Monday, 31 October 2016

Film: Don't Breathe

Hallowe' en. Love it. Do have problems finding something decent to go to, though. I was supposed to go on a guided walk - London for a Tenner or Less, advertising Funzing as usual, and wouldn't you know, I was on a walk with the same guide last month. Wasn't massively impressed - I finally cancelled it (Funzing gives a refund if you cancel at least 48 hours in advance), and since I had the film list done, decided I'd go to a film instead. Horror, natch. Top rated horror, as it has been for a while, is Don't Breathe, about a group of thieves that break into a blind man's home to rob him, but get more than they bargained for.. unfortunately, locally it's only showing quite late at night, but I could grab a showing at Vue West End at 6:30 or a bit later, depending what suited. Actually, Train to Busan is rated higher - but I don't really like zombie films.

It wasn't booking out, so I didn't book. Made it back in time to get to the cinema just in time for the trailers - if I took the quick option: train to Waterloo, Northern Line to Leicester Square. At least it's quite near the Tube entrance. With nobody at the box office, and queues at every till, I got my ticket from a machine, and made my way upstairs.. all the way upstairs, to the top floor. Thank goodness they have escalators. I'd been able to choose my own seat, and was sat quite central, but a bit away from everyone else. Not hard - there weren't many there.

Was in time for the trailers - none of which looked decent. And so to the film, which opens with something of a spoiler. Don't worry, it doesn't spoil much. I was much more disappointed in the film's first scare, which was a stupid jump scare involving a big, scary dog jumping at a car window. Yes, it makes you jump - but it's a cheap scare, and as someone recently said on YouTube, that's everything that's wrong with modern horror.

I see Sam Raimi is a co-producer - well, he would know what scares. And, to be fair, there are things to like here. There were a few scenes that had me clutching at whatever came to hand, there's obvious tension in trying to creep around a blind man without him hearing you (particularly when he's armed), and the scenes in the dark are well done. However, most of it reminded me of nothing so much as a videogame. Find the money! Get the code! Find the door key! Whoops, here comes the scary blind guy again - avoid! People keep apparently getting killed, then not - and the film makers seem to take real pleasure in confusing us as to who's still alive.

So, unnerving rather than really scary, and one scene that made me gag. Sod IMDB's 7.4 rating - I gave it a 6, and only that high because there were some well shot scenes. Avoid - I can't think of a single audience member that this would appeal to, who couldn't find something better. Waste of another Hallowe'en. Hey, at least I got home early enough to eat and blog.. and there was a terrific busker, playing an instrumental version of Mad World. Which suits my mood - I still haven't definitely heard back about that interview, but I think I've seen the job readvertised..
 
Tomorrow, I'm back with the Crick Crack Club, who are back in Rich Mix, with the appropriately titled Day of the Dead. Includes the excellent Nell Phoenix and - my favourite - Clare Muireann Murphy.
 
Wednesday, I'm at a classical concert called Goyescas: Music in the time of Goya, in St. John's Smith Square. I'm going in the company of Kensington Classical Music.
 
Thursday, I was to go to the much over-advertised free comedy in Hammersmith - called Bonfire Special, and I'd signed up to go with five different groups (just because I can): Free Comedy Nights in Hammersmith Wimbledon and Farringdon, Random London, London Art Comedy & Culture Lovers, London Live Comedy, and London for a Tenner or Less, who advertised the thing no fewer than three times themselves. However, I then got word that it's been cancelled for a private event! So it was ironic that I was considering how many groups I might have to cancel - that's exactly what I ended up doing! Still haven't come up with a plan for that night - we'll see.
 
Then I'm back to Ireland for the weekend, and we're off to Aida at the University Concert Hall that Saturday. Another thing to remember to print off tickets for - website permitting!
 
On Monday 7th, I've booked for a talk given by a new group, Org London, whose theme is Digital Dystopias: Orwell's 1984 and the Internet Age. Or I might go to a film - we'll see.
 
Tuesday 8th, yippee, I'm back with free comedy in Hammersmith! (so far). Only with three groups so far - Free Comedy Nights in Hammersmith Wimbledon and Farringdon, London Live Comedy, and London for a Tenner or Less (just the once).
 
Wednesday 9th is back with the Man with the Hat, who's taking Let's Do London - for less! to Southwark Playhouse, to see Orca.
 
Thursday 10th - yes, you guessed it, free comedy in Hammersmith! Think of it as a placeholder. Funnily enough, I'd just booked with London for a Tenner or Less, and only just noticed that Free Comedy Nights in Hammersmith Wimbledon and Farringdon, and London Live Comedy, were also advertising. Again. So I've booked. Again. What the hey, it's free.
 
Now, on Friday 11th, London Dramatic Arts are off to see King Lear at the Barbican. Haven't seen that since I studied it in school. Well, I'm off to see it too - cheaper, and sat in the very back row! Hopefully, with the maze that the Barbican is, it'll be fairly easy to avoid them.
 
And I did have something to do on the 12th - or rather, the Man with the Hat did, until hardly anyone booked, so he cancelled! Bah humbug. Might go to the Lord Mayor's show, which is on that day. Or perhaps a film..

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Guided Tour: Billingsgate Roman House & Baths

Ah, good stuff - a double dose of the Man with the Hat was just what I needed this weekend, at the centre of a job-seeking storm! So, today he was taking London for Less Than a Tenner to Billingsgate Roman House & Baths - initially at 12:30, which I booked, but when that sold out, he scheduled one at 2, and offered us the chance to switch to that if we wanted. Splendid, a bit of a lie-in, and I switched. He subsequently scheduled one at 3 as well.. popular, these.

Well, isn't it lovely to have a teeny amount of free time?! An extra hour last night, the blog didn't take too long, and I went to sleep a bit earlier, and had a bit of time to myself this morning. So it wasn't too much of a hassle to catch the bus - my personal favourite, as it happens, the #344, which takes me almost everywhere. Sauntered down the road - a small wait, as it happened - along came the bus, and (sort of) whisked me to Monument, on what was a very foggy day; I was glad this wasn't a scenic tour.

The Walrus & Carpenter was our meeting point - just up from the bath house, on Lower Thames Street. The bus dropped me right beside a convenient subway, which I used to cross down to the street, which runs under the bridge. Terrible stench from that subway, but otherwise very useful - including for the person sleeping there. You could tell they were still alive - a foot moved, under the sleeping bag.

Down to Lower Thames Street then, and crossed when possible - turn right, and you can't miss the pub - there isn't an absolute flood of them here. We'd been directed to the cellar bar, and when I made my way down the somewhat precarious stairs, there they were - all two of them! Man with Hat, and man without, warming a corner of the cellar. Couldn't miss them, either - they were the only two there.


Nice spot - Man Without Hat kindly bought me a drink, as Man with Hat went to fetch the people who'd been on the first tour. Only a few popped down to the cellar - they had drinks, and a couple had food. And we chatted convivially until we - the "second wave" headed off. Mind you, I think we worried the Man with the Hat somewhat - we got a bit distracted and were nearly late, only to find him rushing down the stairs to get us, as we made our way up. And then fidgeting impatiently outside the bath house door, just down the road, as we strolled down to him. Can't blame him really.. we seemed to be the last to arrive. But we did make it in time.

We had to buzz in, and had two Museum of London guides, who gave us free handouts about Roman London, and showed us a map of Roman London before taking us down. It was interesting to see the islands that originally comprised the land south of the Thames:


Downstairs then to the main dig, which we viewed from a walkway that, we were warned, only took 12 people at a time. Terrific. Indeed, it did sway a bit. We were also warned not to drop anything into the pit, because they weren't allowed to go fish it out for us! So, as ever, they can't be completely sure what they've uncovered, but they think it might have been a riverside villa, complete with bath house.


Note what they've nicknamed the "cowboy builder" attempt to the left, an extension that doesn't align properly, or connect with the main build. We then moved on to the bath house itself, with its respective rooms for "tepid", "hot", and "cold", with an engaging guide that told us how they were used. Probably.

Fascinating stuff, and plenty to digest over the course of 45 minutes. The guides were first-class, and I can really recommend this tour. Afterwards, the group - most of whom I didn't know - followed us back to the pub, but elected to sit upstairs. Now, I'd just ordered food, and there wasn't room upstairs, so I made my way downstairs, with the aforementioned Man Without Hat, and those of the final group that joined us when they were done. I must say, I'd gladly eat here again - the ale-glazed chicken was delicious, as was the tartare sauce that accompanied it. And the chat was so good - focussing, appropriately, on things horrific and macabre - that we easily filled the time until the place closed, at 5.

Thanks, group, for filling my weekend, and reminding me about what's good about life, at this stressful time - gives me ammunition to face that office again tomorrow.

Monday is Hallowe'en (whoopee)! I was supposed to go on a guided walk - London for a Tenner or Less (nothing to do with the Man with the Hat), advertising Funzing as usual, and wouldn't you know, I was on a walk with the same guide last month. Wasn't massively impressed - I finally cancelled it (Funzing gives a refund if you cancel at least 48 hours in advance), and since I had the film list done, decided I'd go to a film that night instead. Horror, natch. Top rated horror, as it has been for a while, is Don't Breathe, about a group of thieves that break into a blind man's home to rob him, but get more than they bargained for.. unfortunately, locally it's only showing quite late at night, but I can grab a showing at Vue West End at 6:30 or a bit later, depending what suits. Much scarier than a ghost walk, I'll bet. Trailer looks great. Actually, Train to Busan is rated higher - but I don't really like zombie films.
 
Tuesday, I'm back with the Crick Crack Club, who are back in Rich Mix, with the appropriately titled Day of the Dead. Includes the excellent Nell Phoenix and - my favourite - Clare Muireann Murphy.
 
Wednesday, I'm at a classical concert called Goyescas: Music in the time of Goya, in St. John's Smith Square. I'm going in the company of Kensington Classical Music.
 
Thursday, I was to go to the much over-advertised free comedy in Hammersmith - called Bonfire Special, and I'd signed up to go with five different groups (just because I can): Free Comedy Nights in Hammersmith Wimbledon and Farringdon, Random London, London Art Comedy & Culture Lovers, London Live Comedy, and London for a Tenner or Less, who advertised the thing no fewer than three times themselves. However, I just got word today that it's been cancelled for a private event! So it was ironic that I was considering how many groups I might have to cancel - that's exactly what I ended up doing! Still haven't come up with a plan for that night - we'll see.
 
Then I'm back to Ireland for the weekend, and we're off to Aida at the University Concert Hall that Saturday. Another thing to remember to print off tickets for - website permitting!
 
On Monday 7th, I've booked for a talk given by a new group, Org London, whose theme is Digital Dystopias: Orwell's 1984 and the Internet Age. Or I might go to a film - we'll see.
 
Tuesday 8th, yippee, I'm back with free comedy in Hammersmith! (so far). Only with three groups so far - Free Comedy Nights in Hammersmith Wimbledon and Farringdon, London Live Comedy, and London for a Tenner or Less (just the once).
 
Wednesday 9th is back with the Man with the Hat, who's taking Let's Do London - for less! to Southwark Playhouse, to see Orca.
 
Thursday 10th - yes, you guessed it, free comedy in Hammersmith! Think of it as a placeholder. Funnily enough, I'd just booked with London for a Tenner or Less, and only just noticed that Free Comedy Nights in Hammersmith Wimbledon and Farringdon, and London Live Comedy, were also advertising. Again. So I've booked. Again. What the hey, it's free.
 
Now, on Friday 11th, London Dramatic Arts are off to see King Lear at the Barbican. Haven't seen that since I studied it in school. Well, I'm off to see it too - cheaper, and sat in the very back row! Hopefully, with the maze that the Barbican is, it'll be fairly easy to avoid them.
 
And I did have something to do on the 12th - or rather, the Man with the Hat did, until hardly anyone booked, so he cancelled! Bah humbug. Might go to the Lord Mayor's show, which is on that day. Or perhaps a film..

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Ballet: Anastasia

Yessiree, another of the Man with the Hat's season at the Opera House. Today was the ballet Anastasia - London for Less Than a Tenner in the slips, Let's Do London - for less! in the amphitheatre. Was looking forward to this one..

Drat it though, it would have to be a matinee, and me up late last night blogging! Well, I slept well at least, dragged myself out of bed, and chose the fast option - train to Waterloo, then a bus. With several platforms closed today at Clapham Junction, the nearest option for a Waterloo-bound train was Platform 7. Never before have I been right in choosing that platform - well, today was a first, and the scheduled train actually did stop there! and was first to leave.

There are quite a few buses from Waterloo that'll take you in the right direction - easiest is probably to head for Stop C, which services two buses. Take either, get off at Aldwych. Walk back, and Google Maps suggests a right turn up Catherine Street, left at the end, then right onto Bow Street. Who am I to argue? Catherine Street was filled with a stream of coaches, trying to squeeze between a recycling lorry and a line of large, expensive-looking parked cars - Bow Street, on the other hand, was full of black cabs. And I passed a whole host of restaurants - which was just painful, as I hadn't had breakfast.

Made it there first again, yay! swiftly followed by Mary - and once the Man with the Hat had arrived, the hordes descended. Got our tickets, headed up..


And doesn't that photo they've used for the stage screen fit well with the décor? (Also notice, beside the mixing desk, the Director's Box, where they put me when I was late, that time.)

As we determined from the free fliers, this performance had two intervals, each almost as long as the intervening bits. So we got to move around a lot. Three acts - the first two describe the royal family's life up to the revolution, and are as gorgeous as you'd expect. Beautiful, turn of the century dresses, graceful dance.

The first act, taking place on a ship, has the most gorgeous backdrop of billowing, sparkly material representing the sea, and ends with the declaration of war; it's highly idealised, a young girl's vision of the world, surrounded by handsome sailors and a loving family. But then, she was never to know much more.

The second act takes place at Anastasia's coming-out ball, much more grown-up, with tiaras and long dresses - but ends with revolutionaries storming the palace. As someone remarked at the interval - very powerful.

The third and final act was what I was waiting for - stark, with a plain, grey stage, a young woman in a mental hospital, the only furniture a bed, and her dressed in plain grey, to match the set. Flanked by nurses, she is shown footage of the royal family, and seems to identify with Anastasia. This is obviously the representation of Anna Anderson, who spent her life claiming to be Anastasia, who had apparently escaped. The whole set has her plagued by nightmares, surrounded by the ghosts of the royal family and lines of gun-toting soldiers. And lines of Romanovs who won't accept that she's one of them. And then there's Rasputin, who has stalked the background throughout the show, and now seems to bar her from the royals - the ballet ends with her defeating him once and for all, and apparently succumbing completely to the idea that she is a Romanov.

I loved it. Beautiful to watch during the first two acts, powerful, haunting. It's an iconic story, the assassination of this young family, and the possibility that the youngest daughter might have survived. Strongly recommended for anyone with an interest in the subject matter. Tickets still available for Monday, and for the 8th and 12th.

At the intervals, by the way, we headed for the balcony, where - for the first interval - we were gloriously entertained by a busker, right underneath, who treated us to showtunes with the most glorious voice.. packed with music, this place!

Afterwards, we headed to the Sun again (and this time I remembered the way, whee!). Upstairs as usual, and the Man with the Hat (who stayed behind to steer others our way) had told us they'd reserved space for us by the window. Sure had - we'd got the entire section! (and a table beside it). Little signs left for us on all the reserved tables:


And when he eventually arrived, he bought us some bottles of wine.. I was, of course, starving, having had - so far - one small tub of ice cream, in total, for the day. So I dined on bar snacks - and despite people's initial reluctance to eat, when they saw mine, there was kind of a rush.. plenty got ordered, in the end. The house wine here is excellent, I'm glad to report - and we had a great old time, sitting and chatting, with no particular place to be for the day. The advantage of a Saturday matinee! Just a pity we were a bit spread out, so we didn't all get to chat to each other. Oh, and caveat: someone (not in our group) took a nasty spill on the steps leading down from the window section - they're quite shallow, and it's not obvious there's a step there.. Anyway, I ended up in the hardcore group that stayed till the end, which came after some ghost stories were told (appropriate for the time of year) that, would you believe, were accompanied by Ghostbusters on the radio. Followed by Zombie, by the Cranberries - well, the title fitted the theme!

And so home, by bus this time, passing plenty of costumed folks, this close to Hallowe'en..

 

Tomorrow, the Man with the Hat has no fewer than three instances of London for Less Than a Tenner, heading off to a guided tour of Billingsgate Roman House & Baths - one each at 12.30, 2, and 3pm. He originally advertised the 12.30 and I booked - then he advertised the 2pm one, and offered us the chance to switch if we liked. So I did, for a bit of a lie-in! He finally put one up for 3pm as well, which is now sold out, I see..

Monday is Hallowe'en (whoopee)! I was supposed to go on a guided walk - London for a Tenner or Less (nothing to do with the Man with the Hat), advertising Funzing as usual, and wouldn't you know, I was on a walk with the same guide last month. Wasn't massively impressed - I finally cancelled it (Funzing gives a refund if you cancel at least 48 hours in advance), and since I had the film list done, decided I'd go to a film that night instead. Horror, natch. Top rated horror, as it has been for a while, is Don't Breathe, about a group of thieves that break into a blind man's home to rob him, but get more than they bargained for.. unfortunately, locally it's only showing quite late at night, but I can grab a showing at Vue West End at 6:30 or a bit later, depending what suits. Much scarier than a ghost walk, I'll bet. Trailer looks great. Actually, Train to Busan is rated higher - but I don't really like zombie films.
 
Tuesday, I'm back with the Crick Crack Club, who are back in Rich Mix, with the appropriately titled Day of the Dead. Includes the excellent Nell Phoenix and - my favourite - Clare Muireann Murphy.
 
Wednesday, I'm at a classical concert called Goyescas: Music in the time of Goya, in St. John's Smith Square. I'm going in the company of Kensington Classical Music.
 
Thursday, I was to go to the much over-advertised free comedy in Hammersmith - called Bonfire Special, and I'd signed up to go with five different groups (just because I can): Free Comedy Nights in Hammersmith Wimbledon and Farringdon, Random London, London Art Comedy & Culture Lovers, London Live Comedy, and London for a Tenner or Less, who advertised the thing no fewer than three times themselves. However, I just got word today that it's been cancelled for a private event! So it was ironic that I was considering how many groups I might have to cancel - that's exactly what I ended up doing! Still haven't come up with a plan for that night - we'll see.
 
Then I'm back to Ireland for the weekend, and we're off to Aida at the University Concert Hall that Saturday. Another thing to remember to print off tickets for - website permitting!
 
On Monday 7th, I've booked for a talk given by a new group, Org London, whose theme is Digital Dystopias: Orwell's 1984 and the Internet Age. Or I might go to a film - we'll see.
 
Tuesday 8th, yippee, I'm back with free comedy in Hammersmith! (so far). Only with three groups so far - Free Comedy Nights in Hammersmith Wimbledon and Farringdon, London Live Comedy, and London for a Tenner or Less (just the once).
 
Wednesday 9th is back with the Man with the Hat, who's taking Let's Do London - for less! to Southwark Playhouse, to see Orca.
 
Thursday 10th - yes, you guessed it, free comedy in Hammersmith! Think of it as a placeholder. Funnily enough, I'd just booked with London for a Tenner or Less, and only just noticed that Free Comedy Nights in Hammersmith Wimbledon and Farringdon, and London Live Comedy, were also advertising. Again. So I've booked. Again. What the hey, it's free.
 
Now, on Friday 11th, London Dramatic Arts are off to see King Lear at the Barbican. Haven't seen that since I studied it in school. Well, I'm off to see it too - cheaper, and sat in the very back row! Hopefully, with the maze that the Barbican is, it'll be fairly easy to avoid them.
 
And I did have something to do on the 12th - or rather, the Man with the Hat did, until hardly anyone booked, so he cancelled! Bah humbug. Might go to the Lord Mayor's show, which is on that day. Or perhaps a film..

Friday, 28 October 2016

Haunted Tube Tour & Opera: The Nose

Oh sweet God almighty, what a week. Well, working chronologically, I did finally get to an event on Wednesday. London for a Tenner or Less (one of the Meetup groups created to advertise Funzing) has several instances scheduled of their Haunted Tube Tour. And on Wednesday, I finally made one. It was late enough that I didn't have trouble getting there - we had to meet outside Bethnal Green Tube at 8.

Only been there once before, and didn't travel direct on that occasion; it turned out that it would take over an hour by bus alone - which is a bit much for me - but the Overground would drop me within walking distance, so that's what I took, racing up the stairs and practically collapsing onto the train, just making it in time. I'd managed to get my breathing back to a reasonable level by the time we set off, and got a seat after a few stops. Mind you, it's just as well the distance between stops isn't as long later on as for the first stops! I was really in fear of not making it to my destination in time. But it dropped me in Whitechapel in plenty of time for what was promised to be about a 15-minute walk.

Very ethnically diverse area, this - plenty to look at as I walked:


Exiting the station was a bit confusing, with the regular entrance closed for construction work, but there are plenty of maps to keep you on the right track. And with the maps app on my phone, I soon made it onto the right road, and found myself at the Tube station. Now, the Funzing page had said to meet at the Stairway to Heaven memorial in the adjacent park, erected in memory of the victims of the Bethnal Green Tube disaster: but actually, the park gates were closed, so we clustered outside them.

Now, the Funzing page also said that our guide would be a lady called Siwan, and pictured her dressed in a long, black cape. Actually, what we got was a smartly dressed chap called Nick - I believe that several different guides run this tour. He was friendly, he was knowledgeable, and he carried an instruction sheet, which I sneaked a look at, a couple of times - it included the stories he had to tell, as well as details of which Tube lines he should take, and where to go within the stations to tell the stories. You see, we tapped in at Bethnal Green, and basically travelled around various stations that were associated with grisly incidents or ghostly stories, before finally tapping out at Covent Garden. Handy for me - I was headed in the direction of home!


Good place to start, Bethnal Green, with its wartime disaster. At Bank, poor Nick had trouble being heard over the accompanying busker down the hall.. Aldgate and Liverpool Street, for me, had the most interesting stories, with the mysterious cctv ghost of Liverpool Street being a real attraction! On to Farringdon, and what Nick described as "the loudest pa announcements on the Underground", then King's Cross, finishing with a theatreland murder at Covent Garden.

It's a really interesting tour, on what is a fascinating transit system in its own right - this is the first Tube tour I've taken, and I was enthralled. Caveat - as always with the Tube, there's a fair bit of climbing up and down stairs within stations, while changing lines. We were glad of the rest, when we got a seat on the trains between stations! Also, do remember, if going on this or similar, to top up your Oyster card in advance, if that's what you're using - he gave us time to do so, but it's a nuisance. Popular around Hallowe'en, of course, and currently the next available date is the 7th - but they run right into December. Recommended.

It runs for about two hours, and I had to be up early next day, so no blogging that night. Now, the next day was Thursday - date of my second interview, and the recruiters wanted to see me first. Well, I scheduled that nice and early, and afterwards had time for one of them to take me for - what was, for me, brunch at the local Costa. And a lovely one it was - a piping hot ham and cheese toastie, with a delicious hot chocolate. Also recommended! Afterwards, it was a bit far to walk to the interview - but I had time to take the bus. The #25 is supposed to be one of the good scenic routes, and I certainly enjoyed it:


My destination was Golden Square, in Soho, where I arrived early enough to admire the sculptures:

 
..and the interview seemed to go really well - watch this space. Anyhow, it's really central, and although I was booked to go to the Opera House later, I still had time to eat after I'd finished. Chinese beckoned, and I was an easy walk from Chinatown - where I located my last favourite, New Loon Fung. Lordy, it's so long since I ate Chinese, I nearly forgot to ask for a fork! (You don't want to see me handle chopsticks - it can get messy.) And yes, their honey and lemon chicken is as delicious as ever - although a couple of pieces were very chewy.
 
 
I was dead early for the opera - the Man with the Hat was shepherding us all to see The Nose, written by Shostakovich and based on a satirical short story by Gogol. Well hey, means I got the pick of the tickets!
 
 
Two hours without interval.. and as you can imagine, a nose features prominently. Actually, in one scene, a line of tap-dancing noses, which I think everyone agreed represented the highlight of the evening. 'Tis a surreal tale of a chap that wakes up one morning.. noseless. Terrible state of affairs, and he runs from pillar to post, amidst mindless bureaucracy, getting nowhere. While his nose, on the other hand - so to speak - dresses up in a posh uniform, busily evading capture as it skips through the town.
 
Quite a surreal evening overall, with one actor entering via the stalls, a narrator remarking how weird this all is, and a nose with a life of its own. It's been described as being over-long not to have an interval, but if you have a liking for the absurd, you're sure to like something in this. Overall, the music isn't very tuneful, apart from one funeral scene, where the cast join in chorus and produce one of those gorgeous, loud sounds that the Opera House does so well. Recommended, for fans of the absurd. Mind you, when I checked, there were only two performances left with remaining seats: the 1 & 9 November. Hey-ho, off you go..
 
Afterwards, we usually repair to the Sun, but apparently they had a Hallowe'en thing on last night, so instead we went to our previous haunt, the Covent Garden, which used to be called The Globe - just across the road. They were crowded downstairs - and upstairs - but the ever-resourceful Man with the Hat had told us to ask them to open the top level, if we needed space - and that's what they did, leaving it all to us. Good chat followed - but I wish I knew what white wine I'd ordered (I didn't specify), because I'd hate to have it again..
 
After we watched the Man with the Hat wobble off on his bike, we walked to Waterloo, where I had a cheap train ride home, given all my travels during the day (max fare again). Again, I had to be in Guildford today, so again, the blog didn't get written. Met Helen for lunch in Heart and Soul - another one looking for a job: must be contagious! I see they've changed the menu somewhat - I had some delicious garlic bread, which was eventually followed by a quite spicy Cajun chicken burger (service hasn't improved, I notice). Good food - just don't go there if you're in a hurry.
 
Now, I was thinking of a film for tonight - hence the delay with the blog, although the film list was a good bit shorter than usual. However, when I finished it - top of the list was Starfish, based on the true story of a man who contracted a particularly vicious case of septicaemia, losing his hands and part of his face. Oh wonderful. Just what I didn't need, on the day I was supposed to hear whether I'd got the job, but didn't hear. Nah, I stayed in and wrote the blog instead, otherwise it'd never have got done!
 
The weekend is devoted to the Man with the Hat - well, the afternoons, anyway! Tomorrow, we're back at the Opera House for a production of Anastasia - must remember to get up, it's a matinee! Both groups going, as usual for here - London for Less Than a Tenner in the slips, as usual, Let's Do London - for Less! in the Amphiteatre.
 
And on Sunday, he's got no fewer than three instances of London for Less Than a Tenner, heading off to a guided tour of Billingsgate Roman House & Baths - one each at 12.30, 2, and 3pm. He originally advertised the 12.30 and I booked - then he advertised the 2pm one, and offered us the chance to switch if we liked. So I did, for a bit of a lie-in! He finally put one up for 3pm as well, which is now sold out, I see..
 
Monday is Hallowe'en (whoopee)! I was supposed to go on a guided walk - London for a Tenner or Less again, Funzing again, and wouldn't you know, I was on a walk with the same guide last month. Wasn't massively impressed - I finally cancelled it (Funzing gives a refund if you cancel at least 48 hours in advance), and since I had the film list done, decided I'd go to a film that night instead. Horror, natch. Top rated horror, as it has been for a while, is Don't Breathe, about a group of thieves that break into a blind man's home to rob him, but get more than they bargained for.. unfortunately, locally it's only showing quite late at night, but I can grab a showing at Vue West End at 6:30 or a bit later, depending what suits. Much scarier than a ghost walk, I'll bet.
 
Tuesday, I'm back with the Crick Crack Club, who are back in Rich Mix, with the appropriately titled Day of the Dead. Includes the excellent Nell Phoenix and - my favourite - Clare Muireann Murphy.
 
Wednesday, I'm at a classical concert called Goyescas: Music in the time of Goya, in St. John's Smith Square. I'm going in the company of Kensington Classical Music.
 
Thursday, I'm going to the much over-advertised free comedy in Hammersmith - this one's called Bonfire Special, and I've signed up to go with five different groups (just because I can): Free Comedy Nights in Hammersmith Wimbledon and Farringdon, Random London, London Art Comedy & Culture Lovers, London Live Comedy, and London for a Tenner or Less, who advertised the thing no fewer than three times themselves. So, if I get a better offer that night, I'll have a lot to cancel, eh?!
 
Then I'm back to Ireland for the weekend, and we're off to Aida at the University Concert Hall that Saturday. Another thing to remember to print off tickets for - website permitting!
 
On Monday 7th, I've booked for a talk given by a new group, Org London, whose theme is Digital Dystopias: Orwell's 1984 and the Internet Age. Or I might go to a film - we'll see.
 
Tuesday 8th, yippee, I'm back with free comedy in Hammersmith! (so far). Only with three groups so far - Free Comedy Nights in Hammersmith Wimbledon and Farringdon, London Live Comedy, and London for a Tenner or Less (just the once).
 
Wednesday 9th is back with the Man with the Hat, who's taking Let's Do London - for less! to Southwark Playhouse, to see Orca.
 
Thursday 10th - yes, you guessed it, free comedy in Hammersmith! Think of it as a placeholder. Funnily enough, I'd just booked with London for a Tenner or Less, and only just noticed that Free Comedy Nights in Hammersmith Wimbledon and Farringdon, and London Live Comedy, were also advertising. Again. So I've booked. Again. What the hey, it's free.
 
Now, on Friday 11th, London Dramatic Arts are off to see King Lear at the Barbican. Haven't seen that since I studied it in school. Well, I'm off to see it too - cheaper, and sat in the very back row! Hopefully, with the maze that the Barbican is, it'll be fairly easy to avoid them.
 
And I did have something to do on the 12th - or rather, the Man with the Hat did, until hardly anyone booked, so he cancelled! Bah humbug. Might go to the Lord Mayor's show, which is on that day. Or perhaps a film..


Monday, 24 October 2016

Play: Amadeus

..isn't going to happen. Yes, I booked it for tomorrow evening, yes, I knew I'd be flying back tomorrow, so as not to have to fly back on my mother's birthday, which was today. So I specifically booked a lunchtime flight, so I'd make it.

Anyway, today my mother asked me what time I'd have to head to the airport, so I checked. Imagine my surprise to see that my flight didn't leave until 5:30.. I'd searched my email inbox by the booking reference number, so a few emails came up, and I checked the original booking. Sure enough, lunchtime. And there was a schedule change notification, sent last month, changing the booking to the evening flight. That schedule change I hadn't paid attention to, because I was so busy at the time.

Then I remembered something my mother had said, about customer complaints against Aer Lingus, because of flight cancellations - seems they simply have an aircraft shortage. Well, bah humbug. Now, with the only remaining flights to get me to London in time being at silly o' clock in the morning - well, it just doesn't seem worth it. So I'll have to miss the play.

Which just goes to show the precariousness of booking anything for the day you fly. Ah well, I can relax and prep for my interview, eh?

At least it's the thing I was least bothered about going to, this week. Wednesday is something I've been looking forward to for a while - I'm off with London for a Tenner or Less (Funzing, not Man with Hat!) to Step on Board the Haunted Tube ExpressHallowe'en starts here, eh?!

And Thursday is the next of the Man with the Hat's long season at the Opera House, where we're headed to see the comic opera, The Nose. I'm going cheap, as usual, of course, and sitting in the slips, with London for Less Than a Tenner. And wouldn't you know it, that's the day of my second interview..

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Concert: Mario Lanza

Well, here I am, back in Ireland for my mother's birthday, and having checked what was on, I discovered this tribute to Mario Lanza, at the University Concert Hall. Figured she'd like it, so I booked - Print at Home tickets, but as sometimes happens with this website, they didn't load for me. No hassle, when I discovered this on Thursday, I rang them and they printed off a couple of tickets and had them waiting for me.

So, off we set yesterday evening. Nearly didn't make it at all, what with an idiot driver of a Range Rover, who insisted on overtaking a cyclist, at a bend on a narrow hillside road. I've always said this is like the roads they show on the road safety ads.. Anyway, all's well that ends well, and we arrived safely at the Castletroy Park Hotel, just across the road from the university. Where she had her usual salmon, I had soup and a stirfry - both were quite spicy, and overall, as she remarked afterwards, they must add a lot of salt to their food; we were both parched. I, in particular, was stuffed, after gorging on the huge quantity of noodles that they filled up my stirfry with, and neither of us were that impressed with the ice cream selection we had for dessert, which was just sloppy. But hey, it's generally quite good. Although definitely not cheap.

We arrived in good time at the concert hall - very nice, for once, not to be rushing - and took a seat on one of the two highly prized sofas in the cafe, where we people-watched, and she remarked how the audience was obviously "of a certain age". Plenty of walking sticks, a walker, and one guy on oxygen. What the hey, it was quite full.. and mercifully, they opened the doors good and early for once, allowing us to take our seats.



We were sat right behind the mixing desk, but the guy's head wasn't too big, and it was ok. And as my mother remarked, it was nice to be in the middle of the row, so you didn't have to keep standing to let people in and out..

They started late, which as I remarked made sense, given the pace at which some audience members were moving. Anyway, when they did start, it was to a documentary - shown on the screen you can see in the picture - voiced by a deep-voiced Englishman, and telling us Mario Lanza's life story, and permeating the show. On stage were the Slovak musicians, led by Vladimir and his brother Anton, whom we've seen many times in Glór, and who are in concert themselves here next weekend. And there were four singers, to voice the great man's Greatest Hits.

The musical accompaniment was excellent, and although I don't have much interest in Mario Lanza per say, the documentary was interesting, and you would recognise most of the songs. Must also have been really interesting for people who were fans. Of the singers, Sean Costello was really the stand-out for me, in particular with a stunning rendition of Una Furtiva Lagrima. The one soprano on stage, however - Sandra Oman - I found frankly irritating, from her mawkish introduction to her distractingly bouncy hair (well, to be fair, that's her choice) to her mouth, which waggled when she was doing that vibrating thing they sometimes do. I noticed her hand joined in, for accompaniment.

Hey-ho, it was entertaining enough, and my mother enjoyed it, which was the main thing. And I'm just delighted to get a short break from London, frankly - need the rest, need to get my head together for this week's interview - looks a really interesting company. 

I fly back early on Tuesday, because I'm booked with London Dramatic Arts that night, to go to Amadeus, at the National.

Wednesday is something I've been looking forward to for a while - I'm off with London for a Tenner or Less (Funzing, not Man with Hat!) to Step on Board the Haunted Tube ExpressHallowe'en starts here, eh?!

And Thursday is the next of the Man with the Hat's long season at the Opera House, where we're headed to see the comic opera, The Nose. I'm going cheap, as usual, of course, and sitting in the slips, with London for Less Than a Tenner. And wouldn't you know it, that's the day of my second interview..

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Storytelling: The Grateful and the Dead

Some things I gravitate towards, and the Crick Crack Club is one of my favourites. I'm a real evangelist for them - so many people haven't heard of storytelling for grownups, and I keep urging them to go; it's so good, the stories generally aren't ones you've heard before - although they are traditional - and I think everybody loves a good yarn.

Tarnation though, they would have to have it in Crouch End. Nothing against the place, but it's so far away.. the "fast" route was supposed to take nearly an hour, so I didn't bother to research the slower, cheaper, one. At least I was home in good time, and had visions even of being able to eat before I set out! (It was a late start.) So you can imagine the choice language that was uttered when I walked in the door to discover that we had no power - yes, they let the electricity meter run out again. I usually top it up at the post office, but they were closed by now, and although I had internet access on my phone, the Paypoint website wasn't loading, to tell me where my nearest alternative was. I ended up walking in the direction of the station - where, mercifully, that website finally loaded, and told me there was a newsagent's up the road where I could get it done.

And, as it happened, I even got a dinner wolfed down before heading off. So, train to Vauxhall, Victoria Line to Finsbury Park, take one of a couple of buses. I'd just missed a W3, but another was ready for the off - this is the terminus - and when it set off, I was on it. Get off at Tottenham Lane YMCA, and the Arthouse is just ahead on the left. The doors were marked - one Push, the other Pull - and the lobby crowded. I pushed my way through to the bar, where there seemed to be a lack of communication; when I told him I had printed out my ticket, he asked me for my payment card - and printed me off a ticket. Whatever. Entrance to the balcony was to the right, entrance to the ground floor to the left, and by the door marked "Live".

I'd chosen the front row - wouldn't do it again. I do like to be close to the action, but this venue has a raised stage, and I spent the entire show with my neck craned uncomfortably upwards. As usual, a bare stage - just a stool, and a piece of red fabric scrunched up along the edge to form a decoration:


Of course, for all that I was worried about being on time, the thing started quite late - and could afford to do so, being only an hour long, without interval. Ben Haggerty, whom I'm used to introducing the Crick Crack events, was last night introduced by another storyteller, Nell Phoenix. It was a nice change to hear Ben tell a story - tall, shaven-headed, and usually dressed in unrelieved black, complete with hat: although, last night, he did concede to some colour in the form of a rose-red tie - he's probably the most theatrical of the storytellers.

And he proved a delight to listen to, as he took us through the tale of Jack, who sets out on his adventures, and as he made sure to involve the audience as much as he could. It was interesting to hear him point out the traditional elements of the story as we came across them - this was an archetypal tale, with a cloak of invisibility, winged shoes, a sword of power.. sometimes it's good to deconstruct these things. A quest, a wedding, a debt repaid, and a moral at the end. Oh, and the meaning of the title, which becomes apparent right at the end. And - at least according to Mr. Haggerty - this story was the origin of the name of The Grateful Dead..

So, an enjoyable evening. Apart from my seating position - I'm not sitting in that row for the other shows I've booked - and the sheer length of the journey. Seems they're making this a featured venue - lordy me. Anyway, I picked up a flier on the way out - they've scheduled three more shows there, and I'm free on those dates, so have booked them. (They're not yet scheduled on Meetup.) A chilly wait at the bus stop up the road - gloves required - and Tube and train all the way home again. And after that journey (max fare achieved again) and, indeed, the week I've had, I was too exhausted to do more than start this last night. Although I see I published it by mistake. :-)

Today, I'm back to Ireland for a long weekend, it being my mother's birthday on Monday - I'm taking a couple of days off. and good riddance to the place. (Still haven't got her a card yet!) Anyway, tomorrow we're off to a Mario Lanza tribute at the University Concert Hall, Limerick. Tickets wouldn't display, for some reason - I rang them and got them to print and hold them for us.

I fly back early on Tuesday, because I'm booked with London Dramatic Arts that night, to go to Amadeus, at the National.

Wednesday is something I've been looking forward to for a while - I'm off with London for a Tenner or Less (Funzing, not Man with Hat!) to Step on Board the Haunted Tube ExpressHallowe'en starts here, eh?!

And Thursday is the next of the Man with the Hat's long season at the Opera House, where we're headed to see the comic opera, The Nose. I'm going cheap, as usual, of course, and sitting in the slips, with London for Less Than a Tenner. And wouldn't you know it, that's the day of my second interview..

Top Secret Comedy Club

Good timing for the Man with the Hat, scheduling an event for the evening of the frantic day in which I had two phone interviews! I needed some moral support, y'know? Anyway, it was Top Secret again, with Brendon Burns highlighting. Of course I booked. And although we were subsequently told he wouldn't be appearing - well hey, I wanted to meet the folks anyway!

So, off I set yesterday evening. Now, I've often thought of just getting the bus there, but it's never happened that I had time. Well, yesterday I did have time! And wouldn't you know, the 87 arrived at the stop just as I did. Fate, thought I. Fate took a funny turn down the road a bit though - traffic was heavy-ish, and just past Wandsworth Road Station, the driver got on the tannoy and told us he'd just found out there was a bad accident ahead, and he'd let us off right there if we wanted.

I'm destined never to get a bus all the way to Top Secret, eh? So, I got off, figured any kind of bus or car was out of the question - the closest station was Wandsworth Road, which I made my way back to, but that's Overground only. Which didn't take me anywhere useful except back to Clapham Junction, which is where I went. Was lucky enough to stumble on a Waterloo-bound train just as it pulled in. Getting somewhere now. The last leg was to get a bus from Waterloo - but it's only a few stops away, and several buses head that way: unfortunately, from various stops! Thus it was that I ended up scuttling in one direction after another in Waterloo, consulting Google Maps on my phone, adjusting my departure time, and desperately trying to figure out whether I could get to the bus stop in time for whatever it said was coming.

The solution was Stop F, which has three buses that stop at it, all of which head that way, and had buses due in three, and six, minutes. So I took the first one that happened along, got off at Aldwych, and walked ahead, then took the next left onto Drury Lane. Which turns out to be very long, especially when you're in a hurry! Was I ever glad to come across the club. The person checking names was at the top of the stairs this time, checked my name, and stamped my hand with something incomprehensible. Now, I was just in time for the show, pretty much, and it was quite crowded - I couldn't see anyone I knew, so when I found a seat over the side, I just took that. A scrum at the bar made me reluctant to queue for a drink, which meant that, for the first time, I was watching completely sober..

Great show, great audience! After the mc's traditional routine - which regulars will recognise - we opened with the very funny Francis Foster, who played on his Latino heritage, with a mother from Caracas.. to be followed by a clever set from Abigoliah, before the first break. Where the Man with the Hat wandered by (hello!), but there wasn't much point in my moving at that point.

Next pair up were the Malaysian Nigel Ng, who, of course, played up the Malaysian angle, and went down a treat - and Elliot Steel, son of Mark, who did a decent set, buoyed up by the remains of his pint of beer. To be followed by the second break, where the Man with the Hat wandered by again, saw me reading the property pages, and said enough was enough, rescuing me and depositing me among his flock, near the back. (Hello, all!)

A couple I knew next - Josh Robertson, who has a loyal following there, I think, and Bobby Mair, who had fun with a drunk heckler at the back of the right-hand side section. The night ended with someone whose name I can't remember at all, I'm afraid - but like Bobby Mair, he's Canadian. And apart from the drunk guy to the side, the audience proved highly entertaining - well done to all! Poor Josh was stood at the exit, brandishing branded hats, but I don't think he was doing much business..

As usual, we congregated outside afterwards, in the chilly night. Some of our number got caught downstairs, and took an age to get out - and then most didn't feel able to stay, as it had got quite late. So we were a small group, and the Man with the Hat said, well in that case, why not just cross the road, to the Sun? So we did, and got a table in the corner. Under the telly that was showing football. And yes, the men in the group were inspired to discuss that topic. While the ladies sighed pointedly, and discussed - other stuff.

Just what I needed, thanks guys! Handily, on the way home, maximum fare had kicked in (what with my shenanigans earlier), and I got a cheap bus trip, and a free train journey back from Waterloo. Still too late to blog though, being in Guildford again today.


Tonight, I'm back with the Crick Crack Club, for The Grateful and the Dead, their first event in the Arthouse, Crouch End. And the story is being told by the famous Ben Haggerty, no less!

Then I'm back to Ireland for a long weekend, it being my mother's birthday on Monday - I'm taking a couple of days off. (Still haven't got her a card yet!) Anyway, on Saturday we're off to a Mario Lanza tribute at the University Concert Hall, Limerick. Tickets wouldn't display, for some reason - I rang them and got them to print and hold them for us.

I fly back early on Tuesday, because I'm booked with London Dramatic Arts that night, to go to Amadeus, at the National.

Wednesday is something I've been looking forward to for a while - I'm off with London for a Tenner or Less (Funzing, not Man with Hat!) to Step on Board the Haunted Tube ExpressHallowe'en starts here, eh?!


And Thursday of next week is the next of the Man with the Hat's long season at the Opera House, where we're headed to see the comic opera, The Nose. I'm going cheap, as usual, of course, and sitting in the slips, with London for Less Than a Tenner. And wouldn't you know it, that's the day of my second interview..