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Lewes, East Sussex, United Kingdom
Hello and welcome! I am Colin Bell, a novelist and poet, previously a TV producer-director of arts programmes, also known as the blogger Wolfie Wolfgang. I hope you find something here among my daily blogs. I write about anything that interests me - I hope it interests you too. Let me know.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Me in China: Kungfu, Fouchou and my Bonsai tree.

I have always liked the idea of growing Bonsai  and, for my birthday last week, I was set up for the challenge and given this beautiful little tree called Syzygium buxifolium or Chinese myrtle. As today is China's national day, it's good to celebrate that great but far from free country's culture with something of such beauty.

I'm a little bit daunted by the responsibility of caring for it but I've placed it on my desk so that it's in the right environment, next to a South-facing window, with some direct light and plenty of air as I mostly keep that window open unless it's really cold outside. I know not to over-water it and that I should use rain water or cool boiled water to prevent it drying out in summer. I will turn it weekly to control the growing pattern and trim the roots every two or three years. Mostly though, I hope, I shall sit and watch it grow - already it has injected a Zen-like spirit of tranquillity into my working space.

Chinese Myrtle grows to its full height in Southern China including Fuchian province where I visited in February 2008 - it was in China, rather than Japan, where I first saw Bonsai trees growing in ornamental parks like this one in Fouchou.

I was visiting China with my White Crane Kungfu club, White Crane Fighting Arts, to study Shaolin Dog Boxing with renowned Master Lin Zaipei.


Apart from the Kungfu,  there was time to see the country,  visit temples and, of course, to eat and drink the Chinese way.

I even earned myself a certificate in Shaolin Dog Boxing presented by Master Lin Zaipei himself.

Of course, when we weren't training, there was also time to go out on the town in Fouchou city.

I had a great time there so it's especially good to have this little Chinese Bonsai tree as a daily reminder of the positive aspects of Chinese society while we, at least, are allowed to see in our media, those brave  Hong Kong demonstrators taking to the streets demanding democracy from the often hard-faced government of leader Xi Jinping.

Wish me (and the tree) luck, everyone, but don't forget to wish luck to the great Chinese people too - when I was there they were welcoming, hospitable and very charming.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

The Umbrella Revolution - new iconic images from China, 25 years after Tiananmen Square.

The people of Hong Kong are still out there on the streets demonstrating, illegally but charmingly, for full democracy for their state within a state. They want free elections and object to Beijing imposing a list of 'suitable' candidates on Hong Kong. China must be worried that the demonstrators raised all those umbrellas against the heavy-handed use of tear gas. Umbrellas, civilised, decorative and fragile, will become a potent symbol of humanity pitched against brute force.

The demonstration, apparently lead by a huge body of students and academics, has been handled with charm and smiling faces and that is a lesson for all of us. How difficult it must be for the Chinese government to keep credibility internationally when these images spread around the World.

 These fresh-faced, optimistic but plucky people have won our support without lifting a finger in violence.

It is easier for Chinese leader Xi Jinping to keep these images away from his own people  - all he has had to do is censor the media and social networking websites.

The non-Democratic Chinese government dreads its people seeing images of protest especially when they are calling for democracy and freedom. So the brave people of Hong Kong will not be seen in mainland China.

Twenty-five years after the last major demonstration against Chinese autocracy, more plucky Chinese demonstrators risk the wrath of their unelected rulers. Today's demonstrators,  just like that brave student in Tiananmen Square all those years ago,  have created images that will haunt us all just as, presumably, they must haunt Mr Xi Jinping.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Tory women and the irresistible appeal of men's paisley pyjamas.

What is it about paisley pyjamas? If we are to believe what we read in the British press today, then they are irresistible if you are a Tory woman. Or so one of our tabloid newspapers found out when they got a male reporter to pretend, on  Twitter, possibly illegally, to be a young woman, improbably named Sophie Wittams, a 'Twentysomething Tory PR girl.'

In all fairness, real Tory PR girls might be able to resist paisley pyjamas but that's not what junior Tory minister, the even more improbably named, Brooks Newmark thought when he sent Sophie a photograph of his genitals popping out, seductively, or so he thought, from his irresistible paisley pjs.

The resistible and now former Minister for Civil Society, Brooks Newmark

I can only assume that Mr Newmark thought that Tory girls not only find him irresistible but that they also have a weakness for men in paisley. The former Minister for Civil Society resigned over the weekend when it was also revealed that he was the co-founder of Women2Win, a campaign to, er, attract more Conservative women into Parliament.

Brooks Newmark (r) attracting women into the Conservative party.

This is what Women2Win have to say in their publicity pamphlets: 'Having gone from 17 to 49 MPs in the 2010 election, Women2Win aims to continue increasing the number of Conservative women MPs by providing support, advice and training to women who wish to enter Parliament or get more involved in politics.'

I wonder if they will be using photographs of men in paisley in their future publicity campaigns. It will all depend, I suppose, on which Twentysomething Tory PR girls they employ.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Betabrand, the zany San Francisco clothing company and my career as a model.

There's a rather adventurous clothes company in San Francisco called Betabrand. I read something about them online last year and liked their idea. They put up a photo of a new design and ask potential buyers to vote for it. If enough people do, they make it. I was feeling a bit down having been diagnosed with Pulmonary Embolism and this silly-in-a-good-way sweater appealed to me in my gloomy mood. So I voted for it and, eventually, it arrived. I then saw another wacky idea from them and thought these people are fun. They started to ask customers to send it photographs of themselves, preferably silly ones, wearing their products and then they published them on their website. Suddenly, a whole load of us, enjoying their sense of the ridiculous, sent in photos like this one I took (above).

It was hilarious, some time later, to see myself on their website modeling their Coyote Tooth Saddle Blanket Sweater. A star was born - well, almost.

Last summer I bought another product from them, a zanily colourful pair of swimming shorts to take on holiday with me to the Venetian Lido. Well, I sent Betabrand another photo - this time me doing my Taichi in my new shorts on the beach in Italy. Weirdly they got in touch - they'd tracked me down on my blog - you have to admire these guys, and asked if I'd do an article for them about my holiday so that they could include the photos of me in their gear.

I did the piece and sent it to them and then they, well a highly enthusiastic man called Robbie Wiedie, asked for a video of me reading one of my poems - well, they were pretty persuasive and, this is the result. The piece I wrote is published on their webpage as Colin Bell's Dispatches From Venice and the link is below the recording I made of my poem Wrestling Angels. Oh yes, by the way, my Pulmonary Embolism has nearly gone but this little detour into my modelling career definitely cheered me up.

Colin Bell’s Dispatches From Venice | Model Citizen Spotlight:

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Octopuses' Cool Story Bro is a BBC6 top recommendation. The story gets cooler, bro.

On the stroke of midnight last night, fans of the BBC radio's great music station BBC6, will have heard the sig tune for their weekly show 6 Music Recommends presented by Tom Ravenscroft, son of the legendary rock music presenter and guru, John Peel. When the music fades, in comes another tune and, yes, it's my son, Adam Bell's band Octopuses with their new single Cool Story Bro. Just as I'm sure John Peel would have been proud of his son's radio career, I was thrilled to hear my son's band as the first item on this show. Wow. Well done you Octopuses - your story gets cooler and cooler.


Adam Bell


Adam Bell

If you like the song, you'll love their video:

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Men who wear glasses.

I have always been short-sighted, myopic, well, ever since I was a kid. I was given contact lenses as a 21st birthday present and, since then, I've had both good times and bad with them. I won't tell you about the time I cut the whites of my left eye. Mostly I wear contacts these days but I'm liking my latest glasses and I get tempted to wear them more again. Maybe a mix of both is good - lenses are definitely better to wear at the gym but if you just want to curl up for a bit of television viewing, say Breaking Bad or something brilliant like that, then a pair of glasses (spectacles and wine) feel much more relaxing. If it's a vanity thing, I just don't know. They say I should expect less passes if I wear glasses but that can't always be true. If you want to look intelligent or clever, even if you're not, then glasses definitely add an air of bookish sophistication but that might just come across as boring. Hmm...maybe I should go out and experiment. That might take some time.

Monday, 22 September 2014

The Autumn design for Mrs Baxter's seasonal tea cosies unveiled.

I am fortunate to have a mother who is good with her hands. Mine, Mrs Irene Baxter (formerly Irene Bell), on the verge of a very significant birthday, is still designing and making knitted and crocheted garments and other things such as the now traditional seasonal tea cosies that she produces for me in time for each season of the year.

Yesterday, summer turned into autumn, and so, in my household, this year's summer cosy has been replaced by a new design for autumn. I think you will see that mrs Baxter's imagination and dexterity show now sign of tiring. A good way to start Autumn.