Saturday 11 July 2015

Saturday Evenings: Stay In, Sit Up and Switch On

Props. We all carried props of some sort. It was as if the majority of us were performing in our own self-written play/soap/movie/installation.

I was in the car recently, waiting for my daughter. She has just started volunteering with a local charity (would you believe it? She was counting down the days until she turned fourteen so that she could apply to become a volunteer for this particular group. That’s what I call determination!) and I offered to help her out by driving her to the shop and picking her up at the end of her shift. On this particular afternoon with the stifling heat in full swing I had a few minutes to spare so taking advantage of the semi-anonymity that my car provided I began to observe my fellow humans going about their business.

Props. That was what I mostly witnessed. We all carried props of some sort. It was as if the majority of us were performing in our own self-written play/soap/movie/installation. The most visible one was the mobile phone, of course. But we were all holding an object: cigarette, car keys, man-bag or purse. Prop-less passers-by tended to move their arms frantically as if in charge of an orchestra, as if they were missing a limb or… a prop. Holding, hugging, posing, displaying, caressing, squeezing, tapping, swiping, you name it, my fellow earthlings were all doing something with and to their props.

From my observations I came to the conclusion that our evolution as human beings has divided us into two categories: those who need “props” to support them in their daily lives and those who are capable of going around their quotidian business unassisted. I have, sadly, belonged to the former for far longer than I would have wanted.

No, not these ones. Where's the mobile phone?

In the same way that the people milling about in the shopping centre where the charity store in which my daughter volunteers used their “props” for various purposes, I turned a remote control/pointer into a loyal friend a few weeks ago. I was invited to lead a workshop at a conference last month. Somewhat nervous as befit the occasion, I calmed down as soon as my fingers touched the remote control. My presentation went smoothly and the Q&A was lively. All thanks to a three-inch, plastic object in my hand. Like the shoppers I observed from the semi-anonymity of my car, I, too, had created my own play/soap/movie/installation.

There was an interesting article in the latest issue of Songlines magazine about how the average age at which we stop listening to new music is 33. That’s also the age at which, apparently Jesus, died, and also it is the format for long play or vinyl records (in fact, it is 33⅓, but let’s not get too pedantic about it, shall we?). I have no idea why I included those two pieces of information in this post but maybe there was some divine intervention in the creation of the LP. I do not know.

Divine intervention or not, there are some new salsa gods and goddesses on the block now. Or Sugar Kings, to give them their proper name. The song on the clip below is called Rum and Coca Cola and the line-up performing it is a “who’s who” in the contemporary, underground, London-based Afro-Cuban world. On piano, David Oliver, on bass, Adolfredo Pulido, on trumpets, Víctor Hechavarría Sarret, on timbales, David Pattman, on vocals, Caroline Loftus and on percussion and leading the ensemble, Flavio Correa. This is what summer sounds like. Great harmonies and dance-inspiring, tight arrangements. Enjoy.

© 2015

Next Post: “Let’s Talk About…”, to be published on Wednesday 15th July at 6pm (GMT)


  1. Voy a quedarme un ratito por esta combinación. :)

  2. Sadly our props too often define us. To ourselves and to others...

  3. lol, my props are my cameras :)

  4. Que bueno lo de tu hija te puedes sentir orgulloso de ella.
    Muy buena música que nos dejas.
    Un abrazo.

  5. our talismans are friends indeed. I'm never without my ocarina!


  6. Well I have everything in my pockets, phone, wallet, keys, other than that. no props. Unless I'm walking a dog, and carrying a poop bag lol

  7. Ok, I was initially thinking that the 33 age thing was bunk, but I know a lot of people that are like that. I do enjoy my old school music, but I still have my hands on the pulse of the music scene and still go to concerts that are "well below" my 42 years of life. Props - ha. I think most peoples props are cell phones these days sadly. I guess others carry totems. I have dismissed my satchel bag and taken on a back pack my soccer kids gave me. I will have to keep an eye out for the props. Cool on your daughter giving back. That is awesome man. You have raised a good one.

  8. Once upon a time, I never left the house with fewer than three packs of cigarettes and a cigar or two. Since I smoked three-plus packs a day, such were my props, indoors or outdoors.

    Today, I seldom leave the house without a cell phone, however, I am the sort who thinks of telephones as annoyances rather than conveniences, so it spends the vast, vast majority of its time in the pocket which formerly held a pack of cigarettes.

    I think it true that many people (maybe even most) seem compelled to be more active with their hands, which is to say in motion or with toys, than with their minds.

    Congratulations, to your daughter.

  9. The Sugar Kings are very cute. Thanks for the song and for the observations! Props can be handy, especially if you are dancing--I think of Fred Astaire with the hat rack. Take care, k .

  10. Oh my gosh -- I am quite a bit beyond age 33, and I still listen to music! And - ha - I enjoyed the music you included!.

  11. You've made me think ... my props - a book and notebook. If I can carry money in my pocket, then I will, but I feel naked without a book!

    And the music-thing - it reflect something I read. When people are old it's the music of their teens that gets them on their feet and dancing again. Which is fine for me - I'll be jigging to the Rolling Stones when I'm in my dotage. Can't you see us all, with our zimmer frames, belting out 'Hey, hey, you, you, get off of my cloud ...'

  12. 33 - heck - it's like time stands still - yesterday i was at a party and that was exactly what i thought when i saw the people - 80's style - as if time had stopped for them at a certain age. i find this sad - i never wanna stop exploring and trying new things and i sure listen to the newest music even though i'm in my mid 40's - cool on your daughter doing that charity job. my daughter does some volunteer work (teaching german) in a home for refugees from other countries - makes me proud

  13. You know what they say, a woman feels undressed without her handbag. Some people, a lot actually, feel undressed without a prop and others don't know what to do with their hands. Do they swing them or keep them pasted to their hips. Decisions, decisions... smile.

    Sadly, I was unable to play the music clip.

  14. Yes, it sounds people do need to props to function better. Congrats to your daughter!

  15. Ah, the modern human's need for props. I once participated in an art project where you were required to empty the contents of your pockets into a small tray so these items could be photographed. I had to briefly give up my wallet, keys, cell phone, business card holder, and hand sanitizer for five minutes--it was so strange and scary to be free of all this stuff. But my biggest prop is my backpack which I would probably wear in the shower if it were waterproof. Can't seem to shake that damn thing.

    Great post, excellent observations, and I love the musical-religious analogy. My mom used to sing this song back in the day!

  16. Ah yes...I definitely belong in the former too...there is no way I could exist outside my comfort zone without a "prop" or two!
    In my case, it is either my phone, my keys and/or my shoulder bag.
    Take these away from me, and I become a gibbering wreck!
    I guess it's like a fractious baby without it's comforter! lol

    My sincere congrats to your must be so proud of her! :)

    And I absolutely adore your music selection!
    This really IS exactly what summer sounds like, isn't it?!

    Greetings from a rather damp and dreary Hampshire!!

  17. Great observations. Until you reach a mature age, when your arms and hands have to reach for handrails and other support to go up or down, and to stop you from falling down, I've ditched the purse, and carry a tiny wallet/phone cradle, keys, all in a zippered pocket of a windbreaker, a light prop too, to keep my things in case of an emergency, and free my arms and hands to remain prompt to assist. I fell walking with a cup in my hand, and that cured me quickly of all props.

  18. As a birdwatcher, my favourite prop is a pair of binoculars, though not on a shopping trip of course.

  19. I've never been much for carrying props around. Just the bare essentials I need in a small purse that clips around my waist so my hands are free. Amd as for music? I'll listen to just about anything. True, I prefer the sounds of the fifties and sixties, but I'm open to new stuff (and much older stuff) too. When our kids were in their teens, the family would shoot pool together sometimes, and we took turns choosing the music we'd listen to, and our sons would give me CDs of their favorite music, so I could relate to what they were listening to. I didn't always like it, but I always listened. And I even found a lot of newer stuff I DO like. Oh, and trust me, I'm way beyond 33... and so are my kids!

  20. Thanks for stopping by and reading... just rescued your kind comment from wordpress' spam bucket. Will be reading more of your London adventures for sure.. :)

  21. I enjoyed this so much. It's true. This reminded me of a conversation I had with my mother many years ago. I was telling her that my last of four children had finally outgrown the stroller and after so many years of walking around pushing babies in buggies, I had NO idea what to do with my arms! LOL. Thanks for reminding me.



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