26/11/2015
by IainPattison
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JUST CALL ME A JAMMY DODGER!

Last week I told you how much I was dreading having to sit through my first ever opera. Liz was mad keen to see Sweeney Todd – the Demon Barber of Fleet Street and had somehow convinced me to accompany her, despite me being convinced I’d find the baritone booming a/ boring and b/ hard on the ears and c/ too damn intellectual for my feeble little brain.

As a card-carrying philistine I was frantically trying to come up with an excuse to duck out my debut encounter with culture, but had been warned that it was more than my miserable life was worth to let down my beloved.

deppsweeney“You’re going to sit for three hours and watch people having their throats slashed,” she insisted. “And you’re going to sit still, pay attention, not moan or roll your eyes and not make silly jokes about fancying a pie during the intermission.”

And I was resigned to 180 minutes of tonsil torture, silly costumes, agonising arias and countless fat ladies bursting out of their corsets and into concert. I’d whittled the matchsticks I was going to wedge under my eyelids, and stapled my lips together to stop me yawning. But I needn’t have worried.

Because I surprised myself and actually enjoyed it? Because I found that I am a secret unknown opera fanatic and realised I couldn’t get enough of the musical mayhem and murder?

No, neither of those.

I needn’t have worried because magically, miraculously, I managed to dodge the whole warbling experience at the eleventh hour – blood, ballads, mutilated bodies and all.

With only twenty minutes to go before curtain up, when we should have been walking to the theatre, an urgent crisis blew up at Liz’s work and she had to drop everything to deal with it. It took an hour of phones calls and frantic emails and by the time she’d sorted out the demanding problem it was too late to make our appointment with the singing, soul-chilling, serial killer beard trimmer.

And best of all it wasn’t MY fault that we missed it!

It just goes to prove that, yes, there is a God and he looks after witless fools and wastrel blog writers. I obviously pretended to be upset at the big theatrical ‘disappointment’ but inside I was grinning. I suppose you could say I missed my dreaded Sweeney Todd fate by a whisker!

 

 

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04/11/2015
by IainPattison
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And the winner of month of the year goes to… NOVEMBER!

Now you probably can’t see it behind my massive Rupert the Bear muffler, but I’m sporting a super strength Camembert cheesy grin.

The reason for my inane happiness?

Quite simply, it’s all due to the calendar. My favourite season – autumn, that chilly time of fogs, fireworks and frightful sweaters is finally here in all its fruity, leaf-falling mellowness. And the best autumn month of all – good old November – has us in its “oh-my-God, there’s only 50 days to Christmas!” grip.

Now I know I’m in a minority here in viewing our 11th month as a time for rejoicing. I can hear people screaming about the murky mists, the daily hassle of scraping frost off car windscreens, the dark mornings, the grey gloomy skies and the need to waddle around in wet wellies.

But there’s plenty to be thrilled about too. For me, November isn’t just manky weather and motoring mayhem but the month of manic moustaches, marathon writing challenges and massive explosions.

guy-fawkes-thumbnailIt’s the point every year when we burn an effigy of poor old Guy Fawkes – to show him how much we’re still hacked off that he failed to blow up the Houses of Parliament. (You only had one job to do, for Heaven’s Sake!) And as part of the fiery festivities we allow feral youngsters to kidnap tramps, strap them to carts and wheel them round yelling: “Pound for the Guy.” Don’t you hanker for the pre-inflation days when a penny could buy you enough pyrotechnics to be seen from outer space?

It’s also the merry month when normally sane, grey, office workers and other salarymen decide to look like a cross between a Victorian sergeant major and a cartoon Mexican bandit and grow the most ridiculous facial hair. In the very praise-worthy cause of raising money for research into prostate and testicular cancer, hordes turn their back on their razors for 30 days. The “Movember” grow-a-moustache challenge raises huge amounts and can be a hoot. And for that, I salute it and wish all taking part the best of luck. Even those types who use it as an excuse to go round in garish novelty ties saying: “I’m mad, me.Totally bonkers.” You know who I’m talking about – Perkins in Accounts.

movemberWhat is fascinating is the variety of results these non-shavers achieve. Some more hirsute Movember participants end up resembling wookies, others RAF fighter aces, while a few more sinister characters who’ve cultivated small toothbrush ‘taches make you think they’ve been secretly poring over travel brochures for Poland. Yet – from the yeti to the peach fuzz failures – all share one thing in common. They look like, well… woolly wallies.

As you can guess, I don’t take part. I did experiment in my 20s with growing a beard – to stop people calling me Sonny. It didn’t work. All that happened was that people came up to me and said: “I see you’ve grown a beard, Sonny.” And it itched!

No, I reserve my November madness for NaNoWriMo, which I talked about last week. This is the group attempt by thousands of writers to churn out 50,000 words of prose during the month. (50,000 each, that is – not altogether as a combined output. That wouldn’t be much of an achievement. “I’ve done my three words – can I go home now?”) I should actually be busy on my NaNoWriMo project right at this very moment – but I know how upset you’d be if I didn’t do my blog.

But what if you aren’t interested in arson, facial fuzziness or churning out dire novels? What does November have to offer the ordinary civilian?

IcetrcukersWell, there’s the changing of the guard on the old magic lantern box. It’s the astrological point when planets align and the long-awaited and hyped Autumn schedules begin on TV. We lose all that lightweight dross we had to watch in the sunny months when allegedly everyone was out cycling, hiking and indulging in Morris dancing and fist fights in pub gardens. Now we have heavyweight dross to fall asleep in front of. Great drama shows appear, and my particular favourite Ice Road Truckers returns to pit colourful and foul-mouthed lorry drivers against the nail-biting tension of driving ridiculously overloaded monster trucks over frozen lakes in Canada.

This year’s TV has an added attraction. You can traumatise your children so profoundly that they won’t be out of their catatonic trance in time to pester Santa, by letting them watch the ITV horror-fest cum Clockwork Orange wannabe, Jekyll and Hyde – guaranteed to bring blind terror, nightmares and gratuitous gore to the most peaceful of Sunday teatimes.

Not a big TV fan either? Gosh, you’re hard to please. Okay, here’s some assorted November facts to win you over to the cause.

Fact One: If November didn’t exist, the edges of October and December would rub up against each other and fray. (Okay, I may have made that one up!)

Fact Two: It is National Peanut Butter Lovers Month. Crunchy or smooth – you decide!

Fact Three: November is the birth month of many famous luminaries. These include Penguin-impersonator Danny DeVito; chef Gordon Ramsay; knicker designer Calvin Klein; actresses Jodie Foster, Scarlett Johansson and Whoopi Goldberg; national treasure Bill Nye; King in waiting Prince Charles; twerking singer Miley “wrecking balls” Cyrus; and Philippa Morton who has the dubious honour of being my niece – but never moans about it!

Fact Four: A number of history’s most important events took place in November. Top of these are the first appearance of Woody Woodpecker on Nov 24 1940: the first dog being fired into space, by the Russians on Nov 3 1957; William Shakespeare marrying Anne Hathaway on Nov 28 1582 after answering the question: To Wed or Not to Wed?;and most apt for Movember – the patenting of the double edged safety razor by King Camp Gillette on Nov 15 1904.

All impressive, but one lyrical fact makes all these others pale into insignificance. If it wasn’t for my favourite misty month we wouldn’t have one of the funniest double entrendres ever to make it into poetry.

In the classic poem November, Thomas Hood writes:

No sun – no moon!
No morn – no noon,
No dawn – no dusk – no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member.
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds!
November!

Well, I don’t know about you, but after reading line 5 I suspect he may have had problems with his winter underwear. But then again – it might just be my schoolboy sense of humour!

 

All joking aside, if you want to take part in the marvellous charity work of Movember, visit: https://uk.movember.com/

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