Incredible Biographies #1

What a life W. G. Moore led. What a hero. This biography comes from A Dictionary of Geography, published by Penguin in 1949. From teaching to writing a Geography of Capitalism in 1938, when such a concept would have been radical but without the kudos it would attract today. Founder of the meteorological service for Persia – maybe I’m drawn to this as it sounds exotic, but here is a man who started life at the Grammar School in Burton-on-Trent. He was not a man to rest on his laurels as he then went on to write such essential tomes as The World’s Wealth, The Soil We Live On, and Adventures in Geography.
We don’t know whether he preferred gin or scotch, but we can guess that he would have donned a tweed in the English winter and tropical khaki in Persia. We salute you and your uncelebrated endeavours.

In praise of Brixtongue

Googling around on the net I found this listing on the BBC website for the poetry/comedy/music night I ran and MC-ed at Brixton Art Gallery

BRIXTONGUE
Saturday July 12th at 7pm
Brixton Art Gallery, 35 Brixton Station Road, London SW9
Admission £4, (£3 concessions)
Info: 07986 357 156 / 0207 733 6957
A Brixton style blend of poetry, music and comedy hosted by MC John Rogers. performers include: Russell Brand, Courtney, Fatema, Lara Macardle, Al Brunker, Jay*Star, Paradox, Phenzwaan, Sheila Stocking & drummers, Sista Vision and Zhana. Also Reggae from Zinc Fence

It must be from 2002 or early 2003 as I remember those drummers used to keep us going to the early hours of the morning. They were often great nights, aside from my old mucker Russell delivering some unforgettable stand-up sets and witnessing the development of Mr Gee into the stellar performer he is today we also had semi-legeendary comedian Nick Revel, readings from Brixton Bard Alex Wheatle and a host of other great talents.
And of course this is where I stole the name for my blog from – Brixtongue being the winner of the competition to name the night on the first gig back in February 2002 – Lara Macardle’s Mum came up with it.
Sadly Brixton Art Gallery has closed – another victim of gentrification but the night lives on at the Red Gate Gallery

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Panjandrum


Is there nothing that Nick Papadimitriou doesn’t know about London? Under the guise of his troublesome alter-ego he left a comment on this blog about a curious device known as the Panjandrum. It was developed to explode mines on the Normandy beaches during D-Day. It was constructed in secret right here in Leytonstone (by Messrs. Commercial Structures ltd.) and transported to Westward Ho! to be tested. A journey I make myself a couple of times a year as my parents live just down the road from there. Another case of geographical synchronicity (another note on my autopobiography). Thanks Nick.

Wandered into the 491 Gallery today as they were setting up a new exhibition. They were quite happy to show me round as they hung pictures, adjusted projectors, installed installations. One_Artisland kicks off tomorrow and runs till Monday. Make the most of the 491 whilst it’s still there, London Underground want the building back and the word is that they’ve got less than a year before eviction.

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City Notebooks and the Mystery of the Moulting Moleskine

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Invited to an event at the Conran Shop supposedly launching the new Moleskine City Notebooks. I was hoping to blag a freebie, recompense for the moulting Moleskine that I’m using at the moment, chunks of pages falling out with nearly every excursion. I sent an email to Moleskine enquiring how this might have happened to such a legendary journal, it rather casts doubt on the claim that they were the choice of Bruce Chatwin on expeditions to Patagonia and Outback Australia when they can’t survive an afternoon stroll around Leytonstone.

The flier for the event, ‘Detour, The Moleskine City Notebook Experience’ boasts a quote from Walter Benjamin: “Not to find one’s way around a city does not mean much. But to lose one’s way in a city, as one loses one’s way in a forest, requires some schooling…” By announcing the City Notebook with a quote from the great codifier of the art of the flaneur is to suggest some kind of link between the two, between the experience of allowing oneself to drift through the urban realm drawn by invisible forces into uncharted quarters, dormitory suburbs, slums and ghettos, arterial roadside communities, “journeys outside the timetable”. It seems to be touting to be the accompaniment to the ‘Mis-Guide to Anywhere’, and ‘The Lonely Planet Guide to Experimental Travel’, now that flaneury and psychogeography have become a new kind of weekend City Break bookable through the Guardian Travel supplement.

I had to go on a minor derive within the Conran Shop to find the Moleskine City Notebook, the exhibition having only a tenuous link. It opens with a series of fold out maps that venture no further East than Whitechapel, not beyond Camden to the North nor Kensington to the West. It is very much an open-top bus tour view of the city, a prescribed experience, one to fit neatly between the lines of the book. There are inexplicable detachable stamps with the word London on, to remind you where you are? It is the opposite of David Rodinsky’s annotated A-Z. Perfect for BUNAC gap-year students and Italian schoolkids on a two-week study tour. This is not the notebook of the followers of Walter Benjamin, Patrick Keiller’s Robinson, “the born-again flaneur”. The Conran Shop does sell those, Japanese exercise books at £1.95 a pop against £12.50 for the Moleskine. You can pick up a vintage Ward Lock Red Guide on ebay for around £3 (maps include London and 12 miles around and a Central London plan that covers from Kensal Green to the River Lea) and you’re off equipped for an experience more in tune with the quote on the flier.

I went into Foyles today to have another look at the City Notebook, to see if I’d been quick in my judgement and found something just as bad, The Wanderlust Travel Journal. My travel journals are some of my most treasured possessions, kept in a locked metal box. They were bought locally wherever I was with a note inside the cover to mark the spot “This book was purchased on 25-01-95 in a small shop near the post office in Ubud, Bali for 1200Rp (35p)”. They were filled with boarding passes, laundry receipts, bus tickets, wrist ties, prescriptions in Thai, phone cards, an envelope sellotaped inside the back cover for loose bits. The book itself was a souvenir in its own right, silver hard-backed exercise books in Indonesia, soft leather-covered Indian journals with a cord that wrapped round several times, Italian quadretti blocks. So I can not comprehend the Wanderlust Travel Journal with its boarding passes and various scribblings printed on the page, blank timetables to fill in. Soon they’ll go the next step and transcribe the whole experience to save you the trouble, with generic phrases such as ‘Budha’d out in Borobudur’.

But now I have a greater understanding of why my Moleskine is moulting – it prefers a sedantry life, clean country air, the odd carefully written out ‘To Do’ list, ‘Notes to Self’, not my furious scribbles on rainy city streets, sellotaped wildflowers, being plonked down on real ale covered pub tables. Mind you, I wouldn’t have minded hearing Moleskine’s explanation.