Here’s some random photos from my trip to the Olympia Park Flea Market in Munich on the 25th November. 2016
Flea Market Art
This is Vicky
Vicky gave me first piece of proper German flea market advice: “If you want to make money head out to the big flea markets that are held in provincial Bavaria in the Spring and Summer” she told me. “Bavarians are rich – they just want to get rid of their stuff. That’s where you get the real bargains. You just have to get there early”.
She also told me to get a car. She was the first of 2 people to give me that advice this weekend.
I’m not sure I’ll ever be a true flea market insider in Munich, in part because I have other things I want to do with my life, but learning the language, and getting a car, and getting to know more people like Vicky would be the first necessary steps if I do want to become a Munich flea market face.
Random Flea Market Stalls
I found this record at the Daglfing Fleamarket yesterday (read more here)
I was 15 when I fell for Bowie big time. One of the reasons why my adoration was so complete was that in 1983 Bowie, always a multi faceted artist, was at his most multi faceted. He was in the charts with Let’s Dance, there was the back catalogue (consisting of a run of LPs pretty much unrivalled in pop and rock) and he also had just released the 5 track Baal EP of songs by Brecht.
And then there was the release of this LP which had Bowie doing versions of songs by Brecht and Brel and Chuck Berry. My teachers at school and my Mum and Dad didn’t have the faintest idea of who Brecht or Brel were so it was up to me to pursue this sort of stuff – which is something I’ve continued to do in a pretty chaotic and pretty unproductive way ever since.
A million people have made the point that Bowie’s music was always an argument against the tedious, parochial life of England in the 70s and 80s. It was a way out of that world. For me this LP was part of that process. If you listen to this LP as an impressionable 15 yr old you’re going to wonder about Brecht and when you follow up on it you enter into a world of revolutionary politics and Weimar Germany. You will learn about revolutionary approaches to theatre, approaches which raise fundamental questions about the nature of theatre and of art. In much of his theatre Brecht would deliberately distance the audience from the action in a way which would force a response from the audience that was intellectual rather than emotional.
By coincidence I was just thinking about all that Brechtian stuff in relation to Bowie’s song “Heroes”. Last week I went to Berlin and whilst there I went on a walking tour of Bowie’s Berlin (which was excellent – I really recommend it). The song was recorded in the Hansa studios in 1977 in what was then the still rather desolate centre of Berlin, just yards away from the Berlin Wall. Bowie was in Berlin, in part, to put his life back together after chronic drug addiction in LA. So you have a man trying not be the person he was in a city still smashed up and carved up the terrible history of the C20th.
The song means a lot to the people of Berlin. Bowie played it at a gig near the Reichstag, which was by The Wall, a couple of years before The Wall came down. Large crowds of East Germans crowded by The Wall to listen to the gig. Bowie dedicated “Heroes” to them and the whole concert is seen as one of the key moments that lead up to the collapse of the Wall. I don’t begrudge the song being part of that history but I’m not sure it quite fits and I do begrudge it being used to symbolise Olympic success, like it’s some big, daft power ballad, as what happened in London 2012
I don’t think think that there is anything Brechtian about this song. The song is highly emotional and it is fully intended to pull at the audience’s heart strings – which is the sort of ‘bourgeois twaddle’ that Brecht set his hat against. However I do think that the Brechtian notion of distancing yourself from the emotional content of art does constitute a tiny bit of what’s going on with this song. Bowie, and Eno (the song’s producer) and Fripp (the song’s guitarist) are too smart and too knowing to have just churned out a big “bourgeois twaddly’ power ballad – the song is way more subtle than that.
All the various part of the songs are doing slightly different things. The producer Eno and the guitarist Robert Fripp create a big swollen epic wall of sound that churns on, almost hypnotically, until it fades away. This churning, rolling, slightly drone-y music intensifies in a way that forces Bowie’s voice to greater and greater levels of intensity – levels that becomes almost histrionic. By the end of the song this almost unhinged singing works in pretty clear contrast to the swollen and droning and, at times, almost languid music; Bowie is almost screaming out the desire of the characters in the song to be something they’re not and the song never quite resolves itself – instead it just fades out. In this context what Bowie is singing sounds less like something affirmative – We are Heroes – and more like something desperate and needy – We can be “Heroes”. The song isn’t about triumph over adversity or being a hero. It’s about the longing for those things, love that is desperately hoped for but is never the thing itself; it’s about moments of time clung to in the face of things unravelling. “Heroes” is about longing and love, I think,which is it told by someone who isn’t what they want to be.
And therefore, perhaps, there is something slightly Brechtian about putting the title “Heroes” in inverted commas. Maybe that little grammatical device, whilst hardly being the same as an actor breaking the 4th wall or suddenly commentating on his or her dramatic predicament, does call for a slight intellectual distancing from the song’s emotional content. This is pop music that is smart enough to create distance from itself.
When I take myself seriously I will always be on the side of ‘intellectual distancing’ in its war against ’emotional content’ though that war does appear to be almost lost.
One of the books I found in yesterday’s trawl through the charity shops of Thetford and Cambridge’s Mill Road was a 1943 Macmillan / Oxford University Press copy of War and Peace. The book is not in great condition – but it did have a bookmark inside it that lists all the principle characters from the novel arranged in family groups on one side along with the other key characters on the reverse side.
I assume that the bookmark is original and came with the book when it was first published. It is useful and lovely.
The book also had an excellent map on the inside cover and I’m a sucker for any novel that comes with a map.
A by-product of my endless trawling around charity shops and carboot sales is that I have quite a collection of ridiculous crockery.
I found this Intelligent Fungicides mug yesterday in Thetford. I like it because of the phrase “Intelligent fungicides” and because I’m vaguely curious, though not to the point where I want to Google it, as to whether BASF is the same BASF who made my favourite audio cassettes back when home recording was killing music. Googling that would rob the mug of its mystery.
Most of all I like because it’s just so damned East Anglian. Most small towns in these parts have factories that make intelligent fungicides or game changing seed drills or next generation chicken feed.
I will add this to my collection along with the John Wayne souvenir plates and Welcome to Lowestoft bowls.
I’m 50 next year. I will never hold a managerial position. The lives of others should never be my sole responsibility.
Today I went to Thetford.
I make trips like this every now and then. The way it works is this; I choose a place I want to visit, in this case Thetford, and choose some things I want to see there, in this case stuff relating to Dad’s Army – which was filmed in Thetford, and stuff relating to Thomas Paine – who was born in Thetford, and I set myself the target of paying for the entire day by buying undervalued books/records/cds from the town’s charity shops which I will then later ship to Amazon who sells them on my behalf in return for a commission.
I call these days out Charity Shop Road Trips (though this one was by rail). I’ve been doing them for a few years. (I’ve written about them, or the carboot equivalent, here). I enjoy them in a sort of daft, carefree way – in the charity shops, as well as buying stuff to sell, I usually find a couple of books or records or DVDs I want for myself, I always end having random conversations with strangers and I get to see the things I want to see. And I always end up paying my way. I usually end up making a profit on the day.
Thetford has the usual amount of charity shops – I found five in the town centre and one nearer the station and that should have been more than enough to cover the £23 my day out cost me. But I’ve never seen such desolate shelves.
After 3 hours trawling through the absolute arse end of the consumer society I came up with the following:
Based on the prices I think they should go for at Amazon this lot will make me £17 profit. This meant, that for the first time, my Charity Shop Road Trip made a loss. Whitley Bay, Loughborough, Winchester repeatedly, the Isle Of Wight (all of it) to name but a few – I’d licked them all with my cunning profiteering. But not Thetford.
Moreover – The Dad’s Army Museum was closed for the winter and the visitor centre where you can find the visitor trail for the Thomas Paine Walk and the Dad’s Army Walk was closed for Christmas. So, dejected and defeated, I left Thetford early – but I will return. Two people there that I spoke to spoke of a giant charity shop warehouse on the edge of town – and I still want to see the Dad’s Army Museum.
And most of all I still want to try to measure the gap between the freedom I enjoy on days out like this and the freedom Thomas Paine argued for.
I put everything right in Cambridge – I was back early enough to trawl through the Mill Road charity shops, including the glorious RSPCA bookshop and bought this lot:
They’re worth loads. So I won in the end.