Archive for December, 2008

Merry Christmas All!

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

Folks – I have no idea when – or indeed if – this is going to post. Blogger is being very, very strange at the moment, posting intermittently – and even not at all. I can’t even get the lovely image I’d intended for today to load.

But, on the assumption that it does, I’m wishing you all a wonderful festive period. I’m going to be around, but I’m taking time out from the blog.

I may post in between Christmas and the New Year, but I’m not counting on it.

Instead, I send you happy and healthy times, and will be back with you (Blogger permitting) on 1st January.

Advent Windows (24)

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

Appropriately enough, today’s window is at St Alfege’s, though it doesn’t sound like it acutally is a window. It’s an ‘interactive’ display, which will be happening this evening only, then presented as a poster in the church until th 5th January.


Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

Dunders asks:

“Any suggestions for a local reliable electrician?”

The Phantom replies:

I’m throwing this out to the floor, as although I’ve called in three different electricians in the past four or five years, and although none of them have been actively bad, none of them were so wonderful I’d wholeheartedly recommend them. So – any suggestions, guys?

Greenwich IMAX Tested

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

Following on from yesterday, the reason why I was trying to cross that bridge on Friday night. To test out the new IMAX screen at Greenwich Odeon, something I’ve been looking forward to since I found out it was coming…

Right up until the last minute I thought I wasn’t going to be able to go. The website said that the entire screen was sold out. Well – it was the last Friday before Christmas, so it wasn’t really surprising.

So we tried telephoning – and after a LOT of “If you want this, press that” malarkey, actually spoke to a human, who told us there were tickets, but only in the more expensive premier seats. IMAX is already dearer than regular Odeon seats, which is understandable – you’re getting more for your cash – but there also seems to be a new classification. There’s ‘regular,’ and those gallery seats at the back which cost about twice as much but give you a squashy seat and a fizzy drink, but also ‘Premier’ which are numbered, so you don’t have to queue.

There was a group of us, so we decided to pay the extra and go anyway. We only started to get suspicious when we bowled up and the place was deserted. If there were 25 people in there, I’d be surprised. And nearly all of them were in those ‘premier’ seats…

I’m going to assume that the computer system was broken and that it is normally possible to book regular tickets. It just wouldn’t make economic sense to tell people you’re full when you’re not.

So. We’re inside. And looking forward to those ‘premier’ seats.

Folks, I’m warning you now. If you are shorter than about 6ft, you are in for an uncomfortable time. The seats, completely rigid (none of that lovely slidey variety) are set so high that if you’re anything less than – well – tall, your feet will dangle over the edge. I spent the entire film squirming around trying to get comfy. I am no midget, but I ended up almost horizontal with my coat rolled up under the hollow of my back.

I’m not going to talk about The Day The Earth Stood Still – the choice of movie of the week isn’t down to individual cinemas (though don’t get me started on the film distribution system in the UK…)

So. Back on to the IMAX experience itself. You know, I was under the impression that IMAX screens were enormous and had extraordinary clarity. And that an IMAX sound system is gigantic, plastered with speakers and intended to make you ‘feel’ the sound.

Well, I’ll give them that last one. The night we went, the sound was so damn loud it hurt. There was physical pain involved. I thought it might just be me, but my entire party agreed it was just too loud. One of our group, a rock drummer, is going deaf – and even he thought it was too loud. There are many, many speakers, but I’m guessing they haven’t worked out how to use them properly yet. There just weren’t enough bodies to soak up the sound and they hadn’t made allowances for that.

I’ve always been impressed with the London IMAX – and yes, it is noisy, but it’s never threatened to make my ears bleed. At Waterloo, they have balanced the sound so that it becomes part of you, not overwhelm your will to live.

Perhaps they’re making up for the screen. I don’t know how big Screen 9 was before. I think they have increased it to the size of the wall, but it’s certainly nowhere near as big as I’d expected. It felt like a normal screen – except the resolution didn’t seem as good – as though the projector was just putting an ordinary film onto a bigger screen.

Of course, once the action started, glitches in clarity aren’t noticeable, so I wasn’t so bothered by that as I was by the sound, which just didn’t get any better. I never acclimatised myself to the sheer volume. I certainly feel for the staff, who (and I’m absolutely serious about this) should be issued with earplugs for H&S purposes.

The one good by-product of the volume was that it was only in the quiet moments (and there aren’t many in The Day The Earth Stood Still) that I could hear the interminable chatter of the teenagers to my right.

I was really excited about getting a local IMAX, but with my hand on my heart, I can’t recommend the experience. I shall be continuing at the Picturehouse for all normal films, and, should I fancy a full-on IMAX hit, I’ll be hopping on the train to Waterloo, where they’ve calculated how to make it work.

Advent Windows (23)

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

Don’t go down (or, indeed, up) to 58 Royal Hill until 7.00pm tonight – when there will be


A surprise!

Le Grand Prix des Chariots

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

The French call them chariots. So much less prosaic than our own trundling name – ‘shopping trolleys.’ The Americans are even worse: ‘carts,’ but the French have got the right idea.

They too, can imagine themselves as Ben Hur racing for his life, whilst whizzing round the isles at the local Carrefour; as Emperor Nero on stage at the amphitheatre in Naples as they select their frozen fois-gras; as Boadicea routing the Romans as they approach the home straight by les caisses

Well, okay. Perhaps not Boadicea. But to take your very own chariot around a supermarket seems a fine thing to do. It brings each and every one of us back to the ancient civilisations. The Greeks, the Romans, the Persians. The world of Homer. Of Ovid. Of Herodotus.

And I daresay that it is indeed that very yearning to understand more closely the great Classical texts that the young people of Greenwich congregate at that sacred grove, Shopping Cart Valhalla, of a Friday night to ritually explore the meaning of the Chariots of the Gods (no relation whatsoever, of course, to anything that may have been written by a certain G. Hancock. These chariots actually exist…)

As a keen anthropologist, I donned my safari suit and pith helmet to follow one such group, in the guise of Someone Not At All Interested So Don’t Mind Me, to witness their rituals and perhaps gain an insight into their strange – and some might say extreme – customs. To document their rites of passage and better understand the complex social system of the Youth of Greenwich.

The main part of their worship appears to be some kind of ritual sacrifice in the form of a race – perhaps for the young men of the tribe to prove their worth to the chieftains of the group.

My studies revealed there are generally two teams – a group of, say, six young men of mid teen-age, who harvest the chariots from Shopping Cart Valhalla* and bring them to the track where the race is to be held, a curious structure or ‘bridge’ that spans a major spiritual highway known by the local tribes as the ‘A102M’.

The other team, it became apparent, consists of strangers who wish to cross that ‘bridge’ – in this case, my own party.

The preliminaries are mainly displays of strength – sending the chariots from the top of the ramp-part of the structure down to the place where it bends, perhaps to see whether the youth in question has the necessary skill to make it bounce from the ‘barriers’ and continue down the second part of the slope.

All that is required of the opposing team, I concluded, is to prove their own nerve by climbing the attendant steps around which the ramps circulate. A nerve-shattering experience, as the trolleys clatter and clang their way down around the opposing team, each moment a test of the metal barriers to contain the carts; each moment also a test of the mental barriers within the ‘Foreign’-team. It is vital at that point not to indicate fear – or even interest.

The whole race, although ear-splitting from the trolleys’ point of view, is, however, conducted in complete silence from both teams. The former intent on sending the chariots to their doom, collecting them and bringing them back up for a second attempt; the latter merely aiming to cross the bridge without incident.

As the two groups tacitly agree to move to the second part of the ritual, a grand procession is made across the bridge. Team A silently pushing their trolleys across, surrounding Team B who look stolidly ahead, pretending nothing unusual is going on around them.

As the climax approaches, Team B realises what is at stake. They must, at any cost, descend via the steps only, as the battle for the ramp begins.

After the warm-ups – an ‘open’ race for empty trolleys – comes the freestyle finale, when young man after young man climbs into his own trolley and races the others in a nail-biting slalom.

They send themselves hurtling down the ramps at breakneck speed, weaving in and out of each other, executing fancy moves to impress the spectators, and, perhaps, Team B who are still steadfastly pretending that nothing’s going on.

At the end of the ritual, Team A collect the now somewhat-battered chariots, drag them back to the beginning to wait for the next Foreign Team to attempt to cross their territory. Team B shuffle away towards the great Temple of the goddesses B&Q, trying to look as though they saw absolutely nothing and they aren’t going to report anyone to the local constabulary…

Clearly photography was impossible. I, as part of the ‘Team B,’ collective, was expected to show no interest. Photographing this ancient ritual would have not only disturbed the wordless beauty of the custom but would have probably got me beaten up.

Instead, I bring you this tragic photograph of one of the chariots that didn’t make it to Valhalla and instead rests at Greenwich Pier…

*Interestingly, from an anthropologist’s point of view, the carts harvested from Valhalla tend to be, by their very nature, the older and weaker examples of their breed. They may have wonky wheels, or broken parts. Perhaps there is a race held elsewhere by fully-fledged tribe-members who are strong enough to tackle shopping trolleys in their prime…

Advent Windows (22)

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

Today’s window seems quite complex, so I’ll let the folks at 30a Crooms Hill tell you about it.

The darkness has not overcome it

“Designed to be seen at night, this window represents the approach of Hope through fear and shadow. It is intended to represent Hope’s vulnerability in contact with the darker forces of the world, but it is essentially an optimistic view, drawing on classical mythology and Germanic fairytales for its setting.”

Advent Windows (21)

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

Oooooh. It’s all getting close now…

The excitement of the children and young people from St Alfege and the neighbourhood has been channeled into Snakes and Ladders, today’s window at 17, Point Hill.

To encourage community participation while the “window” is on view there will be facilities for posting peoples hopes and fears on the “Hopes & Fears” notice board at the graffiti wall.

Guerrillas In The Midst

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

Following on from yesterday’s sad sight, I bring you an example of Guerrilla gardening, albeit in the borough, rather than the town of Greenwich, by our own RTB. He mentioned he’d done some and I wasn’t going to rest until he’d shown me the results…

He noticed that the war memorial in Eltham was looking – well, not really fit for heroes:

so set about creating a new display, full of meaningful and symbolic plants chosen for the place. The full story and plant-meanings are on his website.

And here’s one of the boxes, just after planting. It’s early days – it will need time to fill out, but he’s planted it using a frame of chicken wire to discourage vandals so you never know – it might just reach maturity.

Which has just got me thinking of Trafalgar Road’s own Tubs of Shame, in between the bookies and the lap dancing bar…

So, RTB, you’ve probably got some time on your hands now the war memorial’s done…

Advent Windows (20)

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

Cor – this one sounds intriguing. Follow Your Star, at 34 Hyde Vale is, apparently, a “three dimensional installation in the garden.”