Sunday, May 22, 2011

Driving to Bruce Springstreen

Can it really be almost a month since the Royal Wedding? I'm back at work and Wills 'n' Kate are back in Anglesey where she's shopping in Waitrose and no doubt having to sort out heating bills and comparing car insurance to get the best deals for her and hubby...possibly.

I was fortunate enough to be driving myself for the first time since Christmas and I had a lovely moment driving in to Falmouth for a night out with my friends while listening to Bruce Springsteen, on tape(!), as I did so (I got a taxi back, before you begin to wonder).

There was Bruce singing about Glory Days and about, "Friday night I'd drive you all around" in I'm Going Down, and there I was driving along the glorious Cornish coast to my old home town to see friends I've been drinking with since I was 18-years-old-and-not-a-day-younger.

Something about The Boss's music is just so well suited to driving, the hint of reckless it offers, the surging rhythm, the lyrics of so many of his songs about the drama of escape or trying to be cool: See Born to Run, or the wonderful Racing in the Street.

I don't have a car in London, thankfully, as I imagine London must be one of the worst places in the world to drive – the traffic, the confusing signals, the mad pedestrians just trying to get run over, it must be a nightmare.

Conversely, driving in Cornwall is about as far removed from London as you could possibly get – on some corners you're better off trying to hear if there's anything come around the tight, narrow, tree-encroached bends than looking left and right.

On other occasions cars pull in to the only suitable passing place on a tiny roads and wait as cars come down from across the other side of a small river valley –,a level of courtesy you'd never imagine or expect in London.

Of course all these windy lanes can make for some hairy moments as the locals buses come whooshing past, or you clip errant stones, branches and sheep (okay, not really sheep) as you drive along.

Still, at least I'm insured, so I don't have to worry too much, much like Kate as she pops to Waitrose. We're not that different after all I suppose.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Travels to Hong Kong

Travelling for work can sometimes be a tiring chore, but other times it can be fantastic, with the chance to visit far-flung corners of the world on someone else's account.

Last week I was lucky enough to be sent to Hong Kong and Shenzhen in China for work, and squeeze in a couple of days of holidays to travel around the former British territory.

That's one of the main things that hits you about the place, actually, is its Britishness, with all road markings and signs the exact same design, colours and shapes of British equiviliants.

This may not sound very interesting, but when you're 6,000 miles away from home and everything looks like an English city, it's quite odd, but also reassuring.

The skyline of the city is incredibly too, because it's a huge sweep across the bay of skyscapers, all far, far higher than anything you usually see in London, and then set against an amazing mountain backdrop of towering peaks and greenery.

Those that live at the very top, where the amazing 45 degree peak-tram runs, have amazing views back down over the city, the bay and Kowloon on the other side.

I didn’t really get much of a chance to explore China, as I was only in Shenzhen for one day and that was predominantly for work, but it seemed like the economic powerhouse that much of China is becoming.

There were construction sites and skyscapers in every direction, thousands of cars streaming down every road you could see, while air-conditioning shopping malls are open til midnight selling everything from high-end phones to clothing.

It's communism, but not as we know it.

London is so odd sometimes

One time, standing on a train, a man was hunched down, rocking on his ankles reading a book, in the middle of the train carriage, while also holding a cup of coffee in a Starbuck's cup.

This was a packed train during the rush hour and he was taking up about four standing spaces by doing this – he didn't look odd, he was wearing a suit and probably in his 30s and off to work. Eventually someone asked him if he could stand up and regrettably he did so – I wanted to get a picture.

Then, today, I saw a man sat (literally, sat) in one of those Metro paper dispensers they have in stations where people grab their slice of free-news in a morning, reading his book.

The dispenser was empty, so he obviously saw it as the perfect place to sit and finish his novel, as the rush-houring commuters filed by. Again, he didn't look that odd, but it goes to show you never can tell, doesn't it Chuck?

These are just two stories of many that no doubt exist in London, but it's the fact both occurred during the rush hour, where presumably sane(ish) people are merely trying to get from A to B - without encountering any Cs - that makes these people all the more noteworthy.

Still, these people had one thing in common – they were both reading books. So perhaps we should rejoice in their dedication to the printed word.

Brighton Rock – what's the deal?

I've read Brighton Rock, I've seen the old film and now I've seen the new film and I have to say, I just don't get it.

It's sort of a classic (certainly in shops it's always displayed prominently) but it's just not that good a story. In the novel it starts off a mildly interesting murder mystery between warring Brighton gangs before descending in to a bunch of religious hokum. The films are worse, as they have the chance to shed this fat and turn it in to a potentially good story, but both are long, boring and ultimately implausible.

The whole thing falls down due to the central conceit of Pinkie trying to marry Rose to stop her testifying. He's meant to be a vicious gang murderer but for some reason seems unable to dispatch Rose, instead deciding to charm her and marry her to gain her trust and therefore silence.

Yet he does this by abusing her and being utterly cold-hearted to her and in return she, for no clear reason (no background to explain why she loves someone acting with clear hatred towards her), falls in love with him in spite of this and we are left watching this hate-love set-up with nothing but bemusement and then boredom.

She should leave him, he should just kill her. Instead, it labours towards a lame conclusion on the cliff tops as he attempts to get her to commit suicide in a fake lovers suicide pact. Why doesn't he just kill her himself? What's more she's so pathetic throughout the book / film and then willing to go through with the pact that by the end I wanted her to just get it over and done with and save us all some misery.

Monday, May 02, 2011

The Royal Wedding, horses, carriages, stupid hats and more royal history

I quite enjoyed the royal wedding. It was all pomp and ceremony and England at its most quintessentially English and foreigners must have absolutely loved it, helping them see that, yes, we really do live in a land of castles, princesses and horse-drawn carriages.

It's utterly anachronistic but the Royal Family, and the notion of royalty, stills cuts a huge swathe through the UK that, for better or for worse, (in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer (Did Kate smirk when she said this?)) links together the long history of England and the royals even today.

The TV commentary was ridiculous, with dress designers and royal protocol experts falling over themselves to squeal or intone in equal measure about the ceremony and banal contributions from the public that had turned up.

We learnt, several times, that Kate and Wills are "fun" and have "wicked senses of humour", which is nice. They themselves looked wonderfully awkward for most of the ceremony, like most of those getting married I imagine, which is reassuring I suppose.

Still, I wish them well, sincerely, especially as I only found this weekend that Diana was 20 when she married Charles and was well aware he was having affais at the time, and she basically was a Royal-Baby-Producing-Machine for the Windors (if that is their real name (which it's not)).

Something about that left a nasty taste in the mouth, and makes the clearly real affection between WAK (Wills and Kate) all the more, well, normal.

Princess Beatrice clearly won the award for the most mental hat in attendance.

Whoever advised her, or lied to her, that it was a good hat should be locked in the Tower of London for a week, as should the person who applied her eyeliner, which if it was her, should mean she goes there herself.

I think Camilla might be mad as she looked lost and confused on several occasions, although maybe she's always been like that?