This week

Some things I’ve been in to this week:

A painting:  I briefly called in to the Leeds Art Gallery when I was in the city last Sunday and this painting on the staircase stopped me in my tracks.  It’s called The Day of Atonement by Jacob Kramer and at full scale feels powerful and creates a drama, a mystery and a feeling of contemplation which I enjoy.

An art exhibition: One of the current temporary exhibitions at Leeds Art Gallery is Nocturne.  This exhibition shows a collection of paintings and photographs of places set in moonlight, including some by one of my favourite artists John Atkinson Grimshaw.  Powerful, dramatic and melancholic.

A TV programme and a building:  As someone who is fascinated by architecture and who would love to build his own home one day it’s no great surprise that I also love Channel 4’s Grand Designs.  More4 recently repeated a programme about a largely subterranean house squeezed on to a tiny plot of round surrounded by other houses in North London.  It shows what you can do even in a crowded city and manages to be an absolutely stunning place to live.  Sadly the programme has already disappeared from 4OD, but this clip gives you a flavour although only by seeing the building in its final form do you really appreciate it.

A blog post:  There’s been a lot of Lib Dems understandably wanting to voice their opinion on the future direction of the party following this year’s Local and European Elections.  Some have followed the predictable ‘let’s bin Clegg’ line, but Lib Dem Voice have run a number of other quite thoughtful articles.  This first one from Elwyn Watkins is good at bringing a bit of the real world to the story of what goes on in some of the more difficult areas where we’re finding it hard to reach at present.

Another blog post:  Adam Killeya’s article about us resdiscovering Our Radical Edge is the other blog post I’ve picked out from Lib Dem Voice.  This one shows that whilst the party has done some great things in government, what is there for younger people?  This particularly stands out as Adam is almost (albeit slightly younger) a contemporary of mine and so the big issues when he joined the Lib Dems were similar to when I did.

A place to visit:  The day after the European Election count (a very late night was spent being utterly bored and depressed in Leeds) I wanted a day out somewhere I’d not been to before.  That place was the nearest National Trust property to where I live that I’d not been to  – The Workhouse Southwell in Nottinghamshire.  It may seem appropriate that I visited a workhouse just after a load of Lib Dem MEPs and staff lost their jobs, but I can recommend this as a fascinating place to visit.  Informative and educational, and a place that gives more than just one dimension to the story, and most significantly a guide who was remarkable in bringing the place to life.

This week

Some things I’ve been in to this week:

A set of photos:  This impressive set of photographs from the Telegraph are aerial shots of roof gardens and terraces around central London by Jason Hawkes.  I love how it reveals these places you probably wouldn’t be aware are there otherwise and I’m pleasantly surprised that I’ve been to four of them – OXO Tower, Kensington, One Bishops Square and One New Change.

A blog post:  This post from Carl Minns has generated some controversy by the impression that its title says that people who lost didn’t work hard enough.  An impression that some of the party’s official comment has also given, although in both cases I’m sure were unintended.  Why I like this post though is partly because it’s well written (Carl is a good writer) but also because it explains some of the reasons for Hull’s success over recent years, it points out that winning is not just about the leader and also why those plotting to oust the leader should perhaps wait and reflect a bit first.

A photograph:  I spent some of this last week in Prestwich helping my boss to win his council election (which he did).  It was only afterwards, although I suspected during the day, that I realised we were just round the corner to the former Agecroft Power Station.  Instantly this reminds me of the well known and amazing photograph by landscape photographer John Davies.  John’s photographs show the drama and beauty that industry can create that is every bit as stunning as rural landscapes.  I’ve seen this photograph on many occasions on the internet and in photobooks but I would love to see an exhibition with it in large format to get the full effect and really see the detail properly.  John Davies’ photographs are an inspiration to me.

Agecroft Power Station by John Davies

An article:  Have Generation X (people born between the mid 60s and mid 80s, and therefore me!) already had their time in the spotlight?  This short article from The Sydney Morning Herald asks the question and thinks that Baby Boomers stayed on too long, and too much has moved on in the short time that Generation X has been in charge, and it’s already moved to the new generation.  Not sure if I agree, but it’s a thought worth considering.

Another article:  This week’s elections may mean time has moved on since this article from The Guardian was written, but given the success that Ukip have had in traditional Labour areas, and not just against the Tories as was once assumed would be the case, makes this especially relevant.  Do traditional Labour voters feel Ukip’s economic message is closer to their opinions than those of Ed Miliband’s Labour party?

A song:  And in a depressing week for those who hate Ukip, something upbeat feels like a good way to end this.  In the week that Belinda Carlisle has been touring the UK this song is a good panacea.  She’s not everyone’s cup of tea but (We Want) The Same Thing reminds me of my teenage years and it’s a fun song:

This week

Some things I’ve been in to this week:

A TV series: I’ve always liked the ‘behind the scenes’ type programmes but Liberty of London, which was shown at the end of last year (it’s still available on 4OD), is one I’ve become a little obsessed by.  It’s not just the personalities shown, but it reminds me why I have loved working in customer-facing businesses.  I think it’s something to do with the unpredictability, the daily sense of achievement and the camaraderie with colleagues, that makes it work.

A blog post: I’ve been a fan of the ‘Round the North We Go‘ blog since Scott Willison (AKA The Merseytart) was blogging about Merseyrail.  It sounds very nerdy, but then when it comes to trains I suppose I am anyway, but what I mainly love is his writing.  It’s funny, it’s brilliant in its observation of daily life, it’s sarcastic and it is informative about places you’ve never been.  This week’s p0st about First Class on First Transpennine Express trains is a perfect example of his abilities.

A TED talk: This is a powerful and emotional talk, yet also (and it seems weird to say this given the subject matter) also fascinating.  It’s by Kevin Briggs, a former patrol officer on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.  In this talk he deals with the issue of suicide.  It’s a story of both hope and tragedy.

An article:  This article from BBC News tells a story that’s all too common.  It’s the story of political activists who no longer want to be active.  I don’t agree with everything in the article, but I’ve seen what it talks about on many occasions and it explains the issue that I’ve only come to understand over the four years the Lib Dems have been in government.  Parties in power lose seats not so much because voters are angry and stop voting for a party, but it’s because the activists get demoralised and find other things to do rather than campaigning.  That leads to there being fewer people knocking on doors, delivering leaflets and generally persuading people to vote for a party.  It’s a downward spiral that is instigated by unhappy voters, but exacerbated by dispirited campaigners.

A TV drama:  Starting again tonight on BBC4 was the final series of the Swedish language version of Wallander with Krister Henriksson.  Henriksson has for me always been the best Wallander as he is much more like the Wallander I imagined from the books.

Another TV drama:  From Nordic Noir to Celtic Noir.  Hinterland is a brilliant crime series set in and around Aberystwyth and is now showing on BBC4.  Dark, mysterious and troubling, with a side to Wales you may never have seen before and is certainly not flattering.  It’s also the drama I wish I’d written as I’ve always had something similar in my mind as the book I’ve wanted to write ever since I lived in the area, but the BBC and S4C got there first.

A song:  I suppose I couldn’t do this week’s This Week without mentioning Eurovision.  My Twitter feed from last Saturday evening probably says it all, but I’m going to finish with the song that I feel was understandably overlooked, but was actually a decent song, well sung (although somehow I don’t think they’re really playing those guitars!), with a bit of novelty, a great performance in the live final that is perhaps better than the official video and might have done better in different political circumstances.  It’s Russia’s Tolmachevy Twins singing Shine.

This week

Some things I’ve been in to this week:

A shop: Ever since Simmonite decided to move to Division Street they’ve been a hit with a lot of people, like me, who might not have ventured in to their old home in the Castle Market.  They just get what works well with customers in the area – long hours, open 7 days a week, good prices (I got 11 chicken breasts for £10 the other week) and a choice between a fresh butchers/fishmongers counter and pre-packaged.  I always used to buy from supermarkets, but not anymore.

A song: Last night I saw Delays perform live at The Ruby Lounge in Manchester.  I’ve never worked out why the band hasn’t been more of a success and I’ve loved every album they’ve done in their 10 years and this is my third time seeing them live.  This song Nearer Than Heaven is the one that made me discover them:

A TV drama: A Very British Coup is a 1980s classic written originally by Chris Mullin as a book it was then turned in to a film and is currently available to watch for free on 4OD (you need to register with them first).  Great to see Labour politics of its time, and to see how Sheffield was in the 1980s.  Many things have changed.  Some things haven’t.  This is the original, that I’ve somehow not watched until now, but the recent series Secret State is based on it.

A photograph:  I saw photographs from Evgenia Arbugaeva’s project Tiksi exhibited at the Calumet store on Drummond Street in London during the 2012 London Festival of Photography, and they’ve stuck in my mind ever since.  Tiksi is a collection of stunning photographs of the melancholic and serenely beautiful Arctic town where the Russian photographer was born.  This photograph called ‘In the Backyard’ is for me the most memorable.

A blog post:  The Election Data blog has an interesting post looking at how you can use different types of demographic and political data to target specific policy campaigns on an area, in this case taking Labour’s discussions on reforming the railways and how this could be used in one constituency Reading West.  Food for thought, and an example of what we should (and to some extent already) do in finessing political campaigning.

A quotation:  I recently read Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and although quoting from the eponymous character may not always be the best idea given her eccentric and at time fascist opinions, I did like one line in particular as it sums up a little of what I believe education should do:

The word “education” comes from the root e from ex, out, and duco, I lead.  It means a leading out.  To me education is a leading out of what is already there in the pupil’s soul.  To Miss Mackay it is a putting in of something that is not there, and that is not what I call education.

This week

Some things from this week:

A TV series:  Continuing with what BBC4 does so well (pick foreign dramas and show them with subtitles on UK television) we now have the German series Generation War: Our Mothers, Our Fathers.  Whilst there have been some criticisms of how realistic it is, it does that rare thing – show ordinary Germans in the Second World War.  Worth watching for a different perspective, although the first episode only has one day left on iPlayer.

Another TV series: This is a repeat but it’s been worth watching again and fits neatly in my obsession with Turkey that I mentioned last week.  Byzantium: A Tale of Three Cities on BBC4 shows us the history of Istanbul from Byzantium via Constantinople.

A blog post:  Jennie Rigg has written a very good post called ‘A Stream of Consciousness on Class Warfare‘ about how people don’t fit in to neat little boxes and so we shouldn’t be labelling people and how political parties shouldn’t use this to make unfair characterisations.  It’s a short post that sums up some of the reasons why I feel thoroughly depressed with the current political discourse in this country.  In my view by using these labels in politics we are damaging attempts at diversity not helping it as we drive out people who don’t feel comfortable with that approach.

A song:  This happened to appear in my iTunes playlist this week and it’s been a while since I listened to it.  The song Cheaper Than Free by Stevie Nicks featuring Dave Stewart will now forever be associated in my mind with Andrew Reeves as it was played at his memorial celebration and felt particularly emotional at the time, and for that reason it still does to this day:

A coffee shop:  I’ve been meaning to visit Couch on Campo Lane in Sheffield since it opened earlier this year.  I now have and it’s great.  Comfortable seats, lots of space, big windows to watch the world go by (something that I think is much underestimated in a food or drink establishment), long opening hours, nice coffee and a simple but appealing menu.

Another blog post:  UKIP has garnered much of of the political attention lately and so Stephen Tall’s post “UKIP examined: who they are, what they stand for, and what it all mean for British politics” is very relevant, the title of which pretty much explains the content.  It’s largely his take on the recent book Revolt on the Right, and it has prompted a lot of debate (71 comments at the time of writing), but it’s worth reading to get an understanding on what this potential revolution in British politics is about.

A TED talk:  Unsurprisingly Mary Roach’s talk ’10 things you didn’t know about orgasm’ is one of the most viewed talks on the TED website.  Although people are of course drawn in by the risqué subject matter this talk is fascinating, surprising and unexpected, which as someone who isn’t much of a scientist is what science should be about:

This week

Some things from this week:

An article on inventions:  Did you know that Konrad Adenauer invented the vegetarian sausage?  Nope, neither did I, and thankfully this article came too late for anyone to think it was an April Fool – 10 inventions that owe their success to World War One.

A pub: One of my favourite Manchester pubs is The Molly House.  Just off Canal Street, it’s a traditional real ale type pub – unusually for the area.  Well worth a visit, as I did yesterday with my good friend Colin who was visiting.

A Twitter thread: If you’re interested in trains then Alisdair McGregor started off this debate (there’s quite a few tweets in it so best viewed on Twitter itself.

A YouTube video: This week British Pathé uploaded their 85,000 strong archive to YouTube.  There’s lots of fascinating stuff here for those of us interested in history, and I was taken by this one showing the opening of Sheffield’s City Hall (and there’s a lot more from Sheffield as well).

A TV series: I hadn’t realised until this that they’d resurrected the ‘Troubleshooter‘ series from the 1990s, but this time with Digby Jones as ‘The New Troubleshooter‘.  It’s the same idea as the programmes that I love with the likes of Alex Polizzi, Ruth Watson and Russell Norman, but is has less of the glamour and is more your traditional old-style businessman.

A series of railway blog posts: Scott (the Merseytart) has reached the end of his tour round the stations of the Settle and Carlisle line.

A blog post on photography: Vivian Maier is an amazing street photographer with an amazing life story, and one of my favourite photographers.  This post from Eric Kim talks about why she’s great and what she can teach the rest of us who love street photography.  This is just one of her photos that I admire, although the variety of photographs she took makes it very hard to decide on favourites:


Sutton Scarsdale Hall

Despite the rain today I needed to get out of the flat and go somewhere for a change of scenery.  The place I settled on was Sutton Scarsdale Hall, about a half hour’s drive from Sheffield and about 15 minutes from Chesterfield, largely because some recent family history research suggests that one of my Great Great Great Grandmothers was christened at the church next door.

My journey ended up taking more than half an hour as I twice had to dodge traffic jams – once on the Sheffield Parkway and again on the M1 –  and so took some back roads to avoid being sat without moving for a while.  Finally, after also driving through a torrential downpour on the way I arrived at a distinctly damp Sutton Scarsdale.  But despite the weather it still created a little bit of awe.

Sutton Scarsdale Hall was built for Richard Arkwright (not the famous one, but his son) and subsequent generations, although it was based around an existing house.  Not only did they turn it in to one of the grandest country houses around which was used for entertaining the great and good of English society at the time, including possibly the famous actor Sarah Siddons who was the auntie of Richard Arkwright’s daughter-in-law, but they also used some of the greatest designers and architects of the day in its construction.  Grinling Gibbons is thought to have contributed some of the interiors and great Venetian architects were also brought over to help design the interiors.  Sadly the money spent on this great house was too much for the family to bear and in the end, it had to be sold to help pay its construction.  Some of the interiors of the building continue to exist in Philadelphia and California, but most of it was left as it was and eventually it was stripped of everything that was good and left to go to ruin.  What was left would have been demolished were it not for the writer Osbert Sitwell who lived nearby and helped save the remaining building and eventually it worked its way in to the possession of English Heritage.  If this building was still in full working order it would be one of our great country houses, but even as a ruin it still manages to be impressive.

Visiting Sutton Scarsdale Hall on a wet winter’s day, with only passing sunshine, doesn’t really sell the place as it’s pretty bleak up on a hill top overlooking the M1 in that weather.  But, the location is dramatic and you get a real sense of how amazing this place was and the fact the building remains at its original height with great views across the valley still creates a magic about it.  I must come back here with a proper camera on a brighter day, as all I had on this grey day was my camera phone.

See my Flickr photoset and a more extensive history on Wikipedia.