Thursday, 28 February 2013

Travel: Helvellyn, The Lake District, Northern England

Helvellyn: A satisfying and rewarding challenge.


Two hillwalkers about to start their ascent of Helvellyn.
Compared to some of the mountains in the world it almost seems a bit inappropriate to describe Helvellyn as a mountain, given that its peak is only 950 metres high.  However, don’t let its comparative lack of height fool you, as Helvellyn nevertheless provides a challenging but satisfying ascent for beginners and experienced hillwalkers alike.

When I made the trek a few years ago I considered myself reasonably fit and yet before very long at all I still found myself having to stop every fifteen minutes or so to catch my breath, so take plenty fluids and be prepared for a day of tough physical exertion.

It’s most definitely worth the effort though, as Helvellyn presents an interesting and varied ascent, and an impressive panoramic view of the Lake District from the peak.  The first few hundred metres are pretty much a regular incline until you get to Red Tarn, a pool containing trout and herring which you pass on the way to Striding Edge, but once you reach Red Tarn this is where things start to get interesting as the climb suddenly become a lot more tricky.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Books: The Hoax by Clifford Irving

The Hoax: An engrossing read which gathers momentum as the hoax develops.

The Hoax by Clifford Irving
The Hoax tells the true story of Clifford Irving, a writer who one day came up with the ambitious idea of writing the authorised biography of Howard Hughes, an eccentric and reclusive American billionaire.  The only problem was that Clifford had never even met Howard and so he and his co-conspirator, Richard Suskind, set about concocting a scam whereby they would write a fictional biography and then attempt to convince McGraw-Hill Publishing House this biography was the real deal.

To convince McGraw-Hill, Clifford originally wrote up three fake letters allegedly from Howard Hughes explaining that Hughes wanted Clifford to write his official biography in order to tell the world the truth about some of the media misconceptions about him.  From there on in the hoax quickly developed until in very little time at all Clifford Irving and Richard Suskind had been given the go ahead and were researching the information they would need to create their ‘autobiography’.

In the very early stages of the hoax it becomes apparent that Clifford is out of his depth and doesn’t really know the ‘dos’ and don’ts’ to follow when you’re trying to trick someone.  In fact on a couple of occasions it’s only really a mixture of luck and the fact that McGraw-Hill desperately wanted it to be true that allowed him to avoid getting found out, but as the scam progresses so Clifford’s deceptive side develops and he gradually begins to become more accomplished in the art of illusion.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Graphic Novel: Cuba: My Revolution

Cuba: My Revolution: A powerful story which takes you to emotional extremes.

Cuba: My Revolution by Inverna Lockpez and Dean Haspiel
Cuba: My Revolution is an affecting account of Sonya, a seventeen year old Cuban girl who dreams of becoming an artist, and who is initially a passionate believer in Fidel Castro and his revolution.  However, as she begins to witness the brutality, oppressiveness and inequality of Fidel’s rule, she gradually becomes more and more disillusioned with the reality of Fidel Castro’s government.

It’s a thought-provoking and affecting story based on actual events in the early life of writer Inverna Lockpez and one which leaves a powerful lasting impression, as well as an appreciation for the freedoms we often take for granted.

The story begins with Cuba full of excitement and enthusiasm for the future, with dreams of justice and equality as Fidel Castro marches into Havana to the triumphant sound of canon salutes.  The nation is in celebration at the removal of former president and dictator, Fulgencio Batista, and when you learn how Batista was violently oppressive of anyone who dared to disagree with him, resorting to torture and censorship, you can understand why Fidel Castro was initially so popular.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Music: Strange Weekend by Porcelain Raft

Strange Weekend: An atmospheric album filled with ideas.

Strange Weekend by Porcelain Raft.
There are some albums where the success of the album is down to the pure and simple brilliance of the songs.  Then there are other albums where the overall creative soundscape is what gives them their inventive genius and makes them stand out from the crowd.

Strange Weekend by Porcelain Raft is an album which has a foot in both camps.  It’s without doubt a very creative collection of music and a refreshingly interesting album to listen to, but whereas with some artistic albums the soundscape covers up for the lack of quality songs, this is far from being the case with Strange Weekend.  Strip away the cool dreamy production and you’re still left with a collection of excellent songs.

Listening to Strange Weekend conjures up words such as floaty, dreamlike or even hypnotic and in fact the names of some of the songs such as Drifting In And Out and Put Me To Sleep suggest that Mauro Remiddi was in that chilled out state of mind when putting lyrics to his musical creations.