Review 2013: Not The Doctor: Public Art Collections in North West England:
Tabley House.

Art Some projects continue. As I suspected, Knutsford’s Tabley House wasn’t one of the easiest of the venues in Edward Morris’s survey of Public Art Collections in North-West England. Actually getting to Knutsford was easy, change at Chester, about two and half hours on trains. But having failed to the bare minimum of research about how to get to Tabley House once in the area, beyond tweeting to make sure they were open, I did of course get lost in the town ending up in front of the entrance to Tatton Park (which I still have to visit so will be going back to Knutsford again). After visiting the tourist information centre and quite rightly corrected on my pronunciation of Tabley (rhymes with tablet rather than table), I was told that there wasn’t a bus service and pointed in the direction of Knutsford Road and a subsequent forty-five minute walk (which in Liverpool terms would be twice around Sefton Park, I think), not including the grounds themselves which probably added another ten or fifteen minutes. Thank goodness we had a relatively mild October.

Hello, Tabley House. As both Edward’s book and the available souvenir catalogue explain, Tabley House and grounds have a relatively complicated ownership history, but the most important figure in its history is Sir John Leicester (1762-1827) who inherited the house from his father and from the small acorns of a few family portraits and paintings of the surrounding landscapes became one of the first and arguably most important patron of British art in that period, Saachi of his time, if you will. As Edward describes, it’s his influence which meant many museums and art galleries were ultimately set up, his example leading local merchants into developing their collections, albeit most often for more philanthropically public reasons. Only after many years and decades did some of the work Leicester amassed become available for public viewing but I’m getting ahead of things a bit. But suffice to say, Leicester is by some degree, one of the reasons I’m writing this paragraph and still doing this project.

Lancaster’s key decision from which everything else flowed was that after doing the much in vogue grand tour of Europe, rather than following the lead of his contemporaries buying in lots of foreign art, he decided to promote British art instead. His entire collection of, as Edward lists “landscapes, history paintings and scenes from history and everyday life” was by British painters and on top of that he built on the existing collection of landscapes and family portraits by engaging artists like Reynolds, Gainsborough, Romney and others to produce some more of those. One of the paintings on display right now is Turner’s image of Tabley’s grounds on a Windy Day. Listening to the volunteer invigilators describing the period, it’s almost as though the house was constantly filled with visiting artists, like some pre-Victorian version of Andy Warhol’s Warehouse. Except with rolling countryside and architecture attractive enough to appear in the remake of The Forsyte Saga (which this did).

Unfortunately what's still in the house is a shadow of what this collection must have been like. As well as Tabley, Leicester owned a house in London and other properties and as it was described to me, he’d spent so much money amassing the collection, the estate in so much debt, that the whole lot ended up being sold on to cover costs. Then a couple of centuries later, in 1975, when Colonel John Leicester Warren, the final person in the Leicester line died, ownership was passed to Manchester University when it became a school and when that closed to a Health Care Trust on the understand that the first floor would be preserved for public visitors and that’s essentially where it is now. Much of the house is a nursing home apart from a suite of rooms which have been restored to reflect what they may have been like when Leicester lived there, but thanks to a series of buy backs and academic research by the university, with all of the original furniture and original paintings.

But the quest is the quest, and so like Edward, my interest in the place was mainly in the collection on public display, and, well, it is what it is. It’s mainly a collection of landscapes and family portraits, a couple painted by notable names, the aforementioned Turner, some by followers of those notable names and others by schools and unknown painters. The point, I suppose, is that like other such properties, this isn’t an art gallery, to some extent it’s a way of visiting history and seeing how the peoples of the past, or at the wealthy peoples of the past perceived themselves and captured their own history. Now, through the magic of Your Paintings, you can browse the collection yourself and as you can see, the best examples are when the artist has stepped out of the expected genres, norms and expectations produced something which has an aesthetic transferability outside of its function of capturing the likeness of a relative or building, of simply adding to a scrapbook in architectural form.

Yet it’s a measure of Leicester as a collector that he strove to find the best representations of his relatives. Having commissioned this full length portrait of his wife Georgina from Thomas Lawrence, he was reportedly disappointed with the formulaic nature of the composition, which is indeed pretty artificial and so instead went to William Owen to produce this much more naturalistic and fresh image that’s full of life. What the digital image can’t quite capture is the translucence of the fabric and how Georgina seems to almost float against the landscape which depicts the grounds of Tabley rather than simply some clouds as was the case in the earlier picture. That’s generally the case across the collection, that it’s the more contemporary images rather than classical recreations that stand out and I’m sure if you were to put the collection in chronological order you could see how tastes have changed over time, how the symbolism of the past gave way to the realism, with Leicester at the tipping point.

Which isn’t to say fantasy doesn’t have its place. There’s John Martin’s startling epic The Destruction of Herculaneum and Pompeii in which horrific fire of the gods rains down on a humanity which was ill prepared. There’s Thomas Danby’s The Raft featuring nameless souls exhausted by whichever calamity has befallen then looking towards an uncertain future. There’s Charles Robert Leslie’s scene from The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry Fuseli dynamic portrayal of Friar Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which Leicester apparently bought back into his collection because it had originally been in his family when he was a youngster and reminded him of his childhood, though he spent much of his time in Ireland when it was on display in this house.  But from personal experience I can say that it’s not unusual to prize a possession for its sentimental value even if its almost impossible to look at because of all the memories it evokes or captures. Plus this particular Friar Puck is pretty sinister, with his hood and little bell.

Ultimately I came away from the house with the impression of Leicester as a relatively ambiguous figure though as the curator on duty explained when I brought this up, he was really just a product of his time, he was nothing unusual in his treatment of debtors, employees or servants, some of whom were only allowed into the house in The Octagon room with its forbidding reliefs of farm implements on the ceiling. He might well be an art collector and lover but that didn’t stop him from having his personal portrait painted, overpainted and repainted as he gained honours and increased his rank and station. But there’s one display in the house which is scary. It’s of the security measures he had in place to deter trespassers. I’ll leave you with the accompanying notice (which I wrote out in long hand due to the no photography rule and I hope is accurate as I attempt to read my own handwriting in typing it up) and believe me when I tell you that the implements mentioned in block capitals are just as a horrific as they sound:

Whereas fish of various kinds have been latterly poached and stolen by evil disposed persons, from the waters in Tabley Park, and such evil practices are still continued. This is there for to give notice STRONG MAN TRAPS to be constantly set on the edges of the waters and on the shallows. And also for the protection of his GAME, which was latterly much poached and destroyed, to direct SPRING GUNS to be constantly set in his woods and (undecipherable) within and near the park; and he hereby offers a reward of Ten Guineas to be immediately to any person apprehending or giving information that such poachers or evil disposed persons, or any one of more of them may be brought to justice. – Tabley Park, July 3rd 1818.

Review 2013: Not The Doctor: Katy Perry: Part of Me.

Music During my hernia recovery I gave into temptation and began a Netflix subscription and quickly decided that I'd end up watching the kinds of things I wouldn't dream of adding to my Lovefilm dvd list.  Katy Perry: Part of Me fitted the bill and was I pleasantly surprised. No, fascinated. Not having much enjoyed anything to do with Katy Perry for ages other than her similarity to Zooey Deschanel, earlier in the year for cultural studies reasons watch her videography via YouTube stretching right back into her Katy Hudson years and boggled at how someone who began as a promising Alanis Morissette type singer ended up diving headlong into pop, how the earlier material wasn't deemed commercial enough even though there was an obvious through line. Katy Perry: Part of Me filled in some of the blanks, and how, in what seems, for all the fact that it's ninety minute advert for Team Perry, a surprisingly raw, surprisingly revealing documentary that doesn't stint on the horrors of the entertainment industry and attempting to be continue being a real human being in the middle of all the demands that exist in taking on a persona that isn't you and having to perform that all day, every day.  By all accounts she seemed to work hard right from the beginning, tossed around like the proverbial hot potato between record companies that didn't know what to do with her even though they knew that she was well worth doing something with, then having to essentially start again and going with something else which luckily caught on.  But then, with each album release and diving straight into the tour which the film documents she continues to not seem to have much time for herself or indeed her staff for themselves, as the tour circles the globe and she's flying here there and everywhere every week to be with her then husband, who's not really shown doing the reverse (it's fair to say if this is a propaganda piece for Team Perry, it throws Team Brand's image under a bus).  There's also a certain amount of hero building as Katy, amid breezy greetings with fans in greenrooms, is shown in the middle of her marriage break up, entirely unable to even contemplate going on stage, pulling herself together and then heading out to greet the biggest crowd of her career before having to pretend to enjoy the chants of them venerating her lost marriage.  As a friend of mine said on Twitter, "That bit where she's in the pit and crying..." Gosh, yes.  Plus when she helps her sister to choose a wedding dress.  There's also less of her music in the piece than expected, few of her songs shown from beginning to end, the preference being to explain the literal nuts and bolts of constructing the sets and choreography.  One of the reviewers on Netflix says the film made her a Katy Perry fan.  I'm more cautious.  Some of her songs (which the documentary stresses she has a hand in) are lyrically ambiguous (you know the one in particular) and some of her non-singles lack originality and depth.  But damn if kids or any of us can find something empowering even if that something is Perry's Fireworks, that has to be good thing.  Certainly helped me to recover.

Review 2013: Not The Doctor: The BBC's Witness.

Radio The BBC's Witness, broadcast daily on the World Service and weekly on Radio 4, is a ten minute interview or documentary slot which investigates an event in the news from a historical perspective or commemorates some anniversary utilising an eyewitness's account and archive audio.  Similar in style to The Reunion but with a much broader scope, a typical set of episodes can cover topics as diverse as far eastern revolutions, technological advances, media events or obituaries and are one of those programmes where it's impossible to do anything else during broadcast because you know it'll be one of the most enriching moments in the day.  Because it is one of my favourite radio programmes and because I'm also fascinated by historical juxtapositions, I'm currently in the process of compiling a list of all the programmes available on the BBC's website, which I think is all of them, and then putting them into chronological order (using a similar process to my dvds) (shiver).  The overall intention is then to post this list, either as a single post or most like a series of posts on this blog, in a similar style to the BBC 1963 series which inspired me to take this next step.  Work is monotonous because there's no automatic way of expunging the date data from the website or than raw text from the podcast pages on the show all setting (unless you know better), so I'm taking it slowly, but I think in the end it'll be a worthwhile and extremely useful was of accessing this material.  Find below one of the years I've already covered chosen not all at random because it's when I began senior school.


The Challenger disaster
In January 1986 a space shuttle launch went tragically wrong.

People Power in the Philippines
How four days of protests swept President Ferdinand Marcos from power in 1986.

The death of Olof Palme
On February 28 1986 the Swedish Prime Minister died.

Air attacks on Libya
It is almost 25 years since the US bombed Libya. Amongst those killed was Colonel Gaddafi's adopted daughter. But did the attacks strengthen his hold on power?  April 1986.

Pollard Spy Case
An American spy admits selling secrets to Israel. June 1986.

Chilean students set on fire
How soldiers attacked and set fire to two students during an anti government protest in Chile.  July 1986.

Cameroon's Lake Nyos Disaster
In August 1986 villagers in a remote region of Cameroon, near the Nigerian border, awoke to find hundreds of their friends and neighbours had died in the night. What had happened?

Ladysmith Black Mambazo
How working on Paul Simon's Graceland album turned the South African choir into global superstars.

Israel's Nuclear Secrets
In October 1986, Mordechai Vanunu revealed Israel's secret nuclear weapons programme to a British newspaper.

Andrei Sakharov
On December 23 1986 the Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov was allowed to return home from internal exile. He was greeted by a huge crowd at a Moscow railway station.

Review 2013: Not The Doctor: Tatiana Maslany.

TV Orphan Black was my favourite new returning series of 2013, the BBC America/Three drama about the subjects of a cloning experiment attempting to deal with the who, what, when, where and how of their existence whilst dodging the police and shadowy organisation that made them. Created by John Fawcett and Graeme Manson, previous credited on the likes of Flash Forward and The Bridge, it's one of those series which doesn't seem to care at all about burning through story elements that other shows would have stretched out across a year and comedy at the expense of its own premise.  Its killer app (if it's possible to describe a person that way) is Tatiana Maslany. There have been plenty of other examples of actors playing multiple characters, notably recently the Cylons in Battlestar Galactica, but the glory of Maslany's lead performance is that at a certain moment, some way into the second episode (aided in no small measure by the technical marvels outlined below and Kathryn Alexandre, her acting double), you forget that it isn't just one actress in all of these roles, the runaway, the soccer mom and the science student (and others) even when they're in the same room.  For each character, not just her voice, but her physicality changes and as the series continues you realise that you're watching what's become a ensemble show in which half the cast is one actor.  She's written a blog post about her process (and this spoilery video put out after the end of the first season) but it's probably not easily put into words.  What she demonstrates is that some actors are chameleons.

Review 2013: Not The Doctor: Sir William Cornwallis's On Resolution.

Books Sir William Cornwallis (ca. 1579 – 1614) was an early English essayist, the son of Sir Charles Cornwallis (died 1629) the courtier and diplomat and often confused with his uncle also Sir William Cornwallis Sr who was a sometime cohort of the playwright Ben Jonson. As the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography describes, Sir William Jr served in the earl of Essex's Irish campaign for which he was knighted on 5 August 1599. "Whether or not he was involved in Essex's rebellion" the dictionary notes, "he lived quietly for the rest of Queen Elizabeth's reign and was for a time in Edinburgh, where he introduced Sir Thomas Overbury to Robert Carr" (who then scandalously went on to become a favourite of James I).  My first encounter with Cornwallis was reading James Shapiro's superb biography of a year, 1599, which is when Shakespeare is thought by him to have written Julius Caesar, Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like It and Hamlet. In his discussion of this latter play, Shapiro reproduces excerpts of Cornwallis's essays as part of a thesis that Hamlet's soliloquies aren't simply designed as psychological expositions, but as poetic versions of the trend at the time for paradoxical essays, also pioneered by John Donne and Sir Francis Bacon, the praising of misfortunes, that sort of thing. Cornwallis himself was heavily influenced by Montaigne in his methodology and Seneca in his ethics, though I admit that as I tumble towards the middle of this paragraph I'm reaching the end of my ability to sound knowledgable.  What I do know is that they're also exceedingly difficult to access so I thought I'd begin making them available in a version with modern spelling at least.  We begin with On Resolution, whose opening paragraph is difficult not to consider its words terms of the history of writing and reproduction, especially now and online and how we communicate with each other.  Plus there's the As You Like It resonance.  Jacques says "All the world's a stage..."  No, says Cornwallis, "The world is a book..."  The rest is quite difficult to follow but has some wonderful language in relation to how he feels about his fellows in court.  In content, I'm reminded of what Jeff Goldblum's character says in The Big Chill.

On Resolution.

The world is a book: the words and actions of men, commentaries, up that volume: The former like manuscripts, private: the latter common, like things printed.

None rightly understand this author: most go contrary: Some few according to probability: but the world of all is, the unsettled opinion, whole continual alteration makes him unprofitable to himself, and to others. So much have I, hated this giddy unconstantness, as I have been content to take knowledge of mean resolutions to prefer them before the other; yea to pity and admire them both together, and to end the viewing of that object with allowing the virtue of the level, if it had been well set. Truly I need no other example than mine own life, which endured continual troubles, while youth and folly governed my bark in the sea of changes. I still contradicted my own self, attempted nothing, but a languishing weariness possessed me before the end: but it was no matter, for unworthy were those thoughts, and intents, as they were unworthy of an untimely death, and to be interred in the mire of irresolution. In the end I found myself: I and my soul undertook to guide into a more wholesome air: I dare not say she hath kept promise really, but it was my own fault, yet in part she hath her motion, my own memory and books have done something: these last I am much bound to. Especially to Seneca and Plato, who have gotten this power over me (though they seldom make me do well), they oft time make me think well: they so wholly possess me, as I sometime resolve to mediate on nothing under Socrates Apologie.

Me thinks I am strong and able to encounter my affection, but hardly have my thoughts made an end of this gallant discourse, but in comes a wife, a friend, at whole sight my Armour of defence is broken, and I could weep with them, or be content to laugh at their trivial sports. After which I come again to see my promise broken, that challenge in cold blood makes me desperate, that were it not for the comfort of my youth, which gently gives me time, I should surely punish my inconsistency with great rigour.

Thus it is with me yet, and I am afraid of work, by comparing what there power these gentle disturbances have over me: I am afraid griefs and calamities would overthrow me: nay, I will not be afraid (since it is truth) to confess, that I am more troubled to think disasters should trouble me, then of themselves: yet I am sometimes persuaded not to mistrust myself, since I have already sated some store of crosses; but they are nothing; no not preparatives to that I may feel. Not leaving these thoughts thus, I begin to search into the inventory of my things esteemed and I find not that I have caused to love anything too preciously. I have a wife, and a very good one, I love her according to her deserts; but should she fall into anything except dishonesty (which her virtue and I know will defend her from) I would not weep if I could choose, not do anything more than stand the surer upon my guard to resist fortune: for wealth and her Appendices I know them not, not did I long for them veer, but I keep me from baseness, and to exercise Charity. For my parents, I owe them voluntarily that, which the laws of God and of Nature exact of all men, I do it without hypocrisy, or fear: yet should they loose their wealth, or their lives, I would neither tear me hair, nor melt into womanish exclamations. No, I know the revolutions of the world, they are no strange to be:

Omnia tempus edax depascitur, imnua carpit Nil infinit effe din.

I think nothing would more trouble me, then that they should loose their reputation: love that well, and it would grieve me sure to be prevented of that patrimony. For other friends (thanks be to God) I have but few, I would I could affirm the fame of my acquaintance. The cause, few have corrupted me; and out of my own choice, there are few that I hold worthy of that nearness. Some I have whom I hold so virtuous that they would be sorry to see me lament for any of their trials. Thus I have been content to hold you in mine own example the longer, as taking the opportunity of recording these honest thoughts whole, will I hope I shall better follow, since I have set my hand to their book: and I see no reason but I should be as careful of not breaking them, as common men are of a bond: the penalty is as much: the law to punish, and recover, lies open; the course of conscience with whom it is always term time.

To speak now of the contrary, it hath much moved me to see the strange alterations of men upon slight occasions, at the receipt of a letter, yea, before the reading, at a message, at news: I have been so charitable as to be sorry for them, for these intolerable bendings of theirs. There are others (but it is no matter, for they are commonly hawking, or dogging fellows) that hoping to return of some messenger employed before these worthy occasions have suffered great extremity between hope and feat and that time: at slight of the messenger, behold the height of disquietness and wherefore? Alas for a dog, or a hawke: believe me, a pitiful diseases, which in my opinion ought to be prayed for as earnestly, as one that is upon the point of taking his leave of his body. When Seneca writ the definition of hope, Spes nomen eft boni Incerti, I am sure he meant not that good this way.

Banish these gross perturbations, all noble spirits they are dangerous, and the enemies of resolution. I do not poetically deify resolve, neither do I set up a mark impossible to hit: no, it is in the power a low stature to wade hear without drowning: I speak of no impossibility, perhaps at the first some little difficulty: there belongs to the basket trades, and shall thy estimation be so tender hearted, as to refuse it so mean a price: beware of such covetousness, for it is worse than to love money. For misfortunes in general, methinks, should not be so near a kin to us, they are no part of us, we may stand without them. God hath given us bodies and souls separate from others, and hath tied neither lands nor treasures unto thee, they are no part of their building; we are worse than woman, if we cannot go without these habiliments and tricks: without question, it is a true sign of a maimed soul and a deformed body, to see lustre from these outward things. It is more base then to be out of countenance at a feast, if not graced by the hist. I am myself still, though the world were turned with the wrong side outward.

If I lose found in virtue, I will repent, not wash handkerchiefs in my tears. Man knows not himself until he hath tasted of both fortunes. Every milk-fop can endure to swim in hot baths; any man shows gloriously in pomp, and no marvel, for he feeds Flatterers, and they him: but to endure the most violent rides, and still swim aloft, he is the man. You shall find no man that dares go wet shod, but will protest in his ambition, how much he loves. Honour, what exploits, what famous acts he would do, if he had been born mighty: do you hear my friend? You are out of the way, if you think any other estate but your own capable, of true honour: the poorer, the better, the stronger your enemy, the more worthy your conquest: vanquish your own sick wishes, and desires, and the chariot of triumph belongs more truly to you, then to Caesar. I write thus, I think thus and I hope to do thus: but that blessed time is not yet come. Now to particularities.

In the outward habit, and in some act ions, I am not so precise. I like not to be bound to one, it becomes not secular men, it tastes of affectation and hypocrisy: it is taught, it comes too near singularity and a desire to be noted: for those things I would conform myself: I am not of their minds that tax Alexanders putting on the habit of the Persians. It was a politick intent, he joined them to him, by that yielding. For some actions, if they be not wholly vicious, humanity and good nature shall make me sociable. I will hawk with a falconer, hunt with hunters, talk of husbandry with the servants of thrift: be amorous with the Italian, and drink with Dutch man, Non ad Ebrietatem, fed as voluptatem: The fruit, you shall thereby win their loser, and you may that interest make them honest: A course neglected, but well-becoming a wife honest man. Your determination being not to put on their imperfections, but to make them perfect: So doth the grafter join good fuir to a crab slock: and this humility alters not the good, but makes whthat which is ill, good.

Some may wonder I have not yet touched the death of the chief. I though thinkest so, thou art a coward, for in my opinion all affections are more strong and though to some it is the chief instrument of fear, I think not so, though mistake it; it is past fear, for thou art sure of it. Thou art unreasonable, if thou wilt buy a thing and not pay for it: though boughtest life, and payest for it with death. The lapidary is not sorry when he hath gotten the rind, or bark of the jewel from what is precious. They boy is no otherwise, thou art never not, thou hast no virtue in thee, thou art not found until the cover of they perfection be withdrawn.

In truth at this time, though my face would hinder me from thought of Age, and so by course my lease might be long, yet I am not afraid to be put out of my farm: It is a dirty thing to dwell in, full of misty gross airs, and yet barren; I have been so vainglorious sometimes as to say so, when I have been answered by more year, that I would change that mind, when I grew older. I have searched into that speech, supposing there had bin some concealed mystery in it, but I could find none: then I thought they imagined my boldness, the effect of ignorance: if it be so, I shall love knowledge the worse while I live. To cure this disease in a woman, I would apply no other medicine but example: It is everybody’s case, the fortune of princes, as well as beggars, it is the fashion. To conclude, the first causer said it should be so: and if thou art not a heathen, thou wilt not mistrust his love. His wisdom ordained it, who is the fountain of understanding: Come then, Allons Alegrement. I have loved a creature that hath been the very picture of ignorance, for following the example of Socrates taking his poison. And Cicero whom I could never love, because he was a coward, won me at his death, with thrusting his neck out of the coach, to meet the sword of the executioner.

[With special thanks to James Smith and Matt Symonds for pointing me towards a transcribable copy online.]

Review 2013: Not The Doctor: Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing.

Film The other reason I was pleased to complete my self-imposed Shakespeare embargo was seeing this utterly charming, entirely beautiful version of one of my favourite plays (which is I know a bit like saying coffee is one of my favourite drinks but nevertheless). As if you didn't already know the story, Joss shot Much Ado About Nothing in his two week holiday during the making of The Avengers in his own house and mostly cast friends from other projects, most of whom having attended his monthly play-reading parties. A passion project in other words, like a professional YouTube video with global release dates. As the director has said, he hasn't set out to make the "definitive" film of the play, just his interpretation of it in much the same way as hundreds of theatre companies each year. But it will no doubt be used in classes alongside the "Branagh version", the "BBC version" and the "one with Sam Waterston" so what does this bring to play the other might not? For one thing, as is so often the case with Whedon, it gives minor characters like Borachio and Conrade credible motivations and back stories (in the latter case by changing "his" gender and putting "him" in a relationship with Don John). Plus he's carefully thought through how to make the unfunny in the wrong hands Dogberry scenes hilarious by placing them in the recognisable contemporary environment of a cop tv show with actual Nathan Fillion.  There's also the matter of the leads, making us fan people happy by giving Fred and Wesley from Angel an artsy black and white afterlife (something he says he didn't realise until after the film was shot).  Even as I type I wish I was enjoying Amy Acker' and Alexis Denisof's sparring and also wishing that come The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Joss might consider filling his time with a Measure for Measure featuring these two as Isabella and Angelo (with Fillion as Lucio of course) (Clark Gregg as the Duke).

Review 2013: Not The Doctor: Karaoke Shower.

Music In an effort to remind youngsters that file sharing of copyrighted materials is illegal and means that musicians don't get paid, or at least that's how it was explained to me, the Intellectual Property Office currently has a "Karaoke Shower" on tour throughout the country, which looks a bit like a glorified photo-me booth, which allows us people to sing our favourite songs into a microphone shaped like a shower head in a small pocket of reality with a curved, tiled wall. When visiting Birmingham on Thursday to see the new library, I happened upon it in the library, just as a woman was inside working her way through Norah Jones's Come Away With Me. The assistant asked me if I'd like to have a go and I quite rightly said that I wouldn't. We chatted a bit about the aim of the Karaoke Shower (see earlier sentence) but then faux-Norah left looking entirely refreshed by the experience as though she'd had an actual shower and since this was the closest thing to a holiday I was having this year, I quite rightly changed my mind. The assistant brought up the popular suggestions on the selection screen on the side of the booth, the Rhianna, the Perry, the Justin Timberlake, but knowing I was in a library and knowing this would about the only time it would be permissible in a library, I asked if I could have a look for myself and found "What's Going On" by 4 Non Blondes. Stepping behind the curtain, I found myself within the aforementioned sound proof booth (we'd see about that), the microphone (the assistant popped her head in to explain which side of the head I should be holding to my mouth) and a screen with the words on it. The music started. Then I remembered, just as I did over ten years ago the last time I did karaoke in something approaching public, the version of the song I have in my head isn't the release version but the acoustic version that appeared on the b-side of the cassette single because I'd included it on a mixtape which I'd listened to incessantly at university which meant that I'd be out of sync and tuneless during verses. And I was. But the choruses? In the choruses I was fine. Because there are few things more musically therapeutic than bellowing the choruses to "What's Going On" by the 4 Non Blondes and here I was doing it in the middle of Birmingham's new library. I may have stood forward, head down, eyes closes, my gaping moor of a mouth almost consuming the shower head. I may have done that, entirely forgetting that there was a camera inside this pocket of reality broadcasting an image to a screen on the side of the booth.  As I completed Linda Perry b-side noodlings, I heard applause from outside the booth which died down before I emerged from behind the curtain.  The assistant thanked me.  "I should have done Avril Lavigne's Complicated."  I joked.  Then took a step away from the booth, turned around and asked, "Um, can I do Avril Lavigne's Complicated?"  And I did.