Quote Of The Day

"Victory goes to the player who makes the next-to-last mistake - Chessmaster Savielly Grigorievitch Tartakower (1887-1956)"

Monday, July 16, 2018

Chipstead Fair...

Last Saturday Stuart and I went over to spend the day with Judith, Gavin, Clodagh, Colin and the kids in lovely Coulsden.

In the afternoon we all drove to the annual Chipstead Fair. It was nice fair actually - stalls with homemade jams, a huge tent to house the best rhubarb and biggest marrow competitions, a bouncy slide for the kids, a local choir singing songs from the shows, a brass band playing ABBA, stalls selling various home crafts, a local falconer with some sleepy looking owls, a rather sad looking candle stall, the local school gymnastics, that sort of thing. It had just the right mix of cheese and good nature. Mind you, the cheese stall itself was darned impressive!

In the evening the guys laid on a fantastic barbecue for us and we drank the night away together swapping stories, laughing and being entertained by the kids.

Great fun.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Way to piss off Londoners trying to sleep Trump!...

Yesterday afternoon Trump flew over our office in his helicopter and landed up the road in the Regent’s Park.

Then last night a thumping great noisy low-flying military helicopter circled overhead keeping the skies over London clear for Trump’s chopper trip back into town from dinner at Blenheim Palace. Way to piss off Londoners trying to sleep Trump!

And then again early this morning military helicopter thundered over head again.

Be glad when he's gone.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Boris Johnson - “Blackadder in a blonde wig”...

Max Hastings, former boss of Boris Johnson, writes that it is a “common mistake to suppose Johnson a nice man”. 
Be afraid, be very afraid.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Pride in London 2018 - how the day unfolded for @GayGooners with @Gunnersaurus @PrideInLondon -> more pictures here ->

We all had a great time at Pride in London last Saturday. After the launch party on Thursday night I wasn't quite sure how the big day could live up to all the hype. It had been 8 months of planning... but it not only met, it exceeded all my expectations. It was fabulous.

To kick the day off the thirty or so ballot-winning Gay Gooners met up at the Met Bar near Baker Street station as arranged. There we were joined by the seventy or so Octopus Group marchers and Octopus Group's Ariana who arrived soon afterwards with all of her co-worker Nick's carefully prepared Octopus merchandise stuffed tote bags in cardboard boxes. Gunnersaurus then pitched up with his handler Ross and he posed for loads of photos with we Gay Gooners and rainbow flags. It was so good to have him there.

The tote bags then got further stuffed with our freshly printed Gay Gooners stickers, last year's Arsenal scarves and flags by Angus, Val, Vash, Lukas, and Francis and distributed to all the Gay Gooner marchers.

Shortly after noon we all headed off en masse to Portland Place to take up our positions in the Parade in the beating summer sunshine. To our delight Gunnersaurus offered to come with us to wave us off too! He must have been hot but he insisted on coming. What a guy!

There was a small mix up in our Parade position (last minute change by Pride!) and then a long wait while some anti-Trans demonstration was dealt with.

Finally, we got moving at 2-30pm - although about half of our number had already gone to watch the England game leaving about 10 of the Gay Gooners to carry our new white walking banner and big red banner. Our music got somewhat drowned out by Facebook's music lorry but that said, we danced, we sang, we whooped, we gave out all our stuff - and had an utter blast. By 4-30pm it was all over.

We then headed - some by tube and some on foot - to Octopus Energy's offices in Soho for their beautifully hosted after-party. Octopus did us proud - dancing, drinking, food and lots and lots of good cheer. Things finished shortly after 10pm and we all went home very happy. A great success I think.

And yesterday we had a piece in the Islington Gazette about Gay Gooners at Pride too. Amazing!


Monday, July 09, 2018

The Incredibles 2...

Yesterday Dean, Alessandro, Darce and I went to the UK Premiere of The Incredibles 2 at the BFI on London's glitzy South Bank.

Full-on red carpet event, TV crews, DJ, PA, celebrities, Samuel L Jackson, Holly Hunter, The Incredibles-themed video games, cocktails, sculptured balloons, puzzles, and all sorts of crazy cartoon super-hero nonsense. We were like big kids.

The film was great. Maybe not quite as good as the first one - fourteen years ago! - in my humble opinion but that was a very high water mark indeed.

Go see!

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Madama Butterfly @ Glyndebourne...

Last Sunday Myrtle, Dad, Jo and I took a trip down to see the opera Madama Butterfly at Glyndebourne near East Sussex's glitzy Lewes.

We drove down to Glyndebourne early, stopping on the way at Nick and Sally's for a cup of coffee. There we got dressed up the nines and proceeded on to the venue proper to stake our claim in the grounds on a patch of grass in the shade. We set up our table and chairs and then got a bit tiddly on champagne and swished about like we owned the place - pretending we knew how the other half live. Great fun.

Madama Butterfly has great too. After the first half there was a long interval when we returned to our table and chairs and had a sumptuous picnic prepared by Jo and Myrtle. With more wine.

The second half was slightly longer than the first and and wth the applause still ringing in our ears we legged it for the exit so I could make the 9:21 Lewes train back to London.

Grand venue, grand performance, grand day out.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Queer and Now...

Last weekend Stuart and I met my college friend Sarah, her daughter Zoe and her friend to attend the annual LGBT+ take-over of the Tate Britain in London's glitzy Milbank.

Now in its second year Queer and Now sees the famous art gallery throw open its doors and get completed converted into dozens of spaces for all things queer. Queer exhibitions, queer exhibitionists, queer performances, queer talks, queer walks, queer discussions, queer book launches, queer Q&As, queer cabaret, queer drag, queer music, queer workshops, queer drop-in activities, queer library access, queer film, not so queer food, fayre, and drink.

We were almost at a loss of which to choose there were so many queer things on offer. We ended up spending 6 hours there - barely enough time to take it all in.

A particular highlight was the queer guided tour of the All Too Human exhibition. I'd seen the show before but having the exhibition's co-curator (and lesbian) as our tour guide really helped bring out the stories behind the works of art by Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon and rarely seen work from their contemporaries including Walter Sickert, Frank Auerbach and Paula Rego.

A great queer day out.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Lieutenant of Inishmore...

Last Wednesday night Stuart and I went to see jet black comedy The Lieutenant of Inishmore at the Noel Coward Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

‎Set in 1993 on the island of Inishmore Martin McDonagh's controversial yet very funny play tells the story of violent terrorist Mad Padraic, a vocal member of the Irish National Liberation Army and a man considered too unhinged for the IRA. But Padraic has a weakness. He loves his cat Wee Thomas.

Poldark's Aidan Turner plays the terrorist who we first see torturing a semi-naked, upside-down drug pusher. He has pulled out a couple of toenails and is preparing to cut off one or other of his victim's nipples. Yes, Michael Grandage's production doesn't shy aware from the visceral horror of the piece - to accompany the torturing, we have dead cats, multiple murders, blindings, shoe polish as food, and a set strewn with blood and dismembered body parts.

But it's not all gore. The comedy is as broad as it is deep - visceral even. These characters may not be the sharpest tools in the box but their humour is innate. They see the funny side of their lot. When Padraic bombs chip shops he does so because they are easy targets, "no one guards a chip shop. They're only chips, for feck's sake!". His bombs rarely go off anyway because he can't afford the good ones. "The IRA keep the best ones for themselves." Even when he loses his train of thought mid-torturing his victim quips to him, "well, it must have been a pretty slow train!"

Like Chris Morris' Four Lions, McDonagh's incompetent terrorists are daft, dangerous and very, very funny. If you like lots of blood and lots of laughs you're in for a treat.

The Turn of the Screw...

Last Tuesday night Stuart and I went to see Benjamin Britten's The Turn of the Screw at Open Air Theatre in London's glitzy Regent's Park.

Presented in association with the English National Opera The Turn of the Screw is based upon Henry James' classic horror novella and tells the story of two possessed children and their new governess. Throw in a couple of ghosts, a hatter-mad housekeeper, and the spooky rustling of the trees at the Open Air Theatre and you have the makings of a corker of a show. The setting works superbly well and you even feel a chill to the spine as you watch a battle for possession of children’s souls in the gathering dusk.

Sadly though, this is not one of Britten's greatest pieces. However, Timothy Sheader's slick direction and Soutra Gilmour’s broken greenhouse set more than make up any shortcomings.

Two casts share the roles during the week’s run. Our particular cast were excellent; Elgan Llŷr Thomas as the Prologue, Sholto McMillan and Ellie Bradbury as creepy Miles and Flora, William Morgan and Rachael Lloyd as ghostly Peter Quint and Miss Jessel, and Rhian Lois and Sarah Pring as the put-upon Governess and the housekeeper Mrs Grose.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is fabulous @DonmarWarehouse - review ->

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see David Harrower's new adaptation of Muriel Spark’s iconic novel The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie at the Donmar Warehouse.

At Marcia Blaine School for Girls, Miss Jean Brodie (played by the marvellous Lia Williams) presides over her ‘set’, her chosen few. In return for their absolute devotion, Miss Brodie provides an education far beyond the confines of the curriculum. And she requires - no, demands - absolute devotion from her “ghells”.

Williams is nothing short of superb. She brings the beautiful paradoxes in Brodie to joyous life - she's a snob, she's contradictory, she’s naughty, she's a fan of Mussolini, she's a mother hen, she's full of airs and graces and she is very, very funny. We delight in seeing her determination to instil a love of art and beauty in her pupils juxtapose her own desires - as she negotiates her relations with a raffish art teacher and a shy music master. She is divine yet aching to be carnal.

Williams catches perfectly Brodie’s mix of verbal precision and gestural vagueness too. When she says of her detested head teacher, “Miss Mackay thinks to intimidate me with quarter-hours”, it is in the cut-glass tones of someone who uses words as weapons.

Yet when she informs the Vaughan Williams-loving music-master, “I am very fond of The Lark Ascending”, her hands spiral upwards in loose simulation of flight. Without a trace of sentimentality, Williams brings out all the contradictions in Brodie: the fastidious aesthete who is frightened of real passion, the mutinous teacher who praises 1930s Germany and Austria as “magnificently organised”.

We learn very early on who she is betrayed by - her star pupil Sandy (Rona Morison) - whose remorseless watchfulness is at times both awful yet full of awe. Brodie might yearn to know who betrayed her - but this is less important to us – unlike her, we saw her downfall coming a long way off. All beautifully played.

Polly Findlay direction is spot on as is Lizzie Clachan’s design. The production ebbs and flows beautifully between school to convent.

Go see.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Pro-EU / Anti-Brexit March...

"Thousands" of protesters (i.e. 100,000+) were in London on Saturday, calling for a vote on any final deal seeing the UK leave the European Union.

We were among them.

Friday, June 22, 2018

The Jungle...

Last night Stuart and I went to see The Jungle at the Playhouse Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

This extraordinary play set in the Calais Jungle is vivid and complex in its portrayal of human resilience in the face of humanitarian catastrophe.

Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson’s piece, directed by Stephen Daldry and Justin Martin, transports you into the world of the camp, where a community forged from necessity shares its unimaginable stories of hope against all odds.

The Playhouse Theatre’s radical in-the-round transformation recreates the intimate staging of The Jungle and we were slightly over-awed as we took a seat at a bench and table in the vibrant and bustling Afghan Café at the heart of the Calais Jungle.

"How did you survive?” asks a young British volunteer of a refugee in the migrant camp that sprang up out of the mud like a small city near Calais. "We didn’t," comes the reply. "We are different now."

There is nothing neat and tidy about the Jungle or the way human beings behave under pressure or what motivates an individual’s actions. The emotions are always big, because the stakes are so high. The story begins at the end and then snakes back on itself, told by a 35-year-old Syrian, Salfi (Ammar Haj Ahmed), a former English literature student from Aleppo, whose quiet affability disguises his increasing desperation.

One teenager gives a demonstration of the ringtone on his phone: the melody of The White Cliffs of Dover curls across the theatre and has never sounded so melancholy.

It’s not a sophisticated piece of theatre, but it is an extraordinarily effective one.

This is not a play that judges individuals but one that holds governments to account. The British and French authorities are shown not just failing to help, but turning their backs on a humanitarian catastrophe.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

David Byrne...

Last night Stuart and I went to see the wonderful David Byrne perform his American Utopia Tour show at the Eventim Apollo in London's glitzy Hammersmith.

When you think of musical innovators many come to mind, but foremost in my mind is David Byrne. The man sure knows how to invent (and re-invent) both himself and his music. He has written rock music, indie, new wave, techno, disco, tribal, World music, ballet, film scores, and musical theatre. He has worked in film, photography, opera, fiction, and non-fiction as a singer, songwriter, musician, record producer, artist, writer, actor, and filmmaker. He has won an Oscar, a Grammy, and a Golden Globe. Basically, the boy has talent.

So it was with some excitement that we assembled at the Eventim Apollo last night for what had been billed as his most ambitious show since the amazing Stop Making Sense tour in 1984. Some boast.

Things started with a single light illuminating a table and chair with a brain on it, to the sounds of the jungle echoing around the PA system. Then Byrne took to the stage alone and the former Talking Heads man sat at the table. A frame of silver beads surrounded the stage and was slowly hoisted up – a pared-back stage set-up which would come into its own as the night progressed – as he leapt to his feet, plastic human brain in hand, addressed the crowd directly and dissected the fake organ, all to the pensive storytelling of ‘Here’. It’s a showy start, setting the tone for an evening that deconstructed the very notion of what a concert can offer.

Byrne is joined by a 12-piece live band, all of whom were barefooted, in grey suits and untethered - roaming around the stage carrying their instruments. At times stringently choreographed, and at others seemingly scurrying about the stage of their own accord, the band all wore a beaming perma-grin. They ducked in and out of that aforementioned curtain of silver beads, changing position like American football players enacting a particularly methodical play. It was a show that blurred the lines between gig and theatre, poetry and dance; a full spectrum of culture under one roof. It was all impossibly slick, no one putting a foot out of line.

In fact, each part of the show felt like an artistic piece on its own. The subtle lighting along with a stage surrounded by the cubic metallic chain curtain meant there was little need for extra visuals. Dance moves delivered by the band were the only accompaniment the music needed; each succinct and well planned movement echoing whatever sentiment the particular song was showcasing.

Of the new songs, 'I Dance Like This' was a particular highlight; with the band all laying on the floor, the piano played like a lament before the industrial noise brought the entire stage to life in a fit of strobe lights and wolf-whistles for the grey haired, mad genius of ringleader Byrne.

Pure euphoria greeted tracks like Talking Heads classic 'Slippery People', ‘Once In A Lifetime’ and ‘American Utopia’’s dancefloor-busting lead single ‘Everybody’s Coming To My House’. As the crowd threw their hands in the air and inhibitions to the sky, the band stuck to the script, swapping places and moving around the stage in ruler-straight lines.

Byrne played his role to perfection all evening with his own bizarre dance moves (none more so than when he recreated his gun-shot dance during the afore mentioned 'Once In A Lifetime') and still phenomenally powerful voice driving every song with incredible energy. Huge smiles and heartfelt thanks emanating from the stage showed how much joy he, and every band member, got out of performing this show.

In-between songs, Byrne shared anecdotes about how he campaigned to get people to vote in America and how he feels local councils and their influence is so important. All this was met with huge cheers.

As the night progressed, the set-up morphed somewhat. Jazzy Talking Heads track ‘Blind’ saw Byrne’s bandmates wheel a single, illuminated lamp to the front of the stage, which cast huge shadows of the performers on the back of the stage, creating a dizzying change in perspective.

A set-closing ‘Burning Down The House’, meanwhile, saw each outing of that anthemic titular hook paired with flashes of crimson light which flooded the stage. The band returned for the first of two encores, which ended with the stunning, percussive Talking Heads hit ‘The Great Curve’, snarling guitar solo and all. It was a moment that resulted in one of the night’s most touching breaks from the script, as Byrne’s guitarist skipped off post-solo, only to be greeted with a sneaky, congratulatory fist-bump from one of her bandmates stood at the side of the stage

Ending the evening on a more cerebral note, Byrne and band returned to the stage a second time, stood in a stony-faced straight line. “This is a song by Janelle Monae – she sung it at the Washington Women’s March,” Byrne announced, “With her blessing, we have continued to update it. Sadly, it is as relevant now as it was then. You may not know the names in this song, but Google them – you’ll soon find out very quickly.” What followed was a breath-taking rendition of Monae’s ‘Hell You Talmbout’, a drum-backed, chanted list of black Americans killed by police. It was a captivating end to a brilliant show.

The American Utopia Tour is quite simply majestic. It is slickly choreographed, crisply delivered and oozes class, with a uniqueness that only an innovator like David Byrne could bring to the stage.

Go see.

The full set-list was:-

I Zimbra (Talking Heads song)
Slippery People (Talking Heads song)
I Should Watch TV (David Byrne & St. Vincent cover)
Dog's Mind
Everybody's Coming to My House
This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody) (Talking Heads song)
Once in a Lifetime (Talking Heads song)
Doing the Right Thing
Toe Jam (Brighton Port Authority cover)
Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On) (Talking Heads song)
I Dance Like This
Every Day Is a Miracle
Like Humans Do
Blind (Talking Heads song)
Burning Down the House (Talking Heads song)

Dancing Together
The Great Curve (Talking Heads song)

Encore 2:
Hell You Talmbout