November 2008 Archives
I've never been happy about vertigo - that's a lower case 'v', in case you think I'm referring to the Alfred Hitchcock film, which is one of my favourites. I have a problem with heights - looking up at as well as looking down from tall buildings.
Even the big Christmas tree at the Mailbox touched on by a fellow blogger taxes me, and when we had to park at the top of the Navigation Street car park the other day I was very stressed. My condition is actually called acrophobia: a fear of heights.
I looked it up you see, feeling that at my age I ought to be able to describe my problem accurately. There is a whole, unheard of world of words to describe our phobias. Near mine in the alphabetical list, for instance, are ailurophobia (fear of cats), alektorophobia (chickens) alliumphobia (garlic) and allodoxaphobia (opinions).
Go here to check it out.
The end section is great for word games when you're trying to find things starting with 'z'. How about zelophobia (fear of jealousy), zeusophobia (God or gods) zemmiphobia (the great mole rat) and zoophobia (animals)?
I hope no one with sesquipedalophobia looks it up. It's the fear of long words.
For some reason, going to the theatre on a Friday afternoon seems really naughty. A bit like when you used to bunk double maths and go to the cinema instead. (Not that I ever used to do that, Mum, if you're reading this oh no no no ...)
I mean, who actually goes to the theatre at 2 p.m. on a school day? I thought I'd take myself off to Birmingham's most miniature theatre, the Old Joint Stock, and find out what crazed kinds of social misfits hide themselves in the gloom of an upstairs pub room to watch obscure play-lets instead of going out to earn a decent crust like most civilised 9-to-5ers. To my disappointment, the audience was full of normal looking, decent members of the public.
(What? Theatre in the daylight? On a schoolday? The madness...)
So, continuing on my neck-breaking meanderings around our city; I come across this at the Mailbox:
It's, well, a large Christmas tree; currently standing proud and outrageously huge in front of the building site that is to be the Cube.
Clan Langley is embarking on its intensive Christmas show schedule - and we couldn't have got off to a better start than the Birmingham Stage Company's latest. As we've all come to expect from performances at the Old Rep, it's terrific.
The story behind Why the Whales Came was told to author Michael Morpurgo during a holiday in the Scilly Isles 25 years ago. Its foreground Blytonesque yarn involving the adventures of two young chums is tricked out with all sorts of thought-provoking attractions - ghosts, superstitions, schoolyard bullying, a mysterious island and more - against the real and handily metaphorical background of the First World War.
When I followed England to the 2006 World Cup in Germany the talk before was of how the England fans would be incarcerated the second they "mentioned the war". The World Cup was a great success and for England (off the pitch at least) things seemed to go well. It was still with trepidation that I travelled to Berlin this week for a game -- would being in the city that was the seat of the Nazi's power be too much for a certain type of Englishman?
Mentioning or not mentioning the war seems to hold a great power over the English, and not just those you'd think of as hooligans -- it's summed up beautifully by this letter from Viz (cribbed in this instance from this fine column by Patrick West on Spiked):
'Could I take this opportunity to remind the UKTV History channel that a lot of history happened before 1939, and a substantial amount of it has also happened since 1945. Not only that, some of it didn't happen in Germany.' A Thackray, Letter to Viz comic, September 2008
But despite the Great Escape and Dambusters film tunes being a feature of both bars before the game and the England Supporters Band's badly-played repertoire, I didn't see any trouble. I also spent an evening in the company of hundreds of German football fans, which was not only trouble-free, but friendly and fun.
I will put my hands up and admit I'm a bit of an architectural snob. Or at least, that I've been architecturally spoiled - growing up in Liverpool, which hosts the most listed buildings of a UK city outside of London.
So, one of my favourite pastimes is comparing Liverpool with Birmingham - and this frequently involves architecture. Now I don't actually know anything about architecture; I'm just an ignorant aesthete: if it looks pretty and old then I like it. So I enjoy a good moan about Birmingham's boring 1960's grey suburban sprawl and general lack of aesthetic value.
Until the other day, in town, I simply looked up and realised that this is not necessarily true. Check out this beauty:
I have said it once and I will say it again; I LOVE the China Daily newspaper. LOVE it. Nothing beguiles me more than to read about the lives of others, especially the lives of the Chinese folk. After living in the UK for 24 years, nothing ceased to amaze me with the people of Britain, so living in China I have been thrilled, amazed and down-right fascinated by things that people do, and more to the point, WHY they do them.
Check out this recent story, courtesy of the Shanghai Evening Post:
Disgruntled Son Hides In Sewer From Family
A man in Shanghai sat tight in a filthy sewer for more than an hour to hide from family members.
Ye, a Shanghai local in his early 30s, had quarreled with his kin and decided to hide from them in the cesspit.
After police found him hiding in a sewer with a diameter less than 1m, they feared he would suffocate amid the dirty water and slime.
Too big to follow him and wholly reluctant to do so anyway, they kept beckoning Ye to come out of his own accord.
They eventually coaxed him out.
There's just two things I yearn to know about this story. 1. What did the family quarrel about that made him take such drastic measures? 2. Ok, so in China there aren't really any proper pubs, but how about visiting a bar, or just taking a walk? I mean, was there really no other alternative than to sit in the sewer??!
People are fascinating.
It's no big secret to anyone in Beijing that the sex trade is very much alive and openly available to anyone minus the naming and shaming that one might receive back home in Blighty. My rationale being that foreign men feel that because they are away from their own country they think they can get away with behaving a bit more boyish, and ever so badly. One might be fooled into believing that the redly-lit massage parlours with the pretty-faced young Chinese girls are there for no more than one looking for a quick shoulder rub, but as any guy will tell you, "you may get more than you bargained for".
Expatriate male friends of mine have excitedly engaged us with the unnecessary details of the kinds of mischief they have gotten into at the elusive karaoke houses in Beijing, in which men are presented with their choice of naked Chinese girls to fulfill their every whim. All comes at a price, of course, and if you're not happy with the price, you negotiate. How comforting to know that you can not only haggle over the price of your new shoes, but also your next lay.
Expat men can indulge themselves until they are so exhausted that they have to go home and back to 'reality'. As you can imagine, the lives of the expat women is not nearly as much 'fun'. Expat women marginally sit back, sip their vodka and tonics, and shake their heads as they watch another expat man's ego rocket through the roof when a beautiful Chinese girl gives him a second glance in a nightclub. But what does he care what the expat women think? This isn't the real world; this may as well be Never-never land. Well, guys, Captain Hook lived in Never-never land too and look what kind of reputation he got for himself!
Only art can save the world.
A bit of a bold opening statement perhaps, but it's the only thing that I've seen consistently bringing people from different backgrounds, religions, ethnicities etc together.
That which has elicited such hyperbole is the Heard and not Seen project/exhibition/website/discussion/thing: the exhibition part of which is currently at the Mailbox. For God's sake, please go. It's a brilliant mixed-media, interactive set-up exploring spirituality - particularly Islam. Favourite bits include an interactive burkha and screens that respond to your movement/noise.
Here's a ragbag of thoughts, anecdotes, bigoted opinions and the like, just detritus I need to clear out of my brain to make room for the next delivery, due at the weekend.
Two musical items: Mick 'Simply Red' Hucknall has released a new band single, a cover of the legendary Moody Blues' hit, Go Now. The good news is that there is talk that this may be the band's last outing.