Wednesday, 21 January 2015
Of course the process wasn't entirely smooth - the English way of selling property seems designed to be as difficult and stressful as possible. Everyone in the process seems fine with being difficult and unreasonable. Again, I took control, and spent hours, days, weeks negotiating and managing the process. An offer had come in pretty quickly, and exchange took place the weekend before Christmas, with completion on 5th January.
That was truly a moment for reflection for everyone. I think The Boy had closed his mind to it...he was after all only 8 when he left there. I hope at some stage he will put time aside to reflect on how his life changed and how that has affected him and will affect him in the future. For his sister, who was a teenager at that time, there must have been many more memories, and I'm sure that her visit to empty the house of furniture must have been painful. Even for me the memories of the place are still very vivid. Some amazingly good, some truly awful. The moment of sale was one that managed to be both a happy one, and a very sad one. But it was the lifting of a burden, the closing of a door, and I think for everyone the opportunity to move onward. The grieving process was complete.
Thursday, 15 January 2015
Now where did we leave it?
Did I mention how well the New Year started? No? Well it didn't really...the house was burgled. Not too much taken (money, mobile phone, credit cards...not mine - The Cat's Mother's), but that's never the point. As it happens I'd left the day before to go and see The Boy in Austria, so The Cat's Mother was Home Alone, and left deeply unsettled particularly as the point of entry wasn't immediately obvious. Having had a look at it now, you can't help but be impressed with the ingenuity of how they got in, and wonder how much money they could be earning if they put that to good use.
Over in Austria, The Boy took me skiing every day which was nice. He managed to dine with me one evening, and I don't begrudge him spending the evenings with his ski buddies. For January it was incredibly warm...in fact it wouldn't have been a hardship to have been skiing in a T-shirt such was the temperature on the last day. I managed to drag him away and ensure he returned safely to Edinburgh, so another academic term has begun for him.
Of course whilst I was away, the terrible events in Paris unfolded. Ultimately whilst I feel very sorry for the people who died, I feel much more sorrow for their families who have to face the future with the terrible burden of knowing how, when and why their loved ones died. Their pain will never fade.
Sunday, 4 January 2015
Having totted up our list of 'stuff wot we dun', we realised that we'd missed a few...and that may suggest we do too much, but we can resist everything except temptation. In Brighton for the new year, we went to a performance of One Man Two Guvnors...we'd seen this twice before, but the Muffins hadn't. It was a treat for them and indeed for us as it still makes us laugh as much as it did the first time we saw it. New Year's Eve saw us at a concert of Viennese music by the Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra, which was a nod to our last new year spent in Austria...it was very civilised and absolutely delightful, although in an auditorium of several hundred, we did lower the average age by half! Fireworks were lit on the beach and we danced the New Year in...lovely.
January is always a busy month for films, and the first one we've seen is Birdman...which is an astounding and outstanding film about a fading actor who's determination to put on his own play is completely undermining his self-belief. It is comic, dramatic and sad in turns, and there's not a single actor that doesn't excel...its very quirky, you won't have seen anything like it before nor will you again...
I've got back on my cycle properly again...it came down with us to Brighton, so I was able to do two rides up to the Downs. I'd done one ride at the road track at the Olympic Velodrome before Christmas and another today...so the fitness levels are once more on the rise.
The Boy has been in Kitzbuhel again, teaching now that the snow has arrived. He's no doubt had a great time again, but communications are not what they could or should be as his phone is also not quite what it should be. Sigh. anyway, I am off to see him later this week for a few days
Also sigh...I've decided to get a new car. Very exciting. I've surprised myself by going for another Jeep...I've never bought the same car before, but I love the one I've got, and am only replacing it because I feel I should before it gets too old...it's a first world thing isn't it? Anyway, amazingly I have to wait almost nine months for it to arrive...they make them to order, and don't make them all the time. It will truly be my new baby.
* that's the alternative title for Birdman
Friday, 26 December 2014
So nearly at an end of another year. To paraphrase a phrase known to many..it was the best of years, it was the worst. Obviously the blog is not what it used to be...which saddens me..perhaps it had become just a habit, perhaps I've been otherwise focused...I'm not sure. Who know what 2015 will bring...
Anyway, it's often said that The Cat's Mother and I are always out and about, so it seemed fun to write down what we've been up to (mostly cultural)....what can I say...aren't we very, very, very lucky indeed:
Secret Life of Mitty - the only Ben Stiller film I've ever enjoyed. Great fun
Inside Llwellyn Davies - Brilliant. Especially if you understand about the cat
Who Framed Roger Rabbit - the original in a Secret Cinema event. Jessica Rabbit. Jessica Rabbit
The Book Thief - not liked by the critics...we did though
Grand Hotel Budapest - mad and brilliant
Millers Crossing - More Secret Cinema, more fun in the round
The Double - certainly appealed to me very much if not the rest of us who went to see it. Surreal
Calvary - vies with Inside Llwellyn Davies for my film of the year. Devastating
The Trip - yes we saw it at the cinema with a Q&A with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, as well as on TV; very well done...not as good as the first series
Rio2 - I didn't see this. I don't think I missed anything
20,000 Days - Nick Cave talks us through his life. Worth it to see Kylie driving along Brighton sea front. We celebrated The Cat's Mother's 20,000 birthday too this year
Box Trolls - great animated fun
Rush - motoring racing turned into a great film about James Hunt...The Boy and I loved it
Imitation Game - Benedict does what Benedict does very well. Surprisingly good, very British
Paddington - Brilliant. Really. Loved it
The Hermitage - a film guide to St Petersberg's most famous Museum. Strangely compelling and enjoyable
Emile and The Detectives - kids stuff; I snoozed through most of it. But it's very popular
The Duchess of Malfi - a Jacobean drama in a candlelit Jacobean theatre. What's not to like?
August Osage County - no, not the film, but The Cat's production in Exeter. We travelled through floods to get there, and would do again
Coriolanus - a phenomenal production at the Donmar; we watched it live stream
King Lear - I was in a minority not liking this, even if it had Simon Russel Beale in
Taste of Honey - 1950's England revisited...and very well done indeed
Life of Mozart - the great man's life revisited at the Wannamaker - well done, but not really my thing
Knights of the Burning Pestle - riotous fun. Unbelievably written five hundred years ago. Fab
Oh what a lovely war - great to see at the original theatre (Streatham Playhouse). Sadly it hasn't survived the passage of time
1984 - at the Almeida. The critics loved it; we thought it mediocre
Another Country - you can't keep a great play down. Very, very well done
Grimm Tales - immersive theatre in the Shoreditch Town Hall basement...what a wonderful thing this was
Ellen Terry - I didn't see this, so can't say one way or another
Sonnet walk - Shakespearean actors performing sonnets around the streets of London; sadly I missed this year's one, but loved it last year
Hamlet - at The Globe. Blood, guts, ghosts, Yorrick. Perhaps not the best
Testament of Mary - another one The Cat's Mother saw and I didn't. Sad to have missed it
Billy Eliot - amazingly I hadn't seen it before. Glad to have ticked the list, but it's lost the sparkle
Onorous - classical Greek story in rhythmic pidgin English. Much, much more enjoyable than we expected. A highlight
Benvenuto Cellini - at the ENO. Some spectacular moments, just not enough of them
Cabaret - one seen by The Cat's Mother in New York...if it was as good as the version we saw last year, it was brilliant
Titus Andronicus...more blood and guts than you can imagine in my favourite piece of Shakespeare
Norman Conquests - the Cat's second outing, this time in Camden; one play three different perspectives...a triumph
Medea - the critics raved, the audience raved, I quite liked it
Annie Get Your Gun...went to prove that Jason Donnovan could sing and act. We were wrong
Shakespeare in Love...everyone else had seen the film, this was my first introduction and I loved it...but didn't enjoy the film as much when I watched it on DVD afterwards
The Boy Who Climbed Out of His Face - an immersive experience in shipping containers. Not surprisingly the household was split. I had a fab night.
39 Steps...I was taking The Boy to Edinburgh, so good job I'd seen this and enjoyed it before
Once - oh yes. Surprised I loved this
Streetcar Named Desire - a towering piece of theatre, although not quite as I remembered it from O Levels
Bally Turk...lots of shouting and a programme that said you didn't need to understand it to enjoy it. I did enjoy it, not sure I enjoyed it
'Tis pity she's a whore - more Jacobean theatre involving incest and death. Great performance
Alice in Wonderland - The Royal Ballet performing one of the greatest productions. Second time we've seen it, and there's still nothing better at the RoH
Charles III - we'd both wanted to see this for ages, so it was a shame some of this was risible, some of it was obvious and we should have left at half time
Monty Python - most of the old team, still making everyone laugh, although a bit more slowly and nothing that's cutting edge (not surprisingly)
Easystar All Stars - everything I was hoping for from the 25th Anniversary show of reggae Dark Side of the Moon
Rufus Wainright - I'm not a fan, but I strongly suggest you search YouTube for the clip of him singing Somewhere Over The Rainbow. Sensational
Mari Wilson - a small intimate venue, Crazy Coqs, was ideal for this lovely evening
Black Rivers - Two-thirds of Doves. I so wanted to like this, but in truth it wasn't as good as it should have been...back to the rehearsal studio please
Temper Trap - in my eyes they can do nothing wrong. We didn't agree about that
Bastille - actually we preferred the support and bought her CD. Again I had a bug so was not having a great time really
James and Starsailor - a concert that truly restored my faith in concerts. James were phenomenal....the best concert I've been to for years from a band that I hardly knew. They understood how to entertain and delivered with aplomb
John Richardson - he was very funny indeed. And I don't like stand up comedy!
Julian Clary - music or comedy...well both really at the Crazy Coqs again. Another highlight
Henry Moore - just up the road from us is Henry Moore's old home estate, and we headed there because there was an exhibition on contemporary artists - I needed some pictures for my photo course and got them.
History of Germany - at the British Museum. Fantastic, truly fantastic...so much to see and learn. Loved it
The art of the brick. Love Lego. But it's not art. No matter how many times the artist told us it is
Ansel Keifer - an exhibition that I was dragged along to kicking and screaming, but left feeling that I'd had a perfect couple of hours
Turner at The Tate - you've seen one, you've seen them all...well not quite, but perhaps I have no culture
Palace to palace cycle ride - a lovely day out with good friends...an early start, stags in Richmond Park and beautiful scenery along the Thames
Drumming at Lewes Bonfire celebrations...five miles banging on a drum fairly rhythmically surrounded by burning barrels, flaming torches and loud bangers. For me the achievement of a long-held ambition. So pleased to have done it
Sandringham on the Orient Express...another of The Cat's Mother's day trips. A carriage of Essex girls on a posh train. Would have loved to have been a fly on the wall
Ghostbus - a spooky tour of London that scared the living daylights out of Muffin minor...I should have gone on to a 100km cycle ride, but a bug that would subsequently last for 2 months kept me low
Tower of London Poppies - I planted, I picked, and we visited. A remarkable and remarkably moving event
Sacred Monsters - Akram Khan and Sylvie Guillem giving a phenomenal performance at Sadlers Wells
Two book readings/discussions...one with the irascible Lynn Barber and the other with the talented Tony Parsons
I might also include my weekend of bobsleighing with Team GB
And I might even include getting a diploma in Photography
Charity run round the Olympic Park counts for something too
There are a few things just plain forgotten...but can you blame me?
Wednesday, 10 December 2014
Anyway, back to those yellow people. My brother has been in and out of hospital a bit too often for my liking (and to be honest his too probably). Firstly a day trip to Papworth to sort out continuing heart issues...another stent seems to have sorted that out. But at the same time they substantially upped his medication. So no wonder when he was in writhing agony a couple of days later, and rushed to Addenbrooks, the probable diagnosis was liver failure due to an overdose of prescription drugs. He was popped into the ward where everyone with liver problems are being treated...and therefore, of course, they're all yellow. It's an odd sight. As it turns out, it was 'simply' his appendix. Which he now doesn't have. It's a real relief that it was nothing worse...especially for him, but truth be told the stress isn't too good for his mother or brother either.
Friday, 5 December 2014
A couple of weeks ago I posted a heavily ironic piece called Bloody Immigrants. I thought it was witty, amusing and clever. Just like me. I am sure you agree. Anyway, a strange thing happened a couple of days later. UKIP started following me...digitally, not as in stalking me. Clearly their social media manager cannot read beyond a headline.
So I take from that I can say pretty much anything I like about the pig-ignorant right-wing thinking and racism that permeates that organisation so long as I say it in para 2 or beyond. As it happens, I know someone who used to work with Nigel Farrage in the City, making his fortune by exploiting the weak and poor. He has regaled me with stories of Nigel's drinking habits. Some might call it a drinking problem. I don't know if he still drinks himself silly on a regular basis, but I can think of at least one other politician who had a drink problem. That was George Bush. Look where he took us.
Anyway, I wish we'd taken on the Polish builders who bid for the work at our house. The English one we took on has demonstrated that he cannot organise himself out of a paper bag, but has an endless capacity for bullshit. Two months into the project, and we're a month behind a very detailed schedule. Given that it's a six month project it looks like it will in fact be a nine month build.
Wednesday, 3 December 2014
Friday, 21 November 2014
So what else?
I went to an exhibition by a photographer who essentially takes pictures of the sea at night with an exposure time of 3 - 4 hours. They are very good indeed. What does he do in the meantime? Essentially he sits there contemplating life, the universe and 42. He invited me to join him. I've neither declined nor accepted.
Our annual Old Boys Dinner. Oddly, I then bumped into one of my table companions two days later on the tube, having never met him outside the school environment in the last 36 years. Even more odd, was then bumping into another table companion, having also never met him outside the school gates. Interesting how these things work isn't it?
Bonfire night was very special for me. For many years I've attended the crush of Lewes where the traditions of parades through the high street have not changed for the last several hundred years...it's a dangerous experience indeed. 80, 000 people pack into the town, to be pushed and shoved inches from flaming torches, burning barrels and 20' effigies loaded with fireworks. This year I managed to be part of the procession due to the participation of the Pandemonium Drummers...they're the folk who drummed at the Olympic Opening Ceremony, and invited me along. I've never it a drum before in my life, and I had to do it for a five mile march, in costume trying to match everyone's rhythm. For me, it was stupendous..an experience that will stay with me for many many years.
We saw a very, very funny Julian Clary at the Crazy Coqs - which is the most intimate venue imaginable, all art deco and reminiscent of something from the 1930's. Think Berlin Burlesque cabaret and you're not far off. He spoke his way through a number of songs in a Rex Harrison style, and we were captivated by his humour. I'd say more, but it's hard to describe.
On Halloween I was supposed to do one of my 100km night rides, but a bug has got me, and even now, a month later I can't shake it off. I refuse to give in, but it's quite wearing really! Instead we went with the Muffins of a Ghost Bus Tour's (say it our loud and you'll get it) trip round London town. With a commentary from a haunted conductor and interrupted by a devilish inspector, this was a great way to see some of London's grisly sights and here about the gorier side of the city's history...even if it did reduce the smallest Muffin, who has a very vivid imagination, to a quivering tearful wreck...
A cultural evening to the Wannamaker Jacobean theatre to see 'Tis a pity she's a whore. So lots of incest and anti-catholicism and it's good to be reminded that all the world's problems are the fault of women. The Wannamaker is such a fabulous place it's hard to imagine that anything put on there could be bad...and the experience of seeing candle-lit performance is quite magical, and like nothing you have seen before.
We also went to the cinema to see a premiere...a film about the Hermitage. It was fascinating...there are 2000 exhibit rooms, and when we visited I guess we didn't see more than 20. An interesting experience getting a tour round like this, and the film makers did well to make it interesting. We learnt that Sir Robert Walpole sold off many British pictures to the Russians...Catherine the Great really did have so much money she just didn't know what to do with it, but many then got sold to the Americans after WW2 when Russia was short of cash. In the meantime, many additional pictures had been freed from the Germans at the end of the war as part of the Russian quest to give art the hme it deserved...and there's no chance of it ever going back..
Not quite up to date, but enough for now
Tuesday, 11 November 2014
I'm disappointed, but not surprised that the Political Pygmies (apologies to any pygmies reading this) have been playing their games at the Tower of London. What should be just a fleeting memorial to the casualties of the Great War, has been seized on by politicians of all colours to gain an extra point in the popularity polls. The poppies took several months to install, and will take several weeks to dismantle (my turn for picking is this weekend, after planting back in August), so there was never any question that they would magically disappear over night. Sometimes. No not sometimes, usually, politicians make me want to wretch.
The title of this post is rather a poor joke reflecting that today is Remembrance Day, and actually refers to our current distraction. We are having building work done. It started in October and will continue until April, at least. They've done the demolition, and if drilling piles down ten metres can be considered progress, we are already into the construction phase. But the back garden does still resemble the Somme.
Tuesday, 28 October 2014
I wonder if any of my Facebook friends have noticed that I've stopped clicking the 'like' button...I will comment on posts, or share, but not click like. I saw somebody had suggested as a way of 'transforming my Facebook experience'. I wouldn't say it's done that, but it does make me think a little bit more about what people are posting and why..so I'd say I get more out of it than I used to.
If you're wondering, and there's no reason you should be, I'm currently running about a fortnight, nearly three weeks in fact in fact make that four weeks), behind with my blog posting...so a bit like looking at a nebula, all the action happened a little while ago.
It was my brother's birthday in early October, and we always meet up for dinner. There's one thing he always is. Prompt. To the second. He's never late. So it was of some concern that we were sat in the restaurant for quite a while without him and his other half. Eventually I texted, and a few moments later they walked in. I'd say a little sheepishly; they'd deny it. As it happens the reason they were late was because they'd been in the car park. Not just sitting there. They'd bought a new campervan...practically on the way to see us, so were excitedly exploring their new purchase. No doubt they'll have many happy weeks exploring the English countryside...but hopefully not at the moment as we're currently enjoying the tail end of a hurricane the Atlantic has sent us.
The next day we jetted off to Cyprus for a few days to see Grandma and Grandpa. It's a trip we've been promising for months, but it has proved difficult to juggle all our commitments...if only they lived just down the road we could drop in for a cup of tea and piece of cake every week. A five-hour flight, and the clock being two hours ahead mean that flying out there effectively you lose a day. So we left comfortably in the morning and arrived in time for a late dinner. A few days in Cyprus is lovely...enough to get some sunshine and a bit of relaxation and to catch up on how life is for Grandma and Grandpa in Cyprus. My brother followed us a week afterwards...and even sent back a photo of the local launderette for the launderette blog
Friday, 24 October 2014
Anyway, here's a picture that's currently being used by the Tirolean Tourist Board to promote the region. The skier on the right is McFred. What a fine lad...and how adventurous of him to have got a job in Austria last year, found somewhere to live whilst he romanced the local girls and enjoyed the local cuisine.
Tuesday, 21 October 2014
We had a somewhat eclectic weekend the one before last.
Friday night was high culture with a performance at the National of Ballyturk. I hadn't been paying too much attention so had assumed it was a dance piece called Ballet Turkish. We were four rows from the front which is normally good, but in this case it was a bit of a shame. I have developed this incurable habit of dropping off during Act 1 of anything, and this was a one act play. I'm sure it's the perfect actors play, and the parts were played very well, especially Stephen Rea who we last saw on TV in the Honourable Woman. But, but, but you know it's emperors new clothes when even the programme says you don't need to understand it to enjoy it. Essentially from start to finish it was two men screaming at each other. That was the performance. Two of us 'got it'...it was inside a traumatised child's head. You may enjoy it, and I wanted to but no.
Saturday evening was spent in the company of John Richardson who is a very funny man indeed. I'm not a great one for stand up comedy, but he pulled it off very well and it was a very enjoyable evening thanks to my friend Graeme and his girlfriend Vetty. They enjoyed themselves too, but the evening ended badly for them when they returned to their parked car to find they had a flat tyre...and no spare. We'd already left so didn't find out until later when we were cursing the rubbish Tube service. We got home about 11.30, they finally arrived home at 2.30, short of £200.
That was unfortunate for Graeme, as the next day he was taking part in a 45 mile cycle from Palace (Buckingham) to Palace (Windsor) (Yes, I know it's a castle...don't split hairs.
I arrived nice and early at the start line clad in lycra...the penalty of being sponsored by a corporate. Still I was able to take this view from Waterloo Bridge. Glorious eh?
We all set off for a very, very pleasant ride through the south of and west of London...the absolute highlight for me was to see the stags in Richmond Park which were absolutely magnificent...I wish I could have got pictures. Here are our team:
I was lucky enough to be caught by one of the professional photographers