Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Opera At The Picture Palace: Beatrice et Benedict

Last week The Old Man put on his best pony tail and braces ... well, OK, it is now my daily duty to do his hair as the mystery of constructing such a style is beyond him. Anyhoo... last week we both donned our Sunday Best and set off for the opera at Glyndebourne ( Berlioz's "Beatrice et Benedict") ... courtesy of a live broadcast at a local cinema, so sadly we did have no champagne on the grass.
Now I wasn't too sure I wanted to see this. Frankly, I was frightened by the lengthiness of his "Les Troyens"  and so ... assumed that serious, lengthy works was what Berlioz did. But The Old Man wanted to go, so I gave a Gallic shrug and booked the tickets.
And I am glad that I did. With a story recounting the tricks practiced by friends and family in order to get verbal sparring partners and anti-lovers, Beatrice  and Benedict, to recognise their love and to marry (based on Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing"), it turned out - in this production - to be a witty two-acter full of lovely tunes and not frightening at all.

There has been some critical grumbling about the production: a set composed of stacked boxes and monochrome 50's style costume and makeup. But what do you know? I loved it, for sometimes I like a bit of a "stripped-down" production. Done well and consistently, such a thing can focus my attention on the music and performances. And I very much enjoyed Stephanie d'Oustrac with her fine singing and a performance full of suppressed fury as Beatrice. Paul Appleby, as her anti-beau Benedict, is also very good. And I loved the funny (satirical?) musical director Somarone, played with full farce and pointy-toed splendour by Belgian baritone Lionel Lhote.

A surprising and jolly evening. An extra surprise when the screen went blank ten minutes or so before the end of the opera. Apparently this was something to do with satellite time booked.. or not. The tiny audience was duly recompensed. (Yes... down here these things seem to be attended by few... and we is usually all... quite old.)

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Mrs D Takes A Tablet

No. She has not succumbed to one of them iPad thingies. Instead she has got above her station and has purchased a Wacom graphics tablet.

I do not know what this means for The Doll that is me. I must say that I do feel a little flat here.

And ... there has been much shouting and hair pulling by Madam. And much random opening and closing of software packages, images and losing of toolbars as she practices dabbing and scratching with her "pen" and swiping her fingers around the tablet.

... Don't expect another post very soon at this rate.

Friday, 5 August 2016

The Man Engine Puppet At King Edward Mining Museum, Cornwall





We have finally caught sight of The Man Engine Puppet.
Sadly, we haven't managed to see his transformation to his full 10 metre or so standing height, he has proved so popular ... 16,000 people in Camborne by all accounts, we just haven't got anywhere near seeing this marvelous trick of theatre.
We thought we would try to do so at a venue nearby. But we did a reccy and found that the roads around would be closed from 3 - 8 pm. A rural venue, we just couldn't be doing the miles of walking required and the potential crowds in a small space. So we opted to watch his procession and "crouching" performance at The King Edward Mining Museum near Troon... on Wednesday afternoon.

Oh, I do likes a bit of theatre. And this is a jolly fine thing. Lots of work. Made in Camborne, dreamed up by Will Coleman of Golden Tree Productions.
It would appear there are hoped-for plans take His Mechanical Marvelousness  across the seas ... to follow the diaspora of the Cornish miners in the 19th century... Mexico, America, Australia? Where they be going I do wonder?

Some of The Old Man's ancestors were Cornish miners. One of his great grandmothers was born in Brazil. But you wouldn't know to look at him, would you. Me? Sorry my dears... I am not Cornish, so I shall just hush up now.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Hoping To Catch Sight Of "The Man Engine"

sometime soon ...cos who can resist the prospect of being in the presence of a 40 foot high mechanical puppet?

Well. Not I.

This marvelous, powered, puppet of a Cornish miner started its tour of heritage mining sites and towns, from West Devon to Cornwall, earlier on this week and the tour finishes at Geevor on Sat 6th August. Unfortunately it won't be "transforming" to full height at all of its stopping places precisely because of the mining history it celebrates ... some sites won't bear its weight because of the underlying tunnels and workings. But plenty of celebrations are planned for its route ... with Penzance throwing in a Steam Punk fancy dress theme for spectators. Find out more about its progress at The Man Engine site.

The Old Man and me wish it well and hope to clap eyes on its noisy, fumy glory.




Tuesday, 26 July 2016

The Cherry On The Top...


Well. Not on the top exactly. Quite low down on the tree in fact. And all alone. 

This is the first ripe cherry borne by the cherry tree at the bottom of the garden... a tree already planted and growing when we moved in. So let me add that in more than a decade I have not seen another on its branches.

Is the start of things to come? Or a cherry moment? Do I savour it? Or not? Answer quickly, do.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

The Old Man's Hair: The Official Tail


A staging post has been reached. 
The Old Man has refused to get his hair cut for so long ... now, it can be pony-tailed. Of course, he can't actually do the essential styling himself. That job falls to me ... along with explanations as to the tools necessary for the job - suitable hairbrush, them little elasticky things to twist round it, and so on. 
But it stops him complaining about eating his hair for lunch. And it do fool some people, who think it is important that he do so, that he has cut his hair. And it do give him and me some kind of retro joy. And at our age and in these times we need all the joy we can get.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Greydoll's Criminal Reading: "The Catalyst Killing" by Hans Olav Lahlum


Back in 1970, I was a student. It was a time of revolution, rebellion and sitting-in. This didn't happen much in my own college... which was a great source of disappointment to some of our tutors who, I think, fancied themselves as being at the heart of change. But then teaching (yeah, right) at an art college in a West Country town more conformist than my own native suburbia was perhaps not the anarchist hub they might have tried for if their hearts were in it. (OK - I didn't enjoy my stay there.) I do remember that some student union meetings where quite vocal... but these never really resulted in any kind of decision because the various student factions were challenging Each Other more than The Authorities.... usually about agenda structure and points of order.

So it is that my ancient bones remember the political flavour of the late 1960s and early 1970s setting for "The Catalyst Killing" by Hans Olav Lahlum. (Translated from the Norwegian by Kari Dickson. Paperback, Pan Macmillan, 2016) and another find from my local bookshop.

The story begins one evening when Inspector Kolbjorn Kristiansen is mesmerised by the expression of fear on the face of a young woman desperately running to catch his train. The doors close on her. And later her murdered body is found on the train tracks. It is Kristiansen (known as K2) who must find her killer and who soon discovers that her boyfriend, the charismatic leader of a small, radically left-wing, political group, had disappeared two years before. Political rivalry? Or was his death linked to his research into possible current links between a group of Norwegian Nazis from the war years. And was his girlfriend's death connected to his disappearance?

Set in Norway in 1970 this murder mystery conjures the era of Mao's Little Red Book and its effect upon world politics and the fashionably radical young. Starting from the base of the student political group, K2 is presented with a tight list of possible witness interviews. We follow the progress of his interviews and crime-scene visits, punctuated by his lunches and suppers with his gifted and mysteriously accurate detection-muse, the young Patricia. Meanwhile the crimes themselves escalate.

I will own up that I am not a particular fan of Agatha Christie-style whodunits. So, when I realised how much I was in classic "whodunit land" with this book - the third in Lahlum's series featuring K2 and his young helper - I didn't think I would enjoy it. But I did.
It reads smoothly and coolly in this English translation by Kari Dickson. Instead of a boring traipse through clues, I found a calm narrative pace which surprised me with a great buildup of suspense as it ran to its conclusion. And Lahlum's writing gives us individualised characters, irony, humanity... and a slightly surreal world conjured by a combination of investigation, coincidence and the truly prodigious gifts of Patricia.

If you are a little tired of the relentless grit of much Nordic Noir .... and if the notion of 1960s Nordic retro-whodunits whets your appetite ... try this series of books by Hans Olav Lahlum.


Friday, 8 July 2016

Settling The Bill At The Post Referendum Café


"Service? We'd like to settle up. What are you paying us?

(Pause)

What do you mean we have to pay you? You said there would be lots of spare money and you would feed us wonderfully after we Brexited."

(Pause)

Really? Well I don't think we'll be coming back here in a hurry, then.

(Comments Off...)

What do you mean you are the only café in town now?