Monthly Archives: June 2012

Avengers as art

Graphic History of the Future, Holden Gallery

You can’t go far before running into the Avengers.

Graphic History of the Future, Holden Gallery

The official opening of the Manchester Children’s Book Festival took place at the Holden Gallery on Friday evening, and at the same time the exhibition Graphic History of the Future opened. It will be open to the public for the duration of the festival, i.e. Sunday 8th July.

Graphic History of the Future, Holden Gallery

Well worth going to if you like your old film posters and other period posters, as well as some Andy Warhol and Russian space memorabilia and what have you. Children may have seen Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlett on television, and they will probably enjoy drawing cartoons on the – designated – wall.

Graphic History of the Future, Holden Gallery

Ceiling art?

Dress with poem

The Avengers

Now that I – as the last person on Earth – have seen The Avengers, I suppose it’s pretty pointless to ‘review’ the film. But it wasn’t bad at all. Noisy enough that none of my crackling food wrappers could be heard. I even knew who some of the actors were, although not as many as I had thought.

For some obscure reason I was under the impression the film boasted lots of cameos from famous names. I might have had the super-powered men and women in mind, and to me Stellan Skarsgård is always famous. I admire a man who doesn’t have to sound so frightfully Swedish all the time.

Thor and Loki didn’t seem very Norse, either. As ‘always’ a good baddie is British.

I came to this film cold. Not literally, seeing as it was a hot and humid day, but with no preparation. I had not seen the other films, whatever they might be. I hadn’t even had time to check out the links to useful clips Daighter emailed me. But that just goes to prove that any idiot can grasp what went on (as much as you can any adventure film these days) in The Avengers.

Captain America

Bad things happened. Good people were kidnapped by baddie. Other good people (super powered) were assembled by a mastermind to help fight the bad guy and put the world right again. They did, with the help of a lot of kicking and lots of noise. Some parts of Manhattan are still intact.

So, all is good. Until next time.

I did admire the Hulk’s way with Loki. More people should be that decisive.

Up in the Air

When Up in the Air was on in the cinema, I wanted to go and see it, but didn’t. Now I’m relieved I never got round to it. It would have been a waste of good money.

When it was shown on television this weekend, I was hoping for a good evening in, getting something for ‘free.’ The evening was good, and so were the crisps, but the film wasn’t.

To my mind it was a film riddled with clichés. Red Tails, which I saw – and liked – the other week, got dreadful reviews for being too clichéd. Yes, it probably was, but they were feelgood kind of clichés. This on the other hand, was dreary and empty. Just because something is bad and sad, doesn’t make it a ‘real’ film.

Up in the Air

The only thing that was different was what Alex did to George Clooney’s Ryan. Unusual, but that doesn’t make a film. The reviews I saw for Up in the Air were good ones. But apart from the fact that I am now disagreeing with them, I am surprised because they described a different film from what I got. I had expected a totally different plot, as well as another outcome.

And seeing people being made redundant, however badly or sensitively done, was painful. Somehow unemployment doesn’t strike me as an ‘interesting’ plotline these days.

Last Train to Tomorrow

World premieres don’t happen to me every day. And as Andy Ryans of the Hallé pointed out in his speech to the orchestra’s stuffers on Sunday afternoon, it was a first for our group. I’d been feeling despondent and worried he wouldn’t actually come and make his annual speech, but finally there he was, curtseying no less, and drinking two glasses of gin-free orange juice.

The Hallé did all right – but that doesn’t mean everything is absolutey fine and not worrying! – last year, and would have been stuffed without us. I think that’s what Andy meant.

This was a family concert, and the Bridgewater Hall was teeming with tiny future customers, but this was no Hallé light as far as the music was concerned. The theme was the Kindertransport, and conductor Carl Davis started off with Smetana’s Mẚ Vlast: Vltava, to signify where some of the Kinder came from.

At this point my companion, who shall remain anonymous, dozed off very slightly, but that’s why I have been equipped with elbows, and the situation was soon rectified. The livelier Brother Come and Dance with Me from Engelbert Humperdinck’s – the original one – Hänsel and Gretel, was beautifully sung by the Hallé Children’s Choir, wearing red shirts and really brightening up the choir seats.

The final piece of the first half was a lesson in orchestral instruments (which the stuffers had been deemed as not being in need of), courtesy of Benjamin Britten, assisted by six brand new actors from the MMU. Anyone who needed to know about woodwind or the banging of percussion players now do so. Hopefully this will have provided interesting facts for any newbies in the audience. (And on a personal note, I was very pleased to see Roberto Carillo-García in his original place where I could see him clearly.)

I have a dreadful confession to make. I was feeling pretty cynical about this world premiere thing. I felt that regardless of what Carl Davis’s specially commissioned piece for the Hallé Children’s Choir actually turned out to be like, a polite audience would applaud to order and we would be none the wiser.

Sorry about that.

Carl Davis admitted to being nervous. Maybe he was, but this showman always seems very sure of himself. Today he wore a bright blue coat, except for the second half when he changed into black, which was more suited to the occasion.

For Last Train to Tomorrow the children of the choir came onto the stage, to act as children on a train, and the actors, Amy Cameron, Jack Coen, Lowenna Melrose, Lucas Smith, Sinead Parker and Will Finlason joined them there. Their words as well as the songs were written by Hiawyn Oram.

The actors told the brief story of what the Kinder of the Kindertransport went through, from Kristallnacht until their arrival in England. The choir sang beautifully and with feeling, with the odd solo bringing the attention to individual children and what happened to them. There was nothing new in all this. We have all read the stories, and many of us know it from novels about this period in history.

But that didn’t detract from the effect Carl’s piece had on us. I’m afraid I have to say that after a while I didn’t hear his music, nor the doubtlessly expert playing by the orchestra. That’s because what the children sang and the actors acted out was so strong and touching that you simply had no room for musical excellence.

It is time to eat my words. Not only was this a fantastic new piece and a great performance, more than deserving of honest applause, but the audience had the good taste and sense to know that it required a standing ovation. This went on for some time, which was good, because there is much repair work that can be done with a sleeve in the dark. My cheeks were almost dry when the time came to leave.

I’d like to think that in years to come, I’ll enjoy being able to say I was present at the premiere.

Needless to say, after so much ovation, we didn’t make the five o’clock train home. But it’s good to remember that 10,000 children made it to their train to England. (Carl made a reference to what things are like today. I suspect he wanted to make a point about what has become of us.)

Red Tails

You go away for two weeks and a film opens in the cinemas and manages to disappear before you’re back. Well, not strictly true, as we managed to find Red Tails in one further away cinema, at 10.30 on a Saturday morning, for which we are grateful. I see reviewers on IMDb generally thought it’s a dreadful film, but we beg to differ. It does explain why the film made a hasty retreat from a screen near us, though.

Red Tails

This is the story about black pilots in the US air force during WWII, finally getting the opportunity to show they are as capable and brave as other fighting men. Seen from the 21st century some of the prejudice is shocking, but a lot of the time it would seem the changes are mainly superficial.

It goes without saying that someone will die. You just can’t be certain who, or how many. No one is awful enough that you wish them dead, and you know someone nice will die a hero at some point.

Very unusual to see a film with almost only black actors in it, and it is to be applauded for that, if nothing else. It’s positive discrimination, but sometimes you need that. I didn’t know a single one of the actors before, so it took some getting to know them. Not easy when half the time they hide most of their faces behind flying masks, leaving you staring at eyes and some uncomfortable looking cheeks.

Daniela Ruah plays a passable Italian love interest for one pilot. The token German is very token indeed, and I wonder why the German lines always sound so simple and laboured?

Where others clearly cried over the awfulness of Red Tails, we cried over the drama and enjoyed it.

I can’t help but think that prejudice has been at large in making people reluctant to watch, or like this film. Why watch black actors portraying real soldiers from a real war, when you can have over-paid, famous actors do stupid things in fantasy horror adventures with plenty of sex?

Hungry in Covent Garden

We went to Bistro 1 again, yesterday. Visits haven’t been quite as frequent recently as they first were, but we still like it. Bistro 1 might not be the best, but it’s better than most.

I forget which year it was I took Offspring to Neal Street for the shoe shops. They were old enough to appreciate such things, and they shopped for shoes to an extent that would have had Mother-of-witch and Favourite Aunt weeping with pride, had they only been able to witness this from ‘the other side.’ Perhaps they did?

And then we got hungry, and I didn’t know Covent Garden very well as an area. But I reasoned that there is always a Pizza Hut. There was. Were. Plural. But as we headed towards one, we saw this other place and decided to investigate. Miracle of miracles, it had several things on the menu that Daughter would eat, including one of her most favourite starters. And the prices were good.

What’s more, the waiters were both friendly and efficient. You might get one or the other, but rarely both. The Eastern Mediterranean food, and many vegetarian options, makes a nice change from pizzas, and pizzas, and even pasta, when it’s less good, as it can often be at the cheaper end of eating places. Mezze is great. Moussaka, even for an aubergine hater, is good. The pancake with so much filling that you can’t possibly eat it all, is also fine.

We’ve always had a good meal there. The two course deal is good value, to say nothing of the three courses you won’t have room for. They don’t mess up your evening out by taking too long, and delaying you. Even with a party of twenty at the next table, you’ll get to the theatre on time.

Since we aren’t in London as often as we used to be, and we don’t always require a sit-down meal when we are, we go less often. As I said. But it’s top of the list for when we do need food.

Konditori crawling

That’s a more dignified version of a pub crawl.

Dodo likes having coffee out in Sweden. She reckons it’s one of the best things about this country, and I’m tempted to agree with her. Although, I have to eat something with my coffee (tea in my case), which will be why I sometimes mention large size clothes.

In the ten days Dodo and Son were with us this time, they checked in at so many coffee places on facebook that you could be forgiven for thinking that’s all they did. (And if it was me, I’d keep quiet about it.)

We ‘crawled’ to some places together, and when we did things separately, they managed to fit in an admirable number of coffee holes. At one point I texted to see if they were joining us for pizza for lunch. They would, was the reply, when they’d finished their elevenses.

As for me it’s probably a good thing we are going home today. That Banana Bend I had with my tea on Tuesday morning wasn’t strictly speaking necessary. But it was nice. And it’s funny how people know for a fact that ‘Englishmen’ drink only tea. That will be why the server placed the mug for tea in front of the Resident IT Consultant, although he was eagerly awaiting his coffee.


When we arrived at the start of the holiday I found that my great grandparents had had a fall. Not as bad as it sounds. The only thing broken was the glass covering the photo. And perhaps a little at the corners of the frame.

Great grandparents' picture frame

But then, that frame must be in the region of 125 years old. Give or take. It has my permission to fall, and to break the glass and for the wood to look a bit iffy.

Great grandparents' picture frame, tape

Great grandparents' picture frame

It was only as Daughter set about giving it some first aid that she realised the tape she was pulling off the back was 19th century tape. As for me I was intrigued to note that the photographer’s studio was situated on the same street corner in Gothenburg where I used to work. (Not that I worked on the street corner..!)

Odd that they fell down just now. I’d mentioned them while discussing the family tree with Eldest Cousin. Maybe they heard me and were scandalised that I shared certain information with her. She, in turn, was more than surprised to find I knew which year our grandmother – their daughter – was born. I just know these things. (1880, since you didn’t ask.)

I got the staple gun out and while Daughter held tight, I shot modern staples through the ancient wood. We decided to make do without new glass, so Daughter assembled the the layers and put new string on (since it was the old string that broke and made them fall in the first place) and hung them back on the wall, above their son-in-law’s bureau.

Great grandparents' picture

They look as good as new, for such old people. (Their age is one fact I don’t know, but I’m guessing around 1850.)

NCIS beginnings and ends – Yankee White

I’m doing a beginning-to-end survey of NCIS. It’s a tough job, but someone has to sacrifice their summer for such a worthy project. One summer isn’t long enough to watch every single episode while we wait for season ten, and since I had some issues with the ending of season nine, it seemed like a good idea to go back to old endings and see how they connect with their subsequent beginnings.

But first we need to deal with Yankee White, the 40 minutes that began my new life as a nerd. OK, there were the JAG episodes, but they almost don’t count.

It is all down to Donald Bellisario, whose writing of the first seasons is second to none and which made NCIS what it is. There may have been problems later, and maybe things weren’t perfect, but you can’t fault the writing.


There is much that makes Yankee White stand out. Although looking back, you see the discrepancy of Fornell and Gibbs meeting for the first time. But that’s OK. Also, Gibbs is not as Gibbsy as he became soon after. Nor is Abby fully formed. But the then Director is great, and DiNozzo is likeable. And Ducky is more assertive.

You can’t help but love a plot set on Air Force One, with a pretty passable George W Bush. Perhaps someone really should have thrown themselves in front of the President’s diet. The Secret Service come across less well than you’d expect, although that could have been intentional, I suppose.

Some shows need a few episodes to prove themselves. NCIS was loveable from the word go.

Yankee White - Kate, Ducky and Gibbs

I’m still loving it, but they will need to pause and think about what they are doing. It doesn’t have to be Bellisario writing, but it does need to be someone else good. Changing backgrounds as happened with Gibbs and Fornell is also OK. But someone writing for season ten needs to know what happened in season five.

(Photos © CBS)

6th June 2012

That was the wrinkliest shirt I’ve ever seen a policeman wear. Not that I go round checking police shirts, you understand. But once I’d clocked the two police officers listening to the music in Varberg’s Societetspark along with the rest of us, I noticed the shirt which had surely been washed and left to dry all bundled up in the cupboard and then worn with no thought (?) for looks.

Varberg balloons

Varberg seems to do this 6th June celebrating properly. We only joined the feast towards the end, totally unintentionally. It was yours truly’s birthday, which will be why we were heading to GP Cousin’s home for his birthday party, four days early.

After a breakfast of blueberry pancakes made for me by Dodo and Son, we travelled north. We stopped en route for a late salmon lunch at Laxbutiken in Heberg. (Both we and the salmon were late, although not the same kind of late.) Offspring and Dodo decided to leave the 40 kinds of ice cream for some cold refreshments further north.

Blue dream car, Varberg

It was not easy parking in Varberg on this National Day, but we managed. How come the drivers of special vehicles always seem to get good parking spaces without trying? One pleasure of being in Varberg on a sunny summer’s day (and what a surprise that was!) is checking out all the American cars cruising town.

The biker flying a flag to celebrate my day was also appreciated.

Patriotic biker in Varberg

Societetsparken, Varberg

We walked round the castle, decided the ice cream queue was too long, and then sat in the park, enjoying the tail end of the festivities, listening to a girl band. They were good, but we have no name for them.

Girl band, Varberg 6th June

We had some extra fun getting lost in this small town I’ve visited every summer for 56 years. Trying to drive the wrong way in a one way street was part of the fun. But we eventually got to GP Cousin’s party, after testing the Resident IT Consultant’s talent for turning the car round in tight spaces.

Ate even more food and cake and chatted to relatives, including the rarely encountered cousin of cousin. Finished by driving home along the old coast road, seeing as it was still daylight. Great day, just the way a 6th of June should be.