Sunday, 26 October 2014

A Quiet Weekend

After a couple of weekends having, and being a visitor, this weekend was quieter.

Saturday involved making my Christmas cake, doing laundry, reading the papers and, of course, playing with the kittens.

They have not yet quite worked out how to use the cat-flap - they haven't yet sussed that they can open it for themselves, so I am propping it open for them and hoping they work it out before the weather gets much colder! 

It's only in the last week that they have been allowed out unsupervised - the first day I left for work leaving the cat flap open I felt a little like parents leaving their children at school on the first day must feel!   

(I came home to snuggly cats, with wet feet, so they had obviously been out and about while I was out!)

Then on Sunday there was the thrilling cleaning and vacuuming, a quick trip into Bath to pick up my copy of 'Pictures that Tick:Vol 2., and one of this year's 'Book are my Bag' bags. 

I was also able to admire their lovely, newly decorated  Chris Riddell loo!

Apparently he came in to decorate it while he was in Bath for the Kids Lit. Fest.and personally decorated it! 

I particularly like the pipes, all carefully marked 'gurgle'.

I was very good, and only bought one book apart from the one I had ordered, and it's going to be christmas present, so it doesn't really count as me buying books..

On the way home, I called it at the village hall, where there is an exhibition about the history of the village - it has been part of a bigger exhibition (covering, I think, 3 local villages) at the local museum, and was set up in the Village Hall this weekend. 

It was quite interesting - it didn't, as I had hoped it might, include any old photos of my house or information about when it was built, but I did learn that Samuel Taylor Coleridge passed through in 1794 and write a poem about a spring here (although unfortunately mis-remembered the name of the village). 

Beau Nash had family here, and may have lived here, (although based on what I know of Beau Nash, I suspect his connection may have involved shaking the dust of the village from his feet at the earliest opportunity, never to return) Gainsborough apparently also passed through, although apparently only to see his doctor!

More recently, the village seems to have lowered the bar a little for 'famous links' - Queen Mary visited a soldiers'  recuperation home here during WW2. 

After that, in the 'Famous people' section,  we were down to the local doctor, (retired after a lengthy career, in 2002) who used to make house-calls on horse-back, and who cross-qualified as a vet in order to look after the health of his own horse!.

I knew that the village was a mining village - now I know where all of the mines were - and also where the railway ran, which I didn't know before.

All in all, an interesting way to spend an hour! 
I think next weekend is mostly likely to involve finding out whether or not the kittens are freaked out by fireworks. Tybalt, despite being very nervous generally, was totally unfazed by them. I am hoping this pair are the same...

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Hypochondriacs, Hamlet, Friends and Fun

There's been a lot of theatre in my life just recently. Last weekend, my parents came down for the weekend, and we went to see 'The Hypochondriac'  in Bath, starring Tony Robinson. It's not a play I've seen before, and I admit that I had vaguely assumed, given that it is a classic of French theatre, that it would be erudite as well as funny.  

I discovered that it is (in this new translation, at least) pure farce, with many jokes about pee and shit. The plot, involving an avaricious 2nd wife, a beautiful daughter in love with an unsuitable young man,and a selfish father, is predictable, but none the less fun for that, and we enjoyed the evening.

Then *this* weekend, I was up in Manchester to visit some very good friends, and we went out to see 'Hamlet' at the Royal Exchange.

This production features Maxine Peake in the title role - I'm most familiar with her as the tough barrister, Martha, in the TV series 'Silk', although she also appeared as 'Doll Tearsheet' in Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 when they were filmed  for the 'Hollow Crown' series. 

I have not seen her live on stage before.

It was an excellent production - Peake's Prince comes across as vulnerable, and very much a grieving child, rather than a Prince resentful of the loss of his throne.

I didn't feel that there was much chemistry between Hamlet and Ophelia (Katie West) but Ophelia seemed a fuller character than she often is - very aware of the manipulative way which Claudius and Polonia use her, and unhappy about it. Which feeds in well to her grief and madness following the death of her mother.

The play has some cuts - all mention of Fortinbras and the Norwegians have been cut, leaving very little in the way of political content. There have also been some changes to the play - Laertes returns home in time to see Ophelia in her madness, for instance, and the 'To be, or not to be' soliloquy comes later in the play than normal. 

Hamlet - Maxine Peake ( (c) Royal Exchange Manchester / Jonathan Keenan)
 On the whole, I thought the production was very good, with an extremely strong cast. John Shrapnel (playing the ghost of Hamlet's father, and Claudius) was suitably unlikeable as Claudius.

There were one or two things I wasn't too keen on (aren't there always?) - for instance, in contrast to the otherwise fairly sparse staging, the gravedigger scene suddenly involved a big heap of old clothes falling from the ceiling and being 'dug' to make Ophelia's grave, with Yorick's skull being represented by a rolled or folder sweater. I assume that the aim was to avoid the cliche of an actual skull, but I found it rather distracting and out of keeping with the rest of the production.

However, this was a pretty minor issue in an over all very strong production, and I'm really pleased that we saw it. I think the run ends this Friday so not many chances more to see it!

The rest of the weekend was lovely - lots of relaxed time with dear friends!

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Stephen Fry, Cinema and cats

Last Wednesday there was another live broadcast to cinemas - not a play or ballet this time, but the lovely Mr Stephen Fry, talking as part of the publicity for his new book, 'More Fool Me'

The cinema had not sold many tickets, which I didn't find particularly surprising: it was a Wednesday night, plus the cinema has only fairly recently started to do the live theatre screenings or other 'art' events (unlike the two other cinemas  the district showing the live broadcasts, both of which have been showing 'art house' , rare and foreign language films for decades, and have therefore, naturally, built up a loyal audience for such films.

Which is relevant, as when we arrived (and it turned out that the start time had been changed by the broadcaster, so we had a wait) the cinema owner (Retired -I think his daughter(s) now run it) came into the auditorium, and having started well by welcoming us and explaining the reason for the delay, he then unfortunately decided to give us all a scolding about how if not enough people come to the live screenings then they won't be able to continue, and it involves  a lot of work,and how more people ought to come. 

It went on for about 10 minutes,  and really soured the evening. I can understand that he might be frustrated at the low turn out, but seemed to have missed the point that those of us sitting there, having bought tickets, are not the ones who need convincing. And I doubt anyone would show up in response to  a scolding.

Fortunately the evening improved once the broadcast began and Mr Fry came on screen.

He was (as anticipated) highly entertaining, in particular talking about his encounters with Prince Charles, (with passing reference to the perils of being friendly with impressionists, if you get unexpected personal phone calls from the heir to the throne..), who came to tea one Christmas. (Cue Rowan Atkinson frantically vacuuming, and discussions as to whether serving Battenburg cake would be considered a commentary on the Prince's ancestry, and what to serve to the bodyguards..

He also spoke about his current love of technology, and his love of reading and how important books and the mobile library were to him when he was growing up, and a little about his past use of cocaine, which is of course what made all the headlines the following morning.

An entertaining evening, apart from the poor start.

And the cats? They have had their second set of jabs, so they will be allowed to go outside very soon. I did take them each out briefly on a lead at the weekend, just in the back garden,which they both seemed to enjoy. 

I've had a new cat flap put in, but until they are a bit bigger, and have had their ops, won't be letting them out unsupervised (They will be getting their microchips while they are sedated for neutering, so they are not chipped yet)

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Garth Nix and Joe Abercrombie at the Bath Kids Lit. Festival

I was back in Bath this evening for an interview with Joe Abercrombie and Garth Nix (conducted by John McLay, who is the festival director)
Garth Nix and Joe Abercrombie

I have seen Joe a few times before, at Bristol Con, although I have not got around to reading any of his work, yet.

I love Garth Nix's work, and 'Old Kingdom' books in particular, so I was very excited to hear he has written a prequel to the existing trilogy, Clariel, (which officially comes out next week, but which was available at the event, so naturally I bought a copy!)

The event was a lot of fun, both Garth and Joe appeared to be enjoying themselves, and to be interested in the questions being asked.

Garth mentioned having recently rediscovered his first ever 'book' written when he was 8 or 9, leading to questions about whether either agreed with the proposition that a writer ought to throw away their first two or three books.Joe did not agree, commenting that as his first 3 books books are his trilogy, throwing them away without trying t get them published would have been a bit of a waste! 

Garth was kind enough to share the golden rule of getting stuff published (you have to finish things - finishing stuff doesn't guarantee you'll be published, but not finishing pretty much guarantees you won't get published!)