Thursday, April 14, 2011
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
I was travelling to Belfast for the Irish Blog Awards. Yes, they are a real thing. I was a little surprised myself. Still, any excuse to get hideously drunk in a room full of other drunk people. And nobody drinks like a room full of people who describe themselves as writers.
The ceremony itself was, frankly, rather a let down. The host seemed bored and anxious to be elsewhere, there was no free booze, a big tray of cup cakes that people got given out to for standing too close to, winners had to pick up their own trophy from a big table of them on the stage, and the whole thing felt like everyone involved in the running of it just couldn’t be arsed. Maybe they couldn’t be arsed, I don’t know. Apparently, it’s the last year that the awards are being run, and perhaps the organisers are burnt out. They did have big Styrofoam letters though. Mainly “b”s, but I did see a few “p”s, and even a “q” or two.
This had been my first excursion North of the Border, and to be honest, I spent most of my time panicking slightly, in case I said the wrong thing to the wrong person, and ended up coming home without kneecaps. Apparently, saying Ulster is ok, but Ulsterman might be offensive to one group or the other. I’m told that giving someone the nickname Jaffa Cakes is right out, even if they have ginger hair. I’m not sure, but I gather the Unionist community still believes them to be biscuits. A sensitive issue indeed.
So, what lessons were learned? Firstly, one should never give a sandwich to a guide dog. This is seen as poor form, akin to going up to one of those guards outside Buckingham Palace who aren’t allowed move, and tickling his balls. Second, The Arrogant Frog is a great name for a wine, and is tasty to boot. Third, it’s ok to call a clothes shop in Belfast Republic but Free State is probably a no-no,. Fourth, one should never make fun of someone because of their looks, unless they’re really annoying too; then it’s all good. And finally, calling someone a cunt for no reason on the internet is both big AND clever, and is a sure fire way of increasing your blog readership. Billy Zane is a cunt.
Monday, February 28, 2011
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
It's not that I'm embarrassed by my mother's dancing; it's her daughter's wedding, and she's enjoying herself, getting into the party mood. But there's something a little unsettling about seeing your dear old mum bopping away to House of Pain's Jump Around, and Blister in the Sun, a song by The Violent Femmes purported to be about masturbation. Maybe you disagree; maybe you've one of those trendy mothers, who helped design your obscene nun tattoo, and gave you your first heroin cigarette when you were sixteen. That's not my mum. My mum bakes apple tarts, and secretly regrets that none of her children, now all over thirty, still need her help to tie their laces. There she is though, giving it socks. Shine on you crazy diamond. And don't pay too much attention to the lyrics. That's not a conversation I want over breakfast tomorrow...
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Four thirty am. The airport is eerily quiet, most of its shops still closed. The stillness is enhanced by the sheer size of the place; it's all open and wide-screen and airy, like a stadium, or a cathedral. A cathedral to what though? Travel? Shopping? Modernity? It's hard to say.
Sleep would have been nice. Somewhere, from one of the few open shops perhaps, hip hop music is playing. It feels like I'm being kept awake by an unruly neighbor's house party. It feels like insomnia times ten.Achingly numb.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Hotel rooms are odd spaces. For one thing, they always seem to be poorly lit. Oh, there will be several lights in the room, but they’ll all be quite weak. They also all operate on different switches, all located at different points around the room, so it’s usually impossible to turn all the lights on or off without doing a lap of the room. It’s unclear to me why this is. It does mean that one has the option to light only one or two small areas of the room, leaving the rest of the room in darkness. I’m not sure why I’d want to have the area by the door of my room lit while the rest of the room remains unlit, but I have a few more days here to think about it.
The furniture in most hotel rooms (or most hotel rooms that I can afford to stay in. While I am a Visiting Researcher, I am not yet a Jet-Setting Billionaire Playboy, and so my hotels of choice tend to be what I think is commonly called “budget”) is generally quite distinctive; obviously not expensive, but also not dirt cheap, and always sturdy, and strong, and plain, to avoid, I suppose, as much breakage or damage as possible, and so the need to spend money on replacing it. This plain furniture style, along with the muted colour schemes of browns and creams, and perhaps the odd burgundy, on the walls and carpets and bed spreads, lends the typical hotel room a clean, sparse, aesthetic which, to some seems aseptic, to me has a simple elegance about it. I reckon if the ancient Spartans were alive today, they’d live in rooms like these.
The cleaning staff in hotels always unsettle me slightly. Despite my high social standing as a roaming academic, I am, and so far always have been, without the financial means to employ even a small domestic staff. But even this mild class discomfort aside, the way that they clean my room while I am out makes me feel somewhat... perturbed. It always seems that the cleaning staff tidy not just for the sake of tidying, but also to make it obvious to the guest on their return that the room has been tidied. So, books that had been stacked neatly on the dressing table, are now stacked on the other side of the dressing table. Little things. The kind of things you might not consciously notice, but which your unconscious picks up on, making it feel like you’re the protagonist in a horror movie, and the crazed stalker has been in your house while you were out, and you’re only now realising that he still might be here! Maybe in your bathroom! Of course, if this were a horror movie house, then the soap dispenser probably wouldn’t be nailed to the wall to prevent me stealing the soap (no doubt made from rose petals crushed between a young virgin maiden’s thighs, and so insanely expensive, and in need of protection from rampaging Spartans, lured in by the aesthetic of the room), so I’m probably safe from stalkers. Probably...
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
There is a wonderful phrase in this year’s Doctor Who special discussing the meaning of Christmas (but avoiding any silly religious mumbo-jumbo, this being a secular sci-fi show produced by the godless, liberal heathens at the BBC), which describes the mid-winter period as being a time to celebrate our having made it half way through the darkness of winter, and beginning our slow but steady progress back towards the light and warmth of summer. This time is, for me at least, one of the best of the year; a time to look, janus-like, both back and forward over the previous and coming twelve months, mourning losses and celebrating joys, and rueing mistakes and vowing to learn from them, and thinking of ways to improve and enhance and refine one’s life and mind and body and soul.