Sunday, 21 July 2013

The Scottish Play

For those of a nervous and superstitious disposition, look away now, I went to see a live screening of the National Theatre Live performance of Macbeth at a local Cineworld cinema. Okay, you can look again now, that's the last time I'll mention Macbeth (whoops)*

The National Theatre Live have Macbeth playing at the Manchester International Festival from a unconsecrated church in Manchester itself.

I studied Macbeth for my English literature exam at school and have seen a number of productions on TV and on film and I do like it a lot. This tragic tale of treachery and ambition was a joy to watch with some remarkable performances from Sir Kenneth Brannagh as the eponymous villain, Alex Kingston as Lady Macbeth, Jimmy Yull as Banquo and Ray Fearon as Macduff.

The church floor was covered in mud and the fight scenes at the beginning took place with rain pouring from the rafters. The audience were warned not to wear their Sunday best for fear of getting splashed with mud and fake blood, several did.

This was a real full on version with minimal sets and props relying on the superb performances and that didn't disappoint. The atmosphere was electric and I was moved to tears by two scenes, the first when Macduff is told of the murder of his wife and children at the hands of Macbeth's henchmen and indeed again when the murderous Macbeth is told of the death of his wife Lady Macbeth and he begins his famous soliloquy masterfully and movingly delivered by Brannagh:

She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

I love the idea of bringing the spectacle of the play to a bigger audience, the Manchester Festival play being sold out since February within 9 minutes of tickets going on sale so it was the only chance to go and see it, via the big screen.

Criticisms are few from me. The witches were beautifully and scarily made up but the lines were delivered in a screaming fashion with strange accentuation and therefore sadly undecipherable mostly which is a shame because they set the scene of the future upon which Macbeth bases his decisions.   

A privilege to see it with good friends Linda, Helen and Phil; an unforgettable experience.

Chat soon


* According to a theatrical superstition, called the Scottish curse, speaking the name Macbeth inside a theatre will cause disaster. A variation of the superstition forbids direct quotation of the play (except during rehearsals) while inside a theatre.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013


At last the UK seems to be having a summer. Long sunny spells day after day is pleasant and much needed. The flowers are looking very colourful, the grass is getting patchier and the animals are lethargic (as are some of the human beings.)

Smells of barbecues waft through the evening air as does the drifting 'fluff' from the plane trees. It is really good to see the butterflies abroad in the air and so many varieties, small and large.

However, there is always a down side and that's the vulnerable in our society who suffer from the heat. It's not often in the UK we talk about a heatwave. A couple of the tabloid national newspapers are obsessed with the weather and are always reporting extremes of weather that never actually arrive - you know who you are Daily Express (to name but one), but this time heatwave does have the necessary credentials to hit the headlines to protect people.

What is a heatwave? In the UK there are some thresholds for it to be declared a heatwave.  This is what the Met Office produce on their website

Threshold temperatures
RegionDay max (°C)Night min (°C)
North East England 2815
North West England 3015
Yorkshire & Humber2915
East Midlands 3015
West Midlands 3015
East of England 3015
South East England 3116
South West England 3015

These temperatures could have significant effect on health if reached on at least two consecutive days and the intervening night.

Here in Yorkshire and the Humber, we are fluctuating between a green and yellow alert.

A level one alert (green)  means

This is the minimum state of vigilance during the summer. During this time social and health care services will ensure that all awareness and background preparedness work is ongoing.

A level two alert (yellow) means

Triggered as soon as the risk is 60% or above for threshold temperatures being reached in one or more regions on at least two consecutive days and the intervening night. This is an important stage for social and health care services who will be working to ensure readiness and swift action to reduce harm from a potential heatwave.

A level three alert (amber) means

Triggered when the Met Office confirms threshold temperatures for one or more regions have been reached for one day and the following night, and the forecast for the next day is greater than 90% confidence that the day threshold will be met. This stage requires social and health care services to target specific actions at high-risk groups.

A level four alert (red) means

Reached when a heatwave is so severe and/or prolonged that its effects extend outside the health and social care system. At this level, illness and death may occur among the fit and healthy, and not just in high-risk groups

So take sensible precautions, stay well and if you can, enjoy the warmth

Chat soon


Sunday, 7 July 2013

Lavender's Blue, Dilly Dilly

Pink and purple miniature lavender
Congratulations to Andy Murray for his first Wimbledon championship win. Stunning performance. I've been listening to it on the radio with brilliant BBC Radio 5 live coverage whilst enjoying the sun in the garden.
Lavender with a pin hole effect on the camera
Summer and sun has finally arrived here in the north of the UK and today, I have managed to spend the whole day in the garden and I have only just come in to the house for tea. I planted some miniature lavender a month or so ago and they are in glorious full flower now and there a couple of pictures here to show you how these plants are going on. These are the only things I have planted this year.

I've had a busy few days. Yesterday (Saturday) I went to Leeds to the football stadium Elland Road, not to watch football, which is on its summer break but to go to a mind, body and spirit festival at their conference facility with friends, Linda, Helen and Phil which was very good and saw a couple of interesting free lectures and many interesting exhibitors. 

In the boatyard - seen better times
I also continued my exploration of the South Bank of the Humber in North Lincolnshire at a little town called Barton upon Humber. It's not so little now because a quick and cheap journey across the Humber Bridge makes this commuter land for Hull and Lincoln as well as Scunthorpe and Grimsby.

A rusting barge
Just to the east of the town and on the Humber Bank is the Haven area. It has a few ageing boats on it, a boat yard which has seen better days and lots of wildlife reserves including a lovely observation centre, Water's Edge which overlooks the Humber mud flats and open to visitors for bird watching. An ancient cemetery excavation lends evidence that the village was occupied in the late fifth to early sixth century AD however there is a possibility of a late Mesolithic settlement in the Barton area from between 6,000 and 4,000 BC.

Sunset under the Humber Bridge
There are plenty of safe designated walks with footpaths with stunning open views of the Humber. We saw a huge Heron float by and land in the reeds nearby.  I'm afraid my photography wasn't good enough to capture it. An old coastguard station lays empty now, a testament to busier days as a ferry point before it moved further down the river.
The late evening sun shining on the Humber mudflats at the entrance to the Haven

Today, the town has a population of just over 9,000 people and we were privileged to hear the church bells ringing in the distance as we were finishing this little walk at dusk, this was a throw back for me as I remember the church bells ringing on a Thursday night in Cottingham as a lad.

Today's blog title by the way comes from a traditional English folk song of the 17th century.

I hope you have a fabulous week.

Chat soon