Cry God For Harry, England and Saint Willy!

Today, the 23rd of April, is St George’s Day. Who is he, you might ask? The man is, rather absurdly, our patron saint. Few English people could tell you offhand when his big day is. Fewer still could probably recount his story. Which is disappointing, given how many versions there are to choose from. Pick one. Any one will do. Alas, you’ll probably have to ask a fair number of people before any account of substance is offered. Yet he has left his mark on the country. Our national flag bears the red cross of St George for starters.

There are campaigns to have April 23rd made into an official holiday or to at least promote and popularise the date on the English calendar. The campaigns do often originate from Little Englanders, or worse. I knew the UKIP party wouldn’t disappoint me. They are a fringe political party who are trying their hardest to have the UK pull out of Europe, spreading messages of doom and gloom about how Johnny Foreigner is sneaking over the border, taking over the country, stealing our jobs, bringing unwanted multicultural values to our shores, failing to assimilate, fornicating with our women, breaking the law, fomenting religious dissent and making ourselves easy prey for terrorists. Or something like that…

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How ironic that St George was born not in Wessex or Northumbria but in modern day Turkey, to Greek nobility, some 1800 years ago. He joined the Roman army, but became a turncoat, rebelling against the authority of the land in pursuit of promoting new and dastardly religious beliefs. He may even have come to England*, probably without a passport, and killed a dragon. Which was most certainly an endangered species. At best he was pilfering the job of a good English pest controller. I also have my doubts about just how good was his command of the English language. And he probably wasn’t even white.

On the plus side, he did a fine job of uniting Europe with his patronage of many countries including the likes of Germany, Italy, Russia, Serbia and other.  How ironic indeed. And the shame of it. There are some appropriate links to the UKIP party though. St George was also the patron saint of lepers. And much like UKIP’s manifesto and sound bites, much of his story is unbelievable, populist, unverifiable through factual sources and largely nonsense. Perhaps he is the perfect fit for their brand after all.

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Is St George really a fit for the brand that the UK attempts to project. He’s hardly exclusively ours. He’s most definitely not English. But who would we replace him with? Why not take our Scottish cousins example, who party hard for Robbie Burns in preference to St Andrew? There is the most obvious of obvious choices. The great bard. William Shakespeare. You’d not even have to change the day of our national feast, regardless of whether you’d want to pick his birthday or day of death. Conveniently, both fall on April 23rd, St Georges Day.

Let’s pick his birthday. He’s 450 today after all. We could organise street performances up and down the country. We can flood BBC 1 with movies taken from his library of plays, and BBC radio with recitals. Supermarkets can run recipe cards from the 16th century with Shakespearean quotes for inspiration. The Globe Theatre in London can be a centre point for celebrations. We most definitely should give the day over as an official public holiday. But most of all, it shouldst be absolutely compuls’ry fo’r the entire population to speaketh Shakespearean English f’r the whole day. Anyone caught utt’ring a completeth sentence without a hint of olde english to be puteth in the stocks and hast rotten tomatoes flung at them.

It won’t happen, I’m afraid. It’s as likely as UKIP winning a majority at the next General Election. The next election of any sort is for the European Parliament in a few weeks and I will have my first opportunity to cast a vote since 2005. Who shall I gift my patronage upon? That is yet to be seen. Suffice it to say, as far as UKIP is concerned, I will elect for them ‘Not To Be’. That’s most definitely the answer to the question. Because they are just a bunch of cu….no, I can’t bring myself to put the worst word in the world to paper screen. Even though it was invented by Willie himself. Shame on him. So I shall bid you farewell and a very Happy St Georgios Day!

Crowning Glory

There are two things that bind this country together. Today is a big day for both of them. The first, is football. It’s the national game. The national religion even. Wembley Stadium is our heaven. The World Cup our nirvana. Tonight, England are playing Brasil, in Brasil. The occasion? The reopening of the reconstructed Maracana stadium, which has had a major face lift in preparation for the hosting of next years World Cup.

Isn’t it nice that England is still considered a prestigious enough team that the greatest team of them all would want us to help reopen their treasured arena? It’s probably also a plus point that we are so appalling that we can be almost guaranteed not to spoil their party by winning. We don’t often win in Brasil. If our great teams couldn’t do it, what hope our current lot? We did beat them once though. Back in 1984. With one of, if not the, greatest goal ever scored by an Englishman. What a shame that the next generation couldn’t follow their example.

The second thing? The Royal Family. The Queen in particular. We all love the Queen. And why not? After all, it’s a pretty heartless soul that can build up a sense of hatred for a silver haired old granny. I’ve never met the Queen, but I did see her once. In 2011, when she gallivanted past in a stylish carriage on her way to see Wills and Kate tie the knot. I got the photo. Just about…that’s it below.

Let’s hope the next generation of royals do follow her example. Or we might all too soon be adopting the style, the United Republics of Great Britain. Unless the Scots do the off. Then we can be the Disunited Quasi Bunch of States Off The North Western Tip of Europe. But for now, the Royal Family is in good hands, and has been for decades. Today is the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation. In a couple more years, she’ll become the longest reigning UK  monarch ever. And seven years after that, we’ll be back for the next jubilee. Platinum, I think…

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Banksy

Bristol is famous for many things. It’s most recent claim to fame is the international graffiti artist Banksy. He may indeed be a vandal. Much of his work, certainly in the early days, may have been criminal damage. But art is art, and Banksy produces some of the 21st century’s finest, most thoughtful and imaginative art. A lot of his Bristol stuff is gone, but there are still some of his masterpieces to go see. I highly recommend the Banksy Bristol Tour app on Android (I believe there’s an iPhone app too) which tells you his story and shows you what can be seen and where. It’s free too! His best Bristol work? In my opinion…the one in the image below.

You may have noticed that I didn’t post so many images to Flickr of my trip to Bristol. That’s because I mostly used my HTC One, and uploaded the results to Google+. Click here to go see them. And if you’re interested in my HTC One Camera review, click here.

Save the Flag

You may accuse me of bias if you wish, and you may have a point, but I happen to think that the Union Flag is the best looking flag in the world. All flags are unique, true, but the Union Flag is more unique than most. For a start, it’s not simply three stripes. Far too many countries employ the three stripe rule. Bland. Secondly, it has three colours. Flag should have three colours. Two colours is too plain. Four becomes messy. Lastly, it has no tacky symbols tacked on, be they stars, sickles, suns, crescents or flora and fauna.

The Union Flag (it’s only the Union Jack at sea) is unique, classy and instantly recognizable. I also love the fact that people make so many abstract and imaginative variations upon it. You can mess around with the colours and add lacy edges if you wish to create something even more unique. Mexico could learn a lesson or two from the Union Flag. It is possible to go over the top when ‘protecting‘ your flag…

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But alas, the Union Flag is an endangered species. In little over a year Scotland will hold a referendum to determine whether or not to break away from the United Kingdom and form their own country. I am personally against such a breakaway but I will not have a say in this referendum. That, quite rightly, is an issue for the Scots themselves. I don’t believe that the nationalists will succeed. I don’t believe it would be good for Scotland. It probably wouldn’t have much impact for England. We’d be a little better off, but not so much so that anyone notices. The Scottish Nationalist Party have a real wishy washy view on independence, where they seem to be wanting to cherry pick the bits of the Union they like, and ditch the bad bits. If it’s an independence vote, then it should be a case of in or out.

I am trying to find out what sort of turnout they need for the vote to be enforceable. I thought it scandalous that the Scots and Welsh were awarded self governments during Tony Blair’s tenure based on a handful of people turning up to vote. The previous referendum to that, in the 70s, required a turnout of at least 40%. Personally, I would insert a requirement for 50% of the registered electorate, regardless of how many turn up, to vote ‘Yes’ for the referendum to be valid. The default vote should always be for the status quo.

The consequences of Scottish independence are massive. For a start, the United Kingdom will cease to exist. After all, we will be left with England, Northern Ireland and Wales. Northern Ireland is a province and Wales a quasi form of principality. Only England and Scotland are/were kingdoms, and if one of them does the off….well there’s no ‘united’ to that, is there. Great Britain will also cease to have any political meaning to it and will once again solely become a geographical term. Northern Ireland, of course, has never actually been part of Great Britain.

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Back to the point at hand though. The flag. The Union Flag is a combination of the flags of Ireland, Scotland and England. It’s actually been around since before the union of England and Scotland. If there’s no Scotland what happens to the flag. This is an as yet unanswered question. It doesn’t just affect the UK. There’s a whole bunch of countries using the Union Flag in their flag, including Australia and New Zealand. Some Canadian states also use it, and one state of the USA has a Union Flag in the corner. That state being Hawaii. Ironic really, seeing as Hawaiian born Obama was accused of being ‘too British’ to be president.

Perhaps these countries will see this as the right time to ditch the Union Flag. Maybe those who are still technically ‘attached’ to the UK will see this as the right time to declare themselves full republics too. I’m thinking of Australia, Canada and New Zealand in particular. They could join other former colonies who have in the last couple of decades ditched the Union Flag – South Africa and Hong Kong. The repercussions of Scottish independence could be quite far reaching.

The Union Flag looks a bit bare in the image above, with the Scottish blue removed. Perhaps this would be the right moment to include a bit of Welsh in the flag. See the image below. I think adding the Welsh Dragon would be a bit tacky (see my comments from the first paragraph!) but why not add a bit of their green. We could market it as a promotion to the Welsh! Of course, another option, is to simply ignore the fact Scotland has gone it’s own way and just carry on with the Union Flag as it is.

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Gunning for Guns

I have another dose of the fuzziness of the world we live in. Guns. Where do I stand on guns? It’s a hot topic, in the US and Mexico. But always the debate is about US guns. They are used, all too liberally, in both countries. I think only religion brings more wackos into the limelight than does the gun lobby. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of gun ownership, a big handicap of the pro-gun movement is that most of the most prominent spokesmen and women and mind numbingly dumb.

You can almost hear open palms slapping foreheads in astonishment the moment lips start moving. The latest? An NRA spokesman who decided to use Mexico as a prime example of what happens when you have really tight gun control. Tens of thousands of gun deaths. I slapped my forehead good and proper. The gun lobby needs a new approach, and some slightly more sophisticated and forward thinking ambassadors.

Should they be repeating daft old chestnuts about well armed militias being needed to protect the people against the government? Sure. I’d like to see that. A bunch of rednecks, sloshed on moonshine, versus the United States army. That’s going to be a close call, huh.  We’d see a sharp jump in the average IQ in the country, pretty quick. Natural selection in action.

I don’t think guns should be banned in the US. It’s a pointless argument. It’s not going to happen. Gun culture is too embedded. But the need for military grade assault weapons? Diversity in gun legislation from state to state? Lax gun ownership checks? Crazy. You bet there’s need for some new legislation. Talk of arming teachers instead of taking automatic rifles away from people with significant and long standing histories of mental illness does not make sense.

Would I like to own a gun? Sure would! Would I buy one. Nope. There’s lots of nutty things I could do. There’s a bunch of adrenalin fueled stunts I’d like to pull. But I have the ability to reason. To be thoughtful. To think better of crazy ideas. Most of the time anyway. I wouldn’t buy a gun, because I know that the potential negative consequences grossly outweigh the buzz of firing off a few rounds. I got robbed at gunpoint once. Wouldn’t I have liked a gun then? Not on your life. It would have done me more harm than good.

The other day, Mother Mexile commented that I wouldn’t have been allowed to play violent shoot ’em up video games as a child. I pointed out that, as a child, I ran around with an arsenal of toy guns  and knives, simulating murders and massacres. I practiced slitting my brothers throat a thousand times. We lined up brigades of plastic soldiers for battle. Mother Mexile commented that she tried to prevent me from having toy guns. But I just made my own out of branches. If push came to shove, fingers would do. There’s really just something in us boys, isn’t there? Life is fuzzy. Look how happy I was with my Action Man.

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Three Blind Mice

The ‘Murder Mystery’ genre is not in anyway unique to Britain. Not in anyway. But we do produce more than our fair share of the greatest Murder Mystery authors and directors. And no top ten list would be complete without Arthur Conan Doyle, Alfred Hitchcock and Agatha Christie. There’s also no finer real life murder mystery than Jack the Ripper. Would it be a stretch to call Britain the spiritual home of the murder mystery?

If so, perhaps the very centre of the home of the Murder Mystery belongs in St Martins Theatre, London. Mrs P and I took in a show there at the weekend. Not a show. We went to see the show. Agatha Christie’s most renowned creation, ‘The Mousetrap’. It’s been playing for sixty years on the same worn, well trodden stage – longer than any other play in the modern era.

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The Mousetrap is a classic Murder Mystery. Set in a hotel  with the innkeeper, his wife and a selection of guests trapped inside during a ferocious blizzard. One of them is a cold blooded killer. But who? It’s a secret. A secret that you will only learn by going to see the play. At the final curtain, as the cast take their bow, an actor will ask you to keep the secret in your heart and not reveal it. Alternatively, you can search the internet. I find it a little sad that Wikipedia reveal the killer. Not everything needs to be recorded in an encyclopaedia. Can the world not have a mystery or two left alone?

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The Mousetrap began life as Three Blind Mice, although the original name had to be abandoned very early on due to another production having already nabbed that title. The nursery rhyme does, though, feature in the production. Like many English nursery rhymes, this one has a macabre origin – it probably refers to the execution of three Protestant Martyrs by Queen Mary I. Aka, Bloody Mary. She despatched a fair number of Protestants during her reign. Religious altercations, plagues and other disasters often inspire cheery sounding nursery rhymes.

The story of the Mousetrap was also inspired by a true story. The death of a child, Dennis O’Neill, who suffered a rather horrible fate. Happily, Britain is home only of the Murder Mystery genre, not murder. Real world homicides remain a relatively rare occurrence.

Merry Christmas

I wish ye all a very Merry Christmas. Or Happy Holidays for the atheists. Or Happy Tuesday for all you of other faiths. What’s it for me? Food and Freebies day. It was good. Hope yours was too, however you like to celebrate it. Or not. I wish everyone well, every day. Mostly. Except for a select few – a very select few – whose absence from planet Earth would be a benefit for mankind. But that’s not an avenue to go down today. Today is all about goodwill, is it not?

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This is my second Christmas since returning from Mexico. I grew to like Mexican Christmas’, even though they were far from what I was used to. I loved the food served up in Mexico. I wasn’t so fond of the midnight starting time. I’m not a night owl. By midnight I want to have been asleep for at least half an hour. I also like a traditional British Christmas dinner. Nothing beats pigs in blankets. Christmas lights work better in the UK’s bleak midwinter darkness too.

I have never been to church over Christmas, in either country. My Mexican relatives would have been and said their prayers,made their confessions and otherwise played their part in their local religious communities before I and Mrs P arrived for feast time. I always assumed so, anyway. Perhaps they assumed the same of me. I don’t know. I never really got into religious discussions with the extended members. I expect my agnostic outlook might not have won their approval. At the same time, I don’t think many, if any, would have held it against me.

My Mexican relatives and friends would probably find one of our traditions, the Queen’s Christmas Message, a little peculiar. It is a little peculiar. A little old lady who lives in a palace with servants, countless diamonds on hand for every occasion and a property portfolio that would many any corporation blush, presents herself on television to report on the world this year. What, one wonders, does she know of our world? Still. It has a quaint and charming appeal. It lasts just a few minutes. We’re stuffed full of enough turkey to forgive her for her indulgences. But yes, most Mexicans would find the message peculiar. Perhaps they would prefer my set of photos of London at Christmas – click here.

RIP Jack Klugman. I loved Quincy. A loved all those 70’s and 80’s American shows. Dallas, Cagney and Lacey, Magnum. But Quincy played perhaps the best character of them all.

The History of Today

I came across the map below a few weeks ago. It’s fascinating. All those countries with a shade of red? They are countries that have had, at some stage or another, British troops marching through them. It’s certainly a lot easier, and quicker, to count off the countries that haven’t been intruded upon. There’s twenty two of them, if you are interested.  To a certain degree the map is a little misleading. A goodly number of these countries were trampled upon by soldiers who were en route elsewhere. And others are huge countries, such as Russia and the US, which had British troops romping around on just a few small(ish) patches. There’s one big and obvious question that just screams at you when looking at this map though. How the hell did Luxembourg get away with it?!?! So close to the UK, and yet never had so much as a single redcoat put a foot over the border…

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There’s (still) an awful lot of discussion on multiculturalism and its effects on the world. The issues are real. The results of the UK census in 2011 have recently been published, which has tongues wagging a little more furiously than usual. Some of the right wing nuts in the US still haven’t quite gotten to grips with having a black president. Most of the commentary is nonsense. People are moving. They always have. Let’s blame the Africans. If they’d jolly well stayed put in the first place, the other continents would be peaceful and entirely trouble free. And devoid of people, of course. Shall we quit arguing about multiculturalism and get back on to easier territory…how are we going to get all that toothpaste back into the tube?

Back to the map. The world is full of different people and different cultures. But why did the map turn red? Were the British, and to a lesser extent (if we’re just going by coloured maps) our European cousins just superior to other races and/or cultures. I do not have all the answers. I suggest anyone who has is probably full of BS. But we don’t have to look too far back into history to see that there wasn’t an awful lot to choose between many of these cultures. Whilst the Europeans were buried in the ‘Dark Ages’, the Islamic world lead the way in science and had a very vibrant literary and art scene. Most of the Islamic discoveries and the importance they have played in the development of civilizations around the world goes largely unreported. The video below is part one of a three part series. Highly recommended.

So what went wrong for the Islamic nations, and what went so right for the Europeans? It’s complicated, I’m sure. But I’m going to have a stab at it. Firstly, killing, kontrol and kleansing. I know. Awful use of spelling to make a cheap point. Mea culpa. But the three K’s are pretty poignant. Belief in racial superiority was a key part. Britain had everything going for it in a few key areas. As an island nation, we had developed a sizeable and well equipped maritime force. As a long time warmongering nation, we’d developed decent weaponry. And, when industrialisation came around, we discovered we had an abundance of easily mined coal relatively near the surface. We were fully equipped to travel, to overcome indigenous populations when we came across them, enslave those who were ‘worthy’ and get shot of the ones who were ‘squatting’ on territory we fancied.

Secondly, wealth and education. Empire brought money, money brought education, education brought better governance. A cycle. Vast sums poured into the UK. It made us what we are today. All the while, countries around the world had havoc wreaked upon them. Divisions were forged that exist today. The rich got richer. The poorer got poorer. Unrestrained capitalism at work. Colonialism did wonders for us. Not so much for the colonised. In Northern Ireland, there are night after night of riots over how many days a flag is flown over a single building. In Kenya, tribes are being cleared from forests, because they are damaging the ecology. These tribes know about being moved along. They found themselves shunted into the forests when British settlers  took a fancy to the lands they had occupied for millennia. Israel, founded in the ashes of World War Two, is a colony. There is no doubt about that.

I find the differences between cultures fascinating. But there is no getting away from the fact that there wasn’t much between most of us a few centuries ago. There’s no getting away from the fact that the ‘superior’ nations of today got there through killing, colonising, slavery, genocide and ethnic cleansing. That is the foundation of our success and the lives we in the West enjoy. We shot and stole our way to the top. That’s why the map is red. You could be forgiven for thinking that Islamic terrorists are the scourge of all the world’s ills. Yet, European countries and the US have ultimately killed more people in the last two hundred years, directly or indirectly, than all of the other cultures combined. We’re still at it, on an industrial scale. We’re still ‘out-killing’ the rest.

Absolutely none of this justifies any murder or atrocity of any sort. Whether committed by a suicide bomber or a smart bomb. I’m just stating a few facts and mixing in a few opinions to point out that the world is an awful lot more complicated than often assumed. Or reported. There is no turning back time. Israel, for example, exists and the Palestinians are going to have to accept that. The Palestinians exist and Israel will have to accept that. How they come to this acceptance is anyone’s guess. But I suspect it will come through shared values and prosperity, not exchanged munitions. Every bullet fired, every bomb detonated – whether justified or not – is a step backward.

The West needs to look at the world through the context of  history, not through false constructs of racial or cultural superiority. Islam needs to grow up. Many other peoples and nations have problems they need to deal with. And as a footnote I’d just like to make one last point. Huge resources around the world are being poured into these issues. Issues that often are a fabrication of our imagination. And yet the real issues – poverty, global warming and food/water/energy resource management – are getting about as much real attention as they are in this post. A footnote.

 

 

Cheers!

This country has its pros and cons. Its highs and lows. Its strengths and its weaknesses. The last few years, it has seen more of the latter of those three than the former. I suspect that that will remain the same for a while to come. But we do have one constant in British life. One corporation to be genuinely proud of. The good old BBC. A couple of weeks ago the BBC celebrated the 90th anniversary of its first ever broadcast. Its a very unique corporation, in the way its funded and run. Along with the NHS and monarchy, its an institution that is, to a certain degree, ‘untouchable’ by government,

The BBC also has its highs and lows, particularly recently. Firstly, the Jimmy Savile scandal, where the corporation failed to ‘out’ criminals within its ranks. Shortly after, it ‘outed’ an innocent man instead. Not terribly brilliant. But it’ll survive. By and large, the BBC is an admirable broadcaster, setting standards that other commercial television and radio broadcasters need to live up to in order to remain credible.

It is, for good or bad, a tradition of British life to crack open a beer in the evening and watch the news and/or a sitcom or two. The BBC has produced some of the greatest comedies ever made – Fawlty Towers, One Foot in the Grave, Blackadder and Alan Partridge to name but a few. There’s some clips of Partridge in this collection of Fosters funny videos. The BBC has played a major role in developing the famous (or infamous – depending upon your perspective) British sense of humour and our very language, which we have shared with the world. Even though the Beeb doesn’t run adverts, the sense of humour it created has greatly influenced brand marketing for decades. Not everyone around the world gets it. The Aussies do though, as any Fosters advert demonstrates!

I wish the BBC a very happy, if a little belated, birthday. Congratulations on 90 fantastic years. And another 90 years of the same, please. They congratulated themselves of course, with a special broadcast that attempted to provide a summary of 90 years of radio in 90 seconds, courtesy of one of my favourite musicians, Damon Albarn. The video below is that broadcast in full.

Musicals and Memes

Weren’t the Olympics great? Unless you were a London hotelier, restaurant owner or theatre company. In which case, it seems the Olympics weren’t so great. Empty beds, empty plates and empty seats throughout the grand sporting event. I have to say I didn’t quite get why this happened, even though it is a common trend in recent Olympiads. London’s airports shipped jumbo loads of extra visitors, putting a huge strain on the capitals airports. Where did the all sleep and eat? And surely they must have gone into town when not watching the games? And what sort of London visitor would want to miss out on a West End show?

I love the theatre. Especially musicals. I went to see Thoroughly Modern Millie on Broadway in NY – my favourite show ever. Singing in the Rain is full of cheese and as equally full of fun – I saw that in Bournemouth at the local theatre. And who didn’t love JC Superstar? I saw that on television. It’s now been turned into a live show, which I’d rather like to go and see at the O2 Arena. There’s not long left as it’s ending its run soon, so I guess I’d best get myself some Jesus Christ Superstar tickets fairly soonish.

It’s a good time of year to take in a show too. The evenings are drawing in, and the air is chilly. It’s time to get inside somewhere warm after dark. And even if the theatre companies suffered during the summer, I’m sure they will see a rebound heading into Christmas. By the way, I know Emm in London went to see JCS recently, so I’m sure she’ll have a review up on her blog soon.

Before any trip to London though, I have another musical event to attend. They guys has become this centuries ultimate internet meme. I’ve been sat here for what seems an eternity (about 3 minutes) straining my brain trying to work out how to insert a literary version of this viral video. And I’ve failed you. I’ll have to leave the video to reveal all. Yes, Mrs P and I are going to step back into the 80’s and go see him…

 

Taming of the Shrew

Yesterday, the Globe Theatre in London was graced with the presence of Viscount and Lady Denness. Disappointingly, there was no red carpet awaiting us. On the plus side, we weren’t arrested for attempting to pass ourselves off as nobility. We simply had to rub shoulders with the hoi polloi and watch the show alongside everyone else. The show was Taming of the Shrew – a Shakespeare play, of course.

There are two ways to do Shakespeare. As he wrote it then, and as he would have written it today were he alive. These are two very different languages. It should be said that old Willy created hundreds of brand new words during his career – so even if he were a 21st century bard, there’s no guarantee it would make any more sense.

The play is performed in olde English of yore. I’m in two minds about this. On one hand, the Globe Theatre is a reasonably accurate recreation of (one of) the original theatre. It’s meant to enable us to travel back in time for a few hours, to hear and see it as it would have been done. On the other hand, the audience is far more cosmopolitan that would have been the case in the 1500’s. And I suspect many come for the occasion as much as the play and may get a bit lost in the language.  There are digital displays on a couple of walls, which run through the script, to allow us all to keep up. Although perhaps a translator would be a better idea. Having said that, I did keep up with the storyline and I suspect most others there did too.

Mrs P and I went to the show with a little trepidation. Neither of us are Shakespeare fans. And we had standing tickets. Neither of us are fans of standing still for hours either. Other reviews, admittedly of other plays, weren’t all positive. But was the play any good? Fantastic. Brilliant. Hilarious. The actors were superb and their performances blew us both away. Anything lost in language was more than made up for by the acting.

I throroughly recommend going to see the Taming of the Shrew. I cannot speak of any of the other plays which are regularly put on. The big decision is whether to sit or stand. By choosing the standing option, you do pay just a fiver, as opposed to a score. And, if you’re early you can lean on the stage. Plus, the actors regularly charge through the yard, so you might even get to participate. But then….standing for three hours is pretty tough!

Photography is allowed, but only during intervals. I got told off for taking the snap below, when the minstrels took the stage prior to part two beginning. But then, I’m used to being told off. I have a shrew of my own. Be in no doubt, I went to see this play to take notes and learn, not solely for purposes of entertainment! The other handful of photos are on Flickr.

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Free Brainwashed Postcard

I am no art expert. I couldn’t tell you the difference between brush stroke and splatter. I do know that it’s best if you cut off an ear before you start painting, and that it helps further the value of your work if you die. Preferably young, in a bizarre and painful manner. Extra dollars are added if there’s a whiff of conspiracy, I believe. But that’s your lot. My knowledge of art is exhausted at that point.

But that’s not to say I don’t like a bit of art now and then. I do appreciate a good piccy. What sort of art tickles my taste buds? I like something creative. Colourful. Imaginative. Different. I like stuff I can relate to. Be it a person or a place. The status of the artist usually means little to me.

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I first saw the image above on Facebook. Except someone had added ‘the people of Mexico’ to it. At the time, I had no idea the Mexican reference had been added. I assumed it was a bizarre, but brilliant, piece of graffiti someone had seen in DF. But I bumped into it again last weekend, without the Mexico part. It turned out I had stumbled across the latest gallery of Mr Brainwash.

The gallery is situated in the Old Sorting Office, just around the corner from the British museum. You can’t miss it. The exterior is plastered in giant pieces of his stuff. It’s a mix a graffiti, art and funky sculptures, and not everyone appreciates it. But it ticks all the boxes listed above, plus one more. It’s fun. Why do art critics have to drivel on about techniques, how many assistants an artist has and the qualifications the artist boasts? Why can’t art just be fun sometimes?

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Just to add to the visitors experience, you get a free poster and postcard when you exit the gallery. Free entry, free poster and free postcard – what’s not to like about that?! I’m easily pleased, of course. I’m keeping the posters – Paola and I picked one up each. But I’d like to give away the postcard. I used to enjoy popping postcards off to strangers who’d stumbled across my blog, back when I was in Mexico.

Do you want this postcard? It can be yours! Write a note in the comments to claim it, and then send me the address I should post it to using the Contact page. The rules regards eligibility? Simple. You must be outside the UK, and mustn’t have received one of my postcards from any of my old giveaways. If you’ve misssed out and the card has already gone, you can always check out my photos from the exhibition on Flickr by clicking here.

Losing Your Marbles

Yesterday we paid a flying visit to the British Museum. It was on out route, and promised an Olympics Trail, where you can wander through the museum and check out their collection of antiquities that relate to the original events in Greece. One of the items in question was in a large gallery, the contents of which has left the British Museum at odds with the Greek government for decades. The Elgin Marbles – the sculptures that once adorned the Parthenon in Greece.

Should ‘we’ keep them? Well, ‘we’ did rescue them and save them from destruction. They were obtained as legally as could possibly have been done at the time. They might no longer exist had they not not been relocated. Or at least be in a much worse state – they are already all rather the worse for wear. They can’t ever be reattached to the Parthenon. And they are now located in possibly the greatest museum in the world, which allows five million people to see them, free of charge. every year. Also, ponder the precedent and what that might do to our planet’s great cultural collections.

Does any of this overcome the simple fact that these sculptures are Greek, and were sold by the Ottomans who were occupying Greece at the time? And whilst the Greeks do have a beautiful, shiny new museum built specifically to take all the Parthenon sculptures, what does the future hold? The economy isn’t terribly great in Greece, and the extra tourist dollars that might be gained from recovering all the marbles won’t save them from the troubles that lie ahead.

The Greeks are going to have to accept some harsh realities, one of them being that they might very well not be able to retire a decade or two earlier than the rest of Europe, and another reality being that pensions and social security payments might not meet their needs. In the UK when times get tough we’d look at a few options to get cash flowing again – perhaps an equity release from agepartnership.co.uk. With the value of properties still staying so high, it makes sense for a lot of us Brits to make the most of it. Perhaps the Greeks can do something similar. It appears that they have a willing investor in Germany. How long would they keep the marbles before selling them on again?

But this is a bit by the by.  Should they stay or should they. If they go, there could be trouble. If they stay, well…it’ll make it much easier to visit them again, and post the photos. But what do you think? It really is still a hot topic. And whilst the ‘keep them’ side have always been the majority, the tide could be turning if the likes of Stephen Fry have anything to do with it.

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An Introduction

When I’ve travelled abroad, I’ve gone to see things that I would find most objectionable. Bull fighting in Mexico City, for example. In a couple of weeks I shall do something similar here, and go to see innocent people tortured for several hours. I am going to go to the Globe Theatre in London and watch a Shakespeare play. The Taming of the Shrew, to be precise. I’ve mentioned my dislike for Wills before on these pages. I’m in the minority, I know. I won’t rehash my reasoning today though.

I suspect I’ll enjoy the play though, and the occasion too. I’ve decided to ‘play along’ with it all and get myself into character. You see, here in Blighty we have so many more choices when we book tickets to go out. We don’t just get to choose the seating. There are other options available. And let me tell you, I don’t see why I have to be boring old ‘Mr’ every single time I book something when there are so many more glamorous salutations to choose from. Mr Denness will not be visiting the Globe. Allow me to introduce you to Viscount Denness. I could have gone for a more senior noble title I suppose. But I just like the sound of Viscount. It looked good on the tickets when they came to. I could get used to being a Viscount, very easily.

Now, one truly hopes that the Globe appreciate such prestigious patronage and will afford me the rightful amount of respect and reverence upon my arrival. I’ve seen how the stars are greeted at the Oscars and I expect nothing less. The Globe might have been built upon the principles of 16th century England, but there’s no excuse for their tech not to be 100% up to date. Communication is everything, and if they don’t have a business engineered telcom system that’s up to snuff I suggest they seek out a fixed-mobile convergence here.  People are going to be making calls in to get things right for me, and those calls need to be answered at the right time by the right people. The latest tech makes all this perfectly possible. But I don’t want my ticket prices to go up, thank you very much, so the value they offer with hosted calls will suit us all.

They will need it. I want carpet, hosts to remove our jackets and see us to our place, I want drinks pronto and of course I want to hear slavish ‘yes, your lordship’ as an answer to my every whim. You know the routine. I’ll say jump, they’ll ask how high. Etc. Of course, there is an alternative ending to this story. There’s probably a law against pretending to be a noble. Maybe I’ll be greeted at the gates by police and carted off to the local nick! Although that really would require a complete and utter lack of humour whatsoever!