Tuesday, 29 December 2009
Monday, 7 December 2009
If this turns up near you, then go.
Thursday, 3 December 2009
Friday, 13 November 2009
Thursday, 5 November 2009
Friday, 23 October 2009
Carlisle has plenty of history, Roman and later, and makes a fine base. We visited Scotland with Dumfries and the Robert Burns centres, went close to Newcastle with Hexham Abbey and Chesters Fort on Hadrian's Wall, and took in Keswick, Derwentwater for a breath of the English Lake District.
Stayed in Carlisle itself for the last day, and a lovely Evensong at the Cathedral followed by a friendly Thai meal (second evening in a row!) opposite the hotel. Train back. Also: Tullies House and Museum for Local Interest and the WALL again, and the Guildhall Museum for a 14th Century wood-beamed sloping floor Guilds & all feel for the past.
Pics to follow soon!
Tuesday, 20 October 2009
Sunday, 18 October 2009
Picture from BurmaVJ film Facebook group page.
Incredibly brave video journalists, filming the peaceful protests of 2007 and their subsquent brutal suppression. Monks leading the people, and finally a handful of students, against one of the world's cruellest regimes. 3 of the journalists are in prison (under no doubt awful conditions).
There's an online petition letter to send to the UN to keep up awareness of Burma, too easily forgotten in the world's news.
http://burmavjmovie.com for details.
Monday, 12 October 2009
Picked up on Martinu through Radio 3's composer of the week for a couple of days when I was off sick.
Mahler - hadn't listened to this for ages, even years. The shattering power of this movement is actually remarkably invigorating: if the 9th Symphony is a gut-wrenching emotional evisceration (if that's a word), of the nearness of the end, this pulls you beyond to a sense of beyond destruction, the phoenix from the ashes and all that. A triumph and a glimpse of what Mahler might have become in a modernist age if he'd lived longer.
Picture from www.thsh.co.uk, accessed 12/10/09.
Town Hall last night (11th Oct): Old Dance School, Toy Hearts, Destroyers.
Lively, tuneful, atmospheric - and in the case of the Destroyers, completely and superbly mad.
Folk (Dance School), bluegrass with their own songs (Toy Hearts), Klezmer in thrash-tuba-fiddle-guitar mode.
Tremendous talent and all local bands!
A tale of Spanish gold ... well, Staffordshire anyway. Some wonderful examples of Anglo-Saxon metalwork, found in a field by a man with a metal-detector ... Queueing takes about 2 hours, I'm afraid I left it, but others enjoyed the show, the exhibits will go to the British Museum for further work now I think.
Saturday, 10 October 2009
Send instant messages to your online friends http://uk.messenger.yahoo.com
Tuesday, 6 October 2009
No, not the town west of London.
Trigger is "How to talk about books you haven't read" by Pierre Bayard, published in English by Granta (from the French, "Comment parler des livres que l'on n'a pas lus?").
Don't feel guilty that you haven't read everything! It's important to express yourself and write too, not just read other people's thoughts and expressions all the time.
Starts with the librarian in "The man without qualities", who deliberately doesn't read the books in his library because it would prejudice him and make his job impossible.
But he does read the contents pages and makes an assessment of the books to catalogue and shelve them appropriately. Yo man!
Goes via critics who are happy to make judgements on books without reading them, eg Paul Valery.
The comic pain of giving a talk on something you've read to people who think you're someone else (happens in Graham Greene's "The third man").
Wish I'd thought of all that earlier.
Don't feel guilty, don't be afraid of "culture". Come to think of it, that only puts other people off and makes the wary even warier of engaging with "intellectual stuff". A real problem in this country with its class divisions and prejudices and self-imposed cages which we must try to break - at least try.
Picture from http://www.barber.org.uk/ accessed 06/10/09.
Forget to post on this. 50th anniversary opera staging at Barber Institute (University of Birmingham). Handel's Agrippina, sort of I Claudius (if you remember that) meets the Aeneid meets Carry On Rome. Superb singing and orchestral accompaniment, lively drama - with some very up-front and revealing moments, a bit too revealing if you were sitting at the front as we were ... Nero in a G-string, could've have lived without that really, though my other half didn't seem to mind. On the other hand, Poppeia and the veils ...
Was a bit long though, half-hour or so shorter would've been welcome. But thanks to D.P. for the suggestion and tickets. Performance standard excellent.
Sunday, 4 October 2009
Getting lost and asking for directions .. 'Am I on the right road for Cork?'
'You're on the right road .. but you've turned the wrong way!'
Much-missed Aunt, and an eccentric Uncle.
Mobile phones ... is anyone left at home?
Funeral wakes ... "Well, it could've been worse ..."
Saturday, 19 September 2009
See http://www.artsfest.org.uk/ for details of what was what, and look out for it this time next year!
A very international audience too, great fun and really quite moving to see and take part in such a celebratory atmosphere. The singers stood came out to talk with audience members afterwards and continue the good feeling.
They're doing a national tour so get to see them if you can.
http://www.sowetogospelchoir.com for their website.
Picture from www.moseleyfolk.co.uk homepage, accessed 19/09/09.
Great weekend of peace and love and that generation (and younger) in Moseley Park. Cara Dillon and husband Sam Lakeman and band, quirky (and rich) folk-rocker Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull the main acts on Sunday. I got a ticket on the day, a bit more expensive but well worth it, such an enjoyable event. Ex-comedian Adrian Edmondson has turned punk-rocker, assembling a high-calibre folk band to play their own versions of the Jam, the Clash, Sex Pistols etc, refreshing versions of what have become old classics. Handily for her, Edmondson's daughter is a singer-songwriter (not bad either, though there are many in this vein) who has a CD out on her and her Dad's record label.
Went with my other half on Saturday and sat in our new folding seats - local outdoor shops must have done a roaring trade in these - near the bar. Purity ales matched by the German and Czech pils on offer. No aggro or arguments, it's not that sort of place.
Beth Orton a little shaky on Saturday but an enjoyable range of bands as ever. Keeping the old stagers show running on the stage were Comus, a truly weird but inventive psychedelic folk outfit using Milton's Comus poem as their hook and song-base. "Power to Comus" ... peace man, but stick to the paracetamol.
Altogether a lovely English and international event. The same weekend that small but ill-intentioned bunch of right-wingers calling themselves the English Defence League were causing trouble in the city centre. Well, I question what they see as English. This was English, but needs no defence, and excludes no-one with artificial leagues. Music is international and welcomes all.
Thank you Moseley Folk.
Sunday, 23 August 2009
Stile-free walk with purple sign-arrows.
No pics, didn't have my camera.
Wednesday, 19 August 2009
British Library for the Henry VIII exhibition - see BL website. :)
Too much rush for the trains :( got it though. Virgin v. comfortable, cheap and on time! :)
Harrods isn't Fortnum & Mason though ... getting lost in London :(
Pic: Coffee by the King's Library stacks in the BL Cafe. A must!
Monday, 17 August 2009
Friday, 14 August 2009
From Central Birmingham Amnesty group blog: [link at left of this blog].
"The Central Birmingham and Bournville Amnesty Groups have joined forces to hold a Burma action this coming Saturday (15th August) between 10am and 4pm.
The action will be held in Birmingham City Centre at Victoria Square, where we will be asking members of the public to have their photograph taken with a life size representation of Aung San Suu Kyi.
Please come along and say hello and show your support for the campaign."
Monday, 3 August 2009
Tuesday, 28 July 2009
Definitely one to read. Recommend to anyone who wants or needs to know more about what refugees have been through before they arrive here - and what our authorities shamefully put them through to placate general ignorance and the press. Alem is taken and left by his father in London to escape persecution in Ethiopia and Eritrea for having parents on both sides of the divide. While his family story is ultimately desperately tragic, Alem shows real courage, and his friends at school in London, in his foster-family and the local community, stand up for him and his father as do many similar groups in this country when persecuted people are threatened with removal back to countries where their lives are in danger.
Zephaniah as ever tackles the subjects with realism - he dedicates this novel, aimed at the teen age range but there for all ages, to two boys he met, and he clearly has done his homework on this. The Refugee Council's work is also highlighted.
We don't have to give up - if we have any humanity, we should take note of these cases, and challenge the Home Office, the UK Borders Agency, and any such bodies as and when their policies and behaviour threaten and demean the well-being of the real-life equivalents of Alem and his father. Would you like to be beaten and escape with your life, only to be fingerprinted in a detention centre, would you want to queue with vouchers at a separate supermarket while locals with cash walk past you; to live in squalid housing where landlords only care about the money that comes through direct from authorities - and where you have no say because you fear the consquences if you do complain. Then your asylum application is turned down by a judge and system who seem to ignore at least half the evidence.
The tireless help of his foster family, the Fitzgeralds, the Refugee Council's Mariam and Sheila the social worker, the friends at Alem's school who organise the demonstration and petitions so impressively, show that there is hope.
Hope in life and in people - and the novel shows this, despite tragedy and offical coldness.
Published by Bloomsbury.
Romulus der Grosse by Swiss playwright Friedrich Duerrenmatt. Play about the final days of the Western Roman Empire, 476 AD.
Emperor Romulus - named after the Roman founder - tends his chickens while ignoring pleas by his wife and daughter, a fleeing Byzantine Emperor and an exhausted messenger to make a last stand against the invading Germanic tribes. Tables are turned when Romulus' family and guests are drowned en route to Sicily, and Germanic leader Odoaker turns out to sympathize with Romulus' dislike of empires, power and their oppression.
A sideways look at Empire: how much allusion there is to World Wars, Cold War times I'm not sure, but something is there. The Diogenes text was reworked by the author in 1980: a previous version goes back to 1957.
Smoothly, slickly written even: using the old Greek rules of drama (24 hours, one setting, and ...) this is an accomplished piece, without necessarily standing out as a masterpiece. Effectively challenges any heroic writings on Rome's glory: too much blood built this and any Empire.
Read the comments on http://www.amazon.de/Romulus-Grosse-ungeschichtliche-historische-Neufassung/dp/3257230427/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1248817792&sr=1-1 while they're there.
Then read the play.
Sunday, 12 July 2009
Tuesday, 7 July 2009
Left of the bus is the visitor centre, right off-picture St John's Church, actually more interesting than Chester Cathedral - and doesn't cost you to get in!! [No moneylenders/changers in the temple here]. Norman Arches, windows with key figures in Chester History, a reference to two possible Christian martyrs. Something coming up on the History Channel, the Vicar told us in person!
Stayed in a roomy, clean and decent hotel [Stafford] very near the Station, tasty egg on toast, handy for a trip to Port Sunlight on the Mersey link.
Very tasty food at the Old Coach House hotel/pub/restaurant near the town hall and bus station.
Camels, chimps, orang utans, tropical fish, Komodo Dragons, rhinos, elephants, penguins, people watching too... and another train trip, the mini-overhead rail round Chester Zoo. Bit pricey, but a great layout and intriguing to see the chimps and orang utans not being too distantly related ... and more intelligent behaviour than you'll see in the average city on a Saturday night down the pubs ...
Saturday, 4 July 2009
Sunday, 21 June 2009
Tuesday, 16 June 2009
Friday, 12 June 2009
Thursday, 4 June 2009
Examinando las escrituras diariamente. Accessed 050609.
Keywords: Reading and listening, guilt, avoidance, self-knowledge, intimacy and avoidance, honesty, suffering, recognition, atrocities, Holocaust or Shoah.
Der Vorleser by Bernhard Schlink is the novel that was filmed recently, with Kate Winslet as the tram ticket collector with whom the narrator falls in love and has a brief, passionate affair that shapes his whole life.
A chance encounter in the street, while 15-year old Michael is recovering from jaundice, leads to the affair that lasts for a Summer, before ending with Hanna's abrupt unexplained departure from the town.
As a law student, he then follows her trial for complicity in an atrocity while a concentration camp guard at a feeder camp for Auschwitz. Frustrated, he watches her inability to help her own cause by her bluntly honest defence of what she did while a guard - what else could she do? She even asks the trial judge at one point, 'What would you have done' (the judge makes a general moral statement, but doesn't answer the question). As the trial progresses, the other accused ex-guards are only to happy to shift the blame to Hanna, though just as guilty themselves.
The crux of the novel: understanding our actions, how they affect others ... Hanna is illiterate. This emerges during and after the trial. Hence her need for Michael to read literature to her, just as she asked girls in the camp too before they were sent off to Auschwitz and death. Hence her sudden change of jobs - when promotion beckons, she disappears rather than face the humiliation of having her illiteracy revealed.
Imprisoned for life - 18 years in the end, though she is badly aged by the experience - she listens to tapes recorded by Michael which he posts to her, though he sends her no letters. She slowly writes to him, struggling and succeeding to master literacy.
How much does this matter? Jewish women and children were trapped in a church guarded by Hanna and her colleagues who did nothing to let them out - it was bombed, the spire fell in, fire spread and all but two prisoners died.
The whole mentality of following orders, maintaining order, and simply not understanding what was wrong - this is shown all too clearly. Making scapegoats too - were these trials designed to make other Germans feel less guilty?
The two survivors of the atrocity were a mother and daughter. After the shock of Hanna's suicide the day she is due to leave prison - and be collected by Michael who is her only contact in the outside world - Michael visits the daughter in the USA, who cannot accept Hanna's remaining money from her will, but points to finding a charity. Accepting the money would mean offering absolution - she cannot do this.
There is no escape from awful deeds and from complicity - Hanna's tragedy is that in trying to escape the handicap and social shame of illiteracy - by leaving Siemens to become a camp guard - she walks into the crime of active involvement in the horrors of the Nazi holocaust.
Her personal shame blinds her to the national evil of the Shoah.
Her passionate, cold, unsatisfactory but longing relationship with Michael haunts his whole life - he avoids intimacy again, has a broken marriage and other short relationships, unable to allow women to be really close and to hurt and dominate him as did Hanna.
This sounds a heavy book, but it is subtly and beautifully written, with the right balance of compassion and distance, empathy and objectivity.
Life isn't simple, we are complicit by our involvement. But some things are wrong beyond any doubt or challenge.
Sunday, 31 May 2009
Showing a friend to some highlights!
Keywords: sun, parks, wallabies, Bach, real ale, Anglican, multi-cultured Britain, Sunday roast at the Museum and Matthew Boulton.
BACH: Goldberg Variations. Angela Hewitt. Town Hall. How does she remember all those notes ... and all in the right order. Seriously, this was a sublime concert. Beautifully poised, a light touch, sensitivity and ... I wish I could do more justice to the brilliance of composition and performance. Fred, Tim, Roger and Ann, saw you there, you made the right choice of evening too.
Catch Birmingham's Nature Centre on the Pershore Road, near Cannon Hill Park. The newly-arrived little Lemur. The Wallaby with tiny pouch tenant.
Picture: http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/naturecentre.bcc (Accessed 31/05/09)
Stroll through Cannon Hill Park, and a peaceful sunshiny day, Birmingham's minorities, majorities (and who cares which is which, we're all people) happily side by side just enjoying the weather and being outside. Perfect.
MATTHEW BOULTON: super exhibition at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Gas Hall. A great Brummie who chanced his arm with finances and came good. And this exhibition's free too!
Try: http://www.matthewboulton2009.org/index.php/gallery (Accessed 31/05/09. Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Matthew Boulton Exhibition, Gas Hall).
Sunday lunch at the Museum, the Tea Rooms. Mmmm.
Saturday tea was at the lovely little cafe in Gas Street Basin (the table is outside!) where there's real ale on draught as well as home-cooked food. Run by a friendly young French couple, merci
bien pour votre travail, j'espere que vous restiez ici encore quelques annees!
Just to show that life's not all Birmingham though, here's a clip from a funicular in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany! Hold on for the ride ...