Archive for November, 2006

The Play What I Wrote

On the final dates of its autumn UK tour, The Play What I Wrote reached Dundee Rep last week.

This was an entertainment put together by the brilliant Right Size Theatre Company, and originally starred Right Size Sean Foley and Hamish McColl when it was in London.    Now I have seen this pair (who met at a French Clown school) twice before:   once in Mr Puntilla and his Man Matti, and once in a play set in a bathroom called Do you come here Often?    They are a talented and extremely funny double act, and really they the whole point of The Play What I Wrote.     

The piece is about a double act, with heavy reference to Eric Morecombe and Ernie Wise – and many of the props, jokes and walks are all there.    There is a celebrity who stars, and part of the fun is this not being announced until he/she comes on in the second act.     In Dundee, we had Lisa Riley from Emmerdale fame.

So, without the original Right Sizers, it was going to be a bit of a tall order.    Happily the touring cast did an excellent job with Andrew Cryer and Greg Hastie doing a magnificent double act, but for me the real star of the show was the third man Anthony Hoggart who had to play ‘everyone else’.

It was a genuinely very amusing evening, and the packed audience at Dundee Rep (every last seat sold) went home smiling.

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Like a lot of people I expect, I received Internet Explorer 7 this week.   I downloaded it and it gives a chance to allow ClearType.   This turns out to be a way of improving the readability of screen text by some clever software that rounds the edges of the letters.    It is explained here.

You can turn it on or off in Windows XP by right clicking on the desktop, choose properties, choose appearance, choose effects and choose Cleartype.   You can also turn it off that way.    Remember to choose apply on the way out to effect the change.

You can download a ClearType tuner from Microsoft.

ClearType certainly makes the screen clearer, but in a funny way, I am not sure if I like it or not.    It is a bit like when your optician gives you a lens at your eye test that changes things quite a lot, but you are not sure if you like the changes.

Opinion is divided about it – some like it, some don’t.   It appears to have a lot to do with the type and resolution of your monitor.

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Dull November brings the blast, then the leaves go whirling past. (Sara Coleridge)

Dark November brings the fog, should not do it to a dog.    (Michael Flanders)

November is always a tricky month.   The weather is often dark and getting darker, windier, wetter and colder.     The days shorten all too abruptly.    The first decent frosts of the year teach us once again how to drive on slippery roads.     On the farm, fields become waterlogged, and roads suddenly need holes filled in.    Leaves off the trees need raking off lawns and tidied up for the winter.

If you are involved in any organisations, November is the month of meetings.   Everyone wants a meeting in November – ahead of December, which is much harder month to arrrange anything in the days before Christmas.   

In the world of work, similarly November is the countdown to Christmas and the New Year, a time typically ‘by which things have to get done’.

And yet ……… November can be stunning in the sunshine, and with crisp sparkling mornings – when we get them.    The trees are holding onto the last of their leaves.     And winter light can be amazing too.    And even wild weather can be exhilerating if you are dressed up for it.

And yet …… November is the month of rememberance:   we wear poppies every year and stop to remember those who have died for our country.   In the Church, November starts with All Souls when we remember those who have passed on, and November ends with the feast of Christ the King – the end of the Church Year. 

And yet …… the curling season is now well underway.   I have been curling twice a week in November.    Win some, lose some as ever!   It is a great winter sport.

It will be wonderful if St Andrews Day on the 30th becomes a national holiday in Scotland – a genuine reason to celebrate simply being Scottish.    I really hope that the politicians keep their hands off it.

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The Times – New Font

The Times has moved on to a new font  for its headlines as from yesterday to be more in keeping with its tabloid compact format.

I really don’t like this messing about with fonts, as The Times changed it only fairly recently in 2002 to the Times Classic font.     There is a sprinkling of a sans font in there as well, which looks really odd and out of place

And what on earth have they done to the poor old lion on the masthead?    Apparently they were having problems making a lion that looks straight out at you fierce enough, so this one looks sideways.     It is all a bit too cartoony for me, and looks like a modern woodcut.      Actually, looking back I’m not sure that they have had the lion quite right since 1786.   

I suppose it is a bit like a good friend getting new glasses – we’ll get used to it, and they are the same person underneath.

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Christmas starts too early

Christmas starts far too early.   

It is the commercial pressure to get presents bought, decorations looked out, food planned for, cards ordered and written.    And so it goes on:  we all get sucked in a bit too soon for our liking.   Christmas charity catalogues that arrive in July/August are the worst offenders.

I have a birthday in early December, and simply refuse to think about Christmas much before then (“lucky you!” , says my wife), although the overseas cards need to get written and posted before my birthday.

Christmas is a religious festival, and for me these days, it only becomes properly meaningful if I can get to Advent services.    After Lent, Advent is perhaps the next most solemn time of year for the church.   The church I go to  when I can takes it very seriously, and allows time for reflection and thinking about Christmas to come.   There is also some wonderful Advent music that only gets sung at this time of year.     The four Sundays in Advent each have a different meaning and focus.    Christmas without Advent is like Easter without Lent.   If you are going to church on Christmas Day it is worth at least trying to make the Advent journey.

If I had my way, the christmas tree and decorations would go up on the 24th December.     This is not practical – have you tried buying spare tree bulbs on Christmas Eve?    But it will all happen “in the final few days”.       

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Tom Fool – Citizens

I had not been to the studio theatre at the Citizens before.  In fact last time I was at the theatre was back in the good old days of Glasgow Mayfest (R.I.P.) when the colour scheme was red and gold.   Now it is black and pink – even pink elephants.

The play Tom Fool  by Franz Xaver Kroetz was about a portrait of a typical working class family in Germany.      Husband and father Otto, superbly played by Liam Brennan, watches his world fall apart in front of his, and our eyes.    It is mainly his fault.   Tension builds in the first half which ends in a monumental row from which there is absolutely no going back to how things were.     Meg Fraser plays the wife Martha – how wonderful to see her back in Scotland again – outstanding in Dundee Rep’s iconic and haunting Winter’s Tale.    Newcomer Richard Madden played Ludwig the boy.   All performances were first rate as was the directing by Clare Lizziemore.      Great night out.    Last night tonight.

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Edinburgh is Festival city for a month every summer.   People travel from all over the world to put on, or see shows and take in the unique atmosphere.

Underneath the surface though, the duck’s feet are paddling like mad to keep the show running.    Losing a long-time director Brian McMaster will be a blow, especially when he is off with his connections and expertese to advise on the new Manchester International Festival which launches on 2007.    

There are ongoing squabbles between the various festivals and Edinburgh Council over amount of financial support.     The Fringe Festival and the International Edinburgh Festival chose to run in different though overlapping three week slots a few years ago.    There are ongoing concerns about the cost of bringing shows to the Fringe – now so expensive that genuine new and innovative shows are being stifled in favour of the well proven money spinners, or loss-leaders as previews for London.

It is high time a few heads came together to ensure that all involved with the planning begin working better as a team.    They don’t need to reinvent the wheel, but they need to make subtle year on year changes to ensure that Edinburgh retains the cutting edge as THE must-do Festival Experience.     And that’s ALL the Festivals.

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The Scottish BAFTAS were on TV the other night – highlights from the awards ceremony the previous night.    Red Road deservedly won 5 awards.

But rather incredibly the director of Red Road, Andrea Arnold,  did not turn up at the ceremony to collect her award.    Neither did the best actor Tony Curran to collect his.    Red Road is a really good, if very adult Scottish film.    It won the Cannes Jury Prize.     How many British films do that?

So just why were these key people not there?     How many nominations does it take to attract the main players?    I thought film was supposed to be about teamwork.   Thank goodness best actress Kate Dickie was there to collect hers.

Normally these award ceremonies have video clips of the winners who can’t make it on the night – busy filming on the other side of the world etc.       Not this one – there were no excuses or explanations given.   

The BBC TV coverage was amateurish in the extreme, with annoying graphics (someone please tell them that less graphics and screen whizzy things can be more)  and shallow interviews.     OK, award ceremonies are not the time and place for in-depth discussion, but it just could have been done ….. better.      There were too few shortlisted in some categories.     All in all, the awards were a bit of an embarassment.  

It could have just been the TV editing, which had to squash a whole ceremony into a very tight timescale – so brutally edited that it made little sense.

BAFTA needs to look at this event for next year:   either run it professionally and intelligently or forget about it.    Perhaps they need to ditch the TV coverage, which would be a pity, as there is an opportunity to showcase the best of Scottish work.

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Re-wiring a tractor

I have an old Massey Fergusson 135 tractor that I use for pottering about the yard, splitting logs etc.     It does very little work each year, but it comes in handy for odd jobs.     I had been having battery problems with it, and despite recharging the battery recently, it was still struggling to start.

A little investigation found some very worn out wiring, and in fact the main wiring loom needed replacing.    Good old E-Bay came up with the goods, and so today was spent taking out the old and putting in the new.    Darkness got the better of me, and although everything is connected, I still have to tidy the wires up tomorrow and secure the runs.

I hope it starts this time.   At least it won’t go up in smoke due to an electrical fire now.    The old wiring was pretty hairy and scary.

 wiring loom for massey 135

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Park and Ride – Perth

Had to go to a 3 hour+  meeting this morning in Perth, so thought that I would use the Park and Ride bus.   Cost is £1 per person, and as it was only me, then this was cheaper than parking in the town centre.

I arrived in what I thought was plenty of time:   25 minutes to get into town.   The bus came in, I sat on it for ten minutes before it left.   The driver kept the engine running throughout – how environmentally friendly is that?   We head off into Perth, and stop en route to pick up and set down passengers.   I was a bit surprised by this as I thought that the deal was to take drivers straight to the town centre, not stop for folk who could have caught another bus.    The dedicated bus lane is inconveniently closed – road works.      It all takes ages, 25 minutes to go 2 miles.   I am just late for my meeting.

Coming back, I have to wait 14 minutes in town for the next bus.    That’s a long time to twiddle your thumbs.     I am the only person on the bus.

All in all, that’s a lot of hassle and time involved, and was actually fairly inconvenient – I was dropped off a good walk from where I had to be, and I had to drive extra distance to get to the Park and Ride car park in the first place.  

Anything up to 3 hours, and you can park for free in Perth within a very few minutes walking distance of the main centre.   After 3 hours, then you have to look at the options.    I know that Park and Ride is the green thing to do, but in this case, it did not balance the extra time and effort involved.

Perhaps next time, I’ll strap a bike to the back of the car and do Park and Bike.

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