Wednesday, 31 July 2013


I finished Matter by Iain M Banks on Sunday 14 July. It was slow going, but picked up. But not one of his best; for all the build up and setting up and creating of worlds and ideas, and an interesting mix of sf and fantasy worlds and themes, the final phase and purpose didn't live up to it and seemed rather anticlimatic. But it's always impressive how detailed the worlds and situations created are, with ideas thrown in for a paragraph that someone else could have built whole chapters or books on. Also sometimes he's clunkily transparent in his books in having chunks which are just him airing his views on something, whether it's politics or religion and the meaning of life, and there was some of that.

Another author I'm working through chronologically, although of course sadly there is now a definite end-point to the sequence. I got Matter from the library, and had to renew it a few times; but I picked up the next one, Transition, in a charity shop before I'd finished Matter.

saturday 13 july - a day in town

On Saturday 13 July, with Bethan at choir practice, the younger generation and I had a day in town. We went to Trafalgar Square, where there was a Get London Reading event. Stayed there a little while, then into Canada House, where children could pick up a free book from a selection. Then a bus up to the British Library, where there was a set of free activities associated with the new Full English archive resource. We heard the Sharp's Folk Choir, which sounded very professional, if anything a bit too formal in its arrangements; it had certainly developed since I had been at what I think was it or its precursor some years ago, where it was a much smaller group meeting at Sharp's; we did a lot of foreign songs, and didn't seem to make much headway, and I didn't stick with it for more than a term, I think.

It was cherub's idea to go to the paying exhibition, Propaganda, and we did so after lunch and enjoyed it. It was my idea after that to go to the family singing session, but there weren't many people there; we learnt and sang a song, but didn't stick around to join in the performance afterwards; I wouldn't have minded, but I was outvoted.

In the library I spent a book token I had on books 1-3 and 5 in the Martin Beck series, having enjoyed No 4, The Laughing Policeman, so much.

We went to the South Bank, where I bought a fistful of paperbacks at the bookstalls, mostly crime, plus some annuals for cherub. We met Bethan, ate at Yo Sushi, and headed home.

the unfinished clue; why didn't they ask evans?

Finished The Unfinished Clue, by Georgette Heyer, on 8 July, and Why Didn't They Ask Evans, by Agatha Christie, on 18 July. Continuing to work my way through both of these authors - Georgette only her crime, though she's equally famous for her historical romances, which I think she wrote more of, and I should probably give one a go.

The Unfinished Clue was from 1933, and was pretty good. I posted my favourite line from it on Facebook, which was spotted by a colleague who didn't know she wrote crime, but knew her historical work because his mum had read them.
'if she wasn't a foreign lady, which accounts for it, I'd say she was barmy'
- Sergeant Nethersole, in The Unfinished Clue (1933), by Georgette Heyer

Then for balance I posted:
Gravedigger: It was that very day that young Hamlet was born - he that is mad and sent into England.
Hamlet: Ay, marry. Why was he sent into England
Gravedigger: Why, because he was mad. He shall recover his wits there. Or if he do not, 'tis no great matter there.
Hamlet: Why?
Gravedigger: 'Twill not be seen in him there. There the men are as mad as he.
- Act 5, Scene 1

Agatha I'm working through more or less chronologically the ones I haven't read before. This was one which I wasn't sure if I'd read before, when I was in school, so I read it again anyway. I didn't much like it; one of the kind where a couple of young people take it upon themselves to put themselves in danger and investigate themselves, and spend large passages creating theroies about who, why and how which you know are a waste of time reading.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

this house

We saw This House at the National Theatre on Wednesday 20 March - our anniversary outing. (As I put it on Facebook, 'To mark our twentieth anniversary I am taking my beloved to see a play about the internal political machinations of the House of Commons in the 1970s. It's my passionately romantic soul which makes others envy her so.' Someone offered me 'a woman's perspective' and suggested I buy twenty roses; I said I already had the perspective of the woman who mattered most. Anna said, 'The Point Academy of Romantic Instruction clearly taught you well....'. Emlyn suggested taking her to the real thing, the Strangers' Gallery, with the added benefit of it being free; I said we'd done that too - 'I know how to show a girl a good time'.)

We both enjoyed it a lot. It was well done and well acted, and full of accurate detail; in one way it was a shame to have read the programme in advance (more recently I've stopped doing that, actually, to see plays without the notes and then read them after), since they recounted so many of the details, but it did at least confirm that the most outlandish details were accurate. The only detail which jarred with me, but no one else I'm sure, was that the Western Isles MP of the time, Donald Stewart, was a character, but the accent he had was certainly not Hebridean, just a generalised Scottish accent. None of the MPs were named, actually, only referred to by their constituency, though some were recognisable even if you didn't know who they were from that.

A number of the actors were familiar to us. I realised that Vincent Franklin was both the nonsense-talking Tory spin doctor from The Thick Of It and the northern guy in Twenty Twelve, a connection I hadn't made before; he was good in this too. The staging was interesting, with commons benches on stage which moved and which had some audience members on. They also had a band on an upper level, who played music from the time, and a couple of the actors sang songs from the period, including Phil Daniels, who did Five Years I think.

Some reviews (we saw it in the Olivier, but it was a transfer from the Cottesloe, so some of the reviews are of the earlier production, which Philip Glenister was in). Telegraph (original). Telegraph. Guardian. London Theatre site. What's On Stage (original)The Stage. Londonist (original). West End Whingers. There Ought To Be Clowns (original). The Arts Desk (original). Rev Stan blog (original).

Friday, 19 July 2013

private eye highlights: famine eats his horse; who wrote anne frank's diary

A McLachlan cartoon in the current Private Eye (12-25 July). Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, obviously, but two of them - Death, with Famine behind him as passenger - on one horse. Death is saying to War and Pestilence, 'Things are really bad - Famine's eaten his horse.'

Also from current Private Eye:
Enquiry of the Month
'Dear Sir/Madam,
'I am writing with a query. I was just wondering if you could help me with finding the original author of Anne Frank's Diary (1947). I am aware Otto Frank edited it, and I know that this could possibly make him the copyright owner. I would really appreciate it if you were able to help me find the original author from the copyright page in the original publication.'
- email sent by editorial intern at Simon & Schuster, 24 June

Wednesday, 17 July 2013


I stayed up pretty late to watch Zodiac on the digibox on Friday 5 July. It was pretty good. Nothing further to report.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

football notes in the Rudhach

They've recently started carrying quite detailed reports of Point's football matches in the Rudhach. I don't know who writes them, but I'm going to pay closer attention after reading the ones in the current issue. They're detailed, which isn't always a blessing - I've read some excruciating detailed amateur football reports in my time - but these are interesting and nicely written.

From the report of the Point-Aths Jock Stein cup tie on 29 May (Point lost 2-6): 'Point began their 3rd game in 5 days without Andrew Archie who has a chest infection/nasty cold, and Alan Macmillan who has Church on a Wednesday, although he found out it was cancelled and made the bench - not that he's a joiner.' (I like the way it is straightforwardly accepted that a player won't be available for certain matches because he goes to church - and that on a Wednesday, mark you, not a Sunday.)

My favourite bit, from the report of the Point-Harris league match on 31 May (Point won 0-1): 'Moment of the match: Stuart Flower - note taker for the game - wandering into the showers after the match. "You weren't playing, Stuart." "Yeah, but I've got no hot water at home"! We have a two-week break coming up, so who knows what he'll do?' (Should mention that he is a player, but injured, not just a random supporter.)

Monday, 1 July 2013


Finished Hengeworld by Mike Pitts on Sunday 17 March. A very interesting book on the history of the archaeology - and archaeological theories - of Stonehenge, Avebury and the surrounding area. The most striking thing was how much work remains to be done even on the most notable elements. There are markings and carvings on the Stonehenge stones, for example, which haven't been fully surveyed yet, which is extraordinary.

white bear - school for wives

I saw School For Wives at the White Bear Theatre on Tuesday 12 March. Like most of the things I've seen there, it was pretty good. The dialogue seemed a bit odd to start with, until I realised the translator had done it in verse, as per Moliere's original. It was good enough that I was sorry I hadn't made time to go to see the production of Hamlet which had been on in January at the Network Theatre at Waterloo, which I took for a visiting amateur production (and I really didn't fancy another amateur production), and while it was visiting it wasn't amateur, as a couple of folk in School For Wives had been in it, I saw from the programme. (The White Bear continues to be a bit frustrating in not seeming to have a mailing list, although I've left my details twice.)

Again impressed by the quality of theatre that you can see in small London venues at reasonable prices; I guess partly there are just so many actors looking to make a living, or get experience, or get things on their CV. Sometimes you think there's a star of the future, sometimes not; other times you see people who have been longer in the business, either who have always been working away in the margins or who you recognise from something well-known in the past, and either way it's impressive that they've kept plugging away, especially when they're good. With some minor difference in the acts of fate at some point or other in their career, they might have become much more successful.

Reviews. One Stop Arts. The New Current (new to me) (over-loved it) (also interview with director here). Everything Theatre (new to me). Notes of an Idealist (new to me). Remote Goat. The theatre company was Mercurius, whose website indicates that it was up for (but presumably didn't get) Offies for Best Director and Best Actor; the page for this production had links to all the reviews listed so far, who all liked it, and (without over-digging) I didn't find any other reviews - all, I think, amateur blogs, though not low-quality; you do wonder why it is some fringe productions get picked up for review by bigger outlets and others don't).