Archive for the ‘musings’ Category

Desert Island Discs Day

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I was at a meeting this afternoon chaired by Kirsty Young of Desert Island Discs which set me thinking about the various times I’ve had a stab at my 8 discs, as well as playing the game with the Enfants Terribles. It’s interesting to have musical yardsticks over time to see how consistent or otherwise you are.

Here’s the first one I can find online from October 2006 when Kirsty had just started on DID:

1* Miles Davis – Flamenco Sketches
2 John Coltrane – A Love Supreme part 1 (Acknowledgement)
3 Marvin Gaye – Mercy Mercy Me (?)
4 Curtis Mayfield – Move On Up
5 The Clash – White Man in Hammersmith Palais
6 Bill Evans – Love theme from Spartacus
7 Bjork – Hyperballad
8 The Doors – The End
Book: Ulysses – James Joyce
Luxury: Mouth organ (with teach-yourself disc and book)

Here’s another go from later the same day, indicative of how impossible the challenge is for anyone who loves music:

1* Miles Davis – Flamenco Sketches
2 John Coltrane – A Love Supreme part 1
3 Marvin Gaye – Mercy Mercy Me
4 Eric Satie – Gymnopedie
5 Bruce Springsteen – Into the Fire
6 Siouxsie & the Banshees – Icon
7 Sinead O’Connor – On Raglan Road
8 Frank Sinatra – One for my Baby

I recently [17th Jan] redid my list (without reference to past efforts of course) on a trip to Berlin with Enfant Terrible No.1 (his choice is further below):
1 Curtis Mayfield – move on up
2 John Martyn – small hours [new entry]
3 Miles Davis – flamenco sketches
4 John Coltrane – a love supreme, part 1
5 Van – in the afternoon [new entry]
6 The Clash – white man
7 Marvin Gaye – what’s going on [change of track]
8 Frank Sinatra – one for my baby
Book: Ulysses – james joyce
Luxury: pencil & notebooks [change]

Given that’s a 9 year gap, remarkably consistent I’d say, with a healthy bit of change. The appearance of John Martyn reflects my gradual realisation (particularly in the wake of his elevation to The Great Gig in the Sky 7 years ago) that he is the best of the best of singers, a Big Soul. Van’s entry simply corrects a big oversight in the 2006 vintage. I probably haven’t nailed the right track yet. The change of Marvin song just indicates I can’t make up my mind which track from What’s Going On to pick out from a perfect LP which doesn’t really compute as individual tracks in isolation.

Tangentially, here’s another variation – Inheritance Tracks – from November of 2007, broadly aligned with my Desert Island choices:

  • Inherited Track: ‘Everything’s Alright’ from ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ OR ‘Soolaimon’ by Neil Diamond
  • Bequest Track: Miles Davis’ ‘Flamenco Sketches’ from ‘Kind of Blue’

Moving on to the next generation, here’s Enfant Terrible No. 2’s first ever go, aged 6:

1 Madness – Embarrassment
2 Bruce Spingsteen – Atlantic City
3 The Cranberries – Ode to my Family
4 Cornershop – Brimful of asha
5 Max Romeo – I Chase the Devil
6 Trumpton – Windy Miller song
7 The Jam – Batman theme
8 AC/DC – It’s a long way to the top
Book: Claris Bean/My Uncle is a Hunkle
Luxury: My house

That’s some list for a 6 year old – clearly getting a proper musical education! I’ll quiz him in the next couple of days and see how radically his list has changed as a 16 year old. [I’ll insert his 2016 list here:]

To see the significant change of teenagehood, here’s Enfant Terrible No. 1’s first ever go from late 2006, aged 11. He wrote it out in long hand in a notebook, taking several months to pin his choice down (typical of him in its careful consideration):
1 U2 – Vertigo
2 Unite Tribe – Life and Death
3 Oxmo Puccino and the Jazzbastards – Perdre et Gagner
4 The Cure – Love Cats
5 * Michael Franti & Spearhead – Sometimes
6 MC Solaar – Solaar Pleure
7 The Raconteurs – Steady as she goes
8 Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit

I pushed him for a swifter, more spontaneous choice this time:
1 James Taylor – fire & rain
2 The Beatles – lucy in the sky with diamonds
3 Carol King – it’s too late
4 Curtis Mayfield – move on up [paternal influence at work]
5 Bob Dylan – hurricane
6 Nirvana – teen spirit
7 The Doors – riders on the storm
8 Led Zep – stairway to heaven
Book: the odyssey – homer
Luxury: my pillow

So only one track persists over the decade – Smells Like Teen Spirit. That’s the spirit of teen for you. BTW I could happily add Kurt singing Where Did You Sleep Last Night? to my grateful eight:

Et tu Brutalist?

I had a great London wander today – theme: Brutalist Architecture. First outing for my Brutalist London Map which I got from the Twentieth Century Society via Blue Crow Media (beautifully designed, for a mere 8 quid).

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I had a pre-outing last weekend to Trellick Tower on Golborne Road. The architect Erno Goldfinger shares a birthday with me (and John Martyn) so I have a bit of a soft spot for him. My niece lives there so I got to capture some of the interiors…

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Trellick Tower

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Entrance hall windows (rear)

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I headed East this morning to Blackwall on the Docklands Light Railway. First stop Robin Hood Gardens in E14. Although the 20th Century Society is fighting to get it listed and indeed saved, personally I found it terrible architecture and even worse housing. As I walked around the estate two separate people asked me whether I was there for the consultation – the second was an architect type. He told me there was a big session taking place today regarding the redevelopment of the whole area so it looks like it’s a gonner (no tears).

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Robin Hood Gardens, Poplar, London E14

Fortunately within 5 minutes walk is Balfron Tower, the 1967 precursor by Goldfinger to Trellick Tower (1972).

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Balfron Tower, London E14

Trellick was definitely an improvement, partly because it has a far better site. The nautical touch of Trellick’s tower is evident in a smaller block adjacent to Balfron called Glenkerry House.

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Glenkerry House

I sailed off North West from there across E14 and E3 to E2 where two further Brutalist sites beckoned. Leaving views of Canary Wharf Tower and the Docklands behind me, under blue skies in bright winter sun I walked along canals (Limehouse Cut and the Regent’s Canal at Mile End), through back streets, past Victorian churches and factories, until I got to the estates behind Roman Road. And there waited two beauties by Denys Lasdun, architect of the National Theatre, one of the most well known Brutalist buildings in the city.

First the exquisite Trevelyan House, gleaming white against the azure sky.

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Trevelyan House

It is characterised by the central staircase/lift shaft connecting its two halves. A couple of roads away is a sister block, Sulkin House.

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Sulkin House

So that’s the first flânage from my Brutalist London Map. I bought a pear from the fruit stall behind Sulkin exchanging badinage with the West Ham supporting stall holder and his dad, thanks to my Spurs scarf (from Savile Rogue). Then an Italian coffee from two lovely Italian girls on the Roman Road. Lunch at Pellicci’s on Bethnal Green Road, Est. 1900, served by the grandson of the founder, proper Cockney, all the staff super-welcoming, sat with a chatty second-generation Irish couple from Walthamstow. Final stop – Flashback Records down the street where I picked up a copy of Lola by The Kinks, boys from my manor.

Headed back to my manor after 5 hours walking with a spring in my step as the sun set on a brutally beautiful day.

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The photos are all here.

The 4 best things to come out of Scotland

While I’m still under the influence of the Macallan’s I thought it best to capture the best of Scotland – I was daydreaming for just a moment at the Burns Night gathering we’ve just been to at Cha Cha Cha in the shadowy alleyways of Muswell Hill, transfixed by a pile of Tunnock’s tea cakes, wondering what else as magnificent as a Tunnock’s Caramel has emerged from north of the border…

1. Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer

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5 layers of wafer, 4 layers of caramel, fully coated in real milk chocolate. The dog’s cahones.

2. Mike Scott of The Waterboys

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5 layers of Yeats, 4 layers of Dylan, fully coated in real wild Ireland.

3. John Buchan’s stories

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My favourite copy

5 layers of outdoors, 4 layers of clubland, fully coated in real imperial conservatism.

4. Bobby Wellins’ sax on Starless & Bible Black

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5 layers of melancholy, 4 layers of beauty, fully coated in real jazz delicacy.

 

 

 

Or perhaps you know better…?

Songlines #13: Half the World Away

The Question:

What song or piece of music means the most to you?

Ciara Linder is a teacher – born in London, grew up in Northern Ireland, now living back in London. Her choice reflects this axis in her life.

The Song: Half the World Away – Aurora

Here is her older brother’s Songlines – a very different take on the London Irish experience.

 

 

The previous Songlines:

Songlines #12: Call to Prayer / Adhan

Goodbye to Berlin: Day 3 in Bowie’s Berlin

 

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Goodbye to my badge

My Low badge, in my life since 1978, decided to jump ship off my lapel – it’s somewhere in Berlin which seems just about right. From Carnaby Street to Kurfürstendamm or wherever on earth it landed – a journey as tidy as the Big Man’s. He had his Mod phase (as in Baby Loves That Way – Davy Jones & The Lower Third) so no doubt made the odd sortie into Carnaby Street and environs in his time.

So headed off badgeless for an early start, a wander along the Spree across a tranquil corner of Museum Island, ice floating in the dark green waters, bright sunshine through sub-zero temperatures. Went as far as the subterranean monument to the burning of books by the Nazis, a ghostly room of empty shelves glimpsed through a small window set in a cobbled courtyard in front of the Law faculty of Humboldt University. Bowie had a weird brush with fascism and Nietzsche in the 70s which it took him a while to extricate himself from, probably coke fuelled. He also had a terrible adolescent German moustache at one point – very rare fashion faux pas.

My main meeting of the day at Doc Campus was over a hill to the north of the hotel. At the brow of the hill on the way over I found a great little record shop and in the little window at feet level was a 7” picture disc of Young Americans which of course I was compelled to spunk my Euros on. Plus a copy of Kraftwerk’s Das Model (Deutsche version) as a nod to Bowie’s inspiration from them, Neu and other Teutonic electronica. And a copy of The Stars We Are LP (nice n cheap) by Marc Almond, a big Bowie infuencee. All zeroed in on in the space of a few minutes (from years of practice) , then on to the gathering…

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Hallo to Young Americans

We reviewed 76 documentary projects of which only one had a direct connection to Bowie – one centred on 60s singer P J Proby who Bowie emulated, probably in a tongue in cheek way, on certain Berlin trilogy tracks and earlier recordings.

Had a farewell currywurst before heading for home. On the plane back I read a telling note from the BBC Talent Selection Group in 1965 following an audition Bowie did for them: “A singer devoid of personality. Sings wrong notes and out of tune.” Just goes to show. How little people know. You need to trust your own instincts.

It’s now 23.59 on the first week anniversary of the Thin White Duke’s trip to the Station on the other side of the Border. Official end to BowieWeek of reflection, mourning and celebration. Concluding it in Berlin was a real privilege.

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Goodbye to the old world

 

The Berlin trilogy: Day 1 in Bowie’s Berlin

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Fortuitous timing – a week to the day after the surprise announcement of David Bowie’s passing I happen to be in Berlin. Where better to conclude a week of reflection on his music and life. I haven’t listened to anything else all week. Yesterday I picked up vinyl copies of Young Americans and Pin-ups at Alan’s, round the corner from my house. Today I flew into Tegel listening to Low and Station to Station, downloaded onto my phone in a somewhat torturous way over Heathrow wifi from Spotify because I left my iPod charging in the bedroom (we always leave one thing behind on every trip no?). From the vinyl frontier to the virtual meanderings of Spotify Bowie music is as resonant as ever.

I got a text at the airport from Thilo Schmied, ex-Hansa engineer and the main man for Bowie tours in Berlin, saying it was a long shot being able to do a Bowie walking tour tomorrow, my one free full day in the city. No worries really because I’ve done my research and reckon I can do a half-decent tour for myself if needs be. I’ll start from Hauptstrasse 155, Bowie’s old apartment with Iggy Pop. If I end up having to Do It Myself I’ll publish the tour here afterwards to help others stuck in similar circumstances. I bought myself a city map in WH Smith so I can plot the key Bowie landmarks on it.

Once installed in The Circus Hotel in Mitte late afternoon, I headed out for a wander. First stop, a T-shirt shop round the corner I remembered from my trip here last winter. A cool Bowie Berlin T on offer with an image from The Man Who Fell to Earth period and the words Berlin Friendship. Aladdin Sane playing when I walked in. A few doors down another fun clothes shop. Wild is the Wind playing when I walked in. Last night Thilo was at a huge memorial gathering at the Hansa studios with over two thousand people.

On the sombre day that was last Monday 11th the German Foreign office thanked Bowie on Twitter for helping bring down the Wall.

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This city takes its Bowie seriously and for good reason.

When Bowie played his landmark gig in front of the Reichstag in June 1987 he introduced his Berlin classic ‘Heroes’, recorded a decade earlier in the city, thus: “We send our wishes to all our friends who are on the other side of the wall.” Those friends could make out the sounds of the song from the other side and their cheering could be heard this side.

“It was one of the most emotional performances I’ve ever done. I was in tears.”

Bowie recalled the show in these terms: “We kind of heard that a few of the East Berliners might actually get the chance to hear the thing, but we didn’t realise in what numbers they would. And there were thousands on the other side that had come close to the Wall. So it was like a double concert where the Wall was the division. And we would hear them cheering and singing along from the other side. God, even now I get choked up. It was breaking my heart. I’d never done anything like that in my life, and I guess I never will again.”

So Bowie and Berlin are intimately linked and the city is a perfect place to celebrate and be thankful for this, in the words of a certain JeSuisDean (derived from elsewhere in relation to other persons):

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An old badge of mine from 1978 accompanying me on this trip

 

Bowie: Blackstar Rising

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Just beautiful

I heard about the passing of David Bowie about 15 minutes ago as the sad and unexpected news broke on Radio 5 Live. It had echoes of the news at a similar time on the same station almost exactly 3 years ago when the beautifully resonant song ‘Where Are We Now?’ was suddenly unleashed upon the world as a present on Bowie’s birthday – 8th January 2013. But this was the dark twin. It was only on Friday that the world was enjoying a similar event – the birthday release of Blackstar, Bowie’s last album, as surprising and novel as anything he has ever done. As a jazz lover it was a delicious prospect. Despite listening to it across this weekend sadly there hasn’t even been time to start to absorb it.

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I don’t normally feel such deaths in a truly personal way (with the single exception of John Martyn) but this one is very resonant in a different way. The passing of this great son of London without doubt makes the world a lesser place and I’ll spend today absorbing it. It is not totally dark in that it feels like he lived a beautiful life.

The love of music; the persistence getting his break; the innovation, success, boundry-pushing; the re-inventions; right up to the surprise re-emergence in 2013; the happy marriage; the prioritisation of children/fatherhood; the tranquil oasis in his third great city London > Berlin > New York, a suitably great metropolis to be the backdrop for his final ascendance.

While I absorb the sad&sudden news here are some Bowie bits from Simple Pleasures part IV over the last few years:

4 for 66 (Happy Birthday David Bowie) [9 January 2013]

Heddonism [11 April, 2012]

100 Greatest Songs [12 January, 2008]

 

Rhodes Must Be Remixed

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All Rhodes lead to remix

Here’s my solution to the Cecil Rhodes statue controversy in Oxford. The Rhodes Must Fall campaign wants to have the statue of the in many ways rather nasty imperialist taken down from Oriel College, Oxford, his alma mater and beneficiary of his largesse. Rather than tearing down the statue like some dodgy authoritarian regime and airbrushing out history like a bunch of old Commies, let’s add another layer to it like the Brixton-based artist Hew Locke (son of a Guyanese sculptor and a British painter) did on the statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol. Or put adjacent to it a bigger statue of, say, Nelson Mandela. Let’s add and be constructive…

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Hew Locke – Edward Colston from Restoration (2006)

Locke draped Colston in trading beads, coins and other accoutrements of empire. (Or to be precise, he draped a photo of the statue in this 3D mixed media – but why not do it directly on the statue itself for good (in both senses)? )

You can see some of Locke’s works in the last room of the ‘Artist and Empire’ exhibition currently [until 10th April] on show at Tate Britain (ironically – the Tate & Lyle sugar fortune having been arguably built on slavery).

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Edward Colston naked/unremixed in Bristol city centre

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Nelson Mandela slightly remixed with bird-shit, Parliament Square, London

Hew Locke talking about Restoration [2 minute listen]

Learned from the Movies

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Anne Hathaway with her movie baguette

  • All grocery bags contain at least one French bread stick {Most lessons we can learn from movies are already all around us in real life. I learned of the baguette rouse when I was 17, from one of my first girlfriends. She always carried one under her arm when out and about. I eventually asked her about it and mentioned that I’d never seen her eating the bread. She looked at me aghast and informed me that they weren’t for eating but were there to make her look worldly and sophisticated. She was 16. [Thomas Johnston]}
  • A detective can only solve a case once he has been suspended from duty
  • You can run faster than the supersonic shockwave and flamefront in an explosion [Patrick Uden]
  • You can survive the battle as long as you don’t show anyone a picture of your sweetheart back home.
  • No-one will ever think of looking for you in the ventilation system of a building
  • Beds have special L-shaped top sheets covering women to their armpits but the men beside them only to the waist
  • Never be at the back in the jungle… [George Falconer]
  • No married or romantic couple can redecorate a flat without playfully starting to flick paint at each other. [Peter Bradshaw]
  • The Eiffel Tower is visible from every window in Paris.
  • More often than not colliding cars burst into flame.
  • A single match can light up a room the size of a football pitch.
  • All bombs are fitted with timers with large red numbers – just in case you need to know when it’s going to go off
  • That bomb with the red numbers counting down, it also has a red and a blue wire. Don’t worry which you cut with 2 secs to go – you’ll always snip the right one.
  • All police investigations involve visiting a strip joint at least once
  • Police departments have special personality tests so they can assign officers a partner who is the exact opposite
  • Women have shaved their armpits throughout all history [Catherine Bray]
  • You don’t need to say goodbye on the telephone, just hang up when the relevant information has been conveyed[Catherine Bray]
  • There will always be a free parking space right where you need it [Catherine Bray]
  • No one ever goes to the loo [or cleans the home] – it just happens by itself… [Sarah Haque]
  • When you close a mirrored bathroom cabinet, there’s always a monster / bad guy behind you in the reflection… [George Falconer]
  • The protagonist can never go for posh dinner at any restaurant anywhere without seeing his nemesis on another table [Jason Loader]
  • If you’re being chased in an underground car park you’ll probably be alright but it will be a close shave [Jason Loader]
  • When you drop your books, papers or groceries in public, there’ll always be a good-looking, kind-hearted, awkwardly romantic person ready to help you pick them up [Juliet Landau-Pope]
  • And when they drive to a restaurant, they always find a parking space right outside [Juliet Landau-Pope]
  • No-one ever needs a wee no matter how long they are chasing or being chased. Unless the script calls for toilet humour. [Deborah Mules]
  • Women never carry handbags [Caroline Ratner]
  • We gain profound philosophical insight in the moment before death [Irshad Ashraf]
  • evil has a foreign accent [Irshad Ashraf] or British/English English
  • In the absence of the L-shaped sheet, it doesn’t matter as both lovers have usually – in the heat of passion – totally forgotten to take the lady’s bra off [Moray Coulter]
  • Nobody uses parking meters [Geoff Langan]
  • high heels are suitable footwear for running from dinosaurs [Zoe Collins]
  • You can always reload your gun even if you haven’t been carrying any ammo. That’s if you need to reload it at all. Ever.
  • To pass yourself off as a German officer, don’t waste your time learning the language – a German accent will do. (Altogether now: I luff chess musik.)
  • Although mothers cook eggs, bacon and waffles every morning, husbands/children never have time to eat it.
  • The Chief of Police will give you 48 hours to finish the job before you get suspended/reassigned/in big trouble.
  • Any job in a romcom based in London or NY can afford you a lovely flat in a swanky area of the city. [Helen Newton] Or a broom cupboard. Which by the end is replaced with a swanky apartment.
  • iPhones in the movies don’t need to be plugged in every three hours. Unlike the real world. [Helen Newton] ditto Apple laptops
  • Your average laptop is powerful enough to hack into most alien systems.
  • Everyone’s computer is an Apple Mac
  • Mediaeval peasants had perfect teeth.
  • When you wake from a nightmare you sit bolt upright and pant
  • You can always park straight outside the building you’re visiting
  • If you can’t pick the lock with a paper clip, then a credit card will do
  • TV news bulletins always contain a story that affects you personally at that exact moment
  • When you switch on the TV, the news will be talking about your story at that very moment, but you will still switch it off again half-way through the report (although you show no symptoms of acute ADD in any other part of the film) [Moray Coulter]
  • All albinos are evil
  • At least one of every pair of identical twins is born evil
  • You won’t show any pain when taking a ferocious beating but when a woman tries to clean the wounds you’ll wince like hell
  • If you decide to start dancing in the street, everyone you come across will know all the steps
  • Don’t worry if you are outnumbered in a martial arts fight – your enemies will patiently wait to attack you one by one by dancing around in a threatening manner until you’ve disposed of their colleagues
  • When you turn out the bedroom light, everything will still be visible, just bluish
  • Honest cops get shot within a week of retirement
  • Beer is always drunk with the brand label clearly on display. Ditto all bottles of champagne, spirits etc. [Catherine Considine] and Coke
  • Why waste a bullet when a complex contraption with laser beams or a rotating saw will do?
  • just bribe the bell boy / receptionist / valet and they’ll break data protection laws [Irshad Ashraf]
  • A sharp knock on the skull will always render the victim unconscious for a short period, after which they will wake up otherwise unaffected [Moray Coulter]
  • The etiquette is to answer the telephone with a stacatto announcement of ones surname [Irshad Ashraf]
  • If your life is in danger you should always walk into a dark room and wait a bit before you turn the light on and/or have a shower [Helen Milner]
  • The single biggest TV drama cliche of all is perhaps one that no- one really notices. The drinking of whisky, miraculously produced from beneath a desk, or handily sitting on a kitchen top, in anticipation of a difficult conversation. Not wine, not gin, not beer (that’s the American version) but the golden spirit, whisky. [MT Rainey]
  • There are no black people in Notting Hill [Irshad Ashraf]

This post began as an idle conversation on my Facebook page. I’ve preserved here some of the ones that most resonated with a view to adding to the list, especially in the wake of Christmas movie viewing. And of course I’d love further suggestions below if any occur to you.

What else have you learnt from the movies…?

The Reaper Grim and Not So Grim

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Youth

I’ve had three interesting encounters with Death – of an artistic kind – in the last few days of variable quality and insight…

Close Encounter of the 1st Kind: Me & Earl & The Dying Girl

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Me & Earl & The Dying Girl

I took my 11 year old nephew to a screening of this movie as it is a book he really likes, plus he has impeccable, mature taste in movies. He is the only other person I have met, for example, who noticed and loved A Long Long Way Back in 2013. We both really enjoyed Earl (one of the best two BAFTA/awards season movies I have seen so far) and in the wake of our evening out he lent me the book – and he, like me, both being Virgos, is very fussy about the state of his books.

I enjoyed reading the book – he had bunked school the day before the screening so he could read all day and finish the novel, be fully prepared.  I see it as being in the tradition of A Catcher in the Rye (i.e. a quality coming of age book) and it is interesting on being self-effacing to avoid engagement as well as on dealing with death close at hand. I also like what it has to say on just being, being together, hanging out. It would be a great book to give a teen in the face of cancer or other terminal illness in their close circles.

Close Encounter of the 2nd Kind: Here We Go

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Here We Go

Here We Go, apart from being the first book I ever read (Look, John, look),  is a new short play by Caryll Churchill. I used to go, taken by my mum, with her and my younger brother most Saturday mornings to get cheap tickets for the National Theatre. What sometimes seemed like a haul then we are both profoundly grateful for now as we saw the best of theatre in a golden era for the NT. So the three of us reunited for this trip. Unfortunately it was a pretty provocative piece. Us two siblings pronounced on it on exit and it turned out our judgments exactly matched the two reviews (of the previous night’s opening performance) we read on the way home. He said it was more like an arts performance piece. I said it was not right for such a big venue of that kind (the Lyttleton).

The first of the three scenes that make up the 40 minute piece (ticket cost over £20 – not right) is made up of fragments of conversation at a funeral party. The next scene is a monologue conducted in a spotlight in the dark by the dead man. The last scene is the most provocative – but also the most thought-provoking. The dead man, flashing back to his last years, is in an old age home. His care assistant gets him dressed for the day, slowly and deliberately, in real time, with all the appropriate health and safety precautions. He shuffles a few feet across to his armchair. She then gets him undressed and ready for bed. He shuffles back to the bed with his zimmerframe, sits down and she starts getting him dressed again. It takes about 10 minutes to do the whole process. It was repeated twice in its entirety. No dialogue. All through the second cycle you’re thinking, they’re going to pull the plug on this any minute …surely. They don’t. As the third cycle starts the scene very slowly fades to black. Thought-provoking but bloody annoying and arguably not the stuff of theatre in this kind of context. I just came away thinking whatever happens, never get yourself into a situation where every day is the same as the last …and the one before that.

Close Encounter of the 3rd Kind: Youth

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Youth

I went to a BAFTA screening in a cosy hotel screening room (Ham Yard) of this, the second English language film of Paolo Sorrentino, due to be attended by Michael Caine and Rachel Weitz. As it turned out the latter was unfortunately detained on set but the former was more than enough to make the screening special. What a grounded man for a famous movie star – and very funny, in a lovely dry London way (he’s from Elephant & Castle, similar territory to my hero, Charlie Chaplin). When asked how he felt about getting old, he replied: “Not too bad, considering the alternative.” Good perspective, one we often forget. That very English “Mustn’t grumble” is true.

I asked him a question about his fellow cast – How was it working with Harvey Keitel, and did he learn anything from him? He said the main thing was that they had both served in the infantry and that gave them both important common ground on which they founded a friendship.

The film was a free-ranging reflection on youth, age and approaching death – not totally my cup of tea but interesting, entertaining and original. The Grand Hotel Budapest meets Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. What was most inspiring was the dignity and joie de vivre Michael Caine aka Sir Disco Mike brought to being in your 80s. Certainly something to aspire to…

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