Thursday, 27 November 2014

Streatham and SW16 Cushions

I live in London and I'm proud to say that. We've hosted the Olympics three times, more than any other city in the world, and I was an Ambassador at the last Olympic Games. I like my city and it's full of tourists all year round - I am probably famous in Japan and China for being in so many photos around Westminster Abbey. My city is also *old*, with bits of it being around for a couple of thousand years.

We all live in our own bits of London and my bit has been around since Roman times. St Leonard's church has been there for about 1,000 years and it is the centre of Streatham, literally the village (ham) on the street. The old Roman road to the south coast has been there for 2,000 years and is still the site for the annual vintage car rally from London o Brighton.

Streatham used to be the last over-night coach stop on the route into London in the 18th century until London started to expand. Then it became a commuter suburb on the borders of Surrey. Then it became a part of London with all that entails. It's still a major thoroughfare to the south coast and the traffic is ridiculous but that's the price of living in London.

I like living in Streatham and my house is surrounded by trees that provide a nice screen from the road and its noise. I feel comfortable here. I feel even more comfortable having cushions specific to my location.

E.A. Wates on Micham Lane (around the corner from me) has been around since the 1900s and is still producing great furniture and furnishings. I went in there today to get some new cushions - Ive looked at them in the shop window for a few weeks and decided if I didn't buy them now then I probably never would so I took the initiative.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Meera Syal - 'Up Your Hairy Hole'

We went to see the 'platform' discussion with Meera Syal and Rufus Norris at the National Theatre about the new play, 'Behind The Beautiful Forevers'. Meera is the star (obv) and Rufus directed. It was part interview and part audience Q&A on the stage the play is performed on so it had to over in good time for the play to start. Early on we were asked to our hands up if we'd already seen the play (I put up my hand) or if we were seeing it that night (most other hands went up).

During the interview with Sarfraz Manzoor (who, at point, said that Rufus really needed some media training before he took over as overall Director of the National Theatre) had elicited from Meera that some of the language in the play was a bit fruity, to say the least. The character she plays is quite earthy and not shy with her choice of words. That made it even more funny when Meera was asked about whether the strap line to the play was appropriate.

Meera's response was. 'Well, it's better than 'Up your hairy hole'.'

She then realised what she'd said and clapped her hand to mouth in embarrassment and started apologising and giggling as she realised that most people in the audience wouldn't know it was one of her lines from the play. A classic moment! *That* is how I shall remember Ms Syal from now on!

And this is my photo of Meera from a few years ago when she was interviewed at the Purcell Room on the Southbank.

Go and see 'Behind The Beautiful Forevers' if you can - it's on at the National for a few months yet and is well worth seeing. My bloggie about it is here.

La Soiree at the Spiegeltent, Southbank

On Thursday we went to see circus fit for the 21st century and it was good. And rude. With lots of flesh on display. And laughter. And pingpong balls. And a small red handkerchief.

Yes, we went to see the La Soiree troupe at the Spiegeltent beside the Royal Festival Hall on the Southbank and it's as far from a  'tent' as you can imagine. Acrobats, contortionists, hula-hoop girl, juggling, strong men, pole dancing and who knows what else. And none of it is what you might expect. Patriotic gentlemen in Union Jack underpants and a naked lady from Croydon (via Spain, obv). What on earth is going on here?

Sitting only a couple of yards from the small stage-in-the-round meant we had a great view of the shenanigans and we had variations on traditional circus/cabaret acts as well as cabaret delivered in a totally different way. I cite the Blue Bunny as an example of the latter, a tall middle aged bloke in a blue latex bodysuit skipping round the place in high heels bursting balloons. I *like* Scotty The Blue Bunny (but I'd need to lose some of the tum before trying to emulate him in latex).

Jess Love was great as hula-hoop girl, keeping the hoops going with different parts of her body while she performed acrobatics galore. And she was fun in her joint show with Ursula Martinez and the gender and clothes swapping duo who ended up all but naked. By then, of course, we'd already had the demote teasing from a grey suited Ursula and her little red handkerchief. Each time she performed her disappearing handkerchief trick an item of clothing vanished until she was naked and then she did the trick again… where could the handkerchief possibly be…? I shall never look at a little red handkerchief in the same way again.

I liked David and Fofo with their ping-pong balls flashing between their mouths while they performed amazing acrobatics and another duo, Saulo and Anna, flying round the stage in acrobatic passion with their moving pole to clamber around. Another highlight was the comedic juggling of Marcus Monroe who started by juggling clubs and then switched to knives - ouch! There was also the rather naughty 'sexual gentleman' Asher Treleaven and his risqué tales.

They were all great fun and incredibly entertaining. I sat for most of the time with my mouth open in wonder and a stupid smile on my face - how on earth do they do *that*? and how do they do *that*? and *that's* just not possible… I even had Jonathan Burns throw his underpants at me after he'd taken them off without removing his shorts.

The true highlight was The English Gents in their pinstripe suits and bowler hats getting up to all sorts of strongman antics and acrobatics galore. And yes, it's them on the poster for the show with both gents in their Union Jack pants and Denis Lock holding up Hamish McCann with one arm. It's a mix of a strong man act with impossible acrobatics thrown in for good measure. Might I say 'wow'?

And Hamish came back in a solo act to close the show with his version of 'Singin' In The Rain' and using the lamppost for his very own pole dance, holding himself out horizontally from half way up the pole in an astonish show of strength. To repeat myself, how on earth does he manage to do *that*?

There are other acts that are part of the La Soiree troupe but they don't all come on every night. And even those that do appear have different acts so you're unlikely to see the same show twice. I like that. Because I *am* going back! It was such fun and a great way to spend an evening. This is fabulous circus-cabaret, but not as you've seen it before. 

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Paul Smith & Peter Brewis - 'Frozen By Sight'

The new collaboration between Paul Smith (Maximo Park) and Peter Brewis (Field Music) is now out, an album called 'Frozen By Sight'. I pre-ordered the album (obv).

Maximo Park were destined to have me as a fan when I heard the energy and life of their first album and a lot of that is down to Paul's voice and lyrics. I've bought every album since and seen them play live lots.  I'd never heard the term 'A4 print-out' in a pop song until I listened to the Maximos. So, my interest in this album is largely around the words and Paul's voice than Peter's chamber inspired music but it's definitely growing.

This album is as far away from the Maximos as you can get and is far closer to Paul's solo album from four years ago, 'Margins'. Some emphatic percussion and sometimes swirling and sometimes strident strings add the background to Paul's words and then come to the fore to take control of the song. It's different but really works well.

The songs are based on Paul's travels around the world with songs like 'LA Street Cleaner', 'Exiting Hyde Park Towers' and 'Barcelona (At Eye Level)'. With some of the songs it's the observed detail in the words that brings the joy. It's almost like moving from the detail in a Burne-Jones painting to the broad brush of a Monet water lilies painting.

This isn't music to listen to on the tube in the morning going to work but will bring many happy hours listening to it in the evening, relaxing, and finding something new in each song with every listen. Thanks lads!

Monday, 17 November 2014

Kim Boekbinder and the Infinite Minute

That there Kim Boekbinder (aka The Impossible Girl) has come up with the daftest idea yet for a Kickstarter campaign - and that's 'daftest' in a totally positive way, obv. She's looking for funding to build a recording studio at her home so she can record her next album (and others after that) and so she's offering to write a one minute song for every $100 raised. And if you pledge $100 you get your very own song to do with as you see fit. If you pledge now, you could even get your very own song in time for Christmas! How's that for an interesting Christmas present for someone? As you'll know, dear Reader, I am a Christmasoholic and the temptation is terrible...

It's the Infinite Minute project and the songs will only ever be available to Kickstarter backers. You don't have to pay $100 of course - you'll be given all the songs even if you just pledge $1 but it gets more interesting as the money pledged increases.

You can read all about it and pledge here and you might want to watch Kim's video about one minute songs in which she performs a one minute song about the project.

Now then, how much do I want my very own Christmas song…?

Saturday, 15 November 2014

'Behind The Beautiful Forevers' at The National Theatre

On Friday we went to see 'Behind The Beautiful Forevers' at the National Theatre. It's a new play by David Hare based on the book by Katherine Boo who spent three years in the slums behind Mumbai airport to write it.

It's the tale of two families and their friends in the slums and grinding poverty, of 'pickers' and 'sorters' of the rubbish the world unthinkingly throws away but the inhabitants of the slums collect and sell for a few rupees. Every now and then the shadow of a plane flies overhead to remind us the scene is outside an airport with luxury hotels. At one point we're told that the ashes from the slums dung fires fly over the walls into the swimming pools of the hotels and the two worlds collide.

At the centre of the play is Meera Syal who plays a strong women watching her family gradually become 'rich', at least by the standards of the slums. This is largely through the work of her expert 'sorter' son, Abdul, a quiet and gentle soul who is exceptionally good at his job. This leads to friction with her neighbours who sam to think it's unfair that her son is so good at his job. The friction escalates until one of the neighbours - a lady called 'one leg' because of her disability' - douses herself in paraffin and sets fire to herself, blaming Meera's family and others use this as an opportunity to attack the family. Father and son are arrested and beaten by the corrupt police and legal system, then the daughter is also arrested. The family's meagre wealth gradually dwindles through the daily bribes to see them all in prison and to take them food.

The other family is led by another strong woman who plays the 'go-to' woman in the slums. If you have a problem you go to her and she might be able to find you money to help or intervene with the police if you're in trouble. This is her job and she mercilessly extorts money from people who need her. Later in the play we see the price she, herself, pays for being in that position. Her daughter gets an education through her work and the daughter in turn tries to spread her learning and knowledge of the world outside the slums. Very little turns out well.

We also meet the 'pickers', those young men and boys who carry on the family tradition of picking through the rubbish that's dumped outside the airport and hotel complexes. It's dangerous work, with gangs and violence but the rewards can be so tempting to those who have nothing. At one point there's a great scene with Abdul sitting sorting in the centre of the stage and the shadow of an areoplane flies over and suddenly a huge amount of plastic bottles miscellaneous rubbish are dropped onto the stage just behind him. That's a great image for our unthinking pollution but, on the other hand, it generates an income for those in the slums.

The staging was quite simple and the stage itself was strewn with rubbish most of the time. The stage rotates so that we can have scenes in the slums and, when the stage turns, scenes in the hospital and police station just outside the slums. It's not a pretty set but was very effective.

The stand out actors for me were Hiran Abeysekera who played Sunil, the young lad 'picker' whose fortune keeps changing but he had a warmth about him that meant I was on his side throughout. He also closed the play in a most spectacular fashion (which I won't say any more about). Stephanie Street was great as the 'go to' woman, Asha, back rigid in her sari, all so proper and fiercely businesslike but the facade slips when she has to leave her birthday party laid on by her family. Shane Zaza was excellent as Abdul who plays the skilled 'sorter', the still centre of the play and friend of Sunil. Quiet and honourable amongst the noise and dangers of the slums, going to the prison to give himself up in place of his father, there was a quiet, sad dignity throughout his time on the stage.

But, of course, it's Meera Syal who gets most kudos, moving from a brazen matriarch to a humbled woman who freely admits that she's made mistakes and her previous impervious and decisive decision-making led to problems. It's a slow transition and, in part, marked by an increasing use of her scarf to cover her head as she needs to present a different face to the world. Meera is a very talented actress and I was massively impressed with her touching performance as 'Shirley Valentine' a few years back and her commanding presence as Beatrice in 'Much Ado About Nothing' in 2012. I'd love to see Meera take on more stage roles. There was a great interview with her in the Independent last week.

One of the little joys of the production for me was the music, particularly playing a song from the film 'Om Shanti Om', my favourite Bollywood film. As the song 'Deewangi Deewangi' started playing I glanced around at the audience and thought, 'I might be the only one in the audience who knows what this is…'. Part of me hopes I was the only person - but now a whole lot more people know it!

This production is well worth seeing - it's at the start of its run so there's plenty of time to see it. Head over to the Southbank and be prepared to be surprised.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Poppies at The Tower of London

This evening we went to see the poppies installation at the Tower of London. It's only going to be around for another few days before it starts to be taken down so it was a case of see it or miss it. The pavements around the Tower were packed with people taking photos of the installation and a jolly good sight is is too.

Tube from Westminster to London Bridge, walk down Tooley Street (with a slight detour into the all-year Christmas Shop) and down London Place to City Hall. Across Tower Bridge and there they are in the moat of the Tower of London, the enormous poppies installation with some great views of the lights of London behind the Tower.

There's a ceramic poppy for every British soldier that died in the First World War and the poppies are planted in the lawned 'moat' of the Tower. A sea of red surrounding the Tower, some bits lit up and others not. It wasn't really planned for an evening viewing but, so popular has it become, that it was mobbed with people and cameras. Everyone seemingly wants to see the poppies.

It really is quite spectacular and the photos don't really do it justice. A sea of red around the Tower walls and thousands of people wanting to see them at any given time. The place was so packed it was difficult to walk round, particularly since most of the walkways and pavements aren't really lit for crowds in the dark. And it was very crowded.

Anyway, here are a few photos of the poppies installation taken with my phone. And doesn't Tower Bridge look splendid!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Patrik Fitzgerald - 'Safety Pins, Secret Lives and The Paranoid Ward'

In the important news category, you need to know that a new compilation of the songs of Patrik Fitzgerald will be released by Cherry Red on 24 November 2014. It's called 'Safety Pins, Secret Lives and The Paranoid Ward' with 52 tracks from 1977 - 1986. Head on over to Cherry Red to see the track list.

I've blogged about Patrik before, of course, notably after seeing the documentary about him, 'All The Years Of Trying' back in 2009. I'd love to see him play live - that's something I never managed to do back in the day and I've mentioned before how I missed him playing the Oranges & Lemons pub in Oxford back in 1978.

Come back to London Patrik?

A First World War Tale

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin…

It's the late 70s and a Heroine of the Resistance died. She went underground in 1940 and fought against the German occupation of her country. She was forced underground because her name was in Hitler's little black book, someone to be arrested on sight, just as Virginia and Leonard Woolf's names were in the British version if Germany ever invaded. That book was in the exhibition about Virginia Woolf at the National Portrait Gallery earlier this year.

The death of a great heroine was a noteworthy thing in the late 70s and her passing was noted in national newspapers. The telling of her life explained how she came to be in the black book.

She grew up on a farm in northern France at the start of the last century and later, as war came nearer, the farm ended up ruined and in no-man's land between the trenches. People ran for their lives but she hid in the ruined barn when the bombardment started. At some point, a wounded British soldier crawled into the barn for shelter and passed out from his wounds. A German soldier came into the barn to shoot the British tommy but for some reason she attacked the German soldier and fought him off. At the end of the battle she somehow helped the British tommy get back to the British lines, delirious from the pain and unable to express any thanks. She left him at a field hospital and vanished.

The German soldier was Hitler who clearly had a long memory and, when he came to power he had the resources to find that French farm girl and add her name to his list. Fast-forward to 1940 and the girl, now a woman, vanished into the underground and once again fought German invaders. She somehow survived five long years of war and was rightly celebrated and honoured when her country was free again.

Fast forward another 30 odd years to articles about her exploits in the newspapers to commemorate her passing. The articles caught the attention of researchers working for an old soldiers charity who decided to try to track down any British soldiers that might have fought alongside her. So they scoured old army records for any sign of events that might match her exploits. They managed to find the name of the British tommy from that ruined farmhouse and found out that he survived the war and was still alive, living in an old soldier's home on the edge of the town of Crieff in Scotland.

They got in touch with him to tell him the story of the woman who saved his life. He knew nothing about it, being either delirious or unconscious the whole time and had no idea how he got to the field hospital he woke up in without one of his arms. The old man was now in his 80s and had an important part of his lost past pieced together. There were articles about the British soldier saved from being killed by Hitler and the old man became a minor celebrity in old soldiers circles for a short time. He even went to a royal garden party at Buckingham Palace. He was invited back a couple of years later but declined. Ten years later the old soldier passed away.

The old soldier was my grandfather.

This Remembrance Sunday I will remember those who survived the war, maimed and hurt in ways I can't image. I will remember that old soldier and raise a glass to my Granda.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Garden of Remembrance, Westminster Abbey

In the week leading up to Remembrance Sunday the lawns of Westminster Abbey in London turn into the Garden of Remembrance and small crosses and poppies start sprouting in neat patches in the grounds of that venerable old church. The Abbey has been there for, sort of, forever, but I don't know when the Garden first appeared.

I work round the corner from the Abbey so it's easy enough to visit at lunchtime. I never cease to be amazed by how many people seem to have travelled from around the globe to see it. The British Legion always seems to do a roaring trade in selling poppies and little wooden crosses and, more recently, crescent moons, on which people can write the name of the person they're remembering and plant it in the appropriate plot.

The Garden is split into small plots for each regiment and country and there's a map at the entrance gates so you can find the plot you need. Some plots are fuller than others but they're all represented. It's also nice to see the range of generations wandering round the Garden and the range of wars (or 'conflicts') represented. Lots of people were wandering round with cameras and you can get good shots of Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Parliament Square  and the Houses of Parliament in the background. Me? I had my phone.

Some of the names of the plots clearly harked back to when King and Empire called and the Empire sent its sons and some daughters to die in Flanders fields. Others are from more modern wars. The plot for Canada was very full (and some patriotic soul planted a flag) and it was nice to see the plots for Polish and Czechoslovakian servicemen from the Second World War when they joined the Allies. There were lots of African regiments and, of course, the Gurkahs of Nepal who are still part of the British Army.

I look for my Grandfather's regiment to make sure it's there. It always is. He didn't die in the First World War but two of his brothers did. I remember the old photographic portraits of them in uniform hanging in my grandparent's back bedroom when I was young. They died for King and country but was it worth it?

Anyway, here are some photos so you can see what it's like.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

'Sade - Attacking The Sun' - Musee D'Orsay, Paris

In Paris a couple of weeks ago, making the mandatory pilgrimage to Musee D'Orsay, and I stumbled on the Marquis de Sade exhibition on the ground floor. 'Ooer' I thought, and the poster by the entrance had a warning that the images might disturb or shock some people. Even more 'ooer'.

The first room was made up of highly packed video screens all showing different silent horror films that made it quite difficult to get inside and past the people clustering at each screen. Once through this room and the exhibition seemed strangely dark that I would classify as poor lighting rather than atmospheric (which it was probably meant to be). There was also an awful lot of reading on the walls, with quotes from Sade's writings on the walls and then text explaining them - even in English which is quite usual for a Paris exhibition.

It was a rather odd exhibition and I'm not quite sure what was meant to be shocking (although that might reflect on me rather than the exhibition). Yes there were paintings of a naked Judith killing Holofernes, lots of naked women generally but there are in any gallery, jagged modern paintings and the odd bit of sculpture, genitals on display in various states of arousal, blood and gore and so on. But this is 2014 and there are shocking paintings in every gallery, semi-naked and naked women everywhere, scenes and exhibitions of the horrors of war to commemorate 1914 and so on. The only difference seemed to be the dark lighting and the screeds of text on the walls.

It seemed to me that this was about the curator rather than Sade. It seemed to be saying 'look at the wide ranging influence of this brilliant thinker' but I just couldn't see it. It also seemed to go on forever with room after room of odd paintings and justifications for lumping them together in one exhibition. I sort of gave up around the middle of the exhibition when the curator reached the stage of '100 Days of Sodomy' and some strange quotes from Sade and a sign then said it was difficult to illustrate his writings at this point so here are some illustrations of dissected bodies that were popular at the time. What has a dissected body got to do with it? Stick to your themes, curator, or lose your audience.

I'm really not sure what this exhibition was meant to be about or what it was trying to tell me other than the curator has read all of Sade's writings and wants to show off. The only redeeming feature was this painting of 'War' by Rousseau that I've never seen before.

Amanda Palmer - 'The Art Of Asking'

Amanda Palmer's book, 'The Art of Asking', will be published next week and, in the run-up to the big day, Amanda's publishing a series of other potential artwork for the cover.

This is the actual cover:

This is what it might have been:

Sunday, 2 November 2014

'Gypsy' at Chichester Festival Theatre

It should always be a bit of an event to go to the theatre, even more so when it's preceded by a 1.5 hours train journey to get to the town the theatre is in. The latest production at Chichester Festival Theatre is 'Gypsy', one of the big musicals, particularly when it stars Imelda Staunton and Kevin Whately.

I've only seen 'Gypsy' once before and that was on Broadway six years ago with Patti LuPone as Mama Rose. We saw it shortly after the opening night so it was still in the excited stage of the production before it settled down. The Chichester production has been on for a few weeks now so felt nicely established.

'Gypsy' is built around the legend of Gypsy Rose Lee, the queen of burlesque. But it's not really about Gypsy at all, it's all about Rose, the driven show-biz mum who wants her daughters to become stars, first June and then Louise, and it's Louise who makes it as Gypsy. I remember not being too keen on the character of Rose when I first saw her in New York but Imelda brings a layer of humanity, of hope, to the role that makes the character more attractive (but still not terribly likeable). There's something about the three leads that makes this particular show a pleasure - they work well together. Rose, Herbie her agent and lover and elder daughter Louise, make a nice package.

Rose pushes her daughters around the vaudeville circuit of theatres in the hopes of striking it big and, as they age, she keeps the show the same, forcing them to be perpetual children. My favourite scene of the ensemble section is when we see the passing of the years happen in front of us with a strobe light on the players dancing as the children are replaced by adults. That's a great scene, and we're introduced to the young adults that grew out of those children.

Rose, of course, keeps pushing until Baby June elopes with one of the young men and after a brief moment of not knowing what to do, she instantly focuses her full attention on Louise who will now be the star. The drive and focus are quite frightening in a way and Imelda delivered a magnificent 'Everything's Coming Up Roses', throwing herself into the song and her acting credentials coming into play to make this a performance to remember. The intensity was astonishing as she stood tall and declared that she would not be beaten, even by her own daughter. This was a stunning end to the first half and had the audience clapping and hollering for more. And more was to come.

The second half introduces us to the troupe led by Louise, how she becomes Gypsy and how she loves every minute of her new life. From an accidental booking into a burlesque theatre Louise becomes Gypsy Rose Lee, the world famous stripper who keeps everyone guessing.

This all comes about when Rose overhears the theatre manager talking about a star spot for a stripper and she volunteers her daughter to take the place, arguing that they can then leave the burlesque with their heads high since they left as stars rather than as flops. This is a move too far for Herbie who leaves as he and Rose were due to be married and Louise becomes Gypsy. And Gypsy becomes a star. She has one of the best sequences from going on stage for the first time, nervous and unsure, to gradually gaining confidence and more sparkly frocks to eventually ruling the roost as a star. Lara Pulver was great as Louise, moving effortlessly from duckling to swan.

The final song is 'Rose's Turn' when Rose finally strides out on stage as herself, not living through her daughters, and belts out the song. It's easy to confuse what's going on in that song, most of which is happening in Rose's head but we're clapping away at the end as she takes her bows and then we realise she's bowing to an empty theatre, with Gypsy clapping from the wings. It's a powerful scene as mother and daughter reconcile themselves to each other - at least for the moment - and walk off stage arm in arm.

The cast were excellent, particularly Imelda Staunton who brought a hideous humanity to the driven character of Rose. She gave her all in her big songs and she gives trained singers a run for their money. Would I rather see Patti LuPone as Rose? No, give me Imelda any day! The sheer ferocity of 'Everything's Coming Up Roses' was astonishing.

Kevin Whately was lovely as Herbie, the man who can be pushed and pushed but only pushed so far. I'm very familiar with Kevin on telly but have never seen him on stage before - he ought to do more live theatre. I also liked Lara Pulver as Gypsy bringing a nice charm to the role as she grows in confidence and seems to get taller (probably the shoes!) as well as more elegant. I loved the three strippers with a gimmick!

Well done to everyone involved in this production - it's a great show! It's only on for another week but here's hoping for a West End transfer. I think London is ready for Rose again.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

'Waterlillies' at The Orangerie

I visited the Musee De L'Orangerie for the first time while in Paris last week. I've been outside the Orangerie before but never inside and what a glory it is. There was some kind of security alert going on when we first got there there, with people being ushered away from the building but, later, we joined the queue to get in and waited patiently. And waited. And then got in and through the security and could see the glory that awaited us.

Les Nympheas - the waterlillies - are a sight worth seeing. I knew the paintings were big but didn't realise just how big. They're huge!

Two oval rooms with four enormous paintings in each around the walls. The waterlillies ponds in the morning, in the evening, during a rainstorm, at sunset… it's all there in marvellous glory and I have to admit to getting a bit teary. This old man, Claude Monet, going blind and insisting on painting what he sees how he sees it. What's with these old French artists that keeps them going, keeps them creating and making us gasp at the wonder?

I was in awe of the majesty of what I was seeing in the flesh for the first time. We've all probably seen reproductions of some of the waterlillies paintings ht seeing the reality of then is really quite stunning. Seeing the rain drops in the ponds, the willow trees and the waterlillies themselves floating in the shimmering water… it's all quite stunning. And the size of them - wow!

The museum is in the Orangerie in the Tuileries and is much bigger underground than it looks on the surface. The original building has been converted into a space to house Monet's paintings in two large oval rooms but it's been expanded underground as a gallery to show off more French paintings. The waterlillies alone are worth the entry price and I see everything else as a free extra.

There was an exhibition of paintings by Emile Bernard that I didn't find terribly inspiring but the exhibition of paintings from the collection of Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume was well worth wandering round.

The exhibition included works from every post-impressionist you could ask for but I was particularly taken with paintings by Soutine, Derain and Rousseau.  There were some great paintings by Picasso and Cezanne to marvel at but for some unknown reason I loved Andre Derain's 'Le Gros Arbre' (the big tree) and loved Matisse's 'Odalisque a La Culotte Rouges'. Sometimes you've just got to go with the flow. The Orangerie should be on everyone's list of places to visit when they go to Paris.

I will certainly go back and enjoy wallowing in the glory of M Monet and whatever exhibition is going on in support of his waterlillies. It's so worth it!