Natural sounds

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We’ve just got back from a week’s holiday in North Norfolk (I’ve posted a few photos here). In recent years, we’ve taken to renting a cottage in Blakeney, which is a bit unadventurous, but it has exactly what we need: the sea, huge skies, open spaces, and best of all, quiet. I think quietness is what we both crave most from a holiday destination, and it is the thing which is most difficult to find at home. We’re not looking for silence (that would be creepy — particularly in Norfolk if you’ve watched a lot of MR James adaptations!), but a predominance of natural sounds, particularly bird song.

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De-cluttering

There’s not much that’s as satisfying as a good old clear-out is there? I don’t mean the kind of organised, mindful, zen-like exercise (like the KonMari Method, which has recently become flavour of the month), but the bin-bags-at-the-ready, frenzied-whirlwind of a clear out. The kind where you accumulate a small mountain in your ‘recycle/take to the tip’ pile, and can be occasionally heard to cry out in anguish, “Why did we ever think we needed TWENTY-SEVEN London Tube maps? Do they breed if left unsupervised?” That kind. I had one of those last weekend, and I am now enjoying the space and ordered efficiency of our spare room, before it inevitably succumbs to entropy, and those tube maps start breeding again.

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Weary winter

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It seems that winter has arrived. Suddenly all the colour has drained from the leaves and the sky and everything seems dim and desaturated. The day feels like twilight, but without the magic of that transitional time. This is normal, of course, and normally I don’t mind this time of year. In fact, I usually enjoy the dark and cold, and the opportunity it brings for cosy indoor living, with candles and fairy lights, and mugs of tea.

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Passing the Bechdel Test

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There aren’t many dramas on TV (or films, for that matter) that pass the Bechdel Test, meaning that they feature at least two women, who talk to each other, about something other than a man. There are even fewer dramas with leading women in positions of some power, who are friends with each other as well as colleagues, and talk to each other about all kinds of things. However, Scott & Bailey is one such TV drama, and one that I really enjoy.

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Secret history of our streets

I’m just catching up with a series of documentaries about particular streets in different areas of Scotland, called The Secret History of Our Streets. I didn’t realise until I looked up the website just now that this is actually the second series — the first was on streets in London. Having seen two out of three episodes of the second series, I’m really sorry that I missed the first, because it has been fascinating.

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WWI Photographs

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Since this year is the centenary of the start of the First World War, there have been a number of interesting documentaries on TV about the Great War. One of these was a fascinating programme about the photographs taken by soldiers themselves in the trenches: Hidden Histories: WW1’s Forgotten Photographs. I have been meaning to write about it for quite a while, but it has slightly haunted me, and I have been struggling to find the words to express what I’d like to say about it.

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Warhorses of Letters

I am in awe of fabulously creative writers. I’m talking about Robert Hudson and Marie Phillips — the kind of people who can write a radio comedy series about a love affair conducted by letter between two warhorses, or as they describe it, “A gay, equine, military, epistolary romance for the ages”. Not only have the three series of ‘Warhorses of Letters’ been hilarious, but the very last episode that I listened to last week (and again this morning) was so utterly moving that I was astonished to find myself with big fat tears rolling down my face.

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The workhouse

At the weekend, I caught up with the first part of a documentary about the workhouse: Secrets from the Workhouse. It was made by the same production company as ‘Who Do You Think You Are’, and the element of finding out about the ancestors of celebrities was the same. However, in this programme, they focused on one aspect: people who ended up in the workhouse. It consequently featured a number of different celebrities, each of whose ancestors reflected a different experience of the workhouse.

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On not being social

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When I was young, I used to swim at the local swimming baths. While other people ploughed up and down on the surface of the swimming pool, I revelled in swimming below the surface. I would skim along the bottom of the pool, brushing the ceramic tiles with my fingertips, like an inflated manta ray. I adored being underwater. I loved the booming silence, the all-enveloping embrace of the water, and the fact that everyone else was on the surface and I was in my own little world.

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In your shoes

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I’ve been enjoying a TV programme called the Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England with Dr Ian Mortimer. It’s a history programme about Elizabethan England, obviously, but the conceit is that it is framed as a kind of manual for a time traveller thinking of visiting the period. You can imagine the pitch for the programme (“We want to give people a feel for what it was really like to live in the period…”), and there are some CGI graphics to make it look as if Dr Mortimer is wandering around in some futuristic computer interface.

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