9 December 2018

What a busy week! Lunch out with a group of old friends, another Date Night for an NT Live streaming and an outing to the National Theatre on Saturday. I don’t think we’ll have time for Christmas this year if this pace continues. And, the Brexit nonsense continues unabated leading up to the big vote this coming Tuesday – exciting if somewhat unsettling times!

Tuesday we met up with a group of old friends and former colleagues for lunch at The Boat Inn in Thrupp just north of Oxford. Our good friend Les Hall organises these occasional gatherings every so often and it’s always good fun to meet up. It’s a good job that Les seems keen to do the organising because if he didn’t I suspect we wouldn’t catch up with many of these splendid people apart from the exchange of Christmas cards. I have to say though, we’ve been to The Boat on a couple of occasions now – it’s more or less central for the scattered and dispersed group that we are. However, I was struck this time by the mediocrity of the fare – the whitebait starter I had was fine but the burger did not even reach the lofty heights of “mediocre”. It was overcooked, dry and pretty tasteless and Penny’s vegetable and stilton pie was similarly not very well done. On the one hand you don’t mind because it’s so good to catch up with everyone. On the other hand, if you’re paying good money for a decidedly average meal why not pay the same money for something better? I think we’ll have to go elsewhere next time. I would happily suggest one or two of our local hostelries but some of the folks would have to travel three days to get here.

Wednesday evening Penelope and I enjoyed another “date night”, this time to the Vue cinema in Bicester for the NT Live (Encore) streaming of The Madness of George III. Dinner beforehand was at Preezo in Bicester just next to the theatre but sadly, again, the food was disappointingly unexceptional. Fortunately, I had vouchers but the discount didn’t really compensate. We’re running out of places to try in Bicester.

When I receive the NT Live e-mails outlining their coming productions I make a note of the dates in my calendar and then, as the event approaches, I check our other commitments and book to attend at the nearest participating venue. This time, however, the live streaming was to be shown on Thursday 20 November, i.e., Thanksgiving while we were in the States. So, I was very disappointed that we would miss this one as I had enjoyed the film version very much. They don’t always run “encore” showings but on this occasion I was delighted to find that a few selected cinemas were doing so, Bicester being our closest once again.

I suspect many/most of you have seen the film with Nigel Hawthorne in the role of George III – if not, grab it somewhere, it’s a cracking film. This production stars Mark Gatiss as George and Adrian Scarborough as Dr Willis and was, I thought, excellent. Gatiss was outstanding as the king who descends into “madness” displaying a full range of emotions and characteristics from genial upper-class twittery to conflicted mad man with head jerks and tics and babbling nonsense.

The staging was superb with painted flats, manipulated by the actors and strung from visible wires, sliding, revolving and flying about to create the magnificent period settings. It was magic! The only criticism I would make (and Ms Playchute agreed) would be with the direction. It’s a difficult play in which one has to try to balance the comedy and the abuse endured by the king during his “cure” and I think, in playing up the comedy to almost farcical or pantomime proportions the direction went over the top. I don’t remember the film suffering with this to the same extent and I can only guess that this is what the director was after.

Still, it was fabulous and we thoroughly enjoyed it. If you find an encore production at your local cinema give yourself a treat and go along. Don’t eat at Prezzo beforehand, though.

It’s been a great week of Brexit excitement, of course, leading up to the Commons vote on Theresa May’s EU Withdrawal Bill next Tuesday (unless it gets pulled until later as it looks distinctly likely that the Government will be defeated). On the first day of the debate the Government suffered three defeats in 63 minutes which is essentially unprecedented. And then they achieved something which has never been done in living memory, apparently – the Government was found to be in contempt of Parliament for refusing to publish in full the Attorney General’s legal advice concerning the agreement. If and/or when the Bill gets defeated the sh*t will really hit the fan and all bets are off. I suppose the one thing that is certainly clear is that Cameron’s naïve and idiotic attempt to settle the European problem once and for all has rent the country even further asunder! Thanks a lot for that.

Finally, I was disappointed to read that the case brought by Emile Ratelband in the Netherlands has been rejected. He is 69 years old and brought a case seeking to have his date of birth officially altered to make him 49 years old claiming that his age was causing him to struggle to find work and love. His argument, I gather, was that since people are able to change their name and/or gender that he should be able to change his age. Interesting argument but, as the Dutch court pointed out, “Mr Ratelband is at liberty to feel 20 years younger than his real age and to act accordingly” and that “there are other alternatives available for challenging age discrimination.” Do you think his legal advisers told him that his case hadn’t a chance in hell or were they just happy to take his money?

It’s guess it’s good to know that the nutters out there aren’t all just in politics.

Love to you all,





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