Monday, 31 December 2012

Happy New Year

If this doesn't yell "love" at you then you're not looking properly. This was taken as we waited for lunch at a restaurant in Villa de Leyva. That's the town where Pati and I got married in 1998. We went back and discovered that the hotel where we betrothed ourselves is back in business as a hotel. It was quite a trip down memory lane, but looking to the future, here's to starting 2013 the way I mean to continue - with a blog post. If you've felt the need of love at some point in 2012, I hope you don't feel its lack in 2013 and for the time being, I hope this photo will send you a big hug from us in Colombia who are thinking of you. xx

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Land of saints and scoundrels

If you’re from Colombia and living abroad, or at least in the UK, you’re usually met with three reactions when you mention your place of birth to new acquaintances. I characterise them as the “three C’s” – cocaine, conflict and coffee. These seem to be the exclusive reference points for the people who’ve actually heard of the place. One local ex-pat Anglo blogger recently discussed the drug connotations of this adopted country of residence and the problems of explaining it all to his friends in the UK with the succinct title “Yes I live in Colombia. No, I’m not a coke fiend”. Between drug money and civil war, there is definitely a certain culture of violence, but whether those macrosocial factors can be held to be a causal influence on street violence and crime is a different question. When we first got to Bogotá it would be fair to say we were rigid with paranoia and fear. Big scary city, big scary problems, muggers and killers lurking under every hood, round every corner. For the first month or so it felt like an adventure just opening the front door to put the rubbish out, wondering who would take advantage to push their way in and disembowel us before looting the house. Fear is a wonderful stimulant to paranoid creativity.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

When I Grow Up I Want to be a Music Blog

So I’ve wanted to write about Colombian music for a while now. But it sort of involves having to come clean about what I’ve been doing for a living in recent months. I landed a job with the city’s Chamber of Commerce (yeah, you heard me right), which is sort of weird, but I have the good fortune of working for the benefit of Creative and Cultural Industries, being the coordinator of events that promote cinema and music. I started just under six months ago, straight into a baptism of fire, with just five weeks between me starting and my first event, the Bogotá Audiovisual Market. It mainly promotes Colombia cinema to an international market. When I first came to Colombia in 1996 the release of a Colombian feature film was a happening that was talked about for years. The entire nineties were dominated by a couple of films (if you haven’t seen them, watch La Estrategia del Caracol and La Vendedora de Rosas), because they’d hardly made more than a couple. Nowadays there are Colombian films opening every month, and they travel abroad and make an impact.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Dancing Queen

To finish off the cuteness overdoes, here's a video of yesterday's party. It's a video of five-year olds dancing, so if that's not your thing, just hang on for the next blog post, there'll be one along in a minute.

(I'd just like to point out that at 5m30s Oisin clearly executes a stagedive from the small plastic chair on the right of the image. HE WAS BORN PUNK, MY BOY!)

MVI 1171 from Gareth Gordon on Vimeo.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Hornet Piñata

I think there’s an outside chance we might have distinguished ourselves for being atypically relaxed parents. So unhurried, in fact, that we haven’t signed the child up for the conservatoire, nor enrolled him in a footballing academy, nor hired a private art tutor. We’ve been too busy playing with him and having fun to worry about all the proper stuff that your real middle class parents busy themselves with. This has its upside – we have a great laugh. It has its downside as well, as, for example, when we went to his school and asked for a slot to organise a little birthday party for him with his classmates. The other parents, knowing the routine, had booked their slots at the start of term. Hippy mum and hippy dad found out to their cost that you can’t just leave it to the fortnight before the big day and assume that the nursery is going to have a space to give up for your little treasure’s moment of glory. Hence Oisin got two birthday parties… (we’re back on the upside again!). Once on the day of his birthday with us at home (I'll not go into the details of daddy arriving off the plane from Medellin hungover for the breakfast birthday party), and once this morning, 12 days late. I suppose it’ll make a bigger impression on him, an entire fortnight of celebrations, and we’ll be the winners in the long run… until this time next year when he’ll insist on following the same protocol I imagine, unresponsive to our pleas that the two week extended party was due to a scheduling cock up on our part.

Music teacher Daniel kicks off the party

Here’s a few photos of the event. The nursery has the routine down to a T – the music teacher comes and sings them a few songs, they dance themselves silly, they eat the cake you’ve brought a few minutes earlier, they all get a present, the birthday boy or girl gets lots of big presents, and then someone has a cry because it’s all been too much (Oisin in this case, but that’s our fault for sparing the rod all these years).

Oisin dishes out the party hats

Daniel and school head teacher Pastora watch Oisin burn himself on the child safe candle

Several small children didn't survive the stampede for cake

Daddy and Fito try to prevent the child from bursting the piñata

It's just too cute. The handing over of presents was invariably accompanied by a big hug.

(For those who don’t know, the blog title is a reference to an album by the excellent Didjits. Here’s a video of the album cover. Apparently The Offspring did a cover of this song. I’ve never heard of the Offspring. I recommend you don’t either and concentrate on the Didjits.)

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Holding out for a (HTC) Hero

It’s been a good week for thieving, if you’re a scumbag in Bogotá. Actually, it started a couple of months ago when Fernando was involuntarily parted from his Nikon DSLR. Actually, it started about five centuries ago when the Spanish got here and stole everything they could get their hands on, instituting a culture of pillage with impunity that persists to this day. Fernando was, by his own account, the subject of a staged fight, which involved him being knocked to the ground as a diversion for someone else making off with his camera. And lenses. And flash. And bag. He didn’t come home a happy ex-photographer. There was one miserable tweet from him asking for info regarding a misplaced camera, and that was the end of the story.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

This Old House

Thanks to an online suggestion, the refurbishment of our flat is now being driven forward by comparison with the "Welsh Wizard", the one and only Shakin' Stevens. There's a strong Welsh link with this blog, but this might be the first time I've had the pleasure of featuring someone from Ely. Or "Lower St. Fagans", as a taxi driver once told us the locals call it (Cardiff in-joke).

Thursday, 13 September 2012

In Praise of Clutch

It would be great if this was an article about the rather good band by the name of Clutch. In fact, it wouldn’t be hard to write in praise of them, as their first album was an absolute ripper. But no, it is with the third pedal in manual transmission cars in mind that I write. And I’m not talking about “the” clutch. No. I’m talking about the concept of clutch.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Salsify your Soul

We went out last night to a free concert the district culture ministry had organised to celebrate Bogota being named as one of UNESCO's cities of music. In the line-up were La-33, who I'd never seen before, and Ondatropica, a collection of living legends from Colombia's musical past, partly guided by Quantic as a producer.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Get Your Rocks Off

It’s a pathetic attempt to spice up a tawdry tale of house renovation with an over-worked reference to rock and roll, but there has been a noble tradition of glancing rock references in the titles of the various texts in this blog, and chipping 50 year old tiles away from our cracked walls seems close enough to “getting your rocks off” to warrant defiling the memory of Bob Dylan, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, the Rolling Stones and Primal Scream.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Full Moon over Bogota

Twitter went off on one tonight with Bogotanos twittering about the moon, how amazing it was, how bright it was, how blue it was (explain that one to me). I was sort of non-plussed, and then we went to the shops to get the usual Friday night supplies of that liquid that helps you recover from a week of wage-slavery. Beer. And the moon was pretty stunning.

On my return to the flat, I found the bedroom lit up just beautifully, and despite the many scratches on the front of my little Canon G12's lens, the dicky little tripod held the camera still enough to capture the moonlight falling across the bed. Throught the window you can see the streetlight on the side wall of the next block of flats down the road from us.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

The Slide

If I was to put it in a cliché, there's never a dull moment in Colombia. What this means in more prosaic terms is that you rarely get a moment's peace and quiet in a restless, raucous city such as Bogotá with its eight million inhabitants. There's so much to notice here on a daily basis that yells out to be observed and recorded and shared, yet one consideration holds me in check a lot of the time. It is the suspicion that the things that catch my eye seem noteworthy to me perhaps more as a result of my own ignorance of local conventions, and that by commenting on them I essentially run the risk of ignorantly poking fun at Johnny Foreigner (a historically popular pastime for the inhabitants of the United Kingdom). Which is already a daft way of looking at things, because you can hardly categorise Colombians in Colombia as foreigners. So if I were to comment on these eye-catching moments it would be more like Johnny Gringo showing up his own idiocy by scoffing at the locals.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

The Importance of Redbush Tea to a Serious Relationship

Some time ago I sent out an email with our new address and contact details here in Bogotá. I think I may have mentioned several times in the email that people would obviously need the address details in order to send us parcels of redbush (rooibos, if you prefer) teabags.

Welll, it seems that one person has taken me at my word. I received this via Twitter from the lovely Camilo Tamayo:

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Macca and Me

So my life took a turn for the rock’n’roll surreal at the start of the month. A few weeks earlier a friend had sent me a retweet of someone in Bogota looking for “a production assistant with fluent English”. Well English doesn’t get much more fluent than the mangled diatribe that we spew in Norn Iron, so combined with my outstanding background in production, I duly spent a whole three and a half minutes firing off a CV. Nothing ventured, as they say.

Having long since forgotten about that, I received a phone call in the middle of the Theatre Festival’s production master class that I was attending on behalf of the El Espectador newspaper. I obviously ignored the call, but several hours later rang back. I got through to a gentleman who reminded me about the production assistant job, and rapid fire invited me to come and see him. When? Now. No, after lunch. OK see you. Click.

Friday, 30 March 2012

The Theatre Critic

I've now officially started blogging about the Production Management workshop of the Theatre Festival for national Colombian newspaper El Espectador. It's in Spanish, obviously, so if that puts you off don't follow this link to the articles. And yes, I did use a picture of a gorilla from Belfast Zoo as my profile picture. It's a long story...

One thing I have learnt is that Wordpress's online text editor is a total pain in the ass to use, compared to Blogger, especially if you want to use those funny letters with lines over the top of them in foreign.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Child Labour

Saturday is cleaning day in the house, and usually about an hour after breakfast I'm asking myself "where does all this frigging dust come from?" When I worked at the Sherman theatre, I regularly swept and mopped the main stage, which was something in the region of 150 square metres. Our flat's floor area is 142 square metres, according to the council tax bill, and despite considerable portions of it being hidden underneath large pieces of furniture, it still takes me hours to get round with the brush and mop. Bring back main stage, that's the thought in my head as I inch my way round the nooks and crannies of our "penthouse".

Friday, 23 March 2012

I has won wrighting competition

I has won a wrighting competition!

Uncle Tio Fernando told me about a competition to win one of five places at the Theatre School side of the Bogota Theatre Festival which starts tomorrow. The requirements were to write them a review on one page of A4 of the last theatre show you'd seen, and send them a CV. The prize entailed going to the particular workshop, and then writing a blog about it for El Espectador, one of Colombia's only two national newspapers.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Walking with Dinosaurs on Water and in Paradise

Moody skies over Villa de Leyva's main square
It’s been a while, but let’s jump straight back in and leave the catching up for later. We’re back in rainy, cold, choked-up Bogota after a long weekend (yet another Colombian bank holiday) in Tunja with the in-laws. We’ve been in Colombia since October, but despite an undying affection for the gorgeous little village where we got married, Villa de Leyva (one of Colombia’s finest colonial gems), we still hadn’t managed to make it back there. We corrected this at the weekend with not one, but two trips in the space of 24 hours.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

New Year's Eve

Sometimes it's hard to believe that I worked for four years as the technical stage manager at Sherman Cymru: charged with supervising the health and safety of the stage area, my fellow colleagues, actors, visiting technicians and anyone who might happen to wander across the stage while I was hauling a quarter of a ton of lights or scenery up into the air, precariously attached to one of the counterweight flying bars. During this time I learnt that to qualify to do many risky things, one had to fork out large amounts of the company's money in order to spend a day in some remote training centre, where at the end of the afternoon, and after a desultory "tick box" exam, the answers for which the instructor had spent all day drilling into us, you were promised another piece of plastic to stuff into your wallet (presumably only to be produced in the event of a serious accident involving multiple injuries to third parties).