What I Learned This Morning

Shortly, I’d like to mention that I’m on a bit of a sabbatical since Sunday. I won’t go much further into it, but will instead go off on a bit off a tangent about things I have learned between 7am and the very moment I type this (so the fact that I recently discovered that the 170 bus goes all the way to Roehampton won’t play any part, unfortunately).

Firstly, that Erdogan is hilariously backward, but we knew that already. That ridiculous things happen even at places like Oxford (this abortion debate business); and that once again ones (conservative-)liberal values are forced to somehow clash with the rest of ones values because everyone’s a monger nowadays (even, thankfully, the Spectator) – but that I truly thought a little higher of society and its tastes. That there are a bunch of fun things one can do to make ones house smell Christmassy – even in November, when nothing’s supposed to smell Christmassy. That even if I’m a terrible grump denouncing this far-too-early Christmas spirit, here’s a nice little compilation of Christmas markets and fairs (sorry, not sorry) happening around here. And, that even if there are lots of wonderful fairs in London, let’s not forget that it appears to be a horrible world out there (an unarmed teenager! 3 blacks and 9 whites! It reads like they’re asking for riots, surely – whatever the details of the case; which I’m embarrassed to say I’m not far too familiar with). Being a pacifist myself, I still cannot fathom how there’s a shock whenever a riot breaks out over something like this. I didn’t know the godawful Bono/Geldof-promoted/ing Do They Know It’s Christmas? is about to get an even more godawful remix by David Guetta (let me reach for the nearest bag, bin, or bucket) and I didn’t know that William Whitaker’s partner is Swedish. I didn’t know that 110 people control 35% of Russia’s wealth (It’s in the Economist; but can that even be correct?!) and that I’ve still got the vague remains of an artistic talent left in me.

My Questions of the Day

  1. Has anyone actually leased Poveglia (Europe/the World’s scariest island)? Yes. Early last summer, Poveglia – the beautiful Venetian isle turned plague quarantine – turned insane asylum – turned abandoned food for horror movies – was to be auctioned off on a 99 year lease by the Italian government, in hope that some real estate tycoon would swoop it up and turn it into a resort. I never heard much of a follow-up on the matter; and now I read that Poveglia was auctioned off for 513,000 pounds. The isle stands less than 20 acres; and the buyer, Luigi Brugnaro, would be expected to pay 16.25 million pounds to restore the old asylum buildings. Also, rumor has it that the soil is 50% human ashes, and that fishermen avoid the island because there is a high likelihood of netting human bones. Being the home of plague pits and lobotomies, and the death of 150,000 people, it does sound like a little piece of heaven; but surely superstition shouldn’t get in the way of such things. It’s only a little creepy, but also ridiculously attractive – and a real bargain, as a matter of fact.
  2. Is there really an Egon SchielVENEZIA 10/10/06 FOTO AEREA ISOLA DI POVEGLIA   © GRAZIANO ARICIe exhibit underway? Yes. Although I am a bit of a traditionalist, I can’t deny that I am swept away by Egon Schiele, who was, after all, born in 1890 (and succumbed to the Spanish influenza, together with his pregnant wife, at the young age of 28). Schiele’s exhibition is taking place at Richard Nagy and there is no entrance fee – so no excuse not to go, either. It covers sketches that deviate from his normal depictions of human form, and stands until the 5th of December. Chop chop. Other than that, I might point out that there is Moroni at the Royal Academy of Arts, Rembrandt (as we’ve briefly discussed before) at the National Gallery, and Turner at the Tate. You know what to do.
  3. What have you learned this autumn? That finding a nice flat in London wounds the soul, but isn’t impossible. That eating too much takeaway is bad for you (but oh so delicious). That I really need an iphone (sorry, Samsung). That dressing gowns are crucial to ones existence and that one cannot get up in the morning, unlekauernderss immediately stepping into a dressing gown. That a dressing gown also works as a parka. That as a journalist, one must rather defy court and be jailed/pay a fine than disclose a source. That the gym is a nice place. That old friends are gold. That curry is gold. That ebay is gold (but we already knew that). That referendums are a waste of time (but that doesn’t stop politicians from throwing them all over the place).

Three Articles

Briefly, I’d like to applaud the BBC for its sensible journalism in an era when you have to dig like a starving dingo for quality news/writing, while being spoon-fed drivel from dusk till dawn. As it’s a widely understood concept, I won’t go anywhere near a tangent of abuse over the appalling lack of self-education out there, but will instead highlight my personal favourites of the day.

  1. Cameron’s newest stunt about ‘benefit tourism’; being one of these horribly naughty (potentially job-stealing) EU immigrants myself, I find the recent EU farce to have gotten completely out of hand (mainly as a result of atrocious journalism). Curious as I am about society’s absurdities, I couldn’t keep myself from reading some of the deeply intellectual remarks that always seem to surface once you invite the more clueless parts of the public to have a say. I know that what I just wrote comes off as smoothly as a goat trail (and incredibly undemocratic), but if a society fails to educate itself it’s obviously welcoming disaster with open arms. It seems as if between the freedom ohomeycameron120dpif being a cretin and the freedom of doing minimal research, we’re applauded for our emotional braying and not for basic, civilized, educated correspondence. Anyway. I shall only fleetingly mention that when it comes to ‘job stealing’ and how the blue collar jobs ‘offered to the British workforce’ are ‘below their dignity’, I can tell you that if the UK universities offered free/cheaper education to the UK public, or maybe educated nurses and NHS staff for free (they seem to forget this is a very well-off country) instead of making them pay appalling sums of money to perform a relatively low-paid job, the NHS wouldn’t be looking elsewhere. The public would hardly feel like it’s competing for blue collar jobs. Can we just like, take a moment to think about this. Privatising the universities has basically made a large percentage of the UK public border-unemployable, unless they had money to begin with. As the comments show.
  2. Danny Shaw’s article about sex offenders; with the Ellie de Freitas and Ched Evans cases plastered all over the place, it’s funny how this is finally brought up. And just so painfully obvious. In the first case, we have a young woman with bipolar who mustered the courage to report a man she didn’t have enough evidence against, but who had clearly done her wrong in some way (I say this only because the police believed her story). The case was dropped, the man went unnamed and wasn’t even brought to court – and suddenly there’s a huge fuss, lots of money thrown at the whole thing, and a young woman takes her own life. In the second case, we’ve got a convicted rapist who is suddenly invited back to be a public figure, still denying his guilt. And then we ask ourselves why rape and sexual assault is so seldom reported – well, you sure don’t get this sort of contradictory hullaballoo over alleged robberies, I can tell you that. Shouldn’t we, as a society, have a little more sense and a little less prejudice? The year is 2014. Ordinary people don’t sing rape from the rooftops, they just want a fair chance in the justice system. Why would a jury even be used for the Max Clifford case? Anybody willing to illuminate me?
  3. The fined banks; I’m terribly ignorant on this subject, but I feel like we all knew this was sort of happening. But – quite the interesting subject to acquaint myself with. My only question (scroll down to the chat room interaction part): how clever do we actually think these blokes are? I was simply waiting for the ‘well played’. Mate.

I Forgot Where I Was

Ben-Howard-I-forget-Where-We-WereThe summer of 2013 was, in search of better words, possibly the best summer ever. 2014 came close, but there was a kind of recycled effect to it; and of course, there is the fact that in ’13 I got to spend a good four months in Cycladic recovery. I cannot immediately think of anything better than basking away a fourth of my whole year, basically forgetting what the urbanized world looks like; waking up to the glittering Aegean, hiking through obstinate shrubbery, eating local fruit and refusing to join my parents for ‘just a fast morning swim’. Dirt roads, salt hair, clear water. Falcons gliding through the afternoon skies, crickets chirping, sheep’s bells chiming from the distant mountainsides. Fig picking, beach fires, jeeps, and far too many wine bottles. My best friend Natalie took the ferry out from Athens; I hadn’t seen her in person since the end of seventh grade, when she moved away (and I cried rivers).

Of course, summers that stand so very still and mythical in the memory need an above-average soundtrack. Coincidentally, I had bought my mother Ben Howard’s debut album, Every Kingdom (released in 2011), among a small stack of suitable CDs a previous Christmas. Given Antiparos is a pretty rural place (no big hotels, no taxis, two baby-faced youths in police regalia), things get pretty primitive; CDs are heavily relied on in the rattling car, contemporary technological advance is shamed by the endurance of my mother’s enormous, outdated portable stereo, and nobody ends up caring where the noise is coming from, as long as it’s there. And so, by a stroke of luck, Ben Howard sung our lives for a good four months, shaped it with his camp-fire-beach-sand lyrics, plinking away into the Greek summer nights.

It so happens that the 20th of October, his second album was released; I Forget Where We Were. It also happens that in my excitement, I had unknowingly listened plenty to the title track’s live version, released on youtube a while before the actual release date. I’d also listened to End of the Affair, a harrowingly beautiful affair that had little in common which my Mediterranean summer vibes.

At least I know what I’m getting my mum for Christmas. Don’t get me wrong; I love everything the man makes, this including the EPs, the covers, and probably anything else that could ever spring from his wondrous vocal chords. But I Forget Where We Were is no summer album. It’s an autumn album, and as much as I love it, I can’t smell the sea or dream my way back to Antiparos on a whim. Instead it reminds me of 7 Bottles and London, tracks that contain a form of displaced pain, something I am thankfully not currently feeling (having done my own share of moving to the concrete jungle). There’s a lot of beauty in it, oceans of skill, and even an electric guitar; but Every Kingdom, 2013, was my summer. I swoon just to think of it. I swoon just listening to the album. It’s obviously not Ben’s fault.

A Very Cyprus Problem

CY coastline; picture obtained from http://melissahekkers.com/protecting-shores-right/Before heading off to bed, I thought it necessary to post a little something about the Cyprus coastline. In short, Melissa Hekkers has written this fine article, discussing the looming dangers of what the Cypriot government’s got in store for the island’s shores. It’s all rather unfunny. Having spent my teenage years living in Cyprus, and experienced first-hand the monstrosities erected in the name of ‘real estate’ (so terribly tasteless), I’ve signed this petition; hoping this will all remain a greedy wet dream of the Ministry of Interior. There’s also a facebook page about it here.