Gloria by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Hampstead Theatre, 24 June 2017

We’re on a bit of a roll at the moment; this was another very interesting piece.

It is a bit difficult to describe this play without spoilers – indeed the Hampstead Theatre staff we spoke to were bemoaning the fact that some of the formal reviews contain spoilers. Janie and I always avoid reading the reviews before we see a play/production, so it wasn’t spoiled for us and I’ll try not to spoil it for you.

The first act is a fairly conventional office politics satire set in a magazine publishing house; well acted and with some delightful vignettes. One ranting speech, towards the end of that act, by the chief fact-checker (played by Bo Poraj) will live long in our memories. Still, such office satires have been done many times and we have seen plenty to know that we are not wild about the genre…

…but…

…there is a pivotal moment at the end of the first act which reassured us that the second half of the play would be quite different.

Indeed, the second half was far more interesting and progresses, through two more, shorter, acts, in intriguing ways from the slow build of the first act.

Here is a link to the Hampstead Theatre’s resource on this play/production. 

Gloria has deservedly had good reviews from all the majors. It was a great success in its native USA and should do well in the UK too – at the time of writing the Hampstead run has already been extended and a West End run surely beckons.

Go see it.

Janie and I rewarded ourselves with some Chinese food from Four Seasons afterwards.

Avital Meets Avital, Wigmore Hall Lates, 23 June 2017

Avital Meets Avital

We really like these Wigmore Lates concerts and we really like interesting jazz/fusion music at the Wig.

So when I saw this concert promoted in the Wigmore Hall brochure – click here for all the information retained on the site – I figured that it would almost certainly be right up our street.

…Moroccan and North African sounds, folk and classical traditions, Israeli harmonies and Mediterranean rhythms to create a musical melting pot…

How right I was.

I hadn’t worked out, from that promotional material, that “Avital Meets Avital” is a relatively new combo, nor did it cross my mind that the two Avitals might not be connected to each other by blood. They just happen to be two musical guys who share the same surname who discovered that they make great music together and formed a fine musical friendship and combo.

The tour seems to be a promotional one, in part to promote their album, which was released a couple of weeks ago – click here (or the picture above) for more details on that.

The concert was wonderful.

The hall was pretty crowded, considering that the combo is fairly new and the Friday late slot does not always do well unless the act is well-known/a local favourite.

The group’s love of music and music-making together came across very nicely. In particular, Omer Avital (right of picture) came across as a real fun-loving showman – but in a good way. Janie is often put off by flamboyant musicians, but this was just the right balance of joyous music making, sharing that joy with the audience, yet relentlessly high-quality, professional musicianship.

Indeed all four of them are superb musicians.

Avi Avital must be one of the leading virtuosi of the mandolin – some of the intricate work he was doing, especially on the smaller of the two mandolins he played, was spellbinding.

The pianist, Yonathan Avishai, was mostly playing (in effect) continuo, but when he got the opportunity to extemporise with a solo, his ability as a musician became very clear.

The drummer, Itamar Doari, looked as mad as a box of frogs (or at least on a different cerebral  planet) when he played – it was a wonder he didn’t spontaneously combust Spinal Tap style during his solos. Strangely though, in the bar afterwards, he looked surprisingly sane and normal.

There was a good vibe in the bar after the show, with a jazz pianist playing. It was good to see all four performers (as well as a reasonable chunk of the audience) joining in the post concert fun – that doesn’t always happen after these Wigmore Lates concerts.

I downloaded the Avital Meets Avital album as soon as we got home and we have listened to it several times over the past few days. I would recommend the album highly, but would also suggest that you get to see this combo live if you can – the recordings cannot quite do justice to the uplifting sense you get from seeing this combo perform live.

Ink by James Graham, Almeida Theatre, 17 June 2017

Bloomin’ ‘eck this was good.

This was the first preview of Ink – so if you are reading this within 10 days or so of the above date, you still won’t be able to see formal reviews but you might still be able to get tickets. Get them before it’s too late!

Brilliant production, incredibly pacey, wonderfully designed, superbly acted – we were gripped from start to finish – for more than three hours – despite the heat and the exhaustion therefrom.

Here is a link to The Almeida’s resource on Ink.

Ink starts with Rupert Murdoch buying a maligned, failing broadsheet paper, The Sun, from IPC (which was in effect The Mirror Group then) and persuading Larry Lamb to edit The Sun for him and help Murdoch beat the Mirror at their own game.

The rest is history and the history of that first year of Murdoch ownership pans out relentlessly on the stage.

The first half was especially pacey, taking us through the early days of the Murdoch era, not least the tension of the tabloid launch in November 1969.

The second half goes deeper and at times darker; the Muriel McKay kidnap/murder and the start of the Page 3 era being covered in a great deal of detail.

I had a strangely good feeling about this play/production despite its provenance. We didn’t much like the preview we saw of This House by James Graham a few years ago – indeed we left in the interval – but I sensed that his writing style would please us in this Fleet Street context far more than it did in the Westminster setting.

Biographical/history plays of this kind have a fundamental problem of course; we know how the story and even the main sub-plots end, so the drama, tension and thought-provocation has to come from elsewhere. James Graham is becoming a master at doing this. His style is different from Peter Morgan’s (Frost/Nixon etc.), but I think we are now blessed with two British writers who are world class at this genre.

Being hyper-critical, I think James Graham is probably a little too kind on Rupert Murdoch and a little too harsh on Larry Lamb. The inference in several scenes is that Lamb was going further than Murdoch wanted him to go, but to my mind it is a classic media proprietor’s trick (and certainly an archetypal Murdoch one) to hire street-fighters to do their work and then seemingly recoil in genteel horror when the street-fighter fights.

James Graham might have shown up the hypocrisy in Murdoch’s position more, but I suspect Graham deliberately chose not to. Murdoch is still alive and hugely influential whereas Larry Lamb and the other main protagonists are gone.

But these are minor points; the story is wonderfully portrayed and I hope the play and this production do extremely well; they deserve to do so.

I might spoil the fun if I reveal the clever effects and coups de theatre that come thick and fast in this production, but I will share a couple.

In one of the scenes illustrating the then ground-breaking marketing and advertising campaigns run by The Sun, the actors threw fistfuls of “money” into the air, much of which landed at the front of the stage but some came tumbling into the audience; in our front row seats I scored a crisp (albeit false) Ayrton on my lap:

A welcome breach of the fourth wall.

Not that the front row was all good news for me and Janie. In one scene, in which Larry Lamb angrily beats out a printing plate himself, because none of the unionised workers will touch the story, Janie and I got showered with…

…ink? Whatever it is, it went all over our clothes.

I called the Almeida on the Monday to ask them what the substance might be and how best we might wash our clothes. Strangely, it was one of the actors who answered the phone; he seemed especially concerned that they try to avoid breaching the fourth wall that way in future performances. Fair point.

But the actor also kindly called me back a few minutes later, after speaking with stage management and wardrobe, to say that they were very cagey indeed about revealing what the actual substance is, but they did give him some washing instructions to pass on to me. The instructions started, “firstly, put on Cat 3 asbestos-hooded coveralls…”  I’m kidding, I’m kidding.

I suppose those two breaches of the fourth wall combine well in an expression that the quintessential Yorkshireman, Larry Lamb, would often have used:

where there’s muck there’s brass.

Jam by Matt Parvin, Finborough Theatre, 16 June 2017

This was not the best Friday evening Janie and I have ever had.

First stop was the Finborough Theatre – our latest hot place – in several senses of the term that evening – it had been a scorcher of a day and was still well hot early evening. The heat in part explains our irritability.

I deposited our “friendship form” with the delightful volunteers at the ticket desk who were unsure what to do with the form, making an almighty fuss about it until someone senior enough came downstairs, grabbed the form and took it away. By this point, Janie was convinced that the senior response was inadequate in the circumstances, whereas I was convinced that it was fine; all I had wanted to do was save myself the price of a stamp by handing the thing in rather than posting it.

We were there to see Jam by Matt Parvin – click here for Finborough resource.

The acting was superb and the subject-matter really interesting, but Janie and I both found it nigh-on impossible to suspend our disbelief in the behaviour of the characters,  in particular the school teacher, given the situation.

Before any savvy readers start to think that we read reviews and then find ourselves seeing the production as reviewers would have us see it, I should say that it is our habit studiously to avoid reading reviews until we have seen a production and formed opinions for ourselves.

But on this occasion, our friend, Michael Billington’s review in the Guardian – click here – sums up almost exactly how we felt and how we discussed it in the minutes/hours after we left the theatre.

David Ralf in The Stage is kinder on the piece; “a touch contrived”. He is also full of deserved praise for the quite excellent performances by the two on stage; Jasmine Hyde and Harry Melling – remember where you heard the names first.

Long before we got to the theatre, Janie and I had agreed that we had a crazy craving for Persian food – Mohsen’s. This craving was only exacerbated by references to the Iranian origins of the teacher character in the play.

But it turned out that Mohsens is closed for a refurb at the moment.

No matter, we thought, Alounak is still there and not such a detour for us. Well, we used to be fans of Alounak’s food, but the standard seems to have declined considerably – at least to our taste. Now we can hardly wait for Mohsen to reopen.

Not the most successful Friday evening ever – but then there was still Saturday evening to come and that turned out to be an altogether more pleasing experience…

…I guess it was a case of “jam tomorrow”.

Here, There and Everywhere: Rather A Lot Of Real Tennis In Two Days and A Star-Struck Encounter, 14 & 15 June 2017

I’m not easily star struck these days; I see quite a lot of reasonably well-known people on my regular rounds.

But I did get a little star-struck on Thursday morning.

I drove to Lord’s to play real tennis, but needed to park in the North Gate side of the ground as it was an MCC match day – the Universities Match.

Once through the gate, I drove along the narrow driveway from the North Gate to the Lord’s Academy car park. There, I was held up for a few moments by a strolling couple; they stopped and the man was taking photographs of the woman for a short while. This is a common scene at Lord’s, especially on that sort of match day, with many visitors who rarely visit Lord’s treating it as a touristic day out.

The man must have realised that he was holding me up, because, once he’d taken his photographs, he turned around, gave me a thumbs up and said thank you to me for waiting…

…that man was Paul McCartney.

I waved, said “good morning” and drove on to the car park.

The event brought to mind Paul Deacon’s famous (infamous) 1990s Paul McCartney videoing incident at the BBC, immortalised a few years ago on Facebook – click here.

Indeed, I wondered afterwards whether I should have said to McCartney, “would you like to take some photographs? Would you like it if someone came round your place blocking your driveway taking photographs?”  But then, he might not have got the reference. Indeed it might have seemed rude and threatening, especially as his driveway is only a few hundred yards away from the Lord’s North Gate. Besides, you often see tourists blocking Paul McCartney’s driveway, taking photographs of his house.

In any case, Paul McCartney hadn’t exactly put me out; in fact he had given me a pleasant surprise that morning – especially as I was fresh from a lot of Beatles-oriented activity in Liverpool the weekend just gone – it was in truth a nice coincidence.

That Lord’s visit was for the third of four singles matches I ended up playing in just over 24 hours, that Wednesday and Thursday. I wasn’t supposed to play at all on Wednesday, but events, not least the Grenfell Tower tragedy, left the club short of people (staff and members) who could get in to play, while others were travelling further and getting in for their slots just fine. I was glad to be able to help.

So I played at very short notice Wednesday morning, then again that evening, then my planned Thursday morning slot (including the unexpected former Beatle sighting).

At my Thursday morning slot, I was asked if I could stick around and play again early afternoon. I did have work and reading to do, but of course in the modern era you can get a lot of those things done wherever you are…

…and sitting in the sunshine half-watching a bit of cricket at Lord’s, even if it is a universities match, is a fine place to catch up on your e-mails and read The Economist.

The Player’s Peeling Name Reads Ladd-Gibbon

The young man fielding in front of me, at one point, was named Ladd-Gibbon, which seemed ironic in the circumstances. Ged Ladd is my cricket nom de plume and I reckon that after three or four hours of real tennis in just over 24 hours, I was probably walking with a bit of a “funky gibbon” posture.

Still, as I stomped back round from the Grandstand to the real tennis court for my fourth hour, some kids, who were playing with mini bat and ball on the Warner/Grandstand concourse, stopped playing and asked me if I had just finished batting in the match. I often describe Lord’s as one of the few places on earth where I am still addressed as “young man”. I think it might be the only place on earth where I might be mistaken for a university student cricketer.

Dinner With John White At The Bleeding Heart, 13 June 2017

It was John’s turn to choose venue this time.

It occurred to me as Janie and I were driving back to London from Southport, on the Monday, that I hadn’t yet heard from John about our arrangements for the next day. But by the time we got home and I got round to checking my e-mails, John had written:

I have gone traditional and local – The Bleeding Heart.  I don’t know if you have eaten there before but it has become one of my favourites since moving to the area.  We can have a drink in the Mitre beforehand also one of my favourite pubs in the locality; a real proper boozer although I don’t think you could call it a local unless you include all the local people who work here but reside elsewhere.

Anyway it’s booked for 7.  Why don’t you pop round to my new gaff when you are ready.  I can give you a quick tour of the offices now they are fully furnished and occupied, then head for a pint before determining whether to gamble on the wicket gate being open to Bleeding Heart Yard.

John had obviously forgotten that I used to work for Binder Hamlyn in St Bride Street and that The Bleeding Heart had been the staff canteen (for special occasions) back then…and indeed the Mitre was one of our regular haunts too in the Binders days.

In fact, I had returned to The Bleeding Heart fairly recently, with Micky, but it is certainly a place where I am very happy to dine again.

So we implemented John’s plan to the full – I managed to get to the BACTA offices in Ely Place around 18:15. The guided tour of the offices didn’t take long.

Then we retired to one of the little snug bars at Ye Olde Mitre, finding a good corner table for ye olde gits to swap stories over a drink. John was very pleased to learn of our meeting with Frank Dillon in Southport. I showed John the pictures (the write up was not yet writ). We also discussed the election and plenty else besides, before moving on through the wicket gate to Bleeding Heart Yard.

We were in the main Bleeding Heart restaurant that evening. John started with a raviolo of ricotta cheese, herbs, pine nuts and stuff, I started with a smoked salmon and Dorset crab thingie. I then went on to try the calves liver, while John opted for the roast fillet of Scottish beef with slow braised cheeks. As oft we do, we swapped samples of each other’s dishes before tucking in. All the dishes were predictably excellent, as was the service.

We both enjoyed a dry-but-fruity German Riesling with our starters, with John moving on to a Malbec and me moving on to a Barbera D’Alba with the main.

John went for the cheese afterwards, while I chose a strawberry parfait served with the recommended Tokay.

It was a super evening, albeit an indulgent one. I would have slept very well on the back of all that indulgence, indeed I did so until the sounds of sirens and helicopters (attending to the Grenfell Tower Block tragedy) woke me up in the early hours of Wednesday, making reality and disparity bite.

Southport Day Three: County Cricket En Famille Plus A Blast From My Keele Past, 11 June 2017

It has to be said that, up until this day, our attempts over the years, with Lavender and Escamillo Escapillo, to watch Middlesex and Lancashire play cricket, had been soggy experiences to say the least.

I wrote up our first attempt, in a light-hearted-stylee, back in 2009, for King Cricket – click here.  (That day is also Ogblogged – here).

Indeed, previous attempts by just me and Escamillo Escapillo to watch our respective counties play each other had been thwarted for one reason or another until last season, where we managed to squeeze in a half day – Ogblogged here.

So after yesterday’s washout – delightfully filled with activities in Liverpool instead – it was a joy to see blue skies on the Sunday morning and a forecast that suggested little or no interruptions to play.

We aimed to get to the ground in time for the start, but hadn’t counted on the local Sunday trading laws, so although M&S (other sources of sandwiches, crisps and water are available) opens at 10:30, it doesn’t actually open the tills until 11:00.

Shopping is not something I like to do; I like to buy things I want/need, I don’t like to shop. So 10:35 to 11:00 that morning was not the most enjoyable/memorable part of the day. I won’t be making that mistake again on a Sunday morning.

Still, we had the Escamillo-mobile on stand-by, so we were still inside the ground and wandering around by 11:20.

Cricket En Famille – But Who Is The Third Man?

We took up good front row seats in our chosen position quite quickly. Soon after that, Daisy got quite shirty with me because I didn’t want to start drinking at 12:00 on a Sunday. Escamillo Escapillo was driving anyway and I knew what was coming later, so we left it to the girls to start drinking that early in the day.

There were quite a few Middlesex supporters around on the Sunday – some came and sat quite close to us. Soon after lunch was called by the umpires, Barmy Kev came and joined us for a while.

Barmy Kev didn’t take it upon himself to remind me that I owe him a drink or three and I don’t need reminding. But I didn’t want to drink that early in the day; I knew what was coming later, plus I didn’t want to reciprocate Barmy Kev’s generous hospitality at Lord’s with the less salubrious (I really mean less expensive) offerings at the Trafalgar Ground.

Meanwhile Escamillo Escapillo and Lavender were both as happy as Larry; the former because Lancashire were doing well in the match, the latter because EE was as happy as Larry and she was getting a bit merry with Daisy on the fermented grape juice.

“So who is the third man?” I hear readers up and down the land asking, as we are now several paragraphs on from me setting that puzzle.

The third man is Frank Dillon, a good friend from the Keele days who lives in Merseyside. The reason for his appearance is partially explained in an Ogblog piece I wrote a few weeks ago about an old school-friends gathering – click here.

If that makes no sense to you, click the blithering link where the strangeness is explained. The long and short of it is that John Easom at Keele Alumni Central put me and Frank back in touch with each other and when I told Frank that we would be coming to Southport for the cricket in a couple of week’s time, he responded by saying that he had been half-planning to show up at that match anyway.

We’d bought plenty of sandwiches for everyone, while Frank wanted us to know unequivocally that, while we were visitors on his patch, he was going to buy the drinks aplenty.  Perhaps there is some sort of by-law about this for Merseyside.

Escamillo Escapillo was becoming even happier than Larry, despite sticking strictly to driver’s lemonade, as Lancashire’s position went from good to seemingly impregnable. Lavender likewise for both of the reasons expressed earlier.

As tea came round, so the young couple said their goodbyes to us, as planned; they were heading home that afternoon/evening, whereas Daisy and I were staying on the extra night.

Frank said that he too would only stick around for another hour or so after the young couple left, but that was plenty of time for us to finish catching up with some of our news, swap some old stories and discuss the current political maelstrom.

Cricket, wine, water, memories, news, political maelstrom…

In addition to his generosity with the drinks, Frank seems to have decided that I should be the curator of his Keele picture memorabilia, handing me an envelope with a few photographs, all of which will find their way onto Ogblog when I write up the relevant stories but can now all (all seven) be seen on Flickr, click here.

The picture of 1980/81 committee members (including Frank)  with Robert Plant I have already added to my Ogblog piece on that story – here.

It was a really lovely day – at last Daisy and I have spent some time actually watching cricket with Lavender and Escamillo Escapillo – indeed it had been a lovely weekend with them. The years just fell away chatting with Frank; I do hope to see him again soon, probably in London next time.

After Frank left, Daisy and I stuck around for a few more minutes until it started to get a bit chilly again. We wandered round to the hospitality tent and got a chance to say goodbye to Keith Hayhurst and one or two others who hadn’t been around when we said our goodbyes there on Friday – click here to read about election day and Day One of this match.

Southport Day Two: A Day Out In Liverpool, Tate Liverpool, International Slavery Museum, The Cavern Club and More, 10 June 2017

On the evening of 9 June, when Daisy and I returned from the Trafalgar Ground, Southport, we had an excellent dinner with Charlotte and Chris (Lavender and Escamillo Escapillo) in The Bold Hotel restaurant.

We agreed that the weather forecast for Saturday looked shocking and (I thought) agreed that a day out in Liverpool would be a good substitute for sitting around in (probably) vain hope of any cricket. We also agreed to liaise in the morning.

About 9:00 a.m. Daisy received a text from Lavender to say that, as the weather was so poor, they had decided to take the train to Blackpool for the day.

Liverpool – more front than Blackpool?

“What’s Blackpool like?” asked Daisy.

“I’ve never been on a wet June day and I’m not about to either,” was my reply, “what the hell was wrong with the Liverpool idea; I thought we’d all agreed a plan last night?”

Daisy phoned Lavender to ascertain that she had, in fact, confused the names Blackpool and Liverpool. The whole of the north of England is just one huge swathe of vaguely-named towns and cities to some people.

So we were as one with the plans and headed off to Southport railway station. For the princely sum of £5.10 each we were awarded the freedom of the Wirral and Northern Lines for the day.

We ran into some Middlesex supporters as we went to board our train. They seemed to think there might be play from 11:30 and wondered why we were fleeing town. The truth will have dawned on them as the day panned out – there was no cricket at all that day.

From Liverpool Central, we headed towards Albert Docks; our first stop being the Tate Liverpool. Daisy took some photos along the way.

Are you SURE we weren’t in Blackpool?

We were really impressed with the Tate Liverpool and spent quite some time there.

Tate Liverpool, Albert Dock

We started with the Tracey Emin and William Blake in Focus exhibition. I’m not 100% sure about the connection between Blake and Emin – this seemed to me more a marketing ploy than a genuine connection – but I had never actually seen the Tracey Emin bed before, nor had I ever seen so many William Blake pictures gathered in one place. Well worthwhile.

We then went through the upper floor (i.e. same level as the Emin/Blake) of Constellations – which is the main regular exhibition at Tate Liverpool. We all enjoyed that enormously but felt in need of a sit down and some refreshment at that stage, so we went to the cafe for a while and then looked at the rest of Constellations.

Buoyed by our refreshments, we wandered round the block to the Beatles Experience, where there were long queues and a rather touristic look to the place, so we decided to go to the Cavern Club instead but, before leaving the docks area, to take Mike O’Farrell’s advice and visit the International Slavery Museum . I’m really glad we did.

I find it hard to try and articulate how that International Slavery Museum made me/us feel. It is very interesting. Some of it is shocking, not least the matter-of-fact inventories and documentation that makes it so clear that people were seen as commercial commodities. But much of first section of the museum is a wealth of information on the African culture from which so many of the slaves came and much of the last section is a celebration of the modern culture that has emerged through the descendants of former slaves.

One especially thought-provoking section is about modern slavery – in particular sex workers – which reminded me that slavery in all its horrible forms has not entirely gone.

Between the museums and the Cavern Club, we wanted to see Judy Chicago’s Fixing A Hole mural, at Stanley Dock near the Titanic Hotel. We took a cab there, on the advice of some helpful police-folk:

Judy Chicago’s Beatles-Inspired Mural “Fixing A Hole”

We didn’t hang around in the plush Titanic Hotel, nor the Stanley Dock. We were told we’d have no trouble getting a cab to the Cavern up on Great Howard Street, but we walked 5 minutes or more along that road without a sniff of a cab.

Chris cleverly suggested that we try Regent Road (along the side of the Mersey) instead. That worked rapidly…and we landed up with a Scouse cabby from central casting who told us his life story, how many he smokes and yet how far he walks, tales of seeing John Lennon’s ghost, everything he thought we ought to see in Liverpool…you get the picture. He was great.

That late afternoon slot on a Saturday at The Cavern Club turns out to be great fun. We saw The Shakers – one of the house bands.

Yes, it is possible for Ged to look this spaced out after just a few sips of wine and no narcotics, honestly, officer.

As always, Janie was keen to demonstrate her skills at Sixties-style dancing in a hippy-hippy-shake-stylee:

These pictures look even better in the iPhone mini vid mode, but you should get the idea from the still. Escamillo Escapillo feigns not being with Daisy.
As we leave, Daisy chats with security but does not have her collar felt.

You can see all the photos from the Southport/Liverpool trip, including a couple of Daisy’s well dodgy vids, by linking through to Flickr, here.

We decided to head for a train between 18:00 and 18:15 to get us back to Southport in time to freshen up before dinner.

Dinner was at a family-run Italian restaurant named Volare, about 30 seconds crawl on hands and knees (not that we did it that way) from the hotel. The food was excellent and the staff helpful/friendly. The highlight (or perhaps low-light) of the evening was towards the end, when the staff with great fanfare played “Happy Birthday To You” at full volume over the sound system and presented a rather embarrassed-looking lady at the table behind me with a candle-lit tiramisu.

Unbeknown to me, Daisy signalled to the staff that it was also my birthday (which of course it wasn’t), so five minutes later they went through the rigmarole again for me, much to my discomfort and the glee of the other three. I shall exact my revenge; don’t know where, don’t know when, but the dish will be served cold.

In truth, we’d done many interesting things and had a lot of fun that day, despite most of it being distinctly “Plan B” activity.

Election Day Plus The Start Of Our Long Weekend In Southport, 8 & 9 June 2017

Escape To Southport – Sounds Like The Title Of A Superb Movie

Last time there was a general election, in 2015, Janie and I escaped to the North-West after voting, reaching North Wales overnight and reaching Dublin by noon the next day – Ogblogged here.

This time our escape on election day was coincidental – we had planned this trip to Southport weeks before the election was called.

The main purpose was to spend the weekend at the county cricket match between Lancashire and Middlesex, with Charlotte and Chris (Lavender and Escamillo Escapillo). Daisy and I decided to take advantage of my/our honoured guest status and go up to Southport a day earlier, to take in Day One of the cricket that way on the Friday.

On Thursday morning I got a wave of memories from my first ever election day, which I Ogblogged – click here.

I linked that Ogblog through Facebook and kicked off a wave of memories from old friends – here.

Little did I realise that morning, holding my nose and voting in Notting Hill (soon to be renamed The Kensington Keele-like Kremlin On The Hill) what a momentous election it was going to be.

I then went to the gym and did some thorough exercise before loading up Dumbo and heading off to the house in Noddyland (otherwise known as The Egalitarian Enclave Of Ealing).

To the extent that any faffing about on this occasion was anyone’s fault, it was mine, as Janie was sort-of ready by 11:00 but we didn’t get away until just before 12:30. Traffic was awful around Birmingham and then again as soon as we got past Keele, so the journey ended up taking us over 6 hours including pit stop at that Toll Road service station.

We had booked into The Bold Hotel in Southport and were soon put at our ease thanks to the friendly staff there, not least Kathy who helped us to sort out all those little things that need sorting out on check-in.

When investigating Southport, I had liked the look of The Vincent Hotel, although I felt that the smaller Bold might be more to our taste as a residence. Still, I had liked the look of The Vincent for dining and suggested to Daisy that we dine there on the first night. This was a good idea.

We dined in The Vincent Pacific – a newly themed restaurant in that hotel specialising in Asian/Fusion cuisine. The chef seems to specialise in subtle marinades that make meat ultra tender and an unusual (some might say excessive) liking for raspberries. What it lacks in authenticity it more than made up for with quality ingredients, superb presentation, very tasty food and a very warm atmosphere (staff and ambience). One of the better meals we’ve had in the UK outside London. Expensive by North of England standards but, compared with Leftie-London prices, very good value.

Of course we didn’t realise that we were from Leftie-London while we dined, except that, towards the end of the meal, I felt a buzz from my mobile phone and saw that the BBC exit poll was predicting a hung parliament.

By the time we got back to our hotel room, I had received an e-mail from John White saying, “I can’t believe the exit polls!”. As I am a well-known sceptic on pre-election opinion polls but equally a well-known believer in the veracity of modern exit polls, I sent John a one word reply: “believe!”.

9 June 2017

So we woke up to find our once-great nation in political turmoil but never mind, we were off to the cricket, so nothing much matters on such a day.

It is a 40 minute or so walk from The Bold Hotel to the Trafalgar Road Ground – roughly the same length of walk as the walk from my flat to Lord’s. A very pleasant walk it was too.

Keith Hayhurst, who looked after me so well and kindly at Old Trafford last year – Ogblogged here – is also the host at Lancashire out-grounds. He took a shine to Daisy, who got the Lancashire CCC history in more detail in one session than I got in four days at Old Trafford, together with a generous copy of Keith’s book. She also got some fascinating snippets of Keith’s own life story, which were new to me and should really find their way into another book, if only Keith could be persuaded to realise what an unusual and interesting life he has led.

There were quite a lot of visitors from the Middlesex Committee at the ground on the Friday – I imagined that this fixture might not be so well attended but had underestimated the travelling tenacity of our dedicated Board.

The hospitality tent was heaving, not so much with Lancashire/Middlesex dignitaries but with an impressive number of corporate and individual hospitality customers. The Trafalgar Ground is a delightful setting for out-ground cricket; perhaps the envy of the county circuit for its setting and ability to stage a first rate (as well as first class) event.

Heaving Hospitality Tent

At lunch we sat next to David Kendix, who was concerned that anything he might say could be used in evidence against him on Ogblog. I promised faithfully not to breach any confidences on Ogblog, which (obviously) makes it very difficult for me to think of anything at all about that conversation that I can divulge.

One interesting and disclose-able fact came up in that conversation; the last time Middlesex had played Lancashire at the Trafalgar Road Ground was in 1981, including the day of the Royal Wedding between Charles and Di – scorecard here. Quite a contrast with the match that was starting to unfold in 2017 – scorecard link with trigger warning for Middlesex supporters of a nervous disposition.

I always enjoy chatting with David, who is a mine of information about cricket but wears his profound knowledge lightly and with great humour in conversation.

So before we knew it (Middlesex collapsing to allow an early tea at the innings break didn’t help) it was tea and we hadn’t really watched all that much cricket.

So after tea, Janie (Daisy) and I did a circuit of the ground, taking in some cricket from various vantage points and working out where might be the best place to sit with the youngsters over the weekend.

Will That Big Fella Please Sit Down Or At Least Move To Stop Blocking My View?

We decided that the area near the scoreboard mound was probably ideal for our weekend purposes, although Daisy particularly had big eyes on a little viewing deck that one of the neighbouring houses has built at the edge of their garden. Apparently they have done an informal deal with the club to allow the scoreboard to use their electricity in exchange for some of the best seats in (or I should say “just outside”) the ground.

After a couple of hours of that last (probably to be three hour) session, we started to feel a bit chilly and thought we should stroll back to the hotel, not least because Lavender and Escamillo Escapillo had texted us to announce their arrival. So we went back to the hospitality tent to say our goodbyes, then enjoyed the 40 minute walk back to The Bold.

The weather forecast for the next day was shocking, but we had a cunning plan…

…to be continued.

Footprints on the Moon by Maureen Hunter, Finborough Theatre, 4 June 2017

Janie and I have been meaning to try the Finborough Theatre for ages. Eventually we got round to booking a couple of productions this June – Footprints on the Moon being the first of them.

What a friendly place.

We went on a Sunday evening for this one and it was lovely to have a drink in a quiet local pub before strolling upstairs to take our seats in the theatre. Perhaps when we go on a Friday or Saturday night, the pub will heave a bit like the The Bridge beneath The Canal Cafe Theatre or The Prince Albert beneath The Gate Theatre.

But I digress.

Footprints On the Moon is set in a remote town in the Canadian prairies, the town being loosely based on Indian Head, Saskatchewan, from whence the playwright hails.

Being a tiny theatre club operating on a minuscule budget, naturally the Finborough has an excellent on-line resource with information about the production and quotes from reviews – click here. It simply wouldn’t be possible for a big beast like The National theatre to do this, would it?

But I digress again.

Footprints On the Moon is a very well-written chamber play centring around a feisty female character, Joanie, who has rich thoughts but is trapped in her small town world. We learn at the end of the play that she has never been beyond her immediate prairie environment, not by train, not by plane. She doesn’t want her daughter to move to Toronto, where Joanie’s estranged husband now lives.

It was written and is set in the 1980s, so there are no cell phones or internet connections either. Janie and I discussed afterwards whether that particular type of parochialism has gone for ever in the internet age.

Anne Adams as Joanie was excellent, as was Derek Hagen as the love interest and Samantha Coughlan as Joanie’s loyal friend. Sally Cheng did a decent job as the sultry teenage daughter, although looked a little too senior to be quite such an immature broody teen.

This is a claustrophobic (in a good way) chamber play – we never leave Joanie’s stoop/dining room – such plays work especially well in small theatres like the Finborough.  The second half of the play worked better than the first half for me, although I enjoyed the whole thing – Janie if anything preferred the first half.

We were both quite tired on Sunday evening yet came away delighted with our evening of theatre and looking forward to our next visit.

We shall be signing up as friends of the place next time we go.