Ben Cove's Practical Mechanics

Practical Mechanics, a new exhibition from Ben Cove opens today at Cell Project Space in London. From the blurb:

Cove’s newly commissioned work will involve hand crafting an oversized pantograph. The pantograph is a drawing instrument that has existed for centuries for the purpose of reproducing images. Though it exists in many states, the basic tool of four hinged arms can be used to copy 1:1, enlarge or reduce an original.

His New Plastic Universal exhibition was also architecturally inspired (he trained as an architect, so that figures). I'd like to see some of his stuff in the flesh some day instead of little glimpses over the web. If this is anywhere near as good as it sounds it'll be worth checking out. Oh, and lovely poster.


Colours Are Brighter
is an album of songs for children, compiled by Mick Cooke of Belle & Sebastian. The line-up is impressive (B&S, Franz Ferdinand, The Divine Comedy and more), the songs sound good, and the artwork by Marc Baines is lovely. Plus it's for a good cause - proceeds to Save the Children. The only drawback is it's not out until October 16.

This week I've been learning all about John Betjeman. It's the centenary of his birth this year so there's a series of programmes on BBC Four. For all that he's one of Britain's most famous poets, I couldn't have told you anything about him apart from the "Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough" line. So, if you're a Betjeman fan, you can imagine that I'm beside myself with glee because he liked so many things that I like - seaside, suburbia, trains, travel (especially the Shell guides), preserving old architecture (with The Victorian Society) and his poems weren't bad either. In the second Betjeman and Me programme Stephen Fry said something about him creating a sort of nostalgia for the modern and Griff Rhys-Jones talked about him making the ordinary extraordinary. All good stuff. Considering I used to read a lot of poetry I can't quite figure out how I missed him. Anyway, I'm looking forward to Metroland on Monday and to reading his books. Where should I start?

Betjeman links:

On the wing

I've had an interesting day today. Up at 4.20 am to get the first flight to London. Taxi-plane-train-bus to get to the office for 9. A whole day of meetings and then everything in reverse to get home again. For all that it was long and involved a lot of whisking hither and thither it was the most enjoyable, relaxing day I've had since I got back to work. I like travelling for a start. I feel calm being in a state of in-betweeness - if I'm on the way somewhere I'm not bugging myself about all the more important things I should be doing at that moment (like I am if I'm at my desk or at home watching telly). I like planes and airports. I don't think they will ever stop being exciting and exotic. I like the train journey from Heathrow to Paddington. A great whizz of urban sprawl going from suburban semis, through brick terraces, high rises, low rises, factories, warehouses, train depots, old buildings, new buildings, shabby, posh, Trellick Tower, it's all there. Then a London bus, exciting because I never have a clue where I am but I've been there often enough to have my favourite landmarks pinpointed - the Park Lane Hilton, I love that building. And another world in miniature going from transport hubs and office blocks through that whole bit (what's it called?) where it's all Middle Eastern, then suddenly lots of parks and really posh bits. Soaking all that in set me up for a morning of meetings, then the lunchtime treat was a trip to Muji, my spiritual home, then more meetings - interesting and productive. On the way back I looked at the magazines in the business lounge and had fun wondered which of many was most inappropriate for me. Where to start - Pool and Spa User? So British? Success? I picked Wallpaper*, an old favourite and struggled with that, realising we parted company some time ago. Then back on the plane, staring out of the window mostly. Nice meal, diddy bottle of wine. It was busy but luxurious. I felt like I'd earnt the time sitting still and got home tired but satisfied.


The week has flown in, and the weekend has passed in a bit of a blur. There were lots of things I meant to write about but now it's Sunday night and time for bed. A few people have asked how I'm getting on at work. The answer is fine, thanks. A bit tricky at first but I'm getting used to it, even enjoying some things about being back. Danny has settled into nursery and Tommy goes back to school tomorrow so that's the holidays over for another year. Oh well, on with the motley...

  • Phwoar! There should be a joke here about being stacked or something but I can't quite finish it. Perfectly safe for work anyway.

The Highest Bowling Green in Great Britain

Wanlockhead, Dumfries & Galloway.

Little monster

This is my new favourite package. It's Extra Gentle Melon After Swim from Superdrug. It comes from a kids haircare range which all have these great scratch-and-sniff monsters on the label. They also have a bit of fun with the instructions - "Oh-no! You've been swimming and you pong like a pool!". It stands out a mile from everything else on the shelves, even the kids' stuff which is supposed to be fun and eye-catching. I can't find out who designed them (reminds me a bit of Tim Biskup or Pete Fowler but that's not very likely) but well done whoever it was, and well done Superdrug. It made me buy something I didn't need, so job done.

After writing all that about the kind of films I like I haven't really had time to write anything up, but this week's viewing has bagged a few goodies.

Hooray. The automatic link posting from is now working, which is why the entry below looks a wee bit different. Hopefully it will help me save a bit of time when I'm putting things together. There's something a bit uber-geeky about, I wasn't a big fan of it before but this is really useful. For anyone that wants to try it here are instructions on how to set up daily blog posting with Movable Type. I was having problems getting the login to work so there is some useful stuff here if you get an "invalid login" message. Big thanks to Britta at Yahoo for solving the problem.

I feel ashamed that one project for my maternity leave was watching lots of films (secondary to main project of raising a child) and I have managed to write about precisely none of them. The problem with reporting back is it's just a list of things - I watched this and this and this, and it was good/bad/indifferent and that seems a bit poor. But the world is swimming in lists of films, my tuppenceworth is as good as anyone else's. So, as the viewing comes grinding to a halt I'll try to make sense of the last 6 months.

  1. I watched a lot of films, sometimes 2 or 3 a day. When I had Tommy there was a lot of staying up during the night, and a lot of zombiefication during the day when I just wanted something to look at, so in the months leading up to Danny's arrival I saved up films off TCM or Sky Cinema 1 or Channel 4. They tend to specialise in the kind of films I like.
  2. I studied Film & TV for two years so have a bit of a hatred for films you "should" watch. I'd rather watch Caddyshack than Battleship Potemkin.
  3. I am very partisan when it comes to films, which also makes me a bit sheepish writing about them. If there's some actor I love who has two lines in it, I'm happy. If there's someone I can't stand (I think Nicolas Cage is the only one where this applies) I will hate it with a passion that knows no bounds. So what I like has nothing to do with quality. I'm not saying these are good films, just that I like them.
  4. I am also quite biased about entire genres of films: Westerns, gangster films, war films, anything with aliens or elves, musicals, horror, on a bad day anything in black and white or in foreign - all out.
  5. I am partial to: British films of the 1960s and 70s; kitchen sink dramas and TV spinoffs (love a TV spinoff); American films of the 60s and early 70s, particularly anything with Walter Matthau/Jack Lemmon; modern American indie; psychedelia; anything with a band in it, real or fictional; sci-fi which doesn't feature aliens or elves; anything about work or offices; anything about adolescents or misfits, anything in airports or Central Park.
  6. I like Neil Simon, Powell & Pressburger, Woodfall Films, Ealing comedies, Leonard Rossiter, Terry-Thomas, Ian Carmichael, Rodney Bewes, Margaret Rutherford, Roger Livesey, Tom Courteney, Alec Guiness, Alastair Sim, Albert Finney, Terence Stamp, David Hemmings, Peter Sellers, John le Mesurier, Irene Handl, Alan Alda, Alan Arkin, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Ben Stiller, Jerry Stiller, Parker Posey, Janeane Garofalo, Paul Rubens. That should do for starters.
  7. There is a complicated Top Trumps-style system where something I like can trump something I don't like and vice versa, so sometimes points 4-6 do not apply.

This said I'm ready to write about some films now on the understanding that they're just that, lists. Not in depth film criticism, just totally superficial, biased reportage. I'm hoping that if I mention some films (they kind of fall into groups) you, the reader, will be able to suggest other things in a similar vein and it will help to make connections. I'll start working on it next week.

Love singer Arthur Lee dies at 61. This has been a bad year. Another legend gone. Shame.

Lou Shabner lady

I got this painting at a car boot sale a while ago. It's by Lou (or Loui/Louis) Shabner who was an artist in the same vein as Tretchikoff and J. H. Lynch, but not as well known. I love it. I think she's gorgeous. It sat in our living room for a while but everyone who saw it hated it so much I ended up putting it away in the garage. I was surprised by the violence of people's reactions although while I like some of this mass market masterpiece stuff, I'd rather poke my own eyes out than look at Margaret Keane and all that big eye business. There seems to be a very thin line between what's good and what's totally hideous.

Going back to Lou. I tried to find out about him and couldn't get very far. He was born in England (Enfield, I think) and did some pin-up art (more here), but beyond that seems to have vanished into the garages of history. There isn't much to add except to note that Black Gold, the King Biscuit Time lp (which is very good) has one of his paintings on the cover. Anyone know any more about him?

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