Cherry Hinton at War: brilliant!

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This is fantastic. Apparently the greatest war of prehistory, the Trojan War, didn’t take place in Turkey, but in Cherry Hinton. No, really. According to Where Troy Once Stood, it all happened on the hills over by the golf club (it must have spoiled the greens a bit). Then apparently, the survivors drifted away and ended up in Turkey, and the memory of their original home (although not the War) was lost over time. When the Greeks who documented the events came along, they just assumed it all happened locally. Brilliant.

The Man from the Council he say …no.

Well it looked pretty substantial to me, but the building inspector measured the trench for our foundations, whistled through his teeth slightly, looked at the nearby growth and said: “Oh dear no, those are cherry trees. You’ll need to dig 1.4m deep, not 1.2m”. The builders were most polite (“You have to treat him like God, because, basically, he is”) and promised to get it done straight away. Well, straight away in builders’ terms, which is tomorrow. Then we can get the cement in, so long as The Man doesn’t find anything else wrong. One week into the build and we’re already half a week late. It’s a whole new world for me.

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We’re having the house extended.

I knew it was asking for trouble: I said if I could have my new big telly, then Alex could have his trip to Disneyland and Mrs R could have something nice too. Oops. She opted for the new kitchen. And not just the new kitchen; the new extended kitchen.

So here’s the house, before it all kicked off. Nice bog-standard Bryant “Victoria” design, although three years ago we knocked right through downstairs and built into the garage too. It didn’t fall down. Or at least it hasn’t yet.
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Here’s the floor plan (click to enlarge):

And here come Cambridge’s finest builders, John Fox-Teece and family, to build an extension, knock through to it, and make it all ready for a kitchen which is double the size of the one before. And all this before Christmas. We hope. Watch this space.
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Back of house, before and after first week of digging

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And then there was a hole. Now we wait for the building inspector.

Kitchen Extension series: Part 1
Kitchen Extension series: Part 2
Kitchen Extension series: Part 3
Kitchen Extension series: Part 4
Kitchen Extension series: Part 5
Kitchen Extension series: Part 6
Kitchen Extension series: Part 7

Anderson and Wakeman: an odd couple

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The eBay effect on ticket prices is well established (the artists may as well charge double what they used to, because if they sell the tickets more affordably, scumbags will hoover them up and sell them on eBay), so thanks to that, we have to pay over thirty quid (face value) now to see a low-key, every-expense-spared stage show at a provincial theatre by artists who are trading on former glories, however amicably. It’s ridiculous, but hey, we paid, so don’t blame the artists. That said, the Cambridge Corn Exchange was disappointingly only two-thirds full for prog rock legends Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman, even if they were performing with just acoustic guitar, piano and a couple of banners draped from the ceiling. Still, the two guys managed to create a fairly intimate and relaxed atmosphere, and it was a pleasant, if hardly life-changing, evening. During an hour or so either side of an interval (necessitated by prostate demands at their age of course, quipped Rick), they played a mixture of some new songs they’ve written, pared-down Yes “classics”, and some slightly indulgent but (in Rick’s case) entertaining solo stuff.

Maybe Anderson and Wakeman once had more in common, but now they appear to be from different planets. Nowadays, Rick is the amusing chap who appears on TV and radio regularly, and whilst his piano playing is beautiful, he appeared to be trying to entertain the audience as much with his humour, and may have succeeded. Meanwhile, Jon seems like a mad old uncle, forgetting the lyrics, completely missing the meaning of Rick’s asides, and you suspect that in life as much as in art, he now just lets everything float over his head. The lyrics of Anderson’s recent material are sub-sixth-form poetry, and no impeccable piano accompaniment can redeem them, but the old stuff was, of course, hard to do badly. That said, it was obvious which of the Yes songs they’d really put the effort in to rearrange for piano, acoustic guitar and voice – Awaken was worth the price of admission for me – because when they just ran through a piece, it showed. And they needed some quality control: a cod-reggae version of Time and a Word might have sounded like it was worth a try, but should probably have been filed under “er, perhaps not”. I wouldn’t class this gig as a bad one, but it’s really just a curiosity for the Yes fans.

You have reached the end of iTunes.

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I have a “smart playlist” in iTunes which only includes tracks I’ve never played before. So the playlist slowly gets smaller (do you see what I did here?). Today it stopped. Looks like I’ve reached the end. Twenty days’ worth of music. Now I’ve had to re-set it to “tracks I’ve only played once before”. The last track, by the way, was Cortez The Killer by Neil Young.

While we’re on the subject of iTunes, you’re probably aware of the old LTBSD (Length of Time Before Steely Dan) Factor in iTunes’ shuffle mode. Anyway, in earnest discussion with the good Dr Bragg about this the other day, he mentioned that there is a flaw in this well-known phenomenon, which is that for him, it’s the LTBB (Length of Time Before Bowie) Factor. And he has a point, as I realised when I looked at last week’s chart here.

Except as we discussed this, in the space of just 10 minutes, iTunes promptly played Aja and King of the World by – you guessed it – Steely Dan. So it is indeed a conspiracy by Apple’s software engineers to get the world listening to the music of the band which my older brother Tony (who hated them) christened “Steeleye Spam” as long ago as 1981. And that’s final.

Spamalot London Review*

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Whatever Eric Idle did with this show, he was going to be in for some easy criticism: too many lifts from the Python catalogue, too few, shouldn’t have done it at all, etc. Well, all I can say is, Spamalot was one of the most memorably funny evenings out I’ve had for years. I think they got it just right: not a straight run-through of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but not an incessant stream of nudge-nudge wink-wink references to other Python material either, just a bunch of in-yer-face addons to keep everyone happy (Finland, Bright Side of Life, etc).

And let’s face it, whilst I can understand the show having been a hit on Broadway, the West End in London is its real home. Only two of the cast have transferred, from what I’ve read: the magnificent Tim Curry as King Arthur, and Chris Sieber as Sir Dennis Galahad. But the star of the show is – unquestionably – the statuesque Hannah Waddingham as The Lady of the Lake. Apparently she’s only two inches taller than Tim Curry (hmmm…), but she dominated the stage just as the writer and director presumably intended. Fabulous.

Is it worth going? If you’re even a minor Monty Python fan, no question: it’d have been a great night out for you even if the production values hadn’t been so high, but given the full West End treatment, you’ll spend the evening thinking this is something you never thought you’d see. There were a few people around me who clearly didn’t know any Python past Always Look on the Bright Side of Life though, and they seemed to be having just as good a time, thanks to the incessant and hilarious parodies of other musicals, slapstick which anyone would love, and terrific singing and choreography. It’s a Big West End Production in every respect, and a marvellous night out. I’d also thoroughly recommend the CD of the original Broadway show.

* Yes, I know it’s not the most exciting title for a post. But for some reason, at the time of writing, a web search on this fairly basic phrase (“Spamalot London Review”) produced not a single decent hit, so I thought I’d use it and get the traffic. That’s all.