Thursday, 7 July 2016

a morning in london

In advance of its impending demise, this morning I made a trip up to BHS, purveyors of trousers to Iain MacDonald for many years, and bought in its closing down sale enough trousers to last me for - I was going to say 'twenty years', and then realised that that's now synonymous with 'the rest of my life'. Which is a sobering thought.

It does mean I can now put on no further weight for the next twenty years/rest of my life. (Indeed, it would do no harm to lose a few pounds.)

I got off the bus home at Parliament Square because I saw on Twitter there was a march going on in support of Andrea Leadsom, and I thought seeing such a thing would be a once in a lifetime opportunity. I missed it, sadly, but I did decide to go into the House of Commons, on a whim, where I saw most of the business questions to leader of the house (which all seemed to go, essentially, 'can we have a debate on X?', 'we'll see'), the 'Select Committee Statement on the publication of the First Report from the Defence Committee, Russia: Implications for UK defence and security' and attendant questions (which was interesting), and the opening of an Online Abuse debate.

(Meanwhile, Bethan's frittering away her time at No1 Court; I ask you.)

After I came out I did see a cheerful man with a cardboard handwritten sign saying 'Vote Leadsom or fight the country'; 'the whole country?', I nearly asked him; 'one at a time or all in one go?'. (Still not really sure what he meant. Countryside Tories?)

I love living in central London (and working part-time).

Saturday, 2 July 2016

life is a banquet

On Wednesday 22 June I finished Life Is A Banquet, Rosalind Russell's autobiography (cowritten with Chris Chase). I bought it secondhand off Amazon, a 1p plus p&p job from a seller in the US. I bought it because I'd seen a couple of quotes from her here and there and she seemed intelligent, witty and self-deprecating. It was an enjoyable read, which lived up to what she'd seemed. She claims, plausibly, to have had a hand in contributing lines to both her biggest hits, His Girl Friday and Mame.

First line: For a long time I didn't want to write a book.
Last line: I've had a good ride.
Dedication: To my son Lance and my new daughter Patricia With love

The cover of my 1979 Ace paperback US edition is a fairly typical mass-market actor autobiography; if anything's unusual it's that the photo (which I'd guess is Mame era rather than His Girl Friday era - the title is a quote from the former) seems a little soft and small. The quote is from Frank Sinatra, who the cover makes clear was a close personal friend. (The copyright line indicates that it was published - in 1977 - after her death.) Title in inlaid gold, author in red signature. Publisher, book no and price on the front; don't know how unusual that would have been.

twilight: eclipse

On Wednesday afternoon, Maisie having got back from school early after sports day, we watched the third Twilight film, Eclipse. It was okay, like the others - I've had to watch far worse.

Friday, 1 July 2016

behind the scenes at the museum

On Thursday 19th May I finished Behind The Scenes At The Museum by Kate Atkinson, which took me longer than I expected and which I enjoyed less than I expected.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

morris folk club - june

At Morris Folk Club last night (full setlist here) I sang two short songs of hope and friendship together, Dear Friends and The Way Old Friends Do. I didn't *immediately* say they were by Queen and Abba respectively, but I like to think they didn't sound out of place in a folk club.

In the second half I reverted to folk club type and sang The Haughs O' Cromdale, very much not a song of hope and friendship. I know it from the Corries, of course, and can still remember talking to Ivor about it in Bayble School; I liked it not least because it mentioned my surname, which is the kind of thing that appeals to small boys, as well as being a song about two battles, of course.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

key largo

This evening we all watched Key Largo on DVD, with Humphrey Bogart, Edward G Robinson and Lauren Bacall (and Claire Trevor, winning the 1948 best supporting actress Oscar). I'd seen it before, many years ago, and it was as good as I remembered it, and we all enjoyed it. Continuing my campaign of watching ancient films with the younger generation (becauses they're great, and because I think that so many classic old adult films are more suitable (in quality and worldview) for children her age than a lot of films made for children her age today); she likes some more than others.

Friday, 17 June 2016

the listerdale mystery

On Sunday 5th June I finished The Listerdale Mystery by Agatha Christie. It's a pretty good short story collection; I thought I hadn't read it before, but realised pretty quickly that I had, so I whizzed through it somewhat.

morning glory

On Wednesday 8th June we all watched Morning Glory, a 1933 film for which Katharine Hepburn won her first Oscar. It was quite good, and quite interesting.

speaker for the dead

On Saturday 30th April I finished Speaker For The Dead by Orson Scott Card. I enjoyed it; an interesting and thoughtful novel.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

sharp's in may

On Tuesday 24th May we didn't have a Morris Folk Choir rehearsal, but instead went along to the singers night at Sharp's Folk Club in Cecil Sharp House. About a dozen of us went, and half a dozen of us sang - Tim, Jen, Brian, Tanja & I, Mark, Tim & Jen, and I.

Monday, 6 June 2016

rosalind russell meets winston churchill in 1938

I put on my long white gloves and off I sailed [to a dinner at the American Embassy in London, in 1938]. The Kennedys were charming to me, and during the cocktail period (we weren't really given cocktails, only a glass of sherry apiece) Rose Kennedy brought a cherubic-looking gentleman over to meet me and said he would be my dinner partner. She introduced him as a Mr Churchill, there was no Sir Winston about it. In fact, Churchill wasn't much in favor then. When people looked at him they tended to have this "remember the Dardanelles" expression on their faces.

Monday, 23 May 2016

death of a doxy

On Saturday 7th May I finished reading Death Of A Doxy by Rex Stout; it was quite good.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

the awful truth

On Saturday 7th May we watched The Awful Truth (IMDB, Wikipedia), from 1937, which was pretty good.

I got it and a number of other old Hollywood films for my birthday, as it's my solemn intention to force my womenfolk to watch more of these old films with me - often undeservedly forgotten, having been popular and award-winning in their day, and with very good scripts and performers, and usually quite cheap when you can find them on DVD (or lurking in a daytime schedule). Cary Grant in this one doing his stuff (the Wikipedia entry suggests this film marked the appearance of his 'light comedy persona'; Leo McCarey won the Best Director Oscar for it (Irene Dunne and Ralph Bellamy were nominated for best actress and supporting actor respectively).

Saturday, 14 May 2016

bletchley park

On Monday 2nd May - a bank holiday - we went up to Bletchley Park for the day, which was well worth a visit. We didn't do it all, and may go again, courtesy of our Gift-Aid-enabled year-entry pass. Lots to read, and a good audio guide.

One of the things that struck me was for all the idea people have of them being unsung heroes, for a large number of them their work was very routine and wouldn't have felt heroic at all - particularly the women taking down encoded morse code messages all day, or the women doing essentially mechanical tasks in the running of the 'bombe' machines, and particularly those among them (and others) who deliberately were not given a full picture or understanding of what was actually going on and what they were doing.

One of my favourite Bletchley stories is a newspaper letter I saw on Twitter a year or two ago from someone who was on a tour at Bletchley and it became apparent that an old married couple on the tour had both worked there but never told the other (it was a big place). People kept the secret very thoroughly until the last 10-20 years.

I worked in Bletchley for a couple of years, around 1995-97. I knew about Bletchley Park then, but it wasn't really very widely known - the flood of books and documentaries and films came later. At that time it was only open every second weekend, and I'm certain there wasn't as much there then as there is now; having made the commute Monday to Friday, I never did it again on a Saturday.

If we do go back to finish off, and have more time, perhaps we'll go the other way from the station into Bletchley to see the old office and high street again. (I didn't have a sense of recognition at the station at all, until we were going back to the platform across the bridge to get the train back home.)

We got home too late to watch The Imitation Game that evening, as Maisie had hoped, but she and I watched it last night.

the imitation game

Last night Maisie and I watched The Imitation Game, on a DVD which she'd got as a wishlist present in December. Bethan was on a train to Shrewsbury. It wasn't bad, but not as good as it could have been.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

serpentine sackler gallery

On Saturday 30th April we went, for the first time, to the Serpentine Sackler Gallery - I still haven't been to the Serpentine Gallery. They're both free, and the Sackler is newer (opened in 2013, according to Wikipedia, in an old magazine building). We were there because we'd gone up to Hyde Park to use the hire bikes, as we've done before; last time we did it we were quite near the SSG, since there's a hire rack near it, and we had time to do it this time.

It was interesting to go in, but it wasn't a great exhibition - just another modern art exhibition, this one from Das Institut collective. The most pointed thing in it was the re-use of some old stained glass in some modern glasswork, which showed a great contrast in artistry and craftsmanship between old and new, which you think would have made the artist ashamed.

Friday, 6 May 2016

a misalliance

On Thursday 7th April I finished A Misalliance by Anita Brookner. I was somewhat disappointed.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

james nesbit on his religious upbringing

[of the cultural setting of the TV true-crime drama (murderous Northern Ireland Baptists) he's appearing in:] It’s a Christian culture that Nesbitt knows very well. “It was in my home,” he says. “My family were Presbyterians. A lot of people say ‘God-fearing’, but I always thought that I came from a very God-loving background. It was a close community, though not as close as the Baptists, but they were Christian, charitable and would go out of their way to help you. I went to church and Sunday school. We used to sing hymns around the piano on Sunday nights, which sounds extraordinary, so quaint and bizarre.”
... Nesbitt’s Howell is jolly as well – when not planning and committing murder he leads praise-giving sing-alongs on his guitar and takes the Church youth club on outings. Ask Nesbitt if he still believes in God and he says ”I always liked the gospel teaching, but the rest of it I’m not so sure about. I don’t know if there’s a big man in the sky. It was never forced upon me and I didn’t ‘move away’ from it in a kind of rebellious act. It was just that over the years its hold lessened. The world was changing, and we changed with it.”
- From an interview with James Nesbit in the Radio Times of 23 April (also online here):

Monday, 2 May 2016

morris folk club for april

It was the Morris Folk Club for April last week, on Tuesday 26th. I sang The Model Ship, Death of Queen Jane, and (literally to fill in some time until the next singer reappeared - I haven't escalated my demands to three songs a night) Lowlands Away. Went okay, though I don't think The Model Ship is going to become a folk standard anytime soon.

(I woke up on Sunday morning with Kraftwerk's The Model in my head and a conviction that it could work as a sea shanty. I made up a couple of refrains for two of the instrumental bits, and we gave it a go...)

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

taken at the flood

On Tuesday 12th April I finished Taken At The Flood by Agatha Christie. After a run of disappointing ones (aside from Ariadne's appearance in Dead Man's Folly), it was a pretty good one, although a couple of things at the end let it down.