15 December 2013

I have to say, I don’t know where this week went to. I’d like to say that I’ve been so busy with my Christmas preparations that the time has just flown by. Unfortunately, that would simply be untrue. I will, however, have to start taking it all a bit more seriously very soon. Otherwise, it will be Easter before anything gets done!

Those of you who are amongst my many, many Facebook “friends” will know that last Saturday I had the chance to spend the day in London with our favourite UN diplomat, Jordan Ryan. He was in town for a conference sponsored, I think he said, by the Prince of Wales’ Trust. Apparently, he even got to shake hands with the great man – by that I mean, of course, that Prince Charles was fortunate enough to be able to meet and shake hands with Jordan.

The conference was on the Friday and Jordan was “free” on Saturday so I went up to town to meet up with him. Unfortunately, Penelope was not able to join us but somehow we managed to have a pretty good time without her. Naturally, Jordan would have had a considerably better time had Penny been able to come but he put on a brave face and managed to keep up a reasonably convincing performance of enjoying my company. As you can tell, he has tremendous diplomatic skills.

Wildlife Photographer of the YearWe visited the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum, as we did last year. Interestingly, we both felt it wasn’t quite as “dramatic” as it had been last year but it’s still wonderful, especially those photographs by the ten to fourteen year-olds! There were also a number of photographs which had been digitally manipulated in some way this year, double-exposures or several photos stitched together, which I hadn’t noticed in previous years. I’m not suggesting that’s “wrong” in some way – it’s just an indication, I suppose, of the way in which photography has changed over the years.

After the exhibition and a spot of lunch we made our way to the Garrick Theatre and the matinee performance of Twelve Angry Men which was very good for what it was. I guess most of you will be familiar with it – a play which was first shown on American television in 1954 before being filmed by Sidney Lumet starring Henry Fonda in 1957. I remember the film being very powerful and although this didn’t have quite the emotion I seem to recollect, it was still very enjoyable.

The Guardian’s review was somewhat mixed focussing perhaps too much on the basic “impossible” premise of one almost angelic man who alone refuses to find the young boy guilty rather than on the performances and production. Still, as I say, we enjoyed it and that’s what counts.

When we came out of the theatre it was a bit early for dinner so we wandered around the National Portrait Gallery for a while and then made our way to Wahaca, our favourite restaurant. It seems I am always keen to go to Wahaca whenever we are in London and it’s not just that the opportunity to get good Mexican food is somewhat limited in this country. The fact that it is always full with a queue stretching up the stairs and out the door would suggest that others find it pretty good too. We hope he will come again soon.

On Tuesday evening I was able to treat Ms Playchute to a night out and still not put the slightest dent in the wallet. I had acquired free tickets to Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom at the cinema. We thought it was very good and, of course, particularly poignant just at the moment. Presumably it portrayed a fairly accurate depiction of the brutality of apartheid and the treatment he endured. How could we have considered ourselves civilised when people were treated in that way simply because of the colour of their skin?

No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

I was reading the Guardian on Thursday morning and there was a review of the first part of Lucan, a two-part made-for-television movie about Lord Lucan and the murder of his children’s nanny in what is generally regarded as a failed attempt to murder his wife. The programme stars Rory Kinear as Lord Lucan and features a number of other well-known British actors and actresses. Reading the review, I was annoyed that I had missed it. So, onto the ITV player to download it onto our TV hard disk. For those of you who don’t know, ITV is one of the commercial terrestrial television channels in the UK and, as we watched it on Thursday evening I was somehow expecting the usual three or four breaks for the advertising. Imagine our delight when there were none! Why would anyone watch anything “live” on television – we either record everything we watch and fast-forward through the adverts or download it from the streaming service and enjoy the programme with no adverts whatsoever!

Just a quick rant this week, a report from the National Audit Office about the idiot Gove’s “free school” programme.

Michael Gove’s free schools cost twice as much to build as the Government originally estimated and are failing to tackle the shortage of classroom places in many parts of the country, a damning report by the public spending watchdog will say today.

An analysis of the scheme by the National Audit Office has revealed that each school costs £6.6m to set up and that by March the whole programme will have cost £1.1bn – £743m of which is capital costs.

Half the districts with the most pressing need for extra places do not have a single application for a new free school, while the report also shows that the 64 free schools that responded have almost three times as many unqualified teaching staff as the average for the state sector.

Ouch.

Love to you all,

Greg