Here’s the surest sign yet that I’ve settled down in Ireland: I dreamt that I was in Ireland.
You know that you’ve become fluent in French when you start dreaming in French. Well, my dreams this morning were based on more or less the same principle. In one dream I was wandering around the centre of Belfast, down Donegall Street, near the Belfast Telegraph offices, to be precise.
In the other, I was on a bus, a Bristol RE, the kind that were seen on Belfast’s streets from about 1977 to the early 2000s. I was directing the driver up Church Street in Downpatrick, up past the church, past the telephone exchange, to where we were to pick up a crowd of friends.
So, they’re not really remarkable dreams. In fact they’re quite boring, but it shows that not only is my body in Ireland but my soul is too.
That reminds me, I haven’t been on www.belfastforum.co.uk for a while. Must check up and see how they’re doing.
My fascination with all things Chinese and Japanese goes right back into my teenage years and my interest in all things Korean began a bit later. It began in the late 1980s when I was still a teenager in Belfast. This was at a time when there was no such thing as the Internet and books about Korea were few and far between. And there was no possibility whatever of getting my hands on any Korean newspapers.
Coincidentally, the 1988 Olympic Games were taking place in Seoul so there was plenty about capitalist South Korea on the TV and radio, but precious little about communist North Korea. And this made me all the more interested in the North. I got my first glimpse into the DPRK in December 1989 when a school friend of mine got me two DPRK periodicals from the library at Queen’s University.
Now, if any supporters of Kim Jong-il’s regime happen to be reading this post, they would be well-advised to stop now.
A part of me would like to believe that the DPRK is the Socialist dream come true, that Communism really can work under the right administration.
But the DPRK is not Communist at all. It is an odious Stalinist dictatorship, at the centre of which is the grotesque personality cult of Kim Il-sung. It is not self-sufficient as “Juche” ideology says. It is bankrupt and its people are hungry, brainwashed and paranoid.
This country is a prime example of a dystopia. No one familiar with the novels of George Orwell, Aldous Huxley or Franz Kafka would want to have anything to do with this country.
So what is it about the DPRK that I like? Could it be the novelty of the place? The fact that I’d be guaranteed a job, even if it’s boring and back-breaking? Or is it because there’s a proper culture there and not the merest sign of American junk “culture”?
Yes, I know I’ve said this before, but I just have to say it again. Tuesday and Wednesday were everything a summer’s day should be, hot and sunny and not a cloud in the sky. And I took full advantage of the sunner weather. On Tuesday I took a walk up to Inch Abbey and then took a further walk up towards Annacloy, went south via Woodgrange, Drumcullan, round to Bonecastle then back home.
Wednesday’s trip took me south, down to Tyrella Beach via Ballynoe and Marshallstown. And if you’re wondering where all those places are or you think I’m making them up, look closely at an Ordnance Survey map of Downpatrick.
By the way, I got sunburn, even though I made a point of plastering myself with sunblock. The sunblock must have come off with the sweat I was working up.
Maybe its because they’re older and wiser, maybe it’s because they’re not under the thumb of a lot of jaded and cynical record executives and they’re free to make the music they want to make, but Take That’s records today are an immense improvement on the dross they made when they first started in the early 1990s.
I remember them when they first appeared on the scene with the saccharine-sweet “A Million Love Songs”. Girls in their teens and much younger all over the country fell in love with them and their nauseating songs. At least Robbie, Gary and the other three wrote their own songs, unlike the vast majority of boy bands, past and present. But that didn’t alter the fact that I found their records a good reason to dive for the “OFF” button on my radio.
Take That split up in 1996 with Robbie Williams starting off an a successful solo career and Gary Barlow starting off on a solo career that rapidly disappeared and the other three simply disappearing.
Sometime in the mid- to late-2000s Gary Barlow and the other three reformed without Robbie and they surprised me by releasing an album that I liked. It was not like their earlier vapid efforts. And now Robbie has rejoined the group (mainly because his solo career has floundered) and it seems they’re standing stronger than ever.
They are one example of performers who improve with age. Madonna is another example. I used to hate her music and her slutty looks back in the 1980s. Today she looks more like a real woman than she has for years and her records are better too.
So this makes me wonder about the people today whose records I hate. I mean Beyoncé, Rihanna, Adele and Alicia Keys. Where will they be twenty years from now? Will any of them start making records that I actually like? Or will they disappear? Will they “find God” and churn out a load of recordings that are even more bland than the ones they’ve been making over the past few years? Will I even care? Will I have rejected the human world completely and become a hermit?
All these questions and more will be answered over the next, oh… twenty years.