Peculiarities

A Guy Ritchie movie in the making?

Two crooks decide to rob hundreds of unsuspecting people of thousands of £s by charging a hefty entry fee to enter a Lapland fantasy Christmas park that turns out to be more of a “Crapland”. Yesterday they were found guilty of misleading advertising.

Sad? Yes. Wrong? Yes. A little bit comical, too? Indeed! Details below:

…on arrival at the park, down a poorly signposted, potholed lane, visitors were greeted by a large concrete expanse and a traffic cone on which a sign had been perched reading “Lapland Way In”. Instead of being greeted by an elf, as promised on the website, visitors had to give their tickets to a security guard in fluorescent tabard who, according to contemporary news reports, made a point of telling those coming in that they were being ripped off and later quit after a customer punched him in the head.

Once inside, instead of a “tunnel of light”, guests found a short row of fir trees that had been lightly sprayed with fake snow and draped with a string of fairy lights. In a muddy corner of the site a few huskies were chained to pegs, “howling, yapping and generally looking unhappy”, according to one visitor; a solitary reindeer suffered the same unhappy fate.

[…] The park went into liquidation four days after it opened, when bank support helping to fund the attraction was pulled amid a storm of negative publicity. By the time it shut its doors, according to press reports at the time, three elves had been assaulted by irate guests while Father Christmas himself received a punch on the nose by a father who had been queueing for four hours only to be told that his children couldn’t sit in Santa’s lap.

(source).

Never trust a Finn.

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Reading about Knud Rasmussen on the Tube

A good book will, of course, close its tentacles around you and suck you into a parallel universe. There is, nevertheless, something great about maintaining the connection between the fictional world set out on the pages and the ‘real’ world in which the reading takes place.

In my personal experience, it was while travelling in Turkey that I started marvelling over Orhan Pamuk’s books, namely ‘The New Life‘, which is all about movement, twists and turns in small town Turkey. The sublime architecture of my ‘old’ university in Aarhus formed the backdrop of most of Svend Aage Madsen‘s detours into the realm of magic. Javier Marias described the farcical nature of Oxford so well that the book itself became almost too predictable (or was it the other way round?).

In short, to me the best books are not necessarily self-contained universes, rather they are merely pointers to or reminders of personal spaces and experiences.

All the nonsense above is just a long-winded introduction to another mechanism for enhancing the reading experience: seeking out contexts that are completely contrary to the settings described in the book.

I recently finished reading the biography of Denmark’s greatest Arctic explorer, Knud Rasmussen. The vast desolate spaces of Greenland took on even greater depths in the depths of the London Tube, close to bursting with 8.15am commuters during an involuntary, non-permanent marriage with public transport whilst I got my bike fixed.

Giles Coren has something to say about books and places, too.

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Monks and flying ladies in Chanel suits

Certain things are much more interesting when they are not intellectualised or explained away. I remember once seeing a flying lady in a pink Chanel suit after a few too many, um, drinks in Amsterdam. There is no way this bizarre event could possibly make sense to anyone but me and the other person who was there that night in Centraal Station.

Something similar could be said about Sutra, the extraordinary dance performance I saw last night at Sadler’s Wells. It involved wooden boxes, monks from the Shaolin Temple and some incredible choreography. The rest you will have to figure out for yourself.

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Masks and tupilaqs

Do you remember Paul R. Bear? Well, he has got company now.

A friend has graced me with four Greenlandic artefacts given that his wife was too scared of them (this makes more sense if you have a look at these pictures).

The masks are antique fertility masks from East Greenland, Tunu, traditionally used in wedding ceremonies as part of a dance ritual. They look scary, but have done no harm so far.

The tupilaqs, made out of reindeer antler, may not look quite as hostile, but on a spiritual level they are not to be messed with.

My viva is on April 24th – I hope you are reading along, dear examiners. Not to be messed with.

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Dora or Hermann?

Yesterday’s Guardian featured a pretty interesting article on olympians whose sex has been called into question. In fact, this is not a new problem at all:

You could tell because they would always go into the toilet to get changed. We’d go and stand on the seat of the next-door cubicle or look under the door to see if we could catch them.” Tyler held the world record for the high jump, but when officials wrote to her telling her that Ratjen had broken it, she wrote back. “I said: ‘She’s not a woman, she’s a man,'” she says. “They did some research and found ‘her’ serving as a waiter called Hermann, so I got my world record back again.” Dora, who had been born Hermann Ratjen, had in fact been a member of the Hitler Youth and said that the Nazis had forced him to enter as a woman.

Read the full article: The gender trap.

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It’s raining rabbits and lobsters

You may recall the quirky movie Magnolia and the wonderfully surreal scene in which frogs start falling from the sky. While events like this would normally fall under the rubric of ‘freak’ or plain ‘weird,’ I have reason to believe that someone up there is actually playing tricks on me.

It started a year ago when I found a lobster(!) in my then back garden and came to the conclusion that a bird must have stolen it from a restaurant and dropped it whilst in flight. I live nowhere near the sea and the area happens to be fenced in. But there it was, a boiled lobster.

Yesterday, whilst having a barbeque, some guests heard the sound of an object hitting the ground, but did not notice anything unfamiliar. Five minutes later, though, we found a dead baby rabbit a few metres away from the table. I shall not go into too much detail, but it had obviously hit the ground pretty hard and was, no doubt, to blame for the sound earlier.

Before you start drawing conclusions about my sanity, rest assured that I have witnesses who would happily testify to the truth of both episodes.

I wonder what is in store for me the next time…

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The Fat yet Confident and Postmodern Duck

Whoever said we do not live in a postmodern world should have a look at the menu at The Fat Duck. I quote:

NITRO-GREEN TEA AND LIME MOUSSE (2001) OYSTER, PASSION FRUIT JELLY, LAVENDER POMMERY GRAIN MUSTARD ICE CREAM, RED CABBAGE GAZPACHO JELLY OF QUAIL, LANGOUSTINE CREAM, PARFAIT OF FOIE GRAS OAK MOSS AND TRUFFLE TOAST
(Homage to Alain Chapel)

SNAIL PORRIDGE
Joselito ham

ROAST FOIE GRAS “BENZALDEHYDE”
Almond fluid gel, cherry, chamomile

“SOUND OF THE SEA”

SALMON POACHED IN LIQUORICE GEL
Artichokes, vanilla mayonnaise and “Manni” olive oil

BALLOTINE OF ANJOU PIGEON
Black pudding “made to order”, pickling brine and spiced juices

HOT AND ICED TEA (2005)

MRS MARSHALL’S MARGARET CORNET

PINE SHERBET FOUNTAIN (PRE-HIT)

MANGO AND DOUGLAS FIR PUREE
Bavarois of lychee and mango, blackcurrant sorbet,
blackcurrant and green peppercorn jelly

PARSNIP CEREAL

NITRO-SCRAMBLED EGG AND BACON ICE CREAM (2006)
Pain perdu, tea jelly

WHISK(E)Y WINE GUMS

PETITS FOURS
Mandarin aerated chocolate, Violet tartlet, Carrot and orange lolly

PS. As a restaurant, in the case of guests with reservations failing to show without giving notice, you need to be pretty confident to charge in the range of £80-£100.

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Protesters deluxe

Bumper stickers
Although Berkeley is arguably the stronghold of political activism, it strikes me as somewhat peculiar to see so many cars plastered with bumper stickers. Especially when they happen to be parked outside mansions in the 1-2 million dollar bracket and every other vehicle is an SUV the size of a small country.

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We don’t come across many of those around here

And for eight hours I believed it was just the neighbour returning wearing big boots.

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Nightly obscurities

I have a little confession to make.

Sometimes when returning late from a night out, having possibly enjoyed one or two glasses of port too many, I shout “keep up the good work,” “hear hear,” or some other words of encouragement at the songbirds in my way.

I know this may sound is really strange, but there must be a reason why birds sing all night, all year round on these latitudes.

I like to think that I am doing my bit to keep this tradition in place.

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