31 January 2013

Books I read in January

One of my new year's resolutions was to read an average of 2 books a week, and see an average of 1 new film a week. I've managed the books this month, but I haven't seen any new films. I caught up on about 20 hours of Scandinavian detective shows and watched a lot of tv documentaries though, so it's not like I didn't see anything. I just have to see one more film each of the rest of the months this year.

I've been keeping track of the books via Good Reads. Here's the list for this month:

1) Papier Maché- Peter Rush 4/5
Does what it says on the tin, a book about papier maché sculpture.

2) Adorkable- Sarra Manning 3/5
Over Christmas, I house-sat for my friend Kate while she was in New Zealand, and took the chance to read a fair chunk of her books (some are on last year's list). Sarra Manning was a writer for Just 17, the magazine I used to read as a teenager (I wish someone with loads of late 90s back issues would do a tumblr of scans), and I have a soft spot for her books. You don't go reading them for their fine literary qualities or subtle characterisation, they're the equivalent of eating an entire bag of pic'n'mix.

3) Dishwasher: One Man's Quest to Wash Dishes in All Fifty States- Pete Jordan 5/5
Again, does what it says on the tin. One of Kate's books, a travel zine compendium. Pete Jordan spent the 90s travelling round the US supporting himself by washing up. He found washing up to be an ideal casual job- you're left to get on with it, so you can listen to music and daydream, and no-one else wants to do it, so as long as all the dishes are clean, the bosses are happy.

4) Best of Temp Slave- Jeff Kelly 4/5
Another zine compilation belonging to Kate, but with articles by different writers on the theme of temp work. The quality varied a bit, but the good ones were really good.

5) The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the World of Little House on the Prarie- Wendy McClure 5/5
Another of Kate's books. The writer was a huge Little House on the Prarie fan when she was little, and always daydreamed about living in pioneer times. As an adult, she rediscovered her old books, and decided to go on a roadtrip to see all the real sites and the Laura Ingalls Wilder tourist industry that has sprung up. The whole book is really funny and insightful about childhood obsession and historical recreation. My favourite bit was probably when the writer and her boyfriend go to a weekend festival at a working historical farm, and everyone else there is from a doomsday cult, learning to churn butter for when the End Times come.

6) On the Map: Why the World Looks the Way it Does- Simon Garfield 5/5
I'm fascinated by maps, so a well-written, interesting book about their history is always welcome (I've been disappointed by dry ones before). When I used to live in Brighton, I used to have one of the large Ordinance Survey maps of the area pinned up on the wall, so I could find my nearest folly or pub in a hurry.

7) Son- Lois Lowry 4/5
The final part of the Giver story, the training wheels dystopia. I really enjoyed the first part set in the dystopian world of the first book, but I was pretty meh about the second part.

8) Collapse- Jared Diamond 4/5
About the factors leading to the collapse of various civilisations such as the Anasazi, Easter Islanders, Greenland Norse and various different Pacific islands. Very interesting reading.

9) A Carribean Mystery- Agatha Christie 3/5
I've had a stinking cold the past few days, so  a nice mindless Agatha Christie whodunnit is exactly what I wanted. She went a bit senile in the late 60s, and started writing her books by dictation, so there's lots of vague wandering bits that break off into diatribes about how crap it is to have sciatica. When I was studying in Budapest, there was a bookshop near the college that had a load of Agatha Christie mysteries in English that I'd never heard of for about £3 each. I got some, and realised why I had never heard of them, they were all written in the 70s and were either crap,  baffling or dull. The TV show of Poirot usually plays it straight when it comes to the well-known books, but for the adaptations of the 60s/70s ones they changed the setting to the 30s, and re-wrote the stories to actually make sense.

10) Nemesis- Agatha Christie 1/5
Agatha Christie's books from the 20s-40s are racist and sexist in the standard automatic way of the time. She really didn't seem to like the 60s though, and by the time of this book in 1971 she'd turned into a cranky old lady who hated young people. She has Miss Marple (gentle, pink  knitting Miss Marple, who won't let anyone get away with bad deeds!) saying that a character's rape conviction isn't very important because "girls are so ready to be raped these days" (!!!) and that a young male character (who had been shown as a pleasant young man with a Beatles hairdo so far) should be suspected of the murder, mainly because he's young and a student, so that obviously makes him dangerous. It was a crap mystery that didn't make much sense either. I should probably have picked two better ones to read, but I just picked them at random really.

11) Who I Am- Pete Townshend 2/5
The main thing I took away from this book is that Pete Townshend is a massive prick. Also, Who lyrics look terrible when you see them written down. The book is pretty blandly written, and doesn't do anything to conjure up the atmospheres of the different historical periods or the personalities of the other people involved (the same problem I had with the Joe Boyd memoir), it's just Pete Townshend making a constant stream of bad decisions and never seeming to learn from experience. Reading memoirs of musicians from the time reminds me of the uncomfortable historical gap between the sexual revolution and the emergence of women's rights. It seems for most of the 60s fashionable women were still expected to be decorative and quiet, but also almost obliged to have sex with everyone, no matter what their personal wishes, like they were some kind of prize to be awarded. Maybe it wasn't quite like that, but that's the impression you get from a lot of the male writing of the time.

29 January 2013

Versailles in the summer of 2005

Fountain view

I've been sorting through my things, and found some old negatives. I've already scanned the one from Italy in the late 90s, and here's some more. (There's a lot more to come). In 2005 I went camping with my mum in Yvelines, just outside Paris. You can get into the city in about 15 mins on the RER, so it's a good combination of camping and sightseeing. Versailles is just down the road too. I took a lot of photos there, but I can't find the others right now. These are taken with an Olympus XA2 and some cheap expired Kodak slide film, cross-processed.

The design of the fountains also reminds me a lot of one of my favourite films, Last Year at Marienbad. It's probably not to everyone's taste, but it's a film worth seeing.


Forbidden lawn 

The sign says literally, "forbidden lawns", which makes me laugh. Of course, it just means don't walk on the grass there.

Pop 9


I was given a Pop 9 camera for Christmas, and this is my test film (Ilford HP5 400asa). There's the obligatory cat photos for any test roll, and some of the river/waterways around Canada Water and Rotherhithe. The rest of the roll can be seen here.

 Canada Water

Canada Water was living up to its name that day, it was frozen over.

Canada Water 





More Mitzi to finish up. She loves to pose for photos.

And the winner of the golden envelope is . .

golden envelope 
I have some golden envelopes full of zines. You get three randomly picked issues of Fanzine Ynfytyn, printed on white paper rather than coloured, for £1.50 + postage. They're available in my shop.
Last week I had a little competition to win one. I had a few more entries than I was expecting, which was nice. The winner is Jillian from Canada. Thank you to everyone else who took the time to enter as well.
Question: What is your favourite Roald Dahl book, and why? 
Answer:  My favourite Roald Dahl book is The BFG.  (Though Matilda is a very close second.)  No book ever terrified me so much yet comforted me even more.  There is so much crunching of children of children yet The BFG's hand is safe.  Sometimes even now, as a so-called adult, when I can't sleep I'll pretend the BFG is out there, patrolling the streets, protecting me from nightmares.  I also very much enjoy the presence of the Queen of England, and who wouldn't love a story with fleshlumpeaters and childchewers? I love the playful language and the way the BFG talks- for example, one of my favourites “Don't gobblefunk around with words.”

22 January 2013

Palma de Mallorca in monochrome

 Here's some black and white photos I took in Palma de Mallorca in the summer, and developed the other day. There's no real reason for me to return there. I had one lovely trip there, and one horrible one, so that balances out. I can't say much for the quality of the company, but Mallorca is a beautiful place (minus Magaluf of course). I took these on Ilford HP5 with my Pentax ME Super (my favourite camera). I also had a roll of 50s style Efke film, but something happened to it, either moisture or humidity. When I opened it in the dark bag and tried to load it onto the reel, the cartridge was all full of goo, and the emulsion came off in a big clammy mess onto my hands. The film was unloadable, and unrescuable, so I'll never know what was on it.

Little Whisper Smoke Signs That You'll Never Get II

Little Whisper Smoke Signs That You'll Never Get 2
 I've got a new zine out. The second issue of Little Whisper Smoke Signs That You'll Never Get. Again, it's full-colour and focuses more on images than text.

12 pages, colour, 1/4 sized
£1.50 + postage in the shop
* Butterflies
* Winter
* The future

Little Whisper Smoke Signs That You'll Never Get 2

  Little Whisper Smoke Signs That You'll Never Get 2

21 January 2013

Golden envelope full of zines

golden envelope 
I have some golden envelopes full of zines. They're not quite as good as a ticket to Willy Wonka's factory, but what is? You get three randomly picked issues of Fanzine Ynfytyn, printed on white paper rather than coloured, for £1.50 + postage. They're available in my shop. 
I've got one to give away. Just email me the answer to the question below. My favourite answer submitted by Monday the 28th of January wins. Your information won't be kept or sold, and I'll only email the winner back.
Question: What is your favourite Roald Dahl book, and why?

19 January 2013

Lago di Garda in the 90s

I was tidying up recently and found these negatives of Lake Garda. I'm not sure when I took them, because I've been there a few times, but it must have been between 1998 and 2000 when I was 13/14. I went to that part of Italy for the first time in 1998 (I'd been to Liguria before on day trips, but that was it) and I got a APS camera in 2000 and these photos were from a disposable camera. 
The first time we went was by bus. Going from London to Italy by bus is not a particularly pleasant experience, especially if the recliner on your seat is broken. The next year or so you could suddenly get really cheap flights to Brescia for about £20, so I often went to Italy with my mum. I think the pictures are of Riva del Garda, but they could be Limone sul Garda too. I don't think they're of Malcesine because of the position of the water (the first two are on the west bank, Malcesine is on the east bank). 
 Italy was very cheap before the Euro for visitors from the UK. It was a little confusing that the Lire and Pound signs were the same though. At the time £1 GBP = £2000 ITL, so you'd see a price tag like £4000 and your brain would take a second to remember that it was Lire not Pounds. They had also run out of small change at the time, and the government wasn't going to mint any more small coins because the Euro was coming soon, so shops would often give you a handful of sweets instead of £50 coins. 
I was particularly impressed with the stationers in Italy. The parents have to provide all the notebooks and folders for school there (unlike in the UK where the school gives you drab, cheap ones for free), so the shops have a huge assortment of fantastic cheap notebooks and folders with nice designs, because heaven forbid your 7 year old doesn't have chic school supplies. I can never resist nice stationery, and at the time in the UK it was either expensive or hard to get. (The growth of Paperchase has done a lot to change that). 
 Lake Garda is still one of my favourite places, although I haven't been back there for about 8-9 years

13 January 2013

A year older, but unlikely to be wiser

Yesterday was my 28th birthday. Having a January birthday, I never really feel like the year has properly started until after my birthday. I can't really drink alcohol at the moment due to stomach medication, so it was more of a sedate wander and eat things day.

I went with some friends to the V&A to have a poke around, I wanted to go to the David Bowie exhibition, but it hadn't opened yet. The museum is full of great stuff anyway, although it's so easy to get lost upstairs because they keep closing off different corridors for rennovations. The number of times we ended up in the same gallery full of ironwork gates became a running joke. We had a wander, and went to this really nice Alice in Wonderland themed popup chocolate shop in Carnaby Street (I hope it becomes permanent)


My jumper happened to be the exact same colour as the astroturf on the floor. I could probably hide under a table and live there forever, unnoticed, helping myself to chocolates. Ellina insisted on taking a photo, as it made her laugh. If I look like I'm trying not to slide off of the chair, that's because that's what was happening. Perspex chairs and shiny polyester dresses don't mix very well.  Also, this photo reminds me that my fringe needs trimming.


The chocolates in the pop up cafe are fantastic. This one was a cube of chocolate with a layer of brownie inside at the bottom, and salted caramel on top of that.

07 January 2013

The world is not my oyster

Oysters 3

Here are the other photos from Whistable. I took more of the boats, seashore etc with my wide-angle lens on film, and I haven't had it developed yet. I much prefer my film SLR to my digital one (70s Pentax cameras just feel so nice to use), but I'm too broke lately to use much film, and I still have 5 rolls sitting around that need developing. I didn't eat any oysters while I was there, because I'm vegetarian, but I did have a really great mascarpone, truffle and rosemary pizza.

The local architectural style, with the painted shingles is so pretty. Unfortunately everyone else thinks so too, so a lot of the locals are now priced out of their own town by holiday home owners.
  Lady in Red

I like to imagine the owner of this boat also has an increasingly thinning eighties mullet.

Oysters 2

They put the used oyster shells back on the seabed to improve the habitat.
  Oysters 1


Roof 1

These are from some photos I took in Whitstable a few weeks ago, a pretty oyster fishing town in Kent (and sometimes *too* popular with the daahn from londons for the taste of the locals). The roofline of the school took my fancy. 

Roof 2 

Roof 3

  Roof 4

. Roof 5


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