PLEASE DON'T PAINT ERCOL
In the world of “lifestyle” there exists a culture of what is known as “upcycling”. This involves taking an old item (you probably know this) and employ various methods to turn it into a new, more desirable one. TV voices on programmes such as Money For Nothing repeatedly tell us that the poor old clapped-out table, chair or petrol can has become something wonderful after a makeover whereas, in actuality, quite often this is not the case. If you care to buy into the idea that an old petrol can (or anything but the kitchen sink, or EVEN the kitchen sink) can be transformed into a stylish table-lamp that’s fine, it would be wrong of me to force my opinion on others by telling them what and what not to like. However, it has to be said that there is an apparent lack of attention paid to the design of the finished item in many of these projects. For example, how can a mid-twentieth-century chair look good covered in William Morris wallpaper? Why would anyone do that?
Similarly, why would anyone paint a piece of Ercol furniture? This is where I personally draw the line, everything else is forgivable but painting Ercol furniture does not improve it (indeed it spoils it) so please don’t do it. A brief history shows that from the early twentieth-century Ercol has been producing beautifully designed furniture and this continues to the present day. Founded in 1920 by Lucien Ercoli who was from Tuscany in Italy, the Ercol name is synonymous with excellent quality and design. During the 1950’s and 1960’s Ercol furniture was admired for its clean-lined, simple elegance – a break-away from the heavy, ornate styles that went before. The finest designers in Britain have created classic furniture for Ercol which defies fashion trends, indeed it gets better with age. The current Ercol factory in Princes Risborough has won awards for it’s architecture, design and environmental features. One example of why Ercol furniture is more eco-friendly is the fact that they do not use solvent-based stains, instead they opt for water-based products. This is one reason why it seems like a bit of a travesty to cover these items in evil-smelling paint thereby covering up the beauty of the natural wood hidden beneath. However, even if water-based paint is used, painted Ercol just does not look good. I like colour but where it does not belong is on a piece of classic Ercol furniture.
LIVING FOR THE CITY?
I have been a resident in Livingston for many years. Livingston has become a well-populated, bustling town, it has accomplished much over the almost sixty years since it's inception in 1962. The main focus of the town is the massive indoor shopping complex, there is plenty of shopping in Livingston. There is a football club and grounds, Livingston FC are doing okay, this brings a buzz to the town especially when they are at home to big teams. There is heritage in the form of industry with the shale mining industry looming large in the history of the area, and later the location of a silicon valley. There are green spaces, it certainly is not a concrete jungle - the stock insult which is often thrown at new towns. In short, it has a lot going for it. Now for the bad news - there is hardly any CULTURE.
In the early days of planning Livingston, the first architect/town planner Peter Daniel wanted to bring Herriot Watt University to the town. This, of course, did not happen and the university was located mid-way between Livingston and central Edinburgh. This minor detail could have changed the environment, that is, the town would have possibly taken on a more cultural vibe familiar in university towns. However, there is no way to gloss over the fact that the town is sadly lacking in cultural facilities and those meagre ones that do exist are not sufficient. No amount of public sculpture on roundabouts etc can compensate for the absence of a lively, interactive cultural community such as experienced in other towns and cities.
And, on the subject of cities, this is one of the main reasons why Livingston might struggle with its bid for city status in 2022. The bid is part of a competition to celebrate the Queen's Platinum Jubilee, Apparently, these occur at every royal jubilee celebration and Livingston has bid at least once before. The bid coincides with Livingston's 60th anniversary and it seems that those responsible think that the town has what it takes to become a city. Certainly, the town has witnessed a meteoric rise from three small villages with just sixty households to the metropolis it is today, but is that enough? A working group has been set up to prepare the application. A spokesperson for the group states that "Livingston is a vibrant community with a unique identity", they claim that the town is a hub for developing "economy and jobs, culture and leisure, retail administration and residential". Well, this is not strictly true since, as I said before, there is little or no cultural presence in Livingston, I know this because I am personally involved with the cultural sector.
A sorry statistic from the West Lothian News website will help to illustrate my point. You will find under the category of Education nine pages of news. Two pages for Heath and Fitness, six pages on Environment and Outdoors, five pages on Development and Transport - and on Culture and Leisure - NOTHING. To sum up, yes, Livingston is growing but it is not all about size. Livingston is set to increase its population to 100,000 in the future which is more than some Scottish cities such as Stirling, Inverness and Perth. This fact is highlighted in a report by the areas Economic Development and Regeneration manager who seems to think that size matters. The report states that " from being a village to a new town and centre of regional development the next logical step would be to gain full city status". This is naive. I wish the town well with its bid but until it has more of a cultural identity it is not ready for this "next logical step".
TRY SAYING 'WELL-DONE' ONCE IN A WHILE GRETA
Over 100 years ago John Muir, the Scottish naturalist and environmental philosopher, remarked to, the then American President, Theodore Roosevelt, that the glaciers in Yosemite national park were shrinking. Muir did not fully understand why this was so but what he did understand was the need to look after our planet. Today, people such as Greta Thunberg are forefront in the campaign to make people and politicians alike sit up and take notice of what is happening to our environment. Thunberg’s style is to speak of an emergency and a crisis, whereas, politicians seem to less inclined to go that far. Why is this? The reality is that change, at least on a global scale, takes time, not least of all because people don’t like change. Another reason is, that to change at the rate that Thunberg wants, will cost a lot of money as, unfortunately, most economies still operate with resources and infrastructure that still rely heavily on older, environmentally damaging ways of working. So, although we may think of Scotland as doing fairly well in following Thunberg’s advice, alas Thunberg herself doesn’t think this is the case, instead, in her opinion, we are simply doing less worse than other countries. My advice to Greta Thunberg is to give some countries, not all, a break and say to countries like Scotland, well-done for having 97% of your electricity from renewable sources, well-done on recycling around half your waste and well-done on banning older polluting cars from your capital city from spring next year. In other words, would it hurt, every now and then, to give a little praise in order to motivate people and countries to continue to work even harder to one day achieve those targets that Thunberg herself strives for? Returning to change, and a comment that recently concluded an article on Thunberg in the New York Times, giving this warning: ‘trying to change too quickly could end up being more damaging than the climate crisis itself.’ So, just as John Muir noticed, at the beginning of the last century, that something was going on, the fact is our planet has been suffering the effects of our activities for a very long time now, and not just the past ten or twenty years since most people became aware of what was happening. For this reason, we have to be patient and as long as we are continuing the journey to better times at a reasonable rate, then we should be seen as something other than the least worst.
ISN'T TECHNOLOGY GREAT!
I read recently about two robots, working in a supermarket distribution centre, colliding with each other before bursting into flames. I may be wrong, but I have never heard of human workers doing this. But despite the huge cost to the company, accidents do happen and technology sometimes doesn’t always do what it is supposed to do – probably a one off. That was until I read on. Turns out that the same thing happened before, only this time the blaze was too much to be contained and the entire facility burned down. Robots huh! So, if you notice that when you take your sausages out of their wrapper they appear to be already cooked, you know what’s happened.