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Archive for December, 2006

No More Blue Meanies

Where have Edinburgh’s Blue Meanies gone?   

Edinburgh’s parking enforcers with their blueish uniforms had a reputation for their (let’s be polite) brusque  manner and lack of flexibility.     Called the Blue Meanies because they were both.

But they (Central Parking System)  have now lost their contract in favour of NCP.   Yellow Meanies then?    Time will tell.    I hope that they are a bit more, well,  human.

I have nothing against the parking regulations – and those tasked with their enforcement can suffer inexcusable abuse from motorists – but I hope that the new enforcers go about things differently.

Edinburgh Council is all set to rake in £10m from its 3000 on-street spaces this year.

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Foul Weather

The weather has been particularly foul today.   Rain and wind – lots of both.

Had to drive to Edinburgh to a meeting and was blown about all over the place.    Very blowy going over the Forth Road Bridge – (I do keep wondering how many more small strands of wire are breaking) – and a big lorry broken down in the middle of roadworks after the bridge slowed things right down to a crawl.     Edinburgh was sunny with nasty heavy squally showers, and the drive back was in worse weather.

Everything is well waterlogged.    Last December, if I remember, there was little wind, and we had some amazing light, particularly sunrise and sunsets.     This year, it’s been black and horrible.

Just heard on the news that Scotland has had its wettest November for 30 years.   I can believe it.

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We took two teenagers to see Handsel and Gretel at Dundee Rep last week.     Dundee consistently produce good Christmas Shows, and this was no exception.   

A cast of just 7 work really hard all evening to bring us all the characters, scariness and fun of the old fairy tale.    Directed by James Brining and with specially commissioned music, everyone in a full house really enjoyed themselves.

It was great to see a team of actors whom we have seen in recent serious (and very good) stage productions really letting their hair down.    There is no slacking on production values either with some truly amazing stage designs and lighting.

Recommended.

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DAB Radio

DAB radio is an interesting development.    We have had ours for over a year now, and like the way we can change channels TV style with a remote and things like that.    I would love to say that we enjoy all the vast array of new radio channels, but have to honest and say that we tend to stick with the channels that we know and love.     BBC7 looks interesting, but how on earth do you find what’s on?    You have to go to the website, and that’s not always convenient.

I am less convinced by the sound quality compared to FM and have mentioned this before.

But do you know how power-hungry DAB radios are?   I have bought a battery powered one, and simply cannot keep it in batteries.    Apparently, on wind-up radios, one wind-up lasts an hour on FM, but would only last 3-5 minutes for DAB.    It is to do with the power requirement of converting the digital signal (a stream of 1 and 0 figures) into something we can hear.

All of which begs the question:    how much more energy use in the UK will result from the government push to digital?    How much more energy does a Freeview box + TV use over a TV alone?   And how many freewiew boxes can you actually turn off?   Completely off?

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Not sure what has been going on these past two evenings, but we have had very low flying helicopters across the farm at night.

They looked like Sea Kings and had very few navigational lights on, so perhaps they were on an exercise.    Normally if there is going to be night-time low flying, there is an announcement in the Dundee Courier, but if there was, I missed it.     I don’t mind them doing it – they have to practice somewhere, but unannounced, it is a bit alarming.

I do worry that they will fly into sets of power lines in the dark.   And last night, the weather was filthy.

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This Life

Anyone been watching the re-runs of the first and second series of This Life on BBC2 ?

I saw it all first time round, and must admit to watching it all this time too.    After 10 years it still stands up well.    Performances are very special, but the writing in particular is so good.

They are showing a 10 years on special episode on January 2nd.   I can’t wait to see what has happened to them all – especially when we left them all in a such a huge mess at the end of the second series.

Great iconic TV.

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Went as part of a large party to Cinderella Pantomime at the Kings in Edinburgh last Sunday afternoon.

Andy Gray stars with Allan Stewart in fairy costume(s) and Grant Stott makes a great baddy.    It is high energy action from start to finish – really slick and very funny.    

I’ll not spoil it for those who have not been …… except to say that there were some genuinely magic, amazing and wonderful “how on earth do they do that?” moments.   

The show runs until 21st January, so there is lots of time to see it.   Really good fun.

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Peter Grimes

We drove 170 miles to go to the opera in Newcastle, stayed over, and drove 170 miles back.    The opera was completely worth all the effort.

This was Peter Grimes in Phyllida Lloyd’s production for Opera North, and was an revelationary and spellbinding interpretation.     It is an opera with many characters, a whole chorus of characters and the character that is there throughout in the music:   the sea.   There were no weak links in this production:   every part was really well sung, from Grimes himself down to the smallest.   The chorus, who have a lot to do here, were superb – singing and acting.    The orchestra under Richard Farnes were inspirational.   

So with everything so good, what made it even more than the sum of its parts?   

Firstly, Phyllida Lloyd’s insight into the piece:   more than Grimes the outsider, more than the sea and the weather – Lloyd puts the people’s reaction to Grimes under the microscope.    When Grimes starts singing about the stars in the night sky – and the community say that he’s “mad or drunk” rather than consider that Grimes might be going over the edge and needing help.       

Secondly, the staging:   this opera is normally set in and around the fishing village – on the quay, in the pub and so on – usually detailed busy sets, and set changes happening during the sea interludes.    The sparse staging here is hugely effective, and allows us to see continuous actions on the stage – the sea interludes and passacaglia are used to maximum effect, allowing fresh insight into the opera.

Thirdly, the singers not only sing really well, but have clearly spent time inhabiting their roles, and it shows.    Jeffrey Lloyd Roberts as Grimes put in a tremendous performance – he has a long and difficult unaccompanied scene near the end:   too much madness and it can get overdone, and too little is not enough;    I have not heard or seen this more intelligently handled – Grimes knew exactly where he was at, with his options closing in.      Giselle Allen was a strong Ellen – so well sung – and the chemistry between her and Grimes was very evident, with the end of the Prologue (given what’s to come) quite extraordinarily moving.    Christopher Purves as Balstrode and Roderick Williams as Ned Keene also gave very special performances.   

I have seen Roderick Williams before in “The Knot Garden” by Tippett at Scottish Opera, and in an almost  definitive Bach St John Passion in Perth Concert Hall – he is a singer worth travelling to hear.

So, if you are in Leeds this week, and can get tickets, don’t miss this.   Even if you are not sure about Britten, or indeed Opera – this is Music Theatre at its very best.

It is a haunting and disturbing experience.   

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