Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Play: Common & Taste Tripper Luxury Chocolate Evening

Hello there.. it's been a busy return to London, after a v relaxing bank holiday, during which I did nothing so much as sleep! and v welcome was that rest. So anyway, yesterday was London Dramatic Arts Meetup's (LDAM) trip to Common. And they were down in the front stalls, @£35. And when I checked the National's website, behold, they had those £15 tickets available - you'd have to sit in the back row of the circle, but here, that's just fine. However, LDAM doesn't approve of such doings, thinks it "undermines the group", in a (I now believe deleted) post on their website. So naturally, I did what I always do on such occasions: booked a cheap ticket, with the expectation of avoiding them (it's a big enough place).

Ah me, I spend my whole life rushing, it seems. The office is walking distance from the National, but, you know, I was starving.. and a couple of slices of toast left me a bit late to walk. I'd save five minutes by Tube - Northern Line it was, Leicester Square to Embankment, according to Google Maps. Now, that would leave me on the wrong side of the bridge - I did consider continuing to Waterloo, but given that I've gotten lost on the walk from there to the National before, and the only entrance to the National for now is on the riverfront, I decided to cross the bridge, obediently.

And as I panted my way across, with the minutes inching towards showtime, I remarked to myself, as always, how wide this blasted river is. As I neared the theatre, they were ringing the bell.. This was in the Olivier, so I dived for the lift, emerged on Level 2, gasped out my name at the box office. Cue a pause for breath as the man searched for my booking. Ok, there it was. "You can take the lift, or the stairs all the way up." I took the stairs - had forgotten there were two levels to climb. Arrived to a helpful usher, who explained to me that they'd just started, and it'd now be 15 minutes before I could take my seat. "Time to catch my breath!" I smiled. Seemed the sound on the telly that they were suggesting I watch it on was on the blink - "Never mind", he said, "it's all swearing anyway!" But then another usher suggested that she could take me in to where I could stand at the back of the auditorium for those 15 minutes. Yes please - and in I went.

..to a scene from The Wicker Man, anonymous figures in straw masks cavorting around the stage in a pagan scene. To cut what turns out to be a very long story short, this is a new play, set in England in 1809 - when common land was being enclosed, to enrich the estates of the landed gentry, and ensure that all common folk were working for them, rather than independently.

Honestly, nobody really comes well out of this. The gentry are, as you would expect, degenerates - as our main character explains at one point, either idiots or beasts. The common folk - well, I refer you to the Wicker Man scene, which is repeated later on. One of the main characters, early on in the play, sacrifices her favourite horse, to try to ensure a better harvest. They're shown as mired in superstition and prejudice, even as they're constantly under the heel of their masters in the big house. (A good turn from the Irish labourers in it though, and a lovely rendition of Trasna na dTonnta.)

Enter the most uncommon main character. Boy, she's a doozy! Present almost constantly from start to finish, she started as one of the common folk, came into money, and is now accepted by the gentry: but she belongs to neither camp. Both sides alternately court her and shun her. She's witty, she's feisty, she's a woman ahead of her time - and she's an absolute joy to watch. Love her at the beginning, loathe her at the end; she's the embodiment of Progress, if you like, and she's unstoppable, despite repeated attempts by different characters.

The play is performed in something like the language of the time - not that I'm an expert. And that can be hard going, betimes - but it is interesting. Now, I looked up the running time before I went - and even yesterday, the opening day, they knew nothing more than "TBC". I was stunned, when I looked at my watch before leaving, to discover that the thing had run for over three hours! including an interval. No wonder my neck got stiff, looking down from the height at which I was sat. Still, to its credit, it is fascinating - there was a brief period that I thought flagged, and some people didn't return after the interval, but hey. And the only bit I regretted not being down the front for was near the front, when he got his willy out. Purely out of professional interest, you understand!

Very interesting. Recommended - but be prepared for a long night. Runs until 5 August - limited availability up to mid-July. Afterwards, I took the stairs down - and blimey, if I didn't spot the LDAM organiser, in conversation with someone, on the next level down! Cue me dashing for the lifts again. I'd normally have stopped by the office, but it was now late enough that I just said I'd take the Tube straight home from Waterloo. Mind you, on the way, it occurred to me that she takes the same line.. still, I stopped in to Marks & Spencer in the station, to buy some dinner before the 11 o' clock cut-off for wine purchase, and I think that's probably how I missed her.

And so to today, most of which I spent doing the film list - as of now, that's the most attractive idea I've got for next Wednesday. Tonight, free comedy in Hammersmith was up again (temporarily), with Random LondonFree Comedy Nights in Hammersmith Wimbledon and GreenwichLondon Live Comedy, and London Art Comedy & Culture Lovers (an offshoot of Ken's Events). But yay, it was then replaced by a Funzing event, with London for a Tenner or Less (now defunct) - a Luxury Chocolate eveningHelen popped along, too. The code Fun_Day10 got us a 10% discount.

The venue being just off of Sloane Square, I suggested we eat in Côte beforehand - good, reasonably priced food, friendly service, and convenient. Leaving work early, I got there first, and had no trouble getting a table, at about 5pm on a Wednesday - by the time we left, after 6, the place was buzzing! My usual, fougasse and steak frites - which arrived pretty much simultaneously - and she had a cheese board and cod goujons: all but the fougasse available on the à la carte. A rather yummy bottle of wine from the Pays d' Oc, and we were well fed. We didn't have time for dessert - but hey, we didn't really need it!



A short and brisk walk down, then, to Artisan du Chocolat, where we arrived slightly late, but no-one was counting - the event started nearly half an hour after the advertised time. She ticked our names off a list, and took our emails. And we had time to mingle, as the prosecco flowed freely, glass after glass, poured by a roving man with a bottle. And so we were given a few samples to taste, then let free on the display cabinet, to have as many as we liked! Ooh-err.. I'll say this though, they were filling.. let's see: we were given three chocolates to sample, I think, and then I had - six more? and was stuffed. Maybe it was the prosecco. 10% off purchases on the night (rather than the advertised 15%, but never mind), and a free bag of chocolate pearls too - I bought a couple of things, but sadly, the chocolate of the night for me was the apple and cinnamon, which must have been a new flavour - I didn't see it on the shelves. A very good night though! And great to see Helen again. Pity about that group closing, but they only advertised Funzing - and they do quite a good job of advertising themselves.



Tomorrow, I eschewed the free comedy in Hammersmith for the Ghosts & Executions Tour, with London for a Tenner or Less - even though that guide wasn't great the last time, so I cancelled this previously, he's better than that free comedy! Funzing again, of course. Oh, and the code WELLBEING30 got me 30% off this. How it qualifies as "well-being" I don't know, but I'm not complaining! ..but last Sunday week, one of the Man with the Hat's old group got in touch, and now a half-dozen of us have organised to get together in the Swan tomorrow - we'd hate to lose touch. Not including said Man with the Hat, mind you - sadly, he's now shunning all contact with us. Hey, I know he has other commitments - but I don't think it's wise to cut himself off completely - and so abruptly. And we'll miss him. I have a late meeting, so shall probably be slightly late to this: but I'll do my best.

Then I'm off down to Helen for the weekend - she told me about this Living History Festival, and I said yes please!

Monday, I'm back to Soho Theatre with the Crick Crack Club, for something called The Frog Princess - PunkedBen Haggerty, the mc and co-founder of the club, told us the other night that there's going to be a full punk band - goodness, who would've thought that Sally Pomme Clayton had a hidden punk side!

And on Tuesday, I'm with the London European Club, to see the Images Ballet Company at the Arts Depot.

Wednesday, as I say, at the moment looks like a film. Watch this space..!

Friday, 26 May 2017

Storytelling: The Balance of Things, or How to Settle a Debt with a Chicken

I'd only seen Michael Harvey once, but he made quite an impression. So I was delighted when another performance from him was scheduled - in Crouch End, unfortunately, but what the hey; it's one of Crick Crack's regular venues. Mind you, when I came to look for the confirmation email yesterday, I got a shock - no email could I find! Unusual, as I normally book these as soon as possible. I'd confirmed my attendance on the Meetup page weeks ago. Well, I said I'd better book again, just in case.. when no confirmation email arrived for that either, I realised there must be a problem, and emailed - and filled out the online form - to check with them for my next booking, next month; as I said to them, I don't want to book it twice! No response, mind. And I printed out the online confirmation of what must have been my second booking for last night - there is no way to check your bookings on the website.

That evening, it had cooled down considerably - I swear, you can't tell what to do with the weather! "Cast not a clout till May is out", as they say. Having determined to take the bus, I strolled up to Kingsway again - other side of the road, this time. Jeez, I'm heading out of town a lot these days! Anyway, when the people in front of me started to run, I looked, and saw what they had - my bus, at the stop. Oh boy. And I needed to get this one, to be in time. I ran after them - and we'd all have missed it, but for the fact that the driver was having some kind of argument with a passenger.

Well, I was travelling on that bus for nearly its entire route. And I gotta say, I have never met such a noisy bus driver. Oh my, he hardly stopped - he was yelling down the mic at his boss, who was telling him about a diversion (not arguing, he was just loud - not nearly as loud when he was telling us about it, after). He beeped every time he started off. He yelled at bus drivers and taxi drivers who were blocking hie way. He yelled at cheeky pedestrians, walking in front of him. He shared his thoughts with us when he discovered the cause of the diversion - apparently, a bus was blocking the road. The diversion itself didn't affect me, but I did worry whether it'd slow us down - my timings were tight.

As we drew closer, there were as many stops left as I had minutes to go to showtime. I consoled myself with the facts that (a) the final stop was right across the road from the Arthouse (I have taken this bus before, just not all the way from town), and (b) they're ok with latecomers. We arrived with one minute to go - I crossed the road in the company of someone else, and entered a crowded lobby; as usual, they were late starting, eventually dimming the lights five minutes late. Nobody checked my ticket, and I went straight in and took my seat - at least I'd managed to get Row B, but one of those unoccupied aisle seats was probably also mine.



It was mostly, but not completely full, as usual, and Ben Haggerty - providing mc duties as usual - was sat with us, in the stalls. And in due course, he came on and introduced our raconteur for the evening. The story was another Breton one - Michael Harvey tends to favour them - and this one might have seemed a bit daft. In short, a chicken has saved some money, gives it to the king's herald, who's raising money for the treasury and promises a good rate of interest - and of course, no sign is seen of the money thereafter. So, having left it as long as she can bear - to earn as much interest as possible - she sets off for the palace. En route, she attracts the attention of, in turn, a fox and a wolf, who decide to accompany her and wait until she gets her money before they eat her. As the road gets longer and longer, they get tired, and each climbs on her back (that's one big chicken). Each in turn tells a story, to "shorten the road". And when she comes to a river she can't cross, why, she invites the river onto her back as well, and the river tells a story. Finally, a dramatic conclusion sees her saved three times, once by each of her passengers, as the corrupt king tries to get out of paying his dues.

It takes a good storyteller to make all of that worth listening to - and Michael Harvey played a blinder, with an absolutely hilarious performance. He played up the more ridiculous parts of the stories, got us all participating with the bits that repeated, and my goodness, he does a good chicken! and a good sheep, BTW. A welcome companion to anyone's evening - he invited us all for drinks afterwards, but I wanted a word with the people at the bar. And after Ben Haggerty pointed out that this year is the 30th anniversary of the foundation of the club, and there's a donation button on the website (I just checked, and it could be more visible) - I headed out and had a word with the friendly Spanish chap at the till, asking him to check my booking for next month. After much searching, he found it, and when I explained that I'd never got an email, he printed me out a receipt, which I must now keep safely. "Ah, I made you smile!" he grinned. Lovely chap. But caveat emptor - they don't seem to send confirmation emails any more, so if you're booking here, do print the online confirmation!

Still no sign of Michael Harvey, so I just left - into a pretty cold breeze. My bus stop was just to the right - I got a shock when the display at the stop said I'd be waiting the bones of half an hour for my bus, though! Google Maps said there was one just about due, and Google Maps was right, thankfully - further down the road, I needed to change to a bus with the same destination as the first, but taking a route closer to home. And so I got home, not terribly late - the storytelling hadn't had an interval, so finished a good bit earlier.

This evening, I'm back to Ireland for the Bank Holiday weekend again - and taking the bank holiday, this time! Jeez, I'll be glad to leave the heat behind for a while.

On Tuesday, London Dramatic Arts are at the Olivier to see Common. So am I.. on a cheap Travelex ticket, which I booked direct with the venue. So I'll be avoiding them, since they don't appreciate that.

On Wednesday, free comedy in Hammersmith was up again (temporarily), with Random LondonFree Comedy Nights in Hammersmith Wimbledon and GreenwichLondon Live Comedy, and London Art Comedy & Culture Lovers (an offshoot of Ken's Events). But yay, it's now been replaced by a Funzing event, with London for a Tenner or Less - a Luxury Chocolate eveningHelen's popping along, too. The code Fun_Day10 got us a 10% discount.

On Thursday, I eschewed the free comedy in Hammersmith for the Ghosts & Executions Tour, with London for a Tenner or Less - even though that guide wasn't great the last time, so I cancelled this previously, he's better than that free comedy! Funzing again, of course. Oh, and the code WELLBEING30 got me 30% off this. How it qualifies as "well-being" I don't know, but I'm not complaining! ..but on Sunday, one of the Man with the Hat's old group got in touch, and now a half-dozen of us have organised to get together in the Swan that day - we'd hate to lose touch. Not including said Man with the Hat, mind you - sadly, he's now shunning all contact with us. Hey, I know he has other commitments - but I don't think it's wise to cut himself off completely - and so abruptly. And we'll miss him.

Then I'm off down to Helen for the weekend - she told me about this Living History Festival, and I said yes please!

The 5th, I'm back to Soho Theatre with the Crick Crack Club, for something called The Frog Princess - Punked. Ben Haggerty, the mc and co-founder of the club, told us the other night that there's going to be a full punk band - goodness, who would've thought that Sally Pomme Clayton had a hidden punk side!

And the 6th June, I'm with the London European Club, to see the Images Ballet Company at the Arts Depot.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Concert: Gabriela Kozyra & Luiz Morais

Last night was supposed to be the Man with the Hat's last event, but sadly he had to cancel. Instead, I discovered that the UL Alumni Association (UL is my alma mater) was holding a talk on Brexit. And I was going to go to that - but lo, Funzing came up with something better! So then I was going to Urban Legends of London. But do you know, I completely forgot to mention that the World Music Meetup then advertised a Brazilian concert in Sands Film Studios - adore that venue. So that's where I ended up going! (Funzing can be cancelled without penalty, up to 48 hours in advance.) Like the group, adore the venue. I don't get there enough. Appropriately summery weather for it, too.

First time I'd been there since I moved - it used to be a convenient hop on the Overground to Rotherhithe. Well, the Overground still goes to Rotherhithe - but not via the centre. I had the time, so took the bus - and since I left a bit early, and it was a gorgeous evening, I took the option of a longer walk and a direct bus.

A pleasant stroll got me to Kingsway just in time for the 188. A long, sweaty trip on that, and I got off at Southwark Park - interesting, as I'd never before approached Sands Films from this side. I cut through the park, and when I doubled back on myself, a helpful chap out photographing flowers asked whether I was lost. "Oh no, not at all!" Well, never for long, with Google Maps and its trail of blue breadcrumbs. Wending my way through housing estates, I finally got my best view yet of the church, and there was Sands Films, around the corner.

They'd left the door open for once, with the heat, and there was the organiser inside, greeting people. She had a good turnout in general, and a good few from the Meetup group.. I headed straight through to the performance space, which was open. Dunno why it's never yet occurred to me to take photos in here!

 























A velvety bench over the side looked comfy, and happily, I even had something to lean my head against! which was handy, because the soothing, jazzy sound of Gabriela Kozyra (who turns out to be Polish) and Luiz Morais was the perfect antidote to any kind of stress. Smooth sounds and a silken voice - I was so glad I'd come! and what a silver lining to the sad change in the plans of the Man with the Hat.


What was also nice was to meet up with other members of the group - one of whom insisted on photos! No sign of them yet on the site, though..

Tonight, Crick Crack is back - at Crouch End Arthouse again, unfortunately. It's just so far! Still going, of course - the more especially because it's Michael Harvey! He's worth the trip. Have brought a coat, just because I'll be out late. Then I'm back to Ireland for the Bank Holiday weekend again - and taking the bank holiday, this time!

On Tuesday, London Dramatic Arts (LDAM) are at the Olivier to see Common. So am I.. on a cheap Travelex ticket, which I booked direct with the venue. So I'll be avoiding them, since they don't appreciate that.

On Wednesday, free comedy in Hammersmith was up again (temporarily), with Random LondonFree Comedy Nights in Hammersmith Wimbledon and GreenwichLondon Live Comedy, and London Art Comedy & Culture Lovers (an offshoot of Ken's Events). But yay, it's now been replaced by another Funzing event, with London for a Tenner or Less - a Luxury Chocolate eveningHelen's popping along, too. The code Fun_Day10 got us a 10% discount.

Next Thursday, I eschewed the free comedy in Hammersmith for the Ghosts & Executions Tour, with London for a Tenner or Less - even though that guide wasn't great the last time, so I cancelled this previously, he's better than that free comedy! Oh, and the code WELLBEING30 got me 30% off this. How it qualifies as "well-being" I don't know, but I'm not complaining! ..but on Sunday, one of the Man with the Hat's old group got in touch, and now a half-dozen of us have organised to get together in the Swan that day - we'd hate to lose touch. Not including said Man with the Hat, mind you - in a rather melodramatic touch, he's now shunning all contact with us. Hey, I know he has other commitments - but I don't think it's wise to cut himself off completely - and so abruptly.

Then I'm off down to Helen for the weekend - she told me about this Living History Festival, and I said yes please!

The 5th, I'm back to Soho Theatre with the Crick Crack Club, for something called The Frog Princess - PunkedBen Haggerty, the mc and co-founder of the club, told us the other night that there's going to be a full punk band - goodness, who would've thought that Sally Pomme Clayton had a hidden punk side!

And the 6th June, I'm with the London European Club, to see the Images Ballet Company at the Arts Depot.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Burlesque: Rock & Roll Revue

Yesterday, I'd booked with Funzing UK for an Infinitease Burlesque Show. In Leytonstone, so if anything better came up in the meantime, I was up for it! That's a terribly long way out. Anyway, the other day I got an email about cheap tickets - apparently there's a burlesque festival on - in Hackney, which is a bit closer. And a lot cheaper. So I booked for that instead - Funzing can be cancelled up to 48 hours in advance without penalty.

A long way, still.. nearly an hour by bus, but I could get one straight there, not much walking required (handy for those blisters). However, I needed to go to the loo just before I left, and sure enough, that made me late, and I could see my bus pulling away from the stop as I made my sluggish way through the crowds that are constant here. Ironically, had they been willing to take on passengers in the middle of the road, I'd have been fine - they were stuck in traffic for ages! No, that was the last bus that would've got me there in time, so I consulted my Maps app and chose the Central Line and bus option. At least I was already en route to the station!

Well, now I was running slightly early. Got a seat on the Tube, had a read of the paper, got quite emotional at the awful stories of the victims of Monday's terror attack in Manchester. Got off at Bethnal Green - how lovely, they have the bus stops on the direction signs! which made it very easy, as Google Maps always gives the bus stop. It wasn't long before the 254 arrived, and seven stops later, I got off in Hackney.

A quick walk - turn right, then right again - got me to the Moth Club. A cloth-capped man was talking to a couple of ladies at the gate at the far end - sure enough, that was the entrance. It's a small building, and the first door sternly proclaims "Exit Only" - the second door, behind the gate, has "Entrance" scrawled on it in chalk. As I approached, he looked at me suspiciously - "Do you have a ticket?" "Well, I have an email." "I need to see it." So much for the people I booked it with saying I didn't need to produce it, they'd have my name on a list! Huh. No lists here. Well, I found it after a minute, he scrawled on my hand, and I was in.

A small bar inside, with an unassuming door to the side - a sign over it says "Smoking Area" in one direction and "Venue" in the other. Two friendly ushers at the door to the venue - one examined my hand, and explained that I was general seating, and could sit anywhere to the back. It was pretty full. After I got a drink. I found a seat to the back, near the side - not ideal, but what can you do. There were booths, which I guess you could have if you booked with the venue direct.

Well, it's more salubrious than the one in Leytonstone..


Burlesque is pretty predictable - someone (usually a woman) gets on stage and does a striptease to music, getting down to her bra and panties. She then removes the bra to reveal nipple tassels. It gets old pretty quickly, so the trick is to make it unusual. We had the ridiculous wig:


..some dressed up for the occasion:


..and, after a shorter list of acts than the last time I saw burlesque, we finished with a very weird, voodoo-style number:


But hey, this was a Rock and Roll Revue, and the music was the true star of the show, with the awesome Thunderstruck proving the evening's highlight for me. JUST what's needed after an unexpectedly shitty day.

Burlesque is always good fun - recommended. Afterwards, a quick walk around the corner got me to a stop that had a bus that would take me to within walking distance of home. And yay, there's a Tesco across the road, and I was in time to grab a bottle of wine to go with a late dinner. Alcohol is also a good cure-all.

Tonight was supposed to be the Man with the Hat's last event, but he had to cancel. Instead, I discovered that the UL Alumni Association (UL is my alma mater) is holding a talk on Brexit. And I was going to go to that - but lo, Funzing came up with something better! So then I was going to Urban Legends of London. But do you know, I completely forgot to mention that the World Music Meetup then advertised a Brazilian concert in Sands Film Studios - adore that venue. So that's now where I'm going! and barring the proverbial accident, fire, or flood, that's final. Appropriately summery weather for it, too - cue the rapid emergence of summer clothes.

Tomorrow, Crick Crack is back - at Crouch End Arthouse again, unfortunately. It's just so far! Still going, of course - the more especially because it's Michael Harvey! He's worth the trip. Then I'm back to Ireland for the Bank Holiday weekend again - and taking the bank holiday, this time!

On Tuesday, London Dramatic Arts (LDAM) are at the Olivier to see Common. So am I.. on a cheap Travelex ticket, which I booked direct with the venue. So I'll be avoiding them, since they don't appreciate that.

Next Wednesday, free comedy in Hammersmith was up again (temporarily), with Random LondonFree Comedy Nights in Hammersmith Wimbledon and GreenwichLondon Live Comedy, and London Art Comedy & Culture Lovers (an offshoot of Ken's Events). But yay, it's now been replaced by another Funzing event, with London for a Tenner or Less - a Luxury Chocolate eveningHelen's popping along, too. The code Fun_Day10 got us a 10% discount.

On 1 June, I eschewed the free comedy in Hammersmith for the Ghosts & Executions Tour, with London for a Tenner or Less - even though that guide wasn't great the last time, so I cancelled this previously, he's better than that free comedy! Oh, and the code WELLBEING30 got me 30% off this. How it qualifies as "well-being" I don't know, but I'm not complaining! ..but on Sunday, one of the Man with the Hat's old group got in touch, and now a half-dozen of us have organised to get together in the Swan that day - we'd hate to lose touch. Not including said Man with the Hat, mind you - in a rather melodramatic touch, he's now shunning all contact with us. Hey, I understand if he has other commitments - but blanking us completely is a bit extreme, dontcha think?

Then I'm off down to Helen for the weekend - she told me about this Living History Festival, and I said yes please!

The 5th, I'm back to Soho Theatre with the Crick Crack Club, for something called The Frog Princess - PunkedBen Haggerty, the mc and co-founder of the club, told us the other night that there's going to be a full punk band - goodness, who would've thought that Sally Pomme Clayton had a hidden punk side!

And the 6th June, I'm with the London European Club, to see the Images Ballet Company at the Arts Depot.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Play: Ugly Lies the Bone

Nothing on Meetup when I was looking for something for today - I suspect that's going to be an ever more regular feature from now on. It was Time Out that advertised Ugly Lies the Bone, a play at the National. Fair enough, and I booked - got a nice, cheap seat down in the front row.

Without Meetup to entice me, of course, I left it quite tight, and could hear the warning buzzer go, to indicate the imminent start of the show, as I neared the end of the bridge. (Walking is nearly as quick as public transport for this trip.) And I cursed these traditional theatres, that still make you pick up physical tickets - most places I go now have e-ticketing, and generally just let you show it on your phone. Less waste of paper, too!

Well, I knew I was in the Lyttleton stalls, which meant no stairs to climb at least - and as I entered, there was the conveniently moved box office. I gasped out what I'd come to see, and my name - and being so close to time, he didn't bother to ask for ID, just gave me my ticket and waved me straight on. Of course, my seat would be at the other side.. when I went in, it was just a few steps down to the front row, and of course my seat was easy to spot, being the only one remaining empty. I greatly disappointed a friend of the people sitting beside me, who had a seat somewhere else, but was hanging around in the obvious hope that the occupant of my seat wouldn't arrive, and he could sit there. Too bad..

So much for the two-minute warning as I entered - I was sat there, waiting for curtain-up, for at least five minutes! This was a captioned performance, which was handy during the opening song ("Johnny Comes Marching Home"), as I could hardly understand a word of the accent that was singing it. See, this is the story of a returned war veteran, badly injured, who has trouble recovering from scars both physical and mental, and indeed has trouble re-integrating into the life she knew. So she embarks on a revolutionary new virtual reality treatment.

It's a stunning performance by Kate Fleetwood, and indeed the whole cast is excellent. The stage itself is mesmerising, with a curved feature meant to suggest that the floor is an extension of the walls - the furniture moves in and out on tracks as required, and a spectacular light display encompasses everything and everyone on stage - particularly for the VR sequences. However, there's absolutely nothing novel in the plot, which is a shame - somehow, with such a futuristic element included, you'd kind of hope for an interesting story point. Nope, pretty standard really. But very watchable - and due credit to the makeup artist who made her prosthetic scar tissue. Showing on limited dates until 6th June - sold out for the last matinée.

90 minutes straight through - I do like it when I get my night back! On the way back, someone was whistling Waterloo Sunset - and with good cause:




Tomorrow, I'd booked with Funzing UK for an Infinitease Burlesque Show. In Leytonstone, so if anything better came up in the meantime, I was up for it! That's a terribly long way out. Anyway, the other day I got an email about cheap tickets - apparently there's a burlesque festival on - in Hackney, which is a bit closer. And a lot cheaper. So now I'm going to that instead - Funzing can be cancelled up to 48 hours in advance without penalty.

Wednesday was supposed to be the Man with the Hat's last event, but he had to cancel. Instead, I discovered that the UL Alumni Association (UL is my alma mater) is holding a talk on Brexit that night. And I was going to go to that - but lo, Funzing came up with something better! So then I was going to Urban Legends of London. But do you know, I completely forgot to mention that the World Music Meetup then advertised a Brazilian concert in Sands Film Studios - adore that venue. So that's now where I'm going that day! and barring the proverbial accident, fire, or flood, that's final.

On Thursday, Crick Crack is back - at Crouch End Arthouse again, unfortunately. It's just so far! Still going, of course - the more especially because it's Michael Harvey! He's worth the trip. Then I'm back to Ireland for the Bank Holiday weekend again - and taking the bank holiday, this time!

On the 30th, LDAM are at the Olivier to see Common. So am I.. on a cheap Travelex ticket, which I booked direct with the venue. So I'll be avoiding them, since they don't appreciate that.

On the 31st, free comedy in Hammersmith was up again (temporarily), with Random LondonFree Comedy Nights in Hammersmith Wimbledon and GreenwichLondon Live Comedy, and London Art Comedy & Culture Lovers (an offshoot of Ken's Events). But yay, it's now been replaced by another Funzing event, with London for a Tenner or Less - a Luxury Chocolate eveningHelen's popping along, too. The code Fun_Day10 got us a 10% discount.

On 1 June, I eschewed the free comedy in Hammersmith for the Ghosts & Executions Tour, with London for a Tenner or Less - even though that guide wasn't great the last time, so I cancelled this previously, he's better than that free comedy! Oh, and the code WELLBEING30 got me 30% off this. How it qualifies as "well-being" I don't know, but I'm not complaining!

Then I'm off down to Helen for the weekend - she told me about this Living History Festival, and I said yes please!

The 5th, I'm back to Soho Theatre with the Crick Crack Club, for something called The Frog Princess - PunkedBen Haggerty, the mc and co-founder of the club, told us the other night that there's going to be a full punk band - goodness, who would've thought that Sally Pomme Clayton had a hidden punk side!

And the 6th June, I'm with the London European Club, to see the Images Ballet Company at the Arts Depot.

Plays: Titus Andronicus & Richard II

Well, for once, London Dramatic Arts (LDAM) advertised something I couldn't say no to for yesterday. One of the group was directing a play in Northampton, and the organiser had organised a trip up to see both that, and another play the same day. She mentioned what train she'd be on, and I booked a cheap, advance ticket for the same train. And photocopied the bit of the Rough Guide that talks about Northampton - it wasn't much.

Imagine my chagrin when she messaged me the night before, to say that she'd be delayed and taking a later train. Not only was I now getting up unnecessarily early, but I'd paid extra to be on that train! Could have got a cheaper ticket for a later one. Never mind - the ticket wasn't refundable, and I dragged myself out of bed yesterday morning. And ended up galloping up the road to Euston, of course, and getting lost on the approach - too many buildings crowding around it. In the door with six minutes to spare - collected my ticket from the huge bank of hard-to-miss red ticket machines to the side, and made the train and took a seat with two minutes to spare. I was still catching my breath when we pulled out.

Sunglasses were required all the way - it was a gloriously sunny day. First stop was Watford Junction - the outer limit of Oyster card validity in this direction, and home of Harry Potter tours. Then Hemel Hempstead, where a group of hikers got off, complete with map. And after that, we were properly into the countryside, rolling green hills dotted with sheep and cows, tree-filled valleys. We rolled into Northampton just after 11.



More photos here. Nice station toilets, BTW - I suppose that's a feature of having less footfall than London stations. With a couple of hours to kill, I headed into town, and was immediately hungry - no breakfast, you see. And then it occurred to me that it wasn't yet 12 - and on a Sunday, that meant that few eateries would be open! Oh no... well, I passed a couple of places that were open but didn't appeal much, and continued on, following my nose, to the square, and the marvellously ornate guildhall.



Sadly, it's not open on Sundays. Happily, it has an Ask Italian just across the road from it, and they open at 11. I was the first in, and got a table by the window, overlooking the guildhall.



And my, was that brunch needed! The pinot grigio was a bit insipid, and they could have cleaned the carafe in which they served it - but the food was delicious, the service friendly and efficient, even as the restaurant filled up. I was well fed - not that I'd make a habit of it; it wasn't what you'd call cheap.

Fortified, I might have explored more, but the group organiser had said she'd meet me at the café at Delapré Abbey around 2, so, since I intended to walk there, I set out.



About 20 minutes got me there. After a long walk down the impressive, straight, tree-lined drive, I followed my nose to the café. Sadly, the café didn't have anything I wanted (I didn't fancy more wine just yet), so I just sat outside, in the pleasantly summery afternoon air, until she finally arrived, about 25 minutes late. Typically. I mean, if her train, like mine, arrived at 6 minutes past the hour, what was she doing, saying she'd meet me about 2?! She'd got a taxi from the station, it seemed, and we sat and chatted until it was time to go in. With no direction signs, we had to ask someone to direct us - it was that impressive, stone entrance we'd passed, flanked by lanterns.

We took our seats in the courtyard - only later realising that the seats were soaking wet! A bit of a wipe before the customers came in wouldn't have gone amiss. Anyway, this was a Shakespearian double-bill by acting students from the University of Northampton, as we discovered from the free programmes, distributed once they'd checked our names off the list.

First up was Titus Andronicus. Now, I have to admit, I've never liked this one - I still consider it gratuitously violent. Seems he was playing to the crowd of the day. Well, I mean, aside from the many deaths, we have a young woman whose husband is murdered before her - she's then gang-raped over his corpse, and has her hair cut off, her hands cut off and her tongue cut out - doubtless to stop her identifying her attackers. Her brothers, found with her husband's corpse, are then executed for his murder, and their father (Titus) is told that he can save them by cutting off his own hand. So he does, and sends it to the emperor - only to have it sent contemptuously back to him, along with the heads of his dead sons.

Indeed. And I hear people fainted at the Globe production of it! But I have to say, I was impressed by this version. A strong influence from Game of Thrones, as usual, I think - well, it has given young actors a strong framework on which to base battle scenes, and warrior behaviour in general. There was fake blood, but not too much - and I found the acting of the young lady playing Titus' daughter, Lavinia, particularly affecting. The severed hands were portrayed by wrapping the actors' fists in red-soaked socks, and it was fun watching the one playing Titus, quickly trying to get the sock on, in the bucket in which he was supposed to have cut his hand off, before anyone noticed. The emergence of the severed heads, in Waitrose bags, also generated some laughs. Oh, and I got to play the tree under which some treasure is buried. Surreal.

Back to the café at the interval and afterwards, and more chatting while we awaited the arrival of the director for Richard II. Most of the day, actually, was spent discussing the loss of the Man with the Hat, and the gap it'll leave in Meetup. As big a shock as Brexit - and with more of a direct effect on us. And what other Meetup groups there are to join - consensus was, there's a lot of weird stuff out there! The day stayed gloriously sunny, but when the breeze turned cold we moved inside, seeing a room leading off the café that had comfy, leather chairs. And a chess set - but she wasn't tempted. Much use was made of the toilets, downstairs from the café, throughout the day.

It was some time before the second play started, and getting cold - we delayed going out for as long as possible, but finally needed to, if we were to get decent seats. We managed to score a couple of seats at the end of the front row. Staging and costumes for this one were interesting - very steampunk! A young woman played the title role - plenty of gender-switching being the norm - and great use was made of the windows surrounding the courtyard, where actors speaking through windows emphasised the isolation of the imprisoned king. In what is a very wordy play, the flow was nicely broken by sporadic use of interpretive dance, which helped to convey the sense of depression and impending doom of the king's party.

The audience was packed with the casts' family and friends, who milled around afterwards, congratulating them. And our organiser wanted the loo - but had a round to get into it, as the café was now closed! Turned out she could get to the bathroom straight from the courtyard. Our director companion had promised us a lift back to the station, but given that he had tidying up to do, and we didn't want to miss our train, we decided to walk. And a brisk walk and good workout it was! A slightly longer train journey, with more stops, meant I wasn't home till after midnight - and with my phone off, as the battery was nearly down, I had missed no fewer than five calls from my mother. Needed bed, but needed food more, so it was very late by the time I finally got to sleep.

Tonight, I'm off to Ugly Lies the Bone, at the Lyttleton. Which does sound interesting. Walking gingerly, with the blisters I picked up yesterday.

Tomorrow, I'd booked with Funzing UK for an Infinitease Burlesque Show. In Leytonstone, so if anything better came up in the meantime, I was up for it! That's a terribly long way out. Anyway, the other day I got an email about cheap tickets - apparently there's a burlesque festival on - in Hackney, which is a bit closer. And a lot cheaper. So now I'm going to that instead - Funzing can be cancelled up to 48 hours in advance without penalty.

Wednesday was supposed to be the Man with the Hat's last event, but he had to cancel. Instead, I discovered that the UL Alumni Association (UL is my alma mater) is holding a talk on Brexit that night. And I was going to go to that - but lo, Funzing came up with something better! So then I was going to Urban Legends of London. But do you know, I completely forgot to mention that the World Music Meetup then advertised a Brazilian concert in Sands Film Studios - adore that venue. So that's now where I'm going that day! and barring the proverbial accident, fire, or flood, that's final.

On Thursday, Crick Crack is back - at Crouch End Arthouse again, unfortunately. It's just so far! Still going, of course - the more especially because it's Michael Harvey! He's worth the trip. Then I'm back to Ireland for the Bank Holiday weekend again - and taking the bank holiday, this time!

On the 30th, LDAM are at the Olivier to see Common. So am I.. on a cheap Travelex ticket, which I booked direct with the venue. So I'll be avoiding them, since they don't appreciate that.

On the 31st, free comedy in Hammersmith was up again (temporarily), with Random London, Free Comedy Nights in Hammersmith Wimbledon and Greenwich, London Live Comedy, and London Art Comedy & Culture Lovers (an offshoot of Ken's Events). But yay, it's now been replaced by another Funzing event, with London for a Tenner or Less - a Luxury Chocolate eveningHelen's popping along, too. The code Fun_Day10 got us a 10% discount.

On 1 June, I eschewed the free comedy in Hammersmith for the Ghosts & Executions Tour, with London for a Tenner or Less - even though that guide wasn't great the last time, so I cancelled this previously, he's better than that free comedy! Oh, and the code WELLBEING30 got me 30% off this. How it qualifies as "well-being" I don't know, but I'm not complaining!

Then I'm off down to Helen for the weekend - she told me about this Living History Festival, and I said yes please!

The 5th, I'm back to Soho Theatre with the Crick Crack Club, for something called The Frog Princess - PunkedBen Haggerty, the mc and co-founder of the club, told us the other night that there's going to be a full punk band - goodness, who would've thought that Sally Pomme Clayton had a hidden punk side!


And the 6th June, I'm with the London European Club, to see the Images Ballet Company at the Arts Depot.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Norwegian Dixie Band & Walk: Holborn - Residents, Rascals and Riots

Wow, it's been a busy 24 hours! So. Last night, I saw that London Social Detours (a side-shoot of Ken's Events) were charging £3 to go to the free jazz concert at the Royal Academy. So I was going to go on my own. Free. But then the London European Club (LEC) advertised a Norwegian Dixieland concert at Jamboree.. well, that sounded like more fun, so I went to that instead.

It's a long, long way away. I did take the bus - was just in time to miss mine, of course, but the next was just a few minutes behind. And what a glorious evening to take a bus trip! After all the rain we've had, it was so lovely to see the sunshine - and this route took me past the Tower. Wow, it's so long since I've been out here! (Sorry, didn't get a chance to take a photo, but it is a gem in its own right.) A crowd got on at Aldgate, and I had great fun with a very observant little girl in a buggy, whose Muslim, headscarf-clad mother smiled at me apologetically, but didn't need to - her daughter was cute as a button.

Off at Limehouse, just around the corner from The Old Ship, where I'd agreed to meet one of the group - who, as he explained, fancied a drink to unwind, on a sunny Friday evening, after a week's work. He was standing outside, though - seemed the place was full up with a private function. So instead, we decamped across the square to The Queen's Head, where we managed to get both a table and service! Friendly and efficient. And wouldn't you know it, they sell Tayto too! This must be becoming a Thing.

In due course, we decamped to Jamboree. He remembered the way, so I didn't have to - we met another of our party on the road, and the rest once we got there. And hung around outside, for a while - it was such a novelty to see blue skies. Inside, it was as eclectic as I remembered.


More photos here. Now, our organiser had speculated that the music would start at 9. In the event, it was more like half past - but when they did get going, they cooked up a storm!


Is there anyone who, having heard swing, doesn't like it? Mostly familiar tunes, they mixed it up with a few Norwegian ones. At the interval, we congregated outside in the mild evening, and we lost some as the evening progressed. As I say, it is a long way, and people had distances to travel. It is a great, cosy venue though, with some funky acts. Me, I stayed till the end this time, and many thinks to the generous dude who dropped me all the way home! 

Just in time to go to bed.. today, I did doing something local - a guided walk on Residents, Rascals & Riots, in Holborn. With London for a Tenner or Less. (Dubiously, with the promise of rain!) Got a message that that group was closing as well - followed by an email invitation to take over as organiser, as one of its top members! For goodness' sake, I'd only been to seven of their Meetups.. and I'm too busy to be taking over a group I don't care about. Anyway, they've only advertised Funzing stuff, with no social element - and there are a few other groups doing that. It'd have been different, had the Man with the Hat wanted someone to take over. May it not be too long before we see him again.

Anyway, I just managed a full night's sleep, and dragged myself out of it in time. Mind you, I then got hungry, so had some breakfast, making myself a bit late. So, although I'd intended to walk to Holborn Station, where my guided walk started, I decided the better way was by Tube. And thus I disembarked, taking the Kingsway exit as instructed, and although someone, accompanied by a group of people at the top of the escalator, seemed to be smiling at me, she soon lost interest, and I continued outside.

Where a lone woman was standing with a sign for Lansdowns London, which I'd never heard of. Well, these groups often advertise under several different sources, and it was possible. And there was nobody else. So I stood near her, and after a minute or so asked her whether she had the Holborn walk. Yes! and she informed me that it'd be a private tour - no-one else had booked! 'Tisn't everyone would still go ahead. Anyway, I suppose the rain all week might have put off any other potential clients - I might have cancelled myself, but Thursday morning was the deadline for cancellation with refund, and that morning was a busy one for me!

Undaunted, off we set. As she'd mentioned at the start, we didn't cover a huge area - but oh! what an eventful one. As I said, you might pass this way a hundred times without knowing all the stories that the area holds. Not only was she full of history, but she was from the area as well, and jeez, we kept running into people that knew her! In Red Lion Square, a fellow guide wanted a word before he left on holiday, and in Rugby Street, a chap sat outside his door with a cuppa and a yoghurt, in the sunshine, turned out to have gone to primary school with her! Indeed, we passed the very house she grew up in, on the charming Great James Street.


More photos here. Stories of wartime bombings and reconstructions, and famous residents. Down Hatton Garden, which was lined with vans for the filming of a new Michael Caine film of the Hatton Garden heist.. and ending at Holborn Circus. The rain held off - till I was on my way home! We had a gorgeous, sunny walk, and this was definitely one of the most knowledgeable guides I've had, full of stories about both blue plaques, and things that weren't thought to merit one. Highly recommended.

Tomorrow, London Dramatic Arts (LDAM) is headed out of town. We're going all the way to Northampton, to see a couple of Shakespearian plays, one directed by one of her members. Richard II, to be precise, with Titus Andronicus to whet our appetites. No-one has signed up apart from me, but what the hey I've never been there, so it'll be interesting. Managed to dig out my Rough Guide to England too, when I was in Ireland last weekend - I've photocopied the bit on Northampton!

On Monday, I'm off to Ugly Lies the Bone, at the Lyttleton.

On Tuesday, I'd booked with Funzing UK for an Infinitease Burlesque Show. In Leytonstone, so if anything better came up in the meantime, I was up for it! That's a terribly long way out. Anyway, the other day I got an email about cheap tickets - apparently there's a burlesque festival on - in Hackney, which is a bit closer. And a lot cheaper. So now I'm going to that instead - Funzing can be cancelled up to 48 hours in advance without penalty.

Wednesday was supposed to be the Man with the Hat's last event, but he had to cancel. Instead, I discovered that the UL Alumni Association (UL is my alma mater) is holding a talk on Brexit that night. And I was going to go to that - but lo, Funzing came up with something better! So then I was going to Urban Legends of London. But do you know, I completely forgot to mention that the World Music Meetup then advertised a Brazilian concert in Sands Film Studios - adore that venue. So that's now where I'm going that day! and barring the proverbial accident, fire, or flood, that's final.

On Thursday, Crick Crack is back - at Crouch End Arthouse again, unfortunately. It's just so far! Still going, of course - the more especially because it's Michael Harvey! He's worth the trip. Then I'm back to Ireland for the Bank Holiday weekend again - and taking the bank holiday, this time!

On the 30h, LDAM are at the Olivier to see Common. So am I.. on a cheap Travelex ticket, which I booked direct with the venue. So I'll be avoiding them, since they don't appreciate that.

On the 31st, free comedy in Hammersmith was up again (temporarily), with the above groups, plus London Art Comedy & Culture Lovers (another offshoot of Ken's Events). But yay, it's now been replaced by another Funzing event - a Luxury Chocolate eveningHelen's popping along, too. The code Fun_Day10 got us a 10% discount.

On 1 June, I eschewed the free comedy in Hammersmith for the Ghosts & Executions Tour, with London for a Tenner or Less - even though that guide wasn't great the last time, so I cancelled this previously, he's better than that free comedy! Oh, and the code WELLBEING30 got me 30% off this. How it qualifies as "well-being" I don't know, but I'm not complaining!

Then I'm off down to Helen for the weekend - she told me about this Living History Festival, and I said yes please!

The 5th, I'm back to Soho Theatre with the Crick Crack Club, for something called The Frog Princess - PunkedBen Haggerty, the mc and co-founder of the club, told us the other night that there's going to be a full punk band - goodness, who would've thought that Sally Pomme Clayton had a hidden punk side!

And the 6th June, I'm with the LEC, to see the Images Ballet Company at the Arts Depot.