Monday, June 28, 2010

Moving lives

I helped my girlfriend move house on Saturday. Man alive it was hot. We had three flights at the other end of the move, from just the one at the place she was leaving. Strange to think you'll never go back to somewhere, never tread those boards, get annoyed at the rubbish shower, stare out of those windows, all the quirks a house, home, can have.

All someone's worldly goods packed and pressed away into the boot of a car, all to only be unpacked and repurposed in a new location. Cavemen must have done the same.

In other news, I finished Wolf Hall on Sunday. Took me five weeks to read it (admittedly with a break to read an Orwell book I was reviewing in between). It was an enjoyable book, but also required absolutely concentration: so detailed, and so full of voices was the book that a moments idle wanderings of the mind and speaker, time, location could all change in an instant, leading to utter confusion for the reader.

Still, it did help remind me what a fascinating bunch of people the Tudors, and the ilk were, all intrigue, rumour and affairs and the desperate desire for male heir (it's almost banally ironic that after Henry VIIIs six wives, all in the attempt to bring him a son, it was his daughter, by Anne B (who was executed for basically not giving him a son) who would become the saviour of England) as well as hideous forms of death they had for people considered traitors, who just a few months before could be receiving the highest praise from all of Christendom.

Would I recommended the book? Well, no, but I wouldn't not recommend it either: it's up to you.

I have moved on to Ever After by Graham Swift now, he of Waterland and Last Orders fame, and it's already very enjoyable.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Catch up

Hello, been too long since something was entered here.

Tennis. 70-68! Where to begin; tennis is sometimes unfairly maligned by people, believing it not to be a hard sport, not tiring, not exhausting, but any sportsman that can play a game, hurling their body around for almost ten hours is clearly some sort of athlete. What's more you have to do it while battling moments of calm, reflection in between points, and then pull of incredible shots, often under immense pressure of 'one mistake and I'm out'.

I've been reading Wolf Hall (still -it's very long...) but it is also very good, in places, which is hard to fully explain, but it's just that in some places the story really picks up and rattles along, and with a little historical knowledge, some of the asides, or hints at the future are very well handled ("You know she's a witch," says one character of Anne Boleyn before she marries Henry, and we all know how that turned out...).

While I am enjoying it I am looking forward to finishing it too, before I go away on holiday next week, as it's a massive book, even in paperback, and quite a tough read, requiring full concentrate; not that I can't concentrate mind you.

I finally got a smartphone too, after months of writing about the things, and it is very nice having a such a sleek piece of tech, that enables me to bring up maps, email and the internet as and when required. That's all really.

The World Cup is coming to life too, although I've not been disappointed with it at all. It always starts a little slow as teams try not to lose, but come the end of the group stages, you often see enthralling end to end games as teams suddenly have to win, as evidenced today with Italy's somewhat surprising loss to Slovakia.

Er...the weather's nice isn't it?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Short words, long words

George Orwell ws good at writing. He wrote some very good things indeed. I read his diaries recently for a review. They were very good. You can read it here. I enjoyed reading it and writing the review.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

World Cup memories

Four years ago today I awoke bleary eyed, tired, and robbed. It was the day after my last exam at university. My bank account had been skimmed to the tune of almost £400 from Bulgaria (Have you been to Bulgaria? The woman in the bank asked me...) and I had, in spite of this, gone out to celebrate the end of student life – it was a fraudulent celebration as I was actually on for a post-grad course, but hey ho.

Later that afternoon, I, and about 19 others, went to the pub to watch Germany play out a highly enjoyable 4-2 win against Costa Rica. It was the start of the World Cup 2006. The sun shone, the atmosphere was carnival, with students everyone winding up their final exams, and the massive over expectation that the "Golden Generation" (snigger) would finally deliver.

They didn't of course, and later that month, back in Cornwall, we slumped out of the local bar after England's dismal showing against Portugal.

In 2002 I slumped into Geography half an hour late after England's dismal 2-1 defeat to Brazil in the quarter-finals. The only player who had a shot in the second half was Danny Mills, which shows what a weak team we had. This was the world cup of early morning kick offs, of the tournament being over each day at about 1pm UK time, leaving you free to make the most of the afternoons – if you were a schoolboy who'd completed his exams of course. For workers it must have been terrible.

In 1998 I was at my auntie's 40th when Croatia stuck three past Germany, to much celebration from those assembled, and the next day I can still vividly remember commenting, struck with wonder at the thought of such an age: "At the next World Cup I'll be 17…". I had been at home for the England v Argentina match, and watched as the team swash-buckled their way out of the tournament after an engrossing match.

In 1994, I only really remember watching Brazil v Italy, in the drab, Americanised final in the Pasadena Rose Bowl. It was a limp match, ending on penalty shoot out. Poor.

Interesting though, measuring out your life by major events, notably the World Cup, I can only imagine where I'll be when 2014 in Brazil roles around.

Anyone care to join in?

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Raging against machines

Just got back from seeing Rage Against the Machine in Finsbury Park. I've been running around Finsbury Park for about three years but never thought I would see one of my favourite bands - from my teenager years at least - play there for free. But then it's funny how life works out. 

The set list was full of  well known songs, to any Rage fan at least, and was preceded by a very funny animated version of Simon Cowell bemoaning "the horrible Rage Against the Machine" for denying him the chance to make more money with X Factor. Later on, before the final song, Killing in the Name was played (which was why everyone had ended up in the middle of my local running park) a little montage of the race to Christmas Number one was played, which drew load cheers. This was played over the top of Joe McElderry's The Climb, which was a nice touch.

During the middle of the set, including the songs, Bombtrack, Bullet in the Head, Testify, Bulls on Parade and Freedom, Jon and Tracy Morter, the two people who set up the Facebook group and caused the whole shindig (and who I follow on Twitter), were brought on stage so that a cheque of a significant amount could be handed to the UK homeless organisation Shelter, combined of the sales of the signal donated in full by Rage, and the money donated by all the fans buying the single too. A great mix of music and politics, done without any of the crass showmanship of, say, a Bono or Sting.

Speaking of which, frontman Zach de la Rocha was impassioned as ever, issuing several rallying cries, specifically regarding the recent Gaza blockade issues, and other similar things, and he remains one of the few singers in the world with genuine stage presence and an ability to mix sincerity with a righteous anger. Lines such as "Your anger is a gift", and "All hell, can't stop us now" would never sound as convincing if the man delivering them didn't have a personality to carry of such heavy handed sentiments. 

Throughout, it as funny to think I was watching a band who I used to listen to on shared headphone on the school bus home. Back then Rage were no more, having split up, and my friends and I often lamented what a shame it was we would never see them. Eventually though, with a bit of patience, it turns out they would come to me anyway. Fantastic.

Walking out to the sight, feeling a bit peckish, I thought I'd buy some chips. The wagon promised "chunky, tasty chips" and the pictures looked good. I paid up my cash, a slightly high £2.50, and bit into what were some nasty, dry, tastless, cold chips. "Believing all the lies that they're selling ya..." never seemed so apt.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Train whistles

“Ever since childhood, when I lived within earshot of the Boston and Maine, I have seldom heard a train go by and not wished I was on it.”

What is it about trains? Those railways sing bewitchment…as Paul Theroux wrote, and he's right. They are timeless, yet historical, they swerve and glide, sink and shuffle their way across all manner of landscapes, in a manner that no other form of transport has managed to replicate. They get you to B from A, but through C, D, E and beyond, giving you a true glimpse into a world a plane, or car, can never do.

Theroux may have gone around most of the world's countries by train, but even my four hour journey home to Cornwall is a mix of strange pleasures: the stolen glances into people back room windows, the fisherman, dogs being walked, cows, sheep, rivers arcing, the sun streaming in over wide open land that is so English, the rest.

Drowsy too: no need to worry about directions, or control, just recline, stare, read, engage with others. Theroux so often meets interesting, intriguing people (or has the ability to make them seem so), on his trips, and admittedly he is in far away lands, on 20-hour journeys in shared cabins, so perhaps it comes easy, more naturally, but it is still part of the potential thrill of travel.
My cousin traveled from Beijing in Brighton by train after her travels around Asia and said it was fantastic. Trains inspire in a way that many people identify with, but in ways that are hard to fathom, to exactly pin-point.

I've read three Theroux's now, each one a tome to his love of railways, their uniqueness, grandness, ramshackle-ness, and beyond, and each time I left with a sense of something, I don't know, A sense of falling, like an arrow shower, sent out of sight, somewhere becoming rain (Too much? Well, more railways in art at least).

This is a video of Lou Reed reading an abridged version of the open page from The Great Railway Bazaar set to music, it is rather great.