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.
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.
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,
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.
Janie messaged back to say that I’m a big kid.
Then a solo stroll through Edinburgh from New Town to Old Town…
…towards 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.
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.
…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.”
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.
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.
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:
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.
on Tuesday 8th August, about half way through the evening, I went from ‘absolutely fine’ to ‘really not fine at all’ and I had to go to bed with no story. And today I’m properly better after the nastiest bout of ‘flu I’ve had in many a long year. This was proper delirious flu – unable to even think of getting out of bed… So there were many reasons why 8th August was not the right night for us to meet!
Having been brought up to think of others before myself in times of crisis, I responded with all the altruistic empathy my soul could muster:
OMG I might have caught the lurgy from you and then where would I have been?…I mean, poor old you, that must have been awful for you, my first and only thought is for your welfare.
Simon enjoyed the hand cured smoked salmon starter, while I tried the crispy squid. Simon went for the Bavette steak while I went for the Cod with fregula…
…what do you mean, you don’t know what fregula is? Surely everyone knows what fregula is!
For desert, we were persuaded to try the signature peanut butter, chocolate and pretzel tart, which we cut in half to share, along with a plate of presumably also-signature bitter chocolate and manuka honey truffles. While these desserts sound especially yummy by description, they were, in fact, incredibly yummy.
In this production the performer, Paul Kennedy, is simply excellent. Although it is a monologue – a story told in the first person by a narrator – he acts out some of his colleagues dialogue using ticks and gestures to indicate who is talking.
Continuity is comparatively very understated. The Ferryman was surely written with the West End and Broadway in mind. Continuity was probably written with radio and/or small theatres like the Finborough in mind. But Continuity is still extremely effective and affecting. Where has this writer, Gerry Moynihan, been all these years? One to look out for again, to be sure.
Daisy agreed with me that the piece was excellent, but it did also make her reconfirm her determination to select a lighter batch of plays and avoid the heaviest subjects next time around. But when she suggested musicals and farces as the alternative, I guessed that her tongue is to some extent in her cheek.
Janie was very excited a few weeks ago when her friend, Toni Friend, made Janie a Friend of the Chelsea Physic Garden for her birthday. A very generous and friendly gesture. This enables Janie to book the delightful cafe/restaurant in the garden for members-only dinner evenings during the summer weeks.
Janie arranged for us to celebrate birthdays with John and Mandy White later in August. But a few days later, out of the blue, Janie texted me to say that there was also a table for two free on 8 August and she had grabbed it. Was I available?
As it happens, I had arranged to meet Simon Jacobs that evening, but then the realisation began to dawn on me that 8 August was actually a rather auspicious date. Checking back through the notes I had made ahead of doing some anniversary Ogblogging, I realised with horror that 8 August was the 25th anniversary of the day Janie and I first met.
I messaged Simon:
I have goofed bigly (as the POTAS might put it if he could ever admit to a mistake). Can we possibly move our evening meet up…
Naturally/kindly Simon said yes.
Janie found the whole thing rather amusing when I told her. She has no head for dates, anniversaries and that sort of thing, so had no idea that the date was significant – only that there was a table available and so was she. But my memory lapse would have taken some explaining once that 25th anniversary of meeting piece went up on Ogblog had I not put matters right.
So Janie and I didn’t particularly want to stroll the garden on this occasion, although no doubt we shall with John and Mandy when they join us later in August. But strolling the gardens before, during and after the meal is very much part of the Chelsea Physic Garden deal.
The set starter (which can just about be seen in the top photo) was prosciutto with fontina cheese, a sort-of celeriac slaw plus a beetroot and chickpea thingamebob.
Plenty of choice for the mains, but we both went for the duck confit.
I was pretty full by this stage, but Janie fancied some cheese and so we agreed to get a plate of cheese and one desert – a summer pudding – to share:
The cheeses were Neal’s Yard – always a good sign – and the summer pudding was home made and delicious, as indeed were all of the dishes.
The waiting staff are all charming and helpful without being overly-attentive or unctuous. The other dinners seemed mainly to be of the Old English Chelsea set (see above photo); this might be another of the very few places (along with Lord’s and the Wigmore Hall) where I might still be regarded as a young man.
We are already really looking forward to our next meal at the Physic Garden. This evening was a really delightful way to end an enjoyable day and to celebrate such a big anniversary.
We concluded that 8 August would be the best day for this – my timings were completely flexible (apart from a hot date with the Mrs in the evening) and it was Day 3 of the county match between Middlesex & Warwickshire; that seemed a good bet.
After a quick reviving snack in Paul Rhodes with the girls, we then hot-footed it to Lord’s.
I hadn’t kept up with cricket events at all during the day, but knew from my visit to Lord’s and the Meet The Players Party the previous day, that the pitch had flattened out quite a lot. So my fears from Day One, when 20 wickets fell, that there might not be much/any play on Tuesday afternoon were surely unfounded…
…or were they?…
…I tapped in to Cricinfo on the way to the ground and exclaimed, “oh no! Middlesex have collapsed. We’re nine down. We probably won’t see any cricket at all.”
But we were only 10 minutes from the ground and we managed to navigate the formalities to get The Deacons in the Allen Stand gap to see some cricket. Between overs, we even got into the pavilion for the last few overs before the inevitable ending came. So the Deacons were actually in the Long Room to witness the end of the match and the traditional end of match civilities. In many ways, that made it an extra special treat for the Deacons. It would have been more special for me had it been a Middlesex win.
Still, that meant we had plenty of time and less distraction for an informal tour of Lord’s, starting with the grand tour of the pavilion itself.
I didn’t realise when we arranged the day, but Anya plays cricket at school in Canada – I imagined that she’s be largely unfamiliar with the game – so the Lord’s visit was quite special for her.
With Janie, we went and looked at the Lord’s Shop and the Cricket Academy, walked back round the ground making a full circuit, had a quick look at the real tennis court and then retired to the Bowler’s Bar in the pavilion for a well-deserved drink.
The afternoon had gone so quickly. We all had evening events to get to; Anya had arranged to see some old pals south of the river, Paul and Christine were meeting some friends for an evening at Ronnie Scott’s, while Janie and I had our hot anniversary date to get to.
It was a really enjoyable day; one of those special gatherings that will live long in the memory and which brought back plenty of other memories too.
But it was an incredibly powerful, mood-affecting piece. So much so that Janie suggested, after getting uber-strident over shawarmas at home after the show, that perhaps we should skip these very morally-upsetting subjects at the theatre for a while.