ghost stories, arts theatre

Ghost Stories

I will start by saying that I don’t want this review to be a spoiler for anyone who is intending to see the show. So, I will be vague where necessary, and ‘keep the secret’!

I love being scared.

I mean I really, really love it. I think that’s why I no longer go to theme parks, as it was never the adrenalin rush of speed that did it for me, it came from fear that I might fall out. These days, you’re so tightly strapped into everything that there’s no fear there. Well, not for me, anyway.

I love scary films, but not the stupid Hollywood ‘horror’ ones which are mainly slasher-types. I’m usually a sucker for the J/K-Horrors where the menace is always just out of sight. They tend to really ramp up the tension effectively – and that’s what fear is, the feeling that there’s something bad about to happen. Saying that though, I thought The Conjuring was pretty jumpy – there was one part
where I hid my face in my hands in expectation.

I keep meaning to go and see The Woman In Black as everyone tells me that’s dead scary, but it’s a bit like the London Eye. It appears to be there forever, so I keep thinking “Oh yeah, I’ll do that one day”, but there’s no pressing urgency. I’d seen the posters for Ghost Stories and heard great reviews, so when there was a special offer on the tickets, I quickly booked mine and looked forward to it for weeks!

On Tuesday, I took my seat and chatted over-excitedly with my mate about what we might see from the music and the clues on and around the stage.

It didn’t start how I was expecting, and considering I had purposely not read any in-depth reviews and there was a lot of hype around ‘keeping the secret’ of Ghost Stories, I did wonder whether it was all a front for something else. I couldn’t work out whether this disappointed me, or whether actually it was better than what I had been expecting.

Just as I was getting to a point where I would have had to make my mind up, it all changed, and we were thrust into the main part of the show.

There is so much I can’t fault. The acting was superb, considering there are three monologue heavy main narratives as well as the overall ‘star’. Stand outs in a small but fantastic cast were the main character Paul Kemp and Philip Whitchurch (next-door neighbour Tyler from My Hero if anyone used to watch it) as a night watchman / security guard.

So, the acting was great. The staging was brilliant – really cleverly done. The lighting and sound were spot on, really atmospheric. The script too was well thought out, and the ‘stories’ were just as spooky as I was hoping for, and yet sounded so natural coming from each of the characters.

So why am I so obviously not raving about it and telling everyone “OMG GO AND SEE IT!!”?

Because they didn’t know when to stop. hey had it all so perfect. At each ‘scare’ point, I had felt the tension build, been made to jump most agreeably. I’d had points where I expected something to happen, and then they hadn’t done the obvious. Brilliant! And then they went one step too far, and in an almost cartoonish manner.

Every single time, I was made to feel as if I was sitting in a crap local travelling fairground Ghost Train in the 80s. Or watching an episode of Scooby Doo – yeah, maybe even one of the ones when they introduced bloody Scrappy too! And that was SO disappointing. It could have been so much more.

My friend was even more scathing about it, but I can’t bring myself to completely slate it. It was 95% right as far as I could see, it was just that the 5% of wrongness was such an important 5% that it completely negated the 95%

However, don’t let MY feelings on it dissuade you from seeing it as I have to say, we appeared to be in a minority in the audience. We were in the circle, and there was a LOT of hysterical screaming and prolonged nervous laughter going on in the stalls – especially near the front. I don’t know whether it was full of middle-aged women (although I guess I’m officially a middle-aged woman myself), or
whether they were drunk, or whether there was a mass of giggling schoolgirls below us, but it obviously seems to appeal to a lot of people.

Such a shame. Such a disappointment for me. But saying that, I have tried to forget the 5% and a few days later I keep remembering snatches of the good bits. And they were good.

tour of bbc television centre

BBC Television Centre

As part of her Christmas present, I booked me & The Girl onto a tour of BBC Television Centre, and we went along on Sunday.

As probably everyone in the country knows, the BBC have sold this wonderful old iconic building, and have been distributing the teams across the country.  Many up to Salford and many over to the new extension of Broadcasting House in Portland Place, so this really was the last chance to look round the place before it gets turned into a hotel or knocked down or something!

The Girl goes into the TARDIS

As almost all the teams have moved, there’s not really a lot going on in the building now – so we didn’t see any live action, but this really didn’t detract from the enjoyment.

The Girl presents Match of the Day

The tour guides are specially trained, and there is still some interaction – luckily for The Girl (who wants to be a weather girl), the weather team are still currently based in the building, and so we saw a couple of them recording their broadcast – and even better, she got to have a go herself!

The Girl presents the weather – it’s a bit wet

We went inside one of the studios too, and they explained the process of setting-up and filming etc, although I was rather dumbstruck by all the lights on the ceiling!

Just a little bit of lighting

When we got to the end of the tour, they had a little room that had everything set up so that someone could be a newsreader (although everyone in our group was apparently too shy!) or for 3 people to do a quiz.

I volunteered for the quiz, whcih turned out to be on BBC show intros.  I surprised myself for being quite quick on the buzzer.  I got eastenders, and then Casualty, and then Last of the Summer Wine, at which point I decided I wouldn’t buzz, but the guide asked me whether i ever go out.

“I don’t even watch any of those shows!” I replied.  “So how do you know the theme tunes so well?”  “Well, they come on and I think “I’m not watching this rubbish!” and turn it over!” I answered!

I still won a pen, which The Girl happily took off of me 😉

If you get the chance, I highly recommend going round.  At £11 / adult and £6 / child it was a very reasonable and enjoyable couple of hours – and you wont get another chance there.  The last tour date is 8th Feb.

I will definitely be booking up for us to look round New Broadcasting House when they start the tours in April!

doing our community bit

Search for 'London riots' and this is the police image you are likely to see!

Well, it’s been a funny old week for the UK, hasn’t it?  Luckily, since my last post, there hasn’t really been any more trouble in London.

A lot of this has probably been due to the heavily ‘advertised’ huge police presence on the streets of London – 16,000 police have been enlisted across the capital – 10,000 than there were on Monday night, which I believe was double the usual amount as it was!

We still haven’t had any trouble in Walthamstow, but there has been a massive number of additional police (not surprising considering our close proximity to Tottenham (our house is less than a mile from where Mark Duggan was shot, to put it in perspective).   I had heard that the local police (I can’t speak for others) have had their canteens closed over recent years (don’t know when exactly) and so our MP suggested to a local church group that they open their building as a respite centre to give tea and coffee.

The wonderful Andy jumped on the idea, and it just grew from there – it didn’t take much to convince our fantastic local community to donate both food & drink and their time.  On Tuesday, the St Mary’s Respite Centre was up and running and serving many tired, hungry policemen (and other emergency services).

I managed to get along Wednesday night for 2.5 hours, making sandwiches, serving police and getting to know some of the others who I hadn’t met before – always great to meet community-spirited locals!  I even managed to get a chance to chat to our lovely Borough Commander Steve Wisbey who told us what had been happening locally, and what plans for the immediate future were.  It was great to have our minds put to rest – and he was a jolly nice fella too!  It was great to be able to come home and tell The Girl what was going on, as she had found the whole situation ‘a bit scary’.

Cater for the police and they will come! Such a good feeling 🙂

I went along again last night for about the same length of time, and this time saw more people that I knew, as well as others from the previous night – and there seemed to be even more police there tonight.  It was a fantastic atmosphere, even when it got extremely busy and I didn’t have a momen’ts respite from preparing  jacket potatoes, chilli, sausages or paninis (yes reall – we are THAT sophisticated in our charity here in the Stow!)  I was surprised how much I enjoyed it all!

Volunteer Jess tries on a rather cumbersome police vest

Last night the police wrote a load of thank you messages for us, which were really touching – especially a couple who wrote poems – it was great to feel that our efforts were so appreciated (photo of the board from Martin’s pics)!

A particularly warm fuzzies giving message 🙂

I will definitely be going along again tomorrow, and probably on Sunday too.  I’d love to hear if anywhere else in London has been doing similar.

You can read Andy’s blog on it here.

Fantastic set of photos from Martin here.

Much kudos to the church group – especially Andy, Dean, Nic and Frances who have been tireless in their support, organising the volunteers, getting the word out, gaining the support of local businesses etc and actually making this happen – an amazing bunch of people!

sixty-one nails – mike shevdon

Sixty-one Nails

I’m not sure how I came about this book – I think I remember seeing a tweet about it somewhere…but don’t hold me to that.

The marketing splurge of it being ‘Neverwhere for the next generation’ really drew me in, as I absolutely adore Neverwhere.

I can see what the connection was – it has the whole ‘alternative London’ going on that straddles this world with another secret one inhabited by the faeries or Fey, but at the same time it’s nothing like Neverwhere at all!

It starts when a very normal Londoner is going about his very normal life and suddenly has a heart attack on the Tube.  He is revived by a woman who allows him to call her ‘Blackbird’ – and tells him that he has ‘come into his powers’ and is no longer safe.

I loved this book.  I loved the tiny glimpses of London.  I love the way that the author took real, slightly odd London rituals/happenings and built up a fantastical reason for them occurring.

At first, I felt that the story was rather convaluted and wasn’t ready to buy into it, but without me realising, I had suddenly really bought into it, quite early on and just eagerly looking forward to finding out what happens next.  I know that this is meant to be one of a set (not sure how many yet) and I will definitely be reading the next one after I have read my next book club books.

walking in pimlico – ann featherstone

Walking In Pimlico

I was lucky enough to get a signed copy of  this book sent to me by the author to review (which was nice!) and was rushing through the awful Like Bees To Honey so that I could read it.

If you like your Victorian romps, then you’ll love this book as that is exactly what it is.  It definitely isn’t a ‘murder-mysetry’ though, as the murderer is revealed in the second chapter…although all is not as it seems, so it is more of a murder-thriller.

There are two voices used to tell the story throughout the book, and one of these is the one that starts the story – that of Corney Sage, a proper chirpy chappy Londoner type.  An orphaned, carrot-topped comedian, clog-dancer and clown whose life revolves around his shows and the theatre/circus life.

At first, I found his ‘voice’ a little hard to get into – but that only lasted a few pages, and then I was immersed.

In the true style of Victorian romps, there was enough carriage travel, hurried letters, acquiring rooms etc to give a real feeling of movement around the country.

I loved the twist in the tale which keeps things interesting all the way through.  I’ll definitely look out for any more of Ann Featherstone’s books – in fact it looks like there’s one coming out soon!

lovebox 2010

Anti-discrimation stickers (apparently) that they were giving out

I have been going to Lovebox for about seven year now I believe.  I remember when it was just one day and was over in Clapham.

The main reason for me having loved Lovebox all these years wasn’t just the fantastic mix of chilled but partying atmosphere but mainly because it was run by Groove Armada – who have been my favourite group for many years.

This year’s Lovebox was always going to be different.  It was in Victoria Park, hackney, same as the last few years, but for the first time, it was on for THREE days…and no Groove Armada!  I was worried that the absence of Superstylin’ might spoil the whole experience for me – but it didn’t.

I went on the Friday with one mate, and saw some fab bands who I hadn’t even heard of before, and which I’m going to have to look up because I can’t remember their names now.  Friday was very chilled, and not as packed.  It’s the first time Lovebox had done a Friday, and it really did feel different – more like a day in the park with some music going on 🙂

The day culminated on the main stage with the Noisettes (with their totally mental lead singer, singing whilst doing a crab at one point), Chase & Status and the Dizzee Rascal, who was brilliant and brought it all to a grand first day close!

On the Saturday (with 2 different mates), I was gutted that I Blame Coco were on so early, which meant I HAD to be back there for 1.10!  But it was worth it.  Other highlights of the day were the always fantastic The Nextmen who we danced energetically to til my dodgy leg started playing up.  We saw latin bands, rappers, soul, quite a few MCs, then we wandered down to watch Paloma Faith, who was well worth it.  She was bouncy, flamboyant and pitch perfect.

Paloma Faith: "Like the sunshine..."

There was one of those moments where you just couldn’t have planned it.  She was doing a cover of I Need Your Lovin’ and she’s got to the first “I need your lovin’……like the sunshine…” and just as she said sunshine, one major beam of sunlight suddenly spotlighted her on the stage.  She grinned, shouted “Thankyou sun!” and got a huge cheer from the crowd 🙂

As always, Lovebox had fantastic weather.  in fact in all the time I’ve been going, I think I’ve only ever seen a little rain.  Last year during Florence & The Machine, it rained for 5 minutes, and the next day, while Doves were on, me and my mate were dancing at the Relentless stage, and there was a fine drizzle that we hadn’t even noticed, LOL

So, who else did we see on saturday?  Grandmaster Flash, some weird people doing the Kama Sutra (we just missed How To Survive A Zombie Attack and Stavros Flatley), we went on the Just Dance stage and did a brilliant Rocky routine to Eye Of The Tiger.  We went to see Mark Ronson, but decided after one song that he wasn’t what we were craving, so we went and saw the brilliant Yeasayer (and missed Duran Duran joining Ronson on stage – but we saw them last year, so that’s OK)…we then also decided that Roxy Music would be too much of a come-down, so we stayed and saw Empire of the Sun – and the atmosphere was electric.

Nothing but blue skies and fluffy white clouds!

I had a weekend pass, and was planning to go on the Sunday and see Hot Chip and Grace Jones, but two full days on my dodgy leg were just too much in the end and I actually spent Sunday on the sofa, barely able to walk.

But oh, was it worth it.  Everyone in London should experience the fantasticness that is Lovebox.  I can’t wait til next year 🙂

south of the river, blake morrison

South of the river - Blake Morrison

Being a North London girl, even the title of this book actually gives me shivers.  To go ‘south of the river’ I have to remember my passport and make sure all of my jabs are up to date.  There is probably an even bigger North/South London divide than there is a North/South England divide!

That aside, I liked the blurb on the book, and was expecting something light and Tony Parsons-esque.  And seeing as the story begins on the night of the 1997 general elections, I thought it would all be scarily relevant.

And it started really well – the election results and people’s reaction to the change of government was so eerily similar to what we had all just been through in the UK that I coasted through the first few chapters.  But then I kind of hit a wall.

The story is set out in chapters from each person’s view – and there are five main characters.  Nat, his wife Libby, his Uncle Jack, his best friend Harry and his former student Anthea.  However, the Jack sections were so disparate from the rest of the story that they just didn’t flow – in fact for ages, I couldn’t see what relevance the Jack sections had, until I re-read the back of the book and saw ‘Uncle Jack’ mentioned.

And I thin that this sums up what the book was to me.  It didn’t feel like a complete integrated story, it was a collection of a few short stories and ideas, loosely bound together to make them feel they belonged in the book together.  This was aggravated by the fact that Harry, Anthea and Nat are all writers, and there were also examples of their work wove in.

Perhaps some readers enjoy this, perhaps it’s a welcome interlude from the ‘main story’, but if I am in the mood for reading a loosely-themed collection of short stories, I will pick up a compilation of short stories!

I didn’t even like any of the characters.  It felt that their flaws were examined so deeply that instead of seeing them as characteristics that made them more ‘real’, it just made them completely annoying, unlikeable and I ended up wanting them to have something horrible happen to them.  All of them.

It took me ages to finish this book – I wouldn’t recommend it.

petit mal, race horse company

Petri, Rauli and Kalle

I was looking for some things to do with The Girl last week, and found a show that I thought she’s enjoy.  Unfortunately it started Friday night, and ended tonight – which was a weekend she was with her dad.  I begged and pleaded and he agreed to drop her to me at the Southbank this afternoon so that I could take her.

One of the best £22.50 (for both of us) that I have spent.

If you get a chance, do go and see these three amazingly talented Finnish guys (especially if you have kids).  Petit Mal by the Race Horse Company is cool, ‘urban’, humourous and simply breathtaking.  we saw it in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, which I haven’t been to for years.

The three performers come from different backgrounds – one studied contemporary circus and specialises in the Chinese pole (red trousers in the photo) – he can do amazing things, holding incredible poses and free-falling down the pole from a great height to stop just an inch or two from the ground.  Another is a former Finnish breakdancing champion and has combined this with an art of falling (you have to watch the video to understand).  The last specialises in trampoline acrobatics, which converts to huge bouncy balls too.

I can hardly describe it.  The Girl was mesmerised and shouted, clapped, whooped and got completely over-excited.  there were a few minutes that were a bit slow, but I think that was to incorporate the fact that they really are a young, 3 man show and had to set everything up in-between sequences, so tried to put some ‘filler’ in whilst they were doing it – but i don’t think they’ve quite perfected it yet.

I’d love to see how they develop their skills – and will definitely be taking The Girl to see them again.

as I couldn’t really describe it – just watch the video to get a small flavour of the show.

amazing map

Maps are fantastic.  In the highest technical sense, it’s fab to stick my X10’s GPS on and watch myself wandering around the streets of London (usually trying to find a random bar that a friend has sent me the postcode for!), but at it’s absolutely least technical but most amazing, there are maps like this.

How much time must have gone into completing that masterpiece.  ‘The Island‘ must have taken more time, patience and willing than I can imagine having for anything at all!

Oh, and here’s my bit.  I LOVE the way that Walthamstow Village is tagged as ‘The Middle Classes’ LOL. (Make sure you click on it to see it full size)

Welcome to Walthamstow

why the long face?

C'mon, gissa smile!

I met up with an old colleague (E) on the spur of the moment last night.  she is someone that I worked pretty closely with for many years, and someone who is very well known, liked and respected at my old workplace.

Her daughter (L) also used to work in the same department as me, and we too forged a pretty good friendship.

So, me and E were having a lovely catch-up in Camden – drinking, gossiping and she was giving me the lowdown on what was going on there.  and LOWdown seemed to be the right word for this, as everything seems such ‘bad news’ at the moment, and noone seems to be particularly motivated about anything.

Anyway, we’d had a few drinks, and this sleazy guy came over and started to try to chat me up.  Which I found cringey and E found hilarious.  she then wanted to go to the loo and I wouldn’t let her, as i was worried that the guy would come over and corner me while she went.  luckily, at this point, L called her and said she was in a bar in Charlotte Street and that we should go over and meet her.

So we did (E still busting for a wee).  When we got there, I was surprised as there were a few people from my old work there, and I hadn’t realised they would be.

And they all looked miserable.  All of them (apart from L who was a bit drunk by then, and is a very happy person anyway…and works from home a lot, which probably helps).

It made me feel so grateful that I left.  It was a hard decision at the time (after 17 years there), but whenever I speak to people still there, I love the fact that my life is so busy but stress-free at work.  the fact that I am appreciated, listened to and the fact that things get done without reams of red-tape, working parties, procedures for everything and the fact that my directors are inspirational, motivational and innovative.

Best move I ever made.

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