Sunday, 20 January 2013

Oh Lymingtonshire

Our inter-nation travellers guide book continues with our first foray of 2013 crossing over the border into Hampshire and the idyllic Georgian seaside market town of Lymington.

With a population of 14,000, this sea faring and boat racing port has an intriguing history because for most of the eighteenth century, Lymington was the main producer of sea salt for the UK.

There was a continuous line of salt works along the five miles of coastline from Lymington to Hurst Spit and when Daniel Defoe (author of Moll Flanders and Robinson Cruesoe) visited around 1725, he commented: "the town of Limington is chiefly noted for making fine salt, which is indeed excellent". With the last salt house closing in 1865, the landscape is now home to an attractive and important nature reserve bringing in 250,000 visitors a year.

With dozens of independent retailers, we found Lulu's Gifts a veritable treasure trove of gift ideas for females of any age and they're one of the largest UK stockists of the Dutch design house Pip Studio.

We found a sign writer called Terry Smith who sells collectibles, transport memorabilia and other retro items from his Old's Cool (like what he did) base and too many eateries too mention, but Tracey did have a fine salad at the 13th Century coaching inn The Angel which is worth a mention.

It has a cracking independent museum and art gallery, St. Barbe, which has a diverse and appealing exhibition  programme and historic collection. We'll be heading over to see the illustrator, humourmesiter and creator of numerous eccentric machines Heath Robinson who's ink work and watercolours are the focus of the forthcoming exhibition (mid February till mid April 2013).

The current exhibition by Randolph Walsh (an official war artist) also picked up national press coverage from The Times and it's heart warming to see St Barbe and other smaller galleries across the UK, like The Grundy in Blackpool, delivering such stimulating programmes.

Awarded "best town on the UK coast" last year by the broadcaster Channel 5, based on criteria such as: attractive scenery, transport links and crime rate (this has seeded an idea for a future extended piece about the O & C top coastal towns), it provided us with with a good few hours of exploration up and down the narrow cobbled streets and the barometer for any visit  is would we come back and would be come back soon? Yes we definitely will.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

A Short History of Creativity and Toilets

Round The Bend showed me the first alternative possibilities and creative uses of toilets. From 1989 to 1991, three series were originally broadcast on ITV in the UK and had a stellar crew behind it.

Written by the team who created the equally potty-humour filled comic Oink, puppet making courtesy of the team behind Spitting Image and animation from Aardman Animations. As the camera was flushed down the toilet in the opening titles, it revealed the spiky host Doc Croc sitting in the sewers below and featured a whole host of remixed animations and satirical responses to the cartoon favourites of the time including: Wee-man and the Masters of the Looniverse, Botman, Thunderpants and Teenage Mutant Ninja Toilets. For an opportunity to see all 18 glorious episodes online, head over to the website of Mr Tony Husband, one of the co-creator’s of Round The Bend and don’t forget to sign his guest book. Round The Bend also created a licensed TV tie in ZX Spectrum game which saw you taking control of one of the rats to try and recover lost comic pages through a series of sewer platform adventures.

From those heady days in 1992 to just last year in Japan where software developer Sega piloted a series of urine controlled games at a technology expo in a brand new creation, the Toylet. 

Each urinal is fitted with pressure sensor and eye level digital display to play the following titles: Graffiti Eraser (where visitors take aim at the sensor and erase virtual graf on the display), Mannekin Pis (measuring the volume of the users stream) and my particular favourite Splashing Battle (pitting stream strength against the last urinal user). If you're thinking that  creative and unique toilet experiences are distinctly Japanese, then please see my latest discovery.

One of my most recent explorations in to the world of water closetness has been a cover to cover devouring of the visual compendium created by Morna E. Gregory and Sian James entitled Toilets of the World. After visiting all corners of the world, they capture a multitude of designs from a purple plastic kangaroo created for children in Australia to a metallic wall sized urinal in Canada. However, my absolute favourite and the final entry in the book leads us back to Japan.

Ten & Chi (aka Heaven or Hell) is a Taiwanese restaurant in Shinjuku, where as you rap the door, you’re greeted by a gatekeeper and you get to pick if you go up or if you go down.

Upstairs is Heaven or downstairs is Hell. The rest of the culinary experience is as adventurous as the first encounter would suggest, but a trip to the toilet will leave you either in hysterics or ensure a fierce bout of constipation. In the man corner, there are urinals which move up and down (forcing constant vigilance on your aim) and boom out “that’s a nice one you have!” The next urinal along has a target which is a giant red mouth with a life sized mutant affixed to the top who has a camera in one of his six hands, the flash goes off as you’re in the process and your most intimate moment is captured forever. For the ladies, once sat on the toilet, a giant floor to ceiling sized head slowly starts advancing towards you accompanied by ear popping music and crazy singing. The head just keeps on moving forward and progressing until it actually kisses your knees!

These are but a brief scraping on the surface of creativity and toilets and there are numerous other pathways to explore, be it with origami and toilet paper courtesy of Linda Wright or the manual to which I constantly refer back to The Water Closet - A New History by Roy Palmer.

As long as there is man, there will be a need for toilets and where man goes creativity will leak.