Category Archives: Culture

When we held hands

There we were, behind a makeshift curtain on the stage at one of the sixth form colleges in Halmstad, staring down at a bucket filled with compost. And then we walked out in front of the audience, hand in hand, and I certified that I had in fact seen a naked, Spanish man at the back. That’s all Björn Granath needed me for.

I must have looked the type who just adores being the one to ‘volunteer’ to come up on stage. I wasn’t, but realised I had to, since my friends on either side didn’t really fit the bill for looking at naked men.

It was the mid-1970s and we’d come to see Dario Fo’s Dom har dödat en gitarr men folket har tusen åter,* brought to us by Teater Narren. There were two of them, but I can only recall the one who held my hand, and whenever Björn has popped up on screens since that night, I remember the bucket. And how much of an idiot I felt like.

(I have to point out here that bucket of compost in Swedish ‘could’ sound just like naked Spanish man. So I didn’t lie.)

Björn’s character had to persuade the other character that there was this person in a state of undress at the back. Sounds like typical Dario Fo, if you ask me. And I suppose he did ask me.

I’ve just learned that Björn died earlier this month. Far too early. He was only ten years older than me. But at least from those early beginnings, he went on to pretty close to the top in Swedish drama. And now that I’m no longer standing in front of my grinning companions, I suppose I quite liked my couple of minutes up there.

*’Han matado una guitarra’ in honour of the then recently murdered Víctor Jara.

Happy 8th, dear Culture!

Yeah, it’s not quite the done thing to wish yourself a happy birthday. Even when yourself is your blog. But CultureWitch is eight today, and I almost forgot, because I’ve been masterminding some windows for a week.

And anything to get my mind off windows right now!

As is customary around here, a Happy Birthday to Mark Harmon as well. He is 65 today and by rights ought to retire, but it seems he’s good for a bit longer. After all, it was only earlier this year that he had the First Lady guest star on NCIS.

Michelle Obama and Mark Harmon

That is worth celebrating. The fact that Michelle Obama is an NCIS fan, along with the rest of us, and not afraid to admit it.

So, Happy cake eating to all!

NCIS 300th cake

(Photos © CBS)

The deathlist

It is hard keeping track of who has died when you’re living in exile. There are two categories of people I’d know about if I hadn’t left the country of my birth; famous people [but not so famous that their deaths are reported internationally] and local people [to me] that any remaining friends I have would know that I’d want to hear about.

The Retired Children’s Librarian has done a sterling job over the years by keeping a deathlist. In between our phone calls, she writes down who has died, and when we have spoken, she rattles off the dead ones. Some I will know about, because they made it into a British newspaper. Others I won’t, and I’m grateful to be told. She also has a fairly good grip on who I’m most likely to be interested in.

Dead local ordinary people is the hardest. Mother-of-witch would tell me the names of those she knew, but of course, there are always names that wouldn’t have meant anything to her. And it is quite hard to find out if someone is still alive, once you’ve tried the phone directory [which tends no longer to be very effective].

My reason for talking about deathlists here is that today I read a Swedish magazine article about someone famous and long dead. There had been a television programme about her, in which ‘the late’ Alice Babs had taken part. That was the first inkling I had that Alice Babs is dead. Not surprising, though. She died two years ago at the age of 90, which is pretty good going. And when I searched, I found that she made it into the New York Times, but that was probably mainly the Duke Ellington effect.

I have blogged about Alice once before. I still maintain that her Swe-Danes album is one of the best ones I own.

Two birthdays

Happy 7th birthday to mee!! I mean, to CultureWitch. I know my readers are whispering in the ranks and saying she’s been even lazier this past year. It just looks like that. Other things have got done, just not so much culture.

Gibbs

And as for the 64-year-old Mark Harmon, we hope he is alive and well as Leroy Jethro Gibbs. I don’t think it should be time for him to leave just yet. In fact, the retirement age has gone up in many countries, and if Mark is to take a leaf out of David McCallum’s book, he can’t leave now. Happy Birthday to Mark as well!

A bit of Lyy on the fringe

Never having heard of Lyy until two weeks ago, I nevertheless decided to take the Resident IT Consultant and go and hear them. Seeing as they are Swedish, and seeing as they were coming to Stirling (after a weirdly coincidental concert at the Nordic church in Liverpool earlier in the week), I felt it’d be wrong not to. Didn’t even properly realise Stirling had a fringe, nor that it’s pretty new.

Lyy

Before them we listened to the Jailhoose Trio, a very newly founded local band. Unless I misheard, this was their first gig. I reckon there will be more, as they were pretty good, with some nice tunes and their singer had a fine voice.

(Even before them, we actually listened to all the technical stuff, which went on a little longer than expected, and we tired of waiting outside Cowane’s Hospital, even though it was a beautiful September evening at the top of town.)

There was a reasonable number of people in the audience. And one dog.

I hadn’t been in for 22 years, since the Resident IT Consultant’s cousin got married there. Somehow it had shrunk, or else my memories of it had made it bigger than it was. Still nice.

So, it was a good place for a Swedish folk group to play. Being old, I’d say folk with some pop, as it was louder and less folksy than what we had in the olden days. Very nice, though.

Lyy

The songs were all about love, in one form or other. And the one about sleeping, standing up. Their guitarist went through strings like there’s no tomorrow. Their singer almost went through the floor, or at least her high heels made more contact with the holey stage floor than she had expected.

The audience loved them, and we got two encores before we were encouraged to buy the CDs. They needed space for whisky on their return journey, or so they said. I bought a CD. There were download codes for £5, but at my age you need a proper disc.

Lyy

Find them on Facebook, and/or go and listen to them if you get the opportunity.

Criminals, and their other work

I can still recall my shock and surprise at the Post Office – where I had once worked – finding the member of staff at the counter was an old colleague of mine. Fresh out of jail, she must have been. I had heard she had been found guilty of helping herself to money from people’s savings accounts. It was all the more ironic to me, as this colleague had been the union representative and she had railed at us younger members of staff for not taking things seriously enough.

But there she was, back with her hands in the till, so to speak. Obviously no one else would want to employ her, and Swedish state employees had pretty secure job rights back then. I’m guessing they couldn’t sack her. You know; court, jail, back to work.

There is a Swedish singer I quite like. I’m not an active fan, but enjoyed his music as a child, and in recent years there are some albums I have and listen to. He was – I believe – jailed for drug crimes in the intermediate period. I don’t read gossip magazines, and living in exile it’s hard to keep up with all the news.

It didn’t worry me, nor did it surprise me. I don’t go around thinking his singing is connected with his private life or whether he is a nice person. The songs are the same, with or without the drugs/jail connection. Equally, I don’t feel my childhood enjoyment of his music has been tainted by the drugs news.

But perhaps you can tell where I’m going with this? Rolf Harris; a man I have admired and whose work I have enjoyed for so long.

When the news first appeared about the accusations of sex crimes, I hoped they were wrong, and worried about what would happen. Now, though, I couldn’t care less about him. Not only have I made the journey from fan to non-fan, but it all seems very plausible and far easier to ‘accept’ than I ever thought it would.

You see films where the other convicts spit in the food served to child abusers. I’m guessing this is what I’m feeling. There are crimes that you can see as merely crimes, and then there are other crimes that are something else entirely. I have to admit that I never worried too much about what to think of Gary Glitter. As a teenager I liked his singing well enough, but that ended and his criminal career has not caused me to dwell on what I think of him.

In both cases there are young people who have been abused. That’s very important to remember. But then there are the fans, who possibly never saw their star perform live, or at least never spoke to them.

We have a past, that now has changed. We liked someone we would never have liked, had we known. When the news first appeared, I didn’t know how I would feel about my Rolf Harris CDs.

I do now.

They will have to go, just like all everything else this man created in his life, and which people all over the world are ditching. Either because they want no connection with him, or because you can’t continue enjoying what you once liked.

So many children – and adults – have had their memories tainted. I have decided to let my earlier blog posts remain for the time being. I somehow feel I don’t want to be forced to erase my own past, even though my feelings and opinions have changed. And now I understand why Rolf Harris looked so stiff and was in such a foul mood at the last concert at the Lowry. I was just too polite, and too much of a fan, to draw attention to it.

I shouldn’t have been.

My big fear is finding out who will be next. I very much doubt this is all there is. We will find more heroes with feet of clay. The question is who.

When.

Chez Braveheart

I’m wondering whether I need to watch Braveheart again. There was this programme on the radio a few days ago. It was about Bannockburn. Again. We are being inundated with Bannockburny items here in Scotland. The big 700th celebrations start today. (Some of us are doing more important things, like getting the keys to the new house and all that. Although we are not as crazy as the person we are buying from, who is actually moving out, and in, on this weird day when nothing in Stirling will be normal.)

Anyway, people were reminiscing about the film premiere and meeting Mel Gibson, that kind of thing. I saw the film when it was new, but can’t remember when that was. Recall thinking it was a crap film. But these people said kind things about it, so I’m wondering if I could actually be wrong? Unlikely, but you never know.

The Wallace Monument has been – genuinely – called the Braveheart Monument. And I was reliably informed by the Grandmother yesterday that until recently there used to be a statue of Mel Gibson at the foot of it. How crazy can you get?

On the other hand, one should be pleased people have heard of something, even if it is the film, and not the real battle. Of Bannockburn. 700 years ago. Mel Gibson is looking good for his age.

Do I really want to watch the film again?