21 May 2007

All and sundry

Now that we've got an internet connection at Sanderstead I can report on the other day-to-day developments of recent weeks in London. Here's a lightning-fast and breathtakingly humdrum roundup...

One Monday night after work I went along to another recording session for the BBC Radio comedy programme Does The Team Think, hosted by Vic Reeves. The two most notable guests were the languid Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen of TV decorating fame and the best-loved incarnation of Dr Who himself, Mr Tom Baker. Baker was pleasantly avuncular, and focused his discussion on the three topics closest to his heart: old age, death and Tunbridge Wells. Reeves managed to blindside the panel with his query that if the nether regions of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears can be flaunted in public sans undies, why couldn't his? His panellists expressed the not unreasonable view that the police would have interesting views on the matter, and left it there.

I've recently finished reading Alastair Reynolds' sci-fi novel 'Revelation Space' - a strikingly good first novel. 'Revelation Space' is set in a a future century in which mankind has colonised other stars through the use of slower-than-light travel, but on one planet named Resurgam explorers uncover the archaeological remnants of a long-dead alien race. The question is, what wiped out the aliens, and who has hired an assassin to murder the chief archaeologist? As it progresses, Reynolds spins the story to greater and greater levels of innovative 'big-idea' science fiction. By the end I was sorry to have to put it down.

I've started my new job at the Competition Commission, and it's all going well. The building occupies one entire side of Bloomsbury Square, and it's close to the British Museum and Holborn tube station. It's been a bit of a crush getting in for a 9am start, so I've been trying earlier trains, particularly in the hope of avoiding the constricted shuffling required for a rush-hour interchange on the tube at London Bridge and Bank.

One TV highlight - well, sort of - was last weekend's screening of the 50-somethingth Eurovision Song Contest. Cheesy is the name of the game in this contest, and for years it's been a bastion of international rivalries as neighbouring countries vote for their mates. This is because voters are not permitted to vote for their own country's songs. Since the breakup of the Eastern Bloc there are dozens of countries sharing votes, so poor old Western Europe seldom gets a look-in nowadays. The hot favourite was the Ukrainian entry, an ultra-camp drag act performing a catchy nonsense techno number and dressed in far too much shiny tinfoil gear. Three nubile Svetlanas from Russia were also tipped for success, aiming for the tAtU market with their sub-Sugababes pop number. The German entry confused everyone by being sung in German (what were they thinking?) and because the singer was dressed in supposedly dapper whites with a matching trilby. (It didn't work for Taco, did it). Aiming for Weimar chic, perhaps. There were even a few proper numbers: Hungary's bluesy number 'Unsubstantial Blues' (video) was delivered with panache and wouldn't be out of place on many radio playlists. However, the winner was a stolid song called 'Prayer' belted out by a stocky poorly-coiffed woman from Serbia. (Britain's entry, the airline-themed Flying The Flag For You by Scooch narrowly avoided last place and the dreaded 'nul points').

I also took in the film Factory Girl (Sienna Miller, Guy Pearce) and can recommend it as a solid effort worth watching if you get the chance. The true story of beautiful socialite Edie Sedgwick, who became a focal point of Andy Warhol's Factory art studio in New York in the '60s, the film charts her rise to "it girl" status and semi-stardom, her affair with Bob Dylan (played indifferently by the too-smooth Hayden Christensen), and her descent into intractable drug addiction. The closing credits of the movie are interspersed with interviews with real-life friends and relatives of Edie, whose testimony gives credence to the notion that she was a star who burned out too soon. (And yes, if you were wondering, The Cult's song 'Edie (Ciao Baby)' was written for her).

This weekend we've been playing host to our former flatmate Kath, who is passing through London on her way to an academic conference in Sweden. Yesterday we took in the Borough and Camden markets, pausing a moment in between to photograph St Pauls (see below) and today we took it easy, reading the Sunday papers and looking at the shops in Croydon.

On Saturday night we spent the evening at the flat, and as Sam had a friend in the audience we watched the largely pointless but reasonably entertaining Any Dream Will Do. It's yet another Idol-alike competition - this time, it's to find a Joseph to play in that hoary old Technicolour Dreamcoat. Lord Lloyd-Webber is the prime judge. But there's also a panel of the usual 'celebrity' judges too - who are labelled on the website as 'The Experts'. Hmm. In any case, the highlight of the programme was one segment in which panellist Denise van Outen played a fictional scene with each of the six remaining would-be Josephs - a scene involving a lingering, romantic kiss. At least, it was supposed to be romantic, but apparently according to van Outen afterwards, several of the boys 'held back' during the lip-locking session, which earned a mild rebuke from the blonde former starlet. According to van Outen, the boys (one of them - the scarily long-necked one - was as young as 17) needed to put aside thoughts of their girlfriends and provide a proper tonsil-hockey session. How very Mrs Robinson!

Nothing too exciting there. This week I'll be trying to book another trip away for the coming bank holiday weekend. More hostelling, no doubt! Shall give my trusty earplugs a good rinsing just in case...

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