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I was feeling a little pessimistic about Tuesday, as it was my birthday, one of the ones with a bit fat 0 on the end, but I am fortunate in having some very good friends, one of whom booked tickets for us to go to the Foyles event of Neil Gaiman reading the whole of his new children's book, 'Fortunately the Milk' at the Central Methodist Hall in Westminster, and another friend came over too, and was generous enough to take me out for (a truly superb) lunch, so I began to feel more cheerful.

Birthday Candle!
I don't think I can do justice to the lunch. It started with snails, and finished with chocolate parfait and salted caramel ice cream, and Nathalie clearly told them it was my birthday...

There may have been some wine involved, too.

Fancy ceiling

We all met up outside the venue, and without ever quite deciding to do so, we wound up waiting for the doors to open, which meant we were very close to the front of the queue and able to sit in the front row once they let us into the hall. Inevitably, we bumped into several friends and acquaintances. The hall is an amazing venue - huge auditorium with a massive dome (and a stonking great pipe organ!) and has  a fascinating history -



Andrew O'Neill

It was built  on the site of the old London Aquarium, to mark the centenary of John Wesley's death, and opened in 1912. The first ever meeting of the UN General Assembly took place there, and it has hosted speakers as diverse as Mahatma Ghandi, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, and the Dalai Lama (not all at once, obviously)



And now Neil Gaiman.



This was no ordinary reading. The evening was introduced and compered by Andrew O'Neill, who started out by explaining he had a list of words he isn't supposed to say on stage, which he carefully read to us so we would recognise them when we heard them (including 'Bum', 'Number 2s' and 'Beyonce'), experimented with how loud, high and low we could all sing and let us in a brief but rousing chorus of 'We Will Rock You'.

Then we had music, from TV Smith and Tom Robinson. With some audience participation.

It was a lot of fun, and all before Neil even came on stage.

Once he did, things got even better. Which was quite an achievement.

Chris Riddell, who illustrated the (UK) version of the book was there to draw pictures as the story progressed - lovely pictures, especially the careful labelling to ensure that we could not miss the Milk. (after all, as Professor Steg says, "Where there is milk, there is hope")

Neil read the whole of 'Fortunately the Milk', with help from friends who played the Green Globby Aliens, Pirates, Worshippers of Splod, Wumpires, Ponies, Dwarfs and Space Dinosaur Police Officers.

Grumpy Pirates, as read by Mitch Benn and Tom Robinson
I thought my Dad was the World's Best Reader of Bedtime Stories With Funny Voices, but I think Neil may just have beaten him. (although to be fair, my Dad has never had the opportunity to read to 2,000 people, supported by such a talented cast)

It's hard to pick out a favourite part of the evening,

Lenny Henry, Space
Dinosaur Policeman
but I think one of the true highlights has to be the moment when Neil read out "Ah-Ha!" and a small child in the audience responded with a loud and triumphant "AH HAA!", and brought the house down. It was such  lovely proof that the s/he was really absorbed in the story!


One of the final special guests was the lovely Lenny Henry, who appeared in what I am sure will come to be known as a landmark performance in his acting career, as the Galactic Police Dinosaur. (lots of people can play great Shakespearean roles. Not eveyone can manage a Galactic Police Dinosaur)


Tash, Andrew O'Neill, TV Smith, Mitch Benn, Neil Gaiman, Niamh Walsh,
Lenny Henry and Siobhan Hewlett

all too soon, the story came to an end. I'm not sure who was having more fun - the 10 or so people on stage, or the 2,000 or so in the hall.

The final treat of the evening was a brief appearance by Amanda Palmer herself , who performed her 'Ukulele Anthem' (with an extra milk-related verse)

A perfect end to a perfect evening.


My friends and I then took a walk through Trafalgar Square to admire the giant blue cock, and finished the night with dim sum.

It's true what Neil said on his blog, though.There were no ladies jumping through rings of fire, and no human sacrifice. Although the milk had a close call.

So, based on my experience, I would say that if any of you are considering turning 40 in the near future, and are feeling down about it, there are a few simple steps you can take to combat those aging blues:


1. Make sure you have some amazing friends who will provide good company, and treats.

2. Get Neil Gaiman to write a new kids book and read it to you with a large backing ensemble.

3. That's it.

Honestly, if I had known turning 40 would be this much fun, I would have done it years ago

Full set of photos here
marjorie73: (Default)
Amanda Fucking Palmer’s gig was at ‘Heaven’, a club in Charing Cross – doors opened at 6, and I got there at about ¼ to 7, which was handy, as it turned out that that was more-or-less when the music was due to start.

Amanda came on, in her underwear, to announce the first of the two supporting bands, The Jane Austen Argument, and to acquire various shiny things for her crowd-sourced costume.

I haven’t seen the JAA before, and only knew of them from hearing ‘Bad Wine and Lemon Cake’on Amanda’s ‘Down Under’ album, but I would be very happy to see them again…

Sadly they only had time for a few songs, then Amanda was back to introduce the second supporting band, Bitter Ruin, who of course I have seen before, several times. They performed ‘Trust’, and ‘Chewing Gum’ and ‘The Vice’ , and it was all good.

And did I mention that I bumped into Roz Kaveney, and @Raliel (both of whom I’m met before, but neither of whom I’d arranged to meet up with).

I loved both the opening bands, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t more excited about seeing AFP herself…

It would be fair to say I was not, in any way, disappointed (well, except maybe in that I was quite a long way back, and a lot of much taller people suddenly appeared on front of me, so I did not have as good a view as I’d have liked, but that’s life J)

Amanda started her set dressed in a slinky sparkly blue frock, a feather boa, elbow gloves and a hat, none of which lasted long! Soon she was in corset and pink lame shorts

She opened with ‘Astronaut’ and continued with songs both old and new – Missed Me, for instance, Guitar Hero, and several new songs, which she asked people not to upload just yet. There was a great rendition of Delilah, with Georgia of Bitter Ruin, and Neil Gaiman was lured up onto the stage to sing ‘The Problem with Saints.

Tonight’s (or maybe this tour’s) band is called ‘Grand Theft Orchestra’ and included the awesome Una Palliser on violin, (she normally, it seems, plays with Shakira) Super Kate, (who belly danced) a 3–man horn section (stolen from Eric Clapton) and of course a number of other special guests..


Another of the guests was Tim Minchin, who I have seen on TV, but never live – he played a delightful love song; ‘You Grew On Me (like a Tumour)’ And then the final guest was Tom Robinson who quickly had the entire singing along with huge enthusiasm to Glad to be Gay.


The encores included ‘Map of Tasmania’ and ‘Oasis’ and the gig ended with a mass rendition of ‘Leeds United’ – it would be hard to say who was enjoying it more – the gang on stage (including all the guests) or the paying customers, certainly everyone was singing, dancing, and generally having a fantastic time.


This gig has to have been the biggest high you can imagine – bottle the atmosphere and you’d make a fortune!

After coming out of the venue, I was happy to see the wonderful cycling piano moving away, having earlier entertained the queues, no doubt (it was parked, by the time I arrived)

I am so very glad I was at this gig. And even on the tube going back to my hotel I kept getting little bouncy feelings of happiness, as I saw other gig-goers, with beautiful tattoos, or butterflies in their hair, or multi-coloured hair, wending their happy ways home.

And did I mention that there were at least 3 people dressed as the 11th Doctor at the gig, and nary a raised eyebrow?

I didn’t get to sleep for hours, as I was still buzzing; I’m not sure I’ve ever been with so many people having all such a great time at once, before.

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