30 December 2013

Beating the bounds of Ham

Working away for most of the last two years has severely reduced my opportunities for walking through my local neighbourhood, Ham in South Richmond / North Kingston.

A few days holiday at home has given me some time to redress that and today I took advantage of a lapse in the rain to put in a good 8 km walk more-or-less around the borders of the built-up part of Ham.

I managed to keep up my usual just-under 10 minutes a Km pace which gave me a good eighty minutes to catch-up on my podcasts. It's Monday and I am now up to last Thursday. I need to do more walking.

My route took me through some very different areas from social housing to mansions worth several millions each, and everything in-between.

Ham has grown significantly in the last one hundred years and there are clumps of houses from several periods and in several styles.

I also found a few things of interest to post on my Ham Photos blog which tries to capture the unusual, the unexpected and the unnoticed things in Ham. I do that because nobody else does.



Towards the end of my walk I went around the top end of Ham Common and  took this picture looking across it toward the setting sun.

Just another reminder of why I live in Ham and have no intention of moving away.

Forgiving Ibsen's Ghosts

In addition to going to the theatre regularly I also listen to the BBC Radio Drama of the Week podcast which picks just one play each week from the many broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and 4.

As luck would have it, a recent choice was Ibsen's Ghosts in a production taken directly from the West End. I had not enjoyed a recent staging of the play but was prepared to give the radio version a chance, and I am glad that I did.

One of the features of Ghosts is that there is next to no physical action, apart from a few exits and entrances, so it is an obvious choice for the radio. In fact I think that it worked better as a radio play and hearing it through earphones made it even more intense.

I do not know whether it was a second watching/listening of the play, this adaptation or because it was on the radio rather than the stage but I picked up a lot more of the fine details of the story this time and that certainly helped me to appreciate it.

And because this was radio there was no interval. The stage version that I saw had an interval and I though that it broke the flow of the play but the stage version that this radio play was based on does not have an interval.

I would still not go as far as to say that Ibsen's Ghosts is a classic, or even that it is a favourite of mine, but this radio version did a lot to improve its reputation in my eyes and I might even go and see it on stage again.

29 December 2013

The Shadow out of Time by Lovecraft and Culbard

I took a little risk in giving At the Mountains of Madness by Lovecraft and Culbard a try last year.and liked it so much that I bought the sequels too. Now I am getting around to reading them!

The Shadow out of Time tells the story of  professor who has a seizure of some sort, acts strangely for the next few years and then  becomes his old self again with a strange tale to tell of what happened in the intervening years.

This is Lovecraft so the strange tales include ancient and alien races.

In the final third of the story the professor, and his son, investigate a discovery made in Australia that might be related to what happened to him.

These investigations lead the professor to a startling and frightening conclusion. It would not be a horror story if that were not the case.

It is a steadily paced story that slowly builds up to its dramatic conclusion. This adaptation carries that pace nicely with fewer larger panels, simple colouring and economical text boxes. That is not to say that the artwork is basic, far from it, it is just that it keeps itself fairly quiet and gives the story space to do its work.

(My) words cannot do the artwork justice so here is an example from the start of the story. I think it's pretty.



There is a third volume in the series of Lovecraft stories adapted by Culbard and I am looking to reading that. I also hope that he does some more one day.

28 December 2013

Jumpers for Goalposts at the Bush Theatre

I discovered the Bush Theatre through a theatre company that I am keen on and having discovered it I have now adopted it as one of my "locals". This means that I keep an eye on what is on there and I need an excuse not to go.

There was no excuse not to go to see Jumpers for Goalposts. It sounded quirky (the best adjective for a play, or for anything) and was getting good reviews.

I had spent the afternoon pleasantly in the Liberty Sales (two more shorts acquired) then I took the Central Line out to Shepherd's Bush getting there about an hour before the show. Plenty of time for a bowl of warming and filling soup and then a pint of Chiswick.

With about ten minutes to go I got in to the queue. Which was a mistake. The Bush Theatre has an unusual layout and an unusual way of filling it. Those of us in first where led in to the central section where we could get in to the back four or five rows but not the front two. Only once this central block was filled were people allowed in to the hallowed front rows. So the latecomers got the seat I wanted. I'll have to fix that for next time. And there will be a next time.

As always I had forgotten exactly why I had chosen to see this play and was happy to let that surprise me. The first surprise was revealed when the audience filled out and the young couples I had seen in the bat area were outnumbered by the gay men. So this was a gay play then. I suppose if I had looked at the poster I might have realised that.

The play followed a team, Barely Athletic, in the Hull Pub's LGBT Football League. What a great idea! The LGBT bit was easy but it too a while to get use to the Hull accents.

Having contrived a marvellous setting the play then contrived to pull a lot of humour and charm from it.

There is a love story in there and it is about two men but there is a lot more to it than that. It is a play about five unusually people who become a (not very good) team and it is the natural interactions between them that provide the warmth and laughs.

As they talked after the matches we found out more about them and what made them tick. And the more we learnt the more we liked them.

The humour is just the sort that people share all the time at work and at play and is all the more rewarding for being continuous and low key rather than aiming for some big slapstick  moments. For example, the league table they use to track their progress has one of the team names, "Man City" (good pun), replaced with a simple "Wankers". Another memorable light moment came when they managed to beat fellow struggles "The Trannies" because they had turned up to play drunk and wearing stilettos.

Jumpers for Goalposts was a delightful and uplifting play that would have warmed even the coldest of hearts on the coldest of Winter nights.

27 December 2013

Space Ritual at The Borderline (December 2013)

2013 ended in much the same way that it started, with a blistering concert by Space Ritual at The Borderline.

This time it was with just the core band of six which meant more space for Ms Angel to dance in. It also meant that all of the band members could be seen reasonably easily, though bassist Gary Smart did his best to hide towards the back of the stage and Chris Purdon was a little out on his own on the far left of the stage where it narrows towards the dressing rooms.

It was good to see Terry Ollis back on drums having been absent the last time and the time before that he was one of two drummers.

That left us with Nik front and centre flanked, at a little distance, by Mick Slattery on lead guitar to the left and Thomas Crimble on keyboards to the right.

I got there not long after the doors opened at 7pm. I had a pint in The Pillars of Hercules beforehand when a welcome encounter with Chris Purdon confirmed that the band would be on stage from 8. I also met another couple of Space Ritual regulars there which got the evening off to a good start.

Most Space Ritual fans seemed to know that the band would be on at 8 as The Borderline was embarrassingly empty at 7:50 and then it somehow filled to its usual lively level.

The blurb for the gig promised new songs from a new album but conversations with several band members beforehand confirmed that there were no new songs. It looks as though the blurb was written around the time of the band's last album, Otherworld in 2007, and has been used ever since.

Otherworld featured quite heavily in the set and the played some "new" tracks from it, e.g. Otherworld, Sonic Savages and Walking Backwards, as well as some of the older songs that also appeared on that album.



I usually try to get a photograph of the set list and/or an actual copy afterwards but I could not do that this time as they simply did not have one. There may have been a semblance of one in Nik's head but most songs started with a short group discussion on what to play next, sometimes this was pre-empted by one of the band starting to play a song.

At other times Nik called out to the audience for suggestions but I did not see and evidence that any attention was paid to these. Most people shouted for things like Brainstorm that they were going to play at some point anyway.

The lack of an apparent pre-arranged set list made little difference to the evening as we got all the songs that I expected, though possibly in a different order.



They played many of the same songs that I had seen Hawkwind play just a few weeks before but there the similarity ended. Space Ritual are the funky version of space rock, they are the sort of band that even I (almost) dance to.

Jamming is the defining characteristic of Space Ritual's music and whatever song the played or how they started it they ended up with an extended jam in the middle. Then, at some point, they all came back together to close the song. Previously this coming together had been agreed by the exchange of looks and nods but this time Nik sometimes went for the direct approach and called out 1-2-3-4 to mark out the end of the jam.



A couple of other new things from Nik were the use of sign language as part of his continuous arm movements (he explained that he had a deaf daughter and so had learnt British Sign Language) and his lack of use of percussion (tambourine and maracas) during the jams.

We also saw a lot more of Ms Angel than we had previously, which is always a good thing.

For just over two hours Space Ritual played their rich and bouncy version of space rock with all seven excelling as individuals and melding together brilliantly as a team.

As always, my only serious criticism of Space Ritual is that they do not play enough concerts and I am hoping that they have made a resolution to play more in 2014.

Nextwave: Agents Of H.A.T.E. Ultimate Collection

This Christmas I decided not to add to my read-pile, on the grounds that it was already embarrassingly large, but to use the holiday to make a serious dent in it. The first book that I tackled was Nextwave: Agents Of H.A.T.E. by Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen.

Nextwave is firmly seated on the edges of the Marvel Universe and it reuses characters from Machine Man to the Mindless Ones and from Boom Boom to Devil Dinosaur.

It is part parody with S.H.I.E.L.D. becoming H.A.T.E. and Nick Fury becoming Dirk Anger.

The comic is a action-fest with a thick vein of humour. It is almost a lighter version of Global Frequency which Ellis wrote for DC Comics a couple of years earlier. Or it is Transmetropolitan (written for DC just before H.A.T.E.) with more action.

It also has several pages with no written words so this is definitely a Warren Ellis book.

Nextwave is constructed as six story arcs, each of two comics originally, that combine to make one bigger story. This contrasts with, for example, Global Frequency and Transmetropolitan both of which are a series of single issues.

Stuart Immonen, a long-time regular for Marvel, is the artist and he does a good job of combining the action and the humour, which is the point of the book. Having one artist reinforces the single story aspect of the book.



I like the book though I suspect that you need a good knowledge of the Marvel Universe to appreciate it properly. I have read both Machine Man and Devil Dinosaur but I suspect that not many people can say that.

Nextwave describe itself as being about things blowing up and people being kicked, and it is. So if you like films like The Expendables then Nextwave could be for you. Personally I found it just a little too light for my taste, especially when compared to the brilliant Global Frequency.

25 December 2013

My new flowery shirt

Nothing quite says Christmas like a new flowery shirt.

In previous years these have come from Liberty and have been bought by me for me in the sales after the actual day but still within the holiday period. This year was a little different.

The shirt was bought for me by my wife in time for Christmas Day but so late on Christmas Eve that the sales had already started.

And it is not from Liberty, it is by 1 Like No Other.

It is, as you can see, gloriously flowery. It is also tailored (it comes in a bit in the middle) and has a nice contrasting finish on the collar and cuffs. It is a very nice shirt and has already had several outings to theatres etc.

My once plentiful supply of Liberty shirts is looking very old and warn in places and I do need to replace several of them so I could be paying another visit to 1 Like No Other sometime, though at a normal price of £130 or more it will have to be in the sales. I like flowery shirts but not as much as that.

23 December 2013

Fortune's Fool at the Old Vic

I love the theatre and I see a lot of very good plays but, occasionally, one falls flat and that is usually at one of the major West End theatres. Fortune's Fool was one of those duds.

The promotional material described it as "savagely funny" which seemed like a good thing to take the family to as a Christmas treat. The clincher was the presence of Iain Glen who we all know and love from Game of Thrones.

So it was a great disappointment on arriving at the Old Vic to discover that Iain Glen would not be performing.

That started a debate on the rights of theatres to do that. If I booked to see Bob Dylan and he was indisposed then I would not be expected to settle for  tribute band but theatres think that they can use big stars to sell tickets and then not offer any compensation when they fail to produce the big stars.

The play, by Ivan Turgenev, is set in pre-revolution Russia for which Downton Abbey is a good approximation. A young heiress has been away from home for a few years and returns with her new husband who is keen to revitalise the large estate. He is advised by a flamboyant neighbour and has to contend with the old fool who also live in the house.

There is some humour in the situation and the characters and while I smiled a lot and laughed a few times it would not be fair to call it savagely funny, or anything close to that.

There is a serious side to the story too concerning the fool's possible fortune and his relationship to the family. A conclusion, of sorts, is reached but this part of the story lacks bite, realism and, well, drama.

With thin humour and weak drama it was difficult to see what the point of the play was. I am not sure that Iain Glen could have rescued the situation but he would have made a poor situation better.

22 December 2013

Willoughby Pub Quiz (December 2013)

After November's experimental quiz (two answers to every question) I reverted to the usual format of six simple rounds of ten questions each (plus the picture round) with single answer questions except for a few in the first and last rounds.

I went for the structure of a hard round on news/words/politics followed by an easier one on popular culture, i.e. music/Benedict Cumberbatch/fictional espionage organisations. There were the usual beer/wee/fag breaks after the second and fourth rounds.

I write the questions by cutting and pasting the relevant text containing both the question and answer  from a website, mostly wikipedia and the BBC, and highlighting the answer in bold. That's is my clue not to read that bit out when asking the question.

The questions

Here are the questions with the answers replaced by "X"s. The answers are given below.

1. In the News Today
1. The XX, XX and XX governments have vowed to work together to reveal "the full facts" of the Lockerbie bombing 25 years ago.
2. Russian former oil tycoon XX has been reunited with his son after being freed from jail. He spent his first night of freedom in a decade, at a hotel in XX.
3. Four women battled it out for the Strictly Come Dancing glitterball trophy in the show's 11th series . XX, XX, XX and XX
4. A Crowd-funded XX-powered car built of XX, that can reach a top speed of around XXkm/h (XXmph) has hit the roads of Melbourne.
5. Two students wearing T-shirts to promote the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society Students win XX apology over T-shirt ban. Depicting XX and the XX
6. It is "crazy" for XX to personally call hospital bosses who miss A&E targets, XX, has said.
7. Seventy-six people were injured when ornate plasterwork at the XX fell during a production of XX.
8. The annual Halifax quality of life survey said which three places were the most desirable place to live in the UK? XX for the third year in a row. XX was in second place followed by XX which jumped 27 places to third.
9. Former BBC sports broadcaster David Coleman first appeared on air for the BBC in 1954, covering XX Olympic Games and XX football World Cups.
10. Nigella Lawson has said she is "disappointed but unsurprised" that two sisters who worked as her personal assistants have been cleared of fraud. Who were they? XX & XX XX

2. Two music
These were songs with the word "Winter" in the title. I crated a wish-list in iTunes and played the free minute or so that you get for each song. The teams had to name the artists.

3. New Words
1. XX Word of the Year
2. XX: (in the UK) a reduction in the amount of housing benefit paid to a claimant if the property they are renting is judged to have more bedrooms than is necessary for the number of the people in the household.
3. XX: to watch multiple episodes of a television programme in rapid succession, typically by means of DVDs or digital streaming.
4. XX: a digital currency in which transactions can be performed without the need for a central bank.
5. XX: a small furry mammal found in mountain forests in Colombia and Ecuador, the smallest member of the raccoon family.
6. XX: a form of meat produced synthetically from biological tissue.
7. XX: a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website
8. XX: the practice of visiting a shop or shops in order to examine a product before buying it online at a lower price.
9. XX: dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance.
10. XX: a picture which is taken, usually by a smartphone or a similar device, of a bookshelf or bookshelves

4. Benedict Cumberbatch
1. Benedict Cumberbatch starred as Christopher Tietjens in XX, a five-part BBC 2 series, which premiered in August 2012. It is an adaptation of the of novels of the same name by Ford Madox Ford and was written by Tom Stoppard..
2. A stage adaptation of a novel of the same name had its world premiere at the Royal National Theatre in February 2011, directed by Danny Boyle. Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller, alternating the roles of XX and the XX.
3. He played XX, George Smiley's right-hand man, in the 2011 film adaptation of the John le Carré novel Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
4. He provided the voice and motion-capture for both XX and the XX in The Hobbit (2012).
5. "Love is a Many-Splintered Thing" is an episode of The Simpsons. It is the twelfth episode of the 24th season and the 520th episode overall. It aired on February 10, 2013, as a Valentine's Day themed episode. Benedict Cumberbatch as XX and XX
6. Cumberbatch played XX in the J. J. Abrams-directed Star Trek Into Darkness (2013).
7. XX is a 2013 American thriller film about the news-leaking website WikiLeaks starring Benedict Cumberbatch as its founder Julian Assange.
8. Cumberbatch plays Captain Martin Crieff in XX a radio situation comedy series written by John Finnemore. Its first series was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2008. The show follows the exploits of the oddball crew of the single aeroplane owned by "MJN Air" as they are chartered to take all manner of items, people or animals across the world.
9. What was the name of the last broadcast episode of Sherlock? XX
10. He played The Angel Islington in the 2013 BBC Radio 4 adaptation of Neil Gaiman's XX.

5. Female presidents and prime ministers
1. XX India Prime Minister 24 January 1966 24 April 1977, 11 years, 90 days
2. XX Israel Prime Minister 17 March 1969 3 June 1974, 5 years, 78 days
3. XX Philippines President 25 February 1986 30 June 1992, 6 years, 126 days
4. XX Pakistan Prime Minister 2 December 1988 6 July 1990, 1 year, 216 days
5. XX Ukraine Prime Minister 24 January 2005 6September 2005, 0 years, 225 days
6. Sheikh Hasina XX Prime Minister 6 January 2009, Incumbent 4 years, 349 days
7. Yingluck Shinawatra XX Prime Minister 5 August 2011, Incumbent 2 years, 138 days
8. Helle Thorning-Schmidt XX Prime Minister 3 October 2011, Incumbent 2 years, 79 days
9. Alenka Bratušek XX Prime Minister 20 March 2013 Incumbent, 0 years, 276 days
10. Erna Solberg XX Prime Minister 16 October 2013 Incumbent, 0 years, 66 days

6. Fictional espionage organisations
1. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was broadcast from 1964, to 1968. It followed the exploits of two secret agents, played by Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, who work for a fictitious secret international espionage and law-enforcement agency called U.N.C.L.E. What does U.N.C.L.E. stand for? XX
2. The Champions was a British espionage/science fiction/occult detective fiction adventure series consisting of 30 episodes broadcast on the UK network ITV during 1968–1969. The Champions belonged to which fictional department of which real organisation? XX XX
3. In the recent films RED and RED2, what does RED stand for? XX
4. Stingray was created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and its 39 half-hour episodes were originally screened in 1964/65. Which orgnisation did Stingray belong to? XX
5. The Professionals is a crime-action television drama series that aired on the ITV network from 1977 to 1983 in 57 episodes. Who did The Professionals work for? XX
6. Department S is a spy-fi adventure series. The series consists of 28 episodes which originally aired in 1969–1970 starring Peter Wyngarde. Department S was a fictional section of which real organisation? XX
7. Which organisation was UNCLE fighting against and what did their name stand for: XX XX
8. S.H.I.E.L.D. is an espionage and law-enforcement agency in the Marvel Comics Universe. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in Strange Tales #135 (Aug. 1965). What S.H.I.E.L.D. Stand for (3 answers)x?: XX XX XX
9. In Doctor Who, what did U.N.I.T. Stand for (2 answers)? XX XX
10. Danger Man was broadcast between 1960 and 1962. The series featured Patrick McGoohan as secret agent John Drake. Which real organisation did Danger Man work for? XX

Picture round


The answers

These are the questions again this time with the "x"s replaced by the answers.

1. In the News Today
1. The UK, US and Libyan governments have vowed to work together to reveal
"the full facts" of the Lockerbie bombing 25 years ago.
2. Russian former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been reunited with his
son after being freed from jail. He spent his first night of freedom in a decade, at
a hotel in the German capital Berlin.
3. Four women battled it out for the Strictly Come Dancing glitterball trophy in the
show's 11th series . Abbey Clancy, Natalie Gumede, Susanna Reid and
Sophie Ellis-Bextor
4. A Crowd-funded air-powered car built of Lego, that can reach a top speed of
around 20km/h (12mph) has hit the roads of Melbourne.
5. Two students wearing T-shirts to promote the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist
Society Students win LSE apology over T-shirt ban. Depicting Jesus and the
Prophet Muhammad
6. It is "crazy" for Health Secretary (Jeremy Hunt) to personally call hospital
bosses who miss A&E targets, the health regulator for England, (David
Prior, chairman) Care Quality Commission, has said.
7. Seventy-six people were injured when ornate plasterwork at the Apollo fell
during a production of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time.
8. The annual Halifax quality of life survey said which three places were the most
desirable place to live in the UK? Hart in Hampshire for the third year in a row.
Uttlesford in Essex was in second place followed by South
Northamptonshire which jumped 27 places to third.
9. Former BBC sports broadcaster David Coleman first appeared on air for the BBC
in 1954, covering eleven Olympic Games and six football World Cups.
10. Nigella Lawson has said she is "disappointed but unsurprised" that two sisters
who worked as her personal assistants have been cleared of fraud. Who were
they? Elisabetta & Francesca Grillo

3. New Words
1. Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year
2. bedroom tax: (in the UK) a reduction in the amount of housing benefit paid to a
claimant if the property they are renting is judged to have more bedrooms than
is necessary for the number of the people in the household.
3. Binge-watch: to watch multiple episodes of a television programme in rapid
succession, typically by means of DVDs or digital streaming.
4. Bitcoin: a digital currency in which transactions can be performed without the
need for a central bank.
5. Olinguito: a small furry mammal found in mountain forests in Colombia and
Ecuador, the smallest member of the raccoon family.
6. Schmeat: a form of meat produced synthetically from biological tissue.
7. Selfie: a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a
smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website
8. showrooming: the practice of visiting a shop or shops in order to examine a
product before buying it online at a lower price.
9. Twerk: dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving
thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance.
10. Shelfie: a picture which is taken, usually by a smartphone or a similar device, of
a bookshelf or bookshelves

4. Benedict Cumberbatch
1. Benedict Cumberbatch starred as Christopher Tietjens in Parade's End is a
five-part BBC 2 series, which premiered in August 2012. It is an adaptation of
the of novels of the same name by Ford Madox Ford and was written by Tom
Stoppard..
2. A stage adaptation of a novel of the same name had its world premiere at the
Royal National Theatre in February 2011, directed by Danny Boyle. Benedict
Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller, alternating the roles of Victor Frankenstein
and the Creature.
3. He played Peter Guillam, George Smiley's right-hand man, in the 2011 film
adaptation of the John le Carré novel Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
4. He provided the voice and motion-capture for both Smaug the Dragon and the
Necromancer in The Hobbit (2012).
5. "Love is a Many-Splintered Thing" is an episode of The Simpsons. It is the twelfth
episode of the 24th season and the 520th episode overall. It aired on February
10, 2013, as a Valentine's Day themed episode. Benedict Cumberbatch as
Prime Minister and Severus Snape
6. Cumberbatch also played Khan Noonien Singh in the J. J. Abrams-directed Star
Trek Into Darkness (2013).
7. The Fifth Estate is a 2013 American thriller film about the news-leaking website
WikiLeaks starring Benedict Cumberbatch as its founder Julian Assange.
8. Cumberbatch plays Captain Martin Crieff in Cabin Pressure is a radio situation
comedy series written by John Finnemore. Its first series was broadcast on BBC
Radio 4 in 2008. The show follows the exploits of the oddball crew of the single
aeroplane owned by "MJN Air" as they are chartered to take all manner of items,
people or animals across the world.
9. What was the name of the last broadcast episode of Sherlock? The
Reichenbach Fall
10. He played The Angel Islington in the 2013 BBC Radio 4 adaptation of Neil
Gaiman's Neverwhere.

5. Female presidents and prime ministers
1. Indira Gandhi India Prime Minister 24 January 1966 24 April 1977
11 years, 90 days
2. Golda Meir Israel Prime Minister 17 March 1969 3 June 1974 5
years, 78 days
3. Corazon Aquino Philippines President 25 February 1986 30 June 1992
6 years, 126 days
4. Benazir Bhutto Pakistan Prime Minister 2 December 1988 6 July
1990 1 year, 216 days
5. Yulia Tymoshenko Ukraine Prime Minister 24 January 2005 6
September 2005 0 years, 225 days
6. Sheikh Hasina Bangladesh Prime Minister 6 January 2009
Incumbent 4 years, 349 days
7. Yingluck Shinawatra Thailand Prime Minister 5 August 2011
Incumbent 2 years, 138 days
8. Helle Thorning-Schmidt Denmark Prime Minister 3 October 2011
Incumbent 2 years, 79 days
9. Alenka Bratušek Slovenia Prime Minister 20 March 2013 Incumbent 0
years, 276 days
10. Erna Solberg Norway Prime Minister 16 October 2013 Incumbent
0 years, 66 days

6. Fictional espionage organisations
1. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was broadcast from 1964, to 1968. It followed the
exploits of two secret agents, played by Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, who
work for a fictitious secret international espionage and law-enforcement agency
called U.N.C.L.E. What does U.N.C.L.E. stand for? United Network Command
for Law and Enforcement
2. The Champions was a British espionage/science fiction/occult detective fiction
adventure series consisting of 30 episodes broadcast on the UK network ITV
during 1968–1969. The Champions belonged to which fictional department of
which real organisation? United Nations law enforcement organization
called "Nemesis"
3. In the recent films RED and RED2, what does RED stand for? Retired,
Extremely Dangerous
4. Stingray was created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and its 39 half-hour episodes
were originally screened in 1964/65. Which orgnisation did Stingray belong to?
W.A.S.P. (World Aquanaut Security Patrol)
5. The Professionals is a crime-action television drama series that aired on the ITV
network from 1977 to 1983 in 57 episodes. Who did The Professionals work for?:
"CI5" Criminal Intelligence 5
6. Department S is a spy-fi adventure series. The series consists of 28 episodes
which originally aired in 1969–1970 starring Peter Wyngarde. Department S was
a fictional section of which real organisation? Interpol
7. Which organisation was UNCLE fighting against and what did their name stand
for: THRUSH - Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables
and the Subjugation of Humanity
8. S.H.I.E.L.D. is an espionage and law-enforcement agency in the Marvel Comics
Universe. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in Strange Tales #135 (Aug.
1965). What S.H.I.E.L.D. Stand for?: Supreme Headquarters, International
Espionage, Law-Enforcement Division. Strategic Hazard Intervention
Espionage Logistics Directorate, Strategic Homeland Intervention,
Enforcement and Logistics Division
9. In Doctor Who, what did U.N.I.T. Stand for? United Nations Intelligence
Taskforce, UNified Intelligence Taskforce
10. Danger Man was broadcast between 1960 and 1962. The series featured Patrick
McGoohan as secret agent John Drake. Which real organisation did Danger Man
work for? NATO

Pictures
London Landmarks
Buckingham Palace, The Albert Memorial, Royal Opera House, Hampton Court,
Kensington Palace
UK A-Z
Manchester Town Hall, Narrow Water Castle, Old Bailey, Portmeirion, The Queens
College Oxford, Roman Baths, Stirling Castle, Tyne Bridge, Urquhart Castle, Victoria
and Albert Museum, White Cliffs of Dover, Station X Bletchley Park, York Minster, ZSL
London Zoo
British Film Year
Peter Sellers (from photo by Bill Brandt), David Niven (from photo by Cornell Lucas),
Charlie Chaplin (from photo by Lord Snowdon), Vivien Leigh (from photo by Angus
McBean), Alfred Hitchcock (from photo by Howard Coster)
Birth Centenary of Enid Blyton
Famous Five, Secret Seven

19 December 2013

The Shape of Things at the Arcola Theatre

Having missed the Arcola for a few months I then went two night in a row, both times to catch a play just before it closed.

The second time I had to make the long trip round the London Overground from Richmond to Dalston Kingsland and the reason that I did that was because The Shape of Things was written by Neil LaBute and he also wrote In a Forest Dark and Deep which was one of my highlights of 2011.

With Lizzie Siddal claiming the main theatre upstairs The Shape of Things was downstairs in Studio 2. This is smaller, seating under 100, and is more intimate. I had been to the smaller studio before and loved it.

The play is about art student Evelyn Ann Thompson, her boyfriend Adam, his friend Phillip and Phillip's fiance Jenny.

Evelyn and Adam meet in an art gallery in unusual circumstances. He is working there as a security guard, one of his several jobs, and she is there to deface a work of art that has been censored by the addition of a fig leaf. They talk about what she is planning and why and they agree to meet up again.

The relationship seems to be imbalanced from the start. Adam is doing little with his life and is dressed to match. Evelyn has strong ideas, is dressed to impress and is beautiful. Adam cannot believe his luck.

Phillip and Jenny give us different perspectives on Adam. Phillip and Adam shared a room as students despite being very different people and Jenny sat next to Adam in a class but they never quite clicked thanks to shyness on both sides.

Adam shines as his relationship with Evelyn develops. He dresses better, uses contact lenses and even has corrective surgery on his nose, hence the picture at the top.

They may, or may not, have had brief flings with Phillip and Jenny but that does nothing to diminish their relationship.

Then its time for Evelyn's graduation show and an almighty bomb drops, and one I had not seen even the barest  hint of. In a Forest Dark and Deep also has a major twist in the plot but that is more subtle and more gradual, and is made the more dramatic by being low-key. This one just hits hard. In the play Evelyn is left at her graduation by herself as the three others walk out in disgust. In the audience we share the surprise and outrage.

I spoke to "Adam" afterwards and said that I thought he was shabbily treated. I could not bring myself to talk to "Evelyn" in the bar despite her beauty.

A play that still carries the emotions after the curtain calls is a good play and The Shape of Things is a very good play. It was helped on its way by being superbly acted (by all four) and its clever use of a minimalist set.

The Shape of Things at the Arcola was another exceptional night at the theatre and another reminder of why I go there so often despite it being on the other side of London.

My CV as a word cloud

I had generated a word cloud from my CV using Wordle before and I thought that it would be interesting to do so again to see if the changes that I had made to it, particularly the addition of my recent projects, would make much difference. It did.

The work that I do does not vary that much between assignments but the job titles that I am given do, and so I am pleased to see that the new Wordle shouts out "Business Consultant". It is also clear that I usually work in projects.

What is missing is my interest in Knowledge Management. That is because I do most of that that out of hours with the likes of LIKE, TFPL and Gurteen and so it is not in my CV which just covers what I am paid to do in the office. I must work on that.

18 December 2013

Lizzie Siddal at the Arcola Theatre

Clashing calendars had kept me away from the Arcola for a while (there are a lot of good theatres in London) and it took some planning to get to see Lizzie Siddal just a few days before it closed.

My usual, deliberately absent, preparation meant that I knew little about Lizzie other than she was tied in with the pre-Raphaelites. That was enough.

I worked in London that day, near Kings Cross, and walked to the Arcola. It is about 4km to Dalston and that meant a modest walk of around 40m. I should have worn other shows though as my brogues were not built for pounding pavements.

I got to the Arcola in plenty of time and was intending to eat some cake or something to keep me going. I was pleasantly surprised to find a vegetable stew on offer. It was delicious.

My plan was to be laid back and not to rush for my customary front-row seat but the best laid plans etc. etc. and I found the temptation too much. I was not the first in by any means but I was in early enough to choose a corner seat at the front.

The play takes us from when Lizzie first met the pre-Raphaelites while working as a model, through her turbulent years with Dante Gabriel Rossetti, to her death and what Rossetti did afterwards.

Much of the play was about the pre-Raphaelites and there was a lot of humour in their interactions as their large egos played off each other. Millais' first act was to tell us that he is the best artist in the country. The others are equally conceited about the importance of their art.

Lizzie was drawn in to this circle of self-congratulation but was little more than a plaything to them. Other playthings included a very Cockney model who more lived up to their expectation that models were prostitutes. Other characters that we met included patrons and critics.

The beauty of Lizzie Siddal was in the story telling, especially in the dialogue between the (male) artists. The structure and pace of the play gave the emotions, good and bad, space to develop and do their work on us.

Lizzie herself rode through these highs and lows with equanimity.  Rossetti treated her badly, including the best excuse for not getting married ever , he spent the money required on peacocks instead, but she took this in her stride saying that they were very nice peacocks. She was hurt by his behaviour, and did want to marry him, but she was far from being the feeble victim.

It was all very nicely done and was comfortably worth the blisters I gained though my ill-advised travel choice.

DC Comics Digital Sneak Peeks: 18 December 2013


Ringing the changes on the stylistic Batman cover of the week with Man-Bat this time.



The interior art is by Romano Molenaar from Birds of Prey #26. I like the classic style of the figures with the more modern panel arrangement.

16 December 2013

South West London Humanists Christmas Party

We Humanists are a sociable lot and the SW London Humanist Group has several events each month where like-minded people can meet and talk.

I am new to the group (but not to Humanism) and had only been to a couple of talks prior to the Christmas Party. It seemed like a good opportunity to get to know the group better and, besides, The Old Ship is one of the better pubs in Richmond (they sell Young's) and is easy for me to get to.

It all went rather well.

The ice-breaker was the "who am I game" which I did not win on time but as I was Nelson Mandela I am claiming a moral victory. I felt sorry for the people who were Margaret Thatcher (unpleasant) and Dr Who (confusing). The game worked well and I spoke to several people about more than just the names written on our backs.

The drinks were kept flowing via the small upstairs bar. They did not have Winter Warmer on tap but the Ordinary was good enough, as always. I am fairly certain that our barmaid was Sandra Bullock but other people were less convinced.

The buffet was neatly arranged in three sections, Vegan, Vegetarian and Meat, of equal size which meant plenty of choice for me as a vegetarian. I played fair initially and took just from the vegetarian table as I hate it when, in the more usual buffets, there is a limited vegetarian option and meat-eaters take most of it. I forgot to take a picture of my food but I think I had a leek tart, some breaded mushrooms, an onion ring or two and some bread and cheese.  Later on I went to the vegan table to help myself to some spicy chickpea bites.

We all sat down to eat and that helped the conversations to get deeper. I was a little (but only a little) surprised how left-wing my table was and there was a ringing endorsement for the nationalisation of key public services like energy, railways and the rapidly-privatising NHS.

Somehow it was suddenly 10pm and people started to drift away. I did so too but rather slowly speaking to more people on the way out.

With the South West London Humanists Group I have found another friendly tribe of interesting people and I look forward to spending more time with them.

13 December 2013

Middlemarch - Fred and Mary at The Orange Tree


Fred and Mary was the third and final part of the Orange Tree's adaptation of Middlemarch and, unsurprisingly, it was very much like the previous two. It had the same approach, same cast, same set and much of the same story. All of that was good news.

There was one slight change. Instead of sitting in the middle of the far bench as I usually do, I moved slightly to one side to get a different view of the stage.

Even though the cast was the same there were a few new characters, as well as plenty of familiar ones. One neat trick was to use the same pair of actors for both Fred and Mary's parents.

Fred and Mary's story was mostly Fred's story as he sought a secure position that would allow him to take a wife.

Some of that story we had heard before as he was hoping to inherit from a rich but not that close relative whom we had seen die previously and had followed the implications for the doctor who tended him. This time our main interest was the will and where his money went.

And like the other stories, this one had a happy and predictable ending, this time with dancing too. And like the other stories, the ending did not particularly matter, the pleasure in the play came from the characters and their tales.

It was an act of vision and courage to conceive of Middlemarch as a trilogy of plays and it was executed with all the professionalism and charm that a classic book deserves and the Orange Tree is accustomed to.

Fred and Mary's story was another fine evening at the theatre and an uplifting one too.

11 December 2013

BCSA "Get to Know You" Social (December 2013)

I like the routine elements of the monthly BCSA "Get to Know You" Socials.

My routine includes drinking draught Pilsner Urquell from a traditional jug glass, eating Smazeny Syr with chips and tartar sauce, and ending the evening with a bottle of Zlaty Bazant.

The rest of the evening, and the more important part, is filled with conversations with whoever else turns up on the evening. The act of having conversions is routine but who they are with and what they are about varies each month and that is why they are si much fun.

We had around fifteen people there at some time during the evening and I had plenty of new and familiar people to talk to. The three and a half hours whizzed past - as always.

DC Comics Digital Sneak Peeks: 11 December 2013


This week's mandatory stylistic Batman cover comes from, er, Batman. It speaks for itself.



This is a promising interior page from Justice League 3000 #1 drawn by Howard Porter. I like the strong lines in the art, rather like John Byrne, the flow of the action through the page and, most of all, the cat-like aliens in the background.



Federal Bureau of Physics has a habit of being picked. This time it is for the colours, especially the contrasting pink and teal.

9 December 2013

Kingston upon Thames Society Committee: December 2013

December's Meeting of the Kingston upon Thames Committee had several significant planning applications to consider as well as other business.

Business matters and updates

We were still worried about the large number of applications for student accommodation. Some of the schemes are good but we are concerned that some were not well placed and some were of a low standard and would become slums.

Similarly there was a tide of applications to turn town-centre offices in to residential. Again it was not individual schemes that we objected to but the overall impact of all of the changes. A significant change to residential would be good for the towns in the evenings and at weekends but the reduction in office workers would reduce the spending during the week.

The brick box in Canbury a Gardens which was there for the district heating system (nothing wrong with that) was uglier than it needed to be. Probably.

The Place and Sustainability Committee on11 February was due to receive a report on heritage in Kingston. The Society was keen to ensure that the work that the Society does in this, notably HODs and Coombe Conduit, was noted and supported.

Learning the lesson from Penny School, we wanted to be more proactive and to identify buildings that were worth protecting before they were threatened. RBK should have had several list that would be a useful start for this and the first step was to find out what they are and what state they were in.

RBK were also looking for sites for plaques. These would be less formal that the Blue Plaque scheme and would include people who were still alive. The emphasis seemed to be current, or recent, celebrities.

The Thames Landscape Strategy had not been able to do some of the projects that it wanted in Kingston due to a lack of funding from the Council.

Engagement and publicity

We spend some time discussing how we could involve our members more in our deliberations on planning applications and also inform the public about what we are doing.

The process will change but the plan is to email members once a week (at most) with the significant applications that we would like their input on. This would be a collection of views rather than of votes, the Committee would still make the final decision on each application but members' views would be useful, especially if they had local knowledge.

The other thing we plan to do is to write a colloquial summary of our Committee meetings and the decisions that we make there that we can share with our members via email and the website. We will also send it to the press (it will be in the public domain anyway via our website) with the aim of keeping Society in the public's awareness and to encourage more of them to join us.

Planning applications

13/12980 DEVELOPMENT AT 45-51 HIGH STREET AND 30 SOUTH LANE KINGSTON UPON THAMES

Redevelopment of site to provide a part three, part four, part five, part six storey building comprising 140 units of student accommodation (Sui Generis) and 388 sq m of flexible commercial floorspace (A1/A2/A3/B1) (retail, financial & professional services, restaurant or cafe, business).


We agreed to support this application.

We liked the way that it both fitted in with its neighbouring buildings and also had an interesting.

13/16761 3 BURNEY AVENUE SURBITON KT5 8DF

Erection of new detached 4 bedroom residential dwelling house on the vacant side plot.

We agreed to object to this on the grounds of over development.

13/10351 36-42 LEATHERHEAD ROAD CHESSINGTON

Erection of three-storey residential building to rear of Nos. 36 to 42 Leatherhead Road to provide 10 x 2-bedroom flats with 11 car and 20 cycle parking spaces accessed from new crossover located to rear of Nos. 40 to 42 Leatherhead Road leading onto Fengate Close.

We agreed to object to this as it garden grabbing and that is something that the Society has consistently opposed.

13/13017 22-30 RICHMOND ROAD KINGSTON UPON THAMES KT2 5ED

Change of use to provide Class A3, B1, D1 and D1 uses inc cinema,restaurant, children's play centre and business centre incubator, erection of rear extension to provide B1 and C1 use inc office and serviced apartments; erection of 3 floors to provide 14 residential units and associate ancillary use inc basement car park, and playground at Educare Small School.



We had been anticipating the planning application for the former Gala Bingo Hall and were very pleased with the results. A lot of the internal art deco features were being retained and the new flats on the top of the building were in character.

This was a building that had a turbulent recent history, including a fire, and we were very pleased to see it come through only slightly damaged in some areas and enhanced in others.

Development Control Committee

Two applications were going to Development Control on Thursday 12th that we had objected to but which were being recommended for approval by officers. We decided to write to the Councillors on the committee to summarise our objections.

8 December 2013

Satyagraha back at the ENO (December 2013)

Satyagraha was such a spectacular when I first saw it at the ENO in 2007 that I went to see it again when it returned in 2010 and, another three years later, I was back to see it for a third time.

Quick booking got me a good front row seat in the Dress Circle for a shade under £100. Seemed a bargain to me.

Satyagraha was a collection of musical images tightly coupled by the life of Ghandi, Philip Glass' hypnotic music, and the floating text. It is not a story and does not pretend to be one.

I have only seen the opera three times in six years so I am far from familiar with it but I know it just about well enough to know that much of this production was the same as in previous years (such as the shoe shining scene) but there were some differences too. The cellophane I noted in previous productions had gone, possibly to be replaces by a roll of newspaper. I think that some clothes lines were missing too.



The ending was visually very different. The black orator who seemed to be Martin Luther King was promoted to a major roll and, I think, became Barack Obama. He certainly had the tall build and strong arm gestures to be him.

The minor changes apart, it was the same beautiful and charming opera that I had loved before and loved again. It moved gracefully, powerfully and rhythmically for three delightful hours with lots of fabulous singing from the soloists and chorus.

7 December 2013

Echoes back at The Fox and Duck

It is always good to see Echoes play anywhere and it is even better to see them in The Fox and Duck in Petersham as it is easy for me to get to (I could walk but I usually take the bus) and there is always a great atmosphere there.

The buses were unkind to me and I did not get to the pub until just before Echoes started playing. By then the pub was pretty packed and any hope I had for getting a comfortable place by the bar had long gone. It was hard enough to squeeze up to the bar to get my first Doombar of the evening.

Beer acquired I tried to find somewhere decent to stand where I could both see the band reasonably well (I am only little) and would not be jostled too much by people trying to get to the toilets or the bar. That meant I was pretty near the front for most of the evening, which was fine with me.

Echoes opened, as usual, with In the Flesh? from The Wall with its loud refrain, "So ya, Thought ya, Might like to go to the show." and took it on from there with more songs from, mostly, The Wall and Wish You Were Here. I like the way that they play a combination of the shorter poppier songs, such as Another Brick in the Wall, and longer proggier songs like Shine on You Crazy Diamond.

After an hour Echoes decided that they needed a rest and took a break from half an hour or so.


When they came back they gave us Dark Side of The Moon in its entirety. Not surprisingly this was very well received by everybody there, even the people who looked far too young to know the album,  and there was a lot of singing along. I may have been guilty for some of that.

How do you follow something as brilliant and as famous as Dark Side? Echoes chose to do it with Echoes, though they trimmed it down a little to a mere fifteen minutes. It was my highlight of the evening (again).

Echoes played until just a little shy of the midnight curfew, and remember they started spot on nine. That was one long and very excellent set that went down very well with an enthusiastic audience.

It is hard to fault an evening as good as that, so I shan't. It was perfect.

Henry V at the Noel Coward theatre

Most of my theatregoing is booked just a week or two in advance, some even less than that, but I booked this one about eighteen months ago. It was part of the season the included A Midsummer Night's Dream which I saw in September.

The attraction was the same in both cases, they were Shakespeare plays that I was not very familiar with staring actors that I respected. Jude Law had been magnificent in Anna Christie two years ago so I was keen to see him on stage again.

My knowledge of Shakespeare's history plays was much less than that for the "mainstream" dramas and there were many that I had not seen before, including Henry V. The Richard III that I had seen was brilliant so I was hopeful for this.

My knowledge of English history of that period was comparable to that of the plays about it so I was not too sure what to expect other than I thought that Henry V was one of the good guys (from an English perspective, the French may have different views).

The one thing that I did know was that my prompt booking had secured me a front-row seat in the Grand Circle.

I found Henry V (the play) to be an odd mix of historical propaganda, nice guy leads his men well and beats the French, and character humour in which a Welshman says "Look you" repeatedly.

Henry V admitted to being a play from the very start when the narrator asked us to imagine the many soldiers and horses in the riotous battles that we were about to hear about. A good excuse for keeping the set simple and the cast small.

The play tells us of Herny V's accession to the throne, his previous high-life and his transformation to a proper king which is confirmed by his victory over the French at Agincourt (which Shakespeare pronounces with a hard "t" at the end while we, ironically, now use the French pronunciation).

There are two barn-storming scenes which feature the famous lines, "Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more" and "And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks that fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day." That apart, there was little for Jude Law to get his teeth in to.

I can see why Henry V is not performed very often. It is a light play with simple characters and a simpler story. Putting somebody like Jude Law in the play was a waste of his talents.

The cynic inside me says that the thinking behind this season is to use high-profile stars to attracts big audiences and to paper over the cracks in the plays and the productions. I enjoyed Henry V, and A Midsummer Night's Dream before it, but I left thinking that it should have been better than that.

6 December 2013

Hawkwind at The Brook (2013)

Somehow it was four years since I last saw Hawkwind at The Book in Southampton, How did that happen?

I missed Hawkwind in London earlier in the year (that is a story I do not want to tell as the memory hurts too much) so I was delighted when The Brook gig popped up unexpectedly. Southampton is a little way away but it is mostly motorway and I know the road well so it is an easy drive of just over an hour to get there.

The timing worked well and I arrived just on 8pm which was when the doors were due to open. I just wanted to see the band and was happy not to queue to get a seat upstairs (not that I would want one of those anyway).

There was a minor hitch over photography but that was soon resolved and we were allowed to take pictures despite the prominent warnings.

Old habits die hard and I found myself right at the very front looking straight up at Tim Blake.

Tim opened the evening with a short solo set which ended with us all singing along to Spirit of the Age. And that was a fine was to start any evening.

What followed was another bravado performance from Hawkwind. This is as good as I have ever heard them. Seriously.



The Hawkwind line-up is a movable feast for both musical and personal reasons (including, sadly, death) and had settled down in recent years to Dave Brock (guitar), Tim Blake (keyboards), Richard Chadwick (drums), Mr Dibs (bass), Niall Hone (guitar) and Dead Fred (keyboards). Adding to this some exotic instruments like a theremin and electric cello, and the capabilities of a few Apple Macs produced a sound that was rich in its variety and still authentically Hawkwind.

The highlight of the set, and the theme of the tour, was a complete performance of Warrior on the Edge of Time, which is possibly my favourite Hawkwind album against stiff competition. I still remember clearly walking along Radipole Park Drive in Weymouth listening to Radio 1 on my tranny when John Peel played the tracks Assault and Battery and The Golden Void. They are still magic to me.



Other highlights for me, as they are when Space Ritual play them (they play them differently), were Steppenwolf and Assassins of Allah. It is a testament to Hawkwind's back catalogue and confidence that they could leave out things like Brainstorm.

The Brook had no space for dancers, they tried in the past and it did not work too well, but there were the usual spacey projections to complement the spacey sounds.

Hawkwind played non-stop for a couple of hours never missing a beat and never delivering a dull song. It was high-energy intoxicating and majestic. I loved every single minute of it.

I was so happy at the end of the evening that I bought a Hawkwind t-shirt. Just like I did last time.

5 December 2013

LIKE 51: Christmas Social 2013

LIKE are a great crowd and while my main reason for mixing with them is work-related stuff like Content Management, Information Management and Knowledge Management, I like to go to their social events too.

The Christmas Socials started almost by accident in 2010 and has become a regular feature since then simply because everybody enjoys the evenings so much.

There was a new venue this year, The Sun Tavern in Covent Garden, but everything else was much the same. And as gastro pubs all look the same it was difficult to tell that we were in a different venue anyway.



There was very little formality to the evening. We were allowed to sit where we wanted, instead of sitting according to our chosen meals as we usually do, taking care to put our £1 Secret Santa's on different tables. Tubes of Smarties were popular presents this year and having bought a standard tube myself the day before I got a tube of just pink ones back. I was very happy with that.

The only other difference from the monthly LIKE meetings was that we did not have a speaker to spark our conversations on a specific subject, instead we started our own conversations on our own topics. We are a group that loves to have conversations and the atmosphere was immediately relaxed, friendly and lively.

I found myself on a table for six some of whom I knew reasonable well and one who I started the evening not knowing at all. She was the librarian at Dr Williams's Library in Bloomsbury. I had not heard of this before but as it describes itself as the pre-eminent research library of English Protestant nonconformity that is not too surprising. It looks quirky, much like Sir John Soane's Museum, so I might get there one day.

The food was fine, the wine and beer was quite drinkable and the company was excellent.

My employer gave up on Christmas parties some time ago and I now think of the LIKE party as my work party except it has people there with a common interest rather than a common employer, which makes it a lot more fun.

Picture This: Children's Illustrated Classics at the British Library


I do like the way that the British Library puts on small exhibitions on the space on the first floor next to the cafe. About a year ago I went to see Murder in the Library and this time it was Children's Illustrated Classics.

This exhibition explored ten classic children’s books from the 20th century including Paddington Bear, Peter Pan and Willy Wonka and classic works such as Just So Stories, The Wind in the Willows and The Hobbit.

Few of these were books that I could claim to have loved as a child (The Wind in the Willows was one that I did) but I did know most of the characters and that familiarity helped.

The exhibition was quite simple; for each book/character there was a brief history of the book and its illustrators and a few examples of their work.

For example, for The Wind in the Willows there was a classic illustration from Ernest H. Shepard and several others including this rather pretty modern one from David Roberts.

One of the interesting things was to see how different artists had reinterpreted familiar characters, sometimes trying to keep faithful to the original look and sometimes doing just the obvious.

The other interesting differences came from the style of the drawings. In the Wind in the Willows example I think that the character, Mole, is very like the original whereas the drawing style is very different from EH Shepard's.

My highlight of the exhibition, surprisingly, was The Secret Garden, a book I had never read. The three illustrations were all very colourful (subsequent illustrators following the style of the first) and utterly charming.

Sadly I cannot show you what they looked like as photography was banned, the exhibition space was out in the open so I could not easily break the rule and they are not on the web. That is a good reason for you to go there and for me to go back.

Ørnulf Opdahl: New Paintings at Kings Place Gallery

I had never heard of Ørnulf Opdahl before and so would not have gone too far out of my way to see an exhibition of his paintings. Luckily I did not have to as the exhibition came to Kings Place Gallery which is in the same building as my office.

The main exhibition space was on Level -1 and walking carefully down the long staircase towards the large open area the paintings started to appear and made an immediate and striking impact due to their size and colour.

Getting closer, and the abstract mix of greys became a landscape with a thin row of lights from a settlement struggling for survival between the menacing sea and the brooding sky.

A couple of years ago I travelled along the coast of Norway, from Bergen to Trondheim, and Opdahl's Norway was a Norway that I recognised. And loved.



The pictures were mostly, but not exclusively, of the coast as viewed from the sea or an opposite shore and, despite being very darkly coloured, conveyed the sense of peace that Norway has outside of the towns and cities. The coastline is largely uninhabited with just the occasional shack to show that Man has ever been there.

With no Man to spoil the view, Nature is allowed to show-off what She can do and does this with towering cliffs, thick clouds and deep water.

I would gladly have any of these pictures at home. Sadly the larger ones were priced at up to £20k so that was not going to happen. Enough of the pictures had orange dots to show that other people felt the same way but had deeper pockets.



This was a pleasingly large exhibition too filling the two gallery areas on Level -1 and also stretching down to Level -2. A corporate lunch was about to start there but I managed to see the pictures down there and escape back upstairs before the guests arrived.

The smaller gallery on Level -1 had some smaller pictures (all sold I believe) and also some limited edition prints. They were £1k or less so somebody in a red and white outfit could get me one in the next few days. If not, I'll never believe in Santa Claus again.

Looking at the pictures again as I write this post I am impressed by their grandeur and I want to see them in their full-size glory again. I'll have to find another excuse to go in to the office.


4 December 2013

Mucky Kid at Theatre503

I have seen some very good shows at Theate503 so far and this was easily the best of an impressive bunch.

At the centre of the play was the simple question of how we should treat people who did very bad things as children when they grow up. The seed for this was the case of Mary Bell, who was mentioned in passing but this was not her story. This was Mae's story.

Mae is full-in-the-face confident and hyperactive. The story revolves around her, as she wants it to.

The play started with teenager Mae and her friend lost in a field where they are found by two country bumpkins who obviously fancied their chances.

The four went for the evening and then back to one of the boys' houses. Drink, drugs and sex were involved, though there was nothing as shocking as the "adult warning" notices suggested there might be.

From the florid conversations we soon learnt that the girls had absconded from an open prison and later on we learnt why Mae had been incarcerated since the age of ten.

The play leaped forward a day and back to the prison were a recaptured Mae was asked to tell the truth about why she escaped and what happened when she did.

That took us back to a retelling of the night before only this time it was a different story. This ended with her back in the prison where she was asked again about what happened and so the story looped back to the previous day.

We went through this loop a few times learning more about Mae as we did so though we were never quite sure whether what we were seeing was the truth this time.

In these stories Mae's friend left her, we met a ten year old girl, we found out that the term "mucky kid" was given to Mae by her Mother and we learnt a great deal more about Mae, some of which helped to explain some of the things that had happened to her.

The play ended with a (relatively) long slow scene where the prison psychiatrist calmly extracted the truth from Mae. She cried and we were left in shock.

Several things made the play outstanding; the subject matter and the intelligent way in which it was treated, the clever looping structure of the narrative, the use of the small cast to play multiple roles including all of them playing the same role at different times, the neat but terrible ending, and the absolutely barnstorming performances by everybody in the cast.

I only see a couple of performances a year that make as much of an impact as this one did. Mucky Kid was utterly brilliant.