Friday 4 May 2012

Them woz the days....

If you look closely, you'll see I've added a few more blogs to my reading list on the right.  They're actually ones I've been reading and enjoying for many, many months but for no particular reason they remained hidden on my dashboard reading list.  So, of course, I highly recommend you turn your attentions there....such a shame that Going Gently is a sad, sad post today.

We're not great TV's not that we don't enjoy it, it's just that we have other things to do, and once you're not in tune with the TV schedules it's easy just to forget to watch.  Generally we have one series that we watch at a time, and at the moment we are enjoying the Beeb's series on the Seventies.  In those days I was young, smart and my life was full of promise.  So it's not surprising I look back through rose-tinted spectacles, and the programme has come as quite a shock to me and The Cat's Mother.  We've just watched episode three (my maths suggests that as they do two years each episode there are five to watch) and we've seen all the promise of the sixties evaporate into the doom of economic, political and social failure.  Of course, we both remember most of the events, but frankly when you're a smug teenager your awareness of what's really happening in the world and it's implications is minimal.  We saw the world changing events as nothing more than  stories in the newspapers whilst our dear parents had to bear the stress, strains and turmoil that was going on around them.

It's hard to imagine inflation running at 25%.  It's not so hard to imagine everyone going on strike.  Nor is it so hard to imagine savage public sector cutbacks being made...albeit by the Labour Government, rather than the current coalition.  We probably all remember hopelessly unreliable and outdated cars being built by Leyland (renamed to Austin Rover by the time I went to join them in the eighties).  And who can forget Punk Rock...less a musical statement and more a call for social and political change...oh that we could have Neo-Punks now!

The Seventies seems to be the forgotten decade - we all know about the swinging sixties, and the booming eighties, but the seventies seemed to be a blur of glam rock, terrible fashion and the falling pound.  In fact so unrelenting is the bad news in this series, that I'm beginning to feel that the current recession is something of a golden age.  I guess it's all a matter of perspective.  And I have a sneaking suspicion that we're just being softened up for the arrival of Maggie who will be presented as someone who rode to our week will be a very interesting programme indeed.

So for your delectation here's some pictures from the seventies

That's me on the right, my brother on the left and in between us Grandma and Grandpa in Cyprus.  I think we were in Eastbourne on the pier at the time.

And here in the middle is my Grandmother

Thursday 3 May 2012


I read today that Mr Tony Blair is thinking of making his presence felt in politics again.  I hope not. I really hope not.  I'd like to see him locked up in jail and the keys thrown away.  For someone who offered so much before he was elected, he delivered nothing of any value and left a legacy of global conflict.  I hope he rots.

But enough of that.

I've been reading.  Actually I've been reading pretty much all my life.  There's real pleasure to be had from literature that simply cannot be found at the cinema or on TV.  Is it because you get to use your mind to visualise the characters, the settings and the emotions?  My reading goes in fits and starts, and I'm not a great one for remembering either book titles or the interest starts with page 1 and finishes at the end.  So that generally makes it difficult to get recommendations out of me.  So it's unfortunate that I can't tell you the name of a book I read earlier this year that I thoroughly was set in an Irish catholic school run by priests...all I can remember is that the last part of the title was " dead"  Which fairly reflected the fact that the key character dies within the first two pages.

I see nothing wrong with judging a book by its cover....when you're in the book shop confronted by shelf upon shelf of novels, you've got to start somewhere.  Perhaps this is why digital books don't yet appeal to me...I need to explore before I choose.  To make my selection I always turn to somewhere in the middle of the book and read a couple of pages.  If I like what I've read, the book is bought.  So far it's been pretty failsafe.

When I went away skiing I took with me 'Do androids dream of electric sheep'.  It was an unusual choice as I don't usually read science fiction, and I've never before bought the book that a film is based on after I've seen the film...Blade Runner.  The film is brilliant, one of my all time favourites; the book itself is not so brilliant...and deeply confusing when it's different to the film which I'm so familiar with.  In my head Dekkard was still Harrison Ford, and the characters in the book continued to be portrayed by the actors in the film.  So perhaps my mistake to read the book in the first place.  But I'm glad I did.

Neither in the book, nor even in the film script

I then picked up Rivers of London by Ben Aaranovitch....a light hearted magical romp which is a sort of metropolitan police Harry Potter...probably better written and with a few swear words added.  It was fun, but tellingly, I suspect, I realised that I tended to scan rather than read many pages because I was neither gripped not involved.  It's probably aimed at teenagers anyway who'll enjoy the unnecessary swearing.

And the current read is The Master by Colm's a portrait of Henry James.  And I absolutely fell in love with the language on page one.  It's quite dense, so even after a week I've only got to page 75, but it ticks every box for me...there's not a lot of action, it's all emotion, the writing conjours up the most beautiful, atmospheric imagery and the characterisation is superb.  I guess it's a bit like a French film really.  Anyway, it's worth picking up.  As it's my the last book in my unread pile, I'll need to find some any recommendations will be gratefully we have long journeys to make next week.

There is, of course, another sort of literature, and I was amused to see that someone I knew at school set up a sex shop almost the moment he walked out of the hallowed portals.  He's just bought a brand new £250,000 Bentley with personalised registration.  I'm not sure how his education contributed to this, but I doubt the school is holding its head up high on this one.

Wednesday 2 May 2012

Roughly 140

Last night was the start of our rehearsals.

Confidentiality is a key message that was drummed in over and over and over again.

There were I guess some four hundred of us gathered last night of all shapes and sizes.  Clearly it wasn't a beauty parade.  But the enthusiasm was infectious.

I now have my Olympics ID card, and an Oyster Card reserved just for Olympic participants.  We all felt pretty special.

Danny Boyle was there, of course, and he's a charming, delightful man.  Whether he'll manage to maintain that demeanour as the opening day approaches, will be interesting to see.

The choreographer is the man that choreographed War Horse....Toby Sedgewick.  We were asked who had seen it.  Everyone's hands went up.  Then we were asked who'd seen it on the stage, and only a few of us left our hands in the air.

After an introduction...we should remember that we are the true embodiment of the Olympic spirit because we volunteered and have given up a lot to participate, unlike the athletes who will make shed loads of money (I'm only quoting here)...where we were shown the stadium and how it will look on opening night, we were taken through our section of the evening's entertainment.  Like a terrorist cell we were given only the information we needed, so we don't have a grand view of the entire ceremony...just our part.

It's been meticulously planned, and I can say that if it goes according to plan it will be a night to remember.  Nothing like the Beijing ceremony, but spectacular, engaging and something for participants and viewers to be proud of.

So that's the first four hours of a total rehearsal time of 140 hours over the next two months done.  It would have been literary dynamite if it had been 127 Hours, but you can't have everything.   I'm looking forward to the next 136, and desperately hoping I can live up to it.

Tuesday 1 May 2012


Last night The Cat's Mother asked what I was doing seventeen years ago. I had to think before I answered.

Today is The Boy's 17th birthday.

This morning I felt I was the luckiest person in the world when, as I crossed the street, I pulled out the money to pay for my coffee and managed to let three £20 notes flutter off towards an open drain cover. Miraculously, none of them went down the hole. So I ended up paying £2.50, not £62.50!

On Friday night we went off to Tate Modern to get a guided tour of Damien Hirst's first retrospective. Actually I arrived an hour early and used the time to buy myself (yet another) Anish Kapoor book...he's been my favourite artist for a couple of decades now...and a coffee in the Members Room. All very relaxing. Which was good because the guide was somewhat manic. But thank heavens we had him. Otherwise we'd have just been looking at flies feasting on dead meat, a giant ashtray, a shark, some sheep and cows cut in half and some butterflies pinned to a wall. Because we had the guide we were able to realise that wasn't what we saw; instead we were looking at a commentary on the fragility of life. Evidently you're supposed to look at the famous shark head on and ponder on the thought that you are being at the same time confronted by certain death whilst realising that it is the shark that is dead, rather than you who will be...The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living. I quite enjoyed it, as did we all, but there was certainly a feeling as we left the gallery that Mr Hirst is a smart showman who would have made a fortune whatever he turned his hand to. And let's hand it to him, he did shake up the British art world and made a fortune whilst doing it...although the souvenir shop is yet to sell any of his limited edition £36,000 skulls they're offering the gullible. I like his concepts...but really the execution is hardly artistic.

More modern art on Saturday with a fleeting visit to Gilbert and George at the White Cube Gallery. A series of pictures which bring together in categories headlines from the Evening Standard from the last several years. Very nice. It kept us interested for at least ten minutes.

We then headed to a new production of Educating Rita starring the unfortunate Matthew Kelly and ex-Brookie Claire Sweeney. We felt an affinity to dear Claire as one of our friends was dating her for a while, and couldn't help but mention that he was helping her learn her lines. Anyway, she was a shrill Scouser from beginning to end, and probably not as responsible as Mr Kelly for sending six of the eight of us to sleep during the first half. Sadly, he wasn't up to the part...merely repeating his lines without much sign of emotion or commitment. He was hindered too by some poor staging plus being required to change his cardigan every scene to demonstrate the passing of time. There were a lot of scenes. Plus, the truth is that the themes are quite dated, so it's quite difficult to empathise with the play. I didn't much like the concept and the execution struggled with its artistry See the film with Michael Caine, you'll enjoy it much more.

Yesterday I was at The Tribunal. The other side wanted to do a deal. And I let them. My natural state is confrontational, so I thought it would do me well to enjoy the process of negotiation. Their barrister was a delightful fellow. Oddly he seemed to be on my side...which I guess is their art. Anyway I got everything I asked for, which I suspect means that I've been gently shafted from behind without me realising it.

P.S. if anyone can tell me why all my most recent posts have that strange formatting...with the white background halfway down, please let me know...and more importantly let me know how to fix it!