Monthly Archives: January 2009

Taxing music

It was time for my annual attempts to speak to the tax authorities the other day. I barely exist, and when they find I have no money and pay no taxes (very bad), they tend to want to know why I bother them.

I noticed that at least the tax office I phoned, still does Vivaldi to lighten up the tension of being put on hold. I had almost thought good old Vivaldi was unfashionable these days, as far as switchboards go. No sooner had I pondered this, and looked at my watch again to see how long I’d been at it, when they switched music!

It was on to Pachelbel and his canon, which is an even lovelier piece of music than Spring. I’m determined not to let the phone system ruin enjoyable music, but it’s not easy to avoid getting annoyed. This time I worked out that they must do five minutes of each.

Whether they have a larger repertoire still, I don’t know, because ‘unfortunately’ I reached a human at that point. He promised to try and help, but this was the first time he’d heard of a request like mine…

NCIS – Love & War


We survived the two week wait for NCIS. Just. Daughter could barely contain herself, and had to watch straight after school. I like the way McGee has wisened up to Di Nozzo’s stupid ideas. A few years ago he’d have shrivelled and been upset, whereas now he gives at least as good as he gets.


(Photos © CBS)

Acker Bilk is 80

As I began writing this, Acker Bilk was playing on iTunes.

Years ago I used to think Acker Bilk was dreadfully old. He wasn’t, of course. He was just a little older than the pop stars I admired. He is 80 today, and I admire him more than I do many of those pop stars.

That weird name which used to confuse me turns out to be a nickname. And I was never one for jazz, but after hearing one of his albums at someone’s house, I went out and bought it. Then I bought some more. And more. Acker Bilk on clarinet is very soothing and reliable, when you’re in need. I’m often in need.

The year before last I carted the family off to the Bridgewater Hall to hear him play. It was all under the pretence that the younger generation needed to learn about him, but it was really so that the witch could hear Acker Bilk play live. He was wonderful… I have just checked his tour dates for this year, but he’s not coming this way. Arggh.

Happy 80th, Acker!


There is something about the title that makes me feel tired. Maybe I have been bitten by a vampire. I didn’t know they don’t sleep.

Daughter had been going on about my need to see Twilight for weeks, so we marched off to the cinema at the weekend, before the film was off the menu. Our arrival was timed to such perfection that we only had half a mobile phone advert before getting to the feature, so I’ll have to work on this getting late to films. The screen had a little hole in it, which I couldn’t help staring at for most of the film, so I suppose I didn’t concentrate as much as I should have.

I had hoped seeing the film would absolve me from the need to read the books. Now I just wonder if the books may be better, because the film didn’t quite do it for me. It was entertaining enough, but very ridiculous. Daughter told me I’d like Edward/Robert Pattinson as the film went on, but all I saw was someone dead. Cedric Diggory, to be precise. With the white face, he looked dead, not swoon material. I’m obviously too old for this.

Kristen Stewart as Bella was really good, but I don’t know why she couldn’t have hooked up with some of the normal teenagers, or that nice young Native American from the reservation. Though I believe there are werewolves to come, so it could be a frying pan/fire kind of problem.

The scenery of Washington (state) was a little too Swedish for my comfort. All those forests..! Even the school looked like something I might have attended.

Toadly. (My new word from Twilight. Often spelled totally.)

Air Force One

We’re a little too familiar with the inside of Air Force One than should be normal. It comes from having watched the first episode of NCIS, Yankee White, a ‘few’ times. It was surely inspired by Air Force One with Harrison Ford as President. 

As usual I come to things in the wrong order, and anybody normal would have seen the Ford movie first. It’s been on my radar for a while, and it’s available in charity shops all the time, but I haven’t succumbed. Then last night the BBC showed it, which is amazing for a Saturday night, when I rarely find anything worthwhile on. What’s more, it was on at a ‘watchable’ time, not clashing with mealtimes or bedtime, necessitating the recording of yet another film.

In a way I really don’t approve of all these violent action films, with the Americans always the good guys, but Air Force One at least turned out to be a good, old-fashioned action movie. They are rarer than they used to be, I feel, and I can always switch off any inconvenient pc instincts I may possess.

Was it just a coincidence that the film was on a few days after the Obamas moved into the White House? I was pleased to see in the paper how Bush left on Air Force One on Tuesday, but of course, by then it wasn’t Air Force One. As we saw in the film last night, that honour can be transferred to anything that flies. Though dangling the president on a piece of string underneath the aircraft seems not to count. You have to reel him in.

(And isn’t it clever of me to manage to mention NCIS all the time? Tiresome, too, I know.)

Rachel Getting Married

I would strongly recommend a simple registry office wedding, attended only by two strangers dragged off the street as witnesses. That is unless you adore noisy get-togethers with your dysfunctional family, and are willing to sacrifice your special day for all-out war.

Jonathan Demme seems to have visualised his film as a home video, and from that point of view it’s very successful. The cinema audience will feel they are part of this wedding, for better or for worse. The thing is, I love my own family, and they can be difficult, but they are mine. This wasn’t my family, and I didn’t like them. In real life, short of being the bride, I’d have walked out.

Rachel and Sidney are hoping for a lovely, Indian style (why?) wedding in the house where Rachel grew up. Her sister Kym arrives, fresh from rehab, and immediately stirs things up. After wondering which of the sisters to side with, you realise you don’t like either of them much. This is explained at last, when you discover how ghastly their mother is.

Rachel Getting Married

It’s a very American and very culturally diverse gathering, while still being very, very traditional. It’s all accompanied by some dreadful music, that actually belongs to the wedding party, and I agree wholeheartedly with Kym wanting them to be silent.

Anne Hathaway has been praised for her role as Kym, and if feeling she is Kym means her acting is good, then she is really good. Bill Irwin as her Dad is excellent, and Mather Zickel makes a lovely best man. The social worker, or whoever she is, instils confidence, but she should have kept Kym with her and not sent her home.

I’d be willing to pay (not too much, though) not to have Offspring put me through anything like this. But I suppose the sign of an effective film is to stir the audience up. I’m thoroughly stirred, thank you.

At Cornerhouse from tonight.

What’s the line?

Michael Simkins The witch loves Michael Simkins. He ‘s the lovely actor who used to write a column for the Guardian a few years ago. I loved him so much I even read his book on becoming an actor. And even as I think of it now, I feel I have to hunt the book out again. I never knew actors could both act and be intelligent at the same time.

These days we can find Michael blogging for the Guardian’s theatre page. I had to laugh out loud when reading this week’s words of wisdom. Or perhaps that should be entertainment?