Wednesday, September 28, 2011

It's Special

Not a very productive month for me in terms of blogging. I often wish I could blog more and look fondly back on the period around 1998-2001 when I had much more of an internet presence and used to make people laugh. Over the last decade, paid work has tended to drain all of the energy and creativity out of me. I have done a lot of writing this month, but it's been for work, not the blog.

Here's Nancy Sinatra, singing "Who Will Buy" in a "Special" from 1968, which has kept me amused lately. I don't know why they filmed this in a deserted amusement park.



I love television specials. BBC4 showed a Doris Day one from 1970 recently. She had all of her dogs in it (!), and there was a gratituous sequence with her dressed up in lots of different outfits, which even by the standards of the time were outrageous. Perry Como showed up of course, as did Rock Hudson, wearing a lot of facial hair. Beards all round. This clip has a great background and she has two camp male dancers wearing tight trousers.



We showed the whole thing to my fella's parents on Sunday when they visited. My father-in-law poked fun at it all the way through. My mother-in-law tends to like these sorts of things unironically and got annoyed. Apparently, on the way home, she told him off, claiming that I had been irritated by him.

I've ordered to Nancy Sinatra special for them, so that should take care of the next visit.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Let's hope the next decade is a better one

Around ten years ago, I flew back from Athens with my parents on a late night flight. It wasn't a very nice journey - lots of turbulence, and there were some drunken, loud British men who kept walking up and down the aisles, talking and shouting to each other. I was so glad when we finally got off the plane. My fella, who'd been on holiday with us, had to go to work in Poland, so he'd caught a different flight. I was due to spend the rest of the week pretty much alone until he came back.

The next afternoon, I decided to leave work early and go into town to buy a tv. It was a blazing hot clear day with a gorgeous blue sky, and I remember thinking how nice it was that we were still getting days like this in September. A crowd of people were gathered outside the windows of Dixons. I assumed they were watching the climax of some sporting event that I knew nothing about because I didn't follow sport, but there was something weird about how quiet and still they all were. I took a glance at the televisions in the windows and saw what looked like a disaster movie - the Twin Towers with great yellow plumes of smoke coming from them. It was the yellow that sticks in my head, even now.

My brain didn't process it properly. I walked back to my car, got in it and turned on the radio to hear that there had been a terrorist attack on Manhattan. I remembered how a month earlier I'd been down by the World Trade Centre during a summer holiday. We'd caught a boat over to the Statue of Liberty. Now those familar towers weren't there any more.

I didn't buy a tv. Instead I went home and spent a weird evening, alone, watching tv and phoning my family. My fella phoned from Poland, worried he might be stuck there. He had some choice words to say about the news footage of a particular owl-like woman in Pakistan who was shown whooping with delight.

Two days later I went to Manchester with my parents to receive the laser surgery that I'd been scheduled to have on my left eye. A cute Australian eye doctor gave me valium and kept saying my name over and over as I reclined onto the operating table. He scraped my eye with a knife before switching the laser on. I smelt my own eye burning. It smelt like meat cooking.

As my Dad drove me home in the rain, we stopped to get chips, and the anasethetic wore off. I crushed my mother's hand with mine as an insistent unstoppable pain went through me. I spent the next 24 hours in bed, mostly sleeping, while my mother ironed all my shirts and exclaimed over and over that we had so many, while my Dad sat around bored. We didn't watch much tv.

A couple of days later, while sitting in the bath, I realised how sharply into focus everything had become. I'd needed glasses since the age of 16. Now I could see properly. The world would never look the same again.

Life went on. A couple of days after that, I had my PhD viva. With my eye still recovering from the surgery, the main thing I was worried about was whether or not it would be sensitive to the outside lights, so I asked if I could sit with my back to the window. The viva lasted 2 and a half hours and afterwards I was told I was a doctor.

It was one of the most eventful weeks of my life - I experienced pain, shock, fear, anxiety, elation and relief. At the time, it was difficult to understand the ramifications of that week, both personal and global. And I'm glad weeks like that are rare.

Sunday, September 04, 2011



Ignore that this is an advert for a shopping centre opening in East London next week, and appreciate the century where clothing, hair, dance and music styles went far too quickly. Unless you're very young, this video can't help to inspire a flashback to your own youth. For me the part from 1.15 to 1.20 was when I was hitting nightclubs every other night, and even now, a large part of me is "stuck" there.

It's cleverly done, even down to the evocative backdrops of each period, and the little wave that the 1940s woman gives as the man goes off to war. I love the little Bob Fosse neck dance at 0.53 too and my parents totally looked like 1.00.

If I had my quibble hat on I'd say that the 1950s music doesn't sound right, and that punk came after disco, but it's a reminder of 100 years where nothing stayed the same except for change, which is signalled by that wistful little whistle at the end. Maybe that's a blessing in some ways. The 60s-80s look particularly bonkers now, although there's a general rule that anything from about 30 years ago tends to be viewed as naff, but eventually it gets rehabilitated as retro, then vintage, then beautiful.

I wish some of the style had hung around longer - those 1930s hats and jackets would have so suited me.