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?

A little bit of patriotism

There was no new episode of NCIS last night, but the witch understands why. President Obama took up most people’s television time on Tuesday, and the blogs are full of impressions from this momentous event. Bookwitch mentioned the Obamas’ new house yesterday, and that will have to be enough. We are full of hope.

Family Secret from NCIS series three is an episode we hardly ever watch (a few times, maybe), so the other day we did. It’s one of the more patriotic ones, and we re-discovered some of our favourite bits. Like this one, where the team are squirming because the Director is sitting in Gibbs’ chair. But he knows how to get the message across.

Di Nozzo and Gibbs in Family Secret

We only returned to this episode, because Daughter started wondering when it is that Tony injures his leg. My detective work led us to Family Secret, which we seem to have ignored. Gibbs slapping himself is another reason to watch it.

Mashed potato and You’ve Got Mail

Saturday evening was all about comfort. Comfort food, comfort film. Post-migraine sleep required just the right things to make a witch feel better.

You've Got Mail

I even turned down an offer of having dinner made for me, because I’m so fussy with what I eat at times like these. So, it was vege-bangers and mash, but unfortunately no chocolate cake for anyone.

Strong need for reliably satisfying film meant watching You’ve Got Mail, again. The Resident IT Consultant didn’t like the film last time, but even he seemed to quite enjoy it this time round. It’s strange with Tom Hanks, really. Many of the possible comfort films I could think of are “Tom Hanks films”.

It’s funny how quickly the technology dates in films and books these days. They were on dial-up, and even the unnaturally short time for dialling seemed rather long. Though Daughter fancied having her computer bid her goodbye, but I think that would drive me crazy.

Found I was in two minds about the bookshops this time. The old shop was lovely. It really was. But unrealistically lovely. And in this day and age poor Meg Ryan would be hard put to read all the books she sold, even if they were just children’s books.

Still Fascinating after 26 years

Picture if you can, a long time ago when the witch and her Resident IT Consultant didn’t actually own a television set. We listened to the radio in those dark days, and if we hadn’t, then the witch wouldn’t have known to go to see Fascinating Aïda live on stage.  And that would have been a shame.

Fascinating Aida

Friday night at the Lowry was my third time. Fascinating Aïda are the best. Personally I believe it’s because they are girls. They write the most intelligently funny, sometimes rude, songs. They see life for what it is. They are fresh, in more ways than one. Some of the lyrics are so totally up-to-date that they are about things that have just happened. Some, on the other hand, are so fresh that they happened this week, or possibly even more recently.

They would understand the worries I had about my hair all evening. (Have you any idea of how nerve-racking it can be to go to a show with your hairdresser? I can’t begin to tell you, so I won’t.) My companion must be congratulated for her bravery in coming to a show, which she was erroneously led to believe was for geriatrics only. (FA, you need to change how you describe yourselves.)

When Dillie Keane sits at her piano and sings, I always say to myself that I like her best. Then I always think that Adèle Anderson has a very good voice and I like her best. After which I generally come to the conclusion that FA’s third singer, at present the lovely Liza Pulman, really has the most wonderful voice. Hmm. Could be that I love them all. Tonight I also discovered that tour manager Lara sings the best of all, so I really don’t know.

Fascinating Aida

So, not only do Fascinating Aïda cover what’s-her-name’s prize winning awards acceptance tears this week, but they remember the olden days of spam being eaten, not emailed, they can sing like Germans (almost painful, I imagine), they can do their own versions of traditional Bulgarian songs, there’s the song about the much emailed substance which rhymes with Niagara and there is the concern that the Shetland Isles are becoming too hot. But at least we’ll always have Tesco. It’s a Saviour.

Thank Gordon Brown for messing with FA’s pensions, forcing them out of semi-retirement. I for one would return to the Lowry tonight if I could.

Fascinating Aida

After elbowing aside most of the rest of the audience, I was second to the signing table and carried off my signed CD to join its friends adopted earlier by the witch. We then found ourselves in the middle of Fawlty Towers, with Basil speaking very loudly, as he does, firing Manuel as we eased past. The nice boy from Barcelona grabbed the fire extinguisher and sprayed the diners. Honestly. You just can’t get the staff these days.

And I have never before been driven along the M60 by a Pendolino train driver. He dropped me at the railway station.