Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Eight things I loved about August

~ 8 ~ Donal and Isobel's wedding: Technically Donal and Isobel were married on the last day of July, but celebrations and goodwill lasted well into the month of August.
Less than a week after returning from the United States I got back on a plane -- a very small one, this time -- and flew to Dublin, where Elisa was so incredibly kind and patient as to allow me to stay in her flat. "Patient" is the key word there: I have a habit of dancing. Especially when there isn't any music. I also have a very bad habit of thinking it is hilarious when my no-music dancing gets on a friend's nerves.
I felt so incredibly honoured to have been invited to Donal and Isobel's wedding. I value them tremendously as friends and being invited to share in that pivotal moment of their life made me feel the sentiment is reciprocated. Yes, I know. Cheesy. It's difficult not to be when talking about weddings, though.
It was a good wedding. The mark of a good wedding, I think, is a lack of crushingly embarrassing moments. We've all been to a wedding like that: where alcohol or inappropriate family behaviour step in to make the occasion one to never speak of again. There was nothing like that at the Murphy-Phillips wedding. It was comfortable, relaxed and honest. It was the sort of wedding you would want for friends. It was one in which you sit back, look at the couple and think: "This is real. All love is a challenge and a gamble, but this has a good chance of surviving for a very long time."
The highlight of the weekend for me, though, came the next day when we went over to Donal's parents' house for a barbecue. It was a collection of a few friends and mostly extended family -- again I delighted in having been invited to share in the occasion. As evening moved in, we all packed into the Murphy family front room. I never thought to do a head count but I would guess there were at least 25 of us squished in there. Close and warm and with beer and wine in hand we started singing. We were expected to sing. In turns, each person was required to sing a song of their choosing: mournful ballads, old standards, pop tunes, self-composed pieces, and so on. We sang them all, going around the room several times. It was, of course, the sort of thing we dream about in America. This was the Ireland we've heard songs about, the Ireland of my imagination. Family and music. Sitting there listening to the singing, joining in on the songs I knew, looking at warm and smiling faces, I kept thinking: "Oh my God! I'm in a movie! I am a character in a heartwarming film about the beautiful and worthwhile ups and downs of life!"
At one point in the evening, Donal's family sang a song composed by his father about the family name, in which it is claimed there are more Murphys than anyone else around. We finally spilled out of the house about 2 a.m. Sitting in the car on the way back to Elisa's flat, I wondered to myself how many people are out there who wish they were Murphys. Count me among them.

~ 8 ~ Being back in Cardiff: I seem to have developed a reputation of late for pissing on ol' Caerdydd. Admittedly, there's a fair amount of evidence to support that claim. A number of people have commented on my ability to take in any Cardiff scene and immediately identify its most negative aspect.
FRIEND: "What a lovely day in the park! The sun is shining, the birds are singing, the river is shimmering. Look at those friends playing games together. Look at those two lovers. Look at that young family..."
ME: "Look at that unwashed drug addict in a Primark hoodie."
I can't help it. In my defence, in a weird way, sometimes those are the things I like about Cardiff: it's oddity. Our drunks, our pregnant whores, our shapers of poo, our feral teenagers, our guys who sit in the DW Sports car park smoking so much pot in their Renault Clio that when they open the door huge clouds of smoke pour out -- these are all parts of the Cardiff character. They mesh with the Muslim kids playing cricket in the street, the old man who finds 2p and immediately seeks to give it to charity, the chav who cheerfully says hello, the chubby fella sitting in the passenger side of a car in Pontcanna with a long-stem yellow rose and card shaped as a heart.
Cardiff is still trying to figure out what it is -- an increasing challenge for cities when chain restaurants leave them all looking the same. But since coming back from the United States I have been trying to get a sense of it. I have been enjoying the parks more and put more effort into hunting down unique places like Thé Pot and Waterloo Gardens Teahouse. I've been putting effort into switching my mindset from that of someone who lives here to someone who wants to live here.

~8~ The showers at DW Sports: They're awesome, yo. What can I say? The shower at my house is that sort of energy-saving device that spits out just enough water to make you not dry. The showers at my gym, however, are amazing. Additionally, they blare music all throughout the gym. So, I get to rock out to that ridiculously infectious Baditude song while standing in a monsoon of cleanliness! Sometimes I work out solely for the purpose of being able to take a shower afterward.

~ 8 ~ Sherlock: How can you not like a programme in which the title character is performed by an actor named Benedict Cumberbatch? Those of you playing along at home may not have heard of the reworking of Sherlock Holmes that came out on the BBC in late July and early August. You are missing out. The programme is witty and quick, but also does that thing of drawing you into the mindset of trying to work things out based on observation. The programme was so addictive that it started worming its way into my daily life.
"Your new job has you interacting with more people," I found myself saying to Elisa.
"Yeah, unfortunately," she said. "Why?"
"I could tell because your Irish accent is a bit stronger. You're talking to more people."
Only three episodes of the programme aired, leaving us with the cliffhanger of Sherlock staring down a Chris Kattan-like Moriarty. It was a brilliant end to the mini-series, ensuring that more episodes will be made. Unfortunately, no one knows exactly when because Steven Moffat is apparently Britain's only talented writer and they need him to write all the other good shows, as well.

~8~ Det. Capt. Jim Brass: Foolishly, I started watching "CSI" as research. Deacon, the main character in the novel I'm working on, is a fan of the programme. But in the same way Heath Ledger ended up dead because he fell too deep into a character, I now find myself irreparably addicted to "CSI." Arguably my vice is far less serious.
Our friends in the Soggy Nations will probably be aware that "CSI" or one of its myriad spawn is to be found on Five or Five USA at almost any time of the day. You may also be aware that "CSI" has had 11 seasons so far. The well is almost bottomless. And over time I have decided my favourite character is Jim Brass, the detective who does most of the ground work for the CSI team in terms of interviewing, interrogating and arresting. The thing I love about the character is his world-weary approach. Nothing ever surprises, amuses or otherwise gets any sort of reaction out of Brass -- he's brilliant. I offer this clip as proof.
My love for both the revived "Sherlock" and Jim Brass have convinced me that a revised "Columbo" would be a good idea. Starring a young, energetic actor, this Columbo would use a number of the disheveled techniques but the show wouldn't be quite so twee. Over time the viewer would come to learn that much of what Columbo does are actually intentional tricks. In fact, he lives alone in an immaculately clean home that almost looks as if no one lives there. The wife he always refers to would, in fact, be dead, having been killed after witnessing some sort of crime. He would still be an intense fan of all the local sport teams but more because he had once been a compulsive gambler. Additionally, before meeting his wife he had been addicted to barbiturates.

~8~ The Housemartins: Yeah, here's me singing the praises of Hull's fourth best band some 22 years after they split up. And, actually, I'm not sure it's so much them that I like as much as what I associate with them.
Not so many Sundays ago, the pride of Hirwaun and I spent the afternoon on one of the comfy sofas at The Cricketers, in Pontcanna. Formerly known as Y Cadno, the pub has apparently abandoned its previous Welsh theme and swung to the opposite end of the pendulum by associating itself with the most English of games. Nothing much has changed inside, though: there is a relatively nice beer garden outside, a handful of modern dining tables near the bar and then several leather sofas near a fireplace toward the front. In the background you hear the sort of music the owners suspect their targeted middle-class clientèle would enjoy. Music for people with money but no character; music for people who were just as bland in their youth as they are now. On heavy rotation that day was a best of The Housemartins CD mixed in with Elton John, some modern Carly Simon and the like.
We sat on a sofa close to a window. With the breeze blowing in, we enjoyed an afternoon of sharing the newspaper and sipping our drinks. That's it. We just sat next to each other, reading. And it was one of my favourite days of August.

~ 8 ~ The Collection, by James C. Moore: You can't buy this book. It is not yet published. New York Times bestselling author Jim Moore asked me if I'd be willing to take a look at it for him. It's the first time I've been asked for critical feedback on an unpublished book and obviously I felt honoured to do so. In sending it to me, Jim said he was aiming for something "in the same manner as Dan Brown or Robert Ludlum or Michael Crichton" and I think he's more or less succeeded in that. What I find interesting is that there is also something distinctly Texan in his style. I'm not entirely sure what I mean by that, but simply noticed a very faint similarity in style to that of J. Frank Dobie, who I happened to be reading at the same time. My hope is that the book becomes wildly popular and that Jim will then ask me to translate into Welsh for him (because, you know, that's a huge market).

~8~ Finally publishing The Way Forward: More on this Thursday, when I expect to officially launch the book. But, in short, I am finally making available the novel I've been working on since late 2005. And it's in English, bitches.


Jenny said...

Dude, we looked it up on Chris' Kindle. I saw my name!

Chris Cope said...

Jenny -- Yup. The sentence stolen from you is: "A train that goes underneath the sea!"

Please buy my book because I put your name in it.

Jenny said...

Hm, buy a bargainous book with my name in it... I'll have to think about this ;)

Donal said...

Aw shucks, thanks!. It was a really fantastic couple of days. The session was great, although the bar has been raised now for next time you're over.

Anonymous said...

Cardiff > Dublin.

Never liked Dublin, too expensive and the people are cold. It's kinda like a shit smaller version of London... Belfast is better.

Gimme Kaaaaaaairdiff anyday.