In case July was supposed to be the football free month (though frankly, why would there be a football free month at all?!), then July failed grandly at it. And how could it not fail, when it contained the closing stages of both the Women’s World Cup and the AFCON. Confession time: it took me a while to figure out what AFCON actually stands for- it’s Africa Cup of Nations for all other numpties out there- but by the end of it I became quite emotionally invested in Algeria in spite of a frankly disappointing final, And how could one not love this beautiful tournament when it comes with a brilliant collection of team nicknames (go Squirrels!), which is logical, given that Africa’s clubs also excel from this point of view.
When it comes to the Women’s World Cup, I started out wanting everyone and anyone but the USA to win, and ended up being quite emotionally invested in Megan Rapinoe, who is a wonderful player and an awesome, thoroughly articulate human being who looks freakishly good with purple hair. Also, she was the inspiration for this amazing piece of journalism. Before we move on to other matters, let’s not forget that Rose Lavelle had a great tournament too and here are some pictures for those with shorter attention spans, plus a collection of the best goals (though I would definitely have put Ajara Nchout’s strike first).
The more serious stories do nevertheless always come from the men’s game, so please share the pain of this Swedish gentleman who cannot be called Tottenham, and given that there seem to be Liverpools liberally roaming around the country, here’s a piece about the man behind some of the team’s most iconic banners. Jokes put aside, let us remember my favourite world cup tournament ever and my favourite team that I (or anyone else) never really got to see- here comes the time to introduce my occult theory according to which Denmark won Euro 92 because they replaced the team who would have been champions had they got the chance to participate.
Besides football, there was also tennis, namely Wimbledon. I will be honest and admit that I find tennis quite lacking in charms as a spectator sport, and only ever watch finals or anything Simona Halep or Novak Đoković play in. Imagine my delight when these two prerequisites converge, and then the two pesky Eastern Europeans go on to win the titles under horrified British eyes, especially when it comes to Đoković, the spoiler, beating local darling Federer (guess it’s something about privilege sticking together.) Halep was just too good to have anyone object to her win, a win which she’s worked incredibly hard for throughout her career. As a side note, Wimbledon always had its special kind of crazy, here they are getting worked up over Suzanne Lenglen baring her ANKLES.
The Tour de France is another matter altogether- I can watch long hours of it with vivid interest, not so much the riders as the ever changing landscape, fields of golden sunflowers, Roman aqueducts, snow covered mountains, small villages emerging from a summer mist. Not to mention the installations and choreographies locals and fans prepare for the crossing caravan- this year’s highlight must be the village where they had people running around as the wheels of a bicycle drawn onto the field, seemingly slacking at it most of the time, but suddenly entering a frenzy of movement each time the cameraman’s helicopter hovered over them. It’s really a big, countrywide village feast, though of course the riders are occasionally suffering quite a bit- and they did so even more in the past– but oh that glorious light when they rode up on the Champs-Elysees (Which I don’t really like, actually. Except the evening light in summer, that’s a different story.) And, by the end of it, I became quite emotionally invested (and thus deeply conflicted) both in Julien Alaphilippe so valiantly losing the yellow jersey with two stages to go and Egan Bernal winning it, you guessed it right, with two stages to go. A very worthy winner though, who just three years ago was cutting his teeth with the slightly less glorious tours of Bihor and Sibiu counties, but hey, you got to start somewhere.
If you are under the impression that all I did in July was watch people being dramatically better at sports than I ever was or will be, you’re are mostly right, but I did manage to squeeze in a couple of films as well. Most notably, Lynne Ramsay’s superb You Were Never Really Here, a deeply compassionate and beautiful film about deeply frightening and ugly realities. It’s a relentless, perfectly controlled tour de force, touched by flashes of grace, with a simply breathtaking Joaquin Phoenix-just realized that was the year Gary Oldman got the Oscar for that ridiculous prosthetic-enhanced mimicking of the unavoidable Churchill, which means there is absolutely no justice in the world. Or actually, as we discover by the end of the film, there is, but it comes at a tremendous cost.
In other film related matters, some swooning over Jim Jarmusch (whose latest is yet to premiere in these God forsaken lands), some more swooning over Jim Jarmusch (and Tom Waits as a bonus) and a compendium of neon lights in films.
The music section starts with summery Serbian electro pop- lately I’ve been strangely attracted to music not in English, so it was my great, random pleasure to discover Lebanese indie band Mashrou’Leila and find out more about Gaye su Akyol, whom I’d already seen, even if fleetingly, on Sziget’s regretted World Music Stage. Florence Welch (back on Sziget in a week or so) and Kate Nash both discussed, albeit from a fairly different perspective, the trials and tribulations of being a young woman in the world of music, Biffy Clyro have made a concept album out of the blue, plus no month is a proper month without a bit of Leonard Cohen. Wait, I left out the best part: here’s Shaquille O’Neal in a mosh pit at the Tomorrowland festival. Anyone telling me I’m too old for festivaling, your sad little arguments are invalid. Because Shaq.
The photography section flows seamlessly into the travel section with a look at South London before gentrification, the mind boggling world of summery Balaton, more summer snaps from the charmingly named Croatian city of Pula and a glimpse into the hidden corners of Beirut. You’re then invited to Almaty to inspect a major work of art, and to Riga, which has become considerably more intriguing to me now that I am aware it houses some lesser known art nouveau gems. In the meantime, Austrians are having very Austrian problems and bickering over whether to deodorize their public transportation– basically because it’s always on time and they just wanted to have something to argue about. I vote for an Apfelstrudel scent. Finally, please find here my idea of paradise– yes, it is watching planes land and take off on a scenic Greek island, and no, I am not sorry at all.
Literature-wise July was a sad month as Andrea Camilleri, creator of the first tormented detective to eat sumptuous food, has left us– he had already written the last Montalbano novel, which is to be published after his death, something I feel equally excited and despondent about. Because I was lacking sources of reading inspiration (please note sarcasm here, I have a list of books which could last me three lifetimes), I found this Instagram profile with recommendations from people taking the subway, and some are pretty good, so yes, my list has gotten longer recently.
Kicking off the bits and bobs section- which has grown into quite a monster this month- is my favourite Colors session for July, Tommy Newport’s Movie Screen. We’re then off to exploring the new ‘nation specific thing no one else came up with and we’re so impressed’ fad, namely the Dutch niksen, which is basically doing nothing, so hell yes I’m on the bandwagon. The intensive desire to niksen come July may actually be caused by something known as the mid-year burnout– truth be said, I do dislike July, for complex reasons having to do with the feeling that half a year has gone by and you’ve accomplished fundamentally nothing, plus summer is almost over, days are getting shorter, and the sordid seasons of autumn and winter are just around the corner. Though these days the world generally feels like a bleak place, irrespective of the season, so why not read up on humans who are trying to do something right in spite of the many obstacles in their way, or others who seek to run away into beauty. (I wish I had the bravery of the first, but I see myself more in the second scenario).
In a sort of science section, an intriguing theory about possible extra-terrestrial origins of life, and an article about Seinfeld’s contribution to science (besides Seinfeld’s contribution to everything else ever). July also marked the last ever VW Beetle, and if this fact perhaps caused you to break out in a Munchian scream, you may be interested in the Finnish painter who had similarly dark vision of the world. Socialist housing estates around Paris were built along much brighter and more hopeful visions, and what good has come out of that, and finally, since this is turning into an especially upbeat edition, here’s a wonderful, if somewhat melancholy essay on what it feels like to lose your mother tongue.
To try and convince you that in July I did a wee bit more than niksen while watching men with perfectly smooth legs pedaling up the Alps, here’s your compulsory dose of bad phone photography plus some absolutely awesome places I spotted for the absolutely awesome Spotted by Locals.