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Archive for December, 2008

Armed with the new satellite navigation thing that Wife gave me for Christmas (in the knowledge that I could get lost in a cardboard box), we all set off to see Best Friend and Talented Art Director with Monkey Arms for lunch today. We managed to make a brief (three hours) and not financially ruinous detour via “Westfield” (the below mentioned threat to our financial stability), which yielded some clothes for the children and for Wife, and some DVDs for me (specifically “Doctor Who”, with which I am OBSESSED) – and then we were off to dine and laugh (my favourite pastime in the world – even better than a Ferero Rocher and a wank).

Thanks to the calm, controlled tones of “Jane” (our selected guide voice) we got from Chiswick to North London effortlessly and in good time – and into Best Friend and TADwMA’s house we piled for a fantastic lunch. It’s strange to reflect on the fact that the next time we see them, they will both be parents (their baby is due within the next two weeks) – but I am so excited at the prospect of seeing them as a family that I can barely put my socks on. Dealing with our three children today, they were relaxed, kind, clear and fair – one can tell who’s going to be a good parent when one sees them with other people’s children – and I am properly excited for all of them – especially for the lucky, lucky baby that’s going to be born into that wonderful life.

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It’s not timely to say this, given the critical licking that his film “Australia” has just been given, but I adore Baz Luhrman.

His film of “Romeo and Juliet” is the best version of that play ever filmed (it certainly shows Zeffirelli’s version up as no more than an old queen’s ad for Verona and calf muscles) and one of the best films of any Shakespeare play there is; I thought “Moulin Rouge” was brilliantly inventive; and “Strictly Ballroom” had such an astoundingly powerful aesthetic that it had the same impact as “Reservoir Dogs” on how films have looked since (although taking them in a rather different direction, it must be confessed). I was always a fully paid-up fan – but I have just watched his version of “La Boheme”, recorded at Sydney Opera House – and I think the time has come to say that the man is a fully-fledged genius: it is remarkable.

It is funny, it is daring, it feels fresh. The leads are young and (fairly remarkable this, in an opera that has had both Luciano Pavarotti and Montserrat Caballe star as the “starving” bohemian leads) slim and attractive – in fact, the woman who sings Lucia/Mimi is ASTOUNDINGLY hot  and the woman who sings Musetta actually looks like she COULD be a kept woman who drives men wild – this is opera that you can actually believe in. The sets are superb, the translation is excellent (jokes about erections; swearing; references to “hot chicks”), and the singing is first rate.

But it’s in the acting, the staging that you really notice the difference. I don’t know if it’s because he’s working with Australians, who may not be under the influence of that fucking awful “Open-your-eyes-as-wide-as-you-can-stretch-out-and-wave-your-hands-like-a-sleepwalker” tradition that seems to inflict itself upon European and American opera singers, but it’s so very credible. People sit down. On chairs. They drop stuff and grope around for it on the floor. When they tell each other how beautiful they are, they’re actually looking at each other, rather than at the couple in 18 and 19C. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t have the worry of moving romantic leads around the stage who between them would weigh more than the proscenium arch, and would need sticks to move from fireplace to doorway – but these people actually DO shit, as they sing. 

The audience reception sounds ecstatic – and I can see why: this is one of those productions that I would love to see live – but I understand that it was badly received on Broadway (where they like their opera very straight, and their sopranos to be dressed by Osborne and Little), so it died an early death and isn’t going anywhere fast: a real pity.

So, if you get a chance: make it a priority. I’ve just seen it on Sky Arts, and they’re usually good for a repeat – it really is unmissable. I hope he gets a chance to do something in London (or Europe) soon.

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We’re nowhere on a pudding.

This phrase “we’re nowhere on…” comes from a time when Best Friend, Old Friend at Work and Heavily Sweating Planner (as well as Account Director Who Over-Shares About Her Menstrual Cycle) worked at an Agency whereat the Managing Director enjoyed nothing more than running into the Creative Department the day before a big meeting (ideally a pitch) to return some time later screeching “We’re nowhere on [insert relevant brand here]!” with a mixture of smugness, panic and awe. He loved the sheer drama of being lamentably under-prepared for a meeting, which was lucky, as he presided over an Agency that was unprepared for anything at all… Old Friend at Work and I (in particular) have adopted “We’re nowhere on…” as a handy descriptor of our position on, readiness for, or attitude towards any number of subjects: thus “I’m nowhere on this four hour research review”, “I’m nowhere on Mondays in general” and “I’m nowhere on the entire judging panel of “Strictly Come Dancing”.”

Anyway, the fact remains that we are nowhere on a pudding for Christmas Day.

The main course is Goose (although quite how we’re going to cook it is up in the air, as Wife is very anti any “fruit plus meat” combination – and trying to find a recipe that doesn’t use apple, orange or even apricots is like finding a heterosexual at a Bette Midler concert – so any suggestions would be gratefully received), and it’s coming with the usual accompaniments of roast potatoes, parsnips, sprouts, red cabbage, carrots: so it’s not like everyone won’t be pretty well fed by the time pudding comes round.

It’s partly for this reason that we have eschewed Christmas Pudding. Quite how anyone could eat anything quite so leadenly heavy after such an enormous meal is slightly beyond me – especially if one’s going to have cheese, and if you’re not going to have cheese then WHAT is the point of doing it at all? I can’t remember what we did last year, when Father in Law, Bearded Decorator and Good Friend in PR were here – I’ve got a strange feeling that it might have been ice-cream, or sorbet (which though unseasonably cold is more refreshing and light than anything else I can imagine). Oh well, fuck it. We’ve got our work cut out this year already, with an apparently endless string of invitations, which appear to overlap (which is lovely) and leave no time at all to do stuff like cook the food, or wrap any presents (which isn’t).

Don’t worry: I know all of you look to this site for many things other than a sardonic smile, a wistful dream that you actually knew me, and a laser-like analysis of the communications industry – and one of those things is an update on what my family and I eat. I shall NOT disappoint you.

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  1. Fiona Shaw
  2. Jonathan Bate
  3. Gore Vidal
  4. Deborah Warner
  5. Stephen Fry
  6. Nicholas Hytner
  7. Simon Schama
  8. Baz Luhrman
  9. David Hare
  10. Jeremy Bullmore
  11. Frank Kermode
  12. Daniel Day-Lewis
  13. Jonathan Coe
  14. Alan Bennett
  15. Lucian Freud
  16. Judi Dench
  17. John Galliano
  18. Brett Easton Ellis
  19. Mark Kermode
  20. Guillermo del Toro

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  1. Simon Callow
  2. Elton John
  3. Mariella Frostrop
  4. Jim Carrey
  5. Paul Daniels
  6. Trinny and Susannah
  7. Li’l’ Wayne
  8. Alan Titchmarsh
  9. Jade Goody
  10. Germaine Greer
  11. Lois Walsh
  12. Tracey Emin
  13. Andrew Davies
  14. Meg Ryan
  15. Irvine Walsh
  16. David Starkey
  17. Kid Rock
  18. Tom Paulin
  19. Ruby Wax
  20. David Furnish
  21. Ben Elton
  22. Esther Rantzen
  23. Mariah Carey
  24. Wayne Hemingway
  25. Andie MacDowell
  26. Steven Berkoff
  27. Sam Taylor-Wood
  28. Geri Haliwell
  29. Ainsley Harriott
  30. Nicholas Cage
  31. Paris Hilton
  32. Sian Lloyd
  33. Lily Allen
  34. Johnny Vegas
  35. Renee Zellwegger
  36. David Jason
  37. Robert Lindsay
  38. Anthea Turner
  39. Tom Hanks
  40. Sadie Frost

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Westfield Shopping Centre has opened perilously close to our home: a fifteen minute walk away, to be exact.

Ordinarily, a new shopping centre might be something to shrugged at (or possibly feared, with the likely adornment of scrofulous, hoodie-wearing, scowling adolescents hanging around) – but Westfield is different. And it scares me.

Westfield is no ordinary “Debenhams ‘n’ Borders” concrete shed. It’s amazing. Gucci, Prada, Miu Miu, Boss, Apple, Tiffany, Foyles, Jo Malone, Abercrombie and Fitch, HMV… the list goes on (and exceeds some two hundred stores, of every description) and I am genuinely frightened that with New Bond Street within fevered running distance, Wife will go insane and be found banging on the doors at 3am in the morning in a pair of pyjamas and a full length coat.

I went there to do some Christmas shopping earlier today: I can’t imagine ever having to go further into London ever again to shop. I don’t mean that I BOUGHT much: I just walked around with a slack-jawed expression, marvelling at how ruinously expensive it could be, and delighting in the idea that I would never have to go to Oxford Street, Regent Street or Bond Street again.

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