Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas greetings!

Hello people - if I have not sent you a card by e-means of postal means, apologies!

Enjoy this


Monday, December 10, 2012

BeVox at Buxton with Brass Saturday 8 December 2012

So unusually for a review piece, this one isn't so much about a performance I attended as one in which I participated!  I joined the Nottingham branch of the BeVox choir part way through the previous season (week 5, so lots to catch up on!) and signed up to also join the forthcoming - and what felt ages ahead - performance at Buxton Dome.  You can read more about the Dome and its history at the Dome website.

Inside the cavernous dome space we were going to be singing to two audiences - a matinee and evening performance.  It was a heck of a space to be singing in!  Images only give a hint of the space...

Following a 3 hour journey from Nottingham to Buxton - don't ask, our navigation skills are rough at best but we did about 30 extra miles going off track thanks to road closures for Xmas fairs etc - we finally got to the hotel.  We stayed at the rather charming Lee Wood Hotel, part of the Best Western franchise, and they were lovely.  We ate, after getting lost on foot in Buxton (spotting a pattern yet?!) and then headed back to the hotel where thanks to the dread cough we slept pretty crappily.
We were up first to breakfast the next day.  I ran out to buy a sarnie for lunch - although Neil had got me supplies like crisps etc I really needed a lunchtime sarnie - and whilst out also picked up a skirt to have something to change into for the evening performance (£4.50 charity shop skirt: fab!).  It was going to be a busy day with lots happening.

We kicked off by arriving and making sure we were ready for the stage - walking on and off appropriately (this is harder than it looks, corralling nearly 150 people onto and off a stage).  Given that there were heavy hints that unless people volunteered to go on the front row, people would be chosen randomly, I (temporarily I thought) stood to be on the front row of the Alto 1 section....

... and ended up stuck there!


I did stick my hand up and say I felt a bit exposed but since it would also give me an easy exit if I had another dread coughing fit (like last weekend's rehearsal) I couldn't then get out of the position.

Oh heck!

Hanging out with the choir as the day trundled along towards the actual performances was really nice though, lots of good camaraderie and chatter.  Thanks to everyone who chatted with me - both from Nottingham and further afield (Sheffield, Barnsley and Wakefield branches)  as it made the day so much more enjoyable.

Tim who leads the choir and conducts* was as energetic as ever.  This was actually even more marvellous than it sounds as late last week he broke one of his toes!  Running on adrenaline during the performances he bounced around like unleashed animal and kept us all enthused.  Between them, Toni (who runs BeVox with Tim) and stage manager Pauline (who is also a member of the choir but for the show focused on keeping everything on track) --- well these two women are equally talented and astonishing.  Toni sings Alto 1 (where I am also vocally placed**) and it's a heck of a standard to live up to! It was a real team effort with lots of people involved in making it happen.  And the ProMusica Brass Ensemble were amazing, even if brass instrumentation is quite something to compete against vocally!

And that was one of the hard things about the day - judging how to sing - the space itself was really challenging and the cues of hearing other parts of the choir was pretty tough.  But we did it and actually from the audiences perspective it seemed to be pretty grand.  By the evening especially - where the lighting and set-up really came into its own - things were pretty tight for pretty much everything.  the soloists were consistantly awesome and we got a really great reception from the audience.

Running order
Christmas medley
Most wonderful time
The Christmas song (Chestnuts Roasting)
Alone – Solo, Rachel Wood
Viva la vida
The man with the child in his eyes – Solo, Louise Jarman

One day like this
I won’t give up – Solo, Emma Cassinelli [unfortunately Emma couldn't do her solo spot]
Fly me to the moon
Love changes everything – Solo, Martin Clarke

The rhythm of life – Band (ProMusica Brass Ensemble)
Wishing you were somehow here again – Solo, Lis Luke
High and lifted up


Africa (Solo line at the end – Rachel Wood)
Shona malanga
Adiemus (Solo lines – Toni Ratcliffe)
Libertango – Band (ProMusica Brass Ensemble)
Gaudete – Ensemble: Ann Hallam, Rosie Ross, Roz Bexon, Lynda Simms, Val Simons, Jennifer Holmes, Martin Lloyd-Penny, John Walters, Keir Flynn, Tony Pannell
Let it snow – Solo, Louise Beard
Veni Emmanuel
Ave Maria – Duet, Lis Luke & Toni Ratcliffe
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Surabaya Santa – Solo, Toni Ratcliffe
Total praise
Encore: Lean on me

Thanks to this video you can get a flavour of the concert with the piece that opened the second half of the show.  (The filming is facing towards the Soprano and Tenor side of the choir rather than the Bass and Alto side.  Then again, you can't really see the choir as such so no great loss for me not being visible.)

I will try and post more photos and links as I get them but hope you enjoy this as much as we did doing it!

After the show/Sunday
We ate at the Old Hall Wine Bar in Buxton between matinee and evening shows (thanks Ann H for organising this!) and then had a hot meal AFTER the evening show too (by heck I needed that food!).  We slept better Saturday night and then after breakfast trundled home, getting lost again but only because we wanted to go to Cromford and Scarthin Books before Xmas.  We had to double back on ourselves to do it, we we went, had a ploughman's lunch, spent loads, came home and watched eps 7-8 of The Killing s3.  WHOOO!!  What a GREAT weekend!

* Tim is basically a one-man talent machine.  Composer, arranger, choir leader, conductor, producer... he's astonishing really.

** Makes it sound like I know what I'm doing doesn't it?!

Monday, December 03, 2012

Villainous villains: The Secret of Crickley Hall - BBC TV November-December 2012

James Herbert is a funny old writer: his books have sold by the truckload (42 million according to the Gods of Wikipedia) and he clearly knows how to construct a ripping yarn.  Adaptations though have been more erratic and The Secret of Crickley Hall was the first to be attempted for TV.

In some ways it is easy to see why his works are a difficult beast to transcribe to visual form.  The momentum is different, and in some ways they don't necessarily work that well on the page either.*  Partly, this depends on if you can follow the ride of familiar tropes and scares or end up feeling like you are ticking off the cliches.

The adaptation was also affected by the (early-ish) move to change from a 90 minute adaptation to a 3 x 1 hour serial. This is an awkward maneouvre as there was probably too much material for a either a 90 minute movie version or even a 2-part 2 hour adaptation.  However, whether there was really enough done to make the three part version I'm not 100% convinced.  90% maybe. What they did to stretch things was to visualise much more of the 1940s narrative.  Now: clearly this had bonuses for me - more Henshall, braces and a cane.  Nasty wicked villain. But there was clearly slender material to work on and this didn't always work to it's advantage. Nevertheless, it was well directed and the movement between the two narrative periods was excellent.  Kudos to the editors on that one.

Obviously I came for Douglas Henshall, and stayed for the ride.  With a role that is limited in what it can do - very few lines, TONS of menace, acres of villainous villainy - Henshall nevertheless sought to invest the difficult and unlikeable character of Augustus Cribben with some emotional weight. His psychosis is clear but not necessarily easily understood.  His violence is abhorrent but he is obviously a tormented figure.  I particularly liked one late scene in the production, where there is a possibility of redemption despite everything that has been happening. He hesitates, almost takes the offer, and then hardens, letting it drop.  Does he deserve the offer?  Probably not.

I thought the kids were great (Pixie Davies as Cally was adorable - and as director Joe Ahearne attested at his Q&A preview screening for episode 1, you cannot direct children, just guide them towards what you want as a natural reaction.  I certainly spotted a few lines which you just knew were her take on what she would say.  As Ahearne said, she'd tell you if a line was "silly").  Suranne Jones - who just seems to keep working with my favourite actors - and  Tom Ellis - who also has a habit of cropping up in favourite shows alongside good actors ** were well matched as the haunted parents trying to escape from/come to terms with the disappearance of their young son.

I also thought that generally the acting in the 1940s sequences was really nice from the central figures of Percy and Linnet especially.  the young boy playing Stefan was very good, but blimey he had a rough time...

As I mentioned above, the production work was great - fabulous settings well used and the editing of the two narratives was really convincingly done.  Bravo for that.

The music - ARGH!  I want to shoot so many composers and sound mixers for TV.  Just tone it down, stop hamming up the melodrama and let the imagery and acting breathe!  In something as high-melodrama as this, it really didn't need the extra dosage of 'feel-emotion-NOW!'

Sarah Smart - I like her as an actress but I'm not sure this role really worked for her.  If anything she made Henshall's character seem straightforward.  A nasty piece of work but without any depth (even her inappropriate relationship left one confused.  What was she doing?)

Explaining Donald Sumpter's character WAAAY too early: no, no NO.  This should have been left unclear until episode 3, and definitely not too long before Percy's realisation.  Would have been much more powerful.

I'd have also liked a TINY bit more on the 'what happened next' elements.  The kitten was cute but even a photograph of the happy life lived afterwards would have satisfied me a little more.

Overall: I enjoyed it.  Hell, I would wouldn't I?  But it wasn't as good as it could have been or promised to be. A solid but perhaps less than fully successful 3.5/5.

* Having said that I read The Fog as a teenager and it HAUNTED me for a long time.  I still find my stomach lurch at unbidden memories of the images the text instilled.  A totally unrelated narrative to The Fog (film by John Carpenter) - a fact I didn't realise for ages and which threw me for a long time as I tried to imagine how they could have filmed the horrors of Herbert's novel (I don't think they easily could, though I suspect the Koreans could make a good attempt at the nightmares it presents).

** Ellis was also in the MAGNIFICENT 'The Fades'.  If you haven't watched that, get hold of it and shudder.  Creepy, funny, brilliant.  And that show ALSO starred Iain De Caestecker, who played Young Percy Judd here in this show.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Bellowhead Derby Saturday 24 November 2012

So, after a 'hectic' week, we finally got to Bellowhead.

Setlist (not wholly accurate)

I'll try and fill in a review but suffice to say excellent as ever.

Friday, October 26, 2012

"The weight of this sad time we must obey" - Theatre Review King Lear @ Almeida Theatre, London Saturday 20 October 2012

When this was first announced about 18 months ago, Helen Lisette and I were both very excited - the prospect of seeing Jonathan Pryce on stage doing King Lear was a great prospect.

And we waited.  And waited.  We thought we may have missed the public ticket sale dates, but then somehow, HLW did it ---- she got us tickets.  Hurrah!

So last weekend, with the late addition of an early schedule performance of 55 Days to enjoy as well over the weekend, we headed to London for what we hoped would be a tremendous theatre experience.

It was: if I see a better Lear in my lifetime I will feel privileged indeed.  I suspect it may take a current generation to get older before there will be something to match it.  The sisters, especially Goneril (Zoe Waites) and Regan (Jenny Jules) were excellently venal in their manipulation and overthrowing of Lear's power - but there was also a well-played (and mostly understated) hint of a somewhat abusive relationship between Lear and his older daughters.  For example, in the opening scenes, where Lear throws open the map to allocate his kingdom according the whim of the daughters' ability to flatter him, Lear kisses Goneril.  And the kiss is... unseemly, excessive, inappropriate, unnerving. The jealousy of the older sisters towards the youngest, Cordelia, reaffirmed by Lear crowning her with a coronet before the division of land has even begun, is thus undercut by the pointers to the past.  What horrors have the older sisters endured before their - much younger - sibling arrived?  It is not overplayed throughout, but there are hints to highlight the power relationship between father and daughters that perhaps contextualises the later violence and horror of the play.

The cast was uniformly good I felt - a real ensemble performance.  Cordelia (Phoebe Fox) stands her ground to her father; Gloucester (Clive Wood) is powerhouse of a figure, bought low by the betrayal of his King and his bastard son; Kent (Ian Gelder) never waivers from his loyalty to Lear despite the horrors that ensue, and he works throughout to bring Lear back to himself, to those who care for him; and the Fool (Trevor Fox) is charmingly wise in his observation of the social disintegration around him.  These are just a few of the key performances, and I always find the worst weaknesses in the role of Cordelia are within the text itself (though Fox and the director Michael Attenborough, do their best to make this a livelier Cordelia than is usual).  But everyone does their part.  I never quite got the measure of the Duke of Cornwall (Chook Sibtain), but Cornwall is an odd role - the utter violence and spur of action with Regan at his side one moment, having come across initially just as an ambitious and thwarted husband to Lear's second daughter who ends up cuckolded almost as badly as Albany (Richard Hope).  Indeed, the husbands to the elder Lear daughters have a rough time all round really, and it is credit to Richard Hope that Albany's own cuckolded haplessness is pitiable rather than despicable (Steven Elliott as Oswald really bring out the self-serving venal qualities of this character). I was also impressed with Richard Goulding as Edgar who was suitably fit (in all senses) to play the high-born, well-born son of powerful Gloucester, who is bought down by the intense hatred of his illegitimate sibling, Edmund (a finely powered Kieran Bew).

An additional note: hilariously, at the interval (post-eye-gouging) I actually heard someone complaining about the production "excessively bloody, far more than necessary".  I nearly fell over in astonishment - did they fancy bloodless eye-gouging?!  What is this - the Disney version?

Probably difficult, if not impossible to get tickets before this closes next weekend, but a gem nonetheless.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Theatre Review: 55 Days @ Hampstead Theatre, London Friday 19 October 2012

So, we're quite keen on political plays over here at Rullsenberg Rules: a play about the English Civil War, the King and Cromwell was definitely something to be intrigued by! I was thus hardly likely to pass the chance to see Mark Gatiss on stage, especially given that Douglas Henshall was also in the cast of 55 Days.

So with a weekend in London already planned, Helen Lisette and I headed to Hampstead Theatre up near Swiss Cottage/Finchley Road on Friday night fresh from arriving in the capital.  The rain lashed down, and then the fire alarm went off and we had to evacuate, and so for 10 minutes or so poor Mark Gatiss in his frilly shirt and 17th century trews was stood under an umbrella gamely chuckling at the fun and games.

It was a fairly starry evening all ways round actually, with Ed Bennett sat in front of us (Leartes to Tennant's Hamlet, and an incredibly fine Hamlet himself - as I noted when I saw Bennett's London performance). Clare Holman also in attendance, inevitably as she is wife to Howard Davies, director of the play.

The play itself
The isolation of King Charles is highlighted by his being the only figure on period costume - everyone else has vaguely modern suits (it's a very male play, though there are a couple of good female performances).  This actually works rather well - even if it did mean there was no 'wart-counting' for Cromwell [shallowly, no complaints from me for that, though I did miss the prospect of high boots and period trews for all concerned].

The script makes canny use of the tone of 17th century discourse (the religious attitudes, the political factions), without getting too bogged down in period diction: again, King Charles is isolated for having more florid speech in keeping with what we know (or rather imply) was typical speech patterns for the period.  It is, by virtue of its nature and topics, a rather densely expositional play, but it isn't unduly overbearing.  It IS an intelligent play, with a lot going on, and worthy of attention for that.  It is also, despite the weight, not without laughter - indeed, the hysteria at the end of the play finely shows how those signing the death warrant for the King probably could hardly believe what they managed to do.  It's an uncomfortable moment - hilarious and horrific for its consequences.

Cromwell takes several scenes to appear - tantalising for me of course, but it really heightens the tension for getting the main characters all present.  And once he does, Cromwell becomes a real pivotal force - both utterly and subtly in control and yet driven into his courses of action by events he cannot quite control. The scene where Cromwell and Charles meet and talk is pretty electric for all that it is entirely fictitious.

Charles is in turns baffled by the threat to his authority, automatically expecting and mostly getting deference from his jailers and challengers. His accent and his stammer are exacerbated as his control over his destiny diminishes: when he realises that the quality of his argument - a divinely annointed King, far more than a man - will not save his neck from the axe, it is quite horrifying how he suddenly tries to get out of the situation.  The bravado of earlier ripostes disappearing, replaced by uncertainty in speech and demeanor.

I mentioned before about the limited female roles: but they are good ones.  Abigail Cruttenden as Lady Fairfax is brilliant - her faith and conflict with her husband is archly portrayed to rich effect.  She is more than equal to her husband who finds events, and Cromwell, going far beyond his own expectations of developments.  Likewise, Laura Rogers as Mary Cooke - wife of the recruited lawyer prosecuting the King, is similarly measured up to her husband and what he needs to do.  And if I need a more female-orientated Civil War narrative, I'll re-watch the excellent Channel 4 drama: The Devil's Whore.

Early days, early responses
I made the mistake of reading a review/comment on the play on Friday before heading to London.  It was pretty damning and I did fear for how the evening would go.  Both myself and HLW were exhausted (work is always pretty knackering this time of year) but as the negative reviewer commented on how high their own expectations had been, it did unnerve me. I shouldn't have worried though.  It was fine.  Press Night is Wednesday 24 October 2012 - but I'm not deterred.  I know I have a vested interest to enjoy the play, but Helen who has far less personal interest felt utterly enthralled and we ran on adrenaline til 1am.

Review - negative
Review - positive

Personal note
Awh, bless you Mr Henshall, you can make the worst of times light up with your friendly smile and affection.  At the end of a long working week, you were a real tonic.  I hope you enjoyed your much desired cigarette after the play.  Thanks to Mr Gatiss who also was kind enough to sign my programme.

Clothing and other things: London October 2012

Ooooh... goodies....

Hat from Covent Garden market

Lisa modelling new hat, and with my new weekend bag I tested out on this trip!

Lisa modelling hat in close-up

Art Deco cufflinks (to share with Neil) from Circa 1900 in Camden Passage, Islington

 Small handbag from Covent Garden

And if you didn't see it elsewhere, here's the dress I didn't buy.  *sob* - it was a lovely 1930s dress from Annie's in Camden Passage, beautiful fabric, and the fit was fine, except on my back where the fact it was probably for a taller lady (oh to be Professor Celeste-Marie!) really came into play.  The bag hung like a sack on me and nothing in the world could change that.  Given the bias-cut and patterning it would have took a really serious vintage expert seamstress to even restitch it to fit me so sadly it had to go back on the hanger.  Gutted.  Sorry about the picture quality.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Sunday cultural highlights in Leicester (1): August Sander

We headed over to Leicester about 1.30pm and arrived just after 2.30pm by the time we had driven to East Midlands Parkway train station and got a train.  As we walked out the station we passed an 'October Highlghts' poster with a super picture of an August Sander picture from the 1920s.

(I meant to take a photo of the full length poster but forgot and only a cropped version seems to be online)

The full-length image of an unnamed secretary at the German Radio Station is a stunner - and I wish I could find the woman's name.

Anyway: being interested in German early-mid 20th century culture, we duly trotted off to the Leicester Museum and Art Gallery for the August Sander exhibition.

This exhibition from Art Fund Touring Rooms, is BRILLIANT - and really worth seeing if you haven't already caught it.  It's on in Leicester until January 2013 so plenty of time to make a journey up the motorway/trainline.

We ended up spending quite some time in the gallery - they also have a great permanent collection of German art from the early 20th century anyway: Kollwitz, Grosz, Dix and earlier expressionist artists such as Marc, Kandinsky, Münter, Heckel, Kirchner, Jawlensky and Schmidt-Rottluff.  We got into a couple of conversations with staff: one of the gallery assistants (pointing out a couple of images in the Sander exhibition were wrongly hung/labelled) and talking about the exhibition more generally with a woman who was doing a questionnaire on behalf of the Art Fund who were funding the tour.  I think I bluffed my way reasonably well, though almost certainly was wrong on some things.  But it was nice to stretch my cultural historian muscles.

(This was one of the pictures concerned: easy to pick up as there was another of Dora further along the same wall)

Sander's work tried to categorise and capture archetypes and inevitably gained criticism during the 20th century.  Was his work for or against Nazism?  It is useful to consider that his son was arrested - and indeed died - due to his Communist sympathies and actions.  Was August as active in his politics?  No.  But he clearly had sympathy for the intellectuals as well as 'those of the soil' and his work captures the diversity of Germany in a way that could have hardly been comfortable for the Nazi regime.  His work has been criticised over the years - misunderstood for what he was trying to achieve.  He didn't make it easy for Germany to look at itself, but he did provide a unique record of itself for future generations.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Diary of a Football Nobody - by William Ivory: Saturday 13 October 2012 (matinee) @ Nottingham Playhouse

Diary of a Football Nobody is a remarkably touching - if VERY sweary* - play about Notts County Football Club and much more.

The play is adapted by William Ivory from David McVay's memoir Steak...Diana Ross: Diary of a Football Nobody (and Ivory was in the Cast bar at the Playhouse ahead of the play - no, we didn't bother him).

It's a very parochial play - for all the life-affirming stuff and context which speaks to community, family life, education and employment - the play is shot through with a vein of Nott'um nostalgia and reference points that would probably be lost on anyone lacking experience/awareness of Nottingham either past and/or present.  The play - for all it's brilliance - is unlikely to travel far (heck, getting beyond the boundaries of Nottingham would be difficult and as the likes of Bingham and Mansfield come in for flack, alongside the inevitable loathing for Derby and Nottingham Forest, I can barely see it travelling into Nottinghamshire).

But it IS brilliant.  I mentioned before the life-affirming stuff, and that is something that moves this play beyond JUST being about football, to highlighting that "Football isn't a matter of life and death - it is much LESS important than that".  This play shows that human beings play football: people with lives and families, lusts and foibles.  Too much Shippo beer, too many women, too much distraction from the people around us.  But in representing an age when a football player could achieve the giddy heights of earning so much as to have had to be a 'Foreman at Raleigh' to match their financial power, it's a wonderful reminder of how football has changed.

The music in the play is deftly chosen - from the obvious pop chart stuff to the delicacy of Nick Drake. It's a beautiful evocation of period, place and people (anyone with memories - first or second-hand acquired - of those days of County 'stars' will chuckle at the representations.  The staging is like Roy of Rovers come to life in graphic tone, and the comic-book realism suits the recollections it presents.  There's little in the way of fancy, the imagery of Nottingham is lightly used, and the most technical most involves a short use of wires which draws spontaneous applause from a delighted audience.

And all this is topped by the generous and heartfelt performances:  Eric Richard is especially good as Jimmy Sirrel and our lead, Perry Fitzpatrick as Dave McVay is by turns baffled, distressed and desperately trying to have a good time being a footballer with A-levels.

LeftLion like it - of course they do.  It's only on for another week.  Get there if you're in the locality.

*It would be ridiculous if it was non-sweary (does anyone alive think football and its milieu was NOT sweary in the 1970s?)  But nice that the sexism, racism and homophobia is largely dropped.  You can be too honest...

Yoda kitty - my birthday card from Neil

Now try and tell me that's not cute...

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

46 years on the planet

It's my birthday!

Okay, I don't actually have this cake, but I can imagine it right?!

Thank you to everyone who has already been so kind to me: Neil and I got a magnetic photo frame and an owl cover cover from the New Zealand gang; and I need to bank the little cheque from Neil's ma.  Chrissie sent me the most adorable donkey to sit on my bookshelves (rather like my pukeko that I got in NZ), a little fridge magnet with a polarbear on 'pacing myself' (definitely me this morning), and fab glitzy brooch of a crown (for being queen of the mix-tape/CD).  Awesome!

The lovely George and Sonia, Xavi and Max (our friends in the north) sent a brilliant looking CD Lisboa Mulato by Dead Combo.  Looking forward to hearing that in full:

I've also had a great pair of red heart earrings from Caroline at work (wearing them today!) and more besides!

Mostly though I'm very lucky to have so many good friends and nice people around me.  Their friendship and kindness are the things that keep me going.  Everything about what they say and do makes it all worthwhile!

I've had cards with the following on:

  • cute wet kitty wrapped in a towel (from Neil - cat as Yoda)
  • shoes
  • flip-flips
  • teddy bear
  • shopping
  • headphones with an incredible list of music genres identified (guess who sent that?  Yup, the Guiness Dude himself, G-man!)
  • a Tardis (from my fellow sci-fi geek colleague, along with what he guarantees me will be "a winning lottery tickey" - will definitely share if it is!)
Now, what does that little collection tell you about me?

BTW, if tonight we don't end up watching through to the season 1 finale of Fringe, I will be very surprised.  if I am very lucky I may sneak in the s1 finale of Angel before we 'Fringe-it' but am loving it all so much!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Daleks, Dinosaurs, Cyborgs, Cubes and Angels: the brief beauty of Doctor Who s7.1

Dear lordy Moff, you really do like to put us through the wringer don't you?

There's gonna be spoilers here folks.

Don't say you haven't been warned.

There'll be tears before the end.

There'll be chuckles along the way.

And there WILL



Okay, so firstly you pull of that surprise with Oswin: companion to be, arriving early with a heartbreaking souffle.

We didn't see that coming.

The Pond-subplot for that one built nicely from a pre-series mini episode 'Pond Life' written by Chris Chibnall.  We've criticised CC in the past - and actually currently as well, sadly all to often with good reasons.  Here, in Asylum, his prequel was useful but not central to requirements.  What Moff did was make it proper emotional.

Yes, I said it: Moff can do emotional.  He doesn't do it like Rusty did, but he does pull the strings of heart.

"I didn't throw you out - I gave you up"

Sorry: I'm sobbing again.

We then went all Primeaval in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship with a dodgy sexist adventurer (what is it about Rupert Graves that gets him such roles?!) and Queen Nefertiti.  It was fun - mostly for the brilliant Mark Williams as Brian Pond (oh if ONLY Chibs had insisted on that character much earlier in the Pond life cycle...) who despite all insistence to the contrary was never going to be 'Brian Williams'.

However, it was also getting to be clear even if you hadn't been spoilered that the Ponds weren't going to be travellers forever.

The episode also had a great villainous turn from David Bradley who must have really lapped up this hyper-nonsense!  I could have done without the Silurian sub-plot (really Chibbers, we get that you like them!) but Bradley was monster enough to make up for the rather slight dinosaur threat --- the creatures were gorgeously realised on screen though!

The next move was into the West: with a vengeful cyborg being the 'good guy' as compared to his maker.  It was a small tale of morality and moral dilemmas and all the more enjoyable for that.

But most importantly, what had been spotted by then?

The changing title sequence.

I'd squeed anyway when I saw on 'Asylum of the Daleks' that the sequence had been tweaked.  Oooh it suddenly looked PROPER Doctor Who-ish with a retro/modern tone, dark and beautiful, ridding us of the Gavascon colouration of the earlier Moff series.

But then Frank Collins - one of my favourite reviewers - confirmed my suspicions.

Oh it was getting darker for sure.

Chibbers came back and amazingly didn't wreck the joint.  He bought back the brilliant Brian Pond and although it was an oddly balanced episode (lots of threads got left hanging), it had a typically Rusty momentum ---- moreover, how could I hate an episode that made Kate Stewart TV cannon?

And Jemma Redgrave was lovely as the daughter of our beloved and late Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart.

And so we got to Manhattan.

It was hard to avoid that we would be losing the Ponds in an episode promised to be scary and heartbreaking.

Damn, damn, DAMN you Moff.  You are cruel in the beauty of your story-telling.

It was noirish (Telegraph), and there was no punchline to rescue Rory - or Amy - this time around (Independent).  For an early evening family entertainment, it was a breathtaking move to even consider presenting a suicide pact (Den of Geek), let alone that it may be 'the right thing to do'.

So when that wasn't the end of Rory and Amy, when that final Angel appeared and took him as he read the gravestone, and we realised Amy would join him and leave the Doctor - her raggedy-man - to be with her husband....

... well, it all tears, all the time.

It wasn't as if this was an episode that didn't tug at you all the way through: I particularly liked this passage from the TV.com review which included an exchange of lines I really choked at.
After River freed herself from an Angel by breaking her own wrist and then lying to the Doctor in an attempt to convince him that they'd changed the future foretold in the book, she clued us in to what marriage means in one of the most moving scenes of this series. Why did she lie about her wrist? "When one's in love with an ageless god who insists on the face of a 12-year-old, one does one's best to hide the damage." "It must hurt." "Yes, the wrist is pretty bad too."
Break my heart already Moff.

As the Guardian put it, 'love didn't save the day' --- but arguably, it DID save the days of Rory and Amy: they spent the days together, in love, happy.

And quite by chance, I went back in my mind to last Sunday, listening to 6Music when they had a Ben Folds focus to the Playlist show.  I requested "The Luckiest", and although the age is 'wrong' in the lyrics (but heck even that gravestone doesn't seem right!) the final verse strikes me as very much suited to the end of Rory and Amy.

Next door there's an old man
Who lived to his 90s
And one day passed away in his sleep
And his wife, she stayed for a couple of days
And passed away.
I'm sorry, I know that's a strange way
To tell you that I know we belong
That I know
That I am
I am
I am
The Luckiest 
Thank you Ponds.  We've loved having you around,

UPDATE: Stuart does the most gorgeous and appropriate review of Angels.  Just lovely,

And for those missing DW Confidential:

Friday, September 21, 2012

Doctor Who title sequences this season

Am SOOOO glad that the brilliant Frank Collins is back reviewing Doctor Who.

I've been hopping up and down each week about the title sequence being better this season and darker.  And then Frank goes and nails it. (SPOILERS AHOY OBVIOUSLY!)

Each episode's title sequence is getting darker. Compare Asylum's opening titles with this episode's and you'll see the vortex is closing down, becoming sickly green and darker by the week. 

He's not wrong you know.

Walk and Talk the Vote - The West Wing is back --- kinda

Oh Medium Rob, thanks for alerting me to this walk and talk reunion of West Wing cast members in honour of talking about the importance of voting.

And if you REALLY want to indulge then you can go back and watch some of the classic walk and talk bits from the West Wing.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Summer Sundae 2012 - Sunday (excluding choir) - delayed horribly!

Of course Sunday for me was all about the Choir (see other post), but there were still some musical highlights to accompany live performing by a collection of people who had 4 hours to rehearse 6 songs (as opposed to 12 weeks to rehearse 10/11 songs as with BeVox!  Though obviously the BeVox standard is able to be MUCH higher).

Anyway: Sunday at Summer Sundae started with breakfast at the Lansdowne before we wandered in for a cuppa tea.  Sadly this meant we missed having spotted in the programme small print that there was a Barbershop a cappella band called the Simpletones singing in the tent.  Boo - would have liked to have seen them properly, especially as I later found them serenading Neil with a rendition of the 'Ghostbusters' song as Neil was wearing his 'Last Exit to Nowhere' t-shirt!

We saw The Staves - three sisters who sweltered under the hot lights of the tent.  They were fantastic and wonderfully harmonious, but there were some hilarious moments as whistling was revealed as a substitute for guitar-playing, and another confessed she had sweat running down her back.  "We usually laugh when we get offered towels for being on stage - not today" they said.

It was also possible to catch Team Me, another Scandi highlight of the weekend.  Great tunes and harmonies and quirky sounds and titles.  Liked it a lot.

One of the benefits of getting backstage to go onto the main stage for the choir performance was seeing John Lydon wheeling his suitcase from the tour-bus...

After the choir, Neil and I caught the end of Billy Bragg's tribute to Woody Guthrie (hurrah).  Always good, and the infinite flexibility of "Waiting for the great leap forward" came through again.  Always able to be updated: "Some people say that girls should be quiet; I wanna say 'Free Pussy Riot'!"

Anyway, apologies for anything missed: I'll aim to finish this post asap.  Apologies for the delay so far!

Nottingham arboretum 31 August 2012

Neil at Nottingham Arboretum

Sunny Nottingham Arboretum

Lisa at Nottingham Arboretum: place of my youth!

Lisa with bags and stripes

Flower displays at Nottingham Arboretum

When I was a child, we lived walking distance away from the Nottingham Arboretum (although for my little legs it was a bit too far to walk - hence daddy drove us there).  I used to love running about the flower displays, watching the action on the Band Stand and enjoying the birds and other creatures in the cages.

Yes: the cages.

They are still there and some birds are still kept there, but the 'mini-zoo' like qualities of the site deteriorated like the general ambiance of the place.  Until recently, the site was a less than pleasant place to visit - a bit too close to the haunts of drug dealers and sex workers and certainly not a place to visit on a dull day.

Some planting and judicious improvements have at least made it a more enjoyable place to re-visit on a sunny day and it was lovely to trace my steps again past the beautiful birds.

The Doctor will see you now

Tee hee.  Apt on so many levels!

Saturday, September 08, 2012

More on 'healthy eating'

So, yes, I am thinking about this a lot.  Plus my internet is working so I'm taking advantage!

More from the NHS site:

  • Now take the next snack you plan to have and swap it for something healthier. - I hardly do snacks at all. I'm known for not snacking that much!
  • Try to swap drinks that are high in calories for drinks that are lower in fat and sugars. - I don't drink sugary drinks.  I have alcohol - we share a bottle or two over the weekends, but not every weekend.  And I definitely don't drink regularly like some people I know.
  • Next, find a way to fit just one extra walk into your day. Fast walking is a way to burn calories, and you can often fit it into your daily routine. You might walk to the shops during your lunch break, or get off the bus one stop early on the way home and walk the rest of the way. Commit to this and you’ve adopted your second long-term habit. Ideally, you should aim to walk 10,000 steps a day: it’s not as many as it sounds. - I'm not known as a dawdler, but I SHOULD walk more and exercise more.  But I live on a hill, my osteo says I should avoid running on concrete/tarmac due to the back and muscle problems I have had, and my work schedule does not easily allow for either showering or exercise during the day.  Hmmm.  One to ponder.
  • Last, think about your breakfast tomorrow morning. Can you make it healthier, using the foods you already have at home? 

Could I have a healthier breakfast?  Possibly.  But I don't overeat until... yes... evening.  That's the problem area.  Too little exercise (probably) and eating too late (can't really avoid that with work schedule etc) and eating too much when I do (I like my food!  I get hungry at the end of the day!)


Trying to eat healthier - losing weight

So here's the thing.  I'm now weighing just over 9 stone.  I've never weighed that much in my life.  And I don't like it.  Not least because I can't fit into some of my clothes.

NHS advice (because I won't touch any generic "lose weight by living on water" rubbish), suggests the following:


  • Swap from whole milk to semi-skimmed, 1% fat or even skimmed milk. - I drink only skimmed milk
  • Swap a sugar-coated breakfast cereal for a wholegrain breakfast cereal such as porridge or shredded wholegrain wheat cereal, with no added sugar. - um, I guess honey-nut cornflakes aren't the best right?
  • Swap a sprinkle of sugar on your breakfast cereal for a topping of fresh or dried fruit, which counts towards one of your five a day. - I don't sprinkle anything on my cereal, sugar or otherwise
  • Swap full-fat Greek yoghurt for fat-free Greek-style yoghurt or natural low-fat yoghurt. - yoghurt.  Yuk.  Tried to like it several years ago.  Realised it's vile stuff.  Full fat or not.


  • Swap white breads, bagels and muffins for wholegrain varieties. - most bread products we eat are wholegrain, granary etc
  • Swap butter and cheese in your jacket potato for reduced fat spread and reduced salt and sugar baked beans. - I hardly ever eat a jacket potato
  • Swap a tuna melt panini for a tuna salad sandwich on wholemeal bread, without mayo. - don't like tuna paninis
  • Swap a cheddar cheese filling in your sandwich for reduced-fat hard cheese. - sorry, I do like Cheddar, and Double Gloucester. Though I don't eat as much cheese as Neil.  And I don't do Stilton.


  • Swap creamy or cheesy sauces for tomato- or vegetable-based sauces on your pasta, meat or fish dishes. - hardly ever have cream sauces.  Mostly tomato and veg anyway
  • Swap mashed potato made with butter and whole milk for mash with low-fat spread and a lower-fat milk such as semi-skimmed, 1% fat or skimmed. - Don't do mash potatoes much.  If I do, it's marg and our milk.  Skimmed.
  • Choose leaner cuts of meat, for example, swap streaky bacon for back bacon. - if we have bacon it is always back bacon,
  • Swap the frying pan for the grill when cooking meat. - hardly ever cook meat.  If I do, it's grilled. Never fried.


  • Swap your usual coffee made with whole milk to a ’skinny’ coffee made with skimmed milk. - skinny coffee.  Fine by me.  Hardly drink coffee anyway.
  • Swap your cordial for a cordial with no added sugars. - only drink fruit juices if I do
  • Swap a few of your sugary drinks for a glass of water. - try to drink water but I'm a camel when it comes to drinking!
  • Swap hot chocolate made with whole milk and served with whipped cream for a hot chocolate made with skimmed milk and no cream. - never drink hot chocolate.


  • Swap a blueberry muffin for a currant bun on its own or with some reduced fat spread. - don't eat muffins more than once a year if that.
  • Swap yoghurt-coated raisins for plain raisins. - would sooner eat sultanas.  Definitely no yoghurt covering!
  • Swap salted nuts for unsalted nuts. - no nuts
  • Swap cheese straws for rice cakes with lower-fat cream cheese - cheese straws?!  Are you kidding me?! Yuk!
So what is it that we're doing 'wrong'?  I know what it is.  I just plain old eat TOO MUCH.  I have hollow legs and slow signals.  I take ages before I know I'm hungry (hence the "I get cranky when I'm hungry" jokes) and take ages before I know I am full.

I guess I just need to cut down.  Huh.  Dieting eh?  Let's face it, every time it ALL boils down to that.