November 27, 2022

Anna Mieke: Theatre review – the Irish singer-songwriter’s spellbinding follow-up

(Nettwerk)Mieke mines a rich seam of nostalgia and loss – and her extensive travels – on a dreamlike second albumIt’s often joked that hearing about other people’s dreams is boring. While the scattered poetics of Anna Mieke’s lyrics are indeed dreamlike, the mesmeric artistry of her second album, Theatre, means that Mieke’s images, her sense memories, start to feel like your own: from “trees evergreen blinking in the car lights” to “plastic flowers cast across the Tarmac”. In part, it’s the power of the words themselves (one imagines Mieke’s notebook crammed with scribbled gems). But it’s also the music: rippling Spanish guitar fingerpicking and swirling melodies; delicate piano notes and flickers of clarinet.Born in Wicklow, Ireland, Mieke spent part of her childhood in New Zealand, later moving to Bulgaria, Bangladesh, Switzerland and Spain, and her songs teem with motifs from her travels. Go Away from My Window is one highlight among many; a salty heartbreak ballad where her river-clear voice dips in and out of classical Indian phrasing. When memories are mined, there’s often a mixture of nostalgia and loss – we can never be fully back in the moment – and Mieke’s songs are coloured by this. “Nothing’s ever meant to stay the same,” she sings on Mannequin, a sigh rather than a lament. Continue reading...
November 27, 2022

Simon Callow: ‘I look forward to breakfast enormously, and sometimes dream of it’

Simon Callow on Bulgarian sheep’s yoghurt, the joy of cleaning and a spot of stillnessUp early? Always, at 5.45am. It’s a good time to catch up. Few people phone – email, text… I’m always behind.Breakfast? I’ve started every day the same for 10 years: an orange, a decent pause, then some Bulgarian sheep’s yoghurt, and oats. I look forward to it enormously, and sometimes dream of it. Continue reading...
November 22, 2022

‘An unforgettable rail journey’: my night on the Istanbul-Sofia Express

The overnight service from Turkey to Bulgaria started running again this year and was voted one of the world’s best journeys for 2023 by Lonely PlanetLast week Lonely Planet’s annual Best in Travel list included the Istanbul-Sofia Express as an essential journey for 2023.The overnight service restarted in April this year, after being suspended in early 2020. When introduced in 2017, it was a successor of older night-train services, including several incarnations using variants of the name Orient Express. I boarded one of the speedy suburban trains at Sirkeciin Istanbul’s Eminönü quarter, heading out of the city to Halkalı, an unassuming commuter station that’s now the starting point of this night train. Continue reading...
November 17, 2022

The Guardian view on a demographic paradox: the rebirth of pronatalism | Editorial

The global population reached 8 billion this week – but authoritarian governments are rolling back rights as they try to boost their populationsAs the world marks the birth of its eight billionth inhabitant this week – three times the total in 1950 – the paradox is that many governments are worrying about too few citizens, not too many. About 60% of the global population live in places where fertility rates have dropped below the replacement level of 2.1 births per woman, the point at which a country’s population would remain stable. In South Korea, which already had the world’s lowest rate, it fell to just 0.81 this year.By 2050, populations will be declining in more than half of European countries; in five – Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Serbia and Ukraine – they are projected to drop by more than 20%. China – soon to be overtaken by India as the most populous nation – saw a fifth consecutive fall last year to a new record low, with just 10.62 million births despite a population of 1.4 billion and a sustained push to persuade people to have more children. As experts warned when the party maintained its “one child” policy for more than three decades, it is easier to reduce births than increase them. Continue reading...
November 16, 2022

Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania are 'ready' to join the Schengen Area

The European Commission has urged member states to accept the three candidates in the passport-free area.
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