Greg's Occasional News & Views

4 November 2018

A tolerably tolerable week. We’ve had some seriously glorious bright sunny days albeit a bit “fresh”, i.e., freezing. Not much to write about this week – I guess we are entering our winter hibernation period.

Penelope and I had a “Date Night” on Thursday – we set off to see another NT Live Stream event, this time the new Alan Bennett play Allelujah!

Normally we attend these events at the cinema in Banbury but for some reason it was not being shown there this week. Boy, did they miss a trick. Generally, there is an audience of about ten people (including Penny and me) for the NT Live events streamed at the Banbury Flea Pit. Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, Ibsen, et. al. are clearly too sophisticated for the average Banburian to endure. I’ve often wondered how it can be worth their while to open the cinema, employ three or four staff for an audience of ten but it’s always worked out well for us. This time, though, no showing.

No worries, I thought to myself. It’s being shown at the Northampton Cineworld complex which is only marginally further than Banbury. So, I set off to book some tickets on Thursday morning only to be informed by the web site that there were no tickets available! What? No tickets for an NT Live streaming? Très bizarre!

Bicester was our next closest venue and, thankfully, they did have two seats available. When we got there the place was packed! Clearly, Alan Bennett is a “National Treasure” and his stuff is as popular as ever it was.

We had intended to dine beforehand at Prezzo in Bicester, a simple Italian pizza and pasta place. On arrival, however, we were informed that it would be an hour before we could get any food – they had only one chef on that night. As we only had about 45 minutes until show time, we declined and decamped to the next door establishment, a bright shiny place called Wildwood of which I had never heard.

To say our meal was average at best is perhaps an hyperbole. How is it that these chains survive on the production of very mediocre food?

The play itself was “interesting.” Alan Bennett is, of course, a very clever writer and one whose humour is very often subtle and low key. The Guardian gave the play a four star review. Both Pen and I found it somewhat underwhelming and disappointingly predictable with the humour somewhat elusive, so elusive that at times it was difficult to find. It was a pleasant enough evening but a considerable disappointment – perhaps we simply have too high expectations of Bennett?

It’s true that he hits his targets faithfully – the crumbling state of the NHS, the racist Home Office “Hostile Environment” which threatens to deport a dedicated doctor because he is of Indian origin and the management consultant who is determined to close down the hospital largely because it is so successful – “The state,” he argues, “should not be seen to work. If the state is seen to work, we shall never be rid of it.”

In spite of the song and dance routines (which I liked and Penny absolutely didn’t) it all felt a bit tired and weak, Bennett taking pot shots at sitting targets. It had the feel of a play which he scribbled off in an afternoon and, as a result, it felt flat. Oh well, it was certainly popular and if the message is that the bottom line is all that matters, it was, on that count, very successful.

I think I’ve mentioned The Forge Coffee Shop in Culworth which opened a couple of months ago, I guess. It has excellent coffee and half decent cakes and brownies but I do wonder (still) how it will survive a long, cold winter in a small village in rural Northamptonshire. I hope it does survive as it’s very pleasant and very convenient – we often take the opportunity to drop in when collecting Jessie from nursery or Ava from the end of her shift at the Red Lion. The last few times we’ve been Jessie has requested a drink of her own and the other day they gave her some warm milk in a small espresso cup. Very sophisticated.

I trust you all survived the ghosts and goblins of Halloween. Penny and Adam decided that Jessie should have her own first encounter with the festivities at least as far as carving a pumpkin or two. She wasn’t overly keen on scooping out the goop inside but did find the carving of the faces moderately amusing.

In Brexit-related news we had the Chancellor’s budget earlier in the week. One of the “highlights” was the announcement that the Treasury would be issuing a special, commemorative Brexit 50p coin when we leave next year. Along with a return to blue passports which the loonier Brexiteers have demanded the advantages of leaving the EU have never been clearer:

And while on the Brexit theme, Penelope shared the following on Facebook the other day:

Another great metaphor for the stupidity of the British position.

Finally, did you see coverage of the floods in Venice? The New York Times had a video showing some of the impact which you can see here. Note, about 40 seconds in, how the restaurants are still catering for folks in spite of a couple of feet of water all over the restaurant floor. Fine dining now requires the wearing of Wellington boots! You have to love those wacky Italians, though. No mere flood is going to get in the way of fine dining.

And finally, finally, Ms Playchute had an amusing correspondence exchange with a potential customer from France.

Dear Stickywall people,

I will be in London the rest of this week.  Do you have a store or is there a place where I can physically buy a sticky wall when I’m there?

Many thanks,


And Penny’s reply:

Dear Patrick,

I am a one woman business and work from home so I’m sorry but there’s no store to go to.

Unfortunately I am having trouble with my machine and it may be a little while before I can get the engineer out to fix it so I can’t even offer to make you one quickly.

Very sorry.

All the best,


Patrick’s reply to that message had us both laughing hysterically.

Hi Penny,

Thanks for letting me know!  I thought you had an entire factory there in North Ants!  Sticky wall is a company of mythic proportions in France.

Given your machine situation, would it be possible to get a wall delivered to France for a meeting on the 8 November?  Please let me know.

Kind regards,


I love the image – a huge industrial complex producing Sticky Walls by the thousands – but even better is the suggestion that Sticky Wall is a company of mythic proportions in France!

And finally, finally, finally a Happy Anniversary to Ben and Brex-Anna. What a lot of fun we had this time last year and what a lot has happened since then! And, while we’re at it, Congratulations to Adam on passing his driving test at the first time of asking – he might not have to cycle to and from work on those frosty freezing evenings ahead after all.

Love to you all,



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