Pitt Rivers Museum

mumblings View comments

We recently spent a week in Oxford for a family wedding, the first extended period of time we’ve spent there since Mr. Bsag and I moved away nearly 13 years ago. We spent a few wonderful days wandering around Oxford re-visiting favourite old haunts, one of which was the Pitt Rivers Museum. I’ve written about the museum before, but it continues to fascinate and delight me. I also find the collection quite moving. I think the typological display of the collection emphasises the shared humanity of disparate people. There are — of course — many interesting differences between cultures in the objects they make and use, but much more striking are the similarities. All humans make clothes, musical instruments and objects related to their religious practices, whatever the differences in the types of those items. Unfortunately they all also make weapons to kill and injure one another (of which more later). The overwhelming impression you get is that human material culture is driven by our shared needs, beliefs and fears, and that the differences tend to be rather superficial.

Continue reading

Slipstream and micro.blog

mumblings View comments

I seem to be continually tinkering with different ways to bring together my various bits of activity on other social media platforms (e.g. bookmarks on Pinboard, photos on Flickr, reviews of films on Letterboxd, and so on) into some kind of vaguely coherent stream, somewhere that is under my own control. The last bit of tinkering about 18 months ago resulted in a cobbled together system in which activity on various sites triggered IFTTT recipes, which created formatted text files in my Dropbox, which I could then tweak to post on a Hugo-generated blog.

Continue reading

Blackbird singing at the break of dawn

mumblings View comments

We’ve just got back from another peaceful break in North Norfolk. It has been an incredibly busy start to the year, and I am off on a work trip to Indonesia next weekend, so it was something of an island of tranquillity in a sea of turbulence. Or something like that. As usual, we enjoyed walking (I’ve posted some photos on Flickr), eating some amazing food, and getting the best and most uninterrupted nights of sleep we have had for ages.

Continue reading

No more silence

mumblings View comments

I enjoy quietness. I always have. I like a quiet working environment, and very rarely listen to music when I am focussing. However, for the past year or so, my peace has been broken by an insistent, pulsing, singing, hissing sound.

Continue reading

On keeping it together

I’ve been trying to marshal my thoughts into some coherence for more than two weeks now, but I think I’ve been gripped by disbelief. I keep thinking that I’m going to wake up, and find that it has all been a horrible, disturbing dream, and that my country isn’t really a chaotic, directionless, leaderless, vicious, fearful, isolationist, xenophobic place. While I’m waiting for that to happen, I should really try to write something about it, and the way that coincidence has made me even more sensitive to the current situation. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even cohesive: it’s just a few of the things that have been circling around in my brain and making it itch over the past few weeks.

Continue reading

De-cluttering

There’s not much that’s as satisfying as a good old clear-out is there? I don’t mean the kind of organised, mindful, zen-like exercise (like the KonMari Method, which has recently become flavour of the month), but the bin-bags-at-the-ready, frenzied-whirlwind of a clear out. The kind where you accumulate a small mountain in your ‘recycle/take to the tip’ pile, and can be occasionally heard to cry out in anguish, “Why did we ever think we needed TWENTY-SEVEN London Tube maps? Do they breed if left unsupervised?” That kind. I had one of those last weekend, and I am now enjoying the space and ordered efficiency of our spare room, before it inevitably succumbs to entropy, and those tube maps start breeding again.

Continue reading

New New Street Station

mumblings View comments

Those of you in the UK may have heard that the new, refurbished New Street Station (and the inevitable attached shopping centre) has now opened. It seems to have taken ages. New Street is one of the busiest rail hubs in the country, so there was no way that they could close the station while the work was going on. They managed (and I still don’t quite know how) to completely reconfigure the inside of the station while it was still in constant use. At times over the past couple of years, the experience of moving through New Street station has been a deeply disorientating experience. From one week to the next, corridors would unexpectedly change orientation, exits and entrances would be blocked off or open elsewhere, and spaces would abruptly change shape and size entirely. It felt a bit like being in a really low-budget episode of Doctor Who, only without the Daleks.

Continue reading

Holiday highlights

mumblings View comments

Last weekend, we got back from a week away in North Norfolk, staying in a gorgeous, tiny cottage in Blakeney. Since then I’ve been frantically catching up with work, to the point where it feels as if I’ve never been away. It was a wonderful holiday, though. Mr. Bsag had spent years trying to get me to go to North Norfolk. I was initially reluctant, as I spent much of my childhood being rather reluctantly dragged to South Norfolk for visits to an aged relative — an experience than inevitably coloured my impression of the whole region. Anyway, a few years ago, Mr. Bsag won his battle for the holiday destination of his choice, and I found that I loved North Norfolk. It will never supplant the Inner Hebrides or areas of Devon or Cornwall in my affections, but Norfolk is a great deal easier to get to from Birmingham. It’s very peaceful, beautiful, has lots of wildlife, and huge skies.

Here are a few of my highlights of the holiday.

Continue reading

Slipstream renewed

Last weekend I finally got around to doing something with my short-form blog, Slipstream. In its last incarnation, Slipstream was running on Kirby, which is a very fine and flexible CMS driven by the filesystem rather than a database. It works well (and there’s a newer version 2 which has some great features), but I was struggling to make it do what I wanted it to do. My intention with Slipstream has always been to have a place where I can both pull together things I’ve posted in other locations (photos, reviews of books and films, snippets of text that I have posted to App.

Continue reading

Skylark

It was the perfect day for a walk on the coastal path at Holkham in North Norfolk. The sun was warm, the sky a bright, clear blue, but the air was crisp and fresh and humming with Spring life. As we walked along the dunes backing the beach, closing our eyes occasionally to enjoy the warmth of the sun on our faces, we were stopped in our tracks by the song of a skylark.

Continue reading