Archive for October, 2015|Monthly archive page
Been away so long I hardly knew the place
Gee, it’s good to be back home
Started the day bright (the clocks went back during the night) and early with a jog in search of a park I knew to be nearby according to my trusty guide ‘Leipzig Highlights’ (which I picked up on my last trip to Leipzig in 2014). p.24 Clara Zetkin Park. I did a bit of a reprise of yesterday running past the Great Synagogue site with its empty bronze chairs, round the corner past my grand-parents’ married home and on down the former Promenadenstrasse, empty in the early morning. I paused at a stretch of canal in some trees (mistaken initially for the lost park) and then carried on, listening all the time to Desert Island Discs on my vintage orange iPod, companion of many runs in many countries. The guest was Stephen Fry and blow me if he didn’t play some Bach as I ran through the park and back towards the Thomaskirche. He said he hadn’t really got Bach until later in life when Glenn Gould’s playing had enabled him to see beyond the clever patterns. My friend Jon Turner gave me a Glenn Gould CD for my birthday many years ago but I’m afraid even that didn’t do the trick for me. Bach just doesn’t move me. The only great Bach experience I ever had was being taken by my mother to hear the Brandenburg Concertos from the gods of the Albert Hall at the Proms. That – as I lay on the high-altitude floor – struck a chord and probably kicked off a liking of baroque music.
Following a hearty breakfast in the shadow of Bach’s church, his statue staring in through the hotel window, I headed up with Oregon-based documentary buyer Louise Rosen to the MDR campus for Day 2 of Documentary Campus. [[ When I type “Oreg…” into Google to check my spelling, weirdly (or maybe not) its first suggestion is “Oregon Bach Festival”. ]] Listened to another morning of documentary pitches, overall a high standard. This batch included one on freeing white slaves in Russia (produced by my Russian pal Vlad’s Mrs) and another fabulous one about a young musician travelling around collecting songs that are dying out in Central Europe (shades of the marvellous 1 Giant Leap).
In the afternoon I wandered off through the allotments adjacent to the MDR, savouring the autumn colours. I ate a pear and an apple. I read ‘The Moor’s Account’ in Connewitz Cemetery. I headed in the direction of the hospital where my father was born, just a kilometre or two from the MDR. I walked past a corner shop with the name Noah on its hoarding. I walked past a car with a number-plate with 4444. Signs. People were with me. I came out suddenly at the back of the hospital and ended my journey under the 1935 clock of the S. Elisabeth Krankenhaus. The leaves were gold. The weather of the first official day of wintertime mild. In a partial way I’d come home.
I was reflecting recently that most people’s lives are in some way a journey home.
Spent the first half of a beautifully golden sunny autumn day out at the MDR (Mitteldeutsch Rundfunk) campus at the edge of Leipzig listening to documentary pitches at Documentary Campus 2015. Included was ‘Craig Barfoot’s Modern Dilemmas’ which is the project I’ve been mentoring – the bastard child of Louis Theroux and Woody Allen. I walked back into town through the autumnal streets – it’s always spectacularly yellow against blue when I’m in town.
I made my pilgrimage to the site of the Great Synagogue, burned down on Kristallnacht in November 1938, the year my grand-parents got the fuck outta here and headed to Highbury. I spent time chatting remotely to Enfant Terrible No. 1 who has been to that place twice with me, chatting from the back row of the ghostly congregation. I wanted to link him to his great-grandparents.
I had a special experience there. I took a moment to say a couple of prayers, the couple of lines I knew. As I finished a small flock of sparrows (my favourite bird) landed on the brass chairs which make up the memorial. Exactly at the moment of finishing the key line from the memorial prayer. They stayed for just a few seconds then flew off again.
Leipzig had 11,000 Jews in 1933. It had 0 in 1945. 14,000 perished in and around the city.
From there I walked – via a cafe moment – to my grandparents apartment of 1938 in Promenadenstrasse (now Kathe Kollwitz Strasse) – it’s just a space now, formerly a car park, soon a new development.
And for the third point of my pilgrim’s triangle I took an imagined walk from their place on a Saturday afternoon three-quarters of a century ago to my grandfather’s favourite sister’s flat in Nordplatz. I stood on the threshold of No. 1 and reflected on his time there as a bachelor and the wider family he lost.
It feels good coming back here and reclaiming our stake in the place. And to reclaim my steak in the place I went for a traditional German meatfest in Auerbach Keller, closing the day’s circle from Craig’s Meat v Veg dilemma, and adding to Bach the Romantic figures of Goethe (who set the first written scene of Faust in that cellar) and Schiller as other resonant ghosts in this city.
In the taxi from Leipzig Hauptbahnhof I met a German Commissioning Editor called Kai from Baden-Baden. Unusual name – I asked him where it was from. Up North. Northern Germany? No, further – Norway. He explained his mother used to play table-tennis against a young Norwegian man in her apartment block. He always won – even when he played left-handed. On one occasion he bet her – at stake the naming after him of her first child. She lost. And Kai was named Kai. Not very German …but very romantic.
So I’m sitting here in the shadow of the Thomaskirche in Leipzig listening (unusually for me) to Johann Sebastian Bach, chapel/choirmaster of St Thomas’s, on Spotify, absurdly selecting ‘tracks’ according to number of listens (Partita in B-flat major 2,764,917). And I’m writing this post 5 years and 1 day after I wrote my first Back to the Fatherland on first coming to the city where my dad was born, accompanied by my sons/his grandsons.
Here is that first post about how I found my grandparents’ house, which is just a few streets from here, the other side of the site of the burnt-down synagogue:
I came back in 2010 thanks to Documentary Campus/Doc Leipzig, the annual documentary film festival held largely at the MDR building just out of the city centre, just a short walk from the hospital where my dad was born. That’s why I’m back for the fifth time.
Here’s an account of my third (2013) visit during my sabbatical from Channel 4:
Last year I came with my older son who was making his first documentary (Scattergun – a life in four tattoos) as part of his A level in Applied Media. He was interested in listening in on the pitching sessions.
This year I’m solo again (like 2012 and 2013). I’ve been mentoring a documentary team making a film about renouncing vegetarianism. Last year I mentored a film about Super 8. This year I brought my own Kodak flipcam (off-spring of the Super 8) to make a little video of the trip.
I arrived in the autumnal late afternoon sun of Berlin Schoenefeld, got a taxi driven by a mad Turk to Sudkreuz (he miraculously got me there with 15 minutes to spare) and then the train to Leipzig Hauptbahnhof. I had dinner with a bunch of the Documentary Campus folk in an ex-vinegar (Essig) factory. So no bitterness there, just celebration of The Documentary among a group of old pals including Elizabeth MacIntyre of Discovery Networks International, who is just leaving Documentary Campus to head up Sheffield DocFest, and Lena Pasanen, formerly of YLE, Finland, who is taking over Elizabeth’s role. I walked back, surprised at how well I could navigate the city at night.
So here I am in the shadow of the Thomaskirche as its bells chime midnight. By now I’m listening to Jacques Loussier playing Bach – sacrilege perhaps but sometimes a man just needs jazz.
Here’s a brand-funded short form series I’ve been working on recently.
Article by Matthew Campelli courtesy of Broadcast.
Samsung sponsors All 4 supper club format
Atomized Entertainment is to produce an ad-funded pop-up restaurant format for Channel 4’s digital service.
My Pop-up Restaurant, funded by Samsung Home Appliances, follows six aspirational cooks as they start supper clubs.
The six-part series will launch as part of All 4’s Shorts service in November and was ordered by multiplatform commissioning editor Adam Gee.
Atomized chief executive Zad Rodgers said: “Supper clubs and pop-up restaurants are the latest expression of Britain’s entrepreneurial passion”.
Atomized has previously worked with British Gas on ad-funded online series Home Truths last summer.
The show forms part of a seven-figure, year-long deal C4 agreed with Samsung in March.
Full article is here
18th Oct 2015 with N – Ireland v Argentina, quarter final Rugby World Cup – England 2015
Step 2: balls out for more beer #RWC2015 #cardiff #Ireland
Hiberno-Argentine relations remain undamaged #RWC2015
So back to Trigger Mortis. The question was: Is the cover superior to the content of the new Bond book by Anthony Horowitz? I ended up reading it as a double bill with Fleming’s own rocket book Moonraker. So that’s this one, set in 1957 and published in 2015:
versus this one, set in 1955 (I think) and published in 1955:
Somehow Trigger Mortis fails to capture the essence of Bond – it lacks his hard brutality and the underlying S&M going on in Fleming’s books. The cover wins out in the end. Though even the cover loses out to echt Fleming. The flame cover of the Jonathan Cape 1st edition of April 1955 was conceived by the author. The Pan ones are charming version after version.
This is the edition I read, picked up at Black Gull Books, East Finchley. A nice phallic rocket and a slightly naughty underwear shot (resonant of the beach skinnydipping scene with Gala Brand under the virgin white cliffs of the Kent coast).
For anyone else who embarks on Trigger Mortis, and don’t get me wrong it’s an entertaining enough read, there are a couple of fine machines towards the climax which are worth following up. First of all the Triumph Thunderbird 650cc on which Bond and the heroine Jeopardy Lane chase the baddie into the centre of New York City.
The baddie meanwhile is hurtling along on the R-11 subway train, the so-called ‘Million Dollar Train’. As Horowitz explains, “they had caught the spirit and dynamism of the (post-war) age.”
Bond is a world of style and glittering surfaces, the right motorcycle and subway carriages as much as car, watch or booze.
Art schools – stone buildings – Scottish Neo-Classical architecture – whiskey sauce – neeps – getting swept along in a novel (when it suddenly kicks off) – curtains – photography – autumn – autumn colours – Friday evenings – teaching – learning – Spitfires – small breasts – French accent – reading the newspaper over breakfast – prunes – heritage – story structure – Curtis Mayfield
Being there for your children when they have a crisis – Mackintosh design and architecture – breakfast at Banners in Crouch End – working with young, fresh talent – Indian summer – wearing shorts – Robert Elms Show on GLR – the theme from You Only Live Twice – the cloudscape looking down from 34,000 feet – busting through the clouds at speed – shower gel made of Burren flowers from County Clare – video editing – a walk at sunset – sweet corn soup – dessert wine – Dora’s chicken soup with carrots and semolina – Edwardian interiors with ceramic tiling – fizzy water with a slice of lemon