Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Ivan Vasilyevich changing a job

Another classic title, somewhat more upbeat musical direction...

Irony of fate, or enjoy your bath!

The above is possibly the best film title I have ever heard... I have been wallowing in the strange atmosphere of Soviet era film songs - kitsch melancholia is a strange phenomenon - the lyrics to the second last song in this selection from the above film are quite quite beautiful in their bizarrely lost in translation way... and there's grey and snow and tower blocks, but somehow I get the impression the film could suddenly become a comedy... It's a juxtaposition I love in the Russian psyche sometimes...

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Tirau, New Zealand

Whilst trying to track down photos of this amazing corrugated iron castle in BC, Canada (I couldn't find any...) I stumbled across this. The town of Tirau in New Zealand celebrates the local tradition of building in corrugated iron by... building giant buildings in the shape of a sheep and a dog. I for one am very happy that they have chosen to do so...

Russian criminal wooden castle skyscraper

Oh yes - I knew this would happen if I started researching outsider architecture again. Stumbled upon this via doing a search for wooden castles. Nikolai Sutyagin began building this in a small north west Russian town before going to jail - it's still somewhat unfinished and foolhardy but you've got to love the unveering dedication to his dreams... Locals say it's an eyesore, but the Romantic in me wants to see it as a doomed folk art version of Kizhi island churches... God I really should be editing my novel...

Pod house of Rochester

I've always been a fan of outsider architecture (at some point I will write a longer entry on the subject) and America really does have some gems, from castles made of scrap to modernist utopias jutting out over gorges with carousels inside. One day I will take a road trip round all of them. However... today I am celebrating houses that look like natural objects and in Rochester, NY there is this rather splendid pod house that somewhat resembles mushrooms. It also has an air of treehouse, which for someone who's spent rather too much time dreaming of one day building their very own Ewok village, this can only be a good thing...

Also, talking of mushroom houses, I found a very good mysterious funghiesque building on an island in Belgrade...

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Wandering Tbilisi

Tariel was from Sololaki, but his blue eyes echoed how he did not really feel like that. His father was Svan – from the high mountains of Svaneti where hair and eyes were paler and people lived at the feet of peaks built by myths as much as nature. His mother was Khevsur – the eastern mountains near the Chechen border. They held their myths in more delicate ways – stitched them in cloth so no one else could really understand what they had been through. When Tariel walked the crumbling streets of Sololaki, Tbilisi opened up before him to show a grander view – the distant mountains where his family really felt at home. The secret stories that were hidden there.

His eyes caught me when I first saw him – they shone from his face as if lit by a strange light that understood more of this city than anyone else ever could. The troubled history and how it was changing. He seemed to know that more than most – not a misplaced optimism so much as a realisation of the grander scale of things – what Georgia had once been and how short a couple of decades were in the history of the world – they were but seconds – if that. I was scared for him that his life was simply the same. His eyes lived it so intensely I was not sure they could keep it up for a lifetime of the length normal for most people. I think the idea would have bored them – they were so eager to see elsewhere.

Sololaki was one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Tbilisi. Balconies weighted with years of plants and extended families heaved over the crumbled streets as they wove their way down to Rustaveli and Freedom Square. Courtyards filled throughout the day with shouting children and ejected footballs at ill-timed passers by. Tariel’s apartment hovered above one of these courtyards. Was walled with smashed glass that reminded me of greenhouses, that given a life of their own had grown with the greenery – crawled across the front of the building to catch the light that fed them more – encouraged them on despite the shattering and wood splintered with the weight.

I was walking past when I first saw him. He was wreathed in running children, they spun around him in a whirl of laughs and jumping. Trying to erase his stillness, but somehow it just emphasised it more. He stood like a lighthouse – those eyes beaming out a ray that made me feel like I could no longer lose my way despite the chaos around him. I was transfixed.
“Gamarjobat.” I winced a little at my stilted Georgian greeting, but he smiled. Didn’t move, but there was something in that smile that moved him more than steps towards me would have. I smiled back before carrying on down the road.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

The Paper Cinema

My friend Nic has a paper cinema. It is just that - beautiful cinematic worlds created in paper and animated live sometimes to the backdrop of music by lovely friends... Here are a couple of pics, but you can find out more at

Cornish Hedgehog

It appeared one day behind our telly and now is part of family life...