Thursday, July 26, 2007

I say tomato

The first tomatoes of the year! Gardener's Delight, and very tasty they were too. Shop-bought tomatoes can't compete with home grown, freshly picked ones - the skins are thicker on home-grown ones, especially if grown outdoors, but the taste is much more intense and properly tomato-ey. Plenty of little green tomatoes on the early plants, especially the Rosada:
See all those tiny plum tomatoes, just waiting for some sunshine? I'm hoping the dreadful summer we've had so far means we might get a decent August and maybe a good Indian summer so everything will have a chance to ripen up.

The courgettes are also beginning to do their thing:

Picked a couple last week, and another couple tonight, with quite a few small ones developing nicely on the plants. The last couple of years have been dreadful for courgettes (not only me, my aunt and cousin also had bad years) but this year, despite an early profusion of male flowers, it seems there should be plenty to pick. Again, shop bought can't compare to freshly picked - A doesn't really like courgettes but ate the home grown ones last week and declared them to be a different taste altogether.

Leaves not doing too badly:
although I've have to sow a third batch of mixed leaves, as the snails took most of the second sowing, despite the presence recently of Prickles:
We used to have regular visits, as evidenced by occasional viewings of two different hedgehogs (who we named Spike and Prickles - but knowing a little about hedgehog habits, there could actually have been half a dozen of them calling in) plus the little hedgehog poops they left behind. Then, the last couple of years, they didn't seem to have been around at all, so I was really pleased to see this little chap the other night. Especially as it seems not only do hedgehogs eat slugs, they also deal pretty swiftly with snails, from the "crunch, crunch, slurp" sounds that Prickles was making, and the broken shells he was leaving behind. Frogs have also returned to the pond, so hopefully they'll deal with at least some of the slugs. But it's so wet and mild at the moment, I might as well rename my garden "slugopolis". There's a reason one of the roads we live between is called Endyke and the other Inglemire - might as well have called our part of the world "bogland".
But at least we won't have a hosepipe ban this year ....

Sunday, July 22, 2007


Currently listening to: Carla Bruni, "Quelqu'un m'a dit"

Am home after a three-play weekend, topped off with seeing a couple of mates, an actor friend I hadn't seen for ages, and a meeting with my producer ... oh, and the last Harry Potter. Unbeatable.

To the Royal Court on Friday to see "The Pain and The Itch", by Bruce Norris, directed by Dominic Cooke, and starring Matthew Macfadyen. Taking place on Thanksgiving, and opening with the discovery of bite marks in the avocados, the play examines family dynamics and relationships in a well-heeled middle class American family. It's very well acted, and very funny in places (the woman two seats along from me was in hysterics much of the time - I wasn't quite so moved); however, the mechanics of the play were, I felt, somewhat confusing and ultimately also too easy a device. To get to the last few scenes and have everything revealed in an "a ha!" way was a bit clunky, for me - compared to "Betrayal", for example (which we shall get to in a moment), the back and forth mechanism of the story-telling felt awkward, rather than part of the process. However, the acting was top rate - Matthew Macfadyen as Clay, and Peter Sullivan as his brother Cash, were both spot on in the way they portrayed the rivalry and resentments of siblings growing up together which are barely hidden behind adulthood, and Andrea Riseborough as the Eastern European Eurotrash girlfriend was brilliantly funny. The run is extended to August 4th, and it's worth seeing.

And on the bus journey northwards from Sloane Square, we passed Waterstones Piccadilly which was mobbed by people in witch and wizard costumes, waiting for midnight and the new Harry Potter. I know all the arguments about whether J K Rowling writes "proper" literature etc etc, and to be honest, I think that the fact that a book gets people excited enough to dress up and queue at midnight is pretty cool. For all that the internet and game consoles offer, people still want to get their hands on a real book, and read it. Fantastic. (But no, I didn't wait, despite Borders in Islington being open til 1am - I got my copy in the morning, and I've finished it, and yes I enjoyed it and no I'm not going to talk about the ending because I don't want to spoil anything for people who haven't got there yet).

So, Saturday - tore myself away from HP7 long enough to get a stand-by for Rafta Rafta at the National. Well worth seeing, but check availability -for most performances you can get stand-by tickets, which will give you a good stalls seat for £18 instead of £39. The play, by Ayub Khan-Din, is based on "All in Good Time" by Bill Naughton, which was filmed as "The Family Way", one of those films you'll remember if you grew up avoiding homework on Sunday afternoons by watching black and white films starring John Mills or James Mason.

Directed by Nicholas Hytner, the play features Harish Patel, a big Bollywood star who shows off his bhangra moves to great effect, and Meera Syal as the parents of newly married Atul, who just can't seem to get it together with his new wife, what with his parents and brother being only thin walls away. It's very funny whilst also being quite poignant, and also very interesting in just how easily a story originally about white working class Lancastrians translates into a story about a British Asian family living in Bolton. Family rules, it seems.

And finally, to the last night of "Betrayal" at the Donmar. Walking into the bar was one of those "ooh, is that ....?" moments, times at least three. Ann Marie Plowman and Helen McCrory by the bar, Colin Firth looking considerably more relaxed than in Cannes, Rupert Penry-Jones looking v fit. And Alan Cox who I hadn't seen for a while so it was good to have a quick catch-up chat. He's going to be in a play at the Goodman Theatre, Chicago, soon, so if you're in the Chicago area go and see him - he's a fab actor with a gorgeous voice.

As for the play itself - the rewinding structure really suits the subject, as it becomes clearer to the audience just who knew what, and when; as for betrayals, although the obvious one is adultery, as the play goes on it becomes obvious that there are multiple layers. Emma (Dervla Kirwan) betrays Robert (Sam West), but he's betrayed her for years too, while Jerry (Toby Stephens) has lied to his best friend. In fact Sam said that during rehearsals they'd counted up the lies and betrayals and got to something like 51. It's taken me a while to get into Pinter, but having done so, I'm glad I made the effort and persisted. He is so incisive about human relationships, in a rather disingenuous way. Nothing is said directly, but its all there for the reading. I love it, and am glad I got to see this Betrayal twice - a fabulous, well acted production of a great play.

And now I'm home, and getting my regular fix of sex, violence and very bad language - what will I do once "Rome" has ended?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

... then three buses came along at once

You know, if you're a freelancer or a short-term contract worker, how you spend half your time on any particular job wondering where the next one's coming from? And a two month extension on a six month contract is quite nice, but really you'd love a job that was certain to last a year, or maybe even longer? And while hunting for another contract you're also writing stuff, and sending it off, and hoping that one day things fall into place?

Well, last Monday, I got a job - full time, until March 2009, in a good Department at a good University. Wehey! And I'm thinking, hmmm, there goes my writing day, but the job will involve quite a bit of travelling, could invest in a dictaphone, train myself to tell my stories out loud then type them out later .... am sure I can continue to come up with ideas. And after all, a salary for 20 months gives me time to regroup, build up the portfolio, have another go at launching myself into this writing life. It's not like I'm a full time writer, earning a living at it.

Then someone rang me, having been given my name by a mutual contact, and said would I like a month's work as a location scout. Well, yeah, why not, can fit it in around my current part time job before the full time one starts.

Then, I heard from the producer of my futuristic thingy that a couple of major studios are interested - you'd have to be available to do any work they want, she says. OK, well, I'm sure some space could be made - like, who really needs to have ironed shirts, and is it absolutely necessary to dust and hoover, or have windows clean enough to see out? And take-out pizza won't kill you if you eat it more than twice a week, will it?

And then my writing buddy's husband gets chatting to someone via work, who says her sister is looking for interesting scripts - the sister turns out to be an Oscar nominated actress, married to an Oscar winning actor/director.

Guess I can learn to go without sleep, too.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Come to East Yorkshire ...

... and tell me you don't believe in climate change.
The average rainfall for East Yorkshire for June fell in one hour last week.

Even if the recent weather hasn't been directly caused by global warming/climate change, as the planet warms and the ice caps melt, low lying areas like here will be increasingly subject to this kind of thing:

and more people's homes will end up like this:

Luckily we're just high enough above sea level, and apparently are protected by the sea defences, so we didn't really suffer at all. The water has stopped squelching up around my feet when I go out into the garden, which is good; most of my strawberries have rotted on the plants due to the wet (it has rained, torrentially, at some point in every single day for at least a week) but that's trivial - we're not self-sufficient, I'm not trying to make a living from my plants. Market gardeners round here will have been devastated. Pupils from A's old primary school have been rehoused at the University until the summer hols but whether the school will be open in September isn't certain. If you're reading this blog, climate change is affecting someone you know.

So, if, like me you've spent much of the day flitting around the house and garden doing chores and having a quick look at the Live Earth concert every now and then, turn the telly off properly when you go to bed. And turn your computer off too. And recycle the Sunday papers (and all the other paper too, and cans and bottles and cardboard) and make compost, and maybe walk to work or to the shops next week at least once. And buy local (or if you see it on sale, buy fruit and veg that comes from East Yorkshire - every little helps). And even if you don't believe all the stuff about climate change, and think that many of the world's scientists are wrong, wouldn't you prefer not to damage the planet? Just a tiny bit, in case they're right after all?

Photos above are taken from the BBC news websites

Thursday, July 05, 2007

When will it ever stop raining?

Back from a glorious week of sunshine, wonderful food and lots of culture in Italy, and straight onto 7 days of penicillin for the cough, which has persisted. We were lucky, we didn't get flooded while we were away - some of A's friends have been told they can't go home for three months because of the damage done to their houses, and her former primary school is unlikely to reopen fully before Christmas. And its still raining.

Didn't get anything retrieved or written for Verity Bargate, and am a bit cheesed off with myself about that. It's just not happening as far as the play is concerned. I think I need to do something else for a while, because every time I look at it, I hate it and think it's trite nonsense, although my mentor tells me its a really good and interesting idea. I think maybe its a woods/trees situation - I just can't see what's good about it any more.

More cheerily, here's what I picked to go with my lunch:

Five or six types of salad leaves - nothing else is ready yet, but the latest sowings of leaves, rocket and spinach germinated in record time (3 days), and there are loads of tiny green tomatoes on the outdoor tomato plants, and at long last a couple of courgette flowers on the now giant courgette plants. Sadly the snails have discovered my tiny greenhouse, and appear to like the sweet pepper plants, but don't touch the hot and medium hot chilli peppers - does that mean the leaves of chilli plants are hot as well as the fruits?
Am investigating the possibility of getting some hens - would also love a goat (thanks for the tip, Good Dog) but that may be a step too far at this stage.
Perhaps I should give up plays and write a gardening/cookery column instead.