jfs: (boy with cat)
There's something enervating about constant heat in England; we're not used to it, and it saps away at us. Tempers fray, nerves thin; we snarl at each other where we would have let things go.

So I was on my way home from London Bridge, after an excellent night in the pub with friends tonight, and I got on the Ilford train at Stratford. And just as I sat down, two people bumped into each other, and he decided that she had been less than careful and she decided that he had over-reacted and suddenly two people were having a loud and energetic argument in the carriage and the rest of us just wanted to be somewhere else and that somewhere else was cool and at home. Short of an ice gun and a teleporter, that wasn't going to happen.

They sat. Not opposite each other.  She facing away from him; he defiantly placed facing the back of her head because he was correct and she was wrong. The set of his neck and shoulders exuded righteousness. She sat as if he didn't exist; defensive, perhaps, but no outward signs of nervousness.

I can't answer for either of them and what they were feeling but my reading of the situation was that violence was not going to happen. This wasn't a fight that was going to kick off. This was two people rubbing against each other like burrs under a blanket, and neither able or willing to turn around and say 'Sorry. It's a hot night. I've got a short temper tonight but I shouldn't have taken it out on a stranger'.

So - so far; about what you'd expect from public transport on a hot Friday evening.

But what drew my attention out of my headphones and book was the effect on the rest of the carriage.

If you'd asked me in advance, I'd have assumed that people would have got defensive themselves, in case a fight was going to kick off. Or they'd have got judgemental of one or both of the two, taking sides almost.

Instead I saw smiles. And not the 'Would you look at those pair?!' smiles. I saw people moving over, and making room. I saw newspapers being passed, and when I got off the train there was a concerted effort to make sure that the people with heavy luggage or prams were being helped up the stairs.

It's almost like there was a concerted unconscious effort to overcome the bad vibes that she and he were giving each other by trying to make the world a (very) slightly better place.

Someone tried to play the peacemaker between the two people that were arguing, and it went down like the proverbial lead balloon.

But the rest of the carriage, consciously or not, tried to make sure that even if those two people were upset, that didn't have to apply to anyone else.
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There's a lot I could say about the Olympics - the Orwellian mascots, the Zil lanes on the roads, the potential travel nightmares.

Here's something else, from a story in the Independent about the Olympic village, and the athletes' responses to it.

"After all those dark days of the war, the bombing, the killing, the starvation, the revival of the Olympics was as if the sun had come out... I went into the Olympic Village and suddenly there were no more frontiers, no more barriers. Just the people meeting together. It was wonderfully warm. Men and women who had just lost five years of life were back again."
Emil Zapotek, Czech Middle Distance Runner, London, 1948. Gold Medal winner.
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These are dark times, gentle reader. The Depression shows no sign of lifting, and cuts are everywhere. Faced with a lack of funding and some very expensive habits to pay for, Mssrs. Flay and DeVille, owners of the Southern Sanatorium for the Deranged and Damaged have been forced to grasp the nettle of entrepreneurism and throw open their doors to the general public, Victorian asylum-style. Come see the inner workings of some of our more twisted inhabitants.

Amongst the freaks for you to gawk at:

- Li'l Miss Chievous, interred after one too many Johns got nasty and she snapped
- Diva Hollywood, whose opium-addled mind finds relief only through whip-work
- Henry And Hazel, a traditional circus troupe more physically balanced than mentally
- Luna Rosa, bewitched and delirious after a recent trip to the Orient
- Crimson Skye, a deeply devoted darling who just can't give up her lover's cheatin' heart.
- and of course Flay & DeVille themselves, the freaks who took over the asylum...

Flay & DeVille's Southern Sanatorium. It's like 'Britain's Got Talent' - but with less cruelty and more talent.

Where: The Bizarre Summer Ball, The Scala, King's Cross, London
When: Saturday May 21st
Tickets and more info: http://www.bizarremag.com/bizarre-events/bizarre-ball/

Oh, and apparently some band called the Futureheads are playing too. :-)
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9 March 6.30 - 7.30 pm
Ronald Searle and the Tale of Mrs Mole £5, Conc £4, Friends £3

"Ronald Searle is one of the world's greatest living cartoonists. Curator Anita O'Brien talks about the life and work of Ronald Searle from his early experiences in the war and the creation of the St. Trinian’s girls to the very personal story behind the drawings in the Les Très Riches Heures de Mrs Mole exhibition."


Anyone interested?
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I never expected to be claustrophobic on the Tube.

I'm not a fan of tight spaces; I doubt I'll ever go pot-holing unless the zombie apocalypse is upon us - the thought of voluntarily dumping myself down a hole where I might have to inch myself along by flexing my floating ribs really doesn't appeal. And there's the issue of the weight of earth above you, pressing down. I blame Alan Garner, but truth be told, as much as I feel that the earth is my element, I'd like to stay on top of it as much as possible.

But the press of humanity doesn't usually bother me; I can disappear into headphones and daydream my way to work when my nose is pressed into the armpit of the differentially fragranced and keep my cool.

Then last week I went sailing around the Ionian sea in a 39 foot yacht (called Hufflepuff, unfortunately, which did lead us to decide that we'd rather sink and die than put out a radio call saying "Mayday, Mayday, this is Hufflepuff, Hufflepuff, Hufflepuff ..." as the form requires. I mean, it's not even as if we got one of the memorable houses ....).

There were 4 of us on board; myself, two friends, and our tutor / skipper. We had too calm weather, so we were using the engine more than we were sailing, and the Ionian being as full of islands as it is, I don't think we were ever out of sight of land.

But there were times when we were the only thing within 5 miles (except the school of dolphins who came to play with us, and the occasional flying fish, and the ever so surprising butterfly, a mile away from shore and very lost). I got to see clear wine coloured seas, and go snorkling for the first time. See unusually cuthuloid jellyfish, houses clinging to hillsides by wishful thinking and roads laid out by Zorro running down to the sea. We sailed into small harbours, ate more seafood than I did in Japan, and revelled in the silence that occurs when you turn off the engine at 11pm and you're still 3 nautical miles from the nearest shore, and the only other people out are squid fisherman with bright lights and still boats.

For some reason, Monday, I couldn't face Bank Tube station at 6pm. So I walked in the drizzle to Liverpool Street, glad to be back in my city, but needing time to adjust to how close to me she was.

Photos on facebook here and here if you're interested.
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I note with interest that Boris Johnson is calling for a change in strike legislation to stop Unions calling for a strike when less than 50% of the union members in a workplace take place in a ballot. (link). He claims that he wants to stop unions calling "capricious strikes on a minority turnout".

I further note that Boris Johnson was elected mayor in an election where 45% of the electorate turned out.
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I've just been to one of the best theatrical performances I've been to in the last couple of years, and definitely one of my top 5 ever.

Scaramouche Jones is the story of a clown, told on Millennium Eve as he celebrates his hundredth birthday and does not expect to last the night. As he stumbles off some tawdry circus stage into the claustrophobic dressing room, he turns and greets the ghosts that surround him - in the space I was in, a unjustifiably low number of people - and promises to tell the story of the seven white masks that turned him into the clown he is today.

This is not a new play; reading up on it on the journey on the way home, it's written by Justin Butcher and first performed 8 years ago, and Pete Poslethwaite played the eponymous Jones in Bristol a few years back. I'm glad he wasn't there tonight though; he's distinctive enough that he'd have distracted from the strength of the story.

The theatre I watched it in wasn't a theatre; instead it was a room in an abandoned Sure Start centre off Oxford Street, white clown masks leading you through the bureaucratic building until the red draped performance space was revealed. An intimate space; seating for perhaps 40 around three sides of a square. And when everyone is sat, Scaramouche Jones comes in and starts to talk.

The actor, Tom Daplyn, is a great physical actor and clown. He effortlessly portrayed a 99 year old man playing a six year old boy or a 51 year old as he told the story of the clown's life. When he was describing his birth, he picked up a blanket and with a couple of deft twists, cradled it in his arms, a lifelike baby in swaddling cloths. His control of the room was faultless; it's a cliché to mention pins dropping, but at one point when he lowered his voice, I could see all the audience members physically willing themselves to stillness. And he takes Butcher's often baroque language and makes it feel like a clown's face paint - stylised, over exaggerated and strangely but appropriately formal. The language of someone who performs in everything he does, even on his deathbed when his only audience are the ghosts of his past.

Scaramouche Jones is sometimes funny, sometimes horrific, sometimes full of pathos. I can't recommend this play highly enough. Unfortunately, it's only on in London until Saturday. I'm going to try and rearrange my schedule so that I can see it again.

If you are in London, and have any free evenings between now and Saturday, I strongly recommend you try and see it too.

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Interesting journey into work this morning.

I got stopped by the British Transport Police under the auspices of the Terrorism Act, and subjected to a search.

What was really interesting was that while the officer in question very politely made it clear that the search was not optional, he also stressed that I was under no obligation to provide them with my ID, or even my name unless I wanted to. When he patted me down and found my wallet, he didn't open it. He didn't even look at the envelope of a parcel I had in my bag.

That's a real step forward.

I guess it helps that my face fits; white, middle class, middle aged (*sob* ) and that I don't look 'weird' - no obvious piercings or tattoos. And I know how to talk to authority, and don't put their backs up as a matter of principle. But if it were a matter of the officer's discretion whether to ask for ID or not, I don't think he'd have phrased it the way he did. (Edit: Under the provisions of Sec.44 of the Terrorism Act, 2000, you don't have to give your name and address. However, I've seen videos of police on Youtube opening someone's wallet and taking their name and address from the contents. The officer searching me today made no effort to do anything like that.)

I don't have a particular problem with stop and search (if it's applied fairly) - but if nothing shows up then I shouldn't have to show ID.

I think that's a good balance; I'm very aware several people on here will disagree.

(oh, and the 'white powder' was the chalk I use for climbing. I thought I should mention it before he found it.)
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So, last night, I went to see episode 14 of series 7 of QI being filmed.

A friend had tickets, so we went, turning up at the studio on the South Bank and queuing for the best part of 2 hours to guarantee getting in. But queue beers and good company soon made the time pass. Once in, and suitably warmed up by the in house comedian, the show began.

The panalists were Jo Brand, Alan Davies, Rob Brydon and Jimmy Carr, so we were pretty sure we were in for a good night, though I have to say, I was most impressed with Rob Brydon - he's got a gentle, almost perplexed air about him which fitted well with the show. I thought Carr was trying just a little bit too hard. But they were all good.

What surprised me most was the fact that the show was filmed in almost one take. There was a bit of chat, then the theme tune played and for the next two hours the panel just chatted to each other, with a vague gameshow going on at the same time. The only break was when the camera tapes needed changing, but I got the feeling if that hadn't been the case, they'd have just kept going.

Once it finished, Stephen Fry had to re-record two links - perhaps a minute's worth of film altogether, and then it was done.

Tickets were arranged through http://www.applausestore.com if anyone would like to sign up for tickets in the future.
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Thanks to the Metro, of all things; though I'd heard of the website before and kept meaning to check them out.

http://www.blackcabsessions.com - take a London taxicab and a musician or a band. Drive it around for long enough for them to sing a song; one take. Put resulting video on the web.

The lighting usually sucks, but the sound is much better than you might think, given that they're driving around in a cab, and there's some fantastic performances on there .

I especially like Lykke Li, Badly Drawn Boy andAmanda Palmer's performances.

And if you want regular updates, I've syndicated it to LJ as [livejournal.com profile] blackcabsession - click on that to add it to your friends list and to get the videos appearing in your friendslist.
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I've only just heard about this - quoted from a friend's blog:

The 696 Form compels licensees who wish to hold live music events in 21 London Boroughs to report to the police the names, addresses, aliases and telephone numbers of performers, and most worryingly, the likely ethnicity of their audience. Failure to comply could result in fines or imprisonment. We believe this places unnecessary and frankly Orwellian powers in the hands of the Metropolitan Police, an institution which does not have the best record of racial fairness. The 696 form can only serve to deter the staging of live musical events - a positive form of activity in London and all cities - stifle free expression and quite possible penalise certain genres of music and ethnic audiences. It is an intrusion too far.

If you think this can't be true, look at http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/news/how-form-696-could-pull-pull-the-plug-on-the-capitals-music-scene-1028240.html , http://www.billboard.biz/bbbiz/content_display/industry/e3ib7a1cbce7faa46dfb966f53ed2b33507

Please sign the petition!

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Ken Hite, LJ's own [livejournal.com profile] princeofcairo and one of the best RPG writers out there today, is going to be at Dragonmeet in Kensington on Saturday, along with Robin D. Laws.
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Hi all,

I was just wondering if any of you who attended our event took any photos you'd be willing to let us use for publicity purposes (with appropriate photo credit, of course).

We've been somewhat let down by the person who agreed to take photographs for us.
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A friend works for the Leonard Cheshire charity, and they're running an event, so I said I'd pass on details in case anyone on my friend's list is interested:

A Christmas Sparkler to beat the credit crunch blues!
Tickets are available from as little as £10 for this dazzling gala concert in aid of Leonard Cheshire Disability. A Christmas Sparkler promises an evening of music, carols and celebrity performances at the Southbank Centre, Royal Festival Hall, London on Thursday 11 December. To book tickets click here: Southbank Centre website or call 0871 663 2500.
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So, it's over.

It went well, I think; certainly the people I spoke to last night seemed to be having a great time, and from our perspective, it was a resounding success.

Thank you so much to those of you who braved a very wet and windy November night to come out and support us; I hope you had a good time. It was so lovely to see so many friendly faces there.

I may calm down in a week or so. But possibly not.

There will be other Flay and DeVille events, and I will be inviting you to them, oh yes.
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Metaphorically speaking, at least.

So, tonight's the night - the Flay and DeVille Circus of Marvels opens for its first show.

I've been waiting for the other shoe to drop all weekend; making lists, cutting up programmes, printing feedback cards; trying desperately to remember what it is that I've forgotten to do.

That's normal, though. I don't think I've ever run an event that I've cared about without getting the pre-curtain jitters, and I don't even get up on stage!

But, as I've said elsewhere, if you're not nervous, you're probably not doing it right.

See some of you later, see some of you soon.

Catch you on the flip-side.
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Preparations continue apace for the event that may well redefine Monday as the new Friday (or at least the extra-long Sunday ....)!

We're opening our reserve list today - if you'd like us to hold a ticket or two for you to collect and pay for at the box office, please email info@irrepressible-events.com, giving us your name and the number of tickets you'd like us to hold for you. Please be aware that doors open at 8pm on the 10th November at Madame JoJos, and that reserve tickets must be collected by 8.30pm - after that point, we cannot hold them for you any longer.

Or, of course, you can buy a ticket in advance using PayPal if that's easier - details here

(And if you have no idea what I'm talking about - check out the website and come see!)


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Last week I posted somewhat cryptically about seeing Neil Gaiman singing backup vocals and playing tambourine. It was for Amanda Palmer, who was playing at Koko.

Anyway, he's worked with her on her new album (Amanda Palmer Is Dead) and written a song that she performs as part of her live show.

It's called "I google you" and it's great. (The link is to a YouTube video - the video quality isn't great, but the sound is, and it's worth it for her explanatio before the song)


Edit to add: And of course, with the miracle of YouTube, if you'd like to see Neil Gaiman looking incredibly uncomfortable, the video is here.
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With time to kill this evening, and a need to relax after the excesses and late nights of the last few weeks, I've been watching The Tomorrow People. I got given the complete set for my birthday and this is the first time I've been able to sit down and watch a story.

It's strange; the story was part of my childhood, but I didn't watch any programme regularly enough to tie deep into my psyche the way that (for example) Doctor Who does for so many of my friendslist. It's very stilted, in the way that so much TV in the 70s was - a different style of acting to that we have now, much more like the Children's Film Foundation stories that were on every Saturday. Very, very English.

The sets and special effects are nothing to write home about, but neither are they particularly different to Doctor Who or Blakes Seven, both from that era. The scripting is very worthy - one of the Children is black, one female (though interestingly, much like the Famous Five, she's the one forced by the patriarchal TIM to stay back at the base when the boys go into danger with no particular reason given as to why it should be her.)

Mostly, while I'm watching, the thing which gets me most is how innocent they are. They jaunte into places without thinking "If there's anyone watching from a window as we stroll across this wide open lawn we're in trouble" and how little (in the first story) they seem to have cottoned on to the tactical uses of their powers. But then this was 1979 - it's unlikely any of them were playing tactical games at that age and point in time.

And the final thought? Wasn't London grimy then? Tower Bridge is black, the streets are grey and washed out (I know some of that is an artifact of the film being used, but even so ...).

London has scrubbed up well over the last 30 years.
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Hi all,

as I've mentioned to some of you, myself and some friends are putting on a cabaret night at Madame JoJo's in Soho on Monday 10th November.

It's £10 for the show, which covers cabaret from 9pm - 11.30 and music before and afterwards until 2am.

I know it's a Monday evening, but it would be lovely to see you there if possible.

There are more details on our website at http://www.irrepressible-events.com/ including a link to Paypal if you want to buy tickets.


John (who is neither Flay nor DeVille.)

January 2017

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