Monday, 28 July 2014


On Monday 2nd June I finished Transition by Iain Banks, which was pretty good. I guess the title also an allusion to the fact that the novel was something of a transition, being a science fiction one under his normal fiction name. Not many books left to go now (four, in fact, two of each; I've been reading them chronologically), and they won't be added to, sadly.

Monday, 14 July 2014

william wyler directs laurence olivier

From Frank McLynn's review (Literary Review, April 2014) of Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War, by Mark Harris:

The most attractive personality of the wartime directors was William Wyler, a slightly-built German Jew from Alsace who became one of Hollywood's legendary figures. Famous for his meticulous direction - he was known as 'ninety-take Wyler' - he struggled with communicating his wishes to his actors. The 'guidance' he gave them has been variously reported as 'Again', 'It stinks' and 'Be better'. When one actor painstakingly followed his directions to the letter, Wyler yelled, 'Don't do it the way I tell you. Do it the way I mean.' But he did teach Laurence Olivier the difficult art of acting for the camera (on Wuthering Heights). Every time Olivier played the scene, Wyler monotonously said, 'Again. Give me less.' Eventually an irritated Olivier expostulated, 'If I give you any less, I won't be doing anything at all.' Back came the reply, 'Now you're getting the idea.'

churchill's phrasemaking; churchill's literary-based opposition to hitler

Two extracts from Piers Brendon's review (Literary Review, April 2014) of The Literary Churchill: Author, Reader, Actor, by Jonathan Rose:

Rose starts from the unimpeachable premise that Churchill was in thrall to the words, spoken and written, with which he dramatised his life. There is, indeed, abandant evidence for this. As his friend Charles Masterman said: 'He is in the Greek sense a rhetorician, the slave of the words which his mind forms around ideas. He sets ideas to rhetoric as musicians set theirs to music. And he can convince himself of almost every truth if it is once allowed thus to start on its wild career through his rhetorical machinery.'

Asquith put it more pithily: 'Winston thinks with his mouth.' His real tyrant, observed Sir Robert Menzies, was the 'glittering phrase'. Such phrases could be misleading, none more so than his reference to the Mediterranean as 'the soft underbelly of Europe'. Yet even as a young man Churchill himself was aware of the danger of becoming, as Disraeli famously said of Gladstone, 'inebriated by the exuberance of his own verbosity'. He told his mother, 'I very often yield to the temptation of adapting my facts to my phrases.'

Similarly, as Rose rightly says, facts were always subservient to interpretation in Churchill's books.


Citing Churchill's fear that Hitler's domination of Europe would deprive Britain not only of territory but also of free speech, Rose asserts that 'the core of his implacable resistance to Nazism was essentially literary'. Furthermore, Rose affirms, Churchill 'recognized and resisted Hitler largely because the Fuhrer so closely resembled the fictional villain [Antonio Molara] he had created' in his only novel, a Ruritanian romance entitled Savrola, first published in 1899. But evidently the resemblance was not close enough. So, in the end, Rose decides that Churchill 'recognized his enemy because Hitler seemed to be an amalgamation of his three favorite melodramatic villains', Molara, Moses and the African tyrant in King Solomon's Mines.

Only a university professor of rare intelligence would conclude that Churchill needed adventitious aid from literature to appreciate the menace of Hitler.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

lewis and the first world war

It struck me today that I don't remember, in thinking about growing up (and on the whole since), being aware of many stories of Lewismen in the First World War being told or written about. The Iolaire was the only story, casting its monstrous shadow over every other individual story that could have been told. I don't know if this was generally true, or just my experience.


I've been thinking recently about the millstone saying of Jesus - 'If anyone causes one of these little ones — those who believe in me — to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea' (Matthew18/Mark9/Luke17). I'd generally thought of it in the context of those who harm or abuse children, those who are the worst of society. But I've been thinking I can't distance myself from the warning as comfortably as that. As Christian parents, or Christian adults in church, if the way we live - sinfully, hypocritically, faithlessly, selfishly, unlovingly, generally setting a bad example - causes a little one (child, or perhaps anyone younger in the faith) to reject or turn away from or be led off the Christian path, we are all potential millstone-wearers.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

the thing

On Friday 9 May I watched The Thing - the John Carpenter version - on a DVD I got secondhand. Watched it late after the others had gone to bed, as one should. One of the core horror films of my youth - along with An American Werewolf in London and Alien, both of which I have also recently picked up on DVD.

It did stand the test of time, and I enjoyed it. The ending had stuck with me, and was as I remembered it (things which 'stick with you' can turn out to have been surprisingly inaccurate memories). There were a couple of extras (commentary, and making of/special effects thing, I think), so may watch them at some point.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

things that make where we live sound worse than it really is

An old post from Facebook, 15 July 2011:
Things that make where we live sound worse than it really is: a) discovering a couple of years ago that Domino's won't deliver pizzas to our house because of the estate we live on; b) today's school sports day featuring an inter-parental dispute which involved a call to the police.

(some comments: Douglas: 'Vibrant and diverse. Sounds like competitive parents though.' John I: 'Were you and Bethan in the parents three-legged race again?' Me: 'They're the kinds of stories you read in the paper and think what awful places they must be, but the estate and the school aren't like that at all. I don't know, you shoot one measly pizza delivery boy and they never let you forget it.' Douglas: 'A colleague of mine, veteran of a dozen England Football tours (including not being allowed in Japan due to some misunderstanding over being on a list), was rather taken aback by the ferocity and determination with which everybody went about getting drunk on a Saturday night in Stornoway.')

Saturday, 28 June 2014

austria may 2013 - notes tue to fri

Tuesday. Our pre-booked Ingham coach trip. I had slept quite badly with my sore head but felt better as the morning went on. A good trip, worth doing, seeing lots of alpine scenery and among some remaining snow in places (though locally there was less snow than when we had arrived). It was a warm sunny day, mostly.

We went to a monastery in Stams, then up to Stuibenfall, the Tirol's highest waterfall. On up further, over Kuntai pass, high and full of ski resorts, before back down with a stop at Gries, then on home across the river Inn to Seefeld and on home. Got local bus into Weidach, shopped at MPries, mostly for work gifts, then walked back.

Wednesday. Slept better. A wet day. Others went swimming before breakfast, then leaisurely morning, with table tennis, air hockey and arcade driving game. Cherub learnt to play patience. Then bus into Weidach after middday, connecting to bus to Seefeld the long way round via Mittenwald (ie via Germany). Ate packed lunch in Seefeld bus stop, had little wander, then back to hotel on bus mid-afternoon. We visited the Ganghofer Museum near the hotel - it was all in German only, about local history and an author with a local connection; we made the best of it.

Thursday. A day in Innsbruck. We didn't start as early as we'd planned, as we didn't set the alarm to let cherub, who'd had an upset stomach the night before, sleep as long as needed and then to wait to see if breakfast had any ill effects, but all was well. Got bus to Seefeld, but our planned train wazsn't running because it was a public holiday (Corpus Christi - we saw dressed-up folk getting ready for a parade at the church by the hotel). Many shops were shut in Seefeld and Innsbruck for the holiday, but at least it gave us time to go to the tourist office in Seefeld and get some Innsbruck maps and info before we got the train.

We visited the Gold Roof Museum, bought a sandwich lunch, went up the City Tower (Bethan didn't get out of the door at the top, but we went round the balcony outside), ate our lunch in the old Imperial Palace Square, then went to the State/Court Church, with Maximilian's tomb and an impressive set of statues, and then on joint ticket to the neighbouring Tyrolean Folk Art Museum, which was actually very good, especially the old wooden parlours. Did some more tourist shops - they were open - then back to station where we bought a drink before the 1808 train home (tried a nice local soft drink called Almdudler, which we'd also had at hotel). It was another wet day, though it was drier in Innsbruck.

Friday was the walk up the mountain in the rain and snow to the Wettersteinhutte, covered in the earlier blog post. We started walking about 1010, home about 1440. It was a bit of a damp trudge home, whereupon we all changed and had baths/showers/went swimming. We then popped into Wiedach for a final visit to tourist shops and MPries before dinner.

Then Saturday we flew home.

Friday, 27 June 2014

austria may 2013 - notes sat to mon

Over a year has passed since our holiday in Austria, Sat 25 - Sat 31 May 2013, which I did a brief blog on over a year ago, mostly about the mountain walk we did on the Friday, my favourite thing from the holiday.

I pulled out the notes from the notebook they were in a few weeks ago, because I wanted to use that notebook for this year's early holiday, in Slovenia. At last I'm getting round to writing them up here.

Saturday. The trip out was most notable for: all the German football fans we saw at London Bridge and Gatwick (many travelling very light, as if not staying the night), on their way to the all-German Champions League final at Wembley that night (we watched the second half in our hotel - Bayern 2, Dortmund 1 - junior was keen to watch it, mostly for the novelty of watching it in a foreign country I think); lunch at Cafe Rouge, which had windows with a very good view looking out onto the runways, which seemed quite unusual for airports these days (though perhaps coming back into acceptability); dropping out of the clouds to land at Innsbruck between the mountains either side of us.

The view of the runways from Cafe Rouge meant you could really see how short a time it was between planes using the runway for takeoffs and landing; also, how short a time it is between starting down the runway and lift-off. When we were in the plane, waiting just off the runway, I saw a plane coming in to land, and as it did so, so we turned left onto the runway for our own take off - it was just like letting a car past on a main road before turning left onto it.

I don't think I'll ever grow blase about the view of earth from the air, and the deceptively solid appearance of clouds when you're not just in the whiteout midst of them. It was patchy to start with - we saw the channel, then massed clouds over Europe.

We were on a charter, all with people from the same Ingham's package; our first family package holiday, and cherub's first flight overseas. I was texting Douglas from Gatwick; he and the family were going to the Lake District in a campervan for half-term, and we were both anticipating similar holidays - relaxing, uncertain of weather, plenty books and games. Exactly three weeks earlier from me sitting texting while my womenfolk were playing games on iPads in an airport shop, we'd been in Thomas Cook at Marble Arch with little idea of where we might go for our holiday. I bought a booklight at Gatwick, so I could read in bed at night, but it was broken from the start and wasn't practical enough to make me want to buy a new one.

In Innsbruck we had to wait for a group on a delayed flight from Edinburgh. A coach then dropped us off at our various hotels in various locations; our hotel, in Leutasch, was the last out, being furthest away. That worked out well for us; we liked not being in the bigger resort of Seefeld, where most people were, and there was a good bus service in the area with a period bus-pass which you could buy (and we did). We were very pleased with the hotel. Good food. As usual, foreign European food deceptively similar to home but different enough to take your tastebuds by surprise; usually not in a positive way, though just through unfamiliarity rather than badness. The music during the evening meal included Christmas songs, oddly enough; the music was Western.

The mountains were snowy, and some flakes fell while we were in Seefeld on the coach - the holiday rep said the snow had fallen last Thursday, unseasonally and unexpectedly, so not sure how much snow there is usually supposed to be on the mountains at that time of year. The temperature outside the bus was 11 degrees at the airport, down to 4 degrees in Leutasch.

Sunday. Snow had fallen in the night, and was falling lightly during breakfast, which was very nice, but it didn't lie any further than it had been doing. We met the couriers after breakfast, bought maps and booked trip. We got our packed lunch at breakfast and walked into Weidach along the river, then back via Gasse (though the trail in the woods was closed due to rock falls). We ate our packed lunch at the hotel, then hired bikes and did some coaching of the cherub, not very successfully, in the car park (we didn't do any more cycling in the week), in slight rain (clearly falling as snow higher up). The others went to the pool, then we went to dinner, and played Old Maid back in the room, then to bed.

Monday. We got going later than anticipated, walked into Weidach, went to tourist info and MPreis (a supermarket), where we got light lunch. Then bus to Geisterklamm to walk round the gorge. The walk was more hair-raising for Bethan than expected, with lots of man-made walkways and bridges along and across the gorge, so our walk was extended as there was one bridge she could not cross. It meant that we did walk into Germany, out the other end of the gorge, where we had ice cream and saw a waterfall. We walked back on a much easier arm of loop, and walked a bit back along the road until we got a bus to Weidach then a bus - the same one, it turned out - immediately to kirchplatzl and our hotel. Dinner and evening in, playing pool and air hockey, and the others went out for a walk. Bethan had a sore ear after swimming; I had a headache, possibly altitude with or without dehydration.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

the diminutive guardian of the highlands

A positive man by nature, George Hendry concludes 'Midges in Scotland' with the thought that Culcoides impunctatus does more than Scottish Natural Heritage and all the other conservation bodies put together to keep the West Highlands free of human development.
Let us look at it, says George, as 'a diminutive guardian of the Highlands'.
- from Roger Hutchinson's review of George Hendry's Midges in Scotland, WHFP, 18 April 2014

Thursday, 24 April 2014

the younger generation

The three of us, thinking of things we could do for my birthday.

Me: We could go to a folk gig.
Cherub: No.
Bethan: Aw, it's your dad's birthday.
Cherub: It's my childhood.

Friday, 18 April 2014


Last Saturday we all went to the cheap morning showing of Frozen at the Odeon Surrey Quays. I was probably keenest to see it, actually, as it had had such good reviews, and people seemed to go to see it more than once (including to singalong showings - the people behind us were singing along at some points), but we were all pretty underwhelmed. I thought it was very slow getting going, opening with two or three very 'stage musical' songs; the songs were all of that kind, which I don't like at all, and I felt very much that the film had been written with turning it into a stage musical in mind, and it was all the worse for it; the plot was pretty sketchy; the funny snowman sidekick seemed quite out of place, and his much-vaunted humorous song was a one-liner stretched out unimaginatively ('I want to do what frozen things do in summer...'). I don't know why it's been so enormously successful; it didn't charm our family.


We finished watching Hairspray - the John Travolta film version of the musical remake of the original John Waters film - on Wednesday. We all started watching it, but Bethan baled out after the first session, finding it boring, all that singing and dancing; we liked it a lot, however, all that singing and dancing. Set in 1962, the songs were proper songs in the style of the period; plus a good story and well acted.

the lewis man

I read the second of Peter May's Lewis-set detective stories, The Lewis Man, and disliked it as much as the first one. Terrible rubbish. Full of cliches in language and plot. Every researched fact and geographical detail on tedious show-your-workings display. Everything but the kitchen sink plot themes, and preposterous plot points - the idea that the family background of someone from the island, alive during the book's story, could be mysterious/unknown/fabricated, is just implausible (even if he was from Harris and living in Ness...); even I know that feannagan are lazy beds, and you did get them in Lewis; road trips and journeys made to find things out that could have been simply ascertained by a couple of phone calls and a working internet connection; local police doing no work on a murder investigation (which, incidentally, seems to cause no stir in the islands whatsoever) but happy to pass info to someone to do their own private investigating; not looking through papers in the house until near the end (which again would have made the story considerably shorter); choosing to go to a gangster just to find out the real surname of the dementia sufferer who the gangster would surely hold partly responsible for the gangster's brother's death (no, don't see any possible repercussions there...).

The relentless negative depiction of anyone religious and religious culture in general (although of course some Southern Isles Catholics are allowed to be jolly, despite their awful religion, by way of traditional caricature contrast to the northern Presbyterians) is tedious as well as annoying. And, of course, not reflective of real life: I don't care who you are, I don't believe you could grow up in Lewis and not know Christians you liked, loved, respected or who made you laugh (in a good way), however profoundly wrong you thought they were or however horrible you thought some of their fellow Christians were. (And he manages to get in two horrible childhood experiences at the hands of religious institutions, one Protestant and one Catholic; I couldn't believe he was going for the double, but he did; hilarious.) When he does 'humanise' the horrible minister, it's by 'managing to get down to the non-Christian he once was beneath the Christian he became'.

And as for the decision to have some of the chapters done in first-person narration by a character suffering from severe dementia but whose internal monologue is lucid, structured, memory-perfect, eloquent, it simply beggars belief.

I will of course read the third one in due course (in fact I noticed it in the library and picked it up, so might be sooner than I thought). They don't take long, at least. I'll be glad when it's done. I read somewhere recently they're thinking of making them into tv drama; my heart sank.

I'm glad I don't feel the same need to read books set where I live now; there are quite a few more of those.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

my little fashion blog

I don't know who retweeted it so that it popped up in my timeline, but I've discovered My Little Fashion Blog's Twitter feed. I'm not interested in the website, nor most of the tweets, but there is one subset of tweets which I find fascinating: the ones which post side-by-side images of a garment being worn by a model on catwalk/fashion-shoot and the same garment being worn by a famous woman in real life, usually on a red carpet.

I don't think the blogger is making any point with these tweets, but they make me think. Of course, how the models almost never smile and the famous women almost always do. But also, how often the clothes are not worn as they were intended to be worn (not in the same combinations/ensembles, and also not in the same arrangement of an individual item). The model is so rarely the same shape as the woman wearing the clothes in real life. You really do wonder why people design clothes to be modelled in a way they will so rarely look in real life - especially as the shape of the models so often don't actually help to make the clothes look good. You wonder if the designers plan into their design of each outfit a range of sets of specifications for different shapes and sizes, rather than just carelessly scaling them up or down, to make sure the clothes will look good in those different shapes and sizes. It's striking how often, despite the fact that most of these famous women are famously beautiful and have had someone helping them get ready for this engagement at which they have been photographed, the clothes don't actually look that good on them; and if that's the case, what chance do lesser mortals have?

I continue to find the fashion industry both fascinating and baffling.

the events - choir rehearsal for new cast; qeh performance

I was prompted back to the previous blogpost about The Events by the fact that last Saturday Morris Folk Choir took part in a large-choir version of The Events at the Queen Elizabeth Hall as part of a choral weekend on the South Bank. About 250 members of choirs which had been used last year were in it, including about ten of ours. I hadn't signed up for it, partly because I wasn't sure if I'd be free (as it turned out we spent that day in Beaconsfield, meeting Naomi and Clive at the Bekonscot model village) and partly because I was afraid it would be an an anti-climax after last year's great experience, just pushing it a step too far to recapture a moment which had passed. I thought about going along to see it, but I thought that I would just be regretful and jealous that I wasn't part of the choir. ATC did a Storify of tweets.

The choir had also been asked if we wanted to do a night in the Arts Depot leg of this year's tour of The Events, but we turned it down because we didn't have enough folk who could definitely say they could do it at the time we were asked about it, and also we were anticipating (rightly) being hard-pressed to learn our new repertoire for our own planned performances this year, especially since we were losing a rehearsal a month by getting more serious about committing to holding folk club each month.

I did get my own last hurrah with The Events, though, which I enjoyed very much. This year's tour has a new cast, Amanda Drew and Cliff Samuel. An email to the Morris members one Friday afternoon was a last-minute call for choir members to help with a rehearsal the next day - they'd been rehearsing for a fortnight, but not yet with a choir, and several of the folk they had lined up for their 'rehearsal with a choir' the next day had pulled out. I presume the email went to several choirs. Only Ileana and I were free to take it up from our choir (I had time to myself that day), and I think possibly only one other person from another choir came along, I think the others being associated with the Young Vic choir or actors they'd had helping them (in fact one of the latter was drafted out of the choir and onto the piano for the whole time until we did the run-through at the end by which time Magnus had arrived); there were about eight or ten of us, including Polina, who had just returned from Norway on an early flight that morning (and thanks to Twitter, I knew she'd had a rough journey, which felt stalkerish to know). It was good to see Polina again, and the stage manager Jess, who I spoke to for a while as I arrived a bit early, and Ramin the director was there also of course, hard at work.

(I remember reading an interview with Malcolm Macdowell in which he said that for a while after A Clockwork Orange he used to badmouth Stanley Kubrick because they'd got so close and had such a good relationship while they were filming it and then nothing, and he felt completely dropped and forgotten about. But after a few more filming experiences he realised that this was just how it worked, the creation of intense community and relationship for the duration of working on a film, then it was over and onto the next one. I guess that it's probably similar in the theatre, and it's testament to Polina and the team that they both have the commitment to and manage to create that community and relationship over and over again with so many choir groups, in a way that makes each choir feel special and valued. I know we did. But I'm always mindful that for choir members like myself it was probably a much more significant experience that it was for the professionals; they're on to the next thing, or even just the next performance, we're back to normal.)

We got there about midday and finished about five, with a break for lunch and then a short break before the run-through. We went slowly through all the choir scenes, before doing a full run-through. I did some of the FAQs and I Ams, of course (Jess said she'd been doing them by herself, essentially, up until then), and also in the run-through I did the speech of the person deputed to tell Claire we were stopping choir, which was nice. It was fascinating to be part of and see the rehearsal process, as they still worked on options of how to do things, and still not entirely on top of lines, with just a few days to go before their first performance. They all seemed to appreciate us being there. The two actors, of course, were different in their performances from Neve and Rudi, but I was sure they'd make a good job of it (and I told them so; I also spoke to Amanda about the conducting bit at the end, which she seemed a bit worried about but I said not to be). Amanda's Claire was warmer than Neve's, I'd say; less damaged yet, and might make more of a connection with audiences and be more moving as a result (or might not, everyone's different). Cliff's Boy was on the one hand lighter and more amusing, but on the other perhaps a greater sense of his unbalancedness.

I really enjoyed being part of that rehearsal, and felt privileged to be so. It was a good way to finish off my Events experience (if finish it is...).

Friday, 11 April 2014

the events - london 2013 run coverage and reviews

I've had a draft blog post for ages of this name (except I've had to stick '2013' in the name now). I had to go back through emails to see the links I'd found on the theme. I didn't realise I hadn't blogged any of them, but searching the blog I see that I had blogged lots of links to reviews of the Edinburgh run and elsewhere, so that's probably what I had in my mind.

First a couple of comments from a couple of things shared on the Morris emails after our first performance.
I wrote, 'One audience member (my wife, so possibly biased) told me that we were good, and, when asked, said that she couldn't tell whether our early entry into the Norwegian coffee song was accidental or deliberate and it sounded fine. On the other hand, an old lady I walked out of the theatre behind was asked by her friend what she thought and she said, 'boring, interrupted by songs', which I thought was hilariously wrongheaded. There's no accounting for people.'
Mark said, 'One young girl walked past me and Don then turned to tell us were we were excellent! I am sure that this an compliment for the choir and the play and Not of how good looking Don and I are. Or was it?'
Fiona said, 'Sarah overhead two women in the loos commenting that "the choir were very professional" and a boy behind her said that it was one of the best things he'd ever seen. And she didn't even notice our false coffee start.'

Some other reviews I noted or was pointed to, roughly in the order they came across my path, oldest first (as with the earlier reviews, most of the photos used were from our dress rehearsal; also as with earlier reviews, mostly very favourable; mostly of course not reviews from our performances). Daily Mail (Quentin said the choir was the best thing about it, which I don't think he meant as high praise, because he didn't like it). British Theatre Guide. Arts Desk. Financial Times. Time Out. Evening Standard. Singing Works (article by another choir re their involvement). Metro. Telegraph. Exeunt. Civilian Theatre. What's On Stage. Blouin Art Info. Partially Obstructed View blog (a review from one of Morris's performances, though says nothing in particular about the choir). Amanda Palmer. Article by Rudi on the ATC blog. South Bank London. Londonist. Matt Trueman. Observer (a short review from one of Morris's performances, nothing in particular about the choir, but has a comment from choir's Hannah, which I've just noticed). ATC blog item from one of the Dublin run choirs. ATC Storify of Tweets on The Events at the Young Vic. Young Vic blog item by Young Vic choir member.

Two blogs I found more recently which mention Morris. Toffs ('Trips for Older Females and Fellows') ('There is a different choir at every performance and on the night I attended, it was the Morris Folk Choir, who sang beautifully and spoke lines and generally participated in the action as well as, at times, becoming the audience listening to the story of Claire and the Boy'). A Night on the Town blog (the two bloggers went to the Morris matinee and weren't impressed by the play or the choir: 'It was also extremely confusing to understand why the Morris Folk Choir didn’t seem like they knew what they were doing for the whole production. Finally, at the end of the play, you learn that the choir who performs with the actors changes every week. There was no doubt that this was another recurring technique to signify how people in society are all the same, and how we are all in these world issues together. Though ironically, the choice to only explain this arrangement at the end of the performance made the choir’s unprepared nature distracting from these intended portrayals. ... come the end of the show, a member of the Morris Folk Choir could essentially sum it all up for me. He was quite literally falling asleep, and resembled an 8-year-old boy being forced to go to singing lessons by his parents. Something tells me he found it hard to keep up with what was going on as well.' and 'Similarly, although having a different choir join the cast for each performance is an interesting concept, it interferes with the fluidity of an already complex script. In addition to distracting us from the themes that are explored, it also fails to add a further layer of understanding or artistic value to the finished product, as the Morris Folk choir appeared so dazed and confused it was almost distracting.' Don't think I believe anyone was falling asleep, and we were probably among the most prepared choirs; funny what people see, but not impressed by their reviewing, which seems to have ground to a halt after a month.)

Finally, the Guardian end of year review which lists The Events as the No 1 theatre event of 2013.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

the opening lines from the songs on big country's the crossing

Apropos of nothing, these are, more or less, the opening lines from the songs on Big Country's first album, The Crossing, finishing with what may be my favourite first line of a song:

I've never seen you look like this without a reason

I wouldn’t want to go home on a night like this

All the rain came down on a cold new town as he carried you away

Now we play our final hand

I came from the hills with a tear in my eye

Who saw the fences falling?

We lay the night in anguish, snakes drawn out by the tide

A score of years this line has run

Between a father and a son

Night hangs on the city like a blanket on a cage

Monday, 7 April 2014

blood simple; inside llewyn davis

On Saturday 8 March, after the Daylight Music session mentioned in the previous post, I watched a Coen Brothers double bill in the afternoon at the Riverside Studios, of Blood Simple and Inside Llewyn Davis. My first double bill for years. (The womenfolk were at Crufts for the day.) I enjoyed it, both the films and the double bill experience. What I said in an MFC email, as a kind of ps to the Daylight Music email, was 'When the cats are away (at Crufts) the mice will play (at the Riverside Studios for a Coen Brothers afternoon double bill of Blood Simple (moral: hiring someone to kill your wife rarely ends well for anybody involved) and Inside Llewyn Davis (moral: impressive talent can come without either bankability or likeability)).'

The print of Blood Simple was an actual, scratchy old print, of a kind which I similarly haven't seen in the cinema for ages, which was good to see. Blood Simple was the Coen Brothers' first, Inside Llewyn Davis their latest, and they were both very good. Blood Simple was beautifully constructed and scripted. I guess the main drawback for Inside Llewyn Davis was that the main character, like most of the other musicians, wasn't very likeable, which inevitably in my view makes it less engaging; the music was very good, however, and you did get a feeling of accurate historical tone. I spent the start of the film wondering if the main actor was Nick from New Girl, having discarded the idea that he was the math whizz from Numbers, and the rest of it sure that it was. When I checked later I found that Nick from New Girl was Jake Johnson, Charlie from Numbers was David Krumholtz, and Llewyn Davis was Oscar Isaac.

daylight music: superman revenge squad; danni nicholls

At lunchtime on Saturday 8 March I went to Union Chapel for their free lunchtime music session, Daylight Music. I saw the second half of their first act, Superman Revenge Squad, and the first half of their second act, Danni Nicholls, and nothing of their third act.

I was prompted to go because Morris Folk Choir are performing at one of these sessions, in May. This is what I emailed to the MFC list at the time:

'I went to the free lunchtime music event at the Union Chapel today to see what it was like - I saw some of the first and second acts (and someone plays the church organ between acts).
'It reminded me of the free music nights I've been to at the Bedford in Balham (, where you get three or so acts, with fliers and CDs and a suite of online presences, generally in the pre-success part of a hoped-for career, and a professional set up from the venue side of things. (The Bedford is genuinely free; Union Chapel is a strongly encouraged donation of £3.50.)
'The audience was similarly respectful - in terms of listening and expressing appreciation, even though there was a lot of coming and going (and eating and drinking). It was bigger - there were over a hundred people there when I arrived, and the number increased. There was a range of ages, including children (there was a table with paper and crayons), but I'd say a significant majority were 20/30s, which seems to be the demographic they're going for, young Islingtonians easing themselves into their Saturday.
'I think it'll be a nice place to perform, and think we'll be received well. If today, and the Bedford in Balham, are reflective of the acts roster, we will be unusual in not having a CD to sell, and we may be a bit more fun and less earnest than a lot of others.'

In terms of the two acts I saw: Superman Revenge Squad was spoken word poetry (rather than rap) over music, which was okay and better in the flesh than the clips I'd listened to in advance online; Danni Nicholls (website not displaying properly for me, but at the moment featuring some good photos taken at this gig) was country/rockish singer-songwriter, accompanied by another guitarist, who had recently recorded an album in Nashville (I'm not sure why it gives people more cred to go to Nashville or somewhere else in America to record an album rather than doing it in London, but it must do because people keep doing it), and was accomplished but unremarkable. Here is the Daylight Music Facebook event page for the gig.