Friday, December 31, 2010

Moving On Again

We're still dealing with a touch of jet lag, neither of us really sleeping at all on Wednesday night, but heroically we're making our way to KL today for the weekend to put things in order up there. We'll also be dropping in on Noi's folks in Melaka to say hello for the new year.

Since our on-line connection from KL is temperamental, to say the least, I'll post my resolution for the year ahead today, getting my retaliation in early, as it were. I've given considerable thought to this one, inspired by the late Douglas Adams, mindful of the big, friendly letters on the side of that most useful of all guides at the centre of his finest work.

I will be doing my best in 2011 NOT TO PANIC.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Touch Of Nostalgia

Perhaps it was because we were there for the Christmas season but a remarkable amount of time and space on British television and radio seems to be devoted to looking back nostalgically to life in the fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties, especially as it was reflected in the television and radio programmes of those decades. At times this could be illuminating, but more often a distinct sense was created of the two media masticating over themselves.

Surely there was more to Christmas past than Morecambe and Wise?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

In Transit

Listened to Arcade Fire's The Suburbs (and odd bits of Mozart) and watched the special edition of Avatar (I've not seen the unspecial version so I'm not sure what extras I experienced) on the flight over. Unreservedly enjoyed the former - all of it - and distinctly reservedly the latter. How so?

I don't think I need to strain to justify enjoying the music. It's obviously very, very, very good and that's an end to it. (Except for the need to expand my CD collection far enough to include all 3 Arcade Fire albums.)

But I do think I need to justify my reservations about James Cameron's popular epic, especially since people whose judgments I respect regard it very highly. (No, not film critics - just John, Jeanette and Sam.) I did enjoy the film visually. Even on the tiny screen on the seat in front of me it had quite an impact and it was possible to get a sense of how great it must look on the big, big screen. My problems lay with the storyline. In short, although the story is delivered neatly, it's extremely predictable and the final battle began to put me to sleep as I was confident in my assessment of what was going to happen. It felt as if a committee had written it, and this was a committee blind to their own enjoyment of destructive violence. I was uneasily aware they were having the time of their lives blowing the heroic world and People of Pandora to bits whilst pretending it was all deeply sad.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Departures And Arrivals

We've just done both and they don't get easier. Sad to leave; happy to arrive - but with so much to get done it would be easier to run away.

But we're back safely here in our far place, and that's plenty to be thankful for. But for now: incredibly tired.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Being Particular

I've been running some ideas through what passes for my mind for a TOK lecture on Art as an Area of Knowledge (or something like that, forgotten the exact wording). Suddenly realised the question How do I know this is art? (asked of a particular something) is a lot more interesting than the generalised What is Art? And this despite the fact that you're going to at some point have to address the latter to make any progress on the former.

Or do you have to? There's an odd pleasure in simply leaving the bigger question hanging and just arguing the toss over the merits or demerits of the something in question.

Art is necessary even though we don't know what it is.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Being There

Generally Mum spends most of the time asleep when we visit her. Today was no exception. Curiously this somehow doesn't seem to matter. It's enough to be there. Strange.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Many Voices

I'd forgotten just how good the radio is in England. Apart from the wonderful Radio Three there's a lot to enjoy on Radios Two and Four and on local stations like Radio Manchester. (Excellent football coverage on the latter. Well, of United and City at least.)

One reminder of this came in the form of a bit of casual listening the other day when a presenter on Radio 2 was interviewing a young lady suffering from schizophrenia. The immediate occasion of the interview was a quite dreadful story from the previous day of a young man whose mother had been attacked by a schizophrenic man and who had killed the man in the course of defending her. Sadly his mother also died. The presenter far from playing up or on the tragic details of the case was interviewing the girl in order to attempt to give a balanced picture of schizophrenics and their suffering. Remarkably, partly as a result of the remarkable courage and character of the girl in question, he largely succeeded.

This girl, having been traumatised by some kind of abuse as a child, had managed to lead a fairly normal life despite being haunted by three voices taunting her almost continually, as I understood the situation. She sounded amazingly balanced and rational, I suppose because that's exactly what she was, even as the voices were talking to her as she was having the interview. The presenter throughout talked with knowledge, understanding and compassion. Any listener would have learnt one heck of a lot.

And this was a bit of routine, unheralded, daily radio that no one would have made any fuss over. Listening I was reminded of the virtues of allowing many voices, many viewpoints, on air. In a sense they provide their own balance.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mid Winter Madness

I've just been enjoying the edifying spectacle of the Missus ruthlessly bating, through the medium of Facebook, various members of the family in Melaka who have the misfortune to support the gonners. There are few things more satisfying than a victory over Arsene's boys, especially when they'd been playing so well recently. Though I must say the enjoyment to be gained from watching two Premiership teams sack perfectly good managers for no reason that anyone can understand comes a close second. The sheer absurdity of it makes it such fun, that and the wonderfully clear evidence (if it were needed) of the craziness of the modern world's notion of 'management' of anything.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Christmas Gift

The visiting hours at the Lakes, Mum's current residence, are a good deal longer than those allowed at Tameside General. We're varying between seeing her for a couple of hours or so in the afternoon or in the evening. That means we can't travel too far but we've been able to get around a bit more than I think we expected on arrival. Conversation with Mum isn't exactly sparkling - she doesn't remember enough of what she's been doing to put together a coherent narrative and she shows little or no interest in anyone or anything beyond the bounds of her room - but on most visits she drops off to sleep after an hour or so and we just sit in companionable silence.

She complains of discomfort sometimes, and occasionally obvious pain, but by no means all the time. And sometimes she tells us how much she wishes everything was over, being so tired of it all. At the end of one visit last week you'd have thought she might not make it to Christmas. But when she's got a biscuit in one hand and a cup of tea in the other, and is sitting looking suspiciously contented, it's easy to believe she'll live to a hundred, even if she doesn't want to.

And for those who tell us the NHS is falling to pieces, I can only say the huge compassion and care of the nursing staff we've encountered emphatically gives that idea the lie. They have a display on one wall at the centre stressing the idea of giving dignity to the patients there. They succeed. That's quite some gift.

Monday, December 6, 2010


Enjoyed the wonderful company of old friends Simon and Judy last night and am now doing the same with that of John and Jeanette. One of the great pleasures of these trips. Mind you it can prove expensive. Not that anyone costs us anything. Far from it, given their generosity. But when you've got John Martyn played as beguiling music for dinner how can you not make up your mind to purchase his entire back catalogue as soon as possible?

Friday, December 3, 2010


Warm is what it isn't here. But somehow we are managing. According to the news the country is grinding to a halt as it faces its annual bout of astonishment that winter brings with it low temperatures and makes driving, or any form of moving from place to place, difficult. However, we are getting around without undue difficulty, though admittedly not travelling far. Any journeying necessarily centres around getting to see Mum in the afternoon or evening. She's now been moved from Tameside General to a rehabilitation cente a little closer to where we are staying. We're off there a bit later once we have sampled the delights of Longsight, one of our old stomping grounds.

As usual I'm finding myself somewhat whelmed over by the sheer amount of stuff there is to read in the newspapers, magazines and various publications here. I've still not finished last Sunday's Observer. No wonder I generally find myself glad to get away from it all, nice as it is to experience once in a while.