Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Parents and Patchwork

My mum enjoys patchwork and quilting, and had heard that there was an exhibition on at Radstock Museum, so she and my dad came down for the weekend so that she could go to see it.
I had also booked a ticket for the Melksham Comic Con (The first, and still very small, con in Melksham), so I spent the morning making beds and buying things to cook, then went over to Melksham where I caught Paul Cornell's talk about writing comics (and novels and TV), which also wandered off into discussions about otters, kangaroos and seahorses, with regard to their child birth and parenting (Paul and his wife are of course expecting a baby, in October), It was fun.

I didn't have time to stay long, but the con seemed well organised, and seemed to be appealing to a wider audience than is often the case - there was someone modelling balloons, so visiting children could have their own 'Captain America' shield, or 'Hulk' arms, and a full size, remote control R2D2, and a storm trouper or two attracted a lot of attention.

My parents arrived on Saturday afternoon, and we spent the rest of the day catching up, and eating, and things like that.

On Sunday, mum and I went to the museum while my dad stayed home to watch the Grand Prix.
I'll admit that my interest in the quilts was fairly lukewarm, but I enjoyed seeing them, and then looked round the museum itself , which is tiny, volunteer run, and a little frustrating in having a distinct lack of information about many of the exhibits.

 However, it's a pleasant enough way to spend an afternoon, and I had come prepared with a book so was perfectly happy, after exhausting the pleasures of the museum, to sit and wait and read until my mum had had her fill of the quilts!

Unfortunately I didn't have a copy of the catalogue so can't credit the makers of these two quilts, but all the quilts were made by people with a connection to the local quilt shop, Midsomer Quilting - customers, students of the classes run there etc, so most will be local.

All in all, it was a good weekend. My parents stayed over Sunday night, and having gone to bed before them, I found it oddly comforting to lie in bed, listening to the muffled sound of their voices downstairs - like being a child again, and knowing that everything was alright, because they were there! I was tempted to go and ask if they would come up and read me a bed time story, but I decided that wasn't really practical!

Monday, 28 May 2012

Cabbages and Kings

It's been a busy couple of weeks, but mostly related to work and other non-bloggable stuff. However, this weekend is more interesting.(It's true that the Olympic Flame relay came through my home town, and through the town where one of our offices is based, but I wasn't there in either case, didn't see it, and had no real wish to see it, which does not make for exciting blogging!)

After a very wet, very cold spring we seem suddenly to have been given all of the missing warmth and sunshine at once - my clematis has exploded into flower, as have the rock geraniums, and after a lot of tiring, and at times stressful stuff at work, this weekend has been about good things.

On Friday, I went to Bath Theatre royal to see the Globe Theatre 's touring production of Henry V.I realised, as I waited for the play to start, that it is not a play I've seen performed live, before. I have read it, and I have seen both the Laurence Olivier and Kenneth Branagh film versions, but never seen it on stage.
(photo from Globe Theatre website)
It is not, of course, one of Shakespeare's more subtle plays, and this production concentrated on doing it well, and not on trying to make it something it isn't. The French were vain, in shiny armour and fancy surcoats. The English had plainer, battered looking armour, and big, ugly pole-axes and pikes - it wasn't hard to imagine them on a muddy battlefield, actaully killing people.
Jamie Parker as King Henry was excellent, coming across as a soldier with a conscience. The production was originally designed for the Globe, but worked well in the Theatre Royal, with lots of exits and entrances through the auditorium, and heralds and drums and pikemen charging up via the stalls.

I personally found the comedy interludes, with Pistol and Bartolph and Nym rather overdone and tedious, and would have been happy for all or most of them to be cut, but I often have that reaction to the 'comedy' in Shakespeare's history plays, so I'm  not inclined to blame the Globe for that !

The Chorus was played by Brid Brennan, which meant that the Chorus was portrayed as an older serving woman,  which was interesting.

Stylistically, it seemed to me that the production owed a good deal to the Branagh film version of the play, and it was definiely well worth seeing. at least 4 stars!

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Fiends, Men in Pants, and Comics!

This weekend has been a lot of fun.
On Friday I met my friend Anabel (who was passing through Bath, en route from Dublin to London) and after having yummy Nepalese food at Yak Yeti Yak, including a delicious dessert made with yoghurt and orange and saffron, then  I headed over the the Theatre Royal to see Matthew Bourne's 'Early Adventures'

It was fun! Three short pieces; The first, Spitfire, featuring four competitive (male) underwear models, the second, Town and Country featured a 1930's styled set of short pieces, to well known music, including Elgar's 'Pomp and Circumstances' and including synchronised bathing and dressing, a 3-minute version of  'Brief Encounter',an interpretation of 'Shepherd's Hay', a Clog Dance, and some synchronised scooter-riding. The final piece, The Infernal Galop (A French dance with English Subtitles') which included a sexy encounter in a pissoir, some matelots and culminated in the least be-ruffled and most entertaining version of the Can-Can you could ever hope to see.

If you didn't think ballet could be funny, this will change your mind.

While I was watching fit young men in their underwear, Anabel was seeing The Avengers, and when both had finished, we headed home for chatting.

Then yesterday, as the sun came out, we headed out to Wells on a Hot Fuzz pilgrimage, which included visiting St Cuthbert's Church, the Market Place, and Wells Cathedral and Bishop's Palace. We also bought cornettos at 'City News', but didn't shoot any one.
Bishop's Palace, Wells
Although Wells is still what I think of as my home town, (or maybe because I still think of it as home) it's been a long time since I last did the tourist thing.

The Cathedral is beautiful. And although there were lots of  musicians and choristers in the nave, preparing for a concert, but other areas such as the Cloisters, Chapter House and the museum in the Undercroft were relatively empty.
Undercroft door

After  visiting the cathedral (and enjoying our cornettos), we had lunch at  The Old Spot, which is one of my favourite restaurants - on any given day, the menu will be short, but everything is always fresh, seasonal, locally sourced, and oh-so-delicious...

After gorging ourselves  enjoying lunch we headed over to Bristol, where the Bristol Comics Expo was going on.  We met up with Cheryl Morgan, Paul Cornell and Mike Carey, in the bar, and I ended up spending the hour or so chatting with them (much fun) while Anabel headed over to the Expo to see Ian Sharman, then Anabel introduced me to Ian and Holly and we went out for another meal..

Today was much quieter, involving Anabel and I relaxing and chatting and eating the chocolates she until it was time to put her on a train, and for me to go back to laundry and other housework.

A VERY fun weekend, and, for what feels like the first time in months, the sun was out.

Monday, 7 May 2012

In Which There Are Super Heros!

I tend not to go to the cinema very often - not because I dislike it, but because I tend to think of seeing a film as something you do on the spur of the moment, rather than on a pre-planned, pre-booked basis, and as my nearest cinema is about half an hour away, this tend to mean that by the time I've thought of going, it's too late to get there before the film starts. All of which is a round about way of saying it's been a while since I last went to the cinema -I think the last twice I've been it was to see National Theatre Live broadcasts, which have been booked in advance.. before that, the last film I saw may well have been 'Coraline', which was 2009...
Anyway - I've been seeing lots of my friends tweeting about the new Avengers film and sounding very enthusiastic about it, so I decided to see whether it was showing locally, and the upshot was that my friend Cheryl and I headed over to Frome for the 6p.m. showing.

The cinema in Frome is small, and old -it only has one screen, it sells little, old fashioned bus-ticket type tickets and has a licenced bar, and after the adverts and before the start of the film the lights go up and  buy sweets or ice cream from a girl in a booth. (but does  awful lot of rustling in the early part of the film!) It is definitely a more interesting option than the local multiplex (and much cheaper)

I don't read a lot of comics, and my knowledge of The Avengers, and the Marvel universe generally is fairly limited - I read Neil Gaiman's '1602', and have seen the two 'Iron Man' films, but that's about it.

I really enjoyed the film. It's got lots of action and stuff blowing up, and it's also got great dialogue, and the characters, for the most part, do have actual character, which is not always the case for action- or super-hero films. I liked that Dr Banner was portrayed as being (at least as) smart as Tony Stark, and that Captain America's 1930s background was there in some of his comments and attitudes, without being too heavy-handed.

The fact that I wasn't familiar with Clint Barton/Hawkeye or his backstory, or Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow or hers didn't stand in the way of understanding or enjoying the film.

I shouls have liked to see a little more balance with both male and female super-heroes, but taken as a whole, I think the film is excellent - it was a lot of fun, and if (as seems inevitable) there is a sequal, I shall be going to see that, too.

Anne Boleyn

 Anne Boleyn starts with members of the cast coming into the  chat to the audience, and swiftly moves on to Anne herself (or rather, her ghost) displaying her own severed head to the audience. What follows is fast moving, often very funny, and thought provoking.

King James I, a camp, twitchy, and at times terrifyingly astute Scot, arrives in London to take the throne following Elizabeth I's death - he is dealing with disputes between different religious sects and becomes interested in Anne Boleyn, finding her (protestant!) prayer book in an old chest. We then flash back to the events of her life, and death.

Anne is portrayed as a very witty, principled woman, motivated by her strong protestant views and support for William Tyndale, seeing her relationship with the King as an opportunity to make England into a Protestant country.

The play manages to portray the frightening and often dangerous flavour of life in 16th Century England without ever losing its light touch, and the frequent asides to, and knowing nods toward the audience work very well (When Anne finally (after 7 years) gives in to Henry's persistent attempts to seduce her she turns to the audience. "There will now be a fifte.. twenty minute interval"...)

A very strong cast, in a very good play. I thoroughly enjoyed my evening out, and am looking froward to seeing 'Henry V' which is on in 2 weeks time, and which is also a 'Globe' production, this time touring before, rather than after, a London season.