Friday, 6 May 2011

Prix de Circom

I am now the proud recipient of a Prix de Circom, following what has to be one of the most surreal award ceremonies ever staged. The whole thing was being broadcast live on Romanian TV, and an entire symphony orchestra had been crammed into a white marquee, which was also lined with rather chi-chi-looking tables. The place looked lovely, but the organisation of the evening left a great deal to be desired. Everything was wonderfully good-natured and a huge amount of fun, but the event was somewhat shambolic.

I don’t really know where to start. Perhaps with the presenter, who was attempting to do simultaneous translations from Romanian into English, which at one point made such little sense that everyone was forced to look at their shoes with a placid smile carved onto their faces, lest they should catch someone else’s eye and burst into uncontrollable laughter!

The first award went to a Bulgarian film-maker, a wonderful bloke, who interviews people in the back of a taxi. They played part of his show on a giant screen, but there was no sound, other than the whistling winds of shame. He went up onto the stage to collect his award, accompanied by the symphony orchestra playing the utterly portentous, Also Sprach Zarathustra, which didn’t exactly feel like the sort of celebratory music you’d expect to accompany such a joyous occasion. His award, for best newcomer, was named after one of the leading supporters of Circom, a wonderful journalist who’d very tragically died on her way to the conference a few years ago. As he collected his award, the presenter called for hush and said how marvellously poignant it was that his films were shot in a taxi. And why was this poignant? That's right, because the woman who’d given her name to the award had DIED in a taxi!

As he left the stage, the orchestra played Also Sprach Zarathustra again, as they would a further ten times that night, in fact every time someone got up to collect an award. Sadly, the section they were playing took at least 3 minutes to complete, by which point the winner of the award had triumphantly returned to his or her seat and the rest of us had been forced to sit and twiddle our thumbs.

On the table next to us, an interloper in the shape of a rather rotund Romanian lady with hair the colour of her bright red cardigan, had come in off the street and sat down to watch the awards. She kept turning to the people on her table and asking with incredulity if they’d all won awards. As the food arrived, security people carried her away. As it turned out, I’m sure everyone would have gladly donated what they were about to eat to her.

The food was hysterically awful. There were plates and plates of meat coupled with little soggy piles of indecipherable vegetables which had been boiled into mulch. Someone described the carrots as “little cubes of colourful water.” Rather hysterically, I was sitting on a table with a group of Parisian snobs, who were simply looking at the food and shaking their heads. I overheard one of them whispering; “c’est un haricot vert, non?” Or words to that effect.

Unfortunately there was a lack of a vegetarian alternative. A woman waitress tried to put a plate of meat in front of me and I said; “oh, sorry, no, I’m a vegetarian.” She responded by shrugging her shoulders, throwing the food down in front of me and walking away. According to some accounts around the table, she also let out a little grunt, as though I’d said out loud what I was thinking, which was that she looked like a fat, ugly version of 1980s singer Hazell Dean. A moment later I took the offending plate, handed it to her, and said; “now take this away... without attitude!” A few minutes later, the plate arrived again, simply with everything but the soggy vegetables taken away. I wouldn’t have minded other than that I’d been given exactly the same thing for lunch!

By this point the orchestra had gone home and been replaced by a panpipe and saxophone version of Take My Breath Away, which was going round in circles. But imagine our combined surprise when they started to de-rig the venue as we ate. First all the lights came down, and then they started to dismantle the marquee. A truck got driven into the side of the space and filled everything with the stench of exhaust smoke. By the time we’d been given our desserts, they’d removed all the flowers from the tables and left us sitting in nothing but the house lights.

With each new problem, I became increasingly hysterical. I had a very very lovely evening! Thank you Circom, but more importantly, thank you, Romania. But please don’t ever win the Eurovision Song Contest! I don't think my nerves would cope.

Benjamin and his award

... By the way, why do you suppose all the water in the hotel is brown?

Today we did a workshop, where we played the making of the Symphony for Yorkshire to a group of conference attendees. It went down very well. I think sometimes that people don’t realise quite how much time, energy and love goes into these projects, and think this particular documentary shows this aspect very well.

After lunch we went for a stroll around Timisoara, which remains a deeply bizarre place. The weather was stunning, however, and after visiting a department store which had obviously not changed since the days of Ceausescu, we found a stunning spot by the river, and simply basked in the sun’s glow all day. It was wonderfully relaxing. Alison and Keith got utterly rat-arsed, which was fairly infectious and made me feel a little giddy and naughty.

We ended the day on Keith’s balcony, pouring water onto the street below in an attempt to confuse and surprise passers by.

Look at the light!

May 6th 1661, and Pepys was up and out of his lodgings in Guildford by 4am, which is the time I have to be up tomorrow. One assumes the trip back to London was uneventful, for Pepys only talks about eating cake.

On arriving home, he was very disappointed to discover that his workmen hadn’t done a great deal more on the house. Elizabeth was dispatched to Pepys’ father’s, and Pepys went and sat with Lady Batten. Both Sir Williams were in Deptford. Pepys heard that the Duke of York’s son had died and was less than charitable. “I believe [the news] will please every body; and I hear that the Duke and his Lady themselves are not much troubled at it.” Quite why he was so unpleasant is unclear. It's maybe because it was known that The Duke, who would go on to become the next King, was a practising Catholic. His son, therefore, would very much be in line for the throne, particularly if Charles himself didn't get his act together. There was also some question as to the child’s legitimacy. I’m sure, however, the parents were not “untroubled” by the news. That would be just weird.

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