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Ode for Georgie and Danny

September 4, 2016

Our elder daughter got married this year. What a great day that was. I’d do it all again if we could. Both of them seemed so relaxed and happy that it infected the day with joy and love and laughter right from the start. Yes there were things we would have done differently -it’s not the norm to have the bride directing the driver using her phone for example, but it seemed to go really well and if the celebrations indicate the likely happiness of the marriage they are off to a bloody good start. They surely know they have a solid back up of friends and family wishing them well.

For most people the thought of public speaking is a near-death experience. But not for the Clarke family. We all spoke at the wedding. Invited or not. By protocol or not. Her brother did a reading during the ceremony, her father the traditional FOTB opener and Georgina herself paid tribute to those not with us in person, and to her new husband who she described as her ‘voice of reason’ and ‘in-house comedian’. What a fabulous balance to have at her side forever.

And he of course had to do the traditional groom’s speech which he delivered from the heart with aplomb – a far cry from the little boy so shy he hid under the table at his own birthday party. Quite a few lines from it appear as the soundtrack to their wedding video , which is five minutes of feelgood footage.  The best men performed a lovely double act which rounded off the afternoon proceedings perfectly.

 

Georgie and Danny wanted something to acknowledge the evening guests’ arrival – to make them feel they were not simply an ‘add on’, but a real part of proceedings. So after the cutting of the most incredible cake made like a pile of their favourite books:13256182_10207885660151748_2610582959794306566_n

I delivered the inevitable Ode which I reproduce below. But after that came Natalie with a crowd pleasing sing along to a Spice Girls classic which she had rewritten just enough to suit the occasion but not so much we couldn’t instantly learn it and belt it out. Marvellous. How much both my parents would have loved it all.

Ode on the Occasion of Georgie and Danny’s Wedding

We’d like to welcome all new guests,
Reinforcements have arrived!
The ceremony’s over,
And the knot is duly tied.

The speeches were delivered –
And I won’t take up too much time
But I thought a little line or two
Should be spoken out in rhyme.

These lovebirds met when first at school
In Drayton, aged eleven
But despite the evidence here today
It was no match made in heaven.

Georgie didn’t really notice him
He was in to sports and stuff
On the other hand he noticed her
And thought her a bit of rough.

They met again in Birmingham –
Gatecrasher the clubs name,
The first kiss was on that dance floor.
Things would never be the same.

So now Georgie’s on a mission
She tracks Danny’s every move
Be it Fab or any other club
Georgie’s there to get the groove.

He’s hard to compartmentalise
Sporty  but IT geek
Loves board games and the Arsenal
Organised with a creative streak.

He is loyal, he is thoughtful
And of course a technocrat.
No more “the youngest person starts” as
He’s got an app for that!

And  Georgie, our Georgina,
A beauty we can see
But even greater than her stunning looks
Are her brains and empathy.

She’s always thought of others,
Works hard, and gets stuff done
She always likes to be informed and
Takes no shit from anyone.

She likes knowing what is happening
Exactly where she’s at,
And with Danny’s Excel genius
She’s got just the chap for that.

Together they are quite a team
They are tight, they’re strong, they’re true
They liberate each other
To do what they really want to do.

They’re fun, they like to socialise
To eat, to play, to goss
So raise your glasses one more time
For Ms Clarke and Mr Kloss

 

 

Funny Girl. Two stars.

July 23, 2016

Funny GirlI know every professional review gives it four or five stars. And I think it would probably have been better in the more intimate Menier where it started off, but the Savoy is hardly huge. The main trouble is the story is crap. Sheridan Smith (now back in role) is great at what she has to work with, but it is trite, predictable, old fashioned and underdeveloped. Her character (Fanny Brice) is not really likeable. I didn’t give a shit about what happened to her. There were hardly any hard times for us to see her struggle against adversity; one good number where she is a crap chorus girl and one song about “If you ain’t pretty like Miss Atlantic City, then give up”. And her then telling everyone how fantastic she is which to be honest isn’t  very endearing. But she seemingly got a break straight away and then came on to do a number which I honestly thought was meant to show her bombing. How is flashing bloomers funny? But apparently  everybody loved it so she became the star of the show. Her mother and two friends do various numbers well enough, as does her suave lover, but it is tired.It’s not a musical with anything new to offer, or to excite. It felt like we were watching a school production, albeit a good one. Smith is good – and her comedic song as a bride really well delivered, but it wasn’t enough for us to come back for the second half. She’s wasted in this role and deserves better.

IMG_3005

Where we spent the second half

imageYes, the entire Clarke clan (including a new favourite child) trooped to the Barbican last night to see the  much-trumpeted, much hyped, much anticipated Hamlet starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Hubby and I had seen him on stage before in the fantastic Frankenstein at the National, and of course I’d also adored him as Sherlock.

And he was good. Yes, he really was. You have to watch him when he’s on – your eyes are drawn to him. And he is amazingly physically adept – climbing up and down the huge ‘last supper’ dining table in the midst of a huge country house that is Elsinore and he delivers text in an easily digestible way. But no one gives a shit about him. Or any of the characters. We can’t – somehow all the real emotion has been sucked out of the play.

I don’t know Hamlet well enough to be able to tell you what was missing or moved around. Was it meant to be seen that he was really pissed off he didn’t get to be King rather than sent mad with grief so threw his toys out of the pram and broke the whole dynasty like a spoilt only child? “I’m the King of the castle” perhaps should have been the opening song rather than Nature Boy….

So I loved him, loved the vast set. hated the pointless costumes which were non-descript.  Couldn’t get Ophelia at all –  pathetically child like and too quirky to ever have been believably loved by Hamlet or seen as a future daughter in law by Gertrude – she came across as about nine years old. Polonius and Gertrude each had their moments but were essentially dull and leaden, and don’t get me started on Rosencrantz and Guldenstern who were like intense sixth formers playing their parts. The grave digger was great (as was the person catching the skulls he threw!) but really this wasn’t one of those Shakespeare productions where you come away thinking how amazing it is that we are still watching this 400 years later. It was one of those where you think “I can see why people don’t like Shakespeare”. But I still love the Cumberbatch and would go see him in anything he’s ever in on stage. I just wish he’d had the benefit of a better cast and director.

IMG_2092The John Lewis ‘Click and Collect’ service sounds ideal. Shop online and pick it up the next day at your local Waitrose. And it would be ideal if it was that simple. But it isn’t. Far from it. I have ranted before about the atrocious car parking in West Ealing Waitrose – both the design and the customers’ inability to walk more than ten metres – and it means one arrives in the shop already ready to punch someone.

Immediately on your left is the Customer Service counter where ‘Click and Collect’ customers are directed to. Unless they suddenly decide to put it in the frozen food aisle without telling anyone. WTF??

So, you tell them the number of your order and you hope they will turn round to one of their cupboards behind them and get it out. But no. Because it isn’t stored there. The parcels aren’t stored anywhere near where the desk is. They are stored literally as far away as possible. In the warehouse past all the food aisles, past the homewares, past the toilet rolls, past the booze and past the pop. And the person you have given your order details to can’t leave the desk until a colleague comes along as they can’t leave it unattended. That would be poor customer service. So we wait. There isn’t an intercom system to ask someone in the warehouse to bring the order. A person has to walk from the desk, all the way to the warehouse, find the order and come back. I have never managed to collect anything in under 15 minutes. I can drive to John Lewis in twenty and there are times when I think that may have been more sensible.

Surely West Ealing Waitrose could set up a counter near to where the goods are stored. At Christmas they have a gazebo outside and despite the shedloads of orders it is quicker for customers as the staff simply have to turn round and rummage in the tent behind them. Why they don’t make it a permanent feature or set up the service close to the warehouse I don’t know. Is it in fact a sly way to make you do some shopping there even if you don’t want to? I turned up today and was told it would be at least ten minutes. No I didn’t have any shopping to do. And I waited. And thought I’ll go get milk and bread as the time ticked on. I ended up buying a few other things and spending ages at the self-service checkout (“Remove last item from bag. Remove last item from bag. Wait for assistant. Wait for assistant”. AAAAGGGHHH!!). I go back to the Click and Collect point and still no parcel for me. Twenty minutes later it feels like Click and Neglect. But eventually it arrives. In the thirty minutes it took I could have driven to Brent Cross myself.

An unspoken Ode

September 21, 2015

Going back to ma roots mon!

Going back to ma roots mon!

Here’s one I didn’t actually perform. We went to a surprise birthday party and all had to wear tartan to celebrate his Scottish roots. I brought the Ode with me but there were plenty of videos and speeches from others that marked the occasion perfectly. But anyway, here it is, never to be heard!

Ode on the Occasion of Hugh’s Birthday

And so we are all gathered here,

To raise a glass or two,

To celebrate the birthday of

Our friend, the lovely Hugh

He’s from a land of great cuisine

White pudding porridge oats,

Stovies, cloutie dumpling

A wee dram to clear your throats

The dress sense is impeccable

Real men wear kilts with pride

And if we girls are lucky we

Get a flash of bare backside

But Hugh has been in London now

For more than half his life

He’s got three brilliant children

And the most fantastic wife

He is charming, he is witty,

He is loyal, he is kind,

He’s hardworking, he is generous

A Scottish diamond –what a find!

We can’t believe he’s sixty

It surely can’t be true

He looks no more more than twenty five

Our friend, the lovely Hugh

So charge your glasses, raise them high,

We give thanks to both of you

And wish the birthday boy the best

Our friend, the lovely Hugh.

table manners being taught

Table manners being taught by an expert

Searching for a work document on an old memory stick, I came across this Ode that I wrote for Dad’s 80th birthday back in 2003. My sister and I performed it together at a party she organised and hosted for him at her home. We took alternate verses and I think he loved it. Not quite up to his inimitable standard and style, but imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and he loved a bit of adulation.

The evening went on with a cracking poem from our son – playing on his Grandfather’s embracing of computers despite his advancing years, and then a fabulous, well rehearsed song and dance from the granddaughters to an Abba classic -Mamma Mia I think.  His genes coming out in all of us in one way or another. Still miss him.

As ever – the standard caveats apply to my Odes – there are in jokes that make no sense to anyone else and you sometimes have to work hard to get the rhyme and rhythm correct. But they’re usually alright on the night!

ODE ON THE OCCASION OF RICHARD’S EIGHTIETH BIRTHDAY

So here we are in Crackley Lane,

On a night we’ll all remember,

To celebrate our Father’s birth,

A few years ago in November.

He didn’t sparkle much at school,

Outshone by little sis,

But he could make a damn good bow,

By soaking sticks in p***

Then College for a little while,

More union work than courses

But then they knew what lay ahead –

They signed up for the forces

The Navy served our Father well –

And he rose beyond a rating,

He loved the Naval life it seems –

To have an audience-in–waiting

For here it was the seed was sown,

The obsession with oration,

He’d raise a toast or make a speech

And get well deserved ovation

And so through Aber second time,

Then Chester when he’s thirty

And didn’t he think his ship was in

When he met the Flatmates Flirty.

As actors both they played their parts

I’d say there were none greater

Our mother in the leading role

And him, behind, a waiter

But all that was rehearsal,

For his biggest greatest part

As husband, father and now Taid,

Who we love with all our heart.

He is certainly a one-off

For which they broke the mould,

But we wouldn’t want it otherwise-

He’s worth his weight in gold.

The awful jokes, bad manners,

Never listens when you speak,

Asks questions with no answers

Drives us mad and makes us weak.

But he gives us entertainment,

A rich and varied life,

So here’s to Dad at eighty,

And who got him here – his wife

Am loving the fact that the NHS information on body piercing uses ‘shot glass’ as an alternative to the traditional ‘egg cup’ in an effort to ensure its readers understand what kind of volume they are talking about.

“You can do this by submerging the area in a clean jug or bowl containing a saline solution (1/4 teaspoon of sea salt per egg cup or shot glass of warm water) for a few minutes at a time.”

Is this a sign that the nation no longer knows what an egg cup is or don’t have access to one, whereas shot glasses are universally available in every home ?

 

 

Meeting a Uni mate after work we wanted a central venue to drink,eat and relax in. I thought Dishoom as I love it but you can’t book and it’s quite a speedy affair rather than the leisurely chin wag I was envisaging. So hubby suggested Tredwell’s, literally across the road from Dishoom on Upper St Martin’s Lane. And I wasn’t disappointed. We arrived early and perched at the bar where I drank., yes you’ve guessed it, gin and tonic. Sipsmiths as you’re asking. And perfect it was too.  

Then we transferred to diner style  table with couchettes and settled in for the evening with attentive service and a tempting menu. We chose the Tredwell’s platter to share as a starter – pork sliders, chorizo relish and sticky chicken wings which were gloriously tasty. My main of a burger ( surprise!) was nice and soft in a brioche bun and we finished off with gorgeous salted caramel truffles and a Caribbean coffee. Ok I admit only I had the Caribbean coffee and my sensible mate had non alcoholic decaff. 

It’s a great place to meet pre or post theatre or, like us, just to meet. Easy ambience, good food, good service and alcohol on tap. What’s not to love? 

Mistress America.One Star

August 15, 2015

Friday night and nothing in the diary meant emergency drills came in to action. Hubby booked us in to see a film with great reviews and on at the Gate – one of those civilised cinemas where you take take your wine inside and it’s still in a real glass not plastic.

After a lovely meal at Granger and Co – lots of interesting ingredients and punchy flavours – we settled in to our seats to watch Mistress America –  a “quirky comedy drama” about an 18 year old student, new to New York who meets up with a 30 year old Manhattanite who is about to become her step-sister.

Nothing about this film rings true. I don’t believe or care about either character. The student looks nearer 30 than 18 and although well acted, the dialogue is so desperately trying to contrive our reactions that it loses any veracity. It’s trying to be deep and meaningful about relationships but comes across as something written by someone who doesn’t really understand how they work – none of it hits home for me. And it also purports to be a comedy, yet falls short on that front too. An occasional smile, but no laughing moments. One star.

 

Final training walk

June 1, 2015

We will set off for the Coast to Coast walk next Monday so our final training walk was planned for yesterday, Sunday. What could possibly go wrong?

Firstly, I still have this adverse neurodynamic tension (don’t ask) such that my left buttock and hamstring feel like they have been kicked and will snap at any moment but actually it’s all to do with my sciatic nerve getting irritated and trapped by various spinal misalignments. But intense physio is trying to sort that out as much as it can. But that really wasn’t the problem.

The problem started the night before. When friends invited us to a pop up restaurant in Fulham and the food was so shit we had to drown it out with copious amounts of wine. And then go back to theirs to continue. By one am listening to the Philppines answer to the Everley Brothers seemed a good idea. Hubby kept insisting we needed to test ourselves at getting up early and setting off so we were talking about getting to Princes Risborough for 9 am, which meant leaving home at 8am. Our friends said they’d come too and do the 20km walk with us. It all seemed such a good idea at the time.

Another friend texted at 640 am on the Sunday morning which woke me before the alarm and I started doing my exercises from the physio to loosen my back. I got up, drank a pint of water and put the kettle on. I couldn’t face eating as the bucket of Brie I’d had the night before was laying heavy on me. Forecast was rain all morning, easing off later so got dressed in showerproof trousers and top and packed my waterproofs in my rucksack. Took coffee up to hubby who told me to fuck off. Told him he’d wanted this early morning test so he should get up. He disagreed. I said we were meeting our friends at 9 in P Risborough. He didn’t believe me. Had no recollection of the conversation. Assumed they wouldn’t do it. I said we couldn’t assume that and had to get going. It was too early to text them to see if they were really coming as it was Sunday morning about 730 after a hard night before. But then they texted us to see if we really were still going for 9. We said yes. Hubby got up, we packed some nuts, flapjacks and apples and I filled my brand new camel pack to try it out. Took me about ten minutes to work out how to shut it, but got there eventually.

Bumbled around getting socks and boots, hubby packed the car as I went to the loo for the third time that morning and eventually we were ready to roll. We got to the agreed meeting place and hubby asked me for the book with the walk in it. I said I didn’t have it. He said “I gave it to you” I said “You didn’t” “He said, “I did, with my keys”. I said, “You didn’t” This is a common ‘joke’ he plays, but he wasn’t joking this time. We had no fucking map.

Our friends hadn’t yet arrived so we set off to look for a map shop. At 9 am on a Sunday no shops are open except garages and a newsagent. Surprisingly they didn’t sell OS maps. It was too far to go back home for it and come back. We needed to find a shop. I suggested Fox’s in Amersham which is an outdoor shop I’ve been to in the past. So we set the satnav, texted our friends what’s happened and set off. It seems to take forever to get there and hubby curses why we haven’t gone to High Wycombe or Aylesbury that are nearer. “Because I can’t get internet on my phone to find out if they have a walking shop”. Nothing was going in our favour.

Until we found Fox’s, it was open and we got the book with the walk in it. Got back to P Risborough where our friends had coffee and croissants in the car and bought us sandwiches for lunch. We set off at 1045, nearly two hours late, proving beyond doubt we can’t get up early and get out. or at least not with all the correct equipment.

The walk itself was easy, but even with the map we got lost numerous times and had to retrace or steps, adding on a couple of extra miles. It was more the text in the book is sometimes ambiguous and we seemed to opt for the wrong interpretation rather than poor map reading. But then we found a pub very near the end and had a swift one. I’d never do this on the Coast to Coast – partly because we won’t pass any pubs as we’ll be in the wilds of the North, not the suburban rurality that is the Chilterns, and partly because once I stop I don’t want to restart. I just want to bed in for the rest of the day. But we couldn’t do that as we were going out in the evening so had to be back in time to shower, change, get the glad rags on and get out.

So the final training wasn’t a complete success. But that’s what they say about dress rehearsals –  a bad one means a great opening night. Here’s hoping.

Best foot forwardI have gone to Saturday morning Step classes for years. Come rain, come shine. Currently it is the pre-choreographed Les Mills BodyStep.  And I love them. To be honest, any class that has a  “party track” is right up my street. Usually I am feeling pretty ropey at the start of the class after a hard night the night before, but gradually the alcohol is sweated out of me and by the end I feel great. But not today. Oh no. Today, Sarah “My body is a temple” Clarke was not hungover. And how fucking hard is BodyStep when you’re sober?? I shan’t be making that mistake again. I’ve obviously been doing it in a semi-pissed fugue up to now. And getting on just fine. Never realised it was so bloody tricky. But today I went arse over tit during the speed track. The one track where the step is at it’s lowest -to make it easier. Two stutters, across the step and back but my feet were unable to coordinate and managed to trip over the step and go flying. Smack on to my left buttock. Then I couldn’t get back in to the rhythm -my mind and feet were not communicating and I was all over the place.  Luckily only one more track to go and as it starts the instuctor shouts “Single, single, double” and I suddenly feel at home. Can’t think why.

Feeling good

Feeling good

So this week we have spent four nights in the Lake District, hoping to do some tough hill walking for the first two days and something less arduous for the third. In anticipation, hubby did all the planning and all I had to do was turn up. He felt it was a holiday and I felt it was a training camp. It turned out to be both.

So here are the things I learnt (well, those that are relevant to the Coast to Coast!) :

  1. I felt physically OK in terms of fitness. Hell, we walked up Helvellyn – 3000 feet and I didn’t crumble.  I felt mentally OK in terms of capability. Unfortunately I twisted my knee which made downhill bloody hard going. But am hoping it’s nothing serious. It was helped using hubby’s knee support and Nurofen. Luckily his torn cartilage didn’t play up enough to need the support himself. But we might need to think about carrying a spare….
  2. I felt absolutely fine the following morning – in complete contrast to the previous Lake District escapade. Probably because I did a bit of stretching when we’d finished.
  3. The terrain is really hard going. All those bloody rocks and stones. It’s as if the walking isn’t bad enough, there’s the hills themselves but on top of that is the terrain. The South Downs and Chilterns are just not a remote substitute or training ground. Everything underfoot is uneven and we were doing it in perfect conditions. Given rain the slipperiness would be really tricky.
  4. The weather can be mental – baking sun in April meant we should have had protection that can’t be sweated off. And some kind of headband to keep the sweat out of my face. My little towelling wristband was a godsend.
  5. Even Shellac got destroyed scrambling up rocks. No nail varnish on the Coast to Coast!
  6. Testing out socks gave me a blister on the final day. They were ones without liners so I think I’m going to stick to sock liners.
  7. Look before you leap – obvious but equally applies to cutting what I thought was a toenail that was pressing in to me. Transpires I cut the top off a blister with nail clippers..
  8. Compeed is way better than the generic alternatives from the likes of Superdrug.
  9. I got too hot in my Craghopper long trousers which up to now have been my favourites. They’re only going to be worn if it is unseasonably cold in June.
  10. My new Berghaus long sleeve stripy top and Jack Wolfskin jacket were great. But think I need a top with a collar to stop rucksack rubbing as when I didn’t have the jacket on I could feel it a the base of my neck. Ah a retail opportunity…
  11. And the Lakes own gin, Bedrock, has convinced me it is the drink for me. Ah, another retail opportunity…

Training update 2

April 1, 2015

So I’m half way through my Personal Training  – the Coast to Coast walk starts in just under ten weeks. We have our first serious test next week with three days walking in the Lakes (hubby’s knees permitting). And I’m ready for it. I continue to feel stronger and fitter despite continuing to go out and get lashed. And despite being unable to get past chips on a menu. But I’m still drinking the water and not drinking alcohol unless I’m socialising (and yes, weekends at home count as socialising). So I’ve cut down on that front. And I continue to do PT twice a week and hopefully they are getting harder as I’m getting fitter. Still enjoying the outside fresh air and feel better all day. Then this weekend just gone I felt great. No, really great. I suddenly actually felt fit again. Yes, I’m still purple in class and sweat more than anyone I know, but I feel stronger. Still not light on my feet or agile, but definitely stronger. And mentally more prepared!

And I’ve lost a stone. It’s bloody hard work – the ‘making healthier choices/thinking about what I’m eating’ –  much harder than the physical stuff . Probably because the physical stuff at the moment lasts an hour or perhaps two whereas I’m constantly thinking about food! And living with an incredible cook whose baked goods I find really hard to resist. And going out a lot. But getting there. Getting there. Fingers crossed.

Taken ten days ago

Taken ten days ago

Royale is set in the segregated US and follows the true story of Jack Johnson who has the audacity to want to fight the white heavy weight champion of the world so that he can claim the title if he wins. It is beautifully staged and slickly choreographed with a brilliant soundtrack of thuds, stamps and claps to punctuate the story. They do boxing really well.

And the exchanges with his sister had me in tears so it is really worth going to see, but i would have liked even more of that narrative. I think it could have packed an even greater punch. Three plus stars.

There were no tears!

February 23, 2015

The headline says it all. The first walking test weekend went well. The weather was glorious and the walking not too arduous. Yes there were undulating hills over the Seven Sisters but we walked the 12+ miles relatively easily I thought and got back to the pub on the picturesque green in plenty of time for a bath before spending the evening rehydrating with alcohol and refuelling with carbs. The next day, after a fabulous full Sussex breakfast, we set off for a short stroll supposedly with magnificent views after  a bit of a climb.

10855043_10204815869088890_4577714971959697561_o The walk turned out to be longer than planned due mainly to us being unable to decipher the description of where the walk actually started. The book was ambiguous, but eventually we decided to follow the numerous little old ladies who seemed to know where they were going. The going was soft. Squelchy in fact and a good test for the boots. My core didn’t let me down and I didn’t fall over at all, although I may have overbalanced a few times as I slid on the clay. Up to the Iron Age fortification and a panoramic view to the sea in one direction and the Downs in the other.

seven sistersThen our guidebook again confused us and we ended up crawling over and under barbed wire fences, through crops and in to a heavily fenced area with numerous buildings in it. And huge signs saying it was private property and walkers had no right of way. So we strode through to the main road and had no idea which direction we needed to walk. The compass couldn’t help as we didn’t know where we were. There was no mobile signal. So we flagged a van driver down and asked him where the village was and went on our way. Probably had added a good couple of miles on to our intended four and a half mile expedition, but the torrential rain that was forecast didn’t appear until we were in the car heading home. Perfect timing.

 

Training update!

February 20, 2015

So, I’ve had a Personal Trainer twice a week for the last six weeks. All in preparation for the big Coast to Coast walk in June. And i have tried to take on board everything she says. Even when I don’t know the evidence base for it; I’ve decided to simply put my trust in her methods, shut the fuck up and get on with it. So I am drinking only one cup of coffee a day, 1.5 – 2 litres of water a day (but NOT from a plastic bottle at work I hasten to add) and trying to eat more healthily. But her role is not to advise me as a dietician – my main goal is to be fitter and stronger and a nice side effect would be to lose weight but that’s not the focus.  The focus is on being able to do the coast to coast.

And I am feeling much fitter and stronger. And I am fitter and stronger. She’s given me a much more positive outlook on my capabilities. And helped me stop using my trapezius muscles for everything. And to try to find my core. And I particularly enjoy our outdoor sessions in the park. For the last two sessions I have actually looked forward to them. This is a new feeling. And yesterday we did the measurements to see how my body is changing. And I’d lost 6 pounds. Not much considering the fundamental change in eating habits I’ve undertaken (but not when I’m out or when there’s Sunday roast or a special occasion obviously), but she thinks it is fat loss rather than water as I’ve lost 8cm from my waist, 2 cm from each upper arm and 6 cm from each thigh. So hopefully I’m a tiny bit leaner and quite a bit fitter.

The test will come this weekend when hubby and I go away and are walking for a couple of days. He’s told me there’s no crying allowed this time. Let’s hope it’s smiles all the way and no snivelling silently. I’ll make sure I’m not crying aloud whatever happens.

Crab Bucket. Four stars.

February 14, 2015

After the opera a few weeks ago we repaired to the Opera Tavern where we chanced upon a lovely waitress. Easy conversationalist, bright, witty and fun. And sure enough she was a resting actress – but soon to start rehearsing for a play at waterloo east theatre. So we went last night.

i was put off by the blurb telling me the play ‘explores the issues surrounding young women in society today and how their apathy and sexuality can have a profound effect on the recognition of their place in the world around them.” And that the playwright was a man.

But I was really pleasantly surprised – it wasn’t a worthier-than-thou look at women pulling each other down, it was a poignant and funny take on the relationships between two sets of sisters and their friends, interwoven with classic fairytales. Our waitress was the bride to be at the hen weekend where the drama unfolds and she was great  – an ethereal dreamer and one who managed to shed real tears. Her supporting cast were equally believable – with sharp and pithy conversations and plenty of humour thrown in.

7 women, 80 minutes straight through and all for a tenner. I’ve no doubt we will see more of many of the cast so I’m doubly glad we caught them now. Four stars

Bull, the follow up to Cock which we didn’t see, is an uncomfortable hour. I didn’t like it. Found it hard going and fairly relentless. And was pissed off at the audience for laughing. But it’s good. I’m not sure I recognise the workplace politics it describes which seems to hark back to the 80s, but perhaps I am lucky with the people I work with or it’s because I’m freelance so am less encumbered by it all. Or perhaps it’s just that I’m not in a full on sales environment where the three employees are fighting for their jobs and waiting for the boss to come and decide which one of them will be ‘let go’.

As it’s so short, don’t read any more if you might go and see as it might spoil it for you.

It’s basically an extension of playground bullying dressed up as ‘a bit of fun’, ‘don’t take it personally’, and this time done as a two-pronged attack against the same victim. Sometimes direct, sometimes dressed up as caring, these two never let up. And sure enough the victim does himself no favours in front of the boss. The bullies are sharp suited, sharp tongued, confident and attractive. The victim overweight, sweaty, anxious. You expect a twist in the tale; for good to triumph over evil, for the stuffing to be knocked out of these cocksure cunts. I won’t spoil it for you completely.

Trafalgar studios returns  to its Whitehall theatre roots and plays farce. Which is not a genre I enjoy, but this revival of a 1960s play has one huge, mesmerising asset. James McAvoy in the starring role. He is utterly brilliant as the lunatic son now inheriting the family estate and title. One slight problem is he believes he is God and likes to be known as JC. He is wonderfully fey, languid and espousing that love is God. And he loves. He is physically so adept it is wonderful to watch him flit around the stage and jump up effortlessly on to his crucifix, or spend minutes walking on his haunches. Watching him made we want to see him do Shakespeare as he interprets text with such dexterity and ease I was completely bowled over. But of course the family plot to try to get him ousted and these caricatures are fairly dated and predictable, but not unenjoyable. His doctor returns him to ‘sanity’ whereupon he becomes the rabid immigrant-hating, selfish, old-boys-network-loving stereotypical toff looking out only for his own kind. And here too he plays this beautifully, with his previous madness bubbling under the surface and occasionally peeking through the cracks.

The play itself is too long, but there are plenty of laughs and it is worth seeing for his bravura performance. Three stars over all, but Five for Mr McAvoy.

A toast to absent friends

February 1, 2015

Last night we went to a Silver Wedding anniversary dinner. I still think that kind of thing belongs to my parents generation not ours, despite the fact we are coming up to our 27th. It just sounds so old. So settled. So near death. But then we are old. And I think I am perhaps turning that corner now where actually I see it more as being 25 with thirty years of experience rather than being in my fifties. But I digress.

This party was for friends whose wedding we went to all those years ago at the cricket ground in Canterbury. Although I have to be honest and tell you my memory of events is limited. And not because of alcohol, but because I was breastfeeding our middle one at the time who was four months old and hungry. Not being an ‘out and proud’ breastfeeder, and unable to do it discreetly, I spent most of the wedding locked away in a small room with her clamped to my bosom.

I missed my father’s speech (which will have been a highlight as he was a fabulous speaker and would have gone to lengths to try to make this one particularly good because it was for the daughter of my Mum’s best friend who had died some ten years previously and her husband only a year later.) However I did catch the groom’s speech which was fantastic. And last night he again stood up to say a few words but this time was heckled by his nearest and dearest throughout. It was a tough crowd last night!

We were in a gorgeous hotel in Oxford – the Old Parsonage – all Farrow and Ball, lovely textiles, great service, beautiful paintings everywhere. And we got a free upgrade so even better. Fifteen of us met for champagne and those conversations you have with people you haven’t seen for years and can’t quite remember their children’s names or ages. And the guests of honour were a couple in their eighties – they represented my parents and the brides’ parents as the wife was the final ‘gal’ in the triumvirate of our mothers who had lived together in Chester. And my goodness me they looked so well; nimble in both mind and body. Fantastic. I felt a pang for my parents and wished they were there.

We sat in our allocated seating and chose our meals and the wine and conversation flowed. The men moved round between the starter and the mains and we did a quiz about 1990 in pairs. I mention this for one reason only. Yes, you guessed it – the bride’s brother and I won. Whoop! I think it was getting the fact that Glasgow became the City of Culture is what clinched it for us; everyone else put Liverpool.

The cake!

The cake!

And then after the meal came a fabulous cake and the speeches. I do like the marking of an occasion with a speech or two. To take the opportunity to publicly thank or praise people. The happy couple both spoke as did their elder daughter. And, as my mother always said about my father, because he was forever up on his feet performing a speech or a poem, “There’s no show without Punch.” And in homage to his memory and wedding speech 25 years earlier, I delivered my Ode:

Ode on the Occasion of the Silver Wedding

 My father did the wedding speech

I’m afraid this won’t compare,

But speaking’s in my family

And so I’d like to share…

I’ve known this woman

All my life,

From well before she was

Richard’s wife

Our mothers met at Cambridge

Where hers studied and mine courted,

Became teachers both together

And a flat in Chester sorted.

 

And when they had their children,

Although living far apart,

We knew the Ansteys were like cousins

 Embedded in our hearts

I always loved her mother

The twinkle in her eye

Her warmth, her wit, her kindness

And a smile that lit the sky.

Her father was more serious

As Professor he was able

His favourite month was always May –

New British Rail timetable

But sadly both were snatched so young

When Ros was barely grown

Leaving her and Charles and young Louise

To grow up on their own

And just by then I think she’d met

Young Richard here – the charmer –

Her brother’s mate from College

His smile it did disarm her

They dated for a few years then

We thought they’d make it up the aisle

But no, their loving went on hold

As they thought they’d wait a while

For years it seemed they will – they won’t

Ros sometimes played the field

But then at last good sense prevailed and

Their marriage vows were sealed

And that was years and years ago

Twenty five to be exact

And here we are to celebrate

The survival of that pact

It’s no mean feat to get here

Marriage isn’t always fun

But you stuck it out through thick and thin

And tonight I’d say you’d won

You’ve won by having children

Who are cherished and adored

You’ve won by loving mutually

Who could ask for more?

 

You’ve won by sharing laughter

You’ve won by sharing tears

You’ve won by sharing history

For years and years and years.

 

You should be looking forward

The next innings of your troth

Another quarter century please

And happiness to you both

So charge your glasses – raise them high

Any drink will do-

And toast our love to both of them

Mr and Mrs Drew

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