Thursday, December 24, 2009


Our first Xmas in the new house; miraculously, we got a kitchen with a few days to spare, so I'm sitting in it typing while the mince pies cool. Then there will be ham. And hopefully a postman. Won't be cooking him, of course - although if he takes much longer, someone's going to get a roasting. Aren't there supposed to be extra elves or something?

It's hard to avoid envy over the snow in other parts. Of course, people are now moaning about the travel chaos; we're never happy. Anyway, cloud and rain is far more nostalgic, I suppose. This Child's Christmas in Wales was always a soggy affair. Still, I'll have half an eye on Twitter for the #uksnow tag, and try to enjoy the excitement vicariously.

Whoever and wherever you are; enjoy!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

George & Ira Gushing

Once again the Taliesin theare came up trumps last night, with a screening of "An American in Paris". Unfortunately, the print was truly dreadful; scratched to buggery and with jumps galore. The sound was fine, though.

It's a bit embarrassing to admit I'd never seen this. I know most of the songs of course, but somehow the show has eluded me. More fool me. For the first hour-and-a-half, at least, "An American In Paris" is the perfect kind of feelgood flick. The kind that makes you perversely long for it to be over, so that you can get outside with your friends to talk about how great it was. Meanwhile, immerse yourself in the mood, because if you didn't check your cynicism in at the door, it's going to get a good kicking.

Like so many musicals, however, it slightly overstays its welcome. A bedazzling (if not always technically perfect) balletic cutaway at the climax is fine in itself, but unfortunately it entirley replaces the last act of the plot. Thus, instead of the intended romantic payoff, the final scene is left dangling as an unsatisfying non-sequitur. Shame.

A good night out, all the same. Exhilarating, inspiring, and cheering. The walk home across the iced-over park? Hmmm... less so.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Shining #2

Lawks, I don't even write when something actually happens, do I? Berk!

"The Shoeshine" appears to have been a success; a full house, ample amounts of goodwill, just the right level of constructive critical feedback, and the improved possibility of further performances. The sandwiches weren't bad, either.

Actually getting laughs onstage was a new experience for me, as this is the first thing I've done that is even mildly comical. It certainly gets the juices flowing, and is also a fine test of discipline; the temptation to play up to the laughs is enormous. I hope I managed it adequately.

And so to Christmas...

Thursday, November 26, 2009


24 hours to go until I next tread the boards, and this time there are no excuses. In my fledgling acting career this is probably the smallest stage role I've yet had, and yet by far the most preparation I've been through. Yesterday's full dress rehearsal of "The Shoeshine" went extremely well, and a decent audience turned up to encourage us. Thanks, guys.

With Friday now sold out and a second venue expressing interest, writer/producer Richard Lloyd is now talking about sequels, including my character. Exciting times.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Press PLAY On Tape

BBC4's Micro Men was an enjoyable poke-around in the Retro attic; but a few authorial decisions left the guilty aftertaste of "infotainment".

By far the most worrying was the characterization of Clive Sinclair. Alexander Armstrong seems reckless casting for such a role, as there was so much scope for his own character to swamp the part. Sinclair was duly portrayed as a joke figure; a pompous, squawking demagogue with a tenuous grasp on reality, given to bouts of sheer weirdness that terrify underlings, and alienate friends and colleagues. In contrast, Martin Freeman's Chris Curry was the quiet everyman, very much the victim of Sinclair's worst excesses.

From what is known about the real Sinclair, the character doesn't seem inaccurate so much as wildly exagerrated, and mostly for comic effect. There were some clumsy set-up gags that interrupted the story, and when Armstrong started to wind up the engine, he came across as a kind of poor man's Davros; an impression reinforced by the overused image of him maraduing about Cambridge in his C5 electric cycle. For a piece that was ostensibly in admiration of his achievements, this seemed more than a little disingenuous; Sinclair was always an easy target for ridicule, and the C5 is the most obvious, laziest possible way to do it.

There were some fine touches though, such as the lovely image of Curry's Acorn crew eating Chinese takeaways using laboratory tools as chopsticks. The use of archive news and documentary footage was creative and charming, and overall there was an upbeat reverence to the pioneering spirit that justified the exercise.

The closing metaphor, unsubtle as it was, nonetheless amused. Driving his C5 down a "road" (that was, painfully obviously, a disused runway - perhaps a deliberate riff on 80's TV?) Sinclair was suddenly passed by huge lorries, bearing the logos of Hewlett Packard and Microsoft. Once again the show had veered closer to sketch comedy than drama, but this time, it worked.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Carry The Card

It was a day of cookies, ewoks, and bodysnatching.

Only the latter is worth reportage, methinx. The ever-excellent Fluellen Theatre had a rare outing in The Grand's main auditorium, with an adaptation of Dylan's "The Doctor & The Devils". It concerns the "resurrectionists" of 19th Century Edinburgh, and the moral dilemmas faced by both them, and their academic patrons. It's about how we draw lines, and then turn them into smudges. How Principle can become Dogma, and how Dogma can subvert Principle.

As my colleagues Julie-Anne & Steven Grey were in the cast and crew, I'm no longer an entirely disinterested party in Fluellen's affairs. So I'll just say that it was tremendous fun, though-provoking, and very imaginatively staged, and if you get the chance to see it on its short tour, you won't be disappointed.

No, really, you don't want to know about the ewoks.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Friday, August 14, 2009

Bloomin' Article

It vexes me much when folks refer to bands improper-like.

Take those moody coves from my manor, The Manic Street Preachers. Now, let's think for a moment about what their name means. They are likening themselves to preachers, who practice their vocation on the street, in a fashion characterized as "manic". They are, thus, "Manic Street Preachers". There is no such place, either in the real world or the imagination of Nicky Wire, as "Manic Street", and thus no-one is known or even believed to preach there. There are no "Manic Street Preachers".

Manic, Street Preachers. Say it to yourself a few times. It will be like a cloud lifting from your mind.

While we're at it, check out Eagles. They are also a band. They liken their spirits to birds of prey circling in the dry, clear skies of their homeland. They do not, however, profess themselves, as individuals, to be birds. They have never been "The Eagles". They are just a band, called Eagles.

To my dismay, I note that "The" Bangles have recently given in on this issue. Darn it. Their proper name conjured a pile of cheap sparkly jewelry, lying piled in a box or strewn on an unmade bed, awaiting selection by a girl (or boy) off on a hot night out. It's a great name for a band. But Susannah Hoffs is not "a Bangle" - that's just plain silly. One can understand the symbolism of four Beatles, three Thompson Twins or two Krankies; but four Bangles? That's just like the contents of a Royal Wedding mug at your local car boot sale.

None of my old albums say "The Bangles" on them. So there.

Monday, July 27, 2009


I'm baking a rhubarb, apple and ginger crumble and editing photographs of my niece-and-nephew-in-law.

It's not exciting, but it's my life.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Excellent Bottom

We don't get that much Shakespeare out here in the colonies. So, when some comes along, it's best not to be too picky. I've never been a fan of A Midsummer Night's Dream, but in the spirit of supporting local(ish) theatre, on Thursday night H&I accompanied some friends to watch Black Rat Productions blow us away with the fairies.

Boy, were we glad we made the effort. Breathlessly physical, joyous, sexy and bloody funny - I never knew there was so much in it! Whether entwining their bodies to the rhythms of the text, convincingly punching each other's lights out, or nibbling cheese sandwiches with impeccable comic timing; they couldn't put a foot wrong.

My only regret? It was the last night, so I couldn't tell everyone I know to go see it. But in case you have a time machine; Thursday 2nd July 2009, Grand Theatre Arts Wing, Swansea. You'll be glad you did, even though you... er... didn't.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Mass Murderer Spares Child! (Again!)

Teen Survivor Of Comoros Crash A "True Miracle"

In the latest killing spree by the global terrorist known only by the nickname "God", 152 people were pointlessly and brutally murdered today, as their Airbus 310 aircraft was dashed into the sea on a spiteful whim of His Unseen Hand.

The single survivor - a teenage girl - is left to ponder the "miracle" of being deprived of her mother at a vulnerable age, while family of other victims are openly thankful to "God" for dispatching their loved ones relatively quickly. Authorities put the chances of bringing this capricious psychopath to justice at slim to none.

"God" was unavailable for comment. Again.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Getting Hitched

Ah, the silver screen...

Last night was a rare chance to experience cinema as my grandparents did, and I can only envy them. Hitchcock's Notorious (1946) is a movie I'm quite familiar with, but watching it "full-size" feels like seeing it for the first time. Swansea's Taliesin Theatre was encouragingly full, too, although the age range of attendees was skewed a little too far towards the movie's original release date for comfort!

Ingrid Bergman is sensational in this flick, where she is given a far wider range to explore than in some of her other roles. The love scenes with Grant could strip wallpaper, and some of her close-ups suck at one's soul like blotting paper. Cary Grant is in cruise control here, but then effortlessness is his hallmark; and Claude Rains makes a great baddie, flawed and sympathetic, yet ultimately evil.

One thing I've always loved about Hitchcock movies is his trick for deriving tension from the most unlikely and mundane situations. Notorious contains perhaps the best example of this art; we suffer a full five minutes of knuckle-munching unease on account of.... the champagne slowly running out! The murmurs of delighted apprehension from the audience proved that this simple magic hasn't worn off after 63 years. Stepping out of the theatre, I felt the need to take Hev by the arm, pull up my collar, and could only wish I had brought my hat...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009



Real, actual money.

One fewer houses, several more pounds.

The 15-month process may have seen off the very last of my youthful energy... but it's actually over. And so, then, is my latest residency in the city of my birth. The Cardiff that I leave is utterly unrecognizable from the city I moved to in 1999, almost entirely in good ways.

But I don't expect thanks...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Work In Progress...

Indy: Matthew Norman

Why shouldn't we have a written constitution?

Because the harm that Political Scripture does to free debate is plainly evident from the USA. The principles may seem enlightened on paper, but all they actually seem to achieve is to allow great chunks of genuine political discourse to be walled off as 'unconstitutional'.

To presume that our generation has reached some political Rubicon does a pernicious disservice to those to follow. Beyond the tenets of International Law, everything should be open to question, even where the most basic consensus exists. If we codify the mores of early 20th-Century society into a gospel for the future, surely we politically hamstring the generations to come..?

Friday, May 08, 2009

The Derivatives Market

Why do pictures of the US president cost less than maps of the UK? |

An issue worth highlighting, I think.

I was trying to produce maps for local authority websites way back in the 1990s, when I first tripped over the fact that the Ordnance Survey - to all intents and purposes - owns a copyright on what Britain actually looks like.

They will protest about the costs of their research, or course - although the point about NASA will make them look a bit silly doing so. But more salient is that the White House photography is a product of artistic creativity, whereas OS maps - however well-designed - are merely representations of physical fact.

It's odd that the USA, of all places, should be giving us a lesson in the philosophy of intellectual property. But there it is.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

If At 46,831st You Don't Succeed...

In my 41st year, I've finally found a version of "Pac-Man" that I can get to Level 5 on! I just knew there was one out there somewhere.

Yes, Atari 8-bit Paccers (for the XL/XE series computers, not the VCS consoles) has ghosts so hospitably stupid that I was able to get this screen up after only a few attempts; five fruits means five levels, wa-hey! In your face, lifelong ambition!

Next up; I need to find a piece of software so dumb it can lose to me at chess. It might just be necessary to write it myself, but for now I keep searching...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Police! Camera! Action!

The police must be policed - by politicians | Matthew Parris - Times Online

It's worrying, is it not, that a Tory is the one speaking sense on this issue? More worrying still, surely, the implicit notion that only a Tory can dare to say "The Tories Got It Wrong"?

Parris has always been a voice of comparative reason, of course. But his point about the culture of tabloid-enthralled deference to the Police at Westminster is well-made, and crucial. Someone needs to go on the offensive, and deal ruthlessly with the inevitable opportunist response.

Tony Blair famously said "We asked The Police what they needed, and gave it to them.", thus inadvertently admitting to breaking the habit of a political lifetime in pursuit of appeasement. With him gone, there's a new chance to re-define the relationship between Parliament and Police; and perhaps, in the process, give the electorate what they need...?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Still Waiting...

...on the house sale, which is agony. Do we get a new kitchen, bedroom, carpets, and media setup? Or are we back to gold coving, magnolia walls and Value Baked Beans for the next X years? This experience is not endearing me any more to bankers, who I'd have thought were fairly keen to make a few friends at the moment. Ho hum.

A year of moderate-to-heavy carkage has now seen off J.G. Ballard, an author with whom I've had a love/hate relationship, but he never bored me. Despite writing the same two novels about five times each, he did have plenty of ideas, a healthy cynicism and an easier reading style than many other "trippy" authors. We were better off with him.

Recommended Ballards: The Drought, High Rise, The Crystal World, Crash.

Monday, April 06, 2009


Yesterday was magical.

Living in our new house that is actually close to some of our friends has been as liberating as we'd hoped. On this sunny Sunday, we entertained two separate sets of casual visitors; walked the beach and watched aerobatics over the bay; ate both breakfast and dinner out, and in company; and spent the evening carousing at a table for ten.

It's a whole new life, and I'm loving it.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Little Harmless Faith

Another slight setback in the War On Bollocks;

Couple Given £4500 of Taxpayers' Money for Psychic Academy [Wales Online]

but more than made up for by this;

Crash Pilot Who Paused To Pray Is Convicted [Reuters]

Let's hope he prays for a shorter sentence, eh? If only we could find and prosecute all the people responsible for his religious instruction, too. That'd make those sixteen deaths really mean something.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Coming Back

There’s a warm mist lying over the bay. It diffuses the floodlights of St Helen’s into a soft, ambient glow, turning the whole sky silver. In the half-light of dusk, people are lighting fires on the beach, so that the crisp sea-salt air is warmed with woodsmoke. In the dunes, a couple kiss. At the shoreline, an old man walks a young dog. If you find the right spot on the coast road, all that can be heard is the tumble of surf, the yapping of the pup, and a distant, lonely foghorn.

And I remember why I loved this place, and why I may yet do so once again.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Settling; Like Snow Doesn't.

We are, of course, exhausted beyond all reason, but Hev & I are now installed at the new Swansea mansionette. We're 10 days into the biggest game of TETRIS of our lives, we're on level 129, and it's become a full-contact bloodsport. We're just starting to see carpet, so we're still motivated. Building a kitchen out of spare parts is proving challenging, but at least space is no longer an issue... for now.

We're already feeling the benefit of being in the middle of things, and having friends "just pop in", which hasn't happened to either of us for a decade. There's a couple of restaurants around the corner, three parks and three or four pubs within five minutes' walk, and our favourite late-night bar just in the next street. After Splott and Waun Wen, this feels like Beverley Hills.

If we've left you out of our update texts/e-mails, drop us a line for our new address, landline no. etc. Then perhaps you too can "just pop in"? That'd be grand.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The FUDmeister Speaks

David Blunkett: Those who pontificate about 'big brother Britain' miss the point

On the one hand, I suppose Mr. Blunkett should be given credit for having the front to write this piece in the first place. But what a bland and self-affirming load of twaddle it is, worthy of linking to only because it should be seen to be disbelieved.

Surely the highlight is this sentence;

"There is a misconception that the database for biometric passports and ID cards might be misused."

followed by precisely no qualification or argument of any kind? It's just a misconception, get it? Plain as the noses on our faces, really. Silly, silly us!

"The world has changed and those who threaten us are often ahead of the game."

They're still out there, you see; those who threaten us. The global WeH8UK brotherhood still holds monthly meetings in their secret volcano headquarters, stroking cats and feeding democracy campaigners to the pirhanas. It's a universal conspiracy against our way of life, not just a couple of nutters with hooks for hands. We're under constant attack; watched, tracked and hated by evil powers that we don't begin to comprehend. Never forget, brave citizens. Be afraid. BE VERY AFRAID.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

I Can't Call Them ALL "Dave"!

I wonder if anyone has ever written a poem about cardboard boxes. I'll ask Google...

Hmmm, a few, but strictly amateur stuff and mostly... um... idiosyncratic, I think I'll say. Not that I'm particularly moved to verse by the things, it's just that there are an awful, awful lot of them in my life at present.

There's something about them that can seem comforting or depressing, depending on one's mood, I suspect. That brutal, efficient reduction of a well-rounded life into a matrix of stubbornly square holes; is it liberating, or suffocating? I suppose - to those to whom tidiness and order are ways of life, rather than abstract concepts - mostly the former. I'm trying to see it that way, and partially succeeding.

I suppose I just want it on record that it's an effort, okay?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Back in Jack

Hmm, yes... there were supposed to be house-related updates. Bum.

Okay, so here's the gen. Hev's place is sold, gone, and we move into the new place, in Uplands, together, in the first week of March. All who merit a personal update will get one by some means or other. My place didn't sell, still trying, will probably have to rent.

So a ten-year residence in Cardiff draws to a close, though I'll only be down the road, really. The chance to be nearer to people that I care about is really exciting. There will even be parks to go for walks in, and stuff.

As you can tell I'm not too comfortable with this mundanity-bulletin stuff. I'll try to find something actually interesting to write soon.

Friday, January 23, 2009

In Case You Missed The One Thousand Words...

TASCHEN Books: Photo Icons I

I picked up both volumes of this neat little tome for £3 each, from a popular high-street retailer with a canine audiophile for a logo.

I can't recommend them highly enough. Just about every photo you'd think of, plus loads more besides. But the byline is "The Story Behind The Pictures", and boy do they deliver. Instead of just a few paragraphs of anodyne editorial, each photographer gets a whole essay, packed with enough references to keep you Googling for weeks.

Brain-food of Michelin Star quality, at Middlesborough Spar prices. So cheap you can even buy an extra copy and cut out the pictures... if so inclined.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Everybody Lives!

Plane downed by birds in NY's Hudson river, all safe | U.S. | Reuters

Steven Moffat doesn't write plane crashes.

But if he did, he'd probably write the best plane crashes in the world.