August 09, 2014

POMPC: Days 2 and 3, Summarised.

Albums listened to [one per day]: (Day 2) Black Keys 'Rubber Factory', (3) Thelonious Monk 'Straight, No Chaser', both of which I enjoyed. More album suggestions are invited.

Meditation [twice per day]: Once a day so far.

Exercise [new morning routine plus general extras]: Have been cycling FROM work (train avec bike to work  - next week I intend to start using bike in both directions). No morning workouts. Again, I will.

Dog walking [extra walk in morning, hill at night]: Managed full-blown morning walk on days 1 and 2, but actually clean forgot on day three! Haven't been up in hills in the evening as have had prior engagements, or weather has stopped us. Going camping tonight with dog, up a very big hill.

Reading [just, more/some!]: have done more, including an academic paper/chapter of a book an teaching English to Koreans. Reading levels have improved but could do more.

Learning Korean [10 new words, 3 new phrases per day]: have studied a little every day. Not quite met targets but still, an improvement on the norm of zero. Feeling quite motivated to learn more.

Money [150k per week]: I've spent, so far: (Day1) 26k on groceries, (2) 10k on household items from Daiso, (3) 34k on a restaurant meal as I met a former student of mine, plus another 5k here and there. Total: 75k.  Hopefully I won't spend too much over the weekend. Still on target for this one.

General procrastination [improve upon]: apartment etc is a lot cleaner. Still work to be done though on changing my computer/sedentary habits.

All in all, a decent start. I'm feeling a ot more positive and 'alive'. Let's do stuff!

August 06, 2014

POMPC Day One A Moderate Success

I had planned to do many things, and at the time of writing, 9.11pm, have done some but not all.

I DID walk the dog a good long walk before work this morning, which was a first. I DID eat my five a day (several bananas, a good handful of grapes, and a made a fresh stew/soup using cabbage, potatoes and carrots). I DIDN'T meditate before work. Nor did I work out before I left. Nor did I cycle to work. However, it was raining a little, though that's no real excuse.

I did take my bike to work on the train, and cycle home though! I also meditated at work - it's summer classes right now and my afternoons are free, so meditating is not a problem. It's deathly quiet, I'm almost certain to be undisturbed, and there's a big cushioned area at the back of my classroom. Perfect. So I did meditate. And I did cycle home.

I also learned my 10 Korean words today - all body parts. It was quite easy, and though my memory is not great, I think I've memorised them. I didn't get around to the three phrases, so that's a minor failure. Must do better tomorrow, and I will.

I listened, all the way through, to 'Blood on the Tracks', a Bob Dylan album. Whilst I was cooking a spicy sausage stew. So two success in one there. I didn't get around to writing, or painting either today, but I didn't expect to achieve everything in one day either.

I also have not read yet, but plan to read a chapter of something before I hit the sack. (Edit, didn't do - watched a TV show I 'needed' to finish).

All in all, not perfect, but an improvement on the norm, and something I hope to build on over the coming weeks.

Again, album suggestions are most welcome.

August 05, 2014

Paul’s One Month Positivity Challenge (POMPC), DAY ZERO.

I'm calling this day zero for several reasons. Firstly, I'm not starting until tomorrow because...

...there are one or two things I forgot to include in the plan yesterday, for example, MEDITATION. I plan to meditate every day. I've long believed in the benefits of meditation, but don't get around to it very often. The recommended 'dose' is 20 minutes,. morning and evening. That will take some time rearrangement.

I want to walk my dog better. He gets plenty of walks, but he could always use a little more. So now, rather than the brief walk around the block in the morning to relieve himself, before I head to work, he will get a proper walk in the mornings. He will also get a walk up the nearby hills once a day, weather permitting, rather than just the local park. This will double as a calorie burner for me too. And young Bonesy will love it. I've never seen any being more ecstatic than my dog up a hill!

I will cook more, better food. And I will try some new recipes.

On workdays, I will go to bed at around 10.30 each evening, and get up 6.30. My morning routine will include a long-ish dog walk, meditation, and a small work out.

I will cycle to work, which is about a half-hour cycle ride, most uphill.

I will eat healthier foods.

I will spend less time surfing the net, and more time being creative - which includes writing, and painting.

I will spend no more than 150 000 Korean won (about £75, $130) per week.

I will study some Korean every day - learning 10 new words and 3 new phrases each day. I can do this at work.

I will read every day.

I will listen to a new album every day.

In general, I will procrastinate less. I will have a get-on-with-it attitude. This month is about results.

I will keep a daily log here. There will be no doubt things that I have over-looked, not planned for, forgotten about. I will add or remove items as I go on.

Some days I will fail. Others I won't. But for one month I'm gonna try to live life as I'm supposed to.

Day one is tomorrow. I will spend the evening in preparation: tidying my apartment, arranging books, buying fruit and vegetables, downloading albums, resetting alarms and creating a suitable spot for meditation.

I wish myself luck. I don't need you!







August 04, 2014

Paul’s One Month Positivity Challenge

You’ve probably heard ‘carpe diem’ before (seize the day). I’m gonna ‘carpe mense’. Seize the month.

I’ve seen a few of these around on Facebook recently, and so I thought I’d do my own, tailored exactly to me.

So, what do I need to fix? Well, it’s hard to admit this, but I guess I’m kinda lazy. Not ridiculously so – I walk my dog regularly, and I often take the stairs instead of the escalator etc., but I spend too much time sitting in front of my computer doing not much, either at home or at work, when I could easily be doing something much more productive. I’m a vaguely creative person, and have a couple of writing projects on the go at the moment. When I say ‘on the go’, what I actually mean is I procrastinate around them. I leave them alone. I also have a canvas and paints, that have been waiting for me to use them for around 3 months. And a bike I rarely use – I could easily cycle to work. So there’s a start. Let’s do all of those above. Add to that – I want to exercise daily – I shall look up a simple daily exercise regime that doesn’t involve much equipment.

I’d like to drink less. I don’t drink that much, in that I rarely drink alone, at home, etc. But I probably spend more money on going out than I’d like to. I’m also a bit ‘spendy’ in general. If I think I need something I just buy it. I’m not a spendaholic, but I could do with a tighter rein on my finances. So there’s another thing. A budget to live by, for one month. I’m going to set that at 150k, for everything (about 75 UK pounds), per week. That doesn’t sound like much – but it’s plenty here in Korea. I should be able to live well on that, without trying too hard, and still go out here and there. I’m not going teetotal for the month; I don’t think a little alcohol will be of any detriment.

My diet is not that great. I eat a lot of, well, whatever I feel like eating or is put before me. Today I’ve consumed: some chocolate, a lunch of noodles (cold and quite nice too), a can of Coke, several coffees, and some cracker/cookie type things. None of this concerns me greatly – I’m not hugely overweight or out of shape, but I could certainly improve my diet by eating more fresh fruit and vegetables. So here’s another one – I will at least have my ‘5-a-day’, for a month.

I’d also like to look better ‘on the beach’. I don’t go to the beach – beaches and sunbathing is the most fucking boring thing anyone could possibly do in my opinion – just lying there? Wut? I’d rather walk around. Anyway. I’d like to look a bit more buff. So I’m gonna work on that too. Every day, for a month.

Korean.

I’ve lived in Korea for five years, and have only bothered to learn a smattering of ‘getting by’ phrases. I will study Korean every day for a month. I will learn 10 new words, and three new phrases every day. For a month.

Music

I’m gonna listen to a new album every day. I’m not really an albums kinda guy, or artists for that matter – I’m a big believer in the power of the individual song. However, with a view to broadening my horizons, I will listen to a new album every day. For a month.

I will read some part of a book. Every day. For a month.

There are other things I have may have overlooked or forgotten about. I shall add them in as I remember them, or feel their inclusion is necessary. I will update my progress, or lack of it, here.

 

June 03, 2014

My Take on What Korea Needs to Do in the Aftermath of the Sewol Ferry Disaster

Is It Cultural?


There is little point in dwelling on the enormous tragedy and sadness of the Sewol's sinking other than to remember those lost. What happened there that day, or who is primarily or secondarily to blame, is not the point of this article. The point is, simply, what does Korea do now? How does it stop these things happening again?

That said, it's well documented that the captain and crew of the Sewol told passengers to stay in their cabins. The same thing happened on the recent subway train incident.

A witness said many passengers ignored an onboard announcement telling them to stay inside and forced the doors open, escaping on to the tracks.

Many are saying this is a cultural difference, one of obedience. It is a cultural difference, just not that one. The simple reason for both of these errors ('everyone stay put!') is that no one in charge knew what to do, because they'd never practiced it. Safety drills of any kind are simply not carried out here, anywhere, anytime. As many have said, it's cultural, and this is true, it's cultural alright, but not that 'culture of obedience' that everyone is citing, but the cultural disregard, nay, an almost flamboyant 'look at us, we don't need to' disregard of safety protocols that many Koreans simply do not think apply to them.

In Korea, the older you are the more respect you get, and the older you are, the less you have to abide by the rules, it seems. Old people walk to the front of queues, disregard traffic laws, even common sense ones like crossing the road, push onto the train while you're trying to get off, and so on. They too often have a general disregard for safety rules. It's a strangely Eastern thing. 'I'm old, therefore I don't need to look when crossing the road, you should be looking out for me'. I 'kind of' see the sense in it, but it also sets an example for the next generation. Younger people can't wait to be old enough to be rebels! In many ways it's the exact opposite of the West. Korea's elders are often setting, in terms of safety anyway, a very bad example.


Safety Drills


I've worked in Korean public schools for over five years, and not once has there been a fire drill. I've heard the school fire alarm go off once or twice, and have peeked out of my classroom to find that life is carrying on as normal. This, bizarrely, is also true of the air-raid style alarms that they run now and then, as a military drill, all across Korea. No one cares; people just carry on shopping and pushing their strollers around as if nothing is happening. Until the country starts to shed off its macho posturing, for that's what it is, of 'safety issues are for stiffs and bores and therefore don't apply to us', these incidents will continue to happen.

This flaunting of safety issues is summed up perfectly in the Chison-Ilbo - a Korean national newspaper:


Korea has to swallow its pride, and take action, and the action it needs to take is safety drills, and of course other safety checks, enforced by incorruptible regulators. To enable this, it needs a wholesale attitude shift that takes safety practice seriously. And it needs to do that now. I cannot understand why not a single principal, or vice principal, at any school I've worked at including the current one, has not instigated a fire drill. Do they not care about the safety of their children? Of course they do. But they are too proud to change, too proud because changing would admit that they've been doing it wrong all along. 'I can't take action that may save the lives of hundreds of children, because it might cause me some embarrassment.' Oh, it's cultural alright.

Another issue within Korean culture is hierarchy. For example, vice principals most often run the day-to-day business of the school, and the principal is more of a figurehead, or a kind of president, who deals with governments, ministries, education authorities and so on. However, the VP could never instigate such a policy change as having a fire drill without consulting the principal as this 'going behind his back' would cause great offence. Embarrassment and ease-of-offence are not simple traits to run together. I appreciate cultures have different forms of politeness and therefore offence, but surely children's safety comes first? You'd think so, but I'm still waiting for any school in my district to instigate a fire drill, because to change would be to admit imperfection. To change would be, somehow, somewhere, going behind a superior's back. On top of that, to instigate fire drills would at once be 'stiff and boring'. And so we reach a stalemate. A heads-in-the-sand stalemate. Until the next 'Sewol', or 'Sampoong'. Koreans are waiting for the government to instigate a policy shift on safety. They don't need that, they need to start from the bottom up and meet the government half way. Sure, the government could produce safety films, posters, and campaigns, and they definitely should do those things, but until Koreans shed this pervasive macho posturing of 'rules are for squares', then sadly, these things will continue to occur. Changing these attitudes though, so that safety drills take place, is the biggest obstacle of them all.

We have started a Facebook group, 'Get Fire and Safety Drills into Korean Schools Now'. Feel free to join. Let's pressure, gently, our schools into instigating fire drills. It's one small step that could stop the next 'Sewol' being your school.

March 19, 2014


February 19, 2014

Get Funked! We Are Retiring!

It is with a very heavy heart, but yet a wry smile, that I announce that Get Funked! is coming to a close.

The esteemed 70s Funk DJ, Matt Nunez, is leaving Korea; he’s going back home to the States to marry his lovely fiancée Emily, herself a Get Funked! regular, and then they are both going to teach English in Japan; a long-held dream for both of them.

Of course, I wish them all the luck and fun in the world, and knowing them – they’ll be just fine – two nicer people you couldn’t meet anywhere.

Doing 70s Funk (Matt) and Northern Soul (me) is no drink of water. That is, it’s not easy. This is 2014, the entire oeuvres of hip-hop, electronic dance music and various other genres have happened since our music even existed, so getting people interested in it at all is always an uphill task. This music is fairly obscure in the UK where I’m from, and in the USA, where it’s from, so you can imagine trying to get Korean people interested in a music that they’ve never heard of, don’t understand really (‘oh, you like old music?’), and couldn’t care less about because, frankly, hip hop, K-Pop and R ‘n’ B and more current and relevant to them is difficult. I understand this. Of course, but that’s not the point, the point is we’re soul and funk guys – it’s what we do. As far as I’m aware, there is no one else in the entire country doing what we do. I’m both proud of, and sad about, that.

You may wonder why we even started it in the first place. This article (contains much swearing!), written at the outset in 2012, explains it better than I could now.

It was never our intention to be famous. We have musical beliefs. You might think this sounds grandiose, but honestly, we do. I can’t speak for Matt, but I don’t want to DJ. I don’t want to be a DJ. I don’t want to have a DJ name. I don’t want my name on a poster. It was just about getting a bit of soul and funk out there. We’ve done that.

On top of all this, a weekly gig is physically, not to mention spiritually, making me ill. I just can’t do it anymore. I love Northern Soul, I love it, I’ve spent years of my life giving people CDs, putting on nights, forcing people to listen to songs, asking bar owners to ‘just play this off my phone mate’. I’ll still be doing those things, but I’ve done what I set out to do, which was to get some of that music that I’ve always loved, listened to by a wider audience. I can do this current version no more. To carry on doing a weekly gig would (and again, without wishing to sound grandiose) be poison to my soul. It really would. It’s making me ill. It’s making me miserable. I have to stop. I need to walk some hills, write some poems, read some books, talk to some girls, look at some skylines, travel; live and breathe. To turn up any more and play songs (that I love) would, honestly, if not literally, kill me. My insides feel green.

Thanks to everyone who came. Thanks to Min and his bar, The Lounge in Hongdae, for letting us play there, and for letting us start. Thanks to Shia in Fix Bar in HBC where we moved to last summer – a most gracious host and a lovely woman. Thanks for those times when YOU came up and said ‘love this song buddy, what is it?’. Just thanks – it’s been an awesome ride. I hope you heard some songs you liked. I love soul, but now it’s time to take care of my own. I need it.

There are two dates left, this Friday 21st, and next Friday 28th, which will be our closing party. Both will start at 9. 

February 17, 2014

So, What Really Happened at Bar Carmen?

A few weeks ago, I stumbled into this bar, and via conversation it emerged that I DJ a little, and that it would be a good idea, for them and us, for us to play there. It’s a nice bar, spacious, good décor, nice sound system, attractive bar staff – and it’s a music place. Everyone seemed happy with the arrangement, including us.

We were booked to play on 15th February. All seemed good.

Then, a few days before, I get a phone call saying that they are having a singles night on the 15th, the same night.

What do I think? I think they were delighted that someone (in this case me) proposed bringing people to their bar. That’s normal. It’s a business. Businesses like that actually revolve around people turning up. BUT, they’d had a better idea, and I genuinely mean that, having a singles night the day after Valentine’s day is a better idea than having a soul and funk night. That’s not sarcasm. It really is a better idea. And the place was packed. Proof and pudding.

Anyway. They’d booked us to play, so now they had a problem – a double booking. They didn’t wanna piss us off, why would they? They don’t know us and as far as they know, we’re nice people. So they come up with the idea – “Let’s have those DJs DJ at the singles night”. What a great idea!

They call me up and tell me this over the phone.

Then a few days later – “actually, we wanna play our own stuff, can you play a little later?”

I’m getting the message. They don’t want us, really.

Anyway, I agreed to play at 10pm.

I turned up at 9.30 – a half hour early – and there was literally nowhere for a DJ to play. No tables, no anything. I offered to play/set-up behind the bar (2 or 3 times I offered this) but they flat out turned me down. I ended up having to drag a table that had people’s drinks on it (politely, I asked) across the room just to have somewhere to set up.

That done, I played for two whole hours without a single complaint (to me, anyway) and the place was packed the entire time. People vote with their feet – if they didn’t like it they would have left. Two hours in, they are still there. Then they asked me to stop because ‘we wanna hear some dubstep’, their words, not mine. That happened, and everyone left.

I got angry at this point and (can’t remember exactly what transpired but) essentially told them to go fuck themselves. Yes, I know, I was an asshole here. But I’d had enough. After dragging tables around, playing for two hours unrewarded, and then basically told ‘you’re done now’, I think I was justified in being a little pissed off. Yeah I was angry. Yeah I said some things I shouldn’t have.

I was paid absolutely nothing. It was a tremendous hassle from start to finish. I’ve had nothing but abuse since, including being threatened by some people at the bar, and frankly, overall, the whole thing was a complete nightmare – I wish I’d never done it.

All I’ve gotten from this are enemies.

I wish the bar all the luck in the world and the owner, Carmen, is, by all accounts, a lovely lady. Good luck to her.


But as sure as my feet are size nine, I wish I’d never done that gig. Nothing, and I mean nothing, but hassle.

I’m hurt. Devastated. Offended. I wish it had never happened.

Thank God that there’s always a next week.

January 28, 2014

Why I Don’t Like Frank Sinatra

Many’s the time I’ve been sitting in my favourite haunt, The Hungry Dog in Haebangcheon in Seoul, nursing beers, doing crosswords, playing chess and chatting music to fellow customers and staff. One tidbit I picked up there was told to me by Will, boyfriend of the owner. He’d studied German, and was, moreso than me anyway, familiar with many aspects of German culture. He told me that the song ‘Mack the Knife’, a huge hit in the late 1950s for Bobby Darin, was originally a German song, written in the 1920s called "Die Moritat von Mackie Messer" (The Ballad of Mack the Knife). You can read about it at the Wikipedia article here

This song was, originally, a sinister song, with a feel about it that would, if you like, scare children. It was dark and moody, slow and chilling, atmospheric, haunting. You can listen to it at this link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_QXJ3OXWaOY It is not in any way to be considered a cheerful number. It is not, nor was it intended to be, performed or received as a jaunty, peppy or upbeat song. It’s a song about a rapist, arsonist and murderer. A song of warning.

Now listen to the Bobby Darin version, the most famous and well known version around. It has been translated into English, but that’s not why it’s different – it’s different because now the Bobby Darin version has a jolly feel to it. You can almost hear him smiling throughout his performance. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEllHMWkXEU

I’ve always liked a bit of Fats Waller, the guy was a genius. You’ve probably heard his superlative version of ‘I’m Gonna Sit Write Down and Write Myself a Letter’, which was the first time the song was a hit. If you haven’t, you can check it out here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62mMrDUXD6Q. Again, this is poignant, emotional song. The listener is not quite sure if the lover has left, died, is just absent, or even simply doesn’t like writing letters! Whichever it is, Fats is sad. Fats ain’t happy.  Now listen to Frank  Sinatra’s version. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBvAL6zIst0 You can, again, hear the smile in his rendition, the jauntiness in the song, the happiness, the ‘swing’. Sorry Frank, you’re getting it totally wrong. Can you sing? Hell yes, you’re a great singer. Can you ‘sing’? No. It hurts my brain listening to ‘Letter’ by Frank. The disparate mismatch between delivered style, and the meaning of the song is enormously confusing.

I subscribe to quite a few podcasts from back home, one of which is called ‘Soul Music’ from BBC Radio 4. It’s a fairly pleasant show, and each show’s many guests are invited to explain what that week’s piece of music means to them personally. A few weeks ago the music was ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’ which I was surprised to learn was originally a slightly melancholic song, with a meaning something like ‘this year isn’t/hasn’t been great, but maybe next year eh?’. Although it was changed slightly from its original by Judy Garland et al as they thought it ‘depressing’, it was when Frank Sinatra got a hold of it that any of its former meaning was lost. From the Wiki of the song “In 1957, Frank Sinatra asked Martin to revise the line "Until then we'll have to muddle through somehow." He told Martin, "The name of my album is A Jolly Christmas. Do you think you could jolly up that line for me?" Martin's new line was "Hang a shining star upon the highest bough."

And there you go. That’s why I don’t like Frank Sinatra. He sucked the life, and original meaning, but most importantly the ‘feel’ of so many songs, he and many of his contemporaries. Songs are allowed to be sad. Songwriters are entitled to have their work remain unpoisoned. 

January 07, 2014

Korea's Two-Dimensional Fashion

There is something about Korean fashion and style that I don’t quite understand. It is true that they are a fashionable and stylish set, and wear nice clothes and no doubt take fashion quite seriously, but the effect it has, its strength, potency, its expression, just doesn't seem right to me somehow - it seems to lack power, it has no statement about itself. And I can't quite put my finger on why. Perhaps it’s because I’m not that fashionable myself? Or perhaps it’s the definition of the word ‘fashionable’? A middle-aged man wearing a classic tweed jacket and a nice pair of brogues, for example, would be defined as, by me anyway, as stylish, rather than fashionable. Furthermore, said middle-aged man in tweed jacket would be saying many other things like: I’m not a biker, I’m not a chav, I’m not a builder, and so on. Of course, he might be saying none or any of these, but he’d certainly be giving off the impression of, well, something. Wearing the jacket and brogues wouldn’t be an empty statement. The simple fact is, in the West, it would be a statement, about something. Wearing a biker’s leather jacket is a statement. Clothes are a statement, even if the statement is ‘these are all I could wear today because I’m doing my laundry’, ‘I’m getting married today’, ‘I’m going to a funeral’, or ‘I ride a skateboard’. Fashion in Korea seems empty, devoid of having anything to say, other than 'I've bought some clothes recently'.

Fashion here smacks of a limited imagination, a reliance on 'being told what to do', of conformism. Of getting your ideas from a magazine. But also importantly, and often missed here is that if you wear the latest ‘magazine clothes’ you hand over your statement about what you’re wearing to a magazine editor, whose only statement on your behalf is ‘look at me I’m fashionable’. It's why fashion here is fashionable, if fashionable means empty and vapid.

Maybe the problem is that there's no 'anti-fashion' in Korea, and in turn that may be because of Korea’s relatively recent entry into, if you like, the world of ‘Western fashion’. We may have had punks and b-boys and so on in the '70s and '80s, but Korea almost certainly didn’t, or if they did, they were so few in number as to have little effect on mainstream culture. If I see, say, a pair of Dr Marten boots in a store here, they will, for me, have many connotations, for example, work boots, punk boots, skinheads, 1980s fashion and so on, but for a Korean they may just look like 'boots'. That's not the man- or woman-on-the-street's fault, but it's true nonetheless. We make decisions based on decades of previously traversed fashion phases ("I'm not wearing that I'll look like a '90s raver"), but countries newer to the forefront (and let's be honest that's Europe and the USA) of fashion do not have that historical luxury. Everything is new, but simultaneously, everything is meaningless.

That Korea has little or no 'anti-fashion' doesn't necessarily mean it should adopt a whole-hearted punk [or other alternative] ethos with safety pins through noses or knee-high cyberpunk boots, it means Korea doesn't have the guys down the pub who make a fashion statement by simply not being fashionable. Deliberately. In Korea, you're either in or out. Back home, the guys in jeans and bikers' leather are saying 'we don't want to look like the inside of a fashion magazine'. 'That would be uncool'. And suddenly you’re entering into an arena of anti-capitalist, or anti-something, sentiment, of not wanting to shop in Top Man, or wear Abercrombie and Fitch, or wear Gucci sunglasses. To me and many others this wearing of current middle-to-upper high street brands would be highly uncool – like popping the collar on your suit jacket, or holding a  cigarette between your teeth – I’d never do it – to me it looks like ‘trying too hard’, like ‘Top Gun’. Trying to be cool isn't cool. Trying to be fashionable isn't necessarily fashionable. Clothes and the way you wear them, including choosing not to wear something, is a statement of attitude, a subscription to who you are and want to be. In many circles, being 'magazine fashionable' is considered uncool.

Korean fashion lacks any statement outside of ‘I’m fashionable’. Could you tell who likes jazz or hip-hop or rock from it? Doubtful. Could you in London or San Diego or Bruges? Probably. Clothes are an expression, of who you are, of what you believe. Even if you believe fashion is a fat waste of time your non-conformist, conformist jeans and t-shirt (or whatever) are saying so.

I think it will take a decade or two for Korea to realise its full potential in fashion. Many here think it's made it now, but I disagree. Fashion here says nothing, and until it does, it doesn't. It's not cool to try and be cool.  It's a kind of Catch 22 that I think fashionistas in Korea often don't understand. It's simply not that fashionable to be fashionable.

January 01, 2014

2013, A Year in Clover.

From Hamlet - "When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions."

Very true, William, very true. 

It wasn't all bad. It never is. But the landmark occasions this year were all pretty terrible.

Jobs: My current job is, in fact all my jobs in
Korea have been, very nice - no complaints there. But when I first started this one, it was a disaster. The previous teacher wouldn't move out my apartment for a week. When he finally did the school was late delivering any furniture so I had to sleep on the floor. The heating broke down, the washing machine wasn't plumbed in, and the hot water stopped being hot. On top of all that, my co-teacher had a nervous breakdown when my vice-principal jokingly accused her of having an affair with me! I'd been in the job three days at this point. She was furious with him, her husband called the school and everything. It was a right shit-storm. She was never the same with me after that (distant, abrupt) and I was honestly happy when she got pregnant again and quit. My new co-teacher is a lovely woman. So all's well that ends well, I guess.

Dating: been on several dates this year, all of which either ended disastrously, or got cancelled, or didn't lead to a second date when I wanted them to. All in all, dating wise, this year was a total fucking disaster. I've ended the year as I started it. Except I'm a year older.

Friends: Made some great new friends this year, especially up in Haebangcheon in
Seoul, but lost a few too. A couple of fall-outs lead to some unhealable rifts with one or two long-standing friends, which is never good, but c'est la vie. The biggest news, friend-wise, for me and many others this year was undoubtedly the loss, due to a climbing accident, of the dear, lovable, funny, surreal, hilarious and warm Kevin Andresen. Never in all my life have I heard so many people cry, so loudly and for so long. And I never want to hear that again.

Holidays: Went to
Cambodia. Fell down some stairs. Got sick, including passing out, throwing up, going blind (twice) and for the first time in my entire life, shitting the bed, due to the muscle relaxants the hospital gave me.  Cost me a fucking fortune in hospital fees when I got back to Korea too. Holidays this year? Meh.

And finally, the biggest news of all for me was the loss of my mother, after a two year battle with cancer. It came as no surprise in the end, as she was given just a few days, but lasted three weeks. My Mum had her faults like all of us, but she was always there on the end of the phone if you needed a shoulder to lean on. I miss my Mum.

I'm a realist. I'm not one to mope about going 'life is terrible', despite laying it all out, above. Like most, I'll get morose occasionally, but I tend to laugh at it all in the end. And anyway, it wasn't all bad this year. I finished my Masters Degree before my Mum went, and I know she would have been proud of that, not to mention the personal sense of achievement. As I said above, my job is great, I have some amazing, wonderful and funny friends, and generally, I'm pretty happy with my lot. I hope, though, that the landmarks of 2014 are less harrowing and upsetting than this year's were, and that there are a lot less tears and a lot more smiles.