Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Consistently, Cultural South Bank

That stretch of the south bank of the river Thames from the London Eye to Tower Bridge has always been one of my favourite parts of London.

Although I often refer to it geographically as "the South Bank", it actually encompasses Bankside and part of Shad Thames. South Bank is only the stretch from Westminster to Blackfriars Bridges. Bankside is situated between Blackfriars Bridge to the west and London Bridge to the east. Tower Bridge marks Shad Thames.

Highlights for me are the London Eye, the Royal Festival Hall (including the Queen Elizabeth Hall), the National Theatre, Tate Modern, the Millennium Bridge, Borough Market, the London Assembly and Tower Bridge.

Royal Festival Hall is currently undergoing renovation. Festival Riverside-a whole new complex of restaurants and shops-has already opened, completing phase 1 of the refurbishment, really enhancing the South Bank.

This summer there are two fun interactive installations on the RFH outdoor terrace: PLAY.orchestra (until 2 October) and Appearing Rooms (which is the first of a series of summer fountains on the South Bank).

PLAY.orchestra is a collaboration between the South Bank Centre, the Philharmonia Orchestra, and Central Saint Martins School of Art & Design. Cube seats are laid out as if in an orchestra. When you take a seat the instrument that belongs there begins to sound, playing its part in a piece of music. Moving around the space and trying different seats, you experience a musical score in constant evolution. The more people that there are sitting, the fuller the orchestra sounds.

For some added fun, while you sit there, switch on your mobile's bluetooth and you can download ringtones and send sounds back to eventually become part of the music played by the virtual orchestra.

There's also free workshops on offer every Saturday - from 11am-1pm - with guided tours of the installation and live musicians.



Appearing Rooms is an interactive fountain designed by Danish Architect Jeppe Hein. Walls of water rise and fall randomly to create a series of constantly changing ‘rooms’, challenging viewers (you stand within the walls inside the fountain) to keep their wits about them - if you don’t want to get soaked.

Throughout the summer (until 7 September) the National have been running Watch This Space on their Theatre Square lawn. It's a free festival featuring the best of British street theatre, bands from across the globe, circus, late-night cinema, new work, installations, dance, cabaret, club nights and spectacle.

This weekend they had a dance weekend, with dance shows, classes and ballroom DJs.

The view from the South Bank is also rather nice-looking over to St Paul's, with the "Gherkin" (the Swiss -Re Tower) just in sight and the iconic Barbican towers in the background.



Oh look, you can just see my office too!

Life's SO Not Fair

A Six-year-old girl was attacked by a dog while collecting money for an animal charity.

Little Catriona Mathieson was selling bric-a-brac door-to-door in her own street when the German Shepherd jumped on her back, scratched her and sank its teeth into her arm.

...The youngster, of the city's Middlefield Terrace [Aberdeen], was rushed to hospital in her blood-stained T-shirt before getting six paper stitches in her arm.

"The dog is about the same size as Catriona," said mum Suzanne Murphy.

"If she had been any smaller it could have been her face that got injured.

"She came screaming down the street and was really shaken up afterwards.

"She was never scared of animals before but is terrified of big dogs now."

Woodside Primary pupil Catriona, along with big sister Kelsie, 8, and friends, were knocking on doors in the street, selling old toys to make cash for the Peoples Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA).

Suzanne claims the six-year-old stood at the gate while another girl chapped the door of a house at the top of the road.

When the door was opened the large white dog came out and started barking.

She said Catriona screamed and the dog attacked her.



from Aberdeen's very own Evening Express

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Fin

It's the end of summer. Most people have now had their summer holiday and have returned to business. The quieter spell over, summer now comes to it's end.
 
During this time I've been able to work from home. I've been out and about with my BlackBerry, mobile and mon C. I've been able to keep regular hours, regularly. Sometime's I've been able to leave a little earlier, and start a little later.
 
In France it's known as "Le Rentree", when everyone returns to work, to school, when once again it's business as usual.
 
And so, too, for mon C. After 6 weeks' holiday at home, he's off to Paris tomorrow, and on to La Reunion on Saturday for a week. When he returns home I'll be in Turin, so I won't see him until I get back home on 13 September. On the 16th he's off again. To Moscow, then to Saudi, Israel and Turkey (he comes home for a few days here and there in between). This takes us through to November, when he and I will have 2 weeks' holiday together, somewhere exotic I hope. Finally, he has a week in Romania at the beginning of December. On his return we'll start to celebrate Christmas together, with no more business trips happening until the New Year.
 
Time flies, and I'm wishing it away.
 
Seven months with Christophe. 200 blog posts.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Aunt Sally

Taken from yesterday's "Sunday Times" Style supplement:


Q: Our son is 32 years old. He is 6ft, plays rugby and used to row for his university. This guy is our only child and has a good job in the City. He has his own flat, but when his mother and I go on holiday, he looks after our house. Last week, we returned a day early from our holiday and, when we entered the house, our son did not hear us come in. I went into the bathroom and saw him wearing women's underwear. He did not see me. I left the house and sounded the car horn. When we went back into the house, he was coming out of the bathroom and said he was about to take a bath. Should I tell him that I saw him, and do I tell my wife?"
Advices please?

And a question of my own...which of you was it?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Fish Heads, Fish Heads Yum Yum

There's a song. Something like:

Fish heads. fish heads
Yummy yummy fish heads
Fish heads fish heads
Eat them up, yum yum.

Fluxlist: Fish Performance (X3)

Gads.

ps...since the original posting I found out more

Oh GOD...and here it is

Noc na Karlštejn?-Nights of Karlstein (Castle)

Since I've installed sitemeter I can see who's czech(ingme)OUT from where.

I feel a little bad that for those who visit from CZ I don't do much in CZ. So this is for you (I'm feeling in the mood for it):

Noc na Karlštejně je český filmový muzikál, který natočil režisér Zdeněk Podskalský v roce 1973. Karel IV. (Vlastimil Brodský) si vybudoval hrad Karlštejn s tím, že se na něm nebudou vyskytovat žádné ženy a on se tam bude moci v klidu věnovat mužským záležitostem. Ovšem existuje žena (Daniela Kolářová), která si troufne přestoupit tento zákaz a pomoci tak královně Alžbětě Pomořanské (Jana Brejchová) dostat se k panovníkovi.

English speaking readers: Yes, it's a muzikál česki.

In the grandest tradition we have cross dressing and confusion. The 1973 movie (now turned into stage show):

is a fun and light-hearted legend from the 14th century.

As good king Charles IV. said in this movie: "Nobody will believe that in the age of the Father of this land was not allowed to women to come to Karlštejn castle." (sic).

As one CZ reviewer puts it:

"As usual in Czech movies, the actors are excellent (especially Brodský as Charles) Maybe you are used to see very wistful and serious historical films (like Polish people do), but Night on Karlštejn is a musical - and very good musical. So - why check it out? Sit down with your girlfriend or boyfriend, wife of husband and wait for the song of the queen (in English is the lyrics deeper romantic) and then... kiss your darling".

And here is the real thing (it does rather look like Castle Dracula from Dracula, Prince of Darkness. That movie was a return to Transylvannia, and castel "Carlstad"-see the similarity in name? Next time I watch I'll grab a pic so you can see for yourself.):



King is come, King is come!

Czech word of the day: hrad-castle.

Carry On...

Just watching Carry On Screaming. It's the scene with Dan Dan, the toilet man. His office is under the pavement, under the glass tiles.

In my office, as you wait for the lift, you step out onto a suspended platform of glass tiles. For the life of me, every time someone walks to the elevator on the floor above, I'm reminded of the scene.

Oh, and for those of you who don't know the "Carry On" series...too much to explain here. Maybe have a look here. Only, it's very cult British, albeit of a few generations ago.

Coming Out-1: Friends

I happened upon this posting from Freestyleguy, aka the Touchline; his very recent experience of coming out to his best friend. Something that he had no doubt thought about beforehand over, and over. Experiencing the fear all of us have had, or still have, about telling our loved ones.

Whether you've done it, or are thinking about it, go read his experience (click on the pic):



If you are in a similar situation, take a moment to consider what is it that you have to fear ? If you've done it, what was it you feared? Maybe it's something different for all of us. Perhaps only slightly or subtly different, though. I suspect it's often one of a few things.

Rejection, ridicule, ruining something that wasn't really broken.

I'm glad that Touchline's experience was positive, and one that I'm sure many of us have similarly experienced. But equally, for each happy ending, there is no doubt an unhappy one somewhere.

In the case of good friends, well if you really, really think about it...they are by definition our *friends*. They are always on our side. Even when we sometimes don't know it.

The thing is we, expect the worst. Sometimes that's exactly what we get...with parents, for example, who see it as a reflection on themselves, a failing of theirs. (In which case understand theirs is a very selfish reaction-one that is about them, and not you). But, generally, with friends, with genuine, solid friends, it doesn't phase them.

My own experience was that I never told my friends for a long time. Partly because I wasn't comfortable with where I was at. I knew I liked guys, but I wanted to be straight. To be just like my friends. I started to come out, but I wasn't comfortable, and I took a few more girlfriends. With one in particular I had a serious sexual relationship lasting for about 15 months.

But I found myself at the point where I knew that I was betraying myself. When I finally accepted that I was gay and that's how I was going to stay, I then looked at my relationships with my pals.

Ultimately I felt I was betraying my friends. We were close, but there was something I was keeping back from them. I felt bad that I was hiding an important part of myself from them. When I told them, it was not an issue. With some I ended up apologising-explaining that it wasn't a reflection on them.. They were concerned that I hadn't told them in case I thought they would drop me as a friend!

So, not being honest with your friends can sometimes be more of a barrier than you think.

Certainly straight male friends, those who are comfortably straight, never appear to have any issues (unless there are other factors-such as strong anti gay religious or other right wing fundamental beliefs).

Coming back to Touchline, he's started to know himself. Now that he's comfortable with who he is, he has been able to take the next, important, step. To share with, and ultimately bring himself closer to, his best friend. He's on his journey to being able to be true to himself.

If you read his blog, I think the moral that is worth learning is to KNOW YOURSELF. (Now, didn't someone else recently suggest the same thing? Sounds familiar).

Day 2 With Belle Mere Et Beau Pere-Tu/Vous

It's frustrating when you struggle to find a particular word or phrase, and have to use something that might give the sense of what you mean, but not exactly what you mean. And so it was when BM said mon C had told her I was coming to visit for Christmas.

"Well, yes, if you invite me." As if she would be so lucky. I tried again.

"If you want me to."

What I really wanted to say was that it would be a pleasure if it was no trouble to her. But I think she realised I wasn't suggesting my visit would be a big effort on my part, nor a privilege for them.

I've really had to concentrate on the formality of addressing BM and BP. Unlike English, in French there are two forms of you - tu and vous. Tu is the familiar form which is used with people you know well (friends and family). Vous, as well as being the plural form for you, is also the polite form of addressing someone. They are not interchangeable, so it is very important to understand when and why to use each of them. Otherwise, you may inadvertently insult someone by using the wrong you.

C has told me that even for the French, it's sometimes difficult to know exactly which form to use.

The conjugation of the verb is different depending on which form of you is used. For example "voulez-vous" or "veux-tu"?

All weekend I've been stressing about keeping it polite. I suspect that because BM et BP don't speak English they don't appreciate that in English there is no such distinction. So, on the face of it, I might seem even more inappropriate.

So, with mon C I use tu; when I address BM and BP at the same time, it's vous. If I address one of them it's also vous, except BP replied to me yesterday at the pub when I was asking him what he would like to drink: Tu, tu.... Wondering what about me I suddenly realised he was telling me I should use the tu form instead of vous to address him.

At coffee yesterday morning BM asked me if she could refer to me using tu. Please do, I replied. But she hasn't yet invited me to address her in the same way.

It requires concentration at all times to avoid making a social faux pas!

This Modern Life



Further to my post encouraging you to help to spend the monies funding the homophoic Focus on the Family czechOUT: Shop Against Homophobia, it's nice to see that not everyone thinks the same way.

St Mary's on Upper Street, Islington (I think Church of England in the Evangelical tradition), *appears* to be acknowledging that family comes in all shapes and sizes.



But is their tag line about 21st century Church all-embracing or critical?

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Day 1 With Belle Mere Et Beau Pere

Belle Mere is how the French refer to their mother-in-law. Beau Pere is father-in-law, and also for Christophe it refers to his step father. For anyone who doesn't know any French it translates, rather sweetly, as "beautiful mother" and "beautiful father".

BM and BP arrived yesterday. Mon C had to get up early to collect them from Gatwick. As they don't speak any (and I mean any) English, he didn't want to leave them to make their own way to central London. He took them to their hotel here in Islington, and once they had organised themselves, I met them for a coffee in Tinderbox.

I have reasonable conversational French. In the context of a conversation, when I can guess how the conversation is likely to go I can understand French quite well. But if someone changes the subject out of the blue, then until I've heard a few key pointers and worked out what it is they are talking about, it can be much harder.

Sometimes I understand generally what it is, but don't get the exact detail. BM started talking about carrying bottles of wine onto the plane as hand luggage, I thought she was saying that they had to check the fine wine that they brought for us into the hold, but were actually able to take them as hand luggage. Rather she was saying that they didn't bring any wine because they didn't think they could take it on as hand luggage, and didn't want to put any in the hold in case it broke. What a disappointment! However in it's place they brought fromage. And they brought plenty. Our fridge is filled to the brim with cheese.

We went to a pub-a traditional English one of course (I don't think the Green would have been appreciated). Having a glass of wine at 11.30am, went straight to my head! We had an early lunch at Carluccio's on Upper Street, because they had to be at Buckingham Palace at 2.15pm for the grand tour. (78 bathrooms you know).

Christophe came back home about 5pm, having left BM et BP at their hotel. He then got the place organised for dinner. He had made summer fruits pudding the day before. I organised my ingredients. I decided to cook the haggis in he oven, rather than steam it, so they couldn't see it being cooked. I had become concerned, given that the conversation had turned earlier in the day to traditional British food. C told me to mention the Scottish one, so I had to explain haggis. It got the usual response when I explained that it was a very delicious "pudding" made of heart, liver and other offal mixed with oats and spices and wrapped in a sheep's stomach.

I made a rough mash of new potatoes (still in their skins), mashed with butter and a little wholegrain mustard. Just a hint, though. I'd made mince and gravy to accompany the haggis as a sauce as it were.

I served it as a round. I used ring as a mould, with a thick layer of mash on the base, and a thin layer of haggis (just in case they didn't like it) on the top. The rings were removed. Fortunately they remained intact. I drizzled the mince and gravy on top and on the side. It looked rater good. Very nouvelle cuisine.

I didn't tell them what it was, despite requests, until they started eating it. Now BP, who hunts, and is a man who likes his meat obviously, suggested straight away that it had "foie" in it (liver- as in pate de foie gras). I saw C's face drop immediately. His preference is vegetarian, but if we go out for dinner and someone has only cooked meat, he will eat it. He asked me again in English, just to make sure I had understood BP correctly.

Anyway, they all rather liked it, and the mince and gravy works very well as an accompaniment.

The kedgeree was great. It was probably one of the best one's I've made. And they really liked it (mental note...GBL who likes anything curry would probably rather enjoy it).

The funniest moment of the evening, however, came when mon C was telling his mother what the ingredients were in HP Brown sauce. I heard him say "preservatif", his mother made a funny face, and remarked on there being "preservatif" in the sauce. I knew immediately what he had said. A preservatif is a condom. Christophe had meant to say there are no preservatives, but because he's more accustomed to speaking English than French he just said the English word in a French way, having forgotten that the word he was looking for was actually "conservateur".

There are, of course, no condoms in HP Brown Sauce. But seemingly there are hanging from trees in GBL's garden.

Click on the pic for his not so green fingers:



ps Happy Manchester Pride to Steve.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Shop Against Homophobia

Help make those nasty bigoted people at Focus on the Family (a highly homophobic american right wing group) go bankrupt.

Wherever you are in the world, get yourself $100 worth of free homophobic material courtesy of FOTF and see their bank account dry up...

Here's how to do it: Fight Here

Easy, Simple, Efficient!

Do pass the information on. Feel free to link here and help bust 'em!

Thanks zefrog and zombie.

It's SO Over

We've lost a planet-Pluto has been downgraded.

Here's how our all new Solar System looks (from BBC News):

As Safe As Houses-2

Further to my posting about the Met Police chief's comments that London residents now feel "as safe as they did 25 years ago", last night's Evening Standard reported on the murder of Peter Woodhams, a 22 year old who was shot outside shops in Canning Town (east London) on Monday night after standing up to a group of youngsters.

Apparently in January this year, near the same shops, he was held down by a gang when he challenged them, and stabbed in the neck. His fiancée claims she phoned police every day for five weeks following the attack, but that officers never even took a statement from her. Nobody was ever charged in relation to that incident.

At a news conference on Wednesday night, Met Police Commander Rod Jarman said: "We will robustly deal with any failings in our investigation of the previous incident and make sure that those matters are dealt with.

"I would also like to make my apologies for any hurt that that investigation may have caused the family."

A *14-year-old* boy has been questioned in relation to the incident and released on bail. Police have confirmed that the suspect that they are looking for is very young.

The culture of weapon carrying gangs and youths isn't a problem unique to London.
Yesterday evening at 5.50pm at Bridport in Dorset, three girls (aged 14, 15 and 17) were stabbed and seriously injured. It is believed that this incident was the result of an argument with a youth on a bus. Police have said there had been a "verbal exchange" between the girls and their attacker before the stabbing happened. The 14 year old is stable in an intensive care unit, and the other two are stable in a general ward. The attacker is described as being in his 20s.

Only last month C & I were coming home (from some quality shopping in Selfridges, of course). Behind us there were three girls, probably ranging in age from 14-16. They were speaking loudly, laughing. Just in front of us, seated near the exit, was an older guy, looking somewhat down and out. He was talking to himself, in between louder outbursts. At times he would become agitated. The girls would react to this by laughing, making comments directed at him, and in turn, he would become even more agitated.

It was clear that the older guy was disturbed. Ordinarily people would have had the sense NOT to do or say anything to upset him. You never know who, or indeed what conditions, you are dealing with. However these schoolgirls did not. They thought it was funny to goad him. Everyone else could see he was getting more upset.

This had been going on since Oxford Street. Just after Euston they were getting loud and stupid again, and really set the guy off, who sprung up to rush over to them. The girls screamed, and fortunately for them, some rather tall and fit antipodean guys that had got on at Euston were able to restrain the older guy, who calmed down a little, but was still clearly agitated. The girls calmed down a bit, too.

I struggled to understand the stupidity of the girls. This guy was clearly disturbed in some way.

Naturally, any reasonable person would try and avoid such provocation. But the sad truth is that even if we stand up for ourselves or another, we risk "provoking" someone who may react in a way that is all too disproportionate.

Recently I've been asked what scares me. Coming across a situation where I see someone needs my immediate help and the thought of me turning away, for fear of risking serious injury to myself, so scares me.

Taste Of Vanilla

Life is random. You happen upon people randomly. You hear things randomly (sometimes out of context). A random decision or event places you with other random people.
 
Our eye can be caught by pictures of hot guys we come across, sometimes at random, sometimes not!
 
On my companion blog-Taste Of Vanilla (see link at side) I've been posting random pictures of hot looking guys, with thing's I've overheard in public. I tend to post less regularly than I do here. Just depends on what has caught my ear and my eye.
 
From now I thought it might be fun to share. So I'll be setting up an email account and putting a link on the Taste Of Vanilla blog for contributions.
 
Send me a pic of some eye candy that's taken your fancy, and something you've overheard in public. Let me know where you heard it, and when you heard it. If it's important, who said it (eg girl to boy, boy to boy...). If you look at the ToV postings, you'll get the idea.
 
The picture doesn't need to have anything in common with the thing you've heard. Keep it random. Oh, and although nudity is OK, I've been avoiding XXX (at least, I think I have).
 
Have fun

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

No Crap To Deal With Today

This morning mon C. picked up the Time Out. It was inside the gate, and out of reach. The only "free gift" was the Notting Hill Carnival supplement.

pANiC

(Our Animals Attack....)

Picture the scene. I'm sitting at the work station, checking Bobby's Blog. There was something I wanted to mention in a comment. TV is on. Mon C is in the bathroomwashing his hands. Chadwick:



and Cecila:



are lazing on the sofa.

Then from the corner of my eye I glimpse something brown fly in the window. It looks like a huge, large moth. But extremely large for a moth. Maybe a bat?

It flies for the window on the opposite wall, straight in front of the one it came in. But then it notices our two feline predators, and it heads for another window on the same wall it flew in. But that window's closed. Bang, it flies into the window and falls stunned to the floor, flapping. I see it's a tiny little bird, maybe a robin? In that instant Chadwick pounces on it, claws extended, teeth out. I start yelling at Chadwick, clapping loudly trying my level best to try distract her, and get her off. But she's pawing, clawing, and underneath the bird is flapping.

Christophe thinks, in the meantime. I'm excited by something on TV (!!). I get Chadwick off the bird. It's left panting on the floor, almost lifeless. I try to get mon C to come through to get the cats out of the room, in case the bird flaps about a little more, and either of our pussies pounce.

He puts them both in the bathroom, even though I told him they should go into the bedroom (and right enough I soon hear the two cats hissing at each other. Cecila doesn't know what all the shouting and noise was about, and is herself frightened by now).

I recall another bird attack about 10 years ago when Cecilia ripped open a bird's stomach, and it was left, injured. I had to call the RSPB to come dispatch it. I'm thinking if I pick up this poor little bird, it's insides will fall out.

I ask C how I should kill it so it won't suffer, as it continues to pant slowly as we stand over it. I can't bring myself to wring it's neck. I could crush it by dropping a stone on it's head, or chop off it's head, Drown or suffocate it, but I want to put it out of it's suffering and quickly. We decide on (me having to) chopping off it's head. I just want to do something humane, and bareable for me.

The cats safely away I pick up the bird. Relief-No gut spill or other obvious injury. Phew. It just seems to be in shock. It rests in my hand. Heart fluttering (like mine really-it seems that even in the animal kingdom I can't stand violence-let alone domestic violence).



I try to see if it will sit on the window ledge until it recovers.



But it still can't stand. We can't put it in the bedroom, just in case it starts flying around. So we put it out front on the terrace, among the plants.

In 5 mins time I bring it some bread, when it manages to fly onto the stair handle. I decide to leave it. 10 minutes later it's flown on.

Funnily, that wasn't our first brush with nature today. At 5am I woke up to what sounded like coathangers falling in the wardrobe. 2 minutes later I hear my neighbour's patio door open (also investigating), and then again the scraping, scuttling noise. This time I place the noise outside. I think I know what it is. I get up, go through to the front room, and there on the roof, trying to get over on to our flat roof (our window is open so the cats can come and go, providing a route to the cats food) is a fox. I'd seen it the week before when I got up.

So, now I can't sleep with the window open, just in case the fox is tempted, and gets into a fight with the cats!!

This Weekend (For Gay Boy London)

As "Belle Mere" and "Beau Pere" are visiting this weekend, I'll not be getting the chance, so if Gay Boy in London were me ( and as he asked me for a head's up), here is what you might find him doing this weekend:

Thursday 6.30pm- Pre FrightFest Festival Charity Screening (Teenage Cancer Trust) of "Severance" (Odeon West End, £10)

Spin on "survival horror" genre, seven penpushers from international weapons manufacturer do a team building exercise in a Hungarian forest, Look out for the two topless "Balkan Babes".

11.55pm (FrightFest late show, Odeon West End), "Frostbite"

Vampires terrorize a city in Norrbotten (very north Sweden), in the middle of the polar-winter, where day is as dark as night for a whole month. One month ‘till dawn means plenty of feasting opportunity. With some slapstick thrown in.

Friday 6.30-9.45pm-Friday Late at the V&A; Arabise Me (Free)

Installations, dance, photography, film and performance art to celebrate opening of Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art.

Saturday/Sunday-Souk, Scripts and Soundbites: Arab Weekend (V&A)

Browse the recreated Arabic marketplace, music, mosaic demonstrations, talks on Eastern food and lecture by novelist Ahdaf Soueif.

Sunday/Monday-Notting Hill Carnival

With a battle of the steel bands, it's on the unofficial list of things everyone should do once in their life. Just don't get stabbed.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

78 Zloty

At the weekend I was in one of my favourite shops, Dress Circle (the "showbiz shop"). They are very much focussed on musical theatre and musical theatre performers there. For those of you that frequent the Box Bar, DC is also on Monmouth Street It's on the other side of and just a little down from the Box. If you are visiting the Box, pop in past and discover your other gay side!

Anyway. One of my things is collecting different recordings and different versions of certain shows. For example, included in my Les Mis collection is: the original French concept album, the original london cast, original broadway cast, Los Miserables, the dutch recording, the paris recording, Bidnici (the recent Czech recording), the original Czech recording, the Paris cast, Manchester cast, Austrian recording and the complete recording.

I have Miss Saigon in Hungarian, Romeo & Juliette in Flemish, Aspects of Love in Japanese.

For a little time now I've enjoyed Dance of the Vampires (a Jim Steinman musical, which was a huge, huge hit in Germany and eastern Eurpean countries, and as huge a flop on Brodway, where it lost investors million$$$). I have some demo US recordings, the German recording, of course, and an Estonnian recording. They use "Total Eclipse of the Heart" in the show. Fabulously, of course.

Anyway, DC this weekend. I saw a different version, which I bought. From Poland. They had a website address which I visited. And lo! It's returning to Warsaw for one month only from 22 September.

By a happy coincidence, my best friend K who has been living in Prague for the last 7 years, is moving to Warsaw at the beginning of October. He also loves musical theatre.

So, I'm all booked to go to Poland on Friday 13 (what a dark coincidence) to see Taniec Wampirów the next evening. I have my tickets...and here's the heartbreaking thing. I have 3 top price seats, front orchestra stalls. Each ticket costs 78 zloty. That's £13.59 each. I *died* when I found out the price. For equivalent tickets in the west end we're currently paying £55 full price. It's cheaper for me to fly to Poland (and that's with BA-not even cut price carrier) and for 3 of us to go to the theatre than it is for just mon C & I to go here.

As Safe As Houses

It was reported yesterday that Metropolitan Police
Commissioner Sir Ian Blair has said parts of London
are returning to an era of neighbourliness and low
crime. He said residents in Haringey, north London,
are now happy to leave their front doors open and
unlocked. Residents now "feel as safe as they did 25
years ago".

On my way to the theatre last night, at about 6pm we
sat on the top deck of the bus, at the rear. When we
got to Old Street, the guy in the seat but one next to
me, lit up a cigarette (no smoking allowed). Only I
realised as soon as I smelled it, it wasn't a
cigarette. He was smoking some drugs.

At best it's a fairly anti-social thing to do, on a
bus. However, no-one challenged him. People looked
round in disapproval, but the reality is, we are too
scared to speak up for fear of getting verbally
abused, or worse, knifed.

Over the last few months there have been quite a
number of incidents on buses in the Islington/north
London area involving knives, resulting in critical or
fatal injury.

I wonder just how many people actually feel safe as
they go around their daily business in London.

Monday, August 21, 2006

A Bit Of A To Do, Thanks To Ruthie

This evening we went to the Menier Chocolate factory for some dinner and then an evening in the company of Ruthie Henshall.

She was being interviewed for Radio 3 (I'll remember the name of the programme later and edit it in here), for a transmission to go out on December 11th.

She talked about her career, her songs, her memories. We listened to her recordings (and had to treat them as if live, reacting, applauding). Actually, she was a very good raconteur. The evening was very enjoyable.

After the R3 interviewer was done, he opened the floor to questions from the audience.

Ruthie had already talked about the connection between the audience and the performers, which was very interesting to hear. She made a comment about productions at the Shaftesbury being doomed (see Daddy Cool below)! Unfortunately she also made a comment about the price of theatre tickets. In advance, that was my question for her...("Ruthie, your voice and performance moves us, your name is a draw to see a production...so, how much do you think we should pay for a top price seat in a west end theatre?") I had to forget it.

Next I thought how much fun to ask: "Ruthie, your voice and performance moves us, your name is a draw to see a production...so, what colour underwear are you wearing?" A bit Dennis Pennis, but probably better not.

Then I thought to ask her something else, but again it was covered by the interviewer.

Towards the end of her interview she talked about her preference for originating roles, and how limited actors are when asked to reinterpret a role. This made me think...there are roles that are better performed and better remembered by performers other than the originals that created them. So, as soon as the floor was open I was there (knowing the psychology of question asking-more likely to be asked when fewer people are offering at the beginning, before the audience feel less reserved and everyone starts asking). For the first question the interviewer's eye was drawn to his side of the stage. I knew naturally for the next he'd turn to my side of the stage.....

"Ruthie, you have said that your preference is to originate a role, but be aware that there are parts more fondly remembered for actors who did not originate them; I'm thinking particularly of Sunset Boulevard. What's the best role that you've never had?"

She had to think, and she admitted that it was a really difficult question. I suggested that it was a rather "Wicked" question, but she didn't get it.

Some discussion followed, and I was asked by the interviewer if there was anything else I had in mind after she mentioned something. I said that I was thinking of a role that was more "wicked". And the penny dropped! (Ruthie was rumoured for Elpheba-the Wicked Witch of the West").

Some more Q&A. Penultimately a 9 year old girl asked "I'm 9 years old. What advice would you give to me?"

Ruthie talked about passion. If you are passionate pursue your dream, was her message.

Then she was asked for her opinion on how Andrew Lloyd-Webber was going about choosing his Maria (for the Sound of Music opening later this year). She felt strongly that it was unfair that there were people she knew who were so talented that she could cast the show from 10 people in her address book alone.

She talked about "Musicality". I understand her point of view, but I actually disagreed with her. It isn't just a marketing tool. There are people as passionate as she suggested in the case of the 9 year old girl, but who never had the chance to go to theatre school, pursue their dream. For a variety of reasons. Why shouldn't this opportunity come their way, albeit through a popular TV "talent" show?

I had to speak up. And I did. And to what end? Well, mon C, who is so not interested in musical theatre, and so enjoyed his evening with Ruthie, thought I was rather challenging. Get him! Me who is only slightly passionate about the subject, he who is not. We had a hot debate all the way home...Anyway, at least it seems mon C. will jump at the chance to go see her (although when we got home and I wanted to put on her CD he wouldn't let me). Sadly however it seems as if it will be a few years before we see Ruthie in something again (she wants to spend time with her 2 young daughters). But when she does something, we will be there.

Belle Mere Et Beau Pere

C's mother and step father are coming to visit this weekend, although they're not staying with us.

It will be the first time that I have met them, and they don't speak any english. I think they are worried that they won't be able to communicate with me. I'll need to concentrate and it'll be intense, but I'll manage.

I'm going to cook us dinner on Friday night. I think mon C wants to show off our home, and it will be nice to entertain them here.

Typically the French love their food, and think "British cuisine" is a contradiction. I thought I should do my bit to dispel the myth. I want to serve them something memorable and traditional. Something different (they've told mon C that they want to experience British food).

I've decided that I'm going to risk something-although I'll serve it as a starter, just in case they really don't enjoy it. I'm not going to tell them what it is, and I'm going to try and keep it from mon C. If they know, then they won't be keen to eat it. But if they taste it first, I think they'll rather like it.

I'm going to do a starter of haggis, neeps and tatties (served with mince and gravy).

The main course they won't have an issue with. I'm going to do kedgeree, which is a Victorian dish, from the days of the empire. It's a delicious supper (or breakfast) meal.

Mary Poppins Airways


Up, up and away...

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Introducing Hana & Helena

Hana Zagorová is *the* iconic female singer of Czech gay boyz. She is to them as Dalida is to the French and Italian ones. The Czech Liza.

She was born in 1946 and has been recording since 1964. She is a prolific writer having written the lyrics to around fifty of her records, many of which have made number one in the national Český Slavík ("Czech Nightingale") music chart.

A darling of the communist regime she was one of the two officially sanctioned and supported songstresses, the other being Helena Vondráčková (only one year younger than Hana, and another gay favourite; Helena is in fact celebrating "40 years in the limelight" this year, according to her official website). Which helped them both along their way, really.

Hana has had the great fortune to have married 3 gay husbands. Making her truly fabulous.

Both Hana and Helena are loved by gays and straights alike. And by their fathers. Go to any gay hotspot in Prague (and if you go to Friends bar, say ahoj to my friend Honza who owns the place), and the moment Helena-but Hana especially-are on, the dance floor fills up.

They've covered many a hit from here. Hana and Helena were allowed by the authorities to record western songs, such as Stevie Wonder's "Hello" and Cyndi Lauper's "Girls/Fun", in CZ . Many Czechs still think it a great tribute to H& H that the Stevie and Cyndi took these Czech songs and recorded them in English!



Anyway, let's celebrate the gay icons that are Hana Zagorová and Helena Vondráčková.

I die without you


I forgot how good this is.

It's so of our time. To help spread the word, I will give the first 4 who comment in the correct order (you comment R-E-N-T, in that order) their very own (and original) Rent DVD.

If you can afford to buy it, then do it. If you can't, well R-E-N-T me!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Looking Forward To?

The theatre with an excess of white elephant productions that is the Shaftesbury sees "Daddy Cool" the musical open on Tuesday.

Billed as the Boney M musical - their hits include Rivers Of Babylon, Brown Girl In The Ring, Ma Baker, One Way Ticket and Mary's Boychild - Daddy Cool also features the music of other artists produced by Frank Farian, including Milli Vanilli and No Mercy.

To make up for the lack of original music (or perhaps the lacking of the original music), we're promised a re-interpretation based on contemporary musical influences. Enough said.

Not wanting to do things by half measures, Daddy Cool also lacks an original storyline. It follows Sunny, a young Londoner that lives for music. Sunny finds himself ensnared by the rivalry between east and west London crews when he falls for Rose, the daughter of infamous East London club owner Ma Baker, and unfortunately from the wrong side of the tracks. The young (let's suggest "star-crossed") lovers only fuel the gangs' hatred; a hatred which forces families to confront both past and future. Sound familiar?

With the original footballer's wife (but without the footballer) Michelle Collins as Ma Baker, Daddy Cool also stars former So Solid Crew member Harvey and someone called Javine.

That said, it's worth remembering the nine Top 10 UK hits that Boney M had in the 1970s and 1980s were surpassed only by Abba in sales.

Joe Orton & Islington

Joe Orton (the famous 60's playwrite-"Entertaining Mr Sloane", "Loot") moved into a small flat on Noel Road in Islington with his actor boyfriend Kenneth Halliwell in 1959.

Often at a loose end they would amuse themselves with pranks and hoaxes. In one episode, Orton and Halliwell stole books from the local library, and would subtly modify the cover art or the blurbs before returning them to the library (often with pornography and profanity). A volume of poems by John Betjeman, for example, was returned to the library with a new dustjacket featuring a photograph of a nearly naked, heavily tattooed middle-aged man. They were eventually discovered, and prosecuted for this in May, 1962.

The incident was reported in the Daily Mirror as "Gorilla in the Roses". They were charged with five counts of theft and malicious damage, admitted damaging more than seventy books, and were jailed for six months (released September 1962) and fined £262. Ironically, the books that Orton and Halliwell vandalised have become the most valued of the Islington Library service collection. And Islington Council, who were behind the prosecution, now commemorate their flat on Noel Road with a plaque.

On the night of August 9, 1967, Halliwell bludgeoned 34-year-old Orton to death with nine hammer blows to the head, and then committed suicide. Their bodies were discovered the following morning when a chauffeur arrived to take Orton to a meeting to discuss a screenplay he had written for the Beatles. Halliwell left a suicide note, informing police that all would be explained if they read Orton's diaries, "especially the latter part". The diaries have since been published (and became the subject of the film "Prick Up Your Ears", but do not offer the promised insight. The details of the last eight days of Orton's life are, however, missing.

This Weekend

We seem to be slipping into a little bit of a Saturday morning routine. Wake up, catch up on the week's unread papers, magazines. czechOUT a few blogs, while mon C snoozes (he takes longer than I to wake). Then, we spend some, ahem, "quality" time together, I guess building up an appetite before servicing that need by taking a trip to our local caffe, for one of their generously proportioned and underpriced English breakfasts.

Then it's back to read the Guardian, before heading out on some adventure. Last week, Borough Market (too crowded) and then the theatre.

Today we might go on an organised walking tour of Islington. It caught my eye, because it was billed as "The Life and Death of Joe Orton", but on checking their website there's a suggestion that it's "Islington and George Orwell", or maybe even a torture and horror type walk. So, not so sure now.

As an aside, I'll post a brief note on Joe Orton and his connection with Islington.

Instead, I think we might go look for "Rainbow Heights/Little Soho" described in this week's Time Out as the territorial hang out of contemporary clan same sex DINKYs (double income, no kids). It's located, apparently, in Columbia Road and surrounding streets. Described as bursting with chi-chi bars and pubs, you'll find this tribe gathering at outposts of the Trois Garcons empire, which includes a restaurant, bar and two furniture shops.

Has anyone noticed?

Currently wearing - Aussie Bum voyager hipsters.

Currently listening to - "Taniec Wampirów".

Friday, August 18, 2006

Polyday Promotes Polyamory

I picked up a leaflet in town this afternoon promoting the virtues of polyamory:

"Sue, Joan and Mary live together in a three-way relationship-they call themselves polyamourous. Lee and Kerry meet up with other like-minded couples to enhance their sex life-they call themselves swingers. Jamal and Toby didn't let civil partnership stop them from cruising the gay scene together-they call theirs an open relationship. Like many other people, they've all discovered that happy and honest relationships don't have to be monogamous, and chosen an alternative that suits them".


There is a school of thought currently that monogamy is an outdated concept. For example, it's not suited to a society where life expectancy has reached well beyond reproducing and raising offspring to the stage of self dependence.

Gay Banker is an advocate, and has posted on this topic a number of times.

Polyday

14 October, London



The message of the organisers of this event is that GB, and like minded others, will be glad to hear that they no longer need to explore this territory alone. Polyday will give them the chance to get together, share their experiences, their questions, the lessons learned and the joys experienced!

On the day Polyday are holding a number of facilitated discussion groups on a variety of topics related to non-monogamous living-an opportunity to hear how other people are living and to share their knowledge and experience. In the evening they promise dancing, socialising, and celebrating, building a comunity of people who choose to live differently.

Does polyamory make sense? Well, what do you consider to be in the true nature of man? One partner for life? One partner at a time, with different partners at different stages of your life? Different partners at the same time?

There are cultures which promote polyamory. Why should it not be the norm-after all isn't the male programmed to spread his seed, and the woman to nurture and raise the progeny? So in the male/female scenario it would seem to make biological sense for a man to have his "pride" of women. And therefore, why not in same sex relationships?

Isn't it just a question of morality-we are told, after all, that's what makes man different from animal? But what dictates the mores? On this occasion I suspect we have to look no further than christianity and the church.

We have a capacity for love, and why should that be limited only to loving one person at a time. Of course, it's not. We love different people in different ways at the same time. And I suspect we can equally love more than one partner at the same time in the same or even in slightly different ways. Some might say that such a "love nest" makes perfect sense. Imagine how powerful, affirming and supportive it might be to come home and share with more than one person. Sharing equally.

Anyway. The organisers of Polyday hope you can join them... Click on their logo for details.

Christmas Is Coming


... Well there's only something like 145 shopping days left until the big day, but already Selfridges have their Christmas store open. And to think, it only seems like a few weeks ago we were basking in a heatwave.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Swede And Czech

If you haven't already, go look at or feed off of Swede and Czech.

Great stuff highlighted from his favourite blogs. And being 1/4 czech-that's got to be good. Sometime soon I'll maybe get round to posting a lttle blog celebrating his CZ heritage.

A Wunch Of...

Unfortunately I couldn't make the gay bankers' event this evening. But during the course of the day, one of my clients told me that's the collective noun for a group of them.

Yeah, bet they hadn't heard that before!

Filming



Recently some Doctor Who was being shot round the corner from my office, and at St. Brides. It's for the Christmas episode, the Runaway Bride, with Catherine Tate.

There was more filming going on Friday and yesterday. Unfortunately it wasn't Doctor Who. It's for an ad for the new M&S campaign. They've also been using an more traditional red bus (also an old fashioned 15A for Bank), which I saw being filmed driving around the Bank of England on Saturday, and hundreds of yellow balloons.

Suits You, Sir

After a summer of abstinence I'm wearing a suit for the second day running. It's all very well having dress down over summer, but it becomes challenging rising every morning and thinking, "What am I going to wear today?"

It gets old. Putting on a suit is so much easier!

Life's Little Battles

Having the delivery man deliver my Time Out with "value added" this week (see A Crappy Start To The Day), made me think about the daily struggles we all face.

In life there are battles to fight. Some we must persevere with, and winning is the only option. Some we persevere with, because we know we should, hoping for a just outcome, even if it seems unlikely. Others we know we should pursue, but it's just not worth the effort.

It's a balance of degree, outcome and efficiency. We may get a successful result, but was it worth it at the end of he day?

When I was a law student I'd always rise to the challenge. After all, it's what I was being trained for. But after years of fighting for clients I find that in my private life I'm much less confrontational than I used to be. A good example of this is the fridge freezer that was delivered a few weeks ago, to replace the original which broke, in the heat. It''s fitted, and whilst the new one fitted inside the existing unit, the FF doors were the wrong size for the doors of the unit it sits in. So if I wanted to open the freezer compartment I had to open the fridge one too.

I realised quickly it was probably going to be easier, as well as equally costly, to source a replacement for the original model (a Bosch), than get new cabinet doors made. So I bought another one.

Rather than try and convince John Lewis to take the first one back, I just might be able to convince them-even though the responsibility for providing measurements was mine, I decided I couldn't be bothered. I didn't want to deal with the hassle it involved. I'd take the hit (the AEG I'm trying to sell on eBay, if anyone's interested...with a 2 year John Lewis guarantee, for approx 1/3 of the price I paid....!)

Will I report my crap covered Time Out? Nah. I can't prove it anyway. Besides, it amused me. Maybe he did it to show me who had really won the victory. If that was his game rather than play it, I'll give it to him and sit tight. Maybe next week it will be on the street again. It might be through the gate, with no free gift. If it is, and continues to come through my side of the gate it's mine. And I had the amusing anecdote to tell.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A Crappy Start To The Day

For about 4 months now I've been having Time Out London delivered. The Time Out delivery driver brings it every Wednesday morning.

It's never put through my letter box (even though it would fit). Usually I find it outside the security gate lying on the street, for anyone passing to pick up. So I issued instructions that it should be put through the metal gate, out of reach. These instructions also state that it should not be left on the street. The delivery instructions are printed on the address label.

Nevertheless each week, the magazine is left on the street in front of the gate. Every other week (when I remember) I phone Time Out's delivery department (you have to wait until after 10.30am), and repeat my instructions, pointing out that these are clearly printed on the address label. Each time I'm told they will tell the driver this (although this begs the question why bother printing delivery instructions in the first place).

Only twice has it made any difference. And even then, the following week, it reverts to being left on the street again.

Last week I phoned again, and was far more firm. I think I spoke with someone more senior. I explained the nature of the problem once again. I also explained that I had phoned to report this frequently. I suggested that what was actually happening was that the delivery van was stopping in the street in front of my building, and the magazine was being thrown from van to gate. Again I was assured the driver would be spoken to. And I did hang up with the impression that the guy I spoke to sounded like I meant it.

So, this morning, I was pleased to see as I got to the gate, that the plastic wrapped magazine was lying inside the gate, and out of reach of grabbing hands. However, as I got closer, I saw there was something on the plastic wrapper. Standing over it, I realised that it had been rubbed in dog shit before being put through the gate! Nice.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Lord Summerisle Says "No"


The Wicker Man
Copyright © 2006 Warner Bros. Pictures
No synopsis provided by the studio.

In Theatres: September 1st, 2006
Thriller, Drama
Rating: Not yet rated

Neil LaBute (dir.)
Nicolas Cage

...so it goes.

As for the original 1973 "B-Movie"; well didn't it become one of the greatest cult movies ever?

The original Wicker Man began life in 1972. The movie concerns a battle of ideals between a devoutly-religious Scottish police sergeant from the mainland and the older pagan beliefs of the locals on a remote Hebridean island. The pagan ways of the islanders are presented as they follow [Edward Woodward] the policeman's attempts to investigate the disappearance of a young girl. The policeman become's ever more deeply embroiled in the increasingly bizarre ways of the locals, culminating in a horrifying twist-in-the-tail conclusion.

As to how Warner Bros treat the 2006 version, who knows. No information available!

BUT, the original is a horror musical. Yes, (in the style of) Hammer Horror, with songs. Best of which is "How Do", sung to test and tempt the virgin policeman, by Willow (the publican's daughter), played by a dubbed Britt Ekland. Covered beautifully by the Sneaker Pimps (which is used-undoubtedly as homage- in the Tarantino tagged "The Hostel"; a pretty gross movie, with Cesky Krumlov in CZ doubling as somewhere in Slovakia). czech[Britt's body double]OUT slapping her fleshy arse, in the wonderful scene.

By way of insight (http://www.steve-p.org/wm/):

"Ingrid Pitt, another veteran of British horror, was signed on for the role of keeper of the island's records office - a "nymphomaniac librarian" as she put it. At this time, Pitt was the girlfriend of the head of exhibition at the Rank Organization, George Pinches, and it seems that her casting was mainly an attempt to "butter-up" Rank into choosing the film for its Odeon cinema chain.

The policeman, Sergeant Neil Howie, was to be played by Edward Woodward, then riding high as TV's Callan. Woodward was, in fact, third choice for the role: both David Hemmings and Michael York had already turned it down. Diane Cilento (ex-Mrs Sean Connery, later Mrs Anthony Shaffer) was persuaded out of semi-retirement for the important part of the island's school teacher, Miss Rose, after Shaffer had seen her previously on the London stage in Big Night. The rest of the casting was more bizarre - mime troupe leader Lindsay Kemp (later to work in films with Derek Jarman) was drafted to play the innkeeper, and Britt Ekland was chosen as the innkeeper's daughter, Willow, to secure American interest. The fact that the latter could not produce a reasonable Scottish accent forced all of Ekland's dialogue to be dubbed in post-production (by actress and singer Annie Ross) - a large flaw in the final film. Another dialogue oddity in The Wicker Man is Ingrid Pitt's unexplained Polish accent!"



As to how Warner's treat it is anyone's guess. Christopher Lee, the original Summerisle has criticised the remake. The setting? I've perhaps not dug deep enough to find out. If it's to translate and be somewhere other than a western Scottish isle, I wonder how well will it work? Probably they'll put it somewhere in the backest beyond of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia.

There was some chat that the film was going to be made into a stage musical this due to open sometime year(Canadian based)! Perhaps the movie remake has overtaken this.

In any event in 3 weeks we shall know how true the remake is to the all singing all dancing original.

There is a shroud of mystery surrounding the original; it has become myth! As I recollect the original print went missing for sometime. A version survived with some 10-13 minutes cut from it. Many years later the original print was discovered somewhere. I have a book about the making of the movie and the strange things that happened during and after it's production.

Avignon-It's So True

Got home and put on some of my favourite Comme de Garcons scent. Strange that I could never quite put my finger on it before, but indeed... I am now smelling of gothic cathedrals and Papal palaces, of tapestries imbued with centuries of incense. Of cold marble steps, holy relics and dark confessions.....

Scent & Statement

I was reading some comments on a recent posting by cuteCTguy.

Without a doubt, scent is evocative. In an instant a person's scent can define them for you, as it stirs a memory.

When I'm out and about I'm accustomed to smelling the same scents time and again. Some seem to be in frequent use.

It's always a pleasure when the bouquet of a more distinct aroma overcomes your senses. Especially on a warm, heady summer's evening, so suited to the heavy smell of a bold male scent (as an aside, I love to burn incense among the plants outside my apartment on hot summer evenings).

Personally I try to stick to one scent that I use regularly. For some time I've been using Avignon (Series 3: Incense) by Comme des Garcons.

Described by CdeG as:

Powerful and intense, Avignon evokes the medieval city in the south of France which surpassed Rome as the Catholic Church's power center in the 14th century. It's the scent of gothic cathedrals and Papal palaces, of tapestries imbued with centuries of incense. Of cold marble steps, holy relics and dark confessions. The recognizable smells of frankincense and myrrh open the high mass of Avignon, giving way to the almost eye-smarting, gloriously smoky and resinous heart. A dry vanilla and soft Roman chamomile dull the edges of this reverent fragrance. Beautiful, dark and mysterious, Avignon takes its place among the most talked about (and admired) of CdG's entire line.

Avignon notes
Roman chamomile, cistus oil, elemi, incense, vanilla, patchouli, palisander, ambrette seeds

Sometimes I do find it's a tad heavy for daytime use. When I feel I need something lighter I opt for Sequoia (Comme des Garcons Series 2:Red), described thus:

CdG wasn't going for the ""mood"" of an ancient forest; they were going for the exact scent of the most massive trees ever to inhabit the earth. Evocative and the most unusual of the Red series, Sequoia is a majestic and powerful king (or queen)-of-the-wood fragrance; we smell a touch of moss, tempered by the mystical kara-karounde, a jasmine-like ingredient used in the Congo for fertility spells (hey, don't blame us if things get out of hand). You don't need to sneak into Yellowstone and smell the fresh, exposed redwood as you carve your name in a Giant Sequoia-that'll just get you arrested. All you need is a whiff of CdG's Sequoia-all the smell and none of the jail time.

Sequoia notes
California redwood, red rum, opopanax, kara-karounde from Guinea, Chinese agarwood, mahogany


"Queen" of the wood? Hmm, maybe those CdG boys know their market!

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Last Five Years @ The Menier

On Saturday we saw The Last Five Years at the Menier Chocolate Factory.

I've put my own review in this posting below, but in short my recommendation is to go see it. It's bittersweet, emotional and the performances are powerful. It will move you.

The show runs until 30 September. Saturday matinee tickets are available for £10 (and with unassigned seating that means you can get the best seats for that price) otherwise it's £20. The Menier offers a "meal deal". For just £7.50 more (but not on Sunday evening or Saturday Matinee) you can enjoy a two-course meal in the theatre's rather good restaurant before seeing the show.

The Menier is an interesting space. When I saw Mercury Fur there, it was used as that-a space with the performance happening right in front of the audience seated on either side. However as with their production of Sunday In The Park With George, the Last Five Years uses a stage. As the stage isn't raised, front row seats are recommended for feeling "connected" and loosing your self in the performance.

Longer Review:

The Last Five Years is a musical with a simple premise; the break-up of a marriage, told from both perspectives. We meet Cathy at the end of the relationship, in the present. Her story moves back in time over the last five years.

Then we are introduced to Jamie some five years before, at the start of their relationship. His story moves forward to the present, ending with their break-up.

The two stories, which happen simultaneously, are interwoven but coincide only once-when Jamie and Cathy marry. On either side of this we see events happen before or just after the other. Sometimes we see the same event happen. It's almost as if they are clues. But of course, we already know what is to come.

Knowing at the same time the beginning and the end of their story makes events more poignant. It also makes for a rather brutal and simple ending.

The story ends with Cathy, a joyful star-crossed lover, intoxicated with excitement and thrilled by the promise and hope that fresh love brings. Yet we already know what lies ahead for her. We have already heard Cathy explain how she has been left hurting. We've already seen the inevitable pain that awaits her in the future. And no amount of promised love, enough for 10 lifetimes, is going to change that.

In contrast and happening on stage at the same time, Jamie, now a successful author, is writing his goodbye letter to her. As writing is something that comes easy to him, the choice of not saying goodbye in person seems even more hurtful. He leaves his letter and his wedding ring at the side of their bed, telling her goodbye forever just as an elated Cathy, five years in the past, is promising him goodbye-until tomorrow, until the rest of [her] life.

In that instant we are moved, knowing the pain that lies ahead in stark contrast for Cathy, and by a transformed Jamie who, at the end of his journey, is left sad and empty over a love he could not make work:

"And I could never rescue you no matter how I tried/
All I could do was love you hard, and let you go…"

Mirroring the start of the show there is, at the same time, hope and despair and promise and regret. Only this time those emotions are more acute having experienced the story unfold and work back.

The music is also put to work to the same effect. The melody of "Goodbye Until Tomorrow" which we heard Jamie sing after their first meeting is used again to bring us full circle, only this time the promise of the optimism, of the love to be lost, is empty.

With the two main characters on stage for most of the 80-minute performance, without interval, the roles are demanding. Each shares an emotional journey covering a five-year spring to winter. In between, in their own present, the other appears as a passive on-looker. Not only does each performer have to journey from despair to hope, or vice versa, but they also have to switch to match the current protagonist.

Lara Pulver and Damian Humbley admirably play the roles of Cathy and Jamie (with creditable American accents).

Their performance is consistent, powerful and at times physical-Damian Humbley especially so. His initial restlessness reveals the thrill and excitement of newfound and youthful love. Both are able to unleash powerful voices as their characters feel passion, hurt, anger, tempered with melodic tenderness for the sorrow, joy and love they express.

I imagine that it's harder to start where Cathy is at the beginning of the show, emotionally distraught and hurting. Lara Pulver does a wonderful job taking Cathy back from there to a smiling, elated, if understandably naïve version of herself five years before.

As successful writer in the making Jamie, Damian Humbley makes a wonderful storyteller. "The Schmuel Song", which risked being a lacklustre narrative is really brought to life by an engaged and engaging Humbley.

The orchestration is unobtrusive, mainly strings and piano. The set uses the revolve to move the action on and to seamlessly move from one scene to another along with the score.

When we enter the theatre the stage is sparse and darkened. At first it seems empty, but as the revolve slowly turns we actually see Cathy's lying on the bed, numb and alone. It's a nice touch, but unfortunately was spoiled a member of the Menier's staff (and I think it was Menier producer Danielle Tarento) walking right across it, into one of the wings and then walking back, before announcing that as the performance was sold out (and remember it's unassigned seating) the audience would have to bear with them as they found space for those who arrived just before curtain up. How to wreck a carefully crafted atmosphere-and from someone who should have known better-shameful!

However, that's my only grumble, and it's not even a fault with the production.

Mon C, however, told me he would have preferred less singing! Personally he would have enjoyed it more as a drama. I don't think musicals really work for him

Sunday, August 13, 2006

scarlet


Mon C and I are enjoying some lunch at Spitalfield Market. Here he is waiting for the bill.

Scarlet does a buffet lunch on a Sunday, for just under £8.95. Starters, main and desert, and the quality is pretty good. Well worth a visit. Go czechOUT.

David Brabbins Is Quite A Nice Guy Really

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about the posters of David Brabbins that had appeared around E2.

It turns out, that despite best efforts, the story became rather well publicised, thanks to the power of cameraphones and the internet.

In his blog on the subject, David says:

I should admit that I kind of deserved the posters. I did a bad thing, that nobody should ever do in a relationship, although I can't pretend I wasn't stunned by the 'shock and awe' response. You can probably guess what it was that I did wrong. I'm very sorry for hurting her feelings, and not just because of all the unwanted publicity either.

In case you've taken the posters a bit too literally, I should stress that as well as being a liar and a cheat (more one-offs than actual character traits), I'm quite a nice guy really.

It feels quite weird being the subject of what's shaping up to be a promising viral campaign. I'm told that 400 posters went up, although on the afternoon I spent scooting round Shoreditch and surrounding areas tearing them all down, I could only find about 100. Friends have been helpfully assisting in the 'de-advertising', but I gave up trying to supress it once the story hit the radio...


You can read what he has to say for himself here.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Straight, Gay, Bisexual..Or Plain Old Sex Addict

There was a rather interesting piece in this Monday's times2 supplement.

Journalist Iris Scott found out a week before her wedding that her fiancé had been visiting gay saunas. She wrote about the experience here.

Her article caused a huge response. The reaction was rather predictable!

However, some 5 months later it appears that there was another dimension to her fiancé's behaviour. It turns out that he's a straight sexual compulsive, whose condition means that He Wants It Both Ways.

Yes, following the revelation less than a week before her wedding that her partner "B" had been cruising gay saunas for the past couple of years, B embarked on an intensive course of therapy with a psychosexual psychiatrist. The conclusion was that B was probably sexually compulsive — a sex addict — but not homosexual. In addition to his gay dalliances, he was also doing "tarts" (this reference he used for prostitutes visited really seemed to disturb his correspondent ex-fiancé).

She writes:

He finds sex with strangers irresistible, a need as much as a pleasure. It doesn’t matter who they are, what sex they are or where they are — a sauna, a magazine, a grotty flat, a website — as long as it’s illicit...

Psychologists are divided on whether this is a clinical condition. But ask yourself this — would you risk your job, your income, your marriage and friends every other day for anonymous sex, real or computerised?...

...With the internet providing a perfect way to circumvent this social system...when does plain sexual greed become sexual addiction?

B describes his cycle of behaviour as a fearful kind of pleasure and escape: the build-up, the planning, the thrill of illicit sex and then the come-down... and the belief that he isn’t going to do it again...

...Since we split up B has got his behaviour under control. He hasn’t looked at the internet, read a porn magazine or had sex with strangers for the past three months. The gay sauna, the prostitutes and magazines are fading, but he says the internet is still a powerful temptation because of its potential for literally limitless sex....

(Although it's not published online, the psychologist who commented in the times2 hard copy concluded that B was nevertheless gay).

I can't imagine, no matter how strong the compulsion to have sex, bedding a woman. So my own intuition tells me that str8 man shagging men because he needs sex just doesn't stack up!

But as to sexual compulsive behaviour, the symptoms seem to ring true. A scan of the blogsphere soon gets you a flavour of how driven some guys are by this behaviour. Language and story telling may seem to disguise their true nature, but the behaviour matches.

It makes me ponder on whether the condition of being sexual compulsive is aided by the ease of access on the internet to porn and "no-strings" encounters. Has it become more common or, as with other matters, is it just more common to hear about?

Saturday's Activities

We're off to Upper Street for breakfast, then there's a new art supplies superstore opened just by Islington Green (3 floors) to pop into. Then back home to fit another fridge freezer.

This afternoon we're off to Borough Market for a late lunch before heading to the Menier Chocolate Factory to see their current production of "The Last Five Years", which I'm rather looking forward to.

It's a show about a relationship, about a marriage. It's told simultaneously from two angles. From the man's point of view, it starts at the first meeting and ends in the present, when the marriage breaks up. From the woman's point of view, it starts in the present and works back in time to the first meeting.

Only at the wedding, in the centre of the one-act piece, do the stories intersect.

Finest Soapy Moments - "Crossroads Motel. Can I help you?"

A recent posting by Glitter for Brains had me thinking about some fond memories that I have of the "classic" British soap, Crossroads.

Crossroads was originally a late afternoon series set in the fictitious King's Oak Crossroads Motel, somewhere in the West Midlands, centering around the character of widow, Meg Richardson, the Motel owner (played by fabulous Noele Gordon), Meg's daughter Jill and son Sandy.

It was intended to last only 6 weeks, but instead ran for 4510 episodes from 1964-1988.

It's "colourful" storylines covered a wide range of subjects; alcoholism (regularly), test-tube pregnancies, bigamy, rape, abortion, Downs syndrome, mental handicap, physical handicap (Sandy Richardson was soap's first paraplegic), adopted children and racism (with one of the first black characters to become a soap regular).

Meg's first husband, Malcolm Ryder, tried to poison her, she was imprisoned for dangerous driving, suffered amnesia, and when she thought she'd found happiness by marrying businessman Hugh Mortimer, he was kidnapped by a gang of international terrorists, with whom her partner's son was involved, and died of a heart attack.

Her daughter Jill was married three times (once bigamously), had two miscarriages, had a child by her stepbrother, became a drug addict, an alcoholic, and for good measure suffered a couple of nervous breakdowns.

There were a variety of other characters just as clourful as the plots; including Scots chef Shugie McFee, the slow witted and wooly hatted Benny Hawkins (probably the best remembered character) and hotel cleaner Amy Turtle (the name says it all).

Crossroads is the inspiration for Victoria Wood's "Acorn Antiques" which parodies the fluffed lines, wobbly sets and transparent scripts. Many have suggested that Julie Walters' Mrs Overall character is based on Amy Turtle, although Woods has denied this.

This from www.ardis.co.uk:

Crossroads was done so cheaply and with such tight timescales, that the actors would have had to expire on camera for a scene to warrant a re-take. One day the village postman Don Rogers descended the stairs onto Vera Downend's houseboat. With original if unintentional flair, he descended them in one go rather than a step at a time, landing in a heap at Vera's feet. After a brief pause, not heeding the anguished looks as Don groaningly tried to pull himself to his feet, she went straight on with the next line which was something like "Hello Don, nice weather today" ...

Then there was the gorgeous Amy Turtle, whose classic line "You're just cutting off your face to spite your nose" was never edited out...

Another out-take that was never taken out concerned an actress whose first name was Sonia. She turned up as Sheila Harvey in another classic episode, and in one of her opening lines, came out with "You can call me Sonia, er, Sheila" as she sipped a drink at the famous Crossroads bar. Perfectly simple mistake, but they decided to leave it in. Disbelief not suspended there for long then.

The tedious Hugh Mortimer, whose lines were few but had to include the word 'business' in every sentence. He was forced to say with a straight face "Of course I'm a business-man Meg", or "I have to go to London on business to-day", when it was obvious that the writers knew [nothing] about 'business'...

There was the caricature Scot Shughie McFee, in the true "Hoots mon, och aye the noo" tradition. They even wrote in a girl with a terminal illness to marry wheelchair-bound Sandy Richardson, and had to bring her back as her own sister by popular demand after they had finally bumped her off.

And to top it all, there was the occasional appearance by a real 'star', like the late comic genius, and good friend of Noele Gordon, Larry Grayson. He was at the height of his fame, quipping "Look at the muck in this place", and "Shut that door" with the perfect delivery of the true professional. How we laughed
...


Over the years, Amy Turtle was involved in many storylines, some dramatic, some comedic. Others were just plain absurd.

My fondest and lasting memory of Crossroads is the storyine where Amy (remember to think Mrs Overall) found herself accused by the police of being a Russian double agent, Amelia Turtleovski. As if. She couldn't even spell it!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Mrs. Peel, We're Needed

Was there ever one as beautiful...



...or indeed as feisty, but with such class...



...and style...



as Mrs. Emma Peel.

High Heels 2


...see what I mean?

Long Legs And High Heels Of The Law


Last year when I was on holiday visiting friends in Prague we bumped the car. I was most amused by the attire of the policewoman that attended. How is she meant to run after criminals in those heels?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Airport Chaos; Terrorism "Disrupted"

We're waking up to the breaking news that MI5 has raised the UK threat level to critical - the highest possible.

According to MI5's website, critical threat level means "an attack is expected imminently and indicates an extremely high level of threat to the UK".

This is against the bakground that overnight a terrorist plot to blow up planes in mid-flight from the UK to the US has been disrupted. Three flights, simultaneously.

It is thought the plan was to detonate explosive devices smuggled on aircraft in hand luggage.

Police have arrested about 18 people in the London area after an anti-terrorist operation lasting several months.

With immediate effect, all airports in the UK have been put under the restrictions. Almost no hand luggage is being allowed on board any plane taking off from the UK. Mobile phones, wallets, even spectacle cases have to be checked in and put in the hold. Passports and sanitary towels are allowed, providing these are displayed in clear plastic bags. Some allowances are being made for those travelling with infants.

Every single passenger has to be manually searched in addition, and all shoes are being X-rayed.

We are hearing that there are severe delays and disruptions in all major UK airports.

The reference to the plot being "disrupted" is in itself ominous. It simply means the plot has been frustrated, and not suppressed.

Although the threat appears to relate to air travel, it will be interesting to see how different London feels this morning. I will avoid travelling on tube, for peace of mind, and probably avoid the bus as well.

I'm just hearing that the US are prohibiting any liquids being carried on planes-including beverages, hair gel and lotions. They have acknowledged that the plot has not been thwarted-and there is a continuing risk. "We cannot be sure the threat has been eliminated".

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

McCartney-v-Mills; Ca$hing In

Bobby has been blogging about the McCartney lawyers' win-win situation.

The position is thus:

The Law Society (as also the Law Society of Scotland-I'm dual qualified and hold practicing certificates to practise in England and Wales and in Scotland) state that an hour is split into 10 x 6 minute chargeable units.

Anything which takes less than 6 minutes may be rounded up to 6 minutes for billing purposes.

If lawyer Z has a charge out rate of £500 per hour, that equates to £50 per unit. If he or she makes a call to client A lasting 2 minutes, then to client B on a different matter also lasting two minutes, and the same again to client C, then in those 6 minutes he can actually bill 3 units worth of work-£150. This means, in fact, that a chargeable rate of £500 per hour can result in more than £500 being billed per hour.

However the fee rate to be charged or the billing arrangement, as the case may be, has to be agreed in writing in advance with the client. Quite often a fixed fee arrangement is agreed, which renders hourly rates academic.

In any law firm, there is an heirarchy. Secretaries, para-legals, trainees, assistants (qualified employee lawyers) and partners (who share in the profit of the business-either "salaried", which is to say they take a pre-determined fixed share of profits with the potential for bonus, or "equity", i.e. profit sharing).

Billing rates depend on the appropriate level of qualification and experience. Currently I'm billed out at a rate of £305 per hour. However, I certainly don't earn anything near £305 per hour.

City law firms have large overheads. Certain areas of their practise will be more profitable than others, as will certain offices. Out of my £305 per hour comes my salary, my secretary's salary and my trainee's salary. Then part of it will go towards other overheads. Rent, is the most expensive otherwise.

In the last financial year the time which I converted into cash and billed was £423,000. I'm still billing some of last year's time for matters that have now completed. My guess is that £500,000 will actually be billed in respect of the time I recorded for the financial year 2005/6.

Once again I hasten to add that's cetainly not what I take home!

In my last job at City law firm-let's call them "S*B"-for three of the five week days that I would work, I'd be working from 8.30am until sometime between 10pm and 2am. Regularly, each week. On Friday I'd always try to leave no later than 7pm and on the other day I'd work from about 8.30am until 8pm.

One morning after working until 3.30am, I was back in the office at 8am, and my boss, let's call him Ryl*nd told me that I still needed to come in earlier to get more work done. That day I resigned! (I read in the press recently that their profit per equity partner for the last financial year was £800,000).

In my current job I wasn't able to take a holiday (other than a day here and there) between August and Christmas last year. I worked Good Friday and Easter Monday this year.

Often if I make plans during the week, such as theatre or dinner with friends, I have to cancel as I never know, until the moment I leave the office, when exactly I can leave. I've also had to cancel weekend breaks abroad to work instead.

We have to be there 24/7 if a client needs us to be-in return for that level of service from me clients pay my firm a rate of £305 per hour.

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