Reading the Vertigo John Constantine, Hellblazer series this evening. Very much of it’s time (late 1980s) and engaging. There’s 300 issues in this run!

Watched – and enjoyed – the Nick Broomfield Arena documentary about the life of Brian Jones. So much about Jones I didn’t know and now realise what a complex person he was.

Unusually bleak commentary on the current state of behaviour in schools by head of ASCL, Geoff Barton. Many school leaders are reporting a core of very challenging students in schools. Barton offers suggestions about the causes but states that “the truth is that we just don’t know”.

Polarisation in teaching in UK schools no better demonstrated than the “discussion” between Tom Rogers and Phil Beadle.

Reading The Fellowship of the Ring and realising how much I’d forgotten (and how my memory of it has been shaped by the Jackson movies).

Missed this piece in The Guardian yesterday by David Robson about the physical and mental health benefits of writing.

Rather than Labour’s “Report Card” for UK schools, I wonder whether looking for approaches outside of the models aping big business would provide a solution.

Seems like Johnson’s vile “I am the führer” exclamation as PM reported over the weekend is being completely ignored.

Older Microposts HERE

Dance of the Dawn

Chance found me listening to the first track on Yes’ 1973 album, Tales from Topographic Oceans and realising that it was a song from my childhood that I’d been trying to find for a great deal of my adult life. The Revealing Science of God: Dance of the Dawn. The album was one that my mum had at home and I would listen to mesmerised by the eerie opening of the song. For a while I’d confused it with another album of my mum’s, Argus by Wishbone Ash. Things like this are windows into my past.

Here We Are

Impressed and enjoying the first season of HBO’s Perry Mason. Almost at the end of The Two Towers. Have been reading a great deal about the development of the Romance and Spenser’s Fairie Queene. Started Adrian Tchaicovsky’s Shards of Earth. Not reading many comics at the moment other than recent X-Men. Listening to: Van der Graaf Generator (first time ever) and Metallica’s 72 Seasons (better with each listen). Someone said that they felt unstuck in time today and I found myself agreeing.

Reading Memories

I’m almost finished reading The Fellowship of the Ring. Alongside the novel, I’m listening to Phil Dragash’s soundscape recording which I highly recommend. The novel has encouraged lots of memories of the copy of Fellowship I read when I was eleven and took with me to school. It was a large hardback copy without a dust jacket. I remember my puzzlement with the Tom Bombadil and Barrow-Wights chapters which hadn’t appeared in the Bakshi animated movie I adored (there was once a massive falling-out between my friends and me over whether we should go to the cinema to see Buck Rogers or LotR). I can visualise where I sat in the sunny Summer classroom reading after lunchtime. All those years ago.

Found This, Out

Found this when out. It’s an old sign that’s been quite violently shredded by a vandal.

72 Seasons

Have to say that I’m enjoying the new Metallica album, 72 Seasons, a great deal. Metallica are a dangerous band for me musically as they encourage me to listen to thrashy, heavy metal at a time in my life where my inclination is far more still, gentle music or catching up with interesting stuff I really should have listened to earlier in life (said looking at the Throbbing Gristle playlist I’m putting together). Anyhow, I’ve spent this evening listening to the new album then revisiting past albums. For a band producing metal for 40+ years they are sounding magnificent.

This is LotR

My later primary school days were dominated by LotR and I was given this poster by one of my mum’s friends who had glued it to a poster-sized piece of heavy wood. It remained propped up in my bedroom through my teenage years. It’s by Jimmy Caulty who drew it at the age of seventeen in 1976! (More details.) As much as I liked the Ralph Bakshi animated adaptation, it’s the styling – and tone particularly – that influenced how I visualised Tolkien’s world (those pale, forlorn characters, the pointed mountains and castles, the weariness and fragility of it all). The Jackson movies never quite managed to evoke the weirdness of Middle Earth in quite the same way.

Older Microblog entries HERE

UK Grim

But what’s gone on, what can I see? You’re all getting mugged by the aristocracy But what’s gone on, what can I see? You’re all getting mugged by the right wing beast. I had a long car journey today which gave me the chance to listen to UK Grim, Sleaford...


After nearly 15 years on Twitter, I’m gone. I’ve never used it that much anyway and was always more of a lurker than active antagonist on the platform. I followed a small number of people, mostly from education, writing and comics. I didn’t post very much. When I added something...

Medway Fifties SF Club

Just discovered that a group of SF enthusiasts formed the Medway Science and Fantasy Club in the early 1950s with a bookshop in Gillingham, a fanzine and even hosted its own convention, Medcon. Ron Hansen maintains incredibly interesting pages documenting the history of the group and the FANAC Fan History Project hosts pdfs of their fanzine, The Medway Journal. The photos of the group are really of a more innocent age.

The Best-Kept Secret

Being an easy pushover for a good UFO book (something I’ve not shaken since my childhood), I’ve just read Jacques Vallée’s and Paola Harris’ Trinity: The Best-Kept Secret. It’s an account of a hitherto unknown UFO crash in San Antonio in 1945 very close to Ground Zero where the Manhattan Project had tested the first atomic bomb just days before. In reality, other than the testimony of old men who saw the crash as small children and a piece of aluminium, there’s not a great deal of physical evidence. Nevertheless Vallée and Harris link the first wave of UFO phenomena with the use of nuclear weapons and with the 1964 Zamora close encounter in nearby Socorro and the similar 1965 Valensole, France close encounter. Vallée’s approach is open-minded and investigative and he is as interested in the psychic effect of anomalous incidents as their physical. Though it’s never entirely clear what Vallée believes, he seems to interpret the UFO phenomena as a form of communication or signal to influence human society.

Goodbye, Things

Just read Goodbye, Things by Fumio Sasaki which advocates an extreme form of extreme ascetic minimalism. Fumio argues that through discarding material possessions other than those that are absolutely essential is the path to happiness. I can’t disagree with most of Sasaki’s advice but feel that it’s aimed at much younger adults without families. He’s clear about a need to shift priorities. For example: “There’s no point in putting up with a terrible job or working yourself to death just to maintain your standard of living. By having less and lowering your minimum living costs, you can go anywhere you want. Minimalism can really be liberating.

UK Grim

But what’s gone on, what can I see?
You’re all getting mugged by the aristocracy
But what’s gone on, what can I see?
You’re all getting mugged by the right wing beast.

I had a long car journey today which gave me the chance to listen to UK Grim, Sleaford Mods’ new release. Aside from the bleak portrait it paints of Britain, it’s wretchedly – absurdly – funny. The Mods’ appear to have both personal and political hypocrisy in their sights. Andrew Fearn’s synths seem to me to be the soundtrack to the days we are living through here in the UK. (Oh, and without any sense of irony, The Daily Telegraph made UK Grim album of the week with a perfect score!)

Whither the Woes of Winter?

On our walk today we notice the first signs of Spring: the early flowerings, the reddish tips of bushes regrowing after being cut back. It’s still cold, though. My hands are still sore from not wearing gloves. It’s an age thing.

Star Wars-level dismemberment

Alas, Luigi seems to suffer Skywalker degrees of injury in our house lately. He’s been glued several times. He always has that complex shocked-but-resigned-to-suffer expression.



After nearly 15 years on Twitter, I’m gone. I’ve never used it that much anyway and was always more of a lurker than active antagonist on the platform. I followed a small number of people, mostly from education, writing and comics. I didn’t post very much. When I added something...

Gillen’s A.X.E.

Find myself agreeing with Chad Nevitt’s fierce admiration for Kieron Gillen’s coordination of Marvel’s A.X.E. event: “I was stunned by the complexity of the narrative he is telling. It is absolutely stunning to see the various threads weave in and out of different comics, pulling together all of these characters....

60 Years Ago Today: Love Me Do by The Beatles

Someone to love. Somebody new. Someone to love. Someone like you. Time plays odd tricks. It’s 60 years ago that The Beatles released Love Me Do on 5th October 1962. The opening harmonica hook remains haunting and evokes the grainy black and white early Sixties. Melancholic images of fog on...

October comes with rain whipping around the ankles / In waves of white at night

Autumn is definitely here. Not the lingering, warm Autumn of early September, but the damp, wet Autumn that points with trembling finger towards Hallowe’en and the first chill winds of Winter. For me, September has been one of reading tales by Algernon Blackwood that seem to anticipate this change of...

Indicators of an Effective Teacher?

Digging through one of my boxes of stuff, I found this copy of Elizabeth Perrott’s 1982 Effective Teaching, a book I’d bought and intended to read but had put away for the future. It’s a weirdly prescient book: outling many of the approaches to teaching that are currently being promoted...

Fantastic Four No.1 Panel by Panel

Comparing Panel by Panel with Maximum FF suggests the change in the way that the November 1961 first issue of Fantastic Four seems to be viewed (at least by Marvel). In 2005, Walter Mosley’s presentation of the issue is as an art object: something that “crystallized an art form that...

Black Beth and the Devils of Al-Kadesh

Very glad I found this in W.H. Smiths. Written by Alec Worley with art by Dani, Black Beth is the revival by Rebellion of an obscure British comic originally created in the 1970s (but unused at the time) with one published story appearing in the Scream! Holiday Special in 1988....

Maintaining a #digitalgarden

Since the mid-1990s, I’ve maintained a personal web site of some sort. Originally my sites were constructed using Frontpage and Dreamweaver, then I used Blogger for a period until around 2010 when I moved over to keeping self-hosted WordPress sites. There was a period when I used it as a...

Robert Aickman’s Introduction to The 5th Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories (1969)

Aickman’s fifth introduction is brief. He summarises his previous views: that ghost stories are separate from both horror and SF and that its “true affinity” is with poetry as it is “a projection and symbolisation of thoughts and feelings” that are excluded from usual written discourse. Ghost stories, he believes,...

Then we danced the dance ’til the menace got out

Positively pleased with my new Synology DS220+ NAS. Last week, part of my old NAS, a WD My Book Live, was remotely wiped. WD’s solution is to tell users to disconnect until they investigated the issue. It was clearly too late for me and I was worried that the other...

Talk for Learning

Notes from A Dialogic Teaching Companion by Robin Alexander (2020). Chapter 2 – Talk for Learning In this chapter, Alexander explores the relationship between talk and the development of a child. He examines the shift in the 1970s between the child as “lone scientist” to “apprentice”. The persistence of recitation...

Prologue to A Dialogic Teaching Companion

Notes from A Dialogic Teaching Companion by Robin Alexander (2020) Chapter 1 – Prologue In the Prologue, Robin Alexander gives a case for teaching talk as an essential tool in teaching and learning. He describes the positive value of dialogic teaching and asserts that there is a strong evidence base...

Robert Aickman’s Introduction to The 4th Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories (1967)

Aickman leads his fourth introduction to the Fontana Ghost Stories collection with a renewed attack on modern rationalism: “science will end the world,” he asserts. He goes on: “Even if there is no big bang, we shall destroy the world in no time, if we go on as we are....

“build a ladder of opportunity so that the able can get ahead”

Provocative New Statesman article by Adrian Wooldridge which insists that the key to the “reinvention” of the Labour Party is by going back to basics – appealing to the “new working class that is growing alongside the old one” – and reinstating a belief in meritocracy, “the belief that individuals...

To Coalition and Beyond: Back to the Future?

Notes from English and Its Teachers by Simon Gibbons (2017) In Chapter 6, Simon Gibbons brings the book up to date (to 2017 which – after Covid 19 and the lockdowns – seems an age ago). He presets a largely bleak and somewhat dispiriting picture of current English teaching in schools...

Writing Wrongs, TES

Great article in this week’s TES about the teaching of writing. Liz Chamberlain (Open University) and Rob Drane (English subject lead at the University of Cambridge) argue that writing is being taught in primary schools causes “a disconnect between how we view writing in the real world, and how writing...

New Labour, New Policies

Notes from English and Its Teachers by Simon Gibbons (2017) In Chapter 5, Gibbons focuses on New Labour’s impact on English. The Labour government sought to tackle the underachievement of poorer children. This was when I started teaching and remember all too well the exhausting period of the National Strategies....

“Honestly, I think I would know if there were aliens”

It’s a long time since I’ve read anything interesting about UFOs, but this article for NBC by Rizwan Virk, founder of Play Labs at MIT, seems to indicate that – while the area of ufology is generally mocked by scientists and big tech – there’s obviously something significant happening. Virk...

Denial and Delusion of the Thatcher Years

As someone who grew up in Thatcher’s Britain, it’s hard not to see the parallels between how fragmented and bleak things seem now and how it was back then. I’m not the only one. Very good piece by Guardian columnist John Harris who notes how the visible decline of Britain...

Some Thoughts About Caitlin R Kiernan’s Black Helicopters

Professor Zeh sits in his office in Heidelberg. It’s 1969. Rain falls outside and Zeh’s office window is nothing but a dark grey rectangle. He’s smudged the ink in his notebook, jotting down a thought about Bohr’s interpretation of measurement he had while staring at his reflection in a mirror...