|Thursday, February 16th, 2017|
|Orchids & Lanterns
I booked a couple of days off work this week as my missus is off work too (this being half term holiday at the college where she works her main job). This is a holiday that also contains the oft-dreaded Valentine's day. Neither of us wanted to pander too much to the consumer fest of that day nor did we want to comply too much with the wholly artificial pressure the day seems to generate. That being said we are both excited to be in this new relationship and both wanted to enjoy our time together.
We started after I finished work on Sunday with dinner at hers (this was a first for us) and a very lazy start to Monday. The weather was so nice on the Monday we took an unplanned visit to Cassiobury Park in Watford, one of my favourite old haunts. On Tuesday we had more of a full day planned with an exchange of small gifts, a trip to see this years Orchid Festival at Kew Gardens (we had both been in previous years but never together) and finally a trip to the Chinese Lantern festival at Chiswick House. (This was a new thing for us both). The orchid displays were on goof form this year (the best for several years, I think) and unusually this year with an Indian theme. The lantern displays were amazing. A link to photos will follow soon, when I can be arsed to upload them. Sadly its back to work tomorrow as normal. Current Mood: awake
My binge-watch adventures have continued. Since Christmas I have been working my way through the various series of '24' something I could not be bothered to do in the decade and a half since they started, until now.
I remember the hype when the series first hit our screens and it really did seem like an ambitious formula: 24 hour long episodes (minus time for adverts) shot so the action plays out in real time. I thought at the time that if anything the concept is too ambitious, that strething a story so that it would fit such a structure was just a little too contrived. As it turns out the idea was so successful that multiple series were made (of varying quality) and I have for the past 7 weeks or so been working my way through most of them. It also turns out that this might have been quite timely as a new series is just about to hit our screens called '24 Legacy' featuring the same concept but a different cast. 'Legacy' is a difficult name to attach to the series as the Jason Bourne movies tried exactly this device (same concept, different cast) under the name of 'Legacy' and that turned out to be wildy disappointing.
I have enjoyed watching most of the series of 24. (The only other one I haven't seen yet was the final series with Keiffer Sutherland, the one set in London which from what I hear broke formula not only with the London setting but also only consisted of 12 episodes and came complete with its own cheesey James Bond knock-off subtitle, "Live another Day."
My two minor criticisms are this: Firstly, making the story fit that structure really is a bit of a stretch. Each series contains a main plot and several sub-plots which are integral to the main plot to varying degrees. The problem is that by the time we reach the half-way point of any given series there is so much stuff going on that credibility is sometimes stretched. In any given series (and therefore on any given day) the main character may find himself blown up, shot, have his daughter kidnapped (twice), disarm a nuclear weapon, uncover a wider conspiracy involving senior members of the government, be betrayed by a member of his own organisation, get shot again and crash his car during a high speed pursuit - and this is often before lunchtime! Good writing usually does save the series though. As bloated as they get around the middle of the series they tend to be quite focused at the beginning and towards the final climax so they do pay off if you can stay with them.
My second criticism is the contribution the series might be making to the general feeling that we are surrounded by terrorists with WMD that are due to attack us at any given moment. The security service featured in the show, the 'Counter Terrorist Unit' are by definition going to be primarily looking into terrorist activity but watching this show might lead you to think that dirty bombs, nuclear war heads and chemical weapons are being deployed in attacks on US soil on a more or less weekly basis. (I have the same problem with NCIS when I was regularly watching that a while ago).
I really have enjoyed watching the show (in a very condensed period) and I am not saying that it is responsible for a climate of fear but I doubt if it helps in that regard.
This week I have been mostly re-reading: The Drowned And The Saved by Primo Levi. Current Mood: awake
|Wednesday, February 1st, 2017|
|That Was The Week
It's been an unusual week:At work:
After Australia Day we celebrated one of our tenants birthdays. One of the earliest social events after I started work there last January was this guys birthday. The birthday passed successfully but without much to note. The oddest thing was the sensation. I worked for over 7 years in my last place and you get used to events/anniversaries coming around again. For some reason I was very conscious of repeating myself and I was surprised how uncomfortable it made me feel. This weekend we have the start of this years 6 Nations rugby tournament - also an event we utilized at work to break the norm and also something that made me feel weird simply because of the repetition. Maybe because I did spend 7 years at my last place (several too many probably) I am taking the repeats as a warning not to stay too long here? Who knows.With my friends:
I found out yesterday that my friends mum had died after a long struggle with illness. She was a lovely woman that had shown me unexpected kindness and hospitality in the past so I will miss her. My friend has lost her mother and her daughters have lost their gran so it is them I feel for most and I wished I lived closer or could rush around without intruding. My thoughts and feelings are with them and I would like to give then more practical support than that, but all in good time - the news is still very fresh.With the missus:
She is in Scotland this week as her brother in law has recently past and she has gone for the funeral and to support her sister and nephews. Thats another place where I would like to be offering more than moral/emotional support but for a while have to sit on the sidelines.With Family:
I managed to reconnect with my brother a little bit this week. I'm still not entirely convinced that he is just putting a brave face on a much deeper depression but the fact that we have opened up a dialogue again is encouraging.In The Wider World:
Barely days into office and Donald Trump is delivering his promises of right wing populism and in doing so is making the world that little bit nastier and more dangerous. I write of course about his plans for a wall along the Mexican border, his travel ban on people from Muslim countries and his refusal of refugees. (Not to mention opening the door to who knows what hellish thing in the future if his antics get used as a benchmark for what is 'acceptable').
This week I have been mostly re-reading: If This Is A Man and The Truce by Primo Levi.
It is a total coincidence that I happen to be re-reading this pair of books in the week that saw Donald Trump's madness become official American policy and also the week of Holocaust Memorial Day. Levi wanted to document his experiences in the Nazi death camps primarily so the world could understand and could stop it from happening again. Towards the end of the book his words ring out and given the events of the past week start to sound ominous - "In every part of the world, wherever you begin by denying the fundamental liberties of mankind, and equality among people, you move toward the cocentration camp system, and it is a road on which it is difficult to halt. " (Primo Levi) Current Mood: awake
|Saturday, January 28th, 2017|
I was pleased to catch for the first time the annual winter exhibition at the illustration cupboard. There were so many lovely things to see (the specialize in illustrated children s books). Because it is a private gallery the art is for sale and if money was no object I would have tried to but half of it myself, especially the Shaun Tan stuff. I need to add this event to my regular events calendar! Current Mood: awake
In our continued quest to 'find the fun' at work we celebrated Australia day on Thursday. Our manager is Australian so it was unsurprisingly his idea. We decorated the place out with flags, balloons and bunting (and an inflatable shark and crocodile). We had an 'indoor barbecue' (because it was too damn cold to be outside), my manager made 'Anzac biscuits,' I put together a cd of Australian music (or music by Australian bands at least) and we rounded of the night watching Crocodile Dundee. Considering the alternative to this would have been a pretty ordinary Thursday I'm really happy that the guys had such a good time. This weekend we have another birthday to celebrate, so we are ending quite a dreary month with a bit of a bang! Current Mood: awake
Its taken me a while to get around to posting this, just because Im spending too much of my free time lately binge watching box sets!
Last weekend I was going to try to take my girlfriend to see the Natural History Photography exhibition at the NHM. I go every year but she has never been and I think she would really like it. Unfortunately all the advance tickets had sold out so we opted for plan B instead. Plan B in this case was meet for coffee, take in a couple of exhibitions (the Picasso portraits and the Photo portraits that I saw the previous week). Even this plan nearly came unstuck when our plan to 'meet in Trafalgar Square' hit the stumbling block of the 'Women's March On London' demonstration which had packed out the square.
It was difficult at first to work out what the protest was about due to the sheer diversity of the banners. There were so many causes represented (which is probably as much strength as weakness) but the overall theme seemed to be 'anti-hate' which encompassed all kinds of issues but the politics of Brexit and Trump especially. The size of the protest was pretty inspiring and it had a really positive atmosphere (a lot of hope, certainly - and that is rare enough nowadays). I did ponder the wisdom of an 'all female' march. Men want to protest too, so why split your forces? On reflection though the protest did mobilize huge numbers of women, many of those I guess might not have come on a regular demonstration but felt safe to express themselves here. The fact that this movement have shown themselves is very heartening for me, I just hope it doesn't collapse into dead end identity politics or remain so vague in its many and varied issues that it fails to become effective.
Once we did manage to meet for coffee though, we took in those exhibitions (which I did not mind seeing again and then headed for the cyber candy store in Covent Garden which doesnt exist any more but has become something modeled much more closely on old-fashioned sweet shop. This too proved very popular with the missus.
This week I have been mostly re-reading: The Mirror Maker by Primo Levi. Current Mood: awake
|Monday, January 16th, 2017|
|Camden & The End Of Christmas
I finally caught up with my friend Sarah today for a much belated catch up and exchange of Xmas gifts. Sarah of course is always a pleasure but with this meeting I can also draw a more or less final close to the Xmas 2016 season which as usual for me has lasted almost exactly two months starting with my friend Jacqui's birthday back in November.
For various reasons I suggested meeting in Camden. I wanted to catch that Punk exhibition (see previous entry) but Camden in one of many places roughly half way between us and has many places to meet, eat and drink. Sadly I had forgotten Camden's wide appeal to tourists, wannabe punks, wannabe hippies and annoying teens who think they have invented an original way to live because they have bought something in a shop. Consequently Camden was unexpectedly choc-ful of annoying bastards half of whom seemed to carry selfie sticks which is a fresh level of hell that has developed since my last trip to Camden.
Luckily meeting up with Sarah made it all worth while, but its likely to be a long time before I suggest meeting anybody else in Camden though! Current Mood: awake
Earlier today I managed to catch the '40 Years Of Punk' photo exhibition at the Proud Gallery in Camden in what seems to have been my first visit there in ages (possibly years?). It was lucky I did because the exhibition is due to close on Tuesday - it has been running since sometime last year alongside various other events to mark the significant anniversary. I can't say the small exhibition was brilliant but some of the images were interesting. as an unexpected bonus it was also nice to see the London of the 1970's - especially seeing some parts which I have become very familiar but from the time when I was a little kid. I think I found that to be the most evocative aspect of all.
This week I have been mostly re-reading: The Periodic Table by Primo Levi Current Mood: awake
|Labyrinth Masquerade Ball (post-Bowie)
I took my girlfriend to see Labyrinth on Saturday. It was being shown as a special 'Masquerade Ball' at the Prince Charles cinema in London. This was the second time I had attended such a screening and I cannot count how many times in total I have seen the film - probably 20 at least. For Lilia it was the first time. She had never seen the film before, been to any sort of special screening before or even been to the PCC before so it was with her fresh eyes I watched the proceedings this time around. The fancy dress section was the biggest I have seen yet but by contrast the audience was comparatively quiet when it came to shouting and heckling at the prompted moments. Many were in full voice when it came to the songs though. Bowie's character was given a lot of vocal support though. I cannot remember if that was the case when I last saw this at a screening but being so close to the anniversary of his death it was both pleasing and poignant. Lilia seemed to think it was pretty wonderful and I have no reason to argue. Current Mood: awake
|Sunday, January 15th, 2017|
Following the double header at the Portrait Gallery I popped around the corner to the National Gallery for their exhibition of works by 'Australian Impressionists'. Of the three exhibitions I caught on Thursday this was the most entertaining. It was both odd and appealing to see very familiar styles and techniques of painting applied to such unfamiliar landscapes - and given the time period (late 1800's) a rare glimpse into Australia's past as a developing nation.
The exhibition was comparatively small (it wasn't the main show currently running in the gallery) but was great value. The short film they show on a loop withing the exhibition was also very useful for putting the displayed works into the context of the time. The three exhibitions together made for a very nice afternoon but this one was my clear favourite. Current Mood: awake
|Picasso Portraits & Photo Portraits
On Thursday after my shift finished I decided to catch a few exhibitions before heading home. First up was a trip to the National Portrait Gallery for a double header. They are currently holding a pair of portrait exhibitions, one featuring paintings by Picasso and the other (one of my favourites) is the annual Photographic Portrait prize. Given that I was going to be charged entry for both exhibitions I decided that I would opt instead for an annual membership as that will save me money over the course of the year even though it is a tough time of year to be spending that amount of cash.
The Picasso exhibition was nice, but despite the high profile prestige was for me the lesser of the two exhibitions, in my expectations at least. The photo portrait prize as usual featured some work both striking and inspiring but seemed slightly weaker this year than in some previous. I have found myself saying that about a number of annual exhibitions I attend and is hard to tell how much the quality actually drops some years compared to hom much my own experience is tainted by nostalgia and raised/lowered expectations.
So the bottom line seems to be that I preferred the photo portrait exhibition to the Picasso portraits but the thing I am happiest with is getting the ticket that will get me into unlimited exhibitions for free for the next year. I'm not sure if that is a victory for art or not! Current Mood: awake
|Monday, January 9th, 2017|
|Eat The World - Spain & Italy
With my Goddaughters in town over the weekend we were finally able to advance our 'Eat The World' project a little. On the Saturday night after the theater we went to a nearby Spanish restaurant called Andalucia. The food was excellent and the girls all tried Tapas for the first time so that was a success all round. On the Sunday it was my turn to be treated so we visited an Italian restaurant in Harrow called Prezzo. It's part of a small chain I think but was very nice (I had rabbit for the first time in ages and with pasta for the first time ever!). We all like Italian food so there were few surprises here, the choice was mostly based on it's proximity to the cinema in Harrow as the girls were taking me to see 'A Monster Calls' as a birthday treat (beautiful film BTW).
The Project so far has taken in C=Cuba, S=Spain and I=Italy. I'm sure there is more to come, though me might have to start getting a bit more systematic soon before it starts to get confusing, though I did notice that in 'Eating The World' so far we have managed to spell out C.S.I. which can hardly be a good omen! Current Mood: awake
|Book Of Mormon
I had my fiend Kate and my Goddaughters down over the weekend to celebrate Christmas and my birthday. On Saturday I took them to see The Book Of Mormon musical, a show we had all been waiting to see for quite a while. I think we all found it to be genuinely impressive. Above all else it was really very funny (as I had hoped) but also had some great tunes, choreography and some brilliant turns from a very talented cast. Considering this was created by the guys behind South Park and Team America the humour was comparatively tame (but still had plenty of moments). The narrative nails its colours to the mast pretty early: religion in general - and Mormonism as a focal point in particular - is pretty bonkers but remains generous enough to suggest that ideas that bring people together and help those less fortunate can be a good thing even if they are bonkers.
Most importantly, everyone had a good time and we were all glad that we were finally able to snaffle some tickets.
This week I have been mostly re-reading: Topple The Mighty by Leon Kuhn & Colin Gill Current Mood: awake
|Saturday, January 7th, 2017|
|Gallery Catch Up
I had some unexpectedly free time today so with some exhibitions I have been meaning to catch for months due to close in the next few days I got off my butt and caught up with some galleries...
First up was The Photographers Gallery
and an exhibition of Feminist Avant-Garde photography.
I liked the ideas and much of the politics behind this work (challenging notions that define women and images of women, etc.) but as usual the photos themselves were a pretty mixed bag when it came to levels of appeal and engagement.
A short bus ride from Regent Street to The Strand led to the next exhibition at Somerset House: Malick Sidibe - The Eye Of Modern Mali.
This was a small (free) retrospective of the photographers work from the 1960's showing the lives and activities of the people of the newly independent Mali. I really enjoyed this exhibition as accompanying the lovely images was (unusually for a gallery) a soundtrack of suitable music which nicely enhanced the feeling of that particular time and place. https://www.somersethouse.org.uk/whats-on/malick-sidibe
From the opposite side of Aldwych I then took another bus (this time on an original routemaster working the tourist route. This was an unexpected treat and a reminder that London has lost a little something with the phasing out of these transport relics) for another short ride up Fleet Street towards St. Paul's and the wobbly bridge across the river to Tate Modern
I finished with two exhibitions here - Wilfredo Lam
and The Radical Eye
. Lam was another artist new to me, a Cuban artist (I learned) very much in touch with the modernist movements in 20th Century America and Europe with very much his own style despite obvious influences of Cubism, Surrealism and more. (I like it when I discover a 'new' artist and really like them!). The 'Radical Eye' exhibition looked at modernism in photography and was curated entirely from works in the personal collection of Elton John. I have to say that I found his name attached to the project more of a deterrent than an attraction but there was very little emphasis placed on the celebrity aspect and the exhibition (a fraction of his total collection, I'm sure) was both impressive and engaging.
I managed to get all of this done in a single afternoon and am now feeling all 'cultured up' for a couple of weeks at least. I'm glad I made the effort to catch these before they closed. Current Mood: awake
|Friday, January 6th, 2017|
I had my forty-third birthday this week which means I survived being forty-two. Who would have thought it? There were moments when I even surprised myself. Here goes forty three then. So far, so good.
This week I have mostly been re-reading: Shadows Over Baker Street (Anthology Edited By Michael Reaves & John Pelan). Sherlock Holmes enters the nightmare world of H.P. Lovecraft Current Mood: surprised
|Monday, January 2nd, 2017|
|State Of Me
For a while it had started to look like my life was stagnating to a large degree. For several years I remained in the same job, lived in the same flat, enjoyed the company of (mostly) the same friends, remained single whether it suited me or not (and there were times for both) and generally speaking one year looked pretty much like another. In retrospect now I can see how certain significant events in my life have started to give a different shape and feel to my life.
At the end of 2013 my father died. By the end of 2014 I had seriously fallen out with someone who I had thought was one of my closest friends - that relationship has never been repaired and it's breakdown to be honest probably hit me harder than my father's death. By this point I had resolved that in some significant ways I really needed parts of my life to change. 2015 was the year that brought me a nearly catastrophic failure in my health, a significant shift in my perspective on life and at the end of the year - a promotion at work with a transfer to a new service.
2016 has been interesting too. I started the new job at the new service with the new team and new tenants. That was all pretty new! I had a major upheaval when my new landlords tried to hike up my rent by 40%! There have been various other odds and sods in the mix as usual. Friendships have had their ups and downs, world politics has gone seemingly insane and I have started my first proper relationship in eight years! Life has continued as normal but just lately (comparatively speaking) there have been some major changes in most significant aspects of my life and I am pleased to report that for the most part they have been changes for the better. Lets see what 2017 has to offer... Current Mood: awake
|Museum Of Childhood, NYE
I have been wanting for a while to see the Sonya Hurtado exhibition at the Museum Of Childhood and I was running out of time as the exhibition closes next week. The exhibition comprises only 12 images so I found it difficult to justify the time it would take to cross London for it, but it looked really good. Luckily I was working on Saturday and the guys I support were looking for something to do with their afternoon and were happy to check out the museum (though this small exhibition itself held little interest for them).
The tenants ended up enjoying looking at the various exhibits and in particular the current main exhibition about board games. I was glad to do something different with them for a change. The exhibition I wanted to see was also very good - beautiful photographs working issues around complex childhood emotions with fairy tale imagery. http://www.vam.ac.uk/moc/exhibitions/tales-photography-sonya-hurtado/
After we got back to base and had some dinner I took the same bunch of guys to an LD New Years Eve Disco and they had fun there too! It was nearly 1am by the time I finished and I didnt make it home until about 2am. I've had worse New Years! Current Mood: awake
|Friday, December 30th, 2016|
|Post Xmas Blah
I've returned from Wales and returned to work since my last entry, still working towards the 'Back to normal' status I always crave at this time of year but wont quite get for at least a ouple of weeks yet.
Family wise, my mum continues to crumble but at a fairly slow and steady pace so no drama this trip. My brother was too unwell to see me on this trip but whether this was down to purely physical ailments or a mix of that and poor mental health remains to be seen. On future visits I may return to my regular M.O. of just rocking up to his house uninvited. That way I can at least find out how he really is. The rest of the trip passed by without any real drama - a real indication of how much of a malign pressence my father was when alive. Every Christmas I remember with him was frought. anxious and unpleasant but the past few years have been comparatively sedate affairs. Its a pretty sad indictment.
I managed to see a few of my friends, including ones I missed on my last trip due to my mum's epic fall. If I had known that I wouldn't be seeing my brother I would have used that time to catch up with some others instead. Sorry folks. Now that I am back I still have fixtures piling up of people at this end I still need to catch up with and this weekend at work contains plans for both a massive New Years Eve party (for the service users) and another tenants birthday. In less than two weeks I will have clocked up a full year in my new job. I might use my space here to do some stocktaking on the changes of the past year. I am in a very different place now than I was at this time last year, that's for sure.
This week I have been mostly re-reading: Redemption Song - Muhammad Ali & The Spirit Of The 60's by Mike Marqusee Current Mood: awake
|Monday, December 19th, 2016|
|The Further Inches Of Christmas
Just a couple of more shifts at work and then I break for Christmas. The preparations have gone well so far. Since the last update I have written/posted/distributed my Xmas cards, wrapped my presents, seen my friends Viv and Rita, attempted (and partly succedded) in arranging to meet friends both here and back in Wales (family too!). We also completed the Winter Wonderland trip at work (see previous entry), Celebrated one of our tenants 50th Birthday today, arranged for a trip to the Panto on Thursday (which I am gratefully not attending!). Basically it's all systems go. Just about one more deep breath and I will plunge right through it. That's the plan anyway!
This week I have been mostly re-reading: The Divided Self by R.D. Laing Current Mood: Imagine Dragons - Its Time
|Thursday, December 15th, 2016|
|Winter Wonderland 2016
I think I somehow managed to avoid going to Winter Wonderland last year. The mix of over-priced Christmas market and over-priced funfair in Hyde Park is a massive draw to the learning disabled residents of Westminster and I usually end up supporting some of them to visit and have their cash vaccuumed out of their wallets. Last year I managed to avoid it but this year I did not and I even got suckered in to supporting an 'after dark' trip for my guys this year - the lights being a special part of the attraction.
I am usually much more comfortable in the over-priced craft market section but tonight our guys had eyes only for the over-priced fun fair and over priced food concessions. I think they all had a good time though. I was lucky enough to be paired with my lovely colleague Lilia who is more than game for the funfair rides. Luckily now I don't think I will have to do that again, this Winter at least.
This week I have been mostly re-reading: The Black Jacobins by C.L.R. James Current Mood: awake