Friday, September 30, 2005

Scenes from South Kensington Tube - Tuesday 16:41. District Line Eastbound. Posted by Picasa

Well its been a long day...

Not much to blog about in the past few days… Well there has been but I have been otherwise preoccupied on my holiday, but this weekend will be a chance to put that right…

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Scenes from the Westminster Tuesday - 19:17. The joys of the internet and live feeds... You can watch him rub his hands, talk on the mobile and wave to photographers... It's just like big brother! Posted by Picasa

Art: Between Past and Future

In a spot of diversionary sightseeing from other more pressing events later in the week, I caught the Chinese photography exhibition Between Past and Future at the V&A this afternoon.

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…  

News: New rooftop tours of Parliament during the summer

I missed that part of the summer tour of Parliament back in 2003 – where you can scale the building and unfurl a banner about not getting access to your kid. This is what happened this afternoon when yet another protestor scaled the Palace of Westminster. The BBC is being kind enough to show a live feed of the man on top of what looks like Westminster Hall. At the time of writing you can watch him make calls and wave to the passers by as there is still enough light around. It is pretty exciting stuff, and watching it you can't help but wondering in a perverse sort of way… Will he slip??    

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:
  1. The other residents of the building are fearful of temperatures below 15 degrees,
  2. The authority that runs the building gets a good deal on the gas used to heat the boilers,
  3. The other residents missed the furnace-like atmosphere of the stairwells over the past three months when the heating was turned off,
  4. The basement rats turned it on after eating their way through everything else down there,
  5. The authority that runs the building doesn't have any idea as to what it is doing, or
  6. All of the above.
In another property matter my flatmate R went to the East End on the weekend - Hoxton to be precise - to look at a penthouse apartment at the top of charming 1960s council building. He took a friend who commented that while the area is ripe for regeneration (afterall the East London line is going there and it will be closer to the Olympics site), it isn't there yet. And you still have to share the excrement-smeared lifts with the other distinguished residents on your way to the top. To top it off the owner of the penthouse managed to give the place a hideous makeover with bathroom tiles in the living room and a curious display of the man appearing in photographs with African men sporting AK-47s. R decided against making an offer on the place. It just wasn't him... Posted by Picasa

Saturday, September 24, 2005

News: Stoned and gathering Moss

Kate Moss stories this week have been fascinating. While we are all relieved to know that she wasn't so low-brow as to do crack, as more and more labels are dropping her, more dirt is being dug up on her hoovering up the cocaine before switching to ketamine. So that's how she can take listening to the Babyshambles… The images of cocaine Kate have been tightly controlled by the mirror but Gawker has an interesting take on it all before the Mirror's lawyers stepped in.

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... Posted by Picasa

Dining: Chez Bruce

Oh and for dinner on Wednesday, A treated me to Chez Bruce in Wandsworth, which has just been voted in Harden's London's favourite restaurant (knocking off Covent Garden's The Ivy from the top spot).

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... Posted by Picasa

Theatre: Two Thousand Years

Tempting a bit of luck I decided on Wednesday to head to the National's box office to see if there was any chance of getting any ticket for Mike Leigh's first play in 12 years. This play has had an enormous buzz around it and has completely sold out its run. Interesting for a play that until two weeks before the opening didn't even have a title or any information on what it was about. Now that is buzz…

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. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Scenes from the British Museum Tuesday 15:52 - My what a big fist those Egyptians have... Posted by Picasa

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... Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

News: London crackheads

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!

Life observations: Turning Thirty Tomorrow...

And now...… A little diversion:

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
And chilly
But I just head to the gym
And grin
And Say

I'm thirty years old tomorrow
So I gotta hang on
'Til tomorrow
Come what may
Tomorrow! Tomorrow!
I'm thirty tomorrow
And that means not much

A rats life

This morning I awoke to see in the kitchen the remains of a small grey furry mouse. It had its head caught in the trap and had fortunately kept it together rather than snap it in half and have its innards oozing out. It definitely did put one off coffee and bagels this morning as I got the dustpan out and shoved it into the garbage bag.

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...
Posted by Picasa

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...

Scenes from WC1 Thursday 12:22. I am on holiday and it is cold and it is raining. Well...  Posted by Picasa
Theatre: Romance

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

News: Ashes and gunshots

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...

Scenes from Victoria Embankment 16:22. Just another sunny day in the park... a nice place for a nap? Posted by Picasa
The dinner game

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.
A wasn't so sure about my thoroughly practical advice but I get the feeling that the next dinner he puts on the guests will be expecting chicken curry with cauliflower...

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Movie: Pride and Prejudice

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

Overheard at the gym tonight:

Man #1: How is your back?
Man #2: Ah I had that back injury years ago...
Man #1: You did?
Man #2: Yeah but the injury seems to live on in stories doing the rounds...
News: Cricket and Warne

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?
Music: Prom 71

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... Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

News: Special K goes mainstream

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...
Theatre: How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

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...
Overheard on East Street Chichester

Slapper (on mobile): Now John I won't say she's using you, but John, but John no, no John but John... John... John...

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... Posted by Picasa
Out and About: Chichester

Heading on the train back to London (arriving at 1am) I can report that my holiday now entering week two has seen me leave London and take a day trip to Chichester. Yes I am getting out and about. Chichester is a lovely little town with Roman ruins and a cathedral - a lot like most little English towns when you think about it - although the Cathedral itself is a fantastic building with some very beautiful artwork, including a John Piper Tapestry.

While shopping in the city centre I happened to notice that there were a lot of things that you could buy that had an Australian connection. Whether it was the wine or the rock salt in a kitchen store, I kept encountering Australiana. What was going on? I am not quite sure what Chichester is famous for nowadays... Apart from the Roman ruins and its summer festival it seemed to be its vast supplies of Australiana... I could even purchase a shopping bag with the words "Brisbane" on it... Hmm...

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Scenes from Tooting Common Sunday 15:27. The last day of the holidays and a sunny day so all the pink skin comes out... Posted by Picasa
Film: Belle Du Jour

Saturday night I caught the Film Belle Du Jour (not to be confused with the blog) with A which is showing as part of a Catherine Deneuve retrospective. During the movie I was impressed with the number of cableknits on display, but it was an interesting tale about a bored French housewife who despite being married to Jean Sorel decides to dabble in prostitution. At this point I was ready to slap Deneuve's character. She could have all the Yves Saint-Laurent dresses and cableknits in the world, but what she really wanted was big fat Asian men and gangsters with metal teeth. What is wrong with the woman??? Still it was a fascinating movie that holds up well nearly forty years after it was made.

After the movie A asked me what did I think the moral of the story was. I suggested that the moral was that one should not take up prostitution in the afternoon. It would be probably safer to do it in the morning when you get the milkmen coming off shift rather than creepy gangsters. I wondered if A was concerned that with my newly found holiday time that he was thinking that I may be considering a similar career choice. Of all things!
Dinner going back...

Friday night I was invited back to Haringey which I had very fond memories of (recalling my posts of October 2003) by M1 and M2. M1 and M2 had arrived at the house after I had left. M2 has just been evicted as he is too French for the house but I told him about my dastardly time I left the coke can out which provoked a full scale incident response so he should really treat this eviction as a badge of honour.

Since I left I had noticed that the household had become vegetarian. Not by choice but the main tenants that hold sway had become vegetarian so that meant that no meat could be cooked in their presence. Well they were away on Friday evening so M1 and M2 had a very meaty pasta dish on the menu. It was delicious. And not a vegetarian in sight.

Oh and the house still looks hideous and awful. I remember the Spanish landlord saying to me that I would have a hard time finding a place as nice as this... I had to bite my tongue at the time. A Soho strip club has more style than this Edwardian Spanish whitewash outhouse in beautiful downtown Haringey...

Scenes from Kennington Tube Thursday 20:48 - Waiting for a southbound tube train... Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Theatre: Death of a Salesman

Caught the 1999 Broadway production of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman last night. Its been playing at the West End for a few months now and it was well worth going to see it. I had read the play at school, seen a film version of it, and perservered through an amateur production of it, but seeing this was something else.

Brian Dennehy from the Broadway production was starring as Willy Loman (he also featured in such classic movies of the 1980s as Cocoon and Legal Eagles) but just as fantastic were the rest of the cast - especially Clare Higgins as the wife. Watching this play on stage you realise what an emotional wallop this gives you. It gradually builds and builds setting the scene in the first act, hinting at hope and an optimistic future along the way but by half way through the second act you can see Willy Loman's life unraveling into a horrible mess, and you watch him go all the way downhill.

There were other little touches in this production that made it such an eye opener. The production kept things brisk as well with a revolving stage and set that helped underscore the madness and weariness of Loman. Characters in his mind and in reality walk on and move off as they appear in his head. Dennehy throughout the play wears the same suit... It seems slightly ill-fitting and creased so Loman looks tired, worn out and obsolete. The office where Loman is fired is small and claustrophobic... They all added to this production...

Leaving the theatre you couldn't exactly say it was something to enjoy but it was something to admire. More than fifty years on the story of making it or not still rings true... Attention surely was paid by the theatre goers last night...
I'm on holiday

Things my friends and colleagues suggested I could do during September:
  • Advertise my wares in the back of Boyz and QX
  • Offer to do house cleaning... with or without clothes
  • Visit more crap towns
There was a theme emerging in their suggestions I noticed...