to know what MPs are really like.  It’s a very true article about why most MPs are actually what most of the public ask for – fairly ordinary and with a long history of service and with work experience far removed from the Westminster bubble.  And I’m proud that the MP he’s used to represent this is the lovely Annette Brooke.

A video:  Jay Foreman has added another episode to his great series of videos about Unfinished London, this time a video about the capital’s airports.  A must watch for fans of London, history and transport and done in his customary quirky and funny style.