Monthly Archives: February 2011

It’s a Wonderful Town

Holidays are a nuisance. Quite nice obviously, but sometimes things turn up that make you feel you would rather be somewhere else.

Like this morning. I could well see myself at the Lowry, having Connie Fisher sing to me. That would have been quite nice. I could have rubbed shoulders with Mark Elder. Sir Mark Elder CBE, I should say, and I would if I didn’t belong to the stuffers, thus feeling I can be more familiar.

There is a launch for a major Manchester venture coming this way next year: ‘Three of the North West region’s foremost arts institutions are uniting for the first time to present a unique production of Leonard Bernstein’s musical comedy Wonderful Town. The Hallé, The Lowry and the Royal Exchange Theatre will join forces from 31 March to 14 April 2012 for a brand new production of one of America’s most loved musical theatre masterpieces.’

That sounds OK, doesn’t it? A musical at the Lowry with the Hallé playing and Connie Fisher as Ruth Sherwood. I could certainly see myself going to see something like that.

Hopefully it will launch properly even without the HalléWitch present. But I would have liked to hear Connie sing. In person, I mean. I don’t often get this kind of invitation. Oh, well.

At least I will know not to book a holiday to go away in early April. Next year. Long wait.

NCIS – Kill Screen

That was one excellent episode. Have they been listening to the fans or was it a lucky accident? This week’s NCIS was back to good old standards, as long as that doesn’t sound as if new isn’t good. This was new, it was good, but it was built on old strengths.

And whereas we know that McGee’s game and computer skills will save the day at times, who’d have guessed that Gibbs would make such an excellent pawn?

They were friends. All of them. McGee was very much himself, but both Ziva and DiNozzo were ‘quite nice’, which is too rare. Abby was Abby and Gibbs was extremely Gibbsy, not suffering fools, but not being unkind or too angry without cause.

Me, I’m in such a hurry that I really don’t have time for blogging tonight, and certainly not for finding photos to do with this, but an episode like Kill Screen can’t be left un-praised. We need more of this.

Just don’t shoot!

More Eurovision, quizzes and missed programmes

Speaking of Eurovision as we where, we had the pleasure of catching – very briefly – a programme called Skavlan, which my encyclopaedic brain identified as something I’d heard of before. It’s another of those ‘pratshows’ as they call chat shows in Swedish, although this one is Norwegian. Or is it? Could be that it’s just Skavlan himself who’s Norwegian and happens to ‘prat’ in Norwegian on a Swedish show. Or not.

Doesn’t matter, as we barely watched it at all. Daughter found the language and the ‘pratty’ subtitles less than enchanting and asked permission to switch channels. Before she did, we caught the Norwegian contribution to this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, which looked really, quite, well, African. Upbeat music sung by someone with a very African looking name. When she came to be interviewed, however, she sounded thoroughly Norwegian. So, all well and good.

We found some sort of quiz show, second half of. I was told off for trying to show off, when all I did was answer the questions.

Before these bits of entertainment on a Friday night (I believe Fridays are the new Saturdays for staying at home and having a cosy evening in front of the telly) we had caught the last two thirds of På Spåret, which strangely enough I’d never watched before, despite reading about it often. It’s another quiz programme, with celebrity contestants. Not that I’d heard of them, but they seemed nice enough. We learned things about Haparanda and Acapulco that we didn’t know before.

And, it’s funny, but after Saturday’s heat of the ESC we hung on in front of the box, and were treated to episode one of Downton Abbey. We missed it at home, due to some other programme having the temerity to be on at the same time, and Downton Abbey lost on that occasion.

But, thanks to our travels we got to watch what everyone had talked about on Facebook and elsewhere, and it wasn’t bad at all. In fact, we liked it. Now all we have to do is find the rest of it.

I see that Zen is on tonight. Episode one. That, too, was a loser in the channel war at home, so maybe I will..?

Pre-Eurovision songs

There is no such thing as too much Eurovision Song Contest. For some people. Like the Swedes. They have umpteen heats leading up to the Swedish selection of whoever they will send. We watched, erm, maybe the fourth? I don’t know. I didn’t pay too much attention. It was on for the entertainment of Daughter, the ESC fan in the family, and we had our dinner while watching.

It was fun enough, and with some really weird extra stuff from behind the scenes, like the presenters racing down corridors on a disability scooter, and the contestants being grilled by two ‘secret service’ style prize idiots before their performance. Amusing. Or not.

Of eight contestants, two went on to the ‘real’ contest in Stockholm and two went on to a second chance event. The rest went nowhere. Unfortunately Sebastian was one of those, and I felt he was the only one with any prospects at all. Not as cute as the winner Eric Saade, who wore a very red leather jacket. And he was cute. The other winners were The Playtones, who were quite lovely in their 1950s blue suits and oily hairdos. The song wasn’t bad either.

It’s a great idea, though, for any country other than Britain, who still can’t take this kind of thing seriously. Not only do you get the real deal in Düsseldorf, but you get the national contest ‘at home’ and before that you have all the local heats, which means months and months of fun.

And you can buy the CDs.

The birth of British rock

This was right up Daughter’s street, and I don’t mean that in the geological sense. We managed to find just enough spare time before the show at the Lowry the other day, to take in the exhibition of Harry Hammond’s photos of early rock stars.

Sometimes exhibitions like these sound good and turn out to be somewhat disappointing, mainly due to far fewer exhibits to look at than you’d expected. This one was almost the opposite, with far more photos than we could have hoped for. All of them good and interesting to see.

I’m obviously too young (yes, really) to remember most of these stars from back when. The Beatles, yeah, yeah. My Cliff Richard is a little older than the one in the many photos. It almost seemed like a ‘Cliff with a touch of Beatle’ exhibition, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

The others were many of the obvious ones, but I especially remember Adam Faith. You know how you often think when you hear that someone has died, that you didn’t realise they were still alive? It wasn’t until I saw the dates given for Adam that I remembered that he died in 2003.

As for Shirley Bassey she looks younger now than then. Almost. There’s something about the hairstyles and dresses from the 1950s.

Well worth going to see, especially if you’re ‘old’. Some of the theatre-goers for Goodnight Mister Tom who were taken round the photos by granny looked less than enthusiastic. Perhaps they’ve not been brought up on old songs on the iPod?

Goodnight Mister Tom

It’s funny how much you can cry at the theatre, even when you know the story well and thus could be better prepared for the sad parts. And it’s not funny at all, when you think of how sad it is and that people have died. In the end it wasn’t the dead people who did for me. It was the word Dad at the very end. So, a hankie would not have been a bad thing to have come equipped with. I didn’t.

Goodnight Mister Tom

This production only had time to fit in the bare bones of Michelle Magorian’s novel. But that’s fine. It was all there in spirit, including the best puppet dog I’ve ever seen. Sammy must count as a first cousin to Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse horse puppets, and he truly helped with William’s transition into Tom Oakley’s home.

‘The Sad Man’ – which is how I always think of Oliver Ford Davies – came into his own as Mister Tom. So much more right for the part than John Thaw was in the film. He had an impressively worthy William in Toby Prynne, who was both small and powerful at the same time.

William and Tom in Goodnight Mister Tom

The villagers milled about as villagers do, but in such a way that you could believe in the friendship with the small and frightened evacuee. Clever use of one actress both as the kind teacher and as William’s mother, bringing their differences into the open. The simple set worked well, adding enough period feel without going over the top.

WWII is popular. The audience at the Lowry on Tuesday evening was mainly ‘old’, although not necessarily old enough to have lived through the war, and with plenty of junior school pupils, presumably doing WWII in history. I bet Michelle Magorian never expected to have her children’s novel put to use as a school book.

Goodnight Mister Tom is a lovely, heartwarming dramatisation of a wonderful book. It might not be the greatest play in the world, but it’s very enjoyable – apart from the sad bits – and I would guess we all went home happy, albeit in tears.

The Guardian’s Lyn Gardner found it too risk free last week. Whatever that means. But it’s a novel first and foremost, and it can’t work in the same way that a play written exclusively for the stage would. There’s a difference.

This was good.

(The William in the photo is not my William.)


It’s growing on me. Not literally, I hasten to add. Nell’s hair, is what I’m talking about. When she first turned up on NCIS: Los Angeles I wondered if they’d got her hair wrong. I’m beginning to think that they may have got it totally right. It looks good, albeit different.


Mine looked a bit like it when I happened to come across my image in the mirror in the middle of the night, but not in a good way.

(Photo © CBS)

Those sandwiches

They are easy to do. Really.

I’m talking about the sandwiches I made for yesterday’s interview with author Katherine Langrish, and that I somehow suggested were awfully complicated.

Previously I had admired the next-door neighbour’s nifty little blinis with toppings, and I admired the way her helpers swept through the room with little trays of blinis to be waved at the guests. I thought I could do that, too. Possibly. But the mere idea of standing for weeks frying blinis, before you could even say sour-cream topping, struck me as too much. And I didn’t have a band of helpers.

This was back in the days of hosting selling parties, and you really do have to give people something to nibble, and I wanted to avoid crisps. So I returned to thinking about the blinis, and worked out that I could use small slices of nice bread instead. In my case I made the bread, but that’s not essential.

And as for toppings I took what was in the fridge; cheeses, boiled eggs, veggie paté, smoked salmon. That kind of thing. Put a little of that on each slice of bread, and then went and looked round the kitchen again.

You are bound to have some olives, grapes, prawns, tomatoes, peppers, pickled gherkin slices (well I have, anyway). So you put a little something of that on top of what you’ve just made. And it may just be a tomato slice, but it looks much prettier.

Mix and match on trays or large plates.

The sandwiches

My former selling party selection bites were much smaller than the sandwiches above, so looked more attractive. This time I was aiming for lunch and people being hungry, so size mattered.

NCIS: Los Angeles – Lockup


NCIS: Los Angeles continues to outshine big brother NCIS. Lockup this week might even have been the best they’ve done so far. When he called to talk about it, Son certainly thought so, and we didn’t talk more about it because I hadn’t watched it at that point.







Nate was back, although possibly only temporarily. At least they didn’t kill him off. This time. It could be, of course, that he will be back intermittently.

Not everyone was so lucky, but sad though it is to see a character die, it makes for a better show to keep changing. Within reason.

Presumably we will return to this terrorist plot at a later stage. Sam needs to avenge his personal loss.

Kensi might have been eating doughnuts, but she can still jump around on the roofs of vehicles with the best of them. It’s she who calls the shots, and Deeks who follows.

And Nate has become quite violent for a psychologist. Also, what’s between him and Nell?

I’m less convinced about Callen’s surveillance of the cemetery, but it might be one of those long term plots, I suppose.

They needed him out of the way this time. Could it be that they economise by having one actor less each episode? One in, means one out? And not just by dying. You can just go somewhere else for a week or so.

(Photos © CBS)

I Am Number Four

Ever vigilant, the witch caught hold of someone who had managed to get himself invited to the advance screening of I Am Number Four earlier this week. To be perfectly honest, I seem to have missed the book by Pittacus Lore (yes, really) almost completely, and I first heard of it from Charlie, who is the very same one who got to tread the red carpet. After some suitable arm-twisting he has furnished me – and you – with a report from this grand affair.

‘As we clambered off the high speed train at London’s Euston Station, we triple-checked our tickets. It was definitely tonight. We hadn’t come on the wrong day or turned up in the wrong city, so were off to a good start!


After a quick change into more formal attire at the hotel, we stepped out into an ice-cold London city centre. A short walk and pizza later we arrived at the Apollo Cinema, Leicester Square – early as usual. So early in fact, that the red carpet was still being rolled out. We stepped gingerly over the man taping it down and hurried into the warm foyer of the cinema.

I Am Number Four posters adorned the walls and large cardboard cut-outs of Alex Pettyfer, Dianna Agron and Theresa Palmer stared down at us. This was definitely the right place! Paparazzi and camera crews were awaiting the stars’ arrival. Camera angles were tested and speeches rehearsed. Officials with clipboards hurried around, checking everything was in order for the 300 attendees.

After twenty minutes we noticed a small line forming outside the door. All three of us agreed not to mention that we weren’t meant to be here – it was warmer inside! So, we looked busy and shuffled our tickets about, avoiding the security men’s gaze.

Eventually six o’clock arrived and the front doors were flung open. We asserted that we were guests, and they motioned us downstairs. Prime front row seats were attained as a result and we waited for the actors and director, D J Caruso, to arrive while munching our complimentary toffee popcorn.

The event ran like clockwork and various competition winners and Disney staff began to take their seats. The young man next to me complained about how it would be “too Disney,” oblivious to the fact that the movie is based on a book! At the same time the presenter from T4 – Rick Edwards – began to do a little fill for the crews and lots of bustling took place – important people were arriving.

A few minutes later Alex, Theresa and D J Caruso walked out on stage to tumultuous applause, screaming and whistles. They looked a bit shocked, but gave a short introduction to the movie. It was fantastic to see the actors in person! Finally, Caruso uttered the words “Enjoy the movie…” Lights dimmed, stars exited the stage and murmurs passed around the audience.

The chirping of crickets and a rainforest at night filled the auditorium. Number Three slept in his bed. A creak alerted his Guardian to a presence outside. He unsheathed a long, blue pommeled knife and approached the door silently. Everything was calm outside. Suddenly a cacophony of explosions and the whole building was smashed to pieces! With his Guardian killed, Three jumped out of the back of what remained of the hut, followed by …

Three down. Six to go. John Smith is Number Four.

And so the film continued, with enough twists and turns to stay interesting and fresh while faithful to the novel. Content-wise, the story has romance, action scenes galore (most notably the end) and the odd shock or scare! It keeps you completely absorbed and the actors and actresses portrayed the characters almost exactly as I imagined them to be.

When the credits rolled, applause erupted. Interviews and reports were filmed outside and the once empty foyer was packed. A great film and an even better experience! People were buzzing and we excitedly nattered about the ins and outs, alterations and additions and the lows and highs. I can’t speak for the rest, but I could have easily continued watching the second film!

The sequel – tentatively penned as The Power of Six – is due out in book form in late August and I honestly can’t wait! Books hold a more permanent hold over me. They always have and I think they always will. The depth of character and events is never the same with a film, no matter how well produced they are.

The next book and film can’t come quickly enough. Until then I’ll have to amuse myself with explaining in detail the night’s events to all my friends. As they say, a picture paints a thousand words, but I’ve always thought twenty thousand words paints an extraordinarily detailed picture…

I just wish I’d managed to get some autographs!

Charlie, February 2011′

I Am Number Four

Great first hand account, and I would suggest a speedier sprint next time and there may well be autographs.

Just a thought.

Us ordinary mortals can go and see the film in a few weeks’ time. Half term, or thereabouts. Bet there will be no carpet of any colour…