Saturday 23 May 2009

If you look back you'll turn to stone (1)

When we were a proper family - you know man, wife, two children, one girl one boy (I think there was supposed to be a 0.4 child too, to keep the statistics right, Friday was take away night. Inspite of some Catholic heritage on my side (pretty lapsed, and only by dint of my father's family having allegiance to Rome)it rarely involved fish and chips. Chinese or Indian were tip top favourites, and at an early age the boy had a thing for chicken chat....although it did make him screw his nose up. Such was the tradition, that long after I departed the family home, the boy continued to enjoy Friday Night Take Away, and why not. After all there was more to go round.

When the boy came to live with me permenantly, in the confusion and panic (oh what do I do, how will I manage this, etc, etc), the FNTA died a death, although it was quite fondly spoken of on a regular basis. So at the boy's suggestion, on Friday we had new FNTA. Chinese was the dish of choice. It duly arrived half an hour of ordering, and it was certainly a feast fit for a king with sweet and sour this, lemon sauce that, peking the other and black bean who knows what. In true Chinese tradition, there was enough to feed the entire street. And it seems that it was at that precise moment, when we started taking the cartons out, the romantic notion of FNTA evaporated. We both had some, but 90% lay uneaten whilst Have I Got News For You wittered away in the background. Perhaps we shouldn't have done it, perhaps the expectations were wrong, but it certainly didn't make for a great evening.

And funnily enough we were both hungry an hour later....

Friday 22 May 2009

Brave New World

We all bring our children into the world with much excitement and joy, but then (probably) spend the rest of our lives worrying...will they fall over, will they hurt themselves, how will they do at school, will they get the right job, will they marry the right person. Will they stay fit and healthy. But at least we can feel that we know the world that we're letting them into. But it does look as though that is all changing.

The banks are one of the main pillars of society as we know it, and the collapse of the banking system could see the biggest step towards a socialist state that we've seen since the creation of the National Health Service some sixty years ago (maths never was a strong point).

The self-destruction of Parliament at the moment could equally see a vast and long-lasting impact on democracy in this country. We know now it's a rotten system and the ruling class have taken it upon themselves to make the most of it. Trust in all areas of society has been on the decline for many a year, and this can only be another nail in the coffin.

If you take the police as the front line of law and order, the many, many scandals (of which their behaviour during G20 is just one) in recent times means that many people have little faith in the fairness of the men in blue.

It certainly feels that the people who should protect us, in fact have an inbuilt loathing of the people they are meant to serve. If you look at the behaviour of many councils and their agents, that re-inforces my argument.

Traditional values and societal norms are undergoing rapid change across the UK. Change is not necessarily a bad thing, but what was once a strong framework for people to feel secure and safe is now ill-defined and for many slightly threatening...very for some people.

Around the world, we are seeing a new world order. Sixty years ago it was the decline and fall of the British Empire, now it is the US that must manage its own decline in a way that wiull not come easily to a nation so full of self-confidence - good luck Mr Obama. A world dominated by China and India will be a very different beast, and we'll all need to get used to that. And at some stage, Russia will take its place properly on the world stage.

Once upon a time if we wanted to listen to music, we pulled up a seat at the piano, or more recently switched on the radio. Now we can listen to it on FM, AM DAB, the internet, the TV our iPod. But it's rarely just about pushing a button we have to download it, stream it or re-record it. Music has moved from being a precious commodity to being disposable wallpaper. TV that was once just watched is now interacted with, it can be paused, played, rewound and fast-forwarded. We might all be couch potatoes, but we have very fit fingers.

Once the land of plenty, we find that the excesses of our generation and that of our parents means the valauable commodities such a oil which we all took for granted are running thin...even water is in short supply and predicted to be the main cause of war in the next 100 years. At least that will make a change from religion which has provoked conflict since time eternal. And the excessive use of natural resources is leading to an environmental disaster that our politicians are afraid to tackle for fear of damaging the economy.

Whilst half the world starves, the other half will die younger through obesity, particularly sad when there is enough food available to feed everyone a good meal everyday. As our lives extend, we find that the short sharp illnesses of old are replaced by chronic diseases that paralyse us either mentally or physically. Or both. So now we can play God with impunity and take our own lives at a Swiss clinic.

As the quality of our material lives has improved, the disenfranchised see more and more brutal violence as the way forward, so the rich and middle-class live in terror behind their gated estates.

I wonder what the boy's great-grandmother would make of it all. Not much I guess. She saw the birth of the motor car, once a force for good, now not. She didn't foresee computers or the internet, and thought all great things had been invented in her lifetime.

From a world of certainty, when I was born, we have moved to a world where nothing is certain. Change has got faster and faster, and it becomes a challenge even for the young to keep up, let alone those with even a single grey hair. How will this be when the boy is my age. I wish I knew. The boy is (of course) still finding delight, surprise and enchantment in this brave new world, although he can sometimes hide it behind a fog of teen angst. Me? I think it's quite exciting too...we have a great opportunity for change...and as the eternal optimist I think it can be for the better.

Tuesday 19 May 2009

A woman's work is never a man

I did ironing on Sunday night. I did ironing on Monday night. I did ironing tonight. An hour a piece. I iron quite quickly, but not very often. And I should be doing ironing tomorrow night. But instead I'm going out for a drink.

I loathe ironing more than I can say. And as soon as it's done, it needs to be done again. Who invented ironing, and why can't we just go round in crumpled shirts. I'm sure it would look cool.

The boy can iron. He does it when I go on strike. I might strike more often.

Sunday 17 May 2009

Art for arts sake

A millenium ago, and before the boy had put in an appearance, his mum and sister came along with me to an exhibition of new art and new design. Of the event I remember little other than the words of the boy's sister, then a four-year old girl. "That's not art, that's just a piece of wood. And that one's got a hole in it." We shuffled away in embarrassed silence as the artist in question glared at us.

My own artistic ability is summed up the vote held in fourth grade art lesson once. The whole class held their hand up when asked if I was a yobo. Oh well.

The month of May is Festival time in Brighton, and to my utter joy, it is being artistically directed by Anish Kapoor. I first came across Kapoor about twenty years ago. I had a business meeting in Madrid on a Monday, so took the opportunity to spend the weekend there. I'd never been to Spain before, and among the many mistakes I made was to order my evening meal at 8.00pm...a couple of hours before any of the Madrilenos. Not being able to read Spanish, I ordered various dishes, and to this day I don't know what they were. The highlight was to wander into a gallery and dsicover an exhibition by someone called Anish Kapoor. I was transfixed and have taken every opportunity since to see examples of his work. I'm close to being a groupie, so it was seventh heaven to discover his involvement in Brighton.

The boy's previous experience of Kapoor was at Tate Modern when we lived round the corner from it. We had both been over-awed by its immense size and presence.

Saturday, and I persuaded the boy to come up to the Chattri on the Downs to see The Curve. It's a longish walk through fields of cows and pleasent at any time. It was sunny when we started, windy when we got there and slightly damp when we came back. I could have stayed up there all day, but I have a feeling the words "It's just a mirror, and it's even bent" were rapidly forming on the boy's lips.

Sunday, we had three more to go and see...the need for the boy to buy rucksack and boots for his Duke of Edinburgh Award, meant he was easily persuaded to come along. The first in Fabrica...a church turned art gallery. Stunning...but strangely we seemed to be the only ones who felt the need to read the story carefully inscribed by Salman Rushdie around the sides. Since it explained the inside, it seemed quite important.

Next was in The Pavillion Gardens, and generally ignored by most - truth be told, it's poorly sited and easily ignored.

Finally at the Old Market, and as they say, always leave the best to last. Marvelous. And in true Kapoor style, reality was distorted when the long oval gash dug out of the ground appears a perfect circle in the photograph.