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This LJ blog now contains mostly ramblings on life, the world and everything.  I aim to post five times a fortnight.

My fics can be found here The Small Hobbit on AO3 and currently major on Sherlock (BBC), Sherlock Holmes (ACD canon) and Lewis (TV).  My other popular fandoms include Spooks (MI5) and Robin Hood (BBC).

Annual Theatre Round Up

Another year gone, another year of plays seen:

Oct 2015   Charlie & the Chocolate Factory   Theatre Royal, Drury Lane   (Jonathan Slinger)
Nov 2015   Husbands & Sons   National Theatre – Dorfman   (Anne-Marie Duff)
Dec 2015   Queen Anne   Royal Shakespeare Theatre – Swan Theatre (PUP)
Jan 2016   Guys & Dolls   Savoy Theatre   (Jamie Parker)
Jan 2016   Love for Love   Royal Shakespeare Theatre – Swan Theatre
Jan 2016   The Dazzle   Found 111   (Andrew Scott)
Jan 2016   The Homecoming   Trafalgar Studios   (John Simm)
Feb 2016   The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time   Gielgud Theatre
Feb 2016   Good-night Mister Tom   Duke of York’s Theatre   (David Troughton)
Feb 2016   Doctor Faustus   Royal Shakespeare Theatre – Swan Theatre
Mar 2016   Hamlet   Royal Shakespeare Theatre – RST
Apr 2016   Shadowlands   Malvern Theatre   (Stephen Boxer)
Apr 2016   Henry V   Gloucester Cathedral   (Antic Disposition)
June 2016   The Alchemist   Royal Shakespeare Theatre – Swan Theatre
June 2016   3 Penny Opera   National Theatre – Olivier   (Rory Kinnear)
July 2016   Hobson’s Choice   Vaudeville Theatre   (Martin Shaw, Bryan Dick)
Aug 2016   Cymbeline   Royal Shakespeare Theatre – RST
Aug 2016   Yerma   Young Vic   (Billie Piper)
Aug 2016   Show Boat   New London Theatre
Aug 2016   The Seagull   National Theatre – Olivier
Sep 2016   King Lear   Royal Shakespeare Theatre – RST   (David Troughton)
Sep 2016   The Dresser   Cheltenham Everyman   (Ken Stott, Reece Shearsmith)
Oct 2016   The Rover   Royal Shakespeare Theatre – Swan Theatre (PUP)

23 plays in total.  The number continues to go up year on year, but only by one at a time.

And only 4 Shakespeare plays, which surprises me.  Plus a further 4 from a similar time period.  Which is roughly a third of the plays I've seen.  I have a mental points scoring mechanism for deciding what to see and clearly Shakespeare is losing weight compared to other points categories.

Destination wise, half were in London, and one-third in Stratford-upon-Avon.  And there was one each in Cheltenham, Gloucester and Malvern (a first).

The usual selection of favourite actors, as can be seen from the list, favourite big names being Andrew Scott and Billie Piper.  Real favourites, although not as well known, David Troughton, Jonathan Slinger and Stephen Boxer.

My three favourite plays for the year: Henry V, Yerma and The Dresser.

Mental points scoring mechanism: The play (so a Shakespeare will score higher than a new play); Actors (some I'll see regardless, others will sway me to see something); Location (cost of travel, plus time.  London means trains and a whole day, unless I'm staying up; Stratford is an hour's drive away, much more accessible, go in the day and the evening's free; Gloucester/Cheltenham is just the evening); Companions (if friends/SM want to see something I'll go to something I wouldn't see otherwise); Ticket price (which is where Shakespeare is now falling behind - tickets at the RSC, which scores highly elsewhere, are getting ridiculous except for the uncomfortable back rows).

As ever, my intention next year is to see the equivalent of at least one play a month.  There are six booked and nothing yet for the second half of the year.



Autumn has definitely arrived.  It's not been as pretty as some years round our way - it was warm for too long and then wet - but my current photos clearly show it's here:
Autumn picsCollapse )


Half Yearly Assessment

I can't believe I'm half way through the year with my goals, but apparently we are indeed six months away from April.  You can't put a month down before it disappears!

Goal No 1: Write all the things
Still on track for the 150,000 words for the year - hooray!  At the beginning of September I made a long list of things I intended to write this autumn.  I had a feeling I'd done really badly, but looking back it's not as bad as I thought; all those with deadlines have been met, although I do need to get on with my smallfandombang fic - anyone interested in cheering on Call The Midwife?  The first chapter of Lucas/Adam has gone to beta - even though with the uninspiring title of Chapter One.  And I've signed up for mini_wrimo which I shall devote to Watson 1918.  The Lewis casefic may have to wait for the new year.  Doing my course has taken out the whole of one evening (by the time travel is included), which has a knock on effect the following day, so being realistic I'm not doing badly.  And I have two more badges since last I posted an update:

Goal No 2: Read more and widely
There should be another post up by the end of the month, although once again it's second or more books by the same writer.  Which comes of receiving lots of suggestions of "If you enjoyed X, you should read Y."

Goal No 3: Post a purely photographic post each month
There will be an autumnal post up in the next week or so.  Having just posted the Oxford pictures I thought I'd wait before the next picture heavy post.  I'm not sure what I shall be doing after this month though, so am open to suggestions.  We're off to Florence at the end of the month, so I may cheat a little and save some of the photos for a 'Florence special'.


A few month's ago SM signed up to take part in a bring and sing at the Holywell Music Room as part of the Oxford Lieder Festival.  There's no charge, apart from paying for the accompanist and you get to sing two songs of your own choice in the music rooms where Haydn and Handel both played.  We decided to make a proper trip, travel up on the Friday, spend a bit of time in Oxford that day, stay over, SM would do his singing bit in the morning while I did my thing and we'd look round a bit more in the afternoon before coming home.

Oxford picsCollapse )
But before that, last week we did our final part of the Senior Section badge.  The instructions said, 'let the girls choose a decade and found out about the music, clothing etc and share what they've found'.  We agreed this would be of little interest to most of our girls, too much like school and with too little active participation.  So instead we built on an activity we'd used a couple of years ago when celebrating 100 years of Brownies Bombings, Birthdays and Being Safe.  Only one of our girls had been with us then, but she remembered the day we pretended to evacuate them.  This time we looked at what the older guides and rangers did - welcoming evacuees, 'make do and mend', first aid and sending messages.

They worked in their sixes, with the sixer and seconder welcoming all the younger ones.  They were each given a dress for a larger child/small adult, which, with the aid of safety pins (we were not sewing), they had to adjust to fit their smallest girl.  With help they put the arm of one of the other Brownies in a sling.  And finally they had to use semaphore to spell out the word H - E - L - P, with each girl spelling one letter.  E is spelled with one arm, so logically the Brownie with her arm in the sling would spell that letter; it turned out this was not as obvious as we thought and two of the sixes tried to spell H with one arm.  Sigh.

We finished the evening with a modified game of Fishes.  So air raid wardens, first aiders and fire fighters instead of cod, haddock and plaice, road's blocked (tide's turning) and siren sounding (all fishes).  Despite the odd (very odd) hiccup the evening went well and the Brownies enjoyed themselves.

This week, with Sparkly Owl on holiday, Brown Owl organised friendship cards.  Nice and easy - cut a piece of coloured paper, stick it on the card, pass card on to the next person.  The card circulates until it's completely covered.  One girl has two cards to do at once, another has none.  Get glue over table.  Drop bits of paper all over floor.  Take twice as long as expected.  However in the end all the cards were finished, so we collected them up, shuffled them and then gave them out again so everyone had a friendship card to take home.

By the time they had finished the craft we didn't have long for a game.  Certainly not long enough to go into the bigger hall, organise themselves into a circle, play game and come back.  It's amazing how long moving 22 Brownies can take.  So we settled for a quick game of Screech Owl says and then into the horseshoe, hand out badges and that's another half term over.


The Rover

When we looked at the plays the RSC were doing for this season we saw amongst them The Rover by Aphra Behn, which was being produced as part of the celebrations of 30 years of the Swan Theatre.  Both SM and I prefer the Swan to the main stage.  SM spotted the Public Understudy Performance was a Friday matinée, which since neither of us work Fridays was a great opportunity to see the play at a reduced price.  Although the understudies will take the main roles, this does not mean a lowering of standards and we had already enjoyed one such performance.

Although I wasn't particularly taken with the play itself, it was entertaining and well acted.  And, since we didn't know any of the main cast, generally we saw no difference.  However the same actor understudies both Don Pedro and Don Antonio, so the main actor had to come on as Don Pedro during the duel - some things work with one actor taking two parts, duels are not possible.  And for this performance the main actors took on the minor roles.  It all went very well, apart from a non-firing pistol, but even then, it was 'third time lucky'.

There was lots of live music and dancing (the play is set within Carnival) and as ever the RSC musicians were excellent.  In keeping with the setting, the costumes were colourful and, though I would not choose to see the play again, it was a good afternoon.  And at £10 per ticket there could be no complaints.


The Dresser

I saw that Ken Stott and Reece Shearsmith were appearing in The Dresser at the Cheltenham Everyman (our local theatre) a few weeks ago.  I've never seen Ken Stott on stage and it seemed the perfect opportunity to do so, without all the hassle of more than a half hour drive, so we booked tickets - getting good seats in the second row, despite not booking that far in advance - the joys of regional theatre.

It was an excellent decision.  The play is about Sir, an aging actor-manager, played by Stott, who is overworked and almost having a breakdown.  His company are performing a variety of plays in repetory in various locations during WWII.  Shearsmith plays Norman, Sir's dresser, who has the job of keeping Sir going.

In the play the company are performing King Lear, which was rather amusing for us, having seen Lear at the weekend.  And it does help knowing the plot of Lear.  In fact, I'd like to see Stott as Lear - I think he would be very good.

This was one of those plays where within ten minutes I was completely drawn in.  The acting was excellent - both hilarious and, by the end, poignant.  The set was impressive, and revolved between Sir's dressing room and the wings of their theatre.

I felt for all the characters in their own ways and it was an absolute joy to watch.  The play runs in London from next Wednesday for three months at the Duke of York's theatre, so if you're in London and have the opportunity, go and see it!


The Owls Visit The Owls

Last week we took our Brownies to The Barn Owl Centre for a Nature Experience.  Having been told a little about the work of the centre and walked past some of the cages we were able to watch Luna, one of the barn owls, flying and a few of the girls were able to wear a gauntlet and have her fly to a treat in their fist.  However, Luna soon decided she didn't want to play and when called she pointedly turned her head the other way.  Which, since owls can turn their heads 180 degrees, was really rather funny.  After which Mrs Harris, a harris hawk, was brought out.  She was nervous, but was gradually encouraged to come closer until she, too, would settle on the raised fist of a few of the Brownies.  Having read H is for Hawk last year, I found it very interesting watching the training process of a hawk in action.

By this time it was getting cooler, and since a number of the Brownies only had t-shirts on (the note home had said 'outdoor activity' which clearly hadn't registered with the parents, although they did manage to bring them to the different venue), it was a good point to go indoors.  There Kaln, a European eagle owl, flew up and down the room.  We got to see how silently he glided, and with their eyes shut the Brownies could feel the draft from his wings but couldn't hear him at all.  Even when flying there was very little sound, which showed how effective an owl is as a preditor.

It was a very good experience and we were pleased with the way the pack behaved.  At the beginning of term it had seemed like they were going to be hard work, but the influence from last year's core is working its way out and the guy in charge of the session was favourably impressed.

Last night we returned to working on the Senior Section badge.  This time we took the healthy heart challenge.  The idea was the girls between them device a circuit to get the blood pumping.  Since this would have been difficult to do altogether, we asked each six to produce a short activity which they would demonstrate and then they moved round and tried each separate activity.  So we had beanbags (safer than balls), the new skipping ropes we had received from Sainsbury's Active Kids vouchers, the 'feelings' ball plus one six made up a routine of jumps and squats.

They all worked hard.  I was particularly impressed with the six who had to produce a routine; each of the girls tried really hard even though some of them are not particularly sporty.  And as ever the 'feelings' ball lead to some interesting answers: 'I am worried when ... daddy goes away' (a forces' child) and 'If I were prime minister I would ... make everyone happy' (from one of our very quiet new Brownies).  We finished the evening with more six-based compliments.

There was one other positive.  One of our Brownies doesn't always come, becomes she need someone to bring her - an older sister, occasionally mum ...  We didn't think the family were that interested.  And then last night older sister asked when the next one in the family could join - clearly Brownies is seen as a good thing.


King Lear

Following our seeing what we now refer to as "The Muppets do King Lear" last year, I had been determined to take SM to see a decent version.  So, when the RSC announced this was to be one of their autumn season I suggested we go.  I was further encouraged by seeing David Troughton would be playing Gloucester.

We again chose the day when we could see Shakespeare Unwrapped in the morning.  This was another introducing some of the ideas behind the choice of direction.  This time we saw part of a scene acted out by Byron Mondahl (Lear's understudy) together with the actresses playing Goneril and Cordelia - Regan was played by an audience member, due to the actress being unwell and very reasonably wishing to conserve her energy for the afternoon performance.  It was extremely interesting seeing how the scene was put together, and both SM and I agreed we would have liked to see Mondahl in the understudy performance.

As for the play itself, Antony Sher is cast as Lear, and to my mind the production has been shaped round him.  Which, for such an ensemble cast, is a bit of a shame.  There was some dramatic staging, serving to emphasise Lear's importance, but I felt it would have been better had the actor done that unassisted.  There was nothing wrong with the production, it just didn't quite grab me in the way I was perhaps expecting, and at times felt a little like Lear by Numbers.

I had already seen quite a number of the cast, both in Hamlet and in Cymberline.  Paapa Essiedu (Hamlet) played Edmund and Natalie Simpson (Ophelia) was Cordelia and both impressed as they had done before.

The scene which worked best for me (and was highlighted in a number of the reviews I have now read) was where Lear, having wandered round in his crown of herbs, comforts the blinded Gloucester.  It felt as if Lear no longer had to impress anyone, but also, to me, that the actor was at this point not feeling threatened by the up-and-coming talent.

An interesting afternoon, but not one of the best Lears I have seen.  Strangely enough, this week's prompt for DW's drabble_zone was 'An Unreasonable Expectation' which gave me the perfect opportunity to write Cornwall Considers.

We broke our journey on the way home in Tewkesbury, so we could go to the Tewkesbury Camerata concert in the evening, and therefore went from King Lear to The Three Bears and Harry Potter.



the small hobbit

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