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This year's Bath Festival of Children's Literature started last weekend - sadly 2 of the events I booked for were cancelled at the last minute.

Anon. -  circa 1665
Restoration of  King Charles II

Judith Kerr, author of 'When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit', as well as the 'Mog' books and 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea' sadly had to cancel her event due to ill health (given that she is now 90, this is perhaps not surprising, but it is disappointing, despite that), and then last Saturday I arrived at the Holburne Museum for Dave McKean's event, and was met with the news that he had been caught up in huge delays on the M25 so couldn't make it.

And then I missed the event with Meg Rosoff as I got stuck at work and couldn't get to Bath in time. So I've only been to 2 out of 5 booked events so far.

On Saturday, as I was already at the museum when I learned about the cancellation, and as  I have never been round it (despite driving past on a regular basis) I decided to use the unexpected free hour to look round the museum.

Its primarily an art museum, so lots of painting, but also has some interesting textiles - I loved this embroidery/applique which depicts the Restoration of Charles II (and the background- you can see him hiding in the oak tree, behind the picture of his in all his majesty!) and dates from around 1665.

Holburne Museum

There's also a lovely collection of spoons, and some dodgy antiquities picked up by Holburne during his Grand Tour.

It's not a big museum, but I enjoyed browsing the exhibits. And it's a beautiful building!

I also took the opportunity to have a wander around Sydney Gardens - they were laid out in around 1795 (this bridge over the canal was erected in 1800) and were, apparently, very popular with the residents of Regency Bath - Jane Austen included.

It's divided by the railway, as well as the canal, now, but there is a lovely, sweeping bath stone bridge over it, and it is down in a cutting, so it doesn't impinge too much on the park.

I don't think the tennis courts were there in Jane Austen's day, but I dare say the grass, trees, and squirrels were pretty similar (although presumably the squirrels would have been red, not grey.

I was back in Bath on Sunday, to go to David Levithan's event.

He was reading from his book Every Day, which explores what happens when you (quite literally) wake up in a different body (someone else's ) every day, and when you decide that you want to keep in contact with a person you meet one of those days.

It's an interesting concept. He mentioned that he definitely  sees, and intended the book to be (among other things) a transgender book, but that he finds it interesting that people talking about the book focus on the gender issues and less on other issues which are equally part of the  concept. (I haven't read the book yet, so I can't comment specifically).

I was also really interested to hear him talk about collaborating with other writers (it's fun!) and to say that he is not a visual writer - he doesn't 'see' how his characters and their rooms and familes look (so found it much less traumatic then his co-writer Rachel Cohn when their book was adapted, when looking at which actors were cast!

It was an interesting event, and I'm looking forward to reading Every Day - the only book of David's which I've read before is Boy Meets Boy.

Friday evening saw me back in Bath for Malorie Blackman's event.

Malorie Blackman

I've read her 'Noughts and Crosses' series, which are excellent, and of course she is currently serving as Children's Laureate.She is currently promoting her new novel, Noble Conflict, which is a dystopian novel, set in a future society, and explored (so far as I can tell for the reviews and the conversation at this event) what happens when you find out that the Good Guys you've aligned yourself are maybe not-so-good.

In talking about the book, Malorie explained that she is fascinated by questions, and mentioned issues such as the security for the Olympics (guns on the roofs of blocks of flats), CCTV in public spaces (do you believe that if you have nothing to hide, you've nothing to fear) the actions of whistle-blowers such as Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, and also the issue of who owns, and writes history (history is written by the conquerors, not the conquered, and the written history of a literary society ends to survive longer, and to oust, the verbal history of oral cultures.

Malorie also spoke about her role as Children's laureate, and her concern at recent studies showing that many children and teens are embarrassed to be seen reading, and stressed that reading is great - whether you read paper books or e-books, novels or graphic novels or comics or picture books.

As with David's event, I'm looking forward to reading the book, and am glad I made it to the event!

This weekend I shall (all being well) be seeing David Almond and Patrick Ness, although sadly missing Philip Reeve.
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Regular readers (if any of you are regular) will remember that I have several times been to see Mitch Benn, and as he's now touring, I got the chance to see him again, at the Rondo Theatre in Bath.

I like the Rondo - it's tiny (I think it seats about 80), so no matter where you sit, you're close to the stage, and it's run mainly by volunteers.

I like Mitch Benn, too. This gig was part of his 'Reduced Circumstances' tour - just Mitch and a small guitar, no band, and with slightly more in the way of stand-up and slightly fewer songs than previous gigs I've seen. He talked about his very dramatic weight loss,  about food as an addiction (and the difficulties of going 'cold turkey'!) and also talked about believers and atheism, and performed a series of new and older songs. (I have now heard Bouncy Druids song live, which was fun, and comes with commentary about the Olympics)

As those who've ever been to pone of Mitch's live gigs will know, he will take suggestions from the audience, just before the interval, about local or national news events, and write a brand new song during the interval, based on those suggestions.

This week, of course, there is only one News story, and there was a pause before anyone mentioned it... (Mitch commented that waiting to hear Jeremy Hardy on the new quiz, on the subject of Thatcher finally having died, would be worth hearing...) as was Mitch's song, which managed to include references to slasher movies, bedroom tax and Korea as well as the Iron Lady's final departure.(assuming of course that someone remembered the stake, and she is in fact gone for good)

It was a Good Gig. And it's near the start of the tour, so lots more chances for you to see it! Go. book here.
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I've written before about Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights, one of Bath's two splendid independent bookshops. They host wonderful author events (the last one I went to was with China Mieville, which I blogged here )

On Tuesday night, they were hosting the Patrick Ness, to celebrate the publication of his new novel, The Crane Wife. I missed Patrick when he visited for the publication of 'A Monster Calls', so I was particularly pleased to be able to get tickets this time!

And to meet some old friends and acquaintances - I knew that Cheryl was going to be there, what with our having bought the tickets together, and it was nice also to see Tamzin, (although my terrible face recognition skills meant I was confused for a moment, there)

As usual, the evening began with music from The Bookshop Band - with two new (and only just completed) songs inspired by the book. They were wonderful.
Patrick Ness

We then had the interview with Patrick, who apparently wrote the book at the same time as writing a new teen novel, (and has vowed never to do that again). The novel is inspired by a Japanese folk tale of the same name, which Patrick learned while a child in Hawaii. It's not one I am familiar with, but he made the point that, unlike most fairy tales / folk tales, it begins with an act of kindness, not an act of cruelty, so he was interested to explore the ideas of how a kind man would react to / deal with his  desires.

The interview also covered other points - the fact that people are complicated ("People are Legion") and don't conform to simple stereotypes; one of the reasons why Patrick rarely writes out-and-out villains, the need to write from the heart - drawing on real emotions.

He read us a bit of the new book (with a few interpolated comments - "I said 'penis' to a room full of people') then there were some questions, followed by delicious food from Made by Ben, and mingling, then further questions, and book recommendations, from Patrick, and the bookshop staff, and guests. Recommendations included Cat Valente's books,(the 'Fairyland ones, pluis Six-Gun Snow WhiteWildwood, The Armed Garden, Shadows on the Moon ,and the Cannongate Myths series.

Then the evening ended with Patrick signing copies of the Crane Wife and others of his books, with, inevitably, more conversation. A thoroughly fun evening.
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I had a day off work today, and decided to go into Bath, to make a start on some Christmas shopping and some non-Christmas shopping which I've been avoiding, visit the Bath Christmas Market, and so on.

I went in by train, as parking is expensive in Bath, and driving there is no fun, especially at this time of year, with the Christmas Market on.

After my trip to London on Saturday I was expecting to see a fair amount of flooding, from the train, but there was more than I expected (I didn't have a window seat on Saturday morning, so my view out was restricted) The river (Avon) has burst its banks in many places  - I'd say pretty much everywhere outside the towns themselves. I feel sorry for the farmers, who will be losing grazing, and no doubt suffering damage to their fences and hedges, at the very least.
the river is usually over where the line of trees can be seen

As we drew into Bath I could see that the cricket Club's ground was completely covered in water - there appeared to be a pair of swans about where the wicket is generally found, and once I left the train and started into town I was able to see how high the river is even in town.

 Pulteney Bridge, and Pulteney Weir, usually looks like this:-
(Normal appearance of Pulteney Bridge and Weir)
Today, it looked rather different.
Pulteney Bridge and Weir
The contrast gives some idea of the sheer volume of extra water which is coming down the river at present. And this was taken on Monday morning - the really heavy rain was mainly Thursday and Saturday, so I think it was probably higher, a day or two ago..
More pictures here. (many taken from the train, so a bit blurry)
Once I had spent some time staring at the water, I got on with my shopping, which was moderately successful - I now have some new-and-dull clothes for work, and a few other bits and pieces I've been needing to get for a while. I have also done some christmas shopping, which is good (somehow having done a little bit makes the rest seem more manageable). But this whole shopping marlarky is exhausting. And I irrationally resent spending time and money buying clothes which are (mainly) for work - I suppose it feels a bit like a uniform.. And pyjamas, though important, are not very exciting. 

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Michael Palin has been described as the 'Nicest Man in Britain'. I didn't actually meet him, so cannot vouch for his over all niceness, but he is certainly a very entertaining speaker.

He was in Bath on Wednesday evening, promoting his new BBC series, and book, Brazil. He gave us a whistle-stop tour of the country, and visited everyone from Amazonian tribes-people to street poets and the biggest gay pride march imaginable (in which he rode on the Transsexuals'/Transvestites' float, looking and feeling a little under dressed!)

He came across at the talk, in a very similar way to the way he comes across in his TV shows - friendly, self-deprecating, and  amusing. Had the queue been shorter, or the event on a Friday or Saturday evening, I would have stayed and perhaps bought a book to have signed,. As it is, I shall wait and watch the series (which I gather starts in about 2 weeks)

The Tempest

Sep. 1st, 2012 09:52 pm
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As I mentioned in the last post, I had a ticket to see The Tempest at Bath on Friday night.

I found it to be a somewhat patchy production. Tim Piggott-Smith's Prospero was excellent, a controlling man, but one who was able to change, to listen to Ariel, and to keep his promises. Ariel (Mark Meadows) was also excellent, and alien, although I felt that the odd choice to suddenly put him on stilts part way through - it changed him from being a powerful, other-worldly character to one who appeared awkward, and there didn't seem any reason for it, so it seemed to me to be a distraction from, rather than enhancement of the scene.
(photo (c) The Guardian)
The production also featured 10 or 12 sprites - dressed a little like old fashioned theatre nurses. They watched from the sides of the stage, invisible to the players, for the most part, but contributing towards 'the isle being full of noises'.
Caliban was excellent - naive and vindictive, and Miranda was convincingly young and enthralled by her new experiences.
I was a little underwhelmed by the masque scenes, which involved the 'sprites' manipulating puppets and performing an homage to riverdance using clogs on their hands. 
Over all, I thought it was an interesting, if patchy, performance, which I am glad to have seen.
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The Peter Hall Company is in Bath for the summer, and the plays they are giving include Henry IV, Parts 1 & 2. I'd thought, when I first saw the season programme, that I would like to see them, but didn't get around to booking until yesterday, when I booked to see Part 1 this afternoon, and part 2 next Saturday.( I could have seen them both, back to back, today, but I decided that 6 hours of Shakespeare might be a little too much of a good thing!, plus it's a long time to be sitting in a possible very hot theatre!)

The costuming was early Victorian - dark, dress uniforms with lots of gold braid for the nobility, big shirts and waistcoats for the tavern scenes. The tavern scenes worked pretty well on that basis - gave the impression of the seedier side of Victorian society, where the rougues and whores and vagabonds wouldn't be out of place. It didn't work quite so well for the more formal court scenes, I think perhaps as there was little in the way of props and set-dressing. The King (David Yelland) was definitely of the 'elder stateman / George V style, which made him seem a little old to be fighting hand-to-hand at Shrewsbury (I believe in reality he would have been around 35 at that period)

Prince Hal and Hotspur (photo from outside theatre,
so presumably (c) The Peter Hall Company)
Over all, I enjoyed the play. I'm not sure I'd have given it 5 stars (which some of the papers have done) but I will reserve jugment until I've seen Part 2. I felt that both Hotspur and Prince Hal (Ben Mansfield and Tom Mison) were excellent - although I felt Prince Hal was more convincing in the second half of the play, with the battles, than in the tavern scenes - he didn't come across as convincingly dissolute.

I wasn't taken with Sir John Falstaff (Desmond Barit) - not because the acting was poor but because I struggled to see what Prince Hal would see in him - they seemed not to have anything in common, so the scene foreshadowing Hal's rejection and banishment was very convincing, but the scenes of Falstaff and Hal together at the tavern, and the Prince's distress at believing Falstaff dead at the battle of Shrewsbury were less so.

I am looking forward to seeing Part 2, next weekend.

I got very wet walking back to the car, as what had been a lovely sunny day when I went in to Bath had turned into torrential rain by the time I came out, so I abandoned my half-formed plan to harvest some more blackberries and/or elderberries on my way home! Still, at least I need not worry about watering the tomatoes today.


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 wasn't supposed to be here over the weekend. This weekend, I was supposed to be in a rented cottage in Wales, with no electricity, no phone signal, no inernet access - just time to relax with my Aunt, Uncle, Cousin H, plus Cousin's husband and adorable 8 month old baby.
I was due to leave yesterday morning, but as I was finishing my coffee yesterday morning, I got a phone call from my uncle, to say that unfortunately both my aunt, and my cousin had come down with a nasty bug. So, initially we decided to leave it till noon to see whether perhaps they'd just eaten something which disagreed, to see if they felt any better, but they didn't. So I didn't go.

Which was a disappointment. Worse for them, of course. Being poorly while on holiday, but a little sad for me.

I ended up doing very little on Thursday- in the morning I was hanging around to see whether there was any chance of salvaging the trip, and doing bits of housework. Then it rained, and thundered, and lightened, so I stayed in and watched Doctor Who.

Today, however, started out a little brighter, so I decided, after a certain amount of faffing about, to go out. I went to Bath. I recently aquired an Artfund card, and on their website, it told me it would get me into the Roman Baths for free, so I decided I'd go there, because I have not been for simply YEARS.

However, when I got there, they told me it was not a bit true, but by that time I was all hyped up to see Regency/Roman architechtural mashups, so I went in even though I had to pay.

It's still a fascinating place.

Of course, most of the buildings are not Roman, but the water is the same as it always was, and there are the various finds, such as the head of Medusa, and the little folded lead sheets with the prayers and curses which people threw into the water.

There are also holographic Romans around one of the pools, and a couple of ladies dressed as a Roman matron & slave-girl answering questions by the Great Bath. When i waas there, there was a slo a wedding party, which struck an odd note - I can see the appeal of the Baths & Pump Room as a wedding venue, but I'm not sure I'd want my wedding venue to be filled with coachloads of tourists.!

Having visited the Baths, I did make use of the ticket to procure a glass of the Waters, in the pump room. I cannot recommend it for internal use. It doesn't taste good. it is possible, I suppose, that it may have done me good - I belive it was used to be considered particularly effective against gout, and I certianly don't have gout, so maybe it does work :-)

After leaving the baths, I went to the William Herschel Museum, (where once again my ArtFund Card was spurned) - I knew of Herschel as an astronomer and for discovering Uranus - I wasn't aware that he had originally come to Bath not as an astronomer, but as a musician (and a very successful one)

Other than that insight, owever, I found the museum a little disappointing; there isn't a lot there, and a lot of the more interesting exhibits, such as letters, are not well displayed. Still, there were some nice astrolabes and an orrerry, and a scale model of Herschel's telescope, and photographs of his decendents, so not all bad.

I'd thought about ending the day with a trip to the cinema, but by this stage I was rather cold, and a little damp from being rained on, and getting tired, so I went home and spent the evening watching Grosse Pointe Blank with the cat, instead.

It was not a bad day.
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Yesterday evening was the China Miéville event at Mr. B's Emporium of Reading Delights - I do love Mr. B's; and it seems I'm not alone - they won the Independent Bookseller of the Year Award on Monday (the BBC has a story featuring them) .

It's a lovely shop, the staff are all both friendly, knowledgable and passionate about books. And upstaiurs there are comfy chairs and free coffee, if you need a break. And they have theirn own loyalty card to get money off books. And the walls of the toilets are papered with reviews and poems. Did I mention that I like this place?
And I've been looking forward a lot to this event. I booked as soon as the event details went up. In fact, I bought the tickets first, and asked Cheryl if she wanted to come afterwards (she did, obviously. I mean, who wouldn't?)
It turns out that when Mr. B's do an event, you don't just get a writer and the chance to buy books. You also get live music with originals songs by The Bookshop Band, and delicious nibbly finger food, and wine, and mingling with interesting people, AND a writer and the chance to buy books.

I approve of this. A lot.

I especially approved of it yesterday, as I had, up until I got to Mr. B's, not been having a very good day. I had a new case, so I had to go to court at short notice. I was expecting it to be a relatively short hearing, but we ended up in being in court from 1.30 til 6, with things such as lunch, and indeed any kind of break, or access to coffee, being but a distant hope. So getting to Mr. B's and being offered wine and nibbly things and interesting people to make conversation with was even more welcome than normal!
Having arrived at the shop, and met with Cheryl and her friend Pat and (briefly, China himself) we went upstairs and the evening started with music from The Bookshop Band (Ben and Poppy) who performed two original songs inspired by EmbassyTown.

Then China spoke a little about Embassytown, (carefully avoiding spoilers, for those of us who haven't yet read it) and about the thedme of the evening, which was 'Corruption'

One of the very nice things about this event was that it was small. I'm not sure how many people attendted, but I would guess around 30 - few enough that it was genuinely possible for there to be a conversation, rather than a 'talk' - the conversation ranged from method of writing/planning so as not to get lost in one's own plot (China uses flowcharts), the invention of language, with particular reference to the word 'Immer', and what headaches this may present for whoever tranaslates Embassytown into german, and mention of the fact that when King Rat, which contains lots of 19th Century ryhming slang, was translated into Japanese, the translator didn't ask for any clarification, leaving chian wondering whether the either (a) The translator happened to be an expert in 19th Century slang or (b) Japanese readers have some very odd literal translations in their version of the book..

after the first part of the evening, we stopped for food and wine and chat. (Someone (NOT me) asked China about letting us see the whole of his tattoo - he declined to take his short off, but you can see the whole thing here, Nathalie!) then back upstirs again for part two of the evening, in which members of staff, members of the audience, and China all suggested books on the theme of corruption - one of which was Documents Concerning Rubashov the Gambler , another (recommended by China, for those who like their vampires Mod and dangerous, was 'The Shiny Narrow Grin' by Jane Gaskell (which is out of print, and hard to find...) Patrick Ness's ''Chaos Walking' also got a shout out..

We then had just enough time to buy books (did I mention the 10% discount on everything, for the evening?) and get them signed, and to speak briefly to China, and then to pick up the free copy of The City and The City (signed) which was available for each of us, before hesding back home.

As you may have gathered, I really enjoyed the evening. This is the first time I've been to one of the Mr. B's events, but I think I shall be going to more. Sadly I shall miss the evening with Patrick Ness on 16th June, as I shall be in a cottage in Wales with no electricity, but I am sure there will be other events when I'm NOT in Wales..

Oh, and for those of you who haven't seen it, there is a short story by China here in the Guardian. Enjoy!
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This weekend has been lovely, in all sorts of ways. For a start, my best and oldest friend, J came down for the weekend, then it has been a wonderful sunny weekend, warm enough that we were able to spend time sitting out in the garden, reading the papers and enjoying the warmth.

On Saturday afternoon we went over to visit my 2nd cousin, who was celebrating her 80th birthday, then we went for a meal out, and to cap it all, we had tickets to see Derek Jacobi, and a wonderful cast, in King Lear.

It was good to see my cousin - most of the other guests were her friends and members of her church, but another of my dad's cousins was there with his wife, so I was able to do a little catching up with family, then J and I headed into Bath for a meal, before going on to the theatre.

The meal was at a rather nice Greek restaurant on the river - I haven't been before, but after sharing some very tasty meze, I'd be more than happy to go again..

Then on to Bath Theatre Royal. Way back in September, I bought tickets for this production, which has been playing at the Donmar Warehouse in London. I have been a huge fan of Derek Jacobi's since I first saw him as a teenager, and I know J would be keen to come too, and, being a Friend of the theatre I was able to take advantage of priroty booking, and get excellent seats in the middle of the front row of the Royal Circle.

Derek Jacobi and  Pippa Bennett-Warner
It was a wonderful production - a very plain set, and little in the way of props or set dressing. with the exception of the Fool, the costumes, too, were almost monochrome, which left nothing to distract from the strength of the actors and the play.

Lear is hardly a sympathetic character, but Jacobi manages to evoke sympathy, as Lear decends into madness and confusion, and the vengeful, tyrannical King becomes a bewildered, innocent old man.

Gina McKee and Justine Mitchell, as Goneril and Regan were both very strong - Goneril calculating from the start, Regan more changeable, becoming almost manic.

Edmund and Edgar (Alec Newmwn and Gwilym Lee) were excellent - Edmund initially appearing engaging, but quickly revealing his duplicitous, calculating behaviour, Edgar first aappearing somewhaat ineffectual, but later showing is strngth in furst supporting, then avenging his father.

All in all, it was an absolutely stunning performance - well worth the wait!

As an added bonus, he programmes, while a litle more expensive than usual, are beautiful - free from any  advertising, and including a full copy of the script, and a number of photos from the production.  A great souvenir of the production.

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spent most of Saturday being moderately lazy - fair bit of reading, some gift wrapping (Tybalt "helped" with that, so the  recipients will get some bonus cat-hairs and, in at least one case, tooth marks) I shall have to finish the wrapping and then, on Monday,  make a trip to the Post Office to get all the parcels which have to go by post sent off.

This year, I have done quite well as far as the 'remembering to buy things which don't weigh too much if they will have to go by post' side of things go, not so well on the 'buy things which are nice reguar shapes and thus easy to wrap' side. Oh well.

I then spent the evening at the theatre, to see The Merry Wives of Windsor at Bath. The production is one which was originally at the Globe, and is now touring. It had a big cast, and was performed in period Elizabethan dress and with it's own minstrels gallery (on top of the half-timbered house which formed the main set). There were 5 or 6 minstrels who appeared to be playing period instruments - some of them, at least. I am not sure whether the kettle-drums and triangle were common in Elizabethan times, but one person was playing what I think was a rebec, another a hautboy, and another instrument which I coldn't identify - a very long-necked string instrument.

I enjoyed myself, although there was a lot of over-acting going on, which gave the whole thing a somewhat pantomimic feel - with touches of Blackadder and a soupcon of 'Allo 'Allo.

The theatre was pretty full, and the play enthusiastically recived.(although in the case of the 2 ladies sitting immediately behind me, I think that part of their enthusiasm must be attributed to the fact that they had clearly been enjoying a drink or 6 first, to the point where a man wering tights was hysterically funny....)

Tonight I am going back the the theatre for some candlelit music. And also trying to remember how to set the video recorder, as I see thaey are showing Patrick Stewart's Macbeth tonight on BBC4.
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Last night saw me in Bath again for another author event organised by Toppings bookshop.

This one was a reading and Q&A by Armistead Maupin, as part of his world tour for the publication of the latest 'Tales of the City' book, 'Mary Ann in Autumn'

He started by reading the first chapter of the new book, then took questions, while skirting carefully around any potential spoilers, either of this book or the earlier ones.

He talked a little about the musical of Tales of the City, which features songs written by Scissor Sisters (He mentioned that "There's an 'O my god I'm pregnant' song, which Mona sings while she has her feet in the stirrups at the gynocologist")

He admitted having borrowed Mrs Madrigal's background from a story told to him as a journalist in San Francisco, when he was attending a fundraising party held by a transwoman to fund her final operations - she called it "The ball to End All Balls" and it featured a 70 year old fan-dancer, Sally Rand!

He also spoke of having encouraged Alexander McCall Smith to write a serial novel in his newspaper column. "Alexander McCall Smith? I hate him. He writes a book every 10 minutes..."

He also spoke briefly about his pride at having played a role in gay history, and his view that opening marriage to more people, recognising gay marriage does not undermine, but rather honours the institution of marriage. That one got a round of applause all of its own!

it was a hugely entertaining evening, and I'm looking forward to  readng the new novel.
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Last night I went to Bath again, this time it was to see Michael Wood, who was there to talk about his recent TV series and the book which accompanies it,'The Story of England' 

But before I got to that part of the evening I had time for a quick visit  to Mr B's bookshop which is a very nice bookshop (with free coffee & comfy  chairs upstairs, which I didn't have time to enjoy this time round) and a wall papered with pages from Tintin, which I rather enjoyed.

 I then had to spend a couple of hours on a work related course, and had just time to grab some mediocre chinese food (and all-you-can-eat buffet is your friend when you only have 20 minutes in which to eat) before heading to St Michael's church, where Mr Wood's event was taking place.

I have to thank Cheryl again, who not only spotted that this event (and Monday's, with Iain M Bnks) was on, but also booked the tickets and got to the church first and saved me a seat.

Mr. Wood was talking about The Story of England, and it was fascinating. The premise is that he set out to look at the history of England (and he was careful to note that it was just England, not Britain) by looking at a single town.

The one he picked is Kibworth in Leicestershire. It was picked because it is (geographically) central, and broadly on the border between the part of England which was under Danelaw, and that part which was Anglo-Saxon , but mainly because it has excellent written records - one half of the village was bought by Merton College, Oxford, so there are 750 years worth of written records. The parish is made up of 2 distinct villages - Kibworth Beauchamp (the posh bit) and Kibworth Harcourt (the poor bit)

The aim was to look at the history and development of the villages from the perspective of the community - bottom-up, not top-down, history.

The two halves of the parish are very different - they have different entrances to the church, and the Vctorian rector recorded that when a sewage system was being mooted, the villages wanted separate systems, so thast the effluvia from Kibworth Beauchamp was not contaminated by that of Kibworth Harcourt.... (and in case you think tht's a one off, Michael recalled hearing a discussion in a cambridgeshire village, when it was proposed that 2 neighbouring parishes should be combined, due to declining congregations. One parishioner, entirely seriously, and wholly outraged , exclamed "We are not almagamating with them. They were Parliamentarians!" It's understandable, I suppose. After all, its only 350 years since the civil war...

In Kibworth, the social divisions certainly went back as far as Domesday book (there were fewer slaves and  villeins in Kinworth Beauchamp than in Kibworth Harcourt) and possibly longer - Michael had a theory that it may do, and that the names of the fields were anglo-saxon in one area, and celtic in another.

The project not only involved looking at the history of the community, but also involving the community in the research - they dug 55 test pits all over the parish, (including one in the pub car park where they found a fragment of an Anglo-Saxon  bone comb)

The village lost 2/3 of its population in the Black Death. The quality of the records mean that it is possible to trace 15 generations of peasant families.

The series (and book) go right up to the present day. I have not yet seen all of the episodes but I'm looking forward to seeing the rest, and to reading the book.

After his talk, Michael signed books, and was very friendly  and chatty.

A most enjoyable evening.

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On Monday evening I wended my way back into Bath, to the Little Theeatre Cinema, for an evening with the always charming and erudite Mr Stephen Fry. Not, alas, in person - His Tweediness was at the Royal Festival Hall in London, but the wonders of modern tecchnology meant that his talk was to be live broadcast to about 60 cinemas up & down the country, Bath Little Theatre being one of them.

I dithered about going, becuase while it is a lovely little cinema, it isn't exactly cheap, and in addition I am going to be seeing Mr Fry on Friday, when he is speaking in Cambridge, but I decided it would be worth it, as  I suspect he won't be working from a script, and anyway, I could be prevented by a sudden meteorite strike or soemthing from going to Cambridge...

I'm glad I went. I had fun. Mr Fry read some short extract from his new book - one about sugar puffs, one about school, and one about meeting Hugh Laurie for the first ime. in beteen times, he talked, apparently without notes or preplanning.

He had a list of the various cinemas where the event was being screened, so took time to say hello to eveyone (except the places beginning with "C", who were accidentally missed out) together with a few asies about the various places, and some speculation about where 'Gorey' is - Mr Fry knew of the artist, Edward Gorey, but not the place (which is, it urns out, on Jersey)

there was some chat about Blackadder, with indidental impressions of some of those involved - ovely to hear Mr Fry imperonating Mr Atkinson and Mr Laurie, not to mention his description of taking Ben Elton, that well known leftie, to dinner at the Carlton Club (bastion of Old Tory politics) and startling Lord Hailsham...
Wonderful stuff.

And you know, I don't really care whether he says all the same things in Cambridge. I'd be quite happy to watch it all again . and I'm going to buy the book.

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Thursday saw me heading over to Westbury-sub-Mendip, where I grew up, in order to spend the day with a friend who still lives (and farms) there. I stopped off to see whether there were any boks I fancied in the Library, which as you can see, is small but perfectly formed.  It is based on donations of booksand run by volunteers in the village Nice idea, don't you think?

 Last time I visited, they had some very cute, 4 week old puppies; this time, all the puppies bar one have left home, and young W has just started school, so J & I had a pleasant morning catching up on news of both our families before picking W up from school (as it is his 1st week of school, he only does half days) and going out for lunch.

It was odd to find myself back at the village school, which I attended for just over a year, when we first moved to the village. I was horribly bullied and hated almost every minute was not very happy there, but going back has it's advantages, not least as a reminder that my schooldays are well behind me, and no-one can make me go through that again!

We lunched in Wells, at a very nice restuarant called 'The Old Spot' which is one of my favourite places to eat out - they have a short menu, which tends towards fresh, seasonale (and often locally sourced) food, cooked to perfection. Not so good for vegetarians, but otherwise... oh my! 

We then walked up through the market place and round outside the Bishop's Palace, disppointing the ducks by our failure to bring them anything to eat.

We then took W to the park to play before heading back for further conversation, egg-hunting (free-range chickens have so many places to lay their eggs..) and playing with W, who is very much a farmers child - his soft stuffed cow & sheep have proper, DEFRA approved eartags and when he decides it is time to play farms this involves not only setting up model cows & sheep in the appropriate model pens, but also making up proper 'cattle passports', with correct ear-tag numbers and barcodes as well!

Meanwhile, J&I amused oursleves by looking through some old photo albums, including the oh-so-embarrassing "1st day at Secondary School" ones taken by her mum of the two of us at the bus stop, and several of us camping in various back-gardens.

I left laden with egss, and runner beans, and home made jam, and strawberries., and having put in an order for this christmas's turkey, last years ghaving been a great success.

In the evening I headed into Bath again, this time to see  'The Rivals' at the Theatre Royal.

I arrived with time to spare and it was a pleasant, sunny evening, so I collected a few more Lions  (I have all the Lions I have found so far in my flickr set here) before heading back to the Theatre, which has just reopened after some renovations - they havn't changed the auditorium -the changes are mostly to provide better access, improve the bars and (I think) upgrade the lighting etc.

The Rivals is the first production since the theatre reopened, and  of course has a special resonance here being set in Bath.

Mrs Malaprop was played by Penelope Keith, and Sir Anthony Absolute by Peter Bowles. I enjoyed it - although I think that some of 1775's ideas of what was funny haven't worn terribly well...

As a whole, the play is still very entertaining, however, and there was an excellent  cast. I'm glad I went.

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Today, as another pasrt of my holiday-at-home, I have been playing at being a tourist by visiting Bath (a 20 minute train journey away)

I started out by visiting the Thermae Bath Spa which was opened (4 years late and £32M over budget) about 4 years ago to allow people to once again swim in the natural hot spring waters which give Bath its name (and the name that the Romans gave it; Aquae Sulis) This hasn't been possible since 1978 although I'm not sure whether one could still swim in the Roman Baths that recently.

The Spa is owned by the Local Council, and is right in the middle of the city. There's a rooftop pool (top of the glass bit in the picture - the guy leaning on the rail is probably a lifeguard) so you can swim (very short distances!) or float, and look over the rooftops of the the city and out to Prior Park and the hills beyond. It''s very nice, and in defiance of the weather forecast it was a lovely sunny morning, which made it even better.

As well as the rooftop pool, there is a second pool, plus steam rooms. One can also book various spa treatments, which would be lovely if I'd had a friend to go with (and a bit more cash to spare!)There was a special offer on in conjunction with the local rail company giving 4 hours for the price of two, so I had 4 hours to play with, which made it feel slightly less extortionate :-)

Being midweek it wasn't too crowded - I shudder to think what it's like at weekends.

When I left the Baths I ambled along to the Pump Room , which is attached to the Roman Baths and was built in (I believe) 1799, and  of course features in Jane Austen's 'Northanger Abbey' and, at least by implication, 'Persausion'.

The majority of the guests (myself included) were less elegant and well dressed than Miss Morland and her friends, but I decided to go with the flow and ordered myself the 'Jane Austen Tea' - potted mackerel, scones & clotted cream, tea and a cupcake, plus 'ginger fizz', which was nice, fruity, gingery and a little unexpected. it was all very nice.

Of course, there are those who might consider that a cream tea and a cupcake rather goes against the whole 'healthy morning at the spa' vibe, but it was 3 p.m. and I'd missed lunch...

From the Pump Room you can see down into the 'King's Bath', which is part of the Roman Baths complex, although it is 12th & 18th century, built on Roman foundations.

Outside is another rather nice one of the 'Lions of Bath' - this one was designed by one of the keepers at Longleat, and is a Lion-version of Lord Bath  (Marquess of Bath, Owner of Longleat, and what happens when you let the aristocracy find out about sex & drugs & rock'n'roll).

I finished the afternoon by calling in to the Abbey, which I always enjoy visiting. It's a beautiful building, and as so many people used to come to Bath for medical reasons you get a fascinating selection of tombs and memorials. Including that of Beau Nash, who was a key figure in bringing Bath into fashion.

On this occasion,  there was an additional treat of The Bath Abbey Diptychs , an exhibitions of calligraphy/illumination and needlecraft by a local craftswoman.

They are utterly stunning. Well worth following the link to look at the peces in more detail.

I finished up with a quick visit to the Abbey vaults museum, as I've never been before (I had not, to be honest, missed much!)

And so homewards. I made a slight error of judgment in getting to the station at 5, so ended up on a very crowded post-work train, but it is a short journey, so didn't much matter.

Another good day.

marjorie73: (Default)

Bath is full of Lions at present.

They are part of an art project and fund-raising effort. Two years ago, there was a similar project involving King Bladud's pigs , this year, we have Lions.

One of my favourites so far is "King of Fudge", who stands proudly above the ;'San Fransisco fudge Shop', near the Roman Baths,

I also like 'Robo Lion', who is behind a shop window and thus difficult to photograph, but who appears to have survived an encounter with the Borg...

There are 100 Lions altogether, in and around Bath. (I have a flickr set here , which I shall keep adding to - but I still have a long way to go to collect them all....) They are not all in Bath itself - I have found two in Bradford on Avon, one at the Farm Shop near Farrington Gurney, and I have heard that one went to stay with his cousns at Longleat

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So, about three months ago I got the season's brochure from Bath Theatre Royal, and there were a couple of things which looked interesting, so I booked tickets, stuck them on the noticeboard and kind of forgot about them for a while. One of them was Twelfth Night, in a production by Filter Theatre. I hadn't heard of them before - in fact, based on the picture (taken from the Theatre's website) and from having seen mention of the RSC, I was expecting a fairly traditional prodiction.

The theatre is in the process of renovation at present, so there is an odd mix lavish gilt & velvet, and scaffolding and plaster dust!

My first clue that this was unlikely to be the traditional production I was expecting came when I took my seat and saw the curtain was up, showing a stage without backdrop, and only a lots of musical instruments and what looked like a merch table, by way of set dressing.

About 5 minutes into the show the traditional, doublet & hose production went disappeared into the realms of things unmourned and forgotten...

The company is small - 6 actors plus 4 musicians, which meant that several of the actors were pkaying more than one role. In the absence of any costume changes, and having not seen or read the play for some considerable time, having the same person playing both Duke Orsino and Sir Andrew Augecheek confused me a little - I was trying frantically to remember whether Orsino took to drink on being rejected...

Viola borrowed a jacket of a gentleman in the front row of the stalls in order to disguise herself as a man, on her arrival in Illyria, and there was live music and enthusiastic audience participation for the various songs. Imagine a theatre full of people stamping and mexican-waving and singing 'What is love? 'tis not hereafter; present mirth hath present laughter' and you get the general idea.
It was an absolutely fantastic evening - loved seeing all the slightly-disapproving elderly ladies, (all of whom took sharp breaths in and frowned, when they saw the set) sitting near me thawing out and then rocking along!
 And I would love to be able to show this to anyone who thinks Shakespeare is boring. I so hope that there are schools taking their pupils to this show (any any other these guys do) and I would love to see them at the Globe Theatre where their propensity for coming into, and involving, the audience would be given full scope.
I think Will would have approved.
The show was quite short, and it wasn't quite dark when I came out of the theatre, so I took some time to check out a few of the Lions currently gracing Bath. This one is to be found by the Thermae Spa.

(Originally posted at comment here or there)
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Thursday evening saw me heading into Bath, to meet up with Cheryl and together to go to Moles, to see Bitter Ruin.

I first heard of them (and heard them) when they played support for Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley at the EvelynEvelyn show at Bush Hall, and at the 'Underworld' gig, and really liked their music, so when I saw they were playing in Bath I booked tickets straight away.

Moles, as the name suggests, is to be found in a cellar (with a bar above), and is pretty small. When we arrived, 5 minutes after the doors opened, it was empty other Georgia & Ben (a.k.a. Bitter Ruin) so we had the oppotunity to chat to them briefly, then as other people started to arrive we headed upstairs for a drink.

The first band on were a local duo whose name, unfortunately, I didn't catch, but they were good - then Bitter Ruin were on - I really enjoyed their set - especially as they played two of my favourites - "The Vice" and "A Brand New Me", plus a new song - "Relief"

In between times I chatted to Ben's dad, who apparently lives locally, and learned that Ben went to the same school I did (although about 12 years later than me!)

All in all, a great evening, and if you get a chance to see Bitter Ruin play, take it!


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