September 30, 2015
Yes, 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.
September 28, 2015
The 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.
September 21, 2015
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.
September 4, 2015
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