24 November 2014

Labour make a more enticing offer

When it comes to tempting the electorate, the Conservative Party does not have a clue.

Their big offer in their attempt to get ordinary people to donate to their campaign is a bog-standard mug (the offer to rich people is somewhat different and includes peerages). I already have far more mugs than I'll ever need, or could fit in my cupboard if they were all clean at the same time, and many of them have some emotional value. I have no reason to get another one.

If I liked the party I would donate £19 to avoid getting the ugly and pointless thing.

The Labour deal is far more attractive.

To quote from the email that they sent me, "Donate £19 towards a Labour victory now, and you'll get your very own, special-edition Grayson Perry canvas bag/work of art."

It could be argued, with justification, that I also have more bags than I'll ever need but there's always room for another special one. The nice thing about bags is that you can store them in other bags.

And it's by Grayson Perry. Everybody loves Grayson Perry.

I had donated some money to Labour only a few days earlier for no immediate reward, in response to a tweet, but I was warned that "numbers are strictly limited" on the bag so I jumped on the donation site and gave them some more.

Now I have another bag to look forward to and Labour has another £19 to fight the Tories with. That's a Win-Win.

20 November 2014

An emotional musical tale that has lasted twenty years

Music has played an important part in my life for many years, much of which is reflected in this blog, because it has the power to do things with memory that not much else can.

Correspondences by The Tea Party is a case in point.

Back in 1993 when The Tea Party's second album (that's twenty years ago!) Splendor Solis came out I was buying all my vinyl from the imaginatively named The Record Shop in Fife Road, as did everybody else. I can remember clearly going in to the shop and hearing something playing that I really liked, asking the long-haired man behind the counter who it was and being told that it was The Tea Party and they were a mix of The Doors and Led Zeppelin. I bought the album and agreed with his description.

And two years later I bought their next album, the edge of twilight. The cover says it all really, you do not need to hear the album to know what it sounds like.

For some weeks the anthem Correspondences fuelled my daily dashes down to Winchester where I was working at the time. The lyrics chimed with my circumstances and the music was very powerful. I sang along very loudly and felt much better for doing so.

Then other music came along and, apart from the occasional flash-back, that was it. Until tonight.

One of the bands playing at the Grey Horse Open Mic Night did a song that reminded of the Tea Party and thanks to the technologies in my pocket, iPhone with iTunes, I was able to download Correspondences immediately. Being a cheapskate I paid 79p for a live version from 2012 rather than 99p for the original. The live version is also a little longer at 8:19 minutes.

I've played it three times so far this evening.

19 November 2014

Open Mic Night at the Grey Horse (19 November 14)

My walks home from Kingston often include a slight detour to the Grey Horse and that is how I found myself there on this Wednesday evening. I was hoping that it was an Open Mic Night, and it was.

The set up was much the same as ever and that is no bad thing. One slight change was that the pub ran out of Young's Ordinary after my first pint and I had to move on to the Naked Ladies, which was fine.

The music was fine too. Having popped in for a quick pint I ended up having a slow three to enjoy more of the music and to talk to more people. It was another jolly evening and I will miss them when the Grey Horse comes under "new management" in the new year.

Discovering art on the Caledonian Road

It has been a while since I have had the opportunity or the time to go for a lunchtime walk around our Kings Place office and I was not intending to do so this day either but the Kings Place Gallery was being used for an event so I was forced outside.

At first I headed for the obvious place, Central Saint Martins, where the cranes were busy on the next stage of work that that will include a Waitrose and a Cookery School. I'll have to wait until late 2015 to see what that looks like.

From there I headed for the disused York Road tube station. I hope that features in the redevelopment plans for the area and it would make my journey to work easier if it were to reopen as a Piccadilly Line station.

I could have walked straight down York Way to the office but I was enjoying my rare time outside so I went along Copenhagen Street instead.

Where Copenhagen Streets meets Caledonian Road I found this work of art. It was in the tarmaced area around a block of flats on the corner. Some of the space on the ground floor had been converted to an arts club and I presume that they were responsible for the work; local art by local people for local people.

Buoyed by my artistic discovery I ended my lunchtime stroll by heading down the scruffy Caledonian Road and then along the tranquil Regent's Canal back to Kings Place.

It was a short but good walk and I've learned a lesson from it. I need to get out more.

13 November 2014

The Rivals at the Arcola Theatre had me laughing all the way

The Rivals is the only play that I can remember studying at school, though I cannot remember what that studying taught me. I'm sure that we did lots of Shakespeare too but I cannot recall which ones.

Depressingly, almost the only clear image I have from five years of studying Eng. Lit. (I passed!) was sitting by the window in Mrs Vickery's class identifying malapropisms in The Rivals, a task made easier for me by a previous owner of my text book who had underlined them all.

If that tender memory was not enough to make me see the show then staging it at the Arcola was.

I had planned to work in London that day and to walk to the Arcola, it's a pleasant 45 minute stroll, but work took me to Reading instead and I had to leave promptly to catch the bus to Reading Station, train to Paddington, Hammersmith and City line to King’s Cross St. Pancras, Victoria line to Highbury and Islington and, finally, the London Overground to Dalston Kingsland. It all worked well and I was in the comfortable Arcola Bar in good time for a bottle of red beer and a roll that had humus in it.

Getting drinks was bit of a problem all evening as whenever I asked for a Red they unaccountably reached for the wine and I had to remind then that I drink beer.

The Arcola's new policy of allocated seating (still not sure about that one) meant that I could take my time over my food and drink and did not have to worry about the lengthening queues for the theatre. The policy also meant that I was in the corner of the stage in seat A2 (there was no A1, which confused me) as I was late booking and had to choose between a more central position or a closer one. The front row always wins that contest. At £18 the seat was a bargain.

Some of the cast were milling about the stage area as we went in and they talked to some of us. This was a little weird as the conversation I had was with the actor not the character, we talked about the theatre and we agreed that Visitors was excellent.

The Rivals was a hoot from the beginning mainly thanks to the silly characters though the twisting plot helped too.

The rivals in love were very unusual. In one relationship they were the same man assuming two identities, in another the rivalry was a fiction created by one of the couple to tease and test the other, one man's rival was his inner devil that could not accept that his lady really loved him and another relationship that should have led to rivalry did not because the man's letters were being diverted to another woman. That may sound a bit complicated, and it was a little, but it did not take long to get in to the characters and their relationships.

The production included lots of audience interaction, always a good thing (even in the blood-strewn Sweeney Todd), and we were asked to hold on to cloaks when no pegs were available, to hide books, to help one character back on his feet after a failed dance move and the group of young women next to me were hit upon by one of the sillier men.

There were many other nice touches too, like the music during some of the (limited) scene changes, the stage hand who frankly lost interest in spreading leaves on the stage and the actor playing two parts who had to throw himself out of the room, which he did noisily.

But, as I said earlier, it was the characters that made most of the comedy and there were many of them and they were all good. The ones that made me laugh the most (an entirely personal and subjective view) were Lydia Languish a wealthy teenage heiress in love with Ensign Beverley/Jack Absolute (the same man), Sir Anthony Absolute a wealthy baronet and Jack's father, and Faulkland a friend of Jack Absolute. All three had me stitches throughout due to their ridiculous posturing and the brilliant faux-overacting by their players.

Their thoughts and actions were not that out of place today and that helped the humour greatly as that helped us to appreciate and relate to what they were feeling.

The Rivals was a very funny play delivered intelligently and lovingly. It was sold out for a good reason and the loud cheering during the curtain calls confirmed this.

12 November 2014

BCSA "Get to Know You" Social (November 2014)

Another month, another BCSA "Get to Know You" Social, another good evening.

The ingredients were much the same as usual. My chosen food, Smazeny Syr, was the least surprising thing and the waiter had written my choice down before I told him what it was. I started the evening on the usual Pilsner Urquell but managed to vary from the plan by getting a special Pilsner Urquell glass (pictured) rather than the usual jug.

The mix of people was much the same too though I was glad that we spent more time talking in English this month. The mix included some regulars, e.g. Lubo and Ruzena, as well as some people joining us for the first or second time. This mix is one of the reasons that these evenings work so well.

The only negative part of the evening was hearing how one of the people there was being subjected to some racial harassment having moved slightly out of London to a town where foreign nationals are not commonplace.

The other conversations were more positive and the evening flew past. I am not sure why the bar closes at 10:30pm (what did happen to the 24 hour drinking that Tony Blair promised us?) but that is probably a good thing as it takes me just over an hour to get home from them.

And, as usual, I went home happy and invigorated. The BCSA "Get to Know You" Socials are simple in idea and execution and yet they always manage to be a lot of fun. I like fun.

9 November 2014

I managed to escape the home office to take a walk across Ham Common

This was a sunny Sunday and I was almost house-bound with a work deliverable due by 9am on the Monday morning (I was not impressed with the client for coming up with that idea!) but the lure of the sunshine and the desire for some fresh air and some limb stretching was just too much temptation for me to resist, so I popped out for an hour or so just before the Sun gave up for the day.

Before it went to bed, the Sun produced bright colours and long shadows to give the familiar place a different look.

The avenue of trees here continues for almost a mile until it meets the back gates of Ham House. Along the way it uses some interesting names, including Melancholy Walk which always seems very inappropriate as it is a lovely place.

8 November 2014

Christmas lights on Oxford Street

I never go out of my way to see Christmas decorations and so it is always a pleasant surprise when I come across some that make an impact. This does not happen that often but I did like the displays in Carnaby Street in 2007 and 2009.

This year it was Oxford Street that impressed.

I was there for musical reasons (Hawklords at the 100 Club) and had to walk along Oxford Street (never a good idea) to get to/from the tube. The battle through the slow pedestrians moving in Brownian Motion was eased by the display above.

I particularly liked the way that the lights were deliberately not arranged in rows and so they looked like a lot of fairly lights falling slowly to ground. Or invading spaceships.