30 December 2012

OMG! Did we really eat that amount of food in that short a period of time? And, is there really that much left over? I would include the menu Penelope prepared (along with splendid contributions from Nick and Lucy) but it would take up far too much space. Let’s just say we had turkey, ham and barbequed pesto-salmon along with a huge quantity of vegetables and stuffing along with a choice of desserts. Penelope catered for about fifty-three and there were, in fact, only six of us (not including Annabelle) so what happened to the other forty-six people she was expecting I do not know.

I had been thinking I should do a spreadsheet or something to calculate the ratio of preparation time against eating time. Certainly the preparations were spread over several days (especially if one includes shopping time which I suppose one must) and the eating was accomplished in an hour or so. There are other factors to take into consideration, of course. Dessert (of which there were a mere four varieties present) was postponed for many of us until the following day and the left-overs will probably keep us going until Easter. So, I guess it’s not such a bad ratio after all.

Christmas itself was lovely and leisurely. Nick, Lucy and Annabelle had Christmas morning at their place and then came across to us in the late morning by which time we had managed to get through our daily chores and were more or less ready to enjoy ourselves. After the several minutes I had spent Christmas shopping on line, it was a relief to have one’s gifts appreciated by the recipients (or at least they gave a very convincing impression of being appreciative) and, as for those I received, who could complain about six pairs of new underpants!

I had thought while I was scouring the web searching for inspiration (Google only has 270 million sites offering “inspired Christmas gifts”) that what I really needed was a personal shopper. I now realise, however, that there is something much better than a personal shopper – a personal present unwrapper, a role Annabelle fulfilled with precision and dexterity. As well as finding the wrapping paper considerably more interesting than most of the contents, she also found the boxes very interesting, particularly if they were large enough to climb into.

In short, a splendid day full of fun and cheer and I probably only gained about 20 pounds.

I did promise a short “review” of the play we went to see on my birthday last week, A Chorus of Disapproval which was good fun. I have to confess, about half way through the first half I was thinking to myself that it was a bit disappointing – it should have been funnier than it was. However, it did pick up in the second half and I think we all went away feeling that we had been successfully entertained.

A Chorus of Disapproval

I can’t do better than to quote any of the many reviews out there so here is the Telegraph’s take:

Rob Brydon, making his West End debut, is tremendous in this revival of Alan Ayckbourn’s Eighties comedy. He gives a beautifully judged performance as the overbearing yet insecure director of a provincial “light operatic society”.

The play opens as the last night of the society’s take on The Beggar’s Opera is drawing to a close. Despite being a success, their account of John Gay’s gritty satire seems to have provoked a lot of ill feeling, and over the course of the play we move back in time and come to understand exactly why.

The pivotal figure is Nigel Harman’s Guy Jones. A naïve widower with a tendency to hop around awkwardly, he has stumbled into the apparently poisonous world of am-dram. At first he is awarded a small part by local solicitor and theatrical bigwig Dafydd (Brydon). But as others falter Guy rises. He also becomes entangled in the affairs — both romantic and commercial — of several members of the cast. The results are at best delightful. While Brydon combines fine comic timing with a sure sense of Dafydd’s vulnerabilities, Harman conveys Guy’s development from a haplessly timid newcomer into a leading man who proves capable of causing mayhem.

Daisy Beaumont impresses as a fierce seductress, and Ashley Jensen as Dafydd’s wife is her exact opposite, a woman who has been taught to think she is not attractive yet discovers that she can be. There’s neat support from Georgia Brown, Rob Compton and Paul Thornley, as well as an excellent design by Robert Jones.

Still, this isn’t quite the riotous comedy that’s advertised. Instead it is a nicely observed picture of the frustrations of a mostly dowdy kind of Eighties middle-class existence. There are moments that feel bleak and toe-curling. That’s as it should be, but at times a certain zip and energy are missing.

Trevor Nunn’s production needs to become more taut and vigorous. That’s likely to happen as the run continues. As it is, A Chorus of Disapproval feels like a less artful, less uproarious version of Michael Frayn’s classic Noises Off. It’s safe and solid; the laughs don’t flow as freely as they could.

A couple of snippets caught my eye this week. The first, from the BBC, some of the key events of 2012 presented in 201.2 seconds. I have to say, these are largely UK-centric so some of our “foreign” readers may not get all the references but it’s still quite good.

The second, from the Guardian, is a short series from a number of correspondents on the Worst Ideas of 2012 including such gems as the Onesie, Gourmet Junk Food, sending George Osborne to present medals at the Paralympics so that 80,000 people could greet the announcement of his name with prolonged boos and Republicans thinking out loud.

All that remains is for me (well, all of us really) to wish all of you a very Happy New Year.

Love to you all,

Greg