Friday, 30 January 2009

Where's Me Bones?

While contemplating on the connection between winter and the phlegmathic humour, I suggested that this season is great for walks on rimy church yards. If this makes people think I'm a morbid goth with a death wish, that be as it may. But a cemetary can actually be quite athmospheric, not least at wintertime.

The other day I had decided to visit my local cemetary, but when I finally got there, it had already got dark, and the moon was shining behind torn clouds. Some might find the idea of walking ain dark church yards somewhat offputting, and if it had been around midnight, I would probably have had some second thoughts about it too. But since it was only 5 p.m., I concluded that aborting the plan just because of some superstition would just be silly.

Besides, it wasn't really that scary. On the contrary, it was rather atmospheric. The flickering lanterns on the graves looked friendly and reassuring in the wintry darkness. Having said that, however, I must admit that if I'd seen a group of ragged creatures coming towards me, I would probably have legged it. This didn't become an issue, though. Besides, since I was wearing my long, black, hooded coat, it's hard to say who would scare who. Next time I'll even bring my scythe.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Torshov Holding A Salon

My season card to the National Theatre also comprises all productions at the local Torshov theatre - which is almost worth the money on its own! I've had some of my best theatrical experiences from this stage. The intimate setting seems to inspire interesting scenographical solutions and author/audience interaction. This is a theatre where you sit down on the first row at your own peril!

This autumn I attended two productions at Torhovteateret: Hamsun's Hunger and Strindberg's A Dream Play. The former staging turned a novel that I've never really cared that much about into a fascinating session. The latter, admittedly, never really caught my interest. This, however, might have had something to do with the unfocused guy sitting next to me. After a while his sighs, wandering eyes and restless movements caught more of my attention than the play did. FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, TRY TO SIT STILL IN YOUR CHAIR, WILL YA!!!

Anyway, last Saturday I went to yet another Torshov staging: Salong. It's a slightly parodical re-/deconstruction of those private concerts allegedly taking place in bourgeois homes. I sort of liked the concept. We, the audience also acted as "guests", receiving a hearty welcome by the actors/"hosts", who were also offering us drinks and delicious finger food throughout the "concert". One of the actors even sat down next to me, illuding a chit-chat. Much nicer company than my annoying neighbour at A Dream Play, I might add...

The play itself basically consisted of small observations of how such a "salon" might come about. To be honest, I'm not absolutely sure how successful this worked as a play as such. I guess the characters were supposed to reveal different sides of their personality during the night, but I don't really think we got to know them that well. One important exception, though, was definitely the role of the cultured, dominating and superficial hostess. She and the other actors made this an interesting and entertaining insight into the discrete charm of the bourgeoisie.

Salong: The hostess and the waitress

Saturday, 24 January 2009

The Discomfort of Unsettled Issues

Last month various loose threads in my life were generating a series of worries. My job contract was about to expire, so I didn't quite know if I would still have a job waiting for me after New Year's. At the time I was also experiencing some worrying visual anomalies evoking my latent hypochondria: Have I got a brain tumour? I bet it's glaucoma! Oh no, I'm gonna go blind!

The worst thing, however, was the fact that my new neighbours had got into the annoying habit of engaging in long conversations on the other side of the wall. At daytime this might not have been such a big deal, but of some reason they tended to start their discussions around midnight. At the very moment my sleepy head hit the pillow, they would start their mumbling, making all my sleeping techniques futile. You end up lying on pins and needles even when you don't hear anything. It's a bit like Chinese water torture, really...

Unsettled problems like these may seem inessential by themselves, but put together they might embitter your existence quite a lot. In my case they seemed to be gnawing in the back of my mind during great parts of December...

Fortunately these worries now seem to be over and done with, though. A few days before Christmas I was finally informed that I've got a new job contract for at least three more months (so, now I don't need to worry again until March...). And my visual anomalies got their explanation when I saw my doctor, was sent to the hospital, operated, and now seem to have fully recovered again.

When my noisy neighbours are are concerned, I finally took heart some weeks ago and politely urged them to lower their voices, at least after midnight. Although I still don't fully trust them and still feel a bit over-sensitive at bedtime, I now fall peacefully asleep most of the time. So now I'm entering the New Year safe in the knowledge that I'll expect less unsettled worries than I did right before the turn of the year.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Party After All

On Friday I had my birthday, which calls for a celebration, of course. Last year, when I even passed a certain milestone, I beat the big drum and invited some good friends for a birthday party at my place. It was really nice. Usually, however, I'm rather slow at taking such initiatives, and this year I hadn't got around to planning any party at all. I was starting to envisage a quiet celebration in my own company.

But then it turned out that my birthday coincided with my colleagues' monthly salary dinner, giving me a chance to celebrate the day in the company of nice people after all. :-) And what's more: The next day my friend Marcia invited me to a Brazilian night on the town with some friends - which also happened to be a birthday party. True, not for me - another friend also had her birthday - but still! Meeting friendly people is always nice. Especially on one's birthday.

Lately, however, I've acknowledged the fact that parties where all the others are couples, may not always be that favourable for me. Especially not when the female half consists of Latin beauties...

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

On the Twentieth Day of Christmas...

At my latitudes, 13 January - or the Twentieth Day of Christmas - is traditionally known as the rounding off of the festive season. And although I'm a sucker for Christmas, I guess the best thing is going out on a high note. There's nothing sadder than a naked Christmas tree.

I've kept my tree until now, though. I'm no materialist, but I do occasionally get sort of sentimentally attached to certain belongings. As a child I would often take my brand new Christmas gifts with me and put them neatly next to my bed. Good night, sweet pressies of mine... In a similar manner I've become quite attached to my Christmas tree this year. It's such a nice tree. But I guess it's about time to say goodbye now. Exit Xmas.

This year, mind you, I feel that the Twentieth Day of Christmas concludes my celebration also on another level. The Christmas rush took an unexpected turn when I was hospitalized for an eye operation right before the holiday. Consequently, a considerable part of my festive season was dominated by sore eyes, pirate patches and follow-up examinations. Today, however, I paid my last visit to the hospital, as the doctor declared the conclusion of my treatment. Finally I can remove my annoying bracelet, warning about explosive gas bubbles in me eye. It actually feels quite appropriate putting all my Christmiseries behind me on this particular date.

Monday, 12 January 2009

24 Hour Party People

The telly recently broadcast the movie 24 Hour Party People, Tony Wilson's not entirely thruthful account of his life as a director of Factory Records, and of Manchester's musical life in general in the 70s and 80s, from postpunk to madchester. This might very well be my ultimate favourite "rock film", not necessarily because it's the best one, but primarily because it reflects an era, a zeitgeist and not least a kind of music that makes me feel at home. Although bands like Joy Division and Happy Mondays (which sort of constitute the start- and endpoints, respectively, of Wilson's epic) never really belonged to my top musical favourites, they still appear as obvious representatives of the music I've grown up with and that I consider "mine".

Consequently, it's hard not to smile when musicians and bands one knows well from one's youth (Ian Curtis, Shaun Ryder, New Order) appear as important characters throughout the movie. The sensation of recognition, the feeling of "knowing these people from real life" (although I never experienced Manchester in the 80s myself) makes one identify with the milieu that's being described in the movie. The mix of facts, myths and urban legends also contributes to making 24 Hour Party People an enjoyable experience for someone who "was there" - at least through his record player.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

People Who Need People

The last few days I've been a bit out of sorts. Small trifles and the general state of things have affected my mood to a disproportionate extent. The truth is I've felt a bit depressed, without really knowing why. Yesterday on the underground, however, I bumped into an old fellow student, and afterwards I was instantly in much higher spirits. Suddenly I realized that I'd hardly spoken to anyone for several days, and that my despondency was simply caused by a lack of social stimuli! Returning to work next week will be quite nice, actually.

For a long time I've wanted to visit my old workplace, but that's difficult when you work all day yourself. Although I've got mixed feeling about the place, it was not because of my colleagues or students that I eventually decided to find something else to do. On the contrary, it was these great people who made me endure Kafka-land for so long!

Well, being free as the breeze this week, today I finally paid a visit to my old colleagues. During the lunch break I was even persuaded to have a coffee with them in the staff room. To get there, however, you have to pass through a long, narrow corridor where the administration people have their offices, and among these there are certain individuals I did not have any wish to meet that day. When I somewhat reluctantly entered the corridor, the worst-case scenario became a reality: At that very moment the headmistress and the vice head both came out from their respective side doors in perfect synchrony. (I instantly had an association to a double guillotine.) However, after having run this gauntlet (or as my escort so pithily put it: walked through Purgatory...), I could finally have an enjoyable chat in the staff room with some of my nicest ex-colleagues. It was worth it.

I found it even nicer meeting up with my old students, though. Unfortunately, many were absent or had quit, but I did meet some of them, and they seemed to be happy to see their old teacher again. It's nice to feel that you've been missed, and I think they understood that I have missed them too. Life soon gets dull without social contacts, but it's gilded by all the lovely people you meet.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

End of Holiday - Or Maybe Not?

Today was the first school day, and although we've had a very long Christmas holiday this year, I must still admit that I'm experiencing a hint of post-vacational depression. It's always a bit of an anticlimax when the fun is over.

Besides, I've formally been on sick leave since the beginning of the holiday. I guess some would find it a bit annoying "wasting" your sick note like that, but maybe it was actually a blessing in disguise. Like most devoted teachers I always get a bad conscience when I have to "let down" my students. Next week I'll have another check-up at the Ward of Ophthalmology, which hopefully will be the last one (although the female doctor is sort of cute... I guess you could say I have only EYES for her... ha-ha!)

And since I got a three-week sick note, I can actually take it rather easy during this first working week as well. In a way the holiday is prolonged with another week. So the next days I've decided just to relax. Maybe chill at a café, or find some interesting books at the library. Today, however, the weather was so cold that after a brief, shivering stroll downtown I soon abandoned these plans. Hopefully, I'll be able to exploit my sick note more during the remainder of the week.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

It Was 30 Years Ago Today...

Welcome to My Favourite Year. This is Garry Mulholland's introduction to the year 1979 in his chronological presentation of The 500 Greatest Singles Since Punk And Disco. True, at the time my musical awareness wasn't adequate to acknowledge the significance of this year. But reading Mulholland's list of 1979 songs today makes anyone instantly realize what a unique year this was, featuring several artists I still consider benchmarks for a whole musical generation (The Cure, XTC, The Clash, Madness, The Specials, etc.).

But 1979 gives me good vibrations on a more autobiographical level as well. This was the year I started to draw cartoons featuring the legendary character Rasmus. And it was also the year during which I and my mate Lars made our very first 8 mm feature films under the moniker Teko Film. Although the Rasmus and Teko era only lasted for a few years, both stand as some of the more important "sins of my youth".

By the way, today's date, 3 January, marks the 30-year anniversary of Teko Film's first production, so HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TEKO! When I figure out how to do it, I might try to publish our masterpieces on YouTube. But meanwhile you better content yourselves with some still frames. (Believe me, you're not missing out on much...)

"Welcome to My Favourite Year..." In 30 years, let's hope we can say the same about 2009! :-)