Friday, 2 March 2018

The Week the Wind Blew Wrong

The wind blew strangely. Twisting. Unpredictable. Clouds gathered and vanished, the sky was grey. Gusts caught at trees leaning the wrong way. Broke them. Everything was back to front. Dry snow settled then rose back up, blew sideways and froze. Icicles grew under car bumpers. Was this a winter of the past, stirring old memories, or of the future, with its strapline and 24-hour coverage? The young complain that it's too cold, the old clear snow from their driveways and carry on as normal.
     The wind blows strangely. Twisting. Unpredictable. Secrets are revealed. People grow closer and further apart simultaneously. Helping each other by staying indoors. Watching problems unfold online. The TV doing their thinking for them. Someone tweets and a company loses a billion dollars. Minds change, emotions shift. Everyone wants what's right (for them) but no one can quite agree what is right. Lines aren't clear. Who can say when you've crossed one? Who gets to say what happens, is it the one or the many. The wind blows strangely. What's next?

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Connected by a Passion

From the quirky Opening Ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics onwards, South Korea have pushed the message of connectivity and inclusivity. People are united by their passions and in Winter sports those passions are more obvious than in almost any other. The commitment of athletes to break the boundaries of what is humanly possible by throwing themselves down, up and off mountains, and ice rinks, displaying dazzling revolutions in the air, going faster and further, is astounding.

And it almost doesn't matter which country you are from, success is celebrated universally, disappointments are shared by everyone, because the aim is not simply to put yourself forward, but to challenge everyone to do more, be better and excel in whatever way you can. As one commentator noted this week, it doesn't matter if you're not inspired to ski down a steep hill, do several somersaults 20 feet in the air and land on your face, because you'll probably be inspired to do something, and may you do it with everything you have so that you can in turn inspire others to go beyond what they thought possible at the same time make a difference to the world around them.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Musical Harmony

I am impressed by the original ideas people keep coming up with for TV singing competitions. It's a shame that at the core they're all as shallow and staged as each other, and but for spotting someone i know on the judging panel (one of the '100') on the BBC's latest offering - the cheesily named, 'All together now' - i probably would have switched it off. However, putting aside the disappointing production, i do like the concept of this show.
     There is a certain amount of music that is meant to be listened to, and appreciated, but there are equally as many songs that are meant to be sung corporately, or are just fun to join in with. So a show that encourages the singer to try and get the judges joining in seems like a nice idea. Of course the best song choices are going to be upbeat classics, but i would like to see someone brave attempt a real choral song, where the 100 might not know the words but will put their own vocal talents to the test by simply making backing music.
     If this has been deliberately timed to be shown after the release of The Greatest Showman then that's a good move, if not it was just fortunate, but hopefully their combined effect will keep Britain singing together, in unity, something that music has more power than possibly anything else, to do.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

No Greater Spectacular

If tonight is anything to go by there is one thing that hasn't changed in a hundred years and that is the audiences. I was at the cinema for a midweek showing of a film that has been out for four weeks and the place wasn't far from packed out, and this, I believe, was not necessarily because it was the greatest film, but more because it was the greatest show!
     As La La Land revealed last year, this film was a proof that cinema is far from dead when a true display of all that is great in mankind comes to the screen. When soaring music, song and dance, acrobatics, magic, energy and passion, colour and light and joy combine it lifts the heart like little else. The musical too can hardly be called a entertainment medium of the last century. Clearly here in England at least (although I believe probably everywhere) people will flock to witness the talents of great performers, to see smiles and tears and to applaud them for who they are as much as for what they can do.
     The Greatest Showman is a new musical of the life of Barnum, for a new century, and may it carry on the baton of bringing life and joy and love through great performances in the way the circus did so many years ago, connecting people in a shared passion for people.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

To the end of the garden

Leaving behind the comfort of the house, my cosy chair, the soft lights and the warm radiator; putting down my mobile phone, my laptop and with them the internet, that great web of connectivity that traps us and keeps us bound within its sticky strands; I escape to the garden. To the rain washed stones and crumpled grass. The grey skies and the brown earth and the cold.
               I follow the path past freshly worked flower beds and the tree chopped down last year. I spot a lost clothes peg, an ancient tennis ball and a plastic lizard that looks so realistic it makes me jump. I duck under the low branches of a pine tree, maybe as old as me, and as the path fades to nothing I have to crouch to the ground to climb past a bush and down a hidden corridor of ivy and evergreen branches until I reach the end of the garden.
               Here, in what some might consider a secret wasteland, there are broken bricks and crisp packets, piles of unwanted branches and rotten fence posts, and quiet. A sacred silence, a breathing space, an intimate moment. And it’s here that I find what I’m looking for. The pilgrimage is complete. This is no rubbish pile, it is the fuel source. Life is often found in unusual places.
               I gather up the old wood, the twigs, the branches and the fractured trellising and I return to the garden. In a small pit I arrange my fuel, my power source and then I set it alight. Flames dance. Heat and light spill out into the evening air. The damp wood hisses, while pops and cracks echo off the walls of the house. Embers shoot upwards and sideways, energy has been released. Pine wood scents the smoke rising to a clearing sky and a crescent moon.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Just Right

The years keep us busy, or should. Time doesn't stand still and neither should we (except for holidays and particular moments). The leaves on the trees come and go, and soon another year is over, like this one, so let's be sentimental for a moment.

Things have been achieved this year - for me, I bought a house, and have begun putting it to use, inviting people to come and share in what I have. I've also been able to share my time with friends and family, in many parts of the country. I've visited London twice, gone walking in the Lake District and Snowdonia, and gone sailing for the first time.
     Of course, the ever present question at this time of year hangs in the air, "What next?"
     I don't know. More of the same, probably, but hopefully new goals will present themselves at the right moment. I hope you have goals too, we should always have something worth striving for. Things will never work out how we'd like, or expect, but we can more than manage with what we have.

I unashamedly like the story of Little Women, and I enjoyed the BBC adaptation over Christmas, especially this line, which I think sums up life quite well:

"Nothing's ever perfect. But things can be just right."

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

2017 awards

From the books I have read, films I have seen and songs I have heard for the first time this year, here are my top choices.

Best Book
I have not read as widely as I would have liked this year, possibly because the year has been more broken up than previously, with different things going on, but I have completed a few excellent books, including All the light we cannot see and Lion. My pick for the best book I have read, however, goes to A town like Alice, by Nevil Shute.
     Written in 1950 it splits the setting between 2nd World War Malaya, and post-war England and Australia. The main character, Jean Paget, has come into an inheritance and is determined to use it to generate prosperity for a small community in the outback.
     The characters are superbly formed and the settings dramatic. The descriptions of life I cannot imagine are almost unmatched in anything I have read before and it taught me a lot about places I have never, and possibly will never, visit!

Best Film
By contrast I have seen quite a lot of films this year. I finally caught up with Inception, and I was deeply challenged by I, Daniel Blake. But my favourite film of the year, is La La Land. It is the first time I really appreciated my film studies A level, and felt like I was getting my money's worth from going to the cinema. For my full review see my blog post from January.

Best Song
There aren't many new songs that I've been singing throughout the year, but one that I have is Coldplay's Something Just Like This. I've enjoyed Coldplay's music before, but this is the first year I would really say I have become a fan, discovering many of their lesser known tracks. This song, of course, was very popular, partly for it's catchy tune, but also for it's message, something I think we all appreciate - we may not all be heroes, or want to meet them, but we all want someone we can miss, true relationships. It's part of what life is all about.