Runrig: Amazing Things


Runrig was one of the reasons that I physically was much fitter in the nineties. As their songs were inexplicably played on German radio station SWR3 on an all too frequent basis, it was one of the most common reasons to engage in a mad, fast dash to all radios in the vicinity to switch the channel as quickly as possible to get rid of their aurally upsetting noodling.  I have never understood the German fascination with Runrig in the nineties, but then I didn’t get the David Hasselhoff thing or the Scorpions either. I have probably spent too long to in the UK to be devoid of an irony switch.

I was given this CD by a true fan. He recites his Runrig live experiences as some of the most profound of his life, at which stage his long suffering girlfriend would normally start to gag and roll her eyes while the conversation often would die down and enter one of these embarrassing pauses that can only be changed with either a comment about the weather or last week’s performance by Sheffield Wednesday. He insisted playing it all evening that night I was given this poisoned chalice and since then it has been sitting in my CD-collection. Unheard for 13 years.

Until today.

I listened to it intently while writing a paper for the Open University which only inspired me to focus more on my work. There was much celtic troubadouring, fiddles, bagpipes, electronic percussion and a singer who obviously took himself very serious. Lyrics like ‘Lifetimes in memory, flesh being born: but this is the age of invisible dawn’ littered the album. It sounded like a drunk Scotsman trying to sing the karaoke version of some eighties Bon Jovi material with added ‘celtic’ bits in it.

Bill Bailey famously called music like this famously ‘some old celtic bollocks’.

I agree. I think I will use this as my new favourite coaster to avoid coffee stains on the furniture.



Cognitive Dissonance

“[…]the presence of incongruent relations among cognitions that frequently results in excessive mental stress and discomfort”

Bill Bailey – Britain’s current foremost thinker – recently stated the fact that he shares some of David Cameron’s personal tastes while completely despising him on every other level is giving him a significant headache, before going into a tangent on the cause of this: cognitive dissonance. Fair enough. I have a slightly similar – though less existential – issue every time I arrive in Singapore. This is obviously a place in which its ruling classes have poured a lot of thought into. Not the scatterbrain, skittish (and at times scatological) approach to public services that is the UK’s trademark, with an ancient, non-functioning public transport network, local and national authorities in which documents frequently get lost, letters don’t get answered, billions are squandered on futile IT-projects and the Department of Transport can’t even run a bidding competition for a train line, but the methodological, analytical sort.

Singapore is different that way. From the moment you enter the city state you know that things are being run efficiently: you are being nudged (and sometimes pressured into) doing the right thing: don’t spit on the streets, don’t use chewing gum, don’t eat or drink on public transport, be kind and considerate to your fellow citizens, don’t ruin the environment. Work hard, prosper, send your children to school and make them work even harder. You want to live here? No problem. We don’t care about your sex, skin colour, beliefs or sexuality as long as you work. Did I mention hard? So, obviously the middle aged, non-rebellious, peace and quiet loving  part of my brain approves.

Then there is of course the social engineering, the unfettered capitalism, the state owned press, the almost exclusive autocratic one party rule, the personality cult around the prime ministers, the draconian laws, the death penalty and the abuse of cheap labour from the surrounding poor countries.

So, cognitive dissonance. I really like going there. I really do. I nevertheless always feel just a teeny weeny bit like a collaborator of the government and hope that my friends from Amnesty International won’t look at me accusingly.

Three weeks ago the best girlfriend ever (BGE) made me follow her to see two of the Singapore Biennale’s exhibitions at the National Museum of Singapore and the Singapore Art Museum. Under the title ‘If the world changed’ regional artists were given the chance to “to respond to and reconsider the worlds we live in, and the worlds we want to live in.” With the BGE much more learned when it comes to art and such things I was happy to potter along, as I would get a rolling commentary and get to do some gadget shopping afterwards.

We started with the National Museum of Singapore (NMS), where objects of the biennale were haphazardly strewn around the place, making the place a bit more messier than Lee Kuan Yew might have liked it, but it certainly added some welcome charm to the other rather sterile confinements of the NMS. Here’s an example:



This is called ‘Chalk and Cheese’ by Leroy Sofyan. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to interpret what the artist was trying to tell me about the future, but the BGE tells me it has something to do with cleanliness. Right.

My personal highlight was though the ‘living gallery’ on Singapore’s food history. Amazing smells, great exhibits, brillant noises. How museums should be.


Sniffing museums. How cool is that.

So, the cognitive dissonance will go on. Turns out I am just an unprincipled pseudo liberal with a penchant for autocrats.

I better make sure my Amnesty International subscription is up to date. Alternatively, please donate for my sake.

Comedy at the Union Chapel


Yesterday the best girlfriend ever and myself entered our minuscule all terrain vehicle and dared flooded roads, badger attacks and overprotective pheasants to drive to the English equivalent of Ankh-Morpork. There her eminence had secured us two tickets to see three comedians and my high priest of musical comedy, the ever so brilliant Bill Bailey in -of all places- a church. Not any church, though. A rather impressive example of victorian gothic architecture in Islington, the Union Chapel is as impressive as it gets. They even ask you whether you want your Hobgoblin at room temperature or cold. Bloody brilliant! Before we finally got to see Bailey, we sat through 2 hours of ‘stand up’ (which in my vocabulary unfortunately still stands for some bloke on a stage trying to get through as many four letter words as possible) and was pleasantly surprised.

It didn’t start well, though, as the MC of the evening was the rather  execrable Charlie Baker, who obviously believes that the word ‘knockers’ is still funny. Before the gig the best girlfriend ever mused that if this is going down in a consecrated church, they are probably unlikely to be allowed to swear. Boy was she wrong.  Rufus Hound who was obviously out on stage to deliberately shock a lefty liberal audience waiting for Bailey to appear. I do think he almost got there. Always in the verge of being misogynistic, he nevertheless managed to convey the tragic aspects of male masturbation, the idiocy of ritual circumcision and the importance of oral sex in the world in such disarmingly honest tones that even the best girlfriend ever was delighted.

I am though not sure why the mother of the two ca 10 year old girls thought it would be a good idea to bring her daughters to the gig. I am sure there will be trauma. And questions (‘Mummy? What is cocksucking? Does it involve poultry?’).

Pat Cahill was even better: his songs about tumour ridden Jack Russels (‘this dog is not in any visible pain. I’ve sang it eight times and I’ll sing it again’) and routine about booze combinations were outstanding. Have a look:


What Bridget Christie was doing on stage I have no idea. Lost and forlorn, she was neither funny nor witty and the poor women knew it.

Bill Bailey? Well, he is obviously getting more angry with politicians these days (deservedly so), doesn’t particularly like Nick Clegg and fails to see the point of Danish tv. And continues to invite the most sophisticated hecklers (“PLAY AN ALTERED SCALE!!”).

Brillant night. If somebody wound have warned me about Bridget Christie in advance I might have been able to get another Hobgoblin, but you can’t have anything in life.

Bill Bailey: Mumbler in Chief

I adore Bill Bailey. Who doesn’t? How can you not love a multi instrumental polymath with a anarchic streak and the politic leanings of an European leftie who refuses to swear on stage and still makes you laugh harder than any of the other ‘comedians’ out there. I still insist that Part Troll is the best comedy DVD ever released and by now I think I know it by heart. Last month I went to the Royal Albert Hall to see the man do his thing with Anne Dudley and the BBC Concert Orchestra and last weekend me and the best girlfriend ever watched the newest release of the master, ‘Tinselworm’.

Both in the Royal Albert Hall and on Tinselworm Bill Bailey’s greatest fallacy comes to light: the Master of Comedy is a terrible mumbler! While live in the Royal Albert Hall the best girlfriend and I blamed the crap sound, in Tinselworm it finally became apparent that the man is slurring his gags, especially when they come at the end of an elaborately set up routine: the last, decisive part of the sentence becomes a meaningless ‘snmvrbbsssschnffff’. One routine we had to listen to 5 times before we finally understood the whole thing, and it turned out to be the most brillant aside in the whole show.

It must be the side-effect of repeating your gags again and again that you finally throw them away as unidentifiable asides. Shame, but if you’re motivated enough to listen to the man again and again, the best gags are hidden under layers of mumbling.