Saturday 23 June 2012


I thought that as we're on our lunch break I'd grab the opportunity to pen a post...possibly the first blog to be written in the Stadium. I'm sitting under the largest harmonious bell ever cast looking at what I'm told will be the largest ever light show. Given that there's more than a month to go the staging is remarkably complete. There's still hundreds of workers still swarming around making sure every bolt is tightened and everything is in its place. Amongst the cast there is a palpable buzz of excitement even with all the pauses and waiting around. We're all delighted to have been offered two tickets to the final rehearsal and relieved that the packed lunches they've given us are not supplied by the official food supplier to the Olympics. The weather has been kind with the sun pouring into the Stadium although there are poles of ponchos just in case. Funny enough the Stadium looks enormous from the outside yet small when you enter. Its size is restored when you stand in the middle. Back to work now.

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There's more to this than meets the eye

Friday 22 June 2012

Ignore Cats at your peril

I grew up with cats.  That an understatement.  We had cat's in every nook and cranny of my childhood home.  Plus there were dogs, the occasional rabbit, guinea pig, gerbil and tropical fish.   We were more Gerald Durrell than Gerald Durrell himself.

Last night we went to dinner with The Spaniards.  I'd asked the florists to put together a bunch of red and yellow flowers as an appropriate gift.  I guess yellow, pink and orange was close-ish.

They have a cat.  A fat cat.  In times past it has been known to visit the office and make itself comfortable.  When here it ruled the roost.  It certainly rules the roost at home.  When we arrived it was very pleased to have the extra attention that two guests meant.  But as the evening went on, its ears went down and tail began wagging as our conversation got more animated and Gordy felt unable to postulate his own views.  Attempting to regain the centre of attention involved jumping up all sorts of places that he shouldn't.  But clearly in his mind it wasn't enough.  So as we sat at the dining table, he casually swaggered to one side of the room and pee-ed everywhere.  There was a slight air of panic from our hosts as they cleared up.  There was a short burst of hysterical laughter as The Cat's Mother and I spied the peeing feline move to the other side of the room where it then squatted and dumped the contents of its bowel on the floor.

Ignore cats at your peril.

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Sunlight on the wooden chair

Wednesday 20 June 2012

Dance, dance or we are lost

One of my all time favourite films is Pina...the Wim Wenders tributes to Pina Bausch, so it's hardly surprising that when it was announced that the Tanztheater Wuppertal would be performing during the 'Cultural Olympics' that are now taking place (had you noticed?), we'd get tickets.  That was some six months ago, and off we trotted last night.

I think the whole thing was fated.  Because we'd bought the tickets so long ago, we'd assumed we'd bought four, and invited two friends.  And then we had to de-invite them when we spotted we had just two tickets.  The meal before hand was a disaster - the waitress seemed to have left her brain at home, couldn't remember our drink order and it took so long before this became apparent that we were tight for time, and a further ten minutes before anything appeared in a glass.  The manager was summoned, my words were stern, and The Cat's Mother ducked...she doesn't like it when I get uppity....and then there was the show itself.  Well, there was probably some good stuff, but so much awful nonsense that the good bits were obscured...the German sense of humour seemed to stretch to an ice cream cone being put on a microphone stand with the female dancer eating it whilst talking about how she has to persuade her man to love her.  Crude.  Unfunny and not entertaining.  We expected this performance to be themed on Hong Kong, which it was very, very loosely, but really it was just a hotch potch of dances with music that was often irrelevant interspersed with too much talking.  Thank heavens the tube journey home was fine...the carriage was full of 'characters' - the drunken fools that populate public transport late at night.

On the upside...we sat a few seats away from Florence of Florence and the Machine...she's a damn site thinner than she looks on stage.  Before the performance she was in the bar with her mate Lilly Cole, who helped strengthen my oft repeated theory that models look infinitely better on the page than in real life (oooh! miaow!).  Sorry Lilly.

Whilst we were out, The Boy was baby-sitting, and The Cat was doing her first acting job.  As a support player for Secret Cinema...she had a ball after a request came through to the National Youth Theatre for 'work experience'.  I'm delighted to have introduced Secret Cinema into our lives and hope it's a first step for her.  I'd say more about what she was doing, but you know that Secret Cinema thing.....

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Reflections on the metro

Tuesday 19 June 2012


It may have been simple prejudice on my part, but I couldn't suppress a little giggle when four burqa-clad (from top to toe) women went up to Gok Wan who was passing me in Bermondsey street and one of them said, "We are your greatest fans"

Dear darling David Cameron must rue the day he decided to set up the Leveson enquiry.  Of all the headlines he could have wanted, I doubt the text from Rebekah Brooks saying 'We are in it together' was one he wanted at all.

I'm a little alarmed by the headlines today.  According to Ofsted, playground banter is the seed of bullying and should be stopped.  I'm not doubting the severity of playground bullying...indeed it was apparent to me at our last Old Boys re-union that some of my contemporaries had suffered all their lives from the consequences of bullying.  I think my concern stems from the thought that some faceless bureaucrats are taking up the issue when it is probably better managed by teachers who are in the school, in the playground on a daily basis.  Bureaucrats have a habit of imposing solutions that don't work in the real world...and in this case, the danger is that new rules are imposed that destroy children's creative spirits.  Far better that the people who spend their days with the children and help them develop into responsible adults have a handle on this rather than zombie-inducing political correctness being introduced from Whitehall.

The faceless bureaucrats issue came to the fore in a TV series that I'm just catching up with - The Secret History of our Streets which is absolutely fascinating.  The first episode tells you about prosperous Deptford High Street.  If you know London now, you'll know it's anything but.  Town Planners, local planning committees and health and environment officers conspired to destroy a centuries old community by turning London into a 'machine' (their words, not mine).  If you get the chance, watch it on the Beeb.

Back on the tarmac an interesting dynamic has started to develop.  In my group there's about 75 of us under the guidance of two teachers/co-ordinators.  One of them is a softly-spoken Australian (I know that stretches credibility) and there was a gentle titter went round when she started calling the 'county' we're in Burkshire, as opposed to Barkshire as Berkshire is called.  She's lovely, but is working against a background of the whole thing changing as we go along...that is inevitable with such events....especially as we're doing something that has never been done before.  So in the last couple of weeks, one of our number.  Let's call him 21.  21 has taken to 'helping' our Aussie by barking out orders and directions to the rest of the team.  Amusing at first, there is a swell of antagonism growing.  In the meantime, number 52 has decided that he knows best (truth be told, he's always thought he knows best right from the start) and is trying to throw his weight around.  Consistently...without exception in fact....he's wrong. As he's 'retired' in his words there are sniping comments about him being bullied at home.  That may explain why he started to pick on the guy in our group who's partially paralysed after a stroke some years ago.  He may be a little slow, but he gives it his all, remains enthusiastic and a couple of weeks ago organised the Jubilee celebration in his viallge in Norfolk.  In the meantime, there are the moaners and groaners...a fair few of them, there are the ones who want to know what they're going to be given for doing this.  And then there are the rest of us who have decided to put our head down and just get on with the task in hand, waiting for our great moment in the stadium.  For us that is reward enough.

We bid farewell to Dagenham this last weekend.  Our last rehearsal there was on Sunday, and from this weekend we're in the Stadium itself...and that is immeasurably exciting.  I can't say that I got to like Dagenham, but it was fun being there and you got a real sense of how difficult it is to pull together something like this.  The stadium will be something else...and the impending sense of what we are there to achieve may yet overwhelm us...

Another programme we're just catching up on is Episodes, which is now on its second series.  It stars the magnificent Steven Mangan and Tamsin Greig (as well as Matt LeBlanc).

We watched the first series with growing disillusionment as it went from being light-hearted to quite bitter in its humour.  We vowed not to watch the second series until persuaded to by favourable comment from UP, and it is an absolute gem - sharp, witty with a vary daring bitter-sweetness which means you can't relax and roll with it for a moment.  If you're feeling brave give it a whirl....but be warned it'll bite you just when you're least expecting it.  And it is good to see Greig and Mangan begin to reprise their 'will they, won't they' relationship which they did so well in the absolutely classic Green Wing

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You can never go wrong with a cat picture on the internet....can you?

Monday 18 June 2012

Family affairs

Yesterday was Fathers' Day of course, and being a good father I got breakfast in bed.  That would be a mug of fresh coffee, a pile of four oversized-scotch pancakes with two little pots of jam. In grate that I am I asked if he could pop downstairs and get some butter as well!  I got a card with a lovely poem (although I wish it has said 'love from' The Boy rather than 'From', but I guess at 17 love is not a concept a teenager wants to grasp) and a pipe.  Yes, when we last popped down to Brighton he had rummaged around one of the antique/jumble shops down there and found me a pipe...I don't smoke, and never will, but somehow it was absolutely the perfect present which will be treasured until the end of days.

Interesting that the 'feckless' Greeks have (eventually) voted for austerity (maybe) - much to the relief of everyone, where as the French have decided to take the third way, which I guess might well make their position a bit more precarious in the months to come.  Although I've not written about it much recently, I've continued to keep a close eye on the international economy, as whatever happens out there will undoubtedly hurt us here.  Whichever way I look at it though, the problem still seems to come back to the same thing - the banks.  Their efforts got us into this fine mess, and are well and truly keeping us here.  DC keeps talking about the need for strong banks, but it does seem that whilst banks remain in private hands, self-interest is the only thing that drives them.  Am I becoming socialist in my old age?

We're having a quieter spell for a bit...we've had a mad, hectic few months, so we're trying to cut down on our gallivanting.  So this week we're out only twice. Thursday it's dinner with friends, and tomorrow we're off to watch some Pina Bausch at Sadlers Wells.  Somewhat embarrassingly we'd invited two friends along, only to discover that for the first time ever we'd bought just two tickets for our selves, so we had to un-invite them.  I wonder if we'll stay on their Christmas Card list?

I'm utterly exhausted at the may be the lack of summer, it may be all those rehearsals (a total of 188 hours, of which we've done perhaps 40%), it may be that I've not been anywhere near my cycle for months as the rain continues to pelt down so my fitness levels are nearing an all time low, or it may just be age.  Whatever, I have to find a way of re-energising myself.

In between Olympics rehearsals I spent most of my time trying to sort out the blog, having tried to change the template much to the frustration of The Cat''s Mother I think who probably would have liked me to give her some more (any) attention.  I lost the comments section, which is odd because I managed to use a new 'dynamic' template and got comments I'm not quite sure what's happening there.  I've still not got comments on the mobile version of the blog, and I no longer get comment notifications...but at least I'm better off than I was Saturday morning.  I shall no doubt continue to mess around until I get to where I want it.

We've decided to move our fabulous bird table.  Actually it's mine, not ours, as it was a 50th birthday present from The Boy and The Cat.  When I say 'bird table' its actually become a squirrel table.  The little fluffy rats either scamper up the central pole or take an Eval Kneival leap from the bushes behind to stuff their fat faces.  The birds get a bit of a look in...indeed we've had some beautiful birds in the garden...mostly feeding off the seed which the squirrels have knocked onto the ground.  My personal favourite was the jackdaw pair...mainly because I don't think I've seen one before.  But at the end of the day there's a limit to how man squirrel families you want to keep, so it's now somewhere that means the squirrels can't leap on to it, and the judicious application of Vaseline to the supporting pole will keep the squirrels off - we tried Vaseline before and had hours of amusement as they jumped on and then gracefully slid down.  Hopefully by keeping it greased up, they'll learn not to bother.....after all squirrels are not persistent blighters are they?


Really and truly 'Picture Daily' is supposed to be for my best pictures....the discipline should make me work harder at getting better shots, but then just occasionally an opportunity comes along to break my own rules.

So here's Danny Boyle....just after we'd spent a while discussing his production of Frankenstein (which we saw again last week)  and its relevance to the Olympics

Sunday 17 June 2012