Quote Of The Day

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

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Madam Butterfly...

Last night Stu and I went to see the ENO's production of Puccini's Madam Butterfly at the Coliseum in London's glitzy West End.

It was a sumptuous show filled with beauty, spectacle and stunning performances.

The story of heartless American navy officer who does the dirty on sweet Japanese geisha is full of emotion and this is fully brought out in Anthony Minghella's Oliver Award-winning production. The costumes were amazing, the set a wonder and the lead performers sang and acted their hearts out.

Mary Plazas as Cio-Cio San was simply a triumph.

If you ever get the chance to see this show. Go. It's a delight.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Olympics Tickets...

I'm a big fan of the Olympics coming to London. I don't care about the cost (we can afford it), the sponsors (it keeps what costs there are down) or the disruption (I go to the footie and experience every fortnight first hand 60,000 people descending on a stadium - it's no biggy.)

I was excited when London applied. Excited when London got it. And have grown more excited as the time approaches.

Now all I needed to do was try for some tickets.

So I registered my interest last year and applied in the first round of ticket sales. I'd chanced an arm and applied for a dozen different sessions, all the sports I wanted to see, and came away with just one - Beach Volleyball. Worse still, winning those tickets made me ineligible to apply again in the second round. I did log on for that second round but on my parents behalf to get them some tickets (they had missed out completely in the first round and didn't fancy getting up at 6am to try again) and was marginally more successful for them.

However I had to wait another 10 months until last week for the chance of applying again on my own behalf and after missing various other rounds of sales wasn't expecting much luck. I logged on at the appropriate time at 11am on Wednesday 23rd May (oh, I'd had that date in my diary for weeks) and imagine my surprise when I discovered that there were loads of tickets still available. Almost every event and venue I wanted to go to from last year still had tickets to buy. So I selected all the original events that I might have possibly wanted waited. And waited. And waited. The London 2012 ticket web site was working but had a really annoying queueing system that counted down from 15 minutes before it could confirm whether you'd been successfully or not. The first few came back with the frustrating message, "No tickets found." Grrr.

But I persevered. Trying again and again. Like those Olympic athletes I wasn't going to give up. For some events I applied 8 or 9 times in a row - getting slightly more disheartened with each failure. But after an hour or so I got my first event. A diving event. Yay! So I tried again with another event - this time Artistic Gymnastics - and sure enough that came back too. I was on a roll. I repeated again and again often getting the "No tickets found" message but I had the bit between my teeth.

Eventually they all started coming back as winners. In fact after almost three hours of trying I had secured tickets for all but one of the original sessions I wanted to go to!


So now I'm going to watch 11 different sports in 13 different sessions at numerous Olympic venues - two being diving finals, one being the Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony and a few trips up the Orbit to boot.

Can't wait.

PS: As of today there are still Olympics tickets available! Check out.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Jen and Maurice Wedding...

On Friday we headed off for a long weekend in Ireland. Jen and Maurice were getting married in the beautiful Kilronan Castle.

We drove from Dublin for three hours and got wonderfully lost en route. It was well worth the drive though - the castle was fab and there were amazing views across the loch.

The wedding was just perfect. No detail had been unattended too - the full Catholic Mass ceremony was complimented by both Maori chanting and west African singing. The reception was delightful and the weather perfect. Five course silver service, great speeches and a live band made the day complete.

On Sunday we headed back to Dublin to drop off our hire car. Whilst waiting at Dublin Airport Terminal 2 the tannoy sprang into life, "This an announcement for Jedward. Will Jedward please stop representing us at Eurovision. Thank you." Got a big laugh and a cheer.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Matthew Bourne's Early Adventures...

Last night Stu and I went to see Matthew Bourne's Early Adventures at the Sadler's Wells in London glitzy Islington.

As part of the company’s 25th Anniversary celebrations, Matthew Bourne has returned to his roots in Early Adventures, a programme of three early hit pieces that launched the career of “Britain's favourite choreographer” and saw the birth of the style, wit and sheer entertainment that have become hallmarks of the New Adventures company today.

Funny, dashing and joyful. We loved it.

SPITFIRE – An advertisement divertissement (1988) was Bourne’s first hit, and something of a signature piece. It places Perrot’s famous Pas De Quatre, made as a kind of diva-off for the four leading ballerina’s of the 19th Century, in the world of men’s underwear advertising and mail order catalogue photography. Both a celebration of male vanity and an affectionate comment on the preening grandeur of the danseur noble, “Spitfire” was last seen at the Dance Umbrella 25th Birthday Gala in 2006 in a 6 man version. Here it's in its original 4 man version with all of the original solo’s restored.

TOWN and COUNTRY dates from 1991 and has never been performed since. It is remembered, though as the piece that most crystallized the Bourne style; gloriously witty and ironic, but also strangely moving and heartfelt. In “Town and Country” this most English of choreographers looks at notions of national character and identity from a bygone era through the evocative music of Edward Elgar and Noel Coward amongst others. Almost a dance-revue in structure, it includes a potted 3 minute version of the classic film “Brief Encounter” , a “green carnation” encounter between two repressed gents, a clog dance with a “violent” conclusion, a touching “Wuthering Heights” themed love story, a daring and wild ride on children’s scooters and an eccentric version of “Pomp and Circumstance” played on the ukelele!

THE INFERNAL GALOP – “A French dance with English subtitles” - premiered in 1989 and is typical of Matthew Bourne's early work; "a Franglais Spectacular" and a characteristically witty and astute satire of English perceptions of the French, inspired by all the familiar and much loved icons of France in the 1930s and 1940s: Edith Piaf, Charles Trenet, Tino Rossi, Mistinguett and so on. In a series of surprising and charming vignettes, Bourne evokes the period, with all kinds of sly humour and “Ooh-la-la”, setting his dances to the familiar and distinctive cabaret chansons of gay paree, before closing with the inevitable "infernal galop" as Offenbach's famous can-can from Orpheus in the Underworld is correctly titled. On the way, he pokes fun at the grand French amour, a lowlier encounter in a street pissoir, the pretensions of the fashion industry catwalk, and the recurring image of the matelot, much beloved of Cocteau and Genet. Typical of The Infernal Galop's intelligent inner wit, is the unexpected treatment of the great post-war hit “La Mer” (The Sea), sung by its composer Charles Trenet, offering an effetely dressing-gowned merman, serenaded by a trio of sailors! A similar approach is brought to the hilarious intrusion of a street "band" into a covertly romantic encounter, or the intentionally overblown lovers' duet for Piaf's famous “Hymne a l'Amour”. This is France as seen by the uptight English imagination, an equal mix of ancient hostility and deep affection, with all the traditional clichés joyously paraded for our entertainment!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

London 2012 Olympics Games Tickets...

Yesterday the London 2012 Olympics Games tickets were finally opened to general sale and despite waiting for almost two hours with lots of failed attempts I finally got most of the tickets I wanted. We wanted to see a diverse cross-section of events as we could so now have 11 different sports on 13 sessions ranging from Artistic Gymnastics, Trampoline Gymnastics, Beach Volleyball and Table Tennis to Athletics, Judo, Wrestling, Weightlifting, Basketball, Handball and two Diving finals. Oh and the Opening Ceremony of Paralympic Games. So looks like perseverance paid off in the end. I'm really looking forward to the Game starting and think that each night will pretty much be a party night in London.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Black Cap Saved...

Well it looks like The Black Cap pub has been saved after all. With a bit of help from Michelle Collins.

Plans to convert part of famous Black Cap pub into flats are rejected by planning chiefs. A statement from the council on Monday read: “Although officers considered that use of the second and third floors of the pub, which currently provides ancillary accommodation, to residential would be acceptable, there were strong concerns about the loss of the first floor which forms an active part of this popular pub. The ground floor of the building is used for cabaret and the first-floor space provides a quieter meeting environment for the community. It was considered that the loss of the pub and restaurant use at first floor would be detrimental to the gay and lesbian community for whom this is a key meeting place.” 

Er, "popular"?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Pam Ayres on the Air...

On Sunday night Stu and I found ourselves at the BBC Radio Theatre in London's glitzy West End waiting for Pam Ayres to perform.

She was recording the latest series of Pam Ayres on the Air - an half hour BBC Radio Four show combining sketches, monologues and the inevitable and ever welcome poetry. The theme this time round is the seasons and we witnessed a double recording of spring and summer.

I have to say she was superb. Very funny. I'd not see Stu laugh so much in ages. He even said he might start listening to the radio now!

Aside from the comedy at the front it was the audience that made us giggle too. All crusty old Radio Four demographics, mainly in couples who would produced endless supplies of sandwiches from their bags wrapped in tinfoil and lukewarm tea from thermos flasks. So very Britsh.

We've been luck enough to been offered tickets to see the second double recording next week - autumn and winter - so we are very much looking forward to that.

And in the meantime here one of her (and my) favourtes:-

Oh, I wish I’d looked after me teeth

Oh, I wish I’d looked after me teeth,
And spotted the dangers beneath
All the toffees I chewed,
And the sweet sticky food.
Oh, I wish I’d looked after me teeth.

I wish I’d been that much more willin’
When I had more tooth there than fillin’
To give up gobstoppers,
From respect to me choppers,
And to buy something else with me shillin’.

When I think of the lollies I licked
And the liquorice allsorts I picked,
Sherbet dabs, big and little,
All that hard peanut brittle,
My conscience gets horribly pricked.

My mother, she told me no end,
‘If you got a tooth, you got a friend.’
I was young then, and careless,
My toothbrush was hairless,
I never had much time to spend.

Oh I showed them the toothpaste all right,
I flashed it about late at night,
But up-and-down brushin’
And pokin’ and fussin’
Didn’t seem worth the time – I could bite!

If I’d known I was paving the way
To cavities, caps and decay,
The murder of fillin’s,
Injections and drillin’s,
I’d have thrown all me sherbet away.

So I lie in the old dentist’s chair,
And I gaze up his nose in despair,
And his drill it do whine
In these molars of mine.
‘Two amalgam,’ he’ll say, ‘for in there.’

How I laughed at my mother’s false teeth,
As they foamed in the waters beneath.
But now comes the reckonin’
It’s methey are beckonin’
Oh, I wish I’d looked after me teeth.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe...

Last Thursday Stuart and I went to see The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe in Kensington Gardens. It was a Three Sixty Theatre production aimed fairly and squarely at kids. Maybe too much so.

"Adored by all ages this major new production of the classic story has been created by an award-winning team. The first installment from C. S. Lewis' beloved 'Chronicles of Narnia' series, it combines live theatre with Threesixty's ground-breaking surround video and enchanting puppetry performed in a state-of-the art theatre tent."

And held in a tent it was - OK, a very hi-tech tent. The show told the story fairly faithfully only skipping through some bits to keep the pace going. The effects were good with lots of trap doors, flying harness work and good use of lighting. Lucy, Peter, Susan and Edmund were also good. The White Witch was better though. Aslan as a puppet was poor though - not even remotely belivable. And those beavers needed punching.

Narnia deserves better.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Donna Summer: Once Upon A Time...

Last night Donna Summer passed away. It's always sad when a singer passes away - especially when it's not Cliff Richard.

There are too many wonderful Donna records to list here but there is one LP of her's that I would like to mention. It is the double LP concept album telling a modern-day Cinderella rags-to-riches story: Once Upon A Time.

When it was released it just blew me away. Four sides of wonderful.

It had quirky tracks such as If You Got It Flaunt It and Dance Into My Life.

It had crowd pleasing pop songs like I Love You and Rumour Has It.

And it had that wonderous second side featured a solid 17+ minute mix of three tracks that just transported you to another place. Way ahead of it's time were the Now I Need You / Working the Midnight Shift / Queen for a Day suite.

It was 1978 and I was coming OUT!

Donna has dimmed all the lights for the last time.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Arsenal Best Team in the Premier League's 20 Seasons Awards...

Arsenal's 'Invincibles' of 2003/04 have been voted the Best Team in the Premier League's 20 Seasons Awards.

A panel of leading football figures, journalists and commentators backed the extraordinary achievement of Arsene Wenger and his players as they became the first - and, to date, only - team  to go unbeaten through a Premier League season.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Infinite Monkey Cage...

On Monday night Mark and I went to watch a recording of BBC Radio 4's The Infinite Monkey Cage being recorded at the Shaw Theatre in London's not so glitzy Euston.

I'm signed up the the BBC Tickets who offer free invitations to various BBC events. Most are done on a ballot and so getting tickets to the more popular ones is pretty hit and miss. This time I was lucky.

Atheist beef-cake Professor Brian Cox and and atheist cupcake Robin Ince run The Infinite Monkey Cage show and it takes a sideways glance (and occasionally head-on) at science. This week they were talking about the oceans and they had Dave Gorman joining the panel along with a biologist and a geologist. It was fascinating stuff. And funny too.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Benford's Law...

Benford's law, also called the first-digit law, states that in lists of numbers from many (but not all) real-life sources of data, the leading digit is distributed in a specific, non-uniform way.

According to this law, the first digit is 1 about 30% of the time, and larger digits occur as the leading digit with lower and lower frequency, to the point where 9 as a first digit occurs less than 5% of the time. This distribution of first digits is the same as the widths of gridlines on the logarithmic scale. Benford's law also gives the expected distribution for digits beyond the first, which approach a uniform distribution as the digit place goes to the right.

This result has been found to apply to a wide variety of data sets, including electricity bills, street addresses, stock prices, population numbers, death rates, lengths of rivers, physical and mathematical constants, and processes described by power laws (which are very common in nature). It tends to be most accurate when values are distributed across multiple orders of magnitude.

The graph above shows Benford's law for base 10. There is a generalization of the law to numbers expressed in other bases (for example, base 16), and also a generalization to second digits and later digits. It is named after physicist Frank Benford, who stated it in 1938, although it had been previously stated by Simon Newcomb in 1881

Monday, May 14, 2012

Arsenal Finishes Third...

Arsenal secured their place in next season's Champions League with a thrilling victory at the Hawthorns that owed much to a series of errors made by West Brom goalkeeper Marton Fulop.

The 3-2 victory means Arsene Wenger's side finish the season in third place which considering that we were 17th in the League last October isn't too bad.

It's sure been a roller-coaster of a season. Now if only we can hang on to Robin van Persie...

Friday, May 11, 2012

Arsenal's End of Season Maybes...

Arsene Wenger's side are in pole position to finish third and guarantee Champions League qualification - but any slip-up for the Gunners at West Brom could let in Tottenham, particularly as their goal difference is only one ahead of Spurs, or even Newcastle.

Arsenal will finish third: if they win; if they draw and Tottenham fail to win; if they lose (by any margin), Tottenham lose and Newcastle fail to win; or if they lose by a single goal, Tottenham draw or lose, and Newcastle fail to win.

Arsenal will finish fourth: if they draw and Tottenham win; if they lose (by any margin), Tottenham win and Newcastle fail to win; if they lose (by any margin), Tottenham lose and Newcastle win; if they lose by a single goal, Tottenham draw and Newcastle win; or if they lose by two or more goals, Tottenham draw and Newcastle fail to win.

The doomsday scenario of Arsenal finishing fifth can only occur if they lose (by any margin) and Tottenham and Newcastle both win; or if they lose by two or more goals, Tottenham draw and Newcastle win.

Two to Skaro Please...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Einstein on the Beach...

Last Friday Paul and I went to see Philip Glass's gargantuan minimalist classic Einstein on the Beach at the Barbican Theatre. We loved it. Agreeing with most of the critics. However... well, let my letter to the Barbican do the talking.

From: Jonathan Green
Sent: 06 May 2012 11:50
To: feedback@barbican.org.uk
Subject: Production Staff Behaviour at Barbican Theatre

I am writing to complain about the behaviour of production staff during the Philip Glass's Einstein on the Beach performance last Friday night 4th May 2012 at the Barbican Theatre. 
My friend and I sat in row S in seats 11 and 12 and directly behind us in row T were four men and one woman who talked loudly throughout the whole show.  Initially we believed that they were customers like us - it then became apparent they were actually production staff. We asked them to be quiet. They ignored us. This behaviour continued throughout the whole performance - all five hours of it.  Other patrons were also affects by this and moved away. Others asked them to be quiet - again these requests were ignored. 
There was no member of Barbican staff that we could find to complain to on the night. This was very frustrating. 
Here is a small snap shot of the ceaseless chatter that started from the beginning:-
"That's wrong. Too slow. Too slow. Where's the dry ice? Dry ice. DRY ICE! She's late. Where is she? No. NO! To the left. LEFT.  Lighting cue all wrong. That's it. Slowly, slowly. What we need to do is bring that one on quicker.  What's that? NO! NO!" etc etc etc etc 
I understand that technical issues do need to be addressed during performances but not at the expense of paying customers. 
My friend and I had waited 27 years to see such a landmark cultural show, we had been looking forward to the great music, ambitious staging and were happy to pay £100 for each ticket.  However this performance was ruined for us due to the production staff talking throughout the show. 
I am a Red Member , attend events at the Barbican frequently and have never had cause to complain about any aspect of the Barbican's usual excellent service. However on this occasion we both felt severely let down by the Barbican. 
I feel the need to draw this to your attention so other patrons don't experience similar incidents. 
Jonathan Green
Member: xxxxxxx
Booking ref: xxxxxxx

There's a sort of happy ending. The Barbican called me to apologise explaining that it was actually the director Robert Wilson behind us. They have offered me two free tickets for this Friday so I'm going again. To enjoy the opera in the way I imagine Mr Wilson intended. In peace.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012


Last night Stu went to see Babel in London's leafy Caledonian Park in Islington. We met up with Oliver and his friend too.

Babel was a theatrical event in situ consisting of 300 actors and performers like no other. An 'immersive theatrical experience' it says here.

In the original Tower of Babel story God confounded mankind by making them speak in different languages for daring to build a tower to the Heavens. The Babel London crew were going to bring us all back together with the mantra "today's the day." It was a lofty ambition.

Upon entering the park we walked around the perimeter through the undergrowth coming across person after person. The odd thing about these people were that they weren't just standing there. They were perched in trees, they were ironing, typing, reading poetry, sleeping, cooking, watching television, vacuuming the grass, you name it. It was very "performance." But not wholy inaffective. As to what it meant - we were hoping to find out. "Today's the day" they said.

After the soujourn in the trees we entered the centre of the park proper where they were various structures - a cafe, a bar, stages, platforms etc.. There were actors, dressed mainly as members of the public, who performed songs, played instruments, danced and told stories. So far so good.

Then after an hour or so the fake 'Big Brother' policemen who had been guarding us, the ladies in white who had been standing around and various other actors all started the show proper. They had been building bamboo houses at the front of the park near the large clock tower. The speakers boomed out "everyone get back, the houses have to be moved." And the people cried out "no". The houses got moved all the same though. Someone got "arrested" for taking a stand and taken into the tower. There was a got of clever projection onto the tower. A bit of absailing up it and down it. The actors booed and hissed their oppressors. He man got rescued. The End.

To call the whole thing amateurish would be a disservice as it was indeed a part amateur production. And being the first night there were a few technical 'pauses' which were perhaps to be expected.

It was an ambitious project - in terms of scale at any rate - and ultimately it failed in it's basic requirement - to be any good. The 'Big Brother' type plot just didn't really work.

It was a bit like a festival with lots of theatre types doing their best to show off. A smaller show, more tightly produced would have worked better for me I think. Oh well. Good to have gone but hard to recommend to others I'm afraid.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Facebook Statuses...

Did you know people are getting paid to mention products in their Facebook statuses?

That's as crazy as the discounts at Dave's Furniture Emporium...

Monday, May 07, 2012

Clinton Cards...

Clinton Cards is going bust. Moonpig must think all their Christmasses, birthdays, Easters, weddings, anniversaries, Valentines have come at once.

Friday, May 04, 2012

The Sunshine Boys...

Last night Stu and I went to see The Sunshine Boys playing at the Savoy Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

The revival of the Neil Simon comedy starred Danny DeVito (in his West End debut) and Richard Griffiths as the hapless vaudeville duo "Lewis and Clark".

The story is set after the pair have split up having worked together on stage for 43 years, grown to hate each other and not spoken for their final year together.  It is now 11 years later and they are being asked to revive one of the old routines one last time for a television special. Neither really wants to do it and they bicker and argue before they eventually reluctantly agree do it. They then have a war-like rehearsal before they finally get to perform.

It's a funny show - very well written with some brilliantly created smaller roles such as the two diametrically opposite looking nurses. The show however hangs on the performances of it's two leads. And in this it is mild disappointing.  DeVito is nothing less than superb. He is funny, engaging and convincing. Griffiths is sadly less so. His New York accent is all over the place, his timing not one of a seasoned comic actor and he comes across as being all too pensive for the quick wit he is meant to be portraying. Basically I think he's been miscast.

Still, it's a good show and despite us feeling a little drained from recent bad news we both laughed - a lot - especially in the final act.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Ian Martin RIP...

It was with much regret and sadness that I heard last night that our dear friend Ian Martin had passed away. He had been ill for some time and suffered a fall in his kitchen after what appeared to have been either a heart attack or a stroke. The family are being traced and it is hoped that his friends will be able to help celebrate Ian's life in some way at the appropriate time.

I will always remember Ian for his acerbic wit - a moniker he was quite proud of. "I like being call acerbic" he once told me, "it sounds so deliciously tart."

After a particularly waspish verbal or literal sting he'd even relish it with the phrase, "Acerbic? Moi?"

RIP old fella.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

The Flying Dutchman...

Last night Stu and I went to see an English National Opera production of Wagner's The Flying Dutchman at the London Coliseum.

It was a great show directed by hot young thing Jonathan "Sweeney Todd" Kent although the weight of the opera perhaps dragged itself beneath the waves at times. This was by no means the fault of the creatives, Paul Brown's design is glorious, it's just that Wagner can plod at times - "some sublime moments but some terrible half hours."

Also Kent had decided that there should be no interval so with all three acts laid end to end there were a few people shifting in their seats for the two and quarter hour stretch.

The story tells of a ghost captain, The Dutchman, who having invoked the Devil to save him in a storm is cursed to roam the sea forever without rest. An angel brought to him the terms of his redemption: every seven years the waves will cast him upon the shore; if he can find a wife who will be true to him he will be released from his curse. He happens upon a sea-captain Daland who after seeing The Dutchamn's gold promises him his daughter Senta's hand in marriage. Much of this is viewed by an infant Senta in a dream.

When the captains return to dry land enter stage left femme-fatale the real Senta and with boyfriend Erik in tow.

Much toing and froing occur and let's just say it doesn't end well.