Saturday, December 31, 2005
Scenes from various parts of London Thursday evening. I kept getting the strangest of looks on the tube home with my luggage covered in plastic wrap. It was if I was carrying Laura Palmer home. Cling-wrapping your luggage probably isn't as popular here as it is in Australia as Londoners don't know that loud mouthed drug smuggler from the Gold Coast otherwise known as Schapelle Corby. I got the "Schapelle Wrap" as I wasn't confident that the zips would contain the 30kg of stuff contained within, and I didn't want my Aussiebum pants flying all over the cargo hold, rather than over any concern about what baggage handlers in Brisbane would do with them (or stick in amongst them)...
Of course since everyone in Australia now is paranoid about 4kg's of dope being inserted by Brisbane baggage handlers the wrap is de rigeur. Incidentally while in Oz I heard a new jingle:
Don't blame it on the sunshine,
Don't blame it on the Bali Nine,
Don't blame it on Qantas this time,
Blame it on the boogie.
Scenes from Heathrow Thursday 19:36 - After nearly an hour at immigration (where someone was arrested after walking around for 10 minutes yelling out what sounded like "Stella" in another language), Paul walks back into London...
Incidentally as the plane was getting ready to land one could glimpse all the major landmarks of London (Tower Bridge, Westminster, The Eye etc)... Just another winter's night in London.
Oh and it wasn't as cold as I was expecting... Temperatures were somewhere above zero for most of the night...
Friday, November 11, 2005
No more postings on this site until I return to London... Assuming I am allowed to return! In the meantime my blog is at http://paulincognito.blogspot.com. Thanks for reading...
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Things I will miss (in no particular order):
- The weather. It has been fine and mild, and as the leaves are now starting to fall it looks all rather pleasant. I will be returning to Australia (Brisbane in particular) where it is hot, sticky and glaringly bright. When I tell English people about this they look at me and say "Oh yes I can see how you just can't stand the prospect of returning…"
- Public transport that sort of works. Actually even with its problems it is still by far the most civilised public transport I have encountered in all my travels.
- The parks the greenery and all that goes with that
- British Television. Series three of Little Britain is about to commence. Darn.
- Marks and Spencer food. By far the most edible and doesn't taste like they made it with their feet.
- My gym. Even by London standards it was pretty "out there".
Things I won't miss so much (again in no particular order):
- A fried chicken store on every corner with that lovely aroma of week-old vegetable shortening wafting out of it
- Sandwiches that appear to be soaked in mayonnaise.
- Hard water
- Being accosted by beggars and Big Issue sellers (wait a moment, that will happen in Brisbane too)
- Shitty coffee
So it will be over and out from Paul in London. And over to http://paulincognito.blogspot.com
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Maureen Lipman starred in the title role and was quite hilarious. It was quite amusing watching her antics and the highlight definitely was her recreation of the "Queen of the Night Aria" from the Magic Flute. Florence on record sounded like a strangled Chihuahua and Lipman equally rises to the challenge. She isn't singing Oklahoma here…
In her recitals Florence put on some rather extravagant costumes (that she made herself) and threw flowers out at the audience. She often got so carried away that she threw flowers at audience members with gusto and then threw the basket into the audience. A month before her death she also sold-out Carnegie hall in a one-night-only show that became the stuff of legend. So there was plenty of inspiration for comic material.
In between the great "performances" the script was less interesting and full of jokes that probably played well in Birmingham (where the production originated) but seemed a little bit obvious for jaded London theatregoers. It could have done with a bit of a trim (and maybe inserting another song or two), but it still made for a rather fun night out. The best line was one of Florence's quotes: "People may say I can't sing, but no one can ever say I didn't sing". Hmm… It was also worth seeing as I don't think it will be around too long. Even though it has had great reviews I suspect it isn't the sort of thing that will pack in the punters…
Monday, November 07, 2005
Scenes from G-A-Y at the Astoria Sunday 02:08. Jason Donnovan singing live. The photo can't capture the horror a gaunt, aged poxy-ridden (he had some sort of flu) man he actually was. Guess those years of class A drugs took their toll... The punters loved Jason, but I think I was too sober to get into that. Oh to be at the Astoria on the wrong night. In two weeks time Madge will be there performing live to plug her new album release "Confessions on A Dance Floor"... Timing is everything...
Sunday, November 06, 2005
On Friday evening I caught the opportunity to see the travelling production of Macbeth at the Almedia. It was a one-man version of the show starring Stephen Dillane (he starred opposite Nicole in The Hours). Alas it wasn't the most interesting of shows to see. The words pretentious and rubbish come to mind when describing it. You have to hand it to a director who manages to strip all the nuances and power from a story and just leave you there trying to work out what's going on while an actor changes voice, speaks in French at times (a French lady Macbeth anyone – ooh la lah!), and fights to be heard above music screeches that were composed specifically for this production.
It is the sort of show however that some people have loved, and its short run is practically sold out. I wondered how some of the audience managed to applaud after 100 minutes of squirming and restlessness. I didn't. It was the first time since seeing the English foghorn Elaine Paige that I wanted to boo. I decided non applause and folding my arms with the production's luvvies surrounding me was enough of a statement.
Actually the only thing I did like about it was the black sand which formed the basis of the stage. It looked great and Dillane writhed and wriggled all over it which was interesting to watch. One of the more interesting aspects of the evening was that Woody Harrelson was in the audience. He will be appearing in Night of the Iguana which is set to open on the West End shortly. He showed up wearing trainers and a track suit and beanie to watch this show (no best dressed awards there). Before the curtain went up he also went to the bathroom and it was there as I was wiping my hands that I heard a fart emanating from the cubicle he was in. So there you have it. First case of celebrity flatulence I have heard all the time while being in London. Let's hope it won't be the last.
Friday, November 04, 2005
The recital in the first half consisted of songs by Purcell and George Crumb. Fleming gave some background on why Crumb was a particular favourite of hers, noting that while as a composer he wrote rather dark moody music, in real life he is such an unassuming character he offered to fix a neighbours lawn mower (so there!). André Previn, Alban Berg and Schumann completed the second half and by the end of it all the audience was completely taken by her. It was what the punters had come for. And she is such an entertaining singer to watch.
All this fantastic singing was enough to make one get in line and wait for half an hour for her to sign one of her CDs after the concert. I wasn't the only one either. A thought I was such a groupee but the only reason he didn't join the long line up of devotees was because her Handel arias CD had sold out and Barbican staff informed everyone waiting that Ms Fleming would only be signing her merchandise that was on sale. "So she won't be signing your left buttock!" I told him. He then skulked off to the bar. She was such a lovely person that it was worth the wait.
Other guy: Yeah it was a big night on Sunday…
Australian: Did you take any pills to get you through it?
Other guy: Yeah had a few things, how about you?
Australian: Yeah me too, although the one I like the clubs don't like here…
Other guy: Yeah GHB is good. I did a bit of K too…
Australian: I'm not a fan of K. I like to know where my feet are…
Other guy: Some of my friends don't like it because they think it is a horse tranquilizer, but it must be okay if paramedics use it…
Australian: Yeah I know what you mean. I try and do the cryptic crossword to make up for those brain cells I am killing off…
Thursday, November 03, 2005
In SW2 where I am now located there isn't much of that. Although on the weekend a strange man (who was not local) knocked on the door and asked if A would mind "holding his things" for a little while… Apart from that it is a nice quiet street, in easy walking distance to Balham and Streatham Hill, although personally I prefer the extra walk to Balham than Streatham Hill which has to have one of the crappiest high streets in Britain.
Well this arrangement is temporary and depending on the outcome of a few things my location will change quite drastically in the next week or so…
At the exhibition there were quite a lot of photographs to get through in the hour I set aside to see it. The exhibition also included letters, proofs and other paraphernalia relating to her life and gave some insight into the inspiration for her photographs of eccentric yet everyday scenes. You don't get much of a sense of why she may have killed herself at the age of 48 (although her living conditions around the 1970s looked a bit dire) but you do get a great sense of her perspective.
And it became apparent to me that her iconic photographs from this period were recognisable even before realising who the hell she was. Fortunately there is a Nicole Kidman film in the works based on an unauthorised biography. The film is tentatively titled Fur so no doubt with a title like that rampant lesbianism will feature (which was something that wasn't touched upon in the exhibition either)…
Monday, October 31, 2005
Scenes from Soho Thursday 23:29. After failing to get into a pub on the Southbank where an Australian TV programme was being filmed, Ad and I walked back into Soho and went to a more familiar bar that had a much more cheekier display. The bar dancer moved like he was imitating a spin cycle on a front loader, but the punters seemed to like that anyway...
Saturday, October 29, 2005
Paul: I live near Tooting Bec Common now
Fa: Well you will have to get yourself a dog so you can walk it in the common
Paul: Yes I notice that dog walking or walking small children is the popular thing to do there
Fa: Hmm... I would just stick to the dog...
Thursday, October 20, 2005
Her best advice though was to bring your cashmere sweater when coming to Britain. Of course it is worth noting that cute little outfits that cost a fortune carry no cachet with Londoners. Dress shabby.
And of course customer service here IS rubbish. I used a pretty lousy minicab service the other night to get to SW2 and was charged an extra £5 for carrying luggage. Ok so it was a little TV, a monster suitcase and a few boxes but I still thought that was outrageous. I suspected I was being scammed here but in the end I couldn't be arsed to haggle over it. I just made a mental note to write about it on the blog and to avoid that company in future…
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Monday, October 17, 2005
Sunday, October 16, 2005
Indeed there were a lot of typically British things on display including:
- A passionate love for not killing animals
- Overzealous gardening (and it all looked very organic)
- Upper class twits and eccentric town folk
- Edwardian terrace housing, and
- The usual red telephone boxes and post boxes
The other downside to seeing it at the cinema was that you were inflicted with a very bad computer animation featuring penguins that apparently was a plug for the upcoming release of Madagascar on DVD. It was loud, noisy and looked like rubbish… I think one kid in the entire audience laughed at it (presumably she has special needs).
Golders green station
Originally uploaded by kirwilliam.
Northern Line trains being refitted with safety equipment at Golders Green.
This week everyone has been an expert on trip-cocks and other things that stop trains when tube drivers do a SPAD. The Northern Line resumed a very limited service tonight for the first time since Wednesday evening. But it will be another few days before there is anything like a regular service… A good time to be on holiday…
This week my flatmate R was also at home on holiday so it was a bit of the idle life this week. R and I were reflecting on the past few months this week and I would have to say that my time here has been the best of all my living experiences in London. No prissy queens, no heavily medicated boyfriends, just good sensible living, with a smattering of gentlemen callers. Actually this week it has been more like lashings on R's part I don't know how he has the stamina to keep up, but I digress…
Reflecting on it all R mentioned that he had sussed me out pretty quickly, but what I didn't mention to him was what made me interested in this place. I remember that day in February well. Checking out the flat I went to the bathroom and noticed skid-marks in the toilet bowl. I figured that if somebody was that casual about not cleaning the toilet when strangers were coming over to check out their place then they couldn't be all that bad to live with. So that is my flat-hunting tip in London – check the lavatory for skid marks.
Monday, October 10, 2005
And speaking of Boy George, there is the tragedy of his arrival at Heathrow yesterday. After wondering for years why he wears all that hideous makeup the truth is that he is concealing an even more hideous reality. He looks like the rough trade you find at The Black Cap on a slow night… Put the makeup back on!
Sunday, October 09, 2005
Ad: Well Austria's greatest contribution to society was Hitler wasn't it?
Austrian Woman: You are so rude!
Paul (to the woman): Yes he's terrible. And if the drinks weren't so expensive I'd tell you to throw your glass of wine at him…
At the time I thought it was just because I was seeing a taping of Celebrity Mastermind which made it dull, but this was an odyssey too. It was one full of bad jokes (the warm up man used the line "dirty stinkin' gypos" which I thought surely wasn't very BBC-ish), hideous sets, and endless repeats of poorly arranged songs. Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, they managed to find an arrangement to do so.
Television is a curious thing as well as what makes it what it is, is local celebrities and local in-jokes, so it is a difficult thing to appreciate culturally as well if you have not had the years of exposure to it. The host was a typical garden variety smarmy type who had hosted several game shows and curiously seemed to be well-liked by the punters. It must be something about the magic of television that I wasn't getting here, or there was a cultural gap...
Having said that, on the plus side, there was very little of the usual Musical numbers that I feared (although they may have recorded those Phantom and Les Miz numbers in previous episodes). Two numbers – a jazz version of "Summertime" and a club-act style version of "What I did For Love" actually sounded pretty darn good too. It wasn't bad hearing those twice, but for the remaining four-and-a-half hours it was less torch song and just more torture.
The recording was made for a series to be aired in January on Saturday nights on BBC1, so it will be perfect for that sort of timeslot when everyone is at home and miserable so why not inflict a cheesy show on the punters – well the ones that can't be arsed getting out on a Saturday evening….
Friday, October 07, 2005
This version was set in a Ukrainian-style country where an English conman was mistaken for a UN inspector looking into the country's human rights record. Michael Sheen was quite funny as the bumbling English conman but every once in a while the comedy ground to a halt when someone's tongue was ripped out, or people were killed. A little bit too black and not enough comedy perhaps. Also at nearly three hours, it tended to drag a bit.
Geraldine James as the President's wife was also particularly amusing, although A suggested that Jewel in the Crown and Gandhi were the days of her better work, but I suggested her best work surely has to be in the second series of Little Britain where she breast feeds her son (aged forty)… Well, it is a popular show here anyway.
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
A: Thanks for washing them. What washing powder do you use they smell terrific?
Paul: Why I use Fairy… Non bio…
At this point Paul does not mention the M&S fabric softener as A is too busy cracking up…
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
I told him that there was nothing to fear as if by chance he saw something that took his fancy I would rush to the bathroom or make some sort of quick exit. Of course Saturday and Sunday mornings in Soho are not the places you are going to find the most eligible men in the city so I figured I would not be making any quick departures…
On Sunday Ad had the skirt steak and it was a source of much discussion as to what part of the animal this came from. The waiter was none the wiser on its location. It was of particular discussion as Ad said it was tough (and it looked like old tyre tread). The waiter agreed and he suggested to Ad that he feed him something else next time. I wasn't quite sure what exactly he had in mind but I think the lesson of the day was to avoid the skirt…
Sunday, October 02, 2005
Meanwhile closer to WC1, there were plenty of punters out and about as Oxford Street closed to traffic so there could be a street party. The effort was to boost sales that have been sluggish even before the July bombings.
No number of street performers bussed in from Covent Garden can conceal the fact that Oxford Street is a bit of a disaster. The shops east of Oxford Circus are mostly rubbish, and what is west to Marble Arch you have to fight through the crowds on poorly maintained footpaths. Oxford Street is really something to cross to get to the gym, to get to Soho, or to go anywhere else…
Later in the day the punters were out at the Astoria in force as Robbie Williams was doing what was described as "a small preview concert" of his latest album. Who would have thought so many females under 25 could be concentrated around such a small area of Tottenham Court Road?
Friday, September 30, 2005
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
I understand that it isn't a terribly popular exhibition and while it has some great photography in it, Modern China isn't the most exciting thing to see – unless overdeveloped grey concrete bunkers in a cold and hostile environment is your idea of living. Interestingly one of the collections of photographs by Song Dong I had seen in Brisbane at the APT in 2002 (so there was a touch of the so-three years ago about the exhibition as well)…
Anyway, you do leave with a sense of wondering about this emerging superpower as to what sort of future is in store for a country going through rapid industrialisation and upheaval. And it still wasn't enough to convince me to have some dim sum for lunch…
Monday, September 26, 2005
Scenes from Bloomsbury Sunday 14:11 - It isn't everyday when you find a working fridge freezer for £35 outside your front door... Not surprinsingly (as Londoners love a bargain), within an hour it was sold... Just in time to beat the heavy afternoon rains that would have probably rendered it less useful...
In another curiousity the central heating came on this week in the building... Apparently winter is here even if it isn't... It made me wonder whether:
- The other residents of the building are fearful of temperatures below 15 degrees,
- The authority that runs the building gets a good deal on the gas used to heat the boilers,
- The other residents missed the furnace-like atmosphere of the stairwells over the past three months when the heating was turned off,
- The basement rats turned it on after eating their way through everything else down there,
- The authority that runs the building doesn't have any idea as to what it is doing, or
- All of the above.
Saturday, September 24, 2005
One suspects that the Met Police is more interested in this story than in the past as the current police commissioner is keen to focus on middle-class drug users… Moss is not getting off as easy as when resident toff and former Squidgy-lover James Hewitt was let off with a warning over cocaine use.
On a more sanguine note, St John Ambulance is hoping that London poddies will take advantage of first aid tips that can be downloaded to your iPOD. Another post-July must-have download perhaps…
Scenes from Stockwell Tube Northern Line Northbound Thursday 22:43 - Heading back to Bloomsbury after some sensible drinks with friends in Brixton... Unexpectedly I also managed to get a few presents as well including a bottle of champagne and a bottle of fizz from Australia. These were consumed on Friday evening in WC1 which has left one feeling a tad tired today...
It isn't hard to see why it is a favourite. It has great food and is a smart restaurant without being too pretentious.
For the main course I had a baked cod which was fabulous and A had a pig's trotter. I asked whether this meant there was a three-legged pig wandering around Wandsworth Common but the waiter assured us that all the legs were taken off the pig so no wandering about the common could take place…
It has been around for ten years as well and no doubt the latest publicity will bring in new punters to SW17 (afterall, it is only a short trip from Victoria Station)…
Scenes from the South Bank Wednesday 18:28. Royal Festival Hall is now covered in scaffolding for the big refurbishment, but the front of the building is very sensible with the new eateries and establishments along it, and very very popular as basically there has been only rubbish along here before...
Such is the pulling power Mike Leigh has nowadays, although he is more famous for his films such as Vera Drake and Topsy-Turvy, and Secrets and Lies. As luck would have it there were returns, so I snapped one up to the matinee performance. Leigh is famous for his use of developing characters with actors and making them improvise the subsequent scenes over an intensive period of rehearsal and workshops. Through this process the story and the narrative takes shape.
As it turns out the play is a slice of life story about a middle-class secular Guardian-reading Jewish family in Cricklewood. Cricklewood is an area of north-west London not too far from Finchley Road / West Hampstead so one could get all the location jokes. The play initially focuses on the reaction of the family when their layabout son decides to take up the religion, but then moves to focus on other matters that bring all the family members back together. The family home is full of Ikea furniture and Joan Baez albums and captures perfectly a slice of life in north-west London.
The play is also fairly economical with the dialogue in the first scene setting up the whole scenario that is about to unfold for the next two hours, so you have to listen carefully. Being a matinee this can be a bit problematic with the elderly audience forgetting that they are not watching television and so any comment such as "ooh he looks just like my son Dave" reverberates throughout the theatre. Another distraction came in the second half when someone's hearing aid kept whistling throughout and interfering with the sound system. I was half expecting someone to shout "Turn your hearing aid down Agnes!" but it didn't happen. But these distractions still couldn't diminish the interest on what is happening on stage. It was a fantastic play and definitely one of the best I have seen while here. I suspect this play will have a future life…
Incidentally there was also the added bonus of seeing Nitzan Sharron bent over in the second act and showing a bit of plumber's posterior. Live theatre can always have some cheap thrills, and I don't think the blue rinse set were quick enough to pick this little bit up…
Friday, September 23, 2005
Scenes from the Ritz Tuesday 20:00 - Champagne Afternoon Tea with an assortment of sandwiches, scones and pastries. A declared that it was definitely something sensible to do before one turns thirty amongst the palms and golden light and silver service... And it was ever so sensible.
The late sitting wasn't as heaving as other sittings can be throughout the day. There were an elderly couple a little way over who A suggested could be us one day. He particularly remarked that the old lady could be me in the future as he could always picture me wearing a pearl necklace.
There was an element of surprise to the goings on as I was told to meet him outside Fortnum and Mason at 7pm wearing a jacket and tie. Since being on vacation for the past few weeks this was a change from what I had become accustomed to wearing but jeans and A&F polos can't do for every occasion...
So I scrubbed up fairly well and we walked down Piccadilly to the hotel. It was such a warm night however that being served initially with Champagne and then washing it down with copious amounts of Orange Pekoe did have an unusual effect on one's constitution. I vehemently denied A's accusations that I had become drunk on one glass of champagne!
But still amongst all the glamour and glitz, it is very easy as one sips Orange Pekoe to see what others in-the-know know, about life's cares passing away when having tea at the Ritz.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Scenes from the British Museum Tuesday 15:44 - Just visited the Persia: The Forgotten Empire exhibit which consisted of lots of plaster casts and a few amazing artefacts loaned from Tehran which give an indication of the former empire. The casts (one is pictured above) taken in the 19th century are now in better condition than the originals so have special significance.
This show has been getting raves and while it is a cramped exhibition (particularly trying to navigate around the pushy old ladies who are experts at trying to push you away from what they want to see) it is well worth catching...
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
A new interesting stat has cropped up suggesting that 46,000 Londoners are using crack. Sometimes it feels like you know them all when you wander through certain parts of Bloomsbury, or use certain railway stations in South London. It hasn't been out of the ordinary for some crack users to light up on public transport... Such is the life of a London crack user.
In the last few months I have noticed the dealers in Soho are getting more and more bold with just openly asking you if you are after various vitamins. It is mainly "coke" or "charlie" one is offered (being white and looking middle class I guess). When I am with Ad he has this annoying habit of talking back to the dealers by saying "No my name's not Charlie". Oh bah hah...
And in today's breaking news Kate Moss, who the Daily Mirror caught snorting cocaine (surely that couldn't have been hard), has been dropped by H&M as the face for a new fashion lineup. The economic implications of being caught snorting must have became apparent this week when she ended her relationship with Britain's living turd and part-time Babyshambles singer Pete Doherty. Looks like it will be all downhill for Kate now... Here's hoping anyway. It is such a smashing tabloid read!
I'm thirty years old tomorrow
And I haven't worked since late August.
What a bum!
Just thinking about tomorrow
Turning thirty while pals are pushing forty
I feel young!
So I'm on holiday
And its grey
But I just head to the gym
I'm thirty years old tomorrow
So I gotta hang on
Come what may
I'm thirty tomorrow
And that means not much
It isn't a good sign when your building supervisor exclaims "oh you too" when told that there are either mice or rats in your flat. I suspect it is both and that when the lights go down it is a little rodent free-for-all in this place.
Sunday, September 18, 2005
Scenes from Buckingham Palace Saturday 16:03. Just who are these two gentlemen in white? Rumour has it that they went to Buckingham Palace in their white wardrobe to see the special exhibition of Queen Elizabeth's (later the Queen Mother's) White Wardrobe. While their clothing isn't exactly Norman Hartnell it is amazing how the one of the right is wearing a black sash just like the Queen did on her tour to France in 1938 (although the fact that it is a black Kipling bag is beside the point)...
The summer opening of Buckingham Palace (which runs through to 27 September) was a chance to see the State Rooms of the palace as well. There is a sense of the dramatic in the design of some of these rooms along with a great sense of history. The state rooms are a mixed bag of grand stately design and over the top dramatics but it all seems to work rather well. Besides it is a fabulous location with a rather grand backyard (where the above photograph was taken). One also got to see some of the secret passageways that connect the state rooms to the private residences.
The actual White Wardrobe exhibit was a bit of a disappointment with only a handful of dresses on display and a few of the gifts. It would have been much more interesting to have a more substantial collection of the dresses to reflect the style of what she wore, and how this became her signature look etc etc but it wasn't to be. Instead it was just a few moth-eaten silks and sequins from the 1938 visit. Oh well, museum curators the organisers are not... The rest of the tour was interesting enough anyway.
As one leaves the section of the grounds you are permitted to walk in you have the chance to purchase royal ice creams and buy trinkets in the royal shop (a copy of a copy of a copy of royal plate anyone?). Along the walk A kept pointing out to anybody who looked in our general direction we were wearing our white wardrobe... So much for the subtle joke.
Oh and one was not the illegal immigrant arrested on the grounds on Saturday either. We paid to get in...
Thursday, September 15, 2005
Things that I have done this week while on holiday:
1. Read. Including newspapers. The Guardian has a fantastic new format and has finally ditched that san-serif font that I loathed... Not that I want to get the reputation for being a "Guardian Reader". Over the past two years I have carefully cultivated an impression that I read the Times... And I do... And this has got me out of a few sticky situations (believe it or not) but I may have to change now that The Guardian has gone berliner... It will mean having to put up with all that anti-war editorial but oh well...
2. On Monday I met with A near Embankment Tube. I was a little late so was looking around for him and then suddenly out of nowhere I see him jump in front of me and shout "BOO!" While I was initially startled I took it to be a personal triumph that I managed to get a man who was wearing a pinstripe suit (and looking all very senior executivish) to do something totally silly.
That's it for now, but the week isn't over yet...
Caught David Mamet's latest play Romance last night which was an unusual experience. It took a while to dawn on me that this is a farce and a bit of an odd one at that where the dialogue actually doesn't help with the comprehension of what the story is about. By the second scene however it began to make sense to me that it doesn't make sense. So if you could sit back and enjoy the ride then you would have the time of your life as middle east politics, burnt stew, gays and goys take over... Most of the time saying fuck this and fuck that in that very tasteful way that only David Mamet can put it.
By the time the interval came around and we were doing post first act analysis, A commented that he wasn't so sure about it. A friend of his quipped that he didn't understand it at all but was absolutely transfixed by the lunch actor Nigel Lindsay was carrying in his trousers. I think it was the cut that made the trousers hang in this particular way but whatever the reason Linsay seemed to have won many new admirers... The sparring his character has with his attorney in the second scene I thought stood up on its own merits without adding his lunch in my opinion anyway...
But by the end of the play however I suspect that many more people were won over by all the nonsense. There were lots of smart one-liners and it all made for a very silly evening out. Notwithstanding the distraction of Lindsay's lunch, it was a teriffic ensemble cast as well. John Mahoney was particularly memorable as a judge who gets carried away, takes too many pills and forgets what the hell he is doing in the courtroom. He has such great comic timing and catching him afterwards he commented on how much fun he has playing the role. It may not have been written for him, but he did seem well suited to the role.
After the show talking to a few other people there was a smug sense of satisfaction that the derogatory comments referred to in the play are not the usual talk engaged by Londoners. Well, maybe not in Islington where they are much too sophistimicated for that sort of thing but in other parts of the city anything is fair game. Perhaps a trashy comedy about London stereotypes is long overdue.
Incidentally it was opening night last night and the critics seem to be either trashing it or praising it. Cheap laughs aren't easy to get in the theatre so it was worth going to see this one... Just brush up on your ethnic slurs (or take a New Yawker with you)...
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Trafalgar Square was a popular spot to be for the ashes fans... St George flags were all over central London yesterday as everyone (who was English) decided to go crazy after winning the Ashes for the first time in 18 years... Fortunately all the Australians interviewed on TV were very complimentary saying the "better side won" and all those niceties.
Meanwhile over at Harvey Nicks at Knightsbridge a man shot and killed a shop assistant in the beauty department before turning the gun on himself. Probably not the best place to go for a facial at the moment...
There has been a slight hiatus given that one has been busy with a few other tasks, but on Sunday a successful dinner party was held in Balham. A was cooking curries for his friends and I was an innocent bystander in the goings on.
During the evening however, the subject of chicken curry I cooked in Australia was brought up as a topic for discussion. I had cooked a curry for six and when eight arrived I threw in a head of cauliflower so there was enough for everyone. I had raised this a week or so back with A as I found the whole idea of using cauliflower as "chicken extender" quite amusing. A being an aficionado on what to put and not to put in a curry found the whole idea of cauliflower in a chicken curry to be a ghastly thought and so much discussion ensued about the merits and demerits of cauliflower in a chicken curry. I maintained it rather a practical solution for when eight instead of six guests arrive.
After everyone left and we were doing a bit of clean up, I suggested to A that there were some other potential practical things to think about for future dinners such as
- How to make guests who bring cheap red wine drink it
- How to save time by preparing microwavable desserts and pass them off as your own
- How to carry on conversations with dinner guests who know great detail about the saunas in Rome.
Sunday, September 11, 2005
On Friday night I caught a preview at the National Film Theatre of Pride and Prejudice - the new version with Keira Knightly. Keira is on all the posters for this flick, but the real thing that everyone in the cinema was talking about was whether Matthew MacFadyen would be any good as Mr Darcy and especially if he could match up to Colin Firth.
I had an open mind about this as I had only just recently seen MacFadyen in Henry IV (Part 2) at the National. He played the role of Prince Hal in this production and while he was very good, in Part 2 this role doesn't give him much to do except for walking around becoming more and more regal. I had it on good authority from A that he was much more interesting role in Part 1, but still I could see that he had the necessary sour-puss face required for Mr Darcy.
The National Film Theatre had just renovated the main cinema to improve the sound and acoustics. As the cinema is located underneath Waterloo Bridge one once could hear the rumble of busses from time to time. But as the film started I wondered whether the sound improvements just increase the volume of the film as from the opening credits we were blasted with Dolby Surround of Jean Yves Thibaudet on the piano. It was like Apocalypse Now meets Jane Austen.
Anyway it didn't take long for the story to unfold. At two hours there wasn't a moment to spare and so the film seemed to run at breakneck speed. But one thing that seemed to be a little odd about the film is that despite the gorgeous cinematography, only Keira was allowed to be bathed in perfect light and have makeup. It was a little jarring to see Keira and Rosamund Pike (playing her sister Jane Bennett) in the same room and have a headshot of Keira looking beautiful and gorgeous in perfect light and makeup and then to cut to Rosamund looking like she just got out of bed and lit by a fluro tube. Jane is meant to be a little mousy but I didn't think that meant she should look like a rodent. The other actors didn't fare much better. In key scenes with MacFadyen every skin blemish and open pore was clearly visible on his face but Keira looked beautiful and had a warm-lit glow on her (even if the scene involved heavy rainfall). I said to the others that it was impossible to compare MacFadyen with Colin Firth simply because he had the disadvantage that he didn't have Keira's makeup artist or lighting.
All told however I did like the movie. The comedy was played up in this film and you almost felt like hissing when Judy Dench came on screen as Lady Catherine De Bourgh or snarling at the near cameo role of Rupert Friend as the dastardly Mr Wickham.
Post Film Analysis
I had seen the film with A and his friends An and Ro. Ro is American and in his spare time had brushed up on the BBC Seriesbefore the film so he had done his research. This research was useful as it meant that we could have a detailed conversation about the film and the mini-series without having to mention New Orleans. The relief effort (or rather, the complete lack of it that has led to possibly thousands of deaths and anarchy) has sort of become the latest thing to ridicule Americans about - so much so that most here are pretending to be Canadian. Anyway after the film we headed to the new Southbank area beneath Festival Hall for a bite to eat - only to find out that they were packed so we crossed Waterloo Bridge into Covent Garden to find less crowded fare.
This walk allowed for much post film analysis. A was much more ambivalent to the film but I suspect that was because nobody could beat Colin Firth is his view. How can one argue with that? Colin has that mature, country look and has perfected the art of looking sullen so it is a hard act to follow. MacFadyen though has youth on his side. If he had better makeup and lighting I would add to this his looks but alas this was not meant to be.
But over a dinner of gourmet burgers there was a general consensus amongst the rest of us that it was good movie and we would give MacFadyen the thumbs up - even if he didn't have the same makeup stylist as Keira. There were other actors in this film who were fabulous - particularly Brenda Blethyn and Donald Sutherland as Mr and Mrs Bennett. They were mercifully far more subtle in their characterisations than in any previous filmed version I had seen. Oh and the countryside did look lovely, whether it was misty wet or sunny. GNER are offering special deals to get to Lincolnshire, Peak District & Derbyshire where it was filmed.
Film Antidote: Le Dernier Métro (The Last Metro)
On Saturday A and I went to see another Catherine Deneuve film at the NFT again. Honestly, if we go there too often we will have to start wearing dark turtlenecks and let our hair go shaggy so we look like the other cinephiles there...
But anyway, The Last Metro was much more serious than Pride and Prejudice, but quite terriffic in that way that only the French can make films. Well worth the return visit...
Thursday, September 08, 2005
Shocking news on the front page of the Evening Standard that Shane Warne was suspected of shoplifting. Even more shocking was that he was shopping at Cecil Gee, which sells mostly rubbish at name label prices without the snob value of buying an actual label. Then again, it is probably a safer bet than talking dirty on a mobile phone...
The final ashes test has made anybody with the slightest ambivalence towards cricket a little more interested in the game now that it actually seems like England has a chance of winning. As much as people taunt me about this prospect I don't really care if Australia loses as they have held the bloody thing for 16 years. Ok I may be accused of being thoroughly un-Australian for saying it but surely nobody can deny that this Ashes has been more interesting than the last few?
Caught Prom 71 last night with A. We didn't sit together as A was very organised and got his tickets ages ago while I bought my ticket online at 1am Monday morning upon remembering that this concert was coming up this week. This last minute purchase meant that I sat in the circle with a restricted view. This meant that I could not see all of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and at times the acoustics made it seem like the orchestra were playing down the street. It was also bloody hot with the heat from the lights and 3000 living and breathing bodies in the hall seemingly rising and hitting you in waves... But I could see the conductor Zubin Mehta and the soloist Katarina Dalayman. As it was an event concert that was being televised it was exciting to just be there anyway...
It was a bitty programme really however with the lovely Haydn Symphony No 103 opening the programme, followed by Three Fragments from Berg's opera "Wozzeck" which didn't really sound great if you weren't familiar with the opera. Dalayman sounded lovely however up in the cheap seats even if it wasn't quite possible to understand what she was singing.
After the interval however (which enabled me to escape the heat of Albert Hall and stand outside in the pleasant September evening) came Stravinsky's Rite of Spring which is a particular favourite of mine. It is full of passion, excitement and death but it isn't everyone's cup of tea. A hearing it for the first time didn't think much of it. He wasn't expecting so much percussion and death. Indeed after the piece you feel like you need to sacrifice a virgin. No wonder that the premiere of the piece in 1913 sparked a riot. We both suspected that those Russians have a very different sort of spring to one in India or Australia - a spring of DEATH perhaps. Still I loved the piece, and it was great to see it performed live by such a great orchestra.
The audience loved it too. So much so that Mehta then gave as two encores two Strauss Waltzes. Well it was the Vienna Philharmonic so the punters lapped it up. It ended the evening on an unusual programming note however. The audience was lulled into a false sense of security with the Haydn, then beaten about by the Berg fragments, before being witness to a virgin sacrifice with the Stravinsky and then waltzed out of the hall with the Strauss. An unusual journey to take all in one evening...
Scenes from the V&A Garden Wednesday 18:04. Prior to heading to the Proms concert at nearby Albert Hall I met up with A for a quick bite to eat in the V&A Garden, which has only just recently opened. The garden is where you can have a quick coffee and a muffin or something a little more substantial in the open air and feel very sophistimicated amongst the York stone and overlooking a pond and lush grass. It is a very smart space. I felt smart just by being there...
Anyway, the V&A is open late on Wednesdays and Fridays and is well worth a trip in the early evening when it is less crowded and there is a programme of events.
A also gave me a quick tour of the museum - which included showing me the toilets the Royal Family uses when they visit the museum. Alas I couldn't see the cubicle with its own wash basin as somebody was using it at the time of visit. They must have been awfully surprised to hear A and I trying to open the door before we realised that it was engaged. Oh well, some other time. I noted that the garden, which was opened by Charles in early July, was an awfully long walk to the bathroom had he needed it, but I understand that the conveniences were not required on that occasion...
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
The press today were in the full of reports about the popularity of ketamine. Ketamine for the past few years has been the drug of choice by the gay clubbing community and it has been standard issue at any gay party or dance club as it can be easy to conceal and if taken correctly gives you an experience. Thanks to a new research report it has confirmed what has been going on in the wider clubbing community - ecstasy is out and ketamine is in. It also helps that ketamine is a legal drug for now. All you need to do is be on good terms with your local vet...
Of course there was another reason to travel to Chichester yesterday and that was to catch How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying before it ended. It is a very silly show although one could get some career guidance out of the central message that a little bit of research and a lot of brown-nosing can get you anywhere if you play your cards right.
The show was a lot of fun and well staged in the Chichester Festival Theatre. It is a very funny show and despite some of the stereotyping and sexual innuendo (or perhaps because of it) it still holds up well. Some songs such as "A Secretary Is Not A Toy" had difficulty being accepted by the mild-mannered Chichester audiences. They were much more comfortable with the standard from the show (I don’t think there is more than one) "I believe in you". The little old folk beside me at the back row were humming away to that one (a pity they were drowning out the ever-so-faint leads)... Such are the things audience members have to endure when they see something in repertory in Chichester no doubt.
It was a pretty faithful revival to the original production which was a bit unfortunate as at three hours it could have done with a little trimming. It seems to be a trend with revivals at the moment (well at least with Frank Loesser shows) to throw in every musical number ever connected to the show to please the aficionados out there. This is fine if the songs are any good, but just as the West End production of Guys and Dolls pads out the first act with a throwaway number "Adelaide", this show inflicts us with "Cinderella Darling" which was cut from the 1995 Broadway revival on the grounds surely that it made the all-female secretaries look like meek pathetic little things.
I am also not so sure if the female lead of Rosemary played by Fiona Dunn should have been so bland and have such bad posture. She was outshone a little by the blonde bombshell Heddy (played by Annette McLaughlin). But despite all this the audience was still on Rosemary's side... Finch was played by (the very nice Scotsman) Joe McFadden who had great comic timing which made up for what he was lacking in the vocal department. I Last saw him in Aladdin at Christmas last year where he was just as silly there as well.
So overall the set was great, the ensemble terrific and the dancing excellent and all those other things that make something entertaining were there (although nobody flew across the stage on wires which is very popular nowadays – even if the reason is a bit dodgy). Who could ask for anything more? More coffee perhaps... Especially to stay awake for the duration of the last train back to London. One could stay in Chichester for more than an afternoon, but that would be stretching it I think...
Scenes from Chichester Cathedral Monday 17:32 - The Cathedral has obvious influences from a variety of periods dating back to the Norman periods (and that is the bell tower on the left), but in the grounds amongst the old gravestones there were a few goths having a picnic and burning what looked to be a bible. Oh those crazy goths. They will try and smoke anything...