Farewell to Piloti

I finally picked up the first Private Eye of 2018 on the morning of the 8th with all the intent of reading during my break, instead the day got away from my control and by the time I got home I was exhausted and so tired my eyes wouldn’t play ball and focus. I eventually climbed into bed though after twelve and made a good attempt of at least quickly reading some of the cartoons and having a peek my favourite column. Sadly in place of the Nooks & Corners column there was instead an obituary to its writer of near forty years ‘Piloti’ otherwise known behind the punning pseudonym as Professor Gavin Stamp, who very sadly had passed away in December.

The shock that news had on me at such a late hour and being so overtired cannot be properly explained but it took me longer to nod off after reading it than usual as I lay in bed fretting, greatly saddened by the news. For anyone who loved and worried over our building/physical heritage Stamp’s articles as Piloti were a must read and worryingly catalogued every loss of architectural importance and every abuse of town planning or uncaring and unsympathetic redevelopment in our urban areas. It was instrumental in changing opinions and even being the first time some people had even heard about any such plans to demolish or ‘revamp’ well-loved buildings in their local areas and in some cases it played a role in even halting the destructive tendencies of urban-developing avarice disguised as ‘progress’ as it snaffled up more and more to just leave behind bland nondescript monolithic Lego buildings in its wake. Sometimes it was home to good news such as when he happily reported that some hare-brained scheme had faltered or failed due to planners being defeated in meetings (rarely) or perhaps more tellingly, that their funding now being withdrawn.

He wasn’t simply a young fogey (a lot is made of his personal style which hardly sums up his writing or tastes) against ‘change’ either which is an accusation often levelled at people who bemoan such things as town planning and poor architecture (Lord knows I get that a lot) he clearly recognised things move ever onward and in some cases praised sympathetic alterations or brand new buildings when they had been done with style and panache and great care. It was mundanity of design, poor functionality and near cultural vandalism and short sighted destructive tendencies of modernity’s march (such as the mass loss of the humble yet iconic red telephone box) which agitated Stamp and it’s increasingly clear that’s these are issues which resonate with a great many people young and old across the UK and in many of our towns and cities. Urban centres which are facing such a surge in land grabbing strategic quick building which leaves little thought to anything as important as attractiveness of façade or if the building is at all designed sympathetically to its neighbours.  Nor was it all lamentation for the loss and praise of Redbrick or Neo-Gothic but across the entire history of architecture in this country including some pretty grim & horrible (in my opinion) grey brutalist structures in his list of buildings to defend and some glass & concrete ultra-new builds, especially if those more recent buildings seemed doomed to fall to short-sighted re-designs or remodelling.

His loss is a blow to anyone who still cares about or recognises that the physical landscape informs the cultural one and for anyone who worries about the blight of short sighted redevelopment vandalism in our towns or city spaces often carried out by offshore interests with little to no concern for the history of a place or even the happiness of the people who live there. He was up there in his observations and commentary with the whimsical Betjeman, whom he worked with and then took over the column from on Betje’s death, and the acidic Ian Nairn in his vigorous defence of our buildings and urban green spaces and like them needs to be remembered and used as an example in future. I’ll sorely miss his articles and insights. Nooks & Corners will continue no doubt but whoever now takes it up will have a strong legacy to live up to.

Gavin Mark Stamp (Piloti) born 15 March 1948; died 30 December 2017.

Bookworm By Rail


For the last two years (wow! how time has flown) I have attempted to alleviate the horrors of the morning and then the return evening commutes with my attempts at devouring a different Penguin Classic ( & more often than I’d like also the very helpful explanatory notes) in record time as I’m gently buffeted between sniffing miserable commuters and shouty pissed up ruddy faced blokes on their way back from a jolly boys outing in the ‘Big City’. I’m being aided in this attempt by a friend who runs a small second hand bookshop, although in thinking about it I suppose it doesn’t hurt him if he can flog a few titles to me in the process.

Despite the distractions of early morning surly commuters and late night drunks catching the last train home I’ve now somehow managed to have worked my way through most of the Roman offerings in the guise of the histories and letters, I’m particularly quite fond of Seneca The Younger and his ‘Letters from a Stoic’ which pop with a witty modern feeling conversational style when taken from private correspondence. I’m now deep into the Greeks (f’narr-f’narr!) and attempting to wrestle with the weighty philosophical themes around death, the concept of the conscious and the soul presented in Plato’s dialogues of ‘Phaedo’… which granted hardly makes for an easy read on a crowded train journey of an hour and twenty minutes … or having to flick to the notes and back again.

I have noticed something rather sweet about being a ‘book reader’ on a train (when ‘book reader’ started being deserving of having quote marks around it marking it out as something different I’m not sure but it seems to be something which we all think is on the way out despite the fact everyone claims to love reading books) What I’ve picked up on is that if you’re sat happily reading an old fashioned printed book rather than reading from a kindle or mobile device then other bookworms start to congregate near you, making the effort to sit in the same space as you and some even make a bit of a show in retrieving their well read and loved ratty paperbacks from bags and pockets as if its a sign or a badge of belonging to some tribe: ‘here’s my book! See I’m one of you not one of ‘them’ with their screens and infernal finger swipes!’ sort of thing.

Often they also smile with a sort of friendly recognition but the most important thing here, the most wonderful thing they do to show a mutual understanding of book reading etiquette is they remain blissfully silent!


Maybe that’s the real reason other book readers choose to sit next to or across from other book readers, they’re guaranteed a little bit of peace rather than risking sitting next to someone who might look like they’re busily engaged in reading something on their mobile phone or tablet only in fact to be setting up some shitty music play list to play audibly via tinny headphones designed all the better to annoy people with.



Electoral Dysfunction


I stayed up until 5:15am when the result was pretty much known for all watching and for the worst aspects Trump support to be crowing during interviews with two horrible plastic looking Stepford Wife soccer mom types being less than graceful in victory it has to be said. Disheartened I retired to bed and attempted to get some (even fretful) sleep before the morning commute and the inevitable heated discussions on the result.

So at the risk of sounding patronising I’d like to say to my American friends on FB whom I think I know well in some cases, less well in others but enough to guess where your vote landed, from a Brit who was devastated by Brexit (which this is drawing parallels with in some media) and who has had to put up with snidey, borderline Anglophobic comments from Canadian tourists (of all people!) hinting that all Brits must be closest racists and close minded bigots due to that outcome, that we know.
We know this doesn’t reflect everyone in America political views, we know how shocked and greatly saddened you must be, we know that you might even be worried about any possible verbal (or worse) backlash when abroad or being judged for simply being American as if Trump being elected is therefore your fault alone but hey listen, for what its worth here’s a virtual hug and assurances that a section of ‘out of touch’ woolly, liberal Britain understands perfectly those sentiments for broadly similar reasons. Its a bad time to be a liberal either socially or politically it seems as though the extreme voices on the right or for bigotry appear to be on the ascendency across the globe pandering to distrust, fear and outright hate and it can all get rather depressing when you view it in a wider context.


Try not to fret too much my dears, far easier said than done I know, but you have many friends in the UK (and soon no doubt in the rest of Europe) who can relate to being both cast as the ‘loosing side’ at home and then feeling like the ‘bad guys’ when abroad as well- maybe we could start a support club? Anyway I for one still love you and America, the America at least I’ve had the great pleasure of seeing and experiencing first hand and I will always smile and share a friendly word should we ‘political exiles’ bump into one another and we can grumble and quietly seethe together over a coffee.


On one note of a possible ‘sliver lining’ though it’s certainly seems like its going to be a good time to be in a punk band and have something to kick against. Small comfort I know but it’ll probably be more convincing and urgent than the ‘rock against Bush’ scene ever was.

A Brief History of Punk Rawk!

1876: Henry Rollins is born in a cave and suckled by bears.


1912: The word ‘Bollocks’ enters into the English language when Queen Victoria drops an iron on her foot and will come in very handy later on in the history of punk.

1939: First Doctor Marten boots are made and instantly become hugely popular with a new youth craze called the ‘Nazis’ who popularise the footwear and a new dance called the ‘Goose Step’. The craze sweeps across Europe whilst off their tits to bangin’ heavy Oompah music. Hitler personally favours an Ox blood 8 eye.

1956: First report of someone who is too young to buy a drink anyway claiming to be Straight Edge in a Beatnik bar outside San Bernardino.

1970s: The UK is downing with surplus Royal Stewart tartan after the Bay City Roller craze has died. A canny cockney rag merchant called Malcolm McLaren purchases the lot and starts making them into tight trousers for the Highland fetishist market.

1974: New York- The Ramones print their first tee shirt and shortly after decide to form a band to better publicise their business.


1975: David Bowie invents Punk during a paranoia filled coke induced fit where he bangs Brian Eno’s head against a drinks tray for over an hour and records the sound. But Bowie forgets to patent it or tell anyone except for his flatmate Iggy Pop who is unimpressed as during this period Iggy is under the impression he is a lizard until the drugs wear off in 1990.

1975: A pair of pants rips so someone (maybe a hobo) shoves a safety pin in to keep them together and it catches on.

1976: A perky boy band called the Sex Pistols hoping to be the next teen sensation release an album of catchy beat/folk ballads about London’s terrible parking restrictions under the title ‘Never Mind the Bollards’ due to a terrible printing error they end up in hot water and on the front pages of every newspaper.


This new aggressively nice and overly polite mix of Folk and 1960s beat music and charity shop chic is dubbed ‘Punk’ by the press when they pick that name out of a hat during an office party. The scene soon centres around key locations of: The Kings Road, Malcolm McLaren’s shop in London and John Robb’s garden shed in Lancashire.

Soon a whole new army of ‘Punk’ bands are forming such as:

The un-Damned ( a Christian band from Dudley) The ‘Slits’ (An all female band of road trench diggers) The Buzzcocks (who only sing songs about chickens high on caffeine) The UK Subs (a band recruited from stand in teachers) and many, many more such as:

Eddie & The Hot Pots, Ian Dreary & the Dickheads, Useless Eric, Generation Z, Stiff Little Mingers,The Understones, Killing Poke, Chelsea-sick-Steve

and of course lesser groups such as:

The Fancy Lads, Rumba Bastards, the Adverts, Pelican Crossing, 999, The Yobs, Pole Smoke, GBH, Extraordinary Offence Caused By Our Music (EOBOM for short), Discharge, Norks, Frilly Knickers, More Tea Vicar, Scruffy Oiks, Shocking Sound and the Dingle-Berries (an Irish folk-punk band)

1976 (again) : The Clash win Opportunity Knocks and go head to head in a singles war with The Sex Pistols for the number one slot. This battle of the bands is the top story in all the papers with the lead singers from each band often seen scuffling with one another outside the Groucho. This struggle defines the two camps of Punk between the middle class fans of the suburbanite Pistols and the working class estate football based ‘lad’ culture of the Clash and is whipped up to a frenzy by the NME and Q magazine. The Pistols win but victory is pyrrhic and short lived as people are already moving into the latest craze which is Zydeco fuelled all nighters warehouse parties. Britain is now wholly looking forward to Thatcherism, things can only get better surely?

Disillusioned the Pistols move to Hollywood to start a football team of lardy ex-pat former celebrity Brits. Lead singer Johnny Rotten reverts to his birth name of Old Dirty Bastard and invents Hip-Hop.

1976/77: The Clash sell out, buy back in and then decide to sublet instead.

1977: Punk is dead, long live punk. The trend is now global so the real punkers move on and buy capes, get widow peak haircuts and hang upside down in coffins for long hours to protest the death of their scene, this inadvertently gives rise to ‘Goth’.

1979: Sid Vicious always a rebel bucks the usual pop music trend by dying aged 21 and not 27. Elvis back from the dead for a brief period.


A band called The Spam kick start a Mod revival. Punk bands left over from 77 quickly buy parkas and get their mums to give them a bowl cut.

1980s: The second wave of punk is led by Roland Rat Scabies and The Exploited. Soon across school job fairs punk stalls can be seen recruiting gullible kids for the ranks. On deciding to become punk they are issued with one leather jacket, a pair of bleached denim jeans, a glue bag, army boots and a book of clichés. Many instead opt for the army and a tour of Northern Ireland or sell their souls to get jobs in the City.


1981: Henry Rollins decides to reinvent the wheel and ends up just calling Punk ‘Hardcore’ instead which seems to do the trick. He visits Preston, gets beaten up and will never cease to mention this forever more as if anyone can do anything about it now. He overcompensates by bulking up and shouting a lot, he is in effect the Brian Blessed of Punk Rock.

A Fond Farewell.


The last ever Studio Ghibli full feature film (apparently) ‘When Marnie Was There’ is soon to be released on BluRay and DVD and as Hayao Miyazaki finally retired in 2013 (leaving none of the original founders of the studio at the helm) the future of the studio was cast in doubt.

Its a crying shame but something which we all knew was on the cards for some time and it has prompted me to take a little look back to how I came to discover the joys of Ghibli and my gradual shift away from the more ‘traditional’ action based ‘manga’ fare of the late 1980s and early 90s to a more rounded understanding of Anime. I came to the studio’s output like many others via 97’s Princess Mononoke but I don’t think I ever connected that movie with any studio identity. In fact to my shame I think I was put off from watching it due to the hype in the genre magazines of the day, a spread by Manga Mania springs to mind. Back then I think most of the ‘lighter’ shades of Manga (We didn’t call it by the more correct term ‘anime’ then which is testament more to the marketing power of Manga UK than anything else) was sadly lost under a pile of mutant cyber punk slashers, cliché tentacle based smut and copious ninjas. Just going through my old videos seems to back this retrospective view as they consist of titles such as: Ninja Scroll, Crying Freeman, Golgo 13, Vampire Hunter D and a host of cheaper imitators but very little in the way of whimsy or lightness, anything bordering that was the cheap Saturday morning cartoon variety such as the ‘Samurai Pizza Cats’ aimed decidedly more at kids (but also loved by hungover students 😉 ). That was out there but the scene seemed to be dominated by surly, angry social outcast lads in thrift shop wool coats and army surplus boots who wanted to see skimpily dressed and rather ‘buoyant’ looking female heroines take a sword to all manner of demon based horrors… which must have dictated greatly what was released on the UK market and what was worth the cost and effort of redubbing into English.

I seem to remember Kim Newman did a lot of Manga video reviews at this time late at night possibly on Channel 4?ninja-scroll

Thankfully since the dam broke and all things Japanese Pop Culture has become increasingly more mainstream crossing over boundaries from the musty comic book shops of old to the rather hip with a passing but keen interest this is now a distant memory, we’re free to cherry pick from all manner of genres and styles in both manga and anime which was always the case back in Japan anyway with titles which pretty much covered every possible taste, and whilst that more mainstream or gentle side was available in the 1980s/90s UK you had to look hard for it as there wasn’t (to my mind) a great deal about on the video shelves. Its one of the few things which I once jealously guarded as an interest which has become popular and the growing popularity of which I praise, people enjoying cosplay and high streets stocking cute Mang/Anime inspired tees have done more to strip away the idea that only dodgy anti-social loners with a sword collection and self professed weekend Cyber-gothy-punky types enjoyed this stuff than anything. A lot to break down this mainstream media perception of Manga/Anime being a little pervy or violent has been down to the successes of Ghibli and in particular ‘Spirited Away’ as whilst ‘Princess Mononoke’ was highly praised by fans of Japanese animation and the movie press it didn’t quite set the world on fire like 2001s ‘Spirited Away’.

A long winded way of saying that this made for me the discovery of Ghibli’s output even at a later date than many others came to them a far more wonderful thing, once I clicked I began to explore the worlds of Ghibli in no particular chronological order, snapping up releases where I could and staying up late to watch a rare airing on TV.

I might be wrong and getting an entirely different thing from the films than most but the majority of the movies I enjoy do tend to fit in with my own young fogey mindset forever wishing he could turn back the clock to better and calmer days. Plus I’m bit of a country bumpkin so the rustic idyll often portrayed in many of the films whilst do authentically Japanese in its rusticity is also universal to anyone with a love of countryside and nature. When I first watched ‘My Neighbour Totoro’ not only did I relate to the setting, it bringing back memories of a childhood spent running around woods and greens like a loon (which is how I chose to remember it at least), but I also felt something I hadn’t felt when watching other anime to this point. A sense of longing bordering on that bizarre mix of emotions – a happy sort of sadness near nostalgia, a wish to step into that world if at all possible and live there rather than here and now.


I quickly followed that up with ‘Pom Poko’ and again found that it spoke to me on a near personal level (and many others) who saw the march of modernity and progress as robbing us not just of the green spaces but also of a connection to the natural world to be lost in concrete and electrical cables. It made a serious point about the loss of identity due to a rush for modernisation… plus the Raccoon Dogs had amusingly huge magic testicles 😀 Once the ball was rolling I pretty much covered the lot, I have my favourites though such as ‘The Cat Returns’ ‘Howls Moving Castle’ and ‘From Up On Poppy Hill’ and I wont pretend to love everything Ghibli ever did nor to be an expert on the studio as the above entry will attest to but I do honestly believe the world is a little happier and for some people that little bit nicer and easier to deal with thanks to the films so lovingly crafted being able to whisk them away for a few hours. Still as the cliché says all good things must, sadly, come to an end.

Anyway for what its worth I’m going to add my own pathetic voice to the chorus of others from across the globe who will no doubt be feeling pretty choked up about this news but will also be equally feeling a little blessed to have experienced the joy of watching the films and in wishing a find farewell to the studio as we know it at least. Thankfully the legacy left behind is a strong one and the joy of DVD/Blue ray means I can take a walk in those worlds whenever I want.

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