Thursday, 30 August 2018

The Summer Ghost Walk

Tonight, I was with Walking in London again, for The Summer Ghost Walk, which I've discovered I cancelled twice before! Third time lucky, I guess. Handily, I got a loyalty discount for this, which knocked nearly half the price off. And the meetings didn't go too late, and we're a bit less frantic than usual, so leaving the office wasn't such a wrench.

I had to get two buses to Trafalgar Square. The first came as I approached - a bit of a scuttle on my part, and I made it. And when I changed - why, my next bus was right behind us! Now, I only had to go one stop on this.. however, I knew it was a busy stretch. Sure enough, between that and the roadworks at the junction with Rosebery Avenue, I was scuttling again by the time I got off - I did make it to the square with about five minutes to spare. Crossing the square, I mused that it's been a very long time since I was last here. Anyway, he'd said to meet by the "winged bull" - that's not a great description, but I guess, what can you do!


More photos here. I might have tried for a better angle, but the poor man was waiting for me - I recognised him from before. And waiting all alone, at that - yes, for the third time, I was the only person on a tour. He mentioned that it's been a quiet summer.

Anyway, we proceeded along Trafalgar Square - then down Villiers Street, and down the side street of Watergate Walk, where I've never been before. (The video that I've linked to depicts a different guide.) Round the back of the Savoy, and across the river, unusually:


We ended up in Westminster, with the fascinating story of anchorites. A very pleasant evening, in good company - and I hope he thought the same! And finished early, which is good for a change.

Tomorrow, I'm back to Ireland for the weekend. Next week starts with two trips with North London Friends. On Monday, we're off to Hampstead Theatre for The Humans. Front row, cool!

On Tuesday, we're seeing The Aristocrats - by Brian Friel - at Donmar Warehouse. Now, initially, I didn't book anything for this night, what with another late-night work meeting planned. Forgot about that when I was booking this, next time I looked - but sod it, the last late-night work meeting didn't even happen, and I'm sick of them just blithely assuming we'll work after hours.

On Wednesday - well, I got tired of waiting for London Literary Walks to arrange something, and with a huge choice on Meetup, I'm now going with Up in the Cheap Seats to Dance Nation, at the Almeida.

Next Thursday, in contrast, there's nothing on Meetup that I fancy! Instead, the £3.60 club is letting me see Scandale, at Sadler's Wells - for £5.40. Still a big improvement on the official price of £20 - and just like before, they have a cloak-and-dagger collection method, where you collect your ticket across the road, from someone with a pink clipboard..! Hey, I might get a better ticket than usual.

And on the 7th, I'm with Spooky London - for yet another ghost tour. This one is the Thames River of Death Ghost Story Tour. Be interesting to see what hand this group makes of ghost stories - payment on the day, so (unusually) I must remember to bring cash.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Lincoln's Inn Walk

Tonight - at last, back with London Literary Walks! for the Lincoln's Inn Walk. I feel a bit guilty, having missed his last two for the Camden Fringe - blame Up in the Cheap Seats! Now, I cancelled a meal with Let's Do This for this walk - ironically, I see that Mary took my place on it.. ah, this Meetup inter-group competitiveness!

This is getting vexing - every single evening, I leave my boss hard at it to go and enjoy myself, and I feel guilty about that too. I know it's his choice, but still. Anyway, with a reasonably late start to the walk, and meetings that didn't go on for too long, I left in decent time. Annoyingly, I just missed my bus - but hey, the other one would do better than waiting for 11 whole minutes. So I got that instead, and had a short walk when I got off.

"Inside the pub", he said. Hmm. It was The Shakespeare's Head - which is pretty huge, like any Wetherspoon's. So that wasn't terribly helpful. Well, he turned out to be right at the back. Pretty much. I duly commented as much on the Meetup page, figuring it might be of help to the others who had yet to arrive. We had a decent crowd for this one - of the six who accompanied him, three of us were regulars, with two first-timers having signed up. And someone else appeared at the last minute, who hadn't responded at all! Well gee. Welcome, one and all!

We didn't have to go far to find something interesting:


More photos here. Tonight's walk was the usual fascinating mix, with Sir Thomas More..


(and did you know he was lauded by the Soviet Union for his Communist principles, as espoused in Utopia?!) Aleister Crowley made an appearance - or, at least, somewhere he used to live. We learned the correct pronunciation of Chiang Kai-Shek, from the Chinese lady present (yes, he lived around here too). We also got a fair bit about Charles II - primarily, it seemed, because we were passing pubs that had some association with him. Such as the one named after a chap that hid him, at one fateful point of the Civil War:


After that, the walk dealt primarily with money..


and, conspicuously, the Law. Well, but you'd expect that for Lincoln's Inn. We learned about how newly qualified lawyers have to spend a year in chambers, and we passed the pro bono centre. Some quite imposing buildings:


..and some expensive wigs:


Finally, the Peacock Theatre held some surprises, as the venue where women first appeared legally on stage, also notable for its innovative moveable scenery and use of perspective. And so on - for most of us - to The Old Bank of England, which is housed in an old bank. Funny that. Passing the discarded remains of a reception - shocking waste of food and drink - we comfied ourselves in a corner and discussed, well, writing and stuff. Another excellent outing, in good company. Our guide, however, still resolutely refused to pin down any dates for next month.. we wait in suspense.


Tomorrow, I'm with Walking in London again, for The Summer Ghost Walk, which I cancelled earlier in the month. Handily, I got a loyalty discount for this, which knocked nearly half the price off! Then I'm back to Ireland for the weekend.

And next week starts with two trips with North London Friends. On Monday, we're off to Hampstead Theatre for The Humans. Front row, cool!

And on Tuesday, we're seeing The Aristocrats - by Brian Friel - at Donmar Warehouse. Now, initially, I didn't book anything for this night, what with another late-night work meeting planned. Forgot about that when I was booking this, next time I looked - but sod it, the last late-night work meeting didn't even happen, and I'm sick of them just blithely assuming we'll work after hours.

Restaurant: Bill's & Pub: The Blues Kitchen

Yesterday, our boss suggested a (very) long lunch, for which I suggested Bill's - didn't matter, as long as we got out of the office for a while! Well, they didn't have a better suggestion - and it isn't far from the office, but still afforded a different setting. Just for a change. So off we headed there - no booking, which was just as well as we ended up leaving a little late. No booking was required though - I'd checked the website.

We meandered our way through to Hoxton Square, where it was easy to find on the corner. Steps up, and hardly any of the tables inside were occupied - we took one by the window. Rustic tables, with slightly uneven wooden boards - but it's a pleasant place. Friendly service, an à la carte, and a set menu.

I decided to have the minute steak - generally a safe option. One of my companions had a burger, the other wasn't too hungry and just went for a portion of olives and sweet potato fries. A very decent house white for me, beer for the lads. And I've gotta say, it was all excellent. Very tasty steak - I didn't need to order sauce, as it came with a big pat of garlic butter and was tasty enough without. Cooked to perfection, with pre-salted fries. I was the only one who went for dessert - which was a curious thing; the "chocolate bombe" is a chocolate dome that covers vanilla, chocolate and honeycomb ice cream, and comes with salted caramel sauce. Which she offered to pour for me(!). The bombe is served in one of the same buckets that the fries come in - and you need the long spoon you get, as the dessert sinks down into the bed of cream as you try to take spoonfuls. Anyway, it all jumbles up in the bottom, in a very moreish mess.

We enjoyed our meal, and were pleased at the price. Particularly as the boss paid! :-) We noted that you can also buy stuff at Bill's - they seem to produce jams, marmalades, chocolate, tea, and pink lemonade to take away.

Afterwards, I had this idea of visiting interesting places I'd seen on a walk around the area. Sadly, I couldn't remember where any of them were - probably just around some corner or other. So we just moseyed off to the pub - ending up in The Blues Kitchen. A nice, dark, cosy escape from the day, it has good blues on the soundtrack, a good vibe, plenty of seating, interesting taps, and an impressive range of whiskies:




I drank a fair bit, but did manage to weave my way home without falling over. Way too tired last night to blog, though! Both venues recommended for a day away from care.

Tonight - at last, back with London Literary Walks! for the Lincoln's Inn Walk. I feel a bit guilty, having missed his last two for the Camden Fringe - blame Up in the Cheap Seats! Now, I cancelled a meal with Let's Do This for this walk - ironically, I see that Mary took my place on it.. ah, this Meetup inter-group competitiveness!

Tomorrow, I'm with Walking in London again, for The Summer Ghost Walk, which I cancelled earlier in the month. Handily, I got a loyalty discount for this, which knocked nearly half the price off! Then I'm back to Ireland for the weekend.

And next week starts with two trips with North London Friends. On Monday, we're off to Hampstead Theatre for The Humans. Front row, cool!

And on Tuesday, we're seeing The Aristocrats - by Brian Friel - at Donmar Warehouse. Now, initially, I didn't book anything for this night, what with another late-night work meeting planned. Forgot about that when I was booking this, next time I looked - but sod it, the last late-night work meeting didn't even happen, and I'm sick of them just blithely assuming we'll work after hours.

Monday, 27 August 2018

Play: Julie

Tonight, I was finally off to see Julie at the National, having got a cheaper ticket than I could have managed on earlier occasions. Would you credit it though.. the cheapest ticket I could find was from.. Ticketmaster!! Never known for their cheapness in the past.. with this, and them scrapping the Get Me In and Seatwave ticket reselling sites, maybe they're turning over a new leaf!

I'm going to miss these lazy days - mind you, I was out earlier today than the last two, despite having taken the time to drag practically my entire outfit out of boxes! Arrived way too early at the theatre, and sat over the side reading my latest book (on the Kindle app on my phone - very handy). Well, I came to the end of a chapter, and decided it was time to head towards the theatre - and whom should I run into but two members of Up in the Cheap Seats (UITCS)! Fancy.. So we stood and chatted for a bit, until we were called to go in.

I was to the other side from them - and wouldn't you know it (I had suspected), the Ticketmaster voucher that said it was my ticket wasn't accepted as a ticket. (I've complained to Ticketmaster about that, for whatever good it'll do.) So I needs must gallop back downstairs and over to the box office, where the confused attendant checked, and sure enough there was a ticket for me. So I galloped up again, where the poor usher was most apologetic. Anyway, I did still make it a couple of minutes before curtain-up - and my seat was quite close to the entrance. so not much climbing required.



The curtain opens to a Hello!-style kitchen, all anonymous, white doors, leading to cupboards or dishwashers. A long wooden table with accompanying benches along the centre. Here, we meet the servants, working overtime to serve the needs of the guests at the Bacchanalian party upstairs, which is revealed to us on a higher level at the back. Julie, however, the daughter of the owner of the house, ends up more interested in spending time with the folks downstairs.. particularly the dishy chauffeur..

I found the lead-up to the seduction quite humdrum, although it would have been shocking in its day - the original on which this is based, Miss Julie, was written in 1888, when the daughter of the rich master would have been scandalised to have been caught in a relationship with a servant! The seduction itself is artfully done - and indeed, the whole depiction of the party, with partygoers choreographed to depict wild abandon, is quite lovely to watch. However, the aftermath of the seduction, with its arguments and recriminations, was for me the highlight, as the poor little rich girl realises how poor she actually is..

A striking, and at moments, shocking play, it runs for 1 hr and 20 minutes without interval (like last night!). Recommended - I see why they changed some elements of the original story to be more contemporary. At the climactic moment, we actually had our own dramatic climax in the Circle, where somebody over the other side seemed to take a turn - a doctor was called for, and there was a kerfuffle. It was over quickly enough, though. And one of the people I'd met on the way in was back on the bus with me, which was nice.

Tomorrow is a bit up in the air - our boss suggested a (very) long lunch, but try pinning him or my other co-worker down on details! Anyway, I've suggested Bill's - doesn't matter, as long as we get out of the office for a while!

On Wednesday - at last, back with London Literary Walks! for the Lincoln's Inn Walk. I feel a bit guilty, having missed his last two for the Camden Fringe - blame UITCS! Now, I cancelled a meal with Let's Do This for this walk - ironically, I see that Mary took my place on it.. ah, this Meetup inter-group competitiveness!

On Thursday, I'm with Walking in London again, for The Summer Ghost Walk, which I cancelled earlier in the month. Handily, I got a loyalty discount for this, which knocked nearly half the price off! Then I'm back to Ireland for the weekend.

And next week starts with two trips with North London Friends. Next Monday, we're off to Hampstead Theatre for The Humans. Front row, cool!

And on the 4th, we're seeing The Aristocrats - by Brian Friel - at Donmar Warehouse. Now, initially, I didn't book anything for this night, what with another late-night work meeting planned. Forgot about that when I was booking this, next time I looked - but sod it, the last late-night work meeting didn't even happen, and I'm sick of them just blithely assuming we'll work after hours.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Play: A Tale from Transylvania

London Social Detours was supposed to be off to the Scoop today, where King Arthur is playing. Not that I'd have paid them £3 for what is a free event! However, when I checked the weather forecast yesterday.. well, it was supposed to rain all this afternoon, continuing till after this started. So I said, not really - it's outdoors, and might be cancelled anyway: and all Meetup was offering as an alternative were walks. So I consulted my £3.60 club, who had tickets to a few plays, primarily in the Hen & Chickens, on the last day of the Camden Fringe. Behold if one of the plays wasn't A Tale from Transylvania! Well now, I couldn't resist that. Their discounted tickets were sold out, so I just bought a full-price one - they were cheap anyway. (And London Social Detours duly decided to cancel for the Scoop.) And here I was, thinking I was done with the Camden Fringe for the year..

Another nice, lazy day - and yes, it poured rain all day. Freezing cold too, when I went out for food - however, in the evening, headed to the theatre, it was much milder. So I said I'd walk. Which was fun - large quantities of rain make it easy to see where the dips and hollows in the pavements and road surfaces are, as they fill with water.. and yes, some huge puddles formed right beside where I was walking. Happily, they're in the bus lane, so there wasn't much traffic through them, and the one bus that passed did so slowly. Not so the speeding van - but he missed me, I'm glad to say.

Got to the pub with minutes to spare. I noted that it was as noisy as ever, as I made my way straight to the ticket desk, where he quickly checked me off and I clambered up the stairs to the theatre. I must have been the last in - the seats were nearly full, and I took one in the front row.

The lone performer tells us straight away that his sister has gone missing. You expect that anyway, from the "Missing" poster with a woman's picture on it, which matches the picture on the desk - and from the board with all sorts of clippings and notes attached. On the other side of the stage sits a suitcase. And the show is basically a narrative about what happened next - how he found out, what he did. As the plot thickens, sure enough, the action shifts from London to Transylvania..

He's a compelling performer, and I really didn't feel the time pass - quite an achievement, for a show that lasts for an hour and 20 minutes! (No interval.) It's intimate, it's sincere.. to the point of being uncomfortable, as we deal with this man's very personal grief. He's also very visual, producing artworks on stage during the show to demonstrate his inner anguish. He finishes it all off with a flourish, as the end sees a massive twist - perhaps not one that was earned from the plot that went before, but damnit, it's done very well indeed! For such a low-budget production, this is beautifully done, and highly recommended, should you come across it.

Tomorrow, I'm finally off to see Julie at the National, having got a cheaper ticket than I could have managed on earlier occasions. Would you credit it though.. the cheapest ticket I could find was from.. Ticketmaster!! Never known for their cheapness in the past.. with this, and them scrapping the Get Me In and Seatwave ticket reselling sites, maybe they're turning over a new leaf!

Saturday, 25 August 2018

London Bridge Ghost Walking Tour

Tonight, I was back with Walking in London, for yet another ghost tour - this time, it was the London Bridge Ghost Walking Tour! Got my usual 10% discount. Supposed to be cold, but drier than yesterday.

Ah, I had a lovely, long lie-in.. unusual for me, as even when I'm in Ireland, I have to get out and collect my mother's pension. The Irish government, you see, in its wisdom, has neither a system of remote collection (people might abuse it), nor the public transport infrastructure to enable those without their own transport to collect it. It's also in the process of closing the post offices where you have to collect it, so your options become more and more limited. Hence, every second Saturday, when I'm in Ireland, I needs must get myself out of bed and drive four miles to collect her pension before the post office closes, which it does at lunchtime. I must be grateful for two things - firstly, that the post office opens on Saturdays at all, and secondly, that they allow me to collect on her behalf. I can't leave it any longer - apparently, they cut you off if you haven't picked it up in three weeks.

So, today's lie-in was a real luxury! I also got my toothbrush charged, and dug some clothes out of bags and boxes where they've been since I moved. And then I moseyed down to the office, which is on the way to London Bridge - where the walk was happening! Picked up some food in the Co-Op by the office, ate there, got some more organising done online, and headed out in time for my walk.

However, I'd cut it fine - so it was a blow to discover that my bus stop was closed! (Yes, now that I look on the TFL website, I can see it - Google Maps wasn't as well informed.) Anyway, time being so tight, I said I'd better take the Tube - which whisked me down to London Bridge lickety split. Now, the Tube station has very informative exit signs, with a list of what you can access from each exit. Unfortunately, that list is so long that it can take minutes to read - which is tricky, with swarms of people trying to get past. In retrospect, I can tell you that, for St. Thomas' Street, you take Borough exit, East Side.

Google Maps, of course, went to sleep while I was underground - and when I emerged, the little blue dot, which rarely finds me exactly, was having problems. Which is an issue when you really don't know which way to turn! Happily, I figured it out myself - right from the exit, and the Bunch of Grapes pub, outside which we were to meet, is right around the corner. Mind you, I couldn't see our guide - and it now being very close to time, I messaged Funzing about it. (They got back to me, during the walk, to say that the group were there, and had I found them..?)

I'd walked the length of the front of the pub - unfortunately, there were loads of people outside in the now-fine weather (although there'd been a heavy shower before I'd set out, the walk stayed fine). But I couldn't see anyone that looked as though they were hosting a walk.. until I returned to where I'd started, and now there was a chap with a rather discreet sign, and a couple of people near him!

Yes, that was him, and I got my name checked off. And then the fun started.. I really don't think it was his fault, but a complete mess had been made of the booking. People had been sent confirmation for the wrong walk - there's another in Covent Garden that had been mixed up with it - and a couple arrived who had booked for the Haunted London Pub Tour, but had been signed up for this, to their dismay! so they left. Not to mention the lady who asked was it ok if they finished their drinks and ciggies first.. and the family whose mum decided the kids needed to go to the toilet first.. and all the folks who didn't show at all, probably having gone to Covent Garden, or elsewhere! Honestly, despite arriving on the dot, I was probably the least trouble of them all.



More photos here. Well, our first stop was outside The London Bridge Experience. Our friend, whose girlfriend had had to drag him away from drinks and ciggies, was very vocal from here.. dismayed to learn that these were never real dungeons, he persisted in asking about the real dungeons, whether we would be going to them, whether they were open to the public at all.. as one of the group remarked, this is the London Bridge Ghost Walk, you know, not the dungeon tour!

And so onto London Bridge itself. That couple hung back, taking photos, before joining us - whereupon he had to ask the guide to repeat himself, not having been listening the first time. The guide went on to tell us about Edward I's expulsion of the Jews in 1290, and how the boat on which they were exiled went on fire and all were killed. This, of course, wasn't at all detailed enough for the man that wanted dungeons. The guide explained that he couldn't go into a huge amount of detail on a time-limited tour.

And so on to Borough Market, where the guide was notably wary of what he said, given the presence of small people, and the nature of the doings there. As he gingerly explored the topic of the exploitation of even children, our loud friend was to be found making a silent gesture towards the family, as if to imply, "well, here we have a sample" - for which his girlfriend rightly thumped him. I was beginning to worry that this "lad about town" was going to ruin the walk - but they left the tour quietly at that point, to all of our immense relief.



The rest of the tour didn't, honestly, tell me anything I didn't already know. We wandered down by the Palace of Winchester, the Clink, and Crossbones Graveyard - where there was an exhibition new to both me and to the guide! Honestly, I've been on too many tours of the area, though, for this to have been really interesting - there were no specific ghost stories, just lots of general descriptions of sleaze - but he was very professional, and did cover the bases. And quite briskly - I got a decent workout on the first walk I've been on in a while! Got the bus back, and was surprised, upon sitting down, to discover that I was a bit stiff.

Now then. London Social Detours was off to the Scoop tomorrow, where King Arthur is playing. Not that I'd have paid them £3 for what is a free event! However, when I checked the weather forecast.. well, it's supposed to rain all tomorrow afternoon, continuing till after this starts. So I said, not really - it's outdoors, and might be cancelled anyway: and all Meetup was offering as an alternative were walks. So I consulted my £3.60 club, who had tickets to a few plays, primarily in the Hen & Chickens, on the last day of the Camden Fringe. Behold if one of the plays wasn't A Tale from Transylvania! Well now, I couldn't resist that. Their discounted tickets were sold out, so I just bought a full-price one - they're cheap anyway. (And London Social Detours duly decided to cancel for the Scoop.) And here I was, thinking I was done with the Camden Fringe for the year..

And on Monday, I'm finally off to see Julie at the National, having got a cheaper ticket than I could have managed on earlier occasions. Would you credit it though.. the cheapest ticket I could find was from.. Ticketmaster!! Never known for their cheapness in the past.. with this, and them scrapping the Get Me In and Seatwave ticket reselling sites, maybe they're turning over a new leaf!

Friday, 24 August 2018

Plays: Train Journey & The Improvised Shakespeare Show

Tonight, Up in the Cheap Seats again, same organiser as earlier in the week, for another Camden Fringe double bill: this time, it was Train Journey at the Etcetera Theatre, and ShakeItUp: The Improvised Shakespeare Show at The Upper Room. With an early start to the first, I skipped my last meeting - to be honest, I think my boss did too! We rarely get anything from that one, and he confessed today that he's sick of meetings. Plus we're headed into a bank holiday weekend - neither of us felt like it.

Just around the corner, and just in time for my bus! It was packed though, and I didn't get a seat until King's Cross - as has happened before. Got off a short walk from the venue - which was a good thing, as it was raining(!). I picked up my ticket first - which was just a large envelope containing fliers advertising other Fringe events - and joined the others at a side table. Having already consumed most of the unusual free bottle of wine in the office, I didn't feel like any now - I just took a seat on a comfy, chenille-covered stool.

When it was time to head upstairs, we wended our way up narrow, twisting stairs to the little room I hadn't been in for more than a year. For once, we weren't in the front row - our group spread itself over the next two. We thought that the theatrical fellow who came in moonwalking was the start of the show - turned out he was just one of us. However, this was to set the tone for the weirdness of the show..

I still can't tell you what it's about. We tried afterwards, really we did, to figure it out - it takes the form of a train carriage (Southern), with six passengers and a conductor. I can also tell you that the role of conductor switches among all the different characters, and that the conductor's duties involve keeping some kind of control over the others. Which some manage better than others. The passengers alternate between sitting obediently on their seats, and devolving into manic creatures.

And gee, all we could determine online afterwards was that it's a juxtaposition of order and chaos, with the train carriage representing the journey through life. Vague doesn't begin to describe it though - nor does there seem to be any particular reason for the successive conductors to read from a soft-porn book called "The Sexy Conductor" - although I'm sure the director was delighted to find it. No character development, no exposition, no explanation, no plot, no conclusion, no moral of the story. No coherent story, at that. Runs till Sunday - and is only half an hour long: but then, it doesn't have much to say!

Afterwards, we two who were continuing to the next show hung on in the pub for a while, as we weren't sure what the setup was at the next venue, or whether there'd be anywhere to put ourselves. The others didn't fancy staying. We spent our time, as I say, trying to find out about what we'd just seen, and just chatting in general. My companion had researched the location of the next venue - just down the road - beforehand, handily; it was particularly good to have a rough idea where it was, as the rain started in earnest at that point!


The Upper Room turns out to be owned by St. Michael's Church, and we followed a group of people right up the stairs to the top floor. Where they were getting us to finish sentences, on narrow strips of paper. Sentences that started with phrases like "Methinks", or the likes. They had plenty of pens. It turns out to be rather tricky to write on such a narrow strip of paper, but once we had, we were free to progress to the room, where our names were checked on the computer. Or we could pay at the door, although I daresay that was cash only.

Free seating, and we ended up in the front row again. Nice, comfy seats they were, most of which were occupied by what I'm guessing were acting students - and probably pals of the performers. Sure enough, the screams of appreciation when they came on were literally ear-splitting. Said performers have a uniform of trousers and a kind of medieval-style unisex smock, in black or white, lacing at the front. So they can be male or female, quite flexibly.

After a brief reccie of the audience to find out what their favourite Shakespearian plays were, where they were from, and where they'd like the play to be set, they settled on "The Wench in the Forest" - or something like that. Speaking of flexibility, what followed was the most madcap, convoluted plot they could come up with, randomly dotted with lines taken from audience suggestions, written on scraps of paper that they pulled from their pockets.

An hour long, it was absolutely hilarious, the performers game for anything, and delivering the maddest lines - verbatim. Special mention must go to the diminutive lady with the Spanish accent, who played a fairy - spectacularly well. And kudos, no matter where it went, they bravely carried on with it. And yes, we did have them climbing over us - sitting in the front row can be an interesting experience. Full of fun, full of energy - sadly, this was their last Fringe show, but they apparently have a regular gig at The Cat's Back. Check them out!

At the end, we left them to convene with their pals at Brewdog, across the road, and we headed our separate ways. Happily, my bus stop was covered from the still-heavy rain, and my bus came soon - and this time, I got a seat. All went well until we got down to St. Pancras.. the traffic was woeful, and I was sitting on the bus, remarking how cold it was outside, how much nicer to be on the bus, and enjoying the vibrating massage I was getting as we made our slow way towards the traffic lights, which kept changing to red.

..until the driver spoke to someone on the radio, and told us there was something up - roadworks or such - and he was dropping us at the next stop! When we finally crawled our way over there, we were deposited in the middle of a crowd of people - it was like an evacuation. Loads of people wanted to get on, and there was an argument with the driver. Well, the departure board said my next bus was due in eight minutes, and seeing how many people wanted it didn't inspire me with confidence. A young woman with a German accent was talking on the phone, explaining how every bus that came told them to get on the next, and how she wasn't finding London friendly at all. I decided I was better off walking.

Down the road a bit, I came to the next stop - far fewer people, and now a choice of two buses. And my alternative arrived just minutes later. Disembarking, and heading up the road home, I saw they were just closing that off too! Cue lots of confusion at the other end, drivers changing their minds at the last minute, going the wrong way down one-way streets.. oh, the streets are crazy tonight!

And tomorrow, I'm back with Walking in London, for yet another ghost tour - this time, it's the London Bridge Ghost Walking Tour! Got my usual 10% discount. Supposed to be cold, but drier than today.

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Comedy: Jarlath Regan - Organ Freeman

This evening, a really late meeting was scheduled. And it was advertised in good time - so, with nothing spectacular to do instead, and nothing booked, I decided to attend that, and forego Meetup for a night. However, my £3.60 club eventually came up with an alternative that was late enough for me to make it after the meeting. And what's more, I got a ticket for the same thing, even cheaper, from my other cheap ticket company. (When I figured out that the problem on the booking page was that the year for the payment card had to have four digits.) Neither company will allow me to name them to you - I can tell people privately, though. Anyway, the event is Jarlath Regan, who's at Soho Theatre with a show called Organ Freeman. (Jeez, Irish again! We're taking over.)

Wouldn't you bloody know it, the meeting was cancelled. And oddly, although I'd RSVPed for it, I received no notification, and only found out when I casually checked the calendar to see whether a meeting room had been booked for it. Humph. Well, I'd booked this now, and there was nothing for it but to hang on in the office until it was time to leave. In fairness, it did afford me time to do some valuable work, which I appreciated. And I still wasn't the last person to leave.

Damn cold in the evenings - certainly relative to what we've had. And wouldn't you know it, annoyingly, my bus came just as I was waiting to cross the road, and there wasn't even anyone at the stop to hold it! So I needs must hang around in the cold breeze for the next - which was delayed. And then made its slow way into town - it's not that long a trip, but I was despairing of making it in time. Mercifully, I was let off not far from the theatre, and I know the way so well - I was scuttling so hard, even the beggars didn't bother to beg, just wished me a good evening. I gabbled my details at the box office, and was handed my ticket, with the warning that the show started in one minute.

Happily, someone was just taking the lift as I passed, and I took it with him. As we remarked, it was so slow that we might as well have walked! although we were less out of breath this way. This show is in the main theatre, and wouldn't you know it, I was in Row E. It's a funny thing, row numbering - on Tuesday, I was in Row C, which turned out to be eighth from the stage - this evening, Row E was second from the stage! Go figure.

Happily, this chap isn't the sort to pick on people in the front - although he did banter with a few people, they were people who commented, or maybe gave a random laugh when nobody else did. And he has a lovely, gentle style about him anyway, really easygoing. He's Irish, as I say, and plays up that element quite a bit, explaining how he's lived here for five years, and poking fun at the "lads" culture in England, which he quite rightly says is alien to the Irish. The obligatory Brexit joke appears - and again, the point isn't in one-liners; he builds a relationship with the audience, and is naturally funny in conversation.

Most of the show is very personal, though - the title is taken from his decision to donate a kidney to his brother, and the dilemmas that that posed: for him and for his wife. Why he wanted to do it, what happened.. all very honest, and mixed with keen observations on society at large. Really moving, although never miserable - and he shows a video at the end, starring the people he's been talking about all night. Including his six-year-old son; best joke of the night was when his wife suggested they each throw away something they never used any more, suggesting that the little fellow could throw away some of his old toys. "Yes," he said, "and you could throw away some of those Jamie Oliver books you never open.."

Really good, much better than I'd expected from a short YouTube video. Runs until Saturday, and highly recommended - has to be seen live to be appreciated. It's a late one, but only an hour long. And coming back - lo, my bus came as I was trying to cross the road! Again! I ask you, there's a rhythm to these things, isn't there?

Tomorrow, Up in the Cheap Seats again, same organiser as earlier in the week, for another Camden Fringe double bill: this time, it's Train Journey at the Etcetera Theatre, and ShakeItUp: The Improvised Shakespeare Show at The Upper Room.

And on Saturday, I'm back with Walking in London, for yet another ghost tour - this time, it's the London Bridge Ghost Walking Tour! Got my usual 10% discount. Hope the weather holds.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Plays: Secondhand Stories & Whimsy

Tonight, again, off with Up in the Cheap Seats (UITCS) (and the same organiser as Monday) to the Camden Fringe. We saw Secondhand Stories and Whimsy, two short plays at The Lion and Unicorn. I would have been missing an evening with London Literary Walks today, but he then moved it. And scheduled something else in its place, nuts!

Another frantic day at work - it's impossible to get a handle on anything when new stuff keeps getting piled on us! That's what you get when you have to work on several different projects at once. Anyway, after it put me in a foul mood, I said enough was enough, and left in time to get the bus. I had a choice of several, and arrived just before the organiser. Nice pub - I'd forgotten: spacious, airy, and we took the comfy seats by the fireplace (no fire, I hasten to add!). It's over a year since I was here last, for the same festival - and indeed, with the same organiser! I didn't seem to find the house white as watery on that occasion as it was tonight..


Well, I got to catch up with him about how he'd got on in the Edinburgh Fringe, and gripe about my day; we kept an eye out for the others, but didn't see them.. until the house opened and we made a move to go in, when we ran into them, and it turned out they'd been taking the air in the beer garden. Well now. Anyway, we got to sit together - front row, natch.

Secondhand Stories is a one-man show. Except it isn't - although audience participation is entirely voluntary, coaxed along by a twinkle in his smiling Irish eye and a tray of homebaked chocolate-chip cookies! (There's also whiskey, but there are more of the cookies.) Strange noises are to be heard from the dressing room beforehand - don't be alarmed, he's working his way up to what is, for him, an emotional performance. It's written specifically for him - and some of it is based on his life, and is very personal.

The perfect end to a shitty day is to hear about somebody else's, and as he entertainingly takes us through the start of a typical day for him, you realise that maybe yours wasn't so bad. Early on, he starts getting people to share - raising hands leads to some brave souls being invited on stage. Wouldn't you know it, yours truly ended up being invited up.. to stare at the audience for what was, apparently, 20 seconds. Just stand and stare at them. (Most of them, by the way, seemed amused to stare back - unusual among them was the one who turned out to be the writer, at the back, frowning at me.) Mind you now, he wasn't to know that - although I'm not a performer - I used to teach at third level, so standing in front of a group of adults holds no fear for me. I wasn't lying though, when I said it was weird not knowing what I was supposed to be doing there! but my cookie was fairly easily earned. A harder job was taken on by another of our group, who volunteered to share a fascinating anecdote from the Edinburgh Fringe.

The first part was hilarious, the latter story - which had more pathos - was a bit harder to listen to. But this is a truly personal performance, for both the actor and writer, whose theatre group is Putnockee Players. And the audience participation is gentle, and sensitively done - centring around the idea that we all have stories to tell, and how and why we do that. Runs until Saturday - highly recommended. And the cookies are excellent.

Since we were headed to the second play there tonight, we headed to the beer garden in between, on what was a lovely, balmy evening. The second play of the night, Whimsy, had all of five actors onstage - and just slightly more people in the audience. Just as well audience participation wasn't a part of this show - they wouldn't have had much choice! The story centres around Aoife (an Irish name - there was a lot of Irishness going around tonight), who has three - guardian angels, or something. Anyway, she leads a humdrum existence - until one day, she discovers her guardian angels, and that they imbue her with the power to get whatever she wants! but what, oh what, will she do with her new powers..?

Not as powerful a piece as the first, nonetheless it had its moments, with some terrific comic acting, and some nice touches.. in particular, keep an eye on what they're reading. And yes, sitting in the front row got us in trouble again, as we got pelted with knickers! Runs till Sunday.

As we walked down the road afterwards, we were pursued by two men, who ran out of the pub shortly after we did! Lo and behold, it was the actor and writer from the first show, who'd missed us between the plays - as they explained - but were looking out the window after the second show, and saw us leave! They just felt they had to come after us, to thank us for being so cooperative with the audience participation! Ahh.. now, I've heard of mixing with the cast after a show, but I haven't heard of this before! How lovely.. I wish them all the best. I remember the Man with the Hat, and how he lit up when we ran into theatre folk in Southwark Playhouse.. I know how he felt. He's another one would have gotten a kick out of tonight - whether or not he could be persuaded on stage. We really miss him, out and about..

I was rather confused to be catching my bus home from exactly the same stop I got off at on the outbound journey! Of course, it turns out that the route I took outbound doubled back on itself. Anyway, this bus took me straight to within walking distance of home - and handily enough, a corner shop was open for me to grab a couple of things. Much better serviced for that kind of thing, where I live now, than where I was before.

Now, tomorrow evening sees a really late meeting. And it was advertised in good time - so, with nothing spectacular to do instead, and nothing booked, I decided to attend that, and forego Meetup for a night. However, my £3.60 club eventually came up with an alternative that was late enough for me to make it after the meeting. And what's more, I got a ticket for the same thing, even cheaper, from my other cheap ticket company. (When I figured out that the problem on the booking page was that the year for the payment card had to have four digits.) Neither company will allow me to name them to you - I can tell people privately, though. Anyway, the event is Jarlath Regan, who's at Soho Theatre with a show called Organ Freeman. (Jeez, Irish again! We're taking over.)

On Friday, UITCS again, same organiser again, for another Camden Fringe double bill: this time, it's Train Journey at the Etcetera Theatre, and ShakeItUp: The Improvised Shakespeare Show at The Upper Room.

And on Saturday, I'm back with Walking in London, for yet another ghost tour - this time, it's the London Bridge Ghost Walking Tour! Hope the weather holds.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Concert: Aprile Millo

Tonight, the £3.60 club provided me with a ticket to see Aprile Millo perform at Cadogan Hall. Gotta say, terrific value for something whose official prices started at £35! Had a dicky tummy all afternoon, but mercifully it sorted itself - I cried off the last meeting today, and headed off soon after that meeting started.

Still left it a bit late to take buses, for this venue all the other side of town - so I was on the Tube: stuffy Northern Line, where I at least got a seat, followed by the cooler, airier District Line. Tip: get on at the front, if taking this combo heading westwards - the front of the Northern Line is where you want to be for the District Line, and the exit at Sloane Square is near the front, too. Only a short walk from there to the venue, where I got a good stalls ticket and made my way straight upstairs, as the doors were already open.



I hadn't heard of this singer before, but she obviously had a lot of fans there tonight - the cheering was so prolonged when she came out, in a shimmery lamé cape, that her first words were - "..and now for my NEXT number..". She obviously has a sense of humour, and bantered with the audience all night.

Unfortunately, I didn't recognise any of the classical pieces she performed, which constituted  most of the program. But it was all very pleasant - although to be honest, nothing special to me, and several people around me left at the interval. Naturally enough, what I did recognise formed a highlight for me - and lo, they were four Irish melodies! First up were The Kerry Dances and The Rose of Tralee - appropriately, given that that competition and festival came to its annual conclusion tonight! (That's why I didn't get to blog last night, catching up on the repeat.) These were followed by Bendemeer's Stream, (whose name wasn't familiar to me but whose melody is the same as for The Mountains of Mourne), and Danny Boy. For this section, she brought on a harpist - whose Irish harp is visible to the right of the piano onstage in this picture. She finished with a duet with some singer she hadn't introduced - which was greeted with a standing ovation. When the house lights came up, I was already on my way out, hearing the strains of an encore while I was on the stairs. I wasn't pushed about returning.

I had a choice of two buses on the way back, both of which required a change - I took the 211, which came first and took me to Waterloo. Boy, was I to be glad that was the one that had come.. as I waited for the 243, I had a sudden, desperate need to go to the toilet! Nearest one turned out to be courtesy of the Hole in the Wall pub, well signposted and just around the corner from Tenison Way. I didn't stay for a drink, but can vouch for the convenience of their facilities! (and the strength of their hand dryers.)

Tomorrow, again, off with Up in the Cheap Seats (and the same organiser as yesterday) to the Camden Fringe. We're seeing Secondhand Stories and Whimsy, two short plays at The Lion and Unicorn. I would have been missing an evening with London Literary Walks that day, but he then moved it. And scheduled something else in its place, nuts!

Operetta: Elephant Steps

Last night, I went with Up in the Cheap Seats (UITCS) to the Arcola, for Elephant Steps. Ryanair, the night before, surpassed themselves in actually taking off with a delay of only about 1hr 45 minutes, so I got home at the abnormally early time of 3.10am, and wasn't as tired as I might have been. Still not exactly bounding with energy.

The main thing I hate about the decimation of our team at work is how, after a full day's work for us, California comes online, and hey, we're off again with a swarm of emails and messages. And late meetings. And we're the only ones to deal with them. So, even if I don't stay for them - or even if I do, and then rush off - I feel guilty, because I'm leaving my boss to pick up the excess. I really wish he wouldn't do that - let them wait. Anyway, yesterday I managed the late meeting, then explained how, not only was I leaving now (6.30pm), but I wouldn't be coming back to the office after the show. Not convenient. As I pointed out, it's good to take a night off, every now and again..

I can walk to the Arcola from home, but from the office it's a bit far, so I took the bus - which obligingly came a couple of minutes after I got to the stop. And dropped me around the corner from the theatre. I'd just picked up my ticket when there was an announcement that the doors were now open for the preshow.. I checked, and couldn't see the group organiser (I didn't know any of the others coming). So I went in and took my seat.

This is part of the Grimeborn opera festival, which runs until Sunday.. Truly not your average opera festival. Now, this particular piece's preshow is interesting.. a man lies in a bed, another sits at a table, jiggling. That must be hard work, for the nearly half hour he has to keep it up before the show starts. They are later joined by a few ladies - one in Edwardian, white lace, the others in psychedelic minidresses with long, silver boots. People wander in and out, a fellow appears from a window shouting "63". That sort of thing.

See, it turns out that this show turns 50 this year! So it's a product of its times, and as they say, if you can remember the 60s, you weren't really there. Very strange stuff indeed.. the main show is more of the same, really, with some singing. The overhead captions are mildly interesting. The story is - baffling. Something about the guy in the bed turning into an elephant, and repeated references to someone called "Reinhardt". Goes on for over an hour. The soundtrack is - for the most part - rather catchy.. Oh, and they hand out cucumbers at the end. Which would be great, if I liked cucumbers - as it was I had to endure the smell - bleurgh.

I'd have left pretty quickly if I hadn't been in a group. There being a large gap in the audience, we'd all been moved down from the side balcony before the show started, so I was third row from the front for most of it - £20, whereas I'd only paid £12. I was glad I hadn't paid £20 for this. Anyway, I moved down to the front row to join the others for the Q+A. And, to be honest, I was glad I'd come, just for that - it's happening after every show, and the director is in conversation with the musical composer, who turns 80 this year. And last night, the cast members came out, when they'd showered and changed. And do you know, it's absolutely fascinating to hear somebody who was active at the height of the 60s, in New York, talk about what it was like, and his influences. I'd nearly book for the other performances, just to hear what he says next! Such as the little anecdotes, like where the song You Can Call Me Al came from..

Nobody felt like a drink after - not even me, really, although I'd like a chat with the organiser about how he got on at the Edinburgh Fringe. So I walked home. Tonight, the £3.60 club is providing me with a ticket to see Aprile Millo perform at Cadogan Hall. Gotta say, terrific value for something whose official prices start at £35! Had a dicky tummy all afternoon, but mercifully it seems to have sorted itself - I've cried off the last meeting today, and will head off soon.

And tomorrow, again, off with UITCS (and the same organiser) to the Camden Fringe. We're seeing Secondhand Stories and Whimsy, two short plays at The Lion and Unicorn. I would have been missing an evening with London Literary Walks that day, but he then moved it. And scheduled something else in its place, nuts!