Sunday, 29 December 2013

the harry hill movie

On Monday 23rd December we went to an afternoon showing of The Harry Hill Movie at the Shaftesbury Avenue Cineworld. It had had mixed reviews, but we enjoyed it a lot, being very like the humour and style of his TV work.

That's the cinema which is in the Trocadero centre - whichever chain it used to be used to include that in its name (Wikipedia suggests a sequence of MGM, Virgin, UGC, Cineworld - I'd forgotten about MGM cinemas, but they were there when I came down first I'm sure), but perhaps Trocadero is a poisonous brand now. The centre itself is very run down; it feels almost post-apocalyptic, with stalls and tat shops camped out with a very temporary feel in what used to be a centre with some pleasant and reputable shops.

morris folk choir and lgq in december

In December I had my first three performances as part of Morris Folk Choir, apart from the anomalous though marvellous involvement in The Events. Singing at the St Andrew's Christmas fete on Saturday 7 December was nicely low-key, as to a large extent we were background music to the fete in the body of the church, with only a few people deliberately listening to us up our end of the church. On the following Saturday we had our Christmas concert and ceilidh, which I thought up to a few minutes before the start time was going to be very poorly attended, but it was respectable in the end, and went pretty well. Then on Tuesday 17 December we sang Christmas carols - and other songs from our repertoire - in Euston station for Marie Curie, and that was fine too, though of course no static audience.

The last rehearsal in November was the designated Morris Folk Club night - the first I had made it to in the end, though that was what was supposed to be on the night I first went along. That first night was completely a rehearsal for the upcoming performance, and this night was mostly a rehearsal, but did have four or five individual performances from choir members, including one from me, my first at Morris, a rendition of Stop The Cavalry, appropriately seasonal, which I think makes a good folk song (I did it at Sharp's a few years ago, but not sure they were convinced). It went fine.

And on Wednesday 4 December we had the London Gallery Quire Christmas concert at St George's Alie Street. I felt a bit underprepared for a couple of them, but it went pretty well on the whole I think. Doing the two choirs has helped me enjoy LGQ a bit more, I think, as I was getting a bit stale with it. I've probably said before that if I'd gone to Morris first I would have been happy with that and not added LGQ to my 'portfolio', but I'm sure LGQ improved my confidence and my choral ability.

maisie dobbs

I finished Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear on Sunday 15 December. The first in a series of detective novels, set in London in 1929 but written in America. Bought as a present last year for Bethan because of its name, but she didn't enjoy it much and neither did I - we won't be pursuing the series. I didn't think it was that interesting or well-written; there were points that it felt quite 'researched', like in over-elaborate descriptions of routes in London; but most of all it felt like the story within the story - Maisie's whole back story - was a dull novel which had failed to get published until someone had had the idea of turning it into a detective story.

a question of upbringing

Halfway through reading A Question Of Upbringing by Antony Powell I abandoned it, earlier this year. First of a long series of novels, supposedly a classic, A Dance To The Music Of Time. But I found it dull and humourless, flatly written, and shaping up to be nothing more than a soap opera about posh and semi-posh people for people who considered themselves to be above soap operas.

I'm still not great at abandoning books even if I'm not enjoying them, but life's getting shorter.

rereading lord of the rings

On 23 December I posted this on Facebook: 'Not much of a one for re-reading, but felt in need of a fantasy journey story, so have decided to give Lord of the Rings another go. I read it when I was in school but wasn't that taken with it (I appreciated the world/history creation rather than the actual execution of it). Maybe I'll appreciate it more now. Though I have just plodded through the prologue material - can't work out why it was thought necessary or valuable to put all that stuff at the start rather than in the appendices (a couple of pages would have done, including the rewriting of ring acquisition from The Hobbit in the light of its now greater significance). A Long-Expected Party awaits.'

I've started reading it - in a nice seven-volume edition (film tie-in, but discreetly so) that I picked up in a charity shop some time ago - and decided to make some notes as I go. Partly on how I'm enjoying it, partly on how it's striking me, partly on how/why it works and is beloved, and inevitably partly on comparing it with the films.

I'm making the notes in a notebook; I may blog them exactly as is, or expand/reflect.

Monday, 9 December 2013

stranger in a strange land

I finished reading Stranger In A Strange Land by Robert A Heinlein at the weekend. It's one of these famous, notable SF classics, but it was mighty disappointing. Man from Mars brought back to earth, sees world in different way, brings insights accordingly, with side order of satire/attack on religion - that's what I was generally expecting. But it was patchy, poorly structured, didn't hold to its own internal logic, made odd plot leaps, behavioural inconsistencies/stupidities, illogicalities for the purpose of later plot progress, didn't actually have much in the way of interesting ideas or insights, wasn't very satirical (he presents the daring and startling idea that some charlatans operate within religion - controversial!) wasn't that well written, and just didn't make sense.

The Wikipedia entry quotes a review I'd go along with: 'Writing in The New York Times, Orville Prescott received the novel caustically, describing it as a "disastrous mishmash of science fiction, laborious humor, dreary social satire and cheap eroticism"; he characterized Stranger as "puerile and ludicrous", saying "when a non-stop orgy is combined with a lot of preposterous chatter, it becomes unendurable, an affront to the patience and intelligence of readers".' Inevitably, someone founded a religion based on the sex cult the Martian sets up.

I'll stand by my enjoyment of Starship Troopers, though, essentially a war story in space following one soldier's career. That's supposedly controversial too, as being right wing (the film in particular is perceived as a satire on fascism, the book conversely as non-satirically right wing), but I didn't think so. But I think I'm probably done with Mr Heinlein now.

Monday, 2 December 2013

a london calling t-shirt

A friend at church (Maisie) was wearing a t-shirt last week with the cover of The Clash's London Calling on it. London Calling came out in 1979, when I was twelve. The cover design is a take-off of Elvis Presley's eponymous debut album, which had been released in 1956 - eleven years before I was born, twenty-three years before London Calling was released, ancient history in both respects. London Calling was released more than eleven years before Maisie was born, and thirty-four years ago from now - again, ancient history in both respects.

I'm not sure what that all means, but it made me think of the nature of history, mortality, perspective, the passing of time, and the power of a good album cover.

London calling - yes, I was there too. And you know what they said? Well, some of it was true.