17 October 2017

Tryst at Tabard Theatre was a lovely play in a lovely theatre

Tabard Theatre is conveniently situated above a decent pub and while that is by no means the only reason for going there it certainly helps as I enjoy my theatre more if I have been properly refreshed beforehand.

The pub has its limitations, the service tends to be slow due to a poor staff to customers ratio and the food choice for vegetarians is very restricted, but it has a good range of beers, a perfectly acceptable Asian veggie burger and a welcoming atmosphere.

Tabard had implemented allocated seating and as the holder of Seat A4 (£19.50) I did not have to rush upstairs early to  ensure a good seat.

When I did go upstairs it was very bury. The box office desk had moved again and, somehow, one end of the narrow corridor had become a bar. The combination of people queuing to collect tickets and people enjoying a drink made the entrance area somewhat crowded. It was bit of a struggle to get into the theatre but I would much rather that the theatre was busy than it was easy to get into.

Tryst told us the story of George Love and Adelaide Pinchin. At first their stories were separate and they spoke to us directly, George explained how he conned women into marrying him and Adelaide how she worked at the back of a milliner's shop. We squirmed as George explained and then implemented his plan, he was the archetypal baddie and all our sympathies were for young vulnerable Adelaide.

For the next hour or so George's plan developed much as he told us it would and we hated him more and felt more sympathetic for Adelaide.

Then things changed.

I cannot say much without spoiling the surprises (there was more than one) but I can say that the relationship between the villain and victim changed gradually as they spent more time together and then, suddenly, something dramatic and unexpected happened. Finally, the writing on the wall (literally) completed the drama. I loved the story.

I loved the characters too. Natasha J Barnes got top billing because of her high profile stand-in role in Funny Girl and she was very good as the young woman that we all felt sorry for. Fred Perry was equally impressive as the suave and callous villain. I didn't like what he did but had to admire the way that he did it (mostly).

Tabard is a lovely little theatre and Tryst is a lovely little play.

16 October 2017

The Incredible Hulk #189

With Marvel relaunching all their main titles (again) and returning to their legacy issue numbering they have been having a number of quick sales where every issue of the comic has been available.

This is proving to be moderately expensive!

Luckily for both my wallet, and my unread pile, not many of the collected editions of The Incredible Hulk were available and none from my Hulk Golden Age of reading black and while reprints in The Mighty World Of Marvel in the late 70s.

That left me with the options of buying s shed load of single issues which would have come to quite a price, even in a sale, or to buy just a few as a reminder of the good days.

In the end I went for just a single issue, #189. I wanted something with Herb Trimpe artwork and his run with writer Len Wein because of the humanity in those stories.

I remembered this story some forty years after first reading it so that was the one that I went for.

I very much enjoyed reading it the second time too.

14 October 2017

The Beauty of Chaos Tour with Martin Turner ex Wishbone Ash at 100 Club

I am quite happy to see either of the current versions of Wishbone Ash but the way that their touring schedules have gone meant that I had not seen Andy Powell's version since April 2011 (at The Brook in Southampton) and since then I had seen Martin Turner's version three times. This made it four.

The tour advertised a full performance of Argus which seemed a little unnecessary as they had played it the last time that I saw them and at least once before then. I'd also seen Andy Powell's version play it in 2008.

Not that playing Argus again was any sort of problem. It is Wishbone Ash's classic album (from 1972) and all the tracks deserve to be played often.

The 100 Club was packed. So much so that we had to queue in the street above for several minutes before being allowed down the steps into the venue. There was only one person checking tickets and that seemed to be an unnecessarily slow process. Still, I got in before the band started playing and with enough to spare to treat myself to a decent pint of Dead Pony Club from BrewDog.

However, I was not in early enough to get to the front of the stage and so I had to find somewhere else to stand and the famous pillar in the middle made that an issue. In the end I found a reasonable spot on the centre-left about four rows back. That was close enough to see some of the band and far enough away from the constant talkers at the back (why do people do that?!) to hear the music clearly.

I took just one picture towards the end of the concert to prove that I was there and to capture something of the evening. This is it.



Of course the camera does not capture the music and that is what the evening was all about.

Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash were on excellent form playing extended versions of famous songs with skill and joy. The sound system was in fine form too and I could hear all four instruments clearly and distinctly. That mattered, as the Wishbone Ash sound is the sound of three guitars playing with, against and off each other.

I was most definitely not clock-watching but I think that Wishbone Ash started playing around 8:45pm and kept going for all but two hours, including an encore containing four songs as the calls for "one more" were heeded.

Martin Turner ex Wishbone Ash did what they came to do and they did it rather smartly.

11 October 2017

BCSA "Get to Know You" Social (October 2017)

The months seem to be very short at the moment and so the monthly BCSA BCSA "Get to Know You" Socials, every second Wednesday since you asked, come along with brisk regularity, and a pleasing regularity.

October's social had all the usual features, including the now mandatory picture of my smazeny syr and plenty of good conversations. It also had something a little different.

One of the guests (if that's the right word) had just been to a workshop associated with World Values Day (20 October) and was keen to do something with the BCSA. That something started with an unnecessarily heated discussion on what "values" are, which was entirely my fault.

After arguing over the difference between principles and worth we agreed that we could do something with the question, "What do you value about the BCSA?". Having reached consensus I was happy to go first and you can see the result below.

Other people came up with similar themes like "Friendship" but perhaps the most imaginative response was "Czech Beer".

The values idea worked well and we are looking to do something similar at the Annual Dinner. When I say "we" I really mean "Agata" whose idea it was an who did all the work. Thank you, Agata.


The rest of the evening was as good as you would expect an evening with a community of interesting people to be, especially one fuelled by excellent Czech and Slovak beers (4 x Pilsner Urquell and 1 x Zlaty Bazant).

Wednesday 8 November is not very far away.

7 October 2017

Lucy Light at Theatre N16 sparkled

I was always going to see Lucy Light.

My chance encounter with playwright Sarah Milton on a train had led me to see her excellent Tumble Tuck at Soho Theatre last year and that made her next play, Lucy Light, unmissable.

So unmissable that I went to see it on a Saturday evening, not normally a time that I go to the theatre but it was the only free evening that I had. Not for the first time I caught a play on its last performance. I like to think that is good planning.

Tickets were a miserly £14, less than three pints in the pub downstairs where my Meantime London Ale was £5.5 a pint.

We were first in the queue upstairs, reasoning that we might as well sit and drink there as downstairs where the bar was noisy with music and Saturday revelry. Unexpectedly that also meant a chance to talk to Sarah before the show. She even remembered us from the train.

Being first in the queue meant securing our coveted seats in the middle of the front row where we faced a girl's bedroom with sand on the floor.

The girls were seventeen and celebrating the end of school. Lucy did so with some reservations as she was worried about her mother who was having chemotherapy for breast cancer. Lucy also carried the gene that increased the likelihood of her getting this.

We got a teenage girl's view of this as she was very interested in boys, particularly Gary, and saw her breasts as an important part of her attractiveness. That theme, the good and the bad of breasts, continued throughout the play as we watch Lucy and Jess grow to be 22 then 26. They talked about their hopes, dreams, fears and all the little things that make up ordinary life, like the flavours of Ryvita available from the local Sainsbury's (apparently they come with pumpkin seeds these days).

Several dramatic things happened which the spoilers rules prevent me from mentioning, but they concerned breasts and cancer. Many less dramatic things happened too, like jobs and walks on the beach, and it was this richness of experiences seen through the eyes of two young women that made Lucy Light sparkle.

Bebe Sanders (Lucy) and Georgia May Hughes (Jess) were both excellent. They were totally convincing as 17 year old girls and as 26 year old women and we saw them age with just a change of clothes, an adjustment in hair styles and good acting. I was impressed.

Being the last nigh there was some hanging around in the bat afterwards so I invested another £5.5 and heaped more deserved praise on Sarah and Georgina; sadly I missed Bebe.

Lucy Light was simply one of those plays that did everything right. It tackled a challenging subject with sympathy and was entertaining as it did so.

I do not know what is going to happen next to Sarah but after Tumble Tuck and Lucy Light it should be something special and I hope that I will be there to see it.

28 September 2017

Sparks The Hippopotamus Tour at O2 Shepherd's Bush (28 Sept)

Not for the first time I went to see Sparks two days in a row.

This time it was just Pete and myself and we went for the stalls to be closer to the band, to be amongst other fans and to have the opportunity to dance a little.

We got into the queue about 15 minutes before the door opened which was nothing like early enough to get on the rails but we were only a couple of people back and I had a decent view of both Ron and Russell all evening, though I had to work a little to defend it from a woman who kept leaning into me. I took the contact rather than concede the space.

The chance meetings continued and among those who had queued early (being there at 3:30pm was not good enough to get to the front apparently) were a couple who used to live around the corner from me and who once gave me tickets for a Sparks radio interview that they could not make. They had moved away a few years ago which explained why I had not seen them for a while.

It was quite a long wait for Sparks, over two hours in total, yet the time passed easily enough despite the somewhat unusual support act and a very bland pint of Tuborg Green, a beer I will always associate with with working in Denmark (Hjorring).

The set list was, unsurprisingly, almost identical to the day before. There were eighteen songs plus two encores on both nights but two songs, numbers four and ten in the running list, were changed. I am not going to pretend that I wrote that from memory, I am relying on setlist.fm which I have often found to be a useful resource.

I was there to be in the crowd and to dance a little so I deliberately did not try to take many photos, just a couple like this one to prove that I was there.

The sound and the performance were much the same as the day before and they felt better from the stalls where it was easier to join in with things like the "1" symbol during disco-classic The Number One Song in Heaven.

The set list and the supporting band were different from previous years but this was still a familiar Sparks concert and was a boisterous and bouncy feast as always.

I left the concert hall very happy (again) and made my way to Hammersmith station and an Underground train to Richmond. The chance meetings continued and I bumped into a friend from the BCSA on the platform as he changed trains. The District Line broke suddenly and I was forced onto a bus. On the bus I met James from work who sits on the desk opposite me. He had been to see The National at Apollo and had never head of Sparks. I was happy to send him a few links to start to fill this sad gap in his education.

During the curtain call Ron explained how important the UK was to Sparks in getting their musical career going and we have maintained our mutual attraction over forty years so I am confident that whatever Sparks do next that they will come back to London to showcase it. I am waiting.

27 September 2017

Sparks The Hippopotamus Tour at O2 Shepherd's Bush (27 Sept)

Sparks concerts in London are mandatory so I was very pleased when Sparks announced that they would be playing the O2 Shepherd's Bush (formerly the Shepherd's Bush Empire) as part of The Hippopotamus Tour to promote their new album.

Various friends were keen too and I volunteered to do the booking. There were some old ladies in the group (both younger than me!) so the decision was made to go for seats in Level 1. A bargain at £30.

The four of us were travelling from different places and we all met up in the pub next door, now called The Sindercombe Social. They did a decent veggie burger and beer which did the job nicely. It was there that two days of unexpected meetings started so I'll take a alight detour and talk about those first.

Three of the four of us went and joined the queue while I finished my food. A couple soon asked if they could share the now largely empty table and I agreed. She was wearing a black and white hooped top so I made the comment that she must have got the email about the dress code. Her reply came in a smooth Scottish accent so I quickly confessed that my top was really an Alex Harvey one, to which she replied that she knew one of the band (Max)! A quick selfie was taken, posted to Facebook and Max was tagged in the conversation.

In the auditorium Pete found himself two seats away from somebody he knew from going to other gigs, Julie was sitting next to somebody who she would be sitting close to at a Midge Ure concert and sitting in the same row as me was somebody that I knew through my Knowledge Management activities. I texted her while waiting for the convert just to say Hi and then we bumped into each other on the way out.

We shared the bus back from Richmond with Paul who I see little of these days after he moved away and our meeting place, The Hand and Flower, had stopped being a place to meet.

Back to the concert.

This was a rocky Sparks with Ron and Russell backed by three guitars, another keyboards and drums. The band wore black with white hoops, Russell wore white with black hoops and Ron wore a lovely jacket that was an equal mix. Many people had picked up on the style from videos of earlier concerts and, like me, wore hoops of some kind.

The set list, as expected, relied heavily with the new album, The Hippopotamus, with a decent smattering of hits from the last 40 plus years. It was particularly good to hear When Do I Get to Sing "My Way", as it always is.

The set mixed moods nicely and there was space for quieter numbers like Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth, another favourite of mine. The changing moods was done best at the end of the main set where two blistering performances of The Number One Song in Heaven and This Town Ain't Big Enough for Both of Us (probably their two biggest fan favourites) were followed by the gentle Life with the Macbeths from the new album.

The Number One Song in Heaven also featured the Ron Dance that was eagerly anticipated and enthusiastically cheered.

They had to come back and it was a pleasant surprise to hear Johnny Delusional from their FFS days collaborating with Franz Ferdinand before they closed with a rousing Amateur Hour, another popular track from the legendary Kimono My House.

Sparks made the evening complete by taking this selfie with the audience. I can just about find myself on the first level just to the right of the central aisle and a few rows from the front.


It was an astonishingly good evening for so many reasons. The music was obviously the main factor but the sheer good heartedness and joy of it all was very important too. It was like having afternoon tea with a favourite aunt where you enjoy her company and also that special cake she baked for you.

24 September 2017

More Neil Young wonderfulness from The Honeyslides at The Half Moon

My excuse for seeing The Honeyslides used to be that it was a rare opportunity to hear some Neil Young songs played live and while that is still true I can now add that I wanted to see The Honeyslides.

This was my third time seeing them and after the first two I was very keen to see them again. So much so that I was happy to make the epic journey to Putney (two buses) and pay £10 for the privilege when I have plenty of opportunities to see covers bands for free within walking distance.

The 8pm start meant a 7pm bus which then left time for a first pint of Wimbledon Somethingorother before the doors opened at 8:15. I had two more later.

The waiting was enlivened by the chaos of the pub quiz in which the golden rule of writing your own questions was broken leading to much confusion and some comedy.

The timely arrival and some astute defending of my position got me into the music room first. My plan was to take a seat just to right of centre of the stage, as I had been left of centre last time, but the two table on the right were reserved for family members so it was the one just left of centre again.

I was not clock watching but I think that it was around  8:45pm that they started playing and they played non-stop until just after 11pm in a blistering set that went electric, acoustic and then electric again. It was a typical, for them and for Neil Young, mix of greatest hits and some surprises.

As last time I just noted one word from each song for the set list to save time writing and this is what I wrote: tonight, palomino, winds, cinnamon, hurricane, winter, river, alabama, revolution, words, highway, gold, moon, comes, old, rose, sugar, loner, thrasher, needle, castles, powder, cry, walk, cowgirl, dance, ohio, tonight (reprise), southern, rocking. This time my standout track was thrasher for several reasons.

There were a few technical snafus, a bit of technology broke and so did a guitar string, but the band kept playing until things were sorted and everything was fine. Better than fine actually.

It was another excellent evening thanks to Neil Young for writing the songs and The Honeyslides for playing them so well and for corralling them together into a great set.