Quote Of The Day

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

Friday, June 30, 2023

Gaygooners Charity Event….

Last night’s @gaygooners charity event was great fun. So pleased Nikki’s wife and her son came down from a Coventry to be with us too. ❤️
Voice of the stadium @MrNigelMitchell was there. As was the lovely @TimStillman84 👏 
Thank you Carl for organising. Thank you to everyone who came along.
Congratulations to Dave for winning the tournament. 
Darce & I are in no way bitter at only coming third! 😂

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Indiana Jones and The Dial of Destiny (two reviews)

#1 Spoiler-free review…

Good to have Indy back but the plot was a hot mess and the film is way, way too long. And the CGI was frankly shonky. The set pieces were all homages to earlier films in the franchise. A sort of greatest hits. Which in of itself was fun. But there were perhaps one too many stage winks to the audience.
Phobe Waller-Bridge was fun. But not really an action heroine. 
It follows that often trod path in many a franchise  the law of diminishing returns:-
Arc was better than Doom
Doom was better than Crusade
Crusade was better than Skull
And Skull is better than Destiny.
Farewell Indiana Jobes. It’s been fun. But time to hang up your hat. 

#2 Spoiler-filled review…

**** Spoilers Below ****  You have been warned!!!

The beginning WWII sequence with the youthful Indy was good but it pretty much went down hill from there. By the end we were just bored. It went on and on. 
And the time travel at the end back to ancient Syracuse was rubbish. Pointless. And the ‘continental drift’ plot twist?!! Do me a favour. 
Continuity was all over the place throughout. 
Goodies caught up and over-took baddies. 
Baddies caught up and over-took goodies. 
What was everyone’s motivation? Money? Kill Hitler? Rescue people? Archimedean manipulation?
A budget of $295m and what dreadful CGI!
Fight on a speeding train? Tick
Car chase through a Western city? Tick
Car chase through a North Africa city? Tick
Fight on a plane? Tick
Another boat turns up on the high seas when you’re not looking? Tick
Silly ending? Tick
Ok, nice to have John Rhys-Davis, Karen Allen, and Antonio Banderas back. 
And of course great to have John Williams score. 
But overall - very disappointing.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

(Don't) Drop The Dead Donkey...

A young lad buys a donkey for £100, but when the farmer delivers it, the donkey is dead and the farmer has spent the money. 
"I'll take it anyway and raffle it off" says the boy. 
"You can't raffle a dead donkey" says the farmer.
"Yes I can, I just won't tell them it's dead" says the boy. 
A month later the boy meets the farmer at a market and he asked what happened with the raffle. 
"I sold 500 tickets at £2 a ticket and made a tidy profit." 
"Didn't anyone complain?" says the farmer. 
"Yes", the kid replies 
"Just the guy who won... so I gave him his £2 back."
"So that was £1000 in, minus £100 out for the dead donkey, and £2 refund. So a total of £898 profit". 
I think the lad must be working at my bank these days.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

A Strange Loop @ Barbican Theatre...

After 1 hour 40 minutes we were breathless. Explosively imaginative, it was a dazzlingly one-of-a-kind experience.
Indeed, Michael R. Jackson's ground-breaking and critically acclaimed musical had burst onto the stage of the glitzy Barbican Theatre and last Saturday night Stuart and I were lucky enough to catch it.
Where to begin? 
Well, our hero (the fantastic Kyle Ramar Freeman) warns us at the start, "there will be butt-f*cking on stage. No, there really will" (well, there isn't but they make a good stab at pretending later on.)  But this is nothing compared to the explicit emotions, shockingly frank, beautifully poetic, honest to goodness love we get to experience. All though the power of a Broadway show.
Our hero is an usher at Lion King, called Usher, who is writing a musical... about an usher, who is writing a musical. Usher is "fat, black, and queer so get used to it" and takes no prisoners. 
Usher grapples with desires, identity and instincts he both loves and loathes, all brought to life on stage by the hilarious, straight-talking ensemble. Rather like in Disney's Inside Out they all play his 'thoughts'; one plays self-loathing, one plays sexual insecurity, another poor body image etc. And he argues with them. Constantly. The show is meta, post-modern, and fast-talking as the characters and the actors all interact.
So yes, A Strange Loop is a satire. A satire of Broadway. And of culture and of politics - in particular from a black queer perspective. Songs like "Inner White Girl" skewer privilege according to their race and gender. In fact, A Strange Loop pokes fun at things like Hamilton, Grindr, white feminism "Second Wave", religion, bigotry, 'race traitors', racism is the LGBT+ community "Exile in Gayville", the over-bearing expectations from other existing black success stories to match up, white audiences, black audiences, you name it! 
"Can we use the n-word on stage?" one thought asks. "How can we not!" another replies.
It's fast. It's furious. And it's very, very funny.  
Kyle Ramar Freeman as Usher is fabulous. His thoughts (1 - 6); played by Sharlene Hector, Nathan Armarkwei-Laryea, Yeukayi Ushe, Tendai Humphrey Sitima, Danny Bailey and Eddie Elliott; equally so.
If you get a chance, go see.

Monday, June 26, 2023

The Mikado @ Wilton's Music Hall...

Last Friday night Stuart, Andrew, Kevin and I went to see Sasha Regan's all-male The Mikado at Wilton's Music Hall in London's glitzy Shadwell.
Short review:
What a fun, funny, camp, refreshing and creative take on a much-loved classic it is; fabulous vocal talent and witty direction. We laughed and laughed.
Longer review:
Fans of genius director Sasha Regan (and I count myself as one) will be excited that her 2017 version of Gilbert and Sullivan operetta The Mikado is back for audiences to enjoy. Last year's H.M.S. Pinafore and the previous The Pirates of Penzance went down a storm. And this show follows in that excellent tradition.
Not only is this show is as smart and witty as those previous productions, it's charming and tender to boot. If you are yet to see one of her all-male productions, then you really should. They are a fantastic night out.
With The Mikado, Regan has altered a bit more than is usual perhaps. There are many new lyrics, and the original location of Japan has been ditched - instead, the boys are all on a camping  trip – and putting on a show! 
Rest assured though, it’s still the same crazy Mikado world where sweethearts Declan Egan’s Nanki-Poo (renamed here as Bertie Hugh) and Sam Kipling’s Yum-Yum (renamed here as Miss Violet Plum) are threatened by all sorts of madcap laws to keep them apart.
As for the telling of the ridiculous story, the boys all say they are 'trying their best' and 'using their imagination'. That is to say, those taking on all the female roles themselves - rolling up their shorts and grabbing flowers for their hair. It's a production that's spiffing, uses lashings of good cheer, a couple of cricket bats, some tennis rackets, and a tent that moves around. A lot.
The simple staging is perhaps deceptive though. Designer Ryan Dawson Laight’s does a clever job. The scenery is inventive and causes many a chuckle. The background – a cut-out forest - allows for shady figures to sneak on and off stage giving us lots of notice of their arrival – and the careful lighting all adds to the other-worldly feel.
There is a lot of detail in the plotting too, much of it very funny. Lewis Kennedy’s Geordie Mikado (an accent Eurotrash would have been proud of) and David McKechnie’s Steptoe-inspired Mr Cocoa are accomplished performers who both delight. Also, Christopher Hewitt has a brilliant turn as spurned lover Kitty Shaw (formerly Katisha) complete with a on stage bicycle. And as for getting her to sing while pumping a deflated tyre - genius! It’s all massively entertaining. 
Yet Regan stays true to Gilbert and Sullivan's original intentions to make the piece a heart-tugging love triangle too. Hewitt's Kitty, although very funny, leaves us full of sympathy. She's been ditched for a younger model. The show is, after all, magically romantic, not least through the brilliant work of musical director and pianist Anto Buckley.
Regan knows Gilbert and Sullivan like the back of her hand and respects each and every character. Which unexpectedly allows both Owen Clayton and Richard Russell Edwards to stand out as Violet’s two battling friends. They are both rivals at any and every opportunity, stealing (or attempting to) each scene from each other, being both very funny and magnetic whenever they are on stage. This is just one example of how Regan offers a generosity that her cast who then respond so appropriately. The result is an atmosphere that simply radiates from the stage. Every performer was pitch perfect and perfectly pitched.
It was a great night out. The characters, the cast, and indeed we, the audience, all left happy campers.
PS: Hello David and David. Nice to meet you.

Sunday, June 25, 2023


 Stuart and I took two long walks over the weekend.

The first was a fabulous 11 mile walk on Saturday morning with walking buddies Denise and Kerry in deepest darkest glitzy Essex. It took us 4 hours. We ended up in a pub of course. 😎

And then Stuart and I walked the 10 miles from Hertford to Welwyn. We were heading to Welwyn for a family lunch at Myrtle's and there were engineering works on the train line beyond Potters Bar so a walk seemed like a nice alternative. The Hertford - Welwyn route was mainly along the disused railway track that used to pass through Cole Green.

Mid-walk (come 10am, 2 hours in) we stumbled upon my old drinking haunt from 40 years ago - The Cowper Arms. We just popped in for a glass of water. And they INSISTED we have a beer on the house! Honest! 🤣

Friday, June 23, 2023

Dear England @ Olivier Theatre... "A fantastically entertaining play. What it means to be English in the early roaring '20s"

Just as the lights were going down I hear a whisper next to me. "I'm not going to like this", says Stuart. "It's about football, isn't it?"
So yes, last night Stuart and I went to see James Graham's new play Dear England at the Olivier Theatre on London's glitzy South Bank.
Short reiew:
Well, I loved it. James Graham hits the back of the net with this absolute corker of a show. Dear England brilliantly draws you in to the drama of sport. And what a stupendously entertaining night out it was.
Long review:
The play beautifully mixes the crisis in England manager Gareth Southgate's own sporting life, the associated radical culture shift that he has engendered in the England team of late, and a state-of-the-nation treatise of what it means to be English in the early roaring '20s. 
For the football indifferent like Stuart, a spot of ignorance to all the background of the piece and of the colourful parade of characters was perhaps no bad thing. For me, I was desperately searching my memory for England knock-out stage results circa 2018!
Graham’s play starts in 2016 with the boss ("call me Gareth, please") being made caretaker manager following the abrupt departure of Sam Allardyce. Actually, that word “caretaker” comes to feel significant, since Southgate is deeply invested in the mental health of his players. He recruits psychologist Pippa Grange to try to help the team address their personal and collective traumas.
Southgate has his own trauma of course. Back in Wembley in 1996 he missed a critical penalty eliminating England from the Euros. 
Grange analyses the England players’ penalty style, how they take them far too quickly out of fear and avoidance. That brutal individual pressure, with your nation’s hopes – and potential recriminations – in the balance, is viscerally dramatised, aided by the penalty spot glowing ominously. (Thrilling lighting design throughout from Jon Clark.)
But the genius of Graham’s piece, and of Rupert Goold’s rip-roaring production, is that it constantly balances a sincere portrait of these real-life figures with rapid-fire humour. It is, hands down, the funniest show you can see in London right now; if you don’t howl at Harry Kane’s brisk summation of the Star Wars trilogy, you’re dead inside.
That comes as part of Southgate’s endeavour to have the players write their own story, rather than feel weighed down by history and by other people’s ridiculously high expectations. The latter is represented by a cross-section of the British public – Deliveroo driver, fish and chip seller, postman, barrister – all caught up in football fever. “I still struggle to forgive him,” sighs a vicar of Southgate and his missed penalty.
A wonderful Joseph Fiennes endearingly captures Southgate’s soft-spoken, self-effacing gentleness, his progressive values and unusual empathy, encapsulated in his open letter from 2021 that gives the play its title. He’s not a natural choice for drama, but Graham cleverly amplifies his personality just enough to hold centre stage.
Southgate's enlightened approach is sharply contrasted with the unreconstructed masculinity of the changing room. Coach Mike Webster (a wry Paul Thornley) is his main foil, sceptical of the new touchy-feely approach and, when the results don’t go their way, quick to accuse Southgate of “softness”.
Although there is an interesting note of ambiguity here. It’s unarguable that Southgate creates a better, more supportive environment for these young men, who then become a more cohesive team as well as impressive role models (there’s a mention of Marcus Rashford’s food poverty campaign). But that still hasn’t translated into silverware. Or at least – not yet. The story continues on.
Gina McKee brings shrewd intellect and punchy wit to Pippa Grange (she’s the first to make cracks about Southgate’s now-legendary waistcoat), and there are vivid evocations of the players. Will Close is a riot as the adenoidal Kane, but equally provides astonishing catharsis in the second half for Southgate and for us. Josh Barrow supplies peerless physical comedy as eager goalie Jordan Pickford, while Kel Matsena is a passionate Raheem Sterling grappling with the imperial history of the England flag and racist fans. Ebenezer Gyau goes on to steal the show as Bukayo Saka answering said racists.
What does England mean to you? That’s really the big question here. The football team is one of those potent symbols of national identity, along with the BBC or indeed the National Theatre, which is itself looking for a new manager – sorry, artistic director.
Graham also weaves in Brexit and the dismal parade of recent Prime Ministers. In contrast to the divisive nightmare of Brexit, Southgate’s mission is a unifying one. That extends to his respect for the women’s team – who, we’re reminded here in a moment that draws spontaneous cheers and applause, did actually win a trophy.
Es Devlin deserves one too for her truly spectacular design. A giant halo-like ring of light dominates the revolving stage, onto which is beamed handy information like match scores and footage of past games (including the inescapable 1966 win). It also evokes that adrenaline-spiked gladiatorial arena, under the glare of the world’s media, into which the players must step.
The Olivier audience was quite something too. It became a football crowd, people roaring out as their club teams are mentioned, and the matches are genuinely thrilling. The movement, by Ellen Kane and Hannes Langolf, is an intrinsic part of Goold’s propulsive storytelling: clever miming of practice drills and shots (backed by Dan Balfour and Tom Gibbons’s immersive soundscape), and a dramatic change in the team’s body language as they gain in confidence and pride.
Goold makes thoughtful music choices too, from “Bittersweet Symphony” and Gilbert and Sullivan to “Sweet Caroline” and “Vindaloo”. It adds to a production that is accessible in the very best sense of the word, an open invitation whether or not you’re already a fan of sport, or of theatre.
It’s our national story told with heart, humour and headers, and a beautiful celebration of an unlikely hero. Fiennes is definitely man of the match, but this is a joyful, and victorious, team effort.
And Stuart's opinion? As the lights came up, "Yeah, it was good. I enjoyed it." Holy moly!

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse…

Yesterday I went to watch Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse at Vue Cinema in glitzy Angel. 

Where to begin?

Well, it was a bit like flicking through a comic book while taking some powerful hallucinogen and sniffing amphetamine. Flippy, trippy, rushy. 

It was fast, flashy, noisy, exciting, energetic, fun, dazzling, funny and like a poppers rush. 

A smörgåsbord of a gazillion animation styles, real-life cameos, and heaps of jokey references to various comic book troupes. 

There were Spider-people, Spider-objects, Spider-animals, whole Spider-universes. It was delight for the eyes and the mind. 

The plot picked up somewhat from the previous film left off, although it wasn't really necessary to have seen it. The film just sort of was. And then it ended (with a ‘To be continued’ message).

I came out not quite understanding what I’d seen, but having really enjoyed it. 

What a trip. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button @ Southwark Playhouse Elephant…

Last night Darce and I went to see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button musical at the Southwark Playhouse in London glitzy Elephant & Castle. 

Set in Cornwall the living-life-backwards show is packed full of shanties, reels, jigs, violins, skiffle boards, foot-taping, and prancing about. 

We quite enjoyed it although it was rather on one note. Full on energy, sure, but there’s only so many jaunty jigs you can stomach in a little under three hours. Like bar after bar of chocolate, it was sweetness overload. 

Well sung and well danced though. Jamie Parker as Benjamin is great. And the second half had a bit more conflict / drama to keep us interested. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Romeo & Juliet @ Almeida Theatre...

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see Romeo & Juliet at the Almeida Theatre in London's glitzy Islington.
Rebecca Frecknall’s new, energetic, kinetic, yet still romantic take on Shakespeare’s tragedy has great performances from both Toheeb Jimoh (him off of Ted Lasso) as Romeo and Isis Hainsworth (her off of Catherine Called Birdy) as Juliet.
Much of the text had been removed, there are dance sequences aplenty, and the famous 'Dance Of The Knights' from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet features heavily. Thankfully no Lord Sugar though.
Despite the deep cuts, and the flurry of bloody knife fights (chopping, cutting, slicing, and stabbing), the production does it to the meat of the action. Two bleeding hearts.
Worth a butchers.


Monday, June 19, 2023

Christine & The Queens @ Royal Festival Hall...

Last night Stuart and I went to the final night of the Meltdown festival to see / listen / marvel at Christine & The Queens at the Royal Festival Hall on London's glitzy South Bank.
Wow! Just wow!
Christine & The Queens (aka Chris aka Héloïse Adélaïde Letissier) had gone a little bit under my radar thus far. Sure, I'd liked their single Tilted from 8 years ago or so.  And we'd even intended to watch their performance at Glastonbury when we were there a few years back but got side tracked. But boy have we been missing out.
Last night's show was simply stunning. Euphoric dancing, sublime singing, it was a non-stop joyous two-hour performance. It was a concept too. A rock opera of sorts based on their most recent album 'Paranoia Angels True Love' which itself is based upon Tony Kushner’s 1991 magnum opus Angels in America.
Sure enough the performance, much like the album and the play, was performed in three acts. Each containing a series of beautiful, weird, eclectic, and enthralling songs. Accompanied by dancing and movement, the songs were interspersed with heavily echoed scripted dialog about pride, and power, and angels, and death, and love, and life.
In much the same way that Kushner’s hero Prior Walter, a young man dying with Aids in late-80s New York, is visited by angels and has a series of visions and prophetic dreams, so did Chris.
Chris cavorted with statues and staircases and chairs, writhed about on stage, and danced in a sometimes smooth sometimes thrusting style - their physicality on full display. They were ripped, muscular, and topless throughout. It was thrilling to watch.
With aid from the lighting, thumbing bass, synthesizers, and melodic harmonies we were all utterly hypnotised, Hypnotised and transported - far up above the auditorium to higher planes of being. As Chris communed with the shining lights from above the stage, we too were drawn to them. Mesmerised, we couldn't look away.  
It was all so beautifully done.
The final act saw Chris singing in a gorgeous falsetto, putting on a red baroque-era skirt, with a black blazer, and white angel wings. They looked stunning.
Then from kneeing they shed their clothes once again stripping back to just their trousers, commanding the stage facing the audience one final time for the last song of the night - the love-drenched synth-pop ballad Big Eye. It has the sold-out crowd on their feet.
As the final bars drifted away the crowd went wild. But Chris was gone. Ascended perhaps. But we were left stunned and euphoric looking at an empty stage. Bravo. What a show.

Friday, June 16, 2023

42nd Street @ Sadler's Wells Theatre...

Last night Stuart and I went to see the brand-spanking new production of ‘the original showbiz musical,' 42nd Street at Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London's glitzy Angel.
With a star cast including Ruthie Henshall, Adam Garcia and Les Dennis, 42nd Street is a larger-than-life, massively entertaining celebration of musicals and the irrepressible spirit of Broadway that’s guaranteed to lift anyone's spirits. 
A showbiz fairy tale with breath-taking tap dance routines, backstage intrigue, classic romance and a delightful comedy... Who cares about the plot? 
OK, it's about a chorus girl who gets a lucky break (sic). It was pure pleasure; downright irresistible; we smiled ear to ear.
(It was the first West End show Stuart ever saw when it had Catherine Zeta-Jones in it. He still treasures the programme.)


Thursday, June 15, 2023

When Winston Went To War With The Wireless @ Donmar Warehouse "Wonderfully fascinating. Riotously funny. And staggeringly timely"...

Last week Stuart and I went to see Jack Thorne’s latest play When Winston Went To War With The Wireless at the Donmar Warehouse in London's glitzy West End.
Short review:
BBC vs The Tories. In 1926. But it could be 2023. The play is wonderfully fascinating. Riotously funny. And staggeringly timely. 
Longer review:
Set during the General Strike of 1926, the action focuses on the fraught relationship between the then newly formed BBC (British Broadcasting Company) and the then Conservative government. It is a rasor sharp study on the importance of the media and the clashing of politics - which will probably feel eerily familiar to a modern ear.
That said, mostly Jack Thorne’s play is a densely-packed historical documentary drama, if occasionally weighed down by too much rather laboured exposition. Kitty Archer confidently doubles up as not only BBC employee Isabel Shields but also historical guide, although this is not maintained throughout the play as a consistent framing device which results in a slightly stalling narrative at times. 
There are featured cameos and excerpts from prominent early BBC programmes and figures, such as Woman’s Hour and Sandy Powell, which are more effective at grounding the cultural context of the piece than the clunky exposition Shields folds into the dialogue.
Despite having his name in the title, Winston Churchill is not the main focus of this production. Rather the story emphasises the character and influence of John Reith (Stephen Campbell Moore), the first general manager of the BBC and a man crippled by warring internal demons  his profound religious beliefs, his latent homosexuality, his duty as a broadcaster and the conflicting pressures of the government. Stephen Campbell Moore gives a squirming and knotty performance as the afflicted Reith, balanced by Adrian Scarboroughs weighty embodiment of Winston Churchill. Scarborough is sensational as the often-parodied former PM and manages to steer satisfyingly away from grotesque impersonation.
John Reiths homosexual relationship, realised with remarkable and tender chemistry by Campbell Moore and Luke Newberry, is somewhat a matter of conjecture and rumour by Reiths biographer and Reith's own daughter. Although queer stories, particularly those under-explored and relegated to the murky shadows of history, are keenly important (particularly in the month of June), it feels like this additional layer of anxiety is perhaps one too many for the visibly burdened and burnt-out Reith. 
Thornes play is so rich and wide reaching and, even at a solid run time of two and a half hours, struggles to pack in all the complexities of the TUCs case, the structure and content of the BBC, the international threat of communism and the Bolshevik revolutions in the newly-formed USSR, the post-war economy crippled by the reintroduction of the gold standard and the outsourcing of coal production to international markets. 
If you don't have time prior to the production to flick through the timeline in the programme, you might struggle with all the history.
No context is needed, however, for Shubham Sarafs powerful monologue on the importance of media integrity and the freedom of the press. Sarafs resolute and impassioned performance as Chief Engineer Peter Eckersley is a steering force in this production and brings an assured and confident energy that tempers the erratic uncertainty that radiates from Campbell Moores anxiety-ridden Reith.
We root for Eckersley. He gets it right. Or should I say 'write' - he is obviously playwright Jack Thorne's manifestation in this piece.
Nevertheless, Katy Rudds direction is fluid and sparky, capturing the frenetic energy and electric pace of the recording studio and the relentless edge of political office. That said, there was something lacking in the energy of this show but the bones are something beautiful.
The stand-out star of the show is Laura Hopkins design, complete with a staggered wall of foley equipment across the rear of the stage. Sound designers Ben and Max Ringham form a formidable coalition with foley consultant Tom Espiner to create a rich world of sound that is unmatched in any other production we have seen (or rather heard).
A fascinating, funny and shockingly relevant historical snapshot  audiences can learn a lot from When Winston Went To War With The Wireless, which balances warm affection and bitter critique of Britain during the inter-war years.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Symphony of Sorrowful Songs @ London Coliseum "It's heart-breaking stuff, a powerful evocative meditation on motherhood, love and loss."

A couple of weeks ago Paul and I went to the London Coliseum in London's glitzy West End to see Henryk Górecki's wonderful Symphony of Sorrowful Songs conducted by Lidiya Yankovskaya and stunningly performed by Nicole Chevalier.
Short review: 
With tears in our eyes, we loved it.
Longer review:
"Would people pay to hear sad music?" Górecki was once asked. 
"Perhaps people find something they need in this piece of music, something they were missing. Something, somewhere had been lost to them. I feel that I instinctively knew what they needed," he replied.
And sad it is. It is also one of the 20th Century’s finest pieces, staged as it was in an unprecedented aerial performance. 
It's popular too. In 1991, a recording of the London Sinfonietta performing Górecki’s symphony was released, rocketing the Polish composer from relative obscurity to global notoriety. Featuring the soprano Dawn Upshaw, the symphony topped charts worldwide and remained in the top 40 bestselling albums in the UK for 11 weeks becoming one of the most beloved pieces of classical music of the modern era.
Symphony of Sorrowful Songs is in three movements and sung in Polish, but with good reason – the texts are verbatim from their sources. Giving perspectives from both a mother having lost their child and a child separated from their parents. It's heart breaking stuff, a powerful evocative meditation on motherhood, love and loss.
The first and third movement come from the perspective of a mother distraught for their children. The text of the first movement is taken from a 15th Century polish Lament of the Holy Cross. Written from the perspective of Mary, she looks upon Jesus on the cross and wishes to ease his pain. The third movement is based on a Silesian folk song taken from the Opole region of Poland where a mother is searching for her dead son. She speaks of wanting to know where he lies so she can mourn properly and praying that songbirds will sing for him. A stunning text to end this touching symphonic work.
The heart-breaking story behind the second movement is the most powerful however. The text is that taken from a wall of a cell in a Gestapo prison in Zakopone. Incarcerated there was Helena Wanda Błażusiakówna, an 18-year-old who was imprisoned by the Gestapo in 1944, under Nazi occupation of Poland. Whilst she remained in prison, she scratched a prayer into the wall of her cell, using a fragment of her own broken tooth. 
"Mother, do not cry, no, do not weep, Most pure Queen of Heaven, Protect me always."
As heartbreaking as this might seem, it has a happy ending – after 12 weeks, Helena was amongst those being moved from Zakopane by train, when she was rescued by guerrillas. She crossed the Tatra mountains by foot and made it to her grandparents in Szczawnica, where she lived out the war.
Paul and I were in tears as we listened. And the beautiful acrobatic action was displayed in front of us.


Tuesday, June 13, 2023

King's Lynn City Tour...

While Stuart and I were in glitzy King's Lynn over the weekend to celebrate the boys’ wedding we not only took the chance to visit Sandringham on Friday but also on Saturday morning to do a 3 hour city walking tour.
It was great fun. King's Lynn has no less than 481 listed buildings! There was so much to see.
Highlights for us were: -
King's Lynn Minster
Vancouver Statue
Pilgrim's Landing
The Custom House
Carmelite Arch
South Gate
The Library
The Walks
Guannock Gate
Red Mount Chapel
St Nicholas Chapel