Thursday, February 16, 2006

Media Frenzy of One

Since an important part of any blog is shameless self promotion propelled by the belief that one's minutest doings are a point of fascination to the world at large, I am pleased to announce that the photo above has been selected as the cover shot of the latest issue of Great Nation. Great Nation is THE magazine for expatriate Mongolians living in Korea, and its pages alternate between Mongolian and Korean language articles on a whole welter of issues. It's website can be found here (useful to have the Korean and Cyrillic font sets) but is pretty out of date; for all I know it may be advocating cruelty to animals and more exploration of Venus, but hey, in this age of lowered journalistic integrity, who am I to care what my photos are being used for?

Between the Swedish travel supplement and the Mongolian press, I feel confident in declaring myself a major global media player. I shall be listing myself on the NYSE later this afternoon, but without compromising my artistic vision. Buy early and often.

Yours megalomanically,


Thursday, February 09, 2006

Mighty Blighty

What Ho, viewers!

February finds us back in Mongolia after a month in the UK, where, if you are reading this, we probably saw you. So hello. If we did not see you in the UK and yet you’re still reading this, why then that is even more remarkable, and you’re the reason we get up in the morning. So why do I feel like rolling over and going back to sleep?

Turning our acute observational eye to Blighty for just a tick, a few small bits and pieces which got lodged in our grill are extracted here for your review. In tribute to our Yorkshire ‘hood’s most glittering literary son Alan Bennett’s annual diary, this entry is in simple point form, easily swallowed and forgotten, like a tuna and sweetcorn on wholemeal.

  • Gastro-notes: As in many other countries, people in the Uke Hey spent a tremendous amount of time going hither and yon in their cars. People are busy, time is money, rush hour must be avoided, the A65’s got roadworks on both sides, but everybody’s gotta eat sometime. Pub meals are expensive and may only be served between precise hours, service areas tend to occur only on main roads and are in any case largely toxic, and the weather may not allow for picnics. All of which combines to create the phenomena of Sandwiches in Cars. In lay-bys, car parks, view points and petrol stations, a quick glance behind the windscreen shows drivers and pax huddled over Tupperware, noshing down two slices with filling. Short rows of three and four cars crouch by the side of the road in murky weather, sometimes supported by a van advertising Hot Food for those not already packing a few rounds. This activity is so ingrained into the fabric of things, and the weather is so insistently uncooperative that people unwind in their spare time by taking their sandwiches for a drive to areas of outstanding natural beauty. You fuel up the motor, tuck your trousers into your socks, put the dog in the back and drive all the way to the Ribblehead Viaduct for a pleasant afternoon among the arches, only to find horizontal rain and a wind with murder on its mind. Typical, isn’t it? Still, seems a shame to come all this way for nothing, doesn’t it? Nevermind, mustn’t grumble. Turn up Radio Four, open up the lunch box, and fog up the car. Everything seems better over a wensleydale and chutney with a smoky bacon crisp. Now where’s the flask? Oooh, luvly.
  • Religious Affairs Department: It is somewhere beyond cliché to complain about the English weather, but even so, it cannot go without mention. On the first afternoon we were there, I took Natty out into the garden at about one in the afternoon. He looked at the sky and the thick grey putty of clouds smeared across it and declared “dark.” No son, that’s what passes for daylight in these parts. From the mouths of babes comes stuff what’s true and that. As if in response to the gloom of winter, the Methodist church in Settle has a poster on its notice board of a sun baked white sandy beach and the surf beyond with the legend “Wish you were here! Love, Jesus” written in ‘handwriting’ font across it. Whether the Son of God is on holiday or works there or something is not clear. Viewers wishing to know more about their spiritual travel options are encouraged to enquire within. And still on the Methodist tip, a Settle lady in the prime of life recently presented one of her ladyfriends with a fresh new copy of the parish newsletter, to which her excited pal was heard to remark “Ooooh! I wish I could reciprocate with the Methodist Recorder!” We assume she was talking about another newsletter, but we could be wrong. if anyone knows if there’s another meaning for “reading the Methodist Recorder”, answers on the back of a postcard of a tropical idyll to our Ulaanbaatar HQ. Best entries will receive a lifetime subscription to Settle Community News. (with a tip of the flat cap to our reporter-at-large T.R-J.)
  • Vice dept: And so on to south London, where the hippest trends are born, and describing someone as “being committed to a decadent lifestyle” is a compliment. Certain parts of south London are less wholesome than others, and are the sort of places where people wear fake rather than real Burberry and say ‘Good Luck’ to their cars before going to bed. But this ramshackle state of affairs of is not a result of incompetent or inefficient local government, social corrosion, dub reggae or the youth of today. Oh no. The seediness of certain boroughs is a result of Drug Tourism. That’s right viewers: it seems that certain neighbourhoods have developed a reputation as being such good places to score that well heeled north Londoners have been known to hop in minicabs and come south with the sole intention of purchasing illegal stimulants and the like, thus bringing otherwise upright areas into disrepute. It is apparently a) impossible to find any illegal product north of the Thames, b) dealers never stray more than three blocks from the building they were born in and c) dealers have no idea how to use courier services, the internet or even those same minicabs that are bringing all them tourists into the once placid boulevards and avenues. And so the drug taking public must journey south. Guerrila action to Take Back the Streets by reversing the trend and sending Brixton residents into Chelsea and Kensington to try to buy there have so far met with inconclusive results. In the meantime, packs of toffs clad in John Smedley curb crawl around Lambeth disturbing the law abiding citizens with their loaded questions about ‘gear’ and ‘could one sort one out’ and the like. Pensioners clutch their pearls to their neck and hurriedly cross the road, remembering the old days when all the houses had bead curtains for doors and you could leave the collection plate in the high street overnight and no one would so much as borrow a farthing. And now? Hordes of Japanese with next-gen cameras and safari jackets clutching the Fodor’s Getting On One in London clog the zebra crossings following tour guides waving antennas with a red rag tied on it as they are led on walking tours of the once reputable shooting galleries and crack dens of SW 11. It’s getting so the streets aren’t safe for the dopeheads anymore. Won’t someone stop the madness? Look, if two Mongolian cops in the only ger in 100 miles can bust timber runners with only their bare hands, then surely the Met can bring the Tourism scourge under control? Our anxious thoughts go out to Mark and Keith, living under siege in Camberwell. Keep hope alive.

On which gritty street-tough note we shall close. Coming soon, more silliness about Mongolia. See you then!

All the best (saihan saihanig husii, viewers),