Last week I went to see Derren Brown’s latest UK tour, Showman. I have seen him live a couple of times before and he never fails to impress. He is unassuming on stage, yet his mere presence demands attention. He is also (quite obviously) extremely clever and exudes such a command over the meticulous design of his show, and everything he says and does, which is undoubtedly a skill that comes in handy in his line of work. He is indeed, a showman.
Of course, I won’t go into any details here about the show itself, suffice to say that it was a masterclass in suggestion and misdirection, and as always, I left the theatre not entirely sure what it was that I just witnessed. A lot of things happened during those two hours that I can’t just explain away, and even though yet again, I didn’t make it onto the stage, many others did. I watched them being randomly selected from the audience, and they all seemed entirely genuine.
If you have ever been on the fence about going to see Derren Brown, or if you are sceptical about all the shenanigans, I would implore you to go and see for yourself. At the very least you will go home entertained, and there’s a fair chance you will be thinking about what happened for many days afterwards.
Yesterday I went to the theatre for the first time since before the world went to shit, and The Rocky Horror Show was about as good a production as any to remind me what life was like in the pre-pandemic years.
I have seen the show twice before, but not for a long time, and I had forgotten just how crazy and unhinged it can be. To be honest, I’m a little surprised that something as politically incorrect as Rocky Horror has slipped under the radar and not yet been cancelled. There are certainly far less inflammatory pieces of media that have run into problems in recent years, but I’m glad that it has survived, because the world needs as much entertainment as it can get right now.
The audience heckled politely – because that is as much a part of the show as Brad and Janet – but they were respectful during the parts when they were meant to stay silent. Nobody ever seems to get out of hand. It’s really quite amazing to see how well it all fits together.
The Rocky Horror Show has been on stage for nearly fifty years, and it shows no sign of slowing down any time soon, which is good to see. It’s just good, unsavoury fun. Check your prudish sensibilities at the door, and you’ll be fine.
Maybe next time I’ll channel Frank and put on my stockings.
At the tail end of last year I threw a flurry of stories to a number of competitions, because why not? This week I heard that my dark drama, More Than a Wednesday Girl, has taken third prize in the Wenlock Olympian Society Short Story Contest.
I also got a nifty bronze medal delivered today, which is probably the best thing about the whole experience. And on top of that there’s a Zoom call (Covid’s best friend) later this month to present the prizes to the winners, so that should be fun.
Should you care to, you can read my story (along with the gold and silver medalists) at the link above.
A decade ago I was separated, waiting for my divorce to come through, and to be perfectly honest… I didn’t have a direction in my life. I wasn’t happy, although I pretended a lot that I was, and I certainly was no good for anyone else.
I haven’t gone back to check, at least not recently, but my posts from that time period on this blog more often than not reflected my frame of mind. I was in a bad way: I was depressed without the official diagnosis. I don’t say that in an effort to be cool or to grab some belated sympathy, only to in some way show where I was and how far I have come since then.
Everything changed in 2017 when I met the woman who – as of last Tuesday – became my wife. She is good to me but more importantly, she is good for me, in a whole manner of ways that are impossible to lay out for you. Suffice to say I tried to tell her and all those in attendance with my overlong 1200 word speech after the ceremony, but some feelings go beyond words, even for someone who is comfortable writing them down, like I am.
I hope that as we move forward I can prove to her that the vows we exchanged last week were more than just a formality, or the signing of a piece of paper, and that they are something we can build upon in the months and years to come.
The End of the Whole Mess is a first-person tale (I guess you could call it dystopian sci-fi) in which Harold is the only character the reader sees, although most of the story is dedicated to him talking about his brother Bobby, and what he did to bring about the end of the world.
If you enjoy listening to King ramble on in great detail and at great length (and I usually do) then you’ll get something out of this story, but most other people need not apply.
The End of the Whole Mess is far from the best short story King has penned, but it’s a worthwhile (albeit self-indulgent) read, if only to get to the final couple of pages which sees Harold ranting incoherent gibberish as he falls further towards his inevitable demise.
I lost my grandmother a few months ago to dementia so I knew if The Father pressed the right buttons it was going to be difficult to watch, and the way the movie chose to handle the disease had me intrigued.
Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman lead the very thin cast as father and daughter, and Hopkins in particular, is exceptional. The role – deservedly – bagged him another Best Actor Academy Award, and I found myself touched by his performance in a way that would likely not have happened in less capable hands.
The Father plays around with narrative structure and chronology in an effort to unsettle you and put you in the shoes of the title character, to the point where you, as the viewer, are unsure of exactly what is real and what is not. It’s an effective, albeit sometimes confusing device, but it succeeds in shining a light on a disease that we really don’t know too much about, despite it taking so many of our loved ones from us.
It’s a very good movie, but one that I probably won’t be going back to anytime soon. It just strikes a little too close to home.
And if you don’t have a lump in your throat at the end, you have no heart.
There are not many things more stereotypically male than being able to change a tyre, and I had my chance to do just that at work.
I noticed my rear driver’s side tyre was running a little flat about half way through my day. My hope was that I could negotiate the rest of my shift with a little careful driving and speed management… and then I could get around to fixing the problem. Except, of course, that’s not the way things worked out, and I had to pull into the side of the road with the darkness beginning to fall and the rain already doing so.
When I called my boss and asked her if she had any pointers for me, she told me I should know how to do it because, well, I’m a man. True, I am one of those, but I’ve never changed a tyre – I’ve never had any need to do so. I know what needs to be done, just not how to do it. I really think that kind of thing should be a part of every learner’s driving lessons.
So, I watched a YouTube video and one minute and thirty-four seconds later I was ready to give it a go. I managed to get the van off the ground, but… ahem… my nuts were too tight, and no matter how much I channelled my inner strongman I wasn’t able to get the tyre off. As luck would have it, and completely unbeknown to me, I had broken down outside a garage. One of the guys came out to ask if I was all right, then proceeded to finish the job for me in about the length of time it had taken me to watch that video.
Of course, I loosened the nuts for him, but I still had to hand over my Man Card.
We had been based in Chester, so on our last day, before heading off to the Lake District, we thought it would be great to actually check out the town itself.
As it turns out, Chester is an extremely pleasant town to spend the day. I’m not sure why I was surprised… but maybe it’s because I live in a much larger city that only seems to have a fraction of Chester’s charm, with a centre that is nowhere near as alive or thriving.
We spent a good portion of our time there wandering through and marvelling at Chester Cathedral. It’s a glorious example of stonework (as many such buildings are), and the local authorities have gone to great lengths to ensure it is accessible to even the most God-fearing of folk.
We even did the real touristy thing and got on a bright red open-topped bus, and I don’t do that for just any place. Chester is a town I would like to go back to some day, and really spend more time exploring what it has to offer, instead of the four or five hours we gave it this time around.
This entire trip was fashioned around the idea that Liverpool is the largest city in the UK that neither of us had ever visited… and this was the day for all that to change.
We had only left the car park for ten seconds before the city reminded us with a statue that, yes, this was indeed the birthplace of the Beatles. It was fine – I’d be proud of it and using it to empty the tourist wallets too – but it was comical how fast Liverpool told us.
We took the Beatles Story audio tour, which is filled with memorabilia and recreations of the different stages of their career. It’s an interesting excursion, but one that I think could have been better with a couple of tweaks to the format.
Of course, getting to know the Beatles better is one of the two things any newbie has to do in Liverpool – the other is take a ferry ‘cross the Mersey… so we did that as well. It was a shame about the weather (again!) because that experience would have been a lot better in the sunshine.
We spent some time wandering through the Liverpool Museum, and then a couple of hours browsing through the shops at the Royal Albert Dock. All in all we barely ventured away from the water, and before I knew it, it was time to head back to the hotel.
I have only ever spent one night in Wales, and I didn’t get to see much of what the country has to offer then, so I was happy to give it another chance this week.
We left our base in Chester without much of a plan – knowing only that we were heading for a few sights in Wales. Sometimes a little mystery can make for the most fun.
We drove through and stopped at a number of places that were difficult to spell and even harder to pronounce. A lot of what I saw was just a little depressing, and it is clear that Covid’s footprint still lingers. Many stores were boarded up; many lots were empty. It’s a shame because I’m sure these places were once vibrant and thriving. And like the day before, the early weather didn’t help.
We eventually landed on the west coast and spent some time exploring Caernarfon Castle, where I discovered that goats were actually a part of the Welsh military. No, seriously. They get medals and everything.
We stopped off for lunch in the town of Betws-y-coed – a place I will never remember how to say – before we decided to make our way back under black skies…
…but, it began to clear midway through the afternoon and we spent a pleasant few hours strolling along the promenade in Llandudno, driving along a narrow road to the highest point in town, and then finished our day with a lovely meal at a local eaterie.