La Bohème: an opera virgin’s guide

It is said one always remembers the first time: and last night was very much a first for me. My first opera, that is: La Bohème (“The Bohemian”), by Puccini, beamed live to the Broadway Letchworth from the Royal Opera House, London. Ah, the magic of digital streaming!

This is therefore not the usual review. I do not know opera. OK: a few of the more popular “tunes”, from William Tell to Nessun dorma. But i scarcely know my Tosca from my Ring Cycle and so this review is dedicated neither to the operaphiles, for whom last night was undoubtedly their umpteenth visit, nor the phobes, who would never, ever, ever. Continue reading

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Film Review: Spy



I was looking forward to Spy with the sort of trepidation that every mum must feel when their favourite daughter leaves home for the first time. Because, with two of my favourite women – Melissa McCarthy and Miranda Hart – taking lead roles, not to mention additional interest provided by my second scrummiest beefcake, Jason Statham, I had such high hopes of it I felt sure I would be disappointed.

But I wasn’t.

Quite the opposite, in fact. Because as far as I was concerned, it was one of the most positive, good-natured, funny films I have seen this past twelve months. Continue reading

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Film Review: San Andreas

san andreas

San Andreas is a “disaster movie”. Not one of those new-fangled, armageddon-style take downs in which the entire world perishes in fire, or ice, or at the claws of unexpected aliens, but a disaster movie in the good old Towering Inferno style, focused on a plot gizmo that MIGHT just happen.

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Film review: Tomorrowland

Tomorrowland Tomorrow is not what it used to be. With that sentiment, and a seriously grumpy George Clooney, Tomorrowland is out the starting gate and off on a roller coaster of a ride from past to potential future and back again. Along the way, evil robots are defeated, the Eiffel Tower turns out to be a rocket in disguise, and the end of the world is averted. For now.

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WTF! “Respectable smut” and dangerous sexism

There is a story over on the Independent right now that stopped me in my tracks. Because unless the Independent have been incredibly clever about mocking up the picture used to illustrate it, they have just gone and committed a major breach of individual privacy with potentially serious consequences for the individuals concerned. Continue reading

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The death of the working class

Perhaps there is a simpler explanation for Labour’s poor performance in last week’s election: the working classes are no more.

That, at least, appears to be the view of Ipsos-MORI, one of the polling organisations who carried out the devastating exit poll on the day. Take a look:

Ipsos poll question

Ipsos poll question

That’s right. The UK, according to the pollsters, now divides into four. You may be affluent or middle-class (lower or upper). And if you’re not one of them, you’re clearly disadvantaged.

Don’t worry…i know the Office for Natinoal Statistics gave up on the working classes years ago. But still….

With thanks to a certain eclectic chicken for bringing this to my notice

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The new authoritarianism

At the weekend, the mood seemed first and foremost shock, mixed with dismay: a collective disbelief that a party supported by little over one third of the electorate should, on Friday morning, be preparing for five years of unrestrained government.

Today, that mood has shifted. A howl of rage has gone up as it becomes clear that not only has the country signed for five years worth of full-blooded conservatism…but that this politic comes with a new and disturbing twist: an illiberal, authoritarian streak that was mostly hidden, or at best sotto voce, throughout the campaign.

We have been conned: perhaps, too, we have conned ourselves. Continue reading

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Kicking Clegg: guilty pleasure and unforeseen consequences

I wrote about the events of last Thursday for the Register yesterday. Or more precisely, they asked me to produce what seems now to be becoming a quinquennial tradition, in which Jane explains to the psephologically challenged how the electoral system works, and why the polls got it wrong.

It starts with familiar territory. Basic stats. Margin of error. The challenges facing smaller parties under first past the post. Then the “shy Tory”, a source of some difficulty for pollsters since around 1992 and this time, it seemed to me, a tendency not sufficiently identified and drawn out by the polling organisations.

I call it the “let’s give Clegg a kicking” factor.
Continue reading

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The disaffected voter’s guide to coping with elections

I really, really should not be posting this. What you are about to read is totally utterly irresponsible and, as a one-time party agent and committee room organiser i can only deprecate anyone so much as tempted to treat the following as advice.

Still, if you ARE fed up with the electoral tedium already, below are some hints at how you may decide to exact revenge on the party organisation you least like.

And anyway: what the hell!

On the knocker

Sometimes canvassers arrive. If you are not planning to vote for their party you might:

– send them away
– tell them in no uncertain terms you are not voting for them


1. Invite them in

2. Explain you just want them to discuss some particularly abstract point of policy: site-value rating is a good one. Unless you’re talking to the LibDems.

3. Leave room suddenly with “there’s a document here that explains it all”

4. Rummage for five minutes: fail to find document

5. Apologise profusely: ask if maybe the candidate can come back and explain in person.

6. Add that you are undecided, but a visit from the candidate could swing it for them.

7. Take loads of material, leaflets.

8. Promise to deliver the leaflets locally: bin them!

9. Take posters…later explain you put them up but had to take them down…because threats from neighbours/local BNP/llamas

Never, ever state categorically that you aren’t voting for their party. Unless, that is, you don’t want to see them ever again

On polling day

11. Arrange for a car to take you to the polling station: make sure the car belongs to a party you are NOT going to vote for! Insist you need at least two people to help you in and out

12. For first appointment, be out.

13. Five minutes after car leaves, phone, apologise profusely…request car again.

14. Repeat once/twice according to naivety of local party organisation

15. When car finally links up with you: walk slowly and with a lymnp (its pronounced limp!)

16. Get stuck getting in/out of car.

17. At polling station, feign incontinence, fainting, a n other medical emergency. Insist the party workers stay with you or else!

In extremis,

18. Get into their car and…refuse to get out!

Note of caution

The sooner you tell a canvasser that you hate everything about their party, their dog and their personal hygiene, the sooner they will depart your premises and never darken your door again. Because what canvassers are looking for is certainty: and if they are sure you are NOT going to vote for them, then they will cross you off their list.

Which is why the tactics above waste time: because they know that elections will be won/lost in the ranks of the undecided.

Beware the “engaging canvasser” who actually wants to start a conversation: the one who actually asks you questions about POLICY! Before you know it, you will have expressed an interest in windfarms or tax breaks or immigration, thereby opening the door for more canvassers to return at some later date.

And if canvassers do return, be patient with them.

You may think its a shitty job, and they would be better off spending a bit more time with their family. But, like the selling of PPI compensation, someone has to do it.

Above all, do not emulate the weary voter in the Bermondsey by-election (1983) who, it is told, was so sick of the unending stream of canvassers knocking on his door that he unceremoniously decked the 8th, or possibly 9th individual – one very unlucky member of the Conservative party – to knock inquiring politely after his views on the forthcoming election in a single evening.

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This is not going to be a happy post. Not exactly apocalyptic. But certainly a whiff of end of days about it. Because, if various experts are right, we are well beyond questions of whether climate change is going to impinge seriously on the lives of all of us alive today. No: the question now is not whether, but when.

And there is a growing consensus that when is no longer decades or even many years away, but months and days: as few, in fact, as 662. A shame, perhaps, i did not post this 4 days ago when we’d have had a most satisfying 666 days to go. Continue reading

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