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A tale of homelessness.

It’s so easy to ignore the suffering that goes on all around us. Among the easiest of these to ignore is the homeless. I do it. We all do it. Not always, but we do it. It’s easier to pretend we haven’t seen them, or that sorry-I-really-haven’t-time-to-stop.

Tonight I was stopped by someone who needed to get to a particular place. He told me his bag had been stolen, that all of his belongings were in there – everything he owned in the world. 6 pictures of his parents that can never be replaced, 4 pictures of the dogs he had to give up when he started living on the streets. His phone.

He needed £12 to get somewhere, where he was going to have a place to stay, instead of sleeping in the rain, again. I gave him the change I had in my pocket – about £3, and hoped he would be able to find someone else to help him out, too. He told me his story. And it was a sad story, and not one I’m going to repeat here, but trust me when I say you wouldn’t want it to happen to anyone. But like the bag, I couldn’t know for sure if it was a yarn being spun to elicit sympathy, or if it was real. And then he pulled up his trouser leg and his leg was beaten and discoloured and bloody and it looked like infection had set in a long time ago. I mean, a LONG time ago. I reached into my wallet and pulled out the only note I had left in there – £10. He would at least be able to get to the place where he could stay overnight, tonight. I implored him to go to a hospital to get his leg looked at. It was truly horrific. The tale about the bag could have been false. The tale about the circumstances that led to him becoming homeless could have been false. The gratitude in his eyes that someone not only gave him a small bit of money, but also *listened* – that was one of the truest things I’ve ever encountered. So was the hug we shared.

I hope that man gets to where he needs to go. I hope he finds the help he needs – socially and medically. He’s going to haunt me for some time to come.

We can’t fix everyone all the time.

We can’t always give money.

And we can’t always give time.

But sometimes we can.

Shooting Stars

The view from my seat onstage facing the auditorium.

The view from my seat onstage facing the auditorium.

Tonight I saw another Broadway show – Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812. It’s a show I knew next to nothing about before seeing it. All I knew was that it was based on a small chunk of War and Peace, and that it was recommended that you read the synopsis in the Playbill beforehand, so you know what’s going on. In fact, the opening number, Prologue, advised the same thing.

The staging was magnificent, with the performing area sneaking out, into, and through the audience in the auditorium, and with lots of seating on the stage, allowing some lucky audience members to get up close and personal with the cast as they performed. This blurring of the lines between performers and audience made for an interesting experience, and if you want to see the show, and if you don’t mind paying the premium, I’d recommend sitting at one of the tables onstage.

And what of the show, itself?

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My seat view, facing upstage.

The Great Comet is an opera, so you’ll need to recalibrate if you’re expecting a straight Broadway musical. Written by Dave Malloy and directed by Rachel Chavkin, it’s a small story. Natasha is engaged to be married to Andre, who is away at war (he certainly isn’t here). She visits her godmother, and finds herself seduced by Anatole – a handsome scoundrel who professes his love. But though the story is small, the personal stakes are high, and the score is filled with emotion from start to finish.

It’s difficult to pull out individual highlights, but I’ll try.

The absolute highlight for me was Brittain Ashford as Natasha’s cousin and confident, Sonya. Sonya Alone will be with me for quite a while to come.

Josh Groban is the show’s big name. His performance as Pierre grounds the show and he acts as its drunken, flawed conscience. He has relatively little to do in the first act, but shows what he’s made of in the second half. Pierre also acts as Groban’s unofficial audition for the role of Tevye in perhaps a decade or so, and I’ll be queueing for tickets for that!

Lucas Steele plays Anatole like an evil Disney prince, and I half expected him to belt out Agony at inopportune moments. Another great performance. Believable and real.

Denée Benton is ostensibly the star of the show, and the quality of her performance of Natasha would single her out for praise in any other show, but the sheer quality of the cast in this show means she’s just going to have to accept she’ll need to share the limelight.

The ensemble were magnificent, and sounded better than every other cast I’ve seen on Broadway, the West End or any other theatre.

It’s a complex show, despite the simplicity of the storyline, but it’s rewarding, and I can’t wait to see it again.

The one thing that always frustrates me about seeing Broadway shows is that every performance of every show seems to elicit a standing ovation. We’re rather more reserved in the UK and reserve standing for those performances that are extraordinary and rare. Standing for every show weakens the act, and means you have nowhere else to go for the truly remarkable shows.

Tonight I stood. And I meant it.

Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 is playing at the Imperial Theater on 45th Street and is highly recommended.

A relaxing morning in London

(Note: images in this post are, for some reason, rotated by 90 degrees, and I’m too apathetic to change them).

 

So, I’m currently in London, looking forward to a signing at Forbidden Planet at 1.00pm (with Paul Cornell, Cassandra Khaw and Zen Cho). I stayed overnight at a Hilton near Holborn. As a frequent Hilton guest I got upgraded to a very nice room in the executive wing.

This morning, I decided to take advantage of the fact that I don’t have the kids around, and I took this from the inside of my door
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opened the door a crack and put it on the outside of my door.
I also did this to the inside latch-thing
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And settled down in the bath, put the laptop on a chair in the bathroom and started to watch some TV.
About 15 minutes into the programme there was a knock at the door.
“They haven’t noticed the room tag,” I thought, “they’ll go away.” and I ignored it.
They knocked again.
Next, I heard an almighty crash, and I jumped out of the bath and opened up the door to see this:
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Someone had opened the door and pushed so hard that the whole of the side of the doorframe came off (because it was connected to the latch thing).
I tried to call Reception, but the phone wouldn’t work. I tried calling the hotel on my mobile, but every time I pressed the right number the line cut off.
So, I pulled on some jeans and a T-shirt and went down to reception. I told them that someone had just tried breaking into my room and that they had a key, and that I was heading straight back up because I had a lot of computer equipment up there.
I got back to my room and someone came within a few minutes and put the doorframe back temporarily (they’ll fix it properly when I’m gone, later).
Then someone from Housekeeping came. It was them. I hadn’t noticed, but on the reverse side of this
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was this
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So, rather than saying, “Please leave me alone, I’m having a nice relaxing bath, while watching some TV.” what I actually indicated was, “Please come in and clean my room. If the latch is on, open the door with such force that it breaks the physical structure of the door frame.”
My bad.
But the amount of force it must have taken to do that! I pictured someone in Housekeeping clothes, walking down the hall, looking down at the floor, bumping into someone and self-consciously pushing their glasses back up their nose.
Holborn has a superhero, posing as a mild mannered Housekeeping assistant.
EDITED TO ADD:
On my welcome letter (yes, I was given a welcome letter) it told me that breakfast was served in the restaurant in the lower ground floor. I took the lift to the lower ground floor, but there was no restaurant access there, only kitchen access. I had to go to the ground floor, walk to reception and go down the stairs to the restaurant. Not a problem, of course, but if they go to the trouble of writing a letter, they could at least add “accessible from reception”, or “don’t try the lift, Sonny Jim, it ain’t gonna get you where you want to be.” Just an added niggle, nothing more.
So, that was my relaxing Saturday morning. How was yours?

Cameron’s Legacy

So, we’ve not yet left the EU, but the British public has voted to, by the smallest of margins. The British public has chosen to believe the lies and fear-mongering vomited up by the Leave campaign. The British public, when presented with actual facts, and advice from pretty much every economic expert, has chosen to side with Nigel Farage, Michael Gove and Boris Johnson.

I’m still trying to get my head around that.

Overnight the pound drops to a 30 year low, Scotland considers leaving the UK again, as does Northern Ireland, Greek banks are (at least temporarily) not exchanging sterling, several other right-wing parties in European countries are talking about holding their own referendum to leave the EU and my daughters have lost the right to live and work in 27 countries. Due to a 52/48 vote.

I had zero respect for our government before this. Is it possible for respect to drop to negative figures? Cameron called this referendum due to internal struggles within his own party. He gambled the entire UK economy on a whim, and lost. It now remains to be seen whether Cameron’s legacy will merely be the wholesale destruction of the British economy, or whether he has started the avalanche that will destroy Europe, too.

You did this, Cameron. Although you claim that you wanted us to Remain, you ruined the future for our children. This is your doing.

And yes, you had help from the floppy haired buffoon, the racist and the other liars, as well as half the UK voting population, who were spoon-fed lies and empty promises, but this is your doing. You will forever be remembered as the worst prime minister this country has ever had.

But still – you’ll get on the board of several multinationals and maybe negotiate a few last-minute sales of British institutions to your friends before you leave, so you’ll be all right. While the rest of us have to try to find a way to move forward through this stupidity.

It feels like today will be the day the calendar started, again, that in a far-off post-apocalyptic future, people will look back on Brexit day and wonder how we could have been so fucking stupid.

Grrrrrrrrrr!

That is all.

 

(Nothing to do with parking, for once).