Rehoming

Apr. 10th, 2012 11:33 pm
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I have been living in my new house for about a year now. The changes it has wrought in my life are fairly astonishing.

Having a living room which doubles as a rehearsal venue means that I'm meeting all sorts of artists. Not that I have to be super-close friends with everyone who uses the space, but it's always cool when that happens spontaneously.

My friend [livejournal.com profile] mothninja's show The White House was a particular boon; the director and the AD have both since used my place to rehearse other shows, which has been good. Some of the alumni from those are coming over on Friday for a Shakespeare reading-and-working session. That play also introduced me to a circus artist whose aerial hoop class I joined, which has been an enormously fun skill to acquire. And then she moved to LA and left a bunch of her stuff with me, which means I now have an aerials rig in my living room. Hell yeah.

All sorts of people have been using the space, but there's a core of artists now who come by regularly enough that it feels a bit like having a family. To a long-term bachelor like me, that's a fairly mindblowing concept. Obviously these things work best when one doesn't get emotionally overinvested, but I am grateful for and happy with the friends I've made. To say nothing of the dividends of the free-rehearsal-space-for-free-catsitting exchange.
CAT UPDATE within )
So... a family. At least for now. The new house sort of attracted the life that goes with it, and that life turns out to be pretty damn awesome. Obviously I could still wish for more work, but at least the downtime's not being wasted.

Lyrics

Oct. 26th, 2011 11:47 am
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I went to see The Passenger at ENO the other night and left feeling flayed. It's a good new opera, but horribly depressing. ENO seems to be on a Nazis Everywhere kick at the moment.

In other news, I was on a bus today with a posse of schoolgirls who were (predictably) playing music out loud on their tinny phone speakers. In these cases, I fight down my own swiftly-redlining annoyance by watching everyone else's blood pressure skyrocket. Oh, and it was rush hour. Joyful.
Cut for swearwords and improper use of adjectives )
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On Tuesday night, when I was waiting to see whether the riots would hit my neighbourhood, I exercised my guest-blogger privileges at mightygodking to write a little more about what was happening, tailored for Chris's mostly-non-UK audience.

I've tried to avoid the two pitfalls of blogging in a crisis situation:

1) Making it all about me me meeeeeeee

2) Instantly morphing into an all-knowing expert on crowd psychology, social politics, economics, etc etc etc.

I hope I've succeeded in avoiding both.

Yesterday, a police van suddenly pulled up right across from my house-- but it turned out they were only getting a kebab.

Right now, as I type, there's a copter hovering directly overhead. They've been there for about 10 minutes. Are they lowering someone on a string towards the kebab shop? If so, I envy them this technology.
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I am only an adopted Londoner, and everything that needs to be said and written about the current situation has been, or will be, done by wiser heads than mine. So what I'll talk about are the past and the future.

My hometown, Washington DC, still bears visible scars from a riot that happened in 1968, four years before I was born, on the news of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. Five days, thirteen deaths, injuries in the thousands. I read back through some of the old news stories last night.

The London riots have been larger in numbers than the King riots, not so well armed, and more focused on looting than on pure violence. The racial element is less relevant-- news reports have been describing a fairly mixed crowd. It's a socioeonomic action, not a political one. The long-term results, however, may well be similar.
More thoughts below )
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Whenever I get one of those red we-tried-to-deliver-a-lovely-parcel-but-you-were-out notices, I feel a certain joy alongside the usual annoyance: it means I get to go visit the tank.

The first time I went to pick up a parcel at the depot, I did a double-take: there, in a garden at the junction of the Old Kent Road and Mandela Way, stood a little tank! It was colourfully painted by graffiti artists, standing in a little back-garden overgrown with nettles and morning-glory vines.

It was certainly a surprising thing to see, but my double-take was due in part to the fact that I'd seen this tank before. In the summer of 1995 I was lucky enough to direct Oscar Wilde's Salomé at Queen Mary and Westfield College. I'd been standing around outside the theatre with [livejournal.com profile] mothninja and some friends when we heard an almighty racket in the road; our heads turned to see a little tank roll by, painted bright pink. Afterwards there was one of those "You saw that too, right?" moments. Thus, finding the tank again on Mandela Way was something of a resolution to an old, old question. I learn from the Evening Standard that 1995 was the year the tank was purchased by its current owner.

Today I did some searching, and it turns out that the tank has its own Wikipedia page! It's a Soviet T-34-85, of which a huge number were produced; it saw service in the present Czech Republic. It was used in the filming of Ian McKellen's Richard III-- apparently the T-34 was a popular tank with filmmakers-- and now it defends its little garden on Mandela Way.

So that's one more thing to love about my new neighbourhood! I love you, tiny tank.
Photos (not by me) )
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- Watching my friend Pete strut his stuff as an operatic dog in The Doctor's Tale at the Linbury,

- A spectacularly marvellous weekend with [livejournal.com profile] woodlandwildman, who has a way of enlivening my home whenever he's about.

- Time spent with [livejournal.com profile] lostinavebury and other fine people;

- Saturday night's White Mischief extravaganza, at which the Wildman was doing Victorian photography, Professor Maelstromme was selling shiny objects and the worthless love-slaves of Fetishman Comics mounted a fine display;

- The Dead Victorians, back from hiatus and sounding mighty fine. Likewise Professor Elemental, tip-top emcee and genuinely good soul.

- Iolanthe at Wilton's Music Hall with a splendidly talented all-male cast! I did enough G&S at university to become thorougly bored with it, and this is one of those rare productions that actually make it fun again. Do see it while it's on.
pallas_athena: (Default)
Cool random things noticed recently:

A construction worker singing the High Noon theme on the job.

A guy next to me on the Tube reading a trade paperback of Straczynski's run on Thor. Before I got off, I broke the customary Tube silence and told him I liked that run too (though Simonson's really my favourite.) As I stepped off the train I noticed him smiling to himself.

Last night on my way to a concert, the lower deck of the bus was empty, so I started quietly doing a bit of warming up. Since I was about to sing French arias, I warmed up with a simple French song, Belle qui tiens ma vie. After I'd finished, the bus driver called out "You sing beautifully!" "Thanks!" I said, after a surprised pause.

After the concert, I got on the bus back to the station, and it was the same driver. He said "Oh, it's you! With the voice!" When we got to my stop, I gave him the rest of the chocolate eggs I'd brought to share backstage.

I don't know why I'm so ridiculously grateful when someone catches me singing in public and doesn't mock me. London is an abrasive city, and I think acts of kindness are more to be celebrated here than elsewhere.

Oh, and: the Book Meme (a day late) )

Words

Nov. 19th, 2010 09:43 pm
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Today was a day of interesting conversations with random people.

It started out with a couple of non-random meetings which went well, including getting some excellent language coaching from a Welsh friend. It's a lovely feeling when an entirely new language starts to make sense of a sort. I feel rather elated by it. The key to it, so far, seems to be that Welsh has a whole different alphabet which just happens to use English letters. Once you've learnt the alphabet the pronunciations seem to be mostly phonetic, except the letter Y, which is just weird.

In the evening I went to Borough Market, where I ended up chatting to the amiable proprietor of East Teas. His stall is always an oasis of calm, even when Borough is heaving. He let me taste some Chinese tea which had been aged since the 1970s! That's pretty old. They dry the leaves, then dampen them, then make them into a sort of round brick called a bing and leave them with a weight on top until they dry out again. The resulting tea tastes sort of like lake water-- that warm-decaying-vegetation smell-- but in a good way.

Then on the Tube home I got talking to a man in full Highland dress who was about to do some bagpipe busking on Westminster Bridge. He turned out to have served in the military-- I didn't ask where. We had a surprisingly interesting conversation about waterboarding.

So... Welsh, tea and waterboarding: just another day in this fascinating city of ours.

Moving

Aug. 25th, 2010 03:06 pm
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Contracts have been exchanged and the paperwork is in place. All being well, at month's end I'll be lady of this:
Photos below )
I've been driving my friends crazy by being unable to shut up about how cool it is. (Sorry, guys: I definitely owe you a drink and/or crash space whenever you like.) But this will be where I live and work for as long as I'm in London, I think, and I am ridiculously excited about it.
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Last night on my way home from a film, I stopped to stroke a black cat when I noticed a grounded bumblebee.

The bumblebees now emerging are queens who have spent the winter hibernating. They are heavy and fly rather drunkenly, and they are all looking for a place to nest where they can lay eggs and hatch out some friends. Flight takes a lot of energy for a queen bumblebee, and if they haven't eaten enough they can easily become grounded.

This particular bee was attracting the black cat's attention in a way that boded no good for either of them, so I took off one shoe and tried to coax the bee to sit on it, thinking I could at least put her into a windowbox or something. This worked rather too well: the bee crawled determinedly inside the shoe and sat there. I held the shoe toe-downwards, thinking she'd fly out towards the light, but nothing doing. She had found an ideal nesting spot, and nothing was going to budge her.

So, watched by a perplexed black cat, I hobbled one-shod to the nearest garden square. Under a blossoming cherry tree, I held up my shoe and peered into it. Fuzzy black bee legs were visible towards the toe. I decided to take the insole out, hoping the bee would come with it.

She did, and I heard her angrily buzzing. But where was she? I looked around fruitlessly until I realised the buzz was coming from very near the back of my neck, and getting louder.

We'll just draw a discreet veil over what happened next. All you need to know is that the bee was safely dislodged and I eventually retrieved my shoe, insole and jacket from the various places they'd ended up. The moral of this story is... I have no idea what the moral of this story is. Do you?

I'm heading back to DC tomorrow; for the next two weeks, someone else will have to rescue London's stranded bumblebees (as well as cat petting, dog-scratching, random street-singing and my other usual duties.) I trust you will do your best.
pallas_athena: (Default)
I got back to London this morning, and I have to say the weather feels positively balmy compared to the past week in DC-- extremely cold, with a biting wind like Odin's own surgical knife. Factoring in the windchill, it was well below zero Fahrenheit (that's fuck-off cold, Centigrade users! See, I know [zero = freezing] has a certain logic, but [fuck-off cold] is a much more elusive measurement, neatly pinned down by the Fahrenheit system.)

[livejournal.com profile] speedlime and I went to see a movie the other night. Afterwards, I emerged from the building with one sleeve damp from having washed my hands. By the time we got to where the car was parked, my sleeve was crisply frozen. Fuck-off cold.

I was impressed, though, by the sight of snowbound Britain as my flight landed today. As I type, there are flurries falling in London, but not quite settling-- in the centre, at least.

I was going to try and fight the jetlag, but a hot bath and some comic books suddenly look like a much better idea. Abnormal service will resume shortly, true believers.
pallas_athena: (Default)
The announcement that this year's London Christmas lights will be themed around Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol makes me fiercely joyful for many reasons, including:

*the hope that the lights will include cheery seasonal images of starving street children

*or the Ghost Of Christmas Future, who scared the living fuck out of young, TV-watching me. Seriously.

*an excuse to stride down Oxford Street declaiming "Every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' upon his lips should be boiled in his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart"

*...like I've ever needed an excuse. But still.

A Good Day

May. 9th, 2009 06:01 pm
pallas_athena: (Default)
A Good Day, according to the standard definition, is a day on which you:

-- have lunch at the little Saturday food market in the square (but the line for coconuts is way too long. Damn.)

-- get the Tube to Outer Wherever for an audition, noticing that even though it's a weekend the Tube is functioning and gets you there on time

-- find that the audition is in a very large, very nice house full of friendly people

-- have a little time beforehand to wander around the garden (pleasant, flowery)

-- sing decently well for people who appear to like it, and have a pleasant chat afterwards

-- on way back to Tube, make friends with a large and playful ginger cat

-- have a smooth journey home, and notice that Help for Heroes is having a bake sale outside the station and cakes are 2 for 1

-- reflect that there's a birthday party tonight and buy ridiculous amounts of cake

-- notice that, improbably, the food market in the square is still going! And now the line for coconuts is much shorter.

-- COCONUT LOVE (this is all [livejournal.com profile] fattbuttsheep's fault)

-- prepare to attend [livejournal.com profile] mothninja's birthday celebrations, noting that there may well be Bloodshots.

-- Skål för fan!

Edit (some hours later): There were Bloodshots. There were many Bloodshots. So very many. And now there is a very pretty full moon. This is definitely a Good Day.

A Good Day

May. 9th, 2009 06:01 pm
pallas_athena: (Default)
A Good Day, according to the standard definition, is a day on which you:

-- have lunch at the little Saturday food market in the square (but the line for coconuts is way too long. Damn.)

-- get the Tube to Outer Wherever for an audition, noticing that even though it's a weekend the Tube is functioning and gets you there on time

-- find that the audition is in a very large, very nice house full of friendly people

-- have a little time beforehand to wander around the garden (pleasant, flowery)

-- sing decently well for people who appear to like it, and have a pleasant chat afterwards

-- on way back to Tube, make friends with a large and playful ginger cat

-- have a smooth journey home, and notice that Help for Heroes is having a bake sale outside the station and cakes are 2 for 1

-- reflect that there's a birthday party tonight and buy ridiculous amounts of cake

-- notice that, improbably, the food market in the square is still going! And now the line for coconuts is much shorter.

-- COCONUT LOVE (this is all [livejournal.com profile] fattbuttsheep's fault)

-- prepare to attend [livejournal.com profile] mothninja's birthday celebrations, noting that there may well be Bloodshots.

-- Skål för fan!

Edit (some hours later): There were Bloodshots. There were many Bloodshots. So very many. And now there is a very pretty full moon. This is definitely a Good Day.

White noise

Feb. 2nd, 2009 11:02 pm
pallas_athena: (Default)
In the absence of fencing class tonight, I layered up and went snowwalking after sunset in Hyde Park.
Stopping by woods on a snowy evening )
Midway through my walk, I felt the snow end: the northeast wind died away and all was still. The temperature rose above freezing, and on my way home the texture of the snow underfoot, even the untrodden stuff, was palpably heavier and wetter. By tomorrow afternoon it may well all be gone.

I'll miss it: the way it changed the shape and sound of everything and made London look clean for a minute or two.

White noise

Feb. 2nd, 2009 11:02 pm
pallas_athena: (Default)
In the absence of fencing class tonight, I layered up and went snowwalking after sunset in Hyde Park.
Stopping by woods on a snowy evening )
Midway through my walk, I felt the snow end: the northeast wind died away and all was still. The temperature rose above freezing, and on my way home the texture of the snow underfoot, even the untrodden stuff, was palpably heavier and wetter. By tomorrow afternoon it may well all be gone.

I'll miss it: the way it changed the shape and sound of everything and made London look clean for a minute or two.

Overawed

Oct. 14th, 2008 01:08 pm
pallas_athena: (Default)
Those who hang out with me know that I chronically overuse the word "awesome."

I've heard it argued that "awesome" should be held in reserve for things that genuinely inspire awe-- that people who use "awesome" to describe, say, colourful socks would find themselves vocabulary-impoverished when beholding, say, a sunset in the mountains.

Yesterday, something happened that made me feel a mixture of ohmygodohmygodohmygod shock and OHMYFUCKINGGODTHISISSOFUCKINGCOOL fascination and !!!!!!!!! sheer saucer-pupilled joy.

Through an odd set of coincidences, I have a friend who's a curator of maps at the British Library. I'd normally never have dared do this, but I emailed him at the behest of my visiting antique-map-obsessed mother and asked if he might have time to show her a map or two.

Tom met us, smiled a mischievous smile and said he had some rather special things to show us. He led us up to the map library, which is full of large tables on which large maps may be unrolled. He got out some early printed maps-- a Frisius, a book of Ptolemaic maps compared with "modern" ones from the 1500s -- and then he got a vellum scroll out of a very long rectangular box and unrolled it. (On the library tables, they have little weights that you put on the edges of old vellum scrolls to stop them rolling up again.)

On the scroll was a very plain hand-drawn map in black ink, mostly of the countries surrounding the North Atlantic: Europe, Iceland, Greenland, Nova Zembla, the east coast of North America. It also had an island called Estotiland out in the middle of nowhere, as well as a Northwest Passage past the Pole. The coastlines were drawn in much greater detail than one would find in a printed woodcut map. The whole expanse was cris-crossed with a fine warp and weft of precisely-spaced latitude and longitude lines about half a centimeter apart. At the North Pole, one could feel a slight indentation in the vellum where the fixed foot of a compass had pierced it.

"This is the map drawn in 1580 by Doctor John Dee," said Tom.
in which King Arthur conquers the North Pole )

Overawed

Oct. 14th, 2008 01:08 pm
pallas_athena: (Default)
Those who hang out with me know that I chronically overuse the word "awesome."

I've heard it argued that "awesome" should be held in reserve for things that genuinely inspire awe-- that people who use "awesome" to describe, say, colourful socks would find themselves vocabulary-impoverished when beholding, say, a sunset in the mountains.

Yesterday, something happened that made me feel a mixture of ohmygodohmygodohmygod shock and OHMYFUCKINGGODTHISISSOFUCKINGCOOL fascination and !!!!!!!!! sheer saucer-pupilled joy.

Through an odd set of coincidences, I have a friend who's a curator of maps at the British Library. I'd normally never have dared do this, but I emailed him at the behest of my visiting antique-map-obsessed mother and asked if he might have time to show her a map or two.

Tom met us, smiled a mischievous smile and said he had some rather special things to show us. He led us up to the map library, which is full of large tables on which large maps may be unrolled. He got out some early printed maps-- a Frisius, a book of Ptolemaic maps compared with "modern" ones from the 1500s -- and then he got a vellum scroll out of a very long rectangular box and unrolled it. (On the library tables, they have little weights that you put on the edges of old vellum scrolls to stop them rolling up again.)

On the scroll was a very plain hand-drawn map in black ink, mostly of the countries surrounding the North Atlantic: Europe, Iceland, Greenland, Nova Zembla, the east coast of North America. It also had an island called Estotiland out in the middle of nowhere, as well as a Northwest Passage past the Pole. The coastlines were drawn in much greater detail than one would find in a printed woodcut map. The whole expanse was cris-crossed with a fine warp and weft of precisely-spaced latitude and longitude lines about half a centimeter apart. At the North Pole, one could feel a slight indentation in the vellum where the fixed foot of a compass had pierced it.

"This is the map drawn in 1580 by Doctor John Dee," said Tom.
in which King Arthur conquers the North Pole )
pallas_athena: (Default)
It's one of those mornings when you pry your eyes open and Oh god.

He seemed so witty and dashing only last night! A blond Adonis, so infectiously cheerful, the life and soul of the party.

Nothing of this remains in the face currently mashed into the pillow barely a foot from your own. A viscous ribbon of drool runs from the corner of his cherubic mouth. Last night that pout was sexy. Now it reminds you horribly of a Cabbage Patch Kid.

Dimly, you remember how delighted you were at his interest in you. You fight the urge to gnaw your own arm off at the shoulder.

Maybe we just passed out. Maybe I didn't...
...hang on, I've got a campaign sticker on each nipple. Oh
shit.

He sighs contentedly. As his noxious morning breath washes over you, you realise there's no escape: you've woken up in bed with a smug, moronic, bigoted Thatcherite named Boris Johnson.

Enjoy the next five years, suckers.

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