Thursday, June 30, 2011


Tomorrow is the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China. The first official meeting (Congress) took place on 1 July 1921 in this building on Xingye Road in Shanghai. I went past it the other day. It's now a small museum, ironically on the edge of a particularly swish, uber-free-market shopping precinct. From humble beginnings / who would have believed etc...

So, a big party (80m members) needs a big party - and it got one at the Great Hall of the People, with Hu Jintao and (just back from Britain) Wen Jiabao in attendance. You can see a bit of it here

Interestingly (well, slightly), next year will be the 100th anniversary of, if not the Conservative Party (which goes back donkeys years), then a little known but formal merger between the Conservatives and the Liberal Unionist Party in May 1912. Not to be confused with the current merger.   

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Lost in Lanstration

Aaah, Chinglish! It's a bit unfair, poking fun at your host country's often poor command of English but when you see dodgy translations on public signs, products, in menus and so on, then I think it's fair game. Indeed, it becomes almost an art form. Exterminate Capitalism Lobster Package could be a track title by any number of interesting bands. One of my favourites is a sign pointing to the dining room which helpfully says: Translate server error. Sometimes they're nice and pithy (if not terribly appetising), like these two items on a menu: Saliva chicken and Strange juice.

Often they're just mumbo jumbo, like this one in a department store: To sell inside the commodity space all acceping money sipe supplys examineing the price service. Something about a price-comparing service?

Some are positively poetic. I love, for example: Your careful step keeps tiny grass invariably green and Show Mercy to the Slender Grass. So much better than 'Keep off'.

Others flout western euphemism and are positively in your face, like the 'deformed man' one (left)

But why don't people check?  Several reasons: they don't care; they want to do it themselves; it's too expensive; or they simply use dodgy translation software. And long may it continue.  

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

China and the Bard

So, Wen Jiabao finishes his 3-day visit to Britain. Interesting that he began it by visiting Shakespeare's birthplace and that the trip wasn't just about economics.

Shakespeare plays have been read and studied for over a hundred years in China, and post-Mao they've also been increasingly performed; the Old Vic were early visitors with Hamlet in 1979. This summer the Shanghai Peking Opera Troupe will bring a version of Hamlet (The Revenge of Prince Zi Dan) to the Edinburgh Festival complete with acrobats, and King Lear will be deconstructed as a one-man show by Contemporary Legend Theatre from Taipei.

But what about the other way round? I wonder if in 50 years time we'll be studying Cao Xueqin, author of Dream of the Red Chamber, one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. I wouldn't be surprised.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Z is for...

And finally, 15 months later...

- Hector Zazou
- Zao
- Zed
- Zoviet France
- Zk
- Frank Zappa
- John Zorn
- Zakyumiko
- Aziza Mustafa Zadeh

Starting with four from France: Hector Zazou was, until his untimely death in 2008, one of the best exponents of world music. His Les Nouvelles Polyphonies Corses, Sahara Blue and Songs from the Cold Sea were great, sprawling, collaborative affairs. He worked with everyone from Bjork, David Sylvian and John Cale, to lesser known African, Tibetan and Uzbek artists. Even Gerard Depardieu crops up on one album. Saw him once, I think guesting (with Suzanne Vega) at a John Cale gig in New York.

ZNR was Zazou and Joseph Racaille - I have their only album, Barricade 3, an avant-prog affair from 1976. Also from that era were Zao, led by saxophonist Yochk'o Seffer - not to be confused with the American metalcore band of the same name. And Zed was a project name for Bernard Szajner's first album. He also recorded under his own name and as The Prophets and invented the laser harp. And again, not to be confused with another Zed, from New Zealand.

Zoviet France are not from France. Or Russia. They're from Newcastle. I have a few decent industrial ambient albums from the 80s, and they're still going. Zk are not too dissimilar and, now that Peter Christopherson is no longer with us, are the leading - and possibly only - exponents of weird electronica in Bangkok. 

Hats must be tipped to Frank Zappa of course, though I was never a big enough fan to own more than one or two albums. Likewise John Zorn. I have his Big Gundown and would probably like more, but the sheer volume of his output is intimidating. 

Zakyumiko is Yumiko Ohno, keyboardist of Japanese band Buffalo Daughter, together with Zak their engineer (and her husband). They've barely released anything but I have two privately released EPs of driving electronica which are fabulous. And finally, Aziza Mustafa Zadeh is a gorgeous Azerbaijani jazz pianist & singer who both Liz and I like a lot. I quite like her music too.

And the rest... Benjamin Zephaniah, Warren Zevon, Z'ev (whom I saw throwing buckets and chains around in support of Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voiltaire some 30 years ago), Zager and Evans, Zodiac Mindwarp, The Zombies and (gulp) ZZ Top?

Now what?

So that's done. Now what? Best albums, sleeves, singles, gigs, films, directors, books, artists, exhibitions, plays, football matches, TV programmes, colours (blue would be a contender, but there are others), holidays, cities, athletes from the 70s (Alan Pascoe?), cars...? Liz makes lists, but they're practical, forward-looking To Do lists or shopping. I could say that mine are an attempt to make sense of the past or, in this case, an overarching comment on popular culture, but that's probably stretching it a bit. I think I'm just like most blokes, a bit anal. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Reflections on a disaster

Took Motoko & Remi to Houhai where we also met up with our friends Sarah, Dave, Alex & Yasmin over the usual Hutong Pizza lunch and stroll around Gulou neighbourhood. Talked about the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Motoko & Remi had been at a friend's house in Tokyo: the shaking went on for 5 mins - an incredibly long time - but they were OK. Motoko told us about how her brother had been on the east cost near Sendai all morning but had caught the train back to Tokyo just before it struck. Meanwhile, Dave, who works at the British Consulate in Shanghai, was dispatched to Japan with a team of six to help in the coordination of Brits caught up in it. He spent about a week on the north-east coast and was incredibly impressed by how well-prepared the Japanese were and how they dealt with it. It was of course a disaster and some things went badly awry (eg Fukushima), but if it had struck anywhere else in the world, well...

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Hall of Heavenly Clocks

Finally, after 10 months here, we made it to the Forbidden City. That's not quite as shocking as it sounds: we'd been 9 years ago when Alyssa was a baby. But all the same...

OK, facts first: built 1406-20 by Emperor Yongle, a Vietnamese architect and about million workers. Home of the Ming and Qing Dynasties until 1911. World's largest surviving palace complex. 980 rooms but actually much of it big, open courtyards. Ceremonial and ministerial stuff went on in the southern and central bits; emperor & co lived in the northern part; concubines (there were about 10,000 of them) in the western part. The Starbucks has gone.

Our friend Andreas, who is a real tour guide, took us around for four hours. Hot, lots of people, but bearable and the children were happy to run around. Great to get insight from someone who really knows. An intriguing building in the north-east corner is the Hall of Clocks: around 100 bizarre timepieces, some made in China but mostly from Europe (and most of those from England). There's several shapeds like pagodas, one of those water clocks (I forget what you call them), and a fabulous big copper clock made by Joseph Williamson in 1780 with an automata who writes Chinese characters with a real brush. Every home should have one.  

Friday, June 24, 2011


Glastonbury kicked off today: U2 tonight, Coldplay tomorrow, Beyonce Sunday... and I believe Radiohead and Pulp will play 'secret shows', whatever that means. Back in 1970 it cost a quid to get in (the year after it was free and Bowie headlined!). Now it's 200 quid. I've never been, although was tempted on the odd occasion. I've done Knebworth, Reading, Big Chill, Fuji and a few others, but I think I'm a bit old for it now: the crowds, the mud and actually most of the music just doesn't appeal these days.

China is putting on a lot of festivals these days: Modern Sky, MIdi, Strawberry, West Lake, Funhill and others. They attract a fair few B-league international bands, but needless to say, they're pretty modest affairs compared with the big British or American fests. Most of the organizers see Glastonbury, Bestival, T in the Park, Womad etc as models and we occasionally help send them over to experience the management of them. Next month we're planning to do the opposite and bring a festival director to China. I remember bringing Emily Eavis to Bangkok a few years ago and that was fun. For me, though, Fuji's the best, partly because of the setting (nestled in the Japan Alps), partly the vibe, but also because Hidaka-san always manages to secure great line-ups.

And while on the subject, our former Tokyo neighbours and very good friends Motoko and Remi have arrived to stay for the weekend. Lovely to see Alyssa and Remi hit it off immediately despite a year-long gap.  

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fame 2

More Musicals... (see Fame post a couple of months back)

Should musicals be a part of UK Now festival next year?  I reckon so. Yesterday I had some internal discussions about two possible shows coming to Shanghai. The problem is, they're Australian productions. I'd better not name them, but inevitably, one of them is an Andrew Lloyd Webber. It's not Cats... but a cat did play a very funny part in its creation: "The Daily Mail announced in May 2007 that [cough cough] would be delayed, because Lloyd Webber's six-month-old kitten Otto, a rare-breed Turkish Van, climbed onto Lloyd Webber's Clavinova digital piano and managed to delete the entire score". I’m not sure which is weirder, the incident or the breed.

And there's more. Today I took part of the afternoon off to see Alyssa appear in the school production of Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat. It was a colourful affair, well acted, a good impersonation of Elvis by the Pharoah and Alyssa sang her heart out. Joseph was the first Lloyd Webber / Rice musical to hit the stage - in 1968 - though the stage in question was Colet Court School in London and it only lasted 15 minutes.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


This afternoon I spent two hours shortlisting for a job we're offering. There were 20 candidates, ranging from speculative no-hopers to extremely experienced. We'll get the right person I'm sure and that's what matters. All the same, I felt for the others as I leafed through 6-page applications which clearly took hours if not days to compose but equally clearly wouldn't make the grade. And I particularly felt for the younger applicants: keen, fantastic educations, internships galore, trying to get a foot in the door, facing the vicious circle of needing experience to get the job which requires experience. And I felt for our two children. In the not too distant future they'll be in a similar position, competing with thousands for job titles that currently don't exist. And I know I've been incredibly lucky.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Shortest Day

It may be the longest day in Britain but not so here, thanks to the smog hanging over the city. It's the worst since we've been here. But there are many more polluted cities than Beijing. According to the World Bank, the Top 10 offenders, in terms of particulates per μg/m³, are Cairo (169), Delhi (150), Calcutta (128), Tianjin (125), Chongqing (123), Kanpur and Lucknow (109 each), Jakarta (104) and Shenyang (101). Which is no great consolation as I stare out of the office window to a vista of grey grey grey. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Love Fifteen

Wimbledon 'kicks off' today and the forecast, suprise surprise, is rain.

I've only been once, back in 1977, its centenary year. Paddy and I caught the train up, queued for a while and somehow got swept into the centre court for the Men's Singles final: an epic, sweltering Borg v Connors 5-setter. I just checked and was surprised to discover that Borg is still only 55. I thought he'd be at least 70. I remember coming home with sunburn but thrilled at seeing our heads on TV everytime they wiped their wooden rackets and drank their Robinson's Barley Juice. 

Tennis is on the up in China, especially Women's. At this year's Wimbledon, Li Na is seeded #3, having recently won the French Open, and Zheng Jie has an outside chance.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Lama Temple

Finally visited the 300-year old Lama Temple this afternoon. It's the largest Buddhist temple in Beijing and one of the most important Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in the world. Built in 1694, it has the usual series of ever-bigger halls on a north-south axis, culminating in the Pavilion of Ten Thousand Happinesses which has a 26m tall Buddha carved from a single piece of sandalwood - which I believe is some kind of (Guinness) record. Although I wouldn't go as far as to say Seen One Seem Them All, there were no great surprises.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


After a children's leaving party at school (a strange but good choice as it turned out), we went for a barbeque at - where else? - the Australian Embassy. It's a pretty big compound of modernist-minimalist buildings, more redolent of a contemporary art museum than anything diplomatic. Our friends live in one of several apartments clustered round a garden with the ubiquitous barby. A fine evening of grilled chicken, Jacob's Creek and the intermittent sizzle of mozzies on an enormous UV lamp. "The light, the light!"

Friday, June 17, 2011

Touring a Dandelion

This week our modestly sized but supposedly perfectly formed exhibition about Shanghai Expo's UK Pavilion (nicknamed Dandelion) arrived in China to begin a tour of a few cities. The Pavilion itself has been dismantled, although we've got a hundred or so rods cut up into manageable bits in the basement as 'corporate gifts'. So our exhibition is a kind of legacy project, the story of how it was commissioned, designed, built and the reaction to it over the six months of the Expo.

First stop Chongqing. On opening the crates, however, we discovered to our horror that much of it was waterlogged. Cue frantic running around trying to find a lab that could print out new photo panels from hurriedly downloaded digital artwork, all in time for the opening at this afternoon. They managed it. And there's a nice book too.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Y is for...

Not as many as I thought, but enough decent ones for a Top 10:
  • Yellow Magic Orchestra
  • Yes 
  • Neil Young
  • Yello
  • Yazoo
  • Stomu Yamash'ta
  • Akiko Yano
  • Susumu Yokota
  • Youth
  • La Monte Young
YMO would probably have to be tops: some fine albums in their first incarnation (1978-83), a great reunion album in 1993, and they're still performing (Live in London 2008). All three have had interesting solo careers - particularly Sakamoto and Hosono, but Takahashi has had his moments too - and I feel privileged to have met each of them when we lived in Tokyo. But I suppose I'd have to say that as a group they never quite made a classic.

Yes might be an unfashionable choice, but I was a big fan in the early to mid 70s, thanks to my big brother, and particularly of Yessongs. It had it all: triple live, side-long tracks, ridiculous lyrics, expert musicianship, a drum solo, and of course a multi-gatefold Roger Dean cover. Neil Young (also passed on by my brother) was another 70s favourite, especially After the Goldrush. But I lost interest after about American Stars and Bars.

Yello's quirky early releases as a trio up until You Gotta Say Yes to Another Excess were great, and even the post-Peron duo of Meier & Blank made a couple of late 80s corkers. However, for me Meier's most creative moment was in 1972 when he installed a plaque in Kassel railway station which said "On 23 March 1994, from 3 to 4 pm, Dieter Meier will stand on this plaque". And he did. More synthpop: I'm a bit of a sucker for Yazoo's two early 80s albums (and like many bands from that era I gather they've reformed).  

More from Japan... Stomu Yamash'ta: lots of albums as Red Buddha, with the Go project and as himself; wacky Akiko Yano, ex-wife of Sakamoto and great artist in her own right too; and Susumu Yokota who continues to release an (ambient/electronica) album or two a year. Youth (aka Martin Glover) gets in as producer, DJ, Killing Joke founder, strange albums with Paul McCartney (as The Firemen), an even stranger album with Ben Watkins in 1984, and occasional solo artist. To be honest, La Monte Young is included more because I like the idea of what he does (very very long minimal drones) than for what I've actually heard (not much).

And the rest... Gabriel Yared (French soundtrack composer), Yo La Tengo, The Young Gods, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Yachts (whom I saw once), Yellowman and Yin Yang (one half of German synth duo Tyndall).

Zzzzzzzzz beckons.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Adult children's stories

Currently reading the girls Jacqueline Wilson's Vicky Angel. I'm not sure what to think about her books, peppered us they are with death, grief, divorced parents, abuse and mental illness. Are our 7 and 9 year olds too young for this kind of grim reality? Vicky Angel is about two girls: one killed in a road accident who reappears as a funny, mischievous ghost, the other her grieving best friend. The previous book we read was The Longest Whale Song about a girl's (successful, thankfully!) attempt to bring her mother out of a coma. They're both funny and sad in equal measure, and I guess deal with real things, prepare them for real life. (When I was that age, the limits of reality were probably Arthur Ransome and Tintin). Wilson is apparently the most borrowed author in British libraries. Anyway, our two really like them so I guess it's fine.  

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Downtown Ningbo
Today I discovered that Nottingham University has a campus in Ningbo, which is an otherwise unremarkable city south-east of Shanghai with a population of 2.5m. It was set up in 2004, one of the first Sino-foreign universities to do so, and now has 5,000 students. 

But it got me thinking about Chinese cities. There are (depending on all the usual criteria) 160 cities with populations of over 1m (pah, villages!) and 93 with over 5m (mere towns!). In China a big city would be 10m+ and there are eight of these... but I'd struggle to name them all. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Frog and Hutong

There's something about a British, Irish or Aussie pub, in whatever country you're in. I like cafes and restaurants but I love a good pub. If the craic is right, then with a bunch of friends, the missus or on your own with a newspaper, pint and a packet of crisps, you can't beat it. For me, the craic would include:

- some history
- a friendly landlord and some local 'characters'
- lots of wood, but sawdust on the floor, brass fittings and ships' wheels optional
- some decent music is OK but not too loud
- beer garden
- some decent food, but not to the extent that it's a restaurant
- maybe, once in a while, a pool table
- Walkers crisps, not the fancy, overpriced ones
- TV only on big match days
- no live band

Whilst you don't get all of this overseas, Bangkok had a fair few half-decent pubs, Tokyo had the pokey Hubs, and I remember a life-saving Irish pub amongst the gloom of Moscow airport 20 years ago. Beijing meanwhile has Dirty Nellie's, Paddy O'Shea's and the inevitable Mollie Molone's amongst a few others... But this evening I went for the oddly named Nearby the Tree with a couple of friends. If not a 'lads night out', then at least some bloke talk. Not-too-loud Bob Marley music, some good German and Belgian beers and a surprisingly excellent pizza... until the guy with the guitar and Simon & Garfunkel songbook arrived.

PS. I forgot to mention whether the type of beer was an important part of the equation. It isn't actually.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Ex-pat life has plenty of positives, but a downside is that, no sooner do you make some friends, they, or we, leave. This month we say goodbye to the Frenchs (who are British), returning to London after just two years; and the Schliekers who are going back to Germany after many years here. And with one foul swoop, that 's N's two best friends in her class gone. Meanwhile A still misses Marika, her Japanese-Kashmiri (!) best friend in Bangkok. However, one of the upsides is that we have friends all over the world, to visit and be visited by; later this month, Remi, her Tokyo soulmate from way back, will come and stay.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


While floods ravage southern China, it's still dry as hell up here... although this afternoon we had that rarity of rarities: a downpour. Didn't last long, but was accompanied by incredible winds and hail and, sod's law, we were caught in the middle of it. 

The girls had never seen hail before. Luckily, it wasn't as big as the one on the right (14cms across and weighing three-quarters of a kilo which fell somewhere in America in 1970), or as deadly as one in India in 1888 which reportedly killed 246 people, but we were buffeted good and proper.  

Friday, June 10, 2011

21st Century Joseph Rock

Met an interesting guy, David Patterson, today. He spent 30 years in the employ of the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh, much of that overseas 'in the field', and much of that in Yunnan and Sichuan, working on joint UK-Chinese biodiversity projects. This seems to consist of hiking around the beautiful, remote mountainous areas on the borders with Burma and Tibet, collecting plants and advising on this and that; a modern-day Joseph Rock. In fact, the research station he set up is a 3hr hike up the mountain from Rock's old home in Yuhu, where we were a few weeks ago.

Anyway, he's just jumped ship and now works at Kunming Botanical Gardens (with whom we're planning a big arts project) but continues to spend a lot of time 'out there'. You can tell. He's tanned, fit and - as he told me - hates being behind a desk. After our meeting he was off to register for the Beijing Marathon, and then to Scotland for his summer break during which he planned to climb 11 mountains. Nice life.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Google guitar

I like Google's homepage guitar. Strummed a few notes, recorded them, played them back. Nice little waste-of-time app. Google are having an 'interesting' time in China...

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Want to buy a second-hand aircraft-carrier?

On the news this evening was a curious piece about China's first aircraft-carrier which is just about ready for launch. What was interesting was that it was bought in a Ukraine auction for 20m dollars in 1998. The ship's construction had started in a Russian Black Sea port in the late 80s, which then became Ukrainian, after which the shipbuilding company went out of business. It was bought by a Hong Kong travel agency, originally as a floating casino in Macao. The only problem was, it didn't have an engine, so they had to tow it all the way to China with various dramas along the way (including being adrift in a storm in the Aegean and having to go all the way round Africa as the Suez Canal won't accept engine-less ships). In the end the casino license wasn't forthcoming so it ended up in Dalian shipyard on the mainland where it's reverting to its originally-intended use. Reminds me of the German steel factory that was shipped over, though not towed.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

X is for...

Needless to say, a paucity of Xs, but enough for a Top 5:
  • XTC
  • X-Ray Spex
  • Xmal Deutschland
  • Bernard Xolotl
  • X-Beliebig
And needless to say, XTC get pride of place, consistently fabulous, from their urgent new wave days and 80s pop finesse, to the retro Dukes of Stratosphear and sublime swansongs, Apple Venus and Wasp Star. X-Ray Spex qualify for their great 1978 album Germ Free Adolescents (and RIP to singer Poly Styrene who died a few weeks ago...). Xmal Deutschland were a classic 4AD 80s band, while X-Beliebig were Austria's version of Joy Division (I have one very good abum). And Bernard Xolotl is a French electronic musician who has occasionally produced some good stuff inbetween a lot of new age schmaltz.  

One could add composer and sometime architect, Iannis Xenakis, and Krautrock obscuros Xhol Caravan 'though I couldn't honestly say I was a big fan of either. And finally there was Xenon, aka Dave Hunt, a recording engineer who has floated around with several other Daves: Beresford, Toop, Cunningham etc, and once offered me a cassette of his own music under the name of Xenon, which would have been YHR032 had I kept York House Recordings going. Any others?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Dragon Boat Festival

Today is Dragon Boat Festival (Duanwu Jie), a public holiday. Apparently it dates back to 278BC when Emperor Qin (he of Terracotta Warriors fame) conquered the Chu kingdom, forcing the Chu statesman and poet, Qu Yuan, to commit suicide by jumping into the Miluo River. He was a widely respected man so the local people went out in boats to throw rice dumplings into the water to stop the fish from eating his body. The boats and the dumplings have become part and parcel of the festivities., although we partook of neither. Interestingly, the festival only became a holiday again in 2008 after a gap of 60 years.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Land of Promise

Finally finished watching Land of Promise: the British Documentary Movement 1930-1950. It's taken a month: 4 DVDs, over 40 films, ranging from 5-40 mins each, plus a book, all beautifully put together by the BFI.

The movement was led by John Grierson, an advocate of social reform and national renewal, but he was joined by many others: his sister Ruby, Paul Rotha, Humphrey Jennings, Basil Wright, Paul Dickson etc. Together they believed in putting the working man (and woman) on the screen and giving them a voice. There were no film schools then so they all learned on the job. 

The films they made were almost entirely State-funded, produced through departments and agencies like the Empire Marketing Board (eg Industrial Britain [1931], actually directed by the American Robert Flaherty - see Nanouk post), Shell, GPO (the famous Night Mail [1936], curiously ommitted from this collection), Crown Film Unit, various Ministries, the COI, etc. 

Many of the films made in the '30s were about social reform (eg Housing Problems [1935]), which turned to morale-building and civil defence instruction during the war (Britain at Bay [1940]), and building a new Britain out of the ruins in the immediate postwar years. This was pre-TV of course, so they were shown in cinemas, schools, village halls, factory canteens and the like. 

Some are boring (one about an Employment Exchange springs to mind), others are somewhat patronising ("Behind the smoke, beautiful things are being made", spoken in crisp RP), some are really quite depressing (eg A Diary for Timothy [1946] and The Dim Little Island [1948] in which you can sense the weariness of the past and pessimism for the future), some are great, well-plotted little films with good acting (Cotton Comes Back [1946]), one is in colour, and two are just plain weird (Chasing the Blues [1947] which attempts to combine film and graphics, and What a LIfe! [1948] about two men attempting suicide amidst the relentless gloom of post-war rationing.

So, a 20 year snapshot (if one can call 14 hours a snapshot) of Britain before, during and after the war... Fascinating stuff, and hard to think it's the same country as now. Most men wore suits and ties, even on the factory floor, and looked a lot older than their age. Women looked (I have to say) plain, wore aprons in the house and floral dresses outside. Everyone smoked. There is constant reference to coal, shipyards and railways, and to "England" when speaking of the United Kingdom. In one film about Britain's railways, there is heavy use of a map covered with railway lines to everywhere - except Northern Ireland which is blank.

And there's plenty more where this came from. Next up is Shadows of Progress: Documentary Film in Post-War Britain 1951-1977...

Saturday, June 4, 2011


One of those grey, stay-indoors days, trying to be purposeful. Girls' belated thank you cards for birthday presents, Liz and I sorting out files, statements and tax returns... All to the soundtrack of some 80s cassettes I compiled in the... well, 80s. Unexciting stuff but vaguely satisfying.  

Sad though to hear that Martin Rushent died today, producer of Humam League's Dare and Love & Dancing - big favourites in the Elliott household and two of the most advanced examples of pop production ever - and that was 30 years ago. But he also engineered T.Rex, Gentle Giant and Curved Air before embracing punk and producing The Stranglers, The Buzzcocks, Generation X and Altered Images. Will be missed.  

Friday, June 3, 2011


3-page letter from mum arrived in the post this morning. Proper letter in an envelope with a stamp on it. Very positive, funny, looking forward to seeing us next month / coming to Beijing in the autumn and ending with the unusually casual but very amusing "Love Mum, Jean, whatever". End of a busy week. It's taken us 9 months but finally we got it together and invited my team over for a soiree of food and drinks. Nice, relaxed evening, not talking work amazingly.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The secret's not out

At a creative industries reception this evening I met some guys from Crystal CG, a big Chinese computer graphics agency who've recently set up an office in London. They did the opening ceremony visuals for the Beijing Olympics - remember the scroll? They're also doing the London ceremony. Needless to say, it's shrouded in secrecy. All they could say was: "It will be different". Fair enough. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Children's Day

School's out. It's International Children's Day today, as celebrated by former Communist Bloc countries. I remember in Japan it was 5 May (tango-no sekku) and Thailand was always the second Saturday in January. I don't think it exists in the UK, which says a lot about the British mindset. So, school's out, but not for our two!