restless peasant: life, changing :


I’ve described before, the serendipitous wandering from point to point of interest that can be so rewarding when you have time to absorb and act upon some of what you can find online. In more recent times, unfortunately, this is less and less likely to happen due to the corporatisation of the world wide web…it was bound to happen of course.

Recognising the same effect, BrainPickings author Maria Popova often points to the power that books have to lead us to discover ideas, other books, art and music, and as far as I’m aware, she is the first person to point out not only the similarity this has to the now ubiquitous hyperlink in the online world, but more specifically to the kind of hyperlinks that used to be better stumbled upon in the earlier times.

Ridiculous, I know, that I am already hankering after the good old days of the internet, days when it was less tainted, more free and fluid and you could frequently happen upon something that was perhaps slightly out of your zone, but that somehow piqued your interest or even intrigued you. These were the magical online hyperlinks that really could be the entrance to a rabbit warren of delights.

In today’s web, you are ever more likely to be trapped in a capsule of intricately targeted, demographically aligned content, largely of your own making. The wild swimming of the past, where I ran into Abbey Ryan’s wonderful paintings, Cabin Porn, Charlie Parr, Caught by the River or The Tuesday Swim is largely not likely to happen any more. You’ve probably noticed this, but maybe thought it’s just you who has lost the knack or energy to surf the web…it isn’t, it’s the filter bubble in action.

All is not lost if you still make the effort to pick up a book however, which brings me back to the start where I mentioned Maria Popova’s observation on the hyperlinks in real texts. These are altogether richer and more diverse than any algorithm is likely to set up for you and can lead you again down those glorious burrows and underground trails of yore (1998). Here’s my most recent yet vividly beautiful experience of this:

I subscribe to the very real print magazine Idler, edited and published by Tom Hodgkinson since 1993 and in a recent newsletter (email) from Tom, he mentioned his own delight in other, old fashioned print magazines. He named a few of these including The Land magazine, which I liked the sound of enough to immediately subscribe to it myself.

The first edition I received was focussed on the land issues surrounding the production and use of fibre for making textiles, cloth and clothing. I discovered a new term and the concept of the Fibreshed and gained many other insights into land issues. Incidentally, the magazine has a vivid and rousing Manifesto that I like a lot.

Anyway, there was an article within my first edition called Foxfire Revisited, describing a monumental DIY magazine project conceived by an Appalachian school teacher called Eliot Wigginton in order to inspire, excite and educate his pupils, many of whom he was in danger of losing due to their boredom with the traditional classroom and old fashioned teaching methods. Monumental, because it grew to become an intensely interesting, as well as an indispensably useful and valuable project. With every storyline sniffed out, thoroughly researched, written, edited and illustrated by the pupils in a fairly rural high school over a long period of time, it worked and lasted through many student cohorts.

You might think that such a project is a fairly easy thing to get going with pupils these days buzzing with technical nous and bristling with iphones, macbooks and seamless internet access, but Foxfire was a project conceived and executed when cutting and pasting meant just that, starting in the mid 1960s.

Foxfire was anthologised from 1972 onwards into an annual book of articles, the depth and usability of which will astound you. There are 12 books in total and they are still in print today.

The school pupils went out into the Appalachian mountains and met people with stories and skills that were even at that time old fashioned. They encountered many isolated homesteads where the inhabitants were living close to self sufficient lifestyles including making or growing just about everything they needed, including clothing, food, tools and houses.

And so it unfolded that having followed all of these real life, non algorithmic hyperlinks, I found myself sitting, during this weird lockdown, in my garden, on a warm, sunny April afternoon enjoying a bottle of Black Sheep Ale, reading instructions on how to build a log cabin, so detailed, entertaining and so well illustrated that I feel confident I could do it myself and would be doing so if I had the logs to hand…one day soon!

Written and illustrated by high school pupils in Georgia, USA, who are, strangely, all older than me, the log cabin article was written in 1969, when I was 4 years old and yet I remained unaware of this wonderful and compelling resource for all of 50 years…thank you Tom H and of course who or what-ever led me to the Idler, but that information is lost in the mists of time!

In Foxfire Book One, a few pages further on from the log cabin article, there’s another on the skills of a mountain chair maker called Lon Reid. The young reporter closes as follows:

“It’s hard to leave at the end of an interview like this one. One is tempted to stay a moment longer, wondering at the fact that here, in December of 1969, men still live as this one does, oblivious to the fact that others are bouncing about the moon.

The Twentieth Century is here, bellowing like a bull; but in quieter coves, families still make do with what they have-or do without.

It’s a big country, ours is.”

I implore you to pick up any half read or long ago finished and forgotten book from your shelf and to start following the hyperlinks. You won’t regret it.

See all posts »

Bitcoin-the future of money?


the future of everything

or digital fad?

The beauty of this book is that the author has a deep understanding of the subject, from experience and is not simply regurgitating to support a particular view. He is very much of the mind that we should do the same if we are at all interested in the subject.

I read this book two years ago whilst on a teaching trip to China. It’s a fascinating read with not only a look into the history of Crypto-currency and a bit of investigative journalism on Bitcoin’s founder, but also some practical advice for those interested in investing in it.

On the back of reading it, I set up a Bitcoin wallet using the instructions given by the author and  intended buying £100 worth of Bitcoin when I returned to the UK in April 2016. Of course I didn’t do that and over time completely forgot how to even access the wallet I set up. Incidentally this is one of the major pitfalls for anyone dabbling in Bitcoin who isn’t terribly tech minded or possibly a bit forgetful. If you lose access to the wallet, you lose everything.

Anyway, if I had bought my £100 worth of Bitcoin back then it would have been a pretty decent investment. The price at that time was around £300 per Bitcoin. Today it is £9889.97!

In the end, this book sparked my interest in what is possibly the bigger story surrounding Bitcoin. It’s just possible that the cryptocurrency aspect is but a trinket in the bigger landscape of The BlockChain. The technology could truly democratise just about any transaction you care to think of from buying your groceries to voting for a new Government. Or even, dare I say, help citizens to re-take power over politicians and make community centric decisions that work for the good of all and not just the few.

Of course as soon as that kind of power is unleashed then the few will sit up, take interest and buy their way to the front of the queue again and then we’ll be looking for the next big thing to help over-come that.

Dominic Frisby also has views and some great ideas on that. He has also written Life After the State

Learn About Bitcoin

As it is a potential playing field leveller, I got interested enough in Bitcoin and the Blockchain to write quite a long article on the subject a while back…here it is

See all posts »

Homage to Catalonia

my adolescent

fascination with Spain’s War

debunked, clarified?

I waited a long time to get round to this. I read Homage to Catalonia as an audio book and was hooked on it for a few days in the car, driving around my homeland of Scotland.

I’ve always loved Spain and the Spaniards. I’ve visited many times and always found that they “don’t mention the war” with good reason. Neighbours betrayed neighbours and brothers betrayed brothers in the some of the worst exhibits of what it means to be human.

Orwell, like many young, British Socialist women and men jumped aboard trains and ships to lend a hand to the goodies, those opposing Franco. Unfortunately, like in almost all Civil Wars, the lines weren’t quite so clearly drawn for them when they arrived.

Orwell served in the  POUM, the Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification, but it soon became clear that it wasn’t a straight up White Hats versus Black Hats affair. And for comparison we can look at almost any Civil War down the centuries. It becomes every man for himself and any dream that they are, just wars, turns out to be exactly that, a dream. Dreams cynically manipulated and marketed by, yes you guessed it, the rich and privileged who don’t of course appear on the front lines.

For direct comparison you can look at Culloden & Bannockburn (neither of them just Scotland against England as they are commonly portrayed), the American Civil War et al…always serving the 1%. Sides and affiliations changing by the hour as they jostle to see where the most financial benefit and power lies.

There are many other good books about the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath…some suggested below, but Orwell’s classic is best at relaying from first hand experience, the utter futility of war and the cynicism and heartlessness of the power hungry.

The aftershocks are still being felt today. The Catalan people still fight for their Independence and most recently the politics of the Jack Boot has reared its very ugly head as democracy is denied to those who aren’t equal enough among equals!

Spain, the Spaniards, Catalonia and the Catalans remain beautiful and welcoming.

See all posts »

24 Assets

24 Assets

Build them and your freedom is

ensured forever


I’ve rabbited on about Assets forever on here and this book, 24 Assets, brings a great deal of real, solid perspective to that argument.

Those who seek freedom from the 9-5, the Rat Race/ Hamster Wheel of Doom or whatever you call it would do well to copy the landed gentry, aristocrats and political fat cats in terms of amassing assets.

This book gets right down to defining what those assets might be in relation to your own business or freedom project.

Assets stay with you and generate cash and you can make them right out of thin air if you so wish. There’s never been a better time in history to do just that.

See all posts »

Out of Town

As a boy I got hooked on Out of Town, that unique TV program conceived and presented by the late Jack Hargreaves. I was into fishing of course, but Jack gave me a fascination for the deeper beauty of the countryside I fished in and an appreciation for those who worked and lived in it.

The allure of Out of Town is hard to explain in words, you’d need to see it to appreciate it fully. As an explanation it’s probably sufficient to say that in the days of only 3 TV stations, no means of saving broadcasts for later viewing and sketchy programming information in the newspapers, I snatched my fix of Out of Town whenever I could. When I had newly started Secondary School in the late 1970’s, I remember skipping school to go home or to my sisters house to watch Jack for half an hour. Strange to think that Out of Town was already on air 6 years before I was born and continued beyond my school years.

Unfortunately, due to the way it was made, very little of over 1000 episodes remain intact and able to be broadcast. You can pick up around 30 episodes on DVD and you might find the odd upload on youtube.

I’ve read all of Jack’s books and most recently his Biography (Jack Hargreaves, a portrait) written by Paul Peacock, which gives a bit more of an insight into a complex character.

On his blog Democracy Street, Jack Hargreaves’ step son Simon Baddeley describes the difficulty in reviving Out of Town for a new audience despite having ownership of most of the old film and sound reels. Jack’s way of making compelling TV seems to have been invigorating and very much in the spirit of Kitchen Table manufacturing.

Paul Peacock’s Biography helpfully lists the subject material of all of the films shown throughout the long run Out of Town enjoyed, so just for mischief I will put up an occasional blog based on one of these titles. That’s of course if I can find any footage worth sharing of these mostly lost country pursuits, pastimes and professions around the real and virtual countryside.

See all posts »

Fingers in the Sparkle Jar


50 years of confusion

made good and explained


Chris Packham’s, Fingers in the Sparkle Jar has helped me enormously to get my head around, well, me really.

I didn’t recognise the signs of Aspergers in myself until last year at the age of 52! Since learning that I have asd, I have been able to look back at my countless failures, embarrassments and howling fuck ups from my childhood, right up to the present day, all of which are vivid and word perfectly remembered of course,  and regurgitated regularly for my embarrassment and dismay.

Now with this new knowledge and the encouragement this book has given me, my piss poor decisions, U turns, disastrous relationships and friend seeking, my days of constant sorrow when trying to be around and amongst other, normal (average) humans are understood.

Whenever I feel the gut wrenching pangs associated with any one of thousands of painful experiences and rejections, I can re-examine them if I want, through the Asperger Window and that is a great comfort and (swallows hard before using annoying Americanism) brings closure to previously open ended pain pits.

My whole life to date now makes sense and I can suavely swan about like a rich flaneur of old, being as aloof, arrogant and unapproachable as fuck; looking forward to my time as a lonely old man…Yes I’ve been appraised of all of the aforementioned at one time or another by well meaning normal (average) people.

I recommend Mr Packham’s book to anyone who feels they don’t fit in. You might learn something you arrogant so and so!

See all posts »

Subscribe: rss | email | twitter | +