Tuesday, February 23, 2010

west wing+bullying?

As you might have gathered, I absolutely love the “West Wing” (pathetically, I’m only up to the middle of Season 3 thus far, but I’m getting there). Good generally seems to win over bad. I find the characters and storylines fascinating, clever, sharp and funny. When I grow up, I aspire to be a cross between CJ and Toby.
However, I’m also aware that there are aspects of the programme that quite appal me. For instance:
- They seem obsessed with “outworking each other” – forever calling everyone to 7am meetings and regularly working into the “early hours” (ditto working weekends)… “whatever you do, don’t be the first one to leave for home”.
- No one (apart from the President) seems capable of maintaining a relationship/marriage.
- They bark out strategy decisions and orders (and they talk SO fast!) - nobody ever asks someone to repeat anything. I wouldn’t last a month before I made some calamitous error (“oh sorry, I thought that’s what we’d agreed”).
- Calling key staff/governors etc to meetings at the White House at a moment’s notice (failure to attend will almost certainly have severe implications).
Do you think any of the above would constitute “bullying”?
Should anyone warn Gordon?
Just a thought….

Sunday, February 21, 2010

a single man

Alan, Gareth, Carolyn, Moira+I went to see “A Single Man” at the Watershed yesterday afternoon. Based on Christopher Isherwood’s semi-autobiographical novel and featuring an outstanding Colin Firth as an English college professor in 1962 Los Angeles (Gareth was pleased to see Firth emerging from water once again – naked this time, not a wet shirt in sight!). Beautiful photography and elegantly-constructed scenes (directed by fashion designer Tom Ford – actually, everything was probably just a little too sumptuous!) and I loved how the film emerged from semi-monochrome to more intense colours (and back) as Firth engaged with some of the characters. Julianne Moore is wonderful as a best friend, confidante, semi-alcoholic divorcee.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

felix in midsummer night’s dream

This is the eleventh season of the highly-acclaimed “Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory” (11 February–20 March) and this year they’re performing “Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “The Tempest” (and for the third year running it’s already a near sell-out). Felix (Hannah’s husband for those who don’t know!) has been chosen for parts in both plays. “MSND” is currently running and has received some stunning reviews.
Lyn Gardner in “The Guardian” describes it thus: “It's possible to see at least four productions of Shakespeare's play this month, and inevitably Peter Hall's revival with Judi Dench has grabbed the headlines. But if you want to see Shakespeare's play at its freshest and funniest, you should head straight to Bristol, where Andrew Hilton produces low-budget Shakespeare with a consistency that must make the RSC weep”. Jeremy Brien’s review in “The Stage” is equally lyrical: “Ralph Richardson once said he had never seen a bad production of the Dream, but equally had never seen a perfect one. This sparkling offering helps tip the balance towards the latter”.
In MSND, Felix plays the part of Tom Snout and it’s been really lovely seeing that he’s been picked out for special mention in several reviews, for example:
The Guardian: “This is a Dream that is wistful and sexy, with a wild pagan heart beating beneath its ­formal ­exterior. There are some blissfully funny moments, including a Snout who plays Wall with glorious anguish”.
The Stage: “Chris Donnelly brings some delightful Marx Brothers’ touches to Nick Bottom, Felix Hayes’ Snout the Tinker almost steals the whole shebang as an Olympic weight-lifting ‘Wall’ in the Pyramus and Thisbe interlude, while Christopher Staines anchors the entire box of delights as an all-knowing Puck”.
Moira+I can’t wait to see it (and 13 March seems an awful long time ahead!).

Photo: Felix is on the extreme right!

Friday, February 19, 2010

more books

You might recall (but probably not!) that I made a vague resolution at the end of August to try to read more over the coming year – after reading some seven books over the summer. Well, thus far, I’ve done a little better than usual. I’ve previously blogged about the following books: The Wasp Factory (Iain Banks), Goodbye Mr Chips (James Hilton), 31 Songs (Nick Hornby), Fugitive Pieces (Anne Michaels) and The Road (Cormac McCarthy) and I’ve now just finished* the following:
Anamcara (John O’Donohue): I just love the way he writes and know that this will be a book I’ll refer to again and again over the coming years.
Ten Things They Never Told Me About Jesus (John L Bell): We’ve been reading this book in our Ithaca group. Very accessible and challenging. John Bell is always very good value.
Letters From An Extreme Pilgrim (Peter Owen Jones): He’s my kind of vicar! Although I could easily finish* this book in a couple of hours, I’m only reading a letter-a-day as part of my Lenten routine/discipline.
The Shipping News (E Annie Proulx): I picked this up at a second-hand book stall and really enjoyed it; beautifully written. Think it’s time I bought the DVD!
The Shack (William P Young): I’m not a great lover of “Christian Fiction” but, despite it’s “american-folksey-schmaltz”(?), actually found it quite thought-provoking.
The fact that four of these five books are vaguely spiritual in content seems a little strange for me – but perhaps it does reflect a little of the way I’m feeling just now (in a self-examination sort of way I suppose – but not in a bad, beat-yourself-up manner!).

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

tea party movement

The Tea Party movement started in the US in February last year with local, spontaneously-organised and internet-fuelled protests against what participants perceived as “big government” and its excessive spending (and, to some extent, I can understand where they’re coming from – even though the big spending had started under George W, largely as a result of greedy bankers). Having read various newspaper reports over recent months, I’m somewhat alarmed by the rapid growth of this group – which essentially appears to be to the right of the Republican party (and almost anti-Republican?) - and, from the radio interviews I’ve heard on the BBC’s World Service, by the extreme views of (at least) some of its supporters. If you’ve previously read my blog, you will have realised that I’m an Obama fan. I’ve been encouraged that, over the past year or so, the US has become a “world player” once more. Frighteningly, I think that the Tea Party Movement might well become a political force by the time of the next Presidential Election and, if the extreme/selfish opinions that I’ve been hearing take hold (they remind me of the early days of the Thatcher government), then we should all fear the worse.
PS: At present, there seems to be a fair amount of in-fighting regarding the Tea Party’s organisation/leadership…. but they’ll surely sort this out in due course.
PPS: I’m not sure if I was depressed or encouraged by the fact that Sarah Palin recently addressed a TP convention…. surely, any movement would realise the folly of lining up behind her (especially if she did reportedly charge a fee of $115,000)?
Photo: worst case scenario?

Monday, February 15, 2010

year of the tiger

Moira+I went up the City Museum+Art Gallery yesterday to see some of the Chinese New Year celebrations. As it’s the “Year of the Tiger”, our artist friend Tony Eastman had been invited to provide various tiger artefacts that he’d been collecting from around the world over many years – some wonderful stuff. We also watched the Lion Dance in the main foyer, performed by the University of Bristol Chinese Lion Dance Troupe. LOTS of others turned out to watch it too – the foyer was packed out and so were the first and second floor galleries. A really impressive spectacle (the Museum+Art Gallery really is just brilliant!).
Photo: Lion dance; small Chinese spectator and part of Tony’s Tiger Collection.
PS: Played golf at Studley Wood, Oxford this morning with Pete, Bob and Steve (largely thanks to the “other” Steve, we beat P+B by three holes). Lovely time despite the cold and grey.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

breakfast in brum with bruv

Really good way to start the half-term holiday today – drove up to Birmingham early in the morning to meet up with Alan and have breakfast just off Gas Street Basin. Great just to have time to “chew the cud” and to wander around the Jewellery Quarter and along some city canal towpaths. Had a lovely day – and back home in time to watch the France v Ireland game on tv.
Photo: the brothers enjoying coffee in Costa, Brindley Place - the guy on the right looks pretty rough doesn’t he (tired, sunken eyes, grey hair, big nose and big blemishes!)?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

irish golf tour 2010

Shortly after 9/11 in 2001 my lovely buddies, Ken+Steve, and I went golfing to New York State. I was an amazing time (taking in such courses as Beth Page Black and Oak Hill). While we were there, we met up with the equally amazing “Coach” (Tony Gamboli). We vowed to lure Tony over to the UK and, sure enough, in 2003 Tony and his son Michael (plus our mate Stuart) joined us on a “The Famous Scotland Golf Tour” (taking in such courses as Prestwick, Machrihanish, Gleneagles, Carnoustie, and St Andrews New Course… as you do!).
Well, it’s all going to happen again later this year (24-30 October) when Tony and Michael join Ken, Steve and I (plus Simon, Larry and Barry) on a tour of Southern Ireland (pathetically, even though Moira is half Irish, I’ve NEVER been to Ireland!). Once again, Steve (not me!) has put together another breathtaking itinerary: Monday – Old Head; Tuesday – Waterville; Wednesday – Tralee; Thursday – Ballybunion Cashen; Friday – Ballybunion Old Course.
Photos: Old Head, Waterville, Tralee, Ballybunion Cashen and Old Course.
PS: Think this might have to become a new blog (watch this space!).

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

the car in front is a toyota….

Actually, the reason it’s in front could be due to a sticking accelerator pedal…. or maybe, if it’s a Prius, it could be due to a “momentary loss of braking capability”.
Joking apart, you really have to feel for them don't you (and those who’ve been involved in any accidents) when it involves them having to recall millions of its vehicles.

Sunday, February 07, 2010


We crammed an awful lot into yesterday!
At the start of the afternoon, Gareth, Moira+I went to the Watershed to see “Sex+Drugs+Rock+Roll” – a portrayal of Ian Dury’s rise to fame in the 1970s with the Blockheads and featuring the incredibly impressive Andy Serkis in the title role. As you might have expected, the film was a powerful mixture of aggression, anger, ego, tenderness and wit. I couldn’t honestly say that I really enjoyed it. I like this description of Ian Dury by Philip French in The Observer: “He is a man ready to sacrifice anything in order to be the master of his fate, the captain of his soul” and this is certainly what the film emphasises.
I rushed out of the cinema to join Felix in the near-by Mackenzies Bar to watch the England v Wales rugby (Gareth+Moira decided to return home!). Sound performance and a deserved 30-17 victory – despite them almost letting Wales back into the game with only 10 minutes left.
Fee+I were then joined by Hannah+Moira and we went to a concert at the Folk House on Park Street (part of my birthday present from H+F) – featuring Daisy Chapman, John E Vistic and Stanton Delaplane (all excellent). I’d never been to the Folk House and was really impressed. A lovely evening and a great way to end a hectic day!
PS: I ended up buying one of Daisy Chapman’s CDs and, as soon as I got home, duly removed the cellophane wrapping – only to discover that there was NOTHING inside!! I’ve sent her a message on MySpace, so I hope they’ll rectify the error quickly!

Saturday, February 06, 2010

heads in the sand

I’m hugely depressed by the “findings” of the BBC News’s latest poll on climate change. As recently as last November, a poll by The Times indicated that only 41% of the UK population acknowledged that climate change was happening and that it was generally established that it was largely man-made. Frighteningly, this figure (based on a February 2010 poll conducted by Populus) has now reduced to a paltry 26% - in other words, only one-in-four of British people!
What on earth is wrong with people in this country? Have they decided that our cold winter means that global warming (I hate this description) couldn’t possibly be happening? Thanks to so-called “science flaws”, do they really think that researchers have manipulated ALL the scientific data? Will the main political parties all decide that, because of its apparent low ranking in the eyes of the general public, they should concentrate on other issues which might attract more votes?
It’s almost as if the general public are saying “if we don’t acknowledge that climate change is happening, then perhaps it will just go away”?
Time is running out fast…. hello, is anybody listening out there?

Thursday, February 04, 2010

birthday stories

It was my birthday yesterday. In truth, I was feeling pretty rough by the end of the day (no alcohol involved, I assure you!) and really just felt like having an early night. But we’d arranged to have an early supper at Hannah+Fee’s and then to go on to one of the Bristol Storytelling Festival events – featuring their great friend Martin Maudsley – and I didn’t want to mess up the arrangements. In the event, I was very glad I didn’t because it was a wonderful evening. Hannah cooked an excellent supper (with Ruth+Stu+Iris+Rosa there too) and then Hannah, Moira and I went on to the storytelling event (Felix was rehearsing “Midsummer Night’s Dream" for the forthcoming “Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory” season). It was held in the amazing Robert Mills Architectural Antiques warehouse in St Werburghs. Yes, it WAS very cold (but we’d gone fully prepared and were armed with huge quilts and warm clothes – and, yes, we DID drink the odd dram to fend off the chill). It was just like an Aladdin’s cave of architectural delights and provided an ideal backcloth for the evening (and with beautiful musical accompaniment too on violin and ukulele!). The evening was based around stories about Martin’s grandfather (“Old Tom’s Tales”) – funny, poignant and very entertaining.
A brilliant evening.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

the road (the book)

I don’t think I would have read Cormac McCarthy’s book “The Road” if I hadn’t first seen the film (despite encouragement from good friends Rob and Alan). I was incredibly impressed by the film (perhaps the best film I’ve seen in the past twelve months?) and so had rather mixed feelings when I first started reading the book (could it in any way live up to the film or would it just be a big let-down?). I needn’t have been concerned; I thought the book was equally brilliant. It was just as unrelenting and mesmerising as the film, if not even more so. I just loved the writing style - especially the dialogue between the man and the boy. I also found it incredibly (and surprisingly) moving and suddenly realised that, as I was reading the last few pages, tears were absolutely streaming down my face (I’m pretty soft and can be slightly watery-eyed on occasions, but nothing like this!!).
A stunning, memorable book.
Are you carrying the fire?
Are you one of the good guys?