Sunday, 30 March 2014

Mr Willett's summer time

A little quote in honour of the clocks going forward:
'For the great revolution of Mr Willett’s summer time had taken place since Peter Walsh’s last visit to England. The prolonged evening was new to him. It was inspiriting, rather. For as the young people went by with their despatch-boxes, awfully glad to be free, proud too, dumbly, of stepping this famous payment, joy of a kind, cheap, tinselly, if you like, but all the same rapture, flushed their faces. They dressed well too; pink stockings; pretty shoes. They would now have two hours at the pictures. It sharpened, it refined them, the yellow-blue evening light; and on the leaves in the square shone lurid, livid - they looked as if dipped in sea-water - the foliage of a submerged city.' - Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway

Saturday, 29 March 2014

This essential piece of our humanness

I liked what John Banville said to Claudia Winkleman on Radio 2 last night about the sentence, so I went on to iPlayer and transcribed it:

‘I work in the sentence. The sentence is the essence of our humanity. It’s our greatest invention and I love working in it. It’s a great privilege that I make some sort of a living from every day dabbling in this essential piece of our humanness. Yes, I love a good sentence. I spend a great deal of time trying to get them right.’

The history of BBC2

I have a piece on the history of BBC2, which is 50 years old next month, in the latest issue of BBC History Magazine. It's not available online but here is a brief snippet:

The BBC's Director of Television Kenneth Adam announced that the new channel called on the viewer ‘occasionally to stretch himself a little further’ and ‘to push back the horizon a little’. But according to a poll conducted in June 1964, viewers were not keen on having their horizons pushed back. Nearly half of those who had seen BBC2 thought its programmes worse than those on ITV and BBC1. Among BBC2’s regular viewers there were twice as many men as women - probably, said the polling company, ‘due only to male intellectual curiosity’.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

The slaying of the ice monsters

I have a piece called ‘The slaying of the ice monsters’, on TV masts, in the latest issues of Craig Taylor’s excellent magazine Five Dials. You can view it (and all the other issues) here:

Mundane quote for the day: ‘A television aerial was poised from the roof, like a new kind of flag deprived of its drapery either because the color and motto were undecided or because the object of loyalty was vanished or dead or had never existed.’ Janet Frame, Scented Gardens for the Blind

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Gumming up the works

The artist and writer Joanne Lee kindly sent me the latest offering from her own Pam Flett Press, ‘Gumming up the works’. It begins as a meditation on those blobs of chewing gum that dot across urban pavements. I learn that the common Lecanora muralis has the vernacular name ‘chewing gum lichen’ because it is ‘a dead ringer for discs of trodden gum’. And that in 2012, the French state-owned rail company SNCF ‘commissioned a huge sculpture of green gum, around which passengers had to navigate to access the entrance of Marseille railway station. It formed part of a campaign titled Il n’y a pas de petites incivilities that sought to deal with a variety of antisocial or aggressive behaviours, including the littering of gum and discarded cigarettes.’

Like its predecessors, though, Gumming Up the Works is also a series of riffs on Lee’s extensive reading from Jarvis Cocker to Carlo Ginzburg. I felt some sympathy with this little lament halfway through:

‘I fail to achieve objectivity: my projects are way too personal and autobiographical for peer-reviewed publication, but too cluttered with footnotes and academic debate to find a place in a publisher’s non-fiction lists. My investigations are deficient in a formal academic methodology and instead oscillate between a series of temporary critical alliances, chance encounters, and obsessive fandom … I easily forget the bigger picture, instead getting sidetracked in juicy digressions, fixated upon all kinds of minutiae or enjoying the jewel-like quotations I’ve mined from unpromising sources.’

In fact, what I was sent is really a companion volume of footnotes to a spoken word recording which you can listen to here: