This is the most viewed photo in my flickr album, with more than twice as many views as the next most popular photo. I have no idea why. Is it because one of the tags is “bed”? Is there a large amount of people out there interested in photographs of velvet? Your guess is as good as mine
A post on another blog got me thinking about nightmares.
I don’t often have nightmares these days. I did when I was a child, but they were bizarrely abstract and didn’t feature anything that could be thought of as conventionally scary. I wish I could convey to you the sheer terror induced by the wobbling parallel lines, or the friendly little girl made of tinfoil, but believe me, they used to shock me awake on a regular basis.
On the other hand, I occasionally have dreams these days which, on the face of it seem nightmarish, but which don’t really bother me that much. If I do dream about a more traditionally anxiety-inducing situation like being chased, or all my teeth falling out, I respond with more of a shrug and a “Oh, what an inconvenience!”-type of attitude. I know – very British. The most common one I have involves travelling with lots of bags, missing connections and leaving some vital piece of luggage behind and having to go back to find it.
Related – one of my favourite headlines from The Onion’s “Our Dumb Century” book: “Martin Luther King – I had this really weird dream last night”.
I find, somewhat to my relief, that I’m chilling out as I get older. I never considered myself to be stressed, over-excitable or nervous, but I was certainly anal retentive about many things. I guess I still am to a certain extent, but it’s easing off. For example, I still keep books and cds in alphabetical order (my wife prefers things to be colour-coded, which causes no end of conflict and confusion). On the other hand, during a seven-hour drive to France for a recent short break I relinquished the cd holder to 2 1/2 year old Chiara, who spent many a happy hour taking them out of the sleeves and putting them back in again. Now I was willing to do this partly because I know that she’s relatively careful and respectful of other people’s stuff (unlike some children I know who would happily have smashed them into tiny pieces and then eaten them all in five seconds flat). I was even willing to give in to her demands to play whatever cd she took out, even though she took out a new one and demanded “This one!” every…ohh…ten seconds or so.
But it’s fundamentally a case of learning how not to “sweat the small stuff”, as they say. So maybe they’ll get put back in the wrong order and get a few tiny fingerprints on them – I can wait until we get back in the evening before I clean and catalogue them, no big deal.
As far as I’m able to remember, the first film I saw in the cinema was Star Wars. From that point onwards I was a committed fan. I built up a collection of toys, books, comics, posters and other memorabilia. It remains a cultural touchstone, a reference point for me and my friends, and it will always be a pleasure to re-watch.
I was four years old when it was first released, and I remember very little of the experience of actually sitting in the cinema and watching it, except for one small, embarrassing detail – we left early. That’s right – during the final assault on the Death Star we walked out and didn’t go back. Why? What could possibly have justified missing the most exciting cinematic moment of our generation?
I was scared. Not by anything I’d seen in the movie. I was scared that night was falling outside and that my father and I would have to walk back to the car through a dark and menacing car park. Of course, once we got outside it wasn’t dark at all, and wouldn’t be for another hour or so, but I had somehow managed to convince my equally Star Wars obsessed father that we needed to leave while it was still light.
However peeved he may have been at the time, I’m sure he’s forgiven me since, even if I haven’t forgiven myself.
As a penance I forced myself to sit through Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. Twice.
As a child I used to enjoy stargazing (this was back in the days when there was so little pollution that you could actually see stars in the sky at night, kids!), and my father shared and encouraged this interest. He and I would walk out to the end of our garden in the evening with my little book of constellations and see what we could recognise. Being in the northern hemisphere, Orion dominated and was my favourite. To be honest I wasn’t all that interested in being able to identify and name them all, or know of what they were composed, in the same way that I don’t really care about evaporation and air currents when I’m looking at clouds - I just liked “gazing” at them.
Until, happily gazing upwards one warm night when I was probably around the age of six or seven, I saw my first shooting star, and it scared the hell out of me. All I remember afterwards is running the length of the garden path as fast as my little legs would carry me, back to the safety and comfort of the house. I’d never seen bits of the sky zipping around unpredictably before, and it was disconcerting to say the least.
Post title comes from a song by Laurie Anderson.
Two very different dining experiences this week got me thinking about bread.
First up was a trip to the recently opened Kokob, the first Ethiopian restaurant in Brussels (and only the second one in the whole of Belgium), run by the husband of one of my wife’s colleagues. The food was excellent, and very filling for two reasons: firstly the portions were generous; secondly, instead of cutlery, each mouthful is eaten with a piece of spongy bread called injera used to pick up the food and absorb the sauce. Now I’ve never been a big eater of bread with my meal. Don’t get me wrong – I love bread, but only when ‘s the focus of the meal (sandwiches, cheese on toast, etc), or part of the eating process as was the case at Kokob. Eating an otherwise filling, delicious meal, why bother to stuff yourself with cooked dough between (or during) courses?
It may be a cultural thing – Paola’s parents have to have bread with every meal, whereas it’s much less common for Brits, in my experience. Maybe this is because we traditionally have potatoes with the majority of our meals, whereas an Italian might need the starch in the form of bread to accompany their piece of meat and to soak up the sauce.
It seemed particularly strange during the meal we had yesterday at Oud Sluis. Sluis is a small town just over the border in the Netherlands, near the coast. Before going, a Dutch colleague informed me that this otherwise unremarkable town had a reputation for possessing an unusually high number of “adult” emporia, and it’s true. It’s not quite Soho, but the neat, modern shopping streets alternated cheese shops, pharmacies, and other everyday outlets with “specialist” clothing and DVD retailers. My theory is that Sluis is taking advantage of its proximity to the popular Belgian coastal resorts, and that couples off for a “romantic” break in Knokke or Blankenburg might want to hop across the border to purchase something for the weekend from their less inhibited Dutch neighbours.
Anyway, the reason for the trip was, obviously, the 3-Michelin-starred restaurant, rather than the rubber and PVC stockists, and we weren’t disappointed. Once again we were struck not just by the quality and flavours, but by the inventiveness of this type of cuisine. What appeared to be peas were in fact frozen balls of basil, noodles had been marinated in a mackerel reduction to give them an unique flavour, fish and meat dishes came accompanied with daubs of Granny Smith apple sauce, shavings of wasabi, or pure chlorophyll. And yet, there again was the plate of bread on the side. We ate for four hours, some of the best food we’ve ever had, and were deliriously stuffed by the end – why on earth would we need to fill any gaps in our distended bellies with bread, of all things? It’s not like the drinking water, where they can charge the earth for something which people need to accompany their meal and which costs them little or nothing to supply.
Still, while curious, this is a minor grumble. When they saw that it was raining as we went to leave, they gave us a complementary umbrella. Oh, and the section of their website which tells you how to find them gives not only driving directions, but also the coordinates of the nearest helipad. Yes, it’s that kind of place. Also on their site, click on “impression” to see some mouth-watering photos. Alternatively, you could look at Ulterior Epicure’s snaps and read his review, which is far more detailed and informed than I could ever manage.
I’ve never quite understood people’s desire to dance. I love music, (including, ironically, some of what is often loosely termed “dance music”), but at no point while listening to it do I feel the need to wiggle, gyrate, lunge or contort myself rhythmically. It just doesn’t do anything for me.I’ve had flirtations with dancing in the past. At school I used to take part in “country dancing” (perhaps better known as “square dancing”), which basically consisted of walking around in circles aimlessly. In the early 80s I was briefly into body popping and breakdancing (but then again, who wasn’t?). And during my drinking years (1992 – 1996) the alcohol occasionally drowned out the little voice in my head that said “Don’t try to dance – you’ll look like a twat”, and I would venture out onto the dancefloor, invariably alone. Mercifully the alcohol also wiped any memories of what I actually did once I got there.
Now I have nothing against dance as an art form, although I tried watching a traditional ballet recently and could see nothing to get excited about: the women spin around, the men pick them up and put them down again, everyone jumps up and down a bit. Repeat for two hours. Some modern forms of dance I find quite watchable, and I might even be happy to give them a try if it involves learning a specific, structured set of steps, but I find jiggling about to a pop song gets very boring very quickly.
But what’s even more boring is certain people’s response to this attitude. I’m not allowed not to want to dance. If other people are in a party mood and want to dance, then I must join in, right? If I don’t, it must be because I’m a stuffy, repressed killjoy, right? It must be because I don’t really know how to let go and enjoy myself, It must be because I don’t like music, I don’t feel it…
Well, no. I feel it, I just don’t need to display what I feel. Expressing the feeling physically doesn’t make me feel it any more intensely – if anything, it’s a distraction. So go ahead – wiggle and writhe it it makes you feel good. I’ll be sat over here listening to the music, thanks.
UPDATE: Stephen Fry, as usual, has put it better (if not quite so succinctly) than I ever could: http://stephenfry.com/blog/#more-41
I don’t want to make a habit of posts which consist simply of links to other people’s blog posts, but this one is lovely:
One evening in a pub while at university a friend started a conversation about “movie moments” – those perfect moments of your life that feel like they belong on the silver screen. As it turned out, most of the moments the other people present described were fairly tame and non-movie-like, although I guess they felt kind of cool to that person at the time (I mean, none of their moments involved outrunning an explosion in slow motion or anything like that…).
At the time I couldn’t really think of a sufficiently movie-like moment from my own life (I’m no good under pressure – I always come up with the witty comeback or apposite anecdote hours later, when everyone’s gone home), but, if asked again now, this is the moment I’d describe:
January 1999, Venice. I was in Italy for a couple of weeks, visiting my new girlfriend (later to become my new wife). She showed me the sights of Genoa, then took me to Portofino, Florence, and Venice (this is what people used to call “courtship”). Being tourists in Venice for the first time, of course we had to take a ridiculously overpriced gondola ride. After half an hour threading our way through the canal equivalents of back alleys and side streets, we finally emerged onto the Grand Canal. As we made our way downstream from the Rialto bridge, a vaporetto transporting freshly-arrived tourists from the train station to St Mark’s square passed us. I chose this moment to lean across and plant a large wet kiss on my companion.
Behind me, I heard all the tourists standing on the ferry say “Ahhh!”