Monthly Archives: June 2013

List: Odd London Encounters

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I love London. Yes, it has it’s downsides – it takes forever to get anywhere because it’s so big, for example – but it’s worth it for the wealth of experiences you get. And one of the reasons I love London in particular is because you never know what you’re going to see from one day to the next; just pottering around the city during your daily life, you can come across the most surreal and mind-boggling sights. So here’s a few of my favourites from the past year (off the top of my head!). What is your favourite/most bizarre London encounter?

  1. The man standing on top of a car next to Wandsworth Road… just standing, staring into the middle distance. As you do.
  2. The middle-aged woman walking down the King’s Road in Kensington with a parrot on each shoulder.
  3. My route home from the bus stop being turned into the set of a low budget zombie movie at 2am. At least I hope it was a movie.
  4. Grown men and women running around the Science Museum dressed up as cockroaches, chanting ‘scuttle, scuttle, scuttle’. Apparently this is a regular occurance.
  5. This sheep – spotted outside the station in Wimbledon.261395_10152546737580234_1165374424_n
  6. A woman putting her washing out to dry in the middle of one of the Royal Parks.
  7. Walking past a woman that looked the SPIT of Cruella Deville. Stripey hair and everything.
  8. That one day when for some reason it seemed that everybody except us was dressed in animal onesies. Except the man wearing a leather business suit.
  9. Wandering through Leicester Square one day, when I walked past a man in a suit wearing a Mr Bean mask, holding a teddy bear and dancing on the spot. This was bizarre enough in itself, but about 5 yards away there was a man singing down a traffic cone. Are these the two worst buskers in London?
  10. The wonderful ways in which some people travel to work – on rollerblades, children’s scooters and tandems, amongst others – and always whilst wearing a posh suit. Totally what Boris’s Cycle Super Highways should be used for.

Review: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Theatre Royal, London

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Rating: 3/5

I don’t know whether I’ve just been spoilt by the musicals I’ve seen in the last few months – Matilda, The Book of Mormon – but for me, this new adaptation of Roald Dahl’s much-loved book didn’t quite hit the spot.

The acting was solid, particularly from the adult cast, and there was some excellent work from the child cast – my personal favourite was Violet Beauregard, AKA the “Double Bubble Duchess”. However, a lot of this was lost due to a combination of VERY up-tempo songs and terrible diction. Whilst I’m sure the lyrics here were excellent, it was impossible to appreciate them and this was a real shame. It also meant that it was difficult to connect with the five golden ticket holders [sure, most of them aren’t meant to be liked, but it still would have been nice to know the particulars of why we were disliking them] because there was no chance of understanding their central character songs.

The pace overall was quite slow, and I was surprised to discover that we had only just arrived at the factory by the end of the first half. The first half could have been much snappier, particularly the large amount of time spent introducing us to the Bucket family. More could have been made of the Grandparents, who used what material they had to great comic effect, whilst the song “If your mother were here” was completely redundant.

 

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Photo by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

The second half , however, was generally much better, with some excellent use of staging and great musical numbers from the Oompa-Loompas, who were cleverly managed throughout. A particular favourite moment of mine was the clever reference to The Nutcracker as Veruca Salt met her nutty demise – but I won’t spoil the surprise any further by describing it.

However, the inclusion of ‘Pure Imagination‘ towards the end of the show smacked of gimmick, and I wonder whether this was included to try and remind audiences of their affection for the original film adaptation, and sweeten (no pun intended) their opinions of this new version. In any case, it was certainly the most memorable song of the whole show.

Overall, I just felt that it didn’t have the heart or depth of other Dahl adaptations – when compared to Tim Minchin’s dark and very witty adaptation of Matilda or Henry Selick’s 1996 film version of James and the Giant Peach, it just doesn’t come close.

My first attempt at fiction writing, courtesy of The Guardian. Don’t be too hard on me!

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This post is a response to a thread on the Guardian website inviting readers to respond to the first line of a story with their own interpretation.

It can be found at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2013/jun/14/neil-gaiman-write-a-story?commentpage=7

 

 

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Cat (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

It wasn’t just the murder, he decided. Everything else seemed to have conspired to ruin his day as well. Even the cat. From the moment he’d woken up to discover it had vomited all over the bedroom carpet, Owen had known that it wasn’t going to be a good day. Fumbling to locate the anti-bacterial spray in the cupboard, he felt a pang of loss. This was the kind of thing his wife would have dealt with, when she was still here. He missed her every day, for unexpected and ever-increasing reasons.

Now he was at work, trying to regain some normality. As a Detective, Owen had seen it all. There was very little that shocked him these days. But there was something about this one – this brutal, yet perfect crime – that had got under his skin. He had been trying to solve it for weeks. Each time he thought he had something, the evidence would lead to a dead end. It was meticulous, the attention to detail that rendered the case unsolvable. No fingerprints, no DNA evidence – not even the murder weapon was identifiable. And the longer he was at large, the higher the likelihood that he would kill again.

As he checked the case file for the 47th time that day, Owen sighed. If only there was something to go on, but they hadn’t even been able to ID the victim. He pulled his coat on and prepared to leave for the night, pausing as he suddenly heard a shriek from the direction of the morgue. A voice filled with emotion cried out, ‘That’s my daughter! Jane, oh my God, no! How could this have happened?’

Despite himself, Owen felt a surge of excitement and hope – this could be the information they needed to solve the case. Perhaps his luck was changing.

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Daily Prompt: Singin’ in the Rain by michelle w. on June 15, 2013

Safe inside, toasty warm, while water pitter-patters on the roof… describe your perfect, rainy afternoon

My perfect rainy afternoon… Well, I’m British, so I’ve had a fair amount of chances to explore this concept – today being a case in point. And I’ve come to the conclusion that the best plans are normally the simplest.

You can’t really go wrong with drinking tea, watching old movies, and snuggling up on the sofa under a blanket with the cat – or a man, if there’s one around. But that’s an optional extra. Of course you need to be wearing your pyjamas, or at the very least your slippers, and be sitting within sight of a window. This should preferably be single-glazed so that you can hear the wind howling and the rain lashing against the glass. And the film should almost certainly be black and white, starring Audrey Hepburn, James Stewart or Clark Gable.

If I was being really fussy, I’d request a roaring log fire and a ramshackle country cottage as my location, complete with creaking floorboards, solid oak beams, and sheepskin rug. And possibly a game of Scrabble. But you can’t have everything. 

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Daily Prompt: You’ve Got the Power

I’m back! I haven’t written for a while, as I’ve been in the midst of final deadlines at uni. But today’s daily prompt really fascinated me.

If I could enact one single law, what would it be?

…If it was a wish I wouldn’t have a problem – get Michael Gove fired, win the lottery, own a pet unicorn, be able to fly – the possibilities are endless (as the advert goes)!

But a law is more complicated than that. It has repercussions outside of my life – potentially serious consequences for the entire nation – and that requires some consideration. On asking friends, I got various responses including ‘ban all additives so i don’t have to question what i’m eating’ or ‘more funding for the arts’, or ‘tourists should be made to walk at the same pace as locals’. These are all interesting ideas, and I’d certainly be on board with most of them. But, for me, if I’ve only got one law, I’d like it ideally to be something that benefits the majority of people.

My first thought was tolerance. A friend of mine recently sent me an example of some ridiculously ignorant [to the point of suspecting he wasn’t being serious] racism that he was subjected to during a bus journey to work**. And I’d love to be able to outlaw all forms of racism, along with sexism, ageism, homophobia, and religious intolerance. The ‘Live And Let Live’ Law. But this has it’s limitations. I mean, yes I want general tolerance, but how far-reaching would it be? I recently had a conversation with someone who was of the opinion that ‘bestiality is really no worse than killing an animal to eat it. It’s still hurting an animal for human benefit’. Whilst I agree with the logic, the sentiment makes me rather [very!] uncomfortable. And equally, some people think that murdering others is OK, and complete tolerance would mean allowing them to do so. Ultimately it seems inevitable that this attitude would end in anarchy, and that wouldn’t benefit anyone.

So my final thought is – I don’t want the power or the responsibility of coming up with a new law. NEXT.

**For those of you that are interested, it was as follows:

“I just had the funniest conversation with a drunk racist. I had to sit next to him since the bus was full. When I sat down he immediately said “don’t sit here!” and I asked why and he said “germs”.Me: “YOU have germs?”

Him: “No, you do!”

Me: “Oh, right…I don’t feel ill, so I’m sure you’ll be fine.”

Him: “You want a slap?! Get up!”

Me: “No, you cant tell where to sit; it’s a bus”.

Then nothing for a while.

Him: “You should wear a turban and be a Guru Nanak.”

I died.

Me: “I don’t imagine I would suit a turban, mate, but thanks for the suggestion.”

Other people sniggering.

Him: “Are you a suicide bomber?”

Me: “Nah, it’s my day off, see you later mate, love you forever.”

I got off the bus.”

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Daily Prompt: Never

I haven’t responded to one of these Daily Prompts before, but this one sparked my interest. However, I spent most of the afternoon (whilst I was meant to be paying attention to a lecture on adolescence) racking my brains trying to think of something that I would never post about. I’m naturally a very open and honest person – many of my friends would say too much so – and I’ve been known to get into trouble for this trait in the past.

Then I realised – although I’ll warn you it’s not particularly groundbreaking – that I would never post about my romantic relationships. As much as people have encouraged me to do it, and the temptation is there (blogs about dating are normally pretty popular) it could potentially cause a lot of problems.

As a teacher, I would potentially be risking my job if such a blog was to be found by my students.

As a daughter, I would hate to think I might embarrass my parents in any way by writing in detail about my private life on the internet – I respect them, and I feel I need to make decisions about my life which honour this respect, rather than failing to think about my actions and potentially making their lives difficult. After all, I know that for their part they wouldn’t intentionally want to embarrass me, even if they do frequently manage it accidentally…

But the main reason why I don’t want to post about these things is that there are some things in life that I think are better kept private. I may choose to share certain facts with very close friends (normally if I want a second opinion on something or extra ammo in an argument!), but part of what makes being in a relationship special is the private moments that you share with that other person. Whether this is sharing a joke, a duvet, or a holiday, there are some things that the whole world does not need to know about in detail. And what’s more, I would hate for the entirety of my own behaviour to be released to public scrutiny on the internet, so I choose to show my partners that same courtesy. We all say things without thinking, do things that we later regret and make decisions based on momentary poor judgement or inexperience, and I can’t help but think that immortalising such instances on the web would, if anything, only make these situations worse. There are some things that you don’t want to be reminded of forever-more!

(Also, to be honest, most of it wouldn’t be very interesting)

Review: Muse at the Etihad

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Well, where to begin…?

There was a giant lightbulb. There was a woman drinking petrol. There was a banker throwing “money” into the crowd. But most of all, there were some rockin’ tunes.

The support acts – Bastille and Dizzee Rascal – whilst slightly unexpected choices, were excellent. Bastille’s performance was energetic and polished. Their front man – clearly a very talented and versatile musician – made me tired just watching, as he constantly ran around the stage, at different times playing keyboard, drums and guitar as well as singing. I only wished that i’d listened to their album prior to the gig, as I was unfamiliar with most of their songs. Their euphoric, upbeat synth-pop was a great mood-setter for the rest of the concert, and needless to say, I’ve now bought their album.

Up next was Dizzee Rascal. A veteran of the British rap scene [in relative terms], I was expecting good things. He did not disappoint, performing a mix of his best known hits and newer material and managing to keep a crowd who could have easily turned against him – let’s face it, were here for a rock gig – on his side. He had a really excellent vocalist, back-up and DJ with him, which, given how giant the stage (and venue) was, seemed like a good move. My one qualm with his performance was that his language was atrocious for the entire set. I’m not really a fan of gratuitous swearing at the best of times, and much as he gave a great performance to which I sang and danced along with gusto, the teacher in me struggled to let his constant use of the F word go – considering he’s a rapper, his use of language was definitely not as creative as it could have been!
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So, the main event. Muse. This was a set permeated with political and social comment. As ever, their performance was excellent, and the crowd was not disappointed by their two hour set. And their new material – very different to their older albums – was received with almost as much enthusiasm as old favourites such as Plug In Baby or Feeling Good. The show was fairly impressive – at various points there was a giant lightbulb floating across the stage with an acrobat hanging from it, a huge robot, lots of fire canons and a silver grand piano with LEDs in the lid – but it was clear that they wanted to draw the audience’s attention to the political message contained on their latest album.

They opened and closed their set with a pair of songs (although i might be tempted to call them soundscapes) from their new album, The 2nd Law: ‘Unsustainable’ and ‘Isolated System’, in which there is a fairly obvious use of media reports of global economic issues and environmental problems. This was combined with short dramatic scenes at various points during the set, which would start on the big screens before bursting out and on to the stage, bringing them to the very forefront of the show – at these points, the music was clearly not meant to be the main focus, but a backdrop. The first of these (i’m not including a quirky animation in which leading politicians danced along to a Muse song, entertaining as it was) involved a board room, a smirking banker, and the collapse of the stock exchange. He then burst on to the stage, and proceeded to throw money into the crowd before dying at the end of the stage, in the middle of the crowd. With the song ‘Animal’ playing alongside this, and the demonic facial expressions of the characters in the film, this was clearly meant to be a statement about the negative effect of bankers on our current economic situation. The second short was of a woman in a business suit attached to a mobile phone – this time on the stage – who dramatically walks to a petrol pump at the end of the stage, drinks a few gallons of petrol and keels over, accompanied by the song ‘Feeling Good’.

Whilst I am completely in agreement with both of these political statements – I assume the latter was about waste, gluttony, greed – take your pick – I was somewhat baffled by the obvious contradiction between these messages and the fact that a bottom price ticket for this tour cost £50. I am well aware that this is the going rate for an arena tour, but with around 50,000 people in attendance at every gig, I suspect that the band could charge a little less for tickets and still make a fairly good chunk of profit out of the proceeds of this tour. They didn’t exactly shy away from using (presumably petrol fuelled) fire cannons at every available opportunity either. The show and music were undoubtedly excellent, but I was left a little puzzled by this apparent attempt at political messaging – it just didn’t ring true with the rest of the show and its setting in what is arguably the home of greed – a premiership football stadium.

And the light bulb wasn’t even an energy saving bulb.