Sunday, July 31, 2005

Trust Tony?

There was an interesting piece in The Times today about Tony Blair’s attitude before the invasion of Iraq and his relationship with George Bush, none of it is reassuring about the forcefulness of our Prime Minister or the integrity of either him or the US President. We were bounced into (see here) invading and occupying a country illegally. As a result, our troops are in the middle of a burgeoning civil war and, at home, we are a much bigger target for terrorism, all because Tony Blair couldn’t stand up for himself. I can only hope that, despite everything, we are able to extricate our troops from this mess safely, and without leaving a bloodbath behind to further destabilise an already volatile region.

Cycling and Cinema

It was almost another day in coach-potatodom, but Brett suggested going out for a ride (probably feeling guilty that he hasn’t been on his bike at all this year) so after washing all the muck off his bike we headed out and did a circuit of Wimbledon Common and Putney Heath. All very pleasant on a Sunday afternoon and it got the blood flowing.

After a quick shower we headed down into town for a late lunch at the new branch of Wagamama’s (Sure enough, it was exactly the same as every other branch I’ve tried) and to read the Sunday papers.

Then down to the cinema to see Fantastic Four – a very enjoyable movie; lightweight but good humoured. No angst-ridden Tobey Maguire or Christian Bale, just eye-candy, a basic plot and a happy ending.

Back to work tomorrow. Lots to do after a rather unfocussed week last week.


You are reading the blog of a man who cannot sleep tonight.

Bah! I guess I can’t sleep because I haven’t really done anything today to tire me out. I spent the morning trying to get the car taxed, which meant getting it MOT’d which meant getting a couple of tyres replaced, before discovering that, because my tax disc needs to be back-dated, I have to go to the DVLA office on Monday to do it. Curses!

Brett and I had lunch at Est Est Est in the village which, somehow, I’d gotten into my head was a good restaurant. Actually it turned out to be only average. Afterwards, Brett headed off to Putney to pick up his comics while I headed home… only to realise I’d left my keys behind and then discover Brett didn’t have his phone with him. So I spent the afternoon in Coffee Republic, drinking Mocha Frappachino, blogging and reading Charlie Foxtrot’s archives (and resisting the urge to write ‘You cannot be serious…!’ on several of them and ‘You are SO right!’ on several more.)

This evening we did precisely nothing that could be considered constructive: We ate take-away food, read and watched TV, then watched a DVD, then more TV. I hit the ‘Random Blog’ button on my browser a couple of hundred times, but didn’t come up with anything that held my interest for very long.

We ended the evening watching the Hollywood Home Game of last year’s World Poker Tour. The only two faces I recognised were Levar Burton and Wil Wheaton. I know that Wil is an avid poker player, but he definitely didn’t get the cards on the night and came in third. It reminded me that we are hosting a game in a couple of weeks… I wonder if I could get interest for a fortnightly game, rather than a monthly game…

Oh and, if you get the chance (you'll need a broadband connection), check this out. I love adverts that don’t take themselves too seriously.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Blue Mars?

Wow. Check this out! Surface water-ice on Mars is a great find. I'm especially interested in it as I'm reading the book Green Mars at the moment!
I am all for missions, especially manned ones, to other planets. There is so much we can learn by getting off-planet. There are huge resources out there we can exploit both at home and as a springboard to the stars. If nothing else, we need to establish self-sufficient colonies against the possibility of an extinction-level asteroid impact.

Arrests and Killings

Great news is that the police now have all four suspects in the 21 July attempted bombings in custody. Hopefully their interrogations will help us track down the network behind them and prevent further attacks both here and abroad.

Less good news was an article* I read in the Daily Mail about Jean Charles de Menezes, claiming that he had not been wearing the ‘unseasonably heavy’ coat previously mentioned, nor had he vaulted the ticket barriers at Stockwell Tube station – that had in fact been one of the pursuing police officers. I had seen these claims made by his family earlier in the week in the Metro, now The Mail claims to have evidence to support them. If they do then the situation worries me greatly.

As I have written previously, I support the shoot-to-kill policy. However, that policy is not a carte-blanche for police officers to shoot people who may be acting strangely and who, in the words of the sign, ‘look a bit foreign.’ There needs to be strong reason to believe that they are a terrorist imminently about to perform an act of terrorism. If there is truth in the Mail’s allegations then it will be a dark day for the British Police, of whom I am otherwise very proud. I can only hope that the IPCC investigation is completed speedily.

* The linked article is actually a commentary on the story. The printed article doesn’t appear to be on the Mail’s website.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Blogs I Read

A gloriously unstressed day. No work, nothing much to do. I did some laundry, tweaked my blog a bit, watched TV and dozed. It was bliss.

Only thing really worth mentioning is the blog change. I updated the Blogs I Read section on the sidebar. Real E Fun is a beautifully written blog which is touching and revealing. It got me thinking about a lot of things, but I just don’t find myself reading it regularly any more, so it’s off the list.

In its place are the opinions of Charlie Foxtrot, an American airman who is very entertaining to read – even if I don’t often agree with his views. At least he likes Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, cycling and European cars, so he can’t be all bad. Check him out.

That’s it for today. Goodnight!

La Pietà

Today I’ve taken an impromptu day off. I woke up this morning and really couldn’t face the hike into the office so thought I’d take advantage of all those hours I accumulate and do some self-indulgent relaxing.

Anyway, after a pleasant dinner on the riverside, I spent yesterday evening in Covent Garden listening to a concert by an acquaintance of mine, Shane Cullinan. He is a composer whose work I enjoy (but whose weblinks seem to no longer function, so I can’t link you to him.) The first half of the show was a performance by his group Tonic Fold, which is a string orchestra along with piano, drums and a vocalist. I hadn’t heard them before and I fear they sounded just like his original group, The Cullinan Ensemble, which had more vocalists and I enjoyed more. Poor amplification didn’t help either – half of the time I couldn’t hear what was being sung!

The second half (the main attraction) was more enjoyable. La Pietà is a work inspired by Michelangelo's statue of the same name. It records the anguish of a modern mother seeing her son killed in a random street crime. Musically it was good I thought. It was stylistically different from his other works. I am in two minds about the lack of a happy ending though. There was no redemptive conclusion; the death was ‘the all’ of the piece. Normally I gag when I see a happy ending bolted onto an otherwise serious and realistic piece (although that’s usually because it’s Hollywood Saccharine!) but I feel that, because music has such a tremendous capacity to move people, there is more benefit to ending it on an inspiring note. I fear that, in my mind, La Pietà is now in the same box as Blood Brothers; musically delightful, but I leave the auditorium ready to slash my wrists!

EDIT: Apparantly Shane has a new website being developed at, would you believe, There's not much there now, but keep an eye on it for the future.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Northern Ireland

Well this is a great day. The IRA have declared that they are disarming and pursuing peaceful change from now on. I think a commitment to peaceful change is a hugely important move. While it will take time to build trust between the communities in Northern Ireland after thirty years of terrorism, this is a vital first step to healing the divisions. I can’t bring myself to comment cynically on it.

Grand Theft Auto and Moral Standards

Here's a beauty from the Land of the Free. The article concerns a video game called Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which revolves around stealing cars and trying to survive on the mean streets of the virtual world of San Andreas. It has recently been revealed that there are hidden sex scenes within the game which you can access if you have the right cheat codes.

This revelation has led a lady who had bought the game for her 14-year old grandson, to sue the makers of the game because she unknowingly gave the ‘adult game’ to the child. Which leads The Register to note about the game:

“while US teenagers can, in the words of one Reg reader, "pimp hos, pop a cap in a drug dealer while driving a car stolen at gunpoint", they may not indulge in sexually explicit acts with their virtual girlfriends because "that threatens the very fabric of American society".”

Let’s hear it for high moral standards!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Drizzle and Dinner

So yesterday the post-show blues set in. Work wasn’t especially heavy-going, but I was so glad to get away and spend some quiet time on my own. I ended up spending the evening eating pizza, watching TV, reading blogs and missing Brett (who is back in Sweden until the weekend.)

Today at work was much the same, although somewhat more productive. However I managed to mess up the plans for the evening when I forgot it was Wednesday and let myself get involved in a discussion about backup technologies at work. As a result, I was just getting ready to leave for home at six o’clock (which was the time I’d said I would meet Ping for a trip to the cinema) when Ping rang to ask where I was.

I rode my bike to Waterloo intending to hop on a train home and thus shorten my journey, only to hear that trains weren’t calling at Wimbledon because of some kind of incident, consequently I had to cycle all the way home. Stockwell Road was cordoned off, presumably on some terrorist-related business, as there were lots of policeman taking statements from bystanders. It was causing traffic to back up along the A3 which delayed me even more. Anyway, I finally made it home through the heavy drizzle, soaked through and covered in road grime.

In the end we decided to skip the cinema (We’d been planning on seeing Madagascar, but Barry at work advised me it wasn’t worth the effort) and we headed up to The Light House restaurant on the edge of Wimbledon Village. We had a very pleasant dinner, although the entrees were rather average, and good conversation.

I managed to surprise Ping again with talk of my past. He describes me as a rock, because I am typically very calm, thoughtful and stable and I think he doesn’t always realise that these are qualities gained of, sometimes hard, past experience. He didn’t know me when I was a young tour manager hopping around the world with groups of fifty-somethings, discovering that the rest of the world was immensely different from what I knew at home. He never saw me enjoying all that the bars of Old Benidorm have to offer. He never saw me as an emotional wreck when someone I trusted and thought highly of betrayed me.

…I’m not entirely sure where this thread is going, which is probably not a good idea.

I’m too tired, so I’m going to quit now and leave you hanging, wondering what other titbits I might have in my past to surprise my friends with…

Monday, July 25, 2005

More Shooting To Kill

The headlines online today seem to be entirely the debate about the shooting of the Brazilian electrician at Stockwell Tube on Friday (see here.) I don’t think my position has changed since I wrote the Shooting To Kill post on Saturday. It is a tragedy that an innocent man was killed (and it still needs to be shown that the police were acting properly and following whatever guidelines are laid down for such events) but I suspect that that is what it was: a tragedy. A terrible chain of coincidence that an uninvolved person would be leaving a house under anti-terrorist surveillance, would be wearing a heavy jacket in high summer, would run rather than stop when challenged by armed police, would run into a Tube station and then onto a train.

Some of the comments I’ve seen from people have been bizarre. People who say, “This was an execution purely by the element that all reports state five shots were fired into the back of this young person's head,” haven’t really thought through what shoot-to-kill means. Then there’s, “The police can go around and just shoot anyone they like and answer to no one,” which forgets about the whole unhappy chain of coincidence I’ve mentioned above, plus the mandatory inquest and inquiries which will now follow.

My heart does go out to the family of Jean Charles de Menezes, though. To have someone close die accidentally is a terrible thing, to have them killed ‘in error’ in a situation like this will add a whole other dimension to the anguish and pain.

After the party's over

Okay, nothing really to say tonight. I wasn’t much use at work today, although I did get stuff done. I’m quite tired. I’m not as down as I suspected I would be… I had a bit of a twinge when I got up this morning and saw my party shirt in the washing basket, but I’m still singing the songs in my head. Phil H, the Production Manager, confirmed tonight that the show had been recorded so we’ll get an archive recording in a few weeks and we can play the show over and over again… That kind of takes the edge off not doing the show again.

There has been a lot of audience feedback coming through various channels onto the Chorus' message board. It's all been incredibly positive and sometimes quite moving. Here are a few examples:

“…but I was still just expecting a bit of a good 'ole sing song. Did I know what to expect, well no, not really ... What I saw in Sunday afternoon's performance was a par excellence.”

“…within minutes of the performance starting I was bowled over by the power, professionalism and personality of the chorus.”

“this performance affected me very, very deeply. But judging by the number of tears being wiped away by the rest of the audience and by the thundering standing ovations received after both the finale and the encore, I don't think I was the only one deeply affected.”

It feels good.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

You'll Do For Now

Well, we’re just back from the after-show party. It was a great party. Pretty much everyone from the show was there so there were lots of hugs and congratulations. The DJ’s managed to dig out the Jerry Springer version of I Just Wanna Dance and we treated the bar staff to a singalong. As the evening progressed, there was a lot of drinking, dancing and lots of Chorus members dispensed with their shirts. :oP

John G and his friend Esther had come down from Leeds for the day to see the show. They were both Chorus virgins but happily they seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed the performance. Unfortunately Esther’s ticket back to Leeds was not flexible so they couldn’t join us for dinner, so Ping and John M (who had turned up for a second show on spec) had dinner with us instead in a rather nice restaurant called Chinese Experience on Shaftsbury Avenue.

I’m still on the high from the show, but I expect I will crash tomorrow, so tonight I wanted to record all of the positive memories about the show.

I want to remember the waiting backstage, watching the audience fill up before Chris D switches the screen to watch the stage and cues the music team to positions. How bizarre Simon S looks, standing upstage of the soloists, conducting for the empty rostra. I want to remember standing eyeballing the audience, waiting to sing, after my march to the front of the stage in Another Hundred People and the agonising minute tonight when Greg forgot his monologue and had to vamp until he remembered his line.

Marc D spotlit, standing front and centre in the cloud of stage smoke as the piano picks out the simple introduction to Our Time and his delicate opening of the song. Listening to Greg’s solo of Nowadays, waiting for our entry: Men…, Jazz…, Booze…, Life! Counting out the rounds of claps, ready for our cha-cha-cha entry at the start of Music To Watch Girls By and watching the dancers and soloists do their Old Compton Street cruising in the dance break.

I want to remember the idyllic scene and innocent smile on Louise’s face as she enters to meet her ‘boyfriend’ at the start of Baby Face and how she turns from him when he is arrested for cottaging. I want to remember the lyrical flow of The Trellis and how confident I felt singing it.

I want to remember the moment at the start of I Just Wanna Dance when everything goes still, and we are a tableau in the smoke and coloured lights, while Paul T quietly opens his solo. The audience chuckle at the first line thinking: Did he really just sing ‘fuck’ on stage?? Yes he did but it’s a beautiful song and as Paul builds the solo the Chorus comes in with their ethereal echoes of his words. Then he takes his drugs and the whole number changes to a high-speed dance number with Paul and the dancers showing off all their synchronised moves while we punctuate his lyrics. Then the end of the number and the sheer adrenalin as we all punch the air on the last word: Dance! The audience loves it. We love it too. The energy; the release!

I want to remember the silly grin on Simon R’s face as he and his two companions appear above the curtain stretched across the stage for Three Is A Magic Number. I only have a partial profile view but he is clearly milking the humour for all he can. The whole group of singers, smoothly rising and falling behind the curtain like nodding dogs, making the whole thing a comic piece with their over the top suggestions of daily life in a commune. Then there is the Athlone Road Speech and sitting for Space Oddity, tenderly holding the dancer Jonathan exactly as I hold Brett when we are snuggled together on the sofa, but with Charlie on his knees beside us conducting inches from my face and the projection screen behind us slowly, squeakily retracting to reveal the balcony from which Paul T does his Major Tom duet with Russell E.

I want to remember the strange sense of incompleteness as we have drifted off stage with Paul’s monologue still in my head about how the communes didn’t last, but how he would never experience anything like that again; Seeing the empty stage on the monitor, with Russell still kneeling in silhouette before finally standing and walking slowly offstage to close the first half.

Then there’s the rush downstairs to exchange my Opening Number props for those for the second half – and also to take on some more water – the bonhomie and excitement in the corridors around the dressing room before heading back to our positions for the second half opening.

The second half opens with a summer day on the heath. Some of the looks I exchange with Paul L as we blatantly cruise each other – and everyone else on stage – while trying to remember to sing in the appropriate places! Then it’s back to formal positions on the rostra for the Night Waltz and we sway our way through the staid humour of this lovely little Sondheim piece.

I want to remember the small group, as still as statues, making up the trees of the heath at night for the dancers to cruise among; Russel E is very handsome in profile before me and I can just see Mike L’s spotlit face as he opens the peculiarly discordant number with a solo. After that, Pablo enters and the small group divides to gather around him and Marc D to sing their haunting, wordless piece composed by Charlie for the Internet chat-up. I’m not sure the music even registers on the audience; as they are too busy reading the cruising banter between the two guys on the screen above our heads, but the music is beautiful nonetheless. Then there is Pablo’s lonely solo Does The Moment Ever Come? and he has such a lovely voice that the memory of his singing that song makes my heart wrench.

I want to remember the cheesy grins and the Jane-Fonda-Workout choreography of YMCA and how the audience inevitably join in with the moves and the contrast between that high-camp number and the anguished Silence Equals Death piece about AIDS which follows it; then José’s slow, desolated conclusion: “It was fun to stay at the YMCA… You could hang out with all the boys…” I want to remember how we hit the opening chord of Don’t Look Back In Anger while still in the blackout and use the song to lift the mood of the audience again.

Before the applause can die away though, Simon is beating the opening to the Finale and we are off into that medley of the liveliest songs of the show, sometimes one after the other, sometimes sliced together or in counterpoint. How the soloists and small group and dancers weave in and out of each other, even as the melodies do, before the Chorus overwhelms their singing and strides forward to bodily swallow them up and close the show on the same line with which it began: “Another hundred people just got off of the train…”

Then there are bows and we are back to formal position for the encore and Charlie is punching out the entries to Something Inside So Strong. I’m rather ambivalent about it being the encore, but the each audience seemed to enjoy it – although possibly by that point they would enjoy anything we sang them as they are just as hyped-up as we are. There are more bows – and a long standing ovation on two nights – before we file off the stage to the sound of their cheers.

So those are the good memories I have of You’ll Do For Now. Maybe if more come back to me over the next few days, I’ll post them as well. I want to remember the show but at the same time I need to let it go. It’s been such a big part of my life for the last four months, especially so in the last few weeks, but now it is over. For all the talk, it is unlikely ever to be repeated. Time to move on. But, oh, has it been fun! Like we note about the gay communes of the 1970’s, I wonder if I’ll ever see it’s like again.

Show No.2

Well we had another great night last night. Mark G’s partner Chris was in the audience again and he reported a tighter show than Friday night. Certainly the sound man had been busy and the audience could hear the soloists and we could hear the backing track for YMCA. There was only one general mistake when Charlie (our Musical Director) continued beating time where we normally pause in a short link between songs. The basses followed Charlie and carried on singing the next line, but the tenors paused… fortunately it appears that few (if any) people in the audience noticed that this wasn’t supposed to happen!

John M was in the house tonight along with his brother, sister-in-law and a friend and they all claimed to have enjoyed themselves… although it seems John’s brother was a little wide-eyed on occasion. The lovely Thierry, our groupie from the Melomen, was also there tonight and was most enthusiastic about the show. I swear if he didn’t live in Paris, he’d join our Chorus in a flash! There was also one of the men who lived in the original Athlone Road Commune, which we feature at the end of the first half. Ping was thrilled to have him there. I didn’t really get a chance to talk to him, but it was a poignant reminder that there are people around who have lived through the harder times that we cover in the show. It is a shame that Philip Dewdney, our oldest Chorus member, died just before Christmas as I think this show would have meant a lot to him as someone who really had lived through it all.

Anyway, our last show is today’s matinee. John G from Leeds is coming down to see it with a friend and I’m going to see if I can get their tickets upgraded, as I know we haven’t sold especially well for today, even though we eventually had over 600 last night. John W and Rich C are coming too. Rich is just out of hospital after his operations and wasn’t certain he’d be able to make it when I last spoke to them, so it’s a good sign that he feels up to it. I am going to try and get front-of-house before the show starts so I can say hello, as I suspect that after it’s over, Rich will want to get straight home to rest.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Shooting to Kill

Just flicking through the newspaper front pages on the BBC site today shows me that the tabloids are back to business as usual with their hyperbolic headlines. The Daily Express reads: “SHOOT ALL BOMBERS. After police kill terrorist, demand grows for suicide fanatics to be shown no mercy.” And The Sun: “ONE DOWN… THREE TO GO.”

All very gung-ho and no doubt it appeals to the suburban Rambos as they gather with their mates for another quick ten pints at the local, but hardly very sensible.

I am certain the security forces did not want to kill their suspect yesterday: Dead men tell no tales. When it’s information that we want, killing the people who hold it serves no purpose.

The Daily Mail exclaims: “As SAS-trained marksmen execute a suspect on the Tube, the desperate hunt for these suicide bombers […]” While I suppose it is technically true that the suspect was ‘executed’ both the use of that word and the use of ‘desperate’ make for a very dramatic headline – which I don’t think reflects the reality. The police are certainly putting lots of resources into the hunt, but I would hardly say they were desperate. And as for it being an execution, that sounds rather more deliberate than it looks on the face of things.

Even the Guardian gets in on the act, headlining a witness quote; "They held the pistol to him and unloaded five shots."

The Financial Times highlights what it calls new ‘shoot to kill’ guidelines in this article although all of its information appears to come from the fact that police deliberately shot dead a suspect. (Great investigative journalism, that!) Personally I don’t think the guidelines are new, I just think that this is the first time they have needed to be used. A friend of mine who works for the City Of London police discussed this kind of thing with me a year or two ago: If you, as a policeman, are faced with someone who is carrying a bomb in a public place whom you strongly believe is determined to imminently blow up himself amid a crowd of people, then your options for preventing that happening are very limited:

You can’t negotiate with a suicide bomber because you have nothing to give them that they want; they believe they are going to Heaven in a few minutes – what is there to talk about? How likely is it that you can wrest the bomb away from them before they can detonate it, particularly if it’s a bomb-belt? Do you know enough about how they can detonate the bomb to be able to restrain them before they can get to it?

From what I can determine of this shooting, the suspect had emerged from a house that was being observed as part of the investigation into bombings on the Tube, he was going into a Tube station, he failed to stop when told to do so by armed police officers and he ran onto a train. I have heard unconfirmed reports that he was wearing an unseasonably bulky coat and wearing a belt with ‘wires’ coming out of it. At this stage I am willing to give the police the benefit of the doubt.

There will be, as there should be, an inquiry into this ‘extra-judicial killing’ but I don’t believe the police are out there gunning for anyone of Asian appearance who happens to be acting a bit oddly. I return to my earlier point: I doubt the police actually wanted to kill him at all, but given their suspicions and his actions I don’t believe they had a choice.

Friday, July 22, 2005

It's Show Time!

Such a blast.

There wasn’t a part of the show I didn’t enjoy.

A few minor hiccups, only one of which was clearly noticeable: Somehow the Chorus got ahead of the backing track for ‘YMCA’ so there was a bit of a car crash as we tried to synchronise again. Fortunately we were saved by the dance break! Poor Russell E confused a couple of lines of his solo (after performing it immaculately the last n times) but he didn’t seem at all fazed by it. Apparently the computer running the projector which provides scenery and links for the numbers (on a tennis-court sized screen behind us) popped up a virus alert during one number too…

None of which spoiled the night at all. I have never felt more confident of my performance in a show and never enjoyed a show more. It was great. We totally rocked! (Although both Owen and my sister made fun of my inept dancing during ‘I Just Wanna Dance.’)

In the bar afterwards, as we all schmoozed our adoring audience, there seemed to be some serious talk about taking the show on tour to other parts of the UK and I would be seriously up for that. The theme of the show is very affirming for the gay community, so it should play well in some of the less cosmopolitan areas of the UK, where gay men are still very limited in how open they can be. I would love for the idea to come through, although I fear we may have problems with the rights to perform some of the songs; several of them were done under ‘special’ permission agreements which limit our use of them to this particular run. We’ll see.

The best part of the night was actually when a work colleague congratulated me on the show. Tom C from work had come along (I suspect) mainly as quid pro quo for Brett and I going to see him sing in a classical performance a few months back. I wasn’t even sure that he would actually show up and, given the subject matter and how explicit the show is in places, I wasn’t sure how he would feel about the show as a straight guy who is new to the Chorus’ style. I am so glad he liked it because I think it will help break into the straight audience at work – many of whom (again, I suspect) imagine the LGMC is going to be a bit of a creaky community choir all holding hands and singing ‘We Shall Not Be Moved.’ I suppose the repertoire really is along those lines but, boy, do we do it professionally! It’s both entertaining and moving for the audience and they love it.

More good news: the ticket sales have taken off too. Yesterday I think we were told we had about a 60% house for tonight but by the time the music started we were at nearly 90% - over 800 seats of a 900-seat house were filled. Hopefully a similar on-the-door rush, plus word of mouth from tonight’s show, will fill the house tomorrow and Sunday!

On the Tube home, I got a text message from Chris C (in St. Helens) asking how the show had gone. I hadn’t even realised he knew the show was on, but apparently he reads my blog! (Hello, Chris! Leave the kids with your mum and get yourself and Mrs C. on a train on Sunday to come see the show!! It’s a matinee, so you can get down, enjoy the show and still be home in time for supper!)

I can’t wait for tomorrow!

Yeah, Whatever!

A couple of thoughts for you, following the attempted bombings yesterday. Firstly a secular comment; Dear Terrorists, if you must insist on trying to bomb us, at least find competent people to make the effort. Going to all that trouble for bombs that don’t explode is quite amusing to watch, but to be honest, I’d rather just be able to get to where I want to go without disruption.

The second thought is more religious in nature; While the terrorist agenda is certainly political, their actions seem to be based on religious beliefs. I know I am probably being overoptimistic, but if I were of a religious bent, I would think that all four of the bombs not exploding was a message from God telling me to stop bombing civilians on the London Transport system!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Show minus one day

Quite a day. This morning was fairly smooth, although I could really have done with another couple of hours in bed after the last few days. Work was uneventful and I left after only a couple of hours to go to the rehearsal for tomorrow night’s show.

Yesterday evening we ran the show in the venue for the first time. Today we had a technical rehearsal (for lighting, sound & stage crew) planned this afternoon and a dress rehearsal (for the Chorus and other singers) planned for this evening. Things were delayed a bit by bomb explosions on the Tube and a bus but eventually we got going.

The Tech rehearsal, as these things usually are, was exceptionally tedious. Lots of standing around while lighting is set and sound and sight-lines are checked. There were quite a few hiccups to resolve. At the end of it all, I was drained and just wanted to go home.

The dress rehearsal totally re-energised me though. It was a great run. We are ready now and it is going to be a fantastic show. I really can’t wait for tomorrow night now. Even the ticket sales have improved! We seem to be growing almost exponentially day on day!!

You can find a couple more pictures of the tech rehearsal here and here.

More explosions

Sounds like another attack on London transport. So far I am okay - on a number eleven bus heading for the Tech Rehearsal at Sloane Square. I hope the rest of the boys are okay - we'll all be travelling just now...

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Anticipaaaaa... ...ation!

Hmm. This show is almost becoming a fetish! Ever since I woke up this morning, I’ve had fragments of the songs going round in my head. Walking from the station to my office, a question about the staging popped into my head that I need to clarify before tonight’s rehearsal (The Director would be so proud of me.)

With this much anticipation going on, I suspect I am in for a big emotional crash next week. Watch out world!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Show minus three days

It’s the same old tune for tonight’s entry, I’m afraid. I’m tired. We rehearsed last night and it went well. Work is still proving to be one problem after another. Ever since we applied the latest M$ Service Pack to our servers about six weeks ago, we’ve had nothing but trouble from our network and it is hugely frustrating for me; constantly under pressure to fix whatever happens to be wrong today. I was up until 3am this morning clearing up after a simple, straightforward reboot broke no less than three of our systems.

Only other incidents of note (oh, the excitement!) were having lunch with Owen (grumping about work) and getting my bike serviced. (It came away with a pretty much completely new drive system. Chain, front and back cogs, plus assorted other maintenance gave it a lovely smooth, well-oiled feel on the ride home… which was only spoiled by a strong, blustery headwind making every mile a struggle.)

I guess this is the price I pay for tripping the light fantastic this weekend...

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Show minus five days

This time next week it will all be over and we’ll be heading off to celebrate at the after-show party.

But that is still a week away and today we were rehearsing hard. We were at the Primary School venue near Seven Sisters again, sweltering in the un-ventilated school hall.

Today started with various musical polishing, followed by trying out a couple of variations of the staging for some of the numbers, followed by a full run of the show. Despite the polishing though, there is still one number which is a bit of a mess that I really think to get right we need to work through several more times as a choir; Silence Equals Death is one of the commissioned numbers and is written in half-a-dozen different time signatures and without any words, just vowel sounds. It’s not an easy piece to commit to memory.

There was also a lot of mucking about as the production team tried to work out how to get a conductor on stage, when most of the stage has people moving over it for most of the time. They really need to get a webcam on the MD at the piano and play the feed on a monitor on the front of the balcony. It’s the way that the West End theatres do it.

Ping, who is effectively the author of the piece, was crying through most of the numbers. He gets very emotionally invested. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to hug him or slap him, but some of my fellow choristers felt it was inspirational to see our performance making such an impression.

At the end of the day though, both Brett and I were absolutely drained. We slogged it home on the tube and train and collapsed on the sofa in front of the TV. Knackered.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Neighbours talk

Our South African neighbours downstairs are out in the garden and I can hear the bloke (he seems to be called Craig or Greg) on the phone to some business colleague talking about what sounds like a tax-dodging scheme for a company he’s involved with. I’m sure they don’t realise we can hear them while they’re out there. A couple of weeks ago, during the last hot spell, they were discussing how disgusting they find the thought of gay men having sex, which didn’t endear them to me any! I was rather tempted to stick my head out of the window to ask whether they dwelled on their straight friends’ sexual activities in as much detail as they seemed to imagine gay men having sex…

Rich's Recovery

We had a lie-in this morning; taking the opportunity while we can. This last week has been solid late nights and early mornings and next week is going to be the same in the run up to the show next weekend. I was quite the zombie at work on Friday.

After work though, Brett and I met up and went to visit Rich C who is in hospital after a couple of operations. He had an emergency appendectomy ten days ago, but the wound became infected and he was back in for more emergency surgery on Tuesday. The second operation was apparently quite serious; his partner John told us that he had been within hours of death, which was a bit shocking. Anyway, he seems to be well on the road to recovery now. He was sitting up in an armchair and chatting with us fairly normally when we visited. John seemed very happy about that as, for the last couple of days, he’s been pretty out of it and full of IV tubes. He is still attached to a little vacuum machine though, maintaining a negative pressure in the wound, removing any remaining infection and increasing the blood flow to the healing area, but it was still a very positive visit compared to what I had expected.

Today we are relaxing, as much as we can in amongst the bills to pay and housework to do. I also need to MOT and tax the car, which should have been last month. (Whoops!) Then we both need to spend time on polishing our music ready for tomorrow’s all day Chorus rehearsal.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Jazz at The Tower

It’s been another week full of problems at work; no project work has been done by anyone in IT. Our Bogotá office has been the most intransigent problem; it won’t talk to the rest of the network. Even as I write, Microsoft are scratching their heads about that one. Email from our Adelaide office was disappearing into the ether. Our Leeds office are waiting half a minute for their computer to send a page to print. Then yesterday our DNS evaporated and none of the users could find the servers. Talk about a busy day! Luckily we got that last one sorted out relatively quickly…

And it’s the weekend now! Yey!

Yesterday evening I went along with John M and a couple of friends to see Alison Moyet perform in a jazz evening at The Tower. I wasn’t sure quite what to expect but the evening was lovely. The weather was warm and dry, there was Pimms and Lemonade aplenty and the music was both beautiful and soulful. I almost didn’t make it (Thursday being the day of our DNS troubles at work) but in the end I got to Wagamama’s in time to eat with the guys and once I’d come down off the adrenaline from work, we had a leisurely half-hour drinking and enjoying the evening sunshine before the show started.

Brett had been out at a leaving-do in Guildford and was asleep on the bed, still half-dressed and with his iPod playing when I got home. I gather it was a good evening for him too.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

London Bombings: Silent Memorial

A few minutes before twelve, an announcement was made and everyone in our office filed out to the riverside. It looked liked several companies had decided to observe the two minute silence outside, as there were a lot of people there who don’t work for us, as well as the usual passers-by.

No announcements were made, but suddenly everyone fell silent. In the distance, towards St. Pauls, a clock struck midday.

The walkway along the South Bank is usually filled with people jogging and lunching and is normally quite lively. To be standing there with this huge mass of people, in total silence, was very moving. But it feels inadequate somehow.

On The Buses

Another busy day at work. I still have two tricky problems on the go which are preventing me from getting on with project work. One of the problems has already been escalated to Microsoft and I suspect the other may be added to that list today.

We had a Chorus rehearsal last night off Holloway Road and, because the normal route would have involved travelling on the Piccadilly Line which is currently closed, I had to find my way by bus. I have never been fond of buses, primarily because I could never work out which bus I needed or where to get on or off. Yesterday I used the Transport For London journey planner for the first time and was very impressed; It plans the routes for you, across the whole of the London Transport network (Buses, Tubes, Trains) and offers you maps of the bus stops and the surrounding areas so you can find them. I know it sounds simple and fairly obvious, but to me it was a revelation! I may use the buses more in future!

The rehearsal was productive. It was our first full dress rehearsal; we ran the show, pretty much to time and with all the costumes and props. I feel it went very well and it reinforced my belief about how fantastic this show is going to be. Stuart, the Director, reckons we are at about 60% of performance quality (which means he is unhappy because we should be at 90%, but they always seem to say that the week before the gig…) Nevertheless I felt that my game had lifted tremendously even during the rehearsal, as repetition helps fix things in context for me. There are still weak spots I need to work on – they had to change the words to one of the songs because of Copyright issues and I need to relearn them, for example – but I have Saturday planned as a day for working them out, ready for the next full run on Sunday.

There was a downside to bussing it home from the rehearsal though – it took longer. We didn’t get home until 11:30 and the rehearsal finished at 10:15.

Right off to work to again to generate more revenue for Microsoft’s Tech Support!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Fox's Leanings

On a final Current Affairs note, Brett’s brother-in-law Chris sent me this link today which I quite enjoyed. It sounds like it’s from a fairly left-wing publication, but I suspect it’s characterisation of the Fox network’s politics is about right – over the last few days I’ve come across several grumblings about distasteful comments made by presenters on their news programmes about last Thursday’s bombings.

It amazes me that the concepts of the War On Terror and the Invasion of Iraq can still be linked in anyone’s mind – I thought that that tenuous connection had been thoroughly debunked months ago when the Intelligence agencies finally admitted that Saddam didn’t actually have any weapons of mass destruction (and consequently couldn’t have deployed them against us in “less than 45 minutes!”)

Remind me; why did we invade Iraq again?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Highs and Lows

The pace of life is picking up again. With the big You’ll Do For Now show opening next Friday, almost every evening has some Chorus-related activity associated with it. Work has been busy too, with several new projects on the go concurrently, plus several obscure problems taxing both my skills and my ability to juggle time-zones.

Poor Rich C has had to pull out of the show after he had an emergency appendectomy last week and then more surgery to fix some complications. I imagine he is feeling pretty wretched right now – both from the surgery and from having to miss the show; he was one of the leads and seemed to be thoroughly enjoying himself.

Nevertheless, the show seems to be coming together nicely (although Rich’s understudy is a little panicked right now!) I think that by the time we open, we are going to have an absolutely fantastic show to a very professional standard… I only hope we have enough tickets sold to at least break-even. At the moment, the sales figures are abysmal. Everyone is being pushed to market the show to friends, family and contacts (so if you haven’t bought a ticket yet, click on the banner at the top of the page!!) in the hope that a late rush will fill the house.

Not much else happening at the moment. I came home tonight to find that the entire street was without power. I am writing on battery power by candlelight at the moment and I am dreading what state the freezer is going to be in tomorrow morning. The power has already been off for two hours and the workmen busy digging up the roadway say they have no idea how long it will take to fix…

Update: The power came on about 1am so the freezer looks like it survived. Phew!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

London Bombings: The Blogsphere

Well I was going to resume normal service tonight and give you more acres of mind-blowingly dull trivia about my mundane life, but I did some browsing this evening and found a few real gems that I want to share.

The first one is this one which I picked up from the ever readable RandomReality blog. The writer says it all really and it is quite fun to read. I’m afraid it’s another sign of the cultural gap widening; many Americans like to gush emotionally which is just so un-British. Seriously, though, I can see where it’s coming from. There was wall-to-wall coverage of the bombings (which I moaned about at the time!) so naturally lots of people get emotionally invested in the situation and need to release it somehow.

Then there is this site, which I suppose has the same aims as the first but seems more appropriate somehow. I guess it just fits with my ‘understated’ British sensibilities.

The last post is this one. I remember thinking on the day that the headline was a bit naff. The sentiment expressed by Julie in Tallahassee, about the rest of the world now joining America as a victim of terrorism, does seem to recur again and again in US comments on the bombings. The comments by Tom here on Twenty Something’s blog really got my goat this morning. I actually posted a comment of my own on his blog to complain about his insularity. Fortunately, Brett restored my faith in Americans by being equally as gobsmacked as I was when he heard Tom’s view. You know I really think that the Grand Tour should be made a compulsory part of every teenagers life. I hate to be the hippy preaching love and understanding, but it strikes me that gaining experience of the wider world would probably be a lot more useful in than the current War On Terror

Update: Monday 11th July 11:05

Just found this site too – full of pithy/funny quotes. Some of my favourites:

“Coping with emergencies the British way: The nearest branch of Pret has sold out of chocolate cake.”

“NEWSFLASH: There has been a widespread outbreak of grumbling and tutting today in London, along with a large number of people going home instead of to work, with a certain amount of guilty pleasure.
Sorry, bad guys. We've been bombed before, and we just adjust our day to account for it. This is London calling.

“God I love the British... Nobody does pissed off disdain like 'em... This *rules*”

“They did their worst, and they managed to disrupt our transport network and get fatalities in the low double figures. That happens on a fairly regular basis anyway, you twits. What's your next trick - a fiendish weather control device which makes it rain on a bank holiday weekend?”

“From the BBC website: statement from Al Qaeda: "Britain is now burning with fear, terror and panic in its northern, southern, eastern, and western quarters". Erm really... where? I think you will find that's a reaction to the winning the Olympics bid or perhaps just the effect Bush has on us when he visits?!”

“The BBC paused news coverage to show *Eastenders*. That'd be the nationwide fear, terror and panic, then.”

Saturday, July 09, 2005

London Bombings: Proud to be British

After yesterday’s Poker Night, I woke up feeling a little delicate this morning and, while Brett got ready for a day of Chorus Politics at a Steering Committee focus session, I stayed in bed and browsed the news. The headlines are still dominated by Thursday’s bombings as forensic teams piece together what happened and the emergency services work to recover the remaining bodies from the most badly damaged tube section.

What caught my eye the most though was the community spirit and the resilience that shows through the stories. Here, towards the end of a commentary on how the Emergency Services responded, a paramedic describes how members of the public helped and comforted those who were shocked or had minor injuries. He also tells of the shopkeepers handing out bottled water to the victims in the aftermath. The Marks & Spencer branch on Edgware Road became a triage centre and handed out water, food, blankets and clothing to those in need.

There are a whole range of stories (here, here and in video here, for example) which show how Londoners are refusing to give ground to the terrorists and are carrying on with their lives as normally as possible. From the Prime Minister promising no knee-jerk legislation here, to the mass-circulation tabloids here reminding us that Muslims have been as much victims as anyone else, there is a sense that we aren’t going to be panicked into doing anything stupid,

As someone who so often sees the flaws and problems in our society, it is a real boost to see this all happening and realise that there is still something worthwhile about being British.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

London Bombings: The Dust Settles

Well the dust is settling now and there is a clearer picture of what happened this morning; three explosions on the tube and one on a bus. I hear that we (Londoners) are being praised for behaving so stoically in the face of events and not panicking, and that doesn’t surprise me. Most of us have grown up in the shadow of IRA atrocities – some more horrific than today.

I have been less impressed by the media though; constantly rehashing the same shots, wringing every bit of emotion out of you, speculating relentlessly; all just to fill air time because, after the initial events there is barely a trickle of real news emerging each hour.

The expressions of support have been touching though. Friends from around the world have been messaging me and we have received a number of messages from gay choruses around the world – particularly the New York Chorus, who feel a certain empathy, even though we haven’t suffered anywhere near on their scale.

We got evacuated from work a little after 4:30 this afternoon as we had received a bomb threat, so everyone who was left in the office went home early. Waterloo Station was a lot less busy than I had expected, although the train home was pretty tightly packed. I suspect a lot of people had longer and more troublesome journeys home tonight than me.

We’ll be at work tomorrow as normal though. Fuck the terrorists. Fuck ‘em all. They don’t change the way I live my life.

London Explosions

What a bizarre morning. There have been what are, almost certainly, terrorist attacks on the London tube and bus network and the transport system in the centre of the city is shut down. Naturally there was a lot of concern as people got into work and wanted to check-in with their friends and families which is perfectly understandable.

However it now seems that the whole incident has become some gruesome spectator sport. Most people in the office are glued to their computers, constantly hitting ‘Refresh’ on one or more news sites and shouting out the latest updates as they get them. What is the purpose of it? It doesn’t help find out who did it. It doesn’t help the recovery. In fact it actually aids and abets a terrorist agenda by reducing the amount of work the company is doing today. If you replicate the rubber-necking going on here across the city then London must be losing a lot of work (=money) today – and that’s before you consider the way share prices have already dropped.

Get on with your lives as normally as you can. Let the emergency and security services do their jobs.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Writer's Apathy

I don’t really feel up to blogging tonight. There’s quite a few things I could write about; Rob P’s visit from Bogotá got Sid and I thinking about the future of IT work; I got some amusing comments on yesterday’s blog; I got a shed load of spam, courtesy of the Citadines Apartment chain which spawned a letter of complaint; London has won the right to host the 2012 Olympic Games which should be good news for our company.

I just don’t have the urge to write though. Keep them on file. Maybe I’ll get back to them later.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Devil Take The Hindmost

Most people would say it was a gay man’s dream come true; to be invited to perform at the Gay Policemen’s Ball (well, that’s what everyone called it, but strictly speaking it was the Annual Dinner Dance of the European Gay Police Association.) Sure enough there were lots of cute men in uniform from around the world and they were all in a sociable mood.

The show we put on was not our best (for a variety of reasons, both chorus- and venue-related) but they seemed to like it on the whole.

The disco afterwards was no fun for me. Certainly most of the guys dived right in there and were bopping away with the coppers before you knew it. I don’t feel comfortable dancing. It may or may not be ‘just in my head’ but I don’t feel I have a good sense of rhythm on the dance floor, consequently I feel very self-conscious and don’t enjoy it at all. Watching everyone else enjoying the dancing and having a good time then feels like rubbing salt into a wound and I usually get depressed and go home in a bad mood. That’s what happened tonight.

The one upside of the evening was that Brett was home when I got there and managed to cheer me up fairly quickly

Saturday was entirely given over to Pride. The Chorus was marching, manning a stall and doing two performances on the stage in Trafalgar Square. It was a full day, albeit mostly spent standing around waiting for things to happen. First there was waiting for the parade – which was good when it got going; As ever there were plenty of colourful sights to be seen. I spent a lot of the parade carrying a Chorus sign at the front of the boys, so I got caught in a few pictures.

After the parade Brett and I grabbed some lunch near Charing Cross before heading into the Square to sing. Turns out that we were only doing one song in each set. The second set was delayed by about an hour as the scheduling of the stage slots was wildly optimistic, so there was more hanging around. We slipped in a third song after the billed ‘Seasons of Love’ and the audience really appreciated the rousing rendition of ‘YMCA’ after the hours of desperately worthy speeches that we followed.

After it was all over, Brett and I went for a drink at The Yard with John W and Rich C. John G and Nick B arrived as we were finishing up and we went on to a rather nice Goan restaurant for dinner. Although the company and the food were good, I was rather weary and actually quite glad to head home at the end of it.

The weariness on Saturday night was probably the first symptom of the cold I woke up with on Sunday morning. After giving up on breakfast about halfway through the bowl, I went back to bed and slept until about 11am. Brett and I had arranged to have lunch with Ping and Miles K at the Lanesborough so I stoked myself up with fluids and vitamin C tablets and set off at a slow pace.

Lunch was rather good. The cold was held sufficiently at bay that I made a passable attempt at conversation and indulged in a delicious roast dinner – which, to me at least, looked far more satisfying than the more nouvelle (read: small portion) dishes my companions received and was just what I needed to keep me going.

Even so, by the end of the meal I was heading off towards zombiedom and subsequently spent the evening on the sofa watching Las Vegas and Big Brother before getting an early night.

On Monday I felt sufficiently recovered to go into work but just barely got through an uneventful day. I skipped the Chorus rehearsal as I knew it would be too energetic for me. Instead I opted for another evening on the sofa, soaping my brain out.

White Orchids

Okay, okay, so I haven’t written anything in a while…

In my defence, I would say that Friday and Saturday were really busy days and I came down with a cold on Sunday. I’m still getting over that and not feeling too focussed. The rest of the week is clear, so once I’m back on my feet I’ll post retrospectively and give you a feast of Liamness to make up for the current famine.