Monday, February 13, 2017

What I'm Doing 44

What I'm watching
Just finished watching Professor Simon Keay as he takes a minibus along the route that a small boat would have taken along the Claudius Basin of Portus.  Somehow, substituting a minibus for a boat, there is the same effect of drifting gently along, and Simon Keay is the perfect tour guide into the Roman past.

What I'm Listening to
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Although I enjoyed Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess, it was very long and sometimes quite miserable, so it's quite a relief to plunge into something where the two heroines seem to be suffering from some sort of depression (and coping in the modern way with a carrier bag full of ready mixed gin and tonic).  Strangely, I find this cheering.

What I'm reading.
Still reading Into the Woods by John Yorke.  I am still working my way through the initial thicket.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Snail Serum

One of my favourite parts of the Times is the conversation in 'The Lowdown'.  On Wednesday it was written by Hilary Rose on the topic of Snail Serum, and was particularly good:

'I am growing concerned about the visible signs of ageing and I am intensely gullible,' 

'Excellent.  You've come to the right beauty hall.  Might I present Madam with the latest thing in moisturisers?  It's made with snail slime.'

After establishing how the snail slime moisturiser is made, and where (Italy), the intensely gullible one is able to summarise how the different nationalities utilise the snail. 

'In England we squash them.  In France they eat them.  In Italy they smear them on their faces...'

Thus providing 'definitve proof' that 'The European project is doomed'.

Excellent.


Friday, February 10, 2017

Portus

It's almost a week late, but I have just finished the first unit of the Roman port of Portus.  So far I've seen how the port developed under Claudius and Nero and now have a burning desire to go there.
It must have been an amazing place in its hey day with its hexagonal pool, columnated piers and massive port of ships enclosed by walls.  And then, burning on the western end, was a massive lighthouse built on a sunken lump of concrete (now standing outside St Peter, I believe, in Rome).  

This weekend I intend to try and finish the second unit so that I am properly caught up for Monday.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

DIY Book Launch

It is a little overdue, but I am planning the launch of my latest book.  The venue and date is fixed.  The guest list is mostly compiled.  Tonight I have been designing and printing out invitations and shall be delivering most of them myself to people in the city.  It is a local book after all, which was one reason why writing it appealed so much to me.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Wild Cities

Daniel Raven-Ellison
I like this project: Daniel Raven-Ellison has spent several months walking around the UK,
monitoring his emotional reaction as he visits each place.  A true psychogeographer!

Having recently completed a similar project myself in Chester - but recording my reaction with words instead of an EEG monitor - I am very interested in where exactly he went, and also comparing our responses.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Colour Chart

One of my favourite possessions at the moment is this...

the Farrow and Ball colour chart.  I must have spent hours looking through this, buying samples painting them on walls, and then trying to decide which one.  Apart from the actual colours - which seem so much better than, say, the Dulux ones to my eye (why I don't know, they are, after all, just colours) - I like the names.  Some are mystifying like 'Mizzle',  for instance, or 'Brinjal'.  Some are amusing like 'Mouses's Back' or 'Mole's Breath'and some are evocative on their own: 'Book Room Red' or 'Dove Tale'.  And the other day, to add to my enjoyment, Hodmandod Senior has pointed out that on the back is a description of each one.

'Mizzle', I discover, 'is a soft blue grey reminiscent of a west country eventing mist.  The blue will become more intense when painted in a smaller room.'.  We have opted for 'Cromarty' ('like the stronger Mizzle, this colour is inspired by mist , but this time from the sea.  It will bring a softness to any room'.).

Its like a poetic platform of words - inspiring not just my decorating, but stories and images as I brush the paint down the walls.  Each room gradually becoming
a different place.  

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Tu-whit

A new year, a new teapot cosy (mainly because the last one went up like a towering inferno when I mistakenly put it on a gas ring turned down so low I couldn't see it was on).


Anyways... I like this one.  Its name, apparently, is 'Twitter'.

Monday, January 23, 2017

What I'm Doing 43

What I'm reading (or about to read): Into the Woods by John Yorke.  This is a book on story telling.  Although it's aimed at screenwriters, I'm interested in it too.


What I'm hearing: Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess.  This is slated as one of the major novels of the 20th century and although I've just started it I've already learnt something interesting about Maltese language. It is a Semitic language, initially derived from Arabic via Sicily.



What I'm watching: The Bureau on Amazon Prime.  A French version of Homeland - absorbing and exiting just like its American counterpart but with extra Je ne sais quoi.  I love it.


What I'm doing: Trying to organise a belated book launch for my book (published in November).  In a city awash with venues finding the right one is mre difficult than it sounds.






Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Meiotic Drive.

In Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene he describes the Meiotic Drive.  This is when a mutant gene - called a segregation distorter - skews the meiosis cell division in its favour so that it is more likely to end up in the egg.  It happens in mice.  If a mouse has a single t gene, 95% of its sperm will contain this mutated gene and so virtually all of its offspring will carry it.  The gene will then spread, Dawkins says, 'like brushfire' through the population.  This has catastrophic results because although mice with a single t gene are fine, those that inevitably inherit two of these genes are not.  They die early and are sterile and so soon the population dies out.

Ever since I read about this t gene a couple of nights ago I keep thinking about the other 't genes': the inaccurate result that seems right; the misinterpreted piece of gossip that no one questions; the witness who sees what appears to be a crime but is really something quite innocent.  The plausible idea that turns out not to be.  All t genes, perhaps.  They are hidden from view.  So the genes spread and spread.  Outside, everything seems fine but it isn't.  And its only when the children start acquiring  both genes that the real story can be heard.  And then it's too late.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Pied Blue Wood Blewitt

Meet a 'Pied Blue Wood Blewitt '- the result of a foraging expedition (in a local shop).  The 'Pied' part being French for foot.


I liked the blue -  the colour of a the sky after sunset and poisonous-looking - but at £44.48 a kg, I decided to buy just one to try.  'Good in omelettes,' the sign in the shop said, or 'in a cream sauce', but I took this single fruiting body and fried it in a little oil.


I was expecting it to taste uninterestingly of mushroom, but it didn't.  It smelt of peaty earth and  tasted something like white meat, and went very well with the small pieces of pate I'd added to our lentil salad.