June 2010


Never say die

Hope springs eternal for budding authors with the news that 82-year-old Myrrha Stanford-Smith has just signed a three-book deal with her first novel, The Great Lie, about a swashbuckling Shakespearean era hero, appearing in bookshops this week.
As grandmother Myrrha said: “I was gobsmacked.”
No doubt a similar reaction was felt by 92-year-old Diana Athill when she too became a three-book author after passing the age of 80 – and is still going strong from her retirement home abode.
And the moral of this tale: keep writing – one day, some day, someone might give you a three-book deal. Me, I’d be happy with any deal.

A shirty lot

You’ve got to hand it to the Brits … they’ve just been handed one of the toughest Budgets ever, their soccer team suffered its worst World Cup defeat of all time and they have only one remote possibility of winning at Wimbledon. Yet the burning topic of the week is whether it is acceptable for a gentleman to wear a short-sleeved shirt at work.
The consensus seems to be No – unless he is an airline pilot. As one stuffy correspondent wrote: “Short-sleeved shirts are suitable for wearing only when gardening or when in the home. Definitely not where one may be seen by others.”
And this in a country where sex romps among the elite are the norm and cleavage is splattered across the pages of every daily paper.

Ageism exists

According to the Herald Sun online an elderly couple were found dead in their home 40km east of Perth.
Elderly? They were in their 60s!
Why not simply say a couple in their 60s instead of adding the ageist label of elderly?
The reporters and subs should beware: their boss, Rupert Murdoch, is nudging 80 and hardly likely to appreciate such a tag.

Well I’ll be blowed

For a brief moment I began to see the new Oz PM in a fresh light when reading a report quoting Julia Gillard‘s live-in lover, Tim Mathieson, as saying he was often woken at 4.30am with demands for a quick blow job. The images of pre-dawn cavortings at the Lodge quickly faded when it transpired Mr Mathieson was merely being called upon for his hairdressing skills to make Jules’ presentable for early morning TV.

A wordy record?

Where were the sub-editors when music writer Neil McCormick filed his feature for the Daily Telegraph on the Glastonbury Music Festival? Here is one of his sentences, all 102 words: The reality is that it is pot-luck what you actually see at a festival, with multiple stages spread across huge tracts of land, where catching acts involves carefully scanning bills and trudging up and down hills, only to squeeze into the back of an overpopulated marquee full of people trying to get out of the rain, or seek shade from the sun, to catch the dying notes of a favourite song that you barely recognise because it’s mingling with the sounds of another band starting up on an adjacent stage, and a bit of techno pumping out a dance tent over the hill. Phew! So many ideas and so few full stops.
Then there was this 91-word whopper in the same article: Glastonbury is celebrated not so much for offering a diverse bill of musical entertainment on a dairy farm in Somerset as for the mysterious unity that can somehow emerge in a vast surging crowd encamped for days on end in the countryside, as all kinds of magic involving ley lines, body paint, costumes, altered state, alcohol, sleepless nights, exhaustion and, yes, music converges on a hill in front of a stage shaped liked a pyramid when some particular shaman with a guitar and a microphone and delivers release. And phew again.
Seems the sub-editors were among that crowd of altered state revellers.

Gloom and doom

The good news is that Australia has got rid of Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister. The bad news is that his replacement is the whining-voiced Julia Gillard who never answers a direct question but merely speaks in endless platitudes. And all this on a day when the Socceroos got knocked out of the World Cup. Could the day get any worse?

Fazed by Fabio

Not only has England’s soccer side lost its way at the World Cup, but so too have the many scribes pouring out thousands of worthy words about the team and its much-scorned boss, Fabio Capello. The prose is getting denser and wordier and more purple by the day. And today the Daily Telegraph‘s Jim White suggested Capello was not remotely
phased by his celebrity players. So I wonder what faze we are at in this debacle.

Luvvies out of love

Actor David Suchet (the fussiest of the Poirot portrayers) is waging war on the use of the term luvvie to describe those who follow the arts. Poor love, he thinks it’s become derogatory and disrespectful of his noble calling. Fancy attaching such a label to all those hangers-on in theatre foyers who are merely there to gawp and gaze and to guzzle free booze on opening nights.
The whole thing has now developed into a blame game (an art form that PM Krudd originally derided but now uses to extreme) with the actors divided over the use of the term and its origins. Naturally, the media was blamed. Such an easy target.
But now Peter Bowles (he of The Manor Born) says it was one of their own, James Villiers, who is the originator. “It was how James addressed everybody,” says Bowles. “We have only ourselves to blame.”
And no doubt the luvvies at the MTC’s after-parties (and all other such gatherings) will party on regardless of what Mr Suchet thinks.

Laughter with music

Happiness is a rollicking good musical – and they come no better nor more rollicking than the energy-charged Laughter in the Rain, now doing its world premiere tour around the provincial cities of the UK.
This is fun from go to whoa, getting audiences up on their feet clapping and singing along with a multi-talented cast that never allow the energy to flag for a single moment.
Laughter follows the latest trend of weaving the life stories of musical stars around an almost non-stop collection of their greatest hits. The focal point here is the turbulent career of singer-songwriter Neil Sedaka, the Brooklyn cab-driver’s son who won a scholaship to the Juilliard School of Music but preferred to put his talents to turning out No.1 hits.
A few among many of hits were Oh Carol, Breaking up Is Hard to Do, Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen, Hey Little Devil, the doubly successful Amarillo and, of course, the show’s title piece.
After being a teenage rival to Elvis, he succumbed to the rise of the Beatles and the ‘British Invasion’ of the pop scene. He hit financial ruin but kept faith with his determination to write songs with depth and meaning. A return to success and fame came with a move to Britain and the support of Elton John.
All this is acted out with snappy “talk to the audience” moments from the cast and a scenic backdrop depicting highlights of the star’s career and framing a lively six-piece band.
This is an all-singing, all-dancing romp of a show that rattles along at a hectic pace from one show-stopping number to another. Wayne Smith (an ITV talent show winner) shines as Sedaka in both manner and voice and is supported by a cast of 12 singer-dancers who multi-task their way through two and a half hours of energetic foot-tapping, hand-clapping pleasure.
Producers Bill Kenwright and Laurie Mansfield, who are also behind the compilation hit Dreamboats and Petticoats, have come up with a real winner that’s probably the best of its breed since Mamma Mia!

Past not found

All you genealogists out there, be wary of the FamilyTreeMaker 2010 software from Avanquest. It has a major glitch and is likely to be rejected by Windows’ internal workings. Two weeks have been spent trying to get an answer from help desks and technical people to no avail. It still doesn’t load.