Sunday, 31 August 2014

And ... we're back! And off to a flying (st)art!

Hello you, whoever you may be. I have no idea who reads this blog as no one leaves comments - I'm told that the blog is dead in the wake of such things as Whatsapp, Vine, Storify and Snapchat. But I'm sticking with it, if only to create a searchable archive of stuff I like that doesn't clog up my hard drives!

Well, I've been away for two months and have done a considerable amount of work on the two books. I've also been Edinburgh and done something of a live show thingy. All great fun. But now ... back to the bloggy arty, weirdy, sciency stuff.

I start with the wonderfully original art of mother and daughter team of Mica Angela Hendricks and her 4 year old Myla. Professional artist Mica likes to draw people but didn't always approve of Myla getting into her sketchbooks. But then, one day, she thought ... 'Why not? What if I draw the heads and let Myla do the bodies?' The results, once coloured in my Mum, are brilliant! Look!

The result of this fairly unique collaboration is a collection of pictures quite different to anything I've ever seen before. I have been known to colour in one of my children's, and later grandchildren's drawings, thus:

I've also experimented with adding my own drawing to children's drawings - I did an abortive children's book a few years ago that no publisher was interested in about a land where scribble people live. Here's an example:

But anyhoo ... back to the wonderful work of the Hendricks family ...

Wonderful stuff. If you'd like to see ore, do visit Mica's blog at Busy Mockingbird.

My thanks to Chrissi Hernandez for bringing it to my attention. :)

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Absent but not for long

My hugest apologies for the lack of activity on my blog of late. There are mitigating circumstances, I promise.

Firstly, there was the little matter of helping to research and write the 16 shows that make up Series L of QI. And bear in mind that what you'll see in the Autumn is a mere 25% of what we had to write as each show is recorded for two hours. Only 30 minutes (or 40 for the XL editions) make the cut for each show.

Then there were the six episodes of Series 7 of The Museum of Curiosity. They had to be thoroughly researched and written too. And, just like QI, out of each two hour show only 30 mins of material will be used when they are broadcast on Radio 4, again in the Autumn.

And then, of course, there's the work I'm doing for the brilliant Dr Sue Black's book Saving Bletchley Park. That's involved me reading just about every book I can find on the subject and interviewing veterans so that what I write supports and complements Sue's text.

I've also been doing some commercial illustration jobs, a talk here or there, and even found time to occasionally be part of the Colgan family.

And then there's the new book. I've finally got around to writing the book I've been wanting to write for eight years or so. It's called Why did the Policeman cross the Road? and, if you're one of the thousands who saw my The Skeptical Bobby talk last year, you'll know what it's about; how policing can be better. I'm publishing it with Unbound, like I did with Constable Colgan's Connectoscope.

Do go and watch the video, read my description of the book and the sample chapter. Then if you reckon it might be something you like, pledge an amount and help make it happen :)

Click here:

Why did the Policeman cross the Road?

As for this blog ... I'll be back soon. But a 120,000 word book doesn't write itself!

Monday, 23 June 2014

Some stories you might have missed - June edition

33 amazingly useful websites you probably didn't know existed

Simulate the creative environment of a coffee house with Coffitivity

Dinosaur feathers discovered in amber

Casting Call Woe - Bloody hilarious. And also a bit tragic.

It's a plastic world - Fascinating video. And, while we're on the subject, Our plastic waste is changing the geology of the Earth's rocks.

Andrew Shears' excellent blog on the United States that could've been - all the states proposed that didn't happen

And, last but not least ...

Vintage Chocolate Bar Wrappers. How many do you remember?

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Bletchley Rocks!

I spent a fantastic day today at Bletchley Park; home of Station X - the code-breaking hothouse that shortened the war by at least two years - and the birthplace of modern computing. I was there at the invite of my good friend Dr Sue Black whose tireless campaign to save the place from falling into disrepair and ruin has finally borne fruit. Today was the official opening of the new visitor centre and, to mark the occasion, Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, was in attendance to perform the grand opening and to plant a new tree in the park. The day also marked the end of Phase 1 of the project to save and restore the site.

You may be wondering what my involvement is in this business. I'll explain. Sue has nearly finished writing a book called Saving Bletchley Park (see here). It's a blow by blow account of how the campaign began, who the major players were, and how the money was raised. However, the campaign needed to be set against a historical perspective; to tell the story not only of how it was saved but why it had to be saved. So Sue asked me to research and write this part of the book with her and, as this day marked the completion of the first phase of reconstruction, a description of the day would make a perfect wrap to Sue's story. So I came along, camera in hand, to talk to some of the key players in the campaign and to get some nice 'after' shots to go alongside Sue's 'before' shots of what Bletchley Park looked like when she started the campaign five years ago.

I'm not going to write much more as there's very little more I can say. It was wonderful to walk around the grounds, to chat to veterans and trustees and to see how wonderfully and sensitively they've restored several of the code-breakers' huts.

I should explain that this isn't some Disney-esque theme park attraction; everything has been done as authentically as possible even down to the half-full ashtrays and grime around the light switches. The huts look as if the staff have simply stepped outside for a break and left the place feeling a little like the Marie Celeste. To see the dingy, narrow corridors, the gas masks and scarves hanging on coat-hooks, the rolled-up maps, and the chalkboards scribbled over with arcane codes is to get a sense of what life was really like during the War. Even in Alan Turing's office, with its iconic tin mug chained to the radiator, it feels like the great man is somehow still in residence.

Lunch on the lawn was a splendid affair and also an opportunity for me to chat to the great and the good including the ex-head of the Royal Navy, Baron West of Spithead (who once appeared on an episode of The Museum of Curiosity) and General Sir Michael Rose, ex-head of the SAS. And, of course, I must mention the Duchess of Cambridge who stoically stood smiling through all of the sandwiches and speeches before performing her royal duties.


What's happened at Bletchley Park is testament to Sue and the others who have run this campaign. It's proof that the ordinary man or woman - no disrespect intended - can make a huge difference ... just as the thousands of ordinary people at Bletchley Park did during WW2, despite knowing that no one would ever learn about the extraordinary work they did for a least four decades.

All photos (c) Stevyn Colgan and may only be reproduced with permission

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Cameo, Cammeeeeee O. Cameo, Cammeeeeeee O.

I love the sheer inventiveness of Judith G Klausner's art. I also love the fact that it's made from stuff I like to eat like biscuits and gummi bears. Food and art. That's pretty much my whole world.

There are Oreo Cookie cameos...

Gummi bear stained glass panels ...

Embroidered eggs and mould ...

Condiment wallpaper (no, really - it's printed with sauces and quite lickable) ...

... and so much more.

Do visit her site here.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Star Wars WTF?

The city of Wolfsburg—in Germany—is currently hosting what may be the worst Star Wars exhibition ever.

A few years ago I went to see the proper Star Wars exhibition at County Hall in London (see here) and it was pretty damned cool. But this one in Germany - which costs around £8 to get into - looks more like a Louise Tussaud waxwork exhibition (see here and here).

Want to see more wonders like 'filthy Ewok on a mini-bike'? Watch this video (see below). It's in German and the fun stuff starts at 4mins 15scs when the guy visits the exhibit.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Journey to the Centre of Wales Part 2

On Saturday - my last full day in Wales - I paid a visit to Erwood Station, an arts colony founded in 1984 and based within the now disused train station.

There was lots of lovely ironwork and pottery and prints by local artists. But my favourite work was the beautiful turned wood of James Smith; I especially liked his reclaimed fencepost vases.

From Erwood I drove to Dan yr Ogof to visit the National Showcaves of Wales. Now, I have a confession to make here ... my actual reason for going was seeing this photo online:

I am a sucker for piss-poor dinosaur models and these looked a bit ropey - especially the iguanodon in the foreground who has neither of the distinctive thumb 'horns' that make his/her species unique. I expected lots of such crappiness ... but was delighted to be completely surprised by what I found.

You arrive at the showcase site and are immediately greeted by a life-sized diplodocus that, actually, was pretty well sculpted. Behind this behemoth an equally well-rendered brachiosaurus rose above the trees. These were great models!

 You actually have to walk under the diplodocus to get inside the park where there's lots to do - for free! How many venues can say that? There are lots of dinos around (even on the roof of the cafĂ©), you can pan for gold, and there's a farm with shire horses, emus, alpacas and other creatures.

But should you decide to spend some money on the caves, you get much more to see. For a start, lots more dinosaurs and other prehistoric beasties. I read somewhere that there are around 200 life-sized models, which is pretty cool for the kids. And big kids like me.

Then there are the caves themselves, which are stunning. Cathedral Cave in particular, with its high stalactite peppered ceiling and waterfalls, is magnificent. The only let down was the Bone Cave, which entailed popping on a hard hat and stooping along a low roofed walkway just to see a rather poor audio-visual display with mannequins about the human habitation of the caves.

'But Steve! What about the crappy dinosaurs?' I hear you cry. Well, I'm delighted to report that they are still there. However, the people who run the place are pretty shrewd; as newer, more accurate and better made dinos have been installed, they've moved the older ones deep into the bushes or set them at a distance so that they still provide some spectacle but don't stand out. That said, I did go dino-hunting and found myself a crop of brilliant bad ones. 

I can't leave Wales without mentioning the countryside through which I drove - often having to avoid sheep with no concept of the Green Cross Code - to visit these places. Late Saturday and my drive home on Sunday was wonderfully sunny and showed the landscape off beautifully. I just had to keep stopping the car to get out and snap a few pics. Sadly, no photo can capture the sheer scale of my surroundings. Glorious.