Nothing to see ‘ere

Stelios Arcadious

Stelios Arcadious

Remember the picture of the human ear grown on the back of a mouse? Well a Cypriot-Australian named Stelios Arcadious (aka Stelarc – He’s an artists you know) has had a human cell-cultivated ear surgically attached to his arm……no…..I can’t be arsed to think of another pun. Pretty pioneering. I’d think he were braver still if he’d had a penis attached to his forehead but you can’t have everything.

If this sort of thing entertains you then check out this web site a web site named Next Nature which is a web site which documents changes in technology both inanimate and animate.

Vietnamese Girls

Vietnamese Girls

Stupendous Madrid – And people in queues

Puerta de Alcalá

Puerta de Alcalá

Madrid. Madrid. Gorgeous Madrid. The good thing about Madrid is the sunshine. Oh and the food. The hotel was nice too, as was the broad bright bus station at Plaza de Castilla and I loved the architecture downtown and the people are so friendly and have you visited the fantastic Museo Reina Sofía?!

Wait. It’s pointless to list the good things about Madrid, there are too many of them. Let’s approach this in a more rational manner. List the bad things. Everything in Madrid is good except…………I can’t think of anything and anyway, this blog has not developed a reputation for informing the reader of the great and the gorgeous. No the mission of TB is to revile the ghastliness of the human condition.

The queues at EasyJet coming home were appalling! That’s more like it. Being someone who is out of kilter with 21st Century Britain I detest queues. During my, seemingly endless queue at Madrid airport I decided that it was not so much the queues that wound me up as the people in them. I determined that there were various types of moronic queue-ers and I lay them out here for your consideration.

First there are the early birds. The people are desperate to be the first on the plane so that they can have the pick of one of the  hundred odd almost identical seats. Bizarrely these people would rather spend 45 minutes standing in a queue to get their choice of seat than relax and take their pick at the last moment. Then there are the dawdlers. The people that, when the people in front of them move forward, they stay still. OK, we don’t want to be leaning into each other but come on, we’re queuing here. I don’t mean to be pedantic but we need to maintain a distinction between a queue and a bunch of people standing around in isolated clumps. I suspect that these people are the same as the morons who do the same in a queue of traffic. Appearing so relaxed and laid back, yet nip in in front of them and they soon get shirty.

Cibeles Palace (City Hall),

Then there are the sliders. These are the people that come and stand next to the queue, usually gazing at something trying to look like they are wondering if this is the queue for them. Yet gradually, as the queue moves they move along too, usually sliding past everyone else to get to the front. Then there are the back pushers. These are the people so eager to move forward that they keep pushing into the back of you. There are the misplaced toffs. I recall seeing a toff, identified by shirt by Pink, Gucci shoes etc who’d obviously had to slum it in cattle class. He just walked straight to the front hoping he could bluff it out. I was pleased to see him sent away with a flea in his ear. No doubt he cursed his PA the next day. There are the disappointed Fast Trackers. They paid their extra fiver and think they should be able to board before everyone else but, for some reason or another, there is no fast track today and they are forced to wait in line with the rest of us while they mutter about writing letters and demanding refunds. Then, there are the disorganised groups. The ones who, you think have finished at checkin but no, auntie fucking Jean still has to check her bags or one of the twins forgot to hand over his passport.

Yesterday must have been a good day for these people as I witnessed one of the most obnoxious types. The shover. I’d sat at the back of the plane bombarded for two and a half hours by the loud shouting of a party of Spanish school kids and was accelerating along the Gatwick Airport corridors in order to leave this group far behind. I rounded a corner and my way was clear down the final slope to border control. Just then a wide portly woman emerged just in front of me and sidled slowly down the ramp. I readjusted my expectations (ooh Mrs!) and resigned myself to a slow decline. Suddenly a bloke in a suit weaved passed me and shoved her out of the way so that he could pass. She muttered something and he turned and gave her a look of pure hatred and asked her “What?” then rushed off.

As Sartre rightly pointed out: Hell is other people.

Roses

Roses

The Comedy of Errors at The Roundhouse

The Roundhouse

The Roundhouse

On Friday night I saw The Comedy of Errors at The Roundhouse on Chalk Farm Road. Arriving 5 minutes late an apparatchik, branded in Roundhouse clothing, advised that we were not to enter until there was a loud noise and this was schedule at minute nine. It seems that RSC actors are especially sensitive to interruption. Odd, you’d think that if you’re employing professionals, they could cope with slight distractions. You wouldn’t want to distract a raw amateur as it could throw him but you’d think the RSC could cope with a minor movements amongst the audience.

At minute nine, we entered and took our seats. The gist of the play is the story is of a man, Antipholus, and his servant, Dromio, who arrive in a town where each has a twin unknown to them. Each twin also has the same name. The rest of the play is series of incidents in which one of the characters interacts with the wrong twin and confusion ensues.

This was a straight comedy and director Amir Nizar Zuabi played it as such with moments of pure slapstick. The set was 20th century industrial consisting of steel drums and packing crates along with the inside of a dining room which was lowered into position along with the actors as required. The occasional interruption of the fun by sinister figures with guns and musical instruments failed to lend production any menace if this were its intent.

I’m no Shakespeare aficionado and have had trouble keeping up with the lingo in other productions but I found The Comedy of Errors to be very accessible. Perhaps I did not keep up as well as I might have as I did think that the play began to drag as yet another misunderstanding arose when two unmatched twins met.

After receiving gifts in the street from unknown strangers Antipholus begins thinking this to be a very good place to stay but after numerous misunderstandings Antipholus and Dromio settle on the idea that the place is infested with evil sprits and the inhabitants mad. They seek to board the first ship home. The play ran for about two hours with an intermission.

We’d bought the tickets some last year as the RSC sell out months in advance. However, many seats were empty and I’m told that this is because the play had bad reviews so the connoisseurs didn’t bother using their tickets. Pity they didn’t put them on ebay then isn’t it.

In my purely amateur viewpoint I thought it would make a good play to see if you were just beginning to get into Shakespeare.

another brick in the wall

another brick in the wall

The Roundhouse is a Grade 2 listed building that was previously a railway engine shed containing a large turntable. I last visited in 1976 to see Van Der Graf Generator. In those artistes were a little less pompous and I recall a member of the audience yelling out to Peter Hamil: “Where’s your blue strat Pete?” And Hamil replying that some gangster in Italy had got it. A reference to the theft of Hamil’s guitar during a recent Italian tour.

I remember wandering around in the mirk under the brick arches and finding a girl assembling glowing necklaces by filling transparent plastic tubes with green gunk which she had got all over her hands. Meanwhile my friend discussed the purchase of nefarious substances with another gentleman.

Today The Roundhouse has been renovated. The term renovate has a unique meaning these days. It means to gut a building, make good the original infrastructure and then install an internal skeleton of steel and glass. Stairs, walkways, banisters and counters are installed until one might almost think one were still at work.

This infrastructure allows 21st century mankind to enter the original space without the tiresome need to experience anything. A small area under the arches has been kitted out with suspended ceilings, spotlight, polished floor and wooden counters and this was now used as the front office for some kind of commercial studio. Behind glass doors the original brick aches could be seen running deeper into he buildings but only Artists were deemed sufficiently talented enough to enter here.

Outside an enormous new building has been bolted to the side of the roundhouse. A veritable service module providing 21st century life support systems such as £2 bottles of water.

Roundhouse inc.

Roundhouse inc.

Time and again I see how beautiful old buildings have been turned into themed venues based upon their pre-renovated existence. Their reincarnation allows very little perception of the original because of the corporate nonsense that has been fused with the original. The resultant synthesis had none of the atmosphere of the original round house and resembled my corporate office in Surrey more than it does an arts venue.

We should recall that when these buildings were created they existed standalone. They did not need chrome lifts and glass frontage and there is no reason why they need this now. Correction: There is only one reason that they need this now and that is profit. The owners insert the 21st century intrastructrue in order to maximise the throughput of “consumers” at £30 a pop.

More than thirty years ago I visited The Roundhouse. I sat on the floor and watched a bunch of blokes cavort around on stage to the sound of guitars, drums and saxophones. I experienced the industrial nature of the building directly. Yesterday I sat on a seating unit inserted like a surgical implant into the soul of The Roundhouse and experienced the building like a deep sea diver. Which is to say vaguely, through a small window in the contraption in which I was encased. Mind you, thirty years on I am bloody glad I didn’t have to sit on the floor and so, in reality, I am a just curmudgeonly old hypocrite.

Rose

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Fighting On Hove Lawns

Mods and Rockers

Mods and Rockers

Walking along Kindsway yesterday evening I noticed a bunch of youths fighting on Hove Lawns. This really is the limit. I thought we had got over all that palaver in the 60s. What these, so called, Mods and Rockers don’t realise is the aggravation they cause for ordinary decent right thinking people. On drawing closer I observed that these were neither Mods nor Rockers but Thatcher Children exercising in order to become good corporate citizens. Each one kitted out with paraphernalia to make them exercise better, they dreamed of starting their own restaurant franchise, winning a marketing award or building a richer web experience going forward.

I’ve noticed these people before, mainly because their leader insists on bawling his head off outside my window and his motivational ranting echos around Adelaide Crescent on summer evenings awakening right thinking people from their pre pub snoozes. I don’t know what the world has come to when young people would rather spend their evenings being shouted at by a man with a flag than do what English young people have done for centuries, namely to go down the pub. How would Rock and Roll or Punk ever have been invented if Mick Jager and Sid Vicious had spent their evenings doing press ups? I recommend a daily dose of what I had when I was their age, to wit: Hurry Up Harry by Sham 69.

Come on come on
Hurry up Harry come on
Come on come on
Hurry up Harry come on
We’re going down the pub
We’re going down the pub

Now listen here Harry
If we’re going down the pub
You’d better tell your mum and dad
And finish up your grub
I wish you’d listen to me
No, I don’t want a cup of tea

Come on come on
Hurry up Harry come on
Come on come on
Hurry up Harry come on
We’re going down the pub
We’re going down the pub

You’re telling me to grow up
But Harry don’t you see
If I tried to act my age
I wouldn’t be me
We never do anything
So now’s the time to begin

Come on come on
Hurry up Harry come on
Come on come on
Hurry up Harry come on
We’re going down the pub
We’re going down the pub

You don’t have to tell me
That the thing’s I do are wrong
But everything I do in life
Is with us right or wrong
Now I think I understand
How to have some fun

Come on come on
Hurry up Harry come on
Come on come on
Hurry up Harry come on
We’re going down the pub
We’re going down the pub

hove station

hove station

Four reasons that Germany should bail out Greece

Economy of Germany

Economy of Germany

The Euro crisis drags on and on. If the British press are to be believed then the problem is that the Euro Zone wont face up to its problems and bail out the weak economies. Specifically, Germany has the economic power to sort things out but wont put its hand in its pocket. Here are four reasons why the Germans should bail out Europe.

1 The Irish have already helped bail out German savers

The Germans make out that they have been prudent and none of the current crisis is down to them. This may be true of the German people who save a large proportion of their earnings. But the German people put their money in German banks and the banks had to invest the money somewhere. From what I hear the German banks lent a lot of money to Irish banks.

The Irish banks became insolvent and, if there was any justice, they should have gone bust. If they had then the German people would have lost their money but because Ireland thought it could not allow its banking system to fail the Irish tax payer bailed out the Irish banks. The upshot is that many German people have the Irish tax payers to thank that they did not lose their savings.

2 The Germans should get over their phobia for inflation

After the first world war the German economy went down the drain and there was massive inflation which brought about the catastrophe of Nazism and this is still etched on the German national consciousness in the form of a phobia for inflation.

One thing I read often about economics is that after a catastrophe everyone runs around making rules so that the catastrophe cannot happen again. But the same type of catastrophe is not a likely threat. Similarly with Germany, the catastrophe that looms is not massive inflation but collapse of the Euro. The Germans should wake up and see the threat of today not worry about the mistakes of the past.

3 Germany should recognise their national interest and their role as the largest European power

Germany is a big power. Not on the same scale as the United States or China but it has the 4th largest GDP in the world and by far the largest GDP in the EU. The Greek economy is tiny by comparison. The German public debt is about 81.2% of German GDP. If you added in the Greek public debt then the German public debt would be about 95% of German GDP.

Yet Germany still lives in the shadow of the Holocaust. There is still an attitude that Germany should keep its head down. That was right and understandable for a while but Germany has faced up to its crimes. The people who ran Nazi Germany are mostly all dead and they have a new generation with sound democratic credentials.

After World War 2 the European economies collapsed but thankfully, the United States stepped in with the Marshall Plan. No doubt the U.S. acted  in its own interests and realised that rebuilding Europe would benefit the U.S. but that is the point If the Germans do nothing the Euro will collapse and they will lose. If they step in and bail out the Greeks they could save the Euro and thereby help themselves.

4 Germany should get over its hypocrisy

The Germans have a very naïve and hypocritical addiction to rules. They are conservative and like the appearance of correctness but under the surface they are fudging and fiddling as much as any nation (and possibly more because of their obsession with appearances). Recall that it was the Germans (with The French) who first broke the rule that deficits should not go above 3 per cent of GDP? This hypocrisy makes it difficult for them to justify helping the Greeks who lied to get into the Euro in the first place.

The Germans are as complicit in current economic crisis as anyone else and need to wake up to current threats rather than dwelling on the past. They should step out of the shadow of the second world war and accept their power and responsibility. Also they should grow up and forgive the Greeks. Didn’t the world forgive Germany? Sometimes, in order to help yourself, you have to help people who don’t deserver it.

Germany should use its power to save Greece, the Euro and the European economy.

The South Downs Way

Dew Pond, Ditchling Beacon

Dew Pond, Ditchling Beacon

On bank holiday Tuesday I walked from Ditchling Beacon to Devils Dyke.

A number 79 bus from Brighton Station dropped me at Ditchling Beacon and, though the sky was overcast, there was no rain. I started immediately. I passed by huddles of walkers and through gates. Ahead a bird in a pasture loudly tweeted while seeming to maintain a constant distance just off to my left. I passed trees with limbs swept back, their shapes redolent of English weather. A cow guzzled rain water at a perfectly circular dew pond.

I had intended to start at Devil’s Dyke but with a strong easterly blowing I decided to keep the wind at my back. There are many places in the world where it is possible to stop and listen with wonder to the sound of nature. Telescope Peak in California or the rice paddies around Ninh Binh in Vietnam. To prevent Englishmen indulging in such nonsense the good Lord has given us a scarce summer and strong cold winds thus ensuring that only hardy type with limited imagination can bare to be outside for any length of time.

I trudged on. A woman on a horse. Walkers with sticks. Everyone well prepared with fluorescent clothing and hoods. I had flung on an old waxed cotton jacket and now regretted not bringing a sweater, gloves and a hat.

A golf course and then, bizarrely, a saloon car driving in a field alongside me. A main road blocked my way. As the South Downs Way is well trodden, I expected there to be a foot bridge or tunnel akin to those used for wild life in wilderness areas; a method to keep road kill figures to a tolerable level but the path petered out as I entered Pycombe. A pub named The Plough was suggested and my spirits lifted as I thought of a jolly walkers boozer with pints of foaming ale and steam rising from wet jackets before a roaring fire.

The Italian bar staff had never heard of The South Downs Way and as I drank a cappuccino I surveyed the bank holiday crowd lured to the nice restaurant just off the A23 by the continental cuisine. They had clearly not walked further than the car park. I took out my smart phone and consulted Google maps.

Cows

Cows

Venturing out again I found the small bridge not fifty yards from the pub and I ruminated on our sense of place. To a walker The Plough represented a much needed hostelry, breaking the journey and marking the crossing of a major highway. The land was something to be surveyed and understood. To the barman the pub was his place of work just off the A23 by the BP garage.

It is the ease with which we travel and communicate which results in such divergence in our comprehension of place. The same area represents different things to different people though they may be neighbours. In areas of London well appointed houses sell for millions but what to do about a cleaner? The rain was now constant though the wind had eased. There has always been a divergence in our sense of a place, social standing being, perhaps, the main cause but, these days, with technology allowing individuals to customise their lives to such an extent, it’s a wonder we recognise anything at all.

I recall returning from four years in Africa. An August evening in Solihull and I drove around searching for a small hotel. I could find nobody to ask for assistance. In Africa there would have been people everywhere. In Solihull the streets were deserted, it’s inhabitants safe behind locked doors. Today, when I ask in local shops for directions, I am met with blank stares. The staff live miles away and are delivered to work by wheeled machines. They know nothing of the shop next door let alone half way up the road.

Perhaps social trends are trends because they are self reinforcing. I had refrained from asking in the pub for directions because the clientèle did not look sufficiently like myself. I had resorted to Google. If another walker had been present my actions would have discouraged him from asking for assistance. And so a technology which is supposed to connect us, isolates us.

The climb was tiring and I started to breath heavily. I wondered why it was that the government are keen to spend billions on projects for industry yet they have not sort to make life easier for the humble walker. I had walked for perhaps an hour and a half and the terrain became steeper. The government is about to spend billions on High Speed Rail 2 yet no plans are afoot to build a suspension bridge between Ditchling Beacon and Devils Dyke. Is it too much to ask that a little consideration is shown for the common man? If businessmen save an hour on journeys from London to Birmingham they will merely stay in bed an extra hour. Why should the walker be forced to trudge up hill and down dale while fat cats enjoy luxurious service replete with milk jugs and brown sugar? Such were my thoughts as I trudged higher and higher.

Cold & Wet

Cold & Wet

The rain eased off and though the sun did not break through it made an effort. I felt a little warmer and opened my jacket. Crossing Sadlecomb Road I began the last leg up Devils Dyke on the southern side and realised that there was a distinct possibility I might just make the 3:15 bus back into Brighton. Drawing near I had to decide whether to continue my path up to the road or dip down into the shallow entrance to Devils Dyke and up the other side. Having realised some time back that there may be a blog article in this and with my brain full of metaphors I peeled away from the path like a Hurricane in pursuit of an ME 109. Diving down into the Dyke and them climbing steeply up the other side I machine gunned a gaggle of walkers crowding my path. I strode quickly past and before me lay just one child and his dog. I glimpsed the roof of the bus waiting behind the trees but the little bastard and his dog then stopped dead blocking the entrance to the car park. The bus began to move as I struggled past and puffed up behind it too late.

Exhausted and wet, the rain began to fall again. At least there was a pub here and, with visions of Frodo Baggins approaching the Prancing Pony, I walked up to the door of The Devils Dyke “Vintage Inn”.

A man stopped me and asked if he could help.

“Help?”, I thought, “This is a pub?” I asked.
“It’s a pub AND a restaurant” he declared.
“And what, I’m not allowed in?”.
“You can go in but please sit in the drinks only area”.

On entering the establishment my hopes of a friendly hostelry were once again dashed by Little England Petty Pomposities (LEPPs). I realised that most of the pub was a “restaurant” while drinkers were forced to sit in the entrance hall like lepers. I ordered coffee and peevishly received a large tray with a cup of coffee, a saucer, a milk jug and a bowl of brown sugar. Finding a small table in the restaurant I removed my sodden jacket while my face glowed from exertion.

Bus Window

Bus back to Brighton

I was tired. Disconnected from modernity. As England has become richer it has turned it’s back on it’s tradition in favour of sugar bowls, milk jugs and “greeters” by the door. I have nothing in common with these people because they have nothing to have in common besides their status as customers. They have not walked here, I thought piously, they have driven. They have no stories to share I bemoaned, no doubt inspired by my halting attempts to read Canterbury Tales on my iPhone Kindle. They are not slaking their thirst or eating a well earned meal they are buying a service.

I stood outside in the rain for a bit before boarding a number 77 back into Brighton. I brightened a little, this walking lark wasn’t half as difficult as it’s made out to be and, at least, I had another cynical meandering rant for my blog.

Ditchling Beacon to Devils Dyke is 6 miles and it took me 2 and a half hours with 15 minute stop at The Plough in Pycombe.

Rose

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Ray Bradbury slips away long after midnight

Long After Midnight

Long After Midnight

The BBC just announced that, as he approached the age of 92, Ray Bradbury has left us all to it. Since starting this blog many of the people I revered as a child have died but with the passing of Ray Bradbury goes not just a man but a feeling. A sense of wonder. A feeling that right now, just millimetres beyond our senses lies a vast world of infinite imagination. A feeling that, when the hubbub of the day has died down, when the cars engines have been turned off, the last door has been slammed shut and the drunks have gone to bed, for those with just the patience to  wait  and be silent, something spectacular might occur.

I loved his short stories which were not about armies, companies or organisations. There were no grand themes and there were no heroes or villains. The stories were about people and their relationship with the world. They were about how we feel when something astounding happens.

It is odd that no particular story stands out in my mind but the feeling of a warm and quiet night where something strange is happening has stayed with me along with the names of the stories. “Long After Midnight”, “The Golden Apples of The Sun”, “The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit”, “Dark They Were And Golden Eyed”, “The Small Assassin, “Dandelion Wine”.

Dystopianism has become the default preset for Science Fiction and the radio is already burbling on about Fahrenheit 451 but it was not always this way. In the early years of Science Fiction there was dystopianism and there was Space Opera but there were also a determined bunch of authors who refused to let the genre crystallise around them. They set their own style and stretched the meaning of Science Fiction. Michael Moorcock merged cutting edge science with fantasy amidst a host of fantastic characters, the prescient Philip K. Dick portrayed how advanced technologies would become so embedded in our lives that we would regard it as mundane as tap water and Ray Bradbury sometimes strayed so far that the stories carried little more than the feeling. But that feeling is what I shall remember him for. A feeling of quiet awe that inspired me to gaze up at the sky on warm nights and wonder which shining light might be heading my way?

Star House

Long After Midnight