|Sunday, September 25th, 2016|
|The Girl With All The Gifts
I took some of my service users today to see 'The Girl With All The Gifts' a movie they chose themselves without me leading them - though to be fair most of them wanted to see 'Deepwater Horizon but that doesn't come out until next week.
Their response was pretty positive, but my personal reaction was much more positive. Smart and original zombie movies are few and far between. This (based on I gather a very well received book which I have yet to read) takes a strong biological basis for the virus and adds some interesting characters. The premise is that the z-disease in this case is a kind of parasitic plant/fungus that affects the hosts behaviour to improve its own distribution but this is only the first stage of that organisms development - there is more to come! Throw into this mix some grumpy soldiers, a ruthless scientist intent on making a vaccine and some children that were born infected (their mum's were infected while pregnant) and have become a kind of mutant sub-species of zombie-human. There is a decent smattering of action and the tension is held well throughout. I think zombie films are generally brilliant fun but I recognise when a particularly good one comes along that transcends the genre and this film is one of those.
Two of my female colleagues also attended, were overwhelmed by the (fairly mild) Horror - they aren't used to it - and spent the rest of the day moaning that we should have gone to see the new Bridget Jones movie instead! This was an option my service users were offered but declined - I for one am glad that I was there to defind their wishes and their 'fragile minds'!
This week I have been mostly reading: Your Servants And Your People' by David Towsey. This also features zombies. Its part of a series of books aimed at 'Young Adult' readers faturing zombies and set in the American 'Wild West'. Also not bad. Current Mood: awake
|Thursday, September 22nd, 2016|
|Kew Bee Hive (again)
Its taken me a while to get around to posting again but at the weekend I took another trip to Kew Gardens to get a closer look at the new bee hive atraction. I had sen it last month when my God-daughters visited but did not get in close for a good look as it was just too crowded at the time for it to be appealing. The cooler weather this time round (and the end of the school holidays) made for a much more chilled experience this time around.http://www.kew.org/visit-kew-gardens/whats-on/thehive
This time I took my friend Lilia, a colleague from my current job - the first time I have socialised with anybody from my new workplace since I have been there. I have to be a bit more careful now. As a manager if I socialise with anybody from my current team (apart from my own manager) I could easily open myself to claims of favouritism or of forming 'cliques' and the politics of my workplace is already sensitive enough. It is a bit of a shame that such a nice day has to be tempered by these thoughts but this is where I currently find myself.
This week I have been mostly re-reading: Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman Current Mood: awake
|Thursday, September 15th, 2016|
Like just about everyone who has bought tickets for the brilliant 'Groundhog Day: The Musical' at The Old Vic I was contacted and asked if I would like to take part in a focus group to discuss the show. Despite the offer to be 'compensated' for my time I would have volunteered my time for free in this case. The show was brilliant - a great night out for me and a source of delight for my friends.
The people arranging the focus group called me today to check my availability and to ask some questions about my age, income bracket etc. to ensure they have the range of people they need reflected in their panel. Unfortunately for me the low-earning middle age white bloke slot had evidently already been filled, so unless whoever that guy is drops out for some reason my services will not be required. My initial reaction is mild disappointment but I get to keep one of my evenings free so when the time comes I think I wont mind too much. Current Mood: awake
|Monday, September 12th, 2016|
|Chas & Dave At The Derngate
I have just returned from a weekend in Northamptonshire with my friend Kate and my God-daughters. The purpose of this visit (besides purely social) was to see the Chas & Dave gig at the Derngate in Northampton. I was a childhood fan of Chas & Dave (who were huge when I was a kid) but massively moved away from them before I hit my teens and into my adulthood. It's only really been in the past decade that I came to start liking them (and lately liking them a lot - though in that regard I seem to be alone in my peer group!).
I like them because (though may never describe themselves as this) a London folk group. Most of their tunes are brilliant oral histories of a time a place and a people - just as the best folk music should be. They also have some kick arse tunes and (my personal favourite) 'Ain't No Pleasing You' which I think is one of the best 'break up' songs ever and is one of the few good ones told from a mainly male perspective.
The gig was good fun. The audience was as far as I could see entirely white and almost entirely older than me. I saw about 6 people there that were younger than me and two of those (my god-daughters) had come with me - though without any clue what they were letting themselves in for! Poor trusting little souls that they are! The sound mix was appalling though with the vocals largely lost in the mix behind the instuments, but as they started their career as a pub band this still somehow felt a little appropriate. I think everyone had a good time though. I know I did! Current Mood: awake
|Sunday, September 11th, 2016|
|Punk At The British Library
There have been all kinds of events and programmes this Summer to celebrate the '40th Anniversary' of Punk (pick a date, any date...). Slightly later than planned I finally made it to the Punk exhibition at The British Library. There was very little in the exhibition that was new to me and I am hardly an authority on the subject but it seemed like a reasonable intoduction for people who know close to nothing. What I did like was the acknowledgemnt of the Rock Against Racism movement which came out of the punk scene. On Friday when I attended the exhibition the library was hosting a special panel discussion on that very subject but I wasn't able to stay for that even if tickets had been available. It was good to se though.
This week I have been mostly re-reading: Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig. Current Mood: awake
|Wednesday, September 7th, 2016|
|The September Bump
I was back at work today, eleven mostly blissful days away from work - at least my main job. Five of the days were relatively action packed with my god-daughters visiting, the rest were predominantly lazy and I barely left my flat or spoke to anybody unless I had to.
Today thoughwas back to the full reality. No sleeping in until I am ready to wake up - my alarm clock rudely interrupts me. No more leisurly breaakfast, I just scarf down some cereal and tea while I get ready. The reality of September also hits as I begin my commute to work. Not only has there been no school run to clog up my morning journeys but a significant portion of Londoners have taken some of their holidays at some point in August but today they are all back to their commutes. Those Londoners not clogging up the roads are sharing my journey and clogging up public transport.
The cherry on this particular cake today was the time I spent in Kilburn waiting for the bus that connects my tube jorney to my actual workplace. It turns out that drivers on certain selected bus routes were on strike today. I have no problem with this. I wish more people would act collectively to defend/improve their pay and conditions. The problem was that there was no information about this posted at the bus stops so people just stood around waiting for buses which were never going to arrive before eventually drifting away to find alternative routes. I lost over 20 minutes at a bus stop today, roughly the same time as it would have taken me to walk the distance to work. The bus stops I passed along the way (including the two nearest my work) had queues of people all waiting like I did for buses that were not going to arrive so I did the one humane thing I could think of - after telling people about the strike I printed off some notices and attached them to the bust stops myself. The bus company should have done this at all the stops themselves but totally failed. I hope the strike wins!
Welcome back to work, and welcome to September! Current Mood: awake
|Thursday, September 1st, 2016|
|C is For Cuba
After dicussing the idea with Kate and the girls over the weekend we have decided to take on a project. When we share visits over the next few years we are going to try to 'eat our way around the world' choosing (where possible) restaurants and quisines from nationalities starting with different letters of the alphabet.
The object of this is both to try new foods and places to eat but also to try to make eating part of the fun/activity rather than something we do as a break between fun/activities. The rules we agrees are pretty simple:
* We would try to eat from one nationality of each letter.
* It would only count if all four of us are together
* We can do this in London when they visit me or in Northamptonshire when I visit them
* We would try to complete as much of this as we can before 'R' reaches the age of 21 and judge for ourselves at that point whether or not we have been successful - some letters will be harder than others to complete.
We kicked this off (as we are not going in alphabetical order) with a visit to Bar Cubana in Waterloo. I have been here before (as part of my 365 London project a few years ago) but had only had a drink there - not food. It was ideally located as it was right oposite the theatre we would be attending later in the evening to see Groundhog Day: The Musical.
The food I think was perfect. I had heard they did good barbeque but whatever we all ordered was amazing. The pre-theatre show also offered good value on the food prices and 2-for-1 on the cocktails so that was pretty welcome too. All of this in fun surroundings and served by friendly helpful staff. The benchmark for this particular challenge has already been set pretty high! Current Mood: awake
|Groundhog Day & More (Day 3 of Three)
The final full day with Kate and the girls took in a visit to the V&A museum, the first for R (the youngest). We started witha few of the highlights (my favourites - the cast courts, the courtyard, the William Morris cafe etc.) before heading for the 'Curtain Up' exhibition I visited and reviewed recently - all of which was warmly received. From the museum we headed into town for a Harry Potter themed exhibition at Minalima in Greek Street. There were mock ups and 3-D recreations of things from the Harry Potter books and films, not props exactly though most I think were made by people that worked on the movies and all made to a brilliant standard. After a break for Bubble Tea in Chinatown we moved off towards Waterloo for what would probably prove to be the two highlights of the weekend: Dinner (which I will post about this later as it is part of a bigger idea) and a show.
The show was Groundhog Day: The Musical. The film has been one of my favourites for years (and Kate's too) but the real appeal lies in the fact that Tim Minchin wrote the music for the stage adaptation. I think he is brilliant both as musician and comedian so this would be an exciting prospect anyway but his award-winning work on 'Matilda' has earned him much acclaim, not least from the four of us. We were excited going in and left fully satisfied. Every detail was perfect. I think that I can safely predict that if/when this show transfers to the West End proper (as opposed to The Old Vic theatre in Southwark) it will be every bit as much of a hit as Matilda has been. As it turns out, I am glad that we did this bit last. Any other arrangement would only have felt like an anti-climax. Current Mood: awake
|Mostly Grenwich (Day 2 of three)
Sunday with Kate & the girls kicked off in Blackheath with a walk through the park en route to the planetarium for a couple of the observatory show, and a quick tour of the Maritime Museum, the Painted Hall, some Thor 2 location spotting, a visit to the beautiful Trinity College Chapel (where K recently attended a college open day) a look at the Cutty Sark and a peek around Grenwich Market before dinner and a return trip on a nippy Thames Cruiser which as sunset approached showed off the city to stunning effect.
This week I have been mostly re-reading: Year 501, The Conquest Continues by Noam Chomsky Current Mood: awake
|Bugsy Malone & More (Day 1 of three)
I had my friend Kate and my teenage god-daughters visit over the weekend. They arrived on Friday and left on Tuesday with the long weekend packed with three packed days of entertainment bookended by some time just chilling.
The Saturday (officially day 1) started with a sedate cruise on the Thames to kew, a visit to the musical museum there (whose speciality it self playing instruments!), a visit ti Kew Gardens to see the new (record breaking) Broadwalk border and the newly installed sculpture of the human-scale Bee Hive. We rounded the day off with a trip to see a particularly lively production of Bugsy Malone at te Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith. Bugsy Malone is weirdly close to my heart as I would have been in the production put on in my High school but I had to pull out at the last minute through ill health.
The Lyric production was briliant. The cast was shockingly good (apart from an obviously nervous lead actor playing Bugsy, they were faultless). The sets, costumes etc. were great. The songs more upbeat than I remember (the choice of tempo may well have been deliberate) and there was some very slicj choreography. I had wanted to take the girls to see the show last year but with my health problems last year and their other commitments it didn'e work out, so I am glad we had another chance this year. Current Mood: awake
|Wednesday, August 31st, 2016|
|Halloumi & Home Made Sweet Chilli
I am almost reluctant to add this to my list of new cooking achievements as there is so little cooking involved. I made my own sweet chilli sauce (in much larger quantities that I had originally intended) mostly by reverse engineering the ingredients on a shop bought bottle I already had but leaving out the salt, sugar and E numbers they thought were necessary. I served this on some freshly warmed Halloumi on a bed of toast & salad. The first bite of the chilli felt quite hot (even though I had removed most of the seeds) but I soon acclimatised and this is another dish I will put down as a success even though the 'cooking' part only applied to the toast and the cheese! Current Mood: awake
|Friday, August 26th, 2016|
I successfully completed my probationary period at work this week and was confirmed in post. I dont mind having that little bit more security (it would have been much worse to not be confirmed in post!) but in itself it doesnt mean an awful lot. Some colleagues are asking when am I going to step up to the next level but I suspect I will take at least another year yet, sharpening and developing the shills I need before I even begin to put myself forward for that. Still, a little bit of good news isn't a bad thing.
This week I have been mostly re-reading: American Gods by Neil Gaiman Current Mood: awake
|Monday, August 22nd, 2016|
|Portrait Awards 2016 & Wiliam Eggleston
My glut of exhibition catch ups for the Summer continues (and nearly concludes) with a double header at the National Portrait Gallery today. I was straight in after work today to the 2016 Portrait Award exhibition. There are plenty of good entries here and a small handful that I thought were excellent but for some reason I always end up pefering the annual photo portrait prize held at the same gallery each year. Maybe I just relate more to that exhibition because in my own deeply amatuerish way I can do photography but my painting skills have barely developed since I was 7 years old so I am never going to do anything like these beauties. The second exhibition was of William Eggleston photographic Portraits. My ignorance of his work had been so close to total that it makes no difference but I am slightly better educated now and I did quite like what I saw though the exhibition lacked many deeply memorable images.
This week I have been mostly re-reading: How Proust Can Change Your Life by Allain De Botton Current Mood: awake
|Friday, August 19th, 2016|
|Painting With Light & Conceptual Art
I saw two exhibitions at Tate Britain today, one I enjoyed much more than the other. 'Painting With Light' looked at the interrelationship between painters and early photography and how the one affected the other. Plenty of good stuff here. The 'Conceptual Art' exhibition was a bit more of a mixed bag. Conceptual art is all about raising ideas which challenge art from the materials used to how images are received - even the nature of what actually constitutes art. I am all in favour of that discussion and enjoy it when I find a piece of work provokes questions within me. What I found at this exhibition is the work tended to produce one of only two general reactions: "Hmmm, clever" or "Tut, wanker" and not a great deal in between. Sadly there was more of the latter than the former. The exhibition was focused on a particular period & place (Britain in the 60's/70's so maybe some of the ideas seemed fresher and more exciting at the time. Maybe.
This week I have been mostly reading: Of Love & Other Demons by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Current Mood: awake
|Sunday, August 14th, 2016|
|Tate Modern Triple & More
My exhibition catch-up spree continued today with a triple bill of shows at Tate Modern. Taking full advantage of the fact that they stay open late on Saturdays I popped in after work to get my fill. I also wanted to see how the new building (opened this Summer) was working out. Rather than write my usual separate reviews of each I thought I would roll the whole experience up into a single post.
My first stop was the retrospective of Mona Hatoum as this exhibition has been running for a while and is due to close soon. Hatoum is a Palestinian artist whose work is new to me. Part minimalism, part surrealism and totally engaging - Hatoum uses sculpture, photography, video installations and more to create work that genuinely resonates all kind of emotional responses from the humourous to the horrific. Some of her work I found disturbing (in a good way!) and some I found beautiful in their strangeness. I regret not finding my way to this exhibition sooner.
My next stop was Georgia O'Keeffe, the only artist I was a little aware of before my visist to the gallery, though what I knew about her work before today I could have comfortably written on the back of a stamp. I knew she was American and a modernist (for what little that is worth) but what I was not aware of was the sheer breadth and beauty of her work. She was an amazing coulourist and I am a sucker for that. She also has a very distinctive (I would say deeply feminine) style that now I have seen a range of her work I would probably recognise again in the future - her style is that distinctive. That is no small compliment.
Bhupen Khakhar was the last (and not least) of the three exhibitions I took in today. He was another artist I had never heard of before the exhibition, or so I thought. It turns out that there is one of his paintings I was already familiar with and it turns out to be the one that gave the exhibition its name - 'You can't please all' - which is a theme I guess he returns to in several of his works. Something about his work reminds me of Diego Rivera in that it often depicts 'ordinary' people, but also there is something slightly simplified about his style and again there is a brilliant use of colour which seems to be pretty key to my tastes these days. I also learned that to some extent he was something of a controversial figure in India, partly because of his sepictions of very ordinary (i.e. lower class) people but also because of his sometimes frank depictions of sexuality, particularly his own.
I would have walked away from any of these exhibitions feeling pleased with both what I had seen but also what I had learned - to find three such exhibitions in a single visit was something of the perfect storm - but the day did not end there. The new building looks brilliant. After seeing three back to back exhibitions I didnt take the time to look at much of the work displayed there but the building itself is a great place, striking and interesting in all the right ways. There is also now a viewing platform on the new 10th floor which promises 36- degree views of the London skyline. I went and had a look and it certainly does but this is not without its problems. Firstly there is a small fleet of lifts which on a normal day may be adequate but on a busy Summer Saturday struggled to cope with the volume of passengers - getting to the top took ages! When you get there it is pretty bloody packed with tourists. There are tourists milling about and blocking the view (I dont mind this, its what tourists are for) but there are also tourists ambling about aimlessly, not looking where they are going and paying no attention to other people trying to move about. This is deeply annoying anywhere but when its in a space you have struggled to get into in the first place (due to crap lifts chock full of tourists) it does little to improve your mood. Again, a busy Summer Saturday is maybe not the best time to enjoy this space. Finally, the view istself is something of an anti-climax. The front of the building already has a viewing area on the 7th floor which overlooks the river and the additional three floors of height add little to this already brilliant spectacle. The views in the other directions are much less interesting as in those directions there is comparatively little of interest to see and what notable landmarks there are is often obscured by the mushrooming high rise buildings that are springing up all over London. This includes immedeately next to the gallery - so that on the side of the platform where there is a high rise immedeately next to the gallery there is a sign which says "Please respect our neighbours privacy" which is hand because even 10+ floors above the city they a right opposite a viewing platform where thousands of tourists a day can see right into their homes!
Overal this was a really great trip. I can hardly believe that I did all of this after work. By the time I made it home (still the right side of 8pm) my working day seemed like a dim and distant memory. Bonus!
This week I have been mostly reading: The John Lennon Letters, edited by Hunter Davies Current Mood: awake
|Saturday, August 13th, 2016|
|Hockney Portraits & A Still Life
The second part of my Royal Acedemy double bill today was the much rated Hockney Portraits exhibition. The last Hockney show I saw (also at the Academy) was breathtaking. It was the large canvas (huge scale) landscapes exhibition and I thought it was brilliant. The portrait exhibition was a little more restrained in comparison. The galleries major exhibition space was taken up with the Summer show, so this show was going to have to be smaller in scope. The canvases were not on the same scale as the landscapes either. I would say they were 'just' regular portraits, but there are a few things I like about Hockney and one of them is his brazen use of colour. This is something the two exhibitions had in common - they provided a wonderfully welcome splash of colour.
I have to say that I did not recohnise the vast majority of the sitters for these portraits (Barry Humphries was I think, the only exception). I don't know if this was intentional or not. Ultimately I dont think it mattered - I enjoyed seeing them and especially their overly vivid colours. For some reason there was a single still life included with all the portraits. I don't know if this was just for the contrast (or for the hell of it) but I enjoyed that aspect too.
This week I have been mostly reading: Talking Heads by Alan Bennett Current Mood: awake
|Friday, August 12th, 2016|
|Academy Summer Show 2016
After a bonkers Summer dealing with evil landlords, less than brilliant health and increasing demands at work I am finally starting to get back to something like a normal schedule and finally getting around to the museums, galleries and shows I have been wanting to see. After a training day at work today I headed for two exhibitions at the Royal Academy, the first of which was the annual Summer show which has been running for a couple of months and is due to close within the next couple of weeks.
Weirdly (or not) the show itself was something of an anti-climax compared to the previous years I have atteneded. Maybe my expectations were too high but this years collection seemed to lack the outright spectacle of previous years and while there was plenty to see, very little of it jumped out at me. There was a massive painting by Gilbert & George. I haven'y actually seen much of their work in the flesh so to speak, but I wouldnt describe myself as a fan so the thrill was fairly limited.
Towards the end of the exhibition in the last few rooms of the gallery I did find some peices that I really did like - and these for me stopped the show being a bit of a washout. Maybe I am just becomming jaded in my old age. Current Mood: awake
|Tuesday, August 9th, 2016|
|Curtain Up At The V&A
After work today I managed to pop into the V&A museum to catch their exhibition 'Curtain Up'. I had been intending to do this all Summer but had only just found the time. The exhibition looks at 40 years of theatrical productions in two of the worlds most prestigeous theatrical districts, Broadway in New York and London's West End.
I wanted to both see the show myself and assess it as a possible option to entertain my god-daughters with when they visit later this month. (They have both enjoyed the West End shows that we have seen). There are some spectacular costumes and props on display but by and large the exhibition wasn't really inspiring me until I came to one of the later sections that featured some of the shows the girls and I have seen together - in partiular The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time and Matilda. These were particularly brilliant shows and highly visual in terms of innovative set design. This part of the exhibition was brilliant and it might have convinced me to give it a go. We will see how the weather and other plans hold up!http://www.vam.ac.uk/exhibitions/curtain-up-celebrating-40-years-of-theatre-in-london-and-new-york
This week I have been mostly re-reading: Flat Earth News by Nick Davies Current Mood: awake
|Monday, August 8th, 2016|
On my way to an entirely differnt exhibition today I passed the Royal Geographical Society building and had to pop in to see their current exhibition. Each Summer they usually host the Travel Photographer Of The Year competition - always a brilliant display. I haven't checked yet to see if that is still on this year but their current exhibition is the Environmental Photographer Of They Year. This is not quite the same scale as the travel photography exhibition but many of the striking images would be very much at home there. This was a great find today.http://www.rgs.org/WhatsOn/Exhibitions/Exhibitions.htm Current Mood: awake
|Saturday, August 6th, 2016|
|Sound And Music
I had the deep honour today to see a piece of music composed by my eldest goddaughter played by professional musicians. She has been taking part in (among other things) a Summer school at the prestigeous Purcell school in Bushey. She attended a weeks worth of workshops and collaborations which resulted in her and other students having work they had each themselves composed being played by professional musicians. The quality varied in both ambition and execution but the overall effect (how these young people had been brought together and inspired) was deeply impressive. I do not need to see my goddaughters perform in this way to feel proud of them, I feel that every day and I hope they know it, but days like this really do not hurt at all.
This week I have been mostly re-reading: An Anti-Capitalist Manifesto by Alex Callinicos. Current Mood: awake