Thank You, John White, For Dinner At Chor Bizarre, 29 March 2017

I was about to send John White a thank you e-mail this morning, when I realised that, as John is an Ogblog subscriber, I could thank him here and now while writing the blog piece about our meal, rather than e-mailing him first and then cutting & pasting or rewriting.

Thank you, John, it was a tremendous evening.

There, I have literally saved myself seconds…

…(the author pauses for a minute or two, admiring his words, cunning and outstanding efficiency).

It was a very pleasant evening. My turn to choose; I chose Chor Bizarre in Albermarle Street. Hence John’s turn to pay. Hence my turn to send the thank you message.

My thank you message to John would also have included these follow up points from our conversation:

  • you are quite right that the Innsbruck song should have guttural ichs and dichs, I listened to several versions when I got home and they all have flem aplenty – perhaps it’s because Heinrich Isaac was Flemish. Anyway, I have added a version for you to hear, towards the end of that Tallis Scholars concert blog piece – click here;
  • as we suspected, my CD version of I Love Music by the O’Jays is not the extended, nearly 7 minute long version, it is about half that length. The extended version can be found easily enough on line and I enjoyed listening to it.

But this must be confusing for anyone else reading this piece, so let me go sequential again.

We didn’t make it to a wine bar for a pre-dinner drink (we only occasionally manage those these days), this time because John was too busy hoity-toitying at the House of Commons until early evening.

Joking apart, John’s return to the Palace of Westminster that day must have given John considerable pause for thought, as he was there the previous week and witnessed the events of the recent attack from the other side of New Palace Yard.

Chor Bizarre was certainly a good choice for John – he loves his Indian food and this is absolutely top notch, British-style Indian. I started with Purani Dilli Ki Papri Chaat, a most amazing version of the type of snack lunch I ate so often in Drummond Street back in the day. John went for Amritsari Machhi, spicy fried fish pieces. We both tried each other’s starters, applauding both choices.

I went for a mild, yoghurty Kashmiri dish, Lamb Yakhni, while John went full tilt for a spicy Tamil Nadu style dish, Chicken Chettinad. Again we tried each other’s mains, pleased with our personal choices while recognising the quality of the whole meal. Rice, naan, cucumber raita…all excellent.

At one point, as we tucked into our delicious main courses, John asked if he could photograph me, as the gentleman he was with at the Palace of Westminster (I think John said it was his Chairman) didn’t believe that John has a friend.

Now I can understand the notion of, “I don’t believe you are going to meet a friend for dinner, I think you are merely making an excuse to get home rather than have another drink with me.” That’s fair.

But, “I don’t believe that you have a friend” is a very harsh suggestion indeed.

John Has Got A Friend.

This interlude reminded me a little of my eventful dinner with Ant Clifford last year, where I ended up filming Ant pouring white powder all over his Indian meal – click here. What is it with Indian restaurants and weird camera stuff these days?

It also made me think about the song You’ve Got a Friend and my cynical Fair Weather Friend lyric – click here – both of which I am working up a treat on the baritone uke at the moment.

At one point John suggested that I had probably ruined his family life by choosing such a superb Indian restaurant; his family tradition of a takeaway curry from the local curry house in Saffron Walden will now seem utterly inadequate.

John even toyed with the idea of taking away from Chor Bizarre for his family, but that merely enabled the recycling of, “the wine will be flat and the curry gone cold” line.

“You’ve ruined my family life by choosing such a good restaurant” could be a friendship-ending remark of course, so perhaps the Westminster gentleman had a point about John and friendships.

Mind you, earlier I made my own potentially-friendship-ending suggestion to John; namely that his question, “what have you been up to lately?” is no longer appropriate in my case. He simply needs to read Ogblog regularly to find out.

Indeed, we really don’t need to make conversation any more at all. We could be like many of the other people we see in restaurants these days – just studying our smart phones individually while we eat.

Anyway, all good things must come to an end, so we wandered back to Bond Street together, from whence we went our separate ways.

En route to the tube, I set John a quiz, the answer to which is “Jimi Hendrix and George Frideric Handel”. A huge accolade to the first Ogblog reader (John White need not apply) who comments in with what the question must have been.

Low Level Panic by Clare Mcintyre, Orange Tree Theatre, 25 March 2017

This made it two in a row theatre visits to see all female affairs, the previous visit being Scarlett at the Hampstead Downstairs – click here – earlier this month.

Unlike Scarlett, though, this production is a revival of a 1980’s play. Indeed, a quintessentially 1980’s play. It’s a three-hander.  All three actresses performed their roles very well.

Here is a link to the excellent Orange Tree on-line resources about the production, including reviews and stuff.

Lots of excellent reviews up there, mostly four stars. Of course, the Orange Tree only puts up the best ones with stars, so I add these only for balance:

Several of the reviews discuss feminism 1988 style and debate the extent to which things have changed since then – very much the conversation Janie and I had over dinner and the next day.

Anyway, Janie and I both really enjoyed our evening at the theatre and our Don Fernando grubsie afterwards.

 

Woodchester, Westonbirt and other Walks in Gloucestershire, 19 & 20 March 2017

We didn’t need to walk far…

We had arranged to stay on for a couple of days after Scott and Amy’s wedding. The Egypt Mill and Nailsworth generally sounded like a good place. Neither of us had spent much (or in Janie’s case, any) time in that south-western corner of the Cotswolds, so it seemed like a good idea to check out the area and walk off the wedding.

We didn’t need to walk far to see interesting flora and fauna; the gardens of The Egypt Mill were lovely. Only problem was, the gardens were guarded by a badling of ducks.

The weather forecast for the Monday was less than special, so we thought we’d better get most of our outdoor walking activities done on Sunday. After saying goodbye to everyone, we took some advice from the Egypt Mill folk and from Mr Google. Coaley Peak and Woodchester sounded like a very pleasant walk. Almost everyone recommended the Westonbirt Arboretum. We’d aim to visit both of those.

Coaley Peak was very windy and chilly when we got there. Also, the promised “superb views on a clear day” were not forthcoming as it wasn’t clear. The forecast suggested it might be a bit clearer later, so we left the car at Coaley Point and walked to the entrance to Woodchester Park.

There are several walks of various lengths recommended for Woodchester. We planned to walk more than the shortest circuit but less than the medium-sized circuit, making sure we got to see the start of the lakes and see the mansion, but not walk the extensive lakes.

Easily distracted…

The early part of the walk has some man-made paraphernalia designed to keep the easily distracted amused.

Easily amused.

Still, it was a beautiful walk in the main and the weather did seem to be holding up for us. Also, lower down in the park it felt warmer and far more pleasant than it had felt up on Coaley Peak.

…as we approached the mansion, we encountered strange beasts…

The mansion was guarded by wild beasts, the like of which we had not seen for many moons. Fortunately, I was able to emulate their sound (more “maaaaa” than “baaaaa” in reality) to keep the beasts honest. Unfortunately Daisy’s attempts to emulate the sound initially seemed to have no effect and then seemed to make these beasts nervous, so we stopped doing that.

Never really used

The old Woodchester Mansion, which was never really used, looks rather Gothic and splendid. The National Trust does open it up for tea house and mini tour purposes, but not as early in the year as March.

So we wandered back to Coaley Point in the hope of a better view; but up there the view had deteriorated since our arrival and the chilly wind had got chillier.

On a clear day you can see…

The picture I wanted to take is on the Wikipedia entry for Coaley Peak – here.

We took sanctuary in Dumbo (my Suzuki Jimny) and drove to Westonbirt, arriving there before 16:00. We realised that we didn’t have time to do both spring trails and opted to do the Spring Wood one.

The start of the trail was a bit “school-tripsy”; a walkway explaining what wood is and stuff. But once we got onto the trail itself we were in our element. Or more precisely, in Daisy’s element.

I can get all this at home

Lots of Japanese trees with varieties of cherry blossom just starting to show. Of course, as residents of Noddyland, we’re rather spoilt for Japanese cherry blossom trees and felt that “we can get all this and more besides at home”. Except for the number of varieties and the beautiful country trail setting of course.

Daisy got to see her chosen flora.

Not fully sated, we decided we had time to take on the start of the Old Arboretum trail, which promised camellias, rhododendrons, magnolias and (Daisy assured me) pterodactyls.

Daisy got to see her chosen flora…

Daisy got to see all the things she was looking for on the first four stages of the Old Arboretum trail, but we ran out of energy before spotting any of my pterosaurs. No matter.

…maybe behind that tree?…

That evening we had dinner with Tony and Liz, who ventured once again from their glamorous caravan site and dogs (it’s extraordinary how the other half live) to the relatively austere surroundings of The Egypt Mill. We had a very enjoyable evening.

20 March 2017

As promised it rained. Proper, wet rain. We enjoyed our breakfast. I spent some time mucking about with the blog and the pictures we had taken and my baritone ukulele. Daisy read and mucked about with her iPad (other brands of tablet are available).

But later, again as promised, the rain cleared and we were able to plan the local walk for late afternoon; Nailsworth to Stroud.

Perhaps 10-15 minutes out of Nailsworth along the walking/cycle track…

The first part of the walk was lovely, following the Nailsworth stream pretty much. Very pleasant scenery.

Soon enough, we reached a tunnel under the road (A46 I should imagine) which has loads of graffiti art, which we rather liked. Very colourful and some rather good.

We rather liked the graffiti tunnel
Daisy is the thinker…
I knocked up a quick portrait of Daisy (wink).

We continued to follow the track most of the way to Stroud, but then the track seemed to take us to the A46 itself, unless we wanted to loop. So we took to the road, but soon saw a sign which read “public footpath” leading down some steps and back to a rather attractive looking trail by the side of a garden. So we then took that.

A rather attractive looking trail…
…by the side of a garden
The trail continued past this garden…
…which Daisy admired, as the trail led back to the road again.

Just as we were about to emerge back onto the road, a rather strange-looking, frumpy woman accosted us and asked us what we were doing in her garden. I explained that we had followed the “public footpath” sign and stuck to the trail, but she was adamant that we had encroached on her garden.

I pointed in the direction of the sign we had followed and suggested that she report its ambiguity (or indeed its manifest error) to the council, as there was really no choice other than the trail path after following that sign, apart from really walking through the garden. The woman didn’t seem to like my idea of alerting the authorities, she told us that she was in a hurry as she had to rescue her cats. She merely wanted us to know that:

“there’s a cycle and walking track up the top there for people like you”.

I wondered what category of people the weird woman had put “people like us” into. Gentle folk out for an afternoon stroll? Anarcho-ramblers? Pikeys? People whose in-laws stay on caravan sites?

Janie was quite peeved by this woman. We followed a later sign back to the cycle/walking track, but it soon became clear that we would do a big loop round to Stroud that way, so we returned to the A46 and did the last mile/mile-and-a-half by road. Not the most salubrious surroundings for a ramble. Nor is Stroud a particularly interesting or pleasing town to visit, it transpires.

With the benefit of hindsight, we’d have done better to have walked half way from Nailsworth to Stroud and then back again, perhaps a slightly different way.

Still, we’d done some great walking over those two days. The full collection of pictures from those walks can be found here.

Scott & Ami’s Wedding, The Egypt Mill, Nailsworth, 18 March 2017

A quick one or two for Dutch courage before the wedding ceremony

Let’s not talk about the five hour marathon packing session and dusky drive to Gloucestershire the day before. Nor is there much to report on the very enjoyable dinner with Tony, Liz, Chris (Escamillo Escapillo) and Charlotte (Lavender) on the Friday evening at the Egypt Mill.

No, let’s get straight to the wedding day itself, before the ceremony. I chatted with the groom, Scott, (Manolete) on the right and his best man brother Paul (Belmonte) with baby Jack, centre.

I wasn’t drinking two glasses; I was holding Daisy’s glass while she took the pictures. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Daisy’s big sister, Hilary (Ermintrude) came round looking for Chris (Carlos Aruzza), who was chatting with his brothers and sisters, more or less in front of our eyes.

“Where’s Chris??!!”, asked Hilary

“I think he’s on his fifth or sixth glass of wine, underneath that table over there”, I said, pointing the other way.

“Oh God, he isn’t, is he?”, said Hilary, in max-stress mode. Perhaps I’d chosen the wrong moment and the wrong person for that particular joke.

After that, we were soon ushered in for the wedding itself.

Hilary and Chris, reunited, also with Paul and baby Jack

The registrar told us that we could take pictures as we pleased, but that the pictures should not be posted on social media until after the celebrations. This statement caused some confusion among some of the more senior guests, unfamiliar with the term “social media”.

Scott decided to explain in simple terms what social media is.

Social media…right…it’s, like…Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and stuff…

It was probably just as well that Scott explained it, otherwise several senior folk who didn’t even know what the term social media means, mostly probably would have, inadvertently, posted lots of stuff to social media during the embargo period.

Meanwhile I, who had not given the idea of live Ogblogging the wedding a moment’s thought until that announcement, suddenly felt an almost insatiable urge to post stuff to social media that very second. But I resisted.

Here comes the bride, with dad

Scott was clearly in contemplative, nay perhaps even deep meditative mood during the official ceremony itself.

Stay awake, Scott, this is your wedding ceremony

The wedding ceremony itself went pretty much entirely according to plan. There was a short round of applause when we got through the “does anyone know of any reason why this wedding should not take place” bit.

The registrar asked Scott to confirm Amy’s name at one point, claiming that Scott might not have said it absolutely right the first time. Daisy, I and everyone we spoke to afterwards were convinced that Scott got it right first time; we agreed that the matter should have gone to the TV umpire rather than Scott having to replay the point.

Little Penny, Paul and Mish’s first child, was the flower girl for this wedding, sitting up front with the maids of honour. Penny asked lots of questions during the ceremony which was rather sweet.

Reception after the ceremony; no further questions from the flower girl…

Then, a reception and of course the official photo shoot. Has to be done, but not my favourite bit at weddings. In any case, that day in Nailsworth, it was quite chilly standing around waiting for your slot.

Penny treated the photo shoot with due respect…
Also waiting to be snapped

After the shoot, the very tasty wedding breakfast, served after some short but sweet speeches, including a very succinct and eloquent best man jobbie from Belmonte Paul:

There was just about enough time between the meal and the dancing for Daisy and I to dash back to our room and change into our dancing outfits.

Like many good sports matches, the dance was a game of two halves. First up was a live band, Men@Ease, fronted by Jerry (Ami’s dad) and his partner Christine. They performed mostly 60’s and 70’s covers and were very good indeed.

Scott and Ami get the dance going

I thought it was a really nice touch from Ami’s dad, doing an hour or more’s set on her wedding day. From Ami’s point of view, of course, it eliminated the possibility of “dad dancing misery”.

Realising that someone needed to do embarrassing dad-type dancing (otherwise the whole event wouldn’t have been a proper wedding), I picked up that baton, so Daisy and I danced like crazy for most of that set.

Mercifully (or sadly) we have no photos from that part of the evening…yet. The official pictures, we are assured, will be ready soon and will no doubt have caught me and Daisy in the act.

After the live music, a DJ picked up the mantle with some more up to date sounds. Daisy and I continued to dance for quite some while, teaching the youngsters a thing or two about stamina and modern dance moves…some moves so modern that the youngsters had probably never seen anything quite like it before.

Anyway, the whole event was super.

It’s a shame we don’t (yet) have any pictures of Daisy (Janie) to show you from the wedding. But we do have, from 2013, a rare bit of selfie-style-video from the very first time that Ged and Daisy met Ami, when we went down to Bristol almost exactly four years before the wedding. Someone had shown Janie how to use the video feature of her smart phone and the rest is history.

The Kid Stays In The Picture, based on the life of Robert Evans, adapted by Simon McBurney & James Yeatman, Royal Court Theatre, 11 March 2017

Where shall I begin?

Little did we know it when we booked this slot, but we inadvertently ended up with one of the hottest tickets in town.

Janie and I are Friends of the Royal Court – regulars – and tend to book up the season early. For this show, we thought we had booked one of the last of several previews.

As it turned out, because The Kid Stays In The Picture is technically complex and difficult, the producers ended up cancelling the first few previews and indeed delaying the press night/official opening by more than a week.

So our Saturday night preview ended up being the very first public performance of this utterly stunning and absorbing show.

Janie and I are great fans of Complicite and Simon McBurney – our most recent encounter, The Encounter, linked here – ever since our very first date nearly 25 years ago, also a Complicite piece, which I shall Ogblog come the anniversary in a few month’s time.

But enough about us.

Robert Evans is a fascinating person with a fascinating story. Actor, studio executive, film producer…with more sub-plots to his personal saga than The Lord of the Rings.

There is an autobiography named The Kid Stays In The Picture from 1994 and even a 2002 documentary film of the same – click here to find those – but neither of those media could possibly have the same visceral impact as this extraordinary stage experience.

There is a superb piece in the Guardian from late February 2017, about Evans’s life and this forthcoming Royal Court Production – click here – which provides a very handy one-stop-shop exposition on it all. It includes a lovely photograph of Robert Evans with Ali MacGraw (her second marriage of three, his third marriage of seven…so far). To see that picture you must click the link, as I cannot replicate a copyrighted picture. If you cannot be bothered to click, you’ll have to make do with an eerily similar picture which is unquestionably ours.

The sweet love story that is older than the sea

At the start of the evening, Simon McBurney and Vicky Featherstone each made a short speech, explaining how our evening had ended up being the very first public performance, explaining their mutual admiration/thanks and begging our forbearance if anything did go awry technically.

Nothing went awry. The performance was masterful. Janie and I, though both suitably cynical with age and vast experience of stage productions, were simply blown away by this piece.

At the end, Simon McBurney came on stage with his little boy, who had played the voice of Josh Evans (and indeed whose voice had been part of the story of The Encounter). The little boy seemed terribly nervous of being on stage and tried to scarper a couple of times while McBurney was, once again, thanking us and the Royal Court for putting up with all the disruption.

We saw Simon McBurney with his family in the bar before the show and also at the back of the stalls during the interval. Despite sharing Robert Evans’s multiple skills and visionary nature, I sense and hope that Simon McBurney is a more rounded individual who does not and will not let his grand projects prevent him from having some semblance of balance to his family life.

The title, The Kid Stays In The Picture, is attributed to Darryl F. Zanuck, who cast the very young Robert Evans as Pedro Romero in The Sun Also Rises movie, against the wishes of several of the stars and indeed Ernest Hemingway. Evans expected to be sacked, but when Zanuck exclaimed, “the kid stays in the picture” was spared. At the same time, Evans realised that he no longer wanted to be the kid, but wanted to be the guy with the power to make that exclamation.

That story was beautifully told, as were many other stories about the movies (Rosemary’s Baby, Love Story, The Godfather, Chinatown…) and stars (Mia Farrow, Ali MacGraw, Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson…).

All of the performances were superb and the depiction of well-known people done with great visual and vocal care. It almost feels wrong to single anyone out, but for laughs and bravura, Thomas Arnold’s depiction of Charles Bluhdorn (the Gulf & Western industrialist who bought Paramount and engaged Evans to run it) and Henry Kissinger (with whom Evans had intriguing links) was exceptional.

Janie and I sincerely hope that The Kid Stays In The Picture gets rave reviews. It deserves to become a huge success for McBurney, Complicite, The Royal Court and all involved. Surely the West End and/or Broadway beckon for this piece. Perhaps even…whisper it…Hollywood?

The Tallis Scholars: Isaac and Mouton, Wigmore Hall, 9 March 2017

Been going a very long time

Heinrich Isaac died 500 years ago this month. Peter Phillips and The Tallis Scholars have been around for most of that time…

…OK, not really, but they have been around since the mid 1970s, which is one heck of a long time. What a superb and professional troupe they are.

The concert was billed as being Isaac and Mouton, but in truth it was almost all about Isaac.

Here is a link to the Wigmore Hall resource for the concert we saw/heard. The centrepiece of the first half of the concert was Isaac’s wonderful Missa de apostolis. The second half had more, shorter works; motets, including one by Mouton but the rest all by Isaac.

We spotted Michael Heseltine in the audience a few rows behind us, when we returned from the interval. A bit of a coincidence, as Janie was seeing Angela the next day; Angela was Hesser’s right hand person, back in the day.

We’ve seen The Tallis Scholars before and I have a few of their recordings of Renaissance and Early Baroque music: Brumel, Gombert and Taverner, all excellent. Indeed we listened to this Taverner one – click here – when we got home. 

But before getting home we were treated to a delightful encore of Innsbruck, ich muss dich lassen, a choral work attributed to (and probably the best known work of) Isaac. It was one of the greatest hits of the Renaissance. In truth, Isaac almost certainly didn’t write the words and possibly didn’t even write the music. But Isaac did live in Innsbruck at one time and did leave the place, perhaps in sorrow as suggested by the song, c1485. That was around the same time as, in Blighty,  Dick The Shit was feeding worms underneath a forthcoming Leicestershire car park and the Tudor era was just kicking off.

We’re talking nearly 100 years ahead of Greensleeves publication, so Innsbruck, ich muss dich lassen might well have been at Number One in the Renaissance charts for some 5000 weeks.

In these circumstances, it seemed only sensible for me to get my head around the words, chords and music – click here.

I’ve been working on that lovely song periodically since. It’ll go down an absolute storm on my baroq-ulele. I’m nowhere near as adept as The Tallis Scholars, needless to say, but they are nowhere near as Baroque-and-roll as me.  You never know, my version might just be the summer hit sensation of 2017.

Here are the King’s Singers giving it a go:

 

 

Revolution: Russian Art 1917–1932, Royal Academy, plus David Hockney, Tate Britain, 6 March 2017

We had booked the evening out for Hockney members’ evening ages ago; we decided to book out the whole day once our holiday plans had been fixed.

Thus the idea of going to see Revolution before the Hockney was hatched.

Still, events conspired against us earlier in the day and it ended up a bit of a rush to get in to see Revolution before closing time.

We got to the RA about 17:15. The young lady on the door warned us that they start closing about 17:55 (five minutes before actual closing time). I explained that the revolution wouldn’t take us all that long as we are seasoned revolutionaries. That seemed to convince her – at least she let us through without further ado.

Here is a link to the Royal Academy’s excellent resource on the Revolution exhibition.

In truth, we didn’t need all that long to see that exhibition. There were a few really good works of art, but the rest was interesting from an historical point of view rather than jaw-dropping art that you want to look at for ages.

I expected to like the Chagalls and the Kandinsky. More surprising was that I liked some of the Kazimir Malevich and the Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin (in the latter case, not the one depicted on the resource link above, but I did like several others).

I read The Noise Of Time by Julian Barnes on holiday, so the stuff about Stalin purging the arty folk was fresh in my mind.

Janie commented that, in many ways, reading the leaflet was more interesting than much of the art itself.

We then took a welcome break at the RA bar, where a Lenin-lookalike barman took an age to serve our wine as he was busy making up cocktails for a little group of barflies who were knocking them back.

Then on to Tate Britain for the Hockney. We had seen many of the works before, not least the more recent iPad work, the colourful East Riding of Yorkshire works and (some years ago) the sixties and seventies portrait stuff around pools in California and the like.

The art critics tend to favour the earlier stuff over the later stuff, whereas Janie and I are both fans of the later work. Seeing this retrospective on his whole oeuvre, our feelings were reconfirmed.

Here is a link to the Tate Britain resource on Hockney.

As it was a members evening, the exhibition was actually rather busy at the start. We chose to go round it backwards, starting with the later work and ending with the earlier. This seemed to work well enough for us, as we are familiar with much of his work. Perhaps not such a good idea for an artist with whom you are less familiar.

Then home (i.e. the flat) via the Ranoush shawarma bar in Kensington High Street.

What a pleasant late afternoon/evening.

Scarlett by Colette Kane, Hampstead Theatre Downstairs, 4 March 2017

I’m almost boring myself by going on about how good the Hampstead Theatre Downstairs is, so goodness knows what effect such comments are having on long-suffering Ogblog readers. But by gosh the quality of productions and performances is high.

The one paragraph description of Scarlett – a play about a woman who escapes to try and start afresh in the Welsh countryside – might not have caught our eye as being different enough, but we set that “synopsis bar” a little lower for the Hampstead Downstairs, as we so consistently enjoy our evenings there.

Yet again, we are so glad we chose to book this one.

Interestingly (and unusually) it is pretty much an all woman production – i.e. the writer, director, designer and all five performers are women.

Here’s a link to the excellent Hampstead resource on this production for all the details.

We had seen a Colette Kane play at the Hampstead Downstairs before; “I Know How I Feel About Eve” about four years ago – that will be Ogblogged in the fullness of time – for now here is a link to an introductory piece/mini-interview with Colette Kane at that time.

In both Colette Kane plays we have seen so far, the writing is delightful and thought provoking. Perhaps she has yet entirely to find her own voice. She is clearly a playwright steeped in modern theatre who knows how to cherry-pick style and tone without quite making her pieces unmistakably her own.

Still, Scarlett is a really superb 75-80 minutes of drama. All five performers are excellent, especially Kate Ashfield as the eponymous lead. All five surprise us a little at some point in the drama, but without interrupting a natural-seeming flow to the simple but compelling story.

Scarlett is very well directed too, by Mel Hillyard. We have seen her work before, quite recently; The Brink at the Orange Tree last April. We were very impressed then too. A young director to watch, methinks.

We started the evening by bumping into John and Linda – a couple we know simply because we quite regularly see them at theatres and who coincidentally (it transpires) live just across the road from the Notting Hill Gate flat. They were seeing Sex With Strangers upstairs – a production that didn’t appeal to us for booking. Janie and I rounded off our evening with some Iranian food from Mohsen.

At the time of writing, Scarlett still has three weeks to run. Janie and I would both recommend it thoroughly to people who enjoy top notch productions of well-crafted, short plays in small theatres.

Ultimate Love and Happy Tories, Ivan Shakespeare Memorial Dinner, Café Rouge Holborn, 3 March 2017

NewsRevue’s 2004 Guinness World Record for being the World’s Longest Running Live Comedy Show – Gerry Goddin far left, Barry Grossman back left, a wide-eyed me front right

NewsRevue goes back all the way to 1979. When the show turned 25, in 2004, it was awarded the Guinness World Record for being the World’s Longest Running Live Comedy Show. I was there. I’d been there since 1992. This year my involvement with the show turns 25.

Those of us who wrote for the show in the 1990s still gather a few times a year for Ivan Shakespeare Memorial Dinners.

Earlier this week, coincidentally, I played real tennis with Chris Stanton (another NewsRevue alum, in his case a performer) at Lord’s. Chris was reminiscing with me about the show, not least because he was rummaging through his old files and found many complete runs of scripts from “our era”, which he was planning to shred. I think John Random might rescue them for posterity.

Chris then gave me a pretty-much word perfect rendering of Brian Jordan’s wonderful Arthur Scargill song, to the tune of My Guy. As John Random later reminisced:

He may not be to everyone’s liking/But as a union leader, he’s striking.

Hearing about Brian Jordan reminded me of my first big hit; The Ultimate Love Song, which Brian made his own for a while and took to Edinburgh (my material’s debut there) in his show “Whoops Vicar Is That Your Dick?”  I am so proud to have had my Edinburgh debut in a show with that name.

After seeing Chris, I looked at my file and realised that The Ultimate Love Song turns 25 this week; I copyrighted it 29 February 1992…so perhaps it turns six-and-a-quarter. Anyway, it seemed right to mention it at the Ivan Shakespeare and I was badgered into giving a quick rendering, as much as I could remember.

I have now upped The Ultimate Love Song in its entirety – together with the tale of its early use – here’s the link again.

Here is a link to Ben Murphy’s rendering of The Ultimate Love Song from 1993.

Mark Keagan was at the Ivan Shakespeare dinner; he’s one of the more regular attendees. He mentioned that his father-in-law and former home secretary, David Waddington, sadly passed away last week. Which reminded me that I did once write a song with a verse about Waddington; again nearly 25 years ago. We all (Mark included) agreed that the song might come in handy for him over the coming weeks…well you never know…so I have upped that one too. Happy Tories it is called – also about Maggie Thatcher and Chris Patten – click here.

Below is a picture of John Random and Mark Keagan from the previous Ivan Shakespeare dinner.

Mark was awarded the 2016 trophy, but should he have been? Rumour has it that John might have been handed the wrong envelope…

Gerry Goddin and John both produced quizzes. Gerry’s was infernal as usual; I did well at first but tailed off at the end, letting Barry Grossman take the honours at the line. John’s was suitably silly and superficial for my mood – a small collection of “shock and awe” pun headlines to unfathom. Perhaps naturally, I won that quiz.

As always it was good to see the gang – a slightly depleted gathering this time but at least when that happens you get a chance to have a proper chat with everyone.