Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Friday, December 20, 2019

Fisherman's Friends vs Bait

Fisherman's Friends (Chris Foggin, 2019)
Bait (Mark Jenkin, 2019)
Also: Tin (Bill Scott, 2015)

You wait years for a film about bloody Londoners ruining Cornish fishing villages then two come along within months of each other. Fisherman's Friends and Bait are two sides of the same coin, portraying the effect of tourism and second home owners in Cornwall, one of the poorest parts of Europe, in very different ways.

Fisherman's Friends is partly based on the real life sea shanty group of the same name, based in Port Issac, a fishing village in North Cornwall. Pretty sentimental, it follows the familiar trope of British films of its ilk, from The Full Monty to Brassed Off without those films' originality, humour or warmth. Nevertheless, it has its moments, as it follows cocky London A&R music scout Danny (Daniel Mays), to Cornwall with some colleagues (one of who is the smarmy Henry – all the Londoner's are smarmy – played by Christian Brassington, no stranger to Cornwall, having played the hypocritical and hideous Reverend Osborne 'Ossie' Whitworth in Poldark. Brassington has also played similar roles in his depictions of both Boris Johnson and Tony Blair) for a stag do. They stumble across a performance by the Fisherman's Friends, a group of male fishermen/coastguards who, in between catching fish and saving stupid tourists' lives, sing sea shanties on the sea shore. As a wind up, Danny's boss tells him he has to sign the boy band – and drive off, leaving him high and dry.

At first, Danny is just staying on in the hope of shagging a fisherman's daughter, in the form of Alwyn (Tuppence Middleton), before he succumbs to the authenticity of the Fisherman's Friends and the charms of the fishing village. Anyway, despite the wind up, Danny signs the band and gets the record contract. And the girl. Oh, and buys the local pub.

Despite occasional digs at Londoner's and second home owners, and as you might be surmising by now, a film supposedly about a sea shanty band and Cornwall is actually more about Danny, a London 'tosser' (Alwyn's daughter's words), and his journey to finding fulfilment (that's because the Cornish have already found theirs, quipped H).

This fact was mentioned, actually, when we heard director Mark Jenkin give a talk after a screening of his film Bait, called "one of the defining British films of the decade" by the Guardian. Stylistically, it is world's apart from Fisherman's Friends (filmed with all the imagination of a BBC drama), shot as it was on 16mm black and white film on a Bolex camera (which I used at film school in the 1990s, already obsolete then – it's a loud, hand-cranked camera and can only shoot a few minutes of film at a time, but it is durable – on one film shoot the camera fell in a river; when we pulled it out it was absolutely fine). Jenkin's decision to film this way, as well as to hand develop the film and record all the dialogue post-production certainly helps give the film its unique look (and goes some way to explaining the lavish praise heaped upon it from the likes of the BFI – well, they funded it – and the Guardian).

The slight plot revolves around fisherman Martin Ward (Edward Rowe, a.k.a. the Kernow King and general Cornish Renaissance Man), eking out a living as a fisherman and struggling to save money for a fishing boat, whilst his brother makes money hiring out their late father's fishing boat to tourists wanting to party. To add insult to injury, they've sold the family's harbourside house to poncy Londoner's who use it as a second home. The seeds are sown for seething resentment, and the film is an intense experience, with its high contrast black and white expressionist cinematography, extreme close-ups and contemptuous glances between the social classes.

The film isn't perfect – characters are slightly cardboard cut-out and it's a little simplistic – but there's no denying it's a stunningly original work, and a breath of fresh air compared to the usual Cornish fare of Poldark and Doc Martin.

Fisherman''s Friends and Bait make an obvious double bill but how about Bait and The Lighthouse, with Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe playing 19th century lighthouse keepers in Robert Egger's black and white psychological horror, released in the UK next month.

---------------

The film Tin also deserves a mention. Released in 2015, it was filmed in as equally perverse original manner as Bait, maybe even more so. Like Bait, we also went to a screening of the film (in a church in Redruth) accompanied by a talk by the film's director, Bill Scott. The micro-budget film, shot for £100,000, is set in West Cornwall in Victorian times, at the end of the mining boom.

The film was originally a play performed by Miracle Theatre (based on a novel about bank swindling in Cornwall), and filming was shot entirely using green screen in the evenings after the play's performance over several years, with the backgrounds added later, giving the film a odd and distinctive feel. The film features Jenny Agutter, who ironically (considering the other two films) owns houses in London and Cornwall.

Previously on Barnflakes
Top 30 of the year
Encrusted
Random film review: Straw Dogs
The lost art of the double bill
Double bill me

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Norman Mailer's Lego City

Tough man author and journalist Norman Mailer may have died in 2007 but his Lego lives on. Famous for hard-hitting novels The Naked and the Dead and The Executioner's Song, which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1979, less well-known is his fascination with Lego. In 1965 the writer, with a few friends, spent three weeks building a city of the future out of the famous bricks. A photo of it adorns the cover of his 1967 collection of essays, Cannibals and Christians.

Mailer didn't physically build his Lego city in the clouds, inspired by Mont-Saint-Michel (of which St Michael's Mount in Cornwall was modelled after). He didn't like the sound of the bricks when they stuck together, finding it obscene. Mailer was the grand architect, telling friends and relatives where to put the pieces. He even announced the undertaking in the New York Times magazine and Architectural Forum. Blaming modern architecture (including Le Corbusier) and urban sprawl for many of society's woes, Mailer believed the city of the future "must build up, not by increments, but by leaps, up and up, up to the heavens." His Lego city, with each brick an apartment, would house about 4 million people, with specific locations for philosophers (top), call girls (white bricks) and corporate executives (black bricks).

The utopian city, too big to move out of his apartment, remained intact in his living room until his death.

It would be great to see Lego release the city as a set. It could have Lego figures of Norman Mailer and his contemporaries like Truman Copote, Hunter S Thompson and Thomas Wolfe, as well as the aforementioned philosophers, call girls and corporate executives.

Previously on Barnflakes
Lego Architecture
Just another brick in the wall 
Star Wars Lego
Legoland wildlife 
Headless Movies

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Bus pass

"Riding on city buses for a hobby is sad*"
– Belle and Sebastian, The State I Am In

*But in Cornwall it's fun!

When it dawned upon me how much I'd save on a bus pass as compared to daily tickets (day return from Pool to Redruth = £9 vs. weekly (7 day) bus pass for the whole of Cornwall = £28), it was a no-brainer, and even at weekends I would sometimes take the bus for fun, despite, or because of, the journey always taking longer than cycling, and sometimes taking longer than walking. Nevertheless, the joy of being able to take eight buses in a day (which I did one Saturday) and it not costing about £46 but just being part of my weekly bus pass, was immense.

The bus pass completed the full-set of Cornwall passes it had taken me almost a year to accumulate: annual locals' passes for the Tate Gallery St Ives (£5 – the best of the lot), Wheal Martin, Eden Project and the Lost Gardens of Heligan. Not forgetting the Merlin Cinema Magic Discount Card and the Devon and Cornwall Railcard – only £12 for a year which gets you a third off all train journeys in the two counties plus tickets all £1 for children aged 5-15.

I actually loved the bus journey to work in Truro – words I have never written about any commute to work in London. In winter I'd wake in darkness and leave the flat as the sun was rising over the massive Carn Brea with its iconic Celtic cross of the Basset Monument on its highest point. They often both silhouetted against a bright pink and orange sky as the sun slowly woke up behind them. I'd hear and see black birds flying across the sky. Often they'd be a mist as the bus wove its way through the small villages and countryside towards the capital city. As we drove past the village of Chacewater we'd start to see the chimneys of engine houses, rising above the trees in the misty countryside.

(Indulge me, if you will, into imagining yourself in the swimming pool at Carn Brea Leisure Centre (recently renovated). Imagine, too, that it's sunrise and you can see through the walls of the leisure centre. You look up, and behold, you see the sun rising behind the almighty hill and the monument. Now, imagine just a bit more, well a lot more – but is it not a similar experience to being in the sea at Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro and looking up at Mount Corcovado and seeing the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue, only 11 metres higher than the Basset Monument?)

The main downside of buses is waiting for them. It's 6pm, supposedly rush hour, in the central bus station in Truro, the capital city of Cornwall. There are no buses. It’s been raining, so I shouldn’t be too harsh on the people, but they look poor, ugly and stupid, some with quite obvious mental and/or physical health problems. The youth hanging around wear tracksuits and baseball caps. Some have dogs. One is teasing a dog. A bottle breaks. There’s a tension in the air and, as if on cue, I feel slightly relieved to see two policemen come around the corner. But instead of beating up the youth who good taste forgot, they stop to chat and laugh with them. I’ve been at this bus station a lot, all tines of day and night, and have reached the conclusion that the youth spend most of their evenings here. Almost as rare as the policemen is the sudden flight of a ginger cat across the road from the bus station – though apparently he's a local cat called Rusty.

Another evening and by 7pm there are only a few lost souls hanging around. The city is empty, it’s drizzling and dark. The same hypnotic teenagers are still hanging around the bus station, wearing the same tracksuits. The city is theirs. They are welcome to it.

On the bus home at 9:30pm on a Friday night. Except it feels like it's 3am on a London night bus. It's raining, of course. Condensation blankets the windows. There's only a few people onboard. A young couple, looking knackered, the guy slumped on the table (yes, there is a table on the top deck of Cornish buses), his fist bloody red and raw. Another, older couple a few seats behind me are having an argument. The man, drunk, is loud and aggressive towards her. Well, she has had an affair with the ugliest, stupidest man in Cornwall, apparently. She eventually goes downstairs. He does about ten minutes later. Then I do – to meet H, who is downstairs on the same bus as me, by chance. I go down to see her. The same couple who were upstairs and I thought had left the bus separately are at the back, having the same loud argument. An unconscious man in a wheelchair hugs a can of lager.

Previously on Barnflakes
Flickagram #11
On the buses 
Pizza Night

Dabbling

It’s fairly well known that photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson all but abandoned photography some twenty years before his death – at aged 95, mind; so you could say he retired at a normal age, then did some drawing classes – which is what, say, my dad has done but without the poncy bit saying he insists on drawing as his true calling, which is what Cartier-Bresson said, though apparently it was his first love. But like Bob Dylan’s recent artwork, Cartier-Bresson’s are pretty mediocre. Worse, as also with Dylan’s, they take away all the mystery and beauty so evident in their ‘day jobs’ (photography/music).

Quite a few musicians and actors also paint (and many more are also photographers, such as Lou Reed, David Byrne, Julian Lennon, Andy Summers, Bryan Adams and Jeff Bridges – though everyone's a photographer now, of course, and a web designer, and a writer, and a film-maker, etc). Most are mediocre, but obviously their works sell for thousands of pounds, like Ronnie Wood's. Actor Anthony Quinn's paintings are actually pretty good.

Less well-known and perhaps more interesting is photographers and film-makers who make music. After all, both professions are about filling space. Photographers William Eggleston and Wolfgang Tillmans and filmmakers David Lynch and Alejandro Jodorowsky (in my mind, two of our most prominent living polymaths, encompassing between them film, painting, music, writing, acting, transcendental meditation, psychogenealogy and just about everything in between).

After having his photos adorn numerous album covers (from Big Star and Joanna Newsom to Primal Scream and Silver Jews), it took until he was 78 for William Eggleston to make his own album (though he could apparently play the piano aged 4), Muzik, released in 2017. His synthesizer soundscapes are cathedral-like with deep organs, improvised tinkering pianos and the odd fire alarm – I rather like it. The cover photo, above, is by Alec Soth, who seems to be everywhere nowadays.

A few years ago Wolfgang Tillmans was riding the crest of Frank Ocean's, erm, wave when Tillmans' song Device Control was used on Ocean's 'visual' album, Endless, and his frank photo of Frank used for the cover of his Blond(e) album (just about everyone's favourite album of the decade). Tillmans had always photographed music – gigs and bands, and occasionally Djayed – and tinkered with making music before he even owned a camera, but it's only recently he's released various EPs. His music is described as a mixture of synth, trance and house, with Tillmans also providing vocals.

David Lynch could have been talking about Eggleston's photography when he refers to his friend's album, Muzik, as 'music of wild joy with freedom and bright, vivid colours'. Lynch has often dabbled in music, from the Eraserhead soundtrack with Alan Splet, influencing a generation of industrial music; to writing the lyrics to Julee Cruise's dreamy first album, Floating into the Night; and finally releasing his collaboration with Angelo Badalamenti, Thought Gang, in 2018, originally recorded in the early 1990s. He has also released three albums under his own name; they're kinda like Lynch and his films – weird, compelling, a bit retro. His cover of Bob Dylan's The Ballad of Hollis Brown is, well, it's why Mel Brooks called Lynch 'Jimmy Stewart from Mars'.

It's hard to know where to start with Alejandro Jodorowsky. On the Finders Keepers website, who reissued some of the soundtracks to his films on vinyl, they describe them as a mix of 'free jazz, Mexican acid folk, symphonic psych rock, Swedish prog, spiritual jazz, lush Morriconesque scores, analogue electronics and West African percussion'. So there you go. No need for anyone to give up their day or night job.

Previously on Barnflakes
Notes on being me
Top ten photographers
Death of the Polymath
Absolutely famous
Don't give up the day job
Sherman and Sherman

Origins of the word 'career'

The word ‘career’ has its more recent origins in ‘carer’, meaning to devote your life pointlessly for the benefit of another for no seeming advantage to yourself; to be unappreciated and underpaid. Previous to that, origins are mid-16th century; from the French carriere, the Italian carriera, and the Latin carrus; ‘wheeled vehicle' (such as a chariot or more likely, a cart); i.e. being taken for a ride; going round and round with no discernible point or destination.

Previously on Barnflakes
Inspirational demotivational business slogans
Top five office moments
The dream of basic income for everyone
Don't become a graphic designer
Dream job is an oxymoron
'Having a job makes you sick'
Don't just be yourself
Wasting time
Just a quick one
Four-day working week
Introverts vs extroverts
'In terms of' overtakes 'literally'
London Bridge Lunches
The Metros
Email étiquette
I'm literally not being funny but let me ask you a question
Aspire to be average
The Offensive Office

Monday, December 16, 2019

Casper, Jasper, Pasta and Rasta

In the 2019 film Us, Jordon Peele gives us another (after 2017's Get Out) slice of sociopolitical satire masquerading as a horror film. In it, an archetypal black American family are terrorised by their evil doppelgängers, donning red suits à la The Handmaiden's Tale (and both featuring Elizabeth Moss, which I've mentioned previously). A key scene in the film involves the young daughter of the family getting lost in a funhouse and encountering her doppelgänger in a hall of mirrors (no spoilers here but the film's denouement really knocked me for six).

I was reminded of the film whilst watching Casper watching Jasper watching Casper.

Casper sat in the flat at the large front window looking out at Jasper, who sat on the pavement outside looking inside at Casper. They would both sit in the same positions looking at each other poker-faced for ages at a time, like the tense agony of eternity in a Sergio Leone western just before the quick-draw. Casper was posh, plump and privileged, eating only freshly cooked fish and chicken. Jasper was a street cat, savvy and skinny, who would swipe us one just for walking past him. Both cats were ginger. I didn't actually know Jasper's name; I called him that because it rhymed with Casper, and suited him. I found out later the stone jasper is red-brown sort of orange, so it seemed doubly apt.

Their lives were completely opposite. Casper stayed in most of the time, sleeping and eating. Jasper was outside all the time, trying to sleep under cars and on shed roofs. When Casper did go outside, Jasper was usually hanging around, and we'd open the door minutes later to find Casper pinned against the wall by Jasper.

Summer ended and the rain came then the cold and the wind. Jasper was still outside, all the time. My partner's chance encounter with Jasper's owner revealed that they had a new puppy who Jasper didn't like at all. This was a puppy in addition to perhaps three cats, two kids and a rabbit, whom Casper had encountered a few times when it had escaped from its hutch, and not known what to make of it at all as it bounced past him (he'd also seen a hedgehog and been equally dumbfounded).

One of their other cats was a sweet-looking grey thing, small but a psycho who also attacked us (we blamed the owners and the chaotic-sounding home life). He sometimes hung out on the other side of our house. He was so small Casper actually chased him. We called him Pasta. Rasta we'd only seen a couple of times, a ginger kitten with long legs, with Jasper possibly a parent.

It became that Jasper was outside our front door all day and all night, whining and meowing plaintively. We felt sorry for him, caved in and started feeding him. He was always starving – or good at acting it anyway. We began by putting Casper's unwanted cat food outside and around the corner for him. Then a bit nearer. Then the horizontal rain started, and I stated letting Jasper in. Understandably, Casper didn't like this at all. But they came to a sort of arrangement – when I let Casper out, Jasper would come in, and they would pass each other over the doorway like ships in the night.

Then a change came over Jasper. He started being nice. He came in, quiet as a mouse, and didn't always want food. He didn't attack us, he didn't always attack Casper. He curled up on the sofa, next to the radiator, and slept. He seemed in heaven – warmth, peace and quiet, comfort. He would even sit on our laps, and sort of purr. It had probably been years since his vocal cords had made that noise, and Jasper was obviously unfamiliar with the sound, and not all that comfortable with it – but he did his best.

This carried on a bit awkwardly for a few weeks. I mean, we discussed keeping Jasper – catnapping him, so to speak – but it wasn't fair on Casper, who tolerated the new intruder at best, but would actually attack Jasper if he went for either of his two sacred, fundamental cornerstones: his food bowl, and upstairs (where the bed was).

Then suddenly, Jasper stopped coming. And we didn't see him outside for a few days. We assumed he'd gone home. About a week later, a neighbour knocked on the door. She asked me if Jasper was mine. No, I said, but... I told her the whole story. She said he'd been at her home for days. Her daughter loved him, and Jasper loved her. He hadn't wanted to leave the house. She had plans to take Jasper to the vets, fatten him up, treat him nicely. Sounds amazing, I said, do it.

I told her where I thought Jasper lived. The woman asked if I thought she should ask his owners if she could look after him. Well, I wasn't sure, I mean I guess so but then again it seemed like they abused their pets, so I'd just keep him. She asked me if I knew his name. Yup, it's Jasper, I told her.

I never knew what she did about his owners, and we didn't see Jasper for another week – so a few weeks in total now. Then one day we saw him outside our front door, and hardly recognised him. His coat was shiny and he'd put on weight. He was a new cat. He strolled into the flat when we opened the door, and had a rather regal walk around – he was showing off. Casper was like, hold on, I thought we'd got rid of him. Jasper left on his own accord after a few minutes, and we didn't see him again for days. Then, a rare day of sun, and we saw Jasper sunbathing on the shed roof across the way. We waved and called out to him but he acted like he didn't know us.

Previously on Barnflakes
The enigma of Casper the cat (sadly, Daniel Johnston, who wrote the classic lo-fi song Casper the Friendly Ghost, died in September this year, aged 58.)

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Top 30 of the year

'The lights went out behind us
The fireflies undressed
The broken sidewalk ended
I touched her sleeping breasts
They opened to me urgently
Like lilies from the dead
Behind a fine embroidery
Her nipples rose like bread
Then I took off my necktie
And she took of her dress
My belt and pistol set aside
We tore away the rest.'

– Leonard Cohen, The Night Of Santiago

1. Bob Dylan – The Rolling Thunder Revue: The 1975 Live Recordings [Album]
2. Leonard Cohen – Thanks for the Dance [Album]
3. Bob Dylan – Travelin' Thru, 1967-1969: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 15 [Album]
4. Cycling and photographing all around the mining trails [Adventure]
5. Isles of Scilly adventure with daughter [Holiday]
6. Hedluv + Passman live at Camborne Rugby Club [Gig]
7. Abandoned gunpowder works at Kennall Vale with H [Adventure]
8. Planting trees in Eco Park with H
9. Discovering Predannack abandoned airfield with H [Adventure]
10. Bruce Springsteen – Western Stars [Album]
11. Bait* [Film]
12. Us* [Film]
13. Big Thief – U.F.O.F.  / Two Hands [Albums]
14. Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds – Ghosteen [Album]
15. Joker* [Film]
16. Arcadia [BBC4 documentary]
17. Beth Gibbons; Krzysztof Penderecki: Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra: Górecki: Symphony #3, Op. 36, "Symphony Of Sorrowful Songs" [Album]
18. Gene Clark – No Other [Album reissue]
19. Midosmmar*  [Film]
20. Belle and Sebastian – Days of The Bagnold Summer [Album]
21. Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese [Film]
22. LIPS, Stanley Duke and the Kindred Spirits and Penelope Isles at the Old Bakery Studios, Truro [Gig]
23. Rocketman* [Film]
24. Cycling around St Austell's china clay pits with Daniel [Adventure]
25. Stomp on Bodmin Moor with H [Adventure]
26. Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell! [Album]
27. Chihuly at Kew Gardens [Exhibition]
28. Stumbling across Wheal Maid Tailings lagoons with H [Adventure]
29. Beck – Hyperspace [Album]
30. Kresen Kernow finally opening [Event]

The end of 2019: excitingly, not just a time for end of year lists, but end of decade too (again). The Guardian went one step further, opting for top hundred films and music lists of the 21st century, a bit pre-emptive, unless their knowledge of the end of the world is sooner than we think. Anyway, their lists were pretty disappointing.

(Managing to dismiss most musical genres by concentrating on R&B and hip hop, the music list felt like it was compiled by teenagers, for teenagers: everything ever recorded by Frank Ocean (I almost made it through one of his songs but his voice sounded like Michael Jackson on helium, the lyrics were cliched and the music dull and limp) and Kayne West seemed to be on the list. And nothing by any white person over the age of 50 (except David Bowie). No Bob Dylan (scrolling closer and closer to the top of the list, I was sure Love and Theft or Modern Times was going to be in the top ten, then the top five, then, it dawned on me, not at all), no Leonard Cohen, Wilco, Lambchop, The Libertines, The Flaming Lips, Boards of Canada or Spoon. But Beyonce, Britney Spears and Katy B all make the list. Go figure.

Their film list was better, with personal favourites Under the Skin, Spirited Away, Before Sunset, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Toni Erdmann, Far From Heaven, Mulholland Drive, The Act of Killing, Boyhood, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (but bizarrely, not Uzak), Call Me By Your Name, The Selfish Giant, Gomorrah and Russian Ark all in the top hundred.)

Looking at end of year music lists on Pitchfork, Uncut, Mojo, and others, albums from Lana Del Rey, Nick Cave, Brittany Howard, Big Thief, Bill Callahan, Purple Mountains, Bon Iver, Angel Olsen, Michael Kiwanuka, FKA twigs, Kim Gordon and Weyes Blood all ranked highly and are well worth a listen. As usual, if ever I get to thinking that I know anything about alternative music, lists by The Quietus and The Wire like to remind me I know virtually nothing, having not heard of most albums on their end of year lists.

Lots of great-looking films no one's heard of in the BFI's top fifty of the year. Their No.1 slot goes to Joanna Hogg's The Souvenir – which, say the BFI, they were totally surprised about seeing at number one, what with established auteurs Scorsese, Tarentino and Almodóvar all releasing films this year – but seeing that the film was financed by the BFI, and – always a film critics' wet dream – being a film about film (in an early scene the main character is seen filming with a Bolex at a party – the hand cranked camera used to make Bait, their No.8 film of the year), it was kinda a dead cert. Cool eighties soundtrack too.

*Yes, this year's best films have one word titles – see also Atlantics, Border, Burning, Parasite, Beanpole, Monos, Hustlers and Booksmart: the more words, the worse the film – sorry, Tarentino (Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood). I'm being slightly disingenuous but it seems to hold true – see (or not) Spider-Man: Far From Home and John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, for example.

Previously on Barnflakes
Barnflakes' top 20 of the year (2018)
Bests of the decade
The top 100 films
The top 100 albums

Books I've read this year, 2019

Fox 8 George Saunders
In Touch: The Letters of Paul Bowles Paul Bowles
Rimbaud in Java Jamie James
The Flame Leonard Cohen
Room to Dream David Lynch
On the Map Simon Garfield
Lila Robert M Pirsig
Fantasy and the Cinema James Donald (Ed.)
The Seeds of Time John Wyndham
The Book of Strange New Things Michel Faber
The Haunting of Toby Jugg Dennis Wheatley
Herge: The Man Who Created Tintin Pierre Assouline
Nobody's Perfect Anthony Lane
The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society 
Andy Miller
Borne Jeff Vandermeer
Black Coffee Blues Henry Rollins
Wilding Isabella Tree
The Pebbles on a Beach Clarence Ellis
Still on the Road: The Songs of Bob Dylan, 1974-2006 
Clinton Heylin
The 22 Letters Clive King
Noam Chomsky Hegemony or Survival
Jamaica Inn Daphne du Maurier
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse Charlie Mackesy

Previously on Barnflakes
Books of the Year 2011 (a year in which I read a lot more books than this year. But I didn't have an iPhone back then.)

Nike—on

This only 'works' if you pronounce Nike like I do – it rhymes with bike.

Previously on Barnflakes
OPEN / CLOSED, NOPE / LOSE
Tesco in Tresco

Cornwall's ever-changing seasons reflected in flattened, rusty tin cans

Clockwise from top left: rain and rust, rain and rust, sun and rust, overcast and rust.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

The cult of personality vs saving the planet

Historically, the cult of personality tag was reserved for more obvious tyrants like Mao, Stalin and Hitler but the term applies today more than ever. We are surrounded by personalities in the media, both social and traditional. From Kayne West and Kim Kardashian to Donald Trump and Greta Thunberg (Time magazine's Person of the Year – with Trump Jr. Tweeting that the honour should have gone to the Hong Kong protesters; my immediate thought wasn't that dissimilar – it should have gone to the hundreds of environmentalists who are killed every year – I guess what I'm – maybe even we, as in me and Trump Jr. are getting at is that it's the anonymous people who make the difference, who are actually out there doing good, fighting, putting their lives at risk – it's not the leaders or the social media darlings), we have to endure daily these people's opinions and actions. I couldn't give a damn about any of them.

You may think Thunberg's name sticks out on the above list of morons like a sore thumb, and anyone who Jeremy Clarkson hates, I automatically love, but putting so much faith in a person is dangerous. If she died tomorrow, then what? We worship at her alter and say oh well, she would have saved the planet. There are books about her and by her – the whole of my local Waterstone's window is filled with books of her – her name, but not, you know, how to actually save the planet – believe it or not, the books are there to sell books. If you look around a shitty bookshop like Waterstone's you will see innumerable non-fiction books about nature, more than ever, perhaps, as we continue to destroy it (hedgehogs are about to become extinct – but hey, let's write a book about them, and do some cool illustrations of them to sell limited edition prints and t-shirts and mugs!). There's been non-stop discussions with nothing happening for the 50-plus years we've been aware of climate change (global warming, as it was called back then). Putting our faith in any political leader, pop star, anyone at all really, is not going to change anything. Look what happened with the once-lionised Aung San Suu Kyi and how the media turned against her.

Greta Thunberg is a brand, like Naomi Klein used to be (to a lesser extent), with, ironically, No Logo (25 years old this year – and a book which makes no sense at all to today's youth where brands are king, and even imagining a world without brands to the youth with their Apples, Vans shoes and branded coffee is not possible), The Shock Doctrine and This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (published 2014, before climate change became cool) covering, respectively, the power of brands; neoliberalism and the rise of disaster capitalism; and, again, the rise of neoliberalism in relation to its flagrant disregard for the environment.

Shock! Horror! These youth with their Apple Vans are protesting for climate change because it's cool and they get a day off school. They don't understand the effects of climate change, as their parents drive them to the protests in their 4x4s and they wear and use products that either exploit or destroy the planet, probably both. Neither parents nor their kids can envisage a life where they have to give up their brands, their jobs, their holidays, theirs cars, their lattes and their whole way of life in order to save the planet – but a peaceful protest once a month eases their consciences (but won't make a blind bit of difference). The parents vote Tory and applaud neoliberal values that have blessed them with a 4x4, a Victorian terraced house, a widescreen TV.

I don't think anyone actually wants to see the planet die, but ask these youth what they're actually doing apart from protesting, and they will tell you 'erm, nothing'. Even I, I who does so little, was planting trees the other weekend. I still argue we need to do less – i.e. nothing – for nature to make a comeback (it's at its best when left alone to do its own thing). Many writers on nature agree with me (sort of), believe it or not. In her 'landmark ecological book of the decade', Wilding, Isabella Tree argues that even conservation in Britain has done more damage than good to nature, citing hundreds of examples, including wrapping plastic guards around saplings to help them grow (actually it strangles them; believe it or not trees grew fine on their own for four billion years or so before us, and natural, thorny scrub did a great job of protecting saplings from rabbits and foxes – before we destroyed it all).

The problem with humans is they all want to do something, good or bad (when it comes to nature – usually bad). Good people with good intentions feel the need to do something around climate change –  be it protesting or planting trees. All political parties are big on planting trees this election – who can plant the most? To me, it's still not the core of the problem – which is to change our lives and our relationship to nature. You can't actively pretend to save the planet whilst endorsing capitalism (i.e. having a job), driving your car, taking your holidays and then plant a few trees like it makes everything hunky dorey (besides, at least a quarter of those saplings are going to die before they reach maturity; those that survive, well, it takes decades to create a mature forest; meanwhile, vast tracts of land have been destroyed for housing or retail parks or car parks or roads or runways).

Presumably, we're still culling badgers, buying and binning plastic bottles, wasting food, building houses, car showrooms and retail parks, chopping down trees, using insecticides, making babies, buying wide screen TVs and everything else, eating avocados, going on holiday, driving cars, eating meat – and a million other things each contributing bit by bit to the destruction of earth. Well done you all!

So, Boris Johnson, who the Guardian say is "The man who doesn't give a fuck about anything is free to do whatever the fuck he wants", "the worst of men", "unfit in every way for any kind of office" and a "liar, racist, sociopathic, narcissistic, glutton for power" (and that's them being objective about him), wins the general election by a large majority. On Friday the 13th (not April Fool's Day).

Despite climate change being front page news every day for months now, the Green Party still don't get a look in. I pretty much despair. Labour had actually put out a great manifesto (to misquote Jerry Mcguire and its "you had me at hello" line – Jeremy, you had me at a four-day working week and free broadband), full of optimism and taxes for the rich and the energy firms, 1,000 Sure Start centres to open (I remember Gordon Brown opening them; I used to take my daughter to them regularly – then Cameron shut them all down), with a strong commitment to tackling climate change by moving towards green energy. Labour actually topped Friends of the Earth's climate and nature league table – scoring 33 out of a possible 45. The Conservative Party scored 5.5 out of 45, with environmental commitments "entirely absent or just plain bad".

The whole divisive election process is of course a popularity contest. The leadership debate took place in what looked like the set of the 1980s children's TV game show, Blockbusters, and indeed the whole affair has the immature atmosphere of school kids arguing in the playground. Leaders are compared and rated in terms like 'stronger', 'confident', 'likeable', 'trustworthy', and 'performance'. Some leaders lie and put on an act. Then a whole nation believes them. I'd like to see politics without leaders, where manifesto and policy comes first and personalities don't get in the way.

So the blame game starts – mostly falling at Corbyn's door, of course. A decent man who presents a fantastic manifesto with a strong green agenda – but perhaps he was never going to be forgiven, say, for not singing the national anthem in 2015. Because the Queen and the Conservatives have done so much for the country. It's probably a small amount of people who actually read all the party manifestos. We all knew who we were going to vote for well in advance, and it had little to do with specific policies and a lot to do with the personalities of the leaders.

Social media adds to the mix with fake news and getting so wrapped up in the small stuff – Diane Abbott's two left shoes going viral on social media or Twitter being besotted with Trump's latest obsession with, say, water efficiency or his attacking a 16-year-old girl. Thankfully Thunberg is more mature than the U.S. President.

If I was the Guardian, Friends of the Earth, Extinction Rebellion or Greenpeace (in other words, anyone trying to make the world a better place) I would probably just shut shop now. What's the point? You've got Johnson and Trump vs. a teenage autistic girl.

Aspire to be average
In 100 years everyone in the world will be dead
Busy bein' busy
Blight of the plastic bag
Water as it Oughta

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

How to compile a Robert Pattinson top ten films without mentioning Twilight or Harry Potter

Salty stuff: Pattinson masturbates furiously in a two hour black and white film about two 19th century lighthouse keepers in what The Guardian describe as 'Steptoe and Son at sea' – The Lighthouse, released in the UK in the new year, is at No.5.

10. Water for Elephants (Francis Lawrence, 2011)
9. Damsel (Zellner brothers, 2018) 
8. The Rover (David Michôd, 2014)
7. Cosmopolis (David Cronenberg, 2012)
6. The Lost City of Z (James Gray, 2016)
5. The Lighthouse (Robert Eggers, 2019)
4. Maps to the Stars (David Cronenberg, 2014)
3. The Childhood of a Leader (Brady Corbet, 2015)
2. High Life (Claire Denis, 2018)
1. Good Time (Safdie brothers, 2017)

Monday, December 09, 2019

Alfred Wallis grave in St Ives

 
Alfred Wallis, mariner and painter, lost both his children and his wife before taking up painting late in life to keep himself company. Wallis’s naïve style of painting, with flattened perspectives and scale based on importance, was ‘discovered’ by Ben Nicholson and Christopher Wood, painters of the St Ives School, as they were passing by his house one day in 1928. They loved his paintings and Wallis became part of the progressive St Ives school of painters in the 1930s.

Despite influencing a generation of painters, it almost goes without saying that Wallis died penniless, in Madron Workhouse (a place for the orphaned, elderly, poor and disabled, that sounded like something between a jail and a concentration camp; after closing in 1948 with the advent of the NHS, the building became a meat processing factory. It’s now derelict), just outside of Penzance.

Still, at least the St Ives School paid for his tomb, created from Bernard Leach tiles, in Barnoon cemetery, situated above the lovely Porthmeor beach next to the Tate St Ives, where many of Wallis’ paintings are kept. His pictures nowadays don't go for huge amounts, but still, I'm sure he would have appreciated one of his crayon drawings selling for £10,000 and a painting for £30,000, or even a fraction of that, during his lifetime.

Previously on Barnflakes
Cornwall's master and slave shared gravestone

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Tables have turned

Last Monday, I went into work and pitched a feature idea to the commercial director on the vinyl revival, I know not exactly new, but quite apt for Christmas I thought, plus I know most of the record shops from Warminster to Penzance, and thought it was a good idea. The commercial director thought so too, and told me to go for it.

So I researched the record shops, designed a fact sheet for the advertising guys to send out to record shops, designed the ads they sold (six in all), interviewed Matt the hat, who owns a record shop in Barnstable, and then wrote the actual feature. The three-page article appeared in The Independent (the regional paper for the south west, not the national) last Sunday, 1 December.

The so-called vinyl revival has been well underway for over a decade now, and showing no signs of abating, with last year’s sales topping four million in the UK and almost ten million in the US. But 2019 is the first year records are set to overtake CD sales, ironic to consider that by the late 1980s, the CD was said to be the death of the record.

Events such as Record Store Day, held every April since 2008, have helped ignite the vinyl revolution, with Universal Music’s sales manager calling it “the single best thing that has ever happened” to independent record shops. And although records can now be bought everywhere from your local supermarket to coffee shops, as well as HMV (which was saved from administration in February this year and now believes vinyl could be its saviour), it is local record shops which offer the most passion, variety and loyalty among collectors.

The south west offers numerous, excellent record shops in its big cities, such as Rooster Records in Exeter, Really Good Records in Plymouth and Wanted Records in Bristol, but the smaller market towns also contain treasure troves of vinyl. Raves from the Grave has branches in Warminster and Frome. The award-winning Drift Records in Totnes is family-owned and serves cocktails on Friday and Saturday nights. It has also become focal point for local musicians. Clocktower Music in Bridport have around 8,000 items in stock and West Quay Records in Bridgwater is locally well-loved.

Further down in Cornwall is Room 33 Records in Bodmin, Museumvinyl in St Austell, Lost in Music in Camborne and Music Nostalgia in Truro’s Pannier Market. Falmouth contains Sounds OK and Jam, a cafe and record shop selling new vinyl upstairs and secondhand records in its basement.

What becomes the common thread in all these shops is the owners’ love of the music. Matt Poulton – otherwise known as Matt the Hat, due to the top hat he doffs – has been running Discovery Music, his record shop in Barnstaple, for over thirty years, and he’s always done it for the music, having loved music and records since a teenager, and never for the money (though he did recently sell an LP by little-known UK prog-rock band Steel Mill for £1,800).

Matt attributes today’s interest in records to various things, including nostalgia and a backlash against technology – and though he is famously a technophobe, he believes the internet, with young people listening to playlists and flicking seamlessly between musical genres, has increased the variety of music they listen to. The main difference in record buying Matt has noticed in recent years (he’s against calling it a vinyl revival as for him, and many others, it never went away) is the variety of people buying records now – all ages and backgrounds.

Like all grand pronouncements at the start of the new century – from the end of the world to the end of print – the death of vinyl didn’t happen. The opposite did. Whilst arguably the CD has crystal clear sound, there’s nothing quite like the warm, dusty, analogue sound of needle on vinyl.

Previously on Barnflakes
Top ten vinyl wants
Notes on being me
Top ten records I would have bought in Totnes if I had any money
South London record shops
Top ten missed vinyl barngains

Monday, November 25, 2019

Pirate ballad barngains

I'd briefly heard the first volume of these when it came out way back in 2006, and loved it (but never owned it), and have wanted it on CD ever since – from a charity shop, of course. I found out recently that there was a Son of Rogues Gallery (released seven  years after the first instalment). This month I got them both within a week of each other: Rogue's Gallery from Oxfam in Exeter, and Son of Rogues Gallery from the British Heart Foundation in Truro, Cornwall. Both for less than a doubloon.

Devised by Johnny Depp and Gore Verbinski, director of Pirates of the Caribbean, Rogue's Gallery was inspired by the film and released without fanfare after the second Pirates of the Caribbean film, Dead Man's Chest. If the films have all the gritty realism you'd expect from something based on a Disney theme park ride, the 43 songs on the (2 CD) album feel authentic and ballsy in comparison. Indeed, they are all traditional – and often ribald – 'pirate ballads, sea songs and chanties' sung by a motley assortment of characters: from ancient rock stadium fillers like Sting and Bono to folk royalty from Loudon Wainwright III to Richard Thompson. But it's the unexpected singers (in this context) that really stand out: Bryan Ferry, Lou Reed, David Thomas from Pere Ubu, Jarvis Cocker, Anthony (from ...and the Johnsons fame). Nick Cave, it almost goes without saying, features several times.

Despite being made seven years after the original, Son of Rogues Gallery continues where the first left off, with perhaps an even more motley crew of characters, including a duet by Michael Stripe and Courtney Love plus a song featuring Tom Waits and Keith Richards, two of the most pirate-like legends in rock music. Other highlights are numerous, but include Beth Orton, Iggy Pop, Shane MacGowan, Patti Smith (with Johnny Depp) and Frank Zappa. But the great thing about both volumes is famous names sit comfortably alongside the unfamiliar (to me anyway).

Maybe it's because I've been living in Cornwall a while now, and even been to the Falmouth Sea Shanty festival, but I love both CDs –  a treasure trove of ribald, rousing, sing-along tunes to shiver your timbers.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Dylan dedications

Once upon a time, a long time ago, Bob Dylan would actually tell stories in between songs in his concerts or banter with the crowd. In the 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue – the subject earlier this year of the Netflix film Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese (a wasted opportunity IMO; Scorsese hasn't made a decent film since 1990 but seems to think adding his name to the title of a film adds some kind of prestige value) as well as the excellent 14-CD set The Rolling Thunder Revue: The 1975 Live Recordings – Dylan would frequently dedicate songs to (mostly) famous people, from Sam Peckinpah (who Dylan of course worked with on Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid) to Gertrude Stein.

Plymouth, Massachusetts
31 October 1975

We’re gonna dedicate this to Keith Richards (Isis)
We’ll do this one for David Crosby who’s out there somewhere (Never Let Me Go)
This is for Brigham Young (Oh, Sister)

Providence, Rhode Island
4 November 1975 – Afternoon show

Gonna do this one for Richard Manuel, he’s not here but he’d like to be here... maybe he is here (I Shall Be Released)

Providence, Rhode Island
4 November 1975 – Evening
show
Gonna dedicate this to Sam Peckinpah (Romance In Durango)
We’re gonna do this one for Dennis Hopper (I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine)
I wanna do this song for all my sisters (Oh, Sister)

Springfield, Massachusetts
6 November 1975 – Afternoon
show
This is Scarlet and we’re gonna dedicate a song to Sam Peckinpah. Hope he’s here today (Romance In Durango)
I'd like to dedicate this song to the whole Massachusetts. As long as Long Island? (I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine)

Springfield, Massachusetts
6 November 1975 – Evening
show
We’re doing this one tonight for Sam Peckinpah. Glad you could make it Sam! (Romance In Durango)
We’re gonna dedicate this to Gertrude Stein (I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine)
We wanna dedicate this one to Richard Manuel, one of these days he’ll show up... and sing it for you (I Shall Be Released)

Burlington, Vermont
8 November 1975

Dedicated to all psychology students (A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall)
This song is a request, we’re gonna do it for Naomi (I Shall Be Released)
We want to do dedicate it to all our sisters out there (Oh, Sister)

Waterbury, Connecticut
11 November 1975
We’re gonna dedicate this one to Sam Peckinpah (Romance In Durango)
This is for Richard Manuel (I Shall Be Released)
We wanna do this for Larry, our favorite reporter, who’s out there somewhere, he tells it like it is (Sara)

New Haven, Connecticut
13 November 1975 – Afternoon
show
This song is dedicated to Da Vinci (It Ain’t Me, Babe)
We’re gonna dedicate this to Sam Peckinpah. We wish he could have come today, but he couldn’t make it (Romance In Durango)
This is for Richard Manuel (I Shall Be Released)
Wanna dedicate this to Brigham Young (Oh, Sister)

New Haven, Connecticut
13 November 1975 – Evening
show
We’re gonna dedicate this one to Sam Peckinpah (Romance In Durango).
We’re gonna do this for Gertrude Stein (I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine).
We’ll do this for Richard Manuel, he’s not here tonight, but he’d love to be (I Shall Be Released)

Niagara Falls, New York
15 November 1975 – Evening show
That was for Gertrude Stein and Modigliani (When I Paint My Masterpiece)

Rochester, New York
17 November 1975 – Evening show
We’re gonna dedicate this to my mother and Helena Rubinstein (Mama, You Been On My Mind)

Worcester, Massachusetts
19 November 1975

We do this one for Sam Peckinpah every night (Romance In Durango)
We’ll do this one for Richard Manuel, though he’s not here tonight (I Shall Be Released)

Cambridge, Massachusetts
20 November 1975

We’re gonna dedicate this to Henry VIII (Oh, Sister)
We’re gonna dedicate this one to all the people who used to work at the Club 47 (Just Like A Woman)

Boston, Massachusetts
21 November 1975 – Evening
show
This is called Romance In Durango, we do this one a lot, dedicate this to Sam Peckinpah, if he’s out there tonight, Sam, Good Luck! (Romance In Durango)

Hartford, Connecticut
24 November 1975
I wanna dedicate this to Wallace Stevens from Hartford, a great renowned poet, wherever you are now, we wish you the best of luck (The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll)
Dedicate this to all the people in the house tonight from Texas (Romance In Durango)
Dedicate this to Keith Richards (Isis)
Gonna dedicate this to Richard Manuel, he’s also in The Band (I Shall Be Released)
I wanna dedicate this to all the people who don’t have any answers (Just Like A Woman)

Augusta, Maine
26 November 1975
Here’s a true story, could happen to anybody. It’s called Isis. I wanna dedicate this to Keith Richards (Isis)

Bangor, Maine
27 November 1975
This is called Romance In Durango. We’re gonna dedicate this to D.H. Lawrence, if he’s here tonight (Romance In Durango)

Quebec City, Canada
29 November 1975
I don’t speak much French myself, wanna dedicate this song to the great French poet Arthur Rimbaud (The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll)
Dedicate this to the great writer Mr. Jack Kerouac (Simple Twist Of Fate)

Toronto, Canada
1 December 1975
Wanna dedicate this next song to Harry Dean Stanton, who’s out there somewhere (Romance In Durango)
Wanna do this for Richard Manuel, he’s not here tonight, he sends his regards (I Shall Be Released)

Toronto, Canada
2 December 1975
Gonna dedicate this to Pancho Villa and of course Sam Peckinpah (Romance In Durango)
Wanna dedicate this to Keith Richards, called Isis. Listen! (Isis)
We wanna do the next one for Ian and Sylvia (before Wild Mountain Thyme)

Montreal, Quebec, Canada
4 December 1975
Here’s a song about marriage, this is called Isis, this is for Leonard, if he’s still here (Isis)

New York City, New York
8 December 1975
We’re gonna do this song now for Mr. Albert Grossman. Hello Albert! Who won’t be the next president, don’t even want to be president! (It Takes A Lot To Laugh)
Here’s a song, want to dedicate this to Mr. Herman Melville (I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine)
Gonna dedicate this song to Mr. Richard Manuel, who does it so well (I Shall Be Released)
Gonna dedicate this to all our sisters out there tonight (Oh, Sister)

Despite looking like it's been designed in Microsoft Publisher using harsh RGB colours, Olof Björner’s website, bjorner.com, is an extraordinary Bob Dylan reference site (which Dylan writer Clinton Heylin bizarely regularly rubbishes in his recent Dylan books). Looking at the homepage, you might surmise the site was as much about British philosopher and writer John Cowper Powys as Bob Dylan – but there's just a few pages on Powys and presumably hundreds on Dylan. I actually must get around to reading Powy’s four Wessex novels, or at least Wolf Solent, where the main character, a teacher in London, has a breakdown during a history class, triggered by a look of “inert despair that he had seen on the face of a man on the steps of Waterloo station.” He is fired, and returns to his hometown in Dorset.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Inside the Fuse Factory

I'd been annoyed never to get inside the Fuse Factory as from the outside the gates were always locked. Quite by chance the other day I'd been walking around the area, not thinking about entering the Fuse Factory at all. I'd followed a path up a grassy hill, past some abandoned concrete structures, past lots of overgrown foliage, then onto another path down the hill. That magical path led right into the back of the Fuse Factory. To tell the truth, it wasn't that exciting, a bunch of derelict buildings, but good to have a look around. In the one of the buildings there were hundreds of empty shampoo bottles littering the floor (above), in another room were pages and pages of yellow legal paper strewn across the floor. A mystery.

I've mentioned the Fuse Factory previously, the home of William Bickford's safety fuses, which saved hundreds of miner's lives across the globe.

Previously on Barnflakes
The Fuse Factory, Tuckingmill
Reviving Redruth (and environs)

Monday, November 18, 2019

Flickagram #12

What a beautiful day today in Truro – after raining every day for a month, the sun popped up and shone brightly with hardly a cloud in the sky. What a time to be alive! we joshed at the office, and indeed it was. Then at 10:30am Wingman got a text from an old colleague who works in an office up the road. He'd just seen a dead body floating down the river (both our offices are next to the river). It had come from Tesco and was floating down towards Malpas rather rapidly. It was true, and put a damper on our jubilant moods. Cornwall Live eventually picked up the story; a vessel had picked up the body. A man in his fifties. What a way to go. His death was not meant to be suspicious – I get what this means, it means no one else is involved but to me that doesn't mean it's not suspicious. Is suicide not suspicious? Are accidents not suspicious?

Anyway, the photo above is in response to the comment on this post. I got the shot!

Top ten vinyl wants

There's really no logical explanation why I want certain albums on vinyl (though desire doesn't need an explanation) but it's partly to do with that warm, analogue sound, the album sleeve... and being pretentious.

In truth, sound quality has little to do with it – my most passionate and profound musical experiences were probably in the 1980s on my hissy Sony Walkman listening to albums taped from scratched records borrowed from my local library.

I've wanted all of the following for years, and could go and buy them all on eBay or Discogs today, but that would be cheating. Obviously I want to come across them randomly in charity shops for £1.

1. Popol Vuh – Aquirre (film soundtrack)
2. Moondog – Moondog
3. Meredith Monk – Key
4. Sleep – Dopesmoker
5. Moe Tucker – I Feel So Far Away: Anthology 1974-1998
6. Sons of Kemet – Your Queen Is A Reptile
7. La Planete Sauvage (film soundtrack)
8. Incredible String band – U
9. Dawn of the Dead (film soundtrack) 
10. Lô Borges/Milton Nascimento – Clube da Esquina

Previously on Barnflakes
Top ten missed vinyl barngains
The month's musical barngains

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Top ten popular websites I’ve never understood and/or even looked at or even heard of

Yes, I’m obsolete, middle-aged and lovin’ it.

1. Reddit
Most of the internet seems to be run by kids for kids.
2. TwitchTV
Want to watch a busty, hot Canadian woman playing video games? Of course you do. Apparently this is now the most logged in website ever (someone told me; don't know if it's true). I literally hadn't heard of it until yesterday.
3. imdb
I've yet to find a decent film website.
4. Pinterest
Random, pointless.
5. TripAdvisor
Every month, 456 million people visit Trip Advisor – but not me. I sort of knew what it was, but have probably only visited it once before (to research writing a previous post). I would never read a review and go or not go somewhere based on it. Like with Amazon, if there's a thousand reviews saying how amazing something is (which I'd always be sceptical about anyway), they'll also be lots saying how rubbish the same thing is (which I'd be more likely to believe). So how to decide? Go there and make up your own mind.
6. Rotten Tomatoes
I think it's a film site run by teenagers.
7. LADbible
Just the name makes me want to puke.
8. Live
Anything Microsoft related isn't worth visiting.
9. Live Jasmin
Popular porn I think.
10. Office
See 8.

Most of the above feature in the top 20 most visited websites in the UK.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Seagull sandwich

As usual, at lunchtime I was rushing across that horrible large square in Truro – actually, apparently, called the Piazza; though I would actually say it's Lemon Quay, but anyway it's just a wide, windy, open bit of concrete ground; whatever, it's not that important – eating my sandwich when something landed on my head. It was a large seagull attempting to steal my lunch. I swore loudly, it jumped onto the floor, I stamped my foot to scare it off; it barely blinked. I was then aware I was in the centre of a city at lunchtime and people were probably looking at me. I strided ahead. Then I heard a man’s voice shouting – possibly at me, as I’d just steamed past a young couple. ‘Oi, who are you swearing at?’ I carried on walking. ‘Oi, don’t walk away from me. I’m talking to you.’ I didn’t know what he was talking about. I carried on walking, not looking back. ‘Oi you!’ I continued walking until his voice died away. I wasn’t entirely sure he was shouting at me, but his voice sounded like it was aimed in my direction. Maybe he’d thought I was swearing at him, not realising it was actually a seagull. Anyway, suddenly two Asian students with clipboards block my way and ask me if I’m having a good day. I ask them if they’re joking. Would you have time to fill in a survey for us? They ask me. I walk on ahead, fuming. I told this story back at work and they said my life was like that of Larry David. Welcome to my life. All I wanted was to do, aside from eat my sandwich in peace, was to buy Bob Dylan's new Bootleg Series – Vol. 15, Travellin' Thru, 1967-1969, from HMV, which I did, and of course love it.

Previously on Barnflakes
Notes on being me

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Flickagram #11

My favourite bus stop in Cornwall, somewhere on the road to Helston. We thought it was part of a boat, but maybe it isn't. One of my favourite photography books is Soviet Bus Stops. There's even a Volume II. And now, I've just noticed, Soviet Metro Stations. Want!

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum, Exeter

I've probably mentioned before how I love quirky and obscure museums, like The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology and Grant Museum of Zoology, both located in London's UCL (University College London). Also located in a university is the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum, to be found on Exeter University's Streatham campus.

Bill Douglas (1984-1991) was a Scottish filmmaker no one has heard of, but his autobiographical trilogy of films made in the 1970s are extraordinary and harrowing – and like Satyajit Ray's Apu trilogy, filled with enough poetry and beauty to make the poverty bearable.

The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum contains the moving image memorabilia collected by Douglas and his friend Peter Jewell. It is one of the largest collections in Europe, consisting of about 50,000 items collected over 30 years, a vast cinematic array from a Lumiere cinematographe to a Marilyn Monroe soap dish. The museum also consists of Douglas's papers and is a place for research and study. A little gem well worth seeking out if you've got an hour or two to wait at Exeter St David's (about a ten minute walk from the train station).

www.bdcmuseum.org.uk

Previously on Barnflakes
Top ten museums/galleries
H is for Horrific
My childhood just flew by 
Top ten greatest film trilogies

Monday, November 11, 2019

Encrusted

A post-Brexit Cornish story.

There are food shortages – mackerel and pilchard stocks are low, of course. Worst of all – Andrew Rowe, a.k.a. The Kernow King, is King of Cornwall, literally, ruling over the underground bakeries – Warrens, Rowe's, Philps – with an iron fist. He builds a wall of frozen pasties on the Cornish side of the Tamar to keep the Cornish in and the English out. What with climate change, it soon melts. When the pound becomes worthless, Cornish pasties become the official Cornish currency, and society reverts to a form of feudal system, like a collective or commune, with pasties forming the basis of bartering: two small Warrens are worth one large Rowe's or I'll fix your fence for two lamb and mint Philps pasties. The system works so well that over time, Cornish people are actually born in pasty-shaped wombs, and stamped with the creator's logo – Warrens, Rowe's or Philps – when they emerge from the pastry. The stamp determines the bearers social class. An uprising occurs when a baby is born, the protagonist of the story, not quite fitting in as others do. His name is Gregg...

I can't claim full authorship. I just had a pen and paper handy as the words flowed from my colleague 'Wing Man' (not real name).

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Cornwall’s master and slave shared gravestone

St Wendron’s churchyard in Wendron, a village near Helston, Cornwall, contains an unusual gravestone: a former slave and his master share the same grave. Miner Thomas Johns, originally from Wendron, moved to Brazil, where he bought a seven-year-old slave named Evaristo Muchovela who was originally from Mozambique. Years later Johns returned home due to ill health, but offered his slave a choice: return to Cornwall with him as a servant, or remain in Brazil as a free man. Muchovela choose the former. However, Johns died soon after returning home. Muchovela stayed in Cornwall and became an apprentice cabinet-maker. When Muchovela died seven years later, he was buried in the same grave as his former master.

The inscription reads:
Sacred to the memory of Thomas Johns of Porkellis who departed this life January 28th 1861 aged 61 Years.

God my redeemer lives
And ever from the skies
Looks down and watches my dust
Till he shall bid it rise

EVARISTO MUCHOVELA
born in Mosambique, South Africa,
died at Redruth February 19th 1868,
Aged 38 years.
Here lie the master and the slave
side by side within one grave
distinctions lost and caste is o’er
the slave is now a slave no more

Previously on Barnflakes
Wiltshire barmaid eaten by tiger

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Kresen Kernow now open

Cornwall’s new archive research centre, Kresen Kernow, is home to the world’s largest collection of documents, books, maps and photos relating to Cornish history, holding over one million items.

The site of the derelict Redruth brewery, which had partially burnt down twice, was chosen at the location for the centre in 2012. After eventually receiving £11.7 million in funding, building and renovating started in 2016. It opened in September this year. It’s a marvellous space and a beautiful building, a perfect mix of the original structure with modern additions, sympathetically done.

If you can’t make it there, the website has an amazing amount of material, including documents, photos and books, all searchable by their various collections.

www.kresenkernow.org

Previously on Barnflakes
Reviving Redruth (and envirions)

Sunday, November 03, 2019

Abandoned Halloween pumpkins

I’m really not sure most Britons realise that pumpkins can actually be eaten; according to The Guardian, some eight million (or 18,000 tonnes) squashes per year are binned after being carved out for Halloween.

In the States, pumpkin pie has long been a post-Halloween tradition (usually on Thanksgiving at the end of November), but the concept hasn't taken off here. Seeing as I'd stolen one from the Eden Project (I will explain), risking arrest and sore shoulders (it weighed a ton in my backpack), H said the least she could do was make a pumpkin pie with it. I've always loved the concept of pumpkin pie (probably from American movies), despise not being sure I'd ever tasted one (but somehow knowing exactly how it should taste). Anyway, two hours later, as if by magic, H produced the most gorgeous-looking pie. And it tasted it too, the added honey and cinnamon bringing out the subtle taste of the pumpkin. We had it with single cream.

So, stealing a pumpkin from the Eden Project: we visited recently and noticed hundreds of pumpkins, squashes and gourds on display for autumn and Halloween. I innocently asked a Team Member standing nearby what they were all for. For the Halloween carving, he replied. Okay, I said, what happens to them afterwards. They go in the compost, he told me. You know they can be eaten, I retorted. Yes, he said, a few are given to staff, the rest are composted.

A bit later in the rainforest biome, we saw bunches of bananas fallen on the ground from the banana trees. They'd obviously been there a while, some were going soft with ants all over them; others looked fine. I picked one off the bunch and shared it around; tasted yum.

Later still, outside and up the meandering slope a bit is a lovely-looking vegetable garden, pretty substantial, with aforementioned squashes as well as many other vegetables including tomatoes, aubergines and chard. But on closer inspection I noticed a lot of the vegetables looked rotten. Again, there was a handy Team Member walking past, and I asked him about the fruit and veg. He wasn't aware of anyone ever picking them and said they would just all rot. I was stunned. But what about everything the Eden Project stands for? He shrugged his shoulders. But what about the cafes and restaurants? They're run by different companies who source their food from outside. Surely something can be done – the vegetables sold to visitors or given to charity? Yeah, you're probably right. What if I took some now? If no one's looking, go ahead. So I did – a pumpkin and some tomatoes.

I was appalled by the waste of food (when there's Zero Waste slogans plastered on their website) – but remembered previously seeing staff binning leftover sandwiches at the end of the day. I always go into the Eden Project quite excited but leave feeling depressed, like it's all for appearances, all a sham, all for profit.

Anyway, in case you're wondering about the above photo of abandoned pumpkins spotted in the local woods post-Halloween (there were lots of others too), do not fret for it's all for a good cause – squirrels love eating them, as do birds, hedgehogs, badgers and foxes. No waste.

Previously on Barnflakes
Success and failures of the Eden Project
Notes on dog poop bags
Top ten breakfasts
Five a day?
Blackberry season

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Top ten Cornish place names

1. Greensplat
2. London Apprentice
3. Sticker
4. No Man's Land
5. Come to Good
6. Indian Queens
7. Gweek
8. Minions
9. Praze-an-Beeble
10. Ventongimps 

(If I was being really immature, I could just about manage a top five of Cornish cheeky body part places. Oh, okay then:
1. Brown Willy
2. Booby's Bay
3. Cocks
4. Jolly's Bottom
5. Green Bottom

Previously on Barnflakes:
Cornwall Loves and Hates
Cock, Fany, Shag

Monday, July 29, 2019

Abandoned plane graveyard at Predannack Airfield, Cornwall

 
We ignored large signs saying M.O.D. DO NOT ENTER (what would we say if caught? Foreign? Dyslexic? Lost?) and, well, not exactly high tech security – we opened a farm gate and walked onto Predannack Airfield.

I’d actually tried the front entrance from a main road before and been refused entry. This time we had a beautiful walk along the coast from Mullion, on the Lizard, taking in a coffee at the cafe on the stunning Kynance Cove, already over-run with tourists – bizarrely, they all stick to the same beach, the one next to the cafe. There’s another one, far more enticing, thirty seconds away around the corner... and completely empty. As we say, often: tourists love cafes and car parks.

From the cove it’s quite a strenuous yet stunning walk along the coast until we cut inland and headed towards the airfield, seen some way away once you get on flat land. If you didn’t know it, though, you probably wouldn’t believe your eyes: those can’t be huge, rusty aeroplanes in the distance. Well, they sure are.

We walked cautiously for a minute and soon saw helicopters, planes and jets strewn across a runway. It was like we'd entered a dystopian film set or an abandoned aviation theme park. They were rusted, burnt, broken, missing bits, on their sides. Some date from the Second World War, others are more recent. Planes include an English Electric Canberra and an SA Jetstream; there are two Westland Lynxes and a Sea King helicopter. The aerodrome is still used for fire and rescue training.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Abandoned gunpowder works at Kennall Vale, Ponsanooth, Cornwall
Sound mirrors
Straight Outta Imber
Putting the War in Warminster
Tyneham ghost village