Good show

Apr. 20th, 2009 07:48 pm
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On Saturday, just before I went off to see Gran Torino starring Clint Eastwood in the cinema with my mum, a friend of mine asked whether I wouldn't mind accompanying her 10-year old son and one of his little friends to the Dutch musical Ciske de Rat the next day, as she herself didn't feel up to it (she's going into hospital to have a hysterectomy in a couple of days). I wasn't too keen, as I'm a terrible snob who doesn't think anything good can ever come out of Dutch theatre shows, but in the end, I let myself be persuaded...and contrary to my expectations, I had a brilliant time. The music, the singing, the acting -- it was all a hundred times removed from those endless, boring performances I had to sit through when I was still in school, and the production could, IMO, easily vie with whatever show is put on in the West End or on Broadway.

Next time, I will jump at the chance to borrow her kid again.
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The problem with holidays is, they tend to be over too quickly. Especially when you've only booked a week off and on your last day in the office, your manager approaches you with an offer that on the face of it seems enticing, but that you won't have a chance to investigate, sort out the pros and cons, or all the legal and financial ramifications; let alone check out the job market, because you're supposed to be doing something else somewhere else. Now I'm going to have to go back into work tomorrow, and will have even less of a chance to reach an informed decision.

David's Thursday night show had been cancelled, but lucky for me, something called the City Showcase meant he had a gig that afternoon in the Hugo Boss store in Carnaby St instead. I spent the morning window shopping for shoes (what else?) in Oxford St, checked into my hotel around 1pm; then after receiving a text from Jules that told me she was on her way to the venue, made it there in time to witness the arrival of DB and Jordan. They'd played in Paris the night before and Jordan said the tour so far had been exhausting. Still, he looked perky enough. David had been having some problems with his voice earlier in the week, but thought it was back up to 40%, and besides, he said, what he'd lost in range he'd gained in raspiness, and he said it as if it were swings and roundabouts. Jules turned up soon after, and we went for a spot of lunch while the band set up. The City Showcase involved several artists performing in various shops up and down the Carnaby St area, but I can't tell if this is a regular thing or not. Funnily enough, the presence of a singer in the store seemed to act as a deterrant to people to cross the threshold and browse for clothes or make a purchase, so as an experiment it may not have been entirely successful from the point of view of the shopkeepers.

instore concert )

In the end, they played to about 20 people, none of whom purchased any suits, but many did buy DB's cds, including myself as he and Jordan had recorded an EP just before coming out on this tour. When he asked if there were any requests, I asked for Boxes, which seemed to please him; he believes it's one of his more accomplished songs, and yet it doesn't make the set list, or gets requested, all that often. Which I think is a shame as it's one of my favourite songs from his After The Wrecking Ships-album. Which is still the last studio album...when oh when will Strange Light finally be released?

After the gig, Jules, her friend KJ and I headed over to the Tate Modern to see the gigantic murals on display there, and I finally had that 99 with flake I'd been promising myself for years, though at £2 I did think it was a bit pricey. Then KJ went off to blag her way into a TV studio audience, while Jules and I had fish and chips and mushy peas on board the Queen Mary. Here I was introduced to my new favourite tipple: Brothers' Strawberry & Pear Cider. It smells revoltingly sweet, tastes really sweet to begin with too, but drinks like lemonade once you've had a sip or two. [ profile] bogwitch, dare I ask: have you tried it yet, or is it too much of a party drink for your choice?

And then I went to the theatre to see Avenue Q, which came highly recommended by Jules, and it really was a hoot from start to finish. If any of you haven't seen it, which I don't suppose is the case as you're all much more clued up about these things than I, it's like Sesame Street for grown-ups. The jokes are corny, the songs are catchy, and the story (if there is one) very simple and a little bit preachy, and overall, it makes for a fantastic night out.

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Last night, as my friend Allan and I were walking down the Oudegracht in Utrecht and deciding on which café to go into to get out of the rain, a car passed by and drove straight over my foot.

It hurt. I screamed. Which alerted the shopping public to what was happening, which was a good thing, as the driver made ready to flee the scene. He was however foiled in his attempt by several young men forming a tight cordon around his car, and made to provide his insurance details.

They asked me if I was alright, I countered by asking if my boot looked alright, as I would hate it if there were any visible tyre marks on it. They asked if I wanted an ambulance, I said I wanted to go to the theatre. Bewildered, they turned to Allan, enjoining him to take care of me, take me to hospital, do something. I wriggled my toes to see if anything had been broken, felt to my relief that nothing had, and asked them to release the driver. He sweatily shook my hand, climbed back into his car, and drove off with no more caution than before.

Then Allan and I went into the bar, had a stiff drink, and a bad case of the giggles. When we'd calmed down, we went on to the Stadsschouwburg, as the whole reason we were in Utrecht was to go to a Brazilian show of song and dance to which Allan had been given two tickets. Despite the fact that he's been living in The Netherlands for 10 years now, he still feels weird venturing outside Amsterdam, and so he'd asked me to come along and be his guide to this -in his eyes- strange new place. We'd made an afternoon of it, sight-seeing, shopping...

and btw, here are the shoes I bought in the sales for next to no money! )

and then, in a street thronged with people because of the late night shopping, someone had to go and drive their car over my foot!

As to Favela Força, the show we'd come to see: it was quite enjoyable and it did succeed, far better than a visit to A&R might have done, in keeping my mind off my painfully throbbing limb for a few hours. This morning when I woke up, there was a massive bruise on the instep, but there doesn't appear to be any more serious injury to it.

But what are the odds, I wonder, of any one person being hit/run-over by some type of motorised vehicle twice in one month?
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I got back from my trip late last night, and had to get up early to go to work (the less said about that, the better). Consequently, I'm pooped...but at least I've had a terrific time in London this weekend.

I got into Luton to find things had all changed on the railways, and I could now get into London quicker and cheaper from there than before, which put me in a very good mood. I spent an hour or so window-shopping in Oxford St, received a promotional goodie bag from a newly opened Scandinavian glassware shop in Regent St that contained -among other things- a very nicely bound notebook, and met up with [ profile] anonypooh outside the B&B in King's Cross where she'd booked us a cosy little or in estate agent's speak bijou room and en-suite at a mere £30 a night -- not bad for Central London, I'm sure you'll agree! We dropped off our stuff and had a cuppa; then went over to [ profile] miss_fairfax's flat in St. John's Wood for more tea and pre-performance squee. We went back into town towards the end of the afternoon, to meet [ profile] tori_x for an early supper at The Chinese Experience in Shaftesbury Avenue. Both the Mongolian Crispy Lamb and the Stir Fried Prawns with Cashew Nuts that I had were to die for; and the prices were altogether reasonable.

And then it was time to go and see Lee Mead in Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Adelphi. The guy at the merch kiosk was really sweet and did Julia a deal: he swapped the boring £3 poster she'd resigned herself to buying for the glossy Lee-in-swirly-coat one that normally only comes included in the £10 programme & brochure package.

The theatre was completely sold out. We were in stalles, at the very back, but with a good view of the stage nonetheless. Which was tiny, but then, the Adelphi isn't the biggest of venues. And when Lee made his entrance, everybody sat up...which unfortunately took away from my view a little. But as I was sitting in an aisle seat, all I had to do was lean out a bit more. I'm not sure how the others fared.

It has been reported in the media that Lee is quite shy in real life, and perhaps this accounts for his tendency to look at the floor for long moments in the performance. But he also has a presence, an enthusiasm, a gusto when he's on stage singing, he has a really good voice, and as [ profile] miss_fairfax remarked, he has really good legs, too; so it's easy to forgive him this little quirk.

I enjoyed the show tremendously. Lee and the rest of the cast were on fine form, and I loved the stage setting, the costumes (esp. that of Potiphar's evil wife) and the props. It all ended much too soon, but the standing ovation they received at the end was well-deserved.

We went round the back to the stage door, surprised at the fact that we were practically the only ones, only to be told by theatre staff that Lee would come out for a signing at the front. We got back there and joined the crowd at the back. Again someone came out to tell us Lee would be 5 minutes, and that in addition to signing autographs for those who had thought to bring items for his signature, he would also hand out a stack of signed photos for those that hadn't. In the end, I managed to get hold of one, but someone else who obviously wanted it more yanked it out of my hand. A group of five young American tourists looked on in amazement.

the scrum )

After he'd gone back inside, the crowd dispersed pretty rapidly, while we went back to hang around the stage door, where we spotted various cast members leaving. Some were even stopped to sign autographs by a few of the die-hard fans that had assembled there. Eventually, one of the security staff came out to tell us that if Lee hadn't left already, and he might have done as the place apparently has 19 exits, he would probably stay till very late; but if a signed photo was what we were after, he could go and get us some. And he did.

Which left us free to go and have cake in Leicester Square's Rendezvous. ;-)

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So, the next day [ profile] anonypooh drove up to join us on an outing to Stratford, where we had another superb pub lunch (rhubarb crumble, oh yeah!) and had a wander around. We didn't go into any of the houses associated with Shakespeare as the entrance fees were far too high for our small purses, but we bought sweets, and found out that Ezio would be playing in the Cox's Yard later that week, which gave Lorna an excuse to get in touch with Neil again (she likes him!), as it's only one of his favourite bands. He was grateful for the heads-up and sent a text full of fanboy squee from the gig a few days later.

The next morning we left for our weekend break in Ironbridge, and upon arrival went straight to Blists Hill, where despite the occasional shower and the icy wind, we had the best time ever learning about life in Victorian times. We visited the bank, the general store, the mine, the sweetshop, the dressmaker, the candle factory, the school; had a ride on the carousel, almost got asphyxiated by the smoke in a squatter's hut, and joined in song with two Victorian gentlemen in the pub. We stayed in a lovely B&B to which I wouldn't mind returning for another visit one day. June was a wonderful hostess who thought nothing of going the extra mile for her guests, nipping round to the shops to get us our soy milk and cream for breakfast.

Lorna had taken the week off work and took the time to show me round interesting places in the Midlands. We went to Warwick Castle for a day and were in luck, as they'd just started the demonstrations again - we saw an archer miss his target 8 times out of 10, yet still a boy was stupid enough to place himself before it upon request, while his family laughed and clapped and spurred the bowman on to shoot at him. Wisely, he declined.

We visited Coombe Abbey where we had a relaxing walk in the extensive grounds and parklands -- followed by a not so relaxing trudge back to Coventry as the bus failed to show. That evening, we went to see Ice Age 2 in the local cinema, a film I can heartily recommend to anyone.

For my last weekend, we went to London, where we met up with Julia at Waterloo. I went off to get some cash while she and Lorna squeed over the fact that there was an Elf buying a train ticket there. However, he was small fry compared to the celebrities we were to spot in a few hours...

We'd gone to London to see Rainbow Kiss for no other reason than that the blurb sounded interesting and we'd all been impressed by Joe McFadden's Aladdin last year. The Jerwood is a small theatre in Sloane Square and we had a long climb (6 or 7 stairs) up to ours, where we sat down in the front row - rather a mixed blessing as I got to see a bit more than I had bargained for when Dawn Steele took her knickers off on stage and I saw straight up her miniskirt. It's a good play, if a little depressing for the lack of a happy ending...Its director was listed as Richard Wilson. Could it be the Richard Wilson? I don't believe it, but it could. He came in at the last moment and sat in the back row. Discounting the cast, this was the 2nd celeb we spotted while in London for the day!

After the play finished, we went down and toyed with the idea of finding the stage exit and waiting for the actors to come out; but Lorna, who had gotten herself a pint in the interval was still left with 1/4 of it and so we hung around the bar for a while. The place filled up quickly with the audience to the play downstairs (clearly, it was time for their interval), and among them was none other than Alan Rickman, as I live and breathe! We watched him in quiet adoration while he tried to get the drinks in and was ignored by the bar staff for a while. When Joe McFadden came in a little later, he had the same trouble, as they were just rushed off their feet. 20 Minutes later, Lorna had finally finished her pint, and we turned to go. Coming down the stairs into the bar while we were going up it was Roger Lloyd-Pack (Trigger in Only Fools And Horses), our final celeb for the evening. We went back to our hotel all dazed and starstruck.

Back in Coventry, Lorna's housemate Jez tried to convince me that Ray Winstone is a much bigger star in the UK than Alan Rickman. I wouldn't be persuaded, but now I'm curious -- who do you think is the bigger name in show business?
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There's an ugly rumour going round that the School of Night has been cancelled, a month before opening. Hope it's not true.
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I've never been much of a one for New Year's resolutions, for the same reason I never bother with wish lists: I can never think of anything I really really want...Not so this year, because I've just thought of something I would give my eye teeth to achieve: see Christopher Eccleston on stage.

He'll lead the cast in The School of Night, playing in London's Comedy Theatre from mid-February to beginning of June -- with such a long running time, surely I ought to be able to make my dream come true?

Of course, should I manage this, what would make it even better is if I could persuade someone to come with me...?
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I left for England on Friday morning, calling in sick from the airport since I'd forgotten to book the day off and knowing Jobsworth would not have let me go without 3 weeks advance notice at least. For some reason, security was tight and I only just made my plane, having had to take off my boots to show I wasn't planning on anything nefarious. Cass came to pick me up and I spent the day in the bosom of her family, admiring her new kitchen and her daughter's witch's costume for Hallowe'en.

The next morning, we left Kent for the capital and met up with [ profile] bogwitch at the Holborn Bierodrome, where we had a lovely lunch before checking into our swanky hotel in Southwark. Lisa decided to take a room there too, and then we just hung out till it was time to get to The Blackfriar to meet up with [ profile] frimfram and others and sort out the tickets. From there, it was a 2 minute walk to The Mermaid theatre and James Marsters's Words & Music.

He came out to adjust some chairs on the stage and the audience, consisting mainly of women both young and old(er), went wild. Steve Himber appeared on stage next to remind us of the rules -- as this was a theatrical performance, we were asked to behave as at any other play, and then James, dressed in black jeans and a t-shirt, together with an American actress called Cheryl somethingorother, launched into an adaptation of the Scottish play; basically some key scenes between Macbeth (James) and his good lady wife (Cheryl), linked in narrative style by James again.

And it was good. Except for an unnecessary (IMO) Hallowe'en stage laugh at the beginning, James put down a very believable Macbeth, despite the transatlantic American accent, expansive gestures, and looking very much like Spike on occasion. Afterwards, they took 10 minutes to discuss the play with the audience, and James told us how he thought of Lady Macbeth as her husband's equal rather than a bitch, and Macbeth himself as a warrior and a traditionalist rather than a wimp, which is how most Americans seem to interpret the roles. He also said that given the chance, he would cast a strapping young actor in the role of Banquo, rather than the comfortable older man that is so often picked.

After the interval, he returned on stage to play the guitar and sing all the songs from his cd except for Patricia. And I suppose the word to describe this part of the performance was adequate. He is not the world's best singer, but he does have rather a nice voice. He isn't the world's best guitar player, but he knows enough chords to get through a 3 minute pop song. He's not the world's best songwriter, but at least he's not afraid to go out there and perform his music. 99% of the audience thought it was fantastic and screamed themselves hoarse, giving him a standing ovation at the end again. Personally, I didn't detect much improvement since his gig at the Carling Academy back in April, and I was quite frankly bored throughout, but that probably reflects more on me and my tastes than on him. He did try, bless him and his cotton socks. But again, I would characterise his music as samey and bland, and lyrically and musically quite limited. But the smaller venue did work in his favour, I must say.

[ profile] calove had to catch an early train back home, and so it was just me and [ profile] bogwitch for breakfast this morning (full English for me, Continental for her), but all too soon it came time to say goodbye and while she went on her way to Finchley and her car, I took the Gatwick Express to the airport and ultimately, home.

All in all, it's been a wonderful weekend.
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"See if you fancy anything", my friend says to me as she chucks the What's On at me. For months, she's been trying to convince me that there's nothing to do in Birmingham, but a quick flick through the magazine tells me she's horribly wrong. "Oh look!" I say, "There's a nature park...and a sealife...oh! and Cadbury World! Let's go to Cadbury World!" And just before I close the mag and put it away, my eye falls on the announcement that Jack Dee will be performing live at the Hippodrome that very night and the next. I squeal with delight, and my friend looks at me in wonder. "You like Jack Dee? But he's so English!" I check the clock. An hour an a half before curtain rise..."Do you think there'll still be tickets?" We call the Hippodrome -- and hear it's sold out for that night, but there are still some 20 tickets left for tomorrow's show. We can reserve two, or turn up at the box office tomorrow and get them at reduced rate...In a celebratory mood, we repair to the balti house down the road, and indulge in a wonderfully tasty curry.

The next day, we traipse all over town visiting the Nature Park (red pandas! lynx! meerkats!), Cannon Hill Park, Sarehole Mill (the inspiration, allegedly, for Sandyman's Mill in Tolkien's Hobbiton), and Moseley Bog (which, again if local legend is to be believed, is the original Middle Earth -- smack bang in the middle of a council estate). Then it's home for a quick bite to eat, and off we trudge into town again, for a night of comedic brilliance at the Hippodrome theatre. We're way up in the gods, but with a clear view of the stage. Jack Dee proves every bit as morosely funny and deadpan in real life as on TV, and I'm having the time of my life. My friend has to admit, afterwards, that she had enjoyed herself as well -- and she never really liked him before! Huh? Some people!

I'm meeting her at Borders in a minute, to go on from there to Bournville for our tour of Cadbury World: all the liquid chocolate you can drink, and then some! See you later!
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I didn't expect there'd be snow on the ground when I got back, but there is, and it's a lot colder here than it was in Kent...but it's all good: the cats are welcoming, and I've turned up the heat so it won't be long before I'm all nice and toasty again.

[ profile] calove and the kids met me at the airport on Thursday, and it felt good to be coming home with them again. 'Home' -- yes, I think of [ profile] calove's as home away from home now, and it's all her fault: she definitely is the hostess with the mostest as far as I'm concerned. Hospitable to a fault, hers is a wonderful family that don't stand on ceremony -- and so, to my everlasting shame, I let the f-word slip during a particulary intense round of Junior Monopoly. Cass, if your children suddenly start to slide into foulmouthed behaviour and you wonder where on earth they might have picked up such a word: blame me! And I am truly sorry for it.

The next day, Cass and I went to Bluewater; and despite my best intentions, within 10 minutes of arriving, I had bought my first pair of shoes since being back on English soil again. Brown/bronze high heels that I can't wear at present, but give it a month or two and I should be alright...I despair of me sometimes. Monsoon's new collection proved disappointing, and Hobbs seems to specialise in unhemmed skirts, so apart from the shoes I only bought a new pair of jeans from The Gap, which is fast becoming one of my favourite stores for basics -- just as well there isn't one anywhere near me.

We'd gone to Bluewater to raid the Hello Kitty store on [ profile] bogwitch's behalf, seeing as it was her birthday that weekend. We were looking for a naked Kitty that we could turn into a Goth,and picked up a few more bits and pieces that we thought fit the theme. We had lunch at a tapas bar, but the sight of a Krispy Kreme earlier had made us curious as to how these BtVS-endorsed doughnuts compared to the usual supermarket-bought ones, and so we headed over there on our way back to the car. And they were handing out free samples! Hot and fresh, these glazed originals tasted simply divine, and so Cass got a dozen assorted ones to take home...they put in one extra, and gave us each another hot, fluffy, glazed original for the road. I swear, if that Krispy Kreme were around the corner from me now, I'd be tempted to take up permanent residence there.

On Saturday, Cass and I took the children for a walk in the country, and later went into Edenbridge where we discovered a new deli had opened its doors that very day. After lunch, we spent the rest of the afternoon at Barden Lake, where there were quite a few people, geese and ducks around even if it was freezing.

Sunday came around, and it was [ profile] bogwitch's birthday. We met her and [ profile] hesadevil for lunch in Islington's Bierodrome. It was presents all round: the Hello Kitty that Cass had painstakingly customized by hand the night before was much admired and cooed over by the assembled party and its new owner; while we were all much taken with our beautifully printed out copies of Twelve Days that Boggy had prepared for us. [ profile] hesadevil further surprised me by giving me a lovely lavender soap and shoe keyring as a belated Xmas present, and a bottle of Witch Hazel to help in the speedy recovery of my ankle.

And again, despite my best intentions, on our way to catch the tube from Angel, I somehow managed to walk straight into a fantastic bargain on a pair of white fluffy boots, that are totally impractical as they don't offer any support to my ankles at all and won't keep my feet all nice and warm in wintertime because the material is kind of thin, but would you have been able to say no to a pair of boots marked down from £120 to £14.95? Of course, that meant that for the rest of the evening, I had to carry a great big pink Whistles' shoebox with me, but I've never been noted for my ability to think ahead.

There was an icy cold wind blowing along the Embankment so we dropped in for coffee somewhere and after having lost the worst of the chill, bravely went out into the freezing night again to get to the Old Vic to see Sir Ian McKellen in the role of the Widow Twankey in this season's most acclaimed production of Aladdin.

What can I say? It was my first pantomime ever, and I. Loved. It. I was enthralled from the moment Roger Allen, who played the baddie whose name I can't remember (and played him to perfection), strode on stage. Joe McFadden was wonderful as a Glaswegian Aladdin, and Maureen Lipman appeared as Dim Sum, the Widow Twankey's wishy washy. And then, when the Widow came on...words fail me. It was absolutely marvelous. Ian McKellen went through at least 12 costume changes and he looked fabulous in all of them. Great legs! We were in the stalls, 7th row from the front, and had a brilliant view of the stage. The sets were gorgeous, the topical jokes more than funny, and the cast seemed to be having such fun themselves. Since it was an evening performance (the very last of the season, too), there were very few children in the audience, but there were one or two and at one point, when Aladdin was in the cave, one of the kids shouted out to him that he should rub the lamp. At first, Aladdin took no notice, but when the 2nd call came, decided to throw out the script and go with it. It worked out beautifully.

Of course, I totally got carried away. Next to me, however, there were 3 ladies who clearly refused to get into the spirit of the thing. I wouldn't normally have minded; one point, Dim Sum threw some chocolates into the audience. One of these came hurtling straight towards me, and landed on my wrist. Unfortunately, I was too slow in securing it and the sour old bat next to me grabbed it and wouldn't relinquish her prize...for not participating in the panto at all. Grrrr!

Still, it was a marvelous experience and I so hope we can do it again next year.

This morning, Cass copied her Maroon 5 album for me (she's totally convinced me of the merit of this particular CD while I was over there) and then we drove into Tunbridge Wells for elevenses. She then dropped me off at Gatwick and I had an uneventful journey home, with the surprise of snow when I emerged from the station.

ETA: forgot to mention -- Kevin Spacey was in the audience, just a few seats away from us...and Cass thinks I'm daft, but I definitely thought Dim Sum had the hots for the Widow. I almost expected there to be a double wedding at the end...but there wasn't. :-(

Anyway, here they are:
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Tonight, another series that I kind of watched (not religiously and with lots of stops and starts) has ended. Yes, tonight the last ever episode of Sex & The City was aired in The Netherlands. I only found out about it about an hour before it came on, had nothing better to do, and so settled down in front of the telly with a bottle of wine. And lo! it was good, as far as the dresses and the shoes were concerned, and the story -- ah well, I guess they had to wrap it up some way, and who cares if it was a bit saccharine and tame -- but damnit! why did they choose to have most of the action take place in Paris, when I've always liked this series precisely because it was situated in New York; when it could show me New York whenever I started to feel the itch to go back there?

Because it may sound corny, but I ::heart:: New York. Or Manhattan, because if truth be told, I only ever set foot in Brooklyn once, and I've been to The Bronx only to go to the Zoo. There are days that I truly miss taking Whitney (the dog) for a walk in Central Park, or going 3 blocks for my bagels on Lexington. Of course, I'm free to go back whenever I choose, but...I rarely, if ever, give in to the temptation. Instead, I watch Sex & The City on occasion, and although I'm sure the series will be on repeat ad infinitum, I am kind of sad that I won't get to see any new and (un)familiar places and faces of NYC by watching it anymore...

But enough of this! My mate [ profile] calove informs me that we've got the tickets to go see Ian McKellen in drag at the Old Vic for [ profile] bogwitch's birthday. Yay! I'm going to the panto with these two and [ profile] hesadevil, and I'm counting the days. Because really, I ::heart:: London just as much as Manhattan.

(Speaking of tickets: I'm sure I ordered these for all three dates CoRo have put up for the UK next year. However, there were only confirmation e-mails for two...something must have gone wrong).


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