Elsewhere: Everything Taboo

I thought Taboo was fantastic and I wasn’t sure what to really expect. I think I had envisaged it as something akin to Closer To Heaven, but it wasn’t really like that at all. I loved the fact that The Venue is quite small and quite intimate which made you feel closer to the stage (and the audience bits help) and, of course, it brought memories flooding back (although I was watching events in the early-80s from the safety of the north).

I went to see Boy George’s Taboo last Friday and have been contemplating the blog entry ever since. I have to say that I thought that it was fabulous and I want to see it again (I even ordered the soundtrack last night!). It’s a fictional account of a lot of real people but most of the plot must be based on Boy George’s own life story as I recognised may of the characters and plot lines from his book Take It Like A Man. Obviously, he is a key (though not the central) character. I would thoroughly recommend to this anybody visiting London regardless of the way you feel about Boy George. It’s a strange time capsule of a musical and his songs are great – although several of them are old (some of which are taken from the under-rated album Cheapness and Beauty which I regard as one of the best of all time). The story is tender, the performances top-rate and the whole thing is laugh-out-loud funny (especially, Julian Clary). Lastmiunte.com often has cut-price tickets a few days before a show. Go see it. Often.

I also posted a review to the musical fan group at Yahoo! This is what I wrote:

I thought Taboo was fantastic – and I wasn’t sure what to really expect. I think I had envisaged it as something akin to Closer To Heaven, but it wasn’t really like that at all. I loved the fact that The Venue is quite small and quite intimate which made you feel closer to the stage (and the audience bits help) and, of course, it brought memories flooding back (although I was watching events in the early-80s from the safety of the north).

I am a big fan of Boy George’s more recent albums – Cheapness and Beauty is one of my all time favourites. When I heard some of the songs were being reworked for the show I was worried. Luckily, few have been re-penned and those that have been re-done are still as good as they are on the CD (although different). I was stunned by how much the mannerisms of the Boy George character seem to be like the Boy George we see on TV etc. It was a remarkable performance. Duncan Bennett as Billy was superb (was he really in the band Point Break? I don’t remember him) as well as being some appealing eye candy 😉 It was a thoroughly entertaining night out and I would recommend it to anybody.

Julian Clary was superb and, of course, looked stunning in those Leigh costumes. I would be interested to see how other people play the part as he put his own stamp on it without it seeming to be too Julian Clary.

I’ve ordered the CD – the cheapest I could find it was £10.99 at play.com – although it was on back order I notice tonight that they have posted it to me. I’m sure the CD doesn’t do the show justice (they rarely do) but I hope it will be brilliant anyway! Lastminute.com always seems to have discounts on top price tickets. I bought the cheaper seats direct from the box office and, to be honest, I think my view was as good as anybody with the more expensive ones (the theatre isn’t really large enough for it to make a difference). However, Lastminute’s discount seats are even cheaper and I shall certainly be going again.

[Links: BBC News – George breaks 80s Taboo | BBC News – Matt Lucas’s comic extremes | Guardian – We were so naughty | I Love the 80s]

Nike 10K

I want to pass comment on the fact that PY, my significant other/partner/general love of my life, ran the Nike 10K Run London event yesterday in a time which beat his run last year. I was nearly in tears when he crossed the line – isn’t that sad?

The event itself did not seem as well organised as last year. We waited at Wimbledon where there were not enough shuttle buses. The transportation problems lead to a delay at the start and, I imagine, a good number of competitors who didn’t make their allotted start time. The atmosphere was not as good as last year either. In Kew Gardens and with half the number of competitors, last year’s race seemed more intimate and fun. This year, Richmond Park, was spread out and didn’t seem to have the same number of things for those non-runners amongst the throng, to do.

Tired

Another night of entertaining on Old Compton Street

Bet you’re thinking, not another entry about food. My office (more-or-less) took American colleague out for dinner again last night and, again, on Old Compton Street. Pizza. Huge pizzas (not had such a big pizza in London for some time) that were bigger than any plates that the restaurant had available. Many office-type things to speak of but I will reserve judgement on the evening for another time (how mysterious).

So now I am dog-tired. I have been entertaining or being entertained, all week. I have to arrange theatre trips for tonight and other things for the rest of the weekend. It’s very strange, as I haven’t felt this physically exhausted in months. I feel really drained but I couldn’t sleep any longer than I did. My brain was awake and I was getting to that point when lying in bed hurts more than the thought of getting up pains me. Maybe it an age thing.

South Bank. Friends from North.

I could have spent much of this week writing about going out eating and/or entertaining but decided that would be too dull. On the other hand, on Wednesday night we (American and I) went on the London Eye (always a fantastic treat) and then wandered down the South Bank. It is, probably, one of my favourite areas of London.

I could have spent much of this week writing about going out eating and/or entertaining but decided that would be too dull. On the other hand, on Wednesday night we (American and I) went on the London Eye (always a fantastic treat) and then wandered down the South Bank. It is, probably, one of my favourite areas of London.

  • Old County Hall. It’s a pleasuredome of treats but the best bit, is the aquarium. We didn’t go in this time, but I love the place and am writing this as kind of note to self: go back to the London Aquarium.
  • The London Eye. My thirtieth birthday was spent on The Eye in a hired capsule with a whole bunch of friends – all of whom had almost no notice but arrived for drinks, ride and pizza. This time we were on The Eye as the light started to fade – which actually made it all the more magical. We even bought the tacky tourist snap that they take on the way down.
  • New Hungerford Bridges(s). I have spent years walking over the old, narrow bridge avoiding the winter floods and the summer camera-wielding tourists. The new bridges look stunning. They are boulevard wide and, actually, very pleasant to walk across and each bridge has very different, but fabulous, views.
  • Royal Festival Hall and National Film Theatre. They may be concrete and they are certainly not photogenic but they are some of my favourite locations. Long may the concrete jungle live.
  • Oxo Tower. A great building with a great restaurant (even if I can never afford to eat there) and, if you don’t want to go on the wheel, the viewing gallery at the top (free and near the restaurant) provides a stunning view of St. Paul’s Cathedral.
  • Tate Modern and Millennium Bridge. After all the fuss at the turn of the century these are two worthy additions to the London landscape. The interior of the Tate Modern is fantastic (the sheer size of the entrance is great). And the Millennium Bridge is in just the right place and looks gorgeous when lit (although the last few times I haven’t seen the lights on).

On the way back from these sights (we didn’t do new City Hall or Tower Bridge, Hayes Galleria or Butler’s Wharf) we stopped for a psudo-traditional pub meal of chips and beer. Even though, I suspect, the pub was full of tourists it felt as though it was the kind of place I went to regularly, so I guess, had an air of authenticity.

After all this on Wednesday, I was looking forward to last night. Last night was meant to be an evening not operating as tour guide (not that I mind but the break would be good). I was having dinner with some friends (and some old friends who were coming down from Scotland). My friends in Worcester Park were preparing dinner and it was to be (in fact, it was indeed) and evening of memories and fun. However, things did try and put a blocker on the evening.

  • I was late. I was attending some presentations with a client they over-ran.
  • My friend Jo, who was cooking, had been taken ill and been in and out of hospital for two nights (nothing too serious, thankfully). So, she didn’t feel like cooking – her husband decided to and he the food was excellent.
  • We were all so tired (me from working, them from the illness/hospital adventures) that we called a halt to proceedings at 10.30pm.

It’s a shame when things don’t quite go according to plan and you have been looking forward to them. I had been hoping to have a long catch-up with the folks from Scotland and we ended up with the briefest of chats. Ah well, maybe next time Â…

An American in London

Every time I meet an American co-worker I go through the same process. I must try to stress that the UK is different and instil an expectation that, although speaking (more-or-less) the same language it’s not downtown NYC.

For several years, I have worked for American companies. Working for a satellite office of a US company is difficult for all concerned (including the US parent). A ex-colleague (and now good friend) of mine used to say the worst thing about being an American working in London was that, as a native English speaker, you put less effort into understanding the culture of the UK. You felt it was, somehow, the same as New York, Boston or whichever US city was applicable. The problem is, the UK is not the same. We have different sensibilities, a different outlook, a different way of expressing ourselves and a whole different way of working. This, of course, leads to a whole range of new problems over-and-above the more obvious (why can’t this software work in Sterling?) procedural, production or product issues. I did vow that I would never work for a US company again as the effort required just to do some of the more menial minutia of day-to-day working seemed unnecessarily hard (when will they get my tax code correct?). Still, I did it and this week we are playing host to a colleague from our New York office.

Today has been her first day in the London office and, it’s strange, because every time I meet an American co-worker I go through the same process. I must try to stress that the UK is different and instil an expectation that, although speaking (more-or-less) the same language it’s not downtown NYC. Except this time, she (I am refraining from naming for no real reason except, dear readers, you will have noticed I do not name many people in this blog) is a real Anglophile. She loves England. Tudor England, maybe, but loves it. She understands that things are not the same. Warm beer is not a crime against civilisation; it has a whole heritage and history of its own. It is truly refreshing and, in a bizarre way, made me quite happy.

This evening, therefore, we went to dinner together at Joe Allen’s restaurant because I like the theatrical nature of the place and I know it serves great food. We had a fantastic evening just talking (and, of course, we discussed office politics but not too much). I thoroughly enjoyed spending the evening with somebody who was wide-eyed to London (in fact, who seemed to be falling in love with the city that I fell in love with) and not jaded (as many of us who live here are). I even vowed to take more buses so I could see the city and not live my commuting life in an underground hell. A new perspective on my city has done wonders for me.

State Of The Town

Jonathan Fenby wrote an excellent piece in today’s Observer (which thankfully I have found online and can link to) about the state of the British capital? I admit that I hoped Ken would help sort some of the mess this city is in. An integrated public transport system, clean and safer streets etc. I bought into the whole idea of new vision for London. But, as Fenby writes, “The snag is the man who should be providing it shows himself better at getting elected mayor than giving his city a new start.” Perhaps it is too much to hope that one man could change the attitudes of the society in this city. Many people just accept the way it is and perhaps, if most people are OK with the state of London, then this is the way it should be.

I know that I am talking very generally. What should I add to The Observer piece? London transport is over-crowded, dirty and smelly. When it runs it’s acceptable but when it doesn’t run then the whole system falls apart. Last week’s rain brought large chunks of the system to a halt. Rain, for goodness sake, it’s the one thing we know we are going to get here. Yesterday, I was stood on the Northern Line and there “there is no service” announcements must have gone on for ten minutes.

Ah, and I survived the party quite well – although I did feel a little rough this morning. It didn’t finish until gone two in the morning and ended with us watching old episodes of The Tube. Perhaps I should have left earlier.

City Hall

I may not agree with everything our delightful new Mayor does but I have to say that I think the London Assembly building, which was opened by The Queen yesterday, is a stunning building.

I may not agree with everything our delightful new Mayor does but I have to say that I think the London Assembly building, which was opened by The Queen yesterday, is a stunning building. I am pleased to see that, in this age of taller, squarer buildings, we (occasionally) still strive to build something that is visually stunning. Now all I have to do is get down there and see it with my own eyes.

A Non-Existent Dream

If we’re not careful, the UK will topple over as the South East of Britain sinks into The Channel under the weight of all the people migrating from other parts of the country.

After last night’s little rant on the state of the London Underground system, I heard about this morning’s nonsense from the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) to start charging commuters more to sit on over-crowded, dirty, late-running trains. I guess the plan reasons that charging higher fares means fewer people will travel by train. Surely, this proves that an integrated transport policy for London’s workers remains a non-existent dream. Ken Livingston wants to charge people for driving into central London. The SRA wants to charge more for travelling on trains. How are people expected to get into work? The answer is they will still drive and take the train and it will cost them more – status quo remains. It seems to me that nobody is prepared to do what it takes to sort transport in the South East out. And that still stinks.

So then, I got to thinking about John Prescott’s [John Prescott as Boss of Bosses?] little plan to build more affordable housing in the South East of England (to ease the cronic housing shortage, apparently). Affordable housing implies that this is aimed at people on a lower wage (am I taking a big leap here?). How, exactly, are these people going to get to work in London if train prices rise and roads get tolls? Again, it appears inconsitnet and badly thought out. Why not take some of these £4 billion and encourage businesses to move out of the South East to areas where there are too many houses or where there is less congestion. If we’re not careful, the UK will topple over as the South East of Britain sinks into The Channel under the weight of all the people migrating from other parts of the country.

London Life Underground

It’s a rant about the tube. Summer brings its own special brand of problems for London’s sub-terrain commuters: hot, sweaty and stuck in tunnels on the way to the office does not make for a contented work force.

The great struggle to and from work in London is over as another strike by London Underground staff finishes and the tube returns to its normal, over-crowded, hot, sticky self. I don’t think there can be a person in this City who does not believe that the Underground is under funded and appears, at times, not too far from breaking point. Summer brings its own special brand of problems for London’s sub-terrain commuters: hot, sweaty and stuck in tunnels on the way to the office does not make for a contented work force. When will Tony Blair, Ken Livingston and Bob Crow stop using the Underground as a great big political football and start doing something to ease the plight of those who try and use London’s public transport on a regular basis? I, along with most people who have chosen to live, work or visit London, am fed up with the self-serving posturing of the politicians and union leaders. I can’t say if I think the strike was wrong or not but I do know that the very fact that none of the parties involved are currently at a negotiating table resolving all issues and developing long-term strategies for coping with increasing commuter volumes stinks worse than the armpits of that harassed member of the public I will be squashed against tomorrow morning. Please somebody, for the sake of those of us who voted for you and pay for you, sort out the mess. [current tube status]