Some fine artwork from Hannah Peel’s new EP Fabricstate… I’ve posted before about Ms Peel and The Magnetic North, and these four new songs are great, including ‘Chloe’ which won a Royal Television Award for Original Title Music (Channel 4′s drama Dates). Gone are the folksome wanderings of before – now she’s crafting the sound of haunted, dust-blown cityscapes that stretch from here to the other side of the world… a sound captured beautifully in the video for ‘Desolation Row’ here…

Last year’s Nailhouse EP is also good stuff (the title ‘Nailhouse’ refers to the homes of those who refuse to leave to make room for development, a term originating from China, an influence that runs through the title track).



Emily Sutton, Still Life with Red Lion

A painting by Emily Sutton, one of the few people who can do this sort of thing and side-step mawkish cuteness, for want of better words. Maybe it’s because there’s something about her particular kind of stylised representation that recalls the slightly off-kilter folk art you’d get in 19th century prints celebrating murders or debauched princes – the eyes in her work are always a little empty, like Staffordshire dogs.

Emily Sutton also created a fabric for St Jude’s called Curiosity Shop. Lots of her work captures the kind of thing I loved in a Transport Museum poster by Martina Selway, which I blogged about here.

January sky



Pew Tor (above) and Beckamoor Cross, Dartmoor. The stones here at Pew Tor are a strange profile, an ancient head raised to make a low cry to the heavens. It makes me think of Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr, where ominous stones circle the house a girl has created in a dreamworld.

Finding normal


Matthew Weiner is the creator of the TV series Mad Men, a powerful documentation of life through the 1960s based around a New York advertising agency. One of its key strengths is the ability to capture a period so well that you aren’t noticing it.

Clearly everyone did, because Mad Men has been a huge influence in the mid-century direction of mainstream design we’re currently living through. What I mean is that it doesn’t patronise or fetishize the past – it just presents it and in doing so lets the relevance to our own times resonate.

Mad Men

Talking about Season 6 in 2012, Weiner made this observation about the direction of the series, and the link between the sixties as a time of great change and the start of the 21st century.

“There’s a feeling right now, ‘When is everything going to get back to normal?’. I thought it was just my age and everything, but I feel the world is in the midst of a tremendous change… this feeling of ‘I’d just figured out how everything works, and now I’m adrift…’ “.

I’m fascinated by this because in the last few years I’ve reached the age where we’ve always assumed the start of mid-life gives us a greater understanding of the process of living. (Bear with me, not going to attempt anything profound here, I’m not capable, for a start…).

You get the feeling that perhaps you’ve assumed too much, and that tool-kit for dealing with the everyday needs constant updating. It’s comforting to think it’s not just me: we’re all growing older in a world where life no longer exists within a framework, a blueprint, whatever you want to call it. It’s all fluid, and if we can keep it balanced with the gentle ebb and flow of a lava lamp then we’re doing alright.

Life changed in the 1960s because one size didn’t fit all: humanity couldn’t live in a design cut and tailored as one of Don or Betty Draper’s Mad Men outfits, only really comfortable for the few. It split at the seams, buttons flew off and everyone took what remained and cut their own cloth. That freedom is always going to be unpredictable, untidy and at times confusing.

Some will try to sew it all back together as a Frankenstein monster, others will see what we can learn from then and now, still more will march blind into the unknown that shouts loudest.

And then there’s our digital age creating ‘something’ which hasn’t quite taken shape (and is there really anything to take shape anyway?). Is it really any different to what people have experienced before? Technology is simply reaching every part of our life, making us share life and thought  – which can be good, if it weren’t for the doubt that the driving force isn’t the cosy aim of shared human experience but more ruthless ways of getting us to buy, just as 1960s TV on one hand shared culture and the other sold lifestyles.

We don’t have to be racing and leaping around looking for the signs that point to the future. It might make us feel temporarily secure in the present, but it’s still only the ancient things that matter: health, shelter, food, warmth, friendship, love. Yes, it’s a trite, banal observation. But that’s where ‘normal’ lives, and what most of our real lives are made of, whatever time we live in.

Song of the Christmas Eve Squirrel…


When this is past, a merry crew,
Bedecked in masks and ribbons gay,
The Morris Dance, their sports renew,
And act their winter evening play.
The clown turned king, for penny praise,
Storms with the actor’s strut and swell,
And harlequin, a laugh to raise,
Wears his hunch-back and tinkling bell.


Old customs! Oh! I love the sound,
However simple they may be;
Whate’er with time hath sanction found,
Is welcome, and is dear to me,
Pride grows above simplicity,
And spurns them from her haughty mind;
And soon the poet’s song will be
The only refuge they can find.

Verses by John Clare (1793-1864)

Wishing a Merry Yule to followers old and new, and thanks for reading: the thoughts, comments and likes are really appreciated…

Ten things…


A few weeks ago Elaine Canham mentioned Whistles in the Wind as one of the blogs she enjoys, the penalty being to list ten things about myself, and then add ten other blogs I visit.

Ten things (about me)…


Apparently I schedule my blog posts to give the illusion of being out of bed at ‘the same time as normal people’.


I didn’t pass my driving test until my thirties. Let’s just say I tried. Even now parking in company is difficult, particularly if my partner ‘gets out to help’ by hovering on the pavement in a not-particularly-engaged way saying, ‘You’re fine, you just have to straighten up a bit’.


My current favourite drink might be a Tom Cobbler – rum, apple juice and cinnamon – though I’m not sure it’s really a cobbler. That’s the name it was given at the music festival where I discovered it, the downside being I now have several CDs by mediocre acts I’ll never play again.


I look like an eighty-five-year-old with mild incontinence – at least that’s what the staff at my dad’s nursing home tell me: “You’re exactly like him!”


Apparently I once took a pregnant woman’s taxi. I’ve pointed out that the friend in question protested that being pregnant didn’t make her an invalid and that she wanted some sea air on the way to the restaurant, but the bald fact remains.


Back in the 19th century, so my brother discovered while researching the family tree, a great-great-great grandma (not sure how many of those are needed) was a Yorkshire chartist who organised a village rally against the coronation of William IV. She also delayed officials on the way to break up a protest meeting by giving them ‘a roll in the snow’ (not of the amorous variety). Perhaps when I’m vilifying the hypocrisy of the Waitrose weekly paper, over a ‘Heston Blumenthal for Waitrose’ Earl Grey hot cross bun, it’s her voice that’s speaking.


I always take a liking for dogs as a sign of innate goodness.


I love stationery… cards, paper, fountain pens, blotting paper, etc. but don’t use them enough. (There are lots of things I don’t actually use much but need to know they are there.)


The most embarrassing experience of my life was aged 18 in a cinema in Paris. (This is not salacious.) There was a rather large, elderly usherette, not unlike Les Dawson, and few seats left. She counted the rest of my friends into the remaining seats and cut me off before strolling purposefully to the other side of the cinema, where she bellowed, in French, to no-one in particular.

The cinema was now full to capacity so I wasn’t sure whether she was demonstrating emergency exits or selling ice cream. I was expecting to spend the next two hours playing with the pigeons outside until I became aware of increasing tittering from the audience. Finally, there was a dramatic bang as the usherette flapped open a tiny seat on the far wall, gesticulated wildly, and the penny dropped I was meant to crouch my six-foot-plus frame over there. I had a walk of shame down to the front, past the screen, while the audience applauded my stupidity and the usherette smugly lapped up adoration for humiliating the stupid English boy.

It was a Woody Allen film.


Isn’t that enough?

Blogs I enjoy… taking the recent-visited ones from my lap-top history list only … so here are the warm rays of the Sunshine Award for those “who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere”… of course, no-one has to go and and add ten things of their own, it’s ‘just for fun’, most have had loads of nods already so probably quite blasé by now, but it’s Christmas…

Bookish Nature

A box of delights: words woven with the skill of the mice in The Tailor of Gloucester.

À la Blague

I imagine the mention of a ‘Sunshine Award’ would make this blogger hurl projectile vomit, and I’ll remove mention on request, but this is a fine, dry vintage covering modern life and beyond. Fascinating stuff about the artist Carel Weight too.


A prolific, inspiring round-up of mid-century related illustration and design.

The Grass is Dancing

A British ex-pat writer who upped and left for life in Sweden, is clearly having a whale of a time, but making the rest of us feel better about still shopping in Morrison’s by pointing out the odd awkward moment.

Lantern Room

Some stunning images of landscape from somewhere in Wessex.


Rides through ancient landscape with a Garner-ish atmosphere.

Diana J Hale

Immersive art with daydreaming skies and rippled water, fascinating journeys through art in the landscape.

Kasia James

A writer covering work, motherhood and a passion for science fiction with natural, direct observation on creativity.

Paula Marie Fay

A studying illustrator whose work echoes wild and windy landscapes; lovers of 60s/70s children’s illustration are sure to enjoy.

Christmas Eve update: Have this morning discovered this rather brilliant one devoted to film analysis with some great explorations of British folk horror film and TV…

Celluloid Wicker Man