Sunday, 19 September 2010

In Which Mr Fry Is Quite Interesting (And I spend time with nice people)

Friday found me driving down to Cambridge in order to see my brother, R, his girlfriend S, and of course, Mr Stephen Fry, live and in person, at the Corn Exchange.

I had planned to leave home in time to give myself a full afternnon on Cambridge, but I was not very organised, which meant that by the time I'd arrived, parked at R&S's home and taken a bus into the city it was well past 3 p.m.

I walked through the city centre, passing Kings College, and headed to the Fitzwilliam Museum.

I like museums, and this one is very nice. It has free entry, and is housed in a magnificant building, with pillers and stone lions outside, and mosaics and giding and all sorts inside. Sadly you are only permitted to take pictures in the entrance hall.

Having limited time, I started with the galleries, where I found several Monets and Renoirs, and a Pisarro or two, plus some nicely morbid William Blake watercolours, and a rather nice Augustus John portrait of George Bernard Shaw.

I then headed down to the Greek, Roman and Egyptian rooms - I am a sucker for mummified crocodiles but they also have several Sarcophogi, and some naturalistic grave portraits.

In the greek section there was a wonderful carved sarcophagus with a glorious elephant on the side (I wish I could have taken a picture, or  found a postcard of it...) nd there were some exquisite Persian ivories.

I then found myself in the "Fan Gallery", where there were examples of different kinds of fan - mostly European from the 18th - 19th Centuries,  painted, carved and embroidered, incredibly delicate and frivolous. In the same section were some samplers, including a couple of very detailed ones which as I read down I found had been completed by a 10 year old (!) in 1663. Beautiful, and so impressive in the skill demonstrated.

The meseum closes at 5 so I had to leave, but as R & S were just finishing work I was able to meet up with them and we then had an adequate but uninspiring Thai meal. We had been going to get a pint afterwards, but the Eagle was so packed we gave up, and then parted company for me to go to the Corn Exchange to see Mr Fry, and for R&S to head home.

The Corn Exchange is an interesting building, a huge, high hall, with (removable) seating in the main body, plus balconies and some tiered seating at the back. I had a good seat, fairly far forward.

Mr Fry was, as I  rather expected, highly entertaining. He sarted out by commenting about the hall, and the fc that, despite his many and various experiences, has never exchanged corn, and  wouldn't know how to set about it!

He spoke about his childhood sugar addiction, and the possibility of the role of the sherbet fountain (white powder consumed via a tube...) and chocolate cigarettes in preparing one for various adictions in adulthood...

There was some slightly sweary but good humoured chiding of latecomers (especially those who had seats near the front, and on the inside of the row, and who traipsed in 15 minutes into the eveent...

The sections of the book which he read were the same as he'd read at the Festival Hall and he did talk about some of  the same issues and experiences, but there was alo lots of different material, and in particular a long explanation of how he got into Cambridge (He managed to persaude his local community college registration to sign him up for the A-Levels he wanted, espite these being oversubscribed, by begging and promising that he wuld get A grades and win a scholorship to Cambridge, which he duly did) and an explanation of his love of Oscar Wilde, born of seeing "The Importance of Being Ernest' on TV at the age of 10.

It was a hugely entertaining and enjoyable evening.

I did succumb to the temptation to buy a copy of the book, and queue for it to be signed. This part of the evening wasn't very well organisd - we were told that the signing was limited to 400 peope, but we waited for over half an hour before anyone came along the queue to let people know whether they were going to get in, and at the front it was very regimented, with 'minders' to push everthing along, which did mean it wasn't practical to say anything other than 'Hello'.

But Mr Fry is well worth saying hello to!

No comments: