About Me

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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.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Ray Fitzwalter, World In Action editor and Granada Television legend has died.

Ray Fitzwalter, 
editor of Granada Television's pioneering current affairs series, World In Action.

It definitely felt like the passing of an era, hearing about Ray Fitzwalter's death. He was a truly decent person and a wryly funny one too, as well as being one of that clever, yes, brilliant, but also very lucky generation of TV producers who held the reins when the 'miracle of capitalism' that was pre-Broadcasting Bill ITV meant that companies like Granada actually invested real money in serious programme-making, before the whole industry changed, partly through the consequences of the mostly exciting digital revolution and partly through the wilful and on-going destruction of British public service broadcasting by government interference.

My main involvement with World In Action was being asked, over a number of years, to do the voice of 'sneering authority' whenever they needed someone to voice some of establishment's bad guys, including politicians, bishops and captains of industry. It may have been embarrassing to be considered the right voice for these people but I always felt I was doing my bit when I was asked to go down to sit in on the programme's dubbing. Now that the series is long gone, I still feel good about  my minor involvement with such an important programme.

I look back fondly, and with some pride, on my twenty years at Granada TV and offer my sympathy to all who will be saddened by Ray's passing and to all those bright-eyed TV folk still fighting to keep British television alive.

Ray Fitzwalter:

Bafta Award-winning investigative journalist Ray Fitzwalter  was the longest-serving editor of ITV’s World in Action. His programmes for the Granada-made series, which ended in 1998, included an investigation which ultimately led to the release of the Birmingham Six. He spent 23 years working on the World in Action series, which was aired on ITV and gained a reputation for its audacious reporting. He was also instrumental in the uncovering of the Poulson affair – an investigation into the Yorkshire architect John L Poulson and his use of bribery to win contracts. The scandal rocked the Edward Heath government and led to the resignation of the home secretary, Reginald Maudling.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Photography - at first it was just taking pictures, then I went digital and now I discover Instagram.

I have lived long enough now to have seen a transformation in the art of photography. Not that I'd call myself a photographer, but I been taking photographs since I was a child and I've always been entranced by the possibilities of even the simplest of cameras. As a schoolboy, I won a photographic competition once but that was a long time ago. Since then, I've just been using my various cameras for my own pleasure, mostly as a record of my family and friends but when that amazing digital revolution got to me, in 2007,  I found new excitement with a great digital camera, the Cannon EOS 400D, bought in Hong Kong and loved ever since.  Since living in Lewes, UK, I've been friends with a real photographer, David Stacey http://www.davidstaceyphoto.com/ who has not only inspired me with his own work but encouraged me to experiment more with my own camera.

David Stacey - I dared to take this photograph of the photographer, last year.

Dave even turned his camera on me a few times and this portrait  now hangs on a wall at home - like it or not, I think it captures the spirit of my life here in Lewes.

Me by David Stacey

David Stacey at work in my study.

I spent a day with Dave recently when we went to an exhibition as the excellent Pallant House Gallery in Chichester and, over a boys' pub lunch, we discussed cameras and photography as we often do. It was there that Dave inspired me to give Instagram a go. He said he thought I'd really like this the most  creatively challenging and excitingly instant of all of today's social networking sites. I said I'd have a go and, a month later, I'm still doing it and, yes, loving it too. I've been taking at least one photograph a day for the site and I'm gradually learning how to master the various editing options. You can see how I've been getting on by following the link below.

The other revolution in my on-line world is that those photographs taken for Instagram can be linked to various other sites - so I'm now an enthusiastic member of the photography site Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/16199705@N05/

I'm also linking these shots with that other photography site Tumblr:  https://www.tumblr.com/blog/wolfie-wolfgang

I'm enjoying the way my photographs can be sent round the internet with just a couple of clicks and love the way my Instagram photos are also automatically linked to  that other photography site Pinterest: https://uk.pinterest.com/colinbell/photographs-by-colin-bell-wolfiewolfgang/

Needless to say, these pictures also go directly to my Facebook and Twitter pages so after a relative silence here on my website, I'm suddenly all over the wonderful world-wide web and having lots of fun all of which I owe to my good friend David Stacey. Thanks Dave.

I haven't posted many blogs on here this year. Forgive me, regular readers, I've been busy finishing a novel for publication later this year  and now I'm getting on with a new one so I've been heads down all year but plan to get back to blogging again very soon.

In the meanwhile you can follow me on all of the above sites as well as on Facebook and Twitter - I hope to see you around in cyberspace and, of course, here on this site.

My Facebook page.

My Twitter page.

Monday, 29 February 2016

The Legend of The Flying Dutchman miniaturised as one of my latest Fibonacci poems.

Today I'm celebrating the publication of two more of my Fibonacci poems,  Castle Walk and The Flying Dutchman,  in that great specialist Fibonacci journal, The Fib Review which is published today and can be found with the following link:

The Flying Dutchman by Albert Pinkham Ryder (1847 - 1917) Smithsonian Museum, Washington DC

One of my two poems uses The Flying Dutchman as its starting point. The Flying Dutchman legend concerned a cursed sea captain condemned to travel the seas for eternity with a crew of ghosts, only allowed to come ashore once every ten years. Sometimes the ship is called The Flying Dutchman, other versions of the legend claim that the name applies to the unfortunate captain, punished for a serious sin, possibly cursing the Crucifixion.  Wagner wrote a well-known opera on the subject but I was trying something much more modest, a very short syllable-count Fibonacci poem, using the Dutchman as a symbol for a turbulent state of mind. 

I've been writing these challenging short-form poems since 2009 and many of them (well, 59 so far) have been published by The Fib Review.  They are based on the Fibonacci Code,  introduced into Europe in the 13th Century by the Italian mathematician/merchant, Leonardo Bonacci, known as Fibonacci who learnt about on his Arabian travels. The Fibonacci Code is a mathematical system were each number in the sequence is the sum of the two previous numbers. It is, believe me, much more flexible as a poetic form than you might imagine until you try it. Why not have a go.

Fibonacci (Leonardo Bonacci) c.1170 - c.1250

I can't leave you without giving you at least a taste of Wagner's music for The Flying Dutchman - here's New York's  Metropolitan Opera Orchestra conducted with typical bravura by James Levine:

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Silent House - first a poem, now a movie.

My thanks are due to the multi-talented Joseph Nussbaum for his film, so carefully made, of my poem Silent House. It was a great experience sharing brains with such a perceptive director. It's great when that solitary poet life can be shared like this.  I loved Tim Risher's music too. Here are a couple of stills and, below, a copy of the film. Hope you like it...I shall be keeping it, with the other films of my work, in the video column on the right of this page

Monday, 11 January 2016

I remember David Bowie - formative influence, genius and a man whom I met once in an unexpected place.

David Bowie (1947 - 2016)

I was truly amazed when I first came across an album by this man with the proudly flaunted chicken-chest and daringly challenging face makeup. I had, of course, loved Major Tom and Ziggy Stardust and knew that David Bowie was an exciting new phenomenon in an already thrilling period of rock music. This album though was significant - Aladdin Sane (1973) hit me with a force that I might have expected if I had only got to know his two earlier albums first (Hunky Dory, 1971 and The Rise Of Ziggy Stardust, 1972) and not just absorbed them intravenously from students' bar juke boxes along with many other coming-of-age excitements in those days that now seem so long ago. People knock the 1970s and ridicule its fashion sense and its music but, just maybe, now that David Bowie has died, they might reconsider an era that will always remain 'golden' for me.

I 'awoke' to so many things in that period as I began that often confusing journey that was my coming- of-age. If David Bowie could turn and face the change then in an age when it seemed anything could happen, then why couldn't I? It was the beginning of a journey that continues for me, alleluia, but now seems strangely shaken by the unexpected news of Bowie's death.

I suppose we should've guessed that something was up over the last year but David Bowie had long chosen to live his life outside of the tabloid headlines so that we could absorb his work as art - separate from the man in his sixties living a life that wasn't any of our business. I was waiting to listen to the new album, Blackstar, only released a few days ago. Well it will be the only Bowie album I will discover when the great man is no longer alive. I was discussing the record's release with a friend last Friday and looking forward to the next chapter in Bowie's life of changes. So few of my rock heroes (Bowie, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young) from those days managed to sustain a body of stimulating new work throughout their (and my) life. I may have thought Heroes (1977) the last of his era-changing works but I never lost faith or interest in the career of one of rock music's giants.

It was an unexpected encounter with David Bowie in 1976 that left me unusually but decidedly lost for words. Student days over, I was working at Granada Television with the rock star Marc Bolan when I bumped into him in one of the gents lavatories by the TV studios. Marc Bolan was talking to a tall shy man in his late twenties. 'Colin,' he said, ' let me introduce you to David.' We shook hands and said hello. It was all over in a moment but I really did meet David Bowie in a lavatory.

Blackstar by David Bowie (2016)

In those Seventies years, I was on the move, going places, I thought and hoped, thrilled by the possibilities that contemporary rock music sang into my ears. Life was simplified in student rooms, living with what you could pack into a single case - long before the miraculous music-collecting possibilities of the digital age. I usually listened to music in public places or friends' pads leaving a few cherished LPs behind in the parental home. This changed with Aladdin Sane with an early stereo sound system in a shared flat. It was there that I could spend many a morose or over-excited evening devouring the subtleties in the early Bowie albums where startling brilliant musicians, not just four lads with guitars and a drum-kit, joined Bowie in creating music that stood with any recording by the jazz or classical greats.  It was then that I started to carry around with me a small collection of nine albums (three by David Bowie) which still stir the inner me while acting as reminders of where I came from in those heady days. So today I am joining the masses who are mourning the passing of the man if not the dream.

Here are those nine albums:

Aladdin Sane (David Bowie, 1973)

Hunky Dory (David Bowie, 1971)

The Rise of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (David Bowie, 1972)

Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (The Beatles, 1967)

Blue (Joni Mitchell, 1971)

After The Gold Rush (Neil Young, 1970)

Songs Of Leonard Cohen (Leonard Cohen, 1967)

 Nashville Skyline (Bob Dylan, 1969)

The Band (The Band, 1969)

It's only fair to leave the last word with David Bowie himself. Here he is in 1973 on a TV show performing one of my favourite Aladdin Sane songs, Drive-In Saturday.  The thrill lives on:

Friday, 25 December 2015

I have reached the end of my 18 year musical journey - a special way to celebrate Christmas.


Johannes Brahms (1833 - 1897)

As some of you may know, I have been on a musical journey over the last eighteen years. I have been working my way through the history of Western Classical Music from the year 1150 with a view of finishing in the year 1897 with the death of Johannes Brahms. Well, that moment of completion arrived on Christmas Eve when I played Brahms' last compositions, the eleven Choral Preludes for organ, Opus 122 written in 1896/7 while the composer was suffering from his final illness and left tidily on his desk for his friends to find after his death.

It has been a momentous journey, one that I shall revisit and write about once it has all sunk in - if that can ever happen. I have been listening in chronological order to the music of some of all arts greatest exponents from the first great flourishes of Gregorian Chant through the magnificent flowering of Renaissance polyphony to the gigantic musical pinnacle that was J.S. Bach and G.F. Handel on through the parallel musical peak of the Classical First Viennese school of composers - Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert - to the great 19th Century Romantics,  Berlioz, Chopin and Schumann and the operatic giants Wagner and Verdi until I've now come to an appropriate conclusion with the death of the composer who was uniquely knowledgeable about the art of all his forebears, firmly committed to the tradition from which he had sprung but also alert to the possibilities and dangers that lay ahead , beyond the great 'Insurrectionist' Gustav Mahler to the composer who swam through seas of boiling water to mark the dawning of Modernist music, Schoenberg.

All that lies ahead for me now - some time next year I shall begin reading Alex Ross's monumental book on 20th Century music, The Rest Is Noise  (2007). There is, of course, much continuity from the 19th into the 20th Century but with the death of Brahms in 1897 (and Bruckner in 1896), this feels like an ending even if it is merely a marker on the great on-going progress of classical music which shows no signs of dying.

Saying farewell to the 'European Centuries,' I am now looking forward to the 'American Century' and the Age of Modernism, imagining myself like that great painter Mondrian who was turned on and excited when he first set foot in New York in 1940 after escaping, like so many other great European artists from the catastrophe that nearly destroyed Europe and European culture in the 20th Century.

So while mourning the death of Brahms, I am also celebrating his music and all that proceeded it but I am also dancing in expectation with Mondrian's thrilling Modernist painting Broadway Boogie Woogie (1942/4) and so many exciting developments in the arts that began in the 20th Century and framed my own personal cultural awakening.

Broadway Boogie Woogie (1942/43) by Piet Mondrian (1872 - 1944)

For me the boogie woogie continues and I will approach each new work of genius with no little joy but also with some of the historical and cultural knowledge that characterised Brahms' commitment to the arts.

No one piece of music is big enough to represent these 900 years, the magnificent panoply of greatness that I have been listening to over the last eighteen years so it seems appropriate to mark the end of this epic project with something small but perfectly formed -  one of Brahms' last compositions, the choral prelude on the 16th Century Christmas hymn Es ist ein Ros entsprungen (A Spotless Rose) found on his desk with ten other choral preludes after the composer's death. Here it is played on the organ of Salisbury Cathedral by the German and appropriately young organist Sebastian Kuechler-Blessing:

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

In the mood for Christmas and Jacqueline du Pre.

I know that the week before Christmas in the UK isn't meant to be hot and sunny - this isn't Australia - so there really was no reason to find the recent grey wet weather depressing here in Lewes. That is why I didn't feel at all miserable when all that rain came down in my garden and sent me indoors yesterday for find alternative pleasures.

I am currently listening to Western classical music composed in the year 1897 and consequently I'm coming to the end of my long project of listening to music chronologically from the mid-12th century until the year 1899. On a wet day in Lewes, I found the perfect music. It was time to listen to the great and often lamented cellist Jacqueline du Pre in the recording of Richard Strauss' glorious symphonic poem, Don Quixote where the solo cello plays the eccentrically poignant fantasist knight and where the old man found his ideal interpreter in the sensational cellist star from the 1960s and 70s. The recording was unintended and we owe the technician who flipped a switch when du Pre and the conductor Adrian Boult did a run-through  for the concert that they were rehearsing after the intended conductor Otto Klemperer (who was either ill or grumpy) walked out not only on the concert but the scheduled recording. Well done the man who turned on the tape machine and giving us a performance that is all the more ghostly by capturing this great artist in a moment of passionate intensity in a career that was so cruelly cut short by illness. The bravo at the end is from a moved Adrain Boult. I've supplied a short except from the end of the piece (the death of Don Quixote) as a taster for anyone interested in getting themselves a copy of this great performance.