Friday, November 25, 2005

Where there's a Will

Further to my last entry the book is now ready for going on-line, I’m just waiting for someone to show me how to save it in Acrobat format – I think that’s what they said anyway.

Well, what a week fans of Shakespeare have had. First on Monday was the BBC’s production of Taming of the Shrew in the Shakespeare Re-Told Series, I thought this one worked well, better than Macbeth the week before but still for me not quite as good as Much Ado. On Tuesday I really enjoyed William Boyd’s play ‘A Waste of Shame’ on BBC4 which gave his opinions and ideas on the identity of the ‘Fair Youth’ and the ‘Dark Lady’ of Shakespeare’s sonnets. I thought Rupert Graves was excellent as Shakespeare even though the author had made his character rather dark and intense but this somehow made him more real say than the Will of 'Shakespeare in Love.' Then on Thursday I sat down for lunch and found a repeat of Michael Wood’s excellent ‘In Search of Shakespeare’ series on the UK History channel – so a little overdosed on the bard this week but that can only be a good thing.

Am enjoying reading ‘The Pure in Heart’ by Susan Hill. This is the second of her Simon Serrailler crime novels. I really enjoyed the first one ‘The Various Haunts of Men’ although I was left bereft by the final awful twist at the end. Both books are wonderfully written and hard to put down. The columns written by Alex Kapranos and Maureen Lipman make Friday’s Guardian a must buy, so now I have to make sure I get Friday’s copy as well as Saturday’s each week

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Oops - been busy

Didn’t realize it was so long since I’d written anything on here. Probably because I’ve been busy typing up and editing the text of a small booklet I wrote about ten years ago and trying to get it ready to put on-line. When I worked at Ayscoughfee Hall, Spalding I wrote a history of the house and the families who had owned it over 500 years and it is now out of print. The Hall itself has been closed for refurbishment and the Council, who originally produced it ‘in house’, aren’t going to produce any more for the moment so I thought that if I could get the text on-line, minus illustrations, people who wanted to read it could access it. When it is ready I’ll put a link up from my Scarcliffe site. My other book ‘A Postcard from Spalding’ is still available from the Local History Magazine website.

Monday, November 14, 2005

A bit of a Scandal

As promised a report of the Northern Broadsides production of The School for Scandal. We actually attended the matinee performance on Saturday as we couldn’t get seats for the evening performance. There were seats left on the balcony but they are very uncomfortable and make you sort of lurch forward with your feet off the floor. Anyway, we arrived with plenty of time to spare but we needed it because the car park was full and we had to park on the main road and walk back. We were sitting in the midst of a group of students who were making notes and drawings of the sets and costumes and generally having a wonderful time. The actors began to wander on to the stage area as the front of house staff were still guiding people to their seats so there was a wonderful melee of different people to watch whilst waiting for the performance to start. As is usual with Northern Broadsides there was music provided by the actors and the first tune heralded the start of the play.

I found the whole thing thoroughly enjoyable with good solid performances from all of the company, although I did have slight trouble picking up a few words from the actress who played Lady Teazle, not that she was quiet but more slightly indistinct and lispy. This was accompanied by a particularly strange habit of tucking her elbows into her waist and letting her lower arms and hands flutter about in a most disconcerting manner but she was very funny. There was a totally comic moment of ad lib between the actors playing Charles Surface and Sir Oliver when, just as Sir Oliver was making a sweeping exit a mobile phone rang in the audience. ‘Oh’ the actor declared ‘kettle’s boiled’ – the owner of said phone took a long time dealing with it and each time the actors tried to carry on with their lines off it went again until Sir Oliver turned his gazed upon the unfortunate person and declared ‘Well, are you going to answer it?’ It must have been very unsettling for the actors but they coped well. Naughty theatergoer though, to not switch off their phone it shows great disrespect for others.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

That Christmas Thing - Part 2

In a similar vein to those letters you get to ‘The Times’ when people write in to say that they have heard the first cuckoo of the season, so, tonight, as we drove home from a wonderful performance of The School for Scandal (of which more later) we saw our first ‘decorated’ house of the season. Yes, indeed, there it was as we came up the hill in the gathering gloom, accompanied by the sound of distant fireworks (again!) standing out amongst its fellows in all its garish glory fully adorned with twinkling icicles, a parachuting Santa, a flashing Rudolph and his sleigh and lots of glistening, dancing, snowmen. Why? It’s only 12th November for goodness sake.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

That Christmas Thing

I've had my first Christmas card and present today. Delivered by post and not from overseas either, just from Lincolnshire. Of course I'm really happy and grateful to receive said present but it has made me feel totally inadequate as I haven't even begun to think about Christmas yet. I know the shops have been full of 'festive fayre' since August Bank Holiday, but I've been doing my rather good impression of an ostrich. I was aware that Chritmas was happening because when I went into the local town at the end of September to buy a new trowel for the garden I was told by the shop assistants in both Woolworth and Tesco that 'oh, gardening has finished now, we've put Christmas out.' - or words to that effect anyway. I'm afraid gardening in my neck of the woods is far from 'finished' - just in limbo at the moment because most of the garden is waterlogged again.

Oh well, I suppose I'd better start making lists - it doesn't achieve anything really but makes you feel as if you are doing something. On second thoughts, perhaps I'll do it tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Much Ado

Well what a treat on TV last night. I just knew I was going to enjoy the first of the four modern adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays (done by the BBC after their very successful Chaucer ones). Much Ado About Nothing is, for me, one of his best comedy plays (the other being Twelfth Night) and as it had two of my very favourite actors playing Beatrice and Benedict I just knew I wouldn’t be disappointed. I loved every minute of it and was surprised how well it adapted to the modern setting of a regional TV news station. Pressed the red button for the interactive stuff afterwards too and that was fascinating – thank God for the digi-box.

I was trying to recollect when I first saw Much Ado so I dug out my programme collection. I remembered seeing it at the old Victoria Theatre in Stoke when we came from Mansfield on an evening visit organized by the Art College (who would have thought then that I’d actually come and live in Stoke?) I also knew I’d seem it at Stratford with Judi Dench as Beatrice and Donald Sinden as Benedict. Sure enough I found the programme – it was in 1976 (shock, horror that's nearly 30 years ago) and other actors were Cherie Lunghi as Hero plus, Bob Peck, Robin Ellis, Ivan Beavis and Ian McDairmid.

Of course, the old Vic was replaced by the new one and we are off there on Saturday to see the Northern Broadsides production of School for Scandal. We really enjoyed seeing the company earlier this year in Sweet William so when we saw they were coming again we booked straight away.

I must look back to see when I first saw School for Scandal. I know it was at Nottingham Playhouse and I think it was directed by Jonathan Miller – I remember the revolving stage and the exaggerated turned up noses making the actors look like caricatures from a Hogarth painting. I’ll report back on that one.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Mischievous Night

When I was a child the 4th November was always ‘Mischievous Night’. In the small Derbyshire village where I grew up this usually meant little more than a few practical jokes played on neighbours in the early evening after school. My best friend and I would meet up with a few others and we would dare each other to knock on doors and run away. This entailed opening gates and going up drives to front doors which if you had to run away quickly gave you less time than if the front doors had been nearer the road. There was one particular house that had a rather decorative front garden made up of little paths and the big ‘dare’ was to run around the little paths without getting caught. This was rather more nerve-wracking that the “scrumping” for apples that had gone on a few weeks before in the orchard of ‘the big house’. Of course the boys always did more than we girls; taking garden gates off their hinges or sending a treasured garden gnome on a little trip somewhere further down the road.

Come Bonfire Night (which was always on 5th November and not spread over weeks like it is today) we had the pleasure of excitedly gathering around the bonfire on my friend’s dad’s allotment. We had a few fireworks each which we all brought along to share; things like Roman candles, Catherine wheels and rockets plus the occasional jumping jack and banger. It was the bonfire, though, that was the draw – it kept you warm, it cooked your baked potato wrapped in foil, it lit up the night sky and we all used to run around in scarves and mittens, clutching our sparklers whilst sucking on home-made bonfire toffee before heading home tired, happy and smelling of wood smoke.

All this may seem rather mundane and innocent in these days of ‘Trick or Treat”, two months of fireworks and Christmas in the shops at the end of August. Where has the respect for anniversaries and seasons gone? The simple pleasure of celebrating them chronologically and eating foods seasonally seems to have disappeared, it would seem today that if your life isn’t “extreme” or “awesome” then you are seen as a “loser” and that is a shame because the simple magic and innocent enjoyment has gone and will never return.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The 'Limo' Man

Just around the corner on the end of the next street from ours lives a man who runs a stretch limo business. Every Friday he fetches both of his cars, one black, one white, from his garage under the railway arches down in the town. He always spends quite a bit of time cleaning and polishing them and then adorning them with flowers and ribbons for the weekend’s weddings or parties. He is a dapper little man with a perpetual tan who usually wears shorts and deck shoes, no matter the weather, and takes great pride in his work; he does, though, look as if he should be on a marina or quay side in the south of France rather than on the corner of a street on a 1970s housing estate. Anyway, the reason I mention him is that as I walked past today I had to look twice at the limo parked just off the main road because it wasn’t black, it wasn’t white but it was pink, a sort of strawberry ice cream pink, just the ticket for those ‘girly’ nights out. It did, however, look rather forlorn and extremely dusty in the wind and rain with fallen russet leaves sticking to its windscreen. I bet ‘Mr Limo’ had just popped in the house for his sponge and bucket though.

In today’s Guardian the playwright Simon Grey was asked what he would do if he had the money. One of his answers was ‘First, I’d make sure that there are lots and lots of public lavatories in all the towns and cities in the country; properly attended with security guards if necessary.’ I’ll second that and add that can they be open 24 hours a day and be spotlessly clean too? And please, please not those ones where you press buttons, pay and get in and then panic in case you can’t get out again? I have strong memories of P and I driving back through the night from the ferry port at Portsmouth, after a super holiday in France, both upset because we’d hit a rabbit and not being able to find a public convenience that was open for ages and then, when we did, it was one of those ‘tardis’ things, in the middle of a car park, in the dark, in god knows which town because I’ve never been able to remember.