I have a Scottish face

Sadly, I left Berlin today. I really loved it. Everyone seemed so happy, even the bus drivers. I definitely want to return.

I didn’t have any time for seeing anything this morning. It was a case of slowly packing, checking out then waiting about two minutes for the bus back to the airport. All very smooth and this time I could see Berlin as we drove through it.

At the airport there was a bit of a strange group heading to Cologne in all the finery one normally expects from fairy tale characters.

I think this was the king

As well as this chap there was also a prince and a princess looking very similar. Well, without the beard. The last I saw of them, as I headed through passport control they were standing around their gate knocking back beer. They were all very jolly. A big part of me wanted to go wherever they were going.

But a bigger part headed for the gate and then my plane for the very smooth flight back to Heathrow.

Back in the UK and the grim face of the British service industry was everywhere. Faces weighed down by some imaginary slight; attitudes approaching doom. I was very glad to get back to the house.

And this was there to greet me.

On the walk from the bus stop (there were no taxis at the station) I forced my way through a mini blizzard which turned into snowfall as soon as I walked into the house. It accompanied me to Sue’s where I interrupted her yoga class (sorry) and collected the girls. Apparently they loved the snow. Once home, Freya refused to go out on the terrace though which seems far more likely.

So, my mini-adventure to Museum Island was over. I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to visit all five museums (the Berlin Card was brilliant and highly recommended for anyone wanting to see them all) and experience a tiny bit of Berlin.

I found the people lovely. An example this morning was a chap in security. In most countries, these people are grim and reserved. I guess they see it as their job to be distant from the people they’re checking. (Mind you, Australian security and customs people are always very friendly.)

The chap I encountered this morning was happy, genial and pleasant. He asked me where I came from. (Given the political situation at the moment it’s always handy to say I’m Australian in my broadest possible accent.) He looked surprised when I told him. I asked him why.

You have a Scottish face,” He told me.

We both laughed and patted each other on the shoulder as I walked away, my experience through security having been eased considerably.

And that was my three day experience of Berliners. Lovely people, lovely city.

Mind you, I reckon I have an Italian face.

Posted in Berlin 2019, Gary's Posts | 2 Comments

Still on the island

Day two started pretty much like day one really. I rang Mirinda to wake her for work, drank an instant coffee then headed out for Starbucks.

Though, rather than go to the same Starbucks, I headed up towards Alexanderplatz and found a closer one. It looked deserted but it was open and they made my latte almost as good as they do in Farnham so I sat down and read for half an hour before leaving for the Alte National Gallery.

I don’t normally start an entry with a video but given I took two today, I thought I’d put one here, at the beginning. This is on the pedestrianised bridge that links the museums with the mainland. There was a guy playing a saxophone on the bridge and it sounded beautiful. Sadly the video doesn’t do him justice.

There wasn’t a lot of art yesterday so I more than made up for it today. The national gallery has an enormous amount of paintings including a few Constables, surprisingly. I spent three hours there, wandering around, seeing everything, being photographed by a strange Japanese tourist. I didn’t mind except when he insisted I pose on the lap of Psyche.

Pan comforting Psyche by Reinhold Begas (1857-58)

I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone just take photos of everything without really looking at it. No, wait a minute, I have. In the art gallery I visited in Beijing. The students there just went from painting to painting taking photographs then left. It makes no difference to me, obviously, but it’s a shame they don’t get to appreciate the art properly.

The Alte National Gallery (Alte meaning old, of course) was originally based on a sketch by King Frederick William IV of Prussia. It was taken up by architect, Friedrich August Stüler who turned the sketch into something more workable. Sadly he died before planning was completed. Eventually it was completed by Carl Busse, who didn’t die, and the place opened in 1876 with the Kaiser in attendance.

Since those heady bygone days, the place has expanded to include a number of buildings. The Alte National Gallery is just one though being as it’s on the Island and the others are not, it’s the only one I’ve visited this trip.

Wandering around I saw a lot of paintings; many I loved, many I wasn’t that keen on. It’s difficult to choose a favourite so I’ve decided to choose an artist I didn’t know and a painting I’ve never seen before as my favourite at the Alte National Gallery.

Snow White by Victor Muller (1862)

I like the ethereal quality of it, the fantasy aspect. It speaks of fairies and magic and evil apples. I found it quite arresting for such a small painting. His Wikipedia entry states that:

All of his works are distinguished by a certain literary or poetic character which appeals to the fancy like a strain of lyric music, although the coloring sometimes runs in its vividness to the verge of extravagance.


I think that just about sums up the Snow White above.

A big bonus was finding the first of many St Sebastiens. This was the one in the Alte but the Bode had millions. I’m not going to include every St Sebastien I saw today. In fact, I’m only going to include this one. The rest are on Flickr.

St Sebastien by Friedrich Overbeck (1813-16)

I rather like the way Friedrich has painted the saint’s name in his halo. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before. I love the softness of this painting as well.

Anyway, having spent the good part of three hours wandering the many, many rooms, I settled down in the cafe/bookshop for a coffee and a bit of a rest for my tired old legs. But there wasn’t time for too much of a rest as I headed out for the Bode Museum.

Like paintings, it’s difficult to pick a favourite museum (obviously because they’re all different) but if I had to, I’d choose the Bode. I thought it was lovely and manageable and had a lot of St Sebastiens. Mind you, it is quite a walk from the Alte National Gallery.

The walk is mainly due to the extensive building works going on at the Pergamon. Mind you, it does force one to breath some fresh air while moving between the two buildings.

The Bode is named after the man who was the director of the sculpture collection from 1885. He was to go on to become the Director of the art collection in 1890 and then, finally the Director General in 1905. His name was Wilhelm von Bode. Prior to the name change, the museum was named after Kaiser Friedrich but in 1957 it became the Bode. And so it remains.

There are some exquisite statues in the collection: Some so beautiful they defy description. Like this tiny Adam and Eve where they both look more than happy to leave Eden and set out on their own without a domineering and unreasonable father.

Adam and Eve as lovers by Zacharias Hegewald (1530)

Though, I have to say, I’m not sure why they needed the nails.

Halfway around there was the opportunity for a sit down and refreshment break at the delightful little cafe. My salami salad and bottle of Berlin Pilsner were just what I needed to refuel ahead of the next section.

Bode cafe

Sadly, a few items from the collection didn’t managed to survive WWII but the bulk of the priceless artworks were saved and are now gloriously on show for all and sundry. Even strange Japanese men who seem to follow me around with their cameras.

After the Bode I wandered back up the river to the Altes Museum. And while I really, really liked the Bode, the Alte was somewhat more up my alley with tons and tons of Roman, Greek and Etruscan antiquities.

The museum itself has been there since 1830 though not as exclusive as it has now become. The museum provides a chronological tour through art from the 10th century BC to the Romans in 200 AD. It is all glorious. It even includes a sexy section similar, though not as extensive, to the one at the Naples Archaeological Museum.

I really enjoyed the Etruscan stuff. They were such an advanced race (a matriarchal society for one thing) and could have created such a brilliant world had they but lasted. Rome managed to subsume them and while I do have a rather big soft heart for the Romans, I really wish they hadn’t. I reckon life as an Etruscan would have been pretty good. (Okay, Mirinda, not if I was a slave.)

Cinerary Urn – reclining young man

This was made around 460-440 BC and is a young man reclining for the banquet after the Greek fashion (the Etruscans were a sort of break away group from the Greeks). He may have sat in the middle of the table during the wake. His head would have been taken off and the burnt remains of the dead person put inside. So it was as if the deceased was taking part in their own wake. You just have to love that idea.

Anyway, the only bad part of the Alte Museum was the fact that the bookshop was closed when it was time to leave. This is just outrageous. I have managed to get a small guide book from four of the five museums I visited and all I have from this last one is the paper handout. It’s very, very annoying.

Disappointed I trudged back to the hotel and collapsed onto the bed. For a bit.

Then, after a suitable rest, I headed out to the State Opera House to see a new opera called Violetter Schee (Purple Snow). I was wanting to see My Fair Lady in German but that was on somewhen else. Still, I’m always up for something different so a ticket I bought and front up to the theatre I did. (It helps that the opera house is just over the two bridges and about a 15 minute (for me) walk away.)

Now, there are times when you go and see something at the theatre when the time just flies and suddenly you are applauding and it’s all over. You want it to start again, to prolong the delight and joy you’ve just witnessed. The last thing you feel like doing is getting up from your seat and leaving the theatre.

I would love to say that the 105 minutes of Violetter Schee flew by. I would love to say it was one of the most entertaining things I’ve ever seen. I really, really wish I could. Sadly it was diabolically awful.

Mind you, a lot of the people in the audience (and it was pretty full) seemed to think it was fantastic judging by their non-stop applause at the end. At first I thought it was an expression of relief but I think people really did enjoy it. It’s beyond me how.

The opera is sort of about a Pieter Bruegel painting; Hunters in the Snow.

Hunters in the Snow by Pieter Bruegel (1565)

In fact the first 15 minutes sees us having the whole painting explained to us by one of the characters. Not singing, mind. No, she told us in a monotone while the scrim lit up with various blurred and focused images from the painting. She is in an art gallery having just looked at the painting hanging on the wall.

At this point everything seems quite normal and, while dull, it’s easily understood. All sense departed after our lecture.

I should stress that I am not criticising the singers or the musicians. No, they all managed very well in what can only be described as very trying conditions (and I don’t mean the constant snow fall). It’s the piece itself I’m criticising. It is dull, dull, dull!

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying it has to have pretty, toe tapping songs in order to get me hooked or a tragic love story based in the France of the Belle Epoch. I’m up for anything. I love Lulu which is far from catchy song filled.

This was just dire. It was the visual expression of the composer’s worst dream inflicted on the audience as some sort of penance. It was boring and relentless with it. It made no sense. It was awful.

Not only was it appalling but the set was more entertaining. Up and down it went, stairs going on forever, rooms appearing, street lights flickering. Snow, endless snow.

As soon as I could I left as the applause continued behind me. I walked out into the bitter cold streets of Berlin, welcoming the frozen blasts in pretty much the way the characters in the opera didn’t.

I’m glad I saw an opera at the State Opera House but I wish it hadn’t been Violetter Schee. Possibly it should have been called Gelb Schee.

I’m NOT clapping any more!
Posted in Berlin 2019, Gary's Posts | 2 Comments

On the island

Whenever visiting a new city, it’s important to start your first day with an old friend. It’s not always possible (like in Naples) but it definitely is in Berlin.

Having booked an opera and checked out where my first museum was, I headed down Friedrichstrasse to the closest Starbucks.

Spot the familiar green umbrella behind the man’s head

Of course it tasted like every other Starbucks latte I’ve ever had (apart from the silky milk ones from Farnham) which is, of course, exactly as it should be.

Having had my latte and a bit of a pre-morning assault rest, I headed to a bookshop I’d noticed on the way.

Dussmann is massive. Spread over four floors with books, music and movies, it’s like heaven. Naturally I headed for the ‘kinder’ section in order to buy the essential German language Alice. And I found a lovely volume with drawings by Floor Rieder. But that’s the incidental trappings of my holiday shopping. More important things lay ahead.

I had an 11am timed slot for the Pergamon but, given it was 10:30, there were no benches (I could see) and absolutely no queue at all, I went straight in using my invaluable museum card.

The first thing that strikes you about the Pergamon (I’m ignoring the building works which tend to dominate the outside of the place) is as you emerge at the first floor and look to your right. The Gate of Ishtar is simply extraordinary.

Panno of the Gate of Ishtar

This is a reconstruction using a lot of the original tiles but then filled in where bits were missing. It is amazing – a photo does not do it justice.

Ishtar, by the way, was a great goddess. She was originally Inanna, a Mesopotamian goddess who, it is believed, was first venerated at Uruk sometime in 4000 – 3100 BC. She became Ishtar and, eventually, Venus and Aphrodite.

A famous story tells of how Inanna went into the Underworld, ruled by her sister Ereshkigal, and was only released when her husband took her place. He was only allowed to return to the world every six months, at the turn of the seasons. How familiar is that?

Anyway, looking at the tile reliefs on the gate I wondered why on earth we settled for such a boring god to worship. The ancients had such an incredibly interesting lot. First women and men, then men and women and then…one omnipotent hatred filled bastard and his soft-boiled son of a virgin mother. Seriously? If I was going to waste my time in prayer and related bollocks it’s going to be to the interesting ones.

Still…and moving right along…from the Gate of Ishtar, the museum heads upstairs to the world of Islamic art which normally means just bits of Arabic writing and repetitive mosaics. There’s nothing wrong with that but it does tend towards the dull after the first few hundred tiles. But, surprise, surprise, there was some figurative pieces in the collection.

But, the biggest surprise of all was the ceiling from the Alhambra.

Wooden cupola

This ceiling was originally in the Alhambra but a German banker, Arthur von Gwinner by name, decided it would look better in his Berlin living room. He didn’t steal it because he owned the bit of the Alhambra where it was. So, he had it removed and installed in his house at Rauchstrasse, Berlin.

As I stood reading this, an elderly English chap tut tutted his way through it then told his wife it was shameful. I felt like telling him it was no more or less shameful than the archaeologist who crated up the tiles for the Gate of Ishtar to reassemble it in Berlin…but I didn’t.

Actually, there was lot of cultural appropriation going on in the two museums I explored today. One striking example was the complaint by the Germans that the Russians had ‘stolen’ a whole load of things following the end of WWII. Okay, they may have taken them away and still display them in museums in Moscow and St Petersburg but how is that different to the Islamic and Persian displays in the Berlin museums?

One striking example of this is how the Russians took away a massive treasure which had been recovered by German archaeologist at the possible site of ancient Troy. I’m surprised the Greeks don’t complain as well…or maybe they have? This sort of thing always reminds me of Mirinda’s Masters into cultural repatriation. My problem with sending everything back to where it originated is that every museum in the world would suddenly become a bit dull and lacking in variation.

However, from the Pergamon, I moved across the way to the Neues Museum and a much needed cup of coffee (and slice of apfelstrudel with custard). Then I started all over again.

The Neues moves a little south as we delve into Egyptian antiquity a lot. Papyrus, mummies, hieroglyphs, all manner of stuff ‘borrowed’ from royal tombs and suchlike.

Pretty pictures

Above is one side of a box. It tells the story of the deceased’s trip through the underworld. It reminded me a lot of the Dead Egyptians exhibition I went to at the British Museum with Dawn so many years ago. The box would only have been about two feet square but it told an amazing story of death and rebirth and the glories awaiting the souls of the good.

There’s a lot of Egyptian stuff to marvel at at the Neues but equally amazing is the building itself. Inscribed across the entrance, in Latin, is ‘Only the ignorant hate art’. The building was ordered by the Prussian King Frederick William IV in order to educated these ignorant people in the beauty of art. (‘Neues’ means new as opposed to the Altes Museum – Altes meaning old.) I have no idea how successful he was but it’s a lovely museum.

There are an awful lot of objects in the New Museum, far too many to discuss here! However, I would like to highlight two.

Firstly the famous Golden Hat.

This hat was a Bronze age astronomical instrument as well as being a rather odd hat for someone to wear at special ceremonial occasions. It dates from the 8th to 9th century BC and is decorated with various measurements regarding solar and lunar movements and seasonal changes.

The hat is made of gold. The precious metal was pounded into a paper thin sheet then rolled and heated to join without a seam. The designs were then stamped into it before final construction. This particular example (there’s only three other known hats) was purchased from a second hand dealer in 1996 in order to preserve it for the world. It is unknown where it came from or how it was found.

The hat is incredibly evocative as is the dark room where it is displayed.

The second object was the Xanten Youth. He was found by fishermen in the Rhine River in 1858. Apart from the right lower arm, it is intact. He would have held a tray upon which were drinks and food for guests to help themselves to during Roman parties. He probably dates to the 1st century AD.

The person is there for scale

It is thought that it may have been plundered from an early Roman legionary camp in Germany but was lost in the river as the plunderers fled. Whatever the history, it is beautiful and stands as a testament to the Roman bronze working skills.

By 3pm, I’d had enough and was ready to head back to the hotel for a bit of a break before dinner. Having started at 10:30, four and a half hours was clearly my limit (for today). I retrieved my stuff from my locker and walked back to my room to be greeted by my ticket to the opera tomorrow night.

I then rested up for the evening. It was a good job I did.

Seeing as Lorna had gone to all the trouble to tell me where the Hofbrau Munchen was, I could hardly not go. So, just after 6:30 I headed out into the freezing (literally) cold and started walking up the road. The Hofbrau Munchen is on the same road as my hotel so it was just a matter of walking in an almost straight line to get there.

Passing a handy souvenir shop, I popped in and bought a much needed beanie before continuing on into the freezing, biting wind, avoiding frozen puddles of, I think, water. And finally, there it was: a warm oasis amid the frenzy of frozen pavement and screeching trams.

I walked in and requested a table for one. I was shown to a bench and given beer and pigs knuckle. I was happy and set as the Oompah band played various hits of the 1850’s.

The pig must have been massive because his knuckle took some eating. The beer helped wash it down to the extent that I needed another one before long. Then, suddenly, a group of about 20 English business people turned up and crammed into two benches next to me, ready for a night of fun.

They took a while to settle – coats finding hooks, people choosing seating companions they liked, etc – but then the beer arrived and they started chatting animatedly. Then the band started playing Ein Prosit and, naturally, I stood and raised my glass high in salutation with the people sitting the other side of me. (I may also have sung a bit.)

Of course, the English business people near me wanted to know all about it so I explained. The next time the band played, they were all up on their feet, cheering away, beer glasses clunking away with their own and mine. It was very jolly and not at all Brexit-y.

I felt my job was done and stole away into the night. I was ready for bed and whatever new arty stuff awaited me on the morrow.

But before bed, here’s a short video of my wandering around the Pergamon.

Posted in Berlin 2019, Gary's Posts | 4 Comments

To the island

And so my three day minor adventure to Berlin began.

Mirinda left for work at 8:15 and I was reminded that while I wouldn’t see her till Friday, I’ll still be home before her and it’ll be like I was there all the time. This seems a bit weird in that I didn’t really to have told her I was going anywhere. Anyway, I did.

Eventually it was time to take the girls to their favourite human (Sue), then a final check around the house and head for the bus to the station, wheeling my bag behind me.

I didn’t have enough time to get a coffee from my favourite Schumanian so I just stepped aboard and headed to Woking.

A very busy train

I started reading As I Stepped Out One Midsummer Morning on the train and I was gripped instantly. It’s a beautifully written book. And a lot easier to read than the Auden biography I’ve taken a short break from.

In next to no time, the train dropped me at Woking and I headed outside platform five to stand and wait for the bus to Heathrow. It wasn’t a long wait and before I knew it, and joined by four other passengers, we headed off for the Heathrow bus station.

A less than crowded bus

On the way towards the M25 I received a very important message from Lorna regarding the location of the best pig knuckles in Berlin. And beer, of course. I was told to say hi to the tallest waiter. Obviously I will.

Having nothing to check in, I steamed straight through security and into the departures hall of Terminal 2 a full two hours before take off and searched for the pub. I found it. It was called Pub and was owned by Fullers.

Interestingly there was a timeline on the wall behind the bar marking off the historic moments in the Fullers story. It ended in 2014. I figure it’ll need a new entry for 2019 regarding the Japanese purchase announced last week.

Anyway, a beer and a read then I went for a coffee while waiting for my gate to be announced. That’s my flight below; the one leaving at 14:35 to Berlin.

Still waiting at this point

Naturally, when it was announced my gate was the furthest. The airport signage claims it takes 15 minutes, which is closer to 30 for me. The trouble with the airport signage is that it assumed the travelators are working. Which they weren’t.

Anyway, not to fret, I made the gate in plenty of time.

Of course my stick aided me in being the first person on the plane. I was comfortable and seated before anyone else decided to join me.

The flight wasn’t full. While a woman did sit in the window seat, the seat between us was delightfully empty. The whole flight was smooth and effortless. I watched some South Korean TV then snoozed for the last bit.

We landed at Tegel and caught the passenger bus to the terminal in order to queue at passport control before emerging into Germany.

Before heading for the bus stop, I popped into the museum pass booth (I’d already bought a three day pass) to book into the Pergammon first thing tomorrow then it was out into the cold. Well, it was supposed to be cold though I didn’t feel it. My fleece remained unzipped for the duration.

The bus from the airport to Marienkirche would have been quite the scenic tour had the sun still been around. As it was, the whole of Berlin was swathed in night and the bulk of people on the bus were going home from work.

Eventually I reached my stop and walked across the road to my hotel. Unbelievable how convenient it is and equally unbelievable was the fish tank hanging impossibly above reception. I was so astounded that the receptionist offered me a room with a view of it.

The biggest free standing fishbowl in the world

After a short rest to get over the experience so far, I headed out for dinner. I was looking for pigs knuckle. I wasn’t disappointed. After a series of unpromising options, I discovered Kartoffelhaus Number 1. I ordered beer and pigs knuckles from the Italian waiter who seemed to be able to speak any language.

And my dinner was spectacular. The pig was sat on ‘grandma’s potatoes’ and someone else’s sauerkraut. The meat fell from the bone and the whole meal was a delight.

Would make a Weasel mouth water

Grandma’s spuds made me suddenly feel remarkably tired so I paid and walked back to the hotel in the now bitingly cold wind. Almost as soon I returned to my room, the fish were put to bed (the lights turned off) and I wasn’t long behind them.

And a short video…

Posted in Berlin 2019, Gary's Posts | Leave a comment

Simple Sunday

Apart from roasting a delicious Welsh leg of lamb and making a spectacular cauliflower and broccoli cheese, the day was fairly uneventful. Even Mirinda had only Bob to Skype with because Fiona’s Internet is presently unconnected.

The biggest highlight of the day was playing the DVD of our honeymoon trip after dinner.

A few weeks ago I decided to have all the tapes of our shows (and honeymoon) turned into DVDs and they arrived on Saturday. I hadn’t told Mirinda and just surprised her with it. It was very funny seeing ourselves from so long ago. Though, I have to say, the highlight of the highlight was definitely the march of the fairy penguins on Philip Island.

I also watched a little bit of one of my shows (just to check it was okay) and had a chuckle at Lake being me in Tacit Stop.

There are none of me acting.

The weather was very changeable with rain then sun then all over again most of the day. Then, as the night descended, the cold began. We are supposed to have it cold for the next week which is as it should be.

Posted in Gary's Posts | Leave a comment

It was seven years ago today

Exactly seven years ago, I accompanied a bunch of Weasels to the Union Chapel in Islington where we watched and listened to an amazing concert performance of Hadestown by Anais Mitchell. We had been introduced to the album by John back at Weasels Afloat 2010 and it became a bit of a firm favourite with all of us.

(I don’t know about the others but it also introduced me to the wonderful Thea Gilmore who has a voice and songwriting talent to be reckoned with.)

I’ll often play the album and it instantly takes me back to those incredibly uncomfortable pews and the brilliant concept that was Hadestown. And today, we went one level higher.

But first we need to journey back to May 2018 when John sent around a general Weasel email notifying us of the imminent production of a full scale Hadestown performing in the Olivier Theatre in January 2019. Naturally I wanted in and ordered a ticket, as did five others. And today was the day of reckoning.

John suggested meeting in the Hole in the Wall at Waterloo, a pub I know well as a meeting place for Aldershot fans on their way to London away matches. The front bar is lovely though and that’s where we met up. Well, after Lindy grabbed John, saving him from the wrath of a few thousand FA cup football fans crammed into the darker reaches of the pub.

The quiet front bar of the Hole in the Wall, Waterloo

We had a few ales (they actually had TEA on tap which is always a pleasure to find) and they all ate some carbs before we all headed down to the National under Madame E’s inexpert navigation. (Her phone makes rather odd choices.)

Eventually we were happily sat in the front row of the upper circle, eager in anticipation, waiting for the show to begin.

Hadestown – at the beginning

And I can only say how utterly brilliant it was. The cast was superb, the band amazing.

The three fates, Carly Mercedes Dyer, Gloria Onitiri and Rosie Fletcher in delightful harmony ala Andrew Sisters, were extraordinary. The impossibly deep voice of Patrick Page, plunged us deep underground into his evil Hadestown. The wonderful Amber Gray as the boisterous Persephone was perfect with her returning of spring and summer. The very high voice of Reeve Carney as Orpheus and the innocent delight of Eva Noblezada as Eurydice, perfectly matched as the silly young lovers.

But, most of all, the unbelievably cool André De Shields as the silver suited Hermes. You couldn’t take your eyes away from this amazing man. He gripped the audience to such an extent that following the curtain calls, all he had to do was put one finger to his lips and the once screaming, stamping, clapping audience was hushed as the cast sang one last, quiet song. It was an exercise in masterful stagecraft.

And the chorus was also amazing; full of life, giving the show everything they had. It was exhausting to watch and a gift from them all. And the band. The whole thing was so much more than the sum of its parts. Without any cog, the show would not have worked so well.

The show is off to Broadway soon and I hope it sells out every night because it deserves to.

A true golden ticket
Posted in Gary's Posts, Theatre Review | 1 Comment

China Tweed

Today I was working from home for a couple of reasons.

Firstly because Mirinda didn’t come home last night and I don’t like leaving the dogs all day. It did occur to me during the day that they are the two most spoiled dogs we’ve ever had. When I think back on Carmen and Day-z being left day after day while we both worked and then, back in Oz, poor Alice and Brad who were rarely taken for walks, it’s no wonder that Emma and Freya are so insistent on walks and company.

In fact it’s quite difficult convincing Emma that she doesn’t want to go for a walk in the pouring rain or that she can’t come to the shops with me. Of course it’s a lot better because I’m home most of the time (and then there’s the wonderful Sue, of course) but, seriously, how spoiled are they?

The other reason I was working from home was because I was expecting a very important delivery from DHL. It had come all the way from China and was due to be delivered between 1pm and 5pm. It turned up at 1:05pm and I hurriedly unwrapped it.

It was my new, tailor made, tweed, hipster suit. It fitted much better than a glove given most men’s gloves are big and bulky and useless for anything but keeping one’s hands warm. Having tried it on to make sure it did in fact fit better than a glove, I reluctantly hung it up in the wardrobe to wait for Mirinda to come home and photograph it.

Meanwhile, work on the Wrecclesham memorial chugged along. I managed to unravel the mistaken belief that a chap serving in the merchant marines was in fact on a sailing boat called Joshua rather than a steamship called Joshua Nicholson.

It reminded me of the Canadian soldier who was mistakenly assumed to be aboard the Lusitania when he actually died of some internal illness in hospital. These little things are so important to me. Setting the record straight is incredibly satisfying for the researcher but also, I’d like to think it’s also important for the descendants.

Finally, though, Mirinda was home and we had a little fashion parade. This is something that rarely happens with me. When I normally buy clothes it’s generally jeans and t-shirts. Given I always look the same, there’s no need in parading anything new. Tonight, however, was very different.

Gaz in the kitchen in tweed by @Tweedmaker

I reckon I’m going to turn a few heads this year when we board HMS Victory.

Posted in Gary's Posts | 2 Comments

Muddy paws

Today I met Victor. Victor was a rather excited French bulldog. He was wanting to play with the girls. Emma, naturally, gave him a withering glance then went back to her tennis ball. Freya played for a bit but, as usual, it became a bit rough and tumble for her delicate disposition. Undaunted, Victor decided he’d play with me instead.

Earlier in the day I’d chatted with a dog owner in the park. Her dog (a cockapoo) had come straight over to me, excitedly saying hello. She commented that he seemed to like me. I told her I liked all dogs and, it seemed, most dogs liked me. She claimed that dogs just know dog lovers. I’m not sure how that kind of magical thing happens but, on the whole, dogs do tend to come over to me. Admittedly, sometimes it’s just to bark at my hat or sniff my trolley.

So Victor decided I was a nice human. I was sitting on a bench and Victor thought I’d quite like his paws on my knees. This is normally fine except that Victor had been walking up the Avenue of Trees, which is very muddy at the moment.

My trackies went from grey to brown in next to no time.

Victor was walking two human women and one of them raced over, telling him off for ‘jumping’ on me. I guess you could call his bouncing on his back legs a sort of jumping. I laughed it off suggesting that if it wasn’t Victor it would be my two making me muddy.

Eventually the two women walked off and, a little while later, Victor followed them.

“Where’s Victor gone then?

But that wasn’t the biggest thing that happened today. I had an early appointment with Cacheta at Ruby Mane.

Nicely done

She certainly gives good haircuts.

Posted in Gary's Posts | Leave a comment

The romance of the Putney Heath telegraph

I was back at work in Portsmouth today. When I left the house, our street was strewn with frost. So much frost, it looked like snow. Dropping the dogs at Sue’s proved that I’ve not lost all my skating abilities. I then managed to reach the bus stop without falling over and sat down to wait the few minutes, admiring this feat of my feet.

Frosty path

By the time I reached the dockyard, there was no frost though the day was icy cold.

Given it’s been quite a break from the library, I was concerned that I’d have forgotten what to do but, of course, my database brain didn’t let me down. Once I’d managed to access Adlib, I was off and away. (Actually I forgot the style of the sub-records for a short while but I just looked up the Filibusters book and realised it was ‘/1’ and not the many variants I’d come up with.)

The books I started on (where I ended last year) were sports handbooks and, consequently, quite boring. This is because they are just books full of the rules and laws of various games as well as how to manage the training in a naval context. After five of these, it’s just dull. Though, sometimes the ads are a bit of fun.

I think the boxer is gay

However, the next subject was not so dull: wireless communication. From bonfires on hills to the Marconi company, the books I was working on covered it all. It all comes under the heading of telegraph.

While I took great delight in flicking through the Marconi books (there were three) possibly my favourite was a little booklet (28 pages) written by John Skelly. He wrote in the preface that no-one had written about the Telegraph Inn and sought to rectify it by creating a complete history of this charming pub.

The name comes from the fact that there was an Admiralty telegraph station nearby. It was originally a shutter station built in 1796 but not long afterwards it was replaced with a mast type. In fact, Constable sketched it in 1818.

The Telegraph on Putney Heath by John Constable, 1818. Image taken from the Fitzwilliam Museum website: https://www.fitzwilliamprints.com/image/827160/constable-john-the-telegraph-on-putney-heath-by-constable

Even so, it only lasted as a viable option (except in fog) until 1847 when the Admiralty embraced the electronic version of direct communication (generally unhampered by fog).

The pub (originally a ‘beer shop’ and possibly the building in the background of Constable’s picture) obtained a licence in 1861 and adopted the name the Telegraph Arms.

Normally when a pub has the word ‘arms’ after it, it refers to the heraldic arms. I only found this out today. (In fact, one of Mirinda’s jokes is that my favourite pub should actually be called the Nelson’s Arm.) Various commentators think the naming of the Telegraph Arms was, in fact, an intended pun.

The reason for this is because the Putney Heath telegraph station was a high mast with two ‘arms’ attached which would be positioned in various ways in order to ‘broadcast’ a message. The signal would be received at the next station and repeated along the line from London to Portsmouth (or Plymouth).

For some reason, the pun was got rid of and the pub was thereafter called the Telegraph Inn. I think this is a shame. A bigger shame is the fact that the pub closed at the end of 2018.

In the beginning of his short history, John Skelly included a song written by Charles Dibdin (1745-1814) called The Telegraph. What’s good enough for John Skelly is easily good enough for me. I’ll include it as well.

If you’ll only just promise you’ll none of you laugh,
I’ll be after explaining the French telegraph!
A machine that’s endow’d with such wonderful pow’r,
It writes, reads, and sends news fifty miles in an hour.
Then there’s watch-words, a spy-glass, an index or hand,
And many things more none of us understand;
But which, like the nose on your face, will be clear,
When we have, as usual, improv’d on them here.

From: The Selected Songs of Charles Dibdin, 1845

Dibdin goes on to suggest that the English will put the telegraph to very good use by letting gamblers know the winners of races long before the results are received in the normal way along with other fine japes. An excellent use for communication if you ask me.

Posted in Gary's Posts | 1 Comment

Tuesday’s Teddy

It was quite an odd day weather-wise. It started out quite foggy as I made my slow way to the gym. Then, as I Skyped with mum, the back garden was swamped with an ice cold, blue sky and sunshine. After lunch and while I watched the second half of an episode of the South Korean TV programme I’m currently watching (Memories of the Alhambra), the sky turned grey and it seemed a bit snow-likely.

(I was pleasantly surprised with my weigh-in this morning. Since Christmas my weight has, alarmingly though possibly with reason, been going steadily upwards but this week saw, finally, a welcome downturn. Hopefully I’m back on the right track.)

When it came time to go for our walk, I stuck a tentative hand outside the front door but the weather seemed to have stabilised a bit. We joined the other regular after lunch walkers fighting the bitter breeze and threatening sky.

There then ensued a lot of the usual throwing the ball, chasing it and returning it for another throw. Even Freya joined in though I think this was in order for her to warm up given the temperature was close to freezing and her hair is scant protection being somewhat thin.

It was about an hour later that the first spots of frozen rain started hitting me (and the girls) and I decided that retreat was the better part of sensible. We headed home, stopping for a moment to play with a two year old cockerpoo called, would you believe it, Teddy.

This Teddy was a lot better behaved than yesterday’s given he just wanted to play with the girls (mostly Freya) and not come home with us. He was very bouncy and was coloured a mixture of chocolate and cream.

Back at home, safe and dry, it wasn’t long before the heavens opened and the water fell out. Freya looked at me in thanks then went back to sleep.

I spent a good hour dying my hair ahead of my hairdresser appointment on Thursday and generally did laundry. I did not leave the house again. When Richard delivered the eggs, he was sopping wet and close to shivering his beanie off. Poor Richard.

Posted in Gary's Posts | Leave a comment