Saturday, 30 November 2019

Tutankhamun Exhibition

Tonight, I headed to the Tutankhamun exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery. With a printed-out ticket (sigh*). Get with the times, guys! They have half hourly time slots for entry throughout the day, and sent repeated emails warning not to arrive before the scheduled time on the ticket, because of overcrowding! I booked a nice late one, entry from 6pm - 6.30pm.

So, I had a lazy day - ventured out for food eventually, and was simply floored by the cold! I fancied KFC - where they must have been training in staff, because there were a whole lot of people behind the counter, not doing anything. I actually had no idea who was serving me - two different people wanted to give me my drink, they gave me a side I hadn't asked for, and it took them minutes to dig out my 21p change. And then I wasn't sure when he called my order, because he didn't speak clearly. Unfortunately, probably because of the crowds, they'd closed the seating area, so I had to bring it back home. Never mind, it was good in the end.

My bus was diverted somewhat, but I could catch it from Liverpool Street. Or I could have, if I hadn't been waylaid by a WhatsApp conversation! So I took the Circle Line - which, when I figured out which direction I was going in (East first, then West), was very quick and comfortable.

A short walk to the Saatchi Gallery..



I made it just before half past, and got my ticket scanned. And then spent the next 10 minutes queuing to get in - the crowds were, indeed, crazy. A guy was wandering up and down the line with audio guides for rent - £6 a pop, with a choice of languages. You might find it worth the money if you have a passionate interest - but there are plenty of written descriptions, and I think most will happily do without.

It was a relief to get in out of the cold - there's a cloakroom (which charges), and then you have a photo opportunity, with your choice of suitably Egyptian background. I passed. Cue another long queue! This one is caused by the short film they show at the entrance to the exhibition, which they make you watch, and limit audience numbers for - so the whole queue is held up while the next batch watches it. There's hardly any seating, and anyway, I doubt you'd see much if you sat, past people's heads. Indeed, it's tricky for short people, too - although they did let someone in a wheelchair take a space at the front.



Give them their due, they know they have an important exhibition, and they've done their damnedest to make the most of it. The decor is terrific..



The exhibits are suitably stunning, many of which have never before left Egypt:




There's so much information about spells, and how spells are inscribed on statues - but only have power when spoken aloud, which must be the origin of later European stories of how demons can be evoked by speaking their name. The whole first part of the exhibition is a fascinating description of how the deceased travels through the afterlife, disarming demons as he goes by speaking their names. Indeed, there was so much about the casting of spells that I began to see why Egyptian mythology had so much influence on later developments in European Magick - the Golden Dawn and their ilk. And then it occurred to me.. you know, I was on a ghost tour of the British Museum some weeks back.. where the guide spoke a great deal about how the magical properties imbued in objects don't leave them. And how, in storage over the years, they fester. I do wonder whether, with all these spells in the building, the Saatchi Gallery has been experiencing anything - odd?!


Spectacular stuff - a VR experience at the end costs extra, and I didn't bother. I have to say, these objects made more of an impression on me when they were in their original setting. But failing a trip to Egypt, this is a fascinating tour of its belief systems from nearly 3,500 years ago. Mind you, the crowds were awful. But hey, you come out through the giftshop!


And so home, by bus, with no obstructions, and stopping closer to home than usual because of all the roadworks!



Tomorrow, I arranged to have lunch with Helen - she's squeezing in a trip to London before the infamous strikes start, next day! We arranged to eat at Bistro1, and booked a table. Now, when I went to book, they advertised a Groupon voucher for a meal for two - great, except when I phoned, I was told it wasn't valid in December! Never said anything about that on the voucher. So I've got a refund on the voucher, and they said they'd inform the restaurant that it was no longer valid. Meantime, poor Ivan was out of town this week for work and missing all the fun - and so, the other day, on the train back from a stay with the family, he floated the idea of an all-day social, some weekend. Starting tomorrow. I explained to him that I was seeing Helen tomorrow - "Bring her!" sez he. Helen was ok with them joining us, so now he and another are joining us for lunch tomorrow. Well, assuming the other has recovered from his cold. Anyway, the start of a fun day, methinks.

On Monday, ironically, I'm on another Groupon deal - this one seems to be valid, though. I'm headed to & Juliet, a very non-Shakespearian take on the classic heroine, including a pop soundtrack, with Up in the Cheap Seats (UITCS). Running at Shaftesbury Theatre.

On Tuesday, back with North London Friends for Fairview, at the Young Vic.

On Wednesday, back with the Crick Crack Club for a night I'm really looking forward to - Ben Haggarty and Jan Blake again, combined with my favourite, Clare Murphy, and Jordan Campbell, will treat us to a night on the theme Sovereign, at Rich Mix. It's the last in their series called the "alternative tarot", where four storytellers take turns to expand on variations on an archetypal theme, and hold a Q+A after. And I do hope Ivan can make this, because he's a great fan of Jan's, and I do think this is right up his alley.

On Thursday, back with UITCS for Three Sisters, at the National. Also signed up with Love London Arts, Theatre, Music & Stuff for this - the last time I tried to integrate the two, it didn't really work! It'll be interesting to see how it goes this time. I'll try to gravitate more towards them this time, as I missed them completely the last time. And then it's back to Ireland for the weekend, again.

Friday, 29 November 2019

Caffe Nero & The Hippodrome

Tonight, had Christmas drinks with an old friend who's very hard to pin down! Well, hot chocolate in Caffe Nero anyway - we'd see whether it got more alcoholic than that! After last night, I was going to take it easy..!

Well, I got caught up in something, and was a bit late leaving. But he's always late, as it happens, so I wasn't too worried. And as I was about to leave the office, it occurred to me that I hadn't checked whether I needed to print my ticket for tomorrow! So I checked. And yes, I do. Ugh. So, back I went to my locker, extracted my laptop, opened the browser, found the email, downloaded the ticket, sat the laptop on the printer for encouragement - and amazingly, it printed! in full technicolour. And I shut off the laptop, locked it back in the locker, and proceeded downstairs. Where I realised I'd left his Christmas present upstairs, in all the kerfuffle! So I went back upstairs, recovered the bag, and down with me again.

And off to catch the #8. Or not.. I guess it was diverted, due to the terrorist incident on London Bridge. No indications of it coming at all. So I schlepped off down the road to catch the #15.. except that wasn't coming any time soon, either! Happily, the #11 did arrive - which would do just as well. And then I trekked - uphill - to the cafe. To get a message from him, as I was just around the corner, to say he'd just arrived! Ah, so that was pretty perfect timing then!

We had chocolate Milanos, as usual - two each, before it was chucking-out time. And they were as sumptuous as ever. Not feeling like ending the evening just yet, we traipsed across the road to the Hippodrome. Where there was more than a small amount of confusion, as the bouncers tried to cope with everyone coming in to see Magic Mike! Well, once it was clarified that concert-goers should enter by the side, the main entrance was free for the rest of us, who suffered a cursory bag check and were then let in.

Upstairs, the side room from the bar is now known as the Boozy Tea-Room, I discovered! And you must now wait to be seated. I believe they take bookings in the afternoons. Ok - well, they found us seats without delay, service was quick, and the wine was good (and very kindly paid for by my companion). We were there for a couple of hours - and at around midnight, gee, I guess Magic Mike had just finished. Because there was a sudden influx of raucous females! We took our leave.

And as my companion visited the loo, I took the opportunity to explore the post-Magic Mike crowd..



The place is certainly looking Christmassy, a lot more sparkle than is usual, even for this venue:



..and if you want a £10 photo of yourself, they're happy to oblige:



When my companion emerged, he revealed that there were so many ladies that the gents' toilets had been co-opted, and the ladies were queueing for them as well. So he'd had to wait for the disabled, unisex toilet. Oy ve, life is hard..

Great to see him again anyway - we don't get to catch up often enough. So, he headed off by Tube, and I was on the trusty #11 again. Which - wow - had no lorry parked at the stop! Too late at night, I guess. Mind you, the next bus wasn't due for 25 mins.. so I took the opportunity to call my mother and pretend I was at home already - she never notices background noise. And wouldn't you know it, by the time I came off the phone, the bus was now just 1 minute away. No, I wasn't on for that long - the bus just suddenly found a spurt of energy, somewhere. And gee, although the taxi was parked on Old Broad Street again, tonight it was parked far enough off the road that it didn't provide an obstruction, and we continued on our merry way.

Tomorrow, I'm headed to the Tutankhamun exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery. With a printed-out ticket (sigh*). They have half hourly time slots for entry throughout the day, and have been sending repeated emails warning not to arrive before the scheduled time on the ticket, because of overcrowding! I booked a nice late one, at 6pm.

On Sunday, I arranged to have lunch with Helen - she's squeezing in a trip to London before the infamous strikes start, next day! We arranged to eat at Bistro1, and booked a table. Now, when I went to book, they advertised a Groupon voucher for a meal for two - great, except when I phoned, I was told it wasn't valid in December! Never said anything about that on the voucher. So I've got a refund on the voucher, and they said they'd inform the restaurant that it was no longer valid. Meantime, poor Ivan is out of town this week for work and missing all the fun - and so, the other day, on the train back from a stay with the family, he floated the idea of an all-day social, some weekend. Starting Sunday. I explained to him that I was seeing Helen on Sunday - "Bring her!" sez he. Helen was ok with them joining us, so now he and another are joining us for lunch on Sunday. The start of a fun day, methinks.

On Monday, ironically, I'm on another Groupon deal - this one seems to be valid, though. I'm headed to & Juliet, a very non-Shakespearian take on the classic heroine, including a pop soundtrack, with Up in the Cheap Seats (UITCS). Running at Shaftesbury Theatre.

On Tuesday, back with North London Friends for Fairview, at the Young Vic.

On Wednesday, back with the Crick Crack Club for a night I'm really looking forward to - Ben Haggarty and Jan Blake again, combined with my favourite, Clare Murphy, and Jordan Campbell, will treat us to a night on the theme Sovereign, at Rich Mix. It's the last in their series called the "alternative tarot", where four storytellers take turns to expand on variations on an archetypal theme, and hold a Q+A after. And I do hope Ivan can make this, because he's a great fan of Jan's, and I do think this is right up his alley.

On Thursday, back with UITCS for Three Sisters, at the National. Also signed up with Love London Arts, Theatre, Music & Stuff for this - the last time I tried to integrate the two, it didn't really work! It'll be interesting to see how it goes this time. I'll try to gravitate more towards them this time, as I missed them completely the last time. And then it's back to Ireland for the weekend, again.

Pub: Warwick Castle

Last night, our ex-company's social group's Christmas meeting. We had a tiff about the venue - the organiser decided on Thai Square, which I think is overpriced and underwhelming. So he started to grumble about the difficulty of getting somewhere before Christmas - which will take a group, and doesn't cost the earth. Still though, he came up with an alternative - we decided on the Warwick Castle pub in Little Venice. Lovely area, the pub sounded nice - with a Christmassy open fire, and a room we can book - and hey, it's a pub, which won't throw us out as quickly! They have a wine deal.. 10% off if you order at least £150 worth. And gee, he's had us choosing what we want off the menu. I also asked for the wine list - asked for suggestions from the group, but as no-one got back to me, sod it, I couldn't be bothered ordering so much wine for people that, in the end, mostly didn't want wine at all. A "whine about wine", as someone described it.

As luck would have it, the organiser planned to be there nice and early, which - with only a vague threat of a meeting that never happens, even when a time and room are scheduled! - gave me an excellent excuse to leave work early. This far out, it'd be Tube - the fastest way was to head on the Central Line, but frankly, I'd have to be certifiable to take it at that hour, if there's an alternative. Which there was - the Hammersmith & City Line would take a bit longer, but I wouldn't have to change - also, there was breathing room, and I got a seat after just one stop!

The final walk to the pub, as suggested by Google Maps, was so weird that it begged an alternative. I'm guessing these are autogenerated - and they really just don't always work. I mean really - can you spot a faster walking route than that suggested?



Hmm. Anyway, along my alternative route, I spotted one for London Literary Walks, if they ever come over this way!



And so to the pub:



Our organiser had helpfully explained to us where we were to go - he'd booked the snug, just to the left of the bar. Turns out this is his local, which gave him the idea when he was looking for an alternative. And I think he chose well - although they're not officially decorating for Christmas yet, they did make an effort for us!





We were pretty cosy in there - just the odd person coming in to use the ladies, conveniently over to the side! Not all of ours showed up, BTW - and despite constant entreaties to let the organiser know if people wanted the dinner moved later, it was yesterday before anyone said it! Plus, half of them arrived late, even for the later time - honestly, I agree with the man; organising people is like trying to herd cats..

Well, but the company was lively and friendly - although I hardly knew most of them - and I have to say, dinner was excellent! I had soup - butternut squash, coconut & coriander - and it was lovely, slightly spicy. The steak (rib-eye) was exactly as I would have done it - and so good that it would've been a travesty to add any sauce to it. Served with tasty chips. And I was the only one to have the brownie for dessert - their loss, it was delicious! Friendly service, quite efficient. Highly recommended.

Nobody stayed late - and with lighter traffic, taking the bus was now an option for me. And I got the 205, all the way home. Perhaps not the best idea, considering how much I'd drunk.. by the time I got home, I was fit for nothing but bed.

Tonight, having Christmas drinks with an old friend who's very hard to pin down! Well, hot chocolate in Caffe Nero anyway - we'll see whether it gets more alcoholic than that! I think I've used my week's quota, anyway! ;-)

Tomorrow, I'm headed to the Tutankhamun exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery. They have half hourly time slots for entry throughout the day, and have been sending repeated emails warning not to arrive before the scheduled time on the ticket, because of overcrowding! I booked a nice late one, at 6pm.

On Sunday, I arranged to have lunch with Helen - she's squeezing in a trip to London before the infamous strikes start, next day! We arranged to eat at Bistro1, and booked a table. Now, when I went to book, they advertised a Groupon voucher for a meal for two - great, except when I phoned, I was told it wasn't valid in December! Never said anything about that on the voucher. So I've got a refund on the voucher, and they said they'd inform the restaurant that it was no longer valid. Meantime, poor Ivan is out of town this week for work and missing all the fun - and so, the other day, on the train back from a stay with the family, he floated the idea of an all-day social, some weekend. Starting Sunday. I explained to him that I was seeing Helen on Sunday - "Bring her!" sez he. Helen was ok with them joining us, so now he and another are joining us for lunch on Sunday. The start of a fun day, methinks.

On Monday, ironically, I'm on another Groupon deal - this one seems to be valid, though. I'm headed to & Juliet, a very non-Shakespearian take on the classic heroine, including a pop soundtrack, with Up in the Cheap Seats (UITCS). Running at Shaftesbury Theatre.

On Tuesday, back with North London Friends for Fairview, at the Young Vic.

On Wednesday, back with the Crick Crack Club for a night I'm really looking forward to - Ben Haggarty and Jan Blake again, combined with my favourite, Clare Murphy, and Jordan Campbell, will treat us to a night on the theme Sovereign, at Rich Mix. It's the last in their series called the "alternative tarot", where four storytellers take turns to expand on variations on an archetypal theme, and hold a Q+A after. And I do hope Ivan can make this, because he's a great fan of Jan's, and I do think this is right up his alley.

On Thursday, back with UITCS for Three Sisters, at the National. Also signed up with Love London Arts, Theatre, Music & Stuff for this - the last time I tried to integrate the two, it didn't really work! It'll be interesting to see how it goes this time. I'll try to gravitate more towards them this time, as I missed them completely the last time. And then it's back to Ireland for the weekend, again.

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Play: A Day in the Death of Joe Egg

Tonight, the first night in six weeks with North London Friends (NLF)! We were at A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, at Trafalgar Studios. Last Meetup of the month, for me. Actually, this was also my first play in 10 days.. felt weird, being away from it so long!



Well, today was one of those rare days when I got on top of things, and wasn't delayed. I can't say the same for my bus, however - fortunately, I had an alternative, and made it to the theatre at around the time we were due to meet. In the lobby, I collected my ticket, then joined them - beside the desk where the lady was standing, her arm permanently raised and brandishing programmes for purchase. Poor girl's hand must have gone numb..

They'd booked seats together, but I hadn't been in time for that, and ended up in the same row, but on the other side of the stairs. I was at the end of the row - luckily, because the large ladies in my row took up so much space that the one beside me ended up sitting half on my seat, so I was forced half into the aisle! Which was fine, except there's a hard edge to the seat. I'm not sure she even understood the concept of trying not to sit on someone else's seat! Perhaps she's never been able to fit into a regular size seat.. by the end, it was a relief to stand. I was in Row A, but that's second from the front in this production.



The play was written and set in 1960 - and you'll realise that eventually, what with the reference to rationing (when they were younger), the outfits - and the very outspoken script. They hadn't invented Political Correctness yet, you see. Which makes this a refreshingly honest play. In fact, the play opens with the lead actor in full teacher mode, telling his class - aka the audience - to pipe down, in no uncertain terms! They're not allowed to treat students like that any more.. worked well on the audience, though!

The story centres on him and his wife, struggling in their marriage while they try to care as best they can for their "spastic" teenage daughter. And while I don't usually advocate buying programmes, this one might be worth it - one of our group did, and from it we learned that the play is semi-autobiographical, the playwright (who died earlier this year) having had a disabled daughter himself. Apparently, it wasn't performed for a long time, between the 60s and the current century. It's had something of a revival since.

It's a revelation. Everybody knows that it's difficult to care for someone who doesn't have the normal capacity to do things for themselves - and this play doesn't shy away from that at all, with the daughter being played by someone who really is confined to a wheelchair. There's real tragedy here - and remember that, back in the day, there wasn't the same technology, either to treat some conditions, or to deal with the day-to-day practicalities of living with them. The second half contains some truly shocking and sad moments.

..And the play is mostly great fun! Toby Stephens is hilarious as the husband, pushed to breaking point by trying to care for a daughter that can't even communicate. His wife, Claire Skinner, does a perfect job of playing the woman who treats him as - as he puts it - one of the zoo, because she loves everything: animals, their daughter, him - equally. He has to take his turn. He deals with it by cracking jokes - constantly; you can see how he might be accused of being childish and insensitive. Patricia Hodge has one terrific scene as his mother, sparking off her daughter-in-law, who accuses her of spoiling him.

They collect for charity at the end. Runs till Saturday - highly recommended. And I'm delighted they revived it. Catching the bus home after - from the same stop as last night - I noted that, yet again, a Co-Op lorry was parked at the stop. I guess that's a perpetual problem, with a Co-Op right alongside. Another recurring problem, as the bus squeezed down Old Broad Street, half closed with roadworks for weeks now, was the MPV parked to the side - a taxi, of course - which had to move before we could be on our way.

Tomorrow, our ex-company's social group's Christmas meeting. We had a tiff about the venue - the organiser decided on Thai Square, which I think is overpriced and underwhelming. So he started to grumble about the difficulty of getting somewhere before Christmas - which will take a group, and doesn't cost the earth. Still though, he came up with an alternative - we've decided on the Warwick Castle pub in Little Venice. Lovely area, the pub sounds nice - with a Christmassy open fire, and a room we can book - and hey, it's a pub, which won't throw us out as quickly! They have a wine deal.. 10% off if you order at least £150 worth. And gee, he's had us choosing what we want off the menu. I also asked for the wine list - asked for suggestions from the group, but as no-one could be bothered getting back to me, sod it, I couldn't be bothered ordering so much wine for people that don't want to decide whether they want wine at all. A "whine about wine", as someone described it.

On Friday, potentially having Christmas drinks with an old friend who's very hard to pin down! We'll figure it out. Hopefully.

On Saturday, I'm headed to the Tutankhamun exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery. They have half hourly time slots for entry throughout the day, and have been sending repeated emails warning not to arrive before the scheduled time on the ticket, because of overcrowding! I booked a nice late one, at 6pm.

On Sunday, I arranged to have lunch with Helen - she's squeezing in a trip to London before the infamous strikes start, next day! We arranged to eat at Bistro1, and booked a table. Now, when I went to book, they advertised a Groupon voucher for a meal for two - great, except when I phoned, I was told it wasn't valid in December! Never said anything about that on the voucher. So I've got a refund on the voucher, and they said they'd inform the restaurant that it was no longer valid. Meantime, poor Ivan is out of town this week for work and missing all the fun - and so, the other day, on the train back from a stay with the family, he floated the idea of an all-day social, some weekend. Starting Sunday. I explained to him that I was seeing Helen on Sunday - "Bring her!" sez he. Helen was ok with them joining us, so now he and another are joining us for lunch on Sunday. The start of a fun day, methinks.

On Monday, ironically, I'm on another Groupon deal - this one seems to be valid, though. I'm headed to & Juliet, a very non-Shakespearian take on the classic heroine, including a pop soundtrack, with Up in the Cheap Seats (UITCS). Running at Shaftesbury Theatre.

On Tuesday, back with NLF for Fairview, at the Young Vic.

Next Wednesday, back with the Crick Crack Club for a night I'm really looking forward to - Ben Haggarty and Jan Blake again, combined with my favourite, Clare Murphy, and Jordan Campbell, will treat us to a night on the theme Sovereign, at Rich Mix. It's the last in their series called the "alternative tarot", where four storytellers take turns to expand on variations on an archetypal theme, and hold a Q+A after. And I do hope Ivan can make this, because he's a great fan of Jan's, and I do think this is right up his alley.

On the 5th, back with UITCS for Three Sisters, at the National. Also signed up with Love London Arts, Theatre, Music & Stuff for this - the last time I tried to integrate the two, it didn't really work! It'll be interesting to see how it goes this time. I'll try to gravitate more towards them this time, as I missed them completely the last time. And then it's back to Ireland for the weekend, again.

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Winter Wonderland 2019

Tonight, my annual trip to Winter Wonderland - headed to Cirque Berserk and the Ice Kingdom, as usual. Someone said he might come along - but he's been travelling, and was distracted, and never seemed to notice that I was going to events in it! so he didn't sound keen when I explained it to him, and didn't come in the end.

The first drama of the day came when I had to print off the tickets - they require you to, here - and the blasted office printer refused to cooperate again! Had to contact IT, who came and reinstalled my printer driver, managing to print on the third attempt. Bless them - I was literally on the point of emailing the pdf to Ryman's, to print for collection; had I had to print it myself at home, I'd have had to buy printer cartridges as well, so not so handy.

I took off a bit early - had a variety of choices of bus, especially since I'd have to change, and even at that, I managed to extend the choice a bit more, and used a bit of logic to pick a different bus entirely from what was suggested! because it came first. A bus in the hand.. Happily, my second bus arrived at the changeover spot just as I did. And just as we approached the traffic jam at Hyde Park Corner - almost within sight of Winter Wonderland - it occurred to me that I had neither printed off the map of Winter Wonderland, nor downloaded the app (available on the website).

I proceeded to do the latter - with my just-about-adequate internet connection, it delayed me another 10 minutes (what with also having to sign in and such). Anyway, the map on that showed me where the fast-track (purple) entrance was, for those who already had tickets. And something of a schlep it was! Gloriously uncrowded (certainly by that time of night - it was now after 7) - but what a location, furthest entrance away from the main roads. Oh, and the "FIND ME" button on the app only worked the first time, and the map had constant problems loading - really, I think you're better off with a printed version.

The helpful guy checking my bag asked me what I was seeing, and pointed me in the direction of both. I was very near the circus tent, but still had some time to kill..





Hungry, I thought the chicken roasting on a spit nearby looked tasty, so had some. Unfortunately, it was tough and tasteless, and I binned most of it, contenting myself with the chips. Should have had a burger. Anyway, it was already about time to head to the circus - 20 minutes early, but a large queue still ahead of me. It was nice to be in the tent, out of the cold. And they let us in 10 minutes ahead of time, which gave me ample time to get a seat.



The acrobats that started the show were all very accomplished - special kudos to an idea I haven't seen before, of making the descent from the aerial acts as spectacular as what's gone before! I was also quite impressed with the marksman's decision to take one shot over his shoulder, looking the other way.. but of course, people were mainly there for the bike acts, which were as spectacular as ever. Always a joy to watch - but especially enjoyable when the guy behind you obviously hasn't seen it before, and is oohing and aahing at everything.. Always recommended. After all, I've seen this show a few times now!



A short walk to the Ice Kingdom afterwards, where there was no queue, and they let me in early. Interestingly, they scanned the ticket here - now, if they could've done that at the circus, I needn't have gone to the trouble of getting it printed at all. Inside, it was as cold as ever - the kind of cold that makes you wish it was similarly cold outside, so you could be dressed for it! And oh, it's gorgeous.. representing scenes from A Christmas Carol, all beautifully done.




I spent about 10 minutes - you could stay longer, if you can stand the cold! There's an ice slide, there are photo ops - and at the end, a couple of ice thrones you can choose to sit on (with rubber cushions so you don't freeze to the seat). I did pity the poor attendants, forced to stay there, in freezing conditions, even with no customers! The condensation from people's breath had frozen on the roof, and icicles were forming.. Again, very highly recommended. And if you go late in the evening, as I did - no queues.. apart from attendants, I had the whole place to myself.

Happy to report that they have the same arrangement as last year, with the Ice Palace exiting to the shop, then to the bar where you can have a shot in your hot chocolate. On my way out, I passed through the Bavarian village, which had a live band playing Christmassy songs.



Oh, and kudos to the decorators of the House of Horrors:



Most atmospheric. So, Winter Wonderland runs till the 5th of January - as usual, I can recommend it. Try to avoid busy periods, use the fast-track entrance if you have event tickets. Funnily enough though, this is the first year I didn't buy any presents - guess I'm getting tired of looking at the same old stuff! Anyway, I was waiting for my bus - but not as long as I thought I'd be; it beat the TFL estimate by nearly 10 minutes! And on the way back, I did catch some glimpses of Christmas lights:




Tomorrow, the first night in ages with North London Friends (NLF)! We're at A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, at Trafalgar Studios. Last Meetup of the month, for me.

On Thursday, our ex-company's social group's Christmas meeting. We had a tiff about the venue - the organiser decided on Thai Square, which I think is overpriced and underwhelming. So he started to grumble about the difficulty of getting somewhere before Christmas - which will take a group, and doesn't cost the earth. Still though, he came up with an alternative - we've decided on the Warwick Castle pub in Little Venice. Lovely area, the pub sounds nice - with a Christmassy open fire, and a room we can book - and hey, it's a pub, which won't throw us out as quickly! They have a wine deal.. 10% off if you order at least £150 worth. And gee, he's had us choosing what we want off the menu. I also asked for the wine list - asked for suggestions from the group, but as no-one could be bothered getting back to me, sod it, I couldn't be bothered ordering so much wine for people that don't want to decide whether they want wine at all. A "whine about wine", as someone described it.

On Friday, potentially having Christmas drinks with an old friend who's very hard to pin down! We'll figure it out. Hopefully.

On Saturday, I'm headed to the Tutankhamun exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery. They have half hourly time slots for entry throughout the day, and have been sending repeated emails warning not to arrive before the scheduled time on the ticket, because of overcrowding! I booked a nice late one, at 6pm.

On Sunday, I arranged to have lunch with Helen - she's squeezing in a trip to London before the infamous strikes start, next day! We arranged to eat at Bistro1, and booked a table. Now, when I went to book, they advertised a Groupon voucher for a meal for two - great, except when I phoned, I was told it wasn't valid in December! Never said anything about that on the voucher. So I've got a refund on the voucher, and they said they'd inform the restaurant that it was no longer valid. Meantime, poor Ivan is out of town this week for work and missing all the fun - and so, this morning, on the train back from a stay with the family, he floated the idea of an all-day social, some weekend. Starting Sunday. I explained to him that I was seeing Helen on Sunday - "Bring her!" sez he. Helen was ok with them joining us, so now he and another are joining us for lunch on Sunday. The start of a fun day, methinks.

On Monday, ironically, I'm on another Groupon deal - this one seems to be valid, though. I'm headed to & Juliet, a very non-Shakespearian take on the classic heroine, including a pop soundtrack, with Up in the Cheap Seats (UITCS). Running at Shaftesbury Theatre.

Next Tuesday, back with NLF for Fairview, at the Young Vic.

On the 4th, back with the Crick Crack Club for a night I'm really looking forward to - Ben Haggarty and Jan Blake again, combined with my favourite, Clare Murphy, and Jordan Campbell, will treat us to a night on the theme Sovereign, at Rich Mix. It's the last in their series called the "alternative tarot", where four storytellers take turns to expand on variations on an archetypal theme, and hold a Q+A after. And I do hope Ivan can make this, because he's a great fan of Jan's, and I do think this is right up his alley.

On the 5th, back with Up in the Cheap Seats for Three Sisters, at the National. Also signed up with Love London Arts, Theatre, Music & Stuff for this - the last time I tried to integrate the two, it didn't really work! It'll be interesting to see how it goes this time. I'll try to gravitate more towards them this time, as I missed them completely the last time. And then it's back to Ireland for the weekend, again.

Monday, 25 November 2019

Storytelling: Rebel Children

Tonight, the Crick Crack Club (CCC) was back with Rebel Children, at the British LibraryBen Haggarty & Jan Blake - ooh yeah! I did actually leave on time - was a bit worried about TFL's warning of a water leak disrupting traffic in the centre, but when I checked my bus route, it seemed unaffected. Hmm - well, something was delaying it, as bus after bus from each other route stopped there: but then, that tends to happen at this stop! I swear, I was literally on the point of giving up and taking the Thameslink, when my bus finally happened along.

So to the library, nervous of every delay. We arrived near the library at a few minutes before start time, and once I'd squeezed off the bus, which had filled very much, off I charged (as much as possible, given the crowds and the leaf-strewn, slippy pavements). In the wrong direction. Realised before very long, and back I went - luckily, I found a side ramp that took me in a bit quicker: and isn't it lucky that I've been here before, and knew where I was going!

A very cursory bag check - he didn't even open it - and I panted up the stairs, to run into Ben Haggarty at the top, who smiled in my direction as he paced around the lobby. Happily, they never do start on time. I think I was the last to arrive, a few minutes late - it was quite full, but I managed a few seats to myself at the side, so I could spread out.



Poor Jan Blake hobbled in on a crutch, whatever she did to herself! (She never did say.) She came slowly up the steps, and I guess that was the thinking in having the stool in the centre, for the storyteller, should they want it - the two took turns, with two tales each. Two very different styles - Ben more theatrical, Jan more down-to-earth, getting us always to join in. Hell, we ended up carol singing, for the season that's in it! But each managed, in their own way, to transport us completely to a world where anything is possible - with goblins, and a cow that yearns to be human: birds that can speak to humans, and a strange old lady with a music box, tempting children to be bad. Because the theme was "rebel children", who do the opposite of what they're told, sometimes with bad consequences, sometimes with good. Absolutely timeless, absolutely absorbing - and as usual, I absolutely can't do it justice with my description. Go see, whenever - if ever - you can; storytelling done well is one of the greatest art forms. And it's a real joy to see two masters of the art like these.

Handily, my bus home left from right outside - and came straight away! At the end of a line of three - I was lucky to catch it before it left, parked behind the others as it was. Tomorrow, my annual trip to Winter Wonderland - heading to Cirque Berserk and the Ice Kingdom, as usual. Someone said he might come along - but he's been travelling, and was distracted, and never seemed to notice that I was going to events in it! so he didn't sound keen when I explained it to him, and now I don't think he'll come.

On Wednesday, the first night in ages with North London Friends (NLF)! We're at A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, at Trafalgar Studios. Last Meetup of the month, for me.

On Thursday, our ex-company's social group's Christmas meeting. We had a tiff about the venue - the organiser decided on Thai Square, which I think is overpriced and underwhelming. So he started to grumble about the difficulty of getting somewhere before Christmas - which will take a group, and doesn't cost the earth. Still though, he came up with an alternative - we've decided on the Warwick Castle pub in Little Venice. Lovely area, the pub sounds nice - with a Christmassy open fire, and a room we can book - and hey, it's a pub, which won't throw us out as quickly! They have a wine deal.. 10% off if you order at least £150 worth. And gee, he's had us choosing what we want off the menu. I also asked for the wine list - asked for suggestions from the group, but as no-one could be bothered getting back to me, sod it, I couldn't be bothered ordering so much wine for people that don't want to decide whether they want wine at all. A "whine about wine", as someone described it.

On Friday, potentially having Christmas drinks with an old friend who's very hard to pin down! We'll figure it out. Hopefully.

On Saturday, I'm headed to the Tutankhamun exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery. They have half hourly time slots for entry throughout the day, and have been sending repeated emails warning not to arrive before the scheduled time on the ticket, because of overcrowding! I booked a nice late one, at 6pm.

On Sunday, I arranged to have lunch with Helen - she's squeezing in a trip to London before the infamous strikes start, next day! We arranged to eat at Bistro1, and booked a table. Now, when I went to book, they advertised a Groupon voucher for a meal for two - great, except when I phoned, I was told it wasn't valid in December! Never said anything about that on the voucher. So I've got a refund on the voucher, and they said they'd inform the restaurant that it was no longer valid. Meantime, poor Ivan is out of town this week for work and missing all the fun - and so, this morning, on the train back from a stay with the family, he floated the idea of an all-day social, some weekend. Starting Sunday. I explained to him that I was seeing Helen on Sunday - "Bring her!" sez he. Helen was ok with them joining us, so now he and another are joining us for lunch on Sunday. The start of a fun day, methinks.

Next Monday, ironically, I'm on another Groupon deal - this one seems to be valid, though. I'm headed to & Juliet, a very non-Shakespearian take on the classic heroine, including a pop soundtrack, with Up in the Cheap Seats (UITCS). Running at Shaftesbury Theatre.

On the 3rd, back with NLF for Fairview, at the Young Vic.

On the 4th, back with the CCC for a night I'm really looking forward to - Ben Haggarty and Jan Blake again, combined with my favourite, Clare Murphy, and Jordan Campbell, will treat us to a night on the theme Sovereign, at Rich Mix. It's the last in their series called the "alternative tarot", where four storytellers take turns to expand on variations on an archetypal theme, and hold a Q+A after. And I do hope Ivan can make this, because he's a great fan of Jan's, and I do think this is right up his alley.

On the 5th, back with UITCS for Three Sisters, at the National. Also signed up with Love London Arts, Theatre, Music & Stuff for this - the last time I tried to integrate the two, it didn't really work! It'll be interesting to see how it goes this time. I'll try to gravitate more towards them this time, as I missed them completely the last time. And then it's back to Ireland for the weekend, again.

Saturday, 23 November 2019

The Abbey Tavern

Currently in Ireland, and I went to the Abbey Tavern this evening - my mother didn't feel like braving the cold. And it was great to get back there, after so long.. the staff remembered me, the food was still tasty. The place was half empty, which made it easy both to find a parking space, and to find a table. I had a nice meal. Only thing - I decided I fancied the chicken. And it was as nice as ever - but I have never seen such a small chicken on a plate! Really, if not for the sides, I'd have left hungry. Curious - the portions are usually huge here. Ah well. Got takeaway desserts for both of us, which went down well.

On Monday, the Crick Crack Club is back with Rebel Children, at the British LibraryBen Haggarty & Jan Blake - ooh yeah!

On Tuesday, my annual trip to Winter Wonderland - heading to Cirque Berserk and the Ice Kingdom, as usual. Someone said he might come along.

On Wednesday, the first night in ages with North London Friends! We're at A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, at Trafalgar Studios.

And on Thursday, our ex-company's social group's Christmas meeting. We had a tiff about the venue - the organiser decided on Thai Square, which I think is overpriced and underwhelming. So he started to grumble about the difficulty of getting somewhere before Christmas - which will take a group, and doesn't cost the earth. Still though, he came up with an alternative - we've decided on the Warwick Castle pub in Little Venice. Lovely area, the pub sounds nice - with a Christmassy open fire, and a room we can book - and hey, it's a pub, which won't throw us out as quickly! They have a wine deal.. 10% off if you order at least £150 worth. And gee, he's had us choosing what we want off the menu. I also asked for the wine list - and now am waiting impatiently for someone - anyone - to get back to me with an idea of what they'd like to drink! I doubt I'll bother ordering any, at this rate. Why can't people ever make an effort..?!