Monday, 26 November 2012

Water Everywhere

I had a day off work today, and decided to go into Bath, to make a start on some Christmas shopping and some non-Christmas shopping which I've been avoiding, visit the Bath Christmas Market, and so on.

I went in by train, as parking is expensive in Bath, and driving there is no fun, especially at this time of year, with the Christmas Market on.

After my trip to London on Saturday I was expecting to see a fair amount of flooding, from the train, but there was more than I expected (I didn't have a window seat on Saturday morning, so my view out was restricted) The river (Avon) has burst its banks in many places  - I'd say pretty much everywhere outside the towns themselves. I feel sorry for the farmers, who will be losing grazing, and no doubt suffering damage to their fences and hedges, at the very least.
the river is usually over where the line of trees can be seen

As we drew into Bath I could see that the cricket Club's ground was completely covered in water - there appeared to be a pair of swans about where the wicket is generally found, and once I left the train and started into town I was able to see how high the river is even in town.

 Pulteney Bridge, and Pulteney Weir, usually looks like this:-
(Normal appearance of Pulteney Bridge and Weir)
Today, it looked rather different.
Pulteney Bridge and Weir

The contrast gives some idea of the sheer volume of extra water which is coming down the river at present. And this was taken on Monday morning - the really heavy rain was mainly Thursday and Saturday, so I think it was probably higher, a day or two ago..

More pictures here. (many taken from the train, so a bit blurry)

Once I had spent some time staring at the water, I got on with my shopping, which was moderately successful - I now have some new-and-dull clothes for work, and a few other bits and pieces I've been needing to get for a while. I have also done some christmas shopping, which is good (somehow having done a little bit makes the rest seem more manageable). But this whole shopping marlarky is exhausting. And I irrationally resent spending time and money buying clothes which are (mainly) for work - I suppose it feels a bit like a uniform.. And pyjamas, though important, are not very exciting. 

Sunday, 25 November 2012

In Which there is Bronze and Regicide

I spent Saturday in London, enjoying a trip to the Royal Academy, to see their Bronze Exhibition, and then to Hampstead theatre to see '55 Days'

I has a slightly stressful start to the day, as the first of my two trains turned out, when I got to the station, to be running late, which seemed likely to cause me to miss my connection, but as it turned out, we made up a bot of time getting to Bath, the London train was slightly delayed too, so with a bit of running, I managed to catch the train, and even to find my seat (not an easy task, as the train was very crowded due to an earlier cancellation), so made it to London as originally planned.

The exhibition at the RA was fascinating. The curators have chosen to group the bronzes by theme, rather than chronologically or by region, so in the section devoted to 'figures' were examples of ancient Greek and Etruscan figures,(including the first piece in the exhibition, a glorious and beautiful 'dancing satyr', around 3,500 years old, found quite recently near Sciliy)
'Dancing Satyr' 

Also medieval saints, works by Ghiberti and Cellini,  images of the Buddha and figures from Benin.

Similarly, in the section devoted to 'Animals' there was a glorious Etruscan Chimera (from around 400BCE), as well as a Louise Bourgoise spider, a Baboon made by Picasso, an Elephant from China, and many others.

There were also sections titled 'groups' which included a Frderic Remington group of 4 cowboys on horseback, and also one of the most extraordinary pieces, the Trundholm 'Chariot of the Sun' which is beautiful in it's own right, as well as awe-inspiring for it's age and fragility (It's believed to have been made between 1,800 and 1,600 BCE
Trundholm Chariot of the Sun
I am so glad I managed to get to the exhibition - I know the RA managed to borrow pieces from all over the world for it (although Florence appears to have been particularly generous!)
'Damned Soul' Massimiliano Soldani-Benzi, after Bernini
And of course, the 'poster boy', Soldani-Benzi's 'Damned Soul', which I feel sure must have inspired the 'weeping angels' (I felt safe visiting, there were so many people looking at it at all times...)

After visiting the exhibition, I headed across to the theatre, where, after a brief and welcome break for a sandwich (at one of the least stable tables I've encountered for some time)

I had booked my ticket because I wanted to see Mark Gatiss, and because I thought the play (which deals with the period leading up to the conviction and execution of Charles I, at the end of the English Civil War). I hadn't been the the Hampstead Theatre before, and had not realised that the play is by Howard Brenton, who also wrote 'Anne Boleyn, (which I saw earlier this year, and blogged about here)
Mark Gatiss as Charles I
It's a small theatre, with a central stage with entrances at both ends, which means that a lot of the time the actors don't face the audience - but once I got used to it I rather liked it - it makes you feel more engaged in what's going on on stage.

The play switches between the two main protagonists - Mark Gatiss's Charles I, arrogantly and utterly convinced of his own divine right to rule, and Douglas Henshall's Oliver Cromwell, equally sure of himself (perhaps with better reason) and, despite his talk of 'waiting on Providence', coming across as a far more canny politician.

Charles was presented in period costume, but all of the other characters were presented in (fairly) modern dress - with a 50s feel to it. Despite knowing the inevitable outcome the play still managed to be gripping, as the parliamentarians struggles with the issues of whether to put the King on trial, and if so, whether he should be executed, not to mention whether and how Parliament could try him, and whether the ends (putting him on trial) justified the means (Pride's Purge of Parliament, which effectively rigged the vote by ensuring that anyone who voted against the trail, first time round, being excluded from the second one...)

The performance I saw was the last but one of the run, so I can't advise you to grab tivkets and see it, but if it were still running, I would, as it was well worth seeing.

It was a long day, as I didn't get home till  around 9.30, but very enjoyable. I haven't any further theatre trips planned until the new year, now, so for the last \play of the year it was an excellent one to go out on!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

A Dark and Stormy Night

(It was also a dark and stormy day, but that is less dramatic!)

Yesterday was incredibly wet - there have been a lot of floods, although (at least so far) they have mainly been west of me. ( BBC news have some pictures - both Bath and Bradford on Avon, are very close to me)

This morning, driving in to work, wasn't bad, although there was surface water in various places, but as the day wore on, it got a lot more windy and wet. At around quarter to five, one of my co-workers came in to say she thought I might want to know that one of the big bins in the carpark had just been blown across the car park and hi my car, and she was very sorry, but although she'd seen it, she hadn't been able to get to it to stop it. (I must say, I think this was probably a good thing. They're pretty big, metal bins and while I'd obviously rather my car didn't get hit, it's better than someone getting hurt. It looks as though there's a big scratch on the front of the car, but no real damage (it missed the headlights, at least) so I'm relatively sanguine about it (although that might change when I can see it in daylight!)

By the time I set of to drive home it was raining quite heavily and was very windy, and it was gusty wind, which I think is worse, as it's so unpredictable. My drive home is mainly along country roads, and there were a lot of small branches and other debris on the road. About half way home I found that the turning I usually take to get home was closed. (I suspect there was a tree down, blocking it. all that was visible were some blue flashing lights, and several very wet, cold looking police officers, trying to help people turn round, and I decided that it would not be helpful to start asking them questions about what the problem was.

I decided that it would not be a good idea to do what I'd usually do when that road is backed up, which would be to dive off and go through some of the smaller lanes, so I ended up having to take a rather long way home, and with the wind, and lightening, and rain, it really wasn't a restful drive.

I'm hoping that it will get better - not least because I am supposed to be getting a train up to London for the day on Saturday, and if it carries on like this half the track will be underwater (there are already several stretches of railway closed or on reduced services, although so far they are further towards Devon)!

I have to go to the far side of Bath tomorrow, for a meeting, so I think I shall have to leave extra time for the drive, in case of detours...

On the plus side, my house is wind-and weather-proof, and mercifully un-flooded (I had a flood 5 or 6 years ago, and although it was caused by improper drainage on the council's neighbouring land, and since they put in a new drain, it hasn't happened again, but I always get a bit stressed when we have a lot of heavy rain, just in case.)

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

A Small Update about Tybalt

Those of you who know me on Twitter may recall that I was very worried about Tybalt at the end of last month.

Last year, just before christmas, Tybalt was diagnosed with Thyroid problems, and he's been on medication ever since, and has been doing pretty well.

Then last month he suddenly lost  his appetite, lost a lot of weight again, and was, very definitely, not himself.

When I booked him into to the vet I feared that there was a real risk he might not get to come home with me. However, in the 18 hours or so between making the appointment and attending it, he perked up a little and ate a meal or two. The vet found he was running a temp. so she gave him a shot of antibiotics, and other of painkillers, and booked him back in for a further appointment in 2 weeks time to have the general review, bloods etc that were due in January (with the proviso, of course, to bring him back sooner if he deteriorated.

Fortunately, he didn't - indeed, he got his appetite back with a vengeance!

When his blood and other tests came back last week, they were - mixed.

  • His thyroid numbers are are the very high end of normal. Vet doesn't recommend increasing the thyroid meds at this stage, as the numbers may be related to poor management over the last few weeks due to the infection and appetite loss, plus increasing them could push his numbers too low..
  • Liver enzymes are higher than normal. This could simply be due to the infection and to his body burning muscle because he wasn't eating. It could be a sign of more serious problems but would need general anaesthetic and biopsy to find out, which would put a lot of strain on him, especially in his current state.
  • White blood count up, so he hasn't got rid of the infection altogether yet.
  • one of the parameters relating to his kidneys in the blood test is high, the rest at within normal range but high normal. 
  • his urine test showed some proteins which could be due to the infection or could mean he has the start of kidney problems.
So. He has a course of antibiotics to get rid of the end of the infection (he was no longer running a temperature, and with him having got his appetite back and being much more himself, the vet was pretty confident that it's mostly gone - the extra course is mainly a precaution.

And he has continued to improve. He is much better in himself, and seems to be regaining  a bit of weight, so hopefully we can both relax for a bit longer.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Charley's Aunt (From Brazil, where the nuts come from)

Charley's Aunt was originally performed in 1892, and ran for 4 years. The current production stars Matthew Horne as Lord Fancourt Babberley, and is excellent!

It is pure, frothy, Victorian farce. Horne is excellent as Lord Fancourt-Babberley, coerced by his friends into impersonating Charley's aunt, Donna Lucia, in order to act as chaperone so they can see their respective sweethearts.

The plot is, of course, entirely predictable and the ending obvious from the outset, but that in no way detracts from the entertainment value. It has a similar flavour to 'The Importance of Being Ernest', but without the depth...

Matthew Horne is the star of the show but the supporting cast, particularly Jane Asher (Charley's real aunt), are excellent. I think it's fair to say that the male characters are stronger than the female ones, but I think this is down to the writing not the actors - the female characters (other than the real Donna Lucia) are present really only as the love-interests for their respective swains.

All in all, good, clean, undemanding fun. The set was also impressive (although elaborate, which was no doubt why the play had two full intervals, rather than just a quick scene change!)

Timon of Athens

I’ve blogged before about the National Theatre Live broadcasts. I think they are an awesome idea, and I have very much enjoyed those which I’ve seen.

I had booked to see the most recent production, Timon , on 4th November, but couldn’t go as I was busy suffering from lurgy, but happily there was a second ‘encore’ showing on Sunday evening, so I was able to see it after all.
( photo from National Theatre site)
Timon is one of Shakespeare’s least known, and least frequently performed works, and I'm a big Shakespeare fan, so I was always going to be keen to see it. The fact it got excellent reviews was a bonus!

This production has a modern setting, which works very well. In the first half of the play, Timon is wealthy, sought-after, and renowned for his generosity. When he loses his wealth, his erstwhile friends (depicted as city bankers, socialites and trust fund hipsters) all drop away, refusing to assist him or lend him money.

Alcibiades and his followers are depicted as rioters, recalling last summers' riots, and after his successful invasion of Athens we see him joining the board of directors of an unspecified company. La plus sa change...

Simon Russell Beale's Timon was a slightly pathetic figure - even in his wealth, seeming uncomfortable with others, and later, in his poverty, unable to accept the genuine affection of his steward.

It's far from being a cheerful play, but it was exceptionally well done, and well worth seeing.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

A Quiet Weekend

I have been enjoying a quiet weekend. My parent were here overnight - they are members of a local bellringing society and travelled up in order to attend the annual dinner, and spent the night with me.

The dinner meant that they were out yesterday evening, so I had the slightly odd experience of lying in bed listening, and waiting to hear them come in. This must be what it is like being parent to a teenager (although less stressful, as I have confidence that my parents' judgement is rather better than that of the average teenager)

Today, we enjoyed a tranquil, sociable day, croissants for breakfast, and a proper roast dinner. As it's quite chilly, and my Dad and I are both still suffering from the tailends of colds we decided not to go out anywhere. Besides, sometimes it's good to just spend a little time being together, without doing anything.

They are coming back again in a few weeks time - one of the people who is coming to Topping's Bookshop in Bath soon is Kaffe Fassett, and as my mum has been interested in his work for years, I asked whether she'd be interested in hearing him speak. She said she would be, so I've booked a couple of tickets, and my parents will come for the weekend, and my mum and I will go to the event. It'll be good to do something together, and to share with my mum something which interests her.

(I enjoy looking at the quilts and things but don't have a deep, personal interest in meeting Kaffe or hearing him speak)

Friday, 9 November 2012

Pestilence and Plague

OK, so maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but only  a little.

I came down with a perfectly revolting flu-ey bug, at the end of last week – mercifully the hearing I had, which was listed as a two day fully contested hearing, settled on the morning on the first day, and equally mercifully I had opted to travel in by train, as there isn’t much parking near the court which we were in, so I didn’t have to drive.

I was sneezing and coughing away as we waited, and realised when I got up to speak that the room was revolving gently around me, so as soon as we were done, I went home, and went to bed. I pretty much stayed there, except for brief forays down to the sofa, until Monday. Which I can’t help feeling was a bit of a waste of a weekend.

I was particularly disappointed as it meant I missed a trip to the cinema to see the National Theatre Live broadcast of ‘Timon of Athens’, had to cancel a dinner with my elderly cousin, and (worst of all, because unlike the others I can’t rearrange it) missed Thea Gilmore’s performance in Bristol on Monday evening. It’s a damn shame – it’s about 2 years since she last played locally, and I was really looking forward to seeing her again.

I am not feeling much better – still have an impressive hacking cough, but it is improving, and I managed a half day at work on Tuesday, and full days since then.

Today I had to take Tybalt to the vet to have bloods taken – he has been losing weight again, and not eating well, which is a worry. I took him to the vet 2 weeks ago, because I was worried about him. He turned out to be running a slight temperature, so he was given antibiotics and painkillers, and his review (for his thyroid problem) brought forward from January to today.

He did not enjoy his visit to the vet. He has been subjected to the indignity of being weighed, and listened to, and having bloods taken, and his results should be available on Monday.
I am really hoping that this is something which can be treated by tweaking his meds, and not the effect of new, and different medical problems.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Hosting a House Concert

In my last post I wrote about the House Concert which Marian Call held at my home, and the fun and music. This one is more about the experience of hosting a house concert - it wasn't something I'd ever done before, and I wasn't too sure what to expect.

On her blog, Marian has information for would-be hosts, and I thought it might be worth while writing about how it worked out for me, as a host....

I had only ever been to one house concert before, (which I blogged about here) and that was hosted by the band themselves, so I wasn't too sure what to expect.

So, how was it?

Well, I said when I signed up for the Kickstarter, and Marian's mailing list, that I might be able to host a house concert, and also that I might be able to provide accommodation.

Marian e-mailed me about 6 weeks before the date of the show, to check whether I was able to host, and then once I said yes, we agreed the date and other arrangements and the concert went onto Marian's tour schedule.

I was also a little worried about whether the concert would be a success - I don't host a lot of parties. I tend to be more the small dinner party type.(In fact, my last actual party may well have been my house warming party, and I've I've lived in this house for 10 years now.)

And I panicked about whether the space would be too small, and whether the strangers coming to my home would turn out to be, well, strange.

In the event, I need not have worried.

So: Specifics: (based on the points made in Marian's 'house party 101)

'My house is too small'

My house *is* pretty small. But Marian knew that when she asked me if I was still happy to host. I made sure, in my invitation e-mail to interested parties, to make it clear that the house was small and that I didn't have masses of chairs - I suggested that people bring extra cushions to sit on, and some did, and eveyone knew what to expect.

'I've never done anything like this before'

I really haven't. I tend towards small numbers of people for meals, rather than larger parties. In the end I decided not to worry about this one.  - I was as clear as I could be about what people could expect, both in terms of the size of the house, and what refreshments I would be providing, and decided that since people would be coming to hear Marian and Scott,  there wasn't actually the pressure on me that there would have been if I were hosting a party just as a party. It was a very soothing thought!

I also considered that while *I* haven't done this before, Marian has, and has found that it is a format which works. I was willing to trust the expert:-)

I opted to provide drinks and nibbles - since I quite enjoy cooking, I baked a quiche, and made a couple of dips, and I bought in some other dips, and provided crudités and crisps (chips) for dipping, and enough wine, beer and cola for everyone to have a drink or two. I made it clear on the invite that I'd be providing drinks and snacks for the 'mingling' part of the evening, and that people were welcome to bring extra drinks or snacks of they wanted.

I ended the evening with more cola than when I started (which amuses me, as I don't drink cola) and with more crisps and some bonus chocolates. There was some of 'my' wine and beer left over, and I 'won' some, so over all, I was 'down' 1 quiche and about 2 and a half bottles of wine. Which is not a lot, even if you're aiming to entertain on a budget! And of course, I could have opted for a completely 'bring your own' approach,

'I don't know if I want strangers in my house'

I had opted not to publicise my address, but instead, to provide a contact e-mail address. Another fan (Thank you, Tamzin!) did a lot to publicise the event, and I ended up with 14 guests (so 15 people including myself) plus Marian, Patrick and Scott. I only actually knew one guest in advance, but the fact that everyone had to e-mail me in advance to get my address made me feel more comfortable, as it meant I had everyone's name and contact details, and could have said no if there had been any enquiry from anyone I didn't feel comfortable about.

I also felt that as Marian is a cool, smart, geeky person, there was a good chance that her fans would be similar, and therefore not so strange. And they were. People were complimentary about my books and decor, which was nice, and I enjoyed meeting new people who shared me interests.

I've also, personally, had good experiences in the past with meeting up with people I only know from the internet, and indeed staying in the homes of people I've only met on the internet, so it seemed only reasonable to suppose that the experience could be just as positive as host rather than guest. Which it was.

'It will take so much time'

Not really. I spent some time making sure that the house was tidy, and making up beds (as Marian and Co. were staying with me after the concert). I also spent some time preparing a meal for us to eat before the concert, and baking quiche/making dips, but no more than I'd have done for any other house guests. I was fortunate in that the gig was part of Marian's Kickstarter tour, so she was in the area because people locally had shown interest in her playing here. I used twitter and facebook to publicise the concert, and put up some posters.I also had the benefit of another local fan publicising the show. None of it was very time consuming.
The concert itself was one evening, so I spent time cleaning up and preparing, but saved time in that I didn't have to travel anywhere to get to the show!

'My place is a mess'

Well, yes, but you have to clean *anyway*, and mostly you don't get fun guests and awesome live music as a reward when you've done it.

'You can't come to my town, I'm out of the way'

I admit that I was a little surprised. Trowbridge, where I live, is not exactly on the beaten track, so I had not expected it to be on Marian's route. Of course, if you're from Alaska, I'm not sure that anywhere in the UK really counts as being 'out of the way' (once you're in the country). But I guess that this is an 'if you don't ask, you don't get' situation.

After the Show
Over all, I found that the whole experience was remarkably stress-free.

The concert itself was fantastic, the people who came were lovely, and having it in my own home was a special kind of 'access all areas'.

 I'd do it again in a heartbeat. So, if you're wavering, take courage, and take the plunge. You won't regret it!

Saturday, 3 November 2012

In Which There Is Music (With A Typewriter)

Back in June, I backed a Kickstarter for Marian Call's European Adventure Tour. Because I like her music, and I hoped it might turn out that she'd be playing somewhere near enough to me that I go go and see her. But in my response, when I signed up, I did also say I might be able to host a house-concert.
Typewriter (and Ziggy the deceased cat)
Then, just over a month ago, I got an e-mail from Marian to ask whether I could host. I said yes, and we then e-mailed back and forth a little to arrange a date, which turned out to be Tuesday, 30th October.

So, on Tuesday afternoon, Marian, Patrick and Scott arrived, and there was time for us to chat, and to eat, and for Scott and Marian to set up in one corner of my living room, before guests started to arrive.

Marian Call and Scott Barkan
After half an hour or so of chatting and mingling Marian started her show - with 'Good Morning Moon'.

Jayne hat for Jayne song!
During the rest of the evening we also heard 'Dear Mr Darcy', which I think may be my favourite song on the album, ( not least for the wonderful line "I've been dropping hints like bricks on you"), the Avocado Song, and of course, "It's Good to Have Jayne on Your Side", complete with Jayne hat, and lots of audience participation!

Marian has a great voice, and I love the combination of witty, geeky, lyrics and 'folky' music. I also really loved the intimacy of having a show in such a small venue (and of course, on a personal level, having it in my own house meant no pesky travelling or queueing!)

In addition to accompanying Marian, Scott also performed some of his own songs, from his album 'Little Days'
Scott Barkan
It was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed meeting the other fans who came to the show, all but one of whom were complete strangers to me!

Here's a taster for you - lots more of the music to watch,listen to and buy on Marian's  website.(and a couple of others on my youtube channel

If you have a chance to see Marian play, take it. You won't be disappointed.

(More of my photos here on flickr, plus further pics here from another guest, Andy.)