Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Home again

Back home. It's been lovely spending time with my parents, although the poor weather and the fact that i've not been well has meant we didn't go out at all - the only days which were dry/sunny enough to go out, we were too tired to do anything such as going for a drive to look at the seaside.

However, despite the general lack of energy, I think we all enjoyed ourselves - I certainly did, and it was very nice to be able to relax, and not *have* to do anything - quite apart from anything else, only having to cook about once every 4th meal felt like a real luxury, as did staying in bed a couple of hours longer than usual (and being brought tea in bed, which happens most mornings at my parents' house, provided you're willing to stay in bed long enough!)

It is also the case that while alcohol may not actually help treat, or cure flu-y head-colds or sinus infections, it most certainly helps to make them more endurable, and christmas is one of those rare occasions when drinking white wine spritzers at 11.30 in the morning is perfectly acceptable!

I was a little disappointed that I haven't had the mental energy to read any of the big new-to-me books I'd been saving up for the holidays, and we failed even more spectacularly dismally than usual on the King William's College Quiz, but I did re-read a number of old favourites, which is always fun.

And it was nice to get home and find my house had not been swept away, or lost any tiles, or fence panels!

Friday, 27 December 2013


It's been a quiet Christmas, but nice, so far. I drove down to Deepest Devon on Monday evening - which was an interesting experience - it was very wild, wet and windy, and there were places where there was an awful lot of surface water and huge puddles and streams on the roads.

Fortunately it seemed to get better rather than worse as my journey progressed, and by the time I arrived ( with the journey having taken about 40 minutes longer than usual) it had stopped raining (temporarily!)

Christmas Morning church 
My younger sister and her partner were at my parents for a pre-christmas visit, and we overlapped for about 24 hours - long enough to catch up, exchange gifts, and to cooperate in decorating the Christmas Tree.

Christmas Day itself was fairly quiet - we went to church to ring in the morning, and admired the church full of christmas trees, each decorated by a different group.

Ringer's tree (Or Dalek)
The ringers have a bell-shaped tree (or possibly a Dalek in deep disguise)

We got home for second breakfast to discover that the heating element from the oven had blown, but happily my Dad was able to jury-rig the oven to work, by the careful deployment of a large baking tray to turn the grill into an oven-style heating element which, combined with the use of the fan part of the defunct oven setting, allowed us not only to bake out croissants, but also to cook a full Christmas Dinner.

Which was a relief. I'm sure we would have managed, if we'd needed to, with the little cooker in the caravan, the hob, and the microwave, but it would have been more complicated!
Burning food!
As it was, we were able to eat and drink to excess in the traditional manner, and to open gifts and watch Matthew Bourne's 'Sleeping Beauty' and telephone family members.

It was a Good Day.

Boxing Day brought more socialising as my aunt and uncle, together with my cousin, her husband and son, came over for lunch - I tend only to see them 2 or 3 times a year, so it was good to catch up.

And having a 3 year old visit reminds you of the thrills of Christmas. He was just as excited about everyone else's presents as his own, with lots of jumping and "What is it What is it What is it!?!" And we all enjoyed the reading of 'Fox in Socks', which followed. (Kudos to Granny, who managed to read it aloud and without losing her self control, despite 6 other adults getting the giggles around her as she read..)

Friday, 13 December 2013

Shopping, and No Trains

I had a day off work today (time in lieu having worked a Saturday, recently). I'd planned to have a nice long, lazy lie-in, which would have worked better if I had remembered to turn off my alarm - obviously, I didn't have to get out of bed, but the flailing around trying to find the damn thing and make it stop did break the relaxing mood a little!

I spent some time in the morning wrapping gifts to post, and was planning to then get the train into Bath to finish off my christmas shopping. However, when I got to the station, I found that (contrary to the website which claimed everything was running on time) all the trains were either cancelled or running very, very late. (when "the next train to arrive" is the one which ought to have left an hour and a half ago, it's generally not a good sign. ) I did go in to find out what was going on (just in case it was all about to miraculously improve).

It seemed that there was a points failure just up the line, which meant that instead of the trains going direct (taking around 18 minutes) they were going to go in wrong direction, sneak round and creep up on Bath from the other direction. I don't know how long it would have taken but given that they were also warning that the train was very crowded, I decided that I didn't really need to go to Bath today.

I did go to the post office and posted the parcels I wrapped this  morning, and also went to the local branch of Waterstones and bought some christmas gifts there, although I do have  a few more to get.

the best part of the day, however, is that I still have a whole weekend ahead of me!

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Starting to feel a little festive

My sister and brother in law are staying home over Christmas, so I won't be seeing them then, so today my sister and I met up midway between our respective homes (BiL is working), for lunch and the exchange of presents.

Which was nice. 

We met at a pub, and, as it could be argued that it was Christmas (I mean, that's why we were meeting, and we were exchanging gifts) it seemed fitting to eat to excess.. Plus the food was good. (whitebait, Ostrich steak, and rhubarb crumble).

It's been a while since I saw her, so it was good to spend some time together and catch up.

Oh, and another bonus? She brought a belated birthday gift - they'd not posted it to me, as it was a bottle of very nice gin, so both heavy and fragile :-)

I haven't really felt very festive, yet, and haven't been able to build up much excitement for christmas, but between making the christmas cake on Saturday, and hanging out with K on Sunday, I'm starting to feel a bit more enthusiasm.

(Of course, at some point in the very near future I shall have to go and queue in a post office, to send the gifts to people I won't be seeing. That may exhaust all my new-found christmas spirit!)

Friday, 6 December 2013

Friends and Music

It's been a while since I posted, but there hasn't, until now, been much going on. I've been looking at houses, and not liking any of them very much, and I've been having a nasty cold, and not enjoying it very much, and none of that would be interesting to read about in any detail.

However, on Wednesday evening, Thea Gilmore was playing in Bath, and I had a ticket.

I went straight into Bath from work, and spent some time looking around the Christmas Market (not too crowded at that time) and had a quick pub supper, (well, as it turned out, a very slow pub supper - I think they forgot my order half way through. But it was tasty) 

I met up with friends, who (as we worked out, eventually) I haven't seen since I bumped into them at the last Thea Gilmore gig we went to, which is about four years ago. It was good to catch up, and as the shw started a bit later than advertised, we had time to chat!

The show was opened by  Nigel Stonier, who is Thea's husband and a talented songwriter in his own right, and who played us several of his own songs, then, after the interval, returned in his capacity of Thea's guitarist/keyboard player.

Thea was also accompanied by a wonderful cellist, and a violinist, and in two songs, by a 2nd violinist, her 7 year old son, Egan.
It was a fun evening. as it's now December, THea sang some of her Christmas song, although we were a little disappointed that we didn't get to hear Sol Invictus. But even without that it was wonderful! 

The only down side was that when I got to the car park to drive home I found I had to scrape ice off the windscreen before I could drive home. I don't approve. It's one thing on the  morning, but when going home it seems unreasonable!

Tuesday, 19 November 2013


Feeling rather miserable today - As some of you know, I'm trying to move house at the moment. I'd found a house I liked, and had an offer accepted, and have been doing all the admin stuff, getting a survey, and searches etc. and was hoping we'd be ready to exchange in the next couple of weeks.

This afternoon, I got a call from the agents to say the sellers are pulling out. All very vague as to why - there'd been no sign of any problems, and as far as I can tell they are taking it off the market altogether (despite not actually living there right now)

So - two months down the line I need to start looking all over again.

Very depressing.

The really frustrating part is that there was, until last week, another propert in the same area and for a very similar price, which seems to have found a buyer in the last few days, so that's no longer an option.


Sunday, 17 November 2013

A Wet Weekend

I spent this weekend in Devon, at my parent's house (although not actually visiting them, as they are not there) It was relaxing, and I enjoyed the weekend, although I should have liked a little less rain.

On Saturday morning, I went (via a rather roundabout route) to the seaside. The roundabout route was because of one road closure - I knew this, and went so far as to check an actual paper map before setting off. However, I didn't know that there were also some other roads which were also closed but which (presumably because they were smaller roads, and had been closed for ages so anyone relevant, such as local people, already knew about them) there were no signs about. So my journey involved rather more in the way of detours than I'd planned.  But given I had no timetable to stick to  and the scenery is pretty, so it was not really a hardship.

It was a grey day, with intermittent drizzle, but it wasn't too cold, so  enjoyed a walk along the beach.

There were a few surfers (although I think the surf must have been a bit disappointing) but other than the occasional dog-walker I had the beach pretty much to myself.

I spent some time peering into rock-pools, where there were lots of sea-anemones, and snails, and tiny little shrimpy things. I also found lots of shells - tiny, red-gold scallop shells, and mussels, and fingernail shells.

Further down the beach, beyond the rocks, it was sandy, and the lack of people meant that the patterns left by the outgoing tide were undisturbed, and beautiful.

On Sunday, it was much greyer and damper, so I enjoyed a nice long lie-in (It was disappointing not to have my parents there, as usually, when I visit, one of them brings me a cup of tea in the morning, provided I stay in bed long enough)

A little later, when the rain stopped, I went for a walk near the village - it was rather muddy and damp, but very pretty!

I then went through the woods - the path was mostly mud, covered with a thick layer of beech leaves and mast.

There was also the occasional fallen tree, and the woods themselves were a contrast of green and gold and black, as some trees had lost more of their leaves than others.

The walk ended with a climb up a steep, sheep-filled field. Which came as a bit of a surprise to me, as I'd forgotten the last bit of the walk!

And it started to rain once again, just as i got back to the house, which gave me a good excuse for sitting inside and reading Terry Pratchett for a bit, before heading home.

All in all, a very nice, low-key weekend.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Music, and a Quest for Sustenance

I was delighted when I found out that Bath would be one of the calling points on the European leg of Marian Call's 'Postcard' Tour - I love her music, and had a fantastic time when she played at my house last year.

The show was on Wednesday - it was a long day, but fun!

The show was at the Friends Meeting House in Bath, which I don't think I've ever been in before, despite having lived here so long. We were down in the half-basement, which quickly filled up. It was good to see Marian and Scott again, and to see Tamzin (who came to the house concert) and one or two other familiar faces.

You won't be surprised to learn that I had a thoroughly enjoyable time - Marian played lots of old favourites, including 'Good Morning, Moon', 'Dear Mr Darcy' and 'The Avocado Song', and also sang songs from her new album, 'Sketchbook'. I particularly liked 'Elementary' (Which is about St George, and the dragon, with a soupcon of Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock) and 'Paper and Pen' , a love-song to real, non-e-mail.

Scott played some of his songs, and, of course, there was audience participation with 'It's good to have Jayne on your side'

So much fun. (and Marian's was *not* the only Jayne hat in the hall, I noticed..) As this was part of the Post card tour, we all also got a lucky-dip postcard from Marian's mail bag (mine was written in Germany) and wrote and decorated cards to put back in the bag, for other fans to draw, or have posted to them.

After the show, a bunch of us helped to pick up in the hall, then headed out to look for food, for hungry musicians. Bath let us down rather - the pub we started with had stopped serving (which was a shame, as it looked really nice). So we went to an Indian Restaurant where, after ordering drinks, we found that they would not allow us to order light snacks - it was full meals or nothing, and as not everyone wanted to eat, we left.. (seems shortsighted of the restaurant - they weren't busy, and factoring in the drinks being bought they'd have been up on the deal even if not all of us had full meals..)

So, out into the dark Bath streets once again, on an increasingly desperate quest for food, which ended in a kebab shop, followed (after some sneaky, very quiet eating in the reception of Scott and Marian's hotel) by cocktails and conversation at Circo, where the conversation was wide-ranging (who knew how much entertainment could be had from a recitation of English place names?)

It was very late when I got back home, but I would not have missed it for anything, and do hope that we can continue to lure arian and Scott over here on a regular basis.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Thor: The Dark World (WARNING: some mild Spoilers!)

They've just built a new cinema in the town centre, which means I can now go to see films on impulse, rather than having to actually plan ahead, and on Sunday afternoon I decided to wander down there to see 'Thor: The Dark World' , because, well, why not?

I haven't actually seen 'Thor', although I have seen 'Avengers Assemble' and frankly, felt that anything with Tom Hiddleston's 'Loki' in it would be worth seeing!

And it was. Lots of  CGI, of course, lots of fighting, not quite enough Loki (when is there ever enough Loki?) plenty of humour. (I do like that the current crop of Marvel films don't take themselves too seriously).

I enjoyed the London based settings. I have to say that Sir Christopher Wren had excellent forethought, when he built the Royal Hospital at Greenwich to withstand alien invasion so well...

There were some minor annoyances -the tube scene - I mean, dammit, they were filming in London for months and no-one checked a tube map? (As those who know me know, I have all the sense of direction and navigational ability of a concussed kitten, and even *I* know the tube map better than that...) On a more serious note, I was a little disappointed in the Darcy character, who played into the 'geeky, socially inept woman' trope. And Jane Foster, despite being a highly qualified scientist, seems to spend a lot of the film moping over a man (well, demi-god) and/or waiting to be rescued, which is a little disappointing.

In terms of plot, I thought the Aether was a bit too much like the Star Trek reboot 'red matter' - Inexplicable, Evil Red Gloop, and there seemed to be a bit of a plot hole- how come the Dark Elves have technology equal to, or better than that of Asgard, given they've been asleep for 5,000 years? especially as Asgard have been fighting quite a few battles in the meantime, so presumably have been honing their weapons tech.

However, despite all these issues, I did very much enjoy the film, and I'm glad I went. I may even get around to watching the first film, now. 

Friday, 8 November 2013

Day to Day stuff

So, no exciting theatre trips or writers this week. In fact, the week started badly as I must have eaten something which disagreed with me, and since then it seems to have been nothing but rain and work, and work and rain.

And I'm working this Saturday, too.

I spent most of today on a course. I was pleasantly surprised with parts of it - if anyone had told me that Trusts could be made interesting (especially in the dead hour immediately after lunch) I would have mocked them mercilessly, but apparently it is possible. Of course, it may not be relevant unless I suddenly start to have lots of multi-millionaires wandering into my office, but still. If they do, I shall now feel more prepared.

Other parts were . . more what one expects of a CPD course..

This weekend I expect to be doing such thrilling things as raking up dead leaves, vacuuming the house and trying to organise my financial documents and shred the stuff which I don't need to keep.

So - not a lot in the way of excitement or bloggable activities.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Swans and Stuff in Stratford Upon Avon

As I was in Stratford upon Avon to see Richard II (or to see David Tennant, or to see friends, depending upon how you care to look at it), I was able also to spend some time wandering around the town.

The hotel my friend and I stayed at, is, at least in part, a Tudor building. It is immediately next to New Place (the site of the house Shakespeare bought when he became successful, and where he died)
Our Room.

Many of the rooms, as well as having numbers, have names, for various Shakespeare plays and characters.

We were a little worried when we saw our room...

I was relieved that pies weren't on the room service menu. and to be fair, our room was perfectly pleasant, and not, apparently, one of the haunted rooms which the hotel has (we did book on a cheapish deal. Perhaps they charge extra for the ghosts.)

In the morning we wandered around the town a little.
Swan Fountain
I really liked this sculpture - it was put up in 1996 to celebrate 800 years since the grant of the town's rights as market town.
The Swans of Avon
There were lots of real swans on the river, too.

Later, on my way home, I went via Mary Arden's house (in fact at least 2 houses, with a working farm)
Farmhouse at Mary Arden's house
Quite apart from the Shakespearean connection, it really is a town with more than its fair share of lovely buildings, both in and just outside the town.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Richard II

Back in March, when we saw that David Tennant would be playing Richard II at the RSC, some friends and I decided to book tickets, as what could be better that Shakespeare, David Tennant and friends?

The performance we had tickets for was yesterday evening, at the Royal Shakespeare theatre in Stratford Upon Avon.

I booked the whole day off work, and drive up in the morning, so 3 of us were able to meet up and have lunch, and then spend most of the afternoon (joined by the other two members of the party) catching up with one another's news, before a very nice pre-theatre dinner.

And then, the main event!

The Theatre
It was excellent. David Tennant as Richard II was superb, but the cast over all  was very strong - David Tennant is obviously the headline star but this is not a one man show - I was particularly impressed by Nigel Lindsay (Bolingbroke/Henry IV), who is presented as a blunt, plain-speaking man, a warrior, who does come over as, initially, seeking to recover his inheritance rather than to usurp the throne.

Unlike the other men in the play, who appear initially in mail, with swords, Richard is a regal, but frail-looking figure with long hair (Which takes a little getting used to) and long, formal robes - making a clear visual contrast between him and his courtiers.

I think Tennant is strongest in the later scenes in the play, as he loses his grip on his Kingdom. Richard does not come across as a likeable character - even in defeat, he is sarcastic, taunting Bolingbroke.

Michael Pennington's John of Gaunt was excellent - as the only other production of Richard II I have seen is the 'Hollow Crown' TV version, in which Patrick Stewart played Gaunt, so Pennington had a lot to live up to. And he did.

And a special mention is due to Oliver Rix (Aumerle), close to, and loving the King, but ultimately murdering him.
Picture from RSC website and (c) RSC
The only issue I had with the production was with some of the staging - there was a gantry at the back of the stage - we were a little worried that Richard and Aumerle were going to fall off, then later, during Act III Scene III, as Richard appears on the walls of Flint Castle - unfortunately, from our seats in the circle, the King was (apart from his ankles) wholly invisible. The ankles were very regal, but I cannot help but think that being able to see Mr Tennant in the full glory of his gold-embroidered robes might have been more impressive still. It seems a poor choice to have a critical scene in the play invisible to even part of the audience. But other than that, it was a superb production!

The Stratford and London runs are both, I believe, sold out, but the show is going to be broadcast live on 13th November. I recommend it.

Fun fact. On Friday morning, I heard David Tennant talking, on the radio, about a ring which was worn by Ian Richardson when he played Richard II, and given, by his widow, to David Tennant. 
Last night, he dropped it. Perhaps he has smaller fingers.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

The British Museum, and the British Weather

I forgot, when I was booking my train tickets to go to London for the Kickstarter party, that the clocks would be going back on Sunday morning, and I had anticipated that I  might be a wee bit hungover, and wanting a lie-in. I was also holding out hope I might be able to meet up with a friend, too, so I'd booked a ticket for 1pm.

As it happened, I wasn't hungover, didn't need the lie-in (just as well) and my friend wasn't free. so I did what any sensible person would do, and went to the British Museum. I like the British Museum.

Painted Drinking Cup, Athens, 460BCE
They have lots of interesting stuff, and it's free to get in, so you can pop in when you've a spare hour or so, and just browse a little.

This time, I mostly wandered around the ancient Greek sections - I don't recall having seen the Bassae Frieze before -
Detail of Bassae Frieze (approx 400BCE)
I particualrly liked these footsoldiers on the Neiried Monument, peering over their shields.
Detail of Frieze from the Neried Monument (Lykia, 380 BCE)
And the magnificent horse from the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. 
I gave the Parthenon marbles a miss, and wandered on to ancient Ninevah. I think it was Ninevah, anyway.

Then, a couple of hours on a train (and a  lot of time sitting on platforms waiting for trains) and home. Given the weather forecast, I was glad to be travelling on Sunday and not Monday, when they were threatening apocalyptic storms.

Monday, 28 October 2013

In Which There is Much Music, and Love, and Friends Old and New

Over a year ago, I went to the amazing Gig and Art Show which was one of the rewards for Amanda Palmer's Kickstarter. And through a newsish friend I met on twitter and at that gig, I got an invitation to one of the Kickstarter House Parties, which took place on Saturday.
Mary Wollstonecroft

And Oh, it was fun. It was held at Newington Green Unitarian church, which is a very long established Unitarian (formerly Dissenters) church, dating back to the early 18thC. Mary Wollstonecraft was a member of the congregation there, and there is a graffiti portrait of her outside. It was also the first religious establishment n Britain to refuse to carry out any weddings, until gay people have equal marriage rights with those who are straight. So, all in all, a good and welcoming venue!

I was a little later arriving than I'd planned, due to First Great Western's inability to stick to their own timetable, but fortunately the party started a couple of hours before Amanda was due to arrive.

Amanda (and friend)
I wasn't quite sure, at first, whether I'd found the right place, but when I went into the building and the first person I saw was an incredibly elegant woman in an evening gown, FreakAngels tattoo and bottle of champagne in one hand, I knew I must be in the right place.

I only knew 7 or 8 of the 40 people at the party, (well, that's all I knew when I arrived. Later . . more than that!) While we were waiting for Amanda to arrive we did all the things you do at parties, chatted, drank, ate, founded a new religion...

The religion will be rolling out worldwide as soon as we can think of a really good acronym and a reliable source of communion absinthe. I think. I was enjoying myself too much to remember the details.

The Grooms await their Bride
There was music, too, even before Amanda arrived. Clara (our hostess) and several other guests had brought instruments and talents.

When Amanda arrived, she spent a little time mingling, then we all drifted through to the church. And around that point, it was decided to hold a ninja wedding, for three of the house party guests, Thomas, Meta and Aurelien.

With help from flower-girls, ring bearer, holders-up-of -the chuppah, photographers  and such, all  recruited from the guests.

Presenting the rings
(In case you are wondering, the chuppah was an (approximately) 70 year old, one-eyed fox fur stole named Nick (after Nick Fury).)

While the vows were being written, the rest of us sang some hymns (All Things Bright and Beautiful, and 'We Will Rock You', but not Bohemian Rhapsody,)

Amanda in the Pulpit
The Bride was radiant, and the vows were beautiful, and there was much love and laughter. I felt it was a privilege to be there.

Amanda and Meta duetted with 'What a Wonderful World', then, like all the best wedding, there was more partying.

We were treated to a fairy tale, and then Amanda played and talked to us, about love, and music, and her visit to Palestine, and then sang to us,  including 'Coin Operated Boy', 'Map of Tasmania' 'Vegemite', and a candlelit rendition of 'Hallelujah'.

And more mingling, and conversation, and hugs. And people sitting on other people's shoulders (well, if we're honest, mostly people sitting on Random Dave's shoulders) That one may have involved more absinthe, in at least one case.

 And, well, FUN.

The party ended all too soon,although even the clearing up stage, being in such good company, was more fun than the average party. (admittedly, the average party does not involve mugs of champagne)

I know that some of the other guests went on, later, to the White Mischief Hallowe'en Ball. I would have loved to go, but one must (occasionally) accept one's limitations, and I've sadly never really mastered the art of going without sleep, so I ended the evening asleep in a rather dull hotel, rather than partying with beautiful zombies and vampires.

And feeling very grateful that I had the opportunity to go to such a great party. Thanks again to Amanda, for coming to play to and with us, and to Clara who organised it all, and trusted us all to come, and pay our share.

 I think (and hope) that Amanda enjoyed it too.

(My full photoset is here ) Another nice thing which happened at the part was that Hijo told me that there is an article in this week's New Statesman magazine about amanda's relationship with her fans, which includes a photo from the London Kickstarter show.. which was a nice way of reminding me of where this whole party started..)

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Fortunately, The Milk (Or, What I Did On My Birthday)

I was feeling a little pessimistic about Tuesday, as it was my birthday, one of the ones with a bit fat 0 on the end, but I am fortunate in having some very good friends, one of whom booked tickets for us to go to the Foyles event  of Neil Gaiman reading the whole of his new children's book, 'Fortunately the Milk' at the Central Methodist Hall in Westminster, and another friend came over too, and was generous enough to take me out for (a truly superb) lunch, so I began to feel more cheerful.
Birthday Candle!

I don't think I can do justice to the lunch. It started with snails, and finished with chocolate parfait and salted caramel ice cream, and Nathalie clearly told them it was my birthday...

There may have been some wine involved, too.

Fancy ceiling
We all met up outside the venue, and without ever quite deciding to do so, we wound up waiting for the doors to open, which meant we were very close to the front of the queue and able to sit in the front row once they let us into the hall. Inevitably, we bumped into several friends and acquaintances. The hall is an amazing venue - huge auditorium with a massive dome (and a stonking great pipe organ!) and has  a fascinating history -

Andrew O'Neill
It was built  on the site of the old London Aquarium, to mark the centenary of John Wesley's death, and opened in 1912. The first ever meeting of the UN General Assembly took place there, and it has hosted speakers as diverse as Mahatma Ghandi, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, and the Dalai Lama (not all at once, obviously)

And now Neil Gaiman.

This was no ordinary reading. The evening was introduced and compered by Andrew O'Neill, who started out by explaining he had a list of words he isn't supposed to say on stage, which he carefully read to us so we would recognise them when we heard them (including 'Bum', 'Number 2s' and 'Beyonce'), experimented with how loud, high and low we could all sing and let us in a brief but rousing chorus of 'We Will Rock You'.

Then we had music, from TV Smith and Tom Robinson. With some audience participation.

It was a lot of fun, and all before Neil even came on stage.

Once he did, things got even better. Which was quite an achievement.

Chris Riddell, who illustrated the (UK) version of the book was there to draw pictures as the story progressed - lovely pictures, especially the careful labelling to ensure that we could not miss the Milk. (after all, as Professor Steg says, "Where there is milk, there is hope")

Neil read the whole of 'Fortunately the Milk', with help from friends who played the Green Globby Aliens, Pirates, Worshippers of Splod, Wumpires, Ponies, Dwarfs and Space Dinosaur Police Officers.
Grumpy Pirates, as read by Mitch Benn and Tom Robinson

I thought my Dad was the World's Best Reader of Bedtime Stories With Funny Voices, but I think Neil may just have beaten him. (although to be fair, my Dad has never had the opportunity to read to 2,000 people, supported by such a talented cast)

It's hard to pick out a favourite part of the evening,
Lenny Henry, Space
Dinosaur Policeman
but I think one of the true highlights has to be the moment when Neil read out "Ah-Ha!" and a small child in the audience responded with a loud and triumphant "AH HAA!", and brought the house down. It was such  lovely proof that the s/he was really absorbed in the story!

One of the final special guests was the lovely Lenny Henry, who appeared in what I am sure will come to be known as a landmark performance in his acting career, as the Galactic Police Dinosaur. (lots of people can play great Shakespearean roles. Not eveyone can manage a Galactic Police Dinosaur)

Tash, Andrew O'Neill, TV Smith, Mitch Benn, Neil Gaiman, Niamh Walsh,
Lenny Henry and Siobhan Hewlett
all too soon, the story came to an end. I'm not sure who was having more fun - the 10 or so people on stage, or the 2,000 or so in the hall.

The final treat of the evening was a brief appearance by Amanda Palmer herself , who performed her 'Ukulele Anthem' (with an extra milk-related verse)

A perfect end to a perfect evening.

It's true what Neil said on his blog, though.There were no ladies jumping through rings of fire, and no human sacrifice. Although the milk had a close call.

My friends and I then took a walk through Trafalgar Square to admire the giant blue cock, and finished the night with dim sum.

So, based on my experience, I would say that if any of you are considering turning 40 in the near future, and are feeling down about it, there are a few simple steps you can take to combat those aging blues:

1. Make sure you have some amazing friends who will provide good company, and treats.
2. Get Neil Gaiman to write a new kids book and read it to you with a large backing ensemble.
3. That's it.

Honestly, if I had known turning 40 would be this much fun, I would have done it years ago

Full set of photos here

(Edited to add in video of Neil talking about the book)