Turned out nice again:
After all the blog-focussed stuff of the last week, I’m going to be very British and talk about the weather. Lovely and mild, isn’t it? No rain for weeks. The sunshine was just right for the Queen Mum and the Easter holiday. Thanks; I feel better for that. Normal service will now be resumed.

Rent an e-book for a week:
e-books take a huge leap forwards, albeit into the slough of British academica, via the new Taylor and Francis e-books site. Now offering over 1,500 e-books for either the Microsoft Reader or Adobe Reader, the site includes the catalogues of trendy academic publishers such as Routledge and Garland. Many e-books are priced at about a fifth less than the paper version. You can sort by category (inc. ‘arts’) and there’s a ‘bargain bin’ too; the 240 page tome Cocaine for £4, or the 280-page King Arthur: The Truth Behind the Legend for £5. Some e-titles can be ‘rented’, from a period of one week to one year. What it doesn’t tell you is the size in Mb’s of the download, nor if the author gets the same royalties?

Get on your bike:
Since 1999, Britain’s Millenium and Lottery funding has invested billions in worthy new projects. Too many of the grand arts/culture projects became mired in crony-ism and incompetence, often ending up as spectacular ‘white elephants’ like The Millenium Dome. But one of the few absolute and sustainable triumphs has come from a relatively modest investment.

SUSTRANS was given £43.5 million – less than half the cost of Birmingham’s disappointing new Millenium Point building – and five years later the whole of Britain has been provided with over 6,000 miles of high-quality National Cycle Network. Over 300 artists’ commissions have been completed alongside the Network, 2,300 miles of which are off-road. SUSTRANS’s web-site has recently added a new maps section where you can print a free 1:50,000 scale Ordnance Survey map with your nearest off-road route overlaid onto it.

SUSTRANS has now completed its first phase, and the £43.5m funding has almost ended. But it has enough goodwill and momentum to realistically aim for 10,000 miles by 2005. This should fill in the current patchy provision to the north and west of Birmingham, providing a direct off-road Birmingham / Wolverhampton / Stoke / Manchester route. SUSTRANS has made the new Network genuinely sustainable; by tapping into the British grassroots volunteering spirit (summer work-camps, local rangers, and volunteers of all types), and by setting up the sophisticated GIS mapping, database and automatic-reporting technology which you can see used on the web-site. So, in the next two years there should be another 4,000 miles of opportunities for sculptors, letter-carvers, sundial-makers, metalworkers and earthworks/landscape artists. Not to mention the less obvious benefits to any creative artist/photographer who owns a bicycle. In the 1930s and 40s – before the car took over – my grandparents cycled all over the Midlands and deep into Wales, with the working-class cycling clubs which were a part of that communitarian milieu. SUSTRANS should be fully congratulated; not least for having given back to their grandchildren the ability to ride again.