Saturday, 7 November 2015

Dull Men of Great Britain – Book Launch


On the 1st October 2015 the Dull Men of Great Britain was published by Ebury Press, this book celebrates the ordinary and routine things that everyday folk do.  It details a diverse collection of men and their mundane and unglamorous activities.  Although proclaiming dullness from every page the book is also an extraordinary insight into the force behind the collector and unusual activity that drives many a person’s life. 

The author of the book and Assistant Vice President of the Dull Man’s Club is Leland Carlson.  With the book being grabbed off the proverbial book shelve by every aspirant Dull Man in Britain, Leland organised its launch at Stanfords in London on Wednesday 4th November where a gathering of the people detailed in the book was to take place.  Three of these people are part of a Mountain Measuring team named G&J Surveys, and two of us planned on attending the book launch at Stanfords.


Capital of our land and one of the most extraordinary cities in the world, London cannot be described as being Dull, but when one scratches below its exciting surface mundane things can be found in all their everyday glory. 

With the book launch scheduled for 6.30pm – 8.00pm at Stanfords and an after launch party organised at Villandry, an upscale Edwardian dining establishment situated in Waterloo Place, I considered my day in this cultural city.  Should I scratch below its surface and spend my day investigating its everyday occurrence’s and immerse myself in its underbelly of routine, or should I attempt to be exciting and immerse myself in its culture and history, I’m afraid my status of being a Dull Man lapsed for six hours as I opted for the latter.

I cannot bring anything new to say about London as it has no doubt been said a thousand times before, but I can briefly describe my cultural and historical trip around its wide and boisterous streets.

With six hours to immerse myself in this city’s heritage before an evening train back to the dimmed lights of Worcester I planned on visiting three culturally magnificent places and take a walking tour between each, soaking in the splendour of London’s streets.

My entrance and exit point was Paddington and a tube on the Bakerloo Line took me conveniently to Piccadilly which is only four minutes’ walk from the eloquent dining at the Villandry, I visited its lower floor to acquaint myself with its surrounds and the way back to the tube for later in the evening.

The Villandry, a splendid upscale Edwardian restaurant and the setting for our after launch party

My next port of call was the National Gallery which is a magnificent art museum founded in 1824 and is positioned looking out over the expanse of Trafalgar Square.  As I wandered haphazardly around the 2,300 paintings housed in the gallery I wondered if focus was required, as I only had six hours before my Dull persona had to be routinely ignited and these hours of lax cultural excitement should be savoured and made the most of.  As one glaringly powerful painting merged into the next I decided to concentrate on two High Renaissance iconic figures; Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.  The former’s exquisite use of shadowed intimacy is impressive whilst the latter’s unfinished work left me wondering what all the fuss was about.

Having partly cultured myself out on the bombardment of colour and opulence in the National Gallery I wandered around the corner and visited the National Portrait Gallery.  This was the first portrait gallery in the world when opened in 1856 and houses a variety of portraits of historically important and famous British people, no Dullness here then.

I found that haphazardness worked well in the National Portrait Gallery as its confines are on a smaller scale than those of the National Gallery, and I wandered happily around enjoying one stunning portrait after another.  One stood out above all others but I’m afraid I did not note the artist / photographers name or that of their subject, my lack of need to note such detail was a sign that my Dull persona was struggling to the fore as only four hours remained until the book launch appointment at Stanfords.

One of the perquisites of being Dull is routine, and my routine dictates that when visiting places I need to know where each is positioned and the approximate time between them so I can allow sufficient time to then investigate, and as I left the National Portrait Gallery I walked toward Long Acre Street to stare longingly at the shop that is Stanfords.  This is one of my favourite shops in the whole world and I make an effort to visit each time I am in London, to stare at its inner marvels is a joy to succumb to.

Stanfords is a must visit for travel and map enthusiasts

However, Stanfords was just a tease for now, as I continued walking down the length of Long Acre Street and turned left onto Drury Lane and then continued on Museum Street toward the British Museum.  The British Museum houses a collection dedicated to human history, art and culture and when founded in 1753 it was the first national public museum in the world.  With limited time I definitely needed to focus on what to see and the museum’s ‘Don’t Miss’ tour around 12 of its highlights was the ideal way to explore this magnificent museum.

Great Court at the British Museum

I was transported back in time to the Lewis Chessmen, metalwork from Iran, The Royal Game of Ur, the beautifully detailed and almost translucent Portland Vase, Samurai armour from Japan, Ceramic tomb figures from the Tang dynasty, an Ivory pendant mask from Africa, an Easter Island statue, the seminal Rosetta Stone, the beautifully carved Assyrian Lion Hunt and the controversial Parthenon sculptures.  The only one of the twelve I did not see was the Horse from the Mausoleum of Halikarnassos as the room that housed this antiquity was closed.  As I had visited the sight of this Ancient Wonder of the World it was a disappointment not to see one of its artefacts.

Part of the Assyrian Lion Hunt frieze

The Portland Vase

Another segment from the Assyrian Lion Hunt frieze

My Dull persona was now revved up and ready to ignite as not seeing this horse I reminisced on my visit to the site of the Mausoleum of Halikarnassos which is in modern day Bodrum, Turkey, this was the fifth site out of the seven that constitute the wonders of the ancient world that I had visited, nothing like a good bit of Dull collectors instinct to kick in mid-afternoon in the British Museum.

By now I was well and truly all cultured out and needed to be brought down to earth as this display of cultural overload needed to end before Dullness could manifest itself, and the gentle surrounds of Covent Garden was an ideal balance between culture and Dullness and one that led neatly to the front door of Stanfords.

The Book Launch:

Stanfords was established in 1853 and its present store first opened its doors in January 1901, it is the leading specialist retailer of maps and travel books in the country, and I love it.  As I wandered around its many shelves of maps and books and more maps and more books I eventually ventured down to its basement level where the book launch was just about to gear itself into start mode.  Wine was being poured, name tags were allotted, THE BOOK was on display and Leland’s casual and appealing voice was gently resounding around the room.

Leland Carlson - Assistant Vice President of the Dull Men's Club

One by one more Dull Men arrived, there was Nick West the Beer Can Obsessive, Jeremy Burton the Country Counter, Gwyn Headley the Folly Fan and a certain John Barnard the Mountain Measurer.  It was good to see John and I realised that as a combined force of two out of the three Dullest Mountain Measurers in the land we were unequalled in the room as all others were singularly Dull, except for Richard and Dick Fryer the Military Vehicle Restorers whose twosome still could not compete with our threesome.

Gwyn and Yvonne Headley - Folly Fan

Deborah and Nick West - Beer Can Obsessive

John Barnard - Mountain Measurer

As the room filled with guests and German camera crews Leland took to the stage of opening proceedings with a jovial rendition of life as a Dull Man, he touched upon the humorous side of all things Dull and gave a perfectly rounded introductory dialogue to why we were all there and who we all were.

Shortly afterward I had the pleasure to meet Kevin Beresford of the Roundabout Appreciation Society, Tim Barker a collector of Toy Soldiers, Tony Cooke the World War 1 Buff, Patrick Cook the Bakelite Buff and Jude Currie who at the tender age of 13 is the Tax Disc Fanatic, also present was John Potter the Rail Timetable Compiler.  My cultural overload had now been replaced by Dull Men overload.  I also chatted with Dr Coulson from Middlesex University who wrote the Foreward to the Dull Men of Great Britain book, I think our conversation went well but I did not hang around to receive his assessment of my tendency to obsess or my fledgling parody of being Dull.

Kevin Beresford - Roundabout Appreciation Society

Patrick Cook - Bakelite Buff

Jude Currie - Tax Disc Fanatic

As more wine was consumed and the conversation verged on being interesting it was time to head toward the after book launch party which Leland had organised at Villandry, this was no more than fifteen minutes’ walk and was conveniently placed a further four minutes’ walk from Piccadilly tube which was my exit point for Paddington Station.

The Villandry proved a delightful ending point for this part of my Dull journey as the surrounds were pleasant, the company was fulfilling and the food especially scrumptious.  I headed off into the darkened streets of London having paid my thanks to Leland for his invitation to attend and his hospitality on the day.

Wandering to the tube I watched as a myriad of people passed me, all going places and doing things, I struck up conversation with a woman on the tube who was a born and bred Londoner, it was good to put conversation to a face that otherwise would have merged into the many thousand who pass through one’s life without a hello or a goodbye, as she got off at Baker Street we said our goodbye’s and I watched as another person who haphazardly enters one’s life for a fleeting few minutes disappeared into the darkness of obscurity.  My day’s journey ended in Worcester, where it had begun, with a warm embrace and a contented sleep.


Marie Harris said...
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Marie Harris said...

Did you get to the cafe at the top of the Portrait Gallery? M

Niçk West said...

Hi Myrddyn. Good to meet you last week. Please can you e-mail me Hi res copies of the photos of Deb & I that you took on the night? Thanks, Nick West (beercan obsessive)