Quote Of The Day

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

Friday, December 31, 2021

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

RI Xmas Lectures 2021…

Royal Institution Christmas Lectures start at 8pm tonight on BBC Four are given by Jonathan Van-Tam on viruses and the immune system. Should be good!

Monday, December 27, 2021

Xmas 2021…

Lovely few Xmas days with the family. Myrtle hosting us all. Jos and Charlotte cooking up a storm. Simon was on reading duties. Angus on baby care. Joanna doing everything else and more besides! Will keeping the drinks topped up. And Stuart keeping an eye in the madhouse he’d entered.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Dina Martina - The Christmas Show @ Soho Theatre... "Something borrowed, something blue, ’round the corner fudge is made."

As you Brits say at Christmas: "Something borrowed, something blue, ’round the corner fudge is made."

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see American drag artiste Dina Martina perform in the main auditorium of the Soho Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

We'd seen Dina perform before at the same venue and in Provincetown.

Dina Martina's shows are a mash-up of live singing (off-colour and off-key), outrageous costumes, and hilarious video montages. It's a very knowing, high camp drag show and very funny. The show was called The Christmas Show and featured Madonna, the Beatles and a lot of changed lyrics.

I'm sure Madge and McCartney would both laugh at their songs being lovingly murdered by an overweight drag queen with a quick wit and sparkle in her eye. My sides were literally aching from laughing.

Other comedic reinterpretations were Mungo Jerry's In The Summertime (as an attack on American over-consumption) and that classic Fever (re-worded as an attack on the anti-vax lobby). We were also treated to Dina's favourite - an extended story about earthquake clowns(!)

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Nothing major. Heart monitor removal. I get supper though!

Glad that’s over. They are keeping me in for a bit though for observation. So I get supper! Result! 
[Nothing major, just procedure having my heart monitor removed]

Monday, December 20, 2021


What's the difference between Father Christmas and the DHL Delivery driver? 
One is a fictional character who doesn't actually deliver presents at Christmas and the other… is Santa.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Arsenal 2 - 0 West Ham…

Superb performance by Arsenal in beating West Ham 2-0. Who would have thought Top 4 was realistic this season? But this new young team are playing with passion and skill. Anything is possible now!

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

The Book of Dust La Belle Sauvage @ The Bridge Theatre...

Last week Stuart and I had the pleasure of seeing the wonderful Book of Dust La Belle Sauvage at The Bridge Theatre in London's glitzy London Bridge Quarter.

Quick review: Stunning puppetry and utterly transporting - I loved every second.

There are vast ideas in this, Philip Pullman’s prequel to His Dark Materials. We are in a same fictional multiverse with mysterious dark matter, a corrupt religion, magic and swirling science and metaphysics. Mix in an serial abuser, a flood and a youthful heroine (Lyra Belacqua) prophesied by witches to save the world, at the centre of the vortex and you are on to a winner.

Or to be more exact, *another* winner. Director Sir Nicholas Hytner scored with Pullman’s original His Dark Materials at the National Theatre back in 2004. Here adapted by Bryony Lavery, this Hytner’s production, co-directed by Emily Burns and James Cousins, is another triumph.

We’re in Oxford, 12 years before His Dark Materials begins; there are no armour-clad polar bears this time, and Lyra is still a baby. Her destiny already foreseen, she’s living in the secret care of kindly nuns at a Thameside priory.

Our heroes are 12-year-old Malcolm Polstead (Samuel Creasey, reminiscent of a young James Corden), a good-natured, inquisitive boy whose mother runs the neighbouring Trout Inn; and Alice Parslow (compelling Ella Dacres), a tough teenage London runaway who works there.

Sinister forces are circling Lyra. Religious organisation the Magisterium, tightening its repressive grip on secular government, recognises her as a threat.

In the Oxford colleges, meanwhile, academics are trying to unravel the heretical enigma of Dust, cosmic matter associated with consciousness, and therefore with freedom of thought.

When torrential rain causes biblical flooding, Malcolm and Alice take to the water with Lyra in Malcolm’s canoe, La Belle Sauvage, on a voyage to keep the infant safe.

It's a dense thicket of plot, but Creasey’s likeable Malcolm copes perfectly. The equally perfect Bob Crowley’s sets and Luke Halls’s video give the teeming rain and bucolic backdrops a flavour of William Blake’s prints, and the canoe glides elegantly around.

The daemons – animal companions every Pullman human possesses, the outward manifestation of their soul – are superb: designed by Barnaby Dixon, they’re papery puppets with torchlit eyes.

There is plenty of menace too - scenes of schoolchildren, drunk on totalitarian power, re-educating their teachers are chilling, as is a moment when Lyra – played by a real baby – is imprisoned in a ward lined with cots.

And there are strong turns from Ayesha Dharker as Lyra’s silkily poisonous mother Marisa Coulter, John Light as her dashing, man-bunned adventurer dad Lord Asriel,, and Pip Carter as Gerard Bonneville, a slithery, sexually abusive villain with a sniggering hyena daemon.

The take home is grown-ups are not to be trusted; Malcolm and Alice, adolescent surrogate parents to the vulnerable Lyra, are a poignant symbol of hope.

I had a genuine star sitting next to me in the audience: Adjoa Andoh (or as Stu calls her: Martha's mum)

Monday, December 13, 2021

Valkyrie @ ENO...

Last Friday night Paul, Stuart and I spent 5 hours in the London Coliseum in London's glitzy West End watching epic opera The Valkyrie; the first turn in the rotation of a new staging of Richard Wagner’s Ring cycle at the ENO.

The Valkyrie is an inspiring saga; an emotional story, filled with brave heroes, cunning gods, one true ring, mythical swords, divine retribution, and a brother and sister who shag.

Said brother, Siegmund (Nicky Spence), and said sister, Sieglinde (Emma Bell), make a handsome if unnatural couple. When their dad, hot-tempered Wotan (Matthew Rose), disagrees though and decides Siegmund must die. He sends their half-sister Brünnhilde (Rachel Nicholls) to do his dirty work. Only Brünnhilde has other ideas.

Directed by Richard Jones and conducted by Martyn Brabbins the show was hypnotic and absorbing throughout if a little uneven. Wagner's music never falls short of enchanting though and we were mesmerised.

Just a bit of a shame Westminster Council vetoed the use of flame effects in the last act on safety grounds.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Bloated, Misshapen and Half-dressed…

Xmas Tree is finally up. And it is looking resplendent. OK, it’s looking bloated, misshapen and half-dressed - summing up my last year rather well I think.

Thursday, December 09, 2021

Hello class, I am a 60 year old, gay, cis male… full story —>

Last Monday I went to my niece Charlotte's secondary school as a guest speaker to talk to their LGBTQ+ student support group about the gaygooners. The group (about 15 teenagers) meet once a week in a school classroom, they cover the whole range of L, G, B, T, Q (and more besides), and were an engaging and attentive bunch.
Actually, I was there not just to talk about the gaygooners but to talk about me as a 60 year old, gay, cis male. 
I told about my coming out, my life, about how the big wide world can be a scary place if you're queer, but there are LGBTQ+ support groups in work places, colleges and universities, general social environments, and yes, in football supporters’ groups like the gaygooners if you need them.
I told them what gaygooners stood for, how we are the first and largest LGBTQ+ fans group in England, and that we are a social group for LGBTQ+ Arsenal fans, allies and their friends to meet up, and we provide a safe and welcoming space.
I also dropped into my talk that it has only been in the past 18 years that it was even legal for me to stand up in front of them and teach the acceptability of homosexuality. Thank you, Section 28 (1988 - 2003 in England and Wales, repealed earlier in Scotland).
After I finished speaking they had a lot of questions. A lot.
Yes, Arsenal are very supportive of the gaygooners - and vice versa. Yes, those are rainbow laces I'm wearing. No, I don’t know of any gay Arsenal players. Correction: any gay *male* Arsenal players. Yes, there is still homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in football. Yes, people can get kicked out of a stadium for hate. Yes, there are idiots out there. Yes, they are new idiots being born every minute. 
Yes, it might be a phase you are going through. But that's OK too. For me, my 'phase' has lasted 60 years and counting. 
Yes, it might be a challenge to come out. Yes, you might suffer rejection. Be prepared for that. But it is your truth. It's not about them feeling better as such it's more about you feeling better; being honest with yourself.
Yes, it can be tough coming out to older relatives. Be brave and be happy. If you like yourself - if you love yourself - that will shine through. Parents and grand-parents usually just want you to be happy. Show them that you are happy and they will come around eventually. Give them time.
Yes, you might lose friends when you come out to them. But were they the sort of friends you need?
The bad news, you will probably never stop having to come out. It can become a daily occurrence. The good news, it gets easier and actually can be fun. 
Yes, having a boyfriend is fun. Most of the time! My top tips: be prepared to compromise (it will seem you do more often than they do – but you probably don’t), be a good listener (everyone loves a good listener), and make them laugh (nothing is as sexy as someone who can make you laugh). Don't just go on looks, they fade. Stick to someone who makes you feel good.
If you like yourself it's easier for others to like you. Think about what makes you special and others will see that too.
Never suffer in silence. Always ask for help. You may not know this but other people love to help - it makes them feel good. So do them a favour too, ask for help.
Take home message: there are support networks beyond these four safe walls of school. Always ask for help. And if you want to join the gaygooners we'd be happy to have you!

Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Cabaret @ Playhouse Theatre...

Last Saturday night Stuart, Darren, Vince and I went to see Kander & Ebb’s great musical masterpiece Cabaret at the Playhouse Theatre (dubbed the Kit Kat Club) in London's glitzy West End.

Taking a slightly different tack to either the Sam Mendes or the Rufus Norris hugely successful versions this new revival production by Rebecca Frecknell sees the venue completely reconfigured into Berlin nightspot the dark and sexually charged haven of decadence Kit Kat Club during the end of the Weimar Republic. It's now a 600-capacity cabaret (sic) style in the round set up, with expensive food and drink options and additional entertainment available beforehand. So far, so immersive.

Oscar-winner Eddie Redmayne takes on the role of the increasingly sinister master of ceremonies (nicely done, but who could match Alan Cumming's definitive portrayal?), Jessie Buckley plays Sally Bowles (magnificent voice and pitch-perfect acting), Omari Douglas was Cliff Bradshaw (never ceases to amaze), Liza Sadovy was Fraulein Schneider (the heart of the show), Elliot Levey was Herr Schultz (broad shoulders having to represent 6 million Jews), Stewart Clarke was Ernst Ludwig (suitably pantomime villainy for the season) and Anna-Jane Casey was Fraulein Kost (bringing nuance to traitorous role).

The cast all worked hard but as fascism slowly encroached in on what superficially looks like a decadent, liberated society we were left a little at sea. There was not the gut-punch of Norris's production with its yellow star / pink triangle / shocking nudity. Here we are sung a song and it's over. The Nazis have arrived.

That said, the songs are generally presented fantastically well and with great gusto. It's just not quite the ending I had expected / wanted / feared / hoped for.

On a more positive note, the key song of the show for me, the desolate What Would You Do? sung by Fräulein Schneider who rejects her Jewish lover in the interests of self-preservation, is simply wonderful.

A good immersive production but not quite worth the eye-watering price tag. £225 a head anyone?

Monday, December 06, 2021

The Ocean at the End of the Lane @ Duke of York's Theatre...

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see the acclaimed production from the National Theatre of Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane at the Duke of York's Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

Adapted by Joel Horwood, this spectacular and thrilling adventure directed by Katy Rudd, is a theatrical tour de force of imagination and storytelling.

Returning to his childhood home, a man finds himself standing beside the pond of the old Sussex farmhouse where he used to play. He’s transported back to his 12th birthday when his friend Lettie claimed it wasn’t a pond at all, but an ocean... A portal into another world. Plunged into this magical world, their survival depends on their ability to reckon with ancient forces that threaten to destroy everything around them.

The production is an enveloping and enthralling theatrical experience that uses magic, puppetry, music and lighting to great effect. Family friendly too, despite the show starting with a suicide!

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

West Side Story…

Last night Marcus treated me to a preview showing of director Steven Spielberg’s reimagining of the classic musical / film West Side Story in London's glitzy Leicester Square.

Rachel Zegler and Ansel Elgort portray Maria and Tony, whose ill-fated romance flags the fires of the bitter rivalry between local New York street gangs the Sharks and the Jets. David Alvarez plays head Shark and Maria's brother Bernardo, and Mike Faist plays head Jet Riff. Rita Moreno, who won an Oscar for her performance as Anita in the 1961 film adaptation of the musical, appears in the remake in a new role and also serves as an executive producer. The remake is written by Tony Kushner.

On the whole I loved it. I only have a few quibbles - some of the casting was a little off (Elgort was a bit flat) and a couple of plot changes seem like slight missteps. But it is a great achievement and definitely a must-see film.

Much of the film is in Spanish reflecting the greater emphasis on the Puerto Rican characters' experience. To that end, it's hard to overpraise Ariana DeBose, whose Anita is the wounded soul of the film. She has the best lines, dances and sings with so much passion.

When she sings the fabulous song America through the streets of New York with gusto, glee, and humour the screen can hardly contain her. It was the highlight of the film for me and worth the ticket price alone.