Monday, 31 August 2009

The Apples of St Leonard's

Most of you have probably heard of the bells of St Clements but have you heard of the the apples of St Leonard's?

St Leonard's Church is often considered to be the centre of Streatham and there's been a church on the site for over 1,000 years. I've probably passed it either on the bus or on foot a few times each week for the last 18 years. I'm not sure I can count so high. Anyway, on the bus into town last week I glanced out and saw something red in the trees around the churchyard at St Leonard's, or rather, lots of red things. So the next time I walked past I kept my eyes open and, lo and behold, one of the trees is full of small red apples.

I know I'm not the most observant of people, but I've never noticed apples in the churchyard trees before. Logic suggests they haven't just sprouted out of nowhere, but I've really never noticed them before. It also seems a little bit early for autumn fruit and berries but the apples seem to symbolise what's happening in the bushes and hedges of Streatham, with berries appearing earlier than usual. Even conkers have started dropping from the trees. My Granda always said that early fruit meant a harsh winter, so let's see what happens from here on in...

Still, a tree laden with red apples in the heart of Streatham - not bad, eh?

Sugababes - 'Get Sexy'

This is the video for the Sugababes new single (currently No 1 on the iTunes download chart). Much as I'm pleased for the 'Babes, I can't say it's one of my favourite Sugababes songs. I sometimes take these things too seriously but why are the 'Babes, three good looking and confident young women, seemingly telling their audience that it's ok to make sexist comments about them (and, by extension, all women) in the street and in the clubs? That opening line of Keisha's *so* annoys me. I thought you were a powerful young woman but no, you seem to just want to be considered "sexy" (and get your syntax right please - "where I are"?). It's not like the 'Babes haven't always had a sexy image, you just haven't been so blatant about it. Is that what the chains are meant to symbolise? If so, I think you've been too subtle.

And why, oh why, do you have to rip off (or "sample") the Ting Tings and Black Eyed Peas in the chorus followed immediately by Right Said Fred? The last lead single, 'Girls', was from a Boots advert, and now you're "sampling" Right Said Fred? Who is advising you these days?

I hope it's a big stonking success for you but I really hope your fans - the majority of whom are probably (possibly?) teenage girls - don't take the lyrics too seriously. Sexism and misogyny aren't attractive and you don't have to accept it or treat is as 'normal'.

I'm biting my metaphorical tongue as I type - I don't want to say this about your new single - and I hope to eat my hat when the album is released and find it's full of Sugababes classics.

Julie Felix - 'Masters Of War'

I watched the 'American Folk' series on Saturday night (on BBC4) and it was followed much later by a programme featuring performances by a wide range of people singing Bob Dylan songs. Now, I've never been a big Dylan fan but one performance and song really stood out for me, Julie Felix singing 'Masters Of War'. I sort of know Julie from the late '60s ('Going to the zoo...') but I'd never heard that song before, and her arrangement and performance of it were excellent, the anger and passion behind the words flowing freely. I tracked the song down on iTunes and downloaded it - it was mistakenly named as 'I Shall Be Released' on iTunes. Julie sang the song live at the G20 Stop The War protest in London back in April this year. And here is the 1970 performance, or at least most of it (a minute is missing at the end for some reason):

SLADE - 'Live At The BBC'

It was only a matter of time until SLADE joined the 'live at the BBC' ranks and had their old sessions at the BBC re-mastered and released and it's finally happening. I haven't been able to find many details other than the tracklisting (below), a picture of the cover and Amazon saying it's released on 7 September while Play says it's 28 September, and I can't find it at all on Salvo.

The exciting thing, for me, is that it's not just new versions of some old favourites, but there are *new* songs included in the setlist, songs I haven't heard before. What do 'Coming Home', 'Coloured Rain', 'Omaha' or 'Lady Be Good', amongst others, sound like? Along with covers of 'Nights in White Satin' and 'Getting Better', and what is 'It's Alright Ma, It's Only Witchcraft'? It looks like there are some of the old Radio 1 jingles filling up the remainder of the first disc, which should be interesting to hear again.

Disc 1 - Studio Sessions 1969-72
  1. Coming Home
  2. The Shape Of Things To Come
  3. See Us Here
  4. Know Who You Are
  5. My Life Is Natural
  6. Coloured Rain
  7. Man Who Speeks Evil
  8. Move Over
  9. Omaha
  10. Sweet Box
  11. Nights In White Satin
  12. It's Alright Ma, It's Only Witchcraft
  13. Raven
  14. Gudbuy Gudbuy
  15. Getting Better
  16. Darling Be Home Soon
  17. Let The Good Times Roll
  18. Dirty Joker
  19. Get Down And Get With It
  20. Wild Winds Are Blowing
  21. Radio 1 Where The Best Music's On
  22. We're Slade!
  23. Everyday The Sounds We Play On Radio 1
  24. This Is Radio 1, We're All Having Fun

Disc 2 Live At The Paris Theatre, London, August 17, 1972

  1. Introduction
  2. Hear Me Calling
  3. In Like A Shot (From My Gun)
  4. Look Wot You Dun
  5. Keep On Rocking
  6. Move Over Baby
  7. Mama Weer All Crazee Now
  8. Lady Be Good
  9. Coz I Luv You
  10. Take Me Back 'Ome
  11. Get Down And Get With It
  12. Good Golly Miss Molly

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Maximo Park at ReadingandLeeds Festival

No, I haven't been to the Reading Festival today, but I saw the Maximos as part of the BBC3 coverage. They only showed five songs ('Girls Who Play Guitars', 'Questing Not Coasting', 'The Kids Are Sick Again', 'Going Missing' and the finale of 'Our Velocity') but the full setlist is on The lads looked and sounded in good form with Paul racing round the stage tiring me out just watching.

The interesting thing is that they brought on a small 5-piece brass band to augment the sound for a couple of the songs ('The Kids' and 'Going Missing') which created an interesting twist to the familiar songs. I hope they bring the band along to the gig at the Royal Albert Hall in October so I can hear the new versions of the songs for myself.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

My Favourite Flavour, Cherry Red...

I started playing The Beatles tonight but after 'Rubber Soul' I wanted something with balls, preferably hairy ones, so moved on to The Rolling Stones. Now, I don't actually own any Stones albums but have two compilations. I don't listen to them often but, whenever I do, I decide I must explore the Stones properly and then promptly forget. I think that means I'm a singles man. But they didn't half do some great singles.

In the '60s they were the bad boys of pop, in the '70s it was drugs (does anyone remember that Nils Lofgren song advising Keith not to go to Toronto?), the '80s was pure excess and the '90s was dinosaur-dom. Now, they're part of history since most of their live audience probably wasn't even born when they were having all the hits.

I've never seen the Stones live and probably won't ever see them since they just play stadiums these days and I don't like stadiums (unless I'm at the front). But, at their peak in the mid/late '60s - early '70s they produced some fantastic music and all credit to them.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Live Life Live

I'm in a quandry. I got tickets to see Amanda Palmer at the Union Chapel on 12 September as soon as they came on sale. She (obviously) sold out straight away so she then announced another gig on 11 September and I leapt at the tickets like there was no tomorrow. Some things are important.

But now Eliza Carthy has announced a gig on 11 September on the Southbank. She's playing with the rest of her family - The Waterson Family - and before the family gig is the Eliza Carthy Band. I saw Eliza 3-4 years ago as part of Patti Smith's Meltdown and liked what I saw and heard so started investigating her albums. Her latest album, 'Dreams Of Breathing Underwater', is excellent. Eliza is also part of the excellent The Imagined Village collective that I plan to see as part of the WOMAD festival at the Tower of London next month.

So, do I see Amanda? or Eliza? Especially since I'm potentially seeing Amanda twice...

At least I have an opportunity to see my heroes live. My poor American cousins (well, I don't have any, technically) won't be able to see the mighty Maximo Park since they've cancelled the USA leg of their tour for personal reasons. I really wouldn't want to rub it in that I've ordered tickets to see the Maximos at the Royal Albert Hall - that's just not the kind of thing I'd do.

Something I liked about the Maximo's announcement is the medium - a hand-written note posted on their site and emailed to the world. That's a nice bit of multimedia work.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Beyond Bloomsbury at The Courtauld Gallery

On a sunny Sunday afternoon, what do you do except go into town to mingle with the tourists and take a trip to Somerset House to visit the 'Beyond Bloomsbury' exhibition in the Courtauld Gallery. Surprisingly it wasn't crowded and, even more surprisingly, it was free (are Sundays free in the summer?). It's a small but good exhibition and well worth visiting if you have some time to while away and you're in the area of The Strand.

To quote the blurb:

Established in 1913 by the painter and influential art critic Roger Fry, the Omega Workshops were an experimental design collective, whose members included Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and other artists of the Bloomsbury Group. Well ahead of their time, the Omega Workshops brought the experimental language of avant-garde art to domestic design in Edwardian Britain. They were a laboratory of design ideas, creating a range of objects for the home, from rugs and linens to ceramics, furniture and clothing – all boldly coloured with dynamic abstract patterns. No artist was allowed to sign their work, and everything produced by the Workshops bore only the Greek letter Ω (Omega).

That nicely provides the necessary background. I hadn't heard of the Omega Workshop before so I instantly learned something, as well as the fact that it employed conscientious objectors during the First World War. It sounds like a brave endeavour and fully in line with the Bloomsberries ethos.

The exhibition fills two rooms with fabric designs, carpets, furniture, lampstands, dishes and other household goods, all beautifully coloured and designed, some of which I wouldn't mind in my house at all. I also liked the design of the ventilation grilles on the floor, but they weren't part of the exhibition. There was also a small exhibition of the work of Winifred Gill and I particularly liked the small watercolours of jars of flowers. The nice thing about the Courtauld is that you're allowed to take photos so long as you don't use flash, so I did and they're below.

After the exhibition we strolled round the rest of the gallery on two floors, medium sized rooms with paintings and sculptures dotted around, not a huge gallery by any means and that made it feel more comfortable. I got excited a few times when I found important and famous paintings on the walls (not all important paintings are famous, of course). My first flurry of excitement was seeing 'Adam & Eve' by Lucas Cranach, then a van Gogh and a Modigliani facing each other, then a Monet and a group of early Cezannes. It was also nice to find new favourites by artists I've never heard of, such as the 'psychedelic trees' by Maurice de Vlaminck below.

We ended up in the cafe on the lower ground floor, reached by a swirling, curved staircase, and sat outside for some lovely food. I ended with a pot of Earl Grey and an enormous scone with clotted cream and strawberry jam - yum yum. This is the first time I'd been to the Courtauld and I'd certainly go again to stroll amongst the great art and lovely surroundings. And the fountains in the courtyard of Somerset House.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Toyah - 'In The Court Of The Crimson Queen'

I had an urge today. I wanted some new music, something loud, fast, brash and dirty. I had a session with The Stooges last week so I couldn't really return to them so soon. I sampled a bit of Guns 'n' Roses - I never could be bothered with them in the '80s - but they're too pomp rock for me, too stadium. So I went a-hunting...

... and found Toyah. Now, Toyah doesn't really fit the bill for what I wanted but counts as new music and some of the songs from her latest album, 'In The Court Of The Crimson Queen' are loud and fast and dirty-ish. The album came out last year as a download only and it totally missed me. But then again I'm not a fan so she's not been on the radar.

I've never really bothered with Toyah and because of that I probably think of her as an actress first and pop star second. I recall her as the vicious punk in Derek Jarman's 'Jubilee' and the cheeky girl in 'The Corn Is Green' (with the great Katherine Hepburn), as the woman wearing extraordinary make-up, wigs and clothes in the '80s and, more recently, as the voice of the Tellytubbies. I recall the pomp and posing of her hits in the early '80s, but it all went by me without a second thought.

'In The Court Of The Crimson Queen' changes my mind about Toyah. Some of the songs make me think of the '80s, but most are fresh and confident, the songs of a woman with something to say and not afraid to re-invent herself again. She's still got the out-there image going for her with some great guitar thrash fronted by her voice and words.

Toyah has now joined the ranks of '70s/'80s women heroes making good new music. In the last few years we've had new albums from Suzi Quatro ('Back To The Drive'), Kate Bush ('Aerial'), Cyndi Lauper ('Bring Ya To The Brink'), Donna Summer ('Crayons'), Annie Lennox ('Songs Of Mass Destruction') and Lene Lovich ('Shadows And Dust') as well as others, with other icons like Siouxsie and Madonna and Patti who've never stopped making new music. And, of course, Buffy Sainte-Marie's 'Running For The Drum' (I couldn't leave her out of a list like this).

I've only listened to it a couple of time, but favourite songs from 'The Crimson Queen' so far are 'Sensational', 'Latex Messiah (Viva La Rebel In You)', 'Love Crazy', 'Lesser God' and 'Come', all best played loud. Take a look at 'Latex Messiah' below:

I think I'll need to explore Toyah's back catalogue now...

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Buffy Awards

No, not Buffy's awards to other people (although there's an idea in there somewhere), Buffy is up for four awards in the :

Entertainer of the Year
Songwriter of the Year : 'No No Keshagesh'
Best Folk/Acoustic CD
of the Year : 'Running For The Drum'
Best Pop CD of the Year : 'Running For The Drum'

I think I'm actually happiest about that last category - best pop CD. We all have a need to classify things, put them in boxes so we can understand them and have a level of control over them, but sometimes the way we classify music annoys me. Why is Buffy 'folk' when people like Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan are 'pop/rock'? Buffy's 'Illuminations' album from 1969 is probably as far from 'folk' as you can get, with it's synthesisers and electronic wizardry (yes, Buffy did it first, -ish). It means that some CDs are stuck away at the back of record shops and some are nearer the front. Of course, the decline in the number of record shops means this is less and less of an issue, but it irritates me anyway.

Another thing that irritates me is that people have so much trouble spelling Buffy's name correctly. Even though she's up for four awards, the Aborignal People's Choice Music Awards website manages to miss out the hyphen in her surname. OK, the sky won't come toppling down because of it but come on people, whatever happened to proof reading? (Cue finding loads of spelling and grammar errors in my blog but I'm not touting this blog as something special).

I know there are more important things to get irritated about but I've had a long day.

Anyway, this gives me the perfect opportunity to post a photo of Buffy at the Juno Awards ealier this year that Chris found and sent to me a while ago.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Meera on Telly

I turned on the telly early tonight so I could watch the Big Brother nominations (yes, I am the one person still watching). It came on with BBC1 and 'Holby' (or 'Holby City'? not sure what it's called these days) and I thought, 'o gawd, medical drama-rama, no thank you' and was just about to turn it over when Meera Syal appeared on screen. Now, I've been an admirer of Meera for a long time so I had to keep watching...

It turns out she's a new surgeon in the hospital and she had to do an operation. Naturally there are complications and she's put in the position of letting her patient die during the operation as he requested or saving him. As a woman of conscience, she saves him and that leads to problems. Actually, I don't much care about the story, it's just that Meera is on 'Holby', a regular gig for a strong actress who will undoubtedly add depth to the series.

I met Meera a few years ago. Well, when I say 'met', I mean I was within three feet of her. She was a speaker at something or other at work and I was heading for the lift lobby I passed her coming out of the ladies, after a double-take I said 'hello' and she said 'hello' back and then I (obviously) walked to the lifts. I later found out that she was doing an 'inspirational' talk at an event. I wish I'd heard of it sooner and would have wangled an invite.

I saw Meera at the National Theatre two years ago in 'Rafta Rafta' and thought she was excellent. I'd like to see her in more theatre work.

I'm afraid that knowing Meera is in 'Holby' won't make me watch it except by accident but I'm pleased she's going to be on telly regularly again. Good on ya, Meera!

Monday, 17 August 2009

Theoretical Girl - 'Divided'

I saw Theoretical Girl supporting Maximo Park nearly two years ago at Brixton Academy and decided then and there that I'd keep my eye on her (Blood Red Shoes took the same part on the bill the following night - the Maximos pick good support bands). I've just looked at my blog from back then and saw that I likened TG to The Slits (which she's not like at all), but I'm now thinking Marianne Faithfull in mid/late '60s mode.

TG has released a few records in the past two years and I do mean records, as in vinyl. She's released a few 7" singles and I've generally haunted eBay for the promo CD copies since I can't be bothered with vinyl most of the time. At last, the Girl has released her first album on CD and download and it is good. It was released today but was available yesterday on iTunes so I did the downloady thing.

About half of the songs on the album are already familiar from singles and TG's MySpace but it's nice to have them in CD/digital format. They're also re-recorded so are different versions, in a couple of cases replacing twangley guitar with strings. I already like the songs I'm familiar with, and the new arrangements add to them, and I'm impressed with the 'new' songs too. This isn't a first album just thrown together by someone who's been around long enough now to have an album, these are well crafted pop songs from loud and electric to quiet and thoughtful, and all stamped with the Girl's individual style. I think I'll be listening to these songs for a long time.

If you want to sample a few songs then I'd recommend, 'The Boy I Left Behind', 'Red Mist', 'Good Timing' and 'The Biggest Mistake' which sum up the different aspects of the Girl for me. Well-crafted pop songs well performed, not trying to be anything else, honest and direct. I love the arrangements, the Girl's lyrics and voice. Give her a listen and then get the record. I hope it's a big success for her.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Random Amanda

It's been too long since I posted random photos of Amanda Palmer so here we go.

Amanda's been in Russia for the last week or so and played at a festival in Moscow on the same bill as Madness (eclectic or what). I'll be seeing Amanda myself in a few weeks time when she plays the Union Chapel, so, in anticipation of that glorious evening, here are some pics to enjoy:

One of the (many) good things about Amanda is that there's *always* another photo of Amanda and she'll post it to share it with the world. That's a very generous trait, even when her skirt is tucked in her pants. Amanda also seems to like ninjas...

Thursday, 13 August 2009

'A Streetcar Named Desire' at The Donmar Warehouse

Last night Chris took me to see one of his favourite plays, 'A Streetcar Named Desire', at The Donmar Warehouse. I've somehow managed to avoid seeing it on telly, theatre or reading for my entire life, until last night. My association with Tennessee Williams is not a happy one, since I fell asleep during the one play of his I've seen, 'The Glass Menagerie' in Toronto a few years ago.

Two actrelles I'm pleased to see live were in full period-frock last night - Rachel Weisz and Daniella Nardini. Rachel looked very thin and pale, too thin, and Daniella has developed into a fine lump of a girl (as Chris's Ma would say) and I'm pleased to have seen them both on stage giving full-on southern belle accent and 1950s frock.

I must be honest and say that the first act is the longest first half ever imagined, going on forever as the shouting got louder. Did I mention shouting? Well, there was a lot - acting by shouting is how I thought of the first act. It seemed to calm down a bit in the second, with the shouting actually serving a dramatic purpose rather than gratuitous verbal aggression.

And that sort of sums up my problem with the play. I know it's possible to read the play differently but my reading is purely on the basis of an aggressive, abusive relationship given the veneer of being normal. I hated the way that the women in the play acted as if shouting and physically threatening behaviour is the norm. I hated the complacency. Perhaps that's what Mr Williams meant his audience to feel but I doubt it.

The bloke who played Stan was obviously chosen for his torso, abs and ability to shout and slur his words into an unrecogniseable accent while slapping and threatening women. Hardly something to be proud of. The whole morality of the play confused me, the deep passions and lusts (I hesitate at 'love'), the wife battering ending in rape or mutual passion - take your pick - and the final rape of Blanche on stage.

I should guess that you can see I wasn't the greatest fan of the production or play. I thought Rachel was fine (if a trifle full-on) and I quite liked Ruth Wilson as the younger sister happy to be abused by Polish white trash. And, of course, Daniella when she was doing more than helping to re-set the stage. I didn't enjoy it, but I'm pleased (in a way) that I've finally seen it at last.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Harry Potter And The iPhone

I'm afraid my new toy, an iPhone, has interupted my blogging, for which apologies, but it is a little bit addictive.

On Saturday we went to see the latest installment in the Harry Potter franchise, 'Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince'. It's been out for a while now so was relegated to one of the smaller cinema screens but it's still better than seeing it for the first time on my telly. I've seen all the other films and read all the books so I sort of know roughly what to expect, but it's always interesting to see what they do to the books to turn them into films.

I enjoyed the film but not as much as some of the earlier installments and I'm not sure why. I found my mind wandering a couple of times, thinking how detailed the sets were and how much time and money must have gone into filling spaces with enough wotsits, doohickies and furniture to make it look lived in and more. Maybe it felt a bit more 'formula' that the earlier films or, perhaps, just that it is darker and more serious? Who knows?

I liked the bit at the start with the baddies as black clouds whizzing round the Wibbly-Wobbly Bridge and sinking it - in part I was outraged that they could do that to the latest bridge across the Thames and then decided I didn't really care since it was a good sinking. There wasn't really enough mindless magical mayhem but Helena Bonham-Carter continues to give good evil-witch as Bellatrix. I'm looking forward to the next film already.

An oddity about the Harry Potter films is that there seems to be no reference to the technologies that permeate the lives of most teenagers (and oldsters), the computer and the mobile phone, and all the different related digital applications. So I made up for that on Sunday by wandering up to the Apple shop on Regent Street to indulge myself with an iPhone. I've had yearnings for a while - I suspect I just wanted a new gadget to play with rather than a real and identifiable need for the specific product. But hey-ho, I got one!

The simple process of buying one took over an hour, waiting for my 'appointment' or 'consultation' with the rather unsmiling and disinterested staff and then the age it took to do the credit checks and contract stuff to sign up with O2. That's not a good sales technique since it allows plenty of time for second thoughts - which I had but, luckily, I overcame them and stuck with my intent to not leave the shop without a toy.

It took a short age to get the thing up and running properly - downloading the latest version of iTunes, then the latest version of software for the iPhone and only then could I start copying over music and stuff. I faffed round for so long that I forgot to add contacts to the phone and left home on Monday morning with it in my pocket but only one contact number in the phone. Ooops.

It'll take a while to get used to it and the differences from my previous three phones, all of which have been Sony Ericssons, but I am secretly very smug. I need to explore "apps"and who knows what else. How long till I start blogging from the train?

Wish me luck!

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Beverley Knight at the National Portrait Gallery

Last night we went to see Beverley Knight play a short set at the National Portrait Gallery as part of the Icon-acoustic season over the summer. She was in one of the lecture rooms that seated about 150 people, so was nice and intimate, and she is, apparently, the first singer ever to do a gig there. It was linked to the gay icons photographic exhibition upstairs but I'm not sure how or why.

Anyway, the seating was unallocated but we ended up right in the middle of the third row, within spitting distance of Ms Knight (not that I would, of course), in nicely banked seats so everyone had a great view. So, naturally enough, I forget to bring my camera! Ggrrrr! Just think of the close-up photos I could've taken...

On came the band, just keyboards and guitar with two of her regular backing singers and then on strode Bev looking fit in a figure hugging black top and sparkly black trews . She launched into 'Made It Back' to great applause and Bev is indeed back with a new album due out in September and a great single called 'Beautiful Night' which she sang and is on YouTube.

It was only a 40 minutes or so set, but, in between chatting and laughing with us all, she crammed in favourites including 'Gold' (dedicated to her friend Tyrone and to Danny La Rue), 'Piece Of My Heart', 'Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda', 'Keep This Fire Burning' and finished with 'Come As You Are'. It's a testiment both to Bev's voice and her writing that the songs worked very well cut down to just voice, keyboard and one guitar.

It was great to see Beverley in such a small space at the start of her promotion of the new album. I'm looking forward to hearing it soon. These photos were taken with my phone - next time I'll have my camera!

Thursday, 6 August 2009

'Time And The Conways' at The National Theatre

On Tuesday we went to see 'Time And The Conways' by JB Priestley at the National Theatre. I don't think I've ever seen or read any Priestley and that's clearly an error on my part that I need to put right.

It's the tale of the Conway family, posh and well funded, in an imaginary Midlands town after the First World War. It's the night of Kay Conway's 21st birthday party and the family and some friends are playing charades. We're introduced to all the characters in the play, quite thoroughly and unobtrusively. Time passes and it's the night of Kay's 40th birthday with a family meeting to discuss the dire financial state of the mother - 19 years has seen lots of changes to the family which has disintegrated into people who know each other but no longer really care for each other except for going through the motions of family life at a distance. We then whiz back to the closing of Kay's 21st birthday where the seeds of future dissent and troubles are sewn.

It's a play of three acts and two intervals and runs to over three hours but it didn't feel long at all. Each act opened and closed with some very odd staging that shrieked 'young director trying to do something different for the sake of it' - it didn't add anything to the play at all. Irrespective of that, I enjoyed the play, actually liked it rather than just appreciated it, and I don't really know why. Despite some of the harder themes, it felt like one of those period dramas on telly on a Sunday evening, girls in fancy frocks and frightfully nice jolly hockey-stick accents. I liked it in the second act when all their accents shifted slightly, still posh but in that brittle way that only ever seems to have been spoken in the 1930s (which is when the act is set).

Moving forward and then back in time illustrates the small actions and things said that change the course of time, something Priestley seemed to like playing with. This was complemented by the set and the costumes (which reminded me a bit of Jane Austin's 'Mansfield Park' in the way that characters are reflected in their environments) with Kay, the aspiring writer, dressed in an ivory silk evening frock as a young girl but buttoned up tight in a grey suit as the bitter 40 year old journalist with failed love affairs behind her with her brittle accent and endless cigarettes.

The only happy person in the family was Alan, the eldest son, who is content to go through the war as a lance-corporal and then work in the local town hall as a clerk, far from the high flying ambitious younger brother who descends into debt, a failed marriage and a rootless life. The only annoying thing about him is that he's the character Priestley decides should expound on his theory of time.

I enjoyed the play and it made me want to see more of Priestley's work.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Big Poo!

I received the following distressing email today:

One & Other

We have now picked the winners of places in September and we are sorry to tell you that you have not been picked on this occasion. 720 individuals from all over the UK have been picked at random from all those who entered, and each has been allocated a place on the plinth during the month.

However, all is not lost! Your name will remain in the draw for places in October, and we hope you will be luckier next time. We will also continue to offer places to applicants should anyone drop out and need replacing. So keep an eye on your inbox for future communications from us!

Thank you for taking part in this project. We do hope you have enjoyed the process so far, and will experience it either by visiting Trafalgar Square in person, or virtually via the website.

The One & Other team
One & Other is produced by Artichoke in partnership with Sky Arts

There's still another chance, of course, but that's not the point. I might be bored of it by then. On the other hand, with my vertigo, maybe it's for the best ...

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Buffy in the Media

I've found some more things anyone interested in Buffy Sainte-Marie might like to look at - it's nice to see so much interest in Buffy due to her gigs over the past week.

Buffy played the Cambridge Folk Festival on Friday and there are some photos and the setlist on the BBC site so take a look here. The setlist is shorter than Buffy played at the Queen Elizabeth Hall last week, but most of the songs are the same except for the addition of the great 'Cod'ine'.

There was a five-page article about Buffy in the July edition of 'Maverick', a magazine I've never heard of before but I'll have to try and get hold of that edition. There were also reviews of 'Running For The Drum' in most of the music monthlies last month but none of them had any particular insights and a few articles in the national dailies, including a review of the QEH gig in the Daily Telegraph. All of these can be seen in the press section of the Cooking Vinyl site, Buffy's label for 'Running For The Drum' in the UK.

I've taken another look at the photos I took at the QEH and uploaded 'final' versions to Flickr, including the few below. I particularly like the first one, with Buffy giving us some joyous and heavy pow wow or, as mentioned in another review, some passion and righteous fire!