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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

92: Love and Luz

A week ago we were enjoying the warmth of both Gran Canaria and also of dear friends in their apartment at Anfi. Halcyon days! And now this week feels like a break in itself as, having only returned from London last Sunday, we travel back to spend Christmas in Grantham with most of the family.

Our journey was via the UK as even taking into account the add-on costs of Eurostar, the return fare to Gatwick, a night at the Hilton before an early flight then the return flight itself with easyJet, the total cost each was at least £100 less than had we booked from Paris or Brussels and then both of those options would have entailed a change in Madrid.

The week flew by and we avoided doing too much just for the sake of it, preferring to just "be" and to relax. Our outings were few, a look around the market at Puerto Rico, a couple of hours in Playa del Inglés to show Max where so many previous holidays and adventures had taken place, shopping in Carrefour where, as you queue to pay at the checkouts, you can enjoy a view of the sea, and a successful dolphin search boat trip. The latter tested my assumed sea-legs but it was worth it to see these joyous creatures as they surfed alongside us.

We were spoiled rotten. The apartment was a delight, easily the nicest I have ever had the pleasure of staying in. Situated on the ninth floor of Club Gran Anfi, the view from the terrace was sublime and we could easily have been on an ocean liner. Gracias gracias gracias. Muchas gracias.

Back via London where N&H offered us more hospitality. We missed out on the St Paul's Cathedral Carol Concert as our flight was delayed but we did get to check out another cathedral of sorts: one to commercialism - Westfield in Shepherd's Bush. It was impressive and perfect for anyone with spare cash or credit card capacity. Count me out! We had a lovely evening with Clare and attempted to work wonders with her central heating but since we were all a bit sozzled by the time we looked at the instructions I am not sure whether we have achieved anything much. Stay warm chérie! Thanks to Hamid for another authentic Bangladeshi meal in Queen's Park rather than Brick Lane. Thanks to Rab and to Janet for joining us for Sunday's best value meal in London at Chutney's in Drummond Street.

Luz was the name of our cleaning lady in Gran Canaria - a cheery soul indeed. We could all do with one! Cleaning lady AND a cheery soul!!!

Merry Christmas, Joyeuses Fêtes and as seen almost everywhere on our hols, God Jul!

Monday, November 24, 2008

91: Klass act?

I really don't have anything against Myleene Klass. She always seemed to me to be the one with durable talent in Hear'say, and her classical training gave her an edge that others didn't possess. Recently though, she seems to me to have become the epitome of televisual dumbing down. Not only is she ubiquitous to the point where it is almost easier to count the shows she isn't presenting or being featured in, but she appears to have decided that having the "common touch" means that she has to call everyone "sweetheart". I hope it is not just me, but this young woman is surely in possession of a wider vocabulary, and doesn't it come across, in any case, as just a tad patronising?

Of course I don't know her personally and I have little doubt that Myleene is a lovely person in real life, so what I am bemoaning is her TV "persona": the personality facade behind which the real Myleene lurks. She may be the newest kid on the meedja block, but she is also in real danger of rushing unnecessarily rapidly towards her sell by date.

Latterly Miss Klass can be seen in virtually every single commercial break as one of the M&S advertisment posse alongside, amongst other stalwarts, the long lasting, Twiggy. Myleene recently provided the educated "totty" in Last Choir Standing; played second fiddle to Gok Wan in his latest televisual vehicle, Miss Naked Beauty, in which she appears to be wearing rather more slap than Auntie Gok should really approve of for his potential ambassadors; hosted Divas 2 yesterday evening; and is about to take over from Nicky Hambleton-Jones on (How To Look) 10 Years Younger. Poor Nicky's wings didn't spread any further than presenting this rather cruel and yet obvious programme that offered the scalpel as an easy way of retrieving faded looks and still she found herself dumped for the (7 years) younger model. There's a lesson there surely?

Myleene is losing her Klass. She is becoming just another girl done good pseudo personality with seemingly little discernment about the work she chooses to do. Of course she is a working mum too, a perfect one at that, displayed Demi Moore like holding her distended belly on the front of a magazine, yet just weeks later slipping effortlessly into the slinky designs she sports for her presenting projects. Does anyone remember the crumpled black binliner on one episode of Last Choir Standing.

Her almost impossible decision must have been whether to cash in on her current popularity and go for the quick cash or to play for keeps. Perhaps she has a game plan and we won't after all be seeing much of her in a few years. For her sake I trust that she has worked this all out and is just making well-payed hay whilst the celebrity sun shines. Otherwise Klass won't last.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

90: An abbreviated adieu

It was the first French funeral I had ever attended and I really didn't know what was expected of me or indeed what would happen. I knew that, contrary to J's wishes, his father had decided on burial rather than cremation, but quite what the funeral entailed I had little idea.

We arrived just before 1400 at the cemetery in Libercourt, a small town off the A1 from Lille to Paris. It is a typical French graveyard, though not on the edge of town as many are, and completely unlike the grassy regimented war cemeteries we often see in the media. Walled with gates, concrete pathways and gravel, they have always reminded me a little of municipal dumps and I suppose in some ways they are, though somewhat prettier.

Max and I were in charge of the floral tribute and learned that we should place it by the chapel just across the road. This turned out to be a brick structure inside the main gate and not unlike a large bus shelter: it was one bare concrete-floored room with double doors opened to the outside. We found a place for the flowers and retreated to the undertakers' opposite to await the arrival of the coffin. Standing there rather uselessly, at one point Max's mother took pity on a weeping solitary man and joined him to our sad little party.

We were in fact there to support J-M who was J's partner of almost two years. We didn't know J particularly well though we were saddened by both the manner and the fact of his passing. As none of J-M's three children was present, we became de facto chief mourners.

We made our way back to the shelter/chapel, where the coffin had now been installed on a gurney covered with a richly coloured cloth. We stood inside lined up on either side. It was only when the mourners came in one by one to pay their last respects that I realised why we were there. Keeping my eyes mostly on the floor or towards the coffin avoiding people's eyes I nevertheless was able to see that the dress code was smart-casual with the emphasis on dark casual. I felt a little overdressed in my suit and black tie. Most people advanced to the foot of the coffin, stood a moment or two in contemplation, touched the coffin either briefly or more lingeringly and some made the sign of the cross. Once in a while an over-eager hand would literally leave the coffin rocking and J's brother almost tenderly held on to the other end. J-M managed to get through the ordeal without obvious tears though J's father's red-ringed eyes and the one girl who could not hold back her sobs, stretched my ability to control my tear ducts.

It felt like an eternity with each extended gap between mourners seemingly the last till finally the funeral directors came to take the family flowers and to place the coffin in the vehicle that would convey J to his final resting place. Once again his brother surprised me when he carefully wiped the surface of the coffin where the flowers had been. We had heard he was a bit of a brute and not accepting of his deceased brother's sexuality.

The cemetery was still resplendent with chrysanthemums of every hue placed there, as is the custom, for Toussaint (All Saints Day) on 1st November less than two weeks before. In the dazzling early winter sunshine you could for a moment have believed yourself in a formal garden.

Not 50m from the chapel we came to a vault, a concrete lined grave, lonely in the middle of the cemetery and with no immediate neighbours. It seemed a rather functional unforgiving spot for someone who less than a week before had been alive although evidently deeply unhappy. Then the coffin was propped up over the opening on a metal bar. It was at this point that we were directed along a path and we found ourselves blinking against the brightness in a line up. Max's mother ducked out, as I would have done had I known that every mourner would then make their way down the line murmuring sinceres condoléances and shaking our hands. This must be something like the Queen feels on a regular basis though mostly for happier occasions. For me it felt somewhat fraudulent and afterwards I learned that some people had asked who the tall fair haired man was. At least for them I had added a little mystery to the day.

Then back to the grave, into which the coffin had already been lowered, to see J-M drop a bouquet of dark red roses onto the lid. That was a particularly poignant moment. That was about it really. We stood to one side with J-M for a few minutes then made our way back to his house for coffee and chocolate biscuits. No words of caring and love had been said. There had been no ceremony of any kind, though I suppose we had taken part in a rite of sorts. Later on but before dark, J-M returned to say a final farewell when he had the cemetery to himself and all the mourners and family had departed. Perhaps then he was able to take time to think or to say the words he needed for his own fond adieu.

This was a life much grieved but perhaps the least celebrated I can remember. Perhaps there hadn't been too much to celebrate? J was 29.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

89: Yes we can! Yes he did!

It could have almost been an anti-climax but this morning there is a feeling of euphoria in the air, a feeling of change and possibility, the beginning of a new era. I cannot for a moment pretend to know much about US politics but I do know that the Bush years have finally been swept aside and his much discredited two terms will soon be consigned to the history books where they belong. Barack Obama represents something different, something fresh and exciting a huge antidote to what went before. He's the first major leader of the western world who is younger than I am, yet his appeal is broad across ages and cultures except perhaps the white vote which still had a majority for McCain, a decent man whose conceding address was dignified and magnanimous.

I instinctively supported Hillary Clinton but saw that her experience meant that she is linked inextricably to the past. I wondered whether, having accepted the Democratic presidential nomination, Obama should choose the New York senator as running mate. He didn't, and the supposed "dream ticket" never was. He was right. It would have been as distracting a double act as it would have potentially been a good one. Will he now appoint her to a senior position in his government. Perhaps that is where she will be able to do most good rather than in the "non-position" that is the Vice-President's role.

This takes me back to 1997 and the long night when Labour swept away the tawdry Tories. We were then full of hope, and it is fair to say 11 years later that some of those hopes have been dashed, some of that expectation not realised. Much of what the Labour goverment has achieved is not well communicated and languishes hidden away in boring black and white whilst the new Conservatives' slick PR and colouful marketing grabs all the headlines.

Obama has four years, possibly eight, to turn the biggest democracy in the world around. Let's all give him the space and the support he needs and accept he won't be able to work miracles.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

88: Paris in the autumn sunshine

We've just returned from a weekend in Paris where the sun shone as if it were July or August and the cardie I had packed remained resolutely in the suitcase. What's not to love about Paris? As much as I adore London and Barcelona and New York and Berlin, there is something about Paris that remains a constant draw. Max is not convinced perhaps because being French he has something of the distaste for his capital city that some in the UK have for London. Is it jealousy? Is it the apparent rudeness of the Parisians compared to the warmth of those who live in the country? I put that down to the additional stresses of living and working in any major city where your time and money are soon spent getting too and from work and enjoying at least some of what being in huge cultural centre offers.
We ate on Friday evening at Le Fetiche in Auteuil - we've been going there for a few years since the brasserie opposite lost its appeal - and I was taken aback at how expensive it has become. Two salads and two beers in total came to 36€. Later in the weekend we were taken out for drinks and I enjoyed two 25cl glasses ie less than a pint in total at a price that equated to approaching £10 a pint! Of course it is beautifully served in the correct glass at your table but that seemed somewhat excessive.

We discovered the Musée des Arts Décoratifs almost by accident. We'd been heading for the Musée de la Publicité only to find that they both were to be found at the same address ie part of one wing of the Louvre. We didn't ever find the Advertising Museum but the Decorative Arts collection was a delight taking us from the Middle Ages right up to the 21st century along galleries of carefully chosen object and numerous room settings. The views from the windows out onto the sun drenched Tuilleries Gardens and across to the Louvre were simply stunning.

After a refreshing apéro of champagne, we made dinner at Max's aunt's place - a fairly successful rösti with smoked salmon, fromage frais and coriander followed by a risotto of leeks, bleu d'Auverne, garlic and walnuts.

On Sunday we took ourselves along to Le Mondial De L'Automobile 2008. where we indulged our dreams a little by sitting in rather less ostentatious cars than some might have thought! The Smart Diesel for example, and the newly revamped Fiat 500. It was, as expected rather crowded, as many I suspect were not in a position to buy or replace but had allowed themselves 12€ of mechanical fantasy.

Then we visited Le 104 an arts centre opened in the Municipal Undertakers building in a rather run down area of the city. There wasn't a lot to see apart from the magnificent building but eventually artists will rent the studios and exhibition spaces and the public will be encouraged to come and watch and ask questions.

Unusually, the big department stores were open on Sunday offering big discounts and promotions. The debate continues as to whether or not Sunday opening should be become a regular feature of the weekend. My vote would be for opening but perhaps turning the current situation on its head ie have a set number of Sundays when the stores had to close.

Monday, September 15, 2008

87: Two hundred bulbs of garlic, and a Greek Isle...

We spent the weekend at Max's parents and took the opportunity to avail ourselves, as we do every year, of one of the local delicacies ie smoked garlic. Originally garlic from Arleux was smoked to prolong its keeping but it has become a speciality in its own right and famed across France, indeed there are calls for ail fumé d'Arleux to be allowed to register its own appellation d'origine. There are just a few producers left, most of whom operate smallholdings growing the precious crop. They tend also to offer other produce throughout the year to the general public and bargain fresh lettuces are to be had during the summer months as well as tomatoes straight from their kitchen gardens. But back to the garlic. It is available in tresses in three sizes: 20, 45 and 90, the more garlic bulbs the smaller they become though we bought a 90-er for ourselves and one for the bopes (beaux-parents) and they are a very reasonable size. For those doing the maths we also bought a 20-er for our neighbours here in Hellemmes.

On the subject of local produce, I , for some reason, was suddenly struck by the thought that I have never knowingly see endive being grown around here although this is the world's biggest producing area of this wonderful and versatile salad vegetable. How could this possibly be? So on to the internet it was and I discovered that endive, or chicory is a member of the sunflower family and that the pale and creamy tightly-packed leaves are produced as secondary growth on a root that can also be used ground and roasted to make a drink. We don't see the familiar endive in the fields because it is either grown inside or forced under a covering of soil or sand. More when the season comes!

Greek island. OK, I confess. We went to see Mamma Mia! with the bopes in Cambrai yesterday afternoon. We all LOVED it - me for the second time. No wonder the film has done so well in the UK (the cinema was only 1/3 full yesterday) as it just the antedote needed for the disappointing summer we have experienced. No marks for cinematic excellence nor for the tenuous storyline. Full marks for making a lot of people very happy.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The other side of the tracks

Damn and blast! Wasted an opportunity last week. We had the perfect "Hello" scenario ie looking after a million euro pad in the centre of Lille we could have passed off as being ours. Peter and Max at home. It could have made the perfect chez nous story. Loft living urban, regeneration, forays to the shops, walks around roads and areas otherwise only driven through. Hermès headscarves and toypoodles tucked into Louis Vuitton poochbags as we teetered around le Vieux Lille checking out the designer shops. Oh well! Back to the other side of the railway tracks - literally - and reality.
BTW yes that is a dead cow sprawled on the floor...and one more thing, it only just struck me why the french version of Big Brother was called Loft Story. Yes, being a bit slow here. It wasn't because the fascinating daily interchanges played out in a loft - oh no sirree - 'twas a play on words or rather because of the way the French automatically pronounce "love" as "lowv" not "luv". Geddit? Yes, Love Story! Going for a lie down...

Monday, August 04, 2008

Tripping. The light - fantastic!

A week ago yesterday was one of those balmy evenings we have been dreaming about but till now have yet to experience this year. And what better for a sultry soirée than a spot of argentinian tango in the Vieille Bourse next to the Grand' Place in the centre of Lille? There is something completely seductive about tango: something that merges control with passion, chill with chili! Somehow we found ourselves lingering for an hour and a half mesmerised by the sight of maybe 30 couples as they moved across the dance floor.

Then yesterday we went for second helpings. The evening not so balmy indeed it was drizzling yet the dancers were still a-strutting their stuff across the rather damp exterior dancefloor. Some went barefoot to avoid mishap. This time I got photos! I overheard a Brit moaning that there is no culture in the UK. Something of an exaggeration but certainly the dance and the venue are something very special.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Atonement Trailer
Vidéo envoyée par FocusFeatures

Wow! What a wonderful film. It was Merchant Ivory with added depth. It was Bridges of Madison County with less schmaltz. It was Saving Private Ryan with less gore. It was just brilliant.

The cinematography is excellent and the leads, James McAvoy and Keira Knightley, very easy on the eye.

Not sure why I missed this one when it first came out but the lovely people who organise and run cinema in France regularly put on a season and this one is of 53 films released so far this year at only 3€ a pop! Later in August there is going to be another week of 4€ tickets for new stuff. Makes you proud to live in France where cinema is known as the septième art after Architecture, Sculpture, Painting, Music, Dance and Poetry.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Pyrrhic Eurovision Victory?

Couldn't resist this but sometimes schadenfreude can be such fun and it is an opportunity to post this picture...! For some reason only known to a greater power than me, I found myself checking on the success of the winning Russian entry to the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest, Believe by Dima Bilan. It appears that not that many did despite heaping points on the song on the night. It has been atop the Russian charts ever since perhaps to be decreed a permanet feature but the only other world chart it has managed to creep into is - some irony here surely - Sweden! And there it peaked at number 28.

Take it away Dima! Watch the video here

Have a wonderful weekend all my readers - both of you!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

81: Home

We just got back from a long weekend/short week in Lippstadt in Germany: my place of birth. Is it something to do with getting older or do I love it more with every visit? As a child I spent a number of summers there staying with family and it was always a bit of a chore, a bit exciting but a bit nerve-wracking having to get by in another language. I even spent some time on the road with one uncle who was a lorry driver - now sadly deceased. These days when we go it is to stay with my first cousin in her delightful flat near the centre overlooking some very well kept ruins - NO I refer not to myself but a wonderfully preserved abbey.

I saw not a trace of doggie doo on the pavements and only a tiny amount of litter, fabulous facilities for cyclists and pedestrians alike and lots of people waiting for the green man even when the road was quiet.

On the Sunday we took a summer fete in a tiny village where we were unexpectedly serenaded by a group singing celtic songs rather beautifully. The place was called Gut Hauswinken and was in the middle of nowhere. A small grouping of renovated typical farm buildings containing a cultural centre of some repute. Unlikely but very lovely. The sun blazed from a cloudless sky that day. I remember it well because it was the last time we actually had any sunny weather!
We traveled (there and) back by train - a practically incident free journey - ladened with essig essenz, pflaumenmuss but no new Birkenstocks. I have to admit checking out estate agents....

Sunday, June 08, 2008

80: Much ado about nothing or is it?

Almost two months since I put finger to keyboard - how did that happen? So much to comment on and so little to say I s'pose. Boris is now mayor and nothing untoward has, so far, happened, Hillary Clinton has conceded the Democratic candidacy in the US, SuperSarko has seen his star start a slow rise in the opinion polls and Gordon continues to shuffle along seemingly at a loss as to what to do. By the time I get round to writing my next entry will the price of oil have gone up so much that we will have effectively been forced to reduce our personal carbon footprints? With figures being bandied around about a premium to be paid on transatlantic flighs I begin to wonder if the idea of a long weekend to New York New York is something that will soon become a distant dream rather than the real possibility it once was. Perhaps that was just a moment in time. Indeed looking for a flight to the Canaries for December I noted that the tax alone for indirect flights from Paris was 177€.

Enough of the politics! I am well into the second month of relative inactivity since my contract with Better Bankside ended. Partly self enforced with various excuses and partly because I haven't really done much about looking for another contract. There has been a minor step forward in that there now exists a "micro" site dedicated to the working me! Check out the Newman-Legros Solutions page. There are possibilities in the pipeline but so far nothing concrete.

One of the brightest moments recently came during the visit of Ange and Pat when we took in the Sex And The City movie. I realise that some might be shocked or maybe just surprised at my predilection for such fluff but I am a SATC addict and have the complete boxed set of all 94 - count 'em - episodes. Actually my sister still has some of them on loan. Despite some of the less than enthusiastic reviews this is a FUN film and an escape from the mundane. Indeed the cost of getting to the actual place becoming increasingly prohibitive perhaps we will be reduced to watching old re-runs of Cagney and Lacey and I am already looking forward to owning SATC on DVD.

So what's coming up? A trip to London during which time we celebrate Angela's Freedom Pass. We hope to see The Common Pursuit at the Menier Chocolate Factory whilst in town. There are any number of reasons for seeing the play not least because Nigel Harman is in it. Then later in the month we are in Lippstadt, the town of my birth some 48 years ago. I hope to take advantage of our stay by buying, not Manolos, new Birkenstocks, another bottle of essig essenz and some 4711. I know how to live...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

79: Mayorial musings - London and Lille

I have to admit to less of a growing respect, and more of a diminishing despair about the foppish (Alexander) Boris (de Pfeffel) Johnson, candidate for London Mayor. I discovered his full name recently and this has for some strange reason made him slightly less unendearing.

He does appear to have grown in stature as the campaign has unrolled though I still cannot believe he could do a good job of being in charge of the UK capital. His assertion that there needs to be new blood at County Hall and claim that he is the one who can provide it, has struck a cord with many for whom Ken Livingstone was a compromise candidate or maybe even a protest one.

Ken is looking a little tired after 8 years in the post: it is a demanding job. Even so the polls are looking close, too close to call. How ironic would it be if the man elected first time around in spite of the Labour party, may lose office third time around because he is their official candidate? There can be no doubt at all that the Labour government's current lack of popularity will be to Boris's benefit.

I cannot help but think that the lack of interest in politics and the political system must be playing more than a small part in this too. Boris is, if anything, less the Tory candidate and more the non-candidate, the character candidate. Against Ken the consummate politician and Brian, probably the best all round candidate but the one with least personality, one can start to see the appeal...

Whereas here in Lille, we have recently re-elected Martine Aubry to lead us. I say "we" because I count myself amongst those who gave her their franchise. Somewhere in the top ten of popular politicians in France (Betrand Delanoë, re-elected Mayor of Paris is number one), Martine has garnered respect rather than popularity during her stint in Lille. Indeed this morning she officially succeeded the pépé of the Nord, Pierre Mauroy, to the presidency of the LMCU (Métropole Communauté urbaine). Mauroy now an octagenarian, is largely credited with revitalising the town we see today and was instrumental in securing Lille's place on the Eurostar network. Merci Pierre! If not for him we would perhaps not be living in Lille today. I look forward to being as grateful to Martine.

78: Little Mouse

Small and serious on the Paris métro,
Clutching his souris peluche, a little wan
Touched an ancient need somewhere deep,
He met my eyes briefly, looked away,
And there I was in the pushchair,
Forty five years ago,
And maybe fifteen years too late
To contemplate my own little mouse.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

77: A place in the sun - special?

It is with some relief and slight disappointment that I have to report that I am not going to be taking part in a Channel4 programme. Having spoken at length with the producer/director a couple of weeks ago I was all set to be filmed as I arrived at St P's International and had it in mind that perhaps they would stand me a glass or two of champers in that grotty long bar. I wonder if they realised that I have recently received my Carte Blanche from those lovely Eurostar people? I now have access to Le Salon - the business class lounge - where it was almost too embarrassing to help myself to the drinks and snacks made freely available. I am sure I will get over that and plunge in!

I really didn't get the premise of the programme though. How interesting would 30 minutes dedicated to people who travel from France back to London on Eurostar be? I suppose they really wanted an angle and I don't really have anything that fascinating to say... I was in any case beginning to wonder what the quid pro quo would be. It all seemed a bit one way.

Anyhow, apparently they found someone who does the commute more regularly and who lives in the Pas de Calais. I have my suspicions that they confused PdeC with Calais itself. They hadn't done much homework because they didn't know there are no season tickets available on Eurostar and that the train only stops twice a day at Calais making travelling from that station tricky.

Still, on reflection, I realise that there is nothing more popular these days than being a voyeur into someone else's life - why else would anyone want to read this blog? - but there wouldn't have been much substance in the programme. I shall be looking out for it with interest nevertheless, though we cannot, as yet, receive Channel4 via our satellite. Roll on FreeSat!!!

76: Let there be light!

Progress has been made at Chateau Newman-Legros and, all of it, during my absence in London! Our kitchen hitherto slightly cave-like is now receiving shafts of daylight which give it a completely different atmosphere and will save on electric bills too. The picture alongside shows light cascading into the room, just the start of the transformation as we have yet to dismantle the false ceiling and allow the light to come directly in. The skylight - 1m x 2m - forms part of the new roof above the kitchen which was previously covered with corrugated cement/asbestos sheeting somewhat worse for wear. Now we have spanking new rather industrial double skinned insulated steel sheets. If you say it quickly enough it could almost pass for traditional hand-baked terracotta tiles...

On the first floor the beginning or even the middlings of a bathroom which which pertains to our bedroom. We spent time yesterday perusing tiles and debating where the tiling should end and whether we could match two types. Such is the excitement of home improvement. Looks as if we shall be opting for mosaic in blue or green or blue-green with, perhaps some old-fashioned bevelled white oblong tiles.

Now if only the recent £50 premium bond win had had a couple more 000s!

Friday, February 29, 2008

75: A Tale of Two Hats

I had forgotten how bloody miserable London can be in the rain and I am sitting here in Southwark "at the controls" of The Audience Club for the last day turning the lights on early as the light has seeped away from the day and it is almost evening.

This has been an interesting experience which has involved me wearing my Better Bankside hat every morning and my The Audience Club one every afternoon though the two have inevitably overlapped a little.

Angela is back in the wee small hours tonight - we may go and surprise her at the airport! - and I shall be relieved in more than one way of my responsibilities. It has been frenetic, almost stressful, and certainly has left me with a stiff neck at the end of each day spent staring at the computer screen whether it has been writing copy for the BB E Brief or uploading new shows onto the Theatre Ladder - join up if you want find out what that is!

It has surprised me at least a little to discover just how difficult it is to entice people to go and see a show. With seats to fill and venues to support I even resorted to special offers giving 4 tickets for every 2 paid for. I say "paid for" but in reality it is only a booking fee so 4 tickets for 4 quid!

What can you do? Are people really quite so despondent. Are they perhaps just choosy about the shows they want to see ie I wonder if Sound of Music would have much trouble selling out at £2 a ticket? Can they not be bothered to go slightly out of their way to see some creative piece say in Hackney or Croydon?

I wonder if in fact it is not just indifference though there are people who saw "free membership" and signed up with brusque alacrity and yet have booked to see precisely nothing in four months. Perhaps the telly has been especially great over that period (Life On Mars was repeated), or perhaps - like someone who once joined the ICA because ie me and I didn't go once in that one year I was a paid up member - it felt good to belong to something "worthwhile".

Thinking back I remember now that the call of home after a long day in the office was always louder than the gentler enticements of culture, be it yer actual thinking stuff, or the pub kind. Nothing changed there then. Just shows there are some things you can't even give away.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

74: Does anyone give a toss?

It took only a few hours for the long-awaited news to slip out that Sarko and Carla had finally - two and a half months after meeting - tied the knot. Some have been waiting for much longer and still wait. The bets are now on as to how long their union will last with favourite currently that they will split by the end of the year. The Sarkozy Circus trundles on.

Let's hope that the happy couple took time out from their celebrations to partake in the tradition of La Chandeleur when crêpes are consumed all over France to mark what we know as Candlemas the day when Christ was presented at the temple.

Let's hope that they tossed their pancake with one hand whilst holding a coin in the other to ensure prosperity throughout the year. Let's hope that they managed not to drop it as this toowill bring good luck. France needs both.

Super Sarko is onto his third marriage, so one can only surmise that he believes in it. It is her first - so maybe she is a convert. Sadly he continues to deny access to those rights and obligations to same sex couples whose only alternative is the ground-breaking PACS which has been left behind by most of Europe, and which affords only 17% of the rights of married people. One wonders why, given his poor track record, the happy couple didn't choose to be PACSed...

Thought the pancake's shape is supposed to represent the sun returning to herald the end of winter (seasons must have changed surely), if Petit Nicolas is to avoid tossing a pancake into his own face - better the role of ringmaster at Cirque Sarko than clown - he would do well to direct some sunshine on inevitable full equality.