Five thousand years ago the people living in what is now the Brecon Beacons National Park, the area of Wales where markontour currently resides, were into megaliths, big time. This much we know because over thirty of them survive to this day, still marking out the valley roads and high passes in this lush, undulating landscape. They are extraordinary things to get out and see in situ, stubbornly remaining on the spot they have inhabited through so many human generations, and in many cases accessible enough to be able to get right up close and touch.
“To begin at the beginning” – there’s really no other way to start a blog about Laughrne, the small former cockle-fishing town on the Carmarthenshire coast which I visited this week to pay homage to its most famous son, Dylan Thomas.
Some might question why an atheistic internationalist has chosen to write a blog about a day of national religious celebration, but St David (Dewi Sant in the Welsh) was a vegetarian who spent some time at Glastonbury and established his first hermitage in Llanthony, a few miles down the road from where I sit writing this blog. Moreover, it’s an excuse to make use of my shelf of Welsh history books and then pretend I know something about it.
I have long intended to start a blog site dedicated to reviews of planetariums and observatories. It would have been even more niche than markontour’s usual output, so perhaps it’s just as well it never happened. But if I were to start such a stargazers blog, the Griffith Observatory and park in Los Angeles, which I visited this weekend, would have to be the first entry.
I wonder if Brandon Yoshizawa knew that the exhaust plume of a Falcon 9 rocket would take on the shape of a flower as its hot discharge made contact with colder air of the upper atmosphere? He was certainly in the right place at the right time and with the requisite skill to capture an extraordinary image. The result, Flower Power, is a perfect example of the blend of art and science that makes the annual Astronomy Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Greenwich National Maritime Museum so special.
In a vital and captivating free new exhibition the Museum of London is celebrating forty-years since the release of London Calling by The Clash. It’s an album that is both precisely of its time and yet timeless, a spirit that the curators (working with the surviving members of the band) have managed to capture perfectly. Markontour has visited twice already in its first week and I’m sure I will be back a few more times before it closes in April.
On the top floor of a Tudor hunting lodge at the edge of Epping Forest, something both strange and enlightening happened this weekend. “On All Hallows Eve, when the veil between the living and dead is at its thinnest” Becoming the Forest, and installation by Norwegian artist, Una Hamilton Helle, invited visitors to “take part in an audio journey celebrating the oncoming winter, populated by the voices of forest dwellers past and present, including the trees themselves.”
I have become a regular visitor to Hamburg this year, as it is a convenient stopping off point on the train journey from London through to Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo, where work takes me frequently. Usually I arrive late and leave early, but recently I discovered what I had been missing, after an early doors trip to the Hamburger Kuntshalle gallery. Most exciting were the landscapes of Caspar Friederich, an artist I had never previously encountered, but whose ‘Hill and Ploughed Field Near Dresden’ now lights up my soul every time I turn on my iPad.
I was briefly into performing magic as a kid, inspired by Paul Daniels on the telly if truth be told. A visit to the Wellcome Collection’s fascinating new exhibition, ‘Smoke and Mirrors – The Psychology of Magic’, has re-ignited my interest and reminded me just how malleable the human mind can be.
“Overcoming poverty is not an act of charity, it is an act of justice”, said Nelson Mandela, in a quote that closes ‘Mandela: The Official Exhibition” on London’s southbank. He went on to explain how poverty can be overcome: “Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural, it is man-made and it can be eradicated by the actions of human beings”.