Friday 26 April 2013

Immigrants go home

I think I've been banned from booking and taking The Cat's Mother to any of the sort of events I like.  Now she's a west end theatre sort of person, and I'm more of a east side Fringe sort of person.  Generally this has worked well because with complimentary tastes we each get to see something that we wouldn't otherwise have done.  In fact the sonnet walk at the weekend managed to satisfy us both...we traipsed through the back streets of the east end, allowing me to spot the street art I like so much, whilst she got to hear the Shakespeare she likes.  However, Tuesday night it all became a bit challenging.  This was how it was described:

"Project Colony is Fourth Monkey’s site specific production at Trinity Buoy Wharf, a follow up to their recent sell out and award winning production of Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis at the Edinburgh Festival. The audience become part of the action, as colony inspectors in Project Colony, an immersive, site–specific piece at Trinity Buoy Wharf, based on existentialist author Franz Kafka’s short story, In the Penal Colony."

For me this was manna from heaven.  For The Cat's Mother it became purgatory.

Trinity Buoy Wharf is in the middle of nowhere.  Literally.  My punishment for dragging us there was two blisters the size of golf balls from a new pair of shoes I was was a long walk from station to Wharf.  My reward, our reward was the most spectacular views of London.

The bar in the performance space was somewhat there was no gin or tonic for the gin and tonics we ordered, so I resorted to Jack Daniels (straight), and she had vodka and lemonade.  There were thirty six performers, and at best 27 in the audience.  If you took out the parents of performers and friends of the theatre company, the cast outnumbered the audience by about five to one.  In fact we may have been the only ones who had paid for tickets.  Well I enjoyed the performers coming up and chatting to us in character, asking us what England was like, and telling us this was their first party.  The Cat's Mother recoiled in horror.  I quite liked being taken down into dark, damp cellars to witness torture and execution, and even enjoyed returning to the colony's town council debate.  But it would be true to say, The Cat's Mother wanted to leave at the interval...actually she probably wanted to leave within five minutes of the start.  It would be fair also to comment that the two lead characters were the weakest of the lot, and gave the thing the feel of a school play.

Today, my favourite sandwich shop will close, to be replaced shortly by a swanky new French restaurant.

It is a sign of the times, a sign of the local economy that this is happening.  Twenty years or so ago I started working in a part of London called Clerkenwell.  It was undeveloped, unreformed and pretty unknown.  The streets were lined with sandwich shops, Chinese take-aways, curry houses, greasy spoons.  Sophisticated it wasn't.  But it had character in spades.  But Clerkenwell became trendy, and one by one the old shops and take-aways closed to be replaced by smart and swanky establishments.  I'm all for progress, but it was a shame as the 'local's were driven away to be replaced by metrosexuals.  I was part of that - I'm a comfortably off consultant.  Seven years or so ago I moved to Bermondsey.  True, Bermondsey street has long had the uber trendy Fashion and Textile Museum, but that was only because it was run down...and cheap.  None of my friends and business contacts knew where Bermondsey was....and struggled to find it when they came to visit.  The Street itself was safe, but wander too far away and a mugging was a virtual certainty, leave your car you'd return to a smashed window and missing radio.  Our office was broken into three times within two months when we arrived.  Yes the area had problems...big problems, but it too had character, and lots of small, independent traders.  The Street has become gentrified, and the surrounding area is more prosperous and calmer.  But inevitably the same process is driving the old style places away.  Again, I can't deny a degree of culpability...I'm still a comfortably off consultant, and reflect the type of people coming into the area. Prices of property have rocketed - at the corner of our mews, there were some shared-ownership flats.  I'm not sure what happened but they were sold off to a private developer, and have just sold for £700,000 each - a high price for a small, poorly built two-bedroom apartment.  We still have the greasy spoon run by Italians...for a while longer...and we still have the Cypriot barber (although I had to stop going there when he started included trimming my ear as part of the haircut).  My favourite sandwich shop is run by Turks, and they will be heading back to Turkey once the shop shuts. Once, one of the girls behind the counter asked me to marry her...I think she needed a work permit...and I doubt that will happen again! For me that's a shame, the price of progress.  The Street will be 'nicer', but a tad less interesting, and probably less friendly and welcoming.  Shame.  Real shame.

Wednesday 24 April 2013

Building blocks

Here's a selection of pictures I took on our walk at the weekend






Tuesday 23 April 2013

And now for this weekend

With a high degree of inevitability, after a week of rest, relaxation and enjoyment we overdid it at the weekend.  It wasn't all our fault.

On Saturday we went on a 'Sonnet walk' organised by The Globe theatre.  Essentially this took us from the top end of Shoreditch to The Globe via the places important to Shakespeare, with the odd actor leaping out and reciting a sonnet to us along the way.  Now I realise that the sonnet bit is pretty specialised and not to everyone's taste...but, but, but the flipside is that it took us to bits of backstreet London we wouldn't normally see...and, and, and there were plenty of hostelries on the way, so it will be walked again as a pub crawl...and given the distance it will indeed be a crawl by the time we reach the end!  Our legs ached as we reached our destination.

 Not everyday you see a labourer reciting a Shakespearean sonnet
 This one was a fairy (on the left)
 We never did work what this building was...completely surrounded by modern offices
 A sonic sonnet
 All shapes and sizes
A bicycle substituted for a horse...and it worked incredibly well

Sunday was exercise of a different sort...and we got the easy part of it.  One of our friends was running the London Marathon.  For the first an age when she like us should be putting her feet up.  We braved the crowds and headed for Greenwich for a glimpse before moving on to Mudchute on the Isle of Dogs for a second look, and then onto Tower Hill and finally along the river at the 40km mark.  We cheered, we clapped, we shouted.  The Boy and I were made to carry heavy rucksacks full of provisions because getting a drink and bite to eat in central London is a difficult task. Humph.  There was, of course a great atmosphere.  Really fabulous...and probably all the more emotional because of the bombings in Boston the week before - one of my good friends was running in that and she was pulled up half a mile from the end because of the atrocity.

 17 miles....
 Still going strong near the end
...and we bumped into some Olympic drummers

Monday 22 April 2013

The weekend before this

I'm getting forgetful.  Not in a 'Where are my keys' sort of way, but in a 'Oh yes I had completely forgotten about that' sort of way.  I think I've developed 'Lazybrainitus'.  If you know a cure, please let me know.

I thought I'd blogged this, but can't find it, so I guess I forgot:

Kelloggs asked how Gay George is getting on...he who was sent flying from his bicycle into a lamp post by a Range Rover. I think I mentioned we went to see the hospital near Paddington.  He was more talkative than I've ever known him.  Some of it made there's a change...he never made sense before.  We could hardly get a word in edgeways...I'm guessing all those weeks in hospital must leave you bored out of your brains.  Anyway, he was a lot fitter and healthier than I expected and looked nearly perfect.  He has now moved from that hospital to one nearer to home...a real blessing for him, and it has reduced the travel burden for his family enormously.  And I've had this note from his wife:

"We're having a meeting today about discharging him... So he could be home in the next couple of days which he's thrilled about. The plan is for him to be an outpatient at the cognitive skills, osteo and max facs clinics there. Still al long way to go but definitely on the right tracks."

In fact George is now home...hurrah!

We managed a week without going out.  Actually we more than managed, we revelled in it.  We were busy enough at home not to increase our TV viewing hours, so it was fabulous.  When I say we didn't go out for a week, that's not quite true...on Friday night we met up with friends for dinner.  But Friday nights don't count. In our group of six, there was one who was running in the London Marathon on Sunday.  She was cool as cucumber about it.  And another who spends his days avoiding bullets and bombs whilst digging for oil in Iraq.  He too is pretty cool about that too.

The previous weekend, which I've not yet recorded for posterity (and given my forgetfulness, I need to) had been a busy one.

The weekend had started early on Friday with a lunch at The Globe theatre...we've managed to get ourselves involved with the new indoor Wannamaker theatre there which will open in the autumn, so they were kind enough to feed us.

That's us on the stage at The Globe. Left to right: UP, The Queen, The Cat's Mother, Me (looking a bit rough, and for the first time scruffier than UP) and The Cat

And then on Saturday we had a family celebration lunch.  This was the start of the festivities to celebrate The Boy's birthday, and had been timed to coincide with Grandma in Cyprus' visit.  It was lovely to get everyone together over for the afternoon.  Some hadn't been together for a long time...not since The Boy was christened I think, or may be even earlier. I think he enjoyed it.....