Monday, 17 January 2011

I'm not a muso, musings (Part 1 & 2)

Minchin is an absolute waltzer! I mean it - he just loves that funky 3:4 time.

Several times recently I have been struck by the growing number of his songs which are in that time signature. I have been swept away by fantasy-visions of ballrooms full of ladies in cinderella-style voluminous skirts twirling, viennese style, as the 1-2-3, 1-2-3 swirls and weaves its spell.

I want to dance to Minchin-music. I want a vast extravaganza of theatrical gorgeousness, with me in the middle of it all. (Maybe, if Tim gets to create his own dream musical, it might be one featuring one of those amazing set-piece full scale dance numbers - a great big beautiful waltz
- the kind that no-one can afford to stage any more.)

As it is, I have already experienced a sense of being stifled when at his recent live gigs - having to sit, rather than being able to stand up and bop around to the funky bits. The waltzing-urge just takes it a stage further.

Lullaby is the one which Tim overtly refers to as a waltz, but there are quite a few others that you could just as easily waltz to, cos definitely 3:4. White Wine in the Sun (and Drowned - I think?) are the other key ballads that are in waltz-time. Even bits of Cheese (and Tim waltzes around himself at that point in the song).

What about Teenage Years - it sounds syncopated, but I think it's possibly also 3:4??

What else? I may need help identifying them (looks silly if I can't make a decent sized list: not much of a thesis if I can't come up with at least a few!)

Matilda? Any waltzes in that? There's the 'don't cry little girl' song by the escapologist (later it's sung at the same time as My house, but can't really remember the latter or its time sig). Then there's the strange little song Trunchbull sings, about the dwarf folding paper hats with his mind ...and horses - I think that's in waltz time. But I thought I had spotted one or two others. Hmm - further pondering required.

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I also want to write about the song Beauty (not in terms of its time signature, but rather its lyrics and melody - it's oddly haunting and elusive while at the same time niggly. It's not a hugely popular number - and I can see why, but I'm driven to delve into it further: at the point I thought I'd worked out what it meant, I suddenly realised that Tim knew only too well the inadequacy of what the song 'seems' to be saying, and that the critique is itself part of the intention - the listener isn't supposed to unquestioningly agree with the singer-persona. Superficial beauty isn't true beauty, surely? The deliberate irony of it being a song against beauty/ the ease of 'beauty', in music, which is itself beautiful, ( although sung by a man whose voice - while suitable for a rock god - is by no means a 'beautiful' one: I am left wondering what the song would be like if sung by someone like, say, Josh Groban? I would love to hear that.) yet it's at the same time jarring lyrically - and musically, although I'm not quite sure how - so that the emotional attachment to the song doesn't happen - hence the bemusement of audiences - how are we supposed to react? It enacts its thesis!

But he does do beauty, of course he does - he certainly moves people with songs like Not Perfect and White Wine in the Sun, both of which are songs with lovely melodies, plus quirkiness, lyrical beauty, integrity and depth: in a word, truth (while avoiding those dreaded cliches). Humour and Beauty need not be mutually exclusive: beauty need not be uber-sombre and serious, surely? Is it about sincerity? True Beauty should be sincere, perhaps? Is that the problem?

The problem, perhaps, is that of the 'Meta'-view mode of thinking - which has a distancing effect, rather than allowing oneself to be fully and wholeheartedly swept away by the thing itself. I detect a suspicion of profundity too.

But why is beauty described as a harlot? Harlotry to me implies a form of (self?) deception for an easy (no-strings) contractually-based emotional/sexual release.

So, is it about the economic rewards of the songs that Mr Sony would've preferred?

(to be continued)

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Looking back and summing up (Sept-Dec 2010)

(This honestly isn't of interest to anyone except me - only posting it as a blog so I have it safely out there in the ether - it's just a summing up - in boring diary fashion - of my Sept-Dec 2010. I haven't done a proper TYSIC review of the year yet - will do a separate blog about that in due course.)

After posting my last blog about the trip to Stratford with Bob, I was surprised to notice the long gap prior to that - I hadn't blogged between late July 2010 and January 2011. I guess I must be unbloggy in the Autumn for some reason. So, for the sake of my own future curiosity about the rear end of 2010, I will attempt to dredge up some memories to prove that I was alive and doing stuff between September and December 2010. My diary is no help, unfortunately: a much regretted synch-error obliterated ALL my iphone calendar info, past and future, not long ago. That was annoying, to say the least! I have mainly used Facebook to reconstruct a diary of the period in question for myself.

25th (?) Went to see Mark Watson - see previous blog about that
26th - term finished, so finished work for the summer!
28th - Went to see Gutted, a Musical at the Lyric Riverside. Loved it! (got a free ticket from Michael Legge via Twitter!)

2 week holiday (1st-14th?) wth Bob & Cadi in Dorset. First week in a lovely little cottage, 2nd week in our tent. Did no sketching, except for Minchin related stuff (the top trump cards); also writing out & photo for the lyrics competition. Holiday was happy throughout, barring the stress of getting the tent down on final day, which led to a bit of a vegetable oil related row! There is a full holiday diary in hand-writtn form.

16th - Wynn fell & cut his shin v badly - ended up in Hampstead A&E - I drove over to be there for him, and to bring him home again; then took him back on 18th to have the wound properly stitched by plastic surgeon.

17th Went to see Warhorse with Jooles & Emma (Vikki working on it of course) - a fantastic show!!

19th - Gethin's A level results: he did pretty well (a tad better than Wynn, in fact!)
21st Trip to Cliveden with Bob & Cadi - a lovely walk in a NT place new to us
22nd - trip to Hitchin to see Caroline
? 24-25th Lewisham 1st trip to see Jooles, then 2nd trip (the next day?) to New Cross to take Wynn's stuff to his new flat
26th - Went to see Toy Story 3 (3D) on my own (cos Bob wasn't too keen)
28th - Went for family anniv meal with Bob & both boys - think we went to Charlotte's? (Bob & I also went blackberry picking, apparently)
29th Went to see Inception with Bob in the 'posh' cinema (Screen Vue in Westfield) - our first experience of the difference. Sooooo nice!

2nd Sept - Bob and I went to Lisa's for a celebratory Anniversary meal (21 years)
4th-5th Sept - Scout Family Camp - fun, despite feeling unwell: Campfire went pretty well, despite me feeling iffy.
8th - Dreadful play at Richmond theatre with Ian H (a Morse travesty) So bad it was fun!
Bob away for a week at a conference in Germany (returned 11th) - came back with a yearning to possess an expensive set of replica fossil models - I granted his wish in due course, despite the high price!
12th - met up with Caroline and Diane (who was over in London for a course)
15th - got to be a 'cover supervisor' with the class for an afternoon
21st Sept - went to see Dara O'Briain at Hammersmith Apollo- with my son Wynn. Very much enjoyed that.
22nd Sept - conclusion of extensive cosmetic dental treatment (started early Aug): very happy with the results! : well worth the money!
25-26 Sept: went to visit my Dad in Belfast cos he was in hospital. My brother also popped up for a quick visit on the Sunday.
Mon 26th - Live at the Apollo recording with Emma

2-3rd Oct: 2 dogs came to stay
10th - Hyde Park to view the half-marathon, with Emma & Jooles (met a certain runner)
? - 1st Jason Byrne radio recording - with Gethin & Lida
13th - Jason Byrne radio recording (on my own this time) - a much funnier show than last one
15th - Minchin & others at Union Chapel
16th - Storm premiere at TAM
23rd - great shopping trip for clothes with Bob (outfit for the wedding)
23rd (evening) Wynn was home for a visit - had a lovely long natter that evening.
26th Oct - Minchin preview gig at 100 Club (I think?): involved hanging around outside on pavement afterwards, rather than going to the pub....but quite good fun, with the other Feeters.

30th - went to see Burke & Hare with Bob, and really liked it (not sure which cinema - may just have been VIP seats in normal one, rather than Westfield Screen one)

31st - Went to see Minchin (along with others) at Lyric Hammersmith.

2nd - First there was a problem with the central heating (engineer came & fixed) and then the Dishwasher stopped working - engineer came, but took a while to get the needed part.
Sat 7th Nov - went to Stoke Poges (with Sandra) to see the Scout District's fireworks

Went to my niece's wedding in Cardiff on 20/11- with the whole family. Fell and fractured my arm while trying to have a shower in the (horrible) Travelodge the night before. Knew it was VERY sore, and very difficult to drive, but didn't realise there was a hairline fracture (cos I could wiggle my fingers). Wedding was lovely, despite my arm. The Hotel on the night of the wedding - the reception venue - was absolutely lovely. Drove us all home from Cardiff to London on the Sunday

Infinite Monkey Cage recording - 22/11 (the one with Minchin: I had also been to another IMC recording a couple of weeks before this - also v enjoyable)

27th - Cinema outing with Bob - the posh one again. Harry Potter

Frost Fair (with arm in a cast) - Fri 29th Nov
A week off work (while arm was in back-slab cast)
Back to work when arm in a full (pink!) cast.

Masterminded the Beavers (and Cubs presentation at Church Parade early in Dec. For once, I pre-cast and handed out scripts in advance - which made things a lot easier!

Masterminded Beaver & Cub Xmas show - rehearsal on 3rd, performance on 17th. It went pretty well, in the end!

11th December Went to see Matilda in Stratford-upon-Avon (by train, with Emma) cos unable to drive due to dodgy arm)

Went to see Tim Minchin at the O2 on 14th Dec, and then saw him again in Nottingham on Sat 18th Dec.

Jess (Wynn's girlfriend) joined us for Christmas, arriving on Christmas Eve. Had a nice Xmas eve meal that night (ham etc) - and then both Jess & Wynn came to Midnight Mass with me (Anglican, although Jess is RC).

Christmas Day was my happiest day of the whole year - and the best Christmas for many, many years! Cuddles were enjoyed! Gifts opened in suitable frenzy! Board games were played! TV was watched (Dr Who, new Bill Bailey DVD)! Vast amounts of delicious food was eaten! Sweets & chocs were consumed. Boxing Day was also delightful - particularly the walk (and sledging) up on Horsenden Hill in the snow with Jess & Wynn (Gethin was working so couldn't come along)

Jess attempted to leave on 27th, but 'bounced back' for an extra couple of days.

Mum and Dad arrived evening of 30th - and stayed with us till morning of 2nd Jan. A lovely visit. Included visit to Nat Hist Museum on 31st, to see the Wildlife Photography Exhib (both W & G came as well) Also a trip to Chiswick Park on 1st without the boys). Also watched all the Eric & Ernie progs on evening of 31st

Bob's birthday on 2nd Jan - after I got back from taking my parents to the airport, Bob, Wynn and I went up to the British Museum and had an amazing lunch at the restaurant there. Didn't got to any exhibitions in the end - instead did a spot of window & real shopping - mobile phone for Bob, visit to his favourite book shop, HMV, researching guitars for Wynn.... A really lovely day together.

Monday 3rd Jan - final day of holiday for me. No idea what we did: just lazing at home I think.
(Bob was off longer and went to Malvern with Wynn for a couple of days 4th/5th)

Sunday, 9 January 2011

What a very fine week-end!

Bob and I went to Stratford-upon-Avon yesterday (Sat 8th Jan 2011); we delivered Cadi to our friends, Nigel & Jill, then hit the road by 11am. A very quick drive up the M40 - with lots of happy nattering along the way - meant we got there by about 12.30. We left the car at our B&B in Shipston Rd, then took a rather a long - and BITTERLY cold - walk into town along the route of the old tramway.

First stop, the new RSC theatre, in search of lunch at the restaurant on the top floor, hoping for fine views while dining. Despite the best efforts of an annoying v large group of wrinklies, who seemed intent on 'bumping' us, we got a table (whereas they were turned away - ha!).

Sadly our table was sans view (there's an outer and inner circle and we had a wall between us and the windows (but I went a few steps to take in the INNER view - on the other side of us - of the sheer drop right down to the foyer - yikes! Bob chose not to look....) Nonetheless, it proved a good choice of eaterie. For starters Bob had sophisticated leek with blue cheese soup and I had a delectable salmon salad, then for main course I had an amazing vegetarian pearl barley risotto, while Bob had faggots (!) which he said were delicious. Couldn't resist dessert as well - I had a very modern version of lemon meringue with honeycomb mess (all in a little glass tumbler) whereas Bob just had vanilla icecream. Coffees to finish ofcourse.

We went to try to buy tickets to go up the theatre's tower, but I overheard someone in front of me in the long queue at the box office being told that the next timed ticket for the tower wasn't for at least 90 minutes, so we scrapped that idea and headed into town for a wander around instead.

I've been to Stratford many times, but it was Bob's first time. We didn't want to pay to go into any of the Shakespeare properties, but enjoyed seeing the many elizabethan buildings from the outside. Window shopping soon turned into actual shopping - and then some!

It's quite a haul:
First I got a lovely new necklace of polished stones (not cheap but reasonable) plus a pair of inexpensive silver celtic knot earrings in Past Times. Due to the cold, we then bought a hat for me - in Fat Tuesday I think. Next Bob bought a couple of books in Waterstones (one on unusual places in London, the other about the diet of early homo sapiens. We browsed the street market but managed not to buy anything there. Later, we sought a thank you gift (and a few souvenirs for ourselves) in the shop attached to Shakespeare's birthplace: I bought a fridge magnet, a thimble, several greeting cards, a Shakespearean canvas bag (!), souvenir sweets BUT DIDN'T BUY the cheesy Romeo & Juliet snowglobe: I thought Bob was joking, but he's been going on about not being allowed to get it ever since (although that may still be him teasing me, I'm not sure..)

A few doors up, we bought some typically touristy biscuits to take back for our dog-sitting friends. On the same (pedestrianised) street, a busking juggler's pet rabbit - called (predictably I suppose) Thumper - was roaming rather further than he was supposed to, but without ill effect.

Heading back down the main street, the gravitational pull of a couple of clothes shops advertising their January sales proved too strong. In the end, (after a trying on session, with Bob in traditional position sitting at the changing room entrance, giving his verdict on each item) we bought me: an embroidered cardigan, 2 tops and a long scarf. Like a child with new shoes, I switched as soon as having paid and wore the cardigan and scarf for the rest of the day.

Cup of tea and a bit of a rest in an ok tea room (the elizabethan building itself was lovely, with sloping floorboards, but the victoria sponge was horrid, unfortunately). This was followed by a browse in a fantastic second hand book shop - Bob found a very reasonably priced 1st edition of some book he knew, while I bought quite an expensive book about Morcembe and Wise (Bring me Sunshine).

Next was the search for a pre-theatre light meal. Old Town House, and the place next to it, had no space, so we just headed straight for the Courtyard Theatre and ate in the little cafe there - didn't really want a big meal anyway, after our big meal at lunchtime- baked potatoes with filling (and a glass of wine for me) was just right.

Had a little look in the theatre's Matilda shop - I bought a Matilda fridge magnet and an RSC canvas bag - and then we found a chair (one between the two of us) to wait in the foyer.

The show itself was wonderful - we were sitting in the circle, although right round at the side. I liked seeing everything from above this time, although I wasn't crazy about the side-on angle, and it seemed much harder to make out the lyrics of the songs this time, which I thought was due to the sound being not so well balanced for that part of the auditorium. Bob was tired and feeling slightly under pressure, cos he was aware that I was really hoping he would like it. Nonetheless he did enjoy and like it - 'just not as much as you do', as he put it.

A quick icecream at the interval, but no chance of getting a drink from the bar (I'd forgotten to order anything beforehand). By the end, Bob and I were both swelteringly hot and rather thirsty. Narrowly avoiding Bob's tiredness-tetchiness turning into out-and-out grumpiness, we rather enjoyed the quite long walk back to the B&B in the cold night air, with a totally clear sky filled with stars, pausing only to identify a few constellations, and to pick up a couple of soft drinks from an all-night garage.

To sleep, perchance to dream.... Nice comfy bed in a perfectly adequate B&B - but Bob had been spoilt by his (discounted) night in a lovely hotel (The MountPleasant) in Malvern last week (which I had also booked for him & Wynn, I might add!), so he was intent on teasing me for my penny-watching ways. Next week-end away, he says, we must go for the posh hotel option (yikes!)

The next morning, we enjoyed a nice leisurely start to the day, and had a full English breakfast, to set us up for the day. We then had to do lots of ice-scrapping before setting off in the car by a different, more scenic, route home - via the Cotswolds. We hadn't planned on much of a stop, but when we saw the signs pointing towards the Cotswolds Wildlife Park, we decided to go & have a look. Not cheap to get in, but we went ahead - and I'm very glad we did - we thoroughly enjoyed our visit, and plan to go back sometime in the summer months as well. Despite the bright sun it was jolly cold, and Bob (in true gentlemanly fashion) lent me his hoodie as an extra layer. As a result he was barely warm enough (despite his 4 remaining layers!). I was cosy, except for my toes.

Can't begin to remember all the cute, the ugly, the fascinating and the bizarre creatures we saw. I was surprised by how active so many of the animals seemed to be - they seemed to be enjoying the sunshine as much as we were. I think our joint favourite was the group of Pallas Cats - an ancient species of wild cat that looks like a particularly cuddly but slightly grumpy domestic cat. But the Red Panda came a close 2nd. Oh and the penguins, the meerkats, the lemurs, the warty pig (!), the giant tapir, huge snakes, fruit bats, white rhino, cameleons.... The wolves were amazing too, but rather sad and disturbing, as they were pacing in a repetitive, institutionalised fashion - and were in an enclosure that didn't really seem large enough for them.

We had a spot of lunch in the little cafe - just soup and a roll was enough after such a big breakfast. Having indulged in a final bit of retail therapy (just another thimble, Cotswolds honey for our friends and some sweets for later) we took to the road and the drive back to London didn't take as long as we expected - we were back shortly before 3pm! Having helped Wynn to find his passport number, I collapsed and had a post-drive nap for an hour before going to collect the dog and then taking Wynn to the tube (too tired to drive him all the way to New Cross!)