Monthly Archives: May 2012

Happy Birthday to Sarah Millican!

Sarah is 37 today. Hope she has fun. I don’t suppose that being a professional comedian makes your private life any more or less fun than for all the rest of us.

I mainly think of Sarah as the woman on the train with the large suitcase. Some years ago I was putting Daughter on the train to Scotland, first time on her own. Sarah and her suitcase were also on the train. The reason it’s memorable (apart from the size of the suitcase) is that they didn’t get very far before the train gave up, and they were all ditched in Preston. But Sarah and Daughter had each other, when catching another Edinburgh bound train.

It was only afterwards I found Sarah writing in the Guardian about her time being funny at the Edinburgh Festival. And ever since, Daughter feels Sarah is her comedian.

Maybe it contained props? The suitcase, I mean. It was one of those occasions when a piece of luggage prevents everyone else on the train from going in any direction at all. That’s why I noticed it in the first place.

Oops,

that would be us, then. Euphoric over win. Sort of.

I don’t often think of the Finns as being terribly amusing. This one was. And it doesn’t matter if he wakes up tomorrow wondering what on earth he said, because none of us know for sure who he was. Masks are good, occasionally. Even the Swedes had a person reporting on the votes who could actually speak English. People seem to have caught on, realising the importance of not making fools of themselves, language wise.

The UK thought they were finally taking this song contest seriously enough. But they didn’t. Look at what everyone else does! Even the Russian grannies were better than Engelbert. And it goes without saying that we want Wogan back. Now. Or at the very least, next year.

The Swedish song wasn’t too bad. And let’s hope they can avoid the exam season for next year’s contest.

Baku calling

There is a strangely Transylvanian theme to this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. Lots of capes and menacing dark looks, as well as those weird wing things on people’s shoulders.

Somewhat unusual that so many performers appear to be fully clothed. And old. Older, I mean. Like Engelbert and the Grannies. What’s more, they sing in languages other than English. Unless the songs are written in very poor English and sung in even worse. But I’m guessing several countries have opted to use their own languages. Good idea.

The Nordic countries like having immigrant singers, unless going for the superblonde look like Iceland did. The German boy was pretty (so many of them were, even if they did look Mafia/Dracula-ish) but could somebody please tell him to take his stupid hat off!

Who do we dislike enough that we want their country to win? Please not Greece! Though their song makes that less likely.

Let’s go for the Grannies, cookies and all.

The Toy Train

A few months ago I knew nothing. Now I feel I am somewhat of an expert.

My ignorance was cured by Son who went off to India. Unlike normal people, he mainly wanted to go on trains. The weirder the better. I mean, the lovelier and more interesting…

Kurseong Station

So he and Dodo travelled on the further away part of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway from Kurseong to Darjeeling. Apparently there has been a landslip cutting the railway into two.

I learned a bit from Son who kept us informed via facebook. Obviously. There were photos. And because I get easily carried away I went and got the Resident IT Consultant a DVD for his birthday, which we have now watched, ‘travelling’ the length of the line, pre-landslip.

DHR locomotive 782 at Darjeeling

It has loops, including an agony loop, and it has six reverses. The engines (at least the steam ones) have sandmen sitting at the front, sprinkling sand whenever necessary. It takes something like eight hours to travel the 55 miles. (I was surprised to find Son’s part trip lasted three hours, for what on the map seemed to be a fairly short journey.)

The DVD showed us the lovely Victor, Queen of the Himalayas, pulling for all she was worth. I was relieved to find Victor is a girl, or the title of Queen would have been embarrassing. Victor is a steam locomotive. So is Tusker, who was feeling a little unwell, but still pulled valiantly after a six-hour repair on the platform. (Maybe Virgin should learn to perform surgery from the platform?)

DHR train at Darjeeling

Very impressed by the engineering shed lady working wearing a sari. Perhaps all this nerdiness on my part comes from grandfather-of-witch who worked on the railways? He did lose a foot, but was probably responsible for a lifetime of me loving train travel. We have a railway line at the bottom of the garden, which just might have been the reason Son’s first word was train. In Swedish, naturally, and not very well enunciated, but train it still was.

Were it not for the snakes (the tigers are dead and the elephants are behind a fence) and how far away it all is, I’d be off for a train trip or two myself. But we’ll always have the DVD. And the tea. First Flush Moonbeam.

Himalaya

NCIS: Los Angeles – Sans voir

If it’s May, then Hetty will resign.

Hetty

Well, that was another explosive and deadly finale. Possibly deadlier than NCIS, because we lost two agents for certain, but at least they didn’t have the nerve to kill off Nate. Other than that, they are fond of killing off people we sort of know, and might be attached to. It’s a sneaky way of doing it. Use minor recurring characters, allowing the viewers to form a bond, but make them so minor that you can kill some off without compunction. And one of them doesn’t even get credited on IMDb. Some death.

Kensi and Deeks

Renko

Callen

The other interesting thing is that NCIS: Los Angeles is generally very violent, and people are shot, and killed, for very little reason. So we began with a ‘normal kind of bloodbath,’ only to find that when they got to the bad guy they don’t shoot at all. Clearly he needed to live for a bit. So why should we be all that concerned if someone kills him at a later stage? We wouldn’t have batted many eyelids if they’d got him from the start.

The writing continued pretty good, but I feel that if they offer us NCIS plot clones, they shouldn’t expect us to see it as fresh and clever. To my mind this double episode end to season three had several such moments. On the other hand, I do like the longer length episode. Wouldn’t mind that more often, as long as the frequency of episodes remains unchanged.

I have no doubt that once we return in September, the killer agent will soon be back to normal. Although, it would make for an interesting season if he wasn’t.

(Photos © CBS)

NCIS – Till Death Do Us Part

Gibbs

That was some season finale, to the worst season of NCIS (so far). And yet, a quick look at Special Ops tells me people didn’t like it. I thought it was well written – by Gary Glasberg – and that it almost made up for last week. No, it didn’t, come to think of it. But it revived my hopes. Which in itself is weird considering we will now spend four months wondering ‘if’ and ‘who’ and really?’

Ziva, Palmer, McGee and DiNozzo

McGee and Vance

It is yet more proof that good writing is almost everything, and by letting too many bad writers – or new writers –  loose on NCIS, they will kill off the enthusiasm of millions of fans. It’s a hard thing to achieve, but season nine is halfway there, so let’s stop the bleeding now.

The first and the last episodes of a season must get it right. The beginning of the ninth wasn’t one hundred percent successful, but allowing a character back for the end, sort of closed the loop.

Cole and Gibbs

They didn’t use Palmer’s wedding as well as they might have done. And the title of the final episode is apt in more ways than one, as usual. Except I’d like ‘us’ and ‘do’ to change places.

Palmer and Ducky

Palmer and Breena

I’m wondering if Dr Ryan’s cool-and-normal to downright certifiable personality was purely down to individual writers? If so, Jamie Lee Curtis must have wondered how the hell she was meant to play the changeable doctor. Gibbs definitely looked more Gibbs-like next to a mostly rational girlfriend. Yes, the son was creepy, but sons often are.

As a hardened fan I am not the first in line to panic, and I will not spend the next four months in despair, but what a marvellous cliffhanger for all the disenchanted fans! More people will want to return in September than not. Good thinking. Although I wish more good thinking had been in operation before now.

Ducky

(Photos © CBS)

NCIS – Up In Smoke

Killing her would be too good for her! I’ve been patient long enough, but I really, really don’t like what Dr Ryan is doing. It’s not charming, or even sane, on any level. At this rate I’d almost advise Gibbs to get hold of that ghastly lawyer and ask her back, and I so hated her.

(Or could it still have something to do with who writes the screenplay and who directs it?)

I had a quick look at Special Ops to see what others are thinking, and it doesn’t look as if Dr Ryan has any fans anywhere. If so many of the diehard fans are saying they couldn’t watch to the end, then that must be a sure sign CBS are getting it wrong.

Hey! You are getting it wrong! Stop this at once!

Abby

So, let’s hope Gibbs can stop making a fool of himself with his idiotic DOD lady. He’s spent the best part of nine seasons being Gibbsy. Why stop now?

What we did love was Abby’s outfit for Palmer’s stag night. Although his night was hijacked, rather. Does this mean we won’t get the ‘real’ thing? They were all doing a great job of winding him up. I hope there will be a wedding, and that it won’t be sacrificed to the federal agents going about their business. And where was Abby when they were out drinking?

Palmer's stag night

Lovely to see probie Dorneget return. Perhaps he should change his dentist, though.

Palmer's stag night

And surely Vance knows better than to go it alone? I misheard, and thought they were claiming no one knows where he lives.

So that’s one Dr Ryan fewer by Wednesday next week then?

That’s disturbing

Let’s talk about bladders and other disturbing stuff! Are you sitting comfortably? Might be best to visit the toilet now, before we begin.

I was struck by the discussion about Bianca Jagger and whether or not she used flash to take photos at the opera. It doesn’t matter whether she’s famous. It’s neither more or less right for the famous to behave badly. And the way people use phone cameras or other digital cameras it’s often hard to tell if the bright light you see is flash, or simply the camera going about its business.

At the recent Joan Baez concert I went to, it said flash photography was not permitted, which I took to mean that photos without were fine, so I got my camera out. But after a while I felt the light visible when I used it was not acceptable to people sitting opposite me, so I put it away, and only got it out again at the end when absolutely everyone was taking pictures, with flash and everything.

John Barrowman

Daughter has been known to agonise over the legality of taking pictures at concerts. It often says you mustn’t. But people still do. I don’t feel there should be any ‘rights’ to images of someone singing on a stage. (Different for theatre productions.) What I do feel is that people shouldn’t disturb others.

The Guardian’s theatre critic Lyn Gardner reckons ‘people’s bladders have quite clearly got weaker over the last 20 years,’ and I know what she means, but suspect the answer is that they haven’t. What has changed is people’s habit of drinking indiscriminately at all times, regardless of what they are about to do, like go to the theatre. And also that they have got neither the instinct to try and ‘hold it in’ nor the inclination not to keep leaving their seats from – usually – the middle of the row.

If I have to ‘go out’ mid performance I tend to wait for a suitable moment both for leaving and for returning. I was a bit disconcerted at the National Theatre to find that the usher hovered anxiously outside the Ladies until I emerged again, and checked I was all right. Very caring and sensible, but I’m glad I didn’t know until then.

Went to the MEN arena for an S Club concert many years ago. Was startled by how the audience kept popping out for food and drink in the middle of the show. I suppose it’s the sports arena mentality, coupled with the sheer noise level at these events.

The understanding of what disturbs others varies from country to country. During Roger Whittaker’s concert in Cologne I waited for a song to finish before returning to my seat, only to have the usher urging me to just go in. She clearly thought I was stark raving mad for thinking of others.

And speaking of Roger; I once sat next to a woman, who was happily singing along to every single song. Having exchanged pleasantries on arrival, I felt it would be rude to complain, even though she was ruining ‘my’ concert. I thought if I asked her to shut up, I would ruin her evening instead. I gritted my teeth, almost cheered when Roger got to a song she didn’t know, and after the interval I asked the Resident IT Consultant to swap seats with me.

It is not always the audience who has mishaps, either. I recall the tiny St Paul’s chorister who was sick on stage and had to be bundled out by an older ‘boy.’

To get back to the bladders, it all depends on how long you have to sit through something. Films are frequently dreadfully long these days, with the added pain of too many commercials and too many trailers. With no interval necessary as cinema equipment improves, we simply have to pop out mid-film. And seeing as they want us to buy buckets of fizzy drinks, how can they possibly mind the running in and out? Nor is popcorn terribly silent to eat, and not odour free, either.

At least films don’t talk back to the audience when they rustle their sweet wrappers a little too loudly. Perhaps they should.

NCIS: Los Angeles + Hawaii Five-O x 2

When he found out he couldn’t watch last week’s episode of NCIS: Los Angeles without first sitting through an episode of Hawaii Five-O – something he has never even considered watching – the Resident IT Consultant took it well. I was surprised.

But also grateful that we didn’t try and watch LA without making that trip to Hawaii first. According to Daughter, who did, it just didn’t make sense.

What I really want to know, though, is why they did this to us? I can watch odd programmes if I have to, but there is a limit to the fun you can have when shows cross over to other shows. If you know them, it’s fun. Or can be. If you don’t, it’s just a pointless exercise. It’s like the special charity episode of EastEnders and Coronation Street. I half enjoyed it, because it was well written, but I had absolutely no idea who came from which show, since I watch neither.

NCIS:Los Angeles & Hawaii Five-O

I used to love the old Hawaii Five-O. I used to love Danny, especially. James MacArthur was the real Danny. This Caan chap was a disappointment. Chin Ho Kelly was all right. Maybe I’d like the new Hawaii Five-O if I watched regularly, but somehow I doubt it. Maybe this was to rescue a failing series? Is it failing? Was it an attempt at doubling viewing figures?

So, apart from being underwhelmed by the Hawaiians, what did I think? OK, and better once the action moved to the mainland. Not sure why we had to have a Comescu back. It would have worked fine with someone else.

Trying to grasp what, if anything, Kensi’s earlier trip to Hawaii had to do with this. Maybe it was just another attempt at doubling viewers.

I think this kind of experiment works if you watch both shows regularly. It works if you use one show to introduce a new show, like NCIS from JAGS or LA from NCIS. But I suppose if you don’t try crossing shows, you won’t know what it’d be like.

NCIS:Los Angeles & Hawaii Five-O

And they did get a trip to Hawaii out of it. Or did they?

Little Italy

My cannelloni was fine, and Daughter’s linguini was also fine, except she doesn’t appreciate al dente, but that’s her problem. She loved her starter of deep fried mozzarella and my olives seemed to go on and on. Maybe I got a portion for two?

My mineral water was reliably Italian, albeit expensive. Daughter looked in horror at her measly 200ml of Coke, so it was lucky they also placed a jug of tap water on the table. Except, had I known they would, I’d not have ordered my bottle…

The table. Yes, nice sized tables for two, and sturdy, so it didn’t feel as if the candles would fall off, despite the crush between tables. The restaurant as a whole was nicely, if predictably, decorated in green and red and white, with wood.

There even seemed to be a genuine Italian owning/running the place, which he did efficiently, getting his staff to do as they were told. And the two course lunch was good value at £7.95.

Little Italy

But – you could feel the but coming, couldn’t you? – everything lacked that nice Italian ambience, where you feel welcome and you relax and enjoy your meal, and think to yourself that you will return soon again.

It would have been good if this Italian hadn’t found us outside at 12.25, staring at the Closed sign, while the lunch menu stated it was served every day between 12 and 4. We could see the staff inside. Had they forgotten, or were they relaxing for a while longer?

He waved us in, rather peremptorily. Asked if we’d booked, and ‘graciously’ offered us a table we were lucky to get since we hadn’t. It was probably the worst table in the restaurant. OK, we hadn’t reserved, but we were first. And I had to remain standing holding my coat and bag while the waitress fumbled over lighting the candle, blocking my chair.

Funnily enough, no one who came in had booked, and they were all equally ‘lucky’ in securing their tables. I’d say all tables went in the order of worst first. Which meant that an hour later two pairs of women were lucky enough to be seated at the prime position tables. They did look so much nicer than we did.

So did the students in the middle. Pearl earrings and tidy hair and an escort looking like he was straight out of a film about posh undergraduates. I suppose that’s St Andrews for you. Especially on a Wednesday.

As soon as we’d eaten our nice tasting meal, and didn’t require the dessert menu we were offered the bill and it was clear we were expected to leave. We were intending to, but another five minutes would have achieved a more relaxed way of doing the same thing.

So, nothing wrong at all, really. Apart from not making us feel welcome. But then, tourists don’t return, and students are replaced every few years. And as I said about another recent meal out, we could have gone to Pizza Express instead, all of 30 seconds away.