Archive for August, 2010

Still on Holiday

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

I’m still on holiday in Majorca. Here are some more holiday thoughts.

  • There are lots of nice cycle paths along the roads here. But only on one side, so you’ve got a mini-road for cyclists going both directions alongside the road for cars. This works very well, except for when I reached a roundabout and the cycle path just suddenly ended at a kerb as the road builder didn’t know quite how to deal with the roundabout, since we were on the wrong side of the road. Fortunately that only happened once, as at other roundabouts the bikes had their own roundabout around the main one, effectively crossing the road approaches to the car roundabout. It seems to work. But it does put quite a lot of faith in drivers. But I guess we always do when we’re cycling. 
  • Bikes are cool. The road bike I hired is comfortable, and quite nippy.
  • Peter F Hamilton’s “The Reality Disjunction” is quite unlike any of his other books that I have read. It has a very unexpected plot, and at times is a little horrible. But he is definitely a really good writer – that much is certain. 
  • Ants really are persistent blighters. Gangs of them keep breaking into the wardrobe where I have my pringles and drinks stashed. They can’t get into the pringles tube or bottles, but they just keep coming. Fortunately, so does the cleaner with her ant spray.
  • I’m off cycling tomorrow morning with a group from the bike rental shop. I hope it goes well. I’m not used to cycling with a group, and it’s entirely possible that I’m not up to it. I guess I’ll soon find out.

An unexpected night out

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

I’m still on holiday, in Majorca. One day, as I aimlessly wandered around exploring the resort, I came upon a poster advertising the Pollensa Music Festival. And unexpectedly, I recognised one of the groups performing – the Swingle Singers. 

Although you may not know the name, their work is heard in many an odd place, for example in Glee. singing all the a capella bits. They’ve also been heard in the odd advert and pop tune. Their sound is quite distinctive – a capella means they use no musical instruments at all, and even their drum sounds are done by beatboxing. I think it’s a great sound.

So I managed to get myself a ticket, and then managed to get myself to the venue (no thanks to the local bus company). And what a great night!

The concert was in the Convert of Santa Domingo, in an open courtyard – a splendid venue on a warm summer night. And the group were, as expected, brilliant. I’ll admit that sometimes the harmonies go from being beautiful to complicated, or even just very interesting, but nonetheless it’s the best use of 8 voices that I’ve ever heard. Some of it just made the hairs stand on the back of my neck. And other parts just left me grinning. (Their “Flight of the Bumblebee” is just amazing).

If you don’t believe me, check them out on YouTube or google them.

An unexpected, but very splendid night out!

The Dark Side of the Moon

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

Fashion is a funny old thing. Sometimes you’re an early adopted, sometimes you come to the party late. But some things never quite go out of fashion. Some things are just regarded as timeless classics. One of those things is Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. It’s an album almost as old as I am, that caused a huge stir when it was released, and stayed in the charts for an unprecedented length of time.

I bought myself a Pink Floyd compilation a year or two ago, and quite liked it. It became a favourite when I was in Singapore. But only then did I realise that my favourite tracks  from the compilation nearly all came from one album. So I bought it this month. And I think it’s brilliant.

It’s prog-rock, meant to be listened to as a whole, not a set of unrelated tracks. And that is one of the album’s strengths, that the tracks are related. This is an album about life, in all its richness. The first lyrics are “breathe, breathe in the air, don’t be afraid to care” and that probably sets a tone for how the album engages with life. As it goes on, it talks about restlessness, missed opportunities, money, war, poverty, madness and lots of other things. Maybe not so much about romance, now that I think about it. Wow. What a great album : )

I’ll admit that I don’t really dig the instrumentals On the Run and Any Colour you Like. But I think the rest of it is pure genius. I love the beauty of the tune of Us and Them, coupled with the sheer humanity of the lyrics. I love the anguish of Time “No-one told you when to run – you missed the starting gun”. I love the ego of Money. You never really know what to make of the Great Gig in the Sky. But on a good day, it’s just sublime, and does what it says on the tin.

But my favourites are actually the final pair of tracks. Somehow Brain Damage manages to be positive, and “I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon” is an affirming statement, rather than a negative one. And the final words are pure poetry “Everything under the sun is in tune, but the sun is eclipsed by the moon”. Everything should be right, and in-tune, and perfect. But it isn’t, because however great and shiny the sun is, the moon manages to get in the way. And boys and girls of the internet, isn’t life just like that?

That was long and rambling. But anyway, I like this album. I’ve now loaned it to a friend, so it’ll be interesting to head what they make of it.

On Holiday!

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

So here I am, travelling again. The difference this time is that I chose the destination, and there is no work involved. I’ve done a lot of travelling this year, but this is the first actual holiday, and I have to say I’ve been looking forward to it for a while.

So, I’m in Puerto Pollensa, in the north of Majorca. It’s dark right now, but my balcony faces the sea, which is beautiful and blue. I’m also surrounded on most sides by mountains, which are cool, and the sky has been that amazing deep shade of blue you only get when you are wearing sunglasses on a lovely day.
Things to note so far

  • rum and raisin ice cream is very nice, but I have no idea why rum and raisin is such a well-known combination.
  • tutti frutti is also very good.
  • Radio 4’s Bleak Expectations is a work of comic genius.
  • Motion-X GPS software for the iPhone is very helpful, as it allows you to store a map for offline use. I used it hiking today, and it rocked.
  • I haven’t any sun burn yet, which is excellent news.
  • I finished my first book today, and Alistair Reynolds is a really good writer.
  • The iPhone isn’t ideally suited to this blogging site. It does work, just not quite as intended. But I’ll just be happy it works.
  • It’s really, really, really good to be away from work.