Diary of an old cheeser

Hi there! Like other blogs, this is my chance to wax lyrical (some might say talk utter cr*p) about a) what's happening in my life b) all of my pet obsessions in particular music, tv, movies, books and other generally connected things, quite often of the retro, old and "cheesy" variety. Hence the title of my blog. Feel free to leave a comment if the mood takes you. There's nothing like a good chinwag about one's favourite topics and besides I love to meet new people! Cheers, Simon

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Have a VERY Happy one ...

Well, my hubbie and I are due to head out into town for New Year's celebrations tonight. We're going to a comedy night at Barcode in Soho - here's hoping it will be worth the money we shelled out!! No, I'm sure we'll have a great time. So strange to think that yet another year is almost over...

Which just leaves me to wish all of you, my fellow bloggers and readers a good one too! And a special big THANK YOU to those of you who have taken the time to read my blog and responded with all your comments! Yes, big hugs to Lubin, Nora, Matty, Minge, Boz, Lost Boy, Thomas and Time Warden, I've really appreciated all your replies and support!! Thank you!! Also thanks to my mate Stephen (although he's a Live Journal boy so has his own agenda going on ... ) I only started blogging in September this year but have enjoyed every minute of it since then (it's positively addictive, for God's sake!!) For me, it's opened up a whole new world of information and most importantly, a new way of getting to know other people! And very lovely and interesting people too! (Especially the ones that like Dr Who - such a relief to know I'm not a lone geek). So here's to a prolonged and fulfilling existence as a blogger.

Whatever you're doing to celebrate the New Year, I hope you have a fabulous time tonight!! Till 2007, enjoy yourselves...

With this Time Lord ... I thee wed ...

So!! Finally I bring you my thoughts on "The Runaway Bride", the crowning glory of Christmas Day television, if not Christmas itself! (Oh dear, I'm being rather controversial now...) And the verdict? Well, I enjoyed it a lot on the whole. Although admittedly I was watching it whilst surrounded by family playing with their Xmas pressies and chattering away, and I'd also had a couple of glasses of sherry. Also I've only viewed it once so far. So my judgement may be slightly impaired and a second viewing is probably required.

Nevertheless this was a good romp that moved along at a cracking pace, yet with its quieter, more reflective moments too. However, although there were lots of things to appreciate in "Bride" I don't think I'd quite rank it as truly "classic" Dr Who. As this was a Christmas Day episode, the production team were obviously aiming for as broad an appeal as possible, with killer Santas, exploding Christmas tree baubles and the perennial Catherine Tate all thrown into the mix. And the baddie, the Empress of Racnoss, played by an unrecognisable Sarah Parish (that's her above!) was a bit too much of a pantomime villain for me, with her loud screeching and threats to take over the Earth. But again, as a Christmas episode, family entertainment was the name of the game, for better or for worse ...

Criticisms aside, what was to like about "Bride"? Well, as you might have gathered, I am a fan of Catherine Tate and was pleased when I originally heard she was going to star in the Special, whilst feeling slightly anxious as to whether or not she'd measure up. As Donna, the bride of the story's title, we saw her from the very first scene, as she is mysteriously whisked away from the scene of her wedding to re-appear in the TARDIS control room, much to the astonishment of the Dr. Ms Tate's screaming, as she "dematerialises" from the church, was I thought too reminiscent of one of her comedy show characters (the nervy, neurotic one who screams at the slightest thing). And I did find her shouting and general loudness in the first part of the story ("Where am I?" "What the hell is this place?" "I'm supposed to be getting married!!") grating and overdone (played mainly for laughs). However, I guess anyone would be slightly alarmed if they suddenly found themselves in the control room of an alien spacecraft when they were supposed to be walking down the aisle. So perhaps we should grant old Donna a bit of slack. Once she'd (slightly!) calmed down, Donna's sarcastic persona was utilised to good effect and her rapport with the Dr worked well, the two sparking off one another effectively, with some great dialogue between them. I loved the bit when Donna revealed she'd missed the arrival of the Sycorax last Christmas because she'd been hungover, and the Dalek/Cybermen invasion as she was in Spain scuba-diving!

As for David Tennant, he was on good form as the Doc and actually seemed more restrained than last season. Whilst serious and humorous at the right times, I found him a lot less manic in "Bride". I was pleased to see his sometimes annoying face pulling and silly mannerisms were very much subdued and overall David T comes across as much more comfortable and natural in the role now. There were also some nice references to the recently departed Rose and the Dr's sadness at her loss. I liked the brief inclusion of Rose flashback sequences and the Dr's grief was palpable but not overstated.

Perhaps I was a bit too hard on Sarah Parish. Although very much in the pantomime villain mould, she made a fair stab at the role of the Empress and did come across as scarey. Her costume and features certainly added to the frightening factor, rendering her truly hideous and alien and were an excellent achievement on the part of the special effects/make-up teams. However it was a shame that the Empress was confined to her chamber for the duration of the story and we didn't see her more "mobile", it kind of diminished her power as a genuine threat. I liked her spacecraft though, and it was surely no coincidence that it was shaped like a Christmas star, looking very pretty in the night sky above London until it started shooting everyone!

There were lots of good visuals and some great scenes as well. One of the definite highlights had to be the motorway chase sequence - in which the Dr attempted to rescue the kidnapped Donna from a speeding taxi. The sight of the TARDIS giving pursuit, flying down the motorway and bouncing in and out of cars, and Donna's reaction "You are kidding me" were hilarious (but not hilarious in a bad way). And the bit when the Dr tries to get Donna to jump the gap between the taxi window and the TARDIS was exciting, nail-biting stuff, worthy of any action / disaster movie. A pity then that this scene came relatively early on in the story. I thought it would have worked better at the climax of the episode.

Another effective - and actually very disturbing - scene was the one in which the Dr flooded the Empress' spiders nest, thus killing all of her offspring. The juxtaposition of the Dr's impassive face, as the water pours down soaking him and everything else, with the Empress' heart-rending screams of "My babies!" was chilling. And problematic - so the Dr had no choice but to wipe out the Racnoss to stop them taking over the Earth, but is genocide on this scale morally right? The implication at the end of story was that left on his own, the Dr is capable of doing the "unthinkable" i.e. wiping out an alien race, but with someone else around it will temper these tendencies and prevent him from doing the unthinkable more often. Mmm ... not sure what I think about that! Better get yourself a new companion pronto, Doc!

The ending was nicely done with the TARDIS creating a flurry of snow and Donna declining to join the Dr on his travels (gasp!)

And to keep us all in the mood, we got a nice teaser trailer for Season Three with some interesting clips - some brief glimpses of new companion Martha Jones, Shakespeare, lots of new aliens and ... the black Dalek!! Last seen in "Army of Ghosts" / "Doomsday" it's now a dead cert that the Daleks are coming back in the new series, in a story set in 1930s New York. I'm not sure how I feel about this. I fully agree that their resurrection in the new Dr Who has been a success but I think it's now getting to the point where they're being over-used. Besides which, WHY did the Beeb have to give the game away about their return? With a forthcoming episode entitled "Daleks in Manhattan" it's rather, erm, obvious, isn't it? (Oddly enough the Black Dalek's name is Sec, leading to the opinion that "Sec's In The City" would have been a better episode title, he he he...) Ah well. Apparently the return of another old enemy is on the cards, so I hope the Beeb / Russell T Davies can keep their traps shut about that one ...

Anyway! All in all, I'd give "The Runaway Bride" 3.5 out of 5. Oooh! So precise aren't I? For me it's strengths lay in the chacterisation rather than plot with some great interchanges between the Dr and Donna. Overall it delivered the Xmas goods very nicely indeed.

What did you all think?

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Party and shop till you drop

Am now back dans London after my York excursion. It was certainly nice to get away for a few days and see my family, have a change of scenery etc. It's cold and wet back here and Gustavo and I feel like we're coming down with a mild case of the flu. Again!! Nooo!! Drat!! And double drat!! I think we caught it either from my baby niece or my Mum. It's also several degrees colder up North and perhaps my now South-of-England-climatised self just can't deal with it. My poor husband was positively shivering from the cold, but then he's from Brazil and Yorkshire must have felt like the Antarctic to him ...

Anyhow, I'm sure you're all positively dying to hear what we got up to in York, so to give a brief summary, we:

1. Spent a large amount of time at my Mum's house, which consisted of the following:

a) Sampling my Mum's delicious cooking - we had a fabulous Xmas dinner with an enormous and very tasty turkey, plus salmom and avocado starters! Yummy! Mum also made some of my favourite food from childhood - vanilla fudge, lemon-layer pudding and mont blanc pudding (made from chestnut puree and macaroon biscuits!) Even more yummy! Thanks Mummy!!

b) Cosuming a vast array of beverages, from sherry (ooh vicar!) to cava to beer.

c) Watching TV. Needless to say, Dr Who on Xmas Day was THE highlight for me (more on that later). To make things even better, there was a Dr Who Confidential on too. I also quite enjoyed "The Ruby In The Smoke" with Billie Piper (based on the Philip Pullman novel) which proved that there is life post-Dr Who, although the plot was rather hard to follow.

d) Giving and receiving gifts. I got some lovely pressies from my nearest and dearest, which I was tres chuffed with, including:

i) Space 1999 Series One DVD Boxset. Perfect for a sci-fi geek like me!
ii) Best of Smash Hits - the 1980s - great compilation book comprising lots of articles from the pop magazine of yore - reading it is a total trip down memory lane and don't those pop stars look young!
iii) iPod Nano - yaaaay! From my lovely hubbie, just what I wanted and now I can listen to lots and lots of my favourite pop toons!
iv) A posh watch from Next. Again from my hubbie. So classy and expensive looking I'm too scared to wear it out. I think I'll just keep it in its box and look admiringly at it.

And for my hubbie I got:
i) iPod Nano!! Exactly the same model as the one he got me. Great minds think alike, eh. This now means we will have to be doubly careful we don't walk off with each other iPods, which is why I am buying a black case for his and a pink case for mine. Ha ha ha.
ii) Some Hugo Boss perfume, actually purchased in Paris! Oooh la la.
iii) Some groovy clothes from Top Man including t-shirts.
iv) Mariah Carey DVDs. He's a bigger fan than me ...

2) Went out to a few York pubs and bars in the evening, with my brothers and their mates, including a very groovy bar called Biltmore and one with the rather inappropriate name of Orgasmic (unless there was something going on there I wasn't aware of). As always at Xmas there was a nice jolly, festive atmosphere in town with lots of people making, as well as getting, merry. And we had some lovely mulled red wine in Biltmore which was totally moorish and addictive!

3) Spending lots of money in the post-Xmas sales. You know what it's like, come Boxing Day everyone is already ready to go out and spend spend spend, and Gu and I were no exception, being a right pair of retail queens. "Next" in York opened for its sale at 5am - for heaven's sake - but we couldn't quite muster up the enthusiasm to get up at that time. However we did purchase lots of bargains from the York stores during our stay. I bought several DVDs (I'm a sucker for films) and also some rather nice trousers, shirts and shoes from Top Man / River Island / Next. Well ... they'd all been knocked down in price and I simply couldn't resist! I admit I've gone a bit mad over the last few days and have ended up using my credit card (a last resort), however I'm getting a work bonus in January so can pay it all off then! Thank goodness! And one can't miss out on a bargain, can one?

And on another (yet related) note ... York actually gets better and better each time I re-visit. When I grew up there, it was never a "bad" place to live. There is so much history to it. It has a beautiful Minster. It was once a Roman and a Viking town. The old City Walls are still largely intact as are many old buildings, and monuments. It has quaint old cobbled streets like the Shambles and the intriguingly named Whipmawhopmagate (guess what went on there). There are museums and parks. And unlike London, getting round the town centre is relatively easy. From my Mum's house you can walk into town in about 15 minutes. Which you really do appreciate, coming from somewhere like London, where you must either carefully pre-plan going home in order that you don't miss the last tube, or, hang around for an eternity waiting for the night bus, then, when it finally does turn up, put up with a load of drunken weirdos and idiots all the way home. And York seems to be more trendy and "with it" these days. There's some excellent bars now alongside the more traditional pubs, and some stylish restaurants. The shops have improved tenfold - Zara, H & M, Gap, Next are all in evidence now.

However the one major thing York has consistently lacked is a gay scene, which is (dare I say it) one of the reasons I've never wanted to move back. When I was a teenager there was only one gay pub in the entire town called "The York Arms", right next to the Minster. Apparently if you went through the right hand door as opposed to the left hand one, this was the "gay side". Woe betide you if you walked through the wrong door. My, what enlightened times those were! I did actually visit the aforementioned pub a few times in my teens, but it's long since ceased to be "gay" (well the right side of the pub, anyway). There was also a once-monthly gay night at the York Arts Centre called East Orange, which I went to once or twice and wasn't too bad by York standards. Again long gone, as the Arts Centre closed down and is now a rather tacky straight pub called The Parish. I also heard rumours that there was another gay bar called "The Hole In The Wall", however I think that was just wishful thinking, and the name must have led to, assumptions about its clientele, shall we say ... As a whole York has never been renowned for its extreme homophobia, but equally it's not a place where gays and lesbians have been made to feel particularly welcome and visibility is a bit of an issue. I spotted a few gay and lesbian couples whilst out in the town and they stuck out like a sore thumb - I couldn't help wondering where they were from! Okay, so having a gay "scene" is not the be-all and end-all and isn't for everyone - we don't need to go out to pubs or clubs to "exist". But I do think that the absence of some kind of "scene" means that gay and lesbian people feel less encouraged to be "out" and that there are few places where they can go and be open and demonstrative. Okay, I'm getting a bit heavy now ... I honestly don't know what the answer to all of these problems is. In an ideal world, we'd all be able to go to whatever pub / bar / club we wanted and to openly show affection with our friends / lovers, whether they be gay / lesbian / straight, without fear of any kind of reprisal. The gay "scene" wouldn't even need to exist. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this topic, incidentally ...

The other thing that stops me from moving back to York is its smallness. Although London does p*ss me off with its vastness and consequent problems re: getting from a to b, as I have already outlined, York is the opposite. Like any small city, it's a place where everybody knows everyone else and his / her business, which can sometimes be way too incestuous. And small towns can sometimes be small-minded. Although hardly racist central, York isn't exactly a hotbed of multiculturalism or diversity either. It was very strange being back there and seeing so few black / asian people. There is a University in York with (presumably) a more ethnically diverse student population but the students don't seem to be, erm ... in the habit of visiting the City. Leeds, the nearest city to York, on the other hand has a much more ethnically mixed population. And also it's got a gay scene!

So, for me, York = a lovely, relaxing place to visit with a lot of good points, but not somewhere I could really contemplate living again. But as I've intimated in some of my previous posts, I definitely have my problems with London and it's not somewhere I want to stay indefinitely either ... I don't know! I'm so bloody hard to please aren't I?!

And after that very long post I shall bid you farewell ... hope you've all had a jolly good time over the festive period too. And only one more day left in 2006 ... who knows what 2007 will bring for us! Fabulous things I hope!!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Season's greetings...

Well, I am now in York!! Hoorah!! Got here with Gustavo this afternoon and am now chilling out at my Mum's. Looking forward to a few days' relaxation, eating, drinking, giving and receiving gifts, hanging out with my nearest and dearest and generally making merry!

Which just leaves me to wish you all a very..


Saucy Sue Ellen

And another great scene in which Sue Ellen winds up JR. Watch out for her very sexy pink slippers.
Sue Ellen and Mandy

And for no particular reason whatsoever, other than the fact that I love it and it's nearly Christmas, here is one of my favourite ever scenes from "Dallas", the Texas-based soap opera of the 1970s/80s. Sue-Ellen, long suffering wife of JR Ewing, now runs her own successful female underwear company known as Valentine Lingerie. Against her better judgement, she has re-hired model Mandy Winger to publicise their products again, in spite of the fact that Mandy had an affair with JR whilst working for her previously. However, Sue Ellen has just found out Mandy's real motives for returning to the company and summons Mandy to her office...

Watch and be gripped by the fantastic acting! No irony intended whatsoever! But I for one say - you go, Sue-Ellen!! You're a diva and a victor!!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Two for the price of one

And now, ladies and gents, I bring you my thoughts on not just ONE but TWO episodes of Torchwood!! That's because by the time I got round to writing this, two whole episodes had already been broadcast! How shameful! Well, here goes, folks...

Random Shoes

What a silly title! And what a "Love and Monsters" rip-off! Once again, Old Cheeser was left with a distinct feeling of disappointment at the end of this particular episode. For those of you not in the know, "Love and Monsters" was a decidedly idiosyncratic story from the last series of Dr Who, which focussed on a character called Elton, a loveable geek obsessed with the Doctor . Elton belongs to a group who meet to discuss sightings of the Time Lord on planet Earth and other associated topics, with a view to eventually tracking him down. Somewhat similarly, this Torchwood episode was about a young man called Eugene (another name with geeky connotations) who is fixated on the Torchwood team and wants to get closer to them. And in an unusual move, Eugene is the central protagonist of the story, with only a small amount of screen time devoted to the regular Torchwood characters (again, like "Love and Monsters" in which the Dr and Rose hardly feature and Elton became the main focus of the action).

"Love and Monsters" was a highly experimental episode in terms of its shift away from the normal Dr Who format, yet I found it a very enjoyable and entertaining story, with some nice tongue-in-cheek reflections on the nature of "fandom", and terrific performances from its cast, especially Marc Warren and Peter Kay. "Random Shoes" on the other hand just didn't work for me.

The story begins with Eugene awakening in the middle of a road, realising that he a) is actually dead, having been hit by a car b) has become a ghost. The majority of the episode sees an unveiling of those events which led to Eugene's death (mainly uncovered by Gwen who takes it upon herself to investigate why / how he died). Although boasting a decent enough performance from Paul Chequer as Eugene, and some quite good humour, the episode as a whole felt inconsequential and, like the previous "Countrycide" was just not sci-fi / fantasy oriented enough. There was an attempt to introduce a sci-fi element in the use of a supposed alien eye, which had belonged to Eugene since he was a child, and was pivotal to his death. However the fact that it WAS alien was neither here nor there! We also had a supposed "life-affirming" ending in which Eugene saves Gwen from being run down by a car and then ceases to exist as a ghost - in transpires that he was "kept" on Earth in order to save Gwen's life and now the job is done, he can ascend to the afterlife. Mmm. Rather corny methinks. There was also a fairly cringe-inducing performance from Nicola Duffett (who once played Debbie in "Eastenders" and more recently the awful Cat in "Family Affairs") as Eugene's mother , with some OTT crying scenes and bad acting. Shove a sock in it, woman!!

So ... whilst not terrible and mildly amusing in bits, this still didn't really feel like a "proper" episode of Torchwood. Whatever that is. As you may have already gathered my opinion of the show has changed on a weekly basis and the quality rating of each story has been up and down more often than Owen Harper's trousers.

Out of Time

But wait! Suddenly we get another much improved episode. "Out of Time" (did the writer nick the title from REM?) had an intriguing concept: a small plane carrying three people from the year 1953 falls through a rift in time and ends up in Cardiff, 2006. The rift cannot be re-opened and the three - Diane, the plane's pilot and her two passengers, Emma and John - must remain forever in 2006. The Torchwood team help them adapt to contemporary life, giving them new identities and a place to stay. The struggle of the three characters to integrate into modern day society and the differing ways in which they come to terms with such drastic changes to their lives, formed the dramatic crux of the story and was generally strong viewing.

I found the episode opening a little disappointing. The Torchwood team, having been forwarned of the rift, stand on an airfield awaiting the arrival of the plane from 1953, as if this were a fairly everyday occurence (well, given the things they've dealt with so far, I guess it was). To me this was the wrong perspective to start off the story with. Would it not have been better to have portrayed things from the point of view of Diane, Emma and John in the world of 1953, as they board their plane and then, inexplicably, find themselves in 2006? The emotional impact of the change would then have been far stronger, I think. There also followed a rather unconvincing scene in which the Torchwood team take the 1953 trio to the Hub. None of them seemed particularly phased by what they saw, considering such technology wouldn't have existed in their time!

However from thereon, the episode got a lot better. The scene in which the team take Diane, Emma and John to a supermarket was amusing and pointed up some of the differences between 1953 and now. The trio are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of products on sale (they've just come from a period of rationing). Emma grabs handfuls of chocolate and they are amazed by the concept of CDs, not to mention pornographic magazines being so freely available off the shelf. And when Diane sees "Smoking kills" written on a cigarette packet, she asks "What does that mean?" (!)

The story then "branches out" as we focus on the individual plights of the three characters from 1953 and how they deal with living in a different century. Emma, the youngest of the trio, find things hard at first and is desperate to go home, but aided by the caring Gwen, begins to accept her situation. There's a good sub-plot in which Emma learns out about modern attitudes to sex via Gwen. Their conversation, in which Gwen reveals that she's done it with lots of men, is funny. Eventually Gwen secures Emma a job in
London and it's a relatively happy ending for her at least.

John, on the other hand, finds it very hard to adapt and feels alone and isolated. He also has a son, Alan, from the 1950s, who he misses terribly and is curious to know if he is still alive in the present day. In a sad and moving scene, he tracks down Alan in an old people's home. Paradoxically, Alan is now older than his own father, and completely senile, not recognising his father atall or knowing who this "stranger" is, which reduces John to tears. Later on, John makes the decision to commit suicide, explaining to Captain Jack that he has nothing left in this world to live for now. After preventing him on his first attempt, Jack permits John to go through with it. There's a chilling scene in which Jack and John (they sound like a couple, goddamnit!) sit together in a car which is parked in a garage with the motor left running. John slowly dies from the exhaust fumes whilst Jack remains very much alive (the "gift/curse" of his immortality preventing him from going the same way as John).

Meanwhile, Diane gets the most raunchy storyline of the 1953 trio, as she gets it on with ... wait for it ... Owen "Toad-Face"!! Presumably she likes cockney wide boys. Would you adam and eve it? Owen and Diane meet up for regular liaisons. However in a surprising (and welcome) turn of events, the previously unscrupulous, libido-driven Owen actually starts to develop FEELINGS for Diane, admitting that he "can't do the f*ck buddy thing any more". Is the man finally discovering MORALS, for heavens sake? And then to crown it all, he declares his LOVE for Diane. This was somewhat unconvincing, given the short period of their relationship. But on the other hand it was good to finally see some emotional chinks in Owen's armour and to see him actually becoming weak and falling for someone else. However Diane is a liberated girl and a free spirit (quite unconventional for someone from 1953?) whose first love is flying . Not wanting to be tied down and missing a life of aviation, she elects to leave, flying off in the plane she arrived in, much to Owen's disappointment. Tough luck, Toad-Face!

All in all, an emotional, enjoyable and quite thought-provoking episode. Now according to the Torchwood Logic-o-meter, this means that next week's episode will be a pile of old poop again ...


And after all that rudeness, I feel I should revert to something slightly more tasteful. So here's some lovely pictures of York at Christmas time, just so you can see what it's like.

One of my favourite streets in York, Stonegate. Lovely old buildings.

Somewhere in the vicinity of Petergate I think? My goodness, I can't even remember my old home town.

The famous Betty's cafe. Renowned for its cream teas and cakes. Frequented by gossipy old ladies and old queens. And Alan Bennett.

The mansion house near Coney Street. I say, what a positively HUGE Christmas tree! Reminds me of - NO!! That's quite enough lowering the tone. I did that in the last post ...

Near Stonegate I think. Lovely Christmas lights. Don't you just dig those quaint old streets?

And last but not least, the city's greatest landmark, the very beautiful York Minster. Makes me proud to have grown up there. If you ever get the chance to visit the Minster, do! And the view from the roof is amazing.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Santa's Helpers ...

And here's a little early Christmas treat for y'all...feast your eyes on this lot!!

Mmm, perhaps these chaps are a bit silly wearing so little in those conditions...but I'm sure they'll keep each other warm somehow...

Awww. Cute smile. He needs a Christmas cuddle, doesn't he?

Whereas these boys don't really have to worry about the temperature. A Santa Claus suit in these conditions would be... well...impractical.

Okay, that's quite enough naughtiness for one day. Time for these young studmuffins to don some GAY apparel perhaps??

(Images reproduced from www.ChrisGeary.com)


Yes I am now on holiday!! Hoorah!! Finished work this lunchtime today. Then went to a local pub with some of my workmates. Spent the afternoon having some drinks and chatting to people which was rather nice. Soooo nice to kick back, relax and not have to think about work for a week or two. And in a couple of days, me and my hubbie are off oooop north to the historic city of York (aka Eboracum; aka Jorvik) to spend some time with my family, which I'm looking forward to a lot. (Fog and bad weather permitting - still it's those poor souls who are flying that I feel sorry for, I pray the horrid weather goes SOON!).

What are YOU doing for your Christmas hols? Do tell ...

Monday, December 18, 2006

Christmas cards ...

Of course it's far too late for those of you who haven't yet sent your Xmas cards. The last posting date for guaranteed pre-December 25th arrival is now gone.

However if you still haven't chosen any cards, I can't recommend Kiss Me Kwik.co.uk enough. Check out their brilliant Christmas cards. Hilarious!!

Although perhaps your grandparents might not see the funny side ...

Make the yuletide G.A.Y.

Today I have been off work but have spent a large part of it clearing up the debris from yesterday's Xmas party, held chez moi / Gustavo. It must have taken me several hours to restore things to normal, the flat was such a frickin' tip! Still that's the price you pay for having lots of people over to eat, drink and be merry - there's always an aftermath to deal with. On the whole though it was worth it. People started to arrive from 12pm yesterday and by mid-afternoon we had a nice throng assembled. Gustavo had made a delicious Brazilian-style stuffed chicken, and other culinary delights for lunch, which we all eagerly consumed. My friend Gheeta also brought some delicious samosas and fruit cake (yum! She is a fab cook!) And the wine and beer were in abundance. My Xmas CD provided suitable musical accompaniment (although it didn't get played as often as I thought it would; predictably Madonna, Kylie and other similar stuff ended up being the musical favourites and by the end of the party people were happily bopping away to them. WHAT a surprise).

To make the party go with an even bigger swing, we also had a visiting representative from the Body Shop in attendance. She demonstrated a plethora of products and gave willing partcipants free makeovers ... which was a very welcome addition, and certainly appealed to the ladies and gay men amongst the party goers. Unfortunately, due to unforseen circumstances, she had to leave rather abruptly and left behind all of her Body Shop stuff. By this point we'd all had a fair bit to drink, and and some of us (the boys as well as the girls) started to experiment with the blusher sticks and lipstick. And then I decided to get my collection of wigs out, to add to the entertainment and general glamour of the occasion. One of Gu's lady friends also got very, very drunk and began attempting to dry-hump every man in the room (unfortunately they were either married or gay, so she didn't stand much of a chance).

So as you might have gathered, it turned into quite an eventful party. As usual, I will post some photos once they get developed so you can see exactly what went on and the ingenious wig / people combinations.

What else? Well last Friday I went out with some friends to the Pleasance Theatre in North London to see a rather excellent comedy show called Hot Pursuit, starring acting double act
Plested and Brown. It was brilliant! The plot centred around police duo, PC Butler and DS Cassidy (that's them above - saucy pair, eh?) who are forced to team up and "investigate" a crime wave which has hit the sleepy rural village of Upper Lower Greater Middle Gobbleston (yes, that's really the name). Their characters are total opposites - PC Butler is the local copper in the village and very naive and green with it (he still lives with his mum, and has to phone home every day to sort out what they are having for tea). DS Cassidy is a city girl and fancies herself as a tough nut (her clipped "Cassidy" when she answers the phone is spot-on and she's a great p*ss take of your typical cop from "The Bill" or some Lynda La Plante-style drama). Both actors sparked off one another really well and had great comic timing (Butler's facial expressions and eyebrow raising were hilarious). The wordplay and one-liners were also very good. In addition, the play boasted an ingenious set. Although this was a low-budget production, it was very cleverly utilised. During intervals between scenes, the set was quickly altered and moved around by the actors, so in one scene it was a housewife's kitchen, the next the interior of a police station, and later on a tree-lined street, with a secret entrance to a house with the name of "Deep Thatch" (!)

All in all, "Hot Pursuit" was great entertainment and I can't recommend Plested and Brown enough! Go see them if you get the chance!

After our theatre visit we were up for more fun and so headed into town to G.A.Y. at the Astoria. I hadn't been there for yonks. My favourite bars dans la West End are Escape and G.A.Y. on Old Compton Street, mainly because they play such a fab selection of pop music, past and present, and they're also fun, unpretentious places (I'm definitely not into clubs populated by vain, narcissistic queens showing off their pecs where hard house music is the norm). Anyway we were in luck as we managed to get a free entry flyer to G.A.Y. and so didn't have to pay a thing to get in. Yaaay!! I rather like the interior of the Astoria, as it still very much has the look and layout of a theatre - the bar room with its ornate ceiling; the main dancefloor area on the ground floor, with stage for whoever is performing that night, and the gallery area above the main dancefloor with seating for those who want to survey all the nefarious goings-on below. The music on Friday is pretty good too - well certainly for someone whose tastes are as retro / cheesey as mine. In the bar area they were playing 1990s stuff (with a helpful sign next to the DJ sign that said "We only play 1990s music i.e. 1990-1999" for those who weren't clever enough to work it out themselves). Down on the ground floor some 70s / 80s classics were being spun such as Boney M ("Rasputin" / "Painter Man"), Three Degrees ("Giving Up, Giving In"), Elton John ("I'm Still Standing"), ABBA ("Supertrooper") etc etc. Excellent! We all had a thoroughly good bop before deciding to call it a night.

Anyway it's beddy byes time now I think ... only a few days left at work (thank the lord) and then it's up to York for Xmas ... can't wait!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Hackney girl

So, Leona Lewis is the winner of X Factor. A justifiable victory in my opinion. I've watched the show quite a bit over the last few months, although my hubbie is the biggest fan of the both of us - he loves watching all the divas belting it out across their multi-octave ranges. Leona seems to fit very much into the Mariah Carey school of vocalists but has an undeniably impressive voice. In the Final tonight, she performed some very good renditions of a few old favourites. Her version of "A Million Love Songs" was I think even better than the original and an added bonus was the surprise appearance of Take That with whom she shared vocals. It worked really well. Leona also did "All By Myself" a song that surely appeals to drama queens everywhere. She used a good technique of starting off with a quiet, understated vocal before erupting into a final, ball-busting "DON'T WANNA BE ALL BY MYSEEEEELF ANYMOOOOORRRREEE!!!" that almost blew the roof off - yet she held every note perfectly. Personally I didn't understand all the fuss about fellow contestant Ray, who couldn't hold a candle to Leona in the singing stakes. Okay, so he's quite cute and has a certain charm that probably appeals to housewives and grannies across the country, but his performances just didn't have the impact of Leona's, preferring to go for old-fashioned Rat Pack type tunes. He's safe, conservative and pretty dull.

Having said that, I can't help wondering if Leona will be moulded into just another Mariah clone. With a voice as amazing as her's, she needs original and challenging material, not bland, insipid love songs with cliched lyrics that you've heard a zillion times before. Unfortunately, her debut single, which premiered at the end of tonight's show, wasn't anything particularly special and was a classic case of the record company wanting to quickly capitalise on her success. Hopefully with time Leona will get better material that really allows her shine as a singer. After all, Will Young managed to rise about his bland beginnings and is now producing some quite good stuff.

One promising thing about Leona (and something the judges and everyone else kept commenting on) is how down-to-earth and self-effacing she seems. A NICE girl. It's a refreshing change to see a great female vocalist who is not a stuck-up prima donna or diva, in the vein of J-Lo or Diana Ross. Let's hope that success doesn't go to young Leona's head and she starts demanding that her hotel room is entirely redecorated for a one-night only stay, or expects rose petals to be strewn in her path, wherever she goes. She's from Hackney and it would do her good not to forget her roots. Then again, Naomi Campbell was from Streatham and look what happened to her ... But somehow I think Leona is different and genuine. Hope so, anyway.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Xmas play list

I've been off work this afternoon, which is rather nice. And off next Monday too. Yaaaay! The following week is my final one at work, and (doing a bit of maths) I will only be there for 3 and a half days. Double yaaaaay!! Then my hubbie and I are off to York for the Xmas period, to stay with my Mummy and see my brothers, which will be a nice getaway / break. Triple yaaaaay!!!

Okay, that's enough yaaying. To celebrate the festive season we're having some mates round to our place this coming Sunday afternoon for Xmas drinkies and food. Yum! It's so nice to get together with pals and be all festive and merry.

Anyhow, to provide some appropriate aural accompaniment, I have put together my very own Xmas compilation CD which will be on repeated play during the party (thus driving everyone totally mad). I must confess I nicked the idea from Boz who has come up with his own rather groovy collection of Xmas / Winter-related toons. In fact some of his selections were my own suggestions (gee thanks Boz! gulp!) Here is my own playlist, anyway:

1. The Box of Delights theme (anyone remember this kiddie's tv show from the 1980s? Good choice, Boz!) Classic orchestral piece, based on the "The First Noel".

2. Rocking Around The Xmas Tree - Brenda Lee. Very do-wop and groovy! Long before Mel Smith and Kim Wilde took the p*ss out of it.

3. Merry Xmas Darling - The Carpenters. As heart-warming as a plate of hot mince pies and more gooey than brandy sauce. Karen Carpenter can sing it like no-one else. Was probably top of Radio 2's playlist in the 1970s.

4. It May Be Winter Outside (But In My Heart It's Spring) - Love Unlimited. Lovely. A girl-band in the disco/motown tradition.

5. Stop The Cavalry - Jona Lewie. Great 80s synths, less than great singing and bizarre lyrics. Nevertheless an uplifting classic. Great yom pom pom brass section.

6. 2000 Miles - The Pretenders. What's happened to them? From the days when they were top of the pops.

7. A Fairytale of New York - The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl. The vocal combination of Shane McGowan and (the much missed) Kirsty M. works brilliantly. Wistful and rousing at the same time, in the great Gaelic tradition. Shane and Kirsty's cussing one another is great: "You scumbag, you maggot, you cheap lousy faggot, Happy Christmas your arse, I pray God it's our last!"

8. A Wonderful Christmas Time - Paul McCartney. Mmm. Perhaps this one wasn't such a great idea. But the cheeser in me can't help but laugh at the hilariously dated wobbly synths and generally ropey production - "The choir of children sing their song! Ding dong! Ding dong!" Ahem.

9. The Coventry Carol - Alison Moyet. Great earthy vocal from Ms Moyet, she knows how to deliver a ballad.

10. Winter Wonderland - Eurythmics. Annie Lennox on top form with very 1980s production. Quite funky and danceable actually.

11. Do They Know It's Christmas? - Band Aid. How could I not include this? Features just about every successful pop star from the mid-1980s. Rather clunky production but still a good song, and of course, it's meant to make us think about those less fortunate than ourselves.

12. White Christmas - Diana Ross and The Supremes. A Motown gem. From the stories I've heard about Ms Ross I doubt this self-obsessed diva was very good at spreading the old Christmas cheer. Nevertheless a nice slushy rendition of the old favourite.

13. The Power of Love - Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Holly Johnson has an odd voice. A great power ballad though with nice orchestral backing.

14. Christmas Wrapping - The Waitresses. An underground classic - the one everyone probably recognises but can't put a name to. Girl band from the US with a punk/guitar-based sound. Witty and incisive lyrics about being single at Christmas time ... perhaps.

15. Comptine d'un autre ete - Yann Tierson. I haven't the foggiest what the title means (it's French). An emotive piano interlude from the movie "Amelie". Nicked from Boz's playlist (good choice!) Makes me feel all teary for some reason.

16. Winter Melody - Donna Summer. Classic track from Ms Summer's "Four Seasons of Love" album (comparing each season of the year to the different stages of a love affair - camp! But effective!) Winter Melody is the stage by which the lover has cleared off and left you on your own - Winter = feeling cold, alone and barren etc. Okay, perhaps not the most cheerful choice for an Xmas collection ... but great soul/disco.

17. I Believe In Father Christmas - Greg Lake. My Mum used to love this. Set to a classic tune which I don't know the name of (Mum, can you help?)

18. All I Want For Christmas Is You - Mariah Carey. Mainly chosen cos my hubbie is a major fan of Ms Carey. I concede she is an amazing vocalist but do not hold her in such high idolatory as he does (sorry, Gu). Nevertheless a nice sentiment to the song and again one you can dance to.

19. Last Christmas - Wham. Aaaaah. Remember the video with George Michael and co on their skiing holiday and Georgie boy camping it up with the tinsel? I wonder if he snuck OUTSIDE to the
gents loos at any point? (They obviously cut that bit out).

20. Mary's Boy Child / Oh My Lord - Boney M. A suitably camp ending to the collection. Nice religious lyrics all about the birth / significance of Christ, set to a disco beat. Awwww. I can just picture them on Top of the Pops in their fur coats with fake snow floating down from the studio lights ...

Which just leaves me to ask the all-important question - What are YOUR favourite Christmas tunes? Which ones will YOU be listening to this festive season? I'm dying to know! Post your comments to me right NOW!!


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Just for the hell of it ...

... here's the title sequence to K9 and Company, the original Dr Who spin off first broadcast in 1981, which saw the return of companion Sarah Jane Smith and robot dog K9. Since then they've both been resurrected on several other occasions, and Sarah-Jane is shortly due to return to our TV screens once again in "The Sarah Jane Adventures", sadly, sans K9 for the most part.

However here's your chance to relive the "glory" of the original spin-off. Dig those titles! Dig Sarah-Jane in her funky pink leg warmers! Will she be as fashionably attired in the new show? One very much hopes so ...

My best friend's wedding

And I can also now bring you some photos of my friend Dalbir's wedding:

Wrap me up, baby! The groom dons his turban (it's traditional)

The male equivalent of a wedding veil - and a bevy of ladies

Beware - dangerous man with scythe ...

The wedding ceremony

The groom (Dalbir) and bride (Ashini) do the circuit

No! You don't get away that easily ...

The bride and groom pose for shots ...

Gu, Ashini, Dalbir and Me (note our headgear - at Sikh weddings it's compulsory!)

Dalbir and me (nice garlands, huh?)

Gu and Ashini (stunning dress!)

Some other nicely-attired ladies ...

Lovely, eh? And I wish Dalbir and Ashini every possible happiness in their future life together.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Parisian Stag night

At last, I bring you some pics from the Parisian stag-night extravaganza which I went on last month:

Me and the boys cracking open the bubbly dans La Eurostar

The then groom-to-be (that's him waving) and pals

Arrival at the Gare Du Nord (Paris doesn't know what's hit it...)

Enjoying a proper (and very lengthy) French meal in a typical Parisian brasserie

Mon dieu! Some truly humungous prawns

The groom gets smashed

Erm, where's he going now?

A lovely-looking location (actually Pigalle - the red-light area)

On some steps near Montmartre, in the very early hours of the morning

And there you have it! Au revoir...

Wake up, little Suzie

Last week's episode of "Torchwood" was actually quite good. Heavens, don't I sound surprised?

The Torchwood team are called in by the police to investigate a series of murders in Cardiff. To aid their investigations, the team decide to use the "resurrection glove", a rather nifty gadget (first seen in "Everything Changes") which has the power to bring dead people back to life, at least temporarily, and so enables them to question the actual murder victims. Handy, that. (Geddit?) In an attempt to get closer to the real killer, Jack makes the decision to resurrect Suzie, the former team member who turned traitor in the first episode (boo! hiss!) and who also ended up very dead, for her sins. Was this really such a wise idea? As it eventually turns out ... no. It transpires that Suzie had cooked up an elaborate plan, before her "death", that will trick her former team members into bringing her back to life (a bit too elaborate to be true - just how did she plan all of it?) A sly madam nevertheless.

Indira Varma, who played the resurrected Suzie, was an excellent villain. Whilst manipulative and purely out for herself, you couldn't help feeling sorry for her, such was her desire to be given a second chance at life, and this made the character so interestingly flawed - she wasn't your average black and white "baddie", but actually rather tragic. The car/conversation scenes with her and Gwen, as they talk of the afterlife and "the darkness" Suzie experienced when she was dead, contained some good dialogue. However when we find out that Suzie has been feeding off Gwen's life force in order to keep alive, her scheming, selfish side quickly comes to the fore. Meanwhile, Jack and co, having cottoned on to Suzie's game, give pursuit, and there's palatable tension as we wonder if they will catch up with her and Gwen in time. The final show-down by the sea front was quite gripping and ominous too, as Suzie tells Jack that the something she saw moving in "the darkness" is now coming for him ...

Other comments: Thankfully there wasn't any Toad-face / Gwen jiggy-jiggy going on in this episode (although the perceptive Suzie realised they'd been sh*gging). I thought Gwen was a bit naive to believe Suzie so easily given her previous track record, but then she's a bit of a trusting sort. And the comment about the resurrection glove being part of a pair paved the way for more back-from-the-dead stories. It was also good to see Jasmin Bannerman, a decent actress, cast as the Detective Inspector (she played Jabe, the tree queen in the 2005 Dr Who story "The End of The World").

So whilst a bit weak on the plot side, this was an enjoyable character piece. But the fact that I found Suzie the most interesting of the bunch doesn't say much about the rest of them, does it?

(Image reproduced from time-and-space.co.uk)

Monday, December 11, 2006

A few more party snaps ...

Erm ... I have no idea who the guy in the last photo is ... if I said he'd had too much to drink that would be way too obvious ...

And don't you just dig the leopard-skin bag in the first shot? It belongs to my workmate Bina, the lovely lady who is clutching onto it. She had matching leopard-skin heels too which regrettably you can't see here.

Get this party started ...

So ... the Xmas party is over and it's back to the wondrous world of work .... grrr!!

Yes, last Friday it was my work's Xmas do, which this year was held at the Science Museum in Kensington. And rather an impressive venue it is, too, with a massive ceiling and lots of giant-sized exhibits.

As for the party itself, it was an enjoyable affair though certain aspects were a bit rubbish. When I arrived, everyone was assembled in the main hall and lots of free champagne was being drunk, which was rather a good start to the evening. As soon as your glass ran dry, an ever-efficient waiter would materialise at your elbow and refill your glass. Patsy and Edina would have loved it. Everyone looked very smart and chic and the ladies all looked fabulous in their choice of party attire. I must say women do have far more options when it comes to dressing up; with guys the choice only really extends to suit, or smart trousers and shirt, in a variety of colours ... not that exciting. Of course I could have come in my best frock but it was at the dry cleaners ... Anyway I do think I look rather nice in my pink and blue shirt and pinky tie (that's me above, along with some of my workmates).

After the champers we proceeded to the dining area for the Xmas meal itself. This was where things got a bit cr*p as the service was appallingly slow and the food took ages to arrive. We had salmon as the starter, followed by chicken and roast veg for the main and a chocolate mousse-tart thing for desert. All of which was very tasty but the servings were not exactly generous in size. Having said all that, there were literally hundreds of people from my company at the party, so I guess it takes time to cater for such large numbers. Nevertheless I've had better Xmas meals ... goodness, aren't I being a whinging ninny!

However to compensate for the culinary disappointment, I was in great company at the table and engaged in lots of banter and chat. I sat with one of my best mates Debbie, some of her lady pals from Marketing and also some wee lasses from the Glasgow office. So I was basically the honorary girl, something I've never had a problem with in the past. One of the highlights was when our company Director General, doing his "socialise with the plebs" bit, came to sit with us, and having no awareness of my sexual proclivities, told me how lucky I was to be sitting at a table full of women. I couldn't resist leaning over to the person sitting next to me and whispering "Little does he know". At one point we were temporarily joined by two guys from the Customer Relations dept who looked as though they might be on the pull, however they soon buggered off somewhere else. Shortly after that, the main courses arrived, and thinking the guys weren't returning (and also because our portions were so small) we scoffed their food. Unfortunately they then came back. So we quickly made up an excuse that the waiter hadn't brought them a main course and managed to get them a substitute... oooh weren't we naughty!

After din dins, the disco finally got started, which was also a bit cack. Firstly cos the music didn't get going until nearly 10.30 and the party was due to stop at 12.30. Second, the actual room we had for dancing was pretty miniscule - trying to squeeze hundreds of people into the spacial equivalent of a shoebox was kind of difficult. However me and my pals found a fairly decent "spot" next to the DJ booth which at least permitted some breathing space. The music was the usual rather cliched mix of stuff like "We Are Family" and other naff party music, the nadir probably being Shakin' Stevens "Merry Xmas Everyone". Still an Xmas party just ain't right without sing-a-long Xmas tunes is it?

By this stage the mix of champagne, beer and wine I had consumed throughout the night was leaving me feeling a bit nauseous, so lightweight moi had to sit down and take a few deep breaths to recover. And shortly after that, the music stopped and the night was over. Fortunately I was saved the indignity of the night bus and was able to share a cab all the way home with a workmate - much more luxurious and safe.

The following day I had a slight headache and was feeling somewhat sluggish but otherwise fine.

And party gossip? Well, as you might have gathered there wasn't much. The people I expected to see making fools of themselves didn't really. There were no saucy shenanigans like people snogging on the dancefloor or performing lewd sexual acts with one another in toilet cubicles (well, I guess the latter might have occured, but then how would I have known about it? Besides which, George Michael was absent). And there were no punch-ups or Alexis and Krystle style cat-fights. No, it was just people making merry and getting drunk. Which is what a party should be all about really, shouldn't it?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Licence to thrill

Just got back from a visit to the flicks this afternoon. Me and my hubbie went to see "Casino Royale". I wasn't 100% sure about seeing it but then again I was curious to see what the fuss was all about. I have enjoyed some Bond movies but they have tended to follow the same old formula which I was getting a bit tired of. However, on the whole "Casino" is definitive viewing. It's a return to a more traditional, hard-edged Bond and a lot of the camp humour has been dropped with more emphasis on action and serious talk, though not without some witty, clever dialogue too. A world away from the days of eyebrow-raising old Grandad Roger Moore and his naff quips, then.

Daniel Craig is excellent as the new Bond and plays him as a hard, ruthless killer whose emotional chinks are nevertheless gradually exposed when he falls for assistant Vesper Lynd. As for looks, he's an interesting choice for the role, being neither traditionally good-looking nor ugly - some where in between I think - a handsome ugliness perhaps? And what a body! I couldn't help overhearing a few appreciative murmers from the audience in the scenes where Bond struts about in a pair of tight-fitting trunks on the beach. Mmmm! And the scene where's he's tortured naked is rather kinky too. Double mmmm.

Eva Green as Vesper (above) is also excellent and a worthy partner for Bond. Her character is a million miles away from the girls in bikinis who used to populate Bond movies, screaming "James! James! Help me!!" at the smallest sign of trouble. Actually that is a bit of a generalisation; certainly in the Pierce Brosnan films we'd seen the emergence of a much more assertive, tougher female character to equal Bond - Halle Berrie and Michelle Yeoh for instance. About time really. Bond and Vesper have some great scenes together and there's some amusing verbal sparring between them, for example the scene where they first meet on the train and suss each other out, with her commenting on his great arse. Well, who wouldn't? Eva Green is also a stunning-looking lady and almost enough to turn a gay man like me straight. Her and Bond make a suitably eye-catching pair. I won't spoil it by telling you how things end up between them but it's a refreshingly unconventional ending.

There's also the requisite mix of action scenes and overseas locations, all of which are presented with the usual panache. A few small criticisms though. Firstly, the title song / sequence. Whilst lyrically appropriate it was rather lacklustre and the singer was someone I hasn't even heard of? What happened to the great Bond divas like Shirley Bassey, Carly Simon or Tina Turner? In fact the theme songs to the last films have been a bit of a let-down (bar perhaps Madonna's "Die Another Day" even if Queen Madge sounded a bit Cyber-woman-esque on that one). Also call me old-fashioned but I do miss the title sequences with the silhouettes of sexy women dancing and writhing all over the place. But maybe that's not allowed any more in this age of political correctness. Instead we got "arty" shots of Bond and hearts, diamonds etc (as on playing cards).Okay, how about silhouettes of naked men doing suggestive things with guns instead? Right, I'll stop now...

Second, the ending. It felt a bit abrupt and I would have liked to have seen what Bond did next. It was also a pretty downbeat conclusion in comparison with previous Bond films and you didn't feel the sense of overwhelming triumph as with the other movies. But perhaps that was a good thing in some respects ... life doesn't always have a happy ending and victories can be small ...

Otherwise enjoyable stuff and to be recommended. One other thing, I will freely admit I didn't really understand how the winning-money-at-the-casino-plotline and the acts of terrorism quite tied up. I'm probably being a bit thick here. Can anyone explain this to me, please?