Saturday, 6 June 2015

Disco infernal..

I recently had the misfortune of going to a night club.

Now those of you that know me and of my age will be asking "why on earth did you go in the first place?".  For those that don't and to give you some idea, when I fill out a survey I have to tick the box '50 - 55'.  But it's not as daft an idea as it sounds, my wife is younger and evergreen, it was a leaving do for one of our fabulous work colleagues (actually about her 6th, but who's counting?  Obviously me..)  and I used to love night clubs in my youth, so I thought 'why not?'.

I guess my clubbing salad days were the 80's - 1980's not 1880's - and the music was fantastic.  A heady mix of The Trammps, Donna Summer, Sylvester, Kool and the Gang, Michael blooming Jackson for Pete's sake, it was epic.  There was melody, lyrics ('burn that mother down y'all' - almost Shakespearian), tunes and variations of pace or BPM - beats per minute - which gave the whole experience variety and tested the mixing skills of the DJ's.

The Trammps, who performed Disco Inferno, a disco hit in 1976 but still going strong in the 80's.  It's not surprising there was a fire with all that polyester around, I mean one spark..

I appreciated that this was probably not going to be the playlist in the night club of 2015, unless it was an 'Old School' night, probably spelt 'Old Skule', which I'm never sure is done to add a sense of some juvenile element to the proceedings or just to annoy English teachers, which it does, immensely, and breathe..  However I wasn't prepared for the assault on my senses that I received upon entering the place.

At this juncture I should add that the club was on a holiday complex which clearly attracts an eclectic mix of weekend clients, in the same way that a tavern in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie might attract a range of different characters. You know the sort, one eyed sea dogs, bling covered nouveau riche, men the age of Keith Richard acting like men the age of Justin Beber, women the age of Tina Turner gyrating like Miley Cyrus, if only I was hip surgeon..  It was mainly a collection of holiday makers of all ages and young men and women from the UK and Ireland who are expats up from Dubai for the weekend searching for cheap booze, which they had apparently found quickly and in abundance.  I think we in the wider world deserve a thank you from the towns and cites of Europe, as by accepting these youngsters in to our expatriate community we are stopping them from projectile vomiting in your high streets every weekend and giving them the opportunity to empty their innards in a warmer climate.  Taking one for the team.

So I entered the room and immediately thought I had happened upon a worm-hole in the space time continuum because clearly I was now in Guantanomo Bay.  The water boarding had obviously not worked and we were now experiencing intense white noise torture. This was music - and I use the term loosely - clearly written by someone who doesn't like your ears, I say 'your ears',  I mean my ears.  Reassured that I wasn't in Cuba by the lack of cigars and vintage cars, I made my way to the area our group had occupied.  I should mention at this juncture that I was, as usual, the old man of the group and no-one else was phased by what they were hearing.  For me it was a metronomic, electronic row.  A sort of electrical version of metal dustbins being thrown down concrete stairs at regular intervals.  But surely this was just one track, soon order would be restored and Variety introduced along with his friend, Tune.  No, not at all.  It transpires that now every thing played has been mixed to within an inch of it's life in to a monotone, mind numbing, teeth rattling assault on your senses.
Edvard Munch, 'The Scream'.  Allegedly painted after going to the same club.  Honest.

Believe it or not, I am not a stranger to modern dance music, or at least I thought I wasn't a stranger.  I have Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams on in the car for goodness sake so you can understand my confidence in thinking was down with kids.  But these dance tracks are clearly not trance, or acid, or crap enough for the club market so they are re-mixed until they all sound the same.  After all, who needs all that song writing and creativity rubbish?

Daft Punk, who wear masks so you can't see them crying when idiots ruin their efforts.
Now I completely understand that every generation has to send a hero up the pop chart, if they didn't we'd be trying to dance to Green Sleeves, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the new stuff is better.  I also get that I am not supposed to like this sort of music, it's not made for my generation.  I'm sure that Mrs Beethoven senior was heard saying: 'Oh Ludwig why are you still putting out that 'boom boom boom boom' rubbish?!  Why not write something cheery like that nice Mr Vivaldi?'  And for some reason I think his mum would have talked like a cockney tea lady circa 1950's.

One similarity with discos of old was the complete inability to talk to anyone as the sound from the speakers was too great.  Hence conversations are attempted at close quarter, enabling you to smell the fags and booze on the other persons breath, mmmm, it's that heady mix of nicotine and stale alcohol á la pub carpet circa 1970.  How come no-one has ever bottled that?  What's not to like?

As was inevitable, one customer got in to a heated debate with a bouncer, who was more at the 'brick outhouse' end of the scale than the 'gets sand kicked in his face', so the youngster was unceremoniously removed from the establishment over the security guy's shoulder, priceless.  I overheard Hades and Dante having a conversation along the lines of 'seriously, how could we have imagined this?'.

So was this my last visit to a night club?  I hope not.  I have fond memories from my youth (can't remember what I had for breakfast yesterday though?) of nights/mornings out with my friends, so I may have to give it one last go, but when the music played is going to be more to my liking.  I want to go out on a high note as I'm sure did Steven Gerrard.  In case you weren't aware he is a football player who made over 500 appearances for his club, Liverpool.  Unfortunately in his last game they lost 6-1, not the finale he was hoping for. If that script had been written by Hollywood he would have headed the winner in the 90th minute, probably past a diving Sylvester Stallone, and if you get the movie reference there give yourself a bonus point.  Nor a French script either, where he would have caught cholera and died on his wedding day, have you ever watched a French movie?!  No, this was an English approach, 'no need to show off old boy'..

Friday, 16 January 2015

Come fly with me..

According to Wikipedia (never wrong..), the first fixed wing airline was formed in 1916 by a chap called George Holt Thomas.  He modified military aircraft so they could carry two - yes, two - passengers between Folkestone and Ghent, in Belgium.  It goes on to say that these were 'relief' flights but doesn't clarify who was relieved, the pilots who were responsible, the passengers or maybe both?  It wasn't until 1919 that passengers started paying for a service, £21 to go from Hendon to Paris.  Either way you look at it, it's less than 100 years since people have had the choice to complete their journeys by air and I don't think any of those pioneers would recognise the industry now.

'First class Madam?  You get to sit inside..'.
There are a plethora of little vignettes in any flight, from check in to collecting your suitcase on the carousel, but if you take the time to do some people watching and keep a smile on your face in the mini adversities that it presents, it can be entertaining.

With so many to choose from, which scenario do I write about today:  having to re-pack your suitcase at check-in as it's 2kg overweight when the guy behind is clearly heavier than you by at least 20kg (don't ask me to re-pack, ask him to run round the airport perimeter..), people rushing the gate when they've already been told it's not their time to board, the Herculean efforts to lift a carry on bag in to the overhead locker when it weighs more than a Volkswagen Beetle, people still texting when the plane is taking off even though they've been told 3 times to switch their phones off, the list goes on.  What makes me chuckle is the in-flight meal.

When you're on a plane for longer than maybe 3 hours, I fully appreciate that you may get a bit peckish and the airlines (non-budget types) are keen to show you how well they cater at 35,000 feet.  The trouble is that in an effort to outdo the competition they maybe try a little too hard.  I need to add at this juncture that we tend to fly economy class, like most people probably, so space is at a wee bit of a premium.  The airline would like to cram in as many people as possible to maximise their efficiency and profit, the public would like enough space for luxuries like breathing, moving your toes a bit, not having to link arms Auld Lang Syne style just to open a packet of pretzels.  Certainly if you are fond of your personal space, economy is not for you.

Economy, everybody inhale, now exhale, easier if we do it at the same time.
So it comes to lunch/dinner/breakfast time.  You've read the menu, decided what you'd like and the smell of freshly warmed up ready meals comes wafting down the aisle, where the flight attendants are passing out the trays.  Their trolley is completely blocking the pathway of course, which means they have the usual queue of passengers either side of them trying to get to/from the toilet.  They reach the row of seats in front of you, you're now pretty hungry and eager to see what your fare looks like but wait, the person in front ordered a vegan nut and squash roly-poly and the crew are trying to serve them a vegetarian tofu and lettuce mélange, it's tantamount to Armageddon.  Some bloke in 12B is already half way through the nut and squash offering and is now considering eating the cardboard lid instead, so it's too late to change.  I can read the steward's mind 'really, is it that different?  What do you want me to do, pop out and get another?  Serves you right for having a fussy diet..'.  But he remains calm and professional and the problem is solved with some cream crackers and a yoghurt.  It's your turn.

First class, a bit awkward if you drool or talk in your sleep, 'of course I'll respect you in the morning Brad..'.
You drop down the little table attached to the seat in front of you, which is probably in the reclined position, restricting your elbow room even more (is it not good etiquette to ask before reclining your seat?  Just asking..) and it's then you realise the food tray is the same size as the little table, so whatever you do everything has to stay on the platter unless you're fortunate and have no-one sitting next to you.  It's an impressive array of dishes, a veritable feast, a marvel of culinary expertise and spacial design as everything is arranged like a edible jigsaw with not a micron of space to spare.  

Therein lies a problem because the food is packed in containers with lids and once you've uncovered your lunch all this packaging has to be put somewhere.  So you commence the game I call 'Aircraft Eating Jenga' (pat and trademark pending) and start to skill fully move items around so that you can get at the meal one bit at a time without causing a catastrophic collapse of the pile.  Smoked salmon salad to start, followed by chicken with potatoes and veg, then a chocolate dessert, then cheese and biscuits, then bread (should I have eaten that first?  Too late.), a drink, a cup for your tea, a tiny chocolate, cutlery, a napkin, a refreshing hand wipe (lemon scented), a cuddly toy, a Teasmaid. The list goes on and I finally realise that with this mental ability and hand eye dexterity I would be quite good at doing a Rubrics Cube if I applied myself to the task. Then when something falls on the floor it's like playing Kim's Game by yourself and in an extraordinarily confined space.

Bon appétit, elbows in please.

Often it's when you're mid way through this trauma that the person sitting next to you asks if you could move so they can get out to use the facilities.  'Move?' you ask, 'I've suspended my heart beat while I do this as it was taking up too much room..'.  The relief when the attendant comes along to take away the remains is wonderful, like the feeling when you have the inset of your shoe scrunched up under the sole of your foot all day and then you finally get to sort it out.  You can now relax to watch the movie, on a screen which is closer to your eye ball that your eye lid, with the headset kindly provided by the airline (has this really been sterilised?) because for an unknown reason it is the only place on the planet where you need twin plugs on your ear wear?

Suffice to say I'm saving up my airline loyalty points for an upgrade to first class, by my reckoning I should achieve this goal in about 20 years, it's good to have a dream.