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|Tuesday, May 26th, 2015|
|Ten Years Flat
So this week is the ten year anniversary for me living in my current flat. I didn't anticipate being there this long as my previous record for living in any property other than the family home I was born in was five years. The other places I had lived had all been shorter than that. Even the thought of moving again sends shivers down my spine.
Its been an interesting ten years too. I've changed jobs twice (though sadly not recently). My God daughters have grown from small children to teenagers, one of them is currently sitting her GCSE's. My father died as did my friends Peter, Kelly and Arthur. My friend Van got married the year I moved to my flat and has had three kids since then. My friend Kate changed careers that year and is still in the same job but has moved house several times since. One of my nieces got married as did one of my nephews earlier this month. I started and finished one serious relationship. I resigned from the political organisation that I had been a member of for 20 years. My friend Sarah gave birth to twins who had their first birthday this year. I made several new friends many of who still remain important to me. I bought my first laptop and went digital/3G with my phone. I started this LJ account (and one at photobucket). I went to Scotland for the first time. I have at least doubled the size of my collections of books, comics, movies and music. I have decorated my flat from top to bottom three times - once just before I moved in and twice since. Apart from that I and everyone around me has just got ten years older, wrinkling, swelling, greying, balding or having more kids as appropriate.
As for the next ten years - I have no intention of moving if I can help it. A well paying job or a lottery win (both seemingly unlikely) might convince me - an unforseen catastrophe might also do it. The rest is a matter of wait and see. Current Mood: contemplative
|Sunday, May 24th, 2015|
There was a bit of a works outing today with myself and two of my colleagues taking three of our service users to see the Sing-a-long version of Frozen at the Prince Charles Cinema. (They are currently screening this every Saturday for as long as the demand lasts - possibly forever on today's evidence.
Luckily none of my crowd wanted to get involved on the fancy dress side of things but for the most part they through themselves wholeheartedly into the interactive sections. Its a bit of a hybrid between cinema and pantomime with the audience encouraged to sing along with the (subtitled) songs, cheer the heroes, boo the villains etc.
This was only my second time seeing the movie, though I gather that there are millions of long suffering parents who have endured countless repeat viewings. I actually quite like the film as modern Disney movies go. I especially like the slight subversion of the Disney princess motif (where the handsome prince is a necessary requirement) and some of the songs are annoyingly catchy.
What I got today, maybe for the first time is what this movie has come to mean to the main target audience for this film (little girls) who soundly identify with the main characters and who live every moment of the film (and each note of many of the songs) no matter how many times they have seen it. At the key moments in the film today the area between the front row and the screen was filled with sweet little girls in princess costumes singing, dancing and twirling entirely unselfconsciously living the magic of the film. An argument could be made about Disney brain-washing - but it is clearly powerful stuff.
This week I have been mostly reading: The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman Current Mood: awake
|Saturday, May 16th, 2015|
For my final shift at work this week I supported one of my service users with a trip to the annual butterfly exhibition at the Natural History Museum. Its quite a nice experience for her as her usual default social activities are going to the cinema and walking - so this is a real change of pace. The set up at the NHM is a large marquee in the front garden filled with butterflies and tropical plants - so its quite a calm environment (if a little hot for my tastes with dozens of butterflies flying all around you. We both had a good time, I think.
My photos have been added here: http://s866.photobucket.com/user/shaved-ape/library/Butterflies?sort=6&page=1 Current Mood: awake
|Monday, May 11th, 2015|
As I was nearby at the weekend I dragged my friend Kate into the Richard Diebenkorn exhibition at the Royal Academy. I had never heard of the artist before but the publicity material seemed interesting and I had nothing to lose. We whizzed around the exhibition finding little that inspired or even interested us that much. Some of his work is abstract, some figurative but none of it made much of an impact on me though he is supposed to be very highly regarded. There was one particular space in the gallery which I spent a minute or to examining and I finally came to the conclusion: "I can relate to this. I can't paint either." I assumed this to be just part of my cynical, semi-ignorant, dismissive Darkside but Kate (who properly studied art to degree level) said much the same after we left. Can't win them all.
This week I have been mostly reading: All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr Current Mood: disappointed
|Sunday, May 10th, 2015|
I saw Blade Runner on the big screen for the first time tonight. The Prince Charles Cinema have been celebrating the 30th anniversary of the film's release by showing 'The Final Cut' version. It looked spectacular and (something I hadn't actually considered) sounded
amazing. There are only a few films now that remain on my big screen wish list as most films I have either seen on the big screen already or I don't mind if I only watch them on tv/dvd. Akira is one of the few remaining and the cinema are showing that in a few weeks and I may well book myself a ticket for that as Blade Runner on the big screen certainly did not disappoint. Current Mood: pleased
|Saturday, May 9th, 2015|
|Election Day 2015
Another general election has come and gone. The Tories are back which is pretty grim. It all seems pretty grim - apart from the collapse of the Lib Dems which is some cold comfort.
I had always expected the Tories to remain the single biggest party due to the total spinelessness of the opposition but like many others I was shocked and appalled to see them return with an outright majority.
I remember watching the Tories rape Britain for 18 years (1979-97) smashing the rights of working class people and entrenching a system that allowed/accelerated the flow of wealth from the poorest to the richest. Sadly memories are short and not enough people share my view - or at least have no credible alternative.
On election day I voted for TUSC (Trade Union and Socialist Coalition) one of the few organisations to stand against the ideological assault of the austerity program. In my constituency they polled only 205 votes, which is similar to their votes in other constituencies. If there had been no TUSC candidate I would have voted Green (who did similarly badly but at least have one MP).
Things just look really dire at the moment. The Tories are promising more cuts to public services, even deeper than before. The lunatic UKIP polled 10% or more in many areas though thankfully that did not translate into too many more MPs. The Lib Dems have been set back a generation in an election wipe out. The small satisfaction of seeing them punished for supporting the Tories is tempered by the fact that the Tories themselves go unpunished. The Scotland/SNP thing is interesting and the extent of the fall out remains to be seen. One thing is likely and that is if Scotland are not going to return large numbers of Labour MPs then balance is tipped towards many Tory governments in the future - possibly for decades.
Both Labour and Lib Dem leaders have already resigned. Its barely relevant what happens with the liberals but it will be interesting to see what happens with Labour and in which direction they will head next. I suspect further capitulation to the Tory and possibly even UKIP agenda.
Luckily Cameron's majority is slim. It reminds me of the dying days of the John Major administration where every Tory death, arrest or defection was heartily cheered as that meant an even weaker government even more likely to fail. Death wanks all round!
This week I have been mostly re-reading: Myths & Legends Of The British Isles by Richard Barber Current Mood: gloomy
|Monday, May 4th, 2015|
|Canal Festival 2015 to Ye Olde Cock
I met up with my friend and former flat-mate Debs over the weekend for a bit of a catch up. We took in the canal festival at Little Venice which seemed slightly bigger this year than the last time I went. I was also treated to a cider apple ice lolly for the first time in about 30 years so there is a small portion of my youth revisited. We emerged from the festival into the grounds of St Mary's hospital where 'royal baby fever' was in full swing so we made a hasty exit.
We improvised a plan b for the rest of the day which included introducing Debs to the Wallace Collection, a catch up chat over coffee then smoothies and then an excruciatingly slow bus ride through the most congested part of London to Fleet Street. We had originally intended to hit the Twinnings shop which was closed), so we instead took in The Cheshire Cheese pub, (a regular of Charles Dickens, which was massively crowded and cramped) Dr Johnson's house (also closed) and a pub dinner in a pub called Ye Olde Cock. This managed to just about rescue the Fleet Street part of the trip despite the fact that Dens' fish was so badly burned it was like sticking a fork into a house brick (full cash refund plus replacement meal, thanks to our complaining) and I accidentally cut my finger on the cistern in the gents and was bleeding so badly I had to borrow the pub's first aid kit.
Its all good though - and on Sunday I just stayed home. Current Mood: awake
|Wednesday, April 29th, 2015|
|Tate Boat & Rothko Room
One of the service users I support voluteers at Tate Britain as a visitor host for a couple of hours each week. Yesterday I supported her to attend one of the bi-monthly briefing meetings that the gallery organizes for its volunteer staff. One of the main reasons that she in particular was invited to the meeting yesterday was that it was the first major chance that the Tate staff had to introduce the new learning disabled volunteers to the rest of the team - highlighting their increasing diversity and work in the local communities. The lady I supported already takes great pride in hew work at the gallery and was thrilled to receive the attention of the meeting.
A few other bonuses of the trip to the meeting (aside from free coffee and biscuits) included a ride on the special 'Tate Boat' which travels between the galleries on the Thames. In the beautiful Spring sunshine yesterday that was a real treat. The second bonus was that we had a free hour to spend in the gallery, some of which was spent in the time after the general public had been turfed out. For a short time I even had the Rothko room pretty much to myself which almost never happens in the usual opening hours. David, a former colleague of mine once described sitting and meditating in the Rothko room as "a near religious experience." Neither of us consider ourselves to hold any religious beliefs but I can see why he thought the room was special. It is different to any part of that gallery or any other I have visited. As work days go (though these were additional hours that I wont get paid for) that was pretty special. Current Mood: awake
|Sunday, April 26th, 2015|
So the real use for my new sofa was for sitting down after work tonight and watching the days football highlights. My personal highlight was watching my local team, Watford win promotion to the premier league. I had already heard the results while I was at work but its still nice to see the goals and moments of drama.
I'm pleased that Watford have won their promotion though it will mean some divided loyalties for me next season. Arsenal are not just the first premiership side I ever supported but they were the team which made me regularly take interest in the game, such was their prowess at the end of the 1990's. Watford have been my local team since I moved to England in 1997. I lived in Hatfield (near Watford) for three years, Watford itself for five years and they are still my main local team for the ten years that I have lived in Harrow.
It is rare for the two teams to be in the same division and for most of the season supporting both isn't much of a problem but when they play each other it is an exquisite torture. My instincts usually lead me to support the underdog but I remember the last time they met (about 8 years ago) Arsenal were in a battle to win the league and every single point counted whereas Watford were pretty much doomed to relegation regardless of the three points they might have won in that game. I genuinely felt conflicted while watching the game, and while Im glad that it doesn't happen too often it is fun in a twisted sort of way. I have seen Watford win promotion to the top league a few times in the part twenty years and I genuinely think that they are better equipped this time to stay up for longer than their usual single season - but time will tell. Its no fun watching them in the top flight when they are the division's whipping boys but one of the joys of watching football is that however badly the season turns out there is always fresh optimism when the new season starts in August. Bring it on!
This week I have been mostly re-reading: Parrot And Olivier In America by Peter Carey Current Mood: excited
|Friday, April 24th, 2015|
|New Places To Park My Butt.
Its been a big day at Shaved-ape castle, not that I would expect anyone else to be interested. I've had some new furniture delivered. I am currently sat on my plush new swivel chair which replaces my old one which had been wonky for ages and finally died last week. The new one took a little bit of assembly, but armed with nothing more than an allen key and some surprisingly foul language I muddled through.
I also had a new sofa delivered. Once I cut through the cubic kilometer of packaging and bubble wrap that required even less assembly so its all turned out pretty well. Its significant for me as (apart from finally having a really comfortable place to sit for the first time in ages) its the first sofa I have ever owned. I have always lived in rented accommodation (and short of a lottery win, probably always will) and usually the landlord provides this. Sadly the one my landlord provided is ten years old and in quite a sorry state. Owning my own sofa is probably the most adult new thing I have done in a while. Like I said, I dont expect anyone else to care. My butt is happy. Current Mood: awake
|Thursday, April 23rd, 2015|
|Election Build Up
So there is a general election looming and to my surprise there seems to be a genuine sense of excitement in the air. Even taking in the possibility that the media may be hyping up how close a fight it may end up being, there seems to be more genuine interest in how this turns out than any election I can remember since 1997. The common theme between this election and 1997 is there feels like their may be a chance to dump the hated tories out of power.
The only thing that tempers my own sense of excitement of seeing the tories (and coalition cronies, the Lib-Dems) dumped out of office is that the closest we have to a realistic parliamentary alternative is Ed Milliband's Labour Party. I want to like Ed Milliband. I want to support Labour but what few illusions I might have once held have long since been shattered and Ed Milliband seems to be genetically incapable of opposing the Tories ideologically on any issue. His best promise seems to be that he will do exactly what the Tories have been doing only managed better and if we ask them nicely they might use lube. Im sure the man is part weasel. I saw him being interviewed on the BBC this week. On the subject of the economy and what the next parliament would hold he kept referring to the dreadful "cuts" that David Cameron would make compared to the more sensible "spending reductions" that he would make if he was elected. This may be shrewd political spin but it is far from inspiring.
At work, the effects are interesting to observe. This is the second general election that has happened while Ive been in the job and the mood this time is significantly different from 2010. The service users who were so swept up in the anti-Gordon Brown/pro- David Cameron media coverage have seen the impact of the cuts in their own lives and have declared themselved to be powerfully anti-Cameron. One service user with Autism has declared herself to be pro-Cameron for two main reasons. Firstly, she saw a tv programme where someone accused Ed Milliband of 'stabbing his brother in the back.' Her literal understanding of this is the Ed Milliband has stabbed/killed his own brother! The second reason is that she received a personalised letter from David Cameron asking for her support. This is a letter with a printed signature and a name taken from the electoral register, but the personalised touch has convinced her that Cameron has written to her personally and this is evidence that he knows and cares about her. I am not sure if any reasoned argument will convince her otherwise, but that is one to watch.
The final event which has helped spur me to write this post is that last night I supported several of my service userd to a discussion/information group about the election. Mostly it was a fairly dull affair and uneventful. It did liven up however when the service users started to discuss what was important to them and who they think might best represent that. A portion of the group had very little understanding of the election or the politics and processes involved whereas others had quite passionately held beliefs. One chap started his contribution be saying how he is scared to vote in this election in case Cameron gets back in. Despite his obvious confusion in the process his fears found some echo within the room. A lively debate ensued when he added that he "Cant vote for Mr. Cameron as I am a Christian and Christians don't like the Tories." The service user with Autism I mentioned above angrily jumped to the defense of Cameron, repeating over and over, "I'm a Christian and we love David Cameron". A member of staff from a different team (who I have never met before) declared with an approving tone that some Christians are against Cameron because of his pro-gay legislation. The thread of the debate was then lost as the room erupted into many spontaneous monologues. It took me a few moments to pick my jaw up off the flaw. I'm still a little surprised that a colleague of mine would possibly hold such backward views much less express them in front of the service users - some of whom are gay. I think last night was the only time I have ever felt like defending David Cameron, but if there is only a choice between him and an even more backward looking and prejudiced ideology the choice is fairly simple.
However limited the choices are in this coming election I am thankful that they are not quite that limited.
This week I have been mostly reading: Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier Current Mood: awake
|Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015|
|Revelations: Experiments In Photography
The Science Museum now has a 'media space' which is starting to regularly pull me in with unexpected photography exhibitions. The current collection looks at how photography has been used by scientists and how the techniques devolped have been adopted and adapted by photographers.http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/visitmuseum/Plan_your_visit/exhibitions/revelations.aspx
Its an interesting enough subject but the entry fee is as steep as a major art exhibition and Im not convinced that it is worth that much. If I was forced to choose between this and a major art exhibition I would probably achieve greater value for money from the art exhibition. Current Mood: awake
|Tuesday, April 21st, 2015|
One of the smaller exhibitions currently running at the V&A is 'Staying Power' a look at Black people's lives in Britain over the past few decades as seen through the lenses of black British photographers. My first and largest criticism is that this exhibition could and should be much bigger. The selection is interesting enough - though the subjects often appear mundane as a collection they form a vivid reflection of a certain way of life in recent British history - it even manages to capture some of the changes as the culture shifts. The exhibition is way to small to do the theme any kind of justice. The entire exhibition fills one largish room - and that is it. I would have quite happily seen more of this even if the exhibition incurred an entry price.
A few years ago I read a book called 'Staying Power' by Stephen Fryer, a history of Black people in Britain and it was one of the best books on the subject of immigration I have ever read. This exhibition could have begun to reflect in images what the book had outlined in words but sadly it was finished as soon as it began.
This week I have been mostly reading: Breverton's Phantasmagoria, a compendium of monsters, myths and legends by Terry Breverton Current Mood: disappointed
|Monday, April 20th, 2015|
|The Best Laid Plans Of Mice And Stevie G...
When I watched the draw for the semi-finals of the FA cup a few weeks ago it seemed that there would be a good chance that of the four teams left in it, Arsenal and Liverpool could be facing off in the final. (Reading are struggling in the league below and Aston Villa seemed to be rapidly heading in that direction, so it didn't seem like that much of an assumption). I texted two of my former colleagues (one an Arsenal fan, the other supports Liverpool) and suggested we use the occasion as the excuse that we have been looking for to meet and hang out. I was even considering extending invites to other friends and colleagues whatever their affiliation.
Sadly the semi-finals at the weekend were played out to a different result. Arsenal did their part on the Saturday but a newly revitalized Aston Villa knocked out Liverpool 2-1. This seems to have taken the shine of the planned day of friendly rivalry, the other guys have instead opted to go and watch boxing instead (something in which I have no interest). I may still choose to arrange something sociable on the day of the final but I'm not sure I can be bothered now - and I dont really know any Villa fans.
The one piece of total Schadenfraude I will admit to is the plight of the Liverpool captain, Stevie Gerrard. For most of his career he has been a dazzling talent, a brilliant player and even an inspirational leader. 'Talisman' is the term that has often been applied to the man. At the end of this football season he will be leaving Liverpool football club to play out the twilight of his career in the emerging American league. Sadly for Liverpool and England fans this is probably at least one season too late as his best days (which still happen from time to time) have started to fall more regularly behind him. Possibly the second funniest moment in recent English football was watching Gerrard tempt fate in the closing days of the last season by urging his fellow players "not to slip" in their once in a generation challenge for the league title, only to see the man himself literally slip at a crucial moment that brought disaster to his team. His performance in an England shirt at the last world cup was similarly catastrophic. If it was not for his talisman status he would not be still playing in as many high profile games as he has still been enjoying. His dedicated fans will not hear any of this however. (The dismal 30 seconds he achieved on the pitch against Manchester United included).
The fact that Liverpool's FA Cup exit will deny the man his last chance of a major British trophy is a tragedy for him and his blindly loyal fan base, but football rivalry is cruel. I do feel some degree of sympathy for the man whose career long loyalty to his club is genuinely admirable, but to all his fans who have steadfastly refused to admit that their idol has passed his sell-by date I celebrate the arrival of harsh reality with a big grin and an evil chuckle. Current Mood: awake
|Wednesday, April 15th, 2015|
|Anish Kapoor At The Lisson Gallery
A few years ago Anish Kapoor exhibited his work at the Royal Academy (the first fellow of the academy to exhibit their within their lifetime, I am told). I remember at the time that one of my colleagues (who was then busily concluding her masters degree in art) heartily recommending the exhibition to me several times. At the time I was ignorant of his work and unfamiliar with the gallery itself so I hesitated for too long and ended up narrowly missing my chance to see the exhibition.
It turns out to have been a deeply significant exhibition as it is still discussed from time to time on the London art scene, its resonance is still being felt. Luckily for me The Lisson Gallery in Bell Street is currently exhibiting some of his work (some of which featured in the earlier RA exhibition, I think). I popped along today before I went to work and at least managed to get a flavour of what the fuss was about.http://www.lissongallery.com/artists/anish-kapoor
His work is certainly distinctive. I can see why his exhibition caused such a stir. The pieces on display at the Lisson are powerfuly visceral (though maybe not the kind of thing you would want hanging on your wall at home!) For some of the pieces I am not sure if it is the art fan in me that likes them or the horror movie fan - possibly both. I left the gallery much more of a fan of Kapoor than I was when I entered, though I still understand very little about his work. I can see I am going to have to find out some more...
This week I have been mostly reading: Necropolis - London And It's Dead by Catherine Arnold. Current Mood: awake
|Thursday, April 9th, 2015|
|Coral Reef at the NHM
I don't know who flipped the switch at the Natural History Museum but their secondary exhibitions have fallen from being consistently very good to being consistently fairly poor. Their permanent displays are brilliant, their dinosaurs are cool in a way that only dinosaurs can be, their blue whale is reliably breath-taking and their major exhibitions (like the wildlife photographer of the year) regularly entertain, but their secondary paid exhibition also seems like its going to be an interesting event but just falls a little flat. 'Coral Reefs' is the latest offering which I visited today with one of my service users. This could have been beautiful but seems to be suffering from being cobbled together on the cheap. Fairly small children might have found the educational side useful/interesting but there was little to engage or inspire cynical old farts like me. Maybe I'm just not the target audience for this sort of thing. My mood probably wasn't helped by the fact that I forgot that it was still the Easter holidays for school children so the whole museum was crowded more than usual. Generally though it was all a bit blah. Current Mood: awake
|Saturday, April 4th, 2015|
I realized that it has been a while since I tried to cook anything new so today I made a pork Jalfrezi. That might not count as trying a new recipe as it was largely improvised, with Pork being the ingredient of note as I had some of that but didnt have the more traditional chicken. Still, I think it qualifies as something new! It was pretty damn good too - though due to its improvisational nature I doubt if I could repeat it exactly again!
Photo is somewhere in here: http://s866.photobucket.com/user/shaved-ape/library/?view=recent&page=1 Current Mood: awake
|Wednesday, April 1st, 2015|
|Imperial War Museum - Since The Revamp
After work on Monday I made the trek to the far end of the Bakerloo line to see the 'new look' Imperial War Museum. The building was closed for an extended period last year for a massively expensive revamp and a re-opening timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the start of the first world war. I delayed my visit until the crowds had passed.
Having seen the museum before and after the recent work, I have to say that i marginally preferredit the way it was. Its not that the improvements are bad, but some of the changes have not brought improvement, especially the changes to the large atrium just inside the entrance. This seems somewhat diminished now and that is a shame as this is where the first impression of the museum is formed and it has lost something of its power. It is still an impressive space, its just not as good. Lots of little niche spaces have been created but the spaces between them seem jumbled and crowded. The museum still hosts the holocaust exhibition as a permanent feature, which is something everyone should probably see at least once. I wonder what this museum could have achieved with the money it spent on the renovations if it had simply left things as they were.
This week I have been mostly reading: The Killer Of Little Shepherds by Douglas Starr Current Mood: awake
|Tuesday, March 31st, 2015|
|Curious Incident, Live In Northampton
I took some holiday time over the weekend to visit my friend and god-daughters in Northampton. The youngest of these had recently celebrated their 14th birthday and my present/contribution was to take them to see the play version of 'The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time'. I had seen this a while ago when the National Theatre production was broadcast in selected cinemas.
The only significant variation between the NT and touring versions is that the NT version was staged in the round while the touring version uses the more conventional proscenium arch staging. There is no loss in quality and the energy and innovation of the show had a powerful effect on the audience. My god-daughters loved it too so I get to be pleased too. They spent the rest of the weekend spoiling ME rotten so it seems to be a memorable weekend for all of us. Current Mood: awake
|Friday, March 27th, 2015|
|Reynolds At Wallace
I made my third ever visit to the Wallace collection yesterday and still managed to see a whole new bunch of stuff which I had not seen on my previous visits. Partially that was because I had not ventured into the basement level on either of my previous visits but the main reason was that they are currently holding an exhibition of the work of Joshua Reynolds and their special exhibition space in in the basement level.
I've been familiar with the name and reputation of Reynolds (he was the first president of the Royal Academy and there is a very prominent statue in their courtyard) but I have not managed to raise much interest in his work. This exhibition at the Wallace has gone some way to increasing my interest as it looks at his work specifically in terms of his innovation both in terms of his techniques and in the way he thought about/posed his subjects. Though it was small, I left the exhibition with a much better appreciation of his work. Not bad for a free exhibition on my way home from work.
This week I have been mostly reading: Forensics - The Anatomy Of Crime by Val McDermid Current Mood: awake