Friday 31 May 2013

And so to Cyprus

I had something brilliantly funny to tell you.  But I've forgotten it.  Sorry about that.  It doesn't help anyone does it?

I've found that Big Brother in the form of Google Now does have some value.  Whilst waiting at the bus stop, the digital signs telling us when the next one was due simply said "Check bus timetable".  The woman who arrived a couple of minutes after me and who was close to mastering English asked politely, "Have you talked to the timetable?"  I looked down to my shoes and shook my head.  Then I looked at my phone, and it told me there was just three minutes until the number 5 was due.  Scary, but ever, ever so helpful.

Anyway, I'm pleased to say my own big brother is being a better son to his mother than I am, and has gone off to Cyprus to see Grandma.  She'll be delighted to see him. They'll have a lovely week in thee sun.  Fabulous.  Our next trip is not yet scheduled...with the offspring finishing school this summer, having various things lined up - they're both performing at Edinburgh Fringe again, the Boy is at Army Camp, and The Cat has a part in a film during the 'summer holidays', and after September it all gets foggy, we've not sorted anything out.  Shocking really; thank heavens for Skype which occasionally works.

Last night we were in Cyprus anyway.  We went to see Othello at the National.  Funny how the Turks always seem to have had their eye on that bountiful island!  We enjoyed it. Quite sensational really.  A modern setting and not a single performance which was anything less than superlative.  Even Adrian Lester, and he doesn't normally float my boat. It brought tears to my eyes, literally.  In some ways I hoped for an American ending, when everyone lived happily ever after.  But that Shakespeare certainly knows how to wring every once of misery out of his stories.  Grab a ticket if you can.

Thursday 30 May 2013

Big Brother

This weekend was some European football final, and it was being played at Wembley.  Because of my Olympic volunteering, I had the opportunity to performance in the pre-match was a choreographed battle between medieval knights...Vandals vs Goths?  I don't know really.  I turned it down, but only because one of the rehearsals clashed with Young Muffin's first Holy Communion.  Shame.  I think I would have been quite a good Lancelot.

This weekend, there was another First Holy Communion.  This time for a Hobbit (a new character to my cast of thousands).  I managed to wriggle out of the service...there is after all only so much religious nonsense I can take.  But, of course, I went along to the BBQ afterwards.  I'm never one to miss out on a burnt sausage or carbonated burger.  I got into a conversation with some folks about foxes.  We have three fox holes in our garden, and I was defending them. I've seen them play and I've seen them sun bathe, and I rather adore the fact that urban foxes have habit (evidently) of stealing shoes and depositing them around the neighbourhood...they are lovely.  But after reading John's post here, I feel foxes guilty.  Where I live, it's hard to remember how savage and destructive they can be.

I wonder what's best...better the devil you know?  The situation in Syria is going from bad to worse.  I'm still generally of the opinion, that civil wars should be left to the citizens of the country battling it out.  But it the Middle East is one region where everyone feels it's OK to stick their nose in.  If I look back at Iraq, I suspect that far fewer people would have died if we'd left Saddam in charge...his fall led to a void which has not been filled, leading to violent clashes and frequent deaths.  Of course, that wasn't a civil was George Bush and his playmate Tony Blair showing off.  The real downside has been the destabilisation caused by Iran not having a natural counter balance.  No wonder Israel looks worried.   In Syria, you've got a mottley grouping of various opposition factions, many of whom are not natural allies of the West....and especially of Israel.  Hezzbolah are now involved, and they too would like to wipe the Israelis off the map.  The Russians are getting dragged in.  Israel is looking more likely to lose the plot, especially as the Americans are doing a good job of doing nothing very well.  It wouldn't surprise me if there's a melt down...and the outcome is quite unpredictable.

I like to go to 'national events'. so was quite pleased when The Cat's Mother got tickets for The Chelsea Flower Show last week.  I had imagined great rolling gardens with lovely, clever planting which would be wonderfully inspiring for us.  Instead, we were confronted rows and rows of exhibitors selling (IMHO) tat.  This was the first year that garden gnomes have been admitted, which strikes me as bizarre, given the nastiness of some of the sculptures to be had:  do you fancy a 20' garishly painted dinosaur being ridden by a monkey jockey?  I certainly didn't.  There were show gardens of course...most seemed to have followed the fashion for the 'wild meadow' look...but I don't think throwing some wild flower seeds and long grass on a 20' square is particularly clever.  The Daily Telegraph garden was literally full of shaped hedges...there was no space what's the point?  As usual (I'm told) there were a lot of metal/concrete/wood constructions...none of which enhanced the display, I would say.  Even the winning 'Australian Garden' didn't really excite me. Anyway, I took a few pics...I'm not sure why.  Grump.

My brother is off to see Grandma in Cyprus this week...he'll be enjoying the sunshine, whilst we shiver in the cold rain here.

I had to make an emergency phone purchase last week.  My trusty mobile that runs my life just about breathed its last.  As I use it for work and pleasure, I really can't cop without it.  It comes with something called Google Now, which is the scariest piece of software ever.  Within an hour, it was able to tell me how long it would take to get to work from where I was.  An hour later it told me how long to get home.  Six hours later, it told me how long the journey would be to the flat in Brighton.  Six hours after that, it was telling me how the shares I owned were doing.  The only piece of information I had consciously given it was my email address.  Big Brother is truly here.

Tuesday 28 May 2013

I dream of genie

Last week we went off to see The Hot House...a Harold Pinter play that's enjoying a short run.  It was a bit of a last minute thing really...a friend had got a couple of tickets, but then feeling ill had offered them to us.

"It’s Christmas Day in a nameless state-run mental institution where the inmates are subjected to a tirade of mindless cruelty. A maniacal and self-obsessed leader breeds a contagion of hierarchical savagery amongst his staff, who thrive on a noxious diet of delusion and deceit.

The day got off to a lousy start - a death and a birth. Absolutely bloody scandalous! Is it too much to ask to keep the place clean?

Under a veil of devilish wit and subversive humour, Pinter’s biting political commentary on the perils of unchecked power is as vital and pertinent today as when it was written in the 50s."

It was and pacey, alternating between comedy and horror, it was a great evening's entertainment. But that's not what made it such a special evening.  As we were leaving, we bumped into a friend of mine and her husband...she had been one of the runners in this year's Boston marathon...we chatted for a while before saying our goodbyes.  As we turned, there behind us was one of the actors.  Christopher Timothy.  You will probably know him best for this:

I know him for other reasons.  When I was a wee lad, I lived in a village called Hatfield Heath.  It was a surprisingly lively place...and not just because there were so many pubs.  Unlike too many villages these days, there was a real community.  Part of that community was The Heath Players...yes the village amateur dramatic group.  Grandma in Cyprus was involved, and I joined the junior section.  It was a good way to keep the young of the village out of mischief.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  My first role was the genie of the ring in the village pantomime of Aladdin.  I was painted head to toe in grey make-up.  The group, you will have guessed, was run by a young Chris Timothy...our very own celebrity...although as I had still not cracked into double (age) figures, I didn't think of him as any different from the rest of the adults.  He had a lovely wife...and as I remember it, they seemed to adopt a new child every week.  We would most regularly see him on TV when he was advertised The all made him a bit racy.  But he was a lovely, inspiring man.  All Creatures Great and Small came a few years later.

As the years have passed, I occasionally thought it would be good to see him

So when I saw him, I turned and said "Chris.  You won't recognise me.  It's been forty years since we last met."  Naturally, as a good actor, he was not wrong footed, and we quickly got into a conversation, briefly catching up on history.  I left with a buzz, it was a stupendous evening.  Only going to show just remarkable coincidences can be...we hadn't planned to go to the play, we didn't know that we would bump into friends who would delay us just long enough to meet someone who had a significant influence on a part of my childhood.

Sunday 26 May 2013


The Cat's Mother had expected this:

Fortunately, I knew better.  So at least one of us was happy.

We were going to a site-specific performance by the London Contemporary Aldwych  underground station.  Aldwych (or Strand if you look at the signs above the entrance) has been shut for twenty years.  Very exciting indeed.  In truth the music was more Brian Eno than...erm...melodic; but the event itself was fantastic.  A deserted underground station...all very Doctor Who.