Saturday, 8 December 2018

MixtapeXmas @livetheatre @thesixtwenty

More brilliant mayhem at Live Theatre, as the MixtapeXmas show kicked off. A brilliant cast, each of whom has starring roles, as well as ensemble pieces.

Ranged across multiple musical genres, with just the lyrics from the songs being rearranged to create each sketch. The audience could enjoy the show and try to win the coveted Golden Mixtape.

Not 'sit-down-and-shut-up-theatre', this is loud and lively. Plenty of the audience came along in groups to form teams and to vie for the separate fancy dress prize. It's a great way to slam into the party spirit for the festive season.

Being the Xmas show, there were plenty of seasonal numbers as well as classics given a festive twist.

Just don't ask what happens if there's a tie for first place. One night two teams managed to score an amazing 54 out of 62 points. Tiebreaker time. It got loud!
Merry Mixtape Xmas

Friday, 7 December 2018

fog and haze warning

Smoke and haze machines all work on a similar principle, which is to heat an oil and pump it out as fog. Add a DMX channel to control it and everything should be fine.

The latest show used one but on day two it started to sulk.

Fortunately, a road-tour ready substitute was sourced at short notice. I imagine it's the kind that Disney would use to create swamps effects in Epcot.

We've fixed the slightly temperamental one. The blue light on it was flashing, as if to say it didn't have any fluid in it.

It was the little plastic tube that slurps the fluid from the reservoir. I looked at the instructions for the bigger machine and notice it has a very similar looking tube, so I guess it's a design feature that needs to be treated with special care.

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

I'm so tyred

This time it's new tyres for the red car.

Just ahead of its trip to the north east and back. The car doesn't have separate summer and winter tyres, but these cross climate ones seem to be the next best thing. Also very quiet and very confident in the winds and rain.

Sunday, 2 December 2018

of all of the gin joints in all of the towns...

Our hotel in Soho had a fully stocked mini-bar.

Some hotels don’t bother nowadays. They’ll say it's too expensive to replenish them. Or that they have such good service that you might as well either use the bar and restaurant or call for room service.

I’ll admit to sometimes visiting a nearby food shop and bringing my own goodies into a hotel, in any case.

But, here we were, with a fridge and shelf full of almost old-school riches. It was the gin bottle that caught my eye. King of Soho, which should be appropriate to this part of London.

Gin made a come-back after years as deeply unfashionable. I ignored all of that and continue to order it as my emergency cocktail.

I still prefer London gin, unflavoured with much more than juniper, and a straightforward tonic. Not all the elderflower, rhubarb and cucumber concoctions that have sprung up from the artisan stills of Hoxditch.

This Soho gin’s marketing seems to be trying very hard. I like the bottle, and the idea of the urban fox.

Closer examination of the bottle in the minibar reveals the symbolism of the night creature, with a jazz trumpet and a book. It's a dressed up homage to Paul Raymond, the once self-styled king of the older seedier Soho. And yes, the gin is manufactured by a family member.

That already leaves a dubious taste in the mouth. The marketing company can’t quite make up their mind either. They say the drink should be enjoyed with pink grapefruit (I approve of that). But then they show it with lemon. In another picture it is shown with apple slices.

They say it is best complemented with Fevertree tonic, but then a pack-shot shows it with Schweppes.

I know, I’m digging far too deeply into this. But they have set up a pop-up winter gin palace (a.k.a bar and shop) for the rest of this year, in Windmill Street. The cocktails there are served with Schweppes. Including a 1783 Cucumber tonic. Oops.

They also feature an accidentally retro offering. The first drink is served as a 'Gin and Taste experience which comes with a Small Bite and Rosemary Salted Popcorn'. It reminded me of Soho's old late night bars that offered a quarter scotch egg as 'food' to get around late night licensing laws.

Okay the Bogart bit too.

Saturday, 1 December 2018

creased pizza with bold basil pesto

It was my turn to make some pizzas.

First mistake was when I tipped wine vinegar into the basil and parmesan pesto, instead of mixing it with the olive oil to make the salad dressing. I'll call the result a bold basil pesto, to blend with the garlic and tomato base and the torn mozzarella.

Still, nothing a splash of Savvy B and some balsamic wouldn't put right in the green leaves dressing.

Then, I tried to put two on the same oven shelf, which created that slightly creased appearance.

I'll call it the distressed artisan look.

Friday, 30 November 2018


It's only happened to me a couple of times, when travelling by road to Europe.

Operation Stack.

That's when the roads to Dover get blocked with lorries because of some kind of problem with the tunnel and ferries. I seem to remember that both occasions were because of worker action, which I think was on the French side of the tunnel.

I've tried plan B when this happens too. That's where a different route is sought. But it suffers the same phenomenon as M25 traffic jams. The alternative routes fill up with traffic trying to avoid the main congestion, so that the end effect is that it takes just as long on an alternative routing.

I've had a similar problem getting back by ferry, around Christmas time. I was travelling via Ostend. The port was jammed. I booked into quayside hotel which meant I could bypass the last part of the queues. No I couldn't get onto the ferries that evening, but was able to sidle out early the next day and bypass the still huge queue to get straight into the boat.

Fortunately the government has some work streams ready to deal with this for the period from next April. There's 18 work streams actually, which cover all the main forms of transport. Air, road, sea, vehicles, rail and infrastructure (so called cross cutting).

The Department for Transport consider that the work to support EU Exit represents a significant and complex challenge. That's once they know which of the options will apply.

They are already reporting their progress although their internal assessments of progress are, in most instances, more cautious than the progress it reports to the Department for Exiting the EU (DExEU).

There's also some inconsistencies between reporting systems which makes it harder for senior managers and central government to gain a consistent picture of progress.

It's not my opinion here, it's what the National Audit Office (NAO) concludes in the November 2018 Commons Briefing Paper.

This work is on 18 of the 314 work streams related to exiting the EU. It suggests to me that there might now be need for greater urgency. Here's the transport topic areas:
  • Aviation: air traffic management systems; the air service agreement with the EU; future access to the European Aviation Safety Agency; air service agreements with other countries; the future of security regimes; and UK participation in the EU- wide emissions trading scheme.
  • Roads: rights for UK private motorists to drive in the EU; rights for UK hauliers to carry goods in the EU; rights for UK bus and coach companies to carry passengers in the EU; and motor insurance and frictionless travel to the Green Card free zone.
  • Maritime: the Marine Equipment Directive; and future access to the European Maritime Safety Agency
  • Vehicles: vehicle type approval for manufacturers; and emissions and manufacturers’ CO2 targets
  • Rail: ongoing recognition of documentation of operators and drivers to support continuation of cross-border rail services.
  • Cross-Cutting: funding for projects in the Connecting Europe Facility, an EU-funding instrument that targets infrastructure investment; Operation Stack, the plans to manage traffic congestion on the M20 motorway; and transport infrastructure at the border.
The NAO makes a few more points about the seemingly compressed timescales.

This reminds me of that project manager dilemma about the rate of absorption of new staff into a programme. Too many at once and nothing happens. Yet, says the NAO, the Department needs to recruit more people to support the next phase of discussions. Considerable work still needs to be completed on contingency preparations and to significantly strengthen its capacity to manage the overall programme.

I know I shouldn't really be diving into these reports of progress, but it seems to be a way to gauge the state of overall progress, away from the banalities of the TV politicians.

It smacks of the 'driving to Calais' conundrum. I've done this route plenty of times, so know what can go wrong. Start at, say, St Tropez or Nice and calculate the time to reach Calais. Google says it's about 10h45m. That's an average speed of 110kph. I use the slower 80kph/50mph as my version. That's about 14h30m.

Now add a couple of traffic jams. Like today. One inside St Tropez. 30 minutes lost. One outside St Tropez. 45 minutes lost. A major roadworks and broken down car around Lyon. Another hour lost. Then, straightforward driving to Dijon, where its just busy traffic, so 45 minutes at 30 kph. And a similar holdup around Reims.

What has that done to the journey average speed? Nothing much to begin with, but the problems accumulate as you get closer to Calais and have less time to make up any discrepancy.

That's the project plan compression we are witnessing now for these varied Departments. Not enough time and throwing people at it won't work.

'Here's one I prepared earlier,' as a few might say. Others might just be looking for a way out of the whole situation.

Thursday, 29 November 2018