Tuesday, January 31, 2006

"The Race Is...OVER!"

"The Race Is...OVER!"

Yesterday managed to demonstrate that twenty minutes at 7.00 in the morning is very different to twenty minutes at 12:10. When the alarm went off and my room filled with Chris Molyes's voice I wanted the twenty minutes before I had to drag myself out of bed to last forever. Predictably they flashed by in approximately 0.057 of 'normal' time. But when it came to the twenty minutes before lunch, they managed to stretch out like something, well, long and stretchy, as if I were the Mad Hatter condemned for the clock never to move ("no tocks no ticks, the clock struck six"). Which is probably a long winded way of saying that I really didn't relish being bound up in clock time yesterday.

But to return to the Mad Hatter (and trust me it is a wonder that I can think of anything that doesn't happen within the realms of wonderland) today yeilds something beyond not wanting to crawl out of bed. My final performance of Alice. Well, not my performance, because as much as I could the Artistic Director hasn't whipped me into a blue dress and through the rabbit hole yet. But the final time I will sit through the show (I am not putting a number on how many times I have seen it because that would send me into a frenzy of maddness, with or without the March Hare). I was warned about the Christmas show by the other attendants not long after I started. It holds a little dread for even the most usually enthusiastic people. One, who shall remain nameless, took to wearing ear plugs after his 20th viewing of Alice, which apparently don't deaden the production entirely but do leave you able to think of other things than the Queen's aria. I probably got the experience softened somewhat because although at one point I was only leaving the WYP to sleep, the crutches meant I was officially deemed a health and safety risk in the theatre itself (I'm sorry, would you like someone who cannot walk unaided leading you out in the event of a fire? My plan was to ask someone in a wheelchair if I could sit on them if that happened) so I got to work my wonderland magic on the tat stall. But it goes without saying that I have seen Alice more than I have seen any other production in my life (and I hit double figures - just - for JCS so you know I'm saying something here). I know the lines, the songs and the dances. Whether it was advisable for myself and Dean to demonstrate our indepth attendant knowledge of 'The Lobster Quadrille' ('Will you?' 'Won't you?' 'Will you?' 'Won't you?' 'Won't you join the dance?') behind the tat stall just as the Director (and ultimate Boss of the WYP) walked by remains to be seen.

I realised on Sunday as I found myself laughing - out loud when no one else was - at the Canary and Eaglet who were having a mini fight in the background while everyone else was concentrating on Alice, that the production has become something of a comfy blanket. And I honestly didn't expect to be saying that. I've also found myself enjoying it more and more as the weeks have gone by. I suspect I will feel a little pang tonight. Not something I won't be able to get over, mind you, but a pang nonetheless.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Birthday Letters: Pottering

Birthday Letters: Pottering
A final birthday letter...

This one's from someone I know almost entirely through the world of blogging - though I did meet her very briefly a few weeks ago, but I was sweaty and being escorted out of a building so it might not count.

So from Jenny, something with a flavour of The Boy Who Lived...

Pottering
So I'm late again, (although technically it's only an hour since Saturday actually ended) and I've already seen what others have blogged about in celebration of the wonderful blog that is DA's birthday, to be honest they're all too good to compete with, I couldn't choose what to blog about and I talk rubbish most of the time so I'll keep this short and try not to talk about anything too complicated, especially not when it is about half 12 at night and I'm about to fall asleep on my keyboard.

I'm not sure if I'd have started blogging at all if it hadn't have been for DA, I happened to stumble across it one day and have been reading it regularly since then. I was relieved to find someone who blogged about Harry Potter, someone older and more intelligent As well, which made me think it was O.k for me to mention it, quite a bit I must admit (there's more HP related stuff to be blogged about tomorrow, *oh goody I hear you cry*) in my blog. I can see why the fascination with Snape aka Alan Rickman is there but I prefer the good guys ;-) (hmm, yes Snape may still be good but that's a much too complicated issue to go in to now). So anyway better get to the point to this blog as I said this would be short. You can blame DA for me starting my blog or if you like my blog you can thank DA...i'll leave you to decide which you'd rather do ;-) :-)

Jenny is 16, a Griffinette and an unashamed Harry Potter fan. You can read more of her blogging at My Secrets Inside.

To read all the birthday letters go here.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

How Do You Measure A Year In The Life?

How Do You Measure A Year In The Life?

It is probably fair to say that this time last year as I sat down at my computer, looking out at the view down Woodstock Road and clicking a couple of buttons on Blogger I didn't expect to have the relationship with DA that I now have. There are undoubtedly lots of statistics about how many people start blogs and then give up, usually in the first six months. It's not that I thought that I might become one of those statistics - though I can be as flakey as the next person - but I don't think I envisaged I'd still feel as compelled as I do now.

A few weeks ago, knowing that I'd have to write this blog, I started a re-read of DA. Which is not a task for the faint hearted given that brevity has never been one of my strong points. It took me a few days to wade through the 280 posts, but it was a rather wonderful experience. Because the year stretched out before me, with things that had long since slipped from my mind, jokes I'd forgotten, emotions that I didn't realise I'd had.

During DA's first year I've lived in Oxford and Leeds, finally gotten my 2:1, seen SSoB on stage, written The Four Right Chords and ended up working at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. I've written about going to Dublin, Cardiff, London (more times than I probably should have), Stratford, Newcastle, Birmingham, Middlesbrough, Ilkley, Whitby, Castleton, Nottingham, Cheltenham, Bradford, Billingham, Scarborough and, of course, the centre of the known Universe, York. I've blogged about Robin Gibb's pub, The Bedford, the Eagle and Child, The Melbourne, The Living Room and, most of all, the Evil Eye. There have been fountains, sixty second Hamlets, pub quizes, borrowed guitars, cowboy boots and more than a little Byron. I've been inside - and indeed at the stage door - of more theatres than is probably morally right for any one person. I've danced my legs off at band gigs. I've wanted to cry my heart out at acoustic gigs. I've been on crutches, complained about flu and got more than the odd Titanic headache from watching Neighbours. And it all stands within the folds of DA.

Of course there are things that aren't in DA; issues - and people - I've skirted around, either for their privacy or my own (I broke this rule once in a fit of pique but don't intend to do so again). I was worried that when I read the contents of DA there would be a point at which I was less emotionally honest than I was at the beginning. Because I would be lying if I said it didn't knock me sideways slightly when I discovered my readership was slightly bigger amongst my aquaintances than I had expected. I'd say that I'm slightly more emotionally obtuse than I used to be, and less likely to blog in the midst of some overwhelming emotion - though I am glad to say that I seem to have retained the ability to blog when I'm not at my nicest. I'd hate for it to become sanitised around here because of my own vanity. So I was rather happy to discover the air of balance there's been in DA for quite a long while. And - most importantly for my own ego - I made myself laugh. Which is both intensely sad and rather heart warming.

I think in reading DA I've discovered that I've tied up a lot of loose ends in my life in the last year - I've closed a couple of doors, but opened a few more. And it makes me excited. Because, if only so that I have lots to talk about this time next year, I've got to do even more exciting, scary things. And then come back and blog all about them.

Birthday Letters

Birthday Letters

A few weeks ago I began to wonder how I could celebrate DA's birthday. Quickly it occurred that possibly the best way to do it would be to show everything which I love about blogging (forget what you want, this is DA's day) - which is chiefly how wonderfully interactive the whole experience is. So, mainly for my own amusement if I'm honest, I set about asking people who have been part of the DA experience (both in starring roles and as readers and fellow bloggers) to write a blog to celebrate DA's birthday. The only specification was that they wrote on a subject which they felt would fit in on DA. This resulted in blogs on the Chris Moyles's Breakfast Show, Pub Quizes, Byron, Sienna, Harry Potter and Swishy Robes, which at the very least served to show that DA is as odd as I always thought it was.

To say I was chuffed by the results is something of an understatement. Especially since none of the people I asked told me to get lost. So I owe a big thank you to all who have contributed. You've made me a very happy bunny indeed.

Now I have to leave the blogs to speak for themselves:

Let's Get Ready to Raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamble! - Nik

Robes - Severus Snape.

Boho-Princess - Jen.

Isn't It Byronic - Billygean.

A Night Out - Griffin.

Pottering - Jenny (*update*)

NB: DA Birthday Letters come with a small but significant apology to JKR and ARG - il miglior fabbro.

Birthday Letters: Raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamble!

Birthday Letters: Let's Get Ready To Raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamble!

My first blogger and I have shared many things (and plans). Indeed I'm sure that when I decided that I wanted to share the contents of my stomach lining for a consecutive 12 hours she wished we shared a little less.

So for DA's first birthday letter comes a blog from Nik on one of our joint loves...
Let's Get Ready To Raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamble!

So, I should probably start by saying Happy Birthday DA! There, that's done; though I must now say that I am rather disappointed that DA's birthday does not coincide with the two year anniversary of the Radio 1 Breakfast Show - that would be rather impressive, nor does DA's birthday seem to result in a trip to New York...

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A lot of people resign under the false notion that I am "obsessed" with Radio 1. I call it research. After all, it was listening to Radio 1 that made me decide that I wanted to work in radio so to continue to listen is only fair. The Radio 1 Breakfast Show is the main reason I get up so early in the morning; it helped me get up and revise during my exams in the summer and I have many memories of lying on the floor of Corinne's room in Oxford - ensuring I don't wake up halfway under her bed - listening to Radio 1 and generally being in hysterics over something stupid Aled's done or something Dave said; like the time Corinne went for a shower and came back to me telling her that when Dave was little he had drawn Pontius Pilate in a helicopter; or indeed the amount of texts that went between us during the shows at the start of the summer concerning some random comment a member of the team had made on the show that morning.

You see, the notion that Corinne and I are one person therefore governs that we like the same people. Usually. The Plan isn't testament to this but that's another story altogether. As a general rule, we love Dave. And Aled. In fact, we want him as our new GBF. Well not new since, to my knowledge, we don't have an 'old' GBF. Yet the man is amazing, who do you know who would turn up to the Big Brother eviction in a big fur coat or indeed a swimsuit complete with a fetching blonde wig? Or tell George Galloway that on Big Brother he came across as an old, bitter and twisted old man only to be threatened by both some bloke from George's party and Dennis Rodman?

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Certainly not Dave, but we love him anyway because he makes us laugh. A lot. Usually because he says the stupidest things without thinking, uses the most random terms for things or asks if cows that live on hills are born with two legs shorter than the other...* Also, he once played 'Semi Charmed Life' on Tedious Link which resulted in Corinne dancing round her bedroom and me spilling coke all over the desk in the library.

We don't agree on many things - Robbie Williams, being one of them - but we do agree that the Radio 1 Breakfast Show is comedy genius.

*In case you were wondering, "the answer is no because when they turned round, they’d fall over."

Nik is an English Finalist and self confessed Radio One addict. You can read more of her blogging at Flash Frequency.

To read the full set of letters go here.

Birthday Letters: Robes

Birthday Letters: Robes

I had to poke the next blogger a bit harder than anyone else in order to get something out of him. But I think the hassle - not to mention the insults - has been worth it.

I was still a little shocked, however, when the blog landed in my gmail to discover Severus's chosen topic...

Robes

Should I begin I was born, I became embittered? But then 'became' is such a loaded word, as it implies that there was something before the embitterment or that there might be something under it. There wasn't and isn't. Several people have looked. If I pride myself on anything it is the perception and foresight which this gives me. Embitterment is a state which many aim for and only the truly gifted achieve. I consider myself to be part of this select gathering.

I am aware of the numerous rumours circulating; Hogwarts gossip mongers have all the subtlety of a rampaging troll. I do not expect many reading this to understand given that I haven't invented my own range of hair care products or won the Quidditch Cup. Certainly something as public as a 'blog' is not the place to take to task those rumours and explanations; discretion and intellect are hardly in vogue and it would be tedious for all involved were I to use this opportunity to pretend otherwise. But, sure as a melted cauldron means that Longbottom's in the vicinty, there was little I could do - short of a couple of hexes and a few unforgiveables - to extricate myself from the job of writing this entry. Whilst I know my efforts will undoubtedly be overshadowed by an upstart with little talent who has some pretension to celebrity this does not mean I have shirked from the challenge at hand. Gryffindors may utter their deeds with much pomp, circumstance and the inflation of egos, but every Slytherin knows that there is a quieter, more skilful and infinitely more deadly method to take. It is with this view, and several bottles of wine, that I have undertaken the task. It does pain me somewhat that, in order to fit in with the requirements laid down, I have had to resort to 'blogging' about robes, swishy or otherwise.

If I temporarily lay aside Gryffindors, the male Potters, DADA teachers who aren't me, Sirius Black, werewolves, having to talk to Draco Malfoy, a good 95% of the pupils I have taught and Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans, the thing which I hate most is shopping. Regardless of the time of day, month or year I inevitably encounter shopkeepers who have the intelligence and personal skills of a horned toad, families who shop in packs with 8 year old wizards who think it fun to activate every object which makes a noise and witches who spend the gross national product of Albania buying robes which they will discard within two months. I can safely say that I have had more pleasurable days disembowelling flobberworms than I have ever had shopping. It is one of the great joys of being the second most wanted man in the wizarding world that the delights of Diagon Alley are no longer an option for me unless I want to be heading to Azkaban quicker than than you can say 'Avada Kedavra'. Once again it seems that practice of the dark arts has its advantages

In my youth, or at least in the days before I aimed an Unforgiveable at the Headmaster's chest, making my way through the leaky cauldron was an unfortunate necessity. For along with the copious amounts of supplies required to combat certain students disregard for my personal store cupboard there was the issue of my robes. There is something infinitely soothing about a well cut robe, the subtlety and power of which is lost on those for whom luminous pink ruffles are the height of sophistication. Aside from the occasional emerald green robe required for occasions when it is only right to demonstrate my house loyalty in a manner which even a Huffelpuff can understand there is only one colour which any self respecting wizard will chose. Black. Again many will not appreciate the understatement of this choice but there is nothing which comes even remotely close to exuding the amount of control - and finesse - of black. Whatever may be said about the Dark Lord and his followers, one thing that is not up for debate is their sartorial elegance. Others colours and designs may come in and out of fashion, Witch Weekly may feature this month's particular dunderhead in the brightest of shades, but black remains.

A stamp of eternity and permanence which only the refined will truly appreciate.

S. Snape 27/01/05

P.S. I believe it is a somewhat tiresome custom at times like this to say "Happy Birthday". Whilst I cannot account for others adherence to such etiquette, I would rather adopt a blast ended skrewt than utter such phrases.

Severus Snape taught Potions and Defence Against The Dark Arts at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for 17 years, where he was also Head of Slytherin. During that time he wrote for numerous Potions Journals and was Consultant Editor of the best-selling Dark Arts for Dunderheads. Currently on the run from the Ministry of Magic (not to mention The Boy Who Lived) in his spare time Severus enjoys thinking up biting retorts and taking points off of Gryffindors.

To read the full set of letters go here.

Birthday Letters: Boho-Princess

Birthday Letters: Boho-Princess

I've known the next blogger since a windy, wet day in Harlow back in the distant recesses of time known as Griffin's Bring It On promotions.

And I was somewhat pleased when I recieved Jen's blog to note that my affection for a certain person hasn't gone unnoticed:

Boho-Princess

A year ago I was in the dark as to who on earth Sienna is but now I feel I know everything about her and when I see her on the TV or in magazines, I get excited too.


I don't know when I first started reading DA but now reading it has become part of my life. One of the first things I do when I sit down at the computer each morning is click on the link in my toolbar and enjoy the latest entry with my morning coffee.

Thanks Corinne and Happy Birthday DA...Long may it continue!!!

Jen is a mum of two, Griffinette and DVD boxset queen. You can read more of her blogging at Life of Jembie.

To read the full set of letters go here.

Birthday Letters: Isn't It Byronic

Birthday Letters: Isn't It Byronic

Such is the oddity of blogging that the next birthday letter comes from someone I 'knew' via the medium of her blog long before I ever met her.

So from Billygean comes a blog of Byronic proportions.

Isn't it Byronic

But words are things, and a small drop of ink,
Falling like dew, upon a thought, produces
That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think;
'Tis strange, the shortest letter which man uses
Instead of speech, may form a lasting link
Of ages; to what straits old Time reduces
Frail man, when paper - even a rag like this - ,
Survives himself, his tomb, and all that's his.
from Don Juan

I was 17 when I first read Byron. I picked up a copy of Don Juan in our school library, after being bullied by Blake and puzzled by Keats, because, since I kept a diary and lit candles a lot, I couldn't possibly not get poetry.

My eyes hurridly scanned the poem. I thought I was literary, but really I was thinking about my physics homework.

"But words are things"

I stopped at this line; it was as if Byron was coaxing me. Words are only things. There is nothing incomprehensible here.

The rythyms picked me up and carried me along, we raced along, falling like dew, thinking, landing on thoughts; I was one of the millions Byron made think. He stopped and elevated - "think;" and I teetered until I mused with him "'tis strange."

And then the rhythms began again; "may form a lasting link of ages." Time guided me lightly to the end of the end of the journey, set me down, breathless and in awe.

Let me tell you, Wordsworth doesn't compare. And he didn't shag his half-sister.

Billygean is an English Finalist and future high-powered Lawyer. You can read more of her blogging on Billygean.co.uk

To read the full set of letters go here.

Birthday Letters: A Night Out

Birthday Letters: A Night Out

Really it would have been rude to have a series of letters without including something from the person who has contributed to some of my favourite blogs (and certainly the most controversial...).

So with no further ado, I present Griffin's blog:

A Night Out

During the last year I've read DA with something of a wry smile. If that is 'wry' can be defined as a complicated mix of confusion, fear and general bemusement. And on more than one occasion I've been ready to write a letter in protest of the treatment of deck shoes. Just as my pen has been poised, however, I've remembered that not everyone can be as fashion forward as Castleton's Most Stylish Man (three years running) and for everyone who recognises the style in the shape of deck shoes and stripey tops, there's another who can't get past a pair of cowboy boots. And forgiving Yorkshire lad that I am I thought that I'd lay all that to one side, pick up my super-strength writing pen (stolen from an unsuspecting fan whilst they were battling with a manila extra-sticky envelope), kick off my deck shoes and pen a blog entry in honour of DA's birthday. Are you sitting comfortably? Have the boiled sweets reached the back (though I wouldn't eat the black ones if I were you, Squirrel and I used them to play an impromptu game of snakes and ladders last night)? Right then, I'll begin.

Being a man of many talents (though even I admit that the ability to quote Rigsby episodes at will is waning somewhat) there are few things I enjoy more than a pub quiz. Well, technically that's a lie, but me mam might read this so I'm sticking with the pub quiz. And I can often be found, conkers in hand, loudly proclaiming "she who must be obeyed", "Nebraska" and "A groovy kind of love". This week it was somewhat unfortunate that on account of a particularly fluffy hair day the bouncers outside the pub didn't recognise me and subjected me to something of a prolonged frisking, possibly on account of the size of me conkers. When I'd assured them that they were for luck and I had no intention of using them as weapons in the event of a tiebreak, they eventually let me in and it was with some relief that I settled down with a beer, pausing only to squabble with the Dancing Bear as to which of us got to hold the pencil. By the time I'd prised the pencil out of the Bear's paws (upending two tables and a packet of pork scratchings in the process) you could smell the tension in the air. Or at least I think it was tension, I'd decided to try a new aftershave so it might have been that.

Before I could ask whether anyone else had noticed the smell the first round was underway and I was sweating copiously whilst trying to remember how many times Wes Hall was named as Wisden Cricketer of the Year. The bear excelled himself with a question about Winnie The Pooh and I got to demonstrate my extensive knowledge of flux capacitors in the lyrics of Busted. With Squirrel chipping in for which book contained the line "You can't ravish a tin of sardines" and Waggo providing a tricky answer to the population of Turkey to the nearest million we were steaming ahead. Literally in the case of the Bear, who'd caught his fur on a low lying candle and had to be extinguished with the remnants of my third pint.

An hour and a half later and it was all down to the last question. I confess I'd been somewhat distracted by a nearby team of girls who had huge...shoes and my performance had suffered slightly. Through the haze of tension, aftershave and the odd combination of burnt fur and stella emanating from the bear, I heard the final question.

"Who was the 2004 British Entrant in Eurovision?"

The Bear, Waggo and Squirrel all turned to look at me.

Ah well, there's always next week.

Griffin, 28/01/05.

Alistair Griffin is a Graduate - and runner up - of music reality tv series that is neither Pop Idol nor X-Factor and, as such, not many people remember. He has had a top five single, a top twenty album and, more importantly, a second place position in the Lemon Curd category of the Castleton Show. When he's not demonstrating his prowess in the 'Faces Round' of his local pub quiz he spends his time promoting the word of Rigsby, playing golf and wearing stripey tops. Al is currently recording his second album and setting off fire alarms.

To see the full set of birthday letters go here.

Friday, January 27, 2006

One Step Closer To Complaining About Council Tax

One Step Closer To Complaining About Council Tax

It was only when I heard myself say the words out loud that I realised what I'd done. I'd turned down an invite to the pub. And I don't think I've ever turned down an invite to somewhere that sells alcohol in my life. Just to make matters worse I turned it down for the reason that I had to get up at 7.00 the next day to go to work [it was 9.30pm at this point]. Which means that I am going to have to accept that I have started upon some descent into adulthood that takes notice of things like getting up times and having to go to work and do proper things and not just use the internet and phone Radio Five.

Which was more sobering than anything the 23rd birthday could muster.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

And the waves crashed upon the shore

And the waves crashed upon the shore

As so often with my literary icons I'd heard of Virginia Woolf before I read her. My first proper contact with her came, aged 16, during the third week of Sixth Form when we'd raced through Chaucer, Marlowe, Marvell and the Brontes during our mini tour of English Literature and alighted on the modernists. We were presented with - and I can remember this vividly - pages two and three of To the Lighthouse and were instructed to get our pens out and start circling parts of the narrative that struck us as 'unusual'. What we were being asked to do in reality was to point out the slippage between narrator and narratee, asked to flag up the death of the omniscient guiding voice so beloved of that great institution - the 19th century novel. So my initial encounter was, curiously, without the spectre of 'Virginia Woolf' hanging over me. It wasn't until the great 20th century reading list came rattling through my letterbox in the winter of 2001 that Woolf captured my attention again. But something must have remained from that initial encounter, a spark that hadn't quite been extinguished, because To the Lighthouse became the first of the books from that unwieldy list that I began.

When I'd finished TtL, I wanted more. I'm not sure I understood the reasoning behind it but I knew that I did. In the next three days I hoovered up Mrs Dalloway, Orlando and, most breathlessly of all The Waves. My head, never one to fight against emersion in an author, was teeming with Woolf.

Which does lead to the question - why Woolf? What about her moved me in a manner which few other writers have? After all she is difficult, famously limited in terms of characters' class and background and more than a little prone to flights of fancy that - in poetry - have scared me something chronic. Sometimes when you read her, even I yearn for a chair to be a chair, stable, solid, something to hold on to in the unfixed world she presents. But Woolf rarely gives you this comfort. I, who have read and re-read, combed the short stories, the essays, the diaries, the novels am more aware of her flaws than most. Of all the things - and there are a lot of them - that don't work.

And yet it would not be a lie to say that, in many ways, since that initial flush of reading, Woolf has haunted me. I had a running joke for a while during my year as a Fresher that, writing wise if not stick head in oven wise, I wanted to be Sylvia Plath when in reality I was Helen Fielding. It would have probably come closer to the point to say that I wanted to be Woolf. That I want to be Woolf.

In her writing Woolf has an uncanny ability to take something seemingly ordinary and turn it into something utterly beautiful. She can flick and twist and fly with words in a manner which no other writer I have ever read does. Who else could turn the sounds of the First World War into the painfully human noise of women beating their carpets? Or sum up loss through a pair of arms groping in the dark? Or express eternity through the mooing of a cow? And whilst I'm on the cow, it should be said that Woolf is funny. Laugh out loud funny at times. Her description of TS Eliot as a "cockroach" on his return to England after having left his wife is brilliant in its sheer acidity. But more than that, of everything that sticks out in my mind about Woolf, is her ability to capture joy on the page. Which may seem something of an oddity that the poor, half mad, tragic Woolf of popular perception should have this as her outstanding talent. But she does. At her best she can capture a moment and make your heart leap. And if there is one thing that I wish I could take from her, it would be the ability to do this.

Maybe as a blogger it shouldn't come as a surprise that some of my favourite moments of her writing come in her diaries. Indeed if I were told I could only read one aspect of Woolf for the rest of my life then it would be the sprawling diaries, that at once tell you everything and nothing about Woolf. Don't get me wrong, I'd pine horribly for Bernard facing life and death at the end of The Waves and would be rather upset never to have my feet trip after Mrs Dalloway through the bustle and buzz of London, or stand with Lily at the culmination of her painting. But somehow I suspect I'd get everything I need from the diaries:

Then on to Figaro at the old Vic. It's perfectly lovely; breaking from one beauty into another, & so romantic as well as witty - the perfection of music, & vindication of opera.
On Sunday we heard of Cecil's death, & Philip's wounds.
We walked along the river in the afternoon, when L. came back from Staines, & came to an old hollow elm tree, in the sawdust of which someone so we guessed, had struck a match. The wind was blowing in, & soon the flames were running high. A crowd stopped.[...]The tree burnt rather beautifully; we called at the police office & told them, in case the fire might run along by means of bushes to other trees. Leonard's cold very bad - a horrid nuisance

There is little I can say other than that - for reasons I can't quite quantify - it's one of the most beautiful pieces of writing I've ever read.

If you're wondering if there's a reason to this extended moment of Woolf-love - though, as you should guess I never need an excuse to praise Ginny - then it is due to the date. For today would have been Ginny's birthday. She'd be 124 mind you, so the candles would be a bit of an issue. Regardless, happy birthday Ginny; it's a privilege to have known even 1% of you.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

List Mania

List Mania

Things that have amused me greatly in the last few days:

1. Finding the 1974 film version of The Great Gatsby on DVD for under five pounds. Never has my money been so well spent, if only so I can lust after the clothing.

2. Accepting with curious abandon the impression that walking up to the tills in the first shop with Gatsby and two Pretty Jude Law films, and in the second with three Hugh Grant films creates. I may be a theatre snob, but I'm certainly not a film one. Especially on the HG film that has deleted scenes, meaning more Alan Rickman.

3. Neighbours. Not my actual ones, but the programme. As I'd been working double shifts at the WYP last week I'd missed three days of edge-of-seat-oh-my-god-there's-a-bomb-on-the-plane stuff. Which meant I spent an hour and a half sobbing without shame watching the recordings, giving myself a Titanic headache in the process. Just when I thought it safe to dispense with the tissues, I saw Monday's episode and found myself crying again, because - despite the fact that this is a soap which has only tenuous links to reality - I care about the characters. Which always means you're on the road to serious mental problems. Not least when you're crying because you can think of nothing better in this world than Susan and Karl getting back together.

4. This picture of Nik and my future GBF, Aled from the Radio One Breakfast Show.

5. The discovery that the BBC is going all crazy for my Romantic boys. Even if I want to take them to task on some of their analysis, which does seem a tad Romantics by numbers for my liking. Not that I'm pernickity, or anything.

Monday, January 23, 2006

;">"I'm allowed a Disney Princess card, as I'm a Princess"

"I'm allowed a Disney Princess card, as I'm a Princess"

If I've never been able to muster excitement at the fact that I share a birthday with a former Spice Girl*, then I do rather like the fact that I'm cosmically connected to Louis XVI, Lenin and George Orwell. It should probably be noted that the cosmic connection in relation to the latter three are not so much in their days of birth as in their days of death (c'mon the middle of winter is bound to yeild that) but I celebrate it nonetheless. Such is life when you're a first-day Aquarian, 21st of January bunny.

After initially intending that I'd have a fairly quiet birthday (there's a very expensive March in prospect, what with my intensions to stalk Jason Donovan and Fox), I ended up - once again - in Val's tank (Take That playing in my honour, even if my increase in age meant I temporarily lot the ability to co-ordinate the dance moves to 'Never Forget') on the way up to Newcastle to see Spencer Tunick's exhibition at the Baltic [Tunnick in a tabloid worthy sentence - he's the guy who takes the pictures of the groups of naked people]. And equally excitingly on the way to what Cat had assured me was a rather fabulous giftshop. And if the experience at Newstead hasn't taught you anything - there are few things I love more than a good giftshop.

Shona having joined us in the coffee shop it was time to head upstairs, not to the exhibition itself but to hear Spencer Tunick in conversation. And if there's anything that could surpass a giftshop in my affections it's hearing anyone of an even vaguely creative bent talk about their work. I love to hear what makes people tick, what lies behind their urge to create. Which in the harsh light of blogging sounds poncey, and artsy, and something that one of the more over-wrought characters in SSoB might say. But it's something I enjoy unashamedly. Before I get on to the talk itself, which was wonderfully intimate and only slightly disturbed by the man behind me taking pictures of Tunick at every opportunity, I should probably say I had very few thoughts on Tunick's work to start with. Other than that I didn't quite understand it as art. Not in the way I understand Monet, Da Vinci or even Andy Warhol as art. And I didn't know much about it other than what has appeared in the rather 'oh look at all these naked people' manner that it's been treated with in the papers. So I was willing Tunick to make me understand, if not everything then at least a little bit.

Tunick came into the lecture room with a black baseball cap pulled low down over his eyes. He didn't look like an artist, rather like a slightly bewildered American tourist. And from the moment that he started to speak he didn't speak like an artist. And when I say artist I mean artist in the stereotypical modern-art-concept-laiden speak that almost seems to come with the territory. He referenced a couple of photographers I hadn't heard of, but he never left the plain of my understanding as I thought that he might. And as he talked about the experience - complete with its financial limitations - I began to see more than I'd expected. Video footage of Tunnick being arrested, of the brilliant reaction of guests at the opening of Saatchi Collection to Tunick's installation and Tunnick's rather obvious dissapointment that his work is limited in his home city. His views that his 'art' is the finished photo, not the installation itself, his desire to do this in some shape or form for the rest of his life led to a realisation. Unexpectedly it wasn't about Tunick's art but it was about the events themselves. That somehow Tunick's idea had increased beyond what he could ever have expected. That is was about something beyond him, something beyond the individual. Watching footage of the participants wandering through Newcastle I was awestruck with the power which radiated from the group. It was liberating, heart swelling stuff. And if Tunick thinks that there is no longer something overtly political about his work, then I think there is something inherently political about the sea of humanity in his videos. This shared group, which is not noticeable for its nudity or some fleeting moment of titilation, seems to be capable of almost anything. It is at once humans at their most vulnerable and their most incredible. And, if only for that moment, I understood.

Afterwards we went to look at the exhibit itself. The pictures themselves were often striking, but there was nothing that hit my stomach as the video footage did. Indeed it struck me that, as so often, the split served to demonstrate the difference between something being pretty and something being beautiful. The idea, the people who took part, the results of the gathering were oddly, strangely, unexpectedly, beautiful something which the photos didn't quite capture. And I remain unconvinced as Tunnick as an artist, but as a facillitator of the event, I hold him up.

Then it was up to the viewing deck, where there was the hold-your-breath beauty of Newcastle's Quayside at night, before it was on to the giftshop where I managed to sidestep the urge to gain my second Ginny Woolf mug of the day. A walk over the Millenium Bridge later [much nicer in my opinion than the one in London] we rolled up to the Pitcher and Piano, where we had food, white wine, red wine and, in my case, a woo woo:

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If you're wondering, that's my homage to Edie Sedgwick. I also managed - for the second Saturday in a row - to consume a ridiculous amount of chocolate in the shape of a chocolate brownie. When we walked back to the tank, after hours of easy conversation, I could have quite happily have set up shop in Newcastle without the blink of an eye. But that could have been the woo woo talking.

NB: For anyone who is wondering, I have written an IOU to the Parliament Street Fountain, which I intend to fulfil when our membership to the Vudu Lounge comes through.

NB 2: A big thank you to everyone for their birthday messages - in all mediums. I was genuinely touched.

*Baby Spice if you're wondering.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

You Know How I Love A Quiz...

You Know How I Love A Quiz...

Being somewhat tested by the notion of Sunday working two weeks in a row, I was a little - ok, rather a lot - reluctant to make my way to the WYP. Once I'd gotten there - and moaned about the fact that I was missing a hypothetical Sunday Lunch - I lost some of my reluctance. Mainly through sneaking into the warm up so that Ballet Attendant could have a sneaky peek at the aforementioned Lizard. Because I like warm ups that I don't have to participate in. They make me laugh. And thus I realised why, despite the Sunday working ethic, I do rather love the WYP. Especially since - touch wood - I've gotten through the childrens shows without the need of the magic sick pack*.

The good point of there being so many shows at the WYP over the Christmas period had meant that I'd spent five weeks with them as my sole employer. And as well as meaning that I could probably do the job in my sleep - and indeed understudy the role of Alice should the actress need a day off - it meant I'd gotten used to the late starts and even later finishes. Of being paid to watch plays. Which has no resemblance whatsoever to my normal employment status. Given that I can't find anything remotely as exciting in the contents of endless construction drawings. So I wasn't actively looking forward to my return on Monday morning. Indeed we should probably scrap the 'actively' altogether.

My return to normal working hours, if something of a bump, was infintely soothed by the quiz I was shown during my lunch break. We attempted the 225 question pop quiz and managed to get 83 of them between the three of us in thirty minutes or so. But it's hard. And addictive. But it did give my brain something to think about when I returned to the explosion of filing. Which my sanity is massively grateful for.

*And it is magic. You get an apron and everything. I could do with some for motion sickness purposes.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Amongst Those Dark Satanic Mills

Amongst Those Dark Satanic Mills

Before I went a bit insane [not to mention slightly screechy] and began taking photos of Alan Rickman's autograph, we'd been out in York in honour of Cat's birthday. Which gave me the opportunity to wear as many of my sale bargains as possible, including my slytherin green* puff ball skirt [75% off in Warehouse which would have officially made it rude to leave it hanging in the shop]. When I say puff ball it should probably be noted that, to quote Gayle, it wasn't "Pepsi and Shirley" puff ball. Because the world does not need that. But it did mean - what with the primark sequins - I was increasingly desperate in the dressing process to make sure I didn't look too over-dressed. Which is difficult for me to achieve, especially when Val greeted the outfit I'd been wearing all day [my black and white homage to Edie Sedgwick**] with 'so you're dressed'. So I had to resort to demanding loudly the use of sparkles on everyone else involved. Val also managed to get Gayle and I tipsy before we'd left her house, though I sadly cannot blame the fact that we screamed when we saw a clip of Griffin on BBC1*** on the pink-fizzy stuff. And to think that we'd been excited when we saw Bazza.

In York, and not at all placated by Gayle informing Becky that I was "wearing a ball dress", we took a leftfield decision and - instead of Evil Eye - made our way to the new Vudu Lounge. Which had lots of room, very nice white russians and made me think that I was a celebrity. Which you undoutedly know isn't that hard to do. Especially when I'm wearing a puff ball skirt. But it remains, Vudu Lounge = Celebrity. And it has a very respectable late license, something which the Evil Eye is sadly lacking [despite the fact that NO ONE LIVES NEAR IT. Not that I am bitter].

Then it was on to the Habbit for more drinks, fabulously home-cooked food and the biggest piece of chocolate cake that I have seen in a very, very long time. It also meant magic tricks, Cat discovering what her wrath in Dublin was about, Val encouraging me to stalk Jason Donovan**** and lots of Fox planning. Plus a keyboard player who took all of our requests, including 'Pianoman'. He also must have been taking requests from other drunken people as we ended up with 'Jerusalem', and I became quite ready to march into battle. And photos:

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Albeit in post chocolate cake haze. With people trying to hide.

After capping the evening with one of the most hilarious Take That dance routines in the history of Take-That-dance-rountines in the back of Alix's car ['Never Forget', arms aloft, instinctive clapping], it was onwards to Fox songs, musical numbers and my discovering that I'd been sleeping inches from the aforementioned Alan Rickman for the last two years.

*If you understand this, take twenty house points.

**Yes, I know Sienna Boho-Princess is playing her in 'Factory Girl'. I did say that I was obsessed.

***A clip from the tortuous-reality-tv-show to introduce one of his tormentors on the musical programme. Didn't hear Griffin given the screaming, but he was wearing one of the famous three blue jumpers. Which was more than enough for me.

****My first celebrity crush.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Next Stop: Restraining Order

Next Stop: Restraining Order

V: "I didn't mention Corinne and Alan Rickman"

G: "Yes, don't mention the weird bits"

C: "I don't think it's weird"

G: "No, I don't think it's weird, either. [beat] The Alan Rickman thing's weird; but if I liked someone I'd take a picture of their autograph too"

V: "It's a good job we have the same definition of weird..."

Friday, January 13, 2006

Can You Imagine How Much Stalking This Means?

Can You Imagine How Much Stalking This Means?

Several months ago I blogged about Fox getting the pianoman role in Movin' Out in America.

Now it turns out that I can blog about him taking the role in London. And I'm once again excited and incredibly - incredibly - proud. Still a little disgruntled that he's made Broadway and the West End before me, it must be said, but I can put that aside for Fox. He's my 'best friend' afterall. But more than that he deserves this and every success he undoubtedly has to come.

Break a leg, Fox. I knew they'd love you.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

What's In A Name?

What's In A Name?

There are certain things you get used to when you grow up with a name that doesn't crop up that often. The bits where you become 'Coreen' or 'Cu-rin', or have the male spelling thrust upon you (my most recent disquiet is for the fact that on the WYP contacts list I'm 'Corrin') aren't great, and are probably only matched by the inability of various relatives to spell your name. But you get used to this by about the age of five, accept it as part of your package in life and bask in the enormous ranting potential it brings you. So you can enjoy the other bits - the bits where it marks you out, where - as every ego as developed as mine requires - it makes you a little different. And people tend to remember you, even if they can't spell it for all the galaxy chocolate in the world. And I like it that way.

So imagine my distress at the appearance in various publications (and the Jules Holland show) of a certain Corinne Bailey Rae. And not only does it look like she's going to be famous with my name she's also from Leeds and comes complete with an English degree. Talk about stealing my thunder. Because until this point I've been very happy with the only notable famous Corinnes being: Corin Redgrave (doesn't count, he's a man), Corinne from Swing Out Sister (doesn't count, she's only famous in Japan now), photographer Corinne Day (doesn't count, Vogue famous is too exclusive) and Madame de Stael's Corinne (doesn't count, she's fictional). If I remember correctly there was also a Greek poetess named Corinne. All of which I approve of. Because none of them are are swooping in and stealing my status. Never mind that CBR is four years older than me and hence got in with the name thing first. This is not a rational feeling, subject to normal laws and regulations. Oh no. This is completely irrational.

And I love the design of her website. Life is not fair.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Dating, Wonderland Stylee

Dating, Wonderland Stylee

"You'll never guess what happened!"

"What?!"

"The Lizard* just asked me out!"

"The Lizard?"

"Yes! He ran across the restaurant after me!"

"He ran?"

"Yes, he ran. That's the most important bit!"

"Awwww"

"I know!"

"You do know I'm using this?!"***

[If only for the reason that it proves that theatres are a fantastic dating agency for gay men.]

*As you might imagine, our lead show being Alice in Wonderland**, we've got a lot of animals wandering around the building.

**Officially an English Icon.

***This refers not to this blog, whose existance I don't publicise, but to the play I've been told I have to write about a theatre. But I reckon that if I can use it there, I can use it here too.

Monday, January 09, 2006

What on earth would you get him as a present?

What on earth would you get him as a present?

And to think I nearly missed it...

A very happy - albeit fictional - birthday to a certain Severus Snape*. May it be filled with sarcastic comments, swishy robes and as much elf-made wine as you so desire**.

*Don't laugh, JKR.com was updated just for this purpose.

**I'll go and sit in the corner on my own now.

I'm not a Princess, I'm a Punk!

I'm not a Princess, I'm a Punk!

If you're wondering the title comes from My Mother Said I Never Should and was one of my favourite lines in the play. Because though I'm often a [Disney] Princess, some times I'm a rock chick too. Which is probably neither here nor there, but the line popped into my head today when I was reading Vogue. And whilst I always get excited about Vogue - because I am shallow - I was even more excited today. If there is one thing better than a day without work and a new copy of Vogue to read then it is a day without work and a new copy of Vogue which has Sienna Boho-Princess on the front. And I shocked myself slightly about just how excited I was when I saw that Sienna was on the cover. It is probably fair to say that I am developing something of an obsession with the woman. I saw it as a mark of Nik's friendship that when we were on the tube going to the Bedford last month she pointed out the presence of Sienna in the corner of a paper one of the commuters was reading. AND then went and rescued it for me.

But back to Sienna in Vogue, rather than anything more worrying on my part. "When people label me 'boho-chic', it makes me want to cut my hair off and start dressing like a punk". I suspect that that might include Boho-Princess, but, hey, Boho-Punk-Princess is a bit of a mouthful; especially when it's a surname. And I suspect that would be rather missing the point anyway. What did make me smile though, given my utter fondness for Team DA, was the final words of the interview:
"I couldn't bear it when I heard that people were wearing 'Team Sienna' T-shirts because the one thing I really don't want to be seen as is a victim".
I've never thought of the rash of celebrity t-shirts as being playing towards the cult of victim-ness but it's an interesting point, and one which maybe more so to me as I'm reading a book of Ginny Woolf's status in the world at large [and yes, Ginny has had her own t-shirts] at the moment. And if that book is making me think about what it is to be a female icon and how that differs from being a male one, and if seeing Bronte last year made me think about what it is to be a female writer as opposed to a male one, then I cannot help but think what this means for me, and what it means for DA - a blog which comes with a picture of one of the 20th century's greatest iconic female victims.

And I like to think that Team DA - and this blog - is perhaps the very antithesis of the victim-hood that Sienna sees in those t-shirts. Because if I hold up Sienna, as I hold up Ginny, as I hold up Marilyn every time I blog, I do so not as victims but as a celebration. Very different celebrations, but celebrations nonetheless. And if there is such a thing as a blogger's republic - where amongst my favourite bloggers women outnumber men by 5:1 - then I can't help but think how this medium has given rise to so many female voices that might not otherwise be heard. I'm sure I just hit upon a two year academic study right there. Girl power, baby.

When I started writing this entry I thought it would be a couple of paragraphs on Sienna and yet it has turned into something quite different, something I think that hits to the heart of why I write. And I didn't expect that. Which I guess shows that you should never underestimate Vogue. Or indeed Sienna Boho-Princess.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

When I Grow Up...

When I Grow Up...

Given that I like to be fashionably late I thought that it might be time to turn to my New Year Resolutions. Which is not something that I say often, given that I don't often make them. Not - I would hasten to add - because I exist in a state of near perfection but because I generally can't think of them come midnight on the 31st of December. This year, however, I did. Or rather one crept up on me somewhat unexpectedly, and thus it appeared over on Nik's blog. So we've cemented the non-stalking of various members of the Radio One breakfast team by the time that 2007 comes around. And I feel somewhat confident about that one, just because I believe that - within reason - it's surprisingly easy to meet people you might see on tv or hear on the radio. You've just got to be willing to put the legwork in. Which is obviously spoken like a true stalker. Aherm.

But it struck me that as I'm always making mental targets then it wouldn't hurt to get a few of them down here, so that in 12 months time I can either plaster DA with gold stars or thick black crosses. So, with little fanfare other than a quick blast from the Take That album, here goes:

1. Read half of James Joyce's Ulysses.
If there is one book which I would like to be able to say that I've read in its entirety, then this would be it. As it stands I've read three or four sections of it - WHICH ISN'T ENOUGH. So I reckon a target of half way through is quite achievable, especially given there's not going to be a Potter book this year. I might even start some counter thing to push me forward.

2. Complete at least one NEW major piece of writing (20,000 words +)
Not including the completion of Four Chords, which would be cheating. And I may be competitive but I'm not a cheater.

3. Update everything on DA that needs updating.
I know lots of you have pointed out the fact that the stuff down the stage left side of this blog is out of date and I have just been too lazy to do anything about it. This is where the lazy-ness ends. I'd say that I'd sort the archives out too, but that's undoubtedly a step too far.

4. Find a new Quiz Night.
And whip all the others teams' arses.

5. Learn to play 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' on the guitar.
Which also requires the repair of my guitar (it has a broken string). So it's a bit of a double whammy there.

6. Make my entry in Becky's Special Book more respectable.
You don't need to know what Becky's Special Book is about. I don't think I needed to know what Becky's Special Book is about either. Needless to say, I'm not going to be blogging the details of this one.

7. Be able to say "I'm a writer" even when I'm sober.
If only so I don't have to spend five minutes thinking up my occupation when I'm in a casualty department.

8. Go to the Edinburgh Festival/ see a play at the Globe.
Because it's two years since I did either of these (BBC broadcasts don't count) which is longer than it should be for any person.

9. Continue Team DA's mission to take over the world.
It's only a matter of time, my friends...

Which, with the Radio One non-stalkings, makes ten, a suitable number for any person I think. And it also means that you're all going to have to tune in next year to find out how these things go. Cliff hanger, baby!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Paperclips

Paperclips

I can vividly remember, when I'd finished writing the first draft of SSoB, wondering what I would ever be able to write next. I did wonder after the sweat, blood and emotional output whether I would ever be able to think of another topic to write about again. It's the second album syndrome. You spend so much time thinking about what your first album is going to be like - years in most cases, decades in some - that when you have to come up with number two you're a bit stumped. There's no longer a grand plan that has festered in the back of your brain for years. I suspect this is where you eat a lot of chocolate. And it bothered me slightly. Because what if that were it? If SSoB were the only thing that I'd ever write that was even half decent, what would that mean for me? I didn't want to be a - very minor - one hit wonder. So to speak.

Two years later such a thought seems had to grasp. The problem now seems to be that there is too much to write about. Everywhere I look I see flashes of things that I want to capture. I've a radio play in my head, the beginings of a one act play, the spark of a scene that I know nothing about other than that it might go somewhere and the ruminations of the second draft for Four Chords. I'm blaming this blog. It's turned me into a magnet. When you know you've got to blog - because it's a compulsion as strong as 'got' - you're constantly keeping an eye out for what you could write about. It bleeds into everything. And suddenly you've got spoons and paperclips stuck to you. Which can weigh you down at times.

After a little break post Four Chords's gestation, Monday signals the start of the re-draft process, which will hopefully be done by my birthday. Then I suspect it's out into the world for that one. Afterwards I might let some of the other stuff come pouring out, hopefully not starting a flood in the process.

And, rather excitingly given that I've a new batch of competitions to enter, the WYP got back to me following my submission of SSoB several hundred months ago and the lit manager wants to meet to talk about any future ideas I might have. Which does suppose that I actually have some. So I'm going to have to keep up the magnet thing. At least for the time being.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Battle of the Books

The Battle of the Books

As being an attendant at the WYP - which over the past few weeks with the four shows + a day seems to have morphed into a full time job - tends to involve periods of downtime during shifts. That's the sit around, talk about how rock and roll I am, feel at least eighty years old time. And since I really can't justify such blatant wastage I've taken to having a WYP book for each shift. I should probably clarify this in that the WYP book isn't anything about the WYP, or gained from there [I only steal their copy of The Stage when I'm on cloakroom], but is one of the many books I've gained in the past six months or so but haven't gotten round to reading because I've been too preoccupied with a copy of Heat. So far I've gotten through Notes From A Small Island, several of the Potter books when I was going through the re-read, a Christmas present about writing film scripts and Nick Hornby's A Long Way Down. So I wasn't too surprised when one of the attendants commented with some surprise: "You read like I eat chocolate". I felt it somewhat churlish to point out that I am more than adept at eating chocolate at the rate that I read. Which, given the speed I read at, is saying something. So instead I agreed. Because the basis is undoubtedly correct.

It wasn't until I hit the middle years of high school that I realised that my reading capacity is not generally thought normal. As a rule of thumb we'd read as a class, each taking the turn to read a couple of pages out loud, ensuring that we all worked together. Not one to be bothered by external noise [it's a talent born out of necessity given that I have three siblings] I always, always, read ahead. Which usually meant that I'd finish the book about three weeks before the class, loop back to join in and then still finish my re-read before them. Which did make for some comedy moments when it came to my turn to read aloud and I couldn't find the bit the rest of the class were on. On occassion, when I was gripped by a particular book, I'd end up finishing it at home - I think this was the reason I ended up reading the ending of 'Goodnight Mr Tom' at least four times. Which was good as I'd gotten my crying out of the way outside of the classroom.

And the habit, fostered undoubtedly by the reading lists flung at us every term during my degree [my high point being reading three books a day from the 20th century reading list for a week and a half], has continued. I read quickly. I want to know what happens. Even when I've read the book before, I want to know how things are going to turn out. Because, and this may seem odd and kind of stupid given the pre-destined nature of works printed on a page, there's always that little part of me for whom the ending is a surprise. Even when I re-read Gatsby - which I could probably quote to you - I get that feeling of suspense towards the end. The possibility. I'm sucked into the world on the page and what happens outside of that, what happened before doesn't matter. This time might be different. That feeling's probably the reason I love theatre so much - every time literally is different.

But back to the books. And to Hornby's in particular. I'm a big Hornby fan and I think, possibly because he's so funny, he's massively underrated. He never takes the soft option in his novels and 'Long Way Down' is no different. If you don't know the story, it starts with four people, individually about the commit suicide, meeting on New Year's Eve. Which doesn't sound very funny - and at odd moments it profoundly isn't - but Hornby makes you laugh. And think. And I rather love him for that. Ever since I read Fever Pitch [the world of the football fanatic] I've felt something of a connection. Minor-popstar stalkers and football fans have a lot in common. It's just that the former group don't spend as much on t-shirts as the latter. In A Long Way Down, it almost felt that Hornby had drilled into my head for a moment:

"But we used to have these message boards up on our website, and I'd read them every now and again, and I could tell that people felt the same way we did...I mean everyone has fans who love what they do, otherwise they wouldn't be fans, right? But I could tell from reading the other boards that our guys walked out of our shows feeling something special. We could feel it, and they could feel it. It's just that there weren't enough of them, I guess."

I choked on my caramel flavoured quality street when I read that. And when I'd finished spluttering and assured everyone that I didn't need an ambulance, I realised that the book had broken my heart a little. And I knew that if the character concerned jumped I would be writing an even longer and sterner letter to Hornby than the one which JK Rowling will receive if she doesn't redeem Snape.

I finished the book the next day and I'm not going to say whether I'm having to write the letter or not because that would spoil the central premise of the novel. And I'm not a spoiler. But I think it shows why, as much as an internet freak as I am, there should be more books than computers going into public libraries. Even bloggers need to read something they can scrawl their name in the front and hold in their hands.

Monday, January 02, 2006

The Mounting of James Joyce

The Mounting of James Joyce

One of the things about working at the WYP during the Christmas rush with its inflated staffing requirements is that during the bits where we're not actually in the theatre watching out for mobile phone photographers and vomiting children, or scolding ourselves in the coffee shop and selling interestingly priced packets of haribo, there are certain topics of conversation that come up again and again. Because when there are thirteen attendants a shift and miscellaneous others that's a lot of people to have the same conversations with. Given that we've covered Christmas, UCAS applications (just how old did I feel during that one? I think the four or five of us who are graduates visibly aged by a decade) and my foot (and really I began to feel for some of the attendants that I regularly have shifts with and who know the story of the beach ball practically from its outset every time that someone new would ask what I'd done, because there is no interesting way to dress up the same story - which isn't very spectacular in the first place anyway - for every new questioner. In the end it was decided that, on a variation of the South African at the Bedford and The Bear's in York, that I'd injured my ankle sandsurfing in South America just to add some interest for all of us who knew the story), the topic most often up for discussion was what everyone was doing on New Year. And if there is one way to win any such conversation (win as in, come up with the most spectacular unbeatable answer, that no one else has and, more importantly, hasn't thought of having) it is to be able to say at least four times a shift to different questioners - I'm going to Dublin. Or rather that I'm flying to Dublin during the afternoon of the 31st and flying back on the morning of the 1st with no hotel and only the possibility of matching the amount of chocolate I've eaten in the past week with Baileys in between. And once it is established that I am not Irish and have no connection with Dublin in any way other than a three day trip there aged 17 - of which I remember surprisingly little of other than thinking I was dying on the ferry on the way back - , an obsession with Oscar Wilde and more than a passing friendship with Ulysses then the full weight of the answer becomes apparent. Because it means that I am either insane or incredibly interesting. I'd like to think both, but I'm aware that it may be the former rather than the latter that draws the readers in here. But Dublin wins. And it means with the London thing, and the missing the attendant's Christmas party for a gig thing (note I haven't given the full story as it really does take too much of an explanation), in just over a fortnight I have become a little bit rock and roll. And I like that because, c'mon, I stalk musicians. In my head I'm a bit rock and roll already.

But the problem with being rock and roll in Dublin for such a period of time is the issue of hand luggage. And having to carry whatever I was taking with me all night. In the end I thought that I'd done quite well, given my already marked propensity for carrying my life in my handbag. This was until I met up with Becky and Gayle at Manchester airport and was awarded - pending Cat's entry - the Jamie Theakston award for Services to the luggage industry. Having amused ourselves at my packing, the blurb on the back of Burger King food (I'm more a golden arches girl, but their packaging isn't anywhere near as much fun) and the prices at the airport fake pub (fake pub in the way that big shopping centres have fake pubs) we were off to the gate to await boarding. Having been ushered in a special way (not, unfortunately, because we were inherently special, though we undoubtedly are, but because we tried to go in the wrong way) we were greeted by a nice Airport Man who informed us he'd been waiting for us, and as VIPs he'd cleared the area. As none of us really need any excuse to act like VIPs - like the rock and roll thing, a lot of the time I like to think we're VIPs, it's an unfortunate by-product of being infamous in certain circles - it was unspoken but universally acknowledged that WE LOVED Nice Airport Man. There was a football team waiting for us apparently. Sadly I missed possibly the most unintentionally hilarious exchange of them all as I'd had my turn at the counter; Nice Airport Man asked Becky if she'd sing a bit of her Eurovision song. How little he knew.

During the last two years - and a bit - I've done quite a few things with the ND. I've camped, vomitted, broken my leg in a fountain and been to Swindon (and Bristol) - all of which are potentially hugely traumatic events and some of the reasons (along with the kleptomania proof and the Derby and Birmingham Zanzibar photos) that I am tied to them forever, if only so they don't sell stories about me to the Daily Star when I'm famous. But of all the things we've done, I've never flown with any of them. So Becky, Gayle and I were in new territory. And I probably shouldn't use fear as blog material, but since they mocked me for the excess baggage and announcing rather too loudly (I'm blaming the double riccardi and coke in the fake pub) that I was taking my dress off on the plane (this is not as odd as it sounds, I was layering, and the removal of the dress still meant that I had more clothes on that a good 80% of the rest of the flight) I think we're even. So let it be known that I put to one side the mocking, and was a Good Friend, even if that did mean losing feeling in my left hand on take off. Once we were up in the air, I was allowed my hand back and we got to uttering not so quiet disbelief on the price of alcohol. Which was something of a first for me in as much as I'd never flown on a flight where they make you pay for stuff. I'd also never flown on a plane as small as the Ryanair one either, and while we're here, aherm leg room? To be fair this was also the cheapest flight I've ever been on and Ryanair probably suffered given that the last company I flew with was BA back from Budapest. And I know that BA is much maligned, but I would be a one woman advertising campaign for them. Because I came off that holiday always wanting to fly BA - because their staff are lovely, there's as much free alcohol as you can reasonably stomach and did I mention the leg room? Entire football pitches of it. Or something like that. But what BA doesn't have is vodka in little plastic bags. And, if there could be anything classier than these bags, it turned out that Ryanair, possibly in the spirit of getting their New Year reveller cargo trolleyed, were doing a buy one get one free offer. So - with the coke from the Jamie Theakston bag that no one was laughing quite so much about now - it was double vodkas all round.

Before I'd even had a quarter of my drink (and before the people behind us had received their little griffins) came the announcement that it was seat belts on, hold on to your stomachs, we're landing. Which seemed impossible given that we'd been in the air for about ten minutes. The fact we'd been delayed by about ten minutes so - and shout out if I'm wrong - should have made arriving ten minutes early impossible. If speeding tickets were issued to aircraft, however, one would have been heading the way of our pilot, who clearly was as keen to get his ass to a bar as we were, and we arrived in Dublin in possibly world record time, to be greeted by Cat and her entry for the Jamie Theakston award. After some debate it was decided that Cat won on weight whilst I won on size. Which sounds like a draw to me.

After a comedy bus ride - complete with very Irish man who told Cat - much to her disquiet - that her pop-up map was wrong, we made our way to the Temple Bar area to be greeted by a parade of Scottish men in kilts, which hadn't been what I'd expected, this being Dublin and all. This was possibly a marker for the night as for the irish/other nationality ratio stayed around 1:25 all night. Indeed in the course of two pubs, a bar with great seating and odd paintings on the ceiling, a club playing the best of the eighties and the strangest chinese outlet I have ever been in in my life we met approx:
100 Scots (all of them in kilts).
70 English (no national dress here, though they did include the shortest man I have ever met and that, from me, is saying something)
1 very, very dodgy Greek (I don't know if he was Greek or not, but he looked it, and in my head at least, had a chain of kebab shops)
1 Australian
2 Americans (who wouldn't buy Becky and me roses even though the strange rose selling man was convinced that they should)
20 of indeterminate nationality (by which I mean I'd had a double bacardi, a double vodka and six Baileys and knew that they didn't belong to any of the other catagories but couldn't place them elsewhere)
10 Irish
Which isn't quite 1:25 but then I haven't done maths since I was sixteen, and I kind of made up numbers in the right ball park for a couple of the catagories, so it'll have to do.

And if we're dealing with numbers, it's important to bring my balloon into the story here. At venue number three - the bar with the odd pictures on the ceiling - Cat, Gayle and myself had gained balloons which we'd attached to our bags. Cat's mysteriously dissapeared in the club, Gayle got her's trapped in the McDonald's meets Chinese Takeaway place before popping it and mine ended up tied to the back of a cubicle in the ladies' loos in arrivals at Dublin airport at 5 in the morning. Before this point though, there are some important numbers to consider regarding this balloon:
Number of people who wanted my balloon:
EVERYONE IN DUBLIN.
And let's look at some related numbers:
People who asked for my balloon nicely: 5
People who asked for my balloon so that they could set fire to it and turn it into a firework: 1
People who licked my balloon: 1 (the Greek guy, and I was one of the luckier ones in as much as it was only my balloon that came into such close contact)
People who tried to take my balloon with their teeth: 1
People who entered into a debate about my balloon and why I should give them it: 1 (the very foolish short guy, who was foolish for i)entering in a debate with me because that is SOMETHING YOU DO NOT DO. Especially when I've been drinking. I can last for days and ii)bringing himself to our attention and Cat's wrath).

I'm sure I've blogged before about the propensity of hat wearing to attract weirdos and towards the end of the night I discovered that this holds true on the worldwide stage, despite everything that numerous fashion-forward women have done for the cause (including Sienna which on its own I'd have thought would be enough). The oddest was surely the man who had a rather protracted conversation with me as to where I bought my hat. I was as bemused as that sentence suggests.

Having finally encountered some Irish men outside the club (who informed us that no one Irish lives in Dublin, which seems to correspond with our experience), we got possibly the cheapest taxi to the airport in the history of the world and attempted to get at least a couple of hours sleep. Given that Gayle and I ended up lying on the floor of Upper Crust until 5 o'clock, I think I'd have settled for a couple of minutes of sleep. But soon the airport was full of people, and McDonald's hash browns seemed to compensate for the lack of sleep. The only thing to ponder before flying back to Manchester was who we could stalk if we had to live in Ireland. When we'd excluded everyone who is Irish-but-lives-elsewhere and Patrick Keilty because he's from Northern Ireland (who I otherwise so would), we were left with Westlife and The Conway Sisters, which wasn't at all appealing. I think, for now at least, I'm going to stay put.

After all that you're probably wondering where the title of this blog comes into play. Well I owe Becky for it (yes, such is DA's impact on my ordinary life that I have conversations with people about what I'm going to call my blogging) and it refers to this:

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You honestly didn't think I'd go all that way without bumping into an Icon, did you?

"He Better Use The Bear Again. I've Bought The Outfit!"

"He Better Use The Bear Again. I've Bought The Outfit!"

[I wrote this on Friday as another catch up blog, but didn't have time to post it as I spent four hours putting together a fiendishly complex lego viking boat. I think it's something I should do more often]

If there had to be a Riccardi gig in the approach to Christmas then there also had to be a Griffin gig, predictably in York because York seems to be the centre of the Universe when it comes to Griffin gigs. That it is also the centre of the universe when it comes to fountains and cocktail drinking makes for something of a happy union. Because if Griffin is wonderously predictable, then it must be said so are we.

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Though we're rather fabulous too.

If my slightly over-develped sense of the ridiculous had meant that I rather loved the thought of going to a 'Summer Spectacular' a week before Christmas - does such an event require bikinis it has to be wondered - it still remained that I was wearing my big winter coat. I'd learnt my lesson from the Whitby Christmas gig last year ("What f**king idiot has a gig in Whitby in December?") when I assumed that turning up after the 'door opening time' would mean that I could get straight into the gig. It didn't. I got very cold and swore a lot. And then developed full blown Whitby Flu over Christmas, which made me grumpy and didn't exactly put me in the festive spirit (unless we're considering the festive spirit to be exemplified by Scrooge). It might have been a different venue this time but I still found myself grumbling in a queue some time after seven thirty. Because standing outside is cold. And I feel that I've done all the standing outside for Griffin that he could ever need (and then some). No, I've shown my commitment (and insanity). Now is the time for warmth.

When we did get into Temple Hall - to the strains of a brass band - it was to a couple of realisations. One: I was over-dressed. Not that this is anything new, I revel in the fact that, to quote a much uttered phrase, I am never knowingly underdressed. It being Christmas I'd thought it wise to wear some sequins, so my Mischa Barton dress purchased pre-JCS in Cheltenham and not yet worn had come out. It also co-ordinated rather nicely with the crutches, which is always something to keep in mind. I'd added jeans to the look, because neither the weather nor the current size of my thighs are exactly conducive to getting my legs out. But it remained. I was overdressed. Two: the stage wasn't very high. Now don't mark me down me down as some sort of stage fetishist, but a low stage and seating means that there's not going to be a lot of dancing during the band set. And - even with the crutches - I wanted to dance. Not bouncy dancing, because that hurts, but more like swing-your-pants dancing.

Eventually Griffin emerged on stage (having somewhat broken the illusion by already having been organising seating) in a paper mache spaceman's outfit and enough smoke to give anyone in a three mile radius an asthma attack. Naturally it took all of three seconds for the smoke machine to set the fire alarm off. And I had to mentally check that I hadn't wandered into a BBC3 sitcom, because, let's all face it, how many gigs have any of us been to where the Fire Alarm has been set off within the first ten seconds? Plus if several episodes of house managing various plays and then four months at the WYP has taught me anything it is that the last thing you want to do is set the fire alarm off when you've got an audience in. Because THEY WILL HAVE TO LEAVE THE BUILDING. And, as a rule of thumb, no one wants the audience to leave, not least the audience themselves. I think it took a minute or so to filter down to the realisation that the only thing calling to us was the evacuation route, and then we were being asked to evacuate. And maybe because I've worked on too many shows in such studenty venues to count and because I've been involved in more health and safety show fun and games than I like to consider, I wasn't the happiest of bunnies. Because I'm pretty exacting on myself and everything I do and I tend to extend that to other people, especially people I inadvertently care about. And had that happened to one of my shows, through such an elementary mistake, I'd have been furious with myself. Plus given that I now judge venue front of house procedure with a passion possibly unrivaled in normal society I also wasn't happy at the fact that had there been a real fire, me on my crutches, having to get down a fire route that wasn't clear, dodging round chairs, would have been in serious danger of frying. I'd like to think that not even my most ardent dissenter would want that. On the plus side, though, the whole thing was dealt with with such good nature, and a very nice security man half lifted me down the steps on the way out, that it - almost - took the edge off of my venom. Just enough for me not to rap Griffin round the legs with one of my crutches when he passed behind me, anyway. Given that Cat and Val took the cue to start their own particular brand of entertainment I was, anyway, more scared by this than the possibility of frying.

Even with the opportunity for one of my favourite rants, I couldn't remain grumpy once we were back in our seats and Griffin was back on stage. After a couple of songs I don't even think that I remembered the fifteen minute detour to the fire point, or at the very least I'd lost the desire to rant. The only thing that popped me out of the acoustic zone of the first half was a slice of a new song, 'Get A Life'. Parts of it, some phrases I loved, a couple of bits I didn't, more for its rather unforgiving undertone than anything else. But I never signed up to saying that I'd love - or even like - everything from Griffin's output, any more than I love everything from even my all time favourite writers. Equally I'm sure that Griffin wouldn't agree with everything that I've to say about the matter. And, regardless, I was humming the bloody thing incessantly the next morning.

By the time that we'd progressed, via the classic 'Last Christmas' (George Fornby style) and an interval complete with brass band, to the band set I was loving the gig. After so long it was a little odd to see Griffin backed by a band that weren't the Riccardi boys (certainly there was a notable down turn in aesthetics) but things seemed fresh again and I certainly couldn't fault them. As for the dancing, predictably, we ended up in the aisle and because, as one of music's great philosophers once said, you can't rock siting down Griffin decided to use us as a test case in front of the stage. And I loved him a little bit more and felt that aching sense of dissapointment that creeps up on me at these type of gigs. Because I want Griffin to rock a crowd. Which inevitably involves more than the occassional nodding of a head. Given that the stage was as low as we'd first noted and Griffin was apparently getting 'glares' from the front row (his words not mine) we went back to the side to shout and dance, only completing our advance towards the end of the set (through a couple of storming versions of the new songs, particularly my favourite back at the Bedford last month, the amusingly titled 'Everything Changes'). When the encore hit, Griffin instructed us to the front, and without warning, then stomped over the tradditional Northern Division 'COME ON!' during 'Bring It On' by coming in too early and smirking. The git.

Afterwards people lingered, I made more than my usually insular attempts at socialisation and finally we were heading back for some drinks before the strange light flashing 'last orders' of one of York's finest - and curiously atmosphere free - bars. A couple of drinks, some singing along to the music, random clapping and a debate about whether we could get away with abusing Griffin's tab (we didn't, not for some moral reason, but just because we couldn't be bothered) followed before we made our way back to Val's for the culmination of the evening - Secret Santa.
In retrospect I think the gig was something of a marker. Of the future rather than the past. There were the new songs, enlivening the set more than I could have hoped. But there were notable absenses. Wherever You Will Go, our song, wasn't there and I rather missed Semi Charmed Life. But the set seemed to fit better and who am I to harp back to something of the past when I want Griffin to go forward. But I missed WYWG, because I'm me, with all the contradictions and flaws that that entails. And I also missed people. I ticked off those who weren't there who meant something to me either because of who they were or because of the journey they'd been part of, the obvious ones and the not so obvious ones. Griffin said on local radio just before the gig that he can pretty much expect 200 or so fans at whatever he does. I've said as much myself. But as I searched for those who'd miss WYWG as much as I did, more often than not they were not there. I suspect that's the nature of being a fan.

But to the future, more gigs, new songs, a new album (everything crossed) and much less use of the smoke machine. And maybe the occassional WYWG. Just to make a soppy Griffinette or two happy.