So here’s the famous whiteboard. Got some books on the adjacent shelf, including The Wake, which is amazing, and Twitter and Tear Gas, which I think you would find interesting.
My reading is very intermittent these days. If I’m particularly starved of sleep I can’t concentrate from one sentence to the next, so it’s an exercise in frustration. I realized that if you have crappy memory you can’t be entertained because you just don’t retain enough contextual information and dialogue, which means that when I’m very tired I’m also perpetually bored.
Below are two photos of the hill behind our building. You can see some of the graves on the left and at the bottom. There are greenhouses and warehouses in the middle, and the road curves to the left behind the last houses before disappearing among the trees. It doesn’t go anywhere but to the temple, with a footpath branching off into part of what is called Yang Ming Mountain (but which is really a series of hills like the Derby Dales).
Apart from the first picture being kind of rubbish and having been taken in the evening, I think you can probably see the effect of the overnight rain, which began about 8 pm and continued into early morning. It’s like all the trees suddenly plumped up and became much thicker and greener.
The three big hills in the distance are all part of the range, and they are what most people think of as Yang Ming Shan–it’s where all the OAPs go walking (which they invariably call “mountain climbing”). On top of the rightmost one you can see some buildings of Chinese Culture University, including this monstrous thing, which can be seen all across Tianmu (the suburb where I live). Some of the other buildings are traditional and purty.
Shihhan’s sister went here about fifteen years ago, and we once went up the hill to watch a play written and directed by her weirdo then boyfriend (a Mr “Veronia Shakespeare”–no, I’m not making this up–can you guess who chose his name?). The play was in English, but it was not amplified and the stage was raised about four feet and everyone spoke so quietly that the audience couldn’t hear a single sodding word. It went on for an hour or so, then everyone duly clapped and the teacher came on the stage and told us all that Eko (the boyfriend’s given name) was a “genius”.
Well fuck me! The worst I ever did was make you sit through Grease.
Back to the beautiful natural environment…
A great advantage of the torrential rain is that when it falls you can’t hear anything but the rain, which is quite soothing. So all the revving and honking of people coming back down the hill last night was drowned out in a heavy sheet of dead water.
There was however some quite explosive thunder during the night which startled me awake, and I could not tell from behind my earplugs whether it was just thunder or actually the first round of missiles from the mainland as China began its aerial and naval assaults. My daytime brain is aware that (1) this low level of rationality and realism is to be expected of my nighttime brain, and (2) one day my nighttime brain may well prove correct.
So I really liked Prague. It’s a big modern city with lots of green space, fine (cheap) food and beautiful architecture. The only downside is the hordes of tourists…
Copenhagen, on the other hand, can suck my balls. It’s a provincial town masquerading as a capital city – full of snobs and phonies. Massively overpriced, very cold, not hugely interesting, and all their food is smothered in sugar syrup – yuck!
The Hunting Chair by Børge Mogensen is very comfortable and a grand classic. I would like to own one. But really, what the fuck kind of letter is ø? I believe it is pronounced “eugh”, as in “Ohmygod, I can feel that undercooked sugary herring coming back up… Eugh!…”
Pretty flowers – no arguments there. But what, by the hairs of Thor’s beard, are they?? I don’t know! Minus five points!
Below is a series I call Cold Crappy Copenhagen Broke My Wife’s Brain. On a walk around the Kastellet, an old fortress in the north of the city, I espied a windmill with its sails fixed in an X position.
“Oho,” I said to Shihhan, “that’ll be a good background for a Black Panther tribute photo.”
To which she said, “What?”
She demurred and refused categorically to pose for me. I gathered from her silence (because I read her thoughts real good) that she thought it was silly, tangential and not especially funny. I insisted that it depended on the proper execution. To show her I was right, I decided to go first. Almost immediately I realised my mistake: it has long been established that despite her many fine qualities my wife is no photographer. I submit Exhibits A to I.
When I saw the total hash she had made of my project, I insisted she take a turn, and this time she could not refuse me. Bam! Instant success!
Even with a somewhat unwilling subject, this guy nailed it first time and every time. (If you’re wondering why there are three, it’s because a certain someone decided that she didn’t like the edge of the right-hand sail being cut off. Everyone’s a critic!)
It was fine. But after a couple of hours walking around its gilded halls peering at randomly scattered and dryly written information panels, I realised that I just don’t care about dead posh nobs and how they used to live. “You’re weren’t better than me!” screamed my soul from the depths.
Then we walked around the depressing little town that stands nearby, trying to find something halfway decent to eat. Eventually we settled on a burger joint and the ensuing meal gave me palpitations the rest of the day. Nice one, Højbro! (There’s that damn ø again…)
Next, the plan had been to go off to another “must-see” noble pile, but that would have involved more bus-work and a bit of a walk (it was mighty cold), and it was getting late. Instead we decided to go to the Tivoli Gardens, which was also on the list.
Ah no, I’m getting ahead of myself. First we went to the Ny Carlsberg museum. That was alright. Lots of Greek fellas and some nice bits of marble, and although there was a performance on and the Egyptian exhibit was closed, eventually it reopened and Shihhan got to see her beloved mummies (second only to ugly canines in her list of favourite things, I believe)
The only low point was when I was in the modern sculpture exhibit and this enormous bearded blowhard came through doorway and announced at the top of his lungs to his embarrassed companions, “Oh no, I can’t bear looking at this neo-classical shit!”
So then we went to Tivoli. And I’ll cut a long story short by saying that it took us more time to get in – walking round two and a half of the four sides and then queuing in the world’s slowest-shortest line – than we actually spent inside. Who could have predicted that two quiet types who don’t like crowds would not have enjoyed the prototype Disneyland?
The only funny part, for me at least, was when we were beating a hasty retreat for the exit. As we walked through the park’s lame “Chinatown”, we got caught up in a group of teenagers and one of them started shouting behind me “We’re in Tokyo! We’re in Tokyo!” over and over again.
I don’t know if it was the bright lights and loud noises, the stupid repetition of the phrase, or just something inside me, but I kind of snapped. He clearly thought he was still behind his friends, so when I turned round and got in his face, I could see him turn pale behind his stupid mirrored sunglasses. He whimpered, “I’m sorry…” before I told him to get the fuck away from me (in a very, very manly way, I guarantee).
I kind of enjoyed it because usually in this sort of situation I moan or become sarcastic, and that is what Friedrich Nietzsche would have said was self-destructive behaviour (i.e. repression of anger), whereas letting it out was quite self-indulgent. I’m not sure how much my travel companion enjoyed it.
And that’s why I can’t stick Copenhagen.
BTW. There was a revealing, and very hilarious moment when we were walking along the canal. A cyclist, no doubt sick of dodging tourists in the bike lane all day, just bellowed at the top of his lungs at a group of French people. It was wordless and primal, and it sounded like a very angry and very belligerent bovine. It thrilled me to hear it. Plus, all trip I had been half-jokingly moaning to Shihhan about continually rubbing shoulders with French tourists, so it was like a wonderful double bow on our last day: Danish incivility sticking it to French insouciance.