Category Archives: Culture

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?

Our antique

That is a nice piece!’ said Mrs G. Trust her to home in on the one thing that is different. Not IKEA tat. Not your average junk shop treasure. But something passed down the generations in the Resident IT Consultant’s family.

The Faraday dish. It was part of Michael Faraday’s dinner service. A wedding present, I think. So it’s old. We never use it, and most of the time it sits well away from daily life, just in case.

The Faraday dish

Mrs G knew a lot about ‘things,’ which is why that piece of china leaped out at her when she visited. Not literally, obviously, or it would no longer be with us. She must have just let her eyes wander round the room, and she noticed it.

The Grandparents had two; one larger and one smaller. They were intended for each of their sons, and being able to pick first (not that I am a son, exactly) I picked the larger one. Is larger better? We haven’t seen the smaller one for some time, so I am guessing it finally made its way across the Atlantic.

Whichever family member you visit, you tend to find a piece of the Faraday service. There must have been an awful lot of pieces to begin with, and I can’t help wondering how they were passed down. And how and why.

Have a very Scandi Christmas

I’m impressed. No, really.

I’ve been reading more than my share of house interiors magazines recently. You could say I’m addicted. You’d be correct. I am.

In all honesty I found the Christmas editions tedious. I hate being told how to decorate for Christmas or what to cook, and how and when.

But it seems that a Scandinavian style Christmas is what one should have this year. Or Scandi, as the short form is. And apart from showing such good sense in wanting to be all Scandi, they are getting it right. 98% of the time, anyway.

In the past people have done their best, while leaving me cringing over the mistakes. (And also worrying about all the howlers I’ve made trying to do something that I’ve not known enough about.)

So, it’s pale rooms and simple red and green decorations. None of this ‘the glitzier the better’ which I feel has nothing to do with Christmas. Parties yes. Christmas no.

What amazes me is that you don’t even have to go to IKEA but can buy from more mainstream British shops.

There’s hope for you yet. (I’m not saying Scandi is better. I like it best. But I appreciate it when it’s right.)

Poinsettia and Lucia

Happy Birthdays, Toms!

I am fascinated by the pattern of birthdays. Do I believe there is anything in this idea that being born at a certain time means you share traits with others born around then? Yes, I do. Very unscientific, but better than flying saucers. Which – of course – I also believe in.

So that is why I have to read the birthdays in my paper, and if I’m lucky I’m not reading yesterday’s paper. Couldn’t help noticing the two Toms who each have a significant birthday to celebrate today. (Somehow it would have been less pleasing to my mind if they’d been uneven birthdays or unevenly spaced.)

Although, is Tom Cruise enjoying is 5oth right now? Maybe. Perhaps he is relieved. Or sad. I don’t know. I’m not a fan.

I am a fan of Tom Stoppard’s however, so happy 75th to you! I used to read every play he wrote back in the olden days. Less time for that now, but I wouldn’t mind revisiting some of them, preferably on the stage.

And what could it be that unites you, other than the name Tom? Fame, I suppose.

6th June 2012

That was the wrinkliest shirt I’ve ever seen a policeman wear. Not that I go round checking police shirts, you understand. But once I’d clocked the two police officers listening to the music in Varberg’s Societetspark along with the rest of us, I noticed the shirt which had surely been washed and left to dry all bundled up in the cupboard and then worn with no thought (?) for looks.

Varberg balloons

Varberg seems to do this 6th June celebrating properly. We only joined the feast towards the end, totally unintentionally. It was yours truly’s birthday, which will be why we were heading to GP Cousin’s home for his birthday party, four days early.

After a breakfast of blueberry pancakes made for me by Dodo and Son, we travelled north. We stopped en route for a late salmon lunch at Laxbutiken in Heberg. (Both we and the salmon were late, although not the same kind of late.) Offspring and Dodo decided to leave the 40 kinds of ice cream for some cold refreshments further north.

Blue dream car, Varberg

It was not easy parking in Varberg on this National Day, but we managed. How come the drivers of special vehicles always seem to get good parking spaces without trying? One pleasure of being in Varberg on a sunny summer’s day (and what a surprise that was!) is checking out all the American cars cruising town.

The biker flying a flag to celebrate my day was also appreciated.

Patriotic biker in Varberg

Societetsparken, Varberg

We walked round the castle, decided the ice cream queue was too long, and then sat in the park, enjoying the tail end of the festivities, listening to a girl band. They were good, but we have no name for them.

Girl band, Varberg 6th June

We had some extra fun getting lost in this small town I’ve visited every summer for 56 years. Trying to drive the wrong way in a one way street was part of the fun. But we eventually got to GP Cousin’s party, after testing the Resident IT Consultant’s talent for turning the car round in tight spaces.

Ate even more food and cake and chatted to relatives, including the rarely encountered cousin of cousin. Finished by driving home along the old coast road, seeing as it was still daylight. Great day, just the way a 6th of June should be.

That’s disturbing

Let’s talk about bladders and other disturbing stuff! Are you sitting comfortably? Might be best to visit the toilet now, before we begin.

I was struck by the discussion about Bianca Jagger and whether or not she used flash to take photos at the opera. It doesn’t matter whether she’s famous. It’s neither more or less right for the famous to behave badly. And the way people use phone cameras or other digital cameras it’s often hard to tell if the bright light you see is flash, or simply the camera going about its business.

At the recent Joan Baez concert I went to, it said flash photography was not permitted, which I took to mean that photos without were fine, so I got my camera out. But after a while I felt the light visible when I used it was not acceptable to people sitting opposite me, so I put it away, and only got it out again at the end when absolutely everyone was taking pictures, with flash and everything.

John Barrowman

Daughter has been known to agonise over the legality of taking pictures at concerts. It often says you mustn’t. But people still do. I don’t feel there should be any ‘rights’ to images of someone singing on a stage. (Different for theatre productions.) What I do feel is that people shouldn’t disturb others.

The Guardian’s theatre critic Lyn Gardner reckons ‘people’s bladders have quite clearly got weaker over the last 20 years,’ and I know what she means, but suspect the answer is that they haven’t. What has changed is people’s habit of drinking indiscriminately at all times, regardless of what they are about to do, like go to the theatre. And also that they have got neither the instinct to try and ‘hold it in’ nor the inclination not to keep leaving their seats from – usually – the middle of the row.

If I have to ‘go out’ mid performance I tend to wait for a suitable moment both for leaving and for returning. I was a bit disconcerted at the National Theatre to find that the usher hovered anxiously outside the Ladies until I emerged again, and checked I was all right. Very caring and sensible, but I’m glad I didn’t know until then.

Went to the MEN arena for an S Club concert many years ago. Was startled by how the audience kept popping out for food and drink in the middle of the show. I suppose it’s the sports arena mentality, coupled with the sheer noise level at these events.

The understanding of what disturbs others varies from country to country. During Roger Whittaker’s concert in Cologne I waited for a song to finish before returning to my seat, only to have the usher urging me to just go in. She clearly thought I was stark raving mad for thinking of others.

And speaking of Roger; I once sat next to a woman, who was happily singing along to every single song. Having exchanged pleasantries on arrival, I felt it would be rude to complain, even though she was ruining ‘my’ concert. I thought if I asked her to shut up, I would ruin her evening instead. I gritted my teeth, almost cheered when Roger got to a song she didn’t know, and after the interval I asked the Resident IT Consultant to swap seats with me.

It is not always the audience who has mishaps, either. I recall the tiny St Paul’s chorister who was sick on stage and had to be bundled out by an older ‘boy.’

To get back to the bladders, it all depends on how long you have to sit through something. Films are frequently dreadfully long these days, with the added pain of too many commercials and too many trailers. With no interval necessary as cinema equipment improves, we simply have to pop out mid-film. And seeing as they want us to buy buckets of fizzy drinks, how can they possibly mind the running in and out? Nor is popcorn terribly silent to eat, and not odour free, either.

At least films don’t talk back to the audience when they rustle their sweet wrappers a little too loudly. Perhaps they should.

Los Backstreet Primos

It’s time for this year’s ¡Viva! at Cornerhouse, and what an excellent start I had last night, seeing Primos by Daniel Sánchez Arévalo. It is easily the best film I have seen in Cornerhouse’s Spanish language film festival over the last few years, and as I came out of the cinema I was busy planning how to get hold of a copy for friends and family to enjoy too.


Having seen Daniel’s Gordos last year, I thought I knew what to expect; a fun film. But this was so much more, funny, romantic, and with that little bit extra that made it more memorable than other funny and romantic films.

The plot is simple enough, with Diego having been left in the lurch by Yolanda, and his two cousins (primos) Julián and José Miguel stepping in to prevent him from going crazy. Except they are possibly crazier than Diego ever will be, so their impromptu trip ‘home’ doesn’t turn out as they think.


Although, perhaps they aren’t crazy either. They have been formed by the people around them, and coming back home they meet up with their pasts. There is the drunk, former owner of the video rental shop and his beautiful daughter. There is Diego’s first love Martina, and her young son, who proves wiser in many ways than the three primos. And it’s hardly surprising that Spanish men are so very preoccupied with cojones and the size of them, if they are introduced to this ‘important’ subject so early on.

New and old romances flourish in beautiful settings, and the primos revisit their youthful impersonation of the Backstreet Boys, as well as the local seaside theme park. As I’ve noticed with other non-English language films, there is none of the prudish hang-ups about going topless on the beach, or of being seen perching on the toilet.


And breakfasting isn’t always easy, or ‘desayunar no siempre es fácil,’ as Diego finds.

It’s fluffy and silly, but so very wonderful.