Thursday 6 December 2012

Picture daily 138

OK I know this isn't a great picture technically, but I just love the expressions on the faces...especially the guy in the middle, who I'm pretty sure I know exactly what he would be like to speak with....

Death and the rest

Well yesterday was a busy day for dying.  Rupert Murdoch is in mourning today for his mother...and frankly if you reach his age and your mother is still around, it must be an odd feeling (apart from being sad).  She was quite the philanthropist, and had a good run.

In my world, Oscar Niemeyer, the Brazilian architect died.  He too was an oldie...a real oldie - he was 104 and had designed Brasilia, the modernist capital of Brazil fifty or so years ago.

And then Dave Brubeck, the brilliant jazz pianist best known for performing Take Five.  I used to listen to him when I was much younger.  Anyway, today would have been his 92nd birthday.  That's not too bad an age is it?

Jamie Oliver has come through for me....after the debacle on the boat last week, we got half our money back and a voucher for a meal at one of his restaurants.  It's good they are so responsive - I had a phone call from them within a few hours of sending an e-mail.

We had an interesting bird in the garden this morning...I'd loaded up the bird feeder yesterday after the snow fall, and had managed to get some dried meal worms - the birds love them...the squirrels don't, so it's the best.  This morning there was a real scramble for food, with loads flying in for their share, including one we didn't might have helped if I'd had my glasses on.  Anyway, my research has thrown up two possibilities - I hope it was this one:

Hoopoe (illustration)
The head, body and tail feathers were right, but it was the wrong time of year for a Hoopoe (which I'd never heard of), so perhaps it was 'just' a turtle dove...but I don't think so
Turtle dove (illustration)

Any alternative suggestions would be much appreciated....

Wednesday 5 December 2012

Picture daily 137

Shunt/Not Shunt

So the snow came in bucket loads early this morning.  We're at the top of a hill, and the top 200 yards are steep by any standards.  Fortunately I have a Jeep...a big, heavy, fat Jeep which makes itself invaluable at times like this.  There are only two things which defeat the Jeep - other road users and sheet ice.  As I swung out of the drive this morning, I could see the scene below - various cars stuck at the side of the road, one across the road near the bottom of the hill, and another one firmly embedded in the bushes plus the blue flashing lights of an ambulance.  I gently touched the brakes to find the Jeep beginning a slide....fortunately after 20 yards of releasing and re-engaging the brakes we managed to stop, alongside a shiny Jaguar.  And there we stayed for the next forty minutes as The Boy and I shovelled load after load of grit over the road in front and behind the Jeep.  Eventually we were ready to move it...but not before several other cars had come along over the hill and tried to go down...why they thought they could when it was obvious that if the Jeep couldn't make it, nothing would.  Without too much difficulty we managed to get the Jeep up the hill and back in the drive....and I then spent another half an hour helping the driver of the shiny Jaguar whilst the Teens trotted down the hill to catch the bus to school...which really should have been what happened in the first place.  An hour later, it had warmed up so much that the snow and ice had all but disappeared.

One of the most unusual productions I've been to over the last few years was 'Money' by a company called Shunt - a collective of actors.  It's hard to explain the thing, but I'll try:  a commentary on the financial sector, it was performed inside a giant 'machine' built inside a warehouse.  As the performance progressed, the audience moved from one level to the next.  It may be best if you watch the video:

It was highly imaginative, and immensely exciting and interesting.

Last night we went to their latest piece - The Architects, which was also held inside a warehouse.  It was freezing cold. To get to the auditorium, you had to find your way through a labyrinth.  The story sort of revolved around the story of The Minotaur.  The auditorium was constructed like a large cocktail bar with a small stage for a band.  Through three large porthole windows you could see the sea.  Difficult to summarise, I would say it's about our inner turmoil, good versus evil, and how politicians pull the wool over our eyes.  It would have helped if The Boy had been with us to interpret.  Although we froze to the bone, it was again imaginative, immensely exciting and interesting.  Highly, highly recommended, but not for the feint hearted.  And continuing a previous theme...a naked man flashing his bits  Details here

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Picture Daily 136

Where would any parade be without the Salvation Army?

Chicken Poo

Well done Kate - perfect timing, if everything goes according to plan we will have a third royal celebration in as many years.  We may not get the extra bank holiday, but the feel good factor will be worth it.  And this from an avowed republican.

I see that we, the French and others have waggled our fingers at the Israelis for their decision to build yet more settlers homes.  It's a an easy lesson that whilst we take no action against this racist country they will continue to act illegally, consigning the Middle East to an eternity of turmoil....and yes, sooner or later someone will drop a nuclear weapon there.  And many will have missed that they are also witholding tax revenues due to the Palestinians who have done nothing illegal.  It really is time for change in the policies and actions of the world to help the Palestinian cause.

Did you know that The Bank of England has made cheap money available to the high street banks.  It's a clever scheme to get them back out there lending to help kick start the economy.  You'll be pleased to know that the Bank has lent over £4 billion.  Would you be surprised to know that of the £4 billion, just £4 million has been re-lent by the banks.  The rest is sitting in their vaults gathering dust until it can be handed out as fat bonuses and sky-high salaries to overpaid employees.  Yes, yet again you and I are subsidising the rich and undeserving.

We could have done with some advice in the office yesterday from John.  The Office Dog had been away for the weekend, staying at a farm 'Up North'.  He enjoyed his freedom enormously, and spent most of the weekend outside enjoying the fresh air.  Whilst no one was looking he took it upon himself to spend twenty minutes eating chicken shit.  I can't see the appeal myself.  Yesterday he suffered the consequences, and spent the whole day hiding under the desks, eating nothing and shivering.

So learn the lesson everyone - don't eat chicken shit, no matter how appealing it looks.

Monday 3 December 2012

Photo daily 135

 When I was at The Lord Mayors Show I took some pictures of people in the parade, so for this week I thought I would use those for the photo dailies

First up...


On paper, the last week has been a remarkable week of over-indulgence and organised fun:

Tuesday - Carmen at the ENO
Thursday - Ben Howard at the Brixton 02
Friday - Ross Noble at the Hammersmith Apollo
Saturday - Dining on the Thames with Jamie Oliver
Sunday - Cocktail Master Class at Harvey Nichols

At that level of ridiculousness, I realise I have no scope to moan or groan...for most people, doing that much in a year would more than enough.  We are lucky.  We live in a bubble, and the only worry is that one day someone might pop it.  So when I do moan and groan, it's within the context of knowing that if anyone should want to, please feel free to tell me to shut up.

Ben Howard was brilliant...really good, much more rocky, lively and interesting than I had hoped.  It's just that The Cat's Mother and I weren't speaking, having argued earlier.  For the first time, ever, we left before the encore.  It hadn't been much fun.  All self-inflicted.

Ross Noble should have been great...but I'm not a great one for watching stand up comedians, and he was off form...some problems with the microphone put him off his pace, and he didn't really seem to have any sort of a theme or a thread.  I went to sleep, much to the amazement of the couple sitting next to me.

We've always been great fans of Jamie Oliver, so Saturday night was a bitter disappointment.  In fact this was organised by his catering business, and the food was like school dinners.  Tasteless, badly presented.  hopeless.I don't think Mr Oliver had had any involvement at all, which wouldn't have been so bad if it hadn't cost an arm and a leg...not that everyone had paid that much - the couple sitting next to us had booked for afternoon tea(!) and had been upgraded to the full monty.  This couple should have been fascinating company - both Oxford graduates, one having studied English Literature - just what The Cat would like to do.  But they were dull beyond belief.  The guy was a civil servant and had worked for Tessa Jowell, so could have had all sorts of interesting stories around the Olympics, but we gave up.  His fiance, had been a theatre reviewer, but couldn't really remember any plays she'd been to see...and when we prompted her with 'The Browning Version' she admitted she'd walked out - remarkable given that the parallel performance was written by David Hare, one of the twentieth centuries greatest writers, who she had no awareness of.  We left early, as soon as the boat docked deciding that The Cat should breeze into Oxford at that rate.

And Sunday...well truth be told, this was a fabulous experience - it was a birthday gift to The Cat's Mother from her BFF, The Queen of Essex.  A dozen of us piled into Harvey Nicks, to learn all about the different spirits, and  how making a great cocktail is all about balance.  There's 5,000 cocktails, and we sampled a few of them.  On a Sunday morning.  Brilliant experience, really fun...but we were groaning in the afternoon!