China Eclipse

OK,  I’m back from China with about 3 hours of video footage, 600 photos, and 10 A4 pages of journal.  But I thought I’d do a quick and dirty edit of this part of the trip first, since it’s the most topical.

Wow, what an eclipse!  Those of us for whom it was the first time were suitably impressed – Tony the bluff Yorkshireman declared himself to have been rendered speechless.  And even those who’ve seen one before gave it a 9 1/2 out of 10.  The 22 degree aurora and diamond ring are particularly good, as are the amazing colours in the dark sky, and we even got to see some stars.

Rumour was our plastic chairs on a reserved site, in a protected zone, cost about £100 apiece.  Hell they were worth it.  China Daily reported that about 7,000 were at this site, and one vendor had sold out of his 100 boiled eggs by 6.30 am, and regretted not having learned more English at school!  Even if the eclipse itself had been cloudy, as it appeared it might be en route, the journey there, zig-zagging through the bamboo forest used in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, was worth it.

Orangefest

I remember Orange parades on 12 July when I was a wee girl, back in the sixties.  Then, when they became a focal point for trouble, I kept away.  In today’s new improved Norn Irn, there’s been an attempt to rebrand the event as an inclusive family festival.  And there’s certainly plenty of colour, and music to entertain visitors!  It’s a tall order, though.  The police presence this morning was very low key:  most of the cops were on bicycles (what a brilliant idea!), and one solitary helicopter hovered overhead.  There was a zero-tolerance stance on alcohol consumption by either bandsmen or the crowd.

My video footage sadly missed some of the great enthusiastic beating of the lambeg drum, and some fantastic youngsters twirling their batons.  And we had Max with us, who behaved beautifully given the crowds and the loud music, and who received much admiring attention.

Big Max, Little Mac

My sister in law is just recovering from an operation at the minute, so in an attempt to offer some practical help, I volunteered to walk her wee doggie today. I hadn’t seen Mac since he was a pup, when he’d fitted in the palm of my hand. He’s a good bit bigger now, but still dwarfed beside my own pup, Max (well, he’s 2 years old now, so maybe not quite a puppy any more). We allowed them some sniffing time to get to know each other, and then risked taking them together to the grounds of Belfast Castle, with its magnificent views over the lough. Amazingly enough, it wasn’t that hard to walk them together, I even managed to keep the 2 leads in the one hand most of the time.

Linda max and mac

Of course there were some comedy wind-the-lead round my legs moments, and I accused Mac of trying to recreate that scene in Star Wars where they topple the camel-shaped At-ats by winding some sort of rope round them.

L tangled leads

On the whole, I’d call that a success! I look forward to taking the both out again some evenings next week, weather permitting. Glad to be of service!

Never Forget

Took daughter and her best friend to Never Forget last night. I think they were more excited by meeting yer man out of Stavros Flatley, and some of Flawless, who happened to be shopping in Victoria Square.

When did this style of musical begin – was it Mama Mia, that first took an artist’s songs and then built a musical story around them? That one of course has had great success as both a stage show and a film, and I’ve also enjoyed We Will Rock You, not least because the Ben Elton penned script is very funny. But neither of those is ABOUT the band – it’s not the story of ABBA or Queen. Never Forget is about a Take That tribute band, and so, when the songs are sung, they are trying to re-create how Take That would’ve done it. Now, there’s a time when it’s OK for the audience to join in the singing, as they might at a concert, and a time when they shouldn’t. Specifically for the latter when the main boy and girl are trying to reconcile after a fight using A Million Love Songs…

The singing overall was pretty good, the dancing was excellent, and I was particularly impressed by Kay Murphy as the evil record mogul – it’s rare to find a lead role who is such an amazing dancer, and she was incredibly flexible for one so tall. The sound was unreliable – the system broke down during the first half, and I’m informed that it had broken the previous night as well. But the stand out star of the show was the set, with 4 big revolving panels which changed to create the various settings, including a realistic Manchester pub. And the special effects – the rain curtain used during Pray was superb in recalling the video styling of that single. Good pacing, and an almost pantomime comedic factor all added up to a great night of fun for the audience, who were all dancing and screaming by the final mega-mix reprise. Yes, even me.

Raiders of the lost archives

Eclipse France 99

I seem to have been assigned the role of family archivist. Probably because I’ve had a camcorder since the babies were teeny, and now as I learn how to use Windows movie-maker and similar computer technology, I have great fun taking my “photo of the day”, and compiling a monthly montage, complete with background music. These things don’t run smoothly of course: movie maker won’t let me import any songs from iTunes that I have ripped from a CD, only ones that I’ve downloaded. And the ongoing saga of problems with my Sony Ericsson K770i and Vodafone continue: I’m about to send back the 4th – count ’em – replacement handset in under 6 months.  The problem this time is that it won’t speak to my computer so I can’t upload my photos.

I’ve acquired a scanner, and am working my way through the collection of old glossy paper photos – the one above was taken in France in 1999 while waiting for the last solar eclipse.

But some joy with the old camcorder tapes and machine: I found a bloke who operates out of a tiny little unit in a business park, packed to the rafters with various recording equipment. He was able to convert old camcorder tapes to DVD in under 24 hours, for tenner a tape, and I was delighted with the result, especially discovering the old footage of me as Matthew Kelly for a Stars In Yer Eyes kiddy birthday party.

So now I can freecycle that old chunky camcorder. And concentrate on getting the best out of my dinky little digital video camera – thanks for all the advice I’ve been given on recording the upcoming eclipse in China!