Friday 26 December 2014

2014 and all that

So nearly at an end of another year.  To paraphrase a phrase known to was the best of years, it was the worst.  Obviously the blog is not what it used to be...which saddens me..perhaps it had become just a habit, perhaps I've been otherwise focused...I'm not sure.  Who know what 2015 will bring...

Anyway, it's often said that The Cat's Mother and I are always out and about, so it seemed fun to write down what we've been up to (mostly cultural)....what can I say...aren't we very, very, very lucky indeed:


Secret Life of Mitty - the only Ben Stiller film I've ever enjoyed.  Great fun

Inside Llwellyn Davies - Brilliant.  Especially if you understand about the cat

Who Framed Roger Rabbit - the original in a Secret Cinema event.  Jessica Rabbit.  Jessica Rabbit

The Book Thief - not liked by the critics...we did though

Grand Hotel Budapest - mad and brilliant

Millers Crossing - More Secret Cinema, more fun in the round

The Double - certainly appealed to me very much if not the rest of us who went to see it.  Surreal

Calvary - vies with Inside Llwellyn Davies for my film of the year.  Devastating

The Trip - yes we saw it at the cinema with a Q&A with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, as well as on TV; very well done...not as good as the first series

Rio2 - I didn't see this.  I don't think I missed anything

20,000 Days - Nick Cave talks us through his life.  Worth it to see Kylie driving along Brighton sea front.  We celebrated The Cat's Mother's 20,000 birthday too this year

Box Trolls - great animated fun

Rush - motoring racing turned into a great film about James Hunt...The Boy and I loved it

Imitation Game - Benedict does what Benedict does very well.  Surprisingly good, very British

Paddington - Brilliant.  Really.  Loved it

The Hermitage - a film guide to St Petersberg's most famous Museum.  Strangely compelling and enjoyable


Emile and The Detectives - kids stuff; I snoozed through most of it.  But it's very popular

The Duchess of Malfi - a Jacobean drama in a candlelit Jacobean theatre.  What's not to like?

August Osage County - no, not the film, but The Cat's production in Exeter.  We travelled through floods to get there, and would do again

Coriolanus - a phenomenal production at the Donmar; we watched it live stream

King Lear - I was in a minority not liking this, even if it had Simon Russel Beale in

Taste of Honey - 1950's England revisited...and very well done indeed

Life of Mozart - the great man's life revisited at the Wannamaker - well done, but not really my thing

Knights of the Burning Pestle -  riotous fun.  Unbelievably written five hundred years ago.  Fab

Oh what a lovely war - great to see at the original theatre (Streatham Playhouse).  Sadly it hasn't survived the passage of time

1984 - at the Almeida.  The critics loved it; we thought it mediocre

Another Country - you can't keep a great play down.  Very, very well done

Grimm Tales - immersive theatre in the Shoreditch Town Hall basement...what a wonderful thing this was

Ellen Terry - I didn't see this, so can't say one way or another

Sonnet walk - Shakespearean actors performing sonnets around the streets of London; sadly I missed this year's one, but loved it last year

Hamlet - at The Globe.  Blood, guts, ghosts, Yorrick.  Perhaps not the best

Testament of Mary - another one The Cat's Mother saw and I didn't.  Sad to have missed it

Billy Eliot - amazingly I hadn't seen it before.  Glad to have ticked the list, but it's lost the sparkle

Onorous - classical Greek story in rhythmic pidgin English.  Much, much more enjoyable than we expected.  A highlight

Benvenuto Cellini - at the ENO.  Some spectacular moments, just not enough of them

Cabaret - one seen by The Cat's Mother in New York...if it was as good as the version we saw last year, it was brilliant

Titus Andronicus...more blood and guts than you can imagine in my favourite piece of Shakespeare

Norman Conquests - the Cat's second outing, this time in Camden; one play three different perspectives...a triumph

Medea - the critics raved, the audience raved, I quite liked it

Annie Get Your Gun...went to prove that Jason Donnovan could sing and act.  We were wrong

Shakespeare in Love...everyone else had seen the film, this was my first introduction and I loved it...but didn't enjoy the film as much when I watched it on DVD afterwards

The Boy Who Climbed Out of His Face - an immersive experience in shipping containers.  Not surprisingly the household was split.  I had a fab night.

39 Steps...I was taking The Boy to Edinburgh, so good job I'd seen this and enjoyed it before

Once - oh yes.  Surprised I loved this

Streetcar Named Desire - a towering piece of theatre, although not quite as I remembered it from O Levels

Bally Turk...lots of shouting and a programme that said you didn't need to understand it to enjoy it.  I did enjoy it, not sure I enjoyed it

'Tis pity she's a whore - more Jacobean theatre involving incest and death. Great performance

Alice in Wonderland - The Royal Ballet performing one of the greatest productions.  Second time we've seen it, and there's still nothing better at the RoH

Charles III - we'd both wanted to see this for ages, so it was a shame some of this was risible, some of it was obvious and we should have left at half time

Monty Python - most of the old team, still making everyone laugh, although a bit more slowly and nothing that's cutting edge (not surprisingly)


Easystar All Stars - everything I was hoping for from the 25th Anniversary show of reggae Dark Side of the Moon

Rufus Wainright - I'm not a fan, but I strongly suggest you search YouTube for the clip of him singing Somewhere Over The Rainbow. Sensational

Mari Wilson - a small intimate venue, Crazy Coqs, was ideal for this lovely evening

Black Rivers - Two-thirds of Doves.  I so wanted to like this, but in truth it wasn't as good as it should have been...back to the rehearsal studio please

Temper Trap - in my eyes they can do nothing wrong.  We didn't agree about that

Bastille - actually we preferred the support and bought her CD.  Again I had a bug so was not having a great time really

James and Starsailor - a concert that truly restored my faith in concerts.  James were phenomenal....the best concert I've been to for years from a band that I hardly knew.  They understood how to entertain and delivered with aplomb


John Richardson - he was very funny indeed.  And I don't like stand up comedy!

Julian Clary - music or comedy...well both really at the Crazy Coqs again.  Another highlight


Henry Moore - just up the road from us is Henry Moore's old home estate, and we headed there because there was an exhibition on contemporary artists - I needed some pictures for my photo course and got them.

History of Germany - at the British Museum.  Fantastic, truly much to see and learn.  Loved it

The art of the brick.  Love Lego.  But it's not art.  No matter how many times the artist told us it is

Ansel Keifer - an exhibition that I was dragged along to kicking and screaming, but left feeling that I'd had a perfect couple of hours

Turner at The Tate - you've seen one, you've seen them all...well not quite, but perhaps I have no culture

Other stuff

Palace to palace cycle ride - a lovely day out with good early start, stags in Richmond Park and beautiful scenery along the Thames

Drumming at Lewes Bonfire celebrations...five miles banging on a drum fairly rhythmically surrounded by burning barrels, flaming torches and loud bangers.  For me the achievement of a long-held ambition.  So pleased to have done it

Sandringham on the Orient Express...another of The Cat's Mother's day trips.  A carriage of Essex girls on a posh train.  Would have loved to have been a fly on the wall

Ghostbus - a spooky tour of London that scared the living daylights out of Muffin minor...I should have gone on to a 100km cycle ride, but a bug that would subsequently last for 2 months kept me low

Tower of London Poppies - I planted, I picked, and we visited.  A remarkable and remarkably moving event

Sacred Monsters - Akram Khan and Sylvie Guillem giving a phenomenal performance at Sadlers Wells

Two book readings/ with the irascible Lynn Barber and the other with the talented Tony Parsons

I might also include my weekend of bobsleighing with Team GB

And I might even include getting a diploma in Photography

Charity run round the Olympic Park counts for something too

There are a few things just plain forgotten...but can you blame me?

Wednesday 10 December 2014

Too many yellow people

Yes, we're back on that UKIP theme again...we'll when you're on a roll it's hard to let go isn't it?  Good to see their General Secretary is in the news today for all the wrong reasons.

Anyway, back to those yellow people.  My brother has been in and out of hospital a bit too often for my liking (and to be honest his too probably).  Firstly a day trip to Papworth to sort out continuing heart issues...another stent seems to have sorted that out.  But at the same time they substantially upped his medication. So no wonder when he was in writhing agony a couple of days later, and rushed to Addenbrooks, the probable diagnosis was liver failure due to an overdose of prescription drugs.  He was popped into the ward where everyone with liver problems are being treated...and therefore, of course, they're all yellow.  It's an odd sight.  As it turns out, it was 'simply' his appendix.  Which he now doesn't have.  It's a real relief that it was nothing worse...especially for him, but truth be told the stress isn't too good for his mother or brother either.

Friday 5 December 2014

More bloody immigrants

A couple of weeks ago I posted a heavily ironic piece called Bloody Immigrants.  I thought it was witty, amusing and clever.  Just like me.  I am sure you agree.  Anyway, a strange thing happened a couple of days later.  UKIP started following  me...digitally, not as in stalking me.  Clearly their social media manager cannot read beyond a headline. 

So I take from that I can say pretty much anything I like about the pig-ignorant right-wing thinking and racism that permeates that organisation so long as I say it in para 2 or beyond.  As it happens, I know someone who used to work with Nigel Farrage in the City, making his fortune by exploiting the weak and poor.  He has regaled me with stories of Nigel's drinking habits.  Some might call it a drinking problem.  I don't know if he still drinks himself silly on a regular basis, but I can think of at least one other politician who had a drink problem.  That was George Bush.  Look where he took us.

Anyway, I wish we'd taken on the Polish builders who bid for the work at our house.  The English one we took on has demonstrated that he cannot organise himself out of a paper bag, but has an endless capacity for bullshit.  Two months into the project, and we're a month behind a very detailed schedule.  Given that it's a six month project it looks like it will in fact be a nine month build.

Wednesday 3 December 2014


It may or may not be worth the paper it's printed on, but this is what's been keeping me away for the last several months.  It's the first certificate I've got since I left school (if you include big persons school - University).  I'm quietly very pleased.  No I don't do weddings, bar mitzvahs or funerals.

Friday 21 November 2014

Back again

I've become one of those occasional bloggers, sadly, for me at the moment.  A combination of being exceptionally busy and somewhat less organized than usual (and I set the bar pretty low here at the best of times) means that I haven't put anything down with the regularity I like...I think last year I was penning nothing in particular roughly every two it's once a week at best.  One of the biggest occupiers of my spare time has been this photocourse I mentioned a while back.  I've been ploughing through it at the rate of a module a week..which even if I say it myself is pretty impressive, when it should be more like a module a month.  I have to do an assignment at the end of each module...and get marked for it.  There was one set back when I'd misunderstood what I needed to do (oh sweet memories of 'O' levels, 'A' levels and degree exams) and had to re-do it, but apart from that I've been hitting 80 -90% each time.  Which is amazing as the last module was Photoshop which I'm convinced would baffle Einstein did baffle me, but evidently I pushed the right buttons, lightened her, darkened there, sharpened this, raised the temperature on that and generally fiddled until the course tutor was satisfied.  Could I do it again?  I give the same answer as I would give if you asked me to re-do one of the questions on comparative international politics that gave me top marks back at University.  No.

So what else?

I went to an exhibition by a photographer who essentially takes pictures of the sea at night with an exposure time of 3 - 4 hours.  They are very good indeed.  What does he do in the meantime?  Essentially he sits there contemplating life, the universe and 42.  He invited me to join him.  I've neither declined nor accepted.

Our annual Old Boys Dinner.  Oddly, I then bumped into one of my table companions two days later on the tube, having never met him outside the school environment in the last 36 years.  Even more odd, was then bumping into another table companion, having also never met him outside the school gates.  Interesting how these things work isn't it?

Bonfire night was very special for me.  For many years I've attended the crush of Lewes where the traditions of parades through the high street have not changed for the last several hundred's a dangerous experience indeed.  80, 000 people pack into the town, to be pushed and shoved inches from flaming torches, burning barrels and 20' effigies loaded with fireworks.  This year I managed to be part of the procession due to the participation of the Pandemonium Drummers...they're the folk who drummed at the Olympic Opening Ceremony, and invited me along.  I've never it a drum before in my life, and I had to do it for a five mile march, in costume trying to match everyone's rhythm.  For me, it was experience that will stay with me for many many years.

We saw a very, very funny Julian Clary at the Crazy Coqs - which is the most intimate venue imaginable, all art deco and reminiscent of something from the 1930's.  Think Berlin Burlesque cabaret and you're not far off.  He spoke his way through a number of songs in a Rex Harrison style, and we were captivated by his humour. I'd say more, but it's hard to describe.

On Halloween I was supposed to do one of my 100km night rides, but a bug has got me, and even now, a month later I can't shake it off.  I refuse to give in, but it's quite wearing really!  Instead we went with the Muffins of a Ghost Bus Tour's (say it our loud and you'll get it) trip round London town.  With a commentary from a haunted conductor and interrupted by a devilish inspector, this was a great way to see some of London's grisly sights and here about the gorier side of the city's history...even if it did reduce the smallest Muffin, who has a very vivid imagination, to a quivering tearful wreck...

A cultural evening to the Wannamaker Jacobean theatre to see 'Tis a pity she's a whore.  So lots of incest and anti-catholicism and it's good to be reminded that all the world's problems are the fault of women.  The Wannamaker is such a fabulous place it's hard to imagine that anything put on there could be bad...and the experience of seeing candle-lit performance is quite magical, and like nothing you have seen before.

We also went to the cinema to see a premiere...a film about the Hermitage.  It was fascinating...there are 2000 exhibit rooms, and when we visited I guess we didn't see more than 20.  An interesting experience getting a tour round like this, and the film makers did well to make it interesting.  We learnt that Sir Robert Walpole sold off many British pictures to the Russians...Catherine the Great really did have so much money she just didn't know what to do with it, but many then got sold to the Americans after WW2 when Russia was short of cash.  In the meantime, many additional pictures had been freed from the Germans at the end of the war as part of the Russian quest to give art the hme it deserved...and there's no chance of it ever going back.. 

Not quite up to date, but enough for now

Tuesday 11 November 2014

Life in the trenches

I'm disappointed, but not surprised that the Political Pygmies (apologies to any pygmies reading this) have been playing their games at the Tower of London.  What should be just a fleeting memorial to the casualties of the Great War, has been seized on by politicians of all colours to gain an extra point in the popularity polls.  The poppies took several months to install, and will take several weeks to dismantle (my turn for picking is this weekend, after planting back in August), so there was never any question that they would magically disappear over night.  Sometimes.  No not sometimes, usually, politicians make me want to wretch.

The title of this post is rather a poor joke reflecting that today is Remembrance Day, and actually refers to our current distraction.  We are having building work done.  It started in October and will continue until April, at least.  They've done the demolition, and if drilling piles down ten metres can be considered progress, we are already into the construction phase. But the back garden does still resemble the Somme.

Tuesday 28 October 2014

A complete family

I'm pretty upset to have been reading some statistics recently.  The average salary of a quoted company CEO is 130 times that of the average wage.  5 million people in the UK live beneath the official poverty line.  How can that possibly be?  What has happened to the concept of a fairer society.  One where we are all rewarded for our endeavours?  The poverty line statistic is utterly disgraceful, the CEO statistic is shameful.  How come 'Greed is good' has ceased to be a satirical line in a Hollywood movie and instead a life philosophy?  The salaries of top earners are way way beyond what they can spend in any way, let alone whether they deserve it or not.  I've often pondered what might be a reasonable annual salary for a top that allows them to live a luxurious lifestyle, but that does not represent exploitation...I rarely get above a few hundred thousand quids.  That's a massive amount by any standards, and beyond that it is just pure evil greed.  Having met and socialised with people whose wealth would make your eyes water, it never ceases to amaze me how clever, clever they think they are, how deserving they think they are and how resolutely detached they feel from the dreadful state that western societies are in.  The rapid concentration of wealth in the bank accounts of fewer and fewer people cannot be anything other than bad...and sooner or later it must bite back.

 I wonder if any of my Facebook friends have noticed that I've stopped clicking the 'like' button...I will comment on posts, or share, but not click like.  I saw somebody had suggested as a way of  'transforming my Facebook experience'.  I wouldn't say it's done that, but it does make me think a little bit more about what people are posting and I'd say I get more out of it than I used to.

If you're wondering, and there's no reason you should be, I'm currently running about a fortnight, nearly three weeks in fact in fact make that four weeks), behind with my blog a bit like looking at a nebula, all the action happened a little while ago.

It was my brother's birthday in early October, and we always meet up for dinner. There's one thing he always is.  Prompt.  To the second.  He's never late.  So it was of some concern that we were sat in the restaurant for quite a while without him and his other half.  Eventually I texted, and a few moments later they walked in.  I'd say a little sheepishly; they'd deny it.  As it happens the reason they were late was because they'd been in the car park.  Not just sitting there.  They'd bought a new campervan...practically on the way to see us, so were excitedly exploring their new purchase.  No doubt they'll have many happy weeks exploring the English countryside...but hopefully not at the moment as we're currently enjoying the tail end of a hurricane the Atlantic has sent us.

The next day we jetted off to Cyprus for a few days to see Grandma and Grandpa.  It's a trip we've been promising for months, but it has proved difficult to juggle all our commitments...if only they lived just down the road we could drop in for a cup of tea and piece of cake every week.  A five-hour flight, and the clock being two hours ahead mean that flying out there effectively you lose a day.  So we left  comfortably in the morning and arrived in time for a late dinner.  A few days in Cyprus is lovely...enough to get some sunshine and a bit of relaxation and to catch up on how life is for Grandma and Grandpa in Cyprus.  My brother followed us a week afterwards...and even sent back a photo of the local launderette for the launderette blog

Friday 24 October 2014

Bloody immigrants

I can't believe we allow any damned foreigner to come into the country, steal our jobs, our food, our houses....and our women.  It's a disgrace.  They're just slackers.  I'd put them all back on a leaky boat to where they come from.

Anyway, here's a picture that's currently being used by the Tirolean Tourist Board to promote the region.  The skier on the right is McFred.  What a fine lad...and how adventurous of him to have got a job in Austria last year, found somewhere to live whilst he romanced the local girls and enjoyed the local cuisine.

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Completely exhausted

I've somewhat lost the thread of this post which I wrote a week ago and then forgot to may not be finished, but I don't have the energy to re-read it....

We had a somewhat eclectic weekend the one before last.

Friday night was high culture with a performance at the National of Ballyturk.  I hadn't been paying too much attention so had assumed it was a dance piece called Ballet Turkish.  We were four rows from the front which is normally good, but in this case it was a bit of a shame.  I have developed this incurable habit of dropping off during Act 1 of anything, and this was a one act play.  I'm sure it's the perfect actors play, and the parts were played very well, especially Stephen Rea who we last saw on TV in the Honourable Woman.  But, but, but you know it's emperors new clothes when even the programme says you don't need to understand it to enjoy it.  Essentially from start to finish it was two men screaming at each other.  That was the performance.  Two of us 'got it' was inside a traumatised child's head.  You may enjoy it, and I wanted to but no.

Saturday evening was spent in the company of John Richardson who is a very funny man indeed.  I'm not a great one for stand up comedy, but he pulled it off very well and it was a very enjoyable evening thanks to my friend Graeme and his girlfriend Vetty.  They enjoyed themselves too, but the evening ended badly for them when they returned to their parked car to find they had a flat tyre...and no spare.  We'd already left so didn't find out until later when we were cursing the rubbish Tube service.  We got home about 11.30, they finally arrived home at 2.30, short of £200.

That was unfortunate for Graeme, as the next day he was taking part in a 45 mile cycle from Palace (Buckingham) to Palace (Windsor) (Yes, I know it's a castle...don't split hairs.

I arrived nice and early at the start line clad in lycra...the penalty of being sponsored by a corporate.  Still I was able to take this view from Waterloo Bridge.  Glorious eh?

We all set off for a very, very pleasant ride through the south of and west of London...the absolute highlight for me was to see the stags in Richmond Park which were absolutely magnificent...I wish I could have got pictures.  Here are our team:

I was lucky enough to be caught by one of the professional photographers

I was pretty relaxed at the end as it had all been done at a leisurely pace...

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Complete nonsense

I may have suggested in my last post that I hadn't been up to much.  A quiet weekend?  Complete nonsense.  I have ants in my pants.  A couple of weekends ago we spent the Saturday wandering round the Henry Moore Foundation...I've mentioned it before, and then on the Sunday we spent most of the day wandering around the Olympic Park.  This was unfortunate as we'd left the lights on the car which meant we were left stranded outside the Aquatic Centre.  Fortunately I've always relied on the kindness of strangers, and sure enough one came along and agreed to let us jump start off their car.  The reason for our wanderings was my need to take some pictures for my photocourse...sadly the aim was not to make great works of art, but rather understand some technical challenges.