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Valentines meals, disturbing theatre, and college friends

Valentines meals, disturbing theatre, and college friends

Friday. Eschewing my bicycle for the first time in three week’s today, Emma collected me from work this afternoon and we went into Oxford, first to wander and potter and buy too many books, and then to enjoy a belated Valentines Day meal at the Acanthus Restaurant in the Randolph Hotel with their special, cheaper, pre-theatre menu. In a relaxed dining environment we enjoyed a lovely three-course meal. Then, we went for something completely different…

We walked up the length of St Giles to the reasonably new Mathematical Institute to see Creation Theatre’s latest site-specific offering of George Orwell’s 1984. You can see my review here. To lighten the mood pre- and post- show we enjoyed bumping unexpectantly into my old college friend Julie and her eldest daughter. She hasn’t changed one bit in the twenty intervening years – has it really been that long?!? – and makes me even more determined that we should meet up again properly soon.

It’s actually scientifically impossible to have too many books.

On the third day of Christmas: magic at Christmas

On the third day of Christmas: magic at Christmas

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a touch of magic. It would also be lacking without a festive trip to see something by köper viagra 200 mg kanada Creation Theatre. After last year’s Aladinn, and before that A Christmas Carol, I was very excited. This year’s offering was n adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ classic, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In the year’s since I originally read the books I confess I have fallen a lttle out of love with them for their overtly Christian allegory, but since visiting the Magical Books exhibition earlier in the year, and watching a recent documentary about the life of C.S. Lewis, I have had a renewed interest in the books. However I do approach adaptations with caution. I remember the almost fanatical excitement I had at the prospect of the BBC’s adaptation in 1988, and he crushing disapointment that followed after… So I’m not sure what I expected from Creation Theatre’s take on the story. Directed by the always inventive and brilliant Charlotte Conquest, I was expecting it to be magical, playful, and briliant. What I definitely wasn’t expecting was a musical version of by (the up and coming?) Steven Luke Walker. 1426441_690934297605716_1226064540_nThe show was brilliantly produced, and the singing execellent, although in such a small space as the former-Victorian swimming pool I’m not sure that the cast needed to be mic-ed and certainlynot as closely, and there were some moments of true musical magic. There were also some sons that sat oddly with me – in particularly the opening ‘wartime’ number and the Witch’s song when she murders Aslan on the stone table… these in particular had joviality to them that sat at odds with the tone of the story.

Where the production was at its strongest was when Charlotte Conquest was able to her bring the familiar Creation magic out, for example with thold-fashioned puppetry that played out to Mr Tumnus’ song, or when Lucy and Susan ride on the back of a reincarnated Aslan. I found myself wanting more of these. It may have been hard to work in the acrobats of the Ring Jinee from last year but I can’t help/thinking that something like that would have made it even better.

Still, a very enjoyable production of a curious book. I still feel that, despite its faults I want to re-read them…

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In love with fairies

SleepingBeauty-mainEmma’s mum and dad saw Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty when it was on in London and loved it so much that decided too take us to see it when can’t on your to High Wycombe. Now to be fair I don’t much about this ballet. I had forgotten that it was Tchaikovsky and I always get the stories of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White muddled up in my brain. I also knew that Matthew Bourne had a reputation for doing things a bit differently but had little idea what to expect. What we saw was outstandingly brilliant. I haven’t seen much ballet, fearing I think that I wouldn’t understand it. How wrong could I be!

The production was a true Gothic romance with  sumptuous sets and costumes, ingenious effects, and lighting. Starting story in the late nineteenth century it is a world inhabited by witches,  magic, and fairies and moves on to the present day – the everlasting fairies a link with the past.

I’ve discovered three things. Firstly, that ballet can every so much as brilliant as theatre. Secondly, that I really do like Tchaikovsky – I think he might one of my desert island composers. And lastly, that I am just a little bit in love with (okay a lot in love with…) the idea of fairies. Good fairies and bad they make a story.

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Stratford: it’s not just Shakespeare

I remember discovering when I first arrived in Oxfordshire that Stratford upon Avon was only about 45 minutes away and how I could visit it often… Shamefully that was getting on for 18 years ago, and it has taken until yesterday for me to make the journey. I have been to the RSC Royal Shakespeare Theatre before, on more than one occasion, with my mum and dad when we would make a pilgrimage their from seeing Ros and Ned in Lichfield. Thanks to Lucy and Luke’s very generous birthday present to Emma, yesterday we finally put that error in my ways behind us.

Despite having been to the theatre their many times – most memorably to see Kenneth Brannagh doing Hamlet uncut (and discovering in the process not only how many very famous quotes actually stem from the play, but also how funny it is, or can be – I remember being subsequently disappointed by his 4-hour uncut Hamlet movie for its Hollywoodism) – I have never looked around the town. It is, we discovered a very nice town, and still thrivingly busy in the depths of winter. I dread to think what it might be like in high summer!

We had lunch in very nice tea shop with fine china that was fashionably not of a piece, before seeing a bit of a town, including Shakespeare’s grave in a very pretty church down by the river.

We then wandered back up Sheep Street and to a museum that we had only heard about just that very morning on BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live, only recently opened as an alternative to all the Shakespeare-related activities, MAD: the museum of mechanical art and design. Full of steampunk inspired goodness to get lost in. Absolutely fantastic…

Following our MAD day out, we found a nice little, inexpensive meal doing pre-theatre food, before heading back down to the Swan Theatre. In all the time I’ve been to theatre in Stratford I’ve never been to The Swan, but what a nice little theatre it is. We had seats at the side, front rown of the lower balcony for James Fenton’s adaptation of the 16th Century Chinese play, The Orphan of Zhao. I knew nothing about the play other than the little on the website before going. I had feared it might be long, and complicated, and um… tough. It wasn’t far from it. It was poerful and emotional story of revenge – they say its a Chinese Hamlet – and I think they are right. With a simple but effective stage set we were transported to the Chinese landscape, particularly in a scene where one of the characters comes out of the rain into a simple room. There was a lot of death and killing and this was well done, with stylistic red petals falling to the stage over the actor. If you get a chance to see it, do, you won’t regret it.

On the third day of Christmas: Aladdin and the magical lamp

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a trip to see Creation Theatre Company’s latest show. This year, the prospect of going was tinged with sadness that this might be the last time we would get to see them. After a tourist drought this summer caused by the Olympics and a month’s worth of rain falling on their opening night for the outdoor Shakespeare they were £30,000 down on takings and faced with the real prospect of closing after their Christmas show. After month’s of fundraising, I think, we can be cautioiusly optimistic that they might live to fight another day.

Last year’s A Christmas Carol was truly magical, so it seems hard to imagine how they could top that, but top it they did. With song, and dance, slight of hand, old-school theatrics and stunning acrobatics, this is definitely a how not to be missed. It’s still running until 5 January, so please, you really should catch it if you can.

I’ve seen quite a few of Charlotte Conquest’s Creation shows before and they all brilliant – every time you wonder how she can beat the last – and evey time she does. Aladdin and the Magical Lamp is no different. Stand out for me was the appearance of the Ring Jinnee (played by Anna O’Loughlin), who appeared not in a puff of smoke but out of two silk ribbons that unfurled from the sky. Just how she did the acrobatics I don’t know, but she did, and all without safety ropes, and it was simply amazing. From her appearance, small, sprite, and feisty, I was wondering what they were going to for the Lamp Jinnee. I knew it would contrast wonderfully but I couldn’t have predicted just how he contrasted. As monolithic as stone he appeared in a slamming of wood down onto the stage, he was dry and sardonic – the antithesis to the Ring Jinnee (although watch out for the twist at the end… 🙂 ).

The whole production was simply amazing, and one that I really didn’t want to end, and of course the now traditional pre-theatre and interval crepes just added to the ambiance.

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On the first day of advent: The beginning

In days gone by I always used to have a real Christmas tree, in a pot that I could afterwards plant out in the garden. My first, 2001, tree grew fabulously and is now a mighty tree. In 2007 I had my last real tree, for in the intervening years we’ve always erected Emma’s artificial tree. This year though Emma is having a big birthday party in two weeks time… it will be a bit late to put the tree up on the 16th and the artificial one is a bit on the large size for having up for the party so we’ve gone for a smaller real tree.

Within five minutes of bringing it in the house, Nellie was chasing her tail around its base and then later in the afternoon she was hiding under the Christmas tree skirt.

There was a Christmas market on in Bicester today which was lovely to wander round, and then this evening we headed into Oxford with friends to enjoy bangers and mash at the all new Big Bang before going to see the Oxford Operatic Society’s production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

Let Christmas begin!

Theatre Reimagined: The Odyssey

Tonight, Emma and I went to see Creation Theatre’s latest production, a co-production with The Factory. A startling original production of The Odyssey in the subterranean Norrington Room beneath Blackwell’s Bookshop in Oxford. We arrived at the bookshop itself early, where it was open exclusively for the audience to browse and shop. We got seduced by the magical pull of books and bought for books. I had just finished reading PD James’ Death Comes To Pemberley and so was particularly keen to get started on Ali Shaw’s The Girl With Glass Feet which was written by a friend of Lucy’s in band.

We had (appropriately enough) ‘in the Gods-like’ seats amongst the law section of the bookshop just beneath the Tardis-like concrete ceiling from where we could look down on the stage amongst all the books. As with the book, the play was divided up into its 24 Books, and as the story has historically never been retold the same twice, so the play will never be performed the same more than once. Each of the 12 actors have learnt the entire entire script and would be playing different characters each night. In addition to this there was an amphora containing broken shards of pottery that was passed around the audience and would dictate how each book was presented.

As the play progressed we had book’s told in just 24 words, and in 60 seconds, along with entirely presented in ancient Greek. In each case it worked for the book, and in that place in the wider story, but then I had to keep on reminding myself that these shards of pottery could have been drawn from the amphora at any time, and how that would have affected the stories that we had previously been presented with. It is one thing to learn one book in Ancient Greek, or 60 second recital, but to learn 24 books like that and then present any one of them on any night … the task is more than just daunting!

One of the favourite Creation Theatre tricks, is the use of puppetry. Most recently I’ve seen it used in their version of Repunzal and the Magic Pig. In the Odyssey, when ‘puppets’ was drawn from the pot, the actors drew audience members onto the stage and used them as puppets, and it was every bit as effective, the way that they manipulated the bodies. Another favourite of mine was the selection of ‘radio play’ – a brave choice in theatre to plunge the stage into darkness and let words do everything, just like if you were tuning into The Afternoon Play on Radio 4.

When Emma drew ‘interview’ from the amphora, they picked another audience member onto the stage and had them interview the characters from the story as if for television news. And it all worked brilliantly. The twelve actors were all performing in their own clothes with no props save for the use of staffs and hoops and some item drawn from the audience (in our case, a scarf) to signify Odysseus, this was theatre stripped bare of everything that you expect theatre to be, and where you were transported into a world where words (and the way they are used) are all that matter.

It was a brilliant night, a brilliant show. Truly inspirational and engaging theatre.

On the nineteenth day of advent: the magic of Creation Theatre

After a weekend of Christmassy activities, this afternoon we welcomed my my mum and dad for yet more Christmassy joy. We exchanged presents over a cup of tea and a mincepie in a little, mini-Christmas – Emma and I got a joint present of Christmas joy: All About Me by John & Juliet Atkinson, and for me, a biography of woodcut artist Thomas Bewick, which proves, even at this early stage to inspire me into jealous art making.

In the early evening cold and dark of a December night we headed into Oxford to see http://www.creationtheatre.co.uk‘s latest production, a brand new adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. We started off with mulled wine and savoury crepes at the Northwall before taking our seats in the theatre that was a former-Victorian swimming pool.

I had been worried about this production for two reasons: firstly, that last time Creation Theatre performed here, although Measure for Measure was brilliant I had been disappointed by the magic of the venue (for a site-specific theatre company like Creation, the venue is important); and secondly, the last time I had seen them do this story it was not their best production.

I shouldn’t have worried, tonight’s production was brilliant on an epic scale, full of carol singers, with words that weaved themselves into the story, a simple yet effective set and a brilliant cast, it was simply amazing! We’ve had so many perfect starts to Christmas, but surely Christmas has truly begun now…

On the tenth day of advent: Belle and the Beast

~ Today was the kind of winter’s day that cannot be beaten; cold and bright. It being the first day of Emma and my little mini-holiday, we had a leisurely breakfast and headed out for a walk at Burnham Beeches, which was lovely and quiet and beautiful. We finished off with a late-lunch at The Stag – I opted for a huge bowl of tomato soup and crusty bread, and Emma for a baked potato with cheese and bacon – before returning home via Oxford so that I could collect a parcel.

~ This evening, we have had a very nice festive time enjoying the lavish Creation Theatre production of Beauty & the Beast in the antique spiegeltent. As always magical. I love it!

Celebratory Theatre

In the spirit of keeping the new job celebrations going this weekend we had some relaxation time down at my parents. We cracked open the Progressive bottle of champagne from two and a half years ago and which has been waiting for a suitable opportunity ever since. It was a very nice bottle; just a shame that the agency themselves are somewhat leechlike in their approach and ethos (and I mean more than any other agent).

We then went to see a production of Alan Bennet’s Lady In The Van at the (excellent) Salisbury Playhouse on Saturday. Fantastic play, great staging, and not one, but two actors who were almost more Bennettish than Bennett himself. They had stripped the stage bear to reveal the guts of theatre with an otherwise simple set that consisted of two parts; Alan Bennet’s study with books and typewriter overflowing onto the floor; and the van – which itself was on a revolving stage so that we could look in through either door, and from which more rubbish spilled during the course of the play. It was so, so funny, and so, so clever, and very enjoyable.

On the sixth day of advent

~ Dave The Kitchen Fitter came to see us yesterday evening for a site visit. With our new kitchen just one week away, whilst Em went into work, I set to dismantling the kitchen and de-tiling the kitchen. I had all kind of fears of the tiles coming off and ripping away half the plasterboard with it but in the end they came off with ease. It still took most of the day though to clean it back to a smooth surface and fill in any slight holes and then put everything back for the next week.

~ Tonight was the Bicester Vets Christmas do, and we all gathered at the vets to get a wine and pringle fuelled coach trip into Oxford to go to see Creation Theatre’s latest production – www 24option Tales from Hans Christian Andersen back in the mirror tent. It was fantastic fun, and again an incredible display of creativity with just a cast of six characters. Particularly effective was the Little Mermaid, even if it revealed a shockingly different original story to the Disney barstardisation. It made me really want to go home and lose myself in the Hans Andersen tales – but which to read, the Rex Whistler illustrated one, or the one with drawings by Heath Robinson…?

Time to Friend the Theatre

Last week I wrote about the threat to Creation Theatre Company. I don’t know why it took me so long but I have now paid up and become a friend, I may yet contribute more. It seems so that they might be light at the end of the tunnel… *crosses fingers*

http://flegis.si/?wter=opzioni-binarie-conto-demo-senza-deposito&c19=0f opzioni binarie conto demo senza deposito Creation handed a lifeline
By Chris Walker

Oxfordshire’s largest theatre production company has received a major boost in its bid to stay afloat after receiving pledges worth £42,000.

Five anonymous donors have come forward saying they are willing to give money to Creation Theatre Company – but they are only doing it on the proviso that the theatre company raises the same amount.

A second summer of awful weather has threatened the future of the popular theatre company, which specialises in outdoor shows.

Takings are down by £140,000 this year compared with 2006, when the company last enjoyed decent summer weather.

Last week, The Oxford Times revealed that the company was launching an appeal to raise at least £60,000 to buy a canopy, roof or tent to encourage crowds to return to its outdoor performances in venues such as Oxford Castle and Headington Hill Park.

Now the Headington-based company is calling on the public to prove it wants to keep the theatre, which has played to 302,000 people since it was formed 13 years ago.
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Deputy producer Nicola West said: “In effect, we have a pound-for-pound matching situation.

“Five generous supporters have said they will contribute £42,000 as long as the public matches the figure.

Now is the time for people to help us, however they are able, if they want to see us performing in the future.”

The theatre company is urging anyone who has been to a show, taken part in a workshop or believes strongly in local arts to contact them immediately so they can assure the anonymous supporters “that the people of Oxfordshire want the company to continue”.

The appeal asks people to consider what they can do to help raise the money, be it making a donation, staging a fundraising event or becoming the patron of a performance.

If the company were to fold, six permanent office staff would lose their jobs. The company also regularly employs 75 freelance actors and backstage staff.

Producer and artistic director David Parrish said: “I have been at almost all of our performances in the last two weeks to explain a little about the campaign, and the audiences have been amazingly supportive, taking donation forms and stopping to tell me how much they have loved the shows over the last 13 years.”

Creation also stages popular winter performances in its mirror tent at the BMW factory at Cowley. These would disappear if Creation went under.

The theatre, which became a charity 17 months ago, only survived a disastrous summer last year thanks to an £80,000 donation from an anonymous benefactor.

Save the Imagination (Your Theatre Needs You)

forest investimenti online Creation’s future under threat
By Chris Walker

A SECOND summer of awful weather means the curtain could come down permanently on Oxfordshire’s largest theatre production company.

The Creation Theatre Company, which specialises in outdoor shows, said this week that it would close next year unless it could secure funding to purchase a covered area to protect audiences from the elements.

Takings are down by £140,000 this year compared with 2006 when the company last enjoyed decent summer weather.

The company has launched an appeal to raise at least £60,000 to buy a canopy, roof or tent so crowds will return to its performances in venues such as Oxford Castle and Headington Hill Park.

Creation producer and artistic director David Parrish said: “Despite reviews and customer feedback being overwhelmingly positive, this summer unfortunately has again seen a lack of sunshine, which has put many people off booking – to devastating effect.

“Unless we raise some substantial cash, upwards of £60,000, then even though we have got a plan for the future we’ll say ‘what’s the point?’ because we’re going to be carrying such a loss into 2009. We’ll do Christmas again, because it is really popular, but beyond it looks deeply, deeply dubious.

“The show goes on if we get the money, but we need £60,000 to stop ourselves from folding.”

The company, which was launched by Mr Parrish 13 years ago, has played to 302,000 people, but ticket sales are down by 8,500 this year from 24,500 in 2006.

It follows a poor 2007, when takings were down by £125,000.

If the company were to fold, six permanent office staff at the Headington-based company would lose their jobs and 75 freelance actors and backstage staff would need to look for other work.

Mr Parrish said: “It would be a terrible loss to the county if we were forced to close.”

The company became a charity 17 months ago and this year launched an appeal for £250,000 to buy a mirrored tent after surviving last summer thanks to a £80,000 donation from an anonymous benefactor.

Much Ado About Something Or Other

Because Creation Theatre are such an imaginative and great company to go and watch, and because we are not going to get to move for a month or more now, Emma and I decided to go and spend some more money and see their production of Shakespeare’s strategia opzioni binarie 60 secondi rsi Much Ado About Nothing. It was a cold but sunny evening as we took our seats, halfway up the castle mound on unfeasibly uncomfortable stools (god-like seats to this theatre production).

Produced with a Spannish-flamenco style, it’s witty and charming and entertaining and great fun. We spot Snowball from binäre optionen 60 sekunden erfahrungen Animal Farm joining us in the audience at one point, and I am able to catch up with Creation news when I realise that the person setting herself up in front of us with a coffee and a video camera is Deputy Producer Nicky West (late of arranging my group bookings of yesteryear). Apparently they have been completely down on numbers this year because of the weather and also down on Blackwell group bookings with the death of the social committee.

http://lesmandarines.fr/?qwerty=binäre-optionen-für-anfänger binäre optionen für anfänger Much Ado is magical and funny, another great production. Emma and I decide that we really should become friends of the theatre.

Bright Hopes: Animal Farm

After Saturday’s aborted trip to see الخيار ثنائي الإمارات العربية المتحدة Animal Farm on Saturday, I’ve been feeling somewhat at a loss for not having seen all of it. So, as Emma and I had this afternoon off work anyway to go and sign contracts at the solicitors in Wantage anyway, and it was nice sunny – if a little fresh – day we made arrangements to give it another go.

The show is outstanding. It was brilliant, a triumph even. Although, in a weird kind of way, tonight’s show lost something in the good weather. The grey, cold and wet weather of Saturday was atmospherically much more fitting for the show than the blue sky and sunny summer weather.

Bleak Future: Animal Farm

There comes a point in every summer when you weather watch. Last time I did this was for my outdoor concert. Today was for outdoor theatre. The day leading up to the evening was dismal; grey and wet, like all the colour had been washed out. My parents arrived mid-morning and we made a visit to our new house to show them around. We measured up a few gaps in the house and checked out a few details, then came home for lunch of Em’s Vietnamese spring rolls.

In the afternoon we went to look at beds and found a very nice oak one in Touch of Pine (?!!), and then headed on to Oxford to see Creation Theatre’s production of opzioni binarie con conto minimo Animal Farm. As we sat waiting for it to start enjoying a prequel to the story set in a prison (appropriate enough after all we were sat in the former exercise yard) the rain really started.

The prisoners became animals via clever hand gestures and body positions, or they way they strut, or the tone of their voice. The production went off with terrific pace and energy only to be halted twenty minutes in by a downpour. It was supposed to be just a pause, but the weather was relentless, and with much resignation we called it a day, retreating to a restaurant to warm up.

Twists and Turns

1. Emma surprised me by arriving early on Saturday morning and we headed into Thame to get in some shopping for the weekend. Passing briefly through the market square we discover that there was a French market in town. We got seduced by the Pyrenean Mountain cheese, and then headed back to Waitrose for more goodies

2. The original plan was to take in a walk in the country, maybe at Brill Hill, before the house viewing in Grebe Road. In the end, we didn’t have time so headed straight back to Bicester and to a possible house on New Langford Village. Its three bedrooms, of Cotswold stone, and a nice and big, if odd-shaped, south-facing garden, although the kitchen whilst nice had a ridiculously small amount of storage space to it. Whilst waiting outside for Colin The Estate Agent to arrive

3. Back to Brill Hill for a walk in a bitterly cold wind. The windmill is out of scaffolding now and apparently is open to the public. We make a mental note to return for a visit sometime.

4. In the evening we head into Summertown and meet up with my parents at Cibo! for a pre-theatre meal. They’ve come to the theatre via visiting Grandpa, who, I lean is not well. He’s probably had another little stroke, is a pale shadow of his former self. Whilst we wait for our starters we get the phone call that he has died this evening. I was glad that I was sitting next to my dad at the time that he found out. I’m also glad that we were sitting in a restaurant instead of him being in the car on the way home as he might otherwise have been.

5. Ever since I studied for A-Level I have wanted to see http://michaelgard.com/?kramar=iq-option-broker-sicuro iq option broker sicuro Measure For Measure but it is an infrequently produced play. From time to time over the past few years I have been badgering the folk at Creation Theatre to put it on (well, if they will invite me out for dinner as a result of sending hundreds of Blackwell staff to see their shows…), and finally, this year they put it on. Part of the intrigue was the new venue; a converted Victorian swimming pool, although it proved to not much resemble a swimming pool. The production though was fantastic, clever, and effective. A great production.

What’s in a name?

Another month, and another VIP/Press Night, this time, possibly the last one that I will get an invite for now that I’m not arranging group tickets for the Wiley-Blackwell crew. I was a bit concerned about this one as the recent weather has been not really conducive to outdoor theatre. As it turned out, the flood waters started to recede and the sun broke through to reveal cloudless blue skies in time for Creation Theatre’s excellent new production of http://www.divestit.com.au/?parasyk=opzioni-binarie-wordpress&020=1b opzioni binarie wordpress Taming of the Shrew.

With the play taking place at foot of the Oxford Castle mound, you could hear bits of خيارات السماسرة الثنائية 30 ثانية Hamlet drifting over the prison roof next door but it was very good, and very fun and entertaining! 🙂

Red skies behind Norman towers

This weekend was utterly, fantastically great! 🙂

My parent’s arrived on Friday night, and on Saturday we went for a walk with Barney dog at Stowe Landscape Gardens near Buckingham (one of the Capability Brown constructed estates – there’s also a private school in the house, which I keep on thinking I might use as the location for a spinoff drama series from my first novel, ‘Flyht’). At about 4.30 Emma joined us and met my parents and they got on really well together.

Actually, during that and a meal in Oxford a bit later they all three ganged up on me to tease me… :- We went to see Hamlet then, which was warmer and sunnier than last time I went, and had definitely improved still further during the run. As the second half was about to begin, the sky was cast with this fantastic red hue set off by the Norman tower infront. Emma and I huddled up closer under our rugs and linked arms and ‘enjoyed’ the tragedy unfolding before us… 😉

Afterwards, my mum and dad, said Emma was lovely and they were so happy for me, and Emma really liked them too. Sorry, am I getting all soppy and gushing? Normal service will resume shortly I promise. 😉