Mark Brumby's Cultural April

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Mark Brumby’s Cultural April

Good tidings from a wet Yorkshire where, after flirting with the sun in April, we’re back to rain and, just to spice it up every now and again, hailstones. Here we’ll have a quick look back over April and what we got up to on the culture front.

We got down to London once during the month and we’ve been down once more since – so a bit of variety is creeping in and, with the traffic lights up and running for foreign holidays, it feels as though change is in the air.

As we said last month, let’s hope so. On to our news:

The world of books

Well the weather broke towards the end of April and, unable to cut the grass or dig the garden, we had precisely the excuse that we needed to get down to a few choice books.

Dog of the South – Charles Portis – 1979

This one came highly recommended and it didn’t disappoint.

Best known as the author of True Grit, later made into an Oscar-winning film starring The Duke, John Wayne, Charles Portis was a soldier, journalist & author and he certainly knew how to write.

The book features a cuckolded husband in pursuit of his car, his prize shotgun and his wife, arguably in that order, across the southern US, Mexico and into British Honduras. Midge, the jilted groom, boosts his rival’s car, an old banger with a large hole in the floor that lets in the wind and creates a ‘noisy brown vortex’ of sweet wrappers at certain speeds, and hits the road.

He picks up Doctor Reo Symes, a swindling conman of the first order and perpetrator of the great ‘Hearing Aid Fraud’ of 1949, and arrives in Belize, where he meets up with the Doctor’s mother, her companion and Midge’s love-rival, his errant wife and a large, red dog.

Mr Portis has a sharp eye for detail and his book is well worth a read.

The Signal & the Noise – Nate Silver – 2012

A non-fiction book by the baseball analyst (yes, really) and economist, Nate Silver examining why many predictions are simply rubbish and why some are not.

Silver maintains that information (the ‘noise’) is almost infinite but knowledge (the ‘signal’) is not. And he says that interpreting the signal correctly and putting the subsequent knowledge to some useful purpose is even less often successfully accomplished.

The author makes a number of very good points. He says that, if more and more information is presented, people will simply pick the bits that they agree with. Think the politician who, when asked a string of questions, simply picks the softest one to answer and, even then, may provide an answer only loosely based on what he or she was asked.

Pop 1,280 – Jim Thompson – 1964

Having been mightily impressed by Mr Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me (see March’s Cultural Month), we gave Pop 1,280 a try. This novel has sociopathic small town sheriff, Nick Corey, shirking his responsibilities, squiring a number of his town’s more eligible ladies and bumping off people whose continued existence he sees as inconvenient or irksome.

Several of the themes concerning psychopathy and the like are similar to Mr Thompson’s earlier book but this one’s nonetheless enjoyable, albeit in a shudder-inducing way.

What’s on film?

A bit less active on the film front this month but we still managed to get a couple in. The quality, shall we say, was variable.

Life of Brian – 1979

As good now as it ever was, the Life of Brian makes several timeless comments on the desire to judge, the need to ‘belong’ and the intensity of rivalries, particularly between groups that, like the People’s Front of Judea and the Judean People’s Front, are indistinguishable to the naked eye.

Sharknado I to VI.

Appallingly bad, one hopes on purpose, these films combine sharp teeth and tornados, occasionally in space, in a brain-numbing series of action sequences loosely held together by what can just about be called a plot.

And on television?

Whilst terrestrial TV isn’t what it was a couple of decades ago, the small screen still has plenty for the discerning viewer, particularly if you’ve bitten the bullet and shelled out to Amazon, Netflix and the others.

The Queen’s Gambit

We were a bit late coming to this one but it was worth the wait. The period décor is spot on, the lead actress is spookily compelling and the chess, well, it’s chess. It explores up to the point where focus, a good thing, becomes an uncontrollable obsession, which is somewhat less good. Very enjoyable overall.

Chernobyl

Watched it once and here it is again to help with the daughter’s school project. Disturbing stuff and it really happened. Features many human frailties; arrogance, overconfidence, stubbornness etc along with some of our more noble qualities such as selflessness, sacrifice and the will, ultimately, to do the right thing albeit at an appalling cost.

Food & drink

Here, for the first time, we’ve seen a glimmer of light. Hospitality opened for outside service on 12 April and, by the week after, we were in the pub.

Or, to be more accurate, we were outside it. Served a series of drinks at £6.40 a pop (including compulsory table service) just as the heaters packed up and the wind swung around to the north. Cold and pricey were perhaps the two words to take away – but it should get warmer as the week pass and, besides, we should be allowed inside sometime this month.

Conclusion

The path to un-lockdown seems to be secure and, though these things can change at short notice, we should see more of our freedoms restored in May.

And we’ve got a holiday booked over Half Term. Yes, a holiday. It may just be a cottage in Yorkshire but it’s a holiday nonetheless. And there will be pubs, restaurants (well, more pubs) and plenty of chances to catch up on our reading so what’s not to like. Good luck to all and speak again next month.