Wednesday, 31 October 2018


I was talking to a friend recently, and the subject of e-readers came up. He claimed he had an uneasy relationship with his Kindle, because of its exclusive linkage to Amazon. A lot of people, I know, are unhappy to use Amazon, partly because of its domineering position in the digital marketplace, and the negative effect this is having on traditional retailers, and partly because of the appalling working conditions in its warehouses. Frankly, I am a complete hypocrite in this regard. I have been an Amazon customer forever, since it was just a novel way of buying books and I experienced the pleasure of receiving a pristine, shrink-wrapped copy of a book that would, in a most regular bookshops, have suffered so much "shelf wear" and been so well-thumbed by previous browsers that it might as well have been a second-hand copy. I suppose I think of Amazon as a wicked but wealthy and well-connected uncle who sends the most brilliant birthday presents.

However, did my friend not know about other, alternative e-readers, such as Kobo or Nook, I wondered? Or, given he already had a Kindle, did he not know about Project Gutenberg?

I thought everyone knew about Gutenberg, but apparently not. If you don't, and might have an interest in almost 60,000 free e-books, which are proof-checked, transcribed texts of classic out-of-copyright material [1], then I suggest you check it out. Less surprisingly, it seems that even among those who do know about Gutenberg the business of how to get a Gutenberg book onto your Kindle is not common knowledge. Well, Amazon do not exactly advocate the practice. So let me revert to my former profession and turn you on.

To use a Project Gutenberg e-book on your Kindle, you first need to find your Kindle's email address. (I know! Who knew your e-reader had a private life?) To do this, open Amazon in your Web browser and go to "Your Account" and then "Manage Your Content and Devices".

You will be asked to sign in, and you will see what is, in effect, your Kindle management page. Go to the "Devices" tab, and you'll see your various Kindles and Kindle apps. If, like me, you've acquired several Kindles and set up numerous PCs and phones and tablets to read Kindle books [2] the list may be quite long. However, click on the "Actions" icon to the left of the one you regard as your main device, and – behold! – you will see it does indeed have an email address. Make a note of it.

Now click on the "Preferences" tab. Scroll down, and click on "Personal Document Settings". You'll see various things, but what you want to check is that your own preferred email address is listed under "Approved Personal Document E-mail List". If yes, nothing need be done, If not, simply add it.

You're all set. Go to the Project Gutenberg page and look for something: the search facility appears antiquated, but it works. Click on a book's icon -- for example, this one -- and you'll see the available download choices. A quick read in the online version is always a good idea, just to check it's what you really want. But, to get it onto your Kindle:

Click either "Kindle (with images)" or "Kindle (no images") in the download options. In the random example I've chosen, you'll see that the file with pictures is bigger, but in most cases you will probably want the pictures. This will download the book as a Kindle-compatible file onto your PC. Alternatively, if you use a "cloud" application like Dropbox or Google Drive and prefer to download stuff there, click the relevant icon over on the right. Dropbox (which I use a lot: please don't tell me they're evil, too) will automatically create a special "gutenberg" folder for you under "Apps".

Now, this is the bizarre part: send an email to your Kindle's email address with the Gutenberg file as an attachment. Shortly thereafter, you should see it either in your "Docs" (on more sophisticated devices like the Kindle Fire, where you can use "Send to Kindle" to add it to your Kindle Library) or in your library of books, ready to read. That's all there is to it.

However: please do respect your Kindle's privacy, and refrain from reading its email correspondence... Mind you, as Wittgenstein might have said, if an e-reader could email, we could not understand it.

Early prototype e-reader

1. In the USA, that is. Copyright is a complex business, but I'm not aware of any reported difficulties using Gutenberg material anywhere else in the world.
2. You do know that is possible, without even owning an actual Kindle, don't you? E-books look great on  tablet.

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Crow Crockery

Look, if a man can't design his own crow-themed dinner service, then what is the point? Srsly!

What more perfect way to eat crow pie? Go on, have another slice!

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Rook Takes Hare

One thing you start to notice, once you start regularly showing work in group exhibitions, is how truly awful so much self-styled "art" really is. I'm not talking about conceptual work here, which wears its truly-awfulness as a badge of pride; I mean the conventional paintings and prints and sculptures that meet with the approval of the gatekeepers – judges, curators, selection panels, gallerists, and the like – and populate the walls of a typical "open" exhibition or curated group show.

There'll be good stuff there, too, of course, and even one or two really outstanding things. But, once you've walked the floor of  a few mass artistic outings, and got over the indignation of seeing truly bad efforts on the wall, you start to realise how dull even most competent artwork is, repeating the same old subject matter and the same old techniques that have signified "art" for decades. You'd be forgiven for thinking the Bloomsbury Group or Eric Ravilious and Edward Bawden were all still around and active. As, in effect, they are: people are still copying their much-admired moves and putting them up on the wall as original contemporary artwork. Again and again and again...

I don't mean to sound arrogant, here. Certainly, I like my own work well enough, and others seem to like it, too, but I am under no illusions about its quality or originality, or about my status as an "artist". I actually prefer to think of myself as a sort of illustrator; a good one, to be sure, with a strong personal style, and some clever home-made digital "secret sauces", but playing a different game in a different league to those of our contemporaries who will figure in the art histories and fetch awe-inspiring sums in the auction houses. Mind you, most of their work is crap, too.

In a recent post (Snake Oil) I wrote:
It may be unfair, but I'm reminded of those bargain "Can You Tell The Difference?" LP compilations of current hits that were popular in the late 1960s, made by what we would now call tribute acts. For every innovator there are 100 imitators, and each imitator is followed by 1000 impersonators. Can you tell the difference? Does it make any difference who made two more-or-less identical pictures, with what motivation, and with what level of creative innovation?
I was mainly thinking about photography then, but the same steep innovator-imitator-impersonator gradient applies in all art forms. Photographers are constitutionally inclined to feel inferior to more hands-on art-forms, but there's really no need. The effort and skill involved in producing a perfectly competent lookalike linocut in no way redeem the end result: its creator is an impersonator, not even an imitator, and certainly not an innovator. Especially if the subject matter is one of those lazy clichés of middlebrow taste that grace the walls of small but upscale galleries in so many small but upscale market towns.

Honestly, if I see another faux-naive, graphical rendering of a hare or of seed-heads or of upturned boats in tasteful "Farrow & Ball" colours I will ... Well, I won't be surprised. It seems there are legions of self-styled "artists" out there (presumably partnered to wealthy lawyers, dentists, or accountants) living a facsimile of the Good Life in the more desirable parts of the countryside, with their sights set no higher than the greetings-card market and the passing souvenir trade. You can't really blame anyone who actually wants to sell work for narrowing their scope like that (although one might rightly be suspicious of any poet who restricted their output to greetings-card verses) but you certainly can accuse them of complacency. I confess that I particularly dislike anything featuring hares. Hares are threadbare glove-puppets that say, "I'm a bit of a pagan, in touch with folkways, and the feel and flow of the land and its seasons. I'm earthy and yet spiritual. My kitchen is filled with the smell of baking bread, and the laughter of friends and children..." What could be more annoying? Crows, on the other hand, are just fine. Crows may be glove-puppets, too, but they say "Get over yourself, big ears!" to moonstruck hares.

If the recent Banksy kerfuffle showed anything, it is that the market for art is both irrational and vastly asymmetrical. At one end there are the bottom-feeding hordes creating disposable birthday cards and pleasant pictures to enliven the mantelpiece and the wall above the sofa, chosen in the main because the subject matter is benign, the "colourway" matches the curtains, and the price is right. In the middle there are hard-working professionals like Kurt Jackson, who have developed a style sufficiently distanced from greetings-card banality – but not too far – to attract a following and enough income to support a cottage industry, but who will nonetheless never warrant so much as a footnote in any account of 21st century British art. And then there is the stellar and stratospheric realm, thinly populated by a relative handful of canny practitioners, aided by their teams of assistants and other "people", who can sell a single picture for the yearly income of a High Court judge (but who to, I often wonder? they're generally too enormous to fit over even a High Court judge's sofa), about whom reverent TV documentaries are made, and whose places in the histories seem pre-booked. Although time does have a way of cancelling such bookings, it's true. If nothing else, Bansky has re-confirmed his own reservation by arranging a spectacle that enacted, simultaneously, quite how disposable vast surpluses of disposable income really are, and then how yet more burgeoning surplus value can be created out of nothing. Even out of the shreds of a flat piece of paper with some marks on it in an ugly frame. It's got "art history" written all over it.

Ooo, look at me bein' a moonstruck hare!

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Money Money Money

Golden Wasp Game #7

Perfectly nice people can be strangely hesitant, not to say ungenerous, where parting with their own money is concerned. Someone who will happily invest thousands in a car, clothes, or, dare I say, in photographic equipment, will balk at the token cost of supporting another's artistic endeavours, whether this be buying a busker's CD, an interesting-sounding novel, or the modestly-priced painting of a young, unknown talent. Yes, you may like what they are doing, but probably best to wait until they fill a concert hall, get on the Booker shortlist, or have a retrospective at the Tate. There's no point in encouraging a loser, is there? Some people even make a virtue of their tight-fistedness. I remember being at a charity gig many years ago – it must have been Rock Against Racism or something like that – where my companions demanded their entrance money back, as the bands playing (for nothing, remember) were so hopelessly bad. "The Left should not be exploited like this", was their rationale.

Without wanting to sound too jaded, I was mindful of this when I recently launched my Puck's Song book and PDF. Obviously, I would never expect more than couple of people, at most, to spend £50 on a book, beautiful as it is. I wish it could be cheaper; I have to buy my copies from Blurb, too. But I trust nobody thinks I make anything like £50 profit? In fact, unless and until I bump up the price of the book from its current slightly rounded up "production cost", I make precisely £3.41 from each sale. Which is actually less than the profit from each sale of a Puck's Song PDF from Blurb. But (and seeing as we're talking about people's reluctance to part with their money) I won't embarrass anybody by saying how many PDF sales there have been so far. Except to say that, as Blurb won't reveal buyers' names, I can't thank, uh, both of you personally [1]. To be honest, I think I was more surprised that there were so few comments on the tenth anniversary post.

Some of my most instructive experiences in this regard came when "fulfilling" sales of the prints I made for the 2017 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. As you may recall (I think I may have mentioned this once or twice before), I was pleased to get two of my digital images into that prestigious show, one of which sold out its edition of 50 more or less instantly. That is, by the end of the first day of the private view, so-called Buyers' Day. I was astonished. In fact, for the next couple of months I was being badgered by people who'd been to the show and wanted a copy, despite being told by the RA that both editions had sold out. There was actually a waiting list for cancelled purchases. A waiting list! I have no idea what particular magic those two images held, but I have been unable to repeat it since.

It may sound cynical, but I suspect that a large element in their charm was their price. You get to be invited to next year's Buyers' Day by buying something this year. On walls covered by works with price tags in the thousands, a nice-enough little print at a mere £75 must be very tempting; a bit like the postcards in a museum gift-shop. And once the little red dots (indicating a sale) start to stack up under a picture, a certain "me, too" effect kicks in: next thing you know, the edition has sold out.

However, there's "selling" and then there's actually getting the money into one's bank account. A Summer Show buyer pays a 30% deposit plus 20% VAT to the RA, which in effect is their cut of the selling price. On a twenty thousand pound painting, this is a not inconsiderable sum. On a seventy-five pound print, it's small change. The RA having taken their cut, it then becomes the artist's responsibility to "fulfil" the purchases: contact the buyers, invoice them, chase the recalcitrant ones, collect the outstanding sums, and deliver the artwork. Out of my ninety-four buyers, I found a significant proportion failed to respond to my first round of emails asking for payment, sometimes because they'd gone away for the summer, sometimes because the details provided by the RA were inaccurate, and sometimes because they simply had better things to do than fork over £48 for some bit of paper they'd bought on impulse back in June. Consequently, the admin took up most of my summer; in fact, it took until November to finally extract the last payments. I became a familiar face at the local Post Office, clutching armfuls of A3 mailers for despatch [2]. What with that and keeping track of the invoices, it was all a bit too much like being back at work, and not very "fulfilling".

The demand for one of the two "Golden Wasp Game" prints was particularly great ("No. 7"). Some buyers had bought the other one ("No. 3"), I realised, simply because they couldn't have the one they really wanted. So, I decided the fair thing to do was to identify the subset of buyers who had bought GWG No. 3, and only No. 3, and offer them the chance to bid for the two copies of No. 7 I had intended to withhold for my own use. If nothing else, it would help me establish a benchmark for the true market value of my work. Enough of those I approached were grateful for another chance to get hold of the print to make the auction a success. More admin for me, but a lot more fun. Not everyone wanted to put in a bid, however, and one guy actually accused me of money grubbing. I quote: "Please remove me from this email list. I'm not interested in your continued pursuit for money and negative views of the RA. You should just be pleased your prints where [sic] choose [sic] in the first place." Quite right, sir, and I expect you, too, give away your labours for nothing more than the honour and pleasure of it.

Then there was the couple from Diss in Norfolk (I'm tempted to name and shame them, they annoyed me so much). Having seen No. 7 at the RA and discovered it was already sold out, they asked me for a "proof" print, on the grounds that these were what they really collected. I explained the difficulty of this concept in the digital context, but said I'd see what I could do when the administrative dust had settled. Although I was slightly bemused when they said they would usually expect a proof print to be much cheaper than one from the edition. Um, no... By the end of that busy summer I had forgotten all about it, but then they contacted me again. Again, I explained that I had no "proof prints" as such, but would sell them a copy of the "friends & family" hors de commerce edition I had made (identical, but slightly smaller and on an A4 sheet, unnumbered, and signed with my red Japanese-style seal) at the very good price of £50. I attached an image of the print to the email. They agreed to buy it. Only to send it straight back for a full refund because they were "disappointed" with it. The only people to do so out of nearly 100 buyers, and this after two people had made bids over £300 for the two auctioned prints of GWG No. 7 [3]. This was my (not unreasonable) reply:
I am taken aback: you *did* see the print at the RA, didn't you? Apart from a very slight difference in size, in what way does this differ from what you saw there? What were you expecting? I even sent you an image of what you would receive. I don't see how you can be "disappointed" with what you have received.

Frankly, this is annoying: you asked for a proof copy originally, and as I couldn't supply one I thought I was doing you a favour by letting you have a copy of this edition at a very good price. I am not running a mail order company here.

Anyway. If you want a refund, you'd better give me your bank details.
Should I ever pass through Diss, I may seek them out, if only to admire their collection of satisfactory (and presumably cheap) proof prints.

There were other strange and amusing things, too. There were the people who had to have a particular number from within the edition of 50. There was the guy who pretended he'd never received the print, and the print that "disappeared" inside an architect's office, despite having been irrefutably recorded by Royal Mail as "signed for" in both cases. There were the people who felt that buying a print entitled them to some kind of ongoing relationship with me, including arranging possible meetings, and inviting me to visit their houses. There were the ones who wanted to offer swaps with their own work in lieu of payment (David Hockney, maybe; you, no). Oh, and the mysterious vanishing Norwegian businessman and the ditzy Asian actor who were both the very first to buy and the very last to settle up, in November. In the latter case by cancelling the deal, after months of studiously polite emails and answerphone messages from me. Although this did allow a very grateful and surprised person on the waiting list to get print number 3 of "Golden Wasp Game #7". Which would have infuriated the woman who had demanded to be given the lowest possible number in the edition, had she known.

This year, as it happens, I failed to get anything into the RA Summer show (cheers, Grayson!), and once again got selected but not hung in the Royal West of England Academy's Open Exhibition in Bristol, which was frustrating, and although I did get three pieces of work into a show in the Cotswolds and four into another in East Sussex I sold nothing at all at either, despite keeping my prices modestly low. And now, as I say, my CD offerings have fallen rather flat. It's a funny old game, trying to exchange art for cash, and I'm glad I've never tried to earn a living this way. But, looking on the bright side, I suppose I have as a consequence ended up having an easy summer of it, free to bask in the unaccustomed sunshine, unsullied by any unworthy money-grubbing or foisting of unsatisfactory prints onto people, and above all without testing the limits of my reserves of patience, tact, and endurance. I should be grateful, really. And, besides, I notice the local Post Office branch has now closed.

Golden Wasp Game #3

1. That "both" joke never gets old, except that it's not an exaggeration in this case. I have to say that PDF seemed like a bargain to me, compared to a £50 book, offering the exact same content in a high-quality portable digital format for less than a sixth of the price. As I never tire of saying, the most sincere form of flattery is not imitation but cash purchase. But, so far, precisely two people have felt that flattery is appropriate in this case, which I suppose is fair comment.
2. The cost of which, a rigid A3 mailer sent as "First Class Signed For" mail, knocked yet another dispiriting chunk off my £48 "profit". I was glad to have chosen "Signed For" postage, however, as it enabled me to prove delivery, which sadly turned out to be necessary in a few cases.
3. These winning bids were so much higher than the nearest runners-up that I actually reduced the final sale price to them by quite a bit. I'm a fool, really.

Thursday, 18 October 2018


Enough, Heraclitus! This may well be a profound insight into the nature of reality, but we're too high, going too fast, and – oh, stinking Hades! – Socrates has just been sick...

Monday, 15 October 2018


She don't say so much, these days, do she, ship-mates?

So, I hear you say, it's all very well, hiding behind Todd Hido, and his assertion that "As an artist I have always felt that my task is not to create meaning but to charge the air so that meaning can occur". But your Puck's Song stuff is clearly about something, isn't it? You can't invoke Kipling and then stand back looking all innocent, as if you had merely mentioned one of your colleagues at work, or the milkman.

OK. It's a fair cop. Let me venture into explicatory territory.

On one level, this series of images simply illustrate, stanza by stanza, one very partial account of the English national story, as told to children by Rudyard Kipling, through the character of the Oldest Old Thing in England, Puck, in Puck of Pook's Hill. If you don't know the book, or its companion, Rewards and Fairies (neither of which I'd read until quite recently: children's books were never my thing, even as a child) they're worth a look, if only to discover how "England" looked to a fairly unusual but prominent Englishman in the Edwardian high summer of 1906.

Now, looking a little deeper, many of us rightly regard with suspicion and dismiss as dangerous nationalism any concern with nativist narratives of nationhood, especially when coupled with an unexamined exceptionalism. In the (ironic) words of Flanders and Swann, "The English are moral, the English are good, and clever and modest and misunderstood". Oh, yes. We have also preferred to forget the Empire ever happened, or at least draw an imaginary line between "us" and "them". But I like this quotation from George Orwell:
But talk to foreigners, read foreign books or newspapers, and you are brought back to the same thought. Yes, there is something distinctive and recognizable in English civilization. It is a culture as individual as that of Spain. It is somehow bound up with solid breakfasts and gloomy Sundays, smoky towns and winding roads, green fields and red pillar-boxes. It has a flavour of its own. Moreover it is continuous, it stretches into the future and the past, there is something in it that persists, as in a living creature. What can the England of 1940 have in common with the England of 1840? But then, what have you in common with the child of five whose photograph your mother keeps on the mantelpiece? Nothing, except that you happen to be the same person.
George Orwell, England Your England
They are us, we are them, the same but different. Having been branded as an imperialist, a nationalist, and even as a racist, a writer as full of brilliance, empathy and insight as Rudyard Kipling can be conveniently forgotten, too. But it's no good, as a way of moving forward, to pretend the past never happened. Especially if your past has had serious negative impacts on the present of others. And the fact that a subject is dangerous in the wrong hands should not put it off limits for art; quite the opposite.

But, actually, if you take the trouble to read him, Kipling's version of "England" is not some chest-beating fantasy of racial purity and superiority: it is the story of a serial multicultural mashup, ever-changing, endangered, defended, conquered, transformed, volatile, yet with a base-note of continuity symbolised by the imagined anima loci Puck. England is a place, not a "people" or an idea, and yet it is a place where different ideas and many peoples have been layered into something as solid as geology. Had Kipling lived an improbably long life, Puck's Song would (and, in a sense, does) have verses that include Jews fleeing Nazi persecution, the "Windrush Generation", Ugandan Asians and, more recently, an infusion of young families from Eastern Europe. To Puck, we're all newcomers, all English, and to align Kipling with the likes of UKIP is to profoundly misunderstand him [1].

Also, although in a sense it's a case of the part standing for the whole, Puck is the spirit of a very particular place, the Weald of Sussex and Kent. I'd never visited the area until very recently, driving some of my pictures to hang in an exhibition in Battle, near Hastings. Kipling's house, Bateman's, is located nearby, and I'd meant to pay it a visit. But, having gone astray once too often in the Wealden maze of lanes and B-roads, I headed for the safety of the A27 and Brighton; another time. However, I couldn't help but get a strong sense of the layering of history that had so clearly impressed Kipling. This, after all, is where the original Stormin' Normans came through in 1066, upturning everything, including the language. It's also one of those places with a secret industrial past: guns were cast here for the Navy. The Weald had all the necessary ingredients to be a major centre for iron-founding from Roman times until coal replaced charcoal in the late 18th century. Located on the Channel, close to the shortest crossing routes, the Weald has always been among the first to experience the latest breaking wave of change.

So much for Kipling: what about me? What attracted me to this odd and clunky little piece of verse? Well, when I was building my photographic sequence based in the area around the Hockley Viaduct and St. Catherine's Hill near Winchester (self-published via Blurb as the book England and Nowhere) I had a very similar experience to that of Kipling in the the Weald: everywhere I looked there was evidence in the landscape of layer upon layer of occupation and industry, converging on a natural transport "pinch-point" into south Hampshire. Rather than repeat myself, here is a link to what I wrote at the time.

Trackway and Camp and City lost,
Salt Marsh where now is corn –
Old Wars, old Peace, old Arts that cease,
And so was England born!

I had come across that penultimate stanza of "Puck's Song" somewhere on the Web, and it seemed to encapsulate much of what I was trying to convey. So, even if I may have had nothing more profound than that to say, it still seemed worth expanding upon. It led me to read Puck of Pook's Hill, and to review my ideas about Kipling, and then subsequently to devote many hours to creating a suite of interpretive photo-collage illustrations that were originally intended as a sort of coda to England and Nowhere, but have actually become what is probably a more substantial and personal piece of work. Hopefully I have managed to "charge the air" a bit, too, so that more meaning can occur in the receptive viewer's creative mind.

1. If you've never read any of Kipling's work, you might  be surprised by it: why not try "Kim", or a few of the "Barrack-Room Ballads" (my favourite), or perhaps "Plain Tales From The Hills"? He is not what, perhaps, you have been led to believe: an orientalist, a racist, a proto-fascist, and a blinkered apologist for Empire. He is more multi-faceted than that, less dogmatic, more open to conflicting points-of-view, gifted with what Keats called negative capability: "when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason". Even at his very worst, he is not simply or uncritically any of those bad things. "White saviour", certainly; "racist", no. Never forget that it was Kipling who wrote, after WW1, "If any question why we died, / Tell them, because our fathers lied" ("Epitaphs of the War"), and it was Kipling who insisted on properly acknowledging the contribution of Indian and other Empire troops to the war effort.

Friday, 12 October 2018

Charging the Air

I found this slightly androgynous person hanging around a local cemetery, and decided to appropriate her/him/it/them for my own purposes. Step one was to remove a slightly cumbersome pair of wings. Step two was to decide, on closer inspection, that she's anatomically female, no matter what angelic non-binary identity she may claim. I know, I know... I can't help it. The whole idea of gender fluidity makes me feel old and irritable.

Anyway. I was intrigued by her soupy expression of awestruck wonder, and decided it needed some suitable objects of contemplation, as opposed to some invisible and abstract theistic construct "up there". Why a crow or a dormouse, though? I have no idea. They came to hand, and seemed more appropriate than, say, a teapot. Although that could work, too. As you have probably grasped by now, there is no profound message that I am trying to inculcate or illustrate. Or, if there is, it's as much a mystery to me as it is to you.

I recently noted down these words of photographer Todd Hido, from a recent interview:
As an artist I have always felt that my task is not to create meaning but to charge the air so that meaning can occur. 
I like that. I suppose it's then a question of whether the charge I have tried to create attracts anyone into its field of potential meaning. Or, of course, repels.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Ten Idiotic Years

Today – incredibly, uniquely, unprecedentedly, unrepeatably – is the tenth anniversary of this blog. Ten years! Who'd have thought it? What started out as a tentative investigation into the nature of Web 2.0 and the possibilities of social media has ended up as ... Well, I'm not entirely sure what. A sort of diary-notebook-sketchpad left open on the virtual table for anyone to read, maybe? Or perhaps, for those of you in the sophisticated seats, Bruchstücke einer grossen Konfession ("fragments of a great confession", Goethe's formulation for his autobiographical writings). Whatever it is, there is now quite a lot of it, most of which you will almost certainly not have read.

Naturally, I have had thoughts of drawing a line under the whole enterprise, or perhaps even starting a new blog (I was strangely drawn to the title "Public Pyjamas"), but concluded that I enjoy doing this too much to stop and, crucially, can't imagine doing it any differently, unless I were to attempt writing it in, say, heroic couplets or blank verse. Or maybe a classic four-frame cartoon à la Doonesbury, until I realised quite how bloody difficult that is, compared even to heroic couplets. Respect, cartoonists.

So, to mark the occasion, as mooted earlier in the year, I have produced a CD containing all ten years compiled, unedited, as individual Idiotic Hat Annual PDF files. That's it, up above. Any resemblance to a fondly-remembered record label from the late 1960s is entirely intentional. Each of the ten volumes of the Idiotic Hat Annual that it contains runs from September to August, because when I started the blog I was still employed in an academic institution, and that's how the academic world does things, and also because before retirement I was in the habit of taking a summer "blog break" when posts became very thin on the ground. As with so many illogical things, it has its own logic.

You may recall that, in the earlier post Puck's Song Revisited, I referred to the availability of an "artisanal" CD of the book distributed in a "handcrafted" container. This was simply a facetious way of describing the traditional home-burned CD hand-labelled with a Sharpie pen and mailed out in a paper envelope. However, by happy chance I then discovered in a drawer a mysterious piece of plastic which turned out to be the CD tray for my venerable Epson Photo 1400 printer. Never having used it, I had completely forgotten that printing CDs was within its capabilities. Bingo! What's more, it works. Hence the Island pink-label lookalike above, and the New Improved Puck's Song CD below. Handcrafted by me, artisanally.

Having gone to that trouble, it seemed a shame not to match the effort with proper DVD-style cases, also handcraftily artisanal. Here's Puck's Song:

And here's the one for the "Ten Idiotic Years" album:

My original offer still stands. Send me £12.50 via PayPal [1], and give me your postal address, and I'll mail you a copy of either anywhere in the world. You can have both for £22.50, and if you've already bought Puck's Song via Blurb, but would like to have this version, too, you can take £4.50 off either price.

1. My email address is in the "View My Complete Profile" gadget at top right.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

A Souvenir of Southampton Water

I'm not saying Southampton Water is polluted, but ... Well, actually, I am. Which is hardly controversial: it is. I mean, Southampton is in the national Top Ten for air pollution, thanks to the docks and the Fawley refinery, so it's hardly surprising that the body of water that separates one from the other is far from pristine, what with office-block-sized boats going up and down it all day.

I wouldn't even consider swimming in it, unless by some appalling mischance I fell in, but apparently local author Philip Hoare does most days. I imagine he has the water pretty much to himself, setting aside the ocean liners, container ships, and smaller craft that churn through this cloaca maxima of heavy-metal and fuel-oil pollution. Occasionally, when we hosted a conference or seminar, naive visitors from abroad would ask where the nearest and safest bathing beach might be located. "Bournemouth", was the only responsible answer.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Puck's Song Revisited

A couple of years ago, I put together a set of photo-collages illustrating "Puck's Song", something that will probably be remembered by anyone who has read Rudyard Kipling's version of English history, as told by the Oldest Old Thing in England to a couple of imperialists-in-training young children, in his book Puck of Pook's Hill. At the time I made the twelve core images available as that year's calendar (handily there are twelve stanzas), and also as a little booklet.

I had always intended to revisit this work in order to produce something more substantial, and have now done so. It will become publicly available later in October via Blurb as a magnificent 12" x 12" hardback book. However, even at production cost a copy of this will come in at around £50, so I don't expect to sell many (any?). It's the sort of "vanity project" that is mainly intended to leave something substantial for posterity to marvel at: why on earth wasn't this man taken more seriously in his time? Well, it worked for William Blake.

So, in anticipation of limited sales (and initially for readers of this blog only) in addition to the book I am making available a very nice, very high-resolution PDF version of the entire thing (40 pages), also via Blurb for just £7.49. Both the book and the PDF are available immediately, but for now this is an "invitation only" offer via this link. Note that it's a 21 Mb file download. Alternatively, you can pay me £12.50 via PayPal (my email address is in the "View My Complete Profile" gadget at top right), email me your terrestrial address, and I will mail you a copy of an artisanal CD containing the PDF, anywhere in the world, in its own handcrafted container.

There will be prints, too. The individual images are roughly 40cm in diameter, and will be printed archivally on a 50cm x 50cm sheet of Hahnemühle German Etching paper by the excellent theprintspace, whose services I thoroughly recommend. The samples I have look fantastic. I haven't settled on a price or an edition size for these yet, but if you might be interested, please do get in touch. I think we can safely say each print will cost more than a copy of the hardback Blurb book, however...

NOTE: If you do go for the PDF, for the best viewing experience you need to set your reader (typically Adobe Acrobat, or an alternative like Foxit) so that you are seeing a two-page view, but also with a separate cover page. This ensures the correct pages face each other. Unfortunately, this is not hard-coded into the PDF's properties by Blurb, which is annoying.

In Acrobat the settings are:
  Under the menu "View" / "Page Display" choose all of:
    "Two Page View"
    "Show Gaps Between Pages"
    "Show Cover Page in Two Page View"

In Foxit the settings are similar:
  In the menu "View" there is a "Page Display" pane:
    Click the "Facing" icon and the "Separate Cover Page" icon