Daft David and Mad Max

 It is vary rare that I post anything overtly political on this blog. Today is an exception because David Davis’s depiction of what he thinks Remainers imagine that life on day one A.B. (after Brexit) will be, is a facile and quite dull one to boot. No-one I know thinks that gangs of marauding truckers and motorcyclists will scavenge their way to a feral society. Not even the most fervent of Remain voters, the ones who insist on descending to an ad hominem level which all too frequently becomes full blown abuse or even libel.

My own personal view is that post-Brexit Britain will be very like The Boulting Bros. satire on 1959 Britain, I’m All Right, Jack. For its time, IARJ is relatively even-handed. No-one from any class comes out of this picture well, except perhaps for Ian Carmichael’s simple Not-Quite-Everyman and even then he is a Naïf of Candide’s proportions.

The unions get quite as big a bashing as the self-interested bosses and probably rightly so. It’s very broad brush satire, I doubt it would get made today, or at least whether it would be so even-handed. As mentioned before, the film is set in 1959.

Perhaps I’m equally unjustified in my suspicion that some of those who voted Leave would not be too disappointed if indeed the UK did turn out like the 1959 version satirised in the film. Maybe this makes me as bad as Mr Davis. Maybe not. He is Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, I’m just an unsuccessful writer. Anyway, hunt out the film, it’s probably on YouTube, see what you think.

There are few BAME characters depicted in IARJ. Mr Mohammed is played by an Anglo-Indian character actor called Marne Maitland, and that’s about it. I like to think the Boulting brothers knew very well that a large part of late 50’s society had been air-brushed from the film’s view of it (doubtless on commercial grounds). Why do I think that? The only character in the film with any real decency is Ian Carmichael’s. He is called “Windrush”.

Holiday to the Past (Bansko, 2018)

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Щиллгарник / Shilligarnik

Just returned from a place 1500 miles and half a century away. Aside from the strange, replicant enclave that is every ski-resort all over the world, the parts of Bansko that most tourists don’t reach are firmly behind the Iron Curtain. If I were handy enough to do a bit of pointing of all the brick walls in the un-named and unloved streets just a half a mile from the ski-lift I could be a millionaire in a week, even if only in Lev, the local currency. 

We stayed in a pension, B&B, or whatever your native tongue has as a tiny 11 room hotel run by two generations of a family. p { margin-bottom: 0.1in; line-height: 120%; }Планинский Здравец/Planinskij Zdravets or Mountain Geranium, if you prefer. The paterfamilias was Stoil, who, with his wife, ran the business through the week. Post lunch-time if you were foolish enough to bump into him after an early descent from the slopes, he would ply you with rakia, the local firewater, which he swore his own grapes contributed to making. Mind you, he said this about the wine which would arrive with an evening meal in an earthenware pot as old as Alexander the Great, too. We paid 11 Euros a night for bed and breakfast and if we did dine we spent more on drink than food and not much on either. Of course, by 9 p.m. Uncle Stoil was a bit worse for wear, but since he and I attempted to converse in Russian and sign language on all occasions, perhaps that didn’t matter. At weekends, Stoil’s daughter, Sófia, came back from Sofía to run the hotel. This, after a week of shifts as an anaesthetist nurse in a hospital theater in the capital.  
Perhaps you can see the word “Механа” on the paper napkin in the picture. This – more or less – equates to “Tavern” or maybe “Venta” in Spanish. Bulgarian food is a mixture of Balkan (meatttttt!!), Greek (Feta-like cheeses and salads) and Turkish (at lot of frying and an obsession with sugary stuff). The variety of breads available is also remarkable and the Механа-s are the place to enjoy all of the above. Don’t go to the places nested around the crossroads of Pirin and Naiden Gerov near to the gondola lift. “Explore” (of course this means get lost in) the maze of un-named sidestreets that make up the greater part of the town of Bansko. Try anywhere that the internet is unaware of and be pleasantly surprised at how heavy your wallet still is when you leave.

Bansko needs a bigger ski-gondola. The queues in the morning to get onto it are of heroic proportions. Five minutes extra on your breakfast coffee can mean an hour or more’s  ski-ing lost. Whilst we were in Bulgaria there were smog alerts for Sofia and Plovdiv, private vehicles were banned from the city and car-parking on main routes was prohibited. Public transport around the cities was declared free for the duration. The drive from Sofia airport to Bansko was punctuated by the smoking stacks of 60’s era industry. Bansko won’t get its bigger gondola anytime soon and perhaps it shouldn’t. Above the mercantile and industrial smog we could look out on blue skies and listen to birdsong. Down in the village I saw cars belching blue smoke like the special effects in a village pantomime. Nobody in Bansko wore a seatbelt. Cash is king and some shops sold knock-offs with the brazen insouciance of a street trader in Bahrain. 

If you have ever beaten off the imprecations of Cypriot “getter-inners” in Paphos or on the Limassol Strip and enjoyed the challenge of resisting all blandishments for “best meze on island, my fren'”, then Bansko is the place for you. I hate all that “come in my friend, big bastard steak, best price in Bansko” bullshit. In the tourist area, there are casinos and strip clubs, the seedy alongside the plusher hotels and holiday apartments. As you get further from this central area you see the after effects of the crash of 2011, skeletons of apartment blocks and hotels interspersed between those lucky enough to open before the bubble burst.

Bansko (and Bulgaria) is a place of threes… three strands of cuisine, culture and architecture. There is a mixture of the Slav, the Balkan and the Romany representatives of all three work up the mountain and down in the town. The population is oldish. Unless you work in tourism there’s nothing for the under-30s, I suppose. I’ve never seen so many grandmothers cleaning and picking up rubbish around restaurants. The local school looks like a Soviet Era Brutalist design, and probably is. There is the concrete and neon of Pirin and Naiden Gerov’s Club Med-style circle of Dante’s Inferno.

Would I go again? Maybe not. Do I regret going? No, the ski-ing was good.