Disconnections, missed connections

5 September 2010

So up until Friday I didn’t know what my plans were. Actually, no, I knew some of them. My partner’s mother is visiting from overseas, and they’re traveling from London to Italy and spending a week and a half traveling around. Nothing more beautiful than September in Rome. At the end of September they’re heading to Venice for the weekend where I agreed to join them.

But of course, with starting a new job, I had no idea what was in the diary. Then I discover, the Thursday I’m going to join them in Venice, I have meetings in both Brussels and Edinburgh. Of course the first task is to work out which I’m going to (easier said than done). (I’ve now decided).

But you wouldn’t believe how difficult it is to get between the two. There are no direct trains (my preferred means of transportation) from Brussels. I could get an overnight train via Paris and Milan for £200 however. Or fly Ryanair for £30.

I hate Ryanair. Yes, they get you from A – B yada yada yada – and they’re cheap. I can cope with cheap. I can cope with all their extra charges. But what I can’t cope with is the fact that they purposely make the whole experience as unpleasurable as possibly. From their garish clunky website to the INYOURFACEYELLOW on the plane itself (I’m saying nothing about the overlyabrupt cabin crew). I’d really rather not arrive at my destination angry and irritated by the experience of getting there.

Anyway, that’s all irrelevant now as I’m actually going from Edinburgh. And could have gotten from Edinburgh to Venice on an appropriately timed flight (arriving that night, not changing at Heathrow overnight) with Lufthansa… but for £650 (£230 single). How can it cost so much more than a return to go one way? The £230 of course isn’t too bad. But as I have to get back to London it’s a waste of money and a seat.

Anyway, I’ve now resolved the problem. Increasing my carbon footprint, and tiredness in the process, by traveling back to London and catching an early morning flight the following day. Oh and missing out on most of a day’s holiday.

In an uber-connected world easy to forget that getting from A to B isn’t easy. And I’m lucky – I have the resources to do it.

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Pasty white boy…

19 July 2010

…going on holiday to Barcelona in mid-June? I’d better pack protection!


Germany’s out

13 July 2010

So the German football team is a “bunch of gays”. Although I’m not sure who the “experts” that “estimate that around 10 per cent of all Bundesliga professionals are gay” are (experts in gayness? football? gay football?) it would not be surprising if the team which as been “celebrated for being the youngest in 76 years and more ethnically diverse than any team in Germany football history” had a few gays in there too.

Football – perhaps sport in general – is an area where being gay is still a tabboo. Just look at how few gay athletes were at the Beijing Olympics. It’s one of the reasons the Gay Games still exists – that and a lot of the gay teams that enter are perhaps not up to the caliber of more professional teams – this year, ironically in Cologne, Germany. I wonder if any of the German football team will turn up? I also wonder if Britain can do any better at making London 2012 athletes feel comfortable coming out? Wouldn’t that be a wonderful legacy to leave sport?


European Unions

9 November 2009

9th November 1989 is a day which will be engraved on the minds of all those alive to see it. As a young child even I can remember walking down to the living room to get ready for school and my mum making me watch what had happened on BBC Breakfast News. I had no idea what was happening. But I knew I should remember it.

The German Democratic Republic was a state that found existence difficult. Whatever I may think of communism as a theory, in reality it wasn’t a pretty existence. And the East Germans knew it. Living adjacent to the West, where life was sweeter. Today’s Telegraph article gives a good idea of what life was like and why the wall fell (I am quoting from it below).

The GDR’s existence depended on barriers. Ultimately, the walls of the republic were vulnerable. Control of the frontiers required a commitment from neighbouring Hungary and Czechoslovakia to prevent East Germans from transiting to the Western lands they bordered. By the summer of 1989, socialist fraternity was fraying badly, and Hungary was no longer willing to act as a gatekeeper. Once Budapest party leaders allowed East Germans to exit to Austria in September 1989, the final act of the GDR began. Most East Germans, of course, did not want to leave, even if many longed to travel unhindered. Repeated Monday-night demonstrations in Leipzig swelled to 70,000 by mid-October, a week after the GDR celebrated its 40th anniversary. The regime could no longer control its frontiers, and chose not to contest the streets. A divided politburo ousted its old-guard members, including party chief Erich Honecker, and after massive demonstrations in Berlin, it decided to relax travel restrictions, leading to the joyous confusion of November 9.

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9 November has been a recurring date in German history. “On that day in 1938, synagogues and Jewish property were destroyed by Nazi forces in what became known as Kristallnacht. It is also the day, in 1925, when the SS was founded, when the Munich beer hall putsch took place in 1923, the day the German monarchy ended in 1918, and the day the German revolution failed in 1848.”

And this history provides an important reminder of why european ‘togetherness’ – working together, learning from each other – is important, because if we can’t work with our geographical neighbours, how will we ever learn to coexist globally in an ever shrinking world? The day the wall fell marked a real watershed in European history. Over 40% of NATO members now are ex Soviet countries, a unified Germany has emerged as a strong player in Europe – after unifying and West Germany taking the crumbling former East an draging it to western standards, and even now has a leader from the East. European countries have become democratic, albeit not an easy ride, and needs to continue working together to talk, teach and learn. The European Union and institutions have a clear and important role to play in getting people working together, continuing progression to democracy, and promoting fundamental rights, equality, and consideration of environmental concerns as well as clearly transnational issues. What about homophobia in Eastern Europe, for example, or the need to work together to tackle Climate Change? I always remember my former boss, a German, who quoted his father saying “well, if we’re talking, then we’re not fighting”. Perhaps tackling the emergence of fascism is one of the most important reasons for working together.

Of course some [west] Germans I know stiff refer to it as the East, some see it as a weight around their necks. I took one of them to the East for the first time in their life a few years ago. I fell in love with East Berlin – it has a faded charm that’s been scrubbed up and buffed up, but with the history clear and obvious. The BMW showroom adjacent to the Russian Embassy on Unter den Linden is a provides a brilliant juxtaposition of Westernised modernity, pre-division urbanism and Eastern history. It’s an incredible City, with a fantastic cultural and diverse nightlife. Watching Goodbye Lenin brings back the emotions that the city itself raises in me. The sadness of demise of the old regime and comfort of familiarity against the excitement of freshness, newness has been a recurring theme through my life.

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A little Russian performance art (reblogging)

29 October 2009

I am reblogging a post from a Twitter friend whom I accomapied to see ‘Made in Russia’ at the Chelsea Theatre on Saturday night:

What happens when you take two Russians, heavily involved in dance, and allow them to collaborate together on a theatre piece that both explores their own identity as performers but also interweaves a narrative of past experiences? Made In Russia is the outcome. A slightly surreal and bizarre post-modern theatre piece created, conceived and performed by Andrei Andrianov and Oled Soulimenko.

It truely was a fascinating piece of theatre, charting (i thought, at least) changing approaches to theatre in the context of perestroika. If you’d rather read a view from someone who has more of an idea of what he’s talking about then click here.


If you want to BNP to be ‘shown up’, Question Time isn’t the right format to get the results you want to see

22 October 2009

There’s been a lot of discussion recently about the appearance tonight of the British National Party on BBC Question Time. When it was announced that the BBC intended to invite Nick Griffin, BNP leader and recently elected (by the British public) Member of the European Parliament, on to Question Time there were mixed responses. Some political parties thought it was the wrong thing to do because it would give them legitimacy as a political party. Other parties were refusing to put up pannelists – refused to appear on the same stage – but as some parties agreed to participate so they all did.

Now, Im not going to express a view on the legitimacy or not of the BNP, but I do have a concern about their appearance tonight. And that’s about the format of the programme on which they’re to appear.

Let’s just think about Question Time for a minute. Five pannelists, usually three politicians, one academic or similarly opinionated person, and one more populist person (a columnist perhaps), chaired by David Dimbleby. Members of the audience ask questions and the pannelists opine and respond one by one. Perhaps there’s some more pointed questioning from the chair trying to get a response to the question.

And this is the point i’m making. It’s not the kind of format where a party like the BNP will really get probed on their policies. There’s no Paxman (not that he succeeded in the past) or Frost really making them uncomfortable, getting to the bottom of what they really mean, and what they imply. It’s a question, an answer, some political responses and questioning from other pannelists (they have their own point to make, and Question Time is about the audience questions, not politicians asking each others views), and moving on to the next point.

On Twitter this morning there’s been some debate about the show tonight. I don’t disagree that primetime TV is the place to point out to the UK what the party actually thinks – but I do think that this format is not the best one, particularly not for those people who really think the party will be shown up on tgeir views. I’m also not a person that thinks gagging works. I’m not apathetic to watching or disengaged from democracy, whether I’ve made up my own mind about them or not. Surely it’s better to let people hear what they think – some may argue to give them enough rope to hang themselves with.

Taken an example about road congestion in our cities. The BNP answers – “road congestion in our cities is a terrible problem, something must be done about it”. What do the other party members do? Disagree vocally with the BNP point of view, or sit there and nod along, agreeing with Nick Griffin? What will this type of questioning and response do for those people who are already of a mindset that could be persuaded by the other arguments they make? A similar appearance by France’s far right political party in the 1980s saw their membership soar and could so well do, or already has, for the BNP.

Question Time is a format that is about swift answers, soundbites, not detailed probing and questioning on what the politicans really mean, what the real implications of their policies are. After my recent posts on undercurrents of hate and what these legitimise, is this really the platform people really think it is to try and show the politics of this party in a truer light? I don’t think it is. Now I may be wrong, and I hope that there is real opportunity for their policies and views to be probed in depth, but I’d just like to end with a thought from Ken Livingstone on Nick Griffin: :”He comes on, says his bit, but for the angry racist, it’s the trigger that turns into an attack.”


BWO

30 September 2009

I’ve been a fan of all things Swedish for some time now, ever since I spent six months there in 2003 (that makes me feel old). So I have been surprised not to have attended the Scandinavian pop night Scandipop before last night. I went with a friend (who was late) but also met a couple of friends there for some live music from BWO, a.k.a. Bodies Without Organs, a Swedish “laptop pop” trio in the style of Army of Lovers with a quirky humourful poppyness and recent hits including Chariots of Fire, and Sunshine in the Rain.

I just thought I’d share a few pictures of BWO from last night.

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