Category Archives: Films

Playing the game

I’ve been looking at Dawn Foster‘s brilliant blogs, including the excellent A Hundred and One Wankers in which she chronicles, with the help of a Google map, the precise abuse which she receives as she cycles around London.  Or did, until the ‘greatest wanker of them all’ pinched her bike outside the Beckton Asda. ( I remember the Asda when we lived there twenty-five years ago, before Beckton had an infrastructure and we walked down to Custom House to go to Mass and get the train to work.)

Anyway,  though I don’t get as much specifically sexist abuse as Dawn (probably because I look like the abusers’ mums), M and I both get our share of close shaves and moronic motorists.  On Sunday afternoon, as I was cycling to The Graan, a young boy racer overtook me, threw a glass bottle out of his window (fortunately he didn’t have a passenger who might have had a better aim) and, as it smashed on the road beside me, stuck his arm out of the window with fist clenched in triumph.

Then there was this peculiar piece in the usually emollient Irish Times, bemoaning the fact that, while drivers suffer the indignity of  ‘inappropriate speed checks on dual carriageways’, cyclists are permitted to ride about helmetless with impunity.  (Bike helmets are, by the way, thankfully not yet compulsory in Ireland.)

What is it about cyclists that inspires such disproportionate ire?  True, some are annoying, but surely not so much as white van drivers or those elderly men in hats who hog the fast motorway lanes?  Dawn Foster’s other blog (see above) and Oliver James’s book The Selfish Capitalist: Origins of Affluenza
which I’m currently reading, gave some possible clues.  Foster writes about the extraordinarily virulent ‘anti-scrounger’ hysteria whipped up by our nice new government with its cuddly Lib Dem accessories while James analyses the emotional distress which accompanies relative materialism (as distinct from the logical materialism that results from not having enough money to buy your next meal).  It occurs to me that it’s basically about ensuring that everyone is playing the game: clambering up the career ladder, ditto the  property one (isn’t it odd how the housing benefit screeches were directed towards the powerless tenants rather than the landlords who actually profit from extortionate rents?) and surrounding oneself with shiny bits and pieces.  And cars, owned and driven, are perfect playing pieces, being so homogenous and easily confused (it’s as hard to recognize which silver hatchback is yours in the car park as to remember whether you chose yellow or blue for the current round of Ludo).

And so anyone who doesn’t play properly (good job, owned house, new car) is consquently suspect,  however otherwise dull or unexceptional.  And that explains why, other than the token grumble, no one really minds that the bankers have conned us out of more money than we can even imagine and are continuing to do so; at least they played the game, even if they cheated.  Or, since no one is quite sure of the rules once the banker is allowed to use the whole cash supply plus whatever he invents  (imagine Monopoly with that variation) perhaps they haven’t cheated at all, just played the game really, really well.

And then I cheered myself up entirely by watching The Story Of The Weeping Camel [DVD] which reminded me that the world is full of people who have no idea about the game and for whom even my bike would be an object of fascinated humour.  Watch it, and be filled with joy (though you might weep even more than the camel).

Plastic bag

I’m sure all the buffs will have seen it long ago (after all, it’s Werner Herzog in the title role) but here’s a film that I expected to be worthy and found also to be romantic, sad, epic and funny.   Not bad for eighteen minutes.  Enjoy…

Bits and pieces

Just a couple of lines to finish off the car hire bit. Russell Howard was surprisingly brilliant, far more substantial in every way (biceps, satire and extraordinary creative energy) than the winsome West Country boy on the box. Highly recommended, if you get the chance to see him live. I took back the car the next day, driving through real snow, which I don’t like, on the country roads and handing over the keys with elated relief. I celebrated with a bowl of sludgy soup and the beginning of Rose Macaulay’s Letters to A Friend (why do I always type ‘fiend’ the first time?) and felt gloriously free. Going home on the bus, after bank & book things in Belfast, was sheer delight; so wonderful to have someone else doing the driving so the only tricky choice is between the book and the iPod.

Talking of books, I’ve just read a wonderful one: The Carhullan Army by Sarah Hall. It was published last year, and is set around twenty years in the future, in a post-oil, post-economic collapse Britain. A thrilling story, a bit like a feminist John Wyndham, but very very terrifyingly plausible. Looking it up now, I see that it won several prizes, as did her earlier books. I don’t read very much contemporary writing; am a bit stuck in the middle of last century, but sometimes something gets up and kicks me into the present.

A bit like music, really; it wasn’t until I got the idea of going to Glastonbury next year that I thought I ought to listen to someone who isn’t dead yet. And so to many contented hours wandering around with the Kings of Convenience and Turin Brakes (though I do wish the silent bit in the middle of Rain City could be a bit shorter, it not doing much to while away the drizzling wait at the traffic lights).

Talking of which (quite a little babble of consciousness this morning) I wrote a long email to the entity called Roads Western last month to have a little moan about the woeful pedestrian crossings in Enniskillen. I got a reply the other day, in which they said that pedestrians never have to wait more than two minutes to cross. This may or may not be the case (I need to go out with a stopwatch) but two minutes of standing at the roadside in the pouring rain, watching the cars sweep through the puddles before you, can feel like quite some time. More on this to follow…

Finally, a joyful note. I went to the film club last night (Gerard Depardieu, Quand j’etais un chanteur – beautiful) and walked home by myself under a couple of stars and a space in the clouds with the moon shining through. No one was out, except for a trio of teenage boys, and even the barbed wire outside the Territorial Army was shining. You don’t get that in a car.