And as the Minute Waltz fades away…

Rafał Blechacz moves on to play Chopin’s Op. 64 No. 2 waltz in C# minor (the Minute Waltz being No. 1 in Db) – which is so much better than Nicholas Parson’s dulcet tones introducing us to the panel.  Young Master Blechacz started to learn the piano at the same age as me, and is a lot younger, but he must have stuck at it rather better as his fingers performed acrobatics across the keyboard that I can barely imagine, let alone hope to accomplish.  Still, I bet he is far less au fait with the power stations of Europe than I, so it’s very much swings and roundabouts.

I have been listening to Just a Minute for longer than I can remember, though I am actually marginally older than the series.  I still find much to enjoy in the series – Ian Messiter’s game is a work of genius – but I feel this enjoyment takes place in spite of the venerable Mr Parsons (91!).  I am trying to remember if it was ever thus, or if I used to enjoy Nick’s interjections when I was a lad (and he was already older than I am now), but I can’t.  As an adult, I do enjoy the revolving of panel members and substantially greater representation of the stronger sex – whereas as a child I suspect I enjoyed the consistency of Freud, Jones, Nimmo and Williams.

I think Jack Dee on I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue may have hammered the final nail in the coffin of Mr. P’s contribution to the show, the parody is so accurate it now dominates the original.  Then again, it will still feel like a missing tooth should Nick ever leave the show.  During the credits of ISIHAC, I still expect to hear Wille Rushton’s name after Tim Brooke-Taylor’s, despite the fact that he went to his eternal reward in 1996 and I think I have now heard more editions of the show without him than with (but the Willie Rushton years were the formative ones for me).

As the above might suggest, I am a great lover of radio comedy – it always seems to work better than its televisual cousin.  My latest love is for the Elis James and John Robins show on XFM – I listen via podcast which saves time and removes the adverts (which for me make commercial radio unlistenable in its live form).  I have enjoyed both individually as stand-ups, having seen John rather more often than Elis, but as a double-act they are absolutely hysterical.  If I still drove (well, more than annually), their podcast would be on the banned list – with only ISIHAC (under Humph’s chairmanship) for company – as being too dangerous to listen to while in control of a motor vehicle.  At times they have literally caused me to cry with laughter, so they are now only listened to at home.  The show was funny from day one, but seems to be becoming stronger each week – though that may be partly because I now know them (and their strange obsessions – in Elis these seem part of a well-rounded personality, in John part of a pathology) better.  If ever I am feeling blue (in private and when not operating heavy machinery), it is to EJ&JR that I now turn.

Laughter in public spaces is oddly frowned upon in this country.  A few years back I was reading a rather amusing book (I no longer remember which) on the Victoria line in London and laughing, as required – at some stage I looked up to find the entire of the rest of the carriage were staring at me.  For the avoidance of doubt, this was not supportive staring (if such a thing exists) but more fear that I might next run amok with an axe (or similar).  I also seem to recall as a teenager laughing at a book whilst waiting to be seen at Maidstone eye hospital – and once again, my mirth being frowned upon.  Given how depressing this world can often be, I think a little more public laughter would be a good thing – and despite the continuing disapproval, I still try and do my part.

Perhaps to close I should explain why this post exists at all.  Last night, at Turner Sims, I did see Mr B play the whole of Chopin’s Op. 64 – and so my tiny mind started a-whirling.  I was also served by one of the bar staff who had recognised me (and eventually I, him) when we bumped into each other at the Art House on Saturday night.  Does this make me an alcoholic?  Increasing numbers of bar staff on the University of Southampton site now recognise me by sight (even out of context)?  Am I drinking too much?  Or am I just more memorable than I think?   Maybe it is just my age, being in possession of neither a Student nor a Senior Railcard probably does help mark me out from the crowd!

Jazz, hands

This last weekend, I returned to Cambridge once more – staying at Sidney Sussex college, which is very central.  It did bring back memories of my own first year in college, which was similarly situated albeit in the dreaming spire adorned arch-enemy of my weekend destination.  Ostensibly, I had returned to enjoy a few of the delights of the Cambridge Summer Music Festival – but did manage to tack on some additional fun.

The jazz component of our title was delivered by Ms Jacqui Dankworth and “her musicians”.  Not perhaps my usual cup of tea, but really quite entertaining.  Ms D may not have had a great relationship with her mother but does seem, nonetheless, to be turning into her (a state of affairs which, I seem to recall, Algernon Moncrieff described as the tragedy of her sex).  She also has a condign mastery of the breathing required to sing – something which I rather lack.  Despite somewhat more than 48 years on this planet, my breathing is still surprisingly poor – and this may be exacerbated by my gymnastic ambitions.  Having abs (and, indeed, a core) of steel is vital when hanging from the rings, but is less useful when trying to provide the oxygen supply needed for a decent vocal performance.  This may explain why so few opera singers have been gymnasts (and vice versa).  Despite this obstacle, I did have great fun with the groupetto and Handel’s O sleep, why dost thou leave me? during the singing lesson I managed to slot into the weekend.  I did, however, begin to suspect that my singing teacher’s choice of breathing exercise was more designed to use the student as a human fan than prepare my body for the rigours that were to follow.

Hands were delivered from many places over the weekend.  There was some fine piano playing with Debussy in the mercifully air-conditioned Howard theatre and a rather toastier concert in Gallery 3 at the Fitzwilliam Museum over Sunday lunchtime.  There was also the laying on of hands as my massage therapist once again attempted to return my ageing body to some semblance of its lissome prime.  Once again, my actions – in this case the content of post 500 – generated some surprise: despite being clearly telegraphed (née promised).  The session also generated some rather fruitful ideas to work into my pursuit of dating excellence – of which more will follow in later posts – and a further challenge for me to take on: of which more in the paragraph which will shortly be arriving into platform 3A.

In the narrow vestibule where a chap awaits audience with his therapist is a modest range of reading material.  This comprises a sizeable joke book, a thinner volume on cycle maintenance (this is Cambridge, after all) and a very small selection of (now) rather aged magazines.  I felt that the magazine selection could usefully do with a refresh and it seems it is down to we, the clientele, to take this project in hand.  Ancient copies of Punch or Countrylife would be, frankly, too dull – so I have taken it upon myself to bring a more interesting offering each time I visit.  I am looking for the most obscure, limited readership, magazines possible.  These should have nothing at all to do with Cambridge or massage, but should be suitable for a family audience – I shall need my first example by early(ish) September, so a helping hand by way of a suggestion or two would be terribly useful…

All-in-all, a very enjoyable weekend – though one experiment should not be considered a success.  The weekend, as the week before it, was really rather hot.  As a result, I thought I would attempt a currently popular fad in an attempt to maintain my feet at a comfortable temperature.  I have noticed that many folk eschew the sock with their summer footwear – and I talk here not of the undeniably wise choice to ensure that sock and sandal are never seen dancing cheek-to-cheek.  No, I refer to the sock-less foot being ensconced in deck shoe, plimsoll or trainer.  So, despite my advanced age, I decided to attempt this myself and chose a canvas shoe (a pair, in fact) as my weapon of choice – feeling that the canvas would be more forgiving to my tender pedal extremities and would also allow them to breathe.  How wrong I was, terrible damage to the edges of my little toes and many a toe-knuckle quickly followed this brief flirtation with fashion.  I am left chastened, with a mild limp, and a new found respect for the humble sock and its important role in my life.  I’m not saying I will rush out and buy a darning mushroom, but never again will a mock a sock.  Huzzah for hosiery!

Decomposing

Some may worry that my trip to Cambridge was somewhat of a waste, given my shortfall in the haemoglobin department.  Fear not, dear reader, the letting of a surfeit of blood is the excuse rather than the reason for me to visit Cambridge.

Where else could I sit in a café having an emergency cake-based snack and discuss the difficulties of playing the trombone and the variation in the necks of double-basses whilst my interlocutor accompanied the conversation on an octave mandolin?  Many thanks to Jack at the Indigo Café for this excellent – and very Cambridge – experience.

Much of my other leisure time was spend in the pursuit of music.  Thursday night (after my traditional dinner trip to Fitzbillies) I spent in the chapel of King’s College listening to a curious concert.  Part renaissance mass (by Josquin) and part serialist (maybe – I am no expert) electronica from Karlheiz Stockhausen and others.  This latter segment was delivered through a series of speakers positioned around the chapel and, given the lowered lighting, did somewhat bring to mind a successful séance at which some very unquiet spirits came to call.  The final piece of electronica, Mortuous Plango, Vivos Voco by Jonathan Harvey, was by far the most successful for me – it had definite hints of being music and I would not object to hearing it again.  I realise my difficult with Mr Stockhausen’s oeuvre may be a failing in me – but, the sound of inept DIY in action would be more musical to my ears than Gesang der Jünglinge.  However, well worth the very modest price of admission for an interesting evening of music and sound, including some beautiful singing.

However, the real musical treats of the visit were free – part of the Humanitas Visiting Professorship in Chamber Music.  Obviously aimed at students and academics but they also let in the great unwashed (and even me).  The visiting “prof” was pianist Angela Hewitt and she was a revelation.  I made it to two sessions (sadly returning home before her chat with John Butt, of the Dunedin Consort, on the Art of Fugue): a lecture-recital on performing Bach and a masterclass with some of the university’s finest student musicians.

After the lecture-recital, I am even more impressed by concert soloists and the amount of work that has to go into preparing a piece for performance.  Bach really only gives you the notes, so the player has to worry about dynamics (volume) and tempo (speed) – as well as play the notes successfully as written (which is the part I largely fail to do).  The pianist also has to work out her own fingerings – rather than my approach which is to hope that a finger happens to be near the target when required (big hands can be a boon) – and split out all the voices in the piece and choose the force to apply to each finger to bring the right voice to the fore.  I am trying to play pieces where each hand is required to produce a different volume – and this is often more than my ageing brain can manage, let alone varying the force from multiple fingers on the same hand.  I have a very long way to go (even with the somewhat limited portion of the lecture that I can claim to have fully understood) – we can only hope that the heat death of the universe is rather further away than currently believed or I have no hope (even should I happen to be immortal).

A further vastening (a word denied by WordPress and Mr Collins, but I’m sticking with it) of my musical horizons came in the masterclass.  First we heard what seemed to be an excellent rendition of the piece to be studied by 1, 2 or 3 students – and then we saw Angela take it to a different level, even when sight-reading a piece she had never played before.  The most extraordinary session was with Liszt’s Dante sonata – on first playing by a very fine student pianist this seemed typical Liszt: see how hard and often you can bang the keys, very much an endurance exercise for the alpha-male pianist.  Then Angela played it, and it became so much more – the dynamic range and emotional content was on another level altogether, you could hear the souls crying out in Hell.  I may have to re-visit my thoughts on Liszt – but will need to find the right performance.

I was also rather captivated by her effortless erudition on matters musical and well beyond.  She brought so much historical and literary context to bear on her preparation for performance.  For the Liszt, she referred the student to a document which provided very extensive notes on the piece – then off-hand mentioned that she’d only seen it in French but was sure an English translation must exist.  Would that I could manage such a thing, in any field of knowledge, but I am far too much the dilettante to ever acquire the necessary depth.  I fear I shall have to continue my attempts to dazzle from the shallows.  Within the last fortnight alone, I’ve wanted to study music (see above), microbiology and group theory to at least a post-grad level – but sadly have failed to make a start on any and by tomorrow I will, no doubt, have a new obsession.  I am too much the (lazy) intellectual butterfly – but perhaps the world of MOOCs may rescue me from my superficiality (or just broaden it even further).  Watch this space for further attempts at intellectual showing off:  look at me!  Look at me!

May you receive what you want

The title sounds like I’m being nice, but I do wonder if it is more of a curse – along the lines of “may you live in interesting times”.

Our consumer-driven society is always telling us that we should want more things; bigger things; better things.  It also likes to suggest that we shouldn’t have to wait – easy (or really quite hard) credit is always available.  Long ago, in a Puffin book of jokes (the exact title eludes me) I remember a cartoon strip of  boy who wanted a big cat (lion or tiger – his want was specific, my recollection isn’t).  After much badgering of his parents (though no sign of TB), they relented and the cat was duly granted – at which point it ate the foolish child.  Not obviously a joke in my retelling: more a morality tale to beware getting that for which you have wished.  Whilst receiving the things we want doesn’t usually results in our own consumption, it does often lead to disappointment and some small erosion of the soul (or its secular, humanist equivalent).

I also recall an aphorism that said that “experience is what you get if you don’t get what you want”.  This does seem to suggest that if experience is your goal, you will never leave empty-handed – though this may not be the intended message.  However, I have found that many of the best things in life come not through instant (or near-instant) gratification of a consumer-focused want – though that can happen with a nice glass of something or a slice of decent cake – but from a more unexpected event or a long-striven for outcome.  I would not wish to suggest that something unearned is unappreciated (I do try and avoid anyone leaving this blog with a moral education), but sometimes waiting does add savour to things.  Even planned things can also be unexpected and so particularly pleasing – a night of fringe theatre often does it for me.

Last night, following a rather busy period at work and in some of the more work-like aspects of my home life, I went out for the evening – to an event booked several weeks ago.  The evening proved to be exactly what I needed, though if I was satisfying a want, it was not one I knew I had.

The event was a concert of piano music played by Piotr Anderszewski, though not the one I’d expected due to a late programme change.  For once, it was briefly dry enough for me to cycle up to Turner Sims which is always a good start to a night out (though, the Uni-Link bus service is also excellent for times of more Biblical weather).  I arrived a little early and so there was time for a beer (I feel it is important to support arts venues any way you can, so very much a selfless pint) – better than just beer, they could offer me a bottle of Old Peculiar (which you don’t often see this far south, or at all).  With this inside me, the first half of Bach and Schumann saw all my stress just drift away on a wave of divine music.  After a tub of rum-and-raisin ice cream, the second half was some glorious Beethoven.  I thought it was a really good concert, but I make no great claims for my musicality even without a pint of OP inside.  However, it would seem it was objectively a good concert as today’s Guardian gave it a five star review.

I wish I could claim credit for having selected such a great concert, but my picking involved the fact that it was near home and involved a piano.  The best I can say is that I allowed the possibility to exist and was then lucky.  I was fortunate to obtain something I needed (but had not sought), though I’ll admit as needs go it was quite near the top of Maslow’s famous pyramid.

So, perhaps I should hope that you all get what you need – also perhaps a two-edged hope, but one with less malice is involved.  I should also work on wanting less and leaving more space for life to deliver me some “experience”.  I also really need to put in some practise at the ole 88-string guitar: one day I’d like to make it to exercise 3 in Mr Hanon’s book of 60 exercises for the virtuoso pianist.  Nonetheless, even if I live to be 1000 I don’t reckon Piotr has anything to worry about, competition-wise.  Still, I am enjoying the journey: slow though it may be!

Not the centre of the universe?

Clever folk, both before and after Copernicus, have worked hard to demonstrate that I am not the centre of the universe.  Indeed, the whole concept of the universe having a physical centre is looking a little shaky since relativity and the growth of the dark.  Oh yes, as Susan Cooper warned us, in modern physics the dark is truly rising.

Nonetheless, contrary to my book-learning, Dame Nature and her handmaiden Coincidence do seem determined to convince me that everything does revolve around me.  Before I illustrate with a couple (of hundred) recent examples, I feel we should all take a moment to consider a quotation a wise, old friend of mine used to trot out whenever coincidence was in the air.  “How often didn’t that happen?” he would ask – and those around would cease their foolish prating.

My first example comes from my recent arrival in Cambridge.  Having travelled up from the south coast in dry sunshine, the moment my train arrive in Cambridge it started to rain.  I manage to catch my bus down to Addenbrooke’s only slightly moistened, but as I disembarked the wrath of God was loosed upon the earth.  By the time I had made it the 200 yards from the bus stop to the Blood Donor Centre, I was soaked through and my umbrella had been reduced to a useless wreck.  As I checked-in with reception, I noticed that my right hand was dipping with blood – my own as it transpired (perhaps from an umbrella disintegration-related injury?) – so I looked more like I was making a withdrawal than a deposit.  Fortunately, my injury was not severe and did not prevent my donation (or the ensuing biscuit-based mini-feast).  The Lord may have been wrathful, but it didn’t last long (is Our Father by any chance strawberry blonde, I wonder? – or at least was before he was stricken by old age).  A rampant egomaniac (like, for example, myself – well, just consider this blog you are reading) might feel he was being singled out by Fate for some payback.  Of course, subsequent viewing of the news suggests that most of the divine, weather-based retribution was aimed at Scotland and the east coast – so, I should be grateful that he could spare a small part of his bounty of rain and wind for me.

You will be pleased to know that my blood loss, both planned and otherwise, was soon made good through the medically recommended combination of mulled wine and mince pies.  However, these weather-related coincidences are not uncommon: oft rain will start just as I go outside and cease as soon as I regain cover.  I have even been to Florida when it snowed – first time in 80 years!  But not all coincidence is ill-favoured, which brings me nicely on to incident number two.

On Friday afternoon, I made it to the tail-end of a Christmas party at Hughes Hall college.  I am able to sneak into such events and enjoy a tepid glass of mulled wine and a mince pie as it was with Hughes Hall that I left my piano when I departed Cambridge to live in more southerly climes.  At this “do”, I was introduced to only three people – one of whom, it was soon revealed, had a penchant for musical theatre and had made much use of my piano (probably rather better use than I ever managed).  This same chap, it transpired, had been an undergraduate at Southampton University and so was perfectly placed to introduce me to a singing teacher near my new home.  What are the chances that one of an effectively random group of three people would prove to be so useful?  Then again, I did meet my current singing teacher in a rather similar fashion – so perhaps this is the established way to find vocal tutelage.

So, whilst coincidence is my constant companion, more-often-than-not she smiles kindly upon me (if we ignore some of her weather and train punctuality-based work).  Indeed, late yesterday afternoon as I returned from my singing lesson to my (Trave)lodgings (oh yes, I know how to live the high life!), strolling along beside the oily blackness of the Cam under the merest sliver of crescent moon with a song in my heart, my ego soothed by a positive response to my last post, I couldn’t help feeling I was the luckiest chap alive.

Lining your own clouds

I believe silver is the popular choice, despite the difficulties of hallmarking and the danger to aviation.

Many readers may feel that my life is pretty cloud-free – and most of the minor clouds that do occasionally occlude the azure perfection of my vista are of my own making or relate to worrying about things I cannot affect or problems (sorry, opportunities) I  am unable to solve (apparently in common with my seven billion closest friends).  I do occasionally ponder moving to a marginal constituency so that my vote might actually have an impact on the outcome of an election and so that the political parties might feel they have to woo (or indeed bribe) me – but it is quite an expensive and personally disruptive route to political enfranchisement.  Anyway, this post is not intended to represent a serious attempt at satire, but merely to introduce some diary material in a slightly oblique (maybe even interesting) way.

As I have mentioned before, de temps en temps I am required as a condition of my servitude to “the man” to visit the Surrey town of Woking.  I am sure Woking must have many fine features to commend it, but thus far it has kept them concealed from me – and I have even journeyed as far as Old Woking (which does boast a decent restaurant, but this alone is not enough to save Woking in my estimation).  To line the cloud of these excursions, I usually contrive to visit London to have some fun after the working day is done.

Last week, I headed on into Waterloo for a visit to the Southbank Centre.  It has become my custom to partake of a rapid supper at Canteen, ranged deep in the bowels of the Royal Festival Hall.  Their food is perfectly decent, not expensive by London standards and swiftly served: on previous visits they have also offered two points of bitter for the price of one.  Perhaps fortunately, this offer has now ended as it does add an element of danger for the single chap en route to a concert, even one who can boast many years of highly competitive bladder control (as I can).

My original thinking was to go see Gustavo Dudamel conduct some Mahler, but unsurprisingly it was sold out so I took a chance on Boris Giltburg at the Queen Elizabeth Hall next door.  Not that much of a risk as the young pianist (very much the unfashionable side of 30) had excellent reviews and could also boast an unusually broad range of somewhat geeky interests for a professional musician.  I think the workings of chance were my friend and I enjoyed the better concert at the SBC that night.  The piano playing was truly staggering – the lad has clearly made it a lot further through Hanon’s The Virtuoso Pianist in 60 Exercises than have I (then again, I’m still working on exercises 1 and 2, and on current form the human lifespan will have to be very substantially increased if I am to ever trouble exercise 60).

After a good 1.75 hours of playing some seriously difficult repertoire – his hands were literally (in the correct sense of that word) a blur – with a bare 20 minute interval for ice cream, Mr Giltburg then played three encores to a very appreciative audience.  So, not only a better concert than at the RFH but better value for money: value I further enhanced by sitting in the front row of rear stalls rather than the back row of the front stalls – saving £7 by being 6 feet further from the stage and all of those 6 feet were mine in extra legroom (so I was doubly the winner).  Concert Halls have yet to learn the value of legroom from the airlines – for which my legs and wallet are grateful.

As I’ve mentioned before, I will make someone a very good maiden aunt.  As I was watching Boris play, I couldn’t help but worry about the poor chap’s back – for much of the time it was dreadfully rounded and I fear he is storing up problems for later life.  I now worry that my own piano playing is further rounding the shoulders already suffering from years of desk work and cycling.  I (and Boris) need to find a hobby which curves the spine in the opposite direction – though I struggle to bring such a hobby to mind.  Any ideas?

Still, this blog was supposed to be about making the most of chances that life throws your way, rather than fretting about my vertebrae – it seems that I am always looking for a cloud to fill my linings.  Is it (long past) time for therapy?  Or just more marsala in my cocoa?

Moving times

This poor blog has been rather neglected of late, which I blame on the inconvenient need to live my life rather than just try and write a heightened and more humorous version of it.  In the last couple of weeks I have moved house (of which more in another post) and then, well before the unpacking was done, headed up to Edinburgh to enjoy the festive delights it offers the visitor in August.

In fact I have been in the Athens of the North (not quite as financially-challenged as the Edinburgh of the South) for almost a week now – and still have another five days before I must return to reality (and boxes).  When I first came up to the festival, it was for a mere three days – and the visit was annual.  I am now coming here four times a year and for ever longer periods – in practical terms, I am slowly moving to Edinburgh, but doing it with (I like to imagine) sufficient subtlety that no-one notices.  It’s a whole new way to “do” immigration – though may work less well if there were any border security.

For me, the “serious”, International Festival has been a festival of the piano – with three quite excellent piano concerts.  Any could have been the best of the year, but in a close-fought field Nikolai Lugansky came out on top of Mitsuko Uchida and Andreas Haefliger to claim the crown (not that any royal millinery was on offer).  Should his concert be repeated on Radio 3 I strongly recommend you try and catch it: it is only slightly marred by the severe and widespread TB outbreak during the early stages of Janacek’s In the Mists.  Fortunately, a cure – or merciful death – had arrived before the Schubert Impromptus.

The Fringe has been the now traditional combination of comedy, spoken word (a category that would seem to incorporate most comedy and theatre – with the exception of the sung and mimed) and theatre – though I have noticed theatre being pushed to the liminal space of the afternoon with comedians now dominating the evenings.  I quite like the matinee – as it means I can be earlier to my bed (and places me much closer to the youthful end of the audience age spectrum) – but it can’t be great for those with a day job.

Picking theatre – from the huge range on offer – is always a challenge.  I do use reviews – but only a pretty small percentage are reviewed in the broadsheets and their opinions often vary rather more widely than the layman might expect – so have had to rely on my own skill and judgment.  This year, I pinned my faith on writers and/or actors I knew and on the Invisible Dot as generally being reliable purveyors of stuff I might enjoy.  So far, so good – no duffers and I haven’t drowned.

Threesome was excellent and did involve the now traditional removal of most of their kit by the cast.  I’m not sure if this dis-robing trend is big in theatre at the moment, or just in the plays I have attended, but I have seen far more of actors – both famous and less well-known – over the last few months than I had ever anticipated.  Perhaps it reflects falling budgets and cost-cutting in the wardrobe department?

Holes had the added excitement of a mystery location – which turned out to be Portobello Town Hall and a coach trip.  We were dropped a little way from the venue and so enjoyed a walk along the promenade at Portobello and an ice cream – oh yes, not content with a volcano, castle, towns old and new and a bunch of festivals: Edinburgh also has its own beach resort.   The play was very good – funny and dark – but if you sit in the front row, do beware of flying sand and water!  Daniel Rigby was particularly excellent  – and tonight I shall be seeing him as a stand-up (in which role I first saw at the Fringe many years ago, before the acting – and broadband selling- rather took off).

Each of Use by Ben Moor was more a monologue with actions than a play, but was stunningly written.  One of the inspirations behind this blog – or at least something in the very far distance to which I aspire – is the radio show Elastic Planet written by Ben back in the mid-nineties.  Each of Us was at least its equal being packed full of wonderfully off-beat ideas and beautiful turns of phrase – who could resist “caramelised sellotape” to give but one example.  My writing has an awfully long way to go – as you, dear readers, will be all too well aware.

My most recent play was Moving Family – set in the back of a removal van driving across Newcastle.  Both funny and moving and making a serious political point this was a near perfect 55 minutes of theatre (and no clothing was removed).  My knowledge of Tyneside – gleaned from several years living in Jesmond and North Shields – even came in handy.

My comedy picks, I shall save for a later post.  But, in summary, it has been a very good festival so far and I’ve enjoyed rather un-Scottish weather: a lot of warmth and sunshine and very little rain.  It has been good to have the longer stay as it feels a little less rushed trying to fit things.  I hope to manage a few more plays before I go, but there are just too many to see – even if I spent the whole of August in Edinburgh (always a tempting prospect).  I shall have to hope that some of them make it down south and give me a second bite of the cherry – or just accept that part of the charm of live theatre is its transience…