Quote Of The Day

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

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Discreet + Oblique...

Last Saturday night Paul, Stuart and I went to see Discreet + Oblique (part of Transcender) at the Barbican Hall in the glitzy Brutalist Barbican Centre.

Discreet + Oblique was a 40th anniversary celebration (and somewhat recreation) of Brian Eno's 1970 seminal work Discreet Music by musical directors Leo Abrahams and David Coulter who had devised a richly-imaginative live performance of this breathtaking work.

Brian Eno's concept of ambient music builds upon a concept composer Erik Satie called furniture music. This means music that is intended to blend into the ambient atmosphere of the room rather than be directly focused upon.

The inspiration for this album began when Eno was left bed-ridden in a hospital by a car accident and was given an album of eighteenth-century harp music. After struggling to put the record on the turntable and returning to bed, he realised that the volume was turned down (toward the threshold of inaudibility) but he lacked the strength to get up from the bed again and turn it up. Eno said this experience taught him a new way to perceive music.

During the performance I was gripped on a roller-coaster ride of atonal bleeps, ambient noises and pregnant silences. Others in the auditorium nodded off to sleep. And I would say both are equally valid ways of experiencing the music.

At one point Stuart asked me, "you've not got this at home have you?" I replied, "yes, why? Are you going to tell me to never f**king play it in your presence?!" "No", he said, "I wanted to borrow it. I can use it as a relaxation tape for rehab groups at work - it'll make a nice change from pan pipe music."

We are the 801. Beep, beep.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


On Friday night Stuart and I went to see Hangmen at The Royal Court Theatre in London's glitzy Sloane Square.

Penned by Martin McDonagh the story is about the fascination that the Great British Public has with capital punishment.

It's a comedy - and a very funny one at that - with its humour of a decidedly black hue. It starts with someone being hanged (not hung) live on stage and sort of darkens from there.

Most of the action takes place in a pub in Oldham where the second most famous hangman in all of England has found himself a new job, surrounded by sycophantic pub regulars and on the day they abolish hanging his chickens are coming home to roost.

The cast is stellar: Josef Davies, James Dryden, Johnny Flynn, Graeme Hawley, John Hodgkinson, Ralph Ineson, Bronwyn James, David Morrissey, Ryan Pope, Sally Rogers, Simon Rouse and Reece Shearsmith. And there's ain't a dud amongst them.

David Morrissey's lead as the over-wrought ex-hangman is excellent and Reece Shearsmith is in delightful No. 9 territory.

If Joe Orton was alive and well and writing plays this might be his. It's that good.

Monday, September 28, 2015


Thank you to all you lovely people who helped me celebrate my birthday yesterday. You made an old man very happy.

Friday, September 25, 2015


Looks like gaygooners (and I) are semi-famous in Italy!

Here's the article http://ilmanifesto.info/i-tifosi-inglesi-contro-lomofobia/

And here's the (auto)translation:

"Homophobia and racism, two of the most unpleasant symptoms Inglese Disease, the disease that sapped English football in the last decades of the last century. When going to the stadium in London, Manchester or Leeds was an experience anything but relaxing. The fist fights between hooligans, the launches of bananas players blacks and racist chants were an unfortunate constant in most arenas across the Channel. Since then the acciaccatissimo Beautiful Game has come a long way on the path of redemption. Are not all rosy, of course. As circumscribed episodes there are still stigmatizing. In the stands, but also in the field. Just over a rectangle of game four years ago, the former England captain John Terry spoke of racial abuse at Anton Ferdinand, brother of the famous Rio, during the match of Premier League Chelsea vs QPR. Immediately after the incident came up a huge fuss and was discussed at length on the effectiveness of anti-racist initiatives such as Kick It Out, according to the same Rio Ferdinand too timid in its modus operandi. Sure, it's worth repeating, there is no comparison with respect to what occurred in the seventies or later in most of the nineties. In those decades it was also surely unthinkable progress today in the fight against homophobia. While we have the president of the National Amateur League Happy Belloli were somehow women's football as a sport practiced by "four lesbians who demand only money", in England some of the major professional clubs officially recognized supporters club openly gay and lesbian. Dave Raval and Marcel Graves are members of some of these clubs. We met them in London, in a pub in the East End of London. Precisely in Hackney, near by an immense green space, Sunday theater of dozens of amateur football match.
"We are in the Gay Gooners 250. The 30% are lesbian, while 15% are people living all 'abroad. With the latter sometimes we meet at the stadium, otherwise we feel often through social networks. For some 'time we also have our banner that we display proudly in the stands at the Emirates Stadium (Arsenal plant, ed), "explains Dave, supporters of the team in London. Just Arsenal became the first English football club to recognize officially in 2013 a fan club gay, while the absolute first to join were the Gay Villans (supporter of Aston Villa) towards the end of last decade. Now around the country for this type of situation there are another 20, born in the space of 2-3 years. "Actually - it still tells Dave - even 20-30 years ago there were small groups 'illegal', which ended up meeting some pubs especially during the trips." Relations with Arsenal are very good. "The French coach Arsene Wenger never fails to support us, also we meet every three months and the leadership we coordinate with them to carry out a series of activities. For example, before a game last February, that the UK was the LGBT History Month, we marched in the field with our banner. With us it was also the former player Pat Rice, one of the legends of the team's recent past. During that game on electronic panels on the sideline it appeared half a dozen times the rainbow flag and the message 'Arsenal is for everyone' '.

That the team of North London is actively committed to defending the rights of her gay fans proves it to another incident that occurred at the beginning of 2015. Arsenal had to play a cup match in Brighton, which is reputed to be the largest city Gay Friendly UK. For this reason when you go away the fans often sing the chorus "your boyfriend know you're here?" The supporters opponents. "A form of homophobia in 'low intensity', but still to stigmatize," says Dave. "That's why we reported it to Arsenal, who sent an email to all those who had bought tickets for the match against Brighton and put a notice in the program's home match which preceded the challenge cup to specifically ask for not sing the choir. 3-4 The people who did were immediately blocked by other spectators and the police. " Cultural change is now in place. Homophobia and racism begin to no longer be tolerated, so much so that many people who witness acts of discrimination do not remain passive. Very different context than when in the eighties football clubs 'dissuaded' supporters blacks to follow their team away because they could not guarantee their safety or homophobic slogans were recurring almost everywhere. Dave and Marcel are surprised by how fast they are occurring all these steps forward, no doubt facilitated by the national campaign "Football vs Homophobia". "For the team that I support, the Norwich City in the eighties played Justin Fashanu. A player homosexual who was profoundly discriminated against in the world of football, even from his brother John, he too a famous footballer. " Accused in a pretext of sexual harassment, Justin committed suicide at the age of 37.

"In February, all the players of Norwich put boots to the laces in the colors of the rainbow and also our clubs, Proud Canaries, has the respect and attention it deserves," says Marcel. Dave is keen to stress the aspects that still need work. "In London clubs of gay fans have never had problems. Ours is a very open and tolerant city, but anywhere else I know of unedifying episodes. " Marcel confirms the existence of unpleasant situations talking about his experience in an amateur team made up of homosexuals. "In the end I stopped because I did not feel completely comfortable in that environment." In the football prejudices die hard, as we demonstrate various "incidents" occurred on social networks, especially on Twitter, and you have seen the participation of the "insiders." Among these Ravel Morrison, recently put under contract by Lazio, and the pundit and former Liverpool striker Stan Collymore, both guilty of having written tweet with homophobic insults. A player of the Welsh Premier League, Daniel Thomas, was even arrested for heavy assessments made via Twitter against the national Olympic diver Tom Daley UK. Ironically, another Thomas, Gareth, captain of Welsh rugby, was the first British sportsman to come out while he was still in business, in 2009. A gesture that has had a major impact nationally and internationally. Actually there is a player with a past in the English Premier League has publicly stated to be homosexual. It is the German and former Aston Villa midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger, but revealed his secret after leaving the competitive activity. When is coming out of the players in the prime of their careers? "I can say that within the team we know very well if there are components that are gay, and there are none. But outside this thing not leaked yet, "Dave assures me, that is a laugh when I remember the statements made some time ago by former Italian national coach Marcello Lippi -" In 40 years of football I have never met a gay footballer "- and Antonio Cassano -" Gay in the national? They are their problems. But I hope not. " If in England we complain that the Football Association could do more on the issue, what should we say in Italy, where it is easy to predict that clubs like Gay or Gooners Proud Canaries have many difficulties to gain acceptance?"

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Sara's 40th...

Last Saturday night Stuart and I had the pleasure of helping Sara celebrate her 40th birthday at the Yorkshire Grey. Jane threw a great bash with plenty of booze, music that you can dance to, a lovely chocolate cake and a great mixed crowd.

We got to meet all our Calabria Road neighbours again - Harry and Alice, Graham and Jonathan et al. and to hear about dog walker Bobbie and his husband.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Rocky Horror Show...

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

Revived for a couple of weeks preceding a national tour the Narrator was played by none other than Richard O'Brian himself. Great singing, funny acting, clever sets, lots of shouting out by the audience, and the cast mugging to the largely dressed-up crowd - we had a blast. We laughed, sang and danced. What a  great show it is - everyone feels they own that show.

It's just a jump to the left...

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


On Sunday night Stuart and I went to see Morrissey at the Eventim Apollo in London's less than glitzy Hammersmith.

Mozzer was in a fine form. As expected there were only a couple of The Smiths songs and only a slight nod to his hits from his back catalogue but that didn't matter. We were there to bathe in his glorious curmudgeonly persona and his impossibly catching songs.

He mentioned the Royal Family (check), Jeremy Corbyn (check) and following an extended version of Meat is Murder to a terrifying video of animal slaughter asked, "What excuse do you have now?"

Towards the end there was a brief power outage. "The bloody Royal Family got me in the end!" he joked.

Top night by a man in utter control of his own creative output.

Set list was:

Alma Matters
Staircase at the University
Kiss Me a Lot
World Peace Is None of Your Business
I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris
The World Is Full of Crashing Bores
I'm Not a Man
The Bullfighter Dies
Mama Lay Softly on the Riverbed
Yes, I Am Blind
Oboe Concerto
I Will See You in Far-Off Places
Meat Is Murder (The Smiths song)
You'll Be Gone (Elvis Presley cover)
Everyday Is Like Sunday
Encore: What She Said (The Smiths song) (with "Rubber Ring" outro)

Monday, September 21, 2015

My Dear Old Nan...

Just off the phone from my dear old nan. She's invited me round for a roast later. Kinky bitch.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Jane Eyre...

Last night Stuart and I went to see the highly acclaimed re-imagining of Charlotte Brontë's masterpiece Jane Eyre at the Lyttelton Theatre on London's glitzy South Bank.

First staged by Bristol Old Vic last year, the story was originally performed over two evenings. However director Sally Cookson now brings her celebrated production to the National, presented as a single, exhilarating, dazzling performance.

First things first; it's a great production. Exciting, inventive, funny, moving, incredibly well acted (and sung). The small troupe play all the roles both human and animal as well as creating many of the special effects using their bodies as props. Top notch stuff.

The only downside is the perhaps length. 3 hours 20 minutes is bum-numbingly long. I can see why it was originally two plays. Maybe a bit of editing might have helped. But what to leave out?

Based closely (a little too closely?) on the 1847 400 odd page classic the story tells of Jane Eyre, her childhood, schooling at Lowood, employment at Thornfield Hall, her romance with Mr. Rochester and her travels. The tale is one of bullying, morality, God, religion, social class, gender relations, love and passion, feminism, atonement and forgiveness, and the search for a home and family. So all the big issues then.

Go see - but maybe take something soft to sit on.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Hounds of Love: 30th Anniversary...

It's in the trees. It's coming.

Yesterday saw the 30th anniversary of the release of Kate Bush's seminal album the Hounds of Love in the UK. It's in my top 10 list of favourite albums of all time and a Prog Rock classic.

Commemorating this 30th anniversary premier Kate Bush tribute band Cloudbusting performed the album in its entirety (plus a few extra Kate hits and favourites) at the Islington Assembly Hall last night in glitzy Upper Street.

Cloudbusting are uber-fans and perform note for note recreations that would make Ms Bush proud. In fact having seen the old girl herself four times last year I might even say that the vocals on display by Cloudbusting's lead singer Mandy Watson last night were at least on a par. At least. If you closed your eyes it was her. Actually you didn't even need to really close them at all as Mandy Watson's Kate is a bit of a lookie-likie too.

In the crowd were musicians who had worked with Kate and played on some of her recordings and worked on her Tour of Life tour. Brian Bath was there - a seminal figure in Kate’s career. He was the guitarist with the KT Bush Band from their formation in April 1977. Preston Heyman was there too - he created much of the original drumming on Sat in Your Lap. Lucky for us Preston came up on stage and played on a couple of songs. Preston had first found fame as part of Gonzales with their hit I Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet before becoming part of the EMI house band.

Providing backing vocals was the four piece London Bulgarian Choir and they were wonderfully harmonious, weird, grunty and screechy as required.

Unlike Kate Bush's Before the Dawn show last year we got all the hits and more! Sadly no rocking house on stage, trees falling from above or flying helicopter in the auditorium but a top, top night all the same.

The set list ran as follows:-

First Half:
Kashka from Bagdad
Among Angels
Army Dreamers
This Woman's Work
Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God)
Hounds of Love
The Big Sky
Mother Stands for Comfort

Second Half: (The Ninth Wave)
And Dream of Sheep
Under Ice
Waking the Witch
Watching You Without Me
Jig of Life
Hello Earth
The Morning Fog
Sat in Your Lap (ft. Preston Heyman on drums)
James and the Cold Gun (ft. Preston Heyman on drums)
Wuthering Heights

Under the Ivy
Rocket's Tail

If you get a chance to catch them. Do. They were great.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Our House...

Where to start? Well, that's start with the facts. Last Saturday night Stuart and I went to see a revival of the Madness musical at the Union Theatre in not at all glitzy Southwark.

And now a few positives. Our House is a jukebox musical using songs by Madness. Yay! It got great reviews back when it was at the Cambridge Theatre for its initial run - not least by me. Yay! The plot is about growing-up and a social commentary on gentrification and housing redevelopment in Camden - and to that end it's functional, funny and fun. Yay!

However... although the production we saw was 'spirited', 'exuberant' and 'enthusiastic' there was little much else to warrant mention. OK the dancing was quite good, the acting sort of OK but the singing by the leads was frankly piss-poor. The chorus sang much better but the show rides on those main vocals, people. And the Sliding Doors plot of two simultaneous time-lines was so badly executed that even the cast seemed bewildered at times. In fact the cast - in hyper-mode most of the time rushing about like crazed idiots - plainly were having way much more fun than we were in the audience. A great show like this deserves better. A West End revival please!

And let's face it, the Union Theatre is a bit of a shit hole (have you SEEN their toilets?!). Sure it revives musicals that often deserve a second airing and it is tough making a show work on a shoe-string budget but with the torturous seating, dank smell and the thundering rattling of the trains passing overhead a top night out it is not.

We were sat behind the mother of the main lead. He shall remain nameless but our heart when out to him when unprompted she told us how much he got paid for the entire 8 week run... he's the the lead, mind you... £120. Poor sod.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Photograph 51...

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see Anna Ziegler's award-winning play Photograph 51 at the Noel Coward Theatre in London’s glitzy Covent Garden.

Starring the luminous Nicole Kidman as little-known British scientist Dr Rosalind Franklin the story tells of the hunt for the structure of DNA in the early 1950s. But does this story of the hunt for the double helix have enough twists and turns to keep us entranced? Read on, dear reader. Read on.

Our story starts with Franklin moving back from Paris to London to work with scientists at King's College. But from the get-go she encounters sexism, prejudice and elitism. Her stellar skills in chemistry and crystallography lead to her taking increasing detailed photographs of DNA. But her photographs are initially ignored, then admired and finally - as in the critical photograph 51 - effectively stolen.

So why did Franklin not know how precious her diffraction photographs were? Why did she insist on having every single fact in front of her before reaching any conclusions? Was it a fear of failure instilled from years of relentless sexism? Was it her frosty defensiveness that meant she was unable to collaborate - a collaboration that would have perhaps seen her join Crick, Watson and Wilkins as Nobel Prize winners had she lived? What needed to be sacrificed in the pursuit of science, love and a place in history?

The story is quite compelling and Nicole Kidman's performance as Franklin equally so. Her button-downed portrayal is sometimes thoughtful, often repressed, and occasionally downright angry and perfectly shows the frustration that any women must have experienced in a male dominated world of scientific research back in the day. And probably even in these enlightened times too.

It is a brilliant performance with excellent support from the all-male actors orbiting Ms Kidman.

So what drew her back to the West End since her debut back in 1998 with her performance in David Hare's The Blue Room? "It's written by a woman, and it’s about a woman that a lot of women don’t know about."

So if you like Nicole Kidman, you like a good play and good story and you like a bit of social commentary on sexual politics - this is the play for you!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Arsenal - Refugees Welcome...

Pretty proud of my club today. Arsenal have been giving money for each ticket sold to Syrian aid, collecting donations from fans, setting up football pitches in Syria for local kids, donating footballs and kit and sending UK staff to train local staff in Syria to keep it as a going concern. Also they are running training schools in the UK for refugees kids to help them integrate with local communities.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Friday, September 11, 2015

Kinky Boots...

Last night Stuart and I went to see Cyndi Lauper's new musical Kinky Boots at the Adelphi Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

The book was written by Harvey Fierstein and based on the 2005 film of the same name starring Chiwetel Ejiofor - itself based on a true story. And we loved it. We really did.

Charlie Price (Killian Donnelly) inherits his family's shoe factory and facing closure hits upon an idea of making boots for drag queens. He befriends Lola (Matt Henry) who designs the boots and we get taken through the ups and downs and ins and outs of... well, every other musical plot you have even seen.

Yes, you've guessed it, it's the now traditional path of the-musical-of-the-film-that-was-a-moderate-hit-a-few-years-ago-where-a-Northern-English-town-falls-on-hard-times-as-the-local-manufacturing-industry-had-declined-back-in-the-1980s-and-the-narrow-minded-locals-have-their-eyes-opened-to-diversity-by-some-camp-bit-of-nonsense-or-entertainment-or-culture-that-ends-up-dragging-them-out-of-povety-or-whatever. Yes, I'm looking at you Billy Elliot, Made In Dagenham, The Full Monty, Brassed Off, Calendar Girls, Pride et al.

And we can all see the storyboard of these shows... It Was Great Back Then! It's All Really Shit Now! Young Person Says I've Got An Idea To Put Things Right! No One Thinks It's A Good Idea! Heart-felt Dramatic One On One Showdown Changes Mind Of Lead Characters! Everyone Think's It's A Good Idea Now! Everyone Pulls Together! It All Goes Wrong Right  Towards The End! Someone Who Thought It Was A Bad Idea At First Now Steps In And Saves The Day It At The Last Minute! You get the idea.

But you know what? For all the predictable story lines Kinky Boots really was very well done. Better than well done. It was great. It delivered. It delivered with the songs, and it delivered with the story.

For amongst the glitter, the high-heels, and the feathers the story was told with real heart. It managed to weave in plenty of pathos too. The importance of acceptance and genuine sadness at being rejected by one's parents was realised no more acutely than in the song I'm Not My Father's Son. A real tear-jerker.

But don't get me wrong. This is not some simple worthy message-vehicle, this is a show about drag queens and the stage simply lit up whenever Lola and the girls took to the stage. Their dance numbers were well choreographed (thanks to Jerry Mitchell who is also the director), funny and very well sung. "Camp" doesn't even begin to describe it.

Sure the first half is better than the second, sure the final number needs a bit of work but these are but minor quibbles. It had us beaming from ear to ear pretty much throughout and I'd go and see it again in a shot.

It's for the ladies... and for the gentlemen... and those who haven't made up their minds yet.

Get your best glitzy lip gloss on and go see.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

iPhone 6S...

iPhone 6S? £699? At that cost I'd expect the Airplane Mode to actually take you on holiday.
(Well, if a joke is good it's worth repeating, right? Albeit every year!)

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

You Me Bum Bum Train (delayed departure)...

We were due to ride You Me Bum Bum Train last night but it got cancelled. Or more accurately "delayed". We would have been the first passengers of the current journey too.

"Due to a technical problem we are going to have to cancel tonight's show. This is the first time in Bum Bum Train history that we have had to do this and we are really sorry that it has fallen on the night that you have tickets for."

And let me say straight away that I have no beef with that at all.  And we have been offered tickets for later in the run when hopefully the show will be super slick.

You Me Bum Bum Train is an amazing experience and as both Stuart and I have been lucky enough to take the ride before we know how hard it is to pull off. Better to get it right.

But it occurred to me that maybe not all of my fellow passengers would be quite as understanding so I wrote to the YMBBT production team to try and say something nice in what must be a stressful period for them.

"Dear All,

Thank you for all your hard work and sorry to hear about the delays. It'll be an even better more brilliant show than ever for the extra time allowed to get it right.  Any delays on such an amazing show are simply an indication of just how wonderful it is going to be. Please pass on my thanks to everyone working on the show. We are so looking forward to it and know it will be worth everyone's tireless efforts.

I'm all too familiar with deadlines and know that there is always pressure to go live. But all the incredible work you are all doing deserves to been seen in the best possible light. As a train rider I will remember the wonderful memories you guys are creating for many years to come and not the trivial inconvenience of waiting a few weeks to experience what I know will be an amazing ride. I feel lucky and privileged to have secured a ticket. I feel like its a golden ticket for a Willy Wonka ride of a life time.


Monday, September 07, 2015

Mad Man...

I went to Cheltenham at the weekend to help Mark Balwin celebrate his 30th birthday. Simon Kent had thrown him a house party for 50 or 60 of his nearest and dearest. Cocktails, shot shed and the theme was Mad Men. Great fun.

Friday, September 04, 2015


Last night Stuart and I went to see Benedict Cumberbatch star in Hamlet at the Barbican Theatre in London's glitzy but Brutalist Barbican Centre.

That it should come to this! Casting such a huge star and possible distraction in such a play! Though this be madness, yet there is method in't. It sold out a year ahead in minutes.

What a piece of work is (this particular) man? Well, Cumberbatch is electrifying. There was nothing rotten in this state of Denmark. This Hamlet is no ham. He commands and surprises, amazes and delights. He veers from genuinely laugh-out loud comedy to the depths of tragedy in the flick of wrist, the commanding stamp of the foot and the splendid arch of the eyebrow.

An early review by Kate Maltby in The Times called it "a waste" and worse. Well, the lady doth protest too much, methinks. She was trying to get a contrary knife in early. Most critics agree that this is a sublime, superb and sumptuous production - pitch-perfectly acted. And judging by the standing ovation at the end the audience concur.

But let me not imply that Benedict Cumberbatch was the only star of the night. Ciarán Hinds as Claudius and Gertrude played by Anastasia Hille were excellent. Sian Brooke's Ophelia actually brought me to tears as she sang over her father's grave. The cast was rounded out by strong support from Laertes played by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Ghost and Gravedigger played by Karl Johnson, Polonius played by Jim Norton and Horatio played by Leo Bill.

Special mention should go to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern played by Matthew Steer and Rudi Dharmalingam just because I love those characters so much thanks to Tom Stoppard's play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

Back to Hamlet though and director Lyndsey Turner has done a truly magnificent job. Outstanding. The set design by Es Devlin is simply a wow. And even Katrina Lindsay's costume design and Jane Cox's lighting design demanded acclaim.

To be, or not to be? There is no question. A brilliant, brilliant show.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Back In The Saddle...

Well, it's been a fun couple weeks. First off to New York to help Darren celebrate his 50th birthday party and then on up the coast to Cape Cod and Provincetown for a holiday and then a short visit to Boston on the way back to London.

We certainly packed a lot in for 15 days but it was joyful, illuminating, exciting and restful in equal measure.

And the jet lag hasn't been too bad this time with a little help from over the counter Sleep Aid.

Now to plan the next holiday... I wonder where it will be?