Friday, March 25, 2016

Swimming with Dolphins

This morning, A&N - and Max - swam with a couple of dolphins, as you do. Amazing to watch: pulled along by dorsal fins and pushed by snout on balls of feet. The latter saw the girls rise from the water, arms outstretched like Kate Winslet at Titanic's bow. Parents watched from a distance - too far to get any decent photos. You could buy some afterwards, but at a rip-off £10 each we decided it was a day to remember the experience rather than chronicle it in pictorial detail. Nonetheless, here's a pic of the marine mammals in jumping mode. A&N are far right.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

RIP Johann Cruyff

And another icon departs. Lung cancer at 68. Cruyff was my hero in the early 70s when, aside from Leeds, I was obsessed with European football. Borussia Munchengladbach, Anderlecht, Inter Milan and of course Ajax. Teams that are not so big now but were then. I used to love watching those European Cup, UEFA Cup and European Cup Winners Cup matches, especially the away legs in cities that seemed glamorous even if they weren't. And Cruyff was at the centre of it all, dribbling past hapless defenders, scoring impossible goals, 'that' turn... He wore a no.14 shirt when English League teams only went to to 11. He looked cool. More than anyone (OK, alongside Best and Pele), he made football seem like an art. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms

Been reading an interesting book about the Zoroastrians of Iran, Samaritans of Israel, Copts of Egypt, Yazidis of Iraq, Kalsha of the Hindu Kush and other forgotten religions, hanging on by a thread in the Middle East. It's by Gerard Russell, a former British and UN diplomat (fluent in Arabic and Farsi), now advising on human rights policy at Harvard, but is as much a travelogue than an academic tome. 
It's easy to forget that there are religions other than Islam (or Judaism or Christianity) in the region but for how much longer?

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Not as young as I used to be

Unlike these fit young children, yours truly ran into the sea and promptly tore a calf muscle jumping over the breakers… It's official, I'm getting old. Consigned to reading in the hammock. 
But I suppose there are worse convalescences.

Monday, March 21, 2016


This morning we drove a few miles to the Mayan ruins of Coba. It's not as famous as Chichen Itza, which is much further inland (and which we visited this time last year), but actually it's better. Less crowds, lots of shady forest and cycle track between the various buildings. Its heyday was from around 100 to 1000AD, thereafter overtaken by Chichen Itza and abandoned when the Spanish arrived. Indeed it was quite a late rediscovery and only opened up to tourists in the 1980s. Fascinating place.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Wiped Out

To Tulum, second Easter in a row. This time with the Marchinis. Not a great journey though. Plane had to make a stop in the middle of nowhere to wait out a thunderstorm in Cancun... where we eventually arrived late at night and I had to drive a rental minibus through driving rain to Tulum, frantically searching for a very well-hidden windscreen wiper switch.  

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Farewell My Friends to the Show that Ends

In the past week, three more major musicians have clocked out. What is going on?
At 90, George Martin's death last Tuesday wasn't a surprise. Forever associated with The Beatles (and quite happy to be so I imagine) he produced lots of other artists, from Celine Dion and Elton John to UFO and Ultravox, but nothing that really stood out. He was old school, suit & tie, an arranger as much as anything. 

A day later, Nana Vasconcelos died of lung cancer, aged 71. Not a name that trips off every music fan's tongue, but he was one of the best percussionists in the world. Three days of mourning have been announced in Recife, his home town. I still have his wonderful Saudades album from 1979, the three Codona LPs he made with Don Cherry and Colin Walcott straight after that, and scores of albums by the likes of Talking Heads, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Eno & Hassell, Penguin Cafe Orchestra and Laurie Anderson to which he contributed. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. My one regret is never having seen him live.
But perhaps ther saddest of all, is Keith Emerson's suicide last Friday. Shot himself following depression caused by a nerve-related condition to his right hand which for a proud keyboard player like him must have somehow tipped him over the edge. I was never a huge ELP fan but still have Pictures At An Exhibition and Welcome Back My Friends... They're are often held up to be the epitome of prog excess, and it's true they were uber-accomplished musicians playing uber-flashy music. But my main complaint is not so much about the excess, more a dislike for classical pastiche and the fact that they sounded soulless and thin. The other triple live album of that era, Yessongs, was just as instrumentally 'sophisticated' but so much richer, thicker and involving by comparison. And no drum solos. Anyway, that's no way to end an otherwise inspiring life. Tragic.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

A Man, A Plan, A Canal - Panama!

Into San Diego to stroll along the gentrified wharf and
Seaport Village, and before that Balboa Park, site of the Panama-California Exposition in 1915/16 which celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal. A century later, the buildings are still there even if they were originally supposed to be temporary. Much of it is in Spanish colonial style, renovated and now housing museums, a strange wooden 'glasshouse', a version of the Globe Theatre, and these funny little international cottages which serve as mini tourist parlours run by expat volunteers. We popped into the German, Chinese and British ones which were as you'd imagine.
Then off back to Mexico City. Nice visit.
(Btw, the title of this post is the longest palindrome I know of).

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Some Like It Hot

This morning Wolfgang showed me round his workplace in Encinitas. He's a designer at Electra Bikes in the small, attractive town of Encinitas about 25 miles up the coast from San Diego. Nice, laid-back, sun-sea-and-surf atmosphere. And cool, creative office. We then headed down the freeway, listening to obscure French 70s electronica and Charanjit Singh's 1982 Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat (house music before house had been so called), to Coronado, a long thin island which lies in front of San Diego.
My favourite Marilyn Monroe film is Some Like It Hot (1959) which although set in a swanky beach hotel in 'Miami' was actually filmed at the Hotel del Coronado. Fabulous place, built in the late 1880s, all crisp white wood, rotundas, terracotta roof and original elevators. It has an interwar feel, perfect for Some Like It Hot's prohibition story). The film also has one of the best final lines of any movie. See here

Friday, March 11, 2016


My good friend Wolfgang lives 'up the road' in San Diego (actually Vista), just across the border from Tijuana. So I've flown up to see him - and his partner Evan - this weekend. I've known Wolfgang for 36 years. We can go years without seeing each other (the last time was in Beijing exactly five years ago) but we always keep in touch. Music is the common thread, and tonight we listened to hours of stuff. Wolfgang knows and has everything and will explore side avenues, download-only releases and obscure solos by a former bassist that most people (including me) have no idea about. He is a walking Finally I could keep awake no longer and crashed to the sound of French 70s synthprog band Pole.