Monday, 20 August 2012


I spent yesterday with Lois at the Quilt show at the NEC. The Wednesday group that Lois belongs to, had an entry in the group competition. They didn't win, but that's not really the point.

The show is a fascinating event. I have no idea how many people are the least bit aware of this activity, certainly before I first went last year, I had no idea that so many people were involved in making quilts. I didn't attempt to count how many entries there are, but it runs into hundreds and the audience into thousands. Not only that, but people come from all over the world, both to exhibit and to visit. The audience was mostly european and about 99% female.

The security guards were mostly male and made pointless sexist remarks when we arrived,

'the men's creche is over there, the dancing girls arrive at three,' quite unnecessary. Quilting as an activity must in some way select its participants. A huge proportion of the audience seemed to have the same affect. Shirley Williams the day she did go to the hairdresser might be an appropriate image. Full of understanding, good humour and reliability.

This sense of of homogenaity is less obvious in the quilts. Some have obviously been designed to look like an archetypical quilt, other stretch the art form in every direction. Any subject can be imagined as a quilt, a brilliant set based on the large Hadron Collider, for example. The winner in the group category had a series of pictures of a sort of spoof olympics, based around quilting, the funniest cartooning a play on words on tacking, a term used in stitchery and also sailing.

There were some sailing boats too, though I wouldn't want to sail several,of them. They look like sailing boats, but the masts are in the wrong place, so they would be very hard to steer. The boat in the picture would be pretty good at going backwards. On the other hand an image of a boat on a quilt, is not really expected to win the olympics.

To my mind the art fell into three categories. The first might be called quilts designed to look like quilts. The second is art, in which the artist feels able to tackle any subject, but happens to like quilting as a medium. The third, is the second one, but taking the possibilities of the medium into the art - tackling a subject in a way that could only be done with fabric and stitching. I rather liked those.

As well as the exhibits there was a massive commercial show, not just the makers of sewing machines, but a vast complex of stalls selling things you might use to stitch better or more easily, but also an amazing array of art and craft with a predominantly textile underpinning.

Some of these devices could have multiple uses. I bought a neat wooden stand that is supposed to be used for holding an embroidery ring, but in fact will hold my iphone and allow me to set up a standard position for photographing documents, a copying method I find is rather quicker and less fussy than using the scanner that is built into my printer.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Yeah Definitely

Commentating must be a desperate business. Having to think of something to say, while fascinating events unfold in front of you. No chance of second thought, no editing, no time to think, no reflection; it goes out as you say it, and there's no getting it back.
What is even worse is that people like me, and people much more skilled than me, are sitting there listening, ready to pounce on every dumb comment, every out of place word or wrong piece of data.
“Murray is forcing Federer into unforced errors,” says John Lloyd. 
So now we have an extra category of errors, not just the usual, forced and unforced; now we have forced, unforced errors. How could that come about, just supposing for a moment that it wasn't just John Lloyd getting over enthusiastic. Maybe if Murray is simply creating an atmosphere of pressure, the possibility of unforced errors goes up. Is that what a forced, unforced error looks like. I can just about get my head around that, but what about unforced, forced errors. Maybe those are really impossible, but perhaps if one player has such a great style that even when they are completely relaxed, playing with no pressure at all, barely even trying, so you couldn't say that they were forcing anything at all, they might still force errors, without even meaning to. Those would be unforced, forced errors.
Enough of that. I may be getting the commentators disease, of having to talk all the time. Possibly the worst moment of this was after Ben Ainsley won his forth sailing gold medal. We saw him talking, being shown on the big screen at the venue and the idiot commentator is doing a voice over telling us what Ainsley is saying. OK, if he was talking chinese, that might make sense, but all the commentator is doing is stopping us hearing what Ainsley is actually saying. English does not normally need to be translated on the BBC. 
The crowd did get their own back; the same commentator was doing vox pops on the shore after the women's laser radial. The Belgian girl had just won the bronze medal, so why not interview some Belgians.
’What did you think of that?’ says the interviewer.
’Fucking great.’ says unknown Belgian. Whoops.
While I am in ranting mode, there are two more pet hates, I'd like to get out of the way.
The first is the over-adoption of certain words. I've given up on Yeah No. Is it one word or two? I know longer know what it means, I've heard it so often I'm not even sure I can any lomger explain why it is a daft thing to say. I've not however, given up on 'absolutely'. Over and over we hear both interviewees and interviewers using the word when it is simply not necessary, and often not really appropriate. I was pleased to hear the various fighters from the independent republic of Yorkshire who said “Yeah definitely” as their first words to many answers. If it is impossible to avoid these instant replies, I think I prefer “Yeah definitely.” Whereas absolutely is rarely true, and is frequently inappropriate; yeah definitely, is OK, it's expressing an opinion, and that doesn't seem inappropriate.
There is obviously something built into commentators genes that makes them adopt words. It is now seemingly impossible to use the word early without saying early doors. What on earth have doors got to do with anything? I once thought that it must be referring to leaving early, in the way the Eddie Waring talked about players getting an early bath, when they had been sent off. A glance or two at the web suggests that it comes from theatres, the doors opening early for the cheap seats. So what exactly does, 
"They let the New Zealanders get away early doors," mean in a sailing race. What doors, they are on the ocean.
Finally, there is the background music. The constant need to put some sort of thumping beat behind commentary and voice overs is beginning to make me change channels. Surely if the words are not dramatic or interesting enough to hold attention, then re-write the words. Adding a thumping beat is just a cheap trick and adds nothing. After watching these olympics, surely any one can see that we don't need to add drama, or worse still, some sort of false sense of excitement. Let the events speak for themselves. As I write this, the BBC is running a repeat clip of some of the rowing, along with a background beat that was not there during the events. Why?
For those who have read this blog for some time, I should apologise for going on about this, I have mentioned it before.  (Stop the bloody music;postID=2686805028156897544)
Will someone in broadcasting please listen. I am tired of my wife yelling at the TV every time the news bomp bomp bomp head bomp bomp bomp lines bomp bomp bomp come bomp bomp bomp on.

Post script.
In the into to the closing ceremony Gary Lineker
"They came from all four corners of the country and all four walks of life." All four walks of life? Really Gary, and what four would those be?

Saturday, 11 August 2012


I haven't been blogging because I have been watching the Olympics. Glued to the TV and clutching two iPads, I have missed very little, but there are lulls. In those I read on the iPad. I have an app called Flipboard. It keeps popping up on other people’s must have lists, so I am in good company. It allows you to pick up feeds from all sorts of other sources, see the picture to get the idea. 

Being lazy, I rather like having all that stuff gathered together on one page and kept up to date for me.
Among other things, I get a feed from the New Yorker. If I subscribed to the paper magazine I know I would never read it all and masses of paper would clutter up the house. On Flipboard I get a selection, made by someone else, so I’m probably missing something, but it is constantly refreshed, with no waste paper and therefore guilt free.
As a side effect, I also get emails from the New Yorker with links to other morsels of wisdom and humour. Among those I found a piece called “Everything is Fiction” from Keith Ridgway [born October 2, 1965 is a Dublin-born award-winning writer. He lives in Dublin after living in the UK for many years, Faber & Faber]
In the midst of a piece where he says he doesn’t know what he is doing –
I don’t know how to write. Which is unfortunate, as I do it for a living.’
He says -
‘I know how to wait until the last minute before putting anything on paper. I mean the last minute before the thought leaves me forever. I know how to leave out anything that looks to me—after a while—forced, deliberate, or fake. I know that I need to put myself in the story. I don’t mean literally. I mean emotionally. I need to care about what I’m writing—whether about the characters, or about what they’re getting up to, or about the way they feel or experience their world. I know that my job is to create a perspective. And to impose it on the reader. And I know that in order to do that with any success at all I must in some mysterious way risk everything. If I don’t break my own heart in the writing of a book then I know I’ve done it wrong. I’m not entirely sure what that means. But I know what it feels like.’
If that doesn’t capture what you need to do as a writer, I’m not sure what does. You can read the rest of the piece at: