Dennis Wright's Blog

Will the real Venice please stand up!

Posted in Far East Cruise 2007, Japan, Travel by Dennis Wright on September 23, 2007

After Nagasaki we had a day at sea including some cruising between Japanese islands. It was typically hazy (or polluted?) but warm and sunny, so many passengers were out on deck enjoying the view.

Japan islands bridge

I did wonder at one point if the captain had messed up his navigation. Could we really be off the Venetian coast? Well it is a passable facsimile of the Campanile in St Mark’s Square. St Mark’s Basilica alongside is less convincing.

Japan islands Venice

For comparison here’s a flash-forward to the real thing, taken when Naomi and I returned to Venice in June after a twenty-five year absence.

Venice

As my camera sadly lacks GPS I can’t tell exactly where the Japanese mock-Venice is. If anyone knows what it’s in aid of please leave a comment.

Back to Japan’s waterways …

Japan islands

Japan islands

Japan islands

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Tall ship

Posted in Far East Cruise 2007, Japan, Nagasaki, Travel by Dennis Wright on September 23, 2007

When we returned to the Statendam we spotted a tall ship moored nearby. Later on it set sail and I took this photo. It was a long way away and this picture is heavily cropped, which is why it’s a bit grainy.

Nagasaki Tall Ship

Spectacles and Temples

Posted in Far East Cruise 2007, Japan, Nagasaki, Travel by Dennis Wright on September 11, 2007

Any must-seeing activity in Nagasaki must include the famous Meganebashi, or “spectacles bridge“. It is a double-arched bridge over the Nakajima river which can look like a pair of spectacles due to the reflection of the arches in the water.

Unfortunately the light wasn’t good enough to produce the effect properly when we were there.

nagasaki spectacles bridge meganebashi

We did spot this interesting stone in the wall on one side of the river. Clearly a labour of love.

nagasaki spectacles bridge meganebashi

Not far from the bridge is the famous Tera-machi-dori (“temple town street”) famous for its shrines. From there we made a short detour to see Sofuku-ji, a Chinese temple dating from 1629.

nagasaki sofuku-ji

nagasaki sofuku-ji

nagasaki sofuku-ji

We noticed this space-saver car park near the temple.

nagasaki

We managed a bit of shopping in Nagasaki’s main shopping district before returning to the ship. Naomi had been smitten by a purse she saw in a shop in the Hamano-machi arcade. Kept going back to look at it but reckoned it was too pricey, even though she loved it and her old purse was falling to bits. While she was window-shopping elsewhere I went back to the shop and bought it. She found it in her heart to forgive me.

All Hail Regina

Posted in Entertainment, Family Outings, Music, Regina Spektor by Dennis Wright on September 6, 2007

Music Having questioned the extent to which Newsvine really is a bastion of Citizen Journalism I’ve decided to take some positive action by indulging in a bit of CJ of my own. I’m afraid this comes under “soft” news but meets my own criterion that it must be something that might reasonably be carried by the “old” media. In this case I’m reporting on an exceptional musical performance by Regina Spektor at the Carling Academy, Liverpool UK, home of the Beatles (Liverpool that is, not the Carling Academy which wasn’t there in their day – Ed).

Maybe I might become the Newsvine Northwest England Arts and Entertainment Correspondent, or something like that.

No press pass for me. I had to pay for my ticket. Actually, it was only by chance I went at all. My two sons had booked the tickets, but the older son got himself a job in London (working for the BBC no less) for a month before returning to Oxford for his final year there. Anyway there was a spare ticket. Alex, the younger son, asked me to go with him, mainly because he needed someone who could drive him there but he also knew I was a Spektor fan of sorts.

In my own small way I had “discovered” Ms Spektor before he did, which is an achievement given how hooked in he is to the music scene. I’d heard one track (Hotel Song) on Pandora and was instantly hooked. So now we’re all hooked.

Regina is not big enough yet to command a mega-venue. The Carling Academy in central Liverpool is very much a second-line venue, the main hall taking a maximum audience of 1,200, all standing. As befits a theatre sponsored by an alcoholic drinks company there was a big bar at the back serving Carling lager.

Standing for hours is not so much fun when you are of an age to have grown up (ish) children. The teenagers and young adults don’t mind so much. They just drink, jabber amongst themselves and tinker with their phones, mainly texting. I wasn’t necessarily the oldest person there, and I’m well enough preserved not to embarrass my progeny in attendance, but the local demographic was well stacked against me.

The support act was a well-intentioned but talent-challenged individual called Eugene McGuinness who sang random songs of his own invention, accompanying himself on the acoustic guitar. The best that can be said for him is that he broke up the monotony of waiting for Regina, at least for a while. We had been in the place from just after 7, shortly after the doors opened, and Regina didn’t make her entrance until after 9. By that time the audience were frantic for any evidence of her at all, and she came on stage to rapturous applause. The place was by then packed, but Alex and I, having arrived relatively early, were close to the stage.

Aside from the powerful voice, quirky singing mannerisms, very original lyrics and the strength of her songs, what caught my attention the most was the way she related to her audience. Regina went to pains to make us feel that she wanted to relate to us, to engage with us. We were not there just for our ticket money. Regina was not taking us for granted. She was respectful and always reminding us that she knew we were there. She thanked us for “choosing to spend an evening with her”. I liked that. I liked the way she kept having the lights turned up a little bit briefly between songs so she could “take a peek” at us. It may just be her routine for working the audience but it came over as genuine and heartfelt, and I’m happy to take it at face value.

She seemed genuinely thrilled that her audience knew her songs, were prepared to sing along, would yell out for their favourites. It’s like until making a public performance she hadn’t realised there was a world “out there” that had discovered her music and had taken it to their hearts. Now this was hardly Regina’s first concert, yet she almost gave the impression that it was. She was delighted with us for being delighted with her.

It was just her, a piano, a guitar (for a couple of numbers), a stick which she thwacks against a chair with frightening fervour to provide a bizarre form of percussion on “Poor Little Rich Boy”, a microphone and us. No backing band. Not needed. She had plenty enough charm, presence and talent to transport us all into rapture. And all this without alcohol – I’d have lost my vantage point if I’d wandered off to the bar. I even forgot my tired aching legs.

This post first appeared on Newsvine.
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