Saturday, 28 March 2009

10 Things I Learnt This Week (which I already knew but never remember)

1. When it is raining, do not wear long trousers. Unless you want to wade around like you have piddled yourself for the rest of the day.

2. Spending 84957y98347658934576 hours straightening your hair is a waste of time when the weather is tempestuous. Just accept the Wurzel Gummidge look is the new black/grunge-Kate-Moss-latest-thing.

3. If you go to bed late, and wake up early, you will feel like you've been run over by a herd of stampeding, hungry Vanessa Feltzes.

4. Fathers+computers = a migraine for me the size of New Mexico.

5. Paper cuts are the most painful injury known to man (aside from stepping on a plug). Amputation must be the only cure.

6. The Apprentice. Well. It's a bit boring isn't it? There's only so many times you can hear the words 'at the end of the day' before you begin to want to put your head through a mincer.

7. Spraying too much Deep Heat into the atmosphere makes one come over a little queer. But I normally see bouncing giraffes, admittedly.

8. When the bath upstairs starts leaking through the ceiling, it's a good idea to stop taking showers. Unless you want to be Frank Spencer.

9. Battery life rules my er life. Phones and iPods....ARGH bane of my life. They can send men to the moon but they can't make a battery that lasts longer than a T&T (tweet and a text).

10. A Pink Lady is not a proper luncheon, no matter how partial I am to munching on one.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Thatcher Infirm(ary)

I was bemused by this news story. An infirmary in London has been named after our former-love-her-or-hate-her, Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.

It was opened by Prince Charles. It must have been like a collection of all the people I most admire. [insert smilie contraption here /Sarcastic Mode]

Now, I wonder if the Thatcherism ideals will rub off on the health care? Will Welsh patients get told the ward is closed down for cost cutting measures? Will milk be banned? Perhaps anyone ill turning up will be told to pull their socks up, and that it's their own fault they are ill....

BBC news story, complete with delicious video footage.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Driving Miss Crazy

The other day I decided to go to London. The coach I travelled on was driven by Nessa from Gavin & Stacey. Well, she sounded like her. Ten minutes out of Cardiff and there came a little tap on the microphone, which jolted me from my early morning doze/daydream of world domination.

"Elow. And welcome to da" I didn't realise I was sitting on a web site. "'Ere are a few rulez like. Smoking - NO! Don't do it." Was this a new government health warning? Ironically I saw her slouched against the side of the bus with a fag drooping from her lips before we set off.
"DRINKING is not allowed. Alc-wholic." Again ironic, she sounded a tad squiffy herself. "Dere's a toilet on board. Which you can use." Nice of her to allow us to isn't it? I was expecting a bucket on the side of the M4. "We 'ave everything on here to cater for yewer needs. A fire extinguisher, first aid kit." EVERYTHING I have ever wanted. "Oh. There are seat belts. WEAR 'EM!" I felt for my safety more if I didn't fasten mine, I can tell you that now. "Da seat belts are there for a reason, you know." No shit Sherlock. She'll probably tie us up in them and abandon the bus in Newport, cackling manically.
"Sit back then." She pauses dramatically. It's a pause Harold Pinter would be proud of. "Let's see if I gets you to London."

I had no idea there was an 'if' involved in this contract I entered into. You could tell she was smiling as she said it. I must admit, I uttered a little prayer under my breath. And I don't even believe in God.

Luckily I did make it to London. My sanity however, only just got there, having been squished next to a 56 stone Alfred Hitchcock-alike coughing and sneezing for three hours. He was like a walking noro-virus-Daily-Mail-scare-story-super-bug. When I got off the bus I resembled an old crumpled BHS sock recovered from behind the radiator. That had been there since 1989.
I played Dolly Parton loudly on my ipod to seek revenge. He didn't look like a Dolly-man. Although I must admit giggling when the man suffocating me, made comedy trumpet sounds blowing into his hankerchief. Those kinds of sound effects are usually only ever heard on whimsical Carry On films.

I'd miss the comedy real life throws up at me really, no matter how much I complain about it...

See my photos of London here.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Confirmed - I Like Trash

The other day, I took a photograph.

On reflection of it, I have come to the conclusion that I am a little odd. Well, I've known that for a while, but was in denial. (And people who know me will wonder why it's taken me this long to realise...)

When out and about, I often seem to find things that amuse me. These could be odd objects left behind or abandoned, silly graffiti that just makes me laugh, or just something bizarre and random. I like to photograph them.

I was out walking and spotted this discarded shopping soon as I saw it, I realised there was something about it that really tickled me. I wasn't exactly sure why, but I just knew it did. So I had to photograph it, even just on my camera phone, to preserve it's quirkiness before it disappeared off into the wind, or disintegrated by rain and other elements, never to be seen by human eyes again. The idea of that almost upsets me.

Which is why I realise I am rather odd. What is it about an unwanted shopping list anyway; a piece of rubbish, abandoned, completely obsolete in its purpose, that makes me so intrigued?
Someone once took the time out to write it, either in a hurry or with great thought. It was then tossed aside, or accidentally lost. You can see someone's handwriting. It is said you can tell a lot about someone from their handwriting. Who were they? What were they doing? Was it someone old? Young? Married? Divorced? Rich? Poor? Already a sea of suggestions and branches of interest begin to form. This is what fascinates me so much. The eccentric writing that makes comedy (well, to me) alternative words (Lard peas?), the question mark (questioning the existence of bread? I like to go for the rational explanation after all).

And I guess that is it. Irrelevant rubbish or garbage to other people, just isn't trash to me. They're intrinsically fascinating, because objects and items have stories. They're inanimate items, but they've nearly always got a human story connected to them. The idea of these stories being lost fills me with sadness, which is why I love photography's ability to capture and preserve such delights. And they are delights. You just need to think outside the box. Or the shopping list.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Dial G for Genius

The BBC have recently produced an interesting documentary about Alfred Hitchcock, concentrating specifically on the English director's early pre-Hollywood works. Presented and directed by the comedian Paul Merton, it includes archive interviews with Hitch and present interviews with those who worked with him. Merton even copies the Master himself and puts himself into the archive footage, for his own little cameos. It's worth watching to see how Hitchcock was ahead of his time with his early films, which crossed the silent-film to talkie evolution, and how a lot of his cinematic techniques that we take for granted, were in fact pioneering.

The first Hitchcock film I saw was Psycho. I was about 14 or so, and saw it on TV, not really knowing what to expect, probably a little skeptical that this old, black and white film would probably just be rubbish. Because, well, it was old and black and white.

How wrong I was. Just from the opening titles and music I was freaked and yet strangely also captivated. The music alone was disturbing and unnerving. The rest of the film just engrossed me. But it was the infamous shower scene that both scared and delighted me with it's wonderful bluntness, shock-value, and yet I could tell this was special movie-making. The editing was incredible, each edit like a stab of the knife, the music shrilling your ears.
It left me knowing instantly that I loved Hitchcock. I imagine I am not the only Hitch fan who felt, when first watching a Hitchcock film, like I had been slapped in the face, grabbed by my shoulders and shaken, and left thinking 'where have these films been all my life!?'

Watching Psycho also made me not only interested in Hitchcock and the rest of his films, but it inspired me to study films, to read up on the meanings, the techniques. I had always liked movies, but it was Psycho that captivated me in a way further. This was a whole exciting medium that went beyond just pure laughs (well, like watching Ghostbusters) and could open up an entire new world of artistic exploration. And the more I read about Hitchcock and his films, the more obsessed I became with his themes and work. I wanted to make my own films. And I also became more appreciative of old, classic movies.

I am a lover of thrillers, crime-stories and suspense, so I guess it was natural that I would enjoy Hitchcock's films so much. Not to mention the dark humour his films contained, despite some rather disturbing or troubling themes that he was fascinated with. Similarly I think this is why I was drawn to Patricia Highsmith and her thriller novels, which I often feel are very much like Hitchcock films in terms of plot. Hitch even made one of her books into a great film - Strangers on a Train.

When you look at Hitchcock's early films, they are still enjoyable today, showing they can last the test of time. You can appreciate his techniques were pioneering, despite the limitations of the medium at the time. Despite my love for Psycho, Rear Window, Vertigo and his other post-colour films, it is actually his early B&W to the 1950s movies which I feel are his best. Blackmail, The Lady Vanishes, The 39 Steps, Shadow of a Doubt, Notorious, Strangers on a Train....

My favourite Hitchcock film is probably The Lady Vanishes. A claustrophobic, wonderful story of espionage, conspiracy and identity. It contains everything I love about a good story, with wonderful direction and great acting performances. It is a joy from start to finish. The Master of Suspense may not be for everyone, but he's certainly for me.

You can see the Paul Merton documentary on iplayer (for those in the UK) here.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Well I loves the valleys I do

Spotted in Cardiff. Makes a change from the usual 'Clean Me' or 'I wish my wife was this dirty'.