Thursday, 23 February 2012

Singing in the rain or hovering inside?

Today after a marvellous late winter boost, the rain beats down in a grey sleezy curtain, everything seems grey. For someone who likes colour, this is time to cuddle up and take up a book from my collection of detective novels.I inserted a bit of colour as the tulips remind me of a favourite detective series by author Nicholas Freeling, Van der Valk, which takes place in Amsterdam. Very atmospheric, full of culinary reflections and wonderful descriptions of Amsterdam. More detective novelists who have used Amsterdam as a backdrop are Jan Willem van de Wetering (who wrote in english!) and that most macabre novel; Puppets on a chain by Alastair Maclean. I thouroughly reccomend all of them for the rainy season ahead!
Should you prefer to go for descriptions of Paris, then go for the re edited Maigret series by Georges Simenon and my all time favourite french detective novelist, Fred Vargas. For Fred Vargas do read her in the orignal french, her use of language is truly delectable and her detective, Commissaire Adamsberg is a great antihero who actually totally enthralls you with his oddball philosophy.
It would be interesting to do a search for detective novelists who have used major cities as a backdrop for their detectives, I can think of Barcelona, which is used by Spanish authors, Alicia Gimenez-Bartlett, Manuel Vazquez Montalban and Francisco Gonzalez-Ledesma.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Money, Money does it really make the world go round?

Monopoly game

As Greece and most of Europe is in deep social unrest and a severe crisis has hit us which will last a generation, my thoughts went to our attitudes to money.  Who hasnt played the famous Monopoly game, where winning is all about amassing properties and money! So it seems our real lives are also dominated by the desire to amass and mass consumerism has increased our almost pathetic dependence on money. I include myself in this, by the way, but I am not proud of it. More and more as I look to the next generation of our children, I am convinced we need to turn our actions and thoughts away from money as the panacea, and use it instead to fruitfulness and not let it use us! Let us teach children that to be in a community means helping each other, nurturing human relationships and look to the greater good. We seem to regress to regard highly egotistical behaviour and those who strive without regard for others, as admirable; If we follow that course as we live in a global society we are on the road to destruction faster than we will create a path for the future.
sorry todays column is more serious but am touched by the plight of those countires like Greece which will see a generation pass before they can recover!

Friday, 10 February 2012

Retro music for cold winter days

Retro music for cold winter days
Sitting at my computer listening to Pink Martini's "Splendour in the Grass", puts me in the mood for cocooning inside as I watch the icicles on my terrace and the snow in my garden. My favourite retro music is the tango's revival with Astor Piazzola , followed by Gotan Project. A great compilation is the Putumayo label who has brought out a tango compilation giving us a take on the tango from all over the world. My favourite is by greek musicians, Alexis Kalofolias and Thanos Amorgis, playing Gia Ligo! Greek rembetika music from the 20's also gives me that retro mood, albeit slightly more moody. To put you in a swinging happy mood ready for your foray into the cold, I reccomend that easy 1960's swing from Ray Coniff's orchestra!

Tuesday, 7 February 2012


Snow, Winter in Vitebsk

The last few days a cold spell has hit Europe and we have beautiful sunshine with some snow, what better conditions for a lovely winter day?
Snow has inspired many writers and painters, from Orhan Pamuk's Snow to Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow by Peter Hoeg to mention some recent ones. Both treat the snow as a disturbing magical environment, and if you walk about a snow white landscape, even in town, I quite agree. The painting for this post is from Russian expressionist Marc Chagall and to me perfectly gives us the slightly disturbing element of snow.
Russian literature and paintings are of course embued with snow, especially in the masterpiece; War and Peace by Tolstoy, if I read this whilst listening to Tchaikovsky's Symphonie Pathetique I am inmediately transported to the great  plains covered in deep snow and silence.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Comedy and the upbeat

Have just read Stephen Fry's Chronicles, his memoirs of Cambridge and the 80's British comedy scene. All those who started back then, Stephen Fry, Rowan Atkinson, Richard Curtis, Emma Thompson, Hugh Laurie, have had such an impact not only  on my generation but also on the next. Genuine comedy is so uplifting and even looking at 80's series with the bad film quality and dated feel, still gives me a feel good factor more recent comedy cannot give me. Is this me, am I an anachronism or is the world somehow less comic in essence and are we so superficial, true comic lines cannot affect us.

I fear we badly need big shots of good comic relief in this horrible mercenary world!