Quote Of The Day

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

Monday, March 18, 2019

In Basildon "a joyously celebration of family... full of swearing, blistering one-liners and the odd political insight. All over a ham sandwich spread" ...

Last Saturday night Stuart and I went to see Dave Eldridge's play In Basildon at the Queen's Theatre in glitzy Hornchurch.

Full disclosure: Dave is a mate of ours so we wouldn't say anything bad about his play, right? Well, we wouldn't need to - it was great - and very funny - full of jokes about Essex (from a man who should know - Dave is from Romford!)

The action takes place in a house in Basildon, Essex and the family are gathered around the deathbed of poor old Uncle Len. Only Len's sisters Maureen and Doreen are not speaking. They haven’t in years. And it looks like the other family members, family, and neighbours are heading in the same direction. Everyone seems hell-bent on making a drama out of a crisis.

The play is a joyously celebration of family. But at a time when family is most keenly exposed; when someone is about to 'pass on'. It is a time of tears, jokes, faux concern, petty rivalries, bold confessions, competitive grieving, passive-aggressive bitching, continual arguing and the odd catfight. Full of swearing, blistering one-liners and the odd political insight. All over a ham sandwich spread.

And then... then… it is time to read the will. Oh dear, oh dear...

From the opening soundtrack of Basildon's finest Alison Moyet, Depeche Mode and Yazoo to the closing blackout we were laughing. And you can't say that of many plays - written by a mate or not!

Friday, March 15, 2019

Captain Marvel...

I went to see Captain Marvel last night. A private screening if you please.

I enjoyed it. I wonder why they released it so near Avengers Endgame though. It makes it seem as if it is being shoe-horned in - which is doing it a disservice.

But am I wrong? Captain Marvel is Marvel's answer to DC's Superman? Same powers.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

American Horror Story...

That reason that America is a horror story is that the whole place is built on an Indigenous American burial ground.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Berberian Sound Studio...

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see Berberian Sound Studio at the Donmar Warehouse in London's glitzy West End.

Based upon the 2012 horror film screenplay by Peter Strickland of the same name, the plot revolves around a very English sound engineer, Gilderoy, travelling to Italy to help with the sound affects - the Foley - on a giallo horror film in the 1970s.

Initially it is all crunching of leaves underfoot, stabbing of cabbages and slicing of watermelons. But as the demands of the job increased and the voice-over artists entered the mix - reality and fiction started to blur. Then things suddenly took a very dark turn indeed.

Conceived for the stage by Joel Horwood and Tom Scutt and written by Joel Horwood, it was a clever piece. Although slightly slow going at times – especially as we awaited the well-signposted climax.

Tom Brooke is excellent as Gilderoy and the rest of the cast's Italian sounds perfect - if at times unfathomable.

Weirdly some of the 'live' Foley work is actually recorded.

Friday, March 08, 2019

Akhnaten at the London Coliseum @E_N_O #ENOAkhnaten ...

Last night Paul and I went to the English National Opera to see Philip Glass's Egyptian opera Akhnaten at the London Coliseum in London's glitzy West End.

Slow going, glittering production, sublime music, fabulous frocks.

The opera is based on the life and religious convictions of the pharaoh Akhnaten and is the third of a trilogy of biographical operas, the others being Einstein on the Beach (about Albert Einstein) and Satyagraha (about Mohandas Gandhi).

These three people — Akhnaten, Einstein and Gandhi — were all driven by an inner vision which altered the age in which they lived, in particular Akhnaten in religion, Einstein in science, and Gandhi in politics.

Unlike Glass's other two operas however Akhnaten is less hardcore minimalist than Einstein and less oratorio-like then Satyagraha. Akhnaten is perhaps more accessible for the Glass virgins.

The story concerns Akhnaten attempts to convert his kingdom to monotheism using Egyptian texts of the period such as a poem of Akhnaten himself, from the Egyptian Book of the Dead.

Act 1 concerns Year 1 of Akhnaten’s reign in Thebes, Act 2 covers years 5 to 15 in Thebes and Akhnaten, and Act 3 is about year 17, his death and the present day.

The music is of course sublime and is perfectly complimented by director Phelim McDermott's production. Once again he has stepped up to the plate as have designers Tom Pye (sets) and Kevin Pollard (costumes). The lighting, the shadows, the movement, the chorus, the jugglers all contribute to the wow factor.

The trio of protagonists, Anthony Roth Costanza as Akhnaten, Kate Stevenson as his wife Nefertiti and Rebecca Bottone as his mother Queen Tye, are all excellent. Costanza’s voice has matured wonderfully in the last three years since I last saw him take on the role from the rather shrill counter-tenor voice to a fuller, richer vocal instrument.

Though this production may not quite be the revelation that Satyagraha was (how could it?), it is still on its own terms an excellent piece of work, both theatrically and musically.

International Women's Day #IWD2019 ...

Men whose perception of reality is so warped that spending even ONE day celebrating the achievements against the odds - not to mention the current challenges overcome daily - by women across the world inspires them to ask “when’s it my turn?” #IWD2019⁠ ⁠

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

"A small crucifixion later. Hope you can make it." ...

Diary Entry: Feb 18th 2010
It was a fantastic weekend just gone; party on a boat, party in a club, dancing the night away in Duckie, on to Carpet Burn, then an afternoon Sunday at S*L*A*G*S*.

As I was leaving Carpet Burn a man nudged me and whispered in my ear, "we are having a small crucifixion later. Hope you can make it."

Monday, March 04, 2019

Joan Baez at London Palladium "Fare Thee Well" ...

Last week Stuart and I went to see Joan Baez's farewell appearance at the London Palladium in London's glitzy West End. 

The night was as much a communal outpouring of love as it was a public performance. For, aged 78, the original protest singer's farewell performance was a night filled with much love.

It was also a night of hits and of memories. Communal sing-a-longs were frequent.

To top the final of five encores, and digging deep into her song bag, was "Dink's Song (Fare Thee Well)", not a regular in her repertoire and a number which acquired a particular poignancy here.

Her set-list was:-

Don't Think Twice, It's All Right (Bob Dylan cover)
There but for Fortune (Phil Ochs cover)
Farewell, Angelina (Bob Dylan cover)
Whistle Down the Wind (Tom Waits cover)
Silver Blade (Josh Ritter cover)
It Ain't Me, Babe (Bob Dylan cover)
Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos) (Woody Guthrie cover)
Diamonds & Rust
Me and Bobby McGee (Kris Kristofferson cover)
Catch the Wind (Donovan cover)
Another World (Antony and the Johnsons cover)
Someone Like You (Adele cover)
Suzanne (Leonard Cohen cover)
A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall (Bob Dylan cover)
The President Sang Amazing Grace (Zoe Mulford cover)
Joe Hill (Earl Robinson cover)
The House of the Rising Sun ([traditional] cover)
Darling Corey ([traditional] cover)
Gracias a la vida (Violeta Parra cover)

Forever Young (Bob Dylan cover)
Imagine (John Lennon cover)
The Boxer (Simon & Garfunkel cover)
Blowin' in the Wind (Bob Dylan cover)
Dink's Song (Fare Thee Well) ([traditional] cover)

Thursday, February 28, 2019

South America : Day Nineteen : Santiago -> London ...

Farewell Chile, back to The Big Smoke. We have some lovely memories of a fantastic holiday; the lovely Chilean people, the street graffiti, the food, the killer whales, humpbacks, seals, penguins, ice, snow, the beautiful icebergs, crossing the Antarctic Circle, the polar plunge, and of course sharing the fun, the laughter and the wow moments with my brilliant partner in crime and soul-mate Stuey. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

South America : Day Eighteen : Santiago ...

On the last leg of our trip, now we are back in Chile’s capital - Santiago. 

The flight up here from Puerto Montt was bumpy as heck, but that aside, it is great to be back in our favourite South American city. 

We even did a bit of greatest hits tour on our last night - took the funicular up our favourite hill (San Cristabol Hill), visited a restaurant to have our favourite Chilean food (the epic chorrillana), and went to our favourite local bar (Cafe 202). 

Farewell Chile. Its been fun. Now time to head for the airport. (And go on a diet. Turns out those holiday calories might actually try following us home.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

South America : Day Seventeen : Spa Day, Swimming, and Massage (with a happy ending!) ...

As I had promised myself, and more importantly promised my darling Stuart, yesterday we had a rest day. A proper rest day. We went to a spa, pampered ourselves and everything. Swimming, sauna, steam-room, and... er...  massage "treatments". 

I know what you're thinking, but let me cut to quick, it wasn't one of those lie-face-up "happy ending" kind of massage treatments you may have heard your dodgy mates talk of. No, this was proper, dead posh, massages. Massages, which I like, but with stupidly expensive oils, mud, crystals and magic energy. No really. 

Now, I don't know about you but I don't as much apply sunscreen on the hottest day of the year let alone moisturize so the idea of having mud and scented oils flung at me while half-undressed seemed a weird way to spend the day, but I was game. Besides, the "treatments" we're all part of the spa deal. 

So I started off with a sports massage. I like those. My legs, neck, arms, and torso were dead achy from the kayaking the day before and the forceful kneeding and rubbing of my muscles really helped. 

So far so good. It hurt, sure, but my neck, calves, and back felt great afterwards. I was beginning to like this. 

I then took a rest. Had a swim and a laze in the Jaccuzi and studied the options for more treatment options to follow. 

But as the options got a little harder to understand and somewhat weirder and as my Chilean therapist spoke no English and I no Spanish I used Google Translate on my phone to communicate with her. 

We went to her massage room. She spoke. I looked at the screen. "I like to give you Reike Massage, and Emotional Massage, and Hot Stone Massage, and also Reflexology." 

"OK", I said. No translation required. 

"Lie face down," Google translated. I did. 

(I told you this was a respectable establishment.)

First up was Reike. Which my Google Translate app further informed me thus, "I will harmonise and heal you based on universal vital energy through the imposition of my hands using quartz crystals, as a means of energetic channeling of mother earth, together with Reiki energy."

I asked if mother earth got a cut of the spa fee but Google Translate seemed to be missing a sarcasm setting and she just said, "No".  That was me told. 

I felt no different afterwards to be honest. Lots of mumbo jumbo, oil aplenty, and the quartz crystal fell off my leg onto the floor. We both stared at it. And moved on. Magic Energy 0 Reality 1. 

Next came the Emotional Massage which my trusty app claimed would, "harmonise (that word again) and connect my three planes - physical, mental, and spiritual - through various holistic (oh dear) techniques such as shiatsu (isn't that a dog?), Chinese massage (she just changed the music to something more jarring), aromatherapy (she blew poppers in my face), and (best of all) gem therapy."

The gem therapy was similar to the quartz therapy but there were more of them. She stuck the little stones on my body with an oily glue (learning her lesson from the leg incident I suspect) and they came in a rather dull red colour. I asked if they also came in blue but she said, "blue doesn't work". Well, my lovely, neither does red. I felt like a tit. 

She chanted a bit too. First abrasive, then smoothing and then loving. It felt weird. Like I'd just lost an argument I didn't know I was having. I was pleased when the emotions had abated to be honest. Overrated, emotions.

Next up was the Hot Stones Massage. Well, they were heated (reheated?) lava rocks to be precise. On my back and arms. All I can say is I now have an inkling of how the people of Pompeii might have felt. There were fucking scolding. 

Sure, it heated up the skin and the muscles, but I think a good hot water bottle could have done the same without all that messing about with rocks. It sure helped my arm ache though. 

Finally came the foot massage. The reflexology. Now, I knew what to expect here. A good foot rub. Nice. 

Only I'm not sure she was doing it right. It kept tickling. And I kept giggling. And after a few involuntary choice kicks to the side of her head and her chin she really knuckled down (no pun intended) and broke all ten of my toes and had me screaming as she dug her fingers into my ankle and foot arches. Touche. Well played, good lady. 

So reclothed and relieved I hobbled out of the spa, giggling, aching, and not really quite sure what had just happened. 

Maybe I'll feel different in the morning. A good gem lasts a lifetime after all. Red or blue. 

And despite my initial skepticism there might actually be something in this lark. I did enjoy it, and I did feel much better afterwards. Even if that might have been somewhat more due to the laughing than the actual massages. 

None the less, a happy ending after all. 

Monday, February 25, 2019

South America : Day Sixteen : Kayaking and Off-Road Downhill Cycling (through a lava field) ...

So we were up early on our first full “rest day” to try a couple of new things; kayaking (which we had never done before) and off-road downhill cycling (along the side of a volcano!)

The kayaking was lead by Thomas (Tommy) from the local town and we did it along with a French couple (who work for the Red Cross). We paddling along the nearby lagoon, up a river, through thick undergrowth, and then out through a narrow channel into the main lake. We wobbled and veered from left to right quite a bit at first but it was great fun - if exhausting. 

Then after lunch we drove up the side of a volcano, mounted some bikes, and careered for 18km down one of the bumpiest and steepest “tracks” we had ever had the pleasure of skidding down. 

It was basically a lava field. We sped down - bumping over rocks, jolting down holes, and snatching the odd photo of the volcano peak. 

We were left with some sore wrists, some sore bums, and some great memories. 

At the bottom we found a pretty little stream and took more snaps of the snow covered volcano behind us again. 

Tomorrow is definitely, definitely, definitely going to be a rest day! 

Sunday, February 24, 2019

South America : Day Fifteen : Puerto Montt ...

Yesterday we left Patagonia to fly north for a couple of hours to the Chilean lake district for a few days of rest and relaxation after our icy adventure. Well, that was the plan. 

The flight was fine and as we emerged from the domestic terminal a smiling driver was waiting for us. He turned out to be the manager of the hotel were we were staying - a beautiful place on the banks of Lake Llanquihue - a 45 drive away. 

The place was enchanting. So was the scenery. So intoxicated were we that all thought of taking it easy went out the window. 

By the afternoon we were hiking up a volcano! And now have kayaking, mountain biking, and hiking organised too!

So much for taking a rest!