Quote Of The Day

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

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Ed goes to Tottenham...

Labour council leader Clare Kober's decision to quit Haringey, citing bullying and sexism, made headlines last year.
Clare was certainly much more popular with the party's top brass way back in 2011. Following the Tottenham riots, she welcomed then-Labour leader Ed Miliband to the area, to show him some of the devastation.
Ed and his party disembarked the tube at Seven Sisters to be met by Kober and council dignitaries. Immediately Ed started to look around, wide-eyed, and empathised with them about the terrible post-riot wasteland he was confronted by.
The council leaders had to quietly tell him he hadn't yet got to the scene of the riots. All he could see was... well, Tottenham.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

British Airways 'mixed trip' tax rip-off....

1st world problem this, so apologies. It is about airline bookings.

Stuart and I just booked a flight with British Airways - a BA plane for most of the trip but a BA partner airline for one of the legs. What they call a 'mixed trip'.

The bill came through and the flight taxes were eye wateringly enormous. We seemed to be paying twice.

So we called BA and queried the amount.
They said, "oh, if you fly with a single airline all the way and don't mix with our partners in our One World Alliance it can be cheaper."
"How much cheaper?" we asked.
"About £400"

Needless to say we cancelled our mixed booking  straightaway and rebooked with one of their partner airlines all the way (bizarrely enough on the actual BA web site).

Same route, same times, £400 cheaper!

Lesson learned. Stick to one airline.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The results are in. And it's official! I'm alive! Well, goodness gracious me! #ECG...

The results are in. And it's official! I'm alive!

My heart goes boom boody-boom boody-boom boody-boom.
Boody-boom boody-boom boody-boom-boom-boom
Boom boody-boom boody-boom boody-boom.
Well, goodness gracious me!

Monday, January 28, 2019

The Gibson Brothers at Jazz Cafe ...

 40 years ago I used to dance the night away to The Gibson Brothers in our local discotheque. I was a very happy disco dancer.

On Saturday Darren, Stuart and I saw them live at The Jazz Cafe for the first time. And it was beyond exciting.

We danced the night away to hits like Cuba, Oooh What A Life, and Que Sera Mi Vida. Great fun.

Friday, January 25, 2019

The Room / Victoria Station / Family Voices - "hauntingly otherworldly, odd and frighteningly, with dark humour" - @JamieLloydCo #PinteratthePinter @HPinterTheatre #PinterFive

Last night Stuart and I went to see a brilliant trio of Harold Pinter one act plays at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

Billed as part of the Pinter at the Pinter season, this night was called "Pinter Five" being the fifth collection. Superbly by Pinter’s colleague and friend, Patrick Marber, it was stylish triple-bill by the great man.

The stellar cast were top notch - Rupert Graves, Jane Horrocks, Colin McFarlane, Emma Naomi, Luke Thallon and Nicholas Woodeson were all excellent.

The night started with Harold Pinter’s first play, The Room (1957) - a hauntingly otherworldly, yet an all-too-familiar piece. Topical English xenophobia runs throughout as things take a darkly funny turn. An unexpectedly odd and frighteningly play.

In the hilarious yet unsettling Victoria Station with its dark humour and the reflective Family Voices, isolated voices attempt to communicate, but can we ever truly express the depths of our feeling?

Special mention needs to be made of Luke Thallon who plays a multitude of characters in Family Voices - male and female, young and old - to great comic affect.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Bully for Me (a.k.a. The Chicken that Came Home to Roost) --->

When I was at school, I was bullied. A common enough experience in many people's pasts I think. However, whereas some people can perhaps try to put such things behind them, for me the memory has not exactly been allowed to fade. You see, I see my tormentor almost every day.

It was in the early 1970s when the bullying started. I was at a boys' school and my particular tormentor would see fit to embarrass me in front of my classmates. He would do it in front of the teachers too - who, quite cruelly to my mind, would often join in the laughter. He would mimic my walk, mimic my speech, and shout personal insults out in a packed classroom. I would go bright red or hang my head in shame. A room full of jeering boys is a fate worse than death - or so I thought. I don't think it was homophobic bullying per se - but just him picking on someone who he though was vulnerable, who 'deserved it'. Someone who was weaker than he was. He would play to the crowd too. Entertaining the group. I burn with anger as I can still hear the laughter ringing in my ears today. The teachers rarely intervened just assuming it was part of the toughening up process - the little chicks sorting out their pecking order in the barnyard - boys learning how to be men.

Nevertheless, I found it humiliating. Humiliating and distressing. I was only 11 years old, rather sensitive, and couldn't cope with the corrosive fear of what my tormentor might do next. After a few weeks of the bullying, I wanted to avoid going to school altogether. So I would leave classes early or bunk off some days completely. I didn't feel brave enough to tell my parents what was going on at the time. I was too ashamed. Too frightened.

Over time, I learned to live with it I suppose. I tried to 'man up'. I decided I was going to try to ignore it and returned to class. But the insults just kept coming and eventually my distress turned into anger and I was left with a burning hatred of my tormentor. I vowed to get revenge. I didn't know how, but someday I would get my own back. His name was to be forever carved into my brain. I hated him. I still do. And although that was 46 years ago, I still feel the shame and the anger at him as if it was yesterday.

And the worst thing about it since? I have not been allowed to forget him. You see, even though the decades have passed, this person's name has cropped up repeatedly - in the media, in the papers, online. Because he is an actor. And quite a well-known one at that. He has gone on to carve out himself quite a successful career - mainly playing (you've guessed it) baddies. He has been in many popular TV shows - comedies, musicals, and dramas - the go-to guy for his evil laugh. Apart from TV he has also appeared in many films, some video games, and on the West End stage. He is, I hate to admit, quite famous. The torture in my mind continues.

And although I try to avoid learning anything about him because of the painful memories it brings back, this week I stumbled quite by accident across a stark reminder. I had opened the evening paper and started to read something that caught my eye. It was an article about a person who had also been bullied. Bullied by their neighbour. And it had left that person depressed, paranoid, and frightened to leave their upstairs flat. Apparently, the downstairs neighbour had taken against their victim, initially about the noise being made, but things had soon turned nasty and the neighbour had started calling this person names - shouting through the letterbox, abusing them in the hallway and in the street. Eventually the victim had had to move out of their shared building entirely and sell up, at a loss. The article in the paper was about the court case that had followed. The victim had taken the abusive, bullying neighbour to court and successfully won almost £100,000 in damages for emotional distress caused by the bullying.

And yes, you have guessed it. The winner of the bullying claim, the victim who had had to leave their home was my very own schoolyard bully. My tormentor. The tables had turned. The bully had become the bullied.

As you can imagine I had very mixed emotions when I finished reading the article. Yes, I felt sorry for him - for the first time - as I know only too well how awful being bullied can be. But then I thought, with a slight twinge of guilt, "Good! Now you see what it is like! Take that, you little evil fucker!" I hoped his charmed life had taken a good kicking. I also couldn't help but wonder if he'll give any of the cash he won to any anti-bullying charities? I doubt it.

So justice (of sorts.) But although I realise there are no winners here, it has given me some sort of closure. Call it schadenfreude but I feel that this particular barnyard pecking battle has now been settled in slightly different order than it was 46 years ago. This particular chicken has at last indeed come home to roost.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

“You have... seen a lion before?”

“And you’ll include a lion, so I look powerful and savage?”
“Yes, sir.”
“You have… seen a lion before?”
“Absolutely, sir.”

Monday, January 21, 2019

Sweat "profound, terrifying, earthy and witty" @DonmarWarehouse ...

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see Lynn Nottage’s devastating account of American industrial decline Sweat at the Donmar Warehouse in London's glitzy West End.

Sweat is a masterpiece, and no wonder, Nottage is a master detailer of the lives of the dispossessed. And don't just take my word for it, she won her second Pulitzer Prize for Sweat. And Lynette Linton's superbly calibrated production excels from start to finish. Outstanding.

By turns Sweat is profound, terrifying, earthy and witty, it details the decline of the town, and people, of Reading, Pennsylvania, a once-proud manufacturing hub and furnace of the American Dream. And although things might be set in the so-called American rust-belt it speaks so powerfully to our Brexit-riven, food bank-strewn country, frightened as we are of the future, the 'other' and the decline of social structures we have always taken for granted. Reading’s particular problems lie with the encroachment of automation and collapse of industry, in a fierce place that used to guarantee blue collar jobs for life, 'in the mill' and ‘in the plant’, straight out of high school.

So what happens when three generations of certainty and security crumble overnight? Nottage explores these issues along with how class, race and the dignity of labour can lead to answers that should shame and scare us all.

Sweat was born out of two years that Nottage spent visiting the hollowed out post-industrial America. But her warm, intimate, polemic-free account of a small group of friends whose fortunes drastically decline between 2000 and 2008 has clear and present parallels with our own country too.

Cynthia (Clare Perkins) and Tracey (Martha Plimpton): two tough, funny, middle-aged women who have spent their lives on the floor of a local, family-run steel-tube factory, and have been rewarded for it with decent pay and a sense of security. Only change is coming. And Cynthisa and Tracey's sons Jason (Patrick Gibson) and Chris (Osy Ikhile) are caught in the cross-hairs.

Firstly, Cynthia gets promoted over Tracey, who then feels her back friend has being favoured for reasons of political correctness. That is just the overture, as the factory bosses are contemplating action that is much more drastic. Pay cuts, jobs cuts, strikes, 'scabs', and violence follows.

There are two devastating takeaways from Sweat. One, the childlike faith the protagonists have that the factory will look after them, an almost pathetic belief in capitalism’s conscience. And two, the speed at which a society can collapse.

Sweat is a thesis on the decline of the working class in the twenty-first century. It’s also a great story, with great characters..

The cast is fantastic across the board, though it is worth noting that guesting US star Martha Plimpton absolutely earns her plane ticket. Her Tracey is wild, fierce and desperately vulnerable, the order of the factory protecting her from her worst instincts. Perkins as Cynthia – loud and decent – is the show’s beating heart. And Stuart McQuarrie gives a lovely turn as intensely likeable barman Stan, a retired factory guy. Injured by a dodgy machine, he’s settled into a sort of Sam-from-‘Cheers’ role, a lovable American archetype.

Their fates and Nottage’s analysis are bleak, but her respect for her characters is palpable. She is never needlessly cruel to them, and we see their decline only briefly. It is society that is cruel – Sweat only reflects it, and we need to pay attention.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Amane presents: The Spirit Of Eno "By the end of the night Paul and I were both in tears. Tears of joy" @amanesuganami @CamdenAssembly ...

Last night Paul and I went to see London based electronic Amané Suganami perform selected ambient works of Brian Eno at The Camden Assembley Room in London's glitzy Chalk Farm.

Billed as "Amane presents: The Spirit Of Eno" it was a very special night. It was a celebration of some of Eno’s greatest works from across his 45-year career. Eskewed work with David Bowie, David Byrne, Talking Heads, U2 and Coldplay last night Amane concentrated on Eno's ambient work.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the genre of ambient music wouldn’t exist without the work of Brian Eno, not least because he coined the name for the genre himself!

Amane reinterpreted selected tracks from Ambient 1, 2 3 and 4, Films, and Apollo, all records that are rightfully regarded as genre classics, and stand as some of the electronic icon’s most timeless pieces of music.

Ambient 1: Music for Airports (1978)
Music for Films (1978)
Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror (1979)
Ambient 3: Day of Radiance (1980)
Ambient 4: On Land (1982)
Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks (1983)

Highlight was Sparrowfall from Music for Films. A masterful, haunting, hypnotic night.

By the end of the night Paul and I were both in tears. Tears of joy.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Manon "From giddiness to despair, triumph to regret, this production is searingly powerful"; @ENBallet

Last night Stuart and I went to see, thanks to Mark, a working stage rehearsal of Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon by the English National Ballet at the London Coliseum in London's glitzy West End.

Though the succulent depravity of the ballet has been a little anaesthetised, it still has the power to shock. We know this as the sign at the door says, "This performance contains scenes of a sexual nature, one gun shot and dry ice." So we know this production of Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon will still be skimming across a lake of darkness before plunging into its tragic depths.

The Abbe Prevost’s story of a girl whose fear of poverty overwhelms the dictates of her heart finds a perfect expression in this uncompromising and shocking ballet. It starts in 18th Century Paris and ends in a Louisiana swamp. In between, MacMillan treats us to a catalogue of sexual degradation, female exploitation and murder. From the get-go, the bustling crowd scenes depict a society in chaos where thieves and vagabonds collide with slumming aristocrats.

Here our Manon (played wonderfully by Alina Cojocaru) shifts from girlish coquettishness – jittering across the stage en pointe, side-eyeing her suitor Des Grieux (played by Joseph Caley), fingers dancing like butterflies – to post-coital succulence in the second pas de deux, sliding from the bed like mercury.

In a world where extravagant riches and abject poverty exist side by side, Manon is caught in-between. Though she has fallen in love with her penniless student Des Grieux, she is lured into becoming the mistress of a rich gentleman. From giddiness to despair, triumph to regret, this production is searingly powerful.

Handsomely staged, meticulously rehearsed and vividly danced, English National Ballet’s production features compelling characters, gasp-inducing love duets and larger than life scenes, all set to a haunting score by Jules Massenet, played live by English National Ballet Philharmonic. Oh and lovely lighting.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

My two tips...

My two tips - take lots of exercise and eat properly. The list of problems it helps with is almost limitless; depression, not being able to sleep, anxiety, confidence, longevity, heart disease. You name it, basically. Your mum was right.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Party Time / Celebration - "Crass, dazzling and hilarious" - @JamieLloydCo #PinteratthePinter @HPinterTheatre #PinterSix

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see a brilliant duo of Harold Pinter plays at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

Billed as part of the Pinter at the Pinter season, this night was called "Pinter Six" being the sixth collection. Superbly directed by Jamie Lloyd, it was stylish double bill of party-set comedies by the great man.

The stellar cast were top notch - Ron Cook, Phil Davis, Celia Imrie, Gary Kemp, Tracy-Ann Oberman, Abraham Popoola, John Simm, Katherine Kingsley and Eleanor Matsuura were all excellent.

The night started with 1991's Party Time - a scathing, bitter and very funny attack on the increasingly powerful and narcissistic super-rich, all dressed in black, set against the backdrop of terrifying state oppression. It was set at a swanky soiree, at which John Simm’s obsequious Terry is trying to sell Phil Davis’s prim official Gavin on the merits of his fancy members’ club. But other things are trying to intrude: Terry’s wife, Dusty (Eleanor Matsuura), keeps asking as to the whereabouts of her brother, Jimmy, despite Terry’s venomous attempts to get her to shut up. And there are allusions to violence and protests on the roads. Meanwhile, the double doors at the heart of Soutra Gilmour’s set are sporadically hammered upon, a dazzling light shining between the cracks. It is a hilarious, unnerving evocation of the bubble of extreme privilege at the top of a dictatorship. Celia Imrie almost steals the night with her dry put-downs of her dear but departed friends. Cruel but clever.

The second play, Celebration, written in 2000, is an irresistible comedy about the vulgarity and ostentatious materialism of the nouveau riche, set in a fashionable London restaurant. Our cast to die, now clad in cheap suits and covered in bling, for are all scoffing at a fancy restaurant after a night of culture they failed to understand and can barely remember. They are all full-on old school Eastenders intellectually outclassed by the staff who wait on them. It is an evening of social satire that chimes with our times.

The high point comes when the raucous boozing is broken up by the interjections of Abraham Popoola’s waiter, who butts in to inform the bemused carousers of his grandfather’s friendship with various titans of the literary world.

A top night out. We laughed and laughed. This Pinter season has really hit its stride. Roll on Pinter Seven!

Friday, January 11, 2019

The Tragedy of King Richard the Second : "Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown"

Last night Stuart and I went to see William Shakespeare's The Tragedy of King Richard the Second (better know as simply Richard II) at the Almeida Theatre in London's glitzy Islington.

In a nutshell: "Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown." Simon Russell Beale's king shows how powerless the powerful can be as Britain faces its own political paralysis.

Political plotting has become a national pastime in Britain of late. Hardly a week goes by without an attempted parliamentary coup. The Tragedy of King Richard the Second, Joe Hill-Gibbins’ stark distillation of Richard II starring a superlative Simon Russell Beale at the Almeida Theatre, keys into that febrile climate of treachery and mistrust. With courtiers circling his crown like vultures, Russell Beale’s Richard becomes a paranoid, panic-stricken king: a monarch so wary of defenestration and, with it, death that his reign seizes up as if rigor mortis had set in. A leader caught in the headlights, a ruling class waiting to strike, a nation gripped by paralysis — what could better encapsulate Brexit Britain?

Not that Hill-Gibbins’ production is pat. This is a psychological study of power and its accompanying perils. Stripped back to a skeletal plot that can, admittedly, be hard to follow, Shakespeare’s most poetic history play becomes a political thriller — a tale of how to topple of a king. Leo Bill’s dead-eyed Bollingbroke returns from exile with a revolutionary fervor, homing in on Richard’s crown like a heat-seeking missile. But he and his supporters must pick their moment or else their treacherous efforts will mean their deaths. With nobles nipping at the king’s heels, testing their strength then retreating into the crowd, this becomes a twitchy, jittery staging, always on edge. The pulse of war drums gets under the skin and designer Ultz’s iron-grey box set offers no escape. It turns civil war into a cage-fight to the death.

Beginning at the end, with a dethroned Richard philosophizing in jail, Hill-Gibbins gives the play a Taoist twist. Is this a man who dreamed himself king, or a king who wakes to find himself a man? The difference between the two states is slight — a simple gold crown that, here, seems to have teeth. The second Russell Beale slips it on, Richard’s mortal vulnerability vanishes into stately authority. Its presence gives him absolute power — the ability to affect the world with a word. Subjects fall silent whenever he speaks and, on his say-so, rebels like Bollingbroke can be instantly banished.
It is an unnatural position, as Russell Beale makes brilliantly clear. Instead of the usual ill-equipped king, too meek to find the mettle required to rule, his Richard is simply in an impossible fix. He is, effectively, in a snake pit surrounded by vipers and, though he preaches peace outwardly, he snaps viciously at anyone who might step out of line. Adopting a princely posture, hands on his regal hips, it’s not that he’s ineffectual, but that he’s outnumbered, fighting potential foes on all sides.

By framing Richard’s courtiers as a chorus rather than distinct characters, Hill-Gibbins shifts the center of the play. The six-strong ensemble see-saws between Richard and Bollingbroke, from royalists to rebels, huddling like a flock of flamingos as if wary of stepping away from the safety of the pack. Isolated traitors wind up dead, modishly sploshed with a slop-bucket of stage blood. Instead, they cling to the walls, desperate not to be seen, and scatter like sparrows that have spotted a crow. Yet they are all waiting, primed, for an opportunity to strike, sometimes snaking up to the king, sometimes snapping like hyenas. But they’re an unruly bunch, bickering between themselves, and their in-fighting triggers a wonderfully silly set-piece as glove after glove gets thrown down and political plotting descends into a playground free-for-all.

There’s a reason Richard’s crown looks a lot like a snare. It’s a trap — a target every monarch wears on their head. Indeed, the crown contains a contradiction: the absolute power it confers is outweighed by the vulnerability it brings with it. As its wearer, Russell Beale can only wait, gloomily fatalistic, to be knocked from his perch, and when he sits on the ground to "tell tales of dead kings," he’s not burying his head in the sand so much as facing up to his reality. He makes leadership look like a cruel form of psychological torture, where no one can be trusted and nothing seems real. Britain’s imperiled and incapacitated prime minister must know just how he feels.

It’s something Bill’s Bollingbroke discovers for himself. So steadfastly thuggish in opposition, he wilts when he gets his hands on the crown, wary even of putting it on. It adds a grim inevitability to the play’s final moments, as his loyalists call out the names of potential opponents he’s had dispatched in quick and chilling succession. Power is precarious unless it’s made absolute. "Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown" — as does the nation waiting on its word.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Oven Trouble...

Oh @AEG_Global I really wanted to buy your lovely AEG DCE731110M double-oven. But guess how many buttons I pressed to get a typical 180C? Go on guess! 1? 3? 4? No... 10. Yes, 10!

And don't get me started to how to turn off one oven without turning both off! #LifeIsTooShort 

Monday, January 07, 2019

"LGBT people. Footie fans. Supporters supporting each other. Having fun. Not just talking the talk but walking the walk.Sometimes the best way to way to walk is to simply put your best foot forward" @GayGooners

We Gay Gooners had a memorable away trip to Blackpool to watch the mighty Arsenal take on the slightly less-mighty Blackpool this weekend just gone in the FA Cup third round. It was a weekend to remember - and not just for the Blackpool 0-3 Arsenal score line.

We played crazy golf in the dark, danced and drank in a few gay bars (more on that later), and frequented enough JD Wetherspoon pubs to make you think they might be going out of fashion.

And although we had fun at the game together, had lots of laughs hanging out together, spent lots of bonding together, we also got to speak to many other people too. People not in our group.

Gay people, straight people, just people. We talked about the work we do at Gay Gooners - our aims, our goals, and philosophy. And I think created a lot of allies as a result.

They got to see us in our natural element. LGBT people. Footie fans. Supporters supporting each other. Having fun. Not just talking the talk but walking the walk.

And sometimes the best way to walk is to simply put your best foot forward.

Friday, January 04, 2019

Blackpool Bound!

Me and a bunch of GayGooners are on their way to Blackpool for an FA Cup away game this weekend.

What fun (or not!) awaits us?

Let's see!

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Mariah & Friendz at Bethnal Green Working Men's Club...

On NYE Andy, Kev, Stu and I wen to  Mariah & Friendz at Bethnal Green Working Men's Club.

A string of queer, drag, acrobatic, fire-eating, Mariah Carey impersonators? Yup, usual NYE night out at BGWMC!