Friday, 29 July 2011

In Which Nothing Much Happens

Ten days with no posting. I'm slacking. Unfortunately it's because I haven't been doing much which is worth blogging about.
I've been very busy at work, spent a fair amount of time in court (and even more time hanging around in court waiting rooms, (because we all know that 'listed for 10.30' really means 'in at 1.14')

I've also been not enjoying the hot, muggy weather. Particularly as my tomatoes seem to have been stubbornly soaking up the sun (and demanding that I water them lots) but conspicuously failing to turn ripe and red. I'm sure that they are doing it on purpose...

I'm toying with the idea of going to the theatre this weekend - the Bath Theatre Royal has the Peter Hall company playing Henry IV parts 1 and 2  playing at present . .it's pretty tempting to go see one or both, either this weekend or next - they are both getting excellent reviews.I just have to work out whether I can afford it!

Monday, 18 July 2011

In Which There Is Science Fiction, Religion and Theatre (Part 2)

Following on from the exhibitions we had a very nice Japanese meal at a restuarant called Abeno, where we had Okonomi-yaki (Which I've never heard of before) which was cooked in front of us, and very tasty it was too!
Then we went back to Waterloo, to The Old Vic, to see Kevin Spacey's Richard III.

It's a modern-dress production: Richard gave the opening 'Now is the winter of our discontent' speech seated under a big TV screen showing King Edward, and the later scene in which King Edward urges the disunited peers to make friends was played as a photo-opportunity, which worked surprisingly well.

I was slightly surprised as how much emphasis was put on Richard's disabilities - not only did he have a very obvious hump-back, but also wore a leather glove to cover his 'withered' arm, and a calliper on his leg, which was twisted right round (must be terribly hard work, and uncomfortable for Mr Spacey, I would imagine!) I am not sure why, but I'd expected the whole 'crookback' thing to be very subtle, but it wasn't.

The other unexpected thing, for me, was the number of lines which turned out to be laugh-out-loud funny. Not what you expect in seeing one of the bloodier history plays, but very effective. In particular during Act III, when the citizens wish to see Gloucester and he claims to be at prayer.
The set was very plain - each side lined with doors, which heightened the sense of intrigue.
Honourable mentions go to Chuk Iwuji, who played Buckingham as a very political, untrustworthy, smarmy, spin-doctor, and to Annabel Scholey as Lady Anne, both repulsed by and attracted to Richard.

And at the end, as Richard's corpse was strung upside down from a wire, you could come to feel sorry for him...

I do have a few minor critisisms: there is a lot of drumming, which at times dorwned out the actors voices, and I personally found it slightly distracting to have half of the actors using American pronunciations of place names/ titles (more so, I think, than if it had been consistent, even if it had been consistently wrong) - Salisbury and Buckingham, in particular, but these are minor quibbles. All in all, it's a VERY good production, well worth seeeing.

Although I was left wanting to re-read Josephine Tey's 'The Daughter of Time' to redress the balance in relation to Richard's reputation.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

In Which There Is Science Fiction, Religion And Theatre (Part 1)

The reason I was rushing around like a mad thing to catch a train on Friday was in order to travel up to London to visit my cousin J & his partner and to go to the theatre. The origianl plan also involved meeting up with more family mambers for a meal, but due to their ill-health that fell through, but the silver lining was that it left more time for visiting museums.

First port of call was the Bristish Library, to see their Out of this World exhibition about Science Fiction. When we got to the library we realised that there was also a mini exhibition about Mervyn Peake, which was a bonus!

The Science Fiction exhibition was very good, starting with the ancient Greeks, and moving on to Sir Thomas More, Bishop Godwin and Voltaire, and of course many more modern writers, and ones more likely to be thought of as SciFi writers.

I like seeing books I know and love and own being displayed and taken seriously in the British Library.

I particularly liked finding the Discworld Mappe displayed alongside the Bronte sisters' maps of "Gondal", and coming upon Diana Wynne Jones' Deep Secret  (although not the edition with the Charles Vess cover|), and finding The Absolute Sandman (open to the start of 'Season of Mists') rubbing shoulders with Lord Dunsany and George MacDonald Fraser and H.P. Lovecraft. Then of course there was Frankenstein, The Handmaiden's Tale, 1984, Children of Men, The City and The City, FlatLand .....

The majority of the exhibition was, inevitably, of books, but there were also some sculptures - a wonderful (War of the Worlds) Martian Tripod, the TARDIS, and an awesome miniture steampunk K9, plus various film and audio snippets, computers set up for chat (to see whether they could pass the Turing test) and selections of music to listen to.  Sadly you aren't allowed to take pictures in the exhibition.

I was expecting to enjoy the exhibition. My cousin J, who I think was mostly there in his capacity as a Good Host (he's not into SciFi) came out saying how interesting it was, which I think counts as a win on both counts.  Well worth a visit!

Then, (after a brief pause for tea) we went on to the British Museum, to see the Treasures of Heaven exhibition, which is all about saints, and relics, and reliquaries. I found it interesting that the exhibit starts with a little background, with an Etruscan (and so of course very much pre-Christian)sarcophagus showing an 'angel', to illustrate that the images we associate with angels go back well before chritianity, and also some Roman glass - one showing a couple with a figure of Mercury being asked to prtect them, and a second, almost identical one, with a figure of Christ, but otherwise indistinguishable.

The majority of the exhibits however were reliquaries from the medieval period, most of them showing amazing craftsmanship (if also considerable credulity!). I particularly liked the Franks Casket (which is an amazingly detailed box made from carved whalebone, with runes and images of pagan myths., as well as saints) and also a reliquary for the arm of St George (who would appear to have had fairly short arms, if it is to be believed), which was topped with a delightful little silver-gilt dragon.

I have decided that I thoroughly approve of St. Hedwig of Silesia, who not only had a very cool name, but also had the enviable gift of turning the water in any beaker from which she drank into wine. She must have been a popular party guest.

I learned some things I didn't previously know. In particular, did you know that after the 2nd Nicean Council (in the 8th Century) you weren't allowed to consecrate a church & alter unless you had a relic to go with it? (and that relics used to be kept under the alter, with a hole to allow pilgrims to dangle bits of cloth down to soak up the holiness).

And did you know that King Charles II was made into a saint (the only one ever created by the church of England) after the Restoration? A more unlikely candidate for sainthood it would be difficult to imagine, and either Queen Victoria or her ministers apparently thought the same, as she rescinded his Sainthood.

The exhibition finishes with a short film showing images of devotion - including not only events such as Mother Teresa's funeral, and worshippers venerating St Theresa of Liseux when her coffin went on tour a few years ago, but also images of the queues to visit Lenin's tomb, Mikhail Gorbachev visiting the British Museum Reading Room to see the desk used by Karl Marx, The flowers left outside Buckingham Palace after Princess Diana's death, and Elvis's grave at Graceland.

Both exhibitions are well worth visiting, should you find yourself in London.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

In Which I Am Somewhat Stressed

Friday did not go well.

I had a full day at the office planned, but on Wednesday I learned of an unexpected hearing, for Friday, in DistantTown, which is about 2 hours from me. This meant having to apply to amend my client's legal aid. You wouldn't think that would be too difficult, as the criteria were clearly met, but due to cutbacks and backlogs most applicartions take weeks to process. Which is not good when you need a reply within 2 days.

So, the process is something like this:
  1. Phone Legal Aid. Spend 45 minutes on hold listening to cheesy elevator music, interrupted evey 30 seconds or so by mesages saying that your call will be answered shortly (even long after it has become obvious that this is, in fact, a LIE) and that it is important to them (which, frankly, is also a LIE, as they are a monopoly)
  2. Eventually reach an actual person, who confirms what you already know, namely that they can't actually grant the necessary amendment over the phone, only give you a code to allow you to fax it in to be dealt with urgently, which will "probably" be done within 48 hours.
  3. Fax application, making sure to get a delivery confirmation
  4. the following morning, telephone to follow up & see whether the application has been dealt with. Spend 70 minutes on hold waiting for your call to be answered "shortly".
  5. Just as you lose the will to live (or at least to live as a person who has to deal with the Legal  services Commission) you get to a person, who claims that they have not recieved the fax. After some discussion, they admit that it would be possible to scan and e-mail a further copy of the form, which we duly do...
  6. Ring for a third time. (because they won't actually phone of fax to tell you. that would be too easy) Weep softly forthe 30 minutes spent on hold while listening to cheesy elevator music and insincere messages.
  7. get amendment.
And that was just what I had to do before I could get started.

The hearing on Friday was listed for one hour, at 11 a.m. So I was fairly tired and a little stressed when it finished at 3.35. And was not best pleased when I then discovered that due to an accident on the Motorway, traffic was backed up into town, so my journey back, which would normally take about  90 minutes (to the office) or 2 hours (to home) was considerably extended.

The back log from the motorway being closed probably only delayed me for about 20 minutes, but as it turned out, after that I was also destined to be further delayed by The Old Man in a Flat Cap, driving at 30 mph or 10 mph below the spped limit, whichever was slower, the Van Towing Trailer (apprently driven by someone who had never towed anything, and possibly never driven anything before, the Funeral Cortege (and who holds a funeral at 5 in the afternoon?) and, of course, the Extra-Long, Extra-Wide Articulated Lorry Carrying Portakabins sent to meet me just as the narrowest, sharpest corner in Glastonbury.

All of which meant it took me nearly 2 1/2 hours to get back, so I literally only had time to lock ny files into the house before rushing back to the station to catch a train to London at 6.15. and then that train was delayed so I had to sprint to change platforms at Bath, making the connection by the skin of my teeth.

Mercifully there was a bar on the train.


Sunday, 10 July 2011

In Which There is Music and Much Driving, But No Keys

This weekend, I had one of the few (total:20) tickets to see Bitter Ruin play some of the songs from their work in progress, in their home in Brighton.

I've seen them several times before, most recently last June, in in Bath, and earlier last year when they opened for Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley's EvelynEvelyn show in London, and it seemed as though it would be a fun thing to do.

My trip didn't start well. Brighton is a long way away, so I planned to drive to my sister's place in Portsmouth, then get a train to Brighton. She & C were willing for me to stay there in their absence, and so the plan was to get the train back after the gig, sleep there, and have a leisurely drive home on Sunday morning.

Unfortunately Royal Mail let us down, and the keys to the flat which were posted to me on Wednesday (1st class, which is supposed to mean they arrive the following day) failed to turn up. Having stayed in until the post arrived (well after mid-day), I was not best pleased that the keys didn't arrive.

Having no option, I then drove to Brighton (which takes about 3 hours) where I inadvertently parked in the Worlds Most Expensive Car Park before heading out to look at Brighton.

The Royal Pavillion is one of the sights of Brighton. It was built for the Prince Regent (later George IV) between 1787 and 1822, and as it currently stands was designed by Nash, in the Indian style - the interiors are (mad) Chinoiserie, but I didn't go in on this occasion, as it's not cheap, and I didn't have time to do it justice.

I think perhaps we should be grateful that The Prince Regent did not allow his enormous debts get in the way of building such a lavish palace, as it gives us something most impressive to look at now! The pavillion was used as a hospital during WW1 - it must have been somewhat disconcerting, espcially for any poor soul suffering from fever...

After looking around the town a little I found a very nice restuarant and gorged myself on fresh whitebait, and wild mushroom risotto, then I walked along the promenade watching the gulls riding the wind, and the people on the beach.

I met up with 5 or 6 of the other people going to the show, outside Ben and Georgia's flat, and we all headed in. 

We all settled down on the living room floor, with glasses of wine (and little bowls of dolly mixture, supplied by our hosts) 

 Ben & Georgia played us a selection of the new songs which they are currently working on for their next album - I particularly liked 'Child in a Sea Cave'.                                                                                                                                                                 In between songs we talked, and they answered questions, then played more songs from the back catalogue, with more conversation and discussions in between.  It was a lot of fun!
When the show ended, Georgia took a picture of the bunch of us, before we left.

(Picture taken by Georiga )
Then there was just time for a little more conversation before heading back to my car for the long drive home. It was twilight as we left the flat, and the amusements on the pier were all lit up.

It was well past midnight before I got home, and my dodgy shoulder is complaining about all the driving, and I still have the problem of how to get my sister's keys back to her (once they finally arrive here!) but despite all that, it was fun, and I'm glad I went.
I would also like to go back to Brighton at some point, and spend a bit more time looking around the pavillion, gardens and so forth..

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Work, and other things

I'm finding things at work pretty stressful at present, and in consequnce I've been sleeping badly and am tired all the time. Coupled with the unfortunate short-break failure this has meant I haven't been anywhere, or done anything terribly exciting in the past week, leading to a paucity of blogging material.

I have been taking some pretty pictures of flowers

Saturday last week was, apparently, Armed Forces Appreciation Day, which I guess is why there were tents and tanks all over the park, not to mention a Spitfire (replica, rather than original, but impressive none the less)

There was also a rather random silver band (they were lurking in some bushes a little way from the park, but it's hard to lurk inconspicuously if you are a large silver band wearing red uniforms and playing show tunes with more enthusiasm than accuracy)

Things to look forward too - Jason Webley is visiting Britain as part of his last-for-ages tour, and is playing in Bristol, and I have a ticket for that, and I'm seeing Bitter Ruin next weekend, and the following weekend I'm seeing Kevin Spacey's  Richard III in London, so there are things to look forward to, little oases of pleasure like beacons in the dark.

And with luck, the stress will reduce, and the weeks will become more interesting and enjoyable, too.