Quote Of The Day

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

Monday, December 28, 2015

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Good Deed...

Good deed of the day done. We had an Amazon box delivered to us the other day - it had our address but wrong name. So today Stuart and I went door to door in the pouring rain in our local area until be found the little kid who would have gone without his present on Xmas Day. Happy Xmas Max. We felt like Santa Claus!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Cum(in) Cheese...

A number of years ago I found myself in Schipol Airport looking for a present to bring home. I thought that a pack large wax encased cheeses might be a nice idea. Until I read the label.
Now aren't you just asking yourself how they managed to fill a whole blue one? My picture made it on to Graham Norton a month or so later.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Little Eyolf...

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see Richard Eyre's adaption and production of Little Eyolf at the Almeida Theatre in glitzy Islington.

Perhaps not the best known of Ibsen's plays and on the face it not a crowd-pleaser given the subject material this turned out to be a truly great production of what we discovered to be a truly great play. It was deeply moving and it had me in tears more than once.

It tells the story of a couple whose disabled son is coming between them. The arrival of the pest controller rat-wife and her Pied-Piper-of-Hamelin powers of drawing rats into the waters soon has a tragic effect on the family. Within the 80 minute running time we see buckets of painful raw emotion, bitter recriminations, death, grief, blame, nudity, incest, and a cute little dog.

A minimal set, simple blocking but a brilliant cast pull out all of their acting stops and we left the theatre shattered. Special mention needs to go to leading lady Lydia Leonard who puts on a simply devastating performance.

Highly recommended.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Funny Girl...

Last Thursday night Stuart and I went to see musical Funny Girl at the Menier Chocolate Factory in London Bridge's unglitzy Quarter.

The plot is based on the life and career of Broadway star, film actress and comedienne Fanny Brice featuring her stormy relationship with entrepreneur and gambler Nick Arnstein. The musical was written in 1964 and made into a famous film starring Barbara Streisand.

This production stars Sheridan Smith as Fanny and Darius Campbell as Nick, with direction by Michael Mayer, and a revised book by Harvey Fierstein. The entire run sold out within a day, making it the Menier's fastest selling show on record.

Smith is excellent. She can sing, she's funny - everything you'd want from a Fanny. Campbell can sing Ok but hasn't quite got it in the acting department. Great supporting cast though and it's a fun and funny show.


Friday, December 18, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens...

This morning I went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens at the Vue Cinema in glitzy Angel Islington.

Wow! It was fab. At least as good as the original A New Hope film. Funny, exciting, melodramatic, silly, epic, full of plot holes, brilliant, thrilling and engrossing. We now have a 4th Star Wars film, people.


New characters Rey and Finn were great. A Stormtrooper deserter who just bluffs his way through the plot is a great idea. He's basically a dustman... who saves the galaxy!

Plot-wise if you turn it on its head it's basically the story of ISIS. There's a bombing campaign by a foreign power. There's the radicalization of the local population by an ancient religion to commit terrorist acts. They blow stuff up. Basically Rey is Syrian and Finn is ISIS. And Ben Solo is Tony Blair!

Great film though. Roll on Rogue One and Episodes VIII and IX.

Update: Just just seen the film again. I spotted Simon Pegg in it this time (with old man make up). I wonder if the grave at the end next to Luke is Luke's wife / Rey's mother?

And it did look like Han Solo was forcing his son's hand on the lightsabre to kill himself. So Han Solo commited suicide then? Ben Solo says he wants to be released from the conflict between light and dark. So Han says "I can help you..." 1st time I watched it when they struggle I thought Han was trying to force Ben's lightsabre *away* from himself. But 2nd time it's obvious he's pulling it *towards* himself. And after he manages it and kills himself Ben touches Han's cheek and says "Thank you".

Thursday, December 17, 2015

I'm Outta Here!...

It's my last day in the office day before Christmas and I'm not back until the New Year. I have left this 'Out Of Office' message taped to my office door. I have also sent round an email to all my work colleagues saying,
"I am now on holiday. In my absence if you have any problems the piece of paper taped to my door will be covering my job for me and will be able to fix 99% of any problems you may have. The other 1% can wait. Obey it's instructions to the letter. Happy Christmas."
(Luckily those guys have a sense of humour.)

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Star Wars Saga Marathon...

Over the last couple of nights I've been rewatching the first two Star Wars trilogies as a way of preparing myself to watch Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens on Friday morning.

I decided to watch them in Chronological Order - eschewing the generally accepted best option of the Machete Order - as I was familiar with the story having watched them all numerous times and wanted to see how the story unfolded along the time line.

1. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
2. Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
3. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
4. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
5. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
6. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)

Here are three generally favoured ways of watching the whole saga:-

Chronological Order 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Release Order 4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3
Machete Order 4, 5, 1, 2, 3, 6

So it was Phantom up first (deep breath). Wow! It was rubbish. It might be the biggest earner of the six but it's dire. And that speeder stuff just goes on and on. And don't get me started on Jar-Jar Binks.

Next was Clones. Wow! Hayden Christensen is a shit actor. The emotional depth of a lump of chalk. Even the droids were rolling their eyes.

The final one for the first night was Sith. It was better than the previous two but boy did seem to be shoe-horning in every plot thread to give birth to the original Star Wars film. Hayden Christensen still shit - those Younglings had the right idea and got themselves slaughtered in the Jedi Temple rather than be in another minute

On the second night I started with Hope and it is a great, great film. It has all the major themes, is exciting, ambitious and most of all funny.

Then I watched Empire and as is universally agreed it is the best of the bunch. It is dark, dangerous and not afraid to push the story forward. Ice planet Hoth is great, it was some great one-liners and the 'big reveal' is well handled.

Finally I got to finish the marathon off with Jedi. While I hate the Ewoks - ridiculous merchandising teddy bear ideas - I loved the Jabba stuff and the appearance of the Emperor is wonderful.

So all in all a couple of fun night's catching up with old film friends. The new film has a lot to live up to but if early reviews are anything to go by it is a treat.

Oh, and that reminds me, what time are we expecting Tim Peake to arrive on the Death Star?

Monday, December 14, 2015

Evening at The Talk House...

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see Evening at The Talk House at the Dorfman's Theatre on London's glitzy South Bank.

This new play was written by and starred Wallace "Woody!" Shawn (yes he who voiced Rex in the Toy Story films and played the Ferengi Grand Nagus Zek in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.)

Much as I like Mr Shawn as an actor, sadly this play was a load of old shit.

The plot revolved around a group of people who had been involved in a play ten years earlier having a reunion in a private club The Talk House. We meet the hostess, her waitress, the playwright, the composer, the actress, the former television star brutally beaten up. Some of the group make TV shows now but don't get on that well. In parallel to this the characters refer to being involved in state sponsored murders they commit remotely on people around the world who are suspected to being up to do good. But none of these themes are developed enough.

Even the presence of players such as Simon Shepherd, Joseph Milligan and Jospeh Mydell could not do much to save it.

The actors bravely struggled on with what they were given but it was over-long, and read like a sixth-former's attempt at writing a sequel to Orwell's 1984 and getting a D- for their efforts.

We left the theatre saying "What the hell was that?" and judging by all the empty seats around us word had got round what the answer was.

Thursday, December 10, 2015


Last night Stuart and I went to see wonder.land at the Olivier Theatre on London glitzy South Bank.

Based on Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures In Wonderland and created by Daman Alban, Moira Buffini and produced by Rufus Norris we had high hopes. And oh how they were dashed.

It was all just a bit disappointing.

The idea behind the story was good - substituting Carroll's Wonderland for an online video game called wonder.land. In the 'real' world we get introduced to teenager Ally whose life at home and school is a drag so she starts playing wonder.land, creates her own avatar - Alice - and joins the game. Interestingly her avatar is white-skinned whereas she is not - but this potentially provocative path of online identity is barely trod.

The visuals are stunning and the video back projection is state of the art as we tumble down the rabbit hole along with Ally/Alice. Soon we get to meet the other avatars in the game the Cheshire Cat, (Tweedle) Dum and (Tweedle) Dee, Mock Turtle, Dodo etc. who all have their own reasons to be online and the 'real' world action in Ally's life gets mirrored by the online action in Alice's.

So what's wrong with it? Well, the songs for a start. This is a musical after all and the songs just aren't good enough. Not a memorable tune amongst them. And this really is where it all falls down. If you want people (and kids especially) to sit in front of a performance for two and half hours there needs to be more than just the wow factor of colourful costumes and some nice looking back projection.

And with such hammy songs it all took on the air of an amateur dramatic pantomime - albeit a very lavishly produced one. I'm sure I actually heard booing when the Red Queen appeared. And who knows whether that was part of the show or not? And with all the players dressed up as if they had stumbled out of a Nutcracker dress-rehearsal it made you long for music as good as in that particular Christmas treat.

So to sum up - the production values were sky-high, it is not without it's good points, but the musical aspects (words and music) we poor.

Brave effort - could do with musical rewrites.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

The Homecoming...

Last Saturday night Stuart and I went to see Jamie Lloyd's production of The Homecoming at the Trafalgar Studios in London's glitzy West End.

John Simm, Gemma Chan and Keith Allen star in this chilling 50th anniversary revival of Harold Pinter's masterful play.

The action centres around bullying, foul-mouthed father Max (wonderfully played by Ron Cook) and his all-male family. Max is a retired butcher and he treats his three sons, brother and new daughter-in-law like objects, like meat on a slab.

With the arrival home of his eldest son Teddy (played by Spandau Ballet's very own Gary Kemp) and his doll-like wife Ruth (played enigmatically by Gemma Chan) old tensions come to the fore and the family's dysfunctionality is soon on show. John Simm's malevolence as the middle son Lenny is genuinely unsettling and John Macmillan as youngest son Joe is always threatening violence. Uncle Sam played rather camply by Keith Allen does at least provide some light relief as Pinter racks up the tension to boiling point.

What on the face of it seems like a straight-forward play about a homecoming soon is exposed to be about much more. It is a play about control, about lose, about the absence of women, about love and hate, about resentment and in the battle of wills in families and when you hunt for power - just who is the predator and who is the prey?

Great play. Great cast. Good production.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Monday, December 07, 2015

Hazel O'Connor...

Last Friday night Darren, David, Terry, Stuart and I went to watch Hazel O'Connor's 35 Years of Breaking Glass show at the Union Chapel in London's glitzy Islington.

After a brief introduction by Hazel we all got to watch the film itself, join in a Q&A (all the songs were written for the film apart from Will You which she had written before apparently) and then an hour long gig showcasing songs from the film and more. A lovely surprise was a 50 strong choir that joined Hazel and her band for the final few numbers. Wonderful stuff.

The full gig list was:
Give Me an Inch
Big Brother
Calls the Tune
If Only
Monsters in Disguise
Come Into the Air
Who Needs It
Will You (with the full sax solo)
Writing on the Wall
I Give You My Sunshine
Top of the Wheel
Eighth Day
Going Home
Chasing Cars (Snow Patrol cover)

Friday, December 04, 2015

Ronnie Spector...

Last night Darren, Stuart and I went to see Ronnie Spector at the Barbican Hall in London's Brutalist Barbican Centre.

Five years ago we three saw her at the Jazz Cafe when she was promoting a Christmas EP and last year we saw her at the Queen Elizabeth Hall performing her Beyond The Beehive show. She was better last night than on both those two previous occasions.

The 72 year old was full of energy - tottering about on stillies and in her tight black and blue dress sporting a wig as big as a haystack and boobs 'til Tuesday.

Her voice was like an angel and along with her eight piece band and wonderful backing singers cum dancers performed hits such as Be My Baby (a song she had not been allowed to sing for years), Baby I Love You, Paradise, Walking In The Rain, Time is On My Side, Amy Winehouse's Back To Black and rousing encores of Frosty the Snowman and I Can Hear Music.

A great night being entertained by a great gal.

The full set list was:-
Baby, I Love You
Keep on Dancing
What'd I Say (Ray Charles cover)
I'm So Young (The Students cover)
Time Is on My Side (Kai Winding & His Orchestra cover)
Is This What I Get For Loving You?
Do I Love You
You Baby
Chapel of Love (The Dixie Cups cover)
Walking in the Rain
(The Best Part of) Breakin' Up
I Wish I Never Saw The Sunshine
You Can't Put Your Arms Around a Memory (Johnny Thunders cover)
Back to Black (Amy Winehouse cover)
Be My Baby

Frosty the Snowman (Gene Autry cover)
I Can Hear Music

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

British People...

British people: "Right then, I suppose we really should start thinking about possibly making a move"
Translation for the non-British: "Bye".

Monday, November 30, 2015


If you think Amazon always delivers what you ordered, then you've got another thing coming.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Montenegro: Perast, Kotor and Budva...

Gosh, Montenegro is lovely. Comparable if not slightly surpassing Croatia in beauty. We particularly loved Perast's island church Our Lady of the Rock and walled city Kotor which was delightful. Budva was a little touristy but still was fun to see.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Croatia: Dubrovnik...

Finally back in Croatia again to lovely, amazing Dubrovnik. Such a beautiful city, with such friendly lads and lasses. If you've not been, go.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Bosnia: Border Guard...

Hello everyone! How was your day? Well, ours was less than ideal. We got arrested in Bosnia!

It was at the Croatian Bosnian border. We didn't see the Police Stop sign so he shouted at us to stop. Then it got a bit hairy. They had guns!

The border guard got me out of the hire car. Walked me along the road and back. Emptied out our suitcases... Wanted to know if we had drugs... Searched the car... Accused us of stealing shampoo(!), of bringing goods into the country to sell without paying tax...  It got a bit stupid. He caught me smirking (at how ridiculous it all was). Big mistake! He did not find it funny.  I'd seen Midnight Express. I knew how this plays out. 

He said we had broken the law. But then he implied we would have to pay a fine. Ah, a FINE. So that was it. 

After a while his two mates came in and they all had an animated chat looking at me trying to look contrite. Then suddenly our passports and car documents were returned and we were told to go. We sped off top speed. Ah, a lovely welcome to Bosnia.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Bosnia: Mostar...

From Croatia we drove into Bosnia to visit the ancient town of Mostar and it's beautiful bridge. We had a bit of local difficulty at the border (more of that later) but our lasting impression is one of bullet holes in the walls of the houses and way too many dirt track roads posing as major thoroughfares. We drove for miles and miles down what seemed like slip roads to a quarry - up and down mountainsides in thick fog. We encounter more Bosnian police on the way but by that point we knew what to say. Five hours later we escaped back into Croatia again. Not much fun!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Croatia: Split...

Once we finally made it to Split we checked in to our hotel and took a smooch around the Old Town. It was beautiful. We found a few bars and somewhere to eat before hitting the hay early.

The next day we explored the Old Town a bit more thoroughly and walked out too the end of the promenade. The rain was a bit of a pain so we stayed near our hotel for lunch and coffee. 

In the evening we found a good place to eat and headed home to pack for an early start.

Croatia: Zadar...

Zadar has a Sea Organ. The waves force the bellows embedded in the sea wall to blow air through the pipes making music.  Nature playing music! (Apologies for the crappy sound - it was chucking it down!)

Croatia: Zagreb to Split...

The car journey from Zagreb to Split was pretty hair-raising. As we drove through the mountains the snow started to pile up along the motorway and before long the visibility was so bad we were in real danger off skidding of the road. We made it through in good spirits though. 

Croatia: Zagreb Sightseeing...

Stuart and I had great fun sightseeing in Zagreb. We'd barely arrived at the Esplanade Hotel (where Drew and I had stayed 10 years earlier) and we were on Segways bombing around the town.  Four and a half hours later we were still on them! That night we ate at the hotel bistro shattered.

Next morning we discovered that our eyes hadn't deceived us the night before, we were indeed sharing the hotel with Whitesnake and they were having breakfast at the next table. 

Later that day we drove to a shopping centre to buy ourselves some weather proof boots as the forecast was rain for the week. That evening we visited the Museum of Broken Relationships (that made us laugh) before finding an Italian opposite the cathedral for dinner.