Wednesday, July 29, 2009

How (not) to downsize?

Norm has picked up the batton from Leo Hickman on living with just 10 possessions.

Except that Norm seems to have taken this rather liberally with a list that opens with "books, cds".

Well, that by account I'm fine. Can I add in DVDs as well? That would pretty much do me.

I'm being ironic, as well we might, for in these consumerist times it is easy to forget how spoilt we are by our possessions. We're overwhelmed by stuff.

I'm as guilty as many others but it is interesting how when forced we are confronted by how much material goods we could do without. I'm in admiration of people who can let things go easily: use/enjoy once and pass on. But sometimes you wonder what they let go of when they keep so little from their past. Perhaps that says more about how some of us hold memories in physical objects as much as in our minds.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Yeah, I succumbed to Twitter

Don't hold your breath on me using Twitter regular-like: it's more a point of contact for when other things fail.

Please note: I do NOT get free texts from my mobile. So I won't be texting or receiving by text Tweety-type updates.

Just so ya know.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Indietracks 2009: live music review

With a Friday that saw torrential showers, and a Sunday that has been distinctly overcast with occasional drizzle, I think we had the best of the three days at Indietracks, a music festival of Indiepop held at the Midland Railway Centre, Butterley, Derbyshire.

Indiepop you say? No, come back, please don't run away.

Taking a positively eclectic interpretation of this much derided term, Indietracks provides a small scale festival specialising in music that ranges from twee, to weird, to catchy pop, to pop sung in languages other than English, to twee as fuck and everything in between along with a DIY ethos encouraging badge-making, sewing and other assorted craft activities. There were plenty of pretty summer dresses on the girls and lots of band/quirky t-shirts on the boys.

I said come back! Please! It WAS good - really it was!

Indietracks is establishing itself as a lovely little event with a sister event called Christmas Twee (don't groan). We missed 2008 - when Ballboy performed - due to commitments with a friend's wedding - but it there certainly seems some returning business as Gordon of Ballboy was coming back this year to solo perform and run the quiz.

Of course the band that pulled us in for this summer were the wonderful Camera Obscura who can't turn in a bad gig even when they play with instruments that aren't their own (though that occasion at Summer Sundae 2006 did memorably turn the organ's middle eight in 'Lloyd, Are You Ready to be Heartbroken?' into a Raw Sex tribute). At Indietracks 2009, Camera Obscura were second top on the main, Elefant sponsored, stage and with the sun blazingly setting behind them they put on a glorious performance. I even think Traceyanne smiled!

As ever Carey Lander is the one who made me swoon - god I wish I was her! - but the band were on seriously top form.

(Shamefully, we passed on the headline act, La Casa Azul. What can I say: I'd done my shoulder in the previous day, my leg was aching and any later leaving and there would have been a hungry Lisa on arrival home. Ahem)

Anyway, amongst the other artistes we caught were:
  • bits of Downdime, Sucrette (from Japan, who were lovely but seemed to take an hour to get going and then set the main stage running well off schedule: still, they had come in from Kyoto), Friends, and Butcher Boy
  • Little My (quirky collective from Wales who perform together whilst wearing animal ears. From Minnie Mouse and her hairbow to a full-on bear suit)
  • Tender Trap (sounding suspiciously similar to Tallulah Gosh because, gosh, they share some of the same members!
  • One Happy Island (one of a whole collection of bands over from the USA . Included trumpet playing and kazoos: brilliant!)
  • The Frank and Walters (taking me back to the very early 1990s but still as much Cork-derived fun as you can have)
  • The Lovely Eggs (performing in the sweltering heat of the tin church stage - no, really, the old church is made of tin. Add about 100+ people on a sunny day. Worth it to hear 'Have you ever heard a digital accordion' which has to qualify as one of the year's weirdest tracks)
Okay, so in the end we didn't see any of the artistes performing on the steam trains (more by lack of planning on our part, plus it was such a glorious day we wanted to be outside as much as possible). Nor did we attend any of the workshops (though we did catch a bit of the 'how to write a pop song' which was quite hilarious) - not even Eithne's sewing session. But we waved at the passing train travellers - standard visitors were still in the vicinity though what they thought of us indie kids and not-so-kids is anyone's guess! - and we had super fun for the whole day. Utterly recommended and proceeds support the work of the Railway Centre in restoring old trains to their past glory.

Next year? maybe!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Rubbish blogger: an explanation

Me as blogger: rubbish. Sorry about that.

In defence I was ill at the end of last week and scarcely did anything from Wednesday to Sunday. Back at work Monday and its been go go go.

What I SHOULD have been blogging about was:

* Desperate Romantics (wasn't it a hoot?!)
* Doctor Who costume and companion pictures
* Widening participation and the need to encourage 'pushy parents' (cannot begin to express my issues with the discussions so far)
* Bookshelves (from the coverage about James P rearranging his)
* the Swedish version Wallander (why did they need to remake these with Kenneth B? I like KB but they seem to replicate the originals so much I can't quite see the point... oh but there are those subtitles... *sigh*)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Pain thresholds

If you have not already read it, then may I urge you to read Marie's awesome post about the Dr Denis Walsh story.

Whilst I appreciate that as a non-mother (and one not seeking to give birth in this lifetime) even I can recognise bullshit when I hear it.

"Pain in labour is a purposeful, useful thing, which has quite a number of benefits, such as preparing a mother for the responsibility of nurturing a newborn baby."
That line really better be a misquote or frankly I'm going to be taking a short walk with the largest watermelon I can find and putting it where the sun don't shine. Purposeful? Useful? Well, perhaps in terms of timing and responding to contractions - but that seems to be mistaking cause and effect. A number of benefits? For whom exactly? (and surely it depends on the birthing situation of the individual mother/baby --- I had the cord around my neck....) And do not get me started on that part of the sentence to which I added emphasis. Fathers presumably then have no part to play, and certainly not responsibility, in nuturing a new born baby?

Give me strength.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Post-Torchwood blues

With commentators at Behind the Sofa watching the Red Riding Trilogy to cheer themselves up, you can probably guess that post-Torchwood: Children of Earth there's a general air of 'blimey: exhausted grimness alert'.

Needless to say I've made a lentil loaf and we're watching The Blues Brothers.

I need some small pleasures.

George's munros

I felt the need for some nature so I went and had a look at my bloglines for the George's recent munro reports - the photos on the posts are so spectacular that they fair take your breath away.

I think I would be giddy being so high up!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Reactions for Rosby: watching Torchwood - Children of Earth

Fairly spoiler-free comment on Day Four of Torchwood's Third Series ("Children of Earth").

Quite frankly, I'm all over the place emotionally about this.

I know some have remained unimpressed, and there have been moments of high silliness, but I think the testament that has most reached me is that Cloud has been utterly addicted (and not in a 'let's laugh at Rullsenberg biting her nails' kinda way).

So far we've had tension and half-seen monsters, politics in the way that we've come to expect, grand acting from the likes of Peter Capaldi and Paul Copley and... and ...

... and...


I am now utterly torn. I can't help but feel that if (and by lordy its a big IF*) that RTD person holds his nerve and actually leaves the urge to make everything all right again, the end of S3 of Torchwood couldn't be a bigger, a more symbolic ending for Rosby growing up and going to University.

Yeah, I know, I'm personalising it: but it was my first thought last night on watching Day Four.

But part of me can't help but NOT want it to end this way, and I hate myself for that. I can't help but have the hope for a better ending, but I know that what I need - what should remain - is the bleakness.

That these deaths, THAT death, should mean something.

And yeah, in case you didn't guess: I did cry.

Guess what we'll be watching at 9pm tonight...

* RTD couldn't leave alone his dramatic finale of Doomsday and though I've been seriously sticking my fingers in my ears all year I can't help but dread that he's not been able to leave alone other endings he's given us. PLEASE DO NOT SPOILER ME. But... GAH. I just wish he would actually leave us with the grief, as traumatic as it is.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Theatre Review: 'As You Like It' RSC Courtyard Theatre, Stratford Saturday 4 July 2009

As with my visit to see Love's Labour's Lost, I have to confess that As You Like It wasn't a play I had previous seen or read (though I did know a tad more about this play than I had LLL).

I found this actually helped since I was placed in a similar position to many of my fellow friends. Especially with plays that lay outside the big exceptionally well known texts - most especially Dickie 3, Romeo and Juliet, Henry 5, and Hamlet - it can be incredibly demanding to be launched into the prose style of Shakespeare. But despite the initially spare setting of this production forcing focus on the early 'bequeath-ed' and 'sayest' speech patterns, we quickly and comfortably slipped into its rhythms.

Although not all productions have kept to Elizabethan period dress, it certainly worked here, not least because of the way in which gender identities are played with so freely (though I am reliably informed of many good productions with a modern setting). Rosalind's turn as boyish Ganymede, playing 'Rosalind' to Orlando, has to present a mastery/mistressy of layered identity - and this in a role we must not forget would have been played by a boy until the 18th century.

The language of the play includes a healthy range of Shakespeare's best known neologisms and familiar passages - not least the 'all the world's a stage' speech, but I was also pleased that I spotted some echoes of the earlier comedy of Love's Labours Lost (noted, as I read on the journey home, by scholar Juliet Dusinberre in the Arden edition of the play). As You Like It certainly has a playfulness that belies its references to the poverty that rural/forest-based life could present.

As mentioned in my post about meeting friends for this wonderful experience, the leading lady - Katy Stephens - was sadly indisposed. But this did not sadden me for one, since it meant we saw lovely Mariah Gale as Rosalind (Ophelia in last year's production opposite first Tennant and Bennett).

The setting for the play is beautifully simple: an almost white boarded background which opens up in a variety of ways. The music and choreography are, as befits the breadth of skills at the RSC, as exquisite and witty as befits the play. And although the costumes reflect the naturalistic palette of the setting, it never feels dull.

As with any ensemble production, it feels harsh to pick out particular performances for individual credit. But I have to praise Forbes Masson as Jacques who resembled Tim Minchin's wild haired appearance to such a degree that I almost had to check that it wasn't he! Richard Katz too as Touchstone was hysterically good, with suitably bawdy demeanor (it is telling these roles are the two added by Shakespeare's revision of Thomas Lodge's earlier telling of the tale).

There was also a nice touch in the final speech, wherein Rosalind usually declares that 'it is not the fashion to see the lady the Epilogue', the line was amended to 'see the understudy' in acknowledgement of Gale's substituting Stephens. Very nice I thought.

Overall, heartily recommended and on until 3 October.

Stratford-upon-Avon visit: what friends are for

It wasn't as planned in terms of my weekend as a whole: weather predictions meant my 2 night stay in Stratford was abandoned for on-the-day return train journeys (and even that was oh-so-nearly replaced by a last minute 1 night away, thwarted by ill health). There were minor hiccups on the day: three of our number were temporarily separated into a pair and a wrongly boarded train single, with an unusual lack of mobiles making reassurance impossible (thankfully, the three were reunited and progressed to our meeting). And then the leading lady was indisposed, creating a shuffle-up effect on the cast similar to that imposed by Tennant's back injury last winter.

But it mattered not a jot because we managed it. Nine of us made it to Stratford, as planned for not just an annual reunion but also a significant cultural activity. We came from across England: the north-west, the south coast, the entire sweep of the west midlands and beyond, and from the east midlands.

The sun shone - not too unbearably. And we were all happy.

When I was at Wolverhampton Uni, first as an undergraduate and then as a temporary lecturer, I felt incredibly lucky to meet and befriend such wonderful people on the teaching staff. The class that I first ran on my own, Romanticism, in the 1994/1995 academic year, included a delightful cohort of youngish to older mature students. In subsequent years we kept in touch and my former tutors, now colleagues, saw them through to graduation and subsequently on to further studies, other qualifications and lives. And we still meet each year for conversation and culture.

This year we planned and plotted a trip to Stratford for a play and I have to say it feels like a resounding success with even skeptical RSC visitors delighted by the production of As You Like It. Full review in next post, but thank you everyone for making it so wonderful.

Friday, July 03, 2009