Friday, 20 June 2008

Euro 2008: Who to support?

I am still smarting from England's absence, but I have been enjoying the football played at Euro 2008. It really is the beautiful game, and I don't have to bite off all my nails when my team step onto the pitch, because they're not there.

I don't have to shout rampant biased things at the referee and the opposition, but can instead appreciate each pass, save, volley, free kick, defensive header, crunching tackle, tactical run and, of course, the goals.

But I find sport more interesting if I'm supporting one side or the another. For the record, I'm backing Spain to win the tournament. True, their wordless national anthem is a little underwhelming, but they have the most Liverpool players, including the outstanding Fernando Torres.

It felt strange, this morning, watching the football and wanting Germany to beat Portugal. Football brings out tried and tested stereotypes, and long lost prejudices, largely based on cinematic portrayls and a couple of World Wars fought long before I was born.

So in the end it came down to a question of whom do I dislike more; Michael Ballack or Cristiano Ronaldo? No contest. Ballack may be a fouling, diving, aggressive, dirty player, but Ronaldo is a petulant, whining, cheating, arrogant, selfish, vain, indulgent, tantrum-throing, spoilt, self-obsessed, pouting prima donna.

Sure, he can be a stylish player, but the whinger (and no, that's not a typo) believes he is more than the team, whether that be Portugal or Man Utd. He may be a talented footballer but he is a disgrace to football, and for that reason alone I cheered on Germany.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Life on Mars

It seems the television gods have listened to me and have rescheduled Life on Mars to appear on television on Monday night at 8.30pm.

Never mind that half of the storylines are patently ridiculous and I don't understand what's going on. That sensation of things not being quite right, wanting to succeed where you are even though you know it's wrong, is very disturbing and very strong.

John Simm and Philip Glenister are an excellent pairing and their acting and dialogue ensures that this series keeps its interest. Apparently a third series, called Ashes to Ashes, sees the series switch to the 1980s in London. I am still enjoying the 1970s in Manchester, but I am already looking forward to that - it's more my music, or at least it will be if they play the good stuff!

I also love the interpretation of the Life on Mars characters being given the Camberwick Green treatment. Move over PC McGarry number 452. Classy!

Monday, 16 June 2008

Queen of wool

The exhibition of ‘Mary-Annette Hay: Queen of Wool’, at Te Papa is fascinating for a number of reasons. I was struck by the passion and the enthusiasm of the woman, and particularly the fact that she was a woman, who was breaking new ground. The wonderfully dramatic approach that she brought to her job is also inspiring.

When the New Zealand Wool Board wanted somebody to promote it in 1948, she was the only woman who applied for the job. She says humbly that with her background of public speaking, art and drama (she went to Wellington art school) that her only attribute was an overactive imagination.

She decided to dramatise the sheep and what it could produce, mixing high fashion with everyday items like lingerie, swimwear, sportswear and children’s clothes. She was particularly enamoured of Christian Dior’s ‘New Look’ with its feminine silhouettes, swathes of fabric and fashionable ideals after the years of war, brutality and hardship.

The exhibit features examples of the European high fashion garments that inspired her, including beautiful gowns by Parisian designers Pierre Balmain and Marcel Rochas along with English designer daywear by Norman Hartnell, Hardy Amies and Digby Morton.

Mary-Annette Hay raised the profile of wool with her innovative dramatic productions, with names such as The Romance of Wool, All Eyes on Wool, Wool the Versatile, and The Inspiration of Wool. She wrote stories which she read on stage while others mimed the actions, and she costumed these productions herself, just as she would in a play.

In a televised interview playing on a loop, she explains that wool was the wealth of the commonwealth and that no other fibre could do what wool could do. She states, “Wool with its rich backdrop of history, religion, trade, politics and humanity is a live and vital community.” She became an expert in sales in marketing techniques, never missing an opportunity to promote the Wool Board, from shearing sheds to shop windows. Sales of wool rose rapidly in response to her enthusiasm.

When Mary-Annette went to Britain in 1951 she met with as many designers and people professionally connected with the wool industry as possible. They were not expecting a young woman and were swept away by her passion. She, in turn, returned to New Zealand with notebooks brimming with new ideas and ways to promote wool.

In an early example of ‘walking the talk’ she married (in 1953) in wool – the dress is wool gabardine with wool cord and is on display in the exhibit, as is her woollen ‘going away’ suit. She wasn’t entirely a feminist icon, as she left the Wool Board to have her first child in 1956, but she was an amazing woman nonetheless.

An exhibition about the New Zealand Wool Board isn’t necessarily something I would immediately race to see, but it was fascinating and I was bowled over by the infectious charm of this lady who believed in her product and her ability to market it.

It’s just a small exhibition on Level 4 in Te Papa and it’s on until September. I recommend it as a free way to spend an idle lunch hour.