Friday, February 29, 2008

Pilgrim's Non-Progress

Happy Leap Day!

I know it's wrong to have an Eric Cartman-esque reaction to hippies, but even I couldn't help finding this story hilarious:

A man who planned to walk from Bristol to India without any money has quit, after getting as far as Calais, France.

Mark Boyle, 28, who set out four weeks ago with only T-shirts, a bandage and sandals, hoped to rely on the kindness of strangers for food and lodging.

But, because he could not speak French, people thought he was free-loading or an asylum seeker.

It doesn't say if Mr Boyle is an educated man, but even I would have been able to tell him his project was unlikely to succeed. I like the way it says "thought he was free-loading". What else would you call it?

Mr Boyle, a former organic food company boss, belongs to the Freeconomy movement which wants to get rid of money altogether.

In his online diary at the start of his journey to Porbander, Gandhi's birthplace, he said he was given two free dinners on his first evening away in Glastonbury.

Later, he was joined in Dover by two companions, and the three managed to get to Calais.

But in one of his last entries, he wrote: "...not only did no one not speak the language, they had also seen us as just a bunch of freeloading backpackers, which is the complete opposite of what the pilgrimage is really about.

"That really scared us and given that we now were pretty much out of food, hadn't slept in days and were really cold, we had to reassess the whole situation."

Mr Boyle said he could not explain in words the disappointment he felt at abandoning the journey and he apologised to his supporters.

I certainly can't explain in words the size of the grin I had on my face when reading this. You can imagine the conversation with his mates:

-What are you doing next week, Mark?
-I'm off to India.
-Wow, great, but how can you afford it?
-I'm walking.
-Er, isn't it rather a long way. And how will you carry your luggage?
-Oh, I'm sure people will help me out as I go.
-Ok, well, good luck with that, then.

However, he is undeterred by this setback:
He now plans to walk around the coast of Britain instead, learning French as he goes, so he can try again next year.

"Whilst walking in the UK, I intend to learn French and to hit the continent again as soon as we feel we are ready."

I'm not sure of his intended route, but let's hope he has time to pick up some Italian, Serbo-Croat, Greek, Turkish, Persian, Farsi and Punjabi before he sets off.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

E17? SL6 actually...

News from the home front:

Religiously (well, semi-religiously) I check the Maidenhead Advertiser - "Berkshire's Best-Selling Paid-For Weekly" - on a Thursday to get the latest updates from my home town. Usually a post office is under threat of closure, despite the fact no-one realised it was still open anyway, or a car has been driven into a bollard, causing a traffic jam, or Maidenhead United have lost at home again.

Today, however, the paper carries a revealing report of that rare musical event: an East 17 concert. In a rather sad imitation of their erstwhile boyband rivals Take That's recent comeback tour (which sold out massive venues nationwide), the boys from Walthamstow gave a performance the town centre:

Chicago Rock Cafe heaved with a throng of hundreds who turned up to witness the comeback of East 17. Crooner Brian Harvey, roofer John Hendy and Terry Coldwell appeared, minus original songwriter Tony Mortimer, last Thursday to a crowd of fans and the just plain curious.

Although the talented one was absent, the others apparently tried their best. Fair enough, they've hit a few lows since the records stopped selling. I guess there's not much roofing work in February.
Walthamstow’s finest were set to perform at 10pm but did not take to the stage until after 11.30pm, and played a set of seven songs. Brian Harvey said: “I was late ‘cos I been having trouble at home. This scar on my face is from my girlfriend throwing the telly remote at me in a row.”

I thought rock stars were supposed to throw tellies at things, or at least out of hotel windows, not be on the receiving end. Bonus points to anyone who can name seven East 17 songs, though.
After the gig Brian said: “We couldn’t hear ourselves singing because the sound wasn’t proper so it wasn’t the best gig we’ve ever done.”

What is he, Frank Spencer? So much bad fortune. By some accounts though, not being able to hear themselves sing made the band the lucky ones:
One anonymous audience member said: “Brian sounded like a hyena – it was atrocious.”

I'm not sure, but that might be unfair to hyenas. However, it seems Harvey's night wasn't all bad:
"...whatever anyone says about Tony, that Stay Another Day is a great song and it was enjoyable that someone threw their knickers at me.”

The best bit of the whole concert report came at the end though - a scoop the Advertiser reporter might not have realised she had:
Brian Harvey cryptically revealed that his talents are soon to be spread further afield before heading back home to London. “I’m doing a six-part television documentary about how the world is going to end in four years when a planet called Nebula hits us,” he claimed.

If this is true, we surely have a right to know, don't we? All this kerfuffle over global warming and sharia law pales into insignificance against this. Of course it's nonsense, but can you give us a tip from the inside, Brian?
“If you’re going to get married and have kids you’d better do it now,” Walthamstow’s warbler advised.

Erm, if the world's going to end in four years, you don't want to be bringing children into it only to condemn them to a fiery grave, do you? Slightly flawed thinking, I feel. Still, maybe that's what the record company told them all those years ago - "No point signing a new contract boys, Nebula's gonna wipe us out before you even get into the studio. Go off and start a family or something..."

Local papers. Don't you just love 'em?

Dia dos namorados

Happy Valentine's Day all!

(I hope I'm not the only person giving you that greeting this morning)

If you had forgotten that today was the, ahem, most romantic day of the year, I offer a couple of cards that you might want to send to that special someone.

Keen fans of the Simpsons will recognse them straight away, from the episode where Ralph Wiggum falls hopelessly in love with Lisa, before she breaks his heart and then they both make up at the end.

The card which stirred little Ralph's ardour was this one, which Lisa sent to him out of pity because he didn't get any from anyone else:

If there's a person in your life who loves trains, they'll surely want this card.

However, sometimes the path of true love doesn't run smoothly, and as I said above, Lisa didn't really feel the same way about Ralph as he did about her (are there any guys out there who can't relate to that situation?). She dumped him live on TV, which broke his little heart.

Feeling an immense amount of guilt, Lisa made things up to Ralph with a second card, and it seems an amicable way of letting someone down gently:

If you don't requite the affection, send this one instead.

N.B. I got both the pics from this website, where you can download images to print and make your own cards.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Bloody. Marvellous.

When I woke up this morning I had a short mental list of things to do on my day off:

Number one was to get my hair cut.
Number two was to find a nice meat pie for dinner.
Number three was to take advantage of cut-price Mondays and go to the cinema.

Being a naturally perverse individual I started at the multiplex. Unfortunately for the other things on my to do list, the film I chose to see was Tim Burton's new adaptation of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, the musical story of the barber who turns his customers into piping hot snacks.

I've decided I'll leave the trim till next week, and, well, you can't get proper pies in Portugal anyway.

Fortunately for me, the film was excellent. I've never seen the original stage production so I can't make a direct comparison with that, but the movie is fantastically darkly comic and gruesome (think Theatre of Blood) and the songs bind the whole thing together very well, moving the plot along, rather than interrupting it with contrived set-pieces (the problem with so many musicals). Johnny Depp sings Sweeney in the style of Spitting Image doing David Bowie (if you can imagine such a thing) and Helena Bonham Carter has a surprisingly good voice as Mrs Lovett, the pie-shop proprietress. The supporting cast is great too: Alan Rickman (who else?) as the villainous Judge Turpin, Timothy Spall as the seedy Beadle, a cameo from Sacha Baron Cohen as a technicolor rival barber and an even briefer appearance by Anthony "Gold Blend-Buffy-Little Britain" Head which you'll miss if you blink.

As you would expect with a Burton effort, the film has terrific visuals, reminding me if not of my own misspent youth in the grimy backstreets of London (I'm not from London), at least of Oliver!, from which several cues (market stalls, street urchins...) have obviously been taken. The majority of the film is coloured in greys, with the exceptions of flashbacks and forwards to happier times, which are in full rainbow-vision, and of course the blood, which is ruddily and liberally splattered throughout.

I'd recommend this film to anyone who likes a bit of claret, a bit of Johnny Depp or a bit of pie. Or indeed a bit of good cinema. For that is what it is. Just be careful if your barber starts referring to the cutthroat razor as "his friend".

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Carnie departs

Hi All,

Back from Carnaval. This picture sums it up. I'm the Lady in Red. Now, off to work.