More Culture and Darker Days

Mon 30 Sept – Sun 6 Oct 2019

Another week with lots of culture happening (see last week’s blog ‘Cultural and Autumnal’ here): 2 theatre trips, a concert, and a film at the London Film Festival. Plus the obligatory books to feed my love of reading.

Meanwhile darker days as they get shorter, cooler and wetter. Autumn is so here. Indeed, I always think of the 1st Oct as the gateway to 6 months of darkness and crap weather till things get better from 1st April onwards. 🙁

Putin and Trump in each other's arms

And that’s not even including the darker days of politics we are in. Definite that we are cursed to live in ‘interesting’ times with Johnson and Trump, like a pair of evil, unpredictable twin children. I think if you look at British history then we are simply seeing a significant phase of the decline of the United Kingdom which really began in 1914. Sort of fascinating to see how things will fall out in a masochistic kind of way though it will be the poor who suffer most as they always do. 🙁

Books and Reading

Clearly I was cultural in 2 good books read over the last week, one for the Velvet Page book club.

‘Helliconia’ by Brian Aldiss


Finally finished after about 3 weeks this amazing novel actually consisting of 3 books: Spring, Summer, and Autumn. Nearly 1,300 pages long, I really did enjoy every minute in a way that I wasn’t expecting. It reminds me a lot of the great sci-fi sagas of Asimov’s Foundation and Empire saga as well as Frank Herbert’s Dune. But I think I enjoyed this more.

Aldiss creates an amazing world where humans live alongside weird animals such as Phagors – minotaur type creatures. And the planet Helliconia orbits a star that itself orbits another star. This leads to a ‘long year’ of thousands of years in which the planet swings from Ice Age to Sunburnt. There’s also an orbiting space station from Earth observing the planet Helliconia and we learn about the history of Earth itself as the book progresses.

Amazing science and a strong current to the theories of Gaia which sees the Earth (and any planet) acting as a single organism. Each book focuses on one area of Helliconia and the stories of the people who live there. And these events inter-connect through time and the 3 books. In that way, it reminds me of the brilliant ‘Cloud Atlas’ by David Mitchell.

These adventures contribute to key moments in Helliconian history. Some similar to our own such as the Reformation. It’s no coincidence that the seasons as well as the ups and downs of Helliconia’s history match a person’s life. And the morale, if there is one, is that life continues no matter what.

‘Tangerine’ at the Velvet Page book club


‘Tangerine’ by Christine Mangan was the book for my LGBT book club at Waterstones Piccadilly on Thurs evening. Set in 1950s Tangier, it’s a decent book – quite short and reminiscent of others including Talented Mr Ripley and The Sheltering Sky.

It also reminded me of films like Plein Soleil and Hitchcock’s stuff. Indeed, was this written simply in the hope of being made into a film?

It’s a cultural thriller that initially leaves you wondering who is the bad person. Perhaps that is identified too quickly. As with so many thrillers, it got a bit too clever for me with so many overlapping things going on and multiple double-dealing. At the book club, it was pointed out how for a novel supposedly written from 2 viewpoints, both were so similar and undifferentiated that it was easy to get them mixed up.

Generally the book club didn’t go for this book. Not the worst but definitely not the best we had read. It was a small meeting with many regulars away including Chris our staff host. Tension with a next door table who were intruding on our ‘official’ territory and no wine or goodies cos no Chris. 🙁 Fun when we went upstairs to Chris’ beloved LGBT section to identify potential books for the next 6 months’ worth of meetings. And Robert our book club fuhrer telling us which ones we had already read or rejected thus could not go down on the list again! 🙂

Art and Culture


‘Museum Pieces’ – Naked Attraction inter-action

2 cultural theatre trips, both to the Tristram Bates Theatre – part of the Actors’ Centre in Covent Garden. First play was ‘Museum Pieces’ by my mate Jamie. Nice to bump into him in the bar beforehand. The play itself is his usual good stuff. I am always amazed how he can knock out plays in his spare time whilst also doing his totally different full-time paid work.

4 monologues that subtly inter-link via the unexpected connection of the dating programme ‘Naked Attraction’. Great characterisation and portraits of 4 very different people. And the first actor is absolutely lovely – swoon. 🙂 Go see the play to appreciate his loveliness. 🙂

‘Fiji’ – gay cannibalism

Saw this on Fri. It’s the play that takes place before Jamie’s and we went simply on the recommendation of people I met on Tues night in the bar during the crossover between one play ending and the other starting.

On the topic of gay cannibalism, it’s a very witty story that looks at the limits of sexual fantasy as well as the awkwardness of app dating. Good characterisation and more sexy actors. A surprise hit. 🙂

‘To the summit’ at the Royal Festival Hall

‘Real’ culture on Wed night with a trip to the RFH for a fantastic concert by the London Philharmonic Orchestra as part of their ‘Isle of Noises’ series. ‘To the summit’ was particularly about mountains and featured a violin concerto by Elgar as well as Strauss’ ‘Alpine Symphony’. Both wonderful to chill and float away to. Great performance by the full orchestra and a brilliant violin solo. Plus a packed house and a very appreciative audience. 🙂

The inside of the Royal Festival Hall

‘Don’t look down’ – London Film Festival

My first film of the London Film Festival on Sun night. And one of 3 LGBT films I booked for £30 on a Discovery Pass. 🙂 Out to the Curzon Mayfair (rather than the BFI) on a dark Sun night – film started at 8.30. A gay theme but also in French to help improve my language skills. 5 people talking in an apartment – very stage play like.

The danger of a lover spurned

They have all been done over by the same man and are taking their revenge on him one by one in a separate room in the flat they are in. Interesting synopsis and a decent though not brilliant film. I remember once being in a club in Birmingham and seeing the most handsome man ever who was surrounded by a group of courtiers hoping to catch his attention. I imagine the unseen man in this film being like that, for how deep is the hate of being spurned by someone you adored?

Health and Efficiency

Good week of exercise

Male body art

Gym 4 mornings – all good workouts. And a decent 10K jog-run on Sat morning. An hour and 3 minutes. Perfectly decent time though a minute slower than the previous week. My trusted running shoes ended up rubbing one of my toes which I have never had before and the made the run slightly uncomfortable. 🙁 Details on all my jog-runs can be found here. No exercise on Wed as a full-day at work and Fri morning I just took off to chill. 🙂

Work Life Balance

Another busy week at work though I had Mon afternoon off as I was owed half a day of TOIL. So nice to have a do nothing day after a morning at the gym. Features of my busy work week (one full-day and 3 half days):

  • Supervision with my boss
  • Catch-up with my job-share colleague
  • Staff Open House session
  • Management meeting
  • Films and storytelling brainstorming session
  • Departmental stand-up
  • Being on an interview panel
  • Prep for an internal audit
  • Unpredicted problem-solving
  • Emails

Happy where I am

There’s a temporary vacancy at work for a position above me that I could go for. I don’t want to as it would mean going back to full-time working and I actually like my job as it is. 🙂

The Week Ahead

  • All day staff conference on Tuesday which will provide another half day of TOIL. Thinking of using it on Fri afternoon so I have that whole day off.
  • In the office Mon PM, all-day Wed, and Thurs PM. Big team and management meetings on Wed. Thurs I may have to go on a visit but that’s not a definite yet.
  • Changed work days will affect my exercise routine as will INR check on Mon morning. 🙁 Gym may be just 2 or 3 times next week with a jog-run on Sat morning (weather permitting).
  • Culture: another RFH concert on Wed evening ‘Isle of Noises: The Inextinguishable’ – Bartok, Walton, and Nielsen. Then 3 London Film Festival movies next weekend.
  • Currently reading a couple of sci-fi books. One much easier than the other.

And Finally…

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