Bawds, jades, hussies and whores; thieves, pimps, pickpockets and highwaymen.

Yup, tomorrow sees the move-in to the theatre for “Beggars’ Opera”. It isn’t in as bad a nick as some of the TW4 shows have been at this stage, though the usual suspects have the usual problem with lines. The big choral and dance numbers are all fine, and there are a couple of really very strong individual performances (especially Mrs Peachum, Jenny Diver, and Matt the Mint), but some of the minor scenes are still rather under-rehearsed.

The music is sometimes a bit of a struggle … I’m a little worried about getting a balance between the performers being able to hear enough to keep the dances in time and not drowning the voices. I’ve arranged (I hope) to hook the MD’s midi-box into the PA, and am desperately hoping that we don’t have to mic up either violin or flute as I don’t have mic’s – though might be able to borrow from Questors if we really need to. The sound will have to be strictly “set-and-forget”, as we don’t have a Sound Op (and there probably wouldn’t be room for one, anyway: Freddie is operating a follow-spot from the perch, alongside Richard on LX).

I feel curiously disengaged from this one, despite being on the Committee, and having been to several rehearsals and runs. Perhaps I just don’t quite hook in to Freddie’s vision for it (off-modern dress in patches), or perhaps it’s written as the kind of pastiche piss-take that I don’t get much from repeated viewings of. But I don’t think it will end up being discreditable to any of those involved, even if perhaps not quite as glamorous a celebration of the 35th year as could have been wished. More new blood continues to come in to the group, so there’s hope that things will continue … but, as always, there isn’t a lot of spare money!

Perhaps I’ll give the SM thing a rest for the November production, if anyone else can take it on. But I don’t want to upset Clive (who’s directing) – I think he’s already feeling people are leaving it too late to really think about stuff. The Questors has been provisionally booked or the first week in November …

Beggar’s Opera flyer

Work

Work has been a bit hectic – I seem to have been landed with preparing the Annual Report and rather more of the Accounts stuff than I’d hoped for. Still, just about got things under control for 1830h on Friday … just as well: I’m now not in until the afternoon of the AGM on Weds 20th, due to mollocking about in the theatre.

Two quotes now in for a replacement Fire Alarm, and still chasing the third … I may have to go elsewhere. The really good news is that we had an inspection at 2 hours notice on Thurs 7th, and we now comply (subject to carrying out various stuff already in progress) – this was confirmed by letter on Monday. Whoopee ! Well, it has been about 8-10 hours a week of my time for the past three months …


Website

MJPL pointed out to me a couple of weeks ago that there seemed to be a problem with my website. On iinvestigation, the index page had disappeared. I took an hour or so to re-constitute it: I hope I’ve now managed to fix my website – it turned out that (sod’s law) the corrupted index page was the single page that I didn’t have a sensible working backup of (or, if I have, I can’t find it). Anyway, I hope I’ve re-created something to do the job, but will have to go back and do a proper fix ‘cos I suspect it won’t work well for anyone who has flash turned off…., as I e-mailed to him on Mon 4th.

However, it’s done it again, and an investigation shows that it’s due to a hi-jack by a rather unpleasant Trojan called “gumblar.cn”, which attacks a flash / php setup. From what I’m reading, it seems to be a bugger to get rid of! So that will have to be a project over the next few days between Theatre stuff. In the meantime, I’ll just put up a basic page, probably. BASTARDS! Time for a lot of in-depth scanning of PC and stuff, I think.

I’ve now tried deleting all the obsolete stuff that uses .php, and changed the ftp login and password – so lets see how long it lasts!

Mayday Bank Holiday

A cold grey windy Bank Holiday, after a couple of weeks of fairly nice weather. So it seems like a good time to go back and bring this blog up to date – I haven’t posted anything for around six weeks, I see. So I’ll fill in a couple of significant spots with retrospective posts.

Friday I had actually planned and managed to take off work – the first break at home I’ve had since I can’t remember when! Much needed: I feel a bit run down, sniffly and itching eyes with hayfever, and I’ve had a couple of styes recently (probably due to eye irritation).

The weather was great – a chance to get into the garden. Lawn duly mown, and I’ve made a start on pruning the forsythia. Actually, I’m about halfway through it, but have entirely filled-to-overflowing the green garden waste re-cycling bag, so decided to call it a day. Slightly precarious on the stepladder trying to reach stray bits of bush, and pretty tough on the back – still, I’ve got a couple of days recover time!

Suffolk

Down to Suffolk for the weekend. I’d hoped to go on Friday evening, but this wasn’t possible as I needed to carry out a full fire drill at work at 1745h. Weekend travel – yet again – to Halesworth was a nightmare: by train to Billaricay, then a coach to Colchester, then train to Ipswich, then change to the Lowestoft train. All told, around four hours travel time. So I didn’t get down until mid-afternoon. A pity in a way – Auntie Sue took people out to a Bistro lunch to celebrate Phoebe’s upcoming birthday: I’d been invited and would like to have attended, but it simply didn’t work out. Well, I could have done it if I’d left home around 0730h, but I seem to be extremely tired at present (pretty long hours at work, and worrying about the Fire Brigade), so sleep was important!

Some mollocking about trying to sort out getting sound into their computer, using the new microphone (Sure SM48 – nice). It turned out that the mic lead was dead … despite active firkling in the shed, Sim couldn’t find his. MJPL cycled over for supper – only to be greeted by a request to borrow his soldering iron! So we drove back to his place. Good to have a quick look at his garden (looking great). A very pleasant evening all told, and Mark is looking well: we’ve arranged to see the new Star Trek movie in ten days time, which will be the first time we’ve been to the movies for getting on for a year.


Sunday was sunny, so off for a dog-walk on the Marsh in the morning. Jesse is turning into a rather bouncy and energetic animal:

Phoebe’s concert with the Wenhaston Girls Choir was at 1430h, but we left just before 1200 to pick up Sue and get there in time to set up for a rehearsal before the performance. This included wrestling the electric piano from the Oak Cottage sitting room into the back of the car! Sim has applied for a grant to buy a Korg for the Choir, but hasn’t heard yet whether they’ve been successful.

The church at Wenhaston is very pretty, set in a classic graveyard with yew trees and suchlike. It features a 15th-century “Doom” painting: as Anne pointed out, all the ‘saved’ are naked except for headgear – wearing mitres, crowns and other headgear showing they are the great and the good, while the “damned” are all completely naked!

The concert was great – not too long, at around 30 minutes each half, with a good 30 minute interval for tea and cakes in the Church Rooms. Audience was around 45, mainly pensioners and relatives. Phoebe played a flute solo (one of two) – she was clearly a bit nervous for the first couple of breaths, but soon settled down. The acoustic of the Church really suited it … I do love flutes in echoing spaces, and have very fond members of the French flautist who used to busk in the tube underpass near the Afghan Embassy in 1977 in a ripple of semi-improvised and positively transcendent notes.

Back to Oak Cottage. Still having problems with the mic lead, so I suggested scrapping it: Sim ordered a decent replacement on e-Bay. I said that if there were still problems I would stick a spare sound card in the post to them, as I have several kicking about.

Saskia was looking particularly appealing, having taken to snoozing and sitting on the bird-table …

After supper was a concentrated couple of hours for Sim and me to look at the Erysimums website. After some initial discussions about a “gallery” page, it seemed easiest to simply replace the “what’s in the collection” page with a picture index – this leaves the navigation structure unchanged, and so doesn’t mean making changes to every detail page. This will replace the current javascript drop-down lists, which I’ve never been entirely happy with. It should look good when finished … I’ve left Sim to fill in all the relevant stuff before uploading it, but the bones are done.


Monday was a quick dog-walk in the morning, followed by the mid-morning train; I had to be at work for 1500h. Everything ran to time. I really didn’t fancy dragging a rather heavy case over to West London, so payed the large sum of £8 for left luggage at Liverpool Street Station. as expected, it’s “secure storage”, with full airport-style x-rays of luggage, so I suppose that £8 isn’t unreasonable to cover the cost of the gear … and I don’t suppose that the rent they pay the railway is particularly cheap, either!

eastertime

Down to Green Mount on the Friday late afternoon. I should really have gone down in the morning with Bam, but I really didn’t know what my movements were going to be until the last minute, and she does panic so if things are changed at short notice! Anyway, she made her own way down (Mum having booked a seat for her, on the only train of the day with bookable seats), and it’s good to know that she can manage such things.

Weather was rainy with sunny spells on Friday: pretty dreadful on the back! I did go for a short walk to stretch out a bit, though very feebly: it took about half an hour to walk to the end of the Main Path and back again!


Saturday was rather better, with some sunny spells. We went over to Chipping Norton in search of a book-case (Bam’s present to Mum, much discussed and talked about) to a big second-hand and antique place, very near Blist’s Mill. A fascinating hour or so to look round, but nothing suitable. We then went into Chipping Norton in search of tea … but there was only one tea shop, and it was too crowded. However, we did come across a pine etc furniture place, and discovered a pair of book-cases that will exactly fit the spot on the top landing – three foot high, and two foot each wide. The guy not only offered a 15% discount for the pair, but offered to deliver them at around 1800h that evening for free! Perhaps it’s a sign of the recession …

By the time we got home my back had given out – so a quick cup of tea and hot cross bun, then off to lie down … which turned into a sleep, and I didn’t hear the book-cases being delivered. Up around quarter to seven, and the weather had taken a turn for the better, so I managed to stroll round the common. The blackthorn blossom in the reddish light of the setting sun drifted through the trees like smoke:

On up through the clearing to the old playing field area, which was almost white with windflowers. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many of them before – usually, I think of them as being in smallish clumps.

Sunday started off as a trip to the Garden Centre at Ramsden, which turned out to be closed! Really surprising on a Bank Holiday weekend, and Easter is proverbially the time when active work in the garden is in full swing. Via a rather circuitous route (to avoid going back past Green Mount and so confusing Bam) we went over to Yarnton Nursery … which was also closed! So we decided to visit Cassington, and at the roundabout on the A34, about a hundred metres from Yarnton Nursery, there was a large temporary sign proclaiming that Cassington Nurseries were open. Good to see such enterprise, and it deserved to be rewarded. I didn’t buy anything, as I really didn’t feel up to carrying anything extra back to London.


Monday morning was warmer and sunnier, so I managed a decent walk to see if the bluebells were out in the little wood on the other side of the valley. They weren’t quite … the bells visible and blue, but not fully opened.

I took a stroll along the path through the downs on the way back. Wonderful mix of incipient green buds, browns and reds of naked branches, and the blackthorn blosson drifting through it.

And so, back to London in the afternoon.

community centre

After assorted discussions with the Community Centre over the road from work http://www.kingsgatecommunitycentre.org.uk I’ve agreed to “look after” / “godfather”/ “project manage” the installation of stage lighting and a sound system, video projection etc in their Hall. Total value is around £30,000. The work is being carried out by White Light, a company that I’ve known and trusted since my days back at the Hampstead Theatre … certainly for over 25 years! So I have no worries about it.

down to Oxford

So, down to Oxford to wrestle with Mum’s computer. Definitely some kind of buggered-up networking problem: it seemed to have decided to have a default connection to MSN, which was very tedious. It took many hours to sort out, and I’m still not sure exactly what I did that was different – the successful attempt seemed to be exactly the same as I’d tried on two previous unsuccessful occasions! However, between using my laptop on a dial-up connection, my laptop on the old “speedtouch” modem, and assorted other devices, it got fixed.

I still can’t manage to implement WEP security for the WiFi there – it seems to be fundamentally incompatible with the PC for some reason. But I don’t suppose that it matters much – few neighbours, and they are a fair distance away.

Green Mount was looking most splendid, with the spring bulbs and corms in full blossom. The white and blue “anenome blanda” were spectacular!

spring bulbs

On Saturday, Michael Wardell arrived. We went for a walk down the downs and river – at least, Mum & Michael walked as far as the bridge onto the fields by the river, while I carried on alone along the river as far as the railway bridge before turning back. Sprinklings of early-spring flowers: celandines and such.

Celandine in roots of willow tree by River Evenlode

Coming back, I crossed over the brook onto the watermeadow – looking back towards the railway, although the earliest flowers are out, and there was warm but not bright sunshine, spring hasn’t really reached the trees yet!

Evenlode valley at the end of March 2009

 

spring is sprung

It’s been a busy couple of weeks, and I haven’t posted since the start of the month. Several early-morning (8 am) starts at work last week, for electricians, boiler repair person, and so forth, and not really getting any time off yet. Out-of-work has been equally busy, with a trip to Gunnersbury last weekend for a TW4 production and committee meeting, which took over 2 hours each way due to the dreaded “weekend engineering work” on Victoria, Circle, Overground.

However, this week Spring has sprung! I’ve managed to grab an hour or so most days in the garden before leaving for an afternoon start. The weather is warm – well, bright, sunny, and warm enough not to need a thick woolly jumper, though still two t-shirts and a shirt. The twisted cherry sprang to life at the start f the week, taking over from the forsythia which is now just past its prime.

twisted cherry in bloom

forsythia in bloom

It’s amazing how much it lifts the heart and makes the spirit sing when there’s a sign that the deep dark days of winter might finally be on the retreat! Also in the garden, the toads have started mating – there’s been a couple in the pond all week. I’m rather hoping that this means I’ll be spared the long mournful calls of the solitary toad trying to attract a mate keeping me awake at night – so far this year, the most I’ve heard is a rather self-satisfied couple of “gurk”s!


Computers have been a problem recently. For some while I’ve been using PCGuard (free with Virgin Media). As I posted on OUT (on Sunday ten days ago):

I came home one evening last week to find that it had crashed during the afternoon, leaving my PC unprotected. I restarted the PC and ran a full PCGuard virus scan overnight, which found nothing. But PCGuard then took to crashing every couple of hours, for no apparent reason, even though I did a full uninstall and re-install of it in case there was a corrupted file. Needless to say, I didn’t dare leave my PC on unattended, which was bloody inconvenient.

Yesterday, I’d had enough – I started an on-line scan at Pandasoft, which rapidly revealed that there were “problems”. So now I’ve uninstalled PCGuard, installed Avast, and have been running a full detailed virus check for the past 20 hours (and I’m only 40% through …). So far, a couple of keyloggers, a dialler programme, and several trojans have come to light … including in places like the “restore” area. I’m vastly unamused!

So, I ran for a week using Avast! , which I use on the laptop and on the work machines. However, while it is undoubtedly good at catching viruses on the way in, it seems to be pretty shit at eradicating established viruses. I got a recurrent message about a virus every time I started up a new programme (which it duly quarantined). Obviously, it wasn’t getting to the root of the problem. So, acting on a recommendation via OUT, I’ve installed Comodo as an antivirus / firewall combination. It’s been in since the weekend, found three things that I removed as possible sources of infection which I deleted, and life has been so far trouble-free since then. It did also flag the various components of TightVNC as possible viruses … which I’m used to, and I’ve told it to leave them well alone.

And more computers. Mum has not been able to get on line at all this week. She’s checked all the cables, so I suspect something or someone has corrupted a setting somewhere. Anyway, I’ve agreed to go down after work on Friday, returning on Saturday teatime so I will get one day at home … by which timew the weather will probably have changed. I must remember to take a laptop, memory stick, and modem lead … all in case I need to d/l anything to patch any corruption.

Visitors

I spent most of the week cleaning and clearing the flat in the evenings, getting ready for Mum to visit. after an assortment of false starts, it turned out that the tickets she’d booked to see “Lear” at the Young Vic were for the show starting at 1915 … so Mum and Michael arrived here at just before 1400h and we had a late lunch (chicken casserole). A lazy afternoon (we all snoozed), and a quick cup of tea, leaving the flat about 1745, arriving at Southwark Tube about 1820.

Mum was a bit concerned, as the directions she has to the Young Vic were from Waterloo, but as I remember it that route involves several junctions and crossing busy roads (something I plan to avoid wherever possible), whereas it’s just straight along the pavement for 150 yards from Southwark. Doors opened about 1845 with unallocated seats, and we got in and got good seats halfway back, house right. I was on the aisle, so had some room to stretch my right leg … the seats are very small and upright benches, and really not very good! Two intervals: of ten minutes and fifteen minutes respectively, and the play including intervals runs a whisker short of four hours!

I really enjoyed it. Most of the cast were very strong, and the set was excellent. The director had avoided the temptation to over-use the ticks, so when each new entrance came or was used it had genuine impact. I did think that the weakest part was Postlethwaite as Lear – although he showed the deecline and descent, he never showed the flashes of strength that I think are essential: I didn’t actually believe that he could have accumulated enough lands and possessions to be worth giving away !

It was the first Lear I’ve ever seen live (though I did see the BBC Shakespeare one on TV), and it’s nearly 40 years since I read it. It is a thoroughly depressing play … but I enjoyed seeing it.

(from the Young Vic Website)

So back home rather slowly and gingerly: what with the housework and the sitting on hard seats for far too long I was very far from mobile! A late-night snack turned into the three of use sitting round the kitchen table making and eating sandwiches and salad – home-made bread (yup, I’m back on the baking), smoked ham, various cheeses … eventually went to bed around 0120 which is very late for Mum and Michael.


Sunday was up with “The Archers”, and a leisurely breakfast, before leaving for the Byzantium exhibition at the RA. As expected, there was some mind-blowingly fabulous stuff – fantastic ivories and silver. I was also very taken with a couple of micro-mosaic pieces – it’s not something I’d come across before, and the work involved, with each tessera being between the size of a pi-head and the size of a match-head, was immense … the small size giving the ability to achieve a gradation of shading and level of detail that was astonishing.

There were also, of course, a lot of icons. Actually, probably rather more icons than necessary – but they are spectacular and easy to hang (as always at the RA, the smaller stuff in cases was incredibly difficult to see properly, and the labels are little short of atrocious).

images from the RA website

H000794 – H000795

A great time, though I had to sit down for a couple of ten-minute breaks during the time we were there: my back really had had enough of everything. Michael invited me for a lunch before he and Mum went back to Green Mount, but I had to decline: I really just wanted to get home, lie flat on my back, and twitch!


A great weekend, and I think Mum and Michael enjoyed themselves here. And, of course, I’m enjoying a newly-cleaned flat … though how long it will stay that way is debatable!

garden day

Another day of brilliant sunshine and unseasonable warmth – time to get into the garden. A bit of a major clear-up outside the back door, and sorting some stuff into the garden waste recycling bag – also managed to plant the final batch of the bulbs that I got at Christmas. It is really far too late for this … but there hasn’t been much chance earlier. It’s only a fortnight since the garden was under six inches of snow!

So, Dutch irises and a few drumstick purple Aliums in the bed by the back door, and much pruning back of the fuschias. In the course of all this, all the rubbish was moved … I hadn’t realised that there was now a resident toad, which surfaced crawling along the edge of the bed:

toad

I propped up a flowerpot as a temporary home to keep it out of the sun: no doubt it will find a better place to lurk once night-time arrives. Toads are much worth encouraging, as they eat a vast number of garden pests.

Then into the garden proper – clipping back the yellow flag in the pond where it had been flattened by snow, and taking a few excessively large branches off the apple and peach trees. Also a long-overdue surface clip of the Bay tree: I didn’t want to do a serious job on this, as it’s getting close to the nesting season and it sometimes appeals to local residents. Finished off with a quick mow of the lawn – I can’t say the garden looks good, but it does look far less like a bombsite than it did.

Forsythia is not out yet, but looks as though it’s thinking about it. I cut another bunch for the kitchen – the ones that have been in since New Year have flowered rather well, but are now definitely over. Also, hung up a couple of branches from the Bay tree to dry …the existing bay leaf stock was a couple of years old and looking the worse for wear.

There are a few catkins on the twisted hazel – not as many as last year, I think, still very much in the tight bud stage!

hazel catkins

All in all, I was in the garden from about mid-day until the light started going just before five. Rather painful on the back, but an inner glow of achievement! There was a glorious red-streaked sunset (as far as one can see from the confines of the back garden), made much more visible by having taken the curtains down for a long-overdue wash

late sunset back garden

Alongside all this, I managed a couple of loads of washing, and to place a grocery order for delivery. Tomorrow the forecast is still warm, but no glorious sunshine. Just as well: I really really need to concentrate on housework!

briefly, it felt like spring !

Very mild, and sunny spells. For the first time this year, I went in to work via Kilburn tube station, and walked in across Kilburn Grange Park in the sunshine. Kingsgate Workshops building looked almost appealing in the sunshine!

KWT from the Park

In the Office, with the sun streaming through the glass roof, it was almost warm: I actually took off my thick wooly jumper for a couple of hours, and was in (just) thermal t-shirt, cotton t-shirt, and shirt!


Things dental …

I was finally in a fit state on Weds 4th to have most of the rest of the dental stuff done: root filled,core built up, and post put in. A bit of a bobble when the dentist decided that she’d recommend a (private, extra £60) “white fibre” post, rather than the previously-proposed NHS one … not a decision one really wants to have to take when one has been in the chair for an hour and would do almost anything just to get it over with! However, it’s a bonded system not just a drilled one, and seemed sensible to go for it. A temporary crown rounded things off, and I was able to eat on that side again! Result!

Back to the dentist on Monday 16th for the fitting of the permanent crown. I’m very pleased with it: a good colour match, and she took a lot of time and attention to detail to get it fitted just right (it’s in a very tricky place, and the slightest misalignment screws up my bite). All in all, a very good job … all nearly£700-worth of it. I’d forgotten how much good it does my self-confidence to be able to smile knowing that my teeth look in decent shape!

However, I’ve still got some problems with the sinus and nerve after the allergic reaction before Christmas; I’m not sure that it’s improving at all, and rather think it might just be one of those things that one has to learn to live with.


Other than that, it’s been a fairly shitty week: I seriously upset my back last weekend (probably due to excessive hoovering and housework), and it’s been bad enough to give me very disturbed nights. This afternoon was the first time I’ve felt even vaguely mobile and bendable, though still in constant low-grade pain.

Mum and MW are coming to stay next weekend – we’re going to the “Postlethwaite Lear” on the Saturday Matinee, then they’re coming here to stay overnight, off around lunchtime on Sunday. Hence, of course, the bulk house-cleaning last weekend (which got about half of it done), and more this weekend if I can possibly manage it, leaving only a top-up clean for Thurs and Fri evenings.