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November 2008
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January 2009

Calling all Catholics

There are so many angles of wrong in what the Pope is preaching this Christmas that I'm not really going to voice my opinion that much, or I'd be filling several pages with bitter and angry incredulity. The Pope's message for the time of year which is supposed to embody love, empathy and niceness is: "Homosexuality is as great a threat as rainforest destruction".


On the front of Peter Tatchell's website is the following quote:

"The only liberation struggle worth fighting is a struggle inspired by love.
Love is the beginning, middle and end of liberation.
Without love, there can be no liberation worthy of the name."

I don't really want to spend time explaining why I felt that was relevant.

He's a hero of mine, is PT. Anyway. He talks about a leaflet put out by the UK Catholic church, which is almost diametrically opposed to this... fucked up seemingly 1930's inspired bigoted hatred. Which is just brilliant. I hope, hope Hope that around the world there are many Catholic groups who are not even subtly putting across how much they don't agree with this garbage.

I think that Catholics can have no excuses. If you happen to read this, are Catholic and believe that the Pope is... hopelessly, disgustingly wrong, then you must say so. You have to stand up and say that this is bullshit. This is Henny Penny fear mongering of the most insidious, awful kind and must be denied by everyone. I don't know if it has more to do with the current parlous state of Italian politics than anything else, right now, but... whatever. I'm just, I feel sick to my stomach.

Oh yes, I forgot to say - it's really weird how totally under-reported this has been. It occurred to me that for once, the international press might have unconsciously colluded in deliberately not promoting a message of fear and hate, which is pretty cool. Unfortunately, it did mean I had to link to (of course!) The Daily Mail, for which I apologise :)

Steve Jobs

Just wanted to say, I'm wishing Steve Jobs all my luck. I think the evidence is getting too visible now, and some kind of statement must come.

But being seriously ill - taking both possible outcomes in to account, is a total bastard to go through.

Two glorious nights out

Well, three now, actually. But I begin to ramble already...

So. One week, bookended by two ever so special nights out. First up, Sunday. A gig. I ended up going on my own to BEN FOLDS. Yes, that bloody man again. Oh yes. and it was absolutely bloody marvellous. I went went wearing a ridiculous pair of high heeled boots because I knew how low the floor was, and met with my mate Rich and his girlfriend who somewhat bizarrely had won a pair of tickets a day before. It turned out they were upstairs and I was down... aargh! No! So instead of a nice night out with hardly-ever-see-him Rich, we had 5 minutes in a queue before I went to stand as close to the bloody stage as possible.

He played for well over 2 hours, that man! He rocked the bloody house! Played a bunch of songs from the new album and the fake album, then plowed straight in to a mass of old songs, about 4 or 5 of which were alone at the piano. He played "Fair", which I adore. A daft, singalong BF5 classic with bittersweet lyrics. All the ones you'd expect, too - for some reason a ton from Silverman and nothing from Super-Sunny but then, just one encore. A double speed "One angry dwarf" that ripped the roof off.

One of the best gigs I've been to. And what a wonderful, wonderful night.

Fast forward to Friday night and a preview night for "Hamlet", as the cast are getting used to the London stage. My friend Mac queued for nearly 3 hours outside the theatre whilst I was gainfully employed on the telephone and internet (to no avail), and we got *corking* seats. Bang in the middle, only 3 rows or so from the front. The theatre is one of those lovely, homely, slightly ragged looking jobs with baroquish gold leaf and filigree balconies. The stage design was perfect for the performance - an empty stage backed with high glass mirrored doors which doubled the conceptual size but also, brilliantly, reflected the audience upon itself, making it feel a lot like a stage in the round.

I'd actually forgotten the beginning of the play, in terms of the set up of the plot. I'd forgotten that Hamlet's Father was already dead, so the opening scene, of the court, with Patrick Stewart regal, calm and generous was perfect. You'd never have known what was going on. Patrick Stewart acts with such grace. He's glorious to watch. As his true nature was drawn forth, the black, evil streak up his spine was subtle but hard and icy. Brilliantly controlled. He's a bloody Master, in't he.  But what of Mr Tennant, the soon to exit Hamlet?

He was bloody brilliant. There were a couple of speeches, early on where I felt he had such a connection to the words, there was a real sense of Shakespeare the man talking through Hamlet the character about life experience, coping with life events as an intelligent young man. The words felt fresh and new, which for Hamlet is astonishing. David Tennant was a young, arrogant, smart university student with a cynical sense of humour. He sneered, and he took the piss, mimicking other characters but not in a way that felt forced. In a way that felt very real, and funny. Bored, unable or unwilling to go back to university and shadowed by a grief of monstrous proportions, he was physical and rangey. The audience loved him, and loved the whole troupe, laughing at all the gags (and the sight gags not in the script). It was at least 30 / 40% youthful, and that energy, reflected back off the stage by the very set itself energised the cast.

The first scene, he felt a little bit stiff, to be honest, but then it was a preview. The first soliloquy, he fell to the ground in grief for his Father, but it felt like acting. I mused, "Your Dad's still alive" as I watched. It didn't feel like he could channel anything from having really lost someone of that stature in his own life. That's not to say it was bad though, Jaysus.

How lucky am I? Not just two absolutely superb nights out in one week, but also, the two nights McK and I have managed to get out to see a play this year were Othello, with Chiwetel Ejiofor as the Othello of a lifetime (and brilliant, brilliant acting all round from the whole cast - with Ewan McGregor doing at least a memorable turn, if not an iconic one) and now this! A hamlet so vital and alive, David Tennant must be crushed with misery that he's out of the production. Like I said - how lucky? I think he only lasted another couple of performances after the previews before his back pain became too bad.

Funny, before he was in Dr Who, I sneered that he was a skinny streak of piss and would be terrible. I take back my stupid assessment absolutely. He's a wiry ball of charismatic energy. He's got that 'thing' that only some actors have. That magnetism thing.  

What a glorious week.           

The end of Woolworths

There are signs in the shop windows in Streatham and Brixton that proclaim, in traditional dayglo colours, that a closing down sale is happening.

30k staff are going to lose their jobs, and that's in the immediate, not taking in to account those lost as a result of reduced sales in the most popular lines that Woolies sold which weren't home grown.

A large number of those staff are front line shop workers, many part time, with children at home. In a downturn this bad, in many areas of the country, it's unlikely that they'll get jobs again in any particular hurry.

Woolies are city based stores, which service skint families who can't afford cars to go to out of town shopping centres. It seems to sell a right load of tat, but it also sells key lines which those who shop regularly there will know from experience do not exist in any other high street store to any significant extent. Or if they do, they are inferior quality. Cheap children's' coats, children's' 'sundry' type clothes (knicks, socks, vests); also things like plimsolls, children's' dress-up clothes; the 'create' line of crafty, drawing/making stuff type toys and boardgames. Where else would you go if your teapot cracked and you just need A Teapot, you're not really bothered as long as it isn't completely covered in crappy patterns... if you needed bog-standard sewing stuff (or Dylon! Who the hell sells bloody Dylon save for Woolies?). For me though the huge loss is board games. My friend Zeld looked at me with slight "Uh?" when she said "I don't think anyone actually plays board games anymore. I don't know anyone who does", which made me sad  but even if that were the case, the closure of Woolies is taking away the opportunity for kids to discover or be bought and therefore then discover a whole slew of making things type opportunities, and the opportunity to sit around a table with their parents, maybe, you know - once a month? and play a daft game that involves buzzers, or marbles, or a whole bunch of different cards with questions or actions on them.

Who will stock this stuff? On the high street, available quickly and easily to skint working or non-working families, without incurring a postal fee cost? WH Smiths and supermarkets have been cited and certainly they will put a bid in to take over those revenue streams but their answer to this change will be by necessity pathetic. They don't have the floorspace to devote a whole wall for 20 feet with board games.

Compare the amount Woolworths needed to get out of immediate schtuck with the amount that has been lent to the banking sector in the last couple of months. 300 million is not chickenfeed, but it hardly runs in to the trillion, now, does it? To make this argument ridiculously simplistic, how about the chances of a banker picking up a new job versus the chances of a single Mum looking for something local part time to help make ends meet?

I'm not about to suggest that Woolies should have been nationalised, but I want to make it clear that in areas like Streatham and Brixton, the loss of Woolies on the high street is bad news, on a number of counts. The job losses, just before Christmas, are a disaster, and the loss of the shops to its natural constituency is pretty crappy. If I suggested to a large percentage of Nora's classmates, for example, that they could try the internet for shopping for things like the right size plymsolls would result in a look of slightly disgusted amazement. They're 99p in Woolworths. compare that with a couple of quid plus £2.50 p&p.

My end point here is that as usual, it's the poor who have come out of this disadvantaged. Banks could not have been allowed to fail, sure, but has anyone stopped to really count the social cost of the removal of Woolworths from a walking distance position for many working and underclass families?

James' allergy appointment

I keep reading other people's web burblings and then not having time to write my own. So apologies as usual for lack of burble with which to fill *your* free time.

James, at last, had an allergy appt at St Georges. He was wonderfully calm and put up with an appointment that meandered around various procedures over about two hours. He had the infamous skin tests, ie: a bunch of different allergens present in distilled water, a tiny drip on the skin then a very tiny skin rip to see what happens.

Lovely James, sat there with his pinky, babysoft arm resting on the pillow with his hand curled, unconsciously relaxed, and the lovely paediatrician took sterile jabber after sterile jabber and inflicted these slight cuts, again and again. James didn't move his arm, fascinated, but he did say "Oh! each time in a slightly disgruntled voice.

10 minutes goes by, and a sea of swollen red bumps had appeared on one arm, and only a couple on the other. This basically means he's allergic to housedust and airborn stuff, unfortunately also cats (which doesn't appear to be a problem right now with Monkey, the excessively long haired dopey boy cat who James has recently become non-scared of and therefore strokes often). He's... and I say this nervously... he appears to no longer be allergic to milk!! Wow. Blood tests are backing  this up however, so it's still business as usual with the goat's milluk. Here's a thing though. He is allergic to eggs. Uh? Fully cooked eggs appear to be ok, because of some change or other that happens to the proteins when they're cooked, but anything soft, he'll have a dodgy time with. It's never come up because despite McK's efforts James has steadfastly refused to touch any friend eggs that have offended his sight on Sunday morning fried breakfast plates along with equally disgusting mushrooms, black pudding, friend bread and ah.... oh yes. Bacon. Well. bacon's a different story isn't it. Bacon is a salt filled gastronomic wonderfood. Apparently.

So one blood test later, we troop off home, and I'm currently waiting to call the Doctors' surgery given that obviously they won't bother calling me when the blood test results letter arrives. At present we're slightly confused whether we're going back to hospital for any appointments (what the very cool lead paediatrician suggested or we just carry on through the Doc's. God only knows. It's all pretty straightforward now though, realistically.