This is a beautiful example of editorial design.
Bloomberg Business Week published a commemorative edition after the death of Steve Jobs. It has quite rightly won a series of design awards both here and in the USA for it’s perfectly judged layout and pace. Admittedly the designers had some seriously good looking content and words to play with but you have to hand it to them, it works.
The publishers had the balls too to run the entire magazine without a single ad. In this day and age of diminishing ad revenues, that’s a courageous move.
Did a bit of travelling in the UK on business and the highlight has to be my first trip to Belfast. I’ve been to Ireland but not Northern Ireland and I was looking forward to seeing what Belfast was actually like after hearing so much about it.
If you live in the UK and grew up in the seventies then Belfast comes with an enormous back story of IRA, bombings and ‘the troubles’ in general. I’m not sure if it’s the same if you live outside the UK I’d be interested to see what the US view is. Anyway the fact is since the Good Friday peace agreement in 1997 where a political resolution was found, Belfast has been a city reborn.
By and large it has the same feel as most of the major cities in the UK with the same shops and coffee chains on every street corner which gives the city a familiar look. The notable architecture speaks of a time when Belfast was the largest ship builder in the world which is no longer the case with the ship yards and sentinel cranes lying dormant.
Belfast’s shipbuilding past looms large as does it’s famous child – Titanic. Visiting just a few days after the 100th anniversary of the sinking of Titanic there was an exhibition around the building of the iconic ocean liner and a very moving memorial to everyone who lost their life on the fateful day. I oddly noted there was a George Dean who lost his life (my first name is George) which brought it home to me. I thought there was a palpable sense of civic pride around Titanic – although the taxi driver dryly questioned celebrating a badly designed ship that sunk 100 years ago.
There is a clear legacy left by the ambitious and wealthy city fathers. Whilst the city was building ships it fuelled the development of a confident world city. It reminded me of Liverpool – each cities vying for the attention of a global audience, their location and economies giving them opportunity through hard graft and sheer muscle.
As is the way elsewhere, the old world has faded away and we’re left with a city grappling with its own identity in the new world. Belfast has extra stuff on top of this too coming out into the light after years in the darkness of violence and division. There are still signs of this as we drove through the ‘peace wall’ gates (that are closed after 11pm on a night) and although we didn’t ‘do the tour’ we saw glimpses of how it used to be and still is in some places.
I was struck by how warm the people are and open and vibrant the city centre felt. Although this was a flying visit I’m looking forward to spending more time there.
This book was given to me by my good friend Streety from the book club as one of our traditions where we have a meeting at his house (usually in January) and he dishes out thoughtful book gifts to each of us. Every year he picks out something unusual but relevant for each of us and this year is no exception.
Omon Ra is a piece of Russian literature telling the story of a young boy who always dreamt of the stars and becoming a cosmonaut actually realising his dreams. It’s a short, beautifully written book that offers a glimpse into a life rarely explored. NASA has been done to death but I haven’t seen masses of Russian cosmonaut literature which is the main reason why I find the subject matter so refreshing.
There’s one story that springs to mind when reading this book. I think it’s apocryphal but nonetheless it accurately sums up the East v West attitude to space conquest. You’ll have heard it – NASA invested millions of dollars in designing and making a pen that would work in space but the Russians just used a pencil.
The Russians and Americans were going head to head in the sixties and seventies in the space race and this book delivers a lucid picture of the Russian side of things. There’s a palpable sense of the race too although its never mentioned explicitly the Russian ambition and pride burns brightly.
Omon is the name of the main character and the Egyptian link via Ra is explained in a rather bizarre fashion half way through the book. He’s a working class boy with dreams of the stars who realises his dreams on the first trip to the moon. Or does he?
This book combines the satire of The Truman Show, the down to earth sic fi of Capricorn One and the dourness of soviet literature. It’s hard to review a book without giving the game away but this book delivered a twist I definitely did not see coming. I also loved the lot fi nature of the Russian space programme – the book paints a vivid picture of a space race that’s based on the make do and mend culture that clearly came out of the second world war austerity.
There’s a particularly lovely image of a moon landing vehicle powered by a bicycle welded to the frame of a box with wheels on that is the Russian moon rover. Omon is the power that proplels the vehicle, hunched in a metal box for days on end. Apollo 11 it’s not.
There’s some pretty interesting things happening at the bottom of town.
In the up and coming ‘cultural quarter’ where the Beeb, Music College and Northern Ballet building are there is an old seventies building that’s finding a new lease of life. Munro House was previously some dodgy call centre gaff is now home to Duke Street Studios where all manner of cool stuff is going off.
Here’s just a taster:
Nice to see that Holbeck and The Calls isn’t the only place where good things are happening. After all in a city of our size we need a shitload of this kind of stuff kicking off for it to make any difference in the long term. It’s all good and I wish Duke Street well with their art inspired business ideas – is this the most interesting office space in Leeds?
Brighton is one of the UK’s most famous seaside towns – it’s quite large so it’s probably a city – on the South coast of England, around an hour from London it’s the place where capital dwellers desperate for a more laid back lifestyle tend to decamp. It has all the charm of a Georgian seaside set up with all of the sophistication demanded of a crowd used to the delights of London.
It’s a very good-looking, cool place to visit and no doubt its even cooler to live in, although the house prices will dictate who lives where and how close to the seafront. It’s well-known for its gay scene and as a result it has an almost San Francesco-esque easy-going, party nature about it. Good bars and excellent restaurants sit cheek by jowl alongside boutiques and quirky independents.
We stayed in a B&B courtesy of AirBnB – a website where you can stay with real people, well worth a look if you get the chance. Staying with our host Joy in her handsome seafront Georgian townhouse really made the trip. It was quite unusual staying with someone you’ve never met before but I guess it’s the same in a traditional B&B, except this is someone’s house but it worked our for us really well.
The main thrust of the visit was to see the mighty BSP (review here) and fit around their awesome club night Krankenhaus various foodie experiences. It’s quite a trek from Leeds to Brighton, around four hours on the road longer by rail oddly, but worth it. The south coast offers us northerners quite a different seaside experience: the sophistication of West London alongside the rough and readiness of a provincial town. The poshies seemed to win out, and although we didn’t visit the down at heel areas there’s plenty of evidence they exists. You could argue that’s what makes our cities and towns interesting and vibrant.
If you have ever lived in Leeds, or come from the city itself then you will know Whitelocks.
Tucked away in one of the city’s ‘loins’ – or lanes, this one evocatively called Turk’s Head Yard – this venerable city centre pub is the oldest in Leeds. It’s an institution. Culturally it’s quite significant in that it’s one of the remaining pubs in the city that hasn’t had the wrecking ball of modernism applied to it. All of its contemporaries have gone the way of progress by and large with a couple of less noteworthy exceptions.
Originally, when it opened in 1715, it was a ‘Luncheon Bar’ serving the merchants and traders of the growing textile city under the name of the Turk’s Head. In latter years it took the name of the family that owned it and over the years it has acquired a uniquely rich patina of history in its very fabric.
Poet John Betjeman enjoyed the atmosphere of Whitelocks, describing it as “the Leeds equivalent of Fleet Street’s Old Cheshire Cheese and far less self-conscious, and does a roaring trade. It is the very heart of Leeds.”
The very heart of Leeds. That’s a pretty big statement – but if you spend an hour or so over a very well kept pint of local beer, you’ll get a sense that statement is not far off the mark. Yes, the city has grown and changed immeasurably since Whitelocks first pulled its first pint but the pub remains steadfastly traditional, almost reminding the city about its heritage. Unusually for city centre pubs smack bang in the middle of the shopping area, the regulars are just that: folk who enjoy an oasis of calm, good beer and warmth.
Next time you’re in the city, stop by, while away an hour or so with a book and pint or two. You’ll see why the people of Leeds love this place.
I love weekends. I really do.
Whether it’s a weekend packed full of activities that leaves you even more tired on Monday or the lazy, empty weekends when all you want to do is lounge around – I love them all. Last weekend was a bit of combination of both. With the promise of a week off ahead the weekend was transformed from the usual ‘get it while you can’ of a normal weekend into a different thing altogether.
On Saturday not much happened apart from me venturing to the fish market to buy some spankingly fresh mackerel – the fillets were silky – and cooking it simply with tomatoes and thyme. We downloaded Midnight in Paris from iTunes and this topped off a very relaxed, some would say downright lazy, Saturday. I forgot – I dusted off the bike for the nice weather too, I’m determined to get out more on it this year after a pathetic show last year.
Sunday started slightly more energetically with a not too long but not too short walk with good friends D&G and a couple of cheeky pints of Leeds Pale at The Woodcock. Having dismissed this pub previously, we were pleasantly surprised. We must go more often. Out walking, I’m always struck by how lucky we are to live where we do: on the edge of Leeds, it’s very rural and we could be living in the countryside if we looked carefully, which we don’t very often. This means we can access nice walks without having to get in the car, which is a huge treat.
On our walk we cooked up the idea of a barbecue. The weather was bright but actually getting chilly again – we’ve been spoilt by this unseasonably warm spell – so we thought we’d make the most of it. The bad boy BBQ was duly fired up and we sat outside until late, eating and drinking far too much for a Sunday night. But being off the following day, we didn’t care one bit. The food was fantastic to say our feast was a cobbled together joint affair and the highlight for me was the scallops and chorizo with broad beans, not strictly barbecue food but delicious all the same.
Weekends, don’t you just love them?