Archive for December, 2010

Puffin Books

December 28, 2010 1 comment

Following on from my previous posts on Pelicans and Penguins, I felt it was time for one on Puffins, the junior member of the publishing family, but this time as something more than just a simple gallery.

I recently got Phil Baines’s “Puffin by Design” an excellent illustrated history of the publishing company, and sister volume to his previous (and also excellent) “Penguin by Design”.

I like both of these books very much, as they are very well researched and offer a comprehensive and balanced overview of the titles and design styles which made both editions justly recognised the world over. There is in my view however, an obvious omission from Puffin by Design, which surprises me and has prompted this post.

As a child growing up in the 1970’s, my siblings and I were bought many Puffin titles, and as these books formed such a large part of my childhood reading, have always held a special place in my memories.

I was slightly disappointed then, when reading through Puffin by Design, to find that most of the nearly 60 titles that we still have, were not mentioned in Mr Baines’s book. A large number of these books were collections of short stories or poetry which we got as part of Boxed Sets, and to which I can find no reference in Phil Baines’s book.

The Box sets that we have generally date from the early to mid 1970’s and contain a variety of titles, all of which were previously available separately and most for the princely sum of 20p!

Three of my favourites are shown to the right: The Puffin Box of Bears, The Puffin Storytime Box and Ten Minute Tales.

Ten Minute Tales contained 6 books, all of which have been read many times over (especially the Ted Hughes one) and all of which have beautifully illustrated covers by artists including Prudence Seward, Shirley Hughes and George Adamson, who also provide black and white line drawings within the book itself.

So whilst I accept that with a company as prolific as Puffin, and with an audience as nit-picky as me, it was always going to be difficult to cover every aspect of the Puffin legacy, I do think it’s a shame that very little reference is made to the period in the early to mid Seventies which I remember so fondly, and which to me epitomises Puffin Books.

Some of my other favourite Puffin covers can be found here


2010: A year to remember

December 24, 2010 Leave a comment

Well it’s been an interesting year and no mistake. We started it in Australia on the Great Ocean Road and we’re finishing it at home in good old London.

In no particular order, here are twelve things that stand out for me: 9 good, 2 disappointing and 1 bad…


1. Being 2 meters away from wild Orang Utans in Sumatra, Indonesia

2. Almost everything about Laos, but especially Luang Prabang and learning to be Mahoots (elephant riders) for a day

3. Hong Kong: big, busy, exciting and I wish we could have stayed longer.

4. My lovely girlfriend, without whom, none of this would mean anything

5. A weekend spent in Krakow, Southern Poland at a friend’s wedding

6. Starting this blog as something to keep my mind occupied whilst unemployed, but soon realising how much I enjoy writing it up every couple of days

7. The Big Chill – our eighth visit to this wonderous weekend in the country

8. Working for an old friend of mine and realising that small companies are so much more enjoyable than big ones

9. John Digweed at Fabric last week. Truly an awesome experience (more than making up for the huge disappointment that was Bedrock 12 at Brixton)


10. Having our bikes stolen from outside our flat: I loved that Trek. (The replacement Specialized is pretty good though I have to admit)

11. Kruder & Dorfmeister @ the Roundhouse – no idea why it didn’t work for me, as their similar set at the Big Chill was a real highlight. It all just seemed a bit too Karaoke in Camden (those two novelty rapper idiots didn’t help, rhyming “K&D” with the Beatles “Let it Be” was aways going to be a sh*t idea)


12. Not realising that after 9 months travelling, our final flight home from Shanghai had been moved forward by two hours – resulting in a VERY stressful time at the airport trying to arrange an alternative (and ultimately very expensive) way home. Not the way to end a long trip.

Look forward to telling you about more stuff I like next year…

Joe Bloggs

The Tao of Pooh

December 24, 2010 Leave a comment

When I was young I was a huge fan of Winnie the Pooh, the series of short stories about a group of animals living in 100 Acre Wood, written by AA Milne for his son, back in the 1920’s.

When I was at university, I discovered a book published in 1982 by Benjamin Hoff that assessed the various characters in the books and suggested that they bore more than a passing resemblance to the ancient Chinese principles of Taoism, a theology that emphasises being who you are, learning from whatever life throws at you and going with the flow rather than fighting against it.

Benjamin Hoff notes that one of the basic principles of Taoism is Pu, or the Uncarved Block, the essence of which is that things in their original state contain their own natural power, power that can easily be lost when that simplicity is challenged, and Pooh, he says not only sounds like, but embodies the epitome of Pu

Each of the characters in the stories reflects a distinct aspect of human nature:

Pooh is famously a bear of little brain, but doesn’t let this worry him. He is easy going and gentle, living from one moment to the next, never worrying about things and allowing them to work themselves out: Piglet is a nervous little animal who worries about everything; Rabbit is brash with a misplaced confidence, Owl represents the wise, academic type, Tigger bounces with endless enthusiasm through everyone else’s adventures and Kanga, the sensible, organised figure works away tirelessly and selflessly in the background. And finally the wonderful Eeyore, the moany old donkey who always assumes that if it can go wrong, it will do…

Hoff wrote a companion volume 10 years later, called the Te of Piglet and I was always impressed by how well in both of these excellent books, EH Shepard’s illustrations seemed to effortlessly explain the ideas Hoff put forward, that people should try to be satisfied with who they are, respond to other people as they find them and treat them with respect. Try reading the books, if you have even the vaguest interest in either people or Winnie the Pooh, I am sure you will enjoy it.

In case you were interested, I have always thought of myself as a Pooh type, laid back, easy going and enthusiastic, an approach that has always worked well for me.

HTC Desire….

December 21, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ve been a bit slow getting on the smart phone bandwagon, but now that my new Android enabled Desire has arrived, I’m totally converted.

It is a thing of beauty. I absolutely love it and can’t help but wonder why I ever took so long to get one:  screen pinching, Spotify, Angry Birds, desk top links to my favourite things (including this blog), BBC iplayer, google maps and a daily update from The Guardian.. endless fun.

Oh and you can phone your friends on it as well…


Mid Century Menagerie

December 18, 2010 Leave a comment

I realised whilst tidying up the other day, that we seem to have a number of animals from the middle of last century… here are just four of them……

First up is this beautiful green plastic elephant. Designed by Luigi Colani for the German Bank Dresdners in the 1960s, these money boxes are something of a design icon, and are becoming increasingly sort after.

Originally made in several sizes (ours is a large one I think) in green, yellow and orange plastic, these “Drumbo’s” were given out to kids who opened savings accounts in the 1960’s and 70’s throughout Germany.

Next up is this ceramic bull who was created by the Celtic Studios,  near Penzance and also dates from the 1960’s. He was designed by Bill and Maggie Fisher and is part of what’s known as the “Folk” Range.

He’s a strange thing, a mix of soft rounded pottery curves, decorated with spiky black shapes and orange sploshes..  we like him though, or maybe its a she with those big eye lashes.

Next we have one of our two wonderful glass fishes. This is the smaller of the two and may or may not have been made in the 1950’s by the Italian glass blowing studios at Murano, near Venice.

These once derided ornaments were made in their 100’s of thousands throughout the 1950’s and 60’s and the interweb is full of “is it Murano, or isn’t it Murano”. Quite frankly I couldn’t give two figs. The fish shown here is full of beautiful swirling colours and is in perfect health… and that’s more than enough for us.

And last but not least we have this glass paperweight owl.

I’m afraid I know very little about this tactile and surprisingly heavy object. A quick look through Google images suggests that he might have been made by either Wedgwood in the 1970’s or Langham’s Glass in the 1980’s.

Either way, he sits proudly on the window cill keeping a watchful eye on all his friends….

Le Corbusier’s Modulor Man

December 12, 2010 4 comments

In the early 1990’s I went on a three week architectural driving tour of France and Northern Spain with two friends. The focus of the trip was visiting buildings by Le Corbusier and we managed to visit Ronchamp, La Tourette and the Unité d’Habitation in Marseille.

Whilst at the Unité, I took a photo of one of my friends standing against the Modulor man cast into the entrance area of the building. Sadly this photo appears to be lost to time, so I’ve taken the liberty of borrowing one from a rather fine set of images on Flickr and you’ll have to imagine Paul standing with his left arm in the air in the middle of this photo…

The Modulor was a system of  proportional measurement  devised and developed by Le Corbusier throughout the 1940’s.

His intention was to create (as summarised by Einstein) “a scale of proportions which makes the bad difficult and the good easy”. By combining a number of seemingly incompatible systems: the Imperial and Metric systems, the Fibonacci Series and the Golden Section to name but a few, Le Corbusier hoped that his system would one day be used to standardise all aspects of construction throughout Europe, and possibly worldwide. He had patented the concept and was looking forward to huge financial reward.

At the Unité in Marseille, the plan, section and elevations, the roof, the supporting columns and the plans and sections of the apartments, are all carefully governed by these measurements, as is the furniture design and setting out of the interiors.

However, whilst the Unité buildings do indeed look amazing in the bright sunlighht of Southern France, a quick scan of the drawing to the right (showing the blue and red series of measurements) seems to suggest that there were a huge number of options available to choose from, and so getting all these various elements to appear harmonious was probably not that hard….

In the end, the system never caught on and has largely disappeared into the dusty oeuvre of Corbusier’s books and buildings.

Personally I think this may have something to do with the appearance of the Modulor Man himself. Le Corbusier said that his starting point had been the height of a six foot English man standing with his arm raised, because in English detective novels, the good looking men are always six feet tall.

Well I am both English and six feet tall (you would have to ask others bout being good looking) but either way, I would be very disappointed if I made this silhouette on a concrete wall….


December 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Over the last few days on my way into work, and since the snow has melted, I’ve noticed a number of solitary gloves that have been lost or abandoned and consequently left to fend for themselves.

It strikes me that there is nothing quite as forlorn as a lost glove. Unless the original owner goes looking for it, the chances of anyone picking it up are very slim, as passersby generally have no interest in an old, usually dirty glove.

Conversely however the loss of the glove is often felt strongly by the owner, as a single glove is no use to anyone and a new pair will have to be bought, which means shopping and choosing etc. (I am man remember)

Whether I will continue to photograph lost gloves as the winter progresses is a question I think I need to consider very carefully..

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