Springingtiger's Blog


It’s Polite to Ask.

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I grew up in the Nineteen Fifties when etiquette was more rigidly coded than in this Twenty First Century. Sometimes I think it would be good were we to have structured guidelines for our behaviour, but really all we need is a little thought and consideration for others.

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A cosplayer I know was bemoaning the number of people who take photographs without asking permission. It is something Steampunks also experience although many do ask first. It is inevitable that people will want to take photographs of people in costume. It is a simple courtesy to ask first. It is very unlikely that a cosplayer or Steampunk will refuse permission because after the thought and hard work they’ve put into their costume they want the world to see it. What they don’t want is to be taken for granted. We enjoy sharing our work with the public and there is no need to sneak photos when a simple request can bring the cooperation of the players who will be delighted to pose and answer questions. The Glasgow Ubiquitous E Steampunk Society members may well hand you a leaflet explaining who they are and how to contact them.

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Every time we have any activity as a Steampunk Society there are always members of the public who not only want to take photos, but often to be in them. We are only too happy to oblige if we can, please just ask.

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Childhood Jutland Memories

So we are going to commemorate the Battle of Jutland. The expression ‘celebrate the centenary’ seems inappropriate when so many thousands of young men died. Many burned to death, many more drowned, trapped between the decks of their sinking ships. So many died that, at the time, the British people felt it was a defeat. It was a victory only because it kept the German fleet in port for the remainder of the war.

For me, as a child in the Fifties Jutland just had something to do with a gun. Coming up to the centenary of the battle I remembered that the gun I climbed on as a child had something to do with Jutland. I couldn’t remember the connection and so I looked it up. I had always thought that the submarine from which the gun in Ward Park in Bangor came, had been sunk at Jutland. Today I learned that the submarine U19 had been scrapped at the end of the war. Her gun was given to the people of Bangor County Down in recognition of the actions of Commander Edward Bingham at the Battle of Jutland.

I was quite excited to discover that the U19 had been the submarine who landed the Irish revolutionary hero Sir Roger Casement at Banna Strand in 1916. I hadn’t known that when I was swinging on the gun barrel or turning the various wheels that no longer performed a useful function. Personally for me the significance of 1916 lies in the Proclamation of The Irish Republic, but that gun reminds me that every event, everything is connected. Indeed were it not for the Battle of Jutland I wouldn’t have been able to  swing on the U19 gun. And had it not been for that memory I wouldn’t know of its connection with Sir Roger Casement. On the other hand the whole point of this piece has really been to share a happy childhood memory of Bangor in the Nineteen Fifties.



Perfect Day

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It was a perfect day. The sort of Glasgow summer day that is made all the more magical for its rarity. My day got off to an unexpectedly good start when, as I entered the Glasgow Botanical Gardens, I met Lynne and Robert, two old friends with whom I had lost touch. A happy happenstance.

The Glasgow Ubiquitous E Steampunk Society had organised an afternoon of taking photos in the Kibble Palace in Glasgow’s Botanical Gardens. Primarily because the Victorian wrought iron and glass of the building would both provide appropriate backdrops for our pictures and shelter from the inevitable rain. Rain which, despite this being Glasgow and a bank holiday weekend, failed to appear.

The greenhouse was so hot I could scarcely breathe, fortunately the gardens provided plenty of suitable settings and so the photographs were taken al fresco. We even got photographed by a photographer from the Daily Record; in Glasgow people enjoying the sun is news.

We rounded off our day with a visit to the monthly ‘Granny Would Be Proud‘ craft market where our associates in ‘Victoriana for Voluptuous Vixens‘ had their Steampunk fashion stall. I know I mutter that their prices are too low, but I don’t complain when it comes to paying them. Their prices are low and their stock just gets better and better. Several members of the Society seized the opportunity to add to their wardrobes and accessorie

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After some shenanigans I walked much of the way home in the shade of the trees beside the Kelvin and completed a pleasant afternoon sitting in the garden drinking tea with my wife. Some days come as close to perfect as it is possible to imagine, today was one of them. It’s not quite over as I’m writing this after eleven p.m. while watching the last dying glow of the sunset. Now I’m finished and so is my day. Goodnight.
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My Desert Island Discs

 

Ever since I was a child I have enjoyed listening to Desert Island Discs back then it was on the BBC Home Service which didn’t become Radio Four until the late Nineteen Sixties. Back then it was presented by its creator Roy Plomley, but for various reasons I was an infrequent listener. These days I listen most weeks. Since Roy Plomley’s retirement there have been several presenters the latest,Kirsty Young. However the program’s tried and tested formula remains unchanged. I think some of its appeal is the memories it evokes of the days when the radio gradually came to life and the valves within lit up the corner of the room, a time when radio stations didn’t have numbers but exotic names like Athlone and Hilversum and the BBC Stations I listened to were the Home Service and the Light Programme. There was a time when Radio was magical, it’s still frequently more entertaining than television.

The guests on Desert Island Discs are not just the usual cast of celebrities, but of leaders in their fields, many unknown to the general public. The guest chooses eight pieces of music that they would want with them if marooned on a desert island, pieces that have significance for them and as the program unfolds the presenter interviews them about their choices and so their life and careers are revealed to the listener. As well as their music they choose a book and a luxury, but most important is the music. I think as well as learning about the guest the listener is always left wondering what their own choices would be. I find my list of eight changes week by week. Were I asked today I think this would be my play list.

A new introduction would be Honey Bee by Steampunk Giraffe, who I have only recently discovered, but am going to see soon.

I would have to have at least one song from Indian Cinema. There are so many I love, but I think I will choose Ina Mina Dika by Kishore Kumar. Kishore Kumar is one of my heroes not only was he a singer, but also a songwriter, actor, writer and director, one of cinema’s great comedians.

I have to have at least one Johnny Cash song and I would generally choose Walk The Line because it makes me think of my wife.

And for my wife I would have to have an Elvis song as we both like him and have done for a lifetime. But what to choose, they are all so good (well perhaps some of the film songs are a bit naff.). If I only choose one I think I’ll take ‘In the Ghetto‘ because it reminds me of the underlying depths behind the facade presented by the films.

There has to be some Mozart. Again it’s so hard to choose so I’m going to plump for the Queen of the Night’s ariafrom The Magic Flute because it just leaves me awestruck.

There must be a Beatle song because they were such a big part of my childhood. There are so many songs, so different, it’s very difficult to choose one. I’ll go right off the wall and choose The Ballad of John and Yoko…no scratch that I’ll have…no, no…okay I’m going to choose the lyrical While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

Oh no only two left, what about The Mavericks, Dylan, Joan Baez, Chris James, Strauss (played by Andre Rieu)? I’m going to choose Hamish MacCunn’s The Land of the Mountain and the Flood because wherever I am it will remind me of Scotland.

My last choice after reflection is going to be Paul Robeson singing Joe Hill because Paul Robeson was one of my father’s favourites and Joe Hill is one of the greatest Socialist Anthems.

There are so many songs I love that ten minutes from now my list may change, but it’s always fun playing Desert Island Discs, why don’t you try to pick eight songs you must have in your life, and then give thanks that you are not limited to eight pieces of music?



Children Teach Your Parents Well…

Time and tiredness precludes edits today, all spelling mistakes may be blamed on the auto-correct.

There used to be a sign in a shop in Dumbarton Road that said, “Employ a teenager now while they still know everything!” Reading that back in my forties I chuckled because, of course, it rang a bell. Hadn’t we all thought we knew it all in our teens and hadn’t a couple of decades down how wrong we were.

That was then. Now another couple of decades down the road I am less smug than I was at forty and a lot less smug than in my teens because I’m learning from young people. As regular readers will be aware I am going to see Steampowered Giraffe at Asylum in August, I wouldn’t have known who they were had out not been for a kid who won the Glasgow Ubiquitous E Steampunk Society competition at Rai Con. Thanks to the same person today I discovered live streaming on Facebook and I am quite excited by it’s possibilities.

The world has moved rapidly since I was young and like most people my age I was formed in a very different world from the one in which I now live. I have brought a lot of value with me. However I would be stupid to think I knew more than the kids off today brought up in the information age. I don’t know more, nor less, I know different. My generation can inform this world’s history, philosophy and values, but only by sharing what we have with the kids do that they can apply their knowledge to it and make of it something they can use. I don’t know how my knowledge and experience can help my granddaughters’ generation and I don’t have the right to tell them how to use it. I can only hand it over and let them use it as they will and trust them to do the best they can with what they have available. In exchange I’m learning lots of cool stuff from them.

The music was generally better in my youth though, apart from previously mentioned exceptions, which brings me to this post’s title which comes from a line out of a Crosby, Stills and Nash song. It’s not just the cool stuff we need to learn and share, we also have to understand the bad stuff, the fears and anxieties we all have and stand together to help each other through it.

My wife says, “it is the job of grandparents to create happy memories for their grandchildren.” Those memories are built on what we share both good and bad. Learning and teaching and being there for each other, young and old. Whenever I look at politics and worry about the future of the world, I look at the young people and from them I learn hope.



What a Piece of Work is Rabbit

A sequel to yesterday’s post ‘What a Piece Of Work Is Man’

I like who I am, I really do, but it hasn’t always been that way. I think it was sometime in my fifties, back when my hair reached my waist and my beard, my chest that I looked in the mirror and actually saw me. Who else might I have seen? As funny as it may sound and it may cancel my vote, I always used to see a stranger, I rarely felt like I was the person in the mirror. One day I looked in the mirror and was comfortable with whom I saw, less than a year later, I completed my rituals and cut off my hair and trimmed my beard. These days when I look in the mirror I recognise who looks back as me. Okay, that doesn’t include those times when I disappear my head from my reflection…actually I suppose it does (I almost said ‘on reflection’).

When I was five I wanted to be a ballerina. I had a little china statue of a ballerina with a real fabric tutu and I loved her. All went well until I told my parents when it was made very clear to me that boys cannot be ballerinas. My mother was very kind and said I could become a ballet dancer like Rudolph Nureyev, but I didn’t want to be Rudolph Nureyev, I wanted to be Margot Fonteyn! After I first saw the film Calamity Jane on television I wanted to be Doris Day, I knew better than to tell anyone. There was a time I wanted to be Julie Newmar, but only as Catwoman. Don’t get me wrong, I am a chap and I know it, even if I may not have liked it I never, ever, thought I was female. There were particular women I wanted to be, but I didn’t want to be a woman. Even now it’s far too much work to be a woman and it was worse back then. I never suffered from gender dysphoria, it might be fair to say I suffered from occasional gender envy. I wanted to be Emma Peel, with my lack of gracefulness those heels would have killed me so it’s just as well I couldn’t.

Unfortunately there are those who really are born into the wrong body and know that somehow their plumbing is all wrong. They don’t suffer the occasional twinge of gender envy, for them their whole identity is under assault. Some cannot, despite the prejudices of society, do other than live as who they really are. Some like Lili Elbe even died to become truly themselves. There was a time when gender reassignment surgery was new, difficult and dangerous, I gather from my enquiries that it is still far from being an easy option. There are others who having become unquestionably the man or woman they know themselves to be feel no need to go under the knife, they recognise themselves and those who matter recognise them.

I have nothing but admiration for those men and women who refuse to be ruled by the genitals they were born with and instead choose to become themselves. Who survive the bullying, let’s be clear this is something they live with throughout their childhood even when they are too young to understand what gender is and a little boy or girl who insists on being the opposite, gets hurt. Gets hurt again and again. Some cannot live through growing up, but there are some who do and hold fast and they should be honoured, at the very least respected and their choices honoured. These men and women are heroes, real heroes who have faced hell and prevailed.

Today our world is a little more forgiving and tolerant than when I was young and young people with gender dysphoria can in some places receive the help and support they deserve, but even now it is not easy and role models still thin on the ground. I was delighted to come across the video blog of Isabella Bunny Bennett, better known as Rabbit from Steampowered Giraffe. In January she proudly announced that she had legally become Isabella Bunny Bennett. From mid July 2014 she has been posting a frank, no holds barred, frequently funny, often poignant Vlog of her transformation from a (rather dishy) man into an attractive young woman. It is a very courageous thing to do and makes the process and the emotions attached visible and accessible. Anyone who knows someone who is transgendered will find this series of films fascinating, I think anyone who is considering a gender change should watch it. In fact anyone interested in the phenomenon of ‘human being’ should find it interesting. It has been a journey, one easier to watch than make. Bunny’s generosity in sharing something so personal is deeply moving and were I younger she would enter my pantheon beside Margot Fonteyn and Doris Day…oh what the heck? Bunny’s in there too!



What A Piece Of Work Is Man…

“What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form, in moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals!” (Hamlet Act 2, scene 2)

Today I saw ‘X Men: Apocalypse’. It is one of many super hero films and television programs being released this year and as good a piece of entertainment as any. However I am aware that for many people I super heroes are not so much entertainment as an aspiration. There are actually people who want to be vampires, would you believe? Along the cosplayers whose pleasure is creativity there are those who really do want to be a Jedi or a super hero.

I am not going to condemn anyone who is not happy with who they are, I spent many, many years thinking I was on the wrong planet and very uncomfortable around humans. I do think it a little sad when people are unhappy with their humanity. I can appreciate the anguish of those who know they were born in the wrong body, but while they may need to change their gender they still want to be human. What I find sad is that people don’t relish being human and celebrate it. Sad that people reject the value of their own lives because of some distorted value placed upon celebrity, political power or wealth.

I suppose there is much that is done by some humans that sparks, rightly, horror and rejection in anyone with an ounce of compassion or sensitivity. However there is so much in humanity to be celebrated. Look at our arts and architecture, our literature, our music. For every serial killer, suicide bomber or Tory politician, there is someone risking their lives to save others, there is someone working to cure disease, to end poverty, end injustice. Yes there are evil and selfish people in the world. I believe it is because they are an aberration they impinge so much on our awareness. The majority of humans live our lives of quiet heroism carrying for their families, friends, and communities. And there are many who stand out as real heroes, men and women of courage who risk ridicule, rejection, even death to make the world a better place. People prepared to ask questions and challenge established ideas. People prepared to give of themselves, whatever the personal cost, for the good of us all.

You don’t need superpowers, fame or money to be a hero just the will to be the best you you can be. You don’t need political position or wealth to change the world, you don’t even need a God, you just need people, people who care about others.




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