“I am not Young enough to Know Everything”..

P1090680What have the French ever done?

Apart from give us Brigitte Bardot, obviously. And produce Chantal Thomass, creator of the first babydoll negligee for daywear in 1972. Well, and dream up supremely apposite words for my blog, such as lingerie, brassiere and femme fatale. Oh bugger, I’d forgotten about Debussy and Baudelaire, too. Let me start again.

Did you know that Jim Morrison is buried in Paris? Famous for saying, ‘Some of the worst mistakes of my life have been haircuts,’ and a bit of singing for The Doors, one might expect rather an arresting headstone in Pere Lachaise Cemetery? Nope, an anti-climax. Oscar Wilde is also interred there, but of course he never wrote anything worth quoting.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s a smashing burial ground, with people dying to visit. And views of the Eiffel Tower are sublime. But I’m not a Doors fan. I could just as well have been conducting an experiment in my truck, back at the Walking With Dinosaurs venue.

 

Medical Experiment

I wondered, you see, whether bedsores might be achievable between loading equipment into an arena and loading it back out again. Surely a 120-hour break, given unstinting, dedicated application – and a bedpan – would be enough time to nurture a pressure ulcerP1090636

Well, I Googled it…and am now none the wiser. From what I’ve gleaned, I could get one in the space of a few hours, but the clincher seems to be not noticing you’re uncomfortable lying on a bony bit for the requisite period. Hmm. And it helps if you’re in ill-health to start with. Drat! Want to know how this Voltairian philosophy arose in the first place?

I’ll give you a clue. ‘She’s the cutest little trick in shoe leather.’ Ring any bells? No, OK, how about the following, imprinted on a sundial during the film. ‘Do Not Squander Time. That Is The Stuff Life Is Made Of.’

 

Frankly, My Dear, I Don’t Give A Damn

The irony, of course, is that Gone With The Wind (1939) – in glorious technicolour, no less – is almost four P1090685hours long. If that isn’t squandering time, I don’t know what is. A half-page precis would serve you better but, if you’re blighted with a predilection for bloody-mindedness, at least stop for tea and turn yourself during the intermission.

If you survive the film – or better still, only the synopsis – and fancy popping over to Paris, here’s a tip. Tear yourself away from the Can Can girls for an hour and check out Place des Vosges, near The Bastille – musicians play in the cloisters on Sundays. Super acoustics. Wonder if Jim ever busked there…

King of the Castle vs Dirty Rascal..

Lewis
Lewis

 

‘Long Wave 198,’ proclaimed Simon. ‘The Archers and then the afternoon play for me, I think. Ooh, lovely. I mean, why would you bother going out in Paris?’ He sipped his tea and fingered his beard sagely as we finished up a spot of tiffin.

I like a moment of calm myself – a Twining’s Pure Camomile can work marvels – but where does one draw the line? I’ll tell you where: eschewing Eiffel Towers for The Archers.

So, roistering summarily through the city like a couple of Tudor monarchs, Lewis and I headed out into the purgatory of howling, battered Citroens. ‘More quail’s eggs, my man,’ I thought, ‘and don’t stint on the Yorkshire puddings.’ Oh, it was like the good old days, when menace, hot wine and beheading a wife filled the mornings rather splendidly. Oh, OK, so we bought a ticket for the metro and took utmost care not to put our feet on the seats.

 

Gustave Eiffel

Ah, there she is – the Tour Eiffel. Completed in 1889, illuminated nightly by 20,000 lightbulbs and requiring 50 tons of paint each time she needs a touch-up. It is certainly worth going up her – all 324 metres of her. Well, you can’t, actually – not unless you want to shimmy up the UHF antenna and get arrested. But you can get to the viewing platform at 279 metres.P1090652

How do you get up there? Either take the stairs to the second stage (only 600 stairs up to the equivalent of a 43rd floor) and then a mandatory lift, or queue with the porkers for three-and-a-half euros extra. Bear in mind, however, if you’re sharing a lift with half a dozen trans-Atlantic piggies that those bottom-stage lifts are nineteenth-century, operated by water pressure. Dodgy.

Coo, what a view from the top. We’re giddy, like schoolboys in short trousers. ‘You take a picture of me and then I’ll take a picture of you,’ we gushed, no doubt a little bereft of oxygen. What man-made structure could possibly be higher? Aha, funny you should ask that.

 

Highest Tower

No doubt you’ve heard of Petronas Towers and Sears Tower – the latter’s tip reaches 527m – but then there is the Really Big One. Burj Khalifa in Dubai is an extraordinary, knob-tingling edifice, topping out at 830m –  by far the tallest building in the world and surely an unassailable king of all castles. Well, apparently not.

View from top of the Eiffel Tower
View from top of the Eiffel Tower

Trek west to discover some unequivocal Arab one-upmanship. The Saudis, taking the role of architectural vanguard, are in the process of sticking up two fingers at the UAE. ‘Nah nah, we’ve got more oil than you,’ or words to that effect. Jeddah’s eye-boggling, white knuckle Kingdom Tower was originally planned to be a mile high (1600m). However, owing to dodgy surrounding geology, when it’s finished in several years it’ll be nearer the paltry kilometre mark.

‘Hardly worth bothering with an extra 170 metres,’ sighed Lewis, updating his Facebook status. Yet that is a difference in height of more than a Blackpool Tower on top of the Burj Khalifa. Let’s hope they don’t get too much wind down there..

Cinema – we take it for granted..

P1090818Good Christmas? A minimum of fanfare and a small sherry, or were you beleaguered by irrepressible, slavering relatives “finishing off” sealed cheeses from the pantry? Must have felt a bit like Martin Freeman in The Hobbit: one minute bathed in a rosy introspective glow, hunched over a tasty fish supper for one; the next, overrun with histrionic dwarves, hellbent on vengeance at dawn. Tut.

Still, it’s all over now. Savour the silence, finish off the chocolate money on the coffee table and evict any snoozing uncles overstaying their welcome. What is 2013 going to herald for you? Or, more Carpe Diem, what are you going to achieve? Maybe simply engineer increasing your happiness quotient by looking forward to the film version of Fifty Shades of Grey. Yawn.

So, cinema. Wow, what a quantum jump, both in CGI (computer-generated imagery) and ticket prices since I was a small boy. ‘Erm, would you like to sit in the stalls?’ persuaded my dad on Friday, treating me to a night out. He’d noted the ruinous expense – it was about £1.80 when we last went in the ‘80s – and was trying to make the dearer balcony chairs seem unappealing.

Cinema Prices

P1090816

Damage limitation, you see. It had already been an excruciating blow to learn that film theatres take a dim view of smuggled-in thermos flasks. And the bill for more than one seat was already spiralling inexorably into double figures.

It’s a simple concept, really: a moving picture projected on a screen. But go back a century or so to the 1890s and the race was on to achieve it. Aah, halcyon days, you say – Noel Edmonds hadn’t been born and people talked to each other properly, without keeping one eye on a sitcom. But man is never content; one must strive forward, forsaking blunderbusses for intercontinental ballistic missiles, and swapping family huddles around the pianoforte for television. Double tut.

Lights, Camera, Action

 

Blame the Lumiere brothers, if you must. Louis and Auguste – a couple of Frogs from Lyon – were rather under the cosh after Thomas Edison had revealed kinetoscopes, kinetographs and kinetophones. The trouble with Edison’s screen, however, was that only one person could watch at a time, hunched awkwardly over a machine resembling a peephole into a cupboard.

P10906101895 is the year to put in your memory bank, though, folks – the Lumiere boys invented the Cinematograph. If you’re ever in Lyon, it’s worth taking a trip to the Lumiere Institute, a masterpiece of architecture built in the Gangnam Style. (Just my little joke, to see if you’re paying attention.) Really, it’s a super museum, tracing the birth of cinema.

Happy New Year!