Saturday, 6 February 2016

a ten-year-old girl rings donald swann

Sally Phillips, in a Radio Times article (30 January) promoting radio programme Talking To Strangers:
'Radio is also the most intimate of mediums. When playwright Lily Bevan, my co-writer on Talking to Strangers, was growing up, her heroes were Joyce Grenfell and Flanders & Swann. One afternoon she looked up Donald Swann in the phone book. "I was about ten and he was in his 80s. I rang him at home and told him I liked his songs. We chatted. We got on. We sent each other cards until he died."'

A different world.

the joker; flat 2

On Tuesday 2nd February I finished The Joker by Edgar Wallace, and, which I hadn't previously noted, on Wednesday 4th March last year I finished reading his Flat 2.

Friday, 5 February 2016

mirror mirror

On Monday 21 December we went to the matinee of Mirror Mirror, Charles Court Opera's panto (based on Snow White) at the King's Head Theatre. We enjoyed it.

the case for faith

On Wednesday 3rd February I finished The Case For Faith by Lee Strobel. It was a very similar structure to his earlier The Case For Christ - interviews with different experts on different areas of tough questions for Christian faith (hell, suffering, evil, the Old Testament, etc) - and I'd say pretty much the same about it as I said about that: didn't like the style, but the content was worth it.

january's morris folk club - parcel o' rogues and life on mars?

At the January Morris Folk Club, on Tuesday 26th January, I sang Parcel O'Rogues (to mark Burns night, more or less, though he probably didn't write it), which went fine, and Life On Mars?, which we shall file under heroic failure.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

star wars: the force awakens

On Tuesday 29 December Maisie and I went with the Gilmours to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens in the Odeon Leicester Square. We enjoyed it fairly well.

she is not invisible

On Thursday 28 January I finished reading She Is Not Invisible, by Marcus Sedgwick. It was a library book of Maisie's which she enjoyed and told me I should read. I wasn't that keen on it.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

three political diaries

I've been reading Alastair Campbell's diaries - The Blair Years - for some time now, gradually, which I'm enjoying very much. It runs from July 1994, when he was offered the job as Tony Blair's press secretary, to August 2003, when he resigned.

A couple of years ago I picked up Chris Mullin's highly-regarded diaries, A View From The Foothills, which runs from July 1999, when he first becomes a junior minister under Blair, to May 2005, when he stops being one.

rule britannia

On 28 May last year I finished Rule Britannia by Daphne du Maurier, which was okay.

animal farm

This evening we watched the 1954 Halas/Batchelor animated version of Animal Farm, which was pretty good. It's only about 70 minutes long, and I'd seen at least bits of it long ago when they used to have school programmes on the BBC in the daytime - I have a memory, possibly imagined, of seeing a bit of it at my granny's house - possibly interspersed with documentary bits explaining the allegory, though I'm not sure if I knew it was an allegory the first time I saw it. Anyway, it is a beautifully constructed allegory. (Maisie's doing it in English at the moment.)

Friday, 22 January 2016

no mercy

On Thursday 21 January I finished No Mercy, David Buckley's 1997 biography of The Stranglers, which had been on my current reading shelf for a long time (I see I started it in 2009). It was an odd combination of detailed and vague.

the princess diaries

On Wednesday and Thursday Maisie and I watched The Princess Diaries. Having seen Anne Hathaway recently in Ella Enchanted, I recorded it last Sunday as it was on, and I'd heard it was fairly good. It was indeed pretty good; I had thought it might have been too late for us, more primary than secondary, but it wasn't, and I enjoyed it. Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews were good, and also Hector Elizondo, who was Julie's head of security and who was a very familiar face.

Monday, 18 January 2016

a pinch of snuff; sexism

Today I finished A Pinch Of Snuff, the fifth Dalziel and Pascoe novel by Reginald Hill. It was fine, perhaps better than some of the others I've read, but I haven't really warmed to the detective duo or the writing style, and there were some pretty stretching-it coincidences. I got a set of the first six very cheap from The Book People, and it's fair to say that I probably wouldn't have persisted this far if I didn't actually have them. I'll read the remaining one I have, but no more. I'm sure I read somewhere that his novels featured puzzles and cryptic things, but there has been no evidence of that; perhaps that comes later, but I won't be there to read them.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

peter pan goes wrong

On Friday 8 January I got day seats in the morning and we all went in the evening to see Peter Pan Goes Wrong at the Apollo Shaftesbury Avenue. We had seats in two adjoining grand circle boxes.

how I escaped my certain fate

On Sunday 10th January I finished Stewart Lee's How I Escaped My Certain Fate, a partial autobiography - primarily about his professional life, primarily from 2001 to 2008 - constructed around the transcripts of three stand-up shows, transcripts which were heavily footnoted with detailed background and explanation. It was a fascinating insight, very well written, and so much more interesting than just reading, or even seeing, the stand-up shows in question.

lumiere london

On Friday evening we went, with Margaret, to see the Lumiere light festival - light-based art installations in various sections of central London, plus up in the new pedestrian area north of King's Cross. We decided to go to King's Cross, and found it to be really busy and also somewhat disappointing. Most of the things were quite small; the biggest thing was an animation projected onto the front of a large building, which if you saw it on TV or Youtube would not have detained you for more than 30 seconds before you turned it off.

I know other people who went and were really impressed, but perhaps they all went to the central London sections. Oh well, at least I visited an area of London I hadn't been to before, not since the redevelopment at least.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

david bowie doing heroes on top of the pops

I first saw this a couple of years ago - David Bowie doing Heroes on Top of the Pops, from the days when they were supposed to re-record the song for the show, because of MU rules, and which to my ears clearly happened here, and the vocals seem to be live too. I think I might even prefer this to the 'proper' version; I don't know if this version was ever released - I don't suppose so.

the sultan's tigers

On Monday 4 May 2015 I finished The Sultan's Tigers by Josh Lacey - this was the only book I think we managed to read together in our intergenerational book club (we borrowed two copies from the library), which was a shame, since I liked the idea, and I'd even been given a hand-drawn membership card.

It wasn't chosen by me, and I didn't like it at all. It was an adventure story, in which the narrator was the boy, away with his dodgy uncle. It wasn't that well-written, the story as a whole was implausible, but worst of all was that the boy and the uncle were really rather unpleasant (not least to/about the boy's parents) - one kept thinking that there would be some moment or process of change or realisation or revealing that they weren't really so bad, but there never was.

My dislike of the book was somewhat pooh-poohed, but I notice that I'm pretty sure none of his other books have been bought or borrowed.


On Friday 23 October - a week after I finished Paper Towns - I finished Wonder by RJ Palacio. I read it because Maisie had read it twice, and bought it after having read it, so obviously liked it pretty well. Jan at church, coincidentally, had recommended it to Bethan for Maisie, though after Maisie had already read it. I liked it too.

It did have a significant problem for me, which was that the sequence of child narrators did not sound like their age at all, but very mature; the nature of the book required that they be multiple first-person narrators, but they sounded quite similar, and quite adult. Having suspended that disbelief, however, it was otherwise well-written and interesting.

paper towns

Some time later last year I read (finishing on Saturday 17 October) Paper Towns by John Green. In fact, this may have been the one I read at the same time as Maisie. I thought it was okay; a more traditional US high school novel, but the ending was very anticlimactic.

Much of the book is the quest for the missing, mysterious idealised friend, but when she is found it and she are downbeat and unremarkable, and it just tails off. This would work fine if on the journey through the book you were being given the sense that the journey was more important than the destination, especially in the way the narrator's friendships with the others he involves develop, and in the way the narrator might be developing as a person and outgrowing his need for this rather one-sided relationship - but you weren't. So when you got to the ending you felt 'is that it?', and that you should have been paying more attention to the journey, but not enough was being made of the journey to make you do that - and nor is there even a moment of realisation by anyone in the book at the end that they should have been doing that (which you might have got away with, but I don't think you'd have earned the right to do so).