Archive | October, 2014


31 Oct


Now here’s hoping that the technical difficulties which assailed The Week (Mark 1) will not scarily attack again, like the weirdo monsters (varmints) who inhabit the minds of children in Neil Gaiman’s eerily striking fantasy The Ocean at the End of the Lane. This is my antidote to Stephen Fry’s mostly unscary, autobiographical tome so I have fact and fiction on the go at the same time. I combined the two last week by reading the sometime harrowing but ultimately empowering and wonderful The Narrow Road To the Deep North, a marvellous Booker-winner this year. Richard Flanagan’s homage to his father who, as an Aussie prisoner of war in 1945 survived the brutality of the Japanese internment camps as the Emperor’s henchmen forced ever-weakening prisoners to build the Burma railway. It’s a love story too.  Butchery and beauty in equal measure.

I have already digressed. I left you on Tuesday mid-lunch south of Tunbridge Wells and full of lamb burger. Needless to say I needed soda water and Gavascon later in the day but watched  The Missing to assuage my indigestion – it’s that not really about Madeleine McCann eight-parter fronted by the suitably Irish angst and facial contortion of James Nesbitt. Mind you he does ‘desperate’ brilliantly. I’m hooked, even if AA Gill savages it at the weekend.

I must backtrack because on Monday evening the Sorro siblings, now with sister in tow and partners abounding met up for another little probate party. Our lovely mummy didn’t have much  (thank God she spent it) but Sis funded the meal from bootfair takings. I have yet to dispose of the porcelain and silver but we could be looking at The Ivy . Meantime we were in Il Capriccio in Ewell Village, a smart Italian job chosen for no other reason than the other smart Italian jobs in Ewell (three of them) were closed on a Monday. Now Ewell nestles stylishly and quietly under the powerful and embracing wing of the bustling eagle market town  that is Epsom, famed for salts and thoroughbreds. This is where I grew up. Get the connection? Anyway I started with French, moules mariniere; continued with Italian, veal (yes, sorry I like it) al limone; finished with a nice British slab of apple pie. Now that’s Europeanism.

Talking of The Missing, last night, Thursday, I caught Gone Girl the movie. The frighteningly successful book was well-written and wholly unconvincing tosh. The film is better but still tosh. Tension was just about maintained, despite loud popcorners behind – and I didn’t fall asleep. Usually a good sign. And Rosamund Pike is very good. Ben Affleck plays Ben Affleck. Quite a lot of sex and a bit of hilarious violence. The multi-screen Odeon experience is one on which I shall comment further to but, characteristically, I’m ahead of myself.

As I relaxed after James Nesbitt’s first hour of losing his son I heard a Talksport argument about the epidemic of pushing and shoving in soccer penalty areas. It’s Shawcrossgate. For the uninitiated Ryan Shawcross is a burly Stoke defender who many think should be in the England team because he commits GBH on attackers and gets away with it. Well until t’other day. Now he’s been stood down as enforcer by manager Mark Hughes, while things calm down. In the blink of an eye he’ll be back beating shit out of pansies like Terry and Ivanovic who, in a breathtaking example of pots and kettles ran to mummy ref. when they were mildly stroked by two smaller Man Utd defenders. The Talksport argument was wonderfully clichéd and circular. I’m not sure how many inarticulate ex-pros are paid a good wedge to comment on the idiocies of modern football but the supply of dimwits seems inexhaustible. Personally I like the rugby tackle in soccer. It beefs up what otherwise has become a tame game for tarts.

Wednesday and the Festival Hall. First an early evening catch-up meal and chat with Al and Danielle, old, dear colleagues. TAS – the Turkish chap at the end of The Cut (you know, just up from the Old Vic) does a mean shishk and buzzes with mezze life. Danielle, being a classicist pointed out that Kristin Scott-Thomas’s Electra belonged to Sophocles. Of course Euripedes had also written an Electra. Of course. We moseyed to the RFH for an evening of Rachmaninov. Lest you are worried about my gentle move to higher status culture, fear not. An attempt to mask the philistinism in my DNA perhaps but I do love sitting in the Art Deco splendour of the Festival Hall.

We met up with grand old buddies from my harder working days. Vivien, who had been a stylish Senior Mistress at our large coed grammar school. Those were the days when such posts were seen as important and necessary rather than sexist and tokenist. Ho hum. Smiles and laughter with her hubby, John, who uses the word wanker with such punishing timing and weight that it’s a joy to hear the word burst forth. I can’t match him on this but I do a mean bollocks when I’m roused.

Into the great  auditorium at level 6, row N – top of the house and a grand view of all. I know purists like to see the pianist’s fingers and the mole on the first violinists chin but I’m happy looking at this glossy Busby Berkeley of a place. The chrome-rimmed boxes stick out of the like open cash tills. I settle into my seat and await the young starlet Pavel Kolesnikov. We had done the jokes about his name before he wandered on with conductor Vassily Sinaisky. He looked like a mop-haired pre-pubescent, certainly a Kolesnikov minor. Russians are good at music aren’t they, I mused to myself and settled in for a captivating bit of Rachmaninov. Pavel’s fingers were a blur from my distance but they danced like Ariel at breakneck speed across the ivories (pre 1947 so OK to talk about). The second piano concerto. Most of my fellows had agreed – their favourite. I agreed because I wasn’t sure what to compare it with. My mind wandered an I caught sight of a woman being sick – pretty much in Pavel’s line of sight. He was underterred. She was under the weather. Stewards ushered her away and mopped up noiselessly. Rachmaniov’s 2nd unaffected. Roaring approval at its conclusion. Wow.

The interval gave way to his 3rd Symphony – plenty of light and shade and culminating in the sort of sound and fury I like. My eyes were trained on the guy playing the xylophone. Little to do but he’s got to be on the money every 10 minutes when the spotlight is on. Does he get the same cash at the end of the evening? The woodwind and brass sections would be seriously pissed off. The strings would be apoplectic.

We missed the train back by 39seconds, we calculated. I used the oaths previously italicised – and a few more. Luckily I had Stephen Fry in my pocket. The 30minute wait passed in a blink.

The Week – Oh Dear Mark 1 has already gone to press.

30 Oct

I’m hoping that The Week blog, just sent, will have been ignored (as it so often is, flounce flounce) by most of you. I was trying, ham-fistedly to draft it in a new and exciting way ( I can’t explain – too complicated) and I’m sure I didn’t press any key remotely in the vicinity of publish. But I may have done! Don’t read it. Read this instead. t won’t do you much more good but a few of the appalling errors may be excised.

Is the week only half over? Sunday seems a lifetime ago and when one is reading Stephen Fry’s latest autobiography – his third, we have many more to enjoy – one’s own life-freneticism pales. Not to mention the name dropping sycophancy and overuse of the indefinite person ‘one’; not as bad as the Thatchered royal pronoun, as in ‘We are a grandmother.’ Anyway it’s a wonderfully entertaining read called More Fool Me. There’s plenty of name-dropping and well-I-never stories from the 1980s and 90s of those of whom one has heard. He, Steve, has a beguiling and shallow honesty – his admission of fault, of criminality, of great problems with Bipolarism and general gay tartism and the rest barely conceals a completely admirable delight in all that he says and does; good or bad.

I started with the intention of writing a little about The Week – that news mag. which bite-sizes the week’s high and low national and international tittle-tattle in a jaunty, glossy way. Busy people who like to avert their eyes from the tablet and despair of the ubiquitous Metro and Evening Standard (more of these later) enjoy the tactile wholesomeness of this informative organ. My children swear by it and thus the yearly pater- presents are sorted out with quick subscription renewal. Cue delighted thank-you emails. I still have to buy Private Eyes and Vizes at Christmas, however.

Anyway to my digressed theme. This blog could become annoying as I switchback from one tale to another whilst trying to keep the thread of The Week going. I’ll get back to Monday in a minute so bear with me. I have just realised that I am adopting the potentially annoying Fry habit of chattily digressing and hoping that you, dear readers, will find this skittish tactic rather enchanting. Well the more I go on I sense returns diminishing.

So, quickly, let me bang on about the 64page Evening Standard that I quarter-read from Wimbledon to Waterloo yesterday, dumped and read another quarter from a fresh copy on my return a few hours later. Neither fraction was remotely memorable but the thousands of tons of wasted paper flying around London must surely be an eco-bubble waiting to burst somewhere? We used to worry about rainforests. Have they gone off the agenda or is the 64 page Evening Standard made from some magical process which enables the Capital’s sewage to be recycled into billions of miles of news-bilge to send the weary commuter to sleep? I confess to missing the gnarled, world-weary chappies who would bawl ‘Standard! Get yer Standaaard!’ These worthies have been replaced by mute zombies handing piles of the fodder to passers, uncaring of whether the punters grab or walk on by. At Wimbledon there are high-piled stacks along the platform bridge so no need even for zombies.

So back to Monday, when the week started. I know it’s technically Sunday but hey, I’m not being technical about this writing, which must  be annoyingly obvious. Anyway I  played golf on Epsom Downs with my brothers. Well, actually, I played with my younger brother and the elder spectated, nursing, as he was, a coccyx injury sustained in a shower-room accident. Suffice it to say that, once the fraternal laughter had subsided and we had established that , probably, this was not a mishap resulting from aquatic sex-games, we showed a fair amount of middle-aged concern for the old boy. He seemed happy munching his egg sandwiches as his younger siblings proved their ineptitude. However our crap golf was eclipsed by the warm sunshine and the truly fine views over London. From Wembley to the Eye;St. Paul’s and Shard to Canary Wharf – all lies before and beneath you as you look down from the Downs.Some holes you fire your balls towards the grand Grandstand of the Derby course; others you’re heading for Richmond Park or lining your put with Nelson’s Column as a sight-line. It’s common land so annoyingly squealing girls crossed our fairway and dog-owners knew their rights. These apart and the unusual fact that there are only two bunkers – both on the last – the round was a triumph and only £12.50 on a Monday. Try paying as little as that anywhere else inside the M25. And the bar had London Pride and Doombar, not to mention a Jimmy White snooker table in the ante-room. And we met one of my elder bro’s ex-teachers who said we’d all aged poorly. Thank God for honesty. He looked like shit.

On Tuesday I drove to a meeting of the W.O.G.S. – and before hackles rise – the Wealden Old Gits Society- who meet at a beery venue in Kent somewhere every couple of months to discuss matters of no importance whatsoever – and anyway no one would want to hear the views of any of the attending eminence grises. We were at The Vineyard in Lamberhurst, one of the multitude of Gastropubs which now adorn the Kentish social map. Strange how much candid, honest, politically incorrect , heartfelt opinion bounces around private conversations which doesn’t find the light of day, these days, for fear of offence. Philip Roth’s  compelling novel The Human Stain was largely about this. Actually, so too Stephen Fry’s autobios. I have an old friend – I shall name him – Martin Horwood, a grand man, much read and a lover of good conversation. His views can be every ‘ist’ under the sun and, occasionally only, politically correct – a phrase he loathes. If you say ‘I disagree with everything you said,’ his response would be winningly excited: ‘Oh Good, we can have an argument!’

I started with Peruvian Cured Salmon. Do they really box up aged salmon from South America and ship it over. Then a lamb burger. The best of both dishes was the chips. Harveys beer, however, always good. Ambience just as good – in other words lots of people so we didn’t feel as if we were in a nose-diving boozer whose business plan was buggered months, even years earlier. There are any number of chain or brewery-owned hostelries whose regular customers can be counted on the fingers of one hand. The owners screw the tenants whose hands are tied in what stock they buy in and from whom – the landlord of course. Not so at The Vineyard, a Free House and part of a small group owned by an enterprising Frenchman. Only one of our group called that a contradiction in terms, by the way.  The waitress or waitperson or barperson was frostily easyern euro. but this is not to damn all former iron curtain offspringers with that broad brush (how sensitive). The service was slow but no one really complains about much outside the M25. We’re glad to be here.

Time is moving on and I have only got to lunch on Tuesday. What a week so far. It will take three blogs – or more – to cover it. I have a night at the Festival Hall and problems with my car to recount. It’s still only Thursday.  Just wait for my autobiography.

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