Friday 16 August 2013


I can only remember two mornings that started in slow motion with a phone call at 6.00 a.m.

Yesterday was the better of the two.

It was The Boy calling from Edinburgh where the offspring are still performing in The Actors Nightmare.  It was 'A' level results day for him and The Cat and thousands of other teenagers across the country.

I stopped breathing as he told me the contents of the e-mail from the school.  Three 'A' grades.  Breath, smile, cheer.  Very pleased.  He has his place at Edinburgh University confirmed.

The phone was passed over to The Cat's Mother for the Cat to reveal all.  More breath holding.  A*, A, B. A grade was dropped from her requirement, so began a worrying few hours to discover whether Exeter would still have her.  Advice was given...but without the UCAS official channels open for two hours, it was a matter of nervous thumbs twiddling for her.

Not for us though. We had planned a surprise trip up to Edinburgh for the day to celebrate the results.  This time we would be avoiding the train.  But it did mean that as phone calls were exchanged we had to tell little fibs.  No I couldn't come to the phone...I was in the loo (I was driving to the airport).

Fortunately, by the time we boarded the flight, Exeter had confirmed.  Much relief, much, much joy.

To be honest, I was blubbing like a's what I do these days when I'm over emotional.  It never used to be like that, I was hard as nails.  But the delight of a successful conclusion to all that hard work, the culmination of all their efforts throughout their school years just got to me.

Our surprise visit was only possible because The Muffins were already in Edinburgh, and had asked the two teens to meet them for lunch...nothing as usual there.

The Boy had arrived at the restaurant before us, so we snuck up behind him.  Nothing but confusion.  Then recognition and a big hug.  Lovely.

The Cat arrived momentarily. Same confusion.  Same hug.  Few tears of joy.


We had a lovely meal with champagne..of course champagne!  And then we went to see their performance again, celebrated with the rest of the cast and crew who had all also achieved their university ambitions before catching the last flight home.

A lovely day we will all remember for ever.

And to cap it all, The Boy was handed a card by an acting agent who rather liked his performance!

Wednesday 14 August 2013

Doing nothing

For the first time ever (probably) I checked my Barclaycard statement and couldn't understand it so gave them a call.  By the time we'd run through it (that was about half an hour), there was a discrepancy of £1.23. Their explanation?  'It's for the smooth running of your account'.  Yes, I nearly choked.

 Google has decided that the route I cycle to work is not the right one.  In many ways it is right...not least because on Friday some joker turned left in front of me in Leytonstone and it's as close to death as I've ever been. Even when I hurled four-letter abuse and witnesses remonstrated with him he was adamant he'd done nothing wrong.  The Cat's Mother thinks that one day someone will thump me for getting angry with them...she may be right.  Someone in the office has suggested an anger management course....

Anyway, the Google route (it pops up on my phone whether I ask for it or not) takes me even further along the canals of London and the Home Counties than I normally go.  It's a lot longer, but flatter for most of the way until I come off the canals and then have to climb the North Face of the Eiger. I love cycling along the canals so that's not an issue.  But as I near home, it takes me through the Forest.  Which is fine if you have a mountain bike, or better still a Land Rover, but on my carbon-fibre, Bradley Wiggins style road-bike it's a bit challenging.  It made me think of all those stories about people blindly following sat navs into rivers, off cliffs or down roads so narrow they get stuck.

Although it might not sound like it, we had a remarkably relaxed was genuine bliss to have no parental responsibility and no real plans.  We saw the new Alan Partridge film Alpha Papa which only confirmed my view that Steve Coogan does not really have much to offer.  It was mildly amusing, very predictable and not very clever.

We then headed off to a bar that I had spied on my canal-side travels.  The White Building in Hackney Wick.  It was a terrific place...well how could it not be as a bar by the waterside with a view of canal boats gliding past.  The Cat's Mother was concerned that we had doubled the average age of people there...but as I pointed out, they were all beautiful young things and no doubt cutting--edge creative, probably working in digital media...when we left after a couple of drinks, we headed out through the Olympic Park which is gradually taking shape and will be a terrific place when it's finished next year.

Sunday I met up with some friends and fellow OOC performers to look at an exhibition at London Museum of costumes from the event.  London Museum is a really great place to while away several hours as it traces the history of the city from its earliest days to the present day...highly recommended.  But skip the costumes exhibit as it was pretty poor.

The evening was spent curled up on the sofa with The Cat's Mother watching Johnny Depp in The Rum Diaries...that's the film where he met the woman who stole him away from Vanessa Paradise.  I picked the Blu-Ray up cheaply from, and now I see why.  It is just possible that he has lost the ability to act, and Bruce Robinson can neither write nor direct.  The scenery was glorious, the rest was poor enough that we were tempted to turn it off...which is quite surprising given how much I'd been looking forward to it.

Tuesday 13 August 2013

About time we were on the Red carpet

Last week we attended the 'World Premiere' of the new Richard Curtis film 'About Time'.  Not quite as grand as that sounds, we simply bought our tickets to see it in the open air at Somerset House....a truly beautiful setting, although you have to sit on the cobblestones and get a very sore bum for your sins.

We were treated to welcoming thirteen of the cast, and a short speech by the man himself.  Terrific stuff.

Anyway about the film.  Yes, lovely, whimsical tale with not so much humour as his past efforts, but very pleasant.  It's already been slaughtered by the critics of course.  The lead is taken by a ginger Hugh Grant sound alike, and it adopts many of his Curtis' norms...including a transatlantic romance and Bill Nighy.  A fabulous cameo from the sadly departed Richard Griffiths alongside Richard Grant made the older members of the audience think of Withnail and I.  The tone of it made me think of Richard Ayoade's brilliant Submarine.  Anyway a very lovely way to spend an evening...not too taxing on a single brain cell and it has a super soundtrack.

Monday 12 August 2013

French kissing....

Talking of France and the French, as I was...we were in France a couple of weeks ago, enjoying temperatures of about 38 degrees.  It didn't start well when we went to pick our hire car from Budget/Avis (did you know they were one company now?) at Geneva airport and were told that they'd let our car go because we were late.  The girl on the desk had a victorious smirk on her it wasn't a customer-friendly smile.  This was a car that was booked and paid for, not just reserved, so I went at her like a rottweiler.  The Cat's Mother stood back.  We got a car, and Anglo-French relations have been put back a couple of centuries.

We'd actually arrived in Geneva a couple of days earlier...only just though as Swiss Air tried to bump us off the flight because the temperature meant they couldn't take on enough fuel.  At €250 each, it was a very tempting offer... Driving into Geneva the taxi managed to run into the back of a stationery vehicle.  I was facing backwards whilst The Cat's Mother and her friend were facing forwards.  As no seat belts were being worn, I can tell you that this is the first time for many, many years that two women have thrown themselves at me in an undignified manner.

Coming out of a restaurant in the old town late in the night a young girl of about 7 or 8 came out of the dark scootering towards us crying because she'd lost her mother.  She was desperately upset and in a complete panic.  We took a little while steadying her before beginning to walk her back up the hill the way she came. Suddenly she spied her mother in the distance and was off  without a glance back.  Children.  Mothers.

Down by the river, we sat at a bar whilst the drugs police dispersed the obvious drug-dealing youths with a dog that would strike fear into the Hound of the Baskervilles.  It certainly struck fear into the chihuahua that was sitting close and clearly thought it was going to be turned into a tasty morsel.

At our friends' flat there are rules.  The Swiss like rules.  They have a rule for everything.  I'm not sure why no monkeys are allowed (top right).  No singing in the bath is also to be applauded if you've heard me sing...perhaps you will understand all the rest.

Odd then that they allow the workings of the Lake Geneva paddle steamers to be completely exposed

We drove to Beaune in the Burgundy region for a three day wedding - bride French, husband English.  Beaune is lovely.  The wine is over-priced and not that great...but perhaps The Cat's Mother shouldn't have told the vineyard guide about the pleasures of Chilean wines these days.  She was very French about it.  The wedding was a chateau of course.

What a fabulous wedding indeed

We saw a lot of sun flowers

We saw a lot of chateaux and vineyards

 And wine
 Amazingly this is an early example  of the french national health service...look at the roof!
 And inside....