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w/e 2024-01-28

On Tuesday the nice guys from We Are EV in Bristol delivered our Renault ZOE. Very exciting. We’ve only been for one brief drive so far – we’ve been away in London for the past few days – but it was quite strange. Not purely because it’s an electric vehicle but also because it’s (of course) automatic. I haven’t driven an automatic car for over 20 years and, as then, it was a little unsettling and, again, left me wondering why so many cars over here are manual. Why do we make life harder for ourselves?

A photo of a white Renault ZOE, a small car, on a short brick drive

Add the quiet electric-ness on top of that, especially compared to the growl of our Fiat Panda’s rumbling little engine. In 20 years time we’ll sound like Neanderthals telling kids how all vehicles used to be powered by noisy, smelly, vibrating, complicated, breaking down engines fuelled by smelly, expensive, flammable, polluting etc etc aaanyway, we now have an electric car so we’re a very slightly smaller part of the bigger problem.

I did feel slightly car sick after driving it but let’s hope that was a one-off aberration. Come back next week to find out! Like and subscribe!

§ We then had three nights in London, partly for a couple of social gatherings of Mary’s, partly finding our anniversary to be an excuse for a trip and a nice dinner out.

The latter was at Bocca di Lupo and I knew it’d been a while since our last visit but not quite the 12 years that Swarm/Foursquare told me it was. A very tasty treat – especially the anchovy between sage leaves and then fried – but a slightly too baffling menu, with a mixture of small plates, large plates, dishes that are only for 2, and things priced per item (like that anchovy).

Overall a lovely trip with a lot of walking around in chilly but clear weather, and cafés and coffee shops. As so often, I didn’t, in advance, have the minimal chutzpah required to arrange many social things, although we did have a tasty brunch with P&K, and I happened to bump into J & N at lunch within an hour of arriving in town, which was lovely.

We had a morning trip to the William Morris Gallery and enjoyed the building, its permanent exhibits about Morris and his work, and the current Radical Landscapes exhibition. All good. And then we had a nice journey on the best bus seat of the 55 all the way from its source in Walthamstow to the centre of town. Oh, the glamour.

A photo looking across some still water, through the hanging branches of a winter tree, at a large, three-storey brick house under a clear sky
The William Morris Gallery

§ I went to see Poor Things which was… OK? I guess? I’d seen many people say how great it is, which is always hard for a film to live up to. It means that I end up thinking not only about whether I’m enjoying it or not, but also judging how right or wrong all those people were.

Russell posted about how useful it is to hear what films people like, in order to decide what to see. It made me realise that while I rely on this word-of-mouth for TV shows, I do so less for movies, and even find it gets in the way, for me. I’m probably more annoyed that I didn’t love Poor Things than I’d normally be, because so many other people did.

When I first started going to the cinema regularly, when I went to university, I’ve no idea how I decided what to see. No one else I knew went to the cinema, especially art cinema (and there was a much starker divide between mainstream and art cinema back then). I rarely bought newspapers or magazines, and there was no internet. Maybe I just looked at the cinemas’ listings and picked things I liked the sound of. Which, honestly, sounds quite refreshing. So little pressure, so little expectation.

Anyway, Poor Things: it had some interesting bits, and some funny bits, but it was mostly self-consciously weird. “Let’s have weird people doing weird things in weird places. Oh and we’ll film it with weird lenses. And we’ll slather loud weird music over it all. OooOOOooh, so wEiRd!!”

I’ve no idea when production started but many of the scenes that were, I assume, supposed to look surreal, look, in 2024, like hasty and bad “AI”-generated images. Oddly shaped buildings, peculiar vehicles, strange animals, overly saturated colours: Even a couple of years back that might all have looked fantastically impossible and dreamlike but now it looks like the lazy first result from a single-sentence prompt, unfortunately.

§ We also went to see The Holdovers which was good. I probably wasn’t in quite the right mood for it because there’s nothing bad about it and yet I still felt a little underwhelmed by its well-put-togetherness and everything-wraps-up-nicely-ness. There was probably more of that expectation of how good it was supposed to be, too, and wishing I knew even less about the basic plot than I did.

I’m not sure if I took the right lessons from it, because to me, they were (spoilers):
  • If you let up on being an obstinate, elitist hardass, then you will lose everything.
  • Privileged people can behave however they like, they’ll rely on other people to get them off the hook, and they will never get their comeuppance.

§ On Saturday night I went to see Kin, by Gecko, at the National Theatre which was a more worthy, or issues-based, theatre production than I’d usually go to, but I wanted to see something in Mime London (which used to be the London International Mime Festival) and it was on while I was going to have a free evening in London.

I don’t know. If there was a narrative it was lost on me. Maybe it was only supposed to be a series of vignettes about refugees, emigrants, and borders. There was some nice vignettes, some great pieces of ensemble movement, nice stuff with lights, etc.

But, but… theatre about Important Issues is tricky I think. I didn’t find any slow-motion, moodily-lit, heartfelt scene, soundtracked by overly-loud mournful strings, more powerful than a single real photo of actual refugees. My feelings about global injustices and capricious border regulations haven’t been transformed or even nudged any further.

I’ve definitely seen – and probably been in – plenty of pieces where the gulf between ambition and effect is much greater, but I left feeling disappointed, and wondering if theatre is any use for this kind of thing.

§ Already in 2024 I have become a better person! Two pieces of evidence: I gave up on a thick book of short stories only ⅓ of the way through its 700 pages – no one needs to read that many short stories – rather than plod on to the end over several months. And I also declared bankruptcy on the 2½-year-thick heap of New York Reviews of Books. I don’t need to try and catch up! I can throw them away and start from now. I am a whole new me!

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