Tuesday, 2 September 2014

In Which I Go Shopping

I was not in work today, or yesterday, being technically on holiday. But still at home, which is quite relaxing as it requires very little packing.

Of course, it's probably more relaxing if you remember to tell the alarm clock on your phone  *not* to  go off as if it is a Monday morning and you have to go to work....

It did mean, however, that I had no excuse for not getting up and doing stuff. Stuff, in this context, meaning going shopping as sadly, both my favourite jeans and my second favourite jeans have reached that point in their lives where they are starting to become unsuitable to wear in polite company, due to holes in unseemly places.

Also my proper, not-quite-walking-boots shoes have reached the end of their natural life, so I needed to buy some new walking shoes/trainers, too.

I don't like shopping. But sometimes, you have to bow to the inevitable.

As shopping goes, it was a successful day.

I bought some jeans, and some shoes, and a couple of tops, and a couple of dresses, and I picked up 2 books I'd ordered from Mr B's, and succumbed to the temptation of one more (but only one!!) And apart from the jeans, all of the clothes are things I should be able to wear at work as well as at home, which is good. 

But it was a little stressful, as I don't like it. It is better when I can go in the week when the shops are not too crowded!

Today involved lots of house work, mowing the lawn, running lots of errands and such like. There may also have been a certain amount of napping. It's a *long* time  since I've have much time off and I think several months of stress at work are catching up with me.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Blood, Shakespeare and Friends and Family


This week started well, with a visit from my sister and brother-in-law on Monday (which was a Bank Holiday, and therefore rainy). Since we've all been busy, I've not seen them for a while, and this was the first time they've been to the new house. 

So we celebrated with prosecco, and by getting C to help put up some curtains and replace the thing to hold the shower head. (the old one was not up to the job, and I was unable to work out how to get the damn thing off the wall.) 

Then on Thursday I had more visitors - E, who I was at University with, and her husband and daughter. E is one of my theatre-going friends, so I last saw her last November, in Stratford upon Avon, but haven't had the chance to send time with her family, so that was fun!

On Saturday, I travelled up to London for the day, to see Richard III at Trafalgar Studios, starring Martin Freeman in the title role. 

My original plan involved getting to London with about 2 hours to spare, to allow time to go looking for a few of the Books about Town book benches, but unfortunately my train was delayed, and as they were predicting it would be at least an hour and a half before it moved on, I ended up getting off and taking a 45 minute bus ride, and another 40 minutes on the tube, to get to Charing Cross just in time, so other than taking a quick look at the giant blue cock in Trafalgar Square I had no time for anything other than the show itself.

Richard III is not my favourite play -  but decided to see this production as I was interested to see Martin Freeman in the role, and as I  have been to other productions at Trafalgar Studios,and directed by Jamie Lloyd, which I've enjoyed. And I did enjoy it.

The play is set in the 1979 'Winter of Discontent', with the the implication of a Royalist/Military coup having taken place just before the play opens - the stage is set up like a civil service office, with desks, phones, reel-to-reel tape recorders and sickly house plants. I have to admit, I didn't feel that this worked awfully well. It's too complex, and it doesn't really sit well with the severed heads .


Richard's initial speech was given partly as a 'public' address, given to the rest of the nobility, via mike, and partly as a soliloquy, with the mike off, and the others all frozen - it worked quite well, but the same convention wasn't followed for other asides and soliloquies, which seemed odd. 

Freeman is good as Richard - there have been mixed reviews, but I felt he has created a truly scary Richard - as the play progresses, he comes across as an increasingly unpredictable and paranoid dictator, with his black humour leaving other characters unsure as to whether he is joking or not - Freeman is quite subtle - I liked it (one of my dislikes about the Kevin Spacey production was that everything was rather melodramatic and over the top)



I was a little worried about the welfare of the poor goldfish, in whose tank the Duke of Clarence was drowned (and into whose tank his throat was cut, too) I am not sure how goldfish feel about fake blood in their water, but having a person thrashing about in your tank can't be good. 

All in all, I enjoyed the production, but having seen 2 versions of Richard III with modern settings, I would rather like to see a production set in its own period.

And for the record, I didn't experience any inappropriate applause (there have been a couple of reviews suggestion that 'Sherlock' fans unused to live theatre were attending and cheering / clapping at inappropriate points)

Me? I'd like to see Freeman in other live productions, and I think he benefited from a really strong supporting cast.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Ice Bucket

So, a great many people have been taking the ALS / MND Ice Bucket challenge, to raise awareness and funds for research into Motor Neurone Disease (ALS) 

As I'm in the UK, I donated via the MND Association. In the USA you can donate to the ALS Association.

And here are 4 of my favourite films...



Amanda Palmer

Neil Gaiman


Tom Hiddleston


Benedict Cumberbatch

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Weekends

It's been a fairly quiet couple of weeks, but with some nice things happening. Last weekend I was at my parents, and got to catch up and spend time not only with them, but also with my brother and his partner, and with extended family, including one of my cousins and her children, which was lovely.I don't see them often enough.

On the Saturday. We went down to the harbour to watch the annual raft race, which involves lots of rafts, of many different shapes, sizes and appearances and with a variety of approaches to the relative importance of seaworthiness and looking good. 

The Thunderbirds raft seemed to be most successful in combining the two, and was the ultimate winner.

The Hawaii raft was impressive, but lacked speed. (and was much lower in the water by the end of the race). And the lego men started to sink almost immediately (I don't have a good photo of them, but their costumes were excellent.) 

It wasn't only the rafters who got wet, as it started to rain early on and we all got rather damp, but nevertheless,  think everyone enjoyed themselves. 

The rest of the weekend was quieter, and apart from spending 45 minutes stationary on the motorway on my drive home, I had a very pleasant weekend. (the motorway jam was due to an accident which meant the road was completely closed for a time, which was frustrating, but of course I would far rather be delayed by an accident than *in* one, so I tried to be patient.  

This weekend has been quiet - Saturday morning mostly involved running errands, and a little light baking, and the afternoon was spent admiring a rather nice baby, belonging to an old friend of mine. She is just 5 weeks old, and is a very nice baby. Lots of hair, no teeth, tiny little fingers and toes..  I admit I felt a little broody.
( Although she was very good and hardly cried at all while I was there)

Sunday was quieter, and involved stuff like mowing the lawn, laundry, pruning the lime tree and vacuuming. And cooking.


Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Catch up - Monty Python, Sandi Toksvig and Bad Jews

I've mostly been working over the last week or so, which is not terribly interesting for blogging purposes.

However, there have been some entertaining bits and pieces I haven't had time to write about.

I went over to Wells to the cinema to see the live broadcast of the Monty Python show, from the O2 Arena, which was lots of fun - predictable, of course, as any 'greatest hits' show was bound to be, but generally most entertaining. (I did get rather a lot of amusement from watching the family sitting in front of me - I don't think the parents were expecting the Penis Song or the giant candy-striped penis shaped confetti cannons!) And I loved the appearances of Professors Brian Cox and Stephen Hawking, and the sight of the Pythons, now all old, rich men themselves, performing the 'Four Yorkshiremen' sketch.

Then last week, Sandi Toksvig was in Bath promoting her recent book, 'Peas and Queues', and was speaking at an event organised by Topping & Co. - the evening was a lovely mix of personal anecdotes, and comments about manners, and finished up with a short Q and A session. As it was  a very warm night, and I was tired, and there were a lot of people, I didn't stay to get a book signed (or just to say hello - I loved that she specifically said that people were welcome to come just to say hi, and that no one had to buy the book, as it is available in libraries too!)

then on Friday I headed back into Bath to go to the Theatre Royal's Ustinov Studio to see Joshua Harmon's 'Bad Jews'. I booked it as I noticed that one of the actors involved was Ilan Goodman, who played 'Mr Marks', the shy Jewish haberdasher in the production of  'Intimate Apparel' I saw in June. 

This play is very different - a darkly comic tale about who should have a family heirloom, and why.. Special mention goes to Joe Coen, as Jonah, who has I think, the fewest lines, and whose character is b far the least dramatic, but whose anxious (and vain) attempts to avoid conflict are essential to the play.

It's playing until 30th August, and is well worth seeing if you are, or can be, in Bath.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Weekend

This weekend has been much quieter than last. Which is probably just as well, as it has been a long and stressful week.

Highlights of the weekend included the Mowing of the Lawn (Friday evening), the Tesco Delivery - which is wonderful, as it  means I have food in the house again. More importantly, I have 2 pints of Häagen-Dazs salted caramel ice-cream. Although probably not for long. 

The Vacuuming of the Living Room (Saturday Afternoon), and Doing of The Laundry (Friday *and* Saturday).

I would have liked to manage a bit more sleep, but don't seem to have mastered the 'not waking up at crack of dawn' part of that. And, to be honest, am also a bit crap at the 'going to sleep when I go to bed' part, too.

I baked some cookies, and one of my Dad's cousins called in to see me, and the new house, this afternoon, and ate some of them.

Apparently I didn't win the office football sweepstake. Although as I had not really been paying much attention to the football I had not got my hopes up, so that was alright.



And there was a very nice sunset.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Hedone (because it deserves a post of its own)

Having spent an enjoyable morning admiring art old and new, we made our way to Chiswick, where Nathalie had booked lunch at Hedone, which was recently classed as the 63rd Best Restaurant in the World, and which has been awarded a Michelin Star.


The restaurant is owned and run by chef (and former lawyer and food blogger) Mikael Jonsson.

I have to say, the man can cook.

I am not a food blogger. My review would be pretty much "Oh my god. So good. More please"

So I shall mostly just post pictures, and you must use your imagination. 

We were very restrained. 

We didn't go for the full tasting menu, 'just' the 4 course lunch with wine pairing. Which was wonderful. 

First, there were the amuse bouches. I'm not sure that my bouche was amused, but it was certainly happy. As it was when we were brought bread - simple, but perfect. 


Then the official start of the meal, with slow cooked duck's egg, green peas, girolles and apricot.
Then Liquid Parmesan Ravioli, onion consomme, mild horseradish, smoked guanciale. It's hard to identify a favourite part of this meal, but if I have to, I think it might be the liquid parmesan ravioli. I don't know how you make make such a thing. Black magic, probably.



Did I mention that there was wine, too, with each of these lovely dishes? When we arrived at the main course, Slow cooked leg of Coucou de Rennes chicken, coco de Paimpol, confit tomato, we moved from white, to red wine.  Perhaps that is why we were so easily seduced into adding a cheese course to our  meal?

The cheese was gorgeous - I even enjoyed the Forme d'Ambert, and I don't usually like blue cheese. 
Dessert was Oatmeal Parfait with Cherries and was perhaps the least successful of the dishes, as the cherries were chilled, and their full flavour didn't quite come through. Although it was still delicious.

A truly wonderful meal. (and one eaten in excellent company!)

Mikael Jonsson.
I snoozed in the train all the way home, dreaming of glorious food.

Monday, 7 July 2014

What I Did in London (Part 4) More Art

After the fun on Friday, I had anticiapted that Saturday might feel like a bit of an anti-climax, but no.

Nathalie and I had talked about returning to the Barbican, to go round the rest of the J-P Gaultier exhibit, but when we realised that it didn't open until 11 we made other plans, and went to the Courtauld Gallery at Somerset House instead, first to  see the 'Tattoo Art Today', which features artworks in various media, commissioned by the exhibition from 70 different tattoo artists. 

There were no tattoos.
River Avon Mud Hand Spiral (1984)

The exhibition was about the artists showing their skills using paint, sculpture, photography etc, with the theme of 'Time' tying them together.

 It' not a big exhibit, but it's interesting (and free!)

We then went on to look at the rest of the Courtauld Gallery's collection, including their current exhibition, 'Bruegel to Freud, prints from the Courtauld Collection'. 

I particularly liked this piece by Richard Long,  in the 20th Century British Art gallery. 

(The Van Gogh, and the Gaugins and Renoirs are quite nice, too) 

I also found the peacock-winged guitar-playing 14th Century  Angel rather appealing, too.

And of course, the building itself is very impressive. I enjoyed the staircase..

And so - onwards, for we had lunch to eat, and that deserves an entire post of it's own...




Sunday, 6 July 2014

What I Did In London (Part 3) Truth and Fourplay

As you'll have seen from the last 2 posts, I had a lot of fun on Friday in London, but the actual reason for which I went was to meet up with Nathalie and Alex, and to see Neil Gaiman reading 'The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains', accompanied by live music from the FourPlay string Quartet and illustrations from Eddie Campbell


FourPlay
Nathalie had succeeded in getting front row tickets, so we had an excellent view. The show was sold out, (although I noticed that the seats behind us remained empty all evening, which made me sad, as I'm sure there were people who'd have loved them, and didn't get tickets)

Fourplay came on (bringing with them 2 violas, one violin and a cello) and started the evening with their version of the Doctor Who theme, (which, frankly, I think the BBC should pick up on and use for the new season) 


Neil
They then played two other pieces, (I was enjoying myself too much to make notes of the titles, but I've bought a couple of their CDs so I should be able to hear them again!)

And then they introduced Neil,who was wearing a beautiful deep red waistcoat as well as his usual black. Very fetching!

He read us 'The Day Saucers Came' and a story called 'Adventures', and also sang 'I Google You' (with additional lines about Vine!) 

During the interval, was able to buy a copy of 'The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains' , signed by both Neil and Eddie, and met another friend, Maggie.

In the second half of the evening, Neil read 'The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains' while Eddie Campbell's illustrations were projected behind him, and Fourplay provided musical accompaniment. Of course, this is not the first time that I have had the luck of seeing Neil read with music and other participation (that honour goes to the Fortunately, the Milk event, last October.) This was very different, except that both show how much fun having Neil read to you can be, and how much other artists and performers can add to the experience!

The story originally appeared in the anthology Stories, by the way (if you don't have a copy, go get one. Lots of great stories by lots of different writers. And get a copy of the new, illustrated version of the story, too ).
Hayley and Eddie Campbell

And it is tragic and chilling and oh so very, very good. Particularly with Art, and a String Quartet. 

Once the story was over, both Hayley and Eddie Campbell joined Neil on stage, and threatened strange and terrible revenge for the killing of a number of Campbell's in the story. (I do hope Neil makes it through the Scottish performance. I find it a little ominous that it's billed as the very last. . . . .)

And then, as he was concerned that the tale might have left us a little down, and that it was a little lacking in feelings of warm fuzziness, hugs and bunnies, he decided to sing us a cheering and uplifting song, so that we could all leave light-heartedly. 

It is possible that they may be better songs to achieve this aim, than Psycho. (which, I have to say, is scarier when sung with the backing of a string quartet, than with a ukulele. Or it is if you are in the front row) 

It's just as well that my walk back to the hotel was only a few minutes long. And well lit.

(there are a few more pictures on Flickr )

What I Did in London (Part 2) : Art and Couture

Yesterday was, according to the BBC (who, I feel sure, checked) the hottest day of the year so far, and when I left the Tate it certainly felt like it, particularly after walking along by the Thames, and taking the moving sauna tube, so I decided to head back to my hotel to change, and freshen up, before heading to the Barbican.

Just before I got to the hotel,  I saw a couple of people walking in the opposite direction, and thought vaguely 'that bloke looks a bit like Neil'. Then they got closer, and I realised it was Neil! And Hayley Campbell. Which was a nice surprise. And encouraging, as it seemed to suggest that the evening's show would be happening! 

We said hello, and Neil introduced me to Hayley, who I haven't met before (although we've tweeted) then they went on (presumably to the Barbican, for sound checks and things) and I went on to my hotel, where I looked in a mirror and realised that I was in even more of a dire need for a shower and change of clothes that I'd thought :( (although I suppose it proves it really happened. If I imagined bumping into Neil & Hayley by chance I'd have imagined myself looking cool and collected, not scruffy and sweaty)

Once I was feeling, and looking, a little more human (thank you, rainfall shower!) I walked back to the Barbican, and went to their 'Digital Revolution' exhibition, which was fascinating. 

There are various old video games, from Pong onward, to try, and then some glorious pieces of interactive digital art. 

My favourite was Chris Milk's The Treachery Of Sanctuary, which allows you to become a flock of birds, or to grow wings. Beautiful and haunting.

I didn't have time the whole exhibition, and may try to make time to go back, if I am in London again before it ends in mid-September. 

I then met up with Nathalie, and we looked around the second of the exhibitions at the Barbican; The Fashion World of Jean-Paul Gaultier.

Nathalie's hat, and Jean-Paul Gaultier's
Nathalie's glorious new hat fitted right in! 

There were lots of amazing clothes - and many of the mannequins wearing them had faces projected onto their blank faces, so that they blink, or appeared to speak, as you pass. There is also a mannequin dressed as JPG himself, in striped jersey and kilt, speaking in French and English about the exhibits..

We didn't have time to view all of the exhibition as we had a dinner reservation at one of the Barbican's restaurants. I would like to go back to see the rest, if I have time. . .

However, despite having to leave the exhibition before we'd seen it all, it was good to be able to sit down, and talk, and eat. 

(although despite eating in 'The Gin Joint' we didn't actually try any of their many gins... there wasn't time for cocktails after we had finished eating..!)

All great fun, and we have not even reached the main event of the day, yet!

Saturday, 5 July 2014

What I Did in London (Part 1)

I travelled up to London yesterday morning, to meet up with N and A and to see Neil Gaiman at the Barbican.

The day started with a good omen - at Chippenham, all of us  in the quiet coach were told we would have to move, due to a fault with the door lock. Which would have been annoying, except that they moved us all to 1st class. Which was nice. It did amuse me that after we'd all moved, the conductor made an announcement, apologising for the delay and inconvenience, and then apologising specifically to the 1st class passengers for the [long pause] inconvenience. Poor 1st class passengers, being invaded by the common herd!

Once arrived in London, I checked into my hotel before heading over to Tate Modern to see the Matisse Exhibition 

I enjoyed it. I'm fairly familiar with his blue dancers, but there were lots of other pieces which I didn't know, including stained glass (and studies for other windows) and 'Oceania', which Matisse had on his own studio walls.

Celebes (Max Ernst) 
I was also pleasantly surprised that the exhibition was not overcrowded, unlike other exhibitions I've seen recently!

After seeing the Matisse, I also wandered through some of the other galleries, getting my fill of surrealists. 

Turns out that the Tate has some rather nice pictures. I haven't been for a while, and I tend to forget, between visits.

There are also some nice views from outside the gallery.
I always rather enjoy the fact that you get Tower Bridge, and the Shard, and the Globe, all in one relatively small piece of skyline!.

Friday, 4 July 2014

The Pleasures of anticipatation

This weekend is going to be fun. It will include friends, food, Matisse, Neil Gaiman, and probably some other art, too.

Hopefully, it will not include any delays or other transport problems.

I'm pretty sure there will be extensive blogging and photos, once I'm home.