life on mars…?

As i sit before my wife’s parents PC (‘evening all… mind how you go…’ – no, not that kind of PC… though one would be forgiven for thinking so, as the yUK is gripped firmly at the neck by security insecurity at the moment)and begin to do the one finger dance on the keyboard that others more skilled than I call typing, I realise that it has been eleven days since I last wrote something on my blog… frankly disgraceful, and I aplologise to all my regular readers unreservedly for depriving both of you of my deprecating blatherings for so long… however, I’m sure that my protracted absence from cyberspace has, in reality, somewhat enriched your lives. I did write a couple of paragraphs en route to the yUK, one in Phnom Penh airport and one in Suvanaboombangabang airport in Bangkok (name changed to protect the innocent (or stupid people who do not actually know how to write/pronounce it – stand up the author)), but they were miserable rantings about how much I hate hanging around in airports, and how much I hate people like me who pull Macbooks from their backpacks and start to write about how much they hate hanging around in airports.I am becoming, or have become,without any doubt, a grumpy old man, which horrifies and amuses me in equal measure.
Anyway, a quick update – I am back in the moist and tepid yUK, reunited with my lovely wife (even more beautiful and kind than I remember) and son (bigger, cheekier and also very regularly visited by the wonderfuls and the beautifuls), am very happy about that, and will write some more about what we have been up to (including a brief visit to Barcelona for our Ani-versary, really exciting – even more so as we stayed in the very hotel room which the fabulous Beatles whom we all know and love etc etc had stayed in during a visit to the city in the 60’s – yay!!)in the near future. I feel quite dislocated from the yUK now, more like an external observer from another world than a genuine living and breathing yUK citizen (with all the perks that brings with it), compounded by watching/catching up with the truly wonderful Beeb series ‘life on mars’, whose protagonist, DC Simms, is suffering from a similar sense of dislocation to that I feel, albeit in a temporal mode…
It’s with a sense of relief that I realise that British television can still pull off these exciting and thought provoking dramas from time to time which helps allay the general media led malaise that can seem to grip the country to the dismay of the outside world (me). I gaze horrified at the blank television stares of the many nonentities that populate the small screen and proliferate on the glossy covers of the magazines and garish tabloids in the newsagents and muse ‘where did it all go wrong?’.
Is Chris Moyles really the epitome of the modern British male? Jade Goody really the girl next door?
God, Allah, Jehovah, Shiva, Buddah and Gaia help us…

‘look at those cavemen go, it’s the freakiest show…

…is there life on Mars?’

‘you’re nicked, sunshine’

Do you know the way to San Jose?

Countdown to happiness continues… three days away from the yUK and my two babies… way-hey!!

Last night was quiz night in the pub around the corner, ‘Talking to a Stranger’. It does it more than a slight disservice to call it a pub; it’s really more like a very spacious open plan house/garden with a very well-stocked bar in the corner. Derek and Wendy, the hosts, are a gregarious Australian couple who behave as if all their customers were friends who’ve just popped round for a drink and a chat, which, once you’ve been there a couple of times, you really feel to be the case. It’s almost tempting to ask if you can just sleep on the couch as the night wears on and the beer takes hold…

Mr R and I arrived in plenty of time, and then proceeded to spend a great deal of the time we had saved in discussion over the team name. As we were two, he was quite happy with my cringe-inducing suggestion that we go under the moniker of ‘Duo know the way to San José’. The quizmaster was not so enamoured, and promptly shortened it to ‘Duo’. The first of the evenings many mind games had commenced…

I get annoyed with myself for taking these pub quizzes too seriously, but there must be something (more prevalent in the male psyche, judging by the gender balance of teams) which lends a certain type of person to be drawn to participate in these peculiar rituals. I have christened it the ‘know-all syndrome’. I suffer from this badly. Just ask my wife. I can be insufferable in the amount of meaningless trivia I can ingest and spew forth at will, whilst conversely being completely unable to remember the more important things in life or retrieve them from their resting place in my grey matter.

What is the purpose of a pub quiz? Is it a harmless bit of fun? A night out with your mates, a few beers and a good laugh? No, no, no… a pub quiz gives the opportunity for a group of ‘know-alls’ to get together and prove their ultimate superiority over those who choose not to ‘know-all’, or rather to know that which is actually important in life. This is of course tempered by the ‘oh really – I thought (insert answer here) was the answer?’ response to the questions that one gets wrong. That’s wrong. You know, as in not right. Yes, it’s the ‘Denial of know nothingness’ syndrome, which of course the majority of ‘know-alls’ will also strongly deny that they suffer from. So really, the pub quiz is (for those who take it seriously) either a nerve shredding deconstruction of your psyche (if you are getting answers wrong) or a smugly self satisfying demonstration of your neural superiority over the other mere mortals privileged to share the air that you breathe (if you’re winning).

A good friend of mine was inclined to dismiss blogging as mostly cod philosophical musings, and in the case of this blog I say ‘hands up, Michael, you’re right.’ Who cares what I think about pub quizzes, and why should I seek to analyse, abstract or demean the enjoyment that many get from participating in them, myself included? Why indeed. So, the subject is closed.

By the way, we came second.

…and we were robbed.

…and did you know that there are 1,792 steps leading to the top of the Eiffel Tower?

I do now, and I will store that information until I need to use it again…

‘…for what it’s worth’

Not too long to go now before I return to the yUK and can be reunited with my wonderful wife and baby. Counting tonight it’s five sleeps before touching down in the waterlogged land of the smoke free and the home of the terrorist attack…

We talked by videophone tonight, and Oti was doing his best James Bond villain impersonation, trying to ensure that the secret programme that would ensure world domination for his organization BABIGRO (Bad-Ass Babies International Group Run by Otis) was going to be downloaded by hammering the keyboard and pulling any cable that came within his grasp. He’s getting so grown up now, and I just know (and really look forward to) how much of a handful he’s going to be. He’s inquisitive, searching, intelligent and just so, so wonderful, and I’m allowed to gush, ‘cos I’m his dad. So there

From a distance, Britain seems to get more like a bad movie every day. Maybe we will end up in a Kevin Costner movie, some crazy cross between The Postman and Waterworld (and we know how successful they were, don’t we folks…). One thing is for sure; it won’t be Field of Dreams. I have to confess to being a sucker for those kind of aw-gee-shucks small-town America movies, where the decent folks go through their trials and tribulations and then come out with dignity intact and a little bit more respect in their community. You know what I mean, don’t you, that kind of Bradbury-ish evocation of long hot summers, crisp frosty winters and white picket fences that permeate It’s a Wonderful Life, Meet Me in St Louis, The Best Years of Our Lives, A Summer Place, Edward Scissorhands, Blue Velvet… you do know what I mean, don’t you…?

I’d like to meet David Lynch. The world needs more seething geniuses like him and Tim Burton to be making movies. Terry Gilliam is another. They don’t really know what they do, they are just driven to do it and get on with it and more often than not get it absolutely right. When they were children they probably stayed up all night watching The Outer Limits, as I am doing at the moment (albeit en Francais – as I said before, ‘pretentious? Moi?’). The direction, scripts, acting, production values are just so damned good, the special effects for the most part astonishing, it’s like a masterclass in television chiller thrillers. And it really is still very, very creepy…

The other thing I am really pleased about is that I bought (for a dollar, I’m such a cheapskate) a fantastic DVD made by Jonathan Demme called Heart of Gold. It’s a documentary about the premiere of Neil Young’s Prairie Wind album (do we still call them albums? I’m sorry I’m not up on the current parlance in the recorded music field) and it reveals the gurny old curmudgeon in a completely new light (to me). He is witty, charming, likeable, frank, emotional and in extremely fine voice all the way through, and aided by his grizzly old band members, some of whom, like Ben Keith, go all the way back to the Stray Gators of the Harvest era, the sound they produce is like milk and honey and warm fires, liquid warmth for the soul. Emmylou Harris is there also, and the amazing Spooner Oldham. They all just exude good vibes, there is no other way to put it, and it’s like all the hippy ‘peace and love, man’ stuff was actually all worth it. I’m sure it will be out for hire in the yUK, so slip on that ole bandana and get down to Blockbuster or Hellraiser or whatever those DVD stores are called and have an evening in front of the box with uncle Neil. Just so’s you don’t get into too much of a mellow vibe, I’d also recommend waiting until a few minutes after the credits have rolled (especially as they roll over a great acoustic version of The Old Laughing Lady) and then get on the internet and go here…

…and enjoy!!

‘Tonight’s blog was a public service announcement from your Khmer correspondent, BBC World Service.’
(sound of coins falling into metal cup)
‘Thank You. Goodnight.”

Listening to – the rhythm of the falling rain

Watching – the skies

Missing – my babies