Richard Carter's meta feed A merged feed of posts from all of Richard Carter's blogs. en-gb Richard Carter Temporary apologies Wed, 22 Mar 2017 19:15:02 +0000 Richard Carter (Gruts) Sign spotted at motorway services. Spotted at a motorway service station this morning:

…at least they spelt the word their correctly.

Book review: ‘Man of Iron’ by Julian Glover Mon, 06 Mar 2017 12:01:09 +0000 Richard Carter (Reviews – Richard Carter) Thomas Telford and the Building of Britain. Man of IronAs someone who has taken holidays on the Isle of Anglesey since (literally) before I was born, I’ve long had a soft-spot for the legendary engineer Thomas Telford. Whether we headed to Anglesey along the coast, or took the longer, more spectacular route through Snowdonia, we were travelling on Telford’s roads. Either way, the much-anticipated, are-we-nearly-there-yet? highlight of the journey was always Telford’s magnificent suspension bridge across the Menai Straits.

Julian Glover’s excellent biography of the ‘Colossus of Roads’ is careful to put Telford’s achievements in perspective. Yes, he was a talented workaholic who oversaw the design and creation of a huge number of edifices, but most of the day-to-day management of ‘his’ construction projects was carried out by talented engineers appointed by Telford. Telford could not have achieved what he did, had he been directly responsible for the detailed management of every project. If anything, to use modern parlance, Telford was a gifted Programme Manager who monitored and steered the work of others.

The sheer number of Telford’s architectural and engineering projects, many of them running in parallel, presents the biographer with a challenge. To keep the biography strictly chronological is to risk confusing the reader by continuously flitting back and forth between projects. Glover sensibly keeps things simple by concentrating on individual projects, even when this means flitting back and forth chronologically. He does this by dedicating individual chapters to Telford’s major projects and programmes, such as his road-surveying and construction work in Scotland and Wales, his extensive British canal work (including the construction of the magnificent Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, and of the Caledonian Canal), and his trips to Sweden to advise on the construction of the Göta Canal.

Telford’s only shortcoming seems to have been, in later life, perhaps, not to give enough credit to the other engineers who collaborated with him on his major projects. Be that as it may, the Thomas Telford who emerges from this biography is an amiable, hard-working achiever whose legacy, through no fault of his own, was soon to be eclipsed by the advent of the railways.

Highly recommended.

Mum Mon, 06 Mar 2017 09:18:36 +0000 Richard Carter (Gruts) Mum would have been 80. Mum would have been 80 today.

Mum and me

Lovely lady; very odd-looking kid. xx

He's a 60 year old man… Sun, 05 Mar 2017 08:47:11 +0000 Richard Carter (Gruts) Happy 60th birthday, Mark E Smith. …and he likes it.

Happy 60th Birthday, Mark E Smith! What less appropriate way to mark(!) the occasion than with this masterpiece?

Book review: ‘The Making of the British Landscape’ by Nicholas Crane Sat, 04 Mar 2017 15:12:12 +0000 Richard Carter (Reviews – Richard Carter) How we humans shaped the landscape of Britain, from the Ice Age to the present. The Making of the British LandscapeThis book wasn’t what I expected. Not that that’s a bad thing.

From its title, I assumed The Making of the British Landscape was going to be all about geophysics, geology and physical geography: plate tectonics, mountain-building, fault lines, erosion, glaciation, cwms, clints, grykes, drumlins, escarpments, longshore-drift, all that malarkey we did in geography. While glaciation, in particular, features prominently in the early chapters, and the impact of climate-change is a recurring theme, this book is far more about how the land was altered over thousands of years by human beings: it’s about how we made the British landscape with our tree-felling, earthworks, religious observances, settlements, farming practices, industry, transport networks, and so on.

The former archaeologist in me was pleased to see Nicholas Crane dedicate around a third of this book to British prehistory. We tend to forget the majority of our island story occurred before the Roman Conquest—some of it, indeed, as Crane describes, before Britain was even an island. But we do, as you would expect, eventually get round to the Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, Normans, and everyone else, bringing us right through to the current day. It is a magnificent and highly enjoyable read.

I did have a few minor quibbles with the book. In the introduction to his bibliography, Crane explains his decision to avoid disrupting the narrative with 2,721 footnotes. Although I understand why he did this, in the early chapters in particular, I was sometimes frustrated by not being sure which statements were generally agreed views, and which were Crane’s own conjectures. Either way, judging by the extensive bibliography, it is clear that Crane has done his homework.

In the same early chapters, Crane also occasionally adopts the device of not referring to prehistoric and early historic places by their modern names. Whether this is for dramatic effect, or to avoid anachronistic labels, I found it irritating: Where the hell is he actually talking about? I kept wondering. In most cases, I could guess an answer by consulting the bibliography—but I felt I shouldn’t have to guess.

Finally, as a proud inhabitant of the region, I was disappointed by the relatively small amount of space in this book dedicated to the North of England, compared with Scotland, Wales, and (in particular) the South of England. But this is a complaint I could (and do) make about many books.

But, minor quibbles aside, I thoroughly enjoyed this ambitious and entertaining book.


The Welsh side Fri, 03 Mar 2017 15:24:45 +0000 Richard Carter ( In all my years visiting the Dee Marshes, I had never looked across them from the Welsh side.
In all my years visiting the Dee Marshes, I had never looked across them from the Welsh side.

Article source:

I’ve been visiting the English side of the Dee Marshes for longer than I can remember. It’s what you do when you’re brought up on the Wirral Peninsula. Ice creams at Parkgate, gazing across the no-longer-there river towards Wales. A pint at the Harp in Neston, taking in the same view. Bird-spotting strolls along the edge of the marshes at Burton.

Even though I no longer live on the Wirral, I return there most weeks to visit my dad. When I do, I usually make time for a visit to the marshes: often for a stroll; sometimes simply to sit in the car and admire the view; occasionally (like I’m doing right now) to write.

Familiarity doesn’t always breed contempt. After so many years, the view across the Dee Marshes has become very dear to me: the backdrop of the Clwydian Hills, dominated by Moel Famau, the hill I’ve climbed every Christmas Eve for the last 29 years; Flint Castle, squatting low on the edge of the marshes beneath ugly blocks of flats; the retired British Rail ferry near Mostyn, which lived an unsuccessful second life as a ‘Fun Ship’; the distant vertical smudge of the lighthouse at Talacre near Point of Ayr way over to the far right.

Only recently did it occur to me that, in all my years visiting the Dee Marshes, I had never looked across them from the Welsh side, back towards my native Wirral. So, a couple of weeks ago, I made a detour over there to take some photographs:

Flint Castle

Although the approach by car was most inauspicious, Flint Castle turned out to be rather wonderful. Situated right on the edge of the marshes, the castle once used the River Dee as a moat. The oldest of Wales’s medieval castles, protecting a former causeway over the Dee, it was here in 1399 that Richard II was captured by Henry Bolingbroke. Henry subsequently deposed Richard to become Henry IV.

I couldn’t believe my luck to have the castle all to myself. The views across the marshes were misty and atmospheric. I could only just make out the Wirral on the far side.

Talacre Beach and Lighthouse

I came in search of the lighthouse, but was surprised to find a wonderful beach backed by extensive sand-dunes. How could I have lived so close, for so many years, without even knowing it was there?

The Fun Ship

The former Fun Ship (née Duke of Lancaster) has clearly seen better days, but makes quite an impression up close. It would be nice to see her put to some good use—assuming it’s appropriate to refer to a duke as ‘her’.

I very much enjoyed my brief excursion to the Welsh side of my beloved Dee Marshes. The weather wasn’t exactly fantastic, but what did I expect in the middle of February? That said, the overcast, misty views across the marshes from Flint Castle lent a satisfyingly desolate air.

I hope to return to the Welsh side later in the year, when the views are clearer, and when I might actually be able to see the Wirral.

Vegetating Sat, 25 Feb 2017 11:41:03 +0000 Richard Carter (Gruts) Ten-a-day fruit and veg?

Me: Have you seen they're saying we should be eating ten fruit and veg per day now?
Jen: I remember when ‘ten-a-day’ referred to Woodbines.

Marmalaise Sat, 25 Feb 2017 09:50:12 +0000 Richard Carter (Gruts) Marmalade in decline (or not). Compare and contrast:

Guardian (10-Dec-2014): Marmalade: Paddington’s favourite conserve makes a comeback
The success of the Paddington movie is good news for marmalade: sales are up, more of us are making our own and a new generation is even drinking the stuff.

Guardian (24-Feb-2017): Marmalade in decline as Paddington struggles to lift sales
2014 film brought only a slight boost to the bear’s favourite spread, which is now mainly the preserve of older people.

Corbyn speak Fri, 24 Feb 2017 08:57:38 +0000 Richard Carter (Gruts) Corbyn spouts management speak. As the UK government ploughs on with the insanity that is Brexit, and on the day that Labour loses one of its safest seats to the Tories, what the hell, you might begin to wonder, has the leader of Her Majesty's Most Loyal Opposition got to say about the price of fish?

Well, this tweet from last November might offer some insight:

We now face the task of creating a New Britain from the fourth industrial revolution #CBI2016

— Jeremy Corbyn MP (@jeremycorbyn) November 21, 2016

Go, Jeremy!

Stretford Mall irony Mon, 20 Feb 2017 17:35:13 +0000 Richard Carter (Gruts) When doors aren't necessarily always open. Always Open

Wall of sound Sun, 19 Feb 2017 08:48:25 +0000 Richard Carter (Gruts) I always, incorrectly, assumed Blowzabella stopped making music years ago. For many years, the late tosser Fitz and I would retire to his house after our weekly Tuesday-night pub session to drink loads of coffee and listen to music. Fitz was a big folk music fan, so he would invariably end up playing some Blowzabella. Blowzabella was a British folk band that specialised in playing droney instruments: violins, bagpipes, hurdy-gurdies, that sort of thing. They were pretty magnificent.

I write in the past tense, because I always assumed Blowzabella stopped making music years ago. Imagine my surprise and delight earlier this week, therefore, when I learnt they're still going strong, and churning out magnificent rackets like this:

You can thank me later.

Compare and Contrast Fri, 17 Feb 2017 14:18:48 +0000 Richard Carter (Gruts) Musk v Harkness. Musk

Tesla's Elon Musk (sic).


Torchwood's Capt. Jack Harkness.

We have a right to know.

Re. the ‘newspaper’ that delivered Brexit Fri, 17 Feb 2017 14:11:39 +0000 Richard Carter (Gruts) Wikipedia editors have voted to ban the Daily Mail as a source for the website in all but exceptional circumstances after deeming the news group “generally unreliable”.

Guardian: Wikipedia bans Daily Mail as 'unreliable' source
Wikipedia editors have voted to ban the Daily Mail as a source for the website in all but exceptional circumstances after deeming the news group “generally unreliable”… The editors described the arguments for a ban as “centred on the Daily Mail’s reputation for poor fact checking, sensationalism and flat-out fabrication”.

(My emphasis added.)

The Darwin bicentennial oak, 8 years on Sun, 12 Feb 2017 11:30:05 +0000 Richard Carter, FCD (The Friends of Charles Darwin) Eight years ago today, I planted the Darwin Bicentennial Oak in my garden. The Darwin Bicentennial Oak

Planted 12-Feb-2009

The Darwin bicentennial oak, 8 years on


Eight years ago today, I planted the Darwin Bicentennial Oak in my garden. I am pleased to report that it is still doing well.

I have now spent eight years gathering material for the longest time-lapse movie ever. Or should that be shortest?

The name's Darwin: Charles Darwin Sun, 12 Feb 2017 10:07:14 +0000 Richard Carter, FCD (The Friends of Charles Darwin) KILLER FACT: Charles Darwin once featured in a James Bond film. KILLER FACT: Charles Darwin once rubbed shoulders (literally) with fellow heroic British icon James Bond. In the opening credits to Daniel Craig's first Bond film, Casino Royale, in fact. Can you spot him?

Darwin meets Bond

That chap gets everywhere.

BBC science fail Sat, 11 Feb 2017 11:10:44 +0000 Richard Carter (Gruts) There is nothing ‘coincidental’ about a lunar eclipse occurring during a full moon.

BBC: Spectacular snow moon regales worldFebruary's full moon also coincides with a partial lunar eclipse.


There is nothing ‘coincidental’ about a lunar eclipse occurring during a full moon: every lunar eclipse that ever happened occurred during a full moon.

For a lunar eclipse to occur, the sun and moon must be on opposite sides of the earth. The same configuration is required for a full moon. The only difference is that, during a lunar eclipse, the sun, earth, and moon happen to line up exactly, causing the earth's shadow from the sun to be cast on the moon.

Busy man Tue, 07 Feb 2017 16:58:46 +0000 Richard Carter (Gruts) gents' loo at the Birch Service Station on the M62 this morning: a businessman operating two hand-driers simultaneously, one for each hand. Spotted in the gents' loo at the Birch Service Station on the M62 this morning: a businessman operating two hand-driers simultaneously, one for each hand.

Now there's a man with not enough time (and too much water) on his hands, I thought. I wouldn't mind betting he'd read some self-help book on personal productivity: 200 Killer Hacks to Save Yourself an Hour a Day, or some such nonsense.

To complicate matters, the middle of the three hand-driers wasn't working, so the man had to extend his arms to full-stretch to accomplish his astonishing time-saving feat. He looked for all the world like Jesus hanging on the cross—albeit Jesus in a snazzy business suit. I would have liked to grab a photo, but realised taking pictures of men in gents' loos was the sort of thing likely to get me arrested.

Still, though, what a thoroughly efficient man! There was a chap who understood the true value of his time: so much more precious than that of the fat, bearded bloke standing behind him with dripping hands.

Shock news Mon, 06 Feb 2017 19:16:36 +0000 Richard Carter (Gruts) Analysis of EU Referendum voting patterns shows strong correlation between lower educational qualifications and voting Leave.

BBC: Local voting figures shed new light on EU referendum

[…] local results were strongly associated with the educational attainment of voters - populations with lower qualifications were significantly more likely to vote Leave. […] The level of education had a higher correlation with the voting pattern than any other major demographic measure from the census.

Call me a Liberal Elitist, but it seems to me that maybe we should be treating education as a higher priority. Then maybe, just maybe, in the long-run, the British public might stop making such monumentally stupid decisions.

Vegetative state Fri, 03 Feb 2017 10:47:29 +0000 Richard Carter (Gruts) Iceberg lettuces and broccoli rationed as vegetable crisis hits supermarkets shock! HOLY CRAP!!

BBC: Iceberg lettuces and broccoli rationed as vegetable crisis hits supermarkets

Personally, I blame the EU, asylum seekers, and the Welsh.

Looking on the bright side, however, there's also a shortage of courgettes.

Going physical Thu, 02 Feb 2017 14:37:43 +0000 Richard Carter (Notebook – Richard Carter) In which I get out there in meat-space. The popular Caught by the River website held a poetry and prose event at Machpelah Mill, Hebden Bridge, on Saturday 21st January 2017. As previously reported, I had agreed to exhibit a small selection of prints from my Hebden’s Other Bridges photo-project.

My photos
Before the doors opened.

I can’t speak for anyone else present, but it was personally most satisfying to see a collection of my own photographs hanging next to each other along a wall. In this increasingly digital age, we tend to view photos on our computer-screens and phones these days—which is fantastic, but you still can’t beat a traditional 18"x12" print made out of actual physical atoms.




It was also most satisfying finally to chat face-to-face with the physical versions of several people I’d previously only spoken with electronically, including a number of the Caught by the River crew, and the writers Ben Myers, Adelle Stripe, and Amy Liptrot.

Ben Myers and Adelle Stripe
Ben Myers and Adelle Stripe.
Adelle Stripe reading
Adelle Stripe reading.

My lasting impression of the day will be, what an awfully nice bunch of people! But it was Hebden Bridge, after all, so what else should I have expected? A yoga laughter session upstairs, you say? Strange you should mention that…

Quixotic grouse Fri, 27 Jan 2017 11:17:38 +0000 Richard Carter (Gruts) Photo of a red grouse tilting at a wind turbine. Grouse

A red grouse tilting at a wind turbine on Thursday.

(A bird after my own heart.)

Trump inauguration Fri, 20 Jan 2017 10:05:36 +0000 Richard Carter (Gruts) As usual, the Fall say all that needs to be said. …two words that should never appear in the same sentence.

As usual, the Fall say all that needs to be said:

One day my prints did come! Sat, 14 Jan 2017 17:27:45 +0000 Richard Carter (Notebook – Richard Carter) In which I geek-out over some high-tech print-production apparatus. A year later than originally planned, I’ll be putting on my first photo-exhibition next weekend. Nothing too grand; just a dozen images.

It all started in July 2015, when Jeff from Caught by the River emailed to say he would be visiting Hebden Bridge the following week, and could we meet for a beer? It turned out he’d spotted a passing tweet about my project to photograph the bridges in the local area—Hebden’s non-eponymous Bridges, so to speak. Jeff was amused by the idea and wondered whether I’d like to put on some sort of exhibition as part of a Caught by the River event in Hebden Bridge the following January. Of course I said yes.

Then came the disastrous Boxing Day floods that devastated much of the Calder Valley, and the event was postponed. A couple of months back, Jeff contacted me again to say there was to be a Caught by the River poetry and prose event in Hebden Bridge on 21st January, and would I still like to show some photos? Of course I said yes again.

Then the dithering began. How best to display twelve decent-sized photos at a reasonable price? Getting them framed would be too expensive for such a brief event, and would would mean damaging the venue’s walls to hang them. After faffing about for a couple of weeks, not sure what to do, I eventually hit upon the obvious idea of asking my local photographic printers if they had any suggestions.

Like many other businesses in Hebden Bridge, Print Bureau was badly flooded at the end of 2015, but has now recovered—and, indeed, expanded. They suggested a number of different solutions to my problem, and I quickly identified a winner: my prints would be mounted on a semi-rigid foam backing, then laminated. A cheap, light-weight, and durable solution. I have to admit, I was wary of having my prints laminated, but lamination technology seems to have moved on in leaps and bounds, the matt laminate they use being practically invisible.

I should also admit that I geeked-out over all of Print Bureau’s high-tech print-production apparatus. So much so that I asked Jamie Flear to take some photos as my prints were being processed and mounted:

Print preview
Previewing the prints.
Print roll
The images are printed on a long, continuous roll. (I'm already imagining the panoramas I might produce.)
The prints are mounted on semi-rigid foam.
…and trimmed before being laminated.

I picked up my finished prints last week, and am very pleased with the results:

Prints unwrapped
Unwrapping my prints.
Hebden's Other Bridges
My photo-book ‘Hebden's Other Bridges’ is available to order online.
More info | Buy | Preview
Newsletter No. 3: Peaking too soon Fri, 06 Jan 2017 13:31:51 +0000 Richard Carter (Newsletter – Richard Carter) Patti Smith · when your taste exceeds your talent · Spinosa · giant snowballs · reconciling longitude · two toddlers in a trench coat · opinions that need to be justified · Earth's days lengthen · the universe has 20 times more galaxies than we thought · dinosaur tail preserved in amber · John Berger Rich Text

6 JANUARY 2017


Happy New Year to one and all! Let's hope this year turns out better than last. (Aim low, that's my motto.)

Did you make any New Year's resolutions? Have you broken them yet?

Me? I've decided 2017 is going to be my Year of Getting Stuff Out There. Stuff includes this newsletter, so I seem to have got off to a flying start. I’ve also published my traditional photo-video-slideshow of the year just gone, which includes the following photo (and 96 others):

Robin, Dee Marshes

High on my list of other stuff to get out there early(ish) this year is my book On the Moor. Of which, more, no doubt, in future newsletters.

Some stuff I thought worth sharing:

This time, the recommendations go all the way to eleven…

  1. (Audio, 49 mins) WNPR Connecticut’s Colin McEnroe interviews the always-entertaining Patti Smith.
  2. (Video, 2 mins) David Shiyang Liu’s animation of an inspirational two-minute ad lib by Ira Glass on how, in the early days of your creative endeavours, you shouldn’t be discouraged when your taste exceeds your talent.
  3. Prof. Steven Nadler’s explains why the seventeenth-century Dutch Jewish philosopher Spinosa still matters.
  4. The BBC reports giant snowballs appearing on a beach in Siberia. (I’ll be honest, the thing that most delighted me about this story was that there’s a place named the Gulf of Ob.)
  5. (Video, 8 mins) Episode 97 in the excellent Objectivity history-of-science series explains how the UK and France finally succeeded in reconciling longitude measurements made from the rival Paris- and Greenwich-based meridians (a subject I also cover in my forthcoming book, On the Moor).
  6. Richard Mertens insists (not entirely convincingly) that he is NOT two toddlers in a trench coat.
  7. Philosopher Patrick Stokes argues there are some opinions that need to be justified, if they’re to be treated seriously.
  8. Astronomers have examined nearly 3,000 years of celestial records and concluded that Earth's days lengthen by two milliseconds a century.
  9. Meanwhile, other astronomers have estimated the universe has 20 times more galaxies than we thought.
  10. Like something out of Jurassic Park, palaeontologists have described a dinosaur tail preserved in amber.
  11. Kate Kellaway provides an in-depth article on thought-provoking John Berger, in celebration of his 90th birthday. (Sadly, Berger died a couple of days after I compiled this list of recommendations. Here’s his obituary.)

Shameless plug

I have an article featuring lots of photos in the January 2017 edition of Dalesman magazine. It's about my photo-project and book Hebden's Other Bridges.

Coincidentally, I've also been asked by those nice people at Caught by the River to put on a small exhibition of my bridges photos as part of their forthcoming Hebden Bridge poetry and prose event on 21st January. All the cool kids will be going.

A magazine article, a photo-exhibition, a video slideshow, and a newsletter—all in January. I know I want to get stuff out there, but there’s a danger of peaking too soon!

Feel free to contact me with any feedback. And please forward this newsletter to any friends you think might enjoy it, urging them to make a belated New Year's resolution to subscribe.

Have a fantastic 2017.


Year of Getting Stuff Out There Sun, 01 Jan 2017 16:53:45 +0000 Richard Carter (Notebook – Richard Carter) 2017 is to be my ‘Year of Getting Stuff Out There’. I’ve decided to make 2017 my Year Of Getting Stuff Out There (catchy acronym: YOGSOT).

The words ‘stuff’ and ‘there’ are deliberately vague to allow me some leeway. But I aim to keep publishing my work throughout the year, be it short notebook entries, individual photographs, reviews, newsletters, longer-form articles, or more ambitious projects.

I’ve got off to an uncharacteristically flying start by having a slightly amended form of my Caught by the River article about my ‘Hebden’s Other Bridges’ photo-project published in the January 2017 edition of Dalesman magazine. And I’ve agreed to put on a small exhibition of my bridges photos for a Caught by the River poetry and prose event in Hebden Bridge on 21st January.

High on my list of priorities for this new year will be (finally) to publish my book On the Moor in both ebook, and more traditional dead-tree-book formats. Then I plan to begin work on my next book.

Of course, I fully appreciate that every year needs to be a Year Of Getting Stuff Out There, but we all have to start somewhere.

Watch this space…

2016 in a nutshell Sun, 01 Jan 2017 00:00:58 +0000 Richard Carter (Gruts) My sixth annual video slideshow of the year. So that was 2016. The year we lost Bowie, Prince, and Laughing Len. The year Phil Collins came out of retirement. The year the British public set itself a simple intelligence test and only managed to score 48%. The year a dedicated, hard-working MP was murdered by a xenophobic wanker. The year Farage and Trump laughed in our faces from a fake gold-plated elevator. The year the word ‘expert’ became a term of abuse. The year truth became an outdated concept.

On the plus side, I took some more photos. So here’s my sixth annual video slideshow review of the year:

(Click the arrows bottom-right next to the word Vimeo to view the slideshow in full-screen mode.)

Consistent as ever, as in the previous five years, this year’s slideshow contains 97 photos.

Once again, I composed the ambient pap backing track. It is called Techno Prisoners:

See also:

2016: a year in photos Sun, 01 Jan 2017 00:00:52 +0000 Richard Carter ( My sixth annual video slideshow review of the year.
My sixth annual video slideshow review of the year.

Article source:

For the last few years, at this time of year, I've produced a video slideshow of photos to sum up my year just gone. Here's the 2016 video:

Consistent beyond reproach, as in previous years, this year's slideshow contains 97 photographs.

The background music, Techno Prisoners, is also by Yours Truly. I don't have an ounce of musical ability. Thank goodness for Garageband!

See also: Previous years' video slideshows

Book review: ‘Poetry Notebook’ by Clive James Sat, 31 Dec 2016 18:10:55 +0000 Richard Carter (Reviews – Richard Carter) Sorting the poetic wheat from chaff. To her great amusement during a recent telephone conversation, I explained to my friend Stense how, having finally managed to start appreciating certain poetry in recent years, I had just bought a collection by a poet whose earlier work I had very much enjoyed, only to find it utterly incomprehensible. The following day, Stense spotted Clive James’s Poetry Notebook in a bookshop and bought it for me for Christmas.

What this book made me realise is it’s OK not to enjoy certain poems—even, perhaps, the vast majority of them. And it’s OK to like certain bits of a poem, without necessarily liking the whole thing. James has a useful word to describe particularly good bits in poems: he refers to them as moments. Enjoying poetry is all about discovering such moments.

James is firmly of the opinion that poetry needs to be formally constrained in some way for it to work. It needs metre, or a rhyme-scheme, or something like that—although it’s OK to break these self-imposed constraints from time to time for effect. James is clearly no fan of unconstrained, free-form poetry. I know where he’s coming from. It always felt like a total cheat to me. Poetry Notebook made me realise it was OK to feel that way.

I should confess, I found a couple of the essays in Poetry Notebook hard-going. Most of them were originally written for a poetry journal, so they rightly assume the reader has a better working knowledge of poetry that I do. But the vast majority of the essays were very readable, and made a lot of sense. Having read this book, I know I’ll go about reading poetry in a different way in future. In fact, I think I might start by giving the incomprehensible collection a second chance.

Highly recommended.

29 not out Sat, 24 Dec 2016 19:52:31 +0000 Richard Carter (Gruts) I made my 29th consecutive Christmas Eve ascent of Moel Famau earlier today. I made my 29th consecutive Christmas Eve ascent of Moel Famau earlier today, accompanied by Carolyn, her sprogs, and a great dane named Minnie.

Moel Famau, Christmas Eve 2016

More photos here.

I'm beginning to think I might be in a rut. (As in a groove in the ground; not as in what deer get into.)

See also:

J.A.G. Fri, 23 Dec 2016 17:52:27 +0000 Richard Carter (Gruts) My old headmaster has died.

BBC: John Gwilliam: Wales Grand Slam-winning captain dies at 93
Former Wales Grand Slam-winning captain John Gwilliam - who was part of the last Welsh team to beat New Zealand - has died at the age of 93…
Away from rugby, he served as a tank commander during the Second World War and was headmaster of the independent Birkenhead School from 1963 to 1988…
Gwilliam was described as a physically imposing, religious and austere, and he is remembered at Birkenhead School as a strict disciplinarian.

My old headmaster. Physically imposing, religious, austere, and a strict disciplinarian pretty much nails it.

As a young atheist, I used to disagree with him in Divinity (RE) lessons. He got his own back by making me into a 'monitor'. The difference between a monitor and a prefect was that monitors weren't required to read the lesson in school chapel. In my case, I'm pretty sure he didn't want to take the risk.