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Saturday 10 August 2013

Adam Smith and Edinburgh memories

As a massive comedy geek of many years I can’t believe this is my first full Edinburgh Fringe.  I’ve been before, of course, and wandering down the Royal Mile yesterday (I accidentally ended up in the queue for the tattoo – it was horrendous) I was reminded of my first time up here.


I was on a family holiday in Northumberland and I’d come up for the day with my younger brother to see our favourite sketch-group The Penny Dreadfuls in Aeneas Faversham. It was my first time up here and we were really lost. We ended up on the Royal Mile when we should have been at the Pleasance Courtyard (I know) and as it got closer to the start time I was getting more and more stressed. Jonathan was being both infuriatingly unhelpful and calm (the worst combination) and I hit the roof when he looked up at a statue and said ‘Oh look, Adam Smith!’ 


‘Adam Smith, Katie! He founded the free market’ (Have I mentioned before that my brother is a huge dork? Well he is)

‘Jonathan, this show starts in ten minutes and I have no idea where we are and we’re probably going to miss it and NOBODY EVEN KNOWS OR CARES WHO ADAM SMITH IS’.

Bang on cue, two Japanese tourists appear from nowhere: ‘Oohhh, Adam Smith!’

(We got to the show on time and it was incredible and I am now less of a cow to my brother … mostly… *disables blog comment facility*)

Ooh I'm a statue and nobody cares


I literally don’t know what I was doing for these CLEARLY WASTED YEARS. It was during Uni so I was probably working, and I was busy having a boyfriend for once and, I don't know, making other bad decisions and I went to Zambia one summer to work in a school and that cost some money but then again look how I have casually referenced my charity work so all worth it in the end right?


I’d planned another day up again, with Jonathan, to see Laura Solon’s ‘The Owl of Steven’ (amongst other shows) but then got an interview for my Absolute Dream Job working for Pozzitive Television. Gambling a day of seeing comedy for the chance to actually work in comedy I got a train back to London hoping it wasn't a wasted £70. (And nailed the interview with my dork-credentials...ahem). Dad took the ticket and fell asleep during the show, much to my brother’s annoyance. At this point I’d like to point out that this isn’t a reflection on Laura Solon. My Dad has also fallen asleep during:

  • ‘Fly Away Home’ – 1996.  At the emotional bit with the birds at the end.
  •  My University graduation (‘What?! It was really hot in there!’ Mum: ‘I can’t believe you fell asleep next to John Stapleton, how embarrassing’. (I could do a separate post on my parents and their priorities but I won’t)
  • A drive from Newcastle to London on the A1. This would have been ok except for the fact that he was at the wheel at the time.


At Pozzitive we were filming Milton Jones’s tour DVD ‘Lion Whisperer’. Between the pre-production and the filming and the editing I couldn’t take any time off during August at all, which was a bit disappointing. Milton later asked if I’d been able to get to the festival at all to which I replied ‘Er, no, and I’m really pissed off about it because …’ then I remembered why and tried to style it out before admitting it was actually his fault. He’s such a nice guy that he actually apologised. But there are far worse reasons for missing a comedy festival than ‘I was working on some other comedy’.


Another busy August (weirdly) but managed to get 3 days off work, stayed in a Travelodge and saw about 13 shows. There was a lot of racing around but it was the best time ever. Highlights were Tim Key and Max and Ivan: Con Artists, who I am an embarrassingly big fan of despite knowing them. It’s awkward, I mean I’ve already booked for 3 shows of theirs this year and I have to dial down the adoration when I see them. If you haven’t seen them live you are totally missing out.


Arranged to take a month off work to come up to do the press, etc, for James Cary’s The God Particle , but then about a week before Marcus Brigstocke asked me if I’d like to help on his new improv show Unavailable for Comment . Er, yes please. I had planned just to rinse my savings buying over-priced van food and seeing shows (best investment ever) but with two jobs up here I can relax on that score and try and see as much as possible. Working on UFC means I also have an Underbelly pass,  which is useful, so I’m averaging about 3 shows a day in between 'work' (for 'work' read emails, blogging, er... you know, some other things). I'm seeing so much I feel like I’m making up for what I’ll call the ‘Wilderness years’.

Not like anyone cares, but if I get a second I'm going to write up some thoughts on the Edinburgh shows I’ve seen so far and some trends I've noticed... 

PREVIEW: Contains nudity and Les Mis and fake corpsing. Not all at once. OH YOU GUYS - STICK TO THE SCRIPT - WHAT ARE WE LIKE?! 

Contractually obliged now to remind you that The God Particle is on at Just the Tonic, Bristo Square at 12noon every day until the 25th August (not 13th

We've been creating a bit of a buzz, and look I can prove it with science because we made a 'buzz blog'

Sunday 4 August 2013

Have you seen The God Particle?

So… Edinburgh.  If you know me in real life you’ll have heard me mention it in every conversation we’ve had at any point in the last 6 months. I’ve taken a whole month (a month!!) off work and I’m finally up here, working on two shows at the Fringe Festival. 

The combination of stress and comedy is tailor-made to ensure I’m having the absolute best time. As my friend Naomi says ‘It’s your happy place’.

I love the little flat I’m staying in. I love my morning walk through the Meadows. I love seeing comedians every time I grab a coffee or cross the road. I love the buzz… but most of all I love that I have not one but TWO venue passes, and a lanyard. (I love a lanyard, it tells people I’m more important than them). 

In the interests of fairness I must point out that I don’t love everything. Weekends at the festival see slow-walking increasing by up to 60%. Please, parents, there's no need to walk along in a row with your children spanning the pavement like you're the Von Trapps doing their final number before the Nazis come. Street theatre can do one as well - no I don’t want to see your percussion interpretations of the Watergate scandal so please stop tap-dancing at me I’m on my way to the Edinburgh fudge kitchen. 

Anyway, when I'm not being angered to the brink of murder by slow-walkers and stoppers (they are the worst, honestly I'm moving on in a bit I promise but they are the worst - you're not allowed to just STOP!) I am having a TOTALLY BRILLIANT TIME. I really am. I am working on two excellent shows which I'm proud to be a part of, with lovely people to spend time with, my cousin (who I rarely see) is also working here and is just 5 minutes away, AND I can get a crepe from a van and legitimately call that 'dinner' - because I am on holiday (ish). 

These lovely people! 

One of the shows I’ve been working on is called The God Particle , which is a ‘brand new romantic comedy sci-fi from the award-winning co-writer of Miranda, Bluestone 42 and Another Case of Milton Jones’ - James Cary (who blogs here).

It’s a rom-com about a scientist and a vicar, with a bit of particle physics thrown in, and it’s very funny. It's a bit 'Rev' meets 'Doctor Who', and we're so pleased with how it’s going – yesterday we sold out and had to turn away about 20 people on the door. 

I've been trying to exit flyer shows with similar themes, and as we noticed that a show called ‘Higgs’ was on at the Summerhall Theatre we thought it would be a good idea to go along and tell people about it as they left. 

Professor Higgs has a couple of name-checks in our show and we thought people would be interested. We’d actually talked about inviting him to see the show a while back, but had problems getting in touch with him.

Anyway, along I went, in my branded t-shirt, and waited in the foyer to hand out flyers. People seemed really interested, reactions ranging from 'I saw this yesterday, I really enjoyed it!' to 'Oh did Richard Hurst write this?!' (Hard luck James, sorry).

Then I handed a flyer to one elderly gentleman who read the title, looked shocked but not a little amused, and then put it in the bag he was holding and walked off. I thought that was a bit of an odd reaction. 

The man he had been speaking to said: ‘You do know who that is, yes?’


‘That man IS the Higgs-Boson’

Penny slowly dropping now… ‘You mean…’

‘Yes, that was Professor Higgs’.

So there we go. The girl in the bright yellow t-shirt who accidentally gave Professor Peter Higgs a flyer for a show called ‘The God Particle’. 

As I said, I’m having the best time.

Obliged now to remind you that The God Particle is on at Just the Tonic, Bristo Square at 12noon until the 25th August (not 13th) It’s wonderfully acted and very funny and I’m not in it. What more do you want? 

Wednesday 3 July 2013

Germ theory

I'm sorry about that picture. Even just right clicking and saving it from Google images made me want to wash my hands. (Although, just being alive for more than an hour makes me want to wash my hands). But it's important that you see it, because it shows you how I see the world, and what I'll be talking about in this post. Those Dettol adverts showing green spots of bacteria languishing over kitchen surfaces? That's just what I see with my eyes when I look around my environment. Same goes for the adverts showing a sneezing man on the tube who hasn't covered his face before he rocketed millions upon millions of germs all down the carriage. I don't need a Government-funded poster campaign - that's just what I see with my eyes. 

But I seem to be mostly alone in this. Not everyone knows where germs are. Luckily I'm here to help. I'm not talking about the places you'd expect them to be - bins, the floor, toilets. I'm talking about those hidden germs.

Places where germs are

1) On tube poles

I once read a horrific article about a typical tube carriage. Germ-scientists took an old tube carriage, pulled it apart and counted up all the animal hairs, human excrement, fleas, mites, and types of sweat. They said that each tube pole / rail was covered in the sweat of 300 different people. This entirely-reasonable statistic is wholly responsible for my proficiency in tube surfing. By 'proficient' I don't necessarily mean that I never fall over, only that I never ever touch the rail. Dishonour before rail. 

2) On the bottom of shopping bags 

Think about it - where has that bag been? On the floor of the bus? On the floor of the tube carriage? And then you put it where you prepare food?! Pity poor George, who had literally just signed a 2 year contract to share a house with me, and merrily came into the kitchen on the first day of our tenancy carrying a Tesco bag, which he then dumped on the kitchen counter. I cut over him asking about my day with a blood-curdling shriek. I don't think he's done it since. 

3) Glasses that you've taken out of the cupboard that don't look like they could be used in an advert for 'Finish' rinse aid. 

Probably best to give those a rinse with hot water - just in case.

4) TV remotes 

Gross. I'm not even talking about just in hotels. If there's anything more satisfying than giving your TV remote a quick wipe with Dettol then I haven't found it.  

5) The outside

Notorious for germs, the outside. Just come back in from a bracing country walk? Yeah, wash your hands. That fresh air is filthy. 

6) Tupperware 

Don't even get me started on this. It's not clean, it's never clean - only maybe once when you've first bought it and you've washed it before use and it's only you that's ever used it. And if it's ever been through a dishwasher and gone cloudy then just throw it away - just throw it away and never come back here. I mean it. You're dead to me.

7) Food that strangers have prepared (in a non professional context) 

Obviously I'm not talking about restaurants. If you can't see them making it then it's all fine. (Pizza Express is the exception because those pizzaiolos are so cheery and their hats are so clean and white). Let's just assume the kitchen is spotless - I can't see it, so it probably is. I also don't mean food that friends have cooked for you, or that they've brought along to picnics or whatever. I'm talking about the obvious 'nos'. Office bake-sales, sandwiches at fetes made by people you've never seen before. Food wrapped up in cling-film and put on a tray on a rainy English day, basically. You know exactly what I mean - don't pretend you don't. You know those cakes have lick in them. 

8) Hospitals

EVERYWHERE. And the worst ones - the ones that actually cause disease. Just treat it like a game of Ultimate Tube Surfer and don't touch anything. Open doors with your sleeves, don't go to the toilet, try not to breathe in as much as usual. I've never had to stay in hospital, only visit people. If I had to stay overnight for any reason they'd have to get me pretty drugged up before I'd even think about eating the food. It comes on plastic, and I'd have to eat in in a dirty stuffy ward surrounded by sick people coughing and emitting? No. I just know I'm going to be one of those 80 year olds who dies on a hospital ward because no-one checked she was eating.

9) Toilets

Obviously this is one you know - or at least you think you know. At this point I'll hand over to Charlie Brooker, who says it perfectly here:

Using a clean bit of toilet paper as a makeshift "glove" you can lift the seat, shut the lock, operate the flusher and then, if you're really good, spin round and unlock the door, then toss said "paper glove" down the swirling pan before the flush cycle finishes. Do it correctly and an entire forensic team couldn't prove you were there. 
You're my hero, Charlie. 

10) The air on planes

You can't do anything about this. I've tried, but you really can't. You just have to pretend it's not happening. I'm sorry I've told you about it, actually. Just forget you read this. 

Places where germs aren't

Now I'm going to list the places that you might think, according to my mental list above, that I might think there might be germs. Only there aren't. These are the exceptions - this is just how germ-science works. 

1) On people you fancy

I don't know why this is. I just know that if you fancy someone, and are therefore entertaining the idea of letting them near you with their face and their spit then that means they don't have germs. Same actually goes for people you've kissed in the past - like exes. Even if you don't fancy them anymore, they're still safe to share a drink with, etc, because you're immune to their germs. They only have the nice germs, like Yakult. 

2) If I'm on my last Malteaser and I drop it on the floor but I'm at home and I have no other chocolate in the house.

I don't make the rules.

3) On second hand books / books from the library 

Literature makes everything clean. If there's words inside it doesn't matter if the cover's a bit sticky - I can take that.

Germ heroes

1) My Mum
She taught me everything I know about germs. Only she now ignores most of these rules and denies all knowledge of having such an impact on me in my FORMATIVE YEARS.

2) Charlie Brooker
See above

3) Niles Crane
For so many reasons. The germ-thing is just a bonus.

4) Louis Pasteur 
I was going to Google image him to see what he looked like but I don't want to dispel the illusion I have that he is a total hottie.

5) A friend of mine who I won't name but who is the only person who has ever matched me in germ-awareness. In fact I think at times he surpasses me. You know who you are and you're a bloody inspiration to me.

So that was my germ post. Let's hope I still have some friends left after they've read this.

Now go and wash your hands. 

Tuesday 18 June 2013

Some thoughts on failure

I've had a fairly odd month - one of ups and downs. So I thought I'd do a blog post on the subject of failure. Look, don't worry, this isn't going to be full of emotions and stuff. That's not really how I do things.

I just have been thinking a lot about failure recently, and I wanted to collect together some thoughts. 

'But Katie! You are so awesome in every single way... what do you possibly know about failure?!' I know, I know, right. 

No but really. If you know me at all you'll know that I fail on a daily basis on some really obvious things: walking, mainly. I'd been 25 years old for all of one hour in the early hours of Sunday morning, and was walking down Upper Street with George. I was wearing my K-Midz wedges (although New Look, not Russell & Bromley, naturally) and did the most spectacular fall. It was Miranda-like. I wish someone had filmed it. Actually, I expect to die and arrive in heaven to be shown my 'best bits' - and it'll just be a compilation of all the times I've tripped and fallen over. Luckily we'll have eternity - we'll need it. 

Other notable fails include:

1) An interview to study English Literature at University College, London. There were two men interviewing me and one asked me really hard questions, cutting me off before I'd had the chance to develop a thought properly, while the other sat at the back of the room and made some very rude and discouraging noises as he scribbled things down. I was terrified. I ballsed it up then I left, shut the door behind me and burst into tears. I resolved that if they accepted me I would turn them down and I would write a letter and explain why. Only I never got to write the letter because I didn't get in. 

2) On a day out with a boy, lying on the grass looking at the sun in the middle of the day: 'Oh look, it's the moon'. (You know when you can sometimes see the moon in the day? I don't know how that works, I'm not Brian Cox, but sometimes you can see the outline of the moon in the daytime and it's really cool). Only this time it wasn't. It wasn't the day moon. It was the sun - just the sun behind a cloud for a bit. Embarrassing.

3) Trying to make caramel. Thanks for nothing, Delia.

Obviously these are only the mistakes I'm happy to tell the internet about. I haven't got the time or the courage to look back over my life and sum up all the actually terrible things I'd class as real failures (I can only tell you that first one because it happened about 5 years ago). 

Also, things mostly always work out in the end. Take the UCL interview I messed up. I got a place at QMUL, had a great time, got a First, and met my now flatmate George. Things work out. I mean, he bought me the freaking ELDER WAND for my birthday this year. THINGS WORK OUT.

Also, on the whole (apart from a few specific incidents) I don't have huge regrets - I tend to look back at 'mistakes' and view them fairly philosophically. I generally think 'well that was me then, and I'd do things differently now of course, but that was me at that point in time and that's how I dealt with it. And I'm me now today, largely as a result of those decisions, and so that's fine.' (I said philosophically, not coherently).

But sometimes it's a more obvious fail - in a shorter time span, and it's easier to classify as a fail, far more than 'oh I should have ended that relationship earlier' or 'I should have told that person what I was feeling instead of keeping it all inside me til it burnt my insides' (this last one in particular I'M GETTING SLOWLY BETTER AT).

Here are three quotes which have helped me a lot recently: 

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all - in which case, you fail by default.”

- J.K Rowling

Now I trust JKR because she practically wrote my childhood, but she also knows a bit about failure and success. And giving away all your money in taxes and charity donations and not escaping to Monaco. Legend. I love her so much - I think if I ever met her my default reaction would be to curtsey. 

I'm a bit late to the party on Neil Gaiman, but I just read 'Neverwhere' and it was excellent. A while back I watched this speech - it's so inspiring. He talks about making art. 

"I hope you'll make mistakes. If you're making mistakes, it means you're out there doing something. And the mistakes in themselves can be useful" - Neil Gaiman - WATCH IT HERE.

And obviously you can't go wrong with C.S Lewis.

'Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement' - C.S. Lewis

As I was writing this I thought 'I wonder what Emma Thompson has to say on this subject?' Obviously she is perfect in every way and has never failed at anything in her life. However, she did have a terrible divorce from Kenneth Branagh and is now married to Greg Wise aka WILLOUGHBY (to be shouted breathlessly down a ballroom right before he gives you a guilty look because yeah he took a lock of your hair and you thought he was going to propose, but he's just found a woman with ten thousand pounds. Awkward). My point, I think, is that's proof that things work out. Not least for Marianne who ends up with Colonel Brandon (Alan Rickman on a horse).

I've just realised this post doesn't have many pictures, so please, thank you for reading and here is a picture of Eddie Sportsmayne. 

Monday 3 June 2013

Hever Castle, and why 'just friends' can literally mean 'just friends'

One thing I’m asked a lot – by nearly everyone I know – and sometimes more than once, after they’ve given it a decent interval of a few months to see if I’ve changed my mind, is whether I fancy my flatmate George.
I hate being asked this as not only would I like to think my friends and family know me better (apart from my mother, who is a cross between Mrs Bennet and Patricia Hodge in ‘Miranda’ in her attempts to get me married off. When I was 16 she asked if I wanted to switch to a mixed school, from my all girls school, so I could 'meet some boys'. You know, the normal concern of any mother of a teenage girl), but also because when you have to deny something it makes you look like you’re lying. 

People take their information from romantic comedies and view every staunch denial from me as proof that I don’t know my own heart, and that one day I’ll wake up and I’ll just know, but oh my gosh he’s leaving the country today, well I have to go after him, and cue the Coldplay music – and the run to the airport... I do a backflip at security for no reason and a kindly stranger gives me his ticket so I can board the plane - and then the other passengers totally don't mind their journey being held up as we have a suitably witty but affecting conversation / kiss. And then I'm arrested. But it's ok I'm white and I'm a girl so I can't be a terrorist, and even the airport security men are smiling really, because, ahh, love. Right? (Actually. That's not half bad, I'm going to write that down somewhere else and maybe work on it later).

I will admit that I do exhibit all the classic signs of being the protagonist in a rom-com. I'm clumsy (yesterday evening I sliced the tip of my thumb when cutting chillies - yeah, bit stingy). I really care about my job (those women! When will they learn that they also need a man to complete their lives?) and complete strangers often offer comment on my life. In a coffee shop yesterday a barista upgraded my cappuccino to 'strong' and in response to my 'Er, do I look tired?' just smiled, turned to the guy at the machine and shouted 'STRONG CAPPUCCINO!'. I'll take that as a yes. 

So I understand why it might seem like in true Richard Curtis heroine style the answer to the problem was STARING ME IN THE FACE ALL ALONG. But honestly, no.  

I don’t know how to explain why we’re just friends – we just are. We met in the first year at University, where we were in the same seminars because our surnames are close together in the alphabet. In second year we bonded over a love of Modernism and thinking we were better at reading T.S Eliot than everyone else (to be fair – he is). In third year we spent 90% of our time sitting in Senate House Library working on our dissertations, so we bonded much like troops at war bond over horrific experiences. He’s also the only person who gets me when I shout ‘post-Colonialism!’. That English degree was worth every penny.

Anyway. He is brilliant – he’s intelligent and funny, and easy-going, and we have loads in common, and he’s the only one in our house who takes out the recycling, ever, and he doesn’t throw it back in my face like I would do if I ever took out the recycling (which I hardly ever do, and even when I do I take more than I can comfortably carry so he feels bad and then takes half of it and basically it was my turn but he ended up helping. I am the worst). He’s also sensitive, and good at talking about ‘feelings’ (which I’m not) – and would make an excellent boyfriend. In fact, I would recommend him as a boyfriend to any of my friends – 'A+++++++ - Excellent boyfriend material' (if this was Ebay).

But the thing is we've always only ever, ever been just friends. He's like my brother, and not in a Game of Thrones way (which, incidentally, we love - more on this in a bit). Now I have a brother, and I think he is really handsome. It's something I coo at him encouragingly as he pulls a face at family functions and refuses to be in the photos. This is before he slaps my hand away from his hair and tells me to f-off. 

BUT IMAGINE KISSING YOUR BROTHER/SISTER – OH MY GOSH. VOM, RIGHT? And not because you don’t like them as person, or think they're good looking, but because it is LITERALLY INCONCEIVABLE that you could see them in that way. And imagine someone asked if you'd ever be more than just brother or sister and you said 'No' and they said 'Why, don't you fancy them?'. You'd struggle to convey just how much that was irrelevant. 

Well anyway, that’s what it’s like. He’s just a friend. 

One day we may very well get married (purely for tax reasons) and go off to live in the country, maybe buy a couple of Tamagotchis, start reading the Daily Express. But for now we’re cool as we are.

Having said all this, I can see why people ask. We do act like an old married couple. 

We go on day trips on bank holidays, cook elaborate dinners together (the time we did Esther Walker’s 'Salmon en croute' was truly a brilliant day. We spent a lot of that evening striding around the house declaring how brilliant we were and looking for more things to en croute. Seriously. It was exceptional) and have a fixed and immutable Monday evening routine where we watch Game of Thrones and scream ‘DRAGONZ’ and drink too much wine and get a bit emotional about having to wait a whole week for the next episode. Actually that last bit might be just me. ('Ahh, Brienne and the Kingslayer! She called him JAMIE! I haz all the feels now')

Anyway. Last Monday we decided to go to Hever Castle in Kent for the bank holiday. I love a castle, and Hever was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, so it was time to get my history dork on.

The train journey was uneventful, apart from a particularly awkward conversation about whether being plastered all over each other’s Facebook walls was putting off potential girlfriends/boyfriends. I say 'conversation', I mean more me going white and staring into the middle distance and George repeatedly shouting 'I HONESTLY WISH I HAD NEVER MENTIONED IT. PLEASE. PLEASE JUST FORGET I SAID ANYTHING' (seriously – is that what’s holding you all back?! Read the above and then call me. But please, form an orderly queue. Eddie Redmayne don't push in front of David Tennant like that! You went to Eton, you should know better).

Ignoring the ‘road’ as being too mainstream, and not at all exciting enough, we decided to cut through a field. 

We walked through a field of sheep and sheep poo (are you reading this mother? I probably definitely stepped in some) and George played the Shire music from Lord of the Rings, as we got a bit lost and had to walk back to where we’d come. This is after we'd proudly declared 'We are excellent at The Country' just because we'd managed to climb over a stile.

Although it was only 12:30, when we stumbled across an amazing pub with a beer garden it would have been rude not to have ordered a pint of ice-cold orange juice and lemonade, and then a pretty substantial lunch. 

Lamb burger. After we'd walked through a field of baby lambs. 
Just as we’d finished our meal George picked up the numbered-wooden spoon on the table and said ‘er – just look over there’


‘Just trust me’

So I turned my head as he CAME AT MY FACE WITH A WOODEN SPOON

‘What are you doing?!!’

‘You had a spider on you’

Apparently the easiest way to get a spider off someone is to flick it off with a wooden spoon. I mean he’s generally great but my gosh he has his moments.

So – Hever. On arrival we found that we’d ‘Just missed the Edwardian children’s fancy dress parade’ – and upon hearing this news George waved his fists at the sky and shouted ‘Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnnnn!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!’. 

(Luckily for him, moments like those make up for the times where he tries to remove spiders from my face using a wooden spoon). 

Hever was beautiful, and as we walked over the hill towards it we could hear the sound of a brass band playing Dambusters (it was either Dambusters or Skyfall, we couldn't really tell, but give those guys a break they're all 80 if they're a day). 

It’s a stunning castle, and it’s DOUBLE MOATED (double the moat!!) and is really symmetrical – the gardens are beautifully designed.  We thought we’d do the gardens first, and made our way round them to the boating lake.

That's us 

Now it turns out, surprising I know, that I’m not very good at rowing. So I sat back and let George do all the work as we listened to THIS.

  Land owning multi-bazillionaire William Waldorf-Astor bought the castle in 1903. Imagine how amazing it would have been to be one of the Astor girls. Imagine you lived there! Like Downton Abbey, but with boats! (No, I don't mean that new 'Titanic' Julian Fellowes did last year... yeah Drownton Abbey, no I didn't see it). 

You know, kedgeree for breakfast, pop your corset on, stroll down to the boating lake, get rowed about a bit, twirl your parasol (incidentally - I have the exact right skin-tone for 1903) and turn down various rich gentlemen until one comes along with the exact right combination of elaborate Victorian facial hair and diamond-mine investments to tempt you. Not bad for a Tuesday.

Because it’s not actually 1903, and because feminism, I made a token offer to do some rowing for a bit, which George accepted, until I rowed us into a willow tree, and then dangerously close to a ‘weir’ – which apparently is a MINI WATERFALL. So he took the oars again as I apologised and sat back and thought maybe all the men of 1903 had a point – women are rubbish sometimes.

Luckily my camera has an 'olden times' setting

This is the weir upon which we nearly died 
Safely back on land we decided to get an ice cream, but on a wander round the Italian gardens I may have like, not entirely seen a step and then kind of twisted my ankle. I think I was admiring a stone urn filled with flowers, or something, it was all a bit decadent and I'd maybe taken this weak female thing to heart.

 I was in a fair bit of pain but I come from a long line of martyrs (hi mum!) and didn’t want to ruin the day, so although I couldn’t stand on it immediately afterwards I just sat down for a bit and said ‘I’m fine, no really I’m fine’ a lot (I wasn't) – then when I could stand just carried on and walked on it. Maybe not the best idea – but I am very brave. Inspirational, some might say.
Incidentally, a second after I’d twisted it a man in full Edwardian dress, leading a tour group, strolled right past. I swear - it’s like the Universe doesn't want me to be taken advantage of by a blackguard. If he’d been there two seconds earlier we could have done a Marianne/Willoughby in Sense & Sensibility. Not to be.

I stood on the sidelines and let George play in the water maze – which wasn’t as hard as all these kids were making it out to be (amateurs).

Then we walked back round to the castle itself. Here’s George with a beautiful sports car. I also took a picture with it, but I won’t show you it as he looks better with it – his natural sense of entitlement just shines through and makes it look like he actually does own it. Annoying.

The castle was interesting (I stood in Anne Boleyn’s bedroom!) but was a bit like Downton meets The Tudors. Everything that looked Tudor had been built in 1930 something so it was all terribly, terribly vulgar. New money, you know.

What Anne Boleyn would have seen from her bedroom! Well, before the incident at least

 They also had some truly heinous original 1960s décor. I guess you can be the richest girl of the season but all that money can’t buy you taste, can it?

I don't even know what is happening here
I get that they wanted to exploit the Anne Boleyn thing, but they’d turned it into a ‘Henry VIII and his six wives’ exhibition – which I thought was a bit harsh. Oh, here’s a portrait of Jane Seymour, who finally gave Henry the son he wanted. Well that’s great for her, really. 

Imagine you married a man, had a number of miscarriages, then he had you beheaded for adultery/witchcraft, and then hundreds of years later your CHILDHOOD HOME was turned into an exhibition of LIFE SIZED WAX MODELS OF ALL THE WIVES WHO CAME AFTER YOU AS WELL.

I was also a bit annoyed by a mum who asked her five year old daughter ‘Which one do you think is the prettiest?’ Way to parent your daughter.

 ('Now darling, which one did her duty as a wife and heir-breeder and wasn't executed like the French whore she was? Oh, look at Kathryn Howard's headdress - isn't it a beautiful colour?')

My favourite rooms were towards the end, where we learnt about William Waldorf-Astor, who made his ridiculous fortune through hotels and at one point owned most of New York. 

One photo was of a friend of his who visited Hever but had to crash-land his FLYING BOAT-PLANE into the river. Some people know how to do excessive riches with style – and it is in no way wasted on them. Well done that man. I didn't catch his name - he probably died soon after in a freak accident somewhere trying to catch a white lion in a butterfly net. Again - some people know how to live.

'How are my stocks doing, Charlie?'
'A twelfty-billion percent return, you say?'
 After I’d checked on my investments it was time to go. I couldn’t do a jump shot because my ankle was still knacked (did I mention how brave I was being about that?) but George did some brilliant ones. I did a half-hearted ‘welcome to my crib’ one but it’s not as good – I know.
King of the jump shot

Trains back from Hever were hourly, and we'd just missed one, so we had time for a walnut and coffee cake. We also saw ‘future Katie’ in the café. This was an old woman that we’d seen throughout the day a few times. George suggested that she was ‘future Katie’ as we had only seen her doing the following things:

1)   Complaining 
2)   Reading a book
3)   Eating cake

Conclusive evidence. Future George wasn’t there – so maybe we never get that Tamagotchi. Or maybe I’d left him at home to sort the recycling. 

Friday 17 May 2013

'The Tempest'

One of my favourite things about living in London is how many touristy things I can do and see without even trying. They're just thrown in as I go about my day. I feel superior to tourists in a lot of ways (I'm a dick, no, really I am) but never so much as when I rush past them on Oxford Street, or on the tube, and they're all kitted out in hiking gear (seriously - what is it with that? Always with the walking boots and the rucksacks and the waterproof jackets) poring over the map and working out what to do next. And I think:

'Haha! You came such a long way to get here and see these things. You paid hundreds of dollars and sat in a metal tube full of recycled air for ten hours and I just live here. I'm just on my way to see some friends - I'm barely even trying'

Told you I was a dick.

It reminds me of one time in Capri when I was with my friend Katy. We were struggling to get some suitcases up the steps in the main square and nobody was helping us. Then a lovely guy came up and took both our suitcases for us. He put them down at the top, we thanked him, and he asked where we were from.

'London' I said.
'Oh!' he smiled, 'Great!'
'Yeah. How about you?'
'Oh, right...' we said. There was an awkward pause.
'Yeah, I know' he said. Then he left.

Anyway, on Wednesday evening I went from Tottenham Court Road, to St Paul's, over Southwark Bridge, past The Shard (hiya), to Shakespeare's Globe, and then back home via Southwark Cathedral, the Cutty Sark and Borough Market. Not bad.

Our old friend The Shard

Because I am cheap, for my brother's birthday I had bought him and his girlfriend £5 standing tickets to see 'The Tempest' at The Globe. At the last moment I had a fit of conscience, and of hunger, and offered to take them out for a meal beforehand (with a Tastecard, obviously, I'm not made of money). Anna has just got back from three months in Italy working in immigration, and has a lot of interesting knowledge about refugee camps and the Mafia, so naturally we had a really in depth conversation about goat's cheese. Mm.

So, the thing about The Globe is that it's excellent. We arrived in good time, meeting my flatmate George there, but weren't too near the front (luckily...) They have lovely stewards, mostly retired people, who are friendly and good at checking tickets... not so good at taking photos on an Iphone (before this photo the steward took about 4 pictures of her own face, which was hilarious. I'd put them up but that would be a bit harsh - she's probably someone's gran).


The play itself was really really great. 'The Tempest' isn't my favourite Shakespeare play. I'd only ever read it, not seen it performed, and had mentally filed it just one category away from my own personal classification of Shakespeare plays, 'Dicking Around In Forests' (c.f. 'As You Like It', 'A Midsummer Night's Dream', etc). I much prefer the History plays, and the Revenge Tragedies... more drama. Anyway. It was fantastic. The Globe was such a perfect space for it - there was music which came from up in the galleries but had moved by the time you looked up, so you didn't know where it was coming from, actors coming into the crowds, and confetti falling from the stage. Magical.

The cast was fantastic. Roger Allam as Prospero was every bit as good as you'd imagine - but also brought out the humour in the role (as you'd expect). And the dancing. Oh the dancing. We loved the dancing.

Colin Morgan (I don't watch 'Merlin' but apparently he's in that...) was a wonderful Ariel - but the highlight was James Garnon's Caliban - although every time he came on stage I shrunk back as he kept spitting on the audience and stealing their drinks. If you don't like being sprayed in beer/water don't stand at the front.

I also enjoyed being asked by Jonathan, George and Anna, literally about a billion times 'Are you ok - can you see?' I get it - I'm short.

I know Roger Allam a little bit, from 'Cabin Pressure' and he very kindly came out and had a quick drink with us in the Swan Bar (taking out his own bottle of red wine, and glass, from a bag, because he is a legend) which was nice, although I'm still having flashbacks to the question George asked him. Anyway, he's been in so many shows that we love (The Thick of It, Parade's End, Game of Thrones...) and introducing him to my brother made up for the cheapo £5 ticket. I think.

Look how pretty! It wasn't even a particularly warm evening, and it was still just beyond nice to sit by the river. I've never before wished an interval was longer.


London is also amazing because things like this happen:

On Thursday, Twitter informed me that the banana stand from Arrested Development was in Golden Square, Soho. So naturally I walked the 15 mins over there to get a free frozen banana. The new series will be exclusively on Netflix (I don't have Netflix, booo) and for my money this was an EXCELLENT PR stunt.

Fun fact: the Netflix rep who took my photo made me say 'I Bluthed myself' as he took the photo. And when I said 'made me' I mean I said 'No' first time and then he said I had to. Anyway, whatever - white chocolate covered frozen banana. And now let's all watch this.