Friday, September 30, 2005

Lost Contact with the Outside World

I've been trying to book tickets at the Gatehouse Theatre in Stafford all this week, but after a few rings I always get a recorded message telling me that the box office staff are busy. (No, I'm not telling you which events I'm trying to book for. I know you beggars - you'll phone up, get through, and buy the last tickets.)

I've also been trying and failing to phone Groundwork. At least the phone there just rings and rings, so you're not paying for the privilege of listening to the same message over and over again.

And the bin men came and went this week in a most mysterious way. Few people put rubbish out, as though the collection day had changed, but everyone's was removed as normal except ours.

It feels like the outside world has changed in some fundamental way, but nobody's told me about it. More on this tomorrow...

Phood and Fotografy, Part 2

Originally uploaded by Alec_M.
Yay! I've taken Tony's advice, and created a Flickr account, and it's all working smoothly. You can see my Nantwich food festival photographs there now, and I'll post some other photographs there shortly.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Lost for Words

I'm obviously not really lost for words, because I'm managing to find the ones that you're reading right now, but I've recently discovered Anonymous Lawyer's blog, which takes my breath away. I don't care whether it's fictional or not, that's not the point. The point is that he's so open about being so nasty and working for a firm that treats its employees so badly. Such frankness is rare, and quite fascinating in a morbid, car-crash sort of way.

He removed the ability to post comments at the end of 2004, and I like the resulting purity of his blog. I'm keen to see each example of cruelty, just to remind myself to be thankful I'm not part of such an organisation and lifestyle.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Phood and Fotografy

I met up with a fair proportion of the readership of this blog yesterday. In fact, since Tony and Penny both have blogs of their own, it was probably an inadvertent blogmeet. We went to the food festival in Nantwich, primarily to take photographs, but the once inside the large marquee, the food tended to take over. A lot of it was expensive and inconsequential, and the marquee became hot and stifling, but I enjoyed it nonetheless, and ate some delicious ice cream and chocolates.

It was also good to see how other people approach the business of taking photographs. I particularly admire Tony's ability to take surprise portraits and talk reassuringly to his 'victims' afterwards. I would like to include a couple of my images in this post, but for some reason they're not appearing.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Leaping horses

As part of my drive to find insipration from a variety of sources, I visited the exhibition in the Sutherland Institute this morning. It's part of the ceramics festival in Stoke-on-Trent this weekend. After some initial difficulties in finding and reaching the exhibition, I discovered this small but wonderful collection of leaping horses by April Young, reminiscent of the cave paintings at Lascaux. You can see more of April's horses at Scotland Art.

April was there, finalising the display, and she told me about the process of making and then firing the models in smoke. She also makes human-like figures, though these weren't on display, and we talked about the rich source of stories, from Scottish legends to Shakespearean drama, that we all draw on as part of our western culture.

A highly interesting and enjoyable conversation, making me glad I'd persevered past the initial problems. The exhibition is free, and continues until tomorrow. I strongly encourage you to see April's work. (In comparison, the crockery in the other room is just dull.)

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Reclaiming lost dreams

I don't usually read self-help books, but Lisa recently lent me one after a conversation about how my creativity seems to work best when I stop trying to interfere in the process. It's The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, and it aims to help people discover or rediscover the artist within.

The book proposes a series of weekly tasks over the course of twelve weeks, underpinned by two 'rules'. Each week you have to take yourself on an artist's date (which basically means find the time to indulge your creative side) and every day (yes, that's every day) you have to write three full pages of longhand. It can be about anything at all, serious or complaining, silly or profound, but you must write these morning pages every day. It is also essential that you ignore any internal voice criticising what you do. For that reason, you shouldn't show your writing to anyone else.

The book has a vocabulary that I find uncomfortable, describing the universe as an artistic spirit that actively works to help us individually, but I gave it a go anyway, and I've discovered that I enjoy the meditative aspects of writing. I've only been doing it for just under two weeks, but already I'm finding some odd changes within me.

First and foremeost, I now remember a dream nearly every morning, which is something I very rarely do. I haven't yet worked out what to do with these dreams, but it still feels like I'm reclaiming something which I'm entitled to, and which left me feeling short-changed when I couldn't remember them. Secondly, I really do feel more creative. Although many of these ideas aren't good for one reason or another, that's not the point. If you don't have ideas, you're stuck. And if you're stuck, you feel awful.

So let's see where The Artist's Way takes me now...

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Lost Momentum

I haven't posted for a while, partly because of preparations for the Open Day at Chatterley Whitfield, which went very well, thank you, despite the heavy rain. 108 visitors - nearly our maximum capacity of 120.

The other reason for lack of posts is that I started back at College again last week. The resumption of getting up at 5.45 was a bit of a shock. (I realise that some of you might think that student life is easy, so I must be referring to rising at 5.45pm, but I assure you that it is the other. If I set off after 7am, heavy traffic on the M6 means I hit St Helens in the rush hour.)

Anyway, I feel that this blog has suffered a temporary loss of momentum. We'll just have to see how much time and energy I can find for it in the forthcoming weeks.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Your chance to visit an amazing place

Heritage Open Day on Saturday 10th September is your one and only chance this year to visit one of the oddest places around. Chatterley Whitfield is a strange collection of former colliery buildings - some beautiful, others ugly - on the edge of Stoke-on-Trent. Dense residential communities lie to the south and west, fields and eventually the Peak District to the east and north.

The colliery shut in 1976, and it was a mining museum until 1993. Since then, the buildings have been left to decay, and it is now an eerie, atmospheric place. Wildlife has adopted it - there was a large grass snake there a couple of weeks ago, and I watched a sparrowhawk wrestling with a pigeon on the ground. Trees grow out of the headgear (the wheels at the top of the mineshafts), and huge cracks have appeared in many brick walls.

Saturday will be the annual opportunity for members of the public to go on guided tours round the site (sadly going underground is not possible), but places must be booked in advance. Telephone Mark Homer at Stoke-on-Trent City Council on (01782) 232334. I advise you to do it quickly as numbers are limited.

(Photo from the Friends of Chatterley Whitfield website, courtesy of Tony Jones)

Friday, September 02, 2005

Thank you all for your comments on the interface. No-one managed to do anything more than move the heads around, so I've made a few changes. I've added some instructions and altered the way the heads move, and posted the result.

I'd appreciate it if you would try again, so that I can find out whether it just wasn't clear what visitors are supposed to do, or whether there is some fundamental flaw in the code. There's still no loading screen - that will come later.