Shawan and Huangpu: Random ramblings in temples and villages as usual.

There’s an element of risk that comes with travel: One minute; you could be idly enjoying a particular scrumptious plate at some quaintly run-down noodle shop, the next you could be rushed to hospital with so many tapeworms they need name tags.

So when I lumbered onto the metro line followed by some rather dubious bus journeys on my way to Shawan and Huangpu this Wednesday and Thursday, I counted the places I had been in my head once more, maybe to remind myself that despite moments of uncertainty: I’d seen some pretty curious things in my time in Guangzhou so far.

I’ve never been very good at keeping a diary; I keep ticket stubs; I like to write about my experiences online…talking to…someone…I suppose…maybe myself…who knows?…anyway, first off: I set my sights on Shawan Ancient Village in Panyu;

 

Shawan: Sleepy old ghost town

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About an hour away from central Guangzhou: Shawan seemed another opportunity to see how the other side of China lives: You won’t find KTV booths here; there’s not even a 7/11; you get a sense of what China was like before it was thrust into the modern age of selfies, social media and hundreds upon hundreds of types of Hong Kong style waffles. 

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At first, it really seemed like the locals had given up on the village; there was certainly this overriding sense that I was the only tourist in town; therefore nobody had bothered to set up shop: There’s no official entrance; I just stumbled in; and bought a dusty old ticket; luckily, some city dwellers soon appeared to join me in a pre-amble around the historical Buddhist flecked surroundings of sites such as Wenfang Tower;

 

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Prayer ribbons abound; I’d first come across these little red ribbons of luck back in Lijiang; who leaves them there is a slight mystery; you don’t see many of the locals comign to pay their respects to the tower; 

Nevertheless, I spent a good half hour just trying to make a video blog; something I’d like to personally achieve in the next few entries; once I’ve gained enough experience my to wax lyrical, poetical and fantastical language on old stuff and golden gods of Buddha;

I am into the Buddhist faith from a strictly cultural and historical perspective; yet there is a small glimmer of faith in the power of Buddhism to change lives for the better; particularly with meditation; particularly Transcendental Meditation; a technique unconnected to to spiritual world of the Buddhism; but still a glimpse into something beyond ourselves.

 

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Anyway; the fact I rambled proves that perhaps; while Shawan may have once been a great place for a day out with the family; it’s now a very peaceful; non-touristic tourist attraction; don’t come for a glass of wine and a bit of lunch however; the shops are closed; the locals are asleep; “Everything is broken and no one speaks English” as Tom Waits once quipped.

Some people have mentioned to me that Thailand and it’s temples have lost their edge in the grip of tourism; yet, I must admit; I feel more wowed by their golden pagodas than I have felt in a temple in China so far; the most spiritual element here has to be the ‘Tobleroneesque’ incense burning all around the main temple of Shawan; You know it’s a spiritual experience when you want to frantically order the temple awnings on Amazon:

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Ancient Huangpu Port and Village

So after a long day; I lay in bed after an evening of misadventure to take on the dizzying heights of Ancient Huangpu Port and Village; an old fisherman’s town; where the fisherman have resorted to jobs in cafes or dumpling stalls; as a result of the lack of anything going on in the lake or the village itself; another long metro journey; so close to some random Chinese people it was like we were dating.

 

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IMG_2874.JPGThe most interesting part of Huangpu has to be the maritime museum and it gets worse from there; needless to say; after the quick jog around Shawan the previous day; I was at least hoping for some seafood; but nevertheless; the history of trade in China is vast and ongoing; you get the sense that it’s a nation which never stops; it may have a cup of tea and a bowl of dumplings; but still; trade is everywhere…

Yet I don’t regret each experience of this weekend;  it’s better than relaxing by a pool; though sometimes, maybe a relax by a pool; the simple taste of fresh fruit and music is all you need; I will keep this in mind for my next experience: I’m not done with temples of the villages; but it’s time to find my mojo; buy a few quilts and seek out the next experience.

I ate…This weekend, I’ve been to Social and Co to find they had something resembling a Taiwanese Bao; to be honest; it wasn’t so good; but the cocktail was photogenic:

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Secondly; I stumbled into NoodleBar in Zhujiang for a slightly overpriced Shrimp Laksa in a hipster restaurant; admittedly; I was starving after my day at Huangpu and should have walked out when the price upgrade was due to 3 more shrimps being placed in the bowl. Still good to try and I may go back for something a little cheaper sometime.

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Cocktail of the Week: Happy Monk at The Happy Monk(Zhujiang New Town)

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 A medicinal medical hit with Pineapple and odd sauces…lovely…. which during Happy Hour is worth the three quid; otherwise, stick to a beer.

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Meditations on Temples: Chanting the mantra in Guangzhou!

“They say Karma’s gonna get you…”

Temples hold a great power over me, ever since a few of my trips to Thailand to see the great wats; I’ve meditated in Buddhist centres in the UK: but when the focus is paired down to a deep relationship between the Buddha, the white light and all the offerings…I usually just end up thinking about the delicious salty snacks laid before the enlightened one.

No, for me; it’s truly about the temple atmosphere; legends guarded by guardian lions; mermaid princesses and giant statues; You can’t turn your face away from this kind of imagery; it’s actually kind of an insult within the faith itself to turn your back to it;

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The first prayer ribbons encountered in Lijiang, Yunnan, China. 

I grew up in Britain; where some religions heavily featured violent or graphic images;  those memories are covered in a literal smell of dust that is hard to summarise on a social media platform…but anyway this was why I was excited to see what Guangzhou had to offer;

 

1. To Chen Clan Academy…

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My adventure started with Chen Clan Academy; which started life as a short-term accommodation space in 1888.; a sort of frat house for Chen Clan members to sit provincial exams; a wordsmith, a Mr.Guo Moruo obviously brushed up on his poetry a bit on this one; writing the following poem in praise of such an academy;

‘Nature’s engineering can be replaced by human creation, yet human creation cannot be surpassed by natural force.  The human world is created  in a way like this, a visit to this place is better than ten years learning from books’

While not strictly a temple; those ten years as a bookworm are rightly a waste compared to the rooftops of the academy; something I’ve noticed as a sure sign of a temple; a quick google search reveals Chen Clan as an academic temple; which mostly consists of a series of dramatic rooftops depicting everything from flowers, birds to scenes of Cantonese soaps of the time;

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For me; coming from a place where our history is depicted in solemn, almost dowdy or melancholic; even the statues of Chen Clan could be called fruitful; consider my bouche amused and hungry to be led by lions to the various incarnations of Gautama Buddha;

 

2.  Xiaozhou Village;

Which led to me to Xiaozhou village; a short bus ride away from the bustling; “shop, shop and eat” culture which envelops Guangzhou; Xiaozhou village in itself is a chance to see what life in China would have been like nearly 30-40 years ago; a mural of Chairman Mao smoking a fag; confirms your trip back into time;

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The shrine here is less about the pictures for WeChat or Instagram; it’s a great glimpse into local beliefs and how faith and belief is a personal thing in Buddhism; rather than something you have to spread to the rest of the world;

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Small and solemn buddhas at Xiaozhou

As a result; it ranks on the rather small scale, but it’s a good starting point and a good excuse to visit Xiaozhou; which has sort of charmingly given up on tourism. I’m a big fan of those postcard pictures; where you sort of superimpose the old and the new; or just the local site; Yes it’s a great place for budding photographers; Check out the Oyster house in Xiyuan!

Some sites in Xiaozhou

3. Renwei Temple

A quick boat ride a week later and I was heading to Liwan Lake Park; to check out Renwei Ancestral Temple; the first full temple I’d stumbled into; In China; temples aren’t the boisterous affairs that you encounter in Thailand; this isn’t a measuring contest; but things are very different in China when it comes to Buddhism; it’s on a smaller scale Temple wise.

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What was wonderful at Renwei is the little statues encased in kind of a rotating case; the closest comparison I can see is the prayer wheels of Nepal; which mainly depict the mantra over any actual depictions of the Buddha; 

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Renwei enjoys a history of over 900 years; how can you not be impressed, simply by visiting old stuff and being alive to enjoy experience how people used to live; and how the local people have made a community around the history and kept it alive.

 

4. Liurong Temple

But this isn’t enough surely? You can’t just smell the incense and give up as a Temple Runner; I took a rest and found myself the next week in Liurong Temple or more well known by foreigners as Banyan Tree Temple; I’d seen the temple from the famous Canton Tower and vowed to trade the steel building for something a bit more karma centric; So I shuffled in and lit some incense…and what a temple it is:

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It started to rain, my feet were soaked; shoes ruined etc;  but the Lotus Pagoda as it’s also, also known was a sight to behold as you can see from my random images; it’s named as such due to it’s habit of giving out light; imagine the feeling you’d have had back in old 537 AD. Seeing those 9 layers shining out…awesome!

But even more than that; the three fairly middle weight statues definitely depict some kind of teenage phase of our golden gods;  They are like naughty schoolboys rather than supreme beings dictating the life of us ‘Germs with shoes’ as Bill Hicks used to say.  The rain didn’t dampen my spirits; but it did ruin my shoes!

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Then on and on; after a delicious meal of Prawn Summer Rolls and Seafood in a coconut with boiled rice at Tiger Prawn; a Vietnamese/Thai restaurant down in Beijing Lu…or Beijing Road to the tourists…

5. Dafo Ancient Temple

…I came across Dafo Ancient Temple; right in the middle of all the chaos of one of Gunagzhou’s main eating/shopping district;  the same imagery of the lions is here; led by some fairly confident herders; again the emphasis here is on the great bounty of the Buddha.

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The most curious artifact here is the White Buddha; being attended to in a no-go zone for those who haven’t sacrificed their life to live in the temple, instead of randomly shuffle around them; this was like the VIP room of every club you ever went to as a teenager;

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Still it made you curious what the life of a Buddhist monk must be like; all the orange robes; incense burning; is it the same coveted items that drives some people to become a police officer? or a professional football mascot?  Earlier in the week; I’d come across a female monk in the street; something I found refreshing to what surely must be a little bit of a boys club.;

The construction work that goes on with temples isn’t talked about much, perhaps it’s not particularly of any importance to most people; but does it remove the magic? like a magician with his pants down and a rabbit poking out his arse? No…but it’s important to give a resounding thanks to all the effort that goes into crafting the temples as seen here:

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6. Foshan Temple

So; we are led to Foshan to encounter Zumiao Temple; where the temple lions have gnarled claws and the memory of China’s greatest Kung-Fu master Ip man lingers; a perfect mix of noble character and talent; which is historically described as a Lotus Flower in Chinese culture. Ip man’s most famous student was of course; the Hong Kong born Bruce Lee; who definitely traded dumplings for dumbbells in a quest to become a Kung-Fu master under the Ip man.

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Relics from the life of Ip man…

 

While here; I managed to get a temple to myself; where my hand was halfway to my camera phone and halfway to my timer; I’m a practicer of Transcendental Meditation and have worked on films on the subject; the mantra comes in strong in this kind of environment; but it makes you wonder; Are we here to simply record everything? What’s that all about?  Why are there statues with fake beards…? What’s it all about…

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Which is why I’ll still visit more temples…Is there anything that makes you question yourself more than a few golden statues and a mantra?

Perhaps I’ll become a temple reviewer…

A templeviewer…? No, that doesn’t quite work…

This started life as a reflection on Buddhism and temples; I’m sure it all looked better while I was writing it…

 

 

 

 

 

Bar of the week: Sun in the Sky; a wine bar for the Warhol generation; go haunt the expensive clothes; I’ll be back for a 500 yuan shirt sometime around November…Featuring Wine Tastings very soon, which I’m getting involved in.

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Restaurant of the week: Tiger Prawn
If you love Thai/Vietnamese food this is a great place to dine alone or with just one other person as it’s always packed…the prawn summer rolls were a little past their prime; but seafood served in a coconut is sublime…also everything comes with sauce; I think the secret to any good restaurant is a lot of sauce; a good atmosphere and an extensive menu; as long as it’s not ‘all over the place’

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Snack of the week: Random Jelly Lollipops…Every wandered around and fancied something a bit like eating a breast implant? Me neither…but then; it’s sticky; it’s chewy and I’m hooked…

 

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Guangzhou: Diary 1 :

Guangzhou, it’s a melting pot;

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I tried to put off writing about it until I’d photographed and examined every inch of it; I’d landed on July 9th, slightly jet lagged and walked the streets, sauntering about to observe the society I’d been dropped into;

Following the first night, where I ended up staring into Karaoke booths; freaking out the locals and thinking of all the experiences Guangzhou and China had to offer; These are just some of the highlights from my trip so far;

 街头生活  (Street Life) 

Yes, Street Life; What do I mean by that; I’ve been able to simply wander the streets, finding great colours, textures and smells; One minute there’s an old fashioned guardian lion; the next there’s some kind of market stall full of dead sea-horses; or grandma has decided to do a special chant to commemorate a sale at her Lizhi store; China is heaven if you love people watching more than watching television.  The people are great, the  and the restaurants/stores stay open; which means you can get ice cream at 3am if you chose to do so….(just like Istanbul)

 

Every street is full of stories

Characters

Sounds

Life

Windows to look through

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2. “The superior man does not, even for the space of a single meal, act contrary to virtue.”(Confucius) 

It’s actually cheaper to eat out than it is to shop in a supermarket; I only go in for tonic water and those prawn chips that taste vaguely obscene;  As a result, I’ve been subjected to a series of very interesting experiences; from awkward moments where I’ve had to beg my Chinese friends to translate the menu via WeChat; to that amazing time I sat and had Pig Brain in Beijing; while the bar played Marilyn Manson at full blast.  (It tasted like Tofu)

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My favourite experience so far has to be having dinner with my partner-in-crime’s parents; not only did we communicate, despite my limited Chinese (méng méng da!) but it was a pure moment; It just felt like the best thing I could have been doing with my time in Beijing;  Also; we had Roast duck and ate Mahjong tiles made out of…something.

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Personally, I think Chinese food is totally based around the sharing culture;  Every waitress has seemed a little confused as to why I’m not chowing down on questionable roadside dumplings…probably made out of the sausages they sell at 7/11 all the time as I’m alone.

While I have done the whole street food thing; my favorite food tradition in Cantonese culture is ‘Yum Cha‘   You take a menu; check a few boxes and soon enough; you are having tea and dumplings;  I guess it appeals to my English longings for afternoon tea and a bit of a show; see below for the epic Mango Cream Yam Cha and Siu Mai (I once ordered Congee by mistake …no pictures…urgh)

 

 

Yum Cha…mmmmm

3.  Adventure is worthwhile 

In Guangzhou, here’s just a small plethora of the places I’ve visited, with the notes I’d attached at the time;

Lychee Bay– Really historical; sink a coffee here and take in all the beautiful lakes; Temples nearby; I nearly got chatting to an obviously european tourist; but never could find the words; so we basically had an unspoken travel photography battle in the temple.

Canton Tower– Amazing views of the old fashioned tower buildings. a bit misty and underwhelming.

Shamian Island– The boat cruise from Canton Tower is amazing.

Xiaozhoucun– Really old fashioned, countryside town; the streets are sleepier and it’s a great escape; if only to see the house made entirely of oysters.

Chimelong Safari Park– Sleepy Pandas and Badass Bears; the cable car ride is epic.  Even the animatronics and the Longleat style ride is worth the 300 RMB price.  Lovely to see families out and about.

Party Pier–  Sun in Sky; a fashion centre with good wine; I think I will have to visit it again soon; Especially given their amazing; if pricey shirts; a great space to walk around and imagine if life had been perfect and you’d been a born model.

Chen Chan Academy (Guangdong Folk Museum) – I sometimes think of myself as a temple Runner; I love the history; nothing really compares to the temples of Thailand; mainly because they still have a genuine function beyond tourism; but again, a beautiful place to throw time away.

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 4. Beijing;

Big shout out to the wonderful people I met on the TEFL-C!   Particularly those still based in Beijing and my Texan crew; basically; a week of hardcore teaching theory, which definitely wetted my appetite to go out in the evenings; I took the metro to various areas, particularly the Xijiaomin Hutongs; where I met a woman who wants to put QR codes on food, I can’t wait to meet my Beijing crew when I’m back in October.

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5. Chinese Future;

So finally, I was able to write a vaguely coherent entry about the last 3 weeks; what do I hope for now? Tomorrow; I’ll be looking for apartment and trying to find a place I can call my own;

On Friday; I have a mock lesson for a pet store using Total Physical Response and a week long of observations; Overall, I’m excited to get a place to call my own and finally applying for the permit that will allow me to visit Shanghai and Hong Kong (or Honkers!) with ease…lets go see what they eat huh!?

Thank you to all the people at Disney English so far who have made it an easy and fun trip (Rachel, Paul,  Lindsey, Stephen etc…you guys rule!)

 

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What I’ve learnt (teaching) so far:  Be aware of different sounds animals make in different cultures.

What I’ve learnt (personal) so far; Don’t always order by pictures; it could be congee. 

What I’d like to learn;  Chinese, beyond ‘I want…’

 

 

 

Tidy Table: Bistrot Pierre

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Entering the newest addition to the Mumbles: Bistrot Pierre; I breathed a sigh of relief; Not only was it busy, it was beautiful; Bistrot Pierre is known for combining provincial French cooking with an eye for detail; not only does it feature a stunning outdoor terrace to watch the boats go by; but the inside is decorated with warm Parisian decor; which will brighten up many an evening. Making it an exciting development for the new Oyster Wharf restaurant scene.

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Usually, I always judge a restaurant by it’s bread; the latest addition to the Mumbles; Bistrot Pierre has both the freshest french bread I’ve ever had in a restaurant, alongside artisan bread which can be made even more stunning with their deliciously zingy tomato tapenade; all washed down with a crisp bottle of white wine.

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This tapenade will be in my dreams soon enough…’My bouche is amused’ as Rob Brydon once said…

Next came our starters; I started with the Salade de truite fumée which featured    Smoked trout, beetroot and fennel salad  and a horseradish crème fraîche, while my dining companion went with the steamed asparagus, ham hock and sauce gribiche of eggs, capers, cornichons and herbs;

Perfect harmonious flavours; creamed eggs and asparagus.

If there was anything that would slow down our enthusiasm for the bread/tapenade; these dishes definitely made us stop in our tracks; my favorite part of the starters was the creamed eggs harmoniously combined with the asparagus: a dish that simply had been created with real talent and flair: I should note at this point that many dishes at Bistrot Pierre are either gluten free or can be made vegetarian:  providing a haven for those who are bored of the dreaded nut roast.

So onto mains; both of us opting for the duck confit  which came with an oven mitt to stop you burning your fingers, as you dish up various perfectly cooked provencal vegetables; that will be begged for by your dining companions;

The duck was easily one of the smoothest pieces of poultry I have cut through since Powdered Duck breast at celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner restaurant in London; what was interesting is that it came with salty olives and red wine jus; making it full of flavor; this combined with the shards of potato and carrots made it a dish that was well worth the price tag.

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Duck worth migrating to the Mumbles for; Duck with red wine jus and provencal veg. 

By this point, full of lovely bread, starters and now that the duck was beginning to migrate to my stomach; most reviewers tend to give up at this stage; but my weakness for creme brulee is strong;  we first started with two unique elderflower martinis on a balcony overlooking the Mumbles;

Bistrot with view

While I love brulee; martinis are like my kryptonite; I have to say I’d be unable to say no to any of the other drinks at Bistrot Pierre and look forward to trying their take on a Bloody Mary one afternoon; again, the same talent found within the kitchen is found down at the bar and my partner in crime definitely enjoyed hers down to the last drop.

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Elderflower Martini: Really refreshing to finally get some good cocktails in a restaurant while overlooking the beautiful beach. 

Finally: Now ready to crack out the creme brûlée and it’s delicious shards of burnt caramel; We also tried the Frangipane of warm baked pear and toasted pistachio: Usually; I go for a cheese plate; which is also featured on the menu at a refreshingly reasonable price of £5.95: all in all; the spirit of French desserts lives on through Bistrot Pierre; making it one of the most well put together places I’ve had the pleasure of visiting in Swansea for years.

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Sweet nectar of the gods…silky Creme Brûlée

Merci Beaucoup to Bistrot Pierre; I’m visiting Paris myself in early June; Thank you for giving us a real taste of french cooking; that no doubt will rival many of the offerings actually in the country; Overall; the standard is set high for fellow restaurants to compete with this level of good food, friendly service and a beautiful location… with a range of offers and set menus; you have no reason to not to say Bon Appétit! to Bistrot Pierre song!

 Bistrot Pierre is at;  3 Oyster Wharf  Mumbles Road Mumbles SA3 4DN

 

#Instafood is unhealthy.

We are now literally products of our time obsessed with the products of our time.

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#Jewellery has 9,623,991 tags on Instagram, while #Instafood has 83,157,881 tags.  Even more surprising;  #God has a mere 23,020,799 in comparison…Jesus was savvy when he conjured up all that fish and bread to feed the multitude; he knew that one day we’d all be applying the ‘Claredon’ filter recklessly onto everything: With so many people treating food like precious jewels or some form of higher power; the new status symbol truly lies in how you pick your dinner.

Desserts are easy; if you’ve got an overly sweet tooth; you go for some kind of puffed up version of a childhood favourite on steroids. If you are trying to be classy; or alcohol has dulled your palate; cheese is always the answer , but what about the gubbins beforehand?

I recently found myself wondering for a whole hour whether to have beef tartare as a starter or go for the trout, as a lamb wellington main was a popular choice on TripAdvisor: the reasoning being that it is correct and proper to have a fish or vegetable based starter to contrast with a meat main.

At home, my own recipe book wouldn’t even justify a pamphlet; so how had we come to such levels of pretentiousness? I had survived well in Nigeria; where moin moin followed by a bit of shortbread was my idea of a perfectly decent meal: You were lucky if the electricity was on.

Neanderthals; didn’t fret about whether ordering the Sabretooth Carpaccio as a starter because they were having the Mammoth Wellington as a main. Back in that time; I imagine procreating took a higher priority over what you put in your gullet; Eating was just a means to survive; not some kind of fancy way for the affluent, childish many to get a few social media likes.

We now want some kind of feeling to accompany the taste; it’s not merely a case of getting full or even enjoying it;  In some countries such as China; food is a rich part of the culture and it’s people take great pride in dishes that are native to their particular region; At it’s worst; food in western societies  has become completely conceptual and even fairly unpleasant as a result;

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Take for example this awful concoction, which looks like Liberace’s smoking faecal matter or the Raindrop cake; which resembles a breast implant; Most recently; Starbucks have launched a Unicorn Frappuccino; which is more of liquid fashion statement than anything palatable, containing a whopping 76 grams of sugar for a large one. #Instafood is not healthy or nourishing, it’s entirely about surface.

Yet, we still worry so much about what goes into our food, while we also mindlessly eat hummus filled with pieces of metal or rot our molars with Fruit Smoothies; The ‘health’ food industry is just as dubious as the fast food industry.  We will one day see more virtual immersive dining pushing us further into a culture where to look is everything and drones will deliver our food for us; meaning that we’ll be able to designate a place at home to take our #Instafood pics.

Lastly,  the one saving grace may well be that immersive dining encourages us to put down our phones and experience restaurants in a way that isn’t so hollo; Take http://sagaya-ginza.com and their immersive restaurant below; while I’m still fretting whether to have the meat or fish as a starter; Interesting things are happening and the future doesn’t have to be Unicorn coloured and it doesn’t have to be hash tagged;

 

…I think i’ll go for the fish

 

Sonic Room Service: Room 29

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‘Is there anything sadder than a hotel room that hasn’t been fucked in?’ 

Jarvis Cocker and Chilly Gonzales have delivered a ghostly meditation on pretzels, blonde bombshells and other tricks of the light: 

When we think of hotels, full of stories of wreck and ruin, we immediately go to the iconic Chelsea Hotel:  where grisly murders, coked up transexuals and head on an unmade bed were inclusive. Room 29  takes you under the sheen of The Chateau Montmartre, showing the crack which let the light in; leaving many stars broken beyond repair.

Jarvis Cocker, who went from working at one point at a fishmongers in Sheffield to the dizzying heights of Pulp, acts as the perfect curator; dreamily observing the stars and his own dealings with the allure of glamour and fame: The same voice which picked apart the girls eating boxes of MilkTray alone is back to focus on Hollywood.

Chilly Gonzales compliments this beautifully, giving the album a style closer to Cocker’s radio shows.  Room 29 is stripped back to give it a more ‘lounge’ feel that allows you to focus solely on the lyrics.  Of course, These are lyrics that you’ll actually want to focus on; there’s so much to dissect it’s thicker than a Hollywood starlet on valium.

‘Trick of the Light’ seductively takes on falling for Hollywood movies and contains cryptic nods towards Cocker’s own experiences: ‘I lost my wife…and that Hollywood!’  it seems even the ex-fishmonger can view his own life just as sardonically as he’s viewed everyone else. Though there’s plenty of observations that keeps me coming back to Room 29.

The album contains a multitude of witty lines on stars of the 1930s from Jean Harlow, Howard Hughes et all; but a lot of the imagery comes from Cocker’s own imagination;   ‘Ice Cream as Main Course’ as a hedonistic ode to days of turbans of silk, chocolate milk and shots of rum doesn’t need to be explained;  it’s luscious arrangement tells you everything you need to know.

‘Belle Boy’  in particular, features a particularly raunchy segment on discovering a hotel guest mid coitus; All delivered with glee that could come across as a bit pantomime in the hands of a less talented vocalist.  Unlike Bob Dylan, there’s only a hint of age in Cocker’s voice and that’s probably  just a trick of the light.

I have no reservations about this album; it has all the power of a 70’s Bowie album and will be spoken about in the same way someday. So help yourself to pretzels…help yourself to the minibar…This album is like sonic room service.

 

 

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Mad Fer It: We Are Ian at Wardrobe Theatre Bristol.

 

 

We are Ian is about the ‘fuck all’ generation; left behind with debt, zero hours contracts and worst of all; nothing to do on the weekend. If we have nothing to look forward to; what’s the harm in looking back?  In Bed With My Brother are doling out the goods for a show that is much more than a nostalgia trip;  It’s ultimately a huge political music video about how we need a new movement; framed around 3 devoted teens literally following the light.

On a simplistic level, their sage is a talking lightbulb called Ian, We never get to the bottom of who Ian actually is; it’s up to you; you’d have to be a stone wall for the character to not resonate with you on some level. He could be a pop star or a Ziggy Stardust figure, doling out wisdom to his fans; He basically functions as a sample of soul from the rave era, treated with the same devotion as any pop star to their young fans.

In Bed With My Brother punctuate the show with a series of slang words and dance moves that could only have been invented after a few ‘Brown Biscuits’ which seems to give the characters just as much energy as any illegal street gear that used to float around Madchester during the 80s.  Even if you’ve lived your entire life without a cup of Coffee;  I defy you to not get up and do the Cold Spaghetti or throw a couple of Hot Potatoes on the dance floor.

With audience participation being at the forefront of it’s success;  it’s easy to see why In Bed With My Brother have performed at various festivals and for this show; Bristol. Bristolians love getting off their peanuts; it’s in their blood, along with Exhibition Cider. At 50 minutes long, the show pumps beautifully towards an ending which doesn’t so much offer a defining statement as state the obvious; we all have to grow up, but first; lets keep dancing before the comedown sets in.

It’s all in good fun; the real work is figuring out what you’ve projected onto the play and what the play actually stood for. I usually hate all the academic navel gazing, but it’s impossible in some senses to stop thinking about We are Ian, which is the key to it’s success. Rather than tell you, it challenges the senses; a refreshing break from the usual narrative toss usually served up in the Post Xmas lull. As a result, it avoid soap opera plots and retains all of it’s raw power.

None of this would be possible without the actors themselves; The enormous physicality they possess, even when throwing around various baked goods is astounding; We’ve all been a bit worse for wear and thrown some ill-advised shapes; but the Nora, Dora + Kat as their Facebook humbly bills them are like three demented droog mimes; There’s not a lot of companies that could make a talking lightbulb, a Maggie Thatcher rave montage and the pogo so appealing; but somehow they’ve managed it. All we need is a bit more clarification on who Ian is. Oh fuck it; We all are and you will be too. Fookin’ see it!

Next show at: New Wolsey Theatre 23rd March