Showing posts from September, 2005

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Belters and bohemians: Opera Locos @Sadlers_wells

At the start of the Opera Locos performance, the announcement says that they really are singing. You could be forgiven for wondering that, given the amplification turns up the backing track and the voices so loud that you can't always tell what's real. But this is a mostly harmless and slightly eccentric blend of opera classics fused with the occasional pop classic. However, recognising the pop tunes would help if you were over a certain age. The most recent of them dates back twenty years. It's currently playing at the Peacock Theatre .  Five performers play out a variety of archetype opera characters. There's the worn-out tenor (Jesús Álvarez), the macho baritone (Enrique Sánchez-Ramos), the eccentric counter-tenor (Michaël Kone), the dreamy soprano (María Rey-Joly) and the wild mezzo-soprano (Mayca Teba). Since my singing days, I haven't recognised these types of performers. However, once, I recall a conductor saying he wanted no mezzo-sopranos singing with the s
Scenes from South Kensington Tube - Tuesday 16:41. District Line Eastbound. 

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…
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! 

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??    
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. In another pr

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...

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... 

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
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 b
Scenes from the British Museum Tuesday 15:52 - My what a big fist those Egyptians have... 
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...
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 fas

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 Nowadays

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.
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 se
Achievements 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
Scenes from WC1 Thursday 12:22. I am on holiday and it is cold and it is raining. Well...  
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 wh
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? 
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 cl
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
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 rea
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 engage
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 th
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... 
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...
Scenes from Tooting Common Sunday 15:27. The last day of the holidays and a sunny day so all the pink skin comes out... 
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 mor
Scenes from Kennington Tube Thursday 20:48 - Waiting for a southbound tube train... 
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 prod
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...