Sunday, 28 September 2014

Dave McKean at Bath Kids Lit. Fest

Saturday morning was devoted to dull but necessary tasks, such as getting up far too early for a Saturday in order to get a 'flu jab, buying food, doing laundry and getting a cat-flap installed ready for when the kittens are allowed out.

The afternoon, however, was much more fun. 

This year's Bath Festival of Children's Literature has begun, and one of the events was 'In Conversation with Dave McKean' which took place on Saturday afternoon at the Holburne Museum.

I was  particularly keen to see Dave McKean, partly because I love his work, but also as his event last year had to be cancelled, as he was prevented from getting to Bath by major road delays! 

He started his presentation by apologising for last year, and explaining that he had arrived in Bath 3 hours early, this time, to ensure that there wasn't a repeat of that issue!

He then gave us a whistle-stop tour of some of his works, with illustrations,  concentrating in particular on the work he has done with children's books.  It was particularly interesting to me to hear him explaining to people who might not know, who Neil Gaiman is, with particular reference to his Crazy Hair!

He also talked about his work with David Almond (in glowing terms, and pointing out first that David was sitting in the audience!) Richard Dawkins and S.F.Said, speaking a little about the techniques he had used for some of the different art works.

He mentioned that his new film, Luna, is out soon. He didn't play us the trailer, as it is not a children's film (apparently it has just been classified as a 15) but did mention that it will be showing in Bath next month, and that he will be doing a QandA, but he did play us Sheepdip, Johnson and Dupree whicch was fun.

After the event he signed books - sadly the  event bookseller had not brought any copies of his new book Pictures That Tick (Vol 2) - they only had older ones (all of which I already own!) but Dave himself had brought along some spare copies of Jazz (in Quotes) which is a limited edition collection of illustrated quotes, which was produced for SDCC, so I was able to get one of those, and to get Dave to sign a couple of my existing books. 

All in all, a most satisfactory evening. And when I got home, I was able to book a ticket for the screening of Luna

Saturday, 27 September 2014

In Which there is Wildean Fun

We are very fortunate that Bath Theatre Royal has(usually) a new show every week, plus the productions at the Ustinov, and we get to see many productions wither before, or after, a West End run. 
This season is particularly rich, and I was rather extravagant in the number f tickets I booked when the brochure came out...

Last night I was in Bath to meet up with my 2nd Cousin, to have dinner and go to see  'The Importance of Being Earnest', starring Nigel Havers, Martin Jarvis and Siân Phillips

There is, of course, a slight issue with this - Havers is 63, Jarvis 73, and Gwendolen (Cherie Lunghi) and Cecily (Christine Kavanagh) are also older than the average debutante.

To address this issue, this production used the setting of an aging amateur dramatics group, preparing for a production of 'Importance', the idea being that we are watching the final dress rehearsal, at the home of two of the members. 

This kind of works: There are jokes about the cucumber sandwiches being eaten by members of the cast, and side play involving a stage hand with a ladder, but while these were entertaining, I am not entirely sure that that production might not have been better played straight, despite the advanced age of the players.

Once the Wilde was under way, it was excellent, but there were points where I felt that the wish to follow through with the 'modern Am Dram' meant that there were some points where this overshadowed the original play - for instance, Gwendolen's line about the name Ernest 'producing vibrations' is an excude for some very modern over-acting, which was a shame.

All that said, it was a lot of fun. Siân Phillips was excellent in the Lady Bracknell role, as was Rosalind Ayers as Miss Prism. Nigel Havers played Nigel Havers beautifully.

I'm glad I went, and I had fun, but I think another time I would prefer to watch the play Wilde write, not one with additions by Simon Brett!

Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Naming of Cats

I have always had cats, and after Tybalt  died early last year, it was only ever going to be a matter of time! Once I felt ready for another cat, I did put it off a little while as I was moving house, but once I had done that, and having returned from Amsterdam, I felt the time had come. 

Those of you who follow me on Twitter or are friends on facebook will have noticed that there has been a net increase in the number of kittens in my life.

Meet Small Kitten and his sister, Very Small Kitten.
Very Small Kitten

Small Kitten
They came home with me on 10th September, from a small local rescue - Very Small was the runt of the litter, and although it's a little hard to tell from the pictures, she was only about 2/3 the size of Small, and weighed just 1 Kilo (2.2lbs) to his 1.5 Kilos. 

Kittens find a comfy seat
And although when I went to chose which 2 of the 4 kittens would come home with me, that they were all black and white, it's clear that Very Small is actually very dark brown, with some tabby swirls if you look closely enough.
Very Small Kitten  and envelopes

Unlike Tybalt, who was always rather shy and jumpy, and who took months before he would sit on me, the kittens took about half an hour, and quickly established that my shoulder and chest made suitable perches for small cats.

As, indeed, does my lap, my laptop, the windowsills, the bookcases... you get the picture!

They were so very small when they arrived that it has taken a while to determine their names. 

I had thought about Shakespearean names again, but while Very Small could, perhaps, have been an Ophelia, Small lacks the dignity and darkness needed for Hamlet, and although they have the spiky affection which would suit Benedick and Beatrice I'm not overly fond of Beatrice as a name...

So then we considered other literary inspirations, not forgetting the fact that, being cats, they are of course (at the very least) demi-gods.

The Naming of Cats, is, after all, as T.S. Eliot knew, a serious matter, and Mr Gaiman has explained that Cats don't need names, as they know who they are, so I felt we could could take a little time to get it right. 

And I think, now, that we have come to an agreement.

His Lordship, Loki Calcifer Benedict Cat
Small Kitten may now be addressed by his human minions as Loki Calcifer Benedict.

Her Ladyship, Coraline Sekhmet Ophelia Cat (She Who Mauls)

Very Small Kitten will allow herself to be spoken to as Coraline Sekhmet Ophelia. 

Being cats, they of course ignore their names, but I feel they ignore them in a way which makes it clear that they ignoring them specifically.

I don't speak fluent cat, but I think they have names me "Hey You, Minion".

October In The Chair

While I was in Amsterdam, I saw 'October in the Chair' , by Old Sound Roomwhich was showing as part of the Amsterdam Fringe. 

(C) OldSoundRoom
The production is based on a number of Neil Gaiman's short stories, (mainly from 'Fragile Things') and is superb! 

I won't go into too much detail (Spoilers, Sweetie!) but will say that the small cast (five members) manage to portray a large and changing cast, with the help of quick (on stage) costume changes, props and puppets. 

I loved the imaginative introduction to the performance, and particularly enjoyed their interpretation of 'Firebird' - and over all, I felt that they captured the tone and atmosphere of Neil's stories.

The Fringe festival is over, now, but the show will be performed in New York at the end of October - well worth seeing, if you can make it!

Saturday, 20 September 2014

What I Did on My Holidays - Amsterdam

I travelled to Amsterdam on a 'Rail and Sail' package, with trains from London to Harwich and Hoek van Holand to Amsterdam, and an overnight ferry in between. It's obviously slower than flying, but much more civilized - being able to have a meal, shower and go to bed certainly beats hours in an airport!

I visited Amsterdam once before, about 10 years ago, but haven't been back since. Part of my reason for going was that it would enable me to see a performance of 'October in the Chair', a project based on Neil Gaiman's short stories, which I supported via Kickstarter, but I also wanted to see the city again, and I enjoyed my visit.

I visited the Rijksmuseum, which has, among other things, a large collection of ship-builder's models, some loot  trophies of war, including the stern transom carving from a British Ship, the Royal Charles captured in 1667, in Chatham, Kent...

The museum also, of course, houses Rembrandt's 'The Night Watch', which is, I admit, and impressive painting, but I confess that I'm not a big fan of his style of painting, and spent most of my time elsewhere in the museum.

I also spent a wonderful morning in the Van Gogh Museum, which is (obviously) full of the most glorious art. 

I didn't know, (or had forgotten) that the skeleton smoking a cigarette was his - and that he painted works influenced by Japanese prints.

I spent a while with my (current) favourite - the Irises I took the precaution of going on a week day, and at opening time, which meant that the galleries were not too crowded.

Nor were these the only museums I visited. I also went to the Kattenkabinet, a glorious little museum dedicated to cats (and occupied by several, although I did not meet them on this occasion) It has little gems by Picasso, Rembrandt and Steinlen, as well as less elevated art. 

I also spent a day in Haarlem, with a Dutch friend of my sister and brother in law (they met while travelling in Turkey!) and we had a lovely day, looking at canals and windmills and beer (there was a wonderful brewery in a deconsecrated church) and visiting Teylers Museum - the oldest museum in the Netherlands. 

It was lovely to have a day in good company, particularly as I was mostly alone.

As well as the museums in Amsterdam and Haarlem, I spent a lot of time wandering around and enjoying the architecture, and of course visited the flower market, where I bought some more wooden tulips, to go with the ones I bought last time I visited, and some tulip bulbs,which I shall try to grow for next spring. 

I also wandered along the outside of the Ship museum to see the various historic vessels they have.

And I went, one morning, to the Holander Manege, a riding school based on the famous Spanish Riding school in Vienna. You can go and take tea on the balcony and watch people as they ride, and I did so, although the riders were having lessons, rather than riding beautiful figures, but it was still pleasant to watch!

I also visited the Begijnhof - a peaceful, enclosed 'square', with a couple of churches - it was originally a religious retreat for unmarried/widowed women, where the oldest house in Amsterdam is situated.  (It is still occupied solely by women!) 

Naturally, I took the opportunity while in the country to try a few specialities such as poffertjes (thick, mini pancakes) and stroopwafels. And some beer. 

I enjoyed my break, and would have liked to have stayed longer.
Sunrise over Harwich

More photos on Flickr, for those interested.

Friday, 19 September 2014

What I did On My Holidays - London

This is a somewhat late blog - I am not on holiday  any more, but my laptop has been playing up so I haven't been able to blog for a bit, but it has randomly restarted, so I'm making the most of it!

I decided to go to Amsterdam for a few days, and went via London. I wanted to see the exhibition 'Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red'',  the installation by Paul Cummins, at the Tower of London, commemorating WWI. 

There will eventually be 888,246 poppies, one for each British fatality during WWI.

It is pretty sobering to see the vast numbers of poppies and to realise that the installation isn't complete yet.

You don't have to go into the tower to see the poppies, but once I got there, I decided to go in and have a look around.

I have been to the tower before, but I was about 8 at the time, so I don't recall it in huge detail.

I was there on a Wednesday, so it wasn't too crowded, and I was able to wander around.

It is impressive - the Tower itself was built by William the Conqueror in around 1078, although  there are Roman ruins on the site -  and it still holds the crown jewels (I went to see them. They are proof that the Royal family has never allowed good taste to
Raven and Yeoman Warder
 stand in the way of Really Glittery Stuff)

There is also an exhibition of armour and wooden horses and stuff. It had my favourite ever caption for an exhibition - after boating that the exhibition has, in one form or another been at the Tower since 1652, it adds proudly "the exhibition was changed several times over the next 300 years"  which you have to admit, is nice, as even the best exhibition can get a bit dull after the first hundred years or so!

There is a dragon on the top floor.

After spending several hours wandering around, I decided to go and hunt book-benches - the National Literacy Trust had arranged for lots of benches, decorated by various artists and celebrating specific books to be placed around London. 

I didn't get to see all the  Books about Town, but did find all of the 'Riverside Trail', from Tower Bridge down to the Globe. 
My favourites were The Librarian, Paddington Bear, and Shakespeare.

And then there were trains and a boat, to get to the Netherlands. It was an interesting day.

More pictures on Flickr for those who may be interested

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

In Which I Go Shopping

I was not in work today, or yesterday, being technically on holiday. But still at home, which is quite relaxing as it requires very little packing.

Of course, it's probably more relaxing if you remember to tell the alarm clock on your phone  *not* to  go off as if it is a Monday morning and you have to go to work....

It did mean, however, that I had no excuse for not getting up and doing stuff. Stuff, in this context, meaning going shopping as sadly, both my favourite jeans and my second favourite jeans have reached that point in their lives where they are starting to become unsuitable to wear in polite company, due to holes in unseemly places.

Also my proper, not-quite-walking-boots shoes have reached the end of their natural life, so I needed to buy some new walking shoes/trainers, too.

I don't like shopping. But sometimes, you have to bow to the inevitable.

As shopping goes, it was a successful day.

I bought some jeans, and some shoes, and a couple of tops, and a couple of dresses, and I picked up 2 books I'd ordered from Mr B's, and succumbed to the temptation of one more (but only one!!) And apart from the jeans, all of the clothes are things I should be able to wear at work as well as at home, which is good. 

But it was a little stressful, as I don't like it. It is better when I can go in the week when the shops are not too crowded!

Today involved lots of house work, mowing the lawn, running lots of errands and such like. There may also have been a certain amount of napping. It's a *long* time  since I've have much time off and I think several months of stress at work are catching up with me.