Saturday, March 26, 2005

Monster music on Good Friday: St Matthew Passion

Caught the (near) sell out concert of St Matthew Passion with the City of London Sinfonia and BBC Singers last night. Richard Hickox conducted, and the Evangelist was played by Tom Randle who was superb. The first time I had seen someone treat the role as though it was retelling a drama and not reciting an oracle (although the music at times does tend to lend itself to being the latter).

At three hours in length however it is a marathon effort - for the performers and the audience. It is one of those pieces that can work really well or fail spectacularly. I was in a performance of the latter once, so it was nice to see the former happen last night.

For those in the audience that didn't feel like DVT was setting in, they rewarded the performers with a raptuous applause. They had definitely earned it, and you could sense the relief in the faces of the orchestra members and chorus that it was over. They certainly earned their performance fees last night...

I found out when I got there that one could have stayed at home and listened to it on BBC Radio 3, but it is more fun being there live... Even with the possibility of DVT. Oh and last minute purchase of one of the few remaining seats meant I was surrounded by pensioners (and the curious smell of mothballs)... They never give you the demographics of who is sitting around you however when you book alas...

Friday, March 25, 2005

Music: Musical Theatre Students

Thursday night caught a performance of this year's Musical Theatre Students at the Royal Academy of Music. It was ninety minutes of songs from musical theatre from this year's class that includes Ian H Watkins (or H as he is known). He wasn't a star for this performance however - it was the class and the ensemble on show.

I went with a group of musical aficionados which meant while they were appreciative of a good performance, they was also pretty ruthless when some individuals chose songs that just didn't work for them. Beware the group of musical aficionados if the costumes look too tight, there is a milky white stain on your trousers, or if the song isn't right for you...

On the other hand I was wondering whether they were getting marks for degree of difficulty, such as the man who couldn't pronounce "H" singing the Billy Joel song "Say Goodbye to (H)ollywood" or the woman who just didn't have the notes or the oomph to sing the song "If you hadn't but you did". Although for the odd voice crack or notes left out here or there, there were so many other amazing performances and the show was so well put together for the variety of different musical theatre styles covered.

Scenes from Euston Square Station 19:03.  Posted by Hello

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

News: Bang! Bang! and Pussy Galore

Last night was a bit of an odd night really.

  • First a man gets attacked by a large black furry thing while he is looking for his kitty, and it is assumed that another 'Big cat' is on the loose in London
  • Then at Brixton Academy two shots were fired in the air during a rap concert causing a situation and stampede out the exits. Gun crime is a hot issue at the moment in Brixton so this sort of publicity was the last thing that was needed. Fortunately there were no injuries in all the kerfuffle, but the English language took a bit of a bruising with this music critic's account of the evening and the "spewing muzzle"... Bleah!

Life Miscellany

  • Ran into the old Australian flatmate from Haringey last night. It was one of those chance meetings that in such a big city you would never believe would happen, but hey Charing Cross can be like that! He has been on a six month holiday around the world and back in London to live and work. Updated him on where I live and what I am doing. He didn't seem surprised. But then again, he was around when all that nasty business cropped up in the heady days of October 2003 so he had the inside information.
  • My colleague kept humming the tune "Put your head on my shoulder" today. It wasn't hummed to me, but both of us seem to hum bright and beautiful music from time to time (although I seem to hum songs like "Too much too little too late"). Its the one set of music that we can agree on since she didn't seem too enthused about Elgar Symphonies. To stop the humming however I sent her the lyrics in an email titled "Don't hum them, sing them"
  • I should be in bed now - well I am in bed but I am sitting up typing this - but Rear Window is on ITV and it is keeping me up. Where I live now reminds me a bit like rear window. You can see into all the other apartments. Mostly you see is badly looked after plants and clutter. No dead bodies thankfully.

Monday, March 21, 2005

News: Gypsies and other wedge issues

The phony election campaign will last for at least a couple more weeks, but it is Howard that has been getting all the dream press. Today it was the plan to crackdown on gypsies and travelers on illegal campsites... There is a serious issue here but you can't get too bogged down on that during an election campaign.

The mastermind behind the Tory campaign is Australian Lynton Crosby and the Guardian has been asking can he win one for Michael Howard? You would have to say the smart money is no, but there is always the problem for Labour seeking a third term in office that nobody showed up to vote for them... Garden variety Labour voters might be bit prissy like that after the war and things like university fees and may just take their ballot and ball point pen and stay at home...

Scenes from the Northern Line 20:41: It sure aint rush hour... Posted by Hello

Scenes of Paul: Apart from retail therapy on Saturday also got standard issue gay mens short haircut. My hairdresser is straight, so does that make it a straight gay mens short haircut or a gay mens straight short haircut?? Whateveryoucallit, I look like everyone else at the gym (except for those one or two horrid people who have long hair, which on men should be banned unless your name is Meatloaf)... Posted by Hello

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Music: LSO and Elgar

One of the nice things about London is that

  • You can go online Sunday morning and see what's on, and book a ticket to see an evening of Elgar. It was the Elgar Violin Concerto and Symphony No 1 with the London Symphony Orchestra, Richard Hickox (conductor) and Tasmin Little (soloist for the violin concerto). It was a fabulous performance.
  • You can get a cheap seat at the Barbican to see it. Mine was £5 because I couldn't see the full orchestra, but I could see the double basses very well (for what that was worth) and the sound was excellent.
  • You can show up to the concert wearing any old thing including sandals with socks. I didn't, but the man next to me was in sandals. He was with his wife and they looked like they had been together for some time so that may explain why they let themselves go.

Incidentally I wore a smart new jacket that I picked up yesterday for a song while doing some retail therapy. Forgot to bring glasses however so I have no idea if I was being noticed...

One thing about London audiences, they can be a noisy lot. Tonight there was:

  • General coughing and spluttering throughout the performance. I wondered given the average age of the attendees whether there was an ambulance on standby as some didn't sound like they were going to make it to 10pm.
  • Someone's alarm going off for at least thirty seconds during the second movement of the Symphony that the acoustics of the Barbican Hall picked up perfectly for everyone to hear.
  • Someone perfectly timing a loud AAAAH-CHOO! just as the music went quiet. If people are that comfortable to sneeze loudly they should be encouraged to burp and fart perhaps as well.

You also have to pity the performers. As the moment they finish many people in the audience leap to their feet. Not to give a standing ovation, but to get out. It has become a growing trend I have noticed at various venues here in London. No applause just a stampede out the building. Afterall, parking can be such a bitch...

Scenes from Old Compton Street, Sunday 5pm. The temperature dropped on this smoggy day so arms were covered. Posted by Hello
News: Delusions

The Socialist Worker put it at 200,000 people - so it was at least half of that that turned out in London yesterday to protest against the ongoing military presence in Iraq. The Washington Post put the figure at 45,000 (based on actual police estimates). Does it show that the ongoing military operations have ceased to be a hot issue for the election? I suspect so... Interestingly it was lovely how the Socialist Worker article could use "civil liberties" and Iran and Syria in the same sentence. Why does the looney left always have to side with the criminals?

There were a few protesters with left-over placards in Covent Garden yesterday. As after a jolly good protest to relive your baby-boomer rebellious youth, there is always great coffee and cake in Covent Garden (or the all you can gorge pizza deal for £20)...

Scenes from Covent Garden 13:54: Behold the fine weather - warm enough to show bare arms for the first weekend this year. Also note the signs. Human statues and people holding very large signs are the prominent feature in the street behind the Royal Opera House... Not really that keen to take up the crap pizza deal, or the crap rock memorabillia... Posted by Hello

Saturday, March 19, 2005

News: Last orders still at 11 and other bloody stories

Since February when pubs have had the opportunity to apply for extended trading hours there hasn't exactly been a rush of applications... To the surprise of many. Not that they could have opened for longer until November this year, but the application process is such a long and involved process that they need almost 10 months to fill out the form. So no extended drinking hours look likely in the foreseeable future.

That article appeared in many papers, but it is always fun to read the Sun as apart from the tits, you get a very different slant on the world of England (not much more either for that matter)...

By the way despite that axe murder on Monday Eton Avenue is still a lovely street with nice friendly people. Just keep away from the ones with the large heavy implements.

Meanwhile the Hamstead and Highgate Express is calling it Bloody Monday as a nice Jewish pensioner was also killed the same day in what is purported to be a botched burglary in Golders Green.

Oh and something pretty... the daffodils are out...

Conversations at work

Paul [to colleague]: I am going to call that (very important) person who was annoying the hell out of me yesterday
Colleague: What will you say to her?
Paul: Bitch

Since becoming single again I have regained my dark sense of humour. It wasn't too hard to get back. It was just in storage with the rest of my suppressed personality.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Scenes from Tottenham Court Road 10:12pm. Being St Patrick's day there were plenty of punters out on the street - all wearing Guinness drinking hats...  Posted by Hello
News: Axe Murder latest

* The victim was gay
* The killer worked at upmarket west London department store Peter Jones
The story unfolds...


The weather started getting hot today. The first t-shirts on the street were sighted. By lunchtime even singlets displaying bare arms were in view. It was a glorious sunny day and from 8am until 7pm I was inside away from it all... Ah well. It isn't as if I haven't seen the sun before!

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

News: Murder, pollution and feeling peckish

Found the Evening Standard photographs. Still no motive for the public murder.

One other thing I didn't know about the Swiss Cottage corner (that I used to walk by) is that it is the second most polluted spot in the UK... So what's the first???

The other smashing story is about the man who was sentenced to life for two murders - and one of the victims he started eating the brains of (fried in butter). He killed the second while on release from being sectioned, but there are no systematic flaws in the mental health system

Weather: Spring is here

Well actually, from the 15th it is officially spring, but today was the first day it really felt warm. Winter may have been cold and harsh, but you can always wear something fabulous and warm... Not anymore... It was a balmy 15 degrees today...

Theatre: I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change

Caught a fringe production of I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change tonight. It has been playing in New York for some years now, and is a witty little take on dating, marriage, children and death (in that order) although across the pond it seems a bit out of sorts with the English references thrown in to replace the Americanisms. The songs aren't the most sophistimicated ever written but they are witty enough ditties... It also didn't help that the cast seemed a bit young for the material too, and may have been inflicted with one of the lurgies about the city...
News: The waiter did it

A waiter has been charged with the murder yesterday. The Evening Standard website had photographs taken from a neighbour's house that showed a man on the street face down in a pool of blood, which have disappeared this evening... It has been alleged that the waiter described the motivation behind the killing as all very long and involved...

Movie: Kinsey

Finally managed to catch Kinsey last night. Whether it is true to life is another matter (it only briefly touches on some of the more bizarre things that Kinsey performed on himself as "research" - and it is a movie biography), but it does make for a smashing film about a pioneer of his time, who created the scale of one-to-six long before we started using such terms as metrosexual, fauxmosexual, straight-acting, and all those other euphemisms... Amazing how science could be infused with such drama as well...

It was worth waiting around until the end when the footage of animals humping was played over the closing credits as well.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Interestingly too, while I have walked down this street - which is home to many celebrities - I wouldn't recognise one even if I fell over one. And therein lies the problem. How can you spot the difference between an axe-weilding murderer and a media personality?
News Correction

It wasn't a beheading, and it may not have been an axe, but it still sounds pretty gruesome and a Man was killed in street attack at Swiss Cottage...
News: time to move

You know you made a good decision to move when Man dies after being 'beheaded' not far from where you used to live, (and just around the corner from the Swiss Cottage Hotel where you recommended friends should stay when visiting London)... There goes the neighborhood...

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Weekend etc...

Caught up with my sister's friend Jen who was in town for a few days with her friends. I met them at Hyde Park since they were staying at Earl's Court (sensibly Australian thing to do). One of friends had fed a squirrel and was bitten so while they went off to seek medical advice on squirrel bites, I took Jen to the Serpentine Gallery.

Future tourists to London should take note: It is probably not worth feeding squirrels in Hyde Park...

Mess at the Serpentine Gallery - Hyde Park. Tomoko Takahashi’s installation throughout the gallery was an interesting look at junk being art. Personally I would have found it more interesting if the artist was still living in the gallery and walking about with a cup of coffee and in fluffy slippers but that wasn't the artistic experience we were going to get... Posted by Hello

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Music: Rufus

Rufus Wainwright's latest album was released officially this week and he was in town signing copies of it last Monday. Tonight there is a doco on him on Channel 4 as well. He is very popular here and given his talent for songwriting:

An old whore's diet
Gets me going in the morning
Ain't nothing like it
Gets me going in the morning

It is not surprising...
News: The day that almost never was

Yesterday while it was Friday for most, it was still Thursday at Westminster in what was the third longest day in parliamentary history. As they didn't break the 30 hour session, that means that Thursday never finished and the legislation passes on Thursday (even though it was late Friday by the time it did). This means all sorts of things including the fact that Peers will not get paid for Friday (or get anything for their huge overtime on Thursday)

Quirky parliamentary traditions aside, the fuss was all about the anti-terror legislation and so the parliamentary ping-pong all makes sense with the election looming. All parties need to say enough to get noticed at this point, but the matter of being detained without trial is probably also something many are concerned about.

And the secret the MPs and Peers used to stay up all night? Champagne, beer and pizza.

Scenes from Leicester Square 12.00am Posted by Hello

Thursday, March 10, 2005

News: Free travel and technology

This morning the entire electronic ticketing system on the tube was down due to a glitch which by some gross exaggerations will cost£2 million as commuters travel free... That sounds expensive... It would only be a free trip if you had pre-pay which (when it works) deducts money every time you pass through a gate... Travelcard users pay a flat fee for a weekly ticket.

And technology is failing me more locally. Have discovered that my wifi setup is not correct (as it has rendered my flatmate's computer unable to connect to the internet) so will be offline until the weekend when I get the new bits to fix it... I think I will manage...

Weather: warmmmmmm

It is a lovely mild seven degrees (c) today. It feels so hot after the last couple of weeks. It also feels hot as the central heating in most buildings still is on "bake" after the last week of snow. I have some potatoes on my desk going a golden brown as I write...

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

News: The newsreader

Matt Barbet is back reading the London News on evenings. His beady eyes and marvelous speaking voice are just the antidote for the end of the day...

Monday, March 07, 2005

Scenes from Apollo Theatre: 9.15pm Posted by Hello
Theatre: A Life in the Theatre

Caught up tonight with the latest play starring Patrick Stewart and Joshua Jackson A Life in the Theatre by David Mamet.

Told as a series of glimpses through a season of repertory theatre, it was a good chance to see Patrick and Joshua in various stages of undress changing in and out of characters and costumes. Some of the audience members found both Patrick and Joshua in pants to be worth making a noise about. Even wearing glasses I didn't see what the fuss was about.

The interaction between the characters change as the season progresses. Initially Stewart sees himself as a mentor to the younger Jackson, but over time, rivalry and jealousy set in.

While it is a comedy, it also depicted the life of the theatre as some nighmarish hell is enough to make you feel happy with my day job.

Stewart also says "She's a cunt" which has to be worth the price of admission as well. An interesting (if not very substantial) evening's diversion for 90 minutes...

Scenes from Archway Bridge Saturday before noon: peering through the anti-suicide spikes looking south towards the City...  Posted by Hello

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Where has the time all gone to: The weekend

I am back online today after buying a router (that is pronounced, row-ter, which I only mention as I was in a meeting the other day where non-techy people debated the correct pronunciation of this device) and hooking up wifi in the flat. It was a four-hour odyssey to do this as I managed to get my MAC addresses confused. I have no claims to being a techy and am far too impatient to read instructions that are poorly written and can be bypassed in any event, but the outcome is now that I can blog regularly from home once more...

I can do this as out of the settlement for being in a relationship - I got the laptop. As it was one of those "desktop replacement" models that were oh-so fashionable January 2004 (before people came to their senses in March) it is a big ugly motherfucker of a laptop and I don't particularly like it, but as I curse it, I can think that it is storing nearly two years of photos and cheap laughs, so that has to count for something.

Purchase of router followed longish session at the gym which will probably mean that for the next few days I will be in pain. While I was there I caught up with Adam who is also an Australian and a lot fitter than I. We grabbed a bite to eat afterwards in Soho after failing a few times to just get a coffee somewhere (but making an entrance three times probably counts for something I suppose, even if it was just to turn heads and then scamper off)...

Theatre: On the Town

Caught up on opening night of the English National Opera's production of On the Town Saturday night. Yet again, the best thing I have seen.
* Caroline O'Connor was in it playing Hildy "Come up to my place"
* Three American actors were playing the young sailors and even from the Balcony they looked very "exuberant" - better than that phony model they have used on their artwork...
* Full ENO Orchestra played the shit out of Bernstein's score... The horns blaring the opening notes from "New York, New York (It's a hell of a town)" was worth going to hear alone.

The show is much better than the film, which took away most of the music and story because MGM thought it was too sophistimicated for the film going public. They were probably right. Three sailors meet three girls and since they are going off to a war (which they may never return from) they want sex, and the girls want to give it to them. Three exuberant hours of entertainment ensue. The cast as an ensemble were fantastic and it is hard to single out anyone, although Caroline O'Connor singing "I can cook too" got plenty of laughs:

I'm a man's ideal of a perfect meal
Right down to the demi-tasse.
I'm a pot of joy for a hungry boy,
Baby, I'm cookin' with gas.
Oh, I'm a gumdrop,
A sweet lollipop,
A brook trout right out of the brook,
And what's more, baby, I can cook!

Very little of the book and songs were changed and it is amazing how well they have held up after 61 years. The neuroses of big city life still seem to be all there... Although there is no total war looming over people's lives...

The production did have its faults last night, the sets didn't quite work all the time, the props failed and there was this darn blue strobing light on the stage that wouldn't stop flashing in the final 20 minutes, but none of that could detract from what is an amazing three hours of music, ballet and theatre so perfectly integrated into telling one story.

After show drinks

It seemed quite sensible after the show to head to one of the gay bars just around the corner. A few from the audience were doing just that. There is nothing much to report although my attention was diverted to a person across the bar who above the sea of heads was trying to get my attention. Hmmm he looked tall I thought, so I motioned back. A motion isn't really an acknowledgement, it is more like an ambivalent shrug that you could pass off as grooving to the music if they come up to you and start drooling, or have bad breath etc.

But regardless of the gesture, he took it as a signal to come over to me. So he jumped down from the very tall step he was standing on to make his way over. In doing so he revealed he was quite short. Very short actually.

Not really in the mood to have a conversation of giant-talks-to-midget I finished my Becks and cleared the hell out of there...

Scenes from a bedroom window, Friday: Snow. It wasn't hard to find an excuse to get to work late on Friday. My real excuse was to stay at home and take some photos. Afterall, it was just a light dusting... Posted by Hello

Friday, March 04, 2005

Weather: Snow and Ice

It snowed in central London this morning so I decided with this new cold that I managed to pick up in the last day or so I wouldn't rush to work. I got in at 10.30... A sensible start to Friday I say!

Work hard and give advice

In between the usual madness at work I have been advising a colleague at work on relationships which I think has been good therapy for the both of us. Here is a sample from yesterday:

-----She wrote-----
Sent: 03 March 2005 15:04
To: Paul

I know what he wants. Good times, lovely ladies, but deep
down someone special.

-----So I wrote-----
Sent: 03 March 2005 15:23

Deep down we all want someone special, but the question to ask is how low do
you have to go to get there???

Thursday, March 03, 2005

News: Cold malaise

The temperature drops and everyone here seems to get the flu or some exotic stomach bug that makes you throw up and feel miserable. Have managed to avoid all that this week (touch wood). I still keep getting asked by people why am I here and I tell them it is the weather.

Today a combination of weather and essential works caused Icy Chaos For Commuters, but you have to put it into perspective.

Just the other day a woman from Sydney was in the office talking about how dreadful the transport can be here, and I was thinking well compared to Sydney, getting around in London is a dream... Of course, my 20 minute commute into work now is a bit of a luxury that most people don't have, and it was only lengthened by a few minutes this morning with the delays (and sidestepping around the black ice)...

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

News: Luv'ly fush and chups

Jamie Oliver has been getting kudos for his new programme on Channel 4 where he has introduced something novel into a Greenwich School canteen - fresh food.

The programme is on Wednesday night's just before Desperate Housewives, so I don't get in early enough to see it, but his drive to serve fresh healthy food has now got MPs backing him

It turns out school meals at present are cheaper than prison dinners... perhaps the school caterers should swap with the prison caterers for a while...

Weather: Cold

It has been snowing on and off all week. More off than on however the Met office gives such colourful descriptions of severe weather... Strengthening northeasterly winds will also bring problems with blowing snow across hills... Oh the humanity!

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

News: Secret Squirrel guide to London and other moving stories

A Spy's guide to surviving London life has surfaced. It includes tricks to lose a tail by dashing into Liberty department store on Regent Street. It is a rabbit warren of designer clothing and various grades of handmade paper (amongst other fine merchandise).

Marble Arch may be moved. It currently straddles the "roundabout" at Park Lane and is only accessible via a series of smelly underground subways. Not really the most accessible or interesting monument in London anyway

Other Moving

Handed in the keys to the flat in West Hampstead. The real estate agent commented that she wished all her tenants were as good as we were in keeping the place tidy. Hey I'm tall, thin and neat... It goes with the territory...

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Housekeeping and the Weekend

No computer set up at home yet, so have done this update from an internet cafe on the Strand. Oh well, it's nice to get out on a Sunday evening... Even if nobody else does!

I will look back at this weekend and think of the fabulous things that could have been done such as:
* Russian Orchestra at the Barbican
* Walk through the Heath in the light snow
* Take coffee throughout Bloomsbury
* Major blockbuster Turner, Whistler and Monet at the Tate

But no, instead I cleaned the old flat at West Hampstead and after downsizing (ie throwing lots of things out or giving them to Charity) I moved everything else into my new place in Bloomsbury. It was exhausting. You don't want to be carrying an ironing board, two boxes of books and clothes and a wheelie suitcase everyday on the Thameslink. It didn't help that this weekend the Jubilee Line was out for engineering works either. There is no dignity when moving on the cheap. By the time I got to Kings Cross I decided to catch a cab for the rest of the journey home.

We will find out tomorrow during the flat inspection whether we get our (or rather mostly my) bond back, minus the next two weeks...

The rubbish real estate agents hinted that we could get out by 1 March and they would move somebody in from that date but it turns out that they will stick to our six week agreement as they are having trouble moving new people in... Maybe that is because:
* The place was built using dodgy offcuts of wood
* The roof in the kitchen wasn't fitted correctly so now it leaks and is home to several types of mould
* The living area doesn't get much natural light and has curiously unusual corners and dips in the floor
* The neighbor sounds like she is a hooker who gets bitch-slapped every other night
* Homeless men shit outside your place (but I covered that in October)
* Winter is a bit of a slow time anyway

Well hey... Its only money...

News: Oscar Oscar Zzz

Will probably fall asleep tonight watching the Oscars, which has to be better than Temazapan. They are broadcast on the BBC which is a bit unfortunate as they have to find something to fill the regular 3 minute commercial breaks. If last year was any measure of a guide they had Jonathan Ross and other film aficionados smugly commenting on the proceedings while drinking champers. It was excrutiating. So much ado about over paid surgery enhanced actors. Good to read that Awards fatigue is setting in...

New place, New stuff

On the plus side, after getting another one of those fabulous coffees near me, I spent early this afternoon getting some new stuff for my room to make it just so. It now is just so right...

New places: Planet Organic

I now live just around the corner from a Planet Organic so yesterday I thought I would give it a try as it is always busy when I walk by it.

The coffee wasn't so great for something organic and the cafe seemed to be frequented mostly by middle aged women and youngish-scruffy-pasty-white men with bad sinuses. The fact that I could fit into that latter cohort was not lost on me. Was the organic life me, or was I just having a bad hair day and not giving a shit about what I was wearing??

Anyway rather than dwell on this too much, I drank organic coffee, ate my organic muffin and after purchasing an organic cucumber for twice the Gross National Product of New Zealand, I left.