Birthday Dinner With John and Mandy At Chelsea Physic Garden, 29 August 2017

There was a time when John White and I (together with Mandy and Janie) would celebrate our birthdays together quite regularly. I am was born 28 August and John was born a day later, 29 August.

This age difference (of one day) entitles me to describe John as “young John” and say things like, “when you get to my age, John…”

Anyway, this year the stars aligned well for us to celebrate the birthdays together for the first time in years.

Janie’s membership of Chelsea Physic Garden had already come in mighty handy three week’s before, 8 August 2017, when she and I went there to celebrate the 25th anniversary of our first meeting.

Actually this day, 29 August, was also the 25th anniversary; in this case of our first proper date. So it was, in a way, a triple celebration; two birthdays and an anniversary.

John and Mandy had arranged to stay with us in Noddyland after dinner, so they came to the house first.

Noddyland Garden could easily be mistaken for the Chelsea Physic Garden

The above photo, btw, was the very first picture I took with my new Snap Polaroid camera, a birthday gift from Kim.

Then off to the Chelsea Physic Garden. The tale of the evening is best told mostly in pictures.

The full deck of pictures can be found on Flickr in this album – here.

Highlight pictures tell the story below.

On arrival, we have a drink and a stroll around the garden
Janie asked us to look animated – there are several attempts at this one
Then we sat down to these starters
Three of us went for this excellent Ligurian fish stew
While Mandy went for the contrarian confit of duck
I couldn’t get the Snap to flash in fading light…
…so Janie let me use her smart phone instead!
The birthday boys…
…with illuminated death by chocolate birthday desserts

After dinner, back to Noddyland for a baritone ukulele recital and some more chat before bedtime.

We also had a rare opportunity to chat some more in the morning before John and Mandy set off on their way. It had been a really enjoyable get together – let’s hope we can do something along these lines again quite soon.

A generous gift of flowers and chocolates arrived before the end of the week.

Against by Christopher Shinn, Almeida Theatre, 26 August 2017

Unfortunately, this one didn’t really do the business for us.

I said to Janie at the interval, “if this play manages to pull together all of its big and disparate themes in the second half, we’re in for one cracker of a second half.” I didn’t think it would. It didn’t.

Here is a link to the Almeida resource on the play/production.

Strangely, I don’t think we’d ever seen a Christopher Shinn play before. I say strangely, because he has had so many of his works performed at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, which we frequent a lot. Perhaps the subject matter has never appealed to us before.

This sounded interesting from the Almeida blurb and indeed it was interesting subject matter. Too much of it; violence in society, sexual politics, religion, workers’ increasing sense of powerlessness…

…but the performances were all very good. They seemed, to us, wasted on this play.

Tellingly, the Almeida resource does not link to reviews, so here are a few links:

To help rescue our evening, we ran into Jilly Black sitting, with a friend, a few rows behind us. We chatted with them after the show; indeed Janie dropped them at Baker Street giving us quite a bit of very pleasant post show chat time.

It is not very often that we bemoan the extra few minutes journey time to the Almeida; normally that place is well worth the extra few minutes each way, but this piece left us warm to the interesting topics but decidedly cold to the play,

A Day At The Edinburgh Fringe Festival With Old Muckers, 22 August 2017

What fun.

Rohan Candappa announced that he would be performing his one man show, How I Said F*** You To The Company When They Tried To Make Me Redundant, at The Counting House, Edinburgh.

You can listen to the first 10 minutes of the show by clicking here.

Rohan piloted this show in the Z/Yen Boardroom in January 2016 – click here for my write up of that evening.

I worked out that there was really only one day that I could be away from London that week, having committed to several days in Brum the week before for the first ever day/night test match in England.

Janie, who would have loved to have seen the show, felt that she couldn’t free up the day.

Still, I learned that there were to be several old muckers from Alleyns in Edinburgh that day and also that Marie and Joe Logan (the former being a Z/Yen alum) would at least be able to join us for lunch.

Marie and Joe’s application to become honorary school alumni for the day was unanimously accepted, especially when the gang discovered that Marie is a close friend of Linda Cook’s, as Linda had organised the Z/Yen Board Room gig.

But, when Marie inadvertently mentioned “Old Alleynians” in correspondence, I felt obliged to explain:

…there is one really important point you need to get right.

You are each an honorary Alleyn’s Old Girl/Alleyn’s Old Boy (respectively).  Neither of you is in any shape or form an Old Alleynian, honorary or otherwise.  Old Alleynians are alumni of Dulwich College, the pathetic, rival school of Alleyn’s.

Let me illustrate with well-known examples:

  • Alleyn’s Old Boy – Jude Law;
  • Alleyn’s Old Girl – Florence (and the Machine) Welch;
  • Old Alleynian – Nigel Farage.

Need I say more?

Mercifully there was no unpleasantness in the alumni-confusion-department on the day.

So I rose about 4:30 (a bit earlier than necessary in truth), setting off on an early flight from Heathrow (thank you, Janie, for the lift all the way to Terminal 5) and then took the tram into Edinburgh.

In schoolboy mode for a meet up with old school muckers, I got very excited with my smartphone when I realised that there was free wifi on the tram, sending Janie a picture and a sound recording of the Chigley-like tram sounds.

On The Tram To Edinburgh – Sound (below) and Vision (above)

Janie messaged back to say that I’m a big kid.

Then a solo stroll through Edinburgh from New Town to Old Town…

Edinburgh Old Town

…towards The Counting House…

The Counting House

When I arrived, only Rohan was there – John and Steve were out soliciting trade…for Rohan’s show, readers, control yourselves…

…but soon after I arrived, there was a surprise (to me) arrival – Claire Tooley (now Claire Brooke) – a very pleasant surprise indeed. Even more pleasantly, Claire was able to join us for lunch after the show.

Rohan was good…very good.

I thought the performance was very good. Rohan hasn’t changed the show much since the pilot, but he has tightened up the script and his delivery has some lovely pauses and nuances that have clearly evolved with practice and experience.

It was a pretty full house, which at 11:00 in the morning on the Free Fringe I reckon is a big win. Certainly there seemed to be little activity for the other morning/lunchtime shows at The Counting House.

The audience was very receptive, I thought, although those who had attended performances earlier in the week thought that the laughter was slower to build that day, but the attentiveness, reaction and laughter as the story built ended up better.

We strolled to Spoon to meet Marie and Joe. Apparently this place is an old haunt of JK Rowling’s, so well suited to an arty gathering.

Like a fool I neglected to take any pictures in Spoon, but we gathered as nine: me, Steve Butterworth, Rohan Candappa, Paul and Cathy Driscoll, John Eltham, Claire Tooley-Brooke, Marie and Joe Logan.

One coincidence about this event, I realised, is that this season is the 25th anniversary of my own material premiering at the Edinburgh Fringe. In 1992, Brian Jordan brought The Ultimate Love Song – click here to Edinburgh in his wonderfully-named show “Whoops Vicar, Is That Your Dick?”.

When I mentioned this coincidence, Rohan (naturally) asked me to give an acapella rendering in Spoon, which I did as best I could – not very well. You can hear Ben Murphy’s excellent recording of the song below:

But back to Spoon. The food was good, the chat was jolly. People drifted away as journeys home or appointments with other shows approached, but we were a pretty lively group for a couple of hours at least.

Eventually, when it was just me, Marie & Joe left, we went for a stroll around town to see what we might find for the remaining couple of hours, before I needed to head for the airport.

We found the Vintage Mobile Cinema outside the Assembly Rooms on George Street, where we heard a short talk about the extraordinary space and were shown some Pathé newsreels from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s about the Edinburgh Festival.

Logan! What are you and Logan doing at the back there? Stop it! Are you listening or taking pictures, Harris? Stop that too!

Then a stroll around the Book Festival before the lure of a wine bar just around the corner from my tram stop, for the last 30 minutes or so of my visit, was too much to resist.

Finally, a wee dram of wine (or two) with the Logans afore I go home

I got back home about 21:00 – it had been a long day but a very pleasant one.

I excitedly told Janie all about my exciting day.

Then I thought I should ask Janie about her day.

“Oh, nothing much,” she said, “I just did a few patients and met Rihanna.” You couldn’t make it up.

Day/Night Test Match, England v West Indies, Edgbaston, 17 to 19 August 2017

After a super meal at Colbeh – reported here – and a good night’s sleep at the Eaton Hotel, Daisy and I would have been fit and ready to walk to Edgbaston for an 11:00 start…

…but this was a day/night test match, so instead I arranged to have a music lesson with Ian Pittaway in Stourbridge. It bucketed down with rain on the way to Stourbridge, which made me wonder whether Edgbaston would be fit for cricket by 14:00, but I needn’t have worried. Day/Night One of the match turned out to be a very sunny although slightly chilly affair.

Daisy and I walked to the ground in dry, improving weather. Security was tight but well organised this year, so we joined the others at about 13:40. The others were Charley The Gent Malloy, The Boy Malloy, Nigel “Father Barry” White and Harsha Goble.

Mrs Malloy had made a splendid picnic for us all, consisting mostly of an extremely plentiful supply of big bap sandwiches. Chas went into major-domo mode, insisting that we tuck in at regular intervals, saying:

“I cannot report back to Dot that any of these sandwiches remained uneaten.”

At the end of Day One I sent some thoughts about our day/night experience to King Cricket, who published my thoughts along with those of others –  click here.

Daisy took loads of pictures, which you can see on Flickr – click here – a sample of which are shown below.

 

A shot from the first session
Things seemed to be going England’s way
Lunch at four in the afternoon? Getaway!
Shadows lengthen on the Eric Hollies Stand opposite

After the instruction “Nessun Dorma” (reported on King Cricket), Daisy stayed awake to take the following lovely shot after sunset:

Stunning, although it looks a bit René Magritte

The weather forecast for Day Two was not so special – indeed it was obvious that the weather would close in sometime between 19:00 and 20:00 and there would then be no further play that day.

Daisy, Nigel and I went over to Chas and Nick’s hotel on that Day two morning, hatching a plan that we should eat relatively light at the ground that day with a view to eating a good meal together in Colbeh to make up for the session of cricket that we looked likely to lose. If the weather by chance relented, we could always stay at the ground and eat from the selection of increasingly interesting and decent food outlets at Edgbaston these days.

Daisy captures the look of the pink ball on the big screen

Harsha had, unfortunately, needed to return to London for a funeral on the Friday, but was expecting to arrive back at Edgbaston around 19:00.

The rain arrived as expected around 19:30. We had redirected Harsha towards the “dining at Colbeh rather than watching the rain come down” plan.

Much better than sitting at Edgbaston watching the rain

Once again, Colbeh was excellent.

In truth, it was great to have the opportunity to have a meal together and “chew the fat” after the cricket – this aspect (which would normally be absent for a day/night match) is the biggest down side to such match timing…the colder evenings being less of an issue, although…

…Day Three did turn out to be a chilly day.

Daisy and I walked to the ground all three days; Day Three being the most pleasant walking conditions of the three – sunny but a tad cooler than Day One.

We saw an interesting sight on the way to the ground:

An Ethiopian Orthodox Service at St Georges Church on a Saturday
It looked half service, half church fete.
Dawid Malan fielding right in front of us…I don’t think he spotted me!
There was some freezing cold business with lads behind us clearly not dressed for the occasion and divesting themselves of what little clothing they had
Members of the Mexican community behind the Eric Hollies Stand looked more suitably dressed for a chilly day/night match…
…members of the Flintstone community behind the Eric Hollies Stand less so.

England were all over the West indies like a rash on Day Three. Here is the Cricinfo summary of the  match.

The others bailed out before the end of the match, as Chas, Nick and Harish were travelling home that night and Nigel wanted a lift back to the hotel.

We’d all had a good time – three days had just flown by.

Daisy and I stuck it out until the last ball – the first time I had ever seen a whole first class match, let alone a test:

Close to the last moments of the game

Gosh it was cold by the end; we thought about bailing out a couple of times, but then a wicket would fall. We walked back to the Eaton Hotel that night to warm ourselves up, which worked rather well.

A very one-sided match but also a very enjoyable few days.

An Evening In Birmingham With Daisy, Dinner At Colbeh, 16 August 2017

Daisy is joining the Heavy Rollers again this year, as an honoured guest for the very first day/night test match in England.

As things turned out, no-one other than me and Daisy decided to go up to Birmingham the night before the match, given the later than usual start time for the match.

Last year I reported that Nigel and I found a wonderful new Persian Restaurant, Colbeh, where Bengal Delight used to be. Daisy was suitably envious – she loves a good Persian meal – so I thought she’d be very keen to try the place.

For some reason, perhaps it was finding herself in a strange town, perhaps because she recently discovered that one of her preferred suburban Persians, Boof, has a food hygiene rating of merely 1, she went into “are you sure” mode, trying to check Birmingham hygiene ratings for herself and all sorts. She discovered that Johnny Wongs, a few doors down from Colbeh, has a hygiene rating of 0, which didn’t add to the allure of a Hagley Road eatery.

In the end, my persuasion (that Colbeh really is a top quality restaurant) and Daisy’s hunger held sway, so off we went. Daisy was not disappointed – in fact she loved the meal, as did I.

If anything, I thought the place had improved since last year. Chatting with proprietor Arsalan you could understand why; fanatical devotion to getting the right ingredients and improving the menu over the year. Daisy enjoyed looking through Arsalan’s Persian cookbooks too.

Daisy and I shared the platter of mixed grills, which were outstanding, along with some mast-o-musir and salad shirazi. A lovely Aussie shiraz wine to wash it down, coincidentally with a cricket ball as its label image – very apt.

I said in my Ogblog last year that I would add a TripAdvisor review when I got home. As it turned out, it was impossible to do so last year as the place wasn’t listed on TripAdvisor yet – I tried two or three times over the following weeks then gave up/forgot about it.

So this time I felt motivated to write my TripAdvisor review while I was still up in Brum – it got published more or less straight away – here it is.

Daisy and I wondered whether we could engineer a meal at this restaurant with the lads during the test match – a difficult bit of scheduling due to the day/night nature of this particular match.

But, as you’ll learn if you read the next episode and as evidenced below…

…Daisy pulled it off…as it were.