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Crikey - nice here isn't it?
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So, farewell then Keith Floyd - and thank you for helping me develop a love of cooking.
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Festive salutations and hurrah!

May your Christmas be lovely and may your New Year bring you whatever you wish for.
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I know I am not very well and have a bit of a temperature, but someone - please - reassure me that Anne Robinson playing The Weakest Link with a bunch of soft toys was indeed a feverish hallucination and not, contrary to appearances, prime time output from the world's greatest public service broadcasting organisation.

I despair.

Otter

May. 7th, 2007 11:07 am
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Otter
Originally uploaded by groan.
As part of the preliminaries to my birthday I went to London Zoo yesterday (more pics on flickr).

I think my favourites were the otters - there was a whole host of 'em - scampering and mewling and generally being very entertaining. Hurrah for litheness!

I also went to Bertorelli for dinner which was a much less agreeable experience. The restaurant was full, so we ate in the "Caffe" downstairs. The service was slow (a couple next to us had been waiting 45 minutes for their starter) - the portions were tiny (I had veal milanese and the spaghetti came in a dish about half the size of a small saucer) - and the tables were cramped.

I complained and got a 15% reduction, which was a barely adequate gesture. I chatted with the waiter - who was charming, but clearly wildly over-stretched - and he mentioned that they were having problems in the kitchen with a new chef.

On the way out we saw Alan "may he live forever" Rickman on his way in - we almost warned him off, but didn't. Should have done really. Ah well.
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I'm playing with the Google Docs and Spreadsheet stuff which claims direct publishing to Livejournal.

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Bored of cooking? The recipes on this site may well change your mind..... visit "pimp my snack" for inspiration... :-)
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Listening to Radio 4 and tidying the house and gently seething... There is a programme on about the military base that the US occupying troops have built on the archaeological ruins at Babylon... including a helipad and (why does this remind me of a song?) a parking lot. Oh and they used archaeological debris to fill the sandbags for their defences. Oh and scraped away the surface to lay a compacted (and chemically treated) gravel bed on which to build their station houses (or whatever the term is).

Gotta love 'em for their cultural sensitivity.
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[livejournal.com profile] erialc mention Pandora Radio on her journal - I commend it to you: it really is veh good indeed.
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I went to see Basic Instinct 2 this evening - largely because I wanted to go to the movies and it was that or Hostel. It was a truly terrible movie with absolutely no redeeming features at all. Dull, uninventive, stilted, unerotic, unthrilling, un-everything. I should have stayed home and sorted my sock drawer.
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I was listening to a programme on Radio 4 this evening about decommissioning the Dounreay nuclear power plant. It was built not to produce power, but as an experimental site to figure out how fast breeder reactors could produce plutonium and other nasssty stuff. Anyway. The original estimate was that it would take about 100 years to decommision the reactor, but the new goal is to do it in 30 years.

The programme interviewed a charming man who seemed completely unfazed by the fact that much of the technology needed to take the reactor apart doesn't yet exist. Nor did he seem especially worried about the "something or other" that was stuck inside the reactor which meant they couldn't actually move lots of the stuff in the way they thought they could. He didn't even seem worried by the prospect of having to pump out and neutralise the 60 metric tons of NAK (a sodium [Na] and potassium [K] mix used to cool the reactor) even though it was now radioactive and spontaneously ignites when exposed to air or water.

He did have the good grace to sound slightly concerned by the access shaft that had been turned into a waste shaft in the late 60's into which they used to pour low level radioactive waste and - ahem - half-used cannisters of acetylene. He admitted - a little ruefully - that, yes, there had been a bit of an explosion in the shaft in 1977, but it wasn't really all that serious. Probably.

He got a little more shifty when pressed about the various types of waste that needed to be disposed of. The low level waste has to be contained for about 500 years. The really nasty stuff however has to be kept "isolated" 100,000 years. And there's a bunch of intermediate waste that sort of fits somehwere along the scale between 500 and 100,000 years before it is "safe". He did point out that - geologically speaking - ten thousand centuries is not all that long.

They also interviewed a chap who used to work as the "Health Physics" meister at the plant. His job was to specify where the various noxious by-products from the reactor should be stored - classing them as low level, intermediate or high-active. The only trouble was - he averred - that he was regarded by all and sundry as a bit of a kill-joy, so they often didn't tell him when they were tipping away surreptitous lorry-loads of slurry, mixing a bit of high and intermediate in with the low level - as you do.

Sigh.

It was a great - and (bizarrely) rather comforting piece of radio - not least because the chap charged with sorting out this godawful mess seemed to be very capable and was working on the basis that all of the horror stories were true.

You can listen to the first part here - I shall be tuning in to the second part next week.
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My new (work) PC has arrived and - joy of joys - seems to have all my old data on it too.  As far as I can tell, it's exactly the same as the old PC - but not so grubby.
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Review of Crime & Punishment from Bromley Times



LAST week's production at the Bromley Little Theatre provided audiences with a rare opportunity to see Rodney Ackland's impressive stage adaptation of Dostoevsky's powerful and complex novel Crime and Punishment, writes Roy Atterbury.

The play was written during the so called Nihilist period in Russia and for the writer's anti-hero, a student called Raskolnikov, this meant that the majority of human beings had virtually no use other than to procreate and, on rare occasions, produce supreme beings who were totally above the law and social conventions.

As a result, he casually murders two female pawnbrokers - considering them to be no more than social parasites. The aftermath, however, plays havoc with his state of mind and his story becomes a psychological drama that plumbs the depths of mental anguish.

The play has 22 different characters and the action is set in a dingy lodging house somewhere in St Petersburg, Russia, during the late 19th century.

With so many actors appearing in some scenes, the two directors (Viv Noot and Peter March) choreographed the settings with real skill while Noot's set design was exceptional as were the costumes from Andrea Gambell and Christine Wilson. There was a powerful Russian atmosphere throughout.

Much of the play mirrors Dostoevsky's own unhappy life and the concept of mixing the former rich with the constantly poor people living in the lodging house highlighted the fact that poverty can be an ephemeral phenomenon that makes a mockery of class divides.

Justin Pledger was magnetic in the role of the young student who found he had no means of coping with the Hell that was of his own making.

His one saviour was the unlikely love of a young woman (Ariana Barnes) who had been forced into prostitution in order to pay for the food and lodging that kept her dying step-mother (Abi Topley) and young step-sister (Lillian Le Sage) alive. The part was acted with remarkable skill and compassion, which fully complemented the undoubted talents of Justin Pledger.

However, always threatening to dominate the action, Howard Wilson gave two magnificent performances, firstly as a permanently drunk former civil servant and secondly as the chief of police. Very different roles but superb acting in both. Dominic Howell and Row Mafham also added to the many talents on view.

Abi Topley was also outstanding in the role of a woman who could not forget her pampered past while Sue Parker-Nutley created a real dragon of a woman in her role as the German owner of the lodging house.

A disturbing play with few ineffectual moments, a strong portrait of life in Tsarist Russia, and a compelling view of misconceived political and social dogma and the horror of thwarted passions.
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So the play is done..... I wonder what I will do with my evenings now? C&P has occupied pretty much every spare moment since rehearsals started back on January 3rd. It's going to be strange not having it about.

I am very, very happy with how it turned out. Everything came together very nicely: a great acting company (albeit with some stronger than others), a fabulous back stage crew who did what they had to do with great professionalism, and - in some ways, mos importantly - a top notch lighting designer.

We played to very good houses throughout the run - especially considering that C&P is not a title likely to appeal to our audience demographic (think 70+ and pink rinses) - we were completely sold out on Friday (apparently unheard of) and on Saturdaythere were no more than 3 or 4 empty seats. Overall we averaged about 65% sold - which is good going for February :-)

I'm too knackered to write anything meaningful at the moment - but here's a link to the first review - follow the link on "Reviews".

I do want to mention what the company bought me as a "thank you" - because it is very lovely. I got a copy of Crime & Punishment signed by all the members of the company and - a small lead soldier. But no ordinary lead soldier: in the text, one of the lodgers mentions that he is a former member of the "Prorokanjenski Guard" so someone in the company tracked this down and managed to find a specialist collectible shop which - on special request - imported a model of a Prorokanjenski guardsman from Russia - beautifully modelled and hand-painted. It is a lovely memento - I'm very touched :-)

Now I shall sleep. The strike is done - the stage is cleared and all that remains in a cd rom with 615 photos from the show and a couple of DV video tapes that I have yet to get transferred onto any useful format.

Tired but happy.
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Just over a week before first night. Happily, all is looking good. Last night's rehearsal fair zipped along and managed to deliver genuine moments of scariness, humour and heart-wrenching sadness. It is an enormous pleasure to see my vague mental images brought to life on stage - I understand now why people love directing (despite its many frustrations and infuriations).

If anyone fancies coming to see Crime & Punishment, it runs at Bromley Little Theatre from Friday 17th Feb - Saturday 25th Feb (no performance on Sunday). Tickets are around £7.00 and the theatre has a decent bar. The theatre is "members only" but I can get you in as my guest. If you're interested, please reply here or drop me a mail - groan at livejournal dot com.
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I've been on holiday today!!! Hurrah!!! But before you all get too excited - I spent my day set-building down at the theatre. I am now the proud owner of a variety of blisters, splinters and minor cuts and abrasions. Oh, and a back ache.

The trouble is, the set (which I designed - oh foolish me!) calls for the rear half of the stage to be a raised platform around two feet high. On the nifty little set design program I found on t'interweb, constructing this platform was a doddle (it mainly involved, clicking, pointing and pressing enter - with a bit of dragging and "click-to-shape"-ing).

The reality was somewhat different, involving lugging rostra from the Dark Place of Spiders beneath the stage, through a small gap onto the stage and then using frames, braces, trunions, jibs, and joists to hold the whole thing together. Thank Gawd for Bert - the set builder - who is a marvel with an electric screwdriver and has - to my mind - teh Right Way of Looking at Things - "That's a bit of a gap, innit? Doesn't really fit, does it? Nevermind - saw up some of that ply and we'll hammer some in to fill up the space and stick a couple more screws in." Marvellous!


Anyway, after a long, long day that involved assembling twelve 4'x2' rostra, six 2'x2' rostra, four 10'x6' rostra, assorted lengths of 2x4 timber and even some 6x3 and many, many, many screws (two fully charged powerdriver battery's worth) we now have a very solid acting platform for the show offs to strut their stuff on. Hurrah! Tomorrow the flats go up (or possibly Tuesday) but the good news is that it is sufficiently built to start rehearsing on stage right now!

Less than three weeks to go. I feel slightly sick. :-)
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I am trying to make the most of my One Free Day of the week (all the other days being consumed by either work or rehearsals).

I got up early and have been to Tesco. This sounds dull, but is actually a Good Thing, as my diet this week (post-rehearsal) has consisted solely of eating crisps and biscuits.

I have bought monkfish and parma ham and tonight I plan to wrap the former in the latter and roast it, drizzled with olive oil and garlic and lemon marinade (thanks to Mr. Oliver and his marvellous pear-shaped, acrylic mortar and pestle-shakey-thing - of which I am growing quite fond).

Have just had a lovely chat with [livejournal.com profile] etcher who has - quite rightly - chastised me for falling off the no-smoking wagon. I must buy more patches.

Now the Dyson beckons.
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Just back from Dublin and putting on my jodphurs and monocle ready to go out and direct a rehearsal. What I really want to do is go to bed.

Still the hotel was as nice as I remember. I like it when you check in to a hotel and the receptionist says "Hallo Mr Groan, we haven't seen you for a while - will a room overlooking the garden like last time be ok?". I know it's meaningless (or at least it means that they keep their databases for a long time, 'cos it's been at least 4-5 years since I have been there) but it still makes a chap feel welcomed. Bravo and hurrah!
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Am now largely recovered from the Gastric Gymnastics that have characterised the past few days - a blessed relief - and am getting ready to leap on a plane and head of to Dublin for two nights for a series of Important Meetings to discuss the submissions from Large International Software Vendors.

The Good Thing about this trip - other than the unmitigated joy of spending 48 hours talking about IT stuff - is that I get to stay at one of my favourite hotels. I've only been there once before, but I remember it as everything a good hotel should be - comfortable, welcoming and very well appointed - it's a pity I shall only be there to sleep.
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