Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Musical: License to Ill

Whew, whadda day. So, this interview - with California - had to be scheduled to account for the time difference. I asked for 6pm, they gave me 6.30. I asked to compromise with 6.15 - not a chance. Which left me dubious about getting to Southwark Playhouse for 8pm, given that the interview was to last 45 minutes. Mary, bless her, offered me a space close to the venue - she both lives and works close to there - where I could take the call. Well, I'd been told it was a phone call. And then, yesterday evening, the recruiter emailed me a Google Hangout link! So I'd need an internet connection and a webcam, and it was just too much trouble - I said I'd take it at home and risk getting there in time.

As it happened, it was a good thing I kept the phone near me, just in case - because, just after 6, phone me he did! As I was downloading the Google Hangout plugin. When I mentioned that to him, he said we could use that if I wanted - o no, I said, we're on the phone now, might as well stick to it! Well anyway, I think it went pretty well - and 40 minutes in he ran out of questions, mentioned that an hour had been set aside for this (WHAAT?!) and did I want to use up the whole hour? Heh. Yeah, sure. So I asked him five minutes' worth of questions, while putting on my coat. Then I said I was off to a musical. O yes, which one? Well, I said, it's about the Beastie Boys, if you're familiar with them. He paused, and said that all he could remember was that song about the "right to party"? Yup, I said, I bet that'll feature.. and I bet we'll be singing along.

Well, since I moved to Clapham Junction, I've been taking the 344 to Southwark Playhouse. Not this evening - although Google Maps optimistically promised it wouldn't take any longer than any other route, I know damn well it always takes at least 50 minutes. So, this once, it was train to Waterloo, Bakerloo Line to Elephant & Castle. The trains to Waterloo were unusually infrequent this evening, but I managed a nonstop one pretty quickly, and was delighted that the stop in between Waterloo and Elephant & Castle was closed, making my journey just a little bit quicker.

I've gotten lost in Elephant & Castle before, but was delighted to see a map on the platform that clearly showed which exit to take. Equally delighted to see a lift to the surface - it'd been a stressful evening, and stairs in particular I could do without. En route to the theatre, I demonstrated to a couple of Americans how jaywalking should be done.. and behold and lo, I arrived in the theatre lobby just as they were going in to the show. Howzat?! And time to get a drink before the end of the queue got to me. Managed to get a seat in the second row, too.. good timing, it looked like a sell-out.

The show, lest I forget to mention, is called License to Ill, and is named after the Beastie Boys' first album. Well, they were already on stage - one spinning discs, one on drums, two on guitar. Looking like the three (or four) Stooges, with fake beards and glasses. And hats. And they proceeded to lead us through - not only a history of the Beastie Boys, but also of hip hop.

It very quickly occurred to me that they must've written this themselves - they were just too keen! And it seems that yes, they did. Opening night tonight too - and what a night. They really look the part - check out the above linked-to video, they have the same outfits. They can play - I, for one, was bopping along all evening. They were very keen to get the audience involved - we'd kind of been warned about that. Beware of sitting in the front row.. or on the aisle.. if you'd rather stay off stage.

Oh, and YES, of course they played That Song. And encouraged us to sing along - well, I certainly did.. I still remembered most of the words. Loved that, back in the day, and wow, their mention of being played on MTV brought back happy memories. Well, in Ireland we had MT-USA for a few hours on a Sunday - and I devoured it. License to Ill runs until Christmas Eve (what a way to spend Christmas Eve) - and if you ever liked the Beastie Boys, you kind of have to see it! The applause at the end was heartfelt - highly recommended.

Drinks in the bar on the premises afterwards, and so good to chat to the folks, and debrief about my frenetic week. We didn't stay terribly late - afterwards, I was back to the trusty 344, and after a shivery wait, was delighted to find it was absolutely the first bus I'd been on this week that really felt warm! So much so that I could even take off my gloves..

Tomorrow, I'm back with Kensington Classical Music, for a concert at the 1901 Arts Club, to start off December. New venue for me, but nice and near Waterloo, so should be easy for me to get to.
Then it's back to Ireland for the weekend - flights booked up to February at this stage, but I'm not booking any more for now until I know what I'm doing long-term - and on Saturday, we're off to the UL Orchestra's Christmas concert.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Christmas Lights Walk

What a palaver it's been just to sort out today! So, I was signed up for the proverbial free comedy in Hammersmith - with the usual suspects: Free Comedy Nights in Hammersmith Wimbledon and Farringdon, London Live Comedy, and London for a Tenner or Less (one of the Funzing Meetup groups, although I see Funzing now have their own Meetup group!). Then I saw that Walk About London was doing a Christmas Lights Walk (aww!). Never actually done one of these - and this turned out to be the only date I could make! Well now, wouldn't miss that. Booked through Eventbrite, with a discount if you mention Meetup. Then I got an email reminder - for Once in a Lifetime, at the Young Vic, which I apparently booked for today. Whyever did I book that, I wonder? I have no memory of it. Sod it, I went on the walk.

Researched the bus route, then realised I'd be heading through one of the busiest parts of town at rush hour. Although.. if I left early.. so that's exactly what I did, thanking my lucky stars I never, ever again have to go to Guildford. Shivered, waiting around for the 44 - but I'd learned my lesson: long johns and my furrily-lined Canadian coat. We made very good time to Victoria, where I shivered some more waiting for the 24. It was on the 24 that we ran into the really heavy traffic - but my strategy of leaving early paid off, and when I got off at Leicester Square, it was only about 6.20.. it'd taken me about 1hr 10minutes altogether. So I was at Covent Garden by about 6.30.

Cold, cold, cold.. it was freezing if you stopped moving. The organiser/guide, Hazel, arrived before she'd said she would, and started brandishing her sign. I went and said hi, and wow, she recognised me from my profile picture! Nice one. So she crossed me off the list, and suggested I go get a hot drink, pointing me in the direction of some places - as she said, she wouldn't be leaving till seven anyway.

On the way, I passed Marks & Spencer, and said I'd try there. Queued, counted out my change - only to discover, would you believe, they'd sold out of hot chocolate! I ended up paying 20p more for one in Costa - what the hey, it was warming. Strolled around for a bit, came back and something of a crowd had gathered - she was handing out glow sticks for people to attach to themselves or their bags.

We started, of course, in Covent Garden:


(Full range of photos here.)

There was a family with the group, with two small boys - they didn't last the pace very long though. Fair enough - it was brisk, there were bits without lights, necessarily, as we passed from one area of interest to another: and anyway, I don't think many small boys could sustain their interest in Christmas lights for the 90 minutes this tour lasted.

The rest of us were enchanted. I've always wanted to do a proper Christmas lights tour, and this was it. Not only did she take us around some of the best bits, but her sassy commentary was peppered with local knowledge, born of having been a local resident for years. As for what we saw.. we saw Santa's workshop, made out of Lego. We meandered down side streets and shopping streets, and saw gorgeous decorations.


We saw more, secreted in shopping arcades:


And when she led us down Bond Street, well, I'm afraid she damn near lost us, as we scattered in all directions, not knowing where to look first for all the twinkly decorations!


That street alone was as pretty a Christmas street as I've seen in all my travels. The only place we lucked out was on Jermyn Street, where they didn't actually switch on the lights until about half an hour after we passed through. Despite a woman standing there, her finger actually on a massive button. Boo.

Terrific walk.. highly recommended! Guaranteed to awaken that Christmas feeling. I know she has two more dates advertised - check them out on the Eventbrite link above.

Not changing what I'm booked for tomorrow - back with the Man with the Hat (it'll have been two whole weeks!). With tickets exactly on the £10 border, he's taking both his groups (London for Less Than a Tenner - not to be confused with the one mentioned above - and Let's Do London - for less!) to Southwark Playhouse, where we're going to see Licensed to Ill - a musical about The Beastie Boys (woo-hoo!). The title is taken from their first album, apparently. Could be interesting timing on that - I have a phone interview with California the same evening. Well, I'll do my best to fit in both.

On Thursday, I'm back with Kensington Classical Music, for a concert at the 1901 Arts Club, to start off December. New venue for me, but nice and near Waterloo, so should be easy for me to get to.

Then it's back to Ireland for the weekend - flights booked up to February at this stage, but I'm not booking any more for now until I know what I'm doing long-term - and on Saturday, we're off to the UL Orchestra's Christmas concert.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Play: I'm Doing This for You

Nothing on Meetup for today - well, doesn't generally stop me. I had a trawl through what cheap tickets were available, and the closest was I'm Doing This for You, in the Drayton Arms

Had an interview in Hammersmith, so figured there wasn't much point in going home in the meantime, and researched bus routes between them. God though, it was freezing- need to dig out my extra-warm coats. Having enough time to spare, I decided to eat in the Drayton Arms before the play - often threatened to but never before did.


The poor barman didn't want to put in the order, as the kitchen didn't open again till five (10 minutes away) and he thought they'd get confused. But I convinced him at least to take the order with my drink order. And I duly ordered- off the lunch menu, which was all there was. 


Took 20 minutes to arrive after the kitchen opened, but that wasn't his fault-  I couldn't fault the service. The mushrooms on sourdough, which I ordered for a starter, were incinerated but tasty. The flat-iron steak was nice, tender enough that you didn't need a knife.. the Yorkshire puddings I left, from lack of interest. But, as so often in English pubs, the high point were the chips - perhaps the pinnacle of British culinary achievement. 

I was fairly sozzled by showtime. Well, what I thought was showtime- for some reason, I thought it started at 7, when it actually started at 8. Which left me with an hour to kill. I ended up meandering down to the local cinema (as I used to so often when I lived within walking distance), and while I was there, I had the idea to get a pick n mix. Good plan, and by the time I got back, they were finally open. I ended up with seat A1, whoop-de-doo..

Definitely different, this show. We were promised vodka and cupcakes, and true to her word, she passed around vodka shots beforehand. "Laughing juice", she called it. Mine was pleasantly warm on such a cold night - but, after all the wine I'd had with dinner, did leave me with a teensy little headache. And then she, eh, passed us all balloons to blow up. Now, as I mentioned previously, I've always had a weak chest, and despite the fact that I managed to climb the stairs to the theatre this evening without collapsing (now that the stress of today's interview is over), ain't no way I've ever been able to blow up a balloon. After a couple of feeble attempts, I secreted the uninflated object under my chair.

So, the premise of the show was that she had hired us, the audience, to yell "Surprise!" and sing Happy Birthday when her boyfriend arrived - and then we would listen to his comedy act. And so it went on, her becoming ever more agitated as time passed with no sign of him, and the whole thing becoming a bit tragic. And I was afraid that was all there was going to be to it. Until he made an appearance, about halfway through, and things got that bit more interesting. Yep, that's when I sat up and started to enjoy it. It actually turned out to be an inventive, and quite touching, show. And we did get cupcakes, right at the end, which, as she said, contained all the foods you might be avoiding.

That was the last performance here - if you come across it, give it a try. And not just for the free vodka..

Google Maps sent me down Thistle Grove to catch the bus home - this turned out to be a charming back alley, closed to cars, and dotted with picturesque lanterns. I'd have taken a photo if I hadn't been so damned cold. The logic was obviously that as you exit, the bus stop is right across the road. Unfortunately, they hadn't considered that there isn't a crossing just there! I'd have been better off coming down by the cinema, just up the road, where there is one.. Friggin' block of ice I was, shivering there and waiting for my bus, while four on the same route passed, the other way..

I've learned my lesson, warmer coats from now on. Well, I don't have any more face-to-face interviews scheduled! (yet). So I can eschew the fancy ones. Tomorrow, I was signed up for the proverbial free comedy in Hammersmith - with the usual suspects: Free Comedy Nights in Hammersmith Wimbledon and Farringdon, London Live Comedy, and London for a Tenner or Less (one of the Funzing Meetup groups, although I see Funzing now have their own Meetup group!). But you know, I only use that free comedy gig as a placeholder - I'm happy to go, but equally happy to cancel if something better comes along. And then I saw something had! Walk About London is doing a Christmas Lights Walk (aww!). Never actually done one of these - and this turns out to be the only date I can make! Well now, not missing that. Booked through Eventbrite, with a discount if you mention Meetup. Excellent! (Then I got an email reminder yesterday - for Once in a Lifetime, at the Young Vic, which I apparently booked for tomorrow. Whyever did I book that, I wonder? I have no memory of it. Sod it, I'd rather the walk anyway.)

Not changing what I'm booked for on Wednesday - back with the Man with the Hat (it'll have been two whole weeks!). With tickets exactly on the £10 border, he's taking both his groups (London for Less Than a Tenner - not to be confused with the one mentioned above - and Let's Do London - for less!) to Southwark Playhouse, where we're going to see Licensed to Ill - a musical about The Beastie Boys (woo-hoo!). The title is taken from their first album, apparently. Could be interesting timing on that - I have a phone interview with California the same evening. Trying to bump it a bit earlier, but I may end up taking the call in the theatre toilets..!

On Thursday, I'm back with Kensington Classical Music, for a concert at the 1901 Arts Club, to start off December. New venue for me, but nice and near Waterloo, so should be easy for me to get to.

Then it's back to Ireland for the weekend - flights booked up to February at this stage, but I'm not booking any more for now until I know what I'm doing long-term - and on Saturday, we're off to the UL Orchestra's Christmas concert.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Concert: Sondorgo & Marja Nuut

When I saw this concert advertised by the London European Club, I thought I'd give it a shot - never heard of either act, but they sounded ok on YouTube. So I booked, and today looked up how to get to LSO St. Luke's from here - as with yesterday, bus only would have taken more than an hour, so bus and Northern Line it was; the 35 or 345 to Clapham Common, Tube from there to Old Street, and we were to meet at The William Blake.


Clapham Common station - one of the narrowest Tube platforms.

Worked fine as far as Old Street - and I was worried about the many exits from there, but really, if you know where you're headed, they're very well signposted, and I had no trouble taking the correct one. (3 for Old Street south side, where the William Blake is, and it'd be exit 4 for LSO St. Luke's itself.) I had a considerable amount of trouble leaving the station though - now, I've never in my life been so unfit that a short flight of stairs - or a ramp - left me so breathless I practically fainted. But for the past month, that's exactly what has been happening, and which I've put down to work-related anxiety attacks affecting my chest, which has always been weak. Well, at least I can predict them now, and know to take a discreet break, at the head of the stairs, to get my breath back. Looking forward to being able to bound up them again, as I used to.

The William Blake wasn't far down the road - goodness though, it's huge! I decided the best course of action was to order a drink, then had a snoop around and couldn't see the group - turned out they were snuggled away in a corner, behind some tinsel. Well, when I found them I joined them, and we chatted away till it was time to leave. Which was when I realised I still had most of my drink left. Bugger, that's the fastest in a long time that I've downed a large wine..


You couldn't really miss St. Luke's, floodlit psychedelically as it is. Well, we went in, shuffling through great piles of fallen leaves, and there we separated, as we'd all booked our seats separately. Mine would be on the balcony - just as well I had the seats to lean on for support, when I got up there. An usher moseyed along after a bit to say that they hadn't sold out, so if I wanted to move seat - or sit downstairs - that'd be just fine. For the moment though, I stayed where I was - I was sat to the side, just over the stage, and with just one performer on stage for the first half, I didn't miss anything.

Our first performer was Maarja Nuut, who gave us about an hour of what you might call mood music. It was beautiful - very charming, very winsome, with overlaid tracks of voice and violin creating a harmonious whole, and merging forest - and later, desert - images projected on the large screen behind her. She wore a lovely, powder-blue dress, with a pleated skirt that only displayed itself fully when she spun in a sort of waltz. Really, a lovely start to the show.

At the interval, I came downstairs - didn't see any of the group, and made a beeline for an empty quarter of the stalls that I'd noticed from upstairs, sitting inconspicuously at a remove from everyone else. I'm glad I didn't take a seat in a busier part of the stalls - a lot of people seemed to arrive just for the second half, and seats that had been empty suddenly began to be filled. Oh, and they put away that screen:


Now, the act for the second (and slightly longer) half was Sondorgo, and they were considerably livelier - which caused me to wonder that they had been put on the same bill. So, Hungarian folk dances made up a considerable part of their set.. and I was to be glad I'd sat downstairs, which allowed me to see the whole thing, as sundry audience members, itching to get moving, decided the side aisles were the place to do it, and set to enthusiastically dancing and clapping along there. Kudos to them, and to the ushers that didn't stop them. Special mention, of course, to the whole section of audience that formed some kind of dance ring, over the side. And to the one guy, bopping along beside them with no interest in joining in. And who could forget the couple I'd been sitting beside for the first half, who couldn't restrain themselves, becoming the only ones on the balcony to leave their seats..

Oh, it was glorious mania - look out for these guys if they pass your way! Not only manic Hungarian dance though - they had one spectacular piece, and I wish I knew what it was called, but it was so sensual in its rhythms - these guys are really good, and you could not have stopped me from joining in the standing ovation at the end. What a fantastic concert - great idea from tonight's organiser!

I didn't see anyone I knew as I was coming out, either. Ah well, it was a great night all the same. Tomorrow, nothing much appealed on Meetup, when I checked, except a walk - Carpe Diem is following the route of the Circle Line overground. But they're not due to finish until four, and I have an interview at 3! Wish me luck.. no, instead of the walk, I had a look to see what cheap tickets were available, and have booked one to a show at the Drayton Arms in the evening, purely because it was the closest advertised. It's called I'm Doing This For You, and apparently we get served vodka and cupcakes. I can live with this. I might need a distraction.

On Tuesday, I was signed up for the proverbial free comedy in Hammersmith - with the usual suspects: Free Comedy Nights in Hammersmith Wimbledon and Farringdon, London Live Comedy, and London for a Tenner or Less (one of the Funzing Meetup groups, although I see Funzing now have their own Meetup group!). But you know, I only use that free comedy gig as a placeholder - I'm happy to go, but equally happy to cancel if something better comes along. And then I saw something had! Walk About London is doing a Christmas Lights Walk (aww!). Never actually done one of these - and this turns out to be the only date I can make! Well now, not missing that. Booked through Eventbrite, with a discount if you mention Meetup. Excellent! (Interestingly, I got an email reminder just this evening - for Once in a Lifetime, at the Young Vic, which I apparently booked for Tuesday. Whyever did I book that, I wonder? I have no memory of it. Sod it, I'd rather the walk anyway.)

Not changing what I'm booked for on Wednesday - back with the Man with the Hat (it'll have been two whole weeks!). With tickets exactly on the £10 border, he's taking both his groups (London for Less Than a Tenner - not to be confused with the one mentioned above - and Let's Do London - for less!) to Southwark Playhouse, where we're going to see Licensed to Ill - a musical about The Beastie Boys (woo-hoo!). The title is taken from their first album, apparently.

On Thursday, I'm back with Kensington Classical Music, for a concert at the 1901 Arts Club, to start off December. New venue for me, but nice and near Waterloo, so should be easy for me to get to.

Then it's back to Ireland for the weekend - flights booked up to February at this stage, but I'm not booking any more for now until I know what I'm doing long-term - and on Saturday, we're off to the UL Orchestra's Christmas concert.


Saturday, 26 November 2016

Performance: Loch na hEala

I thought this sounded interesting when the London European Club advertised it - and goodness knows, I always jump at the chance to go to Sadler's Wells. So I booked - up in the gods, as usual, the cheapest and best sited non-restricted view seat that I could find.

Looking up directions today - first time I'd have travelled there from Clapham Junction - it turned out to be another of those places that takes over an hour to get to if you restrict yourself to bus. So I determined on train to Waterloo, then bus - the 341 goes straight to Sadler's Wells from Stop F. Which, as I suspected, turns out to be just down from Stop C - however that logic works. So, take the exit for Waterloo Road, and outside, hang a left.

Wouldn't you know it, a 341 happened along just as I did, and of course, as I know well, the destination stop is right outside the theatre. Went in, collected my ticket - unusually, they didn't seem to have a Print at Home option for this show. I'd forgotten that I'd also ordered a programme voucher, given the unusual description we had of what it entailed.

Met the one person I knew that was coming tonight, and we chatted happily between ourselves as the foyer filled. We were a bit early, but no sign could we see of the organiser (whom neither of us knew anyway). Finally, with the foyer becoming uncomfortably crowded, I left her to it - she was in the stalls, I was on the top floor. And let me tell you, after climbing to the next floor, I had something of a funny turn.. something of a combination of too much wine earlier, I think, and too little exercise, with all this driving to Guildford. Something I hope to remedy, now that that's no longer an issue, and I can start taking better care of myself.. more exercise, more food, more sleep. Heavens, I already feel better.

Anyway, I leaned on the bar for a bit, then climbed all the way to the top - strangely, without dying - and managed to grab a chair for a bit of a sit. Felt much better after a couple of minutes, and now they were going in - mercifully, my row was at the same level as the door. Good view of the stage, where Mikel Murfi was pacing, dressed only in briefs, tethered by a white rope around the neck, whose other end was fastened to a breeze block.

"Loch na hEala" is the Irish for "Swan Lake", but that's as close as we got to the famous ballet in this innovative production. In fact, the name was the only thing they had in common. It owed a little more, as I'd thought it might, to the legend of the Children of Lir - in that it featured Fionnuala and her three younger siblings, who were turned, by means of black magic, into swans, to haunt the local lake - the "Swan Lake" of the title.

I spent much of the beginning of the show wondering what on earth they were at. Mikel was duly freed, and dressed, and proceeded to narrate the story. After he got a cup of tea, ready to be served, over the side. Very Irish. Anyway, the story that he narrated related to one Jimmy, a resident of a rural part of Longford (well, you'd struggle to name a part of Longford that didn't fit that description).

It soon became apparent that Jimmy, like so many young men stuck in rural areas, had problems - particularly after his father died. And when he inherited his father's shotgun - well, some people started worrying. We've heard sad cases where these sorts of fears have come to fruition. And this all made sense, suddenly, of the eloquent prologue to the programme, which made it worth buying - speaking, as it did, of darkness and depression.

So, another sad tale of a young life gone astray in rural Ireland. Except.. for the four young women in white, who stalked the edge of the stage from the beginning, gradually taking a more prominent role. Who ultimately donned swans' wings.. and so it was, that a sad story of modern Irish life merged with an ancient tale from Ireland's dim and distant past, to bring some magic into a grey present-day. The end of Jimmy's story was truly memorable. And - do you know - they went a little bit wild onstage, once the storytelling was all done. The stage was covered with - feathers, I guess, it was hard to see from as high as I was - and they made it their mission to, em, shower the front two rows of the stalls with as many of them as they possibly could. They had a ball, even knocking off one of the stage lights in the process! Pity the poor audience member, who started to cough, with all this descending upon them, and had to leave.

An innovative and anarchic night. Not to everyone's taste - I saw a couple of folks leave early, including the lady beside me (which just gave me more room) - but I loved the dance, the imagination, and the truly haunting music, played live on stage. And I joined in with those who gave them a standing ovation. Pity that was the last night.. do keep an eye out for it, for a truly different take on "Swan Lake".

Afterwards, there was no sign of my companion, and I made my way home, darting among traffic to the bus stop across the road - well, they must know to drive carefully around this theatre at letting-out time! I had a choice of buses to Victoria or Waterloo - was all set to get the one to Victoria until the one to Waterloo pulled up right behind it, and I do prefer Waterloo, it's more logical. And wouldn't you know it, we were dropped off at the very stop outside Waterloo from where I get my bus home! Well, as we'd got there so fast, it seemed a shame not just to wait for the 77, and bus it the rest of the way - and that's what I did. Some amusement was provided when an out-of-service 77 passed - without stopping, of course - and when it stopped in traffic just down the road, coincidentally in front of another bus stop, a whole bunch of people decided it was stopping there instead, and tore off after it. Only to see it pull away again before they got there. Hey-ho, I'm sure the run did them good.

Tomorrow, I'm back with the London European Club, for a concert by Sondorgo and Maarja Nuut, at Jerwood Hall. There's someone I know signed up for that as well - and this time, a pub gathering has been mooted. So it might be a bit more sociable.

On Monday, nothing much appealed on Meetup, when I checked. Well, there was a walk - Carpe Diem is following the route of the Circle Line overground. But they're not due to finish until four, and - you heard it here first - I have an interview at 3! Wish me luck.. no, instead of the walk, I had a look to see what cheap tickets were available, and have booked one to a show at the Drayton Arms that evening, purely because it was the closest advertised. It's called I'm Doing This For You, and apparently we get served vodka and cupcakes. I can live with this. I might need a distraction, that evening.

On Tuesday, I was signed up for the proverbial free comedy in Hammersmith - with the usual suspects: Free Comedy Nights in Hammersmith Wimbledon and Farringdon, London Live Comedy, and London for a Tenner or Less (one of the Funzing Meetup groups, although I see Funzing now have their own Meetup group!). But you know, I only use that free comedy gig as a placeholder - I'm happy to go, but equally happy to cancel if something better comes along. And now that I've checked, I see something has! Walk About London is doing a Christmas Lights Walk (aww!). Never actually done one of these - and this turns out to be the only date I can make! Well now, not missing that. Booked through Eventbrite, with a discount if you mention Meetup. Excellent!

Not changing what I'm booked for on Wednesday - back with the Man with the Hat (it'll have been two whole weeks!). With tickets exactly on the £10 border, he's taking both his groups (London for Less Than a Tenner - not to be confused with the one mentioned above - and Let's Do London - for less!) to Southwark Playhouse, where we're going to see Licensed to Ill - a musical about The Beastie Boys (woo-hoo!). The title is taken from their first album, apparently.

On Thursday, I'm back with Kensington Classical Music, for a concert at the 1901 Arts Club, to start off December. New venue for me, but nice and near Waterloo, so should be easy for me to get to.

Then it's back to Ireland for the weekend - flights booked up to February at this stage, but I'm not booking any more for now until I know what I'm doing long-term - and on Saturday, we're off to the UL Orchestra's Christmas concert.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Organ Recital

Snooping around Meetup for today - with nothing booked - the most interesting thing I came across was courtesy of Carpe Diem (and thanks very much to them!). They had a "Riverside Stroll, Organ Recital and Lunch". Well now, I don't know them, had never been with them before - never got the chance! - and wasn't pushed about the social element, particularly for the fee of £5, which probably didn't include the lunch. Anyway, I was up late last night blogging (oh, the freedom of gardening leave!), so decided the more sensible option was to get up a bit later and just come to the organ recital on my own. They didn't mention where it was, but a bit of judicious Googling revealed that it was in St. Bride's Church (the one that looks like a wedding cake, and is included on all the tours), and was one of their series of free lunchtime recitals.

So, I got up in a leisurely fashion, and had time to dress and have breakfast before I meandered out. I even had time to take a bus the whole way, which made the whole thing very cheap - 344 to Elephant & Castle, 45 or 63 to Fleet Street / City Thameslink. Takes nearly an hour, but you know, I'm a lady of leisure these days.. Naturally, the 344 arrived at the stop as I was crossing the road - but the driver turned out to be one of those obliging ones, who waited. Not that she had much of an option, as I ran in front of the bus to save time..

At Elephant & Castle, Google Maps had told me that one bus would go from Stop A, one from Stop B - which was odd, as Stop B turned out to be a stop where passengers were not picked up. In fact, both called at Stop A - much handier. And when one came, I got on it, and alighted some time later just up the road from Fleet Street, with about five minutes to spare - always add a bit to those Google Maps estimates, particularly where buses are involved.

I could see that wedding-cake spire over the rooftops - which was reassuring, as it's not obvious where the entrance is, embedded in side streets as it is. But I wandered around for a bit and found it. Now, this is famously known as the "journalists' church", given its proximity to Fleet Street, and aren't they the lucky ones?! It's Wren-designed, and gorgeous:



Anyway, I sat myself over the side, in view of the organ, and didn't have long to wait before the organist, Geoff Howells, came to give a little explanation of what he was going to play. Three pieces by people I'd never heard of, to start - and my, when he did start, I got a shock! What he was playing might have seemed a modest instrument, but it was obviously connected to pipes embedded deep in the building's structure, and when he played, the whole place vibrated..

Although I didn't recognise the first three pieces, they were pleasant enough - with the exception of Manawyddan's Glass Door, by Andrew Keeling, which ended with the most discordant piece of music I think I've ever heard. Ick, modern classical. Anyway, my ears were assuaged by the final piece - Bach's Toccata and Fugue in F, which the organist decided merited its own introduction, and which he promised us was a magnificent piece to play in such a venue. And so it proved, and a wonderful way to end this 45-minute concert.

I did actually see someone I know, I think, sat in the main aisle - but I'm not sure whether she saw me. Anyway, leaving Carpe Diem to their lunch, I made my way home in the cold. Took a while, in heavy traffic - but what the hey, it was sunny, and I wasn't in a hurry, now was I?!

Tomorrow, I'm back with the London European Club at Sadler's Wells, for a performance called Loch na hEala ("Swan Lake" in Irish). Mikel Murfi is in it, apparently - and more than simply dance, this show includes storytelling and live music. I'm guessing there'll be something of the Children of Lir in it - and apparently, the music is both Irish and Nordic. Sounds intriguing.

And on Sunday, I'm back with the London European Club, for a concert by Sondorgo and Maarja Nuut, at Jerwood Hall. And what's more, it's nice that there'll be people that I know at both of these events..

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Storytelling: Little Red Riding Hood and Other Lost Girls

Ah goodee, another night with the Crick Crack Club. Unfortunately, it was back up in Crouch End again. Nothing against the venue, you understand - it's just a nightmare to get to from the other side of London! Anyway, it wasn't to start until 8:30, so even had I been in Guildford, I'd have made it.

Handily, I had the directions saved on my phone from last time. The Arthouse is one of those places that it takes me nearly an hour to get to, at best, so no point in researching anything but the quickest route. Still, even at that, given the late start time, I had time to collect my watch, which I'd left in to get a new battery and strap - red, for the evening that was in it. I left straight after, catching a train to pick up the Victoria Line. (Handy it wasn't the Piccadilly, which was apparently in trouble all evening for lack of trains).

Take the Victoria Line to Finsbury Park.. it's funny, these days, now that I've handed in my notice and am on gardening leave (still get paid but am actually barred from working), I'm so much less tired, and I seem to notice more. Like, for instance, the candy-pink banisters at Finsbury Park Station:


Now, one entrance is closed longterm, so again I had to meander around the building. But I was early enough, for once, to stop and look around me:


Left from the exit, left around the building and under the bridge, and left again, took me to the stops for the W3 and W7, either of which would have done me. It was the W3 that was ready to leave though, as before - handy, as it stops just a few feet away from the Arthouse. And a long queue of people were filing onto the bus - I joined the end of the queue, musing at the people trying to butt in from the side. Really folks - unless you can cajole someone into letting you in, it's quicker just to go from the back. And cajoling, when it works, just makes me feel guilty..

A crammed bus, but I got a seat upstairs. And when the time came to get off, we were stopped at the roundabout long enough for me to get downstairs again, handily. Walked the short distance to the Arthouse, ordered a wine - and do you know, for once, the house wine is really drinkable here! Recommended. I was also early enough to grab one of the very few remaining free tables, which I clung to until the house opened.

They'd said we'd be ok showing the ticket confirmation on our phones, and so it proved. And ooh perfect, I was right in choosing the second row for the remaining shows here - the front row is too close to what is quite a high stage, but the second row is just right:


So, the same crumpled red fabric as before, a slightly different set-up - with a wicker basket containing some props. Nell Phoenix, it was this evening, with no-one to introduce her - I'd noticed her in the bar beforehand, coercing some friends into helping her set up. Dressed in red boots, for the evening that was in it.

What followed was quite long, for a one-person show without interval. We might have started a bit late - I didn't check - but it was nearly 10 when we finished, which puts it at well over an hour. Not that it dragged - dear me, no! You know, I sound like a broken record sometimes, I think, but people who think that storytelling is just for kids are missing out on so much! Nell started with a French Little Red Riding - Cap. She then moved on to the more proactive, German version - the wolf gets its comeuppance - and of course, in both, we got a beautiful rendition of a familiar tale.

She continued with far Eastern versions, in which the under-mentioned mother, who never does come out of it well, at least gets more of a mention than in the European ones. And then, broadening her scope, she included a tale of a girl who became a wolf.. and a boy who didn't mind at all being eaten by one. Which resonated with me, as I remembered the Neil Jordan film, The Company of Wolves, which ends with someone reciting, "I'll tell you the story of a wounded wolf". I remember the tale ends with "For she was just a girl, after all, who had strayed from her path in the forest.."

There's a whole background to these familiar stories, and it's a joy to see storytellers that have researched them, found different versions to highlight different things, and are happy to share them. You know, I missed this once before, despite having bought a ticket - I'm so glad I decided to buy another for tonight! I'd have hated to miss it again.

Straight home - unluckily, as I approached the stop, my bus sailed past, and it was a very, very cold wait for the next. Entertainment was provided by an earthworm, which had positioned itself very unwisely right where we were walking, but wasn't going anywhere fast - and a car across the road, a couple of guys in it, who were attempting to parallel park in a space you could have got a truck into. Really, I considered popping across to give them some advice. They finally gave up and drove off..

The next bus finally came - which was diverted, but that was handy for me, as we just went a faster route back to the station. And then it was the Tube, and o, what a relief, the heating was on full blast. And with all this transferring between different modes of transport, I hit maximum fare at some point - possibly by the time I'd taken that bus journey. So the rest of the trip was free! Much appreciated.

The most interesting thing tomorrow happens to be on during the day. And you know what, what good is gardening leave if I don't take full advantage? I can't normally go to things in the middle of the day - well, as it happens, Carpe Diem is headed off for a Riverside Stroll, Organ Recital and Lunch. Now, that does sound nice - but I've never been out with them, and don't know any of them, so I'm not so pushed about socialising with them - besides, they're charging £5, and I'm not sure that includes the price of lunch. No, I think I'll spend a bit longer in bed and just head to the organ recital on my own. Which they don't mention the location of - but a quick bit of Googling revealed it to be one of a regular series of free recitals at St. Bride's Church, at 1:15. The one that, appropriately, looks like a wedding cake.

On Saturday, I'm back with the London European Club at Sadler's Wells, for a performance called Loch na hEala ("Swan Lake" in Irish). Mikel Murfi is in it, apparently - and more than simply dance, this show includes storytelling and live music. I'm guessing there'll be something of the Children of Lir in it - and apparently, the music is both Irish and Nordic. Sounds intriguing.

And on Sunday, I'm back with the London European Club, for a concert by Sondorgo and Maarja Nuut, at Jerwood Hall. And what's more, it's nice that there'll be people that I know at both of these events..

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Talk: Kleptoscope #2 - London's Dirty Money

So, tonight I was signed up to a talk at the Frontline Club - first in an age. And were I not on gardening leave, having quit my job yesterday, I wouldn't have made it - but as it is, I'm barred from actually working during this time. Or going to the Guildford office. Which makes no practical sense - I was hardly going to pick up any sensitive information in the remaining month, and I'm effectively dead to them, which is going to make things a lot harder for the transition. But hey, their loss! I'm not complaining.

Now, late this afternoon, just as I was getting ready to leave, the electricity meter ran out. Oh goodee. So that was a trek to get it topped up, and then I had shopping to do, and my mother to Skype - so I was actually a little bit rushed. The route from here basically involved getting to Victoria - fast by train, slow and cheap by bus. Not supposed to be that much slower by bus, but at that time of the evening I knew traffic would be a nightmare. So train it was, then not long to wait for the 36 to St. Mary's Hospital, and it was just ahead, across the road.

Lots of stairs to reception, where she checked our names off the list. Lots more stairs to the venue for the talk, and it was good to be back there:


Lots of Vietnam photos dotted around, but I've always been struck by this particular one by Don McCullin. I was shortly joined by someone I knew, and we chatted until people started arriving - we'd been sternly warned to be there half an hour early to get a seat, but the place had only been half full when I arrived, at about 20 to. When people started needing seats, I ended up moving right in to the wall, where I was practically sat right on top of a radiator that I was sure was going to set my leg on fire. Hey-ho.

The talk was the second in the Kleptoscope series about London's Dirty Money, and the speakers included Ala'a Shehabi of Bahrain Watch, Ben Cowdock of Transparency International UK, and Richard Brooks of Private Eye. As ever in this venue, all were fascinating, as they led us through the murky world of shady foreign characters' misappropriation of funds. Apparently, this series was built on the back of a Kleptocracy tour, where they would take people around London in a bus, stopping outside mansions bought with foreign dirty money..

Ala'a told us the engrossing story of how the beautiful beaches of Bahrain, from which her grandparents earned their living as pearl fishers, have all but disappeared, appropriated by the royal family, who have built luxury apartments and hotels on them, reclaiming the sea. "Turning sand into gold", as she put it. Ben led us through the stream of foreign despots who have bought £10-million houses in London, focussing specifically on Syria (Assad and his cousins), Libya (the Gaddafis) and Egypt (Mubarak). All enthusiastically welcomed by Boris Johnson, of course, with his vision of a spaceship full of foreign gold bullion, descending on London. And finally, Richard laid it all out for us, in a fascinating interactive map showing all the foreign-owned properties - available on the Private Eye website. Zooming in on London was amazing, as the purple that denoted a foreign-purchased property dominated the whole map - although, as I pointed out to my companion, there wasn't much purple around the south-east.. plenty of expansion potential! Just a pity that their internet connection was so dicey, causing a considerable delay in pages loading.

And that was as much as I got, I'm afraid. I do kind of get the feeling I just wasn't meant to go, tonight - all evening I'd been battling one of those tummy upsets that just kept getting worse. I knew I was in trouble when I got extremely nauseous, suddenly - although I managed to hold it in. Still, while we were waiting for the Private Eye pages to load, I decided enough was enough, and this was when I made my disruptive move - I'd seen toilets on my way in, and I was making a beeline for them. Unfortunately, with the chairs crammed in as they were, this was not a discreet exit. :-)

I flew to the toilets, when I finally got out. Had a very uncomfortable time in there, then literally dragged myself to the bus stop, whimpering; I had wondered at the wisdom of taking the bus, nauseous as I was, but Google Maps said it was quicker, which swung the decision. I was lucky that one arrived at the stop just as I did, and made sure to sit myself by the door, where I'd get a draught. Ooh, that bus journey was fun, holding it in.. funnily enough, the best distraction I had was the lady beside me, who was confused about her directions - by the time she decided just to get off at the next stop, I'd got a second wind. Still, every moment of the journey home was agony, and it was a relief to collapse on my bed, finally. But I am glad I went - and when the podcast eventually goes up, I can catch what I missed..

Tomorrow, I'm back with the Crick Crack Club, in the Arthouse Crouch End, for one I missed before - Little Red Riding Hood & Other Lost Girls, as told by Nell Phoenix. And yes, I do have the confirmation email for this one, unlike the one I thought I'd booked for last Sunday week!

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Play: Buried Child

So, back to London and last night was Buried Child, with London Dramatic Arts. Well, at 7.30, it was the latest start for my Guildford days this week - and at Trafalgar Studios, I had a fair-to-middling chance of making it. And indeed, we left early, and I was actually in time. Although I just managed to grab the organiser as she was about to give up on me, leave my ticket at the box office, and head to the downstairs bar.

So we both headed down together, me with ticket, and I formed an orderly queue behind the line of people at the bar. Now, it's a lovely thing to have a chatty barman, but it does slow things down. The bell rang just as he was asking me whether I'd like it in plastic, so I could take it in. I also noted they had a good offer - buy two large glasses, get the bottle free! Which, mind you, was the least they could do, given the price of a large glass.. oh, and if he recommends the Chardonnay? Avoid - most peculiar.

We hung around in the bar, chatting, waiting for latecomers, until we could wait no more. Which was when it registered with me that we'd have to go all the way back upstairs again.. a rather disconcerting prospect, given that I'd been very prone to anxiety attacks all day (Guildford was positively injurious to my health), and was quite short of breath as a result. Not only did we have to climb to the lobby, but had to climb again to Studio One. And lo, but we were in the very back row.. more climbing. I really thought I'd have a coronary by the time I got to my seat - had to explain my panting to the lady sitting beside me.

Well, I didn't have a coronary. I lived to have my drink, and we remarked on the sound of rain - it was lashing outside, and we wondered whether that was real rain, or stage rain. Stage rain, I decided, noting the bucket strategically positioned to the side of the stage. Sure enough, it was raining in the play, and Ed Harris was slumped on the sofa, in a baseball cap, watching tv. His West End debut, I believe.

His wife in the play is portrayed by his real-life wife, as it happens - and Amy Madigan is as watchable as he is. Or listenable-to, considering she spends most of the first scene calling from upstairs. What follows is nearly three hours-worth, including two (short) intervals, and during most of which we were all wondering when something was going to happen. Now, it's quite enjoyable - the acting is good, the banter is good - it's just that literally all that happens in the first act is we're introduced to the couple's sons, who both seem rather odd.

In the first interval, I ventured downstairs again, where the organiser had taken advantage of the offer to order a bottle of white. Great - there was enough for a small glass for each of us. And I was slightly less breathless climbing up again for the second act. Where we were introduced to the couple's grandson and his girlfriend, and things started to get weird.

We agreed, at the second interval, that weird was better than nothing. We also agreed we couldn't be bothered heading downstairs again. And so into the third act, which is comical in parts in its weirdness, and where we finally get to find out who the "buried child" of the title is. I give it this - the final scene is terrifically surreal, even as we struggled with its meaning - it seems that it's all about the fragmentation of the American nuclear family in trying economic and political circumstances. Yep, makes sense in retrospect. And is quite watchable, as I say. Currently booking until 18 February.

A handy Tesco on the way home, where I was in search of toiletries. Hint: they're in the aisle with the biscuits..

Well now, I was in Guildford again today, of course. But I had another horrendous day yesterday, and there's only so much of that I can take. So first chance I had this morning, I handed in my notice. (Collective gasp!) And you know, the minute I did, my breathing started to return to normal. I have just had the best day.. and then it transpired they were putting me on "gardening leave", which essentially means that I get paid for a month, but am not allowed to do any work. Well, hurray!

I also had to leave early, because the manager I had to hand my stuff to had to leave early. Which did mean I'd be in time to get to Hampstead Theatre, where I was assiduously avoiding London Dramatic Arts, who were also there to see The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures. With Tamsin Greig. But I got a cheaper ticket. This was a rescheduling, because the performance they - and I - were booked for last month didn't happen because of cast illness.

Well, all I can say is, the show must be cursed, because when I got home and checked my email - the show was again cancelled, because of cast illness. Hey-ho, I checked Meetup, and Plan B was TNT Comedy (courtesy of Dave's Stand-Up Comedy) at The Vine in Kentish Town. Which I determined to go to. But then.. you know.. I was comfy, and people were messaging me about my Big News, and I ended up just sort of staying in, and feeling normal again. Which I intend to do a lot more of, and which feels rather good.

Tomorrow, I'm signed up with the London European Club for a talk at the Frontline Club about London's Dirty Money. And Lordy me, no Guildford, so I should make it!!
 
And on Thursday, I'm back with the Crick Crack Club, in the Arthouse Crouch End for one I missed before - Little Red Riding Hood & Other Lost Girls, as told by Nell Phoenix. And yes, I do have the confirmation email for this one, unlike the one I thought I'd booked for last Sunday week!

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Concert: The Snowman & Talent Unlimited Christmas concert

It was ages ago that the organiser of Kensington Classical Music offered me a free ticket to Talent Unlimited's Christmas concert, last Thursday night. I'd missed some that I'd booked previously, you see - blame Guildford. I do. Anyway, she's also on the organising committee of Talent Unlimited, which sponsors promising young classical musicians, so she does have access to tickets. And this was a generous gesture - especially appropriate, as it was my birthday! Thanks Jessie..

I had quite a busy day on Thursday - but at least working from home meant I had a decent chance of making it. Still, it was after 6 when I left home for the concert at 7: so the fastest route was needed - train, then Victoria Line to Green Park. I didn't get a seat on the Victoria Line, and couldn't stand on my sore leg (blame Guildford again, I do) - but it was only a few stops anyway. Exited for Piccadilly South Side and hung a right - along the way, there were fireworks, just behind the buildings - turns out they were turning on the Christmas lights on Regent Street that night.

Made it in time - there was Jessie behind the ticket desk, and of course she had my ticket. I bought a programme - we hadn't been told what they'd be performing for the Christmas concert section - and made my way in.



The concert was in two halves - the first half was the world premiere of the "Snowman Rhapsody". Remember the song "Walking in the Air"? The full-length, instrumental version of that, performed as a piano solo by the talented young Julian Trevelyan. And the composer, Howard Blake, was there to introduce him, and the piece, and explain the origin of this new version. With 29 different movements, I was glad I had a programme to keep track - although it was impossible to follow precisely where we were. Until, of course, Walking in the Air was played.

And my goodness, it brought a tear to the eye. This was the first Christmassy thing I'd done this year, and the first time I'd felt that Christmassy feeling. I love Christmas, but things have been so horrible this year - as usual, blame Guildford. I do. Anyway, this was overall such a beautiful piece that I very nearly burst into applause - which wouldn't have been appropriate between movements. Ah well.

The second half saw four singers appear - Alison Langer, Lawrence Thackeray, Nicola Said, Jacob Bettinelli. Ozlem Celik was on the clarinet, and the multi-talented Julian gave up the piano for the violin - he started the set in the gallery, and had to make a mad dash downstairs later, where he frantically scrabbled to set up his music stand. Bless.

Anyway, we were treated to many of the Christmas standards - and wow, when both sopranos sang in harmony, it was spectacular. Aptly, they finished with Walking in the Air - with lyrics. Afterwards, we hung around for a bit to collect as many as possible, then Jessie led us down the road to Le Meridien, where we plonked ourselves in the corner of the downstairs bar. Lovely space, sophisticated and understated. I was just going to the bar to order a drink when I realised that Jessie was buying wine for us all - and nibbles! Again, a most generous host. We spent a late night there, the crowd growing to include Ozlem and Jacob, as well as Keith Beresford, who played the piano for the second half - the others passed. And good conversation was had - a perfect end to what was an unusually good day, for my birthday. Thanks, all!

Yesterday was too hectic to blog, and now I'm back to Ireland for the weekend; my God, there were such crowds in the airports, it'd positively put you off Christmas. Unusually, at the moment - we don't have anything scheduled for this weekend, which gives me a nice break. On Monday, I'm off with London Dramatic Arts to Trafalgar Studios, to see the Pulitzer-prize-winning Buried Child, with Ed Harris. Pity it clashes with the Crick Crack Club that night - I'd already booked this, but would rather have gone with them..

On Tuesday, London Dramatic Arts are off to Hampstead Theatre to see The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures, with Tamsin Grieg, which was rescheduled. And so am I - independently, just as I was supposed to for the original date. Better avoid them, as they're trying to flog the last couple of tickets.. This is the theatre I had to sneak out the back of, last time - which makes it interesting. Assuming I get there in time - it's on at 7, and I bloody well have to be in Guildford again. I suspect I'll be staying in.

On Wednesday, I'm signed up with the London European Club for a talk at the Frontline Club about London's Dirty Money. Again, if I can make it on time from Guildford.


And on Thursday, I'm back with Crick Crack, in the Arthouse Crouch End (what a good job it's a Work from Home day) for one I missed before - Little Red Riding Hood & Other Lost Girls, as told by Nell Phoenix. And yes, I do have the confirmation email for this one, unlike the one I thought I'd booked for last Sunday!