Eurovision – Where did the wackiness go?

I’m a bit late in reflecting on my thoughts about the Eurovision song contest from last week in Malmo but I wanted to share my musings on what has begun to become a snorefest.

Don’t get me wrong I love the Eurovision. Its one time of the year when everyone can sit in front of the telly and enjoy the best, or should I say the worst of what Europe has to offer in a night of utter campness and silliness.  A night when the gay community can revel in camp euphoria and straight people can act as macho as possible in a vain attempt to hide the fact that they love it as much as everyone else. At least that’s what it used to be. It seems to have become an exercise in samey-ness. My gripe is that there’s not enough wacky, silly and plain ridiculous acts that made Eurovision the fun spectacle it once was. It should be about not taking yourself seriously and having fun. The countries now seem to be taking it far too seriously. I mean the Azerbaijan president has even opened an inquiry as to voting irregularities.

To be fair the Swedish hosts did a great job of putting on the show and the musical montage performed by Petra the presenter, poking fun at Swedish customs was hilarious. I should know I am part Swede myself. Graham Norton’s commentary at the end of the piece sums it up perfectly. The Georgian’s and Azerbaijanies for example would be left scratching their heads at the humour and extreme silliness. (Feel free to correct me and put me in my place if you are from one of those countries). Since the Eurovision has opened up to allow just about every country under the sun to participate, even ones I didn’t realise were part of Europe , and I consider my geography to be one of my few strong suits, the contest has become more political and serious than ever before. The tactical voting for neighbouring countries used to be kind of funny and expected but now its just gotten beyond funny.

Anyway, I digress. What I really wanted to talk about was the songs and how there aren’t enough eccentric entries anymore. It’s almost all the same, some beautiful woman signing a power-balad or dance number, accompanied by a few obligatory muscled men dancing around.

Seeing the semi finals I was gutted that my favourite entry by Montenegro didn’t even make it through to the finals! I mean how can two chaps jumping around in space-suits rapping in their native tongue not make it through? It’s a travesty! Or what about the Macedonian entry with the whaling lady? that didn’t make it through either. The people who only view the final, which by the way is some 125 million people, will never see the delights of these bonkers but ultimately true to the spirit of Eurovion wonders. Instead, they are subjected to one woman after the other singing some samey drabness.

The one and probably only entry that meets my whackyness requirements in the final was the Romanian entry, which consisted of an opera singing dance number where the singer is elevated towards the sky and sings so high you might need to secure your windows.. Brilliant. More of this please.

So that’s my Eurovision rant over. Heres hoping next year there will be some more fun songs and crazy staging. Come on Europe don’t take yourself so seriously!

 

Rude People

Everyone has an off day. Thats fair enough. But people who work in customer service, especially front facing and in this case shops, why oh why can you not just be civil? Why work in a shop if you so dislike the presence of other human life forms?

As you might be able to tell, I have just returned from a visit to my local shop, where, the most obnoxious, stuck-up and plain rude lady spends her days being a total (I really want to use a bad word but shall resist) horrible person.

You go in there with a smile and civil greeting only to met with seemingly contempt at your want to buy something. The transaction continues with growing rudeness and I leave feeling angry and mystified in what I have done to deserve such a frosty reception.

I used to work in retail several years ago, and like a say, I can understand that everyone is entitled to have a bad day, who knows the shop assistant might have had some bad news or even lost their favorite cake making recipe, but to be consistently rude, day in, day out is annoying to say the least  for the customer and must be a very grim existence for the shop worker themselves. Although I  didn’t particularly enjoy my time in the retail sector, earning a small wage, and feeling as though my creative spirit was being held back, I always made an effort to be polite to the customer and you know what, it made the whole experience much more bearable and I even met and got to talk to some great and fascinating people. When I left the job I even received some unexpected and humbling tips from my regular customers. I’m not trying to imply that I was some brilliant joyous shop assistant or that I am a constantly happy person, I think that the ramblings and grumblings of this blog can testify to that, but please people, shop workers especially, can you at least be civil and not a complete A**.

The joys of a 9 hour Airport Transit… Not!

I find myself in Dhaka Airport at 2 in the morning in transit on my way to London. Buying the cheapest ticket now seems like a bad call if ever there was one. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for. As I wonder how i’m going to spend the next 8 and a half hours, I am being harassed by aggressive mosquitos from all directions. It doesn’t seem to make any difference where I sit in this god-awful airport, the mosquitos are everywhere.

This place is grim. I’m the only westerner around and stick out like a sore thumb. There’s strange characters lurking around and I’ve already been approached by three men in suits who strangely knew my name and asked if I had left anything on the plane. After reading about how dodgy this place can be on the internet prior to my coming here, I am worried about my checked in luggage which the transit desk staff enquired about before signalling to someone on the other side of the room. We shall see what happens. (As it turns out, I was clearly over concerned and my luggage arrived safely in london –  credit where its due to the staff who made sure it arrived).

The airport has an eerie vibe, is dated and reminds me of a similar transit experience I had a few years ago in Jordan. Coming from the ultra-modern Suvarnabumi Airport in Bangkok, this is about as contrasting a you can imagine and its clear one is in a country of the developing world. The that fact that I am in Bangladesh makes me want to venture outside, curious  as to what lays beyond the walls of this gloomy airport. I am sure Dhaka is full of life, colour and wonder but Visa-less I am sadly confined to this place for another 8 hours with only my increasingly affectionate mosquito friends for company. I did venture upstairs in the direction of the VIP lounges to try my luck but to no avail. I entered my airlines’ lounge which looked like heaven in comparison to where I sit writing this. They had sofas, a bar and an enticing collection of TIME  and National Geographic magazines but my blagging skills clearly evade me as I am kindly told the lounge is for business class passengers only. It was totally empty and I guess I was hoping the chap would allow me stay but als sadly it wasnt to be. Man, sometimes I wish I was rich. Those damn business class passengers get a sweet life, and I sigh each time boarding a plane as you are made to walk through the business class section before reaching your cattle class seat squashed in with screaming kids all around and kicking your seat from behind  for eleven hours solid as if they are playing a game of how annoying can I be and get away with it before reaching adulthood. To be fair, I was an annoying little monster when I was a kid so I guess its my karma coming back to haunt me. My future Karma by the way must be taking a hammering as I callously try to defend myself against the ever present mosquitos, using my notebook to strike them but they are quick to avoid my swipes and circle round and attack from another direction. I wonder what a Buddhist monk’s stance is on killing mosquitos? I can understand not wanting to harm the majority of creatures as they innocently go about their business, but surely mosquitos fall into a separate category. They are after all attacking and after blood and quite possibly carrying a deadly disease. Therefore surely there can be no moral wrong in killing them in self defence?

Ok, a new development in the life of a transiting traveller who is feeling more and more as if he is in that Tom Hanks film about a guy stuck in an airport with no way out. I’ve just checked the departures board and my flight isn’t showing despite flights that are departing much later than mine showing up. The only flight leaving at the time mine is supposed to, and with seemingly the same flight number, is going to Dubai! mmm…  Well, on the plus side, I’ve never been to Dubai, so could be an interesting detour should I end up there. I would go and enquire at the transit desk but after witnessing how they shouted at the last guy who went over there for information I am hesitant.

With six and a half hours left its a times like these I wish I had a smartphone, games console or some kind of device to keep me entertained. I do have my laptop but don’t really want to get it out for the curious lurking characters to see. Besides, it would run out of battery pretty fast. I don’t want to try to sleep for the same reasons, not that it would be possible with the growing swarm of insects around me. I never thought I’d so long be landing in Heathrow but I wish I was there right now.

Now it’s 5am and still theres no info on my flight. Not really anyone around to ask either. On a more positive note- I remembered that have an Ipod! so I am listening to some great tunes making things more bearable. Adding to the surrealness of this airport I am listening to a band from Dakar in Senegal and I am in Dhaka Bangladesh. I find myself bouncing along as I head towards the little smoking room by gate 6A. I only have one marlboro light left now and then its on to the Drum rolling tobacco I bought at Bangkok airport. I dont actually like Drum but was a mere 25 baht short of the golden virginia multipack so had to buy the only other option they had at the duty free shop. Still, 5x50grams of drum should keep me going for a month or two if my throat survives the harshness of drum tobacco which I haven’t smoked since I went to Spain at the age of 16 with some friends and for some reason we bought a whole bunch of the stuff. It will also save me a small fortune as tobacco prices reach astronomical levels in  the UK.

Just after 5am now starting to get hungry. There’s a snack place open but alas I have no Bangladeshi money. Here’s hoping I get something nice to eat on the plane, if indeed there is a plane.. Man, I could eat about 10 Cinabons right now.

Now listening to Forever Young by some 80’s band I forget the name of. Not that I have any street cred but if I did it would certainly be shattered after admitting to having this song on my ipod. I’m just a sucker for cheesy 80’s music. Its so nostalgic and euphoric with its synthesisers and all. Man, the 80’s. Seems like a long time ago now. I was young then but I still remember how it was. Long before the common use of mobile phones and computers. I even remember having a tape cassette collection of music I really wont admit to the artists I had. Anyway, they were allways getting chewed up by the cassette player. There were films like the goonies, back to the future, police academy, and indiana jones to name a few. Things have certainly changed. Being in my 30th year on this great earth, I feel like i’m in some kind of no-mans land. I feel old but I know I’m not. But certainly not young anymore either. Turning 30 sure makes you think about what you have achieved so far and what you want to make happen in the future.

Ok, my ipod has now reached Bob Dylan and things seem back to normal after a bit of 80’s silliness. Bob has been my musical backbone for a number of years and there’s something very comforting about having him with you at times like these. I’ve seen him play live a few times and feel so glad I have had the chance to do.

It’s certainly chilly here in Bangladesh coming from the sweaty heat of Bangkok. I have noticed many of the men here wearing scarves and wrapping them around their heads and covering the ears sort of like an elderly lady might do in the west. A new sight for me but perfectly practical if slightly amusing. What really surprises me is why on earth they have the air conditioners on at full blast. It makes no sense what so ever as there’s hardly anyone in here, it must cost a fortune and its cold already! Still, if there’s one thing I have learned on my travels is that trying to make sense of some perplexing foreign customs is usually a pointless and fruitless thing to do. Mindsets are simply different from culture to culture and although at times this leads to utter frustration and bewilderment , it is of course the wonder of the world. It would be pretty rubbish i everywhere was the same , had the same way of doing things and undoubtedly would mean the thrill of travel would be lost.

Things are looking up. Just as I stroll up to the departures board, Dubai magically gets deleted and replaced with London! Quite funny as I actually see the letters being typed on the aging computerised screen. Looks like Dubai will have to wait for another time but its a relief as i wasnt looking forward to another stopover/transit in an alien environment. Now its 6am and so not that much longer to go before the gate opens.

Things are getting better again! The chap at the transit desk some hours ago said something about breakfast but I didn’t really understand what he was saying. Well, a smartly dressed waiter just approached me in the terminal and said I am entitled to a free breakfast. So here I now sit in a nice restaurant – one of those places which  wants to be posh but is not quite there and ends up resembling some thing from a 1987 tv film. I should stop being so critical, because this is a wonderful change and surprise as I am presented with toast , eggs, orange juice and tea – I am instantly in a better and joyous mood at the delights that lay before me.

Cinabon! Oh Yeah!

So today I discovered Cinabon. I’ve just googled them and it seems they’ve been around for several years but somehow escaped my noticing. They serve cinnamon rolls and I had a ‘Chocobon’ which had chocolate sauce inside it. Suffice to say it was the nicest cinnamon roll I have ever had and from which I gained tremendous amounts of sweet tooth pleasure. The location of the particular cinabon store was in the amazing Siam Paragon centre in Bangkok. The shopping centre is apparently one of Asia’s largest but to tell you the truth although I have been their several times I have yet to progress beyond the ground floor food area which is filled with so many enticing things to eat that it’s my idea of food paradise. Especially when it comes to cakes, my god the cakes. They all look so tempting, and then theirs the ice cream.. ok I’ll stop now.

Geocaching – A Very Modern Treasure Hunt

So I was recently introduced to the pastime of geocaching. For those of you like me who until a few days ago had no idea of its meaning or purpose, its basically a form of global treasure hunting for people with smartphones. Using their smartphones they can locate the rough location of a hidden container placed by a previous geocacher. Inside the container is some paper where you leave your name and sometimes a gift should you please for the next person that finds it. Accompanied by my experienced geocaching friends in Bangkok today we went looking for a couple of these containers which by the way are dotted around at locations all over the world and at surprisingly random and often isolated locations. One of the ones we looked for today was apparently placed on or behind a telephone on the platform of an underground station here in Bangkok. It seems part of the challenge of geocache hunting is to try and prevent suspicion from guards and police as some are clearly placed in sensitive areas where they and YOU could be mistaken for being anything from a spy to a terrorist poking around looking for or planting these hidden containers. Anyway I went nonchalantly up to the phone to pretend to make a phone call whilst looking for the container but when I lifted the receiver there was someone  instantly on the other line speaking Thai. It soon became clear from reading the bold lettering that this was actually an emergency phone with a large penalty for improper use. Ahhh, in a panic I hung up and waited impatiently for the next train to arrive to make a quick escape before being held responsible for closing down the station. Its fair to say I am a rubbish novice at this lark and probably wont be geocaching again for a while.

Wired in, connected and apped up. The death of solitude and contemplation.

I’ve just stepped off the skytrain in Bangkok. There is a technological revolution going on and I am not a part of it. Not because I don’t want to be but it seems to have simply past me by or perhaps because I simply can’t afford to partake in its rapid evolution. What the hell am I going on about? I’m talking of the number of people completely engaged with their smart phones, ipads and other gadgets and seemingly oblivious to the environment around them. This is of course not unique to the uber modern skytrain of Bangkok but across cities the world over I’m sure. I ve certainly noticed the same trend on the London underground and trains. Of course I am sure this has been written about before but I seem to find myself amongst a shrinking minority of people simply sitting or standing on a train doing… well nothing. I say nothing but actually I’m usually thinking, observing or generally contemplating something. So am I missing out or are the wired in people missing out? I don’t know but it sometimes seems the masses are turning into slaves to devices and the cyber reality that it connects them to.

 

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