Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Nice things to come

Yesterday I got a copy of the programme booklet for the Bath Fesitival of Children's Literature through the post; reading through it, I was very happy to find that Dave McKean is going to be there, doign a panel entitled "Graphic Novels: the new revolution" with Garen Ewing and Robin Ethrington. I have to admit that I'm notfamiliar with Ewing or Ethrington's work, but the chance of seeing Dave McKean was more than enough to have me on the phone to the ticket line without delay!

I was also interested to see that Michael Rosen, Michael Morpurgo and Cornelia Funke are also all going to be there, and was disappointed to see that while David Almond is there his panel is on a Wednesday lunchtime, which means I won't be able to get to that, unless I book a day off work..

I have also received the new season's brochure for the Bath Theatre Royal - they have Sheridan's "The Rivals", Monty Python's "Spamalot", Coward's "Blithe Spirit" and Shakespeare's "The Merry Wives of Windsor"all coming up, as well as the (now traditional) performance of Handel's Messiah. Unfortunately, theatre tickets are rather more expensive than tickets for the Literature Fesitval, so I shall have to do a little more in the way of calculation before I get start booking - going to all those shows would set me back by about £150, and while I think it's worth it, I still need to actually get the money in place before I can spend it!

In other news, the bruises I gave myself on Saturday are all turning an unlovely shade of yellow, with purple highlights, and continue to be rather ouchy, and it's clear that falling so heavily also jarred my neck/shoulder (which I have a long standing problem with anyway) so that is much more painful than normal. *sigh*

On the plus side, I have a theatre ticket for this evening, to see Simon Callow in his one-man show "The Man From Stratford", which should be fun.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

In Which There Might be Giants (also Pterasaurs & Penguins)

I suppose the good thing about starting your day by almost falling under a train, is that things will almost certainly get better.

In my case, they did.

I was able to check in early at my hotel, which gave me the chance to shower, change and count my blessings, then it was off to the Royal Festival Hall for the first show, which was a matinee and billed as a family show.

I remember coming to the Festival Hall regularly when I was a child, for the Robert Mayer Children's Concerts (short concerts designed to introduce children to classical music) - I belive that you were not allowed to attend unless you were accompanied by a child, and as this was in the late 70's when Red Ken was running the GLC they were probably heavily subsidised, too.

The Hall hasn't changed much and it felt strange not to be going to "our" seats up in the balcony, but as my seat for this show was in the second row of the stalls, I had no regrets!

The show is part of, or at least timed to coincide with, The Royal Society's Summer Festival of Science" and there were life-sized Pterasaurs outside, and all kind of experimenty stuff inside, the absolutely best of which was Festo's amazing Air Penguins one of which was flying in the foyer bafore the show, and one in the auditorium before and during the show!

There were lots of kids, some very young, and this was great as they were really enthusistic about the show.

By the end, there were lots of kids dancing and playing with confetti, although I noticed just as much adult as child enthusiasm for the audience participation and singing along parts of the show!

Most of the set was songs from the 'Here Comes Science' album, although there were others. I particulalrly enjoyed hearing 'Why Does The Sun Shine' sung in Pirate-Speak. (Who knew the Plank, Eye Patches, and Hook-for-a-hand were such important parts of the Sun's make up?

I had a fantastic time!

At the end of the show, not only did the amazing Air Penguin return, but so did its friend, the AirJelly.

The show ended at around 3.30, and I was then faced with the decision as to what to do fort he 4 1/2 hours until the evening gig (listed as a 'Rock Show', rather than a Family one) was due to start.

Originally I had planned to take in a museum or gallery but as I was still feeling rather battered I didn't feel up to a lot of walking around, so instead I spent a little time outside, admiring the Pterasaurs and the giant purple cow, and some more time inside, admiring the Science stuff. There was a fun microscope-y thing which you could put under your tongue, and see the little blood cells charging along your veins (Not mine personally - I decided it wouldn't be appropriate to push little kids out of the way to have a go), and a vacuum cleaner that could climb walls, and all manner of other things.

I also found time to eat, drink, and read. After all, one must the priorities right, mustn't one

Then at 8 I was back in the Hall - having paused only for a champagne cocktail on the terrace overlooking the Thames - this time, my seat was in the front row of the rear stalls - so about half-way up the auditorium but with a good view. Only slightly marred by the group of about 5 people sitting in the row behind who talked loudly throughout the support act's set. Very rude!

Again, the hall was almost completely full and the show was great - opening act was a guy named Mike Doughty (on Twitter as @MikeDoughtyYeah) - I hadn't heard of him before, but enjoyed his set.)

Then TMBG again. Cue more chat (this time with added swearyness)

I was further back this time, so didn't get as many pics, but Phil Jupitus was near the front and took this video of 'Why Does the Sun Shine' - this time with added James Mason...

It didn't take long before the audience were out of their seats, and dancing. I wasn't dancing, on account of my legs having stiffend up, but I did attempt to at least limp rhythmically on the spot!

Despite 2 encores, the gig was over all to soon.

I just hope that TMBG come back to the UK soon - I'd love to see them again.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

In Which I Experience Interesting Times

I got up bright and early this morning in order to go to London to see 'They Might Be Giants' in concert at the Royal Festival Hall.

The first part of the trip, into Bath was fine, my connecting train was on time... Little did I know that this was just fate's way of Lulling me in to a false sense of security....

As I was getting onto the train at Bath I slipped. You know that Gap? The one they tell you to mind? They are right. It's a vicious bugger.

It all happened very fast-I *think* that my foot slipped on the lower step, so I fell up the train step, dropping a leg or two down the gap between the train & platform, but fortunately with enough of me falling inside the train that I could scramble in.

I managed to get to my seat before I started shaking, and then examined the damage - skinned the top of my left foot (dammit, wearing sandals just cos it was hot..) grazed my left knee (though my jeans, mind) and whacked both shins and my right thigh (I think on the edges of the various steps, but might be wrong)

and, as I realized when I was a bit calmer and able to take stock, my copy of Neil Gaiman's "Neverwhere" was gone. I think maybe it sacrificed itself to The Gap for me...

Most of my stuff was in my backpack, which I was wearing, fortunately.

the nice guy in the buffet car gave me a bag of ice to use as a cold compress, which made things feel a bit better, and I had more or less regained my composure by the time we got to Paddington, although I do now have the problem of how one limps in both legs at once.....

Fortunately there is a direct bus between the Festival Hall & my hotel, so I don't need to walk much. (although I notice my room is as far as it is possible to get from the lift..)

BUT I am alive, and not seriously hurt, just a bit shaken up, and I'm sure the bruises will heal.

I shall be training it home tomorrow. I shall be aproaching all trains with great caution...

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Initial Thoughts on the Budget

So, George Osborne has delivered his Budget. I am not impressed.
Mostly I am just profoundly grateful that I'm not disabled, or on a low income, or trying to get back into work.
We're told savings must be made, but they seem primarily to be targetting the least well off:

-child benefit frozen. This will make no differnence to mid-to high income familes, but will hurt poorer ones.
- VAT increased from 17.5% to 20%. This will affect everyone, but again, the impact will hit those on lower income a lot harder. If you have to budget to the last penny, even an extra £5 a week makes a hell of a difference.
-Sure Start & Pregnancy grants cut. This is a really great one, let's pick on children in poverty. It's their own fault for chosing to be born to poor people. Besides, if we help them to a decent start in life they might grow up expecting equality of opportunity and who knows what else!
- CGT raised from 18% to 28% for higher rate tax payers. No change to the allowances. So you can still have £10,000 of unearned gains every year without paying tax on it. I can't help feeling that bringing the limits and levels of tax closer to those for earned income would be fairer.
- tax relief on pension contributions remains. So if you are a basic rate tax payer every £100 you pay into a pension is worth £125, but if you're a higher rate payer it's worth £140.
-and of course, MPs get to keep their tax free travel allowances. (that's right. they get paid their costs of travelling to work, and unlike everyone else in the entire country, that's not a taxable benefit) Is this what they meant when they said "we're all in this together"? Of course, the tax they'd pay, if they paid it, would be a drop in the ocean, but it does seem pretty hypocritical.

There are a few bright spots. The increase in the basic income tax allowance will help lower earners. there is some small protection for the lowest paid public sector workers (But not, presumably for all the people who now work in the public sector but for contracted out companies). The state pension rises will go some way to offset the VAT rise.

On a purely personal level, I suppose I should be pleased. As far as I can tell, the only thing which will have a negative effect on me personally is the VAT rise (but there is no VAT on books or food, so the *true* essentials are OK! But it seems unjust.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

In Which Shakespeare Rocks (and there are Lions)

So, about three months ago I got the season's brochure from Bath Theatre Royal, and there were a couple of things which looked interesting, so I booked tickets, stuck them on the noticeboard and kind of forgot about them for a while. One of them was Twelfth Night, in a production by Filter Theatre. I hadn't heard of them before - in fact, based on the picture (taken from the Theatre's website) and from having seen mention of the RSC, I was expecting a fairly traditional prodiction.

The theatre is in the process of renovation at present, so there is an odd mix lavish gilt & velvet, and scaffolding and plaster dust!

My first clue that this was unlikely to be the traditional production I was expecting came when I took my seat and saw the curtain was up, showing a stage without backdrop, and only a lots of musical instruments and what looked like a merch table, by way of set dressing.

About 5 minutes into the show the traditional, doublet & hose production went disappeared into the realms of things unmourned and forgotten...

The company is small - 6 actors plus 4 musicians, which meant that several of the actors were pkaying more than one role. In the absence of any costume changes, and having not seen or read the play for some considerable time, having the same person playing both Duke Orsino and Sir Andrew Augecheek confused me a little - I was trying frantically to remember whether Orsino took to drink on being rejected...

Viola borrowed a jacket of a gentleman in the front row of the stalls in order to disguise herself as a man, on her arrival in Illyria, and there was live music and enthusiastic audience participation for the various songs. Imagine a theatre full of people stamping and mexican-waving and singing 'What is love? 'tis not hereafter; present mirth hath present laughter' and you get the general idea.
It was an absolutely fantastic evening - loved seeing all the slightly-disapproving elderly ladies, (all of whom took sharp breaths in and frowned, when they saw the set) sitting near me thawing out and then rocking along!
And I would love to be able to show this to anyone who thinks Shakespeare is boring. I so hope that there are schools taking their pupils to this show (any any other these guys do) and I would love to see them at the Globe Theatre where their propensity for coming into, and involving, the audience would be given full scope.
I think Will would have approved.
The show was quite short, and it wasn't quite dark when I came out of the theatre, so I took some time to check out a few of the Lions currently gracing Bath. This one is to be found by the Thermae Spa.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Bitter Ruin!

Thursday evening saw me heading into Bath, to meet up with Cheryl and together to go to Moles, to see Bitter Ruin.

I first heard of them (and heard them) when they played support for Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley at the EvelynEvelyn show at Bush Hall, and at the 'Underworld' gig, and really liked their music, so when I saw they were playing in Bath I booked tickets straight away.

Moles, as the name suggests, is to be found in a cellar (with a bar above), and is pretty small. When we arrived, 5 minutes after the doors opened, it was empty other Georgia & Ben (a.k.a. Bitter Ruin) so we had the oppotunity to chat to them briefly, then as other people started to arrive we headed upstairs for a drink.

The first band on were a local duo whose name, unfortunately, I didn't catch, but they were good - then Bitter Ruin were on - I really enjoyed their set - especially as they played two of my favourites - "The Vice" and "A Brand New Me", plus a new song - "Relief"

In between times I chatted to Ben's dad, who apparently lives locally, and learned that Ben went to the same school I did (although about 12 years later than me!)

All in all, a great evening, and if you get a chance to see Bitter Ruin play, take it!

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Its the Weekend!

This week seems to have gone on for a very long time, and I have been sleeping poorly, so I have been tired and cranky. I was, therefore, most annoyed to wake up at 5 a.m. this morning.

And then when I finally got back to sleep, the alarm went off as I had to get up and take my little car to have its MOT. On the plus side, it passed first time, which is nice (and cheap).

But it meant I had very little energy to do anything else, so today I have mostly been sitting about, reading, and watching Tybalt being photogenic.

I also found that my baby clematis, which I planted last year, has beaten the bindwind and managed not only to survive, but to blossom.

It's pretty.

It appears that there is some football going on at the moment. I have absolutely no interest in this, but as long as they refrain from cancelling or moving Doctor Who, or anything else important, I am happy for people to enjoy it.

I do find the flags a little annoying, however. My opposite neighbours have two big flags, both wth the cross of St George and with 'England' written across them, plus bunting. It is a pity that they didn't think to iron out the fold creases before they put the flags up. And I have to wonder, why print "England" on the flag? Do they think people won't know what they stand for without?

For myself, I have my copy of 'Stories' I am pacing myself, reading just one story a day (well, Ok. Maybe two) So I will continue to have new stories for a while.
I have also been watching some random TV. Today, I came across the Trooping of the Colours, for the Queen's official birthday. It's very, very strange. We have a real army, then they come back from Afghanistan or Iraq, dress up in 18th Century clothing and prance around on horseback. Most odd. I also learned that the horses which carry the kettle-drums hold the rank of Major. Sadly no explanation was given as to why this might be, or how they get around the issues of military etiquette which must, surely, arise when you have junior officers riding around on the back of senior ones....

I wonder if they get saluted much. Or, indeed, paid. Still, handy to know we staill have cavalry, in case we decide we need to fight some new wars after all the oil runs out.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Hello? Is anyone still here?

I've been a bit lax about blogging recently. Sorry.

Mostly because there hasn't been much going on since I got back from my parents. This week in particular has been not a lot of fun - I had to see a doctor on Monday (to be examined for a report, relating to the RTA I was in last May), then on Tuesday I had to see the dentist, for a regulat checkup. That made be nervous - I have always been scared of dentists - weak teeth + a heavy-handed and impatient dentist as a child, made worse by an incompetent dentist and some root canal work as a student, but I have to say my current dentist is very nice. Having (touch wood) now not had any problems for several years, I am gradually getting better at not panicking.

I didn't get given a sticker to say I had well cared-for teeth, or that I was good at the dentist, though. Most unfair. The 7 year old ahead of me did, and I thought age-discrimination was supposed to be illegal now! But I am over it now. Honest.

I am disappointed about this weekend. I have a ticket for Bill Bailey's solo show, in London this sunday, but I now don't see how I can go. My original plan was to go, get the last train home (which would be just about do-able, and would get me back home by about 2 a.m), then take Monday morning off work to sleep. Now? It seems I shall have to be in court on Monday morning, and I just don't think it will be practical. *sigh*.

Next week should be more fun, however, at least once I get to Wednesday. (Tuesday, I have partners meetings and reviews at work) On Wednesday, I will be going to see Bitter Ruin in Bath, with Cheryl, then on Thursday I am going to see Twelfth Night. I'm looking forward lots to both.

And until then, I have a copy of Stories with a new story from Neil Gaiman, and one from daian Wynne Jones, and one from Joe Hill, and a whole lot of others, so I'm happy.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Bank Holiday at the Sea Side

Bank Holiday Monday turned out to be a grey morning, but promised to improve, so after some strenuous sitting around eating breakfast, we went to the seaside.
The plan was to go for a walk, so we went to Croyde, to walk along the top of the cliffs to Baggy Point. As promised, the sun came out.
The tide was out when we arrived, so it was just as well we were planning to go for a walk, and not for a paddle, as Croyde beach is very flat, and the tide goes out an awfully long way... although there were lots of people surfing (or trying to) in the distance.
As you get to the end of the bay, however, the golden sand is replaced with cliffs, and instead of surfers the water is full of comerants and gulls. It's a long time since I have been here (or anywhere similar) at this time of year - normally we seem to go for seaside walks at Christmas, when they tend to be almost deserted in a beautiful, bleak way.
This time, however, the clifftops are covered with thrift, and gorse, and eggs-and-bacon; the heather was just starting to come out, and there were also skylarks. What more could anyone ask?
We were worried that we might faint from hunger during the 16 mile drive home, so we treated ourselves to a cream tea before going home. Scones, strawberry jam, Clotted cream and a sea view. A little taste of heaven.

Rest and Relaxation

I got back home yesterday after a long weekend visiting my parents in deepest Devon - it was a bank-holiday weekend, and as I didn't want to have to face the bank-holiday traffic, I booke the Tuesday off work as well, giving myself a 4-day weekend. Yum.

Of course, as it was a bank holiday, it started to rain as I drove down to Devon on Friday evening, but it was good to see my parents!

We spent a delightfully lazy Saturday - I had the rare pleasure of being brought a cup of tea in bed, and the rest of the day included inspecting my parent's brand new (to them) caravan, which was collected from the dealer on Friday, so is really new) wandering around the garden, and assisting in a joint effort to cook, then eat, a rather nice meal (roast duck, followed by lemon meringue pie, in case anyone is interested) and lots of conversation.

Sunday was my mum's birthday, but as it was also Sunday, and the parents suddenly remembered that they had promised to ring that morning, so we rushed out to go ringing, then came back and had a more liesurely second breakfast-and-gift-unwrapping before heading over to Tiverton, to Knightshayes Court, which is owned by the National Trust.

It's a Victorian, gothic-inspired house built for wealthy lace-maker in 1869, and especially well known for its gardens. My Grannie used to work as a volunteer there for the National Trust, doing flower arrangements for the house, and many of her 'best' plants (cuttings or decendents of which remain in my parents' garden) were gifts from the gardener there.

It even has little fairy tale turrets on the stables (Yes, that picture is the stables...) and at the corners of the kitchen-garden.

They were a fox-hunting family, and around the terraced lawn is a topiary fox-and-hounds hedge. The house itself is the Victorian idea of a medieval Great Hall, complete with minstrel gallery, gargoyles, an vast stone fireplaces, but also has slightly less convincingly medieval features such as the Billiard Room, Smoking Room, and Library (perfect for passing murderers!)

It would be a nice place to live, if you happened to be a stinkin' rich Victorian industrialist. And it has a very nice garden. (asuming that you have a whole regiment of gareners to keep in order)

We were very restrained. We did all buy some second hand books, but we didn't buy any plants. That's restrained, isn't it?

It was a nice day.