Sunday, 30 September 2007
Yesterday I was helping Alan and Peter with fitting out our brand new shed. Ottershaw Players have had their Hut for many years now. For a long time it was the primary rehearsal venue, as well as a workshop and storeroom.
But recently it's been getting more and more crowded with scenery, props and other junk. So we decided to buy a big new shed in which to store much of the stuff that doesn't get used too often.
This evening I went to see the dress rehearsal of Charity Begins... which is the show we are entering for this year's Woking Drama Festival. The actual performances start this coming Tuesday and Ottershaw are first on. From tonight's rehearsal I think we're getting the Festival off to a good start, but I'll post full reviews of all the festival shows here as the days go by.
Later on in the evening I went along to the theatre to watch the Festival entrants' stage-times. Each group gets 35 minutes in which to make sure their set works in the theatre and to set-up lights, sound and everything else they will need for their performance. It's a hectic and stressful time for the groups, especially their directors and tech crews. Ottershaw have their stage-time on Monday evening, so for half-an-hour or so I will switch from being a WDA person to an Ottershaw Players crew member.
Friday, 28 September 2007
This is the script and poster for a pantomime of Sleeping Beauty which we put on at college many, many years ago. Around 1987 or '88, I would guess.
It was written by Jon, Ian, Phil and me. I think Marcus may have had a hand in it too.
Phil directed it. For a few weeks. Then he went off in a huff about something and it got directed as a joint effort. I think. Or was that Snow White and the Seven Persons of Restricted Growth? It was a very long time ago.
But it was the most original thing I've ever taken part in and we all loved it for a long time afterwards.
Looking back now, reading the script, it's very self-indulgent and parochial!
Thursday, 27 September 2007
On the other hand, I’ll probably have a good laugh and a beer or two, so that’ll be fun.
One thing that’s been occupying my thoughts recently is the fact that I have no decent ideas for an arresting visual image to use for advertising Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime. There’s a synopsis over at the play’s blog – if anyone has any great ideas for something that would make an eye-catching poster, I’d be grateful for the input. Oh, and if your design is used, you will win a pair of tickets to see the play!
Wednesday, 26 September 2007
I think she's very brave. Sure it's a great motivator, knowing that you will be sharing your successes and failures with the world (or the little of the world which reads your blog!), but I think if I was to try it I'd have more failures than successes and it would turn into a record of my terrible self-control and greed.
But I'm sure that Jo's will be a far more positive experience! Yes, it will. Indeed it will.
I know that I need to lose a couple of stone (28lbs). I'm slimmer than I was about 4 or 5 years ago, when I think I hit a peak of around 17 stone, mostly due to eating junk and no exercise.
A couple of years ago, I was down to around 14 st 10 lb, which was heading in the right direction. Eating 'proper' food and getting out on my bike 3 or 4 times a week worked wonders. But for some reason it ground to a halt...
I think it was doing the London 2 Brighton bike ride. After that, I was so knackered that I didn't get on my bike for months and the healthy eating took a bit of a back seat, so the weight's been creeping up again.
Today I went to a seminar for work at Ascot race-course. The path from the station to the course has a steep uphill section at one point. I'm ashamed to say I was out of breath and feeling unfit very quickly.
Time to get on the bike again. Only now I'm training to get my weight down and not just aiming for a charity ride...
Monday, 24 September 2007
We finished painting the walls of the living room on Sunday, so I thought I would make a start on doing the skirting and fireplace which badly need touching-up, but the exploits of Mr Tony Soprano and a three-part BBC4 documentary about motorways were far more tempting.
So now there's a saggy hole worn into the couch!
I did spend some time talking to a nice advertising man, finalising the script for our radio ad for the Woking Drama Festival. Listen to Radio Jackie if you live in North Surrey or SW London to hear the ads; and do buy tickets to come and see the festival!
Sunday, 23 September 2007
When I was a nipper this was one of Mum's favourite albums so I heard it a lot without really appreciating it. Then when I hit my teenage years, when you'd think I'd be rejecting the sort of music that my parents liked, I rediscovered this album and came to wear it out with repeated plays.
For me Harry Nilsson has one of the most perfect male singing voices. There's a purity and power there which are reminiscent of Karen Carpenter - another artist who has never been fashionable, but deserves huge credit for the sheer quality of her voice.
The track-list below is from the original album. The modern CD edition has some excellent extra tracks, mostly demo versions which show how the songs came to be. Great to hear, but they're not part of the classic album.
Gotta Get Up (Nilsson)
A staccato piano leads into a rollicking song complete with horns and accordion. Harry sings a simple song about being late for a meeting because of a night spent on the tiles. Probably not an uncommon occurrence in his life - he spent most of his time partying with John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Keith Moon and the other rock and roll tearaways of the 1970s.
Driving Along (Nilsson)
This one does show its age a bit. A flower-power driving song.
Early In The Morning (Hickman/Jordan/Bartley)
A superb blues. Just Harry's fantastic voice which he accompanies with a deceptively simple blues riff on an organ.
The Moonbeam Song (Nilsson)
Sleepy song with multi-layered Nilsson backing vocals. Simply gorgeous. And a lovely bass part played by the bass-player's bass-player, Herbie Flowers.
Here Harry backs himself on piano on a rocking number which slowly gathers pace to finish side one (of the vinyl album!) with a blast of Memphis horns and early Chris Spedding guitar.
Without You (Ham/Evans)
A one-chord (C7, I think), calypso-style novelty song which is nevertheless catchy and unforgettable. You'll hear this in Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs and it was covered by the Muppets. On Harry's BBC TV special in the early 1970s he (and his musicians) performed this dressed as gorillas...
Let The Good Times Roll (Lee)
The piano intro recalls Down from earlier on, but this is a barrel-house singalong. Again, the Nilsson BBC show is worth seeing for the version of this song, performed by multiple clones of Harry and featuring a segue from Cathy's Clown and Walk Right Back. Brilliant! Fantastic! The man was a genius.
Jump Into The Fire (Nilsson)
Kicking off with funky Herbie Flowers bass riff and with guitar backing from John Uribe, Chris Spedding and Beatles alumnus Klaus Voorman, this is a psychedelic wig-out which just begs to be turned up to 11, especially during the Jim Gordon drum solo. Sounds like it should be the last track on the album, but no, that's left for...
I'll Never Leave You (Nilsson)
The most beautiful, yet complex song in the collection. A gorgeous song about Harry missing his lover, this is the showcase for his voice which Without You misses out on. Undercut by strings which are, in turn, shimmering and threatening and with a bizarre key change around 3 minutes which shouldn't work, but somehow does.
And that's the end. Now it's time to flip the record back over and star again from the beginning...
Produced by Richard Perry
Recorded at Trident Studios, London. June 1971.
Friday, 21 September 2007
Two entries this week.
First off is a newspaper ad I designed for the forthcoming Woking Drama Festival (2nd - 13th October):
Secondly a poster I designed for Ottershaw Players' production of Treasure Island which is coming up at the end of November:
Both of these are printed on paper! Watch out for them if you're in NW Surrey next week...
Thursday, 20 September 2007
Of course, only this summer a gap of 2 days on this blog would have been a miniscule hiatus. My loyal readers were used to having to wait weeks at a time for an update, but since the end of July I’ve posted nearly every day, with the exception of 1 week in August when I was away. Which is allowed!
The tricky thing is finding things to talk about. The only theme or thread running through this blog is whatever I get up to in my life. And if 2 or 3 days go past without much happening, then this online diary will look like a rather sad, old-fashioned sort of diary:
“Got up. Went to work. It was boring. Got home. Had tea. Watched TV. And so to bed.”
Let’s face it. You’d get bored very quickly indeed.
Actually I have done a few more exciting things the past couple of days. I’ve written the October edition of the Ottershaw Players newsletter and I’ve been arranging for press and newspaper advertising for the Woking Drama Festival.
[OK, so I stretched the meaning of “exciting” there, just a tad.]
Trouble is, I spend so much of my free time doing other stuff at my PC that I find it hard to concentrate on thinking up a blog post. So maybe I should do what I did today; think of a subject and write it up in an email which then gets sent home for me to upload to Blogger later. So maybe that’s what I will do for now. If work are going to block my blogger access, I’ll just get my revenge in other, even more petty ways, by pretending to work when I’m actually writing a blog post about not working.
Good lord, I can feel my whole existence disappearing up its own fundament at the sheer self-regarding stupidity of the whole affair!
Monday, 17 September 2007
I’m not scared of flying at all. It really doesn’t bother me in the slightest. However, there is no way that you would get me on a plane operated by a company called “One-Two-Go”.
Most airlines have reams of strict safety procedures and checks to go through before they take-off. And when you take off, you queue up and wait your turn with all the other planes. So flying with a company whose name implies that they just want to get you into the sky as quickly as possible would unnerve me to the point of wearing adult nappies.
They might as well have called themselves “Cross-your-fingers-and-hope-for-the-best Airlines”.
Frankly, from now on I will only be flying with “Five-Hundred-point-checklist-look-both-ways-several-times-we-don’t-fly-at-night-or-in-bad-weather Airlines”.
Sunday, 16 September 2007
Anyway, the weather wasn't bad, a bit cloudy with sunny intervals, perfect weather for a run, but not so good if you're a spectator who didn't bring a sweater or jacket!
MLYW finished in around 52:45 - a personal best - and finished as the 47th lady runner (I think!). Not bad in a field of nearly 700 runners in total!
It was a great effort and I'm very proud of her. It's not too late to sponsor her yourself if you haven't already. Just go to her page at http://www.10ksponsorme.org/kathleenmoore
Well, that's enough about her for now. Tomorrow it'll be me, me, me again!
Saturday, 15 September 2007
Friday, 14 September 2007
1886: Drink Coca-Cola
This is how advertising should be. "Smoke tabs; Eat chips; Drink beer". They just tell you what to do. People were easily led in those days.
1900: For headache and exhaustion, drink Coca-Cola
I'd rather not be headachey and tired, thanks very much.
1904: Coca-Cola is a delightful, palatable, healthful beverage
Not so much an advertising slogan as a hastily prepared defence against FDA charges.
1905: Drink a bottle of carbonated Coca-Cola
Oh, it's all gone wrong here. They've remembered the direct simplicity of the first slogan, but then they've overcomplicated it. No rhythm; it's not snappy. And if you have the word "carbonated" in your strap-line you've gone seriously wrong.
1905: The favorite drink for ladies when thirsty, weary, and despondent
This is one of my favourites. Yes, it cures thirstiness, of course. It's a drink, isn't it?! I think most drinks would cure thirstiness, except perhaps brine. Weariness - well, it cures that too due to its fizzy sparkle, sugar, cocaine and other ingerdients. But despondency? And it's despondent women who are targeted in particular.
1908: Sparkling - harmless as water, and crisp as frost
1908: The satisfactory beverage
Oh dear. The advertising copywriter was having a bad day when he came up with this one. His boss must have been livid. He's been asked to come up with a line to sell Coca-Cola to potential purchasers. What could he have come up with? "The fantastic beverage"? "The stupendous beverage". "The superb beverage". But no. "Satisfactory". Bllimey - why didn't he just say "mundane", "ordinary" or "tolerable" instead - it would amount to the same thing.
1909: Whenever you see an arrow think of Coca-Cola
Errr... What? I'm not quite sure if this is aimed at Native Americans or just archers in general. Either way, it would be most off-putting when drawing back the bowstring.
1914: Nicknames encourage substitutions
Now this is just getting silly.
1925: Stop at the red sign and refresh yourself
A bit impractical this one. It could lead to people trying to buy drinks from their local post office or fire station.
1934: Ice-cold Coca-Cola is everywhere else - it ought to be in your family refrigerator
Woah! The fridge door is open and all the Coca-Cola has escaped. Quickly - round it up and get it back in there...
1934: When it's hard to get started, Start with a Coca-Cola
OK let's analyze this. It's hard to get started. So start with a Coca-Cola. But it's hard to get started, so how do you drink the Coke? Is this one of those Zen riddles designed to make you think about how the world works?
1942: Wherever you are, whatever you do, wherever you may be, when you think refreshment, think ice-cold Coca-Cola
Too long. You wouldn't remember it all. It's the total opposite of 'snappy'. And it reminds me of that song, 'Together'.
1960: Relax with Coke 1960: Revive with Coke
So in 1960 they really couldn't decide if Coke was relaxing or stimulating. Apparently both at the same time. Which really means that it mus be neither and any effect it has on you must simply be psychosomatic and influenced by advertising.
1966: Coke...after Coke...after Coke
No. Stop. No more Coke. What is this? Some sort of torture. I'm going to burst!
1971: I'd like to buy the world a Coke
The world. One coke. 4 billion people (or however many it was 36 years ago). Well, that's very cheap of you. Unless it's a very, very big bottle.
1976: Coke adds life
Is it an urban myth that this slogan was translated into Mandarin for use in China, but it came out as "Coke brings your relatives back from the dead"? I'm sure I read it at the time, so it must be true.
Thursday, 13 September 2007
It said: Cocaine users 'getting younger'.
That's miraculous! Now I'm the wrong side of forty I am getting more interested in products which can make me look more youthful. If it can make you younger, maybe we should all give cocaine a try? After all, the Victorians used it ("Can't beat the feeling"!) and they invented the telephone, light bulbs and chocolate Easter eggs.
Cocaine costs from £30 - £50 per gram (according to the BBC - my dealer's cheaper than that, but then, I'm not in TV!) which is cheaper than Botox at about £200 per shot (according to MLYW, and she should know).
Then again, a tube of Clarins Multi Active Night Cream Prevention Plus is only £37 for 50g, which is a lot cheaper, but much harder to snort up through a £50 note...
Wednesday, 12 September 2007
If you're in the Woking, Surrey area between 2nd and 13th October, you could do a whole lot worse than come along to one or more nights of the Woking Drama Festival. Plenty of plays, of all types (an Alan Bennett, two Pinters, a Shakespeare) performed by local amateur drama companies with a track record for good one-act plays.
And as the festival is a competition, each night you get to hear the adjudicator give his opinon on what was good (and not-so-good) about each play.
More details about the festival programme, and everything else at www.wokingdramafestival.org.uk.
The best night is undoubtedly the final Saturday. The judge recalls 3 plays from the 27 in competition to perform again and the standard of the recalls is usually tip-top and excellent. Last year's winner went on to win the National Drama Festival.
I usually make it along to as many nights as I can, but this year, as I have suddenly found myself "in charge" of publicity for the event I feel that I have a responsibility to be there for the whole thing.
And the pressure is on, because Ottershaw Players are performing first, on the first night, and I have to be backstage to help! It's going to be a bumpy ride...
Tuesday, 11 September 2007
Monday, 10 September 2007
Well, I have to come clean. They're a bit of a fraud. Not a total fraud. Just a little bit of one.
In theory, I am reading those books. Trouble is, I started some time ago ("Calamity Physics" in August; "Book of Dave" back at Easter!). I was enjoying them OK. And they both seem like entertaining books which I ought to try to finish.
But, like lots of you out there, I do tend to read 3 or 4 books at once. So sometimes it's easier to concentrate on pulpy crime fiction, or Stephen King's latest, or a play (or ten), rather than putting in the effort to finish the more erudite novels.
[Oh, no, that's wrong. I've just implied that Mr King isn't erudite. That's not true. I do think that he is one of the best writers that ever lived. And I really hate the snobbery from "literary circles" which denigrate his work because it happens to be popular. No - he was just in the list because his books are easier to read than those on my "Currently Reading" list.]
Where was I?
Oh, yes. So, those books there. Over THERE! Those are reserved for my long-term reading projects, as I tend to polish off the intervening ones in a day or two. Three at the most. And it hardly seems worth amending the blog template for that, does it?
Sunday, 9 September 2007
56 miles around Hampshire? More like 58-60 miles!
I shall be walking like John Wayne for the next week...
EDIT: Actually, I only walked like John Wayne for a day; but I think I'll be sitting like King Edward II for some time to come...
Saturday, 8 September 2007
High Land, Hard Rain by Aztec Camera (1983)
I can remember the exact circumstances of buying the original vinyl LP as if it were yesterday, rather than 24 years ago. I'd heard Oblivious on the radio and fallen in love with it, so one lunchtime I wandered up Egham High Street, away from Strodes College (where I was studying for my 'A' levels) and went into Woolworths looking for the single. I didn't find it, but I did manage to come away with the album.
Aztec Camera: what a gloriously silly name, in that innocently pretentious way that the post-punk bands of the era had. But the music was anything but pretentious. It was glorious, jangly, full of life and optimism: even the sad songs. The guy who wrote these must have lived long and hard. But in fact Roddy Frame was just 19 when this was released and some of his songs were written a couple of years previously.
At the time I didn't read the music press, so I had no knowledge of Orange Juice or Joseph K or any of those other bands from the vibrant Scottish scene of the time. To be honest, I still haven't! And I'm sure if I had heard of them, I'd have felt some sort of obligation to prefer the more political bands, but it was Roddy's simple songs about love, loss, hope and happiness which touched something in me which hasn't let go in all this time.
It only hit me recently while listening to all the tracks properly, for the first time in about 10 years, that High Land, Hard Rain could be a concept album; it seems to me that the songs chart a single relationship over a period of months. Maybe I'm wrong, but let's have a listen to the tracks and see what we make of them.
This is the "she doesn't know I exist" song. I'm sure you've all been there - I know I have. A light, summery pop song about unrequited love. Some lovely female backing vocals and a cracking acoustic guitar solo. How does a 17 year old write something so fabulous?
The Boy Wonders
The couple finally meet and a gift is enough to win the heart of the girl. A tingly guitar riff over soft apache drums leads into a simple 2-chord verse that springs into life at the chorus. An introduction here to some of Frame's great lyrics: "We threw our hands up high, we nearly touched the sky. We clicked our heels and spat and swore we'd never let it die".
Walk Out To Winter
A great jazzy song about a maturing relationship. The young affair has lasted the summer and now they know it's serious. This song was the biggest hit from the album and deservedly so, though this is one of the songs on which the production sounds like it may have dated, especially on the electronic drum sounds. But it's saved by another great guitar solo.
The Bugle Sounds Again
My favourite song on the album and probably a contender for one of my favourite songs ever. I haven't got the faintest idea what it's about, but it's got one of the cleverest lyrics you will hear. Somehow it expresses something about an unbreakable relationship and it's achingly beautiful for that. Again, an old-fashioned fetless bass sound nearly lets it down, but I could forgive this song anything.
We Could Send Letters
My second favourite song on the album. Again, that somewhat naff-sounding fetless bass, which hasn't aged well, but it's another arrangement which saves the song. A slow guitar-based start and a melancholy atmosphere. The song's about a relationship which seems to be on the verge of collapsing due to an enforced separation, but it builds into a triumphant climax and a feeling of hope that the relationship can be saved.
Pillar To Post
An up-tempo happy-sounding pop number which belies the lyric, which seems to be telling of the imminent break-up of the relationship. A triumph of hope over reality.
Starting off as a slow ballad and picks up pace as it goes along. The 2nd verse becomes jazzy; rhythm guitar and bass-driven before a Hammond organ drives it relentlessly to a frenetic finish. A song that tells of how he has had to let the love of his life go.
Lost Outside The Tunnel
A song about loneliness. An atmospheric mourning for what has been and what could have been. A song that everyone can relate to. Awash with reverb and a spooky synth sound in the background. This is a late-night bedsit sort of song.
Back On Board
A beautiful song, led by a clean electric guitar and Hammond organ. The boy and his girl are back together. Words said have been forgiven. And in the Scottish winter there is a clean start to the relationship and a determination to make things work this time around. The final chorus with the soulful female backing vocals is definitely a highlight of this album.
Down The Dip
This is where the original album finishes. The CD release includes 3 extra tracks, from the Oblivious EP, but Down The Dip is the pefect ending to this record. So I'm going to stop here. A short song, just Roddy and his acoustic guitar looking forward to whatever it is that will happen from this point on. Riding the rollercoaster of relationships, not knowing what is around the corner, but hanging on and enoying the ride.
And that's it. Of all the albums I own (which is more than a few!) I think this is one that is irreplaceable to me. Thanks, Roddy, for the years of enjoyment.
All songs written and arranged by Roddy Frame.
Vocals, guitar, harmonica - Roddy Frame.
Bass - Campbell Owens.
Organ, piano - Bernie Clarke.
Dums, percussion - Dave Ruffy.
Produced by John Brand and Bernie Clarke.
Engineered by John Brand.
Friday, 7 September 2007
Thursday, 6 September 2007
Wednesday, 5 September 2007
Ottershaw Players has chosen a play for our May 2008 slot in the Rhoda McGaw Theatre, Woking, which I am going to direct.
The play is Lord Arthur Savile's Crime. I've started a blog for the production.
Choosing the play turned out to be a little difficult. I read the play recently and liked it a lot, but thought it might be too much of a light comedy (though that's not a genre I've tried before, so why not?!). I looked around for various alternate suggestions, including asking all my lovely NODA colleagues for their ideas.
Stoppard's On The Razzle cropped up as a choice from various places. I read the play and liked it a lot, though it will be more difficult to cast from our current membership. Ultimately, though, I just didn't connect with On The Razzle. It's a shame, as I'm sure it is a very funny play. But as an amateur director, one really has to feel a connection with a play to put it on.
I'm also determined to confound the expectations of those people who say that Lord Arthur is a slight piece of work. It's actually quite a dark comedy and I'll be looking for opportunities to raise our production above something which might be produced by "the pantomime crowd", as one acquaintance very neatly put it!
Tuesday, 4 September 2007
But now it's been blocked, I'm suddenly paranoid. Was I the reason that it's been blocked? Is it a local thing, inn our office only? Has someone noticed excessive traffic from my PC and blocked it, or is it a company-wide issue and the rule has been implemented world-wide?
In which case, I'm now even more paranoid! Did some techie over in Florida notice traffic from my PC and decide to block this non-work site? Or are there loads of bloggers in my company, using the same site? If so, who are they? And are they sitting at home posting paranoid ravings too?
It's also a bit of a pain. Blogspot addresses haven't been blocked completely. I can still read peoples' posts but I can't see their pictures and I am unable to add comments, unless they are hosted outside Blogger. So, when I read everyone's blog at my morning coffee break, I can no longer comment on them, unless I remember to log in at home later, bypassing Bloglines (which is my blog reader) and re-read and comment again.
Argh! The whole infrastructure of my blogging life is falling apart!
I'm even more worried that now I am restricted to blogging from home I may fall out of the habit of posting every day - a habit which I have managed to maintain fairly diligently for the past month or so.
I've got some ideas for posts which I can prepare in advance. Maybe this is a wake-up call to tell me to change the way in which I blog...
Or maybe I just need a job where I can surf the web as much as I like?
Monday, 3 September 2007
It's a fantastic day out - or 3 days if you've got money to burn. Lord March (son of the owner of most of West Sussex) invites loads of motor racing celebs and millions of pounds worth of classic motor racing cars and bikes down to his back garden. Luckily, he has one of the UK's fastest circuits near the potting shed.
Thousands of people turn up dressed in fashions of the era (1948 to 1966) to watch qualifying sessions and races for vehicles which reaced between those years. It's great fun to watch, especially the production saloon car race, which never fails to provide some spectacle. This year's was special as a MkII Jag lost its engine and most of its oil on the entry to the first bend of Lavant corner, where we had grandstand tickets. At least 6 cars pirhouetted across the track, each one to bigger cheers than the one before. Those who ended up knee-deep in gravel (like the vast, fast, but lumbering Ford Galaxies) received cheery rounds of applause, while the skillful (well, lucky) drivers who managed to stay on the track were cheered as if they had just won the F1 championship in a milk float.
Next year I really must make the effort to go along in costume. Any suggestions for something to wear?