Parenting the self

They do say that the child is father to the man, or if they don’t I just have. There might just be more in this than first meets the eye…

I don’t work full time as some years ago I decided that rather than upgrading my “life” to have bigger and better examples of stuff like houses, cars, etc I would rather work less and have more free time.  I was lucky enough to be able to make this particular choice, and so now work down to a salary – if you pay me more per hour, I will work fewer hours.  I’d like to claim this came about as a result of some stunning, Damascene insight but it can, in fact, be explained by laziness.  I refused to register for VAT – if the government wants me to collect tax on its behalf, it can pay the going rate (something it seems reluctant to do) – and so this capped my maximum income for the year.  Having found this income  plenty to fund my fairly modest lifestyle I saw no reason to change when I returned to working directly for “the man”.

As a result, I should have heaps of free time and a very relaxed and restful life – but somehow this doesn’t seem to have happened.  I seem to spend my whole life racing around like a maniac trying to “get things done”.   Some loss of time can be explained by my voluntary work for a local music festival, but for all the rest the only person to blame must be yours truly.

My obsession with travelling by public transport or bike and trying to buy local or somewhat ethical goods uses up a chunk of time.  This is getting out of hand, and is probably based on self-delusion, but despite owning a pretty fuel-efficient car I still feel guilty using it – all the more since seeing a cyclist wearing shorts in blizzard conditions in Edinburgh yesterday (I couldn’t help but be impressed and now feel that I should be trying harder).

I also like to cook two square meals a day – well, if I’m honest, what I really like is consuming the results of this process with the cooking being a necessary precursor (well, until the replicator makes it from Star Trek to reality) – and that takes a little longer than the “prick lid and microwave for 2 mins” school of dining.  The cycling (and gym visiting) means that I can eat these two cooked meals and the myriad other “snacks” that feature in a typical day without worrying about my figure (well, other than the risk of wasting away) but probably means that all the money I save on petrol, I eat (but surely that’s a lot more fun!).

Like many in today’s world, the internet and its various offspring waste quite a lot of my time – you’d be amazed how long these posts take to write: trust me the correlation between time employed and quality is very weak.  However, this is mostly the analogue of water one can still add to a vessel already “full” of sand.

No, I think the biggest consumer of my free time is my attempt to keep the Arts in this country going, single-hand if I must.  I’ve written about my addiction to theatre, but there are also the visual arts, music and comedy – even before we think about reading which provides one of the many reasons to use public transport: the Law takes rather a dim view of reading a book while sipping from a glass of red wine when driving (it’s health and safety gone mad!).

Last Monday, to help me copy with the loss of Being Human from our screens, I had a day off and took myself to London (obviously waiting for off-peak fares and my Network Card to kick in first – I’m not made of money).  This day illustrates rather nicely my slightly dysfunctional relationship with leisure.

Having arrived in town, I grabbed a quick bite of lunch and a particularly fine  hot chocolate (it may have lacked the marshmallows and whipped cream of some, but few could touch it for taste or beauty of presentation) at the Workshop Coffee Company in Wigmore Lane.  It was then only a short stroll to the Wigmore Hall for a couple of lunchtime string quartet courtesy of the Arcanto Quartet.

After that, a quick Jubilee line dash took me to the Hayward Gallery for the Light Show exhibition.  This is absolutely stunning – it brought out both my inner child (never far away) and my inner super-hero (rather more elusive) and I’d rather like several of the exhibits (albeit a little scaled down) for my home – it certainly makes you think about how drab and mundane most of our lighting is. It was the only exhibition which I have seen small children enjoying (some of them very small) and I would thoroughly recommend it to parents (though it wasn’t cheap – and I only had to pay half-price).

Cunning use of the tube delivered me (with a minimum of troglodyte meandering) to 10 Greek Street for dinner and tips on where my roasted celeriac patties had gone wrong.  They tasted fine, but lacked structural integrity as I’d missed out the need to double-crumb them.  I am turning into the Norm Peterson of 10GS – and am trying to view that as a good thing.

A quick tube dash then took me back to the South Bank and to the National theatre to see This House.  The play has received glowing reviews, but I wasn’t entirely sure if it would be my cup of tea – I find journalists are generally more interested in the world of politics (or celebrity, depending on the paper) than am I.  It is set in the Whips’ Offices during the Labour government of 1974-9 – and I am not hugely fascinated by politics and was a small boy during the period in question (though I do remember they had the audacity to hold a general election on my birthday which, in those dark days, meant no children’s television).  I needn’t have worried, like all good writing, whilst politics provided the context, the play was about people and their thoughts, actions and interactions.  It was fascinating, entertaining and unexpectedly moving – and three hours is soon gone (though that may just be my age talking).

I finally made it home at 01:15 having left at 10:00 the previous morning and filled almost every point in between with incident and moment.  No wonder I am generally exhausted – if this is how I spend my day off, a day in the office can only be restful by comparison.  I am forcibly reminded of the time, some 10 years ago, that I was given responsibility for a friend’s 10 year old son for the day in London (** spoiler alert **  no-one died).  Having no parenting experience or skills, I planned an incredibly full day – which nearly culminated in me buying the lad a long island iced tea to accompany his dinner (I did mention I lacked experience, such a purchase was fine for my normal dinner companions).  The following day I was totally exhausted – but so, I discovered, was he.  As a result I learned an important lesson in parenting – it is good for both parties if a parent (or supply parent, in my case) allows their children some time to be bored.  I think it may be time I applied this important lesson to self-parenting!

A stage I’m going through…

As I set hands to keyboard, I see it is a good six weeks since I last posted.  Well, ‘good’ if you view the arrival of a new post from GofaDM in much the same way as a zebra greets the tender, watery embrace of a peckish crocodile.

This period of neglect follows a rather heavy period of work (something the regular reader will know that I usually try to avoid) which has left me with little time or energy to render my musings in electronic type.  Despite, or perhaps as a result of, this lack of new material visitors continue to come to my shop door and this has shamed me into returning to my laptop.  I also have whole heaps of plans for posts, s many that they are now keeping me awake at night and the only way to exorcise them is to send them out into the unfeeling world (or at least the only way I am currently going to try).

In a, probably vain, attempt to retain my somewhat tenuous grasp on sanity I have been turning to the Arts over these difficult early weeks of 2013.  Little do the philistines in charge of this country’s purse-strings realise what a vital role the Arts play in the continued economic viability of the UK (or at least in my part thereof).  Still, on the basis that most government policy is decided on the basis of anecdotes – at best (certainly evidence seems to be largely ignored)  – I hope this may have a salutary effect on future funding.  Whilst books, music, comedy, television and cinema are all important – the main plank of my strategy to keep the “men in white coats” (with their vans with such nicely tinted windows) from my door has been the theatre.  This would have astounded the me of little more than 18 months ago who had barely been in a theatre for more than a decade.  It would seem that the theatre is rather more addictive than is generally realised – maybe it’s the smell of the grease paint?

My theatre-going began with classics from ages past – and this continues.  Among these classics, I’ve seen two plays this year (both farces) by Arthur Wing Pinero, a character I had previously assumed was a fictional creation from the late night Radio 4 show Date with Fate hosted by the splendid voice of Charles Gray in the guise of AWP.  Turns out he (AWP not CG)  was also a real playwright of the late nineteenth century and despite choosing The Magistrate on the basis of a complete misunderstanding, it was a scream and on the strength of this example I went on to see Trelawney of the Wells at the Donmar Warehouse last week.  This was also good fun – though less farcical, but with more heart – and the interval ice cream whilst on the expensive side was rather larger than the usual theatre fare.  Interval snack mention: tick.

However, the most exciting theatre I’ve seen has been new (or at least recent) writing.  This often also has the benefit of being staged in smaller, more intimate venues.  I have come to realise that I am much more willing to take a chance on a play that may be outside my traditional “comfort zone” than I am with a film or a TV programme – rather an odd choice to make from a cost perspective as I’m taking chances with the most expensive option, but so far it has worked really well.  Most of my choices have proven to be both entertaining and thought-provoking.  Many I’ve chosen on the basis of proper, broadsheet reviews (which give me some idea of what I’m going to see) but some, as this past weekend, on much flimsier criteria.

My first was selected on the basis of a single actor (though it later transpired to include Meera Syal as well, so two actors).  The actor in question, Damian Molony, I think is quite excellent as Hal in Being Human and was also great in Travelling Light at the National last year.  However, more important than his acting chops was the fact that he is the man who introduced me, via the medium of Twitter, to 10 Greek Street – so I owed him one and the least I could go was go and see his latest play in partial recompense.  This play, if you don’t let us dream, we won’t let you sleep has the longest title of anything I’ve seen and was the most overtly political.  It has received mixed reviews – the Torygraph particularly took against it – but I found it darkly entertaining, if occasionally uncomfortable, and the most thought-provoking thing I’ve seen yet.  Criticism seem to fall into two camps: either that it would not be suitable as an undergraduate economics course (though something that was suitable would have made very poor theatre in the absence of a truly remarkable lecturer) or that it lacked character development.  This later would have been tricky to fix with more than 20 characters played by 8 actors across a mere 75 minutes.  I’d say it was highly successful at achieving the author’s aims in a very buttock and bladder friendly period of time.  The acting was also first rate and, as it turned out, I recognised fully half of the cast.  So successful was it that I went out and bought a book (from a flesh-and-blood bookshop) on economics directly afterwards – not something I ever saw myself doing.  I should perhaps note the stirling work of Tim Harford on More or Less and John Kay on a Point of View (both on BBC Radio 4) in rehabilitating the whole field of economics for me in the period prior to Saturday’s play and book purchase.  Expect the standard of economic discourse on GofaDM to improve markedly in the weeks to come (well, I say ‘expect’ but perhaps that may be building expectations too high , only time will tell).

Saturday’s second play was in the basement of the Hampstead Theatre which meant I visited Swiss Cottage tube station which is quite lovely (I’d recommend a visit), largely as it appears rather less “improved” than many of its brethren.  Another play with a long title, I know how I feel about Eve, this time chosen on the basis of a tweet by the stand-up comic Rob Rouse.  By the way, I have been to new plays with shorter titles – the previous week I went to see Port at the National (nothing to do with the delicious drink from Iberia, bur rather a reference to Stockport) which was also very good.  ikhIfaE was excellent, despite a subject matter I probably wouldn’t have chosen with greater advanced information, and in shades of the first (and best, for my money) of the latest series of Black Mirror raised interesting questions about the nature of identity when trying to replace the dead.  Again, in and out in a very reasonable 70 minutes – I find I’m rather liking these tighter plays, even though you do miss out on the interval ice cream.

Whilst I now find myself starting to becoming twitchy if I haven’t been to the theatre for more than a few days, even at my current (accelerating?) rate of consumption I cannot keep new (and old) British theatre going alone.  So, can I urge all GofaDM readers to make the effort to visit the theatre – it need not be that expensive (oddly new theatre is often cheaper than old, despite the works being stubbornly within copyright) – and they could use the money (as to be honest can the Arts more generally).  Why not try something new or just different to your normal fare?  It has certainly worked for me!  If it affects you as it has me, we can form a new take on AA – Audience Anonymous – to try and manage our condition (something Hal would certainly understand).


This morning, to paraphrase Shelley, I did emerge from sleep unusually filmy-eyed – I wonder if this is some some sort of autonomic response to the rain, perhaps my body was attempting to improve its waterproofing? – so I thought it an excellent opportunity to talk of my recent cinematic experiences.

2012 seems to have been a rather good year cinematically – or at least I’ve been more often than usual and have not only enjoyed the fare on offer but even learned a few things.  Given this blog’s commitment to the Reithian principles of broadcasting (or at least the education and information ones, entertainment seems to have rather fallen by the wayside) and mining my drab, wretched life for all it’s worth, I thought I should share these insights with the world.

Headhunters allowed me to expand my Scandinavian language skills to cover Norwegian (to add to my Swedish and Danish).  It also showed that the sun does shine in those northerly climes (though, have no fear rain-lovers: that is in evidence as well) and that the locals do know how to smile – neither of which I learned from any of Wallander, The Killing or The Bridge.  The film is very entertaining (barely depressing at all – then again, I must admit I have had rather a lot of fun with Swedes at least twice before, so this wasn’t entirely surprising) – though I would not recommended watching it while eating.  It also rather add to the temptation to move to Norway: when the lights go out in the UK (probably some time around 2020) and the economy has been totally wrecked by clueless governments (perhaps rather sooner), I have high hopes for Norway having both a reliable power supply and a functioning economy!

Given my love of juxtaposition, I saw Headhunters in a double-bill (of my own devising, rather than one suggested by the Arts Picturehouse) with Whit Stillman’s Damsels in Distress.  This is a very different take on a campus comedy and is an unalloyed joy – I am reminded that I need to check out that auteur’s very modest back-catalogue (unlike me, he has gone for quality rather than quantity).

My favourite film so far this year, in a very strong field, was Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom.  I’ve seen and enjoyed (in varying degrees) most of his oeuvre, but this marks the apogee (for me).  The soundtrack to this film comprises rather more work by Benjamin Britten than is currently traditional, which only adds to the appeal.  The only downside was that the movie’s young hero make me realise just how limited my practical survival skills are: at the very least, given the slightly damp turn taken by the weather of late, I really ought to know how to handle some sort of boat (even if only a kayak).  I did have some wind surfing lessons a few years back, and whilst I was fairly good in a straight line I did struggle with the practicalities of turning and found it was very hard work on my ankles (as this blog has previously established, I seem to be the possessor of rather weak ankles): so I’m not sure how much use this will be to me in extremis.

Next came my first contact with the work of Ken Loach – which has always seemed a little to gritty and worthy in the past.  The Angel’s Share was great fun (the serious message snuck in under my radar, camouflaged by the laughs) – and I’m a sucker for a Scottish accent.  It did contain an important lesson for us all: the Dyson Airblade may be all well and good for drying your hands – but is basically useless in the face of a nosebleed, where the old fashioned paper towel can offer so much more assistance.  It reminds me of the Phillips screwdriver which although a splendid tool for screwing (if you’ll pardon my rather fruity language) is of little use for anything else, the older “normal” screwdriver is so much more flexible: it can turn a screw, open a tin of paint and do a whole lot more besides.

My most recent visit was to see The Amazing Spider-Man, which is, in many ways, very good.  Andrew Garfield, as the eponymous hero, is particularly good: so much so, that for me at least, the movie goes downhill when he is covered in lycra and surrounded (or indeed, replaced) by CGI.  Rather a contrast to Captain America which I also saw recently, (via Lovefilm) and which is frankly laughable – it pointlessly breaks so many of the laws of physics that I lost count and I fear used up rather too much of its CGI budget making Chris Evans look weedy in Act I.  I am coming to the view that the best superhero style screen outings are those that choose to keep a lid on the number of the laws of nature they breach and where the hero limits use of their “powers” to a minimum.  It also helps if, having hired a decent actor, we are allowed to see them and if CGI is kept to a minimum – I think we’ve all seen enough explosions, large things falling over and crashes now, let’s save some budget for plot and character development.

I suspect this may be one of the reasons I liked Being Human, it only has very limited budget and has to hire decent, though largely unknown actors, and rely on them and good writing rather than massive set pieces and CGI.  They do use CGI, though so far as I can tell limited to making actors’ eyes turn black and very occasionally seeing a vampire turn to dust (though for budgetary reasons this mostly happens off-screen).  I was particularly impressed by the end of the world being shown using only dialogue on a dockside, with a few broken objects scattered around and a few simple background sound effects.  It strikes me that radio has rather more to teach TV and film than is sometimes realised in the rush to steal its hits for the screen.  It seems that negative freedom (See! No, reading of philosophy is ever entirely wasted: I barely had to shoe-horn Isiah Berlin in at all) has benefits in a whole range of spheres of human endeavour.  I’m surprised in these days of austerity that the precepts of Dogme 95 are not being applied a little more widely on screen; like my vegetarianism, one doesn’t have to be dogmatic (see: Scandinavian languages aren’t that hard) about it, just only discard it when there is a good reason.  Maybe my destiny lies behind the camera, rather than in front of it?  Well, have to see how my BBC3 debut goes (if at all)…


Or should that be buttering?  It’s so hard to tell the difference.  NB: Anyone under the age of around 35, should ask a parent or grandparent to explain that last quip.  Perhaps I should try to write more material which could be understood (if not actually enjoyed) by a slightly younger demographic?

Anyway, I’m probably exaggerating to say I spent yesterday stalking the cast of Being Human (or at least two of them), it was more a case of a themed (or high-concept) day out – rather like the themed evenings so popular with the controllers of even-numbered TV channels in these Isles.  Whilst the day was constructed backwards to achieve its thematic ends, for the sake of narrative clarity I shall describe the day using the arrow of time pointing in its traditional direction: i.e. you should expect to see overall entropy increasing as this account progresses.

The meat of the day started at the National, with my second viewing of Travelling Light.  This was an experiment as I have never seen the same play (or more accurately, production) twice before – though have often re-read a book or seen a film or TV programme more than once – an experiment made more than possible by (other discount theatre ticket sites are available, and may well be better).  I don’t use this very often, but occasionally it offers a serious bargain – and as I was going to be in London anyway, the cost of my experiment was very low (only 20% of the cost of the first attendance and in an even better seat).  The production certainly rewards a second viewing, and I did catch things that I missed the first time – curiously, I also found it a rather sadder story this time: it would seem that familiarity breeds melancholia (in me at least).

Despite the excellent prune and almond slice in the interval (a fine recommendation by a member of NT staff), after play #1 it was time for an early dinner before play #2.  Working with the day’s leitmotif, I went with a restaurant recommendation tweeted by the star of both TL and BH the previous week (lest you think I am letting adherence to the theme overcome my critical faculties, I did check his view against more established critics of fine dining first).  I may have to buy Damien Molony a pint (or several): not only has he provided me entertainment through his acting, he has introduced me to what is now my favourite place to eat in London.  10 Greek Street offers excellent food, friendly staff and unexpectedly low prices for central London – it is even conveniently sited in Soho (so easy to go to before, after or between cultural activities).  The only potential downside is that it seems pretty popular (even before being introduced to the massive worldwide audience of GofaDM) and does not allow reservations – but, I prefer (and usually need) to eat early and, even on a Saturday, arrival at 17:30 means that obtaining a seat is no problem.

From Soho, I had to make my way to Dalston for my second play of the day – in fact, East London (I place I have rarely visited before) was a secondary theme for the day, as my trains into town were diverted offering me a magical, mystery (and rather slow) tour of Stratford.  The journey to E8 involved the #38 bus, and this was an early example of Boris’ exciting new take on the Routemaster concept.  Whilst these do look to have involved a “designer” and do have the trademark open platform at the back – with a sort of conductor to ensure people dismount safely – I fear they do rather betray the fact that the Mayor has never actually used a bus (and probably isn’t too sure what they are for).  The bus has three sets of double doors – one at the front, one in the middle and the open platform at the back – and two staircases – on at the front and one at the back.  All these features which allow easy passenger flow both on and off the vehicle do come at rather a high price: the bus has an only slightly higher passenger carrying capacity than my Toyota IQ.  Still, I was lucky enough to rest my weary limbs on one of the few seats ‘up top’ (a space with very low ceilings).  I also noticed a complete absence of opening windows; there was the sound of a fan, so the bus may have had aircon (not terribly wise for a space constantly open to the outside) but it was not very successful, leading to a rather warm and humid trip east.  Still, a brave attempt at design by someone who had obviously never seen or used a bus – and, he can only improve with his subsequent efforts (fortunately, as a citizen of Sawston, I am not paying for his training through my Council Tax).

I was in Dalston to visit the Arcola theatre – which seemed to be in a once industrial space (you can still see the joists and girders) and offered an even more intimate experience than a small Elizabethan theatre.  I must admit I rather like this fact as I’m not a fan of huge performance spaces to the extent that I generally refuse to see stuff in the relatively modest environs of the Cambridge Corn Exchange as it is too large and impersonal.  The play was from East Germany (though, fortunately translated into English as my German is largely limited to words relating to power stations): The Conquest of the South Pole by Manfred Karge.  Despite my broadening theatrical horizons, this was quite unlike anything I’d seen before, for example, it contained poetry and characters talking about what they were saying to each other, rather than saying it.  It had an amazing energy to it and was very entertaining and funny at times (laying to rest at least one rather tired stereotype), though I wouldn’t like to claim I fully understood it (the line between reality and fantasy did become rather blurred to me: so, much like real life in that respect).  So, if anyone could explain who Frankieboy was, I’d be terribly grateful.  I’m not sure what the 11 year old lass sitting a couple of seats from me made of it, but she didn’t seem to be unduly traumatised.  I’m seeing another German play in a few weeks, so I think I better start training my intellectual muscles now – perhaps its time to tackle some Brecht?

As is now well established, my attention can wander at the best of times.  Towards the end of the play, I did find myself worrying about Andrew Gower’s cholesterol level – he is required to eat rather a lot of less than healthy fare during the production and over a month’s run this is going to take its toll on his figure.  However, the largest source of potential  distraction, in every way, was the back of the man’s head in front and to the left of me.  It wasn’t in the way much at all, but it was absolutely massive: I have never seen such a vast head.  His body seemed fairly normally proportioned, so  I’m still amazed that he was able to hold all that weight upright for the full 90 minutes.  He must have some serious neck muscles or a very light brain.

I think I shall return to the Arcola: East London is not as remote as I’ve always believed, tickets are cheap, the demographic was a lot younger than most of my cultural activities and the place had a lovely feel to it.  I shall also have to try more, randomly themed days-out: it seems to encourage the trying of new things, which is always good for the middle-aged stick-in-the-mud!


I like to imagine that I am lacking something, the imagination perhaps, to form a proper addiction.  After coming to it late, I did wonder if I was addicted to alcohol as I used to consume it on a relatively frequent basis.  However, a few years back I realised that I had inadvertently gone eight weeks without touching the demon drink, which I think rather precludes it being an addiction.

I have recently been somewhat addicted to the television series Being Human, and in particular its recent, triumphant fourth series.  However, I think this can probably be fairly readily explained by my strong association with the character of Hal.  I may not be a 500+ year old vampire with OCD (though some days I do wonder), but we do share a worrying number of other quirks and, in my book, any character that refuses to countenance living anywhere unless if can offer carpets, central heating and Radio 4 can’t be all bad.  I did worry about his listening to You and Yours to keep his blood lust in check: I think it would probably drive me to kill quite quickly but then I quite enjoy Quote, Unquote, so no-one’s perfect.

Still, I think we can put this down as a passing fancy – and there won’t be a new “fix” available until 2013 – so I don’t think readers need fear for any further impairment of my fragile sanity from that direction.

As the avid reader will be aware (assuming their avidity has not caused permanent psychological damage), I started going to the theatre de temps en temps last summer.  I started my theatre-going “career” at the Oxford Playhouse when at university and then used to go regularly to a variety of theatres for much of the 90s, but, like a careless monk, lost the habit over the first decade of this shiny, new millenium.

My return to theatre-going started well enough – managing five plays in 2011 spread across seven months.  I thought I was in control…  However, in 2012 I fear the habit is spiralling out of control.  I have been to six plays already this year, and have another eight booked before the end of July.  I tried to convince myself that I was introducing competitive theatre going as a sport: well, we need to find some way to fund the arts in these difficult times and men seem willing to compete in pretty much any sphere, so why not the artistic one?  Unfortunately, my recent actions suggest a darker explanation…

I went to the mis-named Donmar Warehouse, it used to be a brewery (perhaps calling it a warehouse avoids creating unwanted organisational pressure?), on Easter Saturday (when we celebrate Jesus having a well-deserved rest away from the limelight) to see The Recruiting Officer.  This was great fun, and the Donmar is a lovely venue – though legroom in the circle was very limited, but this can be forgiven as the tickets are astonishingly cheap (as Treasurer of an arts charity, I can only marvel as to how they make ends meet).  The cheapness of the tickets may also explain how hard they are to obtain, though I did manage to snaffle the last seat for the entire run of The Physicists in July while I was there (occasionally, being single is a boon!).

My next smell of the greasepaint was not to be for 17 days and I found that I was starting to get twitchy.  Had I not been laid low by a serious bout of man ‘flu (or the common cold, as I believe it is known to the lay reader), I might have felt forced to fill the gap by booking something theatrical.  Matters are growing worse, after the excellent Travelling Light on Tuesday, I found I was needing another “fix” by Thursday.  I’m sorry to say that yesterday evening I gave into the cravings, and will be off to the Royal Court Theatre on Tuesday to see Love, Love, Love.

Can one obtain a theatre “patch” that I could wear to help me master these cravings?  Is there a 12 step programme I could join?  (I’ve covered step 1, as with this post I am admitting that I have a problem!)  Or maybe it’s just a phase I’m going through and I’ll grow out of it?

I fear this blog my have given the impression that all my theatrical dollars are being spent in the capital, and that I am failing to support my local proscenium arch – so let me put your minds to rest on that count.  Earlier in the year, I enjoyed a  splendid production of Anne Boleyn at the Cambridge Arts Theatre which was surprisingly funny (especially given the fate of the eponymous heroine) and has made me rather more sympathetic towards both Ms B and James (V)I.  I also have a couple more trips planned in May – however, I do wonder if I am too plebeian to be a member of the CAT audience.  The backs of the tickets are promoting the benefits of Kleinwort Benson Wealth Management – which suggests that they are aiming at a much richer clientele or at least one that isn’t blowing all its free cash on theatre tickets!  Ah well, I’m used to going where I’m not really wanted: I’ll just dress-up a bit and hope they don’t ask for a bank statement…