‘Crouch, Touch, Pause, Engage’ compellingly interweaves the true stories of troubled teenagers in late 1990s Brigend, with hometown hero Gareth Thomas becoming the first rugby union star to come out as gay. Both stories are told matter of factly, but powerfully enough to stir plenty of emotion in the audience. And this being a National Theatre of Wales co-production (with Out of Joint), there is singing at the points when your hearts strings are being tugged most strongly.
Salvador on Brazil’s north-eastern coast was the first capital of Portugal’s new colony in the sixteenth century, until it surrendered that privilege to Rio de Janeiro in 1763 (it wasn’t until 1960 that the plans to build a new capital in the centre of the country, Brasilia, came to fruition). But if this was once the entry point for European culture (and guns, germs and steel) into Brazil, today it is Salvador’s African heritage, a product of three hundred years as a major slave port, that gives the city its distinctive flavour.
Paris is likely to end up as markontour’s most visited metropolis of 2015, although I suspect the city has won greater accolades. I just wish I had more time to explore on my regular work trips, not least because there must be more museums per square mile in central Paris than anywhere else on Earth. Let’s call this Paris guide work in progress and I look forward to further investigation.
Well this is embarrassing: I just found myself whimpering on the Eurostar while watching Brassed Off, the stirring Pete Postlethwaite film about pit closures and colliery bands. Some slightly perplexed French people observed. I’m not sure it is a moment that is really deserving of a blog, but as I am clearly feeling unusually emotional I will grant myself an exception. The moment when the late lamented Pete Postlethwaite, lungs full of coal dust, refuses the trophy his Grimley Colliery Band have just won at the Albert Hall, and launches into an excoriating dissection of the inhumanity of Margaret Thatcher’s annihalation of the pit villages, should be in the book of Great British Speeches. I don’t have the French to explain that though..
The object of this week’s travel blog is a thoroughfare that connects Stoke to Uttoxeter. On first reaction this might make some readers question markontour’s choice of weekend break, but now that its days as a raw material provider to the potteries are over the Caldon Canal is a place of natural beauty, tranquility and history and the perfect spot for a bit of bank holiday boating.
Courtney Barnett won my musical heart last year with her witty tale of a horticulturally-induced asthma attack (Avant Gardener) and now she’s back with an equally punchy LP, ‘Sometimes I sit and think, sometimes I just sit’. Offering wry musings on moving to the suburbs, palmistry and new-found environmentalism, amidst jagged guitars and continuing references to breathing difficulties, this is an early contender for markontour’s album of the year – but for now it is Album of the Week.
Rio, which has become one of my adopted homes for four or five weeks of the year, is quite simply the most beautiful city I have every visited. Undoubtedly it has many problems, but a walk along the Copacobana as the morning sun is rising is enough to make you forget about anything bad. From the crashing waves, to the vista of rocky mountain outcrops port and sideboard, and rain-forest behind, Rio is a reminder that it is possible for nature and urbanism to live happily side by side.
In markontour’s view music is essential to life at all times, but it is especially in the dark hours of defeat and disappointment that a great tune really makes the difference. And so as I fly away from the prospect of another five years of deepening inequality and division back home, I have been searching for those songs that speak to my currently despondent mood, and might also start the process of renewed fight for a better future. Here follows my personal General Election Blues compilation, also available on Spotify.
I have been visiting the Golden Valley, a sliver of countryside beauty astride the Welsh/English border, for over twenty five years, mostly to stay at the beautiful parental home of one of my closest friends. It has become one of my favourite places on Earth and so I am breaking the markontour mould of departure lounge ramblings to send this despatch from the relaxed idyll of Vowchurch in Herefordshire.