Let’s get this straight, I haven’t seen them all, and have no desire to watch Made in Chelsea, TOWIE , Policemen beating the crap out of lowlife hooligans,  but  I have realised the the ones I really like have a common thread. And it is that the people like each other and are supportive of each other. So when the Strictly competitors are finished we pan to see their competitors and other professionals all cheering each other on. We see the back slapping as the come up the stairs. And the cheering of each others efforts. It warms my heart. We don’t get any of that on X factor .

And although I haven’t watched Celebrity Jungle for a few years, when I did watch it I liked the encouragement of each other. Not the twattish behaviour. And OK,  yes I liked the challenges till the novelty wore off.

And then 24 hours in the NHS was another uplifting series showing what real healthcare staff do all day and showed people striving to do their best for patients and I loved it. Similarly the Educating Yorkshire series which I only saw a couple of was at its best when we watched people giving their all for each other.  Secret millionaire, Undercover Boss – I loved both of those because watching people have their eyes opened and reality flood in and humble them was great as was listening to people really keen to give back to society. Faith-restoring stuff.

But now my favourite reality show is gogglebox. It’s not a reality show in the conventional sense. It’s a fixed camera documentary (like another brilliant one – Chicken shop) where we watch edited highlights of various families or friends watching various TV programmes from throughout the week. And I love the warmth in the room. That they get involved. That they are families and friends talking to each other. That the TV is the common cultural currency of their lives. And they sing with Sam Bailey, they shout when people are being nobs and they take the piss out of each other.

Particular participants have become celebrities in their own right – the ‘posh couple’ who coiff champagne as they imitate Nigella or excoriate Downton Abbey’s Lady Mary for having short arms (you had to see it to realise how hilarious it was) . Then they hold hands and cry at Children in Need. The Liverpudlian retired teachers, the gay couple in Brighton, the Asian family, the huge family, the two Afrocaribbean women from Brixton. A fabulous cross section of our society. Edited yes, but unscripted and spontaneous it makes great viewing.

They could all easily be written off as stereotypes but they have insight, humour, pathos and wisdom.

Especially when telling Gary Barlow fuck off.


Gravity and Philomena

November 26, 2013

I never go to see films at the cinema – and then I go twice in a weekend. And I have to say I enjoy the experience -I completely suspend disbelief and am taken with them wherever they decide to take me. I think I leave my critical faculties at the box office (scorched paying over £11 for Acton vue!!) and never predict what will happen next so am perfect fodder for a director.

Gravity was the first proper 3D film I’ve seen. Billy Connolly made us wear red and green shades for his live show in Drury Lane in the 70s, and I saw some crappy prehistoric thing around the same time. Then I went to Thorpe Park and saw Pirates 4 D and was literally quaking and turning away in my seat. I honestly came out thinking I had fortuitously sat in the best seat of the house as “Literally, the bee put his sting right in my face.” I imagined the rest of the audience had somehow only watched this happen sideways, looking at me.

But anyway, Gravity 3D was  Breathtaking. Awesome. You felt the enormity of space. Its silence. Its depth. And the 90 minutes flew by. I am an action pic fan and also love Sandra Bullock and George Clooney so was well set for this. But it is much gentler and more realistic than I expected. But heartstopping.  Not that I’d know if it is realistic but their task in space is made fairly routine and not ‘sci fi’ and it becomes a thriller as the debris from another space station hurtles towards them. It is breathtaking. I don’t know how to describe it, but Sandra Bullock’s pain and resolution are palpable. And her body is incredible .George Clooney the avuncular old lag on his last trip, desperate to break the space walking record. is touching and believable. I cried. I jumped. I gasped. I ducked to avoid the debris. I loved it.

Philomena was also a two hander. Dame Judi and Steve Coogan. And I hate Steve Coogan. But in this I enjoyed him. It is the story of a sacked journalist who agrees to do a human interest story he feels is beneath him and he helps an old Irish woman track the son that she had taken away from her by the nuns she was living with. The contrast between the atheist. Oxford-educated political spin doctor and the simple Irish nurse with her staunch belief makes for great comedy as Dame Judi bursts his bubble, and great drama as he helps her trace her son. It is warm, moving, horrifying and a great Sunday afternoon movie (or in my case, Monday night).

Mojo. Three stars (just)

November 22, 2013

It’s never a good sign if I’ve nodded off during the show. But this time it may have had a lot to do with the bucket of wine I had at the interval when hubby decided his was off and undrinkable so I relieved him of it.

Mojo is a revival of Jez Butterworth’s debut play and so I had high expectations having loved  his more recent Jerusalem. It also had a good cast and was on at the intimate Harold Pinter (aka the Comedy theatre to old lags like us) so what’s not to be excited about? Well the journey there took the shine off the evening to begin with as we were trapped in traffic and one way systems and diversions and literally ran in to our seats as the action started.

It’s a black comedy about a seedy 50s Soho club and their new star Silver Johnny who another gangland boss wants to own. I think. And the first act had lots of fast,  funny, filthy dialogue as the lowlife drug taking backroom boys discuss what’s occurring and buzz on their pill popping. Some excellent physical comedy from Daniel Hays and enjoyable characterisation from Rupert Grint. But we didn’t care about any of them. Even when Baby’s father (the club owner) got murdered and they were supposed to be terrified that they were next it was more farce than fear. Then came the wine incident and I may have shut my eyes for a few minutes in the second half as the plot opened up and became darker as Baby (Ben Wishaw) revealed his oddness to be psychosis. Hubby tells me the second half was much better and he would give it four stars. But it only scraped three from me.

He made us feel like dancing.

November 21, 2013

iphone november13 031 iphone november13 035Leo Sayer at 229 (not his age but the venue name) was on cracking form. The pocket popster was back. And still with all the hair and no dress sense. But now a pensioner so it was glittery jackets rather than clown outfits or dungarees. But the voice was still there and he just cracked out the songs – ones I’d forgotten were his and hadn’t heard since about 1974.

The venue had been changed from the Troxy (in hip happening East London) to 229 Great Portland Street. Much easier for the coaches from the suburbs to get to I expect. And not so large to fill. We arrived from a neighbouring pub just as he was about to come on  – 8pm – (nice and early so no one has too late a night) and rows of bald heads and greying ‘sets’ were sitting in rows on chairs that had been laid out specially. It looked like they were waiting for a talk on heart disease. We were having none of it. We got another bottle and stood at the back  determined to make this more of a gig than a concert.

And sure enough we were swaying and singing and clapping throughout the first set. The rest of the audience stayed seated but were loving every minute. After the interval (and another bottle) there was no holding us back. We charged to where the mosh pit would be and started dancing at the front. Suddenly everyone joined us and we discoed the final 45 minutes. It was brilliant. We had a ball. A glitter ball.

Friday night and Balthazar Covent Garden felt the perfect place to be. A younger sister to its famous NY counterpart, this brasserie has wonderfully recreated retro Paris. The lighting is perfect, the mirrors  huge and speckled, the waiting staff attentive. You know it is old school as they are in white shirts and aprons not the modern black ones. And with that slightly superior French waiter disdain. But in an OK way in that when we ordered our nth bottle of wine he pursed his lips and said “Yes, get pissed why not? It is Saturday tomorrow.” The ambiance and company were perfect and the Chablis didn’t touch the sides. The food on the other hand was a disappointment. Surprisingly bland and ordinary.

And so on to the Library in the Lanesborough where one of our party immediately crashed out (hard week at work of course, nothing to do with the Chablis) and we relaxed in gentleman’s club-like surroundings and the rum flowed. Unfortunately completely overindulged on the three tier presentation of nuts, mini pretzels and olives and felt sick in the cab on the way home. But held it together.

Saturday was the journey from hell to get to the Comedy store in Leicester Square – tickets to which we’d been given as a present. Cab to Northfields tube only to find station closed and cab gone. No cabs at nearest taxi rank. Black cab refuses to stop. We walk home as hubby has remembered he forgot the tickets and we try to decide how to travel in. The 15 minute walk home has a frosty atmosphere as I am blamed for suggesting public transport in the first place.

We drive in, park outside the flat and get a cab from there where the compere is just starting. And he is great. Witty Jewish guy we have seeen before and creates a great vibe. The next two comics are OK, but the compere much better. The final two acts are hilarious. Otiz Cannelloni a classic one liner, crap magic brilliant routine. And Phil Nichol a Canadian who veers between loud and violent and fey and camp. With a bit of guitar playing thrown in. An excellent second half.

Then back to the flat and daughter who is living there takes us to a local family Italian. The classic trattoria where we grab a quick bite. I haven’t had Pollo Milanese since I used to go to Milli Pinis off Russell Square as a student. Perfect.

Harsh harsh harsh I know.  But I’d seen the film and LOVED it so perhaps it was always on a hiding to nothing. The trouble was the narrative just didn’t carry through so we didn’t give a toss about any of the characters. We didn’t feel the poverty, the striving, the fecklessness, the dogged rehearsals, the gradual improvement. We did get some great singing from the lead guy, and the instrumentalists could play OK. But why spend £60 a ticket to see people playing at being in a soul band, when you could go and see the real thing for half that price and get a whole night of it, not interspersed with random bits of flouncing off for no apparent reason? And the accents were shite by some of them. I mean there are enough Irish here in London to either be in the show or helping performers get their accent right.

This is a show for the populous who don’t go to see bands but like having a comfy seat to listen to their music. If it had concentrated the story to just two characters but done them in depth it might have worked. But it didn’t. It tried to recreate the film and failed.  two and a half stars.

But nice Mexican bite to eat right next door on Romilly street – Bodega Negra. Easy three stars.

As my father aged be realised people become competitive about how old they are in a similar way to small children. Where the youngster may be “Six and a half” or “Eight and three quarters”, Dad realised his aged friends would all boast they would be ” Seventy seven next year” or “Coming up eighty” –  always maximising their age and experience to be the oldest among the group.  To be the recipient of the appreciation of longevity, the respect afforded for simply having stuck it out, to having had the luck and good fortune to have got that far. And he recognised he played it too because there was nothing he enjoyed more than sitting with a group of men discussing their age and infirmities and he would nod along, a fit and healthy specimen but able to trump them all by actually being older.

One of his many wonderful attributes was his belief that he had been lucky in life. In his last decade or so  he repeatedly told me how lucky he thought he was; he had survived the War despite serving on the Atlantic convoys, gone to Uni and eventually got a degree whilst having the most marvellous time, played the field, met and married a woman he adored and had my sister and I and then loved his grandchildren. And he repeated this during his final weeks and days, giving us the enduring comfort that he had enjoyed his life.

And he had. One of his talents was to lustily enjoy life. In crowds as the centre of attention, or alone absorbed in writing or reading poetry. He allowed himself to love it all. It was never wealth or status that he sought, but happiness. And he was happy enjoying a beautifully written verse or listening to an operatic aria or a Welsh song with the tears flowing down his cheeks.  At his funeral we shared with everyone his English translation of the Welsh hymn Calon Lân . There are standard translations but his is better. It’s the song that the crowd usually sings before the rugby nowadays, but Dad always sang it when we were growing up as it is a standard. And of course he sang it in Welsh, his native tongue. It is a beautiful melody even if you don’t know what the words mean, but ever more poignant is Dad’s translation as he has written it to reflect how he saw the world –  that it is what is in our hearts that is important, not our earthly possessions. And that is what he always gave us – pure and unconditional love

Calon Lân

Translation by T. Richard Morgan

I ask not for ease and riches

Nor earth’s jewels for my part

But I have the best of wishes

For a pure and honest heart.



Oh, pure heart so true and tender

Fairer than the lilies white

The pure heart alone can render

Songs of joy both day and night.

Should I cherish earthly treasure

It would fly on speedy wings

The pure heart a plenteous measure

Of true pleasure daily brings.



Eve and morn my prayers ascending

To God’s heaven on wings of song

Seek the joy that knows no ending

The pure heart that knows no wrong.



How I remember him as a child

How I remember him as a child

My previous blogs about him are here, here  here and here.

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