Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Booker Dischord

I'm stopping my previously announced challenge to read all 19 books on the Booker Prize longlist. Why, I hear you ask. Well, because the shortlist blows. David Mitchell, who really should have won, hasn't made the cut. Claire Messud, whose utterly wonderful The Emperor's Children I am currently loving every page of, has been similarly dismissed. Edward St Aubyn, who I was sort of underwhelmed by and stated that I would be surprised to see him on the shortlist, is indeed on the shortlist. I mean, fine you were raped by your father from age 6 to 8 and then you had a massive heroin habit through college and into your 20's so it's a miracle you can even string a sentence together, but come on. So once I'm done with Ms Messud, I'll be reading something else. Probably Stephen King's new one, after the return to form of Cell.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Alright enough so be it, so be it then...

...Let all Oz be agreed, I'm

through and though.

I went to the matinee yesterday. Let me start by saying it's a Wednesday afternoon, one week before press night. Wicked's London home, the Apollo Victoria is a cavernous barn, some 400 seats BIGGER than the Gershwin. It was sold out. Not bad going, though I did find myself wondering if it would be a repeat of the London run of The Producers and after the Tony Award winning Broadway star departs, so do the audience. I guess we'll see.

Now, as far as the show goes, I can take it or leave it. There are a handful of really great songs, a bigger handful of less than great songs. The character arcs are very badly done and the book as a whole is a mess. If it weren't for Idina Menzel, I probably wouldn't have bothered paying for a ticket. But I'm very glad I did.

There's been a lot of internet chatter about how the cast (Idina aside) aren't great, the English accents don't work, the sound in the auditorium is bad, Galinda isn't landing a laugh, Adam Garcia is the worst Fiyero on the planet and so on and so forth. Well, with one exception, none of the negative online stuff I've read was true of what I saw yesterday. The sound is a bit off sometimes, with people being drowned out by the orchestra. But that's it.

Helen Dallimore is very good as Glinda. She's posh and she's perky and she's infinitely less cutesy and cloying than Kristin Chenoweth. She's managing to land 80% of her funny lines now and the other 20% will come if she stops rushing them. Adam Garcia is a joy as Fiyero, he's hot, he's vain, he can sing and dance. I just want to know who the hell designed his "Dancing Through Life" costume because I could totally tell his religion and I was halfway back. Miriam Margolyes is a very funny Madam Morrible even if she does choose (perhaps wisely) to speak when she should sing. Nigel Planer is the only Brit attempting an American accent as The Wizard and he doesn't quite pull it off. He has nice chemistry with Idina though and he can sing the role just fine. The ensemble are all fine and it's a relief to hear them using British accents rather than failing horribly at American ones. I mean, it's Oz, not the USA, so it's not like it matters, right?

However, the show belongs to the green one. Maybe she's thrilled to be back in the role that brought her acclaim and she can finally get closure after her unceremonious plummet through the trap door meant she missed her last show on Broadway. Maybe she's happy to be London's highest paid theatre actress ever. I don't know what, but after yesterday I am no longer annoyed she won the Tony. And I was. I didn't see her perform the role in person on Broadway, but I saw a bootleg of a preview and was underwhelmed. Then I heard a bootleg of the matinee before Tony night and she was awful. But yesterday she was absolutely fucking sensational. "Defying Gravity" might just be one of the best act one closing songs ever staged and she nailed it in style. When it got to "so if you care to find me", every hair on my body stood up. And stayed that way until about half way through intermission. "No Good Deed" was similarly astonishing. And she acted the role up a storm into the bargain. So take a bow, Deeny. Well played. Well played indeed.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

I love IKEA. Kinda.

Did I mention my mattress bargain? When the emotionally fragile sister moved out, she took her bed with her of course. The crippled lesbian scanned the second hand websites and found a super king size Ikea mattress Which was £200 new. For £80, I got the mattress, a mattress topper and a bed linen set thanks to her bargaining skills. It's possibly the comfiest mattress I have ever slept on. But I grew tired of sleeping on the floor with it and thanks to a local service who will go to Ikea for you and deliver the stuff to your door, I ordered (among other things) a bedframe from them.

Not being a DIY expert (anyone shocked by that? Thought not), I was not looking forward to putting it together. So I am relieved when it arrives that it's simple to do and not terribly heavy either. The mattress, on the other hand, weighs a fucking ton, and hefting that thing out of my room to put the bed together and then back on to the bed is no easy task. Anyway, as a super king size bed is the size of two single beds pushed together, Ikea's genius idea for a bed base is to give you a midbeam and two single wooden slatted bed bases. Fine. The midbeam is galvanized steel and very very sturdy but it slots into the bed frame in the flimsiest way imaginable. After putting it all together and running out to the supermarket to get light bulbs for all the lamps we bought and some lunch, I get home and settle on to the bed for an afternoon with Chris Meloni and Mariska Hargitay. Only, as I sit down on the bed to take my shoes off, the midbeam flips out of the bed frame, the bed bases fall through and one of the ribbons holding all the slats together rips. Awesome.

So, denied my lazy afternoon in the Special Victims Unit, I have to heft the world's heaviest mattress out of my room again and deconstruct the bed frame all over again. Crippled lesbian has the genius idea of securing the midbeam to the bed frame with some wire. I do that and it's as secure as secure can be. Bed base freshly glued back together, the bed is reconstructed and, much later than originally planned, I get my lazy afternoon, only now it's more early evening. Next day I feel like I rowed to France or something, which is really tragic of me, isn't it? But hey, that mattress is heavy! The bed is holding up very well, the crippled lesbian and I have had a fair few evenings lazing around on it watching TV and I also had some reasonably athletic and very very satisfying sex on it. If that didn't break it, hopefully nothing will. On a bed frame, the mattress seems even firmer and comfier than when it was on the floor which is an added bonus as I didn't think that was possible. Anyway without further ado, here's a pic of the finished article.

Pretty isn't it? Well that's all for now. Busy day ahead, there's some gravity that like totally needs defying.

Friday, September 15, 2006

My Sister's Big Fat Lesbian Wedding


The day is finally here. We get up and put our glad rags on and head on over to the hotel for the ceremony. We arrive at around 11:15am and the ceremony is scheduled to take place at noon. After a dismal August, September has been really very nice and it's a gloriously sunny day so the ceremony takes place as planned and hoped for outside in the garden. They are married in this gazebo.

Ain't it pretty? Here are some pics of the afterwards, as you're not allowed to take pictures during the ceremony itself.

That's my sister on the left and behind her is the speech making friend you'll be reading about in a minute.

Signing the register and making their union official.

Just married and they're playing their song (A cover of "No No Never" by Texas Lightning).

The happy couple. Awwww.

Family photo. No, I'm not in it, but there was an official photographer who took a whole slew of pics and when I get copies sent to me, I'll do another entry with them. So those are my parents. Aren't they cute?

Then it's the sit down lunch at the hotel, with more of the incredible food and excellent service we'd had the previous evening. Although the hotel has hosted many receptions for same sex couples, my sister's is the first marriage to have taken place at the hotel, so the staff are all really excited about it, which was sweet. The wine is seemingly neverending and no matter how much I drink, my glass seems to always be full. Fun. Despite requesting no speeches, one of the witnesses, who has known both my sister and her now wife for about five years, insists on making a speech and having a toast. Which means champagne. The speech was nice enough but I took an instant dislike to the friend when I met her, so I only sort of half listen. I'm so terrible. After the speech, there's coffee and homemade chocolate truffles (to DIE for) and then it's on to the other hotel, the only 5 star hotel for miles around, for the evening bash.

We get there around 4:30pm and check in. The reception staff are all excited as it's the first same sex wedding they have had in the hotel. So we're two for two. I have an executive suite all to myself, so when I realise just how drunk I am, I have to take a nap. I get up and take a shower, and I am so relieved to note when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror that, despite feeling like I have, I haven't gained 30lbs. Once I'm all clean and slightly more sober than I was, I head down to the bar to meet the family, including my other aunt, uncle and cousin who, along with penny pincher aunt and her dull dull partner, have come up for the evening bash. We then head to the function room where the evening bash is being held. There's a DJ and a buffet, in proper wedding stylee. They invited 80 people but only expected 60. However, EVERYBODY came. The place is rammed, there are gifts and cards everywhere. My sister and her wife are so taken aback by that. I spend a lot of time on the dance floor, it's a fun fun fun night. My parents and the rest of the older crew retire back to the bar when the music gets really loud, so I am going between the two for a while. However, when I notice that the penny pincher's boring partner has fallen asleep in the bar, I don't go back again as I'm too annoyed. My sister's very close very gay male friend is by now very drunk and very shirtless and very all over the dancefloor which makes for some entertaining viewing. At quarter past midnight I retire to my room and try to sleep. I am so full I can't sleep right off though and actually consider getting up to purge myself. But I ride it out instead. I only managed to take one pic at the evening bash and here it is.


Everyone who stayed over at the hotel (about 15 of us) all meet for breakfast. It's included in our room price and it's all you can eat. I'm still full from yesterday so I can't take full advantage of this. Shame. We then check out and head back to the house. The newlyweds spend the afternoon opening all their cards and gifts, by which I mean my sister laid around groaning about being hungover while her wife opened them all. My sister kept saying "I wasn't going to drink and I wasn't going to dance. I got pissed and danced all night, I don't know how that happened." Then she'd groan again. They're flying to Turkey for a week's honeymoon tonight at 10pm so they have a LONG day ahead. I am also feeling a titch fragile and not looking forward to the train journey. I say goodbye to the newlyweds who invite me back to stay for a weekend soon then my parents drive me to the station. We say goodbye it's all quite emotional and then I'm on the train for the fastest smoothest train journey ever. It arrives into London 8 minutes early which enables me to make my connection to Brighton half an hour earlier than I would have done and door to door my journey is a little over 4 hours. So there you are, that was my sister's wedding. The best thing is they are deciding what to do with their names now they're married. Our family name is Hunter. My sister's wife's family name is Fox. My sister is dying to double barrel it and be a Fox-Hunter.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Pre Wedding Jitters

My parents flew in late last Tuesday night and stayed with my aunt in Kent for a few days prior to the wedding. I went down to join them on...


I got a train from Brighton in the afternoon and got to my aunt's at around 4pm. My parents are thrilled to see me, ecstatic over my almost 30lb weight loss, and so on. My aunt and her partner (who I HATE) spend the evening making passive aggressive comments about all my books and cds which they have stored in their attic for me. I ignore them, as I do with any and all passive aggressive comments.


Today is wedding outfit shopping day. As my parents are paying for all clothing purchased today and I need two outfits (one for the wedding on Saturday and another for the family dinner tomorrow night), I refuse to buy something I wouldn't wear again after this weekend and go with smart casual. I have my outfits picked out inside of an hour. My aunt is along for the journey but not buying anything. She is obsessed with money, not just her money either, but other people's. As I couldn't give two shits about spending money, this quickly becomes wearing. My mother's outfit is also found relatively quickly. The shoes and handbag to go with it takes a little longer. While my mother and father tackle the shoes, my aunt and I go in search of a handbag for her. I find one, and the first question my aunt asks is how much it costs. When I say it's £30, she grimaces and says "that's so much money". I have to bite back from saying "well you're not paying for it so it doesn't really matter how much money it is, does it?"

When we get home, my aunt then reveals herself to be a feeder. About an hour and a half before dinner, she brings out a truckload of crisps and dips and when I seat myself out of reaching distance, keeps handing them to me. Three times she asks me if I would like a glass of wine, three times I decline. On the third decline, she hands me one anyway. Dinner is absolutely MASSIVE and then a little while after that she brings out ice cream and chocolate. Now tomorrow, my parents and I are driving the 5 hour drive up to Hull. It's been agreed that I would cadge a lift back with the aunt and her hateful hateful boyfriend on the Sunday. They're too tight to drop me back in Brighton (extra fuel, you know) and so we try and agree on a place to drop me. As I know that Gatwick Airport is only a 40 minute drive from their house, I suggest that as it's only 30 minutes on the train for me. My aunt's reply was "well that will add about 90 minutes to our journey, so no. How about we drop you at Epping tube station?" My response to that was "so to shave 90 minutes off your journey, you want to add three hours to mine? I would have to get the subway all the way into the centre of London which would take forever. I'll just book a train, thanks for nothing".


So today's the day I get to meet the girlfriend, wife to be. We leave for the epic journey to Hull at around 10:45am, the traffic is horrendous and we get to Hull at around 4:30pm. My ass is numb. Thank God I had my iPod with me. My parents had a very bad car accident in Spain a few years back and since then, my mother's nerves when it comes to driving in the UK are pretty much shot. Unfortunately for her, my father is almost legally blind. He had a detached retina in one eye years ago and it was reattached but his vision was never fabulous in that eye. A year or so ago, he had a blocked tear duct in his other eye, he's had two operations to try and sort it out, neither have worked. However, as well as a blocked tear duct he's now getting a cataract in that same eye. So he's not really able to drive anymore. My mother drives all the way but I lose count of the times she slams on the brakes for no apparent reason.

So we arrive and I finally meet the love of my sister's life. No reference is made to anything and we immediately are relaxed and ok with each other. I like her a lot, she obviously thinks the world of my sister, so it's all good. She's a big TV lover so we have lots of shows to talk about (we mainly focused on Lost since the shock deaths of Ana Lucia and Libby just aired here). I get a tour of their gorgeous house and then it's time to get ready for dinner. See, tonight it's family dinner at the hotel/stately home where the ceremony and afternoon reception will be taking place as my sister and her wife to be are staying there tonight and we're staying in their gorgeous house. The dinner is on them, which was lovely of them, their thank you to us. Thanking us for what, I'm not sure :-). It has become apparent that my parents are now totally ok with having two gay kids, not least because they confirmed something I have suspected for ages, which is that they are thrilled to not have any grandkids. They would hate to have that extra responsibility and love the fact that they are free to travel around the world (which they are planning to do), without feeling any kind of guilt. This makes me very happy. The meal is a hit, the food is amazing and the venue for the wedding is absolutely gorgeous. We leave the ever more nervous soon to be newlyweds to their bridal suite and head back to their house for the evening.

Next up: The wedding itself, with pictures.

Monday, September 11, 2006

My Sister & The Family Reunion Of Doom

Twelve years ago, my parents retired and moved to Spain. My sister and her girlfriend, about 5 years after that, moved to Hull, way the hell up north, while I stayed in London. Obviously this meant that we didn't see each other all that often. In November of 2004, my parents came over to stay with my sister and her girlfriend and I went up for the weekend.

My parents are kind of ok but not really about having two gay children at this point. That said, they absolutely love my sister's girlfriend, Hannah, and have done the whole time that she has been with my sister, which is about 8 years now. I took the Friday off work and travelled up on the train. My parents greeted me at the train station as they had arrived the night before. My sister is on some work conference and won't be home until later that evening, so the parents and I have lunch with Hannah and then go back to the house. It turns out I fucked up with my train booking. I am not going back until late Monday afternoon as I thought my parents weren't flying back until Monday night. They are actually going back on Monday early afternoon and my sister and Hannah will be at work so I will be all alone. I try and change my train ticket, it's outrageously expensive to do so. My parents enquire about changing their flight home to the Tuesday and it can be done for next to no cost, so they do that.

My sister arrives home at around 9pm, after we have all had dinner and are about to hit the sofa and lounge in front of the TV. Mary Poppins was going to be showcased on TV that night and as I worked in the box office there, we were all intrigued to see it. However, my sister stays in the kitchen drinking with my dad and we don't see either of them for the rest of the night. The layout of their house is a little odd. Right inside the front door is the office, then you walk through to the dining room and kitchen. Upstairs is the lounge, bathroom and spare bedroom, upstairs again is the master bedroom. My parents are sleeping in the spare room and I am on a very comfy very big sofa in the lounge. Obviously the girls are in the master bedroom at the top. We all go to bed, only to be awoken at 3am by massive amounts of shouting and crashing furniture. Assured by my sister that there's nothing to worry about, we all go back to sleep and wake up the next morning to Hannah weeping and packing a bag to move out.

Over the course of the morning, the whole truth emerges. My sister has been having an affair with one of her co-workers. A co-worker who is 12 years older than her, has a daughter and is going through a messy divorce. The reason we had heard all the crashing and banging the previous night is because Hannah woke up to find herself alone in bed. Curious as to where my sister might be, she went looking for her. She found her in the office, having sex with the aforementioned co-worker. Fun times.

The rest of the weekend was absolutely horrendous. My sister didn't seem to think she had done anything wrong and just carried on like nothing had happened, constantly slinking off to make phone calls to the co-worker and pretty much ignoring the fact that we are there. From the moment we all woke up on the Saturday morning, none of us wanted to be there and yet we were all trapped. It was the absolute worst weekend in our family's history.

I didn't speak to my sister for 9 months, nor did I have any interest in meeting the co-worker, now girlfriend. My argument was always what kind of idiot, when not just her girlfriend but all three members of her immediate family are sleeping upstairs, calls her illicit lover and invites her over for sex. And not only that, but what kind of dumb illicit lover ACTUALLY GOES OVER?

So you can see why I was not exactly thrilled to hear that they were getting married. I was not looking forward to seeing my sister again after almost two years, meeting her new girlfriend for the first time and all that shit. Well, how wrong can you be?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

AFA: American Fuckwits Association

I couldn't believe what I was reading this morning when I saw the report that many affiliates of CBS have dropped the updated 9/11 documentary from their scheduling. Why? Because of intense lobbying from the American Family Association over the bad language from one of the interviewees. Dark Ages much? I really am stunned at how they have SO spectacularly missed the point. I made a joke a few years back that America would soon be like living in The Handmaid's Tale. Suddenly that doesn't seem so funny anymore.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

You and you and nothing but you, miles and piles of you.

Apologies for the week long delay in getting this review up but I need to start by saying that dear sweet Jesus I loved every minute of it. It is of course the UK premiere run of The Last Five Years currently playing at the Menier Chocolate Factory in London.

I have been listening to and loving the OCR for a little while now and I have to say I was intrigued to see how it would be staged. The answer was simply and fluidly. A revolve, minimal props and judicious use of screens meant that the 85 minutes were entirely uninterrupted. The marriage bed on which Cathy is lying when the show opens doubles as the pier and a boat throughout the show which I personally thought was a nice touch.

But this show lives and dies on its direction and performances. The direction was unintrusive and understated. The performances blew the OCR out of the water. I didn't expect that to happen and was absolutely taken aback by it. Damian Humbley was glorious as Jamie, great voice, he really acted the songs too, getting the humour where necessary and when it came down to it, he caught the duality of "If I Didn't Believe In You" perfectly. See with that number, I always start off thinking "ah, he loves her so" and by the end I'm like "wow, you're a cunt". And his performance of "Song Of Schmuel" made me cry. Gorgeous.

The real star though is Lara Pulver as Cathy. No offence to the very beautiful and very talented Sherie Rene Scott, but there's something about her performance that's so polished. Which is fine but doesn't quite work for a jobbing actress who can't get anything better than summer stock in Ohio. So someone who is a little plainer and has a voice every bit as powerful but with a real raw edge to it really works. She was, in a word, astonishing. It's only on for another 4 weeks and I really want to see it again. Did I mention that I loved it?