scribbles tagged ‘live performances’

Beethoven in the baroque basilica

Monday, April 13th, 2015 | tags: , , , , ,  |
St. Mary's Basilica

St Mary’s Basilica

St. Mary's BasilicaSt. Mary’s Basilica  (1914)  is less than a mile from my home, I can see it’s imposing dome from my windows. It was the first ‘Basilica’ in the USA. Designed by a French architect, Emmanuel Louis Masqueray, trained in Paris, the Minneapolis-opedia says:

The pro-cathedral’s architecture reflected Masqueray’s training at the prestigious Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. The pro-cathedral was designed in the style of late Renaissance and Baroque churches in France and Italy. Masqueray wanted the pro-cathedral to create a serene impression through perfect proportions, good lighting, and sincere composition. The focus of his design was the wide nave, or main worship space. At the time, it was said to be the widest nave in the world.

The lower windows are colourfully decorated with characters from the old testament. It’s not a church style I’m familiar with. I did recognise the fluer de l’isle built into the decoration, recognise the French connection.

I lit a candle for Dad

St. Mary's Basilica

Detail of glass window

I wandered in at 2.05pm on a Saturday afternoon to find a fantastic concert in progress. Minnesota Sinfonia performing Beethoven’s piano concerto #4 in g major, opus 58. Beautiful music filling this vast place. The audience were all shapes, sizes and colours. Some people looked homeless, shabby and sleeping in the pews. Other’s looked wealthy, dressed-up for a special event. Children in smart outfits, families that looked like tourists

The event was free

Because it was free, it gifted a spontaneous happiness, I donated more than I would have paid for a ticket. Free, quality, live music produced by experts in a building built by experts, built for the people, this is the sort of ‘humanity’ that inspires


Beethoven in the baroque basilica
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hold on tight!

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013 | tags: , , , , ,  |

Nicholas Ransley & Catrin AurThere was a charmingly shambolic tone to John Pryce-Jones conducting of the tasty Welsh National Opera orchestra for their Christmas Proms at Bristol’s Colston hall.

Rating: :-)  :-)  :-)

Ratings explained

Just John?

It wasn’t an Omnishambles by any stretch of the imagination. A completely retrievable set of miner shamblings by John that in no way seemed to undermined the orchestra’s ability to put on an awesome show. A very polished performance by the orchestra.

Christmas spirit?

The shamblings started when John introduced the 3rd piece in the set – and got it wrong. The Orchestra subtly let him know. John tried again, wrong again. By his fourth attempt he had worked-out what piece he was introducing. The audience giggled affectionately. Even the orchestra seemed amused by his unawareness of the running order. As the evening progressed and John threw in some sexist stereotypes under the guise of witty retorts to introduce each piece – he seemed drunk. His keenness to hold onto the rail around the conductors stand didn’t help make him look sober.

A blacker pot

The most entertaining part of John’s performance was when he shifted from conducting the orchestra to conducting the audience. We definitely needed his help, we didn’t know the tempo, the pitch, and couldn’t even remember the words to ‘Rule, Britannia’. We surely were a bit pathetic. Even our flag waving was decidedly below-par, no wonder are no longer an empire. We were a bit damp squibb-ish.

What was the set list?

My favourite was Grieg’s ‘In the hall of the mountain king’. The ‘Dam Busters March’ seemed like a bit of an outsider It certainly kept me happy and toe-tapping. I found ‘Those Magnificent men in their flying machines’ a tad more befuddling, a bit of befuddlement can be a good thing.

Musical Menu

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One Plucking Thing After Another

Monday, April 4th, 2011 | tags: , , , , ,  |

The People’s Republic of South Yorkshire brings us 8 players of- Bass, Barritone, Tenor, Soprano and Fridge Magnet Ukeleles. Fresh from New York’s Carniegie Hall with only hand luggage, the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain played the New Theatre Oxford to the delight of a mature audience and their teenage offspring. Witty banter inbetween singing, whistling, dancing all accompanied by Ukulele playing.  Playing songs from one musical genre in another style, for example, Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights re-interpretted in the genre of Swing bands

Recommended for anyone with a sense of humour, love of diverse musical genres or 80’s music, and Yorkshire people.

4 smiles: Ratings explained

The set included:

  • Hawkwind’s Silver Machine as an ode to commuters
  • David Bowie’s Life on Mars delivered with duet lyrics from other songs. One person singing I did it my way and so on while the lead vocalist sang the main lyric. It was fascinating, creative and worked extremely well.
  • Ian Dury and the Blockheads Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll as a polite tea party
  • Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights as a Swing band
  • Wheatus’s Teenage Dirtbag” as a polite love song
  • Sex Pistols Anarchy in the UK as a group campire singalong
  • Recognisable classical stuff that I am sadly ill-equipped to name
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Read dating people

Saturday, February 19th, 2011 | tags: , , , , , , ,  |

The evening started with a £3 fee, a sticky name-tag, an empty-crib-sheet for notes, two opposing rows of 10 chairs, and a glass of wine. The organiser, Laura, recognised me by my bookMervyn Peake’sLetters from a lost uncle

Soon the evening was buzzing with quick animated talk as we used our 2 minute timed slots to promote our favourite book to each other. 20 people, each with 2 minutes to entice another person to read their favourite book. At the end of the 40 minutes we all voted for the book we liked-best.

A fascinating cross section of books, people and Library staff. All personable, quirky and good natured. And me. Organising this diverse collection of literary enthusiasts is a challenge. The Reading Central library team failed with flare and  improvised with charming grace.

For people that want a novel introduction to a range of books, to meet local people, and have a good swig of wine thrown in, this is an excellent event.

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Read Dating crib sheet

Two minute book promotion techniques varied from reading 4 pages of bulleted notes on a book I’d been given as an 18th birthday present, read, and loved (Lynne’s Gormenghast trilogy) to Marie Claire’s brief, almost self-apologetic, statement ‘Its like a soap opera, its about people‘ (Men from the boys by Tony Parsons).

Adam produced a polished, yet souless, advocation of Wuthering Heights. If I hadn’t already read the book his persepctive ofnHeathcliffe as misunderstood by the general reading public would have put me off reading it. Adam had no sense of tailoring his delivery to the audience, to me. His delivery felt cold, dispassionate.

Arathy bought the book that had changed her life ‘The science of self realisation‘ by his divine grace Srila Prabhupada. Ernestly she showed me chapter headings and managed to talk in a way that I found difficult to follow. I tried asking her questions about how it had changed her life but she didn’t manage to give me an insight into her revelations, her life before and her life after the change. I was pleased for her discovery but not persuaded that this book would engage me.

During a mid-session break I uncovered snippits of these people’s lives, an emigrant from Australia, an unemployed teenager from Henley-on-Thames, and a mother who’s children had recently left home learning German to fill the gap. No-one asked about me. Even in the midst of lively conversations my ability to feel invisible seeps in.

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Squeeze and the Lightening Seeds

Monday, November 22nd, 2010 | tags: , , , , ,  |

Lightening SeedsYour average height, 5″5 ¾, English gal standing in the stalls at a gig (Pop concert) has to decide whether to crane her neck for a view or

DANCE her socks off

Given the bands were Squeeze and the Lightening Seeds the decsion was easy – I opted for sock abondonment. Whenever I glanced up and between the gently rocking plumpified bodies of the middle-aged couples afront I could see fabulous back-drops and light displays. Displays clearly designed to entertaining the heightedly-average person such as myself. Good show. It was.

During the interval I joined the logistic challenge of ordering beers by acting as part of the chain to pass them from the bar through the 10-person deep seemingly random crowd that was actually multiple orderly queues. I’d forgotten the subtle skills and social coordination necessary to purchase a round of drinks at a sell-out concert in a large venue. It was fun, I got to meet and talk to other people in the Queue about their journey’s to the gig, their past experiences of seeing the bands. It’s a friendly psuedo-muddle.

SqueezeBy lifting my arm into the air I gained a snapshot into what the world looks like for taller people and those average heighties who are prepared to wear ankle-threatening high  heals. With only 6 inches difference in height the world would look so different.

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The Lightening Seeds sang the life of Riley

Squeeze sang up the junction

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sound of the streets

Monday, June 7th, 2010 | tags: , ,  |

Life seemed to move with music in Turin.  Music wafting from windows onto city streets, wafting around the cemeteries, sliding across parkland.  Together with the wonderful sunlight the music lifted the mood of the place.

I fell in love with Turin.


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smiley happy people

Sunday, April 4th, 2010 | tags: , , ,  |

Lots of singing and dancing in the isles at the Bristol Hippodrome production of The Niel Sedaka story “Laughter in the rain“.   Mumzie was jigging and clapping during the substantial encore pastiche of Sedaka songs.  Other than being familiar with the songs I knew nothing about Niel Sedakas life and I fully enjoyed the production.  

3  smiles: Ratings explained

Audience.   Given that the  production could be enjoyed with little knowledge of Niel Sedaka  it was sad to find the Hippodrome less than a quarter full on a Friday night.   Mumsie and I happily moved from our cheap seats to closer seats with a more expensive view.  Judging by the silver hair, short people with warped backs the audience were mainly over 60 years. At 46 I was probably the youngest audience member.

Venue. 1912 building with tiers,  boxes and a huge dome all  decorated in Rococo style gold plasterwork providing a lavish music hall feel. During the production I decided to pick-up a copy of Carol King’s ‘Tapestry’ and some Niel Sedaka music.   Sadly, the Hippodrome didn’t provide the opportunity for the audience to purchase this kind of related merchandise.

Production. Niel’s story moved from song to song, highlighting the personal significance of each song ‘Oh Carol’, ‘breaking up is hard to do’, and  ‘last song together’.   Some songs were cast  with a slightly new significance to move the story forward.   For example, according to album notes ‘the immigrant’ was originally written as a comment of John Lennon’s application for US citizenship being rejected.   In  this production it is sung when Niel leaves the US to come to the UK where he feels  he will be given more creative freedom to develop as an aritst than the US allowed him.   Some of the significant life events were fascinating, for example,  10cc  encouraging Niel to record any song he wanted in anyway, resulting in Solitaire then ay its inception Elton John  asking Niel to be one of Rocket Record’s artists.

The photographs of story-contenporary, buildings, people, places, and record covers projected on the backdrop as Niel’s story unfolded were fascinating social-cultural history.

Production brochure in front of Dr. Who credits


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reading at Reading

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010 | tags: , , , ,  |

Ashley F Harrold Lesley Saunders reading her work
Ashley F Harrold and guest  Lesley Saunders reading at Reading’s poetry cafe.  

In May one of my most-favourite poets, if I am  allowed more than one favourite, Brian Patten, will be the guest.     That’s as exciting as the delivery of dry chopped wood to a house heated by a wood-burner during a cold-snap when the current supply of wood has run-out.

There appears to be an ongoing controversey about the  labelling and meaning of the sections. These sections, bits,  stages,  modes, are referred to as ‘halves’ by the young bearded Mr. Harrold.   This controversey is revisited at the begining of each cafe meeting to ensure the audience is not suprised by the unexpected onset of an interval or ‘half’.

Many locals take part in open Mic’ sections.   That’s not open micky-taking it’s open-microphone in trendy shorthand.    I’m beginning to recognise some of the open mic  regulars,   especially those who’s work I like.  

In 2004 Ashley  said:

Most of the open mic poets we have are pretty good, I think they must put something in the water in Reading as we always have a decent quality, compared with other open mics elsewhere in the country, which is heartening and inexplicable.”


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sleeping beauty

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010 | tags: , , ,  |

Bath Theatre RoyalMy parents, brothers and nieces all turned up at  the Theatre Royal Bath production of sleeping beauty.   3 generations laughing together at topical bad jokes involving duck houses, MP’s expenses and discrimination against ginger people.  

I was a little confused by the principle boy being an actual boy.   No girls dressing-up as boys in this production.   The songs were excellent and included perky famous dittys like  ‘Could it be magic’.   Lots of children dancing around, some slapstick and shouting and chanting.   Much fun for everyone.  

Family pantomime outings are THE BESTEST!

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Blah mange

Sunday, December 20th, 2009 | tags: , , , , , , ,  |

AFHJohn Hegley

Once again Reading’s December Poet’s cafe offered the treat of  the engaging Mr. Hegley.  

Mr. Hegley manages varied and entertaining audience participation during his perfomance.  

For one poem he found a member of the audience that was prepared to nominate another member of the audience to translate a poem from French.     John would read each line and the audience member translated.   For each line John would comment on the quality of the translation.      Some of the French phrasing lent itself you English people making   translational errors.   The mistakes lead to some smile and laughter inducing imagery.    

I giggled myself off the chair on several occassions,  

Another form of participation involved the audience being given a line to sing on cue from John.   For example,   when he said ‘blah’ we had to say ‘mange’.   I do like being able to take part.

During the evening’s events I learned many things including

  • there are many, published, poets in Reading that regularly attended the poets cafe
  • John’s head moves with agility through  all sorts of angles, often quite dramatic.
  • AFH’s fingers are prone to splaying  and twirling

I wonder what bodily movement I should develop to enhance my (to-be-developed)  poem delivery talents?

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David Byrne | Songs of David Byrne and Brian Eno

Saturday, April 11th, 2009 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

Air can hurt you tooOutstanding. Highly recommended.

My 4 day holiday weekend kick-started with  a magical evening of slick, creative, quality performances in  glowing cricketish whites over a glass of wine in the circle of the Oxford New Theatre.

Choreography  variously  included  synchronised office-chair twirling and dancers leap-frogging David while he played.  A packed audience of  silver-haired and teenage people  bounced in the good natured holdiay-ready atmosphere.

David’s vocal control and pitch has matured beautifully adding more depth to classic tracks, those played  included: Air, I Zimbra, Once in a lifetime, Take me to the river.

David was his usual unassuming, audience focused, personable-self.   When he noticed venue staff asked audience members to sit-down he stopped the band mid song and gave people explicit permission to stand-up and dance,  then  picked-up the song again where they had left-off.

Alien t-setA David-designed  alien themed  t-set was a featured part of the mechandising.

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fantastically ridiculous

Sunday, December 7th, 2008 | tags: , , , , ,  |

DickThe Hexagon Theatre in Reading is running its annual pantomime, Dick Wittington.

Interactive theatre where the audience, predominatly under 4ft tall, get to shout out ‘He’s behind you’, and “BOO!” and hisssssszzzzzz as loud as they want when the clearly marked  baddie comes on the stage.   The baddie in this case was dressed in black leather with a huge fake furry chest,   long tail,   and the name ‘King Rat’.

The pantomime  hero, the principle boy,  is played by a girl wearing tights, no trousers, and thigh length leather boots  who enjoys repeatedly slapping her outer-thigh with her hand and falling in love with the leading lady who is a lady.   A man in outrageous, colourful  costumes plays an unmarried woman,    the ‘Dame’.    A young chap coordinates audience participation, facilitates the storyline and everyone’s happiness.   I’d quite like one of those.

In Dick Wittington there were doses of singing competitions, where volume supercedes musicality,  between the two halves of the auditorium.   Some songs required rather tricky accompanying hand-actions,  during which  I accidently whacked the  lady sitting next to me and generally got everything all topsy turvy.   There  are also some slow,   soppy,   songs in a pantomime.   Luckily, watching the shorter contingent of the audience wave brightly coloured lit-wands around made the soppy songs  entertaining.

For those who enjoy a heated debate, like myself, there were many opportunities to argue with the cast ‘Oh no he isn’t’….’oh yes he is’….      The occassional slap stick humour, outstandingly bad jokes and the Dames costumes that beggar belief ensured the tone of the event stayed firmly in the realm of the fantastically ridiculous.    At one point the Dame wore a dress in the form of what looked like the Tower of London.

Audience  birthdays on the performance day were announced in the penulitmate scene. I’m thinking of relocating my Brithday to mid December.

Plot spoiler (look below the next paragraph)

The plot invariably ends with the leading man (woman) and lady (woman) getting together,   the baddy being converted (normally by magic), and the dame continuing to be a dame.

Plot spoiler over (start reading here)

It was all jolly good fun.   Happy  holiday season.


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at Colleys supper rooms

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008 | tags: , , , ,  |

The service,   food and experience as provided by the supper rooms was outstanding,   the customers sat near to me were not typical of the softly spoken guests at other nearby tables and I have to say they were perhaps a little below par for such a well tailored experience.

A selection of quotes from  the most verbose  fellow at the next table,   overheard inbetween the sombre aubergine ceiling,  loud floral-print wallpaper, dizzying geometric pink diamond-design carpet,   and flamboyant floral chandeliers  In Colleys supper rooms.  

the journey was crap… …Lynne can’t come because she  has a hangover…

Tottenham have a brilliant mid-fielder from Barcelona…

tuck your nape in…

we don’t know what they are  (to the waiter about the starter list)

You’ll be alright if you keep your mouth shut,   Lynne doesn’t think I’ll be able to keep my mouth shut…

I’d never go to Moscow again,   its crazy,   its not like Spain or Greece,   its crazy,   all the words are like squares the only things I understood was Macdonalds and even that was squares. (about a trip to watch a football match)

Maitre d' awaits Sunday Dinner guests

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Loch Fyne

Sunday, November 9th, 2008 | tags: , ,  |

Loch Fyne is  a chain of fish restaurants  that has a premisis  in downtown Reading on the banks of the river Kennet.   Loch Fyne restaurants  serve only line-caught fish.  



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Miah’s Garden of Gulab

Friday, October 24th, 2008 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

Bangladeshi restaurant in Earley, Reading.

Dressed in white shirts and black neatly ironed trousers the Garden of Gulab staff welcomed me into their restaurant and were able to find a table for one in the crowded restaurant.   The customers looked and sounded pale skinned English,   the staff looked and sounded more Asian.  

My choice was a Balti.   I love Balti’s,   ever since I started eating them in the mid 1980s in a local Birmingham Sparkbrook restaurant on Ladypool Road.   The  Ladypool road  restaurant I used had no flatware and the staff would treat you as if you were an irritant if you had the afrontery to insult their food by asking for flatware.   I learned to eat my food properly,   with my fingers.  

It’s not easy.  

In the Garden of Gulab I ate my meal with my fingers leaving the impressive, superfluous,  traditional English flatware untouched.   In Birmingham I  was given a thick soft  damp heated flanel to clean my hands after the meal.    In the Garden of Gulab I was given an individually  plastic-wrapped disposable wet-paper-wipe.   Functionally sufficient yet lacking the touch of quality that I had learned to enjoy.   The food was excellent if  disappointingly mild compared to my Birminghan experiences.   The balti arrived in an ordinary  metal dish,   not  the sizzling  hot Balti bowl that it had been cooked in.    

Mumzie doesn’t like Indian food,   I think she’d thoroughly enjoy this place and the food.  

The waiter bought a complimentary small brandy to my table explaining it was because  I had finished my main meal quickly.    

Excellent English-i-fied version of an Indian restaurant and charming staff.  

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London Street brasserie

Monday, October 20th, 2008 | tags: , , ,  |

customer:   what is blue cheese souflee?

French Waiter: …..

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culturally diverse performers

Monday, September 29th, 2008 | tags: ,  |

fluteThroughout the summer Reading town centre is bustling with shoppers and exotic performers.   Native American flute music filled the air around Broad street one cloudy summers day.

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branding #5: chic boutique

Monday, August 11th, 2008 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

The Great Western Hotel in Reading has been re-branded to a Malmaison Hotel.  This style appears to be referred to as ‘chic boutique’.    Judging by the internal decor boutique chic  means purple velvet furnishings,   lashings of pink,   large-swirly-print dark-wallpaper and an angular-geometric floor covering all held together with elevator music and a hint of stale cigarette smoke.

According to the Malmaison-branded paper-wrappers on the Napkins:   Malmaison. Eats. Drinks. Sleeps.

This sounded uninspiringly basic

I tried the eggs  benedict,   or rather egg benedict,   just the one egg and half a muffin.    The ‘eats’ were not impressing me,   the ‘drinks’ didn’t include any real ales.    Apart from  myself the only other customers  in the bar on this Saturday afternoon were a  couple of Hotel guests from the romantic together while speaking in Dutch.   After trying the ‘sleeps’ while waiting about 15 minutes for any member of the Bar staff to actually come into the bar I   gave-up on the ambition of eating a pudding and walked into the boutique  reception area  to ask if they could arrange to bring me my bill (US = check).

It was unisnpiringly  basic

However,   all of that said, I do have it on good authority that they have a fabulous suite with an en-suite train-set that is mumzie-impressingly-good.   I may have to get a second, mumzie, opinion on this.   Certainly I can see how a train-set is in keeping with the original,   pre-boutique, Great Western Railway (GWR) branding…

Luckily,   the chic boutique rebranding hasn’t yet spread to the external original architecture that conveys something of the original standing of the GWR.


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hockey induction

Friday, April 11th, 2008 | tags: , ,  |

not just ordinary hockey.   hockey on ice,   in the NW US hockey on ice is ordinary hockey.

Audiences at hockey matches bear more resemblance to (real) football audiences throwing insults at players and referees,   there were some entertaining insults thrown around at the match between the Seattle Thunderbirds and the Tri-Cities Americans.   Mostly aimed at a Tri-Cities player with the family name ‘Yellow Horn’ on his shirt.  

Tri cities covers three cities,   Richland, Kennewick and Pasco.   Near Hanford,   Hanford was the nuclear power generator for the Manthatten project,   the first full-scale plutonium producing reactor in the world.

One Seattle Thunderbirds supporter called out:    Yellow Horn,   do you glow in the dark?

One of the highlights was when my companions explained that the orange rubber-pucks that you could purchase on the way into the ground are for throwing into the sunroof of the car that drives on the ice during the interval.  

Yeah,   you’re pulling my leg right?  

No?   You’re serious,   we buy rubber pucks and throw them into the sunroof of a car on the ice rink?    

And indeed we did just that….        

Thankyou to the cultfigurine and cultfigure for escourting me into the wierd and wonderful world of ice hockey.   Sadly,   Reading doesn’t have  its own Ice Hockey team in the UK league,     When the season starts in the UK,   next September,  I’ll have to catch a direct train then bus to the Basingstoke arena,   looks like they need a little support,  hoorah!.

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Nag’s head worth a walk in

Friday, February 22nd, 2008 | tags: , , ,  |

I’ve taken to treating myself to a full roast  Sunday lunch in the Nags head with Yorkshire pudding and everything for a bargain £6 with a choice of 12 real ales on tap.   Luxury.   The music is normally very good,   um,   meaning classics from my teens,   last Sunday they played the whole of Dark Side of the Moon over lunch.

For the full experience of Sunday beer, food, friendly people and music,   I really recommend the Nags Head just off Oxford Road on Russel Street.   The only down-side was the Broccoli but I’ve learned to live with this personal handicap.

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Cagney playing Rick… …and why not?

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008 | tags: , ,  |

An excellent evening with Barry Norman.


Ratings explained

Barry recently spoke  at Reading Concert Hall supplying interesting trivia about four classic  films,   Casablanca,   Gone with the Wind, The Adventures of Robin Hood and Dirty Harry.   Trivia included casting preferances for key roles,   why directors and  screen writers were changed and cast members reflections.    The ending of Casablanca was written while it was being filmed,  writer and cast did not know how the film would end.   The Atlanta burning scene in Gone with the wind was made by burning all the old sets on the studio lot.   The Adventures of Robin Hood was filmed in California,   the  lush greeness of the grass in the film was a special effect, painting the film.  

After an interlude Barry answered questions from the  crowded concert hall audience.   Two charming silver haired ladies mustered all their deft to  pass microphones amongst the audience.  

Barry’s answers to questions of the form ‘name your favourite [e.g. actress, director, film…   ]’ and ‘I know a lot about obscure film trivia[e.g. what the most expensive never-finished film]’   produced a recognisable, normally unarticulated,  analysis of  recent cinematic trends including:

  • praising the decade of the 1970’s as the last decade that produced a substantial proportion of  films aimed more at a thinking audience,   Easy Rider as an example,  rahter than at the mass audience of cinema attendess,   18-25yrs, that seek light entertainment.    
  • mentioning  that the 6 main  film distributers that supply the UK are US distributers that naturally prefer to promote their own, US, products.     The distributer for Cyrano De Bergerac called him to thank him for repeatedly mentioning the quality of this French language film because it helped get distribution in the UK.
  • TV programs  that review films are prone presenting available celebrity interviews,  current film promotions,  at the expense of balanced critical analysis.
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Readings in Reading

Friday, December 28th, 2007 | tags: , , , , , , , ,  |

Early on a chilly Friday evening afore Christmas Mr. Hegley and longtime associate Mr. Bailey jumped on a train from London Paddington to Reading Central.     Once in Reading they sought out the South Street arts centre and there joined the poets cafe.   The cafe was hosted by AFH who skillfully introduced us to the intricacies of the concept of first half,   second half and interval.   He cunningly avoided  reference to the powerful football analogy that subsequently snuck its way into several of Mr. Hegley’s poems including his opener which described the emotional ebb and flow of  Luton town beating Reading  town.   Both almost cities missed gaining city status in the Millenium celebrations  when the Queen granted 3 towns city status.John’s delivery was perfectly complimented by his companion, Andrew’s, acting skills.   Neither black bird, woman,   nor alien were beyond Andrews talented delivery.

At the poets cafe audience are also invited to be performers,   slips of paper, published and unpublished books proped newcomers and professionals alike while sharing their work about ghosts, parties, typewriters, family, and TV shows.     I slouched at the back with a pint of John Smith’s rapidly disappearing from my  plastic glass wondering if I should bring a piece of paper and a little pluck  to the second half…   …after the interval…   …of the next meeting.

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power, pride & addictions

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007 | tags: , , ,  |

The Seattle Federal court building is very impressive in both size and contemporary design.   The architects  NBBJ  provide a  project description of the building on their website.   The Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce also provides some statistics and stories about the building.  

Unlike the  Reading Crown court I was:

  • – allowed to take my camera into the building but had to promise  not to take  photographs.
  • – warned about the $100 for my cell-phone ringing in a court room.  
  • – required to produce a photo ID.  
  • – directed to a standalone touch-sensitive display system with terminals on every floor  that provided information about the court cases and the building.

I asked if the Murals and Sculptures in the huge atrium were exceptions to the no-photography rule.   Alas,  they weren’t.     Like the English Crown court the Federal court deals with criminal cases.

Its difficult to estimate the ‘interestingness’ of a case from its title on the  touch sensitive display system:  “The USA vs (person or corporation’s name)”.   I chose a court where I discovered the judge was accepting guilty pleas and setting pre-sentencing requirements such as psychiatric and drugs assessments.     The two  cases I watched  were illegal drug possession (Valium, Zoloft)  by a diabetic in pain because of a kidney disorder who had just lost her job in a pharmacy.   The second case was a violation of a parole requirement  to avoid alcohol by an alcoholic.

A striking design feature of this courtroom was how similar it is to the court-rooms I’ve seen in US films.   There is a central isle through the public gallery to a low gate marking the entrance to  the main court area.   The barrier is purely symbolic,   anyone could step over the low-wall,   gate dividing the court from the public gallery.  The public and the lawyers enter by walking down the isle.   In the UK the door to the public gallery appears to be separate none of the court officials have to walk through the public.   Depending on their status the  accused enters  through the public gallery (not yet  proven guilty of anything) or  wearing  prison gear from a door in the main court area.     Just before the judge entered the room the court clerk banged a gavel three times and called out ‘all rise’.

The Seattle  federal court building has the  declaration of independence decorating a low wall and is reflected (backwards) on the the floor in front of the Court building.   This struck me as curious.   A supersticious person might think that the declaration of independence written backwards was an omen of loss of freedom.    Writing the document on the floor means  that  any one can walk on  it,   placing it on a long low wall is just too tempting for many dogs whos natural inclination  might well be considered disrespectful of National treasure.  

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cro n c urt

Friday, November 23rd, 2007 | tags: , , , ,  |

In the UK the crown court is a criminal court.   The security guards asked “are you coming in or not?”     to explain my loitering “I’m a tourist,   can I come in?   I have a camera” they helpfully  direct me  to check my camera into their lockers.   Without a camera I felt naked.  

Wendy:   can you recommend a court with an interesting case?

receptionist:   I have no idea what counts as interesting

bewigged-lady:   there’s a grumpy judge in court 1 and he’s probably going to shout at me

besuited lady: there are some ongoing cases in courts 5 and 6

The bewigged and besuited ladies started discussing the merits of the various court rooms.   I wandered off to court 1 to discover  an appeal against  the police-revocation of a gun licence.   The appellant had originally declared his previous criminal conviction for car theft when applying for,   and receiving,    the original gun licence.   The police admitted that they had not checked  how the stolen car was subsequently used – in an armed robbery.  

The police  had new information that they believed made giving the appelant a gun licence a very risky proposition.   The appellant’s right to  natural justice  required that their appeal  could address  the information that the Pollice used to make the revocation decision.   The police did not want the appellant to know the information they had used in this judgement.   This case was unique and the lawyers introduced lots of similar, yet different cases as they discussed how to proceed.

The character witnesses in the public gallery behind me,   looked like UK versions of the Soprano’s.   Posh suits,   short haircuts,   regional accents.   Phrases I overheard from the character witnesses included

they’re talking about whether or not he’ll find out  what the police have  got on him

that will cost him another 20k

his ex-wife must have talked

The judge appeared genuinely concerned about the appellants ability to exterminate vermine being curtailed by having  his gun licence revoked.   The witnesses giggled.

In the courts people wore wigs,   held bibles above their hearts and swore poetic oaths,   bowed to the judge,   debated points of law.   All dressed ‘well’,   even the juries.   I was undoubtebly the scruffiest person in the building in my anachronistic mountain equipment jacket.

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Lily Allen: sassy-lassy, drugged-up, singing, swearing & smoking

Saturday, March 31st, 2007 | tags: ,  |

Lily Allen in concert   is Wendy-recommended for post-prubescent people who think swearing, mean-spirits and smoking on stage  are cool,  fans of ska music and fans of pretty white post-pubescent  girls.  


Ratings explained

Lily Allen is very pretty and vivacious.   The music accompanying her songs is heavily ska influenced,   upbeat fun.   Musically the songs reminded me of early Morcheeba and the sound of Lilys voice at the time of the album Big Calm.   The London accent sounded fake in the light of her private school education.   The blatant bitchy malcontentness of the lyrical content was more reminiscent of The Sex Pistols.   Inbetween songs Lily puctuated each sentence with an engaging girly giggle and words littered with profanities.   This  appeared to entertain the mainly male audience who shouted their ‘love’ for Lily.   For me her between song talk provided  a tired, unentertaining story that lacked talent depth or insight.   Smoking cigarettes on stage while singing publically demonstrated a lack of respect for her singing voice.   The ‘controversies’ section of the wikipedia article on Lily sums up her presence quite well.

Bopping around to the music and  enjoying the wit and passion of the lyrics and boyouncy of the music was good.    But I wont be buying her music until the girl matures a little assuming that age doesnt turn even  more sour.  

I could have gone to see James Morrison instead,   I definitely made the wrong decision.

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Holiday spirit #2: Mountain Goats

Saturday, March 3rd, 2007 | tags: , ,  |

I spent Thursday night  in Neumo’s with friends and  the Mountain Goats.      Outstanding Lyrics.    Poignient stories, and the band were good too.  Here’s my attempt to capture  the atmosphere…..I think it escaped….leaving some trace evidence…

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EXtreme grand piano

Friday, February 23rd, 2007 | tags: ,  |

Unlike extreme ironing,  EXtreme crocket,   and extreme tiddly-winks, extreme grand piano playing  is not YET a considered an extreme sport.    But,   Extreme piano playing is a sport though it doesn’t require risky locations like the aforementioned extremities.  

I  was drawn to this stairwell by the sound of a slightly miss-tuned piano playing the flight of the Bumble Bee  “recognizable for its frantic pace “.   Normally piped music in Mall’s has a slow pace.   The speed with the off-tune piano made the music feel out of place,   a little cheeky.   Hoorah!   The positioning of the Piano half way up the stairs added to the miss placed experience.  

Could this be the dawning of extreme grand pianism?

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Freddy Kempf plays Griegs piano concerto

Monday, February 12th, 2007 | tags: , ,  |

Saturday night, the Seattle symphony plays at the Benaroya hall.   Freddy Kempf   played Grieg’s piano concerto.   Beautiful.   The fringe from Freddy’s traditional short back and sides danced with his body movements as he pumped the piano.    The piece is familair,   even to untrained ears such as mine, and thoroughly enjoyable.  

I am unable to comment on the following Bruckner symphony #9, I dreampt and dozed through it…  

Before the full orchestra took the stage I sneaked this photograph of the gap between the very grand Piano and the not so grand piano stool.   Between them over the heads of the audience we can see the lead Cellist preparing for the evening.


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clark chambers farm

Saturday, January 6th, 2007 | tags: , , , , ,  |

Recommended for an informal friendly bed and breakfast in Dungeness 🙂 🙂

ratings explained

Glenda Clark (ne Chambers)  explains that the farm is the oldest family run farm in Washington state.   She is thinking about trying to get it ‘registered’,   the UK equivalent of ‘listed’.  It is no coincidence that  Clark Chambers farm is the first building on ‘Clark road’.   Bob Clark is a never ending source of stories about farm life and the social history of the Dungeness region of the Olympic peninsular.   A chirpy cheerful couple,   they remind me of cockneys,   with a different accent.

All American accessories included a white picket fence, a porch that surrounded the whole house and warm friendly owners.   Spectacular accessories included a view of the Olympic mountains to the south and a huge bath en-suite.

The bedrooms are named after their original occupants,   mom and dad’s room,   Bob’s room, the guest room.   I stayed in mom and dad’s room with a big en-suite bath.    I miss the decent sized British baths made for lounging in.    Being a person of aquadexterous talents  I could adjust the waterfolw with my tootsies.   I sloshed in the outstanding luxury of  two baths per day.


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2007 expiration countdown: 364 days

Sunday, December 31st, 2006 | tags: , , ,  |

performance appraisal:  2006,   age 42 & 43,    is recommended to pass with a Wendy rating of 🙂 🙂

ratings explained

Things that caused outsized ego,  multiple bounces, hand-clapping and chair-falling-off-ness:

Exploring the US:   crossing the US in a 1976 red Chevrolet truck,  visiting  Spokane, Columbia gorge on the Lewis and Clarke trail, Charlotte, NC.

Family & friends: parental pleasure at the Tacoma glass Museum, Elton John live  and the  Seattle Symphony; Concert highlights that warranted blog posts  included:   Paul Simon, Jamie Callum, The Mountain Goats; Writing a ‘Will and Testament’;  Being invited to comment on a draft of AF Harrold’s next  Poetry book;

Technology:  setting up, then maintaining  this blog;  Replacing  cantakerous Tinkerbell with  whizzy sleek pink Darling; buying and using a  back-pocket camera;

Things that deepened wrinkle-lines,   temporarily increased the protusion-portion of my bottom-lip or disrupted my sleeping and eating habits:

Family and friends: Not visiting the UK, even after my Uncle died;  

Exploring the US:   Errr….   …..I lost  my passport.  TWICE!;   No sniff of greencard;   unacceptably low local-occcurence of like-minded  vocal feminists (female or male);

Technology: Paying LooSea’s ransome  to the bodyshop; Tinkerbell’s premortal pernickety-ness.

If the following thingys are not on the 2007 highlights list there will be a public inquiry,  a hearing, with tables,  chairs, microphones, pews,  and silly wigs or hats:

Family and friends: UK March Tour;    

Exploring the US: Sequim farm on Olympic peninsula; Rhode Island May party;

Technology: blog refinement, less drivel, more focus with a dash of wit; Handbag skills mastered;

This message will not self-destruct in one year it will merely become more insignificant and highly forgettable.

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