Caught by the River


9th April 2017

This week’s book, record, and miscellaneous recommendations come from Jeff Barrett, Robin Turner and Diva Harris of CBTR HQ, and poet-in-residence Will Burns.

Jeff Barrett:

– This stunning photograph of a hiker saluting the Wet Sleddale Reservoir in Cumbria. (Credit: Jeff Overs / BBC).

– The Eduardo Paolozzi exhibition currently showing at The Whitechapel Gallery, London. I had no idea just how talented this guy was before going to this exhibition. So much of his ouvre hits my taste bang on and I was gobsmacked and flabbergasted to be seeing it now, for the first time. If you visit, make sure not to miss the short film History Of Nothing that’s showing in a side room. It’s belly laugh brilliant.

– St Ives, Cornwall. Just home from a place I’ve visited regularly for 35 years. It’s charm remains undimmed. Visitors take note, the Kurt Jackson Foundation (gallery) is just a short drive westerly.

Robin Turner:

S-Town. There’s no point trying to describe what the podcast S-Town is about and there’s really no point in me attempting to unpick the myriad threads it exposes – I wouldn’t be able to do it justice if I spent a week writing about it. Let’s just say it starts as a true-life murder mystery and ends up as something akin to a meditation on time and how we spend our lives. It begins with a man called John B McLemore. With his voice like Nicholas Cage in Face Off and seemingly a precognitive sense that the Trumpian apocalypse is fast approaching, John resides in the titular Shit Town (actually Woodstock, Alabama). The place and the nefarious activities of its populace inspire him to write a letter to the This American Life podcast that intrigues host Brian Reed enough to make the journey south from New York to meet him. The Southern Gothic world Reed finds isn’t a million miles from that of the first series of True Detective, though it would be wrong to say that it pushes the same buttons as that programme – this is something truly unique. If Netflix encourages a culture of binge watching, S-Town is binge listening. Its seven hours are all available to download for free right now. Warning – you’ll find yourself lost in its world, eschewing all human contact just to finish the thing.

PG Tips Gold. My days invariably start the same. Three cups, every morning. Perfect way to set myself up to go off like a caffeine bomb sometime around 11am, all woozy vision and gnawing paranoia. I can’t remember when I became addicted to these but nothing else seems to hit the same spot now. The original PG Tips pyramid bag seemed to do the trick for years with the occasional double-bag giving a welcome demented hit when needed (ok, throw your scorn at me – I think of it as a South Walian equivalent of a Bar Italia double espresso, served up by someone marginally more grumpy than the dudes in there – i.e. me). Mates of mine keenly recommend Yorkshire Tea’s Hard Water bags (too provincial for me); I found my poison in the Gold one. Like all serious narcotics, I’d approach these with caution and full knowledge of what you’re getting into, as there’s no going back. Everything else tastes like piss now.

Cymru Sans. Someone has invented a Welsh typeface (actually, they’ve created three of them to be precise) based on a brief that asked them “to create a series of fonts that would contemporise the country’s forward-facing tourism materials while also nodding to Wales’ history within the larger context of Great Britain and the world”. They are things of beauty whichever side of the bridge you reside. As soon as I can install this on my crappy laptop, every biog, every press release and every letter to the bank manager is going to be written out in this damn thing. Llovely, llikes.

Iron Fist. Every recent Antidotes list I’ve done has included something by the mighty Marvel corporation. Sadly, they’ve yet to pick up on this and put me on the payroll – maybe one day soon. Anyway, I’m not going to wholeheartedly recommend this Netflix series – the master martial artist trust fund billionaire main character really isn’t going to be to everyone’s liking (possibly anyone’s – he’s a dick). That said, episode 6 (of 13) is directed by the RZA. If you can remember back when you first heard Enter the Wu Tang… well, this is the telly equivalent. It’s fantastic – totally deranged, the dialogue is completely crackers, it makes no sense, it’s bloody ace. Not sure any of the rest of the series can live up to this now.

Diva Harris:

– Out of Office Stories. Little literary titbits delivered to your email inbox. It’s the brainchild of Thomas Morris (whose short story collection We Don’t Know What We’re Doing is very good, by the way), and the premise is simple. Drop an email to, and you’ll receive a short story or poem in the bounce-back reply. There’s a limited time in which to request each piece before it disappears forever, and is replaced by a new one by a different author. I find that it’s a nice way to break up dealing with an overflowing email inbox.

– Anna Jones’s recipe for lemony lentil and crispy kale soup. I moved into a new house at the beginning of the week, and cooked this for myself and my flatmates. It’s easy to make, pretty good for you, and absolutely delicious – it really brought us back to life after a day of lugging boxes up and down the stairs. There are lots of other recipes on her site that I’d like to try too.

– Without a doubt, the elephant topiary I now walk past every day on my way to work.

Will Burns:

Son Volt – Notes of Blue. I have an irrational, uncritical love for the work of Jay Farrar, as many people who I have bored to tears talking about him to will attest. This new Son Volt record has all the elements of classic Son Volt – thick, visceral electric guitars playing off delicate melancholy acoustic moments, and of course that singular voice. But the album is also an essay on the blues, coloured by Farrar’s study and homage to figures like Skip James, Nick Drake and Mississippi Fred McDowall.

Claire Louise Bennett – Pond. This will seem like I’ve come to it late, and I did, but I’m including this book here as I’ve read and re-read it often over the past few months. The best thing I’ve read in a long, long time, it has the same strange sensuality and uncommon way of excavating the small and everyday that I experienced when I first read Robert Walser.

– The Ridgeway, Buckinghamshire. I have spent the last five weeks holed up in my hometown of Wendover. It’s a rarity for me to not have to travel in and out of London, or be off on some jaunt or other, and I have relished being able to walk every day in the hills around the village. It has been The Ridgeway, one of the oldest paths in the country, that has been the basis for my daily walks, taking in its beech woods and bluebells, blackcaps and goldcrests. It may not be very wild where I live, I realise this, but it is the place I know and the place I love.