Friday, 4 September 2009

Two first times for me last night. I went to see Alan Cumming's one man show at the Vaudeville Theatre, which is (a) the first time I've ever seen this hero of mine and (b) the first time I'd ever been to the theatre on my own.

Heads up: Alan Cumming is a Scottish actor who grew up in the same part of Glasgow as I did. He used to be in a comedy duo called Victor and Barry, who were very well known in Scotland, and in my opinion, they produced the funniest songs and sketches I have ever heard. Ask me about their version of 'West Side Story' set in the West End of Glasgow, and see me cry with laughter. I would give my right arm for recordings of their work - which is now unobtainable.

Anyway. Little Alan left Scotland and became a real well respected Broadway star (mostly famously in Cabaret) and then started to act too - he's been in movies such as Goldeneye, Eyes Wide Shut and the Flintstones (although I haven't forgiven him for that one - his character was painted green). He's lived in the US for years now and is married to an American man.

So imagine my joy when I realised that he was performing in London for a week. I bought a very expensive seat and decided that I was not bringing anyone with me, safe in the knowledge that I would have smacked anyone who had not professed that it was a work of genius afterwards.

And it was fabulous. It was the theatre equivalent of lying on your couch on a Sunday afternoon, wrapped in your favourite duvet and drinking hot chocolate whilst listening to favourite old songs. The reviews of his show have all strangely missed the point: they say that Alan is basically a name-dropper who constantly refers in the show to famous people he has met and famous places he has been. But in fact:

  • If Alan's show (or indeed his life) was about the joy of DIY or watching soaps on TV, it would have the same interest, would it?

  • This also totally misses the point - Alan tells us his stories with an almost child-like wonderment about how excited he is to have done these things - he reminded me of a child returning from Disneyworld who tells you about meeting Cinderella. No one could possibly deny him his happiness.

Alan also has a fabulous voice and the songs are without fail either poignant or funny. All in all, a marvellous evening and I envy each and every person who has the pleasure of knowing this man.

Alan Cumming's show, I Bought a Blue Car Today, is at the Vaudeville Theatre on the Strand until Saturday.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Hello first-timers, and yes, I am really back. For good.

So many first times to tell you about, but the most pressing one is that DH, George and I have now finally moved back into our house, after months of renovation - so finally, and for the first time, I am living in my forever home. Now the cynics amongst you would undoubtedly say "How do you know it is your forever home - things might change?" but trust me, you would be wrong even to think that. Not only do I love it, but this home is not only a mansion (and I should point out that the photo is not one of our home, just how it appears in my mind's eye) but the stress of unpacking nightmares means that I am never again going to move. Ever.

So, has it all been worth it? It has. We have chosen every last detail and that means that we love it and it is our dream home. Well, it will be when I persuade DH that the basement could usefully be a swimming pool instead. It is light and airy and massive for central London and it feels calm. So, my top tips for a renovation project are as follows:

  • Trying to decide on a wallpaper which both you and your other half will like is impossible. This year's trend for delicate, hummingbird design or other floral type paper is not going to go down well with your DH, no matter how many colours you show him. He will shout and say things like 'tart's boudoir' a lot. You may cry, and say 'But look at this month's House Beautiful magazine' a lot. You won't win. The wallpaper which you will end up with will be slightly masculine.

  • You can make up for this by nabbing most of the space in the walk in wardrobe before he has a chance to unpack any of his things. And yes, you can get away with this by pointing out that his rare coin collection/football programme collection/collection of airline sick bags takes up most of the other available storage space in the house.

  • You will find holes at the bottom of walls and missing light fixtures and yes, the loo on the ground floor won't flush properly. But this is called snagging and is all part of the process to make you even more stressed than the unpacking made you.

  • Yes, it will rain on the day you move in, thus ensuring that you can't use your first ever garden and your box full of shoes gets all soggy. This is also part of the process (see above).

  • On the first night, you will feel a bit teary. This is not just 'women's hormones' (as your DH will allege) but in fact is entirely due to the raining on the first day/snagging/unpacking traumas you have just faced.

  • You will accidentally walk back to your old house at the end of your first day back at work. This is not 'women's hormones' (DH did this and not me actually!).

  • Appreciate how lucky you are once it's all done, because you really are, and having a home, let alone such a stunning one, is a real blessing.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Hello and major apologies for being away for so long. I am currently on holiday, first I was at my Mum's wedding and now I am in the middle of absolutely nowhere in Denmark - I mean it, I am over 3 hours drive from Copenhagen and am sitting right now overlooking a fjord (and of course I am sitting on an Arne Jacobsen chair). Denmark is, in my humble opinion, a work of true genius. I can't even begin to tell you all my first times this week, so I'll save them for when I am back in London and the grey days are back. Instead, let me regale you with my new knowledge of this special place:

  • There are about 5 million Danes living in Denmark.

  • Taxes are incredibly high. As an example, a new car has 300% tax on it - apparently this is to ensure that people don't pollute the planet too much

  • If you are from the UK, the exchange rate is crippling. Still, shoes and beer are cheap.

  • Design is king in Denmark. There is no tat. Everything is beautifully designed, from chairs to housing estates to cakes. Have spent the whole week salivating at chairs and have promised myself a ridiculously expensive sugar bowl at the end of the week if my cash has not run out

  • Lego is from Denmark. As I have a small child, I shall tomorrow be going to Legoland Denmark. It had better be good, at 30 British pounds for entry.

  • Traditional food includes pickled herring and curried herring. Sounds awful, is wonderful, especially with rye bread

  • There are more tanning shops per head of population than anywhere in the world (OK, this is not a scientific statistic, but one which comes from my own observations). I think this must be because it is dark here for so much of the year and people must get that SAD disorder thingy. And yes people do look strangely tanned and healthy.

Lovely place. Must dash - see you soon!

Friday, 31 July 2009

Last night, for the first time, I saw Jude Law in the flesh, playing Hamlet in the Donmar Warehouse production of the play. My savvy friend S had managed to get seats in the front row of the stalls, and so we were within spitting (and definitely ogling) distance of the great man himself. Before the play started, we made a pact that if it were truly terrible, we would leave in the interval and go for dinner round the corner at Sheekey's - my favourite restaurant in the universe (well, OK, maybe it's in the top 5). However, within 5 minutes of the play starting, it was clear that we weren't going to be filling up on any of Sheekey's signature seafood dishes anytime soon. And this isn't just because of the general attractiveness of Mr. Law (who despite the gasps of the female audience members, is actually is a bit short, and is definitely balding) but because the production was just so excellent.

Afterwards, we sat dissecting it, and it's times like this that I am grateful for cultured friends. I managed "Hey, that was good wasn't it", whilst S said "I thought they could have thought a a bit harder about the Polonius-Ophelia family dynamic. Are they meant to be happy? Distant? Mad?" - she's fabulous, that girl.

The run is totally sold out, but beg, borrow or steal tickets. It's on at the Wyndhams Theatre and returns are available every day.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Last weekend for the first time, DH, George and I went to see the new temporary pavilion at the Serpentine Gallery. For those of you who aren't au fait with this (and who are thinking great, how middle class and boring does that sound), each year the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park arranges for a (usually famous) architect to design and build a temporary summer pavilion. Come the end of the summer, it is all taken down and therefore it only exists for a limited amount of time. There's something really quite poignant (and remember, you are speaking to the Queen of Cynics here) about seeing a building you know for a fact you will never see again.

Last year's was designed by Frank Gehry and was simply stunning, so we headed out to see the new one, deisgned this year by SANAA, the Japanese architect firm. This one looks like a floating pool of water, and is filled with brightly coloured 'bunny chairs' as George christened them, as their backs look like two rabbit ears. I can't recommend a visit highly enough, especially as the Serpentine Gallery itself (next door) has a fab Jeff Koons exhibition on: all inflatable lobsters, pictures of glamour models and Popeye - yes, you couldn't make it up (but he obviously can). Mind you, walking around a gallery with a toddler, when the gallery is filled with inflatable toys which you can't touch isn't the easiest of tasks. The gallery attendants fixed George with a steely glare as we walked round, and I was most proud when he said as we left "Mummy, toys not for touching" within earshot of the particularly evil looking one.

Well worth a visit. The pavilion is there until 18 October.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Last week, I went shopping with my Mum for her wedding dress. I don't think I need to tell you that this is the first time I've ever done this: my Mum has been married before, but I certainly wasn't capable of accompanying her on a wedding outfit expedition on that occasion...

My beloved Mum gets married in the south of France on August 7th, to a very lovely and kind man called Geoff. It fills me with happiness just to anticipate this occasion: weddings are always full of joy and hope and good feelings, but when one your favourite people is doing it, the happiness really is special. So shopping for the wedding outfit was particularly poignant. In the middle of the first shop my sister and I soon realised that my lovely Mum doesn't realise how lovely she is - the first few dresses were treated to reactions such as "Oh no, that definitely won't suit me" and my personal favourite, "Oh, no, that's much too glamorous for me"... But needless to say that the outfit she chose (which I can't describe for obvious reasons) is wonderful, and what makes it glamorous, of course, is her.

There's something very odd about preparing for your own mother's wedding though. In many ways, it's probably a bit like your child getting married - I shall certainly breathe a secret sigh of relief that I now know she will be well looked after and loved in my absence. And I can't wait to stand next to her as she makes her vows. I'm so proud of her.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Last week for the first time, I went Dragon Boat racing. As I have the puniest arms in history, and zero stamina (I'm proud of these facts, don't feel sorry for me) I decided in advance that I should be the drummer, rather than being one of the paddlers. This decision, sadly, was taken without having actually seen the boat. In fact, the drummer sits high up on a chair at the front and beats out time - er, multiple falling off opportunities. So here's your summary:

  • There are ten paddlers and one drummer. The aim is to speed across the lake, the drummer beating time so that everyone in the team rows at the same time

  • There were 12 teams - all lawyers - so winning was clearly the name of the game

  • There were at least two lawyers in other teams that I wouldn't spit on if they were on fire, so my determination to win was ferocious.

We qualified fastest out of the heats and then it was down to 4 teams for the grand final. We were hilarious. As we waited on the start line, the umpire t0ld us we had a few minutes to go before the race started, so we could all practice our starts. No, we said. We are ready. And then we were off - me screaming 'Focus, focus!' and the others rowing like crazy. And you know what - we won. By 3 tenths of second. Fastest time of the day. This is us, sporting our gold medals. And I even made it back into central London in time to see Grace Jones in concert again. Lovely.