Quote Of The Day

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

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Postman Pat On The Back…. @gaygooners @arsenal - Read on ->

I was a few streets away from where I live in Highbury walking back from the supermarket and a postman, doing his rounds on the other side of the road, started waving his arms at me.  I thought he had maybe left something with my neighbour and was letting me know, so I crossed the road to talk to him.
"Hello", he said.
"Hi", I replied.
"I thought I recognised you. I just wanted to let you know, I took my two girls to the women's game last week - and was at the Liverpool game too with some of the guys from Mount Pleasant - and we all saw you both times on the screen.  We all thought you did a really good thing. Well done. Great to see it."
"Thank you", I replied, "the club are really supportive of us. The gaygooners"
"Yeah? Well, that's great. Really great"
"See you" 
And off he trundled. Smiles all round.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

En tu casa o en la mía? #DuoLingo #Saucy

I’m trying to learn Spanish with DuoLingo. It’s slow work for my poor old brain. But the most recent class on handy phrases to use in ‘everyday conversation’ has caught my attention somewhat. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Cock @ The Ambassadors Theatre "very funny, brilliantly acted by all, but what a self-centred lot!"...

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see Mike Bartlett’s razor-sharp play Cock at The Ambassadors Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

Starring Taron Egerton as M (off the night we went with Covid so understudy Joel Harper-Jackson slotted in - by all accounts giving a better performance than TE), Jonathan Bailey as John, Jade Anouka as W and Phil Daniels as F, the play is about sexual identity. And the (mis)labelling thereof.

A gay couple are on a break. One sleeps with a woman. A love triangle ensures as both lovers fight for their indecisive man. Is it a play about the battle of the sexes? Is it a play about being pressured to label one's sexual identity? Is it very funny? Yes, yes, YES! There are a few moments when the whole audience audible gasp.

That said, Bartlett’s play is at times perhaps a little dated. But only a little. Yes, it was only written 13 years ago but 13 years is a long time in sexual politics. Gender fluidity and the refusal by some to be labelled is perhaps more commonplace / socially acceptable than it once was. Not that bisexuality is anymore better represented on stage nowadays. The tired troupe of having it both ways / every hole's a goal / bisexuals get a free monogamy pass is all too often the blue print of choice. Luckily Bartlett's steers somewhat clear of such lazy thinking but his John is no less annoying. Making him um and ah for 1h 45 mins trying to decide who he loves / fancies / wants to be with is a little painful to watch. It is trying to decide if he's straight or gay or is he just trying to decide who he fancies?

The zingers come thick and fast as M and W cockfight for John - and M's father sticks his "just make up your mind" oar in for good measure.

Stuart and I spent the walk home afterwards talking about the play. It did make us think. Summary: very funny, brilliantly acted by all, but neither of us would want to spend much time in any of their company. What a self-centred lot!

Monday, March 28, 2022

Mothering Sunday : Three generations…

Yesterday Myrtle hosted Simon, Jo, Charlotte, Jos, and me for a lovely Sunday lunch. It was a lovely Mother’s Day with three generations of three lovely mothers; Myrtle, Joanna, and Charlotte. 

Friday, March 25, 2022

The Human Voice @ The Harold Pinter Theatre...

Last night Stuart and I went to see Jean Cocteau's 1930-written monodrama The Human Voice at The Harold Pinter Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

A woman is in an apartment alone and the telephone rings. It's her lover splitting up with her. We don't hear or see him - just her. I say 'just' - she is the play. Her voice is the conduit and the crux. It all hinges on her voice.

Cocteau acknowledged in the introduction to the script that the play was motivated, in part, by complaints from his female actors that his works were too writer/director-dominated and gave the players little opportunity to show off their full range of talents. Well, Ruth Wilson rises to this challenge wonderfully.

However, the play also represents Cocteau's state of mind and feelings towards his actors in general at the time: on the one hand, he wanted to spoil and please them; on the other, he was fed up with their diva antics and was ready for revenge. Consequently, the play is tough ask - for actor and audience alike. For 70 minutes the woman has to hold our attention only by sharing one half of a conversation. And it's a drab conversation at that. Borderline sexist in its ‘woman scorned’ / ‘I'm going to top myself if you don't come back to me’ plotting.

Adding to this, or perhaps subtracting from this depending on your point of view, Ivo van Hove's adaptation introduces silences. Long, long silences. Broken occasionally by music. At one point we listen to Radiohead’s How to Disappear Completely from start to finish.

And the play takes place in a glass box. So, we only see part of the woman part of the time.

Some around us got bored. They started sighing. And fidgeting. Some even started talking.

That said, the main success, and main draw, of the piece is undoubtedly the performance from Ruth Wilson. She performs as only she can – flickering between well-composed surety and adolescent coquettishness in the flicker of an eyebrow.

So, for her performance alone (and alone she very much is) I enjoyed the night. But I was perhaps one of the few in Rows D, E and F that did.


Thursday, March 24, 2022

To Kill a Mockingbird @ Gielgud Theatre…

Last week Stuart and I went to see To Kill a Mockingbird, currently in previews, at the Gielgud Theatre in London’s glitzy West End.

It’s fab. Aaron Sorkin's adaptation of Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel simply shines; brilliantly acted, cleverly staged, and (of course) with that great source material it’s a must see.

Published in 1960, the piece explores racial injustice in America and features one of the most iconic characters in literary history – small-town lawyer Atticus Finch.

Rafe Spall plays Atticus Finch pitch perfectly - flaws and all. Is Finch the pure hero we think he is? Things are not quite so black and white (sic). Sorkin cleverly undermines our hero’s motivation by giving a stronger voice to black maid Calpurnia (beautifully played by Pamela Nomvete) when she calls out his muttered white saviour comments. It makes the piece sing.

None of this takes away from the thrust of the play of course. The injustice is toe-curling and the bigotry is enraging.

Go see.

As an addendum I make no apologies for listing below all those involved. It is, after all, an ensemble piece: Also in the show are Harry Attwell (Mr Cunningham/Boo Radley), Amanda Boxer (Mrs Henry Dubose), Poppy Lee Friar (Mayella Ewell), John Hastings (Bailiff), Simon Hepworth (Mr Roscoe/Dr Reynolds), Laura Howard (Miss Stephanie/Dill's Mother), Lloyd Hutchinson (Link Deas), Gwyneth Keyworth (Scout Finch), Tom Mannion (Sheriff Heck Tate), David Moorst (Dill Harris), Jim Norton (Judge Taylor), Patrick O'Kane (Bob Ewell), Jude Owusu (Tom Robinson), Harry Redding (Jem Finch), David Sturzaker (Horace Gilmer) and Natasha Williams (Mrs Dubose's Maid). Helen Belbin, Laurence Belcher, Paul Birchard, Ryan Ellsworth, Rebecca Hayes, Danny Hetherington, Matthew Jure, Anna Munden and Itoya Osagiede making up the ensemble.

On the production side: Director Bartlett Sher's production features a creative team of Miriam Buether (set), Ann Roth (costume), Jennifer Tipton (lighting), Scott Lehrer (sound), Adam Guettel (original score), Kimberly Grigsby (music supervision) and Campbell Young Associates (hair and wigs). Also on the team are Serena Hill as casting director, Hazel Holder as voice and dialect coach, Titas Halder as associate director, Rasheka Christie-Carter as assistant director, Tavia Rivée Jefferson as cultural coordinator, and Candida Caldicot as musical director.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Cinderella The Musical @ The Gillian Lynne Theatre…

Last night my aim of completing the West End continued uninterrupted with a trip to see Andrew Lloyd Weber's latest, Cinderella The Musical at The Gillian Lynne Theatre in London's glitzy Drury Lane. Or 'Dreary Lane' as Stuart calls it.

The reviews of the show have been mixed to say the least, LW himself has staunchly defended it, and the woman who served me my pre-show G&T said (rather unenthusiastically), "It's fun". So, I went in with pretty low expectations.

But she was right. It was fun. But little more than that. Granted it was no 'Stephen Ward' but then it was no 'The Phantom of the Opera' either.

Welcome to Bellville! The most aggressively picturesque town in the history of the world, populated exclusively with gorgeous townsfolk who stop at nothing to achieve perfection. Bellville is a fairy tale come to life: a place where you can’t move without falling over a wishing well, a quivering milkmaid, or a bear-chested hunk of a Palace Guard.

Yes, things have been somewhat rewritten here; Cinderella is loud-mouthed, dripping with disdain, and more likely to roast Hansel and Gretel for dinner than save them. Her only friend, Prince Sebastian, has suddenly become the heir to the throne after the mysterious disappearance of his elder brother: sex god and charisma machine, Prince Charming. Suddenly thrust into the spotlight, the formerly shy and somewhat-less-sex-goddish Sebastian seems to be quickly growing into his brother’s enormous britches, and out of his friendship with Cinderella.

Meanwhile the Queen wants to save the town (and her neck) by hosting a peasant-distracting Royal Wedding. And in a plot twist as lame as the closing act in Grease Sebastian needs to realise what he's got in Cinderella before The Godmother puts Cinders under the knife and cracks a couple of ribs as she tries to make herself Palace Perfect.

Yes, the show tries to eat its Royal Wedding cake and have it.

The songs are fine, the performances are good, but the tone is a little off kilter. I shall resist quipping that the early song ‘Bad Cinderella’ is an appropriate show synopsis though - I'm above that - and so are you dear reader.

The show claims to be a feminist reimagining of the Cinderella story. A claim I might dispute as most women in this show are largely fretting about what to wear to the Ball or who they are going to marry. Yes, there are women who are captains of industry, or enjoying successful careers in law, medicine or engineering – just not here.

The men don't get treated much better mind you. One of the musical numbers is aptly titled ‘Hunks’ Song’, and is promptly followed by ‘Man’s Man’. While the show does try to portray genuine love between people who are compatible irrespective of financial standing or personal appearance, the men are largely strutting their stuff as though this were Magic Mike Live!

That said, the second half is more enjoyable than the first, if for no other reason than there is an additional treat for members of the audience sat in the front rows of the stalls; the stalls are rotated to be behind the stage and the stage in turn rotates to be within the auditorium. I was moved 30 metres from where I first sat down. Not see that done before.

On the production side, Emerald Fennell’s book has the sort of putdowns that leave the audience often laughing and occasionally gasping. JoAnn M. Hunter’s choreography sparkles in the big numbers. The set is as decent as a West End musical production would be reasonably expected to be, as is the lighting design (Bruno Peel) and the various costumes in the show (Gabriela Tylesova).

The music and lyrics make this production what it is, however – one doesn’t (spoiler alert) feel short-changed by the lack of a visible golden carriage, for instance. A decent range of musical styles are deployed, even if an early number tries too hard to emulate Six. Ben van Tienen directs a group of eight musicians ably – occasionally the orchestra sounds considerably larger than it is.

‘Only You, Lonely You’, some way into the first act, is one of those soaring Lloyd Webber melodies that ends with a Very Long Note, eliciting cheering and applause from the audience. It’s the sort of song West End audiences just adore. Me, less so.

By curtain call, things wander further from fairy tale lore too as the concept of ‘they all lived happily ever after’ is demolished; resulting in a bittersweet rather than an altogether happy ending. That said, some interesting plot twists are lapped up by the audience: when he does show up, Prince Charming’s (Caleb Roberts) choice of life partner was both delightfully refreshing if not entirely unexpected.

The stand-out performance for me was Victoria Hamilton-Barritt as a hammy Stepmother, which made the role more comedic than villainous. Her eye-brows could have their own postcode.

So, a fun night. But no more than that.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Moulin Rouge! @ Piccadilly Theatre “ It’s dazzling, energetic, sexy and sassy” ->

Last night, what with Stuart being away for a few days on a course, I treated myself to a night at theatre. I know, unusual for me, right?

So there I was, at the Piccadilly Theatre in London’s glitzy West End, sat in the royal circle waiting for London’s biggest karaoke night to start.

Based, but not slavishly so, on Baz Luhrmann's own glittery 2001 film spectacular spectacular the stage version of Moulin Rouge! is great fun. Funny and fun. I loved it.

Whereas some West End shows only have one real hit (yes, I’m looking at you Pretty Woman), Moulin Rouge has 59 (or so I counted). And the show chews through them at a dazzling rate.

It’s a high voltage karaoke show with great production values that puts other jukebox musicals to shame. For everything &Juliet got so wrong, it got so right. It’s dazzling, energetic, sexy and sassy.

Go see.

And those songs? Take a deep breath…..

"Lady Marmalade" — Labelle
"So Fresh, So Clean" — Outkast
"Rhythm of the Night" — DeBarge
"Because We Can" — Fatboy Slim
"The Sound of Music" — Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein
"I Don't Want To Wait" — Paula Cole
"Every Breath You Take" — The Police
"Never Gonna Give You Up" — Rick Astley
"Royals" — Lorde
"Children of the Revolution" — T-Rex
"We Are Young" — Fun
"Diamonds Are Forever" — Shirley Bassey
"Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" — Carol Channing
"Material Girl" — Madonna
"Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" — Beyoncé
"Shut Up And Dance" — Walk The Moon
"Raise Your Glass" — Pink
"I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)" — Whitney Houston
"Firework" — Katy Perry
"Your Song" — Elton John
"Sympathy For The Devil" — The Rolling Stones
"You Can't Always Get What You Want" — The Rolling Stones
"Gimme Shelter" — The Rolling Stones
"Nature Boy" — Nat King Cole
"All You Need is Love" — The Beatles
"Just One Night" — McBride and Ride
"Pride (In the Name of Love)" — U2
"Can't Help Falling in Love With You" — Elvis Presley
"Don't Speak" — No Doubt
"I Love You Always Forever" — Donna Lewis
"It Ain't Me Babe" — Bob Dylan
"Love Hurts" — Everly Brothers
"Love is a Battlefield" — Pat Benatar
"Play the Game" — Queen
"Such Great Heights" — The Postal Service
"Torn" — Lis Sørensen
"Take On Me" — A-ha
"Fidelity" — Regina Spektor
"What's Love Got to Do With It" — Tina Turner
"Everlasting Love" — Robert Knight
"Up Where We Belong" — Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes
"Heroes" — David Bowie
"Come What May" — Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor
"I Will Always Love You" — Dolly Parton
"Bad Romance" — Lady Gaga
"Tainted Love" — Gloria Jones
"Seven Nation Army" — The White Stripes
"Toxic" — Britney Spears
"Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" — Eurythmics
"Only Girl (In the World)" — Rihanna
"Shake It Out" — Florence and the Machine
"Chandelier" — Sia
"Roxanne" — The Police
"Crazy" — Gnarls Barkley
"Rolling in the Deep" — Adele
"Hey Ya!" — Outkast
"Minnie the Moocher" — Cab Calloway
"Don't You Want Me" — The Human League
"Galop Infernal" — Jacques Offenbach


Monday, March 21, 2022

Out and About! Archiving LGBTQ+ history at Bishopsgate Institute…

Earlier this afternoon, on Andrew’s excellent suggestion, I went to take a look at Out and About! Archiving LGBTQ+ history at Bishopsgate Institute at The Curve in London’s glitzy Barbican Centre.

It was fab, bringing back hundreds of memories of being a gay Londoner for the past 40 years.

Bishopsgate Institute’s take-over of The Curve contains an archive installation of objects, ephemera and media highlighting 40 moments and stories in London’s LGBTQ+ history. Bishopsgate Institute has been collecting the lived experiences of everyday people for over a century, and their unique special collections and archives present the stories of individuals, collectives and organisations who fought for social, political, and cultural change.

This archive installation includes items documenting areas of pride, protest, performance and art; from the gay rights movement to the everyday celebrations and struggles of LGBTQ+ Londoners.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Audrey II vs Me…. (Maybe giving it blood was a misstep)

Just because you put a strange and interesting plant in the window doesn't mean that it'll bring customers! 1st Customer: (Opens door) Excuse me, but I couldn't help but notice that strange and interesting plant in the window!

My lockdown plant fetish needed a much needed pruning today. The biggest plant 🪴 was going crazy. 2m high and the roots were running across the floor. Maybe giving it blood as a misstep. 😉 This was just part of the jungle though. I needed a machete. Four cuttings taken though. 🌱 🌱 🌱 🌱 The plants that did survived the cut can now finally see daylight, have been sponged down, fed and watered. 🪴 🪴 🪴 🪴

Thursday, March 17, 2022

“It’s you!”….

At the Emirates Stadium last night they showed the gaygooners video clip again with my ugly mug in it. 
A man came up to me in the toilets at half time with a big grin on his face (get your minds out of the gutter, I had just had a pee and had just washed my hands) and said to me, “It’s you!” And shook my hand.   “Me?”, I said.  “Oh, you know. You. Just now. (In a whisper) One of those gays. Good on you.” 😆 🌈

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Seville : Day 8…

Today was departure day. So me being me, in-between packing, we squeezed in a last minute museum trip (Fine Art Museum of Seville) and a spot of lunch with Tim and Andy. The way you do.

Off to the airport! ✈️

Update: The flight was very bumpy! There were tears! Home now safe and sound.

What a great holiday. Thank you boys! XX


Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Seville : Day 7…

My eyes were playing tricks on me today. Tim, Andy, and I spent an hour or two in the Museo de las Ilusiones. Mind bending stuff. Great fun.

Then we went for a lovely slow lunch - largely to calm our brains down again - at an Italian near the cathedral - followed by coffee and a lovely lemony semifreddo at the famous Bar Estrella.

After a siesta back home it was out again in the evening for a slap up meal to thank the boys for putting me up / putting up with me over the past week and one for the road at a bar in nearby Alameda de Hercules. For tomorrow night I fly home.

Monday, March 14, 2022

Seville : Day 6…

Today was perhaps not as eventful but no less quiet than yesterday.

Tim, Andy and I first walked into the centre to see the huge wooden structures Las Setas de Sevilla ("The Mushrooms of Seville"). Very impressive by day and, as we discovered later, also at night when lit up.

Then we walked to the huge Plaza de España in Parque de María Luisa - which was pretty packed as it was a Sunday.

While there I then got a message from Iván, the guy from Friday night, asking if we wanted to meet him, his boyfriend Juan and their friend Rachel for drinks.

So we scooted over to a rather swish bar called Maquiavelo (where Rachel works in Events) to while away the afternoon in the sunshine. The boys were very engaging, practiced their excellent English as the drinks flowed and food came.

Ivan is a Spanish teacher. Juan a captain in the army. Ivan, by his own admission, is the more gregarious of the two. As Tim pointed out with a grin, that is a trait I also share. “Gregario” [in Spanish.]

Before we knew where we were it was 5 hours later and time for us all to hop into cabs and head back towards the centre of town again. Rachael had a hot date that night and - contrary to the stereotype - she is a Spanish girl who is never late.

Ivan, Juan, Tim, Andy and I found a table back at Las Setas and spent the rest of evening chatting, laughing, and putting the world to rights.

The boys may even come over to see us in Torremolinos when we are there in June which would be nice. Later this week the boys will take Tim and Andy to a flamenco show for aficionados - I’ll be back in London by then so will miss out.

Ivan will stay in touch though. I can tell. Gregarious people always do!

A lovely day making some lovely new friends.