The Old Songs :: Three

eroica

Awake at 7am, there were doubts about the validity of the long-range weather forecast. I shouldn’t have worried: by 9am, the cloud had burnt off and it was magnificent. The plan for the day, as Eroica is a ‘vintage’ festival, was to wear something appropriate. Despite  current body weight issues (up and down like a fiddler’s arm) and time constraints (wasn’t going 10 days ago) I was able to cobble something suitable together. Looking at the number of likes the ensemble garnered on Twitter, it appears to have gone down well.

The ride to the site, as mentioned yesterday, was along what used to be railway lines: gorged out of hills and left unfinished, runs past farmland… and the views. Oh dear Deity the views, people: you don’t need to go abroad to be stunned at how beautiful this planet is. Only three and a bit hours drive from London, it was beyond spectacular. There were a few stops, mostly because riding in full petticoats needs some thought. Next year, think it might be something a bit less fussy (and if the weather is the same, far less bulky.) However, the bike was very sturdy and became enjoyable to ride after I got comfortable.

The night before, over dinner, there’d been discussion about taking part in the Sunday event. It wasn’t a race, Mr Alt, kept reminding me: just about doing a course and experiencing the feelings that went with that. So, once Registration was arrived at, the plunge was taken. I registered for the 25 mile ride the following day.

After that it was time to wander about: the site was far better laid out and presented than had been the year before at Bakewell Showground: organisers had learnt their lessons, and this time around not only was there a lot more space for bikes to be parked and people to relax, but the entire site was put to far better use. The only genuine criticism I could level was that because of the space, it looked like there were less things to do and see. However, you were spoilt for choice in terms of artisan food stalls, alcohol and places to simply relax and chill: at 11am I was in a bar, with a drink in my hand, and frankly couldn’t have been happier.

There were celebrities too, at least in biking terms: respect is due to Chris Boardman who stopped and had selfies taken with half the Festival, was never anything other than happy to oblige, and seemed like a thoroughly decent chap. There were also some absolutely amazing (and possibly insane) people who wore tweed all day, without looking in the least bit perturbed by the weather. It was the heat that drove us back to the Hotel early, and the ride back was the first time I had an issue: almost falling off a bike for the first time since San Francisco caused a minor panic attack. However, both mind and body are getting better at coping with these things. Add a brilliant husband’s support, who assuaged fear before driving us both to Buxton for the best Chinese meal I can remember for the best part of a decade, and everything was just fine.

Waiting for my Man

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I’ll admit driving back there were some race day nerves: I’ve done a ‘charity’ bike ride with the kids a few years ago for the local Hospice, but it was hardly taxing in terms of hills or distance. The ‘Tourist’ Route may have sounded pedestrian, but in the Peak District I knew that hills were hardly gentle. Would my months of training allow it to be easier? Would I fall off the bike? More importantly, would the sun fry lovely pale skin to a crisp? Probably the best two buys made before the weekend were factor 50 sun cream and a sun hat, both of which were liberally utilised across the weekend. The only bit of skin that failed to be adequately covered was the non dominant wrist where my Fitbit sits, and that’s hardly painful even now.

I did many things for the first time this weekend, including drink. I’d never tried Jagermeister before: this Hunter’s Tea was one of those experiences you’re not certain of at the first sip, but could end up consuming all day if not cautious enough to grasp consequence. Plus it allowed us to sit under canvas during the hottest  part of the day. As we did, an official photographer appeared and took some pictures of my husband, so I’ll be looking out for official literature next year to see if he makes it and becomes ‘famous.’ The Saturday was a perfect aperitif for the main action on Sunday: Mr Alt had planned to do the 100 mile circuit but downgraded to 25 miles to accompany me, and so it was a relatively early night all around to prepare.

I’ll tell you all about that tomorrow :D

Words

arrivalposter.jpg

It’s been some time since a movie stopped me in my tracks, but last night (as our kids were with their Gran and Grandad) Mr Alt and I ‘rented’ Arrival. It’s probably the best six quid I’ve spent on a film for quite some time, and although it was almost frustratingly slow to start, on reflection the pacing was spot on. It’s also a VERY clever film in terms of its use of a Chinese character (who has a key and pivotal significance to the narrative) as has become the fashion of late for Hollywood. I won’t spoil it for you, because I really urge a watch if you’ve not done so: I guessed the ‘plot’ quite early on, and the signs on the roadmap to final understanding were subtle enough to make this hugely satisfying. My only objection is Renner’s casting as a physicist when all I can see him doing is firing arrows, but that’s my problem to fix and not anyone else’s.

What Arrival has now prompted in my mind is the understanding that language is a hugely subjective tool. There’s a key point in the narrative (which is referenced in the trailer and so won’t spoil you) where, in interpreting the Heptapod’s incredibly complicated, 3D written language, the word ‘weapon’ is used by the aliens with immediate and devastating effect. Crucially, it is immediately understood by Dr Louise Banks (Amy Adams) as a potential mistake: we are teaching aliens our language, and by doing so there is always the possibility that a word can be misinterpreted because of the way we misuse them ourselves. There’s a brilliant scene in the narrative that foreshadows this too: Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) is amazed that the first words that Banks will ‘teach’ are, in his mind ‘grade school’ and only when Louise explains exactly why it has to happen that way is it clear that learning to communicate without misinterpretation is one of the most complicated things we will ever do.

Social media, on any given day, is a perfect example of how that process can get mangled.

Language is a constantly evolving concept: words change meaning from generation to generation. What someone can consider a grievous insult others will laugh at as a clever pun, or an adroit use of definition, and the problem remains the interpretation of the individual. On social media however, there are other issues to consider. If, as has been the case in the past, I’m discussing something in one place with someone who’s reading about other people’s views in two other places, their frame of reference to mine is different, making their interpretation of the key issue inherently different. If all you did on Social media was have one to one conversations, an awful lot of miscommunication and offence would automatically vanish, but often several conversations will go on at once and in amongst this people are asked to make judgements, sometimes based on only a portion of the total facts available. When the definition of those words get mangled, then it can all go to hell very fast, and pretty much always does.

arguments

There is a great deal you can learn from discussion and debate, so much so your kids will be encouraged in school to do just that. My son has been incredibly brave in his admissions, my daughter is just beginning to find a voice which I hope one day will allow her to feel confident in her chosen career. Being comfortable enough to argue is great, but I’ll be the first one to admit that doing so in certain online spaces is a waste of both time and sanity. Even the most erudite of speakers, the most intellectual of human beings has the capacity to become a total imbecile when given half the chance, or the right poke from a Troll. On the flip side, branding a whole group of people as ‘deplorable’ doesn’t do wonders for your PR either. This is where the adage that ‘it takes two to start an argument’ is the mantra to repeat, and the Monty Python sketch on Arguments should be taught to every person who’s never heard it:

M: I came here for a good argument!

O: AH, no you didn’t, you came here for an argument!

M: An argument isn’t just contradiction.

O: Well! it CAN be!

M: No it can’t!

M: An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition.

O: No it isn’t!

M: Yes it is! ’tisn’t just contradiction.

O: Look, if I *argue* with you, I must take up a contrary position!

M: Yes but it isn’t just saying ‘no it isn’t’.

O: Yes it is!

M: No it isn’t!

O: Yes it is!

M: No it isn’t!

O: Yes it is!

M: No it ISN’T! Argument is an intellectual process. Contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of anything the other person says.

This week therefore I’ll be doing my utmost to improve communication skills in places where I know they’re lacking. I’ll also remember that it matters just as much who I’m speaking to as what I say, and that a wise woman remembers this and plans accordingly.

Some days, the best thing to do is never to speak to begin with.

Secret Agent Man

There is a point in Spectre, after the first snow-based chase sequence of Daniel Craig’s tenure, when Bond confronts Madeline Swann, having rescued her from the bad guys. She asks: ‘Why should I trust you?’ before a clearly exasperated Bond replies ‘Because right now I’m your best chance of staying alive.’ The audience already knows this is 007’s love interest, that you don’t chase a blonde across the snow and destroy millions of pounds worth of plane and Land Rovers unless you’re clearly indebted to the woman you’re pursuing, and here in one beautiful exchange is my entire problem with this film. It looks fabulous, contains all the elements that should be in a Bond film… except not one made in 2015. This is so obviously a love letter to Bond’s past, and the criminal organisation that gives the film its name also condemns the whole thing to become, in the end, a worrying parody of it’s own genre. Because while Mike Myers made Austin Powers a beautiful pastiche of everything 1960’s including Bond, Sam Mendes makes this 007’s outing a mirror of all the faults that keep the secret agent the way a certain generation of men will always remember him: tortured, brilliant, invulnerable and ultimately hollow.

What makes this saddest of all is that the two and a bit minute trailer for the movie I saw back in the early part of last year is actually a better presentation of the plot than the movie ends up itself being, because once you know that twist, you’re done: its Game Over. When it becomes apparent who Christopher Wentz is? You know how this will conclude. There is no surprise, or amazement, and everything becomes almost embarrassingly predictable. From the ridiculous set pieces to the record breaking explosions and the beautifully composed tableaux, it is all pointless when you know why Wentz is there, and instead of the homage to 23 other movies I suspect Mendes sold this as, you get an almost depressing understanding of where everything is heading. I thought I knew this Bond, I watched him get his 00 designation. I shouted at the screen when a colleague shot him and happily accepted his return from the dead, but when it became apparent her surname was Moneypenny? This path was already laid, and I was annoyed with Mendes, an anger that actually surprised me. All that hard work in two and a bit movies to build Bond as a tenable and acceptable 21st century reboot was removed in a five or so minutes of clunky and ill-conceived lip service at the end of Skyfall to a Spy who should have been left dead and buried in the 1970’s. But no, the World loves Bond. Misogynistic, womanising, invulnerable Bond. Shame on you for using Naomi Harris to do this, too, for just so many reasons. Women clearly give up everything for Bond, happy to be demoted from Field Agent to glorified PA without a line of real or believable dialogue. Oh, give me a fucking break.

Some of us can see right through you, 007.

Spectre is a disappointment, even more when I see how great the British press thought it was. It is almost as if nobody will ever diss James as he’s clearly a national treasure: after all, he jumped out of an aeroplane with the Queen in 2012. It doesn’t matter how earnest you make the relationship with Swann, it’s a joke, because she leaves him in Act 3 and you’re just holding your head in your hands, because if there’s still X minutes left everybody knows she’ll be back. It’s as if this script was written by a bunch of men who understood just how far they could push the envelope and no more, that what really should have transpired wouldn’t have made for a suitable homage anyway because Bond can do no wrong. Monologuing your bad guy works when he has you tied to a chair attacking your exposed genitalia. It becomes less acceptable on his personal Island surrounded by clearly cosmetic server units, and when you reach the stark stylised nature of your deserted desert based lair? Sorry, but no. We had three movies that actually presented a secret agent with a relevance to the 21st century. This means the pre-credits sequence for Bond 25 will either be breaking Bloefeld out of jail so he can spend two and a bit hours being all menacing, or Eon will see sense and actually break the mould. Because with all the interest in an Oscars ceremony where a complete absence of diversity in the film industry is becoming more and more difficult to dismiss?

wtfmal

This franchise doesn’t need another white, male Bond on a reboot. I’m really hoping Daniel Craig is done with 007, because if he walks away now I’ll maintain the respect he granted me by making Bond finally be the James I thought worked best, who I as a woman could actually believe had a soul. I’ll forgive him about 70% of Spectre where he’s clearly only doing what the script told him to do, and remember the broken man who picked up Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd from the wreckage of the house she died in, and made me cry for the first time ever in a Bond movie. Because then, 007 was real and brilliant and now he’s become a parody of a parody.

You really need to give Idris Elba or Tilda Swinton the designation. Tom Hiddleston won’t do, and if you pick an unknown white guy again? NOPE. The only way I could see you saving this whole sorry mess is giving it to the BBC and letting them take 007 to Television. You want to keep people happy when you do?

Make Bond openly bisexual.

Yeah, that would work.