My Cultural Life – May

Greetings from a hot and sticky London where summer has arrived.

Normality is hardly a feature, though. The trains, when not cancelled, are just a shade busier than they have been but, as they’re full when they’re half full, there’s a limit to how far that can go and King’s Cross was a shadow of its former self.

But hey, we’re down in the Smoke and, with a couple of pub visits under our belt already this week, we’re doing our bit – and chuntering about the price of everything into the bargain.

So, away from the pubs, what’s been going on?

The world of books

You would need a few dozen lifetimes just to put a dent in the list of good books out there, but we’re having a shot at it. So, what did we read in May?

The Executioners – John D McDonald – 1957

Filmed at least twice as Cape Fear, this is a revenge / ghost from the past story.

It’s been much-imitated but rarely bettered in the decades after its publication and tells the tale of an attorney who successfully prosecuted a nasty, brutish rapist only to have said villain turn up on his doorstep a decade or more later.

Needless to say, the murderous ne’er-do-well has the express intention of making our lawyer’s life – and that of his wife and teenage daughter – thoroughly miserable and shorter than it would have otherwise been.

It’s a good book but the denouement is perhaps a little tame by modern standards. Chilling, nonetheless.

The Honest Truth about Dishonesty – Dan Ariely – 2012

A non-fiction look at why and when we lie, cheat and steal.

Mr Ariely suggests that, whether we’re talking about robbing a bank, taking 50p that we’ve found in the Coke machine reject coin slot or ‘borrowing’ some stationery from work, we’ll do what we do to the point that we begin to feel bad about ourselves.

But the problem is, some of us never do. And therefrom are drawn the true sociopaths whilst others amongst us might starve to death in a food shop if we didn’t have the money to pay for a bite to eat.

Overall, a fascinating book with some very thought-provoking real-life examples.

The Crowd – Gustave le Bon – 1895

Another non-fiction effort and not a new book by any means.

But Mr le Bon nailed it 125yrs ago when he said that crowds will do what individuals will not. They are emotional, child-like, volatile, easily swayed, listen to oratory rather than facts and can be powerful when directed, often by malign leaders.

Not naming any names here, but certainly something to think about.

What’s on film?

Not terribly active on the film front this month but we managed to get a few in. The quality, shall we say, was variable, but here are a couple of the better ones.

Eurovision Song Contest – The Story of Fire Saga – 2020.

Timely given that the event itself was only a few weeks ago. Will Ferrell wrote and starred in Eurovision and very enjoyable it is too.

The schmaltz is kept to manageable levels and the rest of the film is just plain funny. Makes you want to put Ja, Ja ,Ding Dong on repeat while you talk to the pixies.

Sixth Sense – 1999

We’ve seen it before. I mean, who hasn’t but, on this third or fourth watch, it still had its moments.

The reveal is so central to the film that repeat viewings are probably rarer than they are for many films but Sixth Sense still plugs a gap in the evening. The signals are more apparent, of course, but the ‘I see dead people’ line is still a classic and the rest isn’t bad.

And on television?

Terrestrial TV doesn’t dominate our lives in the way it maybe did in the past. The dramas might be politicised, but there are still good documentaries and panel shows out there and here are a couple of them.

Once Upon a Time in Iraq – BBC – 2020

Not a pro-war documentary, that’s for sure.

We see naïve machismo meeting the real world with tragic results and, as the Beeb makes heartbreakingly clear, hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost or ruined as a result.

Nobody looks good and, as so many people died and so many families were torn apart, maybe that’s as it should be. Well worth a watch, not least for the soldiers, from the generals down to the gun-toting grunts, who simply can no longer maintain the stance that they were doing the right thing.

Sherlock – BBC – 2017 to 2020

If your inferiority complex needs any work then Benedict Cumberbatch’s deductive abilities could provide you with a top up.

Ludicrous, naturally, but we knew that going in and. for the fellow nerds out there, it was mostly filmed in Wales with some of the exteriors in London – though Bloomsbury rather than Baker Street which, in our experience, has never looked quite that narrow.

Food & drink

Hospitality reopened for indoor trading on 17 May and we were quickly back into the pub. Table service seems a bit weird, spontaneity is reduced and there is plenty of room for officious behaviour but, at the end of the day, a reopened pub is better than a shuttered one and we got stuck in.

And, towards the end of the month, we ventured out to the Yorkshire villages for a holiday. More on that in June’s copy.

Conclusion

As we write, the path to complete un-lockdown is starting to look a little shaky. The removal of all restrictions on 21 June is no longer a given and we’re all becoming familiar with ‘variants’, be they Indian, Nepalese, Delta or whatever.

And holidaymakers, brave, selfish, foolhardy, pick your own adjective, are rushing back to the UK to beat Portugal’s move to Amber.

Still, the Falklands are Green. Though it’s the Southern Hemisphere’s winter now and it would take you a week to get there and a week to get back, good luck if you’re going. That’s enough for now and more on holidays nearer to home next month.

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