Sunday 29 November 2015

If the cuckoo don’t crow then you know there’s a wind coming

This week’s homework assignment for our Creative Writing group was to be inspired by the story of “if the cuckoo don’t crow” . So I decided to try my hand at nonsense! Here goes!

If the cuckoo don’t crow
and the crow flies on by
then spring is at hand
and fishes will fly.

If leaves are bright pink
and day break is lost
then hold onto your hat
and be in fear of a ghost.

if pigs walked on stilts
and reindeer were blue
then Harry Potter would have died
and your home is the zoo.

if life is a Truman show
and your best mate a dog
then you’d eat breakfast at midnight
and swim in the fog.

If water was caustic
and acid was sweet
a dose of figs
would be right up your street.

If clocks went backwards
and time was reversed
then your gran is your offspring
and life’s plain perverse.

But the day always breaks
and breakfast’s at seven
the trees are green
in my kindergarten heaven.
gran’s a little old lady who lives with a cat
feeds the fish in the river where we sit for a chat
Harry Potter survived and Ghost’s a dire wolf
the red nose is Rudolph’s - Now there’s no need to scoff
at these things I’m sure of,
‘cos there’s one thing I know -
that pigs don’t fly and the cuckoo don’t crow!

© Sheila Ash 29th November 2015

Thursday 26 November 2015

The Winter’s Tale left me cold

Just been to see Kenneth Branagh's production of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale broadcast live to my local arts centre from the Garrick Theatre in London. I had such great hopes given the cast – Branagh, Judi Dench. But oh dear what a disappointment. The sound was out, by a few milliseconds only, but enough to make it seem like I was watching a badly dubbed Spanish telenovela. OK one’s brain accommodates it after several minutes, but it infuriated me all the way through.

The first scene was really quite dark and although the lighting should have created an atmosphere to capture Leontes’ (played by Branagh) insane jealousy and madness at the supposed infidelity of his wife with his friend, Polixenes, the camera angles were not conducive to it. Perhaps it was due to the small stage at The Garrick, but surely then your production team take that into account when working out the camera direction.

If the acting had been riveting, I’d have forgiven these misdemeanours but it wasn’t. I just did not feel anything from Branagh’s performance which left me cold. Maybe he was having a bad night. But all these together meant that for me the whole production was flat, it had no depth, no emotion. Honestly it was poor. I must not have been the only one to think this as after the interval the woman sitting next to me and the couple behind did not come back.

They missed the better part. The acting improved in the second half with the younger members of the cast stealing the show on the whole, albeit that again the sound engineers let them down badly. We had a feedback loop so for a minute or so we heard everything twice. The camera stayed straight for the second act, giving you a more traditional audience point of view onto the stage, like you were sitting in the theatre. This worked better, especially with there being more people on stage with the dance sequence on the sheep farm. I particularly liked Tom Bateman as Doricles/Florizel whose strong presence on the stage was evocative and full of emotion. I thought the dance sequences around his love for Perdita (Jessie Buckley) were well choreographed, albeit with the redish-purple prairie backdrop lighting effect it felt a little like a scene from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers sexed up for the modern era by the removal of the shirts of some of the males dancers.

The other actor to make a mark was John Dagleish as Autolycus, the jester cum pick pocket who really worked the stage and the audience well, like a trouper from the old time music hall. There were times when his persona came a little too close to a Dicken’s Fagin making me think we were going to hear a rendition of “I got to pick a pocket or two”.

But these higher points could not overcome the failings of artistic direction and production on the night for those of use watching it via live cinecast. I left not entirely sure what Branagh and co-director Rob Ashford were trying to achieve with this production and if I’d paid West End prices to see this I would be less than pleased.

ashramblings verdict: 2* Corny and mostly devoid of feeling!


Tuesday 24 November 2015

Dancing right in front of me

This weeks Creative Writing exercise was to utilise this phrase taken from the David Gilmour song.

Facebook this morning
is full of Belgian cats
cucumbered eyes
snuggled in a health spa bathrobe
the epitome of an enforced weekend’s laziness
the usual pet madness politicised.

Pictures flash by
friends new décor
friends holidays
reunion tales
then dancing right in front of me
Fred Astaire
a real cool cat
in white top hat and tails
tapping his cane.

I click
he morphs
to Rita Hayworth,
Judy Garland,
Gene Kelly
Hollywood greats from a golden era
all mashed up now
the Big Band sound replaced
by Ronson’s “Uptown Funk”.

© 23rd November 2015

Cucumbered Cat: 
More Cats:
Watch the Video: Uptown Funk - Old Hollywood Mashup Posted by Trini Lulz on Thursday, 19 November 2015

Wednesday 11 November 2015


This weeks Creative writing exercise was a quickie – write in 5 minutes on “Compulsory”.

You have to do it.
You must do it.
You should do it.
”It is compulsory to do it” (said with Indian accent)
The habitual Indian usage comes back to my ear.
The confusion of the colloquial English language in different climes
Clarified like ghee
traced back to grammar
confounds the beginner always
be it in English, Spanish or Hindi.

Tuesday 10 November 2015

November Meeting Halesworth U3A Music Appreciation Group


Alison was up first with her desert Island disks

  • Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 Pastoral, played by Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Erich Kleiber Decca 1987 Alison chose the last movement. YouTube has the whole Symphony in 5 parts Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5
  • Joseph Hyden’s Die Schöpfung / The creation. Last Chorus. Sung by Camilla Tilling and Mark Padmore, Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks Conducted by Bernard Haitink Part 1 and Part 2
  • Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No. 2  played by Nash Ensemble and used in the film “The Page Turner”. Alison’s choice was the final movement. YouTube has the whole piece in 4 parts Part 1, Part 2, Part3, Part4

Martin’s selction was

Ken’s choice was

  • Beethoven’s 9th Liverpool Philharmonic conducted by Charles Mackerras YouTube has it in 5 parts Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5
  • Shostakovich 8th Quartet played by The Gabrieli Quartet . I couldn’t find a free to listen to recording of this on the net by this Quartet. There are several other recording available for free, for example The Kronos Quartet
  • Miles Davis Summertime From Essential Miles Davis Compilation

and finally John rounded us off with another dittty from the stage  production Tomfoolery which is available on itunes Track 13 entitled Irish ballad but probably best recalled as RikkiTikkiTinTin

Monday 9 November 2015

A weekend of Zhang Yimou

I’m a huge Zhang Yimou fan and especially his films with Li Gong from the very first one I saw which was Raise the Red Lantern, so this week has been a trip down memory lane.


Red Sorghum was his first film in 1987 and their first together. His shots of the wild sorghum fields are somewhat reminiscent of Tarkovsky. Li Gong plays the strong female lead who takes over control of the winery of the man she had been forced to marry when he dies. Narrated by her grandson, the story starts with her journey to marry the leper, her attempt to return to her family after having stopped the consummation of the marriage, and her return to the now dead leper’s winery, persuading the staff to stay on, their successful wine harvest and the arrival of the Japanese army to build a road and their destruction of the sorghum fields.  The films shows signs of what was to come from both director and leading lady.


Curse of the Golden Flower 2006 show just how far they had come together. Li Gong has mastered her craft. I am always particularly struck by her portrayal of strength and vulnerability, and this is brilliantly put to use in her role here as the Empress plotting overthrow of her husband and Emperor (played by China cinema’s legendary Chow Yun Fat) in attempt to put her eldest son and his second son on the throne. The Emperor however did not get to his position for no reason. He is trying to poison her at the same time. The intricate plot twists and the powerplays continue to the end. Yimou direction comes into its own with the battle scenes in the Imperial Palace grounds – huge numbers of warriors in scenes which according to imdb took 20 days to film  and which in my opinion rival Lord of the Rings in end effect – and in the marvellous introductory sequence as the thousands of Palace servants ready  themselves for the Emperor’s return from war. There are beautiful customs (it was nominated for a 2007 Costume Design Oscar but lost out to Marie Antoinette which I have not seen) and great choreography throughout – its just epic! If you missed it watch it now!

Friday 6 November 2015

A week of strong film dramas

This week’s movies I watched are

A Second Chance

Usually the cover of a DVD gives a fairly accurate assessment of the type of movie it is, but here the movie is so much more. The cover seems to suggest, to me at least, a police thriller in the ScandiNoir tradition whereas although the lead, played by Game of Thrones star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is Andreas, a cop, noir it is not. It tackles the trauma associated with the sudden death of a baby.

The acting is tremendous from both him and the two actresses who play the two mothers in the film - Maria Bonnevie who plays Andreas  wife, and May Andersen who plays the female half of the “junkie” partnership alongside Nikolaj Lie Kaas.

When Andreas’' and Anne’s baby dies and he witnesses the neglect of the junkies’ child, he looses his grip on reality and with it his sense of justice. The plot has some shocking turns in its storyline and one I for one did not see coming. A challenging topic and a challenging film, exceeding well played and directed. Excellent!

Kill the Messenger (2014)

Jeremy Renner stars in this movie version of a neglected true story as journalist Gary Webb as he attempts to maintain his own integrity in the face of smear campaign which rendered him neutralised as a journalist when he got his big scoop story on a the San Jose Mercury, a provincial US newspaper, namely, that the US CIA funded Nicaraguan Contras with money raised from dealing crack cocaine to predominantly black communities in places such as south LA . Just a pity it doesn't continue the story through to his death - a suicide by two gunshots to the head!





Salamander Season 1

Begun by browsing the first few minutes to see if this would prove any good since I’d never heard of it and ended up watching the first 3 episode in one sitting instead of going to bed. So good plot!

66 safety deposit boxes are broken into in the Jonkhere is a small private bank in Brussels, Belgium. They belong to prominent public figures who do not want the police involved  in order to avoid scandal because of the materials they contained.

But incorruptible police inspector Paul Gerardi discovers that the victims belong to a secret organisation, Salamander, a cabal made up of the country's industrial, financial, judicial and political elite, and the safety deposit boxes contain their most intimate secrets which stretch back to World War II. As the pressure begins to be applied to these individuals it becomes apparent that the very fabric of society, government and even the Belgium Royals could be brought down by it. Suicides of prominent figures start to mount. Pressure is applied by the state and criminals to Geraldi who is stripped of his police status, only to be taken in by the ultra secret P9 force whose sole purpose is to shore up and protect the state.

Killing Them Softly

The ruthless business of the hired killer is played out against the background soundtrack of US political news bulletins featuring Obama and Bush. Pretty violent, but that's its subject matter. Good casting, with perhaps Sopranos' actor James Gandolfini stealing the limelight as past hitman Mickey from Brad Pitt's lead as cool, chatty Jackie Cogan, crescendo-ing into Pitt's final line "America is not a country it's a business"