[Daigo sighs]

Twice during the course of flaming June (an adjective which, thanks to the wonderful flexibility of English, works both if the sun shines and the mercury rises or if the heavens open and the all-pervasive chill seeps into your bones), I have chosen to spend an evening at home watching a film.  On both occasions, I have decided to go for something light and amusing, a rom-com perhaps, but somehow I have actually ended up watching a foreign language film about the preparation of the dead for their final journey.  I should make clear that on neither occasion have I regretted my choice of viewing: the correct decision was made and I really loved both films.

I am beginning to suspect that this says something about me, probably something slightly worrying.  It would certainly suggest that the part of me which believes itself in charge of decisions doesn’t know me very well (and so should probably steer clear of Delphi), but fortunately the aspect of the self invested with executive control is rather better informed.  Concerns might also be raised that I am becoming excessively morbid – or, and worse, may be acquiring a penchant for necrophilia.  I would like to reassure readers that, as of the time of going to press, I have managed to resist the urge to make the short stroll up to Southampton Old Cemetery for any purposes other than the purely historical or to enjoy its still living flora and fauna (via my eyes and ears alone).

The first of these films was Atmen (Breathing) wherein a young offender finds a new direction working for the Vienna coroner’s office.  I believe this has been covered in a previous post, and so need not detain us further – other than to say that it rewards a second viewing.

This evening, by the power of Netflix (well, I don’t seem to have transformed into an overly muscled superhero – so perhaps I am saying this in the wrong location or holding the incorrect object aloft.  One can only imagine how many failed combinations of place and article Prince Adam tried before He-Man made an appearance), I watched the Japanese film Okuribito (Departures) about a chap who gives up his dream of being an orchestral cellist and by chance finds redemption in a new career as an encoffinist.  In many ways, not a vast amount happens – at one stage a car is driven relatively quickly, there is a scuffle at a wake and our hero shouts once, briefly – but two hours passes very enjoyably.  Unlike many shorter (and most longer) films, at no stage did I feel the lack of a decent editor.

The actor playing our hero (Daigo), and who is slightly older than me, is irritatingly well preserved and also wrote the film.  Back in the eighties, he was in a very successful boyband – which may give some hope to the current crop of bedroom pin-ups when fickle fashion moves on to the next new thing.  Having said that, I’m not expecting any serious arthouse cinema out of the ex-members of Blue or The Wanted in the near (or even distant) future (and yes, I did have to Google the names of boy bands for these references).

I have a feeling that Departures may be the first Japanese language film I have seen (though as previously discussed my memory is now failing rapidly) – and, equally important, heard.  The film reinforced my view, acquired after hearing Kenta Hayashi sing, that the Japanese language forms a beautiful soundscape, with none of the abrasiveness I have come (quite possibly wrongly) to associate with Chinese.  As I don’t speak Japanese (but am rather tempted to try) the film was provided with very thorough English language subtitles.  It would seem that these are intended to serve both the non-Japanese speaker and the deaf reader of English.  As a result, every vocalisation is given a subtitle, as is each use of music, and by far the most common subtitle was [Daigo sighs] – and so we achieve titular enlightenment.

Among its many delights, the film introduced the ancient Japanese idea – from a time before widespread literacy – of giving a meaningful stone (more a pebble based on the examples in the film) to a loved one: a kind of ready-made sculpture, from long before Marcel Duchamp, if you will.  This struck me as rather a fine custom, but some thought would be needed to ensure a reasonably common understanding of the meaning invested in a specific pebble.  One would not want to give inadvertent offence, especially while equipping the now aggrieved party with effective ordnance.

Mr Brown goes into town

Well, OK, I’m not Mr Brown and I caught the 7:55 rather than the 8:21 – but my trip to London yesterday was the best chance I have to pay tribute to the late David Croft (let’s face it, I am unlikely to start work in a department store, holiday camp, or French café during the second world war in the near future).  And, when I return each evening I am ready, if not with my gun then oft-times with a pun!

Sometimes, I do not have to work at juxtaposition – my life just delivers curious combinations of experience to me.  As mentioned above, I did have to go into London for work yesterday and my inbound journey was somewhat delayed.  This was not, as you might have anticipated, due to loss of catenary cables near Sawbridgeworth (apparently, the felonious travel there expressly to steal live 25kV cables from above a passing express.  I know metal prices are high – but I think there is still plenty to half-inch that is not carrying high voltage above fast-moving and slow-braking rolling stock.  But, what do I know?) but due to loose cattle on the line.  More cynical readers may think this was just an invented excuse – on a par with “the dog ate my homework” or “the cheque is in the post” – but I can assure you it was not, the wrong type of livestock were real.  When we finally arrived at the problem location, the cows were still loose: standing just to the side to the track staring at the train is it inched past.  In the Wild West, trains are fitted with cow-catchers to deal with exactly this sort of problem (well, they are in the Westerns – though, if pushed, I’d have to admit that these are not generally marketed as documentaries and are set somewhat in the past) but the Class 379 Electrostar unit in which I was travelling, whilst fast and comfortable (and a huge improvement on the Class 317/1 that one sometimes has to endure), was not so equipped.  I presume that National Express East Anglia felt that paying the extra for a cow-catcher made little economic sense in the Tame East.  Hindsight is a marvellous thing!

After a busy day of meetings, I raced back home prior to cycling into Cambridge to see some comedy in the evening.  Luckily, Frisky and Mannish (for it was they who were purveying the comedy) provide a high-energy (and volume) performance, as by this time I was already somewhat tired and a more low-key performer may have seen me doze off.  The show was jolly good, though I fear my knowledge of music from the charts was too poor to fully appreciate some of the material (to be honest, in my world, charts either require graph paper or relate to naval navigation) – but I suppose that’s what you get from only listening to BBC Radios 2, 3, 4, 6Music and 4Extra (née 7).

The show did require audience participation – and despite sitting in the back row, I was required to participate rather more fully in the show than anticipated (then again, I had anticipated none).  The premise was to form a 5-piece boy-band from members of the audience after the style of Take That: from the days when they were a boy-band, rather than the reformed middle-aged bloke-band of today.  This beggars belief, but I was chosen to form part of this soi-disant boy-band (the other four could certainly have passed for boys, even in quite good light, but I thought my days of passing for a boy lay in the distant past) on the basis of my dance skills (I was the Jason Orange figure, I believe).  For the avoidance of doubt, I should make clear that I have no dance skills whatsoever – and even the basic hand movements for the Macarena proved totally beyond me (perhaps I should have been spending less of my available mental capacity trying to translate the Portuguese words to the song at the same time) – so I can only assume that my dancing was chosen ironically.  My age, apparently, wasn’t – so I do wonder if I should send Mannish details of my optician.  As a result of my selection, I spent some 10 minutes on the stage (and not the first one out of town, to return briefly to the Wild West) and did gain rather a taste for it, despite the lack of a singing (or speaking) part or (indeed) a fee.

So, perhaps rather than the movie or book of this blog, I should look to present GofaDM on the stage.  At least that way the posts will (mostly, though I’m no respecter of the fourth wall – or estate) be safely confined behind a Proscenium Arch.  Perhaps, also if it were staged then in the distant future academics will argue as to whether I really wrote this blog or it was someone else entirely.