Review of the reads – July 2022

Words by:
Yusef Sayed
Featured in:
July 2022

Field Notes by Maxim Peter Griffin
Regular readers of this magazine will be familiar with Maxim Griffin’s paintings and writing through his ‘Solvitur ambulando’ column. His new book takes the same journal approach, documenting the Lincolnshire landscape over the course of a year.

Griffin’s field of perception is vast. Here are archaeological curiosities and unique signs of the times – with chalk pits, litter, centuries-old landmarks and paths of flight all communicating their own mysteries.

Alongside reminders of past invaders there are recent arrivals – a deflated balloon washed up on the east coast is Olaf from Frozen. A modern folklore emerges with new gods and totems: the Chuckle Brothers wow 10,000 at a lights switch-on; a Smurf toy is seen nailed to a gibbet. While local rumour persists: ‘you just don’t go to Fotherby Common after dark’.

Just as the bold and subtle shades of the Lincolnshire sky and earth are reflected in Griffin’s images, so his view is coloured by a love for ’70s and ’80s cinema and music – a Talking Heads song, a walking soundtrack of Can and Popol Vuh, ‘Kurosawa rain’. Griffin shows his admiration for director Werner Herzog, another champion of exploring the world on foot, but says ‘the light of a fire in the woods is its own cinema – the best, really…’ And of course a passion for art history shows – Brueghel, Hockney, Turner, Nash, plus a lingering memory of The Fast Show’s Johnny Nice.

The rhythms convey the shifting pace. In full flow, a quick succession of sights: ‘plank, bucket, shoe, bone, stick, brick and black oily matter with the sticky feathers and dread’. Forgotten words are recovered, language that has ‘fallen off the edge of the academic into deep poetry’. ‘Look – draw – repeat – just get it down, hit and run,’ says Griffin. There is a whole history contained in these pages, and there is life in forward motion and technicolour.

Published by Unbound, price £16.99

The Red Arrows by Wing Commander David Montenegro
As wing Commander David Montenegro reminds us in this new official history, the future has often looked uncertain for the Red Arrows. Yet they have remained emblematic for many of the UK and closely tied to Lincolnshire, with the Cathedral a beloved ‘run-in sight’.

Montenegro looks at all sides of the Red Arrows here, from their development and typical year-round activities, to memorable flypasts and the aftermath of tragedy. As a concise history it is an ideal entry point.

We learn about the emergence of the Red Arrows in the 1960s and the change from seven Gnats to Hawks and their familiar Diamond Nine formation. Past crew members are honoured, and several interviewed, lending their own perspectives. The book is illustrated with colour photos and display diagrams, and through the glossary there is a whole language to discover: ‘Twinkle Roll’, ‘Quarter Clover’, ‘Spaghetti Break’, the ‘smoke plot’ and ‘the contract’.

For many readers the main attraction will be the view from the cockpit Montenegro offers: the split-second decision making, physiological factors, technical precision and even the humour required.

Montenegro explains that team members require a variety of characteristics – not just the highest technical skill, but the qualities needed to build a strong team and be the public face of the RAF.

Their visual displays rely on a careful attention to hearing, especially the ‘metronomical cadence’ of Red 1. And in order to achieve their remarkable routines in the air, the pilots have a meticulous ground crew of engineers, the Blues. Montenegro provides an insight into all of these areas.

But while repetition and drill might be integral to their feats, there is some repeated information here that is unnecessary.

The Red Arrows continue to enthral crowds around the world, and as Montenegro confirms, have relied so much on the support of the public, which is sure to continue as they start a new chapter at RAF Waddington.

Published by Century, price £20


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