4 March 2018

Oh, my goodness! We had an absolutely astonishingly excellent time last weekend! Shame that the rest of the week turned out to be somewhat less than ideal.

On Saturday we went up to London to join our friends Sue & Stuart and Sue & Dave for the matinee performance of Julius Caesar at the new Bridge Theatre. I have to say, I think this was the best performance we have ever been to see (and we’ve been to a fair few both in London and Stratford).

The theatre itself is very interesting. It opened last October and is the first commercial theatre to be built in London since 1973. It’s on a magnificent site just by the river in the shadow of Tower Bridge and, had the weather been anything better than absolutely freezing we would have enjoyed a stroll alongside the river. As it was bitingly cold with freezing winds we elected to stay indoors as long as we could.

The theatre is a very flexible space and can be configured in a variety of ways. For Julius Caesar it was configured as a large rectangle of seats in three galleries all around the edge of a large pit of a performance area. For this production there were about 100 folks standing in the pit who became, unwittingly perhaps for some, part of the performance. They made up the mob in the crowd scenes and were moved around (i.e., directed) seamlessly by about half a dozen stewards on the floor as the action took place on plinths which were raised and lowered in different locations as the action unfolded.

The play was set in “modern” times and was very similar to scenes one saw on television during the Arab Spring – large crowds protesting and supporting one political personality over another. Indeed, the play opens with a rock band playing and some in the crowd are holding placards proclaiming support for Caesar prior to his appearance at the rally. The final scenes in particular are stunning as civil war erupts amongst the barricades with loud explosions and machine gun fire until all the conspirators are dead and only Mark Antony is left standing.

It is being live-streamed by NT Live on Thursday 22 March both in the UK and around the world so check out the venues listed on the NT Live web site and get your tickets booked. It’s on in Portland, Salt Lake City and numerous venues in Los Angeles but not, apparently, in Hanover. Julie, it’s on in Avoca Beach but not until April, it seems.

Dinner afterwards at Giuseppe’s just outside London Bridge underground station was equally sensational – a grand night out!

And the weekend continued! On Sunday we went across to Nick and Lucy’s to join them for lunch at the Orange Tree, an excellent pub/restaurant we have visited with them on a couple of previous occasions. The food was great and afterwards we retired to their place for an afternoon of fun and games. In particular, Annabelle and Nick put on a performance of the Nutcracker Suite using a cardboard model theatre (with changeable scenery) which was fabulous.

The “not so welcome” part of the week arrived on Tuesday and ran through the whole of the rest of the week. The UK was visited by “The Beast from the East” – snow, ice and freezing, freezing temperatures blowing in from Eastern Europe. As we are just about smack dab in the middle of the UK we escaped the worst of the early barrage but made up for it by the end of the week. There were significant snowfalls in various parts of the country, especially along the east coast. By Thursday, however, Storm Emma made its way up from the south heavily laden with moisture and where the two collided there were buckets and buckets of snow. The Met Office actually issued at least two Red Warnings meaning, essentially, hunker down. Thankfully, we’ve plenty of logs in the garage and nowhere we needed desperately to be.

It’s been a busy week in the farce that is Brexit; the EU published its draft version of the issues allegedly agreed between the EU and the UK in phase one of the negotiations prompting immediate howls of outrage and contempt from all the looney Brexiteers. The EU put its finger smack on one of the insurmountable issues – what to do with the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic? The UK wants “frictionless” trade with the EU but not to be bound by any of its rules and regulations, especially freedom of movement. The EU says “fine” but that means there must be a border between the UK and any EU member state, i.e., between the Republic (which remains in the EU) and Northern Ireland (part of the UK and therefore out of the EU). This is unacceptable to the Northern Irish MPs who hold the balance of power and prop up Theresa May’s government. “OK,” says the EU. If there is no border between the north and south in Ireland there needs to be a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK which is unacceptable to everyone. The Brexiteers howl that the EU is trying to hold the UK to ransom while the EU calmly reminds them that it is the UK which wants to leave. If one leaves the union you are outside and therefore subject to border checks and customs inspections just as occur at every other border between the EU and non-member states. Very simple, really.

Martin Donnelly, the former Permanent Secretary at the Department of International Trade had some interesting “zingers” in a speech he made this week:

On Global Britain: “There is a marked lack of evidence that leaving the EU customs union and single market will lead to greater U.K. trade with third countries.”

On cutting trade deals: “The EU as a trade negotiator has the economic weight to deal with China and the U.S. as trade equals. The U.K. does not.”

On the impact of Brexit: “For the U.K. to give up existing access both to the EU single market, and to the preferential trade agreements which the EU has in place with over 50 countries, in exchange for its own bilateral trade deals at some future date, is rather like rejecting a three course meal now in favour of the promise of a packet of crisps later.”

On ‘smart’ border checks: “Technology cannot offer a frictionless solution to border controls.”

On leaving the single market: “Having our cake and eating it is not an option in the real world; ‘frictionless trade’ is a phrase without legal content.”

On the task ahead: “To provide U.K. business with guarantees of full and equal access to the single market, without equal acceptance of EU regulatory structures would require not so much a skilled negotiating team, as a fairy godmother specialized in trade law.”

On the future: “Given the negative consequences of leaving, and the lack of any significant offsetting advantages, I believe it is likely the U.K. will seek to return to full membership of the EU single market in due course. But significant damage to employment, the structure of the economy and the competitiveness of U.K. firms can be expected in the meantime.”

As one who is known for being especially fond of good food, I especially liked his analogy of forgoing a three-course meal in anticipation of a packet of crisps somewhere down the line.

Honestly, you could not make this stuff up!

And finally, a quick photo of one of the irises at the front of the house which was poking its head out of the ground before the snow! My goodness, it’s chilly.

Love to you all,

Greg

 

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