Monday, 7 March 2011

Pip Pip

For World Book Night Site Gallery hosted Ex Libris, the first in a series of 'Exchange Dinners', curated by Site's new Director Laura Sillars and Tim Etchells, and hosted by P.J.Taste, who run the Site Canteen. Those of us attending were invited to donate a book to a new library at Site - the first volume of which is Leonard Cohen's The Favourite Game, donated by Site's Patron, Jarvis Cocker.

I donated my well thumbed copy of Pip Pip: A Sideways Look at Time, by Jay Griffiths. Pip Pip was recommended to me by good friend of Third Angel, Karen Smith, whilst we were engaged in the Karoshi research process (that fed into Hurrysickness, Realtime and 9 Billion Miles From Home amongst others). Particularly following on from reading James Gleick's Faster, Pip Pip had a profound effect on the way I think about time, not just in my work.
For the event we were asked why we were donating the book. That's easy. I said:
It has helped me understand stuff, think about stuff I hadn't thought about before, and articulated stuff I've known but not been able to explain.
It's a book not to be read at a sitting. A book instead to be savoured, dipped in to, revisited. And it is beautifully written.
We were also asked to quote a couple of favourite sentences. Normally what I would have done is go to my notebook of the time, and find a couple of the many quotes I remember transcribing into it.

But not long after I had finished reading Pip Pip I had my bag stolen in a bar in London, containing a just-filled notebook, and a new one, 20 pages or so filled - so I lost a lot of my notes from my Karoshi reading and thinking. Which I did plenty of moaning about at the time, so I'm not getting in to that here.

But when I took it down from the shelf I found my well-thumbed copy of Pip Pip had got three page corners folded down - so I just took that as my lead. These are passages that leapt out at me from those marked pages: 
Although time varied between the west and east of the country, train timetables needed a uniform time; so London Time was decreed in 1840 to be that standard. The Great Western Railway printed its timetables accordingly, introducing London Time at its stations. Plymouth and Exeter hated this expression of the capital's political dominance and refused to accept it for years. London Time finally became law in 1880. The clock at Bristol Corn Exchange has three hands; an hour hand and two minute hands because they register both Bristol and London time, Bristol eleven minutes behind GMT. [p 148]
And whose natural state was iridescent disorder? Who were even more unpunctual than the poor? Who by nature were living in a state of such disgraceful enchantment that they thought the hour of now the only possible time? Who – unforgivably – insisted on seeing the purpose of life to be not work but play? [p 158]
But the important part is not perhaps the discovery but the desire to test people for such things. And the question is if society had already used such tests, who would have run the risk of permission refused? [p 247]
Now I've donated that copy, rest assured that I will be buying another.

The whole event was a great evening, suggesting exciting times ahead at Site. Whilst we were eating, the librarians were studiously cataloguing the donations, which are now available to readers.

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