Tuesday, 22 July 2014

This may prove a challenge...(2)

...so still trying to catch up, and even when I do I still won't have got round to Gaza and the Ukraine...and I'm still not managing to read half the blogs I like very much...

...anyway what else have we been up to?  That's rhetorical, obviously, but helps remind me that I need to get these things so that I can look back in years to come and remember the good times...

...away from the music we have been to see:

Titus Andronicus at The Globe.  One of my favourite Shakespeare plays, and one of the goriest.  Evidently there are 'feinters' in every performance...yes it's grim, but surely it shouldn't make you keel over? It was fabulous.  I know that many people don't really take to Shakespeare, having been scarred at school, but I genuinely believe that if people gave it a second chance they'd be surprised at how enjoyable it really is; it would help if schools took kids to see performances too rather than make them cram for GCSEs with dry texts in the classroom.

The Cutty Sark in Greenwich.  Yes, the fine old tea clipper that Prince Phillip tried to incinerate by tossing one of his fags into the partially-restored hull some years back (allegedly).  I have memories from my childhood of visiting the Cutty Sark and finding it a 'bit boring'.  But the techniques they have these days for making the whole exhibition fun and interactive mean that we spent a very pleasant couple of hours there on my birthday.

The Mad Hatters Tea Party at the Sanderson Hotel....a special treat for The Cat's Mother.  I was counting how many days old she is and realised that in day terms she had a very special one in June, so I treated her. It's a lovely twist with far far too many sandwiches and cakes....

An evening of Jacobean Music at the Wannamaker (that's the indoor theatre at The Globe).  Which was OK, but not really my cup of tea, but you can't help but admire the skill of the musicians...

A day at the races...I'd not been to Ascot before, so delighted to get an invitation (The Cat's Mother was away in New York for a few days).  I travelled down and back on the most crowded trains I've ever been on...and I was in first class ( a small extravagance allowed because it cost just £19).  We had a terrific day drinking Pimms and betting on the horses.  I won £126 on the first race which set me up for the rEst of the day! Nobody had mentioned all the communal singing that goes on at the end after the Queen has escaped...every fine British song you can imagine... lovely, lovely day.  And I took some pictures

I had my annual trip to Parliament.  There is a reception held by the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign for supporters, and I turn up every year feeling a bit of a fraud.  I give my money, I lend my support on social media, but do little else.  Given what's happening in Gaza at the moment, that's not really enough.

And then there was the Tour de France.  I'd volunteered, had been to a familiarisation session and a training session and then the day itself.  Essentially I stood in the road telling spectators to stand behind the white line, apart from when it was safe to let them cross.  I spent all day waiting to say, "It's more than my jobsworth to let you cross now, luv"  But it didn't happen.  It was a marvelous party atmosphere all day long, large crowds and the cyclists whizzed past in a matter of moments.  They were close enough that I thought I was going to lose my nose.  I looked lovely in my green uniform.  Very special.

Last week we went to see Monty Python.  We hadn't planned to, but the Muffins bought us tickets.  They were very good...in fact everything you would want...all the old favourites plus a few more with a contemporary twist.  What's not to like?  Can't believe they told us to Piss Off at the end

And finally (apart from the things I've forgotten) we went to see Medea at The National.  Yes a fine old Greek tragedy by Euripides.  I'm not sure that these things translate to a modern stage, and with modern expectations, but it was well produced and directed and some terrific performances on the stage.  But I'm still not sure that killing your children is the best way to get back at your ex-husband who has run off with a new woman.....

....oh yes and the night bike ride to Brighton...more of which soon (it's not that exciting...)

Thursday, 17 July 2014

This may prove a challenge...

A lot has happened over the last few weeks, and it was an unfortunate coincidence that it was just after I'd been given hell for one of my posts..so I've not been much inclined to visit the blogosphere...although if you're a Facebook friend (and if you read RTFM it would be great to get to know you on Facebook if I don't already), you will know some of the recent highlights already.

So the big change that's happened has been that I decided some months ago to rent my office out and work from a mixture of home, clients' offices and also from a desk in an office shared with some journalist friends. Now really and truly, this is a very good thing - the office was an expensive luxury, and it is now a 'profit centre', and I had always planned to do it at precisely this age.  On paper I'm happy about it.  But there is a lingering feeling that this marks a new path that I'm not so happy about.  I can't quite put my finger on it, but I can't help saying "I've given the office up".  I shouldn't be thinking of it like that because it is good news, but I can't help it.  It may have been the particular circumstances including the final 'tenants' in the office turning particularly nasty before they gave their (six month) notice and then having to live with that.  The final straw came when they refused to return the office keys, potentially meaning all the locks in the building would need to be changed.  I solved that one by suggesting that it was theft and I was just on my way to the police station.  The keys were back within an hour.  Yes, they were the awkward squad big time.  The whole process of reletting became fraught too as my solicitors and the new tenants solicitors were beyond useless. A draft lease that took three months to create (even though one existed already because my company sublet it to me) then had substantial amendments on every single of its 45 pages.  The tenants themselves were fine, and we managed to resolve every issue in a 3 hour face to face meeting...only to find it still took the solicitors another two months to put it to bed.  My solicitor failed to incorporate one of the important clauses, and even on the day of completion, there was an enormous fight about whether the bank account number for their deposit should/should not be included as part of the lease.  I had to tell my solicitor and their solicitor to stop being complete arses.  Literally.  Solicitors are the most ridiculous people in the world, they think in the most bizarre, unhelpful ways and really I can't help but feel we'd all be better off without them.  Enough said, as I type this in my 'home office' which has a view across Essex in one direction and down to Canary Wharf in the other.  On the up side, I find myself getting up at my normal time, doing some work before breakfast...which is making me more productive than I was before.  Hurrah.  Change can be difficult even if it is change for the best.

So for the record what have we been doing - musically?

Music wise we've seen:

The Eagles - absolutely fabulous...a perfect performance with all their best songs sounding great.  One black mark was he stupid 'corporate' announcements telling us not to take pictures and videos.  Really?  What century do they live in?  I don't have any pictures to show you.

Mari Wilson - do you remember Mari Wilson?  Fabulous songstress with a great beehive hairdo.  This was at a very small, intimate venue just of Regents Street.  We went with a couple of friends and managed to embarrass ourselves by ordering enough food to feed the multitudes.  Apart from that, she was absolutely brilliant.  Really cool, laid back and friendly and absolutely still a fantastic voice.  She signed copies of her latest CD and even agreed to a picture with me

It was exactly ten years ago that I took The Boy (he who is still at the top of an Austrian mountain!) to his first gig - Turin Brakes at Somerset House.  The evening was fabulous, and I was so delighted when some years later Auntie Gwen invited us up to the frozen north to see them, and her beautiful daughter's wonderful boyfriend went behind stage to get us their autographs.  On the anniversary, The Cat's Mother and I went to see Bastille, a popular contemporary beat combo....they were very good, and inspite of The Cats Mother being as nearly crippled as crippled can be by her back, we bopped along.  Better still was the support band Kyla La Grange who sang wonderfully, and danced in a see through plastic mac.  We bought the album

Some years ago I bought Robbie Williams tickets, and then gave them away because the concert was on the same night as Parents Evening.  I got a bottle of whisky in return.  This time I bought Robbie tickets so far in advance and then forgot about them and signed up for a night cycle ride.  A sponsored night cycle ride.  When I realised my mistake, I was all ready to give the tickets away, but then realised the concert finished at 10.30, the ride started at midnight.  I could do both.  So Robbie did a bit of swinging both ways in his 'saucy seaside postcard' sort of way, entertained us immensely for a couple hours, leaving us feeling we'd had a great evening, and both thinking it was money more than well spent.  We then parted company, with The Cat's Mother heading back to Epping Forest and me heading to Tower Bridge.  From there, me and three thousand of my closest friends cycled the 110km to Brighton, leaving at half-past midnight and arriving at 6.00am.  But that's a whole other story I'll write another time....

Saturday, 5 July 2014

River deep, mountain high

Grandma in Cyprus is well again.  Hurrah.  The right drugs prescribed privately have done the trick.  A bit of rest will do her the power of good and all will be well with the world again.

Last week The Boy, who returned to Austria for his summer (did I mention that?) climbed with two friends Austria's highest mountain.  Given that there are a fair few mountains in Austria, I assume this is quite an achievement.  I am of course the very proud and delighted father.  That's the father who is even more pleased that he made it down in one piece as well.  As with all things The Boy gets involved in, he does nothing by half measure, so he's taken to his new hobby of mountaineering with an absolute passion, bordering on an obsession...it's a fine balance.  Anyway, I'm pleased that he gets excited and interested in the things he does...he will get more out of them and indeed more out of life.

The next morning he and his two climbing companions were just about to sit down for breakfast when one of them said that his head felt a bit strange.  The next thing anyone knew, he came crashing to the ground, smashing his head on the table and having a fit, thrashing around the kitchen floor.  The Boy and his friend protected him from any further hard surfaces, and called the emergency services.  An ambulance arrived, and the lad was taken to the air ambulance where he was whisked off to hospital.  Within two or three days, he was largely recovered...probably an epileptic fit.

So a number of thoughts.

We're all relieved he is OK
The lad wanted to be a mountain guide..I don't know, but the chances of that must be severely diminished
How quickly your life can change..fit as a fiddle one moment...and then...
By all accounts The Boy snapped into 'leadership mode' and did everything he should...how much he and indeed I value all that training his done
It must have been horrific for The Boy...this is one of those things that he'll never forget and I'm sure that mentally it aged him
How fortune it didn't happen up the mountain...the outcome could have been quite different
...and a million more

Monday, 16 June 2014

Get Over It

One of these Nights (tonight in fact) we’re going to Take It To The Limit, in fact by 6 o'clock we’ll be Already Gone. I’m traveling by boat, so I won’t be living Life In The Fast Lane but the River should give me a Peaceful Easy Feeling. I’ll be there with my Witchy Woman who says she’ll be on time…I suspect her Lying Eyes. There’ll be lots of people there, but I’ll feel like a New Kid In Town, but then I am a bit of a Desperado. Expect it’ll be One of Those Nights and not Wasted Time, as that’ll cause me Heartache Tonight, but I guess in the Long Run I’d Get Over It. Hopefully it won’t be too late when it finishes but if it does we’ll have to check in at the Hotel California, In The City and in the morning see the Tequila Sunrise.

Saturday, 14 June 2014


Up and down our road the last couple of years has seen competitive house building such that medium size houses have become big, big houses have become enormous and enormous houses have become vast.  You can't help but feel that when empty nesters start building basement swimming pools - with the garden carved out so that a panoramic window can be incorporated - and orangeries, it's a case of too much money and people not knowing what to spend it on.  My guess is that these are houses, not homes.

Like two ships not quite passing in the night, The Cat arrived home on Thursday, and The Boy departed on Wednesday.  She texted me "On M5, ETA 15.10. HOMEWARD BOUND".  The Boy put a message on Facebook when he got back to Kitzbuhel, "Good to be home".  Both caused a bit of a ripple.  The Cat has absolutely loved her first year at Exeter.  So much so that I had assumed it had become a second home to her.  But perhaps not..what I had forgotten is that The Cat is a girl who loves her home and family more than anything...so I shouldn't be surprised she was very happy to be returning.  Perhaps Exeter is somewhere that she enjoys, but sees no lasting bond...let's see over the next couple of years.

The Boy has had an amazing few months...he took himself off without the certainty of a job, or somewhere to live, but very quickly found his feet...a job he loves, a settled place to live and some great comrades...people with a similar outlook on life.  Kitzbuhel itself is beautiful...the town, the scenery and the people themselves are lovely.  No wonder he feels at home there.  It's his place...he has found a degree of peace there...after all it can't be doubted that his childhood was quite a disjointed one..his parents divorcing, then his mother dying, and his father not in a steady relationship until he met The Cat's Mother...even his home life was divided between Brighton and London.  More than that, I understand how he feels...I enjoyed some time between school and uni up the mountains, albeit just working in a hotel, rather than gaining a qualification...but I too found a peace and serenity that meant that when I returned, with The Boy in tow, a few years ago, I was moved to tears.  Hopefully, he will also find that when he travels up to Scotland he will discover that Edinburgh can be a true home for him.

For myself, I always think of having two homes...I cannot deny that Brighton is for me the place where I feel I belong...I've had the same flat for the last 25 years, and everytime I visit, I feel I'm coming home...I love the smell of the sea, the sound of the waves crashing and the seagulls calling...I like the slower pace of life and the sense that beyond the horizon when I look out to see is a world of possibilities and adventure.  My other home is not so much Epping Forest...its OK, but I don't much care for Loughton, or the people there (friends excepted of course!), or the tawdry high street full of chain restaurants...but it is where The Cat's Mother is, and that is most important to me...proving that home is not always a house...it's where your heart is.

Monday, 9 June 2014

"Don't forget to find out where the gay cruising car park is"

Last week was a quiet week, and this one is too...it may be that because The Boy is home, we feel the need to be there too.  Although whether he feels the same way I don't know...after all what teenager wants scabby parents hanging around when he could be putting his feet up on the sofa, taking his socks off and hiding them underneath?  He has spent the time mostly going bouldering...its climbing over large rocks to you and me. Like all his interests, he's taken it up with a passion...and has bought the kit to go with it.  I'm glad he's enjoying it, but of course mountaineering is a (nother) dangerous sport, so my life will be spent worrying about any mishaps.  Who on earth would have children????

Anyway, here's a nice picture of The Boy and The Cat's Mother

He's sorted his Uni accomodation.  Tick.  He's applied for his loan. Tick.  I've sent the supporting information. Tick.  He's all ready for freshers week at the beginning of September.  Tick.  All we will have to do is work out how to get him and all his stuff up there.  It's a long drive, and love the Jeep as I do, I don't really fancy several hundred miles on motorway in it.    He is back for another week, which will be precious moments, before returning to Kitzbuhel, where I think he's lined up work in a hotel, in a bar, in a shop and in a cinema.  That strikes me as very resourceful...but then I guess he's needed to be over the winter season, so why should it stop now?  I'm glad he loves it and am happy he's enjoying himself.

I read that Google is developing driverless cars.  From a safety perspective, I can see that these make perfect sense.  I like that idea.  But driving is not now, and nor has it ever been just about getting from point A to point B safely and securely.  Driving is an experience, and in the right circumstances exciting.  I like to drive, because even in the cosseted environment of a modern car (actually mine's a Jeep so it's hardly modern) it's quite fun.  Even when you're stuck in traffic on the M25, there's something about sitting in the driving seat that's rewarding.  It's an experience, and generally an enjoyable one.  If it wasn't we'd all be on buses and trains...an extended version of the driverless car, just without the privacy and door-to-doorness that we like.  What I would hate to see is the roads taken over by driverless vehicles, and anyone who wants a thrill from motoring to be forced to go on track weekends...somehow I feel our lives will be less rewarding if that joy is taken out of our day to day journeys.  I was pondering the other day about how humankind has a remarkable ability to force itself to do things in a 'specilaised' way...take exercise for example...once we used to walk everywhere, giving us a bit of exercise and improving our health at the same time.  Now though we are driving to the local corner shop, and then in order to keep fit we pay £50/month to go down the gym. Madness.  Utter madness.

Yep, those were my parting words to The Cat's Mother this morning.  Not quite the usual "Have a nice day dear".  It's not so much that I want to go cruising you understand...I'm quite happy with my home comforts. But last week we were told where we are meeting on the morning of The Tour de France.  It gave an address and a location.  If you just put the postcode into Google, it came up with somewhere that was about 5 miles away from the route....it seemed wrong.  So I put in the address - yes it is a car park - but when you Google it, the first web site that comes up is one that helps people find erm, er a bit if short-term romance and somewhere you can practice dogging (I think this has nothing to do with canines).  A friend mentioned she knew where it was...we haven't yet questioned her why...so The Cat's Mother is going to double check. On the day, I shall try to arrive not too early....

Tuesday, 3 June 2014


I'm becoming quite absent minded at the moment...probably because I'm waking up every morning feeling as though I haven't slept for a month...all most peculiar.

I forgot to mention that I dragged The Cat's Mother underground on Bank Holiday Monday.  They opened up Brunel's Tunnel (ooh nurse!) for the first time in ages and we were given a guided tour alongside a lot of other trainspotters (actually they all looked young and trendy, so maybe it's the thing to do.  The tunnel was renovated some years ago and is now used for the London Overground (yep it's the underground, overground which makes me want to sing the Wombles song).  They'd stopped the trains so they could do some maintenance work, giving us the chance to walk under the Thames on the rail tracks.  There's not a lot of the original to be seen as modern standard mean it's pretty much encased in concrete...but there were a few gems, and it was kind of fun to step off a platform and on to the tracks.  I did listen intently to the guide, but it didn't stay with me long.  Brunel evidently nearly died when he was swept away by a flood, and its the first train tunnel under a river in the world..when it opened nearly a million people came to see it, and walk through it, and be entertained by all sorts including ladies of the night.  There's been concerts, banquets and balls...and they started construction before there was enough money to finish it.  Above is Brunel's Museum...do pop along

Anyway, this last one shows what is probably a gas tank...but no one is sure, so they've just left it there rather than disturb it.  The photo's a bit confusing because I took it with a fisheye...but the tank is vertical, about 7 foot tall

Slightly frustratingly, having walked across, we then had to walk back to where we started, although we were going to a restaurant on the other side...and without the train to take us it was a long round trip in the rain..fortunately we were compensated by the sight of what I think is the Queen's Barge

Thursday, 29 May 2014


I've been meaning to mention that The Boy returned a week ago.  I should have mentioned it before, but he arrived with enough washing to keep the washing machine going for a week.  Without a break.  That's quite a lot of smelly pants and socks...and all the rest.

He and his friend had driven the 800 miles from Austria to Essex in one day.  They arrived in a zombie-like state at midnight.  I don't know how they did it.  I was delighted to see them, but in truth they couldn't really string a sentence together.  They declined all offers of food and drink until I'd given up and gone to bed.  At which point they sat in the garden for half an hour drinking a glass of whisky before they too headed for bed.

Of course it's brilliant to see The Boy again, and I've loved seeing him at home...but there's been little time to relax.  We had to sort out his student loan, plus organise the application for accommodation for Edinburgh University.  He spent some of the week doing his new found love - climbing...there's a new 'boulder' park for him to practice his skills.  Edinburgh strikes me as just the place to be for his enjoyment of outdoor pursuits.

He's now headed off to Newquay for a week with some more ski friends...they are a great little community together; no wonder he has enjoyed himself so much.  Hopefully he'll be back at the weekend and able to relax a little.  I think he's back to Kitzbuhel for the summer a week or two later, but getting a firm fix on that is a challenge that I'm not up to...

We had a couple of days in Brighton...braving the traffic on Friday evening.  The journey took a frustrating three hours, but I guess that's inevitable, even when the weather was promising so little.  As the Open House month was coming to an end, we had a couple of pieces to pick up and find new homes for in the flat.  We managed to defeat the invading fruit flies by taking the pot they were appearing from outside, emptying the soil and washing as much as we could before repotting the plant.

As part of the Festival, we went to listen to a couple of talks.  Lynn Barber, the celebrity interviewer was talking about her new book.  She seemed very pleasent, her talk meandered around without revealing any great insights, and I came away being none the wiser about what makes it a worthwhile profession.  Or why a celebrity culture is either good or bad.  I did learn that she very much dislikes PR people, so I was tempted to ask her whether there was a PR involved in setting this up and promoting her book, but then I realised that might embarrass The Cat's Mother so I stayed stum.  Having described her interviews as 'like one-night stands' it seemed a shame that she seemed to lack a sense of humour when one of the audience then asked if she had ever wanted a one night stand with one of here interviewees, snapping back that she was married.  We didn't buy the book.

Tony Parsons (no that was Nick Hornsby who was played by Hugh Grant) was a different kettle of fish.  We hadn't been sure we'd recognised him in the bar before hand because he has a bit of a bald patch and we thought he was still youthful...as it turns out he's 61...but still looking (apart from the hair issue) fit and young.  Of course he's cocky, but actually very engaging indeed.  I'd gone there ready to dislike the man, but found him fascinating.  Clear and forthright in his views, he had the confidence that has come through having had success and talent since a very young age.  His new novel, now no1 in the Sunday Times best sellers list, is a piece of crime fiction that has been very well received indeed.  Of course most people sat there open mouthed at some of his tales...meeting Debbie Harry in his office and taking drugs 60 seconds later, being advised by Keith Richards that he needed to stay healthy when on tour with the band, so drink plenty of orange juice with all that vodka.  Was it Keith Richards?  I'm not sure, there was just one escapade after another recounted.  Anyway, back to the book.  We liked the talk, we bought the book.

To round off the weekend, we visited The Regency House.  A Regency House that is slowly but surely being restored and turned into a Museum.  Beautiful, utterly beautiful. Although there's a long way to go.  It was being used as an art space reflecting on immigration in the local area.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Changing order

I had a nice little e-mail from Jason D asking me to promote his blog here.  Anyway, he's an expectant Dad (his words), and as The Boy seems to have turned into a Man, it struck me as a good time to pass over the baton of 'Daddy Blogging' to Jason.  He's only just started so I expect he could do with some support.  My only words of wisdom to him are "it's over before you realise it'.  So good luck to him. And his partner. And their forthcoming baby…

The cleaner hadn't been coming in to the office for the last few weeks since the people who rent desks from me moved out.  I called and texted but nothing until I got this which I am still trying to translate

"Hi I am not doing the cleaning last day 19/04 I was doing and were moving so much for clearing on 19/05 and returned on 29/05 before I spent most my number and told me he'd call me to spend the new address and am waiting until now.  Was the high lord of the front of his desk, most if not changed I'd still the cleaning if you like I will this weekend sorry for the bad"

There is a certain order in life that should not be disturbed.  At meals times first the meat and two veg, then the pudding, getting dressed its put on pants before trousers, in finance its earn some money before you spend it and for old male entertainers its ask before you touch.  One of the other orders that guides my life is watch the film at the cinema before you see it on TV.  Its a good rule that's kept me out of mischief most of my life.  But this week things were turned on their heads a little.

We were great fans of The Trip the series that followed Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as they ate their way round the Lake District in the finest restaurants.  At the time there was a lot of confusion as to what was 'real' and what was 'entertainment'.  The PR worked well for them, and the show got great reviews.  I'd recommend the DVD if you have a few spare quids.  This year, they repeated the exercise by driving round Italy in a soft top Mini.  It was still good…very good indeed…but obviously didn't have the originality of the original (!) and felt a bit more scripted.  What we hadn't realised is that whilst we in the UK saw it as a six part series, the rest of the world saw it as a two-hour film.  We went to see that this week, with the promise of a Q&A with Brydon and Coogan to follow.  The film version was better than the TV series…not just because it was more focused, but because it had a different balance and a more rounded approach to its humour.  I suspect that unless you went on the same day as us you will have missed it…it was one of those live broadcasts to 180 cinemas around the country.  If you did, buy the DVD…as for the Q&A I suspect it was a mistake.  The question master was up to Parkinson standards,  and his questions were at best week, tweeted in questions were banal and the ones from the audience were not up to much either…the dynamic duo clearly wanted to make more of it than they could.  But the concept was great.  And actually this new-fangled idea of seeing something first on the TV and then at the cinema worked rather well.  Change can be a good thing.

Grandma in Cyprus has not been well.  Not well at all.  And I've sat here like a rabbit in headlights wondering what's best to do.  She's in my thoughts all the time and I hope she recovers quickly.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

A taste of Italy

Last week we went off to the House of Peroni…a sort of pop up exhibition, installation, bar and restaurant.  We ate in the restaurant and it was scrummy.  And it gave me the chance to take this picture of The Cat's Mother which I rather like very much

It's a British pastime to photograph your food evidently so I took this

But then I took one too many, and the look changed to this
In the foreground is my risotto nero which caused my tongue to do this
And then I enjoyed this
Their only real mistake was to try and add a splash of Peroni beer to dishes that din't ought to have it…but then you do have to keep the sponsors happy don't you?

Monday, 19 May 2014


I'm somewhat off Facebook...it does that odd thing of suddenly deciding for no clear reason that you're not interested in people that you've been commenting on their status for months, even years...and you don't even realise it until you bump into them in the real world and they say "Haven't seen you on Facebook recently". It seems incredibly manipulative, and in the age of Big Brother that should worry everyone.  The other thing that's bugging me is its friend suggestions.  We'll ignore the obvious ones for young attractive women that pop up, and worry about why it only seems to suggest the wives of my male friends.  Obviously this is a concern to The Cat's Mother, and equally I'd love to know what algorithm is doing this....And finally I seem to get an awful lot of the "You won't believe what happened when..." posts...end of that particular grumble

You may have seen the dynamic duo of Dave the Rave and Boris the abominable yeti came to the rescue of a woman who had collapsed yesterday last week (this post has been sitting around for sometime).  They were driving past and pulled over to help her.  Call me cynical, but how long did they debate how big a PR opportunity it was before the brakes were slammed on.  Or was the PR man in the car with them to make sure they did the right thing and grab that photo opportunity by the scruff of the neck.  You may not have realised it, but the General Election campaign has started.  Worryingly, the election itself is a year away (we know because the dates are now fixed ad infinitum, or do I mean ad nauseam?).  A whole year of politicians cuddling babies may make me toss my self off Beachy Head.

Last week The week before last I went to a fabulous fund raising evening for Amantani, a charity that helps poor children in Peru to go to school.  My motives were not entirely selfless, as the food for the evening was being supplied by Andina, and they create some of the most wonderful South American food you can imagine.  It was an evening of short films (I love short films) made by some of the children themselves around the theme of Meet my World...teaching us how to do some of the skills they have.  So now I can build a mud oven, dye cotton with vegetables, catch a fish with my naked hands...and so on.  Absolutely entrancing, and each film was accompanied by food appropriate to the film.  I was accompanied by our South American friends and a Czech with an American accent.  For a small charity, Amantani does remarkable work, and the cause is very worthwhile indeed.  Peru (like most countries) is full of prejudices, and these children are effectively excluded because they are peasants.  Educating them will make a difference, and hopefully in the long run a more equitable society.  The charity may be small, but it is well connected...there were a couple of Bransons there, and an auctioneer from Christies.  Anyway, do go to the web site, and follow the links...I suspect you too will be captivated by these children.

Another highlight was a visit to a gallery to see some work by street artist Pablo Delgado...he usually created pieces at ankle level which can be found by searching high and low in and around Shoreditch.  Mind you, I had to queue for an hour to get in.  Fortunately all the nice pieces had sold by then, so I can save my money a bit.

As I write this, The Boy (soon to be renamed) is whizzing across the continent as co-driver with one of his other ski instructor chums.  He will arrive home sometime in the middle of the night.  I'll be sitting up looking forward to seeing him.  He'll be back long enough to fill in the application for his Uni loan and his accommodation before heading off to the South West...I'm so glad he's having a great year.

Have I mentioned that I volunteered to marshall for the Tour de France?  It comes very close to home and I wanted to be involved, and I was hoping for a yellow jersey.  Turns out it's sponsored by Asda, so it'll be a green nylon jacket, and I'll probably be smacking my back pocket all day saying 'Every little counts'...or whatever their catchy little phrase is.  We've done online training, and evidently I'm not allowed to call anyone darling, sweetie, honey, gorgeous or luv.  And that's just the men.  Anyway face to face training on June 1st and then another session later in the month plus three days of actual volunteering....I will be nice. Really I will.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Monday, 12 May 2014

Happy Birthday Grandma in Cyprus

It's my mum's birthday today.  She'll be 21 I hear.  I'm very happy that my brother is over there to help her celebrate it.  I rang her on Skype, but it's not quite the same thing...still better than nothing.  I'm not going to mention her birthday card, but remain confident it may yet arrive.

We were supposed to go to an immersive theatre experience last Thursday called Venice Preserved, but the reviews have been dreadful and the weather was dreary (there was a long promenade to face plus a boat ride on the Thames) so we ducked out.  Money straight down the drain.  Heartbreaking really, but it was probably the right decision.

More money down the drain is Robbie Williams.  I had tickets for Robbie once before, but because it clashed with parents evening at School, I couldn't go.  I gave the tickets away.  This time, I've managed to double book myself - Robbie on the same night as I'm doing the Night Ride to Brighton.  I'm all for going to the concert and then heading to the South Coast, but The Cat's Mother thinks that's ridiculous.  As I've got sponsorship, I'm obliged to pedal through the darkness, so that'll mean no Robbie for me.  Sigh.

We went down to Brighton for the weekend - it's Artists Open House month throughout May, and always the opportunity to see some amazing creativity and remarkable talent.  Occasionally a purchase is made.  It was this time

All was not plain sailing though, last time we were there, we re-potted a couple of plants.  Unbeknownst to us, there must have been a nest? hatchery? of fruit flies in the soil we'd bought from the local garden centre. Our back room was filled with dead and dying black midges.  Hundreds, nay thousands of them.  Enough to turn your stomach.  We spent most of the weekend hoovering and spraying the room with fly killer.  The Cat's Mother says I'm not to mention it.  So I won't.  I should throw the plants out, but I am really attached to them...I've grown many from seed (including a Bird of Paradise plant that has been known to flower) so just can't...but I may destroy the atmosphere trying to eliminate the problem.

Apart from that we went to see Frank, the film sort of but not really based on cult character Frank Sidebottom.  Much as I would love to say it's good.  It isn't.  Actually really not very good at all.

This time next week, The Boy will be back for a short time.  I'm very happy at the prospect.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

App madness

As with all bloggers, I'm going through a demotivated phase at the moment, largely prompted by the recent spat at home over what I should or should not include with a large dollop of too much work in the office...time to tell myself to 'Get over it'.

Big Brother is currently in Cyprus visiting Grandma in Cyprus.  He'll be her for her birthday in a week's time which makes him Good Son.  I'll no doubt be late with my card, which will make me (once again) Bad Brother.  It's a heavy burden to bear. Or is it bare?  I never know.

Last Friday evening we went to The Barbican to see Calvary.  I used to go to the cinema every Sunday when I lived around the corner, so I know it better than most.  But it's still a maze to me, and I was pretty nearly flummoxed when someone asked me to point them in the direction of the tube station.  I did point in a as the crow flies sort of way, but told them to get regular new directions in order to actually reach their destination.  Back to Calvary, especially as no one appreciated my joke about a film about men on horses. We've seen a lot of good films this year, and I think this may be the best of the bunch.  It has a pretty verbally brutish start, and in your heart of hearts you know how it's going to end.  The title somewhat gives it away.  But the acting, the scenery and the characterisation are beyond compare and the whole thing is gripping from start to finish.  Ignore the reviewers who call this a black comedy...it absolutely is not.  Don't be fooled by the cast including comedians, they're not there to make you laugh.  There may be some dark humour in it, but then it wouldn't have any realism if it didn't.  We've spent hours and hours talking about it afterwards...so much so that I suspect the DVD will be ordered when it's available.  Certainly one not to miss.

We watched two other films on Blu-Ray over the weekend.  Well one and a half.  Tom Cruise in Oblivion and TED.  I'm not a Cruise fan at all, but I enjoyed Minority Report and live in hope that he will repeat that little triumph.  Oblivion is not that triumph.  I suspect it is the fault of the Hollywood system that insists that all and every sci-fi film is big budget, big production values, tiny, tiny attention to script or plot.  It looked good, and the storyline was terrific, but the whole thing was derivative and soulless with a truly awful script.  TED the talking teddy bear came highly recommended, but we struggled through half of it before deciding that it was never going to be either funny or clever.

Other than our film endeavours, we went to The Cat's Mother's uncle's 80th at Formans...a truly superb restaurant that sits opposite the Olympic Stadium.  It was a lovely family do, and gorgeous food to boot.  The rest of the weekend was spent pottering in or out of the garden and it kinda felt that's how the bank holiday needed to be spent.

I have a new app on my phone which is quite a pleasant thing to have.  It aggregates all your social media feeds and then tells you what you were up to a year ago, two years ago, three and four years ago.  I rather like being reminded as it lets me know all the lovely things that have been going on in my life.  It's called Timehop, but is obviously useless if you don't have a blog, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter account...  Four years ago, it tells me, the latest text on my phone said "Found whole nest of ants in the jam pot"  Yuk. Gross.  Am pleased they avoided the marmalade and Marmite.  I've yet to discover who I was sending it to or who it came from...

The other app that I like is the one that lets me control the heating.  We can switch it on or off as we need, for example if we're away it's good to have the place warmed through by the time we're home. There are a whole load of apps I see that are just beyond my comprehension.  The kettle that's controlled by an app. Yes you can switch it on from the sitting room...although no one has explained how you fill it up, or pour it into your tea mug when the damn thing has boiled.  How about the washing machine controlled by an app.  Please let me know how you can remotely load it with clothes and liquid and then unload it at the end of the cycle.  Or the app controlled shower.  Or the app controlled bath. Really, really, really?  I am nearly going to forgive the app controlled toothbrush (I said nearly).  I do have a brush that sends a signal to a little display on the shelf above the sink...it tells me when I've spent the right amount of time on each section of teeth.  Strangely it does work and I'm more thorough.  The latest version though uses an app on your phone.  My only comment is good idea until your phone falls into the sink under the running water or gets splashed when your splash your face afterwards..