28 July 2007

The Strawbs

Today has been spent in strawberry heaven, which included several failed attempts to persuade a two-year-old that she should actually put some strawberries in a basket, and not in her mouth. Ah well. I'm sure the prices for pick-your-own include a slight uplift for the problem of light-fingered pickers, and judging by the numbers of small children with suspiciously red beards around the chin area we weren't alone.

I did some strawberry picking piecework years ago, when I lived in the middle of the Fens, and I'd forgotten the beautiful smell of a strawberry field (and the aching back, permanently stained fingers and hopelessly low piece rate available to minions like myself). It's a mixture of heady smells from the berries, straw (between the rows of plants) and warm sunshine, which creates something completely intoxicating. Admittedly, today was a little low on the warm sunshine quotient, but it was still pretty good.

27 July 2007

Arts Corner: I'm gonna live forever

Fed up with this crap weather, I decided this week that I needed to watch some people in legwarmers to remind me of the 1980s - when summer was summer, and the sun could be guaranteed to shine for more than 10 minutes at a time. The holidays were endless, ice creams tasted of fake vanilla, and no-one had heard of Big Brother. You get the picture.

So off I trogged to the Theatre Royal, to see Fame the Musical, assuming I'd get my fill of 1980s nostalgia...only to discover they've gone and updated things without telling anyone. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but you wouldn't think you'd need to check beforehand whether something called Fame the Musical actually bore any resemblance to Fame the film (not to mention the tv series). But it's horrendous...Fame lite, if you like, with a renamed cast, a poor attempt at a storyline (it plays like a series of sketches, so you never really get to interact with the characters) and none of the songs. Apart from Fame, obviously, which the cast managed to murder twice.

The dancing wasn't bad, and the singing ok (Abi Finley, one of the Marias, was fantastic), but the orchestral arrangement was horrible (plinky-plonk), and everything was fantastically overamplified. I know I'm going to sound like I'm 30-something going on 85, but I'd still like to be able to hear by the end of an evening out.

So not a success, then. Don't think I'll be going all the way down south to watch H from Steps 'star' in the London production, somehow.

22 July 2007

Arts Corner: It's a weird mix, but I like it...

Somehow, this weekend I managed to see The Sting, and Dodgeball. Hmm. Not sure what that says about my taste in films.

I know The Sting's a classic that everyone should see, but it's taken me 30-something years to get round to it (slaps wrist). The idea of watching Robert Redford didn't appeal - there's just something so smug and Jude Law about him that really puts me off. That and the fact that in every film he seems to be playing Robert Redford.

Still, I quite enjoyed it in the end. The film's not exactly zippy by modern standards, but I liked the twists and turns. And Paul Newman was excellent.

The downsides? Too many shots of Robert Redford preening, and some characters looked and sounded too similar to each other (although that was probably more of a problem because I didn't watch the whole film in one sitting, and managed to forget some of the plot in the meantime).

Dodgeball. Well, it's pure Saturday night schtick, isn't it? Funny (but blessed with warmth). There's not a lot that's sophisticated, but it steers away from the gross-out humour of the Farrellys which I really can't stand. Not bad, if you're going to watch an ironic sports movie, just for the hell of it.

Coming up shortly: Harry Potter number something or other (I'll actually have to go to a real live cinema for that one), and more sofa surfing with Children of Men.

19 July 2007

Spirit of the age

For those of you of a literary persuasion (or simply professional nitpickers like myself), there's a lovely programme on Radio 4 called Off the Page that I caught earlier in the week, discussing zeitgeist. It's funny how it turns up everywhere - Toby Young's particularly amusing on its use in fashion magazines...

16 July 2007


Do go to The Star Inn at Harome.

Do (a) eat the food (lots of it - it's gorgeous) and (b) drink lots of wine, especially the fizzy stuff.

But don't whatever you do wear high heels. It's one of those dinky little places best suited to hobbits or pixies. You might even end up headbutting the beams in the ceiling as you totter to the ladies after several glasses of Prosecco, which could all get rather embarrassing...

12 July 2007


It's Thursday, it's late and I've run out of inspiration.

What the hell...I'm off to bed.

10 July 2007

Rhyme and reason

For all those of you fed up to the back teeth with singing "horsey, horsey don't you stop", here's the alternative versions (thanks Clair). I think Ladybird, Ladybird is probably my favourite - it and several others should be taught to an elite group of small children who could infiltrate schools across the country to try and subvert the sickening tweeness that passes for children's entertainment at the moment.

09 July 2007

Canada we love you

So I'm standing at the top of the Baltic at the enormous glass window with the panoramic view across Newcastle, surrounded by assorted small children under the age of two, when a North American accent suddenly booms out "Nova Scotia?".

I look round. There's a fairly nondescript middle-aged lady with a blue neckerchief standing in the middle of the room, and rather worryingly, she's making straight for me. "Nova Scotia?" she trills again. "Are you from there? I'm Canadian, you see."

I try to look like a friendly ambassador for our country, rather than a bemused and harrassed 30-something mother who has no clue what the hell is going on. General tourist enquiries about Newcastle I can deal with. I have informed opinions on all sorts of things ranging from the delectability of Julian Rhind-Tutt's hair, the perennial argument about the Oxford comma or the merits of sippy cups for toddlers. Canada, however, isn't one of my specialist subjects.

And then I look down at my t-shirt.

In 2-inch high letters it says NOVA SCOTIA 9907.


I then spend the next five minutes explaining that this is in fact a very ancient t-shirt, purchased in H&M when I was a student, and still being worn for reasons of (a) sloth and (b) not enough money to buy a nice new one in Top Shop. I add that I have sadly never been to Nova Scotia, although I did once go to Vancouver and had a fabulous time.

Homesick Canada woman nods politely, and decides that the giant skeleton of a cat on the other side of the room is remarkably interesting and must be investigated forthwith.

I go back to pointing out the buses and trains to overexcited toddlers.

08 July 2007

Remember, children, it'll all lead to doom and gloom in the end

You know, I'm probably way way behind the times, but social networking is fun. In fact, this Facebook business could get addictive. I finally got round to setting up a profile, searching for friends, and having a good nose about. The whole world (under 25) seems to be on there, and at least they're not drivelling on quite so irritatingly as they are on Twitter, which I looked at once for a whole ooh, 15 seconds, before deciding that it really wasn't for me.

Others that have completely passed me by include myspace (the design just drives me crazy, although do check out the superbly fantastic 35yd beat experiment site) and flikr (I don't take enough photos of anything apart from my family, and I don't like the idea of those floating round in cyberspace, no matter how well-protected). Maybe I'm just getting old. Or it might be the fact that the little spare internet time I have is taken up with blogging (I seem to have been doing this since 2002 in one form or another, which is a little scary).

07 July 2007


Alnmouth. Alnwick. Amble. Is there anywhere in Northumberland that doesn't begin with A? No, don't answer that. Of course there is, but I had to think of some way of beginning this blogpost, and I've run out of ironic sophistication for the week. Can you tell?

Actually, to be nerdy about it, have you noticed that although Alnmouth and Alnwick both start Aln, they're pronounced completely differently? (tip: Alnwick = Annick).

All of which serves to point out that we headed oop north to Northumberland today, and ended up in Alnmouth (Chelsea country cottage holiday territory, but with the most gorgeous beach, and a view out to sea to die for). Lots of rain, which swept across in enormous black clouds, so the sea looked black at times. And an odd smell of sewage.

05 July 2007


Here's the new arrival, which sauntered up the garden path earlier today on a very large trolley accompanied by two rather burly blokes. It actually doesn't sound too bad, considering the huge amount of dust lurking inside the case.*
My audience has been very unappreciative so far - whatever I play is drowned out by requests for the Bear Cha-Cha-Cha. Bear in the Big Blue House has a lot to answer for.
*UPDATE: and two old notes of monopoly money. That'll be why some of the keys were sticking slightly, then.

04 July 2007

Ah. Now how did that happen?

I appear to have bought a piano. Oops.

You see, this is what happens when you let me loose in auction rooms. I get distracted, see a piano lurking unloved in the corner, and put in a bid. And I can't even claim that it was in the heat of the auction itself - this was a proxy number. Hmm. Might have been a bit on the impulsive side, come to think of it.

Anyway, I will shortly be the proud owner of a Challen overstrung iron-framed piano. It looks rather 1930s, and if I'd not been so horribly overexcited, I'd actually have remembered to (a) take a picture and (b) write down the serial number so I could check the date.

I now have a very happy musician husband. Neighbours beware...

03 July 2007

Back for good...

Well, until September at least. Sorry about the interruption: France stopped play.

And here are the scores on the doors:

Weather 7 (two really sunny days, rest of the time a bit cloudy)
Cheese 10 (naturellement)
Wine 10 (natch)
Pool maintenance 6 (cleaning the filters is an evil job)

And all of it beats sitting at home in the frozen (and dripping wet) north.

Books read (used to be far, far more in a two-week stretch, but these days I seem to get interrupted by demands to play with sandpits, trainsets and stickers far more than I used to..):

Stardust by Neil Gaiman (good, but Susannah Clarke does it better)
Zorro by Isabel Allende (wasn't expecting this to be such a page turner)
The Good German by Joseph Kanon (not seen the film, but not sure Gorgeous George would make a good Jake Geismar. Can imagine Cate Blanchett as Lena, the girl he goes back for, though.)

Right, now you're all thoroughly up to date I'm off to deal with the most ridiculous pile of junk emails.