Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Smile and say Cheese

Readers may be forgiven for wondering why it seems to have become distinctly overpopulated with dairy comestibles here at Space, but bear with me.

It occurred to us in the early new year that the last time Fille remembered using her camera was on 21st December at 8:15 in the morning. She and I had got up early in the hope of catching the setting, eclipsed moon in the same sky as the rising winter sun: the Selenelion (last seen in these parts in Tudor times, so, a bit special). The camera, too, was a bit special: like the Selenelion it was bright pink, and full of things we would probably never see again in a lifetime.

Its absence started to tell round about the middle of the month. We turned over Fille's room (and in the process filled a rather large Oxfam bag). We moved on to Fils' room, then the two of them decided to tackle the top floor, which is their part of the house, as well as being the venue for the Astronomy mentioned earlier. Two more bulging Oxfam bags, and one cleared floor, later, we concluded there were no cameras anywhere there. The possibility that it had gone for good started to emerge: early in January, friends from overseas had visited. We'd all had a great time, and of course many trips had been made to local tourist attractions: everyone from Dracula to Wallace and Gromet (but not Lunchista) had figured in the ensuing sightseeing-fest.

Oh dear.

We turned the car over. Twice. Not forgetting every pocket, bag and rucksack (including those left in the garage, and then the rest of the garage for good measure), but still drew a blank.

A forensic listing of every venue, with dates, began to be drawn up. After failing to get a result with the first phonecall, I decided we needed some help with the list, and got back in touch with our "tourists" (email subject: "A long shot"). They were diamonds: having come all that way they could remember every single stop, with people, dates, and even whether or not the camera had featured in the mix. Between us all, we managed to track its last known movements back to a cafe in the Dales. No-one could remember its name, but that's what Google StreetView is for.

When I rang the cafe, it turned out that not only had the owners kept the camera, safe in its own little space in the cupboard behind the counter, they also remembered this particular posse of overseas visitors because of taking the time to chat about everything from bilingual families to buying flutes. How often do you come across people in business who make time, or indeed space, for their most eccentric punters?

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Jukebox jury

This may be an urban myth, but here goes.

In the days of pub juke-boxes, when it was the drinkers themselves who got to choose the music to accompany their drinking, rather than have the bar's owners foist upon them some landfill-type noise which, market research had shown, resulted in people buying more drinks, there existed in one particular pub a juke-box with a twist. You could put in your money and buy three minutes of silence.

For all I know it may have been not just any old silence either, but that famous one by John Cage whose length in seconds is deliberately the same as the number, in degrees below zero, of the coldest temperature physically possible (and no I can't resist the urge to say, how cool is that?). Somewhat longer than three minutes, the piece should, apparently, be played in three movements. Which in turn begs the question, what should the intervals between the movements sound like?

If the said pub ever really existed, I wonder, how often people availed themselves of this unique choice? Did the bar-staff occasionally wander on over and select the silence as a break in the evening's racket? Did people rush to buy their drinks in the short interlude in which they knew they'd be heard? Did people, as a result, end up buying more drinks?

Or did the idea die because people just felt awkward, thinking they had to make conversation because there was nothing to listen to all of a sudden?