Quote Of The Day

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

Thursday, September 24, 2020

I WANNA BE KATE: The Songs of Kate Bush - Remastered & Expanded...

Back in 1998 71 musicians, 19 engineers working in 13 different studios produced a compilation album of cover versions of Kate Bush songs. The first official tribute album to Kate Bush. And it was fab.

Well, in 2020 that album has now been lovingly remastered and expanded to add a further seven songs. And, if possible, it's even fabber!

I WANNA BE KATE: The Songs of Kate Bush - Remastered & Expanded

https://iwannabekate.bandcamp.com/album/i-wanna-be-kate-the-songs-of-kate-bush-remastered-expanded

01. The Aluminum Group - L'Amour Looks Something Like You (2020 Remaster) 04:46
02. Susan Voelz - The Sensual World (2020 Remaster) 04:16
03. The Moviegoers - Hounds Of Love (2020 Remaster) 04:51
04. Syd Straw - The Man With The Child In His Eyes (2020 Remaster) 03:12
05. The J. Davis Trio - There Goes A Tenner (2020 Remaster) 05:07
06. Nora O'Connor - The Saxophone Song (2020 Remaster) 05:15
07. Justin Roberts - You're The One (2020 Remaster) 04:50
08. Mouse - Coffee Homeground (2020 Remaster) 04:56
09. Catherine Smitko - Jig Of Life (2020 Remaster) 04:08
10. Victoria Storm - The Kick Inside (2020 Remaster) 04:12
11. The Baltimores - Running Up That Hill (2020 Remaster) 03:27
12. Diamond Jim Greene - Home For Christmas (2020 Remaster) 03:42
13. My Scarlet Life - Suspended In Gaffa (2020 Remaster) 03:36
14. The Plunging Necklines - Kashka From Baghdad/Babooshka (2020 Remaster) 05:08
15. Trinkets Of Joy - Love And Anger (2020 Remaster) 04:19
16. Thomas Negovan - And Dream Of Sheep (2020 Remaster) 06:32
17. Tom Dunning & Your Boyfriends - Not This Time (2020 Remaster) 05:01
18. Butterfly Child - Top Of The City 04:56
19. Zapruder Point - You Want Alchemy 03:33
20. Yules - Cloudbusting 04:37
21. Tristan an Arzhig - Joanni 06:03
22. Grimeland - Among Angels (Live in Denmark) 05:43
23. Michael Ross - A Coral Room 05:18
24. Tom Dunning & Your Boyfriends - Nocturn (feat. Carol Keogh) 08:22

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Talking Heads #2 : The Shrine and Bed Among the Lentils @ Bridge Theatre...


Last Saturday Stuart and I went to see the second brace of Alan Bennett's Talking Heads monologues put on at the Bridge Theatre in London's glitzy London Bridge Quarter. It was the RAC followed by AA.


The Shrine sees Monica Dolan play Lorna, a woman coming to terms with the death of her husband Clifford. Or is it Cliff? As Lorna sets up a shrine near the place where Clifford's motorbike left the road and crashed into a tree various characters come forward who cast doubt on who Clifford really was. A bird watcher? A speeding wanker? Gay? A friend to many others certainly, and a distributor of Lorna's fancy sandwiches. And who do you call when your husband dies anyway? The RAC?

As Dolan summons for us the skid marks on the road, which her shrine making doesn't want transgressed, the circling kite, the field of sheep, we keenly feel her loss. It is a study in bereavement made all the more potent by its complexity: does Lorna feel grief or only loneliness? And the decision to bear witness has its own kind of quiet heroism, not exactly dented but transformed by meeting a surprising fellow mourner.

Compared to the recorded TV version earlier this year (also played by Dolan) here the piece felt so much more alive. Ironically for a piece about death.

The tone of the second piece, Bed Among the Lentils, is far more comic: Lesley Manville's deadpan vicar's wife Susan, looks back on her adventures and brief moments of happiness while under the influence of the sherry and the communion wine. The monologue maintains a tone of scathing sarcasm towards Susan's hypocritical husband and "fan club" flock that invites us to laugh along with her. After Susan eventually attends Alcoholics Anonymous, her husband even uses the fact to further his own career - exampling his own sufferance and forbearance. More eye-rolling laughter.

The tender notes of the play do come and are sounded towards the Indian grocer – 26, lovely legs – who creates for them both the Bed of the title.

Manville is as charismatic as ever.

The cathartic sense of loneliness shared in both these plays could not be more timely or welcome.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Lockdown v2.0...

We got an email from our local council this afternoon. All sensible but sobering advice.

Dear Resident,

The Government has today announced the following new restrictions to help control the spread of coronavirus in our community:

People should work from home wherever possible

From this Thursday (24 September) pubs, bars and restaurants must close at 10pm – they will also be restricted to table service only

Face masks will be compulsory for bar staff and non-seated customers, shop workers, waiters and in taxis

The limit on guests at weddings will be reduced from 30 to 15 from Monday (28 September)

Plans to allow fans to return to sporting events have been paused

The "Rule of six" now applies to indoor team sports – this also takes effect from Monday

Fines for not wearing masks or following rules have increased to £200 for a first offence.

The evidence is clear that infection rates are rising rapidly in London, including in Islington. I know today’s announcement will be disappointing, but the restrictions are necessary to save lives and avoid a second full lockdown. We all need to act now to bring the virus back under control and prevent the devastating illness and deaths we saw earlier in the year.

The council is working hard to keep residents safe, but the only way we can do that is if every single person plays their part.

Keep yourself, your family and friends safe

We all want life to return to normal but that will only happen if we all follow the rules. We can all do our bit to keep this virus under control and protect ourselves, our friends and our family if we:

Stick with six – do not meet with more than six people at any time, indoors or outdoors and try to limit the number of people you see socially over a short period

Wash your hands regularly – and make the most of hand sanitiser stations at buildings and public spaces across the capital

Wear a face covering in public places, including shops and public transport

Create space – stay 2m apart from people outside your household, particularly in public places

Check your symptoms – if you start to develop any coronavirus symptoms make sure you self-isolate and book a test by calling 119.




Monday, September 21, 2020

Walking in London is endlessly fascinating...

This weekend just gone rather than a last mad dash to the pub before lockdown v2.0 Stuart and I decided to go for a walk or two. Or three. Basically we did a lot of walking. On our travels through Camden, Tower Hamlets, Archway, and Hoxton we saw some murals being created, stumbled across a new cat café, and walked over Tower Bridge (twice). Walking in London is endlessly fascinating.






Friday, September 18, 2020

Talking Heads #1 : The Outside Dog and The Hand of God @ Bridge Theatre...

Last week Stuart and I went to see the first brace of Alan Bennett's Talking Heads monologues put on at the Bridge Theatre in London's glitzy London Bridge Quarter. It was terror followed by chintz.

The Outside Dog sees Rochenda Sandall play Marjory, a woman suspicious of her psychopathic slaughterman for a husband’s behaviour. And she is simply sensational.

Is Marjory a terrified victim or a silent accomplice, aware of her husband’s guilt but immobilised by fear? It is a piece that plays to these times of lockdown domestic abuse.

Nadia Fall’s direction is perfect, and Sandall is a tour de force of fearful vulnerability and hard-faced defensiveness.

The Hand of God is the polar opposite to Dog. Here Kristin Scott Thomas plays Celia, a genteel dowager from the Home Counties, sneering at modern-day bargain hunters who stare in her antique shop window looking for price tags.

It is a very gentle performance from Scott Thomas; one for Alan Bennett fans with a simple direction by Jonathan Kent's that does not frighten any horses.

A snob and somewhat wily Celia thinks she knows all the tricks of the antique trade. Well, she thinks she does. But a slight of hand and her own greed blinds her to a diamond in the rough. A sad woman who we laugh ‘at’ rather than ‘with’.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

"He didn't mention you..."

Ernest Borgnine had a fun married life. Wife Ethel Merman came back from an audition, 
"The director said I have the body of a 16 year old and the face of a 21 year old." 
Ernest replied: "And your 55 year old c**t?" 
Ethel retorted: "He didn't mention you."

Monday, September 14, 2020

Hair @ The Turbine On The Jetty...

Last week Stuart and I went to watch a concert version of our favourite musical Hair put on by The Turbine Theatre on a bobbing jetty next to London's glitzy Battersea Power Station.

Presented as part of a specially curated festival of live entertainment the show was directed by Arlene Phillips, with a cast including Matt Croke, Danielle Fiamanya, Jordan Luke Gage, Grace Mouat, Millie O’Connell, Jodie Steele and the excellent Layton Williams.

A chilly wind blew across the Thames as we huddled down into our deckchairs but the infectious songs soon had us dreaming of the warm sun and sixties counterculture in all its barefoot, long-haired, bell-bottomed, beaded and fringed glory. 

Aquarius, Good Morning Starshine, Hair, Black Boys/White Boys, I Got Life, and Let The Sunshine In were all sung so much better than the recent touring production last year.

Even sat on that jetty on the Thames we still connected with that wonderful tribal love rock music; music that celebrates and explores ideas of identity, community, global responsibility and peace. 50 years down the line and 15 metres down the river, Hair remains as relevant as ever as it examines what it means to be a young person in a changing world.

Maybe, just maybe, next time we'll pack a warmer kaftan.






Friday, September 11, 2020

Christopher's funeral... what a wonderful legacy to make people smile when they think of you.

Christopher's funeral was very moving. I'm only sorry we couldn't be there in person.

The eulogy touched on some very moving themes; how Christopher enriched the lives of others, it was no cliche to call him 'one of a kind', utterly unique, creative, sensitive and generous. He would light up any room. People were drawn to him, and he touched the hearts and lives of many.

He is now reunited with Stuart - the love of his life.

And what a wonderful legacy to make people smile when they think of you.

Rest in Peace, my doll XXX

PS: I'd never heard that Viola Wills story. What a star!



Thursday, September 10, 2020

Blindness @ Donmar Warehouse...

A week or two ago Stuart and I went to see the immersive sound production of José Saramago’s Blindness at the Donmar Warehouse in London’s glitzy Covent Garden.

A single person becomes infected with a new disease. Their doctor is baffled. Then the others in the doctor’s waiting room come down with it too. So does the doctor. It’s infectious. Very. More and more people get it. A pandemic starts as it spreads from person to person. No symptoms are apparent at first - until the disease strikes. The Government’s reaction is shock, denial, and lack-lustre differing. And then when more people get it the Government goes into overdrive and rounds the infected up and puts them into camps - disused hospitals or compounds. Food is provided but little else. Soon lawlessness, factionism, and violent infighting break out. The infected are left to rot. The pandemic spreads despite the lockdown though. Society breaks down. A dystopian world with no end in sight. But then...

All told in darkness and with the audience wearing headphones Juliet Stevenson plays the doctor’s wife and narrates the tale. The lack of vision coupled with the headphones creates an amazing 3D soundscape around each person. Whispering in your ear just behind your shoulder one moment to crashing, smashing chaos the next.

A great idea, brilliant executed.

Oh, and the disease that causes the pandemic? Blindness.    







Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

He’s a wise baby...

Myrtle made me laugh yesterday. We were talking about how much new baby Watts looks like his Dad.

Me: Doesn’t the baby look so like Jos?
Myrtle: He’s a wise baby
Me: Huh? Wise?
Myrtle: Always wise for a baby to come out looking like the man standing over you at the hospital bed!
Me: 🤣🤣🤣





Monday, September 07, 2020

Aubrey Beardsley @ Tate Britain...

Last Saturday afternoon Stuart and I walked down to the Tate Britain in London's glitzy Pimlico to see the fabulous Aubrey Beardsley exhibition.

Beardsley, who was born in Brighton in 1872 and died of tuberculosis at the tender age of 25, titillated late-Victorian London with decadent scenes depicted in his sinuous black-and-white ink lines, often showing the strong influence of Japanese graphic art. But this was only part of the story. The exhibition shows us the artist had a broader range than the simple black-and-white line drawings for which he is famous. He was more than a one trick pony as an illustrator / graphic artist.

Five of the artist’s original illustrations for Alexander Pope’s poem The Rape of the Lock are shown here together for the first time since they were created in 1897, as part of the largest display of Beardsley's work in Britain for more than 50 years. The Tate has in fact managed to reunite more than 200 works for the show. Which is no mean feat.

The artist was protective of his work and passed his drawings directly to publishers or close friends. From there, they often went to private and university collections in America and are now fragile. As a result they are rarely displayed.

"He had so many more styles and artistic influences than people recognise him for today," curator Caroline Corbeau-Parsons says. "When you see the detailed lace on these drawings it is clear he could work in different styles. We are all familiar with his illustrations for Oscar Wilde’s play Salome, the elongated black-and-white figures, but this exhibition changes the way people think of Beardsley."

If you get a chance to go, do. But be warned, some of it is very rude!











Friday, September 04, 2020

My Beautiful Launderette...

The Leicester Curve theatre is making their dress rehearsal performance of My Beautiful Launderette available for free on their web site. 

Great play with original music by the Pet Shop Boys. (So even if you only want to skip through I just listen to the new PSB music you can!) 

The new PSB songs are:- 
Omar's Theme 
Angelic Thug 
Johnny's Dark Side 
Night Sings (Popa's Theme) 
Johnny's Theme 
Beautiful Laundrette 
No Boundaries 

 Also included are:- 
West End Girls Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money) 
Tonight Is Forever 
I Get Excited (You Get Excited Too) 
Left to My Own Devices

 

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Beat The Devil @ Bridge Theatre...


Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see Ralph Fiennes perform in David Hare's monologue Beat The Devil at the Bridge Theatre in London's glitzy London Bridge Quarter.

"I don't have survivor's guilt," says Fiennes, "I have survivor's rage."

There's something marginally meta about the event. Here we are, in the grip of a deadly pandemic that is both killing people and reshaping society, sitting in our masks in a socially distanced theatre, with its seating capacity reduced from 900 to some 250, listening to a bulletin from the front line that we are still fighting on.


But Hare has always been a master of this type of instant response, combining journalistic rigour with an intense sense of the urgent, to report on everything from the state of the railways to the state of Israel, the war in Iraq and the Labour party, always using his questing curiosity as prompt to discover and explain.

That means that his description of his own, serious, encounter with coronavirus – which felled him just as lockdown began and reduced him, by Day Ten to "total despair" – is recounted with vivid, forensic detail. As the "dirty bomb" of the virus is thrown into his body, he lists the havoc caused: the fever, diarrhoea, vomiting, herpes, delirium, and the way everything tastes and smells of sewage. "I haven't yet seen this symptom listed as common," remarks Fiennes, wryly. He notes the fuzzy lungs, the sticky blood, the sense that he has "swallowed a Catherine wheel."


He also draws wider conclusions, following the bafflement of the doctors and their descriptions of this ever-changing virus as "medieval" in its impact and cruelty. And of course, he looks to the government, whose descent into its "mad phase" coincides with his own; his own symptoms are becoming more pronounced at the same time as the body politic reveals itself to be diseased. Faced with Priti Patel's outright denial of the government's failure to provide its doctors and nurses with PPE, he observes "if I wasn't gagging anyway, I'd have gagged."

Your view of this furious indictment of a government who have made mediocrity a dirty word – "mediocrity suggests middling, These people are incompetent " – possibly depends on both your politics and your experience of Covid-19. I have noticed that many Covid survivors share Hare's fury at the sheer inefficiency of this government in response, and his suggestion that this is a betrayal beyond the scale of Suez and Iraq would find wide support.

But whatever your view, it would be impossible to deny the power and passion of Hare's writing and his remarkable ability to find humour in the midst of the most savage denunciations of what is going on. When a friend suggests he is unusual in being a middle-class Covid sufferer, he is appalled: "Perhaps I have crossed class lines in accidentally getting a disease that targets manual workers and ethnic minorities."

What makes Beat the Devil such a fine piece, though, is that it contains a multitude of emotions besides fury. It's full of love for Hare's wife, Nicole Farhi, who convinced of her own indestructibility and consumed by care, lays her whole body across her husband in an attempt to warm his Arctic chills. There's deep compassion for the bereaved, and those who – arbitrarily – have succumbed to coronavirus when Hare has survived. And there's a heartfelt plea, too, for honesty in government on the simple but convincing grounds that the most "soothing bandage for grief, is the truth."

All is this is magnificently realised by Fiennes, who under Nicholas Hytner's quietly efficient and detailed direction, uses all his own sensitivity and charisma to create a portrait of a man undone by an illness that seizes him like a demon, and yet determined to use the experience for good. "I am started to come out of the experience a hippy," he says, with a look of wonderment at his gratitude for the everyday.

The play itself, indoors, in a theatre feels like that: an act of pleasure, defiance and assertion, a return to something that Hare has been doing for 50 years to explain and understand the world around him. 

Needless to say, both Stuart and I loved it.

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Gaia @ The Painted Hall...

On Sunday night David sorted tickets for Jason, Carlo and I to go and see something rather special.

The Painted Hall in Greenwich is a Baroque masterpiece known as Britain's 'Sistine Chapel'. The Hall boasts one of the most spectacular Baroque interiors in Europe. The incredible ceiling and wall decorations were conceived and executed by British artist Sir James Thornhill.

Currently gilding this particular lily is Gaia - a touring artwork by UK artist Luke Jerram. Measuring seven metres in diameter, Gaia features 120dpi detailed NASA imagery of the Earth’s surface. The artwork provides the opportunity to see our planet floating in three-dimensions high up in this magnificent Hall.

And it is amazing.








Monday, August 31, 2020

Happy 63rd Wedding Anniversary to these old wrinklies...

Happy 63rd Wedding Anniversary to these old wrinklies. Literally, we wouldn’t be here without you Dad and Myrtle!




Friday, August 28, 2020

It's A Boy!

Congratulations to my amazing niece Charlotte on the arrival of her amazing baby boy at 1:50pm today weighing in at 3.37 kg / 7.7 lbs. He looks just like his proud father Jos.

A very proud great uncle at this end! Those 35 hours in labour were certainly worth it! XXX ❤️❤️❤️








Thursday, August 27, 2020

Tenet - strap yourself in and enjoy the ride. And see if you can spot a topical reference to a "mutant algorithm"!..

Last night I went to see Christopher Nolan's new blockbuster film Tenet at the Vue Cinema in glitzy Islington.

It was weird going back to the cinema after such a long time; lots of social-distancing in the seats sold, face coverings all round, lots of extra staff on hand, and dozens of hand sanitiser dispensers.

The reviews for Tenet have all been fairly glowing so far and I'd largely concur. Although as with any sci-fi action blockbuster, there are always enough plot holes to drive a Batmobile through!

However, if you take my advice, you just strap yourself in and enjoy the ride. And see if you can spot a topical reference to a "mutant algorithm"!

Nice performances from action hero John David Washington, a lovely bromance with Robert Pattinson, wronged siren Elizabeth Debicki is great, baddy Kenneth Branagh hams it up beautifully, nice support from Himesh Patel, and a lovely if rather pointless cameo by Michael Caine.

Go see.


**BELOW LIE THEM THERE SPOILERS (BUT NOT THE ENDING)**

Christopher Nolan is obviously a big fan of The Night Manager, James Bond, and to a lesser degree Doctor Who's River Song.

Mediterranean location (check), posh yacht (check), moustache twirly omnicidal baddy (check), unhappy ingénue looking for a way out (check), good-looking protagonist who is good with his fists but for some reason doesn't get shot on first sight by the baddy (check), baffling world-effecting plot (check), huge dramatic set-pieces involving planes, cars, explosions, and lots of fighting (check), lots and lots of time-wimey MacGuffins (check), characters that say cake-and-eat-it things to baffled side-kicks like "don't try to understand what's going on, it's complicated"!

The physics bit as used in Tenet...

Time is an illusion. Or so they say. There is no global "now".

One natural conclusion of General Relativity is that all events are real. All events. So events in the past and future have already happened. A non-intuitive idea of course because we remember the past, not the future.

Time travel in films and TV often relies upon this idea. Most film and TV use the idea of traveling faster than the speed of light or bending space-time so people and object suddenly jump into the past or the future.

Not so in Tenet.

Tenet correctly acknowledges that time is simply the direction of entropy.

Entropy (the measure of disorder) being one of the few quantities in the physical sciences that require a particular direction for time.

The second law of thermodynamics says, the entropy of an isolated system can only increase, but cannot decrease. Therefore the arrow of time only goes "forward" in time not backwards. Ice melts. Hot turns to cold. Your bedroom gets more messy not less.

Tenet imagines a future 'magical' method of decreasing the entropy for an object in such away that it reserves this own arrow of time for that object. They call it 'inverting the entropy'. So it gets colder when you heat it not hotter. When you throw it away it comes back. Bullet's get unshot. The inverted object experiences the world backwards locally even in a world where time for everyone else generally flows forward.

Significantly this inverted object or person travels through time at the same rate as everyone else but in reverse. So no sudden jumps into the past or into the future.

And if, Tenet supposes, those inverted objects were to start appearing from the future into the present, why were they being sent here, and how could a bad guy use them to his own evil ends?

Watch Tenet to find out.

And the Grandfather Paradox gets acknowledged and promptly ignored!

And the baddy's modus operandi seems to be "if I can't have it, no one can".

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Socially-Distanced Eat Out To Help Out Catch Up with Tony....

Lovely to have a socially-distanced Eat Out To Help Out catch-up with Tony last night. Stuart and I had never been to Megan’s before. Nice enough food but service a bit on the slow side.










Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Monday, August 24, 2020

Friday, August 21, 2020

Track & Trace app in iOS 14...

The latest iOS 14 beta has more Covid-19 Exposure Notification options built in to it. For those concerned about privacy, it is very much an "Opt In" rather than an "Opt Out" system.
 
The system will only work if two things happen; 1) if *you* enable the option on your phone AND, 2) if *you* download and install any (health? Government?) app to use that option. So it will be voluntary not mandatory.
 
Of course there are lots of discussions about any track & trace app to be had that will no doubt use words like “trust”, “privacy”, "civil duty" and talk of whether some buildings, venues, public or private spaces, will only allow access if you have an enabled tracing app on your phone. 
 
Some will sign up straight away. Some won’t. Some won't be able to if their don't have a smart phone. Some will be concerned about any privacy issues. Others will steer well clear on principle. Some might take a more nuanced approach and sign up but not use it. Some may wait and see what others do. Some people might be happier with a manual contract tracing system rather than a digital contact tracing system. 
 
Ultimately it will require people to have faith in an app that may end up telling them to stay home for a long period, isolate, and get a test.
 
So far even the most compliant countries (Oz, Iceland, Singapore, Taiwan etc.) are only seeing around 35-40% take up of their own tracing apps. Any digital tracing app really needs a minimum 60% take up for it to be effective, ideally 80%.

Let’s see how this one plays out. 

Whether it is digital or manual, track & trace will have a part to play in any pandemic - even if and when a vaccine is widely available.