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|Friday, April 29th, 2016|
|Mark Thomas - Trespass
I caught Mark Thomas' new show at the Tricycle theatre in Kilburn tonight. I have seen him once before (and was very impressed) and even turned down an invitation from one friend a few weeks ago to see the show I was not 100% sure I could get free on the required evening) but I found myself free this evening and short of something to do to help my friend Rita celebrate her birthday - so there we were!
His stand up wit is impressively funny but what Makes Thomas distinctive is his passion and political commitment. The theme of this show was the increasing privatisation/ corporate grab handing of our public spaces and rights. His show equally highlighted the funny sides but also pressed a significant case for activism to defend our spaces and our rights to use them. Brilliant show. Current Mood: awake
|Wednesday, April 27th, 2016|
|Chris Riddell At The Illustration Cupboard
On my way to work this morning I popped into the Illustration Cupboard - a gallery that specializes in children's book illustration - to see the Chris Riddell exhibition. I know Riddell's work from the Neil Gaiman books he illustrated. What I also learned is that in addition to this he is not only a writer himself (and is currently the children's laureate!) but he is also a kick-arse political cartoonist. It turns out that he had a book signing there at the weekend which I would have loved to have attended but I was working last weekend and had no idea it was on. This is not the first event I have missed at this gallery. I really must try to get on a mailing list or something!
This wwek I have been mostly reading@ On The Road by Jack Kurouac Current Mood: awake
|Tuesday, April 26th, 2016|
|Behind With The Books
Saturday was world book night and I am volunteering as a distributor again this year. Unlike previous years I am already behind the curve. I only managed to pick up my designated books today which already makes me a bit late. Also unlike previous years I am unfamiliar with both my chosen book and author so I really feel like I should read it so that I can talk to the people I share it with. I have already given away a couple of copies but I will not begin in ernest until I have read it - hopefully by this weekend or thereabouts. Current Mood: awake
|Monday, April 25th, 2016|
|Transport Museum Depot
Wandering randomly around London some time ago I discovered the Transport Museum Warehouse in Acton and put it on my mental list of things to check out when I have the time. When I did get around to making a visit (as part of the literally 'Random London Project I did with a friend a few years ago) I found that the depot is actually open to the public for two weekends each year. The rest of the time the place is so securely guarded they do not want you to even approach the building. The security guard at the time even objected to the taking of a photograph of the vintage bus shelter (possibly train or tram stop?) they have outside the building!
This weekend was one of the two weekends this year they were open and I managed to overcome my lazier instincts and dragged my butt to Acton for a look. I am aware enough of my personality that I know I could easily become a trainspotter, or bus enthusiast of any similar thing. What I was expecting was a slightly larger version of the Transport Museum in Covent Garden packed full of such bus/train/tube/engineer type enthusiasts. That is pretty much what I did get, but I also had a much better time than I was expecting. The exhibits were great (and the warehouse is massive) and there was a great variety of little things to look at too - but the air of enthusiasm generated by the great collection of enthusiasts that had gathered was kind of contagious. There was also the industry equivalent of a craft fair with lots of enthusiasts manning stalls selling all kinds of related stuff from model train kits to photos of rare buses to original art work, second hand books and more beside. It was among these stalls that I found the greatest pleasure - both in some of the conversations I found myself sharing but also in the mind boggling 'hobby-ness' of it all. Honestly, if you like framed photos of buses there was a stall there that had dozens! I I had not already chosen my geek specialities (books, comics, movies, music, zombies etc) I could so easily immerse myself in that kind of world. For my own sanity I choose not to but it was nice to visit. Current Mood: awake
|Sunday, April 24th, 2016|
|Painting The Unseen
At The Serpentine Gallery I found an exhibition of work by Hilma Af Klint called 'Painting THe Unseen
.' I had never heard of her before but apparently she was a Swedish artist who pioneered abstract painting (pre-dating Kandinsky and similar others). I understand the importance of this work in the historic context but I spent a few minuted wandering around the gallery failing to connect with anything that interested me (I'm not too strong on abstraction) but becoming increasingly annoyed with the willfully arty types around me. I am not sure if there is a collective name for the kind of people who populated the gallery that day. The equivalent people in theatre terms would be 'luvvies' and would be equally annoying. Anyway, these chin stroking pretentious bohemians were there in abundance (more than I had seen in any of my previous gallery visits anywhere). Experiences like this, when the art is not engaging and the people around you are deeply annoying are what puts a lot of people off from visiting galleries I am sure. It is the first time I have experienced it quite so intensely, but I wont let it put me off. My previous visits to the Serpentine have been at times when the gallery was very quiet. This is the first time I have been on a Saturday when it was crowded. That is one aspect I might choose to avoid in the future if that is the sort of crowd they attract.
This week I have been mostly reading: The Pumpkin Eater by Penelope Mortimer. Current Mood: awake
|Monday, April 18th, 2016|
|A Himalayan Story
Another exhibition I dropped in on yesterday was 'Spiti. A Himalayan Story by Joan Pollock' at The Royal Geographical Society. The exhibitions here are usually free and normally fairly interesting. This particular exhibition looked at one photographer's work as they documented 'a year in the life' of this remote village in the Himalayas. Few of the images could be regarded as spectacular but the project as a whole managed to capture something of the essence of the remote settlement and there is plenty of value in that.
This week I have been mostly reading: The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins Current Mood: awake
|Sunday, April 17th, 2016|
The Science Museum is currently hosting the 19th Annual Welcome Images exhibition. This is a very specific type of photography prize as its entrants are drawn from images that are not only beautiful but also are images which further our understanding of science. Microscopic images of the sub-atomic world and ground breaking images from all types of scans continue to feature and fascinate. As a whole the images in this specific arena are as bold and enlightening as anything taken by the likes of the Hubble telescope and feature just as many alien vistas. This year's crop did not really fire my imagination in the way that it has in years past but I still think it is a brilliant concept. Current Mood: awake
|Saturday, April 16th, 2016|
|Anti Austerity March.
Today I joined in the anti-austerity protest march called by 'The People's Assembly' (an umbrella group of organisations that are opposed to the Tory cuts in all their various forms). It was the first proper protest march I have taken part in since I resigned from the socialist organisation I had been i for two decades. That aspect made me a little nervous as I had no desire to become embroiled in old arguments but I need not have worried. With the Tories ratcheting up their cuts and the increased bitterness of the recent public mood this felt like a very timely march to be on. Tens of thousands of other people seemed to agree with me.
I used to think I had a pretty good head for judging the approximate size of demonstrations (I have been on plenty - so you begin to get a feel for this sort of thing) but since the huge anti-war protests (2 million people!!) all other protests begin to feel a little small. The number at todays march were encouraging. I would personally estimate the size of today's march at 50,000 people as a minimum but probably closer to 100,000. The website for 'The Independent' newspaper put the figure at 150,000 which if you assume a swelling of numbers when after the protest arrived in Trafalgar Square is not an unlikely figure.
The diversity of the groups present was also encouraging. South Wales steel workers were present as were all kinds of NHS workers, civil servants, teachers, CND and Stop The War groups, anti-racists, educational campaigners, social housing campaigners, refugee rights campaigners, environmentalists and who knows how many others marched side by side under the unifying umbrella. I know fully well that demonstrations by themselves change little. Where they have an impact is as part of a larger campaign and a successful protest can have a significant galvanizing effect on the participants when they return back to their individual campaigning groups. It makes me wonder what else I should be doing, and I have not felt that for a while. Today felt like a small step forward. I hope it was.
This week I have been mostly reading: Doctor Who: Time Lord Fairy Tales by various authors. Current Mood: awake
|Wednesday, April 13th, 2016|
The Imperial War Museum in Lambeth has never been my favourite London museum (though I think it was the first of the large museums I visited). I like it even less since it had its expensive and disappointing refurbishment. The (permanent) Holocaust exhibition is incredible, but hardly something I would do for a giggle.
I paid a visit today to see two temporary exhibitions that do help tip the balance slightly away from the tangibly reverential air reserved for the general war memorabilia. The first was looked at the work of Peter Kennard, a political artist whose work has been widely adopted by the modern anti-war, and more generally anti-capitalist movements. http://www.iwm.org.uk/exhibitions/iwm-london/peter-kennard-unofficial-war-artist
The second exhibition featured a project by photographer Nick Danziger called '11 Women Facing War'. Originally this project looked at the lives of 11 women from different war zones around the world in 2001 and how it affected their lives. Ten years later he tried to track these women down to see how their lives had changed. Peace had since come to some of the parts of the world he visited but to some it had not.http://www.iwm.org.uk/exhibitions/iwm-london/iwm-contemporary-nick-danziger
Both of these exhibitions were powerful and made more so in the context of the museum they were shown in. More exhibitions like this would probably make me a more regular visitor.
This week I have been mostly reading: Nine Suitcases by Bela Zsolt Current Mood: awake
|Tuesday, April 12th, 2016|
For lunch in Northampton on Saturday we visited an American themed Diner called, 'Buddies' (I think). Imagine a Northampton version of Jack Rabbit Slim's from Pulp Fiction - then dial it down a notch. The food was as you would expect and the venue fairly enjoyable. Some effort had clearly been made to theme food around successful/famous movies and where puns were possible they were deployed. This is something which always appeals to me. My personal favourite item on the menu was a 'Wookie Cookie' which is not a pun in any way but to my desperately corroded mind sounds like a filthy euphemism! I plan to adopt and use that one myself, given the relevant opportunities. Current Mood: amused
Over the weekend I visited my god-daughters in Northamptonshire. We went to see Priscilla The Musical as part of the younger one's birthday celebrations (She is 15 now!). I had seen the show before (and am a big fan of the film) but I really wanted to share it with the girls. I have never been a fan of musicals but have seen enough in recent years to distinguish between the good and the bad - and Priscilla is one of the best. It is lively, funny, has some great tunes, amazing costumes and a brilliant story at its heart. Some bloke from a defunct boy-band (James from Blue, possibly?) was playing the lead in this touring production but I did not let that put me off. (The middle aged ladies in the audience were deeply appreciative of him taking his shirt off!). A generally pleasant weekend followed.
This feels like one of the better shows I have seen with the girls lately, though it was gratifying to see that 'Kinky Boots' (the show we saw over Christmas - also based on a great movie) picked up several Olivier awards this year for best new musical, best costume design (we noticed!) and a best acyor award for the guy who played 'Lola' (who was brilliant). So thats all groovy.
This week I have been mostly reading: Rivers Of London by Ben Aaronovitch Current Mood: awake
|Monday, April 4th, 2016|
I saw on my LJ profile yesterday that this is the ten year anniversary of my account being launched. I have posted more than 1,600 entries in that time and talked about all manner of shite. Perhaps it is time for an evaluation.
When I first opened my account it was with a single purpose: my friend Dora used an LJ account to post her creative writing. If I wanted to read it I needed an LJ account ('friend-ed') to be able to read it. I had not originally intend my own account to be used for anything other than that. Shortly after that I discovered some of the unexpected benefits of having an account. Firstly, it became a useful diary/journal/scrapbook of the stuff I got up to - and one that I could share with my friends while still remaining fairly anonymous if I chose. (This was in the days before facebook etc really took off in the UK). The diary aspect has become particularly valuable to me. LJ has become like an external hard-drive for my brain which would never have enough memory to hold all of the data that I dump on LJ.
There is also a social side to LJ. I have made friends and contacts from around the world thanks to LJ. Some of the friends have become real-world friends too. That has been nice. What I have noticed in recent years is that there have been fewer and fewer people using LJ - something that has become particularly stark in the past year or two. Many of the people with whom I was in regular contact have either stopped reading and posting altogether or only post on LJ as an add on to wherever they primarily post. This has led me to consider very heavily whether I want to continue with LJ.
I really dislike many aspects of facebook. I feel that strongly about it that I have refused to have a facebook account. I have held one twice to try it but I have not enjoyed the experience so both times I quickly closed the account. I very much want to maintain the diary aspect of LJ and the ability to share with selected friends and while I don't want to give up the anonymity the dwindling sense of community is leading me to think that this might be better done elsewhere.
I guess when I have time I might look into some other forms of social media. Twitter looked like fun when it first started but I think I have come to dislike that about as much as I dislike facebook. Its tricky, but I guess I need a space where I can be sociable on my terms - not exactly anti-social but possibly more a-social! I don't know. Ten years is a significant investment of my time. If I can find a suitable site for my needs I may transfer my loyalties to it - but in the meantime I will keep plugging away here.
This week I have been mostly reading: Ten Million Aliens by Simon Barnes Current Mood: awake
|Sunday, April 3rd, 2016|
On Friday I met my friend Sarah and we took her toddling twins (recently past their 2nd birthdays) to Kew Gardens for the day. As a place of almost magical tranquility I think it rates about as highly in Sarah's affections as it does in my own, though she visits much less frequently than I. The twins proceeded to explore with the same level of joy as they would have explored anywhere else so it would be hard to discern any specific benefit for them - but for the adults supervising their exploits that day Kew remained something of a tonic. One unexpected thing we did that day was bake cookies. This was part of the Easter holiday activities laid on by Kew. They were good too! Current Mood: awake
|Friday, April 1st, 2016|
|The Curious Incident Of The Bloke On The Bus
I recommended to one of my colleagues a few weeks ago the book (and adapted play) The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time. I think it is a brilliant piece of writing. It has a great story, well paced etc, it is a book that grabs your attention, sparks your imagination and wants to make you read on. It also features a principle character who has Asperger's Syndrome and the book provides a lot of insight into that characters mind (as the story is told from his perspective. In my line of work that would have been enough to make the book interesting but (as I said) it is also a very well written story. The enthusiasm for the book has been contagious and the book is starting to make a journey around the team (impressive for a group of people who by their own admission, rarely read) and it has so far met with unreserved approval.
One of my favourite parts of the book is when the central character is taking a train journey and describes looking out of the window on the train. To paraphrase, the character says something like, 'Lots of people say they look out of the window but I REALLY
look out of the window. They might see a field and some cows, I can tell you exactly how many cows there are, how many are black, how many are brown, how many are sat down', etc. This speaks very much of the autistic/Aspergers mind where there is a difficulty in filtering what information is important. Everything we see or hear is important, but how do we know which is the stuff we need to be aware of and which stuff can we ignore? At a station there will be public announcements, sign posts, departure boards, adverts, shop signs, people with badges, people talking and moving - all sorts. Most people have learned to filter this but it can be quite overwhelming if you cannot focus on what to look for and even then you might not be focusing on entirely the most 'useful' (by common consensus) thing. This is something I have enjoyed discussing recently with my colleagues because although we have worked with people with these conditions (and continue to do so) not everybody empathises with the difficulties.
Today I was supporting a man with Asperger's syndrome. We had visited an art gallery (his choice!) and as we caught the bus home I was sometimes making conversation about the things we were passing. (We had already discussed the advantages of seeing new things and of seeing familiar things from new angles). He also tried to add interesting points to the conversation at times but the two I was most struck by were when he spontaneously told me the number of people who had got on the bus since we had boarded and later as we approached home exactly how many sets of traffic lights we would pass between where we were and our final bus stop. (He had previously counted!). Straight away my thoughts went to that wonderful and insightful book.
This week I have been mostly reading: The Old Man And The Sea by Ernest Hemingway. Current Mood: awake
|Wednesday, March 30th, 2016|
This week I have been mostly reading: Zom-B Goddess by Darren Shan.
This is the final book in the Zom-B series. I only really invested in the series a couple of months ago so the wait for the climactic finale has been comparatively short for me. The series has been quite enjoyable. Comparisons with Charlie Higson's zombie series are inevitable as both series feature largely teenage characters in a London based zombie apocalypse and are books marketed directly towards the young adult market. Of the two I prefer Higson's series, but Shan has created something wonderful too. His books are shorter, at least equally sharp, the violence often more brutal (but somehow the character deaths have less impact) and they often deal with wider societal issues (like racism) pretty head on. The journey through the dozen books of the series has been fun - and I caught it just in time for the last book to come out. I wonder which (if either) of these book series will be the first to be adapted for the screen. Current Mood: awake
|Monday, March 28th, 2016|
|Easter At Work
I have just worked the Easter weekend at work (and am going back in tomorrow for more but thankfully am on an admin day. It has been a mix of the quietest and most oddle stressful weekends at work I can remember in a long time. For the service users it has been a doddle. Of the 8 tenants in my service one has recently moved out, (but we are still supporting at a different property) 3 are on holiday with family in variously Pakistan, Ghana and Italy and two are staying with family more locally over the break. That leaves just two service users in the building (and a third in a different building so that side of work is blissfully peaceful - and we get to give a small number of tenants a large amount of attention as opposed to the usual opposite.
The flip side is the staff who seem to have decided that while the tenants are away it is okay to have a turn being bonkers. In the past few days there has been a significant medication error due to a total lack of clear communication, shifts that have been double booked and shifts that have been cancelled or abandoned with little or short notice, leaving other staff to work beyond their own hours to cover. There has been allegations (seemingly founded on some level) of both bullying and (I am not joking) African tribalism! The amount of work that has been generated by this shit in the past 48 hours or so more than compensates for the easier time we should be having with so many of the tenants away. On top of this the clocks went forward last night as we officially entered 'British Summertime' which managed to cheat me of a very valuable hours sleep that I could well have used.
The next time we hit a major holiday I think that I might just book the time off!
This week I have been mostly reading: States Of Mind - Experiences At The Edge Of Consciousness. (Anthology of literature, science, philosophy & art). Current Mood: tired
|Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016|
Things have certainly changed when it comes to interviewing staff, in my industry at least. There was a time where any job I cared enough to apply for withing the care industry would be offered to me on a plate once I had attended an interview. This was then followed by a droubt of several years where I was rarely granted an interview at all and each one I attended I was told I had only failed narrowly, but still failed.
Before my last job interview (for a promotion rather that a totally new job) I thought that I might have just cracked it. I usually answer questions about myself or career (or anything) quite concisely. This led to regular post-failure interview feedback that I wasn't giving full enough answers or providing enough evidence to prove that I am capable of doing a particular job - even if I had been working that job or similar for many years.For my last interview I dialed my waffle setting 'up to 11' and talked/wrote far beyond any of my own comfort levels and was rewarded with the promotion that had been all but due for years.
Today I saw it from the other side of the fence. I had to take a turn on the panel for interviewing new staff. Once the interviewing itself was over then came the scoring of the candidates. There is no joy or wriggle room left in this process. Just about every word spoken in the interview is recorded and points are awarded if knowledge can be suggested from what people have said or written. Points could be awarded if someone had 'demonstrated understanding' of a concept but could not be awarded without this. The answer seems to be that during the interview process to just write and write over and over again. No value is placed on something being tidy or concise. IF a person demonstrates some knowledge of a concept during their ramblings at any point, that counts. By contrast, not
saying something usually scored zero. The system we are using is fair in that everyone tested by it is measured using the same criterea (and not subject so much to the whims of the interviewers but if you can talk for long enough without sounding totally bonkers then your chances of interview success are massively raised. It is a joyful world, deep down. Current Mood: awake
|Monday, March 21st, 2016|
|Tory Morals Laid Bare
Following years of severe cuts to social spending which have hit the poorest and most vulnerable in society (where the richest have continued to do quite nicely, thank you) the Tories have been planning to go another stage further and cut the benefits payments to many disabled people. Twice now a very public signal has been set off which should indicate how extreme, repellent and unnecessary these cuts are and they are both seemingly being ignored by the insidious Tory chancellor, George Osborne.
The first signal was when the House Of Lords refused to pass the cuts un-amended at their second reading. This is unheard of in recent history (despite that recent history including such devastatingly unpopular aims as the poll tax and the Iraq war). The British House Of Lords is hardly a bastion of revolutionary ferment. Does the chancellor take this as a hint that if his policy is affecting this kind of unprecedented action that maybe it contains something too objectionable
to continue? No. I even saw him being interviewed on the tv news when this story broke but nobody thought to raise that point with him.
The second signal is that on Friday a senior government figure (and former Tory party leader) Iain Duncan Smith resigned over the issue of disability welfare cuts. IDS is practically the living definition of a right wing lunatic and has been pretty much the poster boy for all the Tory welfare cuts so far - and even he thinks these cuts are going to far! It is indefensible to pursue these cuts which are not even designed to 'save the country money' (not that even that would be acceptable). The cuts balance out more or less evenly with a tax break that was announced in the same budget which allows some very well of people in Britain to pay less tax! Even a turd like IDS can see that these cuts are both savage and unnecessary (take unpopular as read). Has George Osborne taken any notice? So far, not. We continue to watch with interest.
I am hoping that this will feed enough of a political shit-storm that the cuts will be reversed. The danger is that even if this happens Osborne & the Tories will just continue their savage business in other ways but at the moment I would gladly take even that small victory.
This week I Have Been Mostly Reading: A Vindication Of The Rights Of Women by Mary Woolstonecraft. Current Mood: angry
|Sunday, March 20th, 2016|
I noticed today's date a little while ago. If he had lived my father would have been 85 years old today. It also would have been the 57th (I think) wedding anniversary for my parents. The saddest thing about my father's passing is how little he is missed. Always known for his miserable demeanor, his ill-temper and his tendency to bully where he could (not me personally for many years!) his legacy was always going to be a 'bit mixed'.
When I visited my mother recently she confided in me that on his last day at home (before his final admission to hospital) he had said some particularly cruel things to her which surprised even me. He told her (among other things) that he did not want her to visit his grave under any circumstances as he had was sick of looking at her while he was alive and wanted to be left in peace when he was dead. This is especially harsh not just because she had been his loyal and LONG SUFFERING wife for more than fifty years, the mother of his five children and grandmother to ten grandchildren but she was also his main caregiver during the last years of his life despite being in constant pain herself.
Other children whose parents have passed may well consider visiting their graves on birthdays and anniversaries and such. I will probably never visit the resting place of my father and if I did I suspect I would leave with an empty bladder. Current Mood: indescribable
|A Midsummer Nights Dream (again)
Back in 2012 I saw a brilliant production of A Midsummer Nights Dream at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith. It was the funniest and most vibrant interpretation of Shakespeare I have ever seen. I went with my friend Dora to see it and I have kept an eye open ever since in case I found the production running again and could share it with someone else. A little while ago I saw that it was returning to the Lyric for a limited run and today (on the last day of the current run) I went with my friend (and former flatmate) Debs.
It was the first time we had seen each other properly in months so we had a bit of a catch up. Once again the play did not disappoint - if anything it seemed even funnier this time round! I am encouraged to see that it has made a return as it gives me hope that it will come around again - where I will no doubt inflict it on some other poor unsuspecting sod! We had a great laugh today. Hats of to all involved in the production and to the Lyric for bringing it back.
This week I have been mostly reading: Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey Current Mood: awake